Saturday 30 January 2010

Winner of the...

BookQuest 2010 giveaway was Li.

Comments were numbered and Li was the second commenter, number chosen by was 2.

A copy of Hunting the Hunter is waiting to be sent to you.

Thursday 28 January 2010

DIK Reading Challenge Review - Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

"A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart.

Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers and loves. But something is missing...Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown."
This book was one of Tracy's seven DIK picks and I'm so glad I picked this as my first read. I feel this review should come with a warning that there may be gushing involved. I LOVED this book. I think the last time I felt so enthralled (for completely different reasons) was when I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife. And for everyone who's read the blog and knows how much I gushed about that book it should give you an idea of how I feel about this one.

Almost Like Being in Love is an epistolary novel - told in narrative, through letters, checklists, receipts and memos. I must admit until last year (when I read The Color Purple) I'd never read an epistolary novel before. I think the idea of a novel told through letters had always been offputting (the main reason why I've never read Dracula). Luckily reading TCP broadened my horizons and with more than one DIK lady trying to get this book on her list I was intrigued enough to make this my first choice.

The story starts in 1978 and follows Travis and Craig's first meeting and the development of their relationship.
"There's nobody else like him in the whole world. And he thinks that's a handicap!"
Because you get both Travis and Craig's point of view it gives you an insight ito what they think of each other and also lets you know as a reader when they're bullshitting the other. The story then fast forwards twenty years to 1998 where they haven't seen each other for all that intervening time. Whilst Craig is involved in a long term relationship, Travis realizes he only ever really loved one person.

For anyone who thinks that because the novel is not written in a standard format that they won't fall in love with the characters I'd ask them not to worry. At the beginning there is an almost voyeuristic feel as we read newspaper articles, diary entries and other notes and dialogues. Pretty soon you are sucked into the story and falling in love with the characters. I also think there is enough of standard narrative between the memos and articles, that gives you a deeper insight into the characters that might be missed if the novel relied on epistolary techniques alone.

The dialogue and thought processes of the characters are laugh out loud funny. And once again I have a book where I could quote loads of dialogue but will restrict myself to a couple of favourite lines. It was tough to get it down to these two.
"Paralysis comes in many forms. I'd just discovered nine of them."
"You once told me that the only thing I needed to know about being a man was that one less sock always comes out of the dryer. You were full of shit."
Okay I admit my favourite line is the one about the vacuum cleaner hose on p. 337 but I'm going to leave you to discover that one for yourself. :)

This is a book that made me laugh, and made me feel good and more optimistic. I know that if ever I'm feeling down in the future I can pull this book off my bookshelf and it will cheer me up. If you're doing the DIK challenge and you haven't yet read Almost Like Being in Love I highly recommend that you make this one of your twelve picks. And if anyone has read The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger I'd love to know if you'd recommend that book as well - though it is already on my wishlist.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

DIK Reading Challenge for January

The link will take you through to the post where everyone is posting the links to their reviews.

DIK Challenge post for January

I shall hopefully have my review of Almost Like Being in Love up in the next couple of days. I shall give you a little teaser here - LOVED IT!!!

Tuesday 26 January 2010

M/M Challenge, An Improper Holiday by K.A.Mitchell

As second son to an earl, Ian Stanton has always done the proper thing. Obeyed his elders, studied diligently, and dutifully accepted the commission his father purchased for him in the Fifty-Second Infantry Division. The one glaring, shameful, marvelous exception: Nicholas Chatham, heir to the Marquess of Carleigh.

Before Ian took his position in His Majesty’s army, he and Nicky consummated two years of physical and emotional discovery. Their inexperience created painful consequences that led Ian to the conviction that their unnatural desires were never meant to be indulged.

Five years later, wounded in body and plagued by memories of what happened between them, Ian is sent to carry out his older brother’s plans for a political alliance with Nicky’s father. Their sister Charlotte is the bargaining piece.
Nicky never believed that what he and Ian felt for each other was wrong and he has a plan to make things right. Getting Ian to Carleigh is but the first step. Now Nicky has only twelve nights to convince Ian that happiness is not the price of honor and duty, but its reward.
I don't usually read historicals (though nowadays if I do they are most likely to be m/m) but I saw the review of this on Review by Jessewave and a couple of other places as well. And it was getting such good reviews that I thought I'd give it a go.

