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Shroud

Shroud

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Hey you, please log in! I am also at Dooyoo and Epinions, and variations of my reviews may also be found there :P I am a freelance author and pro reviewer of manga, light novels, and Korean manwha. Find me at my blog, The Kimi Chan Experience!

Reviews written

since 16/08/2001

390

One Small Thing - Piper Vaughn 13/11/2012

It's the Little Things That Matter

One Small Thing - Piper Vaughn I have to admit I'm a sap for books featuring a guy with a kid. So when this offering from Dreamspinner came up, I simply HAD to read it. Rue is working hard at a local gay bar, paying his way through cosmetology school. He longs to get out of his podunk town and go to California. He's got an acquaintance out there that he'd not only once burned the sheets up with, but who works with some big names and is eagerly trying to find him a space in the industry. Then a mistake Rue made comes back to haunt him. It seems that Rue one night decided to get rather drunk, and while inebriated, decided to see if he was all the way gay or part straight. In the way that oddball shenanigans often happen while drunk, he came up with the idea to prove his gayness by trying to have sex with a woman, and so, still drunk, he picked up a chick and did the deed. Only a few months later, she's contacting him again, to ask him if he wants the baby she's going to have or should she just put it up for adoption. And so, the stork makes a rather unscheduled and unplanned delivery to Rue. Rue falls in love with his daughter and wants the world for her. Sadly, he's still working at the bar and trying to graduate while angling for that lucrative job in California, so he needs cheap but top notch childcare. He finds that ANY childcare can be hard to come by, and the sort of care he insists on practically impossible within his budget. Until his desperation leads him to his work at home neighbour that ...

Play It Again, Charlie - R. Cooper 12/10/2012

Becoming His Bogart

Play It Again, Charlie - R. Cooper Charlie is not only acting as manager/custodian for the apartments that his grandmother owns, he also lives there. After coming home from his day job of teaching justice related courses at the local community college, he's often tired and aching. This doesn't stop him from noticing what goes on about him at the complex however, and so he encounters one very unusual young man who appears to be staying at the apartment of a photographer that Charlie knows quite well for his exhibitionism. The young man in question seems irrepressible. Will is always quoting old movies, and has his hair is always different. He takes on a fascination with Charlie, and it doesn't take long for him to suss out that Charlie's hip bothers him a lot, and that a terrible accident left him broken in body as well as spirit, as well as retired from the police force. Charlie doesn't know what to do about this. He's no good at relationships, as his previous attempt at one, that ended at his accident, proved. And then there is Charlie's family. He's the oldest male and his abuela has certain expectations of him. If she's not calling him to do something, his sisters are. Though his abuela also nags him to please find a man settle down with, so that his sisters will follow his example- but what would she make of this admittedly quirky twink? He somehow doesn't see his family, his job, and this Holly Golightly-esque young man ever meshing. Too bad his heart isn't listening. Slowly, inexorably, Charlie is ...

Dark Soul: The Complete Collection - Aleksandr Voinov 04/10/2012

Love Can Shine Even In Fathomlesss Darkness

Dark Soul: The Complete Collection - Aleksandr Voinov If you've followed me on Twitter or read very many of my reviews, you probably know already that I really, really love m/m romance stories that feature Mafia types. Aleksander Voinov's series Dark Soul delivers these men in spades: Stefano Marino is a young, recently happily married West coast Italian Mafia don whose obligations prompt him to travel to the East coast to pay his last respects to a dying Family patriarch. He's feeling off his game already, nervous lest he make a potentially fatal misstep with the other dons also there to pay their respects, but what really throws him isn't the not so minor politicking and subtle dominance games. No, it's the surprise he gets when an almost too feminine form rides up on a motorcycle. This turns out to be the very masculine indeed Silvio Spadaro, who quite surprisingly propositions him. Spadaro himself is a very dangerous man, one that the other dons wish to give quite the wide berth. Not because he's apparently gay, because they have been known to kill men for that without breaking a sweat over it. It's because he is the protégé of a rather infamous but now retired consigliere Gianbattista Falchi and even more to the point, because he's known to have been the assassin who killed the one man they had all feared with a deep and abiding terror. Silvio Spadaro's fathomless black eyes are cold, his movements calculated, precise, and well planned out in advance. So when Stefano wakes up that night to his bodyguard scuffling with ...

