Tag Archives: featured guest

18Apr/19

Empire Of Light (Voyance #1) by Alex Harrow

Alex Harrow was recently on WROTE! To hear their interview and check out their work, you can find them on Episode 200: Wait Wait This Is A Thing!

Empire of Light has a lot of warnings, including for for graphic violence and explicit sex. The danger with trigger warnings is that the reader will then read the book and think, so where was that violence then? Or where was the sex?

For the former, the author wasn’t kidding. From the get-go, this book has crunchy action scenes, lots of blood and flailing fists from our tough-talking main character, Damian, hitman and mercenary. 

On paper, he doesn’t sound too promising, but I sort of liked him by the end. If Quentin Tarantino had made a sci-fi, it might be something quite similar to this, shot in monochrome with flashes of blood and fire. Turns out Damian has a soft and squishy side, although he does his best to hide it. I would like to take him out for a beer and tell him how to keep in touch with his emotions.

I really enjoyed this book, despite the dizzying pace. It’s well-written, though I would have appreciated a few more calm moments to get to know the characters more.  It has balls-to-the-wall fight scenes, and a man torn between saving his lover and lusting after the man (Raeyn) who has threatened to kill him if he doesn’t do what he wants. There isn’t much in the way of complicated emotion, but we get the picture. Damian is a bit of blunt instrument. In fact, most of the characters are, apart from the blind woman, who I would have liked to get to know a bit. I loved Raeyn’s sense of style, and slinky Aris who seemed to oscillate from good to bad to good again. 

I wouldn’t say the sex is hugely explicit (though it depends what kind of books you usually read I guess) but the language can be coarse (it would be odd if it wasn’t, TBH) and there is an aura of blood-drenched lust running throughout the whole book. 

Good world-building, and a fast-paced, visceral plot. My one quibble would be the last few pages, where a LOT seemed to happen, and it felt as if there were at least one climax too many (if that’s possible.) I felt a bit breathless reading it; not in a sexy way, but in a “please make this stop” way. I fear some subtleties might have been lost in translations, but all in all, a wild ride, and a huge amount of “fist-in-the-face” fun.

BLURB

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

18Apr/19

Credence by Delphia Baisden

Delphia Baisden was a recent guest on WROTE! To listen to her interview and find out more about her work, check out Episode 208 – A New Jewel In My Crown!

I approached this book with some wariness, and I recently read another book dealing with a rock band, mental health issues, and non-con sex, which I found unbelievably upsetting. However, there ARE trigger warnings in this book, so anyone choosing to read Credence will be warned right from the start.

So I tiptoed in, and yes, the first chapters are hard to read, but they are extremely well-written, and 100% necessary to the plot of the book. The author has trodden lightly, not shying away from the pain of sexual abuse but dealing with it in a sensitive way. I knew I would be able to read the rest of it within a few pages. Trust had been gained, and Credence was a really good read, even enjoyable, given the gruelling premise. 

The blurb sums up the plot pretty well, so I won’t rehash it, but I loved James’s best friend Phil, and the supportiveness of the other members of the band (Eden) once they realise what has happened to their friend. This is a book about fighting back from a traumatic past, about letting go and finding love, both with another person and for oneself, about healing, and the struggles of mental illness. It’s all dealt with deftly and not too reverently, and I applaud the author wholeheartedly for that.

I loved Keiran, the love interest and femme lead vocalist for a less successful band, Lost and Found, who initially resents James for walking away from the the tour they were heading, thus denying Lost and Found crucial exposure to potential new fans. But as James’ band picks up the pieces and forms a new outfit, and Keiran is given the chance to show them how good he is, love begins to blossom undercover, as James is not out and is nervous about his bandmates finding out.

James is sweet, talented and modest, a lovely guy who adores his music. All the members of Eden have their demons, but are basically decent people who just want the best for each other. What a refreshing change to the endless drug and alcohol-fuelled sex parties which usually go hand in hand with “rock star” genre.

This is a hugely satisfying read, dealing with issues so relevant in today’s #metoo climate, and a really strong debut novel by this author. I will definitely be looking out to see what else she does.

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James Morgan, lead guitarist for the rock band Eden, seems to have it all. That is, until Theo, Eden’s lead singer and James’s secret lover, violently betrays him, sending James into a deep depression and cutting their current tour and the band’s life short.

Kieran Jackson, the lead vocalist for the less successful band Lost and Found, is at his wits’ end. At thirty-three, he never dreamed he’d still be opening for bands comprised of twentysomethings. When Eden pulls out of the last few shows of their summer tour, Kieran returns home burned out and heartbroken.

