Hello everyone! Today we are wrapping up the first week of this year’s Reading Challenge Month with our New-to-Me Author Week challenge.
As a reminder, you folks can play along with this event 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 right here 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!
This week’s awesome prize is sponsored by an amazing group of almost 100 authors who generously donated books. They are giving away TEN fabulous book bundles (and you can check them all out here on our Prize Preview). And remember, all entries over the month qualify you for our amazing Grand Prize sponsored by NineStar Press! They are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 books from NineStar Press! You can see all our Challenge Month prizes here on our Prize Preview page.
Here is what you need to know this week:
- 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 11th 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 New-to-Me Author Week Challenge. Comment on each for chances to win!
- Save Me by Beck Grey
- Impacted by Benji Carr
- The Charm Offensive by Allison Cochrun
- Scoring with Him by Lauren Blakely
- Holding on to a Hero by Bix Barrow
- Life, Love, and Other Inequalities by Argentina Ryder
- A Scheme of Sorcery by Ennis Rook Bash
- Avoiding Aiden by Chris Cole
- A Touch of Fever by Nazri Noor
- If you read along your own challenge book this week, leave your mini review below in the comments of this wrap up post.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been participating all week! Don’t forget to leave your comments and your mini reviews for a chance to win! And be sure to check in on Sunday for the kickoff of our next challenge, TBR Pile Week!
I had never read Rachel Reid before, and was intrigued by reviews of her m/m hockey romance HEATED RIVALRY (the second in her Game Changers series, which works fine as a standalone). Shane and Ilya are taken #1 and #2 in the NHL draft (for archrival teams the Montreal Voyageurs and Boston Bears), and begin fighting a grudging mutual attraction from day one in the league.
I’m a big hockey fan, though I have had mixed feelings about the NHL lately (who knew that seeing my favorite player contract Covid midseason, unwittingly give it to his wife and newborn baby, and then struggle upon his return while commentators complain about his lack of scoring would dampen my enthusiasm?), and I had a weird ambivalence toward HEATED RIVALRY. The real-life Montreal Canadiens/Boston Bruins rivalry has a very specific feel of intense hatred brought on by generations of battles (one Avon Gale captures brilliantly in EMPTY NET and COACH’S CHALLENGE), and for all of Shane and Ilya’s flirtatious smack talk, that feeling didn’t come across here. Straitlaced Canadian Shane and wisecracking Russian Ilya were far more reminiscent of the early careers of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, so I wasn’t surprised to see Reid’s afterword mentioning the 2011 Penguins/Capitals 24/7 docuseries as inspiration. (She and I both stop short of calling this fanfic, but there are a LOT of similar tropes involved.) The pacing is a problem; while the sex scenes are intense and well-written, they get very repetitive quickly. I’d say about a third of the book passes before we get any more development than “he’s hot, but I shouldn’t be having sex with my archrival.” (The story feels weirdly low-stakes in spite of the riskiness of the relationship. It might have worked better from Ilya’s POV instead of Shane’s, since he had more personal demons and arguably more to lose.) Reid does know her hockey, and the ending (while a bit anticlimactic) felt realistic. I did keep reading in spite of myself, so I’d be willing to try another book of hers (though many of her fans feel this is her best one, hmm).
There is another hockey book out there that people LOVE but also caveat with “this is not a romance!” I think I keep getting Heated Rivalry mixed up with that book. Every time I consider picking up Heated Rivalry, I worry I’m about to get my heart ripped out and I pick up something
@HeatherC, I suspect you may be thinking of Taylor Fitzpatrick’s THROWN OFF THE ICE which I’ve also not read. I did enjoy Reid’s HEATED RIVALRY though.
Thank you!!! I’m noting the title so I don’t get confused again
This one felt much less angsty than I’d expected, and has a fairly strong HFN if that helps…
Great review! And clearly you know your hockey! Thanks for sharing!
This has been a fun week of reviews! My new-to-me author pick was Harlow Hayes, who co-wrote “All the Queen’s Men” with Chara Croft as part of the new multi-author Destination Daddies series. Here’s my 5-star review:
“This poly romance is as fabulous as Miss Diva D. Light herself. It’s a sizzling hot M/M/M love story as sweet as shy Isaac, sassy as confident Jules, and smoldering as Daddy Roman gazing upon his two boys.
