ARC Reviews

ARC Review: The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

SUMMARY

thehollowgirl1Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Received From: Print ARC from the author

Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual but never established
PAIRING: none

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: magical abilities, healer’s apprentice
TAGS: horror, paranormal, fantasy, young adult, rape culture, feminism, disabled characters, POC characters, biracial characters, PTSD, OwnVoices
WARNINGS: rape, sexual assault, assault, non-consensual touching, rape culture, toxic masculinity, violence, explicit violence, murder, self-harm, blood, gore, ableism, racism, slurs

REVIEW

“Strength comes in many guises, Bethan. Knowing yourself, your limitations–knowing what you will and will not do, following your heart–that is strength. Enduring what you endured and still being merciful and hopeful? That is strength.”

This book very rapidly became one of my favorites I’ve read this year, and probably a forever favorite too.

Even without the author’s foreword in which Monahan clearly warns that this novel includes a rape (thankfully “off page”), it is immediately apparent that THE HOLLOW GIRL is an indictment of rape culture and toxic masculinity. You are meant to hate Silas, the rapist, from the very first time he’s on page, and sympathize with Bethan’s fear of the harassment she receives from him and his friends. The rape does not occur until several chapters deep into the book, with the previous pages setting the horrifying scene as Bethan travels from the caravan to town by herself, as she endures harassment and spurns Silas, as she befriends a diddicoy (biracial, part Romani) boy at the market. Even knowing what’s going to happen, it was enough to make me hope that it wouldn’t. Of course it did–Bethan is brutally attacked by Silas’ friends and raped by Silas himself–and I needed to take a break after that scene. After Bethan is forced to go through such a soul-crushing, traumatizing ordeal.

The rest of the novel beautifully, viciously follows Bethan as she enacts vengeance for herself and Martyn, the diddicoy boy who tried to come to her rescue and was beaten nearly to death. She, literally, takes her pound of flesh for a spell to bring Martyn back from the brink of death and is the one who dictates the punishment for the five boys who assaulted her. While I would never ever wish this experience on anyone, it was incredibly vindicating to watch Bethan receive some kind of concrete revenge. Though exacting pain on her torturers isn’t a magic cure for her own trauma, the resulting PTSD, and the aversion to touch, it gives Bethan power over her own survival and recovery. That is an invaluable narrative for survivors, and I’m so glad Monahan wrote and was able to publish this story for the people who need it the most.

The exploration of Romani culture within this novel was rich and beautiful. This was one aspect I was really excited about when I first heard about this book and when I received the ARC. As a culture that is ridiculed and degraded more often than not, with racist stereotypes the leading depictions, I was thrilled to finally be able to read a book by a multiracial, Romani author, and Monahan does a fantastic job of thrusting you into the culture Bethan lives in, explaining and showing the intricacies of multiple aspects without becoming huge information dumps and unnecessarily long exposition.

I also really enjoyed the friendship and budding romance between Bethan and Martyn, and I like to imagine that, if/when she’s ready, the two of them explore that even further.

The one small issue I had was that at one point Silas was called a madman for daring to harm Bethan and incur Gran’s wrath. Knowing Monahan, I don’t believe she meant to equate his actions with mental illness, but this moment still gave me slight pause.

RATING

5 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

thehollowgirl2Hillary Monahan’s YA debut MARY: The Summoning, a YA Horror retelling of the Bloody Mary myth, sold at auction to Hyperion and hit number two on the New York Times e-book bestseller list. MARY: Unleashed is out as of fall 2015. She’s also published THE AWESOME with Ravenstone under the name Eva Darrows, which received starred reviews in both Kirkus and PW.

Her next three publications are an adult horror novel in the GODS & MONSTERS series for Solaris, due out in December of 2016. Spring of 2017 will see the YA contemporary DEAD LITTLE MEAN GIRL under the name Eva Darrows published through Harlequin Teen. Fall of 2017 sees the YA horror THE HOLLOW GIRL under Hillary Monahan through Delacorte/Random House.

BUY LINKS

Delacorte Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Kobo
IndieBound

REVIEW BY LEAH

ARC Reviews

ARC Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

SUMMARY

34346381Publisher: InterMix (Berkley Romance, Penguin Random House)
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Received From: NetGalley

The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel.

