Tuesday 30 November 2010

DIK Challenge Review, M/M Challenge Review, The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon

This is the third book in the Adrien English series and is my DIK pick for November (chosen by JesseWave and Lisabea). In this installment Adrien must contend with a mysterious Satanic cult who have their hooks into his bookstore assistant Angus. And his relationship with cop Jake Riordan is once more on the rocks. On a more positive note, Christmas is coming (so it's kind of an appropriate book for the time of year), his mother is getting married again and he's gaining three stepsisters. Life is never boring for Adrien.

I really like the Adrien English mysteries but this is not my favourite of the series so far - that's number two. Maybe it's the lack of Jake (please don't gang up on me, any Jake haters out there).

Whilst I found the mystery interesting, what I liked most about the story is how Adrien is thrust into his new family dynamic. He's now got three stepsisters who are something of a (telepathic) force of nature. Adrien is quietly overwhelmed. He's suffering through family get-together's and Christmas day with them, having to make the awkward transition from only child to sibling. They just won't take no for an answer.

Meanwhile his relationship with Jake slowly disintegrates, which is quite painful to read about. It has an almost unstoppable quality. There are little signs, little niggles leading up to the inevitable conclusion. The strain of being out whilst Jake is firmly in the closet.
...he asked, "What did you tell them?
"I told them we were friends. I lied. That's what you want, right?"
It's a book where things fall apart, whilst other things come together. Very good subjects for a middle book to tackle.

The main thing that keeps me reading this series is Adrien, possibly one of my favourite characters. He's sarcastic, speaks when he shouldn't, is vulnerable yet stands up for himself.
..."I'm not involved in a serious monogamous relationship."
I was, but it was apparently a solo effort.
He has a way of putting things, that cuts straight to the heart of them.

This is one series that I'm not waiting until next year to finish. DIK Challenge book for December will be another Adrien English mystery. :)

Wednesday 17 November 2010

M/M Challenge - Maiden Rose Volume 1 - Fusanosuke Inariya

I think Maiden Rose is possibly my favourite Yaoi series. I wouldn't recommend it for everybody due to the slightly disturbing nature of one of the sex scenes (basically a violation), so probably not recommended for your first yaoi. But I love the complex nature of the relationship between Taki and Claus, and the way it makes you think about the power differences in relationships.

Taki Reizen is a young aristocrat - the Maiden Rose of the title - in command of the 15th Army Division, Rozen Maiden. Whilst Claus von Wolfstadt was born into one of the nations that Taki's country is fighting against. But instead of fighting for his own country, Claus chooses to become Taki's knight and Taki's secret lover.

It's a multi-linear story, with at least three stories being told simulataneously. We have the events that are happening in the present which is probably the majority of the story. And then events which occur in Claus's memory - when he thinks back to his first meeting with Taki which occurred when Taki was much younger, and then Taki's days at the military academy where he meets up with Claus again. When Taki has to leave the military academy at the start of the war (because he is deported), it would mean leaving Claus behind. But Claus knows there is a way for him to go with Taki - if Taki makes him his knight.

Although knight sounds like an honoured position, most of the men refer to Claus as being a 'dog'. And to become a knight means...
One must give up his citizenship and renounce all rights...take a master, and become his property.
So Taki essentially owns Claus, the older man has nothing other than what Taki gives him. Whilst Claus thinks of Taki as being his flower.
There are people who're like flowers; We cannot defy their sweetness.
It's just a very complex relationship.

Indeed, what I find most interesting about the story are the power dynamics between Claus and Taki. Claus is older, physically stronger and the sexually dominant of the two. However, he is in enemy territory fighting on the side of an army that is not his own. In every real sense his safety is only guaranteed by Taki's patronage. At a word from Taki any member of the division would not hesitate to execute Claus. They would not ask for a reason they would just follow the command. So it's not as simple to say that Claus overpowers Taki and takes what he wants.

Taki is by no means a weak character. He's an incredibly eloquent speaker who inspires his men to fight. He has a quiet dignity but is very stubborn. To his men he's an ideal, 'a man who stands above others' that's a hard image to maintain. (It's explained later in the story that the reason Taki (who is barely twenty) is able to command 20,000 men is because he is a symbol of purity.) Being with Claus relieves him of that burden of expectation but it also means he's betraying the beliefs of the people he represents. And although he may want to be with Claus, he can never totally let himself relinquish his responsibilities.

