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REVIEW: The Love Study by Kris Ripper

4 Stars

It’s hard to say that this book was fun (even though it was) because the main character, Declan, carries so much pain, self-doubt, and at times even self-loathing that I wanted more for them. This is one of those really great books that proves (gasp! horrors! what has the world come to?!) that gay people are literally human beings and experience exactly the same emotions and rollercoaster rides in romance that cis hetero people do (sorry haters).

The premise is something straight out of any mainstream (re: book that the traditional publishing industry has been pushing since the dawn of time) fiction: an up-and-coming video-documentarian asks Declan to be their interview subject on a series of dates. It’s meant to be a glimpse into the modern dating world, even though Declan has his doubts. After all, he’s left someone at the altar and still hasn’t forgiven himself for it, even though his love-victim has and is still close friends with him.

The book was endearing in all the right ways and shone a spotlight on a number of issues. Apart from the aforementioned “omg they’re just like us and by us I mean stereotypical status quo,” the author seamlessly uses correct pronouns without batting an eye. It’s a beautiful example of how this whole thing works when people put a microscopic smidgen of effort into it.

Fun, insightful, heart-wrenching at times, and yes, you want to cheer for the good guys! (Make that, good people!)


We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We set The Dark

4 Stars

Full disclosure, I bought this book simply because a) the beautiful color, b) Latinx author, c) LGBTQ representation in YA lit, and d) omg did you see that cover? Lesser deciding factors were the cool world-building and the fact that I do enjoy dystopian fiction.

The book opens with the legend dating back thousands of years which explains why in this society the men (or at least the wealthy elite) have two wives. As in, the top-notch girls are sent to a special finishing school where they will either become a Primera or a Segunda. Primeras are the emotionless, intellectual, calculating heads of the household whose efforts will make or break their husbands’ careers. The Segundas (though “second,” they are not inferior or answer to the Primeras) are the loving, sensual, child-bearing heart of the family.

The FMC Daniella has graduated at the top of her class to become a Primera, which means she fetched an astronomical price when her husband’s family bought her for him. Her rival/archenemy throughout her years at school is none other than the Segunda they purchased for him as well.

[Record scratch] See, I thought this book was going in a different direction with just that fact alone. Non-spoiler, I was wrong!

However, crucial to my deducting one star is the following SPOILER ALERT:

While I am not gay myself, I was a little take aback by the romance that inexplicably developed very suddenly between the main character and her chief tormentor. I’ll admit that I cringed; it felt almost wrong that the author would have Dani fall completely in love with her bully, and likewise have that bully love her in return.

I did love, however, the fact that this book is set in a fictional Latino island country where there are border walls, armed guards to keep the “undesirables” out of the country, an entire blackmarket network where one can buy identities and documents, and where those from the outer lands are simply trying to better their lives, even if it means crime and deception. It was poignant, and an important metaphor that readers need.

Overall, a great read and I’m glad to see more diverse titles making their way onto mainstream bestseller lists and getting the attention they rightfully deserve.

The Arcadia Bell Series by Jenn Bennett

I’m always very excited by a book–especially a series–that offers something new, some new twist on the same old story lines. The paranormal market has been so saturated with the same, tired concepts that it’s a breath of fresh air to see something like the Arcadia Bell series. With the first title, Kindling the Moon, it’s obvious that this is going to be somewhat different. We may see the same genre details and the same types of characters that make paranormal fiction great, but Bennett does a really good job of being original with the themes and plot.

“Being the spawn of two infamous occultists (and alleged murderers) isn’t easy, but freewheeling magician Arcadia “Cady” Bell knows how to make the best of a crummy situation. After hiding out for seven years, she’s carved an incognito niche for herself slinging drinks at the demon-friendly Tambuku Tiki Lounge.

“But she receives an ultimatum when unexpected surveillance footage of her notorious parents surfaces: either prove their innocence or surrender herself. Unfortunately, the only witness to the crimes was an elusive Æthyric demon, and Cady has no idea how to find it. She teams up with Lon Butler, an enigmatic demonologist with a special talent for sexual spells and an arcane library of priceless stolen grimoires. Their research soon escalates into a storm of conflict involving missing police evidence, the decadent Hellfire Club, a ruthless bounty hunter, and a powerful occult society that operates way outside the law. If Cady can’t clear her family name soon, she’ll be forced to sacrifice her own life . . . and no amount of running will save her this time.”

The series kicks off with book one, which is available now, and follows up with several more titles in the series.


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