Oct 31, 2013

Book Review - Tell Me It's Real, by TJ Klune

Do you believe in love at first sight? Paul Auster doesn't. Paul doesn't believe in much at all. He’s thirty, slightly overweight, and his best features are his acerbic wit and the color commentary he provides as life passes him by. His closest friends are a two-legged dog named Wheels and a quasibipolar drag queen named Helena Handbasket. He works a dead-end job in a soul-sucking cubicle, and if his grandmother's homophobic parrot insults him one more time, Paul is going to wring its stupid neck. Enter Vince Taylor. Vince is everything Paul isn’t: sexy, confident, and dumber than the proverbial box of rocks. And for some reason, Vince pursues Paul relentlessly. Vince must be messing with him, because there is no way Vince could want someone like Paul. But when Paul hits Vince with his car—in a completely unintentional if-he-died-it'd-only-be-manslaughter kind of way—he's forced to see Vince in a whole new light. The only thing stopping Paul from believing in Vince is himself—and that is one obstacle Paul can’t quite seem to overcome. But when tragedy strikes Vince's family, Paul must put aside any notions he has about himself and stand next to the man who thinks he's perfect the way he is.

This was a ride and a half.
This was a crackfic on meth, smoking pot, while chewing coca leaves. So THERE went the spelling, right out the window. And look, THERE went the politically correct, straight out the other window, without even opening it first. (The crash you just heard was the glass shattering, and falling to the ground several stories down, on all kinds of people who are not gay). And booom THERE went half of your fans, the female ones who can't handle that many gay men have issues with vaginas. LOL. (Yeah, there could have been a few less jokes and less dumping shit on the vagina, but hey, it takes a true connoisseur to appreciate the art of the female fancy parts). (No, knowing Helena Handbasket is not enough). And KABOOOM there went a bunch of people who don't like slurs of any kind.

I don't mind, when it's done this way. I love it when everything gets put upside down and inside out, because THAT is where you notice it. Suddenly it's RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. So you notice.

About bloody time, if you ask me. (But I still love my vag, so stop cussing it, will ya?)

This book was pure crazy. It could most certainly have taken three more tours through the editing process, as both verbs and words were in the wrong tense and just plain wrong. Prepositions up the creek without a paddle. And usually that grates on my soul. Usually, I hate it.

BUT HEY! I just laughed my ass off, I laughed and laughed, and then I laughed some more. In two separate instances I even woke up Mr Lund from my guffaws.

So, even if the language wasn't up to Mr Klune's usual standards, I feel this book was written in one looooong sitting, maybe while he was writing some really deep and hurtful stuff in another book? (Into this River I Drown, comes to mind—that must have been a dark and heavy book to write, and this one would have cheered him up a lot).

What saves the day here is how it all gets so fucking out of hand it borders on the comically tragic. Or the tragically comic. There is one instance where a serious discussion about in how many ways Paul could possibly destroy their relationship, and ends up, after mere minutes, to be all about the superhero costume that Sandy should be wearing. Something just goes SPACE-BOINK-OIK in my head.

Crazy book is crazy. Now you will either love this book or you will hate it. There simply is no in-between.

You all know where I stand. I am firmly in the corner with the two-legged, squeaky-wheels dog named Wheels and the homophobic, slurring parrot named Johnny Depp. We are having a ball over here.

So, Mr Klune, please. Continue. We are all ears, over here. Feed us more words.
Pretty please.


I was NOT asked to read this book by anyone, I paid for it with my own money.

Find this book at: Dreamspinner Press 

Oct 30, 2013

Book Review - Slam! by JL Merrow

Limericks, lies, and puppy-dog eyes...
Jude Biggerstaff is all the way out and loving it - mostly. The Anglo-Japanese university graduate is a carnivore working in a vegan cafe, an amateur poet with only one man in his life. His dog, Bubbles. Then there's "Karate Crumpet", a man who regularly runs past the cafe with a martial arts class. Jude can only yearn from afar, until the object of his affection rescues him from muggers. And he learns that not only does this calm, competent hunk of muscle have a name - David - but that he s gay. Jude should have known the universe wouldn't simply let love fall into place. First, David has only one foot out of the closet. Then there's Jude's mother, who lies about her age to the point Jude could be mistaken for jailbait. With a maze of stories to keep straight, a potential stepfather in the picture, ex-boyfriends who keep spoiling his dates with David, and a friend with a dangerous secret, Jude is beginning to wonder if his and David's lives will ever start to rhyme. Warnings: Contains a tangled web of little white lies, a smorgasbord of cheesy limericks, a violin called Vanessa, some boots that mean business, and the most adorable little dog ever. Poetry, it's not...

Where to begin? Probably with the fact that this story was truly cathartic. It has been a long, long time since I laughed this hard. Every single sentence fucked with at least one not very politically correct theme, often more than one, and every time cracking me up so bad I had to look up from my book and giggling go: “Wow! Well, fuuuuuck!”

That, my friends, is how I know it's a good book for me.

Jude, our MC, is Anglo-Japanese, and it is a big part of him, much like your own belonging somewhere is a part of your identity make-up. Jude owns his British heritage, and is absolutely hilarious about his Japanese one. Of course, most of that heritage consisted of a Japanese father who upped and left his mother when she was expecting Jude, so he is completely lacking in actual knowledge about the Japanese culture.

Jude is a bundle of energy. Had he been American, I believe he would have been put on a strict rĂ©gime of Adderall, many pills every day, but in Europe we are perhaps a bit less prone to diagnose the spectrum? Or at least, less prone to medicating? He is beautiful, but scatterbrained, and has absolutely no filter at all. He is, as many young men and women, very focused on sex: having it, wanting it, thinking about it. He is a hummingbird on meth, some days, but poetic and full of creative verve. He quite charmed my pants off with his crazy limericks and wild poetry, and I noticed myself falling into writing one or two limericks of my own during the read. (No. I won’t).

This author has a way of writing Jude’s silly side that just has me in stitches. I love him after having read only 10 pages, he is so sweet and crazy and cool and creative and silly. I adore silly. When the gunpowder smoke clears up, there is not one single holy cow left standing. But Ms Merrow then proceeds to reload and take precision aim, shooting straight at most everything, including vegans, carnivores, gay-bashing, child abuse, racism, drug abuse, missing fathers, and problems that single moms may encounter.

Jude’s best friend, Keisha, (who I surmise is black, even though I believe it is never really clearly stated, I just go by the name and the feeling—is that wrong of me?) is a hoot; she is querulous and beautiful and strong and kickass and his friend, his true friend. I love that. She is a friend by his side in ways that most people only dream of. Jude also stands up for her in ways he wouldn’t even stand up for himself. Beautiful. Truly beautiful. Those two, trying out for karate classes had me roaring with laughter.

Jude meets David, who isn’t out of the closet and ten years his senior, and they both fall for each other like over-ripe apples—after a bit of initial problems of course. Jealousy over ex-boyfriends called Knut, for example. Which leads me directly to a passage of great literary worth:

“If he laid a finger on my David, I’d just have to use my newfound martial arts mojo and kick him in the Knuts.”

And then there are some middle-story problems, of course. And then some get-together-hotness, and then a little angst that quickly gets sorted. There, all better now!

I found that race was present in this story, in a good way, i.e. people WERE of different races. It makes my heart sing, as most books are just white people, with white problems, and white neighborhoods, in white countries.

I grew up on three continents, and for over 75 percent of my life I have been a foreigner, never fitting in, always looking like I should be somewhere else. Somewhere in the middle of this book there is a bitter-sweet banter where you can just feel how Jude had been bullied as a kid. Here’s the passage, I found it dealt beautifully with how mean kids can be to their peers of different origins:

“It’s getting a bit nippy now the sun’s gone in,” said David.
I glared at him. “Not particularly fond of that word. Not after kids at school using it to get a cheap laugh at my expense—It’s a bit nippy in here, innit? Yeah, Jappo Jude just walked in.”
“Jude…” David’s face crumpled. “I would never, ever say anything like that, okay? I’m sorry I brought back bad memories for you. I’ll try and be more careful in the future.”

And that, my friends, is how you handle a delicate matter of someone having been made to feel bad about belonging to a specific race. Also, I command Jude on his externalizing his discomfort at once, instead of just taking it in silence. I found relief here, there was dignity and good feeling.

And suddenly, now at the end of my review, I realize that this story, that had me laughing until I cried like a maniac, has made a deeper impression than I expected, for all its layered messages. And when I go read what other people have thought about this book (as I always do AFTER I’ve written down my own feelings for a book) I see that this is an extremely divisive story. You either love it or you hate it. How about that. Many people don’t seem to see AT ALL what I am seeing.

This is why I love books. They are personal.

I see things of great value in here. Your mileage may vary, but for me, this was well worth both my time and my money. I feel I am thinking more about this book than many other ones that I have read lately.

JL Merrow really has a way to making her stories insinuate themselves into my head, and this one will stay with me for a long time—a bit like her Muscling Through, but on a different level.

Yes, I absolutely adored it. Crazy limericks and all. Kick-ass hippie, veteran vegans and all. Carrots and burgers and all.

Yeah, I loved Jude, his world, its poetry, and all.


Nobody forced me to read this book, I simply fell upon it and devoured it in three days. I’d really like it if somebody fed me more of this kind of crack.

Find this book at Samhain Publishing

Oct 28, 2013

ARC Book Review - The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, by Sarah Black

Fresh out of the closet, General John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez are settling into their new life together when an old army colleague taps them for a rescue mission to Tunisia. Eli and Daniel, two former Rangers working security, have been arrested in Carthage, charged with blasphemy and thrown into prison. With rampant unrest in the ancient city and an old enemy targeting them, John gathers a team to liberate the two captive men. When he discovers Eli’s boyhood obsession with Al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock, the rescue becomes complicated and strangely beautiful, and John and Gabriel have to risk what they love the most to bring their team home.

What a ride. What a ride. Ms. Black, you have done it again.

What strikes me with this story is that this is a regular thriller/army story, which also happens to have some MCs who are gay. It is not an m/m romance book, as such. And although there is very much love in it, there is almost no sex at all, and I’m not even missing it. (You never thought you'd see me write that, did you?)

And Kim, FTMFW, every time. I adore that boy. I ADORE HIM.

Not only is this a book about kick-ass army men (who also happen to be gay men), even the women in this story are portrayed both with respect and intelligence—they are both multi-faceted and three-dimensional.

I especially appreciated Ms Madeline Grant from the US Embassy in Tunis, the description of her going into negotiation mode as a stone-faced rock amazed me. What a woman! Brilliant.

Also Jen was great, a young and fearless woman with ideals and spunk. I love to see this in stories, together with the multicultural backdrops and people. Women’s groups spreading news across Northern Africa? Fucking brilliant. The use of social media? Another brilliant move.

In this story you will find a lot of political views on world events, including religion and terrorism. Ms Black is well-informed and well-researched, it really impresses me a lot.

A good line? Here:

“Too many young men with nothing to do, no jobs, no future, and trouble was likely to follow.”

So few books manage to span diversity like this. There are at least three religions involved, there are Arabs from many different countries, a Korean, some Hispanics, a bunch of Caucasians, a Native American, and everyone is judged or appreciated on personal merit (or demerit, as it were) only. Absolutely refreshing.

I adored the references to the fantastic Spartacus Blood & Sand and Andy Whitfield—what better setting than Carthage? It made my heart sing.

And then, this is also a hilariously funny book, with some true humor shining bright. I found myself screaming with laughter at several passages of brilliant insight and tom-foolery. Like:

“You’re the only kick-ass general I know who needs three gay boys to dress him, John.”

Do you also love beautiful language? It is here. Poetic, even, look:

“Winslow was a little town on the border with Navajo and Hopi land, an aging railroad town the color of dust.”
Can’t you smell the color of that dusty town?

Favorite line:

“I knew that boy when he was a baby pilot, still wet behind the rotors.”

Half a star gets taken away because of the so completely, extremely and terribly fugly cover. I wish Ms Black could get a new artist, because her books are truly worthy of serious cover art. Already the last book in the series had a cover that made my cry in pain. This one is only slightly better, but on a scale from horrible to bad.

An upside in this book is that Martha is now portrayed as a more balanced woman. Last time I was so angry because by god she had reasons to blow a fuse, and was shown off as a shrieking shrew. This time, she has both depth and three dimensions. Thank you.

All in all an absolutely fantastic read. Do not let the title fool you (yes, I know how you read that), nor the cover: This is a good, good book.

It leaves you happy. That's what good stories do to you. They take you, they shake you, and then they leave you a little bit better for having read them.


I was given an ARC of this book for free from the publisher, Dreamspinner Press.
A positive review was neither expected nor promised in return.

Find this book at: Dreamspinner Press

Oct 27, 2013

Book Review - The General and the Horse-Lord, by Sarah Black

General John Mitchel and his favorite pilot, Gabriel Sanchez, served together as comrades and brothers-in-arms for more than twenty-five years. They followed the warrior’s path: honor first, and service, and the safety of the tribe. Their own needs for love and companionship were secondary to the mission. Retirement from the army, however, proves challenging in ways neither expected. When old warriors retire, their armor starts falling away, and the noise of the world crowds in. That changing world sets up longings in both men for the life they might have had. After years of loving on the down-low, the idea of living together in the light seems like pure sweet oxygen to men who have been underwater a little too long. But what will it cost them to turn their dreams into truth?

No spoilers, I talk about what I found in this book, not what is actually in it.

Coolest title this year, together with what must be truly the ugliest cover.
Well, fabulous things have been known to come also in unexpected packages, and this book was recommended to me by Con Riley, and that’s usually enough for me.

And boy, does this book ever deliver, it is a scathing and fantastic swing at the Don’t ask, don’t tell.

It is a vision of the freeing of souls, the opening of minds, the possibility to move firmly into what and who you are, free to be you. To not miss out on a huge part of what is life, which is love.

This book does all that, and at the same time it is humorous, screaming-out-loud funny in places, especially where the young, crazy artistic boys meet with the two closeted-for-decades soldiers—there is a clash and a bang and so, so, so much love. Both between the generations and between the peer groups.

Then it takes a nose-dive into the mandatory angst, and I was okay with that, too.

I’m in an excerpt-kind-of-mood today, so here are some of my favorite moments:
”All you want to do when you’re fourteen is snatch up a broadsword and hack something to pieces, then find a big rock and fuck it to death.”

“John, did you see those boys at the bar the other night? They weren’t just out and proud, they were out and proud in flashing neon, you know?”

“It seems to me I’ve been missing something critical. I see that in you too. Missing the right to love. The right to make a life together.”

“’Would we have to play the gay-card?’
Gabriel sighed. ‘John, we’re gay. You know that, right?’”

“I’ll find some smoke granades. Smoke is always good to make a confusing situation a little more confusing.”

“If you ask one more lost boy to move into the house, I’m going to start building a barracks in the back yard.”

It has made me cry, and smile, and scream out loud with laughter, as anyone who has been following my updates know. It was well-written, with only three or four spelling errors. (But honestly? “Hanger” is not the word you’re looking for when talking about where to park your Apache, okay? Try “hangar”).

This story was so vividly painted that I still have an image of the house, the streets, the places they went, right here in my head. The characters were so real, so consistent with who they were that they just convinced me of the whole story. I know what the house looks like. The garage and the back yard. Ho-Ho’s food joint is a real place in my head.

Kim, oh Kim! He must be the most darling young man on the planet. I love him so much.

Honor. Pride. Love. Duty. Family. Romance. Friendship. Hate. Pain. Support. Comfort. Justice. And, of course, cheating. Yourself, your partner, your life, your very soul.

Now, the only note of pain, for me, in this book, was the character Martha, who was painted out to be the villain. Well, excuse me if I go outside and barf, but she had fucking reason to be pissed off. A lot of wrong had been done to her. A lot.

That said, this book gets all the stars from me. It wasn’t the heartbreak extraordinaire that I was led to believe, going in, but it was hard. It was hard work, trials and tribulations.

It was good, and safe, and home, and happy, and sad, and terrifying, and beautiful, and more. So much more.

What I will take with me now, when moving on, is Kim.
Kim and his love for his friends, his uncle, and for pink nail polish.


I was NOT asked to read this book by anyone, and I paid for it with my own money.

Find this book at Dreamspinner Press