Tag Archives: anthology

20Nov/17

Once Upon A Rainbow Volume 1 by Various

REVIEW

I always find it difficult to review anthologies, as I want to give each story due diligence. In this case, I was asked to review one of the stories, (Hood’s Ride, by J.P. Jackson,) but found myself being drawn into a rabbit hole of fantasy, eroticism, horror and romance

These stories are based on well-known children’s fairytales, but with a definite adult twist, featuring LGBTQ characters from across the spectrum. Some fairytales are merged together, with aspects of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in one of the tales, and the heartrending Little Match Girl being given a happier ending in another. This is a real mixed bag, with the most striking being Hood’s Ride, by J.P. Jackson, which sits like a Quentin Tarantino movie accidentally replaced into the Hallmark section of the video store. Immediately, it is obvious that this ain’t no fairy story, with the glowering Hood banged up in jail, being tormented by guards who don’t know what he’s capable of. It’s essentially a rescue story, the twist being that Hood is the wolf, a shifter who discovers his true identity in the most dramatic way.

The Gingerbread Woman is another standout. Shorter than the rest, it is a funny and erotic lesbian tale with a wistful twist at the end, and Once Upon a Mattress was the nearest thing to a classic fairy story, amalgamating Cindefella with the Prince and the Pea to humorous and romantic effect. Because the stories are of varying lengths, the effect could feel uneven, but it doesn’t. The writing style of each author compliments each other, rather than duking it out for top billing, which makes this a highly enjoyable read.

It would be hard to choose a favourite, so I won’t. And anyway, each tale is so different, the characters so diverse, it would be unfair to. Like every good anthology, this book is like a box of chocolates. There’s something for everyone, and you never know what you’re going to get.

BLURB

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Nine fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Morning Star by Sydney Blackburn – Five wishes; one desire.

Fairest by K.S. Trenten – What will you change into?

Gingerbread by Riza Curtis – A night out to die for.

Sleeping Beauty by A. Fae – United by true love’s kiss.

Little Match Girl by Dianne Hartsock – Falling in love with the Little Match Girl was easy, but now Christian is determined to help Dani find his family, even if doing so means he might lose him forever.

Hood’s Ride is Red by J.P. Jackson – A red car, a werewolf, and a trip to grandpa’s house – this ain’t your usual Little Red Riding Hood.

The Gingerbread Woman by Donna Jay – When Candace sets out for a weekend of solitude she gets far more than she bargained on.

White Roses by A.D. Song – A kiss to break the curse…or continue it.

Once Upon a Mattress by Mickie B. Ashling – Will Errol spend a miserable night and prove his worthiness or will Sebastian have to keep on looking?

06Jul/17

Review of Spinning The Record: Stories by Robert Hyers

I was gifted a copy for an honest and fair review. The book is available in ebook, paperback and as an audiobook. We will have the pleasure of interviewing Robert Hyers later in the summer!

Don’t let the rather lofty blurb put you off. Robert Hyers’ anthology of short stories is a pleasure to read. Amidst the pin-sharp observations and savage wit, there are also gripping, staggeringly-detailed and well-written tales, all set amidst the gay club scene.

And a what a scene it is; dripping with drag queens, twinks, muscle-boys, and ordinary, newly-out men stumbling around as they try to find their feet in a vivid, complicated new world. The fashion, the music, the threat of homophobic violence at every turn. And the drugs…

There are a LOT of drugs, with some graphic details of their use and aftermath, enough to make a middle-aged lady clutch her pearls. Nothing is really glamorised. Instead, it is searingly honest, telling of the dark side of all the seemingly carefree, hedonistic fun. There’s nothing in the way of balls-to-the-wall sex, but it is implied, and that makes it all the more potent. It’s a heady, painful mix that will ring true for many men, whatever their age, race and financial circumstances.

It is all here, an oozing, sticky melting-pot that you will want to stick your finger into again and again, even though sometimes, the ingredients are hard to digest. I read this all in one gulp, as once I had read the first story, I couldn’t actually put the book down. This is a world I’m unfamiliar with; a frightening, colourful, dangerous world. It is hard to choose a standout, but the stories that stick in my mind the most are Bosom Buddies and Bacchae. The first is the stage performance of two drag queens, one reaching for the stars, the other falling from them. Any story that features RuPaul’s Drag Race will immediately have my attention, and the result is savage but hilarious. It is one of the shortest stories, but packs a powerful punch.

