books
the well-written kind...
e-mail me!!

zechs, reading
[ note: like I could resist using this image... ]

My all time favourite books. You may notice that most of these books are homoerotic in nature. Hmmm... imagine that... ^_~

Yes, yes -- my opinion. If you don't agree with it... make your own damn page.

[ note: *ahem* seeing as how I find summaries so damnably difficult to write, I've *ahem again* swiped those of others, at times. In the unlikely event that you come across this page, see your own words staring back at you, and get a mite upset, just let me know and I shall remove them,
posthaste. ]

-- Dacia

title = gay-themed; glossy sex, or none at all

title
= gay-themed; graphic sex

[ note: a few books on this list may be labeled incorrectly as it's been a while since I've read some of these... ]

title = not gay-themed *gasp*

title = non-fiction

::. * .::

Categories:
>> books you'd have to pry from my cold, dead fingers...
>> books that... I really, really like ^_~
>> books well worth reading
>> for you to decide
>> jumped up novellas (aka small pub. books)
>> run away! run away!

books are listed by the authors' last name

::. * .::
last updated: 1 Jan 11
new reviews

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade -- Justin Spring [ explicit ]
inside cover --> "Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Histories is a sensational reconstruction of one of the most extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on and documented his experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often funny) detail.

... Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow, [ground breaking tattoo artist, or as Phil Andros, writer of upbeat homosexual pornography] -- but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1983, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Histories is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation."

I had never heard of Sam Steward before stumbling across the reviews of this book in my never-ending search for interesting biographies of historical gay men. Reading this book was eye opening in more than one way. Sam was an incredible man -- immensely intelligent, talented and gentle. He was also the poster boy for the promiscuous gay man, having recorded literally thousands of sexual encounters with over 800 men. The times he lived through meant that simply by indulging in his lifestyle he was flagrantly defying the laws of a country that could have imprisoned him for just about every part of his hidden life. Sam comes alive through his journal entries and letters as a profound man, and a lonely one. Justin Spring's portrayal of this highly sexed and deeply disillusioned man is a page-turning wonder, and one which I highly recommend.

::. .::

>> books you'd have to pry from my cold, dead fingers...

Wingmen -- Ensan Case [ out-of-print ] / [ historical - ww II ]
back cover --> "Jack Hardigan's Hellcat fighter squadron blew Japanese Zekes out of the blazing Pacific skies. But a more subtle kind of hell was brewing in his feelings for rookie pilot Fred Trusteau. As another wingman watches---and waits for the beautiful woman who loves Jack---Hardigan and Trusteau cut a fiery swath through the skies from Wake Island to Tarawa to Truk, there to keep a fateful rendezvous with love and death in the blood-clouded waters of the Pacific."

This book? Is brilliant. It's one I have been able to re-read over the years and still enjoy just as much each time. I actually own 2 copies, just in case (read as "I never want to be without this book"). This book is unlike any other gay literature I've read. It's... classy. It's not at all about sex, though there is glossy sex at one point and it is implied later, but that is so not what this book is about. It is about 2 men-- a navy pilot and his younger wingman -- discovering, coming to terms with, and finally accepting their mutual attraction amidst the excitement and horrors of WW II. There's as much here about the war as their relationship. It's not a romance or a titillating smut fest -- it's an incredibly subtle tale of 2 extraordinary human beings finding each other.

Dhalgren -- Samuel Delaney [ sci fi ]
"What is Dhalgren? Dhalgren is one of the greatest novels of 20th-century American literature. Dhalgren is one of the all-time bestselling science fiction novels. Dhalgren may be read with equal validity as SF, magic realism, or metafiction. Dhalgren is controversial, challenging, and scandalous. Dhalgren is a brilliant novel about sex, gender, race, class, art, and identity.

A mysterious disaster has stricken the midwestern American city of Bellona, and its aftereffects are disturbing: a city block burns down and is intact a week later; clouds cover the sky for weeks, then part to reveal two moons; a week passes for one person when only a day passes for another. The catastrophe is confined to Bellona, and most of the inhabitants have fled. But others are drawn to the devastated city, among them the Kid, a white/American Indian man who can't remember his own name. The Kid is emblematic of those who live in the new Bellona, who are the young, the poor, the mad, the violent, the outcast--the marginalized.

Dhalgren is many things, but instantly accessible isn't one of them. While most of this big, ambitious, deeply detailed novel is beautifully pellucid, the opening pages will be difficult for some: the novel starts with the second half of an incomplete sentence, in the viewpoint of a man who doesn't know who he is. If you find the early pages rough going, push on; the story soon becomes clear and fascinating. But--fair warning--the central nature of the disaster, of its strange devastations and disruptions, remains a puzzle for many readers, sometimes after several readings." -- Amazon.com review

The Carnivorous Lamb -- Augustin Gomez-Arcos [ re-issue ] / [ incest ] / [ historical - aftermath of the Spanish civil war ]
"The Carnivorous Lamb unfolds itself like a particularly lovely, intricate, and satisfying dream. Things that at first appear to be matter-of-fact reveal themselves to be larger metaphors for politics, philosophy, social atmospheres, and religion, in prose both decadent and surreal. At heart this is a love story: love between brothers, literally and figuratively." -- Amazon.com reviewer

Brethren: Raised by Wolves, and its sequels, Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2 and Treasure: Raised By Wolves, Volume 3 (of a proposed 4) -- W. A. Hoffman [historical fiction]
back cover--> "1667---Romance in the west Indies. Wherein, the Viscount of Marsdale, duelist, libertine, dilettante, and haphazard philanthropist, travels to the colony of Jamaica to establish a sugar plantation for his estranged father. Once there, he finds he has much in common with the buccaneers of Port Royal. Thus he joins them and learns of the strange traditions, tactics, and customs of the Brethren of the Coast. Falling in love, he partners with Gaston, the mysterious French madman known as The Ghoul, and discovers another as noble, disenfranchised,and scarred as himself. Together, they explore an end to loneliness, and seek to exorcise the demons of their pasts, in a wilderness torn by war and ambition."

I can literally say no wrong about these books. When I move them from 'new reviews' to their proper place in this list, they will be the first in over 10 years to head straight to the 'pry from my cold, dead fingers' category. Not only are they emotionally entangling, but, it turns out, they are based in such a depth of historical fact that, my god, no wonder I was so entranced. The rest of the world is hell bent on pirates due to Johhny Depp and Co. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have given into a fascination with pirates, as well, but the cause is, instead, Raised By Wolves.
[ note: Later books add women and children into the mix. I do not at all appreciate this, but I understand the reason why. ]

Chrome -- George Nader [ out-of-print ] / [ sci fi ]
I was quite literally hooked on this book from the first line. From the blurb on the back cover, I was expecting not much more than futuristic smut. But, for all its' depictions of male beauty and nudity, this book is surprisingly smut-free. Reading this book is like sinking into a warm bubble bath on a day that's all your own; it's like a decadent dessert savoured in a charming cafe you stumbled upon when you least expected it. Which is not to say it's all butterflies and light. It is, in fact, rather packed with angst and betrayal, heart-rending partings and soul-sucking realizations. Upon finishing it the first time, I promptly turned around and read it again. And then a third time (something which has happened neither before nor since). To this day, I can reread it and be taken back to those first happy moments of reading those first words, living Chromes' story all over again.

The Charioteer -- Mary Renault [ historical - ww II ]
"The complicated romances of closeted gay men in England at the height of World War II seems an unlikely subject, but Renault endows The Charioteer with such depth of perception that virtually any reader will be fascinated by her story of three young men who strive to reconcile the frequently opposing forces of sex, love, and personal integrity in their lives and relationships. Considerably more than just a 'gay love story,'Renault's novel examines what it means to be completely honest and completely fair in even the most difficult of relationships at even the most difficult moments of life.

Written with both on-the-surface (as in the myth of the Charioteer) and covert (it is no accident that many of the characters are in some way physically damaged, or that the story is set during England's darkest hours of the war) symbolism, Renault's novel encourages the reader to take time over it. Although sometimes demanding, the book casts a spell; I can honestly say that I did not want it to end, but I wanted to know more about what the future held for the characters. It is a book to which readers will return again and again." -- Amazon.com reviewer

Sandel -- Angus Stewart [ out-of-print --> your best bet is a library. copies of this novel are upwards of $400... ]
"Angus Stewart's novel 'Sandel' was first published in 1968. I found the paperback edition in 1971, in a standard Australian bookshop. Strangely enough, at that time, I was the same age (19) as David Rogers - one of the main characters; but it's the protaganist: Anthony Sandel, who's the real star-player in this extraordinary novel. Mr Stewart's ability to create such vivid images in the reader's mind is truly astonishing, and at the book's end, most readers will surely come to think of Anthony and David as almost real people.

When the book was originally published, a London newspaper made this comment: 'Mr Stewart has really succeeded with this young character, and in depicting a love which truly exists and is not despicable.' How true that statement is. However, Bruce Lang, one of the minor players in the story, is also an interesting character. Even though he's a legitimate friend of David Rogers, he finds it impossible to come to terms with the fact that David could love a 13-year-old choir boy.

Would this book be too controversial for the repressive '90s? I doubt it; it was a success in the late 1960s and early '70s. Surely it's time for a reissue, so that this magnificent novel can be enjoyed by a whole new audience.

Even though 'Sandel' is very suitable for general audiences, it's a must-read for anyone who understands the underlying philosophy behind famous English public schools." -- Amazon.com reviewer

>> books that... I really, really like ^_~

Quatrefoil -- James Barr [ out-of-print ]
back cover --> "The year is 1946. A brash young naval officer faces court-martial for standing up to a lazy officer in the closing days of WW II. In the midst of this turmoil, he meets the man who will change his life..."

The book intellectualizes homosexuality more than any I've ever read, while still engaging the characters in more than a platonic relationship. It has very Ayn Rand-ish overtones, which draw me as much as Ayn Rand did when I was a teenager, though here we have the added benefit of a gay love, instead of a het one. The book does not have a happy ending, but the addition of the author notes (which were not included when I read this book the first time >_< ) finally allow me to understand why.

Here There Be Dragons -- Robert Bentley [ out-of-print ]
A spy/thriller. Don't read many of these. Mind you, it's not the obvious kind. I do so hate to be obvious. The FBI approaches a civilian to become a spy for the duration. His mission? To put himself in a position to be blackmailed so that he can give false information to the blackmailers (enemy spies). Am I giving too much away? Hell, you probably won't read it anyways. Plus, it's out of print. That always helps.

Edward, Edward -- Lola Burford [ out-of-print ] / [ incest ] / [ historical ]
excerpt from inside flap --> "It is a haunting tale of a strange romance between a worldly and dissolute man, James Noel Holland, Earl of Tyne, and the golden-haired young Edward, his ward--or perhaps his son. Homosexuality, sadomasochism, and incest are elements in their relationship--and so are affection, love, and the saving quality of grace."

