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October 2017

Returning to reading, Part 2

10747637I am long time fan of Lauren Dane's contemporaries. I particularly love her Brown Family books. I also have a soft spot for her vampire-themed UF, The Goddess with a Blade series.  However before this year I hadn't read any of her paranormals.  I've been sampling some of her werewolf books as they have been re-released by Carina and while many of them have lots of elements I liked along, none of them have really clicked with me, mostly for nitpicky world-building issues.  The ones I have really liked however have been her witch-led ones. I am loving her small-town witch falls for wolf series, Diablo Lake.

Last month I read the first in her Bound by Magick novel, Heart of Darkness.  The heroine was fantastic. I loved Meriel Owen from the start. She is second in line in the leadership of the powerful  Owen Witch Clan. She hasn't yet grown into the fullness of her power but wields what she has with meticulous control. She knows herself and what she can do. She doesn't let anyone push her around, including her bossy mother. 

Dominic is unaffiliated witch, skimming power from a clan-owned font to protect his nightclub. He recognizes her strength and power when she walks through the door and wants a taste of it.

I loved how Dane handled consent and power issues in this book. Meriel has all the advantages due to her knowledge and training and she works to make sure that any relationship she and Dominic form will be one he felt he entered willingly and enthusiastically. The action plot was dark and suspenseful and the supporting cast fun and interesting. I am hoping the other books in this series eventually go on sale too (the first is currently $2.99), I have my sale alerts set.

41TLHlxyeQLThe most recent book I finished was Kristen Ashley's Heaven and Hell. Kini mentioned loving this book during our Kristen Ashley Addicts book chat, Too Cracktastic to quit?  Before her rec I had been under the mistaken impression that it was one KA's paranormals, with which I've had little success.  I had no idea it was a stand-alone contemporary, set in the same universe as her Rock Chick and  'Burg novels (Lee Nightingale, Joe Callahan & Tanner Layne all make brief appearances).

It is the story of Kia Clementine.  Kia is an abused wife, whose husband is gunned down by his lover's irate husband.  After his death she learns, she has inherited 5 million dollars from an insurance policy she didn't know her husband had taken out.  This unexpected windfall leads to her uncovering a larger conspiracy at the same time as it liberates her to live a whole new life.

She splurges on dream vacation where she meets fantastic people, wears fantastic clothes and meets her long-time celebrity crush, Samson Cooper, former football player, former army ranger and secret commando. The storyline is super-wacky and every bit of a roller coaster I need.  

Like most KA novels it has many super problematic elements, like the undeniably overbearing machismo each of her heroes is doused in, and problematic racial rep, for example Sam is biracial and of Hispanic heritage, however both he and his mother are completely estranged from their heritage. He has no contact with his abusive father's black family and his mother was abandoned in poverty with her white mother by her Mexican american father.  The dual absences and estrangements are eye-brow raising but unexpected.

I was here for the over-the-top melodrama, and I got it.  There are dramatic breakups, and even more dramatic reunions. Jealousy, possessiveness and domineering behavior are glorified but it was also fun. I am glad that Kia gain the confidence and power to walk away from Sam, till Sam was able to come back give himself fully to her.  That was a worthy HEA for them, and hard fought, as she had to relearn that she was worth it.

Not a perfect book by any means but the engrossing roller-coaster I needed, and I recommend it to any other fan of KA's contemporaries who somehow missed reading it.

I've tentatively started reading some of my many backlogged ARCs, so I look forward to reviewing more books soon!


Returning to reading: What I managed to read this past month (part 1).

