A Note from Binge on Books

A Note from Binge on Books

Binge on Books in no way condones deceit or abuse now or ever.  In light of this, all material by the author known as Santino Hassell has been removed from the site. In addition, all reviews of this author’s work have also been removed.

Binge on Books is a site that actively tries to promote positivity in books and foster connections between readers. We truly hope the community can heal from these painful events, and have taken the steps we feel are necessary to facilitate this by removing influences from our site that we have learned have been divisive rather than unifying.

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Romance Excerpt: Oceanside by Michelle Mankin

Today fabulous romance writer and all around awesome human, Michelle Mankin, is on Binge on Books to share an excerpt from her upcoming novel, Oceanside. But! Before we get to that, let’s learn a little about this release that promises some of my favorites: rock stars, kick butt female musicians, and two people who might just be simply perfect for each other after all…

Oceanside by Michelle Mankin

Release date: April 10, 2018

About the book:

Oscar night.
Rock star legend, Ashland Keys should be on top of the world, but the blond blue-eyed SoCal surfer is disillusioned with fame, done with drugs, bored with the groupies and sick of all the fake f*ckery.
A rising star, Fanny Bay is nominated for best original song in the same category as the Dirt Dogs band, but the novel redhead with the corkscrew curls and the slight Canadian accent would prefer to chart a course with a different destination.
Hollywood is not for her.
He’s full of regrets, darkness and secrets.
She’s full of hope and light and has mysteries of her own.
He’s her reserved hero.
She’s his gypsy rose.
He’s water. She’s fire. Together, they don’t make sense.
But he’s what she’s always wanted, and she just might be everything he needs.


Oscar night


“Ash,” I corrected. “My friends call me Ash.” My voice sounded gruff from the weight of the things I wanted to explore further with her. Things that I wouldn’t, couldn’t pursue. Bad timing to meet someone who so intrigued me if the test turned out the way I feared. And even if it didn’t, she was too young, too innocent. Not at all right for someone like me.

“Ash,” she repeated, my name sliding so easily between those recently wetted ruby red lips of hers. I imagined them wrapped around my shaft and knew I wouldn’t have turned her down if she had offered to do to me the things the groupie had. My cock was certainly interested in her. It didn’t care about timing or right and wrong. It was all about action.

“I’m sorry you got drawn into my mess,” she continued. “I think that under different circumstances we might have been friends. It’s difficult to find many of those in our profession. Genuine ones, I mean. But I think it’s better if we just go ahead and say goodbye right now.”

“How so?” The lust thundering through me made it difficult to focus, but I did get that she was giving me the brush off. And even though wisdom dictated that I take the hint—it was the logical thing to do after all given our differences—the alpha male in me said, ‘Fuck logic.’

“Because my stepfather wasn’t kidding around. He means what he says. You don’t want to be on his bad side. I don’t want you to be on his bad side. And that’s where you would end up if he thought you were a friend of mine.”

“Someone who steps in front of him when he’s twisting your arm and hurting you, you mean?”

Her eyes wide, she nodded.

“Well, fuck that bullshit.” My gaze grazed the red welt on her arm. “He’s the one who should be worried about getting on my bad side.”

She smiled at my vehement response and smiling she was more than just cute. She was a wrecking ball to my resolve, Prettier in person than in any of the videos I had seen of her and so enticing in that little yellow halter top with the tempting bow dangling between her shoulder blades. I imagined untying it and taking those pins out of her hair. What would those glorious red curls feel like around my…. No… I reined those thoughts back and settled for tracing her subtle curves with my gaze instead. No sex. Not with her. Not with anyone. Not for a while. Potentially not ever. I wouldn’t put anyone at risk if there was even a chance they would get infected. Ironic to be sure. Divine justice for my own irresponsible behavior over the years.

The familiar icy dread returning, I had to remind myself that no diagnosis had actually been made. I had momentarily forgotten my apprehension in her presence. That song of hers was so fucking full of hope it had me expecting a miracle. And that hope sprang from within her. She was the source. No wonder her star had risen so fast. Just a handful of minutes with her was all it had taken for me to realize it.

“I…I wasn’t expecting to run into you tonight.” Her eyes twinkled like stars emerging in the sky as the sun relinquished its hold on the day. “I had hoped to, sure, you know, since I love…your music so much.” A few more spirally crimson curls shivered free of their pins as her hands fluttered in front of her chest. “It’s just now that I’ve actually met you for real.” She gave me that utterly beguiling guileless look. “I’ll never be able to look at your picture the same way again.”

