Random (but not really)

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Books of March

Rogue ProtocolI read some books last month! Actually, the shock is that I read some newly published books last month!

What Abigail Did That Summer by (2021) Ben Aaronovitch was as delightful as I was hoping it would be. Lisa Shearin latest entry to her SPI Files series, The Solstice Countdown wasn’t as good as her previous books, but I still enjoyed it. And the more I think about Patricia Briggs‘s latest Alpha & Omega book, Wild Sign the unhappier I get about it. (It’s already dropped from a 7 to a 6.)

Dahlia Donovan‘s Cosplay Killer was good, although it suffered a bit after reading it immediately following her Grasmere Cottage series, because both have autistic main characters so it was impossible not to compared them.

Roan Parrish‘s newest book in her Garnet Run series, Best Laid Plans was lovely as expected, and continues with this series being much lower angst that one expects from her. And K.J. Charles‘s newest book,
The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting was as lovely as you’d expect, despite being an enemies-to-lovers.

Also: MURDERBOT!

The Hanged ManSupernatural Fantasy

What Abigail Did That Summer (2021) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) 8.5/10
Family Matters (2018) Angel Martinez (Brandywine Investigations) 9/10
The Hanged Man (2019) K. D. Edwards (The Tarot Sequence) 8.5/10
Tarot Sequence novellas & stories (2020) K. D. Edwards (The Tarot Sequence) 8/10
The Solstice Countdown (2021) Lisa Shearin (SPI Files) 7/10
Wild Sign (2021) Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega) 6/10

Mystery

The Mystery of Nevermore (2016) C.S. Poe (Snow & Winter) 8.5/10
The Mystery of the Curiosities (2017) C.S. Poe (Snow & Winter 8/10
The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018) C.S. Poe (Snow & Winter) 8.5/10
The Mystery of the Bones (2019) C.S. Poe (Snow & Winter) 8.5/10
The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 2 (2015) Nicole Kimberling 8.5/10
The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 1 (2015) Nicole Kimberling 8.5/10
Grasmere Cottage Mystery (2018) Dahlia Donovan 8.5/10
Cosplay Killer (2020) Dahlia Donovan (London Podcast Mystery) 8/10
The Whispered Word (2018) Ellery Adams (Secret, Book, & Scone Society) 7/10
Death by Dumpling (2018) Vivien Chien (A Noodle Shop Mystery) 5/10

What Abigail Did That SummerMystery, Historical

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

Romance, LGBT

Waiting for the Flood (2018) Alexis Hall (Spires) 9.5/10
Best Laid Plans (2021) Roan Parrish (Garnet Run) 8.5/10
After the Scrum (2014) Dahlia Donovan 8/10
Sin Bin Series: Box Set (2020) Dahlia Donovan 8.5/10
The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020) T.J. Klune 8.5/10
Off Base (2017) Annabeth Albert (Out of Uniform) 6/10
Wheels Up (2017) Annabeth Albert (Out of Uniform) 4/10

Romance, Historical

The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting (2021) K.J. Charles 8/10
The Reluctant Widow (1946) Georgette Heyer 8/10
Friday’s Child (1944) Georgette Heyer 8/10
Just a Little Wickedness (2020) Merry Farmer (The Brotherhood) 6/10
The Lotus Palace (2013) Jeannie Lin 6/10

Digger Vol 2Science Fiction

Rogue Protocol (2018) Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries) 8.5/10

Graphic Novel

Digger, Vol. 2 (2006) Ursula Vernon 8/10
A Flight of Angels (2011) Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Todd Mitchell, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Rebecca Guay
Bloodlust & Bonnets (2019) Emily McGovern

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Categories: Books & Reading,Monthly Round-Up  

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Books of February

Artificial ConditionIt’s March. Again. Or perhaps still, I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I read a lot of books last month.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells are amazing. I read the second, Artificial Condition and it was just as good as the first.