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, homosexual
PAIRING: M/M

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, employer x employee, athlete x nerd, lust at first sight, found family
TAGS: contemporary, sports romance, queer romance, adult, romance, sexual content, coming out
WARNINGS: biphobia, homophobia, mention of pedophilia, ableism, violence

REVIEW

He melted against me, and I immediately curled around him with our limbs locked together and my face buried in the crook of his neck. With warm air blowing on us from the vent above my bed and his fingers idly sliding through my hair, it was the most peace I’d had in weeks.

In preparation of writing this review, I was going through the notes I made within the eARC on my kindle app and my livetweet updates on Twitter. To be honest, most of them are just highlights in at least 75% of the book and a combination of “JLDJWLFJ” and “WHY ARE THEY SO CUTE??????????????”, so please bear with me as I try to write a coherent review. I can’t guarantee I won’t melt into a puddle of fangirling.

Those of you who know me are probably very aware of the fact that I love everything Santino Hassell puts out, no matter the (sub)genre, and this book is no exception. In fact, I can say with confidence that ILLEGAL CONTACT is my favorite Hassell book. The only expectation I brought with when starting this book was that it would be epic, and it was even more than I could have anticipated.

Gavin Brawley at first seems like the asshole football player with anger issues that the media portrays him as, and while he is to an extent, there is a hidden mushy side that only seems to come out with Noah Monroe, the love interest, and his closest friends, Simeon and Marcus. This man is the Ultimate closet romantic. (I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules, this is Facts.) He has such a huge crush on Noah that it’s painfully cute. More than just wanting to dick him down, Gavin wants to hold hands and cuddle and make out for hours on end. So soft. So pure. So precious. And his smile? Literally do not even get me started. #DatBrawleySmile gives me life, okay? Gavin is quite possibly the cutest character I’ve read about, and I could go on and on about all the ways I love him, but probably no one wants to read a 50 page dissertation.

Noah is my precious lil nerd who’s unafraid to speak his mind, and I got an excited shiver every time he stood up to Gavin. Especially when he couldn’t tell how that just made Gav like him more. He broke my heart and then put it back together with every instance in which he defended and protected Gavin.

Together, the two of them were cute enough to make my brain go haywire until I could barely form complete sentences to talk about how much I adored them.

The supporting cast was also pretty damn incredible. There’s Simeon who doesn’t seem to know how not to flirt, and I am dying to get my hands on book two since it’s about him. Marcus who is loyal as hell to his boys but also doesn’t let them get away with shit. (I also loved his tendency to reference romantic comedies.) Jasmine who is unflinchingly honest and a badass who could step on me. And Mel, Gavin and Simeon’s agent, who is seemingly unphased by nearly anything. (There’s Joe too but he can suck an entire ass.)

I loved the culture Hassell built up with the Barons–one of unfailing loyalty to one another–and the ways in which Gavin was still clearly connected with them, even while on house arrest. (The scrimmage scene is just. So much.) They’re such a good form of support for Gavin, who’s never had a family but found one in his team.

Also, I really liked that the Separation wasn’t due to any kind of betrayal or misunderstanding between Gavin and Noah. It was a mutual, albeit painful, decision to separate, brought on Joe being an utter dickbag. And thankfully it was resolved quickly because it was physically painful to have them separated from each other.

This book is absolutely gorgeous, and I could not stop smiling and clutching my phone to my chest because it was so cute. 11000/10 would recommend to everyone.

RATING

5 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

4942228Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

To learn more about Santino you can follow him on:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/santino…
Twitter: @santinohassell
Facebook: theonlysonnyhassell | santinohassellbooks
Instagram: santinohassell
Newsletter:http://santinohassell.com/newsletter/
And at his official website: http://bit.ly/16sgcSu

BUY LINKS

Penguin Random House
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

REVIEW BY LEAH

Reviews for Already Published Books

Review: Hopeless Romantic by Francis Gideon

SUMMARY

34013488Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: April 10, 2017
Received From: NetGalley

Nick Fraser is a true romantic. He wants the guy instead of the girl, but other than that, he wants everything his favorite rom-coms depict: the courtship, the passionate first kiss, the fairy-tale wedding. But after breaking up with the love of his life, Nick wonders if anything fairy-tale will ever happen for him.

Then he meets Katie, who’s just like a rom-com heroine. She’s sharp, funny, sweet, and as into music and punk culture as Nick is. What’s more, he’s incredibly attracted to her—even though she’s a woman. Nick has never considered that he might be bisexual, but his feelings for Katie are definitely real.

