Hello everyone! Today we are wrapping up the third week of our Reading Challenge Month with our Under the Rainbow 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 fabulous prize is sponsored by the great folks at Carina Press who donated a fabulous paperback book bundle (US and international)! The winner will receive the following books:
- SAILOR PROOF by Annabeth Albert (Carina Adores; Shore Leave, #1)
- FOR THE LOVE OF APRIL FRENCH by Penny Aimes (Carina Adores)
- BETTER THAN PEOPLE by Roan Parrish (Carina Adores; Garnet Run, #1)
- AMERICAN DREAMER by Adriana Herrera (Carina Press; Dreamers, #1)
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 25th 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 Under the Rainbow Week Challenge. Comment on each for chances to win!
- 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 final challenge, Judge a Book By Its Cover Week!
A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot Book 1) by Becky Chambers
This novella is set in Panga (perhaps a wiser future earth?) where some centuries earlier self-aware robots moved into the wilderness and disappeared. The story centers around a tea monk (non-binary) and the robot who arrives on the doorstep of the monk’s caravan to ask what people need. This was a genuinely nice (charming, lovely) story, and I recommend it. It’s the first in a series, and I look forward to reading on.
The Only Way Out is In by Lyn Gala
This science fiction story was written for a prompt for the Love Has No Boundaries promotion in 2013.The focal character is Jacqs (heterosexual) who is a gunner on the Candiru; quick to fight, he’s considered a troublemaker. Alex (pansexual) is a new commander on board; he sees the real Jacqs and is attracted to him. During the story, Jacqs considers what attracts him to others and ultimately declares himself stenosexual. I was intrigued by and researched the term and determined that it was created by the author. She defines it as “an individual who is sexually attracted to those who possess particular traits rather than being sexually attracted to a sexuality or gender.” I also learned that the story is the first sixteen chapters of the author’s Turbulence which I’d now like to read!
Sharing a Pond by Alex Whitehall
This book had a unique premise. Brent lived his first ten or so years as Brenda being raised by wolves (I couldn’t resist; his parents were shifters). On his first shift, he surprised the pack by shifting to a frog and transitioning to male. At eighteen, he was kicked out of his home and ended up in an abusive relationship. The story begins when he is rescued in a snowstorm by a pair of frog shifters, Corey and Shane, who he had been traveling to see. He met them as a child and believed them to be his mates. I particularly enjoyed the few scenes where the trio were frogs. This was a pleasant story, but I don’t expect to re-read it.
Ignite by Nora Phoenix
In the not too distant future, the US has split into several new countries; this story is set in the Conservative United States where homosexuality is illegal and begins at a brutal reintegration camp for young gay men. Tan (imprisoned three years), Austin (imprisoned six months), and Mack (new arrival) escape/join forces when a strange meteor shower takes out the power. The men soon learn that this is the start of an alien invasion. I enjoyed seeing these very different men bond as they worked together. This ends with a ‘to be continued’ and is the start of a completed trilogy. (Jay gave this 4.25 stars.)
The Year of Soup by Howard Reiss
Tess, age 30, is questioning everything — she’s had three careers and three relationships (two with men, one with a woman) — well, everything except her ability to make soup. When the book begins, she’s just opened a soup restaurant in a college town; soon she befriends Beany, an 80+ year old English professor with whom she shares soup and wine every Thursday night for a year (The Year of Soup) until he commits suicide. He leaves her a stack of letters from WWII to the present, and she reads one weekly. I REALLY enjoyed this book (I’ll admit to having a fondness for books with epistolary content); be prepared to crave soup if you read this!
I’m impressed. I finished one book and it was 188 pages.
I’m fortunate to have plenty of reading time, Lorraine.
Wow, busy week and sounds like some great books! Thanks for the reviews!
I went with an audiobook for Under The Rainbow week, departing from my usual M/M fare with D.G. Carothers’ “SYN Consulting (Dragon War Chronicles #1)”, narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo. The main character is a woman (and a dragon, but also a woman), and there are several M/F and M/M/F scenes, as well as an M/M scene.
There is a lot of worldbuilding to be done here, as the author creates a modern world where, millennia ago dragons created human/animal shapeshifters of all species. They have lived hidden among human society however their existence is now threatened by humans who have discovered their secret. (Elizabeth wrote an excellent review here at Joyfully Jay in March 2019 that better summarizes the plot – https://joyfullyjay.com/2019/03/review-syn-consulting-dragon-war-chronicles-book-one-by-a-g-carothers-2/).
I wouldn’t say that this is a paranormal romance; I would call this more erotic urban fantasy, but I’m not docking any stars for that because that would be like criticizing a cat because it’s not enough of a dog.
