Saturday, October 30, 2010

NEWS: Gaylactic Spectrum Award Best Novel Nominees

With Gaylaxicon 2010 being canceled in Montreal (boo-hiss to the hotel responsible), I'm not sure when or where we'll get the 2010 award winners, but I do see the Best Novel Nominees have been posted. Some interesting reading here, a few of which are on my to-read list:

Ash by Malinda Lo (definitely on my list)
By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear
Centuries Ago and Very Fast by Rebecca Ore
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Corambis by Sarah Monette
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff (also on my list - love her work)
Hunter's Dawn: Laying the Ghosts by Meg Leigh
In Their Own Skins: Shifting Sands by Kiernan Kelly
Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (I'm embarassed to be so far behind on this series, but definitely on my list)
Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente (definitely on my list)
The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan (just joined my list)
Seven for a Secret by Elizabeth Bear
The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan
Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyon
The Vampire's Angel by Damian Serbu
The Veil of Sorrow by Crystal Michallet-Romero (just joined my list)

For more information, keep an eye on http://www.spectrumawards.org/2010.htm

Friday, October 29, 2010

REVIEW: A Woman's Passion by Alan Barrie

A Woman's Passion bills itself as the "enchanting adventures of a straight man who spends a surprising, fascinating, edifying, and even romantic week as a woman." All of that is true, but it barely scratches the surface of the story. This is not just another crossdressing memoir, not just another forced-feminization fantasy, and certainly not just another transsexual romance.

Instead, it is a beautiful, honest, sincere, and (yes) romantic exploration of what it means to be a woman . . . and what it means to be a man, relating to a woman.


Without giving too much away, the book hinges on a magical transformation that, instead of being a cheat, actually adds an otherwise impossible level of significance and detail to the experience. When Alan confesses to his girlfriend, Cassandra, that he's always wanted to know what it feels like to live life as a girl, she immediately recognizes the value in such a experience and introduces him to her caregiver - a female shaman from the wilds of Peru. Although Worra can initiate the transformation overnight, Cassandra asks her to stretch it out over a few days so she can instruct Alan (now Allison) in the ways of being a girl.

What this does is provide both Alan/Allison and the reader with the best of both worlds. We get to experience the transformation of a man into a woman, and share in the thrills/joys/fears/excitements of taking on a new role. We're invited to share in all those wondrous first time experiences, as Alan slips into her first pair of panties, wears makeup for the first time, walks in heels for the first time, and learns to move and act as a woman. If you ignore the fact that the magic gives him an edge, this can serve as an instructional bible for any transgendered reader - we can learn a lot from Alan's first tentative adventures.

At the same time, we get to experience the growth and blossoming of a young woman, as the magic provides Allison with an extremely rapid transition through puberty. We're invited to share in the joy of budding breasts, the electric sensations of a hard nipple, the discovery of her maturing sex, and the awe-inspiring development of sensuous curves. Wisely, the magic stops there - there is no miraculous psychological transformation. Although 'her' body is all-woman in a manner of days, 'his' mind is still very much male, and as much as Allison develops, the fears and doubts and questions of Alan keep cropping up. It's this internal conflict that keeps the story grounded, and provides the realism needed to balance the magic.

What I love about this book is the fact that it's not a piece of erotica - it's a fully realised story, complete with a plot full of as much tension and suspense as wonder and joy. As I said, it's still Alan inside of Allison, and as much as she wants to experience womanhood to its fullest, he's convinced he could never really go all the way with a guy. At the same time, Cassandra's very real mixed emotions add their own element of tension, leaving the reader to wonder if Alan would lose what he already had while Allison finds what he was looking for. Also, while the world has no clue as to the 'truth' of Allison, she does - which means the fears and challenges of 'passing' are still there, as are the thrills of successfully fitting in.

I'm reluctant to say much else, for fear of spoiling the read, but this is exactly the book that I was hoping for. It's enlightening, educational, exciting, and erotic. It takes the reader to places he could never really go, and allows him to really believe that he's there. We get to know what it feels like to live life as a girl, and it is an absolutely lovely experience that you won't want to end.

One final note . . . I beg you . . . implore you . . . beseech you not to read ahead. I absolutely did not expect the epilogue and, for me, it completes the book. I was so happy for Alan/Allison that I literally did have tears in my eyes as I read those final few pages.

Not just recommended, but I dare say required reading!

NEWS: Erotica Romance Challenge 2010

So, the Bibrary.com site is going strong . . . I'm on my last assigned book for the 2010 Rainbow Awards . . . I'm catching up on the GLBT Challenge . . .  I've just received my 2nd book for the Rainbow Reviews . . . and I hope to have some news to share about a BIG book review project soon. The point is, do I really need another reason to keep reading?

ALWAYS! :)

So, even though it's late in the year, I've decided to take the plunge and join the Erotica Romance Reading Challenge. Much like the GLBT Challenge, the idea is to get people reading and discussing erotic fiction. No prizes that I'm aware of, but the exposure it provides to new books and new authors is more than reward enough.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

REVIEW: 1049 Club by Kim Pritekel

Of all the books I've reviewed for Elisa, over at The Rainbow Awards, this one has to be my favourite. Whie She's My Dad certainly had a more personal and immediate impact for me, 1049 Club was certainly the best overall piece of fiction out of all the books I've read (so far - I still have 1 to go).
 
