Welcome back for another edition of What Erin’s Reading! This week, we have a sweet reality show romance, a sci-fi romance that kept me thinking, and an over-the-top, laugh out loud paranormal romance.

What’s Erin Reading? 

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Love Me Tenor, Annabeth Albert

Trevor Daniels is feeling aimless. A recent college grad, he’s not sure what to do with his useless degree, and his family all but abandoned him after he revealed the truth about himself. But a friend’s suggestion that he take his chances on a reality show aimed at finding the next big boy band strikes a chord with him—until the show’s producers convince him to act like he’s in a relationship with a guy who’s not at all his type. It isn’t exactly love at first sight for Jalen Smith either—but lust just might push them in an unexpected direction. If only their secrets weren’t even more twisted than their sheets, threatening to cost them the win—and each other…

I’ve been on something of an Annabeth Albert kick lately. Her books almost always hit the spot when I’m not sure what I want to read. This book is the second in her Perfect Harmony series, featuring Trevor, who appeared in the previous book in the series, and Jalen, your new book boyfriend. Trevor and Jalen are forced to pretend to be boyfriends for a reality show (tropes ahoy!) and get together while trying to navigate what’s real and what’s only for the camera.

I loved the reality show bits, which felt well-researched. (I have no idea how those shows actually work, but I was convinced.) The use of social media throughout the book were terrific and exposed more about the characters, something I always enjoy. I also liked how, even though Trevor and Jalen were young, they were both fully-formed people who brought their own complicated backgrounds to the story, from familial to sexual.

There are some elements that went to the side of melodrama — Trevor’s illness and his conservative Christian family come to mind — but never to the point of taking the reader out of the story. There are tropes all over the place in the best way, the sex is smoking hot, and the guys are likeable without feeling saccharine. Definitely recommend.

The Silvers, J.A. Rock

What humans want from the Silver Planet is water. What they find is a race of humanoids who are sentient, but as emotionless and serene as the plants and placid lakes they tend.

B, captain of the mission, doesn’t believe that the “Silvers” are intelligent, and lets his crew experiment on them. But then he bonds with Imms, who seems different from the others—interested in learning, intrigued by human feelings. And B realizes that capturing, studying, and killing this planet’s natives has done incalculable damage.

When a fire aboard B’s ship kills most of the crew and endangers Imms, B decides to take him back to Earth. But the simplicity of the Silver Planet doesn’t follow them. Imms learns the full spectrum of human emotions, including a love B is frightened to return, and a mistrust of the bureaucracy that wants to treat Imms like a test subject, even if they have to eliminate B to do it.

Whoo boy, okay. This book. I’ve seen this book recommended on m/m book blogs and lists for years. It hasn’t been available for…some publishing reason I’m not sure of, but it’s just been re released through Riptide. I grabbed it as soon as I could, as I’d been hearing people talk about it for so long.

This book was really tough. JA Rock, in her more recent books, has a way of couching devastating emotion in laugh-out-loud dialogue and silly capers. This book is a hammer, unflinching in its devastation from beginning to end. I don’t really want to talk about the plot of the book, for the sake of spoilers, but I will say that there is an HEA. Or, at the very least, a HFN. And for at least 95% of the book? I wasn’t sure that was going to happen. Or even that I wanted it to happen. I’m still not entirely sure B deserves Imms.

This book is hard sci fi, in the style of classic 80’s sci fi books, austere and depressing in tone, but utterly fascinating. It holds a mirror up to the very ugliest parts of human nature, while also showing how important small kindnesses can be. I didn’t always want to read on, but I couldn’t look away. The writing is brilliant, particularly in how she paints the profiles of all the characters as seen through Imms’ eyes. You get such a sense of who people are from just a few lines of dialogue.

I won’t forget this book for a long, long time. I am going to be honest, I nearly put it down and  refused to read further after the first time B and Imms have sex, because I felt like there was no way I could buy the pairing, but I’m so glad I read through to the end. What a book.

The Unleashing, Shelly Laurenston

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstöm has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.

And now for something completely different! This book? This book is laugh-out-loud funny, wildly violent, and features my new favorite fictional dog, Brodie Hawaii. I’d heard about this book on the Smart Bitches’ Podcast, immediately bought it, then just as quickly started taking screenshots of dialogue to send to friends. (The clipboard part! I cried laughing.) It’s smart and funny and fast, and features rage-filled women disemboweling men with their talons while gossiping about their love lives, so what are you waiting for???

There is so much that happens in this book that it’s hard to give any kind of plot recap. It’s not actually a very plot-driven book, to the point where, as much as I loved the writing and characters and friendships, I kept putting it down because not much was happening, or so much was happening that it was hard to follow. You meet a lot of characters in the first half of the book and that gets a little confusing. But trust me, you want to read this book. Settle in, roll around in the utter awesomeness so many amazing women, and just let Shelly Laurenston take you on a ride.

The romance is present, but it’s not the central conflict. Kera and Vig meet each other, like each other, and almost immediately start banging. The central conflict revolves around Kera learning to settle in to her second life and learning to trust her sister-Crows. It’s an unashamedly feminist, fun, gory romp and I cannot wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

Please buy this book and tell me your favorite parts! And then we’ll buy each other a drink and talk about disemboweling people. Like sisters.

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