Tag Archives: Book review

20Mar/17

Review of Domald Tromp, Pounded In The Butt etc. by Chuck Tingle

REVIEW

#Ineedmorebookstoreviewplease!

I know Chuck Tingle has his dissenters, but I thought this was a well-written, damning indictment of modern American politics, the latest instalment in the life story of Donald Trump.

Oh wait ….

Seriously, this was a satirical look at fictional Commander In Chief, Domald Tromp, who cannot seem to get his act together in this latest episode, and makes bad decision after bad decision, to the point where he has to be taught a lesson by his Russian T Rex cohort on the golf course (where else?)

I have no idea whether this is clever satire or not, but I found it pretty funny and surprisingly readable. And the sex was hot too. Totally gratuitous, making no sense at all, but jolly and buttock-punishingly enthusiastic. I mean, who isn’t going to love a book entitled “Pounded In The Butt By His Fabricated Wiretapping Scandal made up to direct focus away from his seemingly endless unethical connections TO RUSSIA?'” Possibly one person, I’m guessing.

And credit to Chuck for getting this book out WITHIN HOURS of the story breaking. I imagine him lurking on the internet like some malevolent spider, just waiting for tasty morsels to come his way. And when they do, boy does he have fun with them. Never underestimate the Tingle…

Finally, if Chuck Tingle reads this, please now write a book with the title Filo Fiannopoulos Slammed In the Butt By His White Male Privilege and Grossly Overinflated Ego. Just a thought.

I’m now off to Google search cream pies…

17Feb/17

Review of Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book One) by Michael Jensen

The not-so-beastly Michael Jensen joined us earlier in January 2017. To find out more about Michael and get links to his work, check out Episode 093: Plans for the Blue Hoodie!

This is a first for me, a gay historical novel which left any preconceived perceptions I might have had, standing at the door. Sometimes, reading a historical novel can be like carrying your hefty mother through a swamp. It’s your duty. You know it’s the right thing to do, but all you really want to do is drop the bitch and make her walk.

Not in this case. Michael Jensen has meticulously researched his subject, yet has woven a story that wears it’s history as lightly as a cashmere cloak. The sense of place and time, is expertly captured, never getting in the way of the story, never bogging down the pace with so much detail in order to prove he had done his homework (the biggest reason I get turned off historical novels.) Instantly, I had the impression he knew what he was talking about, so therefore, I could move on and enjoy what was about to unfold.

The novel’s dark heart becomes even blacker

And what a story, as greenhorn John Chapman is brutally shown life lessons by the rugged and somewhat odious Daniel (I kept thinking of a young Jack Nicholson.) Their relationship is fraught with mounting sexual tension as well as gruesome detail. There are some bloody scenes worthy of 1970’s horror movies. A North American winter takes no prisoners. It’s every man for himself. The novel’s dark heart becomes even blacker after John finally breaks away from Daniel’s grasp and sets up home for himself, supposedly far, far away. He meets Palmer, and they strike up a “romantic friendship.” The way they have to deal with their sexuality in the midsts of a deeply religious community, is again deftly handled. No stereotypes here. No thinly disguised Kim Davis boo-hiss characters. The language feels authentic with no 21st century idioms sneaking in, but still feels fresh and easy to read.

John Chapman’s character is deceptively mild, but he has a core of steel. Also, I didn’t pick up on any gay angst. Rather, his concern is the prejudices and misconceptions of others. He is intelligent and likeable, somewhat gullible at the start, but in desperate circumstances, sometimes trust is the only way to survive. The story goes to places that are totally unexpected, and that unpredictability keeps the reader alert and braced for some truly harrowing scenes at times.

In short, the book was thoroughly enjoyable, an intelligent, entertaining as well as informative read, and I couldn’t put it down. So much so, I began reading Man & Monster straight away. If you like your fiction hard and your horror gristly, it’s a worthy sequel.

Print Length: 307 pages

Publisher: BK Books (November 29, 2016)

Publication Date: November 29, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B01LYVEJ0T

 

BLURB

What is the line that separates man from beast?

The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.

John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.

With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.

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.

 

 

21Oct/16

Review of A Faithful Son by Michael Scott Garvin

faith

Michael Scott Garvin joined us very recently for a chat about his debut novel and writing without the intention of publishing. Hear his episode and find out more about his work here! Episode 080: Michael Scott Garvin – Be Brave

REVIEW

When I begin a book, it sometimes takes a while to figure out whether or not the author is trustworthy. There may be wobbles before they have found their stride, and sometimes you can leap straight into a novel and immediately feel safe.

Michael Scott Garvin belongs firmly in the latter group, a natural writer who has imbued his debut novel with bittersweet small-town American charm. It is a literary, articulate and hugely entertaining time-piece, telling of what it was like to be a gay small-town boy in the 1970’s, with an engaging, sometimes tortured main character.

So we have the story of Zach, a young gay man living in a God-fearing community, with an increasingly drunk father and a stoic, very traditional mother. All their lives are marred by the death of his little sister, and the subsequent disintegration of the family unit.

