multi-ethnic

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I finished up Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse in the early hours of the morning.

 

I had delayed starting this because I was under the mistaken impression it was YA. It is not. It is full on adult fantasy/Urban Fiction that would greatly appeal to fans of Ilona Andrews’s  Kate Daniels series and Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson books.

 

Maggie is a Navajo/Diné monsterslayer alone since her immortal hero mentor abandoned her.  Lured out of her isolation by disturbing reports of vicious monster attacks, she gets caught up in the mystery and unwillingly acquires a charming but secretive partner, Kai, a medicine-man-in-training whose clan powers might be as dangerous in their own ways as her own. 

 

Creatures and gods of Navajo mythology populate the story, set in post-Apocalyptic future, The Sixth World,  where the Big Water has drowned most of the US. 

 

The Intense story will keep you guessing. Loved the tension/heartbreak between Maggie/Kai and their secrets and the past they both must reckon with. 

I loved the Audio and was happy to see that book two, Storm of Locusts  is out and available on KU and audio, so I can immediately start it. (cw: past trauma (violent death of loved ones), violence, sexism, guns)

 

 

 


Spellbound by Allie Therin

B2FAAF35-EFA8-4DF0-BDDC-8E2A0124BE46

Debut Latinx (Cuban-American) author, Allie Therin’s Spellbound is the first in a projected three book series set in Prohibition era NYC, where smuggled magic-infused objects threaten the lives of all magically-gifted paranormals and non-magical alike. Therin draws on the era’s post- war clandestine counter-culture scene and anti-immigrant to develop a cohesively tense backdrop for her action-adventure, where her wildly diverse characters can find acceptance a community in a black run speakeasy in Harlem, but also fear exposure and persecution elsewhere.  Therin also explores class and generational tension throughout the novel, as Arthur, the son of a wealthy political family, exploits his privilege to try to protect the younger and poorer Rory.

 

While the world-building was engaging, the secondary characters richly developed and the heist plot intriguing, the romantic beats were somewhat repetitive. I loved how soft and smitten Rory and Arthur become with each other but the dual insecurity about the realness of each other’s interest or the depth of feelings became tiresome. However when the romance was clicking it was delightfully sweet. I loved the little details about younger and smaller Rory tucking himself next to the taller and athletically built Arthur and Arthur who is the bossy caretaker of his friend group, soaking up the open-hearted affection.

 

Tropes:

First Love

Virgin Hero

Opposites Attract

Age Gap

 

Content Warnings: Homophobia, Torture, War, Past Trauma: Child Abuse, religious shaming, 

 

 

 


Love in Panels Review: The Right Swipe

I reviewed the Right Swipe at Love in Panels and I interviewed Alisha Rai when we were both at RWA:

There are few things Rhiannon Hunter won’t do to get a shot at outmaneuvering her competitors in her quest to buy Matchmaker, but when the sweet and sexy man who ghosted her after talking her into a rare second date turns out to be the new face of the company, she has reevaluate a lot of her plans. Samson Lima walked away from football after seeing his team routinely mismanage his best-friend’s concussions and has spent the last five years caring for his uncle Aleki as he suffered from CTE-related dementia, except for that one night he spent with Rhiannon. Samson is just starting to come out of the fog of grief, and trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and the one thing he knows is, he wants to spend time with Rhiannon again.

 The Right Swipe is the first book in the Modern Love series. The Right Swipe is loosely connected to Rai’s fantastic Forbidden Hearts series and like that series, Rai continues to combines sexiness, timely themes and and in-depth characterizations to a create fabulous romances that beg to be passed on to new romance readers. In the Right Swipe, Rai deftly handles heavy topics like CTE, and #MeToo while crafting complex characters that relish friendships and sparkle with wit and humor. Rai excels at capturing the details of what dating is actually like right now in the age of apps & social media, while never losing focus the emotional core of her stories.

While the change of format and price hike might give some romance readers pause, Rai’s latest is worth every penny. Rhi is fantastic heroine, sharp, ambitious and wounded. Samson is a rare kind of hero, principled, caring and compassionate, and eager to rebuild his connection to Rhi, without overbearing antics, that showcase a different kind of strength. Both these characters are worth knowing, as are their friends and co-workers. I am going to need a lot more than three books in this series!