What I will criticize, though, is the fact that I really didn’t care about any of these people. As mentioned in Elizabeth’s review, Danica is not a particularly likeable character, and all of the other characters pretty much exist to be in orbit around Danica. Story-wise it makes sense, but from a character development standpoint it’s…not great. There was WAY too much telling, not showing in this book, which made any empathy or involvement in the story difficult. As for the plot, there was definitely some in there, but wow that was a whole lot of sex. I can skip ahead (and often do, regardless of the genders involved), but when it displaces plot and character development, I can’t say I’m a big fan.
And lest anyone miss it, yeah – this book ends quite abruptly with a big ol’ cliffhanger.
To the good, I listened to the audio version, and Michael Ferraiuolo is quite a talented narrator. There is a wide array of characters and accents here, and he handles them all quite well (even if the German character sounded a bit Russian). I would happily listen to a book performed by him again.
Story Rating: 2 out of 5
Narrative Performance Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thanks for the review Duncan! Sorry this one wasn’t a hit for you but glad you at least enjoyed the narration!
I’ve read very few f/f books, and out of those, only one or two have been YA. So, this week, I thought it was time to dig out a recent ARC of Leah Johnson’s RISE TO THE SUN, about a romance that develops between two high schoolers over the three days of a music festival. Bisexual Olivia (accompanied by her best friend Imani) is reeling from her latest breakup, while Toni is a lesbian musician who hides behind emotional walls for self-protection. Topics relating to race (both leads are Black) and sexuality are featured prominently, as well as both characters’ traumas: Olivia is getting bullied online now that her ex nonconsensually posted seminude photos of her after pressuring her for sex (and is worried about testifying against him at her school’s hearing), while Toni is suffering panic attacks and PTSD a year after witnessing the shooting death of her father. The actual romance, however, seemed fairly shallow: the insta-love doesn’t quite ring true, and the girls’ inability to communicate at times, while believable for teenagers, got annoying. When Imani takes Olivia to task for her flightiness and selfish behavior, we’re clearly meant to chalk it up to jealousy, but in the context of what the plot has shown, she’s absolutely right! (I really felt for Imani; she’s written as little more than a plot device, but is still very sympathetic and more intriguing to me than Olivia. I got major demisexual vibes from Imani’s characterization, so I really hope Johnson redeems her stilted portrayal here with a full book for her.) A few unresolved loose plot ends bugged me, too…in spite of 300-plus alternating-POV pages, things felt rushed. There are some picturesque turns of phrase, and the book radiates good intentions, but I just expected more. I’d still be willing to try Johnson’s debut YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN, partly because it got rave reviews and also because it sounds more entertaining.
Thanks Trix! I have similar feelings sometimes with YA. I know the characters are acting age appropriate but I can still find them frustrating as a reader
For this week, I picked two of the few non-MM books that I’ve read in the last 5 years, Poisoned Primrose, and Pierced Peony by Dahlia Donovan. They are a cozy mystery series featuring Motts, an asexual, biromantic, autistic woman living in a small village on the English coast. They also include side characters that are in same-sex relationships. I really liked these stories. They are good mysteries and being inside autistic Motts’ head is interesting. The author is also on the spectrum so there’s authenticity to this aspect. Just a heads up, there’s no on-page sex, as this is one of the hallmarks of a cozy mystery.
Thanks for the review! We have reviewed a few of these and hosted the author here a couple of times.
** Do not enter me for this week’s prizes. I’ve been lucky enough?.**
I picked up Bidding For The Bachelor by Jackie Lau. This is her first m/m romance. It’s set in Toronto and is between Cedric(demisexual), a writer and Brian(bisexual) who is a reformed playboy. Brian is best friends with Cedric’s brother. He wins a date with Cedric and they spend the day together. Brian offers him a place to stay when he finds out Cedric has to move out of his apartment. This is a sweet and gentle book. The mention of food alone would make you drool.
Brian takes care of Cedric, making breakfast for him everyday and giving him peace and quiet as he tries to write a new novel. And Cedric bolsters Brian’s confidence that he can do something worthwhile with his life. They’re just two caring, kind men who slowly fall in love.
I also started the audiobook of Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke, also set in Toronto(not intentional). It’s a second chance paranormal romance. I love Wes(asexual) but his love interest Hudson is coming across as a macho jerk. Hopefully he changes throughout the book.
Thanks Lorraine! I am a big fan of the Not Dead Yet series so I hope it picks up for you. And I love food porn in a book!