So far, so bleak, if it were not for the perfectly drawn characters surrounding the family. Erstwhile church ladies and their barely-tolerated husbands provide a balance of humour to offset the tragedy, whilst cleverly showing that religious fervour can have an adverse affect on those who believe.

A small quibble would be that the satellite characters were listed rather than woven subtly into the plot, and at first this makes the book seem a little disjointed, but when Zach becomes the main focus again, the book regains it’s footing. As he realises he is gay, and what he does with that dawning knowledge, rings so true it almost feels like a biography. In fact, it feels as if Zach could speak for many gay men in rural communities, going through the same struggles he did. I found myself cringing for him when he was discovered, and glowing when he found genuine piece of mind.

This doesn’t seem like a wish-fulfilment novel, but one that is being played out all over the world every day. For that reason, it deserves to have as much exposure as possible, and anyone who honestly believes that being gay is all about being fabulous, needs to read this and learn from it.

The next great American gay novel? Or just the next great American human novel? Whichever way you look at it, this is a beautiful, literary and very moving book, one that I will be buying in paperback so it can sit on my bookshelf, on display. I must just mention the cover as well. That image of the sun struggling to shine through the windows of a silhouetted, isolated house is just perfect.

 

17Oct/16

Review of The Role by Richard Taylor Pearson

role

We were lucky enough to have Richard Taylor Pearson on the show earlier this year. Listen to his interview and find out more about his work right here! 059: Moments of Otherworldly Treasures

REVIEW

Mason Burroughs is the ambitious actor about to give up on his dream after repeated setbacks, when luck and a chance meeting lands him the role of a lifetime. Soon he is working opposite an old flame who can still make his heart race, and taking instruction from a border-line psychotic director who forces him to get deeper into the role than he is comfortable with. When he begins to enjoy his new-found responsibilities, his relationship with Eric, the love of his life, begins to crumble.

Don’t be fooled by other reviews saying this book is “steamy.” It isn’t particularly, but what you do get is a detailed look at what it takes to be an actor on Broadway, told through the story of Mason Burroughs, a nondescript-looking guy with an okay talent who probably wouldn’t have made it big, if it wasn’t for a lucky break. He meets Kevin, a crush from way back, now successful, devastatingly handsome, and keen to mould Mason into a worthy foil for his brilliance.

Ambition begins to cloud Mason’s judgement as he is moulded into shape by a variety of expertly-drawn characters, some who veer dangerously towards caricature but as this is the stage, dahling, they are probably bang-on accurate. There’s a director who does everything but twirl his cloak and go “mwah ha ha!” The bitchy understudy with his eyes firmly on Mason’s role (shades of All About Eve) and a distinctly strange personal trainer, who shapes Mason’s cuddly bod into that of a Greek god.

Mason’s love interest, Eric, was conveniently out of the way for most of it, being a computer game designer working on a major new project. I was torn between wanting to shout at Mason for abandoning him, and reasoning that he needs to follow his dream. Kevin, the hunk of lurve copping a feel or slipping Mason the tongue at every opportunity during their love scenes, adds to Mason’s torment. Mason loves Eric, but Kevin (Kevin? Really?) is just so H-O-T! I didn’t think he was, to be honest. He came over as a manipulative, entitled brat, who I wanted to slap every time he had page space. I think the author wanted to make him sympathetic at the end, but he didn’t succeed. I did like the way he made Alex (the understudy) a nice person under all the sass, but it came a bit too little, too late for me.

Although I felt the plot could have been tightened up a little, I really enjoyed this book. The author knows his subject and loves it, and has created a keyhole look at a world that people on the outside think is so glamorous, but is in fact full of egos, back-stabbers and sheer hard graft. He didn’t try to dress it up, or make it something it wasn’t. It was a convincing piece of fiction, about people that, sometimes, it was hard to like. I particularly didn’t like the three main characters, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to read about them. That takes skill.

14Sep/16

Review of Misinformation by Keelan Ellis

Misinformation

Keelan came back to chat to us earlier this year, to talk about her latest book. Find out more about Keelan and her work on Episode 061: Keep Your Word Count Up!

REVIEW

Keelan has veered away from ghost stories with this city romance between Ethan, bisexual, closeted presenter for a conservative cable news programme, and Charlie, who is Ethan’s daughter’s first grade teacher. Ethan has been obliged to take the job at the programme so he can be near his daughter, who has been taken to New York to live by his ex-wife. Charlie is commitment-phobic and fiercely independent. Brief hook-ups with closeted celebrities suit him just fine, but neither of them expected to fall in love.

So that’s the setup. Firstly, a couple of niggles, nothing to do with the writing, which is consistently great. I trust Ellis to be technically spot on and she is here as well. First niggle is with Ethan, who has left a successful job in Philly to take a position with a cable company that has totally different ideals to his own, and is regularly disparaging to the LGBT community. He is their star performer, regularly spouting things he doesn’t agree with. He says he does it purely to be with his daughter, but I can’t help wondering if any LGBT person would do this.

Number two is Charlie, the first grade teacher who very rapidly hooks up with Ethan, despite being the teacher in charge of Ethan’s child. That’s unprofessional at best, yet the school don’t seem to have an issue with it when it all comes out. I’m English, so I know what would happen here. It’s not an LGBT issue. It’s a professional issue. Maybe in the States it’s different.

Like I said, these are niggles that wouldn’t go away for me, but in the end, they didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book. If, like me, you can push through them, you will be rewarded with a sexy, emotional love story, with some unpredictable twists and turns.

And this is what Ellis does best; throwing a curve ball into the mix just as you think this is going to go the way of many romances. It doesn’t. Ethan does come across as a bit of an ass at times, but he’s a wonderful father and his daughter is cute as a teddy bear. His ex is also a great character, flawed as well so you can see why the marriage didn’t make it, but decent, and a decent ex in a romantic novel is a rare thing indeed. In a way, her main flaw is interfering with the best of reasons. She was cleverly drawn and I liked her. So often, the ex is someone to boo and hiss at, but not here. The villain of the piece is the Fox-alike cable company Ethan works for, with a boss so vile I wanted to punch him.

Charlie is also an interesting character. First school teachers, especially male ones, can be exotic creatures. No-one really knows why they choose to spend their time with loathsome oiks, when they could be doing important things like being captains of industry, or firefighters, or heart surgeons. I thought he was totally convincing, very likeable despite his phenomenal ability to make poor life choices. The chemistry between him and Ethan, from the first fumbling, drunken encounter to the realisation that they both care for each other, is genuinely touching and well-balanced.

And finally, Ellis has really upped her game in the sex scenes. The others were good. These are great, tender and hot as prime beefsteak. That’s all I’m saying…

 

13Sep/16

Lysistrata Cove by Dena Hankins

lysistrata-coveIn January 2016, we caught up with Dena Hankins as she sailed into port, and talked about her sensual books and motivations for writing. Listen to her wonderful episode, 040: Navigating Gender Waters, to find out more about Dena and get links to her work.

REVIEW

Transmasculine Jack Azevedo runs charter trips on his sailing boat around the Caribbean. His peaceful existence is disturbed after he finds an uncharted island with a beautiful sandy cove. It seems to be too good to be true, and ultimately is, as the cove is jealously guarded by a sultry, fiery inhabitant, Eve la Sirena.

Eve is in hiding from the world. A former diva and singing superstar, she is in the midst of plans to restore creative freedom to her fellow musician. But what she is doing is illegal, and if found out, could see her being sent to jail and her work lost. Jack’s arrival on the island puts all her efforts in jeopardy, but her initial hostility turns to intrigue, as Jack cautiously gets under her skin.

This is a beautiful, complicated love story, with rip-roaring sex and lashings of sparky dialogue. As with Dena’s other work, The Heart Of The Lilikoi, her writing is vivid, effortlessly luring the reader into whichever location she is describing. Jack is a pirate at heart, a sexual explorer and BDSM bottom who isn’t afraid to push his sensual boundaries. When he sees Eve for the first time, he instantly knows who she is. He has had her music in his heart for years. Yet whilst he is smitten and cannot keep away, Eve does not want him anywhere near her.

The project she is working on is illegal, yet driven by the suicide of a former lover who saw all his work destroyed by a legal battle. She wants musicians to get the credit they deserve, and has set up a complicated control room of technical capabilities to enable that to happen. If anyone gets wind of what she is doing, her work will be destroyed.

It’s a complicated scenario. Eve has a live-in lover, Harmonie, who keeps her on the straight and narrow. Harmonie is a slightly sinister figure, and I was never sure of her motives. Their relationship is on the wane, but the way it was done was very clever. I cannot say more without adding spoilers.

Dena Hankins injects excitement in what could have been a lush, sleepy tale of sun and sex. Her experience as a sailor is obvious in Jack, the maverick hero, and he is supported by a raft of strong characters, including Marie, his right-hand woman, who I suspected was in love with him.

And the sex, sometimes brutal, always honest. The most sensual scene had no sex at all, just eating. It wasn’t very long, but enough that it was obvious these two people would be sharing more than coconut juice in the very near future.

Just a couple of niggles; the club scene seemed a little out of place. It was necessary to establish Jack’s status as a BDSM bottom, and Eve’s force of character as a top, but for me it didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the story. That being said, it was brilliantly written and very sexy. And the Eve/Evrim thing might confuse some people. I did have to read through a couple of times to figure out why the change of name was relevant. It is, but it might be missed by some.

Maybe towards the end, the story felt a little rushed. A lot happened at once, after most of the story was spent concentrating on building of the relationship and the dynamic between Jack and Eve. (Love that a waterspout was included in the storm scene, and that it didn’t end as I expected it to.) The suspense could have been drawn out even more than it was. Again, I can’t say any more without revealing spoilers. There are a few romance tropes, but Dena has cleverly couched them in her own unique style. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wanted the book to continue for longer than it did. And that has to be the sign of a great, satisfying read.

Finally, kudos for writing a book set in the Carribbean that doesn’t mention the green flash….