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The Color of Magic

RECOMMENDED: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett is $1.99! This is part of today’s Kindle Daily Deals; be sure to check out the rest of them! This is the first book in the much loved Discworld series. There’s magic and lots of quirky humor, though admittedly, the series isn’t for everyone. So don’t worry if you give it a shot and it’s not for you. It has a 3.9-star rating on Goodreads.

Terry Pratchett’s profoundly irreverent, bestselling novels have garnered him a revered position in the halls of parody next to the likes of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.

On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

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City of the Lost

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong is $2.99! This is the first book in the Rockton thriller/mystery series and I will warn you that this deal will expire tomorrow. Readers loved the pacing of the book and say it really grabs you. However, some reader wished they had more history and info about the main character.

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday this crime will catch up to her. Casey’s best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana’s husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it’s time for the two of them to disappear again.

Diana has heard of a town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you’re accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. As a murderer, Casey isn’t a good candidate, but she has something they want: She’s a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn’t the only secret Rockton is hiding—in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.

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Grigori

Grigori by Lauren Smith is $1.99 at Amazon! This is a paranormal romance with dragons! I really like the cover of this one. The mythology of the dragons and their mates has something to do with the heroines being virgins. If you tend to avoid fate mates/virginity tropes, you may want to skip this one!

He’s one of the last of a powerful but vanishing bloodline …
Grigori Barinov is the eldest in an ancient line of dragon shifters and the guardian of his family’s lands and fortune. Sworn to protect their history and magic, he won’t rest until he neutralizes any threat to their existence. When he discovers an ancient manuscript that exposes his family and their dragon lineage has fallen into a mortal woman’s hands, he knows he must get the book back by any means necessary. If that means seducing a nosy American woman with an intoxicating scent, he is more than willing to carry her off to his palatial home deep in the heart of Russia.

She’s the one woman who could expose him to the world…
Madelyn Haynes has never fit in. As an adopted child she grew up in a loving home but never felt as though she belonged. Plagued by mysterious dreams she’s had of a silver scaled beast ever since she was a little girl, she is convinced dragons are real. While in Russia working on her PhD in mythology in order to escape the ridicule from fellow professors, she unexpectedly crosses paths with the sexy and dominating Grigori, and after just one night with the man whose eyes seem to burn, she starts to change inside. Isolated in the Russian wilderness Grigori calls home, Madelyn can’t help but fall under his sensual spell, yet something deep inside her calls out that she can’t trust him. She has to show the world dragons are real to salvage academic reputation, even if it means costing her the heart of the dragon she’s falling in love with.

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Raw Heat

Raw Heat by Cherrie Lynn is $1.99 at Amazon! This is a contemporary romance and I’m a little unsure if it falls into the erotic romance category or not. If you’ve read this, let me know! I love the fact that the heroine is the hero’s accountant. However, there were readers who felt the book was too over the top for them.

The third book in the Larson Brothers series from New York Times bestselling author Cherrie Lynn is the sexiest installment yet!

Youngest Larson brother Damien has the luck of the devil. Fast talking and faster thinking, he owns a successful nightclub in Houston and runs an illegal poker room upstairs. After a troubled childhood, now nothing is out of Damien’s reach—except his accountant, Emma Haskell.

Emma has always been drawn to Damien’s dark intensity and the gleam in his eyes that promises more than she can possibly handle. But when her brother’s gambling threatens to destroy her family, Damien makes her an offer she’d be crazy to accept—but can’t refuse: her brother’s debts will be forgiven, and Emma belongs to him for thirty days.

In Damien’s world, he shows his angelic bookkeeper what it’s like to live with the devil. But Emma brings out a side in Damien he thought didn’t exist. Will the flames of lust scorch them both, or will this beauty tame the beast and give him something to fight for?

Raw Heat scorches with emotional intensity and smoldering passion that will leave readers spellbound!

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Welcome to Book Beat! Think of Book Beat as Hide Your Wallet, Part Two!

In Hide Your Wallet, we talk about books coming out in a particular month that we really want to read. But there’s more to good books than just new releases!

Book Beat aims to highlight other books that we may hear about through friends, social media, or other sources. We could see a gorgeous ad! Or find a new-to-us author on a list of underrated romances! Think of Book Beat as Teen Beat or Tiger Beat, but for books. And no staples to open to get the fold-out poster.

We hope you find something new to read through Book Beat, and please let us know what books you’ve discovered recently!

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off

Author: Michael Caine
Released: October 23, 2018 by Hachette Books
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction

With over 100 movies and two Academy Awards to his credit over six decades, Hollywood legend Michael Caine shares the wisdom, stories, insight, and skills that life has taught him in his remarkable career–and now his 85th year.

