All posts by Rachael

5 Stars – Letters to a War Zone by Lucy Felthouse #M/M #LBGT

Letters to a War Zone

Title: Letters to a War Zone
Author Name: Lucy Felthouse
Publication Date & Length: March 28, 2014 – 28pgs

Synopsis

When lonely insurance broker, Bailey, gets himself a new hobby, he ends up exchanging letters with a war zone. But he’s not expecting what happens next…

Bailey Hodgkiss is lonely and dissatisfied with his boring life as an insurance broker. In an attempt to shake things up a little, he signs up to a website to write to serving soldiers. He’s put in touch with Corporal Nick Rock, and over the course of a couple of letters, the two of them strike up a friendship. They begin to divulge things that they perhaps wouldn’t have said in person, including their preference for men.

Nick encourages Bailey to add more interests to his life. As a result, Bailey picks up his forgotten hobby, photography, and quickly decides to team it up with his other preferred interest, travel.

Booking a holiday to Rome is his biggest gesture towards a more exciting existence, and he eagerly looks forward to the trip. That is, until Nick says he’s coming home on leave, and it looks as though their respective trips will prevent them from meeting in person. Is there enough of a spark between them to push them to meet, or will their relationship remain on paper only?

Reader Advisory: This story has been previously released as part of the Stand to Attention anthology by Totally Bound Publishing

Review

FiveStars

Letters to a War Zone.
I was given this in return for an honest review by Inked Rainbow Reads.

Lucy Felthouse did a fantastic job of creating a story line that was so heartfelt.  I loved her characters, Bailey and Nick.

I thought she did a great job of describing Bailey’s lack of interest in what his life had become. I also loved that she used the old pen pals system as a way that the characters connected. I wish she developed Nick a little more, but his character was developed enough for the story line.

Nick and Bailey bond over a terrible disease that plagued someone they love. I felt their pain when they discussed the disease – they both felt horrible about it. Felthouse was able to develop their feelings quickly.

As the reader, I felt their emotions through the writing. Despite their short correspondence, the bond that’s created between the characters is unmistakable. Felthouse did a wonderful job of allowing their feelings for life and even love, to develop quickly. Sometimes you just click with someone.

I loved this story and wish that I knew how Rome went.

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Amazon: http://amzn.to/1AIzjCq
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1rXgwkj
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/1ohvcmS
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1o04uoy

AuthorBio

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica For All, and is book editor for Cliterati.

SocialLinks

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lucyfelthousewriter
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cw1985
Author’s Website: http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk/

4.5 Stars for The Other Me by Suzanne van Rooyen #trans #lgbt #ya

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Title: The Other Me
Author Name: Suzanne van Rooyen
Publication Date & Length: Dec 18, 2013 — 218 pgs

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Treasa Prescott thinks she’s an alien. She doesn’t fit in with the preppy South African private school crowd and feels claustrophobic in her own skin. Treasa is worried she might spend life as a social pariah when she meets Gabriel du Preez. Gabriel plays the piano better than Beethoven, has a black belt in karate, and would look good wearing a garbage bag. Treasa thinks he’s perfect. It might even be love, as long as Gabriel doesn’t find out she’s a freak.

As Treasa spends time with Gabriel, she realizes she might not love him as much as she wants to be him, and that the reason she feels uncomfortable in her skin might have less to do with extra-terrestrial origins and more to do with being born in the wrong body.

But Gabriel is not the perfect boy Treasa imagines. He harbors dark secrets and self-destructive tendencies. Still, Treasa might be able to accept Gabriel’s baggage if he can accept who she longs to be.

Review

FourandHalfStars

This is a fairly quick read, as it’s young adult and not long. It’s relatively fast-paced, as I expected. The YA genre and length should not be deterrents for anyone interested in the subject, however. This was hands-down one of the best works of YA queer fiction I’ve ever read.

It is the story of a South African trans teenager, though it is also in part a love story. Not merely in the romantic sense (though there’s a bit of that too) but in a general sense, including self-acceptance and love between friends or family members. Most people, not only teenagers, would be able to relate to the themes of feeling like an outsider and of being trapped in a life or body that feel wrong.

