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REVIEW:  Liesmith by Alis Franklin

REVIEW: Liesmith by Alis Franklin

liesmithWorking in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.

Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?

As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.

 

Dear Ms. Franklin,

I heard about this book from a couple of online friends and when I saw the blurb I was all over it and asked Jane if she could get a review copy for me.  There is a lot that is great about this book – the concept is certainly fresh and the writing is engaging. I enjoyed the way queer was portrayed.  (I haven’t tagged the book “m/m” because neither character identify as gay). But.

I think the book assumes a familiarity with Norse mythology in general and the Loki mythos in particular. Unfortunately, prior to reading, the sum total of my Loki knowledge was based entirely Tom Hiddleston’s performances in the Marvel movies. I’m here to say that’s not enough.  I suppose for readers who don’t mind a little (or a lot of) confusion or who are happy to wait a great deal of time for explanations and who don’t mind some things not being explained at all, Liesmith might work better.  I’m not that kind of reader.

I don’t mind looking things up – there are often words I don’t know or things I have questions about but when it is is a near-constant interruption to my reading as was the case here, something isn’t working.  It’s not just that the book is a modern Loki myth. It’s that it takes the old stories and gives them a twist.  To understand what was twisted, you have to understand the original. There is some explanation in the book – it is doled out sparingly (I expect this was in an effort not to info-dump – which, on its face, is a good thing) but then some of the explanations end with “stop me if you’ve heard this before…” or “you know how the story goes”.  The problem was, I hadn’t heard it before and I didn’t know how the story goes.  So I had to look it up.  That happened a lot. A. LOT.  Just when I felt I was sinking in to all the good and entertaining parts of the story, I’d be interrupted again by something I didn’t understand and then I’d have to spend some time looking it up.  Sometimes it was easy but sometimes, it involved a bit of fossicking and that took time.  When I got back to the book, I felt like I had to pick up a complicated cat’s cradle all over again. I’d read, relax, become confused, feel stupid, Google something… – rinse, repeat.  In the latter third of the book, I tried not looking things up and just going with it.  I’m not sure I fared any better that way.  I was confused by the ending. It was a little too opaque for this reader.  But then, I tend toward the more obvious anyway.  The people who recommended it to me didn’t indicate they had any difficulty with following the story, so it is quite likely others will not share my confusion.

I’m also not a gamer but my husband is so I felt like I could mostly follow along with the many gaming references in the story and there at least, I felt a little more like I was in on the joke.

Sigmund wondered when he’d started running on video game logic. He figured this was the sort of thing lobbyists warned about.

There was a device commonly used in the text which threw me a bit.  It looked something like this:

Travis rolled his eyes—

(toward Ásgarðr)

—heavenward. “Con call to our Chinese manufacturer,” he said.

In the book, the part I have bolded is in italics.  The one above makes complete sense and is easy to follow but that was not always the case (for me at least).  For instance, the first time I saw (jotunn) interrupting a narrative train the connection wasn’t anywhere near as obvious to me.

I really liked how Sigmund wasn’t the typical romance hero.  He wasn’t even a typical romance geek.  He is a bit on the chubby side, has acne and is developing a double chin. He’s not very good looking – except for when he is passionately involved in something and then there is a light in his eyes which makes him interesting.  He’s… ordinary in many ways.  He’s the kind of geek you might actually know rather then the ones which commonly populate romance novels (ie the ones which are secretly gorgeous).  Lain is an altogether different type of romance hero too.  I can only applaud this.

I enjoyed the humour in the story – there are a lot of heavy battle type scenes and things get pretty dire for many of the characters, so it lightened the atmosphere considerably and provided a break in the narrative tension here and there.

“I hate to break it to you, but that guy makes Stephen Fry look straight.”

“Wait. Stephen Fry is gay?”

“Ohmigod, how are you alive?”

“I thought he was just British!”

The romance is sweet, not very explicit and the story has a hopeful happy-for-now ending.  The relationship is really just beginning so it fit.

