It is with great pleasure that I offer a book by a good online friend... months after I finished it. (Sorry, B)

This is a picaresque sword & sandal saga set in mythical Greece that follows the life and adventures of a man loosely based on Perseus. The story hits many of the bullet points of Perseus's legend but B.A. builds a life and world beyond the story.

51FBwQ20dfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The novel begins at an academy for demigods vaguely reminiscent of the Percy Jackson series, but quickly abandons this conceit to delve into the life of the protagonist. By the end of the book, Perseus is middle-aged so it's more Homer than J.K. Rowling in scope.

Magic and world building are both in full effect. While this world is modeled after ancient Greece, there is divine magic which is cool without ever being used as a "get out of jail free" card in sticky plot situations.

I would not say this is a romance, but the character arc that spans Perseus's life is subtle but interwoven throughout the tale. He is fated to wed Andromeda, and does, but his true romantic interest is Antolios, a son of Apollo. Their relationship has plenty of obstacles and quarrels over the years with partners alternating between being distant and longing for each other's company.

Brock takes us through the myth that made Perseus's career up to his marriage to Andromeda and beyond. Normally heterosexual sex is a matter of course, but given the sub-genre (M/M fiction) and publisher (Dreamspinner) this seems paradoxically bold to give full treatment to a bisexual main character.

There's a level of fearlessness to the depictions of sex which are integral to the concept of the book. Perseus is tormented by his father's (Zeus, if you forgot) philandering ways and is constantly driven to sex against his better judgment. While it might seem gratuitous to some readers' tastes, it is never glorified and the real repercussions are addressed in the text. It ranges from tender scenes,random hookups, prison rape, and every shade in between.

The novel goes on to describe Perseus's post-Kraken adventures. There's plenty pf action and Brock writes fast-paced, concise fight sequences using physical placement and description rather than abstractions like "fought valiantly".  There's an almost perfect balance between action and character development scenes in this book.

I would have liked to see more development of the female characters, particularly Andromeda. The chapter from her POV was one of my favorites from the first part of the novel but she gradually faded into a minor character. I felt there was chemistry between her and the protagonist and more opportunity for agency, but to be completely fair Perseus and Andormeda had a ton of kids.

Not to spoil the ending but in the tradition of Greek drama this book is a comedy rather than a tragedy. We reach a point of closure with the main character that ties into the beginning.

Bottom line: If you're a fan of re-imagined Greek mythology or M/M fiction that isn't afraid of crossing genres, you should check out King of Storms.

[B.A. Brock is both an author and a well-known reviewer in this genre and you can check out his website here. He's even reviewed one of my books. Circle of life etc.]

I won't lie, praise is great, and especially welcome to be included in a GLBT review site. Most of the books reviewed are romance. I think it's great that there are so many readers out there interested in M/M romance. I think it's equally encouraging that people of all orientations are open to more mainstream Sci Fi/Fantasy that includes diverse characters.

I think that's a good sign for a healthy expansion of the readership out there.

Rainbow Gold Reviews

The review is up on Rainbow Gold Reviews along with a short piece about the importance of inclusivity in fantasy fiction. It's actually been up for a while but... I've been getting my shit together on a lot of various levels lately and blogging has fallen by the wayside.

 

Perhaps, like me, you will find yourself drawn into an exciting new fantasy world that feels like a mix of G.R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and Terry Prachett’s ‘Discworld’ novels, while retaining a fresh and unique quality that will make you unwilling to put down the book for even a second.

Queercentric Books

I was also treated to another 4.5 star review on Queercentric Books. In addition to reviews, they also feature a weekly mailing list highlighting free and bargain books for authors and readers.

The whole concept of The Queen of Lies was brilliant! A very original and unique story line. I really liked that the story was told from everyone’s POVs. If you’re a fantasy lover, this story will not be a let down. There’s straight lovin’, M/M lovin’, drugs, drinking, and plenty of magic to go around.

 

 

 

 

I read ebooks almost exclusively but there are some cases when hard copy is absolutely required. From the moment I laid eyes on Wonderbook I knew I must have a physical copy.

So great was my desire to own this tome that I invoked the same day delivery gambit through Amazon. For those of you who don't know... a same day order placed around 4-5 PM in a city with heavy traffic has a ~60% fail rate. If it fails they refund shipping and you get it the next day. I was in luck and I had free next day delivery.

The book did not disappoint and continues to delight me. I was impressed by the whimsical cabinet of curiosities it presented. Filled with lavish and surreal illustrations, Jeff VanderMeer's Wonderbook is like discovering a hidden treasure or mysterious codex. And it's chock full of writing wisdom. Seriously, buy it.

But I had a hard time making it through it at first. I found my eyes scanning topic sentences and skipping entire paragraphs without realizing what was making me so impatient. Then as I was reading in bed, a chilling notion crept into the recesses of my mind:

I think this might be easier with reading glasses.

As it happens I own a pair of 1990's-esque Lisa Loeb looking glasses I found on the street many years ago. (Incidentally do you know she has her own line of glasses now? Holy brand synergy batman!) For some unfathomable reason I've kept them in the drawer of junk along with condoms, batteries, a unicorn cutout and some old AA chips.

So with great trepidation, I donned the glassy eye shackles I had long ago severed with LASIK and returned to my task.

sunset-hand-garden-book-large"Holy fucking shit. I can read again! This is awesome!"

"Dude, you're wearing some knockoff Lisa Loeb reading glasses you found on the fucking street because your eyes suck now."

"Shit."

I have been luckier than most to escape the ravages of time although it seems to be catching up with a vengeance. Perhaps a part of me, like Icarus soaring on his golden wings, thought I was truly going to be immortal. But alas, no. My body is on track to make sure I have the full experience of turning forty.

With digital media it's easy to fool yourself. I can just increase the font size on my Kindle apps. Book #3 is zoomed at 130% and MS Word has faithfully maintained that size ever since. But you cannot change the size of the printed word.

As you look at the writing on a page, know that your days are numbered. The mass market paperback copy of Game of Thrones you buy at the grocery store is like so many other things, a folly of youth. When you can no longer read the words, they are saying, "You will die one day... but first you must now and forever own a special piece of eye wear they sell at drugstores."

In the words of George R.R. Martin and his 600 page small print paperback, Valar morghulis. (All men must die)

 It is a great pleasure for me to offer a recommendation for a book by one of my esteemed peers.

Homecoming, just to start, has some of the most perfect cover illustration I've ever laid eyes on.

The book is a story told from two perspectives-- from Hari, a human wolf shifter, and Aldiss, an astronaut fleeing the catastrophic destruction of his homeworld. I felt Hari was really the main protagonist, but Aldiss was a good supporting character who is more accessible/familiar to the reader at first.

What I particularly like is the blend of science fiction and fantasy elements. The characters come from two completely different worlds. One from a high tech futuristic planet and the other from a mystical tribal society in the wilderness of Earth.

The worldbuilding is solid for both cultures, although we get more detail about Earth, but the tone and dialogue of the characters gives a clear sense of separate places. The mechanics (both technological and mystical) are consistent across both stories and explored in depth as the plotlines converge. The story illustrates that mankind's self destruction can come from both our higher reasoning and our primal nature.

Homecoming has romantic elements-- the two man characters have a strong chemistry, yet it's not so focused on the relationship that I'd call it a romance. It's a story of survival along with a bit of coming of age for one of the protagonists.

Each one deals with familiar baggage from their respective pasts: the shame of unrequited attraction to the abusive asshole, and the pain of a relationship that ended badly with no hope for closure. Each character compliments the other's insecurities and develops past it.

It's a short book, and the pacing is brisk. Coatsworth never lingers too long on any one scene or topic and has an admirable talent for description. It's a good read for a long afternoon with an engaging bread crumb trail of clues to lead you to a satisfying explanation for the story.

 

rssI recieved an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Heartland Trilogy is Chuck Wendig's young adult series set in an alternate future America, possibly an alternate reality all together. (There are similarities but never anything to tie this world directly back to ours).

The premise begins with a world, the Heartland, swallowed by a genetically modified strain of corn, which is possibly sentient... and evil. It reminded me of a piece by the onion, Monsanto Harvest-Resistant Corn Now Engulfing Most Of Midwest. It's kind of an goofy seeming premise at first, but Wendig makes it work as the books go on to explore the culture and class systems within this world, which is much bigger than just one town in the middle of nowhere.

It centers around a healthy sized cast of characters, most of them hailing from a nowhere town called Boxelder. The characters are, almost universally, both likeable and realistic. Wendig's heroes are fleshed out but they're also flawed.

Wanda's character showed some really well done development of a female character. In particular I rooted for Lane, even before I knew he was gay. Wendig has an awesome defense of his artistic choice ,on par with Kluwe's epic rant, to a fan who objected to gays being in young adult fiction.

For young adult reading this series doesn't come across as being for teens although most of the characters are in that age range. Most YA is pretty sophisticated-- teenagers don't want to read the books their parents approve of, anyway. There's sex, drugs and swearing... and all the good stuff that's all too rare in adult speculative fiction.

Some characters I connected with less, like Rigo-- he never seemed really essential to the cast and had the unfortunate burden of humanizing the fledgling badasses, often to minimal success (Or having good ideas but never being the one to execute). It's pretty clear who the good guys are and there's not a lot of profound ethical debate. The villains tended to be a bit one dimensional at times, although this improves over the course of the books.

It makes a timely statement about income inequality in modern day America, with the privileged classes literally living far above the day to day struggles of the poor farmers they exploit. The politics are light but they're there and you can hear a few choice GOP talking points coming from the central antagonists. There's a lot of other themes explored, from class to the environment as well as the characters' personal struggles with becoming adults and the meaning of family.

The overall message is positive, but the books' main goal is to entertain and they do so beautifully.

Wendig is a master of language. Every sentence is a delight to read in how he phrases his descriptions in a tight, evocative way that very few writers can. He's clear and concise without flowery language, or words that send you to the dictionary. Wendig balances well-written and simple with seemingly no effort at all.

The chapters are short and read quickly. You could burn through one volume over a weekend. Check it out if you need something to read. I don't give out stars or anything but this is a good series.