One of our best-loved actors Michael Caine has starred in a huge range of films from the classic movies AlfieZulu, and The Italian Job (the inspiration for the book title) to the Hollywood blockbusting Dark Knight trilogy, Dirty Rotten ScoundrelsHannah and Her Sisters, and Cider House Rules. Caine has excelled in every kind of role–with a skill that’s made it look easy.

He knows what success takes–he’s made it to the pinnacle of his profession from humble origins. But as he says, “Small parts can lead to big things. And if you keep doing things right, the stars will align when you least expect it.” Now in his 85th year–and more beloved than ever–he wants to share everything he’s learned.

With brilliant new insight into his life and work and showcasing his wonderful gift for storytelling, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off is Caine at his wise and entertaining best.

Source: Publishers Lunch

I personally find Caine to be really charming and I hope that transcends well on the page.

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Calling Her Bluff

Author: Kaia Danielle
Released: November 16, 2015 by Entangled: Lovestruck
Genre: Novella, Romance, Contemporary Romance
Series: What Happens in Vegas #10

He wasn’t the score she was looking for…

Romance author Kamaria Wilson came to Las Vegas with nothing to lose. A one-night stand with a delicious man is just the distraction she needs…until one night with him doesn’t feel like enough. Panicked, she skips out on the morning-after encore and hides out at the poker tables.

After his hot one-night stand goes MIA, security specialist Jack Aldirisi is sure he’ll never see her again. But when he’s called in to the casino for an unexpected special assignment, Lady Luck smiles down on Jack. For the rest of the weekend, he’ll be by his missing woman’s side.

She insists their powerful connection is nothing more than sex. He begs to differ. And this time, he’s calling her bluff.

Source: Twitter

The author described this as a romantic comedy between a romance author, who has a penchant for gambling, and a hero who works in casino security.

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The Masked Minotaur

Author: Chace Verity
Released: April 1, 2018
Genre: GLBT, Novella, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Odelia Aster runs her confectionery store with pride, even though profits are now practically non-existent. The hundred-year-old store has been in Odelia’s family from the invention of steamboats to the exile of magical creatures. She would do anything to protect her store and its famous candy geode recipe from the bandits now raiding the kingdom.

Five years ago, Odelia married a nice noblewoman to keep the shop from going under. She cares for her wife, but it’s hard to feel there is something real between them when Charlotte keeps her distance, taking naps all day and getting plastered at fancy parties. Charlotte is nothing like the alleged Masked Minotaur vanquishing the bandits across the nation. The idea of a Masked Minotaur keeping humans safe at the risk of certain punishment from the king excites Odelia in ways her wife does not.

When Odelia finds herself held up by a most unexpected bandit, she has to figure out how far she’ll go to protect her family’s legacy, even though all she wants is to be rescued by the Masked Minotaur.

Source: Twitter

A fantasy lesbian romance with a masked vigilante. I’m getting major Scarlet Pimpernel vibes!

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Shades of Wicked

Author: Jeaniene Frost
Released: October 30, 2018 by Avon
Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Series: The Night Rebel #1

In this thrilling new Night Rebel series set in New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress world, sexy and ruthless vampire Ian finally meets his match!

The Rule Breaker

Master vampire Ian is unrepentant, shameless…and every shade of wicked. He’s made one too many enemies in his two centuries of existence, including Dagon, a demon who now lays claim to his soul. Ian’s only chance to escape Dagon is to join forces with a Law Guardian, but he’s never been able to abide by the rules for long.

The Law Maker

Veritas’ normal role is police, judge and jury to reprobates like Ian. But she has her own ax to grind with Dagon, so if she can use Ian as bait…well, all’s fair in law and war. As they scour supernatural hotspots to perfect their trap, Veritas soon realizes Ian’s devil-may-care, roguish image hides something much more powerful. And Ian discovers that Veritas has shocking secrets of her own. As they’re drawn to each other with a passion as intense as their peril, either love or justice will prevail. But each will have devastating consequences…

Source: Publishers Lunch

I believe this is spin-off from The Night Prince series, but do correct me if I’m wrong. I’m very curious about this, but I feel bad for never getting into The Night Huntress series.

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The transcript for Podcast 299. On Blogging and Publishing: An Interview with Thea James and Ana Grilo, The Book Smugglers has been posted!

This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.

Click here to subscribe to The Podcast →

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Welcome to Lit Wicks! This is where we pair an author’s backlist with candles to really immerse yourself in the reading experience. All of the candles featured in these post are from Etsy, which means there is often worldwide shipping and that you’re supporting independent crafters and sellers. The Etsy candle rabbit hole is one I have gone down many times.

May’s Lit Wicks is inspired by Jennifer Crusie! I want to thank Reader Marci for this idea. Crusie’s books have a big focus on food, so expect some yummy smelling candles in this one.

If you’re curious about what other authors have received the Lit Wicks treatment, check out our category page. And if you’d like to suggest an author’s backlist for a future Lit Wicks column, please !

