So that July new releases post I put up a week or so ago? I’ve read three of them now – and loved all three. Which is not always the case, let me assure you – I think I’ve had more misses than hits in 2014 so far. But these three – let’s just say I resented having to put these books down when reading them (sometimes I feel like we should have “good book days” the same way we have sick days).
First up, Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE. I first stumbled upon Miranda Kenneally’s books when I picked up CATCHING JORDAN almost two years ago now (time flies!). They’ve been a bit uneven since, but I feel she’s really hit it out of the park with ANNIE (you can tell when I’ve read a Kenneally when I go for sporting metaphors). Seeing that the main protagonist’s a teenager who’s training for a marathon in memory of her boyfriend, it would be easy for this story to veer too much into the territory of angst and depression. But it didn’t – Annie’s not the only one with baggage in the book, but yet the emotions never felt overdone. She felt real, as did Jeremiah – I loved their chemistry, the feelings, and I was with them all the way as they took tentative steps into friendship and then more. I also loved that family – on both Annie’s and Jere’s sides – was so present and loving in this book, which is a bit of a rarity for a YA/NA! And finally, while there are cameos by characters from previous Hundred Oaks books, I felt this one worked as a standalone as well.
I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting with Rachel Aaron‘s UF debut NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST – I knew she could give good story after her SF Paradox trilogy (btw, did you read she’s writing another trilogy in the Paradox universe – more Sainted King!), but was slightly wary after reading her first (admittedly debut) fantasy novel way back and being all meh about it. But I needn’t have been worried – I was caught up in the story from the first chapter onwards, and I suspect this would appeal to those looking for a slightly different UF series. I mean, what other UF has a all-powerful dragon seer named Bob (okay, Brohomir, but he prefers Bob), who uses ❤ ❤ in his texts (and just generally takes the piss out of everyone)? As you can gather, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s a solid story with some very engaging characters. Julius is the “nice dragon” of the title, but he’s no self-pitying pushover. There’s fast-paced action mixed with humour and snark, and tantalising glimpses of the wider dragon community – and if they’re anything like the Heartstrikers clan members we’ve already met, we’re in for a ride. I closed the book wanting more Heartstrikers now. She mentions November as a possible release date for the next book, so fingers crossed!
And then KJ Charles‘ THINK OF ENGLAND. I had a feeling this was going to be it. I mean, her Magpie Lord books were getting better and better, her romantic thriller NON-STOP TILL TOKYO drew me in despite violence not generally being my thing, but still, I was not prepared by how much I loved THINK OF ENGLAND. Set in turn-of-the-century 20th-century England, the first thing that struck me was the period feel. The usual tongue-in-cheek Samhain warning for this book read:
Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.
And all three were spot on. I thought KJ Charles nailed the insular attitudes of the English upper class of that era, the country-house weekend (or fortnight, in this case) feel. The story evolved so naturally, and before I knew it, Curtis was up to his ears with intrigue and deception. And not knowing whether he was coming or going with Daniel… Their chemistry was off the page, and their interactions equally romantic and sexy. As for the final suspenseful and action-packed chapters – well, let’s just say I couldn’t put the book down. Unusually for an m/m historical, I closed the book thinking a HEA was actually possible, despite the challenges not getting hand-waved away or swept under the carpet. I’m hoping this is just the start of a series, as I suspect any of Curtis and Daniel’s future adventures will be a joy to read.