Hurricanes consumed my reading mood since late August, first it was worrying for friends in Houston, then for my mother and extended family in Puerto Rico as first Irma and then Maria walloped the island.  Instead of reading the fantastic ARCs that kept arriving in my inbox, my time was spent trying to find accurate and reliable news about PR especially about the small towns  that I care about the most and looking for flights to get my mother out.   Instead of reading when I had some downtime I played SimCity Buildit.  As my island's buildings and roads were destroyed, I build housing and infrastructure in my virtual city.   The game gave me a little escape from what was one devastating news day after another.   It has nearly been a month since Maria hit. My mom is living with us and my father made it in and out of PR safely.  Some days I still want to cry about how difficult and exhausting things still are for my family on the island but there is more hope today than there was yesterday. My mom and I have both written posts on our family blogs about the experiences, if you missed reading about it up to now.

In the last month I've managed to read 4 books. To put that in perspective, I usually read more than books in one week. These are the first two, both which I listened to on audiobook when I couldn't keep listening to the news on my daily commute.

33835806A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas (Lady Sherlock #2):  I continue to love this series. This was a book about what makes a marriage, and who one trusts with dearest truths and secrets in one life. In this book Charlotte finds herself mistrustfully assisting Lady Ingram, the estranged wife of her dearest friend Lord Ingram at the same time as she entertains a marriage proposal from his brother spy-master Lord Bancroft.

The mysteries were engaging and engrossing and the secondary characters continue to shine with life and complexity. I continue to want to sit with Charlotte and enjoy scrumptious and decadent desserts with her and chat with Mrs. Watson, Miss Redgrave and Olivia. 

The audiobook fantastically narrated and I am sure I will be listening to it again soon, when I need something comfortingly familiar.

I followed up A Conspiracy in Belgravia with one of my "in case of emergency" books. I have been stocking up on Susanna Kearsley's backlist for the last two years. Whenever one of her books goes on sale I snap it up and save it for when I am having trouble getting into books.

As it happened The Shadowy Horses went on sale early last month.

51BvYNskx2LThe Shadowy Horses

I have read several other books tangentially connected to this one and I had many people recommend it to me when I finished reading The Firebird. One of the heroes of the Firebird is a supporting character in The Shadowy Horses.

Like all of Kearesley's other novels, this novel is a beautifully written blend of romance, women's fiction, mystery and gothic tropes.  Verity Grey is an archaeologist who is excited to join a dig looking for the final resting place a lost roman legion in Scotland.  She is dismayed however to learn that there is startling little evidence that the Legion was there. Instead she uncovers evidence that of forged surveys by her ex-lover, an aging archaeologist basing everything on the seven year old ppsychic boy's proclamations.  There is a conspiracy, many family secrets and a ghost.

While I loved Verity, David Fortune, the handsome and brood-worthy hero, and little Robby, the charming psychic boy I wanted to smack a lot of the other supporting characters around for being such terrible human beings.  This is not my favorite of Kearsley's novels but I was engaged and comforted reading it. The audiobook was very nicely narrated.


I'll try to review books 3 & 4, Heart of Darkness by Lauren Dane and Heaven and Hell by Kristen Ashley later on this week, as I try to find my reading and writing rhythm.



RT Book Review Round-up: An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles

51cU572odJLI really loved An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles.  My review for RT was super-positive, 4 1/2 Stars Top Pick, as I felt it was a fantastic conclusion to what has been a fantastic series by Charles.  

In her final Sins of the Cities novel, Charles once again makes consent, recognition and acceptance gloriously romantic and she crafts a tense and suspenseful story resolving the series-long mystery. When conflicting loyalties and differing definitions of security and safety lead to a betrayal that imperils Pen and Mark’s budding relationship, heartbreak seems inevitable. However, Charles’ solution is deeply satisfying. In this conclusion, Charles deftly ties together series events and themes and delivers an optimistic and sweet ending worthy of its captivating and resilient characters

However as I read reviews from trans and genderfluid folk, I've come to realize that I missed some dynamics that are worth noting particularly on the themes of recognition and acceptance. 

This thread by Corey Alexander was particularly helpful in recognizing what stuff I missed:

Particularly this section:

So while I still loved the book overall, these #ownvoices reviews illustrated for me the vital context I was missing that make me rethink my super-positive take on the book.