Sunday, November 6, 2011

REVIEW: Man-to-Man Firsts by Diana Sheridan

Man-to-Man FirstsMan-to-Man Firsts by Diana Sheridan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Man-to-Man Firsts is an anthology of three short stories, all erotica by the one author. They are told in the 1st POV from the virgin bottom's perspective. Each story consist of one sex scene, each beginning with a blowjob and ending in anal sex (no pun intended). I recommend Man-to-Man Firsts for readers who in the mood for no-fuss, all-hot sex scenes.

Story 1: Learning Experience
A father wants his high school graduate son to learn responsibility now that the son is about to start college as a freshman. Thus the son goes to work for a friend of his dad who is gardener named Lou. Little did the son knows he would learn more than responsibility from working for Lou...

It's a inebriated experience the son will never forget.

Story 2: Heads or Tails
A high school senior is having trouble coming to term with his sexuality. After watching porn (hetero) with his friends last night, he woke up early in the morning with the realization that he was gay and not straight.

Troubled, he went out to the beach to relax. Soon he ended up relaxing more than ever he thought when he met a "lanky towhead" named Todd...who also confessed to being gay.

"Relaxing" on the beach has taken a whole new meaning for the coming-out teenager.

Story 3: The Construction Stud's Hammer
A loan officer always had sex with girls but never with guys. Yet that doesn't stop him from looking at other guys, admiring their physical traits, and wondering what it would be like if he did.

And he continues to wonder so at work in face of handsome construction foreman named Sean. Luckily, Sean is of like mind...

The loan officer's lustful thoughts soon become hot action at Sean's house.


That is how I would blurbed/summarized the stories, however amateurishly. =P The sex scenes were enjoyable, so I give Man-to-Man Firsts 3 stars for an I-liked-it.

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REVIEW: Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine

Dawn of Darkness (Daeva, #1) Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

At the time of writing this review, Dawn of Darkness combines the two most popular genres — Paranormal and Dystopian — of Young Adult fiction into one substantial read. This is the first time where I read a YA book that was both Paranormal and Dystopian, both genre that I read extensively of in my YA books.

DoD is told in the 1st POV from Mikhail's (or Mik as everyone calls him) perspective. The story follows Mik as he start off as a Daeva soldier-graduate of the city Rachat and becomes a resistance fighter against the dystopian government — the Silver Dawn.

The World of DoD

DoD is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the biggest supernatural danger are vampires. Pre-apocalypse, vampires revealed themselves and everything was going fine as vamps gained rights...until the plague came. Since the plague happened to suspiciously coincide with the vamp's "coming out of the coffin" event, humans blamed the vampires.

But too late, too bad, many people died — hence the apocalypse.

DoD begins in Rachat, a barrier-city, possibly the only city of humans left on Earth. (I assumed the Internet is down which only emphasize how horrible DoD's world is.) However, nothing is as it seem and there may be a danger inside Rachat greater than the ones outside.

Unexpected Expectation

DoD was not at all how I expected it to be...

1) Nowhere in the book blurb or on the cover-art did it mentioned that the book was LGBT, specifically that the protagonist was gay. I only found out because the author advertised the book in the M/M Romance Goodreads group.

I had other YA books to read, but no YA with a gay protagonist. So once I learned DoD had a gay protag, I immediately made it my next book to read. The fact that I was in the mood for a YA book helped greatly.

2) Reading as much YA books as I have, I expect romance in girl YA (YA books with a girl as the protag) but not in boy YA (YA books with a boy as the protag). I'm not saying boy YA don't have romance, but I am saying that most boy YA that I have read don't have romance. So after reading the first few chapters of DoD, I was pleasantly suprised to see a mm-romance plotline.

After finishing the book, I was satisfied with the romance plotline because usually the romance in YA are subprime. Yes, I do have a low opinion of romance found in YA, mostly in girl YA only because there are more girl YA than there are boy YA. Sometime those girls were simply TSTL — Too Stupid To Live, and the All Girls Want Bad Boys trope is so overused and overrated.

3) I recently read a few mainstream YA where the protag is a gay boy, and I was disappointed with them. The Archangel Academy series had poor writing, poor character development, overall poor everything. Witch Eyes for me wasn't exciting enough, its gay protag wasn't clever enough. So the fact that DoD is self-published (which has a stigma of poor editing/quality) and has a gay protag (which imo has a history of unsatisfactory writing), I didn't expect anything great from DoD.

Fortunately, DoD proved me wrong and turned out to be a solid book. DoD had great editing for being a self-pub book, and I will go as far as to say the editing rivals that of mainstream books. Moreover, the writing was good — the best from a gay boy YA that I've read so far.

4) The book was written in British English, and I'm American. Nonetheless, DoD not being localized for my region didn't bother me since the writing didn't contain anything unfamiliar.

5) DoD set place in France. I'm so used to reading YA books that take place in America and UK that the France setting in DoD took me for a surprise.

6) The vampires in DoD are, seriously, they are like the vampires in old horror films and old books like Dracula. These are not your sparkly vampires from the Twilight series.
"We found corpses... so many corpses. They were nailed to the walls of the save with iron spikes. Their eyes and mouths were sewn shut. Their bodies were naked and shaved. We couldn't see the cave walls for them. Even the ceiling was covered."
Though I like reading stories that romanticized vampires, I was very happy to find out that DoD returned the vampire to its horror origin. I was very happy that DoD even had a horror factor, period. This made DoD's post-apocalyptic world that much more frightening. A zombie apocalypse is bad, but a vampire apocalypse seem even worse.

7) I liked DoD's sexual content. YA, or at least mainstream YA, don't have graphic sex scenes but DoD does and I liked it. The sexual content consisted of kissing and mutual masturbation.

And it didn't took long for the sex scenes to occur either. Though those sex scenes were few and far, and weren't put there for readers' sexual gratification like in an erotica.

8) Though there was homophobia in the story, I was happy that it was mostly in the background. Ash, the protag's love interest, is the one character who gets flak for being bi from his parents. This occurred only in 2-3 short scenes, IIRC. Mik, on his part, seem to have more of an issue accepting love from a person in general than accepting love from a same-sex person. But basically, I like how there wasn't LGBT-related drama in DoD because that's not something I'd care for.

Strong Characters

Mik is an orphan and have abandonment issues, which essentially makes him an emo character. I dislike emo character because they mostly just mope and play a passive role in the plot. Fortunately, Mik wasn't anything like that because he took actions when actions needed to be taken and he didn't let his situation, no matter how bad, get him down...most of the time anyway.

Initially Mik has trouble being with Ash after their the first sex scene, but I was glad to see him overcoming his issues and just enjoy being with Ash. I was even more glad to see their relationship quickly changed from a "friends with benefits" thing to that of actual lovers.

I like how Mik questioned everything once he learned Daevas and vampires were connected. I like how Mik kept wanting to save Ash from the Silver Dawn even when Ash didn't believe in Mik. I like how Mik continued to work on his power even though he knew how dangerous his power could be. In short, Mik had countless opportunity to wuss out and act like your typical emo from high school but fortunately he wasn't. Mik didn't show flashy strength, but he did show a resilient will.

Beside Mik, the author showed great skill for developing all of his characters. Whether that character was main or minor or mentioned in reference, there wasn't a single one I would have considered as weak or flat. For everyone, readers can catch a glimpse of their personal history that the author wrote into the story so seamlessly.

My favorite minor characters were Anna and Violet.
"Because when a vampire says it's a long story, we're usually talking a few hundred years. It would take several nights to explain the history betwen myself [Anna] and Violet."
With the way the author writes, I wouldn't mind reading that and I'm confident he could condense it into a short story. If DoD was not YA but an adult UF book (think Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Richelle Mead), I would have expected there to be such a story in a novella or an anthology of UF stories.

Plot Twists and Turns

Pretty much every YA have a Love Triangle trope. I thought Nate as a character served that function until he proved me wrong when he ended up being one of the villains. The author really have me believing Nate as a boy who has been betrayed by the Silver Dawn, more severely than Mik. I was both sad and angry at Nate's betrayal.

I didn't expect Russell to die in DoD. I was sure he would have been one of the villains in future stories.

I was sad to see Ash died near the end...until I read the cliffhanger at the very end, and I blew a "WTF" fuse. I don't know what will happen next but I do know that love between a vampire and a human usually don't work out so well. I'm not into the whole "I'm aging but you're immortal and young forever" deal so I really hope the author will do something about it in the next book.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn Rachat only survived as a city because a crazy-ass, damn-evil vampire lord gather a bunch of anti-supernatural bigots and deceived them under the guise of the self-righteous, dystopian Silver Dawn government. Ha!

Some Small Gripes

These gripes didn't detract me from enjoying DoD but it did stop me from giving a 5-star rating.

1) I'm American, but I'm pretty sure the term "no one" should not have a hyphen in between even in British English. There's nothing wrong using "room-mate" but I'm really used to reading it as "roommate." Chalk it up to OCD. =P

2) On my epub,
page 20/275, [Any fond memories I had had of Mrs Rosseau were long]
should be [Any fond memories I had had of Mrs. Rosseau were long] Nevermind. British grammar. =P

Page 240/275, [He either plans to win your over by then]
should be [He either plans to win you over by then]

Page 128/275, ["Sorry. Animal instinct, and all that," Daniel, grinning.] was in a different font-type and font-size.

*DoD is still well edited.

3) I didn't like how Mik accepted to sharing blood with Russell. Russell is a bad guy and there's nothing to actually stop him from reneging on his "promise" and tattle-tell to Marcus.

4) I wished Mik and company had a better plan or a fail-safe in their attempt to take down the Silver Dawn. After all, they going up against one of the most powerful vampires in the world — ancient, pureblood, and damn evil.

5) Readers never learn who Katiya dated... though I had a pretty good hunch it was Lucas.

6) Anna owes a favor to Marcus, Marcus used that favor on Mik so that Anna can teach Mik how to be a competent Siren. What was in it for Marcus that he would use — waste? — a favor on Mik? Marcus doesn't come across to me as a vampire who's just a nice guy.

In Conclusion

DoD had good pacing, good amount of action, emo characters that didn't act emo-y, and depth. Especially depth. One of my favorite scenes that showed depth was when Daniel and Mik were talking about the plan to take down the Silver Dawn and get revenge. Daniel, who have more reasons than Mik to get revenge, try to convince Mik that revenge hurts more than just the targeted bad guys. And Mik began to re-evaluate his motives and think about the possible consequences of his action.

So another reason I like Mik is because he actually think things through which not many YA protags — gay, straight, girl, boy, human or not — does this.

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel and I greatly hope the series keep up its game. DoD gets a four-stars rating for a really-liked-it.

If you like DoD, you may like...

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)
is a boy YA (not LGBT) with a strong snarky protag and a horror factor in ghosts.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

REVIEW: Delany's Catch by Diana DeRicci

Delany's CatchDelany's Catch by Diana DeRicci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Delany's Catch is a short story about a closeted werewolf who chanced upon his mate. Jake Holiday is a tall but timid bookstore owner whose ex-boyfriend of three years ago cheated on Jake and left Jake romatically scarred. Taller than Jake, Delany Coltrane is an ex-bodyguard who came into Jake's bookstore looking for direction but suddenly found himself looking at his new mate Jake Holiday. Like most romance, the story ends on a HEA.

Delany's Catch is told in 3rd POV, splitting between Jake and Daniel's perspectives. The romance is fast-paced so I recommend this for readers who don't prefer a slow-building romance and like the Love at First Sight trope. The story focuses on Jake accepting Del as a boyfriend and, near the end, as a werewolf, there is no outside drama or other issue going on. I recommend this story for readers who want a pure protagonists-driven story, just two dudes trying to trust and falling in love with each other.

Sexual Content

There are a total of two sex scenes, one near the beginning and one near the end. Each is graphically detailed, starting off with a long foreplay scene. In fact, their first flirting immediately becomes their foreplay scene which culminates into a penetration scene. I don't recommend this story for readers who dislike sex on the first date or rather at first meeting in this case where neither characters are prostitute or looking for a one-night stand. Regardless, the attraction between the two is instant, the sex spontaneous.

Even though Jake is submissive and Del is dominating, don't be fool into thinking this is a d/s relationship — it isn't. The second and final sex scene have Del bottoming for Jake. I would have rated the story a lot higher if Jake just stick to being a bottom and a Jake a top.
He [Jake] liked the mastered feeling of being a bottom, like being dominated by a stronger male.
That's what I read in the beginning of the story. That's how I came to expect a pure bottom-top relationship but was later disappointed when the story wasn't.

The Main Conflict

As I said before, the story is pure protagonists-driven. The story uses the Third Act Misunderstanding trope, three in all. The biggest T.A.M. is when Jake felt horror at discovering werewolves are real and betrayed when he discovered Del is one of them. The second T.A.M. has Del secretly bringing business to Jake's failing bookstore without Jake's knowledge. The third T.A.M. has Del not answering Jake's call because Del didn't know it was Jake who was calling which directly led Jake into thinking their relationship was over.

However, the crux of the story depends on whether or not Jake will accept Del for who Del is and love him.


While I do dislike stories for sometime using the Misunderstanding trope, the trope in this story wasn't the reason why I didn't 4-5 stars rate Delany's Catch. The unfulfilled expectation of a pure bottom-top theme is what irked me.

Sorry, but the story had me going for a d/s relationship. Instead, I got an equal-partnership relationship which itself is NOT a bad thing but wasn't something I wanted for this story to have. LOL, turns out the story wasn't cliché enough for my liking. However, readers who dislike cliché relationship, beside the Love at First Sight trope, could find themselves liking this sweet romance.

I rate Delany's Catch a soft 3-stars for an I-liked-it.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

REVIEW: Kidnapped by Megan Derr

Kidnapped (The Infinitum Government, #1)Kidnapped by Megan Derr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Kidnapped is the first book in the Infinitum Government duology by the talented writer Megan Derr. (The "third" book Jewels of Bangkok is a spin-off, set in the same universe but in a different timeline and doesn't relate to the main story.) The story's main conflict is for our heroes to save the Draconis race, a derivative of the Save the World trope. However, Kidnapped ended with a HFN and doesn't conclusively resolve the "save the Draconis" issue till the 2nd book.

The Draconis race is a "genetically engineered race designed by the be legal supplements to increase their power." A Draconis will match to a magics-capable person through eye-contact, and then that person and the Draconis will each share their power. Example: Sean can teleport, Mendel can heal. Matched, they both can teleport and heal. But only if they are together! Separate, neither the magics-capable person nor their Draconis can use their power, inherent or shared. Same example: Sean without Mendel nearby can neither teleport nor heal, same thing for Mendel without Sean nearby.

If you're thinking this story uses the Soul Mate trope, you're half right and half wrong. Draconis and their magics-capable, non-Draconis match usually do end up in a romance, but not always.

Kidnapped is told in 3rd POV following mostly from Sean, Mendel, and Cyan's perspectives. If readers are worried about keeping plotlines separate, no worries. At the middle of the story, they all meet and deal with the same crap, i.e. rescuing people, saving a race, fighting the villains, etc — the usual shit heroes have to do.

Initially before everything merge into one single followable plotline, there are three plotlines. FYI, you can read the first 15% of the story on Smashword here.

Plotline 1: Sean is a Rehabber (ultimate prison-keepers/warriors) and he accidentally matched to a Draconis recent-prisoner named Mendel. Readers can read that event of a prologue here for free. Revealed as a magics-capable human, Sean runaway with Mendel...well, after Sean got kidnapped first. Heh.

But wait? Why is being a magics-capable human so bad?

A magics-capable human is a magics-vulnerable human, vulnerable "to all magics—mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, and hundreds upon hundreds more." All humans working in the I.G. are magics-incapable and therefore magics-invulnerable. If humans suddenly evolved into a magics-capable race, then the entire power structure — the I.G. will fall. There would be no personal protection against brainwashing and the like.

Every race but the human race are magics-capable and already knows how to deal with it. Humans, for their part, don't except for being their magics-less self. Sean being a magics-capable human is a small step towards that fearful future.

Plotline 2: Eine and Lark, last two survivors of a vigilante crew, are coerced through poison to kidnap certain important people. They are coerced by a crazy vengeful villain named Jade. Under that dainty beauty of his is an ugly heart of sadism. Jade also happened to be the fraternal twin brother of Cyan leading us to...

Plotline 3: Cyan is a Rehabber, co-worker and best-friend of Sean. He is on the quest to find Sean so that he can bring Sean back home to visit Sean's dying mother before she R.I.P.

And I said before, they all eventually meet and fight the good fight.

Characters of Interest

I was a little miffed at reading Eine and Lark's "adventure" in chapter one after reading about Sean and Mendel in the prologue. I wanted the story to continue with Sean and Mendel's plotline because the prologue had a really good cliffhanger. But I soon got over it.

And soon Cyan became my favorite character in Kidnapped. Cyan eventually joined Eine and Lark's "adventure" after the two vigilantes inadvertently kidnapped Cyan. Oh yeah, before the kidnapping thing happened, before they knew each other, Eine and Cyan had a shag a few hours ago, doing the whole "sex with a stranger" and "sex to release stress" deals. LOL! Memorable quote below.
"I told you, rock spider, it's better to fuck a Rehabber than fuck with one—did you want to test that theory?"
I really like how Cyan, as a Rehabber, could kick butts and smash skulls. Despite Jade accusing Cyan of cowardice, Cyan truly had a take-charge kind of attitude. Once the kidnap incident was resolved with Eine, Cyan didn't mind shagging Eine some more. The story described them, from Lark's dialogue, as having "fuck-me eyes" for each other. LOL!

