Random (but not really)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Books of 2015: Best New-to-Me Authors

Books I loved (Published in 2015)
Books I Loved
Covers I loved
Covers I hated

Although I did a LOT of re-reading this year, I still managed to find some new-to-me authors: two historical romance authors and two comic series.

Joanna Bourne
The Spymaster’s Lady (2008)
My Lord and Spymaster (2008)
The Forbidden Rose (2010)
The Black Hawk (2011)

The series I read was historical romance with elements of mystery (spies, duh) and since I love historical mysteries, this was catnip to me. The series is set between 1794 and 1818 with the upheavals in France being at the heart of most of the escapades.

The first book I thought was phenomenal, and the next two were very good. Oddly, the third, which had my favorite character, Adrien, was the weakest book of the series. Which I found terribly disappointing.


Carla Kelly
Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career (2012)
Summer Campaign (2012)

These books are set during the Napoleonic era, and are not part of a series–or even much similar to each other–but both are delightful. The first finds a young lady attempting to go to Oxford, however, this isn’t the story you’re probably expecting with that set-up. It was lovely.

The second tells of a young woman who is about to make a terrible marriage, but has little to no choice in the matter. Because social strictures were quite different at that time, you spend the book wondering how on earth she’s going to escape her engagement.

These are also boink-free books, which I especially liked. :)


Daniel José Older
Salsa Nocturna (2012)
Half-Resurrection Blues (2015)

These are supernatural fantasy with Hispanic characters, which is a sub-genre you don’t see a lot of. But that isn’t why you should read it. You should read them because they’re good stories, and come at supernatural fantasy from a different point than much of what is currently out there: for one thing, the main character doesn’t have super-strength or super-healing or anything except his ability to walk in the human world and the world of ghosts, and a sword to help him out.

The short story collection, Salsa Nocturna, came first, and is a lovely introduction to both the world and many of the characters in this world.


Ms. Marvel
No Normal (2014)
Generation Why (2015)
Crushed (2015)

This a a fabulous YA comic. The girl who becomes the new Ms Marvel is Muslim, with strict (but not unrealistically so) parents, a brother who seems to be embracing a form of Islam that worries her family a little, and two best friends–one of who is a Muslim who chooses to wear the full hijab, and the other a Catholic boy who is most likely in love with her.

The first volume requires no familiarity with the Marvel universe; the following volumes left me feeling a tiny bit lost, since I don’t follow the referenced volumes, but they are still good, and this is a series you should get for teen girls in your life AND read for yourself.

Black Widow
The Finely Woven Thread (2015)
The Tightly Tangled Web (2015)
Last Days (2015)

This series is NOT for young teens, and the end is very dark, but it is very very good, and I highly recommend it. Black Widow is very much a damaged character, trying to make up for her past as a Soviet assassin (the last volume delves deeply into her past, and is as depressing as it is good).

As I’m a fan of complex, complicated, conflicted characters (yes, I did run out of “C” words) I very much loved Natasha. She’s all those, but she’s also competent (another “C” word!) and does what needs to be done–things that other Avengers won’t do.

Very lovely, and well-worth checking out; just be aware that it’s dark–especially the final volume.

Written by Michelle at 8:06 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Books of 2015: Books I Loved

Books I loved (Published in 2015)
Covers I loved
Covers I hated

These are the books I loved that weren’t published in 2015, but that I want to point out, in case you haven’t read them. There are only two re-reads here–books I love so much I just wanted to note again how happy they make me.


Graphic Novel

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal (2014) G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphonsa

This is an absolutely delightful comic. The following two volumes aren’t quite as good as the first, in keeping a story that is understandable to those not already immersed in the Marvel universe, but the first volume does a lovely job of that, and I highly recommend it.


Historical Romance

The Spymaster’s Lady (2008) Joanna Bourne (10/10)
My Lord and Spymaster (2008) Joanna Bourne (9/10)

These are (rather obviously) part of a series, with spies set during and around the Napoleonic wars.

As someone who read the James Bond novels as a teen, I’m a sucker for a good spy novel. (Yes, I know how unrealistic the James Bond stories are. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fun.) And these are fun.

The women in the stories are no wilting flowers, but do what they can to save themselves (after all, espionage means danger) which I always appreciate.

