Friday, September 15, 2017

To Be Read Pile: An Unnatural Vice - K J Charles

In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.

Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.

Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.

But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.

Best Line:  Justin patted her thin fingers soothingly. There, there. You saved for two years to look for your lost children, and you’re spending the money on a spiritualist instead of a private detective. You hopeless, soggy mopstick. There, there

Okay, so, confession time. I love con men stories. Always have. A story about a fraudster pretending to be a seer set against the backdrop of a Victorian romp was always going to tick every single box I have. This was a rollicking, breathless adventure I read in a day and still can't stop bothering people about.

Nathanial is a bit of a prat who needs to get his righteous rage on to feel good about himself. Justin is a morally corrupt scallywag and between the two of them the sass is at critical levels. Some of the dialogue in this is just superb.

This is the second book but I had no troubles getting into it. The series follows different couples whose stories overlap and, to be honest, I think that if I hadn't started with this I wouldn'tve continued. The first book takes a little while to get going before it becomes good while this launches straight into sizzling tension and tight pacing.

Also, big cheers to the amount of inclusivity on show in this series. Far from the standard 'Everyone in Victorian England was made of bland mayonnaise', Charles' world includes POC, disabled people, autistic people, some gender fluidity and a gay club run by a trans woman. It's refreshing and a HEAP of fun.

If you like your queer romance with cracking dialogue, tight plotting and witty conmen, this is the book for you.

Get it here

Monday, September 11, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Donate

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our seventh post is: DONATE

There are lots of ways to give back to our community and one of them is donating. You don’t have to donate money, you can also donate time and things. So no matter who you are or what your situation is, you CAN donate something to your community.

People who commit regular acts of charity are, statistically speaking, happier, healthier and more social than people who don’t. However it is a little chicken or egg, are happy, healthy, more social people naturally more inclined to charity or does giving back to other people make you happier, healthier and more social?

I am inclined to say it works both ways. I, personally, have found I am a lot happier now than I was before and I came into charity grudgingly, almost against my will. Now I love it and the sense of satisfaction is reward in itself.

Give it a go and maybe you will reap the same benefits I did.

Donate Stuff:

If you are anything like me, you have a heap of ‘stuff’ you don’t need. Furniture, old toys, books, cutlery, tools, old computers. Just a lifetime of things that have been replaced or no longer needed. You may automatically think these should just be given to charity, but there are other ways to donate stuff that might be more rewarding. Animal shelters often need more towels, blankets, leads, collars, bowls, tupperware and other pet related things you may not need.

ESL classes, hospitals, school libraries, women’s shelters, etc may need books. There are a few charities that are specifically seeking to ship books to refugees and disadvantaged communities.

The same goes for your old prescription glasses, phones and some other odd things you would never even consider.

Unwanted clothes could go to charity stores, but they could also be used by fashion students, disaster relief agencies, or again, to animal shelters, depending on the fabric. (However the global fashion waste is HUGE, so as much as possible, cut down on buying new clothes and focus on having a small wardrobe of versatile, good quality items you can wear for years.)

If you have a garden, your excess seedlings and pups could go to schools or community gardens. Even just offering them for free collection on online sale sites can be a great way to give back to the community. If your garden or chickens produce a lot of excess and you have run out of friends and neighbors who want any, look up soup kitchens and community food pantries.

Donate Money:

I’m a Christian and I believe strongly in tithing. The first 10% of my income goes to charity. However as I am also passionate about conservation, and I don’t always think churches use their funds for the best possible causes, my tithing is done to no kill animal rescue shelters. I can’t think of a more godly, noble pursuit than dedicating your life to the care and rescue of animals.

You don’t have to call it tithing, or even make it ten percent of your income. However if you are a minimalist, you have extra income, and you are time poor, donating money to charities you believe in is a fantastic way to make a real, genuine difference to your community and the lives of people or animals who need you.

I recommend putting a little time into researching the charities you are donating to. Make sure you know their values—some of the better known religious affiliated charities are homophobic, transphobic or even racist.

I choose local, privately run charities that I can visit, that regularly update on a blog or facebook and that don’t pay for advertising. I can go out and visit them and I can see where my money is going. Usually directly into the feeding and medical care of animals.

Donate Time:

Time is money and if you can donate time and even your expertise to charities, that’s just as good as money. Maybe you don’t feel like you have the skills to help out at the charities you are passionate about. Maybe you want to help at a women’s shelter, but they prefer not to have men on the grounds. Or maybe you want to help a cat shelter, but you are severely allergic to cats. You can donate time in other ways. If, for example, you are a gardener, you can offer to donate your time to a raffle and make one of the prizes 20 hours of yard work. Maybe you have a van and can help make deliveries and pickups for a charity. Maybe you can cook for a soup kitchen or offer your time at an ESL class for refugees.

Decide what you are passionate about, and find as many charities in your area that cater to that passion, and email them with your details, skills, experience and availability. Ask if you can go and meet them and ask what areas they need help in.

All of these things really can make a positive difference in people’s (or animal’s) lives. Regardless of who you are, you can make a difference. And you will be glad you did.