Category Archives: Review

18Sep/18

Irresistible by Andrew J Peters

Andrew J Peters has very recently been a guest on our little show! To check out his work and listen to his interview, check out Episode 180: A Very Spoofy Rom-Com

This was a difficult one to review fairly. I decided to go in and start reading without checking the blurb first, liking the element of surprise. The cover is gorgeous and I was expecting a fairly standard romance, if I’m honest.

I liked Brendan, although he clearly has issues with falling in insta-love and not learning his lesson when it all goes horribly wrong. He’s a modest guy, still reeling from the latest romantic disaster, when his head is turned by a gorgeous blond antique seller in New York. It must be love!

From there, the cynics will be gnashing their teeth. Insta-love, a Big Misunderstanding caused by the iffy-est of circumstances. And then it gets really weird. Suddenly I’m reading about lecherous drug dealers and a military coup.

I can’t actually say more about the plot without giving it away. It’s a real mixed bag, with dilemmas that kept me turning the page to find out what on earth was going to happen next. There were also some sweet moments (Faraj!) And some frankly ludicrous ones. (If I was escaping kidnap from gun-wielding terrorists, I wouldn’t stop to give my rescuer a blow job, however cute he was.)

Because I hadn’t read the blurb, I didn’t realise this was a comedy of errors, so there were a few “wait, is he serious?” moments, before I decided to sit back, enjoy the ride and not take it too seriously. The problem with labelling a book “comedy” is that people will expect funnies, and what’s funny for some won’t be for others. I found the balance between serious and comedic a little bit lumpy in places. If a laugh is unexpected, that’s one thing. But when the reader can see the set up a mile off, knowing they’re expected to find the situation funny at the end, it loses something for me. This book shows why comedy is so hard to write.

But comedy is subjective, and what I find funny (the darker the better) isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s. The long-running theme of Cal being “irresistible” was pretty funny, as was some of the dialogue between him and his ardent suitors. I winced a bit at the racial and cultural stereotypes, but having thought about it, I’m wondering if that really was the whole point. No one is safe. And yes, I did pick up on the irony of the line, “You can’t just buy people. At least, not in America.” (Trump, anyone?)

Also, the book mocks the stereotypical MM Romance expectation on so many levels: insta-love, Everyone Is Gay! The bitchy mother-in-law, rich man/poor man dynamic. I could list quite a few of them.

So while the book didn’t quite work for me, I applaud the boldness of it, the big fat one-fingered tribute to those who like their tropes in narrow straight lines with no diversions, and the courage to throw the reader headlong into unexpected WTF situations. If I did a star system, I would award an extra star for the FUCK YOU element, especially one delivered with such a sweet, mischievous grin.

BLURB

Brendan Thackeray-Prentiss is an Ivy League-educated trust-funder who Gotham Magazine named the most eligible gay bachelor in New York City. He lives for finding his soulmate, but after walking in on his boyfriend of three transcendent months soaping up in the shower with an older female publicist, he’s on a steady diet of scotch, benzodiazepines, and compulsive yoga. Men are completely off the menu.

Callisthenes Panagopoulos has a problem most guys dream of. With the body and face of a European soccer heartthrob, the vigorous blond hair of a Mormon missionary, and a smile that makes traffic cops stuff their ticket books back in their utility belts, he’s irresistible to everyone. But being a constant guy-magnet comes with its discontents, like an ex-boyfriend who tried to drive his Smart car through Cal’s front door. It makes him wonder if he’s been cursed when it comes to love.

When Brendan and Cal meet, the attraction is meteoric, and they go from date to mates at the speed of time-lapse photography. But to stay together, they’ll have to overcome Cal’s jealous BFF, Romanian mobsters, hermit widowers, and a dictatorship on the brink of revolution during a dream wedding in the Greek isles that becomes a madcap odyssey.

A gay romantic comedy of errors based on Chariton’s Callirhoe, the world’s oldest extant romance novel.

 

 

29Aug/18

A Mage’s Power by Casey Wolfe


Casey Wolfe was a recent guest on our show. To find out more about them, check out Episode 135: Weird Stupid Kid Stuff

This book is a nice work of magical realism, where ancient meets modern, and spells abound in a city seething with magicae, werewolves and humans leading an uneasy co-existence.

