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What Sunita was reading in March and April

What Sunita was reading in March and April

The Starving Years by Jordan Castillo Price

This is a dystopian story set in the near past (1960) in New York. A new type of genetically engineered food, Manna, has ended starvation by providing basic nutrition to people all over the world. But something has gone wrong, leading to riots in Manhattan and implicating the company that makes the food. A handful of people who were attending the company’s job fair join forces to stay alive and to try to figure out what is going on. This is an m/m/m romance, which I don’t usually read, but Price makes it work for me. The three protagonists are all different from each other, all interesting, the polyamorous relationship makes sense in terms of their personalities and desires, and the sex scenes further the relationships nicely. As usual, the setting is excellently portrayed and the supporting characters are as well drawn as the leads. As a student of collective violence, I found the riot scenes gripping and authentic. The book began as a serialized novel whose course was determined by reader voting. I think this makes the storyline a little choppier, but it was fun to read about the way Price responded to the reader choices. I’m definitely picking up her latest (unrelated) serialized-novel-turned-book, Magic Mansion. Grade: B+. Recommended.


Moving In Rhythm by Dev Bentham

This is a debut contemporary m/m novel that has received quite a few favorable reviews. I wish it had worked better for me. The main protagonist is a math professor with acute social anxiety; his condition is bad enough that he teaches online courses rather than being in the classroom. It also means that he is unable to sustain any long-term relationship and settles for quickie sex that makes him feel bad; his closest and most rewarding relationship is with his dog. When he goes to stay with his pregnant sister-in-law while his brother is deployed overseas, he meets a dance instructor to whom he is instantly attracted. It’s a leisurely story, as much about the narrator’s journey as about the romance. The dance instructor is unbelievably patient and sensitive and pretty much perfect, and we never really get to see what they are attracted to in each other. Given the level of social anxiety described, I found it hard to believe that falling in love and coming out of the closet was enough to make it manageable. The writing is quite competent, but the mood shifts (from melancholy to sunny to erotic, explicit sex) are sometimes quite jarring. Grade: C


Harm Reduction by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

This is a short story, almost a vignette. It alternates between 2012 and 1992 Manhattan. In the present day, Julio tries to keep his foster son on the straight and narrow. In the past, he negotiates a relationship with a troubled youth named Linley, trying to reach out to him, keep his own attraction in check, and convince Linley that Julio’s rejection of Linley’s advances isn’t a rejection of Linley. Linley disappears, and Julio is unable to find him or forget him. The sense of time and place in this short story is amazingly authentic, and the writing is very good. I badly wanted the story to be longer, because I didn’t want to let these characters go. No stereotypes, no trope abuse, just a moving, compelling slice of life. The ending gives me hope that just maybe, there will be more to come. Go read it and come back and tell me what you think, because it’s FREE. Grade: A-. Recommended.


The Rebuilding Year by Kaje Harper

This m/m romance covers a year in the life of two initially straight men who meet and find they are kindred spirits, go Gay4U, start a relationship, fall in love, co-parent the children of one of them, and end up in an HEA. It’s smoothly written and the scenes with the teenage children are well done. The rest was much less effective. Both the men start out unhappy and/or frustrated in their lives, and to believe that they would quickly and unproblematically fall in lust and then love required a huge suspension of disbelief on my part. The ex-wife is mostly evil, until near the end, and there is an evil new husband who seems to exist primarily to make the ex-wife look better. There is also a suspense storyline that comes and goes until the end, when it sails completely over the believability horizon. This was an exercise in frustration for me, because the writing and the family-drama part of the plot kept me reading but I kept having “oh no you didn’t” moments about almost everything else. After two books and similar reactions to both, I’m pretty sure this author is not for me. Grade: C.


First You Fall by Scott Sherman

This is a gay mystery with a romantic subplot, but it is in no way a genre m/m romance. For one thing, our narrator is a gay prostitute and the reader is shown that he is quite happy in his job. For another, the romantic storyline is up and down, with no HEA in sight (this is the first of a series, so I’m assuming the romantic arc spans the novels). But the author’s voice is a lot of fun, it is impossible to dislike Kevin Conner, and his relationship with his mother is the gay version of many a white male New York writer’s story. Yes, she’s a stereotype, but she’s also a lot more than that. Sherman does an excellent job with her, and he briefly but skilfully captures the mood of a long-married couple in late middle age. The tone is light but not superficial, the mystery is interesting, although it takes a few too many turns toward the end, and the supporting characters are deftly drawn. I grew a little tired of the voice toward the end of the novel, so I’ll probably take a break before the next installment. But I’ll definitely read it. Grade: B-.



What Sarah was Reading in September

What Sarah was Reading in September

Like Jane, I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs for November and December, and wow, you’re all in for some real treats.

Riptide Publishing opens its door on October 30. It’s already open for pre-orders and sending out review copies. Almost all of the initial offerings so far listed are under 30K words. And honestly, $2.99 for 10K words seems utterly ridiculous to me. $4.99 for under 30K words$10 for 100K words? I mean, 100K words is a great story, but $10? Really?! While the stories are great and the idea behind the new press is admirable, with price points like that, I can’t see it getting very far.

Rachel Haimowitz’s Master Class is a fabulous (short) look at the beginning of a very intense BDSM relationship. It does an amazing job at getting at the psychology of both of the dominant/sadist and the masochist/submissive. I loved it. It was super-hot. It was super-intense and really heavy BDSM, but very well done. Review on release. Apparently I talked about this one last month. I’ve skimmed it since then too which is why it’s on this month’s list too. That’s how good it is.


