Discussion: Trigger Warnings for books

Please be aware I am mentioning self-harm, eating disorders, suicide and rape in this discussion.

Before I start, I’d like to cite a basic definition of triggers copied from psychcentral:

A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

But a trigger can not only bring someone back in time and make them, for example relive their rape again. It can also trigger a person to engage in a current or former self-harming behaviour. Reading about how relieving it is to put a knife to your arm? So not good on a day on which you’re already struggling with cutting.

A character laments how worthless their life is and how there is absolutely no hope of it ever changing, so it would be best to commit suicide and be done with it. That could be the reason a reader does the same.

One could say: “Then stop reading triggering shit!” That’s easier said then done. I don’t want to know how many m/f romance books I have read, in which the main character was or even is raped. That’s like a trope in m/f romance, somehow? Maybe even one of the tropes…

I’m not saying no mentally ill characters are allowed. I want mentally ill characters (as well as characters with physical illnesses, disabilities etc.) and I don’t want them to be romanticized either (that’s another discussion altogether, so I’ll stop here).

I just don’t understand why there aren’t trigger warnings on books. Just put it under the description for example. It won’t prevent people from buying said book (maybe a few, but they wouldn’t enjoy it, I’d say). They just know if it will be good for their mental health or not. No bad surprises anymore. And by the way, a lot of readers are especially looking for books with mentally ill characters – sometimes with their illness as a main story line and sometimes as a character trait.

I have read quite a lot of fanfiction in my life and trigger warnings are a given. On some days I’ve got no problem with Tony Stark having an Eating Disorder, maybe it’ll even help because I can see myself in him and experience his happy end with him (if there is a happy end of course). On others? Worst thing I could do.Thanks to a trigger warning I can consent to reading about these things.

Let’s say warnings are established. What should one warn their readers of? The ‘big ones’. Even though different people are triggered by different things, because we’re all individuals. Technically everything can be a trigger. But I don’t think that would be doable. Putting a trigger for every thing happening is spoilering as well.

I do think we can agree that at least mental illnesses and their possible consequences, sexual assault and queerphobia/LGBTQIA+phobia should get a trigger warning. But until then I am happy to answer questions about possible triggers in books I have reviewed. Even if you’re worried about an uncommon trigger. I can do a Kindle search if I am unsure (probably only with at least 3.5 ratings, because I don’t keep books I didn’t enjoy…) .

Do you think trigger warnings are needed?

Which triggers warnings would you use if you were an author? Or use, if you are an author.

What do you think about trigger warnings?



Review: Ball caps and khakis by Jo Ramsey

 Series: Deep secrets and hope (book 6, can be read as a standalone)

Genre: LGBT (gay characters, ace character), YA

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Cover: I can see the characters in the models

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: rape, attempted suicide mention

Description: Man-Shik “Manny” Park, grandson of strict Korean immigrants, is trying to protect his friend Jim Frankel from bullies who don’t think Jim should be allowed to live in Ludington, Michigan, let alone have any friends. Manny is determined to stand by Jim, even if Jim isn’t willing to defend himself. But Jim’s problems aren’t the only ones facing Manny. Against his parents’ wishes, Manny yearns to be an artist. He’s also more attracted to guys than girls, and he’s asexual. Only Jim knows these secrets, and Manny knows a few of Jim’s too. Bonded by their shared confidences, Manny supports Jim after he’s accused of sending explicit Facebook messages to middle school girls, including Manny’s sister. While Manny sets out to prove Jim’s innocence, things go from bad to worse. Soon after the incident, Manny and Jim receive intimidating messages, and Jim is put in danger. To help his friend, Manny risks everything to try to learn who’s behind the threats and why they want to destroy Jim’s life.

Review: Brace yourself for some heavy themes. This book deals with different forms of rape and thoughts about consent issues. And I really like how it deals with it. It is totally appropriate and understandable for a young adult. Important to know and think about, too, if you ask me.

There are no explicit details, neither of the rape, that happened in the past, nor about the messages. Those are mostly talked about without actually quoting them.

It was easy to like Manny, his parents were realistic in their concerns and nearly perfect in their reactions to Manny being homoromantic and asexual (yay! by the way). It was hard not to like Jim as well.

There are other books in this series and each seems to focus on a different character. Apparently the fifth book is about Jim’s story/his past and there were a few references to things happening in it, but I never felt lost or like I missed anything.

Sadly the ending was a little bit rushed, otherwise Ball caps and khakis would have been a definitive 5 stars read!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Review: Captive Prince by C. S. Pacat

 Series: Captive Prince (book 1)

Genre: LGBT (m/m), Romance, Historical

Rating: 5/5 stars

Cover: I like how calm it is.