Bet Me: Big thanks to Sarah for coming up with the scent ideas for this one. She suggested chicken marsala, glazed donuts, and cherries (given the shoe decoration on the cover).

It may come as a surprise that there are no chicken marsala scented candles, so you might just have to make that yourself and let the good smells from your kitchen waft throughout the house. However, a glazed donut candle is something I can definitely get into.

Candle: Five O Candle Co. — Glazed Donut ($9.99)

This company features candles made by police officers. It also seems like perfect romance hero fodder. If you’re worried about the Glazed Donut scent being too sweet, they also have a Cinnamon Sugar variation!

Candle: Country Rich Creations — Cherry 12oz. ($12)

As you can see by the photo, you can get this candle in a variety of sizes. Yay! Plus, they carry a wax melt for those who prefer to get their scents that way.

Welcome to Temptation: I always associate this book with one of my former bosses.

Short story: I applied for a marketing internship at a lit mag during graduate school. I mentioned SBTB on my application and it turns out the managing editor was a huge romance fan. This was one of her favorite books, so I tend to think of her whenever I see it.

Anyway, this book is chock full of bonkers goodness with all sorts of shenanigans and forbidden, naughty romances!

Candle: Shadynook Candle — Forbidden Fruit 12oz. ($12.75)

This candle is supposed to smell like an apple orchard with a faint hint of cashmere. And we all know cashmere is one of the more sexy fabrics. It definitely beats burlap.

Agnes and the Hitman: This is by far my favorite Crusie book and probably the first I read. It’s just so…fun. Agnes is a woman after my own heart: she loves Italian food and is just a bit grumpy. I want to be Agnes when I grow up. For these candles, I wanted one that captures the balance of sexy and sweet in the book and I also wanted another nod to food.

Candle: FUL Candles — Hopeful (sugar + spice) 12oz. ($18)

Candle: The Dancing Wick — Italian Biscotti 16oz.


When putting this together, the shop announced it’s on a short hiatus, but I bookmarked this candle to buy later. Apparently, it’s one of their bestsellers, comes in a couple different sizes, and smells of crispy almond cookies, dark chocolate, and vanilla. Yum!

Fast Women: After reading the description of Fast Women, I had some vague Stephanie Plum vibes. That’s totally an aside and has absolutely nothing to do with candles.

Because the heroine winds up working for a detective agency, I took the opportunity to give the food candles a rest. I was pleased to stumble upon an Etsy candle shop that does “character-themed” candles. I might need to buy the Kylo Ren candle for myself.

Candle: Sleeping Cat Candles — Nancy Drew, Amateur Sleuth 8oz. ($14)


What do mystery and secrets smell like? Well, the description mentions notes of bergamot, sandalwood, and earl grey.

Maybe This Time: Maybe This Time is a little spookier than Crusie’s other books, but I find the cover to be adorable and cozy. The book features a rundown, creepy old house. And of course, you know I found a candle that has something to do with creepy old houses. This candle smells of rose, camomile, and tobacco smoke. I believe the shop also offers the candle in different sizes.

Candle: The Bat in the Hat — Haunted Manor ($10.73)

The Cinderella Deal: If your catnip is opposites attract, The Cinderella Deal might be for you. The heroine is named Daisy and is a bit of a free spirit. The hero is her stuffy neighbor and a history professor; he desperately needs a fiancé in order to finally nab his dream job.

Candle: 320 Sycamore Candles — Clementine & Daisy 16oz. ($17)

I’m really happy to find this candle since I think it matches up with the heroine rather well. It’s light, bright, and the scent has a hint of sharpness from the citrus.

Candle: Wick Habit — Study Date 4oz. ($9)

The formation of this candle is really adorable, as it’s modeled after one of the maker’s first dates with her husband. The smell has notes of books, wood, and peppermint tea. It’s also available in three sizes.

Charlie All Night: This is the last of Crusie’s novels we’re doing in this post and I honestly think this has the best selections of the bunch. A bit about the book: the heroine is a radio producer who has been demoted to working the graveyard shift at the station. The hero is a DJ whose smooth voice has listeners going bananas.

Candle: Campy Home — Late Night 7oz. ($16)

Man, I love the packaging on the box! The candle is described as being “woody and masculine” and it’s supposed to remind you of the best-smelling man you’ve ever encountered. Sign me up!

Candle: Sable + Co. — Smooth 4oz. ($12)

This candle is what I imagine Charlie’s voice would sound like if you tried to translate it into a scent. Sandalwood and bourbon are a pretty sexy combo, don’t you think?

And that does it for Jennifer Crusie! What did you think? Did any of the scents catch your eye (or nose, rather)? Which author should I do next?

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Today I’m speaking with Ana Grilo and Thea James, who are better known as The Book Smugglers. They’re bloggers, writers, authors, and editors – and at the helm of Book Smugglers Publishing. We talk about how they got their start, and the role the Lost forums played in bringing them together (along with a few blogs you may have heard of).