If you’re interested in reading some LGBT fantasy, but don’t want to read the boinking, then I’ve got some recommendations for you. The Last Sun by K. D. Edwards (The Tarot Sequence) is a book I’d had for awhile but hadn’t read because the cover put me off. I’m sorry I waited. Another first book in a series is White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton (Adam Binder) which didn’t end as cleanly as I would have liked but is still recommended. And if you wondered how cupid operated in the modern age—and were in need of a fluffy romance, may I point you to Making Love by Aidan Wayne

It looks like Wonderstruck by Allie Therin is the final book in her Magic in Manhattan series, and it was satisfying.

And two straight-up romances that I really enjoyed were The Husband Gambit by L.A. Witt which is a fake husband story, that I found extremely satisfying, and Grumpy Bear by Slade James (Bear Camp) which was the second book in a series. Both books are explicit.

Fantasy, LGBT

The Last SunOpen for Business (2016) Angel Martinez (Brandywine Investigations) 8.5/10
The Last Sun (2018) K. D. Edwards (The Tarot Sequence) 8.5/10
Grilled Cheese and Goblins: Adventures of a Supernatural Food Inspector (2018) Nicole Kimberling 8.5/10
Wonderstruck (2021) Allie Therin (Magic in Manhattan) 8/10
Making Love (2017) Aidan Wayne 8/10
White Trash Warlock (2020) David R. Slayton (Adam Binder) 8/10
Heir to a Curse (2020) Lissa Kasey (Romancing a Curse) 7/10
Marked by Death (2020) Kaje Harper (Necromancer) 7/10
Powered by Ghosts (2010) Kaje Harper (Necromancer) 6/10
Bound by Memories (2020) Kaje Harper (Necromancer) 6.5/10
How to Marry a Werewolf (2018) Gail Carriger (Claw & Courtship) 7/10
Marine Biology (2010) G. L. Carriger (San Andreas Shifters) 6.5/10
Fire Water (2015) Jaye Wells (Prospero’s War)

Fantasy, Steampunk

Soulless (2009) Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate) 7.5/10
Changeless (2010) Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate) 6/10
Blameless (2010) Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate) 7/10
Heartless (2011) Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate) 4.5/10

WonderstruckRomance, LGBT

Jericho Candelario’s Gay Debut (2018) R. Cooper 9/10
The Husband Gambit (2018) L.A. Witt 8.5/10
Dine with Me (2019) Layla Reyne 8.5/10
Grumpy Bear (2021) Slade James (Bear Camp) 8/10
It Takes Two to Tumble (2017) Cat Sebastian (Seducing the Sedgwicks) 8.5/10
A Gentleman Never Keeps Score (2018) Cat Sebastian (Seducing the Sedgwicks) 8/10
Candy Hearts (2000) Erin McLellan (So Over the Holidays) 7.5/10
Fake Date Flip-Flop (2021) Hank Edwards 6.5/10
The Hideaway Inn (2020) Philip William Stover (Seasons of New Hope) 6/10
The Hockey Player’s Snow Day (2021) Jeff Adams (Hockey Hearts) 6/10
Changing Colors & Heat Wave DNF (2018) Elyse Springer (Seasons of Love Book)

Romance, Historical

These Old Shades (1926) Georgette Heyer 9/10

Mystery

Mystery at the Masquerade (2021) Josh Lanyon (Secrets and Scrabble) 7.5/10
The Killings at Badger’s Drift (1987) Caroline Graham (Chief Inspector Barnaby) 7/10

Dine with MeMystery, Historical

At Bertram’s Hotel (1965) Agatha Christie (Miss Marple)

Science Fiction

Artificial Condition (2018) Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries) 8.5/10

Fiction

The Weddings (2019) Alexander Chee (Inheritance collection) 7/10

Non-Fiction

An Edible History of Humanity (2009) Tom Standage 7.5/10


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Monday, February 1, 2021

The Books of January

Well, January was a month, wasn’t it?

All Systems Red
I read some good books this month, including several new releases and series that were new to me.

In the new releases, I was unsusrprised to discover that I loved the newest entry and Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wold Series, Cry Wolf. I love everything about this series, from the relationship between the two, to the mystery, to family interactions.

The other book I had pre-ordered ended up being a HUGE let down, because SHE ENDED IT IN A CLIFFHANGER. (RAGE) (HULK SMASH)

I discovered a new series, Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh mystery series, which is delightful AND goes out of its way to avoid Hollywood Endings. I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

Speaking of mysteries, An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten is a whole lot, and you should definitely read it. I mean, how many books about octogenarian serial killers do you know about?

