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A Gentleman's Position by K. J. Charles (Society of Gentlemen #3)
★★★★☆

My thoughts and feelings are all over the place on this one.

I absolutely adore David's clever plotting to get Ash and the rest of the Ricardians out of trouble, and I'm a huge fan of loathsome people getting their comeuppance, particularly when they're hoist by their own petard, so the romance-adjacent plot made me gleeful.

The romance plot itself.... I'm not entirely sure. I wasn't really invested in Richard and David's relationship, though I don't know that I can put my finger on why. I completely understand both of their perspectives: Richard's problem with a relationship where there's an imbalance of power that could impact his partner's ability to consent, and David's confidence in Richard's good character and his own ability to exercise his free will despite his status as a servant. I was happy with where they ended up but...I guess I wasn't completely convinced by the journey? Or perhaps it's just that they took a different route than I would have, and so it was harder for me to identify with either of them.

I suspect this is one of those books that I'm going to have to think about and pick apart a little before I can put my more complex feelings about it into words. That said, it was still a very enjoyable read — so much so that I ended up staying up all night because I didn't want to put it down.
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A Seditious Affair by K. J. Charles (Society of Gentlemen #2)
★★★★★

I typically avoid D/s themes in my M/M romance reading, but I love K. J. Charles, and I thoroughly enjoyed A Fashionable Indulgence, so I took a chance and don't regret it in the least.

The romance between Silas and Dominic unfolds gorgeously, with a subtlety I've come to expect from the author, and the portions of the plot that revolve around the Peterloo massacre and its repercussions are complex, tightly woven, and utterly riveting. More than anything, I adore the acknowledgement that two people can be vastly different from one another, hold extremely diverse opinions, and yet still interact with both respect and affection — even while hotly debating sensitive issues.

Despite my initial hesitation because of the D/s elements, I think this has ended up being my favorite book of the series.
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A Fashionable Indulgence by K. J. Charles (Society of Gentlemen #1)
★★★★☆

A great introduction to the Society of Gentlemen series. Harry is an interesting character, layered and complex, and I love the way he and Julius complement one another; they have enough commonalities to get along well, but enough differences to provide a few sparks. While the story is mostly focused on Harry and Julius, the other Ricardians are fully developed, three-dimensional characters, as well, and I look forward to reading more about them in future books.

(I have to admit that this isn't a historical period I know much about, so I got the added bonus of a thorough and fascinating history lesson on the Peterloo massacre.)
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The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh by K. J. Charles
★★★★☆

I've read this twice now, and had two different reactions to it.

The first time I read The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh (back in October 2015, right after it was published), it served as my introduction to the Society of Gentlemen series, and in that light it wasn't particularly memorable; it didn't grab my attention, nor did it make me want to read the rest of the series. I love K. J. Charles, though, so when I'd read my way through the rest of her oeuvre, I started in on the Society of Gentlemen novels, and my interest in and curiosity about the origins of Ash and Francis's relationship was sparked by A Fashionable Indulgence.

Re-reading this story with a more in-depth knowledge of (and affection for) the Ricardians made all the difference in the world, and I found myself really enjoying the additional context and subtle character notes that it added to the series as a whole. It's a lovely backstory piece for readers already familiar with the world of the Society of Gentlemen novels.
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Jefferson Blythe, Esquire by Josh Lanyon
★★★★★

I think this is one of my favorite of Josh Lanyon's books. The mystery is suspenseful and quirky and the supporting characters are fascinating. I understood and sympathized with both Jefferson and George, even when they were in opposition.

My only caveat to recommending this book is that it's not your typical M/M romance with a HEA ending. The ending is hopeful, and it was satisfying to me, but I know some readers prefer much more unequivocal happy endings, so be aware that (IMO) this isn't one.
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A Case of Christmas by Josh Lanyon
★★★☆☆

This novel walks a fine line for me, but just manages to stay on the right side of the betrayal: the side where I can believe in giving a second chance, versus the side where it's unforgivable. There's angst, but it's not the gut-wrenching, hardcore kind, which makes it perfect for a Christmas story.

Everything else I want to say leads to spoilers, so I guess I'll just sum it up as "If you typically like Josh Lanyon, you won't be disappointed with A Case of Christmas."
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Crash Plus Expenses by Astrid Amara
★★★☆☆

I typically like Astrid Amara's novels, but I just couldn't really like this one. The main protagonist, Dan, is a creeper, and I've never really been a fan of the idea that you can fall in love with someone from afar; to me, that's the antithesis of what loving someone is — merely seeing them from the outside, rather than knowing them from the inside.

