#Bookthread

Favorites of 2023

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I’ve read 170 books this year! There were some re-reads, tons of  mystery series, lots of  Urban Fantasy & Romantic suspense binges but the books below were my faves of the year.  The ones in bold are the books published this year or in one case next month!

Special shout-out to Graphic Audio for their fantastic dramatization of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels and The Innkeeper Chronicles series for allowing me to revisit some favorites in a fresh way.

I’ve either borrowed from the Library or bought all these books with the exception of the ones marked as ARCs which I received for review purposes.

 

 

1.  Magic Tides by Ilona Andrews (UF, KDWY #1)

This sequel series was a delight. It was fabulous to reconnect with Kate and family.  They have new place looking for a new start but you always bring yourself.

CWs: child abductions, violence, gore, murder, past traumas.  ARC 1/17

 

23. City of the Lost by Kelly Armstrong (Rockton/Casey Duncan #1, WW/WM, Mystery/Thriller series).

Hidden city, hidden agendas & hidden murders.

I loved this whole series and I’m loving the follow up series.  Just loved the unfolding of the mysteries and the development of the relationships.

CWs:  Guns, murder, mutilation, medical procedures, sex work, slut-shaming, kidnapping, rape, beatings, abandonment, drugs, cop MCs. 1/17/17 

 

48. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood  (Mystery, Queer & disabled MCs, found family, late 1940’s NYC)

Pentecost & Parker are both super fascinating and the voice is fun despite the dark topics.   I loved each book in this series, especially the way Spotswood explores this time period in queer culture. CWs: murder, blackmail, queer phobia, beating, domestic violence, alcoholism 8/3/21

 

55. The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Mystery, Taiwanese-American Lesbian MC) Really engaging & engrossing. Loved Claudia and her wry geeky voice & how excited she is to be caught up a in mystery. 

CWs: murder, references to suicide, gaslighting, toxic family dynamics, 2/22/22

 

58. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths (WW/WM, Mystery with Rom Elements, final book in series). Whew! As this book barreled to the end I didn’t know where things would land for our central characters, Ruth, Nelson and Cathbad but I’m deeply satisfied.  I read nearly the whole series this year and it was a fantastic rich journey. I still find myself thinking about some of the relationships and dynamics all the time.  Also top-notch big gesture CWs: murder, abduction

4/25/23

 

66. The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller  (WW/WM, Paris set HR 1878) Biller’s prose is clever, smart, funny & heartbreaking angsty.  I loved how Ben & Amelie have to let go of so much before they can hold on to each other!  CWs: sex work, grief, murder, past trauma: war

10/12/21

 

77. Chick Magnet by Emma Barry ( WM/WW, contemporary, chicken influencer & vet). I love the craft in Barry’s romances, the balance of lust, awkwardness, vulnerability & silliness.  Just awesome sauce. I have to catch up on her other releases for this year but this is a book I find myself recommending in person al, the time. Cw: grief, depression, bullying, past trauma: gaslighting

1/24/23

 

83. A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske (Fantasy, WM/WM, magical mystery, 1st in trilogy )

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING.  So excited to as this author straight into autobuy category!  Beautiful and engrossing! I loved the other two books in the series. Deeply fascinated by the magical world and the way the characters moved through it.

CWs: murder, torture, toxic siblings, toxic parents, bullying)

10/18/22

 

90. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries #1). Ooooh I love Murderbot already, so sympathetic and confused!  Great audio narration too by Kevin R. Free. This is will be adapted soon and wow I hope some of the magic of these books translate to the screen. I’m so deeply invested into the emotional journey of SecUnit and the impact they make on others. Every single book…worth your time.

CWs: murder, gore, slavery.

5/2/17

 

92. Wild Life by Opal Wei (eArc: Jan 24, contemporary rom, rom com in the right way!, Taiwanese-Canadian MCs,MMC has anxiety/panic attacks)

I loved Zoey, how grumpy, snarly and vibrant she is.  I fully agree with Davy that she is radiant! This author is long time fave under other pen names and I hope I get read more fun books from her 

Cw: sister had bone cancer, addiction

 

99. Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q Sutanto (Mystery, AW).

When a terrible man in found dead in her tea shop, Vera is determined to find the killer,  unfortunately she grows quite attached to her suspects. This book I almost read again, immediately after finishing it. Just a warm hug of a book, it the hugger is bony and nags you in a loving way while poking you in the heart.

CW: murder, emotional abuse, ref. to violence.

3/14/23

 

106. Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (Thriller/heisty, 60+ assassins). When their retirement cruise turns into kill zone, they need to figure who is gunning for them & take them down! 4 women against the agency that turned on them. This is a book begging for movie adaptation. Cinematic and fun.CW: murder, violence, sexism.

8/15/23

108. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (AW/WM, UK set, Cozy Fantasy Rom)  Fantastic, funny, surprising & tender book. Great found family, confronting traumas & looking for a way to make things better.  Hoping we get a lot more books from this author. This is how you do secret magical societies. (CW: toxic childhoods, abandonment, loneliness).

8/23/22

 

139. The Buried Hours by R.S.

Grant (Mystery with Rom, WW/WM, ARC, 12/5/23)

Intense & gripping twisty mystery. Desperate for answers she won't be deterred. Writing as RS Grant, Rachel Grant takes a darker turn while keeping a ton of the things that made me love her previous work.

