During NaNo, when I was reading but not reviewing, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Read My Mind by Kelly Haworth. A little outside my usual genres, it’s a paranormal LGBTQ romance, the first in a series. The characters and the world-building are wonderful. Full disclosure, Kelly is a friend of mine, but that’s not why I liked the book!
Set in an alternate Earth, Kelly’s world features a pantheon of gods who have gifted humans (some of them) with a variety of magical abilities, like healing or telekinesis. The story centers around Scott and Nick, incoming freshmen at the University of Frannesburg (think alternate San Francisco). Scott is devoutly religious, while Nick, a telekinetic, is much more interested in the pop culture, comic book and action figure version of the gods. The two begin sparking while negotiating exploring each other’s different experiences of the gods. When Scott unexpectedly develops telepathy, it creates rifts in his family, while Nick struggles with grieving his mother and dealing with a distant relationship with his father–all problems that interfere with their growing romance.
I loved the world-building in here. I’m fascinated by Kelly’s created religion, and I love the way it’s involved in the plot and the characters’ lives. Although this is the first published in the series, Kelly actually wrote another volume first, but decided this was a better introduction and I think that was a great choice. Because Scott and Nick are each learning from the other about different aspects of the gods, the reader gets to learn too in an organic way. I also love the way they handle learning from each other–though it seems like an obvious conflict, they approach each other with mutual respect and openness which was just lovely.
The magical elements are also great and so woven into the characters’ world. In some fantasy worlds, magic is very rare or hidden, but here it’s extremely common and accepted–mostly. There’s some underlying tension because not everyone accepts magic as a positive thing, but most people we interact with find it totally normal, and I really enjoy seeing magic as part of daily life that isn’t that different from our own lives.
Nick is totally familiar with his magic and uses telekinesis like an extra hand (or two). Scott, meanwhile, is completely thrown to develop telepathy (later than most people do) and struggles with this new ability. I especially liked the obvious challenges that still don’t seem to come up that often, as Scott struggles to hide his own thoughts, and to block out the thoughts of others. There are some wonderful scenes from Scott’s point of view as he deals with a loud and sometimes awkward cacophony of thoughts around him.
I also liked the way religion and prayer was woven into Scott’s life in a way that felt very familiar, even though its a fictional religion. Nick especially struggles with faith, or the lack of it, in the wake of his mother’s death. This felt incredibly real. And this is exactly how the best fantasy should be–they’re talking fantasy gods, yes, but people are still people.
The romance felt pretty real too, at least as far as I can say from my heterosexual perspective! Since I review a lot of Young Adult and this looks a little like that (college students!) I should probably give a remark that there are some sex scenes in here. Also explicit language, although from what I remember of my college campus, that was quite real too.
This is the first in a series that I’m looking forward to continuing to read. First books in a series always benefit from publicity, so if you’re willing to check it out and spread the word, I know it would be appreciated. That request is because Kelly’s a friend (who didn’t ask me for this review, by the way), but my recommendation is unbiased! 🙂
Buy it here: Read My Mind
Author’s Site: http://kellyhaworth.com/