Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Updated Reading List


By Tim Smith

When last we tackled the subject of “What are you reading,” I listed several books that were in my to-be-read pile. I thought I’d provide an update, along with some comments in case anyone wants to read these books.

I recently finished “Dead Last” by James W. Hall. While this Florida-based thriller generally measured up to Hall’s previous work, I must admit that I was slightly disappointed. A couple of intriguing plot twists were dropped in about halfway through, but they weren’t fully resolved. Also, there was no real satisfactory motive given for why the serial killer did what they did. Still an overall good read, though.

In progress now is another of his books that I’d never gotten around to reading, “Red Sky at Night.” It’s off to a good start, and I’m already hooked. The same with a book by another fave author, Carl Hiaasen. I’m reading “Nature Girl,” and so far, so good.

I previously listed a new novel called “Ohio,” by Stephen Markley. I had high hopes for this one but sadly, they weren’t realized. I lost interest several chapters in, mainly because I found the author’s narrative hard to follow. I may go back to it someday.

The same problem arose with “His Guilt,” by Shelley Shepherd Gray. This Amish romance sounded promising, but again, I found it tough to maintain interest. 

I did finally finish “Dirty Money,” by Richard Stark (aka Donald E. Westlake). No disappointments here. Westlake delivered another home run with this story about the professional thief named Parker, who only wanted his cut of the money after his cronies ripped him off and left him for dead. Time to root for the bad guy again.

What I’ve mostly been reading lately, though, is my own next novel, “The Neon Jungle” (Nick Seven Number 6). I plan on releasing it this next year, and I’ve been busy doing rewrites and revisions. I’ve found that this is the fun part of the job, adding little bits of atmosphere, making the characters more lifelike, and fine-tuning the dialogue and plot points.

While I have the floor, allow me to plug my newest holiday-themed romance, “Cupid Says Happy New Year.” It was recently released by Extasy Books. This is a sequel to last year’s “Santa Slept Here,” but like all of my series books, they don’t need to be read in order. Both of these stories are lightweight rom-com stuff like you see on Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel this time of year, but with more heat. Actually, let’s be honest—they are both classified as erotic romances. You’ve been warned. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Discovering a New (To Me) Author

I did something recently that I haven't done in a long time.

I read a book from start to finish. Like, a real book. It had a plot and everything.

Lately, like for the last year or so, I've been reading next to nothing. When I pick up a book, I get halfway through and then it becomes a slog or there's something else wrong with it.

(I've recently decided I've had it with my favourite thriller writer, James Rollins, because of his habit of "burying the gays". When I hit the mid-point of the book I was reading and saw that one of the villains is gay and his boyfriend is also a villain, I knew they would end up dead by the end of the novel, as do all gay characters in Rollins's book. I may have been wrong, but I stopped reading.)

So I've been, like, disillusioned with books. I've had one disappointment after another.

And then Chase Connor, a gay young adult / new adult author I'm connected with on Twitter asked me to read his book. I admit that I very reluctantly took it. Though I self-publish and I run a small publisher, I've found that whenever someone asks me to read their self-published or small-publisher-published book, it's always a disappointment.

Was I ever fucking wrong.

A Surplus of Light by Chase Connor is a beautiful, touching, moving book.

Mike is told to stay away from Ian, the boy in school who is a badass, a danger, a psycho. But there's something about Ian that makes it so Mike can't look away. It might be the way he protects the smaller and weaker kids. It might be the art that he draws. It might be the quiet contemplative mood that seems to settle around Ian all the time.

Mike isn't sure of what his feelings for Ian are, but he knows he wants to get closer. And in time he understands that he is deeply attracted to Ian.

Ian, though, wants Mike to keep his distance. Ian is into Mike, that much is clear, but he won't let down his walls and Mike doesn't know why.

To make the matter more complicated, Ian will only let them meet and hangout in the woods by the stream in the long, hot days of summer. Once school rolls around, they have to pretend that they don't know each other. Ian swears it's for Mike's safety.

What follows is a series of summers -- long, hot, bright days and the cool evenings in the stream that runs through the woods. Mike and Ian explore both themselves and each other. They challenge each other.

And when it matters most, they push each other to be strong. Ian, who Mike considers to be the strongest person he knows, still has to be pushed by Mike to be stronger, to stand up when it matters most.