I got a lot of free romances in a holiday give away and have been slowly going through them, and there were some really good ones. Those all got individual reviews, even if they were short stories, so you can peruse them below. But I want to make note of Loud and Clear by Aidan Wayne, which was incredibly good, and I highly recommend it.

A Lady's Guide to Ettiquette and Murder

And I’m once again caught up on Lady Mechanika now I’ve read Sangre and I impatiently wait news of the next volume.

OH! HUGE surprise this month: I read and LOVED a SF story. That’d be Martha Wells first Murderbot story,
All Systems Red. It is AMAZING.

Historical Mystery

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (2018) Dianne Freeman (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery) 7.5/10
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019) Dianne Freeman (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery) 8.5/10
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020) Dianne Freeman (Countess of Harleigh Mystery) 8/10
The Shattered Tree (2016) Charles Todd (Bess Crawford) 7/10
Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders (2019) Tessa Arlen (A Woman of WWII Mystery) 7/10
Why Shoot a Butler? (1933) Georgette Heyer
The Unfinished Clue (1934) Georgette Heyer

Mystery

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good (2018) Helene Tursten translated by Marlaine Delargy 8.5/10

Lady Mechanika

LGBT Mystery

Come Unto These Yellow Sands (2017) Josh Lanyon 8.5/10

Historical Romance

A Christmas Dance (2014) Alissa Johnson 8.5/10

Romance

Grumpy Jake (2019) Melissa Blue 7/10

LGBT Romance

Loud and Clear (2016) Aidan Wayne 9/10
Getting It Right (2015) A.M. Arthur (Restoration) 8.5/10
Let Your Heart Be Light (2019) J.R. Lawrie 8.5/10
Recipe for a Curse (2021) Lissa Kasey (Romancing a Curse 8/10
Mr. Right Now (2019) Annabeth Albert 8/10
“The Uncut Wood: A Bear Camp Short” (2020) Slade James 8/10
A Midnight Clear (2020) Kaje Harper 7.5/10
Not So Cookie Cutter (2019) Aidan Wayne 7/10
So We Meet-Cute Again (2019) Geneva Vand

Cry Wolf

LGBT Fantasy

Cry Wolf (2021) Charlie Adhara (Big Bad Wolf) 8.5/10
A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate (2015) R. Cooper (Beings in Love) 8.5/10
Little Wolf (2015) R. Cooper (Beings in Love) 7/10
The Gangster (2021) C.S. Poe (Magic & Steam)
“Incidental Magic” (2021) Jordan Castillo Price 6/10
“Daydream” (2020) A.M. Rose 6/10

Graphic Novel

Lady Mechanika Volume 6: Sangre (2020) by Joe Benitez, M.M. Chen, Brian Ching, Martin Montiel 8/10
Digger, Vol. 1 (2005) Ursula Vernon 8/10
The Tea Dragon Society (2020) K. O’Neill

Science Fiction

All Systems Red (2017) Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries) 9/10


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Monday, January 4, 2021

The Books of December

As I just did my yearly roundup, this is is going to be extra brief.

Romance, Historical

The Duke Who Didn’t (2020) Courtney Milan (Wedgeford Trials) 8/10
Everything I Ever Wanted (2003/2015) Jo Goodman (The Compass Club Series 7/10
The Deserted Heart (2018) Mary Lancaster (Unmarriageable) Categories: 7/10
Eight Tiny Flames (2018) Crista McHugh

Romance, LGBT

Tic-Tac-Mistletoe (2020) N.R. Walker 8.5/10
The Remaking of Corbin Wale (2017) Roan Parrish 8/10
Team Phison (2017) Chace Verity 7/10
Sergeant Delicious (2020) Annabeth Albert 7/10
Gay All Year (2020) Richard May 7/10
New Game, Start (2017) C.S. Poe
There Galapagos My Heart (2020) Philip William Stover (Love Beyond Boundaries)
Angels Sing (2019) Eli Easton (Daddy Dearest)
Love All Year: A Holidays Anthology (2020) Stacey Agdern, Hallie Alexander, Savannah J. Frierson, Felicia Grossman, Farah Heron, Celestine Martin, Ekaterine Xia

Fantasy

The Rook (2012) Daniel O’Malley (The Checquy Files) 10/10
Kitty’s Mix-Tape (2020) Carrie Vaughn 7.5/10

Fantasy, LGBT

Iron & Velvet (2013/2019) Alexis Hall (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator 8/10
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter (2019) Alexis Hall 7.5/10
Best Laid Plaids (2020) Ella Stainton (Kilty Pleasures) 7/10

Mystery

Requiem for Mr. Busybody (2020) Josh Lanyon 8/10
The Sicilian Method (2017/2020) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli

Mystery, Historical

A Pattern of Lies (2015) Charles Todd (Bess Crawford) 7.5/10
Tales: Short Stories Featuring Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford (2015) Charles Todd 7.5/10
A Pattern of Lies (2015) Charles Todd (Bess Crawford) 7.5/10
The Bone Jar (2016) Candace Robb (Owen Archer)
A Conspiracy of Wolves (2019) Candace Robb (Owen Archer) 7/10
No Wind of Blame (1939) Georgette Heyer (Inspector Hemingway)

Comics

Heathen, Volume 3 (2020) Natasha Alterici, Ashley A. Woods

Audio Books

Blood Cross, Audio Edition (2010) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam (Jane Yellowrock) 8.5/10

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Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Books of 2020: Wrap Up

Just to point out some last few things, including pointing out some authors that might not have made the 2019/2020 cutoff.

Check Please Hockey

My favorite comic of 2020

This one was easy, Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu. The first volume was published in 2018 but I read the whole thing this year. And then read it again.

The rest of my favorite comics of 2020.

Hither Page

My favorite mystery of 2020

This was a little harder to choose since I read a number of good mysteries, but I think that Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian ended up on top. Cat Sebastian is often hit or miss for me, but this story hit it out of the park with all my favorite tropes.

The rest of my favorite mysteries of 2020.

The Immortal Conquistador

My favorite fantasy of 2020

This was another hard choice, since although I didn’t read as much fantasy as I have in previous years, what I did read this year I enjoyed very much. So I went with The Immortal Conquistador by Carrie Vaughn, because it has one of my all-time favorite short stories, and is about one of my favorite characters in that series.

The rest of my favorite fantasies of 2020.

Boyfriend Material

My favorite romance of 2020

This pick was just as easy as Check, Please!, since I wanted to reread it as soon as I finished it, and forced myself to wait a couple months before going back to it. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall was my favorite romance, and tied with Check, Please! for my favorite book of the year.

The rest of my favorite romances of 2020.

Since I didn’t count books published before 2019 is my end-of-the-year roundup, I wanted to take the time to point out some of the books and authors that got me through 2020.

My Highest Rated Books of 2020

10/10 Books (Re-reads)

Small Vices, Audio Edition (1997) Robert B. Parker narrated by Burt Reynolds
The Rook (2012) Daniel O’Malley

Both The Rook and Small Vices are books guaranteed to take me out of my own head.

9.5/10 New Reads

Joy (2017) C.S. Poe
Check, Please! (2020) Ngozi Ukazu
Boyfriend Material (2020) Alexis Hall

All three of these books were new to me in 2020, and all three I went back and re-read, because they were the perfect antidote to everything raging inside my brain.

Most Read Authors (minus re-reads)

New Books Read

These are some authors I recently discovered whose stories were precisely what I needed to read as I struggled with everything happening in the world.

N.R. Walker (Romance)
Annabeth Albert (Romance)
Alexis Hall (Romance, Fantasy)
R. Cooper (Romance)
C.S. Poe (Mystery, Romance)
Roan Parrish (Romance)
Alexia Gordon (Mystery)
Joe Benitez – Lady Mechanika (Comic)
Josh Lanyon (Mystery, Romance)
Talia Hibbert (Romance)
Layla Reyne (Mystery, Romance)


Most Re-Read Authors

Most ReReads

There is some overlap with the most read authors, but I wanted to note that for some series there might be only one or two books that were especially good, but immersing myself in an author can be a different kind of comfort.

Sometimes it’s just about how a series or author’s writing style makes me feel.

Agatha Christie (Mystery)
Alissa Johnson (Romance)
Angel Martinez (Fantasy, Romance)
Candace Robb (Mystery)
K.J. Charles (Romance)
Patricia Briggs (Fantasy)
C.S. Poe (Mystery, Romace)
Terry Pratchett (Fantasy)
Courtney Milan (Romance)
Cat Sebastian (Romance)
Michelle Diener (Mystery, Romance)
N.R. Walker (Romance)
Sergei Lukyanenko (Fantasy)
Charlie Adhara (Fantasy, Romance)
Ada Maria Soto (Romance)


Highest Rated Authors

Highest Rated Authors

These are the authors who had (at least) one book I rated a 9/10 or higher.

Daniel O’Malley (Fantasy)
Robert B. Parker (Mystery)
Sergei Lukyanenko (Fantasy)
Charlie Adhara (Fantasy, Romance)
Terry Pratchett (Fantasy)
Agatha Christie (Mystery)
Ngozi Ukazu – Check, Please! (Comic)
Alexis Hall (Fantasy, Romance)
C.S. Poe (Mystery, Romance)
Aidan Wayne (Romance)
Marie Brennan (Fantasy)
Michelle Diener (Mystery, Romance)
K.J. Charles (Romance, Fantasy)
Patricia Briggs (Fantasy)
Ada Maria Soto (Romance)
Carrie Vaughn (Fantasy)
Courtney Milan (Romance)
Roan Parrish (Romance)
Angel Martinez (Fantasy, Romance)


So that’s what I read this year. It was a lot, but so was this year.

What authors and books did you turn to, to get you through everything?

The Books of 2020

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Books of 2020: Stats

I started collecting numbers because I’m a geek, but I started sharing these stats because I heard one too many times on the internet the “complaint” that there aren’t any female authors writing good fantasy.

This is of course utter bullshit, so I decided I wanted to see just how many female authors I read as opposed to male authors. And then I wanted to look at all other different kinds of numbers.

Male vs Female Authors

Male Female Author

Some of these numbers are influenced by what I’ve been binge reading. For example, if I re-read Robert B Parker’s Spenser series, that’s 40+ books, which is going to shift the numbers significantly. Which is precisely what happened in 2004.

However, that doesn’t mean that every year I read a lot of mysteries I’m going to read mostly male authors. Because some of my favorite mystery authors are female, which is what you can see in 2016.

Genres Read

Genre Chart

On the other hand, you can see a clear link between the number of female authors and the number of romance books I’ve read. Because very few men write romance. Even the majority of MM romance I’ve found is written by women. Which is a subject that’s been discussed elsewhere, so I won’t do so here.

On the third hand, in recent years I have been trying to read even more diversely, seeking out books with POC (persons of color) and LGBT characters.

LGBT vs Straight Characters

LGBT Chart

White vs POC Characters

POC Chart

Another thing I keep track of is the type of book I’ve read, ie paper books, vs eBooks, vs audio books.

Book Format and Rereads

Guess what year I got my first eReader?

But I’d also like to point out those two lines on the chart, which are the % re-reads that year, and the % of books I own in multiple formats. I pretty much only read comics in paper format anymore, unless the book is not available in eFormat. So when my favorites become available, I will try to get them as eBooks so I can re-read them. However, I find it aggravating to pay market price for an ebook when I already own a paper copy of the book.

The library is helpful for this, because I can borrow a lot of books. But I do want to give authors money for the enjoyment I have had from there books. I just can’t justify paying $10 for a second copy of a book, when I have so many new books on my wish lists.

The second type of multi format re-read is audio books. In general, I can’t listen to fiction I haven’t read before. I love a good audio book, but I read MUCH MUCH faster than a narrator narrates, so audio is too slow for a first read. I tend to switch back and forth between audio books and podcasts when exercising and doing chores. This year was more book podcasts, so fewer audio books.

What I found most surprising is that the percentage of re-reads was lower this year than I expected it to be. There were a couple of months where it felt like I did nothing but re-read favorites, but apparently there weren’t as many of those months as I thought there were. But I still had a lot of re-reads this year. And to be honest, I may have rated new reads lower than I might have in another year, because a swath of what I normally read was just plain appealing this year. All I wanted was cozy and happy endings.

Regardless of what I wanted vs what I read, I finished a ridiculous number of books this year, blowing away previous totals and averages by a significant amount.

Min Max Average Chart

For seven of the twelve months, 2020 now holds my personal record for books read in a single month (since I started keeping count).

As of when I published this, I’d read 295 books. Which doesn’t include books that I DNF’d.

From the BookRiot book log (which does count DNFs) I also have a small breakdown of what I read this year.

Total Books Read 302
Books DNF 6
Total Pages Read 75061
Time Listened 3 days, 5 hrs, and 33 mins
Average days per book 5.35
Average pages per day 122.71
Average books per month 25.00


Yeah, I know, that’s ridiculous.

So that was my year in reading.

What were your favorite books this year? Was there anything you kept turning to to escape the 2020 dumpster fire?

The Books of 2020The Books of 2020!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Books of 2020: Romance

I read a lot of romance this year. 65% of the books I read were classified as romances of some flavor, which is twice the romances I normally read (on average).

Why? That’s easy: a romance gives you a guaranteed HEA (Happily Ever After) so I know when I picked up a romance I was not going to feel worse when I finished it than I did when I started. Which this year really, really needed as far as I was concerned.

The majority of these books have boinking–mostly open door and sometimes explicit boinking. For individual authors, check a specific book, because most of Alexis Hall’s books are pretty explicit, but Boyfriend Material is pretty much closed door. (ie you know what happened, but you don’t get the explicit details.)

Winter Companion
The Winter Companion (2020) Mimi Matthews
Historical

This is the fourth and final book in her Parish Orphans of Devon series. The third book I didn’t much care for, but this story was better (though not quite as good as the first book).

This may have been the hardest book for her to write, since the hero here was so badly damaged as a kid–a blow to the head and almost drowning messed up his verbal pathways, so he hides himself, acting as stable master for one of his best friends.

On a good day, the words Neville formed in his mind could be translated into short phrases with minimal difficulty. He’d learned over the years how to keep things from getting muddled. How to say what he intended with the least fuss, even if that meant he must occasionally sound like a child.

Mimi Matthews is one of the first authors to come to mind when someone asks for a “clean” romance (ie, one without sex).

I read some other books by her I liked better, but they were older and so didn’t make the list.


The Duke Who Didn't
The Duke Who Didn’t (2020) Courtney Milan (Wedgeford Trials)
Historical (boinking)

This is a British historical romance, set in a small community that had been resettled by immigrants, and quickly became a place where those whose ancestors were not anglo-saxon could live in relative harmony and peace.

Chloe Fong only wants the special sauce her father has been working on for years to succeed. The sauce he created after his original recipe was stolen and he was left with nothing to make his way to England.

Jeremy Wentworth has never gotten anything out of being a duke. In fact his mother took him back to China for several years, to escape the misery she felt living in Britain. But Jeremy’s aunt brought him back to do his duty to the family. His yearly visit to the Wedgeford Trails has been the only time he’s felt he’s allowed to be himself–in a community that doesn’t know who he really is.

I think the best part of this story is The Big Reveal. And really, that’s all I can say without giving it all away.

I love Courtney Milan’s books because she brings people you don’t normally see in British historicals to the page.


Two Rogues Make a Right
Two Rogues Make a Right (2020) Cat Sebastian (Seducing the Sedgwicks)
Historical, LGBT (boinking)
I adored It Takes Two to Tumble. It’s essentially The Sound of Music with the nun replaced by a vicar. The sequel I didn’t enjoy as much, although I did enjoy the diversity of the characters.

This book has the “bad guy” of the previous two books as one of the romantic leads, and I was very very skeptical about his redemption.

However, the other romantic lead was Martin’s childhood best friend, and so we see what led Martin to his actions in the previous books from both Martin and Will’s eyes. Which made a huge difference.

It also didn’t hurt that Martin was so ill at the start of the book he was delusional. Hard to be angry at someone that pitiful.

That you come to understand why Martin behaved as badly as he did is a testament to the storytelling, since I really did not want to read a story about Martin after everything he’d done in the previous books.

Martin preferred not to think of Will’s time in the navy. He had a list as long as his arm of things to feel guilty about, and the only reason he could get by from day to day was to resolutely refuse to think about any of them.

Yet I did, and lo I came to understand why Martin acted as he did, and why Will was willing to forgive him. Well, that and the fact Martin really was done poorly by his father.


He’s Come Undone: A Romance Anthology (2020) Emma Barry, Olivia Dade, Adriana Herrera, Ruby Lang, and Cat Sebastian
Contemporary, Historical, LGBT (boinking)

This is an anthology with a little bit of everything.

Appassionata by Emma Barry – MF

Unraveled by Olivia Dade – MF

Caught Looking by Adriana Herrera – MM

Yes, And… by Ruby Lang – MF

Tommy Cabot Was Here by Cat Sebastian – MM

All the stories were good and well-worth reading.


Get a Life Chloe Brown
Get a Life, Chloe Brown (2019) Talia Hibbert
Contemporary (boinking)

I’ll admit that I like Talia Hibbert’s Ravenswood series better than her Brown sisters series, but this story is just good on so many levels, starting with having a plus sized heroine of color who suffers from chronic pain.

On top of that, it’s a fun story, and the hero is a complete cinnamon roll (ie an absolute sweetheart) who puts up with Chloe’s crankiness.

“You like to research everything,” he guessed. “No; you like to know everything. You’re one of those ‘knowledge is power’ people.”

“Knowledge is power,” she shot back.

“I bet you were a massive teacher’s pet at school.” He was grinning. Hard.

“I bet you were an aimless slacker,” she said archly.

“I bet you always file your taxes on time.”

She was clearly scandalized. “Who doesn’t file their taxes on time?”

As with all her books, she make sure her books have different kind of representation, so even if one of her books isn’t my cup of tea, it’s still good and worth reading.


Conventionally Yours
Arctic Sun, Arctic Wild, Arctic Heat (2019) (Frozen Hearts); Conventionally Yours (2020) Annabeth Albert
Contemporary, LGBT (boinking)

I don’t adore everything Annabeth Albert has written, but I adore every book in her Frozen Hearts series.

The hike took them over a long wooden bridge away from the road until River felt the familiar thrill he got when hiking away from civilization— all the obligations and expectations that rattled around his head faded until it was only him and this spot on the planet, the rush of being privileged to get to see all this abundance of beauty.

Her most recent book, Conventionally Yours, is just lovely. It’s about two rivals who are part of a group going to compete in a table top convention, both believing they need to win to escape their current lives

Most of her books have characters who are damaged in some way (which is totally my catnip) but it’s not a competition to see who is worse off, but instead both characters help each other.

They’re very sweet and aren’t super angsty, which has been pretty important for me this year.


Glass Tidings
Glass Tidings (2016) Amy Jo Cousins
Contemporary, LGBT (boinking)

What I liked best about this story is how it kept going in ways I didn’t expect.

Eddie is a nomad who ends up stuck in a small town after witnessing a hit-and-run. Grayson runs his family’s shop and draws further and further into himself every year.

Eddie liked men whose bodies were lived in. Strong where they needed to be, but sometimes soft too, because who had time for gyms when there were lives to be lived?

Neither trusts people, although for very different reasons, and their reactions to that fear of trust manifests in opposite ways: Eddie won’t stay in one place, while Gray holes up in his home. Neither wants to let another person in, which is at the heart of this story–both trying to learn to trust someone else and expand their worlds.


Boyfriend Material
Glitterland, Waiting for the Flood (2018) (Spires); Boyfriend Material (2020) Alexis Hall
Contemporary, LGBT (boinking)

Alexis Hall is my favorite author for 2020. Even when a book didn’t work for me, I still got why it was good, and managed to appreciate the things I didn’t enjoy.

Boyfriend Material may be my favorite book this year, although Check, Please! gives it a run for it’s money.

