Whatcha Reading? August 2023, Part Two

Scenic summer sunset view of Nyhavn pier with color buildings, ships, yachts and other boats in the Old Town of Copenhagen, DenmarkWelcome back to Whatcha Reading! It’s our last one for August.

Here’s what we’re capping off the month with:

Lara: I’m more forgiving when comes to rereading books from the keeper shelf, especially when they divert from my current tastes. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder has more violence in it than I usually like now, some asshole behavior from the male lead, and less focus on the romance, but I adore this book. And rereading it always brings me joy.

Sarah: I am reading Lavender’s Blue, ( A | BN | K ) the new Jennifer Cruise (!!!) And Bob Mayer mystery. I can’t quite articulate what I think yet. In some ways my brain feels like I am putting on clothing from two jobs ago that fit but is strange and familiar at the same time.

Shana: I just started Praise by Sara Cate, ( A | BN ) an erotic romance where the heroine gets together with her asshole ex boyfriend’s hot dad. It came highly recommend as an age gap romance that will convert me into loving the trope. We will see.

Elyse: I just started Fourth Wing ( A | BN | K ) to see if it lives up to the hype.

Whatcha reading, everyone? Let us know in the comments!

Comments are Closed

  1. PurpleJen says:

    Currently reading Alyssa Cole’s OFF THE GRID trilogy. I’m halfway through the first one, RADIO SILENCE. I’m really enjoying it so far. I love the characters. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. Always love reading Alyssa Cole.
    Also recently read LONE WOMEN by Victor LaValle. Amazing. Loved it. I really like horror with a western theme, and this one was great. Slow burn, strong characters, fantastic ending.

  2. Sunflower says:

    Just finished THE UNLIKELY HEIR by Jax Calder, which I would describe as a mix between Red, White & Royal Blue and Boyfriend Material. I really enjoyed it, including the slowburn-ish burn romance, the drama, and the horrible puns.

  3. ET says:

    IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS by TJ Klune. I just started reading, but am enjoying the story so far. My library hold also came in for ROLE PLAYING by Cathy Yardley, which I’m looking forward to!

  4. Escapeologist says:

    Speaking of Alyssa Cole, I started listening again to A PRINCESS IN THEORY. The narrator is SO good, y’all.

    Still haven’t finished any books since last month, my attention span is “hey look at that tree.” Let’s see if a short novella will work. THE BRIDE OF THE BLUE WIND by Victoria Goddard is a retelling of Bluebeard with magic, mythology and badass women riding out to rescue their sister. It has that feel of being part of a much larger fantasy world but it can stand alone. Hoopla app says I’m on page 35 of 87, fingers crossed.

    Webtoons:
    REEDS by zzsleeps is described as a high fantasy drama m/m slow burn romance between a spoiled prince and a darkly mysterious traveler in a Hmong inspired world with dragons, magic, swords, political intrigue, the works. I’m on episode 25 of 128+, the budding romance is adorable. Bonus side plot with a trans character. Content warning for violence, blood, war.

    MOONLIGHT STAR by skeleson only has 15 episodes so far but looking quite promising. Beautiful art, Black girl protagonist, magic and mystery.

    And for slice of life cozy autumn vibes, SUNNY AND RAINY by theMaarika and BASIL’S PERSIMMON PRESERVES by RumpledCrow. 66 days until Halloween.

  5. FashionablyEvil says:

    I am currently toggling between THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB, one of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels. IG is very YA and so every time I pick up the Sayers, it’s like, “oooh, grownups!” I am actually not sure I’m going to finish IG—there’s a love triangle? quadrilateral? pentagon? I can’t really tell because there are four rather undifferentiated brothers. I think it’s supposed to be a triangle, but who knows. I also have Questions because three of the brothers are 17, 18, and 19 and they all have the same mom, but three different dads? Like, who has time with a three month old to go out and find some more dudes to bang? And to do it twice? Like I said: Questions.

    I also read Sayers’ MURDER MUST ADVERTISE which was excellent plus Mimi Matthew’s’ APPOINTMENT IN BATH. Lara’s review and my comment there encapsulate my thoughts on that one, but briefly: the MCs are young and immature and it involves a redemption arc for a previous villain that I wasn’t prepared to offer him. I also enjoyed the latest Gabriel Allon mystery/thriller by Daniel Silva.

  6. Star says:

    In the last year or two, I’ve found that I don’t often finish romance anymore, but I just finished Mary Balogh’s Huxtables series and was pleased on the whole. I don’t enjoy “tropey” romance at all, and I really appreciate how Balogh’s romances have tropes but are very much not about tropes. She also always writes characters who feel like adults and have adult conversations, which I also appreciate, and she writes so well. In this series, I particularly liked that the heroine from the second to last book (SEDUCING AN ANGEL) starts off easy to sympathize with but difficult to like because of what she’s been through and then seamlessly transitions into someone I liked quite a bit. Balogh’s characters often decide they’re in love at junctures that feel too early and too abrupt for me, and the fact that she writes characters who feel very much of their time is both another thing I like about them and something that occasionally grates, but overall the series worked for me.

    I also read THE SHAPECHANGER’S WIFE by Sharon Shinn, which was a nearly perfect book until the epilogue, which I am trying to forget about; DAISY JONES AND THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which was great fun until the ending, which fell flat after the climax and used a twist that didn’t work for me at all; and a few psychological suspense novels that were enjoyable if not memorable.

  7. LisaM says:

    The standouts for me were fantasy, not romance. The first was To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose, an alt-history US with dragons, where the dragons in the Native American communities were decimated by disease, and then a young woman named Anequs discovers an egg and is forced to attend a dragon-training academy. Oh, and north North America was colonized by the Norse, not the British. I’ve decided alt-history with dragons is one of my favorite genres (cf When Women Were Dragons and early Temeraire).

    I also read T. Kingfisher’s Thornhedge in one sitting. I loved Toadling and her mothers so much. I do hope there will be a sequel, I would love The Further Adventures of…

    Two romances I read were fine until the end, like @Star above. Role Playing by Cathy Yardley made the H’s twisted family dynamics the center of his story, and then dropped it all for an epilogue set years ahead with no mention of his family. I couldn’t believe in the ending of Trish Doller’s Off the Map. I don’t see how either of them was supporting their vagabond lifestyle, especially the H’s WFH (Work from Jeep) in a tech job. YMMV but I couldn’t handwave that part away.

    I was reading a fascinating book about (of all things) smallpox, The Empress and the English Doctor by Lucy Ward. Catherine the Great of Russia risked her own life and her heir’s to start an inoculation campaign in Russia. It was written during the pandemic and has Things to Say about anti-vaxxers and disinformation. I needed a bit of a break though so I turned to Lois Bujold (as I often do) and am now wandering around with Penric and Desdemona.

    As always, I expect to be adding to my TBR today!

  8. Musical Trees says:

    Yesterday, I re-read MASTER WOLF by Joanna Chambers, which is book 2 of the CAPITAL WOLVES duet. It is such a lovely, delicious book, full of desire and longing and angst, which is my catnip. There’s the usual attention to historical detail that I do love in Chambers’s books with the unexpected (for Chambers) addition of a fantasy element – werewolves. Chambers picks and chooses which bits of werewolf lore to include and then uses that framework to ask questions about autonomy, fairness, and whether any of this really matters in the face of love.

