Words That Stay: July

First off, I found my first “cracktastic” read — books you can’t stop reading even though you don’t exactly LOVE them or even like them. I read all of the Club Shadowlands books by Cherise Sinclair and while they started off as a sorta weird “intro to BDSM” (which I appreciated), they turned into this weird human trafficking sex slave helping the FBI because the FBI doesn’t know any “real” submissives and what what what. But I read the hell out of them all and mostly enjoyed them in a dissociated sort of way, and they definitely got weirder and way more problematic later in (the only black sub is only paired with black men, there’s a lot of creepy racial stuff in some places like a character that acts like a ~stereotypical latina~ but is half-norwegian so she looks 100% white, just weird stuff like that. And of course she runs a cleaning service.

ANYHOW.

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan – This is by far my favourite Milan, and that’s hard to say because they are ALL my favourites. I’ve recommended her to friends before as someone who rights lovely feminist romances, and this time the gloves were off and she did not hold back, and I LOVED it. The hero was adorable and such a great character, and Free’s book turned her from slightly frustrating teen in the last book involving her to just a brilliant lady with a core of steel and is the bravest person I’ve ever read about. I liked the parallels between then and the same reactions women get today, I LOVED the “not ALL men” timely references, and her description of emptying the thames with a thimble (or sea with a teaspoon) really worked for me. I know I will re-read this one a lot. A lot lot.

A Demon and His Witch by Eve Langlais – I like Eve Langlais, no matter how weird stuff gets. It was a good candy fluff read with plenty of good banter, and her worldbuilding is weird, but that’s part of what I really like about her stuff.

Never Deal With Dragons by Lorenda Christensen – This was definitely an interesting read, as I was fascinated by the idea that there were human go-betweens to basically work as diplomats and translators (and occasionally lawyers and notaries) between dragons and humans. I had to hand-wave the “and SCIENCE” bit of dragon creation (I would have liked something more meaty than whoops science) and there were some bits that were a little problematic, but overall I enjoyed it as a fun romp through dragonland and definitely will be looking to read more in this world and by this author.

Life Support by Tess Gerritsen – I am still definitely liking Tess Gerritsen’s medical thrillers, as they don’t feel quite so out-of-date as Robin Cook’s do on re-reads (it happens) and they are less “cram this ideal even if you agree with it down your throat” and more… thriller. While this didn’t suck me in like Gravity, it kept me interested in a period where very little is working for me, and I am reading more of her books as I find them.

Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – I enjoyed these books a whole lot, but that enjoyment was lessened a little by finding out the author had every opportunity to do some research and put some realism in her worldbuilding, and instead just appropriated every vaguely-Russian-sounding-thing and mixed them all together. When called out on it she just shrugged. The difference would have meant me going after a lot of Russian lit, especially folklore, on a glom afterwards, to realizing that none of it is probably actually in there. Still, fun story.

Archer’s Sin by Amy Raby – So this short story was set in Amy Raby’s Hearts and Thrones series but works as a complete stand-alone, although I enjoyed it a bit more because I had read the first book and was told it would contain no spoilers for the second or third (it kinda does but nothing you didn’t see coming). I loved the characters and their interplay, the choices they had to make and their personal honour warring with keeping food on the table. Definitely was satisfied with the ending, too. I think this was a great “women can’t” story that realistically showed what would happen to a woman in a man-dominated area even today, and it’s as bullshit now as it is in this world, hah. I am going to finish out this series and keep looking for more books by this author.

The Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas – I’ve had her recommended over and over, but never really got into Lisa Kleypas until I started this series, and it was right on the money. I enjoyed all four books, and unfortunately they all kind of blur together as I read them so close together, but enemies-to-lovers is my catnip x1000 so #2 was fantastic for it and I think I will read it again, and #3 was totally surprising and fantastic. How something was handled between the end of #2 and the start of #4 was actually something I really enjoyed as well, because it wasn’t just shrugged off but had serious consequences through the series.

Transcendence by Shay Savage – Okay, so this was… different. It involved a prehistoric human and was from his POV, and a woman from the future… except he is missing the segment of his brain (it sounds like all of the people of that time are) that processes speech and has it recognize patterns, so his understanding of words-meaning-things are about on par with a dog or a cat, without dehumanizing him or making him any less complex. It was WEIRD at times, my skin crawled at times, but I did manage to suspend my disbelief for a lot of things. Finding out how old the heroine was at the end where there’s a little blurb from her POV skeeved me out and I was glad I did not read that part first. I also found her remarkably useless, but this might come from someone who spent their entire childhood+ in Scouting and Guiding and other wilderness camping adventures (to the point where I forget I have to append the wilderness part, because that is “camping” in my mind, traditional camping is fun but still weird for me). So, a really interesting book in terms of non-vocal communication.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley – I re-read this book once a year or so, and it gets better every time I read it. It is a WONDERFUL example of stream-of-consciousness writing that you will either love or hate and oh my gosh I love it. The world-building is subtle and unique, the characters stand alone and are fabulous, and I want to eat baked goods the entire time I read it. It’s not really a Romance but then again kinda is, but these vampires are in the scary range, not sexy.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – This was a recommendation from Jess, and she knows what I love. It was FANTASTIC in a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, although I would have liked the Beast to have been even more Beastly (I had seen some great drawings of a librarian and her demon right before reading it, so red-skin-cloven-hooves-horns-and-tail were very much in my head at the time) but oh man it was amazing in terms of emotional punch, self-sacrifice, family guilt and well, love.