Among the topics we cover:

  • What they look for in science fiction and speculative fiction
  • Making the transition from blogging and reviewing to acquiring, editing, and publishing
  • How they went from book smuggling to becoming book surgeons
  • Their favorite tropes in speculative fiction and fiction

Plus we discuss their Kickstarter, learn about the behind the scenes experience of a successful campaign, and how they were able to pivot the emphasis of the Kickstarter based on real time feedback and analysis – if it sounds exhausting, it really was.

There is a little bit of popping in the audio – sorry about that! I have to blame transatlantic recording and fussy internet demons. I’ll do better to appease them.

Listen to the podcast → Read the transcript → Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:

You can find The Book Smugglers at their website, on Twitter @BookSmugglers, and on Facebook.

You can also find them at Book Smugglers Publishing – and don’t miss the cover gallery!

If you like the podcast, you can subscribe to our feed, or find us at iTunes. You can also find us on Stitcher, too. We also have a cool page for the podcast on iTunes.

Thanks to our sponsors: More ways to sponsor:

Sponsor us through Patreon! (What is Patreon?)

What did you think of today's episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that's where you hang out online. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don't forget to give us a name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.

Thanks for listening!

This Episode's Music

Our music is provided each week by Sassy Outwater, whom you can find on Twitter @SassyOutwater.

This is from Caravan Palace, and the track is called “L’envol.”

You can find their two album set with Caravan Palace and Panic on Amazon and iTunes. And you can learn more about Caravan Palace on Facebook, and on their website.

Podcast Sponsor

Hedging His Bets by Laura Carter

When a high-flying American corporate investor living in London must return to New York on business, it means seeing the woman who broke his heart.

Thankfully his gorgeous British flatmate volunteered to come with him to keep his ex at bay.

New Yorker Jake Harrington loves a lot of things about living in London. His lucrative hedge fund job. The way British women melt at the sound of an American accent. His just-sex arrangement with his gorgeous roommate, Jess. And, oh yes, being thousands of miles away from the girl who betrayed him.

Jess’s deal with Jake suits her fine. No commitments, no risk of being hurt again, just friendship and mind-blowing pleasure. And friends do each other favors, like agreeing to go on a trip to New York where Jake will have to face his past.

What friends shouldn’t do? Suddenly find themselves feeling something much more complicated than simple lust. When “no strings” is no longer enough, will Jake be willing to take the ultimate gamble?

Hedging His Bets by Laura Carter, the latest installment in the Brits in Manhattan contemporary series is on sale now wherever books are sold and at Kensington Books.com.

Remember to subscribe to our podcast feed, find us on iTunes or on Stitcher.
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Hi, everyone! As some of you may know, most of the SBTB team will be at the RT Booklovers Convention in Reno, myself included. I take my job as your discounted smut peddler very seriously and I’ve scheduled some Books on Sale posts ahead of time while we’re away. Unfortunately, some of these deals may have expired by the time the posts are published and I certainly apologize for getting anyone’s hopes up about a particular sale.

Additionally, if you see any books on sale that you want to recommend, we’d love for you to let us know in the comments. I’m including our affiliate-linked retailers below. If you’d like to shop through them, it helps out the site and we thank you so much. If not, no worries at all!

Thank you for reading SBTB and if you’re in Reno, we hope you’re able to say hello!

Stud in the Stacks

Stud in the Stacks by Pippa Grant is 99c! This is described as a romantic comedy that features a librarian hero and a fake relationship. Lots of catnip there! The heroine is also older, which divided some readers. Some liked that she was older than the hero, while others felt she seemed too young for her age.

When it comes to women, I know what they want. And all day long, I give it to them. Dark, broody, and sexy? You got it. Need to laugh? I’m your guy. Desperate for something to put you in the mood? You’ve come to the right place, kitten.

Every morning when my library opens, there’s a line around the block, the ladies flocking to me in need of their next book boyfriend. I’m that dude. The one who knows his way around the romance section. And if you think that hasn’t gotten me plenty of action over the years, you’d be wrong.

But I made a slight miscalculation at work, and now my reputation has my job in danger. If I can’t prove to my boss that I’m more than a playboy who recommends romance in the hopes of getting some hanky panky in the stacks, I’m headed for the unemployment line.

Enter Parker Elliott. She rocks a mean guitar, she has no idea how sexy she is, and she’s in need of a temporary fake boyfriend.

Best of all? She doesn’t have a library card. I couldn’t have found a better fake fiancée if I’d written her myself.

Stud in the Stacks is 55,000 sexy, hilarious, sometimes embarrassing words, complete with tacos, romance novel love, unicorn parties, and no cheating or cliffhangers.

