Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two Lips Reviews Under Fire

Coming Together: Under FireTitle: Under Fire
Author: Alessia Brio and Will Belegon, editors

Publisher: Phaze

Genre: Anthology

Publication date: 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59426-857-1
Pages: 288

Series: Coming Together

Reviewer: Aviana

Heat Level:
  F/M; F/F; M/M; M/M/M

Coming Together: Under Fire is a collection of short stories and poems dedicated to the victims of the Southern California wildfires in October 2007 and to the courageous men and women who battled those blazes. All the proceeds go to help the victims, some of whom will surely struggle for years to put their lives back together. As part of the Coming Together series - benefiting a variety of charities and natural disasters, Coming Together: Under Fire is both an extremely worthwhile project and the perfect book to dip into before bedtime.

Editors Alessia Brio and Will Belegon made sure this collection of 37 short stories and poems include something for everyone. Many of the entries have fire as a theme, but not all. Some of the stories seem specifically written about the Southern California fires, mentioning names and places familiar to those who lived through those harrowing days, such as myself.

Poetry lovers will be delighted to find poems comprise half this volume and are interleafed between each short story. I especially liked the way the editors italicized the poetry titles in the table of contents, making it easier for the reader. It’s impossible to review all 37 entries in one short review but a few stand out.

Burn Zone by James Buchanan is a touching and erotic story about 3 firefighters, two city fireman and one smoke jumper. The men are roommates and when two of them hear the third is having trouble dealing with the loss of his teammates in an out-of-control brushfire, they go looking for him. Once they finally find him, they force him to face his guilt while affirming the unique bond they share as friends and a sexual threesome.

Drive-In by Tilly Green is a fun story about a very sexy and pent up firefighter and his patient girlfriend enjoying public sex at a private beach party. She finally gets up the nerve to express her deepest feelings and naturally that’s just when he gets paged to come back to work.

Slow Burn Blues by Lefty McGee is a powerful poem about a man drinking whiskey in a smoky bar while listening to a woman sing the blues. In just a few short stanzas, the story of this man’s regrets and his overwhelming shame is revealed.

Blind Date by Stephanie Vaughan seems written specifically for this volume. It’s the sexy story of two gay men on a blind date - arranged by one of their moms, no less! One happens to be a firefighter on call which gives the story a nice tension. The two quickly hit it off and although things go from spark to inferno they also manage to connect emotionally in a very special way.

The last title of this anthology, The End of the World by Gwen Masters, is an astonishingly tender tale of a married couple lost in the vast Gibson Desert of Australia. It’s unbearably hot, the food and water are running out and they know they can’t last more than a couple of days. With nothing to do but wait to die, they are forced to finally face the reasons their marriage failed. Although The End of the World has nothing to do with fire per se, it’s a story of hope in the face of total disaster – a fitting end to this fine collection.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

She cheated on baseball

Spring TrainingWell, I'd rather be excoriated because the story and/or the characters hit a nerve with the reviewer than to be slammed for spelling or grammar errors. With that in mind, this review does not disappoint. Spring Training certainly hit a nerve with this reviewer. *grin* Everyone's entitled to their opinion, of course, and it's clear that this reviewer's opinion is... um, slanted in favor of well-behaved "heroines" who cater the conventional morality of formula romance.

It would appear she was tolerating our protagonist's slutty ways until Andi expanded her horizons to include athletes from other professional sports. (The reason she did so is a plot point, but her biases apparently blinded her to this fact.)

And our hero? Well, I happen to know for a fact that men like Mark Hamilton DO exist. (Thank the heavens!) Real, strong, sexy men who are secure enough in their masculinity to not have to "possess" a woman in order to love her. THAT is a hero, in my book. The reviewer implies that any "red-blooded" man or woman that doesn't have a problem with Mark's acceptance of Andi's ways is just... wrong. Personally, as a red-blooded woman myself, I don't have a damned bit of trouble with it ... but I've always been "way, way too far over the top." *wink* (As my partner pointed out, the ending is nowhere near as implausible as the typical story arc that is so prevalent in the genre wherein one dip of the hero's mighty dick into the heroine's magic pussy cures him of his roving eyes and wandering ways. Puh-lease!)

No, the review disappoints because, in spite of the genre's abundant sex, it illustrates how rigid and insular "romance" really is. Go read the book. Make up your own mind.

From Tanya at Joyfully Reviewed:

Andi is a young, successful woman who has just returned from a Hawaiian vacation and is getting ready for the new spring baseball season. For Andi, this means there is another new slew of “home talent” to help fill her bed. This season will be a tough one for her, though, as at the close of the last season, she let her two pitchers go for their own good. Though she was never a woman to be exclusive, these boys had her attention for quite a while. But Andi knows when to “cut and run.” Now she is trying to keep herself busy so that she doesn’t miss them. One thing she hadn’t counted on was the attraction to coach Mark Hamilton. Mark is a retired ball player who is now the pitching coach and there is a palatable attraction between the two. The question is, will either act on it?

Spring Training is a follow up to Double Header, where you learn of Andi’s romance with a pair of pitchers (Eric and Brad) who do make a couple of cameos in Spring Training.

I will start my opinion part of the review with a quick dissertation on double standards. Yes, I know they exist and I abhor them, but there are a few that no matter if it is a man or woman who is committing them, it drives me nuts. Spring Training is a prime example of one of these cases. The fact that Andi is a “bat bunny” would have bugged me, but then you find out she also chases hockey players and basketball and even a woman’s sports team. I mean, come on, pick a sport at least. It's the same reaction I would have to a man who sleeps around at the frequency Andi does. We are talking a different guy each night. Then you add to the fact she keeps a rating journal on their performance and her reactions to them. Give me a break. As you can tell, I did not like a large part of this story. I was at the point of giving up completely when in comes a likable character. I thoroughly liked Mark and his actions around not only his players but Andi. The ensuing romantic suspense kept me reading, but it was not enough for me to give a favorable review. Mostly due to the fact I completely hated the ending. I can’t believe that any red-blooded man would go for that ending, and I know it upset this red-blooded woman. Spring Training has a wonderful blurb with the publisher and the team of Alessia Brio and Will Belegon have had a number of successful stories in the past, but Spring Training is not one for me. Way, way too far over the top.
In contrast, Holly Tibbs from Manic Readers says:
SPRING TRAINING is apparently a follow up to DOUBLE HEADER, which was released in October 2007. Not having read that story, I am introduced to Andi and immediately get my first impression of her as one who sleeps around a lot with men in sports, nothing more than a groupie. However, as SPRING TRAINING progresses, a little more insight into her character emerges and she’s not unlikable, just a little harder edged than most heroines. Andi is not afraid to take pleasure and rarely turns down a man, but yet, it is Mark she eventually becomes attracted to. He’s the “unattainable one” because he’s honorable and respected.... In the end, when things (and some danger) come to a head, it brings Mark and Andi together. But is he “the one” she can commit herself to?

The sex scenes are smoking hot and the characters are plentiful, with an added glimpse into the lifestyles of baseball players. If you like to read stories based on sports, then you’ll no doubt enjoy SPRING TRAINING.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Well, Damn!

Dream Realm AwardsArtiFactualNo sooner than I post my June-July newsletter, I find new news in my inbox. I'm not complaining, though. Not by a long shot!

Will & I are delighted to announce that ArtiFactual: Tales of the Erotique Mystique is a finalist in the 2007 Dream Realm Awards!

The awards will be announced at ArmadilloCon, the Texas SciFi convention, in August.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Tomorrow (Independence Day) only, get 20% off all orders from Phaze using code FIREWORKS08.