Gerry B's Book Reviews

Wizard’s Moon by Josh Lanyon

A short story that is ahead of its time

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wizards moon - coverStory blurb: A warrior from the Northlands purchases a young man for purposes both secret and perhaps sinister.

About the author: A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

Author’s note: Once upon a time, a long time ago, I really, really wanted to write fantasy and speculative fiction. This dusty little story was my first published attempt. I believe I had plans to follow Faro’s adventures in the Northlands over the course of several stories, but I think at this point we will just have to take it for granted that everything eventually worked out.

“Wizard’s Moon” is old school fantasy and certainly not what I would write these days, but I think it’s still sort of fun and I hope you enjoyed it.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Quite a while ago (June 2013) I reviewed Josh Lanyon’s Cards on The Table, and commented that it was, “Not too long, not too short, but just right!” Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Wizard’s Moon [JustJoshin Publishing, Inc., March 8, 2015]. At 44-pages, for a story like this, it is just too short. In fact it is just too everything: Too dark, too angst-driven, too under-develop, and too sketchy.

I agree with one other reviewer who observed that perhaps this story shouldn’t have been released in its present form. You are as good as your last book, and for anyone but an established writer like Layon it could have been career damaging.

That said, the author did move the story along at a good pace, which kept the pages turning, and the promise of a good story was there with a bit more development, but it just wasn’t enough to fully satisfy.

To fill you in on the plot: Faro is a young slave working at a brothel as a servant and bookkeeper, but not one of the interns. He does have a casual affair with the keeper until he is sold to the Jaxom – a warrior from ‘The Northlands.’

The high king has died, and now the kingdom has been divided into a number of mini-kingdoms, and from the time of his arrival Faro is thrust into an atmosphere of murder and intrigue.

Things resolve by the ending of the story, but it leaves the reader wanting. Two and one-half bees, which I will round up to three because it is Lanyon.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn 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: Marie-Anne Lagimodière (née Gaboury)Grandmother of Louis Riel

        

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank 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!

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May 3, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fantasy, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Justice in an Age of Metal and Men, by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

A futuristic story with its roots in the “Old” West…

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To purchase, click on the cover above.

To purchase, click on the cover above.

Story blurb: Small town sheriff Jasper Davis Crow has an arm forged of Texas Army-issued black metal, chews snuff manufactured from real tobacco extract, and wields a six shooter made before neural implants were even a thing. In an age when Texan independence, neglect, and technology have ushered in a new age of lawlessness, J.D. holds strong the line of justice in the town of Dead Oak.

Longhorns trample a rancher in what appears to be a brutal accident. The new deputy from Austin is convinced that it’s murder and J.D. is inclined to agree when their investigation uncovers a bizarre conspiracy. With a megastorm brewing and a mysterious stranger tracking their every move, they need to work fast before time runs out and the storm wipes everything clean.

Can J.D. unravel the conspiracy? Will he be able to bring a sense of closure to the rancher’s wife and kids? Will there be Justice in an Age of Metal and Men?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Recently, the State of Texas has been in the news for, among other things, its open-carrying gun policy—a bunch of contemporary, pseudo-patriots walking about with AK-47s strapped to their backs. Nonetheless, Texas has always marched to its own drummer, and Anthony W. Eichenlaub has taken full advantage of this in his second novel, Justice in an Age of Metal and Men [CreateSpace, March 5, 2014].

In this futuristic tale, sheriff Jasper Davis Crow is a man of his times as well as an anachronism in his cowboy garb and anti-social addiction to chewing tobacco. He also sports a machismo prosthesis made of “Texas Army-issued black metal.” (Very butch!)

In other words, he’s a futuristic guy right out of “Gunsmoke” or “The Rifleman.”

I liked that.

Within these parameters, the author has created a character that is at once traditional and slightly quirky at the same time. This is a masterful touch on Eichenlaub’s part, for either one on their own would not have reached the level of interest Jasper Crow achieved. He is principled, old-fashioned, at home in the future, and coincidentally gay.

I say ‘coincidentally’ because sex doesn’t play a large role in this story. This may be a disappointment for those who prefer erotica, but it didn’t find it at all discomfiting. My preference is for plot-driven or character-driven stories that offer more depth and variety, and this story proves my point.

It is difficult to decide on one strong point in this novel, but I think I would have to say character development. In this regard, I was grateful the author resisted making Crow too perfect. Indeed, his flaws only contribute to his credibility.

My only reservation is probably my own from not reading fantasy novels enough to develop a taste for them; however, I can genuinely say I enjoyed this one for all the other dimensions. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews 70, 235

(Did you happen to notice that Gerry B’s Book Reviews reached a new milestone this past week – i.e. its 70,000th viewer! Thank you for your interest. It makes it all worthwhile.

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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: Francis Pegahmagabow, MM-two bar. The most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War.

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank 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.

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

Rangers, by Nate Tanner

An imaginative adventure reminiscent of Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter…

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 rangers - coverStory blurb: When the notorious ranger Kjartan Torncloak turns up wounded on the doorstep, Skinker betrays his hated master and helps him escape. Before the ex-slave knows it, he and the ranger are on the run together. Now, Skinker’s only hope of survival lies in a man with a thousand dark secrets — and a thousand kinds of bad luck.
Skinker soon finds himself desperately attracted to the older man. But how can a shy, useless ex-slave impress a cold, stern hero who only respects strength? And what about the mysterious, undead evil that hounds Kjartan’s footsteps, plotting its cruel revenge…?

A grim, haunted wanderer. An ex-slave struggling to believe in himself. To win their desperate battle against darkness, these two men — one proud, one humble — must learn to fall in love as equals.

About the Author: Nate Tanner was born in Iowa in 1980. His Zodiac sign is Gemini. He realized he was gay on the day he turned 18.

After living a freewheeling lifestyle in his 20s, Nate decided to share his experiences with the world by becoming an erotic fiction author. He writes in spare moments at his day job, while by night he can be found prowling the Midwest for cute boys.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a gay adventure story this week (not an easy genre to find) when I came across Rangers, by Nate Tanner [Nate Turner, 2013]. Now, to begin, I don’t generally read fantasy novels, but there was something about this novel that caught my eye. Perhaps it was the zany names, like “Kjartan Torncloak” or “Skinker,”—I find authors don’t tend to give enough attention to the names of their characters; or maybe it was the adventure element of being on the run through a mystical land with a handsome, rakish outlaw, but once I read the story blurb I was in.

I mean, who wouldn’t be?

I am also happy to say that I was not disappointed. Once the character of Skinker was established—that of a defeated slave in the hands of a villainous master—his unexpected meeting with the roguish Norse ranger seems almost heaven sent. It is likewise where the novel is concerned, too, for it is this their meeting that begins an adventure reminiscent of Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter.

In this regard the authors certainly doesn’t lack imagination, for along the way they encounter all manner of elves, dwarves, talking squirrels, ghosts, etc.—haute fantasy with a touch of dark side.

The romance between Skinker and Torncloak is charming enough, though, for it is this that helps Skinker emerge from his shell to become a mature and independent individual.

Altogether, this is a well crafted novel with loads of imagination, albeit bizarre at times, but to the author’s credit he holds it to pieces together remarkably well.

On the minus side, there is some ambiguity regarding whether it is intended to be a young adult or adult novel. Certainly, there are elements that would make it a superb young adult tale, apart from the sexual content; however, if is the latter that places it well within the adult classification.

Otherwise it is a great read, and just the right length to keep the pace crisp. Four solid bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 69,882

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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: Francis Pegahmagabow, MM-two bar. The most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War.

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

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.