CWs: murder, abduction, brutal rape, gaslighting, coercion, human trafficking, betrayal, suicidal ideation, violence, PTSD

144. Death Below Stairs (WW/WM, London UK-Set, Victorian Era Mystery series with romantic elements)Mrs H is a very good cook but she might be an even better sleuth! She can’t help but get involved when her assistant is found dead in the pantry!  I flew through the backlist of this series and I’m now caught up and it terrible to have to wait to March to see what is next for Daniel & Kat.

CWs: imperialism, discrimination 2/2/2018

 

166. Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Fantasy with queer found family) This book was sweet, surprising and really enjoyable to listen to as Viv, Cal, Tandry & the crew buildup a cafe and community from scratch.  My only disappointment with the series that the next book is a prequel and not just more of Viv & Tandry! Cws: sexual harassment, extortion,secrets, arson, betrayal

8/8/22

I wish you a fantastic new year of reading!


December 23 Reading in Review

154. Cold Curses by Chloe Neill (UF, WM/WW,resolution). Pacing of this was installment was weird both slow and rushed at points. Some great moments and a lot of eh ( CWs: violence, murder, possession, secrets, abduction).

155. An Impossible Impostor by Deanna Raybourn ( WM/WW, mystery  with Rom, Victorian era). I loved the first half of the book and then I go super stressed & had to skip to the end & skim backwards.  Aaaack (cws: imperialism, past trauma: abandonment, lies, financial abuse.)

156. A Sinister Revenge by Deanna Raybourn ( WM/WW, Victorian era mystery with Rom).  I wanted to shake both Stoker & Veronica but I could actually read the whole book!  Now yo wait till March for more!! CWs: murder, grief, sexism.

 

A Graphic Audio Book Binge!

157. Clean Sweep

158.Sweep in Peace

159. One Fell Sweep

160. Sweep of the Blade

161. Sweep with Me

The innkeeper Chronicles bks 1~5 by Ilona Andrews (SFR, WM/WW). Have been enthusiastically adapted by the Graphic Audio team.

I absolutely love the worldbuilding in these books and the full cast audio  helped me notice some of the more subtle bits in this reread.

I also skimmed reread

162. Sweep of the Heart bk 6 that has not yet been dramatized!

It also almost launched me in reread of the Edge

 

163. Magic Bites

164.Magic Burns

165. Magic Strikes

Al by Ilona Andrews

The Graphic audio on these is also excellent with a great menacing Curran and fab cast!

166. Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Fantasy with found family) This book was sweet, surprising and really enjoyable to listen to as Viv, Cal, Tandry & the crew buildup a cafe and community from scratch.  Cws: sexual harassment, extortion,, secrets, arson, betrayal

167. The Price of Lemon Cake by Jennifer Ashley (W TransM/WW, Victorian era, UK set, novella)

Bobby & Judith have been an establish pair but this novella centers them & their relationship as they help Mrs H &  open a door once closed in Judith’s past.  Cw: sexism, transphobia.

168.  Splinter by Jasper Hyde (UF /SFR, DemiAM/BiBW, 2nd chance, Sleepy Hollow)

Loved the world building and the characters, the pacing towards the end was a bit rushed for both the rom & plot but would definitely read more in this world.

CWs: violence, murder, gore, grief.

169. Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves (mystery, UK-set, serial killer bk3) murdered boy in a bath, a dead young woman in a tidal pool. Cleeves excels in creating unsettling relationships & exploring loneliness & isolation. CWs: murder, mental illness, infidelity, obsession.

170. Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves (mystery, UK-set, bk4) tangled lives, shameful secrets and private betrayals. I love Vera and how petty she can be. Did not guess the murderer but it made sense! CWs: fatphobia (whole series), murder, bullying, alcohol use, death of children.


October 23 Reading in Review

135. Murder in Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose (WW/WM, Uk-set Regency Mystery, Scientist Earl/Widowed satirical cartoonist)  The chemistry!  Love the banter, sparring & real emotion the MCs grapple with while untangling a dastardly murder.  Cw: murder, betrayal, poverty

 

136. Murder at Half-Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose (WM/WW, Regency era Mystery with Rom) big changes for Charlotte & the weasels, increasing vulnerability & connection! Love these book even with the occasional info-dumps!  CWs: murder, poverty, sexism, blackmail

 

137. Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose ( WW/WM, mystery with Rom elements). 

The pacing/tension in the rom in this book wasn't great (too many infodumps not enough together time)l'm invested but I'm taking a break.

Cw: murder, blackmail,

mental illness - rep.

 

138. Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn (WM/WW,

Victorian era Mystery with Rom)

Stoker's brother manipulates Veronica & Stoker into joining him at doomed house party in order to solve a painful mystery.

CWs: murder, gaslighting, abduction

 

139. The Buried Hours by R.S.

Grant (Mystery with Rom, WW/WM, ARC, 12/5/23)

Intense & gripping twisty mystery.

Desperate for answers she won't be deterred.