“No reason to settle for a photograph, Fanny. You have your things to do tonight, and I’ve got mine. But afterward, there are a lot of parties. I’m sure we can manage to bump into each other again. Maybe talk some more.” Unwise, Ashland. But yet doing the ‘whoever and whatever the fuck I wanted’ rock star entitlement thing was a hard habit to crush. I might not be able to take this where I wanted with her spread out on thesheets beneath me, but I wasn’t ready for whatever the hell this was to end yet, either. So shouldn’t I leave myself an opening? Acontingency plan? I had been walking around like a zombie. But what if the diagnosis wasn’t what I feared? What if I received favorable news? What then? Who then? As I continued to stare into those starlit eyes of hers, I felt something shift and lock into place that was startlingly certain. Her. If I had a future on the other side of this, I wanted that future to include her.

“There is a reason.” She shook her head. “Samuel Lesowski. My stepfather. You two didn’t exactly hit it off.”

“You’re an adult. He doesn’t have to know everything you do, does he?”

“No.” Her face brightening, she shook her head excitedly and more curls escaped.

“What do you say then? How about this? You be just you and I’ll be just me. A girl from Beverly Hills and a guy from the beach. None of the other stuff. It’s not important. I’ve got a hurdle I have to clear next week, but afterward I can come back to LA. We could meet somewhere.”

“I don’t know.” She captured and wrapped one of her curls around her finger while blinking uncertainly at me through the thick fringe of her crimson lashes.

“There’s a coffeehouse,” I plowed over her reservations. “The Cosmic Cup in Manhattan Beach. It’s by the water. Quiet. Close enough to where you live, but a fair enough distance from the bullshit of LA. How about Wednesday at ten o’clock?”


“But nothing. You wrote that song, ‘Tomorrow Today’, right? Make every moment count. I believe that. We can’t control time, but who says we can’t manipulate it. We bumped into each other tonight for a reason. Don’t you think we owe ourselves a chance to find out what that reason is?”

Pre-order it now:


About Michelle: 

Michelle Mankin is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Records series of novels.

Rock Stars. Romance. Redemption.

Love Evolution, Love Revolution, and Love Resolution are a BRUTAL STRENGTH centered trilogy, combining the plot underpinnings of Shakespeare with the drama, excitement, and indisputable sexiness of the rock ‘n roll industry.

Things take a bit of an edgier, once upon a time turn with the TEMPEST series. These pierced, tatted, and troubled Seattle rockers are young and on the cusp of making it big, but with serious obstacles to overcome that may prevent them from ever getting there.

Rock stars, myths, and legends collide with paranormal romance in a totally mesmerizing way in the MAGIC series.

Catch the perfect wave with irresistible surfers in the ROCK STARS, SURF AND SECOND CHANCES series.

Romance and self-discovery, the FINDING ME series is a Tempest spin off with a more experienced but familiar cast of characters.

ROCK F*CK CLUB. One woman, ten rock stars. Is a woman’s sexuality hers to define or does a double standard remain? 

When Michelle is not prowling the streets of her Texas town listening to her rock or NOLA funk music much too loud, she is putting her daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends, sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend.


Fantasy Review: Roar by Cora Carmack

Roar by Cora Carmack

Published by: Tor Teen

Format: Ebook and Audiobook

Genre: Romance/Fantasy

Order at: Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Madison

What to Expect: An unlikely hero, conflicted villains, and a lot of secrets.


Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.


I stumbled upon this book when looking for an audiobook for a long car ride. Following a week of the flu, this book has become my constant companion. I highly recommend for sick days and long car rides. First and foremost I love our heroine. Aurora is an unlikely heir. She doesn’t show a lick of magic to protect her kingdom and she is forced into hiding by her mother for the fear that someone may find out her secret. She is then arranged to marry with a brooding and dark prince named Cassius from the kingdom of Locke. Don’t get heart eyes on me yet. Carmack does an amazing job at stringing you along to trust this prince and then shatters your heart within the first few chapters. I am one of those readers who will always love the first romantic interest. It’s like I have some loyalty to them. This book was the exception.

