Not the Sun serial by Cassie Q.

October isn’t the only month where the tree limbs rustle in the chill wind at night, so this review is still very applicable to November. Please enjoy TimNCalifornia’s review of GayAuthors.org author, Cassie Q, and her three-part serial, Not the Sun!

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October seemed like a good month for reading supernatural fiction and I knew just where to go looking.  Author CassieQ gets excellent reviews on the stories she posts at the GA Stories site.  I’ve read some of her shorter fiction and was looking forward to delving into her three part serial, Not the Sun.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The story starts out strong by introducing us to high school senior, Brandon, a likeable, artsy teenager.  He develops an interest in the new kid at school, Justin – an interest he initially perceives as artistic.  After all, Justin is part of the perfect clique of untouchables, far from Brandon’s circle of goth friends where the guys have longer hair and more eye liner than the girls.  How could the interest be anything more than purely aesthetic?  Justin is no more than another sketch in Brandon’s overflowing sketchpad.

Brandon soon learns that his connection to Justin is far deeper and destined to be more complex than he could imagine.  Meanwhile, Justin’s interest in and curiosity about Brandon is pointed and explicit.  Justin is an Enabler and Brandon is about to learn that he himself is a Creator. Working as a psychic team, they are able to shift objects between parallel realms and realities.   It is quickly apparent that they aren’t the only Enabler/Creator team around, and despite their reservations about one another, they are going to need to work together to reverse the havoc caused in their world by a psychic team more practiced, if not more powerful, than themselves.

The young men find themselves contending not only with their newfound psychic abilities, they also are facing up to their emerging sexual interest in one another all whilst dealing with the daily hassle of family and school life as an American teen.  The conflicts running through the series are multi-layered and it takes a series the length of Not the Sun to properly develop and support these different elements driving the story forward.  CassieQ has a fertile imagination and as the series progresses, we move more and more into a complex, fantastical nexus world.  Even as the external conflict intensifies with the psychic teams in the alternate worlds, the internal conflict and character development of Brandon and Justin continues apace.

Book 1, the eponymous Not the Sun, focuses on the early stages of the relationship between Brandon and Justin.  In Book 2, aptly titled The In Between, the boys are learning how tightly woven alternate realities are with our own.  If you like Stephen King, you’ll like Book 2 of the series which takes place in our own world, but there are strange and threatening forces afoot.  Even the sunniest days have a dark shadow lurking.  Brandon and Justin are partners in multiple senses of the word but they are learning how to support one another and how to maintain their individuality even as their psychic bond tightens.  In Book 3, Jabberwocky, the setting is entirely in and other “nexus” world.  Brandon and Justin’s intimacy, psychic and otherwise, has intensified but this intensification in itself challenges them even as it brings them closer.

Overall the pace of the story is lively and there is a good amount of action, particularly in Books 2 and 3.  The only quibble I had in the story was the continued personal anguish that set up repeated hurt/comfort scenarios in Jabberwocky.  For me, it detracted from the really interesting action happening with the Creator/Enabler teams at that point of the series.  That is probably more a function of my personal preference for adventure over angst. Other readers might find the balance more rewarding.

This was a five star read for me though I will qualify that it’s a five star read in the context of its publication format.  GA Stories is a home for amateur authors developing their craft. The story has not been professionally edited, and there are places where the structure could benefit from just such a high-level touch.  The writing, though, is high quality as is the story telling.  I encourage anyone to check out CassieQ’s collection of stories on GA.  You’re sure to find something to like.

5 Stars

Two Natures Gets Four Stars from Timncalifornia

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Review by Timncalifornia

I picked up Two Natures because the summary on the jacket referenced the spiritual struggle of the central character as one of the story’s main conflicts. I’ve been searching for gay themed literature outside the romance/coming out genres.  Julian Selkirk is a young man pursuing a career as a fashion photographer in New York City in the 1990s.  We meet this southern transplant as he completes his last year of college at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and follow his life and career for the next four years.

