Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Tag Along is courtesy of Bitten by Paranormal Romance!


It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, courtesy of Crazy for Books!

Book Blogger Hop

Q. What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?

A. The author's voice, their style of narration, is what wins or loses my attention in the first few pages!

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!

Q. ACK! Your favorite book/movie character (example Hermione Granger played by the Emma chick) just walked into the room! Who is it and what would be your first reaction? You get extra points if you include visual stimulation.

A. Melisande Shahrizai (Kushiel's Dart) just walked in, wielding a very long whip, and a very mean smile. I could tell you what I'm thinking, but I'm too busy grovelling at the moment!
As always, I urge you to hop around to some new blogs, tag along with some new friends, and find some great new reviews to follow. I always find something new to delight me!

REVIEW: The Bonds of Love by J.M. Snyder

I'm not sure that I can adequately describe the joyous perfection that is The Bonds of Love by J.M. Snyder, but I will certainly try my best! Let me start with the blurb that originally caught my attention:

Vic Braunson has a special kind of problem—his lover, Matt DiLorenzo, somehow imbues him with enhanced superpowers every time they have sex. It’s something Vic has learned to live with in the years they’ve been together, and something he won’t let stand in the way of their relationship. Matt hates the powers, however, particularly when they put Vic in danger, but what can they do?

Gay romance with sexually-imbued superpowers? For novelty's sake alone, I knew I had to give this a read. Fortunately, I am very pleased to say this is not just a novelty read, but a wonderfully romantic and thoroughly exciting thriller that also knows when to laugh at itself. Better still, it's the kind of story that knows that characters and relationships are key, and which keeps the actual demonstration of superpowers to a subtle minimum, never allowing them to overshadow the relationship between Vic and Matt.

As for the two lovebirds, I'm not sure I've ever read a gay romance where I felt such a powerful connection to the characters. This is Romance with a capital 'R', and my heart beat a little faster every time they were together. It's all-too easy to write the words and say the right things to describe a romance, but J.M. manages to capture the emotions and put them on the page in such a way that we truly feel them. While there's the appearance of a stereotypical gay couple here, nothing could be further from the truth. Vic and Matt are equals who take turns guiding the relationship . . . and who are equally at home on top or on bottom in the bedroom.

I admit, there's definitely a kinky thrill to watching big, strong, bald-headed Vic being taken by his smaller, cuter love (especially knowing that Matt is 'seeding' him with superpowers each time), but that's not what drives the relationship. If anything, it's Vic telepathy, and the honest/open dialogue it creates between them, baring their secret thoughts and emotions to scrutiny, that keeps these two men deeply, madly, and passionately in love.

Plot-wise, it's a story that takes a little while to get to the point, but that's entirely okay - in this case, getting there is at least half the fun. The first half of the novel establishes the romance, explains the nature of Vic's superpowers, and fleshes out the community of friends, colleagues, and ex-lovers around them. We also get to see how Vic skirts the edges of celebrity, facing the same fears of exposure as a Batman or Superman, but without all the costumed tomfoolery. He's a morally responsible (if reluctant) superhero, who doesn't seek out danger, but who recognizes his responsibility to do the right then when called upon, and who is unflinchingly brave and entirely selfless when his lover's life is at stake.

What kicks the story up another notch, fully engaging our emotions and forcing us to grip the book a little bit tighter, is the reappearance of Jordan, one of Matt's old lovers. Jordan is not only bitter about their breakup, but almost manically jealous of what Matt can do for Vic. He wants his lover back - not for the sake of romance, but for the sake of the superpowers bestowed by Matt's manhood. In a way, you can't blame Jordan for wanting it all, but he's a selfish, self-centred little ass who isn't above threatening our favourite couple in order to get it.

When Jordan takes it too far, abducting Matt with the intent of raping the superpowers out of him, we get to see what Vic is made of. I'll leave you to discover the particulars of that epic battle for yourself, but I guarantee you the thought of having somebody so devoted to you, so in love with you, will literally leave you weak in the knees.

The Powers of Love (Vic and Matt)This is actually the third book in the Powers of Love series, but it's an ideal place to begin. Be warned, however, that it will make you eager to read the rest of the series as quickly as possible. If it also prompts a little sexual experimentation in hopes of finding some superpowers of your own . . . well, that's just an added bonus, and one more thing to thank J.M. for. If had a few hours alone with Matt, I'm sure I could come up with some power to force you to read it, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

REVIEW: Letters for My Brothers edited by Megan M. Rohrer & Zander Keig

Letters for My Brothers is one of those books that I agreed to read, but wasn't really sure I wanted to review. It's not that I didn't expect it to be good, or that I felt obligated, or anything negative. Instead, it's that I didn't expect to relate to it, and I was concerned that disconnect might be hard to keep out of a review. After all, when you're going one way on the gender spectrum, it's almost impossible to fathom anybody wanting to go the other way.