I’ve been waiting for the Jackie Lau release, but was wondering if the demi aspect would work (her m/f books are foodie fun too, but do tend to employ insta-love and early bed romps). So excited to read it now!
I’m a HUGE fan of the Not Dead Yet series (and the sequel series that just started, too!). Greg Boudreaux does *such* a great job with the performance, too. I too loved Wes, even if I did want to smack him upside the head with some frequency…
I chose to read along with Jay and read Fog of War by A.L. Lester. I picked it because I really liked the cover and I love historical (and that was all the research I did) so I was a little thrown when the magic became real!
Sylvia was a doctor in a field hospital during WWI, she had a lover, Anna who went missing (presumed dead) during the war. Now the war is over, she’s practicing medicine at home. A nurse, Lucy she worked with comes to stay and help. Then Sylvia finds out Anna may be stuck in another dimension or the past. Sylvia can try to find and save her, or she can build a life with Lucy.
I gave it 3/5 stars, it was interesting but I won’t continue the series
Thanks for the review Heather! And fun that you read along with my choice!
For this week’s challenge I read Best Behaviour by Matthew J Metzger. The author identifies as asexual and transgender.
Down and out of luck 26 yr old Jim is in debt up to his eyeballs, his job has been terminated and he has been evicted from his apartment. Jim is bisexual and has met with rejection from his mother and older sister, they are extremely hateful and judgemental when he’s dating men. He’s grown up being resentful,angry and acting up in destructive ways as a result of this rejection, although this behavior has only hurt himself. Since living in the streets is out of the question , he reaches out to his prim and proper sister,Sarah. Surprisingly, Sarah offers him one the spare bedrooms in her mansion of a house. The offer comes with a caveat from her and her intolerant, homophobic husband,who is a reverend. They demand he must be on his best behaviour and must not bring any men into their home. Of course, now Jim wants to have sex with men in every room of their house.
Events that follow force Jim to recognize that he needs to let go of his anger and destructive behaviour, he needs an attitude adjustment. Shortly after settling in he meets Fran, the elegantly suited, face of a beautiful angel with the smile of a devil. Fran is the piano tutor to Jim’s 10yr old nephew Oscar and niece 6 yr old Patricia. Jim’s sexual attraction to Fran is immediate and soon after they begin a sexual and a bit kinky relationship. As their relationship develops and they learn more about each other,Fran opens up about being non binary. As a uni student Fran didn’t understand what friends meant when they said gender. Fran states that agender is a better definition, “I didn’t even understand what gender was supposed to feel like how could I have one?”.
Oscar has been acting very withdrawn and Sarah asks Jim to speak with his nephew, maybe Oscar will open up to him. During a very emotional scene Oscar comes out to Jim as a transgender girl, Charlotte. Charlotte finds a loving, strong ally in uncle Jim. It’s such a joy when Jim and Charlotte attend the Pride parade, where she experiences a sense of community and belonging. Jim acting as a responsible adult, lays down the law to Sarah, she has to accept Charlotte without any reservations or rejection, or trans phobia and Charlotte must know she is loved and respected.
During the course of this story Jim grows up, owns up to his mistake, has a job and is working at bettering his relationship with his sister. He has loving relationship with Fran and is the caring, loving supportive uncle that Charlotte needs. I enjoyed this book so much, it was well written and the characters were very thoughtfully portrayed. I will be reading more books by this author in the future.
Thanks for the review. I have enjoyed several of Metzgers books so I’m glad this one was a hit for you!
For this weeks challenge I choose two books from NineStarPress which I won last year:
Life Unterwater by Matthew j. Metzger. Nice book, very unspectacular written about the normal life of a trans, ace man with the one love of his life, a non-binary person. Main topic was his hydrophobia, his fear of water. 3.25*
Bump by Matthew J. Metzger. Very good written book about the body disphoria, a trans guy has to live through, beeing unexpectedly pregnant. I’ve never read a book about this topic. Interesting and eye opening for everyone who has no experience in what it feels like to be trans. 4*
Thanks Cyntia! I have enjoyed several of Metzgers books. Thanks for sharing the reviews
I read Saffron Alley, the second book in A J Demas’ sword dancer trilogy. I loved the first book, and waited forever for the second. I loved this one also! This continues about a month after the ending of the first book, this time in Boukos, Varazda’s home. Varazda is a non-binary eunuch and Dami, an ex soldier, is his lover. The love and affection these two have for each other is so sweet and heart felt. They have to weather their new relationship, the questioning and sometimes hostile found family of Varazda, fresh intrigue, mystery and a possible murder. They do it all with humor and caring. I especially love how Varazda’s non- binary nature is portrayed as just what is, no judgment. The world building is deep and believable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the secondary characters. The third book comes out in the next few months. I cannot wait! This book, as well as the first one, end in HFN. Highly recommend!
Thanks Robyn! I know Sue has really been enjoying this series as well. (https://joyfullyjay.com/tag/sword-dance-series/) Thanks for the review!
I read “Awakening Ember” by Meraki P. Lyhne.
If you haven’t read them, this book covers some of the same time frame as ‘Untouchable Beauty’ of the Cubi series – meaning Daniel’s disappearance is mentioned, plus, there is a quick glimpse of two cubi with green and purple eyes at a party.
In this book, Matt is learning to understand and work with his ember, and we see his and Steffen’s POVs of his growth. While I really enjoy the pack’s support, especially the “tanks”, a few times it was difficult to follow due to how things were phrased.
I’m not sure how many books are planned for this series, but the author has some interesting concepts to share, and I can’t wait to read more.
Thanks Linda! I didn’t realize the series were in the same world, so thanks for sharing that
I started out the week with an audiobook of ZR Ellor’s May the Best Man Win. I was absolutely captivated by this YA story of a trans teen who’s in a battle with his ex for homecoming king. Jeremy and Lukas dated for years before Jeremy came out as trans. Jeremy had struggled his whole life to fit into the mold his grandmother and mother both tried to put him in, and he didn’t get the support he needed when he did transition. Lukas had been completely blindsided when Jeremy broke up with him, and being autistic, he struggled to understand just how he’d let Jeremy down so much that he never even talked to Lukas about what was going on. Lukas is going through his own personal crisis since his brother died and his parent’s relationship is breaking day by day. He thinks winning homecoming king will set him up with a great school and alleviate pressures/sadness for his parents, thereby saving his family, while Jeremy believes he needs the validation that the crown represents. There’s a lot going on in this story, and readers who don’t like characters with complicated emotions and actions won’t enjoy this story. I felt a lot of understanding for the pain driving Jeremy and single mindedness that drove Lukas. These two loved each other deeply, and even though they aren’t friends anymore, this competition forces them to deal with each other, and I was totally on board with watching their journey. Narrator Avi Roque did a great job bringing all the characters to life. (I did turn my speed up to 1.25x though because the delivery was a little too slow for my taste.) I didn’t look up their bio until I finished the story, but finding out after the fact that they’re Latinx and non-binary added even more to my enjoyment of side character Sol, a Latinx nonbinary underclassmen with a great presence.
I also read a sweet MMF historical romance novella by Ellie Thomas, A Marriage for Three. I’ve read ménage stories before, but they’re really few and far between, so when I saw the suggestion of Jay’s for MMF and then saw this historical, I decided to go for it even though I didn’t know this author and hadn’t seen any reviews for the book. I was pleasantly surprised! There’s a lot of set-up for the three to get together, and after the three find their way, there’s not really story after that, but it was just perfect for my mood. Circumstances have brought Charlotte’s family low and being a lady’s companion is draining her spirit. Family friend Anthony wants to help, but being just a friend means his support must be limited. He attempts to solve the issue with a marriage proposal, but Charlotte knows he’s only been attracted to men and worries for the relationship of Anthony and his partner of many years, Simon. Simon understands Anthony’s ways and has always admired Charlotte, so he agrees to this marriage of convenience. The friendship and companionship these three share absolutely made me believe in their future together once emotions on all sides came out.
Thanks for the reviews Carolyn! The audio sounds really interesting and glad the narrator was so good! And I haven’t seen many historical MMF so this sounds like a great find! Thanks for sharing your reviews!
Both my books for this week happened to be on my TBR and are both by Jay Northcote, Starting From Scratch and Seconc Chances.
Starting From Scratch is part of the Roommates series. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series and didn’t feel behind. This was a very low angst (if any, really) romance. Ben, a trans guy, entering his 1st exploration with a man since transitioning and Sid, hurt previously and just wanting to have fun. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it was just 2 guys falling into a relationship. Both Ben and Sid are likeable men. There seemed to be a lot of telling throughout and the story lagged quite a few times. 3 stars
Second Chances I liked a little bit more. Nate and Jack are former high school best friends, who both wind up back home in their small town living with their parents. Nate has transitioned since and no one (besides his mom and daughter) know. They easily fall back into friendship and decide to go for friends with benefits, with one already having feelings for the other, which of course, causes issues. This story had some angsty moments (compared with the other book I read). I enjoyed their relationship a little more, but it was odd hearing two 45 year old men trying to figure out when their parents would be out so they could see each other. 3.5 stars
Thanks Debbie! Appreciate the reviews!