Random (but not really)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Books of September

Here it is October. Except it doesn’t feel like October because it’s NINETY BLOODY DEGREES here.


Let us begin again.

We’re now in the last quarter of the year, and I’m once again reading a ridiculous number of book, but that’s ok. Sometimes it’s too hot to leave the house. Sometimes I need a break from house projects (which reminds me, I should really start writing those up to post here). So of course I read books.

What did I really like this month?

I am really loving Talia Hibbert. I read her Just for Him series, although I started with the novella, Work for It, which is a M/M story that concludes the series. Then I went back to start the series and of that, my favorite was Undone by the Ex-Con. The hero in that one was particularly interesting, for reasons that are uncovered as you read the story.

Although I’ve had it for months, I finally read Josh Lanyon‘s Come Unto These Yellow Sands, which is stand alone. I’d been hesitate to read it, because one of the main characters is an addict (clean six years) and I thought that might be difficult to read. It was difficult, but it was also very rewarding.

All of the above are boinking books.

The other book was Ada Maria Soto’s His Quiet Agent, which I thought was a spy / mystery story, but is actually a romance. The story itself was fascinating–especially since it’s an Ace romance. It’s quite unlike other things I’ve been reading, but I immediately got the novella that followed this story. (It was not a stand-alone story, but still enjoyable.)

Mystery, LGBT

Come Unto These Yellow Sands (2011) Josh Lanyon (Rating: 8.5/10)
The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018) C.S. Poe (Rating: 8/10)
Skin and Bone (2019) TA Moore (Rating: 7.5/10)

Romance, Supernatural Fantasy

Sapphire Flames (2019) Ilona Andrews (Rating: 7/10)
Among the Living (2006) Jordan Castillo Price (Rating: 6.5/10) (PsyCop)


Can’t Escape Love (2019) Alyssa Cole
Just for Him
Bad for the Boss (2017) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 6.5/10)
Undone by the Ex-Con (2018) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8.5/10)
Sweet on the Greek (2018) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8/10)

Romance, LGBT

His Quiet Agent (2017) Ada Maria Soto (Rating: 8.5/10)
Merlin in the Library (2018) Ada Maria Soto (Rating: 7.5/10)
Work for It (2019) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8.5/10)
Sympathy: MM Romance with a Hint of Magic (2009) Jordan Castillo Price (Rating: 7/10)
American Dreamer (2019) Adriana Herrera () Adriana Herrera (Rating: 7/10)

Romance, Historical

The Rat-Catcher’s Daughter (2019) K.J. Charles (Rating: 7.5/10)
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (2019) Olivia Waite (Rating: 5.5/10)

Mystery, Supernatural

Snake Agent (2005) Liz Williams (Rating: 8/10)

Mystery, Historical

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue (2015) Victoria Thompson (Rating: 7/10)


eBook: 18
Re-read: 2

Yup. All eBooks. And only two re-reads.


Fantasy: 3
Mystery: 5
Romance: 16
Boinking: 10

Romance heavy fantasy light this month. Probably because I read most of the mysteries I had in my kindle TBR folder (I still have approximately a million other mysteries TBR, these were just ones I was pretty sure I was in the mood for).


Female: 12
Initials: 3
Male Pseudonym: 1
Joint: 1

Female writers remain significantly ahead, with no books by solo male authors this month. Which is fine.


Male: 11
Female: 3
Ensemble: 4
White: 13
Minority: 8
Minority 2ndary: 5
Straight: 6
LGBTQ 2ndary: 2

Oh, here’s where all the males are! Pretty heavily white, but at least the casts were diverse.

And those are the books of September. Did you read anything particularly good this month?

Written by Michelle at 8:07 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Books of August

How is it September already? Where on earth has the year gone?!

I read some good books this month!

I read the rest of the Ravenswood by Talia Hibbert (ie, the first two books and the novella) and really REALLY liked them. In the first book, A Girl Like Her the female main character is on the autism spectrum and is a tremendous geek. I loved her SO. MUCH. The second book, Damaged Goods, I had concerned about, since the main character is the nanny. However, the two characters had known each other back in the school days (and had mutual secret crushes on each other) and he is really unhappy with the idea of having a relationship with his employee. So she did a really good job working out that aspect of the story. I highly recommend the entire series.

If you’ve read any KJ Charles you may already be aware of her new novella, Proper English. If you haven’t, it’s marvelous. It’s set before Think of England which is fantastic.

The final book I really enjoyed was Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, which had a really nice variety of stories, some of which I loved, one of which I despised, and I found some new authors to look into.

Mystery, Historical

A Murdered Peace (2018) Candace Robb (Rating: 7/10) (Kate Clifford)
In Farleigh Field (2017) Rhys Bowen (Rating: 6/10) 

Mystery, LGBT

Snow & Winter
The Mystery of Nevermore (2016) C.S. Poe (Rating: 7.5/10)
The Mystery of the Curiosities (2017) C.S. Poe (Rating: 7.5/10) 


A Girl Like Her (2018) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8/10)
Untouchable (2018) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8/10)
Damaged Goods (2018) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8/10)

Romance, LGBT

Proper English (2019) KJ Charles (Rating: 8/10)
Bone to Pick (2017) TA Moore  (Rating: 7/10) (Digging Up Bones)
For Better or Worse (2017) R. Cooper (Rating: 7/10)

Romance, Historical

Devil’s Daughter (2019) Lisa Kleypas (Rating: 6/10) (The Ravenels)

Fantasy, Supernatural  

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015) edited by Jordan Castillo Price (Rating: 8.5/10)
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds (2018) Brandon Sanderson (Rating: 7/10)

And now: The stats!

