Blogging Thoughts

The thing with #bloggerblackout is that it’s not exactly a statement if you don’t really post frequently in the first place.  Especially if you don’t post that many reviews in the first place.  Of course, as soon as I typed that, I looked at my last five posts – four review posts and one links post.  Ha.  In my defense, it wasn’t exactly planned – the recent flood of new release reviews (yes, three counts as a flood on this blog) is pure coincidence.  It may not be very obvious, but I do try to have a bit of variety in terms of what I post.

Anyway, blogging.

I don’t really have a specific point to make here, so bear with me as I try to make sense of what book-blogging means to me.

I started blogging because I wanted to talk books. I’d been an infrequent poster on the AAR boards, and lurked on a couple of other message boards and newsgroups, but really wanted my own space to post about books I’d read, upcoming new releases, and well, anything book-related (and oh, I may have been a bit bored).  So I started a WordPress acccount, wrote my first post, and hit Publish.

And with that, I became part of the book-blogging community.

It’s funny how this community is both big and small at the same time.  There are so many blogs out there and there is no way anyone can keep up with all of them.  You have the genre-focused blogs, those that look at literary fiction, blogs that talk about British authors etc etc – you name it, there’s probably a dedicated blog. I still stumble over long-established blogs which are new to me all the time.

But the book-blogging community also feels small at the same time.  It’s an open and inclusive community – partly due to the nature of the internet, but I think also because of our shared love of books.  I’ve never felt as though I would be unwelcome commenting on a review or opinion piece if I wanted to add my two pence’ worth (though there is always this nervousness when you hit Post Comment on a site for the very first time – or is that just me?).  It’s also a vibrant and living community, primarily because everyone has different opinions and interests.  I may not always agree with all posts on my favourite blogs, but I can’t deny that the more controversial posts have made me think more about my preconceptions and help broaden my mind.

I kind of think of every blogger/reader as little Venn diagrams, all overlapping and making up the entire book-blogging community.  Six degrees of separation and all that – I mean, that’s how I find new-to-me blogs in the first place, it’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs as I click through on links, mentions, comments, and so on.venn

My blogging patterns have changed over time.  I post a lot less frequently than I did in the first couple of years (I think back to those years and wonder at the amount of free time I appeared to have then).  There are times when I just fall out of the habit of blogging, and then just as suddenly get the blogging itch back.  I started off talking almost exclusively about historical romance, IIRC, because that was what I read then.  Over time, my reading habits and interests have evolved, and my blog posts reflect that.

But regardless of what I’m reading or how often I blog, I appreciate that I have this space where I can post whatever I want about what I read.  What I think #bloggerblackout and #HaleNo have highlighted is that book-blogging has become a lot more commercial over the past few years, as bloggers (and their readers, be they commenters or lurkers or casual passers-by) have established themselves as part of the publishing ecosystem.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s linked to the book-blogging community being a living and evolving place – blogs would never have stayed the way they were, say, five years ago.  But the greater prominence and (perceived?) importance of blogs have given rise to the recent instances of Appalling Behaviour.  I don’t think it’s necessarily book-blogging specific, as evidenced by a quick look at news reports, but I’d hate to see a few bad apples ruin this wonderful community.

So I do think #bloggerblackout is good, because it’s triggered the conversations around why individuals are blogging (and everyone has their own motivations and drivers), and equally importantly, what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.  Not because it “punishes” authors or publishers (and here I admit that I honestly can’t see how a number of blogs not posting new releases reviews for a few days is hurting anyone – but feel free to comment).  I love that Dear Author has chosen to kick off a series of reader conversations this week as part of #bloggerblackout, as this reflects the why behind my original attraction to book blogging.

Really, I just wanted to talk books with fellow readers back then, and I still want to talk books with fellow readers.  So (800 words later – thank you to those who actually read this far!) –  I’ll continue to talk about new releases I’m excited about, to be enthusiastic about books I love, and to grump about books that disappointed me.  I’ll remember that I’m not a cog in the book publicity machine and that I should never feel obligated to like or shout about a book.  At the end of the day, book blogging’s about sharing our love for reading – whether it’s the thrill of discovering a new-to-you author (or watching someone discover one of your long-time favourite authors), a passionate debate that opens up new ways of thinking about your well-loved books (or makes you go off to read someone else’s well-loved book), or just even reading someone’s thoughts on a book that mirrors yours, and thinking “ahhh, yes”.