Much to my surprise (and delight), I found that connection early on, and realised that many of the themes and concepts being expressed are universal. You don't have to be FTM (female-to-male) to appreciate the struggles and triumphs of the authors here. Heck, you don't even have to be transgendered to appreciate them - we all have at least one significant aspect of our life that we struggle against and worry about, as well as a few secrets that we keep from those we love (as often to protect them as ourselves). On top of all that, the central theme of body image is one of those things that we never really stop thinking about, no matter who we are or how old we get.

These are stories about curiosity, discovery, and realization. They're also stories about exposure, revelation, and condemnation. Each of these authors has truly "been there, done that" and their words of advice and encouragement to the next generation are all the more welcome for it. Some entries are reminiscences on the past, while others are letters written to their past selves. Some are more self-aware than others, but they all demonstrate a tenderness and understanding (and, in many cases, clear frustration) with the young women who once wore their shoes.

There is a strong spiritual presence to the collection - three of the contributors hold a professional role within their respective religions - that initially made me uncomfortable, expecting the worst in where they were heading, but I'm pleased to say their entries were some of my favourites. In fact, if I could have the chance to sit and talk with any of the contributors here, it would be Raven Kaldera, an FTM shaman who lives quite happily with his MTF wife and his FTM partner. His story, and his approach, really spoke to me, and made me pause a number of times to ponder the questions being asked.

It's entirely fitting that the collection ends with a piece entitled Enjoy the Journey by Matt Kailey, because the book itself is a journey, and clearly it's the shared experience that matters. We all have regrets, things we wish we could have done differently, and things we wish we could change about our past selves, but Matt reminds us that those things are part of who we are today, and should be honoured, not discarded. Without them, we wouldn't be who we are today, and for many of these contributors, where they are is precisely where they need to be.

Wise words, from a wonderful collection. Think of it as It Gets Better for the transgender community . . . a message that is always welcome. For more information, check out

By the way, if you missed Zander's reading recommendations from our Spring Celebration, check out his post here (thanks again, Zander, for everything!).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

REVIEW: The Gifted Ones by Lisa Vaughn

The Gifted Ones by Lisa Vaughn is the story of a young woman, raised in a conservative, Catholic family, far from the bright lights and excitement of the big city.

Lisa's story starts at age 13, when she finds herself falling in love with Selina, a 'cool' girl from the wrong side of the tracks. More soul-mates than lovers, their relationship starts out as that of two friends, with a closeness bordering on obsession, before escalating after a chance kiss. They make a wonderful couple (not in an after-school-special kind of way, but a real, warm, human kind of way), so much so that their struggles against parents, teachers, and society somewhat blinds us to the lack of intimacy between them. At first, their age explains a lot, but Lisa herself admits later that she was a selfish lover, never doing much to explore or please her girlfriend.

The bulk of the book covers about six years in their relationship, a tumultuous time filled with curfews, betrayals, parental discovery, alcohol, drugs, first jobs, first jealousies, and first tastes of freedom. Although we know enough about the girls to realise that Selina has the harder home life, it's Lisa's struggles with which we identify the strongest. It often seems as if everyone and everything is against her, until her commitment to Selina becomes as much a statement of defiance as it does an expression of love. You want to hold her and protect her, even as you want to stand back and cheer her on.

With the story written in the first-person, narrated by Lisa herself, there's a lot of foreshadowing of darker times ahead. As a result, by the time Lisa and Selina reach their two crisis points (one a matter of perceived cheating, the other a matter of real cheating), we're almost resigned to the inevitable. Their break-up is sad, and it's difficult, and it's a chapter we wish we could skip . . . but the way in which Lisa deals with it has a lot to say about what truly matters in life.

Lisa writes with a no nonsense, honest style, but she also knows how to tell a story. The words truly flow off the page, pulling you into the centre of the drama, and holding your hand the whole way through. If the book falters a bit in the last few chapters, it's only because she has stepped outside of reliving the romance, and is instead summarizing the last few decades of her life. It's interesting to see where that life took her after Selina, and even if her second soul-mate isn't quite what we'd expect, you cannot begrudge her the chance at a more mature kind of happiness.

A tale of adolescent love and discovery that just happens to focus on two girls, this is a memoir that's definitely worth a read.