Going into the book, as we first met the characters on the plane, I was very much afraid we were going to be stuck flat, stereotypical, predictable stock characters. It seemed like Kim was stocking the cast for a gender/sexuality conflict (after all, where better to arrange that conflict than on a deserted island), but I'm delighted to say nothing could be further from the truth. The survivors on the island, and even their loved ones back home, are fully realised, fully developed characters with personalities and emotions. The island 6 mature wonderfully throughout their ordeal, and their development into a kind of family is entirely natural. The creation of a friendship between Dean (the uppity gay guy) and Michael (the down-to-earth homophobic guy) is so subtle, you've already accepted it before you realise the antagonism is gone. As for the budding romance between Rachel and Denna . . . wow, that was so sweet, so tender, and romantic. It wasn't at all forced, and never pushed the boundaries of disbelief. Trying really hard to avoid any spoilers hers, but what really sold me on this one is the 100 pages or so following what you would expect to be the end.

As for the island, there's not really much you can do with a few square miles of sand and trees that hasn't been done before, but Kim gives us enough detail to ground us in the story, without reaching for some over-the-top sense of isolation and disaster. With the exception of a few obligatory fishing expeditions and a truly harrowing hurricane, the setting is allowed to be just that - a setting, and not a driving force in the plot or a personification of some natural force. Back home, the settings are equally well handled, with family, loved ones, and the eventual rescue crew scattered around the world. The way in which Kim has her characters adapt, making innovative uses of the few pieces of luggage that wash up on shore, is nothing short of wondrous. If you don't believe me, just wait until you see what they do with the big rubber dildo. :)

My only quibble with the story (and it's a small one) is the frequent shifting of perspectives from one character to another. Often, you find yourself halfway through a paragraph before you realise the perspective has changed, forcing you to backtrack and confirm where the change happened. This may very well be a limitation of the form - perhaps the paperback is better formatted than the ebook - but I didn't find the transitions clear. That aside, this is a wonderfully well-written book. The plane crash is as tense and exciting as any Tom Clancy thiller; the sense of despair as each character washes up on the island alone is as powerful as Tom Hanks in Castaway; and, as I mentioned earlier, the friendships and the romance are handled so beautifully, I cried at least half a dozen times throughout the book.
Absolutely recommended!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

REVIEW: New Order by Jess C Scott


The short stories of New Order are like the literary equivalent of a relationship – they start out fresh and exciting, challenge your boundaries and your expectations, and then become a bit . . . well, almost too comfortable, before ultimately delivering on the promise underlying the best relationships.

New Order is a like a first crush, full of discovery, anxious flirting, and spontaneous passion. We’re introduced to a young man who has agreed to accompany his aunt to a recital. All seems pretty straightforward until he mishears ‘pianist’ as ‘penis’ and we begin to wonder about his sexuality. What follows (in very short order) is a powerful crush on the pianist in question, a frantic back alley seduction, and the promise of eventual fulfillment in the pianist’s hotel room.

Oral Fixation is probably the most fun of all the stories here. It’s like a rebound relationship, all about sexual exploration and discovering new boundaries. It’s quick and dirty, brief and intense, with a definite payoff for both participants . . . and a promise of perhaps more to cum.

Tongue-Tied is easily my favourite of all the stories presented here. The supernatural themed fantasy romance is, ironically, our first serious literary relationship. Told from the perspective of a succubus with lesbian leanings, we experience a supernatural, subliminal, secretive courtship of seduction and discovery. The romance of the story is handled beautifully, and the eventual payoff is definitely magical in its fulfillment for both characters.

Status: Married is not at all what you’d expect from the title – it’s a first affair, full of bittersweet memories, leading to rediscovered Sapphic passions. When two old friends meet up again after years apart, it doesn’t take long for long forgotten (and, in one case, buried) schoolgirl passions to be rekindled. The final words are probably some of the sweetest I’ve ever read – We still aren’t Man & Wife. We don’t need to be: It’s just you & me.

4:Play, our final instalment, is the culmination and realization of the first four stories, a complete relationship played out between could-be, would-be, and should-be lovers. It’s awkward and innocent, and full of fear and confusion. It’s also a story of friendship, love, lust, and the overcoming of boundaries – both physical and emotional. Personally, I found the blog portion of the story a little distracting but, as the modern day equivalent of the classic diary entry, it does propel the narrative to its ultimate, rewarding, feel-good conclusion.

Having never read any of Jess’ work before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked it. Even her shortest stories pay off beautifully, and her concluding story makes me wonder what she could accomplish with a full-length novel. All are welcome here, and every sexuality is celebrated. There are no limitations in her New Order, just boundaries to be explored.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

REVIEW: Absolute Perfection by Stephanie Burke

Well, I've posted my first review over at Rainbow Reviews and I'm pleased to say it's a positive one.

Please, take a moment and head on over to read my review of Absolute Perfection by Stephanie Burke. It's a story unlike any other you're likely to read this year. Novelty aside, it's also wonderfully written, with characters you will almost immediately become invested in.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

REVIEW: Shadowlands by Charlie David

Shadlowlands is a collection of short (often very short) stories of gay erotica. I generally liked the characters presented, but many of the stories were so short (3-10 pages) that there simply was no opportunity to really explore or develop them. Having said that, the longer stories (I'm thinking of Pygmalion, Harvest, and Narcissus here) are handled this beautifully. Even some of the shorter stories (I'm particularly thinking of October 13th) did an admirable job, considering their brevity.
 
Oddly enough for such short stories, the setting of each story is very deliberately crafted. In almost every story, the setting seemed ideally suited to the story. They weren't bold, in-your-face settings. Instead, they were the kind of settings you almost take for granted, until you realise how deeply you were drawn into the scene, and how clearly you could envision everything around you. For me, the comfortable, homey kind of settings seemed to work best.

While each story has it's own style (to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking they were written by different authors), there is still a consistent ''voice' that connects them. I really can't think of any better way to explain it than that. You could almost envision Charlie sitting across from you telling story - they really have that storyteller style, as opposed to a literary short story.

I'd love to see what he can do with some longer pieces, but the samplings we have here are certainly enough for me to keep reading.