Till Death Do Us Part (Poireaut & Di Angeli #1)

Title: Till Death Do Us Part (Poireaut & Di Angeli #1)
Author: Dieter Moitzi
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: June 24, 2020
Genre(s): Murder / Mystery
Page Count: 305

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed this murder / mystery book written in the style of Agatha Christie, set on a small river cruise boat on the Nile in Egypt, with a series of murders that must have been committed by someone on the boat.

We also get a wonderful travelogue of famous sites on the tour such as Abu Simbel, Aswan, the Temple of Edfu, as well as a slowly developing (non explicit) romance between two gorgeous young men - the Italian blonde curly-haired Raphaël and the dark and handsome Italian Stefano.

There are suspects a-plenty as Colonel Al-Qaïb arrives to investigate, and Raphaël and his auntie, and Stefano and his cabin mate / BFF Grazia begin their own investigation. There is a rather large cast of suspects and I found it difficult to keep everyone apart and remember their background, but as the story progresses, it eventually all comes together in a Hercule Poirot-like final confrontation.

At times the pace drags a bit as Raphaël and Stefano slowly - ever so slowly - explore their attraction to one another and overcome many erronous assumptions about each other ... to the point where I wished they would simple sit down for an honest discussion and USE. THEIR. WORDS. But the author also uses this leisurely pace to give us very evocative descriptions of the historic sites on the tour and does an excellent job of sharing his love of the setting.

As the first book in a series, I also appreciate how we meet the characters and in a sense merely drip our toes into their backgrounds and personalities, but there is a lot here to explore with the characters and their friends, particularly Raphaël's auntie and Grazia.

I look forward to the next book in the series, and can't wait to see what happens next to Raphaël and Stefano. 4 stars!

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review - thanks Dieter!!

Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy

Title: Ted and Ann: The Mystery of A Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy
Author: Rebecca Morris
Publisher: Notorious USA
Release Date: April 18, 2014 (originally published September 16, 2011
Genre(s): True Crime
Page Count: 301
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

When I initially read this book in 2014, I gave it a 4 star rating Upon reading it last year, I upgraded my rating to 4.5 stars. I reread this, in light of all the Ted Bundy-related stuff lately like the Netflix series and the movie with Zac Efron playing Ted, based on his girlfriend's book.

The author contends that Bundy's first murder was when he was almost 15 and killed an 8-year-old girl in his neighborhood, Ann Burr. The book follows Ann's devastated family as they seek to find out what happened to their beloved child. Every other chapter details Bundy's family life and adulthood.

This is one of the few books I've read about Bundy that really delves into his dysfunctional family - his grandfather who was probably a sociopath, the possibility that this grandfather might also be Ted's father, Ted's abandonment at a home for unwed mothers after his birth, etc. The author writes that Ted actually transformed when he went into his "Other Ted" mode - his blue eyes became black, he got a mark on his cheek, his body odor changed, he looked totally different.

Rebecca Morris very much puts to rest the idea of a charming, educated young Republican who just happened to kill women. Bundy was a stone-cold killer who - beyond all his issues with being bipolar, depressed, abnormal brain chemistry, etc. - just plain liked to kill.

4.5 stars.

Written in Blood

Title: Written in Blood
Author: Diane Fanning
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: February 1, 2005
Genre(s): True Crime
Page Count: 416
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

Having just re-watched "The Staircase" on Netflix and done a bit of reading here and there on various forums about the Michael Peterson case, I was pleasantly surprised by all the additional information I learned from Diane Fanning's book about the Kathleen Peterson murder case.

Although Ms. Fanning is definitely very much on the side of the prosecution and very sympathetic to Kathleen's family, she presents a lot of details I have never read elsewhere. "The Staircase" focuses so much on the blood evidence and the blow poke to the exclusion of anything else. But Fanning gives us details about Michael Peterson's temper (it says somethng about character or lack thereof based on the horrible way he treats his dogs), his stealing and lying about his military service, how he forged documents to give himself the Ratliff estate, and the way he treated the Ratliff girls as cash cows.