Riptide Rentboys: The 2012 Collection - Rachel Haimowitz 02/10/2012

Sex For Hire

Riptide Rentboys: The 2012 Collection - Rachel Haimowitz This collection left me feeling somewhat bemused. It's not that the sex scenes were terrible or the prose awful in general. No, it was because the one story left me feeling like I was missing something, another joyfully reunited me with some fellows I met in the sequel I'd managed to read FIRST only to leave me uneasily thinking that it felt slightly more rushed than the story itself deserved, and the yet a third one, well, the third one was an utter delight. There is a fourth story, but that one left me feeling ambivalent on several scores. I'm reviewing the stories in no particular order (just to confuse you, bwuahahaha!) The story Cruce de Caminos (Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane) introduces us to Sean O'Hara who is one deeply conflicted young man. His childhood seems to have been no picnic and he fell in love during high school with a young woman whose problems led them to have a sort of drug fuelled co-dependency. Sean has been ditched by his beloved once more as she tries to leave behind the drugs and prostitution and begin her life anew with yet another john who promises her a happily ever after. Sean's own desperation leads him into the supernatural heart within New Orleans itself as the disaster that was Katrina approaches. His adventures as a rent boy are not Pretty Woman type fodder in the least, though they do bring him closer to his destiny. The supernatural elements are beautifully woven in, and they actually echo the dreamlike darkness that seems to cloak New ...

Power Play: Resistance - Rachel Haimowitz 24/09/2012

Just Who is He Really Resisting?

Power Play: Resistance - Rachel Haimowitz Brandon McKinney had a happy childhood with two parents who dearly loved each other and their son, Brandon. That all changed when Brandon turned 12, as his mother grew sick from cancer and died. Trapped in his grief, Brandon's father turned to alcohol and rage to cope and found Brandon a ready outlet to vent it all on. The icing on the cake for his contempt was discovering Brandon was gay, until the day when 15 year old Brandon found himself out on the streets. Having scrabbled his way into a sort of stable life, Brandon is a proud man determined to make his dream of becoming an architect come true. In fact, he's made his way up the ladder to foreman of a small, but well regarded construction company that builds luxury homes for the rich and his boss hopes that Brandon will be able to find funding to buy him out so that he can retire. Brandon wants this very much, as it means he could not only finish his degree in architecture, but get to build the projects that really mean the most to him. The trouble is, a young man living in a ratty studio apartment with no savings and only an Associates degree that due to his financial constraints took him 5 years to complete instead of the usual 2, is not prime loan material for a bank, especially when the necessary loan is in multi-million dollar figures. Enter Jonathan Watkins. He's a self made Silicon Valley billionaire with a bent for the decidedly kinky. One night in Chinatown, he spots Brandon at a bar, and the two engage in ...

Incursion - Aleksandr Voinov 18/09/2012

Love, Military Intrigue, and Mercenaries

Incursion - Aleksandr Voinov Just 6 weeks ago, Kyle Juenger had a successful military career. It all seemingly ended when a blast from a Glyrinny designed blaster severed his spine and rendered him a paraplegic. Not considered high enough on the food chain to have his body fully restored, he finds himself outfitted with cumbersome prosthesis and retired on a barely liveable pension. In fact, he's on the brink of having to trade food credit and other parts of his living allowance just to be able to use public transport to get about, and actually runs completely out of transport credits the day he is summoned back to military HQ for a meeting with top brass. Karl agrees to take on the hunt for a Glyrinny double agent who is making a run for Glyrinny space with stolen data. For one thing, the pay is beyond good- he can buy himself new cybernetic legs with the cash and possibly even go back to his home planet, though he hasn't made up his mind about that yet part yet. For the other thing, he really, really hates those Glyrinny. It was after all, one of their weapons that nearly ended his life, and put him into such physical and mental misery. The catch is, he must use a false identity as a criminal that has been established for him and no one else can know about his mission. Oh, and one more thing-the Glyrinny could be anybody quite literally, as the Glyrinny are a race of shape shifters. Armed only with his false identity and some data to trade, along with a lead that brings him to a certain mercenary ...

Liesl & Po - Lauren Oliver 30/08/2012

Fairy Tale for the Modern Older Child

Liesl & Po - Lauren Oliver With a plot premise that could've been lifted from classic fairy tale lore, Liesl and Po delivers a story with enough twists and turns to keep a reader's attention well and truly caught. Set in a sort of European anywhere, Liesl is left to the cruel devices of her heartless stepmother when her father dies. In fact, we first meet Liesl the very day after her father has died, and find her being imprisoned in the attic. It looks like her father had begun to have an inkling about his wife's true character, as he leaves quite the inheritance to Liesl, which infuriates the stepmother to no end and has her rolling out a plan to get her hands on it, while Liesl is safely locked away. Into this grim new existence, Liesl is surprised to meet Po and Bundle. Po and Bundle are ghosts, without specific gender or form, so we have no idea of what type of animal Bundle is, nor what gender Po is. But these things don't matter- what matters is they have come bearing news. Liesl's father is trapped on the other side, and is in desperate nee of Liesl's aid so that he can cross over. Thus it is that in the course of one week, Liesl, Po and Bundle work on helping Lisl's father, and to defeat the wickedly greedy stepmother. Accompanied by a full cast of characters that would have done Roald Dahl proud, the adventure is soon off in full swing. Indeed, the supporting characters add greatly to the story and are essential to moving the plot along. The tale simply would not have been the same without ...

Big Deal: Lust for Vengeance - Katsura 22/08/2012

Lust, Revenge, and Glasgow Kisses

Big Deal: Lust for Vengeance - Katsura Fergus Campbell was not very happy about going to prison. He was even less impressed with how he got there- stitched up by one of his partners in crime, Judas MacGregor. He's had a few years to plot his revenge, which he sets in motion the very moment of his release. Only there is an unexpected spanner in the works as MacGregor , hoping to not catch Fergus' bad side if he can manoeuvre around it, takes him to the newest, most popular male brothel in the city. There he meets the breathtakingly beautiful owner, Mikhail. Falling head over heels, he is determined to have the stunning Mikhail for his own, and Mikhail seems in line with idea. However, Fergus has had the clingy, slightly psychotic, alcoholic Hugo waiting lovelorn and faithful at their shared home. Hugo has had dreams of happily ever after in full Technicolor fantasy playing through his mind during Fergus' sentence, and he is damned if he's going to let anyone get in the way of what he deems as his. Fergus is HIS husband, and he will do ANYTHING it takes to make sure Hugo stays where he belongs- by Hugo's side. As a former part of Judas' and Fergus' criminal syndicate, he has ways and means of making sure things get handled, but he doesn't know about Fergus' plot to crush Judas, nor Judas' plans to stay out of harm's way, especially in the form of Fergus, all the while hoping to live another day and get to pull another handsome lad for a really good shag. In the midst of it are the rest of the criminal syndicate and ...

The Forbidden Room - J.P. Barnaby 20/08/2012

Door into the Taboo

The Forbidden Room - J.P. Barnaby Jayden Carter couldn’t believe his luck. After scouring the ads for room-mates wanted, he eventually finds the perfect place. Dr. Ethan Bryant has a lovely home, and he values having a good house-mate over the amount of money he could probably charge for such a lush place. The pair hit it off socially too, and it seems the perfect place to be. Just one thing niggles at Jayden however, and that is the room at the end of the hallway by their bedrooms that is designated as off limits. He manages to ignore it until the evening he spies Ethan escorting a good looking girl into said room. The door closes, and then it strikes him. He can’t hear a thing. Not a single muffled sound from the adjacent room, and it strikes him as slightly odd. As he observes this go on a few more times, his curiosity begins to grow. Why can’t he hear anything? Surely he should at least hear the murmur of voices? And so he does the one thing he knows he promised not to do. He tries the door one day while Ethan is at work, and when he finds it unlocked, he opens it. Surely Ethan won’t know if he just looks, right? What he finds is beyond his wildest imaginings. He doesn’t know quite what to think. He gets along with Ethan and loves living in his house, so he hopes he can manage to not look guilty over what the breach of trust he’s committed. But somehow Ethan knows, and the consequences of that opens the door to something Jayden never imagined he’d be part of – the world of domination and submission. ...

