Sunday, October 30, 2011

REVIEW: The One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile & Madeleine Urban

The One That Got AwayThe One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile &
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

This review rated the 2nd Edition which has an additional "15,000 or so words" compared to the 1st Edition. Plus the 2nd Edition has a better looking cover, imo, by the artist Paul Richmond.

The One That Got Away is a Gay-For-You story. Readers who dislike the GFY theme should avoid this book. Readers who are selective about their GFY story should know this story lack "omfg, am I gay?" identity-crisis drama...and, to an extend, drama overall. Here's a perfect example.
Trace wasn’t so concerned about the bisexual label; he was comfortable with himself and he was comfortable with sex in general. He was more concerned that what he had with David would flare and soon burn out, leaving them too uncomfortable to even be friends. The thought made his chest hurt so badly that he couldn’t sit still, and he had to get up and pace, trying to shake the pain off. He didn’t want that, not at all. He’d rather give up the newfound passion than have that happen.
1) GFY isn't very realistic. 2) A "former" straight suddenly crushing on his gay best-friend without a barrel of angst and drama isn't very realistic at all. Not that such a circumstance is impossible, but it is highly—very highly improbable. Readers wanting a realistic contemporary mm-romance should probably save their money for something else.

But readers who wants to something drama-free, homophobia-free GFY — I recommend this. The homophobia-free part on the former straight's side was the hook, line, and sinker for me to read the story.

Sexual Content

The first 60% of the story was essentially sexual tension. Yet, I wasn't frustrated by this because the authors wrote it drama-free. The best way for me to describe the sexual tension is by comparing it to heating a pot of water. The water never boiled to bubbles but it was always simmering.

The last 40% of the story was mainly foreplay scenes that culminated into wanking each other off or blowjobs. The foreplay scenes were long and graphic, and they heightened the sexual tension. There was only one penetration scene and it was near the ending.

The transition from sexual tension to action was slow and smooth. Never a moment was there any explosive, rough "do it hard and fast and many" sex. As said before in the metaphor, the water never boiled to bubbles.

Even though the last 40% of story was mainly sexual actions (and 100% of the story is sexual tension), I never got the impression that story was an erotica. The characters were trying to carefully transition from being best friends to being lovers. This is why the couple took it slow in their sexual actions.

The couple were always aware of the delicate nature of their changing relationship. Because if one wrong move or thing happen, not only would they stop becoming lovers but their friendships probably wouldn't survive either. Both David and Trace needed to know for themselves if risking their friendship was worth developing the love for each other.

Things I Didn't Like

The ending was abrupt. In the second to last chapter, it ended with Trace finally consenting to bottom for David and to a larger extend kind of implied that Trace would move back in with David. Then in the last chapter, readers learned some time passed after the previous chapter and we see Trace and David publicly revealing their relationship at a charity event.

I would have prefer it if there a scene between the two making love or doing something together as a couple after they both finally agreed to be each other's boyfriend. To be specific, I wanted another chapter before the epilogue to help me as reader digest the fact in my mind that David and Trace were now officially a couple.

The story was told in 3rd POV, splitting between David and Trace's perspective. The story got a little confusing when the authors blurred David and Trace's perspective in the same paragraph/moment. So it was took some re-reading before I could allocate whose thoughts were whose. I didn't like this because it interrupted my flow of reading.

I didn't comprehend the title "The One That Got Away" since no one got away. I kind of expected there would be a moment in the plot where the two would be separated and one would go away but later on they would be reunited. In short, a reunited scene after much tear-jerking drama. But nothing like that ever happened, David and Trace were always together and I didn't see any danger that they would call it quits, even when Trace moved back to his home. I would be really interested in knowing why the authors (or their publisher) named the story the way that it is.

The story had a slow pacing that I didn't care much for. The slow pacing combined with the foreplay scenes made the sexual tension great, but sometime I wished the plot would move along already. This story didn't have that "got to keep reading to find out what happen next" mood, there were moments I got bored and just put the book down not once but multiple times. Well, on the bright side, at least I always remember what was happening in the book when I pick it back up.

