Monthly Archives: September 2015

Blue Paramour by Louise Ligon & Hunter Maine

Blue ParamourTitle: Blue Paramour (The Blue Ridge Saga, Book 1)
Author: Louise Ligon & Hunter Maine
Published: June 10, 2015
Pages: 344
Publisher: Voir Media Group
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

Brayden Steed is the heir to Blue Ridge, a highly successful Southern plantation. That is until he is caught in the throes of passion with his neighbor, Jackson, on the night of the party to celebrate the engagement of Jackson to Brayden’s sister, Annabelle. Angered and shamed, Brayden’s father sends him to Boston to spend some time with a family member and to learn hard work and responsibility. Along the way, Brayden meets Vincent Gallaud, who unintentionally lures Brayden to New York City instead. And Brayden quickly finds himself in a word that is well beyond everything he expected–and one that just might help him find the courage to live his life being true to himself. But Jackson’s been left behind to marry Annabelle–by all rights a cruel fate–and Annabelle is more than happy to see her brother gone, hoping he will never return. But things must come full circle eventually, and the choices we make have consequences that we may not have even imagined.

It took me a bit to get into this one. I can’t really pinpoint what it was, but it was a couple of chapters before it really hooked me–and I’m glad I stuck with it. So if you find yourself starting to wander in the beginning, stick it out. Things really pick up and the number of twists and turns that are in store are really unexpected (in a good way!).

There is a very rich world that’s been created here, and the multiple character perspectives allow for a more complete story than one might get if it was all written from the viewpoints of just one or two people. The transitions are clear, and the scenes all add to each other and build into the climactic cliffhanger of an ending. I found it easy to connect and empathize with Brayden and Jackson. I found it easy to despise Annabelle and her grandfather (I’m sure you will, too!). And I found myself at times wanting to reach through the pages and shake some sense into people–any book that can do that is a good one to me!

A definite choice for readers of m/m who are interested in historical fiction.

Content warnings: imprisonment, dubious consent

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.]

Skip Trace by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Skip Trace by Jenn Burke & Kelly JensenTitle: Skip Trace
Author: Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen
Published: October 5, 2015
Pages: 211
Publisher: Carina Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

Zander Anatolius has been through more than one person could ever expect to go through and survive. He was part of an experimental super-soldier program that should have killed him–and eventually did. Thanks to a few twists of fate, however, he was revived and made it back to Felix and the crew of the Chaos. But now it’s time for him to return home and see his family, people he hasn’t seen for years, to try to explain everything that’s happened in his life. But the Anatolius family aren’t the only ones waiting on Alpha and Zander’s troubles are far from over. Add to that Felix’s doubts about whether Zander might just be better off staying on Alpha with his family without Felix to hold him back, and Zander’s got more than the Allied Earth Forces and assassination attempts to worry about.

I’ve been hooked on this series since book one, and that connection is still going strong. I guess I would call this light space opera where it just so happens that our protagonist is in a relationship with another man. The science fiction is the core of the story, and I love that it’s all presented without any pretense or feeling like this story is any different than the space operas you might see where our hero must rescue the damsel in distress or finds a woman at every space station along the way. This is simply life for Zed, Felix, and everyone else. And why shouldn’t it be?

But more than that, I love the universe that Burke and Jensen have created. While I’m definitely one who’s starting to think that Zed deserves a break eventually (not to mention poor Felix), I will keep coming back for more as long as they’re willing to write it.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Gay Romance Northwest Recap!

The annual Gay Romance Northwest Meetup was held on Saturday, and it was once again a full day of celebrating all things queer romance! It’s always great to see readers, authors, and publishers come together to celebrate the drama.

This year’s theme #LoveWins, brought us a keynote focused on the readers. Extending from last year’s keynote–Write With Pride–this year, the topic was Read With Pride, and readers shared what reading with pride means for them. The stories underscored that for many readers, the genre is way more important than just simply finding entertainment. For so many, it is about finding our stories or about expanding our horizons. The genre fills an important need that cannot be found in “mainstream” media.

