I think I’m going to make this a regular feature because I miss blogging about reading and enjoyed writing this post. Here are some impressions and observations on five recent reads:
1. Hot Head by Damon Suede
This book got a lot of attention on its release last year. Why did it take me so long to read it? It’s the story of two firefighters, Griff and Dante, who were in 9/11 and are longstanding best friends – only Griff has loved Dante for years. Then Dante asks Griff to help him out with his money troubles by doing some porn with him. The plot was immediately appealing to me, just with being so big and sensational but it’s what Suede does with all this that’s so good. He really uses the setting and the characters’ professions and he works the fire and smoke metaphors to great effect. I particularly liked his comparison of Griff and Dante to the Twin Towers – strong and together but separate. This was a highly enjoyable read with uber-masculine characters.
I read this book after picking up Suede’s latest release Grown Men which I also greatly enjoyed. Grown Men is the story of Runt – dropped on a planet-in-the-making by a ruthless corporation and struggling to make his way as a farmer – and mute Ox, who is dropped in to be his new partner. I was drawn by the cover which reminded me of the sort of SF books my brother used to read when we were teenagers. This was a terrific, imaginative read. In both books, Suede uses lots of “sound effects”: Lub-dub for heartbeats, plip-thwip for…um…liquid dropping onto skin… Fun and entertaining but with meat and heft too.
2. Wacky Wednesday by J A Rock
This one had been popping up in my Amazon reccs for a while before I decided to sample it. (By the way, is it just me, or has the “Your recommendations” fallen away from Amazon? Annoying if it has- I used it a lot). Anyhoo, although I liked the sound of the basic premise (dom and sub wake up in each other’s bodies, a la Freaky Friday) I’d never picked it up, principally due to my having given up on BDSM romances. This was not because I don’t think they can work, but because a lot of them seemed to me to be terribly formulaic and, well, I just wasn’t thrilled by them.
This book, however, proved me wrong! Not only did JA Rock write a great switch-up-the-bodies-and-brains book, she also depicted a BDSM relationship that felt real to me (a first), with a core of tenderness and care I really liked. And it’s very, very funny. What’s more, the characters’ roles in their BDSM relationship actually come from who they are and what they need, and when they switch bodies, they learn important things about themselves and each other so, as a story, it all works beautifully. Rock brings the whole story home at the end in a satisfying way and I closed this book (or rather, went back to Home on my Kindle) with a happy sigh.
3. Calling the Show – J A Rock
Yes, I am nothing if not a glommer! Having loved Wacky Wednesday, I went on to Calling The Show. This is another very funny book with characters I loved, particularly Jesse, an uptight, obsessional student stage manager who meets, clashes with and ultimately falls for Sim. The characters in this story have BDSM desires but no idea how to act on them or indeed, what it is they really want. I liked the fact that these desires were a bit of a side issue (i.e. it seemed to me that it was a happy coincidence that they both liked the same things in bed, but not central to them falling in love) and I liked the fact that they intended to explore them together in their own particular and somewhat amateur fashion, rather than immediately signing on for the local ‘club’ and going out to buy a nice collar together.
4. The King’s Jaunt – John Prebble
I’ve been reading this non-fiction account of King George IV’s trip to Scotland in 1822 as research for my next WIP, book 2 in a trilogy. It’s an excellent book, full of rich detail about the players involved but it’s slow-going in the sense that I’m taking notes and thinking about where I can use some of the events in question in the story. I’ve done more research for these books than previous ones. Another useful book has been Michael Fry’s Edinburgh which deals with the full history of the city and its environs from Roman times to date. My books are set in a tiny part of this panorama of time, namely the 1820s, but Fry’s layered history has proven to be very useful in terms of understanding the political and religious history that underpins where Edinburgh stood at that time.
5. As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
Another rich source of recommendations for me is Reviews by Jessewave. Recently Wave posted a long best of list, which featured this book – now 10 years old I think. Warning: this is not a romance and there is no HEA. It is the story of violent, self-deceiving but oddly sympathetic Jacob Cullen and his love for Christopher Ferris, a beautiful, charismatic idealist. Set in the English Civil War, this story portrays – among a great deal else – a man discovering his desire and love for another man in a world where there is no blueprint of such a thing. The masterful depiction of how Jacob stumbles his way blindly, terrifyingly into Ferris’s arms goes well beyond the well-tried path of a character who conceals their true nature. This is a depiction of man who is making a new path altogether, a man who doesn’t know his own nature or even the possibility of it. The writing is beautiful, the visual scenes rich, the dialogue perfect. The last, imploring words, are this:
Speak to me.