Author Archives: Christian

About Christian

My name is Christian Otto and I’m a thirtyish guy from Germany. My friends often tell me that I tend to contradict myself or that I have a diverse personality. You see, I like drinking coffee as much as I enjoy a good cup of tea. Among my favorite musicians is Barbra Streisand as well as Björk. I love playing computer games and World of Warcraft in particular. It’s easy for me to spend hours in the game with my Gnome Magician or my Undead Priest and fight for right and honor. ^^ At the same time I love to do sports and to live a healthy lifestyle. So imagine me sitting at my computer playing WoW while eating fruits and drinking water. *lol* If I had to list the things that are important in my life or which I love to do, those would be family, friends, reading, books, sports, computers, computer games, gadgets, nature and men. No particular order here! *g* I've always been an avid reader. I discovered my love for m/m books and later gay comics in 2007. In 2008 I also started posting book reviews on different sites and became a reviewer for Rainbow Reviews and one year later for Reviews by Jessewave. Lately my reading spree has slowed a little bit but I continue to be the webmaster of Reviews by Jessewave. :)

Audio books – What do you think about them?

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Audio books have already become a popular phenomenon, but only recently the first M/M publisher has begun to publish M/M audio books. This seems to be the right time to ask what you as the reader think about them.

Do you read audio books?

  • Yes, love them! (22%, 21 Votes)
  • I did try them, but I prefer to read paper books. (32%, 30 Votes)
  • I haven't tried yet, but I'm curious. (14%, 13 Votes)
  • I don't care about them. (32%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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Do you read audio books excusively?

  • Yes! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Not exclusively, but every time I need my hands free. (29%, 24 Votes)
  • No, I read them very seldom. (71%, 58 Votes)

Total Voters: 82

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Do you prefer them over print and ebooks?

  • Yes, I prefer them whenever an audio book version is available. (4%, 3 Votes)
  • It depends on the situation I would like to read the book. (49%, 38 Votes)
  • I don't care. (47%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 77

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Would you like to see more publishers offer this format?

  • Yes, definitely! (39%, 34 Votes)
  • No, everything's good as it is. (26%, 23 Votes)
  • I don't care. (35%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 87

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The Witch’s Boy

1,079 Views

Title and Link: The Witch’s Boy
Author: Alex Beecroft
Publisher URL: Lulu.com
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 315 pages

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Guest reviewer – Christian

The Blurb

Are the sins of the fathers really visited upon the sons? And is there no way of breaking that cycle? Is evil doomed always to repeat itself, ruining everything good through its tainted seed?

These are not the questions young Oswy is asking himself when he is sold to the witch-Lord Sulien FitzGuimar – he’s too busy wondering ‘why me?!’ They are, however, the questions which plague Sulien himself. Locked in a struggle for freedom, sanity, the very survival of his soul, Sulien must daily battle not only angels and demons, but the core of evil in his own heart.

When the King’s vile sorcerer stages a coup, dragging ancient magic, the elves, and the royal court into his Empire-building plans, the woman he has set his sights on as a bride – timid, aspiring nun, Adela – sets out to find someone to oppose him. It’s just unfortunate that the only candidates are cowardly Oswy, Adela herself and Sulien – who, deep in his heart, wants to surrender and join in.

When the hope of redemption is balanced against the lure of revenge, which will prove stronger, flawed good or perfect evil?

The Review

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie in which you could immerse yourself so deeply, that you found yourself screaming at a character (at least in your head): “You damn fool. Don´t go down to that dark cellar from where you hear all those strange noises. You´re so stupid!“

The Witch´s Boy is one of those books. Alex Beecroft has created such a dense and detailed world in her book, that this world and its characters instantly come alive in your imagination. And it´s all there: The fantasy kingdom with it`s heroic knights, the bad (and good) witches, the peasant boy who get´s the chance to rise beyond his social origin, evil monsters, angels and even elves. Oh, and who knew that elves could be so funny? And mischievous …

So, what is this book about? There are two different main strands, which begin separately but become more and more interwoven throughout the story until they merge at the end of it. First there is peasant boy Oswy, whose family is forced to sell him because of a poor harvest. And as if that wouldn´t be bad enough already, his buyer is the feared witch-lord Sulien. Understandably he tries to flee from his master at the first possibility, but soon certain events take place which force him to rethink his presumptions of who is his friend and who is his enemy.

