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

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Sports Romance Review: Down by Contact (The Barons #2) by Santino Hassell

Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Published by: Intermix

Format: mobi

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: Two hunky football stars go from ex-friends to truculent lovers to total spoony swoony macaroons. Prepare to hate at least one of them. Then, prepare to get over it. Read More

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Countdown to a New Year, December 31: Judith of Binge on Books

Countdown to a New Year, December 31: Judith of Binge on Books

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!**

Outweighing the Negatives

It has been a hard year.

Full stop.

I am one of those people who generally prefers to ignore the negative and just focus on the positive but it has been hard, y’all. Hard in so many psyche-impacting ways: politically, personally, professionally, emotionally. I’ve had my womanhood and my person attacked on several fronts, my intellect and my dreams called into question. The mudslinging has been unparalleled and the overt hate has been overwhelming.

We can all agree that 2017 was a doozy; it had so many downs that at times, I was worried that we – the book community – would never be able to bounce back. That the core of what makes us a strong and forward thinking bunch was gone for good. But we’re a resilient and all-inclusive group. Full of dreamers and doers, thinkers and thoses who find hope in the smallest of gestures. We are a rag tag motley of writers, publishers, publicists, agents, and readers that just want to see ourselves in books and in turn, allow others to see themselves. For all our differences, we’re a community that I am so grateful to be a part of.

Yes, it’s been hard but on the flipside, it’s also been a stellar year full of magical, life-changing reads and the achievement of several personal milestones. So, instead of focusing about all the bad, let’s chat about all the amazing things that happened in 2017! It’s time to outweigh the negative.

On the Books Front:

If you read some phenomenal books this year, raise your hand! At this end, I read so many fantastic reads that narrowing it down to a handful is tough but there are a few that stand out as extra special:

1. Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee: a bisexual historical caper set in England and the Continent. LOVE IT. There are duels, mad chases, lavish parties, pirates, and so much more all packed into this one book!

2. Fence by C.S. Pacat: I’ve been in love with C.S. Pacat’s writing since her seminal Captive Prince series. Fence is a queer YA comic featuring two protags who love to hate each other but man, can they fence.

3. Idlewild by Jude Sierra: while it did not come out in 2017, I certainly did read it then and am counting it as a knock out 2017 read. Superb writing and the nuanced characterization of two men learning to love…it’s so spot on.

4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: astounding fantasy YA set in the world of faerie! There is a human protagonist, a whole faerie court, and a not love story. You must read it!

On the Personal Front:

2017 rocked my world on the personal front:

1. HEA USA Today: at the end of 2016, I had the opportunity to start up a column on HEA USA Today called Rainbow Trends. That column focused on specific tropes and trends in queer romance and was a chance for me to explore them on a national forum. In 2017, Rainbow Trends is still going strong and in addition I was able to interview and promote some of my favorite diverse authors on HEA USA Today.

2. TeenVogue: if you had told me a year ago that I would be a frequent contributor to Teen Vogue by the end of 2017, I would have laughed. Seriously, laughed in your face. And yet, here I am, a frequent contributor to Teen Vogue! Talk about an amazing gig – I currently pen a queer books column for the mag and get queer books to the people who need them, teens. It has been humbling to say the least and I thank my lucky stars daily that I have this chance.

3. The Mary Sue: Starting in January 2018, I’ll be reviewing queer geeky reads for The Mary Sue! I am a book pusher, no qualms about it and this next column I’ll be penning will feature a wealth of queer reads with a slightly geeky bent. I. Cannot. Wait.

4. The release of Sight Unseen anthology: pushing the publishing envelope has always been my goal with Open Ink Press, the small pub I created in 2016. Through it I want to give authors an opportunity to take risks with their writing and craft stories that aren’t status quo. Sight Unseen is an amazing addition to this vision–the premise is simple: give authors a chance to write and publish anonymously and in turn, free them from the constraint of reader or publisher expectation. The stories Emma Barry, Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, and J.A. Rock created for the anthology went beyond my wildest expectations and were lauded on many fronts.

