Friday, September 30, 2011

REVIEW: Alice in Shtuppingland by Barrie Abalard

Alice in Shtuppingland is a story that’s so bizarre, so unpredictable, and so delightfully bewildering that you can’t help but try to dissect every chapter to determine what’s autobiographical, and what’s fiction. I intentionally saved reading the introduction (A Word About the Seventies) until last, precisely because I didn’t want to know in advance what was true. It’s a story that takes us on a bumpy, shaky, wooden rollercoaster ride through escaping domestic abuse, writing for an adult magazine (Cheekie), pretending to be a call-girl, and bedding two very different, yet equally fascinating young men.

Even if I hadn’t know going in that this was an semi-autobiographical take, the wealth of detail regarding every day nuances would have clued me in. The nostalgia here for a decade not that far removed from our own is apparent on every page, but it’s sweet and warm, as opposed to wistful and sad. Close your eyes and you can easily imagine yourself walking down the streets of Boston, hailing a cab (for a price that wouldn’t get you off the curb today!), and confronting a society that’s still reluctant to accept the idea of a strong, independent, sexually liberated young woman.

This is not so much a story about going anywhere in particular, or about trying to achieve anything specific. Instead, this is a story of escapes . . . of leaving something behind . . . of moving on. In that sense, it’s a story of limitless boundaries and a world of possibilities, with a courageous young woman open to whatever life places in her path. Much like Alice in Wonderland, it’s the journey that matters, and the characters we encounter who make that journey worthwhile.

Although a little flighty and rambling at times, I loved that the narrative sounded so sincere. Close your eyes once again, and you can all too easily imagine an older, wiser, yet still optimistic Alice narrating over the scenes, a la Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City. This is especially true of the short, sometimes sweet, sometimes poignant, “Survival Rules” that precede each chapter. It’s a story that’s fun, and often very sexy, but it does have its darker moments. Fortunately, they’re never dwelled upon or allowed to drag the story down, but they add some greater significance to the sense of escape, or moving on.

This is a book that begins with the haunting, tentative words, “I used to think, life sucks, and then you die. But now, I’m not so sure.” and ends with the far bolder rule, “Life may suck, but it also permits occasional happy endings.” I admit, for a while there I wasn’t sure a happy ending would really come, especially after Alice became pregnant, but it’s another instance of where leaving something (or someone) behind opens up a better tomorrow.

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines and Kelly at Secrets of a Book Lover.


Q. Which paranormal creature would you like to see more of in paranormal romances?

A. Okay, call me weird (you won't be the first!) but I'm gonna have to go with gargoyles. Vampires and werewolves and other shapeshifters are great, but they've been done to death (pun very much intended). I'd love to see a good gargoyle tale.

It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, courtesy of Crazy for Books!

Book Blogger Hop

Q. In honor of Banned Books Week, what is your favorite “banned or frequently challenged book”?

A. I have to go with His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, simply because I find it so ironic that those who claim to have our best interest at heart have such an issue with the two authors who have done so much to get people of all ages reading.

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!


Q. What book that hasn't been turned into a movie (yet) would you most like to see make it to the big screen, and who would you like cast as your favorite character?

A. In honour of Halloween, I would love to see just about anything by Richard Laymon or Bentley Little hit the screen. As for actors, I can think of a few books from each that would fit the awkward, yet charming, performance of either Matthew Gray Gubler (Spencer on Criminal Minds) or Nicholas Brendon (Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
As always, I urge you to hop around to some new blogs, tag along with some new friends, and find some great new reviews to follow. I always find something new to delight me!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

INTERVIEW: Belinda McBride (author of Final Cut Miami: Come, Go with Me)

Good morning, and happy Thursday, everyone! The week is almost over, and to help make that last stretch a little more enjoyable, Belinda McBride, author of the recently-released Final Cut Miami: Come, Go with Me and the soon-to-be-released When I Fall, has graciously agreed to stop by for a quick chat.

Belinda is based in far Northern California, where she lives with her family and a pack of Siberian Huskies...and a Chihuahua. As an author, she falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction. Her books range from science fiction to paranormal, and pretty much everything in between. In real life, love and sex is complicated, and does not always fall under neat labels. Her writing reflects that notion of sexual fluidity. Like real life, it may get complicated. Unlike real life, she will always give her characters a happy ending.

Please stick around for a spicy taste of her latest, following the interview!

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♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi….thanks for having me here! Well, I live in Northern California, near the three Shastas…the mountain, lake and dam. I caregive for my disabled niece, she’s lived with us for 11 years now and requires care 24/7. I eventually quit my day job so I could take more time with her.

I write mostly in speculative fiction genres, both het and LGBTQ. My m/m space opera “An Uncommon Whore” won the science fiction division in the Passionate Plume awards this year, which was really a thrill! I write for Loose Id, Changeling Press, Passion in Print and Dreamspinner Press.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?


I’ve been writing for many years, but in 2007 I decided to take a year and see if I could produce a book or two. In May 2008, I signed my first 3 contracts during the course of a week. It was exhilarating, frightening and absolutely wonderful! My first release was ‘Imperative: Missing You” and the buzz of seeing that book go live on the website just can’t be duplicated.  Well, until the next release comes along…

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?


Actually, I’m a multi-genre writer. I’ve never locked myself into a specific genre though many people associate me with my hot wolfy shifters. I come up with an idea and the genre is determined by the story. I initially began “An Uncommon Whore” as a m/f sword and sorcery fantasy. As I worked on the book, it felt locked and frozen. Neither character had any dimension. When that happens, I shake things up a bit and see what happens. In this case, I made the princess a prince and the story took on a life of its own, becoming a m/m space opera.

