November 3, 2015

The girl-with-penis syndrome and how to avoid it - advice for M/M writers

Ok, guys this post may hit a sensitive nerve for some people so please don’t bash me, but I heard a few writers complaining that reviewers call their characters too girly and unrealistic and they wonder where they went wrong. I’ve especially been thinking about this topic ever since a great author friend of mine has received the same treatment from a reviewer and I felt honestly bad for her.

Firstly, I’m gonna point out that it really is a matter of tastes on how fluffy you want your reads to be. Some readers really enjoy characters who are open about their feelings and make lots of love declarations and use lots of endearments. For those readers, these kinds of books won’t be a problem at all.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are readers who want to read about very manly men. Tough and rough and gruff guys who’d never acknowledge their feelings and when they eventually do, they spit them out through their teeth, feeling as if they’d bit into a lemon.

A total matter of tastes. I'd like to think I’m a versatile reader and I enjoy all sorts of stories as long as they’re beautifully written, and I think most M/M readers are a lot like me. However I sometimes stumble upon one of those books that sounds so freaking cheesy it makes me want to barf from too much sweetness and then I realize I do have a limit as well.

But how would an author avoid making their male characters look like girls with penises? Here are my tips:

*Don’t make your characters instantly fall in love. This is the biggest mistake a cheesy author does and, sadly, I don’t want to generalize, but I stumbled upon this mostly in shifter stories L. (guys, just because they're fated mates doesn't mean they need to say "I love you" from the first five chapters; give them a little room to know each other). Take this situation: character A meets character B and he’s so attracted to him that for the whole chapter he sings his praises- he’s so sexy, so beautiful, he has pouty lips, he has rosy cheeks etc. They have a roll in the sack and A tells B he’s never met anyone like him. B says the same. He suddenly calls him “babe” or “sweetheart” or “honey” etc and they act like a married couple. After three chapters, they say the “I love you”s and for the rest of the story, they will continuously reiterate how they couldn’t live one without the other, and how lucky they are to have met each other, and how much they would hurt anyone who’s dare tear them apart. 
Why is this a problem:
**    Ask yourself this: where’s the emotional conflict in that? Where’s the pain of unrequited love or being separated or struggling with falling in love? It’s like a situation where a single person meets up with  a pair of newlyweds that call each other sickly-sweet names in public and make the single one feel like a third-wheel. Total turn off.

** Readers seek romance because they want to read about the hardships of finding love, not read about instant lovey-dovey moments. That’s not what romance stories are about. The reason why instant love makes characters so girly it’s not because girls are necessarily like (like the stupid blond cheerleader cliché. It’s just a cliché. Not all blonds are stupid, not all cheerleaders are stupid, nor are they all blonds, but that image is stuck in our collective mindset as the illustration of what a stupid girl looks like), but because it’s not realistic, because they act silly and superficial, which, unfortunately, is how sometimes some girls are perceived as. As a result, your characters will look like girls. Rarely would a writer pull this kind of plot off without having their characters look corny.


*A posteriori, refrain from using terms of endearment between the characters. Guys are known not to express their feelings much. Even if your hubby may call you “pumpkin”, try to remember how it was when you guys first met. I really doubt your husband/boyfriend called you “pumpkin” after the third date. I think it took more like 100 dates, most definitely the length of a whole novel, time-wise. Terms of endearment are a way of expressing affection. Affection takes time to build up. In order to like, let alone love, a person, you first need to know them, you need to have something in common with them. Love and affection can form after first going through some trials or after revealing to each other your vulnerabilities. Now, this is a topic that leaves room for juggling for those authors who really love their characters to be (obnoxiously) sweet. For example, terms of endearment may depend on the character’s personality and degree of flamboyance (I love to have my flamboyant characters use ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie’ all the time, but I would in contrast, make them look manly using other artifices; this is a talk for another day though) or they may be part of their cultural background. But, generally, if you want your men manly, then try limiting terms of endearment. In my opinion, no manly man would call you "pumpkin" in public unless threatened with castration. even in private, they may find it awkward. If they do call you that, lucky you; you must be very loved, but he’s one in a million. Really.

*Don’t make them whiny. This, I confess, is something my characters suffer from and I really struggle sometime to not make my men moan like some five year olds. Yes, unrequited love is a pain in the ass, fighting between MCs is also a depressing thing, but when a character lies in his bed and bemoans his horrible fate it’s not that sexy. It pretty lame. And it makes them look like girls L

