Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Art of Blindness

 The Art of Blindness

by J. L. Williams


Abandoned in a magical forest as a baby, Sendjuit learns to fend for himself like a wild animal, until he is  eventually adopted by Helio, prince of Abram, and trained to be his bodyguard and companion. Even after he is blinded in an accident, Sendjuit still manages to become a fearsome warrior, defending Helio and facing threats from the forest and the enemy kingdom of Dorcas. In many ways this is a classic hero's journey, with a big dose of romance toward the end.

While the writing is not quite up to professional grade, this is still a satisfying read. There's a lot of misuse of language, and the medieval-ish fantasy world is not 100% internally consistent. The characters all talk and behave like young teens, which is great when they are young, but not as convincing when they are adults. There's a very high school feel to many of the interactions, especially with the few female characters. And the ending is repeated twice, kind of like two drafts of the same scenes. It really reads like something written by a precocious child.

However, it is much better written than the average fantasy on fictionpress, and well worth paying for. The story is completely original, with a lot of fast-paced action and suspense. The romance is very touching.

Sendjuit is an appealing character--although he wild and kind of bratty in the beginning, he develops into a loyal and surprisingly tender young man. The depiction of his blindness is ok but not totally realistic. He relies on a supernatural sense of smell, which I guess is linked to a curse that makes him part wolf, but he develops that power before the curse, so again, not fully consistent. However, it didn't bother me too much. And it's not just the blindness, there's a lot of "wounded hero" stuff all through the book. From the moment Send loses two fingers as a young child, he keeps getting injured over and over. I found the dev factor pretty high despite all the magic. And there's no magical cure, which is probably a first for a for a blind character in a fantasy setting. The narration is from Send's point of view, also not something authors attempt often, and it's done pretty well.

Despite its flaws, I still enjoyed reading this a lot. I've never read anything quite like it. The writer has a lot of raw talent, but really needs a professional editor.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blind Impulse

Blind Impulse

by Kathryn Loch


Medieval romance.

Garin Swein returns from fighting in the Crusades to England, just in time to marry his childhood betrothed, Alyna and take over as baron of Kirkoswald. But just after returning, he is struck with a fever that leaves him blind. Everyone expects him to cancel the marriage and step down, allowing his sister Julia and her fiance to inherit the barony. Alyna, inspired by her blind uncle, is convinced she can teach Garin to cope. But the threat that he could be stripped of his title is real--will Alyna be able to help him? And will that be enough to satisfy the authorities and his grasping sister?

The writing is pretty good for a romance. Garin and Alyna are appealing characters, and the depiction of his blindness is fairly realistic. There is some good action at the end too, but through the middle it moved kind of slowly. Garin spends way too long agonizing over things that should have already been resolved, like his doubts that Alyna is only helping him for selfish reasons. Also there's a big subplot with Julia. It paid off in the end but for a long time it felt like a distraction.

The number of anachronisms really bugged me. Everything is just too dainty for a medieval setting. The characters all read and write fluently, even the women, and people exchange letters and notes as if paper were readily available. They have carpets on the floors, glass in the windows, and napkins at the table. The characters all behave in a very modern way too. It's a shame because many of the details are good, like the clothing and armor. The middle ages is a hard setting to get right because it is so distant from us. As a romance this book is pretty good, but as historical fiction, not so much.



by Brandon Shire


Contemporary gay romance/erotica.

After reading so many terrible romances with blind characters completely removed from reality, I was so happy to finally find one where the author took the time to do research and really get the details right. Hunter is a great character: tough but vulnerable, smart and sarcastic, but secretly sweet. He's independent and fully adjusted to his life. The problems he has, sometimes acting like a jerk to cover for feeling foolish or dependent, felt very true to life.

I also loved the attention to detail. The setting feels real, as do all the characters. Even the secondary characters are detailed. No one's just a cardboard cutout, and there's no neglect of the plot in favor of sex scenes, which is usually the case in erotica. And the characters act like real men, ie, they don't sit around talking about their feelings, even when they really should. This is definitely real gay man fiction, not slash written by and for women.

The writing is excellent, a very cerebral and writerly style, also unusual for erotica. Although there are quite a few typos towards the end, including one hilarious instance of confusing genteel and gentile.

I only had two complaints: 1. the ending relies on a coincidence so huge it defies belief and 2. the story clearly is not over at the end. I dislike the current trend in e-publishing to take one novel and split it in two to double profits. I would gladly pay more for a longer book, but I'd like to know up front what I am getting. Anyway I still recommend this one, just be warned, it's not a complete novel, only the first half.

Silence Is Multicolored in My World

Silence is Multicolored in My World

by Red Haircrow


This is an unusual, somewhat mysterious book, but well worth reading.

First, it's not a novel. It's a collection of first person essays, maybe originally blog posts, about an unnamed young man, collected and edited by his partner, after his death at the age of 31. Nothing is stated outright, there are only vague hints. Here's what we know about him: profoundly deaf at a young age due to illness, he escaped the horrors of a Russian orphanage and ended up turning tricks on the street as a teen. An older foreign man bought his freedom, and brought him to Berlin, where he settled. His rescuer was first his friend, then his lover, and eventually his legal husband. We never find out how he died, it's only mentioned in passing in the foreword.

The book is divided into sections, with essays on various topics. The first section talks about his deafness in a very moving, poetic way. I found it super devvy! Especially the chapter where he describes going to a concert to feel the vibrations of the music. The descriptions of his daily life in a country house are also quite beautiful. Later sections give his opinions on homophobia, sex abuse, and gay culture. He describes trips to the US, and comments on American and German culture. The essays are refreshingly outspoken and personal. It's obvious too that English is not his first language, but I found the unusual word choice poetic, creative, and thought-provoking, not at all an impediment to understanding.

In all, he comes across as a fascinating, deeply sympathetic person. Reading through what in many ways feels like his private diary is moving but also slightly unsettling, because it is so personal, and in the end we know so little about him. Ironically, many of the later essays talk about his need for privacy. But in printing his thoughts, this book invites more questions about who he was and how he died. I would have liked at least a little more solid information.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Slow, Cold Death

A Slow, Cold Death
by Susy Gage

 Dev Rating: ***

This book was sent to me by the author so I could give it an endorsement. Pretty cool!

It's quite a different kind of book and I appreciate that about it. It's a murder mystery that takes place within the world of academic research, a physics lab to be exact. I have long been fascinated by the unique atmosphere of university research labs with their crazy red tape and strange rules.

The characters are wild and large and a lot of fun to follow.

Lou is the character in a wheelchair. He was paralyzed in a car accident that starts looking less and less like an accident as other people in his department are killed.

I wish there had been more of him and more devy scenes, but okay, it's not written by a dev. There's a great bike ride that I found very devy.

I like the portrayal of Lou a lot. He's realistic and believable. He shows how much a paralyzed man can still do but the narrative also shows his struggles.

The author has promised more books with Lou and Lori, so I look forward to seeing more of him much like I read Meg Gardiner's books for Jesse.

Read an interview with the author at my blog: