Historical YA review: And I Darken & Now I Rise by Kiersten White

And I Darken & Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #1 and #2) by Kiersten White

Published by: Penguin Random House

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Historical YA

Order at: Amazon

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: What if Vlad the Impaler was actually a woman? What if a despot’s rise to power could be told sympathetically such that a reader could understand it? And maybe even root for said despot? This trilogy sets out with these questions in mind. People…the third and last book of the series, Bright We Burn, will be coming out in July. Read these and be ready for the conclusion of this dangerous and impeccably researched trilogy. Read More

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Anthology Review: Teacher’s Pet, an anthology from Nine Star Press

Teacher’s Pet

Published by: Nine Star Press

Format: ePub

Genre: Romance

Order at: Amazon

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: HEA’s from emerging writers, all exploring that forbidden attraction that occurs between the teacher, professor, tutor, or mentor. Several gems enclosed.

Read More

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Guest Post: All the Queer Love Stories by Pene Henson

All the queer love stories

I value queer love stories. I’m here for a femme geek tripping up the stairs when she first sees her hot neighbour. I’m here for a bright-eyed city socialite trapped in a snowbound cabin with a gloriously competent hermit girl. I’m here for a fireman catching his breath to exchange flirty banter with a clothing designer or Olympic diving rivals growing to respect and then love one another. I’m here for a charmer of a non-binary person reconnecting with a love they thought they’d lost. I’m here for a trans guy realising the love he considered unrequited is so very not.  

Like many queer folk with a soft spot for a love story, I grew up on straight romance.

Harry’s romantic New Year’s Eve speech to Sally in When Harry Met Sally is a lesson in knowing someone and loving all of them. The ball players of Love and Basketball share a fierce respect and growing understanding. When Monica tells Quincy “I’ve been in love with you since I was eleven, and the shit won’t go away,” we feel every part of her pain and hope. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s Kathleen says “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.” And we wanted it too. Even though we knew it all along.

Jane Austen, my oldest favourite, understands the small details of love and respect. Emma’s Mr. Knightley has known Emma all her life and chokes out “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”; Captain Wentworth pens a desperately romantic and reverent letter to his long-ago love Anne in Persuasion.

There are thousands on thousands of moments of straight romance. The best of it becomes a benchmark for love in real life.

There’s value in having benchmarks. It’s important to believe that you’re worth the dazzling awe of new love. It’s a sheer joy to experience that stomach-flipping heart-pausing moment when all feelings are laid bare. Even the fluffiest romance can make a person happy, and when time’s been spent on character, when respect is given to reality, then that same fluffy romance can make the whole world better.

It’s not just the romancey side of romance (The kissing part my kid closes his ten-year-old eyes for). Love stories tend to be kind to their characters. The stories are full of tiny human observations about how people think and move and what they do when they’re happy or sad or successful or frustrated.  In them the ordinary becomes beautiful. Any dim view or grey room or commonplace person is suddenly bright and beautiful when a character is in love.  

But it’s tough, because most of these wonderful stories are heterosexual. You can’t just replace Billy Crystal with Cher in your imagination. You can’t just replace Sanaa Lathan with Anthony Mackie. (Though both those movies sound amazing). So many love stories are inherently not queer, and they give us queer folk the idea that we can’t ask for something that magical, or wonderful, or silly, or forever.

There’s sometimes this sense that queerness is just about sex. That queer romance is primarily about exploring sexuality and people’s fantasies. And sure, often that exploration is fabulous and important and for some people just plain hot. There’s value in sex.  

But I also want queer people to have touchstones for romance, to have all the huge sweet speeches, all the stomach twisting moments of new love. I want them to have the meet-cutes, the eyes-catching across a crowded room, the heart-flipping terrifying moments of falling head over heels for someone. I want the depth too, the rich characterisation and the big lives. I want the lonely hearts and the communities of queer folk laughing and living with one another. I want all the queer love stories. (I wish I could write all the queer love stories – But I’m going to have to leave the witty banter to other writers).  

Queer romance is about giving queer characters happiness, giving them a place in the everyday world, giving them communities and dreams, and giving them a happily ever after.

My hope is that queer people can see themselves reflected in that happiness.  That’s why I write queer love stories. They won’t change the world, except in all the ways they will.


About Pene Henson:

Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the local LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time watching sports and gazing at the ocean with her wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. She received the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance for her first novelInto the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) about surfers growing up on the North Shore of Oahu. Storm Season, about two women trapped in a remote Australian cabin, was published in 2017. She had a short story about WNBA players going home for Christmas in If The Fates Allow (Interlude Press, 2017) an anthology of queer holiday stories.