The Summoning, Book 1 (Bloody Mary) – I read it. I… what. OK so if Bloody Mary actually did appear for me, I would be running and screaming my head off, not doing it again. It was seriously good and creepy at the start, but I felt that the character responses were weird and wooden throughout the book, and Mary went from OH MAN SCARY to kind of a pain in the ass like a mosquito bite you can’t scratch in public. The story was mostly predictable (and I generally don’t mind, so if I notice and complain, it’s SUPER predictable) and Mr. Bear read a few pages aloud and I told him what would happen next and, sure enough, it did. Weird. I did like that it was localized to a small town instead of referencing the… actual Bloody Mary, but maybe it’s the whole demons-as-ideas, stories-as-parables thing.

All Fired Up by Vivian Arend and Elle Kennedy – This is on my list of favourite seduction scenes of ALL TIME. The tequila shots, OH MY GOODNESS. I have read just that section a dozen times and it is going to stay in my memory forever, it is so sexy. I really loved this book, I loved the idea of a bunch of manly men (ex-military) making a service for hopelessly-unromantic people to give their significant others a wonderful time and a way to show they loved them without knowing how to express themselves, and it was perfect. I want to read the rest in the series and they aren’t even written yet!

Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly – Honestly? Carla Kelly. It was fabulous. I am going to get this one confused with Miss Whittier Makes A List, because boats.

There have been a few others including a TON of DNFs or books I am partway through and have put down because it’s taking a lot to grab me right now (I went through a boxed set of 10 full-length novels and tossed NINE of them because the writing was atrocious or the characters were immediate dickheads, and I TRIED, like 40 pages in each, but ew no).

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Words That Stay: June so far

Because otherwise books just all… merge together, or I completely forget.

  • Surrender of a Siren, by Tessa Dare. I loved it in so many ways but WHOA NELLY is this an angst-fest, which would be better if I were feeling more up to having my heart bruised. Still, seriously loved it, loved Sophie who is flawed and unapologetic, loved Gray and his “Sweetheart” name, loved some of the really raw sexual imagery Tessa Dare evokes. Since a lot of my reading has somehow been PEOPLE ON BOATS recently I was quite cool with this — not as sweet as Miss Whittier Makes A List, but plenty of simmering tension and growly banter. I would have liked Gray to capitulate a bit more and for Sophie to not always make the first move and basically forgive him anything ever immediately, but honestly it was in her caregiver nature. Joss was pretty awesome too when he finally let it all out. Hang The Court For Piracy was fab.
  • Moon Shine, by Vivian Arend. Evan, the pack leader, finally gets his full book, and we get to see a little of the “Take care of the pack” vs “Take care of myself” struggle that he’s pretty much never had to deal with, ever. I loved Sam, I loved the idea that hey wolves are not all cut from the same mold and there are a lot of damaged, quiet, introverted ones who don’t fit in to Trampoline Dodgeball Takhini. I also loved that she was more than strong enough to stand up to Evan, and that he did finally get his head around “Wait maybe my way is not the only way and my experience is not the only experience, fancy that”. I want more Takhini, I still love Whitehorse like you would not believe, and I am this close to getting a “Whitehorse Forever” tattoo on my arm.
  • Firelight, by Kristen Callihan. I picked this one up as it came recommended in the comments at DA, and… I don’t know. If I was grading I’d give it like a C+. I liked the worldbuilding (what little we saw) and the characters were okay and I DID get caught up in some of the tension between them, although the tongueing scene squicked me out. I mostly wanted to find out what Big Secret the moody masked man was keeping and while it’s good it wasn’t revealed till near the end (it kept me turning pages) I was skimming by 2/3 of the way through just to finish it and get the big reveal etc. The heroine’s ability is like… completely unremarked-upon. I get this is a London where uh, summoning occult demons works, but still. SHE CAN SET FIRES WITH HER MIND. And this is… not really noteworthy? Okay then.
  • Blood Red,by Mercedes Lackey. I summed it up to someone as “What if Little Red Riding Hood went out and became a werewolf slayer” and yep, that’s pretty much it and it’s pretty much awesome. I am glad we are getting re-told fairy tales despite Harlequin cancelling the Thousand Kingdoms because that magic system kicked ass (and it was nice to have the love story be the focus), but we’re still getting a little romance, and still getting super cool tales with an Elemental Master twinge. I like Earth Mages so was really glad to read about another who was NOT a hearth-and-home healer, it was super cool. Getting out of London and into the Caucasians was really good too.
  • Heartmate, by Robin D. Owens. I’m almost done, it’s… entertaining? T’Ash is way too caveman for my tastes, but the cats make up for a lot of it. I think I would read more if they were centered around the Holly family, they seemed much more fun and much less snarly alphahole. I do find the whole concept of Heartgift creepy so I’m really glad that was immediately turned on its head.
  • Shield of Winter, by Nalini Singh. Yes. Vasic. I really enjoyed it for the characters, but the over-arching plot just didn’t hit home for me this time around — I just couldn’t quite get my head around it, and unlike the last book where there were major disasters happening all over the place, this was more… I don’t know. It didn’t feel like the potential end of the world. I really liked seeing some people we hadn’t in a while (Devraj, Zhie Zhu) as well as more about the Arrows, and while I’m sad to hear the next book will probably be the last in this story arc, I’m okay with it too — I’m pretty sure we’ll still get small tales here and there from this awesome world. I still don’t understand leopards in packs in America, but that’s okay, I love them anyhow and they’re constant re-reads.
  • Lord of Scoundrels, by Loretta Chase. Yep, finally read it. I liked it! It was definitely fun watching “The Devil” fall to Jess, who is a pawn star in another life. I love books where the main characters have witty banter and a lot of antagonism — the “I hate you I hate you damn it I can’t stop thinking about your hair” is totally one of my favourites and it’s great here.
  • Duchess in Love, by Eloisa James. House party where three married women find love — with their own husbands. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
  • The Escape, by Mary Balogh. Oh my gosh. I love The Survivor’s Club, and this one was just wonderful. Seriously wonderful. I only remember bits and pieces (sigh) but it was probably one of my favourites of this series. I can’t wait for the next.

