[REVIEW] PsyCop: Spook Squad by Jordan Castillo Price

psycop spook squadSpook Squad (PsyCop series Book 7) by Jordan Castillo Price

From the Blurb

Everyone enjoys peace and tranquility, and Victor Bayne is no exception. He goes to great lengths to maintain a harmonious home with his partner, Jacob. Although the cannery is huge, it’s grown difficult to avoid the elephant in the room…the elephant with the letters FPMP scrawled on its hide.

Once Jacob surrendered his PsyCop badge, he infiltrated the Federal Psychic Monitoring Program. In his typical restrained fashion, he hasn’t been sharing much about what he actually does behind its vigilantly guarded doors. And true to form, Vic hasn’t asked. In fact, he would prefer not to think about the FPMP at all, since he’s owed Director Dreyfuss an exorcism since their private flight to PsyTrain.

While Vic has successfully avoided FPMP entanglement for several months, now his debt has finally come due. Continue reading

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[REVIEW] Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville

This is the final in a series of m/m guest reviews by my friend Dawn. Click here for more guest posts :)  -Ramona

Zero at the Bone Jane SevilleZero at the Bone by Jane Seville

From the Blurb

After witnessing a mob hit, surgeon Jack Francisco is put into protective custody to keep him safe until he can testify. A hitman known only as D is blackmailed into killing Jack, but when he tracks him down, his weary conscience won’t allow him to murder an innocent man.Finding in each other an unlikely ally, Jack and D are soon on the run from shadowy enemies. Forced to work together to survive, the two men forge a bond that ripens into unexpected passion. Jack sees the wounded soul beneath D’s cold, detached exterior, and D finds in Jack the person who can help him reclaim the man he once was. As the day of Jack’s testimony approaches, he and D find themselves not only fighting for their lives… but also fighting for their future. A future together. Continue reading

[Review] The Devil and Cowboy Will by Parhelion

This is another guest review by my friend and collaborator, DawnClick here for more guest posts :)  -Ramona

The Devil and Cowboy Will by Lucius Parhelion (self-published, available online here for free)

FROM THE BLURB

Will never imagined what could happen when he side-kicked a Creep like Cole.

COMMENTARY

The Devil and Cowboy Will begins in 1932 as Will Herdon leaves Taos, New Mexico for Hollywood and the promise of work. While employed as a stuntman on Everest’s backlot he strikes up a friendship with Nigel Cole, the second best Creep (stereotyped movie villain) in Hollywood. Together they weather early paparazzi, eccentric directors, prima dona drama queens of both genders and studio sharks as they grow closer and develop a mutual admiration that has the potential to become something more. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Trace by Sam Starbuck

This is another guest review by my friend and collaborator, Dawn. Click here for more guest posts :)  -Ramona

traceTrace by Sam Starbuck

Warnings (highlight to read): Polyamory (M/M/F). Brief discussions or descriptions of rape, torture, extreme violence and racism typical to a prison. 

From the Blurb

Colin Byrne is a pickpocket, an artist, and an occasional consultant for the police. He’s also an ex-felon, an initiate into the feral, unspoken magic that only prisoners know: how to vanish, how to tell fortunes, how to steal souls. Now the man who put him in prison wants him to return to Railburg State Correctional Facility to help investigate a case. Continue reading

[Review] The Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara

While I quietly disappear under a cairn of RL work, my frequent collaborator Dawn has kindly stepped in to write some guest reviews for this blog. Here’s the first! -Ramona

the archer's heartThe Archer’s Heart (Book 1) by Astrid Amara

Format/Publisher/Year: Paperback (656 pages) and ebook (263 pages), Blind Eye Books, 2008.

Warnings (highlight to read): Infidelity (both of the main characters are married to women) and Polyamory (one of the main characters is married to a woman who is also married to his two brothers), and attempted rape.

From the Blurb

In the ancient kingdom of Marhavad, noblemen dominate the lower castes, wielding mystic weapons, known as shartas, against any who oppose them. For generations the rule of Marhavad’s kings has been absolute. But now the line of succession is divided, and whispers of revolution are heard in even the royal palace.

Keshan Adaru, an outspoken man of unearthly charms, welcomes these changes. All his life he has foreseen an uprising that will shatter the castes and end the tyranny of the old laws. His visions have driven him but now, at the brink of their fulfillment, he finds himself obsessed with Prince Jandu Paran– a man whose entire family must be destroyed if the kingdom is to be freed. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Out of the Ashes by Olivia Duncan Craig

olivia duncan craigOut of the Ashes by Olivia Duncan Craig

Format/Publisher/Year: Ebook (162 pages), ODC Press, 2012

From the Blurb

Young Noah hadn’t any idea how quickly his world could turn upside down. One minute, he was living, happy and secure, with a doting father and grandmother to look after him. The next, his father is dead, his grandmother is confined to her sickbed, and the only other family he has left is his new stepmother and her two children.

Taken far from his home, worked hard and hidden away from the world, Noah hasn’t much to look forward to, growing up. Until one day, Matthew, a handsome neighbor, comes riding up to him like a knight on his charger. Continue reading

[REC] Force of Law by Jez Morrow

Force of Law by Jez Morrow

From the Blurb

When a Lamborghini Diablo car pulls into the quick oil change shop on Cleveland’s west side, Tom Russell immediately assumes this is his old lover, Wells, a beautiful, wealthy, east side snob, come back to torment him. But it’s worse.

The driver is Wells’ arrogant, obscenely rich cousin Law Castille, who invites Tom on a little subtle revenge, accompanying Law as his guest to Wells’ wedding. But dance with the devil, and there’s hell to pay. Tom thinks Law is toying with him, but Law’s visit to the poor side of a rustbelt town was never about revenge. It was never about cousin Wells at all. Law has come for Tom.

Commentary

This is an old one, but I’ve found myself reading it on my daily commute this week for the umpteenth time, and it deserves a rec. I seem to recall seeing the author describe Force of Law somewhere as a gay version of Pretty Woman, and it is that on the surface: a poor guy who’s been done over gets his HEA with a too-good-to-be-true rich guy. But this novella is much better than the tropes it’s consciously drawing from.

Even though Ms Morrow’s writing style is actually pretty unstylish, with staccato sentences, unexpected voice and tense shifts (and even some bad formatting now and then), it’s also filled three layers deep with puns and clever turns of phrase — many I didn’t pick up on until the second or third reading. I was initially put off by the story’s unapologetic bluntness, its shades of dubious consent and its political incorrectness, but this is a story that grows on you until can’t help but love it in all its flawed glory. The structure is clever, the characters are larger than life without becoming fairy tale caricatures, the dialogue crackles and the ending pleased the giant sap living inside me. In other words, great train reading.

[REC] In The Dark by Jordan Castillo Price

In The Dark (Psycop 6.1) by Jordan Castillo Price

From the Blurb

Halloween is fun…at least, it’s supposed to be. Costumes, candy, trick-or-treat, even jaded Victor Bayne can get behind those sorts of antics. Too bad this year’s Halloween is a grownup event. Not only must Vic don a suit and endure a disco-obsessed DJ, he has to mingle with friends of Jacob’s he would much rather ignore.

Vic thinks he has the party’s host all figured out–but as he so often realizes, once he looks beneath the surface, things are seldom what they seem.

Commentary

It’s impossible to read a story from the fabulous m/m Psycop series without wanting to roll around in protagonist Victor Bayne’s charmingly snarky, awkwardly droll first-person voice. The way he sizes up (and summarily dismisses in his head) the colourful people and situations that are always glomphing onto him is one of the strengths of his character and this alternative-universe Chicago. In The Dark, a companion story to the freebie Stroke of Midnight, is set at a party with Vic predictably avoiding all social interaction and single-handedly demolishing the sushi (“It wasn’t the raw fish I was worried about. It was the fear of biting into a surprise hunk of horseradish and having my sinuses drain all over the nearest well- dressed stranger”).

There’s enough exposition about the ghost and psychic-filled Psycop ‘verse for new readers to get a taste of what the longer stories are like (though I wonder how they’d go with decoding Vic’s exorcism terminology), while longstanding fans will be pleased with all the familiar in-world references as well. My only quibble is that In The Dark is a bit light on plot — though Ms Price rightly points out in the afterword that one of the constraints of writing this in-between kind of story is that it can’t affect the main storyline. I wasn’t sure why this short story was broken up into chapters though, especially as there’s no real break in events.

In any case, fans of the series will enjoy this seasonal Psycop outing, filled as it is with laugh-out-loud lines, creepy but never-too-gruesome horror elements, and the Victor/Jacob dynamic that keeps the romantic inside me ever-satisfied.

[REVIEW] Gaysia by Benjamin Law

Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

From the Blurb…

Benjamin Law considers himself pretty lucky to live in Australia: he can hold his boyfriend’s hand in public and lobby his politicians to recognise same-sex marriage. As the child of migrants, though, he also wonders how different life might have been had he grown up elsewhere. So off he sets to meet his fellow Gaysians.

Law takes his investigative duties seriously, going nude as required in Balinese sex resorts, and taking Indian yoga classes designed to cure his homosexuality. The characters he meets – from Tokyo’s celebrity drag queens to HIV-positive Burmese sex workers, from Malaysian ex-gay Christian fundamentalists to Thai ladyboy beauty contestants – all teach him something new about being queer in Asia. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Fair Game by Josh Lanyon

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Fair Game by Josh Lanyon

Format/Publisher/Year: Ebook (216 pages), Carina Press, 2010

Premise

Funny how much scarier being stalked by a serial killer is when you can’t even run.

After being kneecapped by a bullet in the line of duty, FBI special agent Elliot Mills is forced to retire from the job he loves and embrace a life of comfortable tedium as a history professor at a minor liberal arts college. Seventeen months after the accident that has left him crippled and isolated from his old life, Elliot is finally starting to get used to not wearing a shoulder holster (and the fact that the height of his current social calendar is dinner with his hippy father). But when students begin disappearing from his college and one of the victim’s bodies is dredged up from the campus lake, Elliot finds himself thrown into the murder investigation — and into a tense and bitter partnership with his former lover, FBI agent Tucker Lance.

Commentary

There’s nothing very new about the outline of Fair Game’s story, but as usual Lanyon’s competence as a veteran mystery writer more than carries the book despite its familiar set up, and his talent for characterisation raises the calibre of what could have otherwise been a cut-and-dry crime procedural. Elliot Mills is both an admirable and believably flawed protagonist. His intelligence and dry observations are a pleasure to read, and I couldn’t help but feel his physical and emotional hurt as he drags his damaged body through feats it’s now barely capable of, all the while steeling his heart against Tucker and their forced reunion. Continue reading