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#TBT Book Reviews: Learning Curve by Kaje Harper

It’s another instalment of my Throwback Thursday book reviews! Today I’m going to share a short and sweet review I did for the last book of one of my favourite m/m series of all time…and then I’m going to add a little more from another blog post on my favourite cops in m/m.


18335673This series just blew me away. I’m definitely having a moment of mourning that it’s over.

The thing I loved most about the books was that Mac and Tony are just regular guys. Tony’s not an amateur detective, just a great high school teacher, and Mac, while an excellent cop, is not supercop. Their challenges and struggles felt very real, very visceral at times. More than once I found myself laughing, or crying, or with my heart in my throat. This book, in particular, is heart-wrenching and amazing, all at the same time, as Mac struggles to come back from the events of the third book.

I will be rereading this series at some point, because this journey is so good, I can’t just experience it once.

 


From my Top Ten M/M Cop Characters post over on Scorching Book Reviews:

1. Detective Jared “Mac” MacLean from Kaje Harper’s Life Lessons series

Oh, Mac. What an amazing character. When we first meet him, he is utterly smitten with the witness in his latest murder case, Tony Hart, an openly gay high school teacher. Problem is, Mac has always been in the closet and has no plans to come out—the potential to upset his life as a single dad dependent on conservative relatives for childcare is too great. Mac’s character arc over the course of the series is phenomenal and organic, and his relationship with Tony is one of the strongest, most satisfying I’ve read in any romance. No matter what life throws at them, they face it together.

Favourite quote:

Perry’s expression sharpened at Mac’s verbal hesitations and flat tone. “What the fuck kind of accent is that? You a foreigner as well as a fag?”

“That is my coming back from almost fucking dead accent,” Mac said as coldly as he could.

– Learning Curve, Kaje Harper

You can buy Learning Curve here:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

#TBT Book Reviews: Will & Patrick Wake Up Married by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths

Welcome to my Throwback Thursday series of book reviews. I thought I’d share some love for books that aren’t new releases. These reviews have all been previously shared on Goodreads. My bestie Kelly Jensen discovered this series this week, and it reminded me just how much I LOVED Will & Patrick. This review is for the entire serial, which you should totally pick up. Like right now.


One morning in Vegas, two strangers wake up in bed together. Neither Will nor Patrick really remembers the night before (at first, anyway), but their bodies illustrate that there was some serious loving happening. All night. And to top it off, they’re sporting matching wedding rings. Oops.

For almost anyone else in that situation, it would be a simple thing to get a divorce—but not for Will. He’s the son of a mobster, he’s inherited a massive trust fund from his grandfather, and one of the stipulations of the inheritance is that should he ever marry, it needed to be for love, and divorcing will ensure his inheritance returns to his mobster relatives. He can’t let that happen, because he’s got a humanitarian non-profit depending on those funds. Double oops.

This series of novellas was such a fun romp. The family drama was dramatic—as you expect a mob family to be—but the characters of Will and Patrick raised the story to a whole new level. Will is diabetic and an alcoholic, which I thought was worked into the story quite well and not used for melodramatics. Patrick is a neurosurgeon, with all of the ego that goes along with that. He also has Asperger’s, which shines through in his dealings with everyone in Will’s wacky hometown.

Because this is a serial, with quite a significant overall word count, Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths have plenty of time to explore Will and Patrick’s personalities and the secondary characters as well. There are plenty of ups and downs for the two of them, from difficulties at Patrick’s new job to Will’s still-lingering feelings for his ex. This was the best kind of contemporary romance, with more than a little wish fulfillment, a ton of sexual tension, and scads of emotions, both high and low.

The first episode is currently free on Amazon and elsewhere if you want to give it a try. You can also buy all of the books in one package for a decent discount, which is what I did after whipping through the first book.

#TBT Book Reviews: How to Walk Like a Man by Eli Easton

Welcome to my Throwback Thursday series of book reviews. I thought I’d share some love for books that aren’t new releases. These reviews have all been previously shared on Goodreads.


26165684This book is trademark Eli Easton, with lots of humour and a romance that leaves you sighing with satisfaction. Roman is newly quickened — he started out life as a dog, but after growing close to his Army handler and watching him die in Afghanistan, he gets the spark that allows him to shift into human form. It’s only been two years since he’s been able to shift, and there are a lot of things that are still so new to him. But one of the best things about this book is how much joy Roman has in being human. It’s really sort of uplifting to read.