Mini-Reviews, Anyone?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last cross-posted my Goodreads reviews.  I stared at these ones for ages trying to figure out a theme, but none sprang to mind.  I should probably figure out how to curate these better.

Anyway – here’s a mix of historical mystery, YA SF, urban fantasy, m/m romance, and NA paranormal romance.


First up, two boxed sets of historical mysteries by Ashley Gardner a.k.a. Jennifer Ashley:

Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume One (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, #1-3)Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume One by Ashley Gardner (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel as though I should love these books more than I did. Historical London + mystery whodunnits + a complicated nest of past relationships should be right up my alley… but the interpersonal side of things are not coming to life for me. I’m still not that invested in Lacey even when he’s playing for high stakes. But this is a decent boxset of historical mysteries (especially since I bought it on sale – around $1?), and I’ll continue with the series.


Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume Two (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, #4-6)Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume Two by Ashley Gardner (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel as though these stories could be more, but they are fun whodunnits. The mysteries are satisfying, and the secondary characters grow more three-dimensional as the series progresses – I’ll definitely keep reading.

The best way to sum these up is probably that I wouldn’t be upset if I never ever read another Captain Lacey book, but they’re decent mysteries and I don’t regret buying/reading them.  They’re worth buying if you’re into historical-set mysteries, especially if you’ve a Kobo coupon or similar to use.

I think I’ve read a couple of the books written under her Jennifer Ashley pen-name ages ago, but don’t really remember much.


Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (YA SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trademark Brandon Sanderson writing, I thought – a really inventive magic system, combined with plot twists and lots of action. I didn’t care for the insta-love/lust/whatever, but I’ve never thought relationships were his strong point. I liked – while I wouldn’t run out to get the next book, I’m keeping this series on my to-read list.

Again, another author I enjoy reading but I don’t actively search out his books, though he obviously has a huge fan following. I think I bought this one when it was on sale.


IndexingIndexing by Seanan McGuire (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a really fun read – loved the various twists on standard fairy tales. Probably could have done without the romance elements though. Also thought the two male secondary characters felt a bit more two-dimensional compared to Sloane, who was pretty amazing.

This was originally released as a Kindle serial in the US, but only as a single book in the UK.  She’s doing a follow-up next year, which I’d probably get at some point.  You could tell this was originally written as a serial (recapping at the start of each chapter, etc), but I thought the story flowed pretty well as a whole.


Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown (suspense)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was painfully clunky – it felt as though the author was trying to cram in every single piece of related art history. The plot didn’t make sense at all, but the action scenes were relatively good in comparison. I should probably stop reading Dan Brown…

Uhhmmm.  In my defense, I read his books before The Da Vinci Code, and they were better.  Still predictable, yes, but there was plot. 


Slide (Roads, #1)Slide by Garrett Leigh (m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought there was too much “tell, not show” at the critical moments, and struggled to connect with the main characters. Considering the subject matter, I thought the romance was surprisingly quiet. In the end, the characters were just too much on the broken side for me, and I struggled to believe in a HEA, or even a HFN.

Rec’d by various reviewers, IIRC, but her writing didn’t work for me.


King Hall (Forever Evermore, #1)King Hall by Scarlett Dawn (NA paranormal romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mind candy, in a nutshell. But I did have fun reading it, eye-rolling scenes and all, and there is a good story buried inside once you make it past the first chapters. Everything is a bit too obvious, but there’s both friendship and romance, and the ending sets up the next book well.


King Cave (Forever Evermore, #2)King Cave by Scarlett Dawn (NA paranormal romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I… am not convinced there was an actual plot here – it felt like everything, including the kitchen sink, was crammed into this one. Also can’t quite pinpoint exactly why, but it read slightly like fanfic – possibly because so many scenes felt like they were written specifically for wish-fulfilment? Having said that, I still want to read the conclusion to the trilogy – so, well.

