A chance meeting between orphaned British writer, Stephen, and American soldier, Dustin, leads to a passionate love affair in England. But when Dustin chooses to go back home to his small Southern town to care for his mentally challenged brother, Stephen is left behind, sending letters that are never answered. He finally decides to follow Dustin home and arrives only to discover that Dustin is no more.
This is my second read by Brandon Shire. The first, The Value Of Rain (review), blew me way with its passionate, multi-generational family drama featuring a gay main character. I was thus eager to accept a second arc from Shire, and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.
There are some commonalities in the stories. Both feature a gay man who grew up in an unaccepting family and show the impact that has on their lives. But that’s where the similarities cease. Listening To Dust is really about a gay man who grew up with an accepting and loving grandmother trying to come to terms with who his lover is and was and how his lover’s family affects and affected him. This book is really more about what it is to love someone who suffers from deep childhood wounds. The difficult path that is to follow and how many pitfalls exist in it. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Stephen’s voice, I still respected his experiences and the difficult situations he found himself in. I also appreciated seeing the far-reaching impact lack of love and family acceptance has. It doesn’t just affect the people raised in that family.
The writing is again gorgeous. Even now I can feel the hot dustiness of Dustin’s hometown and also the comforting cool greenery of Stephen’s grandmother’s French cottage. Shire elicits both place and emotions so powerfully that it is impossible not to be moved by the story.
I also really enjoyed the various commentary throughout the book on love, words, and actions. What love is, what it does, and whether words or actions are worth more.
So I guess we were both right, and both wrong about actions and words. Like the two of us, one is empty without the other. (location 1014)
The sex scenes manage to be steamy and emotional. What I might call literary sex scenes. When I read them, I felt them in my knees.
Even now I can feel the heat from your palm as you cupped the back of my head and pulled my lips those last few inches, how you opened your body and begged me with your soul. (location 1726)
So what held me back from 5 stars? As previously stated, I wasn’t a huge fan of Stephen’s voice, although I respected his experiences. He sometimes grated on me a bit. I’m not sure if it was his slight Britishisms or how much he got hung up in his own head but he sometimes irritated me in a way that kept me from getting completely engrossed in the story. But this is a small thing, really, when compared to the story as a whole and the beautiful writing.
Overall, this is a book that sweeps the reader away to multiple, disparate places to explore both love and the far-reaching affects of a harsh family life. It should appeal to any who enjoy a heart-breaking contemporary GLBTQ romance.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Note: 10% of all proceeds donated to LGBT Youth Charities combating homelessness.
Yelena is on death row for killing a man in the military state of Ixia but on the day of her execution she faces a choice. Become the Commander’s food taster and face possible death by poison every day or be hanged as planned. Being a smart person, Yelena chooses the former. Now that she has admittance to the inner circle of the military state, she quickly comes to see that not everything is quite as it seems….not even her own personal history or her heart.
*sighs* You guys. I have got to stop letting people convince me to pick up books using the phrase, “I know you don’t like [blank] but!” That is how this book wound up on my tbr pile. “I know you don’t like fantasy, but!” and also “I know you don’t like YA, but!” oh and “I know you don’t like romance in YA, but!” A reader knows her own taste. And I don’t like any of those. I still came at it with hope, though, since I did like one fantasy book I read this year (Acacia). There’s a big difference in how they wound up on my pile though. I chose Acacia myself because its reviews intrigued me. Poison Study was foisted upon me by well-meaning friends. So, don’t get my review wrong. This book isn’t bad. It’s just what I would call average YA fantasy. Nothing made it stand-out to me, and it felt very predictable.
The world of Ixia felt similar to basically every other fantasy world I’ve seen drawn out, including ones friends and I wrote up in highschool. Everyone has to wear a color-coded uniform that makes them easily identifiable. There are vague similarities to the middle ages (like Rennaisance-style fairs). There are people in absolute control. There is magic and magicians who are either revered or loathed. There are all the things that are moderately similar to our world but are called something slightly different like how fall is “the cooling season.” Some readers really like this stuff. I just never have. I need something really unique in the fantasy world to grab me, like how in the Fairies of Dreamdark series the characters are tinkerbell-sized sprites in the woods who ride crows. That is fun and unique. This is just….average.
Yelena’s history, I’m sorry, is totally predictable. I knew why she had killed Reyad long before we ever find out. I suspected early on how she truly came to be at General Brazell’s castle. I didn’t know the exact reason he had for collecting these people, but I got the gist.
And now I’m going to say something that I think might piss some readers off, but it’s just true. What the hell is it with YA romance and exploitative, abusive douchebags? This may be a bit of a spoiler, but I think any astute reader can predict it from the first chapter who the love interest is, but consider yourself warned that it’s about to be discussed. Yelena’s love interest is Valek, the dude who is the Commander’s right-hand man and also who offers her the poison taster position and trains her for it. He manipulates her throughout the book, something that Yelena herself is completely aware of. There are three things that he does that are just flat-out abusive. First, he tricks her into thinking that she must come to see him every two days for an antidote or die a horrible death of poisoning. (Controlling much?) Second, he sets her up in a false situation that she thinks is entirely real to test her loyalty to him. (Manipulative and obsessive much?) Finally, and this is a bit of a spoiler, even after professing his love for her, he asserts that he would kill her if the Commander verbally ordered it because his first loyalty is to him. What the WHAT?! Even the scene wherein he professes his love for Yelena he does it in such a way that even she states that he makes her sound like a poison. There’s a healthy start to a relationship. *eye-roll* All of this would be ok if Yelena ultimately rejects him, asserting she deserves better. But she doesn’t. No. She instead has happy fun sex times with him in the woods when she’s in the midst of having to run away because Valek’s Commander has an order out to kill her. This is not the right message to be sending YA readers, and yet it’s the message YA authors persist in writing. I could go into a whole diatribe on the ethics of positively depicting abusive relationships in literature, especially in YA literature, but that should be its own post. Suffice to say, whereas the rest of the book just felt average to me, the romance soured the whole book. It is disappointing.
Ultimately then, the book is an average piece of YA fantasy that I am sure will appeal to fantasy fans. I would recommend it to them, but I feel that I cannot given the positively depicted unhealthy romantic relationship the main character engages in.
2 out of 5 stars
Maggie Wright comes to the cozy Maine bed and breakfast, Seascape, not for a vacation, but to investigate the mysterious death of her cousin, Carolyn. Carolyn’s artist fiancee, TJ MacGregor, just so happens to be staying at Seascape, but a mysterious force is preventing him from leaving. Despite the tragedy standing between them, they start to fall for each other.
This is obviously a romance with a dash of mystery and a touch of ghosts. Maine is a wonderful setting, particularly for a paranormal romance. This one just didn’t work for me, although I can clearly see how it will be able to find an audience.
I found the writing, particularly the romance, to ring a bit….old-fashioned and conservative. The characters all seem to speak in the same speaking style as the elderly woman who manages the inn. That works for her, and she is definitely my favorite character in the book, but it doesn’t work so well for TJ and Maggie who are both young and from New Orleans. I’m sure some readers would find the clean, conservative manner in which they talk a bit of fresh air, but to me it was dull and felt like a book my grandma gave me to get started out in romances when I was in middle school.
Similarly, the way the entire town is willing to appease the local pastor when it comes to things like alcohol and condoms kind of enraged me. For instance, the convenience store will only sell condoms to married couples upon the request of the pastor. I mean WHAT?! That is just not even LEGAL. But. As a book reviewer, I can definitely see that a more conservative crowd would appreciate the idea of a town where that sort of understanding could exist.
So, ignoring the fact that this book is far too conservative for me, there is one other issue that bothered me. I found the mystery of Carolyn’s death entirely confusing. At first I thought that Maggie came to Seascape to investigate the death because Carolyn died up there, but toward the end of the book, it sounds like she died in New Orleans. Which was it? And if she did die in New Orleans, then why did Maggie go to Seascape in the first place? Also, people think the car crash was mysterious because the painting she had with her was undamaged, but then toward the end of the book they say no the undamaged painting wasn’t found at the car, it’s just that it had disappeared and reappeared. Or something. I’m still very confused about everything about Carolyn, which is problematic given that this is the central conflict keeping our romantic couple apart. The mystery should be mysterious but not illogical.
Overall, this is a romance novel that was not for me, but will appeal to more conservative romance readers. People looking for an old-timey style romance with a touch of ghosts will appreciate it.
3 out of 5 stars
R is a zombie, and he remembers nothing about his life before he was one–except that his name starts with the letter R. He and his group of the other living dead inhabit an old abandoned airport and are ruled by the bonies. They hunt the living not just for the food, but also for the memories that come from ingesting their brains. It’s like a drug. One day when he’s out on a hunt, R eats the brain of a young man who loves a young woman who is there, and R steps in to save her. It is there that an unlikely love story begins.
Now that I have a new job I decided to stop going through the rigamarole that is finding something you actually want to read as an audiobook in the public library and subscribe to Audible, especially since I always have my kindle with me anyway. I decided to choose audiobooks to read from the bottom of my wishlist, so everything you’ll be seeing on here (unless it was free on Audible) was put on my wishlist a long time ago. Half the time I couldn’t remember why it wound up there. That was the case here. I mean; I’m assuming it was there for the zombies, but I basically had no other idea about it heading in. This is partly why my mind was blown, so if you want a similar experience I’m telling you to go get yourself a copy right this instant! Vamoose! For those who need more convincing, though, please do read on.
Perhaps surprisingly, I have read zombie love stories before, so I wasn’t expecting too many new or particularly engaging ideas. This book is overflowing with them though. Everything from zombies getting high on other people’s memories to getting to see both the zombie and living side of the war to the concept of what the war is ultimately about to even what a zombie is was all brand-new. And it pretty much all makes sense in the world Marion has set up and is engaging. I could not “put the book down.” I listened to it in every spare second I had. Nothing went the way I predicted and yet it all made complete sense.
R is far more complex than what you’d expect from a zombie, even before his symbolic awakening. Julie is everything you would want from a heroine. She’s pretty, smart, and she says fuck! She can hold her own but is still emotional and vulnerable. She’s exactly what any artistic, strong woman would be in a zombie apocalypse. Even the more minor characters are well-rounded, and there is the racial diversity one would expect from a zombie apocalypse in a big city.
Alas, the narration was not quite as amazing as the story. Although Kenerly does a very good job, sometimes he fails to convey all of the emotions going on in the scenes or doesn’t switch characters quite quick enough. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and didn’t detract from the story at all, but I also don’t feel that it added a ton to it.
This is a book that I know I will want to read again, and I may even need to buy an ebook or print version just to do so in a whole nother way next time. It is an engaging new look at a zombie apocalypse that reads more as a dystopia than post-apocalyptic. Anyone who needs restored faith in the ability of humanity to fix where we’ve gone wrong should absolutely give this book a shot.
5 out of 5 stars
Gemme is the Matchmaker for her generation on board the Expedition a spaceship that has been headed toward Paradise 18 for hundreds of years and multiple generations in the hopes of saving humanity from extinction due to the failure of Earth. The ship is driven by a pair of seers–twins from Old Earth who have been kept alive an abnormally long amount of time by being hooked up to machines and virtually made part of the ship. The seers make a mistake for the first time in hundreds of years and end up in a meteor shower and having to crash-land on the barely inhabitable ice planet Tundra 37. Gemme finds herself reassigned from Matchmaker to the exploratory team Alpha Blue with the hunky Lieutenant that the computer system matched her with just before blowing off into space during the meteor shower. Can she land the hunk without anyone knowing about the match? And will the colonists manage to survive Tundra 37?
Although this is the second book in the series, which I didn’t realize at first, it appears that each book follows a different spaceship that left Earth, so I really do not think it’s necessary to read them in order. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, for instance.
It’s been a while since I read a book this bad that came from a publishing house, but it does happen. This is part of why I firmly believe it shouldn’t matter if a work is self-published or indie published or traditionally published. Bad books happen everywhere. Although it definitely is more baffling when something like this slips through a publishing house. (Then again, Twilight happened…..)
There is just so much wrong with this book. The characters struggle in this odd land between one-dimensional and three-dimensional. They’re two-dimensional? The structure itself is odd. We jump around at illogical points between Gemme/Lieutenant, the Seers’ lives on Old Earth, and the little crippled girl on the ship, Vira. I’d just get interested, finally, in one of the plots and then get yanked over to another one, only to have it happen all over again. Actually, the Seers’ lives are interesting and unique. I wish Dionne had simply told their story and ignored the total snoozefest that is the love interest between Gemme and the Lieutenant. These are all moderately minor things though that I could still see another reader enjoying, if it weren’t for the things that make zero fucking sense. There’s so many of them, I’m just gonna go ahead and bullet-point them for ya’ll.
- When the ship first crash-lands, the Seers (telekinetic, all-knowing types) announce that they have enough fuel to keep everyone warm and everything running for three months. Mysteriously, this number changes to three days without any explanation.
- Seriously, how could one person’s entire career be matchmaking one generation that fits on-board a space-ship? Plus, all she does is double-check the matches the computer sets up. This could be done in a day or two. A week at the most.
- NOBODY noticed little Vira’s telekinetic powers before now? Puhleeze.
- Supposedly the Seers’ eggs have been randomly implanted into random women for all the generations on-board the ship in the hopes of getting another Seer. Nobody knows this except the Matchmakers. Fact: The Seers are African-American. Double-fact: It appears almost everyone else on-board the ship is white. And you expect me to believe nobody noticed the random inter-racial babies popping up?! When these people mate for life? Apparently the facts of genetics that are so important to these people are completely unnoticed when it comes to race. HUH
As if these inconsistencies were not enough, there’s also the fact that Dionne simply tries to do too much throughout the book. Among the ideas and storylines going in this rather short book (thank god), we’ve got:
- People reliving their past lives in their dreams.
- Soulmates from past lives finding each other.
- The humans’ attempts to survive on Tundra 37.
- The explanation of how this ship got in the air in the first place.
- One seer’s love story.
- The story of the seers’ relationship with each other on Old Earth.
- How Old Earth went to hell.
- Vira being telekinetic and hiding it.
- An “evil entity” on board the ship.
- The mysterious orb.
- The mysterious beacon.
- The Gemme/Lieutenant/Luna love triangle (wtf is with the love triangles in romance novels?!)
Basically, the problem is, you can either tell the story of the Seers’ lives or the story of the colonist’s lives on Tundra 37. You can’t really do both. It’s confusing and jarring and seriously that orb/beacon thing was totally unnecessary for either one. This is honestly an understandable problem. Authors sometimes get too much going at once. But how it made it through editing and to publication in this format is beyond me. Could it be a typical outerspace, clean romance? (There is no sex). Sure! Is it the way it is now? Hell no! How it is now is a confusing mess that’s simply exhausting to read. Not what your typical romance reader is looking for or, really, any reader for that matter. Definitely give this one a pass.
2 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
Kris is a successful video editor in Charleston, South Carolina with two best friends she’s made her own family with. She has a beautiful beach house and a loving fluffy cat named Pegasus. She also just so happens to be precognitive. Her visions have never been about herself until she starts sensing that she is being watched, receiving late night phone calls, and finding flowers left at her house and on her car. Increasingly, she realizes she is in danger, and right then her old college flame moves in next door.
This is an interesting mix of suspense, romance, and paranormal that keeps the reader guessing and interested and shows promise in the writer.
Kris’s life prior to the stalking is relatable to the modern female reader. She has a core group of good friends, a pet she loves, a career that is solid but not yet stellar, and her dream home. All that she is missing is the man. The added touch of her visions gives her that extra something special, but her visions are not over the top. She can’t control when they come or what they’ll show her, so she treats them more as an odd talent. This keeps the heroine from being over-inflated, which is nice. The love interest, Nick, is cute without being a god and kind without being perfect. He’s a good guy with flaws, ie, the ideal love interest in a romance that we’ve, alas, been seeing less and less of lately.
The plot is this book’s strong point. It is scary and suspenseful, but still believable. No characters make obvious stupid mistakes that would make the reader scream at them, and let’s just say, Kris is no Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she also isn’t a weak, quivering Disney princess. Kris is neither a super-hero nor incredibly weak, which is just the kind of heroine we need more of in literature.
All of that said, Grace shows promise as a writer, but she still needs to work on her craft. Her plot structure is excellent, but she frequently shows instead of tells. Similarly, she struggles a bit when first introducing a character, often falling back on the beginner writer’s method of explaining hair and eye color before anything else. Similarly, the book needs more editing for simple grammar, spelling, and typos. The book does not read like a strong author’s work, but it also is still enjoyable. I am left wanting to find out about the romances of Kris’s friends Cassie and Roni, but I am also hoping that the writing that goes along with creative plots improves in the next two books.
Overall, if you are a fan of suspenseful romance with a dash of the paranormal and don’t mind a bit of showing instead of telling, this book is a fun way to pass a few hours, particularly for the low cost of 99cents.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Julie Stratford’s father is a retired shipping mogul who now spends his time as an archaeologist in Egypt. He uncovers a tomb that claims to be that of Ramses the Damned, even though his tomb was already found. Everything in the tomb is written in hieroglyphs, Latin, and Greek, and the mummy is accompanied by scrolls claiming that Ramses is immortal, was a lover of Cleopatra, and can and will rise again.
I’m a fan of Anne Rice. Her Vampire Chronicles are a lovely mix of social commentary, lyrical writing, and all the best tropes of genre fiction, so I was excited to stumble upon a cheap copy of The Mummy in the second-hand section of the bookstore. I wanted to love it. I really did. But whereas the Vampire Chronicles contain valid social commentary, this is so stereotypical of mainstream romance a la The Titanic that I was sorely disappointed.
Again, the language is lyrical and gorgeous. Rice without a doubt is incredibly talented at putting together sentences that read like a rich tapestry of old. There is no rushing to get the story out as is so often found in more modern writing. It’s fun to indulge the senses and oneself in the scene.
The plot, though, ohhhh the plot. It’s so mainstream romance it hurts. And yes, I know I read and enjoy (and write) paranormal romance, but the difference is that PNR is oftentimes tongue in cheek. It knows it’s ridiculous and over the top and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be fun and ridiculous. Rice is being serious here, however, and that’s why the plot bugs me. Let’s look at it for a second, shall we?
Girl is engaged to the perfect guy but she mysteriously does not think she loves him. Girl meets immortal man who is so hot he would be voted hottest man alive every year forever. Girl immediately “falls in love” with immortal guy. Girl ditches perfect guy for immortal guy. Girl and immortal guy have lots of the hot hot sex. Immortal guy causes a series of unfortunate events in pursuit of his ex-lover. Girl insists she still loves guy but cannot forgive him. Girl decides life is pointless without immortal guy. Girl attempts to kill herself. Immortal guy saves her. Girl forgives immortal guy. Girl agrees to become immortal too. Yay happily ever after.
Like….just……there are SO MANY parts of that that piss me the fuck off. So. Many. The main female character (Julie) is a shallow douchebag in spite of claiming to be a modern, progressive woman. She does not “fall in love” with Ramses. She falls in lust with him. He gives her tinglies in all the right places. He ditches her to pursue his ex-lover (Cleopatra). She, at first, rightfully tells him she can’t forgive him for that. But then she TRIES TO OFF HERSELF. OVER A GUY. And the only reason she doesn’t succeed is douchebag saves her. I just….wow. Not a plot I can respect. Not a plot that gives us anything different from the patriarchal rigamarole so often forced upon us. Anne Rice. I am disappointed.
Then there’s the odd eurocentrism at work in the narration. Even though Julie’s father loves Egypt and Ramses is, um, Egyptian, for some reason everything modern and European is what is impressive to everyone. I suppose I could maybe (maybe) forgive that, but then there’s the fact that the elixir that makes people immortal also for some mysterious reason turns their brown eyes blue. So nobody immortal has brown eyes. I don’t think I need to unpack why that’s offensive for you all. I trust you can figure that out for yourselves. Unlike Rice.
So, essentially, The Mummy is a beautifully written book that is destroyed by a kind of offensive, all-too-common plot and Eurocentrism. Even beautiful writing can’t overcome that.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Harvard Books
Katherine “Kitty” Katt manages to get released early from a dull day of jury duty only to find herself confronted with an angry man who sprouts wings and starts flinging knives from their tips toward everyone in the vicinity. Kitty attacks and stops him and quickly finds herself sucked into a world she was unaware existed. A world of alien refugees defending Earth and themselves from a bunch of fugly alien parasites. She soon discovers her ordinary parents are more involved in this secret world than she would ever have dreamed. On top of that, she’s increasingly finding herself falling for one of the alien hunks who announced his intentions to marry her almost immediately upon meeting her.
I received a free Kindle edition of the second book in the series, Alien Tango, last year and read it without realizing at first that it was part of a series. I immediately fell in love with the world and Kitty and decided I needed to go back and read the first entry in the series. This reverse approach definitely gave me a different perspective on the story, but it certainly didn’t make me love it any less.
What makes this series epically entertaining is well-established in this first entry. First, the paranormal element is aliens in lieu of something more widely used. Everything has the clean, secret government agency tinge to it instead of the dirty mafia feel many other paranormals elicit. The aliens are aliens, yes, but they’re also a secret government agency. Imagine Men in Black only the men in black are all aliens.
Second, Kitty Katt is a heroine who clearly epitomizes the modern woman. She can take care of herself, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like having a man around too. She’s smart, witty, sassy, and sexy, but she has her flaws and weak spots too. She has sex on the day she meets a man, but she’s still aware enough of social norms that she takes care to attempt to hide that fact from the majority of people around her. On the other hand, she herself doesn’t regret that act in the slightest. She so clearly reflects what it is to be a modern American woman that I can’t help but applaud Gini Koch. I hope to see more heroines like Kitty Katt in the near future.
The action itself is vastly entertaining, particularly if you enjoy scifi. The fugly parasites are imaginative, disgusting, and frightening simultaneously. The Big Bad is scary and crafty. The solution to the Big Bad is seriously entertaining. I honestly cannot say enough good things about the scifi in this book.
Overall, Gini Koch’s Kitty Katt series has not failed to leave me glued to my iPod screen yet. It’s sharp, modern, unique, and vastly entertaining. I practically throw copies at lovers of paranormal romance to read, but also highly recommend it to fans of scifi and modern heroines as well.
5 out of 5 stars