Content Warnings: workplace harassment, anxiety, depression

Ana received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.


Love in Panels Review: American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera

I reviewed American Fairytale over at Love in Panels:

Boundaries, agency and trust are central themes in Adrianna Herrera’s second Dreamer novel, American Fairytale, where a dashing divorced Dominican millionaire philanthropist attempts to sweep a wary and overworked Cuban-Jamaican American social worker off his feet when they are awkwardly reunited after their impulsive hook-up at a boozy gala. The novel is supremely sexy and with high emotional stakes, as they can’t resist kicking off a secret affair, complicating their lives while making them reexamine their past choices. Like in American Dreamer, Herrera’s representation of modern Latinx culture is rich and nuanced, aware of how wealth, skin-color and immigration status greatly affect a person’s life as Latinx in the US. Herrera continues to fills her novels with engaging secondary characters, who feel solidly real, from Tom’s business partners and neighbors, Sanjay & Priya to Camilo’s fragile mother, Dinorah and his irrepressible co-worker Ayako.

While I really enjoyed American Dreamer, I adored American Fairytale. I loved the angst, and the sources of conflict between Tom and Milo. I particularly appreciated how Herrera contrasted the various complicated caretaking relationships in the book. Dinorah’s mental health struggles were compassionately depicted, Herrera is able to skillfully present the worry, guilt and occasional resentment Milo carries, while still presenting Dinorah as sympathetic and frankly fascinating character in her own right. Her history, choices and reactions are her own, and not simply something Milo has to respond or is able to solve for her. Likewise Tom has to learn how not swoop in and try to throw money at problems and instead learn to listen and do the harder work of being present in order to have Milo feel like a partner to a problem to be solved.

American Fairytale complicates the cinderella/millionaire caretaker fantasy and enchants with its nuanced and utterly romantic resolution.

Ana received a copy of this book from the publisher for review via NetGalley.


Love in Panels Review of Hired by Zoey Castile (Happy Endings Book 2).

HiredcoverabsAlthough I really liked the characters and the setting this is a DNF review!

This book had a fabulously hot beginning with it is white-hot flirtation/hookup but when I had to bow out when Adrien kept delaying telling Faith a crucial piece of information, and I lost patience with the sight-seeing around NOLA with that hanging over the couple. 

 

For the rest of the review visit: Love in Panels


Love in Panels Review: In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston

I Reviewed In a Badger Way, by Shelly Laurenston over at Love in Panels:

The bonkers adventures of the McKilligan sisters continue in the second book of Laurenston’s Honey Badger Chronicles. Stevie, the baby sister of the chaotic trio and a musical and scientific prodigy, is struggling. Her meds aren’t working to control her panic disorder anymore, her good-for-nothing father and her dangerous uncles seem headed toward a confrontation, and at the same time The Group needs her help to figure out who is targeting shifter hybrids.

Shen Li doesn’t let a lot rile him. His seemingly infinite patience makes him the ideal bodyguard for Stevie’s good friend, the utterly obnoxious but undeniably talented Kyle Jean-Louis Parker. He is used to fielding unreasonable demands, and keeping the little whelp from getting killed on a regular basis, but when Stevie gets drawn into a dangerous plot, his easy-going nature might not be enough to keep them all safe.

In a Badger Way is more romancey than Hot and Badgered but remains strongly focused on Charlie, Max and Stevie. Their relationships and history remain at the center of the story. Laurenston gives as much focus to Charlie and Max starting therapy and learning let go of some of their overprotective reactions to threats against Stevie as it does to Shen and Stevie’s relationship. Like all Laurenston books, this story is filled with 500% more named and interrelated characters than most other books, and has at least 3 different plotlines going at the same time. There is over-the-top violence, madcap hijinks and crass jokes a plenty.

The depictions of mental illness, depression and panic attacks in these books are far from respectful but at the same time also taken very seriously. Stevie's panic attacks might be portrayed in an ridiculous way, yet the fact that people have reactions and feelings they can’t always control is treated as normal, as is looking for help.