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The Princess and the Peer

The Princess and the Peer by Tracy Anne Warren is $1.99! This is the first book in The Princess Brides historical romance series. Some readers found the heroine to be a little too impulsive, while others enjoyed the relationship the hero had with the heroine. Have you read this one?

From New York Times bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren comes an enchanting new trilogy about three princesses brought together by friendship and fate. This is Princess Emma’s story…

When a royal summons from her brother arrives, Emma knows it’s time to embrace her duties as the princess of a small European kingdom, and marry the man her brother has chosen for her…a stranger she has never met. Instead she does what any self-respecting princess would do—she runs away. All she wants is one week in London. One week to experience everything life has to offer, before she is locked away in a loveless marriage forever…

Former naval captain Nick Gregory has inherited a title he never wanted. As the new Earl of Lyndhurst, he chafes against his landlocked existence—until fate brings a mysterious young beauty across his path. Believing she’s an unemployed governess, Nick offers shelter and protection to the captivating girl, never guessing her true identity.

Emma falls hard for Nick, but knowing they have no future, she flees once more—this time back to her royal responsibilities. But when she and Nick unexpectedly meet again, she learns that against all odds, he’s determined to make this princess his bride…

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The Secret History of the Mongol Queens

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford is $1.99! This is nonfiction and Carrie gave the book an A:

I found this book to be incredibly interesting despite, or possibly because of, my lack of any previous knowledge regarding the Mongolian Empire. In fact, I really wasn’t all that interested in the Mongolian Empire – I was just sucked in by the idea of a secret history of women. The history is detailed enough that I think it would inform anyone who does have in interest in that part of history, and it’s accessible enough for a newcomer like myself.

The Mongol queens of the thirteenth century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger story.

The queens of the Silk Route turned their father’s conquests into the world’s first truly international empire, fostering trade, education, and religion throughout their territories and creating an economic system that stretched from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. Outlandish stories of these powerful queens trickled out of the Empire, shocking the citizens of Europe and and the Islamic world.

After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, conflicts erupted between his daughters and his daughters-in-law; what began as a war between powerful women soon became a war against women in power as brother turned against sister, son against mother. At the end of this epic struggle, the dynasty of the Mongol queens had seemingly been extinguished forever, as even their names were erased from the historical record..

One of the most unusual and important warrior queens of history arose to avenge the wrongs, rescue the tattered shreds of the Mongol Empire, and restore order to a shattered world. Putting on her quiver and picking up her bow, Queen Mandhuhai led her soldiers through victory after victory. In her thirties she married a seventeen-year-old prince, and she bore eight children in the midst of a career spent fighting the Ming Dynasty of China on one side and a series of Muslim warlords on the other. Her unprecedented success on the battlefield provoked the Chinese into the most frantic and expensive phase of wall building in history. Charging into battle even while pregnant, she fought to reassemble the Mongol Nation of Genghis Khan and to preserve it for her own children to rule in peace.

At the conclusion of his magnificently researched and ground-breaking narrative, Weatherford notes that, despite their mystery and the efforts to erase them from our collective memory, the deeds of these Mongol queens inspired great artists from Chaucer and Milton to Goethe and Puccini, and so their stories live on today. With The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford restores the queens’ missing chapter to the annals of history.

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is $1.99! This is a YA novel with some science fiction elements. Redheadedgirl did a Lightning Review for it and the book earned a B+:

I recommend this for anyone looking for fun adventure stories that invert a lot of destiny-romance expectations.

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s bodacious transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn.

This epic YA debut draws from Chinese folklore, features a larger-than-life heroine, and perfectly balances the realities of Genie’s grounded high school life with the absurd supernatural world she finds herself commanding.

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C The Plastic Magician

by Charlie Holmberg
May 15, 2018 · 47North
Science Fiction/Fantasy

I read this book in two days, partly because I remain very charmed by the world in which it is set, but also in part because the story itself speeds along from scene to scene, so it’s easy to read quickly. But that speed comes at the expense of emotional depth for the characters. I’m along for the ride happily, but I recognize what I’m missing.

I love the world, the magical system of this universe. There are specific types of magic, including Folding, or paper magic, and a new form, Polymaking, which is magical manipulation of plastic. People who train in the magical academies choose a speciality, bond with that material once they have been apprenticed to a magician who practices that same art, and then practice that form of magic until they retire.

In the first book (I skipped books 2 and 3 – yes, I know, I’m an irresponsible rebel and half of you are horrified. I’m sorry) the heroine, Ceony, apprentices to a paper magician named Thane. In this book, the fourth in the series, Alvie Brechenmacher has chosen plastic magic because it is the newest and there is the most to discover. (I also must admit that I had to look up her name because despite finishing this book a day ago, I couldn’t remember it at all.) Alvie is apprenticed from the US to a magician outside London, a married man who is a star among the Polymaking magicians. Unlike Ceony’s slowly building attraction to Thane, there is no romantic relationship between Alvie and Magician Praff.