*Communication is the key BUT too much talk will only make your men look like girls. Yes, I know. You’ve read in plenty of writing advice columns that you shouldn’t have a plot where everything could be resolved with a good talk. Sadly I made the mistake of writing such a story once or twice myself (LOL Listen to me talking like I’m an important person). And that’s a sound advice. You should always come up with a plot that’s real and not full of pseudo-obstacles, but that has nothing to do with character being chatty. I recently betaed a manuscript where character continuously talked about their issues and how to solve them, and after they talked, magically, everything was alright between them. Mmmm, that’s not how men act, in my opinion. As far as I know, women are the ones who want to talk about things, while men would rather hide in hole and die starving than talk about their feelings and their relationship issues. You see how talking would make them look like women? I’m not saying they shouldn’t talk at all about how they feel, but, as the writer, you should find a way to make that realistic. Have them spill out their metaphorical guts after a particularly emotional scene, not on an every day basis. I’m a woman and I find it extremely hard to talk about how I feel. I’d rather eat a pint of ice-cream or watch a TVshow (or both hehehe) every time I feel depressed than call a friend and unload my issues on them. Every time you tell someone about how you feel, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable, you’re practically giving that person ammunition to later hurt you and that’s something a lot of people have difficulty doing (smart people like me J). Especially men, who are raised to be manly and are taught that men must have pride. Well, pride mostly implies not to show your weak side to anyone. Remember the saying “big boys don’t cry”?

*No corny sex scenes. I know this might sound ambiguous and hard to understand for some people. How the hell could one avoid corny sex scenes in the first place? Sex scenes in romance books are all about showing the love between your characters, they’re kinda bound to be a little corny, right? Well, this is my humble opinion, but the hottest sex scenes I ever read (see here: Josh Lanyon, Jordan Castillo Price, Abigail Roux, A.E. Via, feel free to fill in the blanks) are often times about men trying not to show their feelings. Everything that’s going on, emotionally-wise, is strictly in the head of the characters. The sex becomes a battle between dominants, because men are equal and just ‘cause one is a bottom, doesn’t mean he’s not on top. In effect, it takes a really brave man to be on the receiving end. There are a lot of things going on during sex on a mental and emotional level (for instance, some people think about laundry during sex :P ). So before you start writing that sex scene, you need a little exercise in psychology: what could go on in these guys’ heads? Why are they even having sex? What’s the whole context of the plot? Are they doing it because they’re desperate? Because they can’t get enough of each other, like a freaking drug (remember there’s always a part of the addict that hates their drug of choice, despite, but also because of how much they love it)? Because they need someone to, maybe, heal their wounds? Because of revenge or in order to blackmail? God, there are so many reasons to have sex, but there’s never sex without a reason. Simple attraction is a reason. But never forget that men are always terrified of looking weak (sorry guys!) so analyze your plot and take advantage of every weakness your characters have, then use it in the context of sex. Play with their mental state and make them struggle not to show how much they love it. Even when they show it, make them just a little uncomfortable after the deed (that could definitely translate into not being chatty). I guarantee they won’t look as girly.

Well, these are some ideas on how to make your men less girly. I may not be a great writer, but I'm an avid enough reader and I've read plenty of amazing books to know how to recognize the less amazing ones. If you have any more advice please do share your opinions :D


Hugs and kisses! Shayla

May 25, 2015

And the WINNER is!

Congrats to avsanders! I'll send an email now. If the winner doesn't claim the prize in 24 hours, I'll make another drawing. thank you everyone for joining and commenting!


May 17, 2015

Hop against Homophobia,Transphobia&Biphobia - My message to homophobes & all the other haters


Hello everyone! Today, May 17th,  is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Please visit this link to support the fight against these horrible phenomenons http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/

My first and only encounter with homophobia was back in high school. I remember I was out clubbing with my friends and there were a two gay boys kissing in the middle of the dancefloor. It was the one and only time we've seen an open gay couple in my town btw. At that time everything was cat-calling, only my best friend looked disgusted and she said they made her wanna vomit. We shrugged it off at the time. I wasn't very invested in supporting the gay community. I just said I thought they looked cute and all my other girlfriends agreed.

This ex-best friend of mine, she is pretty homophobic though. Or at least was at the time. I'm not friends with her anymore and haven't seen her in over five years. I think. But she made a few more homophobic comments along the years and it sickened me how self-righteous she acted toward a category of people that hadn't done anything to her and that she didn't even know to begin with.

Thankfully, I've never seen any bullying in my school or anywhere else in my town. But I think that's mostly because gay people in our town are deep in the closet. So deep that everyone likes to think they don't exist. I'm sad this is happening in this day and age.

So this is my message to homophobes:

Every single person has the right to live their own life and make their own decisions. When straight people fall in love and start dating, they don't ask for anyone's approval, so why should LGBT people be any different?

Heterosexuals don't ask for anyone's permission to be happy. Why should gays ask for permission and from whom?

If you believe in God then you believe in the Bible. The Bible says God created humans. Which means God created heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, transexuals, shemales and every other color of the rainbow. Doesn't that mean that God loves all of us equally? If God loves LGBT peeps, how can some homophobes claim God doesn't? If they believe in God, their claim makes no sense.

So stop using God's word as an excuse. The Bible was written by people, not God. The Bible was translated in thousands of languages and thousands of times and the people who wrote it were most likely sexually frustrated bigots in the first place.

If you really want to use the Bible as an excuse to hate others, why don't you also hate those: who cheat on their wives/husbands? Who kick their kids out on the street because they don't agree with their "immoral life choices"? Who divorce and re-marry a dozen times? Who don't circumcise their penises? Who cut their hair or shave their beards? Yes, all of these are prohibited by the Bible. Why don't you check out this list: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/List_of_actions_prohibited_by_the_Bible?

If you think about it, by encouraging homophobia, we encourage normal, sane LGBT people (who have all the right to be happy and live their lives the way the want to just like any other damn person in this stupid world) to hide in the closet and try living a life that doesn't belong to them. We encourage them to marry someone they don't love and have kids with them. We force them to stay beside a person despite not loving them, when all the while heterosexuals break up and  cheat and divorce all the time. But then we act all scandalized after this closeted lesbians/gays/transexuals inevitably come out of those stuffy closets  and ruin they families or at least leave them and themselves permanently scarred. So who's fault is it? Is it really the fault of closeted gays or society's fault, who pushed them into the closet to begin with?

Why don't we, instead of pointing the finger to others, start looking more in the mirror? Are we really perfect? Do we have the right to criticize others and be concerned with other people's lives?  If at least a minuscule grain of humanity is left in you, you will be forced to admit that your life and your choices aren't perfect either, that you might have made mistakes in your life, that you're not a fucking saint. And even if you don't agree with other people's life choices, would you gladly have taken "advice" form others when you made your own choices? Newsflash : you wouldn't have. Because we all  want to live our lives the way we like it. So what makes you think that if you tell a gay person not to be gay anymore, they're gonna listen to you? You're just turning into the people you hated who told you to do things they thought were best for you despite you wanting something else from life. Just like you lived your life the way you wanted to, so do LGBT people have the right to live their lives the way they want to. What's your business what they do anyway?

You narrow-minded homophobes act all disgusted and call gays perverts and sick. But let me tell you another shocker: if you are so concerned with how perverted gays are, doesn't that mean you imagine them having sex? I think you're the perverts and way sicker than any gay man or woman could be.

And to conclude my little speech, I want to say how happy I am that the LGBT community is finally getting its right recognized. You guys deserve to be considered a normal part of society and live your lives in the open, with no shame and without having to explain yourselves. I am so proud of being an LGBT supporter. That's why I'd say to my idiot of a homophobic ex-best friend if I ever saw her again.

PS. Dear homophobes,
 Have you ever heard of Alexander the Great? Michelangelo? Da Vinci? Just to name a few. I'd like to remind you all that it's thanks to them the whole world has something that we call HISTORY!


Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I'm sure no actual homophobe landed on this page, but if they ever do, I'd like to think my arguments were solid enough to at least make them ponder the issue of homophobia. I strongly believe that some people are homophobes simply because they're ignorant.
To read more posts on the theme of homophobia, please visit  http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com/

Now for the prize: 
From all the commenters, I will randomly pick a winner with random.org.
The winner gets a 15 $ gift card from Amazon.com or Allromance.com

OR if the winner is a writer and would rather have a custom  ebook cover made by me instead of the gift card, they can pick that as a prize.

Contest ends on May 24th
*UPDATE - Please don't forget to leave your email address so I can send you the prize if you win!

Other participants' posts:

February 4, 2015

Psychic Storm anthology - Review

Today's review is a bit unusual for me because I almost never read M/F, but, surprisingly, I did enjoy most of the stories in this anthology and I truly recommend it to lovers of the urban fantasy/paranormal genre. I APOLOGIZE BEFOREHAND FOR THE LITTLE SPOILERS. Because I suck at coding, I tried to alert their presence with bold writing. Here it goes:

PSYCHIC STORM: Ten Dangerously Sexy Tales of Psychic Witches, Vampires, Mediums, Empaths and Seers

Ten books. Ten internationally bestselling authors. Ten different tales of sexy psychics, empaths and seers who solve crimes, fall in love, make magic and fight to save the world.

Over 2,000 pages of extrasensory reading await, with three brand new, original novels and over 1,400 5-Star Reviews for the rest!

From Bestselling Author, HEATHER TOPHAM WOOD –– NEW REVELATIONS –– Life should’ve been perfect. Kate Edwards won the heart of police detective Jared Corbett and is coming to terms with her psychic ability. Things are blissful—until the day she meets Declan Brayden. Kate doesn’t trust the damaged and arrogant seer, but knows combining their abilities would allow her to help more people. When visions of a missing fitness instructor turn into a race against time to save her life, Kate might have no choice. HEAT LEVEL: 2

From Bestselling author, APRIL AASHEIM –– ARMAND –– "Never trust a warlock…” Before Maggie Maddock and her sisters returned to Dark Root, Oregon, a generation of witches and warlocks reigned over The Council -- 13 men and women devoted to holding back the dark they believed would eventually end the world. This is the origin story of Dark Root's most notorious warlock: Armand. HEAT LEVEL: 2

From USA TODAY bestselling author, DALE MAYER –– TUESDAY’S CHILD –– What she doesn't want...is exactly what he needs. Shunned and ridiculed all her life for something she can't control, Samantha Blair hides her psychic abilities and lives on the fringes of society. Against her will, however, she's tapped into a killer--or rather, his victims. Sam knows she must go to the authorities, but will the rugged, no-nonsense detective in charge of tracking down the killer believe her? HEAT LEVEL: 3

From bestselling author, JESI LEA RYAN –– JUST A LITTLE NUDGE –– Marley Sexton never aspired to be a stripper. But it’s the only job that puts a dent in her mother’s medical bills. It’s also the only job where she feels justified using a little talent she calls nudging. But JC Moreno figures out Marley may have taken the nudge too far. Marley’s not big on trusting people, especially a man with a gun, a badge, and a story that doesn’t add up, but maybe they can work together to both get what they want…if they don’t end up dead. HEAT LEVEL: 3

From NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author DEANNA CHASE –– HAUNTED ON BOURBON STREET –– Jade loves her new apartment—until a ghost joins her in the shower. When empath Jade Calhoun moves into an apartment above a strip bar on Bourbon Street, she expects life to get interesting. What she doesn't count on is making friends with an exotic dancer, attracting a powerful spirit, and developing feelings for Kane, her sexy landlord. But when the ghost moves from spooking Jade to terrorizing Pyper, the dancer, it's up to Jade to use her unique ability as an empath to save her. HEAT LEVEL: 4

From bestselling author, MORGAN HANNAH MACDONALD –– SPIRITS AMONG US –– WHAT HE SEES WOULD SCARE YOU TO DEATH. Cajun bad boy and ex-FBI profiler Jon-Luc Boudreaux is in Paris hunting a serial killer. That's nothing new, neither is being haunted by the victims, but watching the murders through the killers eyes, now that's something new entirely. Jon-Luc is on the hunt for the most diabolical killer he's ever encountered, and Angela Henderson, fashion designer, is next on the killer's list. HEAT LEVEL: 4

From bestselling author, JC ANDRIJESKI –– LONDON –– If there was ever a race-traitor job, this was definitely it. Revik arrives in London with a new job, a new home…and new people watching him, seemingly more than he has helping him watch the Bridge, a holy warrior hidden among humans to keep her safe from dark Seers called the Rooks. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Allie has no idea that she’s the Bridge…or even that she’s a Seer. Then she meets Jaden. HEAT LEVEL: 4

From bestselling author, JORDAN CASTILLO PRICE –– AMONG THE LIVING –– Victor Bayne, the psychic half a PsyCop team, is a gay medium more concerned with flying under the radar than making waves. He hooks up with handsome Jacob Marks, a non-psychic from an adjacent precinct at his ex-partner’s retirement party and it seems his luck has taken a turn for the better. But then a serial killer with a gruesome M.O. surfaces--and no one agrees what he looks like. HEAT LEVEL: 5

From NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author, C.J. ELLISSON –– VAMPIRE VACATION –– Meet Vivian. She's a 580-year-old vampire who exudes sex, has a talent for drama, and is passionate about two things: her human husband, Rafe, and their resort for the undead. Her ability to project physical illusions creates the perfect vacation spot—a dark, isolated Alaskan hideaway where visitors can have their wildest fantasies come true. The powerful vamp is put to the test when she discovers a corpse in a locked guest room minutes before the next arrivals. HEAT LEVEL: 5

From bestselling author, HAZEL HUNTER –– TOUCHED –– In the world of Isabelle de Grey, eyesight isn’t the only way to see. When she touches objects and people, she looks into their past. But her gift is equal parts curse. She has yet to find the lover who can accept the brutal truth of what she sees. Isolated and rejected, she is ready to leave Los Angeles and abandon her career when she meets FBI profiler Gavin “Mac” MacMillan. Thrown together when the daughter of a mutual friend is abducted, Isabelle discovers that Mac could be the man who won’t push her away. HEAT LEVEL: 5

 My review:
 
HEATHER TOPHAM WOOD –– NEW REVELATIONS - 4 stars
At the beginning I was unsure about New Revelations. Firstly, the story was obviously a sequel, the characters had backstory that I hadn't known firsthand and I usually, out of principle more than anything else, prefer reading stories that come from a series in the order they were meant to be read. That instantly put me in a bad mood because I would have liked to get to know the character from the very beginning, experience their first adventures together with them. Having landed in the middle of a longer story, I felt irritated and a bit cheated. And then the heroine turned out to be this very unsure girl, sexually frustrated, not confident in her lover's feelings towards her, barely just getting comfortable with her new psychic gift. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, seemed to perfect to be real—too kind, too patient, too understanding, and, honestly, I didn't feel they were right for each other at all. No matter how in love Kate insisted she was in every chapter, I only felt her insecurities, rather than their chemistry.
That being said, Kate slowly grew on me, just like mold—her words, not mine. I was taken by her candid kindness and her desperate need to help people. I loved how honest she was and how sarcastic she could be. And I loved, that unlike some other heroines, she wasn't obsessed with fashion and looking good. She's definitely a great, lovable character. Just like Declan. Unlike Jared, Declan was real—snarky, playboy-ish, unashamed. He was an imperfect character, which made him very interesting and very fascinating.
The plot was interesting too, though a bit lacking in action. All along, there are just visions that Kate follows to save the victims, but, in fact, all the action consists in her letting the families know what happens and then crying her eyes out. There is little external conflict. In fact the real external conflict only happens at the end of the book—the cliffhanger. If you wanna read this book, I strongly suggest buying the whole series, otherwise you won't be truly satisfied.
All in all, in spite of its imperfection, I did enjoy the story and I will certainly buy the whole series. Thumbs up!

APRIL AASHEIM –– ARMAND - 3.5 stars
Armand was a very unique read for me because it was unlike most books I read and enjoy. I wish I could rate it higher, but, unfortunately, the style really didn't match my tastes and I had to struggle to read it, even though the execution was impeccable, in terms of plot and characterization. What I truly missed was humor and a lighter vibe. True, there was teasing between the hero and heroine, but there's not enough to dampen the dark, depressing atmosphere of the book.
The story takes place is a strange universe where electricity, televisions and all modern appliances coexist with misogyny and primitive religious beliefs. From the start, I was particularly repulsed by the view society, in this universe, has on women.  
If that wasn't enough, the hero himself is a phychic that feeds on sexual energies and uses women to satisfy his urges without caring what happens to them after he leaves them.
I usually love imperfect characters, but I found Armand had too many flaws to be completely likable. He only managed to redeem himself at the end by righting his wrongs and his finding his father's grave was such an emotional scene that it truly made me weep for him and almost made up for all the scenes I didn't like.
I did like Armand, the character, in the end, especially when he insisted he couldn't love anyone, because characters who build a wall around their feelings are the most interesting and turn out to be the most profound.
However the story ended just when I was getting into the action and starting to love where it was going.
If I were to summarize what this book is about, I would say Armand is a dark, quite lyrical tale about a lonely man's journey to finding himself and his purpose. Although psychic gifts play a part of the story, it is more a character driven account rather than an action book and I have the feeling it's one of those books you love from the start or you won't ever be completely comfortable reading, depending on your personality. If you enjoy dark tales and highly troubled heroes, this is definitely the book for you.

DALE MAYER –– TUESDAYS CHILD – 5 stars
I loved everything about this book. The plot was very good, the pacing was perfect and the characters were all amazing. It's hard for me to find words for praising books, so usually the ones I like most get the shortest review. I will try, however to describe why this book took me from the start.
First of all, it began with visions of death. From the very first chapter I was sympathetic toward the main character, Samantha. Not only does she see the experiences of murder victims, but she feels their physical pain, which manifests on her own body. She bleeds together with them, both metaphorically and physically. Despite all that, and despite how mistreated she's been all her life because of her unusual gift, Samantha shows incredible braveness and strength. She goes against her fear to do what she believes she's right and, eventually, she earns people's respect thanks to that.
But her journey isn't easy. The police treat her like a suspect and a looney. The only person who believes in her is detective Brandt, who ends up falling in love with her. Brandt sees her hidden strength and falls in love with her vulnerable side as well as her brave side. Together they battle against the system until their voices are heard and they manage to capture a serial killer, bringing justice to his numerous victims.
In the process, Samantha learns how to open up and trust people, how to control her psychic gifts and how to rely on the people who love her. I loved that, on a micro level, her dog Soldier, whom she saved from euthanasia, goes through the same emotional journey of learning to trust. Ultimately, Soldier overcomes his trauma by saving Samantha from his former trainer, who's none other than the killer.
I can't wait to read the next books in this series.

JESI LEA RYAN –– JUST A LITTLE NUDGE - 4.5 stars
I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I liked the plot and Marley's powers and well as the idea of a stripper and a CIA agent solving a case together. It was original and written in an upbeat style. However, I felt like the whole plot was a bit rushed, there wasn’t enough time for a real connection to be created between the main characters. The heroine's feelings for JC were a bit muddled.
It feels like the author concentrated so much on Marley coming off as a strong female character that she completely ignored giving her a real vulnerable side. True, her vulnerability came from her mother's health state and her financial issues, but I didn't feel it was enough. I feel at her core, she was all strength—no hang-ups, no bad choices, no complexes and self-doubts. I didn't see any of that. She was smart, which I liked, but too cold, whereas, in comparison, JC seemed like a puppy drooling over her. That wasn't a good match, in my opinion.
That being said, the writing wasn't poorly executed at all, so, despite voicing those objections, I found it a fun and enjoyable read. If romance isn't the main reason you buy this book…