I didn't like how Trace slightly felt pressured into being a bottom for David. MM-Romance will function just fine if one lover is a total bottom and the other a total top. I think the couple should have a talk over what they prefer in sex so both would be happy with the sex and wouldn't be pressured into doing anything they didn't care to do.

Things I Liked

I like David. I like Trace. I like Matt. Basically, I liked all the characters. No one annoyed me, even the amusingly wicked Katherine. However, I think Patrick and the two straight guys (ha, I don't even remember their names) in their poker group could have used some character development even if they were only minor characters.

I like how Trace didn't have any homophobic moment when he discovered he may have feelings for a guy. I like how he was mostly worry about ruining their friendship if he acted on love and David didn't reciprocate, or if David did reciprocate but the relationship just wouldn't work out at the end.

Because of how easily receptive Trace was with gay love, the story didn't have much conflict or drama or angst. Hell, the guy continued to sleep in David's room on David's bed after hearing David confessed to being gay. This bugged some people...ALOT, but not me.

I don't care much for GFY because there's always heartbreak and sad angry drama. Not to say I hate drama but I just dislike the kind that goes hand in hand with GFY stories. Just once would I like to read a GFY where the drama is something other than homophobia or just no drama at all. The One That Got Away served that kind of story to me. Sure, it wasn't realistic but for once I didn't give a shit. Heh. =P

I like how there wasn't a long, extended, misunderstanding jealousy scene that convinces the couple that they love each other. The authors could have totally done this because Matt was David's ex and Patrick was bi which Trace could relate to. So very easy for the authors to use the Big Misunderstanding trope to separate the lovers for a while and make huge unnecessary drama. But they didn't and that was great.

Thought the stories had more foreplay and BJ scenes than I would like and only one penetration scene, I still thought the sex scenes were hot and well written. The sex scenes really fitted the mood of the entire story.

I rate The One That Got Away 3-stars for an I-liked-it.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REVIEW: St. Boniface Hook-Up by Rick R. Reed

St. Boniface Hook-Up St. Boniface Hook-Up by Rick R. Reed
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoiler

The narrator goes out to Eagle, a gay bar, to look for a one-night stand. Throughout the entire night of Halloween, he only got one hit. But since exhibitionism wasn't his thing, he refused the guy and decided to turn in for the night. As he walk out, he meets a mysterious stranger...

The mysterious stranger may or may not be a ghost.

The single sex scene was a bit short for my liking. But this story got potential.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

REVIEW: A Modest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey

A Modest Proposal A Modest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers
Hagar is the captain of the cargo ship Midgard Serpent. Most of his shipments blah blah blah—
The blurb didn't interest me enough to buy the book. That is, until I read Mandy's review.
This book is kind of a cheesy, slutty, mildly D/s space romp. —Blah blah blah— It's heavy on the sex content, lots of 'pounding through the mattress' and 'needy little slut'.
That is what interest me. That is what convinced me to hand over my moolah, my wampum, my green notes. I am so there. Thank you MandyM for your very accurate review. Good karma for you. \^_^/

A Modest Proposal is told in 3rd POV that switches from Hagar and Shibito's perspective. Hagar is the manly top, Shibito is the needy bottom. There's your D/s relationship. The author is strongly influenced by yaoi, so any readers who wants to read a short story of yaoi, this is it.

There are references to rape, but no rape scenes. However, some readers might regard the initial sex scenes as dubious consent. Interestingly, you can argue for either lover as the victim of dubious consented sex. Hagar used Shibitio's desperate situation to get free shagging, and he wanted to see how far he can push Shibito's limit. Shibito as a psychic manipulated—though somewhat unintentionally—Hagar's emotion to enhance their lust for each other.

On a rough estimate, the story is half sex scenes and half no-sex-just-plot scenes. The sex scenes are very graphical, very hot—I was superbly indulged. The plot had good pacing, made sense, and exciting action.

In a short amount of text, the author managed to world-build the story well. So imagine Earth as the galaxy, and Earth's powerful countries as confederations that each rule over a network of planets. I assumed in this story that Earth's countries never united as one, and basically just extended their rule farther into space and over other planets. America, Russia, Japan, etc. each have their own planets.