Over a year later, James, Phil, and David of Eden decide to reform under a different name with Kieran as their new vocalist. James, never having forgotten his single interaction with Kieran, nor the only time he ever listened to him perform, knows Kieran’s the best choice.

James is still closeted—and skittish after his last relationship—and one fumbling, drunken kiss threatens to undo everything he’s worked so hard to rebuild, as well as the cover he’s fought to maintain.

Can James overcome his past, confront his demons, and reclaim his former fame? Or will he and the newly formed True North remain in Eden’s shadow forever? Can he finally find comfort in who he is, accept his past, and reopen his heart? Or will the memories of Theo’s betrayal and the subsequent fallout dash any hope of finding—and trusting—love again?

Trigger warning: this book contains explicit rape, as well as one failed suicide attempt by a main character.

21Mar/19

Imminent Dawn by R. R. Campbell

Imminent Dawn (Empathy Book 1) is a complex and involved debut sci-fi novel, first in a series, with a large cast of characters and several different POV’s. There’s no doubt it is well-written and evenly-paced, with great world-building and realistic dialogue.

For me, the number of POV’s were a bit of a stumbling block. I’ve read a lot of books, the the ones I’ve enjoyed most have been the ones with a single or double POV. Once it gets to more than that, with equally important characters, It has to work harder to keep my attention. 

I found this with Imminent Dawn, which at times seemed over-complicated for what it was. Essentially, one woman is used as pawn by a powerful corporation, whilst an investigative journalist and a company employee, each with their own agendas, try to outdo each other in order to achieve their ambitions.

It took a while to unpick all of this, and because of that, I found it difficult to engage with the characters. For me to want to read about a character, I need to care about them or hate them. It was a shame that I didn’t find a particular character to root for in this book, as I was too busy trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

I believe this is down to personal taste though, rather than a fault of the author. Others will find much to enjoy in the characterisations of the enigmatic and ruthless tech magnate, and will relate to Chandra and her predicament. They will enjoy unpicking the complexities of the plot, and will rejoice in subtleties that I may well have missed. In short, I think this novel has far more to it than I was able to glean from it, but I only have a finite amount of time to figure things out before I have to move on. It’s a shame, but as a book reviewer, it’s life.

Finally, this is a solid sci-fi novel, confidently written, with plenty for avid sci-fi readers to enjoy. I really hope they take it on board and run with it.  

BLURB

Four people. One study. The internet-access brain implant to bind or destroy them all.

Art-school dropout Chandra would do anything to apologize for her role in her wife’s coma—including enroll in the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant.

At first, the secretive research compound is paradise, the perfect place to distract Chandra from her grief. But as she soon learns, the facility is more prison than resort, with its doctors, support staff, and her fellow patients all bent on hatching plots of their own, no matter how invested they might seem in helping her communicate with her wife.

Making matters worse, a dark wave of uncertainty crashes down on the compound, forcing Chandra to become an unlikely but pivotal player in conspiracies stretching from the highest levels of the North American Union government to the lowest dredges of its shadowy hacking collectives.

To save herself and her wife, Chandra and her newfound friends from the study will have to overcome the scheming of a ruthless tech magnate, the naïveté of an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and the relentless pursuits of an investigative journalist, all of whom are determined to outpace the others in their own quests to resurrect lost love, cover their tracks, and uncover the truth.

A twistedly delightful clockwork of intrigue and suspense, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is an electrifying sci-fi debut from author r. r. campbell. 

10Feb/19

Contact (A New World, Book One) by M. D. Neu

There were a lot of expectations I had heaped on this book, mainly because my favourite sci-fi of all time (even trumping Close Encounters) is Contact, with Jodie Foster. And I KNOW that is really unfair, but once lodged, it couldn’t be shifted, so I turned my gimlet gaze on this book thinking “this has better be good.”

Well, reader, I was not disappointed. It was a bold move to start with the alien POV, but it turns out they aren’t all that different from us, with similar thoughts and emotions, and cute pets to cuddle when they are feeling down. But don’t let that put you off. Their rituals, expectations, way of talking and manners are very alien, as are their names and clothing. The author has taken a lot of trouble to build their world from the tiniest details (drinking tuma, and the name for the pet as a youngster) to the major issues. There IS a glossary at the back, and usually I wish the author had drawn attention to it earlier, but actually, I didn’t need it. The writing makes it clear enough, without long drawn-out explanations, but the Glossary is a good reference.