DEANNA CHASE - HAUNTED ON BOURBON STREET - 5 stars
Wow! This story was intense. Perverted ghosts, witches, strippers, dreamwalkers, nasty exes, lesser angels, ghost hunters and…I'm sure I could come up with more if I think about it. I bet that's exactly what the author told herself when she brainstormed this book. It had pretty much anything you could imagine. Seen from this point of view, you'd expect a disaster, but I was amazed how well they all fit together. The author managed to create a very entertaining read, lovable character and a captivating plot. That tells me she's a master at GMC – goal, motivation, conflict. There was simply no chapter without some sort of obstacle the heroine had to overcome. I loved the pacing and the intense chemistry between characters. I'm not only referring to the sexual chemistry between MCs, but the relations between all characters. The bonds of friendship felt real, the supporting characters were strong and had their own distinct voices. I loved this book!

MORGAN HANNAH MACDONALD –– SPIRITS AMONG US - 4 stars
What can I say? This story was perfectly executed, but I didn't fully enjoy the atmosphere. I loved that it was written from a man's perspective and I loved Jon-Luc's character a lot.
However, some things weren't as enjoyable. For instance, I felt his and Angie's instant attraction and instant "love" was a bit forced or, rather, the way the author described it all was implausible.
*SPOILER* Moreover, Angie's experience with ghost is coming out of nowhere, like the perfect solution to Jon-Luc's doubts. That seemed to be solved too easily and with no preamble whatsoever—another implausible detail. It's like the author though: "Hmmm, 'kay, I need Jon-Luc to confess to Angie he's a psychic, but how do I do this? Oh, I know, I'll just give her a past ghost experience! I'm a genius!" All of a sudden, when we were already at two thirds of the story with no mention of this whatsoever before this point? Didn't work for me.*/SPOILER*
I also didn't enjoy the descriptions of the ghosts. For me it was a complete turn-off *SPOILER* the scene when Jon-Luc has a vision of having sex with one of the victims */SPOILER* . That scene grossed me and I didn't think it was a necessary scene either. And after that scene, all the ghosts apparitions grossed me out. If the author was aiming for horror, it was a total success.
From the point of view of the plot, however, I have no criticism, aside from Angie's ghost experience scene I mentioned before. The plot was well-thought. The characters were charismatic, the killer was interesting and I really didn't expect that turn of events, which is a huge plus! Unlike 90% of the stories where you know who the killer is, this one came as a surprise and it really tied the plot like a perfect bow placed over the gift box. I loved it. The scene at the end seemed a bit rushed, but all in all, the plot was full of adventure and interesting twists and the characters were really likable.
So, despite my reservations, I recommend this book. I think readers of the genre will enjoy it a lot.

JC ANDRIJESKI –– LONDON 4 stars
In terms of plot and originality, this book was a masterpiece. I was so impressed with the universe the author has created and with the complexity of the intrigues she's woven. In fact, this series is so big I can't help feeling it's all happening in an alternate universe for real.
But, the reason I gave it a tad lower rating is the lack of a satisfying ending. The whole story was full of angst and abuse. I cried 90% of the time and I craved that ending which would have made the pain worthwhile. *SPOILER* The ending however showed Allie falling in love with her abuser while Revik was forced to witness her confession and withstand the pain that came with it. */SPOILER*
From a logical point of view, I get that this was necessary for the story to come and I applaud the author for bearing to do this to her characters. I think this is one of the most skilled writers whose books I've ever had the honor of reading. On the other hand though, the story was so depressing and the ending so bitter-sweet that I don't think I want to read more. Because I have the feeling there will only come more pain in the future volumes. This is not a story for those of us who like humorous, light reads.I don't want to say it's a story that has more depth, because that would mean implying humorous stories have no depth and that is absolute BS, but it's definitely a story that treats very serious subjects. Disguised as a fantasy book. It's not just a fantasy book, just an adventure book, just a story about unrequited love. It is also a story about the human condition, about abuse, about human behavior under particular circumstances. I couldn't help feeling, at certain points, that it was a lot like a study in psychology.
London is only a prequel to a long series and the world the author built is so complex and amazing that I'm sure many of you will be fascinated. So, give it a try, see what you think. I think this is one of those that you either like or not, depending on your personal tastes and the events you're going through in your own personal life. Either way, whether you'll like this particular prequel/series or not, keep an eye on this author because she's a true gem! Warning: You will need a lot of tissues and a certain bitter mood to be able to stomach some of the scenes.

JORDAN CASTILLO PRICE –– AMONG THE LIVING 5+ stars
I may be a bit biased because the whole reason I wanted to read this collection of stories was Jordan Castillo Price's Among the Living being featured in it. I've already read Among the Living twice and, even though it's not my favorite out of Jordan's works, it holds a very dear place in my heart because it's the first story I ever read by this amazing author. This review is more about the whole Pyscop series, because this book is just a small bite ad the entire development of the story is much more complex. I feel the need to explain what exactly psycop is about for those readers who are completely new to M/M and/or Jordan Castillo Price's works.
Among the Living is the first book of the Psycop series, a series about a medium who helps ghosts cross over and solves mysteries in his own special way.
What I love about this author's books is the way she builds characters. Her boys are always troubled, rough guys who, deep inside, fear intimacy, fear opening up to others, making friends, falling in love. This series essentially follows Victor in his own personal battle against himself and his innermost fears. We see him falling in love, slowly making friends and maybe even realizing that not everyone wishes him harm.
Among the Living, in particular, introduces readers to a universe where psychics are pretty much government dogs. Victor is one of the first generations psychics, meaning that before him the people who had real psychic powers were catalogued as mentally ill. As such, Victor has been experimented on and virtually held prisoner in what his generation's psychics called Camp Hell. As a result, Victor doesn't trust authority figures, he doesn't trust anyone—this is, in fact, the main internal conflict of the whole series. He was smart enough not to show his true power while he undergone Camp Hell and, even so, he's considered one of the strongest mediums in the world. No one is actually aware of the true extent of his powers. And that is the main external conflict—him trying to keep his powers hidden.
As all of Jordan's characters, Victor has a snarky, sarcastic personality that instantly amuses you. At the same time, readers will fall in love with him due to his unawareness to how amazing he is and, especially, thanks to his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
From a romantic point of view, the whole series isn't extremely graphic so I doubt any new readers of the M/M genre will be scarred for life reading sex scenes between male characters, however the books have a certain heat level and I, personally, believe the author is quite a master when it comes to passionate scenes.
I could write a whole book about the Psycop series alone so I will try refraining from singing its praises further before this turns into an essay. Bottom line is, I can guarantee this book is worthwhile and, more so, the books to come. You will fall in love with the world-building and the amazing characterization. Hands down one of the best authors ever!

C.J. ELLISSON - VAMPIRE VACATION – 5 stars
Woot! This book was written to match my tastes like a glove. Loved the very original idea of a vampire resort. Loved that it had lots of sex, yet it wasn't so overwhelming to the point of wanting to browse over it. And, most of all, I loved the main character. She is the strong, lonely type, only truly trusting her husband. However her hidden strength attracts everyone and makes them naturally gravitate around her.
In this story, we're shown how Vivian/Dria slowly, albeit reluctantly, opens up to others by allowing them to witness her true abilities and by welcoming new people into her family.
Hot guy, snarky humor and a meddling hostess playing matchmaker—this had all the ingredients of a really fun books. I loved the plot so much I will definitely buy the next books in the series.
HAZEL HUNTERTOUCHED - 3.5 stars
The idea behind Touch is very nice and I liked the execution. My only complaints are the short length and the lack of a satisfying ending. I love the twist about the killer, but it felt like it all ended too abruptly. Still, this being a novella, I think the author did a great job. But, obviously, if you want to get the nice ending you'll be waiting for, you have to buy the following books, otherwise, there'll be no point.
I loved the characters and the way Isabelle's powers manifests. I think it's worth buying the whole series.


Ah, this has been quite a rollercoaster ride. I loved the whole stories in the anthology, despite not being a huge hetero stories fan. I am, however, a really huge psychic stories fan, mainly thanks to Jordan Castillo Price (OMG! Don't I sound like a stalker?). But, this whole collection was filled with exceptional stories written by very skilled authors that I would love to check out in the future as well. I want to thank the whole team and especially Jordan for the opportunity to read and review this book.

January 23, 2015

Sacrati by Kate Sherwood - review

A year or two back I stumbled upon Kate Sherwood on a writers' forum and took the opportunity to tell her how much I loved her writing. I was truly taken aback that such an amazing author like her was so modest, saying how she needed a lot more experience and she was just a beginner writer. Truly? Even after years from her Dark Horse series no other author has managed to write a better M/M/M, yet this really wonderful woman thought her work was just beginner level. I wonder if Kate Sherwood has any more excuses to be modest after this masterpiece .

It's why I wanted to read Sacrati even though, to be honest, the blurb and cover didn't appeal to me. Because, Knowing the quality of Kate Sherwood's work I couldn't imagined it being anything other than flawless. What I got though, exceeded even my expectations. 

Like Dark Horse, I don't think this book will ever be unpopular for the M/M readers. It will be an iconic read. The plot, the characters, they were all flawless. But beyond all that, I loved the message of the book, the emotions it makes you feel. 

At first it made me think a lot of Captive Prince. The idea itself is very similar in the beginning, but then the book, thankfully, takes a completely different and original route. The action is placed in a fictional world where civilizations are divided in valleys. On one hand there's the Torian Empire with its many valleys and the Elkat valley, one of the few left unconquered by the Empire. 