Connect with Pene: www.penehenson.com or @penehenson on twitter.

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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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Countdown to a New Year, December 23: Sheena, Owner of The Lesbian Review

Countdown to a New Year, December 23: Sheena, Owner of The Lesbian Review

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!**

5 Great Things That Happened In Lesbian Fiction In 2017

This year has been a year of many things for the globe, some really scary, which is why I was totally ecstatic about these 5 great things that happened in lesbian fiction.

1. Diversity

For the first time, we are seeing authors and publishers actively looking for diversity in their lesbian fiction. Readers are calling for increased representation for women of colour, differently abled women, bisexual women and asexual women.

And while these books are not selling as well as the traditional white, lesbian leading lady does, I strongly believe that it will as the audience comes to recognise that diversity is the best thing that could happen to the sector.

The reason I say this is because with diversity comes a range of stories that you just cannot tell with white lesbian leading ladies. And diversity will ultimately crack open a whole host of exciting prospects for the sector.

2. Audiobooks

I believe that audiobooks are going to be huge. They are a convenient way for consumers to get their fiction fix while keeping busy with the 101 things that occupy our days.

To see the lesbian fiction section of Audible grow the way it has in the last year makes me a very happy woman.

3. Rise of The Incidental Lesbian

I coined the term incidental lesbian to describe a main character in fiction who just happens to be a lesbian.

Incidental lesbians occur in stories that do not depend on the main character being a lesbian, such as a thriller or mystery. Romance is an example of a story that does depend on her being a lesbian because if she weren’t she could not fall in love with the other lesbian, but solving a case does not rely on her sexuality.

There is a definite increase in the incidental lesbian and I hope to see that even more in the coming years. The more we see this kind of character the more chances that the story can hop across to mainstream fiction. And, let’s face it, we need way more incidental lesbians in the mainstream fiction world. But then again, my viewpoint is always that the world needs more lesbians.

4. Marketing Glory

A surprising but important occurrence in lesbian fiction has been an increase in authors taking a stab at promoting their books. We have had an increase in authors reaching out to us for reviews, there has been an increase in the number of authors promoting their work on social media and newsletters.

There have also been a handful of authors who are actively creating promotional platforms for the lesbian fiction sector.

I am thrilled.

Lesbian fiction is tiny in comparison to mainstream fiction and while the market is smaller, it is not nearly the size it should be relative to the amount of lesbians who read.

The problem is that so many lesbians have no idea that world class fiction representing them is just a mouse click away. The increase in marketing means that more women will discover this wonderful sector.

5. Fresh New Blood

Lesbian fiction was a little bit like a musty old attic for a while with a handful of big names putting out regular books, a couple of publishing houses doing their thing and a lot of mediocre rubbish making it onto the circuit.

Over the last couple of years we have seen a major dusting out as exciting new authors, new publishing houses and new voices push the sector to become better.

I can barely contain my excitement because this wave of fresh new blood in the industry has meant that world class books are being published.

To see such brilliance emerging from the tiny sphere of lesbian fiction is a most exciting thing for an avid reader like myself.

So, while the world is on the brink of massive change, I am sitting with my head buried in my kindle and wondering if it is even possible for the books of 2018 to be anywhere near as good as the books of 2017 were. And then I remember that I wondered that at the end of 2016 and was pleasantly surprised.


About Sheena: Sheena’s first love (other than her wife) is reading lesbian fiction, so in 2014 she started www.TheLesbianReview.com as a way to share books she loved. Little did she know it would turn into the largest review website in the sector, nor did she have an inkling that she would also start www.TheLesbianTalkShow.com a podcast channel with a variety of women focused shows including a couple of her own podcasts.

You can find The Lesbian Talk Show on iTunes, Podbean or Stitcher.

You can find The Lesbian Review on Facebook and Twitter.

Sheena is active on both platforms and you can also email her.


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

Prize Pack #4:

Sparrow by Sarah Moon

Three Sides of A Heart anthology 

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Prize Pack 5:

Meet Cute Anthology

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson

Prize Pack #6:

Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

People Like Us by Dana Mele

Enter now!

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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 7 – 9: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0343/

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


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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 27 with J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her paranormal romance, The Grand Ballast.


About The Grand Ballast: 

In a future where live sex shows abound to keep a jaded population entertained, dancer Bode Martin falls for the brilliant and unstable Kilroy Ballast, who molds Bode into the star attraction of his erotic circus, the Grand Ballast. Drugged beyond any real feeling, Bode trades freedom and his once considerable pride for an illusion of tenderness—until he inadvertently rescues a young man from a rival show, and together they flee to an eccentric town in the west where love still means something.

Valen’s not an easy man to know, and Bode shed his romantic notions under Kilroy’s brutal employ. Yet their growing bond becomes a strange and dangerous salvation as they attempt to overthrow the shadows of their pasts and wade together through a world of regret, uncertainty, beauty, and terror.

But Kilroy won’t let Bode go so easily. Long ago, Bode was responsible for the loss of something Kilroy held dear, and he still owes Kilroy a debt. As the three men battle toward a tangled destiny, Bode must decide if his love for Valen is worth fighting for—or if he was and always will be a pawn in the story Kilroy Ballast will never stop telling.



About J.A. Rock: 

J.A. Rock is the author of over twenty LGBTQ romance and suspense novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A.’s books have received Lambda Literary, INDIEFAB, and EPIC Award nominations, and 24/7 was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

Website: http://www.jarockauthor.com

Blog: http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 20 with Mary Fan

Mary Fan joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her YA dark fantasy novella, Firedragon Rising.


About Firedragon Rising: 

Sinister plots. An underground rebellion. And a treacherous road filled with monsters and enemies unknown.

It’s been three months since Aurelia survived the International Challenge—an elite monster-fighting competition. And the Triumvirate has been keeping a close eye on her ever since … as if they expect her to cause them more trouble.

They’re right.

Now that she knows about the underground revolution—and the dark secrets of her own past—Aurelia is hell-bent on escaping the government’s watchful gaze and joining the rebels. Finally, she’s found a cause worth fighting for. A way for her kind, the Norms, to take back their freedom.

Then, when she overhears a Triumvirate official’s conversation, she learns that it’s even worse than she realized. The government knows about the rebels, and the rebellion. They’re searching for people who sympathize with the cause. And they’re coming after her next.

Suddenly the time for dreaming about the rebellion is over. Aurelia must make contact with the rebels and plot a quick escape … before the Triumvirate has a chance to capture her. But government forces and miles of monster-filled wilderness stand between her and the rebel headquarters, and dangers she never imagined lurk in the shadows.

Before she can fight for the freedom of her people, she must achieve her own—or die trying.

Find it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.



About Mary Fan:

Mary Fan writes sci-fi/fantasy and young adult books about intrepid heroines and fantastical worlds. Her books include the JANE COLT space opera trilogy, STARSWEPT (YA sci-fi), and the FATED STARS novellas (YA high fantasy). The FIREDRAGON novellas (The Firedragon, Firedragon Rising) are prequels to her YA dark fantasy novel, FLYNN NIGHTSIDER AND THE EDGE OF EVIL, which will be released on May 15, 2018 from Crazy 8 Press.

Mary is also the co-editor of the BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthologies about girls doing techy things in sci-fi worlds. The goal of these anthologies is to encourage more girls to explore STEM fields and raising money for the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund.
Visit her at www.MaryFan.com.
Twitter: @astralcolt
Instagram: @astralcolt


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 13 with Megan Erickson

Megan Erickson joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her paranormal romance, Blood Guard.


About Blood Guard: 

Tendra: One minute, I’m a bartender in gritty Mission City; the next, I’m whisked away by a vampire named Athan who tells me that I’m the lifeblood of his clan. It sounds unbelievable, but he’s got evidence I can’t deny. Turns out, Athan belongs to an underground society of vampires who feed only on humans with their consent. Their enemies have no such qualms, and they want me dead. The only thing standing in their way is strong, sexy Athan. And the closer we get, the more tempted I am to let Athan feed. . . .

Athan: How could I have known when I snatched this snarky, beautiful human off the streets that she would change my destiny? As a loyal soldier, I must deliver Tendra to our future king—my brother. Empowered with the blood of ten generations of the Gregorie breed, she is fated to rule as our queen. But there’s something between us that’s so intoxicating, so carnal, I can’t help wanting Tendra for myself . . . even if it’s treason.



About Megan Erickson: 

Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she likes writing her own endings better.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.

She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Get Blood Guard here.


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 6 with Jordan L Hawk

Jordan L Hawk joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from paranormal romance Dangerous Spirits.


About Dangerous Spirits:

After the events of Reyhome Castle, Henry Strauss expected the Psychical Society to embrace his application of science to the study of hauntings. Instead, the society humiliates and blacklists him. His confidence shaken, he can’t bring himself to admit the truth to his lover, the handsome medium Vincent Night.
Vincent’s new life in Baltimore with Henry is disrupted when a friend from the past asks for help with a haunting. In the remote town of Devil’s Walk, old ties and new lies threaten to tear the lovers apart, if a fiery spirit bent on vengeance doesn’t put an end to them first.


About Jordan L Hawk: 

Jordan L. Hawk grew up in North Carolina and forgot to ever leave. Childhood tales of mountain ghosts and mysterious creatures gave her a life-long love of things that go bump in the night. When she isn’t writing, she brews her own beer and tries to keep her cats from destroying the house. Her best-selling Whyborne & Griffin series (beginning with Widdershins) can be found in print, ebook, and audiobook at Amazon and other online retailers.

Connect with Jordan: Twitter | Facebook | Website

Get Dangerous Spirits now: Amazon


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here


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Guest Review: Romantic Thrillers: Playing with Fire by G.J. Phoenix

 

A too-good-to-be-true job opportunity. A mystery of life and death proportions. Help sought from the most unlikely of places. All of these are what makes the beginning of a thriller. Then, person meets person, and sparks fly. You just found yourself in a romantic thriller, let the magic begin.

I think my love of romantic thrillers began when a friend gave me Iris Johansen’s Wind Dancer series. In typical romantic thriller way, it snuck up on me. Starting with a historical, Wind Dancer moved from the Italian Renaissance to Revolutionary France straight to modern times. I didn’t realize just how much I loved it until I immediately went online and tracked down the rest of Johansen’s work. By the time I finished the Eve Duncan series, I was a goner. Tess Gerritsen, JD Robb, Catherine Coulter, and so many others became staple in my TBR pile.

Most people know Gerritsen as the momma of Rizzoli and Isles. I recently read Playing with Fire, released in 2015. This book was dark, twisty, and all kinds of thrilling goodness. When Julia finds an unpublished waltz in an old book of sheet music at a sketchy antique dealer in Italy, I had no idea how dark Gerritsen was going to go.

Then Julia goes home to loving husband, Rob, and adorable toddler Lily and things got pitch black. (trigger warning: animal violence almost made me put the book to the side, but this author is usually worth it, so I kept going).

Julia plays the waltz she found, and her daughter instantly changes from a beloved doll to … well, Annabel. As she fights for herself, her family and mostly her child; Julia flies back to Italy determined to find out why the music transformed her baby into a demon. Or did it? Playing with Fire is two stories which are eventually brought together in the end. Told at the same time, is the heartbreaking story of Lorenzo and Laura, who meet and fall in love just as World War II turns their homeland into a place of nightmares. Gerritsen, a musician herself, writes about other musicians with passion, insight, and understanding that really can’t be faked. She even composed the waltz Julia found and had it recorded. You can listen to it on her website!

Both of these stories are told at a fast clip, you will get paper cuts from turning pages to keep up. Seriously, Tess Gerritsen makes you feel like you’re sitting next to the characters on a roller coaster and the next plummet will either be epic, or everyone’s going to die. The ending isn’t typical for most romance readers, but I still really enjoyed it. The combination of mystery, horror, historical, and romance is a strong one and will definitely place Playing with Fire on my favorite Gerritsen list.


About G.J. Phoenix: As a child, I got to ride the lightening and a dreamer was born. I stood on the top of the world, and traveled to the lowest point that can support life. I got to swim with dolphins and sharks, some of which were on dry land. I didn’t shoot the Sheriff but I definitely knifed the deputy–he looked at me funny. My life has taken me to many exotic places, and I was honored to meet some truly amazing people. I learned about God and religion through the stories people were kind enough to share with me, and the books I read.

The truth is, in one way or another, most of my books are based on real people, facing hellish problems, involving intriguing legends or myths, and finding solutions through the power of hope.

I’m G.J. Nice to meet you. Please spend some time and get to know me as well as my family-the characters in my books. My newest romantic thriller, God Remains, third installment of my Ethiopian Chronicles series, is due in stores before the end of the year.  Let’s see if the prince of Ethiopia can steal the heart of the queen of thieves. Cheers!

Connect with G.J. Phoenix: Website  |  Books  |  Book Trailer  | Twitter  |  Facebook


 

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