Dreamspinner Press, Melanie Tushmore

In Which A Solicitor Walks Into A Bar – A Bar Tender Tale by Melanie Tushmore

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A solicitor walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Which were more scary, the deranged zombie officers from the dream sequence in An American Werewolf in London or the evil Nazi zombies in Dead Snow?”…

No, I’d never heard that one before either.

But if the bartender’s answer includes anything having to do with the distinction between real zombies and the not real kind, then you can be sure that solicitor very well may have found the one person in the world who won’t try and use him as bait during the apocalypse. That’s what you might call a soulmate. Or a nerd. Or in the case of Nathan and Auryn, maybe both.

Melanie Tushmore’s A Bar Tender Tale is a simply sweet story that reads like a checklist of some of my favorite fictional plot devices:

• May/August romance – check
• Two men who appear as though they shouldn’t work on the surface, but underneath they’re really just kindred spirits – check
• A cheeky, tattooed protagonist – check
• A craptacularly bad ex-boyfriend – check
• And just a soupçon of conflict thrown in for good measure – check

The thing that really brought this story home for me, however, is the common bond the solicitor and the bartender find—not in the zombies, although that’s a pretty good one, but in the fact that they both want to be more than just a one-night-stand to each other, though they aren’t quite sure about the timing or the execution of it all. It’s the universal question of how soon is too soon, and gah! when in the name of all that could be perfect can we get this party started? Fortunately for Nathan and Auryn, they were able to get it all sorted before Nathan was forced to resort to Tim Curry in a clown suit. See? I just remembered I forgot to add funny pop culture references to my checklist.

A Bar Tender Tale is a lovely bit of escapism, pure and simple, with characters who are charmingly quirky, or quirkily charming, whichever way you want to look at it, but either way, it all added up to a delightful way to spend a few hours somewhere that made me very happy to be there, a state I highly recommend.

You can buy A Bar Tender Tale here:

J.M. Snyder, JMS Books LLC, Small Gems

In Which There’s A Difference Between Magic And Illusion – The Magician’s Apprentice by J.M. Snyder

Magic is the only honest profession. A magician promises to deceive you and he does. – Karl Germain

Ah, what a tangled knot we twist when magic practiced does exist, when illusion is not a simple guise, and to mock its existence proves most unwise…

Sorry. I’m pretty sure I’d make the absolute worst poet ever. Or rapper. ::word::

At any rate, what I’m trying to get at is that Damon Taylor is a man who takes magic very seriously. He is, after all, a practitioner of the arcane art, so who better to recognize a fellow aficionado than he? Who better to discover the man, Harry Marvel, a rather run down street performer who trades sleight of hand for loose change? Who better to feel that spark of energy, that current of lust that flows between them? And who better than Damon to transform Harry Marvel into Harry Marvelous, a man of extraordinary magical talent and showmanship?

And who better to turn back the hands of time and to manipulate reality than a man who is himself the living, breathing difference between what is true magic and what is mere illusion?

Damon borrows a little bit of trouble and brings a whole lot of the wrong sort of attention to Harry’s show when he decides to take it upon himself to teach a young and very verbal skeptic in the audience a lesson, a lesson I’m sure the boy won’t soon forget.

The Magician’s Apprentice is one of those short stories that did nothing but whet my appetite for a little something more, and it left me arguing with myself (I always win, BTW) over whether I’d have liked the story even better if J.M. Snyder had offered a little more backstory for Harry and Damon. Possibly. Probably? But then again, a good magician never reveals his secrets, so maybe this is the way I’m supposed to feel—fascinated by what I could see and left mildly off balance by what I couldn’t.

You can see what I mean for yourself if you buy The Magician’s Apprentice here:

Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt, Riptide Publishing, Small Gems

In Which I’m Pretty Sure My Brain Checked Out Somewhere Around The Lap Dance – Take It Off by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov

Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire. – George Bernard Shaw

Oooh. My. Bwaaah… Yes, that’s me being rather speechless in a very complimentary way, because there’s just not much room for words in my head at the moment. Why? Because I can’t seem to erase the mental picture that L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov left there with this sexy-heavy little episode of the life and times of Tristan and Jared, two of the Market Garden rentboys who are professionals at more than simply pleasing their clients—as well as each other. It would seem they’re also fairly talented at making me want more of them. They’re really good that way.

Some people like to watch other people get down to the business of sex, while some people would rather read about it, then let their imaginations drift to all sorts of places that reality can neither attend nor compare to. If you’re one of the latter, believe me when I tell you to go have a look at Jared getting his sexy on for Tristan and Rolex this time around, then come back and tell me I’m lying about the sex and seduction business. Yes, that’s a triple dog dare. I’m forgoing etiquette and going right for the throat.

Take It Off brings two of my now favorite rentboys together with their wealthy American client again, who seems to love to watch these guys work for it, if the large sums of money he’s willing to lay down for the pleasure of their company is any indication.

I can also say that Take It Off brings together a now favorite writing duo with these two authors, who have penned these two short stories so synchronously that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to detect the seams of each one’s distinct influence. To me, that’s a pretty good indicator that the remainder of the books in the series, even though the next book won’t be focused on Tristan and Jared, will be on my list of absolute must-reads.

You can buy Take It Off here:

All Romance Ebooks, Piper Vaughn, Self-Published, Small Gems

In Which One Reading Just Wasn’t Enough – Asylum by Piper Vaughn

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself. – Oscar Wilde

Johnny Cairo knows a thing or two about temptation. He’s been attracted to his best friend’s little brother for a while now, after all, though he’s resisted the urge to do anything about it because risking a years’ long friendship on what’s at best an unsure thing, and at worst, a resounding disaster waiting to happen, isn’t a chance Johnny’s been willing to take.

Too bad Brennan didn’t get the memo about his brother’s best friend being off limits, because Bren damn sure isn’t going to let a little thing like that stand in the way of him getting what, or rather, who he wants. And once Brennan sets his sights on Johnny, well, there’s nowhere the man can try and hide but behind his own fears. But Brennan isn’t known as one of Fear Asylum’s best Infiltrators for nothing.