Happy Blogoversary . . . to me!

365 days
329 posts
123 reviews
362 followers (give or take)
29,628 page views (and counting)


1 very happy blogger!

I just wanted to take a moment to offer up a HUGE thanks to everyone who has been a part of making my blogging efforts a success. Thanks to the authors who have so generously donated their time and their books; to the readers who remind me every day why I put so much effort into this; and to my fellow bloggers, who have continued to inspire and educate me with their reads.

Goddess: Memoir of a TranssexualWhen I started this blog a year ago today with a review of Raquel Reyes' Goddess: Memoir of a Transsexual, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no plan, no goal, no grand scheme of what I wanted to accomplish. All I knew was that I wanted to share my love of books, and to maybe expand the libraries of those who stopped by and add a little diversity to their shelves. The only thing I knew at the time was that I didn't want to be pigeon-holed into a single niche or genre, but share whatever I happened to be reading at the time. Much to my surprise (and delight), Raquel herself reached out to to share her thoughts on my review, and a bookslut was well-and-truly confirmed. :)

The Quarters Novels: Volume II vividly remember taking part in my first book blogger hop, and thinking what a brilliant idea it was for bringing bloggers together, and for helping to kickstart a following. I'll be forever grateful to Danielle from Romance Book Junkies for returning the blog hop love and being the first person to leave a comment on my blog. Similarly, I'm not sure anything has excited me quite as much as the first comment on one of my reviews (Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff), courtesy of Shelby from Shelby Morgan Summers. Getting some comment love out of the blog hop was one thing - that is the point, after all - but getting a comment on one of my reviews was incredibly rewarding in that it assured me people weren't just hopping through, but taking time to read.

Silver: Humanotica, Book 1As for my first Waiting on Wednesday post, it could not have gone better! I took the opportunity to gush about Darcy Abriel's upcoming slice of erotic science fiction Silver: Humanotica, Book 1, which was a book that had me excited on so many levels. Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning to an email from Darcy, thanking me for helping to spread the word, and offering me a free copy to review. I am very pleased to say that the first ARC offered to me not only fulfilled all my expectations and delighted me beyond reason, but turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year. If you missed it, you can check out my review here.

Fezariu's EpiphanyBook tours were something I thought were interesting, but never pursued because I couldn't imagine anybody being interested in associating themselves with my little haven of quirky diversity. I must have been doing something right, though, because I was invited to join the Virtual Book Tour Cafe earlier this year, giving me my first taste of touring, with an invitation to Pump Up Your Book coming about a month later. I'm pleased to say this week brings another first - my first stop on the Bewitching Book Tours to help promote Fezariu's Epiphany by David M. Brown. There's a giveaway associated with David's post as well, so check it out here - who knows, maybe you can add 'winner' to your list of firsts!

There are so many other firsts that I remember, and which I will treasure always. The big numbers are nice (I never imagined I would hit 100 followers, much less be in sight of 400), but they're only possible because of the little numbers . . . because of those firsts that get things started. Thanks again to everybody for a fantastic first year, and here's to many many many more!

GUEST POST: David M. Brown (with Fezariu's Epiphany giveaway)

Good morning, all! It's time for our first stop along the Bewitching Book Tours literary route, featuring an exciting new author by the name of David M. Brown.

David was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and first conceived the idea of the Elencheran Chronicles at college in 1999. He spent ten years compiling the history of Elenchera, resulting in 47,000+ years of events, 500+ maps, 2000+ pages, several short stories, and many much-needed acquaintances with Jack Daniels. David also has a blog, The World According to Dave, which features reviews, stories and dramatic tales of the horrors of owning cats. David now lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, with his wife, Donna, and their six cats. Fezariu's Epiphany is his first novel.

Before we get into David's guest post, let's take a quick look at Fezariu's Epiphany:

Fezariu's EpiphanyThe White Oak, Clarendon’s oldest brothel, lured and destroyed men by the thousands. Fezariu was different. He had never been drawn by the White Oak’s vices but the brothel had still ruined him when he was just a boy.

Salvation came in the form of the Merelax Mercenaries – Elenchera’s most prestigious hired hands. They gave Fezariu the chance to escape from his past. Immersed in the world of dangerous assignments in the colonies Fezariu longed to forget everything about his childhood but only in facing the past would he ever be free of it.   

I realise the book blurb is just a tease, but something about it grabbed hold of my imagination from the first time I read it. As such, I'm delighted to have David guest posting with us today. Please check out his post below, and then stayed tuned for some exciting giveaway news below!


