A Few January Reads

I’m trying to keep to a every-Monday blogging schedule (bet no one noticed!), but I’ve to say that inspiration has really not struck today.

26036399The biggest book-related thought I have is wondering how I can fit in a Captive Prince re-read before the third and final book comes out next Tuesday – I am so excited about KINGS RISING.  Unfortunately, the conclusion is that I probably can’t, so I may have to hold off starting KINGS RISING until the weekend. #firstworldbookbloggerproblems

Recent reads have all been of the so-so variety… I just finished Jayne Ann Krentz‘s latest, SECRET SISTERS.  It was going pretty well… until it wasn’t.  Not wanting to spoil anyone who’s planning on reading it, but as reveal after reveal spilled out, I was left thinking ???!!!.  Let’s just say I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

I also finished Lisa Kleypas‘s COLD-HEARTED RAKE (can you get any more generic title-wise?).  Not one of her best historicals, IMO.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it while I was reading it, but two weeks later, I’m struggling to remember the details.  I think the h/h setup for the second book  was probably its strongest point.

Actually, I lie about the so-so reads.  I really loved Harper Fox‘s M/M romance MARTY AND THE PILOT (ignore the cover), and it may be one of my favourite reads of 2016 (if we’re allowed to start talking favourites this early!).  It’s on the shorter side of category romance, but had so much story packed in.  Fox has a gift for conveying setting so easily, plus there was chemistry a-plenty between the two protagonists, and really, all the feels.   There is a required suspension of disbelief about a pretty major plot point, but I was happy to go along with the flow because I was enjoying myself so much.

So that’s me for this week – tell me about your latest reads?

KJ Charles’s A SEDITIOUS AFFAIR

I’m pretty much an official* KJ Charles fangirl, so unsurprisingly, I’m loving this series so much. Yes, this would be one of the books where I just want to ❤ ❤ ❤ all over, and I’m doing my best to write something vaguely coherent.

I’ve said previously how Charles always brings the setting to life in her stories, be they fantastical, historical, or contemporary.  This time round, it’s the politics of early 19th-century Britain that breath passion into A SEDITIOUS AFFAIR (one of my favourite reads of 2015).

25241403A SEDITIOUS AFFAIR is the second book in her Society of Gentlemen series, and while it does work as a standalone romance, I do think you really have to read the preceding book to appreciate the full depth of the story here – events in the previous book continue to play out in this one.

K. J. Charles turns up the heat in her new Society of Gentlemen novel, as two lovers face off in a sensual duel that challenges their deepest beliefs.
 
Silas Mason has no illusions about himself. He’s not lovable, or even likable. He’s an overbearing idealist, a Radical bookseller and pamphleteer who lives for revolution . . . and for Wednesday nights. Every week he meets anonymously with the same man, in whom Silas has discovered the ideal meld of intellectual companionship and absolute obedience to his sexual commands. But unbeknownst to Silas, his closest friend is also his greatest enemy, with the power to see him hanged—or spare his life.

A loyal, well-born gentleman official, Dominic Frey is torn apart by his affair with Silas. By the light of day, he cannot fathom the intoxicating lust that drives him to meet with the Radical week after week. In the bedroom, everything else falls away. Their needs match, and they are united by sympathy for each other’s deepest vulnerabilities. But when Silas’s politics earn him a death sentence, desire clashes with duty, and Dominic finds himself doing everything he can to save the man who stole his heart.

Dom and Silas’s beliefs form the backbone of who they are.  Both have such similar principles and yet diametrically-opposing politics; add in the fact that homosexual acts were illegal and secrecy therefore paramount, and the stage is set for a romance so impossible that you have to hold your breath as Dom and Silas try for their happily-ever-after.  And trust me about the suspense – there were scenes of such high tension that I found myself flipping several pages forward to get reassurance that it would all work out.

And the book wasn’t just about Dom and Silas in isolation.  The network of relationships that Dom and Silas have is fully-realised and plays a large part in the resolution of the plot – the Ricardians from previous books make an appearance (as always, I love seeing old friends from different POVs – Julius from A FASHIONABLE INDULGENCE is such a dandy!), plus we get to know a few more new characters in this book.  I appreciate how Charles populates her books with diverse characters – it may be 19th-century Britain, but that doesn’t mean only white males existed then.

A SEDITIOUS AFFAIR was worth the wait – it’s one of those rare historical romances that both bring history to life and are truly romantic, and I cannot wait for the third book. (I mean that – I read the preview of A GENTLEMAN’S POSITION, and I kind of need it right now.  May seems a very very long time away.)

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*Just joking – I don’t think there’s actually such a thing.  

Regular Programming Interrupted… or Decluttering and Flying

I’m switching it up a bit today.  I very rarely read non-fiction books as they’ve never really appealed to me.  It could be one of those vicious self-fulfilling cycles – I think I don’t like non-fiction, so I don’t spend time searching out the interesting ones, and then the non-fiction books I do read bore me.  Rinse and repeat?

Having said that, I did read two non-fiction books over 2015 (I know, a whole TWO) and my Goodreads reviews ended up being on the lengthy side, so I thought I’ll post them here as well. (Another 2016 resolution – post more of my reviews on my blog!)

Also, one non-fiction book I do want to read during 2016 is Atul Gawande’s BEING MORTAL: MEDICINE AND WHAT MATTERS IN THE END – I’ve been hearing good things about it (and that it’s not a morbid read, despite the subject matter!), and Lisa’s review @ Books Lists Life tipped the balance. I’ve requested the book from the library (that means you may get another non-fiction review in… a year’s time?).

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m never sure how to grade self-help books (probably due to the fact I read so few!) – would it be based on how useful I’ve found the book?

If so, Marie Kondo’s book was incredibly useful when it came to decluttering my (very small) flat – deciding what to keep, and more importantly, how to let go of items that I was holding onto “just because”. I don’t necessarily agree with all of her views (especially the one about pruning your bookshelves, I suspect most readers would eye that section with some dismay) and I’ll be honest, some of them struck me as way out there; on the other hand, some takeaways were invaluable.

The ones that stuck with me most (note that I’m probably paraphrasing the actual point horribly):

  • When deciding what to keep and what to give away, ask yourself if the item “sparks joy” – it makes a difference when you’re only surrounded with things that make you happy.
  • If you’re struggling to give away an item, try thanking it for its service as this helps you let it go – this initially struck me as one of the slightly more outlandish items, but it actually works! Especially if the item was a gift from someone important to you (and you really don’t like it) – in a sense, the gift’s served its purpose by making the giver happy.
  • And on a more practical note, sort by category of item, not by room – it’s much more efficient if you sort out all your sheets at once, for example, as opposed to sorting the sheets in your bedroom separately to the sheets in your airing cupboard.

It’s a fairly slim book, and I’ll recommend borrowing it from your library if possible. There are lots of KonMarie forums/sites online, and you can probably pick up most, if not all, of her tips from these, but for me, it was worth reading the original book once.

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Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & ReflectionsCockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections by Patrick Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I borrowed this from my library after someone rec’d it for the nervous flyer. I’ve never been particularly nervous about flying, but after a couple of rather turbulent flights, I’m not totally blasé about it either… okay, fine, is it possible to develop a flying phobia?

Anyway, I thought I should give this book a go, and yes, it was useful to read about turbulence from a pilot’s perspective – especially that turbulence NEVER rarely(?) causes plane crashes. I admit I can’t actually remember the definitive answer to that now, so I’m going to pretend that my takeaway is that turbulence is not going to cause your plane to crash (but keep those seat belts on!).

A bit dated (it was published in 2013, so obviously skips the recent aviation tragedies), but a quick read and a good one if you’re in the “information is power” camp when it comes to flying.

2015: Lists and Numbers

I may have posted my favourite reads of 2015, but my annual wrap-up would not be complete without yet more lists and numbers.  Right??

New-to-me authors

I mentioned earlier that I’ve read fewer new-to-me authors during 2015 compared to previous years – I ended up reading 20 new-to-me authors this year (I’m counting two writing duos in that 20).

The authors that I’m really glad I discovered this year:

Romance

  • Alex Gabriel: Her M/M paranormal romance LOVE FOR THE COLD-BLOODED was superherotastic fun, and I’ve been slowly making my way through her backlist this year.
  • Jen Frederick: I know, I know. Despite (or because of?) the DA affair this year, I picked up her NA sports romance, SACKED, this year and really enjoyed it – I was particularly amused by how she introduced that old twins trope to NA romance.