5. Book friendships: And finally, this year has given me an opportunity to grow and nurture so many book friendships with authors, agents, publishers, and of course, readers. It is so worthwhile to be able to talk books with a group of smart, well-versed people and I cannot wait to see what 2018 has in store.

Some promises to myself (not resolutions):

1. Ask for help when I need it. If you know me personally in any capacity, you’ll know that I love to work myself to a state of overwhelm. Seriously. Living on 2-3 hours of sleep and trying to accomplish practically EVERYTHING is a clear indicator that I am not very good at asking for help from others. This year I am promising to do that…at least a little bit.

2. Treat myself with kindness. So rarely do we allow ourselves to be kind to ourselves. We have to be kind to others, to those who do us a bad turn, to those who are jerks, to those we really want to punch in the face. We have to be kind in the face of petty slights and stupid crap but we hardly ever find time to forgive ourselves and treat ourselves kindly. Well, screw that! This year I’m treating myself with kindness. I’m not going to beat myself up all the time about dumb stuff. I’m not going to expect perfection because that’s not plausible and frankly, it is a little boring.

3. Make myself and my wants a priority. Fin.


Judith is the owner and curator of the book review site Binge on Books, as well as the boutique press Open Ink and the literary PR agency, A Novel Take PR. You can also find Judith on HEA USA Today with her LGBTQ romance column Rainbow Trends, and on Teen Vogue talking her favorites in queer YA and New Adult.

Connect with Judith: @bingeonbooks


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Countdown to a New Year, December 30: Layla Reyne

Countdown to a New Year, December 30: Layla Reyne

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!**

Reading Outside the Box

My first year published was crazy. Awesome, but crazy. A lot of writing, a lot of editing, and a lot of promo for the four releases I put out, including my debut, Single Malt. That said, I still managed to squeeze in some reading here and there. Since I was writing either romantic suspense for the Whiskey Verse or sports romance for my Changing Lanes duology, I focused my reading outside those genres. I got cozy again with paranormal/fantasy romance and dipped my toe (then my whole body) into historical romance. Here are just a few of my favorite outside the box reads from 2017!

Paranormal / Fantasy Romance

Peter Darling by Austin Chant – I am admittedly late to this party, but I come bearing champagne for a marvelous read! I was never a fan of Peter Pan, so I’d hesitated reading this retelling, but I’m so glad I took the chance. This book was lyrical, magical, romantic, and thought-provoking. Everything I could want, and now I can’t wait for the rumored sequel.

The Community Series by Santino Hassell – This one’s a little bit of a cheat for me given the suspense element, but the psychic aspect is definitely paranormal. While each book featured a different main couple, I appreciated how well each story built on the last, continued to expand The Community world, and furthered the overarching plot. All that while still maintaining the steamy heat and gritty New York atmosphere we expect from Santino’s books.

Wolfsong by TJ Klune – This coming-of-age story involving a human among a pack of shifter wolves was exciting, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I don’t read many shifter romances, or many coming of age stories, but everything about this book—from the writing, to the characters, to the plot, to the fated mates (two alphas: one wolf, one human)—was just lovely. (Technically, a 2016 release.)

Historical Romance

Sins of the Cities Series by KJ Charles – Last year, I read and loved KJ’s Society of Gentlemen series, my first real foray into historical romance. I had no idea what I’d been missing! Sins of the Cities carried on what I love best about KJ’s books—great plotting, a mystery that keeps me engaged, and swoon worthy heroes. I mean, Justin Lazarus… His redemption arc put him firmly among my top ten romantic leads.

The Turners Series by Cat Sebastian – If KJ’s books were the lure that got me interested in historical romance, Cat’s stories reeled me the rest of the way in. The Lawrence Browne Affair is hands down my favorite book of 2017, and Cat’s writing, her characters, and her deft handling of modern topics in a historical context is marvelous. It Takes Two to Tumble, Cat’s latest, promises more of the same!

The Enlightenment Series by Joanna Chambers – The push and pull tension in this opposites-attract romance remained high throughout the three-book series. Watching David and Murdo fall in love, try to resist, then ultimately realize they couldn’t live without each other, all while set against the Scottish ton and country backdrop, was page-turning catnip. I couldn’t put it down! (Technically, a re-pub.)