Thinking he and his devoted and polar opposite bestie Isaac can never be what each other truly needs, Jules is determined to find a Daddy for his (mutual) unrequited forever-crush. Posing as “package deal” boyfriends in an open relationship at a Daddy-kink weekend event, little do they know Daddy Roman will prove to be exactly what they both want and need.
Their “temporary” arrangement is intense, super steamy, and oh so sweet and tender, not to mention, Jules – and Diva – is hilarious! The complete devotion between Jules and Isaac gives all the feels, and how Roman so seamlessly fills the crucial gap in their relationship is what beautiful poly romance HEAs are made of.”
Oh this sounds great! I have read one book from this collection but not this author. Glad you enjoyed it!
Because I’m all about paranormal stories, I chose “Psync (Enchanted University #1)” by Zile Elliven. I really wanted to like this book more, but in the end I went with a 3.5/5.
– Really engaging writing style.
– Eli is a complex and interesting character.
– Nice, slow introduction of paranormal elements.
– Some things are unexplained, and that’s OK!
– Needs further editing. Missing words and homophones occurred often enough to be annoying.
– Haruka is still a bit of a cypher, even though part of the story is from his POV. He’s also not a particularly sympathetic or likeable character (perhaps intentionally, but it didn’t work for me).
– I had a real problem with the narrative tension. I expect it to ebb and flow over the course of a story, but here it just sort of maintained a continuous (low) level. I was surprised when I got to the end because there was not a lot of lead-up to the story climax.
Despite these criticisms, I really do like the author’s writing style. I’d be interested in future work by them.
Thanks Duncan! I am not familiar with this author. And I hear you on needing an ebb and flow of tension. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I read All That Drag (The FuBar #1) by Jess Whitecroft
It’s a second chance romance. Adam owns and performs in a drag bar. His old collage boyfriend, Ryan starts dating Adam’s bartender.
The parts I liked about the book, I REALLY liked. I had some laugh out loud moments. I also thought there were some really romantic moments. There are some side characters whose follow-on stories I want to read.
But for me, for a romance, once the main couple interact, I prefer no third party (unless the book’s end game is polyamory) Ryan and his boyfriend (Justin) invite Adam into threesomes but Ryan is still with Justin, (even though he increasingly wants to just be with Adam). There were also some time jumps that startled me. And maybe some story that got left out. (I would start a new chapter and think “wait, what? What’s going on? Where did 3 months go?”
But ultimately, I’m going to read a couple more books in the series. 3.5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for the review! I haven’t read this author either. Sounds like an interesting book and humor is always a plus
I read four books by new to me authors.
Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick
Featured a romance between Carter, an American assistant event planner and Edgar, crown prince of England. It was entertaining and made me chuckle several times; however, I also considered putting it aside after 100 pages. It takes place in the US and the UK. I’d describe it as an almost closed door romance. (I see that Jay gave it 4.5 stars.)
Sunshine & Shadows by K.C. Wells
Two men, best friends until age thirteen, meet by chance a dozen years later. Jamie works from home in web design and is a talented artist; when he was 18, a drunk driver caused a spinal injury that has him in a wheel chair. Jamie is the Sunshine in the title. Stephen works as an accountant in a business his father is starting; he has had some bad relationships and carries a lot of Shadows. Jamie offers his guest room while Stephen house hunts and the men reconnect as friends and then more. There is frank discussion of the daily life of someone who deals with paralysis (physically and emotionally) and also of the challenges and rewards associated with intimacy. I enjoyed this book, but I don’t expect to reread it. (Sue gave it 4 stars.)
Heart of Gold: A Summer Olympics Romance by Anna Martin
This book takes place at the (fictional) 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 in a non pandemic world. That was a little jarring.
This was a romance between two men (one Canadian, one American) who were just starting a relationship at the 2012 Olympics when one was in an accident that resulted in a spinal injury. They reconnect at the 2020 Olympics where one is competing and the other is a commentator. I liked the emotional connection between the two leads and could imagine rereading this.
A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn
This lengthy fantasy takes place in a world similar to the regency era (arranged marriages, the season, homosexuality punishable by death), but with differences such as the Blessed (who can heal or build) and sentient talking Greatcats. Our three leads are Lord Nikola (Blessed in mind healing, poor-ish), Lord Justin (wealthy, charming), and Wisteria (intelligent, neurodiverse). When the story begins, the two men have been secretly intimate for years, and Lord Nikola’s family is pressing him to marry a wealthy woman. Throughout the book each character develops a relationship with the others. I REALLY enjoyed this book and plan to read more by the author. (Caution: one violent scene)
Wow! Busy week! And the Rowyn book sound particularly intriguing
I chose His Horizon by Con Riley because I’ve heard a lot of good things about her writing in the last year. I really enjoyed this book and will be reading all her others. His Horizon is set in a small village in Cornwall, which has a large influence on the story. Jude comes back home after a tragedy and finds his almost hook-up Rob ensconced at the family pub. It’s an emotional story without being unnecessarily angsty and I liked that the importance of communication was emphasized. There are good secondary characters and no one felt stereotypical. It had a lovely HEA, but a peek farther into the future would be nice.
Glad you enjoyed this one! I have heard great things. Thanks for the review!
I chose “Guarding His Heart” by R. Cayden. I hadn’t read a bodyguard romance in awhile or this author so it seemed an obvious choice.
I really enjoyed this story. Good bodyguard stories are always nice, but the issue of professionalism in the job industry can be annoying because of course it will slow down the romance. Declan was so far from the professional bodyguard that wasn’t really an issue.
I also appreciated how completely opposite these two were. They were opposites in almost every way including being at different stages in their lives. The characters were very well done with depth.
The mystery part threw me off a little which is always a plus In whodunit cases. There was more going on than the surface showed so seeing how it all connected was interesting.
Thanks for the review Shante’! I have read some R. Cayden but not this book, so glad you enjoyed it.
Seeing Blind is the debut novel by Poppy Dale. This novel is a contemporary romance, the MCs are Jamie, 23 yrs old and Lev, 27 yrs old. Jamie was born with a neurological condition called prosopagnosia, commonly known as face blindness. He lives a life of strict routine, every day he wakes up to a world full of strangers. He doesn’t recognize himself, his parents, sister, co workers, he doesn’t recognize anyone. He depends on clues such as his mother’s never changing hairstyle and her always smelling of Chanel No 5. He can’t imagine himself in an intimate relationship, he thinks no one will want him, no one will have him. His family is very supportive and protective he finds it very comforting but he also yearns to be independent. Lev is coasting through life, events in his life have robbed him of his confidence and left him a little broken. He has been estranged from his family since he came out as gay. He works as a barista in a coffee shop owned by his friend, Kate. She is his best friend, fierce protector and supporter. Kate is the deus ex machina that propels this story to its conclusion.
I think this novel could be categorized as an epistolary romance since most of the interaction between the MCs happens by sending messages through a dating app. After months of messaging, they still don’t who they are communicating with, but they have formed a strong relationship and become boyfriends and fall in love. Their first meeting in person is so romantic and a perfect manifestation of their love. This was a well written debut novel and I hope to read more from this author.
Wow that really sounds fascinating! I have heard of face blindness before, but not such a severe case. Thanks for the review!
I actually ended up with a non-LGBTQ book this week. And, boy oh boy, do I *not8 recommended it. I was excited to read the first “Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve after seeing the movie when it came out. I couldn’t finish it. To be fair, the writing was well done, and anyone who reads young adult novels would likely enjoy it. However, I have a serious issue with ableism in any media. If it would have just been one thing, I could probably overlook it, but it was over and over again. (There were also tinges of sexism.) Things like this are bad enough in adult literature, but this is meant for pre-teens/early teens. We, as adults, know that these are nasty thoughts from a character, and aren’t acceptable, but it can be harder for younger people to realize that – especially when these thoughts are coming from a HERO of the story! Just, not cool. I’m sure by the end, said hero would have realized he loved the heroine *despite* her “deformities,” and just let me puke now…
Oh wow. And yes I agree, negative representation can be devastating, esp for a YA audience. Sorry this was such a miss for you but thanks for sharing your review with us!
I choose “Love On The Spectrum” by Alec Nortan because I won this book from ninestarpress in last years reading challenge month. It is about two men with a difficulty in life, one has Asperger’s and the other is severely scarred. I liked the book very much. It is very accurately written from someone who knows a great deal about beeing an Asperger’s so it is very authentic. Overall a very nice an believable plot. I would give it 4.5*
Oh good! Glad the prize came in handy and you enjoyed it!
I too read ‘Holding On to a Hero’ by Bix Barrow.
I enjoyed the book. The mystery is good, the MCs are likable, and the story is well-told. With the POV changes between the three MCs and the gap where all we see are Will’s experiences, it leaves you wondering. And I liked the sidebars showing the investigators’ interviews with various people. Overall, this was a good story and I would recommend it.
Glad you enjoyed it Linda!
I read Game Changer, book one of the Game Changers series by Rachel Reid. She’s an author I’ve wanted to read for a while but I’m cheap and her books are pricey.
This story revolves around Scott, a rich famous hockey star and Kit who works at a smoothie shop. There’s an instant attraction between them but Scott is closeted and had never had a relationship or hook up with someone local. I loved the start of their relationship where they are crushing on each other so hard. They’re both incredibly sweet, kind and adoring.
The problem I had with the book is the speed of the relationship. They’re saying I love you and moving in together within a month. Kit also seems to pressure Scott to come out and declare he’s gay when he’s not ready.They haven’t been dating two months at this stage. I did like this book but I’ve heard so much hype about this series that I was expecting something amazing.
@Lorraine, you might far prefer the second book in the series, Heated Rivalry. I did.
That’s the one I’ve heard so much about. Enemies to lovers is more my thing. Trix”s review above mentioned Avon Gale and I love that series.
Thanks for the review Lorraine!
I’m always grateful for this Reading Challenge Month because it gives me reading goals to reach for. My decision to read Penny Aimes’ For the Love of April French is absolutely due to the challenge. I wanted to read it without the challenge, but with so many books to read, I might have just ran out of time on my library loan while other authors I already know caught my eye. I actually might even have put this one down if I hadn’t already proclaimed it my pick for this week. Not because there was another wrong with it (far from it!) but because it started out with sex very early on. That’s not something bad, but I’m not always in the mood for those stories. So I did start only reading it a few pages at a time, but with the characters being so well written, it wasn’t long before I couldn’t stop reading.
April French and Dennis Martin meet at a kink club, Frankie’s, on a slow night. April is a regular who has the nickname Mama April because she likes to take care of the people at Frankie’s. This is Dennis’ first visit, and he’s immediately drawn to April, but his previous relationship ended so badly, that as a man and a dom, he’s got baggage. April lives with her own baggage, navigating the harsh realities of being a trans woman (unfortunately that includes a cruel ex-wife) and being a sub other doms seem to leave in the dust on to someone better. Within the framework of their relationship as dom and sub, they find so much to love about each other as friends and partners, and it’s only once they start to unpack that baggage that they’re able to find a way to truly be together.
Watching April and Dennis navigate their relationship was a treat, especially because the story was written in a different way that really added depth to how we see each character figuring themselves and the other out. It was alternating POV for Part I, then April’s POV as Part II for six months, and then Dennis’ POV in Part III for those same six months, and then back to alternating POV for Part IV. I absolutely loved this style. Aimes really made it interesting to go back in Part III and see the same events through a different perspective and not feel repetitive, and it was so fun as a reader to gather insights and be surprised.
There’s a lot to love in this book, and anyone who’s looking for a kinky romance with so many sweet and fun moments and also a lot of depth to character, I would highly recommend this one. This is Penny Aimes’ debut, and I’m so looking forward to what comes next.
Sounds great! Thanks for your review! And thanks for joining us again for Challenge Month!
I was able to read 3 books this week, thanks to the extra long holiday weekend that included Rosh Hashanah (can’t remember the last time that happened). I read A World Apart by Mel Gough, The Tinder Chronicles by Alexa Land, and Risk Assesment by Parker St. John.
I chose A World Apart feeling that I had heard many good things about it. The writing was good but the story had lots of moving parts and most was fairly lukewarm. I never felt the chemistry between the 2 MCs, one a cop and the other the town screw-up. At the 1st mention of love, I thought I had inadvertantly skipped a chapter. Then, too much happened with the men. I wasn’t happy how Ben handled his new separation with his wife and tween daughter. I skimmed the remainder of the story.
I’d had The Tinder Chronicles on my TBR for a while, thinking it would take a lot of time to read, since it was 3 book set. I really enjoyed the 1st two stories, when the 3rd started and the leader of the new group of vamps was revealed, it seemed it may be over the top, but in the end the story worked for me. I really enjoyed the story of Tinder, a vampire hunter, and Bane, the vampire Tinder loved to hate. It was a fun story that held my interest (feels like it’s been a while since I’ve read paranormal). 4 stars
Last book of the week was Risk Assesment, this was a fairly quick, entertaining read. The story flowed well and I could feel the chemistry between Elliot, a once hotshot attorney working in a legal aid clinic, and Lucas, bad boy at the end of his parole. 3.5 stars
Busy week of reading! And thanks for the reviews!