All ebooks this month, and two re-reads. Although the second is iffy–it’s the Stephen Leeds story, and I have strong opinions about how it was published.

eBook: 13
Re-read: 2

Mostly mysteries and romance this month. And more than half boinking books.

Fantasy: 2
Mystery: 9
Romance: 10
Boinking: 7
Anthology: 1

Mostly female authors this month. I’ve picked up some hard boiled mysteries on sale recently, but haven’t really been in the mood to read them. But when I do, that’ll might swing me back to male authors for the whole years. :)

Male: 1
Female: 6
Joint + Anthology: 1
Initials: 5
Anthology: 1

And the book characters.

Male: 6
Female: 2
Ensemble: 5
White: 11
Minority: 5
Minority 2ndary: 2
Straight: 8

About half white males, but that’s mostly because I read several M/M mysteries. Otherwise, a decent amount of variety.

Did you read anything worth recommending this month?

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Books of July

Easy summary–I only read seven books this month. Between remodeling the bathroom and some hiking and a mini-vacation (involving other people and being sociable), not much time for reading.

What was good this month? The LGBT Mystery Anthology Footsteps in the Dark was very good. A variety of stories–some with boinking, some without–and a variety of mysteries. I found some new authors I am very interested in reading. The only other new-to-me read was That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert. It’s the third book in a series, has a women of color as the heroine, and the hero is demi-sexual. I’m going to go back and read the first book (I think it’s the first) because the heroine is a woman of color and probably on the autism-spectrum. PLUS she’s a geek. I NEED to read this story.

Mystery, Historical

The Holy Thief (1992) Ellis Peters  (Rating: 9/10)

Mystery, LGBT

Footsteps in the Dark (2019) L.B. Gregg, Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Dal MacLean, Z.A. Maxfield, Meg Perry, C.S. Poe and S.C. Wynne (Rating: 9/10)

Fantasy, Supernatural

The Rook (2012) Daniel O’Malley (Rating: 9.5/10)

Romance, Historical

These Old Shades (1926) Georgette Heyer (Rating: 9/10)
Love for the Spinster (2019) Kasey Stockton (Rating: 6.5/10)


That Kind of Guy (2019) Talia Hibbert (Rating: 8/10)

Audio Books

The Naming of the Beasts, Audio Book (2009) Mike Carey narrated by Michael Kramer (Rating: 7/10)

And now, the statistics!

eBook: 6
Audio: 1
Multiple Formats: 3
Re-read: 4

Half the books I read this month I own in multiple formats, and more than half were re-reads. Those things are not unrelated.

Genre-wise a variety. Romance is actually ahead this year by a few books. But I do get into a groove and want to read MORE like the book I just finished. We’ll see how the rest of the year goes.

Fantasy: 2
Mystery: 3
Romance: 4
Boinking: 2
Anthology: 1

Female authors are still significantly ahead of male authors. This number is not significantly related to the number of romances I’ve read, since much of the mystery and fantasy I read has been written by women.

I just pretend to prefer the style of female authors, but go ahead and tell me again how you can’t find any female SFF authors to read.

Male: 2
Female: 3
Anthology: 1
Male Pseudonym: 1

Finally, the gender of the main characters was pretty evenly split, but not a lot of minority characters this month. (Reading historicals has something to do with that.) And a third of the books had LGBTQ main characters. The historicals theoretically should have something to do with that, but one of the first LGBT characters I fell in love with was in an historical. So–who knows.

Male: 3
Female: 2
Ensemble: 2
White: 6
Minority: 1
Minority 2ndary: 2
Straight: 4
LGBTQ 2ndary: 1

And that’s what I read in July. Anyone read anything fantastic last month? I’d think that with the heat more people would want to be inside, huddled in front of the AC, moving very little, which is a good way to read.

Written by Michelle at 7:43 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Friday, July 19, 2019

The Books of Midyear 2019: Supernatural Fantasy

Because apparently I didn’t read any other kind of fantasy yet.

Supernatural Fantasy


Storm Cursed (2019) Patricia Briggs (Rating: 8.5/10) (Mercy Thompson)

Mercy is called when a rogue goblin is noticed by a farmer–a goblin who looks like on wanted for the murder of a policeman. Mercy takes Mary Jane and Ben with her–but also is smart enough to call Larry, the goblin king, to come deal with his wayward subject.

The video of the incident was all over the news,” I began, but paused when Larry glanced my way for a hair’s breadth. Long enough for me to see the odd expression on his face.

“And people say humans don’t have magic,” he muttered,

But this is only the start of Mercy’s long day, as she is called out to deal with another problem.

“Miniature zombie goats,” I corrected. “Or miniature goat zombies. The ‘miniature’ is important. ‘Zombie goats’ just sound satanic.”

This is the 11th book in the series I’ve been reading from the start.

Although there are some weaker books in the series (the previous book was one I didn’t particularly care for, for several different reasons) there isn’t a book that I haven’t re-read more than once.

If you haven’t read this series previous, don’t begin here. Start at the beginning. There is a large cast of characters (many of whom have had their own short stories) and you’ll be missing so much if you jump in here.