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June 9, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

The Reluctant Berserker, by Alex Beecroft

Altogether, a masterful piece of fiction.

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reluctant berserker - coverStory blurb: Manhood is about more than who’s on top.

Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.

In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most—that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.

Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he’s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.

When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.

Warning: Contains accurate depictions of Vikings, Dark Ages magic, kickass musicians, trope subversions and men who don’t know their place.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I like the late Saxon era for the pivotal role it played between the old and new beliefs, both socially and religiously, and for the strong masculine values it harboured. However, I must say the title The Reluctant Berserker [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., February 25, 2014] threw me off at first. Nevertheless, the well-acclaimed reputation of Alex Beecroft as an historical fiction writer held my interest.

If there is one word that sums up both the writing and the plot, it is ‘balance.’ The writing is a balance between lean narrative and poetic description, and the plot is a balance between romance and adventure, as well as love and adversity. Even the language is a balance between modern and old English. i.e. ‘Scop’ meaning musician, and ‘Wycce’ meaning witch or witchcraft, etc.

Wufstan is a Anglo-Saxon soldier in the service of Lord Ecgbert, and as such he is expected to be the epitome of masculinity. However, Wufstan has a covert desire that he dare not reveal, and this is brought into conflict when Leofgar corners him for a passionate kiss. Uncertain how to react, he rebuffs Leofgar somewhat violently; nonetheless, the spark has been ignited.

Leofgar and his maser, Anna, are then exiled from the village to wander, and as winter approaches the beseech a rather lecherous lord to be allowed to occupy a place in his forest. It is here that the aging Anna dies, and when the lord comes to collect his ‘favour’ Leofgar flees.

Meanwhile, Wufstan unintentionally kills his best friend Cenred (who is about to reveal Wufstan’s secret), and consumed by guilt he leaves the village as well. Before he leaves, however, Cenred’s mother—a Wycce—curses him with one of her spells and then follows him to see it work.

Now that Wufstan and Leofgar are both outcasts, fate arranges a chance meeting of the two, and from that point on they give in to their feelings to fight the forces that would destroy them; both physically and as a couple.

“Better to accept fate joyfully than to fight it, for it will win no matter what we do.”

There is little that one could criticise about this story, for every minor shortcoming—like an overly convenient plot twist—was balanced by flawless writing and evocative settings. Altogether a masterful depiction of time and place. Four and one-half bees.

 

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 68,420

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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:  Farley McGill MowatA consummate Canadian.

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank 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!

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May 12, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Hadrian’s Lover, by Patricia Marie Budd

An interesting and thought-provoking story.

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hadrian's lover - coverStory blurb:Hadrian’s Lover is a stunning novel about a dystopian society disguised as a utopian one…it raises difficult questions about right and wrong, government control, and an individual’s right to express himself freely and be accepted for his sexual preference, regardless of what it is.” – Tyler R. Tichelaar, PH.D. and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives What if you lived in a world where homosexuality was the norm and all forms of heterosexual behavior were illegal? In the near future the human population has grown to such excess that the earth is no longer able to sustain humanity’s astronomical numbers. Poverty, starvation, and disease are rampant. Only the country of Hadrian seems able to defend itself against the ravages of overpopulation by restricting its growth and encasing its country behind a defensive wall. Procreation does not happen by chance in Hadrian. There are no unwanted pregnancies. No accidents. All pregnancies occur through in vitro fertilization, and every citizen is responsible for rearing one of Hadrian’s children. Heterosexuality is deemed the ill that has led humanity to the brink. In Hadrian, no one dares to express interest in the opposite sex; to do so would result in exile or re-education. Hadrian’s Lover tells the story of Todd Middleton, a teenage boy struggling to keep the secret of his heterosexuality. Read on, and feel with him as he suffers the indignities of a society determined to “cure” him of his plight.

About the author: Patricia Marie Budd is a high school English teacher living in northern Alberta, Canada. She has been a safe zone for her LGBT students throughout her twenty year career. Hadrian’s Lover is her third novel.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I must admit that sci-fi, fantasy stories are not my first choice, but occasionally one comes along that peaks my interest, and Hadrian’s Lover by Patricia Marie Budd [New Generation Publishing, September 10, 2013] is one of them.

This is a ‘what if’ story set sometime in the twenty-second century, and supposes a world in which GBLT individuals rule, and heterosexuals have been declared both deviant and illegal in an independent nation, called, ‘Hadrian.’

In the surrounding world the heterosexual population has screwed itself into a crisis with overcrowding, disease, starvation and chaos, but emerging out of this morass is a sort of Shangri La of balance and proportion—albeit micro managed to the nth degree. However, to belong to it one must be homosexual. Reproduction is allowed, but only selectively and by in vitro fertilization.

The main character of the story is Todd Middleton, a young man who has the misfortune to be born *shock* heterosexual. It is with him that the ‘point’ of the story comes to the fore; for Todd at first tries to conceal his sexuality, and then suffers the same sort of bullying harassment that some homosexual men and women continue to experience today. The difference being, of course, that now the majority has become the minority.

Fantasy stories of this nature are fun to write because the sky’s the limit for imagination; however, it seems the publisher’s and editor’s respective ‘skies’ were a lot lower regarding this story. This raises some issues with me, not to mention the hackles on the back of my neck.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, the definition of child pornography regarding written material is as follows:

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

  •  (b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

  • (c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose,* of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; [Emphasis mine.] *Note the qualification.

It is probably best, therefore, to play it safe by aging your characters 18 years or older, but any publisher or editor (or vendor) who gets squeamish after that, I would personally tell to go pee in their hat. After all, who is writing this novel, you or the publisher, etc.?!

Over all, however, I thought the story was interesting, a bit pedagogical in places (…a occupational habit for teachers), but certainly thought provoking. Three and one-half bees.

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Coming of Age on the TrailI am very happy to announce that I am within ten pages of completing the above manuscript. It has been a long ‘gestation period,’ four and one-half years, but I can say with confidence that it is a unique western genre novel, set in British Columbia, and with a mythological twist. Anticipated release date, March 2013.

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Coming soon – I will be launching a new blog shortly, Authors in Depth, dedicated to introducing new and established authors. This will be a free forum to talk about themselves, their books, and any personal interests and anecdotes they may wish to share. It is open to anyone (and all) with one or more published books to their credit. Authors who are interested can contact me at: gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca 

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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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Hurricane Hazel – Oct. 15 – 16, 1954. Canada’s perfect storm.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

            

      

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank 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.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Homoerotic, Male bisexual | Leave a comment

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men

An unique and fully refreshing story that I think can be enjoyed by anyone who reads it.

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the mingled destinies - coverStory blurb: Minerva True is a River Dweller and mystic who lives deep in the forested hills of a river valley on the fringes of the world. She is the only person who sees the ancient danger that resides on a nearby chapel grounds. Most pay little heed to her warnings, and in the end only a small band of friends stand beside her. A tale of love and duty ensues, challenging the destinies of Minerva, the young hero Leith, his lover Aubrey, and the mute boy, Deverell. Leith’s half-crazed mother Calpurnia has her own aspirations, however, that prove detrimental not only to Minerva, but to everyone she comes in contact with.

About the author: Eric Arvin resides in the same sleepy Indiana river town where he grew up. He graduated from Hanover College with a Bachelors in History. He has lived, for brief periods, in Italy and Australia. He has survived brain surgery and his own loud-mouthed personal demons. Eric is the author of WOKE UP IN A STRANGE PLACE, THE MINGLED DESTINIES OF CROCODILES & MEN, SUBSURDITY, SIMPLE MEN, and various other sundry and not-so-sundry writings. He intends to live the rest of his days with tongue in cheek and eyes set to roam.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Lately I have been ruminating on a trend that has GBLT novels reading like variations on a single, repetitive theme: That is until I came across Eric Arvin’s (…get ready for it) The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men [Wilde City Press, LLC, April 24, 2013].

Now, with a title like that you just know it’s going to be unique, even if it has to dip into the world of fantasy to do it, and so it is with a wonderful romp through mystic times, good v. evil, insidious dark forces (including religion, science and progress), and a prophetess by the name of Minerva.

Then we have a witch-like eccentric—appropriately named ‘Calpernia’—and a loyal vanguard of yeomen: Leith, his lover Aubrey Avonmore, and Deverell.

As you can probably tell, one of the particularly strong points of this novel is the character development, and that includes the names given to each one. It is surprising how a character’s personality can be enhanced by an unique and colourful name, or burdened by the alternative. I mean, “Helen True” just wouldn’t cut it.

The author has also done a superb job of portraying the mystic setting so that it becomes an integral part of the story.  After all, a lost valley in a land far, far away, dripping with ancient mystery and forgotten lore, deserves not to be passed over lightly.

And what fantasy would be complete without an evil villain to hiss at (in your mind, anyway), and in this case it is “Dark Eyes:” a sort of allegory for religion (the destroyer of legend and myth), science, the nemesis of imagination, and progress which has its own agenda. Therefore, every time people turn away from the fantasies of old (youth), Dark Eyes becomes stronger.

There have been some aspects left in abeyance, like the further development of Azrael, in anticipation of the sequel, Azrael and the Light Bringer.

This is an unique and fully refreshing story that I think can be enjoyed by anyone who reads it. Five bees.

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Thank 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.

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In spite of worldwide condemnation, GBLT individuals are still suffering mental and physical abuse in Russia. Please do whatever you can to protest the Sochi 2014 Olympics by boycotting the sponsors: Coca Cola, Samsung, MacDonald’s, Visa, etc. Yours may only be one voice, but if you speak out others will join you.

boycott sponsors

Thank you!

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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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting books as well. Latest post:  Benedict Arnold – A Canadian Connection.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below.Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

            

                       

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September 23, 2013 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay romance, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Greenwode by J Tullos Hennig

A gutsy twist on a major classic that works –

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Greenwode - coverWhen an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also sees whom it will claim: young Rob of Loxley. Rob’s mother and father, a yeoman forester and a wisewoman, have raised Rob and his sister, Marion, under a solemn duty: to take their parents’ places in the Old Religion as the manifestations of the Horned Lord and the Lady Huntress.

But when Gamelyn Boundys, son of a powerful nobleman, is injured in the forest, he and Rob begin a friendship that challenges both duty and ideology: Gamelyn is a devout follower of the Catholic Church. Rob understands the divide between peasant and noble all too well. And the old druid has foreseen that Gamelyn is destined to be Rob’s sworn enemy—to fight in a blood sacrifice for the greenwode’s Maiden.

In a risky bid for happiness, Rob dares the Horned Lord to reinterpret the ancient rites—to allow Rob to take Gamelyn as a lover instead of a rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s church, lust is a sin—and sodomy is unthinkable.

Cover art by Shobana Appavu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

greenwode - druidsTo me 12th-century England was a fascinating time, filled with knights, squires, wizards, and wonderfully mystical religions, all functioning in and around vast, primeval forests where Druids practiced their ancient rites. Of these, the Greenwode, by J Tullos Hennig [Dreamspinner Press, January 18, 2013] is probably best known, i.e. all one has to do is add Rob of Loxley (or “Robin Hood”) to comprehend why.

As such, it is somewhat difficult to categorize this genre. It is mostly fantasy/fiction I suppose, since Robin Hood has never been proven, but otherwise it might be alternative history. Certainly Greenwood Forest and Druids existed, as did priories, convents, and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

The problem I have with previous versions of Robin Hood, mostly created by Hollywood, is their ‘prettification’ of 12th-century England, with turreted castles (15th-century or later), impeccable clothes, and as one Hollywood Robin Hood put it, “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I speak with an English accent,”[1]—albeit, a modern one.

Fortunately, this author has captured a good part of the dark and primitive atmosphere, which was circa-Crusade England, as well as the mix of old and new religions that existed at the time, and this scores well with me. After all, a period novel should be first and foremost true to the period.

I also like the plot, once again because it is consistent with the period. Rob is the son of a respected (yeoman) forester, but at the same time he is more than that. He is, in fact, a ‘crown prince” in the Druid religion—a future manifestation of the ‘Horned God.’

Gamelyn, his unlikely love interest, is the minor son of an earl, and a hidebound Catholic, but it is Rob’s simple nobility that eventually evens the playing field between them. Moreover, it is Rob who has the courage to question the horned god’s interpretation of the future.

This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works. Not only that, but because of the realism, I believe it a step forward. A special mention as well for the absolutely stunning cover art. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,925

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Thank 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!

♥♥♥

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. 


[1] “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.”

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Song of the Loon, by Richard Amory

The ultimate feel-good story – 

Story blurb: “More completely than any author before him, Richard Amory explores the tormented world of love for man by man . . . a happy amalgam of James Fenimore Cooper, Jean Genet and Hudson’s Green Mansions.”—from the cover copy of the 1969 edition

Published well ahead of its time, in 1966 by Greenleaf Classics, Song of the Loon is a romantic novel that tells the story of Ephraim MacIver and his travels through the wilderness. Along his journey, he meets a number of characters who share with him stories, wisdom and homosexual encounters. The most popular erotic gay book of the 1960s and 1970s, Song of the Loon was the inspiration for two sequels, a 1970 film of the same name, at least one porn movie and a parody novel called Fruit of the Loon. Unique among pulp novels of the time, the gay characters in Song of the Loon are strong and romantically drawn, which has earned the book a place in the canon of gay American literature.

With an introduction by Michael Bronski, editor of Pulp Friction and author of The Pleasure Principle.

Little Sister’s Classics is a new series of books from Arsenal Pulp Press, reviving lost and out-of-print gay and lesbian classic books, both fiction and nonfiction. The books in the series are produced in conjunction with Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium, the heroic Vancouver bookstore well-known for its anti-censorship efforts.

Available in e-book format – 483 KB

About the author: Richard Amory was the pen-name for the author Richard Love, who worked out of San Diego. He published five other novels between 1968 and 1971 with Greenleaf Classics and Olympia Press Traveler’s Companion Series.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The so-called “Stonewall Inn Riots” of 1969 are considered the ‘enough-is-enough’ turning point in GLBT relations with the broader public, and the predominantly homophobic officials who policed it. Likewise, in Canada it was the 1982 “Bathhouse Raids[1] that gave rise to the Gay Pride demonstrations. Imagine, therefore, that the Song of the Loon, by Richard Amory [re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press, May 1, 2005] was first published three years before Stonewall, and 16 years before the Bathhouse Raids. That make it a true artefact, and as an unapologetic homoerotic novel, it is also somewhat of a legend.

It is not to say that homoerotic books weren’t available before 1965. They were. However, they were generally badly written, and could only be purchased through P.O. boxes, or from a clandestine bookstores, like the “Glad Day Books” in Toronto, hidden away on the second floor of a non-descript building.

Although I was aware of Song of the Loon, and remember the making of the 1970, motion picture version, starring John Iverson, Morgan Royce and Lancer Ward, I never got around to reading the novel until now. I was struck, therefore, by the amount of sexual content (albeit not as explicitly written as today) and the gutsyness of the both the author and publisher in  publishing it.