Blacker Than Black - Rhi Etzweiler 09/08/2012

Beware Of What You Reach For

Blacker Than Black - Rhi Etzweiler Set in a parallel contemporary world, internal power struggles within a previously unknown but well established subspecies of humans has erupted into the public conscious, with dire consequences. The Lyche have possibly always been amongst us, but their common name amongst the normals is “vampire”. Forget blood, these folks feed on chi and exhibit psychic abilities that terrify the rest of us for good reason. That doesn’t stop the Nightwalkers though…the mostly young who walk the streets peddling parts of their chi in exchange for cash. Needless to say, this sort of job doesn’t leave you with a very long life span, as your life force is literally drained away. This makes one pair of Nightwalkers all the more obvious despite their attempts at keeping a low profile. Black and his twin sister Jhez have been around much, much longer than they’d be willing to admit. Not only have they survived for far longer than they could have been reasonably expected to, but they haven’t physically aged. The very, very well guarded reason for this is that twins are able to steal chi themselves, and have actually been taking a bit of their customer’s chi while he feeds. When the area’s reigning vamp, Garthelle, becomes involved after catching Black in an act of chi theft, the twins’ lives are forever altered. Monsieur Garthelle offers them a deal in exchange for simply not killing Black. As deals go, it’s better than being dead. But not all is as it seems… It was quite easy to slip into ...

Fifty Shades of Grey - E L James 03/08/2012

Fifty Shades of Shame

Fifty Shades of Grey - E L James I deal with erotica on a daily basis. It's no huge secret- I translate Japanese manga and light novels, and the majority of the titles I've worked on have been classified as erotica. I also review many, many titles, both manga as well as prose novels, that come under that classification. There are a good many more that I read for pleasure, both LGBT as well as hetero, and after awhile of being exposed to so many different books by so very many different authors, one comes to appreciate the well plotted and well written. The sorting of the merely good to the great can be further pared down by how well the author has portrayed key elements within a sub-genre. Mistakes in key plot elements often ruin a book, as the gaffes make the plot ever more improbable. Of course, every writer can't have an in depth knowledge of absolutely everything, but there is a rule usually best adhered to: "Write what you know". If you didn't know it before, you'd best do extensive research using reputable resources before sticking your neck out, else risk getting called out on errors. So, how did this stack up? Well, let's take such a look at one of the key elements of this particular book: BDSM. Now, when I first heard about this book, I was intrigued. I then read an interview where the author admitted she knew nothing about BDSM herself, and did several other interviews where she admitted to no actual research on the subject, bar watching a few porn videos and reading some internet sites. Oh, ...

Little Boy Lost: Enlightened - J.P. Barnaby 23/07/2012

World Shattering Love

Little Boy Lost: Enlightened - J.P. Barnaby I've gotta tell you...I've lived in a lot of places and had some...experiences. Growing up, most of my childhood was spent in various parts of the American South: Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, etc. While I have some happy memories, I also know from personal experience what being different is like, and always being the new kid to boot? Let's just say I learned to defend myself with my feet and fists, because even at 7 years of age, being different could and did mean a steel pipe across the shins and several punches to the head by a group of jeering...I hesitate to dignify them with the word people, but, oh well. It was not an isolated experience with community violence either. I also grew up watching a beloved aunt struggle emotionally, as she first tried to conform to heterosexual "norms" and even married a man (a Marine, no less) for a short, very doomed while. To say that living in a small Southern community and having a conservative, religious extended family made it even harder for her would be admitting to a truth. Ultimately, she sought ways to numb her pain...first through alcohol and then via drugs. She did end up finding the love of her life, but sadly, not before much of her mind and body were destroyed. Loving her dearly, and spending many of my summer holidays with her and one of her longer term lovers (the view of the family was, she may be going to Hell, but she's free childcare and makes sure the kids are clean, fed, and put to bed and lives well away so ...