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Well, I’m not young. I won’t go much further than that! LOL! I do have life experience that comes from having many years behind me. I’ve lived through some very tough experiences and survived. I’ve known many amazing people over the years, ranging from working cowboys to Chinese movie stars. I generally don’t write about my own experiences, but I can tap into emotions that relate to my characters. For example, I’ve never been widowed, but I remember the profound grief my grandfather experienced when Grandma passed unexpectedly. I’ve honestly known terror and faced the possibility of dying. This is all stuff to fit into the writer’s toolkit. Time gives a writer both insight and empathy.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

I generally write at night. For whatever reason, everything percolates during the day and after KJ is in bed, my imagination takes off. But I don’t really have a set schedule; my home life is too chaotic for that.

♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

I prefer silence when I write. I do listen to music to inspire a mood. When I was writing Blacque/Bleu, Lukas Blacque loved southern rock. When he knew the vampire Bleu was having trouble sleeping, he’d play Allman Brothers and Stevie Rae Vaughn on his stereo. He didn’t know if Bleu liked that music, but did it so he wouldn’t feel alone. If I’m going for over-the-top romance, I’ll listen to Josh Groban and Al Greene.  If its seduction, Barry White and Teddy Pendergrass make me smile.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

I’m very moody when it comes to writing. Sometimes I fly; sometimes I get all surly about it. Also, I have trouble deciding what to work on next. I might have three manuscripts in progress and not be in the mood for any of them. It’s hard approaching this like an office job, but sometimes I have to kick myself in the butt and shoo away the muse just to get something started.

♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?


I have a load of favorite moments, but right now, I’m haunted by a scene from the sequel to “An Uncommon Whore.” The new book is called “When I Fall” and there’s a lot of angst and pain in this story. There’s a pivotal scene and I can’t say too much about it, but every time I go back to it, the emotions hit me hard. It’s a moment when the hero Griffin faces death and realizes some simple truths about himself and his lover Helios. I’d drafted that scene into a loose outline, so I knew it was coming. But as I wrote it, I was stunned at how that scene played out.

♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?

Actually, yes, there was someone who had a strong influence on my writing. Growing up and through college, I always loved writing and had the idea that I’d find a niche in the creative world somewhere. Unfortunately, when I was 29, my life derailed when I ended up in the path of a drunk driver. I was in pretty bad shape afterward, but it wasn’t until a month or so after that I realized the head injury I’d sustained short-circuited my ability to read and write. After a lot of hard work, I regained my reading and writing, but for years, I felt no creativity at all. It was a long, dark period in my life.

So fast forward, I finished college and put several years into a career that didn’t fit well. I took a brief vacation to attend a dog show in New York State and stayed with a friend and his wife. Both are poets and in that weekend, I rediscovered my love of the written word. Mike and I drove to the shows and he’d recite his poetry, and it was so wonderful. I swear, it was like my brain and heart caught on fire. I returned home and began writing again…hours every day. Writing became my refuge and happiness. It felt like there were years and years of stories all bottled up inside. Not much of that writing ended up in completed projects, but it put me on the path to publication.

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

Honestly, I write largely for myself. You know how sometimes there’s a songwriter or poet whose lyrics just hit you in the gut? It feels as though they are writing just for you? Well, I’ve had people tell me that I write just for them. Everyone brings themself to a book. What they read is colored by their experience, expectations and tastes. I have no control over that, but sometimes my writing resonates with readers. They get it. So I’ve made myself happy, and I’ve made some of the readers happy. And that’s my job.

♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?

I sometimes communicate with a few ladies in a totally non-writing context, through a common hobby. One of them linked my personal identity with my writer identity and she and her friends started reading my books. The next thing I knew, they’d formed a book club dedicated to my books! LOL! I don’t know that I’ve ever been so honored before in my life!

♥ If your book were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

Well, I don’t watch TV much and I’m not particularly familiar with the hot faces these days. But if I could cast Belle Starr, I’d use Viggo Mortensen (or Alex Skarsgard) as Armand de le Croix, Joe Manganeillo (or Jason Momoa) as Thorn, and in all honesty, Belle was physically modeled off an actress named Suzie Plackson. She’s a beautiful tall redhead with the fierce, humorous element that defines Belle.

I don’t often “cast” my books with actors and actresses, but in the case of Blacque/Bleu, Dominic Purcell inspired Blacque, and Bleu was modeled off of Donny Lewis. However, I’d love to see him played by Matthew Gray Gubler or Jared Padalecki. Both men have an otherworldly look to them while Dominic Purcell could carry off Blacque’s tough, vulnerable persona.
 

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

And Uncommon Whore 2: When I Fall (the sequel to Uncommon Whore) is scheduled to release October 11 at Loose Id. I’m excited about this book, and I’m also very nervous. It’s very different from the original book so I hope readers will be willing to continue the journey with Griffin and Helios.

http://www.belindamcbride.com
http://www.belindam.blogspot.com

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Thanks so much to Belinda for stopping by! Now, as promised, please enjoy a taste of Final Cut Miami: Come, Go with Me (but please be aware that this is an adult taste, intended for adult readers):

Blurb:One impossible night, two young men made love in a magical Caribbean bay, only to be separated by a violent storm. Decades later Dave Riley still remembers and grieves for a love long lost. Forever drawn to the ocean, he never stops looking for the boy named Kai.

Kai is the descendant of a powerful Polynesian deity. His nomadic life was disrupted when he became infatuated by a young human... one who slipped through his fingers and into the darkness of a tropical storm. He should have been able to move on, but Kai's heart is no longer free.

A good deed and some well-intentioned magic reunite the couple. After so many years apart, can an aging surfer and an immortal demi-god find anything other than heartbreak?


EXCERPT:In the darkness, the neon sign beckoned. Riley looked up and down the street; nothing was different except the Final Cut. It was sandwiched between the bookstore and the beauty shop, just as it had been earlier. Thunder rumbled in the distance and fat raindrops began to patter on the pavement. Riley reached out, clasped the brass handle and pulled.