Julian is out of the closet in that way men were out of the closet in the early ‘90s – he wasn’t actively lying (except for a short-lived charade when his parents visit), but he wasn’t waving the rainbow flag either.  He mostly kept himself to himself when it came to his sexuality and let people draw their own conclusions.  It’s the height of the AIDS epidemic and even the more liberal constituency in the U.S. was leery of openly supporting a marginalized population who were largely thought to have unleashed a highly contagious plague.  As the story moves from year to year, Julian is more comfortably out and we sense that the U.S., in its urban centers at least, is closer to understanding the gay experience as normal.  This increasing openness and acceptance is never explicitly addressed in the book but the author, Jendi Reiter, reels out the story so that we see this evolution of gay acceptance that picked up speed at the end of the millennium.

Reiter’s writing is smart, witty and flows smoothly through the whole of this 400 page book.   From a quick jab at a Schwarzenegger film –

“We went to see “True Lies” after dinner because Phil was looking for a movie “where nobody cries or learns anything.”’

To a lyrical passage on an ecstasy-fueled night at a club-

“The lights would soften to a lavender cloud, the steam of the dancers’ bodies would enfold me like an ocean, all stupid jokes would seem pathetically sweet as a child’s crayon drawing, and pretty soon I’d be telling my life story to the Caterpillar and the Red Queen while the Rabbit stuck a teapot up my ass.”

Reiter skillfully weaves humor and pathos. The story is never bogged down by the writing and, indeed, the writing saves the story in places.

I was expecting more of an existential struggle, an internal questioning of morality and existence and purpose.  Instead, most of Julian’s spiritual and moral conflicts seemed fleeting and rushed, very much only grazing the surface, the exceptions being when real threat of death loomed.  This is either a failure of the book or its brilliantly subtle message.

My take away is that the telling of Julian’s story is very true to real life.  As new adults, we are focused on survival – starting a career, building a reputation, forming relationships,building a circle of friends. In the midst of keeping ourselves afloat, there is little time or energy left for the friend who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, for the homeless guy with the cardboard sign we pass daily in the subway, for tackling global warming – no matter how moved we were by a film about it.

This is doubly true for gay men and women whose families have rejected them.  Their survival depends entirely on themselves and they are making an adjustment to the social norms of whatever gay or lesbian center or enclave in which they find themselves.  It is interesting to note that the one character in the book who has devoted himself to social work and helping the less fortunate lives at home with two intellectual, financially comfortable parents who are not just tolerant but outright supportive of their gay son.  The contrast between his life and that of Julian and some of the other characters is evident.

What moved this book from a five star read to four are the rampant verbal anachronisms and literary presentisms.  No one was ordering a “grande mocha skim latte” in 1992.  The “grande” sizing (and mainstreaming of “mocha skim lattes”) would have arrived in 1994 when Starbucks opened its first store in New York City.  Likewise, there was no “Miss Cleo’s psychic hotline” in 1993.  People weren’t wearing “hipster” eyeglasses in 1996 or eating “artisanal fucking cheeses” or engaging in “slashfic cosplay.”

These out-of-time references are benign and while noticeable to someone who lived through the ‘90s and would have been contemporaries of Julian and the others, they don’t change the story in a meaningful way.  Much more troubling is the literary presentism evident in some of the language used by the characters.

In 1994 we are presented with models who are “too ethnic”, in 1995 the concept of “white privilege” and in 1996 “multiracial” foster kids.  None of these words enjoyed mainstream use in that context at that time.  Yes, models who were black or otherwise dark-skinned struggled in the fashion industry at that time and yes, white people enjoyed privileges in society simply from being white and yes, people descended from parents of different color and races.  Yes, that all happened in the ‘90s but we weren’t using those words to describe those situations yet.

Does it matter?  They’re just words, after all, that illuminate social circumstances that did exist at the time just as they exist today where we are using those phrases.  And terms like “white privilege” were in use in academia.  I think it does matter.  It matters because the mainstreaming of “white privilege”, “multiracial”, and “ethnic” represents the raised consciousness of society, and specifically in these cases the raised consciousness of white people like myself. That raised consciousness didn’t just happen.  It was the result of work by black academics and activists and politicians who dedicated themselves to communicating their experience of the world so that the world could change and be improved.  Those terms have given us a language, given us words, to discuss experiences that can be personal and around which there are heightened sensitivities that make discussion more difficult.  We needed these words, but it took effort and sacrifice for them to emerge into the mainstream.  That effort and sacrifice is erased when they’re dropped into a time period where they were not yet in use.

