Judge a Book By Its Cover Week Wrap Up!!

challenge month 2017 copyHello everyone! Today we are wrapping up the the final of our Reading Challenge Month with our Judge a Book By Its Cover Week. I can’t believe it is all almost over already! This month always seems to go so quickly! I have had such a wonderful time, I am sorry to see things ending!

As always, you can play along in two ways. First off, you can leave a comment on any of this week’s challenge week reviews and earn one entry point for each. And second, if you read along with your own challenge book, you can tell us all about it by leaving a mini review in the comments of this post and earn 10 contest entries. So if you comment on all the posts and do a mini-review, you can earn mega entries!

We have another fabulous prize this week, this time sponsored by Interlude Press.

Interlude has donated a great prize pack for one lucky winner, including a signed, print copy of Not Your Villian, and e-book copies of some of their award winning books!

Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2), advance reader copy signed by author C.B. Lee

Award Winners:

  • Idlewild by Jude Sierra (Kirkus Best Books of 2016)
  • Luchador by Erin Finnegan (Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2016; Foreword INDIES Book of the Year, Gold: Romance; finalist: LGBT, Multicultural)
  • Into the Blue by Pene Henson (Lambda Literary Award, Gay Romance; Foreword INDIES finalist: Romance)
  • Hold By Rachel Davidson Leigh (Tofte-Wright Children’s Literature Award)
  • In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack (Foreword INDIES Bronze, Science Fiction; finalist: LGBT
  • Sweet by Alysia Constantine (Foreword INDIES Honorable mention, LGBT; finalist: Romance)

Award Finalists:

  • Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (Lambda Literary Award finalist)
  • Sideshow by Amy Stilgenbauer (Foreword INDIES, LGBT)
  • The King & the Criminal by Charlotte Ashe (Foreword INDIES, Fantasy, LGBT)
  • Black Dust by Lynn Charles (Foreword INDIES, Romance)

And remember all entries throughout the month qualify you for the grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press. They are giving away a Kindle Fire loaded with some great releases!

Ok, here are details for entering:

  • All the contest details and rules are in this post or at least linked from here
  • This week’s deadline to leave comments on our reviews, or your mini review of your own book here on this post, is Saturday, September 30th at 11:59 pm ET. All entries will also carry over for the grand prize at the end of the month.
  • In case you missed any, here are the books we reviewed this week for the Judge a Book By Its Cover Challenge. Comment on each for chances to win!
  • If you read along your own challenge book this week, leave your mini review here on this wrap up post.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been participating all week (and all month)! Don’t forget to leave your comments and your mini reviews for a chance to win!

Comments

  1. Bronwyn Heeley says:

    I read Fate Heats Things Up by Sarah Hadley Brook for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week, and I must say I judged this book hard and it was an utter disappointment. The whole story telling needed work, I don’t meant to be mean but it….I didn’t like it at all. The narrative was blocky and I guess tried for a number of things, but failed miserably example, the does he doesn’t he and the suspense (there wasn’t any, in no manner did I once have a doubt it was going to end any other way then what it did, I had hope but nope). The fact that he contracted himself constantly, and it wasn’t on purpose. Blushing bride only goes so far when you aren’t showing me the nerves in other manners. It told me a story and it wasn’t done well unfortunately tho there definitely something there that with work the author will become better and I do hope she has people around her that will get her there. The elements of what this story was meant to be were there, plan as day, the execution was just terrible. 

    Thank for the month. It’s been really fun and I can’t wait to do it again 

  2. Fishy Riot by Lindsey Black, bought for cover (and title and setting!)
    I quite enjoyed this. Generally it was pacy and the story quite interesting. The plot did get slow at times and then something else would come up and off we went again.
    Set in Australia which I liked but it wasn’t overly pushed.
    A fairly level read emotionally and quite easy to read with a gentle humour.
    The Jameson family are boisterous and loud and whilst I enjoyed most of the interactions at times it got a bit much.
    The romance between Sietta and Taylor was low key and didn’t really grab me but it was nice. A fair bit of swat team action too with plenty of injuries and yelling.
    A few plot points didn’t get resolved (to my liking) so maybe a follow up is planned?
    Certainly would read more by the author.

  3. AUTOBOYOGRAPHY by Christina Lauren

    Blurb: Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
    But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
    It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.”

    Review: I’d heard a lot about the writing team of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings (using the pen name Christina Lauren), and their various NA romances. As far as I know, this is their first foray into YA and m/m (if I’m wrong, please let me know). Even though Tanner briefly has that “adult in a teenager’s body” voice that tends to distance me from a lot of gay-themed YA stories (lookin’ at you, Dale Peck’s SPROUT), his self-awareness makes his later vulnerability that much more touching. Having had an ill-fated crush on a Mormon guy in college (complete with a time where I insulted his religion without meaning to, and one disastrous date), I expected to completely empathize with Tanner. So, I was unprepared for how much more I loved Sebastian! His combination of genuine innocence, the wide-eyed ability to see only the good in people, and his lurking impish, hedonist side reminded me so much of David from Keira Andrews’ A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA (one of my favorites). His whole life, Sebastian’s religion has provided him with comfort and counsel, so he can’t comprehend its crushing disapproval for the love and desire that blindsides him, and that he knows in his soul is good. Tanner has been lucky enough to have a supportive family (indeed, his parents are not only believably rendered as in so few YA books, their own love story is refreshingly deep and meaningful to the plot), and his bi identity is a resolute part of who he is. (Billings herself identifies as bi, so this takes on added resonance.) Tanner’s mother (like her gay sister) has been excommunicated from the LDS church, so her self-image as a very tolerant, progressive woman bumps up against her deep misgivings about her son’s feelings for the child of a Mormon bishop. My knowledge of the LDS church is limited to Josh Hanagarne’s memoir THE WORLD’S STRONGEST LIBRARIAN (not gay-themed, but definitely thought-provoking in how a very intellectual, sensitive, sensual person prone to depression struggles with his fears of damnation, and betraying the ideals he’s worked his whole life to embody, even though he hasn’t done anything the average person would call wrong), but I found Lauren’s examination of LDS to be very nuanced. Intolerance is definitely called out, but good intentions and reparative efforts are outlined as well.

    As for what fell short for me: Sebastian’s book tour seemed a little bit far-fetched, as did the world-building of the seminar to a certain degree (though Mr. Fujita is a wonderful character–and I wonder if his name is a shoutout to former NFL player and LGBT ally Scott Fujita). The trope of the long-suffering, supportive straight girlfriend with a crush is fully present here, and while Autumn (aka Auddy) is sympathetic, her actions make the stories’ two pivotal late plot points (one of which will be extremely controversial to many m/m fans) feel forced. In fact, the whole conclusion feels pretty rushed. Also, while the sensuality content is certainly YA-appropriate (mostly implied or fade to black), and the m/m positivity is never in doubt, it did feel like the authors were consciously skirting controversy by making the mentions of het sex more explicit and concrete than the gay ones. (Maybe that’s just my take.) All in all, I really enjoyed this story, will likely try some other current Lauren books, and will eagerly await any future m/m tales from the team!

  4. Many thanks, Jay, for organizing the month; I’ve enjoyed it very much.

    Bone to Pick T. A. Moore

    I enjoyed this mystery and its cover; I found the use of white space attractive. I hope that the author will write more books featuring Javi (an FBI agent), Cloister (a K-9 dog handler), and Bourneville (the dog). The story ended with a happy for now so there is lots of room for the men’s relationship to grow. There were also questions left unanswered about the characters’ pasts which I’d like to see answered.

    ALSO Back to You by Chris Scully

    This was a contemporary romance with a strong mystery element. I found the cover art of this book to be quite clever. The title is reflective of the book’s content, but it can also be a play on words and the cover art takes advantage of that fact by showing us a person’s back. I enjoyed the story of a man returning to his hometown after some twenty years away and the relationship he develops with the man who was his childhood best friend. I’d happily read more by this author.

    AND They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

    This was an enjoyable young adult novel which has an intriguing premise. Anyone who is to die receives a phone call between midnight and three of that day with the news; they are not told when or how they will die. The story centers around two young men (17 and 18) who connect through an app called Last Friend and details their Last Day; a slight romance develops between the two of them. It was a touching story, and I’d like to read more by this author.

    AND In His Majesty’s Service  by Elizabeth Silver and Jenny Urban

    This was a rather disappointing science fiction romance featuring a prince (in disguise) and a ship commander in a world with soul bonds; I persevered and finished it but found it too short on story. I will not be in a hurry to read more by these authors.

  5. I decided to read a YA book for this. I chose In Other Worlds by Sarah Rees Brennan because mermaids. The mermaids didn’t not actually end up having much to do with the story so I was slightly disappointed but the characters made up for it. In Other Lands is a deconstructed portal fantasy featuring a bi kid named Elliot from age 13 to 17. I pretty much loved this kid from the very beginning. He gets taken to a camp that trains kids to fight, except he has no interest in learning that stuff.

    “I’m in,” said Elliot. “For the non-fighting course. I want to read books and never, ever to fight. I’m a pacifist.”

    I love this kid so much. He has so many great lines. The story is very much about the characters so if you don’t like Elliot, you’re not likely to enjoy this book.

  6. I never pick a book just based on the cover, although a good cover can make me want to find out more when I see it in my Amazon recs. Since almost all the books I’ve read lately are by authors that I already know I like and therefore the covers are meaningless, I had a hard time coming up with a book for this challenge, but finally settled on Narrow Margins by JJ Harper. I’d never read anything by this author before, but I liked the cover and the blurb, so I decided to try this one. Unfortunately, I didn’t really like it. In fact, I didn’t even finish it. Even though there is no indication that this is part of a series, it obviously is, because necessary details are never given in the story. I found myself confused over several things and found that I just didn’t really care enough to continue. If you really love motocross racing and start from the beginning, maybe you would feel differently, but I have too many other books to read to want to do this.

  7. I chose Corruption: A Bureau Story because that cover made me feel uneasy and sad. And I loved the book. A five stars short story for me
    A demon defeated by men. A demon hunter with the task of killing him. Some stories don’t go the way they were supposed to, because maybe there are innocent monsters…
    Tenrael has nothing left. He lost his freedom, his will, his pride and now he is about to lose his life. But he is happy because it is the first time in ages he feels something… Once a proud demon who brought nightmares to the dreams of humans, he was tricked and trapped by a human long time ago. Deprived of his will, he’s now become a fair monster, submitted to continuous scorn and tortures both by his masters and by the humans to go to see the freak show. His life has become an enormous pit of despair, until he meets Charles Grimes, half-human, half-angel, who makes a living as demon hunter for the mysterious Bureau…. Charles latest task is to kill the demon in the freak show, but on witnessing the hurt and defeat in the monster’s eyes, Charles cannot bring himself to do it. Instead, he frees Tenrael, convinced that the real monsters are the men who seek to torture a defenceless creature. Unaware, he forges a bond which will draw them together again.
    How you can pack so much feeling in such a short story, I do not know. I just know that this story moved me deeply, the pain in Tenrael, the aloofness in Charles, the sheer perfection of their matching… I love Kim’s books, and I hope there is more to come about these two, and about the mysterious Bureau which deals with magical beings…
    So. Good.

    • You didn’t mention the author’s last name, Susana. However, as soon as I saw the first name Kim, I thought Fielding. I’ve liked all of the works I’ve read by her. She really is a talented author.

  8. MAKING LOVE (F/F, Asexual)
    by: Aidan Wayne

    I genuinely loved this! In fact, I think it’s my favorite Aidan Wayne’s so far. It was, in my opinion ADORABLE!! And creative too!! The explanation of divisions (and how they work) in the Aphrodite Agency was FUN to read

    I loved Carla’s optimistic and bubbly attitude. She’s a cupid, okay? Maybe she’s not really good at working solo, or at recognizing chemistry for her targets, but Carla’s heart is as big as the ocean. Carla is the only one who is willing to work against Aphrodite Agency’s policy to find True Love for a succubus. She doesn’t give up easily. I loved her tenacity!

    And of course Carla is in the asexual spectrum (YAY for ace cupid!!). She doesn’t think of sex as a big of a deal. Carla starts everything with Leeta as friendship before realizing that she falls for the succubus. I LOVED how both Carla and Leeta approach the physical part of showing the affection between the two of them — communicating and finding out what works. SO CUTE.

    I believe that they adore one another and they totally make it work. I just want to draw little hearts on the pages of this novella *beams happily*

    PETER DARLING (M/M, trans*)
    by Austin Chant

    My review is all spoilery because I thought the plot was incredibly good. So to make things short… Imagine that the real Peter Pan is actually a trans* young man, who we may all know at first as Wendy Darling: a boy ‘trapped’ inside a body of a girl. This book breaks and fulfils my heart at the same time. The only thing that made me cringe a bit is the body count. I didn’t expect this book to be a little bloody. Peter Darling is a magical and beautiful rendering of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. I might in fact love this better than the original. Simply put, it’s PRECIOUS!

  9. Snakes Among the Flowers
    Jason Huffman Black
    4 out of 5 stars
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30062359-snakes-among-sweet-flowers

    I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for about a year. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, the tattoo art is stunning and I can almost smell the sweet fragrance of the flowers.

    The story is about Camden Sanders, he is looking for a new start in life and has moved to the small town of Hog Mountain in GA. Cam has had a hard life, he grew up being abused by an alcoholic father and no protection from an uncaring mother. As an adult he fell into a life of crime after meeting Harold a very abusive and cruel gang leader. At the end of his second prison stint he realizes he must leave Atlanta and get away from Harold’s clutches.

    In Hog Mountain, Can buys and run down house and starts a business as an auto mechanic and he also figures he can run a few scams on his unsuspecting, country bumpkin neighbors. Shortly after his move to his new town, Cam is visited by Jackson Rhodes the local police officer. So far, Cam has had a warm welcome to Hog Mountain from most of its citizens. Officer Jackson Rhodes is not there to give him a warm welcome, but a warning. Jackson knows all about Cam’s criminal record and will be keeping close tabs on him.

    This is a story of opposites attract at its best. Cam is so flawed, so snarky , abused as a child and as an adult, distrustful, ex con, heavily tattooed and out as a gay man. Jackson is the golden all American boy, loved by his parents, respected and loved by the whole town, incorruptible officer of the law and a closeted gay man.

    Through the goodness and support from some of the lovely Hog Mountain’s citizens, Cam starts his redemption and transformation. Cam finds a home, an honest trade, acceptance and good friends…and most important of all he finds love and family with Jackson, his “Sheriff”.

    In one scene of this story Cam and Jackson find support for their relationship from where they least expected it. During a Sunday sermon at the Baptist church, the pastor delivers a sermon that basically says: Love is love is love. Amen

    I picked this book because of the beautiful cover and in its pages I found a wonderful, rewarding story. Jay, thank you for providing to much joy and fun this month.

  10. The Castaway Prince by Isabelle Adler
    I picked this cover because I like fantasy and the color palette with the wisps made it seem a little ominous and luminous. As long as you know who the publisher is, you will get exactly what you expect from this story just by looking at the cover. Fleeing for his life, Prince Stephan uses his love of ladies clothing to his advantage. His hope rests with his former lover, a Prince from a rival nation. His illuminating moment comes when he has to face the truth of his life, rather than continuing to live in a fantasy world. I liked this short story and would rate it 3.25.

  11. I read When all the world sleeps. It was an emotional wringer. I’m glad I read it. I was engrossed but I really need to read some fluff now.

  12. Sand and Gold and Ruin by Alexis Hall

    The novella was beautifully written and I liked the descriptiveness in which the author described the merman/merwoman. It was a pretty intriguing experience getting to know the merpeople, their trainers and program. For the most part I was curious about the program and some of its subjects and how it actually came about; it’s something that goes unanswered and serves as a bit of a mystery. I did wish it had more of a Disney Little Mermaid ending to it but realistically speaking I felt it was a nice ending and logically more realistic (if merpeople were to exist). Though the ending was a bit more of a tragic one I did enjoy the read. I liked reading about the beauty and viciousness of these beings and the behaviors they exhibited through the prince’s eyes. The prince himself was a character I wanted to know more about and frankly I wished it had been a longer read just to witness him living his life and learning.

  13. I read Fagin’s Boy: The Further Particulars of a Parish Boy’s Progress by Christina E. Pilz for Judge a Book by Its Cover Week. It has a painting of an old English street with the gaslamp lit and a vertical border of the ends of old book spines stacked horizontally as well as the title in a gilded circular frame. Definitely not a typical m/m type of cover. It has a more literary feel, which is appropriate given it’s a sequel to Oliver Twist. Although I have loved Dickens books when I was in school, Oliver Twist isn’t one I’ve ever read, but it’s one of those stories that’s part of our cultural landscape, so it wasn’t too difficult to jump into the story. I did read up on wiki about it after reading for a bit, though, because I felt like I’d have a little bit better feel for the nuances.

    So, this sequel starts out a number of years after Oliver has gone to live with Mr. Brownlow, and he’s now 17. He has a new life where his every comfort is seen to. They live with Mr. Grimwig, a friend of Brownlow’s. The story starts just after Mr. Brownlow has died. So, the new wonderful life Oliver finally has is in ruins because Brownlow is gone and Grimwig detests Oliver and thinks his background as a workhouse boy and member of a thieving gang means he will never be any good, and Grimwig takes every opportunity to make Oliver feel bad and to tell others Oliver’s past. Through the kindness of a friend of Brownlow’s, Oliver is offered an apprenticeship at a haberdashery where he will live and learn trade so that one day he can fulfill his dream of owning a bookshop.

    Although it’s not his goal, Oliver takes to the job where a couple of other boys also live and learn. He runs deliveries out with a helper and then on his own, which is when trouble strikes. Who should pop out of his past other than the Artful Dodger himself, Jack Dawkins, who has made his way back from being deported, a sentence he received in Oliver Twist. Jack only knows thieving and wants nothing more than to get back to it and be part of Fagin’s gang again, although Fagin is dead. Oliver wants nothing of that life anymore and tries to stay away from Jack, but Jack persists in coming around and getting him in trouble.

    So, this book is definitely a plus for lit nerds like me. In school I was more into Great Expectations and David Copperfield and not Oliver Twist, but the feel of Dickens’ writing is there, so I fell easily into the storytelling. This actually made me wish I’d read Oliver Twist just so I could feel a connection to it faster. But I got there quick enough. If people are looking for a romantic read, this is not for you. It’s a continuation of Oliver’s struggles, and then builds into a connection with Jack, someone he hadn’t really felt that with before. But we the reader can see that Jack, for all his roughness, has a tenderness for the sweet-faced, upright Oliver, even though the book is always from Oliver’s perspective. I absolutely loved it. I was back in Victorian England with its sights, sounds, and smells, where the distinction between the haves and have-nots was brutal. I’d say it was about 85% before anything happens between Jack and Oliver, but it was a worthwhile, necessary route to that moment. This a continuing series, so there’s many more journeys of theirs to go on, and I intend to be there with them. I know that the last book in the series will be coming out fairly soon, so this is actually a really good time to be starting it.

    • Thanks for your review, Caroyn. I have this and the sequel sitting on my shelf and now have a far better idea of what the story will be like.

      • I’m so glad it was helpful, Kareni. I wonder what the second will be like now that the two have a relationship right from the start. The last 15% of the first was restrained but lovely as they dealt with their feelings for each other (even while the drama of other events was still happening).

  14. I read Wild by Adrienne Wilder because the cover drew me in and fits the title perfectly. I could see at the eyes of the man on the cover that there was a story to be told and i was currious to see what that story was. I even felt the cold temperature of Alaska just by looking at the cover. August is a model who is traveling by plane and wants to propose to his boyfriend (who is also on the plane) when he finds out the man has been cheating on him. Before he can really comprehend what is happening the plane crashes. He is found and rescued by Keegan who is hiding from a brutal past in the wilderness of Alaska. I really liked this book we get to see Keegan taking care of August (even if he knows what could happen if the past he is trying to hide from finds out he is alive) and trying everything in his power to make sure August stays alive. After some time and some adventure with Daisy and a She-Bitch we see that the two men grow closer. This first part of the book really tells them surviving, growing closer and learning about eachother and the author took the time to tell. The second part of the book the showdown and conclusion (not going to tell more because of spoilers) happens in a faster pace and i would have liked it if this was a bit longer because the ending felt a bit rushed in comparison with the first half of the book. But i loved it and i can highly recommend it. Warning there are some brutal scenes in this book.

  15. Denise Dechene says:

    I picked The Black Feather (Angels and Demons of Babylon book 1) by JM Wolf >>>>> 2.75 stars <<<<<

    Blurb:
    Archangel turned Archdemon, Bastion (Belial) McDowell was left with the horrid memories of the mistakes he's made that cost him not only his white wings but also caused the death of his lover. Wandering amongst the humans in hopes of finding a way to earn his place back in the light realm, one tragic accident involving an eleven-year-old boy has changed his entire way of life. Watching over the kid from the shadows for ten years, Bastion watched him grow into a handsome young man and struggled with the decision to make himself known finally. But, is Bastion truly ready to let his past go to give this human his all? Especially since the human looks exactly like his fallen lover.

    21-year-old Scott Grayson's life had gone to hell ever since the accident when he was eleven that took his mother away from him. Locked up in his home like a prisoner with an abusive father, Scott was an empty shell stumbling through life, until he was rescued from an ambush in an alleyway by a mysterious man in a black cloak with eyes as blue as ice, who left a black feather for Scott to remember him by. After discovering a strange cafe called "Angel's Haven" in the direction where his rescuer ran off to, Scott decided to check it out and eventually meets the mysteriously dark and sexy owner Bastion, whose eyes resemble the man in the black cloak.

    Circumstances have brought these two together, and Bastion's secrets become harder to hide from Scott. Especially when a prophecy reveals an upcoming war where both Bastion and Scott play a role in the event. Can Bastion accept the darkness that he's been denying to keep Scott safe from the army of demons hunting for them? And can Scott find the strength within himself to fulfill his role in the prophecy and fight alongside the demon his heart belongs to?

    Review:
    I love the cover, but for me the book needs some work. The premise is good but I think the story needs some fine tuning and more back story. The MC's are 2 dimensional and I didn't really feel their chemistry. It's unfortunate that the blurb is so detailed giving a lot of the story away. I believe this is the authors first book so maybe those things will work themselves out . I'd be willing to read the second in the series if only to find out what happens to the secondary characters who were better written

  16. This challenge was a bit difficult for me. I honestly never choose a book by its cover. I tend to totally ignore the covers although there are some good ones available. But I wanted to participate so I went through my already-bought books on my kindle and searched for covers I really like and I came up with three books.
    Music of the Sphere by Chase Potter. I like the beautifully captured light on this cover and the two men are just silhouettes without faces which I prefere :-) This was a really gorgeous book. It is a best-friends-to-lovers story. The four main characters are equally fleshed out, the romance is slow but naturally evolving, wonderfully 5*
    Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton. On this cover it’s the lighting in contrast to the dark colours I like. And this time there is a beautiful face on it. This romance is set in 1986 in a small town in Wyoming. I think it’s very accurat written for this time. There is a very sweet romance, very nice written, 4*
    Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton. I’m not sure why this cover catched my eye. This book was a nice surprise. It has an original and interesting plot with a bit of magic, a sweet romance, and a really cute guy. 4*
    So, this was it for this year. Thank you Jay, for this great month of challenges. I had so much fun participating!

  17. Purple Reader says:

    I’ve enjoyed the challenges, and here’s one of the ones I read this week:
    THE LAST GRAND MASTER (CHAMPION OF THE GODS 1), by Andrew Q. Gordon
    4.5 of 5 stars – Sweeping Magical World to Start a Wonderful Series.

    The cover drew me in and tells the story: Mysteriously in the shadows, the face of a young wizard looking upon his raised open-palm hands holding a bright swirling ball of fire, as if proffering it to me … and I accepted for all it suggested – an epic fantasy with depth, magic, court intrigue, good vs. evil, and of course m/m romance.

    Gordon’s style was sweeping, descriptive, and imaginative while still being easy to read. He set the tone nicely at the start – introducing right away wizards, magic, gods, unicorns, a mysterious summons for a quest, an intense battle, and a foretold soul mate. The good pace and tension kept up throughout most of the book, slowing down in the middle as first books can do with some necessary world building. And what a world Gordon builds. It’s complex, especially the magic, the kingdoms and their diverse peoples and cultures.  

    I liked that as part of that world same-sex relationships were seen as normal, and that it wasn’t the sole focus but was part of the bigger fantasy. There was a large cast of well-developed characters; except for the villain, due to his absence, but will be seen more later. As for our young title character, despite his magical powers and royalty, he was humble, willing to admit mistakes and learn, sensitive to others and willing to extend a helping hand and refuge for those displaced. He was almost too good to be true, but he did have his faults which humanized him, and it made him adorable.

    To avoid an even longer review, I’ll just summarize by saying, I can’t wait to get to book 2.

  18. Purple Reader says:

    Another one I read for this week’s challenge, not a romance, but … well you’ll see:
    WHEN WE RISE, by Cleve Jones. 
    3.0 of 5 stars – Captivating 1st-Hand Look at Gay Life & Rights Movement. 

    While probably not as compelling for many, this cover drew me in and tells the story – it now sports a Lambda Award logo (for best gay memoir), the title spoke to me (same as the new miniseries that it inspired), the picture of a political rally (for Harvey Milk) took me back to my younger days (as well as appealed to my historical interests) … and purple is my fav color. Even so, I was doubtful. I’m not always a fan of memoirs, but I ended up enjoying this one.

    Jones was prominent in the 70s with Milk, et. al., and later (like starting the AIDS Quilt). He provided an honest, first-hand view of glbtq history and the rights movement. His matter-of-fact telling of his own life and surrounding events was interesting and informative, and I appreciated that this style lent to his not bragging or being full of himself, even while mentioning famous people. Still, tbh, some will find as I do in many memoirs, that this suffered at times from one too many anecdotes, unknown names, and that same style being too detached to not always connect emotionally.

    Even so, this was easy to read and there were indeed numerous moments that engaged me, like the many period details and the terrible events of Milk’s assassination and the AIDS pandemic (bringing me to tears). Since I happen to be the same age as Jones, I could relate and he did a good job of taking me back to those times. I also liked that it wasn’t just about the activist efforts, but also painted a fascinating picture of the gay people and culture, particularly in San Francisco.

    I recommend this to anyone who might like a dose of history and reality to complement your m/m romances. With times as they are now, I appreciated the context of what it used to be like, what was fought for, and what’s still worth fighting for now.

    • Thanks so much! I haven’t read the book but found the mini series to be very good and Cleve Jones to be a fascinating figure. I remember going to see the AIDS quilt on the national mall in college and I found the discussion of the AIDS crisis to be very moving.

  19. Purple Reader says:

    I enjoyed the challenge so much, I can’t pass up sharing this one with such a good story to go with the cover:
    PROSPERITY (PROSPERITY #1), by Alexis Hall
    4.0 of 5 stars – Endearing Steampunk “Urchin With A Heart of Gold”

    I’m becoming a fan of steampunk, and this cover exuded that ambience, with its historical sepia look, the poc in the foreground, the mysterious figures in the back, I had to explore more. I was glad I did, for while this was my first, it won’t be my last by Hall.

    The cover was matched inside by the writing and story, as told in first person by Piccadilly, about the rise and fall in 1863 of Prosperity, a wild frontier skytown for aetherships. Despite the alt-history, I still had a sense of the times and being there, due to the descriptiveness, 1860’s street lingo, and phrasings from the time emulating (as a sort of tip-of-the-hat and nod to the famous author of the time) Dickens, and what he did in “Oliver Twist,” which cleverly also happened to be a book Dil was gifted and read early in the story.

    I appreciated seeing quite a diverse crew on Dil’s aethership – glbt and q; educated, principled, ethereal and not; but no one innocent, all human with a mix of good and bad qualities. I liked the MC immediately and his honest narration, a young guttersnipe, an “urchin-with-a-heart-of-gold act.” That big heart led to being open to all things, including an opposites-attract fling, which was hot and fun to watch. As was seeing Dil’s character develop. In his words, “The Piccadilly who arrived at Prosperity weren’t the same Piccadilly what was going to have to leave it.”

    This all led to an exciting end “in which we bid farewell to our hero and matters are concluded in a wholly proper and satisfactory manner.” But this won’t be the last of what I read about this “queer tangle of good and bad.”

  20. Better late than never. Due to real life I just finished my book. :-)
    Murder In Pastel by Josh Lanyon
    I was looking for a good mystery book and really fell in love with this cover. It sort of reminds me of some of the covers from the old mysteries from the 1950’s that I used to read .
    The book is set in a fictional town on the California coast and centers around sort of an artist colony.
    The main characters artist father disappeared 10 years prior along with a very expensive painting that he was getting ready to show for the first time. Now after 10 years there are attempted murders and a couple of real murders & Kyle is sure they are somehow all related to the disappearance of his father.
    I enjoyed the mystery…the romance could have been a little better. But overall I would give this about 4 stars. :-)

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