I enjoyed this right off the bat. Rowan and Shaw were likeable characters with relatable issues. Shaw is a cop of sorts, working for the sinister-sounding Inquisition which keeps the peace amongst the co-existing races, and Rowan is a master mage who runs his own enchantment shop, together with a feisty stray cat. Rowan’s best friend is Caleb, a werewolf who is consistently bothered by the Inquisition so there is conflict between him and Shaw, whom he doesn’t trust.

The best parts of this story for me are the magical spells, beautifully written and described. There is a real sense of other-worldliness here, and great world-building in general, with the ancient city streets filled with dynamic young people wielding modern devices such as laptops and mobile phones. I liked that sense of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment. In fact, this book has made me want to explore the magical realism genre further.

The author wrote the three leads well, giving them distinct personalities and vibrant dialogue. I instantly sensed the connection between Rowan and Shaw, and Caleb’s incipient jealousy and mistrust. There were some good dynamics between them, and the dialogue was believable and fun at times.

The veering off into the woods for some icky violence was a surprise, but I didn’t mind it at all. Until then the story had begun to pootle along somewhat, so it was good to have a change of pace. As is so often with fantasy books, the ultimate goals do not immediately become clear, and I sometimes have a problem with that. There’s so much emphasis on world-building and character development, the story’s motivation can take third billing at times. I felt a bit like that here, but because the writing was entertaining, the characters engaging and the sections where Rowan casts his spells so gorgeously described, I was entranced. For me, this was a fun and accessible fantasy/magical realism novel that was very enjoyable to read.

BLURB

Built on the bones of an ancient city, modern-day Everstrand is where master mage, Rowan, has set up his enchantment shop. When not hanging out with his werewolf best friend, Caleb, or studying, he dabbles in herbology and the controversial practice of blood magic. A prodigy who has already earned two masters, Rowan’s bound and determined to reach the distinction of grandmaster, a mage who obtains a masters in all five Schools of Magic.

Shaw works for the Inquisition, the organization charged with policing the magical races collectively known as magicae. Recently, it has come under scrutiny as magicae begin to disappear and reports of violence increase. With secrets of his own on the line, Shaw is willing to risk everything to find out just what is going on behind all the locked doors.

When Rowan and Shaw are entangled in each other’s worlds, it becomes evident that their hearts are as much at risk as their lives. They must find the truth and stop a conspiracy before it’s too late.

23Aug/18

Drumbeat by A M Leibowitz

As the blurb suggests, there are some issues here that need delicate handling. Psychological abuse and eating disorders are not plot devices suitable for bandying around in the usual MM romance fare. As one with personal experience, it’s one thing guaranteed to p**s me off faster than a pube on a toilet seat, so I was just waiting, tensing myself for the moment when it all began to slide downhill.

Thank goodness then, for the author’s sensitive and balanced handling of the tough issues, without being all earnest, lurid (or worst, inaccurate) about it. This is a wonderful story of two men, each with complicated lives which don’t conform to what is generally construed as “normal,” who gradually find their way to each other despite several false starts and well-meaning but ultimately clueless friends.

There’s a lot of diverse representation here, with two polyamorous relationships, Jamie is deaf, Trevor is a big man so not your usual heartthrob in an MM romance (unless it’s specifically aimed at bears.) There are people of colour and ex-drag queens, yet it didn’t feel “topic of the month.” The focus was always on the dynamic between Jamie, Cian and the people around them, with all the awkwardness, bickering, love and support complicated families deal with every day. The book felt real, especially with regard to Jamie’s issues. The plot device with Jamie’s ex sounded the only iffy note as it was concluded, but that was easily forgiven because of how the eating disorder was dealt with. Sadly, I know a lot about eating disorders, and everything Jamie suffers from sounds authentic. Kudos to the author for handling it so well.

And it has to be said, the book is also entertaining, a great read with real tension and not an obvious way through for Cian and Jamie to resolve their issues and differences. The secondary characters were warm as well, yet not too perfect. Trevor, the one unwittingly playing havoc with Jamie’s emotions, is so well-drawn. We all know a Trevor, be he straight or gay or anywhere in-between. The delicacies of navigating a poly relationship are interesting as well, for people (like me) who cannot see how it works. I finished the book well-informed and with eyes opened just a little more, which is always a good thing.

BLURB

Jamie Cosgrove is doing his best to recover from a break-up after years with an abusive boyfriend. All his usual coping strategies have failed, and he’s fallen back on things that make him feel safe: drumming, food, and his friend Trevor. The trouble is, two of those are still secrets, even from those closest to him.

Cian Toomey has it all. He has loving relationships with his partners and a fulfilling, creative career. The one thing he’s missing is someone to go home to at night. When sudden changes occur at one of his jobs, he’s faced with a choice to find something new or move in with his partners in a different city.

Well-meaning but pushy friends seem to think Cian and Jamie are the answers to each other’s prayers. They couldn’t disagree more. A series of random events thrusts them into each other’s lives, and they find they have more in common than they thought. But when all of Jamie’s carefully constructed walls crumble at once, both of them will have to depend on the support of their friends and family to strengthen their fragile bond.

23Aug/18

Worth the Wait by Karelia Stetz-Waters

Karelia Stetz-Waters was a recent guest on WROTE! To find out more about her and get links to her work, check out Episode 174: Rest Your Heart For A Little While!

This book was a new experience for me; my very first lesbian romance. I dove in with no expectations, other than hope it would be a good read.

The upshot is this. Avery is a successful TV presenter with a long-running show, working with her on-screen-only romance interest, Alistair, who is asexual. They are friends, and both have a lot to lose if Avery come out as lesbian. She’s harbouring a fifteen-year secret longing for the girl she was very friendly with at high school, so of course she does the sensible thing and goes to a reunion in the hope of seeing her again.

Merritt has also been nursing a broken heart for fifteen years, trying valiantly to forget Avery, and failing. She has a hardware shop in Portland, where the story is based, and her life is fine thank you until Avery turns up and basically throws her for a loop.

Cue clandestine meetings and a lot of angst. I’m not telling you how it turns out. That would spoil it.

This chunky book is so close to being a perfect love story for me, and yet I did struggle in places. It could have been more tightly edited to stop the slight meandering of dialogue and navel-gazing. It took a lot of words to keep the story, which was actually quite straightforward, on the right track. I’m sure it could have been a third shorter, and been an easier read for it.

I think my main problem is I have very little time for reality TV shows (which are anything but) and manipulating TV audiences for ratings, so there were times when I was thinking, “for God’s sake, why is this so difficult for them?” I think making it clearer how much Avery stood to lose would have helped nearer the start. Her work colleagues, including Alistair, weren’t very sympathetic, and she came across as a bit of a flake, so I didn’t empathise with her problem for a while. I was just wondering why she was still working with these arseholes.

Once I cottoned on though, I could see her dilemma, if not totally identify with it. People in the public eye don’t just have their own reputation to think about, but the careers of all the people around them. One false move can spell disaster, especially when the whole programme is built around the chemistry and romance between Avery and Alistair, and people are expecting them to conform to hetero norms. Fall in love, fall out of love, bond over soft furnishings, get engaged, get married, have a baby….

I have to ask this. Would people in real life be more resentful of the fact they had been sold a lie, rather than the fact that Avery is gay and Alistair is asexual? It’s a sticky subject. I would rather people lived their truth and I suppose that’s why I had a problem with the premise in the beginning. I know others wouldn’t.

However, the chemistry between Avery and Merritt was unmistakable, the sex lush and gorgeous, not gratuitous at all. There were some wonderfully-drawn side characters, especially Lei-Ling and Iliana, and love surrounding the two main characters. Portland sounds like a place I’d like to visit, and I’d definitely read more by this author.

Will they, won’t they? Do they, don’t they? Don’t ask me. Read it yourself. Believe me it’s Worth the Wait (sorry, couldn’t resist it!)

BLURB

For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted . . .

Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move-their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.

 

17Jul/18

Magic or Die (Inner Demons 1) by J P Jackson

J. P. Jackson has recently been on our show to tell us about Magic or Die. To find links and support his work, check out Episode 169: Put Strange Things In Your Mouth

Nice bit of world building from J.P. Jackson, author of Daimonion, and a great addition to the horror/fantasy genres. This is his second novel and it shows, with a surer hand and confidence in the writing. It’s unfair to compare the two books because they are so different. Daimonion was a good, gory read, but with Magic Or Die, the self-assured plotting, scene-building and dialogue make for a book that is more accessible to people unused to the demon genre.

In a nutshell, we have James who has his own demons, namely guilt, grief and alcohol. The blurb describes him as an alcoholic, but I wouldn’t have gone that far. Yes, he uses drink to numb his pain, but he seems to function perfectly well once he has his five students on-side and they are fighting for survival. He only has a few months to get them under control and able to use their powers in a way convenient to a sinister organisation (CMRD – read blurb). If he fails, it’s curtains for all of them. I won’t say more because this is a review, not a synopsis, but you get the idea.

