Gerry B's Book Reviews

Collide, by J.R. Lenk

A young writer scores with a mature story of high school love.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Story blurb: Being bisexual is cool now—unless you’re a boy. Or so it seems to invisible fifteen-year-old Hazard James. But when he falls in with bad apple Jesse Wesley, Hazard is suddenly shoved into the spotlight. Jesse and his friends introduce him to the underworld of teenage life: house parties, hangovers, the advantages of empty homes, and reputation by association. So what if his old friends don’t get it? So what if some people love to hate him? Screw gossip and high school’s secret rules. There’s just something about walking into a room and having all eyes on him when just last year nobody noticed him at all.

For a while Hazard basks in the attention, and before he realizes the depth of the waters he’s wading, he and Jesse strike up a “friends with benefits” routine. It could be something more, but what self-respecting teenage boy would admit it? Not Jesse—and so not Hazard, either. Not until it’s too late. Hazard and Jesse have collided, and Hazard’s life will never be the same.

About the author:If E. L. Doctorow was on point when he said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” at just nineteen J. R. Lenk is a self-confessed pretty boy severely in need of a psychological once-over. He’s a sucker for overcast skies and the smell of books, and enjoys a lot of things from movies about castrati to classy sweaters and wayward glances, to successful sex hair and hobo chic.

J. R. Lenk has been writing as a passion since a very young age, with a love for horror, ghost stories, and dark edgy contemporaries. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

you are the master of your own genius.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

High school genres are not my favourite. However, when Collide by J. R. Lenk [Harmony Ink Press, April 15, 2012] was recommended to me with high praise, I decided to give it a read.

One of the things said about this book was the amazing fact that the writer is still in his teens. Remarkable. Oh, there is the odd misstep – like a long, disconcerting flashback in the middle of the story – but otherwise the plot and character development, as well as the writing in general, are all at an advanced level.

The story is primarily told from the perspective of Hazard Oscar James, a Cinderella-like character at first, until he ‘collides’ – literally –with Jesse Logan Wesley: a rich-kid-BMC (‘ Big Man on Campus’ ) who is Hazard’s flawed Prince Charming.

Theirs is set against a backdrop of high school, juvenile intensity (likes, dislikes, jealousies, wild parties and booze, etc.), somewhat reminiscent of the high school flicks of the 60s. Nonetheless, it is all presented very convincingly – at least I think it is. Mind you, I haven’t been inside a high school for 62 years, so I’m a bit outdated.

Where the novel really shines, however, is in the rocky road to romance experienced by Hazard and Jesse. It is one of the best work-ups I have read. No ‘insta-love’ here. Their romance is like climbing a staircase, one step forward and two steps back, but inevitably it blossoms into a mature bonding. It is beautifully developed and written, with all of the nuances of boy-meets-boy love intact.

This is a really good story for any age, and well worth the money. Four Bees.

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September 29, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, MM high school romance | Leave a comment

The Trouble With Tony (Sex in Seattle #1), by Eli Easton

Playing doctor can be fun…

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Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle formet.

Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

As part of the investigation into the murder of a young woman, Seattle P.I. Tony DeMarco poses as a patient of Dr. Jack Halloran, the therapist who treated the victim at a Seattle sex clinic. This isn’t the first time Tony has gone undercover, but it’s the first time he’s wanted to go under cover with one of his suspects. He can’t help it—Jack Halloran is just the kind of steely-eyed hero Tony goes for. But he’ll have to prove Halloran’s innocence and keep the doctor from finding out about his ruse before he can play Romeo.

Dr. Halloran has his own issues, including a damaged right arm sustained in the line of duty as a combat surgeon in Iraq and the PTSD that followed. He’s confused to find himself attracted to a new patient, the big, funny Italian with the puppy-dog eyes, and Tony’s humor slips right past Jack’s defenses, making him feel things he thought long buried. But can the doctor and the P.I. find a path to romance despite the secrets between them?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As I have said many times, I enjoy a light, well-written, witty comedy, and The Trouble With Tony (Sex in Seattle #1) by Eli Easton comes close on most categories. It is light, well-written and a comedy, but to my taste it doesn’t quite have witty edge that I prefer.

During the course of a murder investigation, in which Doctor Jack Halloran – Intern at a sex clinic – is a suspect, Tony DeMarco P.I. decides to go underground by becoming Halloran’s patient. The guise is quickly recognized, and so Toni takes the opportunity to consult the doctor regarding his uncertain sexuality.

Thereafter, one thing leads to another. It quickly becomes evident that Jack is not involved in the murder, but in the meantime a mutual attraction has developed between the two of them. However, it is complicated by the rule governing doctor-client-relationship, i.e. ‘no playing doctor outside of office hours’—a stupid rule which I have never been able to quite understand.

A good deal of the story deals with Jack’s war wounds and resulting PTSD, which is a fresh touch, but it is never allowed to draw the story down or interfere with the humour.

Altogether it was a refreshing, light read, which I can recommend. However, as I have said, the humour lacked the sparkle that would have put it over the top for me. Three and one-half bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

olga - russian coat of armsWant to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia: Toronto’s Imperial Russian Connection.

 

 

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | 1 Comment

Lovers in Arms, by Osiris Brackhaus

The Nuremburg Trials from an GBLT perspective –

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

The year is 1946, World War II is over, and the Nuremberg trials are underway. US Army Captain Frank Hawthorne is returning to Germany to testify in the military tribunal of former Nazi Officer Johann von Biehn. Despite explicit orders to the contrary, Frank is trying to save Johann’s life.

Three years ago, at the height of the war, Frank had been sent to kill the very man he is now defending. Much to his surprise, instead of the Nazi monster he was sent to kill, Frank found a compassionate dissenter. Johann considered the handsome young American officer the answer to his desperate prayers to save his beloved Germany from the cancerous infection of Nazi rule. What really happened between the two men during those long summer days in von Biehn’s Spreewald mansion must be kept secret at any cost.

With his own government forbidding Frank to reveal anything political that happened during the war, and society forcing him to conceal their personal relationship, Frank will have to find something truly unexpected to prevent Johann’s all-but-certain death sentence.

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Lovers in Arms by Osiris Brackhaus [Fantastic Fiction Publishing, November 10, 2013] (despite its rather Victor Herbertian title) struck me as a rather interesting take on the so-called ‘Nuremburg Trials.’ Certainly not one that I had yet to come across, and the GBLT angle clinched it.

I was particularly struck by one of the lines that summarized the story quite dramatically. i.e. “Maybe one day you’ll learn that not all Germans are monsters and not all Americans are heroes.” For me it meant that people are people, and would probably live their lives quite a differently – and happily – if it weren’t for the interference of governments and society.

To begin, in 1943 US Army Captain Frank Hawthorne is sent on a top secret mission to assassinate high-ranking Nazi officers, of which Johann von Biehn is one. Through a twist of fate, however, the two men meet and fall in love. There is little ‘instalove’ here, but it is a choice between slowing the plot unnecessarily or getting on with it, and so I think the author made the right decision.

In this regard, there is a very poignant scene when Frank and Johann must part, and Frank is smuggled out of country with his lover’s help.

A view of the courtroom (International Military Tribunal), the so-called 'Nuremburg Trail'

A view of the courtroom (International Military Tribunal), the so-called ‘Nuremburg Trail’

Moving along to the destruction of Naziism in 1945, and the convening of the International Military Tribunal between November 1945 and October 1946, and as a former Nazi officer Johann is somehow part of it. I say ‘somehow’ because the first trial (the so-called ‘Nuremburg Trails’, 1945 -1946) were for the most notorious of Hitler’s henchmen — Martin Bormann. Karl Doenitz. Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Albert Speer, etc. The others were tried between 1946 and 1949 by Control Council Law No. 10.

Nonetheless, there is a nice bit of courtroom drama here, including a Jewish lawyer who escaped the prison camps before being asked to defend von Biehn.

Altogether it is a very good story with a somewhat unique setting. The writing is top grade, and the characters are interesting and credible. Four bees.

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olga - russian coat of armsInterested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia: Toronto’s Imperial Russian Connection.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

September 15, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay military | Leave a comment

Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt #1), by N.R. Walker

Well worth the money…

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Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might. 

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.

 

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have a thing about Australia – the wide open spaces, the magnificent and rugged scenery, and the equally rugged men, evoke a certain romance that appeals to my love of all things unpretentious and masculine. All of these things are captured quite authentically by N.R. Walker in her latest novel, Red Dirt Heart [N.R. Walker, Feb. 20 2014].

Charlie Sutton is the young owner and operator of Sutton Station in the “ute back” near Alice Springs, Australia. He has learned the business and his self-reliance from his rancher father, who, although dead, still exerts considerable influence over his son.

Charlie is also a closeted gay, once again reflecting his father’s influence, which was unquestionably homophobic.  Therefore, Charlie keeps his orientation well to himself.

Travis Craig is a young agronomist from Johnston City, Texas … Oh, and a hunk. He has come to Australia to study farming methods, and as usual fate is about to change things for both of them.

As well, there are some charming side-characters: George, the lead hand, and his wife, Ma,  who second as Charlie’s family.

Altogether, there is a lay-back feel to this novel, sort of folksy in the way you would expect an out-back story be. Time and life move at the pace of the seasons, and slow-and-steady is the way things get done. Nonetheless, everything has to be accomplished in the four weeks that Travis will be visiting.

In this respect, it does – while leaving room for a sequel (which, I believe, is already on the market).

You cannot not like this story. The main characters are solidly masculine, and their coming together (even in the four short weeks) seems both inevitable and natural. The sex is also manly; although, I generally skim over these. When you’ve read one sex scene you’ve generally read them all.