Plus, how can I not love a series where a heroine says, “I am England’s expert on skullduggery in accounting.”


Shadows of the Heart (1996) Tracy Grant
Shores of Desire (1997) Tracy Grant
Rightfully His (1998) Tracy Grant

This is another series set in a similar time frame, by another author I quite like.

First, the heroines in these stories are generally not shirking violets and virgins, in fact, the heroine in on story is pregnant when she is rescued by the hero.

Second, these are also mysteries, and good mysteries at that. The heroines are involved in helping to resolve the mysteries (especially when the mystery for one is who she is). And there are lots of fun historical bits, which I always enjoy.



The Very Best of Charles de Lint (2010) Charles de Lint

I love Charles de Lint, and this is a (mostly) fan selected selection of some of his best stories. I own most of these stories in other collections (because seeing Charles de Lint in an anthology makes it an automatic buy) but it was a pleasure to read all these stories, both the handful of new stories and the many stories I’d read (and re-read) before.

One of the things about Charles de Lint is that many of his characters have been hurt and broken in the past, but with very few exceptions, the stories leave you with a sense of hope.

Legion: Skin Deep (2014) Brandon Sanderson

This is a novella, the sequel to Legion. It’s got a fascinating premise, which is that the main character has multiple characters and personalities living with him—he is aware that they are not real people, but instead the way in which is super-intelligent mind parses and deals with things—a new person/personality appears often in response to his needing to become an expert in something.

Like I said, it’s a fascinating idea, and the stories are interesting as well, so it’s a win-win.


Audio Books

The Devil You Know, Audible Version (2006/2007) by Mike Carey and narrated by Michael Kramer

British magical detective of sorts, with a complicated past and an even more complicated present. My book catnip, and the narrator does a lovely job with the story.


Mercy Blade, Audible Version (2011/2011) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam
Raven Cursed (2012/2012) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam
Death’s Rival, Audible Version (2012) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam

I am thoroughly enjoying listening to this series. The narrator does a very good job of making the voices of Jane and Beast (and the other characters as well) distinct and sounding like the book describes them.

Plus, I get to hear all the details I frequently miss when I zip through a story.


Fantasy Re-Reads

The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995) Guy Gavriel Kay

This is possibly my favorite Guy Gavriel Kay story. I love the research and history he puts into creating his fantastical world, and how these are not even true fantasies in the sense they don’t have magical usage or creatures, they just exist and interact in a past that never existed.

Child of a Rainless Year (2005) Jane Lindskold

This is an unusual story, of a woman who was orphaned at a young age, coming to discover who she is not as a teen or twenty something, but as a settled, middle-aged woman.

And in addition to this very unusual main character is a fantastic story.

Written by Michelle at 6:06 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Books of 2015: Books I Loved from 2015

Graphic Novels

Black Widow
Black Widow Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread (2015) Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto (9/10)
Black Widow Vol. 2: The Tightly Tangled Web (2015) Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto (8/10)

I really really liked this series. You’ll note that the final volume isn’t listed here–that’s not becuase it wasn’t good, becuase it was, but because it was very dark and left me feeling terribly depressed. It was a good ending, but it’s not anything I want to revisit ay time soon.

A-Force Presents
A-Force Presents Vol. 1 (2015) by G. Willow Wilson, Nathan Edmondson, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Jason Aaron, Phil Noto, David Lopez, Adrian Alphona, Russell Dauterman (8.5/10)

This is a fabulous introduction to several titles: Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, Thor, She-Hulk, Black Widow… and Squirrel Girl, which was not for me.

If you want to check out several titles, this is the place to do it. And I’d like to note that aside from Squirrel Girl, I now own the first full volume of each of the above.

Rivers of London
Rivers of London: Body Work (2015) Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan, and Luis Gurrero  (9/10)

Of course this was going to be on the list.

If you haven’t read the series, this might be an introduction to the series, but I’m not certain, because I can’t really separate the comic from the series. I will note that there are many things that fans of the series will love, so if you’ve read the series, I highly recommend reading the comic.



I love mysteries, but stemming back to my discovery of Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple, I especially love historical mysteries. Of course neither was an historical when they were written, but that doesn’t really matter to me.

