Category Archives: Reading

Question: What do you look for in a publisher?

Hi all,

I have some exciting news to share — I’m in the process of setting up an e-publishing company that specializes in M/M erotic romance and M/M erotica!

Yes, there are a lot of these companies already in existence, but I think this is a great time to enter the market. A number of small presses have closed down for one reason or another, but what it essentially comes down to, I believe, is that these companies (a) weren’t able to keep up with evolving trends and technology in e-publishing, and/or (b) set up their businesses in an unsustainable way, which led to financial difficulties, and/or (c) emphasized quantity over quality in acquiring books, leading to poorly-produced books.

My new publishing company, which is still without a finalized name, will operate on a profit-sharing model. This means that no one gets paid until the books sell — the editors and the company get a share of royalties, rather than being paid up-front. This means there is no financial overhead on a title and the risk is minimized. Author royalties would be set at 40%, which is competitive within the industry.

While I’m still a ways away from establishing the publishing company — though I hope to do it by the end of the year — I do have some questions for you.

If you’re an author: What do you look for in a publishing company? What would make you submit to one company versus another?

If you’re a reader: What draws you to a publishing company’s selection? (Or do you even notice a publisher when you purchase M/M books, and are rather focussed on the book itself?)

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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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Book Reviews – July 2015

As mentioned previously, I’m transitioning to a monthly round-up of book reviews to hopefully reduce the amount of non-gay-erotica book reviews on this blog.  And it’s a good thing, because this month I almost exclusively read Star Trek books!

Here we go!


Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic

Christopher L. Bennett

An original novel continuing the saga of the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise—featuring Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the Enterprise!

Years ago, Jonathan Archer and T’Pol helped unearth the true writings of Vulcan’s great philosopher Surak, bringing forth a new era of peaceful reform on Vulcan. But when their discovery is seemingly proven to be a fraud, the scandal threatens to undo a decade of progress and return power to the old, warlike regime. Admiral Archer, Captain T’Pol, and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour investigate with help from their Vulcan allies, but none of them suspect the identity of the real mastermind behind the conspiracy to reconquer Vulcan—or the price they will have to pay to discover the truth.

Meanwhile, when a long-forgotten technological threat re-emerges beyond the Federation’s borders, Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer attempts to track down its origins with help from his old friend “Trip” Tucker. But they discover that other civilizations are eager to exploit this dangerous power for their own benefit, even if the Federation must pay the price!

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: I’ve really come to enjoy Bennett’s Enterprise novels — which is a feat as I’ve never been a true lover of Bennett’s books (though I’ve always respected his ability as a storyteller) nor a true lover of the Enterprise series (as I felt that the TV show took it in the wrong direction and then the books followed suit).  Through this ongoing Rise of the Federation series, Bennett has created a series of stories that I’m coming to absolutely love, and I’m coming to really enjoy Bennett as a writer.  Uncertain Logic takes the Enterprise crew in a few good directions — one that explores a tumultuous time on Vulcan (and thus explores Star Trek’s history) and another that follows up on an episode that featured a new technology/culture (and thus explores new ground).  Bennett does a fantastic job of writing the characters from TV as well as creating believable original characters and then putting them all in thrilling scenarios.


Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned: Part 1

Peter David

The first installment in a brand-new three-part digital-first Star Trek: New Frontier e-novel from New York Times bestselling author Peter David!

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur are back, picking up three months after the stunning events depicted in New Frontier: Blind Man’s Bluff. Calhoun’s search of Xenex has failed to find any survivors, and now he is bound and determined to track down the race that killed them—the D’myurj and their associates, the Brethren—and exact vengeance upon them. His search will take the Excalibur crew into a pocket universe, where he discovers not only the homeworld of the D’myurj, but another race that shares Calhoun’s determination to obliterate his opponents. But is this new race truly an ally…or an even greater threat?

My Rating: 4/5

My Review: I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the New Frontier series.  I LOVED it at first, but then slowly lost interest in the characters.  I felt that with the books being a year or more apart and being so disconnected from the rest of the Star Trek universe made me lose a little interest.  As well, I felt the writing weakened as the series went on, becoming a little more comic book-like rather than Star Trek-like… which does make some sense since David writes a lot of comic books.  The Returned, though, is a return to the very strong storytelling that earlier books in the series have featured.  David manages to pull in almost all the characters that have wandered off over the years — and without it coming across as fan-wank — and puts them all in a new and interesting plot.  My only beef, though, is that the book is broken into three parts.  It would be okay if each part stood on its own, but that’s not the case — it was clearly one book that was split into three equal parts.  I will, of course, read the next two parts as soon as they come out, despite my dislike of this sales tactic.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sacraments of Fire

David R. George III

The latest novel in the ongoing Next Generation/Deep Space Nine expanded universe crossover, from New York Times bestselling author David George!

Days after the assassination of Federation President Nan Bacco on Deep Space 9, the unexpected appearance of a stranger on the station raises serious concerns. He seems dazed and confused, providing—in a peculiar patois of the Bajoran language—unsatisfactory answers. He offers his identity as Altek, of which there is no apparent record, and he claims not to know where he is or how he got there. A quick scan confirms the visitor is armed with a projectile weapon—a firearm more antiquated than, but similar to, the one that took President Bacco’s life. But the Bajoran liaison to the station believes that Altek has been sent from the Prophets, out of a nearby wormhole. The last time such an event occurred, it was to reassure Benjamin Sisko of his place as the Emissary. For what purpose has Altek now been sent out of the Celestial Temple?

My Rating: 5/5

My Review: I’ve seen a few complaints on Goodreads of how this book is mostly summary of previous events… but I found it incredibly engaging and captivating.  While I freaking love the DS9 series, I find that so much has happened over the years that I don’t remember huge pieces of it, even though it’s constantly referenced.  Half of this book takes place in the book’s past and provides a wonderful retelling of events, but from a different perspective than previously seen.  The other half takes place in the book’s present and carries the narrative forward (albeit a little slowly).  I have come to think of David R. George III as the George R. R. Martin of the Star Trek universe.  George’s books are slow moving, but addictive… and the major twist, like in any of the Song of Ice and Fire books, takes place in the last chapter, leaving the reader begging for the next book.  My appreciation for George runs deeper than that, though.  Of all the writers of DS9 that I’ve read, George is the only one that seems to really understand the soul of the series and really makes it shine through.


Star Trek: The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow

Dayton Ward

An all-new novel of The Next Generation expanded universe from the New York Times bestselling author!

It is a new age of exploration, and the U.S.S. Enterprise is dispatched to “the Odyssean Pass,” a region charted only by unmanned probes and believed to contain numerous inhabited worlds. Approaching a star system with two such planets, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew find a massive alien vessel, drifting in interstellar space for decades. Sensors detect life aboard the derelict—aliens held in suspended animation. Thought to be an immense sleeper ship, the vessel actually is a weapon capable of destroying entire worlds…the final gambit in a war that has raged for generations across the nearby system. Captain Picard is now caught in the middle of this conflict and attempts to mediate, as both sides want this doomsday weapon…which was sent from the future with the sole purpose of ending the interplanetary war before it even began!

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: Dayton Ward is an author I just don’t get.  I don’t know if it’s just a matter of reader preferences or what, but I’ve never really understood the appeal of his books.  His earlier works are heavy on description and in need of an editor to tighten up his run-on sentences.  This book, though, is a lot better in that respect — but I still don’t get the appeal.   A large part of it, though, is not Ward’s fault.  Ward can only work with what he’s been given — and by this I mean the characters in the present cast of TNG.  A number of new characters have been added, but they have not been portrayed consistently across the different authors’ representations of them.  (Whereas noted above, the new Enterprise and DS9 characters are VERY real, but the TNG ones don’t seem to be as true.)  This is not a problem with just Ward’s books — all of the TNG books featuring Chen, Smrhova (or however it’s spelled), or any of the other half dozen characters whose names I can’t remember have been equally lacklustre for character portrayal.  So, Ward is already at a disadvantage due to other writers’ inability to properly build characters.

The plot is another matter.  It’s an interesting one, though slow-moving at times… and it gets a little convoluted at the end.  I read along without worrying too much about keeping the details straight — I got the gist of it.  This book would have greatly benefitted from tightening up the middle and then using the saved word count to expand in the last third.

Overall, it was a little weak in spots, though it was definitely a much stronger novel than Ward usually writes.


Perfect Tackle

Turner Kane

When Guy Holbrook moves north to play rugby professionally, he finds the other players more than ready for some rough action, both on and off the field. Gritty, brutal and primal, this explicit novel by the author of the popular soccer story Man On! is once again aimed at guys who love jocks in all their glory.

My Rating: 3/5

My Review: This book was fun, though it was largely written in passive voice with great swaths of passive voice and summarized action.  The sex scenes save the book, somewhat.  There’s a real lack of tension since everyone is sort of happy-go-lucky and the stakes are spectacularly low.  However, the idea that gay orgies can save the soccer team was a cute idea.

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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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Book Review: Fruit: A New Anthology of Contemporary Australian Gay Writing

Fruit: A New Anthology of Contemporary Australian Gay Writing

Gary Dunne, editor

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.

I see some great reviews for this book online — well, only a couple given that the book predates sites like Goodreads, but the two reviews I’ve found are both four stars — and I can’t help but wonder if I’m missing something.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way.  The blurb is quite misleading.  Yes, it does describe some of the stories in this collection, but given the cover, with it’s naked hunk, and the steamy nature of the blurb, I was expecting dirty stories.  Maybe some hot romance, maybe some erotica, or maybe even just some good stories with a naughty edge to them. Instead, the book is very literary in tone.  This is not the fault of either the writers or the editor.  This is the publisher/marketer choosing to package a book in a way that does not accurately reflect its contents.

That being said, I did have difficulty with the stories.  I quickly came to understand that these stories are more in the “literary” genre.  The language is carefully crafted, unusual imagery is pieced together to evoke certain emotions, and the world is explored through unique perspectives.  However, some of the stories suffered from rather clumsy writing and others from an apparent lack of plot.  “Literature” still needs to be about something.  Literature is not writing for the sake of writing. A literary plot is, of course, different than general fiction plots.  You usually won’t find stories of bank heists, murderers, or young men experiencing sexual highs in literature.  But literature still has a plot.  Many of these stories do not.

Some of the stories do capture times and places in gay collective history and experience, and for that, it is important.  It does capture moments in the lives of gay men, moments that are experienced by many, and thus should be recorded.  But the imposing style of many of the stories makes this book, and its important messages, largely inaccessible.  I skimmed a few stories and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much. I suspect, though, if a collection like this were to be attempted today, the quality would be through the roof.  This book was published (if I remember correctly) over 20 years ago.  Nowadays, there are a lot of LGBTTQ writers of very strong calibre who could put together a knockout collection of literature that is both accessible and meaningful.

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Book Review: Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm

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.

I was really reluctant going into this book.  The first half of the Romulan War duology, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, was not a favourite of mine.  In fact, the Enterprise books have been less than stellar for me.  I think part of it is due to the fact that Enterprise doesn’t really have a solid premise of its own.  Like the original series and Next Generation, Enterprise is simply about humanity exploring the Alpha Quadrant and dealing with local politics and the “alien of the week.”  These three series are very similar and I think, because of this, the strongest of the three stands out as the best, which I feel is Next Generation.  (Deep Space Nine and Voyager have very distinct storylines and environments that allow them to stand on their own.)

It’s also hard to get too excited about a war when you already know a big part of the outcome.  Earth and Romulus are in an uneasy peace — really more just a state of non-aggression — by the time Original Series comes around, so we know that it ends without one race conquering the other.  Also, for all the threats against Earth and Vulcan, we know they will escape relatively unharmed.  As well, as I mentioned, I didn’t find the first book, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, to be all that captivating.  If I remember correctly, I felt it dragged on.

Now that I’m catching up with my reading, I have a small pile of Enterprise books that I bought and never read… and so now I have to start digging into them.

And was I ever surprised by how much I’m enjoying my re-experiencing the realm of Enterprise.

This second half of the Romulan War carried along nicely, jumping from event to event and nicely detailing how this crisis leads up to the founding of the Federation.  (The actual founding and growth of the Federation is currently being explored by Christopher L. Bennett in his Rise of the Federation novels, which I’m currently reading through.)

This book helped me fall in love with Enterprise again.  I’m enjoying getting to know the characters again and experiencing the world one more time.  Despite the difficulty of maintaining tension when the outcome is reasonably obvious, Martin does a good job of grabbing the reader and carrying them along.

To Brave the Storm was a high quality entry in the Enterprise series, one that was both enjoyable and energizing.  I’m powering through my remaining Enterprise books as you read this.

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Book Review: Boystown: Season One

Boystown: Season One Jake Biondi

One of the most diverse and lively neighborhoods in the country, Chicago’s BOYSTOWN has something for everyone. So it’s no wonder that Jesse Morgan and Cole O’Brien chose to live there upon graduating from college. Ready to begin the next phase of their lives in an exciting new city, Jesse and Cole quickly find themselves at the center of a new group of friends. Joyelle and Derek Mancini have been happily married for years, but Derek is harboring a secret that could tear them apart. Derek’s brother Emmett is about to discover that his boyfriend Keith Colgan has a past that will haunt them both. Long time couple Logan Pryce and Max Taylor must face a crisis that neither of them expected. And, before they realize it, Jesse and Cole find themselves at the center of it all in the adult playground known as BOYSTOWN.

Boystown comes across like a gay soap opera, which I think is Biondi’s intention.  The “season” is broken down into several “episodes,” and the storylines are very much like those found in soap operas.  It seems half the people are cheating on their partners and there’s a dangerous criminal on the loose, and of course there’s the usual soap opera-type drama to keep the story going even in the “quiet” moments. Biondi’s writing is rather sparse, but the oddly captivating story easily makes up for it.  I have to admit that halfway through the first episode, I wasn’t really taken by it, but once I dug into the second episode and really caught on to the soap opera style, I was quickly hooked.  And with each episode ending on a cliffhanger, I, of course, had to immediately dive into the next one.  It was like binge watching but for books.

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