I'm very glad I did. For a couple of reasons in particular.

Sometimes I'd like a little bit more reality in my love scenes. Generally (eek, I hate to use that word but...) m/f romances are more guilty of the fireworks, butterflies, shooting stars that accompanies the first love scene. In m/m romances it's usually much clearer and I think more sensual that the partners have to discover each others bodies. What we have in An Improper Holiday is dealing with the consequences (for want of a better word) when the first encounter goes disastrously wrong.

What I liked very much was that it was Nicky who was clear that he wanted a relationship with Ian, and Ian who was the more reluctant of the pair. Completely in keeping with his character, Ian took on more responsibility for what happened.

I also loved the relationship between Ian, Nicky and Charlotte. Surprisingly it's because of this that I've dropped a grade (conversely it's almost a good thing). I wanted the story to be longer. I wanted to know how things were going to progress. (Hopefully not spoiling anything here). Probably the remit of the story - covering the twelve holiday days - didn't allow it. But I couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed that it ended where it did. I wanted more. I wanted to know how things were going to work out in the longer term.

I also hope that there will be a sequel for another reason - the debauched Julian Lewes, object of Ian's jealousy.
Nicky was never sure whether he could believe everything Julian said. “You are incorrigible.”
“And why not? I possess the three things guaranteed to make life pleasant: wealth, power and a big cock.”
At one point Nicky says to him (paraphrasing) that one day he (Julian) will fall in love and he will laugh to see him fall into the abyss. That's a book I am very much looking forward to reading, reformed rakes are one of my favourite character types. :)

Monday 25 January 2010

Book Quest 2010

I think the last time I wanted to read a set of books that had gone out of print it was the Sundered Quadrolgy (just kind of rolls of the tongue) and after a little research found out if I could hold out for a few months they were being reprinted by Benbella. So I did and I managed to pick up all four books before they once again went out of print (well before one of the books became harder to get hold of than the others).

So at the beginning of 2010 I'm pootling round the blogs to see what everyone's recommending from their 2009 reading and what they're looking forward to. And I see Bookdaze over at Me and My Books is talking about Sarah Monette and the fact that her new series is being released under a different name. She also mentions the Labyrinth series (which I had always intended to get at some point) is now going out of print. The first book is out of print, and Renee mentions in the comments that it's the second book that is really hard to get hold of - prices up to £90 on Amazon UK marketplace for the mass market paperback.

Aha! I say. :) A book quest for 2010. And I fully anticipate that it's going to take me most of the year to get my hands on the series - the first two books in particular. Well I can report that I have managed to get both Melusine (from Ebay) and The Virtu (from Amazon marketplace) as new and at cover price. So my 2010 book quest comes to an end in January.

(As an aside here, why is it that it's always the second book in a series that's harder to get hold of. When I was trying to get a complete set of Stardoc books by S. L. Viehl, Beyond Varallan (Book 2) was the hardest book to get hold of).

So do you have any book quests for 2010, or can you explain why it's always the second book in a series that goes out of print before the rest. I have a copy of Hunting the Hunter by Shiloh Walker to giveaway to one commenter on this post. Winner chosen at random by on Friday (or if it's like this week and I have a migraine on Friday, on Saturday).

Saturday 23 January 2010

Winner of the...

...heroines who fart giveaway was Christine.

Posters were numbered and put into the random number generator at which picked number 1 and the first poster was Christine.

Christine I have a copy of Mark of the Demon waiting to make it's way to you.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Falling in love with Glee

I was kind of so-so about Glee. I watched the first two episodes and thought I'd stick with it as I knew it was meant to suddenly get better a few eps in.

Then last night I watched episode 3 and at the end Kurt comes out to Mercedes. This was so wonderfully played by Chris Colfer.

I now cannot wait for the next episode and Kurt is my favourite character. I think I may be a Gleek. :)

Monday 18 January 2010

Heroines who Fart

It doesn't happen does it? (Luckily this post is not going where you think it is. :) )

I've been reading for a very long time and to my recollection I can only recall it happening in one book - Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz (okay, now I am having an eighties flashback).

