Sunday, November 28, 2010

Same Time Next Year

Jerome and Greg played on the dirt road halfway between their homes when they were kids, and found much better games to play there when they grew older. It's their special spot, the perfect place for Greg to propose, and the worst place possible for the accident that takes his life.

Devastated by the loss, Jerome visits that lonely road on the anniversary of Greg's death, only to discover that not all endings are permanent.
Ms. Winters has done it again: she's provided a solid little story with elements that are familiar in her work but still fresh because she handles them differently every time. A main character, very much in love with his partner, dies, and she's made me like it sniffles and all. Love persists after death, but so does life -- her character doesn't quit thinking or feeling or living, no matter what his sister might think. And it ends happy, and makes me happy.

The story does drag a little at first, but keep going, cause it's like the roller coaster, have to get moving and then whee. The last line was off-the-wall and perfect.

There's an author extra, which turned out to be a little scene that didn't fit into this story but goes with it that you can find here on Goodreads. Don't know why it's not on the blog. Or there too.

Buy it here.
Disclaimer -- The source story was provided by the author for review, which is a first WOOWEEEE! Oh. Well, it is, so add to the list of things I'm thankful for is that someone actually wanted to know what I thought.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fuchsia: Fanged Trouble by Winnie Jerome

Shifters and vampires never mix, even shaken or stirred. That's the lesson Adam has learned, but now he has to fake becoming bonded to his biggest enemy, Philippe, for the good of his clan. To say the two of them don't get along is like saying a volcano is a little hot.

Philippe is gorgeous and sexy as hell, but he's also a king-sized snob, which is a turn off to down-to-Earth Adam. Soon Adam may have to change his tune, though, because zombies invade the city intending to make a tasty snack out of anything that moves, and the only person he can turn to for help is Philippe, even though he'd rather eat his own leg.

It's been a while since I read an LOL-funny, but this one had me giggling every few pages. The author takes all the tropes about vampires and werewolves, turns them upside down, inside out, and slips them a margarita, too.  It's battle, with fangs, claws, and --- social media?

The zombies took me a little by surprise, gotta read the blurb first, but it's been a while since this shopping trip, but hey, nothing like a common enemy. I thought the ending was a little anticlimactic, but the giggles along the way made it all worthwhile. (I did mention I loathe soul-mate stories, so it's just a darn good thing this story was tongue in cheek all the way.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Losing my marbles again

A reviewer is going to have some biases. We're people, our likes and dislikes are going to show. Sometimes you can get past the issues, sometimes you can't. It isn't reasonable to expect total objectivity when your big squick button has just been pressed. Sometimes all you can do is back away slowly. I just read a remark from another reviewer about how the treatment of race in a particular book made her decide against reviewing it, because she didn't trust herself to be objective. It made sense to me.

I should tell you what my problem issues are and how I plan to handle this.

First off, I will tell you in a review if one of those issues crops up. I won't let you guess if it's the theme or if it's the writing. In a recent review, I've had to identify one story that I couldn't finish and why, and it had nothing to do with the quality of the writing. In another, I had to admit that the entire setting (BDSM) makes me uncomfortable. And I liked the story after all. I do try to be fair, and if I can't be fair, I'll be honest.

Soul mates -- this one hits the gag reflex, no matter what the writing looks like. It screeches me to a stop 99 times out of a hundred, and the hundredth one is probably involving a non-human. Apologies to writers who use it and readers who like it, but it strikes me as a stupid, cheap plot device, and I hate it in real life, too, where it was definitely a stupid, cheap device. You may never see a soul mate story mentioned in this blog unless it would be leaving out one story in a collection. And then I will say why it was a DNF.

A more general kind of "mates" I can enjoy, if it's personalities first, then the bonding. But the whole "you are fated to be with this person and this person only" thing will get a fast exit. Or whining if it got sprung on me late.

Rape/incest  -- rape doesn't usually turn up in romances except as some past trauma, which is fine, I can do without that altogether. Even then, the bunglings in fanfiction have left me jumpy -- it's usually not handled well and if it's not, I WILL mark it against the story. Count on it.

Incest- also a problem. I buy my reading material and so most of this is won't get past at the cash register, but if you hear some faint voice shrieking, "oh hell no!" it's probably me reading a blurb with identical twins.