About Layla Reyne: 

Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its San Francisco, Kiss of Death, and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. She was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

Her next release is a contemporary m/m romance called Relay, out on 1/8/18.


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Countdown to a New Year, December 29: Erin Finnegan

Countdown to a New Year, December 29: Erin Finnegan

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!**

THINGS I LEARNED IN 2017 THAT EVERYONE ELSE ALREADY KNEW

I’m a believer in lifelong learning. I witness it every day as the caretaker of my elderly father, who is currently teaching himself how to code.

Inspired by this, maybe, I tried to assess what I learned this year. Specifically, what did I learn about books?

One lesson stood out. It ends up, I was just catching up on what so many others already knew: Young Adult fiction is awesome, even for those of us who haven’t been teenagers in awhile.

When Young Adult began its steep ascent in publishing, I didn’t think I’d be a fan. Too much dystopia, too many stories about kids asking the questions I’d already answered for myself, and didn’t care to revisit.

Was I ever wrong. If 2017 showed me anything, it was that YA isn’t just a genre for high school students and Hollywood scouts. The very best of the genre serve as a bellwether for change, as an index for where literature and culture are headed. It can push old boundaries, and teach us lessons about both ourselves and others, and hint at how the next generation of thought leaders will shape the world.

And the best in this genre in 2017 wasn’t just the best YA of the year, it was some of the very best of the year’s fiction.

Case in point: Angie Thomas’ brilliant The Hate You Give. Along with a lot of other readers, it was my book of the year not only because it entertained, but because it made me stop, go back, re-read, and think. The characters are so vivid, the dialogue so on-point, and the story fleshed out in the realist of realism: so-called bad guys sometimes do honorable things, and good guys sometimes lapse. Not every story is clear-cut.

I was sickened but not surprised to hear that a Texas school district banned THUG. In this current political climate, it may have been inevitable. They couldn’t be more wrong. This isn’t a book you keep out of kids’ hands. This is a book that belongs in every high school library in this country.

Young Adult books may tell us about community and our place in it, but they are so often at their core coming of age novels. And I learned this year that coming of age doesn’t have to be an instruction manual. It can be relevant long past your teen years.

Coming of age should be about introspection, about learning something about yourself, and when its done well—whether combined with fantasy or romance or action/adventure—it has the power to connect with anyone, of any age.

My favorite example of 2017 (and there were several) was the book that was so ballsy as to spoil it’s ending in the title: Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End. Ultimately, it makes sense, because dying isn’t the point of this well-written novel—it’s about how you use the time you have.

YA can also be just plain fun, and in this world of daily (sometimes hourly) WTF-ery, we can use a little laughter.  Sound good? Try F.T. Lukens’ The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic. A friend accurately described this wonderfully weird and wild ride as being “a literary version of the waiting room in Beetlejuice.” It’s fast, it’s wild, it had me laughing out loud—while still making a point about being true to yourself, no matter how daunting that may be.


Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and PR flack who now spends a lot of time thinking about and occasionally writing books in her home outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador (Interlude Press, 2016) was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016 and was named the best independently-published romance of 2016 by Foreword Reviews. She is also the author of Sotto Voce (2014) and Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille, part of the Interlude Press anthology, If the Fates Allow.

Connect with Erin on her website: http://www.erin-finnegan.com/


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Countdown to a New Year, December 28: Jude Sierra

Countdown to a New Year, December 28: Jude Sierra

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!**

When I reflect on 2017, it’s hard not to think of all of the things that have been weighing on us. As a country. As a community. In my life, as an educator and as a mother. Of the number of times I have cried and thought, how am I going to raise children in this world?

Do I want to walk into 2018 with these fears and worries? In a perfect world, I could blithely say I’d let them go. But I doubt the world will do the same just because an arbitrary date passes on a calendar. I many ways, I think we’re walking into harder days. And yet, in this struggle, there is tremendous potential.

