Monday, May 21, 2018

Paranormal Romance!

Ana Coqui from Immersed In Books has put together a 30-day list of romance novel recommendations, a different theme for each day. Friday's theme was paranormal, easily my favorite kind.

But I didn't see my favorites in that post or most of the Twitter comments that followed, and I didn't recognize most of the authors listed, so I thought I'd put together my own listing. Originally I was going to do it via Twitter but when I saw the number I'd accumulated... well, a blog post seemed more readable.

Some words about the books on this list:
  • Most of these are m/m, with a few f/f and a few f/m (and one m/m/m).
  • I'm always on the lookout for more writers of color and also for writers not from the US/Britain/Canada - I've marked these (WOC) and welcome recommendations!
  • There are some short stories/novellas on this list and I've noted those as well.
  • There's some overlap with my list of ghost stories but not a lot. Most of those weren't romances.
There's disagreement about what constitutes paranormal vs. fantasy vs. science fiction, etc. As I think about it, a book is paranormal if people/beings are, or practice, magic (or abilities are so augmented as to appear magical to most people), and the world either feels like this one or outright references this one, whether in current times or historical ones (even if alt-historical). There are a couple of exceptions to this on the list and I've noted those too.

Finally, and this is so hugely subjective (as if this whole list weren't), but when it comes to shifter stories (persons who can shift from one form to another, ie. werewolves), I just don't seem to be able go much beyond coyote/wolf or dragon shifting. I don't know why. I know there's a universe of shifter stories out there beyond that but I haven't read many and don't feel compelled to. But with so much out there to read I'm not going to worry about this. (There's one exception on this list and I have noted that too!)

On to the books! Alpha by author. And, as usual with my lists, I'm not trying to review the books here. If it's on the list, I thought it was at least good enough to share. If you want more of my take on individual ones, I review almost everything I read on Goodreads (I'm not 100% caught up though.)

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
A couple of my favorite authors (KJ Charles, Jordan L. Hawk, Jordan Castillo Price) and then an introduction to some new faves (Ginn Hale, Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling).

Irregulars: Stories by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale
Recognize those new faves I mentioned?

Hell Cop 1 & 2
More stories by Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling, and Ginn Hale. These don't seem to be available any more, I don't know why.

The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane

Light by 'Nathan Burgoine
He also has a paranormal trilogy that I've started and like a great deal so far, but I hesitate to call it a romance. As far as I've read, anyway.

Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, particularly the novellas at the end. The whole series is romantic in nature but the novellas are straight out romances.

Caroline's Heart by Austin Chant (novella)

K.J. Charles. Well. Obviously the Charm of Magpies series, but I think I like the Green Men series even more so far (counting The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal as a precursor to that series). Probably mostly because of the time period it's set in, but also the nature of the magic being explored and also the hints at conspiracy.

Elliot Cooper (stories)
     Clockwork Menagerie
     Hearts Alight
     Junk Mage (this is a mix of magic and sci-fi)

Sweet by Alysia Constantine

R. Cooper's Being(s) In Love series (mix of novellas, stories, and novels) and Familiar Spirits series (novellas). Have I already raved enough about her books in other posts? I'm not sure I can. I think you can read the first three of the Being(s) In Love books in any order and then they start building on each other - you don't have to read them in order after that but I'd suggest it. The Familiar Spirits novellas don't have to be read in order. Yet. I'm hoping for more in this line.

Beary Christmas, Baby by Sasha Devlin (WOC) (novella)
Polar bear shifter! And such a cutie. I definitely want more in this world.

Blind Man's Wolf by Amelia Faulkner. First in a series.

Kim Fielding's Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs series (novellas)

The Long Past and Other Stories by Ginn Hale. Magic and steampunk and dinosaurs. And you can hear her talk about the research that went into this book at The Hopeless Romantic (this is also a hilarious episode).

Alexis Hall's Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series. Not available at the moment, but hopefully sometime again in the future. I originally checked the first one out from the library, so that's a possibility.

Jordan L. Hawk's Whybourne & Griffin series and Hexworld series. And they have more too (in particular a ghost series I very much want to read), but I haven't gotten to those yet.

Something to Remember by Elliott Junkyard (story). And there's a prequel to this, available free via his webpage, I believe.

The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune
Okay, this is straight-out fantasy. I include it here though because he has a number of paranormal books I just haven't gotten to yet, including a werewolf one that I know is going to rip up my heart. (Which is why I haven't read it yet... but I will.) I also include this one because it is flat out one of the funniest books I've read in a long time - crying, I was laughing so hard.

Half by Eli Lang

Shelly Laurentson's Call of Crows series. She has several other series as well, and I've looked at them, but... not for me. But I loved this one.

Out Of Her Depth by Pike Martell (story)

Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters by Angel Martinez (WOC) First in a series.

Snare by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese (novella)

The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood. First in a series.

