And this is the little corner of my world where I give love (and publicity) to books I’ve enjoyed recently.
If you’re looking for a good read, you can find it here. Please note: I’m not a professional reviewer. I receive neither pay nor free books. Feel free to comment, but please don’t send me books to review. It’s not my job, and I really don’t have the time.
Likewise, you’ll notice there are no negative reviews. I rarely finish books I don’t enjoy, and it’s really not fair to review a book that one doesn’t finish.
When it comes to romance, I’m a very picky reader, and The First Responders Series delivers. Each book features a different pair of tough-but-tender women in dangerous occupations–firefighters, military, EMTs–and a solid love story that leaves me cheering. Each volume is meticulously researched and utterly plausible. I love reading high-stakes, adrenaline-fueled adventures featuring tough, competent women–and tough competent women falling in love? Magic.
I don’t know why I’m getting into horror recently. In general it’s not my thing. But this is very, very well done indeed. It’s marketed as YA, but the only reason I can see for that is the age of the main character. I certainly wouldn’t give it to any child of mine to read. The gore and cruelty are off the charts–at least for my delicate sensibilities.
And yet I couldn’t stop reading it–even though I usually avoid gore and cruelty. Why?
The first reason, I have to admit, is that the writing is amazing. The stories are well constructed, and the language is poetic. The characters are complex, flawed, and interesting. The relationship between the Monstrumologist and his apprentice has this magnetic inevitability about it. And the historical setting is exquisitely described. But more than just being a good series of monster stories, there’s a compelling, thoughtful philosophical underpinning to the story and to the meta-story in which the author wraps it.
I think the T in my INTJ likes the recognition of that hard, dark, sharp thing that resides within us all, which can and will be awakened under the right circumstances. The acknowledgement that puppies and rainbows might disguise it temporarily, but every now and then one has to touch base with their own inner darkness. Sometimes circumstances require it. ::shiver::
What readers might have a problem with: Gore. Cruelty. As compelling as the first three books were, I had to read them widely spaced, and felt like I needed a shower after each one. And yet I couldn’t stop reading them. Amazing.
What I liked: This is a well written, fast paced, creepy-as-hell story about a young man being stalked by a character he created, the terrifying Gravedigger. It’s also a story about changing friendships and family relationships and growing up. Though the surface story is well done, it’s the second part that gives the book the depth that’s so often missing in the genre. I really liked that the author was able to scare me into sleeping with the lights on without resorting to gore. I really, really liked that the story was able to convey the main character’s discovery that life isn’t always simple or pleasant, without becoming a dystopian depress-fest.
What other readers might have a problem with: Can’t think of anything, really. It’s very well done, believably frightening, emotionally deep, and gore-free. My kind of horror novel.
What I liked: This is a series of cleverly plotted, cleanly written mysteries. I love the heroine, who is smart, funny, and confident–and also unapologetically plus-sized. Truly plus sized–size 20, unlike the size 6 heroines of some books that will remain nameless, who spend a lot of time moaning about being “overweight.” HA. I like that she has an interesting, challenging job, and is in a loving relationship with a man who is crazy about her just as she is, and that the ideas of weight and weight loss don’t even come up. And speaking of the boyfriend? A smart, confident, paraplegic man who owns his own business, and is sexy as hell. Oh, and did I mention the well-constructed, original plots?
What I didn’t like: There are only 12 of these planned. Alas. I could read one a week for the rest of my life.
Title: Whyborne & Griffin Series (Widdershins, Threshhold, etc.)
Author: Jordan L. Hawk
Genre: M/M Historical/Supernatural
Publication Date: 2012-Present
Warnings: Some sexual content.
What I liked: I love historical fiction. I write historical fiction, and I try to do it right. So it’s always an especial delight to come across an author who does her homework. But as much of a stickler as I am for research, I can overlook almost anything if I like the characters–and I do. Whyborne and Griffin are delightful and make a pretty pair. The character who really shines, though, is Dr. Christine Putnam. She’s sharp and brash, with just enough vulnerability to make her human, but not enough to let you lose sight of the fact that she could kick your ass verbally as well as physically, and would probably enjoy doing so. She very nearly upstages the titular characters in every scene where she’s present, and, as much as I love W&G, I would pay double for a book where she’s the main character.
In addition, the production values are extremely high for self-published books, and the stories are very well constructed. The writing is outstanding as well–and more than good enough to make up for the occasional homonym error (something that is becoming increasingly common in trad/pub as well, as numerous major publishing houses that shall remain nameless seem to think that spell check is an adequate substitute for a good editor).
And the first in the series, Widdershins, contains what has to be the hottest first kiss in any story anywhere.
What might not work for other readers: No faults specific to the books, but if m/m isn’t your thing, then buy the books anyway and try to make it your thing, because these are really good stories.
Author: Alexis Hall
Publication Date: 2014
Warnings: Some eroticism, sexual content, and pirate talk.
Buy Link: Buy it at Riptide
What I liked: A main character of color in a steampunk novel! I adored Cherie Priest’s novella Clementine for the same reason. And behold, the rare bisexual! But there’s so much more to like here. The setting is rich and carefully constructed–but somehow conveyed with a minimum of description, and that’s harder than it looks. The main character, Picadilly, is the real star, though–he’s a charmer through and through. Daring, clever, self-effacing, and wry, he knows how to get himself into scrapes and out of them. I’m glad this is the beginning of a series, because I’m looking forward to reading more of his adventures.
What might not work for other readers: The story is told in first person in what appears to be a dialect patched together from pieces of other dialects from different places in space and time. It’s well done, and it’s consistent, but it’s very thick and demands a bit of attention and decoding. It reminded me a bit of A Clockwork Orange for that reason (but thankfully only for that reason). I really enjoyed how the author plays with language–it was clever and funny and made me laugh out loud in several places. However, it took a bit of time to get into the rhythm of it, and some readers might not have the patience for that.
November 17, 2014
Title: Hibernation and other Poems by Bear Bards
Author: Ron J. Suresha (editor)
Publisher: Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press
Publication Date: 2014
Warnings: Some explicit sexual content.
Buy Link: Get it here.
The Good: First–Lethe Press. I’ve never read a title from them that was less than excellent. They publish a lot of unique books you won’t see anywhere else, and they have very high production values. If you’re going to take a chance as a reader, this is the publisher to take a chance with. This collection of poetry didn’t disappoint. Not every poem will appeal to every reader, but they’re all well done, and the editor has done an excellent job curating them.
Second, it’s a really interesting, accessible, intimate look into a subculture a lot of people don’t encounter every day. Through exquisitely chosen words and strikingly vivid imagery, the poets paint a picture of a diverse, complex, interesting world. This alone makes the collection well worth a read.
The Bad: There wasn’t anything bad about this collection–just be forewarned that in addition to the sentimental, loving, humorous, and clever pieces, there are some pieces that are very explicit and very gritty, so if this isn’t for you, then buy the book anyway and choose carefully =)