The Mayfair Affair (2015) Tracy Grant (8/10)

This is the latest volume in the Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch series, which I very much love. These books were not written in chronological order, so you can read them in any order. This book is at the chronological end of the series, but aside from mild spoilers for the book prior to this, it shouldn’t matter. And the spoilers are mostly that Malcolm discovers Suzanne’s past, and yet the manage to move past that betrayal. The first is given in the description of that book, and the second is understood if you’re reading a book that comes after.

Who Buries the Dead (2015) C.S. Harris (8.5/10)

This is another historical series that I adore, and have been reading since it appeared in 2005. Sebastian St. Cyr is a complex character who is very much a person of his times (which does not always happen in historicals, where chracters are basically modern people with modern thoughts and ideas transplanted into the past). And Hero, although harboring some seemingly modern sentiments, does so in a manner consistent in her time (and her wealth and privledge help that).

All that, and they’re good mysteries, to boot–I follow the author’s blog, and am amazed by the steps she takes to keep internal consistency and track of all the chracters and details.



Foxglove Summer (2014) Ben Aaronovitch (9/10)

Of course this was one of my favorite books. I adore this series, and Peter Grant, and all the other characters.

Half-Resurrection Blues (2015) Daniel José Older (8.5/10)

This is a new series, with a main character who was raised/saved from the dead and now lives with no memory of the past, serving the ghost council, which tries to keep the dead and supernatural in order.

And he is very snarky.

Tales from the Nightside (2015) Simon R. Green (9.5/10)

This is a collection of all the Nightside short stories, most of which I have read, none of which matter when enjoying this book. I fully admit that the Nightside is not for everyone. Some of the stories feature John Taylor, but there are stories that don’t, and those are just as good (if not better) than the John Taylor stories.

If you never read any of the Nightside books, this would be a very good introduction, since you get a feel for the stories and the characters, but each tale is a complete story that doesn’t require any knowledge of any other story. (Which does not always happen with short stories written in an existing world.)

The Dragon Conspiracy (2015) Lisa Shearin (8.5/10)

This is the second book in the SPI files, and is a lot of fun. It’s a supernatural mystery, with a character who doesn’t have amazing powers to kick the asses of all the bad guys–she has the powers she has, and does what she can with them, but when fights start, she gets out of the way. Mind you, I like heroines that kick butt, but it can get a little old, without any variety.



Foxglove Summer Audible Version (2015/2015) Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Again, you knew this was going to be on here. I adore Kobna Holdbrook-Smith reading this series. I mean, seriously swoony love of this narration.

Written by Michelle at 9:31 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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The Books of 2015: Covers I Loved

OK, now we’ve seen my least favorite cover of 2015, here are my favorite covers of the year.

First up, the final cover of Fables.


Fables Vol. 22: Farewell (2015)

Everyone is in this cover.
And another cover, quite different from the first.


Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why (2015) G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt

I love the way she’s portrayed as on the surface paying no attention to the world around her because she’s on her phone, but she is paying attention–and doing something about it.

It just pleases me.

Just a note that although I loved several of the issue covers of Black Widow (they were gorgeous in fact) the actual covers of the graphic novels were… meh.
And to close, an actual book!


Half-Resurrection Blues (2015) Daniel José Older

In contrast to the worst cover of 2015, this cover depicts the actual main character, acting in a way the main character acts.

AND it depicts something that actually happened in the book, without giving anything away.

I do believe that ROC has some of the best covers, usually getting things right AND being attractive in the meantime.

ADDENDUM the First:


Dark Heir (2015) Faith Hunter

I really do love the Jane Yellowrock covers. Yes, the models don’t always look Native American, but they are obviously trying very hard to get the model to match Jane, and she is never in a submissive or ridiculous position, which I love. (This is ALSO a ROC cover.)


Deadly Spells (2015) Jaye Wells

This one isn’t anywhere near as good as the Jane Yellowrock covers, but it’s still pretty good. It shows Kate in an active position, she looks pretty much like Kate is described, and the background matches what you’d see in the Cauldron. So good job Orbit.

Written by Michelle at 8:37 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Monday, December 28, 2015

The Books of 2015: Covers I Hated

Only one this year! (There were lots of meh covers, but only one terrible cover.)

It is, completely unexpectedly, for a Jeaniene Frost book. I have no idea what she did, but she totally doesn’t deserve some of the abysmal covers she gets.

