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About Sirius

Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.

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REVIEW:  Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham

REVIEW: Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham

Bad choices. We all make them, some more than others. Dusty’s choices have left him unemployed, broke and practically homeless. Despite the major issues he has with his family, his only rational choice is to sell everything and move into his parents’ basement. At thirty. Looking for a ride west, he answers a phone ad. The voice at the other end of the line flows like dark, rich honey. Finally something to look forward to—listening to Joe’s voice all the way from Illinois to Idaho.

Rather than the hip crooner of Dusty’s fantasies, Joe turns out to look more like a panhandler. Is that because Joe dresses down, or are Dusty’s preconceptions about Native Americans clouding his vision? Joe is silent more often than not. He has a complicated past and still has amends to make. But he is ready to move on. Dusty feels trapped. Two damaged men, one small car driving two thousand miles into the sun—sometimes things need to break down before they can get fixed.

Driving into the Sun by Dev BenthamDear Dev Bentham,

I have read and liked several of your works, so when you wrote to DA asking us to review your new release, I was very interested. Unfortunately while I liked your writing style and mostly enjoyed the characters, I just did not buy that their extra fast connection is necessarily going to be the everlasting love the narrative wanted me to believe in.

Dusty and Joe connect to go on this road trip in order to share expenses and have company while they get to the places they need to go to. And, they both have plenty of demons to battle. Joe has tried (and so far succeeded) to stay sober for five years, while Dusty fell in love with his boss who was arrested for financial fraud. While Dusty was not charged, he was fired and pretty much almost homeless.

Their trip lasts a little bit over a week and the book asks me to buy that in this short time Dusty reevaluated his choices, realized what he wanted from life, and was ready to move on with the right person. Unfortunately I could not buy it at all. It is not that I did not like Dusty, I did, but within the first couple of days of their trip he is ready to trust the wrong person – again. There was a third guy in the car with them who was only going to be there for the part of their trip. Dusty decided to go to a party with him when they got to the place where they stopped for a day or so, despite his inner voice being in doubt, despite Joe saying don’t go. What could have happened, right? The party ended in disaster and if Joe had not helped him, it would have been an even bigger disaster. Then, just a few days later, Dusty is absolutely sure that Joe is the one for him. I am not even talking about Insta!Love per se here, though no matter how much I will stretch here, it was way too fast for me. It was not even “– let’s start dating,” no it is basically – “we belong with each other”. Maybe. I wish I could be convinced more than I was.

But I am not just talking about that, I am talking about the fact that nothing in the narrative convinced me that Dusty is capable of making good choices, of trusting people who are worthy of his trust. Of course I get that Joe is a good guy, but how the heck did Dusty figure it out so fast if his people barometer is so off?

I did like, though, that Dusty figured it out that he has other choices in his professional life rather than to move in with his parents, I appreciated that. I also thought that while Joe’s battle with addiction was a never- ending one, I did believe that he made some major changes with his life and was ready for a relationship if he wanted one. I liked their chemistry together; I just wish their move from point A to point B was not so fast. I know this happens in every other m/m book, and in some I can swallow it, but in this one it gave me a whiplash.
And of course we have the inevitable anal sex scene making an appearance again.

“Who was he kidding? He was already in too deep. Joe inside him would only make things worse. He should stop it now before Joe got back to bed. Joe would settle for a blowjob, a hand job, whatever. Except it was too late. Every cell in Dusty’s body wanted Joe buried deep inside him. And he was kidding himself to think anyone or anything would stop him from getting it now”

After few days of them meeting each other (three or four days that is) and without condoms too – why? Let me stress again – I have nothing against the appearance of anal sex in a romance story, it could be incredibly hot and if the couple loves it, the couple loves it. I am really tired though of anal sex being the most intimate and the most significant sex in the gay relationship. From what I have read it is just simply not true. The first sex they had been rubbing I guess. They seemed happy and satisfied, how is it less than anal sex? Why does a blowjob or hand job equal “settling” for something? Yet every other m/m book seems to repeat this axiom over and over – unless the couple has anal sex their relationship is somehow not complete, not fully blessed or something.

Moreover, I am perfectly okay in fiction with two people who just met having sex without condoms. I mean I personally feel it could be dangerous in real life, but people do impulsive things and I certainly do not need my m/m romances to be a sex education manual. However, in this book I get the impression that having sex without condoms is not used only to show that two men are so incredibly attracted to each other that they need to do it and they need to do it NOW and everything else be damned. No, I thought that it was used as extra – proof of their love, to emphasize how fast it sparked, and I just did not buy it.

“Joe pulled his fingers out. He picked up the condom. “You sure about this?”
“You wouldn’t lie to me.” Dusty took it from Joe and tossed it on the table. Joe held his gaze for a long moment. Was Dusty being foolish to trust Joe like this? Maybe. God knew he’d made bad mistakes before. But not this time. He was certain right down to his bones. Joe wouldn’t lie. And Dusty wanted to feel him, really feel him. Impatiently, he reached for the tube of slick and lathered Joe’s cock with lube”.

Once again, just how does Dusty know? Magic mirror?

