Monthly Archives: October 2013

Haffling by Caleb James

Rating: 4/5

Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

Themes: Fae, Mental Health, Child Custody

Queer Level: Gay Main Characters; Gay & Straight Secondary Characters

[Learn More on Goodreads]

I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and colorful adventure. Haffling really captured the essence of a modern fairy-tale, but it was so much more than that. It explores the dangerously alluring beauty of fae while also delving into issues, such as the struggles of living in poverty, having to grow up too fast, and falling in love with a straight boy. Forgive me if I get too personal here, but this book hit home in a way I never suspected. While the situations are vastly different, I related to the love and frustration that Alex –the main character- felt while trying to cope with his mother’s mental illness. The emotions are so real and vivid; painfully accurate …yet it only strengthens the book. I was impressed.

A lot impressed me, really. I liked how this book stared off with the implication that everything fae related could very well have been conjured from schizophrenia. It brought a sense of realism to something so whimsical. There was lovely contrast to the dark reality against the dream-like sequences – lies against truths too strange to accept. But then rules to the madness are set and things start making sense, so I was sold on the story before the magic became “real-real”. I never once questioned it and I think that is what makes this such powerful writing.

The pacing was so flawless that I did not even notice its presence; though I know looking back that there was never a dull moment. Some were strange and others uncomfortable – but it was all done purposefully. But what stands out most were the inspiring moments of strength that Alex had where others would have given up in his place. Alex was so devoted that I needed to see him reach all his goals because he fought so hard for everything. He earned it. And those he fought for AND against were fleshed out with their own history. It’s one of those books where the author developed all characters equally.

Oh, and the romance was adorable. Just trust me on this one!


Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Gay, GLBTQ, Reviews


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The Ivory Prison by Ashlyn Daube

Rating: 4/5

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Short Story

Themes: Shifters, Experimentation

Queer Level: Gay Main Characters

[Learn More on Goodreads]

This was an interesting take on experimentation and shape-shifting in a sci-fi universe—and was written as a part of Goodreads’ M/M Romance Group’s ‘Love is Always Write” event. Ashlyn Daube handled this particular story request (which can be read in detail on The Ivory Prison‘s Goodreads page) excellently and has a knack for immersing readers into this eerily quiet, single-room world—or, at least Gabriel’s room feels as though it’s the whole world. And for him it really was.

I loved how easy it was to empathize with him, especially because we begin learning the outside world with him. Like that friend you latch onto when neither one of you knows where you’re going. Gabriel is so innocent compared to the place he’s confined to, and it’s a relief when the facility finally changes hands and the workers handle him more gently, even going as far as to give him greater freedom than what was available before.

That, of course, is also where Lukas comes in. Lukas is an unbelievable sweetheart, particularly towards Gabriel, and since they are experiencing similar situations; they hit it off immediately. Supportive, affectionate, and kind, he is able to walk Gabriel through the hardships the two boys share. They bond quickly and convincingly.

The ending… I won’t spoil it; but the ending successfully ties up the loose ends and opens new questions for the upcoming sequel. It can work as a standalone, a short one-shot “fluff” if you will, but I know I’m looking forward to seeing even more.

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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Gay, GLBTQ, Reviews


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Interview with Kirby Crow

Today we welcome our very first guest of honour, the incredibly talented Kirby Crow! She is the brilliant mind behind the fantasy series Scarlet and the White Wolf and many great iconic titles. It’s her unique voice that merges romance, humor, and dark elements together flawlessly that has drawn both Kaelin and myself to her writing. She has kindly dropped by to share the concepts and inspiration behind her work with us.

Visit her webpage to learn more and to stay updated!

Which of your characters are your personal favourites?

Published characters? Without a doubt, it’s Scarlet. Put him in any situation, and I always know what he’s going to do, what he’s going to say, which way he’ll turn the scene on its head. That makes me feel closer to him than the others. Liall is the question mark. Obviously, if you’ve read the books, you know what Liall is capable of. Same with Becket Merriday. Those are two characters with extreme capabilities. With Liall, you hear about those acts second-hand, because they happened in his past and the man Liall is now is much more cautious and subdued. He’s been tamed from his wild bandit years, to an extent. I’ve changed that up in Book 4, brought back the old Liall to cope with the challenges of Rshan, and there are surprises from Scarlet as well.

Did you listen to or get inspired by any particular songs while writing?

I don’t get inspired BY them, but sometimes I look for music with a melody that compliments the scene I’m writing, and use that for background mood. I have tinnitus and silence is more distracting to me than music or traffic or anything. I play a lot of nature sounds; seashores, forests, thunderstorms. I get more inspired by the sounds of rain than by music.

Are there any details you pulled from real life experiences?

The Hilurin cottage in Lysia was modeled after a mountain cabin that belonged to a friend’s grandmother, and every location in “Angels of the Deep” is modeled after a real place. When setting a scene, I’ll pull from memory or try to find a real place (or a picture of one) that resembles it. There’s a lot of outdoors in the Scarlet novels, so I spent many days walking in the woods, and there were several theological conversations in “Angels of the Deep” on the nature of good and evil that I took from memory.

For the rest, writing fiction is such an internal, personal process. You borrow from your past and friends and surroundings without even realizing it, and it goes into the book and when you’re done you cross your fingers and put it out there, all of it. So yes, in one form or another, much of it is my experience. How much? I couldn’t even guess.

Did you have to do any odd research during the writing process?

Fantasy writers have to research constantly. The street-lights of your underground Gwarg village are powered entirely by wind? Well, how does that work exactly?


And then you have to research converting kinetic energy to mechanical, turbines, generators, battery storage, all that. Your fantasy world should theoretically be able to function. Maybe not up to “Dune” levels of precision, but the mechanics of it should be able to withstand some examination.

I’ve done copious amounts of research for “Malachite”, how the city is engineered, communications, canals, sea walls, how the citizens obtain and cook their food, even the plumbing, which is a not-inconsiderable concern for an island city. I’ve probably spent days reading about heliographs, telegraphs, and galvanic cells, not to explain the details in the text, but just to make certain they could work in my world. It turns out the study-to-inclusion ratio of research is rather small; hours of reading for half a paragraph of detail.

Even so, it’s enjoyable. If you’re not having fun with your writing, you’re doing it wrong.

Is there any symbolism behind the names in your book(s)?

Liall is taken from Lyall, and means “wolf” in Old Norse. And to put to bed the question once and for all, it’s pronounced Lee-ALL, not Lyle or even Leel. I love that there’s controversy on how to pronounce his name!

Who would be your dream cast for your main characters if you ever landed a movie/show deal?

I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the Scarlet books, because I’ve always wanted to see an anime or a yaoi comic of it, rather than a live action film. Besides, the images in my head don’t match any actors that I know of. I did use a much younger Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty era and previous, because RAWR!) for Liall in the very beginning, but the image I had of him has morphed so much since then. All you really need to know about the physical Liall — or any character — are the broad strokes, because every reader has their own vision of a character they love. Personally, I don’t like to mess with that. I want the reader to develop the image that is most appealing for them, and I invite them to ignore certain physical characteristics if they don’t find those as attractive. I only put the words out there. The imagination is all theirs.

In “Malachite” and “The Flower Prince”, yes, I had some very specific actors in mind when I wrote those. I’d cast Mads Mikkelsen as Kon Sessane and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for Marion Casterline. They’ve made films together before and have fantastic screen chemistry. Even though Marion and Kon are not exactly friends in the book, that would still be my fantasy casting.

Are there any special Easter eggs hidden away in your book(s) or little secrets that were never fully revealed?

Most of those secrets are coming out in Book 4 of “Scarlet and the White Wolf”, but I’ll give you one: the prostitute that Liall encounters in the alleyways of Volkovoi was never a random character. I’m keeping his identity secret for the moment, but he will figure prominently in “The Flower Prince”, which is another novel set in Nemerl. Can you guess who he is?

The other thing is that Liall is not gay. He’s bisexual, with a marked preference for men. That would be natural since Rshani attach little importance to gender when it comes to sexual partners. You’re attracted to whoever you’re attracted to, and they have few prejudices about it. Actually… I don’t even think that’s a secret, but I just wanted it out there. Not every character I write is either gay or straight, male or female. Life isn’t limited to gender binaries, so why should your writing be?

Tell us a bit about your cover(s) and how it/they came about.

All the “Scarlet” novel covers (with the exception of Book 4, which I created), “Prisoner of the Raven”, and “Angels of the Deep” were created by my buddy Analise Dubner, who is the most awesome artist ever. The cover for the upcoming “Hammer and Bone” was done by Roberto Quintero.

What are your current projects?

“Hammer and Bone” is finished and will be published in April of 2014. “Malachite” is in final stages at this time, as is “Scarlet and the White Wolf” Book 4.

Is there anything extra you would like to say to your readers?

I love you all! Thank you for being so patient with me. It’s true, I write about as fast as a snail crawls, but only because I’m so anxious not to disappoint my readers. Thanks for hanging in there!

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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in GLBTQ, Interviews


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The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Rating: 4/5

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Themes: Coming of Age, Religion, Conversion Camp

Queer Level: Lesbian Main Character; Gay, Queer & Straight Secondary Characters

[Learn More on Goodreads]

I always get a bit nervous reading contemporary novels because they tend to be either dull or unrealistic… but this novel was neither. The author artfully balanced interest with realism. I don’t know how she managed to do it –and I feel silly admitting this- but there were scenes I almost retold to others, forgetting that it was a book and not something that a friend told me. It was just so authentic.

The bits of psychology nestled in were enjoyable, and I’m not referring to the facility’s attempt to analyze Cameron’s sexuality, but more so when they delved into other aspects of her character (like what her compulsion to steal symbolized, etc). It gave meaning to what seemed like small details and it unified the entire book. But it went past Cameron alone and made the opposing forces in her life more human. I wasn’t expecting to like anything about the authority figures who were trying to repress her, and while their homophobia was disagreeable, they were more than their beliefs. You could tell it was ignorance and not hatred that turned them into who they were. It was also ignorance that led them to each mistake. All the characters were more than their actions, just as real people are.

There was so much depth to this novel in almost every aspect. Very impressive work. Even the cover is lovely. I was recommending this even before I finished it and I don’t plan to slow down now that I’m done!

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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Gay, GLBTQ, Lesbian, Queer, Reviews


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Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

Rating: 5/5

Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Mystery

Themes: Demons, Inquisitors, Religion

Queer Level: Gay Main Characters

[Learn More on Goodreads]

For anyone looking for a well-developed fantasy-based M/M, this is the book for you. It was such a treat to read; having flipped to the first page the day it arrived, I quickly found that I was physically unable to put this book down. (I took it away from Serith and wouldn’t give it back)

The world is revealed to us in an honest, comedic, and incredibly clear way. Blunt, but charming in the kind of directness that sometimes punches you in the chest.

This book is actually broken into two related stories and polished off with a separate—albeit relevant—epilogue. For the first half we follow the Prodigal (a half-demon) named Belimai Sykes; and in the second, we’re following Inquisitor Captain William Harper as he searches for his sister. I did have a personal preference for the first half of the tale because Belimai is just oh-so-fun to follow around the mucky streets; but that’s not meant to be a complaint about the second. The best part? Their romance had enough depth that I was supporting the two of them from the get-go. The hat scenes definitely helped drive the love home especially (but I won’t spoil those here).

Belimai manages to be simultaneously serious, a little bit snippy, and playful; and is almost a balance to himself. He seems to be far rougher around the edges than Harper, who gives me the impression of someone who is both misguided and lonely; but finds his companionship in precisely the right place—even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. Belimai is very good for him, as Harper is for Belimai. I was quite surprised with the results at the very end of the story, in the epilogue itself, because the characters have almost done a complete turnaround from what I would have expected from them in the beginning. But the transition is so gradual and thorough that the natural flow continues smoothly.

By far the biggest draw to this story is the strong personality of the world, and of the characters within it. I even felt an affinity for Harper’s sister. Everything plays out like a movie; but with the nice (or disturbing) added touches that draw in all the other senses as well.

In spite of the fact that I am not a huge fan of mystery, Wicked Gentlemen is a well-rounded and satisfying story with the kinds of characters that make it easy to see beyond such an unexpected marriage of genres.

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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Gay, GLBTQ, Reviews


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