For many readers, I suspect the anachronistic language won’t even be noticeable and it doesn’t sink the book by any means.  Two Natures is a book I would easily recommend and I would absolutely pick up another book by Jendi Reiter, whose descriptions and humor keep reading a pleasure.

4 Stars

Re-read Worthy: Strength of the Pack

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Strength of the Pack

by Kendall McKenna

What do you have when you introduce a dominant werewolf and an inexperienced Lieutenant who never received more than the basic training to handle commanding the very different soldiers, much less the strongest, bravest, badassest one in the Marines?  A very intriguing start to a novel! In this society, werecreatures are the norm and not so unusual. That doesn’t mean everyone’s spent time with them.

Lt. Lucas Young is strapped with the command of a bunch of new soldiers, including werewolves for the first time, in preparation for a tour in Afghanistan. He’s unprepared for commanding the one True Alpha werewolf in the military, Noah Hammond, but that’s who he gets. A soldier to his core, a leader who looks out for the wellbeing of all the men under his command, Lucas is torn between finding a way to control Noah and controlling the wild desire he has for the NCO. This struggle is emphasized throughout the entire story as we follow Lucas and Noah as they navigate military missions as well as personal challenges.

I adore this series. Military men… what more do I need to say? On top of that we have shifters with all their wild, instinctive, growly nature. Pair the two, add in various combat situations, full moons, incompetent commanders, and public dominating and marking, and now we have something! Seriously, these guys are H.O.T. hot! But they are in the military, and they are surrounded by insurgents. There is a lot that can, and does, go wrong. Noah and Lucas will have to function as a pair and face them together if they’re going to keep everyone under their command safe.

Seriously, I’d never read any of Kendall McKenna’s work before I picked up this book. What a crime if I’d never found this series! The best part is that, once you’ve read Strength of the Pack, there are 2 more novels and a short novella still to read. I consider the third book to be the very best of this series, and definitely my personal favorite, but that’s a review for another day!

5 Stars

See it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17258293-strength-of-the-pack?ac=1&from_search=true

5 Stars for Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger

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review by: timncalifornia

In many ways Spy Stuff is a formulaic young adult romance, but this was an extremely well done one. Funnily, or maybe more to the point, the fact that the story deals with a gay couple, one of whom is transgendered male, didn’t alter the formula all that much.  We still find angst with parents, the school “in” group, bullies, outsiders, heroes, sports, and personal growth, but the catalyst driving it all in Spy Stuff is the transition experience of Anton.

Anton has started a new school where no one knows he’s FTM (female-to-male) and that’s just the way he likes it.  It’s a relief not to worry about being bullied and for the first time he’s able to socialize naturally with the other students in his class.  Complications arise when one of the popular guys at school develops a romantic interest in Anton which Anton returns.  He has some hard choices to make as he weighs the pros and cons of revealing his past.  Will he be able to keep a boyfriend and the other friendships that he’s developed?  Or will he be back in the same situation he was before switching schools – reviled and harassed?

High marks to author Matthew Metzger for the factual accuracy of both the internal experience of being transgendered and the daily practical considerations. They are woven naturally into the broader story at hand, only becoming the focus when the storyline calls for it.  Both Anton and the secondary characters are well drawn.  There are points where Metzger veers into PSA territory on trans* issues but these departures are never overbearing. For the most part any underlying message is delivered with a light touch.

In the end, Spy Stuff is a feel good story where the reader is left with the sense that the good guys won and the bad guys are redeemable or get their just desserts.