Even though the story was scifi and futuristic, there were traditions and ancient culture in play. Nippon Imperium, i.e. the Japanese confederation, have monks, temples, emperors-as-divine belief, and the long-hair-to-signify-nobles fashion. As I understand, the author basically took ancient Japan and push it into the space age.

Shibito was bit of an emo but it was understandable considering his circumstances: His power-drunk, crazy-ass cousin drugged him and left him to die in the badland of space. He was raped while under the influence of the potentially-fatal drug. He couldn't use his psychic power like normal because of that drug. Even though he accepted his sexuality, he still had issues of poor-gay-me and I-can't-birth-heirs and disappointed-family. Last but not least, he was on the run for his life.

All of that and he was still only a bit of emo, at least from my POV. I like Shibito because in spite of it all he managed to get his act together and fix things. He successfully avoided his enemies while on the run for his life. Even though his power were on the fritz, he used his psychic power to hack machines to get where he needed to go. He got enough gumption to do anything for Hagar so that he can acquire safe passage, even if it meant whoring out his body.

In short, Shibito knew what he was doing in order to return home, get help from a trusted friend, confront his crazy-ass cousin, and ultimately save his loved ones from his cousin's madness. That's the kind of protagonist I love to read about, the kind who knows what they're doing and they get things done. It would have way too easy for Shibito to give up, be helpless, and mope. But no way, Shibito overcame his circumstances and beat his villainous cousin's butt.

Oh, and he managed to get a lovable sex fiend of a boyfriend out of the horrible situation. Score!

I like Hagar, I like how he was willing to put with the crazy situation Shibito pulled him in. Hagar could have, at any point, back out and ran far away from the entire madness. Amazing that he didn't and some readers might have a problem with this because the rational thing Hagar should have done was to run away. But Hagar didn't.

Though the relationship started out as purely sex-based, I like how Hagar and Shibito's lust for each other developed into love. They didn't know each other, but they managed to trust each other all the way to end to defeat Kogon. Readers might complain that they trusted too easily, feel in love too quickly, but I had no issue with it. The pacing of the story and the development of its romance was a good fit of speed for me.

A Modest Proposal would have gotten a five-stars rating from me were it not the loose ends. Kogon died and nobody knows who will be the next emperor. Shibito, being the most powerful psychic, seem to the best bet but he doesn't want the position because he doesn't think he could fulfil its duty, like giving heirs for an example (which I think is a lame excuse considering how IVF and surrogacy can fix that easily). Before Kogon died, he also rid six other cousins like he did with Shibito. The story ends with Shibito and Hagar on the journey to rescue them. This made the entire story a HFN which I didn't really like. I sincerely hope the author left the ending open like that because she's starting a series. I hope.

Another gripe I had was the villain Kogon. He was adequately evil, but I didn't really understand why he committed suicide near the end. The story's reason "Kogon killed himself rather than lose" didn't satisfy me at all. I wanted him to be so evil that he would try to kill Shibito and Hagar and everyone else to the very dear, crazy-ass end. I don't care much for villains who self-destruct. It almost reeks of Deus Ex Machina there.

Overall, I like the couple; I really like their sex scenes; and I like how the plot wasn't thin. Giving A Modest Proposal four stars for really-liked-it.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

REVIEW: Enduring Instincts by S.J. Frost

Enduring Instincts (Instincts, #2) Enduring Instincts by S.J. Frost
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers, Long Review

I like fluff, I like vampire story, but this fluffy vampire story just didn't work for me. I couldn't connect to Daniel and Ryunosuke's romance. With that, the whole story felt apart in front of me.

In book 1 Natural Instincts, I managed to like the story because it had some action and suspense that I'm fond of despite some flaws. In book 2 Enduring Instincts, the action and suspense were lacking and the flaws were woefully apparent. If Daniel was a girl and if there were no graphic sex scenes, Enduring Instincts could have been a Twilight wanna-be. The only advantages the Instincts series has over the Twilight series are stronger writing and graphic sex scenes (because I'm pervert).

