My Not Pictured selections include lots and lots of X-Men comics, as per usual. I took December off from UNCANNY in the hopes of catching up on a few of the series that lead into Chris Claremont's 2004 run on the book, and I had a lot of fun dipping into older miniseries and more recent short-lived titles like EMMA FROST, MYSTIQUE, and DISTRICT X. I finally finished X-TREME X-MEN, too, so I'm ready to forge onward in January!
My sorta-kinda plan for the next few weeks is to dig into all the Scribd stuff I've been procrastinating on. To that end, I ponied up a credit for Willow Scarlett's HOT BLOOD PUNK [Amazon | Scribd | Smashwords] and dove in.
COIN TRICKS is still my favourite, but this 150-page offering was also great. Jordie, a genderqueer sculptor who's had a rough couple of years, connects with a punk named Luke during a life-changing bus ride. Next thing they know, Luke's an integral part of their everyday world and things no longer seem so hopeless.
There are shades of instalove to it all, but Scarlett demonstrates that these two click so quickly because they genuinely like and admire each other. They're opposites who can enjoy spending time together without losing themselves. Consent is a huge part of their relationship from the get-go as confident Luke makes it absolutely clear he respects shy Jordie's boundaries (and pronouns!) and doesn't want to do anything Jordie isn't 100% into. Jordie, too, isn't afraid to stand up to Luke when Luke goes too far in any direction. Their relationship unfolds quickly, but it's sweet and affectionate and grounded in understanding.
It reinforced my love for Scarlett's bibliography.
Then I dipped into my stash of books I spent a credit on ages ago and came out with MERMAN by K.Z. Snow [Amazon | Scribd]. It's the same-world-different-focus-characters sequel to MONGREL, which I read and loved back in September. I enjoyed it very much and had a great time seeing the world expand and checking in with the characters, but I didn't click with it as strongly as I did with MONGREL. We'll see how I feel about the final book in the trilogy, which I hope to get to early in 2017.
One can only stay away from Annabeth Albert for so long, my dears. Which is gonna be a problem for me, seeing as how ALL NOTE LONG [Amazon | Scribd] is the second-to-last book I need to read before I'm totally caught up.
It's a great 'un, too. Michelin's a demisexual country superstar who's spent his whole life in the closet. Lucky's a go-go dancer and show boy in search of the gig that'll make him a star. When someone takes misleading photos of their first meeting, effectively outing Michelin and making it look like he paid Lucky for sex, Michelin's label demands they do the fake boyfriend thing as a form of damage control.
"But Memory," you say, "wasn't LOVE ME TENOR, the previous Perfect Harmony novel, also a fake relationship story?" Yes, friend, it was; and that's the genius of Annabeth Albert. She's all, "Yeah, I know I just did that, but I'm gonna do it again and make it feel completely different and also awesome."
(I might be paraphrasing there.)
It's so awesome, y'all. Albert doesn't shy away from how hard it is for Michelin to be outed, given his fame and his status within a traditionally conservative music genre, but she also finds reasons for him to hope and to move forward despite the difficult realities he faces. She also builds a damned amazing relationship between him and Lucky, who's got enough of his own stuff going on that this isn't quite one of those "famous person hits it off with non-famous person" stories I adore. Lucky's at the start of his career, but he's a great dancer and he's committed to his vocation. His aspirations often clash with Michelin's, meaning they've gotta stretch to accommodate each other without losing themselves; my very favourite setup (and basically Albert's signature move).
And y'all know they talk about lots and lots and lots of things. Demisexuality. Addiction. (Michelin's an alcoholic.) Financial boundaries. Physical boundaries. Past heartbreaks. Families. All that good stuff.
I devoured the last two thirds in one sitting, and now I'm hoping there'll be more Perfect Harmony novels. All the characters from the first book are now paired up (unless I've forgotten about someone), but I'd love love love a book about Ruby and her girlfriend (because how cute is Ruby????).
My final-week reading list was pretty damned white, so I chose BETTER OFF RED by Rebekah Weatherspoon [Amazon | Scribd] as my final book of 2016. Weatherspoon's novellas have all wowed me, and I'm pleased to report this full-length novel is equally wonderful.
Ginger's not thrilled with the idea of joining a sorority, but she dutifully keeps her roommate company during rush week and finds an unexpected kinship with the girls of ABO--and with the mysterious woman she sees lurking around their parties. When it comes time to pledge, she discovers ABO is a front for a group of vampires who protect the membership in exchange for blood offerings, and the object of Ginger's desire is their most powerful sister-queen.
I love Weatherspoon because she takes these scenarios where there's high potential for ick factor and makes them work. Her couples confront and discuss power imbalances, putting checks in place to ensure they can meet as equals even if one of them is significantly richer, older, or more socially prominently than the other. They work on boundaries and share their concerns if something skirts too close to the line for either of them. And while their physical encounters are hot, it's the emotional component that keeps the romance so compelling. These people want to connect. They want their relationships to work. It makes all the difference.
As I write this, I'm about halfway through BETTER OFF RED and hope I can finish it by midnight. I've got some other stuff to do this (yesterday) afternoon and evening, though, so it might end up being my first book of 2017 rather than my last book of 2016. Either way, I'm gonna have a great time with it.
Next week: probably some historical fantasy, maybe with some trashy YA fantasy mixed in.