Tonight, it was crowded and noisy. Music played over the sound of the televisions and several people were up dancing. The energy in the room was high, causing the hair on his arms to prickle. He caught sight of a familiar face. Genie. She smiled and nodded in his direction, then turned her focus back to the pair of men at her table. He’d really like to know what her story was.

Opting against a table, he headed for a small booth toward the back of the room, settling against the soft leather padding. In just seconds, a waitress came. This one had breasts and her beauty was a bit more tolerable. He smiled at her and ordered his beer. Riley then watched the crowd in fascination.

They weren’t normal people. He reached up, rubbing the bruise on his shoulder. He wasn’t normal either. After dinner with Kimber, he’d returned to the shop, catching up on a bit of paperwork. He’d gone to the bathroom and washed up; when he looked in the mirror, an eighteen-year-old version of Dave Riley looked back at him.

He hadn’t even been surprised. He’d faded back to normal and then closed his eyes, focusing on the sensation of smooth skin and a powerful, agile body. He opened his eyes and watched as the younger version returned. The stiffness in his knuckles and knees had come on so slowly over the years that he hadn’t even been aware of it. In that moment of change, it had melted away like an illusion.

Now, sitting here at the Final Cut, he was himself, whatever that might be.

As he knew it would, the air around him went heavy and damp, and he imagined that he smelled ozone from the far-off lightning. He looked up to see Kai standing, just yards away. Their gazes met and did not break. He nodded and Kai slid into the seat opposite him.

They did not speak.

Riley wondered if storms always traveled in Kai’s wake, or if they came and went with his mood. Right now, he was unhappy and it showed on his face like a dark bank of storm clouds. At the same time, his dark green eyes were full of pain.

He didn’t know what to say. He simply stared at the man who’d occupied so much of his heart for so very long. Kai didn’t look as he remembered, nor did he appear as Riley would have expected. He was young, but not the teenage boy he remembered. He was taller by nearly a hand span; his shoulders were massive. His white linen shirt hung open to his chest, offering a glimpse of smooth brown muscle packed onto his torso. His hair was long, brown and tied away from his face. No doubt corkscrew curls cascaded down his back.

Kai was beautiful, frightening, and the most welcome sight he’d ever seen.

“Riley. I’m so sorry.” His voice was deep and husky with emotion. His accent was slight, sounding of the islands. He wasn’t Hawaiian, nor was he Samoan or Tahitian. He was all of that, yet unique. “I’m so very, very glad to see you again.”

Without speaking, Riley stood up, left a bill on the table and walked away, knowing the other man would follow. He passed the main door, heading for the rear access. Following the dim green of the exit sign, he opened the door out onto a wooden dock. As he’d expected, it floated on a saltwater canal. Kai moved almost silently, but he knew the other man followed when he heard the creak of wood. Kinda weird that a dude his size could move so quietly.

He turned and looked at Kai.

The other man stood motionless, waiting. His expression was apprehensive; it looked odd on that regal, arrogant face. Riley moved toward him, pushing him into a shallow alcove by the wall, pinning his body in place. They froze like that, hip to hip, chest to chest. Kai was taller, but the difference wasn’t so much that he couldn’t look him in the eye, pull him down for a fierce, angry kiss. He dug fingers into Kai’s hair, feeling the curls coil around his fingers as though they were alive. He forced his tongue into the other man’s mouth, let his teeth click and scrape against tender skin. When Kai broke away and tried to speak, Riley kissed him again.

After that, all thought fled and Riley was a creature ruled by his body. His cock hardened and throbbed, his balls ached, his heart slammed in his chest. Pulling at the white shirt, he bared Kai’s chest, hands roaming, and then he lowered his head, mouthing the man’s pebbled, erect nipple. When Kai touched him, he grabbed his hands, holding them out of the way.

This was for Riley. This was for all the years of memory. He’d been a boy then, and willing to let Kai lead, but now he was a man. He needed to assert himself on this flesh and blood version of that dream. He jerked open Kai’s loose pants, working them down over his hips.

Like the rest of him, his lower assets were beautiful. His cock was thick and meaty, his balls swung heavily. Black hair curled tightly at his groin. His loins were lean and defined; supple, toned muscle ran down his thighs. He shoved Kai around simply to look at his ass. It was magnificent. Riley bent down, nipped the taut skin of one buttock, reached out, and gently cradled his balls. He smiled as a moan broke from the big man. It was as deep and resonant as thunder.

The sound reverberated through Riley and he reached around, clasping Kai’s cock. It was hard as a rod, yet soft as velvet. He leaked from the tip and shuddered as Riley pumped him. This wasn’t going to be romantic. It wasn’t going to be pretty. Riley dropped his shorts and shoved his shaft between Kai’s massive legs, striking his balls as he thrust. He pulled back, and pumped forward again. Once he caught Riley’s intention, Kai tightened his thighs, creating a warm, tight passage for Riley’s cock.

Every stroke nudged past the larger man’s balls, and Riley pumped his shaft, hand fucking him in time to the rhythm of his hips. Kai leaned against the wall, one hand reaching back to rest on Riley’s leg.

“Riley… need you… ” Kai moaned. In answer, Riley pressed himself into Kai’s back, pressing his chin on his massive shoulder. He wrapped his free arm around Kai’s waist, pressing them together as close as humanly possible.

http://www.changelingpress.com/product.php?&upt=book&ubid=1687

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Tara Lain (author of Golden Dancer)

Good morning, and happy Wednesday, everyone! Here to help put the 'hump' in hump day is  kick off the week in style is Tara Lain, lover of semiconductors and software and medical devices (all with a little touch of romance) and author of Golden Dancer.

