Review of The Walls Have Ears (College Fun and Gays #3) by Erica Pike

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Review written for and first viewed at JoyfullyJay as a part of Boys Masturbating Through Walls Day:

Rating: 3.25 stars

Harley Santos, newly arrived from small town, Maryland, is trying to adapt to his new life as a college freshman in Philadelphia.  While he had his fears about city living and life on campus before he left home, Harley has found he likes his roommate and college seems pretty cool.  In his first week in his dorm room he listen through the thin wall to a student masturbating on the other side.  When this becomes a regular occurrence,  Harley starts masturbating along with his unseen neighbor. Shared moans become whispered words between walls and a strange relationship developes between Harley and the unknown boy next door.

After Harley and his roommate, Ryan, have a chance meeting with the two hot guys, Devon Marx and Tasha Novokov, rooming next to them, Harley thinks he knows which of them is his nightly “companion”. But that guy, Devon, asks Ryan out instead of Harley, and Harley is heartbroken believing that Ryan has been mistaken for him. The other roommate, Tasha,  is dark, handsome, straight and seems intent on befriending Harley.  What’s a gay boy to do when everyone he is attracted to is not attracted to him?

This is a short story whose main attraction is the prickly little porcupine known as Harley Santos.  I found his character to be snarky, pissy, and quite adorable. And totally not deserving of the predictable plot he has found himself in.  Harley comes from a large close knit Portuguese family in a small town in Maryland.  He’s tortured himself with scary images of the dark side of city life and the what if’s of college gone bad.  He’s slight in stature, slender in physique so I can see his behavior as a shield he erects against slights and injury, real or perceived. So does it seem realistic that he falls “in love” with the guy next door just because they are masturbating together?  It doesn’t to me.  Lust yes, love to the point of his heart breaking when Devon picks his roommate? Ummm, no.

Harley then transfers his affections to Tasha while maintaining that he loves Devon who loves Ryan who is understandably confused about the whole thing because no one is talking to each other. Got that? Instead letting Harley get his snark on, Erica Pike turns him into avoidance guy, and then has him sobbing his heart out so traumatized that he is stuttering again (we didn’t know he stuttered to begin with).  To use the current lingo, Harley so doesn’t deserve this.

By the end of The Walls Have Ears, I was beginning to wish that This Reader Didn’t Have Eyes because the ending had me blinking in disbelief.  Erica Pike can write realistic characters AND put them into realistic situations, at the same time.  Just don’t look for it here.

Cover.  Cover Artist Dakota Trace. I just don’t care for the cover for the series .  Different color, different model on the top, same bad graphic on the bottom.

Publisher: No Boundaries Press

Boys Masturbating Through Walls Day at JoyfullyJay

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Through a weird coincidence, there were two books given to be reviewed for JoyfullyJay so a day was made of it.  This morning’s review is College Boys by Daisy Harris at JoyfullyJay.  Then my review of The Walls Have Ears (College Gays and Fun #3) by Erica Pike will be posted first at JoyfullyJay and then here in the afternoon.

Also coming soon is my rant on words When A Tit Should Be A Nip Or Leave That Orb alone.  If you have certain words you hate to see pop up in books, I know you will relate.  And perhaps share some of them with me.  So stay turned in and have a great Thursday.

Review of The Gift of Air by L.T. Ville

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Paul Sinclair met Mark Conwell in the science lab in high school.  It  was Paul’s first day in a new school.  At lunch time,Paul seeks out his new acquaintance again only to have Mark calmly announce that he’s gay and that Paul might not want to sit there. Paul just grins,throws a french fry into his mouth and asks if he plays any instruments. And so begins a remarkable friendship that continues into their senior year in high school, the two of them inseparable inside school and out, they even make plans to attend the same college. Then Mark starts having pains in his side their senior year.  While he tells Paul about them, he doesn’t go to the doctor until he collapses on the driveway during a pickup basketball game.

The prognosis? Advanced cancer.  Shattered, Paul helps Mark deal with his terminal illness and finally admits to them both what he has known all along.  He loves Mark and has for several years.  It turns out that Mark feels the same way, but was afraid to say so.  Neither boy was willing to risk losing their friendship before now.  Mark’s condition deteriorates until he falls into a coma.  Grief stricken, Paul puts his life on hold to visit with Mark each day, unable to deal with his impending death.  Ronnie is a volunteer at the hospital who reads to the terminally ill.  When Ronnie goes to read to Mark, he sees himself in Paul’s pain and immobility to move forward.  Can both men find the strength to deal with their  grief and loss?  Or will the death of their loved ones freeze them forever in the past?

The Gift of Air is a wonderful story of firsts.  The first love, the acceptance of one’s sexuality and coming out, and the first loss of a major love. L. T. Ville eases us into the beginnings of Paul and Mark’s relationship with the deftness of someone familiar with teenage boys and the high school social obstacles they have to navigate.  I was immediately drawn to Mark’s vulnerability and courage in outing himself to Paul at lunch time.  He acknowledges that he is both gay and social outcast to give Paul an “out” of their conversation and potential friendship.  Then the scene turns heartbreaking as Paul realizes that Mark has changed shirts since he last saw him in lab that morning. Mark stoically tells Paul he had a run in with some jocks “who didn’t like him too much”.  Nothing more is said, letting the change in shirt speak for itself about the encounter.  Paul nods, says he thinks Mark is pretty cool, and changes the subject.  Perfect and so typical of that age.

Paul is a wonderful character so easy to empathize with and relate t0.  His family life is nice but not perfect.  The last child in a large  smart and athletic family, he is just a little off of his family’s norm, the different drummer as it were.  In so many ways he is a typical teenage boy who becomes remarkable upon meeting Mark, his best friend and first love.  I love watching the dynamics of their relationship change when Mark’s illness is diagnosed and they admit their love for each other.  At times the pain makes them so mature and at other times in laughter and tears they are so very young.  I think the author strikes the perfect balance here.

The final main character is Ronnie, a young man whose partner and love had died three  years earlier.  Ronnie has not moved on, continuing to volunteer at the hospital where his lover died as a way to stay close to him.  When Ronnie sees Paul becoming as immobilized emotionally as he is, he decides to help Paul accept Mark’s death and go forward as Mark would have wanted him to. Both men start a fragile friendship over shared loss and have difficulty accepting that it might become more.  Again, L.T. Ville realistically handles the new relationship between Paul and Ronnie, acknowledging the guilt each feels over moving on and the pressures that come from their families view of their new relationship. All families have their flaws as well as their strengths and both are represented here in The Gift of Air.

I know there are some that will criticize the author saying this story glosses over the horror and pain that comes with terminal illness, such as a quick mention that Mark has lost all his hair and is wheelchair bound at graduation without going into detail. But that is not the focus of this story in my opinion.  It is how you deal with impending loss of such a magnitude, no matter your age, that is the subject here. Loss, grief and acceptance. As you might expect from a book with those themes, there are quite a few tears to be shed when reading this story.  Don’t let the threat of those tears make you stay away from this book. For with the tears, also comes the joy of remembrance and the happiness you can find in someone new.Paul says at the beginning that Mark “taught him how to love without fear”.   Goren Persson said “Do not be afraid that joy will make the pain worse; it is needed like the air we breathe.”  With this wonderful gentle story L.T. Ville has given both Paul and the reader The Gift of Air.

Cover:  Simple, perhaps too much so.  It doesn’t pull one in and induce any curiosity about the story within.  Could have been so much better.

Available from Amazon as a free read, and Lustyville Press.

Review of Vertigo by Michael Mandrake

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Rating: 3 stars

London, England 1916. Dr. Hayden Curry is having a rough time of it.  He is a renowned scientist whose recent experiments have all failed and his longtime lover, companion, and assistant in the lab, Lawrence, has been committed to a mental institution.  Then there is the guilt Hayden is feeling of being the person who signed the papers locking Lawrence away in Dr. Gothersbury’s Clinic for the mentally impaired.  A  call from the city morgue interrupts his ennui and informs him that they have something of unknown origins for him to investigate. The “thing” turns out to be a dead body but is it human or animal?  It seems to have the attributes of both.  Intrigued, Hayden and his man servant, Berrows, collect the body and head home to the lab. Just as he is to begin his autopsy the thing comes alive, introduces himself as David, and asks for the Doctor’s help in finding out how he came to be.  Nonplussed Hayden watches in bemusement as David shifts from a manbeast into a gorgeous young man, the most beautiful he has ever seen.

The mystery of David interests the scientist in Hayden while the handsome man stirs up lust and desires Hayden had thought gone with Lawrence.  But is David really what he seems?  As Hayden becomes more befuddled and obsessed with David, David slowly takes over the Doctor’s life in every aspect.  Can Hayden uncover the truth behind David before it is too late to save himself?

Vertigo is an apt title as David succeeds in keeping Hayden Curry off balance for the duration of the story. The same can be said for the reader. And to my mind, it results in the same end for both of us.  As a reader and reviewer, Vertigo, stands for a succession of missed opportunities as well as the author never achieving a balance of plot and characterization.  There are several plots contained within this story, mashed together in a patchwork frame.  It starts out promisingly enough, with the thought that the author is going into a historial Werewolf in London theme when David’s original werewolf physique shifts back to human.  But that storyline is quickly dispatched as the plot sequeways into a Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde  whenever David’s plans/wishes/demands are not met.  When thwarted, David shifts back into the original creature whose threats and menace force Hayden to do as creature wishes, including having sex with him, drinking of his liguids (sweat, semen, blood) etc..  I thought we were looking at a gay take on duality of nature theme, which I would have loved to have read. Then as more of David’s backstory emerges Vertigo turns into a demon cast from Heaven horror tale and all becomes lost with a plodding story and characters whose menace has now vanished into a mawkish, and obsessive love.

Another problem is the character of Dr. Hayden Curry.  He is just an unpleasant man.  He is vain, selfish, self absorbed, and thinks society revolves around him. This would have worked in the story’s favor had it turned into a tale of comeuppance and the tribulations that await someone who gets what they wish for.  And the reader gets a glimpse of that now and again.  But clearly Michael Mandrake wishes us to sympathize with Hayden and the path he has chosen for himself, to walk along side his demon lover no matter the consequences.  The upshot of this is that I could have cared less what happened to either Hayden or David, or anyone else in their circle.

The only victim here is that of Lawrence who makes a brief reappearance late in the story and is the fulcrum for the remaining drama that is Hayden’s life at this point. Lawrence is an innocent, undeserving of his fate and as a object of Hayden’s love,  He is another missed opportunity as the only likable person introduced in the story. The fate the author has in store for him is dreadful while clearly intended to be the exact opposite.  He emerges from his captivity still in love with Hayden, trustful and ready to take up where they left off.  Instead, the tag team of David and Hayden will leave him with a gap in his memory and a suicide to deal with.  Not my idea of making amends for the terrible things both David and Hayden did to Lawrence and another misstep by an author who has lost their way with this story.

David is the final main problem here.  As a man, he is controlling,self centered and disagreeable, as a beast he maintains a sufficient threat as to be menacing  and is the most interesting in this form, but finally as a demon, well he is just not very demon like.  He had wandered the earth being the “rumination of man” then spots the child that is to be his eternal love , acts more petulant than obsessed, pouts and has bouts of sullenness. But a mighty demon cast from Heaven? No, that just does not figure into the equation.  He is just not that evil or should I say believably evil.   David the evil demon.  *shakes head*

All the disparate plot lines gather together into an preposterous ending where God is unhappy with the plot (as is the reader), takes away all their powers, and Hayden flings himself out the window on his way to death and a happy eternity spent with David doing Satan’s deeds.  No really they are very happy together. Well, except for the fact that Hayden is clothed in the garments he was buried in, but that is just a trifle.

There were minor issues such as modern American phrases and notions coming from a 1916 London setting and background.  I realize that this is a fantasy but a little homework would have alleviated this problem. Minor Rant Alert! I also have problems with the usage of the word “orb” when used in conjunction with or as a description of eyes.  There are blue orbs, fiery orbs, and so on.  I wish that every author using this as a noun  for eyes immediately select Find and Replace in the Tool section and use it to delete the word orb in every reference. This cannot go on.  I don’t know about you but when I look at a person I don’t think “What lovely orbs they have.” Most people don’t,  so why use it in a story? This cannot be solely attributed to Michael Mandrake as I recently read no less than two other books with the same issue. This was just the breaking point. So please no more orbs unless they are magical ones used by sorcerers.  End rant.

Vertigo is the second book I have read of Michael Mandrake’s and I think the author has promise.  Perhaps a good editor and some crit partners would be of assistance in eliminating some of the problems I had with this novel.  Vertigo has some wonderful stories buried within it, just not the one the author chose in the end.  And that is a real shame.

Cover: The cover is as confused as the story.  Vertigo takes place in London in 1916, so what are the modern cover boys doing here?  And that font is terrible.

Review of Josh of the Damned Triple Feature by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 5 stars

Josh Caplan is not just  your average convenience store clerk.  But that’s ok because the Quik-Mart where he works the night shift? Well, it has a hell portal out back, werewolves peeing on the outside ice machine, and an endless parade of weird customers from hell. Whether it is the zombies buying frozen burritos or a love lorn yeti, Josh handles it all with a commendable nonchalance and sangfroid far beyond his years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his oh so hot boyfriend is a 300 year old vampire with powers out the whazoo!  Can anything upset Josh’s unflappability?  Why yes, there is.  All it takes is a visit from a voracious facial hair, an attack from an overcompensating Cthulhu, and a visit from the Hell Boss herself with a mission for Josh to make a job at Wendy’s look promising.  It’s all here.  Read it for yourself.

While it is true that I am addicted to all things Andrea Speed, Josh Caplan holds a special, albeit warped, place in my heart.  With each new customer that walks the aisles to the freezer section, Josh is ready for anything, even if it’s a few extra cents from the Take A Penny tray to help him/them/it complete their purchase.  That lovesick yeti from Peek-A-Boo (Book #2) is back and Josh calls him Professor Bobo as a nod to one of my favorites MST3K.  Great smacks into wonderfulness!  Josh has gotten fond of him and who wouldn’t?  Then there is Colin, his vampire boyfriend who is fond of sweets, Bailey’s Irish Creme and  rock n roll.  He’s handy to have around when the  hell customers get frisky or the human customers pose a threat.  Yep, you read that right.  Most of the time, it’s the humans that cause the most problems. Ok, that is par for the course at convenience stores anywhere. Moving on.

Triple Feature contains three new Josh of the Damned stories. Night of the Mustache, I Was Cthulhu’s Love Slave, and Interview With The Empire where we finally learn why Josh is so special.  I started giggling from page 1 and didn’t stop until the end.  I mean really. Stan Cthulhu? Stop it.  Really, I mean it.  Now I am going to have to start reading all over again.

Reading these stories are like munching on bonbons stuffed with weed.  Oozy chocolately goodness on the outside, mindbending surprises on the inside.  Combine all that with snappy dialog, outrageously memorable characters, and all too short stories and you have the Josh of the Damned series.  Throw in some added sweetness as well, because it’s there too.  I just love these books.  Just thinking about them makes my day.  Pick them up, and give them a read.  Josh and company will make your day too.

Cover:  Cover artist is LC Chase.  The cover is just one more treat in this veritable basket of goodies.  I would love to have a framed copy.  Just outstanding.

Available from Riptide Publishing, Amazon and ARe.

Check out Andrea Speed at http://andreaspeed.com/

Review of Caleb Moon Lake Wolves #2 by Jade Astor

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Rating: 3 stars

Caleb Lyall goes off to college hoping to research his family’s lycanthropy in order to better understand werewolves and perhaps find a cure.  Immediately he meets Desmond Quinn, good looking graduate student and his TA in psychology.  Desmond offers to show Caleb around campus and introduce him to his professor and advisor, Dr. Arden.

Everything seems normal, until it’s not.  Dr. Arden has a reputation for being creepy and interested in the supernatural.  People are reporting weird animal attacks on campus, and Caleb is starting to have blackouts.  Could he be changing and not know it? Desmond just might be his mate but is he involved in the strange things happening around campus? Nothing is as it seems and its up to Caleb to unravel the mysteries before its too late.

Not having read the first book in the series, I was unfamiliar with the characters and their backgrounds. However, the first couple of pages gives you a synopsis more or less so I don’t feel that is a hinderance in reading the book.  There are too many other problems for that to be a concern. The main problems I have with this book are bland, one-note characters, and a plot with more holes in it than swiss cheese.

Caleb is a twenty six year old, so I would expect some measure of maturity from his character but time and again, he behaves like a coed in those Scary Movies.  He has a family that supports him, but he doesn’t call them for help until the end of the book.   Caleb and Desmond spot their professor naked inside a circle of naked students (during a study session) doing naughty, and for one student objectional,  things to each other.  Do they inform campus security?  Or the college president or anyone?  They do nothing.  What not even a YouTube video?

Desmond is a TA but he doesn’t notice anything odd going on?  Why is his professor having all those arguments with his honor students? And when one of those students runs screaming up to him for help? He closes the door on him! Doesn’t even ask questions.  Dorothy Parker had that wonderful remark about a young Katherine Hepburn where she states  “She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B”.  Here they run the gamut of emotions from A to A (with my apologies to Dorothy Parker). Desmond is a mere outline of a person, so why have any expectations of him at all?

Neither Caleb or Desmond do anything other than react to the situations around them.  They are so passive and flat like cardboard cutouts it is hard to care about them. And the villain of the piece is spotted immediately but seems less threatening than Snidely Whiplash. There is nothing remotely plausible about the plot and the characters sleepwalking their way through it.  I finished it and then found it hard to retrieve names and events.  Unremarkable, unbelievable, and finally unreadable.  What a shame.

Cover:  I like the cover and think they did a great job.  The models are in keeping with the characters and the graphics are lovely.

Available from Silver Publishing, Amazon, and ARe

Review of Grade-A-Sex Deal (College Fun and Gays, #2) by Erica Pike

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Grade-A-Sex Deal (College Fun and Gays #2)

Rating: 5 stars

Daniel Corrigan hates his life.  He used to have it all.  Affluent lifestyle complete with great paying job, loving wife, two children, great house and even a dog.  Now all gone because he simply couldn’t live a lie any longer.  With two little words “I’m gay”,  he’s lost everything and everyone in his life, with the exception of his brother, a college principal.

Now depressed, penniless and living in a college dorm room, Daniel makes a living teaching macroeconomics at his brother’s university. The only bright spot in his life is Troy Anderson, a sexy student in his class.  The deal they made, exchanging sexual favors for a favorable A in his class, is about to come to an end along with the semester and Daniel is not sure he can handle the loss. What will happen when the Grade-A-Sex deal comes to an end?

I love surprises and this short story is all that and a cupcake with dark chocolate sprinkles on top. From the title, I would never guess at the angst, bitterness, and despair that is emerges from the tale of Daniel’s life after he comes out.   I am always amazed at the courage it takes for someone to come out of the closet, whether they are a teenager or a middle aged adult.  While you hope with all your heart for acceptance and love, the stories you most often hear of those of loss, contempt, and pain.  Daniel is no different.  His expectations of his family’s reaction might have been naive but the actuality of their disgust and rejection was crushing. Erica Pike got this so right, I often had tears in my eyes as I read the story (and this is a short story mind you).

Daniel’s room is littered with the debris of his life, left over food containers, clothes he can’t be bothered washing, all symptoms of a deeply depressed man just going through the motions.  Every detail Erica Pike paints for us is meticulous.  There is not a false word or emotion here.  Troy Anderson has surprises of his own in store for us.  Needless to say, my lips are sealed here.  Just know that Troy is no cardboard figure, he too is fully alive and breathing.  It just takes a little longer to get to know him.  The sex is hot, fast, and overlaid with desperation.

When I first read about the sex for grades issue, it bothered me, but as I got further into the story, it became easier to accept. Daniel had only done it a few times and it fit right in with his poor self esteem and “hitting rock bottom.” If one ignores the depression cycle he is on, his behavior is hard to understand. As it is, he is not a likeable human being at the beginning of the story. However, the deal entered into between the teacher and the student here is a way for the older man to have any type of a relationship with this man he has come to love. It is more a ploy of desperation than something he does with others, and he despises himself for it.

I have not read the first College Fun and Gays story. I really don’t feel its necessary in order to read and appreciate the beauty of this little gem.  But you know that I won’t be able to rest until I go back to the beginning of the series.  I will let you all know what I find.  In the meantime, you will just love this!

Cover:  I don’t know if it is just me but any cover color in the red range is hard on my eyes and this is no exception.  There are some wonderful graphics in the background that really clue you into the story but they are lost with the highlighted image of the college.  I also  prefer a stylistically plainer font. IMO, it’s just easier to read. Grade A story, Grade C cover.

Book available from No Boundaries Press, Amazon, and ARe

Review of Abandoned Galactic Betrayal #1 by Silvia Violet

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Review written for JoyfullyJay (4/14/12) and copy of book obtained for that purpose.

Rating:  3 stars (but only because I haven’t laughed this hard in ages)

Lark Zaccaro and his partner Derek Carlson are agents for the Intergalactic Investigations Bureau. While on assignment on a alien planet, their cover is blown and Derek Carlson is caught. Zaccaro flees the planet leaving his partner to be imprisoned and tortured for months.  Upon rescuing Derek, the Bureau informs him that his partner was the one who betrayed them all and left Derek to die.

Lark Zaccaro is deep under cover as the warden on a corrupt prison planet with no way out until a small spacecraft crash lands near the prison site.  When the guards drag the pilot before him, Lark is stunned to see that the pilot is none other than the man he thought he would never see again, Derek Carlson.  Derek has his own mission to accomplish, spring a young man from prison for his sister.  As the sexual heat flares between them once more, the men must put aside recriminations and past betrayals and work together if both men wish to live to get off planet.

Where to start?  Where to start?  I have not run across so many ludicrously unbelievable plot points, absurd alien names and just downright silliness since watching the MST3K’s “Manos: The Hands of Fate”.  I knew we were heading into Monty Python Lane when the Intergalactic Bureau they both work for is called IIB, yes, that’s right “Twobee”.  Immediately I started singing “twobee, twobee two”.

Then lets take the men.  Both are supposed to be hardened field agents and were partners together for years.  We don’t get really any of their back story only that Derek underwent such extreme torture as mere men do not recover from while bitterly blaming his partner for leaving him.  Lark now runs a corrupt prison where he’s had to do things so horrible that he has nightmares, oh and he’s sorry he left Derek on that planet.  But he didn’t mean too.  The Bureau betrayed them. So why is he still working for them?

Lark and Derek have loved each other secretly for years. When Lark spots Derek, he has his prison minions drag him off to Lark’s bedroom for lots of hot, angry, brutal sex (don’t get me started on a badass agent named Lark). Here comes the dubcon from the publisher’s note. And a training collar that zaps you. Always handy to have one around to use on sex slaves or have the slave use on you or whatever. There’s a leash too. It’s all very confusing. Never mind that the minions are close by and hate Lark’s guts, but let’s have lots of sex, and yelling and then the blubbering starts. OMG, that room had enough water in it to float a battleship. It’s sex, talk, cry, sex, talk, cry. Or crying and talking while having sex. And I’m thinking, aren’t you all supposed to get off the damn planet? What about your mission? You know the one no one seems to know anything about. Hello! Mission anyone?

In between pounding each other into the bed, they figure out that the Bureau had lied to them in a scene so priceless that it is a classic (“I yelled, I threw things.”  cries Lark talking about his confrontation with his Bureau boss). They throw on their clothes, grab the collar and head off to proceed with the mission. Nope, wait.   Let’s have more sex and talking and crying. Then you have the mission, some Flash Gordon stuff with the aircraft, and even more dialog that has me howling.  “Are you okay?” ask Derek of badly injured Lark(as he regains consciousness), who Derek has also just given pain pills to.   It’s just one endlessly funny bit after another.  And the ending? They check into a hotel, and the misunderstandings begin.  Where to take their relationship? At one point Derek tells  Lark, he wants to date, and make Lark smile. *head desk* What? No lock-n-load and off to get the traitor? No, just bring out the collar and have at it. Sigh.

And don’t get me started on the alien names of Lancarina, Lithusia, or my favorite Kraxnaftons.  I can’t even write those without giggling.  So, as a howler this book is a 5, as straight scifi, it’s a 2.8.  Read it for yourself and decide.  It’s not long.  Really, grab some popcorn, some friends, make a drinking game out of it.  You’ll thank me.  I’m off to watch some MST3K.  Oh, Cambot…..

Cover: Cover artist Reese Dante.  The cover is really pretty good.  It makes more sense than the book does.

Available from Silver Publishing, Amazon, and ARe.

Review of You Don’t Ask We Don’t Tell, Book 1 Basic Training by BL Morticia

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Rating: 2

Cody McCayne and his best friend, Dari, have taken their relationship past friendship and into being sexual partners, a situation that confounds Cody.  Cody refuses to believe he is gay, no matter his feelings toward Dari.  His family, especially his father say its a sin, an abomination towards God and church.  And Cody believes it makes him less than a man.  After some thought, Cody decides that the Army is the way to go.  Although he doesn’t like the Army, he believes it will make a man of him as well as curing him of his deviant ways.

Army Recruiter Sgt. Justin Belvidere sees in Cody a younger version of himself, and takes the young man under his wing and into a special platoon made up of solely gay and lesbian soldiers.  Their goal?  To teach Cody to accept himself, and that being gay does not make him less a man.  Will Cody “man up” and accept their help or will he stay mired in his family’s mindset?

As I read further into this story, I started hoping that it would turn out to be high camp, a witty take on the Army and DADT.  Why?  Because that might explain the hilariously bad dialog, cardboard characters, and a total lack of understanding of anything Army related including military procedures, rules, regulations, and recruiting guidelines.

Let’s start off with the dialog.  The author has the characters speak in terms of “lil”, “bout”,”gon”, “gits”, and “dems” with an obnoxious sprinkling of “coloreds” and “faggots” that is supposed to be a dialect from the South.  Cody and friends here make Lil Abner Yokum and the citizens of Dogpatch USA the very height of eloquence in their use of language.  There are several writers, BA Tortuga comes to mind, who can take colloquialisms and make them work seamlessly within a narrative.  BL Morticia is not one of them.  Here is one less painful example:

“Listen, you need to git yourself a girl, man. Even if it’s one of dem colored gals.”

Then of course, there is the remarkable scene where Sgt. Belvidere tells Cody in the Army Recruiter office “I’m gonna travel down wit’cha, Cody. Deliver you personally with a few other boys that need the guidance just like you, ya’ hear? We gon get a chance to talk on the way down and I need ya’ to tell me the real reason why you’re joinin’, boy. “Cody, yous a good kid. The ASVAB may look dauntin’ but you’ll make it, right? I like you a lot, boy! I see the potential. It’s down there.” He poked Cody’s stomach.”

