Sunday, April 29, 2012

3rd Installment of Booyah Books!

 The lovely Lisa from The Novel Approach is here again with her feature Booyah Books!

What A Month It’s Been!

There are two absolutes about the month of April: 1.) I read a lot, and 2.) it was a great month for my obsession, so awesome, in fact, that I had a hard time narrowing down my list of fabu reads for this installment of the booyah that is books.

I read a really eclectic mix of books this month because, well, I have fairly eclectic tastes in reading. I demand a lot from the books I read, but I also forgive a lot if I find characters who reach out from the page (or Kindle screen, in my case) and pull me into the lives the author has created for them. My list this month runs the gamut, from time-travel romance to historical tragic romance to a gritty prison drama to an unexpected collaboration to a FREE short story from a new to me author.

Because they’re two of my favorite authors, I’m going to start with my unexpected collaboration, Country Mouse. When I found out Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov were writing a story together my initial reaction was, what the junk?! How will these two authors whose styles are so uniquely their own ever possibly carry off a project together? Oh me of little faith. I have since repented for my lack of belief in their prose prowess.

This is a cat and mouse story, in which the line between predator and prey begins to blur when the mouse becomes the trap that catches the cat by the tail and turns his controlled and well ordered world upside down. There’s none of that “if you love something, set it free” rubbish going on here. No, this is all about wanting and needing and giving and taking and letting go and then grabbing on, all at the same time. And ah, the romance of it all.

I’ve never, in all my experience with Aleksandr Voinov’s work, been compelled to call a book of his sweet, but I’m gonna. Shh, don’t tell him I said so. I blame Amy Lane.

This month’s FREE title is a short story from Taylor V. Donovan called Heatstroke, the story of a teenage boy, Michael Spencer, whose family’s deep, dark secrets not only robbed a boy of his father, but also robbed that father of everything in his life he’d once held dear. This is a story of sacrifice, a story about a young man in the 1960s who had it all—fame, fortune, a meteoric career in show business—and love: the greatest of all his blessings was the love. But in the 1960s, a time when mere gossip and innuendo, a time when the slightest whisper of an inappropriate relationship could ruin a man, the love that Richard Bancroft and Manny Guzman shared was a love that they could never allow to see the light of acknowledgment in public. And it was that secret, the surrendering of what was an all-consuming bond, and the discovery of that secret by a wife Richard didn’t love, that nearly destroyed two men’s lives, cost one his career and his child, and tore the men apart.

Michael comes to know his grandfather through the journals he discovered in his grandmother’s attic. If you’re not a fan of epistolary storytelling, the style might not appeal to you, but let me just say that this was a story that snuck up on me and has become one of my favorite shorts, free or otherwise, that I’ve ever read.

If you love the idea of traveling through time, risking life and limb for the sake of finding the love of a lifetime, then Ethan Day’s A Token of Time might be just the book you’re looking for.

If you’re at all familiar with Ethan’s work, you’ll very quickly understand that this book is unlike any he’s written before. But sometimes different is, if not better, then at least awfully damn good. This is the story of a young man who has inherited a power normally only bestowed upon the women in his family. The gift (or curse, depending upon how you look at it) has made a fugitive of Zachary Hamilton and his boyfriend Nick Williams, on the run from Zachary’s twin sister, who is the personification of madness. But nowhere is remote enough or safe enough to outrun the evil that dogs their heels, and eventually it catches up to them, with tragic results.

With his life in utter shambles, Zachary receives a box with a mysterious necklace inside, a necklace that makes the impossible possible and sends Zachary back in time, to a time before he ever existed but to a time he’s been before. A time where he encounters a love that spans two lifetimes.

A Token of Time fractures the laws of forward motion. It makes time an illusion and reality malleable. It’s a “love will always find a way” romance, heartbreaking and hopeful, and it left me wishing for nothing less than a bit more of that illusive and elusive time with these characters. If you’ve ever in your life wished it were possible to be able to go back in time and do something differently or to influence a change in history, then Token might speak to something in you that you know is impossible but won’t stop the wanting of it anyway.  

My last two books are both Challenge Reads, and one of them, I swear, has left me scarred for life. Okay, maybe not scarred, but the story still haunts me to this day.

I’ll start first with the historical prison drama Protection by S.A. Reid. The story begins in 1936 in the fictional Wentworth Prison in pre-World War II England, where Gabriel MacKenna is serving concurrent life sentences for murdering his parents. Gabriel is a hard man and a dichotomy of behaviors, incredibly violent and philosophical about the justice he metes out—it’s necessary for his own survival as well as for those he chooses to protect, after all—yet there is a charisma and charm about him, an innate intelligence and aching quality to him that made him irresistible in spite of how much I tried to convince myself he should be entirely beyond redemption.

Dr. Joseph Cooper was framed for the murder of a mother and her newborn child, a crime he did not commit but for which he was tricked into confessing to nonetheless. The worst possible thing that could’ve happened to Joey was to catch Gabriel’s eye upon arrival at Wentworth, but that’s exactly what happens, much to Joey’s misfortune.

Gabriel is a pragmatic man who sees things in black & white, and in his world, a baby killer who’s still walking the earth deserves to suffer a fate worse than death. And Gabriel means to make Joey pay.

This is the part where I warn you that this book contains scenes of rape and brutal violence and does not have a happy ending. No, this is a tragic romance that challenges perceptions and confronts perspectives and as heartbreaking as it was, it was also breathtakingly beautiful.

Finally, let me tell you about Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt. Never, ever in all my years of reading have I loathed a book with such a white-hot intensely. Never, ever in all my years of reading have I loved a book with a passion that burns like a madness that has wormed its way into my psyche and haunts me to this day.

The story is set in the 17th century, during the English Revolution, and at nearly 600 pages it is utterly impossible to summarize all that this book is. As Meat Loves Salt is the sort of novel you read and it makes you realize how ridiculous it is to either rate or review it, because sometimes a book is so unparalleled there’s nothing to compare it to, nothing that you can use as a barometer against which to measure all you felt about it as you became absorbed by the words the author chose to tell the tale, words that were pure poetry and the writer’s postscript to a love affair with storytelling.

It is epic, from the gruesome opening to the forbidden obsession to the betrayal and eventual descent into madness; this is not a romance, nor is it a love story. It is a story of possession, of control, of dominance, of manipulation. It is the story of two men who misused the word love, when what they really meant was they wanted and needed each other with a fixation so overwhelming that it consumed them whole. Jacob and Christopher utterly ruined each other, and at times it was difficult to discern whose sanity was more questionable.

As Meat Loves Salt is a story of deception and a deceptive story, a study of virtue and vice, in which Patience, Wisdom, Grace, and Mercy are no more than mere humans, a story in which Courage and Providence stand shoulder to shoulder with Vanity and Shame, a book where Eternity is Hell, not Paradise. In the midst of revolution there can be no Eden, no Utopia where men and women will live as equals, in spite of how fervently Christopher fights for it. In the end, there was only Sodom and Gomorrah and a pillar of salt to witness its destruction.

I am lost to describe the beauty of this book. I reckon I’ll never read another like it again. If you’re feeling brave and want to try something different, something that might make you feel a bit like you’ve gone off the deep end, give this one a try.

Until next month, happy reading!


  1. I LOVED Protection. Soooo good. Used a few tissues on that one.

    1. Sooooo good, yeah? Not a lot of people love the tragic romances, but I'm kind of a sucker for them. I do love my HEAs too, don't get me wrong, but I can't find anything wrong with a dose of starkly sorrowful realism every so often. Those are the books I tend to feel a little stronger and that really stick with me. :-P

      I loved Gabriel and Joey and the way the found contentment and happiness in spite of their initial meeting. :)

  2. Thanks for that! I'm looking forward to reading Country Mouse and A Token of Time!

  3. Heatstroke was a really good book!! Thank you for recommending it. I will look for other books from this author now.