The book is well written, though, and if you're not put off by the scenario, then I'd have no hesitation recommending it. It's just not my cup of tea.
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Cold Fusion by Harper Fox
★★★★★

Harper Fox is an auto-buy author for me, so you can assume that I typically like her work, but I think this book is even better than usual.

I'm really loving the trend toward realistically drawn autistic characters in fiction, and particularly in romance fiction. Harper Fox does a lovely job of showing Vivian's quirks without dehumanizing him or making him a caricature; his characterization rings very true to me. Kier Mallory feels very real, as well, with his survivor's guilt and his self-doubt, and I love that he accepts Vivian for who he is, even if there are some missteps along the way. Neither Vivian nor Mallory is perfect, but they both learn and grow and become greater together than they were apart.

The science is probably impossible — it's even acknowledged as such within the story, while somehow still working — but the science isn't really the point; this is old-school speculative fiction that asks "what if?" and spins off from there, turning into a suspenseful tale of betrayal, conspiracy, and murder...and of love found in the most unlikely of places.
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Third Solstice by Harper Fox
★★★☆☆

This felt more like a Christmas short than like an actual novel. At about 27k words, it's actually longer than the first Tyack & Frayne novel, but it felt like it had less substance, less meat to it. Don't get me wrong: Harper Fox is one of my favorite authors and this is a lovely story, but it definitely had the structure and feel of a short story rather than of the complex and intricately plotted novels I've come to expect from Fox.
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Bookmarked by Piper Vaughn
★★★☆☆

Decently written, from a grammatical standpoint, but there was no emotional resonance; the author never made me feel for the characters. There was very little conflict to drive the story, and what conflict there was ended up resolved quickly and easily and feeling like it had no real or lasting impact on the characters. Mark and Shepherd's romance didn't feel like it had any real basis, either; we're told that they're attracted to each other, but we never really feel that attraction. In fact, there's a lot of telling rather than showing, which keeps this story from reaching its potential.

Overall it's a bit of mildly entertaining fluff, and while I don't actually resent having spent 99 cents on it, I probably won't be buying more from this author in the future, either.

(Note: My star rating for this differs on Goodreads and Amazon, because of the difference in definition between the two sites. I'm rating it "it was ok" in both places, but on Goodreads that's two stars and on Amazon—and here—that's three.)
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I'm going to be doing NaNo this year, trying to finish up the novel that I've been working on. One of the things that helps me is being around other people doing the same kind of stuff, so I set up a Slack team for NaNo2015 . It's going to be very casual, and people can set up channels as they want/need them to chat about whatever they want, share snippets of what they're working on, etc.

Because of how Slack works, I have to invite people using email address; to that end, I've set all comments to this entry to screened, so you can just comment with your email address and I'll toss you an invite.
jillian: A pile of books open on a table, surrounded by more stacks and shelves of books. (books)
Dead in the Desert by Lou Harper
★★★★☆

Just as good as the previous book. I like that Jon's emotional journey is ongoing, and that while Andy recognizes it's going to take time for Jon to heal, he doesn't allow himself to be treated like a doormat for the sake of not disturbing Jon's status quo. I find it very refreshing that Jon is self-aware when it comes to his own jealousy, and works to own it and overcome it rather than taking what he recognizes as irrational feelings out on Andy.

As with Dead in L.A., the mystery here is more the backdrop than it is the A Plot, but that's perfectly fine with me; as far as I'm concerned the evolution of Jon and Andy's relationship is (and should be) the true A Plot — this is a romance, after all. I loved the theme of (skip spoiler) reinventing oneself, and not letting one's family determine who one is. that unfolded as the mystery was solved. It resonated in a very personal way with me.

I hope Harper plans to write more in this series, because I'd love to spend more time with Jon and Andy.
jillian: A pile of books open on a table, surrounded by more stacks and shelves of books. (books)
Dead in L.A. by Lou Harper
★★★★☆

I enjoy Lou Harper's writing style in general, and this was an interesting deviation from the M/M norm in that it was written in first-person POV. I know a lot of readers don't like that, but I've never had a problem with it, especially when the protagonist's voice is clear and well defined, as Jon's is here.

And speaking of Jon, I wasn't sure I liked him to begin with, but as the story progressed and I learned more about him and why he was as determined to be self-contained as he was, I began to understand and empathize. By the end of the book, I found myself really liking him, and appreciating the journey that he'd taken and the changes he'd undergone as a result of his developing friendship and then relationship with Leander.

Leander was a great character, as well, though we don't get as in-depth a look at him as we do at Jon because of the POV. I especially liked that Leander isn't a total pushover; he's a nice guy, and he cuts Jon some slack, but he makes his own decisions and even expresses frustration, anger, and bitterness over what he perceives as Jon's initial "two beer queer" behavior.

