Saturday, November 7, 2015

REVIEW: Bookmarked by Piper Vaughn

Bookmarked by Piper Vaughn

Decently written, from a grammatical standpoint, but there was no emotional resonance; the author never made me feel for the characters. There was very little conflict to drive the story, and what conflict there was ended up resolved quickly and easily and feeling like it had no real or lasting impact on the characters. Mark and Shepherd's romance didn't feel like it had any real basis, either; we're told that they're attracted to each other, but we never really feel that attraction. In fact, there's a lot of telling rather than showing, which keeps this story from reaching its potential.

Overall it's a bit of mildly entertaining fluff, and while I don't actually resent having spent 99 cents on it, I probably won't be buying more from this author in the future, either.

(Note: My star rating for this differs on Goodreads and Amazon, because of the difference in definition between the two sites. I'm rating it "it was ok" in both places, but on Goodreads that's two stars and on Amazon—and here—that's three.)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

REVIEW: Dead in the Desert by Lou Harper

Dead in the Desert by Lou Harper

Just as good as the previous book. I like that Jon's emotional journey is ongoing, and that while Andy recognizes it's going to take time for Jon to heal, he doesn't allow himself to be treated like a doormat for the sake of not disturbing Jon's status quo. I find it very refreshing that Jon is self-aware when it comes to his own jealousy, and works to own it and overcome it rather than taking what he recognizes as irrational feelings out on Andy.

As with Dead in L.A., the mystery here is more the backdrop than it is A Plot, but that's perfectly fine with me; as far as I'm concerned the evolution of Jon and Andy's relationship is (and should be) the true A Plot — this is a romance, after all. I loved the theme of (skip spoiler) reinventing oneself, and not letting one's family determine who one is. that unfolded as the mystery was solved. It resonated in a very personal way with me.

I hope Harper plans to write more in this series, because I'd love to spend more time with Jon and Andy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

REVIEW: Dead in L.A. by Lou Harper

Dead in L.A. by Lou Harper

I enjoy Lou Harper's writing style in general, and this was an interesting deviation from the M/M norm in that it was written in first-person POV. I know a lot of readers don't like that, but I've never had a problem with it, especially when the protagonist's voice is clear and well defined, as Jon's is here.

And speaking of Jon, I wasn't sure I liked him to begin with, but as the story progressed and I learned more about him and why he was as determined to be self-contained as he was, I began to understand and empathize. By the end of the book, I found myself really liking him, and appreciating the journey that he'd taken and the changes he'd undergone as a result of his developing friendship and then relationship with Leander.

Leander was a great character, as well, though we don't get as in-depth a look at him as we do at Jon because of the POV. I especially liked that Leander isn't a total pushover; he's a nice guy, and he cuts Jon some slack, but he makes his own decisions and even expresses frustration, anger, and bitterness over what he perceives as Jon's initial "two beer queer" behavior.

The mystery aspect of the book was well done, though I didn't feel like it was really the point. I don't mean that in a negative or critical way, mind you. It felt like the backdrop in a play: when executed with artistry, it adds immeasurably to the production — in fact, the show wouldn't be the same without it — but the audience's focus will always be more on the actors in front of it.

The second book is already on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to starting it later today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

REVIEW: Charmed and Dangerous (Anthology)

Charmed and Dangerous

Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford
4 of 5 stars
I'm not always a fan of the interpersonal dynamics in Rhys Ford's stories, but I enjoyed them in this one. My only complaints are 1) the inconsistent use of first and last name of the antagonist at the very beginning made the action a little confusing to me, and 2) the scene-setting was dialed back a little far — definitely no weighty exposition dumps here — so that the first chapter was a little hard for me to get into.

Swift and the Black Dog by Ginn Hale
5 of 5 stars
Ginn Hale is excellent, as always. I love the worldbuilding, and I hope she writes more in this world (assuming she hasn't, since I have yet to read the Lord of the White Hell books). The contrast between Jack and Owen — their philosophies, outlooks, and experiences — gave them a great spark, and I have a particular weakness for stories in which one partner's moral alignment is impetus for the other to become a better person.

A Queer Trade by K. J. Charles
4 of 5 stars
I really enjoy this world — I squeed when Mrs. Gold appeared — and I like these characters. The inclusion of a character of color was really nice, though I can't speak to the (relative, since this is a magical history) accuracy of the portrayal for the time period. Crispin and Ned are definitely characters I'd like to spend more time with; I'd read a spin-off novel series dedicated to them.

Magically Delicious by Nicole Kimberling
3½ of 5 stars
It was nice to spend time with Keith and Gunther again. I always enjoy Nicole Kimberling's writing style, and her characters are wonderfully real, with flaws and weaknesses as well as strengths. I'd have given this another half (or maybe even whole) star, if not for the fact that the solution to the mystery was telegraphed from the very beginning and one thread was left dangling at the end.

Everyone's Afraid of Clowns by Jordan Castillo Price
4 of 5 stars
A little Halloween ghost action for my favorite PsyCops, Victor and Jacob. It says something when the live people and the obscene philosophies they espouse — neither of which seem the least bit out of place in our current sociopolitical climate — are more horrifying than the ghosts.

The Thirteenth Hex by Jordan L. Hawk
3½ of 5 stars
Jordan L. Hawk has created a very interesting world and system of magic, and I'd love to read more stories set there. My only complaint is that the characters don't feel as fleshed out as they could be; the familiars felt more like sketches than like people. Otherwise, it was an excellent story, with a surprising reveal.

The Soldati Prince by Charlie Cochet
2½ of 5 stars
I should start by saying that I'm not a huge fan of shifter stories or the concept of "mates," so this probably wasn't going to grab me regardless. From a technical standpoint, the pacing felt off — this ought to have been a novel rather than a short story, IMO — and to be honest, I could never get past the nagging feeling that I was reading bad Teen Wolf crack!fic with the serial numbers filed off. I've heard good things about this author, so I'll probably give her another shot, but this was by far the story I was most disappointed with in this collection.

One Hex Too Many by Lou Harper
4½ of 5 stars
Lou Harper is another new-to-me author, and I'm impressed; looks like I'll have to pick up some more of her books. This was a great story, and another world in which I'd like to spend more time. It felt like this story barely scratched the surface of who Mike and Hugh were (but not in a bad way), and I really want to see more. In fact, I'd love to see more of the whole Extramundane Crimes Division.

Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom by Andrea Speed
3 of 5 stars
This one just didn't work for me. I'm not sure if it's because I haven't read the other books in the series, or if it just wasn't my type of story. I didn't get a sense of who Josh or Colin were as people (well, person and vampire, respectively), I didn't care about either of them, and I didn't see any actual spark between them.

The Trouble with Hexes by Astrid Amara
5 of 5 stars
Another excellent story from Astrid Amara. The past breakup felt real without demonizing either Vincent or Tim, and still managed to leave the door open for a relatively healthy reconciliation. It was a logical whodunnit, with enough clues to be solvable, but not so many as to make it too obvious. This is another world I'd enjoy reading more about; now that Tim believes Vincent and is aware of the paranormal in the world, I think they'd work well together doing both mundane PI work and hexbreaking.

Overall this was a wonderful anthology, well worth the price, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes their m/m romance with a crunchy paranormal coating.

REVIEW: Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek by R. Cooper

Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek by R. Cooper.

The title pretty accurately describes the story: medium length, sweet, with an extra shot of geek in the person of Tommy, the protagonist's love interest, who is pretty, buff, and has a tendency to talk a lot. It's a very introspective piece, largely stream of consciousness, with a kind of gentle lyricism that I really enjoyed.