That’s most of it so far, everything else is half-read or unfinished, although I am back to Carla Kelly for tonight.

Words That Stay: May

I’ve been really, really enjoying Carla Kelly’s backlist, especially because they’re coupon-eligible at Kobo. Fun characters, great sense of humour, lots of connection between protagonists, it’s all-over good historical romance.

  •  Miss Whittier Makes a List – Really enjoyed this, reminded me of a YA book about a girl who goes to sea and finds herself so happy as a sailor. It wrapped up almost a little too quickly, but I was really glad to see the heroine’s religion considered and of weight, and how she dealt with it.
  • Beau Crusoe – This rang familiar with me quite strongly as the hero is suffering from PTSD, so it was important to me to see this dealt with. Add in that it’s mostly a funny book, and adorable, and it was a great read.
  • Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind – Super cute, lots of heartache, and family captured so perfectly. I could practically see the difference between her home (in filters of blue) and his (in filters of red and yellow). One of those books where you have to check the window to see if it’s not raining outside.

Other Historical Romances I’ve read recently:

  • Three Weeks with Lady X – I really enjoy Eloisa James, and this was no exception. Interior decorating! That same house of debauchery that was in a novel I read previously (unless there are MORE places entirely wallpapered in sexual motifs?)! Antagonism between the main couple, which is one of my favourites if the dialogue is witty (and it is).
  • Once Upon a Tower – Did I mention I like Eloisa James? I really enjoyed the hero in this, plus any mention of the Smythe-Smiths kills me. I also really liked a heroine who wasn’t going to take any nonsense, and who had her own career (of sorts) with tremendous amounts of passion for it. I love cello music and I could practically hear it, from the description of the warm-ups to her playing in the rain.

I also started reading Tess Gerritsen, starting with Gravity, and I’ll admit part of it was due to the controversy. I really, really liked it — the NASA stuff was fabulous, I felt like I was really there, the zero-G behaviour of things was AWESOME, and the only thing that having seen the movie did was make me think that George Clooney was playing Jack, so it was more like an early episode of ER than anything. I didn’t like some of the ways it was resolved, but everything else was stellar, and I really like how she writes her women. It so could have been a “space cowboy saves his wife” when really, she saves herself and is pretty awesome about it. It also made me really, really sad about shuttles. She read sort of like Robin Cook or Michael Crichton pre-meltdown (I can’t get into Robin Cook anymore, it was always preachy but now I can’t look past it), and I’m going to read more of her books, I have missed medical/sciencey thrillers. To this day, Andromeda Strain and Outbreak are some of my favourite movies AND books, heh.

Other stuff I’ve been reading:

HAWKGUY – Yes. Bro. Seriously.

SAGA – More yesssss. I would have a Lying Cat sidekick.