Tara never met a beautiful boy she didn't love - at least on paper. A writer of erotic romance, mostly ménage and male/male, Tara loves all her characters, but especially her handsome heroes. A lifelong writer of serious non-fiction, Tara only fell in love with EROM in 2009 and, through perseverance and lots of workshops, had the first novel she ever wrote published in 2011. She's now on book seven. After an exotic life of travel all over the world and work in television, education and advertising, Tara settled in Southern California with her soul-mate husband and opened her own small marketing business. She paints, collages, and started practicing yoga "way before it was fashionable". Passionate about diversity, justice, inclusion and new ideas she says on her tombstone it will read, "Yes".

Before we get into Tara's interview, let's take a quick look at Golden Dancer:

Mac MacAllistre is obsessed; the online news reporter needs enough evidence to write a story accusing billionaire art collector Daniel Terrebone of stealing The Golden Dancer, a priceless work of art, from son-of-a-Nazi Horst Von Berg. The story promises the recognition Mac craves, but then Mac meets a real golden dancer, ballet star Trelain Medveyev, and his attraction to the man rocks his formerly straight world. When the mysterious Terrebone “collects” this beautiful dancer, too, Mac rushes to the rescue like a knight in shining cargo pants and plunges into a three-way passion that tears him between love and guilt. Can Mac keep investigating when his story could send one man to prison and another to the morgue? Will this reporter get his story or get his men?

And now, without further ado, please welcome Tara Lain!

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♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out Golden Dancer, please tell us a little about yourself.

After a lifetime writing non-fiction, I finally got the call. A couple years ago I read a series of books by the wonderful Jet Mykles and followed those up with some Lynn Lorenz and Z A Maxfield. I was hooked. Finally, I had found a genre of fiction that made the idea of writing at night and on the weekends sound like fun! I plunged into my first novel, Genetic Attraction, a M/M/F ménage.  I’ve published three more books so far this year including my new release, Golden Dancer a M/M/M menage, and there are two more to come in November and December. And then, of course, there’s next year …. Yep. I’m hooked!

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

In the case of Golden Dancer, I’d say both. I write M/M and ménage erotic romance because I love it and it inspires me. It’s fun for me to write so I choose it. In this case, I knew I wanted to write a book about a male ballet dancer. I wanted another hero that would be different but still someone the dancer might meet. Hmm. A reporter. And what does the reporter want? A big story, so how about an art theft? And I need a really cool thief. About that time, my publisher, Loose Id, put out a call for submissions in romantic suspense. Bingo. Golden Dancer was born as a M/M/M romantic suspense. I don’t think I would have considered choosing romantic suspense if it weren’t for that special submission, but I really enjoyed writing it. Villains and betrayal and clues. It was a blast.

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Yes, very much so. I have a very eclectic life. I was a military brat so I traveled all over the world as a child and I’ve traveled a great deal as an adult. I weave that into my stories. Golden Dancer takes place in Laguna Beach, Ca. and in New York City. My next book, Deceptive Attraction, that releases Nov 1, has a character who works in Senegal, Africa where I have visited. I’ve written Australian heroes in Volley Balls. Also, in my nonfiction writing, I come across many different and varied subjects. The genetic science I used in two of my books came from some writing I did for a medical company. I’ve worked in education, and a number of my books have professors as heroes. I had a very dysfunctional family life and I find that family plays an important part in many of my books --either as something the character has to rise above, or as a wonderful, warm, supporting force for good.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

I don’t have a specific routine, I simply write in the cracks. I have a very demanding day job, so some days I can write my books at lunch and others I work through lunch. I plug in little bits before work, at lunch, after work,  and a lot of the weekends. I’m kind of a medium fast writer. Not nearly as fast as some.  I also do a lot of social media which takes time.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

I adore titles! I usually have a title before I start a book and it becomes inspiration. The hardest thing for me is getting the first scene right. I figure out where to start and plunge in but I come back again and again during the writing process to get that first scene compelling enough and in deep point of view.

♥ Is there a favorite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?

There are a number. The description of Roan Black the first time the heroine sees him in Genetic Attraction, the breakdown scene in Volley Ballswhen my hero realizes how much remaining in the closet has cost him in his life, and the final scene in Golden Dancer which makes me cry every time I read it even though I wrote it. LOL

♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

I studied theatre in college and one of my favorite plays is a drama called Six Characters in Search of an Author. Even then, I was captivated by the idea that characters have a life of their own and just need us writers to listen and take dictation! When I write, I’m a plotser -- I have a basic plot arc in mind but all the details work out as I write. For example, in Golden Dancer, Mac the reporter talks to his boss on the first page. I discovered right away that his boss was female, but as I typed I thought, “Son of a gun, she’s Chinese.” She just was, I had nothing to do with it. I recently wrote my first paranormal novel. It started out to be a novella and I had a basic idea in mind. Two men fall in love and one of them is a witch but the other doesn’t know it. Then I decided I wanted a more complex story. Wow, did plot complications show up. Twists and turns I had never thought of when I began.

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I write largely to please myself. When I read a manuscript I’ve written, I yell at myself until I feel it’s good enough to satisfy me.  But I do think about my readers when I consider certain plot points. For example, in a recent story I thought about including a M/F love scene in what is principally a M/M book. I decided not to because it wasn’t important to the plot and it took the focus off my primary couple. I didn’t think that would please my readers. On the other hand, my holiday novella, Mistletowed, is weird and quirky. It has M/M, M/F and M/M/F romances with a touch of fantasy and some light BDSM. I wrote it because the story grabbed me and wanted to be told. Who is going to read it? We’ll see.  LOL

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I don’t write stories to convey a particular message, but no writer can create a book without imbuing it with some of their own convictions. I’m a passionate believer in diversity and the right of people to live as they choose as long as it doesn’t hurt others. I believe in love as a fundamental expression of the Universe. I think that slips into my stories.

♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

I’m always excited about my books and hope that will be true even when I’m not such a newbie anymore. My next book after Golden Dancer is Deceptive Attraction, the sequel to Genetic Attraction and The Scientist and the Supermodel. Then I end up the year with Mistletowed, the quirky novella I talked about earlier. I’ve recently submitted my first paranormal and I’m sooo excited about it. I can’t say more until it’s accepted, but I can’t wait to be able to talk about it. My current WIP is set in the same contemporary world as Volley Balls and I think my next project will be scifi.

Thank you so much, Sally, for inviting me here today and for the wonderful and stimulating interview.  :  )

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Thanks so much to Tara for stopping by . . . but we're not done yet! Tara is offering up a series of giveways to help celebrate the release of Golden Dancer.

Simply leave a comment here, with your email address, and Tara will enter it into the drawing being held on October 1st. Then, stop by her Book Blog at http://beautifulboysbooks.blogspot.com and post a comment there to automatically be entered in all 4 drawings! Plus, there are many more ways to earn entries and increase your chance of winning. Check out the post at Beautiful Boys Books for more details, but first comment HERE!

You can learn more about Tara and her work from her website, her author blog, or her book blog; on Goodreads, on Twitter; or on Facebook.

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Covenant by Dean Crawford

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)


Covenant by Dean Crawford: When archaeologist Lucy Morgan uncovers a seven-thousand-year-old tomb holding remains alien to our world, she realizes she has stumbled upon something important—something with the potential to rewrite history. But before Lucy can retrieve the remains, she’s abducted. A former war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ethan Warner has seen much action in the line of fire. Now back home in Chicago, he’s hoping to finally pick up the pieces of his broken life and begin to lead a more normal existence. But when called upon by Lucy’s family to help find her, he knows he cannot let them down. Especially since he knows firsthand what it’s like to have a loved one go missing. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., detectives Nicola Lopez and Lucas Tyrell are called to an abandoned building to check out a possible homicide. What at first glance appears to be the bodies of overdose victims in a crack den is instead something more sinister. How is it possible that these emaciated, naked bodies—rotting in the sweltering heat of August—show signs of hypothermia? Working independently, Ethan and the detectives each discover that a shadowy corporation may have something to do with Lucy’s disappearance and the mysterious bodies. And Ethan soon realizes that it’s not just Lucy’s life that’s at stake but the fate of the world, and he must risk everything to stop those willing to alter the course of history, before it’s too late. [Oct 18, 2011]

How about you? What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

INTERVIEW: P.T. Dean (author of Symbiota Sapiens)

Good morning, all, and welcome to another terrific Tuesday! Joining us today is P.T. Dean, author of the erotic thriller, Symbiota Sapiens.

P.T. has a long established interest in speculative fiction, with a particular weakness for epic tales that wind several intricate plot lines together. Since coming out of the closet his stories have pulled on the paranoia and fear of his past, but also on the emotional richness of his own relationship. His romantic subplots also draw from his personal experience, and have covered a spectrum from overt heterosexuality with homoerotic overtones to explicit same-sex passion. His rule of thumb is that every character, no matter how minor, is the protagonist of some novel somewhere. A little piece of that novel should show through whenever that character makes an appearance. Even the villains are the hero from their own perspective - if you hadn't already fallen in love with the protagonist, you might want the villain to win instead.

I love that last bit about every character being the protagonist of some novel, somewhere! Before we get into the interview, let's take a quick look at Symbiota Sapiens:


This is the story of Jeremey, a young man who is chosen by an ancient society to join their ranks to guide humanity to its destiny. Ancient technology and enhancements in his body can make him powerful, and immortal...but his new duties will require him to leave his friend Julian to fend for himself.
What happens when Jeremey and Julian run away from the future that has been planned for them? And what happens when other, less idealistic immortals take notice of Jeremey and begin making plans of their own?
This fanciful tale explores the nature of love, loyalty, and human nature as the two are caught between two factions in a silent struggle for the future of humankind. As they run, each time they fight for each other's lives, they discover a deeper truth about their love for each other.

And now, without further ado, please welcome P.T. Dean!

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♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out Symbiota Sapiens, please tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I'm not sure this is going to be the most interesting part of your interview, but here goes. I'm 29, I guess I'm technically bisexual but I identify as gay because for relationships I've always only had eyes for men. I have a partner of a little more than three years who I'm head over heels for. We live together in Boston.


♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

Well,  haven't actually seen it in print yet, but seeing it in the Amazon store is definitely exciting.

♥ Digital or physical, it's on the shelves - that counts as 'in print' for me! D
id you deliberately choose genre fiction because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other fiction doesn't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

Absolutely. I'm a huge sci-fi nerd and have been since I was devouring those great "Golden Age" tomes when I was a little kid. You know - those ones by Asimov or Heinlein, the size of encyclopedias? A stack of those a week or I'd go into withdrawal.

On a more serious note, I've always felt sci-fi offers us the template to examine our own world and our own issues in new ways. You rename things, turn groups of people into aliens or whatever you have to do to strip out the biases we normally operate on and suddenly you're telling these stories that are really parables of real life - and suddenly things look very different!

On a more personal note, I think I can speak for all the closet cases out there on this one, science fiction and paranormal also really create a space for celebrating the abnormal. Because when you're in the closet there's this war going on - if only I could be "normal", you know? But you're not. And eventually you come to accept that and be happy with that - and be happy that you are different. I mean, there are advantages? Our romantic night together is probably going to involve putting the big-screen at the foot of the bed and blowing holes in people until our eyes bleed. My straight friends are so jealous, right?

