Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Was All About Falling In Love With Some New Books

Lisa from The Novel Approach is here again with another edition of Booyah Books! Woot!

February may be short on days, but it was long on some really great reads. From perennial favorites to new to me authors, these were the books that kept me up well into the night, and then kept me thinking about them some more, long into the next day.

First up is a book that's been around awhile, from an author who's name is, for me, pretty well synonymous with M/M romance: Z.A. Maxfield.
ePistols at Dawn is the story of a reclusive writer, Kelly Mackay, who suffers from OCD and agoraphobia, and the tabloid journalist who's driven to get to the bottom of a story that could effectively blow the top off of Kelly's well ordered little world.
After a psychologically altering event, a horrific tragedy that was the catalyst for the person that Kelly would become, he wrote a book called Doorways under the nom de plume Kieran Anders, a critical work that would come to serve as the touchstone for every young man who read it and was, at the time, attempting to come to terms with his own sexuality. It was Kieran Anders’ crowning achievement, and the only book he ever penned. And it is also Kelly Mackay’s deepest secret, one he never intends for anyone outside of his minuscule circle of confidantes to know.
But journalist Jae Fields has got a righteous anger on and now nothing is safe or sacred, especially not Kelly’s right to privacy, or to his multiple identities.
Watching Kelly and Jae fall in love was a pure joy while, at the same time, it was a dangling-carrot-of-doom knowing their relationship was little more than a minefield of lies by omission and half-truths and unknowns just waiting to be unearthed. When the house of cards finally tumbles, it’s not an easy thing to witness; nor is it any easier, after all those cards are laid out on the table, realizing it might be too late to overcome all the duplicity that underscored the entirety of their relationship to that point. But boy, it was sure fun being a bystander to the story of these two men and all the colorful characters who helped them tell their story.
ePistols at Dawn has definitely made its way on to my All-time ZAM Favorites List. It’s a story that pits journalistic integrity against a public persona’s right to privacy, and is a story that turns the tables on the journalist, who suddenly finds himself the object of scrutiny by that same media. I loved this one a lot and wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to recommend it.

You can buy the book HERE

Next up is a book that you absolutely must read only if you're prepared to laugh so hard you might possibly make unbecoming snort noises. It might also make you cry, so there's that too. The book is T.J. Klune's Tell Me It's Real
This is Paul James Auster’s story, the story of a man whose self-confidence level is somewhere south of hella low but whose personality is somewhere north of luminous. This is the story of a man who isn’t salon tested and steroid approved; he isn’t what anyone might describe as genetically gifted or socially savvy, but he is real and he’s warm, and he and this delightful cast of characters are more than just words on a page. They’re psychedelic brushstrokes on a kaleidoscopic canvas of wacky and wonderful, and I loved each and every one of them to bits.
It's the story of the way he and Vince Taylor fall in love through spit-takes, and Heimlich Maneuvers, and a near maiming. It’s the story of how they fall in love in spite of Paul’s eternal skepticism that someone as beautiful as Vince could ever possibly be attracted to him. It’s the story of the way they stay in love in spite of an enormously bad decision on Paul’s part to go behind Vince’s back and confront something Vince very much wanted to remain private. It’s the story of the way Paul becomes the light in Vince’s darkness, and the way in which Paul reveals his awesomeness one small step at a time.
This book propelled T.J. Klune right to the top of my want-to-read-more authors' list.

