Hey, everyone! It’s time for Whatcha Reading!
We’ve reached May and the allergies are in full swing. Hopefully we’re all staying cool inside with a good book and keeping away from pesky pollen.
Claudia: I’ve just finished Return to Satterthwaite Court by Mimi Matthews ( A | BN | K ) and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Low angst, with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The MCs are children of two couples in previous Matthews’ books.
Elyse: I just bought The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture. ( A | BN | K ) I will report back on what I think.
Lara: Please do! That sounds fascinating!I loved book 1 in the series which of course makes me super nervous for book 2. I’m reading it while peeking between my fingers.
Shana: I just finished The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, ( A | BN | K | AB ) which I loved for its coziness. I’m now reading The Roommate Risk by Talia Hibbert. It’s a reissuing of her book Wanna Bet, and I keep finding myself thinking “Oh no, not another sex scene.” Who am I?
Sarah: I’m reading The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies, and oh my goodness, Lara was right. It’s delightful so far.
I don’t totally know how to explain why this course of events makes perfect sense to me but it does. I’m beginning to slow down, mostly because of loan limits on hoopla (loan limits are the bane of my existence), but it’s for the best because I do, eventually, need to read other things.
Susan: I’ve just finished The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw – I think Amanda was looking forward to it too? The rhythm and imagery of it are gorgeous.
So, whatcha reading? Let us know!
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I had the chance to read two books I absolutely loved the past couple of weeks, starting with CAMILLA MONK’S “OF BLOOD AND LIGHT” (I think her “Spotless” book has been favorably reviewed here.) OBAL is a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and M/F regency romance where the heroine, whose sister is dying of a mysterious disease, gets kidnapped and transported to another world where Arthuruan legend is blended with Regency lifestyle (sounds like a mess but it isn’t). The world, however, is dying of a mysterious disease (just like her sister) and our heroine gets thrown in an adventure with conspiracy, spies, and of course – romance. I love Camilla Monk’s writing style and enjoyed the book immensely. It’s a standalone despite the potential for stories for other characters from the book set in the same universe.
The other read that really stood out was ALLIE THERIN’S LIAR CITY, which is set in an alternate US (Seattle) whose society has empaths with strange abilities which terrify people. A string of murders pairs up an empath with an empath hunter of sorts trying to stop a ruthless killer. The book is not a romance as such, although there is a ton of romantic tension between the two male leads. It’s the first of a trilogy, I think, and while the romantic tension doesn’t have any resolution, the mystery is wrapped up quite nicely, despite a setup for a larger plot going on. Both the mystery and the romantic tension make the book worth it.
It’s been all Alyssa Cole lately. Having only read the first book in her Loyal League trilogy, I decided to get on with the other two. I’ve finished A Hope Divided and am now on An Unconditional Freedom. The first book is still my favorite, but this whole trilogy is really amazing.
Also decided to read her thriller When No One Is Watching. Loved that one too. Great slow burn dread.
I don’t think I’ve finished a single book since the last Whatcha Reading. Very much a bummer. Sickness, stress, some books my favorite authors that just didn’t grab me.
I thought about not even posting, but honestly my plan is to sit in the hammock and read all weekend. And I thought that’s still worth celebrating. Probably with at least one Mother’s Day gin and tonic.
And yes, the pollen *is* terrible, but once there’s no pollen there’s bugs and humidity. . . My allergy medicine does help quite a bit and I always wash my face and hair well before bed and change my pillow cases often. It always seems worst at bedtime for me.
Julie Kriss’s REVERB is the fourth (and final?) book in her Road Kings series of rock star romances. This is the romance between Stone, the Road Kings’ guitarist, and Sienna, a music journalist hired to document the group’s reunion tour. Stone & Sienna’s story has been teased out in the background of the previous three books (DUET, RIFF, RHYTHM), now it takes its place, front-and-center. REVERB features several tropes: grumpy-sunshine, opposites-attract, and age-gap (ten years). Sienna, while retaining a natural optimism, is realistic about a music industry where “Mike Jagger still gets to do whatever the hell he wants in his seventies, while Taylor Swift’s dating life is scrutinized endlessly and a bunch of guys on Twitter think she’s past her prime at thirty.” Meanwhile Stone deals with his complicated relationship with his mother and his bandmates by being a man of very few words. He and Sienna have a joking-insulting dynamic that never resorts to meanness or cruelty and actually masks a strong chemistry: their conversations and text exchanges are both fun to read and cleverly reveal a level of attraction to the other that neither Stone nor Sienna is ready to acknowledge…until they do. Like all of Kriss’s work, REVERB is smoothly written with intelligent and thoughtful MCs. The book wraps up a lot of loose ends from the previous three books (and I do think it’s best to read it after reading the other books in the series), but Kriss appears to be setting up a couple of secondary characters for their own stories, so I’m not sure if REVERB will be the last Road Kings book. I’ve often asserted that Kriss is one of Romancelandia’s most underrated writers, and I wish she had a wider readership. Here’s hoping REVERB (and all the Road Kings books) will be a foot in the door for her. Highly recommended.