Gay Romance Northwest Participant Responses

To close out the keynote, attendees were asked to write down their thoughts on what they love about the genre and to share the ways they would hope to see the genre grow. These were collected to help inform the discussion for the closing session.

Writing a Historical, Fantasy, or Sci-Fi? Do your Research – And How

From there, I attended an excellent panel entitled “Writing a Historical, Fantasy, or Sci-Fi? Do your Research – And How!” moderated by J. Tullos Hennig with Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale, Heather Rose Jones, and Christopher Hawthorne Moss. They shared their strategies (and passion!) for research, world building, and creating authentic stories, no matter the setting.

Traditional or Self-Publishing? Which Route to Choose?

The second panel of the day was “Traditional or Self-Publishing? Which Route to Choose?” Authors and editors shared their perspectives on the differences between traditional and self-publishing, and the reasons why an author may choose one or the other–or to go with a hybrid publishing formula.

The Evolving LGBTQ Romance Genre – Where do you want the genre to go?

The closing session featured Austin Chant, Laylah Hunter, Alex Powell, and Karelia Stetz-Waters discussing questions that came up from participants’ responses earlier in the day. Discussions ranged from increasing diversity in the genre, writing intersectional identities, bringing queer stories mainstream, and telling more stories of day-to-day queer life. The takeaway here is that fans of the genre need to do our part in helping it continue to grow–whether that’s introducing new people to the stories, buying books or requesting them through our libraries, or letting authors and publishers know we want more.

From there, I went to the book festival, which is always a great chance to get to visit with the authors who are in attendance. I find they are always super approachable, willing to discuss their work, and very appreciative of their fans.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about some of the things I walked away with:

I brought my copies of Pilgrimage by Kim Fielding and The Shattered Gates by Ginn Hale–which both authors were so kind as to autograph for me.

Startstruck & The Errant Prince

In the realm of new books I picked up, I scored a copy of Starstruck by L.A. Witt and The Errant Prince by Sasha L. Miller.

Daisy Harris Autograph

I also picked up copies of Nothing But Smoke by Daisy Harris and The Bellingham Mystery Series by Nicole Kimberling. And I was able to get both authors to sign those for me too!

All in all, it was a great day and I look forward to next year’s event. In the meantime, though, I look forward to exploring and sharing a love of books–and particularly a love of queer stories–with all of you.

To Love a Traitor by J.L. Merrow

To Love a Traitor by J.L. MerrowTitle: To Love a Traitor
Author: J.L. Merrow
Published: September 15, 2015
Pages: 167
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

In post-World War II London, George Johnson seems to be your average solicitor’s clerk looking for a room to rent. But there’s more to George than meets the eye. For one, that’s not his real name. And the reason he’s seeking the specific lodgings he’s chosen is so that he can investigate Matthew Connaught, a fellow lodger who served with his older brother during the war. The circumstances surrounding George’s brother’s death were questionable, and he’s recently learned there may have been betrayal involved. And if Matthew is the traitor, George intends to find out. But as George gets to know Matthew, he wonders if the man is capable of doing something so heinous…and he finds himself drawn to the man in very unexpected ways. But secrets can only be kept for so long, and eventually the truth will out…

I enjoy a nice historical romance, and this one definitely hit the spot. The investigative aspect, the subterfuge, and the way the relationship develops create an intertwining plot that makes for a uniquely original yet familiar-feeling story. Matthew is a great character that I truly enjoyed getting to know. He’s not only likable, but he’s fun-loving, noble, and deeply caring. The contrasts that exist in this story are stark when they need to be, and there’s a rich world in what is a relatively short novel.

Definitely recommend this one!

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

The New World by Andrew Motion

The New World by Andrew MotionTitle: The New World (Return to Treasure Island, Book 2)
Author: Andrew Motion
Published: July 14, 2015
Pages: 368
Publisher: Crown
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

After washing ashore after what he was certain was his death, Jim Hawkins finds he has somehow survived–a fate almost everyone else onboard the Nightingale did not share. But his companion Natty has made it to shore with him, and they’ll need to find their way. When they’re intercepted by a tribe of natives and imprisoned, they know their choices are limited. When they find a moment to escape they expect they will never get again, they take the chance. But they soon learn it’s not as easy as just getting out of the village, and the new American South is nothing like the home–a home they hope they will both get a chance to see again someday.

This is a sequel, but I don’t think you need to have read the first book to follow the story. The adventure here is pretty self-contained, and any references to previous events are shared with enough context to understand what’s going on.

If you’re a fan of an epic adventure, you’ll enjoy this. Jim and Natty are on the move from very early on in the book, and their pursuers are hot on their trail. There are twists and turns to keep you guessing as a reader, and it’s never quite clear how it’s all going to resolve until it gets there. I picked this up on a bit of a whim, to be honest, but I’m glad I did. It’s a departure from everything else I’ve been reading lately, and a refreshing one at that.

[I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

Breaking Up Point by Brian McNamara

Breaking Up Point by Brian McNamaraTitle: Breaking Up Point
Author: Brian McNamara
Published: September 14, 2015
Pages: 288
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Brendan Madden is starting his first year at college away from home and is looking forward to the possibilities. He feels like the fresh start will provide him the opportunity to be open about who he is–and his sexuality–without needing to worry as much about what his family or his friends from home might think. Here, he won’t need to hide his relationship with Mark, his closeted boyfriend from back home, either. But college also provides many opportunities to see what one’s life could be like, to interact with and learn from other people, and to pursue one’s passions. And Brendan finds himself wondering if hiding himself–any part of his life–is holding him back from truly living. What if Mark decides to never come out? What if Brendan can’t tell his sisters that he’s gay? What if they react poorly? And what if he meets a guy on campus, there’s a mutual interest, and he wants to know what it’s like to be in a relationship that doesn’t need to be kept a secret? Perhaps, in his first year of college, Brendan will be forced to answer all of those questions and more.

I really enjoyed reading this. Brendan’s narration is a unique and authentic voice, one that I found really helped me get into the mindset of someone in his situation. There is so much that I think is relatable for anyone who has been through that similar life transition of getting to college and immediately feeling like they can be more open about various aspects of their lives. And the way Brendan approaches the situations he faces came across as very true to someone with his life experiences.

This is a sequel, though I didn’t really catch onto that until later in the book when I found myself wondering if some of the references being made might have more to them. That said, I don’t feel like not reading the previous book stood in the way of my enjoyment of this one (though, as with all sequels, it probably helps to have read it). This is also definitely a new adult text, both characterized by the age of the main character and also the fact that some more adult themes do come up in a couple of places.

This is definitely worth a read. It’s quick and entertaining, while also having some real depth and emotion to it at the same time.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Letters from a Cowboy by Sue Brown

Letters from a Cowboy by Sue BrownTitle: Letters from a Cowboy (Morning Report, Book 4)
Author: Sue Brown
Published: June 10, 2015
Pages: 154
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Luke and Simon found a box of letters that appear to have been exchanged between a couple from the past–Chip and Simon–and know nothing more of them than what is in those letters. As Luke and Simon are getting married, they end up reflecting on these letters as the story of Chip and Simon unfolds.

The story flashes back to 1954. Simon has just left his last job when he had to brake things off with the ranch owner’s son. He could fly under the radar on his own, but a relationship like that would be difficult to hide. Not long after arriving at the Tamar Ranch, sparks start to fly between Simon and one of the other ranch hands, Chip. They know it’s dangerous to even steal private moments when they can, and they soon learn that their secret is not nearly as secret as they believed it to be. They’re faced with two options: continue their relationship in secret and simply hope they don’t get caught or break it off and try to work alongside each other without being intimate despite their feelings. But Simon knows there’s a third option, and it’s one he considers without realizing the full extent of possible consequences.

Talk about a real, gritty, well-written historical romance. This isn’t all sunshine and rainbows–being gay in 1954 alone should tell you that–but it’s not a total downer, either. Simon and Chip are great characters, and I found myself really enjoying the dynamics of several of the secondary characters as well. It was very easy to get lost in their world.

Although this is the fourth book in a series, it definitely stands on its own as it tells the story of a couple from the past. I’ve not read any of the other books (though I’m thinking now I will), and I had no trouble following the plot or understanding what was happening. Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys historical m/m–especially those cowboys and ranch hands. This won’t disappoint, for sure!

Wonderland by Robert McKay

Wonderland by Robert McKayTitle: Wonderland (Intergalactic Fairy Tales, Book 1)
Authors: Robert McKay
Published: August 20, 2015
Pages: 187
Publisher: McKay Manor
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Alice is an extremely imaginative teenage girl who knows exactly what she wants to be when she grows up–a space pirate. And despite her mother’s attempts to make her “grow up” and put an end to her “silliness,” she’s not about to let that dream go. One night when she hears something out in the garden, her investigation leads her right into her fantasy–there’s a spaceship hers for the taking and she doesn’t hesitate to claim it as her own. But Alice quickly finds herself on an adventure she didn’t anticipate–one that helps her learn more about the world, its dangers, and herself that she ever thought possible. And the greatest lesson might be that she doesn’t have to give up the things that bring her joy in growing up and becoming responsible. In fact, those things might all go together far better than she ever dreamed.

I’ve mentioned before in my reviews that I am definitely one who loves well-written re-tellings of classic stories. And this is definitely a book I would put into that category. Alice is a particularly favorite story of mine, and I enjoy seeing different takes on it–something I think we’re going to see more of throughout this year since it is the 150th anniversary of the original publication.

What’s here, though, is a science fiction, possibly futuristic reimagining of the text that doesn’t lose any of the whimsy present in the original, more fantasy-focused setting. The storyline very closely resembles the original and, as such, it’s easy to draw the connections and see where things are headed. But there are enough differences and additions by the author, that it does come across as a unique work with a compelling story–one that I will say this reader particularly enjoyed.

Because of the age of the character and the story, I’d say this falls into young adult, but it’s dark and there’s violence (what else would one expect from a reimagining of Alice’s story?), so it may not be appropriate for everyone in that age group. But it’s also one that I think many adults could enjoy, too.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No NormalTitle: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal
Authors: G. Willow Wilson (Writer) & Adrian Alphona (Artist)
Published: October 30, 2014
Pages: 120
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Kamala Khan is a typical teenager–well, as much as there can be any such thing as a “typical teenager”. But when she finds herself coming into some awesome (and also a bit frightening) new powers, her entire world is about to change. She quickly learns, however, that the phrase–taken right from the Marvel universe in which she lives–“With great power comes great responsibility” is profoundly true. Can she handle the moniker of Ms. Marvel and everything that comes with it? Is Kamala ready to lead a double life? And what of the dangers that are inevitable when one becomes a superhero? All questions for which no typical teenager has ready answers.

I picked this up as part of my reading for Hugo voting this year since it was nominated (and subsequently won the award). I don’t generally read many graphic novels, which is somewhat surprising considering that I was a major comics fan and collector during my teen years. I think it’s just a matter of keeping up with it all and that I keep myself busy enough with the novels and short stories that are on my list. But I do always enjoy reading the graphic stories that are nominated for the Hugos, as that ensures I get in at least a few each year.

It is no surprise to me why this was nominated and selected for the Hugo. Not only is the artwork phenomenal, but it is an excellent origin story and was one that I found very engaging. Although Marvel may downplay and erase the roles of women superheros in their films, I’m glad to see that at least their not being left of the page of their print works. Now if only we could get something like this translated to screen. I’d watch a Ms. Marvel cartoon or movie–and I think there are many others in the same boat.

But really, if you’re like me and don’t read many graphic novels but you’re going to read one this year: this should be it. You won’t be disappointed.