I really liked that the book was set in Australia and that some of the Dreamtime myths were mentioned to give the story some local flavour. There is some idiom used which might confuse some US readers but there is not a lot of it so I think it will be okay.  I wasn’t sure about the cover. The guy on the cover looks like he could be an Aboriginal but neither Lain nor Sigmund have that ethnicity so I’m not sure who he is supposed to be.

I found the book hard to grade because my overwhelming feeling about it is confusion. I just felt lost a lot of the time and I’m really not sure how much of that is on me and what kind of reader I am.  However, while I was often confused I was also often charmed, so I’m going with a C.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  Dragon’s Lair by Chantal Fernando

REVIEW: Dragon’s Lair by Chantal Fernando

DL

Dear Ms. Fernando:

I picked up your book at Amazon after reading the sample because it was a Motorcycle Club book set in Australia (I think…you never specifically say that, but the heroine asks for vegemite on toast at one point, which the hero has on hand,  so I’m making my assumption from that). Anyway, regular Dear Author readers know that I’m the resident MC junkie, so I decided to give it a go.

Faye is devastated to walk in on her longtime boyfriend, Eric, having sex with her friend Trisha. She immediately breaks up with him and decides to go out that night and get drunk. While out, she bumps into Dex, Eric’s older brother, who she’s always had a crush on. They agree to have a one night stand and walk away. However, when Faye finds herself pregnant and kicked out of her parent’s house, she runs for it, deciding she’ll do her best to figure out what the next step is. The next step is Dex getting word that she’s pregnant and knowing immediately that the baby is his. He’s furious that she didn’t come to him as soon as she knew she was pregnant. He drags her to his MC’s headquarters and sets her up in his rooms. Faye is terrified, but has very little means to provide for the baby, and Dex seems to have a lot of money (he buys her a laptop, enrolls her in her next law school classes, and tells her she can study there). Faye is terrified of the bikers, unsure why they call Dex “Sin” but has nowhere else to go, so she accepts. Dex makes it very clear to her that their one night together was just that, one night, and he’s not the committing type.

Faye learns from the women who hang around the club that Dex is the Vice President of the Winged Dragons, and is expected to become President very soon, as the Prez is very sick. She also gets to know the bikers. Despite them being a scary looking lot, she manages to build friendships with most of them, and the women in the Club as well. Soon she’s feeling very at home. But Dex has enemies, and he’s very protective of Faye. She feels stifled, and wants to get out more, but he won’t let her go without an escort. Faye is resentful of Dex’s overbearing nature and even more, for the fact that he won’t touch her. Soon she finds that he has secrets that could tear them apart.

This is a book that should have worked for me. I love MC books, and the setting was slightly different than the usual. What I had a hard time with was a lack of connection to really anyone. The characters all seemed somewhat “surface” to me. None engaged my imagination and even after Dex and Faye had given in to their attraction and acted on it, I found my emotional engagement in the story lacking. The book is told exclusively from Faye’s POV, and I think that’s part of the problem. You never went deep enough with her. She’s is employed mostly as a passive narrator for the story, making me feel very little connection to her. Even in scenes where she was in danger, it felt like her POV was mostly description, wringing no emotion from me. I also found Faye to be somewhat ridiculous. First, she’s a little like Snow White with the bikers acting as the Seven Dwarfs. She cleans, she sasses, she cooks for them, she nurtures. And they all just love and adore her. Also, she’s studying to be an attorney. I know this because at EVERY turn she mentions it. She did more talking about becoming a lawyer than she did anything else. She’s top of her class, yet seems to spend most of her time holed up in a room, not studying. Nor did she ever once make a trip to a law library. Now, I’m not an attorney, but I’m gathering that being remanded to an MC headquarters with no chance of parole would seriously inhibit you from being top of your class at law school. It all seemed pretty ridiculous to me.

The book is better edited than many self-pubs, and it really should have worked better for me. But I know that if someone asks me about the book six months from now, I’ll be able to tell them nothing whatsoever about it. Final grade: C-

Sincerely,

Kati

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