BDSM -- this one is trickier because I'm not a fan of the kink and mostly just find it sad or upsetting, but every now and then there's a story that I like, which isn't to say that I read all the way through. It doesn't come up often, because of that cash register thing, but it could, and I will remind you that I have issues, and then you can grind as much salt on my words as you need to. But I won't mark down a story just for being BDSM -- all the other stuff has to work

Crap editing: sometimes this is hard to tell from crap storytelling, because not every house out there edits as much, but I'll notice. Sentences that lie there on the page like a nest of garter snakes get noticed too. Sometimes out loud. Some lapses in line editing I can overlook, but it's sloppy and makes me wonder. This isn't exactly a "have to flag thing", but it can cost a story half a marble if there's a lot because it interferes with reading

I WILL notice logic-fail out loud. And if I can't find the plot beyond "hawt guys fuck" you can call me Cryssy Crankypants.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Torquere Charity Sip Blitz #9

Ah, at last I have come to the end of the alphabet in this massive collection, and with it, authors both new to me and familiar. And all made for great reading. And now I have to go buy some more books!

Mind/Body Medicine by Gabriel West

Rindae's fa'ithe Justan, the warrior he has given his life to, has succumbed to the force that drives all Maa'rish warriors. It has taken over his mind so completely that Justan is trapped within the force. Rindae goes to see what has become of Justan during his stay at an institution. Can the bond that they forged before Justan's mind was swept away be strong enough to bring Justan back to him?
This was one of the few stories in the collection not set in our world or some recognizable derivation of it, and it took me a bit to take in the world and it's inhabitants (no blurb-induced expectations, didn't even see it until I grabbed it to post here). Then it took me a while of thinking about how the Maa'rish could distinguish a force within them as separate from them, and then I decided, just accept it, Crys.

Anyway, this story went deep into the choices that one partner has to make when the other partner becomes very impaired, and in this world, those are hard, hard choices. I was astounded at how much hope one word could generate. And I applaud the author's restraint in not going for a miracle.

This is a new-to-me author and it took me a bit to get in synch with the world, but the ending was good for half a marble all by itself. I'd read more.

What You Can’t Live Without By Eden Winters

A flashy car, a trendy apartment, membership at a swanky country club -- Dr. Mitchell Rollins has it all, except someone to share it with. Dr. Arnulfo Oliva doesn't share his materialistic views and has no use for expensive toys. Turning away from all the U.S. has to offer, Nulfo returns to El Salvador, where he feels truly needed.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocks El Salvador and both men. Desperate to find his former lover, Mitch joins a mercy mission to the devastated country, coming face to face with the man who left him behind. Can two men from different worlds find common ground after the crisis?
This one left me sniffling. But aw. Dr.Mitch has had his expectations slapped around and his needs redefined in terms of what's really important, like what will you carry if that's all you can have. The author did a super job of portraying the beauty and the danger of El Salvador in the earthquake - that all felt very real. "Welcome to my shaky country," she has Dr. Nulfo saying. I felt like I was there, and I bet she's been.

Mitch had a pretty drastic change of heart, but I think his experiences should have changed him, and being with a person who lives his convictions has to make a difference. (But I think the mini-van was still a Lexus!)

The Boyfriend Line By Avery Zeno

David and Rafe are “friends with benefits,” but definitely not boyfriends. When David discovers he might have cancer, he doesn’t tell Rafe for fear that leaning on his friend would be pushing too close to the boyfriend line. When Rafe finds out, will David’s secrecy push them farther apart?
There are a lot of 'big misunderstanding' stories, where the problem would be solved pretty fast if the two people would just talk to one another, but that isn't what we have here. It's more the second half, minus the watching them flounder around, though it's pretty clear that the relationship David and Rafe have isn't satisfying either of them when something big and life changing happens. And then they talk, and we get to listen, which is pretty satisfactory, although Rafe is awfully perfect. I kept waiting for him to waver in there somewhere. This story started at the emotional bottom and just kept going up up up. No dips.

Pasion’s Dream By Kate Cotoner

Pasion of Miletos has suffered from insomnia for over a year. He's traveled the length of the Eastern Mediterranean in his search for a cure, and desperation leads him to the shrine of the healing god Amphiaraos. There Pasion meets Kyronides, his former beloved and once the most beautiful youth in Athens. An accident has robbed Kyronides of his sight, and if the shrine's priests can't cure him, Kyronides will be sent into exile.