CWs: murder, abduction, brutal rape, gaslighting, coercion, human trafficking, betrayal, suicidal ideation, violence, PTSD

 

140. Heartless by Elsie Silver (WM/WW, single-dad, age gap, nanny)  I cruised through the first 3/4 of this bk  thank to great tension/humor but then angst-paused ! Still would rec.

CWs: surprise pregnancy, light kink, bullying, PT: abandonment, death of parent.

 

141. Murderous Relations by Deanna Rayborun (Victorian UK-set mystery with Rom WM/WW) The ripper murders & a plot to overthrow monarchy are background to Stoker & Veronica’s love affair. A

CWs: murder, abduction, violence, serial killers, pro-imperialism MCs

 

142. Big Witch Energy by Molly Harper (PNR, WM/WW, 2nd Chance, single dad, bk2, audio original. While I enjoyed the performances and the story m. At least 5 times the audio was spliced in such a way as to repeat words and phrases. Cw:  murder, toxic family

 

143. An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn ( Victorian/UK-set mystery with Rom WM/WW)  mountain climbing, secret romances, a missing princess, doppelgänger shenanigans,   Live for their banter!  CWs: murder, bury your gays, kidnapping, violence)


September 23 Reading in Review

118. How to kiss an Undead Bride by Hailey Edwards ( UF, wedding epilogue)

This was fun & I loved that we had POV chapters for Linus.

Cw: murder, stalking, food weirdness, violence, betrayals.

 

119. How to Survive an Undead Honeymoon by Hailey Edwards (UF, Epi. 2)

A haunted inn seemed like a good idea for until everything turns grislier than they expected.  Trans teen supporting Character

CWs: murder, curses, family secrets, witchcraft, child in peril, arson

 

120. How to Rattle an Undead Couple by Hailey Edwards ( UF, Epilogue #3 Babylogue) .

I liked this story but it doesn’t strike me as Edwards being done with this world even a little bit.

CWs: food weirdness, weight talk, abduction, violence, stalking, family trauma

 

121. The Redemption of Boaz Pritchard (UF, novella)

I already liked Addie if not Boaz but I loved her friendship with Cass and their bounty hunting.

Cw: homophobia, sex work, abusive ex, stalker, serial killer.

 

122. Shadow of Doubt by Hailey Edwards ( UF with Rom elements,  WW/WM, survivors of abuse).

Sad at the villain reveal because I liked them as supporting character!

CWs: murders, secrets, child abuse,fake identity.

 

123. Pack of Lies by Hailey Edwards (UF w/rom, WM/WW, abuse survivors)

I’m liking this pairing way more than I thought I would, based on their initial appearances in TBGTN.

CWs: murder, stalking, posession, abduction

 

124. Change of Heart by Hailey Edwards (UF w/rom, WM/WW, abuse survivors)

Lots of great personal growth for both MCs and tense action.

CWs: murder, possession, abduction, past trauma: child abuse.

 

125. Proof of Life by Hailey Edwards ( UF w/rom, WM/WW, abuse survivors, found family)

Love how those around her help her know that she is loved and worthy of love, when it is super hard.

CWs: murder, violence, possession, betrayal, past trauma: child abuse.

 

126. Moment of Truth ( UF w/rom, WM/WW, abuse survivors)

Okay this is where the plot hit the fan…but on the other side is hard fought victory & rest

CWs: murders, possession, revenge, violence, past trauma: child abuse

One book to go in the binge!

 

127. Badge of Honor by Hailey Edwards ( UF w/rom, WM/WW, abuse survivors)

Great ending to the series, with Hadley staying true to herself as she prep for her final pre-appointment challenge.

CWs: abduction, violence, coercion

 

128. Gray Court by Hailey Edwards (UF w/rom,  WM/WW, toxic parents, found family, redemption)

Ooh this was intense right up to the last page!  Big set up for next book!  Love Rue and all she has built.

CWs: abduction, DV, threat of SA, violence, medical procedures

 

129. Gray Seas by Hailey Edwards ( UF w/rom, Black Hat Bureau  8 WM/WW, found family)

The last book’s ending was intense … and this one cataclysmic!  So many hard choices & even more ahead!

CWs: murder, poison, gore, abuse, abduction.

 

130. Dead Letter Days by Kelley Armstrong (Mystery w/rom, WM/AW, novella in between series)  Eric’s POV during the in between time.  Love how  two sets of letters unearth truths long hidden & clarify things for Eric.

CWs: murder, past trauma: DV, abduction, abandonment

 

131. The Body in the Back Garden by Mark Waddell (Mystery with Rom elements, WM, Gay MC)

Surprised to inherit his estranged home, Luke returns to the small town. Old friends, bittersweet memories & murder complicate all.

Cw: murder, past trauma: homophobia, family rejection

 

132. Shadows in the Night by Heather Graham (WM/WW, RS novella, Egyptology) A series of freaky deaths draw together two investigators with a passion for archaeology.  Eh, somewhat repetitive but not demanding

Cw: murder, misogyny.

 

133. A Tempest at Sea by Sherry Thomas ( Mystery w/rom elements WM/WW, Lady Sherlock 7,  Houseparty Mystery at Sea! )

Beautifully crafted, full of misdirection, criss-crossing motives, false identities, I’m drawn ever deeper !