As I made notes for this review, I realized that I had I built more into the emotional world of the characters than was present in the text. It reminds me a little of the old Sunfire romances, where a love triangle happens to a heroine set against the backdrop of a major historical event. Often with Sunfire historicals, the historical event or setting is the major point, and the characters take second billing to whatever was happening. To be fair, in the case of some Sunfires, like Jennie, which was about the Johnstown Flood of 1889, a LOT was happening. But the history was the main point, and with this book, for me, the world in which the book is set was increasingly more interesting than the characters I was reading about within it.

Alvie’s apprenticeship begins at a rapid pace: she gets to work learning different spells, and she volunteers at a hospital where she meets a young woman who, following an accident, has had her hand amputated. Alvie, who is pretty focused on inventing a spell or inventing a new form of Polymaking, has the idea to build a functional prosthetic for her out of magical plastic. Inspired by her idea, Praff and Alvie begin work on it, obsessively experimenting at all hours, ignoring food and sleep, pursuing their next big discovery. Both Alvie and Praff are intensely cerebral people who focus on minute details and manage complex math and experimental ideas in their heads with ease. They’re a very good fit, and again, entirely platonic (thank heaven). Alvie’s romance is with Bennet, another young apprentice, a man who is becoming a Folder. He is apprenticed to a cranky, strict magician who doesn’t let Bennet have much freedom, but does sometimes allow him to borrow his Mercedes Benz. Alvie’s courtship with Bennet is perfunctory, lukewarm, and uneventful for the most part. This wasn’t a problem for me because I knew this was a fantasy story and not a romance per se.

But even within the boundaries of the fantasy genre, I was largely dissatisfied by the story itself.  Characters move through the plot as needed, appearing and disappearing after their purpose has been fulfilled. For example, Alvie is worried about leaving her parents behind in Ohio, but doesn’t mention them or think about them until it is time to journey home (through magic mirrors – I’d read a whole book about the mirror travel) at which point she mentions missing them and talking to them through poor mirror connections. The most interesting aspect of her parents as characters is the influence of her father on Alvie’s ambition. Alvie’s father is an inventor who co-created the lightbulb (but let Edison take the credit) and Alvie comes by her inventiveness from her father. But because she is fluent in both worlds, she also has a tremendous respect for technology and nonmagical invention, something that a lot of magician and magician-adjacent folks lack. Her appreciation of magical and nonmagical invention was one of the most endearing things about her.

Otherwise, everyone was shallowly drawn. The characters were mostly sketches wandering around a more developed, fascinating world. I didn’t feel a great deal of emotional engagement or connection with anyone, though I did admire the heroine’s impressively fierce and unapologetically ambitious intellect.

There is a mystery to be solved as to who might be sabotaging Praff and Alvie’s work, and who might be breaking into Polymaker laboratories and stealing things. The limited number of characters meant that anyone who appeared past the midpoint of the book was there for a scene to operate as an accessory to the plot. That limited cast also meant that the villain who is causing trouble for the Polymakers is pretty obvious from the start, and their motivations are revealed to be petty and mostly ego based, and therefore rather unsatisfying. The actions seem much too severe and weighty for the expressed motivation behind them.

The use of magic to build a prosthetic arm was very interesting, but the ways in which Ethel (Bennet’s sister) would use said prosthetic are very underdeveloped. She too showed up when necessary to provide feedback and a purpose to Alvie’s experiments. I also wasn’t sure how exactly the magical arm worked, and what Ethel did to make it move on her command. I do know she was delighted with it, and its invention sealed both Alvie and Praff’s reputations as major players in the limited world of the plastic magicians. I also felt that Ethel’s presence was tinged with the Inspirationally Disadvantaged trope, as if her role in the story was mostly as purpose-driven inspiration for Alvie.

There are little elements of the world that I found so charming and interesting, and wished there had been more about them. The magical mirrors used for transportation and long distance communication, as I mentioned, and also the Mimic spell. Folders can enchant paper and one manner in which Folders cam communicate long distance is to place a Mimic spell on a paper and rip it in half. Whoever has one half can write on their sheet, and the person who has the other half will see their writing appear in real time:

At one point they were discussing English dog breeds when a few drops of water from Alvie’s hair pattered against the page. They must have shown up on Bennet’s end, since he asked, Alvie, are you crying? 

Oh no, she’d replied. Just got out of the bath.

To which he was silent for several minutes until Alvie asked, “Isn’t there a town called Bath over there? And he went on to describe it. 

Instant penpal paper and a hint of sexual tension? Yes, please! Alas, there is not much more of the Mimic paper, and even less of the tension. But like the mirrors, I could read a massive book about the uses of Mimic-spelled paper.

The story isn’t the part I’m still thinking about now that I’ve finished the book. I really like the magical world this series is set within, and I like that magic and nonmagic inventions exist together, and that magical and nonmagical people coexist, too. I wish the stories of the people within this book had been as compelling.

