Reviews

Cold Like Snow: A Polyamorous Ghost Romance

Cold Like SnowTitle: Cold Like Snow
Author(s): Sita Bethel
Series: 
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: July 23rd 2018 by NineStar Press
LGBTQAI+: three gay male MCs in a polyamorous relationship
Other representation: 

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange from an honest review.

When René moves into his new home, he didn’t expect it to come with roommates. Two handsome roommates, to be precise. Too bad they’re ghosts.

The fact that they’re dead doesn’t stop them from running their fingers through René’s hair or tackling him onto the bed. It’s not long before things escalate and René finds himself with two ghost lovers that treat him better than any living partner ever has.

However, they can’t eat, can’t go far from the house where they died, and their fingers feel like icicles against René’s skin. The longer René is with them, the more he can sense them, but nothing can reduce the chill of their bodies against his. Still, it might be worth the hypothermia.

rating: 3 stars

I’ve been meaning to read more stories with ghosts (mostly queer romances, but also non-romance stories), so when I saw Cold Like Snow had both ghosts and polyamory, I immediately knew I had to pick it up. The blurb was intriguing as well: after all, isn’t the best thing about ghost romances the little touches that you can’t be sure you really felt?

Cold Like Snow has an established gay couple who died together in their house, and when a third man moves in, they eventually begin a polyamorous relationship that starts purely physical, and turns into genuine feelings. I loved how René gradually saw and felt more of Bastion and Marcus, the ways they found to communicate, and I found some of their banter really funny.

I also loved that the main character, René has a best friend who appears a lot in the story. René and May are both in their thirties and have been friends for twenty years now. They go out drinking together, spend Christmas together because their families are either nonexistent or suck, and only refer to fuckboys as “Gregs”. I loved that they clearly had their little routines and friendship rituals.

My only issue is with the plot, and the issue is that… there isn’t any. That isn’t automatically a bad thing: character-driven novels are great, and as I said, I loved how the character/relationship arcs in this were handled. But sometimes it felt like I was just reading sex scene after sex scene, and honestly, even if I liked sex scenes (which I don’t) I feel like I’d still get tired after the fifth one in a row with some minimal character interaction between.

In short, I loved the concept and characters, but I felt like it was dragged out longer than necessary and just filled with sex scene after sex scene, which I don’t find engaging at all. Thus, 3 stars.

~ Alexa

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Reviews

Omen Operation: The Ultimate Bisexual Squad

Omen Operation (The Isolation Series #1)Title: Omen Operation
Author(s): Taylor Brooke
Series: The Isolation Series #1
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Published: June 18th 2018 by NineStar Press (re-release)
LGBTQAI+: multiple bisexual mains (both male and female), gay side character
Sex on page: No
I received an ARC through through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

An epidemic hits the country, and Brooklyn Harper is stolen from the life she knew.

Implanted in a rural camp, Brooklyn and her friends are severed from their families and the outside world. Each day is filled with combat training to assure their safety against a mysterious virus and the creatures it creates—violent humanoids with black blood.

Two years later, Brooklyn’s cabin-mate, Dawson Winters, finds a letter that shatters the illusion they’ve been living in. There is a world outside Camp Eleven, and the virus that supposedly destroyed their country seems non-existent.

After a daring escape, Brooklyn finds the world they’ve left behind harbors the normalcy she remembers. But when they are attacked by a black-blooded creature in the city, Brooklyn and her friends realize there is more to Camp Eleven than they thought.

Someone took them, someone trained them, and now someone is trying to find them.

As their exploration continues, the group is faced with impossible feats while betrayal, love, and secrets force Brooklyn and her friends to fight for their life, their freedom, and most of all, each other.

My rating: 3 stars

All I knew about this book going in was that it had a bisexual MC, and there’s maybe a female love interest. In reality, the four core characters in this book are all bisexual (two guys and two girls), and they are involved with each other in all kinds of combinations – so, the bisexual female MC has both a female and a male love interest who are both bisexual themselves.

While there are no central nonbinary characters, there is a small acknowledgment that bisexuality isn’t only about being attracted to the binary genders, so that was nice. As I said, Brooklyn is both into Gabriel (female) and Porter (male) and Gabriel is dating Dawson (male) who Porter is also into, but I’d hesitate to call it real polyamory – although that might be where the series is heading. I’m curious to see how these relationships evolve in the next book(s).

As for the plot… honestly, I don’t have much to say that wasn’t already in the blurb. Half the big secrets were already revealed in the first chapter, which felt a little soon, I would have preferred more time in the camp maybe. Then something happened to my favourite character around halfway in that just made me stop caring about the book, and if not for the last chapter, I probably wouldn’t have rated it above 2 stars.

All in all, this was an okay read and I certainly appreciate the amount of queer representation, but it felt very much like the beginning of something, like an introduction, and I don’t think it’s particularly enjoyable without the rest of the series.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: The Deep End

39887360The Deep End by Ellie Hart

Genre: LGBTQAI+, Mystery/Thriller, 40s protagonist
Published: April 16th 2018 by Bold Strokes Books
Lesbian Book Bingo squares: Romantic Mystery, Doctors/Veterinarians
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
Sex on page: No

Local veterinarian Dr. Giselle Cutler’s world revolves around her profession, and Marta, the woman she loves. She’s confident both will always be there to support her until her cell phone rings in the middle of the night, and her once-stable world begins to spin out of control. Her sister Tiffani is missing, and all fingers point to fifteen year old Leif, Giselle’s nephew. Life as she knows it is fading fast, and with it, the security that family provides. As the true nature of each relationship is revealed, Giselle begins to doubt her ability to keep – and deserve – a lasting partnership. But Marta’s not giving up, and her support is the lifeline that keeps Giselle from toppling over the edge as they confront the dangers and dark secrets behind Tiffani’s disappearance.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is like, 3.25 stars for me? It’s a strong 3 stars.

First of all, I love the cover, it’s beautiful, but I feel like it has a very different atmosphere from the book itself. I could imagine the cover on a romance, but it doesn’t really scream “mystery with disappearance, murder, maffia, alcohol poisoning and suicide attempt” for me.

As you can see from the blurb, the main character, Giselle is a lesbian in a long-term relationship with Marta – it is an established relationship, and they have romantic scenes and a supportive relationship, but the romance is far from the main focus. Personally, I love reading the beginnings of romances, the getting-together part, but it was amazing to see a book with an established lesbian couple where they can be in love without the relationship or their orientations being the focus.

Other than that, if I had only two words to summarise the plot, I’d say “too much”. I understand this is a mystery, but it felt like there were too many sideplots, too many secrets, too many twists, too many connections. They would have actually been interesting in themselves, but this way it felt a little like the writer constantly wanted to one-up herself. I finished reading the book, and honestly, I still have SO MANY QUESTIONS about several of the minor plotlines. (Oh, and the major plotline, Tiffany’s disappearance? We never find out exactly what happened to her. When I saw the word “epilogue”, I had to skim over the last few chapters to see if I missed where it is revealed, but nah. The epilogue hints at which of the 5-6 suspects was actually behind this particular plot, but that’s all.)

Still, despite the many sideplots and some minor annoyances, I enjoyed reading this book. I especially liked Leif’s character, though I wished we had learned more about Sara.

My rating: 📱📱📱/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: Nothing But Sky

35223711Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Published: March 27th 2018 by Flux
Length: 284 pages
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: None
Sex on page: No

Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract.

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky.

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I started reading this book, my first thought was that it would fit perfectly in The Radical Element anthology that I read recently. It’s a historical fiction with a 18-year-old female protagonist who is truly radical and defies convention by performing tricks on the wings of moving airplanes in the 1920s.

After I read the book, I would like to say that I probably would have enjoyed it more if it truly had been a short story/novella in an anthology instead of a full-length book. This way, I often felt like it dragged on, or the exact same type of conflicts and scenes kept repeating (some practice, someone trying to convince Grace not to fly, Rowland showing up…). While it was overall a good story, I feel like it would have worked better if it was half as long.

Another problem for me was the characters. Other than Grace and MAYBE Henry, I couldn’t really get connected to anyone. Grace’s two female friends were nice, but they didn’t appear that much. The Uncle, Daniel and Nathan were interesting as Grace’s family, but – especially the last two – barely felt like individual people to me (up until a certain spoiler-y event).

It was clever how the book kept hinting at one character being a traitor when it was really another one, so it gets a few points for not being predictable, but the eventual reveal just made me less enthusiastic about both of these characters when I already wasn’t too attached to either.

Overall, I think this book had a great setting but unfortunately I didn’t find it very enjoyable to read.

My rating: 🛩️🛩️🛩️/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1)

37943458 Flotsam by R. J. Theodore

Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy
Series: Peridot Shift #1
Published: March 27th 2018 by Parvus Press LLC
Length: 324 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: I think Tisker (a side character) is gay, but there is only really one reference to it and the word isn’t used. There are also aliens who use neopronouns. (So, not much.)
Sex on page: No (also no romance at all, only references to a past fling)

There is currently a U.S. only giveaway for Flotsam by the publisher here.

A fantastical steampunk first contact novel that ties together high magic, high technology, and bold characters to create a story you won’t soon forget.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not even sure how to rate this book. 3 stars? 3.5?

Peridot is a fractured planet made up of many islands, home to five distinct humanoid races that were created by the Divine Alchemists, who are now worshipped as gods: Cutter, Breaker, Bone, Vein and Rakkar. The main character, Talis, and two other members of her crew are all Cutters, and the fourth one, Dug is a Bone.

I would like to start by saying that I loved the worldbuilding in theory – the fractured planet and the five races that were created by gods who still live among the people – but I had problems with the execution. To me, the Cutters sort of seemed like “regular” humans with no real special characteristics. We only see one Breaker in the entire book, and basically no named Rakkars. The Vein are four-limbed people who are physically blind, but oh, they have a magical sight – like every other blind race in anything ever. And finally, the Bone are dark-skinned people who live in desert tribes. While not outright barbaric, the Bone are often portrayed as violent, and the one Bone crew member, Dug, is described as large and intimidating immediately when he appears. I hope I don’t have to explain why I was conflicted about that. In short, I liked the idea but I felt like the races could have been written much better, and I’m hoping they’ll be more detailed in the sequel.

As for the characters, in the first half I was intrigued by all four crew members of the Wind Sabre – but towards the second half, Sophie and Tisker faded into the background and barely felt like individual people. Also, as I mentioned above, there is one throwaway sentence about Tisker not preferring Talis’s “parts”, which is not only a pretty cissexist way to say he’s gay, but it’s also never brought up again. (To be fair, there aren’t really heterosexual romances in the book either, other than mentions of the fling Talis used to have with one of the male antagonists.)

One thing I really enjoyed was the alien race (the Yu’Nyun) and the very different way they use gender and pronouns. They don’t seem to have genders at all, or at least at this point we don’t know anything about those – they use pronouns based on situation and class, and they have very strict rules on what class is allowed to wear what type of clothes. If I remember well, there are 9 pronoun groups, but like 50 different versions of the same pronoun? While this is only explored in a couple of scenes so far, I was genuinely intrigued by an alien race that is truly different from what we expect, and doesn’t just have the same binary genders. The characters we see use the xe/xin/xist pronoun set, and one of them becomes a major side character. (Although an actual “human” (Cutter, Bone, etc.) nonbinary character would have been nice.)

As for the plot… I sadly have to admit that I almost completely lost interest in the book about 70% in. I found myself enjoying it until then, but the main battle fell flat for me and I was begging for it to be over. Still, there were some plot twists and solutions by the crew before the 70% mark that I appreciated.

In short, I would say that Flotsam had many ideas that I liked, but the execution very often could have been better. I might pick up the sequel to see if these things improve, but at this point I am undecided. Honestly, I have no idea where the plot is going after this, but I hope we learn more about the Rakkars and the Breakers, as well as the Yu’Nyun. Especially regarding the Yu’Nyun, I have some suspicions based on hints and I would love to see more.

My rating: 👾👾👾/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: the witch doesn’t burn in this one & DROPKICKromance

These two poetry collections come out on the same day and they are by two halves of a couple, so I decided to review them together despite my differing opinions on them.

I received an early copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Release date: March 6th, 2018

38338999the witch doesn’t burn in this one

The first collection of the women are some kind of magic series has been on my wishlist since forever, so I was really excited when I got to read this one. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I have heard people talk about how empowering Amanda Lovelace’s poetry is, and I definitely enjoyed many of the poems – I loved the little references to the way women survive and support each other, the body positivity, and the confidence in every poem. Still, there were almost none that really shook me to the core the way I expected.

Truthfully, many poems in this collection felt repetitive and redundant, repeating sentences I’ve heard many times in feminist circles. Make no mistake, it’s still incredibly important to say these things! But it simply didn’t feel as revolutionary as I expected based on what others said.

I did love how the formatting of the poems varied, and there were some unconventional ones I loved, e.g. “how to prevent getting sexually assaulted”. I also loved some others, e.g. “confidence isn’t egotism” and “confidence isn’t healthy”.

Still, poetry for me is mostly about emotional response, and this collection simply didn’t awake those emotions in me. Somebody else might like these poems more than I did and get more strength for them, though.

(note: This poetry collection deals with heavy topics such as abuse and rape, as well as misogyny, fatphobia and a long list of other things. There is a mostly-complete trigger warning list at the beginning, which is pretty useful.)

My rating: ★★★☆☆

38338999DROPKICKromance

This was one of the best and most powerful debut poetry collections I’ve read.

I loved the composition and how all the poems together told one story – I read the whole thing almost in one sitting because I was eager to know what happens next. The way Cyrus described every small detail of his two very different relationships was captivating, both the toxicity of the first relationship, and the little, loving, everyday moments of the second.

As someone who’s used to fiction, reading some of the poems was strange – there were some events that weirded me out and yet I couldn’t really “disagree” or judge, since this was someone’s real, actual life, not the relationship of two fictional characters. I’ll have to get used to this if I read more personal poetry, but I still enjoyed the poems in this collection.

My rating: ★★★★★

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: Remembering Majyk

36461301I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Remembering Majyk’s strongest aspect is definitely the inclusion of Russian culture and folktales (by a Russian author!), and while that was indeed interesting to see, ultimately it just wasn’t enough for me to really make this book stand out.

Enter the protagonist, Calista, who is seventeen and casually living her mundane life, but then suddenly finds out she’s a magic Warrior when she is attacked at a house party – so now she has to go on a journey with the hot guy she has been attracted to from the beginning. There’s also a motorcycle. Wait, haven’t I read this book before? Or like, three of them?

I do admit there were some twists later on that made the main character more interesting, but there were just too many elements I disliked in the rest of the book. First, it is obvious from the very first page that Calista and Brendan are going to get together, even though I didn’t really feel the chemistry between them, but hey, that might just be me. Second – did I miss something or did Calista not have a single female best friend before she lost her memories? She does have one in the human world and there is a beautiful moment where Jemma stands up for her in the face of Brendan’s secret-keeping and lowkey patronising behaviour, but they still don’t spend a lot of time together. (Also, about the secret-keeping and patronising behaviour? There’s a lot of that. Like, a lot. And while it’s somewhat understandable given Calista’s memory loss and the need to reveal information gradually, it’s still hella annoying.)

For most of the book, this was a really solid 3-star read for me: not a bad story, but not a particularly great one either. It was the twist towards the end that pulled it up to 4, but I’m still a little conflicted on that, so the actual rating is closer to 3.5.

The cover is beautiful though, I’ll give it that.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: Embrace

38055677I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was drawn to this book because it’s a supernatural m/m novel with a beautiful cover, but in the end it mostly just left me feeling uneasy.

Note: this is not a spoiler-free review.

First, the whole premise of the story is that in this world, vampires are kept by nobles as Pets – basically slaves. The main romance is between the main character, Aubrey and his Pet, which is already sketchy. Thankfully it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been (there weren’t any instances of Aubrey taking advantage of Ruthven, and as it gets gradually revealed, Ruthven is much more in control than you’d think), but their relationship still seemed unhealthy to me, although in a completely different way than expected. Namely, Ruthven keeps making advances on Aubrey despite Aubrey telling him to stop, and while it’s not entirely non-consensual, it gives an unhealthy message that you can ignore someone saying no because they don’t really mean it. (This shit isn’t any better because Aubrey isn’t a girl, guys.)

While it’s not clear from the blurb, this book actually has two POVs – the other is the physician and good friend of Aubrey’s family, Stregoni. The first Stregoni POV chapter (and the third chapter in the book overall) is immediately an out-of-context, explicit sex scene between Stregoni, Gilles (Aubrey’s cousin) and Francois (Gilles’s vampire Pet). It is then revealed that they’ve had this kind of sexual relationship for years, even though Gilles and Francois are always cold to Stregoni afterwards and he hates what they’re doing to him emotionally. Overall, it is not at all a healthy relationship.

Later it gets revealed that Gilles has a reason for acting cold with Stregoni and shutting him out, and surprise – the reason is that he, a queer man, has been abused by his father his entire life. The situation is more complicated, but part of the abuse is that Gilles’s father told him that if Gilles ever loved anyone, his father would kill his lover. Now, George isn’t motivated by homophobia in this, and I’m sure he would act the same if Gilles’s lover was a woman, but it’s not. It’s two other queer men.

Moreover, there are like, two female characters in the story who both have names and are alive, and they are both minor.

One of these things might be okay, but all of them together kind of just painted a perfect picture of why I’m uneasy about women writing m/m fiction. Unhealthy m/m relationships, vaguely fetishistic sexual scenes, abused queer men, lack of female characters – this book has it all.

I do admit that the book got better during the second half when the characters finally decided to communicate with each other. (Gasp!) Both relationships involving the two main characters got healthier by the end, but that doesn’t erase the start (and in Stregoni’s case, several years of unhealthy bullshit).

I also appreciated that this book had two polyamorous relationships, but as I detailed above one of them is pretty unhealthy, and the other (m/f/f ship that is actually supportive and healthy) is in the past because the two women die in the prologue.

(There was also this one point where a character called Jack was mentioned a few times and I genuinely have no idea who that was supposed to be? Maybe it was somebody’s first name who was usually mentioned by his last name and I just missed it? Idk man.)

tldr; There were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed (I loved the connection between the titles and the cover for example), but overall I wouldn’t really recommend it.

My rating: ★★★☆☆ (more like 2.5?)

What is your favourite story with vampires? Bonus points if it’s queer and not creepy.

~ Alexa