And see how times change. All the girls in high school today are reading Twilight. I remember we read Lace by Shirley Conran. Eek, how embarassing is that now? Though to be honest maybe this had more to do with all the trashy mini-series that were on in the eighties?

I also read The Dancing Gods trilogy which started my love of fantasy, and I absolutely loved the Dragonriders books by Anne McCaffrey.

So which books were you reading in high school, anything embarassing that you're willing to admit to? I have a copy of Mark of the Demon to give away to someone who comments on this post. Poster will be chosen randomnly and winner will be announced on Friday.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Kara Gillian is a cop and a demon summoner. When a routine summoning goes wrong and she somehow summons a creature called Rhyzkahl, little does she realize how that one event has changed her life. Kara had been hoping to use her occult skills to catch a serial killer known as the Symbol Man. Unknown to her the Symbol Man has his own occult agenda and she may not have enough time to stop it.

It's been a while since I've been so conflicted about a book and because of this I'm going to write this as an ungraded review. This is one that I really wanted to like and parts of it were incredibly brilliant, unfortunately one aspect was so annoying that at one point I put the book down as I thought it was DNF.

So the brilliant stuff first. :)

In Mark of the Demon Diana Rowland has created an original and powerful demon hierarchy. Although they are consumed with the need to gain power, they live by a system based on debt and honour. As Kara explains you cannot judge demons by a human based value system.

Whilst most demons are animal-like in form, Rhyzkahl has human form and is almost indescribably beautiful. This plays in contrast to his ability to balance his honour debts in the most ruthless way possible. He does not appreciate being summoned, even by accident. Rhyzkahl was a fascinating character and the thing I loved about him was that his surface appearance does not make him any less threatening or terrifying. Sometimes you read characters who are meant to be demons and actually they feel like nothing more than souped up vampires. That is not the case here.

The plot was well thought out and the author manages to keep her hands on all of the threads. For instance it would have been easy to say that Kara managed to summon Rhyzkahl 'just because'. But we find out towards the end of the story that there is an actual reason as to why she pulled him through a portal rather than the demon she was trying to summon.

Diana Rowland also manages to drop in the most intriguing hints about characters, leaving you wanting to know how everything is going to work out. I get the feeling that nothing (plotwise) has been written accidentally. That there is a solid backstory there to explain everything, even though we aren't aware of it at the moment.

Onto the problem I had with the book, which can be summed up in two words:-

Kara Gillian.

Possibly the most annoying heroine I've ever read. She behaves like a brat, has temper tantrums and uses the f-word at any given opportunity. It started to feel like this was being used rather than character development to show how tough the character was.

The only time the plot felt weak was when it centred around her. She's a rookie detective but gets assigned as the lead on the Symbol Man case. She's very up her own arse. There's a difference between confidence and arrogance, and she comes across as arrogant. Which is a pity as I think if I could have liked Kara, I know I would have loved this book. However, what intrigues me in the story is not Kara but the male characters around her. And this is a problem as she should be the glue holding the story together, not the character that makes it fall apart.

Friday 15 January 2010

Winner of Brilliant/Annoying Giveaway is...


She had the first comment on the post and the number chosen by the random number generator at was 1.

So a copy of Ghostland by Jory Strong will be winging its way to her. Keep your eyes peeled as I'll be giving away more books in the coming weeks. :)

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Heroines Who Swear

Thoughts? :)

This is not coming from a politically correct standpoint. I have been known to swear like a trooper on more than one occasion. (Okay more often than that). Much to the dismay of my mother.

I guess it just happens that a recent heroine has brought this to the forefront of my mind. And I'm not referring to when it's being used in a sexual context but in general day to day conversation.

I have come to two conclusions.

1) When it comes to swearing less is definitely more.

2) Swearing is not an effective replacement for character development. Just because the heroine can say fuck three times in the same sentence does not make me believe that she's a tough cookie. It just shows me that she can say fuck three times in the same sentence. And no, I'm not particularly impressed that she can use it as a verb, adjective and noun.