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I’m so excited for this Rec League because this is my catnip. Thank you to Willamae for sending this in!

So you all might have covered this in the past (in which case, sorry for the repeat) but I was reading the Duke Who Knew Too Much after it came up in a books on sale list this week, and I was wondering, are there any historical romances (that aren’t full on erotica) that feature heroines who are the dominant one in a D/s relationship?

I just realized that I’ve NEVER read that, and I’d like to. I’d especially love it if it has the whole “virgin heroine awakening” thing, but she’s awakened to being sexually dominant.

Is this out there? You’ve recommended great books to me in the past so I figured I’d ask about this too. Thank you!

Elyse: Devil’s Submission by Nicola Davidson


A | BN | K | iB
Regency married couple, hero cant articulate his needs, they become estranged, etc.

Amanda: Unfortunately, all of the ones I know of are contemporary.

There was a Cherise Sinclair – Servicing the Target, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it. I felt like the heroine sacrificed her “Domme-ness.” There’s also Giving it Up by Audra North, which was disappointing as well. I’m very picky.

SIGH.

Sarah: Del Dryden’s book 3 – The Principle of Desire ( A | BN | K | G | iB | Au ) – has switch heroine who’s a Domme in the book and if you’re interested in nonfiction

Joey Hill’s Natural Law ( A | BN | K | iB ) was the fist BDSM book I read and spoiled me terribly. The ending to the mystery is ridiculous but Violet is The Shit.

Are there any Dommes in historical romances you love? What about Dommes in general?

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At a breakfast this morning at the 2018 RomanticTimes BookLovers Convention, Kathryn Falk and her husband Ken Rubin announced that they are retiring, and that this year is the last year for the RT Convention. While there had been rumors before the announcement, her words, delivered at the end of a farewell speech that focused on what she would be doing next, were met with gasps and audible shock.

Shortly afterward, the following email went out to RT Subscribers and newsletter members announcing that the convention as well as the RT Magazine online and the RT VIP Lounge would all be closing effective immediately:

Dear Loyal RT Family,

After 37 years of serving the book community with news and reviews, Romantic Times, aka RT Book Reviews, the RT VIP Salon and the RT Booklovers Convention will be retiring effective immediately.

We’ll keep the website live for about a year so that you can still access previous blogs, reviews, award nominees and winners, but there won’t be any new content on the website moving forward. After a year we will take down the website.

Many of you have been with us from the first issue and stood with us throughout the many transitions and transformations we’ve encountered and we thank you all for your loyal support over the years.

I am very proud of what we have accomplished with RT’s magazine, website and the RT Booklovers Convention — and the great service we’ve provided for authors, publishers and readers. I’m proud of the contributions we’ve made within the book industry and proud of our place in the expansion and evolution of the romance genre.

It has truly taken a village to bring you the magazine and conventions over the years, and I want to thank all of our reviewers, the heart of RT — more than 200 over the years! — for your dedication and loyalty to RT and its readers. I especially want to thank our senior reviewers Kathe Robin and Jill Smith whose decades of service and love of books helped shape our industry. And thank you to Melinda Helfer, who passed away in 2000, for her love of romance novels, the authors and her incomparable contribution to RT.

I also want to thank the many editorial teams over the years whose dedication, talent, professionalism and love for the books and authors made it a pleasure (and fun) to work together.

Thank you to my current editorial and web staff Emily Walton, Kristin Stec and Alyssa Duspiva. I especially want to thank Elissa Petruzzi, YA senior editor, web editor and romance expert, who stuck with us through dating, engagement, marriage, two kids and a move out of New York. Now that’s dedication!

Thank you to Jo Carol Jones, and the entire convention team for your dedication to the RT Booklovers Convention — the book lover event of the year. I wish you all the very best in whatever you do. And thank you to our convention coordinator, Tere Michaels, for organizing fantastic workshops, managing agent/editor appointments and so much more.

The reviewers may be heart of RT, but Nancy Collazo, our office manager, is the soul! She has been our “fixer” for many years. She kept the minutia of running the company on track with all of the non-sexy responsibilities no one else knew how to do. THANK YOU NANCY, I will miss you most of all. And thank you to Giselle Hirtenfeld/Goldfeder, our advertising guru and RT Review Source manager for your insight and loyalty to RT throughout the years. Her twins were eight months old when she started and now they are in college! And thank you to Kate Ryan for your friendship, love and dedication to the independent booksellers and librarians. You have made a huge difference in our community!

And a HUGE THANK YOU to our subscribers, followers — our fans — without whom none of this would have been possible.

And last but not least THANK YOU to founder and friend Kathryn Falk for shaping the romance genre with your creative vision, fearless leadership and boundless support of authors. We are all grateful for the memories and the many Romantic Times! It’s been quite a ride!