This book is rather light on plot, but it's deep on theme and mood and emotion. I couldn't put this book down. Not only did I discover a fantastic new author that I love and not only did I make a new Twitter friend, but with this single book, Chase has renewed my faith in reading and my faith in self-published and small-publisher-published books.

And if I can do a little bit of extra promo for the fantastic Mr. Connor, he has a new book that comes out today -- The Gravity of Nothing.



Cameron D. James is a writer of gay smut. His most recent publication is the (surprisingly smut-free) gay YA romance, Gay Love And Other Fairy Tales, under his YA pen name, Dylan James.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Must Read, Should Read, Might Read

Sacchi Green

I might have said Am-Reading rather than Must Read, since I’m on the very last story in an anthology edited by a friend for her own small, fairly new press, but it’s a prime example of a Must Read situation. There are certain complications to having close friends who are writers and editors. In this case we never pressure each other for reviews, or even ask, but we do read each other’s work and, when appropriate, post reviews. I couldn’t review her last book, a novel, because I’d already written a blurb for the back cover. In fact I had beta-read it, with genuine enjoyment and admiration: Medusa’s Touch, by Emily L. Byrne. (Lisabet will know of whom I speak.)

This time, as I said, I’m reading an anthology she edited and published, with stories by fifteen writers, with a wide variety of styles, perspectives, and themes. This is Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) edited by Catherine Lundoff. Yes, Catherine has recently shifted to using a different name for her erotic works, and this book is not erotica.

I’ve almost finished it, and know already that I can heartily recommend it, but as anyone who’s done much editing knows, it’s hard to look at a story with a reader’s eyes and suppress your inner editor. Silly things occur to me. Should all three stories with one-eyed characters have been presented next to each other? But other than that, they’re as diverse as can be, so I shouldn’t be picky. Two or three typos—but after those either there weren’t any or I was too involved with the stories that I didn’t notice, which is as it should be. An immense diversity of themes and setting and mood and bursts of wild creativity, but I found that a simpler, more straightforward piece, set in the Louisiana bayous rather than more distant and fictional realms, was one of my favorites. That means, of course, that by then I was in full reader mode, no longer editorial, which is a very fine tribute to the book as a whole.

I’ll finish the book, and then read it over again to compensate for the fact that my own mood on first reading was soured by some personal stresses. It will be hard not to get too close to spoiler territory, since many stories have such clever twists and even the setting of at least one is revealed slowly and turns out to be the main and startling feature. I may not be able to resist mentioning it in a review. We’ll see.
https://www.amazon.com/Scourge-Seas-Space-Catherine-Lundoff-ebook/dp/B07JF3XGLN/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544456962&sr=1-1&keywords=catherine+lundoff

Onward to Should Read. This, of course, is a list that could wrap around the world a time or two, but I’ll just mention the most recent two books. The Learning Curve: an Anthology of Lessons Learned is from Dirt Roads Books, a charity project with all the proceeds going to an organization helping to educate girls in Africa. I have a story in it, set during WWII, and definitely not erotica, although I might some day expand it to be more of a romance, and a paranormal one at that. In any case, I should read the whole thing, and help to publicize it. https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Curve-Anthology-Lessons-Learned/dp/194725328X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544456863&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Learning+Curve%2C+Dirt+Roads+Books


The other book is A Few More Winter Tales, edited by Matt Bright mostly with reprints to give the writers more exposure. Catherine Lundoff has a story in this one, too.  My story comes first and is entirely included in the “Look Inside!” feature of Amazon. Not erotica—my point of view character is the wooden bird in a Swiss cuckoo clock, who gets confused as to what he sees some humans doing should be reported to Santa as naughty, or nice. Okay, maybe very subtly erotica. amazon.com/dp/B07L2CX1GF


And the Might Read category, which should probably be Must Read: Old letters. A few more than a hundred years old, the others spanning the century up to maybe the turn of our century. Letters (some of them even from me when I lived in California) saved by my parents and bundled up in various places around the house I just sold for my father, now near me in an extended care facility. I should read those letters I really should. There’s a lot of history there even beyond family matters.  I should read them, I really should. But will I?

I might.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Up to My Ears

by Jean Roberta

Please excuse my silence here for the past two days.

I’ve been hard at work marking late essays before my first exam on Monday morning (December 10). I haven’t had time to read anything else.

