Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Badlands by Morgan Brice

(Badlands #1)
Morgan Brice
Release: June 26, 2018
Goodreads Amazon
Medium and clairvoyant Simon Kincaide owns a Myrtle Beach boardwalk shop where he runs ghost tours, holds séances, and offers private psychic readings, making a fresh start after his abilities cost him his lover and his job as a folklore professor. Jaded cop Vic D’Amato saw something supernatural he couldn’t explain during a shootout several years ago in Pittsburgh and relocated to Myrtle Beach to leave the past behind, still skeptical about the paranormal. But when the search for a serial killer hits a dead end, Vic battles his skepticism to ask Simon for help. As the body count rises, Simon’s involvement makes him a target, and a suspect. But Simon can’t say no, even if it costs him his life and heart.

You know when Amazon recommends you a Kindle book based on your past purchases and it looks interesting and has good reviews so you buy it and then kind of forget you bought it. Then you stumble upon it again as you're scrolling through your kindle app looking for your next read so you pick it up and end up loving it. That was my experience with Badlands. I'm kicking myself for waiting to read this. I never knew I needed a jaded cop and psychic team up paranormal romance in my life. Add in the fact that it's a queer romance and it just made this book even better!

Simon is a medium that has carved out a life for himself as a ghost tour guide and mentor to psychics in need. Vic on the other hand, has fled from his previous life due to being ridiculed for his brush with the paranormal and is now going through the motions of being a homicide detective, without making any meaningful connections to his new home. I didn't really read the synopsis besides seeing that it was about a psychic. So I went into this thinking it was going to be an urban fantasy book and found myself delighted to find that it really was a paranormal romance.

I loved that the book starts with the mystery of the killer before we even get the meet cute between the main characters. And speaking of meet cutes, what an adorable meet cute it was. Sadly, all the psychic stuff and murder complicates things things between the main characters quickly. I think the reason this book was so good was that the narration switched between both main characters so we were discovering things as they did. The downside is that you kind of end up yelling at the kindle for all the stupid decisions the characters are making. I wanted to tell Simon to stop being so damned independent and I wanted to yell at Vic for thinking that being a jerk is a good idea.

The characters in this book are phenomenal but the death, ghosts and mystery are really what makes this book such a delightfully dark tale. I don't say this often because I love me a good romance but I was so interested in the mystery aspect of this book that I found myself thinking during the romance bits that the author needed to get back to the mystery and leave the sex for later. Don't get me wrong. I loved the romance between Vic and Simon! But in this case, the mystery had most of my interest. About halfway through the book, I started to get excited about all the possible adventures that Simon and Vic could have in the future if they survived this case and started to work together as partners. The possibilities are endless and I just need more Vic and Simon and their friends in my life!

I loved this book so much! It ticked all of my boxes and was a great fit for my Romancepoly challenge pick. This book was what I've been looking for when it comes to PNR/UF m/m romance books. I need more so I was very excited to learn that this is the first book in a series and that we are indeed going to get more Simon and Vic adventures. Bring them them on!

Note: I discovered while buying the other books Morgan Brice (aka Gail Z. Martin. Brice is her m/m PNR penname.) has written that this series is actually one of several companion series written under her Morgan Brice penname and as Gail Z. Martin. I'm super intrigued to see where she takes this world and how the series are going to overlap. I'm in the middle of binge reading her other Morgan Brice series, Witchbane, and it's glorious so far. Just give me all the m/m paranormal romance books, please!

  4.5/5 Stars

Book 1/30

Book 1- Freedom Friars Challenge

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

We Love Lists: Our Romanceopoly Recs

We recently told you about the Romanceopoly Reading Challenge hosted by Under the Covers and Peace Love Books. Those ladies put together a great list of recommended reads for each of the properties on the challenge board.

 But there were a few times where we found ourselves saying, "But what about this book?" So we wanted to put some of our own recs out there for everyone else participating in the challenge. Or anyone looking for a book rec really. And maybe talk about some of the topics we haven't found books for yet.
(These are our additions to the lists the hosts have already put together so we're not repeating anything from their recs.)

Leather Lane
Read a book from a completed Urban Fantasy series:
The Nightshades series by Melissa F. Olson
The Black Dog series by Hailey Edwards
The Others Series by Anne Bishop
The Fae Out of Water Series by E.J. Russell
(This one would also count for Freedom Friars.)