Then there is Adela, daughter of an Earl and living at the king´s court, who finds herself to be married off to the witch Adam de Limoges, a confidante of the king. Her struggles against this forced marriage are the beginning of a series of events which eventually force her to flee the king´s court in disguise.

When the paths of Oswy and Adela cross, they realize that they´re both threatened by one and the same person. And only if they combine their efforts, there maybe is a chance to fight this person. Maybe…

I just loved this book. I would have read it in one session, if there weren´t those stupid needs like eating and sleeping. This book definitely is a must-read.

If anyone is still unsure as where to categorize this book, even though it doesn´t fit easily into categories, I can offer my personal impression that for me it “feels” like a mixture of Sara Monette´s Doctrine of Labyrinths and Lord of the Rings, while still having its own character. So I´m quite sure that anyone who liked those books, will also like The Witch´s Boy. But to everyone else I would also strongly recommend to give it a try.

False Colors

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Title and Link: False Colors

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher URL: Running Press

Genre: Historical Age of Sail GLBT (M/M)

Length: 333 pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Guest Reviewer – Christian
The Blurb
1762, The Georgian Age of Sail: For his first command, John Cavendish is given a ship – the HMS Meteor – and a crew, both in need of repair and discipline. He’s determined to make a success of their first mission, and hopes the well-liked lieutenant Alfred Donwell will stand by his side as he leads his new crew into battle: stopping the slave trade off the coast of Algiers. Alfie knows their mission is futile, and that their superiors back in England will use the demise of this crew as impetus for war with the Ottoman Empire. But the darker secret he keeps is his growing attraction for his commanding officer – a secret punishable by death. With the arrival of his former captain – and lover – on the scene of the disastrous mission, Alfie is torn between the security of his past and the uncertain promise of a future with the straight-laced John. Against a backdrop of war, intrigue, and personal betrayal, the high seas will carry these men through dangerous waters from England to Africa to the West Indies in search of a safe harbor.
The Review
I’d like to start this post off a little bit differently than my other reviews by telling you how I decide about my rating of a book. You see, I was just skimming over all the reviews I have written so far for this blog, for Rainbow Reviews and for my own blog (I know I really have to update my own blog, I posted the last review there aeons ago). And no, I did this NOT because I was in any way unsure about the rating of False Colors. It clearly deserves the five star rating, there is no arguing about this in my eyes.
I try to keep it simple with my reviews. Three stars for books that were good but which I wouldn’t read a second time. A book that is really a joy to read, which has a good story and characters, receives four stars from me. And finally there are those books which not only have a wonderful story and believable characters and which were a pleasure to read, but also surprised me in some way and most importantly stuck in my head long after I had finished reading them. Those books get a five star rating from me and one of these gems, which is more than worthy of such a rating, is no doubt False Colors by Alex Beecroft. I was so very tempted to even give it a five star plus rating, because I was so very moved by this book. But I would contradict myself with a 5+ star rating, you know, keep it simple. ;-)
It’s no small task to describe on how many levels this book is a brilliant piece of work. Where should I begin? *scratches head* Let’s start with the way the author describes the world the story is set in. We are speaking of the Age of Sail and locations ranging from Jamaica to the Arctic and I can’t even guess what a lot of work it must have been to research all those historical details. And then to use all these details to build a world that is so rich and full of atmosphere that it comes alive in front of your very eyes. Just brilliant!

At the same time the atmosphere of the story is quite violent at some points. There is no flogging to start off the story like was the case in Captain’s Surrender, but still some scenes in the book are quite gruesome. But one has to keep in mind that these were very dark times and the author is only accurate in her historically correct description of these times.

But there were also some very interesting details in the book. Did you know that ships were actually painted while at sea? I mean, it seems like an intelligent idea, especially to paint a ship black when you plan to sneak into an enemy harbor. But think about what a task that must have been.
Oh, and of course the characters. There are three main ones and through the prose and artful characterization of Mrs. Beecroft they feel so very alive. Each character struggles with his life and reacts to the events in the story differently, and is haunted by different demons of the past. The characters and their angst and confusion throughout the story are described in a beautiful way and despite their obvious flaws they are very easy to like. Even while they struggle, you can always sympathize with them, and their motivations are always understandable, even if you may not agree with their course of action.
So, altogether this is stunning and brilliant book, one of those essential reads if you are interested in historical stories.
And I have to echo a comment made by Ruth Sims on another review of False Colors published on Dear Author (yes, I’m lurking a lot!). This is not the first time Mrs. Beecroft has written such a wonderful, magical book and I’m not only referring to Captain’s Surrender, but especially to Witch’s Boy. Buy it, read it and immerse yourself into a magical, Tolkienesque world.