Here is a randomly-chosen passage by one of my international students (i.e. English is not their first language) on a short story by Margaret Atwood, “My Last Duchess.” (The story refers to “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, a monologue put in the mouth of the Duke of Ferrara, rumoured to have had his teenage bride murdered in the 1500s.)

The point of view in “My Last Duchess” is very important. The reader sees the point of view through the author’s eyes. The reader gets to see inside her head and understand how she feels. The reader, however, does not get to see inside Bill’s head so the reader does not understand why he is trying to defend the Duchess. The author, however, has a reason why she doesn’t defend the Duchess and why the Duke should be defended. The reader also sees why the author sees her teacher as important to her and how her teacher is her role model.

Students were supposed to explain how the viewpoint from which a particular story is told (first-person, third-person limited, third-person omniscient, third-person objective, etc.) affects all the other elements: plot, tone, characterization. I’ve used this as an essay topic for a few semesters because it tends to prevent plagiarism. For some reason, the standard on-line student-help sites (Schmoop, Sparknotes, enotes, Grade Saver) don’t feature sections on viewpoint which could easily be copied-and-pasted into an essay. So first-year university students who rush to their favourite site as soon as they get the topic for their next essay are left to flounder on their own.

There is a lot of plot summary in the essays I’ve read so far.

In addition to the essay on a particular short story, students had to write about a novel.

Every semester, I must assign a book-length work (novel, collection of short stories, volume of poetry, play in several acts) that students must read on their own without much guidance, and then write about in an essay. This assignment was set in place by the English Department as a whole, even though I think it’s too much for first-year students in addition to everything they are guided through in class.

Last year, I bought twelve copies of the very recent novel Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis, put them on reserve in the university library (they could only be taken out overnight), and assigned an essay on it. I found the animal-fable format of the novel intriguing, and it is set in a particular part of Canada: the city of Toronto, with a map. The following semester, I found passages from on-line book reviews leaking into my students’ essays.

This semester, I decided to change the book. In line with the university policy of “indigenization,” I bought ten copies of a dystopian YA novel, The Marrow-Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, and placed them in the library. Serendipitously, I learned later that the Metis author will be coming here to Regina, Saskatchewan, to give the keynote address in a conference on dystopian fiction in February 2019.

The novel is movingly and poetically written, and it combines a coming-of-age story with the endless journey of a makeshift “family” of survivors, including a wise old “nokomis” (here she would be called a “kokum”), a grandmother with useful knowledge to pass down, and a kind of family leader who turns out to be a man who was married to another man, the love of his life, whom he lost and quietly mourns.

There is much to like about this novel. The central plot premise, however, works much better as a metaphor than as a biological possibility. Indigenous people are being ruthlessly hunted by a Canadian government agency for their precious bone-marrow, which contains their dreams, and all other people are losing their sanity because they can no longer dream. The extraction of the marrow kills the subjects, and it is saved as a kind of fluid in test tubes that are then transported away from the “schools” where the captive human subjects are destroyed.

In a one-class discussion, several students asked how this marrow transfusion is supposed to work, exactly. All I could say is that the novel is not intended to be sci-fi, and the author clearly had other priorities when writing it than to work out the biological details.

The exploitation of indigenous people as a natural resource seems all too believable, and the “mainstream” (government) assumption that the bodies of those defined as sub-human should be available for use by the privileged has resonance in a time when sexual abuse is regularly in the news.

It bothers me, though, that a process that is clearly conceived of as symbolic is central in an otherwise realistic novel about survival in a damaged physical environment, relationships, group dynamics, and the preservation of endangered cultures, including languages. True enough, the makeshift family creates a tradition of storytime because stories (both individual and collective) are an important means of maintaining life and hope, but even the stories-within-the-story are meant to be truer, in some sense, than official denials and rationalizations.

I chose this novel because -- at the time I chose it -- there wasn’t much about it on-line for students to find, but The Marrow-Thieves has won several awards and is getting a lot of buzz. I can see that I’ll have to change the book again in the near future.

Meanwhile, I have to read essay after essay which summarizes the plot instead of defending an argument about the concepts in it.

Then I’ll have to grade a pile of exams a.s.a.p. I’m sure there will be times when I’ll feel as if my marrow is being drained.
-----------------------------

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The World is Falling Down, Hold My Hand. A post by @GiselleRenarde

My best friend wrote to me the other day. She asked, "What's your favourite Christmas food?"