Then there’s the pure “wtf” aspect of the humour on Matt’s end. Matt is human, in the DEA, and assigned to the weird little town of Mad Creek to be on the lookout for drug operations. This, understandably, freaks out the sheriff of Mad Creek (Lance, one of the heroes from the previous book), seeing as the entire town is made up of quickened — some of them pretty doglike. Roman, a deputy, is assigned to keep Matt busy out of town, but it’s not enough to keep Matt from wondering wtf is going on.

Although this book is the second in the series, you could definitely read it as a standalone — though then you’d be missing out on Lance’s story, and that one is just as cute and funny. I highly recommend both!

You can pick up How to Walk Like a Man at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

#TBT Book Reviews: Breakaway by Avon Gale

Welcome to my Throwback Thursday series of book reviews. I thought I’d share some love for books that aren’t new releases. These reviews have all been previously shared on Goodreads.

First up is Breakaway by Avon Gale, in honour of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Technically, Avon doesn’t like me right now because my Ottawa Senators knocked her Boston Bruins out of the playoffs in Round One. (Kidding, kidding. I think.) Anyway, I absolutely adore Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances series, and here’s what I thought of Breakaway!


breakawayDo you like hockey with your m/m? If you haven’t read this series by Avon Gale yet, you need to! I absolutely fell in love with the characters in the first book, particularly Lane, and I ended up devouring the rest of the series over the next few days.

In Breakaway, Lane Courtnall is a rookie on the ECHL’s Jacksonville Sea Storm. He’s 20, gay, from Chatham, Ontario, and does not communicate well—he’s a shade too blunt and really doesn’t grasp the point of a brain-mouth filter. His teammates don’t like him very much because of said lack of brain-mouth filter, so he decides to throw his gloves down during a game against Jacksonville’s rivals, against their bruiser, Jared Shore. As it turns out, Jared’s bisexual, and that fight leads to Lane and Jared connecting off the ice in a much more pleasant manner. But Jared’s at the end of his career (he’s in his early 30s) while Lane is at the start of his very promising one, so can they figure out how to work out a future together?

The best thing about Avon’s Scoring Chances series is how strongly the love of hockey shines through the narration and the characters. There’s not a lot of angst in these books (the third is about the angstiest to date, but I think the upcoming number four might top it). Most of the players have no problem accepting their bisexual and gay teammates, which is refreshing. These books are about the love of the game first and foremost, which makes them a joy to read.

Even if you’re not a hockey fan, I think you’d still like these books. They make hockey very accessible—the games and practices are big parts of the story, but the books don’t linger on the play-by-play on the ice. I seriously loved them.

You can pick up Breakaway at:

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Recent Kindle Unlimited Awesomeness

If you’ve gone exploring Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited offerings, you already know there’s a ton of stuff available. Personally, I’ve found it kind of hit and miss, but I’ve come across some winners lately and I want to share! These books are all available on KU in Canada…I hope that means they’re also available on KU in the States and elsewhere.

In the Wreckage by Hailey Turner

34346535This is Hailey Turner’s debut and WOW. Just wow. It’s a wonderfully sexy and fun m/m set a few hundred years in the future on an Earth where climate change and chemical warfare have changed not only our planet but ourselves. Metahumans are basically reluctant superheroes whose DNA has been fundamentally changed by a chemical weapon, and the book focuses on one particular team of the Metahuman Defense Force.

The setting, the world, the characters and the story are all fantastic. You can read more details over on my Goodreads review.

TL;DR: Fantastic book. Hot, sexy, fun futuristic military adventure. Highly recommended.

The Beautiful Monsters series by Jex Lane

Ever read a book way past your bedtime, but then decide, like the responsible adult you are, that you’re not going to stay up all night, so you put the book down at a quasi-reasonable time to get some sleep—only to discover you can’t sleep because your brain is still living in that book? Yeah. That was me last night with the third book, Broken, of Jex Lane’s amazing Beautiful Monsters series.

This series is not romance. It’s dark urban fantasy. Violent, epic, and super-freaking-sexy. It’s seriously one of the most compelling series I’ve read in a long, long time. The main character, Matthew, goes through so much—he’s a pawn between two warring factions when all he wants is a place to belong. Your heart will ache for him. Mine did. Repeatedly.