The second, Bacchae, concerns two men out with their “fag hag” female friend, ostensibly to pull her out of postpartum depression. I hate, hate, hate the term “fag hag” but it fits in this book, and anyway, the story isn’t about her. It’s about a kiss, a misunderstanding, dreams dashed and a spark of hope. Bittersweet and beautiful.

BLURB

Spinning The Record documents the search of its impoverished queer white and Latino protagonists for individuality inside the spectrum of the gay identity. Within the primary settings of gay clubs and raves in Manhattan and urban areas of New Jersey, these protagonists search for meaning and identity through illicit drugs, sex, pop culture, Greek mythology, and Christian iconography.

 

 

 

 

22Dec/16

Review of Strawberries and other Erotic Fruits, by Jerry. L. Wheeler

Recently, we had the fruity Jerry L. Wheeler on the show, revealing all. Find out more about Jerry and get links to his work on Episode 082: Work For It!

REVIEW

Well, this is a mixed bag, I must say. An anthology of fine short stories from an exceptional author, and worthy finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Erotica. This is a juicy collection, not only for the sex, of which there is plenty. There are plenty of other strange delights to chomp into but beware. Some of these stories have bite, and will stay with you for a long time; tragedy, horror, the lure of sensual pleasure that can only lead to destruction. And then, a dash of comedy to lighten things up here and there. This book gets inside your head, mucks around in there and refuses to leave, like a hardcore version of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. This is thinking person’s gay erotica, where the writing is so good, you’re not waiting for the action to begin, yet when it does, it doesn’t get in the way.

There are too many to list individually, but my standouts are;

Strawberries – The first tale, deceptively hot, even as events become more sinister by the minute. This sets the tone for the whole book. Be wary. Things are not what they seem.

Snapshots – One of the most disturbing tales. What goes around, comes around. Revenge tastes sweet unless you have too much.

Love, Sex and Death on the Daily Commute – A lonely, mild-mannered man fantasises about the fellow traveller he sees every morning, until the opportunity comes to make his fantasy a reality. When it all goes horribly wrong, his choices open the door to a dark future.

Templeton’s In Love – Different in tone, more melancholy and bittersweet. A lonely man witnesses the swansong of a legend as his own past catches up with him.

It’s hard to pick favourites, to be honest. The writing was outstanding in all cases. I’ve recently fallen back in love with short stories. With so many “wham, bam, thank you, man” erotic collections available, this one is a literary and weird delight from start to finish.

22Dec/16

Review of The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland by Joe Cosentino

Way back when we were small, we had a wonderful time with Joe Cosentino, who regaled us with unforgettable tales from his theatrical past. To find out more about Joe and get links to his work, check out Episode 014: I Saw Bruce Willis Naked!

REVIEW

A great big dollop fairy dust has been thrown over four traditional tales of Far Far Away and made them totally fabulous. Add a dash of ribald humour, gentle digs at the straight community, and you have a what Joe Cosentino does best. Jaunty, humorous tales with a bittersweet edge.

First, we have The Naked Prince, who appears in front of poor, downtrodden Cinder (guess which tale this is…) He’s stark bollock naked and helpless, due to being robbed. He’s also a bit of a jackass, which was a refreshing twist, and the Stepmother eventually gets off with the Queen….

In The Golden Rule, Gideon Golden has been thrown out of his home by his homophobic parents (sadly, an all-too-common theme in reality.) The tale takes on a happier note when he takes shelter in an empty cottage on Bear Mountain. The three burly bears all take a shine to young Gideon, and the theme is love and acceptance.

Next, Whatever Happened To…? A size queen reporter (Jack, who has a thing for giants!) is sent to interview Pinnochio about his childhood, and discovers that Pinnochio’s nose isn’t the only appendage that grows when he tells porkies. Could this be true love and the beginning of a Happy Ever After?

And finally, Ice Cold gains its inspiration from Grimm’s The Snow Queen (or if you’re a millennial, Frozen.) Two boys, childhood friends, are orphaned and grow up together, eventually realising they are in love before one seeks adventure and falls into the clutches of Isadore, the Ice Prince. This story sets a different tone to the others and I enjoyed it most of all, as the jokey dialogue is replaced with real drama and tension.