Asylum is Johnny’s story, the story of his family legacy—a traveling haunted house called Fear Asylum, though this isn’t your average, small-time, one man sideshow operation. No, they don’t call Johnny the Scaremaster for nothing. This is a full-on production, and it showcases the man’s reputation and talent for putting the fear of the things that go bump in the night into its patrons. It’s also, in a lovely turn of the tables, a story that shows how sometimes those nighttime bumps can put a fear like no other into the heart of a man with a reputation for being the master of fright.

Asylum is a full-on erotic and romantic—it’s sexmantic, even—short story that illustrates how a man learns very quickly that just because his head says there are no-strings-attached it doesn’t mean his heart is bound to listen, especially when he’s faced with the possibility of losing the one to whom he realizes he wants nothing more than to be tied.

I’ve read this story more than once, and really, really would love a sequel. You can use that as an indicator of how much I loved it.

Buy Asylum here:

Amber Allure, Eden Winters

In Which A Legal Con Is Still A Con – Collusion (Diversion Book #2) by Eden Winters

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. – Ambrose Redmoon

Oh, Rich… Marv… Sim… Reg… Oh, Lucky, whatever your name is… He’s a man of many handles, some rather unfortunate ones, too, as well as a bit of a mess, but a lovable one he is, at that. Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter is a pretty simplicated man, when it comes down to figuring him out—straightforward but complicated at the same time.

Lucky and his partner in the SNB, Bo Schollenberger, are back in Eden Winters’ Collusion, the sequel to Diversion, and this time they’re taking on the gray market in the prescription drug industry. The what? Yes, that’s what I said; not the black market, the gray market. Who knew? Not me, so not only was this book entertaining, it was also educational.

Seems there’s a critical shortage of some very crucial drugs in the United States, a shortage that’s being made much worse by the fact there are wholesalers and middlemen who’re buying up those limited supplies and essentially holding them hostage until they can be sold at horribly inflated prices for huge profits. But here’s the kicker: it’s not illegal. Immoral, yes, but not illegal.

Lucky and Bo end up at a children’s hospital this time, posing as employees to try to discover the supplier that’s not only behind the price gouging but is also guilty of exacerbating the problem of the already short supply of the cancer drugs the hospital’s patients so desperately need. Desperation definitely becomes the name of the game this time around, especially when doctors turn to desperate measures, with the best of intentions but with disastrous results for the young patients who end up paying far too steep a price for the substitute foreign meds their given.

Bo’s full immersion in the assigned job of prescription drug buyer for the hospital comes at its own price for the man whose heart never does anything by halves. Paired with the frustration of few to no clues on how to fix the problems in a system where no real crime is being committed, it causes its share of problems between him and Lucky at work. It also adds no small amount of pressure to their already shaky relationship outside of the job. If they’re even in a relationship. Lucky contemplates this a lot along the way, trying to convince himself they’re just co-workers with benefits, but nursing a steady fear that they’re very much more.

Action and danger play out against the growing evidence that Lucky’s heart is caught up in something his head hasn’t quite deciphered yet—namely that Bo is the someone he not only loves but needs in a way he’s entirely unfamiliar with. That’s the very definition of fear for a man whose existence is based on questioning everything, trusting no one, and depending solely upon himself and his own smarts for survival, which is only slightly ironic for a man who’s legally dead. But the very definition of courage for Lucky is coming to the realization that Bo is far more important to him than the fear that might cause him to lose the man who’s come to define home. Seems like Bo just keeps saving Lucky from himself.

If you read Diversion and loved it, you won’t want to miss out on Collusion. Eden Winters has delivered Lucky and Bo to a new place in their relationship, and I’m pretty anxious to see where they’ll go next.

You can buy Collusion here:

Amelia C. Gormley, Self-Published

In Which There’s A Giveaway! Velocity (Impulse Book 3) by Amelia C. Gormley

Love, like fire, cannot subsist without constant impulse; it ceases to live from the moment it ceases to hope or to fear – Francois La Rochefoucauld.

Ladies and gentlemen, the results are in…

Lukas is a rat bastard. That is all.

What? You didn’t think I was going to tell you about those other results did you? Nah. For those results, you have to read the book, which I highly recommend you do if you’re at all invested in Gavin and Derrick’s relationship.

Yes, Gavin’s ex is back to cause no small amount of problems in this final episode of the Impulse series, as if Gavin didn’t already have enough on his plate to worry about. Lukas is around just to make sure he heaps a little more grief on that whopping pile of anxiety Gavin’s already burdened with, preying on the man’s doubts and fears, as well as manipulating his compassion. Lukas, it’s discovered, has been a very busy and a very naughty boy—the kind of naughty that might come with a label such as felonious, which comes with benefits for Gavin, the kind of benefit I might call leverage, thank you very much. Did I mention Lukas is a bastard of the verminish kind? And a predator. Well, he is.

This final chapter in their story sees Gavin and Derrick through more ups and downs in their relationship—really the same ups and downs they’ve been dealing with since they become a couple, but everything finally comes to a head here—anticipating what Gavin’s life will be like with Derrick, if they will even have a life together once his test results prove definitively, one way or the other, what the consequences of unprotected sex with Lukas might mean. It’s a tense and troubling time for the couple, and it brought on no small amount of challenges for them, but it also proved to strengthen their commitment to work at imagining a future together, whatever the odds may be. It didn’t come easy, but it was well worth the fight.

And as if the clock ticking torturously down to the day that Gavin can be tested isn’t enough, he and Derrick are also dealing with the escalation of threatening texts Derrick has been getting from an anonymous hater on his hockey team, which all comes to a very satisfying resolution when Derrick discovers some unexpected allies in his fight to keep his place on the team. These two men have been unquestionably victimized, but in no way are they victims, except perhaps of their own doubts and fears. They find strength and courage together, enough that they’re able to overcome every obstacle that comes their way, which puts them on the best possible path to imagine and realize a future with each other.

Amelia C. Gormley’s three part saga, beginning with Inertia, progressing to Acceleration, and now aiming for Velocity, has been an emotionally rewarding journey through the struggles and triumphs of a couple who, at first blush, might not seem as if they ought to work together but who do nonetheless. Gavin and Derrick work through their issues and arrive at a place where they’re able to fulfill each other’s needs and desires through domination and submission in their sexual relationship, as well as in fulfilling each other’s needs through emotional support and unconditional acceptance, which all leads to the promise of a long and lasting connection based on love and mutual respect.

If you like character driven stories that focus on the building of trust through adversity, then I would definitely recommend familiarizing yourselves with these men and this series.

Velocity doesn’t release until Saturday, March 2, 2013, but guess what I have??? (P.S. You have to say that last part in a sing-songy voice or it loses it’s impact.) I have permission from the lovely Amelia C. Gormley herself to announce she’s giving away an eCopy of this book to one lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment here, including your email address, and do it *before 11:59pm PST on Friday, March 1, 2013*, then you’ll automatically be entered, easy as that. The winner will be announced on Saturday, March 2nd. Good luck!

Lucius Parhelion, Torquere Press

In Which An Ox And A Cowboy Get Down To Business – Dry Bones by Lucius Parhelion

There is never jealousy where there is not strong regard. – Washington Irving

Lucius Parhelion may very well be the most anonymous author I’ve ever read. No “About the Author” blurb in the books, no website, no Twitter account, an unused Facebook page, no author page on Amazon or Goodreads. But that’s okay because, really, it doesn’t matter all that much when a story speaks well enough of you to make anything else sort of irrelevant.

Dry Bones is a short but entertaining tale that takes place in the American Southwest in the waning years of the 19th century, where Joss Lewis and fellow ranch hand Ox are looking for work and will, quite by accident, end up accepting an offer from an East Coast gentleman named Nathan Parr, who, speaking of ending up, coincidentally ends up knowing a little bit more about the enigmatic Ox than perhaps Joss is at all comfortable with.

Signing on to accompany Parr to a New Mexico ranch to secure a collection of dinosaur fossils to ship back east, Joss comes to learn as much about himself as he does about his partner; namely that Ox (aka: Robert Henry Montague) has run away from a life altogether different than the one he’s currently living, and that life includes a brief history with, you guessed it, Nathan Parr. Joss also learns the meaning of jealousy when he realizes that that history is something which, though foreign to him, may just be a heretofore unexplored territory Joss is more than willing to prospect and possibly lay claim to, especially if it means he might lose Ox to something, or someone, else. But first he needs to make sure Mr. Nathan Parr skeedaddles his fancy-pants right back to New York City, fossils in tow, so Joss can hammer out the details on what it all means.

There are not a lot of wasted words in this story, no long paragraphs waxing poetic about cowboys and the wide open ranges of the Old West, but that doesn’t mean the author is remiss at all in making sure the reader is fully aware of the place and the atmosphere and the feel of life in the dusty New Mexico territory of 1896. Nor does the author waste a lot of time in making sure Joss knows exactly where he wants to stand with Ox, but that doesn’t mean their relationship feels at all rushed. The pacing was just right, and the backstory given was just enough to make the HFN feel a lot more like it could be an HEA for these two men.

In fact, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a sequel.

You can buy Dry Bones here:

Freebie, Josephine Myles

Oh, Look! Laaaaa…

It’s the free short story Josephine Myles has written as a sequel to the fabulous Screwing the System! Just click on the cover image and it’ll take you straight to this much anticipated little morsel. I haven’t even read it yet because I was so excited to share.

Now off with you. We have some reading to do! :-D

Authors, Ramblings

In Which I’m About To Piss Some People Off…

Yes, here it comes, more crap, but I’m not an author, I’m a reader, dammit, and I think if anyone has the right to weigh in on this one, it’s those of us who support this genre with not only our love and commitment but our hard earned dollars as well, so here I go…

I woke up this morning to the one thing I’ve been waiting for since I came home from Albuquerque in October: news about the upcoming registration for GayRomLit 2013 in Atlanta. This is the one and only author/fan event I’ve ever attended, ever, as in, in all the history of my reading. I mean it literally; I’ve never even been to a book signing… Okay, you get it. And while I’d love to be able to paint the picture that I scrimp and save my spare change for it all year long to up the “poor pitiful me” quotient, it’d be a lie, so I won’t go there. Where I will go, however, is here:

We’ve also taken the list of must-have authors (bolding mine) that you the readers have given us and are doing our best to pre-register them before the general author registration begins.

Now, I missed a memorandum here, folks, because I don’t remember participating in a poll in which I was able to weigh in on my “must-haves”. And I’m going to be perfectly honest, some of my “must-have” authors have never even attended a GRL event, so to say that these elite few writers have been selected for me from a random sampling of readers pretty much pisses me off in ways I can’t even begin to describe, and quite frankly, it smacks of the same cliquish attitudes that kept people like me from sitting at the cool kids’ table in high school. What this seems to boil down to, from where I’m sitting, is a popularity contest, and a questionable one at that, in which some pretty amazing toes, and maybe a few feelings, just got publicly trampled on, and I’m almost certain I’m fairly angry about that.

So, I remain puzzled on why a select few authors deserve preferential treatment. When registration opens, you either sign up for the event, or you don’t. I read/review somewhere close to three-hundred books a year, many, if not most, of them bought with my own money. Where’s my preferential treatment, as a reader, huh? The answer is that I don’t deserve any, so why does anyone else? I can understand if an author is on the financial fence or is unable to commit early for whatever reason, I do, but that doesn’t mean I believe registration should be withheld from other writers in the meantime. I hope that’s not going to be the case. I also don’t understand the “author cap” that’s being placed on the event. Readers are coming to meet and greet the authors, after all, so why exclude anyone who has a reason and the means to attend? My feelings on the matter are: the more the merrier!

And now I wait. Before I even consider registering for Atlanta, I will wait to see whom these chosen ones are. If it’s being determined by sales, I remain skeptical. If it’s being determined by how prolific the author, I remain doubly so, because we all know quantity and quality are mutually exclusive propositions, in many cases, and I have news for you GRL organizers—I have a “must-have” author on my list who’s written one, count it, one book to date that I can guarantee was far more brilliant and original than the half dozen books some writers spew out in a year’s time.

I’ll finish with this thought: to see any author excluded from GayRomLit on the basis of his or her popularity would be, to me, the height of irony in a genre, and for an event, that prides itself on inclusivity, wouldn’t it?

And that’s my two cents on the subject.

