Monthly Archives: April 2015

Review of For Real, by Alexis Hall

For RealI received a copy of For Real, by Alexis Hall from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission.

Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable. Everything Laurie can’t remember being.

Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love.

The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have—no matter how right it feels—can’t last. It can’t mean anything.

It can’t be real.

Another stellar read from Alexis Hall. I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’m getting pretty close to card-carrying fangirl status, if I’m honest. I thought this one was quite different from anything else I’d read by him; Shackles maybe coming closest. (Though, I haven’t read his whole catalogue.) But I was skeptical picking it up because of the BDSM theme. I simply haven’t had great luck with such books.

I get that BDSM is having its moment in the book world, right now. There seem to be an unusual number of ‘romances’ coming out using it as a schtick…or a theme, maybe. But I find that as much as I like the idea of it, I’m almost always disappointed, if not disgusted by them.

Because, here’s the thing, I don’t know what it’s like in a real-life BDSM pairing, but the overwhelming number of books I’ve read with BDSM read like what my dear mother, who despises anything that removes the sacred from the sexual, calls ‘mutual masterbation.’ In other words, the characters in the scenes feel not like two people engaging in  a meaningful way and having sex with one another, but two people individually using the other as an object for masterbation, connected by nothing more than proximity and ocular availability. And I rarely find that anywhere near as sexy as it’s intended to be. (My own interpretation of Dalziel’s jadedness, coloured by my own experiences of course, was that he was sensing this same tendency to force a partner into a fantasy mold that you act upon, instead of engage with on a personal, human level.)

This is where For Real shined for me. I understood both Dalziel and Toby’s needs and how/why they filled those needs for one another. I saw how hard they each worked to make the other happy and I understood the BDSM aspect of their relationship as something other than a fantasy one individual perpetuates on another. I didn’t need a narrator to repeatedly reassure me that the scene wasn’t abuse because the sub really was enjoying it, because I could see that and I understood why. And. It. Was. Beautiful.

Both Dalziel and Toby were wonderful characters. I especially appreciated that they weren’t flawlessly gorgeous people, beautiful to eachother, sure, but Dalziel was blunt and often angry looking and Toby was too skinny and had acne. I really love finding relatable, normalish people in books. I also thought Toby’s teenaged voice was marvellous, though I was admittedly skeptical about a man/boy who got a D and an F on their GCSEs having the vocabulary, poetic familiarity and general depth of thought of an Oxford scholar. But I was able to roll with it.

There were some fun side characters—the bisexual best friends with an obviously open relationship, Angel with the purposefully vague gender, Dominic the Dom (who played the alto-sax and seemed to be an unbearably nice guy), the free-love mother, the academics. Man I’d love to see Jasper and Sherry get their own book.

And as always, Hall managed to rip my heart out with the unintentional cruelties of lost love. I was never sure if I wanted Robert to suffer horribly or not—not for ending a relationship necessarily, relationships die, but for not seeing the ongoing injury his actions cause. Does such a person deserve to go on and be happy if he’s so unaware of his own destructive wake? Or am I just truly so unforgiving?

My complaints are few on this one: the overly intellectual nineteen-year-old I mentioned above, the fact that anyone as open and honest as Toby would be hard to find in real life, the fact that I didn’t feel I got to know Dalziel outside of his submission very well, and a couple of the scenes took on such a dream-like quality as to stand out as somewhat unmatched to the rest of the book.

All in all, I loved it. I’m not one who usually rereads books. My recall is such that I remember too much to ever have that fresh new feeling with a story. But unusually, I could see myself reading this again just to re-experience it.

Review of The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1), by Clay & Susan Griffith

The Shadow RevolutionI received a copy of The Shadow Revolution, by Susan and Clay Griffith from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.
After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

Really quite enjoyable. There was a lot of action here and two subtle romantic subplots…ok, one subtle romantic subplot and one hint at a future subtle romantic subplot. Either way, I liked knowing it was there but having it never come to the fore. I liked that the women were strong, ingenuitive, action-takers and I liked that the men let them be agents of their own destiny, never insisting they stay behind where they’d be safe and protected.

I suppose I could argue that this same acceptance and admiration for Kate and Penny’s outspoken, take charge attitudes (not to mention the women’s behaviours itself) was completely anachronistic to the Victorian setting, But since I enjoyed it, I’m willing to roll with the inference that since they’re all outsiders of one sort or another that explains it. It doesn’t really, but I’ll take it.

The book did get bogged down in endless fighting at times. I’ve no problem with violence or even gore, but at times it went on so long it began to feel redundant. Along the same line, there seemed to be an endless supply of mindlessly violent werewolves to fight through, despite being told they were rare. Which also led me to wonder why it was only little Charlotte who wasn’t in a beserker rage and therefore available and willing to side with and assist the ‘good guys.’

All-in-all, a fun start to a new series that I’ll be more than happy to continue.

Review of The Gravedigger’s Brawl, by Abigail Roux

The Gravedigger's BrawlI borrowed The Gravediggers Brawl (by Abigail Roux) from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Dr. Wyatt Case is never happier than when he’s walking the halls of his history museum. Playing wingman for his best friend at Gravedigger’s Tavern throws him way out of his comfort zone, but not as much as the eccentric man behind the bar, Ash Lucroix.

Ash is everything Wyatt doesn’t understand: exuberant, quirky, and elbow deep in a Gaslight lifestyle that weaves history into everyday life. He coordinates his suspenders with his tongue rings. Within hours, Wyatt and Ash are hooked.

But strange things are afoot at Gravedigger’s, and after a knock to the head, Ash starts seeing things that can’t be explained by old appliances or faulty wiring. Soon everyone at Gravedigger’s is wondering if they’re seeing ghosts, or just going crazy. The answer to that question could end more than just Wyatt and Ash’s fragile relationship—it might also end their lives.

I have an honest confession. I only read the first paragraph of this book’s description before I started reading it. Thus, I fully expected it to be historical and was quite surprised when it wasn’t. So, this book wasn’t anything like I was expecting (my own fault) but it was still cute.

For those getting tired of the asshole alpha male, this will be a treat. Wyatt and Ash are both a bit beta, not to mention geeky in their own ways. Again, they and their relationship were cute. I enjoyed it, I did. But it’s not topping my favourites list.

For one, Wyatt was supposed to be 38, but acted much younger. We’re not told Ash’s age, but I got the impression he was supposed to be younger than Wyatt. But as Wyatt seemed younger than his stated age, I could be wrong about that. Either way, neither man wholly worked for me, as much as I basically liked them.

I couldn’t really suspend my disbelief far enough to believe that Ash could disregard such an active haunting. It was a bit TSTL-like behaviour. Similarly, after ~200 pages of set-up, the solution came about with no effort from the characters and felt rushed and anticlimactic.

All-in-all, I enjoyed it as a fluff read but not much more.