The Phoenix Illusion (2018) Lisa Shearin (Rating: 8/10) (SPI Files)

The 6th SPI Files book finds Mac and and her friends celebrating when a house suddenly appears in an empty lot–and catches on fire.

More distressingly, the house that appeared is Rake’s, and it’s from his homeworld (which isn’t Earth).

She’s switched to self-publishing this series now, which means it’s difficult for me to catch these books when they come out, but I still really enjoy this series. It’s got supernatural creatures, police procedure, and mystery. (Pretty much ALL my catnip.)

Mac is another heroine I adore, because her power doesn’t render her invincible, but rather places her in more danger, because she’s in a world with strong and dangerous creatures. And unlike some heroines (side eye to Mercy up there) Mac knows she can’t hold her own and is perfectly glad to get out of the way when something comes down.


Ben Aaronovitch


Lies Sleeping (2018) (Rating: 8.5/10)

This is the seventh Rivers of London novel. And it’s set in 2014, because the story moved slower than real publishing time.

You can read this if you haven’t read the novella or comics, but if you haven’t read the previous books? Forget it.

The story opens with the following epigraph.

The best revenge is not to become like your enemy.

A LOT of various threads are wrapped up in this book, but there is a new book coming out, although I haven’t checked to see precisely what it’s about, because I prefer not knowing.

As I’ve said before, one of the things I LOVE about this series is how multi-cultural it is, without making a point of being multi-cultural. It’s just that characters happen to be women or of color or Muslim (or all three in the case of Guleed). Yes, Peter and Guleed do make comments about being black, but those are almost throw-away lines, much like Peter’s obsession with architecture or Molly’s strange foods.

I do love this series, but do NOT start here if you haven’t been reading along from the start.

The October Man (2019) (Rating: 8.5/10)

This is set in the same world as the Rivers of London, but is NOT a Peter Grant book.

Just so you know.

Policeman Tobias Winter is an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the German equivalent of the Folly.

I ended up in the Abteilung KDA because I didn’t talk myself out of it fast enough, and because the Director has a vile sense of humour. I ended up learning magic because you can’t trust the British to keep to an agreement over the long term.

I’ll be honest, I went not expecting a lot, mostly because the last several Rivers of London comics have been lousy.

With those expectations in mind, I was pleased with this story.

Tobias is clearly not Peter, even if he is somewhat in awe of Peter Grant and the Folly. Germans do things differently, and they have quite different feelings about the Folly.

It’s an interesting aside, and I quite enjoyed it.


Supernatural Fantasy, LGBT


The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (2013) K.J. Charles (Rating: 8/10)

This is a M/M historical fantasy, with boinking, set in England between 1894 and 1914.

Simon Feximal helps the dead to rest. He doesn’t exorcise them, send them on, but instead allows them to finish telling their stories.

He was covered in writing. It was scrawled in black and red ink, from wrist to shoulder of both muscular arms, across his broad, powerful shoulders and chest. None of it was in a language I recognised, or could read, but it was unmistakably writing… and it was still being written.

I gaped. The lines, some spidery, some looping, still others jagged, etched themselves over his skin, a constant silent chatter of messages.

“What—” My voice failed.

“The stories write themselves,” he said, very matter-of-fact. “I serve as their page.”

I really like the world-building in this story, and how each short story tells you a little more about each of the characters. Theoretically each of these stories could stand alone, but in reality they build upon one another.


Angel Martinez

I stumbled upon Angel Martinez this year, and ADORE everything I’ve read by her. Most of it is fun and silly and just delightful.

Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists (2017) (Rating: 8/10)

Taro has to make a confession to his family–and he’s afraid they’re going to freak out.

He’s won the biggest power ball in history, and is going to keep it a secret from everyone but them. He is also, after buying his parents a vacation home and setting up accounts for his siblings and nieces and nephews, going to buy houses around the world and try to become a travel writer.

But somewhere along the way he seems to have picked up a ghost–a ghost who insists that the house must be clean. So when he heads back to New York, he ends up hiring a ghost hunter.

This was the most recent story I read, and I adored Taro (even if I’m probably Jack).

Also, Taro is demisexual, and this was the first story about a Gray Ace I’d read.

But mostly it was just a cute and fun story.


Offbeat Crimes

Feral Dust Bunnies (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10),  The Pill Bugs of Time (2016), Skim Blood and Savage Verse (2017), Feral Dust Bunnies (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10), Jackalopes and Woofen-Poofs (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10), All the World’s an Undead Stage (2018) (Rating: 8/10)

This was the first series I came across, and the title of the first book in the series is so over-the-top I really hesitated. Well, the over the top title and the ridiculous covers. (Ugh.)

It starts here:

Kyle Monroe has been a cop at the 77th precinct for several months, when he is assigned a new partner: the extremely stoic and handsome Vikash Soren. He wants to dislike Vikash, but instead falls for him–which is a terrible idea, since they’re partners.

These are M/M supernatural fantasy romance police procedural, and although the ideas are VERY silly, the stories were very enjoyable. Partially because it is joyfully geeky,

“Should get an Odo bucket,” Vikash murmured.

“A what?”

Kyle chuckled into his coffee. “Seriously, Carr? You never watched Deep Space Nine?

and partially because she works to get the non fantasy bits correct.

“All right, people.” Lieutenant Dunfee shook her head. “I have two officers on medical, one close to collapse and the rest of you look like crap.”

“Well, thank you for that.” Carrington sniffed in offense from his corner.

