Two Great Reads

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.

 

41K28wvJBOL._SL160_ 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?

So despite the ever-increasing pile of glowing reviews, it took me a while to buy “Fire”, and then it languished on my TBR pile for a good couple of months before I finally picked it up yesterday.

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.

 

the_dark_tide 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?

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16 thoughts on “Two Great Reads

  1. Hmmm, I think I need to get Graceling and Fire. I’ve heard so much good stuff about them, but yeah, haven’t caved yet. Maybe soon 🙂

    Josh Lanyon!!! That is the author I need to try in 2010!! 🙂 If only they could print his books, grrr.

  2. I’ve had Kristen Cashore’s Graceling on my tbb list for ages! (Actually, I don’t even have to buy it, as my library has it. I just have to get off my butt and request it! lol)

    seeing Adrien work out what he wanted (really slowly and painfully as only Adrien can)

    You are so right! I was so worried that my expectations would be too high for me to enjoy Dark Tide, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, I just posted my top reads, and it is on the list!

  3. I have borrowed a Kristen Cashore book (I think Graceling) but I haven’t managed to read it yet.

    I am always stingy with my top grades as well. I think I have had four this year in total. My grading is very much a gut reaction to the book, so I have plenty of books that are really good reads, but there’s just the tiniest bit of wow factor missing!

  4. Kailana – Fire totally blew me away! I knew it would be well-written because I liked Graceling, but I wasn’t quite expecting how good it would be.

    Renee – Oh, definitely request Graceling. I’d love to hear what you think of it. And yes, The Dark Tide definitely lived up to my (very high) expectations too. Am off to check out your Top 5!

    Marg – Exactly! An A grade book to me has that extra edge to it, when I totally connect with the book. I love it when that happens.

    Mandi – It’s very much a keeper series for me too. I am tempted to do a whole re-read very soon…

  5. Oh, Li, I’m so glad you loved FIRE like I did. Reading your reaction made me smile and nod because it was so similar to my experience. I really liked GRACELING, but FIRE was like a punch to the gut it was so good. I connected with Fire herself so well and Brigan…

  6. Thanks Li!! I keep forgetting checking at Book Depository. I’ve been meaning to order books from there, but my first instinct is always to check on Chapters/Indigo… and they only have one or two books.

    And guess what?!?! I just found out that my library – yes, the sucky one, has two books by Josh Lanyon!! A Dangerous Thing and The Hell You Say! Need to rush to the library… but LOL, they don’t have Kristen Cashore’s Graceling or Fire. Sigh.

  7. Nath – The Book Depository is pretty much becoming my go-to online bookstore instead of Amazon – I find their prices are pretty comparable and they appear to have a better selection.

    And I am way impressed by your library! Excellent stuff. I can’t believe they don’t have Kristin Cashore though.

  8. LOL, forget my library. The selection actually sucks… They have gems from time to time, but usually… meh. I bet someone requested the books that’s why they have it 😛

    Like the Thief series, they only have The Thief. They don’t have Graceling or Fire. Romance, they usually stick to bigger names… Ah well.

    My only issue with Book Depository would be the shipping… I heard it was pretty slow, although I still haven’t used it. We’ll see soon 🙂

  9. Nath, I get my Book Depository orders within a few days and they generally arrive within less than a week and that is from the UK to Australia.

    I haven’t ordered from the US Book Depository yet so can’t comment on how fast their deliveries are.

  10. Marg – That is really speedy! I swear it takes longer within the UK, but I think that’s my local post office more than anything else 😉

    Nath – I’m not totally in love with my local library either BUT I just realised they’re now offering ebooks, and you know I’m a total ebook fangirl.

  11. Hey ladies,

    well Ames has ordered books from Book Depository UK and it took 1 week… from Book Depository US, it took 2 weeks for Christine and Ames… so that’s why I’m hesitating. You know, me not really patient 😛

  12. Pingback: 2009: Recap of My Reading Year Part II « Me and My Books

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