Slipstream - Michael Offutt 20/07/2012

Hard Sci-Fi with a Dash of Romance

Slipstream - Michael Offutt Jordan Pendragon is a star player for his high school hockey team in Salt Lake City. Neither he nor his twin sister Kathy seem to be anything other than normal representative faces of American high schoolers- that is until the car accident. This car accident changes their lives in more ways than one, as Jordan begins to have some very strange experiences. He even picks up a stalker- a very bold one at that who Jordan at first thinks is British. Kolin isn't the only one following however, and a friendly trip to the a carnival with friends turns into anything but a barrel of laughs. This is where things begin to reveal just how unaverage Jordan is, as he realises the things he is seeing that seem to be part of our world are not...they are parallels elsewhere and Jordan can ride the slipstream to get there. An elsewhere that Kolin and their other pursuer happen to have come from. Using this ability intuitively, he manages to rescue himself, Kathy and Kolin from their violent pursuer and finds himself plunged into a reality he could never have dreamed up. A world that has seen violent devastation and where science has made many things possible. Cybernetically engineered vampiric succubi roam to catch the unwary, shape shifters mingle with humanity, and a crazed murderous cult are on the loose. Not to mention that the AI in charge of keeping society running has had some sort of psychotic breakdown and literally split itself into two personalities and bodies with violently ...

Hate to Love You - Makoto Tateno 04/07/2012

Romeo and Julius, Anyone?

Hate to Love You - Makoto Tateno Tateno Makoto was an already popular mangaka known for her shoujo (girl's romance) manga when she decided to branch out and try her hand at Boy's Love. For her first attempt, she decided to use a Romeo and Juliet theme set in modern Japan, minus the tragedy and of course, with a Julius instead of Juliet. So what we get is two fathers with rival businesses, living across the river from each other, and whose rivalry included their sons. Except for one thing: when they were small, the two boys met one day and exchanged a token of friendship which became their secret treasure. Fast forward to now, and these two young men are finishing high school, looking to the future of their fathers' companies and their own future within them. As the years have passed, Masaya and Yuma have tried to make their families proud by outstripping the other, whether it be in academic standing, sports achievements, or even who gets the hand of the most sought after daughter of a certain well to do and very prominent family. When Masaya discovers his crush is marrying his rival Yuma, he is devastated. But when she wants nothing to do it all and walks away from the arrangement, it seems she may know more about what is truly going on in the hearts of Masaya and Yuma. Cue a scene of high drama at a high society tea ceremony event, and the heat is truly on. But is it going to be happily ever after or will their families come between them? It's certainly not a bad first effort, and while Masaya is a bit ...

Itazura Na Kiss - Kaoru Tada 02/07/2012

Romantic Mayhem

Itazura Na Kiss - Kaoru Tada Naoki is pretty fed up. From his often pushy school friends from the university, his bratty little brother's sulks, Kotoko's mooning over him, and his family's general meddling, he just can't seem to simply be. Deciding that what he really needs is to get away from it all for a while, he accepts a part time summer job at a rather posh resort. Of course, he should have known better. He may be an academic genius, but sometimes he misses the obvious. A posh resort during holiday season and the relentless nature of everyone he is trying to escape mesh together to provide a whole new kind of pressure cooker. But is the end result going to have been a summer spent in hell, or is the love struck Kotoko going to show him it's really the path to happily ever after? Volume 4 of the classic romantic comedy neatly brings in Naoki's emotions. A tsundere type, we often just view his seemingly cold reactions to all about him, with rare glimpses of tenderness. Here, though, we get to experience the feelings of suffocation that he labours under. Everyone's expectations weigh heavily upon him, and after 19 years of playing the perfect son, he's more than ready to blow if something doesn't give. Kotoko comes off as the stereotypical airhead with a sweet nature but who is exceedingly irritating to be around. it would be simple to dismiss this as being a bit of cliche writing, but it's not. Cleverly altering the way scenes play out to subtly change mood and reader reaction, we are ...
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