Cheers, friends, and welcome to our May Book of the Month picks and giveaway! We had such a great month of reading at The Novel Approach, and we’re happy to share some of the books we thought were the Best of the Best. As always, there’s a chance to win a couple of our picks, so check out the list and then enter for the chance to win!
Maryann – Swings & Roudabouts by Jackie Keswick - Jackie Keswick can do no wrong. Swings & Roundabouts is a superbly written novel about parenthood and the changes that affect the lives of two loving men. It also brings out the worries and fears in two wonderful boys, Daniel and Nico, and how their past still makes life difficult at times. Jack and Gareth give it their all to have a special rapport with Daniel and Nico, and it pulls at the heartstrings. The romance between Jack and Gareth is not overly explicit; the flirting, warmth, and chemistry they share is just pure and honest love. Even with the boys and a solid support unit in Roz and Aidan, Jack and Gareth still find ways to have some alone time and keep the romance alive.
Taz – Out of the Ashes by Hailey Turner - What I enjoyed in particular about this installment to the Metahuman Files is how Ms. Turner really focused on the relationship between the two characters and how they struggled to work through their own issues while remaining sensitive to the needs of the other. This is one of the more angsty stories in the series, because it tugs at the heart strings. We know Alexei and Sean so well that we can’t help but hurt for them as they struggle to make it through this rough patch in their relationship. Man, can this woman write!
Jenn – A Little Side of Geek by Marguerite Labbe - I adored this book. I’m talking read it twice, and probably going to read it a third time after this review, because writing this is making me remember how good this book is. Part of the reason is how much I identified with Morris, as a crafter attending cons, and a geek. So, I was predisposed to love it, and the author backed it up with deep characters, steady pacing and a beautiful romance.
To be honest, I’ve had to rewrite this review countless times as most of the sentences I’ve started have gushed about the sweetness of the characters, the grounding of them in real life and a lifestyle I recognise and live. Morris’s insecurity stems not only from previous boyfriends who want to fix him but a society and family who didn’t understand the geek and didn’t quite accept it. The growth in him, both through the relationship, and because of it, is amazing to watch as he overcomes that insecurity and sees how it does affect the adult relationship he now has with his family.
Ky – Infamous by Jenny Holiday - I didn’t expect to have this much fun with this story! Sure, I expected to like it well enough, but not so much that I couldn’t stop reading this story until I reached the end. Infamous takes us through about four years in total in the characters’ lives, and though there are a lot of time leaps, it still had all the things I crave in a story like this. Learning that a story spans through many years is usually a done deal for me, and I read the book immediately. Though, I didn’t know about it in this case, so it was a nice and highly welcome surprise.
Carrie – Restraint by AJ Rose - We get closure in Restraint, both for the MCs and in the storyline. Gavin and Ben come full circle, old threads are sewn up, hurts are healed and a HEA firmly established in this fourth novel. This is not a standalone book; you have to read the first three to be able to really know where our MCs are and see the evolution of their relationship. Ben and Gavin have just gotten married. They are stronger and closer because of the horrendous things Gavin was subjected to by the Breath Play Killer. Neither man can refute how close they have become because of those experiences. They have had to rely on each other, find a new deeper level of trust for each other. They have fought to be where they are, and it shows.
Jules – War Paint by Sarah Black - War Paint is my second book by Sarah Black—the first was The Legend of the Apache Kid—and it is the second one that turned out to be a lovely, thought-provoking, and unique read. Black is such a gifted storyteller. She took the eighty-eight pages in War Paint and turned them into a beautiful and memorable love story between two characters who are, perhaps, an unlikely pairing. Their hookup sort of popped up out of nowhere, and their dynamic is maybe not one you’d expect, but they totally work. The story structure itself was a little quirky as well, but also completely worked for me. I pretty much dug everything about this one.
Sammy – Ginger Snaps by John Inman - I could tell you that you should read this book just to see if Arthur and Tom actually get married. I could remind you of the hideous, over the top outfits Arthur is wont to wear, and let your imagination fill in the blanks as to just what type of wedding ensemble he might actually choose. I could tell you that every character (read couple) from the previous four books show up in this one, and they are just as insane as they always have been, including our resident kleptos and Little Artie of the dirty diaper (read: cesspool) fame. I should definitely remind you that if you have’nt read this series, please start with the gem Serenading Stanley, and I guarantee you will be hooked from then on. But, what I really want to focus on is this author’s ability to combine pathos, hurt/comfort, and second chances at love with humor, outlandish and quirky characters, and a sweetness that is never cloying but always touching.
Lindsey – No Luck by Kayleigh Sky - I found the writing to be humorous without being over-the-top on comedy, with the actual content much more serious and introspective than I had expected but without becoming too dark. Vane’s klutziness and awkward situations made the storyline lighter, along with the sweetness of the romance and the side of kink the two explore together. The struggles both men face within themselves as they process what they have been through, what they want and what they want for their futures, are somewhat somber. Vane’s past and things that happened have colored his view of himself, and possibly even colored his choices. Is acting what he really wants or is it something he chose to show he wasn’t useless? Does he miss his life in LA? Does he want to keep the diner, or is it just temporary? Working through his thoughts and finding out who he truly is and what he truly wants by letting go of dreams and the past is not an easy path and takes time for Vane. Doug’s struggle is letting go of guilt and of his plans for a future he had set. Does he really want to grieve forever and never love again? Can he be with Vane without losing his love for Meg? Can he let go of his previous plans and a future that he buried with his wife, and create something new with Vane?
Sadonna – The Contingency Plan by Addison Albright - Prince Marcelo of Sheburat and his family mourn the unexpected death of this twin sister, Marcela, two days before her marriage to Prince Efren of Zioneven is to take place to cement a peace treaty signed long ago. When the family gathers to greet the prince, Marcelo is surprised when Efren not only notices him but reminds the queen that the treaty allows him to choose any of Marcela’s siblings, not only the remaining sisters, to fulfill it. He chooses Marcelo, much to everyone’s—but particularly Marcelo’s—surprise.
This story is just a little gem! I loved Marcelo and Zefren and the way they regarded each other and came together with mutual respect. They are really interesting characters and I sure hope that the author decides to continue their stories!
Lisa – All the Inside Howling by Gregory Ashe - Vie is such a steady and predictable (no negative connotations there) character; he’s tenacious and strong and brave, and yet, he is a dichotomy too. In so many ways he behaves and responds precisely the way I expect him to when he’s overwhelmed, when he’s angry, when he’s frightened, when someone ventures too far out of his verbal and/or emotional comfort zone. Vie Eliot is a champion at burying his feelings, he has secrets he holds close to the vest—secrets that he believes make him worthless, unlovable and unworthy of anything good in his life—and he often acts out, sometimes with his fists, sometimes in self-harm, because of it. But the dichotomy here is that he acts out against everyone but the one person whose abuse he is willing to suffer, and that’s where the contradiction that is this boy lies. The one person Vie has needed to stand up to, and could stand up to, is the one person who hurts Vie time and time again, and in return, it hurts readers to understand why he doesn’t fight back. It’s the lie of abuse. Until, one time, Vie is finally pushed too far. He’s such a great character, and he’s trying, trying as hard as a sixteen-year-old boy can, to grow and learn from his mistakes and to be a good boyfriend while fighting against something intangible and yet still tangibly dangerous. He just needs to live long enough to keep fighting, but there are people—things—that don’t want to see him make it that far.
All the Inside Howling is an exceptional addition to a spectacular series. It’s one of those books that makes me want to reevaluate every book I’ve ever said I loved, because they pale in my memory in comparison to the immediate and obsessive love I’m feeling right now for this series. This is more than Teen Fiction, it’s more than Murder Mystery, it’s more than Paranormal fiction. It’s the sum of all three of these things wrapped around one of the most intriguing young protagonists I’ve come across in a long time—if ever.
And that does it for this month. Drop in again next month to check out the books we loved in June, but until then, happy reading!
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