Theos is a Torian Sacrati- a group of highly trained soldiers. He's grown up and lived in a society where people are separated by gender: women live in the city, they rule over everything that doesn't have to do with war. Once a year they choose men to conceive their children with and then men and women never see each other again until the next year. Men live outside the city, in barracks; they train, have sex and go to war. For Theo's society, sex with the same gender is normal and natural. 

On the other hand, Elkati have completely different principles. They believe in mating for life and only with people from the other gender. When Prince Finnvid of Elkat is captured by Theos and his men, he's forced to change his whole view on sexuality and social customs. 

The story would have been beautiful just like this. But that's only one layer of the story. Mrs. Sherwood went much farther than that, layering levels upon levels of complexity to the plot. She brought in political intrigues and emotional betrayals. She forced her characters to face their fears, she made them see behind the façades and challenge everything they've been raised to believe in. For example, while Finnvid learns that Torians aren't the vulgar, barbaric people he was led to believe, Theos understands there is much more to the world than having sex and going to war. 

You'll find touching pieces of dialogue, superb characterization and so much adventure it will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. 

I'm telling you, you will never forget this book. 

*Disclaimer - No, I do not know the author and I was't paid to write this, in case anyone's wondering. I just loved it SO much and I vow to bugger everyone I know to read it !

December 24, 2014

Cold Feet by Jay Northcote - Review

Hello everyone! Merry Christmas! Hope your holidays are filled with warmth and love. 
My gift to you is a review of Cold Feet by Jay Northcote. In exchange for this review, I received a free copy of the book. 
ColdFeet_JayNorthcote_FINALBlurb:
Getting snowed in at a remote cottage in Wales with someone he’d fancied for ages isn’t exactly how Sam expected to spend Christmas. His feelings for Ryan are pointless. Ryan’s straight—or so he thought.
Until now, Ryan’s kept his feelings for Sam buried. Why ruin a friendship over what might only be gay experimentation? Playing it cool seems safer, until a cold snap makes sharing body heat vital. In their Welsh safe haven, anything seems possible.
As Ryan’s reserve melts away, Sam wants more than stolen kisses under the mistletoe. But a sudden thaw means making decisions. They could face the New Year together—unless one of them gets cold feet.
Buy Links:
You can find an excerpt of the story in my previous post: http://shaylamist.blogspot.ro/2014/12/what-mm-books-to-buy-this-xmas-day-5.html
My rating: 5 stars
I fell this story because it had all the themes I love (and most other readers love) - best friends to lovers, snowed in in isolated location were the heating doesn't work (eeep!), college boys and closeted MC. Wow! With themes like these it was impossible not to enjoy the read.
Now some of you might think this is too cliché. I know some people really hate clichés. But think about it: why do clichés exist in the first place? Because clichés are proofed to work. Because people love them just as much as they hate them sometimes! If a writer takes a cliché and renders it in such a way that it makes it unique, then the readers will fall hard for the story. Such example is Cold Feet. Despite the cliché situation the characters were in, the author excelled in characterization, thus giving the story its unique voice. I loved how the story was paced, I loved that there was no hurry and, at the same time, it was filled with sexual tension. I loved how threedimmensional the characters were and I'd truly want to read more about them in the future. The story had an amazing ending that will make your heart stutter. 
In other words, there's nothing cliché about Cold Feet. 
I also noticed some readers didn't like the "miscommunication issue" (yes, I do tend to read other people's reviews too). Not sure what was wrong about that. I think it added just the right amount of angst to move the story forward, and, believe it or not, miscommunication exists in real life as well. I blowed most of my relationships thanks to that. Read any study on relationships and they'll tell you communication is the key. Per a contratrio, this mean people don't communicate enough. So what exactly is the problem that the author used miscomunication as the internal conflict factor? I think people who latch on that to give bad reviews are being entirely too subjective. 
So before buying any book, do read excerpts, go to the author's blog, read about the process of writing that particular book, read about their research, their struggles. I cannot stress enough how important it is. You will have build your own opinion without being influenced completely by reviewers, who, at the end of the day, are people just like you, which makes them subjective and not truly reliable. 
That being said, for what it's worth, I really enjoyed this book and I think it was the perfect cozy holiday read.
If you wanna take my advice, check out the excerpt I mentioned above, as well as Jay Northcote's website: www.jaynorthcote.com
Cheers guys! Happy holidays!

December 22, 2014

What M/M books to buy this Xmas? - Day 7

Here are some M/M Christmas books I have on my to-buy list.  If you click on the pictures,A new window will open to the Amazon buy link. Happy shopping!
Heidi Cullinan's series, Minnesota Christmas:
   
 
Josh Lanyon's new book, "Baby, it's cold"
 
Kaje Harper's series "Finding family" - Attention! Kaje has a NEW Christmas book that will be out real soon! Can't wait!
  
 
Less Than Three's new Christmas anthology
 
More stand-alones:
                
   
Think I can manage to read all these? Probably not, but I sure as hell will try :D 
Now it's your turn. Do you  have any Christmas recs for me?