YA Review: Openly Straight and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight/Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books

Format: ePub

Genre: YA

Order at:

Openly Straight: Amazon

Honestly Ben: Amazon

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: A duology about do-overs, labels, love, and seriously messing up. In that order. Featuring a once-and-future gay boy, an introverted jock-philosopher. In supporting roles, their friends, who range from tone-deaf cis-hets to a to one of the most endearing enbies I’ve met on the page. Read More

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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.

Plot:

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.

Review:

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

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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

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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

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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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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 

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 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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Guest Post + Giveaway: When Romantic Suspense and True Crime Accidentally Meet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Hi all! Happy Halloween! To help us celebrate this spookiest of holidays, author Rebekah Weatherspoon joins Binge on Books to talk Romantic Suspense and True Crime and also to bring you, a giveaway!


When Romantic Suspense and True Crime Accidentally Meet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I’ve been a fan of true crime since America’s Most Wanted made me suspicious of every white man over the age of twenty-five. Now-days you could say I’m obsessed. From the old school American Justice and Forensic Files to NBC and CBS’s Dateline and 48 Hours I have a thing for what a friend of mine dubbed “Murder Shows”. Despite this weird interest of mine, I’d never considered writing horror, mystery or romantic suspense. That all changed in 2016. For obvious reasons the world got a little darker. I wanted to write something dark. I wanted to let out a little bit of the anger that was cranking through me. I started drafting HAVEN, which opens with two homicides. When I first picked the location for Shep’s mountain home I didn’t think to google any true crimes in that area. Why would I? I was writing fiction, based on my own imagination.

But, not 24 hours after I started working on HAVEN (I’d written the 2 murders in question and put the heroine and hero through one hell of a meet cute) fellow romance author, HelenKay Dimon tweeted about watching a true crime show on the Keddie Murders. I caught the tweet and just had to google. The Keddie Murders are a horrific, violent crime that resulted in the death of four people back in 1981. It also happened in the same Northern California town where I had set up Shep and his secluded cabin. I couldn’t believe it. Later, when I started listening to the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder, they too, covered the Keddie Murders that are still unsolved to this day. I ended up changing the name of Shep’s mountain because while real life does drive fiction, I didn’t want to link the two that way. The next book in the series, HARBOR, will have an intentional link to the Long Island Serial Killer, an ongoing, unsolved investigation.

 

You can learn more about what happened in Keddie California here or check out episode #13 of My Favorite Murder.

 


Rebekah Weatherspoon is celebrating Halloween with a special HAVEN giveaway! Enter below to win your choice of either an e-copy (international) or paperback (USA) of her bestseller, HAVEN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


About Haven

A week-long getaway…

City girl Claudia Cade’s carefree life is plunged into chaos when a camping trip with her brother in the national forests of Northern California turns into a deadly dash for her survival.

 

 

 

 


Bio: Award-winning author Rebekah Weatherspoon was raised in Southern New Hampshire and now lives in Southern California where she finally found her love for writing romance.
 Most recently her queer paranormal romance, SOUL TO KEEP, Book 3 in the Vampire Sorority Sisters Series won the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ Erotica. And her coming romantic suspense title, HARBOR hits shelves Spring 2018. Come on by and get to know Rebekah on twitter at @rdotspoon . You can find more stories by Rebekah at rebekahweatherspoon.com

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 18 with Daria Defore

Daria Defore join Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from the fantasy Romance, Sparkwood.


About Sparkwood:

Finn Bricket has never trusted fairies, and it’s no surprise to him when his twin brother Luke turns up dead, probably by magical means. What he doesn’t expect is an invitation to the funeral—in the fairy realm—and a chance to find out who killed him.

On the way he meets Robin, a fairy who’s supposed to be watching out for him—and who Finn instantly hates. Despite the tension between them, Robin is also upset by Luke’s death and wants to make things right.

Before long they’re looking for clues and up to their necks in fairy trouble, and maybe not even Robin’s magic can save them.


About Daria Defore:

Daria Defore is a writer by night, and a video producer by day. She’s been writing ever since she was a kid, and vividly remembers that her first story was about visiting Santa Claus and getting a pet dinosaur. Now she writes filthy romance instead.

Daria is a Washington transplant living in New York City. She has a tendency to set stories in her beautiful home state. She loves reading, cups of coffee in multiples of ten, and being bullied to write more.


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

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Contemporary Romance review: Scorpio Hates Virgo (Signs of Love #2) by Anyta Sunday

Scorpio Hates Virgo

Published by: Anyta Sunday

Format: ePub

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Order at: Publisher | Amazon 

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: A cute love affair of boys who have resisted each other for as long as they’ve known each other. Ah…if they could only have been smarter than…oh, wait…I was clueless, too. Read More

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 11 with Michelle Osgood

Michelle Osgood joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her paranormal romance, The Better to Kiss You With.


About The Better to Kiss You With: 

In the rare moments when Deanna Scott isn’t working as the moderator for Wolf’s Run, an online werewolf role-playing game, she wanders the local forest trails with her golden retriever, Arthur, and daydreams about Jaime, the attractive, enigmatic woman who lives upstairs.
As Wolf Run’s “den mother,” Deanna is accustomed to petty online drama. But when threats from an antagonistic player escalate, Deanna wonders if her awesome online job could be riskier than she’d ever imagined—and if her new girlfriend knows more about this community than she had realized.


About Michelle Osgood: 

Michelle Osgood writes queer, feminist romance from her tiny apartment in Vancouver, BC.  She loves stories in all mediums, especially those created by Shonda Rhimes, and dreams of one day owning a wine cellar to rival Olivia Pope’s.  She is active in Vancouver’s poly and LGBTQ communities, never turns down a debate about pop culture, and is trying to learn how to cook.

 

 


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

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