 

CWs:  murder, blackmail, sexism, ageism, coercion.

 

134. The Enchanted Hacienda by JC Cervantes (WFic with rom, LW/WM, slow burn )

Harlow’s magic is blossoming after decades of thinking herself the sole non-magical woman in her family but it almost destroys her love in the process.

 

Cws: Magical accident, sexism, lies,


August 23 Reading in Review

99. Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q Sutanto (Mystery, AW).

When a terrible man in found dead in her tea shop, Vera is determined to find the killer,  unfortunately she grows quite attached to her suspects.

CW: murder, emotional abuse, ref. to violence.

 

100. The Long Call by Ann Cleeves (WM MC, Mystery, English gay police detective)

Really enjoyed this new series. Engrossing mystery, dangerous conspiracy and fascinating backstory

CWs: murder, homophobia, ableism references to SA, IPV, estrangement past trauma: death of child

 

101. The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves ( Mystery, WM MC, serial killer & suicides)

A series of murders, shards of glass, fractured families, guilt, art & the conflicts and intersections of small communities.  Great 2nd book. Love the 2ndary POVs.

CWs: murder, suicide, depression

 

102. The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves (WM Gay MC, UK set Mystery, No.3, audio ARC, out Sept.5, 23)

In a claustrophobic & superstitious village, Venn & his team try to sort face from fiction after a famed sailor is found murdered off the coast.

CWs: murder, sexism, ill child.

 

103. The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves (Mystery WW, UK set, Vera 1)

This is such a contrast to Venn books in structure and style.  Told in multiple POVs & parts with Vera in very late.

CW: suicide, mental illness, child death, foster care, neglect, murder, adultery, homophobia.

 

104. Mysterious Abduction by Rita Herron (RS,WM/WWHQN Intrigue, child abduction, depression)

Bonkers on how much happens in the 2nd to last chapter & covered in the 6 weeks later last chapter!

CWs: kidnapping, death of parent, stalker, arson, depression, infertility, adultery

 

105. Desperate Measures by Brenda Jackson ( BM/BW,  RS, playboy/doctor).

They keep having hot encounters at weddings but he hesitates to invite her to a notorious weeklong fling trip…he wants to keep her.

CWs: guns, violence, abduction attempt. Past trauma: parental deaths.

 

106. Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (Thriller/heisty, 60+ assassins). When their retirement cruise turns into kill zone, they need to figure who is gunning for them & take them down! 4 women against the agency that turned on them.  CW: murder, violence, sexism.

107. There Should have Been Eight by Nalini Singh (Modern Gothic Thriller, MC is AW, Dark, Out 11/21/23)

Friends reunited 9 years after their beloved friend’s death, a chance to ask questions or take revenge.

CW: murders, ableism, mental illness, MC is going blind).

 

108. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (AW/WM, UK set, Cozy Fantasy Rom)  Fantastic, funny, surprising & tender book. Great found family, confronting traumas & looking for a way to make things better (CW: toxic childhoods, abandonment, loneliness).

 

109. Pack of Lies by Charlie Adhara (WM/WM PNR/RS).  Julien is trying to come to terms with his brother’s death by retracing his last adventure & he stumbles on to secrets he didn’t expect to be real! 💕💕💕

CWs: murder, grief, gaslighting, PT: toxic relationships, imprisonment.

 

110. Role Playing by Cathy Yardley (AW/WM, Demi/Bi MC, Contemporary Rom, 48+ yrs MCs). Loved the pairing of  snarly but caring heroine & the big strong softie hero & how both blossom around each other.

CWs: homophobia, toxic parents,  toxic exes, elder care.

 

111. Claws and Contrivances  by Stephanie Burgis (WW/WM, SFR).  When two abused dragons appear in the crumbling manor she shares with her distant relatives,  Rose leaps into action to protect them, ensnaring visiting scholar Sir Aubrey in the process.

Cw: animal abuse, coercion

 

112. How to Save an Undead Life by Hailey Edwards (UF, WW MC, Savannah-set) After 5 yrs of torturous false imprisonment Grier is thrust into necro high society with everyone after control her unexpected powers.  Who can she really trust?

CWs: murder, violence, PTSD, kidnapping

 

113. How to Claim an Undead Soul by Hailey Edwards ( UF, WW Mc, Bk 2).

Edwards is great at complicating relationships & turning things in unexpected ways.  New threats, some very close! And ouch the ending. CWs: Murder, betrayals, violence, mention of DV, abandonment, PSTD.

 

114. How to Break an Undead Heart by Hailey Edwards ( UF, WW MC, bk 4)   Oof I had to read this one from back to front, the foreshadowing was too intense about how everything would break.

CWs: murder, xenophobia, secrets, betrayal, violence, stalking, toxic families

 

115. How to dance an Undead Watlz by Hailey Edwards (UF with Rom Elements, WM/WW bk4)

Love seeing Grier start to figure out what makes her happy, and forming new bonds.

CWs: murder, betrayal, secrets, stalking, toxic families

 

116.  How to Live an Undead Lie by Hailey Edwards ( UF with Rom Elements, WM/WW, Bk5)

This totally read like a final book including a damn big boss battle but it wasn’t?? Still big things happened including 💕💕💕

CWs: murder, betrayal, secrets, stalking, toxic exes.

