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

InabadgerwayI have a special love for Shelly Laurenston/GA Aiken's special brand of slapstick humor, over-the-top-violence and strong and central female friendships. I have a special place in my heart for her Honey Badger shifters at Bite Me (Pride 9) was the first of her books I read and I adored it.  A lot of characters from that books come back in her Honey Badger Chronicles series.

I have reviewed the first two books of the series.

I reviewed the first, Hot and Badgered last year and I reviewed In a Badger Way for Love in Panels this week. In that review I talk about the centrality of sisterhood in the books, the mental health rep that is both serious and fabulous as it is irreverent and ridiculous.

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.

 

For more... head over to Love in Panels

 


Beyond the Sectors Podcast Updates

Chelsea and I had fun unpacking all our feelings for Beyond the Sectors podcast last week, and  Episode 3 went out to subscribers on Thursday.  To find links to the podcast and read the show notes, head over to Beyond the Sectors.

Also Suzanne from Love in Panels asked me to write up a little piece on how I ended up getting involved into launching a podcast with zero podcast experience and a lot enthusiasm for Kit Rocha's books.


Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch

Saltmagic

Lord Thornby’s debauched and provocative London life came to an abrupt end when his father seemingly incensed at his latest outrageous stunt drags him back to the family estate. Once there Soren discovers he can’t leave, not because he would be disowned or cut off but because he literally can’t, his father able to mysteriously compel him to stay in the ever-shrinking debt ridden estate.  He is close to despair when his step-mother returns from home with an unexpected and mysterious guest.

John Blake is a materials magician, working magic through inanimate objects, listening to the whispering of the walls and  the chattering of chairs. He feels decidedly out of his element in the rural ramshackle manor, but a good friend has asked him to investigate who is magically harassing, his sister, the new Lady Dalton. At first he is convinced the eccentrically dressed and oddly-behaved Lord Thornby is responsible, until he sees through Soren’s cutting and dismissive words and witnesses his torment.  Together they must uncover what kind of magic is at work, and secrets are key to Lord’s Dalton’s hold over Soren.

I really enjoyed listening to this book. I loved the twisty Gothic/paranormal elements on what at first seems like traditional historical romance premise. Thornby’s shock & horror at realizing he is trapped and his suspicion that he can’t simply free himself by agreeing to marry an heiress like his father demands, unless he can figure out why his father, a previously cruel but non-magical person has managed it. I am also a sucker for bad first impressions and John and Soren start out  as suspicious of each other as they are attracted. The tension over whether they can trust or believe each other is delicious, because they each have very good reasons to distrust each other.

Welch did a fabulous job teasing out the mystery and complicating the picture for everyone involved. She also created some fantastically engaging secondary characters to populate the curse household, including the adventurous and sharp-witted Lady Amelia. I particularly enjoyed seeing Lady Dalton’s opinion about what is happening, and of her husband change throughout the novel. Her desire to retain her dignity and regain some power in their relationship felt very real. Of all the characters in the book, I would l really love to read some more about her as she needs a HEA of her own.

The worldbuilding was fascinating, especially because it incorporated class differences and prejudice into its development. Set in the rapidly industrializing Victorian era, John’s material’s based magic is in its ascendancy, but he is hampered by the disdain of his demon-wielding theogist teachers, whose center of power, Politics and religion are losing ground to Industry but whose wrong-headed opinions still hold sway in academic settings. I loved that Blake comes to realize that his fellow magicians have lost a great deal of knowledge about more rural folk magics that leave him unprepared to deal with what he experiences at the estate.

I listened to ending in one fell swoop because I need to know how the story would be resolved and while I was fully satisfied with John and Soren’s HEA, I wish we could have had some sort of epilogue that gave some sense who everyone else on the estate, responded, recovered and moved on.

I had not previously listened to any books narrated by Joel Leslie but he did a wonderful job differentiating the voices of the characters, capably capturing desperation, desire, urgency, archness and tenderness.

Content Warnings: Homophobia, incarceration, kidnapping/abduction, mention/description of past trauma (physical, emotional and sexual abuse).

I received a review copy of Salt Magic, Skin Magic from the author, Lee Welch.


Love in Panels Review: Wild Country by Anne Bishop (The World of the Others, Book 2)

Wildcountry
My review of Wild Country is up at Love in Panels!

Wild Country is full of surprises and unexpected twists, most more unsettling and upsetting than the last while providing a heart-pounding companion story to Etched in Bone. It is not a book I would recommend to anyone except a long-time series fan however.

 

To read the full review go to: http://www.loveinpanels.com/prose/wild-country


Love in Panels Review: American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

American-dreamerMy review of American Dreamer is up at Love in Panels!

Ernesto Vasquez might have been born in the Dominican Republic but he is a die-hard New Yorker at heart. His food truck, OuNYe’s menu expresses the special fusion of his New York city childhood, where the Afro-caribbean flavors of his heritage and that of his Puerto Rican, Cuban, Jamaican and Haitian best-friends, nourished and united them. Making his food truck a success is his driving objective because Nesto can’t live on passion alone, he needs his truck to turn a profit. Willing to try anything, Nesto has given himself six months Upstate in his mother Nurys’s new town of Ithaca, in a last ditch effort to keep his dream aflot. If he fails to find customers, he will pack it in and head back to NYC and find new dreams.

Jude Fuller is a young adult librarian with a passion for outreach to underserved communities, like rural LGBTQIA+ youth who don’t have regular or easy access to the local library. For years he has been working to see his bookmobile project funded and this might finally be the year. While it is small town curiosity and the lure of delicious flavors that bring Jude to OuNYe, it is Nesto’s flirtatious smiles and smooth moves that he can’t resist. However, Jude is determined to counter his BFF's matchmaking antics as he has no desire not risk heartbreak again. Jude wants to keep things nice and casual, but he soon finds himself caring and wanting more from Nesto.

Nesto and Jude’s relationship starts off playful and sexy with with great joyous energy and bilingual banter. But underneath Jude’s sunny and saucy sauntering lurks a painful emotional history and anxiety that makes him hesitate pursuing anyone, particularly someone whose focus and ambition might not keep him in Ithaca. Nesto is also conflicted about his inability to ignore his attraction to Jude. Being distracted from his primary reason for being in Ithaca brings up its own kind of angst.

Tension over the risk of pursuing a relationship, fear that commitment might not be evenly felt, and how to balance relationship and career goals are central to the story. Both Jude and Nesto have moments where they realize how deep in denial they have been, and I loved how their actions often betrayed their real feelings for each other long before they are willing to name their attraction or relationship.

This book was chock-full of delicious food, fascinating and engaging secondary characters and had a great sense of place. Herrera brings to life Ithaca’s many social and economic contrasts. I loved Nesto’s rowdy, nosey and loving extended Latinx family and the friends who drop everything to help him and wish him well. In contrast Jude’s religious and emotionally abusive family felt sketched in and somewhat like cardboard cutouts.

Misty, the petty and malicious antagonistic harasser of both Jude and Nesto was at times grandly cartoonish but not unrealistic in this day and age of meme-able white ladies calling 911 on innocent picnickers for simply being POC. Misty’s use and abuse of public servants such as cops & health inspectors seem instead frighteningly believable.

I also loved how Herrera showed Nesto and Jude’s different responses to the harassment. The differing ways they responded to Misty’s behavior is deeply informed by their own prior experiences and whether they felt it would spill onto others. I particularly appreciated how Nesto’s attitude of calm disengagement was a result of a life-long experience with racism and Jude’s internalized anger a scar from growing up closeted in an insular community that would eventually shun him for failing to conform to their expectations.

As much as I loved the book overall and the characters most of all, there was some wonky pacing in the middle of the book with weeks going by in a few paragraphs. I felt that I lost a sense of how long Jude and Nesto circled around each other, how long they were actively together before things started to go sideways or how far into Nesto’s six months we had progressed. I am also not a grand-gesture/big grovel reader, and the ending of this book has a big one. The gesture makes intellectual sense but it didn’t hit my emotional buttons, because it seemed to gloss over some serious communication and expectations issues that Nesto and Jude must address for their HEA to feel solid.

 

American Dreamer is angsty and sexy with a strong supporting cast and I am eager to read the future books in the series. I do recommend readers identify a source for Caribbean food before they start reading American Dreamer, as it is sure to inspire a desperate hankering for its Caribbean flavors.

 

I received a review copy from the author.

 

 

 

Content Warnings: Cancer Death (relative of one of the MCs), religious extremist family, Homophobia, Racist language, racist harassment. 


Episode 2 of Beyond the Sectors is out! It is all about Beyond Control.

Copy of Beyond
Find the second episode of Beyond The Sectors on  iTunes and Podbean.

Ana and Chelsea giddily discuss the tumultuous romance between the King and Queen of Sector Four. Dallas and Lex have been circling around each other for years, risk and desire in balance until an inflammatory tattoo changes everything.

Find the show notes over at: https://beyondthesectors.com/


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.  

 

 

 

 


Coming Soon: The Beyond the Sectors Podcast #thesectors #okaneforlife

It stars with a tweet:

 

Last month in fit of enthusiasm I decided that yes, I was in.  Chelsea and I will be recording out first podcast this week and publishing it next week.  We plan to do episodes on each of the books and then branch off into other directions in the Kit Rocha Beyondverse.

We are both passionate about this series and I can't wait to chat with Chelsea about the things that drew her in, and compare notes on worldbuilding, character arcs and such.

Beyond5

We will be adding more information on the Podcast page and we will send out a newsletter when our first podcast is available, so if you want to sign up visit: http://eepurl.com/ggtmUP or follow us on Twitter: @BeyondSectors


Love in Panels Review: Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

PolarisRising-680x1024I am over at Love in Panels today with my review of Polaris Rising by Jessie Milhalik.

Polaris Rising is the first book in a new SFR series by Jessie Mihalik, this SFR adventure is full of action, fascinating secondary characters and interesting world-building.  There is lots of sexual tension, mutual mistrust, wall-banging sex and lots and lots of med-bay visits for the space faring duo. 

For the rest of the review: Love in Panels