This weeks prompt for Bookish Friday, hosted by Lauren and Georgi, is “Animal Sidekicks”. My initial thoughts were that the Famous Five was the last book I read with an animal sidekick, then I realised all those Dragons of Pern books would count too. I’m probably going to stretch the prompt so much that it will be in danger of snapping – would Rincewind’s Luggage, from The Colour of Magic, count? Maybe not but Lady Sybil’s swamp dragon’s would.
Hedwig, Harry Potter by JK Rowling
This is probably the closest choice, and most widely known choice, that will appear in my list. I loved reading the Harry Potter books and was so sad at Hedwig’s ultimate fate.
Novo and Boz, Cats of War by Carol Van Natta
Novo and Boz are genetically modified cats who help Kedron (H) and Ferra (h) in their bid to prevent a sinister plot coming to fruition. The fact that Kedron and Ferra fall in love along the way was an added bonus to this great little sci-fi novella.
Ruthless Sinner releases today, so there will be a review on my blog tomorrow. The heroine, Spirit, is an exotic dancer who manages to upset Coop, the local organised crime’s chemist. Tiger’s love of hard wood floors and 2000 thread cotton sheets helps smooth things over and seal the deal between this quirky pair.
At the start of Rogue Wave, Milo is the only ‘person’ that Cutter really has any time for. Except Milo is his dog and in this story he really is this man’s best friend. Brave, loyal, fierce, demanding and fond of treats, though whether that describes the man or dog I’ll leave for you to decide!
Nibbles befriends our heroine, Avalon, whilst she ventures to complete a perilous task whilst in a foreign land. He is a mousebot and proves to be both a faithful friend and a useful ally in troubled times. Condemned is one of the few reverse harem romances where the male characters have all had their own personality. It’s a Cari Silverwood book so you are automatically assured of great world building and a genuine sci-fi feel to the story.
If a mousebot pushed things this takes things beyond all reckoning. Nora is the heroine and this is one hot and steamy pet play book. It won’t be for every reader – I didn’t think it would be for me either, but boy oh boy Ms Stone wrote one scorching hot, erotic romance with this one.
This is a meme created by Laura (https://lauryreads.wordpress.com/) and Georgi (http://nifflerreads.co.uk/), so do please visit them too. Today’s prompt is very apt as over the last few weeks I seem to have had a few lacklustre reads, one of which will feature as today’s Book Review. Some of these books were not terrible, just not to the author’s usual standards.
I’m going to do my most recent 5, since that number nicely with recent reading experiences.
His Human Nanny (Monsters Love Curvy Girls #1) by Michele Mills
Yes, yes with a subtitle like that I should have known better BUT in my defence a Goodread friend had raved about this book. It was described as fluffy and light but enjoyable, especially for the smut content. I never made that part, the heroine annoyed me too much. The lesson here is that I should always make sure I read the blurb, in order to avoid disappointment. Thankfully I borrowed it via KU so no harm no foul.
My indentured servitude is almost over and freedom is a heartbeat away! Until some alien guy buys me because he needs a nanny, quick. What the actual f@ck? I’m not even good with kids. I’ve never changed a diaper in my life. But the beings at the employment agency won’t listen. “Hew-mans are hot right now. Everyone wants a hew-man nanny.” Great. And since there isn’t another human available… I’m hired on the spot. Yay, me. And on day one of my new job I’m having a panic attack because I finally meet my new boss and he looks like Satan himself. No lie. Black horns, red eyes and glinting silver-tipped claws. He even has a barbed tail, a forked tongue, and he breathes fire. This guy is terrifying, and his children look exactly like him. *heart palpitations* *hyperventilating* And yet, as I’m caring for these strangely adorable infants and gazing longingly at my crazy-rich boss as he cradles his twin babies in his huge, muscular arms… my traitorous heart goes pitter-patter and my body heats up like lava. Oh no. And I begin to wonder — have I sold my soul to the devil?
Wine Hard Baby (OHellNo #6) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
This is an author I can usually rely on for a good read, though I have struggled with several of her recent book. I’m not sure if it’s my tastes changing, but I think it is time for me to step down from her arc team. It isn’t fair on the author, because it could well be a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.
CAUTION: CONTAINS HOT COWBOY. Do not mix with wine. Avoid watching him do shirtless labor on hot days. SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE: Feeling of extreme temptation, excessive drooling over his abs, elevated heart rate, and loss of coherent thoughts when in his presence. My name is Camila Clark. And that sexy cowboy right there? The one with the devilish smile, twinkling brown eyes, and tattoos on his muscular arms? He’s Jed, the guy I turned down flat back in Texas. He just showed up here in Oregon at the winery where I work. The question is why? Not that it really matters. I have my reasons for staying away from all that manly temptation. Reasons he can’t possibly understand but seems determined to punish me for. But the more I fight him, the more I learn about this mysterious, hot-as-hell cowboy. I just don’t know how much longer I can keep pretending to hate him. The problem is, I’m technically engaged to a guy I’ve never met.