Without giving too much away Aurora finds herself in the black market of magic and teams up with a group of magical hunters. What do they hunt? Storms. Aurora cleverly devises a plan to leave with them under the guise of her new identity, Roar. Roar is bold, unafraid, and relatable. The hunters are suspicious of her. This is not a “buddy buddy perfect friendship” kind of book. The relationships are complicated and they should be. Though this is set in a fictional world I found myself relating to a lot of the characters for their human flaws.

What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: There is nothing I truly disliked. If I had to pick one thing I wish when Aurora transitioned to Roar there was a bit more awkwardness to it. Sometimes she felt so strong. She was sheltered for years. There is a description in the book that her servants were changed out so often they only knew what herbs to put in her bath. I think in the beginning when she trusted Cassius that showed this naive girl. But I wish it carried a bit more into that transition. It’s not a huge thing because there were awkward and naive moments throughout.

What you will love: The story is completely original. If you are looking for some high fantasy that you feel like you haven’t read before, this is it!The world the author built was quite lush and dynamic.

Madison is our newest reviewer here at Binge on Books! When not working on her own first novel, she loves reading YA & Fantasy and listening to podcasts.

You can get in touch with her on Twitter: @MPMarkerWrites

Romance Review: From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

Published by: Self-published

Format: Kindle Unlimited Ebook

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Tropes and Themes: ice-skating romance, enemies-to-lovers, slow slow slooooow burn

Order at: Amazon 

Reviewed by: Judith

What to Expect: Slow burn queen, Mariana Zapata, is back with a brand new enemies-to-lovers look into the world of competitive figure skating. You can expect: snarky come-backs, one liners that will make you go, “oooooh”, a big boisterous close knit family, a tough as nails heroine, and the most insufferably hot hero you will ever meet.  Read More

Fantasy Review: The Tree by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

The Tree by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

Published by: Night Shade Books

Format: eArc

Genre: Fantasy

Order at: Amazon | B & N | Kobo

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect:  A unique portal fantasy/urban fantasy hybrid with a sprawling, wonderfully diverse cast, an exciting plot, and a remarkable amount of emotional resonance. Read More

New Adult Review: Abroad, Book 2 by Liz Jacobs

Abroad: Book Two by Liz Jacobs

Published by: Brain Mill Press

Format: epub

Genre: New adult

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B & N | Kobo

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect:  Friendship, family – found and blood – the wonders and challenges of coming out, and young people finding their places in the world. A perfect new adult experience. Read More

Buddy Review: Alex and Edwin talk Apocalypse Alley by Don Allmon

Apocalypse Alley by Don Allmon

Published by: Riptide

Format: eARC

Genre: Fantasy

Release date: February 26, 2018

Order at: Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex & Edwin

What to Expect: Death Race 2000 meets Mad Max in The Matrix. Featuring a hacker, a supersoldier with side servings of the Daddiest orc in history and a terrifying cyborg assassin. Read More

Science Fiction Review: Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells

Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells

Published by: Angry Robot

Format: eARC

Genre: Science fiction

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N 

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect: Science fiction Wild West biker witches and lesbian unionists fomenting a proletarian revolution against an evil corporation. What’s not to like?

(Note: review contains spoilers for Book 1 of the series, Hunger Makes the Wolf (reviewed here, and some general discussion of plot elements in the first ¼ of this book) Read More

Edwin’s Recent Reading Roundup: Book 1 Bonanza

Over the past few months, I’ve read a number of “book ones” in multi-book series that I really enjoyed.  Here are four I’d like to highlight, all of which either have a sequel out already (in the case of the first two) or out in the next few weeks (in the case of the last two). No waiting for months before bingeing right on to the next book!

Cold Iron by Stina Leicht

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N 

The first book in what looks like it’s going to be the epic fantasy trilogy I’ve been wanting for a long time.  I primarily read epic fantasy as a teenager, and I love the sweep of it. The nation-shaking plots, the battles, the magic, the heroic effort to defeat evil.  Great stuff.  But bundled into that is a lot of reactionary pining for feudalism and how replacing a Bad King with a Good King fixes everything.

Cold Iron upends those tired tropes, and gives us an epic fantasy with a revolutionary mindset.  Our two lead characters are royal siblings, yes, but the empire they’re heirs to is kind of crappy and oppressive; at the very best the status quo is deeply flawed.  The book is not the story of how the Good Queen fixes the status quo & makes it a paradise, it’s about how the status quo collapses.  And that is altogether a very different (I’d argue more interesting) story. Throw in plenty of women characters with agency, major supporting characters who are queer, a much less prominent role for the military than is normal in fantasy societies, and a gripping plot and you have something really special.  