Well worth the money. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 72,464

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Fort “Whoop-Up”  –  Canada’s bad old days

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

September 8, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Australia Out-back, Gay fiction, M/M adventure | Leave a comment

Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men About More-or-Less Gay Life, by Wendell Ricketts

Blue on blue

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

Story Blub: In this age of Will & Grace and gentrification, the “dream market” and gay investment advisors, you don’t hear much about working-class queers. In fact, some would even consider the idea a contradiction in terms. But the contributors to Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men About More-or-Less Gay Life would beg to differ. The first collection of short stories by working-class queer, gay, and bisexual men, Everything I Have Is Blue is a rich and long-overdue contribution both to the burgeoning field of working-class studies and to LGBTIQ fiction. The international writers include a professional trucker, a Texas prisoner, a librarian, a poet, an activist, a retired English professor, and a street mime, to name a few, but what makes their voices powerful and unique isn’t their professions, it’s their ability to straddle ideological and cultural divides that would give Paul Bunyan pause. In Everything I Have Is Blue are love stories and stories of lives gone wrong; narratives of hope and songs of despair; tales of revenge and chronicles of redemption. In short, Everything I Have Is Blue showcases a literature of depth and complexity that brings much-needed color to the palate of queer cultural and literary identity. Contributors include Timothy Anderson, Rane Arroyo, Keith Banner, James Barr, C. Bard Cole, CAConrad, Marcel Devon, Dean Durber, Rick Laurent Feely, John Gilgun, Rigoberto González, Jim Grimsley, Ryan Kamstra, Christopher Lord, Alfredo Ronci, Jan-Mitchell Sherrill, and Royston Tester.

About the author: Wendell Ricketts holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico. He is senior editor of the anthology Intimate Relationships: Some Social Work Perspectives on Love and the author of Lesbians and Gay Men as Foster Parents.

everything is blue - const worker

Review by Gerry Burnie

Being Labour Day, I set about finding a GBLT book thst dealt predominantly with labour and/or work, and happily I came up with Wendell Ricketts’ collection of short stories, called Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men About More-or-Less Gay Life [Suspect Thoughts Press, July 29, 2005].

Unfortunately, it’s not available in Nook or Kindle formats, but there are copies available through both the Barnes and Noble and Amazon’s open market place.

The stories are set in a variety of locales, Portland, Baltimore, Toronto, New Orleans, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, and from a number of perspectives: urban migrants, college students, newly employed, or, like Timothy Anderson’s trucker in Hooters, Tooters and the Big Dog, someplace in between.

As a long ago migrant, myself, I could readily identify with the majority of protagonists, i.e. anxiously trying to shed our rural roots and blend in to a more ‘sophisticated’ urban society. However, being a physical outsider is one thing, while being a social (psychological) outsider is quite another, and it is this latter theme that adds an interesting edge to most of the stories, e.g. Ricketts’ Raspberry Pie, John Gilgun’s Cream, Rick Laurent Feely’s Skins, and Christopher Lord’s  My Special Friend. It is one of envy mixed with contempt, and frustration coupled with admiration.

While ‘more-or-less’ gay, these men each make an effort to avoid the stereotypes that have been assigned to them by the media – the fashion plates, the literary effete, and so on. They are ‘blue through and through, and proud of it.

This is the image and message that makes this anthology of working-class gay stories such a worthwhile read.

Nice to hear from a side of gay society that doesn’t often get heard from. Four and one-half bees.

An update: 

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers includes work by twenty writers (Rigoberto González, Timothy Anderson, Tara Hardy, Judy Grahn, Keith Banner, Carter Sickels, and Renny Christopher, to name a few) who speak meaningfully—in short fiction, memoir, performance pieces, and prose poems—about queers in and from the working class.

Intended for discerning readers and ideal for both reading groups and college-level classes, Blue, Tooexplores some of the realities of the group that makes up the majority of the LGBTQ “community.”
As a sourcebook for working-class and queer studies, Blue, Too also contains these special features: “A Blue Study: The Reader’s, Writer’s, and Scholar’s Guide” to using Blue, Too to examine the interlocking issues of queerness and social class, including discussion questions and prompts for writing and mini-research projects that connect the reader with working-class and LGBT scholarship; “Reading Blue,” an extensive annotated bibliography that represents the first-ever attempt to create an exhaustive listing of materials related to queers and class; and “Class/Mates: Further Outings in the Literatures and Cultures of the Ga(y)ted Community,” an expanded theoretical and critical essay that reviews the history and present of working-class queers in literature, media, and pop culture.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Gordon Sinclair – Journalist, Author, TV personality, and Curmudgeon Extraordinaire!

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

September 1, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, gay Blue collar workers, Gay fiction, Wendell Ricketts | Leave a comment

   

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