Hooray for Queer Sheros- The Edge of the Blade

The Edge of the Blade, the second book in the Uncharted Realms series by Jeffe Kennedy  tells the story of Jepp, the leader and heart of Queen Ursula’s elite guard The Hawks.  After a one night stand with a visiting Prince leads to a diplomatic crisis, Jeep’s love for her Queen leads her to  accept an assignment that delivers her to a culture steeped in misogyny, and sexism, a kingdom where women are kept as bed-slaves or married, and never allowed to lead. A glimpse of hell as far as Jepp is concerned. She uses her wit, her fighting skills and instincts to free herself and Prince Kral from the draconian kingdom that was his home. 

 Filled with sassy, sexy romance and intrigue this is the first book in a long time that I wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it. Why? Besides the fantastic world building and ripping storytelling, I adored the fact that Jepp, the lead character is a smart, ass-kicking woman, all out of fu@ks to give, and openly bisexual. And not just a glimpse, or a tease kind of bisexual, a hinted at thing that involves a lot of suggestion and fade to black moments. Nope, Jepp owns it.

And in the course of her story where she becomes more involved with a man she only intended to have a fling with she never, ever changes. She does not give over herself to the magic c@ck, that tired trope. Nope, she likes Prince Kral, maybe even loves him and the sex is great but if he can’t get his act together, well its his loss. Bravo Jeffe Kennedy for continuing to write strong women characters who would rather be alone than not be true to themselves. 

This book works as a stand-alone but treat yourself to more of Jepp and read The Twelve Kingdoms series, and The Pages of the Mind before jumping into this book, or be like Jepp and jump in where you want too. 

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

The Edge of the Blade: Hooray for Queer Sheros

The Edge of the Blade, the second book in the Uncharted Realms series by Jeffe Kennedy  tells the story of Jepp, the leader and heart of Queen Ursula’s elite guard The Hawks.  After a one night stand with a visiting Prince leads to a diplomatic crisis, Jeep’s love for her Queen leads her to  accept an assignment that delivers her to a culture steeped in misogyny, and sexism, a kingdom where women are kept as bed-slaves or married, and never allowed to lead. A glimpse of hell as far as Jepp is concerned. She uses her wit, her fighting skills and instincts to free herself and Prince Kral from the draconian kingdom that was his home.

 Filled with sassy, sexy romance and intrigue this is the first book in a long time that I wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it. Why? Besides the fantastic world building and ripping storytelling, I adored the fact that Jepp, the lead character is a smart, ass-kicking woman, all out of fu@ks to give, and openly bisexual. And not just a glimpse, or a tease kind of bisexual, a hinted at thing that involves a lot of suggestion and fade to black moments. Nope, Jepp owns it.

And in the course of her story where she becomes more involved with a man she only intended to have a fling with she never, ever changes. She does not give over herself to the magic c@ck, that tired trope. Nope, she likes Prince Kral, maybe even loves him and the sex is great but if he can’t get his act together, well its his loss. Bravo Jeffe Kennedy for continuing to write strong women characters who would rather be alone than not be true to themselves. 

This book works as a stand-alone but treat yourself to more of Jepp and read The Twelve Kingdoms series, and The Pages of the Mind before jumping into this book, or be like Jepp and jump in where you want too. 

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

 

Review: When the World Wounds

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I confess to a love of short stories. I am obsessed with delicious bites of fiction ranging from petite short short stories to longer works that brush the edges of novella. It is my favorite form of fiction to read and to write.

In October I had the good fortune to meet Kiini Ibura Salaam at a writer’s conference. She gave a wonderful keynote address and I was able to spend some time with her talking about our mutual love of short stories and travel. Her latest collection of short fiction When the World Wounds (2016) is as seductive as her first collection of short stories Ancient Ancient (Winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award).

When the World Wounds is filled with evocative tales of transformation. Lush sensual language, intricate world building, and well-developed characters mark this collection as special. The characters in these stories evolve from their experiences, morphing into what they need to become in order to not only survive the changes in their environments, but to thrive as powerful beings. I enjoyed reading the entire collection but “The Pull of the Wing” (more of WaLiLa from Ancient Ancient), “Volcano Woman”, and “Hemmie’s Calenture” were outstanding. When the World Wounds will stand on its own but do yourself a favor and read Ancient Ancient before you read When the World Wounds just to experience that much more of Kiini’s gift.