Fair warning, though: these books are DARK. Lots of bad stuff happens to Matthew. Really bad. The series title does not lie—the paranormal creatures in this book might be beautiful but they truly are monsters.

(Oh, also: The first book, Captive, is 99¢ on Amazon.ca, and probably the same on US Amazon, so even if you don’t have a KU membership, it’s a steal.)

Re-releases from M.L. Rhodes

M.L. Rhodes has started re-releasing her books via self-publishing and KU. I haven’t read her extensive backlist before, so this was a great chance for me to explore her work.

I started with Familiar, and it was just wonderful. I loved Emrys’s voice and the worldbuilding. It’s a nice, light paranormal, with enough emotion to be a really satisfying read.

Next I read True of Heart, the first book in her Draegan Lords series…which seems to not be on KU anymore. Bummer. BUT for $3, it’s a no-brainer to grab it. It was a wonderful fantasy m/m with high stakes and a true mate trope (which is catnip for me). I’m eagerly awaiting the second book’s re-release!

Happy reading!

On degrees and writing and the evils of Twitter

A couple of nights ago, this tweet got retweeted into my stream:

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Yeah. Yeahhhhh.

So I wanted to talk about a couple of things that this tweet brought to mind. The first is what sort of degree a prospective writer should pursue (if any) and the second is using Twitter as a communications media, and things you need to consider.

By degrees

One of the reasons this tweet made me see red is that I have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Ottawa. The generalization Ms. Gabaldon makes is stereotypical and just…honestly, just rude. It implies that an English degree is useless, and that’s not the case.

What did I learn from my degree?

  • How to think and read critically.
  • How to look for meaning in works of literature beyond the words on the page.
  • The understanding that even if we do mean only the words we’ve written on the page, there are a multitude of layers that a reader can bring to a reading of any work that we can never anticipate.
  • How to structure and support arguments.

So, a little background. I always wanted to be an author, but coming out of high school I knew success in that field was about as likely as someone getting drafted by the NHL, or a singer making a big name for herself as a rock star. Possible, but probably not going to happen to the average person. I decided that instead of pursuing writing fiction, I would be an editor. While I was still in school, I sought out a freelance contract for proofreading and got a part-time job as a technical editor for a local tech firm. I had a goal and I took steps to get experience to bolster my education.

Honestly, that’s the key.

Most degrees, in and of themselves, are neither useless nor a sure means of securing The Best Job Ever™. There are very, very few jobs out there that you’ll be 100% prepared for with a university degree. This tweet thread pretty much sums up why. You need to work to get the job you want; then you need to figure out what you need to do to succeed at that job. None of that stuff is just going to open up magically once you have a degree in your hand.

My career ended up taking an interesting path. I started out proofreading for a local tech company in their marketing department, and ended up getting into web communications. I’ve worked in that field since 2000, specializing in web writing, usability, and analysis of web usage.

So, in my experience, my degree was not useless. I might not have ended up doing exactly what I planned, but I’ve enjoyed an 18-year career that grew out of both my interests (editing) and opportunities I hadn’t previously considered.

Money over passion is shitty advice

But let’s get back to the second half of what Ms. Gabaldon said: “Pick something to give you enough money to write what you want.”

I don’t care who you are, this is shitty advice.

Let’s break it down a little.

Is it difficult to make a living as an author?

Yes. That’s not in question. I have 6 books to my credit, and I made less than $3000 last year from royalties.

Is it impossible?

No. Hell no. Especially in today’s environment, with self-publishing a possibility. You might not get rich, but you could make a decent living, if you’re willing to put the effort into it. I have a day job and I’m not a self-publisher; I’m also not putting out 5 books a year, or writing in a very lucrative genre.

So should you work in a different field while you try to make it as a writer?

A lot of writers do, myself included. For me, having my sole income as freelance or contract work or royalties doesn’t appeal; I like having a regular paycheque, benefits, etc. BUT…and this is a HUGE but: I didn’t choose my degree with the idea that I would only do that until I could make it as a writer.

If you really want to write—and I mean, really, really want to write, because it is a shitload of work and requires an enormous amount of effort, dedication and commitment—then DO THAT. Don’t study something solely to get a job in a field where you can make a ton of money and then at some point in your life, try out this writing thing. Maybe. You might never get there.

I’m not saying not to be practical—we all need to consider how we’re going to make a living with enough money to feed and shelter ourselves. But you need to take a long, hard, objective look at what you want and what you’re willing to do, and not just rule out a particular degree because it won’t get you money in and of itself.

But do you really need a degree?

To be a writer? No.

My degree didn’t teach me how to structure a novel or create believable characters or ensure the pacing of my book kept readers engaged. This is all stuff I learned from writing, and reading, and reading books on how to write (speaking of, if you’re writing romance, I HIGHLY recommend Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat).

My degree did teach me how to think critically and analytically, which are a couple of skills I’ve learned to treasure.

My point, though, is that if you want to write, don’t think you can’t just because you don’t have a BA in English Lit, or a Masters in creative writing, or any university degree. There’s no true requirement to being a writer, and don’t let anyone tell you there is. They’re wrong.

So, about Twitter

About a day after Ms. Gabaldon posted the tweet above, she tweeted a follow-up (using a service that allows for longer tweets) to explain that she didn’t actually mean that an English major was useless, and that Twitter itself was to blame because saying anything in 140 characters is too hard and she was in a rush because she was traveling and answering on a break at a rest stop and everyone in her life has degrees, some of them are English degrees, and….

Sigh.

Okay, look. Twitter is a medium that can be a challenge to master. You are limited in the length of your message, so you need to analyze what you’re saying and select your words carefully. But that’s no excuse to sacrifice empathy or accuracy for the sake of fitting your words into the character limit, particularly when a follower has reached out to you for advice.

I’m not a big fish on Twitter. I don’t have the little blue check beside my name because no one knows who I am. But I can tell you that the whole point of social media is to be SOCIAL. To interact with people. To be a person and not just a collection of binary ones and zeroes, and to embrace other avatars and names as people and not just a collection of binary ones and zeroes.

To be fair, Ms. Gabaldon did explain in her follow-up tweet that she meant that an English degree was not necessary in order to be a writer. As I detailed above, I agree with that. However, a rushed, ill-considered tweet obscured that message—and that’s a lesson for all of us.

To sum up

Being a writer isn’t about education, but passion and experience. Study what you want—or study nothing at all and teach yourself how to write. There’s no wrong way to go about it.

And when it comes to Twitter—in the immortal words of Wil Wheaton, don’t be a dick.

Chaos Station turns two today!

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Book 1 of Chaos Station

On March 2, 2015, readers got to meet Zander Anatolius, Felix Ingesson, and the rest of the crew of the Chaos for the first time. Kelly and I were quickly overwhelmed by how much everyone loved our guys…and that love just keeps happening! New readers find the series all the time (and every time someone says they sobbed at book two, my cruel writer’s heart does a little dance of joy).

To celebrate this anniversary, Kelly’s got an absolutely adorable story about Sims 4 Zed and Felix over on her blog today. You won’t want to miss it. Also, check out the giveaways she’s got going to complete your series (or get the whole series!) and to get a print copy of Always and Forever, our collection of Chaos Station short stories (which you can read online here).

Time for prizes!

Kelly’s got the books covered, so I’ll handle the geek side! Enter my rafflecopter below for a chance to win a $25 ThinkGeek gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy birthday, you guys. 

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Art for Zed, Felix and Elias done by Tami Santarossa. Art for Nessa done by Sandra Schwab. And Qek? Head over to Kelly’s blog to see where she comes from!

No blocking or striking here!

Kelly Jensen has been incredibly busy this past week with posts for her Block and Strike blog tour, but I’m so glad she agreed to answer a few questions for me.

As you probably know, Kelly and I have been friends since 2009, when we bonded over a video game. We started out chatting at length about the awesomeness of certain characters, then moved on to writing together in a role-playing forum. Eventually we turned our focus to writing original content, which led us to the Chaos Station series.

Kelly’s had some fantastic success with her contemporary romances with Dreamspinner Press, and it looks like the emotional, raw and very real Block and Strike is no exception.

So, without further ado…heeeeeere’s Kelly! (And me, asking the questions. But mostly Kelly.)

Ever since I met you in 2009, karate has been a huge part of your life…but one you had to give up for a couple of years due to an injury. Can you talk about that a little bit?