Death Trick

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Titel and Link: Death Trick
Author: Richard Stevenson

Publisher: MLR Press

Genre: Murder mystery

Length: 229 pages

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Guest Reviewer – Christian

The Blurb

Gay activist and accused murderer Billy Blount’s missing, but Albany PI Donald Strachey doubts Billy’s guilt. The 1981 book that launched Richard Stevenson’s pioneering series is a cracking mystery and a fascinating trip into bygone gay culture – before HIV, in the bad old days of bath houses and gay disco, police corruption and tacit policies of harassment.

The Review

When I got this book I already had some general knowledge about the story, because I own the two movies Third Man Out and Shock to the System, which are based on the two books from the series, on DVD. The two movies in my opinion are… let’s say they are okay. ;)

So I knew that Donald Strachey is a gay P.I. in Albany and from the blurb we learn that in Death Trick, the first book of the series, he tries to solve a sensational murder case.
What suprised me when I began to read the book was the overall atmosphere, because this was something that the two movies couldn’t visualize very well. In stark contrast to the last mystery I read, Lessons in Desire, there is nothing light and fluffy in this book. Here it is dark, night life, disco, glamorous and I don’t know why but the word “sticky” constantly sprang to my mind. I listen to too much Madonna music it seems. ;)
Donald’s chase for the murderer leads him to gay bars, bath houses, dark alleys, mental institutions and so on. On his hunt he meets a whole variety of secondary characters like male hustlers, drag queens, homophobic cops, etc. The combination of these very interesting secondary characters and the very believable main characters, especially Donald and his companion Timothy, make this book an amazing read.
Donald is a particularly interesting character. He seems to be your classic private investigator and he is definitely capable of being a tough one when the situation demands it, but there are also scenes in which he is hesitating, which quite surprised me as I wouldn’t have expected it of a tough P.I. Don’s and Timmy’s relationship is woven throughout the story, but it is never the main focus of it. It is a great enhancement to the story but you shouldn’t buy this book because you only want to read about hot steamy sex.
The story itself is good and fast paced but not new. It’s a variation of the “tough P.I. sticks his nose into something he shouldn’t stick it into and finds out more than he bargained for” and “let the reader think he knows everything about all the characters and in the end surprise him with the murderer being the one character the reader would have least expected it of” concepts, but it’s a very good variation because of the fantastic characters and the overall setting and atmosphere. Altogether this is a fantastic book and an amazing read.
On a side note: While reading this book I was reminded of another character from a series of books I read years ago. At first I couldn’t lay my fingers on it but suddenly I knew. It was the character Nick Duffy from the series of four books about a bi-sexual, ex-cop turned security consultant by Dan Kavanagh (aka Julian Barnes). If you loved the cynical Duffy like I did you can be sure that you’ll love Donald, too.

Lessons in Desire

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Title and Link: Lessons in Desire
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Publisher URL: http://www.lindenbayromance.com/
Genre: Mystery Historical GLBT (M/M)
Length: 50 K words
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Guest Reviewer – Christian

THE BLURB

With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him.

Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world. Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it’s easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist.

When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they’re staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim’s son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?


THE REVIEW

Ok, before I let a shower of praise rain down on this book and you’ll be deafened by the recount of the squees of delight I made while reading it, let’s have a look at the basic facts. Lessons in Desire is book 2 in the Cambridge Fellows series and thus the sequel to Lessons in Love, which then is book… no, I think you can deduce that yourself.

But surprise, surprise, the main part of the plot doesn’t take place in Cambridge, but on the sunny Channel Island of Jersey. And no, even if at the beginning I was worried that some of that special feeling of Lessons in Love would be missing because of the different surroundings, it didn’t turn out to be a bad thing. Instead it turned out to be a very good thing because it made the whole atmosphere of the book just light and fluffy. That’s especially true for the beginning of the story when Jonty and Orlando simply enjoy the pleasures of their holiday location, walking on the beach, collecting seashells and romantically teasing each other. With Spring only slowly approaching here where I live, that really made me wish I could join them.

As the story continues it expertly becomes more and more interwoven with threads of mystery and, like in one of those classic Agatha Christie mysteries, the reader is at first totally unaware that under the perfectly sunny sky of Jersey a dark family tragedy and a ruthless killing is looming. But when the resulting storm unleashes it’s dark flood it’s already too late and the reader has no other choice than to eagerly turn page after page.