So expect the unexpected. The bones of each traditional tale are there, but Cosentino has made mischief with just about every one of them. This is a gay new world, where all the tropes are turned on their heads, introducing other well-known characters as cameos or giving them walk-on parts. The author has a theatrical background and it shows in the dialogue. What fun this would be if it was set on the stage! (STRICTLY for adults only, of course!)

If I had a niggle, it would be that in places, the writing seemed a little clumsy when the secondary characters began squabbling. Yes, it was funny, but it took away from the major plot-lines. Not that this mattered too much. The book was an easy read, a bit of a giggle, and not too taxing on the brain cells. Is it his best book? No, but it is huge fun and has been written with so much affection, it’s very hard not to like it.

19Nov/16

Review of At Danceteria And Other Stories by Philip Dean Walker

philipdeanwalker

Listen to Philip Dean Walker’s show and find out more about his work here!

REVIEW

This is an audacious collection, set in the 1970’s and 80’s, featuring the rich and famous, dead or still alive. Audacious because the events are (probably) fiction, featuring real life celebrities (Freddie Mercury, Princess Diana, Halston, Liza Minnelli, to name just a few.) These affectionate and mischievous tales are moving, visceral and funny all at once, leaving the reader feeling as if they’ve been sand-blasted with fabulousness. Sparkly, yet sore as hell.

There is a distinct cool 1970’s/hot 1980’s vibe shimmering through this book, flamboyant characters coming to vibrant life, the drugs, the partying, the sex, the smart talk. Yet the whole thing is overshadowed by the spectre of AIDS. Death, dawning realisation, partying before someone turns the lights out, it is all here, in an incredible group of stories, the like of which I will never forget.

To find out more about each story, read below. Or don’t, and just read the book instead. It’s wonderful. And four weeks after reading it, still as clear as crystal. Damn you, Philip Dean Walker for getting inside my head!

By Halston is one night in the life of the fashion designer and his muse Liza Minnelli as they Hoover cocaine like Tony Montana before the launch of a new fashion collection (for JC Penney…) and party the night away at Studio 54. The crisp dialogue and insights into an outwardly glamorous world are pin sharp. Walker has studied these people and loves them, for all their faults and insecurities. Halston’s ultimate destiny is hinted at in one chillingly mundane observation, that he has “always preferred black rough trade.” He draws Halston as generous, egotistical, colourful, insecure, talented. Simply, he is Halston. By Halston.

Don’t Stop Me Now. Four besties, Freddie (Mercury,) Kenny (Everett,) Cleo (Rocos,) and Diana (Spencer,) a fantasy foursome if ever there was one, enjoy ribald humour and a night at a drag show.  This was hugely enjoyable yet so poignant, considering that all but one are now dead. I grew up with Freddie and Kenny. I watched Lady Di turn into Princess Diana. When they fell, one by one, it was as if a piece of my own history had died with them. So reading this gleeful tale of “what ifs” with the four of them having good times, going to a drag club, was wonderful. Diana dressing as a drag king might be implausible, but the way it was written, you could easily imagine it happening. As she strips herself of her “Princess” persona, a drag queen dresses up in her image, reminding her that the world needed Princess Diana. Nothing could stop her now.

In Charlie Movie Star, Rock Hudson is at the White House, a guest of Nancy and Ronald Reagan. Although he’s aware of the new virus circulating around the gay community, he feels remote from it, first inviting a younger staffer back to his room. Fast forward to Tracks nightclub, and he meets another man called Gus. In 2016, we know he’s playing with fire. Every fibre in me wanted to call out across the decades, “beware!” But he doesn’t, and we know what happened next.

The Boy Who Lived Next To The Boy Next Door deals with AIDS head-on, as the narrator (we never learn his name) observes people in his community dropping like flies with what he calls HGF (Hot Guy Flu.) For a while, it seems as if people actually want to get this new virus, because it is seen as a badge of their desirability. That is, until the first not-so-hot guy falls ill. From then on, no-one is safe. This is meant to hit hard, and it does. The beautiful ballet dancer cutting his own face to make himself ugly and protect himself against HGF is especially shocking; a sobering reminder of those terrible dark years.

Sequins At Midnight is one night in the life of Sylvester, disco king at the height of his fame. One fabulous night, with his adoring fans before him, among them is Jason, waiting for him to sing his favourite song. As Sylvester toys with him from the stage, he thinks about his life so far, and we are given glimpses into his private persona, from when he is growing up to what brings him to this night. AIDS hasn’t yet struck, but it is waiting in the wings. We know this, yet Sylvester doesn’t. He is thinking about his life, from the brutal realisation that he is gay, to his famous friends who adore him. Yet he also knows full well, no-one gets a show for free. There are no refunds at the door….

Jackie and Jerry and The Anvil A somewhat sombre tale. Jerry Torre (The Marble Faun) takes Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis to The Anvil, a notorious leather bar, after she insists he escort her for a night out. The idea of the fragrant Ms. Onassis in such a sweaty place, smelling of ass and leather, is a mischievous one, yet it turns slightly melancholy as Jackie O recalls a lost love, and it seems that life can be lonely living with so many riches, yet so little excitement. Meanwhile, Little Edie Beale seethes with resentment on the sidelines, thinking her cousin is so lucky to be in the position she’s gained….

At Danceteria, Keith Haring is celebrating his 26th birthday. Madonna is on stage, singing just for him. Life looks good, but talking to friends, he sees the undercurrents threatening the stability of his life. “Something is fucking happening here.” Five words that spread a chill throughout the sweaty club. Keith escapes the noise and craziness and goes up into the roof of the club. With a couple of Sharpies he begins to draw. He’s drawing his future, and what he thinks is the future of his community. He leaves an indelible mark, to show that once, he was there.

This is a brilliant, acid-tipped spear of a collection. Not to be missed.

 

 

27Jul/16

A More Perfect Union (Anthology – various)

a-more-perfect-unionWe were fortunate enough to have all four authors of A More Perfect Union on the show! Listen to their interview and get links to their work on Episode 062 – Celebrating Perfect Unions

REVIEW

A delicious quartet of stories to celebrate the first anniversary of marriage equality. Poignant, tense and at times horrific, some are based on personal experience. It’s humbling to read these tales of ordinary people who just want to get married, to have legality as well as equality. It isn’t about swans and over-the-top nuptials, just the simple fact of being acknowledged and recognised as a legal married couple. That right has been denied for so long, and to hear the things that some couples have been through is shocking, though sadly all too true.

Flames – J Scott Coatsworth

What happens when your partner is involved in a terrible accident and taken to hospital in a coma, but because you are not legally “next of kin” his family are entitled to keep you from seeing him? Alex has made a terrible mistake and is desperate to be by Gio’s side and talk him out of his coma, but Gio’s mother has other ideas. Alex has always resisted the idea of marriage, thinking it’s an unnecessary formality, but now he will do anything to make sure Gio knows he really is committed to him. If he ever wakes up. A romantic tale from a terrific author who knows how to tug at the heartstrings.

Jeordi and Tom – Michael Murphy

Jeordi is also involved in an accident, and has bigoted parents who disagree with his relationship with Tom. Despite all the odds, they run away to get married in another state, only to be thwarted by a Kim Davis-like figure who won’t do her job on account of her “beliefs.” Then their luck changes, and the gay community rally round in the best way possible. A sweet, romantic tale with an undertone of despair from another accomplished author.

Destined – Jamie Fessenden

Jay and Wallace are destined to be together, but somehow, keep missing each other. When they finally do get together, it isn’t all sparkles and cupcakes. They have obstacles to overcome and have to stay strong. Their love is the tie that binds them, but this story illustrates that HEA’s do not come easily if you’re not straight. I love Jamie Fessenden’s writing, and his warmth for these characters shines through.

Someday – B G Thomas

A massive story, crammed into a shorter one. It all starts with a shoelace, and turns into a love affair that at first seems unrequited. Lucas is the boy determined to marry Dalton, from their first day at kindergarten. In less skilled hands, this might have seemed stalkerish, but it doesn’t. It works, from teenage antics to deep lasting love, Thomas has created a grand love affair between characters that deserve more than just a short story.

So in effect, all four of these tales touch on the problems that gay couples have come up again and again, even since the marriage equality bill was passed. There is a lot of work still to do, yet they are ultimately uplifting, all very different, and massively enjoyable to read. I learned a lot, but also, could not put this book down. The writing is exemplary in all cases, so it’s impossible to pick a favourite. Love against the odds, the importance of honesty in relationships, the need to be strong in order to fight for the things that others take for granted. Every Bridezilla should read this, and be bloody grateful she has never had these kind of issues to deal with.