    I started reading SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli a few days ago. This is a new read and I must admit I’m on the fence about it. YA is definitely hit or miss for me and I’m just not sure if this story is working for me. Simon seems like a good kid, but I’m not feeling the chemistry with Blue.

  9. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Not much to report this time. I started a new job—I’m still working at the same school, but I’ve moved from being a classroom aide to a secretarial position—and we have been slammed with all the start-of-the-year activities and paperwork. I hope the rush will ease up next month, and I can get back to my favorite hobby.

    Kati Wilde was finally able to straighten out issues with Amazon regarding the files for THE MIDSUMMER BRIDE, and the completed book dropped last week. THE MIDSUMMER BRIDE is part of Kati’s Dead Lands series of fantasy romances—and I think it’s the best one of the series since THE MID-WINTER MAIL-ORDER BRIDE (and that’s saying something). As with the other Dead Lands books, the setup for TMB features a woman (in this case, an exiled queen) on a quest and a man who might be classified as a “barbarian” but has a true heart and lots of muscles. Both the hero and the heroine find they might get help and be of help to the other, but outside forces have other ideas. Queen Elina is wasting away but is determined to return to her homeland and free the people from her tyrant of an uncle. Meanwhile, Warrick is a warrior equally determined to free an imprisoned people by using the jewels he knows Elina possesses. There are magic spells, demons, ghosts, monsters, acts of treachery, bravery, derring-do, skullduggery, and sexy-times full of heat and heart—not to mention Kati’s most devastating break-up scene since GOING NOWHERE FAST—all in support of the assertion that “Love is the most powerful of all true magics.” Highly recommended.

    [CW/TW: discussion of abusive childhood] Skye Warren’s RED FLAGS is an excellent character study of a woman who grew up in an abusive home, but I cannot actually call it a romance because the hero does not end the book acting very heroically. Of course, this is the first book of a trilogy, so it is possible that he will redeem himself in time. In RED FLAGS (like many of Skye Warren’s books, the title has a double meaning), Sienna is stuck in dead-end job in small-town Texas (Warren really nails the hopelessness bred by violence, misogyny, patriarchy, and lack of opportunity). Sienna is otherized by her gender, her Asian heritage (her mother is Indonesian), and the fact that everyone knows her father beats her and her mother, but no one ever intervenes. When the traveling Cirque des Miroirs arrives in town, Sienna meets the enigmatic owner, Logan, who offers her a job as a fortune teller. Sienna literally runs away to join the circus and soon discovers that the hyper-vigilance developed through childhood spent constantly analyzing her father’s moods serves her well when telling fortunes. But not everyone at Cirque des Miroirs is thrilled with the newcomer—especially when Sienna and Logan become involved. “Bullies are everywhere” is the leitmotiv of the book, and they certainly are everywhere here. Needless to say, the book is full of triggers, and it ends of a cliffhanger that was anxiety-inducing enough to make me wish I’d waited for the second book to be published before I read the first. So, I find myself recommending a triggery book for its non-romantic elements, while not (at this point in the story) being able to recommend it as a romance. As Sienna says, “Maybe I should know better, but I’ve spent too long beating my wings against the chicken wire of the universe’s screen door to stop now.”

    I need to make it clear that my decision to read Melanie Harlow’s HIDEAWAY HEART (the second book in her Cherry Tree Harbor series) had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the smoking-hot cover model—even though, one must admit, that, even with some badly airbrushed tattoos, he’s a real honey. Anyway, getting that assertion out of the way, HIDEAWAY HEART is a bodyguard romance between country-music singer, Kelly (aka, Pixie Hart), and former Navy SEAL now bar-owner, Xander. Harlow did a good job of showing how Kelly is tired of the manufactured “Pixie Hart” image; she wants to take control of her career and also take some time to get away from overbearing relatives, her controlling ex, male record producers who think they know better than she does about what will work for her style and voice, and naturally the endless barrage of social media trolls. Her brother asks Xander, his former SEAL buddy, to act as Kelly’s bodyguard while she vacations in the small town where Xander lives (thankfully, this is one “best friend’s little sister” set-up that doesn’t involve the brother getting bent out of shape that his sister has a sexual life). There’s initially some antagonism between the MCs, but their chemistry is off-the-charts from the first. I enjoyed the book, which has a nice balance of emotion and steam, but CW/TW, there is an attempted sexual assault late in the book that feels out of step with the vibe of the rest of the story. The scene is meant to drive home how horrible a particular character is, but Harlow had already shown that in many other ways. I recommend HIDEAWAY HEART, but I don’t think the assault scene was necessary.

    On the advice of someone in the last WAYR (thank you), I read Ripley Hayes’s UNDERMINED, the first in her Daniel Owen Welsh Mysteries. Set in Wales, UNDERMINED is about policeman Daniel Owen who travels to another jurisdiction to work with officer Mal Kent to investigate the murder of a local woman. Daniel and Mal—both openly gay, but completely different in their outlooks and styles—gradually grow closer. The mystery is neatly developed and the characters, particularly two sisters who are neighbors of the victim, engaging. I will continue reading the series—which now stretches to eight books. Recommended.

  10. squee me says:

    I’m trying to be more diligent about reading my NetGalley ARCs before they turn into pumpkins at midnight. Currently reading When Harry Met Sal by Ryan Field. It’s a pretty good story but I don’t really see it as a retelling of WHMS. It’s got a few of the same plot elements, e.g., the cross country trip, but very few of the same themes or vibe. But I guess the central premise of the movie – can men and women be friends? – is a very cishet thing. To make it queer I think you’d have to explore ideas that humans are inherently sexual beings, sexuality is a spectrum, and given that, what determines who we decide to jump into bed with. Which is of course talking about only one variety of love and attraction. I think Ephron gets more philosophical about relationships than this book. But I’m only halfway through so I’ll see where it goes!

  11. Lots of rom-coms waiting on my TBR pile, including TWO WRONGS MAKE A RIGHT by Chloe Liese.

    I also want to check out THE SHALLOWS by Holly Craig. And after watching THE LINCOLN LAWYER on Netflix, I want to check out THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly.

    I’ve also started making a list of books I download/want to read. Hopefully, that will keep some books from getting pushed down and being forever lost/ignored on my reading app. LOL.

  12. Qualisign says:

    Just a bit of a rant followed by a double thumbs up. I have been traveling a lot lately (my year of death, destruction, and [often wonderful] changes that began in January 2022 has continued with more death and even more changes in 2023), so audiobooks have been my drug of choice. For my most recent trip, I downloaded A WALLFLOWER CHRISTMAS by Lisa Kleypas based on a post here, and queued it up as a potentially calming background read on my drive. Well, whoops, it took me less than half an hour before I had to stop due to an impending panic attack and, thanks to Apple CarPlay and Libby, switched to the next book queued up, Pete Walker’s COMPLEX PTSD: FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING, which I found life changing. The funny thing is that listening to C-PTSD actually helped me understand what triggered my horrendous response to Kleypas’ Rafe Bowman’s misogynistic and predatory interactions with his ultimate victim, a disempowered ladies companion. (Yeah, yeah, they fell in love within two interactions and they lived happily ever after). Kleypas writes well, but leaning into the power differential between the h/H was truly awful. I finished the book about two weeks later, because I wanted to see how in the world Rafe would be redeemed. IMO, he wasn’t. Sorry, Lisa Kleypas, this one deserves a RANT. On the other hand, I learned so much from C-PTSD that I recommended it to my sibs and to almost every one of my admittedly tiny group. And now I’m sharing it with SBTB. For those of us who have always used books as a means of escape (most often from the awfulness of people), you, like me, may find some answers — or even some good questions to ask — in C-PTSD. Just saying.