This isn’t the worst cover she’s ever gotten, but it’s still pretty terrible, since the man on the cover is totally and completely unrelated to the man (vampire) described in the book.


Vlad didn’t show off his seething masculinity by wearing fewer clothes. Instead, he wore more to taunt people with what he didn’t allow them to feast their eyes on.

It’s as if the person doing the cover purposefully and willfully refuses to depict that man described between the pages.

But I suppose I should expect nothing better from Avon–who seems to want to have The Worst Covers Ever.

But I have to admit, that only a single terrible cover this year isn’t doing too badly.

Written by Michelle at 9:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Clearing My Bookshelves

We reorganized the living room, and moved the books there downstairs, and while we were at it, I did a major culling of our bookshelves.

I haven’t done this in a couple years, so I’m doing to do things a little differently.

I’ll send selected books (your choice! While supplies last) to anyone who wants them, who is in the US (because sorry, unless I know you personally (that means you Kim & Megan), I can’t afford to ship outside the US).

When you receive the books, you can do one of two things. 1) You can send me whatever compensation you think fair (dark chocolate, amazon gift card, etc) OR 2) you can make a donation to one of the organizations below, in whatever amount you see fit.

Project Night Night
First Book
Doctors without Borders

There are a lot of books, because as you may have noted if you follow my book posts, I am now reading primarily ebooks. Some of these books I have as ebooks now, some are books I won’t ever re-read, some are books I bought and never got around to reading, so I’m giving up on them.

Because I am lazy, I’m not typing out all these titles, but if you have any question about a title, just ask and I’ll clarify the title. (FREX, the black Robert B Parker title is Hush Money. I didn’t mean to cut off the edge of the book.)

OK, here they are!

And Jar City is really really good, but I have it as an ebook (along with much of the rest of the series).

Written by Michelle at 7:54 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
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Monday, December 7, 2015

The Books of November

And now (just a little late) the books of November! (AKA, finishing off the Commissario Brunetti series!)

You can tell the weather has cooled (and has contained a fair amount of rain) as I have read more this month than I had since January: 18 books for the month.

Most of them were re-reads (12) and most of them I had in multiple formats (10) but there were some new reads in there–most of which had actually been published THIS YEAR!

My favorite book in November was Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread. That was marvelous, and I highly recommend it.

Graphic Novel
Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread (2015) Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto (9/10)
A-Force Presents Vol. 1 (2015) by G. Willow Wilson, Nathan Edmondson, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Jason Aaron, Phil Noto, David Lopez, Adrian Alphona, Russell Dauterman (8.5/10)
Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly (2015) Patricia Briggs and Tom Garcia (7/10)

Fantasy, Supernatural
A Red-Rose Chain (2015) Seanan McGuire (7/10)

Commisario Brunetti
Falling in Love (2015) Donna Leon (7.5/10)
By its Cover (2014) Donna Leon (8.5/10)
The Golden Egg (2013) Donna Leon
Beastly Things (2012) Donna Leon (8/10)
Drawing Conclusions (2011) Donna Leon (8/10)
A Question of Belief (2010) Donna Leon (8/10)
About Face (2009) Donna Leon (8/10)
The Girl of His Dreams (2008) Donna Leon (7/10)
Suffer the Little Children (2007) Donna Leon (8/10)
Through a Glass, Darkly (2006) Donna Leon (7.5/10)
Blood from a Stone (2005) Donna Leon (8.5/10)
Doctored Evidence (2004) Donna Leon (7.5/10)
Uniform Justice (2003) Donna Leon (7/10)
Willful Behavior (2002) Donna Leon (8/10)

As for the breakdown…

Paperback: 2
Trade Paperback: 3
eBook: 12
Hardback: 1

Fantasy: 2
Mystery: 14
Comic: 3

And for the gender break-down, 15 female authors and 3 anthologies (comics count as anthologies in my calculations). That makes only 26% of the books I’ve read so far this year written by male authors. Not too bad!

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hiking WV: New River Gorge

Saturday was gorgeous, so we made (another) trip to New River Gorge.

Location: New River Gorge
Trails: Kaymoor Miner’s, Kaymoor, Craig Branch, Butcher Branch, Long Point, Fayetteville Trails
Distance: 9.8 miles
Elevation: 1355 – 2005 feet





Written by Michelle at 12:01 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

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