Book Review: Souvenir Boys by David-Matthew Barnes

This collection of previously published and award-winning poems explores the themes of seduction, obsession, lust, desire, and unrequited love.

I’ve read David-Matthew Barnes before and I enjoy his young adult and adult fiction. This is the first poetry I’ve read of his, and I must say I enjoyed it. Each of the poems in this collection is very personal and tells a story. They’re written with different styles, and though they all have similar themes, it’s never redundant.

A few of the poems stood out to me and I highlighted them in the book. “Paper Boy” really resonated with me because I was a paper girl when I was younger, and I felt much the same way. The poem really captures that feeling of being alone and free and contemplating the future. I was twelve when I had my first paper route, and I remember biking along dreaming up what my life would be like, especially since I was “sophisticated” and had a job.

“Souvenir Boy,” where the title I assume comes from, stood out to me because of the last lines “Although we’ve come close, there are more than hot white seconds between us – there lies a lost country or two.”

“Look for Homer” felt so much like a fantasy to me, I wondered if this really happened. I got lost in the poem and placed myself there on Mylopotas Beach, and at the end I was sorry for the poem to end, and sorry for the poet to leave.

“Dear Mr. Sanchez” might be my favorite. I really loved the style this one was written in. As a letter, it’s so effective in getting the meaning across and translating the poets emotions to the readers. I’ve reread it several times and have started my own poem using this form now.

“Celebrity Skin” felt like another fantasy to me, and I wanted to drop the book and email the poet right away and ask if it was real and if it were, who the person in question was. It was deliciously scandalous, like something you’d read in a novel.

This book is currently only available as an ebook and can be purchased on Amazon here. Though I would like it to be known that I would purchase a print copy if this were to become available.

Book Review: Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships by Kim Knox

Edgar Mason is ready to embark upon his new life at Agamemnon Frost’s side. But all is not perfect. Through torture, Pandarus, his Martian overlord, has implanted a dark voice in his mind, a voice that urges betrayal. And though he can keep close to Frost, there’s little room for romance under the watchful gaze of the engineers from Station X.

That changes when Mason and Frost reopen their investigation into their old enemy’s whereabouts. Posing as double agents and investigating cryptic rumors of “hollow ships,” they find him impersonating a London banker and worm their way into his confidence.

But their success brings them trouble in spades. Pandarus takes them into the belly of his ships, where he plans to transfigure them into mindless automata. And with Earth on the brink of invasion, Frost’s old flame Theodora reappearing, and Pandarus’s brainwashing growing more effective, Mason and Frost will find their bond tested as never before.

YES yes yes yes and yes. An excellent second addition to the Agamemnon Frost trilogy, and I am PRAYING that Kim Knox finds a way to push this past a trilogy and make it a full series. Because this is just to awesome to stop.

While the first book explores Mason and Frost getting to know each other while battling the enemy and being turned into automata, this next book picks up where the last left off. Mason is still torn between his implanted allegiance to his Ilarches, and Frost, who he wants. Badly. Whenever Frost gets close to him, Mason is able to push the voice inside his head away for awhile.

Now that they’re both automata, their mission is to find Pandarus and take him out. But it’s not that simple. He’s changed bodies and he might suspect Frost and Mason (also known as Achilles and Patroclus) are traitors.

What follows is an adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat, charged with both action and sexual tension as Mason continues to want Frost, but is confused as to whether or not Frost truly wants him too, or is just using him to defeat their enemy.

Next book, please!

Book Review: Greg Honey by Russ Gregory

Honey Agency: If we can’t solve your problem, we’re sorry.

Greg Honey has bigger issues than a sketchy tagline for his one-man detective agency. To start with, his mother is pressuring him to date debutantes, his stalker keeps leaving threatening messages, his new boyfriend is at least four levels higher up on the gay boy food chain, and his best friend, Willa, has lost her panties. To top it all off, things keep pointing toward trouble at the family estate. Will Greg figure out what’s going on in time to help Willa find her panties? Lord knows he wants to because Greg is more than a detective… he’s also a Honey.

WARNING: Do not read this book late at night while others around you are sleeping. You will likely cause them to wake up and be angry with you for all the laughing and snorting you will be doing. This is especially important if you live in an apartment building with paper thin walls.

