Friday Book Club #18

Friday, December 7, 2018

Read & Have Opinions On
Quick Note -  I went through so many books this past month that instead of including a "Looking Forward To" section, you're getting the proverbial word vomit of all my thoughts and feelings. And there are actually other books that didn't make it on here, but I felt like for the sake of everyone's sanity this was enough. Thanks for accepting me in all my book craziness! 

Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal by Forthright 
She wasn’t aware of her gift’s significance, yet he expects to be courted.

Kimiko enrolls at the In-between’s prestigious new high school, which is designed to promote the integration of the human and inhuman races. As a reaver, she’s supposed to act as peacemaker, bridging a formidable cultural gap, but the other two members of her triad don’t need any help in that department. Akira and Suuzu have been friends since middle school. Instead, the boys must rally behind Kimiko when she inadvertently initiates a courtship with Eloquence Starmark.

My Thoughts: I'm just going to put it out there that this description is so much less than the book's whole. Like, I understand that the intricacies of the world Forthright has created makes it harder than normal for blurbs to capture the whole thing, but y'all. This book is so good. This series is so good and I can't wait to see how it continues to evolve. Forthright excels at writing incredible relationships, that grow and build in ways that I just don't see in other fantasies or romances - plus there's a special place in my heart for relationships that develop after lots of conversation to get past misunderstandings. It's incredibly soothing. Plus this book brings back characters from book one, building on their stories without detracting from the main couple (which is hard). If you're looking for an engaging series with interesting, well developed characters and a sweet romance - this is it.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk
In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

My Thoughts: I kept seeing this one talked about on Twitter so I decided to take the plunge with the help of my local library (thanks DC!). It's an interesting one for me, an alternate history England where the slowburn romance is adjacent to the main mystery plot. I liked how the initial symptoms that Miles encountered as a doctor whose patients were exclusively Veterans could easily have been categorized as a form of PTSD, but throughout the book took on more and more sinister connotations. There are also a ton of complicated relationships in this book, between friends, family, community, etc. and each of them is flavored by their own societal dictates of propriety in addition to emotion. The big reveal at the end even surprised me, because while I had guessed some of it, I definitely hadn't grasped the full breadth of the whole enterprise - or the huge ramifications to society that will be examined more thoroughly in the next book. For me Witchmark was a bit of a slow burn with a satisfying payoff, so I would recommend.

Leopard's Blood by Christine Feehan
Though he was born into a leopard’s lair in the bayou, Joshua Tregre’s fighting skills were honed in the rain forests of Borneo. Sleek and deadly, he’s the perfect man to take over a crime syndicate back home in Louisiana’s lush swamplands. His razor-sharp instincts give him an edge in the violent underworld he knows so well, but even the watchful leopard inside him isn’t prepared for the threat that comes from the girl next door...

She is a woman who can create beauty out of thin air—and out of the ruins of her own life. The games that dangerous men play have taken their toll on her, but she is bent, not broken. And it’s her fierce spirit that’s like a lure to Joshua, a temptation he can’t resist—even if it means bringing his true nature into the light...

My Thoughts: You know, I picked this book up from the library because while I don't read Feehan with the same consistency anymore, the blurb made it sound like it was going to perhaps be a bit more like her older work. Plus I vaguely remembered Joshua from earlier on in the series when I was still following more closely. In the end I think it mostly just cemented why these aren't so much my cup of tea anymore. I don't have a problem with insta-love, but insta-lust that's fueled by hormones/bodily functions that "can't be resisted"? Not my jam. Plus it but the heroine immediately on the defensive during the relationship, when she had very some very good reasons for feeling the way she did. Plus, I've lost my ability to be totally on board with helpful heroines. I want her choices to be respected, even if they're made on incomplete information, so being physically bullied into doing what was "best" for her was just...not fun. I don't need every woman to be able to kick every man's ass, but I want her to have agency dammit, not just the masquerade of it [shakes fist]. Also, I'm just gonna leave you on this one note: leopard sex. I actually don't ever need my people romances to feature animal sex, and I think that's ok.

Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews
Nevada Frida Baylor and Connor Ander Rogan cordially invite you to join their wedding celebration. Summoning, weather manipulation, and other magical activities strictly forbidden.

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle.  Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home.  Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic.  But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness.  Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

My Thoughts: In the best way possible I want to say that this was exactly what I expected and it was great. This novella is a complete story that also acts as a bridge to the next arc of the series, which will focus on Catalina (and the rest of the Baylor children?). Catalina proves herself to be a woman just as capable as her sister, with powers that have their own interesting depths and gradation of expressions.  Andrews focusing this story in and around the wedding was a great way to immediately increase tension since everyone's emotions are already running high, and while I wouldn't say the whodunit was totally unexpected, there are few scenes as recklessly fun as that final confrontation.

