Monday, January 28, 2013

What Comes Around by Jameson Currier

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine 
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions, November 2012, 
Pages: 170

Jameson Currier happens to be one of my favorite authors, and I relished his three previous novels, although he is perhaps best known by his diverse and captivating short stories that have appeared in various anthologies and other publications over the years. This work actually combines fifteen of his short stories, crafting them into chapters in a story of a single gay man and his failure to find a meaningful relationship. 

The stories were written over a period of many years, so it is fitting that a similar time period applies to the character depicted, starting with his first realization about his sexuality at age 15. The next chapter follows the young man ten years later, and subsequent installments show the character maturing, having various sexual encounters, though still unsuccessful in finding a potential lifemate. 

It was a little confusing to me that the stories were written in the second person, which I can only guess was meant to add some distance from the reader to the character, as if a disjointed voyeur through his disappointing love life. That disappointment, although realistic, became a bit tedious for me at times, and I kept assuming he would eventually find the love of his life. It was also a bit depressing to read the seemingly desperate measures that the character took in his later years. 

Not really a "fun" read, but an interesting and realistic character study by a talented, creative author. I give it four stars out of five.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Confessions of a Sex Addict, Part 1 by Michael Wynne

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Kiss and Tell Press, London
Pages: 70

This book is a first-hand account of one man’s experiences in some of London’s saunas, sex clubs, and phone-sex chat-lines. To a lesser degree, it is also the story of Michael Wynne’s journey to become a writer, as well as his lesbian painter friend.

There is not much plot to this book. It is a non-fiction account of the goings-on of gay men in subterranean London. It is told with honesty, and because of that, is an interesting read. Although it certainly has erotic elements, it is not what I would classify as an erotic story. I saw it more as psychological study of loneliness.

I think the author best describes his meaning when he writes:

“And that’s the thing about those of us who have multiple sex partners, that’s our gift, the ones who fuck around often… our way of seeing the world – our stories the way we experience our beloveds – is unique, different to the lives of those who mate for life. A few hours contain an entire relationship: love and sex and intimacy reduced to its essence.”

This is an entertaining read that I recommend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Secret Societies by William Holden

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, October 2012
Pages: 264

How did young Thomas Newton end up a male-male prostitute in 18th Century London? It began when his aristocrat father walked in on a dalliance he was having with a male servant, after which they were both banned from that home, and Thomas was disowned. He found his way to London, where he was fortunate enough to find a surrogate parent in Mother Clap, half of a married couple who run a discrete tavern and male brothel. Unfortunately, their peaceful enterprise is soon targeted by a homophobic group, called The Society for the Reformation of Manners, which has appointed itself the ultimate authority in "crimes against nature." Those charged by these vigilantes are soon tried, convicted and executed, often by closeted officials who may have used their services. 

When Mother Clap is arrested and imprisoned, awaiting trial, Thomas knows he needs to risk his own life to get her freedom. Knowing things will never be the same again, he fights for the only person who has ever showed him unconditional love. 

I don't usually like "period" novels like this, but I found this one very engaging and well-written. While some of the characters may seem stereotypical, by today's standards, one needs to consider the context of the times depicted. My rating is four stars out of five.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Daddy's Money by Alan Chin

Reviewer: Alex at Rainbow Reviews
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Dec. 10th 2012)
Pages: 210

Everyone needs a little help now and then. For gay Muslim Sayen Homet, that help first came from his understanding mother, who brought him to America from the Middle East. Now that he’s working his way through Stanford Medical School, his help comes from a secret sugar daddy. But Sayen might be able to end their arrangement soon now that he has a boyfriend he can depend on, A student Campbell Reardon. Campbell is more than willing to support Sayen, even if it means coming out to his conservative family.

But when Campbell takes Sayen home to meet his parents, everything falls apart. Campbell doesn’t realize how his boyfriend pays for school… and neither of them knows Sayen’s sugar daddy is Campbell's father, Blake.

While everyone involved struggles to overcome their shock, it becomes obvious Blake will do anything to keep Sayen. Campbell and Sayen love each other, but in the face of so much hurt and betrayal, love might not be enough to hold them together.

This is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. I picked it up and finished it in just over three hours because I simply could not put it down. At its end, I had tears in my eyes and I don’t know if it is because the story was so lovely or because it is so well written. I highly recommend this brilliant multicultural, contemporary male/male romance novel. Stunning in its ability to be both simple and complex, Mr. Chin captures the nuances of the Muslim lifestyle and that of the wealthily political family with equal aplomb, instilling the story with thorough, emotional passages that give great depth to both the lead characters, Sayen the Muslim medical student and Campbell the wealthy son of a judge, and the supporting cast alike.

Impoverished, but brilliant, medical student Sayen stays abreast of his tuition fees because he has a wealthy, albeit secret and married, sugar daddy as a lover. Well-to-do fellow med student, Campbell, has repeatedly made advances to him and is slowly wearing him down. He is attracted to Campbell whom he has much in common with and who is his own age. Plus there would be no need to hide a relationship with Campbell, but realistically Sayen cannot give up his entire medical future simply for a relationship. Without the money to finish his education, his promise to his mother will be broken and his plans to help others won’t pan out.

All bets are off when Campbell seduces him one evening, confessing love and offering to foot his bills. Forced to make a decision and realizing that what he feels for Campbell is growing ever stronger, Sayen breaks up with his sugar daddy and the two students become live-in lovers. 

The subsequent trip home to meet Campbell’s parents rivals the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in charm, humor, and complexity.

Never straying from the escalating romance between the two leads, the novel holds a wealth of equally powerful tales concerning family dynamics, secrets, and the fears that bind. Magical and powerful, each chapter of the book held me in throes of anticipation and read like an entire story on its own. Alan Chin utilizes evocative atmosphere, emotional subtlety, and brilliant characterization to convey a beautifully moving story in a concise, extremely captivating manner. I found myself rereading entire passages simply for the ripple of delight I felt at the wordplay. Realistic and heartwarming, with an excellent attention to detail, dazzling lovemaking scenes, and a fantastic supporting cast, the book is a treasure hiding behind a rather humorous and pimped out cover.

Upon reaching its end, I was smiling even as a tear rolled down my cheek. I realized that I held something truly rare and precious in my hands… a male/male romance novel that I, for one, will savor again and again. Thank you, Alan Chin, for sharing this poignant and enthralling tale; I’m off to find your other books.

To read the full, original review at Rainbow Reviews, go to

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cooper’s Promise by Timothy Jay Smith

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Owl Canyon Press
Pages: 229

Cooper Chance was an army sharpshooter in Iraq who became a deserter. Now he is a mercenary in Africa, trading illegal diamonds to survive in a gritty labyrinth of thugs, prostitutes and corrupt cops. He develops a big-brother relationship with a young prostitute caught up in human trafficking, and he falls in love with a Muslim man, Sadiq, who is as lost in this troubled part of the world as Cooper is.

When huge oil reserves are discovered, the CIA offers Cooper a way to go back to the states without serving jail time. His mission: to assassinate a local warlord. He refuses the assignment but then in an effort to save the young prostitute from trafficking, he tumbles into a risky high-stakes mission that turns bad when unexpected consequences arise.

Cooper’s Promise is a well-crafted love story in the midst of the hell of poverty, diamond trading, and human trafficking. The author does a great job of putting the reader into this environment, and then making them care about the well-rounded characters.

This is a difficult story to read because of the nature of the environment. The author had tackled some pretty weighty themes that may make some readers uncomfortable. He does, however, weave these themes into the story with skill.

This story immediately sucked me into the action and held my interest throughout, but I must admit, as the plot unfolded, I found the storyline stretching the limits of believability, and also occasionally dipping into melodrama. These issues were easily overlooked because of the fast paced action and the depth of the characters.

If you’re looking for a heartfelt love story with a happily-ever-after ending, keep looking. This is a gritty, disturbing story of a love that blooms in the wrong place at the wrong time. If however, you enjoy a compelling action-filled adventure written with verve, then I can highly recommend this read.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Coal To Diamonds: A Memoir by Beth Ditto with Michelle Tea

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Spiegel & Graf, October 2012, 
Pages: 176

Four stars out of five.