Then we have the humans, Todd and his husband Jerry, and their uber-camp friend, Dan. I found Dan a bit irritating at first but I really warmed to him when disaster strikes. Todd has a heads-up that alien craft are approaching the planet but he can’t tell anyone. Even his husband, Jerry, doesn’t believe him. The author captures how they deal with having to keep quiet, as well as their everyday existence as a gay couple, brilliantly.

So with the characters established, the author sets about telling the story from the human and the alien point of view. Humans are dealing with their own problems: rising bigotry and world unrest, environmental issues, overpopulation. And the Nentraee, who are homeless due to the destruction of their world and running out of resources, need somewhere to settle their remaining population. Naturally, the humans have something to say about that when the Nentraee make tentative contact with

To the Nentraee, humans are an odd race who don’t appreciate the beauty of the world they live in. And to the humans, the Nentraee are patronising, preachy and want to wipe them all out. There is mutual distrust as both sides slowly learn about each other, but after a terrible event, Todd is the one who ends up being the link between the two races, a role he feels unprepared for.

This was a very human story as well as an alien one. Todd and Jerry have to deal with homophobia on a daily basis. It even gets in the way of negotiations with the Nentraee, something the aliens find incomprehensible. The aliens also have complex and close family units and social delicacies. I hope we find out more about how they became such an itinerant race and what happened to their original planet.

There are also self-serving politicians, an indictment of American society at the moment and a study of how we would look to extraterrestrial visitors. It isn’t any surprise they view us with some suspicion.

So a great start to the New World Series, with solid character development, appealing characters on both the human and Nentraee sides, and the potential for things to get really messy in the future. I’m looking forward to the next one!

BLURB

A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband. 

On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end? 

10Dec/18

The Taliesin Affair by Steve Turnbull

The Taliesin Affair is an interesting book, a mix of whodunnit, social history and steampunk, a genre I haven’t read before.

I wasn’t convinced at first. The main protagonist, Maliha Anderson, seemed a remote and cold figure, which didn’t bode well when she was the driving force of the plot. But as the story progressed, I began to respect her more. She is of mixed race, with a daily struggle against prejudice and snobbery, and that had given her a hard shell to protect herself. She is also highly intelligent. We see the thoughts going through her head as she tries to unravel the mystery of the body in the library. The victim is a bully who has given Mahila grief in the past, so she isn’t sad about her demise. This is understandable, but Mahila seems unable to show any emotion at all, which led me to believe maybe I had missed a crucial part of her character.

She is ably assisted by a much warmer friend, Margaret, inexplicably known as Sadie, who smoothes Mahila’s path through the social minefield. There is always a danger when major characters have code names and suchlike, as it makes a complex plot sometimes harder to follow. It helps that Margaret (Sadie) has to be reminded from time to time that she is working undercover. She’s a perfect foil to the serious Mahila, and provides a welcome lightness of tone.

There is a subtle humour running through the book, so subtle sometimes I wondered if I was imagining it. As a whodunnit, with definite Agatha Christie undertones and a social commentary, it is an excellent read. Glad to see the women taking charge for a change, and for the author not to fall into the trap of so many stories about privileged boarding schools. I couldn’t find a single overdone stereotype. Mahila’s interest in machinery was an intriguing element as well, and could have been used more in relation to the plot, rather than just providing interesting scenery.

So although I found the main character hard to identify with, The Taliesin Affair was an enjoyable and ambitious read, and an interesting addition to the crime genre. Worth noting the lesbian romance running in the background, handled with grace and dignity.

Beautiful cover as well.

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Boarding school can be hell – sometimes it can be MURDER

So far from her home in India, Maliha Anderson did not enjoy life in her British boarding school, but discovering the school bully murdered certainly made it more interesting.

And when the police chose the wrong person as the most likely suspect, Maliha decides to investigate and reveal the true culprit.

But, as the bodies mount up, the murder becomes a plot, and the plot becomes a conspiracy aimed at the heart of the British Empire.

When Maliha herself comes under suspicion, she realises her only chance lies in a dangerous gambit that risks the lives of herself and the people she’s come to know.

This is Maliha Anderson’s first case but can be read at any point in the series (except perhaps between books 5 and 6).

10Dec/18

The Golden One – Blooming by Hans M Hirschi

Blooming is the first book in the The Golden One trilogy, and gives the series a strong start. I’ve previously read Disease, and wasn’t sure what the author would give to an overcrowded fantasy genre filled with shapeshifters. Disease was a very different book – definitely worth a read, about a pretty gruelling subject.

Blooming is a book with a salutary warning, although it stops short of bashing the reader around the head with its message about human impact on the planet. And that’s why I enjoyed it. At no point I felt as if I were being lectured to, even though the message was clear. Big corporations have a responsibility not only to their shareholders but to the people affected by their activities, not only within their company, but in the wider world.

To reflect this, Hirschi has taken a group of teenagers and given them varying degrees of shapeshifting powers, controlled by the Ohana, The blurb describes it far better than I can so I’ll leave it there. Read it. It’s worth it.

Some members of the Ohana have a conflict of interest, but Mother Nature has also created the ultimate weapon in her arsenal, a golden butterfly with huge powers of persuasion. This time, it is the turn of Jason Mendez, an all-round nice guy who looks after his mother and doesn’t think his life will be very exciting at all, until he is told differently.

Then he realises he can talk to animals, and that’s where the story really took off for me. It was so enjoyable to read, within the bounds of a book written for older teenagers, yet devoid of the teen-speak that a lot of YA authors employ to connect with their readership. No patronising, no trying to get “down with the kids.” This is an intelligent book for discerning readers of any age, who love fantasy and remember the golden age of Spielberg and his epic stories of kids against “the man.”

Jason was extremely likeable. Not perfect, but that was good. It added angst at the responsibility thrust on his shoulders, and showed his character develop as he realised he had to make some important life decisions. His mother was also a great, believable character, with real-life problems many would identify with. There was a possible romance in the offing, and great friendships between people who, on the face of it, had nothing in common.

The ending was also a surprise, being unpredictable, and led neatly to the next book. No cliffhanger, which I liked, just a good, solid, rounded story which took time to introduce the reader to the characters and understand their world.

BLURB

Earth is threatened by humankind. A long time ago, in an effort to help protect her creation, Mother Nature created the Ohana, a worldwide league of shapeshifters, to restore and maintain the natural balance. During particularly troublesome times, she deployed her ultimate defense, a delicate yet powerful golden butterfly, to change the odds in nature’s favor.

Blooming is the first book in the trilogy about Jason Mendez, a seventeen-year-old living a normal teenage life in a small town in the American Midwest. One day, Jason’s world is turned upside down when he realizes the dream he had the night before was in fact reality and that he was flying through a nearby meadow.

Jason is the Golden One, called upon to avert a major crisis threatening Earth. With no golden butterfly sighted since the final days of World War II, will Jason be able to walk in his predecessors’ shoes? Will he be able to replicate their historic achievements and save the planet from all but certain disaster? And what exactly is threatening Mother Nature to call upon the Golden One?

The Golden One is an exciting new fantasy trilogy dealing with urgent topics affecting humanity today.

12Nov/18

Earthly Pleasures by Sera Trevor

 

Sera Trevor was a lovely recent guest on our show. To find out more about her and get links to her work, check out Episode 185: Ugh Reality!

There are some books you feel comfortable with right away. After the first page I knew this book and I would get along just fine. It was something indefinable, accessibility to an author’s writing or put another way, this seemed a friendly, approachable book. It welcomes the reader in and assures them that a good story is about to be told.

Prince Paurick is a bit a tool, to be honest. He’s reckless, spoiled, libidinous and vain, with little sense of duty. When he has to be joined with an acolyte to an all-powerful Goddess, to ensure his family’s royal lineage and bring fertility back to a starving land, he does it ungraciously. The monk isn’t to his taste at all, swarthy, shy fellow who he finds desperately unprepossessing.

Brother Laurel is loyal to the Goddess and will do his duty whatever it takes, but he doesn’t have to like it. After Paurick’s unflattering response to him, he just wants to get it over with, but the machinations of the Goddess and his own feelings complicate matters, especially when he finds he is enjoying the luxury the Prince takes for granted.

So that’s the premise, and it’s told with humour, wit and sparky dialogue. Laurel is sweet, and has a bit more about him than his subservient manner would first suggest. There are some comic moments, but also an underlying theme of the damage caused by brainwashing by cults, greed and duty over love. I thought the pace of the story was terrific and not once did I feel the story flagged. It was a joy to read, with Laurel being a perfect foil for the profligate Paurick. Their burgeoning relationship was sweet, the love scenes and language used within them helping to create the atmosphere. It’s a magical kingdom where the prince had to sleep with someone he doesn’t like in order to appease a power-hungry regime, but written with flair and comic timing so it never felt dark and gloomy.

This was a book I could sit back and enjoy, knowing that nothing truly nasty would happen. A bit of angst, some hot sex between two lusty lads, and a feel-good plot verging on the ridiculous (although this isn’t the first time I’ve read a book with magical bodily fluids) and this was a huge amount of fun. It’s well-written too, with a knowing glint in the author’s eye. Yes, I could see where she was coming from with this. I’d definitely read another book by Ms. Trevor.

BLURB

Prince Paurick is a hedonistic degenerate—or at least that’s what his father and the rest of the royal family thinks of him, and he’s happy to live down to their expectations.

But when the crops of their kingdom start failing, the king commands that Paurick be joined to Brother Laurel, a monk, in order to combine Paurick’s royal magic with that of the Goddess, and thus bring fertility back to the land.

The union is only meant to be temporary, but Brother Laurel is so ugly and prudish that it might as well be an eternity. However, as they get to know one another, Paurick realizes he has misjudged Laurel and finds himself falling for the thoughtful and sensitive young man.

The fate of the kingdom relies on their sexual union, but as time goes on, it becomes clear that the fate of their hearts is in jeopardy as well.

 

02Nov/18

The Rotten Rancher by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was recently a returning guest on WROTE. This prodigious writer has a new novel out, but to find out more about him and get links to all his works, check out Episode 187: My Gay Perry Mason

I rather like this engaging series, with lovable millionaire PI Nick Williams and his hunky sidekick, Carter. Set in the 1950’s, they battle prejudice and bigotry whilst people from all walks of life try to kill them. And despite this, they seem to maintain a surprisingly upbeat approach to life. Of course, money helps, which means Nick really doesn’t give a screw, but he’s a lovely, generous fellow for all that.

The sixteenth book in the series, The Rotten Rancher, reeks of 1950’s America. I was expecting cowboy boots and lariats, but it isn’t quite like that. I can almost smell the gasoline and leather of Nick and Carter’s massive and impractical soft-top as they cruise down Highway 1 to spend some time on the coast, in Nick’s father’s ultra-modern (for the time) cliff top home. You just know it won’t end well.

For a book with a twisty plot, I would have appreciated a bit less tell and and a bit more show. There’s lots of dialogue and some of it kind of gets in the way, causing me to backtrack to remind myself what just happened. That’s really my only niggle.

I can’t fault any of the characters. They were all drawn really well. For a book with a lot of characters, they all seemed relevant and all had a part to play. There was a good sense of atmosphere, sometimes really suspenseful, other times cringeworthy (when one of the characters was spouting their hate, I really wanted to slap them.) The story could also have worked well as a ghost story, and there was a bit of that at the end, which I found slightly confusing when it didn’t seem to go anywhere.

In the end, the book is popcorn entertainment with bite, not shying away from the serious issues of the time (and of now, sadly.) Yes, the plot and dialogue could have been tightened up, which would have given the action a bit more impact, but it was a fun read. Listen to Duayne Eddy when reading it to really get into the mood!

BLURB

Friday, November 11, 1955

It’s Veteran’s Day, and a gorgeous one at that. Parades of flying flags and grizzled old soldiers marching to the tunes of John Philip Souza are definitely in the works.

Meanwhile, Nick and Carter are heading south on Highway 1 for a relaxing week down in Big Sur, just south of beautiful Carmel-By-The-Sea. They’ll be staying at the home of one Dr. Parnell Williams, Nick’s father. It’s a modern sort of thing, made of wood and glass, and perched right on the cliff’s edge with dramatic views of the ocean and the incoming banks of fog.

But when the power goes out late at night and the newly-installed generator kicks on, it’s not long before Carter is dragging a bewildered Nick to the front door because, it turns out, someone intentionally disconnected the vent and the house quickly fills up with deadly carbon monoxide.

As they search for their would-be murderer, Nick and Carter quickly discover all sorts of secrets, hidden away among the verdant valleys and stands of Monterey pines. Secrets that go back twenty years, or more, and stories of wild times that would deeply shock the gawking tourists from Topeka and Des Moines, if they only knew.

Will Nick and Carter uncover the killer before he, or she, strikes again?

To find out, jump into the nearest convertible and follow the narrow, twisting highway that takes you through the land of towering, ancient redwoods and mountains that crash into the bright, blue ocean below.

It’s gonna be a wild ride!

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.