A Little Familiar by R. Cooper 
A powerful witch, Piotr Russell has resigned himself to loneliness, because ordinary humans can’t know what he is, and other witches are intimidated by his abilities. Generations of Russells have lived and died with only their familiars at their side. The presence of a friendly familiar is enough to keep even the loneliest witch sane, and yet Piotr deliberately hasn’t chosen one. He forces himself to keep busy instead, but the emptiness of his house haunts him even more the spirit of Great-Great-Aunt Elysia in the parlor. With Samhain and Halloween approaching, he’ll have much to do, and knowing that, his concerned coven seizes the chance to intervene and sends help to his door in the form of Bartleby Dorchester.

The rarest of rare jewels, Bartleby is a human familiar: a witch with no magic of his own, and a desire to find a strong witch to help and serve. In particular, he desires to help and serve Piotr, and everything in Piotr wants to let him. Bartleby was meant to be his familiar; Piotr knows it as surely as he knows when it will rain or when the apples in his garden will ripen. But what Piotr wants from Bartleby, all he’s ever wanted, is for Bartleby to love him, something he thinks is impossible.

Russells live and die unloved, and he won’t allow Bartleby to feel obligated to spend his life with him as his familiar if he could be happy in love with someone else. But Samhain is a time for change, when walls come down and borders grow thin, and Bartleby isn’t going to waste what might be his last chance to convince Piotr that they were meant to be. He might have no magic, but love is a power all its own.

My Thoughts: I'm again throwing my thanks out to Twitter for this $.99 gem, because I really enjoyed myself. There's something about gruff-but-kind heroes and their hidden emotions that have be slowly drawn out into the light by match that gets to me. It speaks to all the rainbows and butterflies in my soul that love a good romance books. And the relationship between Piotr and Bartleby hit all those buttons in the best way possible. I feel like over the past couple of months, months were I've deliberately tried to read more Own Voices/Non Cis-Heterosexual, I've enjoyed myself more than I have in a while. I think in these stories the authors are placing more emphasis on the conversational bonds and emotional cornerstones that result in a romance that feels real, and I'm loving it. GIVE ME ALL THE CONVERSATIONS. ALL THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS. Plus, these aren't to the exclusion of sexy times - Cooper does a bit of fade to black after some spicy physical back and forth, and at no point did I feel like I was missing out on that part of their relationship. I immediately bought book two and I can't wait to read it.

Seasons of Sorcery by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Driven, Jennifer Estep & Jeffe Kennedy
An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . .

The stretch of sea known as the Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced.

A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves.

As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

My Thoughts: Anthologies live and die by your feelings about the authors themselves, so I'd give this one a solid B. I was really in it for Draven's story, but Bouchet's was also incredibly well done, both with the vivid characters and emotional connections that make their other works so enjoyable. Estep's story was good, but I definitely got the feeling it was a  small vignette in a larger story arch (which it admittedly is) and it didn't stand incredibly well on its own for a new reader. Kennedy is a harder one for me to judge. I've read a few of her stories in other anthologies, and the problem is I just don't enjoy her Twelve Kingdoms series. The characters and world building are great, but each one seemed to have a character whose backstory included not a little, but a LOT, of sexual assault and the related trauma, and I'm a hard pass on that. I don't feel bad giving a trigger warning and I think your mileage may vary when it comes to her work. 

Natural Witch by K.F. Breene
Something has always been missing from my life. A hole that I could never seem to fill.

When I accidentally turn a coven of witches into nightmares, I find out what that something is.


And it turns out, I have a crap load of it.

As a latent power awakens deep inside of me, I’m exposed to one of the most powerful and corrupt organizations in the magical world—the Mages’ Guild.

Barely knowing a spell from a few swear words and luck, I won’t be able to evade them alone.

And that’s when I meet him.

The Rogue Natural. The best and most feared mage in the world.

He’s dangerous, mysterious, and has a vendetta of his own. He is now the only thing between me and magical enslavement.

My Thoughts: For the moment, this book is one of my few DNF (did not finish). Can anyone who's read this book tell me if it gets better? Because right now the characters are so cliched it's kind of becoming funny in a bad way (like the hero has a whole internal monologue when he's first introduced about how it's "better" that he's alone, that it's safer for those mythical other people, and I actually laughed out loud) and the burgeoning romance between him and the hero is not doing it for me. This got a lot of props in the Twitterverse so maybe this is just a me thing?

Latest Instagrams

© Good Red Herring. Design by FCD.