Some of the toughest heroines I've read - Elena Danvers, Nadia Stafford, Phaedre, Kate Daniels, Mercedes Thompson - did not have to constantly say fuck to get people to take them seriously.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

M/M Challenge, The Elegant Corpse by A. M. Riley

Detective Roger Corso is open about his sexual orientation. He's less forthcoming about his leather lifestyle. There's only so much his coworkers can take. He thinks he's doing a pretty good job of keeping it covert, but then something happen that changes his mind.

Someone delivers an elegantly clothed corpse to his home. His couch to be precise. And that corpse is carrying a leather flogger. Roger's taking that personally.

Additional distraction comes in the form of the victim's younger brother Sean. He's annoying. Knows something about the murder he's not telling. Wants something from Roger--and is everything Roger ever wanted. But before he can make Sean his, he's going to have to solve the mystery of the elegant corpse.
I liked this. The mystery was intriguing - though I admit I did work out who'd done it before the reveal. (Those hours of watching CSI, Law & Order and Cold Case paid off.) What I especially liked were the characters. We discovered them through the story, through Roger's observations.

Roger is slightly OCD but that's never hammered over our heads. We pick it up through his mannerisms. I love the way he reacts against Sean's chaos.
“Who was that jerk off?” asked Sean. He was sitting in Roger’s chair, one foot propped on his desk.
“Why are you here?” “How did you talk them into letting you in here?” and “Get your feet off my desk.” All warred for prominence in Roger’s brain, so his mouth opened and nothing came out.
I love opposites attract stories.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this story was that Roger had a female partner who was a character in her own right. She wasn't just there as a cipher.
Mary Anne. “I love you dearly, Roger, but I don’t want you having kinky sex in my house, okay?”
This story does have BDSM so if that's not your thing this is probably one you should avoid. But the scenes felt like part of the building of the relationship and there is a clean delineation between the love scenes between Roger and Sean, and the sadism used by the murderer.

If I had any niggles it would be with the editing in one particular part and why I have dropped a grade. Roger is coming to terms with the fact that he's moving on from the death of his previous lover Patrick. (Patrick died five years earlier). A dream sequence is ruined because Patrick's name is switched with that of another character - Peter. I think in such an important part of the story the incorrect name should really have been picked up in the editing.

Sean was also a little hyper in some parts.

I also wish that the story could have been longer. But that's a good thing. :)

(Challenges M/M - 1/20+, 52 books in 52 weeks - 1/52)

Saturday 9 January 2010

Brilliant : Annoying

Sometimes you read a book, fall in love with it, glom everything the author has written and then bask in the afterglow. Sometimes you read a book, get two pages in and throw it at the wall. Most of the books you read will hopefully be at least an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.

At least you know where you stand.

Because then there are the brilliant annoying books. (Annoying is nowhere near a strong enough description but explains the kernel of the feeling so well.)

These are the books where one aspect is so brilliant, so original that it blows you away. Unfortunately it's fighting against an aspect that is so wall-bangingly annoying it makes you want to tear your hair out in frustration.

Then you're stuck in the brilliant/annoying dilemma. Is this book more brilliant than annoying? Or more annoying than brilliant? And if this book is more annoying than brilliant where is the authors next book going to fall on the continuum.

Example - bearing in mind this is completely subjective. One persons annoying is another persons literary addiction.

Kushiel's Dart. Brilliant in its superb worldbuilding, complex characters and plot, beautifully written. Annoying in that it has one of the most irritating heroines ever and the most insomnia inducing first few pages ever written. (I always credit this book as the one that taught me you don't have to love the heroine to love the world she inhabits).

I'd also include the BDB as examples of brilliant/annoying books. With the brilliance (plot akin to crack because it's so addictive) usually overshadowing the annoying (product placement).

So at what brilliant:annoying ratio do you give up? When should you persevere and push through your frustration?

I'm asking the question at the moment because a couple of days ago I thought a book was DNF. But then I picked it up again today and started reading and it was good. I am afraid however that the brilliance of one particular aspect and how it touches the whole book is not enough to compensate for the fact that the heroine really gets on my wick.

So do you have any brilliant/annoying books. I have a copy of Jory Strong's Ghostland to give away to one person who comments on this thread. Poster chosen randomly. Giveaway open until next Friday when I'll announce the winner.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Quid Pro Quo by Manna Francis (Part 4)

The story Family focuses not only on the relationship between Warrick and Toreth but also places it in the context of the larger Administration world. Toreth goes home with Warrick for the New Year holidays. Imagine this happening at the beginning of Mind Fuck and it seems impossible.

Perhaps the most important thing we find out in this story - apart from the fact that Toreth fantasizes about Warrick and Dillian - is the insidiousness of the Administration world. In a way it's been kind of abstract up to now, but this story brings it home in chilling detail. Even more scary because of the normalcy in which it occurs.

It also illustrates the line that Toreth is walking. And the fact that he isn't always aware he is walking a line. In this story it's brought home that he can't afford to forget who is employers are. He is employed by the Adminstration to interrogate prisoners and obtain confessions. Though there is sometimes a dichotomy between what Toreth thinks and says in polite company he can never afford to forget that the Administration controls everything. This is brought sharply home to him here - even in the most benign environment you have to be careful what you say and whose past you decide to poke around in.

There's also one very significant line from Warrick where he acknowledges the danger of the relationship.
"Yes, I trust him, but it can never be entirely safe. If it was, I wouldn't want it."
I will also note here that any paragraph which starts - Toreth started the night with good intentions - you know is going to end badly.

Quid Pro Quo ends with the short story Mirror, Mirror. I'm not going to say too much about this. It's ten pages long and possibly one of the best erotic short stories I have ever read. It's the same sexual encounter told first from Warrick's point of view and then from Toreth's which allows you some insights into their thinking and the realisation that Toreth is perhaps not as indifferent as he'd like to be.

Hope I've tempted more of you to try out the Administration Series. :)

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Quid Pro Quo by Manna Francis (Part 3)

Short but sweet today. :)

With every story we get to know the relationship between Toreth and Warrick more deeply. In the story Surprises Toreth has to acknowledge he expects Warrick to adhere to a double standard. Toreth is allowed to fuck whoever he wants, Warrick is only allowed to fuck Toreth. (As part of his job Warrick has sex with people in the SIM - a kind of virtual reality world). What's most interesting about this story is our insight into Toreth. It would be very easy to dismiss him as a sadistic sociopath but he is so much more layered and complex than that simple description.
"Jealous." He hated the word - one of a whole set of words that only ever applied to other people, never to him.
He deals with the situation in time-honored Toreth fashion, he goes out and fucks somebody else.

Of course Warrick is starting to recognize patterns in Toreth's behaviour, leading the latter to wonder.
Why couldn't he be fucking someone a bit less intelligent?
It's so difficult to review these stories because every page is completely relevant to plot, character development and full of snappy dialogue.

They make up. Which involves sex toys - of course. :) But Toreth finds out that Warrick has more secrets than he anticipated. Their misunderstandings in this story also lead to some intense make up sex. And the simple but powerful line.
What makes you think I'm ever going to stop.

Monday 4 January 2010

2010 Challenge Post

A little break from the reviews to put up my 2010 challenge post.

DIK Challenge - 12/12
Almost Like Being in Love - Steve Kluger
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Islands - Samantha Kane
Angel's Blood - Nalini Singh
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie - Jennifer Ashley
Persuasion - Jane Austen
The Vampire Shrink - Lynda Hilburn
Camp Hell - Jordan Castillo Price
The Serpent Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt
Tigers and Devils - Sean Kennedy
The Hell You Say - Josh Lanyon
Death of a Pirate King - Josh Lanyon

M/M Challenge - 16/20+
The Elegant Corpse by A. M. Riley
An Improper Holiday by K.A.Mitchell
Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger
Bound and Determined by Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
Islands - Samantha Kane
Among the Living - Jordan Castillo Price
Criss Cross - Jordan Castillo Price
Body & Soul - Jordan Castillo Price
Secrets - Jordan Castillo Price
Camp Hell - Jordan Castillo Price
Tigers and Devils - Sean Kennedy
Maiden Rose Volume 1 - Fusanosuke Inariya
The Hell You Say - Josh Lanyon
Lord of the White Hell (Book 1) - Ginn Hale
Lord of the White Hell (Book 2) - Ginn Hale
Death of a Pirate King - Josh Lanyon

52 books in 52 weeks - 36/52

The Elegant Corpse by A. M. Riley
Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
An Improper Holiday by K.A.Mitchell
Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger
Bound and Determined by Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Islands - Samantha Kane
Loveless Volume 2 - Yun Kouga
Hunting Ground - Patricia Briggs
Rosemary and Rue - Seanan McGuire
Tempest Rising - Nicole Peeler
Angel's Blood - Nalini Singh
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenize - Jennifer Ashley
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Persuasion - Jane Austen
Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling
The Vampire Shrink - Lynda Hilburn
Unholy Ghosts - Stacia Kane
Among the Living - Jordan Castillo Price
Criss Cross - Jordan Castillo Price
Body and Soul - Jordan Castillo Price
Secrets - Jordan Castillo Price
Camp Hell - Jordan Castillo Price
Hostage to Pleasure - Nalini Singh
Chimera by Rob Thurman
The Serpent Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt
Magic Bleeds - Ilona Andrews
Tigers and Devils - Sean Kennedy
Fallen From Grace - Laura Leone
Maiden Rose Volume 1 - Fusanosuke Inariya
The Hell You Say - Josh Lanyon
Underground - Kat Richardson
A Local Habitation - Seanan McGuire
Lord of the White Hell (Book 1) - Ginn Hale
Lord of the White Hell (Book 2) - Ginn Hale
Death of a Pirate King - Josh Lanyon

Edited to Add my knitting/crochet challenge.

I'm going to try and complete 1 project every month in 2010 - 9/12

Crochet square throw
Rowan Calmer socks
Rowan Calmer Sweater
Noro Sweater
Aracuania Patagonia Sweater
Aracuania Ulmo Top
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran Nell Sweater size 7-8 in pink
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran Nell Sweater size 5-6 in purple
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran Nell Sweater size 9-10 in purple

Saturday 2 January 2010

Quid Pro Quo by Manna Francis (Part 2)

Todays post will cover the short story Pancakes. It was going to be Surprises as well, but there is so much packed into Pancakes that if I tried to cover Surprises as well it would be an enormous post.

Pancakes is I think the first story to focus specifically on the relationship between Warrick and Toreth, rather than having other issues play a major part in the plot. It's probably my favourite story in the book for that reason and also because it introduces my favourite animal character (Mentioned below).

Their relationship has rules. One of which is that Toreth is not to talk about his work as an interrogator because Warrick doesn't want to know about it. Pancakes opens with Toreth sitting down to dinner with Warrick and starting to talk about his day at work. Warrick points out to him that he's asked several times for Toreth not to mention it.
"...I'll be very busy for the next few days, so don't bother to call."
And then he walked out.
Remember what I said yesterday about the power dynamics of the relationship? What's interesting about this book is that it's really the first exploration of that, we start to get deeper into the heads of both characters.

Toreth has a short attention span and if he wants something/someone he wants them now. That doesn't mean he isn't capable of patience and self-discipline (check out the review of Mirror, Mirror coming soon). What we start to see here is how much 'power' (for want of a better word) that Warrick has in the relationship.

When Warrick leaves it throws Toreth.
When the fuck had Warrick started being the one who could walk out?
And rather than picking up someone else and going home with them, he proceeds to get drunk...very drunk...and decides he's going to go and see Warrick. Which apart from anything else lets Warrick know that Toreth has looked at his security file. Warrick is not impressed with a drunk Toreth but takes care of him through a monster of a hangover.

The next morning is quite an intimate scene, probably the closest to a love scene so far - which makes Toreth supremely uncomfortable. His way of handling it is not to see Warrick and to fuck his way round the city. Which leads to my favourlite line in this story. So cutting, and so illustrative of their relationship. Toreth will never admit how much he wants Warrick but sometimes you can't hold back...
"Tell Warrick I said hello."
Toreth nearly choked. "What?"
"After hearing his name so many times, I feel like I know him."
And I take a little break from the review here to mention that Pancakes is the story in which my favourite animal in a piece of fiction EVER! is introduced. YFEB - or Bastard for short. Sara, Warrick's admin has adopted a stray cat. Possibly the only animal that makes Toreth nervous.
"It looks like a badly stitched-together traffic accident in a scabby black fur coat two sizes too large. Why are its teeth sticking out like that?"
It loves Sara and Sara loves it (him), the rest of humanity however, needs to tread carefully.

Back to the review. Warrick realises, I think, that Toreth is never going to see him without a little subterfuge. And so an accidental meeting is arranged. Important because Toreth also meets Dillian (Warrick's sister) for the first time here.

Sara also cautions Warrick to be careful with Toreth. An idea I think that until she mentions it hadn't occurred to him that he needed to be. When Toreth finds out he was 'tricked' into meeting Warrick he is not happy.

But what this does is show the fragility of their relationship. And how they are both acting under assumptions about the other. I think their relationship will remain 'fragile' - I don't mean not strong because it grows with every story but in some ways it remains a minefield. For me this is the story where it starts to go from fucking to something more. Manna Francis packs more into a 35-page short story than some authors manage to get into a novel.

Friday 1 January 2010

Quid Pro Quo by Manna Francis (Part 1)

Quid Pro Quo is the second in The Administration Series by Manna Francis. It consists of the novella Quid Pro Quo and the short stories - Friday, Pancakes, Surprises, Family and Mirror, Mirror. As some of the stories have a lot going on it's going to take more than one post to review the book. So today will be the novella Quid Pro Quo and the short story Friday and over the next couple of days I'll cover the remaining short stories.

The Administration Series is one that really needs to be read in order as the relationship between Warrick and Toreth deepens over the course of the books. So I'd recommend you read Mind Fuck (Book 1) before starting Quid Pro Quo.

Quid Pro Quo focusses more on an investigation by Toreth into corporate kidnappings with Warrick only appearing briefly during the story, though more signifcantly at the beginning and the end. Whilst QPQ is perhaps my least favourite of the stories in the selection I think it's important as it fleshes out the worldbuilding. There's a sense of rigid structure controlled by something unseen - you never see the head of the monster - the power of the corporations is clear, but the Administration itself is shadowy. QPQ also gives us an insight into how the relationship between Toreth and Warrick is working.

The story opens with Toreth having broken Warrick's wrist during one of their sex games. This necessitates a trip to the hospital, where Toreth flirts with the nurses and manages to get a date with one, who when she asks him why he's there...
"I was fucking a guy, and I broke his wrist." Her eyes widened and he shook his head. "It was an accident. He fell off a chair. Actually, the chair fell over, and he was handcuffed to it..."
Toreth is nothing if not honest, though he's not above prevaricating or lying (either by omission or directly), whichever works best for the situation.

What's great about this story is the expansion of the relationship between Sara (Toreth's admin) and Toreth. You see that there is someone who thinks about him, and she is probably the person he is closest to. As close as he can be.

The mystery itself I found a little complex. I had to read through a couple of times before I got what was going on set in my head. In a way that serves to illustrate the complex nature of the world, where everything works in layers - Administration/Corportation/Administration/Corporation - the monster is multi-headed.

(If you didn't pick up on it in Mind Fuck Toreth's drowning phobia is mentioned again here.)

The short story Friday is one of my favourites. It's told from Warrick's point of view which we haven't really experienced up until now. Friday is the day that Warrick and Toreth meet up to have sex. Not every Friday but often enough that it is something Warrick is starting to look forward to. He talks of the anticipation having an element of ritual to it. You can see how this appeals to Warrick's organisational side.

We meet Cele - Warrick's childhood friend - for the first time, and more importantly we hear about Dillian (Warrick's sister) via Cele. She asks about the bruises on his face. It's clear that Warrick has people who are concerned about him. Not only family but friends. In sharp contrast with Toreth in the previous story who really only has Sarah (his admin) and a series of anonymous one night stands.

Cele also highlights to Warrick that it could be significant that he's started baking again - the last time he did so was when he was married. And Warrick starts thinking.
What the hell am I doing with him?
Warrick does not deny what Toreth is.
A lover he wanted to keep away from everyone he knew. A man who smiled while he hit him. A murderer.
He also knows that he can't stay away from Toreth. He doesn't want to give him up. He just needs to find a way to handle it.

What we have in Friday is our first real peek into Warrick's head. At this point in the relationship it seems that all the power lies with Toreth. One of the reasons I find this series so fascinating is how your perceptions change the more you read. And why I recommend it highly.

Two more stories tomorrow.