Instincts' vampires didn't sparkle, but they acted teenagers.

The story proceed in 3rd POV, mostly from Daniel's. 90% of the story was focus on developing the romance between Daniel and Ryu, while the other 10% was on the unfinished business of the villains from book 1.

Vampires, or Just Misunderstood Maybe-Mutated Humans

The vampire mythos was contradictory. We learn Ancient vampires, vampires who reached the thousand years age mark, are major bad-asses. But later we learn Ancient vampires and the lesser-rank Lord vampires can easily be overtaken by a bunch of newbie vamps through sheer number. If this is so, how are the older vamps major bad-asses?
"Vampires might be stronger than humans, but so are countless species in the world. The legends make it seem like you're practically indestructible, when really, you're just as fragile as any or the world's creatures."
In term of pure physical strength, yes, there are species stronger than humans and vamps. In term of power? No. Humans got machine guns and nuclear weapons...which vampires can use as well along with their inherent powers.
"Very true. We're a litte more durable than humans and certainly our quicker healing abilities are a nice benefit, but yes, we can be more easily killed than the legends make us appear. In all the ways a human can be killed, really. Except for disease, of course. We haven't found any of those that affect us. Yet."
"A little more durable?" Seriously? What? Immortality and regeneration and disease-resistancy aren't good enough for you vamps? Sure, vamps can be killed...but they sure hella lot harder to kill than your average human. And they don't even need healthcare.

And then there is this...
"I guess that helps explain why Ancient vampires like Tirus are so revered. When you think about it, it's pretty incredible for any vampires is able to survive for hundreds of years and doesn't get killed in accidental mishaps, like getting hit a by a bus."
So the old-as-dirt vampires are revered because they survive life's geting hit by a bus. Really? Oy.

Weak-Ass Villains

So 10% of the story was about finishing the conflict left unfinished in book 1. In Natural Instincts, the villains had some evil momentum going on with the whole let's-take-over-the-vampire-world. In book 2, their plan frizzle out and I began to pity them like they were just misguided teenagers. What a huge disappointment watching these big evil-doers becoming like contrite teenage pranksters.
"We thought we could take over the city. Then we thought we could take over vampire society. It probably wouldn't have been long before we got power drunk we thought we could take over the world. But what would we have done with any of that? What would've been the point? Just to sit there and say, 'Look at me, I rule the world.' So what. It was all just stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid."
So many wrong things in this paragraph that Troy said.

1) The villains assumed too much they would be successful in their let's-take-over-the-world endeavor considering they lack the resources and knowledge. I got a good imagination, but I was wondering how in the nine-hells could these villains think they could accomplish that. So far, all they have been doing are just thug-works. The LA gangs are more dangerous than these vamps...

2) They weren't power drunk already? Dude, y'all were planning to take over the city and kill all the old vampires just because y'all wanted power. How is that not power drunk?

3) "What would've been the point?" I don't know but if the villains were imaginative or psychopath enough they would have known their ultimate goal for dominating the world. Just taking over the world for power's sake would have been good enough point. That's why villains are so...villainy, because they're willing any thing and everything to attain power. People do desire what they cannot have or cannot have easily. It's not stupidity, it's psychopathy. =)

4) What's with Troy being a weeping Wilma? Where's the anger from Daniel deceiving and pushing him off of a roof? What happened to the maniacal vampire from book 1? Talk about a 180 degrees change. Maybe the concussion did more than I thought...

So at the beginning the story, I learn the villains have some sort of revenge plan going on against Daniel. Understandable considering what Daniel did in book 1. But what I don't understand is why the crux of their evil plan focused so much on Daniel. Why not Andreas? If these "villains" really wanted to hurt Titus, Andreas would have been the easier way to go. It's really easy since Andreas, not yet fully vampire, wasn't protected when he's working at his zookeeping job.

I assume their evil plan is taking over the city while ridding and revenging on their enemies. I felt like these villains have no idea what they were doing and were just bumbling along a quasi-evil path. I don't know why they don't just kidnap the weak-links of our heroes and start delivering body parts to Titus and Ryu.