You can buy Tell Me It's Real HERE

If you don't like unhappy endings, let me just say right here and now, you'll want to steer far and wide from Brandon Shire's Listening to Dust, because not only does this book not end happily, it doesn't begin happily either. But what it is, is the uncompromising story of the tragic ending to a romance that, truth be told, was destined to fail before it ever began. Dusty Earl is not a man who will ever find peace in or escape from his own sexuality in spite of the fact that the months he spent with Stephen Dobbins, when Dusty was able, for that brief time in his life, to become Dustin and to grasp hold of an ephemeral and ever elusive thread of equilibrium, had maybe caused Dusty to feel something like a quiet place amidst the confusion and conflict born in a place to which he knows he’s obligated by duty to return one day.
This book is an illustration of the influence of bigotry on a man from a small Southern town, a place from which Dusty escaped, joining the military in hopes of eventually being able to provide a better life for Robbie than the one they’d ever been offered within the extreme dysfunction of their family. It is a story of a modicum of freedom found three-thousand mile away, in a place where Dustin was able, for once, to withstand the burden of his self-loathing because he’d finally found someone who made it all a little easier to impersonate a man who will suffer a shred of reason in his unreasoned world. It was a place where, for a moment, Dustin was finally able to ask for and accept the gift that was offered to him, was able to give as much of himself as he ever had. And then he turned and walked away for the sake of his brother, as well as, I believe, for Stephen. A sacrifice that, in the end, fate would twist into the saddest of ironies, in which Robbie’s life would be forever impacted anyway by Dusty’s love for another man, and Stephen’s would be impacted by the fact that the man whom he believed had merely suffered his love, truly did love him in return, in the only way he was able.
In a poetic prose that only served to increase the emotional quotient of this already moving story, Brandon Shire paints a picture of a disillusioned man who tries so hard to run from the truth, though he can’t run far enough to hide from who he is. It is a story of hope and despair and of the promise of love that’s discarded like the flotsam and jetsam left behind in a life laid to waste by the liars whose words have wormed their way into Dustin’s psyche until those lies became the truths he wore like scars, convincing him that love wasn’t meant for someone like him. And in an equally though altogether different tragedy, the detritus of those lies brings about the destruction of Stephen’s dreams and costs him far more than he ever imagined he’d have to pay. Listening to Dust offers no happily-ever-after to the reader. It is brutal in its honesty and keeps counsel with the reality that sometimes a moment-to-moment happiness is the best we can hope for while we navigate this mortal coil without promise of anything more than that.
I loved this book for its uncompromising portrayal of its characters and their hardships. It doesn’t pull any punches, nor does it sugarcoat its truths to make them more palatable to a wider audience. If you want your fiction tied up in a lovely bow of forever after, don’t come looking here; you won’t find it. But, I’d hate to see anyone miss out on this story for fear of shedding a few tears along the way. They’re well worth it.
You can buy Listening to Dust HERE

My last two picks for the month are both short stories, one from what's becoming a new favorite writing team, L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov, and the other from someone who's been a favorite from the start, Piper Vaughn.
Both of the shorts are incredibly erotic stories, but in entirely different ways, so I'll start with L.A. and Aleks' Take It Off, the second installment in their serialized Market Garden Tales, which began with Quid Pro Quo, and follows the story of rentboys Tristan and Jared, and their wealthy American john who's known only as Rolex. These books are unapologetically sexy and seductive, just like Tristan and Jared and the profession at which they excel, so don't go into them looking for romance.
Some people like to watch other people get down to the business of sex, while some people would rather read about it, then let their imaginations drift to all sorts of places that reality can neither attend nor compare to. If you’re one of the latter, believe me when I tell you to go have a look at Jared getting his sexy on for Tristan and Rolex this time around, then come back and tell me I’m lying about the sex and seduction business. Yes, that’s a triple dog dare. I’m forgoing etiquette and going right for the throat. If you do decide to read this one, let me forewarn you that they do need to be read in order, and I'll also tell you that, as this is a serial, there are no endings, only To-Be-Continueds.

You can buy Take It Off HERE

And last but certainly never least is Piper's latest (and self-published) release, Asylum, the story of Johnny Cairo (a.k.a. the Scaremaster) and his family's traveling haunted house called Fear Asylum. Where Take It Off is erotic for erotica's sake, Asylum is both sexy and romantic, and tells the story of Johnny's fight to keep from succumbing to the temptation of falling for Brennan, his best friend's younger brother. It's a story that illustrates how a man learns very quickly that just because his head says there are no-strings-attached it doesn’t mean his heart is bound to listen, especially when he’s faced with the possibility of losing the one to whom he realizes he wants nothing more than to be tied.
I’ve read this story more than once, and really, really would love a sequel. You can use that as an indicator of how much I loved it.
You can buy Asylum HERE

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Who's ready to die from the cute?

The amazing Anne Cain did these for me. The one of Jin & Logan together, I'm making keychains out of, and the other two I'm making charms from the same place that Augusta Li had hers done at. She's the one who so very kindly pointed me in the right direction. I just love them. I can't wait to have you guys see them in real life.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coming Soon

 So Creature Feature, the anthology I did with Poppy Dennison is out on March 20th. I will be very interested to hear what you all think of it. Here's the blurb:

Diagnosis Wolf by Poppy Dennison

Thanks to his good-for-nothing brother, Andrew Hughes is up to his eyeballs in debt and needs a job fast. When a nursing position opens up in Myerson, Arizona, Andrew has no choice but to take it, despite a warning about how difficult a patient Caleb DiMartino can be. Andrew can deal with a little trouble—but Caleb’s strange family, the armed guards, and the unknown cause of Caleb’s mysterious illness may be beyond his skill set.