Sincerely,

Carol Stacy
Publisher & RT Convention Executive

Photo courtesy of Janna MacGregor

Note that while the email says that the RT site will come down after “a year,” with no specific end date, Kathryn Falk said at the breakfast that the site would come down at the end of this month. My guess is that the site will go dark probably closer to a year from now, but I haven’t received confirmation of the specific date that will occur. (I’ll update if I do.)

No mention was made regarding the new 2019 BookLovers Convention, which will be run by current RT Convention coordinator Jo Carol Jones. BookLovers Con will be held in New Orleans, May 15-19 2019.

The shock was evident in the reactions on Twitter and at the conference. W Falk asked those who had attended very RT Convention over its 37-year history, as well as those who had attended 10+ year, and those who traveled from Australia and the UK to stand to be acknowledged, the reaction here at the convention and online has been a mix of surprise and dismay.

Kathryn Falk the founder of @RT_Magazine & @RT_Convention just announced she’s shutting down RT. #rt18 “I hope you’ll all start regional conventions and signings with interesting names.” pic.twitter.com/YkVlnaTMzZ

— Cecilia Tan (@ceciliatan) May 16, 2018

Sad @RT_Magazine is closing and that #RT18 will be the last. RT gave me a badly needed boost just when I needed it and I’ll never forget the amazing people who worked there. I wish you all great things!

— Alisha Rai (@AlishaRai) May 16, 2018

After 37 years, RT Book Reviews is closing it’s doors. To say I’m sad would be an understatement. I loved my job & I adore Romancelandia & all its wonderful inhabitants. But I’m excited to begin a new chapter. This isn’t goodbye from me Romancelandia, it’s see you later #RT18

— Kristin Stec (@KtheKoordinator) May 16, 2018

We wish RT a fond farewell. Today is truly the end of an era. RT Magazine and the RT Convention have uplifted the romance genre for so many years, and we thank them for their service to the romance community. https://t.co/12hCJAgFqN

— RWA (@romancewriters) May 16, 2018

For me, the announcement is a bittersweet. I’m having mixed reactions to selection in this year’s conference schedule, which is frustrating, but since the first RT I attended in Pittsburgh, I’ve looked forward to it. Pittsburgh was particularly memorable because it’s my hometown, and it was the site of probably the worst conference hotel situation I’ve ever encountered. The construction wasn’t done, dust sent many people with asthma to Mercy Hospital, and the hotel was not at all prepared to host the convention – but I had a fantastic and bizarre time. That was back in the days of the Mr. Romance Pageant, which we called the “mangeant.” Ah, memories.

The closing of the magazine as a review publication and a resource for librarians makes me sad, because I know that it means people are losing their jobs, and that people who rely on the publication online to build book shopping lists and acquisition lists will have to find that information elsewhere – and a single resource to collate all the publication announcements will be hard to locate.

I am looking forward to learning more about the BookLovers Convention in 2019, too.

Do you have a favorite RT memory? What’s your reaction to this news? 

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Happy Wednesday! Most of the SBTB is currently at RT in Reno. If you’re here (or there), we hope you can say hi to us. We’ll even be carrying some sticker swag if you happen to corner us.

REMINDER: SBTB will be doing a live taping of the podcast on Thursday, 5/17 at 5:30pm local time. Unfortunately, we won’t be doing a Reader Recommendation party this year, but we hope you can make it out to see Elyse and I compete in a Family Feud-style romance competition.

Need more lesbian and queer romance in your life? Please check out the Sapphic Book Club on Tumblr. We hope you find a new, great read.

I found this profile of a veterinarian to the pets of Emirati royalty to be utterly fascinating. The animal photos are also a great bonus:

An animal lover since birth, Dr. Stewart did stints in Namibia and Hawaii before ending up in the UAE. She says she was shocked to see pet hyena cubs when she first arrived but now considers them totally routine (“They’re regional!”). Most of the exotic pets she treats at the hospital are actually exorbitant gifts. “It’s the equivalent of champagne or a fancy car; it’s something that wasn’t cheap, which very few people have,” she explains. “It’s also very bad in Arab culture to give away a gift. You have to keep it to say thanks, but it’s not like you chose it.” This gives her work extra urgency. “My job is just to give the animals as much as I can physically provide for them.”

I would love to see this as a character in a romance novel.

Big congratulations to author Tracey Livesay! Her book Love on My Mind has been selected to represent Virginia in Route One Reads. Do check out all of Route One Reads! I believe they’re focusing on romance and I’m very curious to see what you think of the entire collection.

Love chocolate? I learned so much during this taste test of cheap vs. expensive chocolate! They also have similar videos for meat and cheese. And yes, I’ve watched all of them.

Chocolate Expert Guesses Cheap vs. Expensive Chocolate | Price Points | Epicurious - YouTube

Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!

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