The first one was a total impulse buy.  And it was kind of fun.  The second was a lot messier.  I try to stay away from saying a book needed editing, because I’ve no idea how many editing passes a book has had before it’s released, but it did feel like the author had free rein with the story in the second.  And I… still want to read the next book.  Help. 

Cathy Kelly’s IT STARTED WITH PARIS (with a Goodreads digression)

As you may have gathered, I use Goodreads quite a bit.

It does get a bad rep for the occasional author meltdown and sockpuppetery scandals, and the censorship fiasco some time back really didn’t help its cause.  But as a free service for keeping track of new releases and books I’ve read, getting book covers and descriptions, and seeing what other people thought of various books, I think it’s fantastic.  I know that in return for the “free”service it offers, I generate a good bit of content for Goodreads in terms of reviews, data-mining etc, but to me, that it’s a fair exchange (YMMV).

Also, while there is some overlap between the blogging world and Goodreads, it feels like separate communities?  It’s like this blog is my own place with people swinging past to say hi, and Goodreads is my local coffeeshop/pub/insert-your-hangout-place-of-choice where I know there’ll be conversations happening if I feel like wandering down the road (and Twitter is like standing in the middle of a busy and crowded railway station where you may or may not bump into people you know).  Was that a terrible analogy?  (Don’t feel as though you’ve to answer that.)

And I digress massively, because the purpose of me bringing up Goodreads in the first place was just to say that occasionally, I go to their Giveaways page and click on a few books that catch my eye.  But although I’ve been a Goodreads member since 2010 (ack, time flies), I’ve never ever won anything, so to be honest, browsing their giveaways tend to be something I do when I’m killing time on the internet.

22793566Until I got an email saying I’d won an early copy of Cathy Kelly‘s IT STARTED WITH PARIS.


I actually won something.  And while I’m not obligated to review the book, in the same spirit of fair exchange, here’s my review.

SUNDAY TIMES bestseller Cathy Kelly returns with a funny, emotional, heart-warming new novel.

It all started with Paris. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, a young man proposes to his girlfriend, cheered on by delighted tourists. In that second, everything changes, not just for the happy couple, but for the family and friends awaiting their return in Bridgeport, Ireland…

Leila’s been nursing a badly broken heart since her love-rat husband just upped and left her one morning, but she’s determined to put on a brave face for the bride.

Vonnie, a widow and exceptional cake-maker, is just daring to let love back into her life, although someone seems determined to stop it.

And Grace, a divorced head teacher, finds the impending wedding of her son means that she’s spending more time with her ex-husband. After all those years apart, is it possible she’s made a mistake?

With her warmth and insight, Cathy Kelly weaves a delightful tale spinning out from a once-in-a-lifetime moment, drawing together a terrific cast of characters who feel like old friends. IT STARTED WITH PARIS is the sparkling new novel from No.1 bestseller Cathy Kelly.

I’ve read quite a few Cathy Kelly books – it’s probably easiest to categorise what she writes as chick-lit, except it’s not really.  Woman’s fiction?  I’m not sure.  And the reason I say that is that I usually steer well clear of both those genres, but I’ve a soft spot for a Kelly book.  Here’s what’s normally in one of her books – Irish settings (both cities and small towns), strong friendship, heart-warming romance, a sprinkling of real-life issues (usually seen through slightly rose-tinted lenses, to be fair), and this sense of community woven throughout the story.

Safe to say, IT STARTED WITH PARIS ticked all those boxes.  There’s a lovely natural rhythm to Cathy Kelly’s writing, and I was drawn into the story from the very first page.  I’m not sure how she does it, but she has a knack for making you care about each and every character, even when there are numerous people and POVs.  The back cover copy names three protagonists, but each of them had their own circle of friends and family, all interlinked and with stories of their own.  So not only did we have Leila, there’s her sister Susie, who’s struggling as a single mother, and their mum, who’s in hospital after a car accident and coming to grips with her loss of independence.  And their lives are intertwined in various ways with Vonnie and Grace, and their own relatives, and well, you get the idea.  And yet, I never felt lost or confused once – each character was very deftly sketched, and had personalities of their own.

Having said that, a Kelly trademark is how she weaves together multiple subplots to become one, and I think here, some storylines suffered from not having enough page time – specifically I felt that Ruby’s issues were resolved a bit too easily.  (I know, you’re wondering who Ruby is and how she fits into the picture – but that’s part of a charm of a Kelly, the almost-organic way her stories expand to cover this whole community.)  In addition, while some plot lines had incredibly satisfying endings (you’ll know which one when you read it – all I’ll say is that I was mentally cheering [redacted] on), I had mixed feelings on the outcome of another.  But those are minor niggles, and I ended up finishing the book in a single day.

IT STARTED WITH PARIS was a delightful read, and one I suspect will be perfect for whiling away a quiet rainy autumn afternoon.

ARC courtesy of Goodreads/publisher giveaway. 

Weekend Links… and New Bookshelf Additions

Hunting-Monsters1-e1411728587221The Book Smugglers published their first short story: “Hunting Monsters” by SL Huang.  It’s a retelling of Red Riding Hood – I’m not usually into fairytale retellings, but this one was lovely.  And the cover is striking (I love the colours) and fits the story perfectly.  Excellent start to their publishing venture, IMO.

The story’s free on their website, but they’re also publishing an ebook version with a couple of extras.


Rachel Aaron (or Bach) posted a breakdown of her sales following her self-pubbed release of NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST (which was a good one to try if you’re in the mood for a new urban fantasy).  Some really interesting number-crunching and observations about Amazon.


Does anyone read Joan Wolf?  I’ve fond memories of her Regencies – there’s an interview with her at Word Wenches, and she mentions a new Regency, THE AMERICAN EARL, which is already out (on Amazon, anyway).  I obviously bought it.


Speaking of books I’ve bought – when I posted my take on 2014 new releases to date, I had a couple of comments about the fact I’d read most of the books I’d actually bought.  Just to prove this isn’t the case, here are the books I’ve bought (or downloaded for free) over the past week or so.  I know.

  • Eileen WilksUNBINDING (UF): Well, it was on my October new releases post.  I’ve finished this – mixed feelings really, not one of my favourites in the series.
  • FIFTY FIRST TIMES, edited by Julie Cross (NA romance anthology): I don’t usually do romance short stories, you’ve read my thoughts on NA before… but it was only £0.99.
  • Harlan Coben‘s THE WOODS (suspense): It was free (a UK-only offer, I think – and still free at Amazon as of today). I usually borrow his books from the library, but hey, free.
  • Kelly Hunter‘s SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (contemporary romance): This was meant to be released last month, but has just come out – $0.99 for the next week or so, if you’re interested.  I love her writing, so this was a no-brainer.
  • Carolyn Jewel‘s SCANDAL (historical romance): Courtesy of Dear Author’s Daily Deals posts – it’s free right now, and came recommended.
  • Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Nicole Burnham‘s FAMILY SECRETS (contemporary romance): Courtesy of the same DA deals post – not free, but three full-length novels for $0.99.  Yes, I do have a book-buying problem. I’ve enjoyed Christina Dodd’s books before, but the other two authors are new-to-me.
  • Joan Wolf‘s THE AMERICAN EARL (historical romance): See above…
  • Martha WellsSTORIES OF THE RAKSURA (fantasy): Oh. Did I mention I just glommed her Raksura fantasy trilogy, and LOVED it?  I’ve been meaning to read this trilogy forever.  Excellent world-building, and leaves you wanting to know everything and more about her characters.  Also, I obviously timed this really well, as this brand-new collection of two novellas (and two existing shorts) in the same world was just released.  She can write.
  • Rosie Claverton‘s CODE RUNNER (mystery): The first book, BINARY WITNESS, was mentioned by Sunita @ Dear Author last month – I liked a lot about it (ex-con Jason was not your everyday mystery protagonist, technology was front and centre, and Cardiff came to life), and jumped on the second book.