Leopards in the Garden -- Nathaniel Burt
inside cover --> " Like many a well-to-do American family in the 1920's, the Carruthers of Philadelphia, Quakers of liberal persuasion, take a villa in the south of France for a year or so. They live in a contenting aura of domestic tranquility, but the pleasant tenor of their lives is disrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Carruthers' dashingly [handsome and self-admittedly hedonistic] younger brother Dick..."

I bought this book without quite knowing what it was about. Receiving it and perusing the first page, I was, let's face it, disappointed and relegated it to the pile of books I keep to be read when I don't really care too much what I'm reading---the kind of book you take along with you to a waiting room. It is told from an incredibly unlikely perspective---in a family of numerous children and adults of varying ages, the tale is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Howie. Considering the subject matter, which was as far as I had been able to piece together about Dick's incestuous relationship with his breathtaking teenage nephew Robbie, it seemed a very odd choice. And yet the book grabbed me. I was as interested in reading of a time long past where summer afternoons were filled by creating pantomimes for an audience of your family and friends as I was in (yes, yes) Pretty Boys Together. The relationship between uncle and nephew is, then, severely understated. Howie is caught up in his own fantasy world and it is only the inevitably powerful tensions in the household that finally break through to him enough that he can tell that something is going on in his family that he does not entirely understand but which has the potential to tear them all apart.

Lord Dismiss Us -- Michael Campbell
NY Times review --> "This 1967 British novel by Michael Campbell is set in a teen-age boys' boarding school where Carleton, a bright, Oxford-bound senior, loves Allen, a younger boy. But Ashley, a teacher, loves Carleton, and there is also a new headmaster who wants to root out moral corruption. Our reviewer, J. D. Scott, wrote, 'The scenes between Carleton and Allen, with their mixture of shyness and greediness for love, are moving and fine.' But 'the comedy of Lord Dismiss Us makes the strongest impression. The Head and his wife and teen-age daughter, the masters and the other boys are extremely funny and (with only a few exceptions) deeply authentic.' "

Just as a warning: though the humour in this book is one of its main aspects, there is a part of the ending that is very jarring. It is not dwelt on---blink and you will miss it (I did, the 1st time I read it)---but it is there. It says something about the books overall quality that this detracts only a small bit from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

The Strongest Shape -- Tessa Cárdenas [ small pub ] / [ threesome ]
back cover --> "After his boyfriend breaks up with him, fashion photographer Caleb Moss finds himself alone in Los Angeles looking for work and friends. He finds both in a group of aspiring musicians, who offer help through their connections. But while building a strong friendship with Scott and Chris, a startling sexual tension flares to life among the three men, and Caleb is afraid the new friendships will fall apart.

It won't be easy for Caleb, trying to find his way when Scott and Chris invite him into their relationship. They face criticism from their friends, but they'll struggle to stay together because they have discovered a three-fold love."

I wasn't expecting much from this book due to the fact that I am understandably biased against small publisher books. The idea of small publishers is lovely; the reality is usually the creation of a haven for sub-par authors who can't make it in the Big Boys' publishing world. This book, therefore, shocked the hell out of me, cuz I LOVED it. So much so that I read it through two times in a row (something I haven't done since Chrome). Part of it was a reaction to all of the Plot Twists From Hell that I've been bombarded with lately. Ex-friends turned psychotic terrorists with a personal grudge (A Density of Souls), scheming cousins willing to commit murder to claim inheritances (The Desire for Dearborne), otherworldly beings fighting over the earths' "essence" (The Wraeththu Histories). >_< Is that all really necessary??? This book has none of that. The plot is solely about three individuals learning to live in what is (outside of the fanworld, at least) an unconventional relationship. The characters and their actions are true to life, and there is none of the cloying banter that, really, could only have been written by a woman (Caught Running). This book is not great literature, but it is no less the enjoyable for that. Kudos, Tessa.

untitled series -- Jo Clayton [ out-of-print ] / [ sci fi ]
• Book 1: Skeen's Leap --> and so finally you know where I got my e-mail addy from! *grin*
• Book 2: Skeen's Return
• Book 3: Skeen's Search

Skeen is my type of female protagonist. She's striking, but not beautiful. She's not an emotional wreck. She can have sex without falling in love. She makes mistakes and gets pissy and can be downright annoying. She has a lover without the story ever delving into romance. God, how refreshing is that? I've yet to read another female quite like her.

Wreaththu series -- Storm Constantine [ sci fi / fantasy ]
• Book 1: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit
• Book 2 : The Bewitchments of Love and Hate
• Book 3 : The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire
• The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure: The First Book of the Wraeththu Histories
• The Shades Of Time And Memory: The Second Book of the Wraeththu Histories
• The Ghosts of Blood and Innocence: The Third Book of the Wraeththu Histories

Do you not know these books? They're fabulous. Kind of an alternate reality/future type deal where men (and no, I'm not not being pc) have mutated into another species that combines both male and female. Ms. Constantine writes with a beauty that makes you wish life could be more like how this is written instead of how it is, although it just might be much more painful that way.

In the later books, there is a swift dive into melodramaticism that is soap-opera-ish in dimensions, but, hell, it's still fun and a reprieve from the emotional overload of the first 3 books is welcome.

untitled Series -- Catherine Cooke [ out-of-print ] / [ fantasy ]
• Book 1: The Winged Assassin
• Book 2 : Realm of the Gods
• Book 3 : The Crimson Goddess

Arris is the Crimson Goddess' dream in flesh. He is beautiful, he is strong, he is powerful... and the last thing he wants is to be used and discarded by a being who who will consume him utterly. In the darkest times, it doesn't seem so hideous a prospect, but not after he has so freely, and so completely, given his heart to another. Sure, life as a goddess' consort has its perks, but what is a year of ecstasy next to the golden reality of Arris' boyhood friend, Saresha?

the Nightrunner Series -- Lynn Flewelling [ fantasy ]
• Book 1: Luck in the Shadows
• Book 2: Stalking Darkness
• Book 3: Traitor's Moon

The Boys on the Rock -- John Fox
back cover --> "Written with uncanny precision and wild humor, this is the story of Billy Connors, high school student in the Bronx, member of the swim team, and all-around regular guy, who in his sixteenth year has to face the fact that he's a little different from everyone else, a little 'weird'.

Though he's sort of going steady with a girl and popular at school, he's always worried that the secret fantasies he has about men would set him apart and make him 'different' if anyone knew about them. How Billy faces up to himself -- and  his friends -- as he discovers the complexities of life, the exuberance of sex, and what it means to be an adult in our imperfect world, makes for a touching, wise, and very moving novel."

There is really only one sentence in the back cover blurb that I completely agree with -- this is, indeed a "touching, wise, and very moving novel." Anything other than that portrays Billy though a twisted mirror -- it is what he's going through... and yet it's not. 

This book is written in a boys' prose -- full of run on sentences and incongruent bits thrown in amongst deep thoughts. He is caught up in his support of McCarthy in the coming election, his growing attraction to the young man he meets in the election office, and his gradual understanding that life... sucks -- that it is full of people who, through hatred or ignorance, will not let you be who you are and will in fact vilify you for it. His realizations leave him bitter, but stronger, his first love affair teaching him both the joys of mutual attraction and the devastation of disenchantment. Though the ending is tinged with sadness, one is not left sad -- there seems little doubt that Billy will find what he's looking for.

I first read this book in college, and had never completely forgotten it. There is no telling how I will react now to a book I read 10 years ago, but I feel I can appreciate this book even more now than I did then.


Jim Grimsley
Comfort and Joy

back cover --> "Ford McKinney is a handsome, successful doctor raised in a well-to-do Savannah family. His longtime boyfriend, Dan Krell, is a shy hospital administrator with a painful childhood past. When the holidays arrive, they decide it's time to go home together. But the depth of their commitment is tested when Ford's parents cannot reconcile themselves to their son's choices and long-kept family secret are revealed by a visit to Dan's mother.

Comfort and Joy is a poetic and finely wrought novel that explores the difficult journey two men make towards love."

This book was not at all what I expected. I expected the everyday. After all, it seems a fairly average idea for a gay book. There are those magical times, though, when you again realize that the sign of a truly good book is not just what is said, but how. Grimsley's use of the English language, employed in a totally different way than in Kirith Kirin, is more poetry that prose, and the effect is truly remarkable. The love in this book is never easy in its reality, but it is downright beautiful in its portrayal. [ note: the story of Dan's traumatic childhood, alluded to in this book, is told in Winter Birds. ]

• Kirith Kirin [ fantasy ]
plot-ness: "[This is] a fantasy that could have come right from our world where power and greed can tempt, and sometimes conquer, even the most rightist person and where knowing who your friends and enemies are can be very difficult if not impossible. Yet it is not our world. For in Kirith Kirin's world magic is real, immortals walk the land, and people are sometimes the playthings for the dark arts.

The Blue Queen, upon resuming the throne while King Kirith Kirin's eternality is renewed in the Arthen forest, has partnered with a magician of the dark arts. No longer does she need to leave the throne to renew her eternal nature. Swayed by promises of the dark magician, she has claimed the throne forever and is extending her influence to the far corners of the world.

Malleable grey clouds, sidewinding wind, and intelligent lightning bolts made the trip across the vast Girdle nearly impossible. Out of nowhere, the Blue Queen's Patrols made haste to kill the boy and the warrior before they could safely reach the deep forest of Arthen. Riding upon two magnificent stallions, one a royal Prince out of Queen Mnemarra, Jessex and his uncle Sivisal reached Arthen despite a deadly storm that reeked of magic.

Thus begins Jessex's new life as he enters Arthen and moves into the royal court of Kirith Kirin."

I spent, literally, years avoiding this book due to the fact that I was under the mistaken apprehension that it was your average, run-of-the-mill fantasy with your average, run-of-the-mill royalty and their average, run-of-the-mill (if rampant) magicians. I will be the first to admit, joyfully even, that I couldn't have been more wrong. This book is like nothing I've read before. The world Grimsley has created is truly unique, and his writing style is elegantly simple. He renders its characters slowly and beautifully. By its completion, I was quite positively both in awe and in love.

[ warning: the key word here is 'slowly'. this is not a quick moving book.]


The Lodger -- Drew Gummerson [ out-of-print ]
If you're looking for a mystery, which this book is billed as, this book will indeed disappoint. A who-dun-it, it is not. To me, mind you, this is a Very Good Thing, seeing as I'm a firm believer in the theory that mysteries suck. If, however, you're looking for an engaging protagonist with the best name since forever (Honza *swoon*) who's blond and trim and has a penchant for walking about his home naked, this'll be just your cup of tea. When Honza advertises for a lodger due to recent financial straits, having to wear clothes in the morning is the least of his worries. Finding someone who's at least semi-compatible turns out to be surprisingly easy, though only after a few hair-raising encounters. And Andy seems so normal and unassuming. Not someone to cause trouble and definitely not someone to, as a gay man, be attracted to. As time passes, though, it turns out the Trouble is Andy's middle name and, whaddya know, that guy's pretty cute, after all...


