Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: Sticks and Stones by Jamie Craig

When I posted the teaser for the romance novel Sticks and Stones, I mentioned that it was my first romance ever. This is not exactly true - a couple of weeks ago I tried reading another one. Unfortunately, it was bad beyond belief. It was the first time I quit reading a book without feeling the least bit guilty. In fact, it was a huge relief. Therefore, it should come as no surprise I approached Sticks and Stones with caution. I was in for another surprise when I realized this was not only a perfectly enjoyable read, but also one I would have no trouble recommending to other romance lovers.

The name Jamie Craig found on the cover of the novel is in fact a pseudonym acclaimed romance writers Vivien Dean and Pepper Espinoza use when writing together. Sticks and Stones is set in the golden age of Hollywood musical theater, subtly evoking the era of manly tap dancers and dreamy singers. Paul Dunham is both. MGM's biggest star, he is furious to find out the British newcomer Jack Wells is set to be his co-star in the upcoming musical blockbuster. On the other hand, Jack is thrilled to have an opportunity to dance next to a man he has not only respected throughout his career, but who he has always had a crush on as well. Many conflicts and problems come their way, but it is not long before Paul admits to himself that maybe his being prejudiced towards Jack was a defense mechanism - and that maybe he should simply give in.

The reason why Sticks and Stones works is because it actually has a good plot, believable characters and an obviously well-researched setting. Although the frank depictions of sex in the book make Candace Bushnell look like a schoolgirl, it is the many tribulations Jack and Paul face that really rings a special bell. The constant bickering, unwillingness to admit one's emotions and many misunderstandings are all contributing factors to making these characters seem worth believing in. Yes, it is an erotic romance, but if you took away the steamy scenes, you would still be left with a gripping, fun read.

There are a of couple things in Sticks and Stones that do not really work, such as the characters of Paul's manager Marty, his wife Lilah and finally Don, Paul's one night stand - all potentially interesting characters (especially Lilah) that are unfortunately used merely as plot devices. However, this is a small bone to pick. All in all, this is a satisfying, interesting, often arousing romance that takes extra steps to make sure everything (even the sex!) helps tell the story of these two men and their hectic relationship. It stays clear of the pulp fiction category, and for this, it should be given a chance.


This review counts toward the GLBT challenge and the Romance Week 2010 challenge.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday #5

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Here are her instructions:
Grab your current read, turn it to a random page and share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Sticks and Stones by Jamie Craig. This is my first full on romance ever (and a gay one at that!) and it's not half bad. Look for the review one of these days. This book will also contribute to the two challenges you see on the right, the LGBT challenge and the Valentine's Day one.

Paul shoved Jack away with enough force to send him stumbling back to the wall. “Since you don’t understand when you’re not wanted, Philip will help you find your way off my property.” He sincerely doubted Philip was a Boy Scout, ready to lead the way with his trusty compass.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giveaway: Sing Me to Sleep

You've read about this book all over this blogosphere and desperately want to see what it's about? Here's your chance! One lucky winner will get this book from the author herself, which is very exciting news, especially since this giveaway is international! Here are a few rules and also some helpful tips on how you can increase your chance to win a signed (!) copy of Angela Morrison's Sing Me to Sleep.

  1. The giveaway is international!
  2. The giveaway is open to February 22nd.
  3. Please, do not forget to leave your email in your comment! No email, no entry.

You can get extra entries for doing one or more of the following:
  • +4 if you blog about this giveaway
  • +2 if you leave the link to the giveaway on your blog's sidebar (+4 if you use a graphic)
  • +2 for following (never too late to start!)
  • +2 for tweeting about the contest (leave your Twitter ID)

The winners will be chosen randomly and then notified by email.

Special thanks to Angela Morrison for making this fantastic giveaway possible!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review: Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

Angela Morrison's sophomore novel Sing Me to Sleep is not a hard book to read. The pages turn smoothly, the story is believable enough and there is enough universality in these teen characters to strike a chord with most readers. And I am happy to finally get to review this book after taking control of my life again, after so many exams, obligations and other nasty stuff.

One thing I loved about Morrison's writing is that she is not afraid to take the extra step and show us how high school indeed can be gruesome and harsh. The protagonist of the book, Beth aka "The Beast" is forced to live with constant ridicule, as well as insults and attacks (both verbal and physical). Some of the scenes in Sing Me to Sleep shocked me with their honesty and brutality, and even though I didn't always care for the more romantic side of the story, it was how genuine the book was that made me rate it positively.

There is a huge story about a love triangle, a singing competition and more YA stuff that are mostly okay, but it is the realistic portrayal of characters that wins the prize. Beth is insecure, but not an idiot. She is fully aware of the world around her, and even though she is in desperate need of an attitude makeover (neatly connected with her physical makeover), we never really lose faith in her. The hunk named Derek is also not a typical, boring romantic interest. Not only does he sing in choir, he also has a secret or two, and it is exactly these details that make us care about these characters.

I could name a couple of things that do not exactly work in the book, mainly the poetic attempts scattered throughout the book, or many unnecessary narrative detours (we don't really have to know how singing in choir works in such detail), but it is refreshing to find a YA book that doesn't rely on vampires and werewolves for its thrills. Sing Me to Sleep is a fun, clever little book that, while it's certainly no classic, is also far heavier and thought-provoking than your regular beach read.