First of all, I never imagined I would appear on a site with slut in the title, but it’s an honour and a privilege to be here. It’s a word often abused and linked to negative connotations but at least here it’s been reclaimed for a positive reason and, yes, I’m a book slut too and proud of it!

The release of Fezariu’s Epiphany back in May is my first self-published work and with my every loyal wife, Donna, beside me we’ve already experienced a few highs and lows on this quite incredible journey. I feel as if Fezariu has been with me for a long time now (I finished the first draft in September 2009) but I’m now ready to relinquish my hold and let his tale spread throughout the world.

I intend both Fezariu’s Epiphany and other novels from the world of Elenchera to be a very different form of fantasy to what you may have read before. This genre isn’t for everyone, of course, and with that in mind I’ve tried to write a novel where the essence is Fezariu and not
the world of Elenchera. Fezariu’s story is one of a turbulent childhood and a past so painful he finds solace in the arms of the Merelax Mercenaries – Elenchera’s most renowned force of hired hands. Even then Fezariu is our focus as he learns the art of war and desperately tries
to forget his childhood. Some readers have told me it’s a tale that could take place at any time or place, it just happens to be in Elenchera.

My hope with the novel is to immerse the reader in a unique world but also to leave them moved by Fezariu, his childhood, his broken family, his comrades in the mercenaries and his frequent brushes with death that are more favourable to him than reliving his past. Future Elenchera novels will follow suit in taking the reader into the lives of a small groups of characters and, hopefully, these will be journeys that evoke a myriad of emotions. Whether you’re a fan of fantasy or not I hope that Fezariu’s Epiphany will reach out to a wide range of readers.

GIVEAWAY: To help celebrate the release of Fezariu's Epiphany, David has kindly offered to provide a free e-book copy to one lucky reader!  Simply leave your name and email address in the comments section below to be entered to win! We'll be drawing the winner Monday, July 4th.

Thanks so much to David for stopping by. If you'd like to follow his virtual journey in support of Fezariu's Epiphany, check out his schedule at Bewitching Book Tours. You can also check him out on Twitter; on his Website or Blog; and on Goodreads.

Finally, if you're not already convinced to enter the giveaway (or, better yet, purchase a copy of your own), check out the book trailer for Fezariu's Epiphany below:

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

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

Technically, this doesn't really count as book that I'm waiting on, since I was fortunate enough to get an early review copy last week, but I'm still excited to share:

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High HeelsTango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels by Justin Vivian Bond: With a recent diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, and news that his first lover from childhood has been imprisoned for impersonating an undercover police officer, Bond recalls in vivid detail coming of age as a trans kid. Always haunted by the knowledge of being "different," Bond was further confused when the bully next door wanted to meet secretly. Their trysts went on for years, and made Bond acutely aware of sexual power and vulnerability. With inimitable style, Bond raises issues about LGBTQ adolescence, homophobia, parenting, and sexuality, while being utterly entertaining. [Release date: August 23, 2011]

The lovely Mx. Justin is a Tony-nominated performance artist who has toured the world, headlining at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, and (of course) Broadway. That alone would be a life-story worth reading, but knowing a bit about a childhood "backwards and in high heels" has me eager to indulge.

How about you? What are you anxiously awaiting next week? Share your comments below, because there's no such thing as having too many books in your TBR pile!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy 25th Anniversary to Labyrinth!

Labyrinth (Anniversary Edition)Wow, can you believe it's been 25 years since Jim Henson partnered with David Bowie on the magical masterpiece that is Labyrinth? Originally released on June 27th 1986,  it was a box-office failure, earning just under half of its $25 million budget . . . but has since gone on to become a well-deserved cult classic.

Sadly, this was the last feature film directed by Jim Henson before his death in 1990.

In honour of the its place in my memories (and, I trust, many of yours) as one of the most beautiful, enjoyable movies every made, join me in a happy little chorus from the Goblin King's Magic Dance:

You remind me of the babe
What babe? The babe with the power
What power? Power of voodoo
Who do? You do
Do what? Remind me of the babe

My apologies for getting that stuck in your head for the rest of the day (LOL), but it's a fitting tribute to the fact that memories are all that Jim Henson has left us . . . and my memories of this movie certainly rank up there with the best!

Monday, June 27, 2011

REVIEW: Blood Rights by Kristen Painter

Blood Rights by Kristen Painter is an urban fantasy story with more unexpected twists to it than a roller coaster in the dark. It's not only a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre, but a fresh take on vampires as well.