The plot and style are noteworthy, as well. Someone has described the style as “pastoral,” and I think this describes it very well. It is evocative of the ‘return to nature’ movement—complete with a cast of noble savages—where man is able to find his inner self in an idyllic setting; and, as one might expect, the characters are all idyllic too, including, to a lesser extent, the villains.

This is not to belittle the story in any way, for I think we have all wished for a Garden of Eden existence where the inhabitants are all hunky and horny, the risks are minimal, and homophobia does not exist.

If you are looking for the ultimate feel good story, you should give this one a try. Enthusiastically recommended. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 31,258

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank 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!

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Have you had any dealings with Fontcraft (a.k.a, Scriptorium)? (http://www.fontcraft.com/fontcraft/#axzz22jaeXIBi)

This is my experience: Three weeks ago I ordered a font online from Fontcraft, for which I paid $18.00, but when it came to downloading it I was sent to a non-functioning URL. [see:http://www.fontcraft.com/download/9e5U4a4Iz3viqEsU/ ]. I wrote to the email address provided, but I have yet to receive an acknowledgement or response. So judge for yourself.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

 Thanks for dropping by. We have passed the 31,000 mark, now lets see if we can double it by this time next year. Yay!


[1] Operation Soap was a raid by the Metropolitan Toronto Police against four gay bathhouses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which took place on February 5, 1981. More than three hundred men were arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canada since the 1970 October crisis,[1] before the record was broken during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton, Alberta.[2]

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series, by Gemma Files

A raw, unapologetically sensuous novel – 

Story blurb: Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West’s most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by “Reverend” Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned “hexslinger,” and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow’s task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook’s power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.

Magicians, cursed by their gift to a solitary and painful existence, have never been more than a footnote in history. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a plan to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world-a plan sealed by an unholy marriage-oath with the goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men. To accomplish this, he must raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and Apotheosis.

Caught between a passel of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook’s witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow’s only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess’s fate comes clear-the doom written for him, and the entire world.

Available in e-book format – 459 KB.

About the author: Previously best-known as a film critic for Toronto’s eye Weekly, teacher and screenwriter, Gemma Files first broke onto the international horror scene when her story “The Emperor’s Old Bones” won the 1999 International Horror Guild award for Best Short Fiction. She is the author of two collections of short work (Kissing Carrionand The Worm in Every Heart) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under Night andDust Radio).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I generally bypass sci-fi and supernatural-type genres, but since my forthcoming novel includes both a western and an underlying supernatural theme, I thought I would see how Gemma File approached these in A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series [ChiZine Publications; First edition, 2010].

Suffice to say the two novels are very different, inasmuch as Ms File has pulled out all the stops on the supernatural end of the things, and just about everything else in the process. She has, in fact, written a tour de force in imagination, violence, bloodshed, gore, and raunchiness, that is both shocking and mesmerizing at the same time. I hasten to add that all these elements are in keeping with the shadowy nature of the story, but by the same token they are not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

The story is set at the end of the Civil War when two men are sentenced to death for killing a deranged Confederate Captain from leading a suicide charge against the other side. One is Asher Rook, a preacher, who is hanged, but in so doing it releases a magical power within him known as a “hex.”

His partner (and lover), Chess Pargeter, a cold-blooded gunslinger who kills with the same impunity that one would dispatch a fly.

The third principal player, from whose perspective the story is told, is an undercover Pinkerton Agent, Ed Morrow, charged with the task of infiltrating Rook’s gang to learn the extent of Rook’s powers so that it can be analyzed.
The emergence of Rook as a “Hexslinger” catches the attention of Ixchel an ancient Aztec goddess (described in the blurb as “mother of all hanged men”) who wishes to return to the world along with some of her pantheon. I have some problem with this characterization of Ixchel, because in the several sources I checked she is described as “the goddess of midwifery and medicine.” Though sometimes depicted as a goddess of catastrophe (the woman who stands by as the world floods), she is more often depicted as nurturing. Therefore, unless I am missing something, this is a significant contradiction of personalities.

As I have already mentioned, this is an ‘all out’ novel. There are no half measures regarding profane language, sex, guts and gore, but the saving grace—from being just a gratuitous shocker—is the strong characterization. Thus, the bloodshed seems entirely in keeping with the personalities involved. This is enhanced, as well, by the skilful use of a vernacular that gives the characters extra depth.

The noticeable shortcomings are the backhistory of Mayan gods and cosmology, which for me was too onerous to grasp even superficially; the switching between the present and past contexts; and the resulting, erratic pace.

Otherwise it is a bold, unapologetically adventurous story that you will have to judge for yourself. Three bees.

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Thanks to everyone who voted for Gerry B’s Book Reviews in the Independent Book Blogger Awards … Luv each and everyone of you!

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 24,638

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Meet the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

Norman Lee’s legendary cattle drive is the true-life inspiration for this story. In 1898, Lee set out to drive 200 head of cattle from his home in Hanceville, British Columbia (the so-called “settlement” in the story), to the Klondike goldfields – a distance of 1,500 miles. He was gambling both his cattle and his life. Throughout the daunting weeks of coping with mud, cold and sheer bad luck, Lee kept his sense of humour. When he returned from his Yukon trek, he rewrote the notes from his journal, illustrating his story with his own cartoons and sketches. He completed his manuscript around the turn of the century, but it sat untouched until 1960.

Click on image to enlarge.

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world!

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

        

Thanks for dropping by. See you next week!

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

Merlin-444, by Rejean Giguere

An ambitious concept that doesn’t quite fly

Story Blurb: In small town Saskatchewan Bobby Morrison is trying to piece his life back together. Losing a father has stopped him and his mother dead still. The only thing he has going for him is his Hot Rod.

Bobby’s need for speed rips him out of his small town life and thrusts him headlong into the past. He takes on the power and history of the Rolls Royce Merlin. The ensuing insanity hurls him into the Battles of Britain, the Atlantic and the Pacific. When the past presents a mission, can he complete it? Can he find his way?

About the author: Rejean Giguere is an avid outdoorsman, adventurer, photographer and artist. He enjoys fishing, hockey, golf, tennis, skiing and snowmobiling, his V-Max

motorcycle and vintage Corvette. He grew up in Canada and Europe, and enjoyed a business career in Toronto and Ottawa.

Available in e-book format – 266KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I first came across Merlin-444 by Rejean Giguere [Smashwords, 2011], two things attracted me to it; i.e. it is a Canadian story by a Canadian author, and secondly it features the legendary Merlin engine and the Battle of Britain. It is not to suggest there aren’t lots of good Canadian authors to choose from, many I have reviewed (like Cynthia Faryon, and Tom Douglas), but the combination was the clincher.

The concept is a complex one—one might even say, “daunting.” The main protagonist, Bobby Morrison, is a likeable teenager with small town values, which include foregoing his own interest to look after his mother in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan (population 610). Like most small towns life is slow-paced, and so Bobby occupies his time pumping gas and working on his suped up ’77 Camaro.

His boss—and second protagonist—is an “old guy” [sic] known only as “Mr. G,” who seems to operate the service station more as a hobby than a business. Therefore Bobby is pretty well free to tinker with his hot rod.

His nemesis, known as “Digger,” owns a hot rod too, plus an obnoxious ego to go along with it. He is also dating Suzanne, Bobby’s secret love interest. However, this story is not intended as a romance, so Suzanne and Digger are mostly sub-plot overlaid by the preponderating action.

The real story begins when Mr. G suggests they put a Rolls Royce, Merlin engine, in the garage truck—which is quite a feat considering the Merlin V12 engine packed an amazing 1,470 hp (1,096 kW).