The mystery aspect of the book was well done, though I didn't feel like it was really the point. I don't mean that in a negative or critical way, mind you. It felt like the backdrop in a play: when executed with artistry, it adds immeasurably to the production — in fact, the show wouldn't be the same without it — but the audience's focus will always be more on the actors in front of it.

The second book is already on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to starting it later today.
jillian: A pile of books open on a table, surrounded by more stacks and shelves of books. (books)
Charmed and Dangerous
★★★★☆

Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford
4 of 5 stars
I'm not always a fan of the interpersonal dynamics in Rhys Ford's stories, but I enjoyed them in this one. My only complaints are 1) the inconsistent use of first and last name of the antagonist at the very beginning made the action a little confusing to me, and 2) the scene-setting was dialed back a little far — definitely no weighty exposition dumps here — so that the first chapter was a little hard for me to get into.

Swift and the Black Dog by Ginn Hale
5 of 5 stars
Ginn Hale is excellent, as always. I love the worldbuilding, and I hope she writes more in this world (assuming she hasn't, since I have yet to read the Lord of the White Hell books). The contrast between Jack and Owen — their philosophies, outlooks, and experiences — gave them a great spark, and I have a particular weakness for stories in which one partner's moral alignment is impetus for the other to become a better person.

A Queer Trade by K. J. Charles
4 of 5 stars
I really enjoy this world — I squeed when Mrs. Gold appeared — and I like these characters. The inclusion of a character of color was really nice, though I can't speak to the (relative, since this is a magical history) accuracy of the portrayal for the time period. Crispin and Ned are definitely characters I'd like to spend more time with; I'd read a spin-off novel series dedicated to them.

Magically Delicious by Nicole Kimberling
3½ of 5 stars
It was nice to spend time with Keith and Gunther again. I always enjoy Nicole Kimberling's writing style, and her characters are wonderfully real, with flaws and weaknesses as well as strengths. I'd have given this another half (or maybe even whole) star, if not for the fact that the solution to the mystery was telegraphed from the very beginning and one thread was left dangling at the end.

Everyone's Afraid of Clowns by Jordan Castillo Price
4 of 5 stars
A little Halloween ghost action for my favorite PsyCops, Victor and Jacob. It says something when the live people and the obscene philosophies they espouse — neither of which seem the least bit out of place in our current sociopolitical climate — are more horrifying than the ghosts.

The Thirteenth Hex by Jordan L. Hawk
3½ of 5 stars
Jordan L. Hawk has created a very interesting world and system of magic, and I'd love to read more stories set there. My only complaint is that the characters don't feel as fleshed out as they could be; the familiars felt more like sketches than like people. Otherwise, it was an excellent story, with a surprising reveal.

The Soldati Prince by Charlie Cochet
2½ of 5 stars
I should start by saying that I'm not a huge fan of shifter stories or the concept of "mates," so this probably wasn't going to grab me regardless. From a technical standpoint, the pacing felt off — this ought to have been a novel rather than a short story, IMO — and to be honest, I could never get past the nagging feeling that I was reading bad Teen Wolf crack!fic with the serial numbers filed off. I've heard good things about this author, so I'll probably give her another shot, but this was by far the story I was most disappointed with in this collection.

One Hex Too Many by Lou Harper
4½ of 5 stars
Lou Harper is another new-to-me author, and I'm impressed; looks like I'll have to pick up some more of her books. This was a great story, and another world in which I'd like to spend more time. It felt like this story barely scratched the surface of who Mike and Hugh were (but not in a bad way), and I really want to see more. In fact, I'd love to see more of the whole Extramundane Crimes Division.

Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom by Andrea Speed
3 of 5 stars
This one just didn't work for me. I'm not sure if it's because I haven't read the other books in the series, or if it just wasn't my type of story. I didn't get a sense of who Josh or Colin were as people (well, person and vampire, respectively), I didn't care about either of them, and I didn't see any actual spark between them.

The Trouble with Hexes by Astrid Amara
5 of 5 stars
Another excellent story from Astrid Amara. The past breakup felt real without demonizing either Vincent or Tim, and still managed to leave the door open for a relatively healthy reconciliation. It was a logical whodunnit, with enough clues to be solvable, but not so many as to make it too obvious. This is another world I'd enjoy reading more about; now that Tim believes Vincent and is aware of the paranormal in the world, I think they'd work well together doing both mundane PI work and hexbreaking.

