November 30th, 2016

andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Come What May by A.M. Arthur (396-09-05-2016)

1) Jonah and Tate are relatable, even though their situations are nothing like mine. I love that their relationship was strong and just got stronger through adversity.

2) Really well done.  There were a few issues I had with the author’s writing style with this book that she hasn’t exhibited in other works of hers that I’ve judged in the past. But otherwise, this was a really good story with great characters. The theme of finding yourself and standing up for who you are is very well done.

Come What May (All Saints) by A.M. Arthur
Gay Contemporary Romance
Series: All Saints (Book 1)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Carina Press (April 19, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 037300396X
ISBN-13: 978-0373003969
Amazon: Come What May (All Saints)
Amazon Kindle: Come What May (All Saints)

ALL SAINTS

ALL SAINTS

Jonas needs Tate. He just doesn't know it yet.

Or at least, he doesn't want to admit it. Because there is no way Jonas Ashcroft is gay. He's a straight, carefree frat-boy player, just like any good son of a conservative state senator. If only his struggle to convince everyone—especially himself—didn't leave him so miserable. No matter how many girls or bottles he drowns himself in, Jonas can neither escape nor accept who he is.

Enter Tate. He's smart, confident and instantly sees right through Jonas's surly exterior. Sure, he's done things in life he's not proud of, but he knows who he is and what he wants. And what he wants is Jonas. As their easy friendship intensifies into something more, Tate introduces Jonas to a life he's never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies and excites them both.

But some inner demons refuse to be shaken off so easily. When Jonas's old life barges in, he faces a shattering choice, one that could destroy everything he and Tate have fought so hard for. Sometimes love just isn't enough—and sometimes it's exactly what you need.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings (377-09-02-2016)

1) I didn't score it higher because though the story is courageous and groundbreaking, all the information was very compact and rushed.

2) This is a wonderful memoir, touching and funny. The author's magnetic personality comes through on every page.

3) Being familiar with Jazz and her story, I found her biography to be a continuing asset to transgender individuals, young and old.  Telling her story in her own words has been a great read and easy to follow.  So very proud of this young person and everything she has been through to be her authentic self. Brave little soul. Extra Note: The photo of Jazz in her mermaid outfit by the pool was taken by my friend and trans-photographer Rhys Harper from the Transcending Gender Project.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Transgender Biography / Memoir
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (June 7, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399554645
ISBN-13: 978-0399554643
Amazon: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen
Amazon Kindle: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen

Teen advocate and trailblazer Jazz Jennings—named one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens” of the year by Time—shares her very public transgender journey, as she inspires people to accept the differences in others while they embrace their own truths.

Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn’t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don't understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence—particularly high school—complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy—especially when you began your life in a boy’s body.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix (342-08-30-2016)

1) This novel evoked a wistful, tender mood with its beautiful cover, and that mood carried through in the story. This was a emotional story wonderfully told.

2) It was touching, and unlike anything I have ever read. This book took the cliched trope of Dead People and made it fresh. Carter, though dead, grows as much as Seth. Phoenix tackles the difficult topic of male-on-male domestic violence and it's aftermath with grace and authenticity.

For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix
Bisexual Paranormal Romance
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 4, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1530373336
ISBN-13: 978-1530373338
Amazon: For Never and Always
Amazon Kinlde: For Never and Always

Seth finds himself alone at an abandoned train station, with no idea what happened, or how he got there. He boards a train, only to discover it’s a special express transporting the recently deceased to their final destination. The conductor tells him he’s having a near-death experience. Seth wonders if it has something to do with his violent boyfriend, but that doesn't matter. All that matters is getting the hell off the train before he actually dies. But when he spots his best friend and secret crush among the traveling dead, the urge to leave fades...

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Risk (Dark Light #2) by Dusk Peterson (304-08-22-2016)

1) Dusk Peterson has written a series of compelling short stories sent in ancient times when the love for another man was prohibited and sentenced by death. These are well written and quite entertaining. There are a few of these stories I wouldn't mind if they were extended and given a wider view. Well done!