I landed badly while attempting a scissor takedown in class. I forgot to stiffen my neck and my head bounced from the mat. I hit hard enough to see stars and had trouble getting back up. So what did I do? I shook it off and attempted the takedown again. Part of it was that I didn’t want to be perceived as weak. I’m not the smallest person in the class, but it’s a close thing. I am probably the least aggressive. The other part, the bigger, stupider part, was that I didn’t want to admit I’d make a mistake by not stiffening my neck. That I’d hurt myself and needed a break. I landed a little less badly the second time, but scissor takedowns are hard, and dumb pride is dumb.

I went on to successfully test for my brown belt about a month later (with a strapped ankle because of another bout of stupidity!) and then settled in to write Block and Strike and Lonely Shore. I put down about 150k in the space of two months. I didn’t take proper breaks. Then we were in edits for Chaos Station and trying to write Skip Trace. I was experiencing pain daily—my arms hurt, then my shoulders, then my neck. My fingers were going numb. But I had deadlines, so I pushed through until I actually couldn’t move one of my arms. Yup.

Long story short, it took months of physical therapy to undo the damage from what turned out to be a pinched nerve in my neck resulting from a whiplash injury I’d given myself when I landed so badly. Now I have to be careful about computer time and have to stretch and exercise daily to keep myself moving. Daily exercise isn’t such a bad thing. Not being able to write 5k a day anymore kinda sucks, though.

 

Where did the idea for Block and Strike come from?

I wanted to share my experience with studying karate and self defense. It’s been such a huge confidence boost for me. I’m lucky that I’ve never had to defend myself physically, but knowing what to do in certain situations is a great comfort. The biggest difference for me, though, is in also being able to speak up more. I’ve learned to ask for what I want, and how to say no. So I set out to write a book where at least one character would take a similar journey. That character turned out to be Max. ❤

 

Do you see more of yourself in Max’s character, or Jake’s?

Max is very much a reflection of my younger, less confident self. I drew extensively on my experience of being 20 and woefully unprepared for adulthood while writing him. Max has more courage than I ever did, but we both suffer from the same dumb pride thing.

It was only after I finished writing that I could see how much of myself I’d put into Jake. He’s a nurturer and over protective. He’s kinder about it than I am. I too often assume people are unable to look after themselves. I should be more like Jake. J

 

Like most of your other stories not set on a spaceship, Block and Strike takes place in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia specifically. Do you think you’ll ever get tired of setting stories in your home state?

Nope! I write close to home because I like working in settings that are familiar to me, and I really enjoy researching the history of each of my locales. The setting for Block and Strike comes from fond memories of Saturday morning trips to the bakeries around Cottman Avenue and cruising car dealerships along the Boulevard. Also, I kind of always wanted to live over a Chinese restaurant.

 

What’s your favourite part of Jake’s character? Max’s?

I love Jake’s ability to look forward and keep smiling. He’s so positive! Sure, he gets broody now and again (with good reason), but he’s so naturally optimistic that his moods never last long. I also adore the depth of his compassion.

Max’s will slays me. This guy. He’s been beaten down for nearly all his life, yet he refuses to stay down. He thinks he’s weak because he doesn’t fight back and, yeah, he could use a good dose of self-confidence. Mostly, he’s just young. The fact he keeps trying is my favourite thing about him.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your process for this story? What did you go through to get it on paper?

After two attempts at a beginning where Max found himself on the wrong end of a mugging, I decided to skip that scene and start with Jake. As a character, Jake wasn’t very fleshed out at that point. He was the ‘love interest’. But he’d always had a very loud voice and I’m glad I started listening to him then. The mugging didn’t need to be on the page. The aftermath told us all we need to know.

From there, writing this story was a fairly straightforward process. I knew what I wanted to happen and wrote toward that goal. Without an outline. *pauses for Jenn to faint* I had some notes. Some fairly vague notes. 😀

Things got a little tricky when my black moment turned out not to be all that dark, as in Max shrugged off Jake’s big confession, leaving me to come up with another way to test their relationship. I really liked that Max showed that much growth at that point in the story, though, and it gave me a lot of ideas for what to do next.

The last third of the book changed three times. During one version, Max actually left Jake. I’m so glad I didn’t go with that one. I loved the resolution scene, but after I reworked Jake’s portion of the black moment, I felt he’d been kicked one too many times already. So I changed things around a little. Had them talk it out. I know, novel concept there.