Even more incredible is when Bobby first fires it up and experiences some sort of time warp, by which he is transported back in time to the cockpit of a Spitfire. Moreover, he is the midst of a dogfight as part of the Battle of Britain (1940).

More such ‘flights’ were to follow, during which we learn for whom and for what reason he is being mysteriously called back in time, and the answer is quite poignant—not quite a tear-jerker, but satisfying.

My observations

The cross-over nature of this story—i.e. young adult-cum-historical fiction-cum-fantasy—would be enough to give any writer grey hairs just thinking about it, and so I think this author has given himself a fairly tough row to hoe from the start. In fact, I think he may have over extended himself to tackle it in the first place.

It is not to say that there aren’t some very nicely written parts. The dog fights for example are particularly intense, and the author’s straight forward style suits this sort of action, but overall I felt the story was rushed without regard to development. Instead, characters were unexpectedly introduced with chunks of information to cobble it together.

There are also some issues with repetitive phrases that stood out like stumbling blocks in places. For example:

Jumping up he ran to the truck squinting, shielding his eyes. As the light and noise finally settled, the dust floated to the floor of the cab. He yanked open the door and pulled the kid out, dragging him to a chair. God, he took in a quick breath, there was blood on the kid’s shoulder. 

The kid was alive, but sure seemed drained. He watched carefully as Bobby slowly came to. He saw the distant look in his eyes, while he watched the kid get his bearings back. 

Finally the kid looked up, shaking his head, “Incredible Mr. G.. Out of this world.” P.52

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I realize that this isn’t a particularly favourable review at first blush, but hopefully it will make for one in the future. There is enough good about this story to suggest it. Two and one-half bees.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,527

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Congratulations to Jackie Dupuis: Jackie won ‘Runner-up travel story 2011’ with her short story “Captive in Cuba.” To read all about it, click here.

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GLBT Writers Group: You are invited to join our intimate little group of supportive writers on Linkedin. Let us know what you have written, or are currently writing, and get feedback on a variety of questions—including excerpts. Drop by for a look-see: GLBT Writers Group.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by!

January 22, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT | 4 Comments

The King Must Die, by Mary Renault

A classic novel by a legendary writer in the gay genre.

Story blurb: The story of the mythical hero Theseus, slayer of monsters, abductor of princesses and king of Athens. He emerges from these pages as a clearly defined personality; brave, aggressive and quick. The core of the story is Theseus’ Cretan adventure.

Available in e-book format

About the author: Mary Renault was born at Dacre Lodge, 49 Plashet Road, Forest Gate, Essex, (now in London), Renault was educated at St Hugh’s College of Oxford University, then an all-women’s college, receiving an undergraduate degree in English in 1928. In 1933, she began training as a nurse at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary. During her training, she met Julie Mullard, a fellow nurse with whom she established a life-long romantic relationship.

She worked as a nurse while beginning a writing career, treating Dunkirk evacuees at the Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol, and working in Radcliffe Infirmary’s brain surgery ward until 1945. She published her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939; it had a contemporary setting, like her other early novels, which novelist Linda Proud described as “a strange combination of Platonism and hospital romance”. Her 1943 novel The Friendly Young Ladies, about a lesbian relationship between a writer and a nurse, seems inspired by her own relationship with Miss Mullard.

In 1948, after her novel Return to Night won a MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard emigrated to South Africa, where they remained for the rest of their lives. There, according to Proud, they found a community of gay expatriates who had “escaped the repressive attitudes towards homosexuality in Britain for the comparatively liberal atmosphere of Durban…. Mary and Julie found themselves able to set up home together in this new land without causing the outrage they had sometimes provoked at home. (Renault and Mullard were critical of the less liberal aspects of their new home, participating in the Black Sash movement against apartheid in the 1950s.)

Mary Renault died at Cape Town, South Africa, on 13 December 1983. – Wikipedia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The name Mary Renault is almost iconic in my past, for her Nature of Alexander (1975) was the first book that dealt with homosexuality I had ever found, and as such it was like finding the Holy Grail. This was quickly followed by Fire From Heaven (1969) and The Persian Boy (1972), and just about anything I could get my hands on that had Mary Renault’s name on it.

The King Must Die [Vintage, 1988 (originally published by Pantheon Books, 1958)] was somewhere in there, so re-reading this classic was like a pilgrimage back in time.

It is probably the most main-stream of Renault’s books, at least the ones I have read. Like most classical Greek characters Theseus is capable of deep love for his comrades, but unlike most it doesn’t extend to sex. Given the tenor of the times, however, this is quite understandable if it was to be published at all.

The story more-or-less follows Theseus’ heroic rescue of the enslaved Greek youths from Crete and the mythical Minotaur, but Renault has avoided a mere repetition by adhering to what could be archaeologically supported. Nonetheless, it still retains the marvellously exotic and colourful nuances of the myth by its inclusion of gods, goddesses and witches.

Moreover, by humanizing the mythical elements—his acquiring the bona fide kingship of Eleusis, becoming identified as the son and heir of the king of Athens, and especially the humanizing of the Minotaur as Asterion, the sinister and power-hungry son of Minos (king of Crete)—she has made it all seem plausible.

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I believe the two things I admire most about Renault’s writing is her character development, and the way she weaves the various elements together into a seamless whole. For example, this story takes Perseus from his childhood through five stages of his life, each a complex story in itself, and yet it never loses the central thread from beginning to end. That is the signature of a masterful writer, and which made Renault a legend in her own time.

This novel is not for those who are looking for explicitly gay content, and certainly not erotica of any kind, but if you admire a well-told story in the classical-style, this tale is for you. Five bees.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,102

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GLBT Writers Group: You are invited to join our intimate little group of supportive writers on Linkedin. Let us know what you have written, or are currently writing, and get feedback on a variety of questions—including excerpts. Drop by for a look-see: GLBT Writers Group.

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I have put together a gallery of interesting, vintage photographs relating to my up-coming novel Coming of Age on the Trail. Many of these images date from the late 1800s, and are of interest in their own right. To view this gallery go to:  http://www.gerryburniebooks.net/COAPhotos.htm

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

Thank’s for dropping by!

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

From Afar, by Ava March

A cleverly conceived story, capably written and well worth a read.

Story blurb: Some rules are destined to be broken.

Loneliness. A concept with which Raphael Laurent is very familiar. He’s lived a solitary life for thirty-six years, shunning the excesses of the local vampire clan—until he spots Lord Aleric Vane, the handsome and dissolute third son of a duke. For three years Raphael has watched from a distance, for only when he is near Aleric does the hollow, empty ache in his chest ease.

Cut off from his family for refusing to follow his father’s dictates, Aleric’s nights are filled with vice. But after three years in London, the city has lost all appeal. Desolate and penniless, his future appears bleak. Until a mysterious man drops from the shadows to drive off a trio of murderous thieves.

When Aleric awakens, he finds himself forever changed. The itch for more that drove him to London is gone. In its place is the feeling that he’s known the beautiful Raphael all his life.

But to save Aleric, Raphael had to break the rules, giving him a chance to love the one man he never thought he could have—a chance that could be ripped away by Aleric himself…

Warning: This book contains hot m/m action with a new vampire with a ramped up sex drive, and a dash of voyeurism of the m/m, m/f, and m/m/m varieties. Definitely not your traditional Regency romance.

*Available in e-book format – 396 KB

Review by Gerry Burnie

Since my last couple of reviews have dealt with non-GLBT books I thought it was time I should get back to the mainstream of Gerry B’s Book Reviews. Ava March’s novella From Afar [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010] is one of the books that has been languishing on my TBR list, and so I happily turned to it this week.