Mel Keegan
[ note: Keegan was previously published by Real Live Publishers, I swear, but now is published under "DreamCraft". Whether his latest endeavors have succumbed to the Small-Publisher curse, we'll have to see... ]
An East Wind Blowing [ historical ]
back cover --> "The love of two young men is forged in their struggle to survive against barbarian invaders.

Mel Keegan's latest historical romance is set in the very depths of the Dark Ages, in the north-east of a country not yet known as England. The Romans have recently departed, though fragments of their world still linger on. The native Britons are being pressed back by the barbarian Angles from over the water, as they sail in on the east wind seeking new land to settle. Ronan and Byrn are two young men eager to defend their land against the invaders, but Ronan is a common freeman, and Byrn the son of an overweening lord. As with his Fortunes of War and White Rose of Night, Mel Keegan conjures up an atmospheric tale in which love between men is forged in the battles they must fight."

Fortunes of War [ historical ]
"In 1588 a young mercenary and the son of an English earl meet by a quirk of fate. Dermot Channon is a soldier, while Robin Armagh has been sheltered on his father's estate. Love blossoms fast while war looms on the horizon. Under the thundercloud of armed conflict, Channon leaves England and the Spanish Armada sails soon after. Robin despairs of seeing him again, for their countries are locked in an endless struggle. Years fly by, and in 1595, when Robin's brother is taken for ransom in Panama, the dangerous duty of delivering the price of his life and liberty falls to Robin. He sails with the historical '1595 Fleet,' commanded by Francis Drake, hoping to bring home his brother. But Fortune has other plans for Robin and Channon. Ahead of them is a an epic adventure in hazardous waters where old enmities, Spanish and English, shape their future together -- and try to drive them apart."

This book... grows on you. After reading more historically accurate descriptions of the homosexual relations of pirates in the Raised By Woves series, Channon and Robin come off as Regency Romance stars. But they're beautiful and In Love, and it's fun, damn it.

The Swordsman -- Mel Keegan [fantasy]
back cover --> "Jack Leigh is a soldier of fortune, far from home. He's a brilliant 'sword for hire,' but in the dangerous Riverlands dukedom of Rhondia he gets more than he bargained for... 

Treachery, treason and dark magic form swirling, powerful undercurrents in Rhondia. Along the canals and in the menacing heart of Nimmenwald forest lurk unimaginable threats -- the bo'zhe, the Lappai, barbarians from Saihabara and the unknowable forces out of Nimmenwald Deep itself. 

At the crux of the vortex of magic and treachery is the heir to Rhondia, Michael Sebastian -- "Seb" -- d'Astaghir. Haughty, moody ... haunted by the goblins of memory, Seb is in terrible jeopardy. It's only by luck that his old friend, old lover, Luc Redmayne, happens upon a streetfight in a tavern yard, and a "hired sword" enters the fortress of Rhondia as Seb's bodyguard. 

With the fresh eyes of an "outlander," the shrewdness of a soldier of fortune from Yulminster, and the help of a young gypsy shaman, Jack Leigh uncovers the pitch-black, treasonous magic which is simmering just beneath the surface of Rhondia. 

And when Jack, Seb, Luc and gypsy, Janos Zaparasti, finally lay their hands on the Basilisk ring, the symbol of the great houses of Rhondia, they unleash the very forces they have feared."

I liked this book. No, really. It has all the elements one would require of a readable book -- it's literate, it's populated by interesting, well-rounded characters, and it's set in a realistic fantasy world. Yet... it was lacking something that I can't quite put my finger on. Was this book worth the exorbitant cover price of (wait for it...) $22.50? Well, no, it wasn't. But it was good enough that I'm not beating myself over the head for shelling out that much cash for a soft cover book with Keegan's signature hideous cover art.

White Rose of Night [ historical - crusades ]
back cover --> "In 12th century England, fifteen-year-old Paul becomes the squire and lover of a Saxon Knight, Edward of Athlestan. Struggling to survive in a Norman world, Edward embarks with Paul on Crusade to the Holy Land, where Paul is captured as a slave by a Saracen Captain. The love of the two young men is all that sustains them in their further adventures, where they eventually join with the Arab leader Saladin in seeking an honorable end to this horrible war."

Many of Keegan's books I find merely fairly well-written excuses for to men to boink. This one, however, has plot and emotion for miles. Though it is touted as a "romance", this is the only of his endeavors that, to date, I truly consider a to be a Good Book.


Brothers -- Ted van Lieshout
back cover --> "Can you still be a brother when your brother is dead? Luke often wonders. His brother Marius has died, leaving Luke alone with their parents. When their mother decides to burn Marius's belongings in a ceremonial bonfire, Luke saves his brother's diary and makes it his own by writing in it. And so begins a dialogue between the brothers, the dead and the living, from which truths emerge, truths of life and death and love."

Despite its scant 155 pages, the emotional impact of this book was enough to make me cry. Literally.


A Different Light -- Elizabeth Lynn [ out-of-print ] / [ sci fi ]
(review)

Adam -- Anthony McDonald
back cover --> "Adam is a delightful sixteen-year-old who does well in school and spends his spare time practicing the cello. Or that's what his parents think. But there is another side to him, which comes to the fore when he falls for a labourer called Sylvain and realises that friendships have the potential to be more than platonic.

The results are explosive in this passionate story of illicit romance and teenage angst over one long hot summer in the French countryside."

I'm a sucker for books wherein the protagonist is someone everyone seems to fall in love with, in one way or another. Adam does not have the depth of McDonald's first book, Orange Bitter, Orange Sweet (see below), but, in its own right, is a very enjoyable read.

Aubade -- Kenneth Martin [ out-of-print ]
back cover--> "It is the beginning of the summer and Paul has just left school. Estranged from the people around him and unable to communicate with his parent, he feels lonely and unloved. But his life suddenly changes when he meets a young medical student whom he renames Gary. Their relationship develops through the long hot summer, to reach its climax with the approach of autumn...

First published in 1957 and written when the author was only sixteen years old, this amazing first novel created a storm of controversy with its frank revelations about adolescent homosexual feelings and consciousness."

Sounds like any other coming-of-age story, huh. Trust me when I tell you that it is most certainly not.

At Swim, Two Boys -- Jamie O'Neill [ historical ]
snippet from inside cover --> "Set in Dublin and its near surrounds, At Swim, Two Boys follows the year to Easter 1916, the time of Ireland's brave but fractured uprising against British rule. At its core, it tells the love of two boys, Jim, a naive and reticent scholar, the younger son of a foolish, aspirant shopkeeper Mr. Mack, and Doyler, the dark rough diamond son of Mr. Mack's old army pal."

This book... is gorgeous. So good, in fact, that it's taken me over a year to put up even this pathetic review. Why is it so much easier to review bad books?? No matter this lifeless summary, this book is well worth the time and money. I highly recommend it.
[ note: I cannot as highly recommend two of his other books Disturbance and Kilbrack. If I had read them first, I never would have given At Swim, Two Boys a chance. They are not bad books, per se, but having read them one wonders why one bothered to do so. ]

Earthchild -- Doris Piserchia [ out-of-print ] / [ sci fi ]

Pryor Rendering -- Gary Reed
back cover excerpt --> "Charlie Hope lives in the working-class town of Pryor, Oklahoma. In this stunning novel glowing with life and character, Gary Reed tells the compelling and hauntingly real story of Charlie's life from the age of seven to the cusp of manhood---and his growing recognition of the possibility of a life beyond the small world he's always known."

More than anything else, I love fiction that portrays characters as themselves before they're laboured with all the traits they eventually become know for. Charlie, then, is not a Gay Teen (though he is a teen, eventually, and he is, as it turns out, gay). He's Charlie. He's a boy who has grown up in a small town without any true parental supervision to speak of, and who muddles through the world outside of what he knows in a refreshingly angst-less haze within which only a select few shine through with any sort of clarity. Though Reed's use of dialogue did, in a few instances, get on my last good nerve, his prose is, indeed, glowing.


Mary Renault
Fire From Heaven [ out-of-print ] / [ historical - ancient greece ]
The story of Alexander the Great's childhood. *adoration ensues*

The King Must Die [ historical - ancient greece ]
A realistic retelling of the legend of Theseus. This was the first of Ms. Renault's books that I read, and it astounded me. I've made no secret of my love of ancient Greece, and this woman brings that far ago time to life better than any other author I know.

The Last of the Wine [ historical - ancient greece ]

The Mask of Apollo [ historical - ancient greece ]

The Nature of Alexander [ historical - ancient greece ]
Non-fiction. I do not read non-fiction. It simply does not happen. I have no interest in it whatsoever. I do, however, have a great interest in Alexander, and reading a history of his life as written by someone who seems to love him as much as I... well, I couldn't pass that up, now could I. ^_~

The Persian Boy [ historical - ancient greece ]
editorial review on amazon --> "...Traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander’s mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone."


Tory's -- William Synder [ out-of-print ] / [ late 70's, early 80's ]
back cover --> "Meet Tory---handsome, sophisticated,shameless. A young hustler with a golden dream, he began with a one night stand---and ended up with the hottest nightclub in town: Tory's, a glittering playground where the rich and the famous, the powerful and the hungry, live out their most intimate fantasies... Tory's, an exotic heaven where any pleasure can be had for a price, and no price is too high---or too low. In a voluptuous paradise of cocaine and champagne, money and magic, desire and dazzling decadence, Tory's wildest fantasy becomes a living dream: He can have anything---or anyone---he wants.

Except George.

But Tory won't stop until he has it all."

By all rights, this book should have been bad. Hell, it should have been awful. With that blurb on the back? And that cover? *shudders* It was packaged to sell to people searching for the sensational and, in that, it delivers (in spades). The thing that saves it is that it's done well. Tory is not your stereotypical hustler. He's a well-rounded, intelligent individual who is living his life in a way that, admittedly, only the fabulous can. And he does it with a wit and humour that's perfectly delightful, instead of obnoxious and pretentious. This book travels down roads that would put the most depraved 80's mini-series to shame, but in the end Tory finds himself under the layers of drugs, parties and alcohol and, yeah, finds his man as well.

The Master -- Colm Tóibín
back cover --> "... Colm Tóibín captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of a man [Henry James] born into one of America's first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.

In stunningly resonant prose, Tóibín captures the loneliness and the hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed those he tried to love. The emotional intensity of this portrait is riveting."

Gaywyck -- Vincent Virga
back cover --> "Robert. With his blond hair, emerald eyes, and porcelain skin, [he] is almost too beautiful to be alive. He is only 17 when he travels to Gaywyck to catalog the mansion's vast library, never expecting to be flung into a terrifying web of danger, love, and lust.

Donough. The master of Gaywyck is the epitome of elegance and sophistication, and only his brooding good looks hint at the fires that rage beneath the surface. Though he longs to return Robert's love, he is haunted by the dark sexual secrets of his past.

Slowly, breathlessly, the passions of Donough and Robert rise to a towering crescendo. But the lovers are unaware of the hidden evil that is watching... waiting... determined to destroy them... This is the gothic romance gay men have yearned for."

My god, but I love this book. It's campy as hell, romantic to the extreme, and that 'gothic' up above? should really be capitalized, italicized and underscored. After multiple readings, it's just as much fun now as it was the first time I picked it up.

The Brothers Bishop -- Bart Yates [ incest ]
Whitney Scott, Copyright © American Library Association --> "Gay high-school English teacher Nathan Bishop lives in the small Connecticut town and the house in which he grew up, unlike brother Tommy, a decidedly urban type who's a real love-'em-and-leave-'em player with the guys. Imagine quiet Nathan's surprise when Tommy arrives with his current hunk and a married couple (man-woman, yet) for a vacation of sun and sand at his brother's place. Teaching summer school to kids, including attractive and hormonal Simon, 15, doesn't keep Nathan from seeing married-man Kyle's obvious ambivalence about his sexuality--a smoldering ember waiting to ignite. Kyle's confused, hurt wife, Camille, winds up drinking too much of the wine cellar Nathan inherited from dear old, abusive Dad. Add--much to Tommy's lustful appreciation--Simon to the already volatile mixture in Nathan's household, and the yearnings and entanglements extend to the school and the larger community in this smoothly written, well-paced exploration of issues of fathers and sons, forgiveness and acceptance."

back cover -->"At once both brutally honest and beautifully tender, The Brothers Bishop is a riveting story about the war we wage on those we love best, the cost of forgiveness, and the necessary pain of becoming fully human."

Warning: The ending is inevitably unhappy. You know it's coming (hence the 'inevitable'), but it still gets you right in the gut.

Middle Ground -- Ursula Zilinsky [ out-of-print ] / [ historical - ww II ]
back cover --> "Two males meet in a Nazi labour camp: half-Jewish teenager Tyl von Pankow, saved from the gas-chambers by the influence of his Prussian grandfather, and Johannes von Svestrom, war-wounded veteran of the Afrika Korps, now sentenced by Hitler to a terrible command. They are both trapped together in a nightmare devised to destroy them both, which demands that they relate to each other only as oppressor and victim. But as the insanity of their situation increases and the world around them collapses, they find themselves occupying the most untenable place of all. Middle Ground."

This one was a bit controversial when it came out in 1968, and I suppose it might still be considered so today. Set during WW II, the protagonist is a spoiled half-Jewish teen who was raised as non-Jew as you can get yet still ends up in a work camp (not a concentration camp due to his Prussian grandfather). There, he meets, and eventually falls in love with, the commander of the camp---an ex-panzer German officer who is as much against the war and its consequences as any prisoner of the camp. Happy ending (no sap, thankfully), cuz I do so hate miserable endings. Very good writing.

>> books well worth reading

Song of the Loon -- Richard Amory [ re-issue ]
back cover --> "The most popular gay book of the 1960s, Song of the Loon is a lusty gay frontier romance that tells the story of Ephraim MacIver, a nineteenth-century outdoorsman, and his travels though the American wilderness, where he meets a number of men who share with him stories, wisdom and intimate encounters. Unique among pulp novels of the time, the gay characters in Song of the Loon are strong and romantically drawn, traits which have earned the book a place in the canon of gay American literature."

This book is, by its authors' admission, a plotless pastoral. It is a tale of a journey to self knowledge and self acceptance specifically geared towards the gay man. In an era when gay literature was comprised of either tactless smut or more well written novels that ended very badly, a book with such an uplifting and positive message was a much needed alternative. The use of Indians of "dubious ethnography" will most likely cause the more politically correct among us to have fits, but the characters are drawn from the mind of a man who was deeply fascinated in and respectful of Native American culture. They are, again by his own admission, vessels of wisdom based on a sixteenth century "mock heroic style". When read literally, it comes off as dated and maudlin. When read for what it is, it is idyllic and delightful. With sex. ^_~*

Shadowdance -- Robin Wayne Bailey [ out-of-print ] / [ fantasy ]
inside cover --> "Innowen met the Witch of Shanalane completely by accident during a violent storm she had conjured. He'd been crawling through the mud of the forest floor---a crippled youth desperately seeking help for his guardian, Drushen, who'd been bitten by a poisonous snake.

The Witch saved Drushen's life and then, to Innowen's amazement, she used her magic to give him a priceless gift---the ability to walk.

His legs were still useless by day, but between sunset and sunrise he enjoyed freedom he'd never experienced before. And all he had to do to maintain it was to dance each night---that much the Witch told him.

But she never explained what would happen to those who saw him dance. That horror he discovered on his own."

On the 2nd read, I found parts of this book dragging terribly. But Innowen (nicknamed Innocent *loves*) is just as fascinating as every character in the book also finds him, and seemingly everyday events are connected to others in ways that are, ultimately, profound and very satisfying.

untitled series -- Wilhemina Baird (there is a male / female / male love triangle that loses a male part rather early on...)(though there's another male thrown in, by then end)(*rolls eyes*) / [ sci fi ]
• Book 1: Crashcourse
• Book 2: Clipjoint
• Book 3: Psykosis

Finding Faith -- Andrew Barriger
Being cheated on by your boyfriend sucks. Finding out your boyfriend is cheating on you by walking in on him in the act is taking suckiness to an entirely new level, especially when you had been pretty sure that this was Love. What can a guy do but get away? Leaving the city behind him, up-and-coming employment lawyer Taylor Connolly retreats to the home of his best friend, Gen, and decides that maybe small town life would suit him better, despite the commute. Especially since the town baker has an arresting smile that Taylor can't help but fall for. Follows: your typical romance, with the exceptions that Tom (divine baker and soon-to-be teacher) isn't 'out', the decidedly female neighborhood real estate agent is interested in Taylor in all the wrong ways, and Neil (a startlingly attractive friend of a friend) is interested in all the right ones. Will True Love find a way? Of course it will. Happily enough, there is never a doubt, but the journey is not less worth the taking for all that. (I told the guys at work that I didn't read romances, and I don't. it wasn't 'til i picked up this book again that I realized I'd inadvertently lied...)

Vintage -- Steve Berman
back cover --> "In a small town, a lonely teen walking along a highway one autumn evening meets the boy of his dreams, a boy who happens to have died decades ago and haunts the road. Awkward crushes, both bitter and sweet, lead him to face not only the ghost but youthful dreams and childish fears. With its cast of offbeat friends, antiques and Ouija boards, Vintage offers readers a memorable blend of dark humor, chills and love that is not your typical teen romance."

This is very much a Young Adult book. As such, it's not really all that deep. It's an enjoyable book and one that I will keep and reread, but a few months after reading it that's about all I can say about it. 

The Catch Trap -- Marion Zimmer Bradley [ out-of-print ]
From the Inside Flap --> "A magnificent, colorful novel of the circus world of the 1940s and 1950s, rich in detail, bursting with power and emotion. Mario Santelli, a member of the famous flying Santelli family, is a great trapeze artist. Tommy Zane is his protegé. As naturally and gracefully as they soar through the air, the two flyers find themselves falling in love. Mario and Tommy share sweet stolen moments of passion, but the real intensity of their relationship comes from their total devotion to one another and to their art. As public figures in a conservative era, they cannot reveal their love. But they will never renounce it. A tremendously moving tale, a rich family saga, a wise and compassionate portrait of a special love in a special world."

"Rich family sagas" are not quite my thing, which explains why I set this book down halfway through and took a breather before I let myself pick it up again. This in no way, oddly enough, affects my reaction to the book, which was positive throughout. At many times, this is not a pleasant story---it is rife with violence, jealousy, and bigotry. But, as we all know, that's life, and this book captures it very well (in a slightly mini-series-esque way).

Dragon Bones, and its sequel, Dragon Blood -- Patricia Briggs [ fantasy ]
book description on amazon --> "Ward of Hurog has tried all his life to convince people he is just a simple, harmless fool...And it's worked. But now, to regain his kingdom, he must ride into war-and convince them otherwise."

Drawing Blood -- Poppy Z. Brite
back cover --> "In the house on Violin Road he found the bodies of his brother, his mother, and the man who killed them both -- his father. From the house on Violin Road, in Missing Mile, North Carolina, Trevor McGee ran for his sanity and his soul, after his famous cartoonist father had exploded inexplicably into murder and suicide. Now Trevor is back.

In the company of a New Orleans computer hacker on the run from the law, Trevor has returned to face the ghosts that still live on Violin Road, to find the demons that drove his father to murder his family -- and worse, to spare one of his sons... But as Trevor begins to draw his own cartoon strip, as he loses himself in a haze of lines and art and thoughts of the past, the haunting begins. Trevor and his lover plunge into a cyber-maze of cartoons, ghosts, and terror that will lead either to understanding -- true understanding -- or to a blood-raining repetition of the past..."

A horror / hacking (as in computers, not people ^_^) tale. I will not go so far as to say that Poppy is a particularly good writer---this is the only of her books that I can stomach---but this work certainly is entertaining.

[ note: now that I've read another of Poppy's books, namely Lost Souls (which is nothing more than a pointless study in gothic futility), I can definitively state that, despite how much fun I have with Drawing Blood, I have no need whatsoever to pick up any more of her works. ]

St. Mick -- Jack Challenge [ out of print ]
back cover --> "Through the simple act of picking up a hitchhiker, a married-with-children California architect finds himself attracted to a young red-haired sailor, Mick. This encounter causes him to flash back on his first sexual experience, with a 14-year-old red-haired boy---an experience he has repressed until now. A floodgate of feelings and memories are opened that lead him into total infatuation with Mick, a crumbling marriage, and an ongoing struggle to come to terms with the events around him and his feelings within.

Despite the underlying seriousness of the subject, the author writes in a fast-paced, clean style with many touches of biting humor and even hilarity. Included are incisive pictures of California lifestyle, a picture of gay bars and the destructive underside of gay life, and witty characterizations of people who float in and out of the novel as the hero wends his way toward self-knowledge and truth."

Jeremy is not an introspective man-- he's a do-er, not a think-er. HIs 8-year-old step-son Starkey has more depth and maturity. But Jeremy is fun; a random swinger who uses sex as much as he is used by it. What I enjoy about this book is that the protagonist doesn't change. He starts out a wolf (the wife is newly wed to and the children are not his) and, despite the almost farcical horror that his life becomes due to his involvement with Mick, the novel ends with Jeremy catching the eye of a pretty young man and noting that, while the past cannot be recaptured, the future could be bright. 

Latter Days -- screenplay by C. Jay Cox, adapted by T. Fabris
In RL, I do not believe in romance. This is mostly due to the fact that, in general, I have no faith whatsoever in humanity not to suck. Undoubtedly this contributes a hell of alot to my being such a sucker for (m/m) romance in (written) fiction. But still, can you really believe that two beautiful and disparate people could fall truly and madly in love in the space of a few short conversations, a smattering of equally short meetings in a laundry room? Hell no. This does nothing to dissuade me from swooning mightily by this books end. Aaron and Christian---it's love at first sight, though neither of them knew it. In the space of 232 short pages, they have both not only found each other, but have completely changed their respective lives in order to be with one another. It's totally unbelievable, thoroughly implausible, and, yes, totally romantic.

the Epic Tales of the Five series
-- Diane Duane [ out-of-print ] / [ fantasy ]
• The Door Into Fire
• The Door Into Shadow
• The Door Into Sunset

the Space Cops series -- Diane Duane and Peter Morwood [ out-of-print ] / [ sci fi ]
• HIgh Moon
• MIndblast

Grand literature, they are not. Great fun, they are. Heh... I'm such a sucker...

Covenants -- Lorna Freeman [ fantasy ]
I really and truly can't remember when I last enjoyed a book more. Covenants is utterly brilliant in its simplicity. My favourite books are, I'll be the 1st to admit, running over with bottomless plots, not to mention various and sundry forms of ambiguity. They're the kind of books that, when I've finished with them, leave me positively aching, in one way or another. This book... is comfortable, it's approachable, and, dang it, it's downright fun. It has a main character that you like within the 1st page. It has short chapters that keep the action moving. It has, true, a somewhat large cast of characters, but never is the number overwhelming enough that when someone speaks you have to check a list to find out who the heck he is. There is no angst, though there is tension. Everything is what it appears to be, except when it's not. And then there's the main reason why I bought this book -- the absence of a female lead. I've gone over before how I really do like women, I swear, but in fiction it is extremely rare that they are anything but romantic, emotional whiners. *cough* So to find a book with no romantic entanglements whatsoever was a literal godsend. It also means, that -- yes, yes -- this book is slash-y in the extreme. *feral grin* By its completion, I was feeling thankful that I'd found it at all, and even more thankful that there is a sequel due out soon. As long as they avoid sticking Rabbit with a tempestuous sprite or a wily noblewoman (*grimace*), I am so there. *grin*
[ note: there is a worthwhile sequel, The King's Own, which annoyed me at times if only because the book is so slashy that you really miss the slash... ]

Hunted -- James Alan Gardner [ sci fi ]

The Pelican Fables - Ian Gray (small pub)
back cover --> "A modern day gay Lolita, The Pelican Fables is a poetic and provocatively written coming-of-age story that confronts the burgeoning sexuality of a young man in his last year of prep school.

Adam Proffit is torn apart by his longstanding, highly concealed crush on his roommate of two years, Kellum Thurman, and the newly arrived faculty member, Carter Moran, whom Adam believes may share his attraction. But within the conservatively charged atmosphere of the Melbourne School, acting upon any of his sexual impulses presents a dangerous proposition that could jeopardize Adam's existence at Melbourne and destroy the future for which he has worked so long and hard.

But keeping his feelings hidden poses perhaps an even graver and more devastating challenge. Adam must either come to terms with his sexuality or find the emerging self within him destroyed.

Uplifting and surprising, The Pelican Fables will keep you wondering until the very last page."

This book was pleasantly surprising. It's scant 135 pages is somehow just enough, though there certainly could have been more. A modern gay Lolita, however, it is not. It is, yes, yes, one of the throngs of coming-of-age stories that somehow never get old. Even though the book begins and ends with Carter Moran, the story is really Adam's, with all the angsting and self-doubt required of the Teen Hero, yet done in a way that is true to life. This book is by no means a masterpiece -- it could have been developed much more deeply and Carter dealt with more thoroughly, but it was a good read.

Living Upstairs -- Joseph Hanson
back cover --> "When Hoyt Stubblefield ambles into the cavernous bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard where 19-year-old Nathan Reed works, his good looks and wry Texas charm hold the boy spellbound. Within a week, Nathan has packed up his few belongings and moved in with Hoyt---into a rickety old house, and into his bed. And so Nathan embarks on the happiest adventure of his young life---and the most ominous. For Hoyt inhabits not just the world of ideas, books, music, and paintings, but a secret world of dangerous acquaintances, and the betrayal of innocence And as it races toward a shocking climax, Living Upstairs resoundingly confirms that Joseph Hansen is at the top of his form."

This book... is nothing like the blurb on the back cover but for the characters names and the fact that they do share a bed. It is also nothing like the reviews on the back cover. Historical? Barely. Villains? Not quite. I, however, like what the book is more than what I might have expected it to be. The ending, just to warn you, does fall terribly flat, but Nathan is one of those characters written well enough that it's a joy to read the book if only for him.

The Fire's Stone -- Tanya Huff [ fantasy ]
I didn't read fantasy for years, after having totally overdosed on Dragonlance in high school. But I get so desperate now that I've slipped back in a bit. As long as there are no elves or dwarves, I'm pretty much ok. This one has wizards and princes, not acting like wizards or princes, tracking down a stolen magical stone that is the only thing standing between a royal city and (I had to say it) fiery destruction. And the Prince falls for a man. How the heck could you go wrong?

the Quarters series -- Tanya Huff [ fantasy ] / the gay relationships are important, but not the main story
• No Quarter
• The Fifth Quarter
• The Quartered Sea

Kevin
-- Wallace Hamilton [ out-of-print ]
If you've read my 'very', this was one of my inspirations...


Christopher Isherwood
Christopher and His Kind
back cover --> "Originally published in 1976, Christopher and His Kind covers the most memorable 10 years in the writer's life---from 1929, when Isherwood left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, to 1939, when he arrived in America.

What most impressed the first readers of this memoir was the candor with which he describes his life in gay Berlin of the 1930s and his struggles to save his companion, Heinz, from the Nazis. An engrossing and dramatic story and a fascinating glimpse into a little-known world, Chrisopher and His Kind remains one of Isherwood's greatest achievements."

This is the 1st of Isherwood's books that I read. I had heard of him, of course, but somehow had never read any of his works. After a fair amount of review-perusing, I settled on Christopher and His Kind as a good starting point. A few reviewers had mentioned the pretension of a fairly young man penning his own atuo-biography and referring to himself in the 3rd person. And, it is true, reading through the 1st few chapters of this book, I was struck not only be his literacy, but by his arrogance. And there is no denying that young Christopher was indeed arrogant. But after a while, you realize that Christopher refers to himself in the 3rd person because he is no longer the person he was (a theme in many of his works). And his tale, while in no way life-changing, is engrossing and entertaining. By the end of this book, I was in hooked. Maybe not by Isherwood himself, but certainly by his writing.

Lions and Shadows
back cover --> "In 1938 the legendary Hogarth Press published the first of Christopher Isherwood's autobiographical writing, Lions and Shadows. In this book, Isherwood evokes the atmosphere of Cambrigde as only he knew it, describing his life as a tutor, medical student, and struggling writer. The result is a captivating account of a young novelist's development in the burgeoning literary culture of the 1920s and of his experiences as he forges lifelong friendships with his peers W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and Edward Upward."

The 2nd book of Isherwood's that I read is actually the 1st part of his auto-bio. This is where I can see his critics wondering why the hell he wrote any of this stuff down. While Christopher and His Kind is set at least in interesting times (WWII), this book is decidedly not. It is, for lack of a better word, boring. Christopher's snappy writing is the only thing that saves it. Half of the book had me yawning, the other half had me chuckling (in the good way). Was it worth reading? Yes, if you're interested in Isherwood and enjoy how he turns a phrase. Otherwise, I'd skip this one.


Firelands -- Michael Jensen [ historical setting - the American frontier - but yet not all that historical... ]
back cover --> "The winter of 1799 is falling fast on the Ohio frontier settlement of Hugh's Lick. Food is scarce, and tense relations with the neighboring Delaware village threaten to erupt into an all-out war. But things are about to get much worse.

In the midst of a ferocious storm, frontiersman Cole Seavey is attacked by a terrifying creature spawned from the bowels of hell. Pakim, a Delaware brave, rescues a gravely wounded Cole and delivers him to safety at the home of friendly settlers outside Hugh's Lick.

In shock, Cole almost convinces himself that his recollection of the monster -- as well as his confusing feelings for Pakim -- are simply the products of his fevered brain. But then the killings begin. As the townspeople wait in terror for the next ferocious attack, Cole and Pakim learn the ghastly violence is the work of an ancient, implacable menace: the wendigo.

Soon the forest is littered with sundered corpses, and most of the settlers flee. Only Cole, Pakim, and their small band of allies remain to confront the wendigo -- which is closer than they think."

Set in the American frontier, Firelands is decidedly... non-American-frontier-y. Considering the fact that I care not a whit for American history, that's a very good thing. What this book does have is a young, good looking protagonist, a non-stop storyline (that, yes, would and could only work in a fictional world), and a gorgeous Indian lover of said protagonist. No, it isn't a brilliant work, but does it really need to be? It's engaging and pretty (if violent) and well worth the money and time.

Wicked Angels -- Eric Jourdan [ is it incest if they're cousins? ]
inside flap --> "Wicked Angels is the exquisite English translation of the classic 1955 French literary novel Les manvais anges, banned for thirty years for what was called its "subversive" subject matter. It is the story of Pierre and Gerard, two teenagers who share a love that no one else around them can condone. The two young men discover their destiny in each other's arms, their passion coupled with violence -- and ultimately pay the price. The novel is a profoundly lyrical ode to adolescent love and sexuality as well as a bold and elegant rejection of society's values, brought to light via the tale of two young men on the road to self-destruction."

This book is quite short, a scant 120 pages, as all works of lyricism are, and should be. As with books of poetry, though this is a prose work, I found I could only stomach small chunks at a time -- otherwise they'd have overwhelmed me. This is a beautiful piece of literature. It is also, if read literally, violent and disturbing. If you've read any of Jean Genet's work, Wicked Angels is comparable if only due to the fact that it describes distasteful subject matters with grace and dignity.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man -- James Joyce
The only book I read in high school which stuck with me. I actually own 3 copies of it. I will not go so far as to say that I truly understand Joyce as a writer (Ulysses still confounds me...), but this book, the most approachable of his works, remains one which helped shape me as a reader.

"Hello," I Lied -- M. E. Kerr [ young adult ]
Amazon.com editorial erview --> "Lang Penner is a happily adjusted 17-year-old gay teen who is engaged in a loving relationship with Alex, a 20-year-old actor. When Lang becomes emotionally involved with Huguette, the French daughter of a famous deceased rock star, life suddenly becomes more complicated."

You know what I liked best about this book? It was simple. There was no overwhelming teenage angst, no horrific misunderstandings, no circumstances that lead to events which will affect the characters adversely for their entire lives---it's just... life. I found it pleasantly charming and incredibly refreshing.

Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners -- Ellen Kushner
A totally unromantic romance. (There is a sequel, of sorts, to this - The Fall of the Kings - which did not go over nearly so well with me. While the characters were engaging, it was too politically slanted for my tastes. And it ends quite depressingly. *grimace to both*)

While England Sleeps -- David Leavitt [ historical - the spanish civil war ]
A book which I recall as quite well-written and deeply moving, but which ended so tragically that I haven't been able to read it again. "Air of doomed romance", indeed...