After finishing KD Casey’s DIAMOND RING (my favorite book of 2023 so far), I was jonesing for another angsty m/m sports romance featuring at least one MC with mental health struggles combined with the stresses of remaining closeted. Then Cait Nary’s SEASON’S CHANGE popped up on my recommendations and, yes, another book with similar themes—and another winner! I don’t know how I missed SEASON’S CHANGE when it was released last year since it is so much my catnip. It’s a hockey romance between Olly, a veteran who has bounced from team-to-team and left his last place under a cloud which is gradually teased out over the course of the book (cw/tw: homophobic violence and language), and Benji, a big-hearted bruiser of a rookie who is sharing an apartment with Olly. Olly, who suffers from panic attacks and mood swings, is strictly closeted and worries constantly about being outed. In his mind, “he could have a life or he could have hockey, but he’d never been naïve enough to think he could have both.” Benji, who clawed his way out of grinding childhood poverty, has had some same-sex encounters, but tends to be casual about them. This is a slow-burn story where both the emotional and the physical connections between the MCs are given equal weight; when the guys finally do fall into bed together, the scene is one of the hottest I’ve read in a while because of its focus on what is happening both physically AND emotionally between the guys. While mental health issues and homophobia (internalized and from others) are major themes in the book, so are caring for others, what it means to be part of a family, and how coming out is an ongoing process. I liked that not everything was cleanly resolved at the end of the book: Olly & Benji have come out to a few teammates but have made no public declarations; Olly’s difficult relationship with his father has been somewhat repaired but not completely; and Benji’s is still ambivalent about his social media influencer sister who is unhappily married to an awful man but tends to focus blame for his behavior on anyone but him (Nary totally nails the personality type that thinks by repeating how great everything is, everything will be great). SEASON’S CHANGE was that very rare (for me) book that I started rereading as soon as I finished it: a wonderful book that hit all of my sweet spots. It’s on my list of favorite reads of 2023 (published in a prior year). Highly recommended.
[CW/TW: discussion of fat-phobia, fat-shaming (both external and internalized), body dysmorphia] HIS CURVY REJECTED MATE, the latest in Cate C. Wells’s Five Packs series of shifter romances, is going to be a polarizing book. On the one hand, it’s the story of a “curvy” woman achieving bodily autonomy and emotional health by removing herself from a toxic environment and becoming comfortable with her size. On the other hand, there are several very difficult-to-read scenes of the heroine being bullied by the others in her pack because of her size. (Note: while the hero likes the heroine’s size & shape and never bullies her, he’s oblivious to how his failure to acknowledge her importance to him gives others free rein to bully and demean her.) The book reminded me of Wells’s mafia romance, NICKY THE DRIVER, which features a heroine who suffers from an eating disorder, and I suspect readers will be as divided about the relationship between Flora & Alec in CURVY as they were about the relationship between Zita & Nicky in DRIVER. In all of her books, Wells excels at presenting heroes who want to do better but often lack the emotional bandwidth to do so without unintentionally hurting others. In CURVY, Alec has always loved Flora but fails to see that what he views as keeping their relationship a private, almost sacred, thing condemns Flora to be viewed as nothing but a “convenience” by others. When Flora has finally had enough (“Shame is a choice, and I don’t have to choose it”), she leaves the pack and goes to the Old Den (presided over by Cadoc and Rosie from THE HEIR-APPARENT’S REJECTED MATE); there Flora is accepted for who she is and respected for her abilities. Alex follows Flora and wants to stay with her, even when she confronts him with his clueless hypocrisy: “You’re blind to shit until it’s stabbing you in the chest, and all of a sudden, you notice, and now you care?” There are characters and storylines that carryover from previous Five Pack books, particularly the subplot of THE LONE WOLF’S REJECTED MATE (cw/tw, for violence against shifters), so I would recommend reading the previous books before tackling HIS CURVY REJECTED MATE. I found the book well written with a strong feminist and body-positive message, but there’s no doubt it contains triggers. I recommend HIS CURVY REJECTED MATE, but take the trigger warnings seriously.
Ruth Cardello’s stock-in-trade is complex family relationships. Her books are full of step-siblings, half-siblings, secret families from the past suddenly appearing in the present, adoptees finding biological siblings, and all manner of other tangled family connections. (In fact, the books in Cardello’s Lost Corisis series featured a helpful family tree at the beginning to keep track of how characters were linked; it was updated with each new book to account for just-discovered family members.) For an example of how complicated family connections can get, here’s a line from her latest book, STRICTLY FAMILY: “As [you are] the father-in-law of my adopted brother’s [biological] twin….” Got that? At heart, Cardello’s books are about family, whether by blood, by marriage, by love, or by a twist of fate. Cordello’s previous duet, The Switch (STRICTLY BUSINESS & OUT OF LOVE), focused on identical twins, separated at birth and adopted by different families, finding each other as adults. Her latest book, STRICTLY FAMILY (the first of her new The Twin Find duet) continues that theme. The heroine, Ashlee, approaches wealthy businessman Thane to show him DNA results that prove he fathered her daughter (who was conceived through artificial insemination from an anonymous donor). Thane knows he can’t possibly be the father, but before Thane can do more than protest, Ashlee is hurt in a vehicle collision. While Ashlee is recovering, Thane simultaneously grows closer to Ashlee and investigates the possibility that he, like his own adopted brother, has an identical twin somewhere. Cardello is very good at creating characters who are decent, thoughtful, and kind without being saints or pushovers. STRICTLY FAMILY has a lot of set-up for future stories, but it’s a nice, low-key, low-angst love story (and I’m looking forward to reading the next book, which will be about Thane’s biological twin). Recommended.
Although A. Zavarelli wrote one of my all-time favorite comfort rereads—the downbeat & melancholy, TAP LEFT—the rest of her output has been uneven. While I’ve liked some of her Boston Underworld mafia romances and a few of the books she’s co-written with Natasha Knight, Zavarelli’s work can get incredibly dark (I couldn’t even justify her BEAST as being a romance), so it was with some trepidation that I picked up CONTEMPT, a dark tropey romance featuring a heroine with amnesia, a hero in recovery, and their complicated past involving the hero’s late brother and both h&h’s dysfunctional families. Former rock star (and recovering addict) Madden sees a busker on the streets of Vegas and is convinced she is Bianca, the woman he loved and lost years ago. The story moves back and forth in time as we follow the romance of good-girl Bianca and bad-boy Madden as teenagers, then Bianca’s engagement to Madden’s half-brother, culminating in a terrible act of violence. Meanwhile, in the present day, the busker—Lyric—tries to convince Madden that she is not Bianca (rather unconvincingly because she has amnesia and doesn’t actually know who she is). I’ll give Zavarelli credit for writing a propulsive plot that kept me turning the pages; however, the story was marred by the obviousness of the villains (especially a key one), along with a resolution that is dependent on discovering a key piece of evidence that would definitely have been destroyed by any baddie worth their salt. Despite its HEA, CONTEMPT felt more like a psychological thriller than a romantic suspense—so make your decision to read it accordingly.