 

117. How to Wake an Undead City by Hailey Edwards (UF with Rom elements, WW/WM, bk6)

A lot a lot of plot happened in this book and uff not all if it worked for me but I was still rooting for the MCs at yet end.

CWs: murder, betrayal, secrets, pregnancy, trauma


July in Review

Blue Sea Moodboard Photo collage Greece
92. Wild Life by Opal Wei (eArc: Jan 24, contemporary rom, rom com in the right way!, Taiwanese-Canadian MCs,MMC has anxiety/panic attacks)
 
Mini-Synopsis:  A cancer researcher bullies her way on to the private island of former C-pop star-aspiring wildlife rescuer after he accidently ends up with a slide crucial to her researcher. Hi-jinks ensue!
 
I loved Zoey, how grumpy, snarly and vibrant she is.  I fully agree with Davy that she is radiant!
 
CW: sister had bone cancer, addiction
 
93. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries 3)
 
Mini-Synopsis:  While trying to find more evidence against the corporation that tried to kill him original team,  Murderbot ends up trying to keep another group of hapless humans and their pet bot from being killed.
 
Murderbot just can’t help getting involved and saving people! It is so intense and emotional and comforting!
 
CWs: betrayal, violence.
 
94. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot #4).
 
Mini-Synopsis: While returning to Dr. Mensah and the Preservation crew with evidence against the villanous GreyCris corporation Murderbot realizes that Dr. Mensah is missing!
 
Reunion/rescue mission, more deadly battles! Love it… did I say was going to space them out… CWs: kidnapping, violence, gore.
 
95. Network Effect by Martha Wells SF, Murderbot Diaries 5).
 
Mini-Synopisis: Finally on Preservation, Murderbot is trying to figure out themselves and their relationships and what role they can have or should have in Dr. Mensah's life, when an old frenemy needs their help.
 
I just love all the sulky growth Murderbot continues to experience and how it doesn’t just transform their life but that of all others around them!
 
96. Capture the Sun by Jessie Mihalik (SFR, bk3, thief/teleporter)
 
Mini-Synopsis:   Lexi a retrieval expert (thief) is used to working for terrible people but her latest job has lured her back to Valorian space and the betrayals come fast and hard and she has no choice but accept the help of Nilo, who once betrayed her himself.   But things get complicated when they realize the Empress might be about to restart the brutal war they sacrificed so much to end.
 
I think I was in the wrong mood for this. But the tension seemed weak.
 
Cw: kidnapping, betrayal past trauma: war
 
97. A Most Agreeable Murder by Julia Seales (Mystery with Rom elements, AM/WW).
 
Mini-Synopsis:  When a most eligible and wealthy bachelor is murdered in the midst of a ball, Beatrice Steele has no choice but to attempt to solve the murder especially since the inspector present is all set to blame her sister.
 
With a light yet satirical tone, a plot bordering on farce, & diverse cast, it’s MCs charm, amuse & detect! CWs: murder, violence, betrayal, abelism & misogyny
 
98. Resonance Surge by Nalini Singh (SFR/PNR WW/AM, Bear Changeling/ mentally scarred Psy)
 
 
Mixed feelings…wasn’t enjoying the book…took a 3 week break & enjoyed the ending? Wrong mood? Hmmm. CWs: murder, child abuse, serial killer, non-conventual medical procedures, ableism.
 
 
Cw: abductions, medical procedures, violence, gore.

Mixed Feelings: Resonance Surge by Nalini Singh

98. Resonance Surge by Nalini Singh (SFR/PNR WW/AM, Bear Changeling/ mentally scarred Psy) Mixed feelings…wasn’t enjoying the book…took a 3 week break & enjoyed the ending? Wrong mood? Hmmm. CWs: murder, child abuse, serial killer, non-conventual medical procedures, ableism

Mini-Synopsis:  The tortured and skittish sister of powerful Psy, Theo Marshall, has gaps in her memory and a deep conviction that she is a destructive and dangerous monster. Yakov Stepyrev of the StoneWater bears has been dreaming of a woman who looks just like Theo since his adolescence and while he is mistrustful of anyone from Marshall Group,  he is willing to help Theo figure out how her family was involved with a secret installation where non-compliant Psy were tortured and "rehabilitated" during the Silence era.

A Nalini Singh book is almost always one of my most anticipated books of the year, so anticipated that I am willing to read it in print with my eyes! (I am mostly an audiobook readers now).  As I struggled through reading Resonance Surge I wondered at myself why I was having a hard time. Was it my mood, the format or (gasp!) the text.  I struggled so much that I didn't hesitate to leave the book behind when our departure for vacation was unexpectedly accelerated and I was only a handful of chapters from the climatic conclusion.  The feeling I felt at the time was relief, I could stop trying to love it.

After weeks of ignoring it, yesterday I finally picked up the last few chapters and finished it, and found myself moved and gripped at the ending.  What had changed, I again wondered.  In discussing my mixed feeling with some fellow readers I realized what had changed when I returned and my discomfort reading the book clarified itself.  The secondary storylines had resolved and all I had left to read were the main storyline's resolution.  The book lacked cohesion much like the Psy-Net does.