So the story follows Sean and Mendel as one couple, Eine and Cyan as the other, and just gay Lark as the third wheel. Lark was the weakest character of the main cast in the character development department. I read his personal history and predilections, but I never got to know him as a person. Actually, I'm not sure if Lark can be considered as part of the main cast — the whole matter is debatable.

But in short, Lark's character development wasn't enough to satisfy me. But oh well, this was a small gripe and I was mostly concerned on the two established gay couples.

In Conclusion

Kidnapped was fast-paced and contained more actions than I expected. The story was complex but it wasn't convoluted, it was an easy sci-fi to read. I detected a streak of humor in the story because some of the scenes had me chuckling.

The story is aptly titled because there were a lot of kidnappings happening. Giving Kidnapped three-stars for an I-liked-it.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

REVIEW: First Watch by Peter Hansen

First Watch First Watch by Peter Hansen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

First Watch is really more of a horror story than a romance because the romance was slim. I felt little chemistry between Edouard and Ruiz. Actually, even the horror part failed to horrify me. FW tried to retain an air of mystery, but instead retained a fog of confusion.

It wasn't the writing that confused me — the writing was decent, it was the plot that confused me. At the end, I was left thinking "What? Is this all there is? Bummer."

FW is told in the 3rd POV from Edouard's perspective. The story starts with Edouard writing a letter to Ruiz before Edouard meets the Captain with the tentacles for some dubious consented sex. The story ended at best a HFN, and overall left me baffled. I don't recommend FW for readers who like their stories straightforward or have a HEA.

If you're hoping to read this for sex scenes with the tentacles, there's none. Well, there is foreplay, but for the actual sex, it's fade to black. As for the sex between Edouard and Ruiz, it's near the end but only the BJ part is in graphic detail. My point? Freaky erotica, this story is definitely not. Yeah, bummer, I know. Not recommending FW for the hot sex either.

BTW, it's Edouard that is on the cover-art. On the bright side, the cover-art looks awesome (even though my friend think it's horrible). He he he. =P

I had a hard time deciding whether it was rape or dubcon-sex that was going on between Edouard and Captain Tentacle (this is what I'm going to call him from here on out, we never knows his name because he was always referred to as "the captain"). Ultimately I decide it was dubcon-sex and not rape because Edouard could have escape or said no or whatever, instead Edouard came to Captain Tentacle for the sex without being psychically forced and psychologically abused — at least none that I could see or read between the lines.

I'm still confused as to why Edouard couldn't just leave the cursed submarine. Was there a spell or would Captain Tentacle just stalk and kidnap him back? It seem like Edouard could easily leave the submarine as he did when he went to meet Ruiz. I don't know why Edouard couldn't just leave, if only temporarily, to find a magician or some sort of supernatural expert to help him deal with his Captain Tentacle problem.

Actually, near the end Captain Tentacle did allowed Edouard to leave.
"Go ashore at Sardinia. No more promises of staying under the water with me."
"No more," Edouard agree. "But I'll come back to you."
But Edouard didn't... Well, Ruiz was imprisoned, but I think Edouard could have pleaded for Ruiz. Hell, Edouard could have asked to leave at the start of the story. >.>"

I was sorely disappointed when I read Ruiz trying stab Captain Tentacle to dispel the "curse" was the gay couple's plan. Really? I expected some scheming and subterfuge to be involved, you know, like an actual plan. But no no, all they (or Ruiz actually) did was got a knife and try to go stabby-stabby on the Captain.

Figures that the plan would failed and they had to go with plan B, i.e. bombing the place. Don't ask me why they didn't just bomb the place in the first place. Ugg.

Actually, I ended up sympathizing the "villain," i.e. Captain Tentacle. Poor guy just wanted some freaky-tentacley sex from the hot French man that he saved from the battlefield. Sure, the Captain did it in a way that wasn't morally right but, dude, Edouard got a spell on his body *points to the green letters on Edouard's body on the cover-art* that makes him near immortal. And I'll say it again, the Captain did allowed Edouard to leave. I got the impression that Captain Tentacle sincerely did love Edouard.

If the author was trying to villanize the tentacle people, he failed. Seems to me that the tentacle people was just trying to become human or human-like to live on land. (I think.) Not sure why the tentacle-people used such an unethical way to do so, but they didn't seem evil to me.

Overall, I was mostly indifferent to Edouard and Ruiz, and I pitied Captain Tentacle.

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