I really enjoyed that Shen and Stevie’s dynamics. He is no pushover with Stevie, but at the same time so different from her overbearing sisters that Stevie can trust him to be a partner that is not out to control or overprotect her. I also loved that Laurenston does not shy away from having former leads looks utterly ridiculous outside their books. It just such a refreshing thing to see. They absolutely have their HEAs but that doesn’t mean they all get along with each other or are always right. Can’t wait to see what Max’s book is like and who she will get paired up with.

Content Warnings: depression, kidnapping/abduction, Medical Procedures,mental illness, sexual harassment

 


Beyond the Sectors, Episode 1: Beyond Shame is live!

Hey fellow O'Kane for lifers, the first episode of the Beyond the Sectors Podcast is now live!

 

The podcast is already available for download via podbean . The itunes link will come soon!

 


Love in Panels Review: Bite Me by Robyn Bachar #backlist

Bitemecover
My full review of Robyn Bachar's Bite Me is up at Love in Panels today.

But here is a taste:

I loved what Bachar did in this book. From its sarcastic, funny and decidedly off-kilter Lizzie, desperately trying to figure out how to hold everything together, while falling desperately in love at the wrongest moment possible, to solid and unflappable Angie, who refuses to let Lizzie face things alone and who listens and asks questions,especially when they face unexpected complications to their relationships.  

 

 

 

 


And the Winners are... The 2018 #readRchat Awards

The #readRchat team is hugely grateful to all who voted and boosted the #readRchatawards this month. Thank you for the fantastic nominations and for selecting such fabulously diverse group of books to honor.


9

The 2018#readRchat Award Winners:

 

1
Contemporary:

  1. A Girl Like Her (Ravenswood Book #1) by Talia Hibbert  (13.3 % - 81/610 votes
  2. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (10.7% -- 65/610 votes)
  3. A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1)  by Alyssa Cole (10.2% -- 62/610 votes)

Talia Hibbert is a young black British author who burst unto the scene in 2017 and has put out an outstanding number of books in the last two years. She mostly writes contemporary romance but has ventured out to the fantasy and paranormal genres in the past year.  Her PNR novella, Mating the Huntress, also won the PNR category, so it is fair to say that she is very popular with #readRchatawards voters. 

Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient, the  1st runner up in contemporary, won the Debut category. The Kiss Quotient made a huge splash, and has consistently appeared in best of lists is many mainstream publications. I just bought the audiobook and I am very much looking forward to listening to it before, Hoang's follow up, The Bride Test, comes out in 2019.

Alyssa Cole had the first two books in her Reluctant Royals series nominated and recently announced that the series had been optioned for by the Frolic team for development.  I loved the heroines and the complicated friendships in this series, and I hope more people keep discovering how fabulous Cole's writing is whether she is writing, contemporary, historical or science-fiction.

2
Best Short Story or Novella:

  1. Unfit to Print by KJ Charles (23.7% -- 137/578 votes)
  2. Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder (16.1% -- 93/578 votes)
  3. Diamond Fire: A Hidden Legacy Novella by Ilona Andrews (11.2% -- 65/578 votes)

KJ Charles is another favorite of #readRchat participants, with two of her books winning categories. Her Queer historical romances are known for their rich historical detail, diverse casts and delicious conflicts. 
Unfit to Print, about old friends unexpectedly reunited, one a proper lawyer and the other pornography-selling bookstore owner, captured nearly a quarter of all the votes

Suleikha Snyder's Tikka Chance on Me was perfection in 74 pages! Sexy and sweet and full of contrasts and complications, #readRchat voters recommend you take a chance on Tikka Chance on Me.

Ilona Andrews series are notoriously hard to categorize and they received multiple nominations in multiple categories. Diamond Fire is a bridge novella, introducing Catalina as the new lead in their Hidden Legacy series. There is no romance in this paranormal mystery short but it was fantastic.

3
Best Historical:

  1. Band Sinister by KJ Charles (14.7 -- 87/590 votes)
  2. The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke #2) by Tessa Dare (14.1 -- 83/590 votes)
  3. Tempest (Old West #3) by Beverly Jenkins (12.4 -- 73/590 votes)

The top three books in this category were on my personal best of list and I am thrilled that the #readRchataward voters agreed with me. The category's lead kept flipping between Charles and Dare throughout the voting, and in the end only 4 votes separated them!

Band Sinister is an unusually fluffy romance for KJ Charles. This Heyer inspired m/m romance had a fantastic ensemble cast and a wonderfully sweet romance that celebrates affirmative consent.

In Tessa Dare's Governess Game, she blend heavy topics like grief, abandonment and PTSD with at times farcical humor, that celebrate found families and the restorative power of undeserved love.

Tempest in the final book in Beverly Jenkins's fabulous Old West series. Jenkins's blend of historical detail, complex heroines and emotional romances are always winners for me and if you haven't started reading her, what are you waiting for?

4
Best Romantic Suspense:

  1. The Hollow of Fear (The Lady Sherlock Series #3) by Sherry Thomas (37.2 % -- 155/417 votes).
  2. The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2) by Charlie Adhara (19.4%  -- 81/417 votes)
  3. Criminal Intentions: The Cardigans by Cole McCade (15.8 % -- 66/417 votes).

Sherry Thomas's 3rd book in her fabulous Historical Mystery series with romantic elements dominated this category.  I was surprised by the nomination but voters loved it!  This series is full of intense action and repressed emotional angst and I am certainly eager to see how Thomas will continue to surprise readers with Charlotte Holmes's twisty adventures.

The first two books in Adhara's Paranormal RS series were nominated and along with the enthusiastic recommendations for friends made this jump to the top of my TBR. I finished the first book last night and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Cole McCade's  Criminal Intentions is also the start of a new series with 6 volumes already published this year and one more scheduled for 2019.  It is gritty contemporary crime romance the #readrchat voters find addictive.  

 

5
Best Paranormal Romance:

  1. Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert (21.9% -- 111/507 votes)
  2. Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch (13.8 % -- 70/507 votes)
  3. Balefire (Whyborne & Griffin #10) by Jordan Hawk (10.1 %-- 51/507 votes)

These magical finalists showcase the wide variety of stories within the Paranormal Romance umbrella, whether you love modern-day shifters with a fiercely feminist viewpoint, want to explore dark fairytales  or dive deep into a long-running series set in a magical Victorian-era America.

Although I read lots of books in this genre, I haven't read all of these and will have to check them out.

6
Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance:

  1. Ivan (Gideon’s Riders #3) by Kit Rocha (32.7 -- 129/395 votes)
  2. Something Human by AJ Demas (15.9 -- 63/395 votes)
  3. A Treason of Truths by Ada Harper (15.2 -- 60/395 votes
  1. Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire #1) by Grace Draven (15.2 -- 60/395 votes)

The vividly imaginative world-building in these novel are more than simply fantastic backdrops, but deepen the stakes in romances whose conflicts at points seem impossible to resolve.

Ivan is royal romance/house-party murder mystery masquerading as a post-apocalyptic romance that explores consent, power dynamics and devotion deeply.

Demas's Something Human is set in mythic past when enemy survivors from warring groups, work together to stay alive and must overcome seemingly insurmountable cultural and emotional conflicts to be together.

In A Treason of Truths, a spy's long past comes back to haunt her and she has to step out of the shadows to prove her love and loyalty for the only person that has ever mattered to her.

An oppressive empire burns when the MCs of Grace Draven's fantasy novel start fighting back.

7
Best Erotic Romance:

  1. Counterpoint (Twisted Wishes #2) by Anna Zabo (36 -- 132/367 votes)
  1. My Lord, Lady and Gentleman (Surry SFS #3) by Nicola Davidson (36 -- 132 -- 367 votes)
  1. Captivated by Tessa Bailey & Eve Dangerfield  (28.1 -- 103/367 votes)

This category had a large number of submissions but only three had mutliple nominations, and voters seemed to love them almost equally, with Anna Zabo's Counterpoint and Davidson's My Lord, Lady & Gentleman edging Captivated by Bailey and Dangerfield for a shared 1st place.

8
Best Debut Romance:

  1. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (32.5 --  181/557 votes)
  2. Behind These Doors (Radical Proposals #1 by Jude Lucens (14.9 -- 83/557 votes)
  3. The Duke I Tempted (Secrets of Charlotte Street #1) by Scarlett Peckham (11.3 % -- 63/557 votes)
  1. The Wolf at the Door (Big Bad Wolf #1) by Charlie Adhara (11.3  -- 63/557 votes)

 #readRchatawards can't wait to read a lot more from these fantastic new authors.
I love that the finalists in this category all come from different sub-genres, so no matter what kind of romance you read you are likely to find some fresh and new voices to try. 