When Katie reveals that she’s transgender, Nick starts to see how much he doesn’t understand about the world, queer identity, and himself. He is hopelessly in love with Katie, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and Nick’s friends and family may not accept his new relationship. If he wants it all, he has to have the courage to make his fantasy a reality.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: transgender, cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, queer
PAIRING: M/F

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: college life, out for you
TAGS: contemporary, adult, coming out, queer romance
WARNINGS: transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, aphobia / acephobia, toxic masculinity, biphobia, misogyny

Please see the publisher’s website for other tags and warnings for the rest I didn’t read. 

REVIEW

DNF @ ~45%

For a book written by a nonbinary author, this is one of the most transphobic novels I have ever had the misfortune of reading. I don’t know if this was written with a cis lense on, or if the author just has a lot of internalized transphobia to work through, but this book is a mess. I’m honestly not sure how I made it through as much as I did.

Massive trigger warnings for transphobia below, because I’m basically just going to list a lot of the instances that occurred within the first 45%, including Katie’s coming out and after.

  • The author was painfully obvious with coding Katie as trans before Nick knew:
    • her voice pitched low with horror
    • her palms were large in Nick’s, but her skin was soft
    • he realized that Katie wore no heels but was still as tall as him. When they sat down, Katie seemed smaller only when she crossed her legs
    • Katie said, her voice cracking a little
    • Katie’s voice had cracked more than once when she’d spoken too long
  • Right after Katie comes out to Nick:
    • “Oh.” The realization hit nick in the gut. Oh. Oh. Oh. He should have figured this out by now. Everything made so much more sense. Katie had been born a dude. Nick’s attention, his sudden desire to kiss her, even the weird safety protocols she had–everything suddenly made sense to him. He let out a low breath.
      “Does this change things?” Katie asked, her voice quiet. “I honestly thought you already knew.”
      “That you were a dude? I didn’t. I had no clue.”
      “I’m not a dude.” Her voice hitched sharply.
  • Katie apologizes for not outing herself to a complete and utter stranger:
    • “I…should have told you sooner. Before we walked all the way here. I should–”
  • More of Nick being a dickhole during the coming out scene:
    • “No, because I thought you were a woman. And that was confusing as fuck because I’m gay.”
    • “But now it makes sense, in a way”
      Her face fell. Nick didn’t even know what he had done or said, but his heart sank. “No. No, don’t be sad. What did I do?”
      “You basically said that I wasn’t a woman. And that was why you were attracted to me.”
  • When they’re kissing:
    • Nick was so taken off guard, he almost forgot to close his eyes. When he did, everything became easier.
  • Afterwards:
    • Sometimes, it took Nick a moment to catch all Katie’s references to her former life. Before she changed into…this.
    • Nick’s heart sunk. She was cute here. But was she cute because he could see the stronger jawline–the jawlines he normally desired in men–or because he understood that she was trying to become Sheena from all those punk rock songs? Nick wasn’t sure, and the uncertainty made him close the window yet again, without even reading the message.
    • she was trans, and he had no experience with that
  • When Nick tells his roommate that he’s been researching:
    • “Should I be calling you something else?”
      “No, no. Not for me. Really?” Nick made a face half caught between shocked and offended.
    • “It’s not that weird to me, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
      “It’s not?”
    • “But if I say I’m gay and only attracted to men, then Katie isn’t considered a woman.”
  • A few days later when they’re at her friend’s house:
    • She was soft in his hands, and yet still rough around her chin and jaw.
    • “Orchiectomy.”
      Nick made a face as soon as he remembered what that surgery term was. He squeezed his legs together, as if his balls had been cut.
      Katie sighed, her tone sad. “I’m serious, Nick.”
      “So am I. I didn’t mean to be offensive. I just–”
    • “Transphobia or whatever we want to call it is not something you are, it’s something that you accidentally do because it’s everywhere.” (This is such a fucking lie, and I am personally offended and disgusted that the trans character in this novel is making so light of transphobia. It ridicules and negates the horrible pain and suffering trans people go through.)
    • “It’s kind of like the best of both worlds right now.”\
    • If she wanted to be viewed as a woman

All of this was just in the first 45% percent of the book, so I can only imagine what is in the last 55%.