    And I wanted to repeat how diligently I read WAYR and just about every bitchery review post. You all rock! FYI: My life is actually going well these days; life is complex but filled with both peace and joy.

  13. SaraGale says:

    My Saturday morning coffee and reading in bed included this gem from Ruby Dixon’s FIRE IN HIS KISS:
    “Dakh grunts as he slides off me, then a moment later, he pulls me against him as he lies on the floor. I let him arrange me against him like the BONELESS ORGASM-NOODLE that I am, and try and sort my thoughts”.
    That had me snorting into my coffee.

    I have spent the summer switching between romances and mysteries (with a side of romance). I’m all caught up on Ashley Weaver’s ELECTRA MCDONNELL series. I’m eagerly awaiting the next one. I’ve also been reading her AMORY AMES series. Don’t love it quite so much, but felt the first two books really captured the FMC heartache and uncertainty in her marriage.

    I spent a glorious week basking in the glory of discovering some unread Shelly Laurenston books on KU. The first CROWS book (not related to the trilogy she put out later, but same world) – Squeee – I love that series. And a few shifter romances, the MAGNUS PACK series, which were awesome for their amazingly crazy ass FMCs and the MMC brave enough to mate with them.

    On vacation, I got to read HOW TO TAME A WILD ROGUE, which I enjoyed but kept being nagged by whether the couple would tell their true story to the Rogue’s Palace crew.

    I’ve taken a dive into Ruby Dixon’s series. I was intrigued by the ASPECT AND ANCHOR series. I enjoyed the premise and world building but was definitely taken aback by a suicide in the second book – trigger warning for sure. They are violent books – be warned.
    Now I’m trying out her FIREBLOOD series, there’s definitely some dubious consent or at least some very blurry boundaries on consent. I’m in the second book. Usually by the third book, I can tell if I need a break from the series for a bit.

    Still plugging through the audiobook for VERONICA SPEEDWELL series by Deanna Raybourn. Still enamored by the narrator. I’m now on the 3rd book, A TREACHEROUS CURSE.

    My TBR pile includes CHARMED CITY ROCKS, which is a little outside of my normal genre, but the review here intrigued me. Also, THE HOUSEKEEPERS, which was recommended here. I have a few books on KU I’m waiting for the next release this week – the next Kerrigan Byrne/Cynthia St Aubin TOWNSEND HARBOR book BAZAAR GIRLS. Linsey Hall’s HOW TO FAKE DATE A VAMPIRE. And Vanessa Nelson’s FORGED from her THE GREY GATES series. That series has a very slow burn on the romance and the revealing of the FMC’s backstory/origins.

    Happy reading folks!! Enjoy your weekend!!

  14. cat_blue says:

    Excellent timing! I only just started OUTLAWED by Anna North, which entered into my TBR based on a positive review on SBTB a while ago. Fantasy/alt history western where women who don’t have children are considered witches (and treated as such, ie, executed in short order on shady evidence) following a young girl who runs away, becoming an outlaw instead. When I say I only just started, I mean JUST started, so I can’t even say if I like it yet. But that’s 100% not a criticism, just a neutral statement.

    Also been reading THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson because, like many of us I suspect, I crave pumpkin-and-bats season and want some Hallow-vibes. An unstable young woman and a handful of others are drawn to the mysterious Hill House as an experiment by a doctor who intends to record the supernatural events he believes will occur in a ‘haunted house’ inhabited by ‘psychics.’ I don’t care for Jackson’s short stories but I generally like her novels and this one is really good, in ways that sometimes hit very close to home.

  15. chacha1 says:

    Last week I went to Steamy Lit Con and met M.A. Wardell, who moderated the Queer Joy panel and let me tell you he gives good panel. 🙂 He also has two books out, which I was able to scoop up in the signing room. TEACHER OF THE YEAR is a M/M rom-com featuring a kindergarten teacher and an aerospace engineer who happens to be the parent of a new student. Content alerts for anxiety & alcoholism, but this book is sweet, steamy, and genuinely funny.

    His next title is up for pre-order now: MISTLETOE & MISHIGAS. I scored an ARC and recommend this one too, especially if you are building a holiday-season reading list. MCs are a first-grade teacher and his new school’s custodian, an Army veteran with combat PTSD. Also sweet, steamy, and genuinely funny. In each of the books, one MC is Jewish. Both are set in Maine. If you read ‘Charles’ by Con Riley and liked the treatment of teaching & teachers, give these a try. 🙂

  16. Midge says:

    In non-romance, I’ve been working for a while on Nancy Goldstone’s DAUGHTERS OF THE WINTER QUEEN. An excellent read, though it is much more than the story of Elizabeth of Bohemia (daughter of King Charles I.) and her daughters, but a pretty sweeping panorama of history and politics covering amongst other things the Thirty Year’s War, the English Civil War and ending in the ascendancy of the Hanoverians to the English throne (George I. being Elizabeht’s grandson). Interesting, though I had to take breaks in-between. A good overview of an eventful period in history where small events sometimes had big effect.

    HIS COCKY VALET – Cole McCade (M/M contemporary) oookaaaayyyy… I admit, I hadn’t been aware of the whole #cockygate drama when it happend. I read a reference to this somewhere and went down a rabbit hole. This was one of the books that was written in reaction to that and I thought I’d give it a whirl. I expected something tropey, probably not too realistic. It turned out to be all that, but also with much more serious undertone than expected – definitely check for the CW/TWs at the beginning (can be read in the sample on Amazon). Mileages may vary drastically on this one and the unique dynamic between the two MCs was definitely something I had not read before (consenting codependency). Not something I’d go for normally, but overall it was ok.

    CLOUD WHITE – Fearne Hill (M/M contemporary). Finally, the story of Milo and Mungo who were ever-present side characters in the earlier two books in this series. Can be read as a standalone, but after reading the other two, I knew this had to happen. It’s best friends to lovers, missed chances and quite a bit of angst. Liked it, though it seemed to me sometimes the characters sounded younger than what they are supposed to be. Also I found it very questionable how easily both take weeks off work from their supposed hot-shot lawyer jobs! There are some delightful new side characters with Danny, Simon and Reuben, but again – check the CW/TWs (domestic abuse is a big theme) at the beginning.

