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Archive for the category “fantasy”

Building up the gay steampunk genre

A remark by an author I follow made me start thinking about the gay steampunk genre, because, yes, LGBT authors have tackled this style of storytelling alongside the more commonly seen romance, suspense, mystery and fantasy.

Not everyone understands the meaning of steampunk in general. There are varying definitions, but basically, it’s a subgenre of science fiction/fantasy that features advanced machines or other technology typically taking place in a historical period or fantasy world. The exact definition would call for this technology to be based on the steam power of the 19th century, but my interpretation is a little looser based on the books I see. Basically, anything that’s set in a historic period — in this world or another — and incorporates futuristic technology that did not exist in that period could be considered some variation of steampunk.

After RJ Scott made a comment on Goodreads about gay steampunk, I did a mental inventory and realized I had several books in this subgenre without realizing it.

Here are a few authors of gay steampunk you could explore:

sasha

Sasha L. Miller, author of “Stolen Hearts” and “The Novelty Maker.”

Sasha’s “Stolen Hearts” blends magic and mechanics, when a fairy is in danger of dying after his heart is stolen and replaced by a charm.

See the book on Amazon

 

gearheartHollis Shiloh, author of “Gearheart,” “Wes & Kit” and “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” among others.

Several of Shiloh’s gay steampunk books take place in a world where men who might have died during the war were saved with the help of mechanical parts, only to be discarded and discriminated once the war is over.

Find “Gearheart” on Amazon

 

spiritsJordan L. Hawk, author of the Spirits series (and other fantasy reads). This one might be skirting the line of the steampunk genre definition, but it has elements that fit.

The Spirits series in set in a historic period, in which a scientist and a medium partner to confront a haunting. The devices invented by Henry Strauss give this series a steampunk feel, even if it doesn’t entirely fit. Find books here

Amber Kell, author of “Keys.” Kell is just venturing into gay steampunk, and “Keys” is the result. I have not read this book, but it definitely fits the subgenre. Find the book.

Have you read any gay steampunk? My list is pretty short, so please offer up some reading suggestions!

DJ Jamison is a book blogger and author of the Ashe Sentinel Connections series of novellas (not steampunk). To explore her books — including a freebie — click here

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Jordan L Hawk has the recipe for delicious storytelling

Whyborne and Griffin novels by Jordan L Hawk

Book 1

Who wouldn’t like a series of books that are intellectual, mysterious, paranormal and romantic?

Sometimes, it feels a little as if Jordan L Hawk has thrown a melting pot of genres into the Whyborne and Griffin novels, but instead of a goupy mess she has concocted delicious storytelling. Hawk’s author bio reads that she grew up on tales of haints and mountain magic, and those influences certainly come through in her books.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why the Whyborne & Griffin series — going strong after 6 full-length novels and a couple of shorter novellas — has such staying power.

First, there’s the intellectual: We’ll give this esteemed designation to Percival Endicott Whyborne, a scholar at the Ladysmith Museum who reads dead languages (and eventually learns the arts of sorcery). It could be argued there are plenty of other intellectuals in the book, such as Whyborne’s colleague, Christine, a noted archaeologist.

Then, there’s the mysterious: With Griffin Flaherty, an ex-Pinkerton detective, at his side, is it any wonder there’s plenty of mystery to these books? But unlike those old “whodunnit” mysteries, you can bet Whyborne’s skills will be just as necessary as Griffin’s to unravel the truth.

Hoarfost

Book 6

The Paranormal is Paramount, too: From monsters that can melt the skull of a man to a sorceress risen from the dead, Whyborne and Griffin find plenty of otherworldly forces to fight book after book. Each tale is painstakingly developed, with a scholarly dedication that befits the creator of Whyborne.

Last, but not least, is the Romance: Whyborne’s character begins as a repressed gay man determined to suppress his desires after the death of a friend he secretly loved. Griffin bears his own scars after a traumatic experience with the Pinkertons and a forced stay at an insane asylum. Throughout the series, their relationship evolves from attraction to love to commitment, weathering all the rocky points in between. As the series’ broader story themes develop, so does Whyborne and Griffin’s relationship.

I love gay fiction — from sweet romance to paranormal/fantasy — but even if you don’t particularly seek out gay themes in your reading choices, I urge you to explore this series. If you love books that are smart, mysterious, otherworldly and romantic, then this is the series for you.

Explore the Whyborne & Griffine series of books here. 

‘Life is Awesome’ when you read this series

Gay fantasy booksPrepare yourself: This book review contains glowing praise that may only be suitable for avid readers.

If Jordan Castillo Price wasn’t already one of my favorite gay fantasy/paranormal authors, she would have cemented her place in the list with her Mnevermind trilogy. I spent the weekend reading the third book, “Life is Awesome,” and it was, well, awesome.