Beth Ditto is a feminist, lesbian, overweight advocate of body image acceptance, prospective style and fashion guru, but best known as the lead singer of the indie rock band, Gossip. Her memoir begins with stories of her unique, fractured childhood in rural Arkansas, where she exiled herself from her own home to live with an eccentric aunt and her incest-prone son, until her music became her ticket out to the Pacific Northwest. It was there that she formed the band Gossip, refined their post-punk unique sound, and honed her aggressive stage presence to become an international star of that genre.

The first part of the book includes some rather shocking stories of her life through her teens, where she was a frequent target of abuse and bullying, living in a deeply conservative backwoods, where women and other races were often treated as inferior citizens. It is remarkable how she managed to not just survive in that environment, but actually to use it to take the strength she needed to turn her life around and be a success. Though I am not a fan of her type of music, her story is enough to make me a fan of hers. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where You Are by J. H. Trumble

Reviewer:  Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Kensington Publishing, Dec. 2012
Pages: 320

Still in his early 20's, Andrew McNellis is in his second year of teaching high school math, still enjoying his choice of profession, despite occasional bouts with problem students who just refuse to cooperate and do the work. In his advanced placement senior class is Robert Westfall, an openly-gay member of the school band guard, respected by his peers, as well as a conscientious and disciplined student. A memo from the school counselor advises Andrew and the other teachers that Robert is going through a difficult time, with his father in the last stages of terminal cancer. Andrew is going through a difficult time as well, as this is the first time he has felt an outright sexual attraction to a student. While Robert is 17, the age of consent in his state (and only 6 years younger than he is), Andrew knows that doing anything about his attraction, even though he senses Robert feels it as well, could ruin his career, and perhaps the young man's future. 

This is the second excellent young adult/coming-of-age novel from this author. He tackles a sensitive subject with realistic situations, characters and outcome, making for a captivating and relatable read. The secondary characters, including Andrew's ex-wife and young daughter, as well as a female teacher pursuing the closeted Andrew, add considerable depth and clarity to the emotional story. Much recommended, five stars out of five. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon by Tom Spanbauer

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Grove Press
Pages: 355

At the turn of the twentieth century, Shed is an orphaned half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at a hotel/brothel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. Despite being surrounded by a loving, if eccentric, surrogate family at the hotel, Shed has a growing need to find an identity among his mother’s Indian tribe.  Setting off alone across an unforgiving landscape, Shed encounters a procession of extraordinary characters along the way. Although he learns a great deal about the mysteries and traditions of his Indian heritage, it is not until Shed returns to Excellent and witnesses a series of brutal tragedies that he attains the wisdom that catapults him into manhood.

Author Tom Spanbauer creates a vision of the Old West unlike anything seen before. The characters are unique, rebellious, and brimming with life. He draws the reader into each scene with a distinctive voice, and each scene becomes a single glowing strand that the author weaves into a beautifully crafted web that is both uplifting and heartbreaking.

The story is an unsettling vision quest. It reads like experiencing a dream that keeps getting more and more outlandish, yet more evocative. It is a tale of turning knowledge into understanding, and one boy’s march to manhood that all readers can relate to. I placed this book on my “favorites shelf” and I will return to it again and again. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Daddy's Money by Alan Chin

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, December 2012
Pages: 200

5 Big Stars for DADDY'S MONEY by Alan Chin

Sayen Homet is a young Muslim man, working his way through Stanford Medical School as best he can. His mother already sacrificed considerably to get him to America, and could not help him pay for school, so Sayen found another way: hooking up with an older man, his secret Sugar Daddy.

When Sayen meets Campbell Reardon, another med student with whom he feels an instant - and lustful - connection. Campbell is also rich, and is more than willing to support Sayen financially, so he ends his arrangement with the older man. As the young couple continues to date, Sayen is brought to meet Campbell's parents, and learns that his former "Sugar Daddy" is Campbell's father!

One would think the story ends there, but that's really just the start of the action, as various emotions, prejudices and grudges surface on the part of the young couple, Campbell's father (who is still in love with Sayen himself), Campbell's mother (who doesn't sit well with the news of her husband's affair), and sister Halle (who is pregnant with her Muslim boyfriend's baby.) It's a roller coaster ride, well-written and engaging in the hands of one of my favorite authors. Don't miss it! Five stars out of five.