This is one of those crossover stories featuring vampires that seem to be popular these days. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, and to date no one has been able to provide a definitive answer, but that is a discussion for another day and forum.

This story is set in Regency England, and features a young vampire by the name of Raphael. At the opening of the tale we find Raphael up a tree spying on a libertine lord (Aleric) at play with a prostitute—something that Raphael has apparently watched more than once. The truth is that Raphael is infatuated with Aleric, but given his (Raphael’s) inhuman characteristics a full-fledged relationship is an impossibility.

However, circumstances change when Aleric is critically wounded in a mugging, and rather than see his unconscious love die Raphael gives him the bite of ‘everlasting life’ as a vampire, but since it is without Aleric’s consent the question is how will he react when he regains consciousness?

To give him his due Raphael’s love is genuine, for he goes to great lengths to revive his “lover,” and when he does he is rewarded by a compliant Aleric. The reality is the Aleric is a lord in name only, and is otherwise destitute. Moreover, he had always been more than just a bit bi-curious, and so there follows quite a charming ‘getting-to-know-you’ segment in which Aleric learns the dos-and-don’ts of being a vampire.

The tension in the story is provided by a dominant clan of vampires under the control of a female who, rather awkwardly, develops an attraction to Aleric, and while she can’t destroy Raphael she can cause serious and grave difficulties for both him and Aleric.

It is a cleverly conceived story, capably written and well worth a read, but it is also a little incredulous in places. For one thing I found Aleric’s acceptance and adjustment to his new life a bit too ready, and the ending seemed truncated for what needed to be resolved. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 18,791

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Visit my 2011 year in review. See the top five ‘most viewed’ book reviews of 2011, plus other interesting stats.

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While I am in Florida I maintain a regular blog report on Gerry Burnie Books – My blog. It’s an eclectic newsletter about what is happening in my life, and some of the interesting sights around St. Augustine.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

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January 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

A scholarly tale of pathos, romance, and adventure

Story blurb: An adventure like no other. Two Sacred Bands, united for the first time. The Sacred Band of Thebes lives on, a world away, in this mythic novel of love in war in ancient times. In 338 BCE, during the Battle of Chaeronea that results in the massacre of the Sacred Band of Thebes, the legendary Tempus and his Stepson cavalry rescue twenty-three pairs of Theban Sacred Banders, paired lovers and friends, to fight on other days. These forty-six Thebans, whose bones will never lie in the mass grave that holds their two hundred and fifty-four brothers, join with the immortalized Tempus and his Sacred Band of Stepsons, consummate ancient cavalry fighters, to make new lives in a faraway land and fight the battle of their dreams where gods walk the earth, ghosts take the field, and the angry Fates demand their due.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

This is another book purchased from Amazon.com’s ‘Gay Historical   Fiction’ list, but apart from a few vague references to homosexuality it is   not a GLBT story.

At 570 pages (929 KB) The Sacred Band (Sacred Band of Stepsons) by Janet Morris and Chris Morris [Paradise Publishing, 2010] is an epic tale of heroes, gods, and demigods. I also understand that it is a continuation of a series, but it is the first I have read.

There are a number of good things to be said about this story. The evidence of major research stands out first and foremost. This was a time when every life force was governed by some god or goddess, major or minor, and to sort all these out is no slight task. I did, however, have some questions about weaponry—particularly cross bows and throwing stars in the third century BC. It is true that the authors did admit some anachronisms here, but for me these took me outside the time frame.

The plot is also well constructed, with drama, romance, pathos and destruction, woven together in a compelling and interesting way.

The journalism is of a high order as well, but here we begin to experience some difficulties. Technically it is good but convoluted by an overabundance of esoteric description; so much so that I found myself skimming over paragraphs, even pages, to get to the next point.

Individually the characters were both distinct and interesting, but collectively (by name) they were overwhelming. This was made even more mind-boggling by the fact that many of these had two or three names used interchangeably, i.e. Tempus/Riddler/Avatar; Nikodemus, Niko, Swift; and so on.

However, for me the most critical shortcoming was a book of 570 pages in length, involving the Sacred Band of Thebes, and not once did it mention same-sex sex by name or practice. Indeed, the only time when one male character makes a brief pass at another—in a whore house—it was treated with something like, “I’m not that way.”

Recmmended for the good points mentioned. Two and one-half Bees.

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Are you going to be in St. Augustine, Fla, between December 1st, 2011 and April 1st, 2012, if so drop by and have a visit. Just drop a line to gerry@gerryburniebooks.com beforehand, and I’ll have a cool one waiting for you.

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To purchase any of my books, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Nook and Kindle formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

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November 27, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Dreaming Sparta, by Richard Favio

A bold and interesting premise.

 

 

Story blurb: In ancient Greece, Demetrios trains to become a Spartan soldier but grows depressed over the loss of his mentor, Andreas. His desire for them to retain their monogamous relationship is overcome by Lysandra’s devious attempts to have Andreas fulfill his duty as her betrothed.

In present day New York, Andrew’s life is in shambles when his father threatens to evict him for being gay.

When, Andrew stumbles into Demetrios’ world through a dream portal, their encounters provide each with the incentive to confront their demons … together.

Cover design: J.M. Snyder, with photography by: Vulkanette, Frenk and Danielle Kaufmann, and Igor Kovalchuk.

Available in eBook format – 197 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Richard Favio has an extensive résumé of literary reviews, short fiction and poetry, and I understand that Dreaming Sparta [JMS Books LLC, 2011] is his second novella.

The premise is an interesting one, whereby two pairs of soul-mates—Demetrios and Andreas from Ancient Sparta, and Andrew and Demetri from modern-day New York—somehow intersect spiritually across the continuum of time. Right there we have almost endless possibilities of contrast and comparison, some of which the author exploits quite nicely.

Andreas and Demetrios are erastes and eromenos, a mentoring and hands-on relationship that was accepted and encouraged for the benefits to society and the state. For example, the erastes (mentor) taught his young lover (eromenos) the proper etiquette and duties of a citizen. Indeed, it is believed by some that Spartan militarism and the well-being of the state depended on sexual love between men, i.e.:

“Older men chose young male lovers. There was no real age of consent in ancient Sparta. Childhood innocence had no meaning in the warrior state. All aspects of the life cycle were subjoined to the aim of making soldiers fit for war and the preservation of the common weal. Its practice was such an integral part of Spartan life that Plutarch writes: “By the time they were come to this age (twelve years old) there was not any of the more hopeful boys who had not a lover to bear him company.” Without a realization of the profound male love relations that animated it, no understanding of Spartan society is possible. Sparta was a homosexual state by law.”Sex and History” a blog by Stanley Pacion.

However, once a certain age had been achieved it was expected—for the benefit of the state—that these would marry and procreate. Nonetheless, this was, once again, a mere extension of underlying male-oriented society, i.e.:

“Though encouraged into homosexuality from youth and conditioned to it by the institutions in which he lived, the law nonetheless required him to marry. Lycurgus [the legendary founder or Sparta] not only excluded bachelors from participation in the greatly appreciated naked processions of women, but also prescribed, “…in wintertime, the officers compelled them [the bachelors] to march naked themselves round the market-place, singing as they went a certain song to their own disgrace, that they justly suffered this punishment for disobeying the laws. Moreover, they were denied that respect and observance which the men paid their elders.” The need for children as well as the preservation of duty to the state inspired this contradictory legislation for Sparta.” Ibid.