Favorite SFR, PNR & Fantasy of 2018

Pnrsfrufsf   This is the corner of Romancelandia is where I feel the coziest. I came in to romance after spending years reading Fantasy and Science Fiction for the relationships. The first romance novels I read were by Nalini Singh and Meljean Brooks, so it no surprise that I turn to PNR, SFR & Fantasy romances when I need the comfort of immersive worldbuilding.

    This year was full of great PNR releases including Nalini Singh's Ocean's Light, which finally gave us a peek at the secretive world of the BlackSea Changeling pack. Patricia Briggs's Burn Bright was a powerful book about grief whose controversial revelations about the Marrok long time readers reevaluating everything they thought they knew.  I read a lot of great backlist PNR this year too. The intersection of witchcraft and shifters was were I was happiest this year, inhaling TJ Klune's super-angsty and somewhat problematic Wolfsong and Ravensong novels. I also had the  opportunity to read Lauren Dane's Diablo Lake series about a small town split between covens and wolf packs, with great cross-clan romances. (Carina has also been reissuing a lot Dane’s earlier PNR, which I’m thrilled is available again). I also started reading Holley Trent's interconnected PNR series with the Norsetown Wolves and the Masters of Maria. I am currently being charmed by her F/F novel, The Coyote's Comfort

    My favorite PNR romance of the year was from the always delightfully off-kilter Shelly Laurenston, Hot & Badgered/ (Honey Badger Chronicles 1).  This zany action-comedy is about three part-Honey Badger sisters, who will burn down the world for each other and who find a community for the first time in their lives when Charlie the oldest, meets Berg, a total teddy bear, who refuses to pushed aside, persisting on being by Charlie's side.  Like most Laurenston novels, there are thousands of named recurring characters that waltz in and out of the books and tons of frantic action scenes but the heart of the novel is the  sisterly acceptance and exasperation that ground the wild trio.

     In Science Fiction/Dystopian romance my favorite books were  Ivan by Kit Rocha and A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper. Both feature cross-class romances and delightfully queer worldbuilding.

    In Ivan,  suitors are oppressively circling Maricela, grand-daughter of the Prophet and instead of falling for any of them,  she finds herself dangerously drawn to the one man she shouldn't have. Ivan is at her mercy, he swore an oath to protect her family with his life, & it risks them both because what he wants most is to live by her side. I loved that this book was packed with dynastic machinations and was essentially a house party romance complete with a murder.

A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper was a enemies to lovers romance with a complex tangle of loyalties to unravel along with great Queer found family. I loved how hard and fast Galen falls for Olivia and how desperately the heroine tries to deny her feelings for him. The book was thought-provoking, fast-paced and fun. 

A lot of the fantasy and urban fantasy I read this year were backlist titles. I binged my way through Ilona Andrews's the Edge series, and caught up on their Kate Daniels books ahead of the Magic Triumphs. While inhaled the latter on the day it came out, I didn't love it. I liked a lot of things that happened in the book but I ended up resenting too many story choices to love it.

I did love Iron and Magic much to my surprise and chagrin. I hated Hugh in the Kate Daniels books and was truly boggled when the Andrews announced that they were turning their April fool's joke into an actual book. However the Andrews were able to  make Roland's cruel warlord into a fascinating and sympathetic character.  I am very interested in learning more about Elara and her band of followers and can't wait to see where the story goes.

Another of my favorite fantasy books of the year was Lake Silence by Anne Bishop (fantasy/mystery with the slightest of romantic elements). A domestic violence survivor fights to hold on to the unusual property she was awarded by her ex in their divorce. The property is a small resort, Sproing, a small human community covertly managed by shapeshifters.  An unlikely trio of allies, a vampire lawyer,  a human cop & intuit shopkeeper work to help Vicky keep her new home and life. As in the previous series, the Crows are my favorite characters,  as brave Aggie Crowguard steals the show. I'm looking forward to Wild Country, the second book in the World of the Others series to be out next Spring.

 

What SFR, PNR, Urban Fantasy & Fantasy romances did you read this year? What did you love and why?