I do believe Michael Peterson killed Kathleen, and left her to suffer a painful death. Fanning makes an interesting point that Peterson is probably has Narcissistic personality disorder, which Wikipedia describes as a "personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy." 

In rewatching "The Staircase," you can't help but see Peterson's disregard for anyone but himself. 4 stars.

Till Death Do Us Part (Poireaut & Di Angeli #1) COMING SOON!

Title: Till Death Do Us Part (Poireaut & Di Angeli #1)
Author: Dieter Moitzi
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: June 24, 2020
Genre(s): Murder / Mystery
Page Count: 305

Rating: ?? stars out of 5

I first met Dieter Moitzi when we were both reviewers on the blog Gay Book Reviews.  GBR is sadly no longer, but we have kept in contact and I am excited to be reading an ARC of Dieter's latest book, which will be published in June.  Watch for my review - coming soon!

Come on board the Queen of Egypt and discover this new murder mystery full of witty dialogs, funny situations, and blooming love! Already short-listed for the French Gay Book Award 2020!

When Auntie Agathe invites Raphaël Poireaut, a young Parisian bartender, on a Nile cruise, he isn’t really thrilled. To stare at old stones together with a bunch of old codgers—why, thanks for the gift. Unsurprisingly the trip starts off badly enough. Not only does Raphaël have an unnerving confrontation with a handsome but standoffish and haughty Italian guy, but he has barely stepped on board the cruise ship when he stumbles upon a tourist… who has been stabbed to death.

The young Venetian Stefano di Angeli agrees to spend his vacation in Egypt with his best friend Grazia. He hasn’t had holidays for six years. But his first encounter with a young, angel-faced, curly-haired Frenchie brings back painful memories. Besides, what could be worse to start a Nile cruise than to discover a murder has been committed on board? Cazzo—fate seems to bear him a grudge!

While the Egyptian police led by Colonel Al-Qaïb are investigating the murder, Raphaël and Stefano find themselves swept away by the events… and by the blooming feelings that inexorably draw them closer. Will they manage to sort out the truth from the lies and find the murderer? Will they be able to resist this mutual attraction that seems to overwhelm them against their wills?

A new, funny and light adventure by the author of The Stuffed Coffin, the French version of which has won the French Gay Murder Mystery Award 2019.

Red, White & Royal Blue

Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Genre(s): YA Romance
Page Count: 421
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

This book is simply wonderful. Set in a slightly alternate universe Ellen Claremont, a divorced democrat from Texas, wins the presidency in 2016 and bring her two kids Alex and June Claremont-Diaz to the White House, and they make up, with the addition of the VP's granddaughter Nora Holleran, the wild and raucous White House Trio.

As the book starts, I almost, almost DNFed it because Alex is kind of a jerk. Yeah, he's brash and irritating, and just won't shut up .... but once the books get more fully into the swing of "accidentally falling in love with your sworn enemy at the absolute worst possible time," it just gets better and better every page.

The book takes off like a glittery rocket when we meet Prince Henry of England -- the "spare" to his older brother Philip who is perfectly bland and flavorless and totally in line with all the Crown's dictates and obligations. As the author says "Philip looks like a stock photo." When archnemesis Henry and Alex end up arguing at Philip and Martha's very royal wedding - and Alex knocks over their $75,000 wedding cake - their respective PR departments decide that a friendship needs to be manufactured.

Their fake friendship ever so slowly moves from a charity event at a hospital to sporadic witty texts. Alex asks Henry after seeing a photo of him on an Australian beach in swim trucks: you have a lot of moles. is that a result of the inbreeding? And Henry: In world's most boring meeting with Philip. Don't let the papers print lies about me after I've garroted myself with my tie.

From there, it proceeds to phone conversations and texts that grow more intimate and personal, and after a very memorable kiss in the Rose Garden, Alex learns that Henry, indeed, is "very, very gay." Alex struggles with his sexuality, finally realizing that he is bisexual, and very, very interested in Prince Henry.