While I had issues with the swiftness of Theo and Yakov's attachment, when she is so deeply traumatized by the abuse wrecked on her as a child, it is not a new relationship pattern for Singh.  My discomfort with the book was how fractured it was.  There were at least 4 or 5 different threads tangled in this book: the fracturing of Hien and Denu's sibling relationship at the dawn of the age of Silence, the fracturing of the PsyNet and  rising threat of Scarab Syndrome, the brutal serial killings of young women in Moscow,  Pavel and Arwen's deepening relationship and Theo and Yakov's quest to unearth the role of the Marshall family the abuse and experimentation of Psy on Pax's request.  That is a lot of threads for one book, and while some of these threads will I am sure will have payoff in later books, they dragged and distracted.

Nalini Singh is one of the foundational authors in my romance journey.  Reading Slave to Sensation, the first Psy-Changeling book back in 2010 or thereabouts opened up a world of paranormal speculative romance, where SF/Fantasy and romance combined into a deep and heady mix full of intrigue, expansive worldbuilding and swoony romances. Over the years though as my romance reading tastes changed and my self-identity broadened, I became dissatisfied with the erasure of LGBTQIA folks from Singh's future-set world. I welcomed when Singh over the last decade has  not 0nly started featuring visible minorities (not just white-presenting mixed peoples) as main characters has started peppering LGBTQIA characters in supporting roles.

In her second Psy-Changeling  Trinity series,  Pavel and Arwen have been slowly moving from flirtation to committed relationship in the background of several books.  Arwen is an empath and he often referred to as the heart of the Mercant family, a powerful and sometimes ruthless Psy family whose members have featured in nearly all the Trinity series books.  Pavel is key member of the StoneWater Bear clan, one of the central changeling packs in the series.    As I grew invested in Pavel and Arwen, I also grew dissatisfied with their secondary and in this case nearly superfluous role in this book. This is a far cry from how their story is billed in the official synopsis

"A point of irrevocable change. For Pavel . . . for Arwen . . . for Yakov . . . and for another pair of twins whose bond has a far darker history." 

In a series where the central relationships are often tested in dramatic fashion, theirs has been a quiet and placid romance.  I felt shortchanged.  While Pavel and Arwen's story would have made for a sweet novella, it felt disappointing in the midst of this book. I didn't believe the conflict that supposedly kept Arwen from accepting their mating bond.

I know understand my mixed feelings, this book had to many discordant notes smushed in, short-changing the secondary storylines and not hanging together cohesively.  I'll stick around to see where Singh is going next but with less anticipation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher as part of the reviewer program.


June in Review

Brown Geometric My Family Photo Collage
73. Twisted by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/FBI agent, co-workers, age difference, past trauma: parental loss, child abuse)

Allison’s friends actually check on her!
Cw: serial killer, assault, guns, knives, grief, workaholism, mentions of rape, pedophilia, stalking.

74. Scorched by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, SEAL/Bone expert, on-the-run & 2nd chance).

More girlfriends checking in…still weird little things getting dropped like her possessive assistant! Skimmed some of goose chase parts.
Cw: grief, abandonment, murder, terrorism.

75. Exposed by Laura Griffin ( RS, WM/WW, age difference, CSI photographer/FBI agent)

When she inadvertently photographs suspects in an abduction she gets caught up in much larger mystery.
CWs: torture, abduction, grief, workaholics, past trauma: death of child

76. Beyond Limits by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, FBI agent/Navy SEAL)

Terrorist threats on US soil & long simmering attraction that can no longer be denied.
CWs: grief, guns, violence, references to torture, rape, beheading. Past trauma: loss of parent, assault.

77. Chick Magnet by Emma Barry ( WM/WW, contemporary, chicken influencer & vet).

I love the craft in Barry’s romances, the balance of lust, awkwardness, vulnerability & silliness. Just awesome sauce.
Cw: grief, depression, bullying, past trauma: gaslighting

78. Shadow Fall by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, security consultant/ FBI agent, serial killer)

CWs: murder, racism, misogyny, references to child sexual abuse.

79. Deep Dark by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/hacker, age difference, serial killer)

I really liked the dynamic between Reed and Laney, with her push/his immovable object dynamic
CWs: rape, murder, stalking, past trauma: abandonment, infidelity, assault
 
80. At Close Range by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/ballistics tech, brother's best friend)

Interesting to read all these books back to back in an earlier book there was a set up scene with different LI
CWs: murder, stalking, guns, arson, explosions, infidelity, infertility, pregnancy: former MCs
 
81. Touch of Red by Laura Griffin ( RS, WM/WW, CSI tech/cop).

Brooke’s motivations made little sense at points but I really liked Sean/Brooke together.
Cw: murder, child endangerment, abuse, alcoholism past trauma: coercion, sexual exploitation.
 
82. Stone Cold Heart by Laura Griffin ( RS, WM/WW, anthropologist/cop)

Both need to overcome mistrust and wounds from disastrous past relationships.
CWs: serial killer, misogyny, murder, rape, abduction, references to child abuse.
 