Fantasy

SF

  • Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: I picked up a copy of ILLUMINAE after the buzz and loved this epistolary SF tale.  The illustrations in the book didn’t hurt (tip: you need the physical copy of this book – I’ve looked, and the Kindle edition is listed as being 195MB in size *blinks*)

Authors most glommed in 2015

Ha – Kate Sherwood by a mile, I read ten of her backlist books over the year.  Followed by Kate Elliott (five books), Amy Jo Cousins and Patrice Greenwood (four books each).

I also read all the 2015 new releases by Kelly Hunter, KJ Charles, and Josh Lanyon – they each released four novels / novellas / shorts.  Hurray for non-traditional publishing!

And the numbers…

(a.k.a the section of little interest to anyone but myself)

I did some number-crunching in my trusty Excel spreadsheet…

  • I read a total of 156 books over 2015, which is pretty much on par with previous years.
  • Just over one-fifth were YA/NA books, again similar to 2014.

Here’s the breakdown by genre (note 2010 and 2011 numbers are skewed as I had YA under Other; from 2012 onwards, I just flag them under their respective genres):

Annual summary

Consistent, huh?

And finally, my 2015 by month:

2015

I could pretend to analyse the month-on-month differences, but really, by now, I’m just including this graph because I always do (nothing like habit, right?).

And that’s it for 2015!  I’m (slooowly) logging all books read onto my Goodreads Read in 2015 shelf, but seeing that it took me all year to finish off my 2014 reads, it may be a while…

 

Books for January

Happy New Year – here’s to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2016!  January has usually been a quiet time for new releases that I’m interested in, but not this time.  I’ve no idea why January 2016 is different to previous years, but hey, I’m not complaining.

(Seriously, the number of new releases this month is astounding.)

25361847Julie Hyzy‘s FOREIGN ECLAIRS (cosy mystery): I’ve always said that January signals a new White House Chef mystery.  Sadly, this is the last time I’ll be saying that, as this is the last book in the series (written by Julie Hyzy anyway).  It’s an interesting link, even if you haven’t been reading the series – I had no idea how the book packaging world worked.  I’ve had my ups and downs with this series, but I’ll be sorry to read the last page.

White House executive chef Ollie Paras has served plenty of meals to foreign dignitaries from around the world. But someone is ready to serve her an ice-cold dish of revenge…

Things are about to really heat up for Ollie. News of a bombing and attempted breakout at a federal prison reveals that the brother of a terrorist she helped defeat is back with a vengeance. And after she gets mugged on her way home from work, the Secret Service won’t leave her side, fearing she is now a target.

When a White House staff member is murdered, officials rush to action over a possible security breach. It may be time for Ollie to trade in her apron for a bullet-proof vest as she becomes part of a bold strategy to make sure this terrorist gets his just desserts…

Out Jan 5

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26262453Harper Fox‘s COLD FUSION (M/M contemporary romance): Harper Fox is one of my auto-buy authors (I love the sense of place her books evoke) and this looks to be a good one.

Their love is the catalyst that could save the planet…or cost their lives.

As an environmental activist for Peace Warrior, Kier Mallory never hesitated to throw himself into dangerous situations. Until his hotheadedness costs the lives of two fellow crewmembers on an anti-whaling mission.

He finds no refuge in his hometown on Scotland’s north coast, where everyone knows what this son of a broken fisherman has done. Effectively homeless, Mal returns to one of his favorite places—Spindrift, a rustic colony of artist and crafter huts.

Spindrift is dilapidated and empty, save for a lone resident. Vivian Calder, a brilliant but emotionally detached scientist who appears to have done the impossible—mastered cold fusion. A clean, free, limitless source of power.

Despite Viv’s aversion to contact, a fragile bond forms between them, seemingly one atom at a time. Until Mal, determined to redeem himself by revealing Viv’s accomplishment to the world, brings down the wrath of an oil-dependent establishment, risking not only their love, but Viv’s life.

Warning: Contains a disgraced environmentalist and an autistic genius who go from strangers to lovers-for-life in thirteen days. Don’t believe in miracles? We’ll make you.

Out Jan 5

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21414439Susan Dennard‘s TRUTHWITCH (YA fantasy): A new-to-me author, but there’s been a lot of hype over this YA fantasy.  And yeah, it sounds good.

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Out Jan 5

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28168696KA Mitchell‘s RISK EVERYTHING ON IT (M/M contemporary romance): Second in her latest Ready or Knot series and there was sufficient sequel-bait in the previous book to reel me in.

Former child star and deeply closeted adult actor Jax Conlon needs a boost to his flagging career. He promised his mom, just before she died. He hopes he’s found it in a guest spot with the latest directorial prodigy, but his research for the role gets derailed by an encounter with a handsome stranger with more… hands-on experience.

Oz Parsons is a devoted dad to two amazing little girls. Maybe a little too devoted—he hasn’t had anything resembling a personal life since his ex left, leaving Oz and the girls with broken hearts and abandonment issues. So a hookup with a hot guy is just what he needs to let off some pent-up steam without any complications. There’s something about Jax, though, that’s got him finding reasons to draw things out.

With their goals and families pulling them in two different directions, Oz and Jax have to figure if white-hot chemistry and desire that won’t quit is enough to roll the dice and risk now on forever.

Out Jan 8

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27252717Elle Kennedy‘s THE SCORE (NA romance): Finally, the next book in this highly-enjoyable ice hockey romance series.  I devoured the first two books (when I finally got around to reading them), so I’m thrilled we get more.

He knows how to score, on and off the ice

Allie Hayes is in crisis mode. With graduation looming, she still doesn’t have the first clue about what she’s going to do after college. To make matters worse, she’s nursing a broken heart thanks to the end of her longtime relationship. Wild rebound sex is definitely not the solution to her problems, but gorgeous hockey star Dean Di-Laurentis is impossible to resist. Just once, though, because even if her future is uncertain, it sure as heck won’t include the king of one-night stands.

It’ll take more than flashy moves to win her over

Dean always gets what he wants. Girls, grades, girls, recognition,girls…he’s a ladies man, all right, and he’s yet to meet a woman who’s immune to his charms. Until Allie. For one night, the feisty blonde rocked his entire world—and now she wants to befriends? Nope. It’s not over until he says it’s over. Dean is in full-on pursuit, but when life-rocking changes strike, he starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to stop focusing on scoring…and shoot for love.

Out Jan 11

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23111882Seanan McGuire‘s REFLECTIONS (urban fantasy): I really enjoyed the twisted take on fairytales that was INDEXING so I’m looking forward to its sequel.  (Also, Amazon – when are you going to do Kindle Serials in the UK?)

“For her to love me, she had to be willing to kill me. Anything else would show that her heart was untrue.”

The struggle against not-so-charming storybook narratives isn’t the only complicating factor in Henrietta “Henry” Marchen’s life. As part of the ATI Management Bureau team protecting the world from fairy tales gone awry, she’s juggling her unwanted new status as a Snow White, dealing with a potentially dangerous Pied Piper, and wrangling a most troublesome wicked stepsister—along with a budding relationship with Jeff, her teammate.

But when a twisted, vicious Cinderella breaks out of prison and wreaks havoc, things go from disenchanted to deadly. And once Henry realizes someone is trying to use her to destroy the world, her story becomes far from over—and this one might not have a happily ever after.

Indexing: Reflections is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s continuing new urban fantasy, where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

Out Jan 12

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25362841Kelley Armstrong‘s THE CITY OF THE LOST (suspense): Another novel that was originally released as an e-serial.  I know Kelley Armstrong can do suspense, so this promises to be a good one.

New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author Kelley Armstrong delivers us to Rockton, a secret little town in the far north where the hunted go to hide. And where a hunter has now come to play.

Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police detective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Diana’s abusive ex finds her again, despite all Casey has done to help her disappear. And Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…

Out Jan 14

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22065067Kathy MacMillan‘s SWORD AND VERSE (YA fantasy): Another new-to-me author (and yes, another YA fantasy with lots of hype – I’m predictable), but again, I’m loving the back cover blurb.

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Out Jan 19

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27260565JL Merrow‘s OUT! (M/M contemporary romance): I’ve really been enjoying her Shamwell Tales books, with its slightly off-beat humour and small-town English feel, so hurrah for the third in series.

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Product Warnings: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.

Out Jan 19

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15993203Alison Goodman‘s THE DARK DAYS CLUB (YA fantasy): Alison Goodman’s perhaps better known for her East Asian-inspired YA fantasy duology, Eon, but this one sounds equally intriguing.

New York Times bestseller Alison Goodman’s eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter!

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Out Jan 26

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26063084Eloisa JamesMY AMERICAN DUCHESS (historical romance): A new Eloisa James!  Happy days.

The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford— an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.

But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.

The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:

All is fair in love and war.

Out Jan 26

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I wasn’t joking about the number of new releases this month, right?  What new releases do you have your eye on?