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New Release Friday: The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood (#romance #ff)

I know quite a few of my readers are into new f/f fiction and romance, and this is a lovely intersection of the two. I particularly like that Michelle cares so much about creating a f/f story where the central conflict isn’t coming from the relationship itself. Take it away, Michelle!

New Release Friday: The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood (#pnr #ff)

Blurb:
In the rare moments when Deanna Scott isn’t working as the moderator for Wolf’s Run, an online werewolf role-playing game, she wanders the local forest trails with her golden retriever, Arthur, and daydreams about Jaime, the attractive, enigmatic woman who lives upstairs.

As Wolf Run’s “den mother,” Deanna is accustomed to petty online drama. But when threats from an antagonistic player escalate, Deanna wonders if her awesome online job could be riskier than she’d ever imagined—and if her new girlfriend knows more about this community than she had realized.

Genre: paranormal romance, f/f

What makes this book unique in its genre?
The Better to Kiss You With is a paranormal romance with queer girls, werewolves, and gaming!  It is set in Vancouver, BC, and tells the story of Deanna, who is the moderator of an online werewolf role playing game.  She lives and works in a tiny one bedroom apartment with her dog Arthur, and falls for the attractive and mysterious woman who is her upstairs neighbour.  When a player from the game Deanna works for escalates his threats, Deanna shrugs them off, but her new girlfriend has reason to believe that the player’s bite is worse than his bark…

What was one important thing to you at the center of writing this book?
It was important to me to write a F/F romance where the source of conflict didn’t come from within the relationship.  As I was writing The Better to Kiss You With, GamerGate was in full swing, and I was reading over and over again about women who were experiencing serious online threats, harassment, and stalking.  It infuriated me that these women were experiencing very real terror but had had so little recourse, while the perpetrators of the threats faced with little to no consequences for their actions.  Thanks to these men, because it’s important to note that the perpetrators of this kind of violence are primarily men, I didn’t have to look too hard to find my bad guy.

Buy It on Amazon (print or ebook).
Buy It direct from Interlude Press in print or ebook.

Coupon Code:
But wait! Now through April 25th, get 25% off when buying the book direct from Interlude Press using coupon code: BETTERTOKISS. Buy the ebook here, and the print book here.

Thanks so much for being featured here on Opinions of a Wolf, Michelle!
Would you be interested in being featured on New Release Friday? Find out how here.
New Release Friday is a sponsored post but I only feature books on New Release Friday that I believe would interest readers of this blog. Book reviews are never sponsored. Find out more about the sponsored post policy here.

 

Giveaway Winner: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (International)

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)The giveaway winner of one ebook or print copy of Set Adrift, courtesy of the author D.S. Kenn herself is……..

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 9.10.46 AM

Entry #11 Terri Babcock!

Terri’s winning entry was for following D.S Kenn’s twitter account.

Terri, I’ll be providing your email address to D.S. Kenn, who will contact you directly to find out if you prefer an ebook or print copy.  She will then send it to you.

Thanks for entering!

Giveaway: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (International)

April 4, 2015 1 comment

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)It’s the second giveaway of 2015 here at Opinions of a Wolf.  Woohoo!!

There is ONE copy of Set Adrift (review) available courtesy of the author, D.S. Kenn!  The winner gets to choose whether they want a print or ebook copy.  How cool is that?

What You’ll Win:  One copy of Set Adrift (review) by D.S. Kenn.

How to Enter:  Fill out the Rafflecopter by clicking here!

Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL

Contest Ends: April 13th at midnight!

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)

April 4, 2015 5 comments

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)Summary:
Terric, nickname T, a half shifter half demon, and his girlfriend Jordyn, full vampire, have decided to move from New York City to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  T has an opportunity to work as head of security at a nightclub and bar that caters to the supernatural, and he thinks the move will be good for he and Jordyn.  Jordyn had a nightmarishly abusive past, and T has been helping her heal through a safe, consenting BDSM relationship.  But his love for Jordyn is not one of a mate; it is one of a friend.  He intuitively knows that his mate will be a man but he struggles to accept this, due to suffering he has endured in the demon realm.  When Jordyn decides it is time for her to stand on her own two feet and move out, she also encourages T to confront himself and grow as well.  But all T feels is set adrift.

Review:
Every November/December I open up to submissions for books to review in the upcoming year on my blog.  When I saw this one in the submissions, I was excited.  Not very much paranormal romance is submitted to me, and paranormal romance with a bisexual main character is nigh on impossible to find.  Plus, I love Provincetown.  This paranormal romance features a unique set of characters and a wide variety of sex scenes but its world building struggles some.

The strongest aspect of the book is that its main character Terric is so unique in paranormal romance.  Terric actually describes himself perfectly:

I’m an anomaly. A fucking bisexual demon shifter. Not really all of any one thing…. I don’t really fit in most categories, you know. (page 33)

First, I love love love the fact that the hero of the book isn’t just bisexual, but he actually uses the term to describe himself as such.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it is quite rare to have a character self-identify as bisexual and simultaneously have that character be one of the good guy leads.  I really applaud the author for going there.  Terric struggles with his sexuality but not for the reasons the reader might expect.  Provincetown, for those who don’t know, is known for being a small town with a large accepting queer community.  T’s community would accept him for who he is, but he struggles with accepting and loving himself.  The reason given for this is that when he is summoned to the demon realm (as a half demon, he is subject to hell’s dominion), he is sometimes subject to punishment that consists of rape by other male demons (or half demons).  The reason he has trouble imagining being mated with a man is due to this trauma.  Bisexual men experience a higher rate of rape than straight or gay men (source), and I think it’s a good thing that the author works this into T’s past within the context of his supernatural world.  The rape is not misrepresented as causing his bisexuality but rather as a trauma he must get over to fully embrace his sexuality for what it is.  It’s not a storyline seen very often, and it’s handled well.

Similarly, the BDSM subplot in the first half of the book is also handled well.  The BDSM is completely presented as something both partners have consented to with pre-agreed upon boundaries that are respected.  It is also shown as something that is therapeutically used to help Jordyn overcome her past trauma.  This is a use for BDSM that some readers may not know but it is clearly well-understood by the author and well presented in the book.  Plus, the BDSM scenes are well-written and just the right level of steamy.

Unfortunately, the world that T and Jordyn live in is not as well fleshed-out as they are.  In particular, the workings of the supernatural world are never fully explained and can be a bit confusing.  For instance, vampires can apparently have children (as in, conceive and give birth to them, not as in turning humans into vampires), but it is never explained how.  Also the logistics of mixing different supernatural races are unclear.  For instance, there is one character who is 100% shifter, but his parents are both half vampire and half shifter.  Even the character himself doesn’t know how that worked out to him being pure shifter.  Some readers probably wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of details and world building regarding the supernatural and just how it works in this world, but others will be.

There are a few minor editing mistakes, the most startling of which is that the book on page 142 suddenly changes from indenting new paragraphs to having a line space between them (like how paragraphs appear on this blog).  I have no preference for one over the other, but consistency throughout the book is preferred.  There is also one plot point that bothered me.  At one point a character is established as being tipsy.  He then kisses someone and, freaked out about it, decides to leave and states that he can because he is “sober as a judge,” and the other character agrees he is fit to drive (page 152).  Unless that kiss lasted an hour or two, there’s no way he went from tipsy to sober as a judge in the span of one kiss (unless something supernatural was going on that was not explained).  Similarly, sometimes the book veers too far into telling rather than showing, particularly in the scenes that are not sex scenes.  For instance, in one scene, this occurs:

He told Kevin a little bit about his own upbringing, just the basics. (page 144)

At this point, the reader does not know much about this character’s upbringing.  Why not write out the dialogue in which the character tells Kevin about it, rather than telling the reader that the character tells Kevin?  The sex scenes never veer into this telling rather than showing zone, and it would be nice if the plot points didn’t either.

There is also a chapter that is called the “epilogue,” which kind of bothered me since it is a direct continuance of the plot in the previous chapters.  No significant time is skipped, nothing in the future is explained.  It is basically the last chapter in the book.  I am uncertain as to why it is thus called an epilogue.  I was expecting it to update me on the future of these characters, not simply continue the story in a direct linear fashion from the last chapter.

Sex acts in the book include: anal sex (male on female), BDSM (male dom, female sub), and M/M kissing/touching.  Rape is mentioned as an occurrence in the past but is not depicted.  Those readers looking for more in-depth M/M scenes should keep their eye out for the next book in the series, as it appears that a M/M relationship will be building to greater intimacy in the next book.

Overall, this is a welcome addition to the paranormal romance genre, featuring a unique cast of characters, including a bisexual half-demon, half-shifter male hero.  The book contains a wide variety of sex scenes, including M/F BDSM and M/M kissing/touching.  Readers interested in in-depth world building may be disappointed by the lack of explanation of the supernatural world these characters inhabit.  Those looking for a quick, steamy read will enjoy these characters and the development of them that goes on in-between their well-written sex scenes.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: Ecstasy in Darkness by Gena Showalter (Series, #5) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

A man's naked back can be seen. He is holding a whip.Summary:
Ava Sans is hoping to move up to a full agent at New Chicago’s Alien Investigation and Removal (AIR) team.  But before she can, she and her best friend, Noelle, are assigned to capture a powerful vampire who can manipulate time.  McKell, recently cast out from the underground tunnels the monarchical vampires call their home, is having to adjust to living with daylight and is desperate to find out the secret these above ground vampires have for moving around in the daylight without burning.  Used to seeing humans only as food slaves, he’s disturbed to find himself inexplicably attracted to Ava Sans, who just so happens to smell like butterscotch.

Review:
I rarely impulse buy books in drugstores and, after reading this book, I think that’s probably the wiser move.  I bought this in a CVS due entirely to the cover and didn’t pick it up to read for three years.  When I did, I saw it was the fifth book in the series.  Fortunately, this isn’t the type of series that it’s necessary to read in order.  Unfortunately, nothing about this book made me want to go read the rest of the series.  It suffers from a meandering plot, ridiculous dialogue, two-dimensional characters, constant cock-teasing of the reader, and an entirely misleading cover (that I suspect was misleading on purpose).

This series focuses on a different romantic pairing in each entry.  They all have ties to AIR in some way.  The previous couples make cameos in other books, but the actual plot from the prior books doesn’t have much impact on this one.  All that needs to be known is there was a war with the aliens, New Chicago is not on Earth, vampires are an alien species that are allergic to the sun and live underground on this planet, the vampires make humans their food slaves, and some of the vampires have started living above ground. Oh, and there’s this alien called the Schön Queen who looks beautiful but actually is a rotting, disease-ridden creature who gives those who bang her an illness that makes them her voodoo zombie slaves.  Those who read a lot of pnr will understand that that’s a pretty simple plot summary for a series this far in.

The actual plot for this book basically is that Ava will help McKell lure vampires to interview to find out how they live in daylight and he will, in turn, come willingly to talk to the head of AIR.  AIR wants to find out if McKell’s blood can be used to save victims of the Schön Queen’s disease.  If the book stuck to this simple, straightforward plot it would work.  But it meanders all over the place, tossing in red herrings, asides, diatribes, and scenes that seem to happen just for the fun of it.  This book is over 500 pages long.  That is not enough plot to support that many pages, unless the characters are stopping to bang a lot, which was honestly what I was expecting.  That’s not what we get though.

The cover definitely implies that this is a BDSM book with a lot of sex.  The only thing that ever happens with a whip is McKell comes over to Ava’s house with the whip intent on actually beating her up with it (in a to get revenge way not in a sexy BDSM way) but then he never uses it on her.  She mentions it in a giggling aside toward the end of the book, and McKell states he would never ever whip her. He loves her too much now.  I know the author generally doesn’t have any impact on the cover design at all, but somebody somewhere must have known they’d be pulling in people expecting BDSM only to have BDSM scorned within the book.  Not cool.  That’d be less irritating, though, if there was at least a lot of sex of some sort in the book.  Instead, we repeatedly find Ava and McKell getting hot and steamy only to stop just short of having sex.  They have sex twice in the book at the very end.  You seriously have to read at least 400, maybe 450, pages to get one full sex scene.  Which is incredibly frustrating because by far the best writing Showalter does is of the sex scenes.  They’re tantalizing and realistic with some things we don’t always see in romance novels, like the guy going down on the girl, for instance.  This book would have been at least three stars if Showalter’s steamy scenes had led to actual sex scenes throughout the novel.  But instead, the reader just gets going with excitement only to have it yanked out from under them to go check in on that meandering plot.

The characters are so two-dimensional that it’s essentially impossible to truly care for them. McKell is a vampire with a temper. A bad boy, supposedly, that Ava inexplicably falls for. Most of his presence in the book consists of snapping at Ava and being shocked she doesn’t obey him and then being turned on by that.  Ava, on the other hand, is traumatized by growing up on the bad side of the tracks and has a big inferiority complex.  She also smells like butterscotch. And tastes like butterscotch. And her hair looks like butterscotch. She’s a piece of butterscotch candy who says boo hoo poor me and I want to prove to everyone that I’m not trash so oh hey let’s fall for this bad boy vampire who treats me badly that seems like a great choice.  I admit by the end of the book McKell is treating her well but his transformation is out of the blue, not gradual.  Plus, Ava falls for him when he’s a bad boy and never stands up for herself or says I deserve better.  She ends up with an ok guy but only because he magically transformed, not out of any agency of her own.  The supporting characters are even less well-developed.  I can say maybe one or two things about them all, but nothing that makes them truly come to life in my mind.

Overall, this is an overly long pnr with a light, meandering plot and only two sex scenes in over 500 pages.  While the sex scenes are well-written and tantalizing, the rest of the book is dull, with two-dimensional characters it is impossible to come to truly care for.  The romance uses the bad boy/wounded woman trope and does nothing to make it deeper or richer.  Those who think from the cover that this is a BDSM pnr should be aware that it is definitely not.  I would perhaps pick it up in a library or at a friend’s house to skim through and read the sex scenes, but there is definitely better pnr out there to devote your time to.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: CVS

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Awaken Me Darkly
Enslave Me Sweetly
Savor Me Slowly
Seduce the Darkness

Book Review: Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Kate Reinders)

August 8, 2013 1 comment

Cartoon drawing of a white woman with black hair surrounded by water in twisting columns with a background of fire. The title Tracking the Tempest and the author's name Nicole Peeler are on the image.Summary:
Things have gotten interesting since Mainiac Jane True found out she’s half selkie.  She discovered the whole world of supernatural beings, started training and honing her own powers with the help of a local goblin, and of course met and started dating the sexy vampire Ryu.  After being caught up in the mystery that was a supernatural person killing halflings, Jane really just wants to focus in on power honing and Ryu.  Particularly with Valentine’s Day approaching.  But when she goes down to Boston for her first visit to his home, she ends up getting caught up in his current investigation. Going after a dangerous halfling who just escaped from an illegal lab.

Review:
I enjoyed the first entry in this series as a surprisingly humorous paranormal romance set in the unusual (for pnr) setting of Maine.  So when I needed a new audiobook for a roadtrip and saw this lounging on audible, I snatched it up.  I kind of regret that choice because not only did I enjoy this entry in the series less but I also apparently misremembered how well I liked the first book in the series.  I only rated it as 3.5 stars but remembered enjoying it at at least 4.  Hindsight is not always 20/20.  Essentially, everything that kinda sorta rubbed me the wrong way in the first book got worse instead of better, and the things I liked became worse as well.

The humor takes a nosedive.  Whereas the first book deftly handled a dry New England sense of humor, here things turn mean and inappropriate.  Jane laughs at things she shouldn’t laugh at and invites the reader to as well, and it becomes deeply awkward.  Like hanging out with a friend who thinks they’re funny but is in fact offensive.

I was excited to see what Peeler did with Boston, and I admit some things she handled well.  She nailed the neighborhood of Allston, for instance, but she also put Ryu’s home in Bay Village.  Ryu is supposed to be a wealthy vampire, but instead of putting him in Beacon Hill or a wealthy suburb like Cambridge or Newton, she puts him in a neighborhood that is actually a lower to middle class neighborhood that is slowly being gentrified.  That’s not where a home like Ryu’s supposedly is would be located.  This is a neighborhood that border the Massachusetts Turnpike (noisy big road, for non-Americans).  It’s not the mecca of wealth that Peeler seems to think it is.  A big mistake like that is rather jarring when she got details like how the exit of the T in Harvard Square is called the Pit, a bit of knowledge even some locals don’t have.  On the other hand, she seems to think that the Boston Public Garden closes at night and has a big scene where Ryu takes Jane there on a romantic late-night date. Um. No. The Garden doesn’t close at night.  It is, however, full of people trying to sell you drugs. Yes, yes, ideal for a romantic date.  This unevenness in knowledge of Boston and its surrounding areas made reading the setting uncomfortable and awkward.

The issue of Ryu being an obvious jerk continues.  It’s clear from the beginning of the book that a break-up is coming and Jane is being set up with another character.  It’s kind of annoying for the book to be this predictable, but it is paranormal romance, and Jane does ultimately stand up for herself, so I was ultimately ok with this.  In fact, the way Jane stands up for herself is handled so well that it saved the book from getting 2 stars instead of 3.

The last, and most important, thing that made the book deeply upsetting for me was the fact that Jane is not once but twice put into a situation where she is about to be raped.  Rape comes up a lot in paranormal romance and frankly it bothers me.  These are worlds in which women are powerful, talented, and often gifted with great gifts.  So why must their confrontations so frequently devolve into threatened or real rape?  I get it that rape is a very real thing in the real world, and I am completely fine with it existing as a plot point in horror, dystopian or post-apocalyptic scifi, and mysteries.  Horror is supposed to push the boundaries of comfort. Dystopian and postapocalyptic scifi is frequently presenting humanity at its worst, and rape is one of the worst.  Mystery needs a victim, and frequently murder victims are also raped.  But in a battle between supernatural creatures in a book that is supposed to be a romance suddenly tossing in rape as a weapon doesn’t read right.  It removes so much agency from the main female characters.  Like, what, she’s always easily defeated because you can just threaten to shove your dick into her against her will and suddenly she will acquiesce to your viewpoint?  It’s paranormal romance. Why can’t the paranormal world have fights where rape threats and attempted rapes aren’t a thing?

What really bothered me about the second scene this happened in with Jane is the level of victim blaming that happens as well.  Jane has just successfully escaped from the first rape attempt. She saves herself. This is great, and she does it with a mixture of trickery and violence that is commendable.  But then a man shows up and immediately takes over. He says he needs to protect her; he’s going to walk her out of this situation. Jane insists she needs to pee. She goes to pee, against his protests, and when she comes back out, he’s gone because another group of villains have him, and Jane starts to be attacked by a known violent rapist.  She later blames herself for having to go pee, and no one argues with her that she has every right to pee when she needs to. So we have a powerful halfling who can’t go pee by herself because she might get attacked and raped? That is so incredibly victim blaming and putting all the responsibility for safety on the woman that I can’t even properly articulate how angry it makes me.

Kate Reinders, the narrator, mostly does a good job.  She lands the complex voice of Jane quite well.  The only negative I can say is that she mispronounces some New England words and city names.  But her narration did make the book more enjoyable for me.

Combine these issues (aside from the audiobook narration which was fine) together with the fact that the plot is basically the previous book’s plot flipped in reverse (violent halfling killing supernatural people instead of supernatural person killing halfling), and I can safely say I won’t be continuing on in the series.  The only thing that saves the book from a lower rating is the fact that Jane ultimately does stand up for herself. But for me it was too little too late.  Not recommended.  Unless you enjoy bad humor, awkward settings, and rape threats and victim blaming of the heroine.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Tempest Rising, review