Buy: on Amazon.com* / on Amazon.de*

Trigger warnings: rape mentions

Description: Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

Review: Before you start reading make sure, you won’t have to interrupt to do things. I was hooked from page one and never bored.

I love how slow building the romance is. Get captured, see Laurent, fall in love, sex? Nope. Not here.

There isn’t really happening that much, instead the things that are happening get a lot of attention and are very detailed. One of the reasons why I was able to feel and think with Damen.

There is a lot of sexual action mentioned, but you don’t drown in it. You do drown in the story – or at least I did. The author paints a vivid picture of the characters and their world, something I don’t read often. Usually it’s either or, or nothing at all.

It’s only february, but I know Captive Prince will be featured on my best books I’ve read in 2016 list. If I publish one, that is. But probably I will.

Review: Hunter of Demons by Jordan L. Hawk

 Series: Spectr (book 1)

Genre: LGBT (m/m), (urban) Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars

Cover: Powerful

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: none

Description: Unregistered paranormal Caleb Jansen only wants a normal life. But when a demon murders his brother, Caleb knows he has to avenge Ben’s death, no matter what the cost. Unfortunately, his only allies belong to an extremist group who would kill Caleb if they found out about his talent.

Gray is a wandering spirit, summoned to hunt and destroy demons by drinking their blood. This hunt goes horribly wrong, and for the first time in his existence Gray is trapped in a living, human body. Caleb’s body…and Caleb is still in it.

Hotshot federal agent John Starkweather thinks he’s seen it all. But when he’s called to exorcise Caleb, he finds a creature which isn’t supposed to exist outside of stories. For Gray is a drakul: a vampire.

Having spent his life avoiding the government as an unregistered ‘mal, Caleb can’t let himself trust a federal exorcist, no matter how sexy. And he certainly isn’t going to give into the heat growing between them and sleep with Starkweather.

Can Starkweather win Caleb’s trust and convince him he isn’t the enemy? Can Caleb keep Gray under control, as the drakul experiences the temptation of a living body for the first time?

Because if he fails and Gray gives in to bloodlust, Starkweather will have no choice but to kill them both.

Review: Finally a vampire story with a different sort of vampire!

Gray isn’t your usual bloodsucking, gorgeous vampire – instead he ‘lives’ in dead bodies and eats the souls of demons. Usually. Now he has to live in the background while our MC Caleb manages ‘their’ body. But Gray is always present and their dialogues are very real and funny. I love how innocent Gray is (and I love Gray himself, if you haven’t already noticed). John is a likeable character, too and I hope we get to read more about him in the next books.

The world building is promising and the writing style easily readable. Need more convincing? Currently you can get it for free (Amazon or ARe).

Review: A turbulent affair by Sarah Doebereiner

 Series: Standalone

Genre: LGBT (f/f), Erotica

Rating: dnf at 57%

Cover: I’m not sure about the black border, but it sure grabs your attention

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: self-harm, violence

Description: They each have a secret that could destroy their relationship…

Crystal and Sylvia are best friends, each the only one the other one trusts. But they each have a dark secret, and neither one knows how to tell the other. Crystal’s secret is that she’s gay and strongly attracted to Sylvia. She wants more than friendship, but she’s afraid to destroy what they already have by letting Sylvia know. And after all, friendship is better than nothing, isn’t it? But Sylvia’s secret is more sinister. It could not only destroy their friendship, it could also hurt Crystal—in more ways than one.

Review: At the beginning I was really confused, because this book starts with the aftermath and then I wasn’t sure if that was the beginning, because then there were your usual book information. And then the start of the story. But okay.

I liked how Crystal not being really comfortable is shown instead of being told. The overall writing took me a while to get used to, because it was so abrupt.

I won’t spoil the other secret, but I liked that one, because it isn’t often you get to read something like that.

So, one might ask, why I dnf-ed this book… There is an explicit self-harming scene. I don’t think I have closed a book as fast as this one before. I’ve gotta look after myself and reading something like that… nope. That scene, even though I only read the beginning, stayed with me for days. I had a feeling right before and I really wish I would have listened to my gut.

If you’re not triggered by self harm you should check this one out, because it isn’t your usual cute f/f romance and sometimes reading something different is really nice.

Disclaimer: The author provided me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Review: If I should remember by K.D. van Brunt

 Series: Standalone

Genre: YA, Mystery

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

Cover: Love the colours.

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: none

Description: Memories make us human. Are we still alive if we can’t remember?