All hail the creators of allergy meds! My eyes don’t itch, I don’t sneeze all the time, and I don’t sniffle. (For a month straight!)(Why can’t trees have sex in a more civilized way, without sharing their “joy” with everyone—to their inconvenience? Rude!)
I just finished listening to Nalini Singh’s KISS HARD (which I read when it released a year ago), and was thoroughly entertained by the nemeses to fake relationship to ugh-what-are-these-feelings to lovers storyline. Again. (And since it had been a year and my memory is not what is used to be, it was close to reading/experiencing the romance for the first time.) I feel a dive into the rest of the series—backwards—is in my future. (Audio or eye reading, whichever is most convenient.)
I started THE HOUSE WITCH by Delemhach (a bitchery rec that I picked up on sale at some point) this morning. I feel that I am absolutely the target group for these cosy fantasies, cosy romantic fantasies, or cosy fantasy romances that seem to be everywhere right now. Bring them on!
I’m on a Nebula/SFWA panel talking about Robin McKinley books so I just read THE BLUE SWORD for the first time. McKinley always writes such beautiful descriptions. Although BEAUTY remains by favorite book by her and one of my all-time favorite books.
Lots of books/genres waiting on my TBR pile, including A BROKEN BLADE by Melissa Blair; A HARD DAY FOR A HANGOVER by Darynda Jones; and TWICE SHY by Sarah Hogle (I love seeing books set in the Great Smoky Mountains).
I also watched the new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS movie, which is so much fun! Highly recommended. 🙂
Made it through my first week back at work after maternity leave! It was nice to engage my brain a bit because the little guy, though unspeakably cute, is not much of a conversationalist. And my husband is off for a few weeks so I still get break-time baby snuggles. Win-win. On to the books!
THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman. Charming and astute septuagenarians solve murder mysteries from a retirement community in Kent. This is book 1 in the series, but I actually read books 2 and 3 in the series first (library availability) and I am glad I did because book 2 is the best of the bunch and book 1 has one suicide too many (there are three.) Still, fun and funny.
HOTEL OF SECRETS by Diana Biller. I think I would have liked this more if I had read longer stretches at a time (large format paperback hard to hold while nursing a baby), but enjoyed the setting (late 1870s/early 1880s Vienna) and the heroine, Maria, who runs a hotel there. The hero, Eli, has a backstory that I felt was a bit over the top and his response when Maria tells him she loves him…leaves much to be desired, but the setting and the secondary characters are fun.
FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK by Elissa Sussman. This had a promising premise, but really failed to deliver at the end. Ten years ago, Chani Horowitz spent a weekend with Nate Parker and the resulting magazine profile she wrote made them both stars in their fields. Ten years later, Chani’s divorced, Nate’s sober, and they/Nate’s publicist/Chani’s employer decide to do a follow up piece. The story plays out with dual timelines where we gradually see what happened that first weekend and where the characters are now. The main problem is that my Kindle was telling me there was 10 minutes left in the book and they were still doing “will they or won’t they???” “I don’t know if I deserve to be with you!” nonsense. Chani basically has what I would consider a reverse character arc in that she’s more immature and annoying at the end than she is at the beginning and I can’t figure out what Nate sees in her. I think with tighter editing this could have worked, but as it was, the ending made me want to throw my Kindle across the room.
Read a couple of books that I’ve had on my kindle for ages.
UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR, by T.J. Klune. This was my first book by him and I really liked it. I’m debating buying his new one in hardcover and the B&N editions of UtWD and HotCS with the pretty sprayed edges.
Then I read the first book in the Expanse series, LEVIATHAN WAKES, by James S.A. Corey. Bought this as a KDD in 2015 and just finally got around to reading it. This is a space opera series which starts with a cop looking for a missing woman at her family’s request and a small group who survived their ship being destroyed for no apparent reason and spirals into a story involving a waylaid alien bioweapon.
I really liked it, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the two characters we were following.
I’m now in the middle of book 2, CALIBAN’S WAR, and own book three. (Found a boxed set of the first three for $28 on Amazon.) This one follows more perspectives and two of them are women, which is an improvement over book one, imo.
I also read THE LAST FLIGHT OF THE CASSANDRA, which is an Expanse short story only found in the RPG manual. My library system had it, so I figured I’d read it now before I forgot. It was fine. While I figure the thing the characters found will be important later, the story itself felt unimportant.
Hello, Bitchery! It’s been a while!
MADISON SQUARE MURDERS by C.S. Poe M/M serial killer mystery. Some things in this book were great. The solution to the murder came together well, and the main character, while tortured and dealing with trauma that changed how his memory worked (in a burdensome way) was vivid and compelling. The love interest was also appealing, and it made sense that it would fall in love. However, the main character did not use his words with his husband, and it drove me crazy. Their relationship was falling apart, but I needed him to have that conversation, rather than just thinking, “I’ve already told him all this and he just doesn’t listen” before he fell into another guy’s pants. Ruined the new, burgeoning relationship for me, honestly.
LIKE A GENTLEMAN by Eliot Grayson M/M historical, novella. I found this one to be just OK. I did not really buy that someone would engage in sex acts and then abruptly leave to get their revenge against a stranger? Is that revenge? He didn’t know that the publisher had a crush on him, so did not quite make sense. Otherwise, solid.
LOVE POTION FOR THE ALPHA by Alice Coldbreath M/F Faux medieval with werewolves, European-type world. I liked this book. Heroine does not consider herself attractive, hero can’t resist her, they fall in love. Enjoy!