Finally able to tell Kyronides why he was forced to end their relationship, Pasion discovers that the truth cures his affliction -- but as the days pass without a miracle for Kyronides, Pasion must think of another way to heal his beloved.
I like historical, and the world here is very complete, but I couldn't help feeling that the story was a bit dry, just trying to get the feel of the ancient times. Pasion (nice choice for a name) and Kyronides meet again on their pilgrimages to find cures for their afflictions, and their relationship existed more offstage and flashback, but they leave the story with hope, and I liked that. Not all tidy wrapped ends, either, and I liked that too. But I feel like I shared that meal of dry barley cake, dried fruit, and dry red wine, from all the formality of the language.

Buy any or all of these books here.

Having this entire monster collection of twenty eight stories in one volume, made me treat it like an anthology, which it probably wasn't meant to be. But what it also did was give me a look at authors I haven't read before and authors I've seen before but doing new things and going new directions. And there might have been a place or two where there was a bit of overlap that wouldn't have happened in an intentional anthology, or where one story suffered a bit for comparison to another story, but this is an amazing collection all the same, and more than worth the time and the money. And I have lots of names to add to the "watch for" list.

And everybody remember that my ratings aren't the same as others, a 3 is still I liked it, a 5 is I  fell over whimpering. Check the details here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charity Sip Blitz Review Set 8

Hey yah! Getting to a couple of my favorites! More goodies with a medical theme, and wow, no one has had the same idea yet.

On Call:Crossroads by PD Singer

Dr. Keith Hoyer has lost patients before but never like this, not at sixteen and not by intent. Certain that he could have prevented the tragedy with some word or deed that he left unsaid or undone, Keith is desperate for a way to redeem his failure.

If he's going to practice medicine in a Third World country, Keith's lover, veterinarian Dante James says, he needs time to sell the practice and brush up on diseases of goats. "Whither thou goest, I go," Dante tells Keith, but where will those words take them?
This story stands alone just fine, even if it does have two others in the series. Keith's and Dante's work and private lives mix in such a way that I would hope doesn't happen all the time, but does make a good story. They tend to the bittersweet, someone's always getting hurt, and this time, killed, which sends Keith just a bit over the edge, and Dante has to reel him back with a reality check. They are a committed couple, and Keith gets to find out just how committed, when he proposes uprooting their lives in his grief. What happens next maybe qualifies as catching Keith in a vulnerable moment, but they are both utterly happy about it, and they turn all the condoms into cat toys.

The headlines lately have an ugly resemblance to the plot of this story, although I know the author didn't plan that, but it does have a ray of hope at the end for young gay men.

Disclaimer - I had to listen to Pam babble about writing Fire on the Mountain on the drive to and from work for months and she betas for me, so I’m probably bending over backwards to be picky. It's a wonderful story and I want to give it a 5 but she is a friend and I don't want to look like playing favorites. What do I do? Not review? Not rate? Help me out here.This is gonna be a bigger problem as I meet more authors.

You Don't Need a Doctor by Julia Talbot

When a gunshot victim comes into Alan's ER, he jokes that this guy doesn't need a doctor, he needs a veterinarian. As he keeps working, though, the patient seems to be getting less hairy and less hurt. All except for the bullet wound that's now festering badly. Alan is shocked when his patient seems to miraculously heal as soon as he removes the bullet. He's even more shocked when the guy turns up at his house later to offer a very personal thank you.

Can he figure out Shiloh's secret before it's too late?
Thunk. Right into one of my issues. Although the story was almost over except for the wrap-up, so I got suckered into it, and it will be all spoilery if I tell you now. So I guess it just proves that you can slide a story past my known dislikes if you do it well enough. We the readers have a good laugh on the doctor, cause from that vantage point it's easier to see what's going on, all peeking through fingers at the giant revelation that's  going to startle only the hero.

A nice little romp.

You don't know what my issues are? Guess I should talk about those sometime. Not now. It would be a spoiler.

Some Good Doctoring by BA Tortuga

Working as a clinician in bull riding isn't easy, especially when ornery cowboys get up all in your face and give you a punch of your nose. Lucky for Jonesy, he has Cody Butler on his side, ready to not only wade in and keep him from being hit again, but to give him the best personal doctoring a man could ask for.

Featuring the men of the Roughstock world.
"It was what cowboys did. They fucked hard and fought hard and called the people they loved 'baby'."

Guess that about sums it up for the story -- it's short, violent, sweet, and full of the little choppy sentences that wouldn't fit in with anybody but cowboys. It's very intense, very immediate, and very hot.

Buy here:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Torquere Charity Sips Review Set #7

Still working my way down the alphabet of authors who contributed to the benefit campaign for Doctors Without Borders.

The Pavilion by Tracy Rowan

Eliot is a doctor who knows he can't save everyone, but that doesn't keep him from letting guilt and grief shut down his life when his lover dies. He leaves everything behind, moves to a new city, and resolves to live a quiet, solitary life. He finds his way back to a medical practice after a few years, but even the satisfaction he gets from his work doesn't help heal his broken heart.

Enter Jamie, a younger man who works at the local diner and has ambitions to become a chef. He chooses Eliot as a guinea pig for his cooking, and as the object of his affection. Eliot's head tells him to send Jamie away with a polite refusal, but his heart is aching to open up to Jamie. Can an impromptu dinner in Eliot's garden be just the right prescription to get Eliot back on his feet?
This was fun, Jamie knows what he wants, how to get it, using food and humor as bait. But Jamie's not prepared for what passes for a Brit's sense of humor, either. Be sure not to have liquid in your mouth when you get to the negotiations, right about here:

"That's a little cold, but I guess it'll do. Eliot, I like you a lot, but hardly enough to do the whole I-love-you thing, and if I said different, you'd figure I was just lying to get you horizontal."

Cause what comes next will make you snort.

The time/location thing was a little clunky, it's told in flashback/flashforward, but Eliot's backstory matters. Jamie's ethnicity gets played up a lot, (having a part-American Indian cooking curry comes across muddled) but seems to be mostly for a way to have objections to starting a relationship, not because he couldn't be anything else and still be in this story.

These two look like they could manage an HEA.

Borders by Kathryn Scannell

Hooking up with a stranger in a bar is hard for a shy young doctor, but it’s the only option when not staying in the closet might get you killed. So Kevin has taken his first long weekend off from his job in Gaza City, and headed for Tel Aviv to find some action. Things are looking promising when he meets a handsome Israeli who seems just as interested as he is.

But it’s not so simple. David is an Israeli soldier, and Kevin may have noticed too much about a sensitive operation David was part of in Gaza City a few weeks ago. Is David’s interest genuine, or just a trick to get Kevin alone to find out what he knows?
I found the back away/come together/back away/ come together part of this story very authentic feeling - it isn't a simple situation on either man's part. Kevin has every reason to doubt David's direct approach and sincerity.

A couple things felt rushed; David's making a beeline for Kevin felt like kind of bad craft for a secret ops guy, it triggered the recognition, which seemed a bit premature from across the room even so. One part of the sex went by in a blink, too.

The setting is unique in my reading and feels real and gritty, and the feeling of living in a war zone was clear. I liked this story a lot, but would have liked it more had a couple things come about half a page later than they did.

General question for the universe -- why do authors assume that men who aren't in relationships aren't doing anything by themselves?

Eyes Wide Shut By Meredith Shayne

Adam Taylor liked working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. He didn’t even mind the tiny outback town in Western Australia where he was based. If the downside was doing the regular clinic at the Mount Keith nickel mine where his mining engineer ex-boyfriend Chris Barker worked, well, he’d coped with worse. When a visit from Chris leads to an unexpected encounter, Adam can’t help but hope for things to get back on track.

If Chris couldn’t keep away from Adam, the least he could do was make sure that his redneck workmates never found out. It was better for everyone that way. At least, that’s what he’d thought, until Adam got caught in a mine cave in and Chris thought he was dead. After that, being outed didn’t seem so important anymore. Chris just hoped he’d get a chance to tell Adam that.
I liked this story enough to find a map and figure out where Meekatharra and Perth are relative to each other. Okay, ignorant American here. Another story with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, but a totally different flavor and focus, so not repetitive.

In the first heady encounter between Chris and Adam that we see, they are all over each other, but nothing about why they broke up has changed so it doesn't seem all that hopeful, and all the fighting that follows doesn't move them along, so frustrating, cause they obviously love each other. I think Chris has some legitimate concerns, too, which I didn't see Adam taking so seriously. Dropping rocks on his head did knock some ideas loose for Chris, I just wish that Adam had budged, too.

Buy one or all of the Healing Hearts Charity Sips, benefitting Doctors Without Borders, here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Torquere Charity Sip Blitz Set #6

Still working my way through this substantial collection.

Have Hope by Emily Moreton

When what was supposed to be a simple exchange of information goes to hell in the form of armed soldiers and two bullet wounds, double-agent John Grey makes a fairly desperate run for his rendezvous point. And doesn't make it.

Fortunately, luck's on his side, and he wakes up in the house – the bed – of a local clinic doctor, Mohammed Saleem. Attractive and smart, with a sharp sense of humor and a tattoo, Mohammed is exactly the kind of guy John falls for. Mohammed has very strict rules about what should and shouldn't happen during a recovery period, but John's sure he can change that.
The present tense makes this story feel very urgent and immediate -- while it's a choice I don't always enjoy, here it was perfect for combat and escape. The situation is savage, with only a moment for sweet, and the two men take what they can from their opposite sides of a great divide. The ending left me sighing.

The Rosebud by M Raiya

James was born with the ability to heal any injury or illness simply by touching the person who is suffering. The price James pays is falling in love with the person he's just healed. But how can he act on any of his infatuations if he knows that the moment he heals someone else, his feelings for the last person will end? He goes through life avoiding people as much as possible, using his gift with great discretion, and constantly nursing a broken heart.

One night, James comes across a car crushed beneath a logging truck in northern Vermont. Inside, dying, is Ambient, the most beautiful man James has ever seen. All he can do is hope that this time, his gift will not turn into a curse, because Ambient is not someone he can resist.
Insta-love with a good explanation works lots better than insta-love just because. James comes with a built in insta-love generator, and coping with it is a major plot point, so yay. Not so sure where the other guy is coming from, aside from a serious case of gratitude and a hippie attitude. I don't like the soul-mate thing in general, and Ambient's choices smack of that, so it's left me with mixed feelings. Name choice here was a bit of a mood breaker. Non-standard names are fine, but this one isn't easy to say so it became little jolts on the page. I wanted to call him River or Wind and see if that helped.

I really liked what the writer did with James, so I'll keep an eye out for other stories, cause this one has a lot of good points.

Dregger's Deep by J. Rocci

Tulley is the head of security for the most influential business man in Oilsmouth. His latest assignment from the boss is to escort the company’s new doctor down to tend to the miners of Dreggers Deep. Unfortunately, Dr. Edmund Peniwill and Tulley have a history. Edmund left Tulley behind to attend medical school overseas, with no request for Tulley’s input. But Tulley isn’t the type to hold a grudge, even if he’s not sure what he’s currently feeling. Life in Oilsmouth isn’t easy, though, and a brush with sky pirates soon has the two resolving a few issues.
I was impressed with the world building -- the impression of a dirty industrial world hit the page really fast.

"At least he had new boots on his feet and had washed the grime off his face just that morning."

Like washing his face wasn't something he did all that often, no reason to, grime's just part of everyday.

For some reason, I had the impression that this whole setting was underground, so sky pirates needed an attitude adjustment on my part, which is my bad.

This sort of had the feeling of being part of a larger project. Tulley and Edmund came to an understanding by the end, but a couple of characters that got introduced like they were really important (Kit and Edge) disappeared completely. Where'd they go? Were they supposed to come back in a chapter three that isn't there?

I haven't read a lot of steampunk, but I think I like it, and will check out more of this author.

Buy any or all of these stories here, and help support Doctors Without Borders.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Captain Obvious paid me a visit

But I didn't notice. Obvious though it was.

Actually, it was the friend who (took mercy on me and) redid the look of this blog. But she said, "This thing has no focus, girlfriend. That was ok when your readers were from fanfiction, or your pals and family who actually give a rat's beedeedee about your issues with appliances."

That's really embarrassing, but true. The slide show had animal pictures that dated back from when I was working on a humongous fanfic that had those sorts of characters. It had posts about dishwashers and voting. All fine in a general rambly blog but if I am going to do reviews, it should have a theme. Pictures that relate to the content. A header pic, even. BTW, tell me if the header is too dark to make out. It's supposed to be mysterious, not invisible. I have NO idea how she did most of it, but she did ask if I liked the pic. Um. Yeah!

Pam took care of it -- she's really sweet about doing stuff like this, even though I don't think she meant to spend her Saturday night writing html, but I wouldn't have had a prayer of getting all those marbles in the previous post to line up like little soldiers. Tables, she said. I'll set one and put food on it, I said, and you fix my blog. But she changed a bunch of stuff and now it looks what it's supposed to be. Thank you, Pam!

I actually can add a link unsupervised, so if any authors want a link on the sidebar, email me at CryselleC AT gmail Dot com and I'll put it on.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Losing my marbles by the numbers

So how does this Cryselle chick decide how many marbles to lose?

Here's what I'm working from. The lowest ranks are around mostly because teenager who photoshopped my marbles did a whole suite, not because I expect to use them. ACKs will probably be DNF and you're unlikely to hear about it. I am drawn to trainwrecks, though, so it could happen.

A three marble review isn't a bad review. It's "I liked it." May not have gotten excited about it, but there was something to like there, and I did. Fives rock my socks all the way off.  Editing is not what I'm looking at most, but a lot of goobers may cost half a marble, because it detracts from the reading experience. I have the world's fussiest beta and it's rubbing off.
WOW Photobucket
Loved this Photobucket
Really liked this Photobucket
Liked this a lotPhotobucket
Liked this Photobucket
Okay, but... Photobucket
Meh Photobucket
Didn't work for me Photobucket
Really didn't work for me Photobucket
Ack Photobucket

The online behavior of authors will influence a review, but mostly because they won't get reviewed. I won't knowingly spend money on someone who flips out on the readers. If my baser instincts get loose I might laugh and point, though.

Crossposting to Goodreads is a problem, because it's whole numbers only over there. Rounding up or down is going to have to be a judgment call, and if the number isn't round over here, I'll note it there.

This is all still evolving for me -- changes will get announced.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Torquere Charity Sip Blitz Review Set #5

I've been reading down this monster file of 28 stories, and here's the next batch. Some of my favorite authors are still to come, but I've read and enjoyed other things by AR Moler. I've only read one story by Syd McGinley, which I think is this same universe, and Sean Michael is new to me. Okay, I know Sean is a big name, but you have to start reading somewhere.

Little Fishes by Syd McGinley

Dr. Katashi Tanaka may be in hot water when he takes his boy, Tommy, to meet his family. His little sister, Mariko, is irrepressible and sure to gossip with Tommy, and his mother may be the only person alive who can oblige Dr. Tanaka to do anything. Tommy learns some secrets about his stern owner that may ruin not just their spa getaway but their whole relationship.

Frankly, I find most BDSM disturbing, so I’m not the best person to rate such a story. This story had some really great elements, though, so I kind of held my breath and kept going. I loved the caring dynamic between Tommy and Dr. Tanaka enough to read past certain descriptions really fast and mentally bleep out things about ownership. And that last line of the story and everything it implied made the effort worthwhile.

Homecoming: A Jarheads Short by Sean Michael

Rig's been away from home for three weeks, doing volunteer work in hurricane ravaged areas. He gets off the plane at LAX late at night and all he wants is to find the car rental desk so he can get home to his Marines. Lucky for him, Rock and Dick surprise him at the airport and whisk him away to welcome him home as only they can.
Plot - a little. I like plot -- it's the point of a story. Sex - a lot. I like sex, too; it should advance the plot. That's different from being the plot.  Pet names and cusswords - a lot. I can do without both, and that would drop the word count about 15% in this story.  Everything that's action-y plot stuff gets told to the other two guys after the fact. If you're in the mood for PWP, this might work.

My Life in Your Hands By AR Moler

Dr. Chris Kearney works in a San Diego hospital that receives some of the worst victims of gang violence. The talented sensitive doctor is slowly losing his ability to cope with the stress of the job, his loneliness only compounds the problem. When Chris meets Drew Hayden, a SDPD detective working on the gang task force, there is a spark of interest between the two.