So science fiction plays on the edges of that realization - it's like "ooh, poor Harry Potter is a freak" but calling him a freak sounds just completely stupid because we know he's a wizard, in his case being different is a good thing. Science fiction and paranormal create that feeling for us, and when you're the outcast, and you're living in the closet, that's wonderful to see that sort of flipping of perspective that makes you really question whether being "normal" is something you'd really want, or if "normal" is really just kind of stupid?

♥ Well said! Speculative fiction really does free us from all expectations, allowing us to either 'normalise' what others see as 'fringe' or even reverse the two, and force the mainstream to imagine itself on the fringe. I suspect we can already guess the answer, but how does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Oh definitely. But only after the fact. I started writing Symbiota Sapiens in the closet and in a funny way I guess Jeremey and I worked our way out of at least the mental part of it together. When I really think about it, I really think the attitudes about sex of everyone in this underworld that Jeremey meets, were me finding my way through the logic of why should I be ashamed of my own sexuality.

I was raised in an ultra-conservative Christian background, my dad was a Southern Baptist preacher after all. So when this little boy who is really ancient tells Jeremey he shouldn't be bothered by the weird ideas the people in this era have about sex, I think that was kind of a breakthrough in my own mind. And when a newborn artificial intelligence tells Jeremey the reason he never noticed his friend was obviously gay is because he filtered every clue through the assumption of heterosexuality - well that was a dawning realization for me too.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

I wish I could have a schedule. I've been stuck on Chapter 6 of the sequel for a couple years now. It has to flow naturally or the characters don't sound real to me. Sadly, the characters are pissed off at me right now.

♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

I can't listen to music while I work, it's too distracting. I'm a musician myself and end up dissecting how to play the song myself in my head. Sometimes a song will get me worked up or into just the right emotional mood to write a scene, though. But it has to get turned off before I start tapping away.

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

Consistency. I really have a hard time keeping to it - I'll go for ages without writing and then I have to review everything again and get back into my characters heads to write any more.

♥ I get that - if I could finish just one of my half-completed manuscripts, I might just make a name for myself (lol). Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?


Well let's see, I'm in love with "The Guardian's Song" - a creepy ancient poem the Guardians read to Jeremey after they induct him. And I also love Julian in badass mode when he takes out a huge crowd of hijacked people or zombies who are after him. But I guess my real favorite is when Jeremey gets into the argument with the AI about its manipulative tendencies.

♥ You've already alluded to this a bit, but sometimes characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

Absolutely. I didn't expect the AI to latch on to Julian the way it did. And I didn't expect Damion, our antagonist, to go a little bit nuts the way he did - he was supposed to be cold and smooth the whole way through. And I certainly never expected to make Rom fall in in love, but when the opportunity presented - some little voice told me "hang on a minute, this is an opportunity Rom would have jumped at."

♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?

Well lately I sing in a choir which is really a mind blowing experience anyone who can carry a note really needs to sample. There is something supernatural about sitting cradled in and creating a chord - the pleasure of listening to music is just child's play compared to that. I also play the piano and really enjoy that. My more "cool" activities include playing xbox360 with my buddies or with my boyfriend, working out, swimming and soccer.

♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?

Okay this is going to sound silly but for the last several years I have actually really been influenced by Harry Potter fanfic. I know, I know, how  gay can I get especially since I prefer stuff that plays on a Harry/Draco relationship. But there's actually some stunningly good stuff, a few much better than what J.K. Rowling originally wrote. Like the Sacrifices Arc by Lightning on the Wave - the complex politics of the Guardians and Fallen were really inspired by her much more in-depth exploration of the traditions and culture of the wizarding world.

More conventionally, I am in love with the Enders Game series - pure genius, the lot of them. Also, for this particular book, I was heavily influenced by the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. The Digital Prophecies in my book were partly based on the concept he introduced there.

♥ Interesting - I don't think fan fiction gets nearly the respect it deserves, but there is some really good writing out there . . . plus some that's just guilty fun! When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

Absolutely I consider it, though I don't think it really guides me. I LOVE to get into a deep discussion with readers about my book - and tend to have long replies to insightful reviews. But for me, the world I am writing about already exists in my head, and I am "discovering" it and relating events and details to my readers. Sometimes reviews make me sit and think about some detail I hadn't really thought about - but there is always some logical way that things in that universe must be.

As for action - well, I put my characters through hell. But I also make sure there is some sweetness running throughout to keep them going. I guess my style or philosophy is that as long as I can keep my characters interested, the readers will be too.

♥ What first compelled you to begin writing, and what is it that keeps you motivated?

I guess I needed a way to express myself: my emotions and my logical exploration of the moral implications of my own sexuality. And my own sexuality itself, of course. This novel was originally pretty smutty - you have no idea how much editing has gone into bringing a couple scenes from pornographic to a reasonably tolerable "bodice-ripper hot" level of detail. Originally, these boys were brothers, and it gets dirtier from there! Writing about the details and actions in that way goes a long way towards figuring out what, exactly, you find a turn on and what you find romantic and what you find so beautiful you aren't sure whether to jerk off or cry.

♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?


Um, not really sure. I've had a lot of reactions from disdain at the sexual content to people wanting to tell me in detail how hot it got them to really really long and detailed discussions about the philosophy, the science, the culture, the history of the Guardians and the Citadel and so on.

♥ If your book were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

Nobody in particular. Jeremey and Julian have to be hot, especially Jeremey since he's supposed to be perfected after Chapter 1. And Julian needs to have a sort of open earnest sort of sweetness to his face. Damien is a black man - the sequel establishes a lot of his history as an escaped slave, and also extremely attractive in a very polished way. Rom is boyish and cute but very "solemn-eyed" as the poem goes.
 
♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

I guess the theme of this novel is to really take a long look at things. And again I can't help but direct this at all the closeted gay kids out there who are probably not supposed to read a book that's rated R but I know they do anyways. Your life in whatever situation you are in is so short and so temporary, and the opinions and casual cruelties and traditions of those around you are coming from people who are such a temporary part of your life if you so choose.

Remember - life is a game played in decades. You have so much time - don't worry about what you cannot change now, build yourself the tools you will need to change your situation, your location, your surroundings in the future. Keep your mind on what the future holds for you, and work now on what will take you there. It's going to be an adventure full of everything you could want in life, happiness you haven't even dreamed of. And there will be wounds and set-backs along the way, maybe your closeted childhood in a close-minded small town is one of those. So get over it, set yourself up for the future, and remember it gets better if you make it.

♥ Finally, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

Well as I said I'm stuck on chapter six of Dark Legacy, the much darker and sophisticated sequel. If you think Symbiota Sapiens is complex wait until you see the future. Dark Legacy is going to focus a bit on Damien and his amazing backstory, and we're also going to see a darker side to Jeremey as he starts falling into a lot of traps he laid for himself by trying to gloss over some issues in Symbiota Sapiens.

In the nearer future, I'm currently working on a promo video for Symbiota Sapiens that I'm pretty excited about. It's going to be a parody music video with the scene set as an author interview that goes, shall we say, not quite as the very prim and proper show host had planned. I'll definitely keep you posted on that video, it's going to be a riot.

Thanks so much to P.T. for stopping by!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mailbox Monday, What I'm Reading, and What's Beside my Bed

In My Mailbox, It's Monday, What are you Reading, and What's Beside Your Bed are weekly memes hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, Sheila at Book Journey, and Nanny at Getting Naughty Between the Stacks. Both are great ways to share the books you're either reading, or shifting to the top of your TBR pile (because, let's face it, sometimes a little shifting is the best we can manage!).

  

A few new books for review this week, including SHE-CAT: The Full Trilogy by Natasza Luca, Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino (I've been waiting on this since May, and I finally got my hands on an advance copy), Ghost Lover by Michelle Fawkes, and The Darkness by Crystal Connor (been waiting for this one to make it's way through the post office since July).

        

As always, I'm generally hopping between books as the mood grabs me. Teasing me for time and seducing my attentions this week are:

Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker
Alice in Shtuppingland by Barrie Abalard
Not Your Average American Girl by Christine Beatty

     

As for what's beside my bed this week, that would be Second Best Fantasy by Angela Kelly.


Well, that's it for now . . . what are you reading?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NEWS: Banned Books Week Sept 24 − Oct 1

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Banned Books Week is an event designed to celebrate the freedom to read; to highlight the benefits of free and open access to information; and to draw attention to the harms of censorship. The books formally celebrated during Banned Books are those that have been targets of bans or attempted bans in libraries and bookstores across North America. For complete details, please check out the ALA website.

The most recent list of banned books (which I always find to be a great introduction to new authors and works) can be found HERE. A few notable works that caught my attention are:

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World - challenged for a “high volume of racially offensive derogatory language" and criticised for lacking "literary value which is relevant to today’s contemporary multicultural society” (which completely ignores the fact that it was written 80 years ago!).

Carl Semencic's Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs - banned from one library because they do not stock literature on prohibited breeds (maybe it's just me but, thinking purely of self-preservation, I think I'd want to educate myself on banned breeds)

Nikki Sixx's The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star - pulled from a school's optional & supplemental (i.e not mandatory) reading list over complains about "explicit language, descriptions of drug use, and photos" (it's MOTLEY CREW and it's called the HEROIN diaries - what the hell did you really expect?)

Amy Sonnie's Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology - removed from a school board after a conservative group called it  “pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate” despite the fact it was named as one of the best adult books for high school students by School Library Journal (apparently, for at least one school board, political agendas overrule education value)

Margaret Walker's Jubilee - challenged by both a pastor for being “offensive” and “trashy” as well as by the Ku Klux Klan because it produces “racial strife and hatred” (never mind the fact that it's a true story - when a pastor and the KKK object, you know you've written something significant)

If you want to look deeper than the current list, check out the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990–1999 (which includes lots of Stephen King and Judy Blume) and from 2000-2009 (which includes lots of Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling . . . and Judy Blume). Whether you're looking for something exciting to read, or just want to thumb your nose at those who feel they have the right to determine what you read, get your hands on a banned book today and start reading!

Friday, September 23, 2011

REVIEW: Aisling Book Two: Dream by Carole Cummings

Much like the first volume in the Aisling saga, Guardian, this is a story that's firmly grounded in the magical fantasy genre, but this time it Carole trades the feel of a contemporary police procedural for that of a romantic adventure. Picking up right where the first installment left off, Dream takes us deeper into the world building and mythology, while carefully developing the romance between Wil and Dallin.

This is a much darker story than the first installment, with far more at stake than just the capture of an escaped fugitive. The tension has definitely been turned up a few notches, but it's not allowed to completely dominate the story. Fortunately, there are still moments of much-needed humour (most of them surrounding the budding romance), which work perfectly to balance out the story.

As for Wil and Dallin . . . well, what I can say about them that I didn't say before? They are the kind of polar opposites who should never share a room, much less an embrace, but they need one another. I know some readers have complained that they're a stereotypical masculine/feminine gay couple, but that simplifies things far too much. They are far too complex to be written off quite so easily. In fact, I rather suspect the roles may be reversed before the end, once Wil comes into his own. For now, they develop each other nicely, bringing out hidden aspects of their characters that soften Dallin and ground (to some extent) Wil. It's odd the way they seemingly never quite manage to be friends, yet can still become romantic, but it's also part of the charm of the story.

There's still some mystery here, and still a lot of questions to be answered in the final volume, but I think the pace of revelations is even more satisfying this time around. With the characters and the situation already introduced, the story is really able to move along, providing some tantalizing glimpses of the eventual conclusion.

Romancing Your Dark Side - We have winners!

Thanks to everybody who joined me for last week's stops on the Romancing Your Dark Side Paranormal Book Tour, featuring Kristie Cook and A. Jacob Sweeny

Firstly, Kristie was kind enough to offer one lucky reader the chance to win signed print copies of both Promise and Purpose, and another the chance to win ebook copies of each. Thanks to the scientific-techno-babble-magic of random.org, I am pleased to announce that the lucky winners are . . . drum roll, please . . . She (who gets her choice) & Darlene (who gets the remaining prize)! Congratulations - Kristie will be in touch soon.

Also, A.J. was kind enough to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a large Pulse of Heroes calender poster. Thanks to the scientific-techno-babble-magic of random.org, I am pleased to announce that the lucky winner is . . . drum roll, please . . . Nikki! Congratulations - A.J. will be in touch soon.

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines and Kelly at Secrets of a Book Lover.


Q. We all love our hunky heroes, but what heroine do you have a girl-crush on?

A. Oh, so many choices, but I do so lust after the Confessors (who can break a person's mind and spirit with a touch, ensuring their perfect and perpettual obedience) and Mord-Sith (red leather-clad sexual torturers) of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, along with the breath-takingly erotic, pain-is-pleasure bisexual concubine, Phèdre nò Delaunay of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series.

It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, courtesy of Crazy for Books!

Book Blogger Hop

Q. ?

A. .

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!


Q. Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?

A. I'm not one to reread books - there's not enough time to read all the new stuff I have in my TBR pile, much less reread something old. If I'm reading a long series like the Wheel of Time, I might re-skim the last book, just to refresh my memory, but that's not the same as indulging in a reread.

As always, I urge you to hop around to some new blogs, tag along with some new friends, and find some great new reviews to follow. I always find something new to delight me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

REVIEW: Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov

Good morning all, and welcome to our innaugural stop on the TLC Book Tour. Joining us today is Michael Alenyikov, author of Ivan and Misha, a collection of stories about Russian immigrant twins living in NY.

Michael Alenyikov’s short stories have appeared in Canada’s Descant (nominated for a 2007 Pushcart); The Georgia Review; New York Stories; Modern Words, The James White Review, and have been anthologized in Best Gay Stories, 2008 and Tartts Four: Incisive Fiction From Emerging Writers. His essays have appeared in The Gay & Lesbian Review. He was a MacDowell Fellow. Raised in New York City, Alenyikov has worked as a bookstore clerk, clinical psychologist, cab driver, and interactive media writer. He lives in San Francisco. For more information on Michael Alenyikov, visit his website at http://www.michaelalenyikov.com/.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥


SYNOPSIS: In Ivan and Misha, Michael Alenyikov portrays the complexities of love, sexuality, and the bonds of family with boldness and lyric sensitivity. As the Soviet Union collapses, two young brothers are whisked away from Kiev by their father to start life anew in America. The intricately linked stories in this powerful debut, set in New York City at the turn of the millennium, swirl about the uneasy bond between fraternal twins, Ivan and Misha, devoted brothers who could not be more different: bipolar Ivan, like their father, is a natural seducer, a gambler who always has a scheme afoot between fares in his cab and stints in Bellevue. Misha struggles to create a sense of family with his quixotic boyfriend, Smith, his wildly unpredictable brother, and their father, Lyov (“Call  me Louie!”), marooned in Brighton Beach yet ever the ladies’ man. Father and sons are each haunted by the death of Sonya, a wife to Lyov, a mother to his sons. An evocative and frank exploration of identity, loss, dislocation, and desire, Ivan and Misha marks the arrival of a uniquely gifted voice in American fiction.

REVIEW: Ivan and Misha is a novel about the intertwining lives of twin brothers, told as a series of interconnected short stories. Each chapter (or story) is told by a different narrator, sometimes Ivan or Misha themselves, and sometimes friends, family, or lovers. Reading the novel is like interviewing witnesses to the same event – it takes a little work to decipher fact from opinion, and you often have to work backwards to find the overlapping moments of significance, but you ultimately come away with a broader understanding.

On the surface, the brother couldn’t be more different – Misha is blond and slender, whereas Ivan is dark-haired and somewhat stocky; Ivan is a dreamer, often relying on others to keep his thoughts on track, whereas Misha is the thinker, often taking responsibility for his brother. Even when sharing the common ground of sexuality – both brothers are gay – they are as different as night and day in their choice of partners, means of expression, and dependence upon the affections of others.

There’s a lot of love in this book, and a lot of discussion about what love really means. Ivan and Misha’s love for their long-lost mother is an underpinning of their relationship, almost as deep as their love for one another – an intimacy that borders upon (and, depending on how literal you read it, crosses the line of) being inappropriate. It’s also a story about the risks involved with love, whether it’s challenging a father’s acceptance, transplanting twinned lives across the world, or continuing to love beneath the shadow of AIDS.

Of course, there is also a lot of other, darker, more dangerous emotions in their stories. There is an overwhelming amount of jealousy and feelings of betrayal between the brothers; instances of mental instability, both manic and depressive; the looming threat of AIDS; a debilitating stroke; and, at the both the beginning and the end of it all, the spectre of death – the first unnatural and selfish, the latter entirely too natural and selfless.

Not an easy read by any means (the narrative often descends into a dream-like state, the timeline tends to jump around a bit, and some passages are just outright strange), but an interesting one. I’ve been trying to avoid any Eastern European clichés, but this book really is like a Russian nesting doll, with stories inside stories, each of them revealing something grander, but demanding a greater share of attention to appreciate what you’ve found.