Claus want him to be Taki; he wants him for himself, but there's also a feeling when you're reading the story that he could consume Taki. So in a way Taki's aloofness prevents that from happening. But it also means that Claus's desire is never fully satisfied. Claus 'speaks' through his actions. When he fights, he fights for Taki.
"Let me hear your voice. I'll turn it into a blade and repel all who stand in your way."
So there's a sense that somehow their communication with each other isn't working. Claus wants Taki to speak, but Taki cannot articulate what feelings he may have. It's like that's the one part of him that he can't let go of.

It is quite angsty and heavy. So it's nice that at the end there's a little 'cat's paws' story which reimagines the story with Taki (and the 15th division) as cats and Claus (and the opposing army as dogs (sorry Claus would say he's a wolf).

This is a book I can read over and over again. If the non-consent issue is not a problem for you, this is a yaoi that I highly recommend.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Winner of the...

...Where Did That Book Come From? Giveaway is


She posted the second comment and the number chosen at random.org was 2.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone

It's not often that I read m/f contemporary romance these days, (sweeping generalisation coming up) I don't have the patience for it.

So I was pleasantly surprised by Fallen From Grace. Writer Sara Diamond moves into her new apartment and one of the first thing she does is befriend her new next-door neighbour - Ryan Kinsmore. Friendship leads to deeper feelings but Ryan is living a double life. When he's at work he's known as Kevin and he's a prostitute. He knows that once he tells Sara the truth he runs the risk of losing her, but he doesn't want to begin their relationship with a lie. However, leaving the past behind is not as easy as confessing the truth and starting anew.

For the most part I enjoyed this book, I wish there was more m/f of this standard and tackling these sort of stories. Neither Sara nor Ryan are perfect, they both have their unattractive qualities, but this doesn't make them unlikeable as characters.

Sarah is not as liberal as she thinks she is. She can deal with certain issues (don't want to spoil things) as long as they happen in other peoples families. This is something she has to deal with through the course of the book. She has this very secure world view - this is the way things are - but her perception is flawed. She's also a little obtuse, but as a reader I can't help but wonder if that's because she doesn't want to see what's in front of her. And as well as Ryan's occupation, he's also nine years younger than Sara, which is another area of insecurity for her.

Ryan on the other hand is more open...about some things. But not so much when it comes to asking for help. He has had to rely on himself for a long time. And he does patronise Sara a little, but she's quick to put him right.
"Oh, good grief, Ryan! You don't know nearly as much about women as you think you do."
I think that's possibly my favourite line from the book. Mainly because I can imagine so clearly the tone of voice Sara is saying it in.

They both have to make themselves vulnerable to the other, a difficult thing to do, and Laura Leone conveys this beautifully. It's the contrasts between them that makes them work together so well as a couple. They are both wiser about some things than others.

Of the supporting characters I think Miriam - Sara's sister - deserves a special mention.
"Don't try to look on the bright side. There is no bright side."
She's pragmatic but wary too. Very well drawn sibling relationship.

If anything spoiled the book for me, in a bizarre way it was the epilogue. Yes I liked knowing what happened after. But I felt a little like I'd gone from something original to romance novel 101, everything tied up at the end with no loose threads and a super happy ending. It was a little too neat, a little too rose-coloured glasses. (Yes, I feel a little weird about complaining that the ending was too happy).

Having said that, if you like m/f and you've been feeling that it's got generic and tired. I recommend that you check this one out. It's a pity that Laura Leone is not currently writing romance. (Though she is writing urban fantasy as Laura Resnick - hmmm, I think I see a future addition to my wishlist. :) )

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Where Did That Book Come From?

On Monday I was looking at my TBR bookshelf* trying to decide what to read next. When I came across a book that I have no memory of buying and I don't have the faintest idea of when it turned up. The book in question is The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. The cover is urban fantasy, whilst the blurb suggests a sci-fi twist. Now as no-one buys books for me, I must have bought it. I just don't know when. (If anyone has read it and would like to give me a better idea of what it's about, please do.)

It may have been during the Borders closing down sale...or not.

The majority of the other books on the TBR bookshelf are either from series that I'm reading but haven't got round to finishing or I can definitely link them to a blog review.

Though I must admit I'm also a little vague on exactly when I bought Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge too.

What about you? Do you know exactly what books you have, are you organised or are you like me and not entirely sure what you've got where? I have a copy of Dhampir by Barb & J.C. Hendee to give away to one person who comments on this post. Winner to be chosen at random on Sunday by random number at random.org

* - yes I have a TBR book shelf - books double shelved and stacked, piled up on top and piled up in front . And even so it is still not enough space to contain it. I have got to learn to read faster. :)