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

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

Reviews for Already Published Books

Review: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

SUMMARY

cover113439-medium

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Release Date: 04 Apr 2017
Received From: Netgalley

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong.

A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: intersex, cisgender
SEXUALITY:  heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual
PAIRING: F/M

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: friends to lovers, childhood friends
TAGS: School life, romance, drama, identity crisis, support groups
WARNINGS: slurs, violence, attempted rape, forced outing

REVIEW

I saw the cover and thought, “This looks cute,” and it turned out to be more than cute- amazing and heart warming with just the right blend of drama and fluff.

The beginning was a bit slow until we reached the moment Kristen’s life crashed down around her. Then the plot picked up and we got to witness both the negative reactions and positive reactions of her peers and family. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, she thinks her best friend spread bad rumors, and almost the whole school berates her. But then we have her friends Darren and Faith who reach out to her, we have her dad who is all too supportive, and her aunt who is always there for her.

I cried when her dad urged her to reach out to a local support group and she did- it’s a sweet reaction that not many parents give their kids in some situations like finding out she has male gonads. Her dad was amazing throughout the whole book- he was strong and willing to do anything for her to make her feel better.

As a sucker for inner struggles, seeing Kristen come to terms with both her identity and what she was going to do with her life was pleasing. Seeing her go from doubtful to hopeful and then repeat a few times was a bit tiring but it felt necessary to impact the story and the eventual ending.

That ending was amazing. It was well written and deserved for all the parties involved. Kristen got her old friends back and made new ones, got a cute, nerdy boyfriend, came to terms with herself, and got to keep her track scholarship.

My only real problem was on how quick Kristen was to accept the surgery.  Maybe another chapter or two of her debating it would have empathized the outcome.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more books from I.W. Gregorio.

RATING

4 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins), which is finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award, a Spring 2015 Publishers Weekly Flying Start, an ALA Booklist Top Ten Sports Book for Youth, and a 2015 ABC Children’s Group Best Book for Young Readers. It was also named to the 2016 American Library Association Rainbow List and is under development as a TV series by Lifetime. She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and its former VP of Development. Her writing has appeared in The Washington PostSan Francisco ChronicleSan Jose Mercury News and Journal of General Internal Medicine. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

BUY LINKS

Amazon
Barnes and Nobles

REVIEW BY KALLIN

 

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

Reviews for Already Published Books

Review: Major Arcana (Death Masquerade Stories, #1) by RoAnna Sylver

SUMMARY

35123754Publisher: The Kraken Collective
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Received From: Review copy from author

IN WHICH: In 19th-Century Venice, Italy, A Very Cool (And Familiar) Witch Informs A Homicide Inspector That He’d Better Get Used To Vampire Stories. He’s In One.

* * *

The first short story for Death Masquerade, upcoming serial novel from author RoAnna Sylver. Death Masquerade is a companion series to Stake Sauce, beginning hundreds of years and thousands of miles away. Despite the distance, the stories are deeply connected, and each holds secrets about the other.

Someone is murdering by night, and leaving the bodies to burn in rings of fire outside cathedral doors. Holy Inspector Giovanni is here to get to the bottom of the horrors by any means necessary – starting with Letizia, a sharp-eyed and sharper-tongued witch who always, always knows more than she says.

Major Arcana contains tarot cards, mysteries, vampire fights, plague doctor masks, nonbinary fire witches, queer vampire-hunter witches, opera, intrigue, secrecy and snark. Enjoy the show.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: nonbinary, cisgender
SEXUALITY: queer
PAIRING: N/A

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: magical abilities
TAGS: fantasy, paranormal, adult, law enforcement, tarot 
WARNINGS: violence

REVIEW

Major Arcana is the first story in author RoAnna Sylver’s new serial, Death Masquerade, a companion to their Stake Sauce series. This short story is separate from the six part Death Masquerade, but acts to set the scene, so to speak, for the upcoming series and can be read as a standalone.

At just shy of 30 pages, this short story is action-packed! From the start, we’re introduced to the supernatural investigation in which our narrator is involved, and with him, thrust immediately into the paranormal activity to be found in Venice.

As readers, we’re given only the information that Giovanni has, which serves to make us nearly as confused as he is about what he’s stumbled into. It adds a nice bit of mystery and intrigue, and whets the appetite for more.

I am looking forward to continuing with Sylver’s Death Masquerade series, as well as checking out Steak Sauce and their other books!

RATING

3 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

7351298RoAnna Sylver is passionate about stories that give hope, healing and even fun for LGBT, disabled and other marginalized people, and thinks we need a lot more. Aside from writing oddly optimistic dystopia books, RoAnna is a blogger, artist, singer, voice actor, and Verified Creator on Moviepilot.com.

RoAnna lives with family and a small snorking dog near Portland, OR, and probably spends too much time playing videogames. The next adventure RoAnna would like is a nap in a pile of bunnies.

BUY LINKS

Amazon

REVIEW BY LEAH

Reviews for Already Published Books

Review: Keeper of the Dawn by Dianna Gunn

SUMMARY

34810880Publisher: The Book Smugglers
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Received From: Review copy from publisher

Sometimes failure is just the beginning

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn is a tale of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: asexual, presumed lesbian
PAIRING: F/F

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: magical abilities, chosen one
TAGS: fantasy, young adult, mythology, queer romance
WARNINGS: fatphobia, alcoholism, mentions of cheating, physical illness, aphobia, murder, violence, cissexism

REVIEW

I hated this book pretty much from the beginning, and the only way I was able to get through the whole thing was so remind myself it was a review copy and slip into ambivalence.

From the very start, the main character, Lai, is the most annoying heroine I’ve encountered recently. Her narrative voice is constantly contradictory–sometimes saying one thing and then directly contradicting that within the next sentence or paragraph–and she claims to be the best warrior in her age group, but lacks the basic instincts to throw out her hands to catch herself when she falls. This all happens from chapter one, so I had an incredibly difficult time believing that she really was such a great warrior and meant to be the Chosen One. This didn’t really change much throughout the entirety of the novella.

I also had issues with some of the representation. Everything about this world Lai lives in is so incredibly binary–women as priestesses, men as soldiers–and, again, that didn’t change even when she met other cultures. There was no room for anyone outside of the gender binary, and there was never any exploration of how trans people or nonbinary people lived, which was something that would’ve made the worldbuilding more complex in that it would’ve challenged her worldview more. Also, there’s one fat character who is found eating in nearly every scene he’s in. It is possible to write fat characters without making them overindulge and judging them for it. And it is also possible to write a fat character without ultimately making them a villain. Finally, there was no racial diversity. At all. The cover indicates that Lai is white, but skin color is never ever described for any character.

This story was very clearly supposed to be an exploration of religion and mythology, but it felt very shallow due to the introduction of a monotheistic religion clearly based on Christianity. I believe that it was good that the author included the concept of monotheism to a character who has followed a polytheistic religion all her life, but there is no further exploration other than her judgments on the people who follow that religion. This aspect of the story would’ve been better served by showing the differences between their religious practices, and having Lai recognize that there is nothing wrong with the monotheistic religion, even if she doesn’t quite understand it. Instead, there is just a few passing comments about it, and then it’s never mentioned again.

Speaking of the worldbuilding, this story suffered due to the length. The whole plot is supposed to span over a number of years, which made everything feel very rushed since this book is only a novella. There was little to no room for the author to expand on the world she created and the cultural aspects outside of religion because of the plot that she was working with. It was completely overshadowed by the plot, but even that wasn’t nearly as in depth as it should’ve been. There were so many aspects that could’ve been explained and explored more. The battle scene at the end of the novella spans across four pages, at most, and as a result, is anticlimactic and unsatisfying. Also, I’ve finished the novel, and to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what a Keeper of the Dawn even is. More than anything, that part of the story deserves more explanation because it’s one of the key elements of the story.

Lastly, I want to touch on Lai’s sexuality. This book has been advertised as a novella with an asexual protagonist, but that is not touched upon nearly enough. There is nothing to indicate this until approximately 35% in when she tells a man that she “prefers to sleep alone,” which could mean any number of things and isn’t exclusive to asexual people. Later, there is a slowly developing relationship between Lai and Tara, her roommate with the Keepers of the Dawn, but even that only goes so far as to say that she prefers to read in bed or snuggle once their relationship finally reaches the couple stage. That is not exclusive to asexual people either and could be a an aspect of a new relationship between people of any sexuality. It’s not until about 70% into the novel that Lai finally explicitly indicates, in both the narrative and speaking out loud, that she is not interested in sex. It’s mostly a good moment because while Tara is slightly confused at first, she accepts it and doesn’t pressure Lai into anything, but there’s two things wrong with this scene. Firstly, when Lai asks what else they could possibly do in bed other than read and snuggle, Tara says, “What would a normal couple do in bed?” This is aphobic and incredibly unnecessary. The fact that she doesn’t have sex is does not make Lai abnormal, and to say that is to imply that all a-spec people are abnormal. Secondly, this is not good ace rep. I should not have had to pick at scraps to find out she’s ace until 70% into the story. At that point, it’s almost over. If I had not continued the story, as I originally intended to DNF very early on, I never would’ve even seen this part. Lai’s sexuality is something that could’ve very easily been introduced early in the novel, but instead, the author very poorly attempted to code her as ace without being explicit, and frankly, failed miserably. I would not ever recommend this book as a good example of one with an ace protagonist.

This story was a failure from practically the first page, and I would not recommend it.

RATING

1 STAR

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

16679889Dianna L. Gunn has known she wanted to be a writer since she was eight years old. She wrote her first novel for Nanowrimo at the age of eleven years old, but quickly discovered that writing books is not an easy way to make a living. So she decided to broaden her horizons, seeking another career that still allowed her to work with words.

Her freelance writing career started when she became a marketing intern at Musa Publishing(now defunct) in September 2011 and quickly became a staff writer in charge of multiple imprint blogs. Since then she has worked with a variety of small businesses and non-profits to improve their online brands and create long term marketing strategies. Some of her most notable work has been for the tech education non-profit STEAMLabs and natural dog care company ProPooch. She is extremely dedicated to helping her clients build successful brands and making their dreams come true.

When she isn’t helping her clients bring their dreams to life, Dianna can be found busily working on her own dream of being a successful fantasy author. Her first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now, and she hopes to announce a second release date soon.

REVIEW BY LEAH

Reviews for Already Published Books

Review: Risky Behavior by L.A. Witt & Cari Z

SUMMARY

33411778Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Received From: NetGalley

It’s day one of Darren Corliss’s career as a detective, and not only has he been assigned a notoriously difficult partner, but the guy might also be a pill-popping dirty cop. Internal Affairs needs proof, and Darren gets to be their eyes and ears whether he wants to or not.

Detective Andreas Ruffner doesn’t play by the rules, and he doesn’t play well with others. With bodies piling up and a list of suspects who are way above his pay grade, the last thing he needs is a wet-behind-the-ears kid for a partner. Or babysitter. Not even if that partner is easy on the eyes.

As Darren gains Andreas’s hard-won trust, they both realize there’s more than just mutual suspicion simmering beneath the surface. But their investigation is heating up as quickly as their relationship, and Darren has no choice but to go along with Andreas’s unorthodox—and borderline unethical—methods. As IA puts the squeeze on Darren to give up the man he’s falling for, he has to wonder—is Andreas the only cop left in this town who isn’t dirty?

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

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

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: age gap, enemies to lovers, coworkers to lovers, workplace romance, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, broody hero, seasoned veteran x fresh faced rookie
TAGS: contemporary, adult, romance, suspense, thriller, HIV/AIDS, law enforcement
WARNINGS: drug usage/medication, violence, explicit violence, police brutality, physical illness, mental illness, ableism, gendered slurs, suicidal ideation, mention of suicide, false accusations of molestation, forced admission of illness, murder, corrupt government, corrupt law enforcement

REVIEW

This is a good book–not great, but it’s an enjoyable read. The authors undoubtedly deliver on the promised suspense thriller aspect of the story, delivering several twists and turns that keep you guessing as to what will happen next while the main characters, newly partnered detectives Andreas Ruffner and Darren Corliss, rush against the clock to bring down a massive criminal ring being run by people in city hall.

I enjoyed the characters overall, and there was definitely some individual and relationship development that I hope will explored in the next installment of the series. My favorite aspect, though, was related to their age gap. Andreas is in his 40s while Darren is in his late 20s. Approximately 5 years before the story begins, Andreas learns that he is HIV positive. Considering his age, it’s obvious that Andreas grew up during a time when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence for queer people who contracted the disease. The novel did an excellent job of not only explaining the process he went through with coming to terms and realizing that times are changed and HIV is manageable, but also with how Andreas and Darren handled it as a couple. They have multiple conversations about it, and Darren is quick to reassure Andreas that it doesn’t change anything between them. They discuss Andreas’ very legitimate fears, and ultimate decide on a course of action that works for them and their relationship.

Now, the reason the rating is low is because I felt like some of the exploration into corruption and police brutality was too shallow at times. It was too black and white, too “well this guy is good so it’s okay and this guy is bad so it’s not okay.” Within the first few chapters, Andreas plants evidence on a suspect so they have reason to bring him into the precinct and talk to him, and this is never really truly addressed. The only people who know are Andreas and Darren, and Darren, while expressing discomfort, essentially lets it go because it was “for the greater good.” When their Captain asks him about the suspicious arrest, Darren covers for Andreas and basically accepts the flimsy excuse of “sometimes you have to do some questionable things to get results.” The whole purpose of their investigation is to expose corruption within the government and police force, but there is a huge disconnect between what’s acceptable from the Good Guys and what’s acceptable from the Bad Guys. Again, I am hopeful that this will be explore more deeply within the next novel.

RATING

3 STARS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LoriWittL.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut . . .

Connect with L.A.:

g3Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing, because some things she just thought she could do better. She’s still climbing that ladder, but can’t stop herself from writing, or from sharing what she creates.

Cari enjoys a wide range of literary genres, from the classics (get ‘im, Ahab) to science fiction and fantasy of all types, to historical fiction and reference materials (no, seriously, there are so many great encyclopedias out there). She writes in a wide range of genres as well, but somehow 90% of what she produces ends up falling into the broad and exciting category of m/m erotica. There’s a sprinkling of f/m and f/f and even m/f/m in her repertoire, but her true love is man love. And there’s a lot of love to go around.

Cari has published short stories, novellas, and novels with numerous print and e-presses, and she also offers up a tremendous amount of free content on Literotica.com, under the name Carizabeth.

Connect with Cari:

BUY LINKS

Riptide Publishing
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Kobo
IndieBound

REVIEW BY LEAH