No, no, no.  Absolutely not.  Nothing of the Army’s Core Values or Personal Ethics, or Standards are referenced here obviously. Irrespective of how you might feel about the Army, it is easy to recognize the absurdity of the scene.   Then it goes from bad right into WTF territory as Cody is taken into Company 9669, whose “purpose wasn’t only to teach the men to accept themselves as gay but also defend other homosexual privates and officers when they were taunted or bashed.”  Including sexually attacking straight “homophobic” soldiers in the barracks. *head desk* That is when they aren’t having sex with each other all over the base, no matter the rank of the soldiers involved.  Obviously fraternization is not an issue here!

Anyway, I will save you further pain and just say Company 9669 teaches Cody about gay sex and being a “man”, he reunites with Dari, and they live happily ever after with the denizens of the gay Company.  It was all I could do to wade through to the finish.  Reading this book has cost me a bottle of Excedrin but if I have saved you from buying this book, it was worth the headache.

Cover:  Artist Carl J. Franklin. Not bad considering the drivel inside.

Available from Rebel Ink Press, LLC.

Review of Fall Into The Sun by Val Kovalin

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Reviewed for JoyfullyJay blog on 4/10/12:

Rating: 4.75

Bobby Gallegos and Alejo Sandoval met when they were 6.  It was 1972 at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.  Alejo was being picked on by three boys who had stolen his marble.  Bobby came to his rescue and into his life.  From that time forward, they were inseparable even though their families were so different.  Bobby came from a rough family of four boys whose dad was in prison. His older brothers were petty criminals following in their fathers footsteps who only saw the youngest boy as a punching bag.  Alejandro’s family were strict, ran a family restaurant and was devoutly Catholic.  But none of that mattered as the years passed and their connection deepened into love.

The summer of 1982 changed all that with a series of devastating events that would separate the boys for 22 years.  Over time, Alejo got married, and had a family and ran the family restaurant, his bisexual tendencies buried deeply in the closet.  Bobby  moved away, went to law school in Houston, Texas where he was now a gay successful criminal lawyer. Only once did they try to reconnect but bad timing and distance interfered.

Now they are both 40, their lives at an impasse. Alejo is divorced and Bobby has returned to Albuquerque to persuade Alejo to make a change so they can finally get their happily ever after they have been denied for so long.  Bobby has seven days.  Will it be enough time?

Let me say right from the start that I love stories about first loves getting their second chance at happiness so this pushed all the right buttons.  Val Kovalin also did such a wonderful job with her characters that identifying with them was easy.  There is never any doubt as to who these men are and how their pasts molded them.  Both men have real depth and layers to their characters, including their flaws which help drive them apart.

Bobby was the easiest of the two to empathize with.  His obstacles to overcome are so clearly black and white, starting with an abusive family that he managed to escape from while staying true to who he is.  Alejo had it much tougher in a way.  His parents love, expectations and strict adherence to the Catholic church buried Alejandro’s own career choices and sexuality under a blanket of guilt and parental love.  Now at 40 and getting ready to attend his ex-wife’s marriage, his children, especially his wayward son, keep him from reaching out to Bobby and a new future.  The reader’s frustrations with Alejo’s indecision and inability to parent his son mount with Bobby’s .  Yet, so skillfully is Alejo drawn that his rational is clear and in keeping with his history.  Both the reader and his lover understand his actions even if you don’t like them.  It’s your flaws that make you vulnerable and oh so human. So you are never ready to give up on Alejo and neither is Bobby.  I thought their entire relationship realistic as it grows and adjusts from ages 6 to 40.

I really enjoyed this book and notice that it is called Fall Into The Sun Bobby and Alejo #1.  I am hoping that means we will be seeing more of these two and their hard won future together.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

Cover:  I loved this cover.  The models were perfect for Bobby and Alejo.  Just wonderful from the expressions in their eyes and that they seem more in keeping with the age of the characters.  Great job.

Available at Amazon and ARe.