She was eavesdropping on some people who were discussing the topic, both of whom agreed their favourite Christmas food was... mashed potatoes.

My friend thought this was very odd. She eats mashed potatoes all the time and doesn't consider it a festive food in the least.

I consider stuffing to be the Christmassy-est food. Out of curiosity... what would YOU consider to be the most festive food for this time of year?

My friend told me about this very specific square her aunt used to make for their dessert tray. It doesn't have a name, as far as she knows. But she hasn't had one of those squares in years, because her family hasn't had a big Christmas gathering in ages.

Her grandmother died this year, too.  Hers was even older than mine, well into her nineties. So I guess this will be the first Christmas without a matriarch for both our families.

It's funny how you start feeling close to the top of the food chain, when the older generations die off. Except, in this food chain, death is at the top of the food pyramid. It'll get you, in the end.  Every time.

I wish my friend lived closer to me, or I lived closer to her. She was telling me she's feeling very festive. She's not usually a Christmas person, but this year she feels like making a gingerbread house and baking cookies.  And December's only just begun!

But I guess I can relate to the need for festiveness, considering I just started reading an honest-to-god Christian Romance because it's got "Christmas" in the title.  Listen, I am not a romance reader. I am not a Christian. That's how desperate I am for... for...

For what?

Last night, I watched about 5 minutes of a British TV show about people who celebrate Christmas all year long. I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be funny.  To me, it was more "yikes" than amusing, because all these Christmas people struck me as the saddest of sad clowns. "Following his divorce, this man started celebrating Christmas every day of the year..."

What is it we're yearning for when we get in the holiday spirit?

Peace? Kindness? Compassion? Generosity?

Family?

On my mother's side, we've always celebrated Christmas a week ahead of time.  We'd do Christmas Day individually, in our own homes, but for my grandmother, that big family gathering was her real Christmas.  My grandfather was an atheist, but he was raised Jehovah's Witness, so he didn't celebrate at all. I don't know what the two of them did on Christmas Day. Pretty sure it was just another day, for them.

That's why I was so surprised when some of my aunts and uncles suggested that we NOT continue our traditional family party. I understand where they're coming from, because they stated it outright:

It'll be too difficult. It'll be too sad.

But that party was my grandmother's favourite day of the year.  She loved her family, and there were very few occasions when she got to see us all (or, at least, the vast majority of us). We'd do something for Mother's Day, have a party on her birthday, but Christmas was the big celebration.

The party is going ahead, but a few of my aunts and uncles have dropped out. I don't hold that against them. As I've mentioned many times before, we don't show emotions in my family. Instead of running to each other for support, we run to our corners to be sad in secret.

If we don't hold the party this year, a year that saw the deaths of my grandmother and my cousin, we never will again. I watched my father's family fall apart. My friend has seen the same with hers. I have so little left in my life--people, especially. I can't lose my family. They mean too much to me.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Look Inside the Inner Sanctum






I’m going to give you a look inside my head.  See what you think about what’s in there.


It took me a while to warm up to eBooks, especially in the beginning when copyright DRM devices were still being figured out and you would pay full price for a book in PDF form and find you couldn’t open it.  You certainly couldn’t pass it around.  And even now, there is still nothing quite like being able to hold a physical book in your hand and turn the pages.  In one case a close friend of mine loaned  me a humor book that had been on her kitchen table for a long time.  I never read the book – but I smelled it.  The book smelled like her skin, like her kitchen table.   It was evocative of intimate conversations and a drink late at night.  It was evocative of her.  I never read the book through but I loved to hold the paper pages to my nose and inhale her essence, conjuring her presence like a magician whenever I desired it.


When I visit a person’s home, one of the first things I do is look around to see what books they’re reading.  I always think that, as in my case, it helps you to know the person, what they think about all the time.  There was a time this might have been true, but more and more people seem not to read.  It is rare to find a house that has a full library or even a sloppy stack of library books piled by the easy chair.  My impression is that people don’t read anymore.  One of the reasons I’ve gotten away for so long with writing sex stories is that no one in my family, none of my friends – except one – reads books the way I do.  No  one is impressed.   No one cares.  I’ve even shown my son anthologies, some quite respectable, that had my stories.  Zero.  So I’ve gotten away with a lot, which is probably for the best.