While I enjoyed the “Psycop” series for which Jordan Castillo Price is best known, the Mnevermind series has a depth that you won’t find in her other books. Part of that is probably her main character’s emotional baggage.  Protagonist Daniel Schroeder is carrying a boatload of guilt and responsibility on his shoulders, and he’s continually inches from his breaking point.

The series in built on the fascinating premise that people can pay a price to experience memories while in a dreamlike state. Daniel trained as a memorysmith — someone who can create  memory programs — and he and his father were on the fast track to success with their own memory palace when something went drastically wrong. A mnem Daniel smithed, “Life is Awesome,” created a persistent false memory that has wreaked havoc in his father’s life.

Daniel struggles day by day, as he works overtime to keep his struggling memory palace open and drowns in guilt over what happened to his father. Only with the introduction of Elijah Crowe, a mnem tech enthusiast, can Daniel begin confronting all the emotional baggage he’s carried and find some happiness for himself.

Learning to understand and love Elijah is tricky, because as someone on the autism spectrum he doesn’t quite see the world like other people do. Elijah is an intriguing character, and his autism just adds another level of depth to the story. But while autistic characters are beginning to show up  in more novels, this just may be the first one I found to be entirely believable. As the mother of an autistic child, I was fascinated with Elijah and impressed with how real he seemed.

With complex characters and impressive world-building, you can’t go wrong with the Mnevermind trilogy. If you haven’t read any of these books and you enjoy fantasy, then I definitely recommend you check them out.

You can find books by Jordan Castillo Price here.

 

 

“Secret” loses a little magic by trying to cover too much ground

“Secret,” the latest installment of the Elemental book series by Brigid ya book reviewsKemmerer, is an ambitious effort to tackle serious issues while continuing a fantasy story. All of the Elemental books have taken on themes of that nature — confronting a range of topics from domestic dysfunction to sexual assault, violence, bullying and questions of self-esteem.

In “Secret,” Nick — one half of the good-looking Merrick twins — must come to terms with his sexuality after becoming attracted to a dancer named Adam. As he begins a tentative and secret relationship with Adam, he struggles with the typical fears that come with coming out to his family. Meanwhile, Quinn — his former girlfriend — is aware of his feelings for Adam, but has made a deal with Nick to pretend to date him.

This book, unlike Kammer’s earlier installments in the series, tries to cover multiple relationship storylines. In “Secret,” you watch Nick’s story play out with Adam, while Quinn meets the Merricks’ enemy, Tyler, and discovers a more humane side to him.

I’m a fan of the series, so of course I enjoyed reading about the continuation of the storyline. But I think stretching “Secret” across two separate love stories did some of the characters a disservice. And it allowed for less development of those crucial issues Kemmerer tried to raise. Though Quinn’s home life — which includes violence and substance abuse — is quite serious, you get only a vague sense of what that’s like.

Her first two books — “Storm” and “Spark” — created love interests for the Merrick boys that were just as developed as the Merricks themselves. The last two books, in an attempt to drive the plot forward and cover more characters, lose a little of that magic.

After reading the novella focused on Nick and Adam — which came just before this new book — I was really looking forward to the story that would evolve from these two. It fell a little short of my expectations.

The series has one more book to go, which will focus on Michael, the oldest Merrick brother. I suspect it, too, will be more plot driven. But at this stage, I’ll read it because I have to know how everything works out.

And even though the later Elemental books don’t touch me quite as deeply as the author’s first two, watching previous characters make appearances and interact in the new stories always bring a smile to my face — much like spotting an old friend after a long absence.

‘Witchfinder’ a grim YA fantasy

Witchfinder, ya book reviewI don’t see “Witchfinder” by Ruth Warburton becoming the next YA blockbuster, but I enjoyed the book for the differences that will potentially make it slightly less popular on the mass market. For one thing, it’s set in London in 1880, giving it an old-fashioned vibe. Secondly, it’s a tad more grim than many of the YA books — even the dystopians — that I’ve read.

The book’s descriptor suggests it would appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare’s “Infernal Devices” series, and I suppose that’s true at some level. It’s the same time period, and it involves an element of fantasy, but that’s where the similarities stop.

Luke is a boy who’s grown up with the burning desire for revenge on the black witch that killed his parents before his eyes. To join a secret brotherhood of men devoted to hunting witches he must pass their tests, the last of which is to pick out a name at random, then hunt down and kill that witch within a month — or face death himself.

Luke, who has thus far worked as a blacksmith’s apprentice, chooses the name of Rosa Greenwood, a 16-year-old witch living in fading grandeur on the west side of town. Luke goes undercover as a stableboy to get close to the family, where it becomes apparent that Rosa is the last bargaining chip in her family’s effort to avoid bankruptcy. She’s about to be married off to a cruel and powerful witch, but Luke intends that she’ll never see her wedding day.

Outside of the fact that the book contains witchcraft themes, it’s almost more of a domestic drama that an adventurous fantasy. The story focuses on Rosa’s difficult position in the family and her ugly relationship with her mother and brother. She misses her father and longs for the way things used to be. Meanwhile, Luke is stressed by the responsibility he’s accepted and working not to give himself away as he pursues options that will bring him close enough to Rosa to kill — if he can make himself do it at all.

The more time they spend together, the more Luke senses the goodness in Rosa and the more he falls for her. In the end, he must decide whether he can kill the girl he’s falling in love with, and Rosa must decide if she can marry a man she detests.

 

Lunar Chronicles a creative series worth exploring

YA book blogA series including cyborgs, androids, wolves, royalty, people of the moon … what more could you ask for?

In February, Marissa Meyer released the second of her series, The Lunar Chronicles. If you’re like me, you’re always in the market for a good series, and you can’t go wrong with this one.

I was hesitant to read it, at first, despite the good reviews the first book, “Cinder,” had received. The series has some decided fairy tale themes I wasn’t sure I would enjoy. For one thing, I’ve come across many other stories using this approach. “Wicked” and “The Ugly Stepsister” are highly successful examples of the fairy tale spin-off, and too many tween movies are the examples of how wrong it can go.

You can guess from the names what fairy tales “Cinder” and “Scarlet” draw from. Yet, I have to say, Meyer surprised me. Who in their right mind thinks, “I want to do a Cinderella spin-off. Hey, I know! I’ll write about a cyborg who meets a prince while there is a massive plague outbreak and enemies from the moon are trying to manipulate their way into a self-serving marriage alliance!” Meyer pulls it off with flying colors.

“Cinder” gripped me from the first line. There was something very real about Cinder, a cyborg who is treated like a second-class citizen by other townspeople, including her own adopted family. She works as a mechanic, fixing androids, to support the family. Prince Kai, having heard that Cinder was the best mechanic in the area, brings an android containing sensitive information to her for repair, and thus begins the saga of Cinder and Kai. They meet again after she is at the palace, having been drawn into a program working to find a cure for the plague.

As you might expect, there is a ball, though it will not go as you might expect. Cinder and Kai’s happily ever after won’t be as neatly foretold as in the classic, and you have to read on in the second novel to find out how their saga plays out as Scarlet and Wolf and introduced into the story line.
YA book blog Scarlet, a young woman desperate to find her grandmother after she goes missing, accepts the help of a stranger in town who goes by the name of Wolf. She knows she shouldn’t trust him, but he seems her only hope in tracking down the gang that stole her grandmother. There’s a larger plot at work, which includes secret lunar agents who have undergone genetic mutation. Meanwhile, the Lunar leader continues to make trouble for Cinder and Kai, unleashing violence on the kingdom in an effort to get Kai to marry her.

Even with the fairy tale parallels, the series never comes close to being anything but original. If you’re looking for a new series to read, I highly recommend it, even though you’ll be left waiting anxiously for the third book’s release.

“You Are Mine” a beautifully told journey from oppression to expression

You are MineWhen delving into a self-published work, you never know for sure what you’ll get. Books like “You Are Mine,” by Janeal Falor, are precisely the reason I take the gamble.

The beautifully told story of Serena, an oppressed girl in a society where women are the property of warlocks, captured me from Page 1. Serena is a fascinating character: a girl with a spark of independence barely held in check by her restrictive society. The strong voice in her head, and the silence she must hold to avoid painful punishments, are at odds.  Between the two, they form a strong young woman who, when given the chance, will fight for a different life.

Serena is promised to a young, talented warlock who she despises. When he dies during a tournament, with all his belongings going to a winner from a foreign land, the course of her future will change drastically. Serena will struggle to understand her new betrothed —  and whether she can trust his tolerance to last. In her experience, all warlocks are abusive and cruel, but he seems to be the exception. She’s lived her life being told that if she doesn’t follow society’s rules she will be tarnished — spelled to be bald, inked and ostracized. Now, as her warlock ignores her small infractions, Serena begins to explore a new way of life.

Not everyone will like the boundaries she and her betrothed begin to push. As with any society, fighting its restrictions comes with consequences and rewards.

Besides being extremely well-written — I never would have guessed it was self-published based on the high quality — I love the way “You Are Mine” sheds light on what it’s like to experience oppression. Sadly, there are still places in the world today where women’s voices are suppressed and their lives are threatened with violence.

Though “You Are Mine” is a fantasy with romantic undertones, it’s more of a journey from oppression to expression. Serena’s evolution from a fearful girl to the strong-willed, independent woman she is meant to be is beautiful to watch.

The book is the first in a series. It is available on Kindle for $2.99 or approximately $12.99 for paperback through Amazon.

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