I try to wait until the clock strikes midnight on Dec 31 before naming my favourite books of the year, on the off chance I come across a gem in the last two weeks of the year. Which isn’t such an impossibility because it’s the holidays, and I get time to laze around and read. Bliss.
And this time? Totally vindicated in my delay, as I have read, not one, but two books which left me with a big smile on my face.
I’ve been stingy with the A grades* these year. What I consider to be an A read is pretty hard for me to define. It’s one where the reading experience doesn’t end with the final page; it’s captured my imagination to the extent I’m thinking about the characters and their story at random intervals throughout the day. One where I have to go back and re-read certain passages just because. Umm… maybe one that inspires me to actually blog about it? Because my delight in these books needs to be shared.
The first is Kristin Cashore’s “Fire”. I can almost hear the chorus of I-told-you-so’s mingled with the what-took-you-so-long’s. Mea culpa. I enjoyed Ms Cashore’s debut novel “Graceling”, but the blurb for “Fire” didn’t quite appeal. I mean, a heroine named Fire? Who just happens to be irresistibly beautiful? Who can control minds? Did someone just say Mary Sue?
And I loved. So much so that I’m struggling to actually figure out why. You know when a story just hits all the right buttons for you? “Fire” was one such story for me. It’s such a magical, imaginative world, and the characters so beautifully drawn, even the secondary characters. Most of the book is seen through Fire’s eyes, and I was with her every step of the way. The word “strong” is perhaps overused when talking about female heroines in fantasy, but I don’t think there’s any other way to describe Fire. She grows up, she takes tough decisions, and she deals with the aftermath.
The romance is wonderfully subtle and sweet, without verging on the saccharine (and I think I’ve developed a thing for heroes with grey eyes). Also, it’s one of the books where a plot twist comes up, and you think “oh, very neatly done”. And you just have to applaud the author.
Kristin Cashore now is very much on my must-read-immediately list, no matter what she writes.
Moving on to my next book, I pretty much bought and read it as soon as it hit the (virtual) shelves: Josh Lanyon’s “The Dark Tide”, the conclusion to the Adrien English mystery series.
After dipping my toe into the m/m romance genre last year, I glommed the whole of Josh Lanyon’s backlist – his writing gets me every time. Not just the way he effortlessly sets the scene and sketches in the details, but also how he turns his characters into real people who you root for and want to get their HEA. And none more so than Adrien English and Jake Riordan in this series.
Adrien’s a mystery bookstore owner, who, in the past four books, has been involved in several murders (innocent bystander, mind), nearly killed himself, and is now recovering from heart surgery. And Jake? A newly ex-police detective who’s been forced out of the closet, resigned from the force and gotten divorced. A bit of a toss-up really, as to who has had it worse over the course of the series. And I’ve not even touched on their yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t relationship, which is full of angst and oh, so much history.
Reading the final book in a series you have absolutely loved is one of those bittersweet things, and I soaked up every last page of the “The Dark Tide”. It was completely satisfying, seeing Adrien work out what he wanted (really slowly and painfully as only Adrien can), and dealing with a very different Jake to the one we met in the first book (“Fatal Shadows”) way back when.
This is turning into a massively long post (I was only going to do a couple of paragraphs on both books – hah!), and I’m going to cheat and link to Mandi’s review at Smexy Books, because she says everything I wanted to say about “The Dark Tide”, and more.
Two more days of 2009 to go, and I’m wondering what other hidden gems are there in my TBR pile.
* Probably more to come on my grading system and possible changes. At some point. The New Year would probably be a good time to make changes, huh?