Seventeen-year-old Zoe Laleigh has accepted that sometimes the only way to survive today is to wipe away the past. That’s what her loving parents and dedicated psychiatrist are helping her do—forget. What, she’s not entirely sure. All she knows is when an entire year of recollections goes missing, there’s definitely something wrong.

Sometimes the past isn’t so easily forgotten…

Through a flood of dreams, Zoe realizes something happened. Something terrible and tragic. Her lost year is a monster hiding in the shadow of her nightmares, taunting her, but unwilling to reveal itself. When her family relocates, she hopes a new town and new school will help her regain a sense of normalcy. If only it were that easy.

Strangely enough, only her dog, Rin, seems to understand her…

He is somehow connected to her lost year—connected to why she keeps doing things her mother calls reckless, foolish, and dangerous. And when she starts to hear voices and sees things no one else can, she is forced to question her own sanity.

The monster of her nightmares has returned, bringing with it the single question that plagues her at night…

What is there to remember?

Review: Always start with the good stuff, right? Okay… so, the idea was really interesting. A girl can’t remember a year of her life and then strange things start happening… only, not really.

This book has all your typical YA clichés. Nearly all of them, I think? Love triangle, special powers, animals and humans trust the MC even though they never do with strangers, unlike other girls, perfect at everything… you get the picture.

The writing style was okay, but not enjoyable to me because it wasn’t really flowing. But the worst was the logic. Or lack off.

For example: Zoe doesn’t eat red meat like bacon and later on she does. She doesn’t wonder why no one reacts to her dog and no person really asks why she is talking about a dog at her side. She speaks to her dog while people are there, but it is so quietly, no one hears it (sure). So much laughing without any reason to in my eyes. Why could Zoe sense certain things? And if only one year is missing, why doesn’t she know an important part of herself that you learn very early on? By the way, I can’t remember her questioning her sanity like the description tells the reader.

The mystery part was easy solvable to me, so no surprises there.  It kinda felt like there was too much stuffed into one story and therefore the main idea didn’t get the focus it would have deserved.

I really liked how the bad girl wasn’t all bad, though.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Review: The subs club by J.A. Rock

 Series: The subs club (book 1)

Genre: LGBT (m/m), Romance, Erotica

Rating: 4/5 stars

Cover: Unique

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: none

Description: A year ago, my best friend Hal died at the hands of an incompetent “dom.” So I started the Subs Club, a private blog where submissives can review doms and call out the douche bags.

A perfect example of the kind of arrogant asshole I mean? The Disciplinarian. He has a pornstache. He loves meat, stoicism, America, and real discipline. And he thinks subs exist to serve him.

But . . . not everything about him is awful. His Davy Crockett act just seems like a cover for his fear of intimacy, and part of me wants to show him it’s okay to get close to people. And, I mean, sue me, but I have fantasized about real discipline. Not role-play, but like, Dave, you’re gonna be thirty in four years and you still work in a mall; get your ass in gear or I’ll spank it.

Not that I’d ever trust anyone with that kind of control.

I’m gonna redefine “battle of wills” for the Disciplinarian. Or I’m gonna bone him. It’s hard to say.

Review: This book is really important in my eyes, because it focusses on important issues (like consent and how safe you should be) without becoming lecturing. And there are so many different kinks at least mentioned. Finally.

Sadly I wasn’t really invested in the (romantic) relationship between the two Davids. MC David doesn’t have the highest opinion of himself and that may be why I didn’t like him much (could change with the later books though!). Love interest David was an interesting character, but only as long as I could forget the moustache (personal preference, brr). Just kidding, he is interesting either way and it fits him. The D/s relationship was very interesting and kinda intense. There is definitely some sort of danger vibe behind the story.

I’m excited to read about MC David’s friends’ stories.

Review: Transformed: San Francisco by Suzanne Falter & Jack Harvey

 Series: A Charley and Eletctra Story (Book 1)

Genre: LGBT (trans* & pansexual character,lesbian character), Thriller

Rating: 4/5 stars

Cover: Not really fitting, I’d say?

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: homophobia

Description: Charley McElroy is a handsome, well-heeled travel writer and CIA informant who also happens to be an F to M transman. And he’s having a midlife crisis.

Charley gets suspended by the Agency after forgetting to pay his taxes. Only days earlier, yet another marriage proposal has been spurned. In his grief and confusion, Charley befriends Electra, a high-powered Manhattan socialite-turned-dominatrix rebuilding her life in San Francisco. Then he meets Frankie, a disgruntled lesbian police sergeant who has been demoted by the SFPD for being a whistle blower.

Together they uncover a Christian fundamentalist’s lethal plot to destroy the ‘hedonists’ of San Francisco. Yet, neither the SFPD nor the CIA will take the threat seriously due to the trio’s outsider status.

Can they get anyone to listen to them? Or are they on their own?

Find out in this funny thriller filled with San Francisco’s spectacular scenery and inimitable, quirky characters.

Review: I nearly dnf-ed this book. The beginning is so hectic and the characters seem rather random. But I read on and suddenly I was hooked. Everything comes smoothly together… well, mostly. I was confused why they get from stalker to terrorist. Maybe I read over something, but I am sure I didn’t.

Anyway, I really liked Charley’s doubts about his own body and how he helps Electra discover herself. At first I couldn’t take her seriously as a dominatrix, because in her everyday life she truly isn’t dominant (not saying you have to be), but later on the reader gets to read her in a scene and: mh, yes.

It isn’t the most intellectual read, but I was entertained. Nearly entertained enough to ignore the mistakes. There were a few repetitions (like how plastic bags are forbidden in San Francisco).

At the end of the book you learn what inspired the authors to this novel and I may be checking those books out.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Review: Change of heart by Lilliana Rose

 Series: The clockwork mysteries (book 1)

Genre: Romance, Erotica, Steampunk

Rating: 2/5 stars

Cover: Typical romance cover.

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: none

Description: Vickie wants spice in her life, but her husband George is more interested in his work as a doctor. Left alone with nothing to fill in the time, the temptation of leaving the marriage is growing.
George wants to rekindle their love but he takes his duty helping the sick seriously, especially those who can’t afford medical bills, and finds it hard to spend time with Vickie.
An outbreak of a mysterious illness threatens the ordered world of Vickie and George. George becomes ill, and Vickie is left to care for him, as well as trying to work out the cause of the sickness. To survive, Vickie needs to find a way to take charge in her world.

Review: This novella is makes a perfect read if you want some reading without having to think much. Sadly it’s a little bit clichéd.

I wouldn’t call it an erotic read, because the sex scenes are so tame… there is ‘worse’ in romance books. Speaking of erotica… I was a little bit confused, why Vicky is missing sex but not companionship with her husband. That was one of the reasons, why I couldn’t get into her head and into the relationship. Vicky seemed rather immature and selfish t be honest.

The mystery part could have been very interesting – mystery illness that can kill you really fast – but sadly it doesn’t get enough attention. The illness more of a side concept and way too easily solved. More details and way more focus on the mystery part and I would have overlooked the boring romance.

There were some mistakes in my copy and editing is seriously needed.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Review: Clockwork Heart by Heidi Cullinan

 Series: Clockwork Love (book 1)

Genre: LGBT (m/m, m/m/m, f/f), Romance, Steampunk, Historical

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Cover: I really like it.

Buy: Amazon

Trigger warnings: drugs

Description: Love, adventure and a steaming good time.

As the French army leader’s bastard son, Cornelius Stevens enjoys a great deal of latitude. But when he saves an enemy soldier using clockwork parts, he’s well aware he risks hanging for treason. That doesn’t worry him half as much, however, as the realization he’s falling for his patient.

Johann Berger never expected to survive his regiment’s suicide attack on Calais, much less wake up with mechanical parts. To avoid discovery, he’s forced to hide in plain sight as Cornelius’s lover—a role Johann finds himself taking to surprisingly well.

When a threat is made on Cornelius’s life, Johann learns the secret of the device implanted in his chest—a mythical weapon both warring countries would kill to obtain. Caught up in a political frenzy, in league with pirates, dodging rogue spies, mobsters and princesses with deadly parasols, Cornelius and Johann have no time to contemplate how they ended up in this mess. All they know is, the only way out is together—or not at all.

Warning: Contains tinkers, excessive clockwork appendages, and a cloud-sweeping tour of Europe. A little absinthe, a little theft, a little exhibitionism. Men who love men, women who love women, and some who aren’t particular.

Review: I haven’t really read much Steampunk before, so I can’t tell you much about this aspect, but two things. I really liked how it was handled, although sometimes it was a little too easy to invent things. There are worse things, though.

I can say more about the characters. They are adorable, especially Johann. The way he and Conny handle their language problems is very realistic and fun to read. I definitely want to know more about their relationship. I want to know more about all of the side characters, too. They seem very interesting.

The story is rather complex, so of course not everything is solved in this book – since it’s book one of an installment it’s totally okay. There is no mean cliffhanger, too. Really well done this.

So, when do I get to read the next book?!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.