Jennifer Cierra, JMS Books LLC, Small Gems

In Which Things Ain’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be – Valentino’s Valentine by Jennifer Cierra

Opportunity is a favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment. – Ambrose Bierce

William Pastor learns a very valuable lesson about celebrity worship: sometimes the actor is only as interesting as the words that others have put into his mouth, and only as sure of himself as the directions he’s been given by a script. Sometimes celebrities are far more the image that’s been constructed for them on screen than the reality you’ve spent years of your life cultivating in your imagination. It’s amazing how pretty some people are to look at until they open their mouths and shatter the illusion.

Vincent Valentino’s lips are numero uno on William’s list of people he has carte blanch to kiss outside of his relationship with Ethan Anderson. I mean, come on, don’t we all have someone in mind like that? I do. The difference between William and me, however, is that the likelihood of my ever catching, say, Chris Hemsworth in a liplock is about as good as my odds of getting caught with, say, Robert Downey Jr. in a game of tonsil hockey. In other words, William got pretty damn lucky when he was selected as the winner of a Valentine’s Day date with Mr. Valentino. Unfortunately for William, however, his dream date with destiny turns out to be more like a lesson in being very careful what you wish for. Fantasy. Fail.

But thankfully it’s not all a one-sided schooling and by the end of their “date”, William has taught Vincent a thing or two about himself, especially when it comes to being honest about who he is.

Valentino’s Valentine is a sweet little story about a fan who adds a nice dent to the sleek Teflon coating of a man whose art it is to pretend to be someone he’s not. I’ll confess I was nearly to ready to honor William with the “Worst Boyfriend Ever” award, but then he ends up learning that the grass isn’t always greener, and he did it just in time to redeem himself to me. It was a close call, though.

You can by Valentino’s Valentine here:

Amelia C. Gormley, Freebie

Another Contest, Another Chance To Win Some Goodies…

Amelia C. Gormley is going to be right here at The Novel Approach beginning Saturday, February 23rd, with a contest for her upcoming release Velocity (Impulse, Book 3)–one lucky reader will have the chance to win an eCopy of the book. In the meantime, though, the lovely Chris at Stumbling Over Chaos is hosting a giveaway right now for Amelia. You should definitely go check it out. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to double their chance of winning a free book? That’s just crazy talk! :-D

Good luck!

Click Here To Enter

Gene Gant, Harmony Ink Press

In Which I Apparently Worried For Nothing – The Battle For Jericho by Gene Gant

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. – Jonathan Swift

I’m going to admit that before I started reading this book, I girded my loins, big time. Like, with titanium girding and everything. I was pretty sure after I’d read the blurb that I was going to have a hard time with it, seeing as how I have a philosophical conflict with the whole pray-the-gay-away rhetoric of those who believe that the Bible is the infallible and indisputable word of God. I was also pretty sure I’d have a thing or two to say about it all, things like, “I don’t get it,” and “How can people treat their children that way?” and “What the flim-flam?!” Well, I think I probably said all those things and more, but here’s the beauty of The Battle for Jericho for me: the author handled the entire subject with just enough humor and undeniable charm that I didn’t end the book feeling as though I’d been dragged through a Sunday tent revival on my one-way trip to Hell. To the author, Gene Gant, I offer a hearty AMEN! and a thank you for keeping things real without stepping over that very delicate line that exists for me between what is palatable and what leaves a bitter aftertaste in my very soul. Melodramatic much? Probably.

Anyway, sixteen year old Jericho Jiles has been raised in a small Tennessee town, a town in which church isn’t the exception, it’s the rule, and scripture is the immutable law by which every man, every woman, and every action is judged; a town in which something like homosexuality is not merely intolerable, it’s the sort of thing that’ll make you a target for any variety of justifiable acts perpetrated by the self-appointed moral authority, and sadly, Jericho himself is not immune to the ideas that’ve been ingrained in him from the moment he was old enough to understand the meaning of right and wrong—being gay is a sin against God. No questions, no exceptions, and it’s that belief that made the openly gay Dylan Cussler the perfect target for picketers and protestors, and an act of vandalism gone terribly wrong.

Jericho and his best friend Mac had planned to break into Dylan’s house and cause a little mischief. They never dreamt, however, that Dylan would surprise them by being home at the time. Nor would Jericho have ever believed he was the sort of boy who could leave a man bleeding on the kitchen floor while he ran away in an effort to try and save his own hide. Well, it turns out he was that kind of boy. But it also turns out he was the kind of boy who would swallow his fear, return to the scene of his crime, and apologize to Dylan as well as beg for his forgiveness. And in the process of that confession, Jericho will gain a surprising ally as he learns some difficult truths about making assumptions and judging stereotypes, though possibly the most valuable lesson he learns is to begin thinking and feeling for himself, to question the status quo, to challenge beliefs and reclaim his soul for himself, and to fly in the face of everything he’s ever been taught in order to figure out who he truly is. He also learns to accept that loving someone, even if that someone has never been more than a friend who happens to be a guy, is not a choice. Loving someone and having them love you in return, Jericho discovers, is simply a gift that can’t be questioned but can be considered a blessing even if it contradicts all you’ve ever believed.

The Battle for Jericho is a story about knocking down walls and challenging labels, coming to an understanding that it’s those labels which do nothing more than breed conflict. It’s a story that handles its subject matter in the best possible way: with warmth, honesty, and realism. There’s a happy ending wrapped in a believable package, no great metamorphosis and no easy answers, and the only heart and mind that was changed in the book belonged to Jericho himself, but the beauty of it all was that, in the end, Jericho realized that on the journey to becoming his own man, his is the only heart that matters.

You can buy The Battle for Jericho here:

Dreamspinner Press, TJ Klune

In Which I Cackled Like A Loon – Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. – Og Mandino

Warning: This book may make you laugh until you wet your pants. Or snort out loud. Maybe both. That is not a confession.

On the other hand, it may also make you feel that taut ache in your throat; you know, the one you get when you’re trying really hard not to get all choked up and leak unattractively from your face; because it’s not bad enough that you’re chortling uncontrollably, causing your people to give you the hairy stankeye, but then you’re adding blubbering to the mix…over a book. It could give cause for concern. That is also not a confession. Much. Don’t judge.

So, why the manic depression? It’s all Paul James Auster’s fault! Damn him and his shy, unassuming charms and his rapier wit that sometimes slides soooo very deeply into the realms of, wait. What? A pox on him and his best friend Sandy (a.k.a. Helena Handbasket), and on Wheels, the two-legged canine with a rear drivetrain; a curse on Paul’s parents and on his Nana, and on Johnny Depp, the beaked bitch, anyhow. Don’t ask. Just read the book and you’ll get it. But back to summoning the forces of mayhem: a bane on the existence of Vince Taylor, who not only made me start to believe in love at first sight but then went out of his way to prove it’s real by giving Paul just about the awesomest, most romantical birthday present ever. The birthday gift part may or may not have made me sigh just a little. Yes, that one is a confession, okay? And I’m really only pretending at all this curse business too. Swear. If the truth be told, I shmooped these varied and vibrant species in a super big way.

Tell Me It’s Real is Paul’s story, the story of a man whose self-confidence level is somewhere south of hella low but whose personality is somewhere north of luminous. This is the story of a man who isn’t salon tested and steroid approved; he isn’t what anyone might describe as genetically gifted or socially savvy, but he is real and he’s warm, and he and this delightful cast of characters are more than just words on a page. They’re psychedelic brushstrokes on a kaleidoscopic canvas of wacky and wonderful, and I loved each and every one of them to bits.

This is the story of the way two men really can fall in love through spit-takes, and Heimlich Maneuvers, and a near maiming. It’s the story of how they fall in love in spite of Paul’s eternal skepticism that someone as beautiful as Vince could ever possibly be attracted to him. It’s the story of the way they stay in love in spite of an enormously bad decision on Paul’s part to go behind Vince’s back and confront something Vince very much wanted to remain private. It’s the story of the way Paul becomes the light in Vince’s darkness, and the way in which Paul reveals his awesomeness one small step at a time.

More confession time: 1.) I’ve never read a TJ Klune book before. 2.) This will not be the last TJ Klune book I ever read. And that’s about it. No, wait, there is a third thing—I discovered I have a love/unlove relationship with authors who punk me. You’ll get that too, after you read this highly recommendable romantic comedy.

You can buy Tell Me It’s Real here:

All Romance Ebooks, Kate Aaron

In Which I Say, Wahoo! Free Read! – The Rest of Forever by Kate Aaron

Life is complicated and all too often it throws you off balance by sending you the right person at the wrong time. – Guillaume Musso

So, big surprise here; apparently I’m a masochist. At least of the emotional variety, because Jack Campbell and Paul Adams tried their hardest to rip my heart out through my tear ducts, and I liked it. No, I more than liked it. I loved this small gem of a story of life-long friends who were so very right for each other, if only their timing had been better synchronized and they could have loved each other like a song played in perfect two-part harmony rather than in discord. But then there wouldn’t have been a story to tell, so I guess it’s a good thing these two men took some time—years actually—to find their way back to each other. It was good for me. It pretty well sucked for them, though.

At the age of eighteen, Paul was in love with a very unprepared and unaware Jack. By the age of twenty-five, Jack has finally realized, and then accepted, he’s in love with, has always been in love with, Paul, but now Paul’s in a relationship with someone else, and Jack is in about as much pain as a man can be in without needing to be anesthetized. Or euthanized, just to put the poor man out of his misery.

This is their story, poured out in a litany of anguish and longing in Jack’s words, as he and Paul eventually find a way to repair the damage done after Jack ran away all those years before, if only to reform a simple friendship that could never possibly be what it’d been before because Paul has moved on with Curt, who loathes Jack with every fiber of his being. This is the story of how, through trial and error, and eventually with unintentional help from a cruel nudge given by an unexpected source, they found their way back to each other, one arduous moment at a time, and it was lovely.

I read this one through the first time really quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid that pulls a few hairs out by the roots with it. The second time I took a little longer to prolong this bittersweet friends-to-lovers story, and I liked it every bit as well.

You can download The Rest of Forever for FREE here:

Stephen Chbosky

When Hollywood Gets My Favorite Books Right…

Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve. – Bill, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all when I say we avid readers always go through a conflicting sense of excitement and skepticism when Hollywood gets hold of our favorite books and adapts them for the silver screen, am I? Maybe I am, but it feels right, so I’m going with it. I’ve been burnt one too many times not to believe it makes some sort of sense. So when Hollywood gets it right, really right, all I want to do is celebrate, and celebrate I will with the unadulterated joy that comes from Stephen Chbosky’s direction of his luminous and heartrending The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

I read Perks a few years ago, back when I was not only very new to LGBT fiction but also was as virginal as it’s possible to be in the realms of Young Adult LGBT. Well, let me just say, I owe this book a huge debt of gratitude for turning me on to the beauty of the sub-genre.

Charlie is the fifteen-year-old author of his story through a series of letters he addresses, “Dear friend,” his friend being, I like to pretend, me, meaning the reader. I became Charlie’s dearest friend and confidant by the end of this book, and where Charlie is a sponge, standing on the sidelines absorbing everyone else’s troubles and pains and problems because it’s the only way he knows how to be, I became the sponge who absorbed all of Charlie’s troubles and pains and problems because it was the only option I had. Charlie didn’t leave me much choice but to be his own wallflower, and when he finally broke, I broke with him. The only thing that was missing for me from the adaptation of this book to the movie is that intimacy the reader has with the story, but what more than made up for that missing piece is the joy of seeing these actors breathing life into the characters, and doing it flawlessly.

Logan Lerman plays Charlie beautifully, with the pitch-perfect innocence and vulnerability and fragility of a friendless teenage boy, friendless because the one boy he’d once called friend committed suicide in junior high, friendless because there are some kids who unintentionally invite the wrong sort of attention from their peers simply because they’re different. Charlie is a boy whose mind is on the cusp of unearthing a repressed childhood memory that will send him over the edge, breaking him but then ultimately helping him to discover that the truth can and will set him free. Lerman captures Charlie as the boy who allows life to happen to him, who believes that putting others’ lives ahead of his own means love, and who is eventually adopted into a group of misfit kids, headed by Patrick and his stepsister Sam, who, for a while, help Charlie to feel as though he belongs.

Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller

This is a story that addresses the vicious cycle of sexual abuse. It’s a story that weaves music and drugs and alcohol into the scope of Charlie’s life. It’s a story of the brutality of high school, especially for the gay football star who’s in love with Patrick but who ends up betraying him brutally, all for the sake of saving his reputation. It’s a story that’s both hopeful and heartbreaking, much like life and love themselves. Yes, there were some things that didn’t resonate in the movie that were present in the book, for instance the depth of the bond that forms between Charlie and his English teacher, Bill, but nothing truly significant was altered to bring this book to life.

Bill sees through Charlie’s reticence, and becomes the boy’s mentor and friend, assigning him a reading list of classic novels, from The Catcher in the Rye to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, each of these books featuring a protagonist who can best be described as flawed in his own way. Charlie is then assigned the task of writing essays on each book, finally given the single directive by Bill to be a filter, not a sponge, which, for Charlie, becomes the directive of a lifetime.

This is both a book and a movie that portrays love in all its forms, through family, friendships, as well as through the sometimes hopeful, sometimes painful sort of love that can only be experienced in high school.

Yeah, I think the story translated luminously to film.

And now, Charlie, Patrick, and Sam truly are infinite.

Elin Gregory

Well, Thanks to Elin Gregory, My Blah-Blah Has Actually Turned Into An Interesting Conversation

In my effort not to be a shit stirrer re: the state of M/M fiction, it seems I might’ve accidentally stirred up some productive discussion instead, with many thanks going to the lovely author, Ms. Gregory, and the lovely reader, Kazza, who’ve been weighing in on the state of romance versus erotica and how there doesn’t necessarily seem to be an honest distinction between the two within this genre, as well as the way in which some authors have been unfairly labeled erotica writers, not necessarily owing to the sexual content of their books but for nothing more, it seems, than the simple fact they write M/M romance.

If you’re at all interested in joining a discussion with other readers who’re are passionate about plot and see copious sex, or any sex, as unnecessary to the enjoyment of a book, or who simply see sex as a nice bonus to a meaty plot with real and well developed characters, go have a look at the two groups Elin started just for you.

Passionate About Plot: Facebook
Passionate About Plot: Goodreads

All Romance Ebooks, Sara Alva, Self-Published

In Which I Blah, Blah, Blah – And Try Not To Be A Shit Stirrer – Oh, And There’s A Review In Here Too…

I don’t know what you pay attention to on the internet. Between you and me, I try not to pay attention to a whole lot because I find that most of what I see, I end up wishing I could unsee. Anyway, there’s been some minor rumblings recently that I’m really interested in because they concern the genre we all read and review. It seems there’s been some talk of a bit of an exodus from the MM Romance/Gay Fiction reading community.


Well, I’ve seen a variety of reasons offered for it: some readers say they’re tired of the same old regurgitated tropes in contemporary romance, some think there’s been a decline in the quality of the stories, especially those being traditionally published (which has brought some attention to self-published authors and LiveJournal enthusiasts), while some say they’re just plain old tired of the glut of endlessly whiney characters being thrown out there for our consumption lately. But do you know what I find more than slightly amusing about this, in my own “wow, how ironic” kind of way? Those are all the exact same reasons I gave for my defection from M/F Romance a few years ago! Pfft. Weird. I guess it just goes to prove the old adage that what goes around comes around. Either that or it shows that, just like with any diet, the mass and unvaried consumption of one particular brain-food group is bound to, sooner or later, start leaving a bad aftertaste in your gray matter, and leave you craving something else. For all I know, it could be both. Or it could be that we readers are a fickle lot. I don’t know. At any rate, I feel pretty fortunate that I’ve been mostly immune to it thus far; at least so far as to say I’m not ready to give up on the genre. All I know is that in this fictional niche of which I’m admittedly a little bit possessive and protective, (which, hello, have you noticed is going through a huge growth explosion in both readers and authors?) I don’t want to see quality sacrificed for quantity. More does not always equal better. Now don’t say, “Well, duh.” You know it’s true.

But let’s get back to that whole “regurgitated tropes” comment I made before. To be perfectly honest, I don’t see this as a M/M genre exclusive issue. Honestly, I think there are simply universal truths and cosmic contingencies that say, hey, here we all are and when you pare us down to our most basic selves, we’re really not all that different. Love and romance may not be an exact science, but chemistry and physics play a huge part in the experiment and is something we all have in common. Does that mean contemporary romance is doomed to be the same old, same old. Maybe, because really, when it comes down to it there just aren’t a lot of ways to vary the human experience, so I don’t know that I see it as lack of variety as much as it’s an abundance of product where there was, at one time, not so much to choose from. But that’s just me and my wonky thoughts on the matter.

Which leads me to the review-ish portion of the blah-blah-blah. So, let’s discuss the Jock/Nerd/Social Outcast trope, shall we? I’ve seen it done and done brilliantly in John Goode’s Tales from Foster High series. For me, these books are the absolute pinnacle of the theme. These are the books that I will forever compare this storyline against, and to be honest, so far everything has paled somewhat in the comparing. Does that mean it should be scrapped as a tired and recycled plot device? Absolutely not. But for me, if it’s going to be done and I’m going to read it, it’s going to have to be damn near flawless in its execution because I’ve read, again for me, what I consider to be the best. Is that fair? I don’t know, but it’s all I’ve got to work with, so I’m going with it.

Which now leads me to Sara Alva’s debut novel, Social Skills, the story of Connor, an eighteen-year-old college freshman and gifted musician who suffers from a crippling case of social anxiety; and the mediocre-at-best football player, Jared, who Connor has been hired to tutor in Anthropology.

Connor’s painful introversion, which he bears only through a sort of self-practicing music therapy, plays out as a deep contrast to Jared’s popular extroversion, which at times is itself more practiced artifice than a natural part of his personality. The building of their tenuous-at-best relationship plays out as a study of the built in difficulties in pretending you’re someone you’re not, of hiding in the closet, all for the sake of fear and of preserving a traditional public persona in a meatheaded, macho-ass, homophobic world. I liked Connor and Jared and was glad when they finally found their footing, but here’s where my problem with this book exists and why, in the end, I can’t give it a higher rating: I don’t think the premise supported the word count. Social Skills is more than three-hundred pages long, but when I boiled it down to its simplest themes and what I took away from the story, there was really only about a novella’s worth of significant plot there for me, and the rest labored a bit under the idea that nothing else needed to happen but to showcase all the stereotypical characters that could possibly populate a college campus. It was the socio-anthropological study of the teenage social structure, which did a lot of pointing out the obvious, and that’s pretty much it. Simply put, the story was predictable, which isn’t bad, per se—I mean, Connor and Jared eventually getting their HFN was what I ultimately wanted, and I got it. Connor and Jared saved this book for me—no, what I mean by predictable is that the reader knows these two boys are going to get together, which is good. But the reader also knows they’re going to have their short but sweet moment of bliss and then the bloom is going to rot right off the stem because publicly denying the one and only person who knows you for who you really are is a recipe for disaster. The reader knows that in order for the relationship to have any chance of working out, these two boys were going to have to spend some time apart figuring out who they are, deciding what was important to them, growing and making some changes, and ultimately figuring out who they wanted to be for each other. And the reader knows they’ll eventually get it all figured out. And that’s why, for me, this was a good read instead of great; it employed some common tropes in teenage drama but didn’t do anything more to make those themes special or unique in its 95,460 words.

So, while this is a case where a common M/M theme didn’t quite work for me, I’m not at all saying I wouldn’t recommend this book because, as I said, I did like Connor and Jared a great deal. They were sweet and conflicted and I was really rooting for them. I’m only saying that for me, the storytelling weighed in as just average, not that I expected a reinvention of the wheel, mind you, but I had hoped for at least a little new tread on the tires.

And that’s my universal truth.

You can buy Social Skills here:


Amelia’s going to be my guest here at TNA soon, celebrating the rest of Gavin and Derrick’s story in Velocity! If you have’t had the chance to get hold of the first two books in the series, here’s your chance to get them at a great savings!

The fiction of Amelia C. Gormley

Today, All Romance Ebooks is offering a 50% rebate today in honor of Valentine’s Day, so this is a perfect time to get caught up on Inertia and Acceleration, just in time for the release of Velocity!

Check it out!

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All Romance Ebooks

This Could Turn Out To Be A Pretty Good Deal…

…if you shop at AllRomanceEbooks a lot.

ARe is offering readers a 50% Rebate on all purchases today only! It’s not 50% off your purchase, though. It’s a rebate, which means this:

Rebates are delivered to your on-line account in the form of eBook Bucks, our in-store currency, after purchase. Your eBook Bucks will display for assignment in your library. To use them, click on the “Assign/Gift” link and assign them to your own account. See our FAQ for additional details about using eBook Bucks.

So, while that may not be quite as tempting as an instant discount, it still might be worth checking out if you’re a frequent shopper. :-)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Freebie, Melanie Tushmore, Storm Moon Press

Happy Sodding Valentine’s! Love, Melanie Tushmore

I’m a laugh tart. I make no secret of that fact. – Hugh Grant

P.S. – This not a review. This is only an observation.

I’m freaking excited about this series.

Do you remember The Monkees? No? Just me? Well, if you do, imagine The Monkees have traveled forty years into a future where cable television offers them the near unlimited license to carry out their madcap shenanigans without fear of those pesky censors telling them they have to keep it clean. Imagine a world where hash brownies and dropping acid could make everything hella groovy, a world where a cheese grater may or may not be a lethal weapon, and a world where the pretty girl isn’t so much pretty as she is a hygienically challenged crack whore who thinks she’s Castro’s daughter and won’t go the hell away. This, my friends, gives you a very dim picture of the questionably dim men who are in the book of fun that is Happy Sodding Valentine’s.

This is a short prequel to Melanie Tushmore’s new series The Crucifox Pub Tales, which, not to confuse things, actually seems to happen sometime after the excerpt from the actual first book, The Green Eyed Monster (Crucifox #1), due out next month from Storm Moon Press. This is the story of a rock band that hasn’t quite found the secret to their success just yet, based on the fact that their living arrangements may or may not be in violation of several public health codes. ::shudders:: Trust me when I tell you this is not your mama’s romantic Valentine’s Day story. In fact, though you can probably take a pretty good stab at a guess, it’s not even altogether clear who Sky’s guy’s gonna be…though I know who I hope it is.

So why not go ahead and introduce yourselves to Sky, Ritchie, Brandon, Jamie, and Spider; the boys in the band Crucifox. It’s FREE!, so you have nothing to lose but the time you’ll spare reading it, and if you’re at all like me, you might end up as anxious as I am to see what hijinks and hilarity awaits the boys now they’ve finally rid themselves of their smelly house-crasher. Seriously, she made my brain throw up just a little bit. Blech.

If you’re interested in checking this one out, you can find it in all e-formats here:

Bold Strokes Books, Sam Cameron

Kings of Ruin by Sam Cameron

And then the car was beside him, not idling but panting like a deadly animal which may or may not be tamed. – Stephen King

Coming March 18, 2013

It’s hard not to automatically think of Stephen King when you read a book about possessed cars, isn’t it? No? Maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’ve just read too much SK in my day.

At any rate, Sam Cameron’s Young Adult novel King of Ruins is a pretty fast-paced and promising beginning to what appears is going to be a series (???), even though I can’t find mention of a sequel to the book anywhere. Honestly, though, I can’t imagine there won’t be a continuation to the story, based upon the way this book ended. There’s too much left hanging in the balance for it to be otherwise, beginning with the origin of the Ruins, and notwithstanding the non-relationship that had really only just been hinted at between Danny Kelly and Kevin Clark before the book came to a conclusion.

This is Danny’s coming-out story, set against a backdrop of real-life issues (the loss of his father and brother, his mother’s new marriage, Danny’s arrest for underage driving—in a stolen car, no less—not to mention now living in a city where he doesn’t want to be), but that’s really not the central focus of the story; that belongs to the alien sources of energy dubbed Ruins that feed on love, drugs, and rock & roll, and have taken to possessing all manner of automobiles, wreaking havoc and leaving a host of dead bodies in their rearview mirrors. There is one particularly deadly Ruin, King #5, that’s causing chaos in the city of Nashville, and it’s that entity that brings Danny and Kevin, who works with his father for a secret arm of the government in league with the Department of Transportation, together to mount a dangerous chase to try and eliminate the King before it can gather enough strength to infect something much more powerful and dangerous than a mere car.

This is a story that’s creative and filled with plenty of cut-to-the chase action when not focusing on Danny’s journey of self-discovery. It’s a story that has a lot of potential to go places if it is indeed only the beginning of something that will eventually dig a little deeper into the origins of the Ruins, how and why they connect with people of a particular background, and how Danny is eventually going to fit into the scheme of the agency to which he’s currently been given only a short-term hall pass due to his age.

There were enough questions left dangling at the end of this book that, right or wrong, it left me wanting in a rather frustrated way, sort of like trying to satisfy a chocolate craving with carob. Ack. I really liked the Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi elements of the story, though, and found myself rooting for good things to happen for Danny and Kevin, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Kings of Ruin is definitely not a book you ought to read if you’re looking for teen romance, but if it’s action and adventure you’re after, and you don’t mind a cliffhanger, give this one a go.

Coming from Bold Strokes Books: March 2013

Amber Allure, Eden Winters

Well, Would Ya Lookie Here: More Goodies!

Did you happen to fall in love with Lucky and Bo in Eden Winters’ Diversion? Mm-hm, I did too. Did you know that the sequel, Collusion (Diversion Book #2), is coming soon (February 24th) from Amber Quill Press? Yeah, it is! And did you also know that Eden Winters is giving away an eCopy of the book to one lucky reader over at Stumbling Over Chaos? Well, you do now! So get on over there and enter to win before 7:00pm Central time on Friday, February 22, 2013.

Good Luck!

Josephine Myles

You Like Free Stuff, Right? Yeah, Me Too…

Some of you may already know this, but I’m sharing anyway, so there. Josephine Myles is out and about on a Screwing the System blog tour, and she’s offering to hand out a free goodie or two in the process, not the least of which is a suede flogger she made all on her onesies! Plus, on February 14th, just in time for Valentine’s Day, you’ll be able to find a FREE follow-up story to “Screwing” called Screw the Fags.

Click HERE to get all the information you’ll need to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning! :-D

Good luck!

Brandon Shire, TPG Books

In Which I Ugly-Cried. Or Maybe I’m Just A Weenie: Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire

Death ends a life, not a relationship. – Mitch Albom

The following is being provided as a free public service guide: How to survive Brandon Shire’s, Listening to Dust. By: Yours Truly

Step One: Secure a butter knife (preferably rusty) and a rubber mallet.
Step Two: Place butter knife, blunt tip facing chest, somewhere in the vicinity of the heart, ensuring the blade’s trajectory will aim between the ribs so as not to hinder its progress during this carefully orchestrated procedure.
Step Three: Holding the knife in your left hand, firmly grasp the rubber mallet in your right; then use the mallet to hammer repeatedly on the knife handle until the rusty (recommended) blade passes through the skin and muscle, and lodges neatly into your poor, abused heart, being careful to avoid any major arteries, as bleeding out too quickly will prematurely relieve the agony, and really, who wants that?
Step Four: Once butter knife has been wedged firmly in the cardiac muscle, twist in earnest for maximum effect.
Step Five: Twist again just because.

There, see? That wasn’t so bad now was it? And trust me when I say it will make reading this heartbreaking story of love and denial and loss feel like sunshine and rainbows in comparison.

You’re welcome.

Listening to Dust is an uncompromising story of the tragic ending to a romance that, truth be told, was destined to fail before it ever began. Dusty Earl is not a man who will ever find peace in or escape from his own sexuality in spite of the fact that the months he spent with Stephen Dobbins, when Dusty was able, for that brief time in his life, to become Dustin and to grasp hold of an ephemeral and ever elusive thread of equilibrium, had maybe caused Dusty to feel something like a quiet place amidst the confusion and conflict born in a place to which he knows he’s obligated by duty to return one day.

This is a story told in a series of memories and letters, as well as in conversation between Stephen and Dustin’s younger brother Robbie, a young man whose inherent innocence, kindness, and compassion supersede the unfortunate impairment that has caused him to be mislabeled a dummy, and precludes the fact that he’s awaiting a verdict from the jury in a trial in which he’s being prosecuted for murder.

This book is an illustration of the influence of bigotry on a man from a small Southern town, a place from which Dusty escaped, joining the military in hopes of eventually being able to provide a better life for Robbie than the one they’d ever been offered within the extreme dysfunction of their family. It is a story of a modicum of freedom found three-thousand mile away, in a place where Dustin was able, for once, to withstand the burden of his self-loathing because he’d finally found someone who made it all a little easier to impersonate a man who will suffer a shred of reason in his unreasoned world. It was a place where, for a moment, Dustin was finally able to ask for and accept the gift that was offered to him, was able to give as much of himself as he ever had. And then he turned and walked away for the sake of his brother, as well as, I believe, for Stephen. A sacrifice that, in the end, fate would twist into the saddest of ironies, in which Robbie’s life would be forever impacted anyway by Dusty’s love for another man, and Stephen’s would be impacted by the fact that the man whom he believed had merely suffered his love, truly did love him in return, in the only way he was able.

In a poetic prose that only served to increase the emotional quotient of this already moving story, Brandon Shire paints a picture of a disillusioned man who tries so hard to run from the truth, though he can’t run far enough to hide from who he is. It is a story of hope and despair and of the promise of love that’s discarded like the flotsam and jetsam left behind in a life laid to waste by the liars whose words have wormed their way into Dustin’s psyche until those lies became the truths he wore like scars, convincing him that love wasn’t meant for someone like him. And in an equally though altogether different tragedy, the detritus of those lies brings about the destruction of Stephen’s dreams and costs him far more than he ever imagined he’d have to pay. Listening to Dust offers no happily-ever-after to the reader. It is brutal in its honesty and keeps counsel with the reality that sometimes a moment-to-moment happiness is the best we can hope for while we navigate this mortal coil without promise of anything more than that.

I loved this book for its uncompromising portrayal of its characters and their hardships. It doesn’t pull any punches, nor does it sugarcoat its truths to make them more palatable to a wider audience. If you want your fiction tied up in a lovely bow of forever after, don’t come looking here; you won’t find it. But, I’d hate to see anyone miss out on this story for fear of shedding a few tears along the way. They’re well worth it.

You can buy Listening to Dust here: