A Free Dreamer Review: Don’t Feed the Trolls by Erica Kudisch

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Gaming while female is enough to incur the wrath of the dude-bros, and they’ve come for me. Instead of fighting back, I’ve created an alternate account. Male name, male pronouns. And I’ve met this girl. I’ve always liked girls, and Laura’s adorable and smart and never gives up, and she likes me back. Or rather, she likes the man I’m pretending to be. But I can’t tell her I’m a woman without the mob coming after her too.
And besides: I might not be a woman, not really.
The truth is, I don’t know what I am anymore. I’ve spent my whole life being told how I’m supposed to act and what I’m supposed to be, but none of it feels right. And my lie is starting to feel truer than anything I’ve ever been.
There’s a convention coming up, but the closer it gets, the more I have to choose: lie or fight. But if I don’t stand my ground as a girl, am I letting the haters win?
Then again, those aren’t the only two ways to live.
Being a female gamer myself, I was immediately drawn to this book. Personally, I’ve never experienced discrimination in the gaming world because of my gender. But then I’ve never played MMORPGs like Daphne does (way too complicated for me – I’m a very casual gamer) and I tend to play male characters, given the choice.
If you haven’t guessed from the blurb and my opening: This book is full of gamers. MMORPGs play a major role throughout the story. Having never played games like that myself, some of the typical slang took some getting used to at first. I think it takes a gaming nerd to appreciate the work the author put into creating a realistic gaming world online as well as offline. That was absolutely brilliantly done and felt very realistic.
I loved how diversive this book was. There are so many gender identities, sexual orientations and ethnicities and it’s all portrayed as perfectly normal. Every supporting character had a distinctive and unique voice and I loved every one of them. The musketqueers, Daphnis’ roommates and best friends, will forever have a place in my heart. Their friendship and support was truly unconditional . It was easy to really feel their friendship. Those guys are the kind of friends anybody would love to have.
It was interesting to watch Daphnis’ struggle with their gender in comparison to their roommate Alain, who wasn’t cis either. But for Alain the whole gender identity was rather simple: “Ivy and she when I’m tucked, Alain and he when I’m not.” It seemed downright effortless compared to how much trouble Daphnis has with their gender identity. Certainly a very interesting contrast. While I know my way around the gaming community, I don’t know anything about what it feels like to question your gender identity. So while this seemed quite realistic as well, I can’t guarantee it actually is.
There are some minor things I wasn’t entirely happy about, however. First of all, I would have liked a little more depth overall. Be it Daphne starting to think about her gender identity or the love story, a little more detail would have been nice. As it was, the romance part of the story felt a little bit rushed. And I wasn’t entirely happy about the ending. The HEA just seemed a little too happy for me.
Overall, I absolutely loved “Don’t Feed the Trolls”. It’s a breath of fresh air. Just don’t expect an epic love story and focus more on the other parts.
“Don’t Feed the Trolls” made me think. About gaming, sexism, gender and all things related. Not many books manage that. It hit very close to home and I think I’ll view the gaming world differently from now on.
The cover by L.C. Chase is pretty cool. It definitely works for the story.
Sales Links
Book details:
ebook, 230 pages
Published April 1st 2017 by Riptide Publishing

A Lila Review: The Impossible Boy by Anna Martin

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

f709b-cover2bart2bversion2b1This is not your average love story.

Ben Easton is not your average romantic hero. He’s a tattooed, badass, wannabe rock star, working in a perfectly horrible dive bar in Camden Town. His life is good, and he’s totally unprepared for how one man will turn it upside down.

Stan isn’t your average heroine. As a gender-fluid man, he proudly wears his blond hair long, his heels sky-high, and his makeup perfectly executed. A fashion industry prodigy, Stan is in London after stints working in Italy and New York City, and he quickly falls for Ben’s devil-may-care attitude and the warm, soft heart Ben hides behind it.

Beneath the perfect, elegant exterior, Stan has plenty of scars from teenage battles with anorexia. And it only takes the slightest slip for his demons to rush back in while Ben is away touring with his band. With the band on the brink of a breakthrough, Ben is forced to find a way to balance the opportunity of a lifetime with caring for his beautiful boyfriend.

The Impossible Boy is more than a romance. It’s the story of a young man adjusting back into life when dealing with anorexia. And how his sexuality, love life, and career were affected by it–before and after. It can be considered a coming of age novel set in London.

The book is divided into two parts. The first sixty-four percent is more of an introduction to Stan’s and Ben’s life and romance. I’d have been okay if the book ended there. Not that the rest isn’t worth it, but the second part felt like an addition or a longer view to a well-established relationship.

We spent a lot of time experiencing the story as Stan. And perhaps, that’s one of the reasons I find a disconnected between the two parts of the story. Almost like he blocked us from what was really happening, just like he was doing with the rest of the world. But by the end of the story, it’s easy to see that we were indeed blocked. It was part of Stan’s coping mechanism and we need to understand it like Ben had to.

The amount of detail in the story could be a bit overwhelming, but just like Stan, it was like learning more about the country, new people, and himself. One thing I appreciated was how the symptoms of Stan’s anorexia were presented as part of his personality, and not as a checklist to diagnose his medical condition.

This story is mostly sweet. It has a very young adult feel even when the main characters are older than what’s expected. There’s a slow burn that becomes love making; never fucking. They go on dates, spend time together, talk about work, and hang around with friends. The topics discussed are serious but there’s not a lot of angst. If not for Stan’s anorexia, this could be a fairytale romance.

All the secondary characters are great. The bandmates acted as normal young people trying to get into the spotlight. They’re not perfect, but they do work well together. They look out for each other and are a family. I do need to accept that my favorite character in the book was Tone, not the MCs. He’s more than Ben’s & Stan’s best friend, he’s the reason they understand each other. Plus, he’s lovely.

Overall, this is a good read. Just be sure you’re looking for something more than a simple romance story. It’s slow-paced and some of the switches between scenes can be quite abrupt, but it brings the story together in the end.

The cover by Garrett Leigh is beautiful. It fits Stan perfectly, not only physically, but emotionally.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon | Nook

 

Book Details:

ebook, 204 pages
Published: January 17, 2017, Dreamspinner Press (Perchance to Dream)
ASIN: 1635332052 (ISBN13: 9781635332056)
Edition Language: English

 

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Temptations of Desire (Desires Entwined #3) by Tempeste O’Riley and Jeff Gelder (Narrator)

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

temptations-of-desire audioThis story overlaps the action that took place in Desire’s Guardian, the previous one in the series so I would highly recommend reading that before starting this one. Dal Sayer, cop and brother of Rhys Sayer (Desire’s Guardian) meets a gorgeous young man at the local LGBTQ center. The man, Alexander James Noble, introduces himself as Alex and tells Dal he’s the chef who volunteers there to prepare meals on Saturdays.

A personal chef for a businessman, Alex, who Dal nicknames Lexi, is gender fluid, switching back and forth to his female persona as the mood strikes him. However, Dal is unaware of that until one night he surprises Lexi when he drops by to see him. Lexi opens the door in his female wardrobe, and with the shock of seeing Dal there, he runs into his bedroom, locking the door behind him. It takes a while, but eventually Dal gets the story of heartbreak, pain and abandonment at the hands of his family who rejected him when they found out he liked to dress in his sister’s clothing. Dal slowly but surely wins Lexi’s trust as he remains supportive and faithful to him and assures him he accepts Lexi completely.

Throughout most of this story, the author weaves in the events that occurred concurrently in Desire’s Guardian, so much of what we learn is repetitive. However, one fresh piece of information is the arrival of Lexi’s twin sister, Lyric, and her family, including her husband who used to spout hatred toward Lexi when they were in high school. Apparently Ly is moving away from their hometown due to her husband’s job, so she arrives to share her good news with Lexi. What I found odd is it appeared that these twins had not kept in touch after he was dumped in front of a hospital by his father years before, and yet when she shows up, she’s fully supportive of his life and embraces both his male and female personas and her husband is as well!

The overused trope that disturbed me the most was the pressure Dal’s parents put on him to find a female, marry, and reproduce in order to give his father grandchildren so he’d want to survive his cancer and be happy. This issue was present in the previous story, but there was more time spent on those conversations in this one. And to be honest, I found the whole situation quite bizarre and sickening. Dal is not a teen—he’s a professional man in his thirties, and having to listen to the whole ridiculous argument from both of his parents was distasteful.

During the last twenty minutes of the story, we finally get fresh information as this is the point where Dal had been injured by helping Rhys rescue his lover. And though what happens with the couple is sweet and worthy of several sighs and “Ahh” moments, it doesn’t save the rest of the book. Topping all this was the ever-speedy narration by Jeff Gelder, who gave both Lexi and Lyric the same voice and narrated the book as if he was reading it for the first time. The narration did not add to the story at all, so I can’t honestly recommend it in audiobook format.

If it didn’t seem as if the whole story was just a rehash of the second book, I believe I would have liked it much more. I love cross-dressing men, and there were a few glimpses of “manties” so there was some redeeming value there. And I really liked Dal, until his way of dealing with his demeaning parents left me feeling ill. Lexi was a sweetheart through and through, and by the end I wasn’t so sure Dal deserved him. I’d recommend the e-book to those who want to complete the series, but as I said previously, it’s not a standalone.

The cover by Reese Dante is done in the same soft watercolors as the others in the series and features a set of scarves and multicolor bracelets—both symbolic of Lexi and very beautifully done.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published June 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press (first published September 22nd 2014)
ASINB01H2JDU0S
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesDesires Entwined #3

A Mika Review: Truth in Lace (Desires Entwined #3.5) by Tempeste O’Riley

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5:

Truth in Lace coverWhen Alexander James Noble looks in the mirror, he sees a freak looking back at him. Despite his high grades and plans for culinary arts school after graduation, his parents would hate him if they really knew him.

Forced on a shopping trip with his twin sister, Lyric, and her friends, Alex eyes the girls jealously, longing to be able to dress like them—to be them. The constant struggle of being “gender fluid,” wrestling with an identity that seems to change daily, begins to wear on Alex. But all those questions and fears seem more manageable when his sister gives him his first skirt and lace panties.

When I say this was a shortie, this was a shortie. I didn’t know how to rate this because it’s literally under 25 pages. Its 24 pages to be exact. I liked it, because it was when Alex first understood  what being gender fluid meant. I didn’t understand the author only producing this short novella as I felt like it could have been more with this subject. What did Alex do, following this coming of age sort of moment? More of his story would have been great. I liked him and Lyric. I liked Lyric supporting him, it was a rarity at their age to understand and accept Alex with no qualms, or restrictions. It was a nice short story and with a nice prologue.

Reese Dante created this cover, and like the previous covers it had symbolism written all over it I liked this cover the best, I really went in with happiness because I thought it would be thoroughly talked about.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook (free)    All Romance (ARe) (free)    amazon      buy it here for $1.99
Book Details: 

ebook, 24 pages
Published November 5th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632165213
edition languageEnglish
seriesDesires Entwined #3.5

Books in the Desires Entwined series in the order they were written and should be read:

Designs of Desire (Desires Entwined, #1)
Bound by Desire (Desires Entwined #1.75)
Desires’ Guardian (Desires Entwined, #2)
Temptations of Desire (Desires Entwined, #3)
Truth in Lace (Desires Entwined #3.5)

A Mika Review: Temptations of Desire (Desires Entwined, #3) by Tempeste O’Riley

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 :

Temptations of Desire coverAlexander James Noble is a gender fluid gay man who gave up on finding Mister Right a long time ago. He’s not asking for much, though. He just wants a guy who loves all of him and appreciates his feminine form too.

At the local LGBTQ center where Alex regularly volunteers, he meets Dal Sayer, an officer of the Milwaukee PD. Because he’s been rejected one too many times, Alex doesn’t trust the huge cop and the interest he shows in him, but once Dal sets his mind on something, he goes all out. Pushing aside his preconceived notions, Alex opens up just a little and soon caves.

From their first date—while dealing with his father’s failing health and his parents’ demands for him to settle down and have children—Dal never takes his eyes off his goal of making Alex his. But proving to Alex he isn’t like all the men who couldn’t see him for who he truly was and only wanted to hide him away is harder than he thought.

Temptations of Desire is book 3 in the series,Desires Entwined, and I have finally fallen in love with one of the couples. I adore Dal and Alex. They both were a breath of fresh air. One of the biggest themes in the book was gender fluidity, something I love reading about in books. I honestly don’t think we get enough characters like it. This book coincides with things from the previous book we get to see certain things from Dal’s perspective.

Of course both guys had their issues with being in a relationship, but the thing that got me was they “TALKED” like grown people do. When one, had an issue he didn’t over react, he waited so he could talk it out. Sure no relationship is perfect. Dal has a great relationship with his brother Rhys, but they are totally different. He was such a sweetheart, gentle and completely calm whenever he approached Alex. I thought Alex was skittish at times, but it made sense seeing as he was victim of abuse before on multiple accounts. One thing I loved about his was his determination, and strength. Alex was amazingly strong, he didn’t waver on his feelings sure he was unsure about how Dal was going to react to him being gender fluid.

I wish this book was much longer, and I appreciated the epilogue but I wanted more of them. I want to know how their little family is going to be. I want to know their feelings of living in Chicago and with each other. I’m very happy with the outcome of this book. Hopefully book 4 is based on Kai; he is one character who I really wanted more time of all. I wouldn’t read these out of order, but this book was much better. I really enjoyed the writing and the relationship.

The cover artist Reese Dante. Like the previous covers it had symbolism written all over it. I can appreciate the cover based on the feelings both mc had when the scarf was presented in the book. I liked the simplicity and acceptance of it as well.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback   All Romance (ARe)    amazon           buy it here

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published September 22nd 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781627989305
seriesDesires Entwined #3

Books in the Desires Entwined series in the order they were written and should be read:

Designs of Desire (Desires Entwined, #1)
Bound by Desire (Desires Entwined #1.75)
Desires’ Guardian (Desires Entwined, #2)
Temptations of Desire (Desires Entwined, #3)
Truth in Lace (Desires Entwined #3.5)