I love the way the author has made everything very clear. From the start, I knew what the modus was, and the problems James has to overcome in order to achieve it. I understood the difference between Arcanes and Elementals because all that information is right there, and so often in these genres it just isn’t. He manages this without patronising the newbie or alienating readers experienced in the genre. In short, it’s a bloody good, enjoyable read.

The students all had their own demons (surely an allegory for real life.) I was waiting for the poison pill, the one to screw things up for everyone else. There is a candidate, but I won’t spoil it. The real boo-hiss villain is Miriam, a cross between Cruella de Ville and that evil witch from The Emperor’s New Groove. Maybe she is a little too much of a caricature, but it’s a small point in a book of interesting characters and curious dilemmas, all set within the confines of a strange, maze-like building without any obvious means of escape. The students are a lively bunch, honey-toned Isaiah and his lascivious, blue-eyed demon, enraged Chris, unable to fully control his inner fire wolf, the anime-like Ning and ethereal Camila and Annabelle. All have spectacular skills which, if not harnessed, are a threat to civilisation. The atmosphere is eery, with beautiful descriptions as each display their power. The sexual tension between James and Isaiah is subtle rather than full-on. It was a fun, spooky, tense mix, with a good building of atmosphere and an exciting finale. A solid start to a promising series.

BLURB

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

 

03Jul/18

Mouschwitz by Kevin Snow

Kevin Snow talked to our hosts back in March 2018. To check out his story and get links to his work, listen to Episode 153: The Price of Admission. http://www.wrotepodcast.com/kevin-snow/

To start, I had to look up “gonzo journalism.” For those who, like me, have no idea, it was a genre first associated with Hunter S Thompson and later, Norman Mailer. The author himself describes it as a “highly fictionalised reconstruction of reality.” Basically, it deals with true stories, presented as fiction. I hope that clears things up.

Despite the seemingly light and snarky tone, this book hasn’t been written for shits and giggles. In fact, at times it is hard to stomach, to be honest. There is a dark side to the entertainment industry that people are only recently beginning to face up to, even though everyone knows it’s been that way since the days of silent movies. Women are speaking out, but members of the LGBT community, especially men, still find it almost impossible to get their voices heard. At the time of this review, the court case is still pending, so the veracity of the statements in the book are still being reviewed by the judicial system. This means I cannot say too much more, but for anyone in the LGBTQ community who feels marginalised by their chosen profession, it is a witty, savage and important read.

BLURB

A lonely queer staff member in Michael Eisner’s Disney empire can’t seem to get the break his career needs. Instead, the executive officers he works under seem more focused on selling him into prostitution and pornography, buying his used underpants, showing up to work without clothes on, and keeping him on staff to exploit his medical marijuana license.

A psychedelic Bush-era flashback, laced with cynical humor and pop culture pastiche, “Mouschwitz” takes the reader on a dizzying journey through every nook and cranny of the entertainment industry, through multiple characters’ perspectives, as the author Snow blends pointed social commentary on sexual harassment, gender politics, and anti-LGBT discrimination in the industry with the dark and terrifyingly surreal.

“Mouschwitz” is “The Devil Wears Prada” meets “Moulin Rouge”, while they both get sucker punched by “Mulholland Drive”, as Slavoj Žižek watches in hysterical fits of laughter.

Based on Snow’s real life experiences working for the Walt Disney Company, Snow’s “Mouschwitz” uses his signature black humor, gonzo parody, and dark satire to expose the real-life systemic sexual harassment of LGBT employees stemming from top executives at Disney.

“Mouschwitz” is the third novel in Snow’s 16-part gonzo journalism series. A paperback version is planned for released in February 2018 with illustrations by John-Ross Boyce and design by Alex Alchwikani.
#MeToo

29Jun/18

Blood-Bound (Ace Assassin Book 1) by Kaelan Rhywiol

Kaelan Rhywiol was on our show back in April To find out more about xyr and get links to xyr work, check out Episode 161: The Vale Between Worlds!

Blood-Bound is a haunting and Gothic vampire novel, the first part of the Ace Assassin series, yet can be read as a standalone novel. The story features a strong female lead who is described as grey-aromantic. I wouldn’t normally bang on about a character’s chosen gender or sexuality but it does form a major aspect of the book, and to understand the characters, you kind of have to get a handle on what their preferences are. In this book, the author is very clear from the start, so the main character’s relationships with their closest friends are not in any doubt. Xie has also included a comprehensive glossary at the back of the book, which proved invaluable when I was losing my way with some of the unfamiliar words and meanings, especially pertaining to Welsh folklore. (Welsh does seem a language where consonants are thrown up in the air and where they land, there forms a word….)

So the story revolves around Rhian, who resents being sent to Ontario as an ambassador as it brings her too close to her husband, who she believes betrayed her. Inevitably their paths cross, with messy and sticky circumstances. There are trigger warnings at the beginning of the book, referring to self-harm, violence and sexual violence, but actually, it all worked and didn’t feel gratuitous at all. At times it was a fetid, sometimes sexy, always lusciously described brew of the good, the bad and the ugly. I felt I was in safe hands with the author, despite an initial mis-step. There was an element of confusion to start with, as xie mentioned London, so I started out thinking the action was based in the UK. Rhian definitely speaks with a British accent, so this caused a mental switcheroo when I realised the book was based in Canada. It’s a small thing, but I didn’t need that element of doubt right at the start of the book. It threw me off for a while.

When I did find my stride again, there were two things I really liked about this novel. Despite the brooding atmosphere, there is a slash of humour which tells me it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s very subtle, a hint of a wry smile, but it’s there.

The other thing is the author’s mix of Welsh folklore and unabashed attempts to challenge the reader’s expectations of a character’s sexuality and gender. It was cleverly done and didn’t feel arch or “topic of the moment.” In a world of shape-shifters and vampires, it was a good introduction to the challenges of being a world-class human being.

And, of course, there are the lashings of sex and violence, which is always welcome (by me, anyway) set against a glamorous backdrop that I could picture perfectly. The cover, though, beautiful, almost suggests a book of sparkling vampires and teenage angst, but this is far from it. This is a very adult book, and a challenging, exciting read.

BLURB

Rhian is content in her life. As a pwca, a Welsh shapeshifter, she is bound to the Dark God Arawn as an assassin. So when he assigns her as ambassador to oversee Ontario for him, it’s a shock.

Her new job? To find out who murdered her predecessor and bring them to justice, as well as to oversee the otherkin and clean up their messes before the humans find them—all to preserve the illusion that magic and supernatural creatures do not exist.

The problem? One of the otherkin she’s supposed to oversee is her estranged husband, Kai, the only person Rhian never regretted having sex with, and the only one she can’t forgive.

08Jun/18

Social Media Central by Kevin Klehr

Kevin Klehr came to visit us on WROTE recently! To listen to his episode and find links to his work, check out Episode 163: A Good Femme Fatale!

Considering how relevant the role social media plays in our lives, I’m surprised I haven’t come across a book that deals with the phenomenon before now.

Social Media Central deals with one lonely man who doesn’t buy into the whole world-wide obsession and god-like status of media celebrities, but he gradually gets sucked into it after meeting Madeline Q, a fashion blogger, and her glamorous colleagues. The story is set fifty or so years in the future but frankly, we’re seeing elements of Klehr’s vision now. Klehr’s future world has no books, empty offices, most ordinary people shut in their own rooms to work, preferring to “mirror meal” (a chilling phrase if ever there was one) with friends instead of meeting them face to face. The exceptions were the glamorous ones, the media stars, the celebrities famous for being famous, who set the trends and tell people how to eat, what to wear etc. Again, not that different from now in many aspects.

Tayler is a lonely geek with a dim view of the whole on-line celebrity thing. I found it difficult to get to know him at first. There was a dispassionate tone to the dialogue which meant I didn’t feel I had full access to the Social Media world, but was looking at it through smeared triple-glazing. Having said that, Tayler was the easiest character to identify and sympathise with. I couldn’t get to the heart of who Madeline was, which was frustrating.

As the story progresses, the plot thickens when a girl’s body is found in a nightclub. No spoilers, but what follows is a lot of smoke and mirrors, some of which I didn’t get at all. Madeline isn’t who she seems, and her actions seem incomprehensible at first. The pace of the story was uneven in places, but I did find myself compelled to read to the end. Before that, I did struggle a bit, mainly because the characters (apart from Tayler) aren’t people I would choose to spend time with in real life.

I’ve since read some parts of the  book again, and have enjoyed it a lot more, although “enjoyed” might not be the right word. The world of Social Media Central is bleak, very well-crafted, and ultimately rather depressing, but with a whodunnit thrown in, and a dash of glamour, it does make for a compelling read, and I had definitely warmed towards the characters by the end.

