Love Hard by D. Travers Scott

Love Hard by D. Travers Scott

Blurb:
For the first time, the best pieces of D. Travers Scott’s celebrated short fiction from the past twenty years are gathered together. Love Hard collects work originally appearing in award-winning anthologies, underground queer ‘zines, erotica magazines, and live performance, along with new stories never before published. Together, they offer the first comprehensive overview of Scott’s ongoing explorations of masculinity, sexuality, cities, family, love, and the power of writing. All stories are newly revised for this collection.

as the tears dropped onto the red sheets…

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Advocate Days & Other Stories by Mark Thompson


Advocate Days & Other Stories by Mark Thompson

Blurb:

What does it mean to be an advocate? To become a person who speaks out and defends a cause? In this collection of moving essays, longtime journalist Mark Thompson charts his own journey of becoming both a witness and participant in the gay liberation movement. He then goes on to describe other advocates of personal and political freedom he has known and how these friendships further informed his activism.

His story begins in 1968 when, as a curious teenager in the throes of coming out, he accidentally discovers one of the first issues of The Advocate, a tiny Los Angeles newsletter that would grow into the gay movement’s most important national journal of record. Little did he know that only in a few more years he’d be working for the publication ~ first as an enterprising young writer and then, after nearly two decades, as its Senior and Cultural Editor.

Filled with historic eye-witness accounts of a movement and its primary chronicle always in flux, as well as profiles of artists and activists who have made a difference, "Advocate Days and Other Stories" is more than the sum of its parts. Taken together, these keenly observed tales offer a stirring testament to the significance of living a life graced with meaning and purpose.
very interesting …

DeVante’s Coven by S.M. Johnson


DeVante’s Coven by S.M. Johnson

Blurb:
When Roderick abandons new vampire Daniel to the care of his sire, DeVante, Daniel flounders under DeVante’s attitude of benevolent neglect. He establishes an after hours party house, which becomes his primary source for blood, and wonders how much autonomy DeVante will actually allow. Yearning for guidance and supervision, Daniel pursues Reed, a mortal man, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship rich with elements of BDSM.

Meanwhile, Roderick has fled to Las Vegas, where he saves the life of a young man named Tony by changing him to vampire. Only something goes wrong, because when Tony wakes up he doesn’t act like a fledgling vampire should. And when the sun rises and Roderick sleeps his vampire sleep, Tony walks out into the daylight and goes home, where he accidentally changes his roommate Lily to vampire. Roderick wakes to find that he now has two brand new fledglings, neither of whom he can control. He panics and does the only thing can think to do; bring them to DeVante in San Francisco. When they arrive, Roderick is shattered to learn Daniel has a new lover.

Vampires, mortals, and Tony, who’s something else altogether, are all beholden to DeVante for protection, though each has a special talent. DeVante notices this and begins to suspect that an outside force has brought all these children to him for some nefarious purpose. Before he can put the pieces together, the whole group is snatched and held for ransom. The price? Help a vicious vampire from DeVante’s past take over the mortal world. The monster would use their talents against them, but the coven discovers that together they can defeat even the strongest evil.

[Originally reviewed for Rainbow Reviews.]

Review:

DeVante’s Coven is actually a sequel, yet neither the summary nor the book clearly state that. However when reading the book, there are clear gaps in background, information, and characters mentioned that the story expects the reader to already know. Due to these problems, this book shouldn’t be read as a stand alone even though it can be if you can get past the obvious holes. The first book in the series, DeVante’s Coven, deals with how Daniel is turned into a vampire and the relationships between Daniel, Roderick, DeVante, and Emily. DeVante’s Coven starts with Daniel struggling to understand his new vampire life as his creator, Roderick, has run off without him and DeVante doesn’t want to be bothered with Daniel. Each vampire ends up making a bit of a mess but create intricate relationships and bonds that evolve into an interesting new family.

The story is told from alternating third person point of view. There are several different storylines that the book bounces between until finally merging together towards the end for the final climatic scene. The first storyline is the plot involving the new vampire Daniel and his relationship to an emotionally stunted Reed. Daniel pursues Reed single-mindedly while Reed runs hot and cold towards Daniel. Eventually the two settle into a BDSM dynamic that works well for them both but takes some learning and growing. The second storyline involves Roderick who creates a new fledgling vampire in a beautiful left for dead boy named Tony. Unfortunately Tony turns out to be different from any other vampire and causes havoc in Las Vegas. All the while the Master of them all, DeVante, is dealing with his own frustrations over his love for the very human Emily and unwilling attachments to his new vampire children.

The various stories are mostly well executed but jumping between them is somewhat frustrating. Just when the stories are getting good, the point of view jumps to another vampire, leading to a slightly frustrating reading experience. However, each story is rather absorbing and interesting on its own and together produces a page turning, enthralling book about a group of fascinating individuals, which offsets any frustration. The writing is solid with good prose and evocative description. There are a few areas where the scenes could be tighter without jumping around so much and the storyline with Daniel and Reed dominates the book so much that Roderick and Tony’s storyline needs more development and depth. DeVante’s obsession with Emily is very empty as there is no additional context and information offered in this book as to their history, relationship, or bond making this element essential to having read the previous book. Emily herself is never introduced in the book until the very end yet referenced numerous times without giving more information about who she is and how she fits into the story and characters.

For the most part the characterization is decent, although the best developed characters are those newly introduced. DeVante and Roderick suffer from the least amount of characterization and that is likely due to the previous book which I can only assume spends significant time on their personalities. Part of their appeal and interest shines through in this book but there are gaps in the characters and actions that don’t make sense yet the story relies on previous knowledge of the reader to overcome this. The characters of Daniel, Reed, Tony, and Lily all are all well crafted and great introductions. Tony and Lily are not given the space they deserve but no doubt will grow and flourish in future books. Daniel and Reed are a dynamic couple with explosive sexual chemistry, vibrant personalities, and hopefully will also continue to develop. Daniel is slightly less interesting than Reed as his actions tend to be flatter and more predictable whereas Reed’s history and damaged emotional state set up a wealth of opportunity.

This is a pretty balanced story that has many more good aspects than poor, but the final climatic scene is troublesome. The identity of the classic evil-doer is suspect and doesn’t have enough context to explain the motivation and purpose. Furthermore the paranormal and magical actions seem arbitrary. The scene lacks an inherent reality that would tie the magical aspects to the vampires. Why do Lily’s actions have such an effect? Why is DeVante basically powerless during the scene? How is Roderick injured? The supposed reasons of the villain are ridiculous and his coaxing of the Coven even more so. This scene is especially disappointing given the strong story up to that point. However, this climax is easy to ignore and just move on in the book. Thankfully it’s rather short and forgettable.

I really enjoyed reading DeVante’s Coven, even though I hadn’t read the first book. I’m definitely curious enough about the characters to see where they came from and how they came to be and I also am interested in reading the next book to come, showing where they go from here. The story and large cast are engaging and engrossing with a touch of horror and BDSM. The writing keeps the story somewhat light without a hard intensity that would truly make this story shine but I can recommend this offering regardless. I would suggest reading the first book in the series, DeVante’s Children, prior to reading DeVante’s Coven for greater context and understanding.

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