Check out other reviews and a list of sale sites on Goodreads

5 Stars

 

Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters by Angel Martinez

Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters

Offbeat Crimes Book 1

by Angel Martinez

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**2nd Edition**

shape-34172What can I say? The title really does say it all. Magic? Real. Paranormal Beings? Sinister monsters made of lime green jello? Totally exist. Are they really accepted in society? Weeeell, maybe some of them are. We don’t really get to see a ton of how the general populace feels about the paranormal elements of this world because we don’t really see them. Instead, the story follows the… well, weird. Yep, weirder than the normal witches, vampires, and… well, other unlikely “monsters”—instead we have the off-the-wall types like Kirby… I mean, Kyle Monroe.

See, Kyle is a police officer with the 77th, the Island of Misfit Freaks, made up of the officers that aren’t mundane humans but aren’t quite normal paranormal beings either, like a ghost of a dead officer who refuses to let anyone else make the coffee, a lizard man who doesn’t speak, and a guy who teleport… fruit. Yep, fruit and only fruit. And he’s right up there with them because Kyle sucks up the powers of paranormal beings around him, but he really can’t control it. But he’s a good cop so he does his best for the 77th even if he can’t partner with anyone else already working in his department. So what do the powers that be give him? A new partner, Vikash Soren, who is freakishly in control—all the time. There’s something off about him too, or he wouldn’t have been transferred, but he doesn’t immediately make Kyle spout fire or shove chairs across the room. Maybe it will work out, but when they team up….

Yes, I’m going to leave it there! You can find out a smidge more if you check out the book’s excerpt, but I’ll leave that up to you. As always, Angel Martinez brings a new world to life in the best way possible. I’m a huge fan of her science fiction work, but the quirky nature of this alternative Earth is just as inventive and unique as her alien worlds. Emotion, drama, and danger combine to create sparks that explode, quite literally, in Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters.

Follow Officers Monroe and Soren while they navigate their new partnership as they investigate a string of confusing murders with just a few misfortunate magical events along the way in this hilarious novella by Angel Martinez. Oh, and keep an eye out for Mr. Jacket—he’s my favorite character of all!

Their story continues in Offbeat Crimes Book 2: The Pill Bugs of Time

4 Stars

~ Reviewed by Cia

Savory, Bitter and Sweet by Percy

Savory, Bitter, and Sweetwritten by: Percy

review by: Timothy M

This short story about two employees in a law office is like a small box of exquisite chocolate with an elegant mixture of the bittersweet moments of reluctant attraction. Ian, whose POV we follow, is thirty-something and in an open relationship with a man much like himself. However, to his own annoyance he is attracted to Curtis, who he describes as one of those ‘fey, flamboyantly gay, almost girlish men.’ The disdain Ian displays at first is shown by the disapproving descriptions of the colorful clothes Curtis wears and his general looks and manners.

Yet, the encounters Ian has with Curtis gradually make him (and us) view Curtis in a new light and engender respect for his competence and poise. My favorite scene is probably the food flirt – which is not what you might think. The questions and comments from sharp-witted Curtis lead to Ian re-evaluating his life and whether he is actually happy right now. There is no cut and dried HEA, and, like me, you may end up wishing for more. Perhaps one day Percy will take up the tale of Ian and Curtis, but until then we’ll have to savor what’s in well-crafted little tale.

To read this free online short story by Percy, click on the banner above.

*Story posted on GayAuthors.org, home of more than 4,000 stories!

Backlist Review: A Casual Weekend Thing

Every once in a while I check my TBR pile and find a hidden gem I’d forgotten to read. Today that’s…

A Casual Weekend Thing

by A.J. Thomas

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I have to admit, I didn’t expect what I found when I opened A Casual Weekend Thing. From the description I expected to find lines drawn along common tropes and much made of race, orientation… and while those elements are both instrumental and vital to the plot, they don’t take over. By and far, the story focuses on the main characters as they face very personal and public struggles.

A cop in name as he faces recovery from a gunshot to the shoulder earned in the line of duty, Christoper finally screws up the courage to go talk to his captain about the possible end of his career in Homicide. What he learns there makes that fade as he faces the death of his brother who committed suicide high in the mountains of Montana. Christopher’s painful past is forced into his present life.

As he travels from San Diego, he stops off in the last big city before the boonies and finds something he really didn’t expect: Doug Heavy Runner. Another cop, he has no idea who Doug is and vice versa. They have a passionate connection and go their separate ways only to meet up again at the coroner’s office. From there, they’ll face a host of challenges together and apart as they unravel the secrets plaguing Doug’s hometown, secrets that involve cryptic messages, cadaver dogs, and a lot of hidden violence. If they can’t trust each other…?

Honestly, the varied threads of this story are just what I’m looking for when I look for a good book. There were a variety of sub-plots to keep me interested. Each character had a past that influenced their present. They were fully fleshed out and very real in their private and public selves. The suicide, the investigation, local cops, FBI, small town secondary characters, and secrets all swirl together in unexpected ways in this five-star read.

Don’t miss out!

5 Stars

 

~ Reviewed by Cia

*eBook contains potential trigger material: suicide, past abuse, violence

 

Red Running Shoes by Aditus

Red Running Shoes

review by: Timothy M

Come meet Jonah, the main protagonist of Red Running Shoes, who is impulsive, irrational and trusting. Not a good combination considering the men he falls in love with. Jonah is betrayed and hurt by his best friend turned boyfriend, and his reaction is to run away to another country for six months. As the story begins, we find him on the verge of running away again, this time to his cousin in Sicily. While he’s waiting for his delayed flight to Europe, he decides to explain the reason to his imaginary friend Zach aka his laptop. This quirky way of telling us the story actually works rather well.

After his first voluntary exile, Jonah returns home and tries to pick up his life. He longs for love but is quite understandably scared of another broken heart. Jonah’s friend Chris introduces him to Ren who is the embodiment of tall, dark, handsome and mysterious stranger. Ren provokes and infuriates Jonah as well as us readers, while we try to work out what game he’s playing. At the same time Jonah has to deal with the fact Chris gets together with Eric, the cheating ex-boyfriend, who’s also acting a bit strange.

Aditus, the author, makes us engage ourselves in Jonah and the people around him. We hope the best and fear the worst, as we alternately laugh and curse over his antics, and the bewildering actions of Ren, Eric and several other characters, including Jonah himself. Of all the intriguing men in Jonas’ life my favorite is the Sicilian hat maker and photographer who plays a crucial role in the story. Give Red Running Shoes a chance and experience the rollercoaster of Jonah’s heart-breaking love story.

To read this free online novel-length story, click on the banner above.

*Story posted on GayAuthors.org, home of more than 4,000 stories!

Five Stars for Tantalus by Albert Nothlit

Albert Nothlit has performed a great feat of world-building with his sci-fi novel, Tantalus! In his universe, the average man or woman doesn’t get the chance to leave their world. Good or ill, travel among the stars is just too expensive. Kyle is forced from his home planet after an unfair incident at college, his future hinging on the promise of an apprenticeship on a new planet still being explored by scientists. He expected isolated… but not just one doctor who doesn’t even need him now that his research as been classified by the military.

As you can guess, when the government gets involved in the mix with alien creatures on a planet hostile to human life death is going to occur. And Kyle wants to help Dr. O’Brien learn just what is really happening on Tantalus. But what the truth behind the crisis is far from what you might expect as the plot unfolds, and the true threat might not be what anyone that it was.

Tantalus is written so well I couldn’t help but feel like I was exploring the planet along with Kyle. There is a romance in the story, but it’s kept in the background while the focus is on the rest of the story. The Furballs Dr. O’Brien are non-humanoid, which is refreshing, and their evolution makes total sense based on the planet Albert envisioned for readers. Beyond the aliens we can see are societies long-forgotten and enemies drawing close once again, but the military is so focused on what they think they know it’s almost completely missed. The reveals coming hot and heavy through the book, so we’re always learning something new but each discovery tends to lead to more questions.

I definitely plan to buy book two as soon as it comes out!

5 Stars

~ Reviewed by Cia

Albert Nothlit has several stories posted for free reads on GayAuthors.org, was recently promoted to Promising Author, and is also a published author. Check out his free work on GA here or you can visit his website.

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