Grade: C-/C

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REVIEW:  Probation by Tom Mendicino

REVIEW: Probation by Tom Mendicino

probation

 

All it took to destroy Andy Nocera’s seemingly perfect life was an anonymous tryst at an Interstate rest area. Sentenced to probation and thrown out by his wife, he spends his week as a traveling salesman, and his weekends at his mother’s house where no questions are asked-and no explanations are offered. To clear his record, the State of North Carolina requires Andy to complete one year of therapy without another arrest. He attends his sessions reluctantly at first, struggling to comprehend why he would risk everything. Answers don’t come easily, especially in the face of his mother’s sudden illness and his repeated failure to live as an openly gay man. But as Andy searches his past, he gets an opportunity to rescue another lost soul-and a chance at a future that is different in every way from the one he had envisioned. With profound honesty, sharp wit, and genuine heart, this debut novel portrays one man’s search-for love and passion, acceptance and redemption-and for the courage to really live. .

Review:

Dear Tom Mendicino,

I really liked your book when I first read it a few years ago; I however could not see myself ever rereading it. Nevertheless the saying “Never say never” is true in this instance.

We meet Andy when he is in front of a judge and being sentenced for having sex in a public space. The book is basically Andy telling us about his life, what led to his arrest and what happened afterwards. The book is mostly written in the present tense with some flashbacks in the past tense.

Andy Nocera is a deeply flawed character and it is very hard to like him, but the writer won me over. It took a lot of effort for me to finish the book however, because it was literally very painful to be in Andy’s head all the time. I think part of the reason why I ended up liking Andy is because the writer explained his character to me so well. I did not ever hate him of course – lots of bad things happened to him and quite a lot of those bad things were not his fault, but society’s fault. However, several times I felt that I needed to stop listening to Andy’s musings, because otherwise his self-hate would become my own – not because our circumstances in life are similar (mine are surely more fortunate), but because it felt so powerful and easily spread in the emotional sense.

“But I’m already halfway to my car. I can’t get away from them fast enough. I hate them, everything about them, if only for one brief and fleeting moment. I don’t want to be a bitter old son of the bitch, steeped in envy. I’m glad they are happy. I really am. It’s not their fault that I’ll never know how it feels to tell the boy I’ve been waiting for my entire life to step up, shake a leg, get a move on, because my old man is checking his watch as he flips the dogs and burgers, telling everyone the party can’t start until we arrive”
“I know now it wasn’t love. It was fear, an absolute, abject fear, that, without him, I’d be back in the box, snapped shut, sealed tight, labeled HUSBAND, and returned special delivery to WIFE”

What probably surprised me the most is the fact that I did not hate Andy even when I read about him repeatedly cheating on his wife for years – that was very unexpected and definitely not a small feat to achieve, but the book does such a good job of portraying them both as real people, flawed but sympathetic real people. They were two people who would always love each other even though they were not in love with each other anymore. I don’t know why I forgave the cheating. Perhaps it was because his wife did? Or because Andy was so honest telling this story (even if he was not honest for years before that)? I really do not know. I know that the book in my opinion did such a good job portraying the subtleties of the various relationships Andy had that I was sold on him, even though he never tried to justify himself.

“I kept my promise, Alice. I never told you I stopped loving you because I never did. You asked the wrong question. You should have made me promise to tell you if I ever fell in love with someone else”.

Sometimes it felt like everything bad that could happen to a person happened to Andy, including his mother’s illness and what he went through with her because of it. I think his mom’s illness was a big reason why I could relate to him, actually. Andy is also going through therapy during the whole course of the book. He shares quite a few of those sessions with us. It is a very painful process, Andy is not entirely cooperative, and several times I despaired whether he would ever get better, even after he was diagnosed with depression and given different medications to try. I thought this was very well done, because at times I felt his therapist’s frustrations too (he was a psychiatrist so he could prescribe medications).

“Why do you insist on being so hard on yourself?” Matt asks after reading my assignment.
“I think I am letting myself off pretty easily”.

The story ends with hope for Andy, but as much as I wanted it for him after so much darkness that I felt like I was a part of, I think I found the ending to be a little out of nowhere. As the blurb tells you, eventually he ends up helping somebody else and feels better because of it, and in the very last chapter we even see the possibility for a relationship for him opening up. It is not a completely happy ending in a sense that he completely recovered, but there is a lot of hope, especially in comparison to the rest of the book, and Andy experiences a significant improvement of his overall situation.

Here is how Andy described what he felt in a chapter prior to the last two hopeful chapters in the book:.
“Anaphylactic shock didn’t transform me. Maybe it’s just that I’d sunk as low as I could go. Not that my little tale of woe was anything special, nothing for the record books. I’ll never experience the horrors and epiphanies of true addiction. A little heavy drinking and a few sour sexual liaisons and a chance encounter with an antibiotic with a four to five percent cross-reaction with penicillin are the sum and substance of the drama of my life.
I wish I could say that I’m seeking redemption through meditation and prayer. But the reality is I’m lying on the bed burping ground beef and onions and dozing while my Psychic Friends promise Great Revelations on the television screen.
Your loved ones are waiting to speak to you…”

The rationale given seems to be that Andy felt that he had hit bottom and the only way for him to go was up, but I think I would have found slower improvement to be more believable.

Grade B-/B

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