Book Reviews for August 2015

As mentioned previously, I’m doing book reviews on a month-end basis now, so let’s drive right on in!


Caliban’s War

James S. A. Corey

We are not alone.

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .

Caliban’s War is a breakneck science fiction adventure following the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: This is the second of The Expanse series, and I find it a much better read than the first one.  Now that the universe has been established in book one, book two was able to dive in much quicker.  Caliban’s War brought in several new characters, all of them very likeable.  This is sci-fi how I like it — grand in scope, told through relatable characters, and not mired too much in the technicals of science.  I read that this is to be a nine book series — I’m looking forward to taking the journey with them.  (There are also novella ebooks in between each novel, but I’ll probably skip those.  However, this is going to be a TV show soon!  I’ll definitely watch that!)


A Taste of Love

Andrew Grey

The lunch rush at Darryl Hansen’s restaurant, Café Belgie, is getting to be too much for one man to handle, and Billy Weaver is a young man in search of a job—any job—to support his family. Billy gains Darryl’s respect with his earnest nature and willingness to work hard, but Billy’s admiring looks resurrect pain and shame from Darryl’s past. Until Darryl stumbles across Billy’s secret, Billy is suffering in silence: his father died a few months earlier, leaving him struggling to raise his twin five-year-old brothers. Darryl takes Billy and the boys to the restaurant, where they’ll stand together to face the smorgasbord of troubles in their future… while Davey, Donnie, and Billy all worm their way into Darryl’s heart.

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: A Taste of Love is one of those romances that tries to pull on your heartstrings — and not a gentle tug, but more of a fierce yank.  The plot revolving around the twins, Davey and Donnie, is one I won’t reveal here, but as soon as I saw it developing, I was like, “Oh, no, don’t do that, don’t do that, don’t do that…” and then Andrew Grey went and did that.  But for the tragic turn involving the twins, Grey handled it well — it could’ve turned into a schmaltzy tearjerker, but it held together well.  The love story between Billy and Darryl was nice, too.


Passion, Volume 01

Shinobu Gotoh and Shouko Takaku

Student and teacher. Man and… man. Taboo upon taboo is what Hikaru and Shima have to overcome if they want to pursue their feelings for one another. Uikaru, a second year high school student, is obsessed with Shima, a male teacher. Surprisingly, Shima is not averse to the boy’s affections. He even convinces Hikaru to study hard so that when he graduates, they would openly become lovers. However, Amamiya, an ex-lover of Shima, steps into the picture and tries to win him back. Will Hikaru and Shima’s passion prove great enough to hurdle all the obstacles stacked against them?

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: This was my first foray into yaoi and one of my few forays into graphic novels.  It was quiet well done.  I thought the story was a little bit simple, but I chalk that up to the fact that it’s told in graphic novel format, which don’t allow for the long exposition that you’d find in a novel.  Reading the panels from right to left was an interesting change that took me a bit to adapt to.  I found that even though the storytelling was a little simple, it would sometimes make small jumps where I would be like, “Wait…what just happened?”  I eventually figured I would just have to roll with it and figured I’d catch up when necessary… which I did.  It was an interesting change to what I normally read.


Passion, Volume 02

Shinobu Gotoh and Shouko Takaku

Student and teacher. Man and… man. Taboo upon taboo is what Hikaru and Shima have to overcome if they want to pursue their feelings for one another. In this final installment of the two-part “Passion” series, Hikaru and Shima’s relationship takes on a more serious tone when the pair begins to see each other regularly every weekend. They agree to have this arrangement until Hikaru graduates. However, Shima eventually seems to tire of it. As Hikaru’s graduation draws near, will his relationship with Shima, his teacher, end as well?

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: The is the immediate follow-up to Volume 01 and continues the story nicely. By the time I read this book (which was in the same afternoon I read the first one), I had grown used to the right-to-left reading and the storytelling structure of yaoi.  The “love” story was fun.  I put that in quotation marks because I’m a little hard pressed to call it love.  Lust?  Yes.  Love?  Not so sure.  It was a fun read, though.  (And in searching for a cover image, I now see that there is a volume 3 and volume 4, so this isn’t the end of it.  However, volume 2 ended with a rather concrete ending, so it is a satisfying end… which is good because I don’t think my library has 3 and 4!)


Seventh Son

Angelina J. Windsor

An ancient curse. A darkly handsome lord. A desperate woman.

Hungry and homeless, Isobelle refuses to sell her only possession, her body. When she is finally driven to end her suffering, Lord Bram Snowdon rescues her. 

Bram lives under a curse, one that’s driven him to become a creature in hiding, knowing every full moon will turn him into a monster.

Bram and Isobelle both have demons to fight, and their struggles soon turn to lust…and love. But destiny awaits them: they are fated to help the Dragonstone clan reclaim its birthright. This mission puts Isobelle’s life in peril and worse, puts Bram’s trust in her at risk. 

Morganas, daughter of the Merlin, mage of Dragonstone and Avalon, offers to be a source of the purest help to Isobelle but also becomes her darkest temptation.

My Rating: 5/5

My Review: There was something about this that I truly enjoyed, despite being an M/F erotic romance, a pairing I don’t normally read.  The heat and passion between Bram and Isobelle ignites both quickly and fiercely, leading to scorching sex.  It took me a little bit to catch on to the setting and some of the history, but once caught up, it pulled me along.


Undercurrents

Robert Buettner

Ace intelligence operative Lt. Jazen Parker parachutes into Tressel, a planet which resembles Earth in its Paleozoic era, on a mission to bring down the local politicos. He quickly realizes he’s been handed a near-impossible task. Tressel is a politically-quarantined nightmare world with a culture confined to iron rivet technology and a ruling regime a bit to the right of Heinrich Himmler. Jazen’s inclined to abandon this particular hellhole to its ways–that is, until he uncovers a plot afoot that will throw a five hundred-planet alliance into the death-throes of anarchy.

So the local Nazis must go. Unfortunately, all Jazen’s got to work with is a handful of rust-bucket tanks, a retread rebellion, and two strong, beautiful women who love him, but think he’s tilting at windmills and is about to get himself killed. What they don’t know is, once committed, Jazen Parker is the best there is when it comes to getting the dirty job done on the ground. It’s the local bullies who are about to be taught a lesson in losing.   

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: This is the second in the Jazen Parker trilogy, which itself is a sequel to Buettner’s earlier Orphan series, which is among my most favourite sci-fi of all time.  I’m finding this trilogy to be a little lacking when held up against it’s predecessor.  The novels in themselves are well-written and the stories are engaging.  However, at present, I fail to see the real link between the first and second book — it’s the same characters, but there doesn’t seem to be any follow-up from the first book… perhaps it’ll all tie up in the third.  Undercurrents is a fun military sci-fi book from someone who does the genre very well.


Leathersex: A Guide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player

Joseph W. Bean

Everyone wants a more interesting and fulfilling erotic life. With that in mind, this book was written to give guidance to one popular style of erotic play which the author calls “leathersex”-sexuality that may include S/M, bondage, dominance, submission, fantasy, role playing, sensual physical stimulation, and fetish, to name just a few. If you are simply curious about leathersex, or if you already enjoy its pleasures but want to learn more, this book is for you!

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: This is a very well written and engaging starter guide for the gay leathersex community.  It makes a nice companion read to The Leatherman’s Handbook, which I read previously.  Both tackle the same subject matter, but from slightly different approaches.  And both are very sex positive — there is nothing to be ashamed about in the kink communities.  Really, this book shows that the kink community is larger than people might realize.  Bean talks about leathersex in plain and clear language, making it completely accessible.

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