In addition to the transphobia, the book was full of fatphobia, biphobia, aphobia, ableism, and misogyny. I’m not going to list the specific instances because, frankly, we’ve all suffered enough at this point, but they are so unnecessarily harmful. Not to mention, everything about this book was so binary, it left little to no room for anything outside of binary genders and sexualities.

And finally, a lot of it was just fucking boring. The whole first chapter is the most boring interaction between Nick and his roommate about his car, which was clearly a setup for how he meets Katie, but was so long and boring that I started skimming it. The dialogue and “banter” was horrible and a huge snooze fest when it wasn’t being downright offensive. And, I could have completely done without the section where Nick was “confused” about the precautions Katie had to take when going off alone with him. I give zero fucks about what cis men think about how women protect themselves and their friends.

This book is a fucking train wreck and a mess of offensive garbage, and I would never ever recommend this to anyone. Especially not queer people, and specifically trans people.

RATING

DID NOT FINISH

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

12802910_10153609290558422_4660716197415616186_nFrancis Gideon is a nonbinary writer who dabbles in romance, mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal genres. Francis credits music, along with being an only child to a single mother, as why they write so much now. Long nights at home were either spent memorizing lyrics to pop-punk bands or reading voraciously. Add a couple of formative experiences in university, a network of weird artist friends, and after years of writing stories Francis never showed to anyone, they now have books to their name.

After receiving an MA in English literature, Francis wanted to do something a bit more fun. They soon found the LGBTQ romance community and fell in love on the spot. Since then, Francis has attempted to balance writing romances with as many different types of couples as possible while also attending school for their PhD. When not writing fiction or teaching university classes, Francis works on scholarly articles on everything from character deaths in the TV show Hannibal, the online archive of Canadian poet and artist P.K. Page, and transgender representation on YouTube. Francis is a middle name, used to keep students from Googling their teacher and asking far too many questions.

Francis lives in Canada with their partner, Travis, where they often spend nights disagreeing about what TV show to watch and making bad puns whenever possible. Travis receives dedications in Francis’s novels because he tolerates Francis’s long hours and listens to random story ideas late into the night. Francis also might be a bit of a hopeless romantic—as if you didn’t already guess.

Connect with Francis:

REVIEW BY LEAH

Diversity Spotlight Thursday · Weekly Themes

Diversity Spotlight Thursday – Indigenous/Native MCs!

diverse-spotlight1

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly book meme that was started by my amazing, lovely friend Aimal over at Bookshelves and Paperbacks! The We Need Diverse Books movement is something that is incredibly close to my heart, so I hope to share some new books with you each week so you can diversify your reading. Each week will feature a specific theme, and I look forward to seeing recs from y’all as well!

Diversity Spotlight will take place every Thursday, and it will be featuring three books in any given week:

  1. A diverse book you have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but you have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

This week’s theme is INDIGENOUS/NATIVE MAIN CHARACTERS!

A Diverse Book You Have Read And Enjoyed

 

lbbs&t1LOVE BEYOND BODY, SPACE, AND TIME: AN INDIGENOUS LGBT SCI-FI ANTHOLOGY by various authors, edited by Hope Nicholson

“Love Beyond, Body, Space, and Time” is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.

This collection features prose stories by:
Cherie Dimaline “The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy,” “Red Rooms”
Gwen Benaway “Ceremonies for the Dead”
David Robertson “Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story,” Tales From Big Spirit series
Richard Van Camp “The Lesser Blessed,” “Three Feathers”
Mari Kurisato “Celia’s Song,” “Bent Box”
Nathan Adler “Wrist”
Daniel Heath Justice “The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles”
Darcie Little Badger “Nkásht íí, The Sea Under Texas”
Cleo Keahna
And an introduction by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair “Manitowapow,” with a foreword by Grace Dillon “Walking the Clouds”.
Edited by Hope Nicholson “Moonshot,” “The Secret Loves of Geek Girls”

A Diverse Book That Has Already Been Released But You Have Not Read

17946249KILLER OF ENEMIES (Killer of Enemies, #1) by Joseph Bruchac

A post-Apocalyptic YA novel with a steampunk twist, based on an Apache legend.

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones — people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human — and there was everyone else who served them. Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets — genetically engineered monsters — turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun. As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero.

 

A Diverse Book That Has Not Yet Been Released

 

TRAIL OF LIGHTNINGTRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse

Pitched as “an indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road“, Trail of Lightning is set on a Navajo reservation in the near future, after the collapse of society. It follows a young Navajo woman who hunts monsters with the help of an untested medicine man.