THE WICKED WITCH OF KRIEGSPIEL S.L. Prater M/F fantasy romance. CW for former abuse of heroine. Central conflict in this book was whether the witch was willing to give up agency by mating/marrying/joining with the wizard. The religion in this book required suppressing witches’ natural magic and keeping them controlled that way. I found this to be a bummer. It felt very realistic and the characters were very compelling. Given the no fault divorce rollback some d!ckheads in this country would like us to revert back to, it hit very close to home. Also, if witches were as powerful as this one was (she could rob people of their memories, for instance, and convince them things had happened that had not) I find it hard to believe that witches would not revolt in short order. Though, I suppose that is naïve – for reasons that are fodder for discussion for another day. Good book, don’t know if I’ll read the others in the series. YMMV
KING OF TRICKSTERS by S.L. Prater M/F fantasy romance. I’ve been waiting for this to published ever since I finished the first in the series (which ended in a cliffhanger). It did not disappoint. In fact, I would recommend reading one immediately after the other – they really felt like two halves of the same book. Unique system of magic and charming, unique world building, but all done very subtly, and as part of the character development and plot. No “this is how dragons work” chapters. And Rain’s emotional journey and rediscovery of herself was really cool. I will be looking forward to the next book in the world!
FOREVER YOUR ROGUE by Erin Langston M/F historical. Really enjoying this so far. Responsible widowed mother needs to seem to be engaged to keep custody of her children, and pays a family friend to pose as her fiancée. My favorite part of this book is how the two help each other become their stronger, best selves. How he grows to love the children is also really well done, as has been described on this site in the past, and deeply satisfying. Exactly what you expect it to be, in the very best way.
THE SPARE MAN by Mary Robinette Kowal – M/F, mystery, sci fi. As already discussed on this site, very 1930’s, socialite feel (cocktails are very central to the plot), but on a space, not ocean, cruise. And the super wealthy heroine is also an engineer, and the super cool hero is a former boxer, detective, and into embroidery. Really enjoying it so far!
Looking forward to all the recs! Thank you in advance! Have a great weekend and love to all the mothers, and esp. those who are struggling with Mother’s Day.
I’m reading THE FIANCEE FARCE by Alexandra Bellefleur. It’s an f/f marriage of convenience between a publishing heiress/romance cover model who needs to be married in order to inherit control of her family’s publishing company due to the conditional clause in her grandfather’s will and a bookstore owner who needs money to buy her family’s bookstore before her stepmother sells it to an Amazon-esque corporation. I really like the characters – they have great chemistry and some quotable parts, and both of them are struggling with the difference between who their families are and who they want them to be. I just started it last night and I’m over halfway through.
Thanks for letting us know about LIAR CITY. I prefer to wait until all the books are out in a duology/series/trilogy before reading them. I had requested this one from the library, but I’ll wait a while now.
Over the past few weeks ~
— All three volumes of Nathan Lowell’s A Seeker’s Tale From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper which I enjoyed once again.
— three short works: An Emporium of Hearts by Hailey Turner, Threshold by Cari Z, and Psychic Moon by M.D. Grimm; all were pleasant reads but not particularly memorable.
— For my distant book group, I read The Sculptress by Minette Walters. This was a mystery so an unusual choice for us. It focused on an author interviewing a prisoner who had confessed to a violent crime. I wouldn’t say that I recommend the book, but it proved a gripping albeit gory read.
— the contemporary romance, Off the Map by Trish Doller which is the third book in a series but would stand alone well. It strained credulity in some ways (one of the secondary characters has dementia), but the banter, humor, and setting (Ireland) had me enjoying it nonetheless.
— read Silent Order: Iron Hand by Jonathan Moeller, a science fiction/space opera. It was a pleasant read but I don’t expect to read on in the series.
— A blogger I read recommended the science fiction romance ~ Taken to Voraxia (Xiveri Mates Book 1) by Elizabeth Stephens. It was a pleasant read, but I’d hoped for something a bit more compelling.
— very much enjoyed Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez. This was a slow burn romance featuring two emergency room doctors which made me laugh a lot but also covered serious issues like depression, anxiety, organ transplants, and miscarriage. The hero … gasp … wrote letters to the heroine which was fun. I foresee reading this again and would recommend it.
— also enjoyed The Study of Poisons by Maria V. Snyder which retold a story I’ve reread several times from the point of view of the other major character. I think this book would be most enjoyed by fans of Poison Study (first published in 2005); it left me wanting to reread that book!
— The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books Book 1) by KJ Charles was an enjoyable historical romance with two heroes. This is a book that I would happily reread.
— The Starfighter Invitation (The Singularity Game Book 1) by Andrea K Höst was quite different from the author’s other books; I enjoyed this science fiction novel, but I don’t anticipate revisiting it soon.
— read a new science fiction novel that I enjoyed, Three Grams of Elsewhere by Andy Giesler. It dealt with the weaponization of empathy, had a main character in his seventies, and was quite unlike other science fiction books I’ve read. It also happens to be 99¢ for US Kindle readers.
The standouts so far this month include:
Kimberly Kincaid’s GIMME SOME SUGAR, part of her newly rereleased Pine Mountain series. Smart, funny, small-town contemporary about a chef retreating to regroup and a relationship averse contractor who is incredibly committed to his family and community.
Linden Bell’s RIPPED, an m/m age gap, hurt/comfort, rebound romance between an aspiring filmmaker and a spin instructor. Alternating first person PoV. This is the first I’ve read by Ms Bell, and I found it hard to put down.
Reese Ryan’s SECOND CHANCE ON CYPRESS LANE is the first in her small-town Holly Grove Island series. The main characters were high school sweethearts, and it’s clear they never really got over their breakup.
