Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Fifth Son by Blaine D. Arden

This is one of those stories I really wanted to love, but just couldn't quite get into. Don't get me wrong, The Fifth Son is not a bad read by any means, it just lacked that something special to really find its way into my heart.

I think part of what distanced me from the story is the fact that we're kind of bashed over the head with the fact that Llyskel is an outcast. He doesn't fit in with his royal brothers. He doesn't have a role to play in court. He's an arist in a warrior's world. He lacks the magic that is so common-place to those around him. With all that emotional baggage put before you, the fact that he's gay is almost an anti-climactic.

Having said that, I absolutely loved the character Llyskel. He's a complex, well-developed character, with a colourful style of narration that sounds very much like one of his paintings (if you know what I mean). Young, innocent, and adorably romantic, he's also a young man with some very secret fantasies. My problem with the story is that while Captain Ariv is a likeable enough character, he just doesn't match my idea of the man who can fulfill those secret fantasies. There's something lacking in his personality to make him worthy of the royal lad I loved so much.

It is a wonderfully well-written story, and for readers who don't share my reservations about Captain Ariv, it's certainly a great read. For me, though, it remains a good one, and a lovely one, but a few ounces of testosterone on Ariv's part shy of a great one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REVIEW: Caressed by Night by Amanda J. Greene

Amanda J. Greene's Caressed by Night is the second book in her Rulers of Darkness series, following her scintilating debut, Caressed by Moonlight.

Whether you're a lover of paranormal romances, or simply a romantic at heart, Amanda knows how to caress just the right emotions in the read, drawing you deeper and deeper into her story, and entangling you with some rather unique twists so that you not only can't let go . . . you won't want to.

While I didn't care for the setting here as much as I did in the first book (Amanda transplants us from the gas-lit cobblestone streets of 19th London to the harsh fluorescent glare of 21st centure Las Vegas), it does provide for an interesting avenue to explore the progression of her vampire mythos. Fortunately, Kerstyn and Dimitri are just as enthralling a romantic duo as Victoria and Dorian were in the first volume, so it's very easy to fall back into the mythology. Personally, I liked Victoria slightly more than Kerstyn, although they are both wonderfull independant women, but I found Dimitri slightly more swoon-worthy than Dorian, so it all balances out.

The character building is superb, as is the amount of detail Amanda has invested in her vampire mythos. I loved the complexities of Dimitri, with one layer of personality revealed after another, further establishing him as both a romantic hero and a vampire legend. Silvie, Kerstyn's best friend and witch, is another character I found myself instantly attracted to, while the blood-slave-turned-vampire Gabriel successfully managed to overcome my initial frustrations to become another favourite by the end.

It goes without saying, of course, that his is another very hot, very sexy, very romantic book with enough steamy bits to make even the most staid reader swoon, but carefully woven into a story that could easily stand on it's own as a straightforward paranormal adventure . . . although it wouldn't be nearly as fun. As was the case with Caressed by Moonlight, this is another self-contained storyline that reaches back to that world, but which also contains enough promise for several new volumes to come.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

24th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

Well, the 24th finalists in this year's Lambda Literary Awards have been announced, and I'm delighted to see a few of my favourite made the cut:

Lesbian Erotica
Story of L, by Debra Hyde, Ravenous Romance (check out my review)

Transgender Fiction
The Butterfly and the Flame, by Dana De Young, iUniverse (check out my review)
Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormina, Cleis Press (check out my review)

Transgender Nonfiction
Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect, edited by Megan M. Rohrer and Zander Keig, Wilgefortis Press (check out my review)
Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels, by Justin Vivian Bond, The Feminist Press at CUNY (check out my review)

Bisexual Fiction
Triptych, by J.M. Frey, Dragon Moon Press (check out my review)

Bisexual Nonfiction
Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature, edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti, University of Arizona Press (check out my review)

LGBT Anthology
Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature, edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti, University of Arizona Press (check out my review)

Triptych, by J.M. Frey, Dragon Moon Press (check out my review)

You can find the complete list of finalists here. Happy reading!

Friday, March 16, 2012

REVIEW: Transgender 101 by Nicholas M Teich

Nicholas Teich's Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue is one of those rare pieces of non-fiction that works equally well in educating (and entertaining) both within and outside the community it explores.

First of all, it's an absolutely excellent resource to share with friends, family, and coworkers whose only exposure to transgender issues or themes has been through the likes of Jerry Springer or RuPaul's Drag Race. Nicholas begins each chapter by asking broad, sweeping questions about identity, expression, and society that immediately involve the reader in the discussion. Once he has them hooked, he slowly narrows the scope of his answers, easing readers into understanding the relevant definitions in such a way that it feels they arrived there of their own accord. He's not preachy or overbearing, and wisely shies away from absolutes - instead, he presents suggestions and conclusions, but leaves interpretation open to the reader.

Along the way, Nicholas offers a series of small, simple, easy-to-understand graphs and tables that help readers to visualise the concepts he's talking about. I was immediately struck by how effectively they compliment the text, flowing naturally from his words, as opposed to jumping out at you like the high-brow, statistical monstrosities of a more scholarly tome. He's also generous with his cartoons, using them to further engage the reader by making light of the prejudices and stereotypes those of in the community face every day. They're the kind of two-or-three panel cartoons that make you chuckle, stop yourself short, rethink what's actually been said, and then come away with a comfortable smile.

As I said earlier, this is also a fascinating read for those of us within the community, effectively raising questions and prompting discussion about assumptions we've always taken for granted, but have never really thought through. He manages to challenge the most deeply held personal beliefs in such a way that you don't feel confronted, but instead welcome the chance to give the issue some thought. I'm a bit of a hoarder, one who likes her books to sit on the shelf well-read by looking unread. Having said that, my copy is proudly dog-eared and underlined throughout with passages that struck me as either inspirational or challenging.

At just under 150 pages (with the last 25 comprising a glossary, index, and appendices), it's a quick, inviting read that won't raise eyebrows or induce sighs of exasperation when you share it with friends. It's a book that' definitely more gift and less burden, and one that I fully intend to leave on my coffee table, not just to prompt discussion or educate guests, but to keep at-hand for my own personal reflection.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

GUEST POST: Katee Robert (author of The High Priestess)

So let’s talk about sex. As a romance author, it’s a huge part of my stories—the leading up to and then consuming a physical relationship. Deciding on whether to fade to black or describe it in all its gritty details is one of those case-by-case things that depend on the author, the characters, and the situation within the book.
But today, I’m not here to talk about making those agonizing decisions (and they are agonizing—the smexy is incredibly difficult for me to write). I want to talk about the characters themselves, specifically the female ones.

Often in romance novels (especially in the past), you find a very sexually experienced hero and a relatively inexperienced heroine. There are a lot of reasons for this and obviously it works, because the romance genre outsells pretty much every other genre around. Some of my favorite romance books have this formula.

But I took a different route with my heroines.

It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision. I didn’t wake up one day and think “Man, I really want some awesome ladies who have no problem treating sex the same way they do everything else in their lives.” But in creating the female leads for my SANCTIFY series, it was an aspect that evolved. All of the women are warriors. They’re fighting for freedom and to protect their loved ones in a universe on the brink of turning into something really terrible. When dealing with that kind of pressure, is it any wonder that they dive into their pleasures with equal abandon?

For example, QUEEN OF SWORDS starts with the heroine climbing out of the hero’s bed after a drunken night of sex. The first line is literally, “Ophelia couldn’t find her underwear.”

This has already provoked some different reactions among the reviewers who’ve read the book. There are those who aren’t thrilled with a heroine who obviously has no problem drinking excessively and then jumping into bed with a hot stranger. Others think it’s cool that she takes control and makes no apologies.

What about you? Which heroines do you prefer?


About the Author:

Katee Robert learned to tell stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her favorites then were the rather epic adventures of The Three Bears, but at age twelve she discovered romance novels and never looked back. Now living in Eastern Washington, she spends her time—in between ogling men’s goodies and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse—writing speculative romance novels.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

REVIEW: Haevyn by Darcy Abriel

Darcy Abriel's Haevyn is the 2nd volume of the Humanotica series, and a sequel to Silver, one of my favourite reads of the last two years. It's a book I've been eager to read ever since Darcy first announced the sequel but, like Silver, it's also a book I wanted to take my time with . . . to savour . . . and to enjoy.

While part of me had hoped that Haevyn would continue story of the lovely and exotic trinex named Silver, I also understood that the storyline of the Humanotica series belongs instead to Entreus, the humanotic warrior who links the two stories together. In many ways, Haevyn is very much the polar opposite of Silver, centering on a female human heroine (as opposed to a dual-gendered humanotic); exploring the seedy underbelly of society (as opposed to the high-class elite); and focusing more on the violence (as opposed to the glorious sex). The story even provides us with a character who is the opposite of Silver, another trinex named Sarrogen who is golden (instead of silver), predominantly masculine (instead of feminine), with a pair of ample breasts to highlight his androgyny (instead of a thick cock), and who is somewhat aggressive in his service (instead of demurely submissive).

Haevyn also does more to advance the plot of the series, which is what really matters, and really gives us our first glance at the wider world.

Once again, the world-building here is exquisite, with an amazing attention to detail. Darcy really establishes her dystopian society firmly inside the reader's head, creating a world that you can't help but explore long after you've turned the page. The politics and social manoeuvering is even more complex than in the first book, and Entreus really gets the chance to shine, with his character already fully established, and his struggles already very much out in the open. After a bit of a slow opening, the story moves along at a brisk pace, with enough twists and turns to keep even the most jaded readers guessing. As was the case in Silver, there is a rather unusual love triangle at the heart of the story, but instead of defining the story, here it serves largely to provide some emotional context.

All in all, another great tale from the lovely Darcy, and one that has me insanely curious to see how it all end.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday - A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)

A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein:

A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw.

Kate Bornstein—gender theorist, performance artist, author—is set to change lives with her compelling memoir. Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein's most intimate book yet, encompassing her early childhood and adolescence, college at Brown, a life in the theater, three marriages and fatherhood, the Scientology hierarchy, transsexual life, LGBTQ politics, and life on the road as a sought-after speaker. [May 1, 2012]

Kate Bornstein is a legend among the trans* community (not to mention the larger LGBT community), and her Gender Outlaws is as close to required reading as you can get. I can't wait to read more about the woman behind the work, but even if you're not the slightest bit interested in LGBT issues, how can you resist the drama behind converions of both faith and physicality?

How about you? What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

REVIEW: Lunatic Fringe by Allison Moon

Allison Moon's Lunatic Fringe is a truly wonderful read, the kind of story that manages to simultaneously by clever, sexy, frightening, and engaging. It's one of those books where you're never quite sure what to expect, but are never disappointed by the surprises on the next page.

The story takes quite a while to really settle into the core storyline, but Allison establishes the world so carefully, and builds up the characters so beautifully, you don't begrudge the long introduction. I tend to have a hard time with names (both in person and on the page), but these characters immediately stuck in my head. I found myself subconsciously dividing them into friends, allies, and adversaries (something I don't normally do unless I'm really engaged) and categorizing them according to likability. With a cast of characters as well-balanced as they are well-rounded, picking sides makes for a really fun read.

Before we get into the characters, though, we are exposed to a healthy dose of social politics. The early chapters have a very 'college' feel to them, with a lot of ideas tossed around, but it's done very well. Allison manages to make an otherwise polarizing subject exciting by intimately tying the issues of sexual identity and gender equality to the characters, giving the politics both a face and a personality. There is even a genderqueer member of the Pack who, as I'm sure will come as no surprise, easily crept into my heart alongside our stunning heroine, Lexie.

There's so much I want to say about this, so many key scenes and snippets of dialogue that I'm dying to share, but it really is the discoveries that make the story. Allison manages to merge the threads of social politics, lesbian romance, werewolf adventure, and college drama into a story that takes hold and never lets go. A story that's both fun and thoughtful at the same time is a rarity in and of itself, but one that's also beautifully written, with such a deft command of narrative and dialogue, is a gem that must be shared.

(if you missed Allison's guest post last month on Writing Sex as a Revolutionary Act, please do check it out)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Frock Magazine - Issue 14 Now Available (and it's free!)

I am delighted to announce that Issue #14 of Frock Magazine is now available, once again featuring my "From the Shelves of the Bibrary" book review column. This month's column was a bit different, allowing me to skirt the edge of eroticism and celebreate two of my favourite authors, Darcy Abriel and Giselle Renarde!

Completely free, and available digitally, Frock Magazine is one of the finest transgender lifestyle magazines around, and one that prides itself on being coffee-table friendly (i.e. free of any erotic content, suggestive ads, etc.).

Don't just pick it up for my column, though - the magazine has a wonderful variety of articles and features, looks absolutely gorgeous, and is a wonderful read. Please hop on over to Frock Magazine and give it a read today!