    LOVE COMES IN THREES – Marie Sinclair (M/M/M contemporary). More kink… which is not normally my cuppa. Again this may not be for everyone. Basically the three MCs are in a V-relationship. Two are married to each other, the third is in a D/S relationship with with one of the married guys. It sounded intriguing and I have to say I actually liked it a lot. Lots of feels, some angst, and how the other husband and the third man slowly, unexpectedly fall for eachother too was beautiful. Definitely gave me all the feels and that’s what usually does it for me, kink or no kink. I will say though, it does contain one kinky scene that’s one of the sexiest I’ve ever read… unexpected!

    FRENCH FANCY – Lily Morton (M/M contemporary). Pip and Olivier’s story in the Model Agency series, which is set in Morton’s usual universe. Includes cameos from characters from previous books (even Laurie and Mags from Beautifully Unexpected) but can still be read as a standalone. Though the previous book gives a bit more insight on the Durand brothers’ dynamic and family history. It was as expected, Morton’s standard formula of snarky, twinky manic pixie dream boy and older, rich, closed-off, don’t-do-relationships successful business man. But that’s ok, I did not expect anything else. The thing is, she keeps introducing side characters and of course I want to know their stories too, and so far I haven’t tired of her formula ;-). For some light, mostly fluffy entertainment it was just right. The bit of drama in the end (not a big misunderstanding but family drama) comes to a quick end – actually I felt a bit deflated at how quickly that was over! And now I guess we wait for Xavier (the one from Best Man and After Felix) and Reuben’s story… Yes, Lily knows how to keep her readers hooked ;-).

  17. JB Hunt says:

    I am midway through THE ADVENTURES OF AMINA AL-SIRAFI and am absolutely in love with the heroine. Big thanks to all the Smart Bitches who recommended the book.

    Also really enjoying ROLE PLAYING on audiobook.

    Next up in Romance and YA: LAVENDER’S BLUE (Crusie & Mayer), KNOCKOUT (MacLean), THE SECRET LIVES OF COUNTRY GENTLEMEN (Charles), NOT HERE TO BE LIKED (Quach), SCOUT’S HONOR (Anderson), and NOT MY KIND OF HERO (Pippa Grant on KU).

    Next up in Lit Fic is a book discussion pairing OPEN THROAT (narrator is a queer cougar living in the Los Angeles hills) and SHARP TEETH (werewolves in LA, told in free verse). Also excited about diving into Ann Patchett’s TOM LAKE and Isabel Allende’s THE WIND KNOWS MY NAME.

  18. AlliK says:

    @Qualisign I was very happy to read your update. Even before your post above, I remembered some of the losses you have shared and have been thinking about you (and sending you virtual hugs from time to time).

  19. flchen1 says:

    Like @DiscoDollyDeb, the start of the local school district’s year has really cut into my reading time, LOL! (Pinch-hitting for an admin who’s off cuddling her new little one, and whoa, it’s a lot!)

    Here’s what I managed–
    – Maryann Jordan’s A HERO’S SURPRISE (Baytown Heroes 5)–light RS with an unusual setup. Ms Jordan continues to impress me with balancing the action/suspense with the romance, and for well-written handling of emotional topics.
    – Rhys Everly’s INSATIABLE (Vino & Veritas 11)–This m/m playboy/social awkward winemaker story set in the Vino & Veritas universe was okay. It wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t particularly memorable.
    – Cat Sebastian’s WE COULD BE SO GOOD. Loved this. The main characters find that their friendship gives them comfort and peace like nothing else, and the space to truly be themselves. I think Ms Sebastian did a terrific job with the time and setting, and I could have just kept reading about Nick and Andy and their lives.
    – Kati Wilde’s THE MIDSUMMER BRIDE–like @DDD said, just excellent. I never knew I’d enjoy barbarian romance until Kati Wilde, or maybe I just enjoy Kati Wilde’s barbarian romance, but either way, well worth the wait.
    – An ARC of Karen Booth’s final book for Harlequin Desire, THEIR AFTER HOURS PLAYBOOK. The main characters are rival sports agents, and I liked the premise and set up. Enjoyed the book, but yeah, it also drove home a reminder about the inequities that still face female athletes and agents.
    – An ARC of Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey’s upcoming THE AMAZING ALPHA TAU BOYFRIEND PROJECT. It’s the first in their Lassiter University series, and if you liked Bad Boyfriends, this has some of the same vibes. Just the humorous romance pick-me-up I needed after surviving that first full week of school, LOL!

    Happy reading, B*tchery!

  20. Katie C. says:

    So I am a stay-at-home mom, but both of my kids started part-time preschool this week (Tuesday and Thursday – full day) and I used all that new found time to… READ!!! Second, after seeing Aarya’s HYW for Brides of the Kylorr series book 2 in a June HYW and reading the first book in the series, I have now done a deep dive in the Zoey Draven backlist. I want to strongly caution that I think, for a lot of reasons, her books won’t work for a lot of readers as noted below. Also, they all involve fated mates, which is a becoming one of my favorite tropes, but again not for everyone. More CW warnings for Warriors of Luxiria: the alien planet in question was attacked with a biological weapon that killed off a sizable percentage of the female population and left the rest of the females on the planet unable to bear children – when these books take place, no child has been born on the planet in 10 years.

    Squee/(Whatever Rating is Better Than Excellent):
    FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarrow (Fantasy Romance – M/F – The Empyrean #1): The hype is real – this book slayed me and got me in all the feels – enemies to lovers, dragons, so much pining, what are you waiting for?

    Excellent:
    CRAVING IN HIS BLOOD by Zoey Draven (SF Romance – M/F – Brides of the Kylorr #2): I really liked the first in the series despite the main plot being revenge (which I guess I am losing tolerance for), so this one knocked it out of the park since it was friends to lovers and then friends with benefits between an alien hero (kind of like a vampire – they drink blood for high quality nourishment) and the human heroine. I will mention like I did in the last WAYR that even those these are SF, the setting actually reads more like a historical with villages, a mysterious forest, and a lord of the manor/castle.

    CLAIMED BY THE HORDE KING by Zoey Draven (SF Romance – M/F – Horde Kings #2): As I mentioned in my intro, these books are going to be strong turn offs for some people, despite being set on an alien planet, they are very much like historicals – the aliens here are nomadic and use little to no technology (outside of their capital) and humans have been settled on their planet as refugees. CW for plot set up: it is against the law for humans to hunt, the heroine is caught hunting and per the law of the ultimate king (the horde kings kind of are semi-independent, they rule over their own people, but work for the head king in the capital city on collective matters), she is whipped at the order of the hero. The hero realized that what he ordered is disgusting, makes it stop and takes her from her village back to his horde so she can be treated for infection and pain. Either you can go with the set up of being on another planet with other laws or you can’t, because once you get past the beginning, what a romance, what a heroine!

    THE ALIEN’S LOVER by Zoey Draven (SF Romance – M/F – Warriors of Luxiria #3): The alien hero knows the moment he meets the human heroine, she is fated mate and on his planet that means cherishing, taking care of, honoring, and giving lots of sexual pleasure. The problem is she is planning to return to Earth. But during their journey, they crash onto a wild alien planet and have to fight the elements to survive (I LOVE fighting against the elements plots – why aren’t there aren’t more romances like this)? Loved it. CW as noted in my intro.

    Very Good:
    CAPTIVE OF THE HORDE KING by Zoey Draven (SF Romance- M/F – Horde Kings #1): The pattern I am finding with Zoey Draven is that I find the second books in the series much better than the first. Here the heroine offers herself in place of her brother who is accused of committing a crime against the land. The alien hero accepts her offer – she thinks he wants her to have sex with him – he does, but he also wants to marry her and make her his queen.

    THE ALIEN’S MATE by Zoey Draven (SF Romance – M/F – Warriors of Luxiria #2): This concludes the story of the couple from book 1. CW as noted in my intro

    Good:
    THE ALIEN’S PRIZE by Zoey Draven (SF Romance – M/F – Warriors of Luxiria #1): As I mentioned in the intro, the set up for the series (and this book in particular, the rest of the series takes a turn) – the hero of this book “wins” the heroine (who has been abducted from Earth) in a fight to the death where other aliens bet on and watch the match. CW as noted in my intro.

    Meh:
    THE ALIEN’S TOUCH by Zoey Draven (SF Romance – M/F – Warriors of Luxiria #4): This started strong with the rake alien hero finding his fated human mate who had (CW) cancer that was coming back. The medicine on the alien’s planet could cure her, but she needed to stay for treatment. But things went off the rails at the end and the ending was very meh.

    The Bad:
    None

  21. Lauren says:

    I finished two really good books in the past month, which given my current schedule, is saying a lot. It involved some late nights, courtesy of the Bad Decisions Book Club. First, Rachel Lynn Soloman’s SEE YOU YESTERDAY, a reimagining of Groundhog Day where the MCs are trapped repeating the first day of college over and over. The reset every morning really allowed the author to write some really fun scenes, but also allowed the characters to explore really heavy issues in their lives. Next,I inhaled A COSMIC KIND OF LOVE by Samantha Young. The premise felt a little stained at first. The FMC is accidentally given access to video messages the MMC had sent the year prior to his girlfriend (at the time) from his mission aboard the International Space Station. She feels horrible for watching them and makes a video apology and sends it to a NASA email address. Thinking the video didn’t go anywhere, she records and sends more videos,treating the process like a diary. But the MMC *is* getting the messages and devises a way for them to meet and wow do things take off between them once that happens. What I really liked was how much the author resisted the formula, both with plot and character. These were adults, and it was amazing what issues they could resolve by talking to each other and being reasonable.

  22. Kareni says:

    Over the past two weeks ~

    — quite enjoyed the contemporary romance, Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon, which featured a ghostwriter and a man famous for his acting work as a younger man. They meet, connect, and have a one night stand. Unlike most romances, the sex is the worst the heroine has ever experienced, and she sneaks away soon thereafter. They meet again when the heroine is being asked to ghostwrite the hero’s memoir. This made me laugh a lot but also addressed some serious issues.
    — found The E.T. Guy (Office Aliens Book 1) by V.C. Lancaster to be a light enjoyable science fiction romance. The E.T. guy from the title is an alien who works in I.T. and the heroine is an immigration officer for aliens.
    — reread Good Deeds by Kathryn Moon which was a reverse harem romance featuring a female alien and several androids.
    — read a nonfiction book, Stitch Draw: Design And Technique For Figurative Stitching by Rosie James. This was a quick read, and I plan to pass it along to the woman who hosts the monthly art gathering I attend.
    — reread the science fiction romance, Only Bad Options by Jennifer Estep, which I enjoyed once again. I look forward to reading the sequel which was recently released.
    — quite enjoyed the contemporary romance, Lucky by Gigi DeGraham, even though it did strain credulity from time to time. It featured three teens in their last year of high school.
    — quickly read the comic collection Simon’s Cat: It’s a Dog’s Life by Simon Tofield which made for a fun ten-ish minutes.

    — Beyond the Next Star by Melody Johnson was a science fiction romance. When the story begins, it’s been five years since the heroine was abducted from earth. She’s now on a planet that loves unusual pets and has just been purchased as a companion animal by a new owner who has PTSD. It was an unusual story.
    — reread a book I read last week and enjoyed it again ~ Lucky by Gigi DeGraham. This was a romance featuring three older teens at an elite prep school; one is a scholarship student who lives in a trailer park. There were definitely some things that strained credulity, but I liked it and can see rereading it again.
    — a contemporary romance that I enjoyed ~ Codename Charming by Lucy Parker. It featured a personal assistant and a bodyguard both of whom work for the husband of a princess. It made me laugh a number of times.
    — plus a host of book samples.

  23. Darlynne says:

    ROLE PLAY by Cathy Yardley: enjoyed everything, not one I’ll re-read.

    TO SHAPE A DRAGON’S BREATH by Moniquill Blackgoose: GO NOW to read/listen to this book, it is nothing short of outstanding, different and infuriating. I did both versions and realized I read too fast for the narrator, but really liked switching back and forth. The benefit of the audio is understanding the native names. So highly recommended.

    SABRIEL by Garth Nix: A bookclub selection that I read eons ago, so long in fact that I remembered nothing about it, still excellent. I was glad the book was chosen; have to get this group moving in new directions.

    UNDERNEATH IT ALL by Kate Canterbary: After reading several of the author’s other books, starting at the beginning with the Walshes seemed like a good idea. Holy dysfunction, batman. I loved it, of course, just yikes.

    THINGS WE NEVER GOT OVER by Lucy Score: I am clearly over the alpha male (also large physical books because I just couldn’t hold it for long) and this book might be Exhibit A. I liked the story, all tied up nicely, but “small town instantly loves new girl and runs to her rescue every damn time” was a lot, Keystone-cops vibe. As for the alpha, being around one IRL is not a picnic, unless it’s an insufferable picnic. Why can’t they just learn not to panic, not to jump to conclusions, not break down every door, start a fistfight over a look, pee in circles? No need to answer, just … ugh.

  24. Kareni says:

    @Lara, Snyder recently released a companion to Poison Study that is told from the male lead’s point of view.

  25. Maureen says:

    I’ve been doing lots of reading, but wanted to mention one standout for me this past month. CURVES FOR DAYS by Laura Moher was in the last HYW, and I loved it! Initially, the title put me off a bit, but I read the sample and got into it right away. I finished my library copy in a sitting, then bought the book because I knew it was going to be a re-read for me. The characters, Rosie and Angus are just lovely, and it really hit a sweet spot for me. Already pre-ordered the next book in the series.

  26. Patricia says:

    Fourth Wing was FANTASTIC. Incredibly well-developed characters and slow growth, amazing action, realistic military structure, excellent romance, and such a creative premise. I tore through it, and now am furious that I have to wait for Volume 2. I will watch this space for your thoughts!

    As to what I am reading that I recommend, I have circled into what has turned out to be a highly rewarding “mythology retellings” series:
    – Morgan Is My Name, by Sophie Keetch: first volume in a retelling of the life of Morgan leFay. It is VERY different from Mists of Avalon (which I will always love). Morgan’s difficulties and struggles and adversities – some brought on by her own choices/personalities, others forced on her by external actors – are rendered in fantastic detail; the character work is as rich as you’d want, the concepts of magic and spells are innovative and fun, and all the supporting characters are fully developed.
    – Phaedra, by Laura Shepperson – Story about the life of Phaedra, one of the daughters of Minos (he of the Minotaur and Labyrinth infamy) and wife of Theseus. It’s a wonderful but fairly grim read, with Phaedra struggling to fit into her role as Queen of Athens and elegant parallels drawn to modern day criminal and media court proceedings. Definite TW on this one for rape, suicidal ideation.
    – Circe, by Madeline Miller – yeah, I’m super late to this one. It’s fantastic.
    – The Poppy Wars, by R.F.Kuang – first in the Poppy War Series. It is a doorstopper, but the change of pace from a eurocentric fantasy model to one modeled on Chinese Civil Wars is bracing and refreshing, and it’s easy to devour. But it’s not an easy read. The main character is fascinating, but isn’t what you’d call a “likeable” protagonist, or even an anti-hero. She’s just…her, with failings and insecurities and fierce loyalty to those she loves. The magic framework in this one is also different and interesting, and I’m excited to read the second book to see how it plays out.

    Currently reading:
    – YellowFace by R.F. Kuang
    – Elektra by Jennifer Saint
    – The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Harris

  27. Qualisign says:

    @AlliK. Just thank you! So much thank you.

  28. Queen Celeste says:

    LOVED:
    HOTEL OF SECRETS: A NOVEL by Diana Biller – I loved this book! The Vienna setting was refreshing. Main characters were interesting and had depth, as well as interesting professions. Relationship growth was nicely paced, along with a light mystery plot. I loved how this book reversed the typical male character has tons of sexual experience and female character is a naïve virgin; and neither character had fits about the other’s experience. Very sensible characters.

    YES, CHEF by Waitlyn Andrews – So enjoyable; my absolute favorite read of the month. I loved the Paris setting, the restaurant, the food, the Parisian market. Lovely relationship progression. Extreme competence, professionalism, integrity demonstrated by both MCs. Misapprehensions about each other without being stupidly blind or over-the-top dramatic. I enjoyed every bit of this. I will look for more by this author.

    LIKED:
    GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett: A Full Cast Production (AUDIOBOOK) – With the series’ full cast involved, this was really enjoyable. I’ve seen the show, but this spent more time on certain scenes and background and translated pretty well into audio. A few scenes were overlong for audio, but all-in-all a fun experience.

    HOW TO TAME A WILD ROGUE by Julie Anne Long – I really liked Daphne’s character, and her personal growth, especially in her developing awareness of her family’s dynamics. I liked Lorcan’s character as well; Julie Anne Long does such a nice job with rich characterization and personal development. I found the premise of rain & flooding in London limiting travel within London to feel a bit of a stretch – but maybe? Wish the author had added a reference to back up the plausibility of this. I enjoy historical research & references added to afterwords. (After finishing the book this plagued me and I researched this a bit – I guess the Thames did flood quite severely from time to time; once was in 1883, another in January 1809 that swept away bridges – this is probably the closest flooding event to the Regency time period.) I also somewhat struggle with very short timelines for such intense character growth and relationship progression (Georgette Heyer did this with a defter hand I think). I think the ‘storm has trapped us for days and days’ plot device warred with the fast relationship development timeline for me – I kept thinking both: really, the storm, in London, is still preventing you, a ship captain, from checking on your ship / checking in with your crew / making your way out? But it’s also been long enough for you to have developed relationship and interaction routines and familiarity? Hmm. I did enjoy that the MCs from previous books in this series, while having achieved their HEAs, featured here and still had their communication challenges and relationship growth to work through. Nicer than the more common saccharine pop-ins in other series.

    DIDN’T ENJOY:
    TAMING DEMONS FOR BEGINNERS by Annette Marie – This KU paranormal on demon contracts was almost enjoyable. I like the ‘contracting demon trope’ but the main character, Robin, is incredibly timid. I can deal with that if the MC is timid at first and then gets braver, but she didn’t. It was a KU so I downloaded the next book in the series and if anything she seems even more timid at the start of the 2nd book, so I quit reading. I enjoyed the baking, the plot, and the character development of the demon. I will look for more in the realm of contracting demon trope books.

    THE MIDNIGHT BRIDE by Kati Wilde – as someone who enjoyed Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja a long long time ago, I thought I would enjoy this more. I apparently read the first book in this series a while back, but I felt like I had been dropped midway into this story, which was scant. I was expecting more of a fantasy romance novel, but this read more like erotica with a light patchy story attached. The world building was so light I didn’t care about it, and the character development was not deep. Just one big misunderstanding to clarify and nothing else. Won’t look for more by this author.

    PRETTY LITTLE LION by Suleikha Snyder – Didn’t even finish this one – read a little further than one-third of the way through. The plot felt weak and overstretched. Felt padded out with so many unnecessary POVs from minor characters. So much inner dialogue and flashbacks. This was instalust, but in my view the sex scenes were weirdly cold and choppy. I didn’t find them hot at all. I thought the writing felt like noir fiction – terse and hard and direct. Since I wasn’t enjoying the writing, or the plot, or the characters, or the sex scenes, I gave up on this.

    READING/UP NEXT:
    IN THE LIKELY EVENT by Rebecca Yarros – just started, only a few chapters in.
    THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar
    ROLE PLAYING by Cathy Yardley – heard about it here
    FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros

  29. HeatherS says:

    I read all three books in C.S. Poe’s “Memento Mori” series after buying the first book on sale Thursday – it was a BDBC experience. I read books 2 and 3 yesterday and am now miffed that book 4 isn’t out until next May.

    I now need queer romantic suspense recs.

  30. Midge says:

    Ugh, I forgot to mention the one I didn’t much like! ARCHER’S VOICE by Mia Sheridan (M/F contemporary). I had this on my TBR for a while, can’t remember why I got it, I guess it sounded intriguing. Unfortunately so much of what was happening was predictable. And both MCs are, despite trauma and terrible histories sooo perfect, so beautiful, so… too much! Also, when everything comes to it’s final head, it suddenly goes very fast and we’re at the epilogue, and one of the antagonists (the sheriff) definitely needs to do better at saying sorry and not suddenly turn nice within a short conversation. Some elements also seemed a little unrealistic like when Archer goes off and how he get by with no credit card, no drivers licence (probably no legal ID at all), driving around, getting jobs.

  31. Crystal says:

    It’s been a busy month, what with some new projects I’m taking on (lolsob), but there’s still been some reading. I started things off with Fury of the Dragon Goddess by Sarwat Chadda. The story is framed around Mesopotamian mythology, and it had a lovely theme of the importance of kindness and compassion, and the main character’s kindness is eventually what saves the day. Also, Rabisu the horned demon lady was hilarious. Then I went into Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak, which was a weird little joint. The protagonist is a recovering drug addict that takes a summer job as a nanny to a little boy whose parents’ recently relocated to the area. The little boy in question has an imaginary friend that he draws and whoa nellie are those drawings creepy. The book is nice enough to provide them. I figured out one of the twists fairly early on, but the other major twist took me somewhat by surprise. That said, TW galore for gaslighting, abuse, drug abuse, and the controversial ending (I don’t want to spoil too much, but the ending has been construed as transphobic, and it’s not an undue impression). Which brings us to today, in which my nose stuck in an ARC of The Armor of Light by Ken Follett, the new (and possibly last) Kingsbridge novel. It’s Ken Follett. He’s always great at giving you the day-to-day of that time period, and there are consistently villains that you are ready to see get what’s coming to them. In this one, the Industrial Revolution is getting underway, the working class are getting sick of getting stomped on (sometimes literally) by the gentry (and have been paying attention to the Revolutions that have recently taken place in America and France), and across the channel, Napoleon Bonaparte is on the rise and making everyone around him uncomfortable. So on that note, the husband is watching NASCAR, so I think I’ll get back into it. Until next time, be excellent to each other.

  32. DeborahT says:

    I just read through Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey’s Bad Boyfriends series. I hadn’t yet read it because the blurbs didn’t appeal to me too much and Lisa Henry has been more miss than hit for me. But I’d seen recs for it here which made is worth giving a try. And I really enjoyed the books! They weren’t exactly BDBC kind of books, but they were sweet and sometimes funny. I just felt that the authors infantilized Harry a bit in the third book when there were no real signs of it in the second book, and it sort of made me a bit squicky as though being demi and a virgin meant Harry was a child. But otherwise, I’m really glad I read the books.

    I’m kind of in a meh reading space right now. I’m glad to see @Sunflower liked THE UNLIKELY HEIR from Jax Calder. I loved Calder’s rugby series but I’m not big on royal/celebrity stories so I haven’t been super excited about it. Maybe I’ll try it out tomorrow!

    Same with Lily Morton’s FRENCH FANCY – I’ve been delaying reading it because I haven’t been enjoying her so much anymore.

    I might give VERONICA SPEEDWELL a try – those books seem to be well received by the Bitchery!

  33. Kathryn says:

    @FashionablyEvil – I love Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey’s series, especially the later ones, MURDER MUST ADVERTISE, and those that cover Lord Peter’s courtship of Harriet Vane and the first days of their marriage (STRONG POISON, HAVE HIS CARCASE, GAUDY NIGHT, AND BUSMAN’S HONEYMOON). Also own DVDs of the BBC TV serial adaptions from the 70s (starring Ian Carmichael) and the 80s (starring Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter). The Carmichael ones cover five non-Harriet books (CLOUDS OF WITNESS, THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB, FIVE RED HERRINGS, MURDER MUST ADVERTISE AND THE NINE TAILORS), while Petherbridge/Walters cover the courtship books (STRONG POISON, HAVE HIS CARCASE, GAUDY NIGHT) – the BBC couldn’t for some reason secure the rights to BUSMAN’S HONEYMOON). I think it’s time for a rewatch and reread of Lord Peter’s adventures.

    Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s second book in their Liz Danger trilogy, REST IN PINK, came out on Tuesday and I think no one will be surprised to know that I inhaled it. This is a more complicated book than LAVENDER’S BLUE – which is as it should be since LB was about introducing the trilogy’s characters, setting up overarching mystery, and solving the first murder that is triggered by Liz returning to her hometown. In RiP the stakes are raised for both Liz and Vince’s romance and the on-going mystery about what exactly is going on Burney, Ohio. Liz and Vince both grapple with the fact that what started out as no-strings light-hearted sexual relationship has deepened into something more. Liz also grapples with her own deeply conflicted feelings about her hometown and her family. Various secondary characters are also being further explored and receiving their own interesting subplots. There are still comedic moments and snark, but there are also more serious scenes as a second murder and a series of unfortunate events make it clear that someone (or a group of someones) is willing to do anything to keep Burney’s secrets hidden. Now it’s just waiting until September when the third and final book in this trilogy, ONE IN VERMILLION, comes out. Recommend – although you need to read the first one, I think, to fully enjoy this one.

    CODENAME CHARMING by Lucy Parker. This is the second book in her Palace Insiders series (BATTLE ROYAL is the first). This is a contemporary set in England with an imaginary royal family. Petunia (Pet) De Vere, the sister to MMC of Battle Royal is now the personal assistant of Johnny Marchmont, the younger son of a baron who married into the royal family. Johnny is kind and lovable, but also accident- and gaffe-prone. And while Pet has always been able to remain behind the scenes, expertly managing her previous employees and their lives, Johnny is proving to be a challenge. Johnny’s talent to turn stuffy ceremonies into keystone-cop farces often results in his competent PA starring in tabloid photos of the resulting chaos. This becomes even more serious, when after an especially disastrous museum outing, the tabloid press insists that Pet and Johnny must be romantically involved. To nip speculation in the bud, Johnny’s wife (Princess Rose) and the royal PR team suggest that Pet and Mattias Vaughn, Johnny’s serious chief of security, stage a fake relationship. Pet & Mattias reluctantly agree, and of course romantic and other type of hijinks follow. Fairly quickly the MCs each recognized that they both are interested in a real rather than fake relationship. The romantic tension rests in them both learning to overcome their own personal fears about trusting others and learning to talk to each other about their needs and desires. Parker is good at having her MCs act like adults when it comes to negotiating their relationship. One of the other things I usually like about Parker is that even when (mostly funny) disasters strike, I still believe that MCs are capable adults (rather than clueless nitwits) because Parker also showcases moments of professional competence. But in this book the balance felt skewed too much to the comedic disasters at the expense of believing in the MCs’ competency — especially Pet’s competency. I would have liked to see more of what Pet does as a PA. What we do see is pretty passive (e.g., Pet just standing around at events) or worse seems to undermine any claims to Pet being a capable PA. The disaster at a museum that causes the whole “codename Charming” project is caused by something that the director mentions is traditional at the openings of the museum’s special exhibits. Unfortunately, that type of tradition is triggering for Johnny and Pet knows that Johnny would find it triggering. But if Pet is responsible for handling all the logistics of an event, shouldn’t she had known about this tradition beforehand and warned Johnny ahead of time or even told the museum, sorry you can’t do your traditional thing at this particular opening? I liked Pet as character, but I needed more proof that she was good at her job – it was hard to believe at times that royal HR department wouldn’t have insisted that she be fired for incompetency, rather than encourage a fake relationship between her and Mattias. Still, even with that caveat, CODENAME CHARMING was charming and fun.

    Other good books over the past couple of weeks: FOUR WEDDINGS TO FALL IN LOVE (Jackie Lau) and THORNHEDGE (T. Kingfisher). The Lau is a pleasant low-stakes romance, that takes place over the summer during which the MCs are both attending the same four weddings (the number of weddings is in part because Covid had disrupted wedding plans). The Kingfisher is a fantasy retelling of the Sleeping Beauty – with some very light horror elements to it. I know that some readers have seen THORNHEDGE as a romance as well; but while the two main characters by the end clearly respect and love other, it feels to me more like friendship love than romantic love.

    Finally on the non-romance side I’m slowly tackling KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON (David Grann) – The New Yorker published some years ago a long excerpt from this book, which I read at the time. This book is a difficult read as it is an account of the murderous, racist, real-life conspiracy to defraud and murder members of the Osage Nation in 1920s. The Osage, who had been pushed off their traditional tribal lands onto a small reservation in Indian territory (now modern Oklahoma) by the US government in the mid-19th century, had made sure that the treaty included mineral rights as well surface land rights. One of the largest oil reserves in the US was found under their reservation in the late 19th century and by the 1920s, the Osage were estimated to be the richest people per capita in the world. But then the Osage began to die under mysterious (and all too often violent) circumstances. And those who tried to figure why the Osage were being killed often were killed themselves. It’s, as I said, not an easy read, but I think it is important one. Right now I’m reading a library copy, but I think I’m going to have to buy my own copy because I won’t probably be able to finish it before it’s due (and number of people on the hold list is large). Martin Scorsese has produced and directed a film based on the book, which, I think comes out this fall.

  34. Sunflower says:

    @DeboraT, it was the first Jax Calder book I read, the premise sounded fun and the preview really sucked me in. There is something about her writing style that I really enjoyed so while not a big fan of sports romance, I’ve already picked up one of her rugby books.

    @HeatherS, if you haven’t read it, Tal Bauer’s The Murder Between Us is pretty good.

  35. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @HeatherS: if you haven’t already read them, Cordelia Kingsbridge’s Seven of Spades series (five books) is very good.

  36. J.T. Alexis says:

    @HeatherS: Josh Lanyon has several that qualify. I’ve read the Fair Games series and thought it was good.

    If you are okay with shifters and a bit more steam, I loved Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series and her new series Monster Hunt BUT only the first book is out on the new series so you might wait in that one.

  37. Deborah says:

    ::fingers crossed that the spoiler code is correct::

    THE BENEVOLENT SOCIETY OF ILL-MANNERED LADIES by Alison Goodman (A-) – trigger warnings for breast cancer, child abuse, spousal abuse, mistreatment of … well, anyone who isn’t a cishet white male aristocrat, really. Fun — no, really, fun in spite of the weighty content — story of well-heeled middle-aged spinster twin sisters who find themselves helping women out of troubling situations in Regency England. Goodman has a feel for the period, but I did find myself cringing over some unnecessary historical celebrity name-dropping as well as the heroine’s propensity for being on the right side of history when it comes to bloodletting as a medical practice, slavery, race relations, homosexuality, the rights of women, and the treatment of persons with psychological disorders… Genuine credit to Goodman for doing that without making Gus seem overtly anachronistic, but the collective impact of so much forward thinking earns an eye roll.

    RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston (B+) – This book was written in a very cinematic style; I’m not surprised it has been made into a movie. Mostly, though, I want the author to write prequels for the two mothers. Why did the PowerPoint-parenting President’s first marriage break down? How did she meet her current tech billionaire husband? How did the Ph.D. Princess end up married to a Bond actor?

    THE WALL OF WINNIPEG AND ME by Mariana Zapata, narrated by Emma Wilder and Stephen Dexter (book: B+; audiobook performance: B) – Zapata’s iconic slow burn football romance has been re-released (with bonus content and new audiobook edition) by a commercial publisher, and I wanted to give the new narration a try. Stephen Dexter’s rumbly deep voice does wonders for Aiden, but I thought Emma Wilder’s Vanessa was a little too weepy. (It’s understandable. Vanessa is a whiner who tries to escape being labelled a whiner by telling us repeatedly she doesn’t whine…while whining. Callie Dalton — the original narrator — did a better job vocalizing the constantly complaining Van as scrappy and determined.) Despite great editing, it’s clear that these performances were recorded separately. If I had the skills (and, let’s face it, the obsessive interest), I would mash up a version with Dalton’s Vanessa and Dexter’s Aiden for the best audio experience.

    THE GOVERNESS GAME by Tessa Dare, narrated by Mary Jane Wells (book: B; audiobook performance: A+) – The heir presumptive to a dukedom needs a temporary governess for the two morbid little girls he has inherited. The romance is meh — everybody has a tragic backstory they take too long to reveal which conveniently explains their behavior — but the hero’s interactions with the girls and his illegitimate half-brother are delightful and well worth the read.

    THE RELUCTANT COUNTESS and NOT THAT DUKE by Eloisa James (C) – Books 2 and 3 in the Would-Be Wallflowers series. The hero of book 3 courts the hot, half-French heroine of book 2 while playing chess with the plump and bespectacled redheaded heroine of book 3. When the hot, half-French heroine of book 2 marries a stick-in-the-mud Earl, the Duke railroads the redhead into marrying him and supposedly comes to realize that he never really loved the half-French hottie. Normally I love an opposites attract romance, but I just wanted to swap the partners around in these two books. Or — even better — have both heroines dump their respective lackluster heroes and fall in love with each other.

    DNFs

    THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – I bailed on the text for being too predictably young adult, but I’m planning on giving the audiobook a try to see if a different format makes it more palatable. I think I would have stuck with it longer without the emerging love triangle.

    SKIP TO THE END by Molly James – This book’s premise is catnip for me: the heroine has the psychic power to see the relationship’s (negative) outcome whenever she first kisses a man. Unfortunately, the execution was too chick lit, so I just skipped to the end to see how it resolved. In retrospect, in addition to a different narrative style, I think I would have preferred a story where

    Show Spoiler
    the heroine ends a budding romance after the first kiss because of one of these visions, but keeps running into the guy/building a relationship until that envisioned scene takes place and she discovers it was misinterpreted/a recoverable moment. Instead of “she has to figure out which of three guys she drunk-kissed at a wedding had the happy ending scene.”

    THE WITCH IS BACK by Sophie H. Morgan – not technically a DNF, but I skimmed so much I don’t feel right rating it. An underperforming witch from a family low in the magical hierarchy was dumped by her contracted higher-class fiancé who now needs her to marry him because a buried curse in their broken engagement contract is killing his mother. And…SPOILERS…the heroine ends up having to apologize to him. And chase after him? Also, his mother has to explain to him that since the heroine grew up in an abusive situation (which he’s well aware of, since he despises her mother), she might have difficultly trusting and would be inclined to self-reliance. I am unimpressed by this weaksauce hero. BIG SPOILER:

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    Also, the escape clause from the marriage contract was revealed to the heroine near the story’s end by her villainous but apparently loose-lipped mother. Like, “oops, I just told you the one thing I wouldn’t want you to know, since I’m a social climber who wants this marriage to go forward at all costs.” That revelation should have come from another source, like a long-lost note from her deceased father.
  38. Karin says:

    @Kathryn,another Dorothy Sayers fan here. The BBC series with Edward Petherbridge is on YouTube, and I love him and the actress who plays Harriet. Ian Carmichael does not look anything like my idea of Lord Peter Wimsey, so I can’t enjoy that version as much.
    Lots of travel and outdoor activity for me, so not much reading got done, but I am in the middle of YOU WERE MADE TO BE MINE and it’s totally delightful. Julie Anne Long is such a great writer, and I love the way she subverts the dark moment/betrayal which typically occurs in a romance when the MCs are keeping secrets from each other. Courtney Milan is very good at that too, which I noticed rereading UNRAVELED recently.

  39. Julie says:

    I’m reading Icebreaker and can hardly put it down. I don’t usually like the graphic sexual content but this book is different. There’s an element of suspense with the romance and some humor. I also like for the main characters to be older but this book has changed my perspective on that front also. I think any age group would enjoy Icebreaker.

  40. Kareni says:

    @Julie: Who is the author of Icebreaker?

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