The Dancers of Arun -- Elizabeth Lynn [ out-of-print ] / [ fantasy ] / [ incest ]
The story of Kerris, a boy who lost his arm in a raid when he was a child, growing up orphaned and virtually unfriended in a hostile, northern keep. In his 17th year, his long absent brother (Kel) returns for him, taking him along to his home in the south where he discovers his magical heritage as well as how to control his own magic. Like others of Lynn's works, there really is no strong plot line to drive the story along, but the characters are so likable in an I-can't-really-believe-people-like-this-could-ever-exist kind of way that it's re-readable anyways. Also out of print. What fun!

Orange Bitter, Orange Sweet -- Anthony McDonald
back cover --> "... McDonald's haunting debut follows the intertwined relationships of six young people [ in mid-seventies Seville ]---a potent mix of nationalities and sexualities. Richly imbued with the scent of orange blossoms and the sound of classical guitars, this deeply felt romantic novel explores love, frustration and betrayal."

The Year of Ice -- Brian Malloy
From Publishers Weekly - Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --> "A gay high school senior struggles to cope with his father's irresponsibility in Malloy's poignant, quietly effective debut, set in Minneapolis in the late '70s. From the outside looking in, protagonist Kevin Doyle seems like a normal, party-happy 17-year-old, but the combination of a troubled family life and his secret crush on one of his best friends definitely sets him apart from the pack. The family issues revolve around his dad, Pat, an ordinary 40-something widower with plenty of romantic prospects as the book opens. But Kevin is furious when he learns that Pat's infidelity may have contributed to the car accident that took his mother's life, and his anger increases exponentially when his father impregnates the woman he had the affair with, then marries her after a brief dalliance with another woman. Malloy's coming-of-age narrative can be generic, but he handles the gay angle nicely as he explores Kevin's difficulty in finding an outlet for his hormonal urges even as he struggles to maintain a relationship with a classmate named Allison Minczeski, who falls for him. The author also displays a razor-sharp comic touch in the verbal sparring between father and son as Pat tries to bring his instant family together, and he balances the comedy with some touching scenes after Pat messes up his latest domestic venture. Malloy shows plenty of talent in his gay spin on the genre, and this debut bodes well for his literary future."

Beyond Apollo -- Barry Malzberg [ out-of-print ] / ref.s to homosexual leanings that may or may not have been based in reality
amazon editorial review --> "Two astronauts embark upon the first manned voyage to Venus. Only one returns and writes a journal promising to explain the true events of the voyage."


Gordon Merrick [ out-of-print ] / [ late 70's, early 80's ]
There are a few things to keep in mind when reading a book by Mr. Merrick. First, and most relevant, is the fact that he could write well. Cloying dialogue and soggy pet names aside, he turned a damn good phrase. It is worth it to read his work. Which brings us to the flip side of the coin: Mr. Merrick wrote in Types. There is the (Bi)sexual Man, very virile with a strong hetero bent, who is entranced by the idea of procreation. This 1st type may or may not have sexual relations with men and, even then, might be able to be involved emotionally with them and may just see it as Damn Good Sex. Then there is the Strictly Gay Man. He has a decidedly, though subtly, feminine bent, mostly due to his sexual submissiveness. He is the Ultimate Bottom---the very idea of topping is anathema to him. Slight variations of these two main Types populate all of his novels. They are, unfailingly, startlingly attractive and extremely well-hung. They also inhabit a world where there are no truly Happy Endings---one at times gets the impressions that Mr. Merrick approved of homosexuality but somewhat bitterly did not view it as a viable life option. Regardless, I have read and enjoyed, to varying degrees, most of his fiction---it is remarkably addictive.
An Idol For Others
inside blurb --> "Gordon Merrick here gives his readers one of his richest characters, Walter Makin, who to the outside world is the perfect father and happy husband. It is little known to his public that he, too, seeks a greater happiness and will not rest until he finds the man who can give it to him."

This is an unusual concept for Mr. Merrick, as the (Bi)sexual Man is searching for love with someone of his own sex, though not actively. Having long since given up an any dream of real love with his wife, he has focused on his career, making of himself a household name and surpassing the dreams of his youth. But when Love catches hold of his heart, he's willing to give up everything to finally keep it for himself. This sounds really schmoopy. Maybe it's all the "darling"s... Walter is, however, the only of Mr. Merrick's (Bi)sexual Men that I was completely sympathetic to.

Percect Freedom
back cover --> "They were the fabulous coslings of St.Tropez: dapper American expatriate Stuart Cosling; his ravishing French wife, Helene; and their stunningly handsome son, Robbie. To his parents, Robbie was still a boy--until on a cruise of the Greek islands, he discovered the pleasures of manhood with a deckhand on his father's yacht."

This is, to date, my favourite of Mr. Merrick's books. Robbie is one of those completely engaging characters that I so love---gorgeous, loving, and Strictly Gay. It is also the book that, its prologue and open ending aside, concludes on the most uplifting note.

Peter & Charlie Trilogy -- The Lord Won't Mind, One for the Gods, & The Lord Won't Mind
These are probably the most well known of Mr. Merrick's works. They were certainly the first of his books that I read. They are also books which I did not keep. Peter, the Strictly Gay Man in the equation, I love. He is endearing and open, charming and honest. Charlie, the (Bi)sexual Man, is one of the most obnoxious characters I have ever come across. Fighting against his need for Peter, he not only hyprocitically becomes involved with women, but lashes out, both emotionally and physically, causing pain of all sorts to those who are attracted to, apparently, his blond good looks and mythic schlong. The first book I re-bought, for Peter's sake. The last two I have no intention of ever reading again.

The Quirk
inside blurb --> "His name is Rod. He is wealthy and a painter and 23 and in Paris---and he is ready for anything. Anything is the quirk, his adoring and adorable young man, Patrice, whose life is played out across the many-hued panorama of the Parisian art world.

The vivid canvas reveals the dazzling Nicole, irresistible Germaine, and the violently sexual Prince, nicknamed "Beauty", whose obsessions drive Rod to at last see himself as he truly is."

This is the first of Mr. Merrick's books that I picked up many years after the partial fiasco of the Peter & Charlie trilogy. Rod, as the (Bi)sexual man does a tremendous, if more than slightly unstable, job at being virile, being entranced by procreation, and finding himself drawn to men sexually. And Patrice? is a dream. Strictly Gay, he is not the usually gorgeous and well-hung bottom (that role, here, goes to Beauty). Small, compact, and, yes, quirky, he is as secure with himself and his sexuality as he can be, considering his past. The first 2/3 of this book are a singularly guilty pleasure. The last 1/3 is so wtf that I couldn't even take offense, cuz, seriously, wtf???


Parsival: or a Knight's Tale -- Richard Monaco [ out-of-print ]
A tale of the authurian knight, "this book makes poetry out of the muck and blood of everyday life; has three-dimension characters; epic scope, humor, love and magic and once you're into it you don't put it down.Up there with the classics of any genre. Unique." - amazon reviewer

The Stone Prince -- Fiona Patton [ fantasy ]
So rote that at times it's downright monotonous, but enjoyable all the same.

The Sweet Dove Died -- Barbara Pym [ out-of-print ] / has a gay male character, but he is not the main focus
"Novelist Barbara Pym's deft touch with the nuances of personality and social class in England in the 1970's is enhanced by Sheila Hancock's skillful reading. Her evocative characterizations bring a rich fullness to the quiet story of Lenore, a beautiful but aging woman competing for the affections of James, a man almost half her age. She manages to vanquish his young girlfriend but has more difficulty with a young American male lover. She also must cope with James's uncle, who is pursuing her. Hancock reflects Pym's sympathy for the confusion and loneliness of the characters but also catches the humor in the author's razor-sharp depictions of their follies." - amazon editorial review

Metes and Bounds -- Jay Quinn
Amazon Book Description --> "In this unusual coming-of-age novel, author Jay Quinn surveys the expanding emotional and sexual boundaries of Matt, an eighteen-year-old surfer in coastal North Carolina. Set against the broad skies and beaches of North Carolina's Outer Banks, Matt's story of claiming his place as a surfer and as a gay man in the small and large worlds of construction sites, fishing piers, and surf breaks, is a triumph of storytelling.

As Matt's dedication to surfing and learning the nuances of the technical aspects of his job join seamlessly, he also learns of his own capacity for erotic adventure and need for emotional connection. Matt's many layers of learning to be a man are the stuff of hard-earned experience and a textured reading experience that is rare in the coming-of-age genre."

Um. Yeah. 3/4 of the time, I marked this up as one of the most mediocre books ever written, the other 1/4, bits of brilliance came through. Was this book worth reading? Yes. And yet, I would really hesitate to call it 'good'...
-- update: enjoyed this book much more on the 2nd reading.

Cry To Heaven
-- Anne Rice
I've long since outgrown Ms. Rice, as well as this book, but I remember that it struck me quite forcibly at first reading. Of course, I was in high school at the time... ^_~

A Density of Souls -- Christopher Rice
Back cover --> "The story of four young friends in New Orleans whose lives are pulled in drastically different directions when they enter high school. Meredith, Brandon, Stephen, and Greg, once inseparable, are torn apart by envy, secret passion, and rage. Soon two violent deaths disrupt the core of what they once shared. Five years later the friends are reunited, and , when one of the deaths is discovered to be a murder, secrets unravel and the casual cruelties of high school develop into acts of violence that threaten an entire city."

"I love a good train wreck". The lyric from She Wants Revenge's song could have been written for this book. It's so over the top that you simply cannot connect with any of the main characters. This in no way detracts from being able to enjoy the book, but it's a different sort of enjoyment---like being addicted to a soap opera, despite yourself. In fact, if an evil long lost twin had shown up, it would have fit right in with the "murder, suicide, and madness".

The Dark Beyond the Stars -- Frank Robinson [ sci fi ]
From Library Journal -->"Aboard the generation ship Astron, bound on a mission to seek out life amid the stars, an insane captain resolves to lead his crew into empty space (and almost certain death), while a crewman struggles to retrieve his lost memories so that the last remnants of humanity can survive."

The Coming Storm -- Paul Russell
back cover --> "Set against the backdrop of a traditional boys' school in upstate New York, The Coming Storm is a delicately and brilliantly rendered tale that reveals the most closely held secrets of the human heart. Russell's award-winning novel is the story of four interesting lives---Louis Tremper, the headmaster at the Forge School; his wife, Claire; Tracey Parker, a twenty-five year old gay man and recently hired teacher at the Forge School; and Noah Lathrop III, a troubled student---all of whom struggle with their own inner demons, desires, and conflicted loyalties. When Tracey and Noah become involved in an illicit relationship, dark incidents from the school's past begin colliding with the current growing confusion that all of them must face."

This... was a good book. Too good, really. Russell's depiction of emotion and reaction were so spot on that there were times that I just had to put it down---it was all too painful, too close to home. This is a book I could not finish. It was too full of falling in love with what we want to be there, and not necessarily what is. If, unlike myself, you're not an emotional wuss *cough*, I highly recommend it.