The truth is that the only thing in my life I can control is me. My actions. My responses, my capacity to give love, understanding, understanding, and faith. Not my faith in a god or religion, but in people. In goodness, in strength and resilience, in the will to overcome.

Many of these things are moments that come from wellness practice in my own life. Every moment of my life – particularly a year such as this, with the additional strain of finishing my Masters and going right into a PhD – is geared toward making sure I am doing my best to manage my mental illness. To be successful, a good mother, a writer and student, a teacher and a human all at once.

I don’t know how much of a true or lasting impact I can have within our LGBT romance community – I write slow like a turtle, so I’m off and on people’s radars. But I am there from time to time, and I have a voice. I’ve spent this year crafting a story from my heart. I wrote A Tiny Piece of Something Greater while writing my thesis. I wrote a character, Reid, who lives with the same mental illness I do (cyclothemia). I wrote a story about a boy overcoming, managing, falling in love, and surviving. Learning through mistakes and missteps to thrive. I wrote things in that book that were so honest they cracked me open – I cried through the whole process of writing this book. I had anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I slept like a baby because of the catharsis. I wrote a beautiful story about resilience and spent a year practicing (or trying) to practice Reid’s fight and success. Not just because I was writing it, but because the world today calls for it.

2017 has been a really good year for *finally* seeing good MI representation in books. There’s been some fantastic #ownvoices stuff, but also, authors without mental illness doing their research. Getting sensitivity readers. Asking questions. And so importantly, not using MI as a plot device to move something else forward without understanding what our lives and struggles are. I am not a plot device. And while A Tiny Piece of Something Greater won’t be out until May of 2018, I think that there are takeaways from writing that book and getting ready to share it that dovetail with so much else happening this year that I’m going to pack up in little boxes and take with me. That I hope we can all take together.

We are resilient.

We are fighters.

We have experienced success.

We’re fighting through missteps.

We are waking up.

We are awake.


Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who  began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007. In 2011Jude was introduced to the Glee fan community began writing fanfiction, where her stories garnered thousands of readers.

Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews.  Her novels include Hush,  What it Takes,  and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will be available in May of 2018.

Social Media Links: Website Twitter Goodreads Facebook


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Countdown to a New Year, December 27: Jay from Joyfully Jay

Countdown to a New Year, December 27: Jay, Owner of Joyfully Jay

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!**

Thanks so much to Judith for inviting me to stop by today! I am so excited to be included in this event!

This is a fun time of year as a blogger because I am thinking about the fabulous books I have read this year, as well as looking forward to new ones to read in the coming year. I have already shared my Best of 2017 on my blog, Joyfully Jay, so you can check that out here (along with Best of 2017 lists from many of my reviewers). So I thought today it might be fun to look ahead to some books I am anticipating for next year. These are all sequels to stories I have loved and I can’t wait for the next installments.

Down by Contact by Santino Hassell (January 16) – I went totally crazy for the first book in this series, Illegal Contact. There is a nice opposites attract vibe, as well as a fun insider look into the life of a professional athlete. Plus I totally loved the vibe of the story and the two guys together. We meet Simeon in that first book and he is one of the MCs in the second story. I am definitely intrigued by him and can’t wait to check it out!

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian (July 15) – Sebastian’s debut book, The Soldier’s Scandal, just blew me away (me and everyone else it seems) and the series as a whole was just fabulous. I wondered if she could repeat the feat with her newest series, Seducing the Sedgewicks, and its first book It Takes Two to Tumble. So I am happy to say I went crazy for this one too and found it a delightful historical with a great dynamic between the MCs. The Sedgewick men are really fascinating and I am highly looking forward to Hartley’s story coming next.

Agent Bayne by Jordan Castillo Price (January 2018) – I get excited every time I hear there is a new story coming in Jordan Castillo Price’s PsyCops world. This is one of my favorite series in the genre and I adore Vic and Jacob beyond reason and I love the blend of romance, suspense, and paranormal. I was lucky enough to hear the author read an excerpt from the book at GRL this year, and it just whet my appetite for more (you can check the excerpt out here on her blog). So I am dying to follow along for this latest adventure.

Ravensong (July 2018) and A Wish Upon the Stars (March 2018) by T.J. Klune – I am a huge T.J. Klune fan and these series highlight how well the author can move from comedy to dramatic intensity so well. Ravensong is the sequel to the fabulous Wolfsong, a shifter story that sucked me in and left me emotionally wrung out but totally happy at the end. I loved Klune’s unique take on the common shifter trope and I am looking forward to getting back into this world. A Wish Upon the Stars is the fourth book in Klune’s Tales from Verania series, a completely hysterical fantasy featuring an apprentice wizard, his best friends (a hornless unicorn and a half giant), and his dreamy knight commander boyfriend. I am currently listening to book 2 in this series, A Destiny of Dragons, in audio, and it is laugh out loud in the grocery story funny. I can’t wait for more in this fabulous series.

Breaker of Chains by Jordan L. Hawk – Hawk is perhaps best known for her phenomenal Whyborne & Griffin series (and I am an enormous fan). But her urban fantasy/paranormal SPECTR series is another one of my favorites, so much so that I read the first six books in the serial in about three days. Once I started, I could not put it down! Not only that, but while I was visiting Charleston this summer I gave myself the SPECTR tour of the city and visited a bunch of spots that are featured in the books. We are now on to the second season and I love the suspense and paranormal elements here, but particularly the fascinating dynamic between the three main characters, John, Gray, and Caleb. They have such a unique relationship and I can’t wait for the next step on their journey.

Arden St. Ives series, book 3 by Alexis Hall (February 2018) – I just finished the second installment of this series, How to Blow it with a Billionaire, and was once again blown away by this story that combines a fabulously quirky and humorous narrator with his reserved billionaire not quite boyfriend. The ending of this second book leaves us hanging and I am DYING to see how it all resolves. These books are full of both intensity and playfulness and I can not wait to read the conclusion.

So there you have it, seven sequels that I am looking forward to for 2018. If you haven’t had a chance to check out these series, I can highly recommend them all. And I’d love to hear what you are looking forward to reading next year!


Jay is a wife, mom, blogger, and cat wrangler. She is an avid reader and lover of beaches, lazy days, and all things chocolate and peanut butter. Jay loves m/m romance and has been reading the genre for about 8 years. She averages about 4 books a week and loves to talk about them with readers.

You can find Jay over at her blog, Joyfully Jay.  We review all subgenres of GLBT romance, focusing primarily on male/male stories. Joyfully Jay runs about 20 reviews per week, as well as hosting daily guest posts from a variety of authors.  

Jay also hangs out on Twitter or Facebook and always loves meeting fellow readers!


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

Prize Pack #7:

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

Stray City by Chelsey Johnson

Prize Pack #8:

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Feeder by Patrick Weekes

 Prize Pack #9:

Release by Patrick Ness

And She Was by Jessica Verdi

Miles Away From You by A.B. Rutledge 

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Grand Prize: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0345/


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Countdown to a New Year, December 26: J.R. Gray

Countdown to a New Year, December 26: J.R. Gray

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!**

This year was hard. I feel like I’m overreacting when I say it was, because I know there are so many people who experienced far worse. I’m usually the suffer in silence type, and I don’t like to talk about my feelings.

Writing for me had always been easy, until it wasn’t. I’ve written since I was a child, as a therapy for myself. It was a way to get my emotions out. Throughout the years I have put different parts of myself into each character I’ve written. It has been wonderful. Then shit got crappy last year. I was living in a place I wasn’t a huge fan of and I had so much hope for the election but it all went to hell. There was a lot of false hope throughout this past year as well. Ups followed by huge downs, including my basic rights threatened. I didn’t know how to get through it. This wasn’t my typical write through feelings I’m experiencing on a personal level. These were feelings I had on a global level. It was fear for the future.

On top of being depressed, and dealing with stresses from my life, (normal stuff with kids and family most people deal with) I was completely uninspired. It was a task to get through my day. I had nothing left to create. Every time I got online it was opening the valve and letting what was going on in the world, things I care deeply about, affect me more. I called, and fought and reblogged, so my voice would get heard, but the stress of worrying what could happen if some of those things got passed was exhausting and it added to my depression and lack of creativity.

I’ve also always suffered with imposters syndrome, which got bad this past year. I had a lot of talks with myself about why I’m still doing this, and I thought a lot about quitting. It’s a lot of work for not a lot of pay, and when I wrote as a kind of therapy why not publish it and share it? But if I had to force myself to sit down and do this writing thing again, was it worth it? I went back and forth on this a lot. I missed it at times. I missed creating, but I still had nothing to create.

So for NaNo this year I knew I had to decide if I could still do this. I didn’t tell anyone that was my plan, but I wanted to see for myself. Since I’ve done double NaNo in the past, 100,000 words in a month, 50,000 words was doable. So I picked a book that was so close to my heart. One I’ve been needing to write for a long time, that I thought might help me get through a lot of the things I’ve been feeling.

I’ve discovered the more I create, the more creative I feel. The more I’m writing, the more ideas I have. The more new plot bunnies I have. It was hard to get back into the groove of writing. I had lost all of my stamina for it. It was a drag to get 500 words out. Let alone the 2k-5k I used to do every single day. I’m still not there, but because of this epic writing group I have, it’s getting a lot better. I have been holding myself accountable and using Pacemaker to keep track. It’s a work in progress and I’m a work in progress. But I love what I do and I want to keep putting out books I need and needed. I have plans for Queer YA. I’m on track to have four books out in 2018 and it feels good to be out of my funk.


When not staying up all night writing, J.R Gray can be found basking in the warm glow of the Miami sun, or at the gym where it’s half assumed Gray is a permanent resident. A dominant, pilot, and sword fighting enthusiast, Gray finds it hard to be in the passenger seat of any car. Gray frequently interrupts real life, including normal sleep patterns, to jot down nonsense. The bane of Gray’s existence are commas, and even though it’s been fully acknowledged they are necessary, they continue to baffle and bewilder.

If Gray wasn’t writing…well, that’s not possible. The build up of untold stories would haunt Gray into an early grave or possibly a mental institution where the tales would end up on the walls in crayon and finger paint.

J.R. Gray is Gender Queer and prefers He/Him/His pronouns.

Forsaken is J.R. Gray’s next book which will release at the end of February 2018.

About Forsaken: Titus has lived and breathed religion his entire life, tucked away from the rest of the world in a compound in northern Wyoming. He’s destined to be the next leader of the church, deemed so by the Profit.
God spoke and with His word He created. But God made a mistake. Titus isn’t worthy. He was born sick and it’s solidified when he rescues the most beautiful man he’s ever seen.
Torn between fidelity to his faith or his soul, Titus must reconcile the two parts of himself before he’s discovered hiding among the chosen.
Learn more about Gray and his books on Jrgraybooks.com.

Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

Prize Pack #7:

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

Stray City by Chelsey Johnson

Prize Pack #8:

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Feeder by Patrick Weekes

 Prize Pack #9:

Release by Patrick Ness

And She Was by Jessica Verdi

Miles Away From You by A.B. Rutledge 

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Countdown to a New Year, December 25: Santino Hassell

Countdown to a New Year, December 25: Santino Hassell

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!**

Looking at 2017 with Fresh Eyes

I think most of us can agree that 2017 was a very rough year. Personally, the political climate created a situation that often left me feeling uncertain, frightened, and cynical about everything ranging from the future of the world to my future as a writer. I know many other creatives found themselves blocked this past year because of the constant bombardment of negativity and tumult, so it was difficult to enjoy life even when things were going well.

This blog post will primarily be about me forcing myself to look back on 2017 with fresh eyes, and a small measure of optimism, that things can get better going forward. After all, it can’t rain all the time, right? (If you don’t get my The Crow reference… I don’t even know what to think).

Warning: This blog post will be me talking about things that I want to celebrate. If it comes off as braggy, I apologize in advance, but as someone with terrible anxiety and a pretty pervasive mood of unhappiness and depression, me trying to celebrate shit is kind of a Big Deal. I tend to only focus on the bad, and I’m actively trying to stop doing that type of thing.

Things I Wish I’d Celebrated More, a List:

1 – Solidifying friendships and seeing my Romancelandia friends.

This is a pretty big deal for me! For years, most of my closest friendships have been with people online, and I’ve met amazing folks via Romancelandia. As someone who is fairly grumpy and introverted with a solitary career like writing, those things tend to combine to turn me into someone who spends a lot of time alone. I appreciate my alone time, but after a while it’s undeniably isolating. But in 2017, I got to spend time with my tribe! I went to Shameless Book Con again and spent time with so many awesome people, I had a Family Vacation with Megan Erickson and her husband, I met my editor and publicists at Penguin, I hung out with my amazing virtual PA Keyanna Butler, and I got to hang out with Roan Parrish, Avon Gale, and Piper Vaughn for an awesome weekend in New Orleans. I realized that human contact is actually super important sometimes, especially with other people in the industry, and I’m making an effort to see my people way more in 2018.

2 – Releasing eight books. Holy shit.

I see a lot of think pieces on how people who write and release fast must be trash writers, etc, and sometimes I let that lead to me doubting myself. I wonder if I’m creating, like, a weird surplus of books, or if people will get tired of me, and those doubts were pervasive in 2017. In reality, if I look back with clear eyes, I never felt like I rushed through these projects just to throw them out there. I enjoyed writing each and every book even if I struggled with some projects more than others, and I’m proud of them all.

3 – I was nominated for a RITA!

This was an amazing and humbling experience, and not something I expected to happen. My primary thought looking back is that I wish I’d attended RWA with Megan Erickson, my co-writer for FAST CONNECTION—the book that was nominated. I’d have worn my Yankees cap to the awards ceremony.

4 – I read so much more than I did in 2016!

I’m a workaholic, and I tend to ignore things like self-care. With self-care comes reading for enjoyment, and I had neglected that for a long time. In 2017, I forced myself to make time to read. I’m not a fast reader, so I was limited to one book per week, but I fell in love with so many books. Two authors I just started reading this year who I absolutely adore are Molly O’Keefe and Austin Chant. I remembered what it meant to escape through books, and it did so much for my well-being.

5 – In 2017, I made a conscious choice to make writing my primary career. There was a moment where I debated quitting, but I rebounded from that with serious future plans. I’m ending the Five Boroughs series in mid-2018, I have plans for two new co-written series, I’m continuing Cyberlove, I’ll be writing a romantic suspense novel and posting it on Patreon, I have more Barons coming in 2018 and 2019, and I’ll have a M/F trilogy coming in 2019 and 2020 (this will be in, like, actual bookstores). I’ve also decided to eventually try my hand writing queer YA.

Basically, I love writing, I love romance, I love writing about queer people, and I will continue to write these stories until there’s no more left in my head. 2017 was the year when I nearly decided to set my passion aside, but hopefully 2018 is the year when I only look ahead while doing my work.


About Santino Hassell:

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.

He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Connect with Santino: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB Group | FB | GR | Tumblr


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

Prize Pack #7:

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

Stray City by Chelsey Johnson

Prize Pack #8:

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Feeder by Patrick Weekes

 Prize Pack #9:

Release by Patrick Ness

And She Was by Jessica Verdi

Miles Away From You by A.B. Rutledge 

Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter the other 12 giveaways featuring swag, ARCs, and Final copies of books by your favorites!

Prize Packs 1 – 3: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0341/

Prize Packs 4 – 6: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0342/

Prize Packs 10 – 12: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0344/

Grand Prize: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0345/


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The Best Books I’ve Read Recently

Hey guys! It’s Judith!

I know, I know – I so rarely have a chance to review but this week? I’m on vacation! Which means that instead of just eating and drinking and doing absolutely nothing but enjoy the hedonistic pleasures of the season, I’ve been reading! Lots and lots of books! ALL THE BOOKS!

A few were such standouts, I am coming out of vacation hibernation to urge you all to read them, because yes, they were just that good. Read More

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