“If we try to solve this tonight, we’re asking for disaster. Everyone get the hell out of my building. We’ll start again in the morning.” She pointed toward the shadowed back wall. “Except Loveless, who wants to be a smartass.

Yet despite all that, my favorite character ends up being Alex Wolf, wolf who had been turned into a human as a child. He is utterly delightful, his mother is wonderful, and I adore how his group accepts him as he is, doing their best to help him with his quirks.

Here is Alex Wolf texting with his mother.

I hv her. Srry.

You took her to WORK?

“Damn it.”

I have all her stuff. It’s OK, Mom. She has peeps watching her.

Mom typed for a long time, then finally sent—

They better not be peeps. Marshmallow chicks should not watch kittens.

For the second time in fifteen minutes, Wolf sagged in relief. If Mom was making bad jokes, she wasn’t so mad anymore.

I adore everything about that passage, especially seeing just how patient his mother is with him, even when she is frustrated.

Although I hate time-travel, and although I don’t much care for the Carrington story arcs, I can still recommend this series without hesitation. It’s just adorably fun.

Brandywine Investigations

Open for Business (2016) (Rating: 7.5/10), Family Matters (2018) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Mythological beings.
M/M romance.
Murder and mystery.

That noise?

Those were a bunch of my buttons being pushed all at the same time.

This book is three novellas with overlapping characters, the main of which is Hades, who has things to work out.

(Orpheus) kept skimming even as he spoke, turning pages faster and faster. “Guys, this is bad.”

“How bad?”

“Epically bad.” Orpheus dropped the divorce papers on the table, shaking his fingers out as if the words had singed him. “(Persephone)’s kicking him out, too. Keeping the palace and the dog.”

So Hades decides to become a PI.

These stories were a bit darker than the others I’ve read, but they are still good. One character starts as an alcoholic street-person. Two are utterly co-dependent and their story is far darker than anything else in these two books. But it’s in the middle of the first book, so that made the darkness easier to deal with.

Mostly the stories are mystery and mythology and try to see the world the way millenia-old beings would.

“I’ve enjoyed reading fiction ever since humans began writing their stories down.”

“See, that kinda made me sad. When they started doing that.” Azeban sat on his haunches like a proper raccoon, gesturing at the shelves. “All these stories are stuck. They can’t change. When humans used to tell each other stories, stuff changed all the time. It was exciting to hear what they’d do with a story. Now they write it down, and that’s it. That’s the story.”

Again there is lots of boinking here, but also again, the stories are quite good, and I highly recommend them.


Charlie Adhara

Big Bad Wolf

The Wolf at the Door (2018) (Rating: 8/10), The Wolf at Bay (2018) (Rating: 8/10), Thrown to the Wolves (2019) (Rating: 8/10)

Agent Cooper Dayton was transferred from the FBI to the BSI after a werewolf attack. The job of the BSI is to deal with werewolf crime–and keep the existence of werewolves from becoming known to the general public.

The public could never know about werewolves, though. That was one of the few things the BSI and the Trust agreed on. The panic, the prejudice, the senseless violence that would surely come if the truth was revealed.

After a teenage werewolf is shot and killed, the BSI and the Trust (the face of the werewolves) decide something new needs to be tried–that a BSI agent and a Trust agent should work together to search for what appears to be a new serial killer.

So this is a supernatural fantasy police procedural with a romance.

There was a lot for me to like in this series. They mysteries were good, Cooper has medical issues from the attack, and those issues don’t just magical go away, and in fact cause problems if Cooper ignores them.

I also like that both Park and Cooper have complicated families, but are willing to be patient with each other as they deal with their pasts.

I also appreciated that Cooper was full of self-doubt.

“I’m sorry,” Cooper blurted. His heart was beating hard, but fuck it, what were they here for if not this?

Park looked at him. He had that same odd look on his face he’d had when they first got to Jagger Valley that looked so much like nerves, but a little hopeful, too. “For what?”

“Everything. Well, for earlier, and for being, you know, me.” Cooper laughed awkwardly.

“What the hell, Dayton,” Park said, sounding angry. “That’s a horrible thing to say.”

And I love that Park calls him on it.

The mysteries were good, and I liked seeing their relationship develop over the books–and the amount of work they had to put into making things work.

Really, that’s one reason I thought I disliked romance, because the HEA made things feel magical and easy. But then I discovered that there are romances where the characters have to work towards understanding, and not just solving a big misunderstanding, but dealing with the day-to-day compromises that are part of being in love and in a relationship.

It’s not just series that does that, but it’s one of the things I particularly like about this series.


Audio Books

The Rook, Audio Edition (2012) Daniel O’Malley narrated by Susan Duerden (Rating: 9.5/10) (The Rook)

Stiletto, Audio Edition (2016) Daniel O’Malley narrated by Moira Quirk (Rating: 9.5/10)

Salsa Nocturna: Stories, Audio Edition (2012/2014) Daniel José Older, narrated by Daniel José Older (Rating: 9/10)

All three of these were books I’ve listened to several times before, and I was delighted to listen to them again.

The Books of Mid-Year 2019 Great Covers
The Books of Midyear 2019: Romance
The Books of Midyear 2019: Mysteries

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Books of Midyear 2019: Mysteries

I’ve loved mysteries since I was little (Encyclopedia Brown! The Bobsey Twins!) and that loved has continued unabated. I read other genres all the time, yet I feel like they’re always better with an element of mystery.

I’ve read a LOT of mystery series this year–some were meh, but plenty were REALLY good.


Historical Mystery

I generally like everything Anna Lee Huber writes, but I especially like her Lady Darby series. And I was delighted to finally get a copy of Secrets in the Mist (2016) (Rating: 9/10)

Set in England in 1812

Ella Winterton has spent the past four years dealing with loss and grief and anger. The deaths of her mother and brother sent her father into an alcoholic decline, and being jilted by the man she thought she loved while still in mourning made things worse.

I really liked Ella. She is struggling to hold things together as her father drinks himself to oblivion, regularly promising to stop drinking and then falling into the bottle once again when his struggle with his grief overwhelms him.

I sat listening to his broken weeping, wanting to reach out to him, wanting him to go away. He was my father after all. I wanted to comfort him, to tell him all was well. But it wasn’t. It never was.

Like Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton, we see how alcoholism destroys families. It’s also hard reading, but it’s such a common problem that I think it’s important we see it, and see how characters struggle to deal with it.

An-Artless-DemiseAn Artless Demise (2019) (Lady Darby) (Rating: 8/10)

The second story is another entry in the Lady Darby series.

Set in London in November 1831

Kiera and Sebastian are in London, trying to settle into married life, but murder and body snatchers are reminding people who Kiera left in the first place, and Lord Gage is reminding Sebastian that his marriage to Kiera would bring this down upon them.

Lord Gage is a complete ass, and seems to do his best to make things difficult for Kiera and Sebastian. The mystery is good, as is the struggle between Sebastian and Lord Gage.


Who-Slays-the-WickedC.S. HarrisWho Slays the Wicked (2019) (Sebastian St. Cyr) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Set in London in 1814

Lord Ashworth has been discovered naked and repeatedly stabbed in what looks like a crime of passion. But finding the murderer is a daunting prospect.

“Do you have any idea who might have killed him?” he asked Stephanie. “Someone who disliked him?” she suggested, her nostrils quivering with a pinched look. “That should narrow the list of suspects down to virtually everyone who ever dealt with him.”

Sebastian’s problem is that the murdered man is the husband of his niece–a marriage that Sebastian tried to talk her out of, knowing Ashworth’s brutal reputation. And the fact that it looks like he was murdered by a woman makes Stephanie an even more likely suspect, even if there are plenty of others who hated him.

This is the 14th Sebasian St. Cyr series, which I’ve been avid reading since the first book. Don’t start here. Go back to the beginning.


Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series

The Heretic’s Apprentice (1989) (Rating: 8.5/10), The Potter’s Field (1989) (Rating: 8.5/10), The Summer of the Danes (1991)  (Rating: 8.5/10), The Holy Thief (1992)

This series is set on the border of England and Wales between the late 1130s to the 1140s–during the war between King Stephen and Empress Maud.

In a country still torn between two rivals for sovereignty, and plagued by numerous uncommitted lords more interested in carving out kingdoms of their own, wise men observed their hospitable duties and opened their houses to all, but waited to examine credentials before opening their minds.

The main character is a monk who came to the brotherhood late in life, having spent his young on the Crusades and at Sea. He’s delightful and I love spending time in Cadfael’s world.

The books are historical mysteries, but each has a romantic sub-plot. Cadfael is marvelous, the mysteries are always good, and I love the historical bits, which are (to my uneducated mind) pretty historically correct (at least for what was known at the time of writing). Of course there are things she makes up, but the war between Maud and Stephen makes up the backdrop of the series, and is fascinating to someone who missed all of this in school. Don’t start here, mostly because you’ll miss some marvelous books.


Alissa Johnson’s The Thief-Takers Series

A Talent for Trickery (2015) (Rating: 8.5/10), A Gift for Guile (2016) (Rating: 8.5/10), A Dangerous Deceit (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Often I’ll read a book and not know what to read next, so I’ll often pick a series that I know I enjoyed.

These are historical romantic mysteries. They are boinking book, but they are also enjoyable mysteries.

Charlotte and Esther Walker are the daughters of a confidence man who ended up working with the police. After his death, they–and their very young brother–have their names changed and are sent to the country to live where their father’s enemies won’t find them.

Owen Renderwell, Samuel Brass, and Gabriel Arkwright are the famous Thief-Takers who rescued a kidnapped Lady and then after the furor died down, went out on their own.

These stories are a lot of fun, with plenty of delightful banter and interesting mysteries and some adventure thrown in. And the third book has a heroine who is new to the story, but ends up being one of my favorites, but in a very different way than the other women in this series.

If you want something fun and exciting, I highly recommend this series, which I’ve re-read several times.


Michelle Diener’s Regency London Series
The Emperor’s Conspiracy (2012) (Rating: 8/10), >Banquet of Lies (2013) (Rating: 9.5/10), A Dangerous Madness (2014) (Rating: 8.5/10)



Julie Anne Lindsey’s The Geek Girl Mysteries

A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder (2015) (Rating: 7.5/10), A Geek Girl’s Guide to Arsenic (2016) (Rating: 8/10), A Geek Girl’s Guide to Justice (2016) (Rating: 8.5/10)

These are cozy mysteries with a heroine who is an unrepentant geek and who has one of the better reasons for vast wealth that I’ve come across in a mystery series.

She’s (obviously) very smart, she loves gaming and ren faires and and an identical twin sister who is in many ways her polar opposite.

She is also well-adjusted and quite aware of her limitations.

I’m just trying to figure out what’s happening, and body language and eye contact, and all those things most people get a bead on, kind of elude me, so if you could just state your intentions, that would be amazing.

The mysteries are fine, but not in any way the strongest part of the series. That would be the characters.

And Mia and everything she thinks.

I nodded in full acceptance. “Whatever. It’s my circus. They’re my monkeys.”

“I don’t understand hipsters and their dull, underenthused lifestyle.”

I highly recommend this series, even if the mysteries aren’t the best part of the books.


Mystery, Police

Death at Sea: Montalbano’s Early Cases (2014/2018) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Rating: 8.5/10)

I love short stories.

I love Inspector Montalbano.

I adore this collection of Montalbano short stories.

If you’ve not read any of these mysteries, this would be a good way to dip your toes in, to see if this brash, rude Italian police inspection is someone you’d like to spend time with.


Mystery, LGBT

Josh Lanyon’s All’s Fair series

Fair Game (2010) (Rating: 7/10), Fair Play (2014) (Rating: 8/10), Fair Chance (2017) (Rating: 9/10)

I’ve read multiple Josh Lanyon M/M mystery series this year, and although I liked them all, this is far and away my favorite series.

Elliot Mills loved being in the FBI–until a shootout left him unfit for anything but a desk job.

The pain after his knee replacement had been excruciating, beyond anything he’d imagined or previously experienced, barring the original experience of getting kneecapped.

Yes, I did shudder when I read that.

Now he’s a professor at the same college from which his father retired–living in the shadow of a famous 60s radical.

Elliot was good at what he did, but it’s understandable that he didn’t want to remain if it meant he would only have a desk-job, so I quite liked that element. I also liked that Elliot had physical limitations (many of her characters do in these series, which I very much like, but I can’t ready too many in a row or it starts to bug me). And I love that his dad was a radical hippy who was totally accepting of his son’s homosexuality, but NOT of his joining the FBI.

Each story had a good mystery, and the relationship between the two men developed over the series. Yes, they are together at the end of the first book, but their issues were not magically resolved by their getting back together, which is something else I like about Josh Lanyon’s books: many of the characters have complicated histories, and any HEA is going to be a lot of work, and we get to see the work they put into things.

Also? Elliot is a secret geek.

The rest of the afternoon was spent quietly. Elliot graded papers and did his lesson plans for the following week. In the evening he worked on his Civil War diorama of Pickett’s Charge, which currently dominated the long window-lined sunroom on the west side of the cabin. He had received a hand-painted 15mm miniature of JEB Stuart to replace the former one lost during the move from Seattle to Goose Island. He placed the dashing Stuart with his two cavalry brigades and stepped back to admire. The game table was 4×8 feet and, according to Roland who had helped him construct it, irrefutable proof that Elliot was destined for long and dull bachelorhood.

That totally cracks me up.

So those are the mysteries I’ve read and enjoyed so far this year!

The Books of Mid-Year 2019 Great Covers
The Books of Midyear 2019: Romance
The Books of Midyear 2019: Supernatural Fantasy

Written by Michelle at 5:19 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Books of Midyear 2019: Romance

An important reminder: I generally dislike boinking in books. Yet, there are a lot of really good stories out there with boinking, which means that boinking romance novels I like have managed to overcome an extra hurdle.

That said, I’ve read quite a few romances this year–and several books in other categories that are ALSO romances, and I’ll note them in those posts.

Historical Romance

I enjoyed most of the Lisa Kleypas historical romances I read, but these were four that I especially like.

The first series, the Hathaways, is set in the 1850s.

Married By Morning (2010) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Leo Hathaway, Lord Ramsay, spent several self-destructive years after the death of his fiancee. It took him several years to forgive Merripen for saving his life, and it was only being sent to accompany his sister Win to rehabilitate in France that saved him.

After Leo became Lord Ramsay (and after Leo and Poppy headed to France) the Hathaway family hired Catherine Marks to help his sisters Poppy and Beatrice to properly come out in society. Since the two first met, they argued and bickered and generally disdained each other.

Although the first three books were fine, this is the first book in the series I loved. When we see Leo in the first book, he’s drunk and his sister has gone to fetch him from a gambling house before he completely ruins the family. His redemption comes over the course of the first three books, so by the time you reach this book, he’s earned is HEA. But it’s not just Leo’s redemption that makes this story so good, it’s also the fact that he has four sisters and is very aware of how women fare in society.

“Think of it this way,” he said. “Marriage would change hardly anything between us, except that we would end our arguments in a much more satisfying way. And of course I would have extensive legal rights over your body, your property, and all your individual freedoms, but I don’t see what’s so alarming about that.”

He’s just a nice guy.

Also, there is lots of sibling bickering, which is always a favorite.

Love In The Afternoon (2010) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Beatrix is the youngest Hathaway sister, and the least tame of the family, preferring to spend most of her time with animals. But when a friend is going to dismiss a letter from a soldier without responding, Beatrix asks to reply in her friends name, feeling that the gentleman desperately needed a response.

Captain Christopher Phelan is a second son, and a bit of a rake, living for pleasure while leaving the responsibilities to his older brother. But when he is moved to the Rifle Brigade, and sent to war in Russia, his life changes dramatically, turning him from a wastrel to a soldier.

I’ll be honest that I was reluctant to read this story, because I tend to dislike convoluted misunderstandings, however, that’s now where the story went. Christopher is pretty damaged by life, and has PTSD (not called that at the time). And Beatrix has no interest in marriage, but despite their initial conflicts and misunderstandings they actually talk to each other and listen to each other.

Devil in Spring (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10) (The Ravenels) was not at all what I was expecting from the title.

Lady Pandora Ravenel doesn’t want to marry. She wants to make board games and live on her own, because women lose all their right as soon as they marry. But when she’s found in a compromising position with Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, he is forced to propose, and she has to decide if her independence is more important than well-being of her family in light of the impending scandal.

The hero is NOT a rake or at all scandalous. He just carries the reputation his father made. And the heroine is marvelous with a loving and adoring family.

“Lady Berwick told me there’s no choice. If I don’t marry, the only other option is to hurl myself into the nearest live volcano. Wherever that is.”

“Iceland. And the only way you’ll marry St. Vincent is if you can convince me that you’d prefer him to the volcano.”

It’s a very sweet story.


A Modest Independence (2019) Mimi Matthews (Parish Orphans of Devon) (Rating: 8/10)

This is set in the 1860s and is the sequel to The Matrimonial Advertisement which I very much liked.

Solicitor Tom Finchley has worked his way up from nothing. He craves security, which is why he puts up with a job that often leaves him feeling uncomfortable, since the men he represents aren’t always good people.

Jenny Holloway became a companion for her cousin, to escape her life in a small town, where she was expected to look after her alcoholic father (since she hadn’t married). After her cousin’s marriage, she has received a modest independence, and plans to spend her life traveling, to escape the rules and strictures of society.

First, no boinking here! Yay!

Second, after being at the mercy of men because she had no rights, and seeing that her friend was almost put in an asylum because women lacked rights, the main character has ZERO interest in marriage once she has gained an independence.

“Come. You can’t expect me to believe that you’ve never dreamed of marrying and having a family.”

“And giving up all of my rights? Not only over my money and property, but over my body? No thank you.”

I was actually worried about the resolution of the book, because I didn’t see how the characters could compromise on their deep needs that were so far apart.

However, I recommend that you read The Matrimonial Advertisement first, since it gives some of the background of Tom, but also helps clarify just why Jenny is so opposed to having to answer to any man–even one she might trust.

This is one of the few boink-free romances I read this year.


Historical Romance, LGBT

At the end of last year I binged on a lot of K.J. Charles, so there were fewer books for me to read this year. I did re-read one, and another was a new publication.

Think of England (2014) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Set in England in 1904

Archie Curtis lost three of the fingers on his right hand as well as much of his company when a delivery of guns proved tragically defective.

“It was a damned business. My company lost as many men in two minutes’ practice firing than in six months of war before it.” Seven deaths on the field; six more in the field hospital; two suicides, later. Three men blinded. Mutilations and amputations. “The entire crate of guns was deadly.”

Now, two years later, he is searching for clues as to why it happened.

This is a mystery and a M/M romance (with boinking) and I really love the characters.

Archie is a considered a bit dense–probably the modern equivalent of the star of the HS football team. Although his life changed completely after the accident that maimed him and took the lives of so many of his men, he is expected to be the same as he was before he went off to fight. I really adore Archie. He’s a decent guy and doesn’t know what to do with himself and the world he now finds himself inhabiting.

Daniel de Silva is a dandy and an effete. Curtis has no idea how he ended up at the house party, but he the man makes him uncomfortable.

He grabbed for the nearest serving dish and proffered it, in the hope of changing the subject. “Ham?”

“No, thank you.”

“It’s a jolly good one.”

Da Silva blinked, slowly, like a lizard. “I dare say, but I fear I haven’t converted since we last spoke.”

“Con— Oh. Oh, I beg your pardon. I quite forgot you were a Jew.”

“How refreshing. So few people do.”

de Sliva is a jew, a poet, and it’s known (although not with certainty) that he’s a homosexual. He is also far more than he seems. I liked him just as much as I liked Archie, because I can’t imagine precisely how difficult his life must have been, yet still he has beliefs he stubbornly sticks to.

This is a M/M boinking book, and a mystery, and it’s one of my favorites.

Any Old Diamonds (2019) (Rating: 8/10)

Set in England in 1895.

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes–who goes by Alec Pyne–desperately wants revenge upon his father. So he hires the Lilywhite Boys to steal the diamond parvane his father is planning to give his second wife on their 20th anniversary. But Jerry Crozier knows far more than Alec is comfortable with–and Jerry doesn’t trust Alec not to back out of the deal once things are set in motion.

This story is single POV, which is unusual for KJ Charles, but worked extremely well for this story.

There is also a bit of mystery here, and a lot of surprise.


Romance, LGBT

Family Man (2017) Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton (Rating: 8/10)

This is a M/M boinking book.

This is an unusual book for me. It’s a modern romance–no mystery, no magic, no supernatural creatures, just two lonely men with complicated families.

After three failed marriages, Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro has started wondering whether he family and religion are why he has denied to himself so adamantly that he might be interested in guys.

Trey Giles is working his way through school, one class at a time, while holding down two jobs to support his mother and grandmother. He’s been so busy that he’s never had time for a relationship, and has never been interested in hook-ups, but when he finds Vinne looking completely out of place at a gay bar, the two flirt and develop a friendship that seems odd–even to them.

Apparently closeted men are a trope in modern M/M romance, but since I don’t read modern romances I was perfectly fine with the trope. Additionally, part of why Vinnie is in the closet is because of his family and the homophobia he perceives there.

What I liked best about the story was Trey. It’s clear he’s not your typical young, gay college student. His mother is an alcoholic, and there is no easy solution to her problems, and her alcoholism his deeply impacted the lives of Trey and his grandmother.

It’s hard, reading about Trey’s family, but I haven’t read many books where the main characters have to deal with addicted family members and the difficulty this makes for their lives, and the complexity of loving someone who is addicted.

This is a very good story, and I highly recommend it.

The Books of Mid-Year 2019 Great Covers
The Books of Midyear 2019: Mysteries
The Books of Midyear 2019: Supernatural Fantasy

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Books of Midyear 2019: Great Covers

I do yearly wraps ups, but it’s summer and it’s hot and I know you’re looking for something to read, so I decided that y’all need a midyear wrap up of some of my favorite books.

As is my habit, I’ll start with some of the covers I really liked. Shockingly, I don’t have any terrible covers so far this year! (This probably means I haven’t ready any Avon books.)

To make this list, a book had to be published in 2018 or 2019.


An Artless Demise (2019) Anna Lee Huber (Berkley)

She always gets lovely covers, but I think this one is particularly beautiful.

The color is gorgeous, with everything sepia-ish with that pop of red. The way she’s in motion. The feeling of atmosphere that tells you this is a mystery.

I love this.


A Dangerous Collaboration (2019) Deanna Raybourn (Berkley)

This matches the previous books in the series, and I love that they didn’t got with a model. The silhouette is gorgeous and striking, and obviously of the main character (since she has a butterfly net).

It’s just a very good cover that draws me right in.


Who Slays the Wicked (2019) C.S. Harris  (Berkley)

She always has good covers, although I admit that I preferred her first covers that didn’t have people in them at all. But if we are going to have a person, then this is perfect for this book.

I love that everything is grayscale except for the title.

Berkley has knocked everything out of the park for me so far this year.

Good job y’all.


Murder Takes the High Road (2018) Josh Lanyon (Carina Press)

For a publisher that does erotica, they have some really good covers. (Sorry, I just expect boinking books to have covers that I want to hide in a brown paper package (like a lot of the epic fantasy I read in the early 90s.))

This is clearly a mystery, which is what drew me in initially (this was the first of MANY Josh Lanyon books I read this year).

Another cover with mostly grays and that spurt of red of the title and an eerie splash of yellow.

But the birds are really what make the cover. Very nice.



Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure (2019) Courtney Milan (Courtney Milan)

I’d like to point out this is a self-published book. So although there are a couple issues with the production, I am NOT going to quibble.

First and foremost, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this model! The main characters are older women, and here we have a lady who is clearly gray haired and past what would have been considered her prime for that era. Yet she is clearly comfortable with herself and her place in the world.



The Duke I Tempted (2018) Scarlett Peckham (NYLA)

Straight up. This is just a really pretty cover.



Circle of the Moon (2019) Faith Hunter (Ace)

I have liked pretty much every cover Faith Hunter has gotten with Ace. Even when they clearly didn’t have much of a budget, they were clearly trying to stay true to her characters, and as the books became more popular, they kept the same feel but everything was just nicer.

The covers for this series have all been gorgeous, with the strong colors and the sense of circular movement. I can tell at a glance this is a Soulwood book.


Lies Sleeping (2018) Ben Aaronovitch  (DAW)

Although the initial US release for the first couple books of the series were fine, I love that they have switched to the map based covers.

I keep meaning to zoom in on a high res version of these covers and see all the details, but I never quite get around to it.

The October Man (2019) Ben Aaronovitch (Subterranean Press)

Although this novella has a different publisher, it keeps the map and river theme. If I have a quibble, it’s that for a related novella it’s not truly clear enough this is NOT a Peter Grant story.

In theory it shouldn’t matter that much, but I think it does, because the Rivers of London series is very much Peter at its heart, so it needs to be a little more distinctive to separate this story a bit.

The Phoenix Illusion (2018) Lisa Shearin (Murwood Media, LLC)

This is another self-published book, and I think she did an excellent job matching the feel of the previous books in the series. It’s nowhere close to my favorite cover in this series, but for self-published it’s pretty excellent.

Family Matters (2018) Angel Martinez (Mischief Corner Books, LLC)

This is a delightful cover and it fits the book perfectly.

You’re getting a Minotaur librarian. What more could you possibly want?

The Wolf at the Door (2018) Charlie Adhara (Carina Press), The Wolf at Bay (2018) Charlie Adhara (Carina Press), Thrown to the Wolves (2019) Charlie Adhara (Carina Press)

Three more for Carina Press.

These are supernatural mysteries, and I love how the theme carries across all three books in its color and simplicity.

Skin and Bone (2019) TA Moore (Dreamspinner Press)

This is another series I found because the covers caught my eye. The colors are gorgeous. And although it’s clear there is a dog in the story, it’s not floating or looming or weirdly presented, it’s just hanging out in the background, precisely as it does in the story.

And those are the book covers I’ve loved so far this year.

Three from Berkley, four from Carina Press, and two self-published.

HUZZAH to all!

The Books of Midyear 2019: Romance
The Books of Midyear 2019: Mysteries
The Books of Midyear 2019: Supernatural Fantasy

Written by Michelle at 8:48 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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