I love ebooks now.  I have four huge libraries of ebooks, mostly on six subjects – Sex, Writing Craft, Poetry, Spirituality, cook books and information technology.  One of my friends, the one that actually  reads books, calls me a Renaissance Man.  I’ll take it.


These images here are a peek, and not even a complete one, a partial one, of my Google Books library, which is only one library of four.  I am a fiend.  My relationship with books is not a normal one.  I hoard them like King Solomon hoarded wives and concubines.  Like Solomon, these hundreds of books are my only lovers.  But what a vast harem of wise, passionate and interesting lovers  they are.  They are my courtesans.


My mind seems to revolve around three fundamental themes at all times.  Spiritual journey, the craft of prose and poetry, and the art of evoking sexual pleasure.  I appear to be an unambitious man.  An interesting but so so paying job, a small entry level house, an aging car.  A crappy tiny lawn.  But the fact is I’m a very ambitious and driven man.   

 
 

My ambitions are all interior, they are all hidden.  Sex, the mysteries of the spiritual path, the hunger to write better and tell better stories.  These are all on the inside where nothing shows.  But these ambitions have served me well, because whatever all, I have achieved one of life’s most coveted prizes – I like myself.




Not in a vain way.  Not in a narcissistic way.  I find, that at my advanced and advancing age, I have become a genuinely interesting person.  I like myself.  I enjoy talking to myself.  I enjoy scolding myself.  I enjoy being in my own skin even as entropy advances it’s decomposition.  All I have really asked of life is to not be bored.  I am never bored with myself, and I am never bored as long as I have a book to read.  And as long as I have my smart phone in my pocket – I have hundreds of books to read wherever I am, as well as the ones I write.


 




Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What have I been reading?


I think I've mentioned a time or two already my fondness for audiobooks. They are my go to companion on solitary drives or train rides. I even invested in a pair of decent Bluetooth earbuds especially. This last couple of months has been no exception, and my principle point of call is, as ever, good old Nora Roberts.

As an aside, I read a blog by Nora in the last couple of days bemoaning the actions of a newbie author who accused her of plagiarism for ‘stealing’ a book title. Clearly the ripples of Cockygate have not quite reached all corners of our profession, But, I digress.

Public Secrets, narrated by Renee Raudman, charts a quarter of a century, following the fortunes of up and coming rock legend Brian McEvoy and his illegitimate daughter, Emma.

The product of a brief and disastrous liaison while he was still a teenager, Brian takes the three-year old Emma into his home when he realises she is in danger from her abusive mother. His pregnant girlfriend, Bev, is not best pleased, but these are basically decent people who open their hearts to a vulnerable little girl. As Brian’s band, Devastation, soars into the upper echelons of rock royalty, Emma learns what it is to be the pampered darling of a wealthy, doting father.

The story follows Emma, Brian and the band through the roller-coaster of the 60s pop scene where drink and drugs are the norm and it seems money really can buy everything. Then tragedy strikes, and the utter powerlessness of wealth in the face of mortality strikes at the core of their lives. The family shatters and in a desperate attempt to keep his daughter safe Brian packs Emma off to an exclusive boarding school in the USA.

But Ms Roberts is the queen and queen mother of ticking time bombs, and that’s what this story is essentially all about. Emma knows who killed her baby brother but has erased the memory. Sooner or later something will cause that suppressed memory to re-surface. We have to wait a quarter of a century, but the explosive climax is all I could desire.

I never fail to admire the way in which Ms Roberts can write dark, but without seeming to. The murder of a child, how much darker can it get? Somehow, she remains mainstream and her popularity never wanes. Something to aspire to.

If I had one complaint about this audiobook it would be the les than stellar interpretation of a British Cockney accent – at least, that’s what I assume it was meant to be. Narration of audiobooks is something of a dramatic art and on that score this one fell short.

On a lighter note, if you’ve never dipped into Sue Townsend’s brilliantly funny books about an alternative, parallel universe for the British monarchy I can heartily recommend them.
The Queen and I was written before the untimely death of Princess Diana and viewed from the current day standpoint the follow up book, Queen Camilla, is stunningly prophetic. The blurb says it all:

When a Republican party wins the General Election, their first act in power is to strip the royal family of their assets and titles and send them to live on a housing estate in the Midlands. 

