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Book Review: Alpha Rising

Alpha Rising (Duke, Book 1)

Scavola

An erotic drama, with laughter and tears, his story will touch you, and have you touching yourself.

Two worlds collide as Duke has to tell his boyfriend Mike his secret, that not only can he change into a black German Shepherd, but also that the Irish Setter he brought home from his family vacation is actually his lover Rourke.

Rourke, a ‘purist’, his primitive people brutalized him for being gay. By becoming his ‘Alpha’, Duke rescued him, but to remain an ‘Alpha’ Duke has to lead a pack. The machinations of the ‘purists’ not only lead Duke to gather a pack, but also to take action that will have far-reaching ramifications.

For Rourke’s sake, Duke has to tell Mike his secret, to do so, they have to mate. Their love on the line, the real threat comes from within, as another competes for Duke’s affection.

Animal experimentation, a knife-wielding homophobe, the local whore, and an ailing grandparent, who has to pass along his gift of ‘change’, add to his troubles, but a hundred year old tortoise with a secret saves the day.

This is most certainly the deepest I’ve gone into the world of shifter erotica.  (I previously read Within the Mists by Jude Johnson and Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison, but Alpha Rising certainly goes further in the shifter capacity and further in the shifter/non-shifter sex.)

Duke, the narrator, has a casual and light-hearted approach, which makes this an easy-to-get-into novel.  Quite a bit is explained about shifters to allow a genre-newbie to catch up, but the explanations would not be intrusive for the die-hard shifter fan.  The erotic scenes are frequent and intense, adding a fun heat to the novel.

What I found perhaps most interesting in Alpha Rising is the fluidity of love, sex, and affection.  At the core is Duke and Mike, a couple who have been together for years and years, but there are a handful of other guys thrown into the, *ahem*, dogpile.  🙂  Perhaps this is a trait that carries over from most of the characters being dogs in their animal states — all of the male characters sleep together like a litter of puppies.  As such, with that closeness, there are numerous touches, caresses, and, well, dirtier things too.  It was really nice to read about a fluidity of affection that didn’t incite jealousy and drama.

The story Scavola is large and complex, but the easy-flowing narrative and likeable characters make the read an enjoyable diversion to my day.

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Still Reading Smut

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Just wanted to point out that, despite my numerous sci-fi and thriller book reviews lately, I’m still reading smut!

I picked up these fine dirty books in the discard bin at my local LGBT library.  I’ve started reading Glamourpuss (second row on the left) and it’ll show up here in a couple weeks.

So if you follow me for dirty book recommendations, don’t worry, they’re coming back ASAP!

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Book Review: Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed

Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed

David Mack

Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answerable to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group committed to safeguarding the Federation at any cost.

Doctor Julian Bashir sacrificed his career for a chance to infiltrate Section 31 and destroy it from within. Now it’s asking him to help it stop the Breen from stealing a dangerous new technology from the Mirror Universe – one that could give the Breen control over the galaxy.

It’s a mission Bashir can’t refuse – but is it really the shot he’s been waiting for? Or is it a trap from which even his genetically enhanced intellect can’t escape?

There are a few things about the recent direction of Star Trek books that I’ve found questionable.  Dr. Bashir’s storyline is one of them.  Like with all the other questionable aspects, I totally understand how and why the authors took the stories there, it’s just it’s not quite my thing.

Dr. Bashir broke some major Federation laws to save the Andorian species from extinction.  (It’s too long a story to explain here.)  So, he is living on Andoria under political asylum.  Living with him is his love, Sarina Douglas, who is a double agent for both Starfleet Intelligence and Section 31.  The Bashir storyline has clearly been pulling him into Section 31 for some time now, so this is where he finally goes and does it.  He’s one of them.  But he goes into it with the long-term goal of bringing down Section 31 permanently.

I found the set-up of this novel to be adequate.  When it got to the meat of the story, that’s where things got interesting.  The Section 31 mission takes Bashir and Sarina into the Alternate Universe.  I’ve not read the couple Alternate Universe books that came out a few years back, but there have been some regular appearances and mentions of the Alternate Universe in recent DS9 books, so there was clearly something going on.

The story became very engaging when they were all firmly in the Alternate Universe.  While the Alternate Universe is and always has been a form of fan-wank, Mack did not overdo it like it has been overdone so much in the TV shows.  The developments in the Alternate Universe are fascinating and I hope that we explore more of it in coming books.

While David Mack has developed writing tics over the years that irk me a bit, there’s no doubt that he is a fantastic writer who makes the Star Trek universe an exciting place to explore.

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Book Review: Star Trek: Voyager: Acts of Contrition

Star Trek: Voyager: Acts of Contrition

Kirsten Beyer

An original novel set in the universe of Star Trek: Voyager; and the sequel to the New York Times bestseller Protectors!

Admiral Kathryn Janeway has now taken command of the Full Circle Fleet. Her first mission: return to the Delta Quadrant and open diplomatic relations with the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant, a civilization whose power rivals that of the Federation. Captain Chakotay knows that his choices could derail the potential alliance. While grateful to the Confederacy Interstellar Fleet for rescuing the Federation starships from an alien armada, Voyager‘s captain cannot forget the horrors upon which the Confederacy was founded.

More troubling, it appears that several of Voyager‘s old adversaries have formed a separate and unlikely pact that is determined to bring down the Confederacy at all costs. Sins of the past haunt the crew members of the Full Circle Fleet as they attempt to chart a course for the future. Will they learn much too late that some sins can never be forgiven… or forgotten?

It seems that the Voyager storyline is now written by one author, and I think it’s all the better for it.

Kirsten Beyer has a strong vision for where she wants the Voyager storyline to go and has the strength to take it there.  The Voyager crew in the Alpha Quadrant, in the few novels by previous authors, never quite sat well with me.  With the Voyager show having taken place entirely in the Delta Quadrant, I feel the crew is more at home there.  I was really pleased when Beyer took the crew back there a few novels ago.

At first, it was with a massive nine-ship fleet that I had a heck of a time keeping straight.  In a previous novel, the number of ships in the fleet shrunk by quite a bit, so I’m having an easier time keeping them straight.  With all that’s going on, though, there’s a lot to keep track of.  Seven is on Earth, Janeway and Chakotay are on separate ships, and something is happening to the Doctor.

Keeping tabs on characters aside, Beyer does something that is long overdue in Star Trek.  The Worlds of the First Quadrant is an organization that, on the surface, functions much like the Federation.  It’s a bit of a surprise it took this long for a Federation equivalent.  Almost all other powers previously seen in Star Trek have been independent worlds.  Or, in some cases, some worlds/peoples might be under subjugation of another world.  But to have the Federation as the only political entity in which alien species work together as equals?  That’s a little far-fetched, I think.  So to have it happen again makes sense.  (The Typhon Pact, as seen in many recent novels in the TNG/DS9 storylines, is another example of this.)

Beyer also does a great job of piecing together a lot of Voyager’s history.  Since the TV series saw them basically go in one straight line from one end of the quadrant to the other, it’s easy to neglect a lot of what’s gone on.  (Unlike Deep Space Nine where the station stays in one place and aliens and storylines can come back repeatedly.)  Beyer pulls in references and aliens seen throughout the series and fits it into the larger fabric.

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Book Review: Pledges: Gay Erotic Stories

Pledges: Gay Erotic Stories

Edited by Shane Allison

Wrestling at the frat house, toga parties, plenty of pledge paddlings, and initiations of the sexy kind will have every man on campus lined up to join the fraternity of beautiful men who know how to have fun, especially with each other! Shane Allison, recipient of the Gaybie Award for his fine fiction in College Boys returns to the campus for another set of page-turning, arousing adventures featuring hunky undergrads getting it on. Ryan Field shows us that pledge sex is the best sex in “It’s Not Hazing, It’s Brotherhood.” Hot, sweaty sex ensues between a pledge and his handsome professor in Heidi Champa’s “Caught Red Handed.” There’s some major heat to the seat action going on in Logan Zachary’s “Spank You, Sir, Could I Have Another?” The lines of gay and straight get blurred in Pepper Espinoza’s, “On Restriction.” Barry Lowe has got something for the most loyal of butt connoisseur in “Spin the Bottom.” Two young pledges are put through a series of seedy challenges in Eric Del Carlo’s “Pecking Order.” Gregory Norris amazes with “Heaven Week.” Michael Bracken proves that you have to “give” some head to get ahead in “What a Rush.”

I confess.  I bought this book because of the cover.  *drool*

The stories inside were good, too.

Like any anthology, there were some strong entries, some weaker entries, and a lot of entries that fell in between.  A gay erotica anthology from Cleis Press is pretty much always a guaranteed good time.

The stories in this collection were… *cough* …stimulating.

I felt that the stories weren’t as cohesive as Cleis anthologies usually are.  These anthologies are usually around a theme — body type, kink, or setting — and this one is around college fraternities.  But, oddly, given the rather specific context, there seemed to be a lot of differences among the stories and, while they were all great individually, they didn’t seem to make as cohesive a whole as they usually do.

That, however, isn’t really a criticism, it’s just an observation.  And it really doesn’t detract from this book.  Like I said, it was “stimulating.”

🙂

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Book Review: The Leatherman’s Handbook

The Leatherman’s Handbook (Silver Jubilee Edition, 2nd Printing)

Larry Townsend

The Leatherman’s Handbook was Number 46 on Lambda Book Report’s end-of-the-millenium list of 100 Gay & Lesbian Books that changed our lives.

“…Leatherman’s Handbook was an immediate cult classic when it first came out in 1972. Its publication was the first step in bringing leather sex into the open in the gay world. Its instant popularity proved just how interested men were in this previously taboo subject.” – John Preston, 1993

“What L.T. offers in the Handbook are principles learned through years of experience in the SM playing field, and he invites you to agree or disagree with his ideas and conclusions…a pioneering work in gay SM.” – Victor Terry, 1997

“The groundbreaking 1972 publication of Larry Townsend’s Leatherman’s Handbook is as remarkable a construct as Stonewall itself, because it was a declaration of independence for ‘anatomically Correct’ homomasculinity.” – Jack Fritscher, 1996

NB: The author states in ‘Epilogue for a New Millenium’ (p. 275) that the first printing of the Silver Jubilee Edition in 1997 was “handled very badly” by his publisher and that the books were nearly all remaindered.

The Leatherman’s Handbook is an attempt of mine to read something completely outside of my comfort zone and outside of my norm.  Not really knowing what to expect when I picked this up, I was intrigued to find that it was a manual, of sorts, to leather sex and BDSM.

I’m not really involved in the writing or reading of leather or BDSM, though I know some of the general ideas behind them.  This book is a fantastic primer to the subject to someone who is new to it (whether they are personally interested in pursuing it or not).

The handbook is divided into chapters that cover different aspects of the lifestyle.  Townsend debunks the myths and untruths, informs the reader of reality, and ends chapters with vignettes that he or his friends have experienced.

This book is also interesting from a historical context.  So much has changed in the gay scene over the years — especially in the acceptance of the leather and BDSM scene — and so much has changed in terms of the need for safer sex.  A lot of Townsend’s original text is dated, but thankfully he keeps it largely untouched, which offers a glimpse into a different time, a different place, and a different life.  When things are outdated, Townsend inserts annotations to address how things have changed.

I’ve never felt that BDSM is a deviant lifestyle, though I know many straight-laced folk do, but I never quite understood it.  This book introduced me to a lot of different things, not the least of which is the understanding and reasoning behind why a lot of people like BDSM and leather sex.  While BDSM and leather sex are still not my thing, I feel I understand it a lot more now.  Townsend removes a lot of the fog of mystery from this lifestyle and, if anything, makes it all the more provocative and sexual now that it’s seen in its fullest.

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Book Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Light Fantastic

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Light Fantastic

Jeffrey Lang

Returning to the story begun in the novel Immortal Coil and continuing in the bestselling Cold Equations trilogy, this is the next fascinating chapter in the artificial life of one of Star Trek’s most enduring characters.

He was perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form—self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming. And then Data was destroyed. Four years later, Data’s creator, Noonien Soong, sacrificed his life and resurrected his android son, who in turn revived the positronic brain of his own artificial daughter, Lal. Having resigned his commission, the former Starfleet officer now works to make his way on an alien world, while also coming to grips with the very human notion of wanting versus having a child. But complicating Data’s new life is an unexpected nemesis from years ago on the U.S.S. Enterprise—the holographic master criminal Professor James Moriarty. Long believed to be imprisoned in a memory solid, Moriarty has created a siphon into the “real” world as a being of light and thought. Moriarity wants the solid form that he was once told he could never have, and seeks to manipulate Data into finding another android body for him to permanently inhabit…even if it means evicting the current owner, and even if that is Data himself.

I have to confess I had hesitations about this book before I even started, but it has nothing to do with the skill of this author.  It has to do with Data.  He died in Nemesis and was resurrected in a recent novel.  I understand how it happened and understand how fan demand likely led to it… but I’ve come to dislike how death has no meaning in the universe of Star Trek.  Coming back from death has almost become a standard plot device in Star Trek.

More than that, though… when Data was resurrected, and again I understand the how and why as far as storytelling goes, he turned into an arrogant asshole.  To me, anyway, he has become a very dislikable character.

Enough about that, though.  When I read The Light Fantastic, I was treated to a wonderful galaxy-wide adventure.  Jeffrey Lang does what few Star Trek authors seem able to do — he blends characters and elements from the various franchises into an effortless and meaningful whole.  Often when there have been cross-franchise stories, I’ve found them to be a bit bumpy… sort of like it was an effort to mash the two franchises together and it was done just because fans would like it.  Lang, though, weaves together a story rooted in The Next Generation, but has very strong ties to the original series, and features involvement from Deep Space Nine and Voyager.  (And though the DS9 and VOY elements were small, they were done in such a way that they felt necessary to the story, and not a fan-wank add-on.)

Though I have a strong dislike of Data’s character — and, really, this story helped that dislike to grow due to Data’s rather despicable actions against his enemies — I was able to see past that dislike and enjoy the story.

When Moriarity appeared in a couple episodes of The Next Generation, I was not a fan.  I found the episodes a little laborious to watch.  Yet, Lang made Moriarity a sympathetic and enjoyable villain.  The best villain is always the one that has a very valid reason for doing his bad deeds.  And Moriarity’s reasons are certainly valid.

I hope in future stories that Data gets his head on straight.  He used to be a kind-hearted and genuine individual and I feel he’s lost his way… even if I can understand why the various authors have taken him in that direction.

Again, Data aside, Jeffrey Lang is an enjoyable Star Trek author.  Every author in this universe bring a different strength with them when they pen a tale, and Lang’s is clearly his ability to effortlessly piece together a galaxy-spanning saga that brings in numerous little nuggets of joy (like Easter eggs) for the die-hard Star Trek fan.

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