The first thing that impressed me was that it’s about a trans boy. More often than not, trans fiction focuses on people living their authentic lives as girls/women. Of the several YA tans-themed books I’ve read previously, all were about trans girls. The second thing of note is that it’s told mainly from Treasa’s perspective and with Treasa’s feelings about actually being a boy. Other books have told trans stories mainly from the perspective of lovers or family members. Finally, the last thing that stood out was that Treasa is also not straight. Again, the vast majority of my previous readings have involved trans people who are presumed gay until they transition, but Treasa maintains a preference for boys throughout.

Another aspect to Treasa’s identity as a gay boy is that often, trans stories are incredibly binary. In other words, someone “proves” to be a “real” boy because of a love for sports and typically masculine pursuits and interests. Treasa is, even as a boy, still somewhat gender-non-conforming. I appreciate that the author didn’t go overboard to assure us just how much of a boy Treasa truly is.

Those things alone make the book an absorbing read. In addition, the two main point-of-view characters, Treasa and Gabriel, are both very different from the teenagers who populate many YA novels. They both have secrets and things about which they feel hurt and shame, however, both are highly sympathetic characters. They are the sort of people who feel like friends after reading their stories. Characters are always my favorite part of any story, and I found myself drawn to both of them.

The only things about which I had any concerns are a few minor implications. First, Treasa muses that it must not be normal for a girl to want to write fan fiction about two boys. It’s hard to tell whether this is the author’s view as well or whether Treasa just feels like an “alien” already that everything is suspect.

My other concern was that Gabriel insists throughout the book that his few very minor gender-non-conforming behaviors (mainly music and nail polish) don’t make him gay. But he does it to the point that I couldn’t help wondering who he was trying to convince–himself or the reader. Again, it was hard to tell if this was the author’s insertion of her views or genuinely part of his character, an unwillingness to question his own sexuality. This becomes particularly important towards the end of the story.

These concerns are not reasons to dislike the book. On the contrary, they provide excellent talking points. Rather than making assumptions about the author’s intent or rejecting the book for perceived flaws, we should have open dialog about what those things mean.

Overall, I rank this as one of my all-time favorite YA books. Despite the fact that I’m well past the target age and rarely read the genre, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it to anyone who has adolescents, in part because the beginning of empathy is understanding. Provided the book is still in print, I fully plan to make sure my kids read it when they are older.

I give this book 4.5 stars.

~Amy

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AuthorBio

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and entertains her shiba inu, Lego.

Suzanne is also the publicity manager for Entranced Publishing and is rep’d by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Works include:
Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir)
Obscura Burning (Etopia)
The Other Me (Harmony Ink)
I Heart Robot (Month9Books)

SocialLinks

Facebook
Twitter: @suzanne_writer
Author’s Website: suzannevanrooyen.com

3 & 3.5 Stars for A Perfect Dream by Raven J. Spencer #F/F #Erotic Novella

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Title: A Perfect Dream
Author Name: Raven J. Spencer
Publication Date & Length: June 22, 2014 – 48 pgs

Synopsis

Sex and politics can be an explosive combination. Beatrice, wife to a conservative lobbyist, can’t imagine being out in the open about her preferences and orientation, but lucky for her, there’s A Perfect Dream. Secret parties that only the privileged have access to fulfill every fantasy and need she can think of. Beatrice didn’t count in meeting Sage, a woman who not only satisfies her in every way, but challenges everything Beatrice has believed about herself so far.

Review

ThreeandHalfStars

I was given an ARC of A Perfect Dream for an honest review.

I read A Perfect Dream in a few hours, following the storyline of one character, Bea, as she discovered herself through a lot time of repressing it. I’m rating this book at three and a half stars mostly because it didn’t wow me. It’s difficult to wow with erotica in such a short space of time, but I was impressed with the writing and story line.

This novella has quite a bit of sex in it, as one can imagine, it is erotica after all. It’s an interesting premise, the “Gay for You” trope turned into “Out for You” and it definitely works in this piece. Raven takes a character who most would assume to be unlikable and gives her a story that makes her likeable.

This rating is a 3.5 because I felt the erotic scenes could have been better, more sensual, more sexy and spicy. They seemed fairly vanilla for a woman going to a sex club. Even though the character wanted to try all different sex acts when she went to the club, she did not, and it turned out, she was much more comfortable with what she knew. Most women these days, however, know what a vibrator with clit stim looks like and how to use one—so Bea not knowing where certain parts went was a bit unbelievable to me, particularly if it was not her first visit to A Perfect Dream.

The writing was great. My only issue was in the beginning when it would switch from third person to second person. I think the story would have been a lot stronger and better if the author had stayed in third person and described everything from Bea’s POV. It would have also allowed the reader to get into her head more quickly. There were only a few grammatical issues I found (and… I’m picky about grammatical issues, so this is a HUGE compliment).

This book was good for a quick read late at night. I would definitely read another from Raven.

~~AJ

ThreeStar

A Perfect Dream by Raven J Spencer is a short story about Beatrice, the wife of a conservative politician who spends time at A Perfect Dream with Piper, the woman with whom she is having an affair. A Perfect Dream is exclusive, expensive, discreet, and offers almost anything Beatrice can imagine. On one of the weekend get-a-ways, she meets Sage, the woman of her dreams, who turns out to be more than meets the eye.

I was excited about reading this story because it seemed like it had a lot of potential. The premise is strong, with a lot of possibilities and room for growth and I was excited to see where Spencer took it. So, first, the good:

The writing is well done. There are a few stray commas here and there, and a few odd word choices, but overall, it’s well written. Better than a lot of things available on the market, and it’s highly readable. It’s also a quick read. This took me less than an hour to get through. Lastly, it’s a completely self-contained story. No cliff-hangers here. You get a beginning, middle, and an end where everything is wrapped up.

Second, the meh: Let’s talk about the sex. This is supposed to be an erotica. The majority of the story takes place at a resort where the whole point of going is to have sex with as many people as you want in as many ways as possible. There is actually not a ton of explicit content in this book. Some readers will prefer the softer descriptions and having things left up to the imagination. However, for me, I would have preferred to have had fewer more descriptive and explicit sex scenes than what we got. This just didn’t seem like erotica to me. It’s erotica-lite.

Also a meh is the plot. It’s an interesting plot and I’d have liked to have seen more done with it. At 48 pages, this is getting almost into novella territory and if the author had taken some time to give more development to the plot twist with Sage(which was totally out of left field, by the way. Seriously, some foreshadowing would be good) it would have felt more complete to me.

Now for the bad: The beginning is not good. I had a hard time getting past it. There is a lot of exposition in this story and it detracts from the plot and the movement of the story. It feels like Spencer gets lost in the minutia of the details in some places and in others she doesn’t give some very needed descriptions about the surroundings. Also, just a minor thing, but there are apparently a hundred bathrooms in A Perfect Dream. Character development gets lost here, too, and some of the characters feel a little one-dimensional.

The bottom line: I think it’s worth a read. I don’t feel like it was a waste of my time, but I’ve read better, and I don’t feel like this is erotica. Spencer has good writing skills and the plot had promise but it needs developing. I would be much more interested in this as a novella or a full-length novel. She’s tried to cram too much into a short-story and lost a lot of the elements I like to see in order to feel satisfied after finishing a story.

Rating: Three Stars

~Sirena

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AuthorBio

Raven J. Spencer, lesbian, married, loves everything sensual and indulgent which led her to write erotic romance and fantasies. When she’s not writing, you can often find her on Pinterest in the pursuit of inspiration.

SocialLinks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Raven-Spencer-Author/155042611370427?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RavenJSpencer
Author’s Website: http://ravenspencer.blogspot.ca/

4 Stars for The Flesh Cartel 1 and 2 by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau – #M/M

The flesh cartel

Title: The Flesh Cartel
Author Name: Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau
Publication Date & Length: Oct 1, 2012 — 58 pages

Synopsis

In this first installment of the exciting new psychosexual thriller, The Flesh Cartel, orphaned brothers Mat and Dougie Carmichael are stolen in the night from their own home. Taken to a horrifying processing facility, they are assessed, microchipped, and subjected to unspeakable brutality—all in preparation for sale to the highest bidder.

In a world where every person has a price, the beautiful and subduable PhD student Dougie is highly prized. His brother, a rough-edged MMA fighter, is less desirable—and potentially too dangerous—but he still has his own appeal.

Abused and locked up under round-the-clock surveillance, with no idea where they are or even why they’ve been taken, escape seems impossible, which leaves staying together their only hope. And after being separated once by the foster system, they’ll do anything to keep it from happening again. Anything at all.

(Reader discretion advised. This title contains explicit male/male sexual situations of a non-consensual nature.)

Review

FourStars

I received an ARC of The Flesh Cartel Season One: Damnation from NetGalley for an honest review.

This series is very edgy, not your typical BDSM stories of slave, submissive, master, dom. Rather, these stories contain very violent scenes and do not offer a “touchy-feely” vibe. Do not purchase if you are bothered by M/M, incest among brothers or triggered by rape or violence.

You have two brothers, Mat and Dougie, who are kidnapped, raped, beaten and prepared to be sold into sexual enslavement. The first two novellas focus on the torture, degradation and psychological deconstruction of the psyche of both Mat and Dougie.

In #1: Capture, the reader learns that the brothers were split apart when they were taken in to social services custody and despite the years between the brothers, Mat stayed behind after he aged out of the system and waited for Dougie to age out, so they could stay together.

During the first part – I really thought the authors did a good job at describing how each brother felt about the other: fiercely loyal and protective. Mat’s feelings are descriptively more edgy – he shows his loyalty to Dougie by fighting and earning money to support his brother’s education. Dougie’s feelings are gentler – he wants to take care of his brother after earning a PhD. Dougie doesn’t want Mat to have to fight any more. Despite their different approaches, the authors do a good job at making their feelings known but also fit each brother’s individuality.

During the violent sections of the book, the authors do a great job at describing how utterly broken each brother was during the abduction and subsequent car ride to the facility. I felt like I could really feel the emotions each brother was experiencing.

In the end of the first part, the brothers know they are only going to survive if they can escape together but have no real concept as to where they are or why they have been taken.

In #2: Auction, the brothers realize what they have been abducted for – their purpose is to be sold to the highest bidder.

What follows is a story of human degradation, abuse and humanity at its worst. We see the slow devolvement of the psyche of Dougie and the systematic abuse of Mat.

The authors do a good job of describing the daily tortures these two must endure. Mat is still trying to protect Dougie by drawing the abuse onto him, while Dougie is trying to use his brain to think of a way to keep them together. There are fewer feelings in this novella – it is more descriptive of what each brother must endure. So while the reader is getting more of the puzzle that is this sexual slave trade, I felt the authors were simply describing the horrifying acts rather than developing more story. It’s not until the end you see what might be coming – when the auction actually takes place.

However, you still feel and see each brother will do whatever they can to continue to protect the other.

It was a decent start to a series; the writers show each brother will do whatever it takes to keep the other safe, no matter the personal cost – the bond between brothers allows them to continue on this horrific journey because they want to see the other survive. But, when Dougie makes a deal that involves Mat, can Mat trust his brother enough to accept that his younger brother really is looking out for their best interests? Both brothers are put to the test of ultimate trust, and the reader is left wondering if the brothers’ bond will survive.

These are a story that will suck you in, make you feel the pain of each brother and hate the facility and guards who are holding them captive. The authors do a fantastic job portraying the heartache each brother feels for each other, as well as the fear they both hold about what is going to happen next. Despite the short duration of the stories, the words are so full of grit and pain that the reader has no choice but to be captivated in the most gruesome, inhuman way. The story leaves you wondering what is in store for the brothers next from their new owner.

There were just a few grammatical errors, some formatting issues with the Kindle addition, but nothing that would blatantly distract from the story.

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AuthorBio

Rachel is an M/M erotic romance author and a freelance writer and editor. She’s also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.

When she’s not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.

She’s a twitter addict (@rachelhaimowitz), and she blogs every M/W/F at Fantasy Unbound (Rachel-Haimowitz.blogspot.com). She also keeps a website, of course, with all her current and upcoming projects (RachelHaimowitz.com). She loves to hear from folks, so feel free to drop her a line anytime at metarachel (at) gmail (dot) com.

 

Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write. She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centered on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with nonironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!) Her writing reflects everything she loves: diverse casts of characters, a sense of history and place, equal parts witty and filthy dialogue, the occasional mythological twist, and most of all, love–in all its weird and wonderful forms.
When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.
Add her on twitter: @HeidiBelleau

SocialLinks

Twitter: @rachelhaimowitz / @HeidiBelleau
Author’s Website: rachelhaimowitz.com