A chance meeting in a grocery leads to an evening of hot sex. The two men acknowledge their interest could be more than just a one night thing and begin to pursue a relationship, but unforeseen stresses and risks complicate their lives. Can a cop and doctor hold onto what they have?

Dr. Chris Kearney's been twanging like new-stretched barb wire, and his budding relationship with Detective Drew Hayden is all that's kept him from losing it completely -- so what happens next isn't exactly a big shocker. However, just because the story was more a matter of "how are they going to cope" than "what will they have to cope with," it was still very well done.

Buy the stories here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Torquere Charity Sip Blitz Review Set #4

I'm still chugging through the package of short stories meant to benefit doctors Without Borders. Let's see what we have today.

Another Border By K.I.L. Kenny

When his weary lover comes home after a twelve-hour shift on the Alzheimer's ward, Jeff wants to offer comfort. A little banter and some massage are easy, but getting Ed to open up about what's on his mind is a trickier proposition. A teacher's Socratic methods aren't going to work. It will take a lot of TLC and some unorthodox healing methods for Jeff to lull his man into a restful sleep.
Sometimes, as a writer friend says, it's all about the moment. No big illuminating ah-hah insights here, just a sweet and loving glimpse into a long-established couple, taking care of each other, and trying to heal from the wounds of the day. Some of my friends are CNAs, so this had a special bit of resonance for me -- how they care about their charges, who can be sweet, exasperating, and even dangerous before being sweet again, was right on. One bit of the sex didn't sit quite right with me -- tears? -- but other than that, very nice, stinky feet and all.

Where a Hand is Always Needed By Kara Larson

Before Graeme moved east to New Zealand and met a young Kiwi intern named Amiri, he spent a summer in the outback of Australia. Sent to live with an aunt and uncle after trouble in school with another boy, he wasn't looking for adventure, but sometimes adventure finds you. And you never know when a person who'll change your life comes crashing down in the Outback.

Featuring Graeme from And a Chook Shall Lead Them in Family Matters, Sliding down the Pohutakawa Root and Defining Right)
Okay, have a few of those other titles lurking in the TBR pile, better get at them, because this was one nice story and I like Graeme a lot. He's got plenty to make him feel like a fish out of water, and having a couple of role models drop out of the sky heals something in him, although the physical wounds are other people's. This is set in Australia, and I was glad to have encountered a lot of the slang elsewhere or it might have been a more troublesome read, and that left only a little to be deciphered from context, not enough to be a problem.

Between the blurb, the tag at the ending, and the 'you might like' line, there were three separate reminders that "this is part of a series -- go read the rest." That's a little much -- I'd get it after once, okay?

One thing that is generally in Torquere's stories is missing here, but the story is so well done that I started typing this before I even realized it wasn't there. You read and figure it out.

Take It Slow By Taylor Lochland

Graham is determined to run a marathon in honor of his partner, who died two years ago. Unfortunately, a knee injury has sidelined him, and his orthopedist, Dr. Dmitri Markov, tells him not to rush his recovery. Even though he's not ready, Graham runs a 15K race at the Traverse City Cherry Festival, and aggravates his injury again. Dr. Markov is at the festival, and catches Graham in the act. After the doctor gives Graham a hard time for ignoring his orders, the two men spend the day together.

As they get to know each other and the mutual attraction becomes evident, Graham realizes that he isn’t the only one in need of healing. Will Graham be able to slow things down enough to give Dmitri's wounds time to heal?
This actually read a lot more like a coming of age story for one of the protags than a healing of wounds. Which is okay, just not what the blurb promises. The element of 'meet cute' is less okay, it takes a fair amount of effort to accomplish, but let's let that ride. The completely idiomatic and fluent speech of the émigré doctor makes him sound just like the other guy, not a single dropped article or even a sentence without filler words -- the voices are nearly indistinguishable, the doctor's protestations aside. I talk to Ukrainian and Russian nurses all the time and they don't sound like this.

The mismatch in emotional expectations between the two men does eventually resolve in bed, but why would a man who hesitates so much to get involved choose to do it with a man who says he's ready to move on after the death of his life partner but is actually so fixated that he's willing to injure himself in the dead man's honor? I honestly don't see these two as a good idea of a couple, at least for more than about a week. Maybe that's enough for a happy for now?

Buy these stories here.