I’m really pleased with how the story ended up. I love the romance between Max and Jake, the secondary relationships and the journey these characters took together. I feel it’s the most complete story I’ve written so far.

 

What are five words you’d use to describe Block and Strike?

Oh, man, this is the section of the pub prep and cover spec sheets I suck at. I can never come up with single words. Or the ones I do come up with are always really abstract—like “grey.” Yeah, I know. Don’t ask me to explain that one or we’ll be here all afternoon. Hmm… okay, how about:

Family, strength, self, love and pie.

 

What’s coming up for you, writing-wise?

I have two current WIPs. One I just started writing—the third Counting story. This will be the one where Henry and Marc get their super solid HFN, because after all they’ve been through, I don’t want any less for them.

My other WIP is fully drafted and I’m currently revising it. The working title is Irresistible and it’s another romance (contemporary), this time between two older guys who’ve loved and lost and aren’t sure if they’re ready to love again. Charlie is a parent and a writer—so me, basically. Simon is an architect—which is what I always wanted to be.

I know everyone wants to know if we’re going to write together again. We have plans, right? We’ll just have to see how the first half of 2017 shapes up!

 

With the exception of Best in Show, the books you’ve written since the Chaos Station series ended have been all contemporary romance. Do you see yourself writing in other subgenres in the future?

Yes. Absolutely. I read widely, so I like to write widely. I’d like to write a mystery, some fantasy, something historical, more science fiction, more paranormal and definitely more contemporary romance.

 

If you could write just one more book in your life, what would it be about?

I thought this question would be harder to answer, but I really, really want to write Irreplaceable, which is the book that comes after Irresistible. The lead this time will be Simon’s best friend, Frank, and the love interest is a childhood friend—someone he loved and then left behind, for reasons. When he ends up back in his hometown, Ben is going to be there and together they’re going to learn what they had was irreplaceable. See what I did there?

I’m excited about this book because it combines a few different ideas in my Big Book of Ideas. There will be a derelict Pocono resort, a ‘no fixed address’ situation and a little bit of a mystery.


Thanks so much for indulging me, Kel! I hope everyone will check out Kelly’s new release…details are below. Also, if you haven’t already, check out her blog tour (details are at the end of that page)! It wraps up today.

About the Book:

bscover600Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.

Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.

Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.

Where to Buy:
Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Dreamspinner Press

Release Day!

My bestie Kelly Jensen has a new book out today! Don’t miss her blog tour stops and a chance to win!

Kelly Jensen

This book has been such a long time coming. I wrote it between Chaos Station and Lonely Shore, then had to put it aside because writing the rest of Felix’s journey alongside Zed was too absorbing and too much fun – even while they were breaking our hearts.

Now Block and Strike is finally here and I’m so, so excited!

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Jenn’s Favourite Books of 2016

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Looking back at my “read” shelf on Goodreads since this time last year, I’ve read about 310 books. About 110 of those were 5-star reads for me…so I’m not going to give you one blanket list of my faves. Your eyes will probably glaze over halfway through, and I know my fingers and my brain won’t appreciate making a list that large.

So what I’m going to do is present a few “favourite of 2016” lists: my favourite fantasy romances I read, fave contemporary, etc. I hope you’ll find some gems in the lists! Keep in mind that they’re all going to be m/m, since that’s what’s filled my Kindle this year. Also, they might not have been published this year, but this was the year I read them.

Okay, all good? Here we go!

My fave paranormal romances

Paranormal romance and urban fantasy are two of my favourite genres EVER, so it’s not a surprise that quite a few of the 300+ books I read this year fell into this category. Here are a few I absolutely adored.

wolfsong1Wolfsong by TJ Klune

THIS BOOK. It’s epic and awesome. Not only is the story a page turner as we travel with Ox through his childhood into adulthood, but the prose of this book is just amazing. There’s a poetic quality to it that made it one of my fave reads of all time. I can’t wait for the next one!

My Goodreads review of Wolfsong

Hunter of Demons (SPECTR #1) by Jordan L. Hawk

Why did I wait so long to read this series? It was awesome! The instalments are all novellas, so they’re super quick reads, but put them all together and you’ve got an epic paranormal adventure.