Kickass Lane
Read an Urban Fantasy with a kickass heroine on the cover:
Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells
Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller
Heart of Malice by Lisa Edmonds
Thunder Road by Sierra Dean
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Growing Pains Place
Read any YA book:
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
The Abyss Surround Us by Emily Skrutskie
any of Jenn Bennett's YAs

College Row
Read a New Adult novel set in college:
The Wait For You Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Once Loved by Cecy Robson
(This one could also be a tearjerker for Heartbreak Hospital.)

Memory Lane
Read a Historical Fiction novel:
Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Sweet Street
Read a sweet or small town contemporary romance:
The Forbidden Hearts series by Alisha Rai
The Southern Eclectic series by Molly Harper
The Plum Orchard series by Dakota Cassidy

Read a book with a firefighter hero or heroine:
Wickedly Powerful by Deborah Blake

Magic Row
Read a PNR where the hero or heroine can wield magic:
Moonstruck by Lauren Dane
Souljacker by Yasmine Galenorn
Shadowbound by Bec McMaster
The Edge series by Ilona Andrews

Warriors Way
Read a PNR featuring a band of warriors:
Moonshadow by Thea Harrison
The SWAT series by Paige Tyler
The Dark Sword series by Donna Grant
(This would also count for Memory Lane and Creature Crescent)

Creature Crescent
Read a PNR where the hero or heroine isn't human:
The Black Lily by Juliette Cross
The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre
The Dark World Series by Donna Grant

London Street
Read a Steampunk novel:
The Blud series by Delilah S Dawson
The Immortal Empire series by Kate Locke
Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin

Faraway Land
Read a Fantasy Romance or Fantasy Novel:
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Master of Crows by Grace Draven
Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
(This would also count for Freedom Friars)
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
(This one also would count for Magic Row, Creature Crescent, and Freedom Friars)

Alien Avenue
Read a SciFi Romance or SciFi novel:
Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet
Necrotech by K.C. Alexander
The Village Series by Darien Cox
(This one also would count for Freedom Friars)

Subway Uptown
Read a chef or foodie romance: 
Wrong to Need You by Alicia Rai
Small Change by Roan Parrish
The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish
(This one would also count for Sweet Street or LGBT Lane)

Read a New Adult LGBT romance:
A Hundred Thousand Words by Nyrae Dawn
(This would also count for College Row)
Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler
(This would count for College Row) 
Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole
(This would count for Alien Ave)
Competence by Gail Carriger
(This would also count for London Street)
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren (one of MCs is in high school and the other is in college so this book can be both YA and NA)
Check, Please! Vol. 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

Freedom Friars
Read an Adult LGBT Romance:
Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish
Badlands by Morgan Brice
(This would also count for Magic Row)
The Sumage Solution by G.L. Carriger
(This would also count for Magic Row or Creature Crescent)
The Omega Objection by G.L. Carriger
(This would also count for Creature Crescent)
Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk
(This would also count for Magic Row or Memory Lane)
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
(Would also count for Memory Lane)
Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger
 (This would also count for London Street)
Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger
(This would count for London Street or Creature Crescent)

There are a few categories where we're still looking for the right rec. If you have a favorite for any of these, let us know in the comments.

College Row
I thought I had a great idea, but it wound up being set in high school.
I've already read The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan

London Street 
I've already read Darkest London, London Steampunk, Iron Seas, Clockwork Dagger

Military Mews
Read a Romantic Suspense with a military hero or heroine:
I've already read Black Knights Inc, The Associates, and some PNR featuring former military heroes.

Cozy Corner
Read a mystery or a cozy mystery:
There's this series called The Vampire Knitting Club that I'm thinking of doing for this prompt but I'm open to other ideas. I've only read one cozy series before and it was just okay for me.

Murder Mill
Read a thriller or a romantic thriller:
I have a couple of ideas for this one, Jane Doe and Zero Sum Game, but this isn't a genre I normally read so tell me your faves.

Women's Ave
Read a Women's Fiction novel:
I wish they would find a better name for this genre. It's just as bad as telling kids there are boy books and girl books. I have no desire to read Nicholas Sparks or anything that was made in to a movie. Anyone have a Chick Lit rec?


Friday, January 11, 2019

RTFB 62: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

RTFB is a feature where we push our favorite reads that just aren't getting enough attention, or in some cases where we can't write a normal review because we just want to fangirl squee.