Landslide by Mary Calmes

For three years, paranormal courier Frank Corrigan has been working for incubus demon Cael Berith. Cael knows Frank is his mate, but Frank is pretty sure Cael doesn’t even like him, never mind want to spend the rest of his life with him, so their personal relationship is at an impasse. When Frank’s sister, Lindsey, gets bitten by a werewolf she's sleeping with—and possibly witnesses a murder—Frank rides to her rescue. If he’s lucky, he might just save his love life too.

Didn't Paul Richmond do a fantastic job on the cover? Instead of doing a cover that was overly busy, the cover represents Poppy's story and that his her boy Andrew there on the cover. How cute is the Croc?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Away I go

I'm off to to St. Augustine. I fly out tomorrow morning before the sun rises, (oh dear God), and will arrive in Florida around noon or so. I will be at the con until Sunday. If any of you guys are close by there, please pop by and visit. It will be interesting to be warm again and even though the ocean is not the one I'm used to, it will be nice to see one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's a New Year! And So Far, I've Had Plenty to Cheer About!

The lovely Lisa from The Novel Approach will be with me again this year and  I'm thrilled. So here she is with a new edition of Booyah Books.

A belated Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the coming months bring plenty of good cheer and loads of good books your way.
January ended with a sinus infection, strep throat, as well as an emergency tooth extraction among my kids, then the arrival of family, so the Booyah! got placed on the back burner for a bit, but for what it's worth, here it is. If you haven't already read this selection of books, I hope you enjoy them if you decide to pick them up.
And let me just add; there's one thing every last one of these books has in common. They're all Self-Published! Go figure.
First up is Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin, Book #1) by new-to-me author Jordan L. Hawk. This book made me squee like a sissy little fangirl. It's a supernatural historical tour-de-force that also made my wee heart grow three sizes after I read it.
This is the story of Dr. Percival Whyborne, scholar of dead languages and comparative philologist at the Nathaniel R. Ladysmith museum in Widdershins, Massachusetts, a place whose name and inscrutable history invite the strange and unusual events destined to befall its labyrinthine streets.
Dr. Whyborne is the sort of man for whom keeping a low profile at his job is as imperative as it is for him to hide his basest and most personal desires from the rest of the world. A life altering event in his youth coupled with a more than strained relationship with his father and bullying brother have fashioned Whyborne, in a most distressing way, into a socially awkward and nearly reclusive man whose confidence in himself and his value as a good and decent person of incomparable worth, is non-existent. But, as the fates don’t often care much for a mortal man’s wants, the practitioners and perpetrators of the macabre and the mystical are there in Widdershins to ensure Whyborne will find no refuge from their violation of the laws of life and death, when he is assigned the duty of translating the grimoire of a dead man, a book composed of secrets and alchemy and the sort of dark power that is a hymn to the gods of anarchy.
Griffin Flaherty is the ex-Pinkerton agent, now private detective, who has been hired to get to the bottom of the secrets contained in the book. He and Whyborne, along with Whyborne’s colleague Dr. Christine Putnam, uncover the truth in what ought to be humanly and humanely impossible, in what, for centuries, drove men of science to their laboratories to attempt to create the elixir of life and find the secret to immortality. And it drives Griffin, Whyborne, and Christine straight into the bowels of a ghoulish and ghastly hell.
This is a story of murder and monsters and mayhem, of power madness and the manipulation of the natural law of things. It is a story of death and resurrection, and a story of the resurrection of the lives of two men whose pasts might have buried them in pain and shame were it not for their inherent dignity and goodness. It is thrilling and suspenseful and unique and in amongst all the action and mystery and danger, there is a lovely story of two men falling in love against all the odds.
Widdershins is brilliant and eloquent. It’s the sort of book that makes me want to uber-gush all over it, and then celebrate my love of reading. Jordan L. Hawk’s skillful prose and abundant imagination have come together to tell a story that couldn’t have been more perfect if it’d tried. It was an amalgamation of everything I love, from the artful wordsmithing to the world building to the richly drawn cast of players who each portrayed their parts to the utmost benefit of the telling of this story. I was consumed and invested from start to finish, and that alone has propelled the author straight onto my auto-buy list.
You can buy Widdershins HERE.

The next book on my list of great reads is... Oh hey, guess what? It's another Jordan L. Hawk book. Again with the go figure. The book is called Hainted, and I'll be damned if it's not another supernatural wonderpiece.
This book, like Widdershins delves deeply into the mythology of the macabre, and comes back up sputtering secrets of the undead. It's the story of Dan Miller, resident Walker, who has given up carrying on his ancestral legacy in favor of being a full-time surrogate father figure to his brother and sister, Virgil and Bea, following their parents’ untimely deaths. It’s a circumstance, though, that was destined to change sooner or later, because we all know better than to think a man’s destiny gives a rat’s furry arse about his good intentions, don’t we?
Dan becomes an unlikely accomplice to the new stranger in town, a beautiful and edgy and enigmatic man who shows up on the doorstep of Hoary Oak Hill Farm looking for Simone Miller, Dan’s mother. Leif Helsvin needs some serious help; no, actually, he needs a freaking miracle, but since help is the best he can hope for, hope will have to do. It’s the only prayer he has of catching and killing a mad man bent on raising the dead and creating his own special brand of hell on earth, an army of reanimated corpses entirely under his control. It is a nightmare of epic proportions and it’s up to Dan and Leif, and Dan’s friend and fellow Walker, Taryn, to protect the living from this megalomaniacal plot.
Two men, one who has given up on the idea of a relationship because he is now bound to a hometown to which he’d sworn never to return; the other, a man for whom the idea of a relationship is an entirely foreign concept because relationships mean intimacy and intimacy means attachments and attachments mean the possibility of spilling all the horrific secrets in his past, form an alliance and find a way to fall in love amidst the threat of what amounts to a zombie apocalypse waged by a man to whom Leif is regretfully attached. Both men carry their share of burdens and they can either help each other lighten the loads they bear, or they can both be crushed under the weight of their respective pasts. Their choices could mean the difference between success and failure, and the fate of humankind will hang in the balance, if complete trust is not something they’re willing to risk.
Yeah, zombies. Go ahead and say “Ick” because the walking dead are super-icky, and Jordan L. Hawk writes in such perfect imagery that there’s no mistaking your imagination has plenty to work with. If I never see the word “ichor” again, it’ll be too soon. ::shivers:: See? Even that word has the “ick” sound in it, and there’s plenty of it to go around as these manipulators of the physical and practitioners of the metaphysical play at creating and controlling chaos.
This book was another big score for me. It was a great blend of the supernatural and the gruesome, and the perfect harmonizing of a tenuous love story set against a climate of the impossible and the improbable and, ultimately, in the end, one blessed by the divine, though there was plenty of deception and betrayal and fear and danger to overcome first.
Anyone who’s read this book and thinks there ought to be a sequel, raise your hand. ::raises hand:: Uh-huh, count me in.
You can buy Hainted HERE.

Book three of the four books I'm recommending is the debut novel by author Cary Atwell, called The Other Guy, and Oh My God, I just wanted to hug the damn book when I'd finished it. Yeah, it was that lovely.
The Other Guy is the story of Emory James, and to say that Emory is unlucky in love is kind of an understatement, considering that his fiancé has just ditched him at the altar and run off with her first college boyfriend (picture Elaine and Ben at the end of The Graduate). But never let it be said that Emory’s not a classy guy. The booze, food, and band are already paid for, after all; the reception must go on. And furthermore, so must the honeymoon. Or at least that’s what Emory decided once the sobbing stopped. A trip to Thailand, where no one knows him or the humiliation he’s suffered, is just what he needs; a week in paradise where he can be someone other than Emory James – The Other Guy. Emory can be the Good-Looking Bastard and none will be the wiser. He’s such a trooper. And Jeremy Renner’s playing him in the movie.
Well, this is where Nate Harris enters the picture, and this is where things really started getting good. Chemistry? Pish. Nate is a force of nature, and it’s clear from word one that he and Emory have a connection that goes far beyond a simple bromance. But Emory? Well, Emory’s not gay and things happen and then he blurts right out why he’s in Thailand on his aborted honeymoon after Nate kisses him in the rain… Emory’s not gay? Pish. And then that force of nature that is their attraction to each other takes over. And then Nate flies home. So much for their vacation romance.
Or is it?
It wouldn’t be much of a book if that was the end of the story, would it? Nope. Months later, Fate with a capital-F makes sure to give these boys a karmic boot to the posterior, and shoves them directly back into each other’s orbit, and if there were any two people whose lives needed to coalesce, it’d be these two. But you can’t possibly think it’d be that simple, can you? Nope. So, Emory is probably gay, or at least bi, but getting him to admit it to himself, let alone to anyone else, becomes a roadblock to his and Nate’s happiness. And then there’s angst. And the return of the fickle fiancé who’s decided she made a big mistake. Yikes, conflict.
Well, if there’s anything we’ve all learned from romantic fiction, it’s that love always finds a way. Sometimes all it takes is the verbal smackdown from your best friend, and the courage to face your fears, and the chance to ask for forgiveness that all comes together in the perfect storm of resolution and helps a guy navigate his way to Happily-Ever-Afterland before he takes a wrong turn at The-One-That-Got-Awayville.
As I said, The Other Guy is Cary Attwell’s debut on the writing scene, and all I can say now is that I’ll be watching for any- and everything else I can find from this author. This book is charming and clever and I adored it so much that I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I may just go ahead and read it again.
You can buy The Other Guy HERE.

Last but certainly not least is Hannah Johnson's snarky and hysterically funny Know Not Why. Believe me when I say that if you think sarcastic humor is the height of comedy, this book is going to keep you in stitches!
Howie Jenkins is a man with a plan. Yeah, that’s right, his plan is to work at the locally owned Artie Kraft’s Arts and Crafts store so he can increase his odds of getting laid because, of course, arts + crafts = babes. Everyone knows that. Everyone but me, I think. If I’d been Howie’s BFF, I’d have been less worried about how sad that plan is and more concerned with the fact that the biggest flaw in the questionably brilliant idea may be that the mean age of the patrons who frequent arts and crafts stores isn’t exactly within Howie’s 18-25 year old demographic. And they have 2.2 kids. And the employees are largely older women. I’ve been to arts and crafts stores. I know these things. I am that thing. But more power to the boy. He goes for it, gets the job in spite of the fact that Howie is probably the last guy Arthur Kraft wants to hire, and score! there’s a pretty, perky, and blond teenage Kristy Quinn who works there and is just ripe for the pickin’. Almost. Too bad Kristy already has a boyfriend. And she thinks Howie’s gay. Ouch. Double whammy.
And then there’s also Cora Caldwell, of the Rocky Horror Show Caldwells, but Cora could easily eat Howie and then reassemble his bones into something edgy and artful, so Cora’s a big no. Plus, she’s fairly awesome in a totally bitchy way. I kind of girl crushed on her, as well as Howie’s above-referenced BFF Amber. And then there’s the fact that the ‘rents keep trying to make with the matching between Amber and Howie, but she only has eyes for Howie’s twinly opposite and over-achieving brother, Daniel, who’s in love with the aggressively ordinary Emily.
It’s a conundrum.
I had to think about this book for a few days before wrote my review, and finally came to the conclusion that I think whether you like it or not will depend entirely upon whether you like Howie Jenkins, the story’s narrator. See, Howie is…slightly annoying. But in a rather adorkable way! He’s adorkably annoying. Or annoyingly adorkable, I can’t decide which. Sometimes I just wanted him not to talk for a minute, that’s all. That Howie, well, he’s turned being a wiseass into a true art form. In fact, wiseassery may very well be his first language, but there’s a valid reason he hides behind all that snarky comedy, and you’ll just have to read the book if you want to find out why. I found him utterly endearing and wanted him to shut his freaking pie hole, all at the same time. He’s kind of like my kids—can work a last nerve like a pro, but now that he’s gone, I miss him.
But Howie’s not the only character in this book who lets his snark-flag fly high and proud. No, most of the characters are quite fluent in the articulation of mocky banter, others are merely fluent in utter nonsense, while still others don’t speak anything but literal and just get lost in the crossfire of all that extra-witty repartee. While I loved the premise of this story, I have to say there were times when the sarcasm overload began to take its toll on me. There was a lot of adorable and very touching stuff going on in this book too, though, so I soldiered through and am ultimately very, very glad I did.
What began as quite possibly the doofiest plan in the world turned into such a sweet enemies-to-lovers, coming-out story, as well as an unlikely romance between the unquestionably more sophisticated and giftedly eyelashed Arthur Kraft and our cluelessly adorable Howie, who tried so hard to be straight, but one kiss from Arthur, and Doh! hey, hm, maybe Howie’s not as straight as he always thought he was. And suddenly Howie’s living a double-life, one in which he can be himself at the struggling little arts and crafts store where his friends know the new and improved Howie, and the other where he has to hide the fact that Arthur is the first person in the whole wide world who has ever made Howie feel the way he feels when they’re together.
And P.S. – Howie has the best mom ever.
There is no doubt about it; this book is just precious, but for me, sometimes it felt like it suffered under the weight of its own über-verbose preciousness, meaning that at 317 pages, this one probably would’ve been trimmed down quite a bit had it been traditionally published. As it stands, however, for a self-pub, I’d say Hannah Johnson has a very promising future in this writerly biz.
You can buy Know Not Why HERE.
And that's all folks! Until next month, happy reading!