Wriggle & Sparkle by Megan Derr

What happens when you partner a kraken shifter who’s surprisingly well-adjusted considering he’s a monster of the deep with a unicorn shifter with a chip on his shoulder? A really enjoyable set of mysteries, that’s what! This book hit two of my fave catnips: shifters + law enforcement. Also, I loved that Lynn, the kraken shifter, can shift genders at will, too.

Best in Show by Kelly Jensen

This was my bestie Kelly’s first go at the paranormal genre and it’s just fantastic. Funny, emotional, sweet. I hope she revisits this world soon!

My Goodreads review of Best in Show

Triad Blood by ‘Nathan Burgoinetriad-blood1

I love stories set in my hometown of Ottawa, and I especially love this one because it feels like maybe, if I looked hard enough, I’d be able to see this world. It’s a lot like Charles de Lint’s books in that regard. This one features a triad who are bound by need rather than love…but I hope we’ll see the love develop over the course of the series. (It’s gonna be a series, right, ‘Nathan?)

My Goodreads review of Triad Blood

My fave contemporary romances

The thing I like most about contemporary romance is that it’s kind of a real-life fantasy. The characters might not be able to shift into other forms or cast spells, but they’ve got magic all the same, the sort we all have. Here are a few of my faves from this year.

Witches of London – Lars (Witches of London #1) by Aleksandr Voinov

This was a surprisingly gentle and sweet read by an author I’m more accustomed to being gritty and dark. The magical realism is strong in this book, but it’s still a contemporary, just one with a different viewpoint on the world. It’s a lovely story, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune

I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so hard at a book (unless it was another TJ Klune book). The premise of this one is kind of ridiculous, but the characters and their foibles just suck you into their weird and wacky world.

My (very silly) Goodreads review of How to be a Normal Person

when-was-the-last-time1When Was the Last Time by Kelly Jensen

Of all the novellas Kelly released this year, this was my favourite. It’s such a sweet story about a guy realizing that, oh crap, he and his partner haven’t had sex in almost a year—and not because they don’t love each other anymore, but because life happened. His journey as he tries to balance work obligations with his desire to show his partner that he’s still the most important thing in his life is just so real.

My Goodreads review of When Was the Last Time

Strong Signal (Cyberlove #1) by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

One of the things I loved most about this book was how Kai’s anxiety was addressed. There was no magic pill to cure him of it, but the steps he takes in his development arc because Garrett is that important to him were wonderful.

My Goodreads review of Strong Signal

Will & Patrick Wake Up Married (Wake Up Married #1) by Leta Blake and Alice Griffithswill-patrick1

This serial took me completely by surprise. I hadn’t read a lot of Leta Blake before this, and nothing of Alice Griffiths, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, particularly because the premise is kind of silly (but awesomely silly). But what I found was a series that never got bogged down or stale and a depth to the characters that the funny instigating event in the blurb doesn’t really illustrate. I highly recommend this series!

My Goodreads review of Will & Patrick Wake Up Married

My fave fantasy romances

I kind of binged on fantasy romance this year. There’s just something about diving into another world that appeals…particularly since November. Ugh. Anyway, here are a few of my favourites!

high-king1The High King’s Golden Tongue (Tales of the High Court #1) by Megan Derr

This book was the first of Megan’s fantasy romances I’d read and I LOVED it. The world here isn’t your typical fantasy setting; instead of magic being a prized talent, people who can speak multiple languages are revered. They’re called Silver Tongues. The most talented, though, is the High King’s betrothed—whom he isn’t interested in, because he’s not a soldier. This was a fantastic, epic romp as Allen tries to figure out how to show his worth to Sarrica.

I have to give a mention here to a bunch of other Megan Derr fantasy romances I read this year and loved: Black Magic, The Engineered Throne, Bound (be warned; it’s really long!) and Tournament of Losers. They’re all fantastic and well worth checking out.

Reawakening (Reawakening #1) by Amy Rae Durreson

This series was a big surprise for me. I’d never read Amy Rae Durreson before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was an epic world of gods and spirits and all-powerful dragons, incredible beings who were still struggling in their battle against the ultimate evil. I especially loved the idea that a dragon’s horde was his people; it was just a wonderful concept and made these creatures that much more relatable.

