Read and Rated: January 2021

First month of 2021 saw me reading quite widely and consuming a bunch of different genres! Hopefully the start of the year, saw your enjoying a bunch of books too. So scroll on down to check out all the books that I read in January, rated.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Happily Ever After & Everything In Between by Debbie Tung

First book of 2021!

I am a big fan of Debbie Tung and Happily Ever After does not disappoint. Made up of cute comics about her relationship with her husband, Tung illustrates personal and quiet moments that feature in her day to day life. These quiet moments are so lovely, as they are often the funnier or more intimate representations of her relationship.

Continue reading “Read and Rated: January 2021”

Read and Rated: October

I haven’t been quite as productive as September but I’ve been hitting the non-fiction books a lot more this month so it all evens out. So here is a quick rundown of the books I finished during the month of October.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Skincare: the Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide by Caroline Hirons

Firstly I am going to say that I have no clue who Caroline Hirons is but I did find their Skincare book quite informative. I could have done without the near constant references back to her YouTube channel but Hirons spelt out skincare issues in easy to understand language and included a lot of helpful pictures.

I have been trying to get a better handle on my skin which has always been a nightmare, so this book was very informative in helping my choose products that would suit my skincare needs – which were also detailed in the book. Win-win!

Continue reading “Read and Rated: October”

Murder on the Rockport Limited: Thoughts of a TAZ first-timer

With the release of the second The Adventure Zone graphic novel, Amy from Lost in a Good Book and I thought it would be a great idea to look at how we each experienced the novel; myself having only read the graphic novels and her having listened to the listened to the entire TAZ Balance podcast.

As I am see this graphic novel with completely new eyes I thought I would take the time to point out some of the things that confused or stood out to me.

Warning: If you haven’t listened to the podcast for this arc or read any of the graphic novels, here there be minor spoilers.


How did you enjoy the story knowing/not knowing the podcast?

Amy: I loved the story because I loved reliving the story in visual form. I heard the boy’s voices in my head and I loved being able to read it with their voices.

Ally: Before reading Murder on the Rockport LimitedI had read the first in the series, Here There Be Gerblins and I remember really loving both the story and characters. While I’m not as familiar with the characters as Amy, I very much got a clear grasp of their characters.

Amy: With the hints and clues to future events I knew what was coming and I loved the easter egg hunt to see just what Carey had included in the illustrations. From background detail, characters in crowds or the smallest detail in character stat sheets it was a fun read to see the references I understood, and it often replaces some of the jokes that were excluded by simply making them visual.

Ally: Sometimes I would see little details in the background or read an offhand comment by a character and it would pull me up. Just the knowledge that this story has already been told in a different format really made me aware of little things like this – I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I am sure this means something to someone.’

Amy: It’s hard to say just listen to the arc to match the graphic novel because it draws from multiple episodes. Murder on the Rockport Limited takes storyline from episodes before and after the actual arc and even alludes to things that are far from happening.

Ally: I will admit that after I finished the graphic novel I did flip back to certain pages and ask my partner questions like, ‘will this come back in later books?’ or ‘Is this character important?’ I swear the characters Angus talks to at the end were too fancy and pretty looking to just be throw away characters – I swear they must be coming back or something!

Continue reading “Murder on the Rockport Limited: Thoughts of a TAZ first-timer”

Romance Recommendation: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea

by T.J. Klune

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Taken from book blurb

Length: 12 hours 12 minutes

Series: N/A

Genre: Fantasy. QUILTBAG. M/M Romance.

Read as an: eAudiobook


My Thoughts

The House in the Cerulean Sea had me messily sobbing while driving on the freeway.

Thank goodness it was always on my way home from work, otherwise I would have spent the day an emotional and red mess. The emotions that this book inspire are so wholesome and loving yet so cutting and sharp.

The feels, people!

The emphasis of this beautiful book is family. However it also looks at hate and how the fear of the unknown can foster contentious and angry feelings which breed to hate and violence. The fact that the books is about an ‘orphanage’ of magical children too dangerous to be housed in normal facilities only adds to the poignancy.

My god the feels, people!


“Just because you don’t experience prejudice in your everyday doesn’t stop it from existing for the rest of us.”


Continue reading “Romance Recommendation: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune”

Read and Rated: September

I was quite productive and read a fair amount this September. So here is a quick rundown of the books I finished during the month of September.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who’s that Earl by Susanna Craig

Who’s That Earl is the first book of Susanna Criag’s I have read and I quite enjoyed it. The characters of the historical romance were very nuanced and I not only did I like them as individuals but I really liked them together. First in the Love and Let Spy Series, I will deifnelty be looking out for the next in store.

Also I do love the cover of this book, it is so striking and different. However every time I look at it I can’t help but think that there is something wrong with her arms? Maybe it is the style of the dress that is throwing me off? I’m not sure, what do you think?

Continue reading “Read and Rated: September”

Smut Talk: The Seen Trilogy by Cynthia Sax

Made up of five parts, The Seen Trilogy is an erotica romance series that explores a number of kinks and romantic entanglements. The first three novellas of the original trilogy follow Anna Sampson and her romantic adventures with Gabriel Blaine unfold across three main arcs, watch, touch, and claim.

The other two books in the series follow two side characters from the first three books as they too find not only love but some steamy action in Blaine Technologies.


He Watches Me

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first novella in the series starts off strong with the main focus being on the start of the relationship between Anna and Gabriel. Established quite quickly is the fact that Anna is quite impoverished, currently house sitting a large mansion, she struggles with money and has self worth issues stemming from her mother’s abandonment and father’s death in jail.

Sneaking into her neighbours yard, Anna begins to skinny dip in the pool. Thus begins the voyeuristic relationship between Anna and Gabriel. The romance around the pair focuses on Gabriel watching Anna and doesn’t branch out until the second novella.

He Touches Me

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Starting where the first novella left of He Touches Me sees the relationship between Anna and Gabriel develop. No longer just a sexual relationship based on voyeurism, the pair begin a more hands on approach to their encounters. While not taking the final step in the relationship, Anna and Gabriel explore a number of kinky situations with a focus still being on the exhibitionist tendencies of the pair.

The second book also sees Anna look for a second job as she continues to struggle with money and mounting issues relating to her house sitting. The power dynamic of the pair makes a big change as Anna begins to work for Gabriel. Coupled with Anna’s issues with money and her struggles to adequately feed herself (every lunch time we see her not eating very much or only eating crackers) the shift in power dynamics does start to raise some red flags.

Another problematic part of the series really starts to hit in the second book, Anna’s coworker Michael. Wealthy son of a Hollywood actress, Michael works alongside Anna at a charitable organisation. At first he is harmless but as He Touches Me he really pushes the line.

He Claims Me

Rating: 3 out of 5.

He Claims Me sees the main story of Anna and Gabriel end, with the pair overcoming boundaries, criminal accusations, and personal issues to be together. He Claims Me also sees the introduction of the character Henley who is not only included in the pairs voyeuristic encounters but features in the next novel.

The story does wrap up rather well, with Anna’s job at Gabriel’s business, Blaine Technologies, going well. It was quite comforting to see Anna start to form more positive and healthy relationships with those around her and any issues I had with the power balance of the first two books even out as Anna settles more into herself.

What I did enjoy about the series is the insistence throughout the three books from Gabriel that what they have is a serious relationship. While Anna was a bit skittish at the beginning, Gabriel was clear from the beginning what the relationship was and meant to him.


Flashes of Me

(The Seen Trilogy 3.1)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Henley, the head of cyber security at Blaine Technologies, is a man no one crosses. He watches employees constantly, using his network of cameras, and enforces his rules by any means possible. Rumors of his violent past, along with his scarred hands and huge size, have resulted in his being feared by everyone … almost everyone.

Katalina, the new intern, worries about the revelation of her most painful secret much more than she fears her sexy boss’s wrath. She sees the loneliness in his dark eyes, feels the gentleness in his marred fingers, tastes the need in his kisses … and she knows he watches her. His silly rules about not stripping for the cameras and no sex at the office are destined to be broken.

Kat likes to be watched. Henley can’t look away. Will this beauty be able to tame her beastly boss?

Taken from book blurb

After finishing He Claims Me, I was looking forward to seeing more of Henley. While I did enjoy the book and did like Henley as a character, I really wasn’t sold on Katalina. I often found myself rolling my eyes or feeling put out about her behaviour, especially seeing as the main kink that is explored in the novel is exhibitionism. Which often saw Katalina acting out by ‘flashing’ security cameras, which for me, came off as more childish than sexual.

What really threw me with Katalina was the almost bimbo persona she was happy to wear almost all the time. The book was littered with her referring back to ‘what her Father would say’ and acting oblivious.

While I can understand and see quite clearly that these were defence mechanisms that Katalina used to deflect from personal and emotional subjects, it none the less had me quite put out at her behaviour. Especially since by grace of her appearance and act, she was somehow above reproach about braking uniform regulations and other code of conduct behaviours.

While Flashes of Me was an entertaining read that explored more of a character I enjoyed from the first three books in the series, it was a real let down.


Breaking All The Rules

(The Seen Trilogy 3.2)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Nathan Lawford, Blaine Technologies’ chief financial officer, is known as the Iceman. He conducts his personal and business affairs without emotion, never allowing himself to become involved with anyone. When Nate sees something or someone he wants, he negotiates, paying a simple, set monetary price.

Now he wants Camille, the company’s green-haired intern.

Camille Joplin Trent never expected to be paid to pleasure the man of her dreams. She can’t quite figure out why this is a bad thing. Nate is intelligent, handsome, sophisticated, everything she’s ever wanted in a lover and never thought she could have. Their contract is for a month, thirty lust-filled days of making every sexual fantasy they’ve ever had come true. At the end of this month, the rules state their relationship will end.

Of course, Camille has never been good at following rules.

Taken from book blurb

Once again I was looking to seeing more of a character from the first three books in the series and once again I was disappointed. Camille, otherwise known as Goth Girl, from Anna’s previous charity job was a large character, not large in that she had a big part in the story or physically, just that she was quite uncompromising in her appearance.

In Breaking All The Rules we see Camille as a toned down version of herself. Where she once had tattoos and piercings we find out that the tattoos were all temporary, and her piercings have been taken out. The one remaining feature from her time in the first three books is her green hair. Sadly no longer a mo-hawk now long and flowing. The toning down of Camille was not only disappointing but insulting, almost as if we are readers couldn’t handle or envision such a characters as a romantic lead. No, in order to fit into not only Blaine Technologies but romance viewership, she had to conform 🙄🙄🙄

The kinks exhibited in Breaking All The Rules are a bit different than those of its predecessors. While certainly there are voyeuristic and exhibitionist elements, the main ‘kink’ comes from Nathan’s inability to be with anyone without it having to be a transaction. That is, Nathan doesn’t sleep with people unless he is paying them. Camille is happy to go along with this however, as she just wants to spend time with the notorious Iceman.

The last book in The Seen Trilogy feels like such a cop out. I was looking forward to seeing the ‘Goth Girl’ get her happy ending but instead was treated to a watered down version of the character with all of her ‘nonconformist behaviour’ being attributed to her hippee parents. Also, leather suits? Really?!


The Seen Trilogy

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Seen Trilogy is very kink friendly and while it is written in first person, it still manages to make an emotional connection with readers. While parts of the books can be seen as problematic, they are not all bad with a lot of the issues playing out naturally (Anna and the harressment at her job) or being explained through character actions (Katalina’s ‘bimbo’ persona).

All of the books were okay, almost all of the books rated three stars but as is with a lot of contemporary erotic romance novels, the books did push the idea of the ‘alpha’ male. Each book exhibited problematic language around men being in charge and the woman being subservient to them. While the female characters did hold an equal footing in the physical, emotional, and sexual relationships of the book, there none the less was this element within the books.

Either way, I read them all in a day and was otherwise entertained from my illness that allowed me to read all day. I suppose as long as you take all of these books with a grain of salt, they aren’t too bad.

Romance Recommendation: Tit for Tat by R. Cooper

Tit for Tat

by R. Cooper

Tat never expected a future. A lower-caste Luudi who left her planet and made a new home with a group of idealistic humans, she spends her time looking out for new family and working in secret to rescue refugees from a neighbouring country. She is content with what she has, if sometimes lonely.

Then a Pros arrives their tense little border town. Although mostly human, the Pros were genetically engineered to look perfect and to offer pleasure, both physically and psychically. Beautiful, sophisticated Cin is no exception, which is why when she approaches Tat, Tat knows it can’t be personal. Luudi are big, strong, purple, and impervious to psychic influence—making Tat the safest outlet for someone like Cin. Tat says yes with no expectation that Cin would ever want more, while convinced the danger will eventually drive Cin away.

But the Pros can take care of themselves, as well as any quietly heroic Luudi who catches their eye—if only that Luudi would let them. Tat has spent so long helping others find a future, it doesn’t occur to her to seek out her own even when her silence might cost her the one she wants.

Taken from book blurb

Length: 114 pages.

Series: Stand alone.

Genre: F/F Romance. QUILTBAG. Sci-Fi.

Read as an: eBook.


My Thoughts

Tit for Tat is an emotional yet action packed sci-fi romance. The book focuses on a rag tag group of people who work together to help refugees escape from a fascist country that looks down on keent – an allegorical take on all of the worlds ‘non-normal’ individuals.

While the book is not focused on these actions and missions to help people escape to better lives, they are still present. While not being overtly homophobic or including any discriminatory language, the book does tackle the feelings of people fleeing from terrible treatment. While certainly the majority of the content is romantic in nature – the book packs no less of an emotional punch for it’s content.

I absolutely adored the characters of Tat and Cin – the way that they initially interact and then painfully circle each other was so heartwarming and yet equal parts heartbreaking. As with most of R Coopers work, I found myself falling in LOVE with all of the characters.

Everyone was so just so nuanced and beautiful!

Also I am SO glad that there was an extra short, Into the Net, featuring Fiya and Rhiel. When I reached the two words, The End, I was so sad that I had missed the seeing the culmination of these two and their relationship. Thank goodness for this additional story where we see these two get their shit together. Or as much as you can without giving them a whole novel (like I would love).


Enjoyment Level

Put simply – I adored this book. It took me a few attempts to get into the story (I blame not being a Sci-Fi reader) but once I was in, I was hooked! I am so glad that I read Tit for Tat on a day off because it meant I was able to devour it in almost one sitting.

I know that R. Cooper has another sci-fi book that they have just released, Taji from Beyond the Rings, and now I am looking at devoting a whole day off to it as well!


Recommendation

If you are looking for a story that features a f/f love story between an alien and a not-so-human, then look no further because Tit for Tat is the book for you. Not only does it features Lesbians in Space* but it features a heartwarming story full of communication issues and fighting fascist regimes.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining and emotional romance read!

*Okay, so while no one explicitly identifies as lesbian, it was too fun not to include 😋

Book review comment ender

Romance Recommendation: Hottie Scotty and Mr. Porter by R. Cooper

Hottie Scotty and Mr. Porter

by R. Cooper

To help out his sister, Scott moved to the small town of Montgomery, where there isn’t much to do and no one for him to date. Well, there’s one other openly gay man in town—Henry ‘Cole’ Porter, a widower who runs the school library, but after one drunken night together, Cole has kept his distance. Scott is used to that. He spends a lot of time working out, and from the slow way he talks and the frat house atmosphere at the fire station where he works, it’s easy to assume he’s stupid. Most people are happy to admire his body and assume that’s all he wants from them, and deep down, Scott is too afraid to try asking for more.

Which is why Scott has been secretly pining after Cole for months when some of the town’s nosier residents decide Cole has been single long enough. They have a plan to throw every professional gay man in a thirty-mile radius Cole’s way, whether he likes it or not. Their list of candidates doesn’t include Scott, and Scott’s insecurities prevent him from stepping forward—even when it seems as though Cole is asking him to.

Cole is everything Scott isn’t; highly educated, stylish, with refined tastes. He’s also stubborn and sarcastic, and not nearly as smart about the workings of his own heart as people might think. It might take a lot of the wrong men for him to realize the right one has been in front of him all along.

Taken from book clurb

Length: 112 pages.

Series: Stand alone.

Genre: Romance. QUILTBAG. M/M Romance.

Read as an: eBook.


My Thoughts

The first time I read Hottie Scotty and Mr Porter, I was five books into my R. Cooper binge. However this book left the biggest impression. The characters and the emotions the story evoked in me were so very powerful; I laughed, I cried, I hugged a pillow while silently sobbing for Scotty’s sense of self worth.

Evoking emotional and somewhat angst filled moments of bittersweet joy, are what R. Cooper excels at. Throughout her books there is a common theme of hurt feelings and the deeply resonating emotional turmoil misunderstandings can create. Hottie Scotty and Mr Porter tackles self worth and explores this in such a subtle and beautiful way. Scotty’s feelings are not discussed, rather characters pick up on behaviours and defence mechanisms, and work around them.

The romance in Hottie Scotty and Mr Porter is hard won and worthwhile. I loved seeing the two romantic leads together as they each figured themselves and each other out.


Enjoyment Level

I loved this book so much, I couldn’t wait more than 3 months before reading it again. Last year I became a fan of R. Cooper and so far in my journey reading her back catalogue, Hottie Scotty and Mr Porter is my favourite.

I am no doubt going to read Hottie Scotty and Mr Porter for a third time, and may throw in a re-read of For Better or Worse which tells the story of two firefighters who work with Scotty in Montgomery.


Recommendation

If you are looking for a beautiful QUILTBAG romance that has just enough emotional angst to tug on your heart strings, then I would 100% recommend Hottie Scotty and Mr Porter.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining and emotional romance read!

Book review comment ender

How I Broke Up with My Colon by Nick Seluk (The Awkward Yeti)

How I Broke Up with My Colon

by Nick Seluk; The Awkward Yeti

Fascinating, bizarre, and educational true-life medical stories retold in cartoon form by the creator of the bestselling Heart and Brain book series.

Mysterious illnesses. Freakish injuries. X-rays revealing something weird that got stuck in your foot. These strange but true stories are among the 24 medical tales retold in hilarious fashion by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nick Seluk. Featuring fascinating stories submitted by people all over the world, How I Broke Up with My Colon is an educational and highly entertaining tour through the bizarre workings of the human body.

Taken from book blurb

Release Date: March 24, 2020.

Length: 192 pages.

Series: Stand alone.

Genre: Graphic Novel.

Read as: an eBook.

Sourced: NetGalley.


My Thoughts

How I Broke Up With My Colon is different take on the short story/biographies format. Inside the graphic novel you will find funny medical stories illustrated by Nick Seluk who is better known as The Awkward Yeti.

Continue reading “How I Broke Up with My Colon by Nick Seluk (The Awkward Yeti)”

Long Lost Review: The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie

Long Lost Reviews Icon

The Perfect Rake

Anne Gracie.

She ran from a brute…

Fleeing violent tyranny, Prudence Merridew escapes with her beautiful younger sisters to London. One of them must marry—and fast. To act as her sisters’ chaperone, Prudence invents a secret engagement to a reclusive duke…But when the duke arrives unexpectedly in London, she needs his help to avert disaster.

...into the arms of a rake

Aristocratic Gideon, handsome, rakish and with a strong frivolous streak, casually hijacks Prudence’s game, awarding himself a stolen kiss or three along the way. Used to managing sisters and elderly men, Prudence is completely out of her depth with a charming, devious and utterly irresistible rake. And her plot goes terribly—if deliciously—awry… 

Taken from book blurb

I class this book as a long lost review as I have literally lost the book.

Continue reading “Long Lost Review: The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie”