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December 2015

Reading in 2015: 12 Favorite Reads of 2015

My reading year has been pretty fabulous.  I read a lot of good books and I had the opportunity to talk about those books with other people on twitter, on blogs and in person. Talking about books even disagreeing about them is one of my favorite things. Thank you so much for being part of my reading community.

These are some of my favorite books I read this year.


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Party Lines by Emma Barry

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Orphan Pearl by Erin Satie

Beyond Innocence by Kit Rocha

Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai

The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology with stories by Lena Hart, Kianna Alexander, Piper Hugley & Alyssa Cole

The Spymaster Lady by Joanna Bourne

Giving it Up by Audra North

The Martian by Andy Weir

Seduced by Molly O'Keefe

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron


Marked in the Flesh by Anne Bishop (The Others, Book #4) Early Review

22062202Meg Corbyn,  Simon Wolfguard and the rest of the ensemble cast that make up the Lakeside Courtyard community and its connected settlements return in Marked in the Flesh as they try to figure out how save humanity from extinction as the HFL (The Human First and Last ) Movement's heinous attacks on the Others captures the interest of the Elders, the more primal and powerful beings in Thasia.

Meg and Simon's relationship is certainly on the back burner through this novel. Meg and Simon spend most of the novel involved in separate plots. Meg's primary focus is on being the Trailblazer, and working to find way to keep herself and the other Cassandra Sangue from cutting themselves into insanity and death. Simon and the Police Pack are working to try to mitigate the damage being done by the HFL to Human-Others relationships and preparing for the inevitable backlash from the Elders.  His focus is the survival of those humans he has come to care for and planning for a life afterwards.  While the novel does close with yet another step forward in intimacy between Meg and Simon, it just served to emphasize how little time they have spent together during the novel.

The novel's main theme seemed to be communication and isolation. Everyone in this novels is constantly scrambling to email and call each other in order to share prophesies, veiled warnings and urgent alarms.  A significant part of the novel's plot is communicated via emails, speech excerpts or newspaper clippings.  There is also a lot of miscommunication, misinterpretations. and intentional obfuscation.  In the end however everyone clearly receives the message, and Meg figures out how to best help the Cassandra Sangue communicate their own. Despite the darkness and fear near the end of the novel there is a sense that at least the Cassandra Sangue will have a potentially brighter future.

While Marked in the Flesh is fourth book of a five book series, I could have easily confused it with a final book. A lot of storylines seem to be awfully close to their conclusions, while a few new mysteries were raised in the final chapters it seems to me that the final book will feel more like an extended epilogue as it deals with the aftermath of the world-shaking events in this volume.

I was not as emotionally invested in this book as I was in the others since Meg and Simon where not as involved but it was still compelling and I will be back for the concluding story.


I received a review copy of Marked in the Flesh from ROC/Berkley Publishing Group.  Marked in the Flesh is scheduled to be released  March 8, 2016.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Vol. 1) by Anne Bronte

I am joining Emma Barry and Genevive Turner on their Tenant of Wildfell Hall discussion next Monday but I wanted to write down my impressions of Vol.1  while they are still fresh in my mind. I have already started listening to Vol. 2.

I have read novels by 2 out of 3 of the Bronte sisters.  I really loved Charlotte Bronte's novels Jane Eyre & Villette.  I hated most of Wuthering Heights by Emily but I had not read anything by Anne. So far Anne's writing has more in common with Charlotte than with Emily.  

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the story of an unconventional and opinionated widow, Helen, who along with her young son is trying to live quietly in a secluded home in the moors.  She becomes the objects of interest and speculation among the people of the rural community near her rented home. She is scratching out a meager living as an artist, and no one really know where she is came from and she refuses to speak about her past.

The first volume is told from the point of view of Gilbert Markam, a young farmer who becomes infatuated with Helen.  His opinion of Helen changes greatly through the course of the first volume.  At first he is vexed by her strong opinions and her unwillingness to cater to him.  As the eldest son and head of the family, he is oblivious to the way everything and anything in his home is done for his benefit. As he grows to respect Helen, he becomes aware of the faults of the people he has previously long admired and starts to question many of his own assumptions.  There is a fantastically humorous conversation where he confronts his mother on her insistence that relationship between men and women should be completely lacking in reciprocity. 

Anne Bronte's depiction of Gilbert as a suitor is not without many sharp barbs. In the novel Gilbert is recounting the whole affair to a friend via letter after the fact.   I particularly liked how sharp Bronte is showing us how Gilbert moves from casual infatuation and admiration of Helen,  to trying to become her defender when she becomes the subject of scandalous gossip. Bronte does a wonderful job portraying how swiftly Gilbert moves from ardent knight to betrayed and self-pitying when he thinks he has encountered proof of that the gossip is true.

There a lot of great little character studies in this first volume.  Eliza Millwood, flirt, petty gossip and jealous harpy.  I loved how Rose (Gilbert's sister) is aware long before Gilbert is of Eliza's claws.  I was also fascinated by Rev. Millwood.  His pomposity and deluded self-assurance are broadly drawn but he does not become a caricature.  I think we have all met someone who is generalizes from his own experience and thinks it applies to universally to everyone.

I am listening to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall via audiobook I borrowed from the library.   It is narrated by Jenny Agutter and Alex Jennings. The narration is excellent, although I wish that when they digitized it they would have cut the "end of side 1" markers, although it gave me a pleasing flashback to my days as kid listening to lp and tape audiobooks.


I am looking forward to joining the discussion of  Vol. 1 on Twitter on December 21 at 9 PM EST/6 PM PST using the hashtag #TOWH.  Volume 1 is only 15 chapters long and you still have time to join us!

Vol. 2 will be discussed at the same time on December 28 and Vol. 3 on January 4.

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #1)

511l7Y14dfL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is infamous in London society for his very specific sexual predilections.  When his long-time mistress Marie Hume is murdered, he feels compelled to seek out her killer. At every turn he faces apathy, suspicion and danger. He needs a trustworthy guide to help him navigate St.Giles so he can complete his investigations.

Temperance Dews has dedicated her life to carrying for abandoned children since the death of her husband Ben. She runs a foundling home in St.Giles with her brother Winter. The foundling home is floundering, unpaid bills stacking up, after the death of their patron.  Mrs.Dews accepts Lord Caire proposal out of necessity. She will show him around St.Giles, introduce him to those who might have know Marie and he will help her find a wealthy patron for the home by escorting her to society balls and soirees.

Temperance and Lazarus are superficially an unlikely pair.  Mrs. Dews is rigidly repressed while Caire is crude and shameless in his debauchery.  Soon Caire seemingly comes to care more about tempting and inciting Temperance than in finding Marie's killer.

This book was both compelling and problematic for me.

There were a ton of intersecting storylines, most of whom were simply being set up, and are left dangling at the start of the book.  Some are obvious throughlines, like "Who is the Ghost of St.Giles" and others smaller,  "What will become of Silence?", What is going on with St.John?", "How did Winter get that cut?", "How does Asa make a living?"...etc.  There are countless smaller ones I haven't even mentioned. This leads to a very crowded somewhat confusing book which built my frustration with the haphazard way the murder plot was handled.  I appreciated the color and world building Hoyt is doing but the main story really suffered.  I rather have had better development of Temperance's past, rather than having it basically info-dumped near the end.

While I really liked Lazarus and Temperance's individual struggles,  I wasn't thrilled with the resolution to Caire's struggle with touch. It felt cheap and unlikely that a life-long affliction would be cured so simply. Lots of people are shaped by childhood trauma, and find lasting love without being cured of their pain.

I was also fascinated and troubled at points, by the way, kink, particularly Lazarus's use of bondage was presented. I am not done sorting through my feelings about it. It seemed like at point its was presented as an exciting way to spice up one's sex life and at others as a symptom of a damaged psyche. It made little sense to me that he was so skilled at bringing Temperance to sexual satisfaction, while at the same time having spent the majority of his life, caring absolutely nothing for his sexual partners and their satisfaction.

Mrs.Dews, character, her desire, and repression however, made a great deal of sense to me. I fully understood her tortured feelings toward her sexual desires, and her complicated feelings of guilt she carried.  Her horror at having hurt Caire in the way she did during their dark moment was incredibly well done. I do wish we knew more about the specifics of her religious background.  The Makepeace family clearly are from some unconventional/Quakerish background and that informs their charity and family life but it is little explored. 

I listened to this book as an audiobook narrated by Ashford McNab. I wasn't fully satisfied with the narration. I did not like the voice used for Caire, which I found grating and whiny more than seductive and enticing, but I rather liked the female voices and for the secondary male characters.

Wicked Intentions was an ambitious but flawed book, But despite all these flaws and frustrations, I still rather liked the book. I liked the world of Maiden Lane (I've the two most recent novels) and  I enjoyed the banter and  compelling relationships, but I simply wasn't comfortable with the book as a whole.  

Broken Resolutions by Olivia Dade

51z+yqhGJUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Penny Callahan has excellent plans for New Year's Eve. She is planning on enjoying a delicious burger and fries in her PJ's alone on her couch. However she has to abandon those plans at the urging of her insistent co-worker Angie who needs her to take over running the Library's first-ever New Year's Singles Night event.  

Jack Williamson is a reclusive writer who since his divorce prefers quiet nights at home with his daughter above most everything else. His daughter, however is spending New Year's with his ex and his widowed mother has recruited him to drive her to the library for their Singles event only to discover she has bought him a ticket to attend too.  Grumpy but resigned Jack just hopes he can make it through the night without anyone recognizing him.

This was a fun little novella, breezy and sexy. I really enjoyed Dade's humor and writing style in general and that carried me through the romance progressing much faster pace than I generally like.  Jack is clearly afflicted with Insta-lust as he moves from intrigued attraction to determined passion in just one night.  Penny's attack of lust was a bit too sudden, but I enjoyed her sneakiness nonetheless.  Penny's downtrodden self-image grates at points, but her wariness and hurt at Jack's deception is only natural after the awful year she has had.  The resolution to their conflict was very sweet.

As a librarian I am always a little bit sensitive to the depiction of shy librarians but Dade who used to work at a Library, does a great job with it. I am very intrigued by Angie, Penny's outrageous and boundary-pushing co-librarian, who runs afoul of the Library administration. I am eager to read her book.

Disclosures:  Olivia Dade is good friend. Olivia and I met through Twitter.  After getting together at RWA, Olivia asked to me beta read a couple of her upcoming novels, which I greatly enjoyed reading.

Kensington Lyrical provided a review copy but I also bought my own.


RT Review Round-up December

Everything at Last by Kimberly Lang 

Nice Small town romance, that was easy to enter despite being the third? book in a series.  But it was a tricky review to write. There is a surprise revelation pretty far into the novel that I couldn't spoil. I struggled with how to address it.  

Cold Fusion by Harper Fox

This was a hard book to review. I really liked parts of it, but some elements were really problematic.  Really liked the setting and premise.  I don't know if it just me, but I found the names in this book very odd.

The Outback Bachelor Ball Series: Win Me by Joan Kilby, Woo Me by Karina Bliss and Wait for Me by Sarah Mayberry

With their love lives in shambles, Jen, Ellie and Beth, best friends since boarding school, decide to reunite for a weekend of drinking & dancing  at Bachelor/Spinster Ball in the Australian Outback, before they start over.  

Win Me by Joan Kilby: Ellie is returning to Australia and her father's remote cattle station after spending years overseas learning all she can about cattle management. Coming home means facing  Rick, her father's foreman, and the man she has been in love with most her life but who she thinks has never seen her as anything other than a kid sister and the boss's daughter. The Bachelor/Spinster ball revives old memories and new feelings.

Win Me started out really slow, burdened with most of background, set-up and exposition scenes in the series.  The romance relied a bit too much on incomplete conversations and misunderstandings to hold my interest. 

Woo Me by Karina Bliss:  Jen's office romance has just ended in the worst way possible, her boss/boyfriend Karl, reuniting with his ex-wife.  Frustrated and Angry, Jen plans on attending the Bachelor/Spinster ball in cow suit, as she is not in the least interested in find a new man. The cow suit attracts all the wrong kind of attention and Jen finds herself running into Logan, one of the security guards over and over again.

I didn't finish this one. Not sure why, but I just couldn't get into more than the first few chapters, I might try again at a later date.


Wait for Me by Sarah Mayberry:  Beth's marriage to Country music superstar has imploded under the weight of his repeated infidelities. Sick of being hounded by the paparazzi, Beth returns home to Australia, sad and wary.  The last person she expects to run in the Outback is her old friend Jonah Masters. Jonah has loved Beth for years, and even though they formed a strong friendship when his band toured with her husband's they never ever crossed the line into anything romantic. 

I really liked this story. Beth is in an emotionally messy place, and really fears hurting Jonah, who has been nothing but good to her because of stuff she still needs to sort out from the end of her marriage. What really worked for me was that while the set-up could have lead to a lot of angst, it wasn't.  Jonah is willing to wait for Beth, and Beth doesn't jerk him around. They talk about their feelings and act like grownups.  I read the book in one sitting. It was sexy, emotional and romantic all at once.


I received review copies of Win Me, Woo Me and Wait for Me from Sarah Mayberry.