Immediately after arriving at their hotel on Jersey two other visitors spark Jonty’s interest: young and handsome Matthew Ainslie and his father Mr. Ainslie senior. The young Ainslie seems to be especially smitten by Orlando, a fact that is at once obvious to Jonty, but for a long time Orlando is completely unaware. When Mr. Ainslie senior is brutally murdered, Jonty and Orlando not only have to solve the crime but also have to keep young Matthew Ainslie at bay. But it’s the killer they really have to look out for as, yet again, it becomes clear that getting in the way of a ruthless murderer is not without danger to one’s personal life.

Charlie Cochrane skillfully develops her characters further in Lessons in Desire. As Jonty and Orlando already have developed a relationship in Lessons in Love, in the sequel the relationship is deepened and especially Orlando is blossoming in this book. At first, afraid of being pushed out into the open, he slowly finds the faith to trust in his relationship with Jonty, even when the two are not in the confines of their rooms at the university.

Oh, and the prose! Let me give you an example:

“It had been a long, dry spell and he’d been constantly searching the sky of Orlando’s demeanor for a cloud of desire which might be persuaded to burst into a sweet rain of passion.”

Isn’t that just f***ing fantastic? What more can I say?

5 complete stars, thumbs up, roses, coffee cups, etc. from me for Lessons in Desire!

Finding a Heart of Snow

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Title and Link: Finding a Heart of Snow
Author: Ian Sentelik
Publisher URL: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/
Genre: Fantasy GLBT M/M
Length: Novella
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Guest Reviewer: Christian

THE BLURB

Long ago, the great Snow Queen died of a broken heart, sending her magical world of dancing snow flakes and glittering icicles into a deep depression. Fearful of the same fate, her subjects sealed their hearts into an icy crystal for safekeeping, hoping to protect themselves and their future. For centuries, the communal Snowheart keeps the snow spirits of the north safe from their emotions, until a mischievous luck spirit steals the mystical crystal, intending to melt it down and extract its magical power at the cost of the snow spirits’ lives.

Marmion Roy never dreams of such a frosted, wondrous world until a snow spirit invades his reality, his home, and his heart. Shirai demands his help to recover the Snowheart and annihilate the thieving luck spirit. Because Shirai is void of softer emotion, Mar believes that love with a brusque and literally heartless spirit would be impossible – at least until Shirai accidentally is reunited with his own personal part of the Snowheart.

THE REVIEW

First off, I have to say that I love this cover! The cover caught my attention much more than the blurb did.

The plot is interesting, too. Actually it’s much more a fairy tale than a fantasy story in my opinion. But all in all, I liked this story about the young college kid Mar and the snow spirit Shirai and how those two try to catch the thief of the Snowheart. But I didn’t from the start. The beginning of the story had me confused to say it mildly. On the first five pages four different characters are introduced to the reader: a female snow spirit materializing into our world, a cat with sky-colored eyes, our young college kid Mar and the male snow spirit Shirai. I thought this might work in an art movie, but not in a fantasy story.

Then we witness Mar having a string of the most horrendous luck possible. He is being robbed, his apartment is broken into, he is late to class because of a traffic jam, he falls down the stairs, his girlfriend breaks up with him and so on. In my opinion this part is hopelessly exaggerated and had me groaning in frustration when reading it.

When Mar returns home from class he is confronted by Shirai and from that point on things kick up a notch. In the middle part of the book the tempo of the story rapidly increases when Mar and Shirai go on a wild hunt to find and stop the thief of the Snowheart and by the last page I was eagerly turning the pages. Only to come to an abrupt hold when I read about Mar and Shirai talking about moving in together on the last few pages. I thought, when did this happen?

Finding a Heart of Snow is in no way an erotic romance. The author tells us in the story that the two main characters fall in love, but we only get a glimpse into how and why they actually fall in love. Mar and Shirai have sex but that happens off camera, too.

The character of Mar is the funny guy in this story and some kind of befuddled hero. He is a very likable character. At the same time his character very much resembled that of a young girl and could very well be replaced by a female version. Even the name Mar or the full version Marmion seems to be kind of neutral and if you also consider the fact that there are no sex scenes in this book, one could very well forget sometimes that he or she is reading a gay romance.

Altogether the story was an entertaining and light read, but it didn’t leave a deeper impression with me.