As the two young men try to conceal their romance from the media, and contrive ways to see each other, their communication becomes incredibly rich and poignant as they exchange excerpts from famous lovers' letters and we grow to know and love each character. The author does an absolutely wonderful job in giving us Henry, who "realized by the time he was four that every person in the country knew his name." Alex can't bear to think of "All those nights Henry can't sleep, just knocking around these endless, impersonal rooms, like a bird trapped in a museum." The gentle unfolding of Henry's personality is so nuanced and tender.

To round out the plot, we get a heavy dose of politics and political dirty tricks plus a glorious comeuppance to the Queen and the exceedingly officious Philip, a high-powered Election Night and then a HFN that just feels right.

The author does such a fantastic job with the characters throughout the book - the secondary and even the tertiary characters - and uses social media (texts, email, news reports) to great advantage. 5 stars and I can't recomend this book enough!

To Love a Traitor

Title: To Love a Traitor
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: JMS Books
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Genre(s): M/M Historical Romance
Page Count: 220
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

I have a fondness for books set in and around World War I and J.L. Merrow's "To Love a Traitor" is set right after the war (1920) at a time when nations are rebuilding and mourning the loss of a generation of young men who died in the trenches.

George Johnson (actually Roger Cottingham) goes undercover to learn if Matthew Connaught is the traitor who caused his brother Hugh's death in the war. George/Roger was a conchie - conscientous objector - who spent a year in prison - and he and Hugh's fiance Mabel feel that someone betrayed Hugh and his men as they ventured out into No Man's Land on a secret operation and were shot and killed.

Matthew Connaught is their prime lead, so George moves into the boardhouse where Matthew lives in order to suss out any information. Matthew is completely adorable, a kind gentle man who copes admireably with the loss of his lower right arm. Before too long, the two men are dipping their toes into the start of a relationship, while the mystery continues to slowly unfold around them.

Matthew invites George home for Christmas and we meet his equally adorable family and JL Merrow does a wonderful job of showing us their close and loving bonds. There's a depth to the characters (even the tertiary characters) and as we get to know Matty and George better (and particularly George's feelings about being a conchie), their growing love is beautifully told.

The solution to Hugh's death is eventually revealed, with a particularly heartbreaking final discovery, and Matthew and George are on their way to a lovely HEA. A very satisfying read with great characters. 4 stars.

Conventionally Yours (True Love #1)

Title: Conventionally Yours (True Love #1)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Genre(s): Young Adult M/M Romance
Page Count: 320
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

If this plot seems familiar - two young men meet, dislike each other, end up on a long road trip, get to really know each other and fall in love -   yup, it's been done before.  But do not let that deter you from picking up this book and simply falling in love with the characters and the setting.

Disclaimer:  I know nothing about card-based game play so I'll apologize in advance for my  appalling lack of knowledge. Albert has created a game called Odyssey that can be played online, in a team or individually against a group of fellow players. Card decks are purchased and new decks can be built using components that match the player's strategic plan.

Alden and Conrad are regulars on vlogger Professor Tuttle's Gamer Grandpa channel and when he surprises his team with tickets to Massive Odyssey Con West (MOC) in Las Vegas, Conrad and Alden end up driving a huge black Lincoln to Vegas, stopping in small game shops along the way to film content for the channel. Alden is 23, elegantly built, very smart and lives at home with his two moms who want him to go to medical school.  Conrad is a bit younger, a small town Kansas boy who looks more like a baseball player than a gaming nerd, and he's had a helluva year due to family issues.

As the days and miles go by, Conrad learns that Alden is neurodiverse, hasn't been accepted to any medical schools, and feels very pressured by his moms to find a high prestige career. Conrad slowly reveals his family's reaction when he was outed and his struggle to survive each day.  I love how Annabeth Albert uses elements and strategies from the game as metaphors for Conrad and Alden's lives - play your own game, small moves create big results, work to get just one more turn, one more turn, etc.

If you've read Annabeth Albert's "Out of Uniform" series, this might be a bit tame for you as it is fairly non-explicit (but give it a try, I think you'll reall enjoy it), and if you're a big fan of her "#gaymers" series, dive right in!  4.5 stars for "Conventionally Yours."

I received an ARC from the Publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.