One final note: A couple of reviews mentioned the “lack of LGBT content.” I disagree. The characters were diverse and fluid, without a lot of rainbow flag waving. It was subtly done, and a worthy addition to the mainstream as well as LGBT+ sci-fi genres.

BLURB

In an age where everyone lives their lives through a screen, no one has more celebrity status than fashion blogger, Madeline Q. In a chance meeting, Tayler, loner and geek, is introduced to her world of parties, fan worship, and seduction.

But as his own star rises, Madeline Q is arrested for murder. There’s just one problem—there is no corpse. Tayler soon learns that fiction blurs reality on Social Media Central.

13May/18

Read by Strangers: Stories by Philip Dean Walker

We had the pleasure of interviewing Philip Dean Walker back in November 2016. To listen to his episode and get links to his work, check out Episode 084: Bars Are Where Our History Happened!

I was very much looking forward to this next collection of stories from Philip Dean Walker, after enjoying the superb At Danceteria and other Stories. Whilst that book concentrated on definitive moments in our history, and real people, this anthology has a mixed bag of stories and characters plucked from Walker’s imagination.

And what an imagination it is, from the woman who endangers her baby whilst engaging in an illicit affair to the man whose fantasies take a very dark turn. Despite the lurking horror, there is a playfulness to the writing, a chance for Walker to play with different styles from lilting to staccato, poetic to erotic. Perhaps because the stories were written over a few years, some being published elsewhere before now, the mix of styles could seem a little disjointed, although I enjoyed the unpredictability of it. In all cases though, the quality was outstanding.

Here we have a writer not afraid to experiment. A Cup of Fur was distinctly odd, and took it’s sweet time to get to the point. In various cases, there doesn’t seem to be a point per se. Each piece seems to be a cold, hard look at the human condition, and what some people are capable of.

I enjoyed the sense of experimentation, of testing himself with the viewpoints of people of various genders and sexuality. There is no doubt this is a literary collection, yet balancing the gravitas with a sense of mischievousness to stop the stories becoming dry and worthy. There is no consistency with the length of stories, so each one is a surprise.

Standouts for me were Unicorn, where lads trespassing in an abandoned house learn more about a family tragedy, A Goddess Lying Breathless In Carnage, beautiful and sinister, And Three-Sink Sink. I still don’t understand the title but the writing was pure, savage and totally compelling.

BLURB

Read by Strangers is a collection of sixteen stories exploring the complexities of the human experience. From weary men seeking a ride back from a club but find themselves trapped to a woman addicted to a virtual reality game who is neglecting her child to a man whose fantasies about of his neighbor’s wife have begun to take over his life, the characters in each of these stories are enveloped in their commitment to their own personal desires. 

17Apr/18

Seven-Sided Spy by Hannah Carmack

 

We recently had the pleasure of Hannah Carmack’s company at WROTE. To listen to her episode, check out Episode 150: I Guess What Changed Was Me!

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, the story is told by seven different characters, who all have code names and mutations, giving you at least fourteen names to remember. If you liked the multi-character aspect of Game of Thrones, this book’s multiple points of view and complex, espionage plot is for you.

Most of the story takes place in the dense backwaters of North Carolina, which means that the Cold War element of the story is primarily told, rather than shown. I struggled to find a sense of history. Unless I had been informed that the book was set in this time period, I may well have not picked it up.

Having said that, the writing was intelligent and the dialogue sparky and crafted well. I sensed a real affection between the author and her characters, as well as a sense that she knew what was happening, even if I hadn’t pieced everything together yet.

Because of the back and forth styling, the switch between POV’s and the numerous changes of name, I struggled to engage with a character. I appreciate that others will love this challenge, and for a first novel, it is a wonderfully ambitious mix of spy novel and science fiction.

Finally, I do love the cover. It certainly captures the myriad of characters, some stronger than others, and the kaleidoscopic nature of the work.

__________________________________________

BLURB

In the midst of the cold war, the CIA’s finest and most fatal female agent, Diana Riley, vanishes. Kidnapped by the KGB and taken to the backcountry of North Carolina, she and her team of unsavory partners are forced to undergo illegal experimentation.

But, when the experiments leave them horribly deformed and unable to reenter society without someone crying monster, the previously glamorous and high-maintenance spies must escape KGB captivity and avoid recapture at the hands of Nikola, a ruthless KGB agent with an intense and well-justified grudge against her former flame.