E.E. Ottoman (novellas)
     Business Makes Strange Bedfellows
     Selume Proferre

Jordan Castillo Price's PsyCop series. She has more paranormal books and series as well, and I intend to read those too, but I'm still on this one so far.

Seducing Chaos by Luna Quinn (WOC)
This is the first in a planned series and I'm hoping the authors continue! I read the world as a future magical apocalyptical Earth, rather than a fantasy one, but I could be wrong about that.

Darkling by Brooklyn Ray

Water & Air by Janelle Reston (story)

Shatterproof by Xen Sanders (WOC) (also writes as Cole McCade)
Not currently available but it will be again. Worth getting on his newsletter to find out when. And to read his many other amazing books. UPDATE: He's rewriting this, so it may be a while before it's available again. I'd been wanting to buy it in print anyway, so when the new edition comes out that's what I'll do.

RoAnne Sylver
     Stake Sauce
     Moon-Bright Tides (novella)

Prince In Leather by Holley Trent (WOC). First in a series.
She has several different series as well. I've dipped into one other and didn't like it so much but this one is speaking to me so far.

Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon (WOC). First in a series.

Close Quarter & Slow Waltz (this is a follow-up story to Close Quarter) by Anna Zabo

And then there are a few books that aren't romances as such but have such strong romantic elements (oh, the pining!) that I had to include them.

The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon
Slouch Witch by Helen Harper
Amir Lane's Morrighan House Witches series

And, just because, Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya (INT). You know, if you like your slow-burn paranormal romance stretched out over 12 volumes.

And that is quite enough of that. Though I'll probably have another list equally long by this time next year.

Happy reading,

Thursday, May 10, 2018

More Music to Enliven My Morning

One of the things I LOVE about running in the mornings again is listening to music in the mornings while I run. Here are some new (and one old) favorites of mine. 

Miguel, "Pineapple Skies" (from War & Leisure)

Mon Laferte (featuring Juanes), "Amárreme" (from La Trenza)

Macy Gray, "Sweet Baby" (from Stripped, her jazz album)

Janelle Monáe, "Make Me Feel" (from Dirty Computer)

Happy listening!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Surely I Never Said That

It's early (very early) days yet, but The Dude and I are thinking about marathon training together, for 2019. We'd do it with the Chicago Lights Marathon Team, the same fundraising team I've run with for my last two marathons.

I'm so excited. *big grin on my face, happy dance in my chair*

When The Dude told me he was thinking about it, I shot out of my seat.

"Let's do it together!"

Side-eye from him: "Didn't you say you were done with marathons?"

Me, say something like that???

(Okay, maybe I did...)

Ridiculously yours,

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ghost Stories

I've been thinking about ghost stories lately. Or rather, I was thinking about what are the kinds of books and stories I like to read (I was pulling together a list of recommendations for a friend), and as I did so I realized that I've read a lot of ghost stories.

And then I realized that a lot of my story/book ideas involve spirits of some sort. Or different ways of being haunted. Or communication with the dead. Or... ghosts, I guess. I had just never thought about it that way before. Huh.

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of my recent favorite ghost stories with you. These are in alpha order, short stories first, then books. With an essay in between!

Presque Vu - Nino Cipri, Liminal Stories
Old Habits - Nalo Hopkinson, Uncanny Magazine
Postcards from Natalie - Carrie Laban, The Dark Magazine
If A Bird Can Be A Ghost - Allison Mills, Apex Magazine
Twilight Travels with the Grape-Paper Man - Sara Saab, The Dark Magazine

How To Talk To Ghosts - R.F. Kuang, Uncanny Magazine (the essay)

I didn't offer any commentary on these because I find short stories are kind of like poetry for me in how I respond - there's either something I respond to immediately or there isn't. I thought all of these were lovely, all made me think, all of them pinged my heart.

On to the books!

Here I'm not going to comment (much) because these books give me SO MUCH FEELING and GOOD THINKING I wouldn't be able to contain myself. I'll just point out the level of romance / sexual explicitness so you know to avoid (or pick up).

KJ Charles, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal
          Ah, I'm not sure how explicit this is? I don't remember. There is on-page sex, and there is a relationship between the main characters, but the book is not a romance, it's interconnected ghost stories. That will break your heart.

Alysia Constantine, Sweet
          Both a romance and explicit. (Warmish, not hot. Well, I suppose that depends on what you're used to.) And heart-breaking.

Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts (Books 1-3)
          Again, I don't remember how explicit this is. The relationship develops over the course of the books but it wasn't the main focus of them, the mysteries were. For a long time I didn't realize there were more than the three books - the story line at the end of book 3 felt complete. I did later pick up book 4 but it didn't seem to be adding anything new to either the world or the characters so I stopped. But the first three were great.

Cassandra Khaw, Hammers On Bone
          Monsters meets film noir. Marvelous. Oh the language.

Amir Lane's Morrighan House Witches series
          There is also a prequel novella, Rise. Relationships, yes, sex, a little, not not not romantic. In a review I described the first book I read of these as a hot mess - but a compelling, winds around your mind and heart and throat kind of mess. I started these as e-books but then bought them in print so, mess or not, they clearly speak to me in some way.

And last but so very much not least, Jordan Castillo Price's Psycop series. Yes, a romance (and definitely sexually explicit), and also murder mysteries, and, as the series continues, possible conspiracy as well. Great characters who change and grow over the books.

Overall, a treasure of stories too good to save for Halloween.

And please pass on your recommendations!


Monday, April 9, 2018

It Must Be Spring, I'm Setting Goals

Even if it is currently snowing AGAIN.

I've gotten twitchy about setting goals publicly over the last year, especially ones to do with running, but things have been going well the last couple of weeks (slow, slow, but still improving) and I've begun to set my sights forward.

So I think I'm going to shoot for the Hot Chocolate 15K in November.

I've run this before and enjoyed the race. It's a good distance, at a good time in the year. No time goals this time around, I just want to be able to work up to that distance again and have a race on the calendar.

And in non-running goals, I've signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month. You may remember that National Novel Writing Month (November) is a world-wide writing challenge of 50,000 words for the month. Camp NaNoWriMo happens twice a year, in April and July, and you set your our challenge for the month, be it time spent or words or pages or even specific projects.

I've set my goal as 15,000 words for the month. I've done a lot of research and revising and transcribing over the last four months but very little new material in that time, and it's been hard to get started again. Excruciatingly hard. Then Camp NaNo came up in a couple of different Facebook groups I'm in - I hadn't even been aware of it prior to last week - and I thought this might be the challenge I need to get back into a regular writing (vs. revising/research) habit. So far it seems to be working. (Cross fingers.)

Hmm... perhaps I need to set some kind of challenge for myself for the garden?

Not happy about today's snow,

Monday, April 2, 2018

Music To Enliven My Monday

After watching NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar" last night and having the music in my head every time I woke up, I needed to drive it out. (But Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas was amazing!)

FYI, none of these are videos, just the music.

Started with a little Jesse y Joy for the car ("Ay Doctor!")

Then, since I have the day off (one benefit of working for a church), I ran home after dropping the boys off at school and these came up on my iPod:

Stevie Wonder's "Signed Sealed Delivered" - this may be one of my favorite songs ever:

Neneh Cherry and The Thing's "Dream Baby Dream":
I used to have a playlist that I called "trance", just for long distance running, when I wanted to lose myself in something long and rhythmic. Then I realized I loved all those songs too much to just listen to them on long runs, and I mixed them into my usual running playlist. I got to see Neneh Cherry at Pitchfork a couple of years ago and it was one of my favorite performances ever. She didn't do this one, though, she wasn't performing with The Thing on that tour. This is another song that builds and builds and builds and then... just fades.

Then I finished out my run with "Despacito", but I won't share the clip for that, since I'm aware that some people have gotten tired of it by now (not me!) and there's no need to make it anyone's ear worm.

And then I wanted to share a new band for me, Bang Data. Apparently they did music for the TV show "Breaking Bad", but I'm always a few years (or more!) behind with TV. This is "El Pacino":

Now, since I'm home by myself, I can play Juan Gabriel and Lila Downs all day without anyone complaining.

With a song in my heart,

Friday, March 23, 2018

Some Good Short Things

Thought it might be time for some positive things, all short...

I've been running in the mornings again! Very short, and I have NO endurance, but even to want to get up early and run is a big deal. And oh, I love watching the sky at this time - when it's clear it's the most beautiful deep iris that slowly lightens - when it's cloudy might be even better, I love watching the clouds move across the sky, lighter streaks of blue across the dark that then catch the sun as it rises.

I've been reading some amazing short stories this winter - I'll do a list at some point with links and all - both speculative and romance. It's been hugely inspiring and has made my fingers itch - I have some ideas I want to explore that don't fit in any of the novels currently living in my head (plus right now I'm back in research mode but not writing is making me cranky).

One short grumble: After going several months of wondering why I wasn't falling asleep as well as I was used to I lined up dates and realized this had started at the same time as I started reading ebooks. Silly me, I've been careful with the kids about no screen time right before bed, and I don't get on the computer at night, but I didn't think about my tablet being a screen. So this week I've been trying out only reading print before bed and I've been sleeping better. Only problem - when the hell am I am supposed to get to those books that demand reading straight through?

Then a quick skim of the music in my head this morning:

Allen Toussaint - Brickyard Blues

Bomba Estéreo - Soy Yo

I missed Bomba Estéreo at Ruido Fest last year, but am planning to go this year - the lineup was just announced, with Panteón Rococó, Ana Tijoux, Kinky, Combo Chimbita just a few of the acts I want to see - so I am clearing my calendar for that weekend and putting together my pennies.

What's giving you life this week?