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Kiini Ibura Salaam is a writer, painter, and traveler from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work—which encompasses speculative fiction, erotica, creative nonfiction, and poetry–is rooted in speculative events, women’s perspectives, and artistic freedom. Her book Ancient, Ancient—winner of the 2012 James Tiptree, Jr. Award–collects sensual tales of the fantastic, the dark, and the magical. Her fiction has been published in such anthologies as Dark Matter, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Black Silk, and Dark Eros. Her essays have been published in Colonize This, When Race Becomes Real, Utne Reader, and Ms. magazine. Her Notes From the Trenches ebook series documents the challenges of the writing life. She keeps an archive of her writing and art at kiiniibura.com. When the World Wounds is her second collection of short fiction.

 

 

 

Women’s Voices_ Interview with Sonali Dev

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Like many of the authors I have had the privilege of meeting I met Sonali Dev at one of my favorite writer’s conferences Chicago North RWA’s Biannual Spring Fling conference. Sonali’s books are complex sensual stories of love.  I was hooked from her first book  The Bollywood Affair, and continued my obsession with The Bollywood Bride.

Her most recent book A Change of Heart is a departure from the first two in intensity and subject matter. I hope this book will become as much a classic as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  While A Change of Heart has a much happier ending than The Bluest Eye it is a riveting unflinching look at the aftermath of sexual assault. A Change of Heart does not gloss over or look away from the lack of agency and threats that women experience because of socioeconomic and cultural  factors. 

How is this a romance you ask? Sonali makes it work and she does it in her signature heartfelt and graceful style. This brutal beautifully written story manages to tell the story of survivors that does not diminish the horror of sexual assault but addresses in a very real way the challenges for any woman trying to find way to not only survive but thrive sexual assault.  

I was impressed with the amount of research necessary for A Change of Heart and Sonali graciously agreed to answer some questions about her process for the blog. 

  1. Change of Heart reflects detailed research in many areas to get the story right. How did you conduct your research?

Sonali Dev: I have to admit that doing research for this book was not fun. I wasn’t at all organized about my research (I never am). The story always comes first for me, and based on the elements and events of the story, I start to realize the gaps in my knowledge and then go in search of information to fill them. For A Change Of Heart, that meant researching Doctors Without Borders, human trafficking, organ trade, transplant surgery, Dharavi (a slum in Mumbai), and the Mumbai police force. I read a lot of archived articles (the internet is a beautiful thing), spoke with subject matter experts, visited Dharavi and watched several documentaries. Some of the transplant videos would have been really interesting if I weren’t so queasy but the rest of it was a struggle to internalize.

  1. Do you draft your story first and then research or is it concurrent?

Sonali Dev: When you’re writing fiction, what your research really needs to do is inform your writing in the form of character choices and reactions. My stories come from things I want to explore and am curious about. So, when the story starts to take form in my head, I tend to research a lot of the aspects of the story and try to immerse myself in the world and the information. For example, once I knew that Nikhil and Jen work for Doctors Without Borders and I started doing research on the organization even before I started drafting. So, some of the story came from the research. On the other hand as the story progressed I had to research a lot of details and specifics about everything from crimes to medical procedures. In the end it was a combination of concurrent and preparatory research.

  1. Did you conduct interviews as part of your research?

Sonali Dev: I did. You can always get a more human and specific perspective from interviews.

  1. How did you organize your research? What system do you use?

Sonali Dev: As I said before, I’m not terribly organized about research. My focus is more on internalizing the research on behalf of my characters so I’m not dumping information on readers but instead informing my fiction so it is authentic and factually accurate. I keep detailed barely organized notes, but that’s about all.

  1. What advice do you have for young/ new/ beginning writers about research?

Sonali Dev: I’m not an academic or a scholar so I can’t answer this question except to say that I do feel the need to be armed with as much information as possible when I write about specific issues. It just makes things easier when you understand the world you’re writing within. At least to the extent it is possible to understand some horrific things as an observer who is trying to emulate an experiencer. But the more informed I am the more solid the foundation of my story feels and the more I feel like I own the characters and their decisions. This is more about creative process for me. I don’t like feeling like an imposter, and knowledge and research really helps with that.

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Find out more about Sonali at her website: https://sonalidev.com/

Award winning author, Sonali Dev, writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post and Kirkus Best Books lists. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance in 2014, is a RITA Finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find out more at sonalidev.com.

 

Book Review: Lonen’s War*

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Lonen’s war is the story of Oria, a woman raised in isolation, treated like a fragile child, and Lonen, a man fighting to stop the utter destruction of his people and the devastation of his country.  In a kingdom where control and serenity are prized and rewarded above all else, passionate and willful Oria finds herself the key to her kingdom’s survival.  Struggling to save their kingdoms, bound by their honor, trapped between their cultures, Oria and Lonen must find a way to stop the war that has opened the gates to an evil neither knew existed no matter the personal cost. 