83. A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske (Fantasy, WM/WM, magical mystery, 1st in trilogy )

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. So excited to as this author straight into autobuy category! Beautiful and engrossing!
CWs: murder, torture, toxic siblings, toxic parents, bullying)
 
84. Her Deadly Secrets by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, bodyguard/PI)

Strong-silent type & chaotic talker collide and solve a series of murders, while he struggles to keep her alive.
CWs: assassins, crime syndicate, murder.
 
85. Far Gone by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, FBI agent/cop)

Andrea's life is already in a tailspin when she learns her brother might be aiding a terrorist! Tied up to the Tracers
CWs: terrorism, abuse, officer involved shooting, Past trauma: abandonment & death of alcoholic parent.
 
86. Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood (RS, WM/WW, FBI agent, Priest BFF's sister)

I've enjoyed Garwood's bananapants funny HRs, so I don't know why I waited to read her RS. Awkward/funny seduction, sexual tension up to 10, so much denial.
CWs: Serial Killer, murder, stalking.
 
87. Mercy by Julie Garwood ( RS, WM/WW, super toxic FATPHOBIA)

Bayou doctor saves burned-out atty & he is in the right place/right time to save her from coverup plot.
CWs: murder, guns, assassins, stalking, grief, references to suicide, past trauma: traumatic birth/maternal death
 
88. Killjoy by Julie Garwood (RS, WM/WW, virulent fatphobia)

I had to skim most of this book. It was a mess and I’m not sure if I should keep trying these books. 2 out 3 have been meh!
CWs: murder, misogyny, ableist, fatphobic, past trauma: assault, abuse, abandonment
 
89. A Restless Truth ( WW/WW, fantasy/mystery, 2nd in trilogy, ADHD rep).

Secret objects lost and found & relationships forged. Hints of House Party trope as most of the book is set on a transatlantic cruise ship.
CWs: murder, misogyny, past trauma: assault/abandonment/toxic parents.
 
90. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries #1).

Ooooh I love Murderbot already, so sympathetic and confused! Great audio narration too by Kevin R. Free.
CWs: murder, gore, slavery.
 
91. Artificial Condition (SF, Murderbot Diaries).
I just want to squish! This series is just so fantastic, hard-cynical Murderbot keeps getting attached and saving people who need saving, and saving a bit of themselves along the way.
Cw: murder, coercion, abuse of power.
 
 
 

 

 


May Reading in Review

Beige Pastel Minimalist Boho Live in the Moment  Photo Collage Instagram Post56. The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman (Regency, Mystery,).

Widowed Lady Adler has returned to town, and promptly discovers a body.

CWs: murder, racism, sexual harassment, guns, grief.

57. Ana María and the Fox by Liana De La Rosa (1860’s UK Hrom, Mexican FMC/Black-Scottish MMC)

Loved the sisterly bonding away from their dictatorial father & complex feelings AM has over falling for a UK politician like her father.

CWs: coercion, abduction, violence, harassment

58. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths (WW/WM, Mystery with Rom Elements, final book in series).

Whew! As this book barreled to the end I didn’t know where things would land for our central characters, Ruth, Nelson and Cathbad but I’m deeply satisfied.

CWs: murder, abduction

59. Deep Tide by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, FBI agent MC, small town)

When her employee is murdered, Leyla gets caught up in an larger investigation that has brought Sean into town.

CWs: murder, abductions, secrets.

60. Hidden by Laura Griffin (WW/WM, investigative reporter/ police detective)

When a story is bigger than she could have imagined the one person she trust is the one that fears trusting her.

(CWs: murder, stalking, secrets).

61. Flight by Laura Griffin (WW/WM, CSI/Detective, trauma, serial killer)

Miranda has left it all behind, looking for a new start but when she find a body, she knows she will always be a CSI, Joel just helps her back to it.

CWs: murder, arson, guns, stalked.

62. Midnight Dunes by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, cop/filmmaker)

She lives in the dead woman’s house 😱. Finally a mc who makes sure to eat! All her MCs are always hangry missing meals.

CWs: murder, abduction, blackmail

63. Last Seen Alone by Laura Griffin (WW/WM, cop/lawyer)

Might need to pause this binge. Skimmed to the end, although I did love how it dealt with revenge p r n

Cw: harassment, stalking, assault, guns, grief.

64. Magic Claims by Ilona Andrews (UF/PNR, arc 6/13)

aaahhhhhh love it. So many threads coming together, excellent antagonist & direction. Love these characters so much. Felt familiar and different!

CWs: death, gore, blood, coercion, enslavement.

65. Vanishing Hour by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/lawyer with SAR dog)

Ava gets caught up in searching for missing women, seeing connections the cops have ignored.

(CWs: murder, abduction, abuse, Alzheimer's, grief -- parental loss to cancer)

66. The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller (WW/WM, Paris set HR 1878)

Biller’s prose is clever, smart, funny & heartbreaking angsty. I loved how Ben & Amelie have to let go of so much before they can hold on to each other! CWs: sex work, grief, murder, past trauma: war

67. Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller (WM/WW, 1870’s Vienna, super competent MC, MMC virgin researches sex!)

I missed the Biller’s usual ghosts but this had so many fun tropes!

CWs: assassinations attempts, guns, blackmail, toxic parents, past trauma: parental abuse, abandonment

68. Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, bodyguard/lawyer).

The title doesn’t match the book at all but I enjoyed it. FMC has a case she doesn’t want to drop while an escaped serial killer threatens her.

CWs: murder, threats, references to rape, guns, betrayal.

69. Untraceable by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, cop/PI)

Alex helps desperate women disappear but when one returns & goes missing, Alex turns to Nathan for help…but no body & the suspect is another cop!

CWs: guns, arson, murder, misogynistic violence, police corruption, jealousy.

70. Unspeakable by Laura Griffin ( WM/WW, RS, true crime writer/FBI profiler, bad boy/straight arrow)

Troy was classic sequel bait in the last book so I was rooting for him the whole time.

CWs: serial killer, stalking, murder, violence, drug use, assault.

71. Unstoppable by Laura Griffin (RS Novella, WM/WW, SEAL/Archeologist)

A favor for his CO & an assignment that becomes unexpectedly dangerous. Bones, tunnels abd misding grad-students!

CWs: terrorism, grief, guns, bones,

72. Snapped by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, receptionist/detective)

This was undercooked…lots of dropped beats/threads in the romance & odd friendship fails. Toxic dynamics.

(CWs: mass shooting, assault, controlling, past trauma: assault )


April Reading in Review!

Grey Minimalist Photo Collage Polaroid Your Story40. Wild Things by Chloe Neill (UF, 9, WM/WW)

Magical threat to shifters and hidden magical peoples. Shifters are so messy emotionally.

CWs: murder, violence, gore, magical coercion, kidnapping, prejudice

41. Blood Games by Chloe Neill (UF, 10, WM/WW)

Oof, past allegiances & choices are tested as big political changes occur here.

CWs: murder, violence, kidnapping, psychic torture

42. Dark Debt by Chloe Neill (UF, 11, WM/WW)

Loved the care Merit had taken to rebuild her relationship with Mallory and how it comes into play here.

CWs: murder, violence, SA, magical coercion, past trauma: emotional abuse, gaslighting

43. Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill (UF, 12, WM/WW)

Finally the much hinted at proposal. Also the RG gets a much needed kick in the pants.

CWs: murder, violence, threats to family, magical coercion, sex work.

44. Phantom Kiss by Chloe Neill (UF, 12.5, WM/WW)

Loved the return of a side character in this.

CWs: violence, serial killer, prejudice.

45. Blade Bound by Chloe Neill ( UF, WM/WW, 13)

Climatic end to Ethan & Merit’s saga. Big Wedding, honeymoon interrupted and fulfillment of prophecy.

CWs: murder, mental illness, magical coercion, pregnancy

46. Slaying it by Chloe Neill (UF, WM/WW, 13.5)

Jonah and Margot finally break through the heartbreaks to give each other a chance, after dealing with Margot’s abusive ex.

CWs: kidnapping attempt, pregnancy, childbirth, past trauma: intimate partner violence

47. High Stakes by Chloe Neill ( UF, WW/WM, 8.5)

Lindsey faces her past and her commitment phobia

CWs: guns, murder, threats to family.

48. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood (mystery, Queer & disabled MCs, found family, 1940’s NYC)

Pentecost & Parker are both super fascinating and the voice is fun despite the dark topics.

CWs: murder, blackmail, queer phobia, beating, domestic violence, alcoholism

49. Murder Under her Skin by Stephen Spotswood (Mystery, queer MCs)

Double heartbreaking homecoming that unearth difficult secrets as Parker seeks rescue an old mentor from a murder charge

CWs: drugs, alcoholism, murder, violence, racism, mentions of SA, medical procedures.

50. Payback is a Witch by Lana Harper (Bi WW/WW, Magical PNR, small town, vengeance pact).

I wanted to like this more than I did but the world building was weak & occasionally problematic. MCs sometimes felt YA

CWs: violence, magical possession, past traumas: betrayal, gaslighting, bullying

51. Secrets Typed in Blood by Stephen Spotswood (BI WM MC, Mystery, 1940’s NYC).

Crime fiction, real murders & a suspicious client with deep secrets.

CWs: murder, child in peril, mentions of child death, kidnapping, serial killer, stalking, misogyny, past trauma: parental abuse

52. Alaskan Christmas Escape by Juno Rushdan (BW/WM, CIA fugitive/injured SEAL)

Zee is hiding after her team was framed & disavowed. But they’ve tracked her down & sent her evil ex after her. He won’t let her run alone.

CWs: gun violence, child in peril, past trauma: coercion, DV

53. Disavowed in Wyoming by Juno Rushdan (WW/LM, RS, second chance, CIA)

When Kate gets helps a pregnant woman she uncovers a lot more darkness in her home town.

CWs: murder, forced sex work, childbirth, maternal death, PT: DV, estrangement, grief, Cancer/Alzheimer’s

54. An Operative’s Last Stand by Juno Rushdan (Harlequin Intrigue, WM/WW)

Team Topaz’s last-ditch attempt to clear their name uncovers the true traitors.

CWs: guns, violence, murder, assassination, torture, sexual harassment.

55. The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Mystery, Taiwanese-American Lesbian MC)

Really engaging & engrossing. Loved Claudia and her wry geeky voice & how excited she is to be caught up a in mystery.

CWs: murder, references to suicide, gaslighting, toxic family dynamics.