Overall this was a wonderful anthology, well worth the price, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes their m/m romance with a crunchy paranormal coating.
jillian: A pile of books open on a table, surrounded by more stacks and shelves of books. (books)
Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek by R. Cooper.
★★★★☆
The title pretty accurately describes the story: medium length, sweet, with an extra shot of geek in the person of Tommy, the protagonist's love interest, who is pretty, buff, and has a tendency to talk a lot. It's a very introspective piece, largely stream of consciousness, with a kind of gentle lyricism that I really enjoyed.
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My personal life overcame me, I never finished the story for the anthology, and I was subsumed into the shadows.

But! I'm dragging myself back, starting to read and write fiction again, and maybe get somewhere new — in a metaphorical sense. One of the things I'm going to try to do is post my book reviews here, as well as on Goodreads, so that'll be my next couple of posts.

Crazy busy!

Aug. 7th, 2009 06:59 am
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Quick update because I realized I'd never posted after the move. We're here, we're settling in and getting organized, and I'm finding that I can survive with the nearest civilization (and by civilization, I mean anything bigger than a gas station) being half an hour away by car. It's actually been far easier than I expected to plan so that I only have to grocery shop once a week. Last week I spent a day making curtains for the kitchen, and we've got a lovely banana bread in the kitchen that's the result of my ongoing domestic mood.

The best part, though, is that half the time when I hear a noise outside and look out the window? I see deer wandering through my yard. Deer! I'm a city girl, people; in my lifetime I've seen the odd raccoon or fox or—on one occasion that traumatized my then-four-year-old brother beyond words—bull snake, but deer? And apparently there are bears and bobcats and coyote out here, too, but I haven't seen them.

It's a fabulous place to live, and a great work environment, too. Very peaceful.

Speaking of work.... I'm currently in the middle of a story for an anthology to be released by Dancing Fools Press later this year, so I'm going to be pretty busy over the next month or so.

Now, off to meet my new doctor and get several pints of blood taken for various tests to make sure I'm healthy—or at least that I was healthy before they started the vampire routine. *g* Since the doctor's office is nearly an hour away, we're going to make a day of it and have lunch at Outback, do some shopping, and go see the new Harry Potter movie.
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I didn't get the perfect apartment I twittered about the other day, but I got a place that's both more perfect in some ways and less so in others. I'm excited. And ambivalent. *g* But mostly excited.

The new place is a mini-farm, out in the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula. I'm about a mile from the waterfront, seven or eight miles from the nearest thing resembling a town, and nearly twenty miles from anywhere large enough to have more than a single crossroads of retail businesses. Also, I'm about thirty miles from my eldest child (S), whose decision to move away from home and in with her boyfriend is what prompted my relocation.

I like the isolation—I'm kind of a hermit when I'm not online—though I'm less than thrilled with the lack of washer/dryer hookups. There's no real option to put them in, either, because (and here's where it gets scary for city-girl me) the house is served by a well for its water, the wastewater goes into a septic system, and the owner doesn't want to risk overtaxing either of those. I've never dealt with a place this rural, and while I really love it I'm also more than a little afraid I won't be up to the task.

Of course, because I tend to throw myself into things wholeheartedly, I'm already planning a garden and a chicken coop. *g*

The house itself is a tiny two bedroom, but there's a cellar and several outbuildings I can use for storage. One of the outbuildings is a lovely heated studio that's going to house J (S's best friend who's been living with us for the last four years and who might as well be my adopted kid) for the next year, but after that I'm thinking it'd make an awesome place for me to write.

I could also pay an extra $100 a month and rent the barn and pasture that's part of the property, but then I'd be tempted to get a horse or a cow, and I think that I should probably wait and see how dealing with a well, septic system, propane heat, vegetable garden, and chickens goes before I dive into the realm of large farm animals.

The big move is slightly over three weeks away, and I'm doing a pretty good job of breathing through the panic. *g* Monday will see me calling around to local moving companies and getting quotes, and in the meantime I'm sorting and packing and posting things to craigslist and my local freecycle group.

Cross your fingers for me and my new, crazy adventure!
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It's going to be pretty quiet around here for a while, but I wanted to post at least once to say 'hi' to anyone who's wandered over to check me out after my recent friending spree.

At the moment I'm trying to simultaneously work on a novel and a couple of short stories, prepare for a long-term houseguest, arrange to move house, be a full-time single parent of a teenage boy, and possibly have something resembling a social life. I'm thinking that last one is already doomed to failure. Offers of dark chocolate, or of caffeine delivered via intravenous drip are welcome.

I hope to use this journal to spark discussion about all aspects of writing. To that end, differing perspectives are always welcome but I draw the line at hate speech and/or ad hominem attacks.

Anyway, hi! Welcome!
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