With that out of the way, I must say I LOVED this new book by Russ Gregory. If you’re expecting a romance, just stop. Greg ain’t got time for that. Well, actually he does, with Matt, the guy he’s seriously crushing on, but that’s not the focus of this book. The focus is the mystery and, well, the comedy. Because this book is HILARIOUS.

Greg is a private investigator in his own, mostly new firm. His family is obscenely wealthy, but he’s not. Along with his friend Willa – who talks nonstop and misunderstands everything – he takes on cases and tries not to get shot or tased on the way to his next paycheck.

I think one of the funniest aspects of the book is Greg’s grandmother, Lucille. She has no filter whatsoever and calls it like she sees it. And when she wants to know something, she asks. Even if it’s the mechanics of Greg’s relationship with Matt.

This cast of characters is fun, mostly lovable, sometimes aggravating, and just all around bigger than the hair in Texas, which does make a special appearance.

If you like mysteries, comedies, or the two combined, do not miss this spectacular new book. I am praying that there is more in the works for Greg Honey, because I need to know what his next case load is going to bring!

You can purchase this book directly from Bold Strokes Books. It will be released September 1, 2013.

Book Review: The Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin

From Bold Strokes Books website: Twins Aaron and Hayden Swann are fighting a corrupt government taken over by ultra right-wing Fundamentalist Christians in 2055 America. Each brother fights in his own way, Aaron with bullets, Hayden with words. Then one night their world is turned upside down when they are caught in a government sting and they must both flee north into the badlands between San Francisco and Canada, where the only safe haven is a place called The Plain of Bitter Honey, a refuge where heads of the Resistance operate. But the brothers don’t know that government agents are tracking them to the hiding place of the   Resistance. Can they find the inner strength to survive?

There are some books that are really easy to write reviews for. And there are others that are difficult. Not because they’re not great books, but BECAUSE they are great books. This is one of those. I cannot write my typical spazzing out sort of review for this book because it just wouldn’t do it justice. And this book deserves a lot of careful thought.

The Plain of Bitter Honey takes place in the not too distant future. The America that is painted for readers is very grim. At least for some. For some people, they might like the fact the Christianity has taken over and the States have become a Christian nation. However, it is hell on Earth for many people in the book. If you do not agree with the views of those in power, or if your life and loves are different from what they think it should be, you are placed in ghettos.

I’ll flash back to history here, because what the author has done is draw on the Holocaust. There are many allusions to what happened in Nazy Germany during World War II. It is done masterfully, because it shows just how horrific the world has become.

Aaron and Hayden Swann are identical twins that are part of the resistance. At least Aaron is. Hayden, it seems, is off in his own world of literature. As a gay man, he has to hide the fact that he loves his boyfriend Julian, for fear of either being placed in the ghetto or being treated. While Aaron is very hard and driven, Hayden seems so carefree.

Looks can be deceiving.

What follows is an incredible journey to save the twins, the reistance, and everything they hold dear. There were times when I thought for sure all hope was lost, but the beautiful thing about how is that it’s always within reach if you just keep believing.

The author also weaves in some beautiful moments of magical realism as well, such as when Aaron is training with Twig and he learns to blend into the trees and become a part of them.

The conclusion of the novel is ultimately heart-breaking and beautiful. It is full of hope and you want the characters to succeed. I stayed up past one in the morning to finish because I couldn’t stop, and when I finally came to the conclusion, I put the book down, curled up in the fetal position on my bed, and just cried.

Such a wonderful novel from Alan Chin. He has a way with words that will leave you thinking and praying that this is not the future that we are headed towards. Frighteningly enough, with the current state of our country, it at times feels that way.

I look forward to many more books from this author.

This book will be released in June, 2013, and will be available from Bold Strokes Books and Amazon.

 

Book Review: Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? by Dan Bucatinsky

I’m a member of a book club that sometimes ships the new books automatically…because I’ve forgotten to decline the books. In this instance, Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? came to me because I had – once again – forgotten to turn down the selections chosen for me. Since I already paid for them and the package had come, I didn’t really feel like sending them back. It was too much of a pain.

I’m glad I didn’t.

Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad is a hysterical memoir on a gay man’s struggle to adopt a child with his husband, and become a parent. But it’s also much more than that. The book has anecdotes from throughout his life that pretty much anyone can relate to. One example, the chapter “The F Word.” No, it’s not what you’re thinking. The word in question is “fat.” Bucatinsky relates his experiences with food, both positive and negative, and how he still struggles to overcome them, and how he tries his best not to pass the food anxiety on to his children.

The book is hilarious, too. By page two I had already laughed three times (I stopped counting after that) and the laughs just kept coming. I couldn’t put it down, either. I stayed up late to read it and had to smother laughs behind a hand to keep from waking up everyone in the house.

But the book is also heartbreaking. The author talks about the loss of his father and struggling to find the right time to open The Box that was left for him. It is the exploration of two men who have different backgrounds and try to find a common ground in not only parenting, but cultural traditions.

Whether or not you are a parent, I highly recommend this book. It has a little bit of something for everyone, and it shows us that no matter what sort of marriage you have or who your partner is, all parents have the same fears and insecurities – and grossouts – about their children.

You can purchase this book now from Amazon.

Book Review: The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Ann Wright

I hope you have some time to read, because you’re not going to want to put this one down.

About the book: To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdom’s greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the king’s monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play.
Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive.

I can only say that this book was incredible. The characters were complex and well-written. The dialogue was fantastic and often humorous. Each character brought something new to the book and was very distinct. Not a single one felt forced or unreal to me. By the end of the book I was so caught up in their world that I found myself wish I lived in it.

It’s not just the main characters, Katya and Starbride, that are well-written, though. Each secondary character became larger than life and had a huge stake in the book as well. I could easily see each one having his or her own book because I wanted to know that much more about them.

Wright creates an interesting world where magic is harnessed through pyramids, and Fiends lie sleeping just below the kingdom, controlled only by the humans in charge. In this world, love knows no bounds, be it gender or ethnicity. Starbride is from Allusia, another country, and it is visible in her looks. While some of the other courtiers scorn her, she does find some friends. And, of course, the Princess.

I loved Brother Brutal. I want to know more about his chapterhouse and how he seeks enlightenment through fighting. And Pennynail is such an intriguing character! Communicating only through gestures, he does not talk, and it seems the only person who knows his true identity is Crowe. It makes me wonder just who or what Pennynail is. I also have to admit a fondness for Lord Hugo and Countess Nadia.

If you enjoy fantasy with romantic elements, this is one book you will not want to miss out on. Finding the identity of the true enemy will leave you guessing until the last page. Wright weaves together a wonderful tale full of peril, intrigue, romance, and magic.

This book will be released on September 18, 2012. You can preorder the book from Bold Strokes Books or Amazon.

 

Book Review: The Jetsetters by David-Matthew Barnes

Originally I was not going to post adult book reviews on this site, but I’ve decided the heck with that. I’ll just label the books as adult and put them under a different recommended reads page! So with that, here we go.

Justin and Diego are great characters, and let me tell you, that opening paragraph of chapter one almost killed me. I knew from the start that I was in for an emotional ride and it did not let me down. I’ve also come to realize that I suck at relationships BECAUSE of books. I expect them to be like THIS relationship, between Justin and Diego.

The attraction between the characters might be instantaneous, but it feels so realistic. It is a phsyical attraction, but they both have that feeling that everything is just right. And why can’t that happen? Their fears and lives are also real, and I felt for them the entire time I read the book. (Okay, so it took me less than a day to read, but I still felt for them.)

The secondary characters are phenomenal, too. By the end of the book I loved Mary Jane. She has some great one-lines towards the end that I even highlighted them on my Kindle! And Nina. What’s not to love-hate about her? Or Darla?
My only gripe with the book is that it wasn’t longer. I wanted to know more about what happened to Justin and Diego. While I have no doubt that they are back together and committed 100%, I still wanted to see it. And cherish it with them. And then cry because that’s what I want in a relationship to.

Barnes does an amazing job with this book. The music is wonderfully chosen and fits the tone (yes, I went and found the songs as they came up in the book), and I wish Diego was a real person so I could hear him sing his song for Justin.

Now, excuse me while I go stare at my ceiling and pray for a love like theirs.

This book will be released on September 18, 2012. You can preorder it from Bold Strokes Books or Amazon.