John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed -- Robert Skidelsky
back cover --> "In fascinating detail, this book examines the formative years of the eccentric economist John Maynard Keynes and how he exerted a profound influence upon the problems of his time. Robert Skidelsky lucidly explains the cultural and biographical elements that led to the 'Keynesian Revolution': Keynes' relationships with his Cambridge and Bloomsbury friends; his early reflection on probability; his anguished response to the First World War and the Paris Peace Conference, and the writing of his most brilliant and passionate work, The Economic Consequences of Peace. Exhaustively researched, The New York Review of Books labels this landmark biography 'indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the young Keynes and the moral and philosophical problems that exercised his mind'."

I took one economics course in college. It was required, and I muddled through with my usual good grace, but, really, I have no interest whatsoever in economics or probability. If, then, those topics had been the main focus of this book, I would have been profoundly disappointed. That is, after all, not why one picks up a biography. What made this book so memorable is Keynes himself. He was not at all what I had expected. I had come across this biography in my search for non-fiction works on past poets and homosexual figures in history. While he was never the former, he was most certainly the latter. It's these glimpses into Keynes' non-economic life that are so enjoyable. Yet all of this is surrounded by a plethora of information concerning the times Maynard grew up in, how the changing views on religion and man's purpose affected his thoughts and views, and how those same thoughts and views affected the history of economics itself. Keynes was a brilliant man, there is no disputing the fact, but it is the man who speaks freely of sodomy and is reduced by Florence to "a lump of Italian idleness" that truly captured my interest.

Landscape: Memory -- Matthew Stadler
back cover --> "This stunningly crafted novel takes place in the years of a boy's passage to manhood in the shimmering, vibrant San Francisco of 1914. The son of a suffragette mother and eccentric ornithologist father, Maxwell Field Kosegarten keeps a poignant record of discovery and loss in the diary his mother gives him for his 16th birthday. Even as he and his half-Persian friend, Duncan, explore the ruins left behind by the 1906 earthquake, the gala World's Fair, and the erotic, soul-shaking feelings of first love, the romantic glow of this interlude between boyhood and maturity is tarnished by accounts of the carnage in France and then by the swift, tragic ending of Max and Duncan's love affair. As memory and reality entwine, as ideas mutate through introspection, and as feelings struggle for life on paper, Landscape: Memory becomes a lyrical, beautifully written narrative -- an impressive debut for a gifted young writer."

As a general rule, I do not have any great fondness for books written in the form of diary entries. Dracula, Dangerous Liasons... for all that they translated to the screen well, I found the books themselves tedious and lifeless -- I simply need dialogue. This book, as well, is written in diary entries, but whole conversations are included, so I do not feel that glaring lack of interaction. Maxwell is a very interesting boy. Shaped by his singularly odd parents and his unconventional education, his mind works in unusual ways that lend itself well to this type of format -- he actually has something interesting to say. His relationship with Duncan seems doomed from the start, not because of the "tragic ending" (which I found to be  arbitrary, at best), but due to Maxwell's singular mindset -- he seems not made to live in the real world. The loss of Duncan severs the few ties that hold Maxwell to a concrete reality, though perhaps only temporarily. Far from detracting from the novel as a whole, Maxwell, and thereby his story, is the more likable for his uncommonness.

Toby's Lie -- Daniel Vilmure [ out-of-print ]
book description on amazon --> "Toby Sligh has one ambitionto come out in spectacular fashion by dancing with his boyfriend at his Catholic high school Prom. Unfortunately, revealing the truth about his sexuality is the least of his worries. His mother has inexplicably moved out; his father is drowning his sorrows in beer; his best friend, a crack dealer pursued by both the law and the mob, has asked him to hide his stash; and Ian, his boyfriend, is becoming increasingly more aloof. In the midst of this turmoil, Toby meets Father Scarcross, a mysterious priest suffering with AIDS who tells him to search for the truth about life, and about himself.

In a world where nothing is what it seems, and everyone has a past to conceal, Toby makes a dizzying high-speed journey through the playgrounds and hospitals, bedrooms and classrooms, backseats and back alleys of his shadow existencecoping with drug deals, blackmail, bomb threats, AIDS, death, and betrayed love. The stunning finale draws together the tangled threads of his life in a masterful mix of pathos, irreverent humor, and shocking revelations."

Years later, I still haven't been able to work myself up to reading this book again. It isn't desperately sad, but any happiness you thought there might have been turns out to have been something quite different at its conclusion. Mind you, it was really damn good so even though I may never read it again, it's well worth hanging on to.

The Merro Tree -- Katie Waitman [ out-of-print ] / [ sci-fi ]
back cover --> " In the far reaches of our galaxy, the artist will face the ultimate censorship.

Mikk of Vyzania, the galaxy's greatest performance master, commanded stages on all the myriad worlds. His sublime, ethereal performances were unforgettable, drawing on the most treasured traditions of every culture, every people, throughout inhabited space. His crowning achievement, and his obsession: the Somalite song dance, an art form that transcends both song and movement to become something greater and more spectacular . . . almost divine.

When tragic events caused performance of the song dance to be proscribed, Mikk was devastated . . . until his strong sense of justice forced him to defy the ban. His trial will be the most sensational in the recent history of the galaxy; the sentence he faces is death.

Now the greatest performance master must hope to become the greatest escape artist. Somehow Mikk must break the stranglehold of censorship and change the law . . . or die trying!"

I put off reading this one for a long time. I seriously can't stand courtroom dramas, especially when the good guy truly is a Good Guy. And that part of the book... I really didn't like. This, I was expecting. I also didn't appreciate how Waitman repeatedly used moments from Mikk's trial to bring to light significant moments from his past (or vice versa. once or twice, I could see. by the 5th time, it came off as little more than a ploy). And the means by which Waitman snatches her main character out of harm's way is so deus ex machina that it's laughable. *rolls eyes* However, Mikk's relationship with Thissizz, the male snake-like creature who is Mikk's soul mate, is astounding and true and beautiful. This---the character development and growth, in addition to the far-flung setting---is what made the book worth reading.

The Book of the New sun (comprised of Shadow and Claw and Sword and Citadel)
& The Urth of the New Sun
-- Gene Wolfe
[ note: The Urth of the New Sun is an afterthought, but rounds off the story so well that I wouldn't recommend reading The Book of the New Sun without it. ]
Whoa. Odd fiction. Truly. It's that which drew me in, to be sure, but it's also that which almost put me off. This is like nothing I've ever read before. It is truly unique and entirely creative. It's also a bit confusing, at points, and thoroughly thought provoking. The story of Severian the Torturer is twisting and complex and, at its completion, full of much more meaning than you may have though at its beginning. These are not 'easy' works to read, but by the the last pages of The Urth of the New Sun, you'll have found the journey to have been well worth taking.

>> for you to decide

The God in Flight -- Laura Argiri
inside cover snippet --> "The God in Flight is the deeply felt and brilliantly realized story of a dangerous love between a professor and a student at Yale University in the 1880's."

Never in my entire life of, you must imagine, rather prolific reading have I come across a book which, by its end, had me wanting it out of my sight so quickly that I all but threw it in the trash. Jesus H Christ on a pogostick. I might have mentioned 4 or 500 times how much I'm a sucker for characters whom everyone falls in love with. This book takes that to the opposite extreme. Argiri gives us not one, but two men who are so obnoxious and emotionally stunted that it's all but unbelievable. The one character who I did like (very much in fact) and who made the first third of the book a perfect joy to read, leaves off rather early on. How his namesake, Simion, having lived through such a horrid and cruel childhood could grow up into such a vulgar, selfish, worthless prat is beyond me. And his beloved Professor? All he has going for him is his amazing artistic talent and godlike looks. I'm all for beautiful people (in fiction, at least), but beautiful people with horrendous or downright absent personalities annoy me as much in the written word as they do in RL. I had had more than enough of it with about 100 pages to go, but I made myself finish it---I think I was hoping for closure, at the very least. In the end I needn't have bothered---if anything, I dislike the book more now than when I first put it down.

That said, the reviews on Amazon for this book are stellar---a number of people simply adored it. *boggles* So maybe you'll like it, too??

Transformation and its sequels Revelation and Restoration -- Carol Berg [ fantasy ]
back cover --> "Sevonne was not always a slave. Once his people were the guardians of magic such as the land has never seen, protectors and defenders. But the Derzhi came, and enslaved them. Now, years of degradation and misery have blurred Sevonne's memory, and sapped his strength. To his people, his is already dead. And to him, death is all that is left---until he finds hope in a most unlikely place...

Sold once again, Sevonne is bought by Aleksander, the heir to the Derzhi Empire. His new master is cold, and heedlessly cruel. But within Aleksander, the seeds of greatness wait. All it would take is guidance from one such as Sevonne once was...

But time is short, for demons have also noticed Aleksander---and what they cannot control, they will destroy..."

Don't believe the hype! These books are not homoerotic in any way, shape, or form (they're not even slashable). In fact, they pissed me the hell off. The main character, Sevonne, gives up everything but his life for his prince, Aleksander. What he gets in return is little more than a pat on the back. If you go into these books never expecting the 2 main characters to grow any closer than prince/trusted subserviant, and you're comfortable with an ending that's 'happy' for everyone but Sevonne, then go for it. They are, I will admit, well written and even engrossing, but... sheyeah... They left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth.

The Chosen -- Richard Pinto [ fantasy-ish ]
When I first read this book, I had to stop halfway through---it was just a bit too cruel. I eventually finished it, and am glad I did so, but on second reading, I found so much of the story that... really didn't need to be there, and the unrelenting cruelty got on my last good nerve. Ditto for the sequel (which I couldn't finish).

Avaryan Rising -- Judith Tarr (comprised of The Hall of the Mountain King, The Lady of Han-Gilen, and A Fall of Princes) (there is a very close relationship between the prince and his squire, but it's merely heavily platonic)
[ note: you want plot? go read the Amazon reviews. they do a very good job. this is merely my reaction... ] [ oddly enough... ]
There was a reason I was avoiding Judith Tarr. I knew there was. It was because she has written a fictional account of Alexander's life in which he is romantically involved with a female. A female. Not that Alexander didn't associate with women at all, but... He was not the type to swoon over a woman. A man, either. He was... too much his own, and even ancient historians point out that he was unusually disinterested in sex, not to mention the fact that his closest relationships were with men. And when the f*ck would he have had time for romance when he was out CONQUERING THE WORLD? So. An incredibly good reason to avoid Judith Tarr. This trilogy... I had heard of it long before I bought it. I had had it on my wishlist at Amazon for over a year, not quite sure if I should take the leap or not. Eventually I did and, as I began to read, I wondered why I had avoided this woman at all. She writes pretty dang well, and her characterizations are lovely. In the first book. In the first book, things are all well and good, and you get swept along and it's kind of wonderful when that happens. But the 2nd book opens with a woman. Now, I do not dislike women. I am one, after all. However, I dislike women as romantic figures. Every single fictional woman in a romantic situation has the exact same mindset and the exact same reasoning, and it pisses me off. Not all women feel or act that way, and even if the bulk of them do, I do not. Uneasily, I flipped through the last 2 books only to find that it's a romance. Sure the characters happen to be kings and royalty, but, when it all comes down to it, the story from then on devolves into the interactions between a man and a woman with, oh yeah, a few other things going on in the background to make them sufficiently combative so that they can make up later. She even changes one character from male to felmale to, what? make him a more acceptable lover? God damn it. Why??? Am I supposed to see myself in women who think only with her hearts, who are swayed entirely by emotion, who are whining little wenches? I dare say 'hell, no'. And so, while I may heartily recommend the first book in this trilogy (you can find it separately---go for it), the final 2 books (though I have not completely read them and will not) make me shudder.

The Angelic Darkness -- Richard Zimler [ out-of-print ]

>> jumped up novellas -- Typically from small publishers, these 'books' are usually (1) short, both in length and on plot and (2) nowhere near worth the money, unless, perhaps, you want to chance an electronic version (if available) for some strange reason. If they are at all supernatural or fantastical in content, they are also typified by a Quick And Violent Final Confrontation, that is usually quite a let down, if not simply and totally confusing.

Tribute Trail -- Terri Becket & Chris Power [ fantasy ]
back cover --> "Kherin is the Goddess' Chosen. Trained as Priest, Warrior and Mage, he sits at the right hand of King Teiron, ruler of the rich, golden land of Khassan. Prophecies at Kherin's birth foretold of greatness. He will have little time to fulfill the prophecies as he must return to the Goddess before he grows old.

Rythian is a skilled hunter and scout of the fierce horse warrior tribe. Shi'R'Lean. Content with his wives, hearth, and his place among his people, he worries about the decadence of the man who leads the Shi'R'Lean.

Both men are at a turning point in their lives, Kherin faces treachery where he least expects it; Rythian must choose between a family he loves and his duty to his people.

On their they face a threat to both their people."

If the book had been anything like the blurb, I'm sure this would have been a much more enjoyable reading experience. As it was, Tribute Trail inspired a lukewarm reaction, at best, and was only worth reading for the last half, when the relationship between Kherin and Rythian begins to grow. I've found books from small publishers are always a gamble. This one paid off well enough that I've kept it, but... it's definitely missing a 'spark'.

Wicked Gentlemen -- Ginn Hal
Amazon Product Description --> "Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction. And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders. But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai's company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation. From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life. His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well."

Such an interesting premise, and yet so shoddily executed. I tried this one due to its reviews (5 stars, even), but couldn't even finish it.

Journey of a Thousand Miles -- Peter Kasting [ speculative fiction ]
back cover --> "A startling vision of America's future... Cities have become poisoned wastelands, scattering millions. Martial law maintains a precarious balance between survivors and those who prey on them, while jealously guarded towns struggle against corporate enclaves for dominance. The forces behind the Collapse remain a mystery.

For Rafael, fading memories of childhood before the Collapse are little more that nightmares and fairytales, dreams that torment and beguile. But new dreams are taking root high in the mountains and have a power he never imagined. Fate draws him toward a secret, knowledge that cold either unravel the mystery of the Collapse or destroy the hope of a new beginning."

My amazon.com review --> Buying small publisher books is always a gamble, as is relying on the on-line reviews of "normal" folk. I thought long and hard about this book before I took the plunge, mostly because of the price. The first few paragraphs were enough to make me think I'd made the right choice. The writing was intelligent, the main character extremely likable (if you're into cute, buff, modest guys, that is.*rowr*) The setup is interesting, if a bit unbelievable -- from what little I know of radiation, the sort of attack precipitating this book would have made any sort of normal life unattainable -- but, hey, it's called 'fiction' for a reason. Rafael's and Leo's growing relationship is sweet and loving, in an inevitable way. No complaints whatsoever on these counts. And yet... Bad Things keep happening. Very Bad Things, from which there is no recovery. This book takes the adage of 'anything bad that can happen, will happen' one step too far. The last half of the book is one Bad Thing after another, with enemies who must be either precogs or psychic, judging by the way they anticipate every. single. movement. of the good guys. The ending drops off quite suddenly and very ineffectually. The focus on Rafael's and Leo's love all but ceases as soon as they get into bed together (something which is handled quite tastefully -- if you're looking for smut, this isn't your book). It all devolves from people with pasts and histories reacting to situations into which they've been thrown, to things happening to 2-D representations of previously 3-D characters. All in all, it was worth reading, but I would have much rather borrowed it from a library.
update: attempted to re-read, but was not successful --> too much violence, too little anything else.

The Name of the Game -- Willa Okati
Amazon Book Description --> "Seth's a gorgeous hunk of a cop, but off-limits to his roommate Clay, who's desperately trying to find a way to stop thinking about a man who's straight. Seth's also dating Sophie, the bitchy, possessive, girlfriend from hell, so it's a moot point as far as Clay is concerned. Seth is a good guy, a clean cop and a good friend. But when it comes to the girlfriend, he's not sure how to get her out of the picture. When Seth decides to dump Sophie by pretending to be gay, it's Clay he turns to for help in his game of deception. He's seen the way Clay looks at him, even though they've never made a big deal out if it. Surely Clay will help. Clay's been alone a good while, but with his friend Anthony pushing him into playing the dating game and helping Seth, Clay's relationship options suddenly go from zero to a full hand. There's still only one man for Clay, and as Seth begins to discover just what it's like walking the other side of the line, the two men start to break all the rules."

This one wasn't bad at all. It was... cute. Nothing brilliant, and nothing more than even a short story. There was just no depth. I can read fiction of this caliber on-line for free. Why should I have to pay (way too much) for it?

Falling -- M. L. Rhodes
Amazon Book Description --> "As the leader of an elite British group that hunts criminals of the magic world, Christian Wetherly comes to the U. S. undercover, posing as a British cop, to investigate a series of murders he suspects have been committed by a dark mage. He never expects, however, to find himself intensely attracted to the American police detective in charge of the case. Christian has long struggled with his hidden desires and hasn't admitted them to anyone. But Alec Anderson stirs something deep within him that's difficult to ignore.

Still...even if he could master his fear of coming out, Christian's dedicated himself to protecting the world from magic terrors. It's a dangerous life an ordinary human could never understand or accept. And to complicate matters, Alec's emotionally vulnerable, still grieving the death of his previous lover, a fellow cop killed in the line of duty. So Christian's determined to keep his true occupation and powers hidden from Alec.

Neither man can deny the powerful chemistry that burns between them, and both realize they're falling hard for one another, yet with so many secrets and complications, a relationship seems impossible.
When the two men becomes the target of the dark magic, however, and clues about an ancient legacy come to light that indicate Alec may not be exactly what he seems, can they find the strength to tear down all the barriers between them and risk their hearts in order to save each other's lives?"

my Amazon review --> Enjoyable, this book was. 'Outstanding' it was not. The characters are likeable enough, but have about as much depth as a kiddy pool. What I'm assuming was supposed to be the 'big mystery' you figure out about as soon as both of the main characters are introduced. The villain is Evil -- that, apparently, is all you need to know and all you're told. When the final confrontation with him comes, it's a bit of a let down if only because there's no emotional involvement beyond wanting the cute good guys to win. 'Falling' is a very quick read -- you can burn through it in a few hours, tops, using the minimum of brain cells. It is sweet, romantic and hot (although for this sort of book, you rather expect more sex), and the backdrop is, at least, decidedly different, but 'Falling' is little more than a novella-length e-book with a hella hot cover.

Someone Is Watching -- Mark A. Roeder
Amazon Book Description --> "Someone Is Watching. Someone Knows. It was a nightmare come true for seventeen-year-old Ethan. It's hard hiding a secret. It's even harder keeping that secret when someone else knows. Who is the mysterious note-writer, the secret tormentor? Who is the enemy that hides among Ethan's friends and teammates? Who holds Ethan's secret over his head, threatening to destroy his entire world? Someone Is Watching is the story of a young high school wrestler that must come to grips with being gay. He struggles first with himself, then with an unknown classmate that hounds his every step. While struggling to discover the identity of his tormentor, Ethan must discover his own identity and learn to live his life as his true self. In the end he is faced with a terrible decision. He must give up what he wants the most, or face his greatest fear of all."

This books' length makes it more than simply a 'jumped up novella', but it is a small publisher book and has many of the faults of that category. I gave this one a go mainly because I was desperate. Mr. Roeder is quite prolific, and it was a lovely idea that I might have a whole new slew of books to devour. However, this first choice shot that idea out of the sky before I'd even gotten halfway through the book. >_< Coming out stories that are peppered with violence and suicide will never be my cuppa, especially when the writing is so mediocre.

>> run away! run away!

Ring of Lightning (Dance of the Rings, Book 1) -- Jane S. Fancher [ fantasy / sci-fi ]
I tried. I really did. But I simply could not finish this book. I made my way about halfway through and... just couldn't make myself read anymore. Despite the set-up for what could have been a very interesting world, it was just... fricking boring.

(insert title here) -- Laurell K. Hamilton [ contemporary fantasy ]
Just so you know? This woman can not write. I got 10 pages into the 1st book of whatever series it is that everyone loves so much and couldn't make myself go any farther. I understand the popularity of this womans' books as much as I comprehend string theory. *shudders* *and makes a hex sign, just to be safe*

Bought and Paid For: A Jan Phillips Novel -- Michael Halfhill
"Eighteen year old Jan Phillips is on his own now and 'eading into Philadelphia hoping to survive on money he can make from johns who frequent the city's "Tenderloin District'. Still a virgin and not even that sure about his own sexuality, he has no idea of how to go about the business of prostitution and what impact it may have on his life. Tim Morris is waiting-waiting for Jan. From his thirteenth floor apartment in the elegant Saint Roi apartment building, Tim watches Jan on the street below. He decides that they will meet. Their meeting takes them on an adventure through the dark realms of international politics and their relationship-a relationship, formed from a devil's bargain and based on desperation and fear."

My god!, what a dumb book! *flails* I was a bit wary of it, once I saw its cover (and you really can judge a book by its cover. the odds of a book with a cover that, like this one, looks as if it were designed by an individual caught up in the Wonders Of Photoshop Filters, being anything but mediocre are very low). But I wanted to give it a chance, since my Book Cover Theory very well may prove itself wrong, one of these days. It never struck me as anything special, but every so often there'd be a nugget of gold -- a phrase that bloomed, a scene that evoked. Never mind that the characters are 2 dimensional and that...well... Jan was supposedly this suave and charming young man, and maybe 'off-screen' he was. He was portrayed, however, as a whiny brat with little more going for him than his good looks and a penchant for Latin. And Tim... How does one gain such power and respect being so emotional and volatile? And the ending... *rolls eyes* The dumb-ness was positively overwhelming. It broke against me -- it was inescapable. This book is a journey -- a journey through a countryside that, every now and then, sparkles, but at the last ends in some hick town where nothing green grows. Ugh! *shudders*

The Master of Seacliff -- Max Pierce
Gothic gay 'romance' for those with no taste for good fiction. This book had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Even the cover sucked. >_<

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