Random (but not really)

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Books of 2019: LGBTQ Romances

I read quite a few LGBT romances, and with the exception of the first two on this list, they are boinking books. I read far more than you can tell from this list, but a boinking book has a higher bar to reach for me so a lot I found just OK, many other people would adore. So if a book is missing, it’s probably because there was a lot of boinking and less of the bits that keep me interested (ie, the not boinking parts).

 

Romance, LGBT

 

His Quiet AgentHis Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto (8.5/10) is an Ace romance.

Arthur Drams has worked hard for The Agency and is hoping to move up in the ranks. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

“That’s…” Arthur didn’t want to rock the boat, complain or seem ungrateful, but it had been four years. “A bit more of a lateral move than I was expecting.”

His supervisor sighed. “Agent Drams, no one knows who you are.”

“We’re a black budget government agency. No one is supposed to know who we are.”

“To the general public yes, however, when your supervising agent and the promotion board have to ask ‘who’ at seeing your name and don’t even recognize your picture, you need to show your admittedly somewhat generic face a bit more. This is your entire file.” Agent Brown lifted three pieces of paper. “No notes against, no notes for, no citations, accolades or recommendations, no warnings, no nothing.”

So he decides he’s going to turn over a new lead and make an impression.

He ends up befriending Martin, who is referred to as the Alien by all his co-workers. Martin is incredibly intelligent but doesn’t bother to expend any effort at social skills, yet Arthur decides to take it as a challenge.

This book is incredibly sweet and although there are elements of mystery, it’s not a mystery. It’s a slow unwrapping the many layers of an incredibly private person.

 


 

Play It AgainPlay It Again: A Slow Burn Romance (2019) Aidan Wayne (9/10) is another Ace romance.

Dovid Rosenstein and his sister Rachel run the popular YouTube channel Don’t Look Now, with Rachel behind the camera and Dovid starring in the videos–many of which focus on accessibility and anti-bullying, since Dovid has spent most of his life navigating a sighted world.

Dontlooknowdovid: Oh yeah? Anything you can talk about? Or want to talk about? I’m all ears.

Dontlooknowdovid: (literally; I use a text-to-speech function)

Sam Doyle is a Let’s Play gamer, whose accent and way of describing his play appeals first to Rachel, and then to Dovid, who develops a bit of an instant crush on him. A long-distance friendship slowly develops, and grows into something more.

This is an adorably sweet story and I loved it.

 



 

Romance, LGBT (Boinking)

All of the following are boinking books.

 
 

Whiteout

Whiteout by Elyse Springer (8.5/10) opens with one of the characters waking up after suffering a blow to the head. But as Noah regains glimpses of memory, he discovers that nothing is as it seems.

I tried to stop reading this book, because I was freaked out when the big reveal came. Yet after setting it aside, I had to know what happened, and then pretty much finished it in a single setting.

 


 

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015) edited by Jordan Castillo Price (8.5/10) is a good anthology to read if you’re unsure how you feel about M/M romance and/or want to discover new authors. There was one story I absolutely HATED, two I was meh about, and the rest I really liked, and bought books by several of the authors.

 


 

Work for It by Talia Hibbert (8/10) is a M/M novella in her Just for Him series.

It tells the story of the brother of one of the women in that series—the brother who hid who he was from his family to protect his sister. I read this story before the rest of the series, and liked it, but I think it works even better if you know the sacrifices that Olu has made for his sister.

 


 

Family ManFamily Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton (8/10) is just very good. The romance is sweet and adorable, which is good because there are very dark and difficult underlying issues.

Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro has three divorces behind him, and is beginning to wonder if his large family and Catholic upbringing have kept him trying to date women and caused him to deny that he is attracted to men.

Trey Giles lives in the neighborhood with his mother and grandmother and is ever-so-slowly working his way through college. He’s not into hookups and doesn’t have time for a relationship, except that he and Vinnie strike up a friendship that slowly turns into something neither was expecting.

Trey’s mother is the reason he’s going through college one class at a time, and working multiple jobs to keep a roof over his and his grandmother’s heads. This book does an amazing job with Trey and his complicated relationship with his alcoholic mother.

I highly recommend this book—even if you don’t think M/M books are for you, just for the heartbreaking portrayal of Trey’s mother’s alcoholism and how dealing with it (and hiding it) overtook his life.

The Books of 2019

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Books of 2019: Romance

When I’m stressed and anxious, I have in the past turned to books I love, because I know things are going to turn out ok. Then I discovered that romance does the same thing–no matter what happens in the story, things are going to turn out okay in the end.

I’ve been reading a lot of romance in the past several years, in an effort to escape from the misery and anxiety that is the world right now.

Romance, Historical

A Modest IndependenceA Modest Independence (2019) by Mimi Matthews is the second book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series.

The half-brother of the hero from the first book, and the cousin of the heroine fell for each other in the previous story, but had a falling out, and now avoid each other at all costs. As with the previous book, this story makes clear just how powerless women were in society, which is depressing, and in this book, the heart of the problem between the two characters.

But that makes it sound all negative, and it isn’t a dark story. The heroine seeks as much power as the world will allow her to have, while the hero is a man who brought himself up from nothing, yet attempts to keep to his own morals and ethics.

 


 

Romance, Historical (Boinking)

Brazen and the BeastAnd speaking of women’s lack of power in historical times, in the latest by Sarah MacLean, Brazen and the Beast (2019) (8/10), I really want Hen to burn the world down around her.

 “Who’s made you feel this way?”

The question came like a threat, and it was one. Whit wanted a name. And she gave one, as though he were a child and she were explaining something as simple as sunrise. “Everyone.”

She is MARVELOUS.

I’ll note this is not the American cover. If it was, it would have made my good covers list.


 


 

Romance (Boinking)

A Girl Like HerI almost accidentally discovered Talia Hibbert though if I hadn’t read her when I did, I’ve heard so very many recommendations for her, I’m sure I’d have read her by now.

I started with her Ravenswood series, and read it completely out of order, starting with the last book in the series, That Kind of Guy.

The hero of the story is demisexual, but has a reputation in town as a slut. (He’s a guy, so of course he’s not described as a slut, but lets me honest about our words.)

These stories are fabulous.

The first is about a woman on the autism spectrum, who is proudly a geek and that story was a DELIGHT to read.

Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or gasp. She compromised by choking on her own spit.

The second story I almost refused to read, because I really dislike an unequal balance of power, yet the story drew me in and I enjoyed it–despite my issues with that trope.

A Girl Like Her (2018) (8/10), Damaged Goods (2018) (8/10), Untouchable (2018) (8/10), That Kind of Guy (2019) (8/10).

Fantastic!

The other series I read, Just for Him, was also very good, Undone by the Ex-Con (2018) and Sweet on the Greek (2018) (8/10) are excellent, and to be honest to reason I didn’t care for the first book is because I dislike the trope of boss + employee.

Although these are M/F romances, many of the characters are LGBTQ and all these books have at least one character of color.

The Books of 2019

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Books of 2019: LGBTQ Fantasy

Fantasy, LGBT (Boinking)

Now, onto LGBTQ fantasy, much of which I found utterly delightful and charming.

 

I discovered Angel Martinez mostly by accident. I picked up her Offbeat Crimes series because I love supernatural police procedural mysteries. I’ll he honest, the title of the first one, Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters, made me hesitant because it was so ridiculous and the covers were really not my thing. But the story was a delight, and I eagerly read the rest of the series—even the book with time travel (which I despise).

My favorite books in the series were Feral Dust Bunnies (8/10), Jackalopes and Woofen-Poofs (8/10), and All the World’s an Undead Stage (8/10), because my favorite character of the whole series is Officer Alex Wolf, who was changed into a human and then adopted by human parents.

He. Is. So. ADORABLE.

And his mom is WONDERFUL.

“Are you all right, sweetheart?” Mom stopped on her way past his room with a new book in hand.

“I can’t remember how to human,” Wolf said with a frustrated snarl.

“Oh? You’re still using your words. That’s good. What part of humaning is causing the problem?”

I really recommend you read the entire series.

Family Matters (8/10) is the second book in the Brandywine Investigations series, and although both are good, I liked Family Matters just a tiny bit better. Open for Business is the first book, and it opens with Hades being served divorce papers by Persephone and coming down to earth to give her the space she has requested.

In case you never read any mythology or folktales, gods are randy creatures and that is quite clear in this series. After all, the first story in Family Matters is the story of Dionysus falling in love. (If you don’t know Dionysus, there is no help for you. You must immediately go read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.)

Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists (8/10) is a fun novella about a secret lottery winner and ghosts that seemingly follow him from home to home around the world.

Also, he’s described like this:

Power-save introvert, that’s what Luka called him. He was “on” when he had to be, turned “off” the moment people left him in peace, and occasionally suffered shorts and power outages during which he couldn’t interact successfully with people at all.

Pick any one of these and you should be in for a fun read.


 

Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series is not your typical werewolf story. Werewolves are still hidden from society at large, but the government helps to keep them hidden.

The public could never know about werewolves, though. That was one of the few things the BSI and the Trust agreed on. The panic, the prejudice, the senseless violence that would surely come if the truth was revealed.

That’s a sadly true thing.

The first story is The Wolf at the Door (8/10) and shares how Cooper Dayton, who had been attacked and injured by the joined the BSI to help police the supernatural world.

The Wolf at Bay (8/10), Thrown to the Wolves (8/10). In addition to policing and trying to work out if they can have a relationship, the two also have to deal with their families and the expectations that come from their families.

 


 

Last year I read a lot of K.J. Charles M/M supernatural fantasies and loved them all, but only finally this year got around to reading The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (8/10), which is an anthology of stories about a mage and the journalist who becomes his lover. And the stories are set in England between 1894 and 1914 and is somewhat the prequel to the Spectred Isle. These are truly short stories, and might give you an idea as to whether you might enjoy her other stories.

 


 

I came across Nicole Kimberling reading Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy and decided I wanted to read more of her writing. Grilled Cheese and Goblins (8/10) is the story of Keith Curry, who is a supernatural food inspector.

Actually, that’s pretty much all I had to tell Tania and she wanted to read the book. What I love about these stories is that upon further thought, you know that if there were supernatural creatures secretly living in the world, there would totally have to be health inspectors who policed their businesses and looked into food poisonings and other issues.

I will warn you that despite how light the series title is, the details of how Keith discovered the existence of the supernatural is more than a little gruesome.

 


 

Marriage, Love and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe (8.5/10) is a M/M, fated mates, penguin shifter romance, with a surprise baby.

And it lives up to that description.

Just read it.

The Books of 2019

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Books of 2019: Fantasy

In years past, I read more fantasy than any other genre, but this year fantasy books are coming in a distance third. Which is fine, since variety is good! And I am keeping up on some fantasy series, several even as pre-orders (although I realize that both of Faith Hunter’s 2019 books went unrated, because a LOT happened. I probably won’t be able to rate them until a re-read, when I’ve had more time to digest all the events.

Fantasy, Supernatural

Lies SleepingLies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch (8/10) is a Rivers of London novella that is outside the Peter Grant timeline. It’s set in Germany, and we get to see Germany’s equivalent of the Folly, and an apprentice magician there.

Spoiler: this apprentice is nothing like Peter.

I’ve avoided reading reviews of recent books in this series, because it’s taking him a long time to come out with a new Peter Grant story. If the comics and novellas like this are ways of him dealing with writer’s block or being unsure how to go forward with Peter, I am fine with that. I’d rather have a good Peter Grant book that takes a couple years, than something crappy he puts out under pressure.

 


 

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs (8/10) is the 12th (or 11th if you don’t count the anthology) Mercy Thompson book. The repercussions of claiming the Tri-Cities are as under pack protection are still rolling out, but it’s not all bad, because the pack can often deal with problems that might lead to regular law enforcement officers getting killed.

One of the things I especially enjoyed is that we get a little bit of Wulfe, who is a true chaotic neutral character. I’d hate him in person, but he’s wonderful to read about.

 


 

The Phoenix Illusion by Lisa Shearin (8/10) is the 6th SPI Files book, and Lisa Shearin switched to self-publishing here. A couple years ago this might have been a concern, but she clearly still has editors, so the book is just as good as the previous ones.

I adore Mac.

As much as I wanted to be as badass as my coworkers, I’d come to accept that it simply wasn’t gonna happen, but that didn’t stop me from training and trying. It was the least I could do for the people who had to work with me.


 


 

Fright Court by Mindy Klasky (8/10) is the first book in her Magical Washington, but unfortunately, as much as I liked this story, the rest of the series—and her parallel series—both fell flat for me. Luckily, you can read this book without having to read the rest of the series, so if you’d like a fun supernatural mystery, this is good as a stand-alone.

The Books of 2019

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Monday, December 23, 2019

The Books of 2019: Mysterious Covers

In some ways, mysteries have an easier time of it: all the characters are human and they’re rarely in a state of undress. They can at times be boring, but they almost never bring full-on hate the way some fantasy and romance covers do.

 


 

An Artless Demise (2019) Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby)

Berkley

Historical Mystery, British, 1831

All the covers in this series are beautiful. You never fully see the woman’s face, which I believe I prefer, and there is usually a sense of movement, either her walking or the windows blowing.


 

Who Slays the Wicked (2019) C.S. Harris (Sebastian St Cyr)

Berkley

Historical Mystery, British, 1814

Although I love these books, there were several covers that I didn’t much care for. This cover and the previous, however, I do very much like. The man is in silhouette, so we don’t see any features. (The covers I didn’t like showed the man’s features, and that man did not look at all like Sebastian, so it was problematic.)

I also love the starkness of the color palate. It emphasizes the mystery and unknown. I am so very glad they switched up the covers, especially since these have a feel closer to the first, original, cover, which remains my favorite.


 

A Dangerous Collaboration (2019) Deanna Raybourn (Victoria Speedwell)

Berkley

Historical Mystery, British, 1888

This is another cover series I absolutely adore. You know at a glance this is a Victoria Speedwell mystery. All the covers have a woman with a butterfly net, and that woman is strong and independent–there is no man in sight.

These is a fabulous set of covers.


 

Penny for Your SecretsPenny for Your Secrets (2019) Anna Lee Huber (Verity Kent)

Kensington Books

Historical Mystery, British, 1919

A very different sent of covers for this Anna Lee Huber series, which makes sense, since it’s a very different time period. But there are still similarities, in that you never see the woman’s features, and the three books in the series are all clearly tied together.

I don’t love these covers the way I do the Lady Darby covers–they’re not beautiful, but they do give you a sense of time, and again the woman is on the cover by herself, and again there is a sense of moving through space.

I don’t love this cover the way I do the Lady Darby series, but it is still a good cover, and very effective in making it clear this book is tied to the previous three.


 

A Murdered Peace (2018) Candace Robb (Kate Clifford)

Pegasus Books

Historical Mystery, British, 1400

This cover has elements in common with the previous book, but is better (IMO) in that she is far more active. Here is has not just her dogs, but her bow and arrow (which are accurate to the story).

I also prefer the woman facing away from the viewer, since it leaves all of her features up to our imagination.


 

The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018)
The Mystery of the Bones (2019) C.S. Poe (Winter and Snow)

DSP Publications *

Mystery, LGBT

What I really love about these covers is just how much they evoke the main character.

Sebastian has a severe form of color blindness that also affects his vision, making him legally blind. These monochromatic covers that are slightly hazy and washed out give you a strong sense of how the world might look to the him.

And the background elements give you a glimpse of what is happening in the story.


 

Skin and Bone (2019) TA Moore (Digging Up Bones)

Dreamspinner Press *

Mystery, Police, LGBT

Although I prefer the cover of the book before this one, it’s still gorgeous. I love the watercolor feel, the man matches the description of one of the main characters, and most importantly, we get the dog, who is, in fact, a main character. But since she’s belongs to the other character, it’s right that she’s in the background.


 

A Geek Girls Guide to ArsenicA Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder (2015)
A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic (2016)
A Geek Girl’s Guide to Justice (2016) Julie Anne Lindsey (Geek Girl)

Carina Press

Mystery

All of these books are older than my normal cut-off of this year and the previous year, but since I hadn’t heard much about them, and since I think they are so well done, I wanted to mention them.

All three covers are obviously related, but they also give a very strong sense of the main character. If the words “Geek Girl” didn’t give it away, the glasses tell you this is someone who isn’t afraid to wave her geek flag proudly.

The design elements are repeated either exactly, but closely, but colors make it quite clear which book is which, since all three are quite distinct.

a-geek-girl-s-guide-to-justice-1I think these are wonderful, distinctive covers, and I love them.



 

Murder Takes the High Road Murder Takes the High Road (2018) Josh Lanyon

Carina Press

Mystery, LGBT

This is a stand alone, and caught my attention enough to give an unknown-to-me author a try.

No regrets here since I then binged on all the books I could find.

Honestly, it’s almost a generic cover that doesn’t give you a ton of hints as to the contents, but it’s very atmospheric, and its a well-done simplicity.

Carina Press: 4
Berkley: 3

Much to my surprise, Carina Press won this round, with is impressive since Berkley almost swept the mystery category last year.

The Books of 2019

* Dreamspinner Press is currently listed by Writer Beware as a publisher of concern, as many authors have not been paid in a timely manner. Several authors have requested their rights back and moved to either self-publishing or a different publisher.

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Books of 2019: Lovely Romance Covers

If I’m going to complain about book covers, I should also point out ones I love. Luckily, I’ve got way more covers I liked than ones I hated.

 


 

Ladies Guide to Celestial MechanicsThe Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (2019) Olivia Waite

Avon Impulse

Although I kinda wish the two had been doing stuff–like looking at the stars and embroidery, it’s still pretty and quite good.

One of the things I like is that this is sweet and romantic, and yeah, they’re about to smooch, but it’s not all chests and thighs and clothes coming off.

It’s obviously two women in a romantic relationship, but right here they’re enjoying being with each other and the cover doesn’t scream to me CLOTHES ARE ABOUT TO BE RIPPED OFF.

Plus, the red! The red coverings and red dresses are gorgeous, and everything looks so soft and touchable and it looks like it would be comforting to run your hand along the silk and satin and just lovely.



 
Can't Escape LoveCan’t Escape Love (2019) Alyssa Cole

Avon Impulse

I want to find whoever made this cover and give them all the chocolate and gold stars.

It’s sweet and fun and is a precise representation of the characters and it is ALL THE SQUEE!

ahem.

I really like this cover.



 

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable AdventureMrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure (2019) Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan

LOOK AT THIS COVER! LOOK AT IT!

It’s a GORGEOUS older woman looking completely comfortable in her skin and happy to be who she is.

It is MARVELOUS!

And it’s SELF-PUBLISHED. Yeah, it lacks some of the qualities of an expensive cover, BUT I DON’T CARE.

Because it’s absolutely lovely.



 

WhiteoutWhiteout (2017) Elyse Springer

Riptide

This cover is just gorgeous.

I enjoy looking at it–I wouldn’t be mad at all if this was art in a waiting room.

But it also matches the story and the title perfectly. It opens in winter, with the characters snowed in, and the cover looks like a snowstorm where the colors are washed out of the world.

Beautiful.



 

Counting on a CountessCounting on a Countess (2018) Eva Leigh

Avon

Although there are parts of this cover that aren’t my thing, the colors here are so striking and so pretty–I keep coming back to look at it.



 

A Holiday By GaslightA Holiday By Gaslight (2018) Mimi Matthews

Perfectly Proper Press

Not only is this a pretty cover, it actually pretty accurately depicts events in the book without being specific and giving something away.

She wears a rich colored red dress on several occasions, the house has gaslights (which are important to the story) and the go out into the woods (in the snow) to collect branches of pine and holly and mistletoe for the Christmas party.

And I love the way her name follows the curve of the hem of her dress.

Very lovely!


Much to my shock, Avon Impulse wins this round.

The Books of 2019

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Books of 2019: Fantasy Covers I Adore

I generally try to squee about covers that are relatively new releases–either this year or last (since I don’t always read new releases immediately). I don’t have a lot of fantasy series that I pre-order anymore, and at least one of those I didn’t like the cover (I didn’t HATE it, I just disliked it; there is a difference).

 


 

The Phoenix IllusionThe Phoenix Illusion (2018) Lisa Shearin (SPI Files)

Murwood Media, LLC

This cover made it here not because it’s perfect, because it does have flaws.

This cover made it because this is book six in a series, and the author switched from traditional to self-publishing.

So even though the author didn’t have access to the original artist, they did an amazing job of replicating the feel of the earlier covers.

Additionally, it is in no way obvious that the author switched to self-publishing: There is no evidence of terrible Photoshop, and it’s clear someone with artistic skills put this together.

Unfortunately, seeing how good this cover is just makes me madder at the big name publishing houses that give their authors utterly crappy covers: Come on publishers! If an author can do this on her own, you can CERTAINLY stop pushing out the ugly, horrible dreck.

Not that I have strong feelings or anything.



 

Family MattersFamily Matters (2018) Angel Martinez (Brandywine Investigations)

Mischief Corner Books, LLC

This cover is just fun.

It’s depicting the first story in the collection, which involved the Minotaur (WHO IS WEARING A KILT! HOW PERFECT IS THAT?) and Dionysus (yes, that god) and that’s perfect.

But what’s even better are the details: the books and tomes and scrolls made it clear that this is an impressive library. The small creature staring down from the top of the shelves. The magical cloud hovering over the two of them.

It’s just a really neat cover.

(NOTE: This is a boinking book.)



 

Circle of the MoonCircle of the Moon (2019) Faith Hunter (Soulwood)

Ace

All the covers for this series are gorgeous. I’ve loved every single one of them, but I think this might be the prettiest.

I adore the purple here, but even without the purple this would be a marvelous cover.

With magic users, covers often have difficulty portraying the active use of magic. These covers always show Nell as using magic–and in a gorgeous manner.

Additionally, since Nell is some flavor of what might be considered a druid or dryad, her connection to trees and the land is also clear.

And the moon! And the stars behind the trees!

So lovely!


All the publishers here are winners, with no publisher having more than one book in this category.

The Books of 2019

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