Review: The Rise Of Virginie by Katey Hawthorne

Virginie
Cover designed by Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4 stars.

Stefan is homeless, couchsurfing from friend to friend. Whilst staying with Megan, they decide to start a new band. Since she had a previous bad experience dating her bandmade Deanna, they make a vow to not have sex within the band. Sounds simple, yet Stefan’s fear that no one will want him around without sex highlights what his life has been like since leaving home. When he meets Han, who works at the library, they eventually bond over poetry and music. Han is one of the only POC in this small town in West Virginia. Being the reverend’s adopted son, he’s set up as a good boy; a virgin who sings in the church choir. This alternates between the first person point of view of Stefan and Han as they grow closer. Once they add Deanna as the base player, the four of them form a queer punk band named Virginie.

Stefan and Han are writing original songs together in between working at their jobs and practicing covers with the band. I liked the song lyrics in this, the poetry. The no sex rule actually allows Stefan to get to know Han without falling into his default of meaningless sex or friends with benefits. Once they start having sex (because of course they do) everything is playful; Han gets to experiment and learn from a friend. Things start moving forward for them when they get noticed by a promoter and talent agent. Of course, that’s went everything implodes, both with jealousies within the band, and Stefan’s mother Angela, who is a drug addict in an abusive relationship.

What I really liked about this was the things I expected to be a big deal (e.g. Han coming out, premarital sex, religion) weren’t. Addiction is a major storyline in this book, so petty dramas fall by the wayside. Most of the conflict comes due to Stefan’s past abuse and trauma. This book also tackles many issues through the music: Big Pharma, the opioid problem, and condescension towards the poor and Southerners. I did wonder if the difference in upbringing between Stefan and Han would be too huge a crevasse to bridge, but Han works hard to educate himself so he can be a good friend and support to Stefan. It was nice to see Han’s father be a positive and supportive Christian character. Han’s mother takes longer to come around, but Han’s issues with his mother are not all about Stefan. Caring too much what other people think, judging children because of their parents, lack of empathy and shaming others–these things divide communities. So while this is a cute story about young adults trying to become a successful band, with lots of fun sex, the author puts the band in it’s context geopolitically, and that makes all the difference to elevate this above many similar works.

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Review: Kanaan & Tilney: The Case of the Man-Eater by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 

This book is the second in the series and it would help to read them in order, but there is enough subtle recapping to read this alone. The series has a fun modern noir vibe. Be aware they describe brutal murders and this case deals with cannibalism. Lowell is a gruff, cuddly sort. Being a packless wolf shifter and ex-cop makes him a little prickly what with the prejudice and lack of respect the public has for either. Lowell’s boyfriend and business partner is John, pyrokinetic and mystery author. How he manages to not set certain people on fire makes him a better person than me. The series is set in Boston and they serve a diverse praeternatural community. They get hired by a young Terran named Fergus to look into the murder of his Beast (lion shifter) boyfriend Mateo. Lowell’s obnoxious hedgehog-shifter stalker is back to help with the case. The reader gets to see more of John’s friend Macy. I hope she gets to help on a case in the future. The few “good” cops are highlighted as helping them. As with the first book, most of this is “pounding the pavement” to solve the case with brief moments of their life they try to fit in around trying to find the killer and not getting killed.

Soon the bodies start to pile up. The victims being packless allows the opportunity of learning more about werewolf culture and pack structure. The blatant prejudice against packless with an actual hate group was sad. Being packless seems a lot like being shunned and has spiritual implications also. It is against the law for packless to form a pack, so they are afraid to even be friends or gather in groups for anything social or meaningful life events. I definitely want to see some activism on that front in future books.

As always, John is a bundle of energy and much a source of amusement. His complicated relationship with his mother is a source of stress that being with Lowell gives him the strength to deal with. Lowell has the strength to emotionally deal with the way things happen with his mother’s pack thanks to having John. These two are just so cute together and the love scenes are hot, but also emotionally move their relationship forward. I may have unfairly judged the first book because I think I have been reading a lot of science fiction in which the world building is all in the first book like a huge info dump–then I get upset if it’s never used or revisited again. This series works the other way–the world building happens gradually in the stories as more characters are added that the author will revisit again in the future and the reader will learn more about them when the time comes. Overall, I enjoyed this book. As with any P.I. series there will be some cases more interesting than others, but with likable main characters, intriguing side characters, and poignant social commentary to give this unexpected depth, I will continue to read these.

The cover was designed by Aisha Akeju. It matches the first cover in the series and catches that modern noir vibe well, but doesn’t give you much about the story

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 193 pages
Published March 25th 2019 by Less Than Three Press, LLC
ASINB07NRV981M

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Kanaan & Tilney: The Case of the Man-Eater by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

***Sadly, Less Than Three Press has gone out of business.

Review: The Case of the Arms Dealers (Kanaan & Tilney #1) by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This is urban fantasy with Elementals, Beasts, Psychogenics, Necromorphs, and Terrans living alongside humans without them knowing. John Tilney is an author wanting to shadow the PI, Lowell Kanaan, for help with research for a book. Lowell is willing to have a free office assistant, but is slow to let John really be involved with his cases.

Although told Lowell has “gritty, noir-detective glory,” he wasn’t actually physically described for awhile, so he was difficult to picture in the beginning. There is a good description of John as Lowell meets him, but not one of Lowell when the POV is switched. John is guileless, honest, and in some ways socially awkward, but certainly not shy. His directness and persistence seem to usually get him what he wants. He finally figures out he wants Lowell. Although self described as demisexual, he jumped right into sexual attraction with Lowell. The sex scenes are smoking hot. In fact, early on the plot was thin and with those scenes I thought it was just going to be erotic romance. Then, the actual cases start to be interesting.

A man reports his neighbor missing. As they look into his whereabouts, they notice others missing as well. The (supernatural) police aren’t looking into it. In fact, their other client is a women being stalked and the police don’t seem to care about her case either. Lowell is the real hero here, working hard once it’s clear there is something wrong, whether he gets paid or not. As the suspect list gets longer, this is no longer about John writing a book, but finding a killer. John and Lowell have fallen into a work relationship and a romantic relationship easily. When John’s life gets threatened and Lowell gets overprotective, the easy camaraderie falls apart. John’s contacts have helped with the case, but he’s not a PI. Lowell, as a former cop, is now unsure how to make this work. They use actual words to work it out–yay for communication!

The side characters aren’t really fleshed out yet: like John’s mother or his neighbor Macy, and Lowell’s friend Mina. The Zombie Mafia boss Tony was interesting, as was his right hand person, Serafina. There is also very little made of the fact Lowell is a Beast (lupine) and John is a Psychogenic (pyrokinetic). I’m hoping the next book expands these characters and shows us more about the praeternatural factions. I ended up enjoying this and wanted to know more about everything. This is a very good first book in a series and the guys are adorable together.

The cover was designed by Aisha Akeju. It’s striking and a clever play on “pounding the pavement” to look for clues, noirish but with color. The zombie hand made me laugh.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 204 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Less Than Three Press, LLC (first published October 27th 2015)
ASIN B07MTY62FD
Edition Language: English
Series: Kanaan & Tilney

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Case of the Arms Dealers (Kanaan & Tilney #1) by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words