Hell, they didn't even need a strategy or intimidation considering all it actually took for Titus and companies to be defeated are many many many newbie vamps. Why don't the villains just gather some and do it already?
"Life and death," Titus said. "He could be that one extra ally they need to overpower us."
Hell, the villains could just have the same number of newbie vamps and equip them with guns and bombs. It would have been good enough power to overtake our heroes I believe.

The villain minions were rather pathetic. Vance changed loyalty too easily and too conveniently. But at least with Vance, it was understandable since our heroes spared his life after he and his friend tried off-ing Daniel.

Niven, I don't understand. Daniel tried to run over him with a car, not once, but twice...and oh yeah, head-slam him after Daniel flirted-to-deceive Niven in a intimidation scene. And it's not like Daniel haven't done this flirt-to-deceive deal to other vamps, I don't know why Niven thought Daniel wouldn't do that to him. Yet in the end, Niven chose to help Daniel...sincerely, and not as an act for a later backstabbing. Wow, mind-boggling. @_@

Troy and Issac loves each other...okay, so our villains have feelings. Then Troy "mercy-kill?" Isaac...after Isaac nursed Troy to health and all of that cripple circumstance. What? Makes no sense.

I don't understand why the villains captured only Daniel when the thug-vamps surrounded Daniel and Andreas at Andreas' workplace and left Andreas wholesomely alive. I don't know why the villains just didn't kill Daniel once their boss Isaac saw him.

I assumed Isaac and Troy are Turning their vampire minions, but who Turned Isaac and Troy? What masters would allow their vampiric children to be rogue?

I don't understand these villains. They're either weak-ass or schizo...or both. T_T

Miscellaneous Gripes

Like I said before, I couldn't connect to Daniel and Ryu's love for each other. I couldn't empathize either of them too. Daniel got the "I was sexually abused and now I got PTSD" angsty-deal, Ryu got the "My dad was a violent drunk who beats his family which influenced me to live a violent life" angsty-deal. The couple came off as emo to me. LOL, vampire emos. XD

Renart manage a vampire restaurant/lounge, Andreas is zookeeper of some sort, and the villains have their let's-take-over-the-world deal. What does Titus, Daniel, and Ryu do? Apparently, all I learned is that they live a life of leisure. That itself isn't a bad thing but I felt this background type made them under-developed as characters because they got to do something when they're not with their lovers or escaping dangers.

For example, I had a hard time imagining what Titus would be doing when Andreas is at work (assuming no villainy danger is present). Does he read or watch TV or something? Seems like he just disappear as a character, just re-appear once Andreas is back home again to maintain the character role that is Andreas' lover.

I don't know why our heroes didn't alert the Tribunal that the villains they thought rid of survived and is re-attempting their villainy plan.

I don't understand why other vampires except Titus and companies don't believe Ryu being Turned by a demon. If werewolves and vampires exist, why not demons? Is there some sort of vampire lore that said only vampires can be Turned by other vampires. And if so, how did vampires came to be?

I was playing around the idea that maybe it was demons who originally birthed the vampire race. Eventually the vampires find out they too can Turn humans, and after many years of this, the vampires long forgotten their demonic origin because demons were showing up less and less. So much less that demons later became a myth to the vampires. I think...


This vampire story wasn't my kind of story because frankly, these vampires, though they don't sparkle, weren't the kind of vampires I like to read about. I was expecting more brutality, more raw emotions, but I didn't get that. Since I wasn't enamored by the romance, the story had little to offer to me.

It's not a bad thing to romanticize vampires, but these vampires were romanticize to a point further than I'd like. That is these vampires were similar to those from Twilight which I dislike. To each their own.

I think the way the series can be improved is if the the vampire society and lores were flesh out more and all the characters, no matter how minor, to have clear and concise and consistent goals.

So what kind of vampire mm-rom stories do I like? The Enthralled series have a good combination of fluffity, brutality, and sexuality. They're short stories but they're impactful.

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