2016: My Favourite Books

I’m joining in with the general sigh of relief that 2016 is finally over – happy new year everyone!

Here are my very favourite books of 2016, in no particular order:

 

Beth Brower’s THE Q (fantasy): This fantasy had the perfect amount of charm and romance swirled into the mix, and was the highlight of my December reading.

CS Pacat’s KINGS RISING (M/M fantasy romance): So much anticipation for this final book in the trilogy, and you know what?  She delivered in spades.

KJ Charles’s A GENTLEMAN’S POSITION (M/M historical romance): Having read hundreds of historical romances, it’s rare for one to blow me away – but this one did.

Harper Fox’s MARTY AND THE PILOT (M/M contemporary romance): Harper Fox has a knack for getting the chemistry between her leads just right.

Leigh Bardugo’s CROOKED KINGDOM (YA fantasy): Full of twists and turns, full of feelings.

Santino Hassell’s SUTPHIN BOULEVARD (M/M contemporary romance): His Five Borough series have a real sense of place, and there’s no lack of romance (or angst, come to think of it).

Alexis Hall’s LOOKING FOR GROUP (M/M NA romance): This was full of sweet geeky goodness of the best sort.

 

Not on this list, but Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s novels also deserves a mention – they were totally addictive, and I finished the whole seven-book series in the space of a month (which is probably why no one particular book stood out, come to think of it…).

Books for December

I am so ready for the yearend holidays.  Most people in my office are taking the week between Christmas and New Year off, and I’m no exception – I’m looking forward to having a few lazy days once the Christmas festivities are over!  And happily, there will be quite a few December new releases to keep me company…

29011312Jen Frederick’s DOWNED (NA romance): I had a lot of fun reading the first book in this series (especially with its nods to old-school romance tropes!), but haven’t yet made time to read its sequel.  Still getting the third book though.

He’s the guy no one likes…

Despite winning two national championships, JR “Ace” Anderson was sent packing from his old school after losing the trust of his coach. At Southern U, he has a second chance to prove that his college legacy isn’t endless debauchery and selfishness. But his reputation precedes him, and his teammates offer a chilly welcome in the locker room. The one person who is willing to accept him is the very woman he should stay away from—his new coach’s daughter.

She’s the girl everyone loves…

Bryant Johnson’s only goal in life is to make others happy, even at her own expense. One look at her father’s new star quarterback, and she knows that Ace is her next project. With a reputation for being a “jerk whisperer”, Bryant has spent her last three years at college reforming sorry behavior and turning bad boys into the best boyfriends ever. In Ace, though, she’s met with surly resistance and a sizzling attraction she doesn’t expect. Fixing this wounded warrior will be her biggest challenge yet. Not falling for him will be even harder.

Between her big heart and his damaged one, a battle is ensuing. In this game of love, every defense will crumble.

Out now

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31421764Josh Lanyon’s THE CURSE OF THE BLUE SCARAB (M/M romance/mystery): While Lanyon is an autobuy author for me, her more recent releases have been of the hit-or-miss variety for me. So I’m feeling a bit nervous about this Edwardian-set story, which she describes as being “…very kooky”.

Who or what is responsible for the gruesome deaths of members of the secret society known as the Order of Osiris?

Dr. Armiston, an irascible, confirmed bachelor who believes in medicine not mysticism, is certain the deaths are only tragic accidents.

The members of the Order of Osiris suspect something more sinister is at work. They profess to believe an ancient curse has been visited upon their society. Handsome and mysterious Captain Maxwell requests Armiston’s help.

Tarot cards? Egyptology? Spiritualism? Armiston has little patience with the superficial and silly pastimes of the rich, but he does love a good puzzle. Or could it be that he is more drawn to young Captain Maxwell than he wishes to admit?

Either way, Armiston must solve the secret of the cursed sarcophagus very soon, for Captain Maxwell is the next slated to die…

Out Dec 9

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29345916Genevieve Cogman’s THE BURNING PAGE (fantasy): Now I’ve no doubts about this book.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the past two books in this series and this one has been pre-ordered.

The third title in Genevieve Cogman’s clever and exciting The Invisible Library series, The Burning Page is an action-packed literary adventure!

Librarian spy Irene has professional standards to maintain. Standards that absolutely do not include making hasty, unplanned escapes through a burning besieged building. But when the gateway back to your headquarters dramatically malfunctions, one must improvise. And after fleeing a version of Revolutionary France astride a dragon (also known as her assistant, Kai), Irene soon discovers she’s not the only one affected. Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across a multitude of worlds, creating general havoc. She and Kai are tasked with a mission to St Petersburg’s Winter Palace, to retrieve a book which will help restore order.

However, such plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy – particularly when the enemy is the traitor Alberich. A nightmare figure bent on the Library’s destruction, Alberich gives Irene a tainted ‘join me or die’ job offer. Meanwhile, Irene’s old friend Vale has been damaged by exposure to Chaotic forces and she has no idea how to save him. When another figure from her past appears, begging for help, Irene has to take a good hard look at her priorities. And of course try to save the Library from absolute annihilation. Saving herself would be a bonus.

Out Dec 15 (UK)

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28756485Ilona Andrews’ ONE FELL SWEEP (urban fantasy): I’ve heroically restrained from reading the online serialised version (okay, it wasn’t that much of an effort – I’m too much in favour of instant gratification to really do serials).

Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has and may have to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that.

Out Dec 20

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30197317Jodi Taylor’s MY NAME IS MARKHAM (fantasy): I normally don’t buy standalone short stories, but I’ve totally loved Jodi Taylor’s time-travelling series this year.  It’s such brilliant, hilarious, heart-warming fun, and this Christmas short sounds fantastic.

Like a smaller and much scruffier Greta Garbo – finally – Markham speaks!

It’s Christmas and time for the first (and almost certainly last) St Mary’s Annual Children’s Christmas Party – attendance compulsory, by order of Dr Bairstow. Discovered practising his illegal reindeer dance and poo-dropping routine, our hero, along with fellow disaster-magnets Peterson and Maxwell, is despatched to Anglo-Saxon England to discover the truth about Alfred and the cakes.

In his own words, our hero reveals Major Guthrie’s six-point guide to a successful assignment and the Security Section’s true opinion of the History Department. And of historians in general. And of one historian in particular.

And, just to be clear, it is time travel, for God’s sake. Forget all that pretentious ‘investigating major historical events in contemporary time’ rubbish.

This is history without the capital ‘H’. Because this is the way the Security Section rolls!

Out Dec 25 (the perfect Christmas morning read!)

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31421768Josh Lanyon’s SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS (M/M romance): Speaking of not buying shorts… it’s an Adrien English story!  ‘Nuff said.

God Help You Merry Gentlemen…

Arriving home early after spending Christmas in jolly old England, sometimes amateur sleuth Adrien English discovers alarming developments at Cloak and Dagger Books–and an old acquaintance seeking help in finding his missing boyfriend.

Fortunately, Adrien just happens to know a really good private eye…

Out Dec 29

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And one maybe:

  • The fantasy anthology UNFETTERED II – while I’m trying to stop with the anthology buying, this is raising money for a good cause and also has some big-name contributors (including Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Naomi Novik, amongst others)…

I should probably mention Eileen Wilks’ DRAGON SPAWN is also a December release – it’s the latest in her World of the Lupi series, and would normally be in my list above.  However, I grabbed a copy when I saw it early on the shelves last week… and let’s just say it didn’t work for me.  It’s basically half a story, with a very abrupt cliffhanger ending, which was disappointing especially when the story itself took a while to get going.  I’ll still get the next book to see what happens next, but I’m starting to feel that this series is running out of steam.

 

Good Books!

Don’t you love it when you get a run of good books, especially if it happens when you’re on holiday and have the luxury of being able to stay up late reading without any guilt?

15748538I started off with Seanan McGuire’s ONCE BROKEN FAITH, the latest October Daye book.  (I hadn’t realised the UK release was a few days before the US one, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the book appeared on my Kindle!)

I’m always up for more Toby, so needless to say, it was a very enjoyable read- we had Toby being very Toby, Tybalt doing his King of Cats thing, Quentin (and family!), plus a magical whodunnit mystery plot.  I’ll be honest though – if you’re not into Toby’s world, this is not the book for you.  There were some rather self-indulgent passages, info-dumping galore, and McGuire’s plotting probably doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.  But I can forgive much when it comes to this series, and ONCE BROKEN FAITH was a solid installment.

30175057Next up was Alexis Hall’s newest, LOOKING FOR GROUP.  This, I loved.  It had the dubious honour of being the book I was reading while wandering around the most picturesque of settings, and I probably spent half my time sitting in various cafes ignoring the views (I can only apologise to my travel companions).  I’m not a gamer at all, but was wholly absorbed by Hall’s sweet romance, set partly in the alternate reality of an MMO.

I was a bit nervous going in (see: not a gamer), but having to work out online gaming shorthand was not dissimilar to having to get my bearings in a fantasy novel.  I loved how Hall explored online (and offline) relationships, celebrated the gaming culture, and managed to cover the whole growing-up/going-to-university thing all in one book.  LOOKING FOR GROUP was diverse, nerdy, and quite possibly one of my favourite books of the year.

22349087And then I read Jodi Taylor’s THE NOTHING GIRL. I keep on saying that I’m going to do a proper blog post on her Chronicles of St Mary’s time-travel series because they are utterly brilliant, packed full of laugh-out-loud moments and yet totally grounded in history, but despite me making the time to read all seven novels (and numerous short stories) in the space of four weeks, I haven’t managed to even draft a post.  So take this as a very strong recommendation for the books, even if you don’t normally care for time-travel stories; I would not have classified myself as a fan, but these books proved me wrong.

Anyway, I grabbed THE NOTHING GIRL when Kobo had their recent 50% off sale. I wasn’t sure how her writing would translate to contemporary romance, but Jacey Bedford’s review persuaded me to give it a go.  If LOOKING FOR GROUP reminded me of READY PLAYER ONE (for the sheer celebration of geek culture), THE NOTHING GIRL was faintly reminiscent of LM Montgomery’s standalones – the quiet protagonist who’s set apart slightly from everyone else, a small-town setting, and of course, a man with a not-entirely-unearned reputation. I went in having no idea of the plot, and enjoyed the story tremendously – layer upon layer of reveals unfolded as I got to know each character, and if I guessed the ending a bit ahead of the final pages, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment one bit.

(And I’m currently reading Sarina Bowen’s ROOKIE MOVE – she does sports romance so well, it’s shaping up to be a good one!)

So that’s me – tell me your recent good reads?

 

Books for June

I’d apologise for my absence, but it was a reading v. blogging thing!  I’ve just inhaled all seven books (plus a couple of short stories) of Jodi Taylor‘s madcap time-travel series.  Post to follow, hopefully, but it’s a solid recommend just in case you were wondering…

Now that I’m sadly caught up with The Chronicles of St Mary’s series, here are the June new releases I’m planning on getting – it’s a short list, but there are some good ones.

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SUMMER DAYS, SUMMER NIGHTS, edited by Stephanie Perkins (YA romance anthology): This sounds like the perfect summer beach read (or for those of us unlikely to make it to beaches in the next few months, the perfect err… summer balcony read?).  Some big-name YA authors in this anthology, including Leigh Bardugo (loved her SIX OF CROWS) and obviously Perkins herself.

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

Out now

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28161530Sarina Bowen’s BITTERSWEET (contemporary romance): I’m excited about this new series from Sarina Bowen.  I love her writing, and I’m intrigued by lumbersexual farmers!  Also, we debated the covers at Nath’s – mixed reaction to the covers themselves, but everyone’s getting the books…

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

Out June 14

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28375943Nalini Singh’s ALLEGIANCE OF HONOUR (paranormal romance): I think Nalini Singh’s referred to this one as an “ensemble book”, and it’s meant to wrap up the current series arc?  I’m looking forward to catching up with the usual suspects here.

The ‘unparalleled romantic adventure’* of Nalini Singh’s New York Times bestselling series continues as a new dawn begins for the Psy-Changeling world . . .

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy . . . and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable – and save Trinity – no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honour even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

Out June 16

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28348234Naomi Novik’s LEAGUE OF DRAGONS (historical fantasy): The final book in the Temeraire series!  If I’m honest, I think this series jumped the shark a while ago – the recent books have felt more like historical travelogues than anything else – but I’m obviously going to read the final book to see how the story’s wrapped up.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been roundly thwarted. But even as Capt. William Laurence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, Napoleon is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. While the emperor regroups, the allies have an opportunity to strike first and defeat him once and for all – if internal struggles and petty squabbles don’t tear them apart.

Aware of his weakened position, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country – and the ferals, loyal only to themselves – vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa – and even by England, whose dragons have long rankled at their disrespectful treatment.

But Laurence and his faithful dragon soon discover that the wily Napoleon has one more gambit at the ready – one that that may win him the war, and the world.

Out June 14

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30245656Eloisa James’ A GENTLEMAN NEVER TELLS (historical romance): I feel like Eloisa James has been experimenting with several formats recently and this one is a novellette set in the world of her Essex Sisters series.  I remember posting about this series way back when I first started blogging – I’ve just looked up that post, and I’m both cringing and laughing at my enthusiastic review of the books.  I’ve debated whether to link it, but why not – here’s my take on the Essex Sisters series (I am so tempted to edit that post, but have restrained – you get the warts and all version!).

A witty and sparkling Regency romance novella by Eloisa James, author of My American Duchess, linked to the bestselling Essex Sisters series

Eighteen months ago, Lizzie Troutt’s husband died in his mistress’s bed, leaving her determined to never marry again . . . and unfortunately virginal.

Eighteen years ago (give or take a few) the Honorable Oliver Berwick blackened his own soul, leaving him hardened and resolutely single.

When the chance for redemption in the form of a country house party invitation comes his way, Oliver is determined to prove himself a gentleman.

Until he breaks all the codes of gentlemanly behaviour . . . once again.

Out June 28

Any big June releases that I’ve missed?