The Lightning-Struck Heart (Tales of Verania #1) by TJ Klunelightning-struck1

This book was so much fun. It was more than a little ridiculous, but so, so enjoyable. The unresolved sexual tension in the book is off the charts, and the emotional turmoil on Sam’s part especially was painfully delicious. I can’t wait for the next book!

Brute by Kim Fielding

I put off reading this book for awhile because the blurb kind of hints at an unequal relationship between a jailer and a prisoner. Rest assured, it’s not a creepy thing. There’s no power play in this book, and Aric (the Brute of the title) is a surprisingly gentle and sweet soul. It’s an emotional and poignant read, and definitely worth picking up.

My fave sci-fi romances

I didn’t read nearly as much sci-fi romance this year as I have in years past, but the ones I did read, I loved.

Safe in Your Fire (The Village #1) by Darien Cox

This entire series is awesome. It’s contemporary-set, on modern-day Earth, but…aliens. And honestly, one of the aliens is my favourite part of this series. I won’t spoil it…you need to discover him for yourself. I especially liked the sense of brotherhood between the men on the team; they’re colleagues, but they depend on each other 100%, and that makes for a very satisfying support network when the guys need it.

different-sensesDifferent Senses by Ann Somerville

This book is actually a series of novellas, but they combine to tell a larger story. And what a story. It’s set on a human-colonized world a looooong time in the future. The world was actually colonized twice: first by one group of humans, who were then overpowered by another group of humans. (The implied comparison with the European colonization of the New World and the defeat of indigenous North Americans is not subtle.) The first group of humans has psychic abilities that are disparaged, while the second group of humans does not, and there’s a lot of discrimination that happens. The main character of the series is a cop who gets injured, and in the aftermath discovers he has some of the psychic genes of the first group of humans that he was previously unaware of. What follows is a journey of a man trying to accept himself and also trying to understand a culture he had previously ignored. It’s a long, slow build for the relationship portion of things, but that means that the journey and development arc is that much more satisfying. Highly recommend.

My Goodreads review of Different Senses

My fave romances with cops or other law enforcement

Cops or law enforcement in m/m is one of my catnip tropes. I devour them almost as fast as I can find them. Favourite authors: please write MOAR.

tied-up-in-knots1Tied up in Knots (Marshals #3) by Mary Calmes

I think I’ve re-read Mary Calmes’s Marshals series like three times now. I adore Miro and Ian…probably even more than Sam and Jory. (I know: blasphemy!) What I love most is that although Ian sort of fits the role of alpha in their relationship, it’s not as obvious as in Matter of Time with Sam. Miro can also be alpha, and he gives Ian a run for his money.

Dirty Heart (Cole McGinnis #6) by Rhys Ford

In the first book of the Cole McGinnis series, you discover that years before, Cole’s cop partner shot Cole, Cole’s boyfriend, and then committed suicide. It was the event that changed the course of Cole’s life, a huge, horrible attack that made no sense, and the question of why haunted Cole…and me, too! But by the time I picked up this book, after reading through all the others and going on Cole’s journey to finding love again, I realized that the reasons behind his partner’s actions didn’t matter—and how amazing was it to see that state of mind reflected in Cole’s narration. It was really gratifying, and a testament to Rhys Ford’s storytelling that she was able to bring this reader to that point the same as her character.

My fave sports romances

Confession: I don’t read a lot of sports romances, and the ones I do read tend to be hockey romances. Because…well, Canadian. Luckily hockey romances in m/m seem to be on an upswing! Here are some excellent ones I read this year.

breakaway1Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1) by Avon Gale

One word: LANE. Okay, I’ll give you a few more words than that. I’ve reread this book a few times now, and the joy that is Lane and Jared still resonates each time. Lane is just so awkward. Amazing on the ice, but he’s not the smartest dude, and really has no social graces. But the best part of this book is when Lane gets traded. Avon Gale nailed his reaction perfectly.

Also, every other book in Avon’s Scoring Chances is one you should consider. They’re all super enjoyable, and while hockey obviously plays a bit part of the books (duh), it doesn’t overwhelm them. After Breakaway, my favourite is Power Play (#3 in the series), because Max is also adorably clueless but super happy about it and Misha is broody and stoic…they’re a perfect pairing.

My Goodreads review of Breakaway

Happy New Year!

Much love to my reader and author friends! May 2017 bring us all more awesome books and all the joy we can stand.