Mafia Lullaby by Alta Hensley and Measha Stone
I’m not the biggest AH fan, though I do usually enjoy MS’s work. However this just pulled too many punches for my liking. This is a girl, kidnapped off the street and marked for training as a sex slave, yet the worst thing that ever happens whilst in captivity is a spanking and a paddling! I didn’t find this book even a teensy bit dark, and I don’t think such a sweet, happy, caring hero would ever have ended up training the slaves!
Genre – Dark (? I disagree) Romance, Mafia Romance
She’s a Lullaby girl. Her fate is sealed. In a twisted, underground House of depravity, the women do not belong to me. But they are mine to train. To groom. To perfect in the most wicked of ways. This dark House changed me. What was asked of me, corrupted the man I once was. But the sickness did not break me. I remained in control regardless. Until her. Cloaked in secrets and lies, I have a new focus… I want my own Lullaby girl.
The Break-Up Artist (Cupids #4) by Lila Monroe
There was nothing wrong so much as this just didn’t engage my emotions. It was an enjoyable read but fairly forgettable, so much so that I had to re-read the blurb to remind myself of what happened in the book.
I’m an expert in break-ups. From the slow fade, to extreme ghosting, to, ‘but you never said I couldn’t send pics of my junk to your step-sister on Instagram’ – I’ve seen it all… and built a mini-empire along the way. My blog, the Break-Up Artist, uses my past heartache to help people move on – and avoid weeping on the floor at 3am consuming their body weight in spray cheese and Oreos. Ahem. Now, I have a new job that could mean the big-time: helping a famous Hollywood it-couple navigate their tricky break-up. Except not everyone wants them Splitsville. The movie studio needs to keep them together to promote their big movie, and they’ve sent someone to make sure I fail in my first VIP gig. Wes Baxter. Also known as my ex. Also ALSO known as, the guy who broke my heart so thoroughly, I had to turn myself into a self-help guru just to get over him. I’m determined to follow my own advice (no drooling over Wes’s perfect abs, or remembering how he rocked my world) but being trapped together at a luxe country retreat isn’t helping things… And neither is Wes’s early-morning naked swim habit. Soon, love is in the air, the sparks between us are hotter than ever, and I’m seriously questioning my ‘no backsies’ policy. Wes swears he’s changed. He wants to try again, and he’s got an annoyingly sexy way of convincing me. But can second chances really work? Or has the Break-Up Artist finally met her match?
Abducted (Sinister Fairy Tales) by K.I. Lynn
I’m possibly being unfair singling this book out, this series as a whole has been more bust than boom. I’ve enjoyed maybe 4 or 5 of the series (out of 15 books so far), so not a great success. Abducted was just very generic, very convenient solutions and far too insta-love for me to believe in that bond. The writing was good but it wa another one where the bad guy wasn’t bad enough and the heroine wasn’t traumatised by being in a completely horrific situation. That said this was the one I enjoyed most out of these 5.
The mafia never lets you go. I thought I was safe, free, but I never expected to find myself locked in a cage. I’m in his territory. His prison. The beast. A fate worse than death awaits me if I can’t get away, so when the opportunity of salvation presents itself I grab it, even if I’m unsure if I can trust the hand I’m holding. The only way out is through, exposing secrets and spilling blood. Things aren’t how they appear. Nobody is what they seem. Not even me.
I’m joining in Bookish Friday with Georgi and Lauren. It would be great if you would go and visit their blogs too. The prompt this week is Genres, the number and presentation of which is completely up to the individual.
I’ve been involved in many a discussion of what is a genre, sub-genre and trope and whilst there are plenty of lists out there, I’ve yet to see a definitive list that all agree upon. I’m going to go with sub-genres since my reading is almost exclusively from the romance genre.
Romancelandia is looked down upon by many, it’s considered to be the trailer trash of the literary world, the poor cousin with mismatched shoes and holes in their jumper. Judged and found wanting by those who have never bothered to explore the genre due to asinine assumptions and unparalleled bigotry.
I’ve witnessed reviewers denounce the contents of a (often, but not always, dark) romance book. Seen them question the author as to why they think it is appropriate to write such content. Observed them say that the author should realise how their book might influence or subvert, people, how it could lead them astray and encourage them into acts of dreadful violence.
Do these same reviewers judge horror stories in the same way? Do they suggest that authors such as James Herbert or Stephen King should really think carefully about what they publish? Do they question the content of the books? Do they worry that people might mistake these stories as “how-to’s” for real life? No, of course they don’t – but I’ve seen those accusations thrown at romance authors.
Sorry, I clearly touched on my own open nerve. Rant over, here endeth the sermon.
So lets focus on what I’m here to share, which are my favourite romance sub-genres and tropes. Which isn’t as straight forward as might first be assumed. There’s a great article here by diyMFA that details the intricacies involved in categorising romance and another one here, by Kaye Dacus, that goes into even more detail. However even these don’t cover all possibilities and combinations!
Strangely I enjoy both YA romance and adult romance, but am not a huge fan of New Adult stories. I think the YA comes from my background of reading fantasy and science fiction through the 90’s.
Futuristic Romance/ SFR
I’m not talking those purple spanking aliens either. I like a PROPER sci-fi story, with space travel, aliens, new technology and the underlying classic story of good verses evil. It also includes dystopian and steampunk too. Cari Silverwood is the queen of the genre for me, from the detailed Machinery of Desire series, to the crazy Dark Monster Fantasy series, the Earth-bound Preyfinders trilogy to the dystopian Beast Horde trilogy. Her books aren’t for everyone, since she loves to include dub-con situations, along with a fairly generous helping of kink. However what really sells her work, for me, is her solid world building, great characters, amazing pop-culture breadcrumbs and snarky humour.
After much research I still wasn’t sure of the difference between a PNR and an urban fantasy romance, since both involve paranormal creatures, magic and a real world setting. However this article here helped clear things up for me, so I’m feeling more confident in identifying which books fit each sub-genre.
In the PNR world, R.L. Mathewson‘s Pyte series and anything by the amazing K.F. Breene are both must read authors. Academy stories have been very popular in recent years, though these usually fall into the NA age range, rather than YA. Lexi C Foss is always a must read for this sub-genre/trope, and for the Omegaverse one too.
Pippa DaCosta is my go to author for urban fantasy, I’ve never read a book by this author that I didn’t love.
Fantasy Romance / Omegaverse Romance
My favourite author’s in this sub-genre of romance are Lindsay Buroker (who also writes some pretty great sci-fi too), Myra Danvers and Autumn M. Birt. In these stories the romance is secondary to the story, which seems to be a common theme in fantasy romance.
A hugely popular offshoot of either fantasy or PNR is Omegaverse, it’s difficult to pin down where Omegaverse should go as some authors use a sci-fi or dystopian setting, some use paranormal, and others use an alternative universe.
In general it is a world populated by usually three, occasionally four, dynamics, where alpha’s can only reproduce with omega’s and beta’s are the worker drones. This first emerged as a trope in M/m (male/male) books, but the last few years have scene a surge in M/f pairings. Those first few M/f offerings were very dark in content, with scenes of non-consent, though more recent books span the whole spectrum.
Join in a discussion of what is meant by the label ‘dark’ and you will find as many opinions and definitions as there are participants. Part of the problem is that ‘dark romance’ became very popular a few years ago and a lot of authors jumped on the bandwagon, labelling books as dark when they were more of a dove grey. The issue has been further complicated by Amazon and their ever dictatorial and oppressive censorship policies that make it impossible for a self-published author to always give an honest description of a books content – particularly if contains scenes of dubious or non consent.
My own personal expectations of ‘dark’ is that we will experience violence, torture (both physical and psychological) and or sexual acts of at least a dubious, and often of a non, consensual nature. Being told x, y or z has happened but not witnessing it in some way doesn’t cut the mustard, I also need to see that the event has a lasting impact on the characters. It’s not enough to include a rape scene but then have the heroine (or hero) carry on and act as though it were nothing. A very clever author can turn even seemingly innocuous happenings into something much darker, by focusing on the psychological and emotional impact of events. There can be darkness in being forced into humiliating and degrading (non-sexual) acts.
Many of the author’s I’ve already mentioned write dark books (*cough*, Cari Silverwood, *cough*), it isn’t just a sub-genre/ trope of contemporary, though for me it does have more impact in a ‘real life’ setting. Very often these stories contain elements of power exchange and BDSM, though the often non-consensual nature means that they should NOT be considered as BDSM romances.
Is this a sub-genre or a trope? Does it really matter? BDSM novels seem to fall into two categories. Many focus on the BDSM relationship, and are often set around, or involve, a club that the couple attend. The rest seem to be romantic suspense, involving FBI/ police/ ex-military/ mercenaries who enjoy being as dominant in their sex lives as they are in their jobs.
Cherise Sinclair, Livia Grant, Maren Smith and Jennifer Bene all write truly wonderful stories of consensual BDSM activity. Cherise has her own series, whilst Livia, Jennifer and Maren have all written within the Black Light world (a series I would HIGHLY recommend). Maren also writes, with others, in the Masters of the Castle series – another one I recommend.
There’s only one author left to mention, because the other romantic suspense books featured in either the Dark category or BDSM. However London Miller‘s Den of Mercenaries, Wild Bunch and Kingmaker Saga don’t fit anywhere else. This woman manages to weave the most complex of stories, adding, removing and reintroducing threads in a seemingly meaningless and random way. Until one small tug and suddenly you are looking at a highly intricate tapestry, with every loose end tied up in a way you never expected. She is another author who’s work never EVER disappoints.
Welcome to this week’s Bookish Friday, hosted by the amazing LauReads and Niffler Reads. It’s a bank holiday over here in the UK, moved from it’s usual date of the first Monday in May, to allow us to celebrate VE Day.
There were so many plans for great events, all of which have had to be put aside in the interests of safety. However we will find SOME way to celebrate the sacrifice made by so many, including our international friends, in the battle for liberty and democracy.
This weeks prompt is Middle Grade Covers which, as a product of the English education system, left me somewhat adrift. We generally have Primary school for ages 4 – 11 and Secondary for ages 11 – 16/18, with Colleges that offer an alternative for 16 – 19 year olds who either don’t want to stay in their school 6th Form, or who attend a school that only caters up to 16 years of age. I say generally because there are a couple of local authorities who still run a 3 school system, similar to the USA, but these are very few and far between.
I’ve taught in Secondary schools since 1991, albeit with a 7 year break when my children were little. I’m currently working as a home education teacher, or at least I would be if we weren’t currently in lockdown! However my specialism is Science and Maths, so I’m not too familiar with books that would be read by tweenagers. However here are a few that I know at least ONE of my children read at that age – I’ve read Harry Potter (we own all of them, the rest must be in storage) and also the Wee Free Men. The Hunger Games in still on my TBR list.
Middle Grade Covers
Sorry about the quality of the photos – I really should have brightened them up before uploading them.
So, what Middle Grade books do you have sitting around the house, and have you read them?
I’m joining in with Bookish Friday this week, a meme created and hosted by LauReads and Niffler Reads. This weeks prompt, spookily enough, is First Lines, which is what I’ve been sharing for the last few Fridays! I’m going to feature 6 first lines this week, which may seem a strange number choice but they are all from an amazing anthology that released yesterday. It’s dark, it’s twisted and it is definitely unpredictable. I’m talking about The Institute by Dani Rene, Anna Edwards, Murphy Wallace, India R Adams, Jennifer Bene and Sian B Claven.
1 Echo by Dani Rene
It was ten years ago when my life took a turn for the worst. It was also in those dark times that I realized I wasn’t going to be the same after what had happened. Instead of running from the darkness, I embraced it.
2. Marbh by Anna Edwards
“Marbh, we have a few new people today. Why don’t you tell them a bit about yourself?” I don’t acknowledge the doctor talking to me. Why should I – he’s keeping me prisoner here. This is his fault. The mid-forties man with graying temples stares at me, urging me to respond. I’m not going to give him the satisifaction.
3 Hostile Illusions by India R Adams
Cruelty and all its power Why am I the game of each hour? Every pain, every slice… It was not only me in this deadly vise
As I lie here, life draining from my body, there is a clarity present that is bringing me cherished peace. I smile in relief, knowing that there is truly an Evermore…
4 Mr Cat is Not Real by Jennifer Bene
The walls are breathing again, but at least they’re not whispering this time. Yet. Dr. Nickelsen says it’s not real, that I just have to focus on something that still feels normal and push the bad thoughts away, but it’s not easy when I can hear every inahle and exhale like the volume’s been cranked up to 11.
5 Release Me by Murphy Wallace
Shit! Fuck! One moment I was getting fucked senseless by the guy that I met at the bar tonight. The next, I am on top of his lifeless body, loosening my grip on the rope around his neck. There is a broken bong laying in pieces by his head, and he is bleeding. Not again.
6 Sanitorium by Sian B Claven
The world is so bright after you’ve been enveloped in the darkness of sleep for so many hours. Molly had never been a morning person; the light streaming through the windows was not magical and awakening to her. Being pulled form the deep slumber that her medication granted her was anything but pleasant and yet, the sun streamed through the window, tugging at her eyelids to flicker open and squint at the bright world around. Bright, but bland.