Julia Connors’ ON THE LINE is the fourth in her Frozen Hearts sports romance series, and is as much of an emotional ride as the others. Lauren’s struggling with her twins and her marriage when her husband dies in an accident; Jameson is her late husband’s agent and executor of his will, in addition to be a guy she used to work with and had chemistry with even before meeting her husband. Jameson? The stuff of dreams… he gets all the heart eyes, LOL
Finally, I got to read an ARC of Ari Baran’s GAME MISCONDUCT, the first in a new m/m hockey series. It releases Tuesday, so there’s still time to preorder! @DiscoDollyDeb, I think this is one you might love also. It’s about two rivals on the ice who find a way to connect off it, and I found it incredibly moving and engrossing. The pages and their season flew by! I think the pressures they face on and off the ice are written very well, as are their not always successful attempts to manage them. Excited that the second in the series is scheduled to release later in the year.
Oh, and @DiscoDollyDeb, I loved Cait Nary’s series also! If you’re open to reading f/f, you might try Kelly Farmer’s Out on the Ice hockey series. Her writing is excellent, and I’ve loved all three books.
@flchen1: I just added GAME MISCONDUCT to my TBR. Thank you for the recommendation!
@HeatherS, No problem. I do the same most of the time, waiting for the whole series to come out. Liar City was an exception due to a combination of a gift card, cover featuring Seattle, and a preview that really sucked me in 😀
@DiscoDollyDeb, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Can’t wait to hear what you think!
@FashionablyEvil, yay on your first week back—sounds like your family is adjusting very well! And ugh, thanks for the heads up on the Sussman; that sounds like something I would not enjoy…. Wishing you continued success and good reads!
Happy Eurovision weekend y’all! We sure have some unique songs and costumes this year. I’ll be streaming it all directly into my eyeballs and ears.
The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell – cozy, domestic, found family, no romance. Enjoyed it though the female villain is over the top, thank goodness likeable women show up later in the story. The author also has a cozy sci-fi series that I’ve been meaning to try, it was recommended by @Kareni above so it must be a sign.
Horribly Harry by Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey (authors of Socially Orcward) – @flchen1 recommended this in a Books on Sale post, it is indeed hilarious, loved the bad boyfriend hijinks. Contemporary, adorable bumbling M/M romance with spicy scenes and ace-spectrum representation. Part of a series, stands alone just fine.
A Little Too Familiar by Lish McBride – fantasy romance with a shifter whose animal form accidentally becomes a mage’s familiar, resulting in much forced proximity. Enjoyed the first half a lot, then got turned off by plot happenings and trauma – content warning for child abuse. Therapy is part of the story, so points for that. I may revisit the author, really liked the worldbuilding and friendships.
Tried and DNFed the first two books in the Magical Romantic Comedy with a body count series by R. J. Blain – Playing with Fire and Hoofin’ It (the one with that llama cover.) Fun and interesting world but they’re not kidding about the body count, also content warning for pretty intense hospitalization in both books. The llama is funny though.
Next up probably Kiss Hard by Nalini Singh, I enjoyed the first two in this series and the blurb sounds great. Thanks @ReadKnitSnark for the rec!
Does anyone else have to go through previous WAYR columns to remember what they’ve already shared? A mind is a terrible thing to lose.
THE MIMICKING OF KNOWN SUCCESSES by Malka Older was all that as reviewed by CarrieS. The world-building was fascinating and I enjoyed the (at times tetchy) relationship between the MCs. I understand a second book is coming and, as others have said, hopefully it will be longer.
TEN LOW by Stark Holborn: A harsh, all-female road gang ride across a barren moon with characters from both sides of a long and bloody conflict killing and/or working with each other to survive. The relationships between the women were complicated and surprisingly warm, or as warm as any could be when you’re never sure of old friends or new enemies. Ten Low is wanted for war crimes while also trying to atone. I liked this book a lot. It’s all-showing from the beginning and a reader must pay attention to understand the dynamics of this horrible world. Absolutely worth it.
I just finished Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. There were parts where the history went sideways, being a history buff I found those parts a bit whimsical. But I did enjoy the read.
Been a mixed bag the last couple of weeks. Just finished Mhairi McFarlane’s MAD ABOUT YOU, which I liked a lot. I love how McFarlane writes about friendship! Also recently finished THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE, which I did not like, it had some tropes I really don’t do and would not have read it if I’d realized. Working on THE PORTRAIT OF A DUCHESS with some mixed feelings, similar to how I felt about THE RAKESS. I also recently finished CHAIN OF THORNS. Given that I’d forgotten 95% of what had happened in the first two books it started as a slog but was good by the end. I think Clare’s work definitely needs to be read fairly close together, too much happens to remember in the years between books. As a palate cleanser I also re-read Nalini Singh’s WOLF RAIN, which is a good one and I think will actually set me up nicely for the new book coming out this summer (didn’t realize that when I started).
I am also reading the new book PERIOD by Kate Clancy (nonfiction), which is fantastic so far. Definitely recommend!
Because there’s a new book coming out soon in the series, I’m re-reading all of the Coven of Desire books by Ellen Mint. If you haven’t read them, you need to! It all starts with “Ink.” Layla returns to her apartment on her birthday, October 31st, to find a gorgeous hunk of man there, with a present for her, and he’s wearing only red silk trunks–which is present enough! He tells her he’s an incubus, created from the sin of sex, and bonded to her until he teaches her how to use her magic. Because she’s a witch, and the gift is her spell book. Then he reads her mind and gives her mind-blowing orgasms, as only he can do–until they’re attacked by monsters. The rest of the books in the series detail her relationship issues–a man she’s lusted after for years, Cal, turns out to return her interest–but he’s a werewolf, haunted by his terrible upbringing. But they have great sex with his member which is the girth of a coke can. WOW! Then in the 4th book, “Whisper,” she also collects a ghost, who is bound to a library. They somehow manage to figure out how they can have sex using her hands. Don’t ask, just read it! Then she gains the loyalty of a pseudo-angel who can’t bring himself to follow orders to kill her. She collects sexy men and has complicated, often menage, sex scenes while she’s learning that there’s a plan afoot to bring about the end of the world using the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and it involves her and her magic. Ellen says there are only a couple more books coming out in the series. I’m excited to read the new ones, but will feel bereft when there aren’t any more to look forward to. She has written other great books also, but these are my faves! Check out my full reviews on GR.
Someone mentioned a book called Runaway Love by Melanie Harlow in one of the comments sections…that sent me into a deep dive of her books! I can’t believe I haven’t read her before, and like potato chips I couldn’t stop at just one. I really enjoyed Runaway Love, which I believe is a start to a new series of hers that takes place in the town of Cherry Lane. That led me to the Cloverleigh Farms series, and now I’m working on Bellamy Creek. Reading so many in a short time is causing me to mix up some of the plots, but I’ve liked them all. During busy or stressful times the cozy, small town romance is a sweet escape for me. I’m finding them low angst, often funny. I wish I could remember who mentioned Harlow, but many thanks to whoever it was!
Add me to everyone who loved Cait Nary’s Season’s Change. Contract Season was also very good, and she has a new release coming up in August that I’m excited for-Lucky Bounce.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean-nonfiction book about the huge fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. I couldn’t put this book down. Seems like it would be a depressing read, but instead is a true love letter to libraries. I loved the behind the scenes of the library and the library workers, also the history of the library itself. Engrossing!
@Maureen: Melanie Harlow wrote one of my all-time favorite books (and a frequent comfort reread), AFTER WE FALL: a widowed veteran with PTSD finds himself unwillingly attracted to the woman hired by his brother to increase brand awareness of their family farm. Harlow isn’t an auto-buy author for me, but I’ve enjoyed a number of her books and especially appreciate her sensitive approach to characters experiencing mental health challenges.
This has been a good book time for me, though I am still having trouble focusing on ebooks. I finally broke the glass on The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ Charles, which led me to finally read A Thief in the Night (in her new book of collected short stories) and then re-read The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, which I liked much better the second time (and in paper). Add me to the fans of The Mimicking of Known Successes, and I’m also looking forward to the sequel to that. I finally read Freya Marske’s A Restless Truth, after giving up on it a couple of times. This time it really landed, and I’ve added the third book in that trilogy to my long pre-order list.
Dealing with some house and work stress sent me back to The Goblin Emperor, and then Peter Cabot Gets Lost. When I went to pre-order Cat Sebastian’s June release We Could Be So Good, I found that there is a paper edition of Peter Cabot. It arrived yesterday, and I read it again, and then went to find there are paper editions of the Hither mysteries.
I’ve also been dipping into horror-adjacent books, which is a genre I don’t read often. I really enjoyed T. Kingfisher’s A House With Good Bones and Jessica Johns’ Bad Cree. I also read Kimberly Garza’s The Last Karankawas, which has the most vivid sense of place of any book I can remember. Galveston really lives in those pages.
I’ve already added books to my KU and library lists from the comments above – thank you! I love WAYR days.
@Escapeologist, so glad you enjoyed Horribly Harry! I found all the books in that trilogy tremendously entertaining! That is too bad about the RJ Blain–I think I have one of those on my TBR too.
I do find the WAYR posts and the other recs here very helpful in deciding what to pick up next, so thank you, everyone, for making the time to do this!
If you dreamed of being a ballet dancer, or love ballet (or if you just like a good romance), I would recommend PAS DE DON’T by Chloe Angyal. The MCs are both principal dancers. The FMC takes a guest position at an Australian dance company to get away from a toxic ex who is also a dancer in her NYC dance company, the MMC is a member of the Australian company recovering from a potentially career ending injury. The ballet is not just window dressing in the story, and the author gets into the historical mistreatment and exploitation of female dancers and current efforts to right those wrongs with a light touch that doesn’t bog down the romance.
I just started reading TROY STORY by Carla Luna, an ARC featuring a friends to lovers romance between two archeologists, that will release in 2 weeks. I couldn’t resist requesting it because in addition to wanting to be a ballet dancer, my second choice of profession when I was young was archeologist and I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance featuring that profession before LOL.
My favorite of Cat’s “Cabot” books is really “Tommy Cabot Was Here”. It’s so cozy and I wish it was a full-length book rather than a novella. I still need to get the second Paige & Sommers book and to read both of those. I also need to read a couple of her historicals. For someone who loves Cat Sebastian’s work so much, I do have quite a backlog of unread books by her.
I recently read A Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (reviewed here by Carrie S on May 16, 2016), and enjoyed it. Our MC Nettie/Nat/Rhett is a biracial, bisexual person who is discovering who they are. This is a western set in an alternate American west in probably the 1870’s, with skinwalkers, vampires, werewolves, harpies, unicorns, and many other kinds of monsters/creatures. I liked it enough to go on to the second book, A Conspiracy of Ravens, which I have now stopped reading. I’m not exactly sure why, but part of it is I was getting tired of Rhett’s seeming refusal to accept that he doesn’t know everything and that his companions have things they need to teach him. Part of it probably too is that I was struggling with the sense of doom with the conflict setting up, and needed to stop. That’s more of a “me” problem than a book problem though! It’s an interesting world with interesting characters, and maybe when I’m braver I will return to it. I would definitely read Carrie S’s review for content warnings.
I think Kiki and I are on the same wavelength. In the past four weeks, I’ve read the first three books in Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn saga (SLIGHTLY MARRIED, SLIGHTLY WICKED, SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS) and am now 40% of the way through the fourth book, SLIGHTLY TEMPTED. Thanks to the recent HABO, I ordered a copy of THE TEMPORARY WIFE that just arrived yesterday, so that’s lined up for when I finish the Bedwyns.
Currently reading “The Twyford Code” by Janice Hallett and enjoying it a lot!
“Delilah Green Doesn’t Care” by Ashley Herring Blake: F/f contemporary. Mixed feelings on this! I enjoyed the characters and had fun reading it but I wasn’t really feeling the chemistry between the main couple and thought the complicated family conflicts resolved a little too easily.
“A Thief in the Night” by KJ Charles: M/m historical novella, super quick fun read. I need to get to Charles’ lately full-length novel!
“Are You Listening?” by Tillie Walden: Graphic novel about two people who start as vague acquaintances and go on a road trip that brings them together as it quickly turns creepy and uncanny. Love Walden’s art, liked this a lot. CW for sexual assault.
“Home” and “The Night Masquerade” by Nnedi Okorafor: Second and third books in this trilogy of novellas. I never quite connected with these sadly… I was into the worldbuilding but there are too many events packed into this short format and it didn’t hit me emotionally the way the author was going for. Might try reading one of her longer books.
“Black Coffee” by Agatha Christie and Charles Osborne: An adaptation of Christie’s original Poirot play by another author. Interesting read, you can definitely tell the difference between the two prose styles. Fun plot but I wouldn’t recommend over the ones written fully by her.
“Scorched Grace” by Margaret Douaihy: Really enjoyed the central character of this mystery but the plotline itself didn’t have the twistiness or suspense I prefer. Still liked it generally.
In nonfiction, I enjoyed “Unmask Alice” by Rick Warren, “Chaotic Neutral” by Ed Burmila and the memoir “Hijab Butch Blues” by Lamya H.
Lately finished reading SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik and I swear it’s the best book I’ve read all year. Maybe in several years. Also a master class in writing first person POV; she uses, I think 7 POVs, all in first person, and you can instantly tell whose POV you are in the minute you start each new scene. The whole book is a tour-de-force and I am suffering from serious Good Book Hangover. So much so that LEGENDS AND LATTES by Travis Baldree, which I’m reading now, is suffering by comparison and feeling rather flat.
I also want to recommend POLITE SOCIETY, which I finally got to see in the theater. It’s a British movie about two Indian sisters in London, Ria Khan, who wants to be a stuntwoman, and her older sibling Lena, an aimless college student who suddenly finds herself being romanced by a handsome, rich, high-society doctor, much to Ria’s dismay. It starts out as a typical coming-of-age, letting-the-sister-grow/go type movie, then two thirds of the way through descends into over-the-top camp melodrama worthy of a 1960’s Man From UNCLE episode. Major props for the realistic love/hate sibling dynamics; Ria’s multicultural and loyal, if sometimes befuddled friends; Ria’s persistence in training even when her stunts literally fall flat; the ability to get past male-dominated spaces with the mere mention of menstruation; and spa day as torture porn. Do try to catch it in the theater or on streaming.
I really liked and enjoyed Mia Tsai’s Bitter Medicine. There is something very refreshing, and also strangely healing about the way the book “solves” the central issue—it’s the total opposite of what generally happens in fantasies, and I loved, loved love it. Felt very very, life-affirming to me. I would love to read more by her. It is a slower paced fantasy—there’s plenty of action but thankfully nothing world-saving, and the motive of the villain was so wonderfully plausible. The love story was—oh, I loved that there were so many turns where there could be a big misunderstand but there wasn’t—even once. People talked to each other like normal, healthy individuals. All in all, this was an utterly lovely read.
I was pleasantly surprised and then fell in love with Cate C Well’s Rejected Mate series on Kindle Unlimited. Someone here recommended it on one of the threads, and I decided to seek it out for my last month of Kindle Unlimited because I want to use it as much as I can! I had A LOT of trepidation approaching this because urban fantasy is a huge hit or miss for me, and the titles weren’t exactly confidence-inspiring but this series, oh my, how is this author not know even more? Or maybe it’s just me who doesn’t know about her! What an immensely female affirming series this is. There are small choices which her female characters make in each of the stories through the whole series the sum of which is about coming into their own power, through whatever agency and choice they can exercise—with the males being a solidly supportive shoulder. Each of the male first fails his heroine—for very plausible and believable reasons, and then expands his worldview where he starts seeing why the heroine is doing what she is. His Curvy Rejected Mate might be my absolute favorite of the series—it is absolutely life-affirming to see the heroine of the book take her power back, one small step at a time. Claiming themselves, and their world is what this series is about, and I am absolutely going to read more from this author. Highly recommended. And a huge thanks to whoever gave a shout-out to this in the thread about heroes who grovel well I think.
Water Logic by Laurie J Marks. This is probably one of my favorite fantasy series ever. Again, I wish it was more well-known. Philosopher-warriors, firmly queer world, found-families, trying-to-make-a-government with two bristling sides who are enemies. . . this is one of the most thoughtful fantasy series I have read.
The Talisman Ring by Heyer. I love Heyer, problems and all. Her pages bristle with energy, and the romance is all under-the-surface, but the capers and the dialogues crackle and are super fun to read! I also finally read The Grand Sophy a few weeks ago and yes, loved it, managing female that she is, and the probelms that the book has, all of it included! (I suspect I would loath Sophy in real life but she is SO MUCH fun to read about!)
Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold. My library FINALLY got a paper version of the book, and oh I love Miles. He’s a prodigy and can talk an ear off anyone and is just so good to read about and know that he will emerge triumphant no matter what. I cannot wait to read the next book, A Civil Campagin, the reason why I started reading this series right from the beginning 3 years ago!
I tried reading The Bodyguard by Katherine Center but the voice annoyed me no end. I couldn’t proceed after chapter two. I didn’t like the heroine, which I could have lived with but the first person narrative and her voice just made it impossible to proceed!
My sister-in-law and I have been plowing through the Psy-Changeling series, #2-#7 rated below, and are having so much fun! I am currently on #8, but can’t wait until I get to #10.
HIS CURVY REJECTED MATE by Cate C. Wells: After eagerly anticipating this book, I almost DNF’ed it in the first couple of chapters. The hero came off as a very bro asshole and I wasn’t sure he could be redeemed. I am glad I stuck with it, because this was another excellent entry in the Five Packs series. All of the triggers and warnings that @DiscoDollyDeb mention very much apply.
BRANDED BY FIRE by Nalini Singh: Psy-Changeling #6 – the Sentinel changeling heroine and Lieutenant hero changeling pairing is my favorite couple of the series to date by far.
CARESSED BY ICE by Nalini Singh: Psy-Changeling #3 – loved that the hero was the Psy in the relationship and the heroine the changeling.
BLAZE OF MEMORY by Nalini Singh: Psy-Changeling #7 – objectively this book is not as good as others in the series and there were major plot holes including in the world building that I haven’t noticed in the other books, BUT the ending just got me right in the feels.
MINE TO POSSESS by Nalini Singh: Neither the hero (changeling) or heroine (human) were great, but the world building and secondary story lines are so so good.
SECRETS OF THE BABY WHISPERER FOR TODDLERS by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau: This was aimed at people with kids younger than mine – I would say from 8 months to 18-24 months, but I still found some of the tips, tricks and advice helpful.
CUT TO THE QUICK by Kate Ross: First in the Regency-set Julian Kestrel series, I did not find the comparisons to Albert Campion (by Margery Allingham) to be apt, but I still enjoyed the country manor, house party set mystery. I plan to read the second in the series.
VISIONS OF HEAT by Nalini Singh: Psy-Changeling #2 – the world building is so good, as is the overall storyline threaded throughout the books about conflict between humans, Psy, and changlings, but this hero is such an alpha-hole who knows what is best for the heroine.
HOSTAGE TO PLEASURE by Nalini Singh: Psy-Changeling #5 – see notes above about VISIONS OF HEAT except this “hero” is horrible – my sister-in-law deemed him “rapey” which is extremely accurate. We had both been eagerly anticipating this one and he was such a disappointment. Again, the world and overall plot were the redeeming factors.
@Heather S, I love Tommy and Everett as well, and I live in hope of a Patricia and Harry story. But I didn’t enjoy Peter’s story as much as I expected – in fact, I lost interest half-way through and haven’t finished it yet.
@LisaM: I would agree with you. I really only liked the first Cabot book; the second (Peter’s story) was way too much pantsfeelings. Given the character is so young and had just graduated college, it makes sense, but still. I’m interested in the emotionsfeelings in romance, and there wasn’t enough of that here. The third book was slow and nothing really happens, which is fine, but it was unmemorable to me. They’re the only books I don’t own by her in print and digital format. It would be unreasonable to expect to love every book an author writes, especially when they’re prolific like Cat is. I’m really looking forward to “We Could Be So Good” coming out next month, though!
@Juhi, The Talisman Ring is probably my favorite Georgette Heyer book. It’s in the top three, anyway.
With thanks to Amanda’s Get Rec’d posts, which introduced me to these two books:
GARLIC AND THE VAMPIRE by Bree Paulsen – while there was nothing new or unpredictable to the vampire story in this graphic novel for children, the art is lovely and there’s an intriguing moment when Witch Agnes is praising Garlic’s gardening efforts that I hope is pursued in the sequel.
THE TWYFORD CODE by Janice Hallett – I was looking for something to put in my ears when I spotted Amanda’s mention that this novel might be “particularly good on audio” and it was! Given the format of the work — transcriptions of voice memos recorded on an aging iPhone — I’m not sure I would have been able to stick with it in text format, though the minute the audio was over I went and grabbed a text copy (for reasons). Try to walk into this book spoiler-free, if you can.
I lost my game of chicken with Amazon re: my KU subscription. I usually only subscribe to KU when Amazon lures me with a discounted offer, but I couldn’t wait for Cate C Wells’s HIS CURVY REJECTED MATE. I’m not a huge fan of the romance in this one (I just didn’t think the male main character was worth it), but I loved revisiting the newly-created “old den pack” from book 2 in the series and seeing how they’re progressing. I’ll certainly keep reading the series until we get Kennedy’s story (so much pressure for that one! Good luck, Ms Wells) as well as a story from the Last Pack’s perspective.
Dropping in here listening to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, because we saw the third one last weekend, and as ever, it’s chock-full of bangers. I’ve only read one book since last time, and it was Light Bringer by Pierce Brown. Got it from NetGalley, it comes out in July. It is the continuation of the Red Rising series, and I can’t say too much, since it’s not out yet and ya girl don’t spoil. I will say a certain fan fave comes back with a vengeance, and got both some of the best humor and some of the best emotional beats, and another character is given some really meaty stuff, in that they keep being given opportunities to do the right or best or ethical thing, and choosing to do the opposite. Also, some great action set pieces and some of the space politicking we’re here for. So until next time, NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN.
I’ll start with the worse and move on to the better.
I DNF’d A SPINSTER’S GUIDE TO DANGER AND DUKES(Manda Collins). It wasn’t terrible and I’ve read my share of silly, wallpaper historicals, but this one didn’t grab me.
I read THE LONE WOLF’S REJECTED MATE, and although I finished it I doubt I’ll read more, shifter books are just not my jam.
I am reading an old Mary Balogh Signet Regency, THE TEMPORARY WIFE, which was mentioned here recently, maybe it was a HABO about an MOC where the hero deliberately marries a woman he knew his father would hate? Anyway, Balogh has reworked these themes about family estrangements and betrayals so often, and you know the reconciliation is coming, and the couple will fall in love for real.
I’m also in the middle of the latest C.S. Harris mystery WHO CRIES FOR THE LOST. I love this series, but I’m at the stage, which always happens, where I care more about certain characters’ story arc than the mystery, so I start skipping ahead to see what happens to them. Then I will go back and read the whole thing.
Saving the best for last: I totally loved HOTEL OF SECRETS(Diana Biller). I’ve got a special fondness for Vienna, and I loved all of the characters, the atmosphere, the humor, the dialog, the competence porn about running a hotel, and the very slow burn romance. The suspense plot is just a MacGuffin.