We're also opening it up to anyone who would like to guest post. Do you have a book that you just LURVED but feel like it's not getting the play it deserves? Email us to let us know and we'd be THRILLED to have you post about it here! Especially if its something we haven't reviewed yet - that's even better (but not necessary!)

If you're interested email

Read This F@!%ing Book 62:

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

I've been trying to figure out the best way to review this series for a couple weeks now because all I can do is fangirl over how good it is and not in a coherent enough manner for a review. Then it hit me the other night that I can do a Read This F@!%ing Book post about it!

I know I've said this about a ton of sci-fi books from last year but The Murderbot Diaries is one of those sci-fi series that has reminded me of why I love the genre so much! The series is about an AI that is part-synthetic, part-organic intelligence, aka a SecUnit, that has been rented out as part of a corporate package to a survey team as their security and when things go south later, MurderBot is pretty much the only thing that’s going to keep the team alive. The subsequent novellas follow our favorite SecUnit as they're pulled into various adventures while traversing inhabited space.

One of the things I love about this series is that takes on the classic commentary about AIs and their sense of self but this time the perspective we get is from that of an AI. And not just any AI. we get one that has... well, issues. I will admit that there’s a strong temptation to quote liberally from all four of these novellas and I will resist as much as possible but some of Murderbot's internal commentary is too poignant and hilarious to not quote.

Murderbot is the Best Non-Human Protagonist You'll Ever Read
Murderbot has quickly entered the domain of one of my favorite characters ever. One of the things I love about them is that they hacked their own coding to completely become a free agent but they still end up doing the job they were were initially created for. All while pretending they hadn't hacked their coding. I also love that Murderbot is unashamedly cranky and awkward while being vocal about how dumb humans are and actively nursing an addiction to TV dramas. But in the end, they still care about the humans that are in their care even though they would rather be left alone to watch the media they've downloaded from the entertainment feeds. The interplay between their ambivalence towards humans, and their persistent, frustrating desire to protect them from themselves is amazing! And I kind of love that as well as the fact that for a scary SecUnit, Murderbot has an anxiety disorder.

“So, I’m awkward with actual humans. It’s not paranoia about my hacked governor module, and it’s not them; it’s me. I know I’m a horrifying murderbot, and they know it, and it makes both of us nervous, which makes me even more nervous. Also, if I’m not in the armor then it’s because I’m wounded and one of my organic parts may fall off and plop on the floor at any moment and no one wants to see that.” [All Systems Red]

I love that Murderbot never sees themselves as human and we get to see the universe through the filter of an AI. They can intercept and interpret data and electromagnetic signals, hack their way into a lot of things, and operate at a frighteningly fast speed. Humans by comparison are awkward and unable to keep up. The frustration and exasperation they feel because of the humans they're protecting is part of what makes this series great.
“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.” [All Systems Red]
A Series About An AI is the Best Story On Being Human
Individually, these novellas are an intriguing set of adventures. But collectively, they form a larger story about a machine coming to understand what it means to be human and figuring out what your identity is. Murderbot is a non-human seeking to operate in a human environment and having to work to deal with the variety of signals and cues that it gets from the people (and TV programs) around them. They learn to empathize and essentially learn what it means to be human in the process. By the end of the series, they can relate to people and their own priorities and forms meaningful connections while risking their “life” for the people that they come to protect and care about rather than just follow their original programming and leaving them to die. Murderbot’s journey is far more compelling as a result. And like humans, they're just trying to get by in the world and are making it up as they go along.

Murderbot Isn't the Only Fantastic Character
Murderbot is an amazing character but part of what makes them that way is the other characters that act as a foil for their character development. I'll be honest. It was pretty damn hilarious listening to its encounters with its new human crew and their attempts to humanize the wryly grumpy killing machine and how Murderbot responds to such showings of support and empathy.

“Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency. I’d rather climb back into Hostile One’s mouth.” [All Systems Red]
The scientific team it is charged with protecting is nicely drama free and full of fully fleshed characters you can't hope but root for. Wells manages to wring a good bit of emotive action out of how Murderbot and its crew respond to each other and those interactions are part of what makes the story so great.

“Gurathin turned to me. "So you don't have a governor module, but we could punish you by looking at you."

I looked at him. "Probably, right up until I remember I have guns built into my arms.” [All Systems Red]

The Audiobooks are Fantastic!
I listened to all four novellas on audio and they were amazing! The narrator, Kevin R. Free, does such a fantastic job of bringing not only Murderbot to life but the whole scientific team they're protecting. I know I would have loved this series just reading it but listening to the audio just made it so much better!

I Need the Novel ASAP
Some of the best news we got this year was that we're getting a full-length Murderbot novel in the near future! I need it in my life and I hope we can see more of ART and some of the other characters we met along the way.

Overall, The Murderbot Diaries are really fun pieces of science fiction adventure with compelling characters and great pacing that are great reads for new and old sci-fi fans. I can't recommend these novellas enough!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

TBR Bingo: End of 2018 TBR Recap

Towards the end of last year, I made a list of the books I wanted to read before it was 2019. I ended up reading 24 books from the time of that first post till the end of the year which means I made my goal of reading 20 books before 2018 ended. Overall, I feel like I did well on reading books off of my TBR list. Out of the 20 I said I wanted to read, I was able to complete 10!

These are the books I read:

The Random Unread Kindle Books

The Rereads

The End of 2018 TBR Books

I loved all of the End of 2018 TBR books I read and that doesn't happen often! A couple of them even made my favorites of the year list. Sadly, I did not achieve a bingo on my card but I got really close in a couple places.

Overall, I feel like I ended the year the way I wanted to reading wise and managed to also metaphorically flip off The Year of the Reading Slump by doing so. I read SO many great books towards the end of the year! Hopefully, I can keep that momentum up for all of 2019!

What was the last book you read in 2018?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Review: How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper


How to Date Your Dragon
(Mystic Bayou #1)
Molly Harper
Release: July 28, 2018
Goodreads Amazon
Anthropologist Jillian Ramsay's career has taken a turn south. 

Concerned that technology is about to chase mythological creatures out into the open (how long can Sasquatch stay hidden from Google maps?), the League for Interspecies Cooperation is sending Jillian to Louisiana on a fact-finding mission. While the League hopes to hold on to secrecy for a little bit longer, they're preparing for the worst in terms of human reactions. They need a plan, so they look to Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where humans and supernatural residents have been living in harmony for generations. Mermaids and gator shifters swim in the bayou. Spirit bottles light the front porches after twilight. Dragons light the fires under crayfish pots. 

Jillian's first assignment for the League could be her last. Mystic Bayou is wary of outsiders, and she has difficulty getting locals to talk to her. And she can't get the gruff town sheriff, Bael Boone, off of her back or out of her mind. Bael is the finest male specimen she's seen in a long time, even though he might not be human. Soon their flirtation is hotter than a dragon's breath, which Bael just might turn out to be... 

I just finished binging Molly Harper's Southern Eclectic series - highly recommend BTW - and decided I needed more small town shenanigans. Harper's Mystic Bayou series seemed like an obvious choice. It's been on my radar for a while since it was originally released as an Audible exclusive. The print version came out six months later and has consistently been checked out at my library. This is my first book of the year for both Beat the Backlist and the Library Love challenge.

I'm intrigued by the idea of The League, a secret society that studies supernaturals as well as tries to hide their existence from the public. They also seem to function as a governing body, but I'm not clear on all the details yet. I hope that as the series goes on, we learn more about them.

I loved Zed, Mystic Bayou's gregarious bear shifter mayor. He kind of steals the show from grumpy Sheriff Bael actually. And the town provides all the eccentric characters and Southern food that I was hoping for.

How to Date Your Dragon suffers from a couple typical problems though. The first book in a series tends to take a little longer to get going since it has to introduce the world and all of the characters. This is especially true of paranormal series. Jillian spends the first half of the book meeting people and conducting interviews. On one hand, I think this is brilliant. I often feel like an anthropologist trying to uncover all the details in a new paranormal world, which makes Jillian a perfect stand in for the reader. On the other hand, it leads to a lot of telling, rather than showing. The non-romance plot doesn't really get started until the second half. Since the book was originally written for audio, I wonder if the pace just feels different in the print version.

Also, novellas often seem to have an insta-love plot. At around 200 pages, HTDYD isn't technically a novella but it's short enough to suffer from the same problem. Jillian and Bael go directly from being adversaries to being naked. I would have liked to see them build a friendship or develop their feelings before they got to that point. But the dragon sex is certainly original. Then there's this thing that happens to Jillian at the end that while it's a PNR staple, I'm not a fan. I'll save my rant though, because spoilers.

Despite all that, I enjoyed the characters and I'd like to read more about Mystic Bayou. Book 2 is already out on audio, so there should only be a few months to wait.

Recommended for fans of: Harper's Naked Werewolf series


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