What I Read in June 2015

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m changing how I do book reviews.  Gone are the lengthy reviews of everything I read (though I may still do that for particularly good gay or M/M books), and in its place is the month end round-up.


Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave The Storm by Michael A. Martin

EARTH STANDS ALONE 

The Coalition of Planets has shattered, with Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar abrogating the treaty. Their pledge to come to the mutual defense of any power that is attacked has been shunted aside. Horrified by how easily the Romulans can seize control of their advanced starships, turning them into weapons, Andor and Tellar have joined Vulcan on the sidelines. Humanity is now the only thing that stands between the Romulan Star Empire and total domination of the galaxy. 

To drive humans from the stars, the Romulans employ ruthless and murderous tactics . . . and even dare to strike on the Vulcan homeworld with the hopes of demoralizing their Vulcan brethren. Heartened by their victories, the Romulans carry their all-out war assault closer to the heart of humanity—Earth. 

But the tattered remains of Starfleet stand unwavering, with the resolution that never again would any enemy strike ever reach Earth. On the front lines of the Earth- Romulan War is the United Earth flagship, the Starship Enterprise. Her captain, Jonathan Archer, has seen his vessel of exploration become a battleship. Once hailed for his work bringing the Coalition of Planets into existence, Archer is now a pariah. Undaunted, the captain keeps fighting, searching for allies and determined to do his duty: to save Earth and forge a new federation of planets.

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: I did a full review for this book here (since I did this before changing to a month-end round-up).


Fruit: A New Anthology of Australian Gay Writing edited by Gary Dunne

The pick of the crop.

This unique collection of gay writing is by the best of Australia’s gay authors; accessible and entertaining stories that illustrate the expanding diversity of our community.

A failed intimacy with a touring porn stud. The plottings of a famous novelist. A TV chat show guest is exposed. Overnight lovers in a bush caravan park. A leathery buzzard nighclubs the Los Angeles curfew. A curious schoolboy grows up in Athens. And adventures from Stockholm, Tokyo, Wangaratta and the Gulf of Siam.

Exciting new writing that is both upfront and confronting; twenty potent examples of today’s Australian gay literature, each one a great read.

My Rating: 2/5

My Review: I wrote a full review that can be found here (since my review predates my decision to change how I do reviews).  Short summary — I found this quite inaccessible to the reader.


Star Trek: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel by Christopher L. Bennett

The United Federation of Planets has weathered its first major crisis, but its growing pains are just beginning. Admiral Jonathan Archer hopes to bring the diverse inhabitants of the powerful and prosperous Rigel system into the Federation, jump-starting the young nation’s growth and stabilizing a key sector of space. Archer and the Federation’s top diplomats journey to the planetoid Babel to debate Rigel’s admission . . . but a looming presidential race heats up the ideological divide within the young nation, jeopardizing the talks and threatening to undo the fragile unity Archer has worked so hard to preserve. 

Meanwhile, the sinister Orion Syndicate recruits new allies of its own, seeking to beat the Federation at its own game. Determined to keep Rigel out of the union, they help a hostile Rigelian faction capture sensitive state secrets along with Starfleet hostages, including a young officer with a vital destiny. Captain Malcolm Reed, Captain T’Pol, and their courageous crews must now brave the wonders and dangers of Rigel’s many worlds to track down the captives before the system is plunged into all-out war.

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: This is a continuation of my catching up on years of backlog in my Star Trek reading.  I had put off the Enterprise series until the end because I’d found the books to generally be weaker than the other series.  Christopher L. Bennett, however, has really found his stride with the ongoing saga of Enterprise and the foundation of the Federation.  This was an excellent book that reveals the history of the Federation without it being pointless fanwank (which I often view “retro” Star Trek stories as).


Blood and Lust by Zack

Fighting to the Finish!

Clint is a loner with an independent streak a mile wide. Hes just your average happy-go-lucky London rent-boy with few cares on his mind, until he unwisely robs a customer. Clint soon discovers that paying society its due for his petty theft carries a lethal price.

He’s now become part of a giant shadowy corporation that runs arenas all over the world. Its prisoners are trained to fight to the death under the cold gaze of cameras and for the pleasure of an elite who pay to watch their favorite blood sport.

Clint is soon fighting for his life, but he also discovers that love is his only redemption.

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: This was a violent, yet sexy book.  While the characters sometimes seemed a little one-dimensional, it made it easy to get into the fun of the book and get caught up in the drama.  The sexy scenes were hot (including a non-con/dub-con scene) and the sexiness is heightened by illustrations throughout the text.  (I particularly enjoyed the pictures…)


Caregiver by Rick R. Reed

It’s 1991, and Dan Calzolaio has just moved to Florida with his lover, Mark, having fled Chicago and Mark’s addictions to begin a new life on the Gulf Coast. Volunteering for the Tampa AIDS Alliance is just one part of that new beginning, and that’s how Dan meets his new buddy, Adam.

Adam Schmidt is not at all what Dan expected. The guy is an original–witty, wry, and sarcastic with a fondness for a smart black dress, Barbra Streisand, and a good mai tai. Adam doesn’t let his imminent death get him down, even through a downward spiral that sees him thrown in jail.

Each step of Adam’s journey teaches Dan new lessons about strength and resilience, but it’s Adam’s lover, Sullivan, to whom Dan feels an almost irresistible pull. Dan knows the attraction isn’t right, even after he dumps his cheating, drug-abusing boyfriend. But then Adam passes away, and it leaves Sullivan and Dan both alone to see if they can turn their love for Adam into something whole and real for each other.

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: This was an enjoyable love story taking place in the shadow of the HIV crisis of the early 90s.  The characters are likeable and believable.  It was a good read, though I had a few somewhat minor quibbles… **minor spoiler alert** Dan worries he’s HIV+ and goes for a test, the test results were a little wonky, so he gets a second test several months later.  At first, he’s freaked out about having to get a second test, then it’s really a non-event as the novel goes on.  **spoiler over** And my second minor quibble is the framing story of how the meat of the novel is a fictionalized account of a true story and the “author” (also named Dan) parts ways with his editor because she apparently makes the wise business observation that though this is a beautiful story, it would be a difficult sell on the M/M market.  This book would have been much stronger, I believe, without the framing story.  Plus, Dan comes off as unlikeable to me.  If this is based on a true story from the book’s author’s past (speaking here of Rick R. Reed, not the fictional Dan-author), then I felt a simple note to the reader pointing this out would have been much more effective.  However, these are minor quibbles in a great story.

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