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Strange Love by Ann Aguirre

Alien in a black exoskeleton against a blurry sci-fi cityscape in purples and blues and redsWhy I read it:  I am a subscriber to Ann Aguirre’s newsletter. Even though I received this in serial format, I wanted to wait to read the whole thing because I’m like that. So I bought it. It seems to be Amazon only at this point.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  He’s awkward. He’s adorable. He’s alien as hell.

Zylar of Kith B’alak is a four-time loser in the annual Choosing. If he fails to find a nest guardian this time, he’ll lose his chance to have a mate for all time. Desperation drives him to try a matching service but due to a freak solar flare and a severely malfunctioning ship AI, things go way off course. This ‘human being’ is not the Tiralan match he was looking for.

She’s frazzled. She’s fierce. She’s from St. Louis.

Beryl Bowman’s mother always said she’d never get married. She should have added a rider about the husband being human. Who would have ever thought that working at the Sunshine Angel daycare center would offer such interstellar prestige? She doesn’t know what the hell’s going on, but a new life awaits on Barath Colony, where she can have any alien bachelor she wants.

They agree to join the Choosing together, but love is about to get seriously strange.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This was such a fun book! Zylar is a very beta hero – his chitin (he’s a kind of insectoid alien so has what I imagine to be a thick outer shell like a cockroach’s but stronger?) might be hard but inside he’s all marshmallow. He has low self-esteem because he’s not very attractive. Barathi are prized for their colours and Zylar is a dull brown and he doesn’t stand out in a crowd. He has also always been outshone by his nest-mate (aka sibling) Ryzven (who is an asshole). It is not ever made clear just why Ryzven hated Zylar so much and that is one of my few criticisms of the story.

Claimings series by Lyn Gala

Claimings, Tails and other Alien ArtifactsWhy I read them:  A number of people have recommended these books to me – most recently Sirius from Dear Author.

CLAIMINGS, TAILS AND OTHER ALIEN ARTIFACTS

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Liam loves his life as a linguist and trader on the Rownt homeworld, but he has ignored his heart and sexual needs for years. He won’t risk letting anyone come too close because he won’t risk letting anyone see his deeply submissive nature. For him, submission comes with pain. Life burned that lesson into his soul from a young age. This fear keeps him from noticing that the Rownt trader Ondry cares for him.

Ondry may not understand humans, but he recognizes a wounded soul, and his need to protect Liam is quickly outpacing his common sense. They may have laws, culture, and incompatible genitalia in their way, but Ondry knows that he can find a way to overcome all that if he can just overcome the ghosts of Liam’s past. Only then can he take possession of a man he has grown to love.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This first book is a lot shorter than the other two in the series (so far – dare I hope for another?), at less than a hundred pages (the second book is the longest and the third is in between). I was impressed with the world building Gala was able to portray in a short word count and fascinated by the Rownt and the way they think. I love the way she used the Rownt to examine some things about people which are weird or don’t make sense and, seeing these things from an outsider point of view was deeply interesting. In particular, the way Dominance and submission is portrayed here is unique and quite charming.

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