The best epic fantasy that I read last year, and I’m excited to read the second book, Blackthorne, which is out now.

Soul’s Blood by Stephen Graham King

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

You don’t see much queer space opera out there, and that’s what I thought I was getting when I picked up Soul’s Blood.  And it is what we start with, but it becomes apparent that that is not the book’s primary focus.  Our major characters are Keene and Lexa-Blue, along with Lexa-Blue’s sentient ship, Maverick Heart, better known as Vrick.  They’re interstellar ‘troubleshooters,’ taking on jobs of varying levels of legality to pay their way.  The book opens with a nice little heist scene, but quickly morphs into what consumes the rest of the book: a political technothriller.  One of Keene’s ex-boyfriends is CEO/King of a corporate state, and needs help resolving an escalating conflict with the genetically modified not-quite-human nation which shares his planet.   

What ensues is surprisingly character-driven, which works well because the characters are excellent.  Keene is a cocky smuggler, yes, but he also wears his heart on his sleeve, and Lexa-Blue is a riot as a hypercompetent, gives-no-fucks badass.  Arguably my favourite character, though, is Vrick. Centuries old, the product of banned technology, and a loyal friend to Keene and Lexa-Blue, he’s a marvellous creation.  This good characterisation is backed up with interesting worldbuilding and a fast moving plot.  I might have wished for the book to be a bit longer to spool out some of the relationship developments, but there are worse sins than leaving one wanting more.

Gatecrasher, Book 2 in the Maverick Heart series is out now and is, if anything, even better than Soul’s Blood.

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

I read this on the recommendation of KJ Charles, who in addition to writing great books gives good recs, so I wasn’t surprised that I really enjoyed Hunger Makes the Wolf, but I was surprised to be really blown away by it.  The basic setup is two young women on an outlying mining planet in an interstellar civilization.  One is in an outlaw motorcycle gang, the other is the niece of the gang’s leader and ends up with a prominent role in the miners’ union.  Both are altered by something weird about their planet to have ‘witchy’ powers, and are set in conflict with the big nasty corporation which runs the mining operations on the planet (and also control all interstellar travel, so we’re talking big corporation).

The setup itself is cool enough: magic SF outlaw bikers in the neo-Wild West (there is also an alien(?) I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to find sexy but totally do)! How is that not going to be awesome? But that’s not what impressed me so much.  The special thing about this book is its unrepentant howl of working class anger at pretty much everyone who exploits workers.  The church, the rich, corporate interests, all of it.  And a pretty obvious contempt for ineffectual liberal incrementalism, too. So the book is enormous amounts of fun as a science fantasy adventure, and also a big fuck you to our complacent liberal present.  

Highly recommended, and very much looking forward to book 2, Blood Binds The Pack, which is out on 1 February.

The Root by Na’amen G Tilahun

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

An unclassifiable and high quality portal fantasy/urban fantasy mashup.

A portal fantasy/urban fantasy of the highest quality. Our two leads are Erik, a former child star in San Francisco whose career has been destroyed by a scandal involving his ex-boyfriend, and Lil, basically an apprentice mage/archivist in the parallel city of ‘Zebub, where humans are an underclass to god-like beings. Both are black, an unfortunately rare situation in fantasy writing.  Both are also excellent characters.  Erik quickly discovers that he is descended from the blood of gods (or angels. Or something more than human), which gives him special powers. He’s introduced to a number of other people who share such powers, and is drawn into a fight between two factions of these children of angels.  Meanwhile, in Zebub, Lil starts off incredibly timid, but finds an enormous amount of strength & bravery as she’s drawn into a mystery of something which threatens the whole of her reality.  The plot is convoluted – in a way I enjoyed – and there are many point of view characters, so it’s hard to give more detail than that. 

Aside from the extremely creative worldbuilding and rock solid prose, there are a number of other things that made this one of the best books I read last year. I really like that Erik’s powers are related to his anger: it’s rare for queer characters in media to be allowed to be angry, for that anger to be justified, and for it to be powerful.  Erik is granted all of those things. I like that the angels are ugly; completely inhuman (and in line with some old testament descriptions).  And the diversity of the book is wonderful.  Erik’s not-quite-love-interest is Asian. A number of his friends and colleagues are queer. Powerful women with real agency abound.  It’s a fantasy where anyone can see themselves, find themselves in it, and that is a precious thing.