2) Really nice stories with interesting plots. Mostly character driven, with a hint of plot to push things along. A lot of the intercharacter relationships really shine in this anthology. Excellent. The author took a lot of care with the setting in which these stories are developed. While I normally find weakness when an author borrows a setting in which to set their stories (and initially I was concerned about the author lifting the state of Maryland), I found that I enjoyed the changes and twists the author made, essentially taking Maryland and making it their own. I can really appreciate a lot of the painstaking research the author did, and think this part of their stories really shined. These are people, not just characters. They each have their own unique voice as much as they can and you get that feel  while reading these stories. Excellent. Really well done; a nice balance of being inside the character's head and explaining what's going on. Sometimes, a bit of tell, but generally well balanced with some show to it. Great job. Recommended for consideration for an award.

Risk (Dark Light #2) by Dusk Peterson
LGBT Anthology / Collection / Alternative Universe/Reality
Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press (August 21, 2016)
Amazon Kindle: Risk (Dark Light #2)

"I hesitated. Was Fairview dead? Was it worth my while to risk my own life for a dead man?"

Until risk arrives, you never know how important the things are that you're required to risk.

A soldier must decide how high a price he is willing to pay for an unspoken bond. A journeyman must choose between an assured future and an untroubled conscience. A boy learns that his life is a lie and must decide which truth he desires. A servant and his beloved master face stark truths as their lives are endangered. A young torturer, satisfied with his lot, gambles everything he has ever valued to learn a new way of treating prisoners. A master must risk the future of his slave, or else risk his own future. . . . "Risk" looks at the dangers and rewards of taking risks.

This second volume of Dark Light collects two novellas (short novels), two novelettes (miniature novels), and two short stories. These tales come from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Volume Contents
"The Unanswered Question" (The Eternal Dungeon). No weapons, no allies, and no guarantees that he will survive the test.
"The Lure" (Young Toughs). His entire life has been a secret. Now he must rip open the secret.
"Journey to Manhood" (Young Toughs). "Perhaps, when they spoke next, the other young man could tell Simmons of any masters here who were in need of an apprentice who was perilously close to the age of journeymanship."
"Lost Haven: a master, his servant, and a disappearing island" (Waterman). Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found?
"Master's Piece" (Waterman). He was his master's piece: the model for his master's sculptures. But his master was different.
"Spy Hill" (Commando). On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Justin's Season by S.M. Sawyer (274-08-14-2016)

The redemption story has been told several times in the stories I've read, but this is a work that really does a good job with it (of those which I've read, one of the few). The plot works along; the flashback device works out well; there are hints here and there, and while some of it might be obvious, there are some pieces that you only put together after you continue to read the story. Really well done in that regard. The author took care to use the setting only as much as was required in order to make the story work; there wasn't an excess of reference or an excess of description or elaboration where it wasn't required, which was nice. The reuse of northwestern Ohio wasn't heavy-handed, and the author still managed to make the place have its own bit of charm to it. These are people, not just characters. Some of the characters do have some flatness issues (Becky was a bit flat, but she also wasn't a principal, so it's forgiveable). These are people with tragic, real backgrounds. While some of it felt a bit heavy-handed at first, it all actually came to a head as feeling like it was something that was plausible, which was very remarkable. I think Justin's turn was sudden, but at the same time, he had been in a rut for twelve years; people can just turn their lives around abruptly one day; it's what makes humanity so unique. Well done. Smooth and easy to read, interesting, doesn't talk down or feel rough. A really enjoyable, smooth style of writing. Dialogue particularly feels very organic. Recommended for consideration for an award.

Justin's Season by S.M. Sawyer
Gay Historical
Paperback: 460 pages
Publisher: NineStar Press (August 6, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1911153781
ISBN-13: 978-1911153788
Amazon: Justin's Season
Amazon Kindle: Justin's Season

The year is 1988, and Justin Davis, a former nationally recruited football prep star, awakens from twelve years of masking his shame with drugs and alcohol to find he has been returned to his former self through what can only be described as a miracle. Triggered by the confirmation of his closely guarded sexual orientation, his fall from grace of over a decade before sets the stage for his redemption. The fulfillment of his destiny is prompted by Providence and the serendipitous deeds of those who are a part of his new life, as their intertwined lives are likewise impacted. Though his rapid evolvement and acceptance of his homosexuality is countered by setbacks, Justin perseveres and eventually triumphs as fate, he believes, has led him back to the sports arena to recapture past glories. In a stunning finale, however, he learns his destiny is not what he had envisioned. His calling has been thrust upon him by circumstances beyond his control. Can Justin embrace it and become the man he was always meant to be?

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Archer's Omnibus of Oddities by Jesse Archer (413-09-14-2016)

1) This collection of almost 60 short essays, some no more than a page or so long, others a thousand words or so, actually do add up to a remarkable look at current gay male ideas, trends, fashions, social consciousness etc. He begins with rather simple, single concept pieces, but as he continued writing on--mostly for OUT magazine-- he took on a great many more serious, even "heavier" issues such as having sex when you HIV viral load exists but is "undetectable," as well as the continued division between positive and negative guys, which won't be going away any time soon. Other concepts come Archer's way-- when to drop a once very close friend; what to expect and how to behave as a gay man in other countries ---South Africa for example. Also how to deal with--and/or avoid--unhelpful families, parents and others. It all adds up to a thinking man's compendium, and as Archer is a good, lighter writer it is always interesting and entertaining.

2) My score for Archer's Omnibus is an easy 40.  What a wonderful collection of stories.  Jesse Archer is a master at the written word.  His prose is rich and captivating.  His essays are beautiful and provocative.  I enjoyed every word, every page, of this collection.

3) Like many collections, some superb pieces and some uninteresting. A good read in small doses.

4) Archer's prose is both sophisticated and edgy and the vignettes themselves are so organic so genuine, it’s easy to lose yourself in the reading of them. Most importantly, they are also very entertaining. While I would recommend this book to anyone, gay men in particular will be able to lose themselves in nostalgia, and why not? They were after all, there.

Archer's Omnibus of Oddities, Mischievous Exploits & Sundry Tales of Insubordination: A Queer Collection of Essays by Jesse Archer
Gay Non Fiction
Publication Date: August 28, 2016
Amazon Kindle: Archer's Omnibus of Oddities, Mischievous Exploits & Sundry Tales of Insubordination: A Queer Collection of Essays

Jesse Archer spins his most shocking escapades into short editorial that is sometimes salacious, often incendiary, and always irreverent. From Manhattan to Burning Man to North Dakota's Corn Palace, follow the totally true adventures of a gay man with a lot to learn. This volume includes a decade's worth of outrageous tales which may involve black sheep, masculine bottoms, forbidden fruit, sex parties, suicide, AIDS cures, prison pen pals, Fire Island survivors, a high school hero, and how to ruin your best friend's wedding.

Rainbow Awards Guidelines: http://www.elisarolle.com/rainbowawards/rainbow_awards_2016.html

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Checkmate Ever After by Lex Chase (373-09-02-2016)

On one hand, the writing is over the top and so is the story. On the other, the voice is vibrant, and though we've seen the whole superhero-romance thing before, the characters and narrative voice pull us through. Bottom line is this book was Fun with a capital F; what more do you really need?

Checkmate Ever After by Lex Chase
Gay Anthology / Collection / Sci-Fi / Futuristic
Paperback: 314 pages
Publisher: DSP Publications (December 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1634764617
ISBN-13: 978-1634764612
Amazon: Checkmate Ever After
Amazon Kindle: Checkmate Ever After

Second Edition

Checkmate: Books One through Four

The day disgraced superhero Memphis Rook literally fell into Hogarth Dawson’s lap, you could say it was fate. But the brawny Rook did nearly crush Garth’s pancreas. What started as two ships passing in the night ended on the weirdest adventure of their lives. Together, Rook and Garth form Checkmate, a daring super duo that keeps Axis City safe from a rogue’s gallery of nefarious villains, dastardly masterminds, and a coalition of calamity. Fighting evil wherever it appears―from reality shows to comic book conventions―Checkmate serves up knuckle sandwiches of justice. But by day, they’re a couple of broke losers who can barely afford a burger and navigating a weird thing called a relationship. Ain’t true love grand? Rook and Garth may be in over their heads, and even super heroes fail sometimes, but they’re ready to take a stand when no one else will. Don’t hate the players, because Checkmate owns the game.

First Edition of Pawn Takes Rook published by Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

First Edition of Cashing the Reality Check published by Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

First Edition of Conventional Love published by Dreamspinner Press, 2014.

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