Tag Archives: #DiverseReads2017

Review of An Unnatural Vice, by K. J. Charles

I received an ARC of An Unnatural Vice, by K. J. Charles, through Netgalley. And since I’m vacationing in Florida along with the lovely Tropical Storm Cindy, I’ve had lots of time to read. Luckily, where I am there are bucketsful of rain, but little wind and no lightning, so I can still sit outside, on the lovely screened porch, listen to the rain, look at the water and bask in the negative ions as I blissfully read without guilt because I’ve not taken the kiddos to a proper beach, just let the frolic in the pool. Everyone is happy.

Description from Goodreads:
Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.

Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.

But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.

Review:
Another lovely book by Charles; she just so rarely lets me down. I very much enjoyed Justin and Nathaniel’s fiery passion, most when it was still in the enemies stage of this enemies to lovers story. The little bit of mystery was easy to figure out, but still pleasant, and I’m still on the hook for who the over-all, big baddy is. (Hopefully this will be revealed in the next book. I don’t like to be strung along too long.)

I did feel the two men went to declarations of love too quickly. I thought the enemies, to friends, to lovers was well paced. But then suddenly there was love and sentimentality and such, and I thought that was a leap. I also very much disliked Nathaniel’s sense of moral superiority and the fact that Justin acquiesced to it. The tone of ‘let me show you how wrong your life is and how to live properly’ grated on my nerves from start to finish.

All in all, however, I finished this pleased as punch and can’t wait or the next one.

Review of A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps), by Kai Ashante Wilson

I borrowed Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

Review:
First, 500 stars for that cover. It is amazing. I’d have read the book just for that. Yes, I really would.

Second, wow, I loved this writing style. Yes, it was problematic. At times it became overly florid and some of the dialogue is anachronistic, but mostly I loved it. I especially appreciated the difference in dialect between Aqib and Lucrio.

Third, the ending. For most of the book I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t loving it. The ending pulled this from a four-star read to a five-star read for me. Several complaints I’d harbored for most of the book were resolved in one fell swoop.

Fourth, I love the way gender norms were convoluted. Yes, if I’m honest, I often find this a cheap plot device and in a way it is here too, but I think it’s done usually well and I really enjoyed it. There were several points in the book where I just had to set it aside and laugh. This is never a bad thing to have happen, in my opinion.

Fifth, setting the book in a culture that more closely resembles Islam than Christianity. It’s fantasy, so it’s neither really, but so often you can see the roots of the imaginings and here it’s a refreshing change to find something beyond the strictures of the Christian church.

My only real complaints are the occasional missing word that I didn’t think was intentional, but rather editing mishaps, and  that I didn’t feel overly connected to the characters. You don’t get to know Lucrio at all really and Aqib always felt a little detached; his life speeding by too fast to really grab ahold of. But over all, I really enjoyed this and will be searching out more of Wilson’s writing. I know, for example, that he has some free reads on Tor.com.

Review of When I’m Bad, I’m Better, by K.F. Johnson

I won a signed copy of K. F. Johnson‘s When I’m Bad, I’m Better through Goodreads.

Description:
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and in this present-day drama, neither was the facade these four cousins expended a lifespan constructing. They say good girls finish last…but when they’re bad, they’re better!

Valerie’s just recovered from a career ending accident when her fiancé adds insult to injury by cheating on her with her closest relative. Devastated, angry, and now financially strapped, she’s ready to break all the rules…or is she?

Yasmin’s a successful attorney whose failing marriage has left a void that only a side romance has been able to fill. When a crime unexpectedly turns her life upside down, decisions will have to be made…or they’ll be made for her.

Vanessa’s an aspiring singer who’s tired of living in the shadow of her identical twin’s success. She’s not getting any younger, success doesn’t come cheap and fame costs!

Amina’s a beautiful bombshell who uses what she’s got to get what she wants; but she’s harboring seedy secrets that are anything but pretty. As skeletons begin to resurface, she needs them dead and buried…before she is.

Review:
With friends and family like these, who needs enemies? Geez. There’s a lot of drama packed in the pages of this book. I enjoyed the characters, though I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I liked them. It is interesting however to see into the mind of some of those unlikable characters and understand their position, even if it only truly makes sense in their own warped point of view. It’s a reminder that nothing and no one grows in a vacuum.

I really appreciated that this is a book by and about people who too rarely get their time on the page. All the main characters are people of color, in fact I don’t think there’s a white face in the book, but there are also queer and trans cameos too. Plus, this is a book about women. Men are in it. They’re often the motivation for the women’s actions, but this is a book about women— strong, self-reliant black women. I like the way that tips the standard tropes on their head. So often in books it’s women who are only present as reasons for men to do things, to go on quests or get angry or defend their honor or virtue, etc. Here, while the motivations are very different, it’s the men who play the more passive role, spurring women to actions, good and bad.

The narrative style is gritty and regional. A lot of the dialogue would send a grammar nazi into convulsions, but who really speaks with proper grammar everyday of their lives? Again, this is a realism you don’t often see allowed in literature. On the other side, the fact that the narration isn’t in standard English doesn’t absolve the author of the responsibility of editing. There are several occurrences that are clearly mistakes, mostly around punctuation and homophones. But’s it’s largely pretty clean.

I have a few personal pet peeve kind of complaints. As a general rule, and I’ve said this before, I truly dislike when authors compare their characters to celebrities as a means of telling the reader what they look like. I haven’t watched television in almost 5 years and have only seen a handful of movies. I have no clue who the new generation of stars are or what they look like. It is wholly ineffective for relaying information to me and only leads to feeling alienated as a reader. (And yes, I sadly do realize how old that makes me sound.) This is the primary means of character description in this book, everyone having a celebrity lookalike. We’re kind of given a reason for this, but it didn’t help me at all.

Next, while I understand that not everyone views sex, monogamy, parenting, relationship in the same way and I wouldn’t want them to, and I understood that for a variety of reasons (the least of which was romance) this was important to the characters, a lot of the book is dedicated to who is sleeping with whom and who is or isn’t injured because of it. I appreciated the subtle ways the author created a perception of castes among people, degrees of legality and hierarchies of betrayal, legitimizing some things and people and not others, but I did get a tad tired of the constant who is f_cking who and if I’m honest, I didn’t much care for the author’s style of describing sex. Again, personal preference, but there you have it.

Lastly, the book ends on a cliffhanger and I just hate that. All in all, it’s worth picking up though

I just love autographed books!