The conclusion? I’m a sucker for book deals and most of my impulse buys recs come from blog posts. Not surprising, really… tell me what triggers your book buying?

Austin Williams’ MISDIRECTION

22613699I read the odd suspense title now and again.  I don’t read a lot in the genre – I tend to stick to the big names such as Lee Child and Harlen Coben (which may be the romance equivalent of reading Nora Roberts and umm… Lisa Kleypas?  Who are the romance big-name authors?).  But the street magician angle to Austin Williams‘ MISDIRECTION caught my eye when I was asked if I’d be interested in participating in a blog tour and so I accepted a review copy.

A street magician needs more than sleight-of-hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and George Pelecanos.

After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord’s brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he’s been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he’s been desperately trying to escape.

Austin Williams creates an unforgettable protagonist in Rusty, a flawed but relatable master of illusion in very real danger. As the suspense builds to an explosively orchestrated climax, Williams paints a riveting portrait of both a city—and a man—on the edge.

I feel the cover reflects the story remarkably well.  It’s not a light fluffy one – it’s dark, drugs play a central role in the plot, and there’s a fair bit of violence.  The Ocean City boardwalk is very much part of the story’s backdrop.  And the way the title’s split across three lines hints at the book’s USP, i.e. Rusty’s street magician background and the usage of misdirection when pulling off magic tricks.

And as the latter was a fairly large part of the book’s appeal to me – did it come off?  Well, this will probably only make sense if you’ve watched BBC’s Sherlock, but you know when they’re showing how Sherlock’s mind works, and everything goes into slow motion as he makes connections?  There’s a similar stylistic device used in this book – for instance, when Rusty’s having a not-particularly cordial exchange with one of the police, we get this passage:

Rusty knew he could disarm this uniformed frat boy in just about 2.7 seconds. The task wouldn’t present much of a challenge. He could easily divert Neely’s eyeline with a lateral, non-aggressive movement of his left arm.

Momentarily distracted, the cop would never see the fingers of Rusty’s right hand extracting a one-inch smoke pellet from a customized hidden pocket in his jeans. Pinched at the proper angle, the pellet would explode in a blinding flash followed by a plume of gray smoke. Utterly harmless but highly effective for misdirection.

The span of time Officer Neely would need to recover from his surprise would offer Rusty ample opportunity to relieve him of the gun. Using his fingertips, he’d grab the wrist and isolate pressure points causing Neely’s hand to open involuntarily. From there, Rusty would simply reposition his body at a 45-degree angle and use his left hand to retrieve a sterling set of monogrammed handcuffs tucked in a different hidden pocket. One more second would be sufficient to cuff the young patrolman to a column of the bannister directly behind him.

It did take a couple of chapters for me to get used to the style, but it ended up working for me, and the peek behind the curtains for a few magic tricks was fascinating.  The stakes quickly get higher as Rusty tries to solve his landlady’s murder and finds himself embroiled in the local drug-dealing crowd, needing to call on his arsenal of tricks to save his skin and reveal the ringleaders.  It’s more of a thriller than a mystery (we get the POV of the murderer fairly early on), and the action certainly ramps up as the book progresses.

However, it’s safe to say the TSTL* archetype is not limited to urban fantasy heroines.  Halfway through the book, Rusty does a mind-blowingly stupid thing – it left me speechless, and I almost wanted him to be killed.  But that wouldn’t really be good for the protagonist of the first book of a trilogy, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying Rusty’s still alive at the end of the book?

But maybe that describes Rusty’s character – I’m not entirely sure that he cares about whether he lives or dies at times.  We see glimpses of his past and why that may be the case, but I felt a bit distanced from him as a result.  And while MISDIRECTION ends on a good note (with a minor twist telegraphed a mile away), I’m hoping Rusty grows up some in the next book.  There’s definitely some promise – he’s made some new connections by the end, and there are a few dangling plot threads, so all’s set up well for the second installment.

(*TSTL = Too Stupid To Live. For instance, when the protagonist heads down to a dark basement in an abandoned house, or say, when one wanders into the house of known drug-dealers without any plans.)


Follow Austin Williams on Twitter and Goodreads.

Review copy courtesy of book blog tour organised by Book Junkie Promotions.


The Understatement of the Year coverSo [digression alert: skip the next few paragraphs if all you want to know is what I thought of Sarina Bowen‘s latest] – I read this discussion board thread recently around the New Adult sub-genre, and someone’s very definite declaration that NA was contemporary romance that was crammed full of angst, with immature protagonists who basically mess each other up throughout the entire book (paraphrasing quite a bit, but that was the general gist) touched a nerve somewhat.

Because I think there is so much more to NA than that one single plot line – yes, some NA books use that plot, but not all do. My personal view is that NA stories are about that stage in life when you’ve the trappings of adulthood and living independently, but you’re still finding your feet and trying to figure out who you are and how you want to live your life.  Yes, it’s messy and you make mistakes, but not because you want to hurt other people.  The protagonists don’t necessarily need to have a broken family background or tragic events in their past; it doesn’t have to be high-octane drama all the time.  I feel that setting those expectations around NA stories narrows and constricts the sub-genre unnecessarily, when there are so many story possibilities out there.

But then – in today’s publishing world, I guess sub-genres are really defined by readers?  If all the super-angsty romances that are being published are being tagged as NA by those buying the books, then maybe that is NA (which, to be fair, is not even a subgenre that existed a few years ago).  So who am I to throw all my toys out of the pram and scream “But that’s not what I consider New Adult!”?

For the record, NA writers I love – and NA in this instance being my definition (hey, my blog etc etc) – are Allison Parr, Tammara Webber, and now Sarina Bowen.

[Yes, the review starts here]

I first came across Sarina Bowen’s books when Diana Peterfreund hosted a cover reveal of her first Ivy Years book earlier this year (I’d digress into “what do cover reveals achieve”, but I think I’ve reached my quota for this post), and started stalking her new releases.  I received a copy of her latest book, THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR, when I hosted its cover reveal a month or so back and as I’ve already talked about why I really like her books there, we’ll jump straight into this book, shall we?

What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.

As with the previous Ivy Years books, Graham and Rikker’s story takes place in her Yale Harkness College setting.  I have a stupidly soft spot for residential college settings – it reminds me of my own university days, when you pretty much live on top of one another and hang out in the same places, so we were off to a good start.  Characters from previous books make cameos, though this works well as a standalone.  Plus this installment had lots of ice hockey as a bonus.  I cheerfully confess that I know next to nothing about ice hockey (and I mean that – to me, ice hockey = hockey played on ice, and that’s it), but I liked the sports backdrop of this book; the technical details felt real, the rough-and-tumble of the games made me wince, and the passion the players had for the sport brought it alive.

And as for the romance?  It’s an M/M romance – I love how the previous romances in this series were straight M/F relationships, and then a gay romance is centre-stage in the third book.  Possibly not the most commercial of decisions, but possibly indicative of where mainstream romance is heading?  You get both Graham and Rikker’s alternating POVs in this book, so it’s easy to root for both of them, even when you wanted to smack one or the other on their heads at times.  What got to me was the level of foreboding that ratcheted up throughout the book as Graham and Rikker figure out what they mean to each other… Graham’s obviously in the closet, and you know that it would all implode eventually – and you’re loving the characters so much, and you just want it OVER AND DONE WITH ALREADY.  Without giving anything away, everything works out in the end (it’s a romance!) – and very satisfyingly, but ack, I spent a lot of the book on tenterhooks (and not in a good way).

I have to loop back to the definition of NA that annoyed me in the first instance.  I have to admit that THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR is totally angst-y, that the book starts with events in both Graham and Rikker’s pasts that they would rather forget, and that Graham really acts like an idiot at times.  But it was also lots of fun, there is both some growing up and falling in love happening, and I closed the book feeling satisfied.

So if this is NA, more please?

Review based on an ARC courtesy of the author.