The wedding night, as described by both Favio and Pancion, appears to leave a lot to be desired by modern standards:

“The wedding night also fell under the jurisdiction of Lycurgus’ legislation. In a tender passage Plutarch describes the legally prescribed ritual of consummation in Spartan society: “… she who superintended the wedding comes and clips the hair of the bride close around her head, dresses her up in mans’ clothes, and leaves her upon a mattress in the dark; afterwards comes the bridegroom, in his every-day clothes, sober and composed as having supped at the common table, and, entering privately into the room where the bride lies, unites her virgin zone, and takes her to himself; and after staying some time together, he returns composedly to his own apartment, to sleep as usual with the other young men.”” Ibid.

On the other hand, Andrew and Demetri are just discovering their attraction to one another; an attraction that is frowned upon by society (as represented by Andrew’s father), and erstwhile by the state.

Modern technology was a source of contrast explored by the author, making for some humorous observations on the part of a visiting Demetrious.

Nevertheless, for me there were a number of shortcomings. The first is that I never did catch the reason that Andrew was ‘dream-transported’ back to Sparta in the first place. Perhaps it was there and I missed it, but it was a question that stuck in my mind throughout.[1] Secondly, as pointed out by Stanley Pacion, there were some very well established and interesting reasons for Andreas and Demetrios’ loving relationship, and although these are alluded to in Dreaming Sparta, I felt they could have been further developed.

That said, Dreaming Sparta is an interesting concept, and the author does include some interesting details regarding Sparta, so it is well worth the price. Three and one-half Gerry Bees.


[1] Since I am using the same scenario in my next novel (i.e. spiritual connectedness), I was especially interested to see how the author dealt with it.

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November 6, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, Military history | Leave a comment

Symbiota Sapiens, by P.T. Dean

A tour de force of imagination

Story blurb: This is the story of Jeremey, a young man who is chosen by an ancient society to join their ranks to guide humanity to its destiny. Ancient technology and enhancements in his body can make him powerful, and immortal…but his new duties will require him to leave his friend Julian to fend for himself.

What happens when Jeremey and Julian run away from thefuture that has been planned for them? And what happens when other, less idealistic immortals take notice of Jeremey and begin making plans of their own?

This fanciful tale explores the nature of love, loyalty, and human nature as the two are caught between two factions in a silent struggle for the future of humankind. As they run, each time they fight for each other’s lives, they discover a deeper truth about their love for each other.

Available in Kindle format – 580 KB

About the author: P.T. Dean has a long established interest in speculative fiction, with a particular weakness for epic tales that wind several intricate plot lines together. Since coming out of the closet his stories have pulled on the paranoia and fear of his past, but also on the emotional richness of his own relationship. His romantic subplots also draw from his personal experience, and have covered a spectrum from overt heterosexuality with homoerotic overtones to explicit same-sex passion. His rule of thumb is that every character, no matter how minor, is the protagonist of some novel somewhere. A little piece of that novel should show through whenever that character makes an appearance. Even the villains are the hero from their own perspective – if you hadn’t already fallen in love with the protagonist, you might want the villain to win instead. Bibrary Book Lust

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Review by Gerry Burnie

“Symbiota Sapiens” [Amazon Digital Services, 2011] is the epic debut novel of author P.T. Dean. It is an ambitious work to cut one’s teeth on, but Dean does a remarkable job of just that with only a few exceptions.

The story line is a complex one, almost as if the author was challenging himself, but I never had a problem following it throughout. He also uses some literary devices I have never come across before, i.e. the use of italics, bold face and regular type, to differentiate between the various voices. It is an unorthodox method—at least it is to me—but it worked.

The premise is that Jeremy has been chosen by a mysterious clan of ‘immortals’, survivors of the lost city of Atlantis, who style themselves “Guardians.” It is never made quite clear why Jeremy is chosen, but this is only a minor issue. Jeremy is then told that he must divest himself from all mortal connections, including his orphaned step-brother, Julian. However, having been Julian’s de facto guardian for several years, Jeremy refuses to do this and they both run away to New York.

The Guardians also have counterparts, known as the “Fallen”, who possess the same powers as the Guardians but use it for cross purposes. Jeremy and Julian find this out when they encounter the leader of this faction, a smooth-talking but sinister character by the name of Damion, and only escape with the help of the Guardians. However, they are then pursued by Damion’s minions, zombie-like characters called “autonoids”, who are trying to get at Jeremy through Julian.

P.T. Dean also unfolds a fantasmagorical array of technological gadgetry, including a super computer known as an “A1” that operates both internally and externally inside Jeremy’s head. It is also assisted by a veritable host of microscopic “caretakers” known as “Esserons”, that can cure any ailment or injury that befalls him.

In that regard, this story challenges the 1970s all-time zany “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. However, while Hitchhiker’s Guide was written as a spoof, “Symbiota Sapiens is a serious adventure and love story with zany overtones.

Journalistically the writing is solid throughout, and Dean’s handling of some very complex scenarios is masterful. However, there are some continuity problems. For example, in one scene Julian is kidnapped by a pair of autonoids using a stun gun. At the time Julian had been using his laptop computer in a cyber-café, and when Jeremy finds him missing he immediately takes off in hot pursuit, rescuing Julian and running (at a record pace) until they are well away from the area. They then take a hotel room where Julian continues to work on his computer. However, as far as the reader knows it is still back at the cyber café.

This oversight didn’t interfere with the over all enjoyment of the story, but I can’t call it perfect, either. I can recommend it as a highly original story, though, and if you are a sci-fi fan I think that you will enjoy this one. Four Gerry Bees.

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I have added three, newly discovered vintage photographs to my Coming of Age on the Trail, Related Photos site. These are photos from the 1890s era that illustrate various aspects of the story, along with a description. These photos are of interest in their own right. Check it out.

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October 16, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Mordred, Bastard Son, by Douglas Clegg

An audaciously innovative take on an old chestnut!

Publisher’s blurb: A young monk becomes enthralled by the story that a wounded, mysterious prisoner in his care begins to tell. That prisoner is Mordred, the traditional villain of Arthurian legend, and his story is one of ambition, power, and betrayal. Here, Mordred recounts his own conflicted feelings toward the father who betrayed him, and his passionate love affair with a knight in King Arthur’s court. From his birth into his youth, Mordred’s soul is forged by the great forces of Camelot, and of the shadow-legend of a father who has sought the death of his only son.

About the author: Douglas Clegg’s first novel was published in 1989 by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books — launching Clegg’s career as a novelist. He  began writing a book a year, as well as dozens of short stories. His novels and stories explore the nature of evil, whether in his horror fiction, psychological thrillers or fantasy fiction. His fiction-writing career currently spans more than 20 years of constant writing and publication.

He has won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the Shocker Award

Review by Gerry Burnie

Like millions of others around the world, I have always been—well, for seventy-five years, anyway—a fan of the Arthurian legend and the outrageously fictional  Camelot. Moreover, I suppose I could say that during that time I have been brainwashed into believing that the ‘bastard son,’ Mordred, was the worm in the  apple. Imagine the audacity of Douglas Clegg, therefore, to challenge that idea with his revisionist novel Mordred, Bastard Son [Aylson Books, 2007].

However, that’s the fun of writing a story about a story; there’s always the other side, and after 600 years I suppose Mordred was due for some favourable press.

Judging from the reviews, it seems that a lot of other people had the same difficulty adjusting to this radical idea as well. It is a story that you either like or  not, but having said that: I liked it. In my opinion it is a tour-de-force of fantasy, and although I had difficulty grasping the story at first, once I got into it I was hooked.

The difficulty, I think, is with the myriad of gods and goddesses, plus Celtic festivals, i.e. Beltane and Samhain (pronounced “sah-vwin,” by the way) that must be  introduced in the first chapter, and this is quite a mouthful to digest all at once. Also the transition between the third-person opening, and the first person  flashback was a bit awkward. However, as I have already said, once I got passed this the rest of the story ultimately made up for it.

There are some quite interesting innovations, too. For example, the idea that Arthur raped his half sister, Morgan-of-the-Fay, runs amok with the Arthurian legend built upon his infallible character. Likewise, the idea that Arthur ‘stole’ the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake doesn’t exactly show his good side. Nevertheless, Mordred is divided in his feelings (at least in this first book of the series) toward his father—hate, on one hand, and an odd sort of affinity on the other.

Morgan le Fay remains Morgana, darkly beautiful with sinister edges, although she is unusually cast as a victim in this story. The ‘heavy’ on the distaff side is her sister  Morgause, who turns into something of a ‘Malificent’ [Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”] in the latter part of the story. In fact these two, plus Viviane (the “crone”)  makes the society within which Mordred is raised a sort of matriarchracy.

On the other hand there is Merlin who, as in all of his other reincarnations, is timeless. He is also omniscient, and having apparently given up on Arthur, has  taken Mordred under his wing as a student of the “magick.” This sort of thing opens the doors wide to a flight of fancy, and Clegg takes full advantage of it;  a real virtuoso rendering of imagination if ever there was one. Principally however, Merlin teaches Mordred the art of “ravelling” and “unravelling” (the mentally
sharing of memories, feelings, etc., with another, and, of course, retrieving memories in the same manner). Also, “vesseling,” i.e. mental telepathy–sort of the cell phone of Arthurian times.

Another departure from traditional Arthurian legend is found in Clegg’s depiction of Lancelot as a hermit, and also gay—or at least bisexual. In one version of  Arthur, however, Lancelot is deceived by the Fisher King’s daughter into thinking that she is Guinevere, and the resulting liaison results in another bastard, i.e. Galahad. Hearing of this, Guinevere banishes Lancelot, and he is said to have lost his wits and wandered in the wilderness. So, perhaps the hermit characterization is not so removed from the original.

Apart from these innovations, one of the most refreshing departures from the usual GLBT story for me is that, while it is a sexy enough, there is not one really explicit  sex scene throughout. It is therefore a love story between men that relies on sentiment and plot to make it happen. Bravo! Five stars.

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Progress on the rewrites to Coming of Age on the Trail – 107/178 pages.

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Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now #3 out of 66,000 books on the Barnes & Noble “Romantic Fiction” list. In addition, it and Two Irish Lads are in the top 5 of several lists on Goodreads.

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September 25, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

Moral Authority, by Jacob Z. Flores

My nomination for the most outstanding debut novel of the year!

This is a re—release (May 22, 2013). It is not yet available on Amazon, but copies can be obtained through Wilde City Press.

moral authority - coverStory blurb: In the year 2050, America has changed. Profoundly. Homosexuality is a crime, cursing in public is a punishable offense, and lifestyle legislation keeps American citizens on a prescribed moral path. The country lives in a Moral Age, all thanks to The Moral Authority, the nation’s fourth branch of government, which has held dominion for the past thirty-five years. Yet the Moral Age comes at a price. Americans either live like mindless cattle or in fear. Told from three points of view, Mark, the brash young hero, who finds true love in the most desolate of places; Isaac, the renegade, who searches for redemption, and Samuel the dictatorial megalomaniac intent on maintaining his power, Moral Authority exposes what happens to a nation that continues to restrict, instead of broadening, civil rights.

About the author: Jacob Z. Flores lives with Bruce, his partner of eight years, and their three children, Pilar, Ainsley, and Carson in Victoria, Texas. Jacob is also a Professor of English at Victoria College.

*Available in paperback from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

“Moral Authority” [Wilde City Press, May 22, 2013] is author Jacob Z. Flores’ debut novel, and what a debut it is! Flores has conceived a dystopian plot every bit as prophetic and sinister as George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” except that in this case the unforgiving focus is on homosexuality as the ‘thought crime’ and homosexuals as the prescribed enemies of ‘the common good’. Therefore, my hat goes off to him for having tackled (successfully in my opinion) a demanding literary challenge of this complexity so early in his career.

The story centres on Mark Bryon, a quite average graduate student who in ordinary circumstances wouldn’t attract any undue attention apart from being young and attractive. However these are not “ordinary” times when every move, both public and private, is subject to scrutiny by those who have voluntarily subjected themselves to a morally-incorrupt, corrupt state: i.e. “The Moral Authority.” Therefore, there is a very Orwellian tone throughout, including a ‘Big Brother’ in the person of Samuel Pleasant, ‘Newspeak,” and the subjugation of free thought.

There are also the usual twin pillars that form the basis of most fascist regimes, e.g. a simplistic reason for being, and a perceived enemy—both within and without. For example:

According to Randy Gonzales, over the past thirty-five years the United States managed to save itself from moral corruption because of the newest branch of our nation’s government. Since its inception by President Sarah Palin in 2014 and the constitutional amendment she and the Republican majority helped pass the following year, the moral downslide the country experienced then had not only been halted but come about at least 180 degrees. Gone were the days of media violence and pornography. All illegal drugs and associated crimes had been virtually eliminated. Murder, rape, gang violence, thefts, domestic crimes, prostitution, and even vandalism accounted for less than 10% of the overall crime rate in the entire nation. As a result, communities within the United States enjoyed a golden age. 14

And the perceive enemy:

Constitutional amendments and which all had their origins from within the Moral Authority, freed this country from such unhealthy lifestyle choices that caused many health and societal problems, such as homosexuality, obesity, smoking, alcoholism, and even profanity. To commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary, the Supreme High Chancellor of the Moral Authority, Samuel Pleasant, planned to address the nation the following week. Speculations already abounded that Supreme High Chancellor Pleasant intended to unveil further social legislation to better streamline this nation’s morality. This came about due to recent attacks against moral law instigated by a group of domestic terrorists calling themselves the Human Rights Campaign.  15 [Emphasis mine].

The story then builds on this theme, and as it progresses the plot gets darker and darker in very much the same fashion as totalitarian states rule by edict and the point of a gun. However, at no time does the author push any of this over the top so that credibility is strained. Even in the latter parts of the story when the Moral Authority’s “K3s” are at their cruelest (i.e KKK, the equivalent of the Nazi’s SS elite guard), the reader is never caused to doubt that it could happen.

Along the way, however, the author does make some cogent observations in the context of the narrative, i.e.

According to Mark’s research, the number of Americans cited with violations of the moral code of respect had risen in many major U.S. cities. The manpower and resources alone used to enforce such petty violations could be better redirected to rehabilitating offenders who committed more egregious crimes in the nation, 33

which is a point that applies beyond this fiction to real life. I might add, as well, that the hidden cost of every law—large or small—that is made and enforced is a diminution of our civil liberties. I think this is the message to be gained from this story.

On the other hand, I think I could be tempted to accept a law that restricted unruly children in restaurants, i.e.

The mother and father looked exhausted, and he could see why. Their two preschool aged boys were in the middle of a pretend sword fight with their chopsticks as stand in swords. Obviously, there were no moral officers here as the parents would certainly be in violation of the code of respect concerning the appropriate behavior of children in public. 35 [Emphasis mine].

Altogether this is an engrossing story from beginning to end, a real page-turner and superbly written. I nominate Moral Authority by Jacob Z. Flores as the most outstanding debut novel of the year. Five Stars.

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September 4, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Homoerotic | 5 Comments

   

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