What sets it apart from the competition is the strength of it's core characters, each of them cursed in some fashion, but stronger for it. For starters, we have Chysabelle - a comarre cursed by the circumstances of her birth. Born to the life of a blood-whore, and secretly trained as a lethal assassin, she is on the run from the most terrifying vampire of all, and accidentally bound to an outcast vampire just as cursed as she is. Malkolm, the outcast vampire in question, is a human hunter turned vampire, expelled from the noble ranks of the undead, and cursed to wear the names of his victims upon his skin, and to hear their voices in his head.

Doc is a varcolai shapeshifter, also cursed. A loyal comrade of Mal, limited to taking on the form of a common housecat when transformed, he is forever tied by his own conscience to the vampire who rescued him . . . and to the ghost that he wears. That ghost, Fi, is the most tragic of the lot. As the victim whose death triggered Mal's curse, she's not just a name he wears and a voice that he hears, but a ghost who physically haunts him.It's her love for Doc that binds vampire, varcolai, and ghost together, and it is Doc's love for her that eventually ties the comarre to them all.

As for that terrifying vampire I mentioned, the dangerously erotic Tatiana, she is cursed as well - both by her dark pact with the fathers of vampirism, and by her role in the curse of another . . . which is one of those delicious twists we only discover near the very end.

This is a dark story, set in a dark future that's not too different from our own. It's not quite a dystopia, but certainly a future lacking in shiny monuments to progress. It's also a very edgy story, dealing with themes of slavery and submission, and with the more dangerous elements of vampirism (notably sex and the concept of 'pure' evil) that seems to have fallen out of favour lately. As a reader who is all too sick of friendly, sparkly, reluctant vampires who only want to be loved, this was a refreshing change.

Having said that, there are several romantic subplots to the story, but they are handled very well. With the exception of Doc and Fi, the romances tie directly into the theme of slavery and submission, tainting the thrill of erotic discovery with the horror of the monstrous. On the surface, the romances are both curious and distasteful - to the characters, as well as the readers - but Kristen does a superb job of developing the characters so that that we accept the romances and find ourselves wanting them to work.

There's a lot of work required here to establish the characters, the world, and the mythology, but the pace never lags. It's a story that grabs you from the start, and one that keeps you turning pages late into the night. The action is bloody and intense, with beheadings and exploding vampires galore, and the fight scenes are inventive enough to be exciting, without dragging on and becoming gratuitously showy. The writing itself is gorgeous, conveying as much about the world Kristen has built as the story itself, and the dialogue is sharp and smart.

With the groundwork laid, and the next two books due to be released within months of this one, I cannot wait to see where Kristen is taking all of this, and what the ultimate payoff will be.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Monday In My Mailbox - What Are You Reading - What's Beside Your Bed?

♥ Don't forget our giveaway of the Time Well Spent collection by Bella Marie - ending Monday at midnight! ♥

In My Mailbox and It's Monday, What are you Reading are weekly memes hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, Sheila at Book Journey. Both are great ways to share the books you're either reading, or shifting to the top of your TBR pile (because, let's face it, sometimes a little shifting is the best we can manage!).

New in my mailbox this week are:

No One in the World by E. Lynn Harris & RM Johnson (for review)
Alice in Shtuppingland by Barrie Abalard (for review)
Tango: Childhood in High Heels by Justin Vivian Bond (for review)
Eromenos by Melanie McDonald (for review)
The Regent's Knight by J.M. Snyder (for review)
Fruiting Bodies and Other Fungi by Brian Lumley (used bookstore find)

No One in the World: A Novel   Alice in Shtuppingland   Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels   Eromenos      Fruiting Bodies and Other Fungi

As always, I'm generally hopping between books as the mood grabs me. Teasing me for time and seducing my attentions this week are:

Fezariu's Epiphany by David Brown (just starting this one, but I'm definitely intrigued)
The Gifted Ones by Lisa Vaughn (wonderfully moving story of a young lesbian coming out)
The Bonds of Love by J.M. Snyder (superpowers born of gay sex . . . my hero!)

Fezariu's Epiphany   The Gifted Ones   The Bonds of Love (Vic and Matt)

As for What's Beside My Bed? (a weekly meme hosted by Nanny at Getting Naughty Between the Stacks), I've got 2 reads this week:

My Mistress' Thighs by Giselle Renarde (I've read some of the stories before, but I'm loving them again)
Secrets, Skin and Leather by Sean Michael (a crossdressing recommendation . . . with a gorgeous cover boi!)

My Mistress' Thighs: Entire Collection   Secrets, Skin, and Leather

Well, that's it for now . . . what are you reading?