Exchanging Buckingham Palace for a two-bedroomed semi in Hell Close (as the locals dub it), caviar for boiled eggs, servants for a social worker names Trish, the Queen and her family learn what it means to be poor among the great unwashed. But is their breeding sufficient to allow them to rise above their changed circumstances or are they really just like everyone else?

We accompany HRM to the social security office, bristle over Prince Philip‘s refusal to accept this change in circumstances and sympathise with Diana’s attempts to fit in with other young mums on the estate. And the whole tale is spun so convincingly, you can actually imagine it happening…
An absolute must if you enjoy irreverent satire. I wonder what Ms Townsend would do with the whole Brexit saga?
The Queen and I, Sue Townsend

Queen Camilla, Sue Townsend

Monday, December 3, 2018

A heady mix of eroticism and terror - #Arcanium #review #magic

Spider cover

By Lisabet Sarai

There aren’t too many authors whose books I’ll buy on release day, but Aurelia T. Evans is one of them. When I saw the November 6th announcement in the Totally Bound newsletter, I hesitated only long enough to start up my special e-commerce computer in order to purchase a copy of her latest novel Spider.

Spider, the sixth book in the fascinating and disturbing Arcanium series, brings readers back to the alluring, terrifying circus created and nurtured by ancient jinni Bell Madoc. For Bell, Arcanium is simultaneously a plaything, a work of art and a cosmic mission. The appeal of his edgy big top performances and horrible but fascinating Oddity Row depends on his “people”: captive demons, human misfits, and unfortunate innocents whose unintentional wishes have bound them to the circus. Although Bell is capricious and can be cruel, he’s also exquisitely sensitive to the secrets that haunt visitors to Arcanium. The transformations he works upon those whom he entangles via their wishes make those secrets visible.

Elizabeth, the protagonist of Spider, lives her life in fear: fear of heights, fear of darkness, fear of insects, fear of disease. A member of a conservative, Amish-like religious cult (in fact, the illegitimate daughter of its prophet), in public she covers her hair and every inch of skin apart from her hands and her face. Like many unmarried daughters of the Petrosian Saints, she works as a nanny; Christian parents view the modest, sober, serious Petrosian women as ideal care-takers for their children.

A mistake leads Elizabeth to takes her charges on an afternoon outing to Arcaniuma mistake that will change her life forever. Trying to keep track of a teenager, a ten year old, a toddler and an infant, she idly wishes she had extra hands. Bell pounces upon her figurative statement. He has her abducted, brings her to Arcanium, and magically bestows another pair of arms and another pair of legs, turning her into his human spider. Then he installs her in his dreadful “fun house”, actually a prison he has created to punish evil-doers who have threatened Arcanium. Visitors assume the bloody horrors of the fun house are fake, but Elizabeth soon learns that every terror is real.

However, Bell has not brought Elizabeth into the circus for punishment, but to help her accept her fundamental nature. He knows that her many phobias mask a deeper fearthat she’ll be exposed as the elaborately tattooed porn performer her seductive, abusive former boyfriend had made of her. Indeed, as she adapts despite herself to eight-legged life in Arcanium, she gradually comes to understand that her true self is something even darker, wilder and more forbidden.

Totally Bound is a romance publisher, yet Ms. Evans’ books break every romance rule. That’s probably one reason why I love them. Here’s the publisher’s Reader Advisory for Spider:

This book contains plot-driven dubcon, monster sex, arachnophobia, public sex, extreme violence and horror-related gore, accounts of noncon and sex trafficking, double penetration, sex addiction, alcoholism and religious guilt.

Definitely not a book for the faint of heart! At the same time, none of this content is gratuitous, inserted just for shock value. Like many of the characters in the earlier Arcanium books, Elizabeth is broken inside. Strange as it might seem, her ordeals contribute to a sort of healing.

I find Arcanium’s mix of terror and eroticism refreshing and deeply enjoyable. Even after six books, Bell can still inspire my wonder. He wields incredible power, but he’s constrained by free will. His moral ambiguities fascinate me. He loves his people, yet also tortures them. He leads them to deeper self-understanding even as he selfishly uses them to increase the popularity of his circus. In this book, one character, with powers of his own, comments that Bell came into being before good and evil, that he is born of primordial chaos.

This book is the first in which Bell’s omnipotence is seriously challenged, by a mysterious outsider. I’m assuming that Ms. Evans is working on another volume that will explore this plot twist. I only hope it comes out soon!


My reviews of some of the earlier Arcanium books: