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3 Speed Reads for Valentine’s Day (f/f, m/m/, and m/f)

February 14, 2016 Leave a comment

3 Speed Reads for Valentine's Day (f/f, m/m, m/f)Happy Valentine’s Day my lovely readers!

I know, I know, it’s a made-up holiday. But I think there’s something lovely about celebrating romance in the middle of winter. Even if your version of celebrating it is delighting in the quirks of the genre and maybe not necessarily romance in real life.

(Personally I will be celebrating it in real life, but hey, I’m a newlywed. 😉 )

So maybe you’re finding yourself at home with no plans for Valentine’s Day. Sure, you could watch re-runs of The Bachelor, but why not spend the wintry day curled up with a quick romance read? Not sure what to read? Here are three speed read romances, vastly different from each other. What makes them a speed read? They are all less than 200 pages. And don’t worry. All three of them got 4 stars or more here on Opinions of a Wolf.

Girl's hair with flowers and ribbons braided into it.Braided: A Lesbian Rapunzel
By: Elora Bishop
Mood: You believe in fairy tales and happy endings!
Pairing: f/f
Length: 61 pages
Blurb:
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel.  Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day.  The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship.  She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into.  Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.
Full Review

Sepia image of dust floating up into the sky in the countryside with the book's title "Listening To Dust" in brown in the foreground and the author's name "Brandon Shire" in black at the top.Listening to Dust
By: Brandon Shire
Mood: You like a tragic romance that makes you cry. Keep the tissues handy for this one!
Pairing: m/m
Length: 142 pages
Blurb:
A chance meeting between orphaned British writer, Stephen, and American soldier, Dustin, leads to a passionate love affair in England.  But when Dustin chooses to go back home to his small Southern town to care for his mentally challenged brother, Stephen is left behind, sending letters that are never answered.  He finally decides to follow Dustin home and arrives only to discover that Dustin is no more.
Full Review

Old book cover with man chasing chickens.Love Among the Chickens
By: P.G. Wodehouse
Mood: You enjoy slapstick and want to laugh. A lot!
Pairing: m/f
Length: 176 pages
Blurb:
Jeremy Garnet, a novelist, is living a relatively quiet bachelor life in London when his old school friend Stanley Ukridge shows up.  Ukridge is starting a chicken farm with his wife, Millie, and wants “Garnie old boy” to come stay with them.  He’ll get to write in the country in exchange for a few hours of work a day.  In spite of the fact that Ukridge is planning to run the chicken farm without any prior knowledge or studying “the better for innovation, my boy,” Garnie takes him up on it.  Of course, life with the eccentric Ukridge surrounded by chickens isn’t quite the quiet writing environment Garnie was planning on.  Not to mention the Irish professor neighbor’s lovely daughter that Garnie can’t quite get out of his head.
Full Review

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Reading Goals and Changes for 2016

December 31, 2015 4 comments
awesomewolf

Source: yenn87 on DeviantArt

Hello my lovely readers!

As I mentioned in my 2015 reading stats wrap-up, I decided to break out my reading goals into a separate post this year because I also have some changes to announce.

As long-time readers know, I had two big life events in 2015. I married my best friend and my father passed away.  You may not know that in 2016 I’m turning 30.  These three personal events have combined to make me really evaluate my life, my time, and my goals.

I feel a real sense of both how fleeting time is and how important it is to me to build a good life and family with my husband.  I want to live with intention and forethought, while holding on to the new ability I’ve found with my husband to embrace the unexpected and do things that are not planned.  That’s a pretty wordy way of saying I want to live mindfully.

My sense of time passing has made me realize that I don’t have forever to write the books I want to write in my lifetime.  And that means I need to stop claiming all of my reading time is contributing to my writing. While it’s true that a writer must read, a writer must also consistently write.  A writer cannot simply read.  I have writer friends who have said before they had to dial back some of their reading to make time for writing, and I now understand why that is so.

This same sense of time passing has made me realize that I no longer wish to spend my time reading books I don’t enjoy.  My whole life I have almost always finished not just every single book I’ve started but most books I’ve acquired as well (with a few exceptions that I got rid of when my now husband moved in with me).  Since my father passed away, I realized life is too short for that.  I went through my books and got rid of any that didn’t make me feel the spark of a happy reader when looking at them or their description.  I’ve also started a few books that I simply stopped reading and got rid of.  I’ve also finally been honest with myself about certain types of books I enjoy that I was once a bit ashamed of.

What does all of this mean for Opinions of a Wolf? Well, many things, actually.

1) Expect there to be far fewer 2 and/or 1 star ratings.
With the exception of books I accept for review (ARCs), if I start a book and am not enjoying my time reading it at any point, I am going to put it down (for good). I am still not comfortable reviewing books that I haven’t read in their entirety.  So I will simply not be reviewing these books.  Don’t take the sudden lack of lower star ratings to mean that I am no longer being honest.  I am just choosing to spend my time in a different manner.  It is still possible for there to be low ratings, though, if a book disappoints me at the end (goes off the rails, as it were) or if I’m reading it because it’s akin to watching a train wreck, haha.  I will still finish any ARCs I accept, however.  To this end…..

2) Books submitted to me for the annual review were accepted in a different manner this year.
This year instead of setting a number I would accept, I only accepted however many books actually appealed to me.  I also required submissions with excerpts, so I could read the first few pages and see how I felt about the writing.  I am hoping the combination of these two means that my review of indie ARCs will serve both for me to find more obscure books I will enjoy and to offer good indie authors beneficial reviews.  Again, though, if a book winds up disappointing me, I will finish it (since it is an ARC), and I will give an honest review.

3) The genres I read are going to change. Some.
I’ve always had a secret thing for humorous (usually British) chick lit.  In fact, the last two books I read this year fit in this category perfectly.  I am not just done hiding this genre, I am also done hating on it.  I feel a lot of the hate comes from a culture-wide judgment of femme things (because of judging women).  I would rather build it up as the respected (albeit silly/not serious literature) genre it should be, rather than participate in ignoring it.  Similarly, before I started the book blog, I read quite a bit of self-help.  I still read it sometimes but I didn’t want to read it too much, worried about what people might think of me.  I’m not going to seek it out, but if one appeals to me, I am going to pick it up and not worry about what people might think.  One thing that won’t change is the love of scifi/fantasy, that will stay.  However, my husband noticed my growing collection of older scifi/fantasy paperbacks by women authors and commented on how cool that was.  I hope to feature these books more in some way yet to be determined on this blog.  I’m even going to be dedicating a whole bookshelf in our studio apartment to it.  I also will be doing more reading of nonfiction I need to read to research my writing, rather than reading things that I think will help make me look smart or that I think I *should* read.  Basically this whole section is saying: I’m done caring about what people think of me. I’m gonna be real. Fuck it.

4) I’m going to be spending more time writing.
Whether this will impact how much I read is yet to be seen, since I tend to read faster when I actually enjoy what I’m reading.  I am working on incorporating writing into being a daily habit and, if I have enough material, I may start publishing some shorts or flash on here.  Alternatively, there may just be a few more publication announcement posts.  Or, I might just do a recap of writing accomplishments in some fashion.

5) I’ve adjusted the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge to be more flexible.
You may now sign up for ongoing or annual versions of the challenge.  I realized for me personally reading books featuring characters with a mental illness in a positive light has become just something I seek out in my reading. It’s not a number I strive for annually.  I figured, why not add that as a more casual option for folks.  You can see more details on the dedicated page.

So that’s what to expect in 2016.
Expect things to be a bit more real around here and hopefully to see more of a mix of reading and writing.  I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring.

Announcement: Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

Hello my lovely readers!

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’ve signed both my novella and my novel up for Smashwords’s annual summer/winter sale (so entitled to cover both hemispheres).

BOTH of my books are 100% off aka FREE through the end of July!! Just use the coupon code SW100 when checking out to get my books for free!! Smashwords books are compatible with all ereaders, computers, and tablets, and you can also give Smashwords books as gifts. Click through to Smashwords by clicking on the titles.

cover_ecstaticevilEcstatic Evil
paranormal romance

Tova Gallagher isn’t just your average Bostonian. She also just so happens to be half-demon, and the demons and fairies have just issued a deadline for her to choose sides. But it’s hard to worry about the battle of good versus rebel when she’s just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River

Silhouette of woman and cat.Waiting For Daybreak
post-apocalyptic psychological science fiction

What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Happy reading!

Celebrate Pride! 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual Characters

June 12, 2015 3 comments

The month of June in the United States is Pride Month, celebrating LGBTQ people, culture, and history.  In Boston, the culmination of Pride is this weekend, with the Pride Parade and block parties.  I wanted to contribute to my local celebration with a little something on my own blog–obviously a reading list! There are a lot of good reading lists out there for LGBTQ reads, so I wanted to do something a little different.  First, I wanted to feature one of the letters not featured very much — the B for bisexual.  Second, I wanted to to highlight both that bisexual people are everywhere and the issue of bi invisibility (more info on that term and issue here) by featuring books that have bisexual characters but that don’t mention that in their blurbs.  You’d be amazed how hard it can be to just find books with bisexual characters.  It’s usually downplayed or not named.  So, here is my list, in alphabetical order, with a mention as to which character is bi and whether the book ever actually uses the term “bisexual.”

  1. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersBad Glass
    by Richard E. Gropp
    Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Lovecraftian
    Brief Blurb:
    Something strange is happening in Spokane, and the US military has taken control of the city, closing it and its happenings to the press.  Dean sees this as the perfect opportunity to break into photography before he graduates from college and is forced into giving up on his artistic dreams to work a regular 9 to 5 job.  So he sneaks into Spokane, where he meets an intriguing young woman and her rag-tag household of survivors, and quickly starts to see the inexplicable things that are going on inside the city.
    Who’s bi? Dean, the main character, is bi.  He at first appears to be straight but later it is revealed he also sometimes is interested in men.
    My Full Review
  2. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersThe Drowning Girl
    by Caitlin R. Kiernan
    Genre: Fantasy, Psychological
    Brief Blurb:
    India Morgan Phelps, Imp to her friends, is sure that there were two different Eva Canning who came into her life and changed her world.  And one of them was a mermaid (or perhaps a siren?) and the other was a werewolf.  But Imp’s ex-girlfriend, Abalyn, insists that no, there was only ever one Eva Canning, and she definitely wasn’t a mermaid or a werewolf.  Dr. Ogilvy wants Imp to figure out for herself what actually happened. But that’s awfully hard when you have schizophrenia.
    Who’s bi? Eva Canning (both iterations of her).  Also, Abalyn, a transwoman who is also Imp’s girlfriend at one point. She states that she likes both men and women but currently prefers women because men in her experience tend to negatively react to her now that she has had bottom surgery.
    My Full Review
  3. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersDoctor Sleep
    by Stephen King
    Genre: Fantasy, Thriller
    Brief Blurb:
    Danny Torrance didn’t die in the Overlook Hotel but what happened there haunts him to this day.  Not as much as the shining does though.  His special mental powers that allow him to see the supernatural and read thoughts lead to him seeing some pretty nasty things, even after escaping the Overlook.  He soon turns to drinking to escape the terror.  But drinking solves nothing and just makes things worse.  When he sees his childhood imaginary friend, Tony, in a small New Hampshire town, he turns to AA to try to turn his life around and learn to live with the shining.Abra is a middle school girl nearby in New Hampshire with a powerful shine.  She sees the murder of a little boy by a band of folks calling themselves the True Knot.  They travel in campers and mobile homes, seeking out those who have the shine to kill them for it and inhale it.  They call it steam.  They’re not human. And they’re coming after Abra.  Abra calls out to the only person she knows with a shine too, the man she’s talked to before by writing on his blackboard.  Dan.
    Who’s bi? Rose, the main antagonist.  What makes her the antagonist or the “big bad” has absolutely nothing to do with her sexuality. She’s just an antagonist who happens to be bi.
    My Full Review
  4. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersLove in the Time of Global Warming
    by Francesca Lia Block
    Genre: Fantasy, YA
    Brief Blurb:
    Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait.
    Who’s bi? Pen, the main character.  She has a crush on one of her best female friends in the time before the disaster, and then later falls for a transman.  There is one particularly beautiful scene where she talks about being afraid of telling her friends that she likes girls the way she likes boys.
    My Full Review not yet posted
  5. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersThe Miriam Black Series
    by Chuck Wendig
    Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
    Brief Blurb:
    Miriam Black is an early 20-something drifter with bleach blonde hair and a surprising ability to hold her own in a fight. She also knows when and precisely how you’re going to die. Only if you touch her skin-on-skin though.  And it’s because of this skill that Miriam became a drifter.  You try dealing with seeing that every time you touch someone.  But when a kind trucker gives her a lift and in her vision of his death she hears him speak her name, her entire crazy life takes an even crazier turn.
    Who’s bi? Miriam, the kick-ass main character.  Miriam uses no labels for herself whatsoever (she would probably hate even being called a brunette, to a certain extent), so she also refuses to label her sexuality.  However, she also states she enjoys being with all genders.  It’s interesting to note that the first time Miriam’s sexuality comes up is not until the third book in the series, and only because she (minor spoiler warning) breaks up with her boyfriend.  A great example of how bisexual people’s sexuality can be erased when they’re in a monogamous relationship.
    My Full Review of the first book in the series

May Updates and April Reflections

This daddy goose wasn't too pleased with us for walking so close to his lady and their nest.

This daddy goose wasn’t too pleased with us for walking so close to his lady and their nest.

Hello my lovely readers!

I don’t have any big blog updates this month, but I am happy to report that featuring a book of the month has been going well.  It’s been successfully generating new attention for books I reviewed years ago.  Yay!

The book of the month for May will be:

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
First reviewed in May 2012
“Highly recommended to the depressed and the sympathetic.  Both will be left feeling lighter and less alone.”

How was my reading, reviewing, and writing this month?

April books read: 6 (2 urban fantasy, 2 scifi, 1 erotica, 1 fantasy)

April reviews: 3

Other April posts: 1 giveaway and 1 giveaway winner announcement

Most popular post in April written in April: Book Review: Set Adrift by D. S. Kenn (Series, #1)

Most popular post in April written at any time: Book Review: Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody (The Real Help Reading Project)

April writing: I finally started using the Scrivener software I purchased last November.  I’m finding being able to set session word count goals and see a progress bar to be really helping my progress forward.  I’ve also started participating in the 1linewed hashtag on my twitter account.  This hashtag sets different rules every Wednesday for authors to share one line from their work (usually their work in progress).  I’ve been immensely enjoying getting bite-sized feedback on my writing on a weekly basis.  Definitely check it out if you are curious about my current work in progress.

Coming up in May: I have two fantasy reads for Once Upon a Time IX to post reviews for.  I also have a review of an erotica ARC I received back before I started limiting myself to only accepting review copies once a year.  Plus I’ll be reviewing an audiobook.  I also bought a Kindle Paperwhite, and I plan to do a post comparing it to my old Kindle Keyboard.

Happy May and happy reading!

Giveaway: Life Sketches by A. Ramsay McNeill (USA Only)

Giveaway: Life Sketches by A. Ramsay McNeillIt’s the first giveaway of 2015 here on Opinions of a Wolf, and I thought what better time to run it than to welcome Spring! (The spring equinox is next Friday).

This giveaway is slightly different from the ones I usually run.  I’m giving away copies of two books written by an online friend of mine.  I haven’t offered up an official review here, because I don’t feel it’s totally ethical to review books written by people I am friends with.  I feel like it could skew things.  However, I am more than happy to help get the buzz out there!  Amanda Ramsay McNeill and I met online because our names are so similar (mine has one L, hers has two).  We are not related, but we thought it was kind of cool there are two Amanda McNeil(l)’s out there writing.  Anyway, she has generously offered two print copies of her scifi book to the US readers of my blog.

Title: Life Sketches
Blurb:
Two hundred fifty years from now, pockets of society are recovering at varying degrees from a cataclysmic revolution. Simon Wakefield lives in a risk-free society ruled by the Advocacy. Simon’s work is instrumental to the well being of the 750,000 residents of the Urban Complex. He oversees a unit of life sketchers, professionals who write the rigid agendas by which every individual in the UC lives. Simon is content until he notices flaws in the lives of those around him. His father-in-law’s agenda has been limited due to a terminal illness. The newborn son of coworker and friend Jordan Blackwood has been terminated due to a minor birth defect. His teenaged daughter is pregnant by a fellow student who doesn’t exist. Simon is mugged on the way home from an evening class. His frustrations increase when he is involved in a deadly accident on the homebound shuttle, and treated inhumanely in the health facility. Lillian Sorenson, a coworker, commiserates with Simon. She smuggles Simon and Jordan to a settlement that is the bane of the Advocacy, a place where agendas are unnecessary and autonomy is practiced. The settlement and its leader, Ivan Zimm, are the scapegoats for all the shortcomings in the Urban Complex. Simon learns that his life in his “perfect world” is nothing but stagnation and paralysis. Even more discontented when he returns home, Simon realizes that his job is important only to the Advocacy; his work gives the Advocacy total control of every resident. He feels helpless to change the society in which he is trapped. The price to live in a perfect world is too high.

There are TWO print versions of Life Sketches available, courtesy of the author, A. Ramsay McNeill

What You’ll Win:  One print copy of Life Sketches by A. Ramsay McNeill

How to Enter:  Leave a comment on this post stating what type of revolution you think is most likely to happen in the next 200 years.

Who Can Enter: USA only

Contest Ends: March 21st.  One week from today!

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

2014 Reading Stats!

January 3, 2015 5 comments

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 66
Average books read per month: 5.5
Month most read: September with 9
Month least read: Tie between August, June, and April with 4 each
Longest book read: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King with 531 pages

Fiction: 57 (86%)
Nonfiction: 9 (14%) (I read slightly less nonfiction this year.)

Series: 32 (48%)
Standalone: 34 (52%) (This was an exact flip-flop from last year.)

Formats:
–traditional print:  17 (26%) (Most of these were Bottom of the TBR Pile books.)
–ebook: 34 (52%) (This went up again.)
–graphic novel: 0 (0%) (I really need to read the 3 graphic novels I have sitting on my shelf.)
–audiobook: 15 (22%)

Genres:
–Fantasy: 23 (I was shocked by this win after 5 years in a row of scifi winning.  I can only say that urban fantasy and non-medieval fantasy works for me, and I’m glad I’ve found the type of fantasy that does.)
–Scifi: 22 (A close second!)
–Indie: 14
–Horror: 12
–GLBTQ: 10
–Urban fantasy: 8
–Dystopian: 7
–Historic fiction: 6
–Mystery: 6
–Time travel: 5
–Contemporary fiction: 4
–Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge: 4
–Nonfiction history: 4
–Postapocalyptic: 4
–Thriller: 4
–YA: 4
–Nonfiction lifestyle: 3
–Romance: 3
–Nonfiction diet: 2
–Nonfiction fitness: 2
–Nonfiction food: 2
–Nonfiction psych: 2
–Transhumanism: 2
–American classics: 1
–Chinese lit: 1
–Cyberpunk: 1
–Middle grade: 1
–Nonfiction memoir: 1
–Nonfiction relationships: 1
–Paranormal romance: 1
–Short story collection: 1

Aliens vs. Demons vs. Vampires vs. Zombies
–demons: 8 (A tie between demons and aliens! Not really a surprise given that fantasy and scifi were numbers one and two in the genres I read.)
–aliens: 8
–vampires: 5
–zombies: 2

Number of stars:
–5 star reads: 6 (9%)
–4 star reads: 28 (42%)
–3 star reads: 23 (35%)
–2 star reads: 9 (14%)
–1 star reads: 0 (0%)

Glancing at my stats, I am happy to say I succeeded at my goal of getting to at least the lowest level of my Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge. I read four books for the challenge, which puts me at the Acquainted level.  I am sorry to say that I totally failed to read a graphic novel again this year, which I find baffling since I have three of them on my bookshelf at the moment.

I am sad to see so few 5 star reads this year. They went down by 8%.  Thankfully, my one star reads didn’t increase at all, but my 2 star reads went up by 9%.  Looking at it, I can see that most of my 2 star reads were either ARCs or Bottom of the TBR Pile reads that disappointed me.  I was working quite hard on getting through both of those piles, and while it’s sad to me that a number disappointed me, I’m still glad I got the piles smaller.  By the middle of last year I had set up a cycle of reading one ARC, one Bottom of TBR Pile Book, then one book just for fun.  I plan to continue this cycle, as I really need to get through my piles.  My piles are smaller each year, thanks to purchasing and requesting fewer books, and I’m hopeful that by next year I will be back to mostly reading just for fun.

As for the genres, I’m glad I still had a wide variety, although I would like to see my nonfiction reads increase to 12 (one per month).  Maybe I should enter nonfiction into the official rotation.  😉

Other than my reading cycle, I have a couple areas of interest I would like to read more on.  I’m going to keep these areas a secret for now so you can be surprised by the new genres and information working their way in.  Suffice to say, it might have something to do with history and science.

Happy 2015 everyone!  I hope you have found fun reading goals for yourself.  Remember it doesn’t matter how much or what you read, just that you do!