 As a long time fan of fantasy romance, my favorite stories are those that showcase character growth.  Oria resonates as a character and her growth over the course of the book is well done. The relationship between Oria and Lonen develops at a slow but satisfying pace. Dragons, magic, and secrets abound in this first book of the Sorcerous Moons trilogy. If you are a regular reader of Jeffe Kennedy (and if you are not you are missing out,) you will find all the things you expect: strong world building, magic that makes sense, and characters you care about.  Lonen’s War is a delightful read.  Pick up a copy and let yourself be swept up in Oria and Lonen’s world.  Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.26.38 AM

You can find out more about Jeffe Kennedy and her other fabulous books at http://www.jeffekennedy.com .

*ARC Review

Book Review: The Pages of the Mind*

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Let me start off by saying I came to the Twelve Kingdom’s series sideways after reviewing Dark Secrets as part of my annual Thirteen for Halloween book post. I enjoyed Jeffe Kennedy’s story “Heart’s Blood” (a dark retelling of the Goose Girl) set in the Twelve Kingdoms so much that as soon as I finished reading it I started the Twelve Kingdom series and have not looked back. The fourth book in the series, The Pages of the Mind is the story of Dafane Mailloux, Librarian with a capital L, scholar, polyglot, and survivor. Sent to gather information for her Queen in a far kingdom Dafane is plunged into the internal intrigue and politics of a foreign land and reluctantly agrees to a marriage of alliance.

Finding herself drawn to the powerful king, now her husband Dafane discovers new powers, abilities, and love. When her queen arrives to rescue her Dafane is caught in a power struggle between the two people she loves most and must use her skills and intelligence to maintain peace in the Twelve Kingdoms. Continuing in the tradition of the other books in the series, this book has everything you expect from Jeffe Kennedy: rich world building, political intrigue, exact pacing and an exquisite love story wrapped in a delectably readable package.

If you have not started the Twelve Kingdoms series you don’t have to have read the other books in the series to appreciate The Pages of the Mind, but if you are a linear type of reader do yourself a favor and start at The Mark of the Tala, dive into The Tears of the Rose, wallow in the Best Fantasy Romance of 2015 The Talon of the Hawk and then sail with Dafane in The Pages of the MInd.

*ARC Review

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels.Her most recent works include the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015.She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the Word Whores blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

Book Review: The Devil’s Doorbell*

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I am a fan of anthologies for two reasons. 1.) I really dig short stories. 2.) It is a  great way to sample work by new-to-me authors.  If you gave up on reading an anthologies after English 101 it is time to try again. Treat yourself to seven delectable stories in  The Devil’s Doorbell,  a collection of hot-as-hell erotic short stories that share a common theme: Women unapologetically taking charge of their own desires and seeking pleasure on their terms.

Seven stories, seven women deciding that they get to decide where, and who with, and how, and when they find pleasure.  Seven delicious stories that display women standing up, pushing through and reveling in their decisions. Survivors. Thrill-seekers. Fem-domes. Explorers. Adventurers. They are all represented here.

In a world that works hard at limiting women’s choices through draconian laws and social pressures this collection of stories is different. The women in these stories are not waiting around for someone to show up and show them a good time. Nope. These women are going for it. Erotica featuring empowered women? Bring it.

The book releases April 26, 2016. Preorder your hotness from your favorite on-line book seller.

“Here are seven tales of sexual empowerment and erotic defiance, featuring the hottest storytellers of erotic fiction.”

Anne Calhoun,  Christine d’Abo, Delphine Dryden, Megan Hart, Jeffe Kennedy, Megan Mulry, M. O’Keefe
In the Garden, by Anne Calhoun

Forbidden fruit is the most delicious… A wedding in the bucolic English countryside offers Kelsey ripe temptation in the form of a hot groomsman, Julian. Will the illicit attraction satisfy an old craving or stoke a new desire?

Exact Warm Unholy, by Jeffe Kennedy

Tonight my name is Mary… Or is it? Sometimes she’s Tiffany or Syd or Bobbi. But whatever face she wears, she returns to the same bar, to find a new man and seduce him, safe in the knowledge that no one will recognize her. Until one man does.

Red Leather, by Delphine Dryden

Some activities are definitely not safe for work. Maggie’s sadness over being dumped quickly turns to relief and excitement when she discovers a new freedom…a new Maggie she could have never been with her ex. Combine New Maggie with Tim the Hot Mailroom Guy and an unexpected vibrator…and the office supply room door becomes the portal to a world of devilish fun.

Drowning on Dry Land, by Megan Hart

Some doors stay open until you close them. Moving on from a past love, Bette Douglas has discovered a whole new world of satisfaction and contentment with her boy Damian…but when the past comes knocking, Bette’s decision to answer it could change everything.

Devil in the Dark, by Christine d’Abo

When developer Shona needs to beta test her new app – The Devil’s Doorbell – she goes out on the prowl for a man who will fulfil her wildest fantasies – oral sex in public. What could possibly go wrong when she finds her devil in the dark?

London Calling, by Megan Mulry

“Face-sitter wanted, in exchange for free accommodation in Mayfair.” -Craigslist

She hadn’t planned on being quite so adventurous when she decided to spend the year in London, but when she read the ad, she couldn’t resist.

We Are All Found Things, by M. O’Keefe

Rennie’s trying to forget her past; her mysterious new tenant is trying to keep his past a secret. But when Rennie finds out the truth about Luka she discovers as much about herself as she does her innocent lover.

Anne Calhoun – http://www.annecalhoun.com/

Christine d’Abo – http://christinedabo.com/

Delphine Dryden – http://www.delphinedryden.com/

Megan Hart – http://meganhart.com/

Jeffe Kennedy – http://www.jeffekennedy.com/

Megan Mulry – http://meganmulry.com/

M. O’Keefe – http://www.molly-okeefe.com/

Cover by Book Beautiful – http://www.bookbeautiful.com/

*ARC Review- See disclaimer page if you have any questions.

 

Women’s Voices:Megan Hart- Review Hold Me Close

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Hold Me Close is a nuanced story of two damaged people finding their way back from the edge of a dark abyss, embracing their past and eventually each other. Effie and Heath are two people who endured a horrific life event as adolescents, one of them trying to leave it far behind, and the other believing that what they have survived together has created a love and a bond between them that few will ever have or understand. 

A story of survival and love, Hold Me Close follows Effie, frustrated by how her past defines her present, wanting to distance herself from her notoriety, and questioning her sexual desires, Effie tries to fit her life into her imagined version of normal. As she struggles to unwind the twisted events of her life, a confrontation with her past drives Effie to realize that to be loved means that you can be your fearful, brave, strong, dark, rough, pain/pleasure seeking self, celebrated for who you are, instead of being tolerated because of your past.

In the hands of a lesser writer Effie’s story could be a maudlin tale of victimization, but Effie is a strong character, pushing herself to move beyond fears and others’ expectations to actively make choices about her life. If you are already a fan of Megan Hart, Hold Me Close does not disappoint, if you have not read Ms. Hart, understand that she writes stories that tear your heart out, after twisting it a bit, she will, ever so sweetly tuck it back into your chest, no worse for the wear. Prepare to be sucked into a dark world where the light at the end of the tunnel is tinted orange. 

Hold Me Close is available for pre-order here, or at your favorite independent book store November 24.

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Click here to find out more about Megan Hart

Thirteen for Halloween

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Halloween is the ultimate holiday for those of us who relish having the bejesus scared out of us. For everyone who loves the creepy, the gory, the freak show, the weird, and just plain scary this is our time. We delight in the month of pumpkin spiced everything to the core of our adrenalin soaked souls. In celebration of my favorite time of year, I have a list of thirteen reads for Halloween. So take a break from visiting haunted houses and treat yourself to these thirteen dark reads.

  1. Dark Secrets: A Paranormal Noir Anthology,  Rachel Caine, Cynthia Eden, Megan Hart, Suzanne Johnson, Jeffe Kennedy, Mina Khan. This is a marvelous anthology of paranormal noir romance. It is all here, ghost stories, dark fey, vampires, tormented djinn, murder, mayhem, and death. Hell, the devil himself appears in these pages. This anthology is a Halloween bag full of all your favorite reading time treats. It is hard to resist the sexy bite sized story morsels that beg you to read just one more.
  2. White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi. A creepy house, and a history of unfulfilled hunger passed down through generations, this book will have you swearing off of bed and breakfast accommodations.
  3. Boy Snow Bird, Helen Oyeymi’s lyrical and viscerally terrifying novel that turns Snow White upside down and sideways. I enjoyed this book so much I immediately read every thing else that Helen Otoyemi has written, so be warned.
  4. Family Dinner: A Tale of the Undead, Mark C. Scioneaux.  A family love zombie story with the best twist ending I have read in years..
  5. The Resurrected Compendium, Megan Hart. A collection of terrifying, angry stories of the undead that dove tail into each other. These stories were originally released individually but are now collected into this gore fest of a compendium. The undead in these stories are not mindless slow walking killers. They are resurrected, pissed off, and they want what they want.
  6. Apparition, Michealbrent Collings. A novel that creeped me out so bad I had to read it in small bits. It does for cockroaches what Steven King did for clowns. Read it in a well-lit room in the company of others.
  7. Every Dark Desire and the sequel Desire before Dawn,  Fiona Zedde. Yes, I know this is two books and it messes up the count, but damn these feature fierce vampires done right. Bloody, violent, and sexy as hell, these vamps will have you on your knees, baring your throat, begging for a nip.
  8. The Vines, Christopher Rice. Settle in for some southern discomfort as Rice spins this scary tale featuring family secrets, killer vines, and a hell of a twisty ending.
  9. The Headmaster, Tiffany Reisz.  A fun, not so scary ghostly love story in the best tradition of weird tales. The banter and dialog make this a must read.
  10. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis. Disturbing, darkly funny, and violent. What’s not to love about this book? If you are late to the party for this book, do yourself a favor and read it.
  11. Dawn- Book one Xenogenesis series, Octavia Butler. There are rumors that this will be coming to television and as a huge fan of the late Octavia Butler, I hope and pray that they do not screw it up. Dawn is a dark futuristic tale that reminds us that in the universe, survival has a price, and rescues can be expensive in more ways than one.
  12. Scary Stories to Read after Dark, Alvin Schwartz. Remember all those stories that you used to tell each other at over-nights to guarantee that no one slept, and that everyone was freaked out? This is a fantastic collection of all those tales, written down so that you don’t have to try to remember them. When your kids bug you to tell them a scary story, start them off right and read them one of these. This is best for older (9+) kids. Use your discretion. You know your kids better than anyone else, but be advised if you read this around the bonfire while camping be prepared to have your kids in your tent!
  13. Books of Blood, Clive Barker. No discussion of horror can leave him out. If you have not read this collection of short stories by the master you need to experience these wonderfully horrific tales.

There you have it. So go ahead light the fireplace, grab an adult beverage of your choice and settle in with any one of these books to enjoy the mayhem.

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An Eclectic Summer Reading List

 

I love to sit on my porch and read in the summer. As a kid I could not wait for school to be out for the summer, so I could read what I wanted to read instead of what was required. I would spend every rainy day curled up with a book. I spent most summer nights reading until I fell asleep with the book in my hands.
I still fall asleep with my book in my hands sometimes, and I don’t get to curl up and read as much as I would like to anymore, but summer is still made for reading. I put together a list of some of my favorite books. Some have been featured in my Year of Women’s Voices Series, some were published a while ago, and some are new. It is a pretty eclectic list, and if you are looking for something to read I hope you find something here.

Intense and Sexy Reads

By Fiona Zedde
Bliss
Broken in Soft Places
Dangerous Pleasures
Every Dark Desire
Desire at Dawn
For more about Fiona here is the link to my review of  Fiona’s books .

By Megan Hart
Tear You Apart
Vanilla
Switch
Everything Changes
Ride with the Devil
Out of the Dark
Lovely Wild
Precious Fragile Things
All Fall Down
For more about Megan here is the link to my interview with Megan .

By Tiffany Reisz
The Siren, and the rest of the series. Beware, this book is the beginning of an eight book series, don’t say I did not warn you.

The Headmaster
Seven Day Loan
The Mistress Files
Submit to Desire
The Last Good Knight (Serial Novel)

 

Memoir: if you only read one memoir this summer, make it one of these two:

Just Kids by Patti Smith. Here is the link to my review .
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Here is the link to my review .

Science Fiction/ Fantasy/Urban Fantasy



Everything ever written by Octavia Butler, no seriously, and here is a link to my list to get you started .

By Helen Oyeyemi
Boy Snow Bird
White is For Witching
The Icarus Girl

By N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Here is the link to my review .
The Broken Kingdoms
The Awakened Kingdom  

By Jacqueline Carey
This is another long series (collectively Kushiel’s Legacy) but it is so worth your time. “Love as thou wilt”.
Kushiel’s Dart
Kushiel’s Chosen
Kushiel’s Avatar

Kushiel’s Scion
Kushiel’s Justice
Kushiel’s Mercy

Naamah’s Kiss
Naamah’s Curse
Naamah’s Blessing


By Katherine Dunn
Geek Love  Not for the squeamish, here is the link to my review.

Here is to lazy summer days, reading and summer fun, and an adult beverage or two.