Expected release: 2018


What books with INDIGENOUS/NATIVE MAIN CHARACTERS have you read and enjoyed? Which are out that you haven’t gotten to yet? Are there any you’re looking forward to?

Reviews for Already Published Books

Review: For A Good Time, Call… by Anne Tenino & E.J. Russell

SUMMARY

34546405Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: April 10, 2017
Received From: NetGalley

Thirty-seven-year-old Nate Albano’s second relationship ever ended three years ago, and since he’s grace—gray asexual—he doesn’t anticipate beating the odds to find a third. Still, he’s got his dog, his hobbies, and his job as a special effects technician on Wolf’s Landing, so he can’t complain—much.

Seth Larson, umpteenth generation Bluewater Bay, is the quintessential good-time guy, content with tending bar and being his grandmother’s handyman. The night they meet, Seth’s looking for some recreational sex to escape family drama. But for Nate, romantic attraction comes before sexual attraction, so while Seth thinks they’re hooking up, Nate just wants to talk . . . genealogy?

Dude. Seriously?

So they declare a “just friends” truce. Then Seth asks for Nate’s help investigating a sinister Larson family secret, and their feelings start edging way beyond platonic. But Nate may want more than Seth can give him, and Seth may not be able to leave his good-time image behind. Unless they can find a way to merge carefree with commitment, they could miss out on true love—the best time of all.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: gray asexual, homosexual
PAIRING: M/M

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: first love, friends to lovers, slow burn
TAGS: contemporary, adult, queer romance, family dynamics, history
WARNINGS: racism / racially insensitive phrasing, ableism, aphobia / acephobia, biphobia / panphobia, classism, misogyny, mention of cheating, mention of rape

REVIEW

Earlier today, just being with Nate had been enough for him. It gave him what he’d ached for most when they hadn’t been together–closeness. Intimacy. Being able to touch Nate whenever he wanted, even if it was just a hand on his arm or a kiss dropped on his cheek.

I wasn’t sure how to really rate this book because I have some mixed feelings about it. Ultimately, I ended up enjoying the overall story, but the first few chapters….wow. Yikes doesn’t even begin to cover it. There was some pretty rampant aphobia, which to be quite honest, I expect more often than not, but in a book where one of the main characters is on the ace spectrum? I was hoping it wouldn’t be so bad. It was pretty intense. Normally, the level of aphobia in these first few chapters would be enough to make me DNF a book. The only reasons I continued were 1.) because someone told me the story gets better, and 2.) I am starving for ace characters, so I wanted to see it through in the hopes that it did actually get better. It does, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there was harsh aphobia early on, hence my reluctance to rate the book highly.

Also, I 100% did not appreciate the fact that Nate, the gray-ace MC, was successfully convinced by his friend to apologize to Seth for “leading him on” the first night they met. Nate had nothing to apologize for. He does not need to expose himself and come out to every stranger on the street. He didn’t know this man from Adam, so he didn’t have to tell Seth anything, and it’s not Nate’s fault that Seth was reading innuendo into everything he was saying.

Once Nate and Seth had the conversation about asexuality, and Seth did some of his own research, I was able to unclench a little bit and let hope blossom regarding the rest of the book. And I wasn’t disappointed after that. The romance was a slow burn, as is fitting for a-spec people, and it was friends to lovers, which is a favorite of mine. I loved the historical aspects and how Nate and Seth worked together to research Seth’s family, both for personal interest and to help his grandma out of a difficult situation with her sons.

There was also a lot of character development in both main characters, as well as some of the side characters, which was really fun to watch even if I experienced secondhand embarrassment for some of it. Also, I loved watching their relationship develop from friendship to relationship. The progression of friendship to companionship and closeness to sexuality and intimacy was so beautiful, and it really resonated with me, as someone who is a-spec.

While I wish the aphobia didn’t exist, I am glad that I stuck with it because the book was an overall enjoyable read.

RATING

3.5 stars, rounded to 3

3 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Full-AnneCatalyzed by her discovery of LGBTQ romance, Anne Tenino left the lucrative fields of art history, nonprofit fundraising, and domestic engineering (in that order) to follow her dream of become a starving romance author. For good or ill, her snarky, silly, quasi-British sense of humor came along for the ride.