Book 2, The Tree, is out on January 23, and is the next book on my TBR pile.

Edwin gets grumpy if his SF/F reading doesn’t feature happy queer main characters.  Aside from that, he reads and writes for a living (though not fiction), so of course his hobby is reading, and now writing about what he reads. Why do anything else?

Connect with Edwin on Twitter: @gaybookgeek

Countdown to a New Year, December 31: Amy Jo Cousins

Countdown to a New Year, December 31: Amy Jo Cousins

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

2017 has been one damn rough year.

From the personal to the political, this year has been pretty much nonstop stress and anger and sadness for me, and I didn’t actually read a ton of new books this year. In these kinds of situations, I tend to do a lot of comfort rereading instead, especially of mystery and SFF novels, and let me tell you…my bookcase got a workout. But when I picked up a new book this year, I made some stellar choices, so I’m here to tell you about my favorite reads of 2017.

Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole makes 1917 Harlem come alive, with the politicians and nightclub owners, the prostitutes and church ladies, the immigrants and the police, the number runners and the hairdressers, all moving in and out of each other’s orbits in a tight-knit world of labor and corruption and gossip and kindness. Bertha is magnificent. She is fierce and demanding and controlling and care-taking. And Amir is angry and judgmental and kind and sexy as hell. I just loved the both of them, and the secondary characters too. This is the kind of book where, after I finished it, I wanted to turn right back to page one and start all over again. It’s fantastic. (Alyssa’s Civil War series that starts with An Extraordinary Union is also recommended, but brace yourself. I was so tense reading it, I almost gnawed my own hand off.)

My number one goal for 2018 is to get Hillary Clinton to read Hamilton’s Battalion by Sarah Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole (yes, Alyssa again!). This collection of novellas set during and after the American Revolutionary war is magnificent, bringing us one of the angriest heroines it has ever been my absolute pleasure to read, along with so many missing pieces of American history: Jewish soldiers fighting in the hope of creating a nation where they will be welcome, LGBTQ folks, people of color, and bit about cheese that really ought to be in the history books. I did the literal LOL thing, and then pages later I would find myself crying, because there’s a lot of truth, painful honesty, and compassion in this book.

Yoon Ha Lee has blogged about how he didn’t intend to write about being trans in a book, because that would touch too close to home, but realizing he’d done it anyway with Ninefox Gambit. He’s also written a brilliant military sf book about math, sacrifice, loyalty, manipulation, madness, and revolution. I found it intensely apropos to current events and brilliantly written. Oddly enough, I particularly recommend this book to Tolstoy fans, especially those who read SFF too.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson is a gorgeous story of love and magic, gods and math, wending through time and a world where men dance and war while women study. Beautiful writing, really intriguing worldbuilding, with a gorgeous and risky m/m romance, I was full of stress reading this one because I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a romance novel or a SFF novel with strong romantic elements. The HEA did not seem guaranteed, which leads to Much Anxiety. But it is indeed a romance novel, and a beautiful one.

The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres is a historical romance set in the Spanish Caribbean. The opening scene of this book hooked me in an instant, as the heroine plots to get herself into a big enough scandal to convince her fiancé to end their engagement, while the heroine’s aunt calmly ignores her every provocation. Add a conflicted but admiring hero, excellent secondary characters, a saturated sense of place, a sharp awareness of class issues, and a terrifically witty narrative voice, and this delightful book became one of my favorite historical romances of the year. 

I am a huge fan of the holiday novella and this past year of reading gave me two of my favorites: The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish and Suleikha Snyder’s story in the Silver Belles anthology, “A Taste of Blessings.” Suleikha’s story is set during the Indian holiday of Durga Puja and is full of large community gatherings, much food, and gossiping aunties. I was so happy to find it in an anthology of stories featuring characters over forty. Roan’s Corbin Wale is a fey loner who is very gently invited to share meals and friends and more by a magical baker (yes, magical) whose return to the small town where his mother lives is complicated by many feelings about his own failures and possible futures. A fairytale with a clear eye for the real world, The Remaking of Corbin Wale was a pure pleasure.

When I’m stressed (and 2017 was pretty much nonstop stress, as previously discussed), I reread more than pick up new books. This year, I did a lot of rereading, including a week-long binge of everything KJ Charles has ever written. (Happy sighs. That was awesome.) Spectred Isle by KJ Charles kicks off her latest series, the Green Men, and ties in to her Simon Feximal stories. Post WWI, a small handful of remaining occultists and arcanists are left from the wreckage of the battlefield to protect England from ever-growing magical threats. The two men who feature in Spectred Isle are wounded and jaded and pretty damn miserable, until they meet each other, figure out they’re better off working together than yelling at each other, and save the world. Not a bad day’s work.

This one’s for the epistolary fans! Zen Cho is a delightful writer, witty and kind and full of sparkling insight. The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo is recorded in the journal entries and letters of Jade Yeo, who writes articles about dress hemlines for women’s magazines and one scandalously scathing book review for a literary mag, Zen Cho’s book sings with the wittiness of Austen or KJ Charles. I love Jade’s blunt honesty and also her utter obliviousness to the lovely man who’s absolutely fallen for her.

Devin Harnois’s Rainbow Islands exists because of a tumblr post where the replies to a homophobic comment about gays and lesbians dying out if they were all sent to separate islands became the outline of a killer dystopian LGBTQ adventure novel. If I hadn’t seen that original tumblr post, I might have found the worldbuilding a little too precious, but because I had read it, the entire story was just nonstop fun.

The best nonfiction book I read this year (and one of the best I’ve ever read) is The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. We do a terrible job in this country of teaching ourselves our own history, and Rothstein’s book rewrote the past one hundred years for me, showing me how our nation’s racial segregation was codified by hundreds of laws and explicit government regulations. This book will radically change your understanding of how segregation happened and how our attempts to stop it in the future did nothing to address the calculated damage done by 20th century laws creating and enforcing systemic racial oppression.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman is a sweet, funny, Jewish f/f romance about two artists, a painter and the yarn dyer who is inspired by the painter’s color palette. This novella is a super charming, closed-door romance about two delightful women who navigate the early days of a relationship with caution and care for each other’s sore spots. It’s just lovely. 

One of the proudest bits of 2017, for me, has been my involvement in the Rogue anthologies. Kicked off on Twitter by Emma Barry’s brainstorming about a couple admitting they were in love amidst a constitutional crisis involving the president, the Rogue anthologies became the place for us to fight all our fears by writing about our hopes for those battling on the side of equality and compassion and science and the power of government service to do good and not evil, while guaranteeing nonstop HEAs. (WHICH WE ALL NEED. IT’S NOT JUST ME. THROW US A FRIGGING BONE, 2017.) I have loved reading all of my anthology-mates’ stories, but Kris Ripper’s story in Rogue Affair has a special place in my heart. A widowed female president and her bodyguard, a younger trans man, fall in love so gradually and with such care for each other, my heart was made happy.

I don’t generally do well with serials, as my impatience knows no bounds and I am easily frustrated by cliffhangers and waiting. But I started reading Mia West’s post-Roman Empire Into the Fire series when all the books were already out and collected into multi-book volumes, plus I’ve loved her Tell Me When time travel erotica series (don’t get me started about the volume that made me cry my eyes out, which was not what I expected from time travel erotica!) and her Grizzly Rim shifter books. Her writing just clicks with me. I’m still working my way through this one, rewarding myself with a new volume when I’ve accomplished something particularly onerous, and I love reading about the developing relationship between the ex-Roman soldier and the powerful blacksmith who are traveling together across the wasteland of a fallen empire.

Maybe my favorite book of 2017, period, Peter Darling by Austin Chant is magic. It’s about the loyalty of fairies and adventure, the dangers of rage and forgetting, swirling frock coats and fabulous boots, and the seductive lure of imagining yourself as the hero, even as you figure out that you might be the bad guy. It’s funny, and heartbreaking, and always, always full of hope, with a HEA that made my heart happy. “”That’s the trick of growing up. Nothing stays the same.” Hook sounded oddly sympathetic. “You see the faults in everything. Including yourself.””

Okay, so it turns out, I read even more great books in 2017 than I’d remembered. Here’s hoping 2018 reading will be done for reasons of pleasure and not mental health protection! Help me kick off the year right by telling me your favorite reads of 2017? Thank you!

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series again. Amy Jo is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

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