Peter Hansen’s First Watch: Tentacles. This book comes highly recommended, but it’s got tentacles and I haven’t actually managed to get past the first scene with tentacles. I’ll let you know if I ever do. Just…tentacles!

Aleksandr Voinov Dark Soul Vol.1 is about the mob. And I love Voinov’s writing, but I really really REALLY have a problem with heroes who are part of a crime organization and have no intention of getting out of it. So…I’m having a hard time with this one too. No tentacles, just criminals.

Of the three Riptide books I’ve flipped through or read so far, the writing is exceptional, but the subject matter is very dark, very different. That could be a good thing and could gain the press a reputation very quickly. But I still think readers are going to balk at those price points.

I also received the Carina Press m/m holiday shorts. And OMG guys, these stories are amazing. Perfect novellas that tell wonderful heartwarming stories. More extended reviews on release for all of them.

K.A. Mitchell’s Christmas Proposition: Small town guy trying to keep his family Christmas tree farm afloat gets back together with former lover who owns a natural gas company. Told from only small-town guy’s perspective, but you see the vulnerability of both characters. And groveling on BOTH sides. :) Wonderful, as always.

Harper Fox’s Winter Knights is a ghost story about Gavin, a man whose Catholic lover Piers breaks up with him because Pier refuses to come out to his family and Gavin had issued an ultimatum. Gavin then meets some ghosts who save his life and help him find his way back into a better relationship with Piers. What I LOVED about this story was how Gavin and Piers’ relationship was actually bad for both of them and they both learn how to improve it in order to find their way back to each other. For how short the book is, it’s brilliantly constructed and I loved the characters.

Josh Lanyon’s Lone Star was like a What If? story: What if a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger fall in love? Except they fell in love before they were a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger and get back together right when both their careers are taking off and that’s the barrier between them. It’s a cute story but I didn’t 100% believe that their careers wouldn’t pull them apart again.

Ava March’s My True Love Gave To Me is the historical of the bunch. It starts the story when the two men are 19, very much in love, but one of them’s too scared to pursue the relationship and runs away to America, away from his own feelings and his lover. Four years later, he’s back, determined to win his lover back. Much MUCH groveling ensues and there’s an utterly black moment when all hope is lost. I love stories in which one character has to admit how much wrong he’d done and the other character seriously has to just…forgive him.

These four stories from Carina were unbelievably good. They’ve done a brilliant job gathering these amazing writers together for these novellas.

L.A. Witt’s The Distance Between Us and The Closer You Get are two books that follow a couple through a threesome in the first book and then the third of the threesome in the second. TDBU is about a couple who have broken up but are stuck living with each other because they can’t offload the house they bought together. They bring in a roommate and both end up sleeping with the roommate, then sleeping all three together. This allows the couple to work through their issues so that they can get back together. TCYG (releasing in November) tells the story of the roommate, a self-described slut, who goes out with the friend of one of his lover’s daughters. His blind date is a virgin and they slowly figure out how to fit together, with the help of the characters from the first book. I adore Witt’s writing — love love love it. And these books are just about characters falling in love, getting past their own emotional barriers, and finding their way to each other better than ever before. Wonderful. I’ll review both when TCYG releases.

Distance Between Us: Goodreads | Amazon  | nook

The Closer You Get: Goodreads | Amazonnook

Kari Gregg’s I, Omega was so full of WTF that I honestly don’t know if I can bring myself to read it again to review it. Three months ago, Gabriel had been bitten by a werewolf who fucked him and he’s been on the run ever since. Even though he wants desperately to be with this werewolf, he’s terrified of him too. The werewolf finds him, fucks him, and kidnaps him, taking him back to the pack’s house. He forces Gabriel into a heavily D/s relationship, collaring him and tattooing him without Gabriel’s permission, waiting for Gabriel to give his final surrender, but he never TELLS Gabriel anything. And he won’t let anyone else tell Gabriel anything. So a lot of the conflict in the book comes from Gabriel’s fear and mistakes because of his utter ignorance. It made me NUTS! It’s the total and direct opposite of Safe, Sane,and Consensual. And the sex wasn’t even that hot.

Goodreads | Amazonnook

I read S.A. Reid’s Something Different twice through, the second time right after the first time. It was a self-pubbed book sent to DA for review. I *loved* it. Review here.

Goodreads | Amazon | nook

I’m flipping through a few other books, not actually settling down to read anything because (1). I have a book I really need to review, and (2). I’ve got craploads of grading to do. I’m skimming through an ARC of Sarah Wendell’s EIKAL until I can get my hands on a paper copy. I’m having a lot of fun with it (and feel extremely honored to be quoted twice, so can’t really comment on it further with too much impartiality — see how easily I can be bought?). J.L. Merrow’s Wight Mischief – I adore Merrow’s voice. I’m about 10 pages in and love it so far, of course. Cara McKenna’s Curio – another story about a prostitute. This is the only m/f romance on this whole post. Looking forward to it. Lynn Lorenz’s Bayou’s End – I enjoyed the first story in this series, but I’ve read the introduction to this one and was seriously unimpressed with the writing, so I’ll probably skip through the rest of it and see if there’s anything worth reading.

So, anyone else reading any good m/m that I’ve missed? Any prostitute/sex worker stories that I’ve missed?