Anne applies her particular blend of romance, comedy, and gay protagonists to contemporary, sci-fi, and paranormal tales. Her works have won many awards; her novel, Frat Boy and Toppy, is frequently referred to as a gay romance classic; she’s been featured in RT Book Reviews magazine; she holds the position of VP of Programming at her local RWA chapter; and she’s achieved bestseller status on Amazon’s gay romance list.

Born and raised in Oregon, Anne now lives in Portland with her family, who have all taken a sacred oath never to read her books. When not crocheting genitalia, growing tomatoes, driving teenagers around, or cooking something obscure, she can be found at her computer, procrastinating. Possibly while also lying on the couch, eating bonbons.

Connect with Anne:

EJ_Russell_web_cutE.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.:
Website: ejrussell.com
Blog: ejrussell.com/bloggery/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author
Twitter: twitter.com/ej_russell
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/

BUY LINKS

Riptide Publishing
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Kobo
IndieBound

REVIEW BY LEAH

ARC Reviews

ARC Review: Love and Other Hot Beverages by Laurie Loft

SUMMARY

34807144Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 3, 2017
Received From: NetGalley

After a rough breakup, Todd Addison wants time alone to grieve. While still dreaming of winning back his ex’s love, he moves across the country and finds work with a construction company. The last thing he needs is the cute office boy developing a crush on him, especially since he’s back in the closet.

Sebastián Nye can’t help feeling sorry for the obviously brokenhearted Todd. Though rebuffed repeatedly, Sebby chisels away at Todd’s resistance, determined to help him forget—a task potentially beyond anyone’s capabilities. He never meant to fall for the poor guy, but he does. Hard.

Desperate to hold on to Todd, Sebby hatches a sneaky plot guaranteed to end Todd’s heartbreak—if Todd doesn’t bail and ruin everything. Just when things can’t get more complicated, Todd’s ex wants him back. And Sebby’s abusive ex is just waiting to catch Sebby alone. Todd and Sebby must decide what’s worth fighting for, what’s worth sacrifice, and what’s worth compromise, or their relationship will begin and end with a broken heart.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: homosexual
PAIRING: M/M

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: rebound romance, workplace romance, coworkers to lovers
TAGS: contemporary, romance, queer romance, adult, sexual content, coming out, interracial romance
WARNINGS: homophobia, questionable Latinx rep, violence, alcoholism, slutshaming, ableism, fatphobia, mention of pedophilia, enbyphobia/transphobia, aphobia/acephobia, body shaming, non-consensual touching, queerphobia (re: polyamorous relationships)
Please see the publisher’s website for further tags and warnings for the rest of the novel.

REVIEW

DNF @ 33%

This book was a mess from start to where I finished. It started out as amusingly terribad but then there was one part that was so offensive that I immediately stopped reading, which I will touch on later.

From the beginning, the writing is average and the dialogue is absolutely cringeworthy. The “banter” between the two main characters, and with other characters, does nothing but inspire secondhand embarrassment. Todd, the narrator, tries way too hard to sound smart every time and ends up sounding like a pretentious asshole. He talks and acts like every self-proclaimed Nice Guy and I was just waiting for him to tilt a trilby at someone and call a woman “m’lady.” (He did call women “females” at one point. Yikes on a bike.) Todd and Sebby use nicknames for each other in nearly every line of dialogue, and while it might’ve been cute the first few times, it became damn annoying very quickly.

Sebby is a biracial man, whose mother was Mexican, but that biracial and Mexican rep are so very questionable. It has all the signs of a white person writing it, and even more specifically, a white person who knows nothing about Latinx people and didn’t bother to do any research other than what they see in other forms of media.

There were plenty of textual inconsistencies that were apparently missed by everyone involved in this book. The most “what the fuck” moment came when Todd was talking to his brother and sister-in-law, who were forbidding him and Sebby to take their sons out together as a couple anymore after one of the kids was witness to homophobes harassing Todd and Sebby. Todd is outraged and doesn’t see why this should be allowed just because he’s gay and the kids could be witness to hate crimes, and he asks if things would be different if he was straight and in an interracial relationship. And I’m just? YOU ARE IN AN INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIP CURRENTLY. It just made no sense. I understand what the author was going for here, but the example that is used here just doesn’t fit since it’s already a canonical thing.

Also, I was very uncomfortable with the fact that Sebby pressures Todd into having sex with two of Sebby’s friends. I am a great proponent of polyamory, but Todd is so clearly uncomfortable with the situation, so I’m at a loss as to why Sebby pushed it. I stopped reading not long after this incident, so I don’t know if this threesome, without the love interest, happens.

Finally, to discuss the scene that was so offensive I stopped reading. Sebby and Todd are talking, and Todd’s ex comes up, and Sebby asks Todd to tell him one thing that he likes about Sebby more than his ex. And, I shit you not, Todd actually says that he likes Sebby’s skin more than Vivian’s because Sebby’s is all smooth and soft where Vivian’s was scarred all over. I feel sick even thinking about this moment, and days, weeks later, I am still outraged that this exists.

I will never recommend this book to anyone.

RATING

DID NOT FINISH

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

laurie loftLaurie Loft lives in Iowa, endeavoring to write stories to give you that rush. Her husband, cat, and dogs kindly tolerate this odd activity. Her first M/M novel came about because of a minor character in a straight romance who just took over and demanded his own book. Laurie enjoys NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and other forms of writerly torture. She finds inspiration in her NaNo friends and her fellow Riptide authors. When not writing or working at her mysterious day job, she can often be found screaming at tangled cross stitch threads.

Connect with Laurie:

  • Twitter: @Laurie_Loft

REVIEW BY LEAH

Reviews for Already Published Books · Weekly Themes

Review: The Shock of Survival by Nicole Field

SUMMARY

31923110Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Release Date: November 9, 2016
Received From: Review copy from author

In the wake of the final battle against The Oppressor, Benedict, Ophelia and Dylan face their magical community in triumph. But that triumph rapidly loses its shine as they realise the war is not so easily left behind. Returning to, and relearning, the lives they had before proves to be more difficult than even they had anticipated.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: presumed cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, lesbian, heterosexual, polyamory
PAIRING: F/F, M/F

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: magical abilities, nonlinear timeline, friends to lovers
TAGS: young adult, new adult, fantasy, existing relationships
WARNINGS: alcoholism, PTSD, violence, mind control, war

REVIEW

“I… I can’t promise never to hurt you,” Ophelia said, her voice raw with honesty. “I wouldn’t, even if I didn’t like anyone else. But… liking Benedict more than I love you? Love isn’t like pudding—less for one if there’s more for another. My love certainly isn’t.”

A few months back, I saw the author offering up review copies on twitter to anyone who was willing to post a review for it. Happily, I accepted a copy of the book. The premise sounded interesting, and I knew it had an F/F pairing, so I was excited to read another story with an F/F pairing. (I didn’t know there was an M/F as well, but surprise polyamory is always acceptable in my book.)

I did enjoy this story, but I don’t believe it quite lived up to it’s potential. The writing was a bit choppy and stilted, and there were multiple occasions where the dialogue and narration were very awkwardly phrased. There were nonsensical inconsistencies within the larger text (why did she put cream on her new tattoo right before getting in the shower?) as well as in the dialogue. Additionally, there was a lot of head hopping. I liked that there was multiple points of view for all three main characters, but it was difficult to get a real idea of their individual voices when they kept overlapping so thoroughly.

I also found certain aspects of the plot a bit strange. The three main characters are magicians who’ve lived amongst humans their whole lives, as have magicians before them, but these 19 year old main characters were clueless about modern technology. I just can’t see how that is plausible, even if magician society did try to seclude itself with secrecy. And then, there were a few moments, after the existence of is exposed, that Benedict references the Salem Witch Trials. Contextually, it made a sort of sense. However, the story takes place in England and all three of the main characters are from Great Britain, as well as the characters Benedict was speaking to. It didn’t seem to make sense that he would reference something like that from American history when a reference to European, and British specifically, history would’ve made geographical sense.

One thing I really did like, other than the queer rep, was how the PTSD of Ophelia, Benedict, and their friend Dylan was handled. The author did a wonderful job of exploring and showing that PTSD can affect everyone differently. There’s no one way to have PTSD , and there’s no one way to handle PTSD.

Overall, this was a good story, but it would have been better served with more editing and more length.

RATING

3 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

6878229Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with one of her partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea.

Co-creator of Queer Writers Chat and reviewer for Just Love: Queer Book Reviews. Also likes tea, crochet and Gilmore Girls.

Her books are available on: Amazon | Publisher | B&N | Smashwords | Netgalley

BUY LINKS

Less Than Three Press
Amazon
Kobo

REVIEW BY LEAH