He writes broken characters (again, my catnip) who are struggling to make themselves better. In Boyfriend Material you don’t quite realize until you’re well into the story just how broken Luc is.

“You’ve been through a lot today,” he said. “There’s no need to diminish it.”

“Yeah, but if I don’t diminish things I have to face them at their normal size, and that’s horrible.”

He also uses humor to balance some of the darker themes in this stories, from suicide attempts to deep depression, countering them with snark and banter and ridiculousness.

His books have been a lovely discovery this year. I also read some of his fantasy books, one of which made the fantasy list.


Galaxies and Oceans
Galaxies and Oceans (2018), Upside Down (2019), Throwing Hearts (2020), Tic-Tac-Mistletoe (2020) N.R. Walker
Contemporary, LGBT (boinking)

Here is my other favorite new author of 2020.

Mostly because all those books above are so happy it was precisely what I needed this year. Also, most of the conflict (when there was conflict) was external, so there was no Big Misunderstanding between the characters that could have been solved if they had bothered to use their words with each other.

Upside Down is probably my favorite of the lot above. It’s an ace story, and has the two characters falling in love on the bus.

So, as the bus pulled in, my heart was dressed in neon Lycra, a bottle in one hand and a microphone in the other, singing Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” while my brain was stoic, arms crossed, working on some algorithm or genius equation that would determine indisputably, unequivocally, that I was the dumbest motherfucker on the planet for even entertaining the idea that Hennessy would be one, single. And two, remotely interested in me.

It’s really delightful, and I might possibly be Jordan.

My phone beeped in my hand and I tripped over my own feet, almost falling to the ground but catching myself just in time. “Motherfucker.”

It was just the book I needed to read this year, but really, every book in that list above is excellent.

I will note that Galaxies & Oceans does have TWs for intimate partner violence. It isn’t on the page, but you are in the aftermath of it. But the rest of her stories tend to be fluffy and happy with most of the conflict coming from the outside, and several have secondary romances–Throwing Hearts had my favorite secondary romance.


The Remaking of Corbin Wale
The Remaking of Corbin Wale (2017), Raze (2019) (Riven), Better Than People (2020) (Garnet Run) Roan Parrish
Contemporary, LGBT (boinking)

Roan Parrish writes romances that are often full of angst and may leave you weeping.

Which, you know, I love damaged characters, but this IS 2020 and I don’t have very much mental resilience right now. So although her Riven series is very good, Better Than People is probably my favorite book by her this year, since it was a less angsty.

“I worked at a c-company before.” He shuddered. “It was awful. Cubicles and p-people and no one would leave me alone.”

“What’d they do?” Jack asked, preemptively furious on Simon’s behalf.

Simon turned to him, eyes wide with horror. “Talked to me! Had b-birthday cakes and— and holiday parties.”

Yeah, there were damaged people who struggled, but it wasn’t quite so punch-you-in-the-chest-with-feelings.

If you’re up for angst, then definitely check out her Riven or Small Change series.


Blank Spaces
Blank Spaces (2016) Cass Lennox
Contemporary, Mystery, LGBT (boinking)

This book breaks my rule of limiting books to the current and previous year, because it was such a good book I couldn’t stop thinking about.

One character is ace, although he doesn’t realize that at the start of the story. He just knows he’s done with dating.

Vaughn knew how to pick them. He set the spoon down. “I’m not flirting with you.”

“Really.” Jonah’s voice dripped with disbelief. “You don’t call putting food in my mouth flirting?”

“No, actually. I share food with my eating companions regularly.” Vaughn mentally replayed their conversation. “What part of the last twenty minutes was flirtatious?”

Jonah’s jaw dropped. “Are you kidding me? Just how oblivious are you?”

(Reader? Vaughn is that oblivious.)

When someone steals paintings from the gallery where he works Vaughn ends up having to deal with the insurance adjusters who are (rightfully) suspicious since this is the third robbery they’ve reported.

Jonah, who is the junior partner of the insurance investigative team, spent his childhood and youth in foster homes, learning quickly he could rely on no one but himself.

To say that Vaughn and Jonah are opposites is a major understatement. I truly could not figure out how they were going to make a relationship work since not only were they very different people, but they also had needs that were at odds.

I ended up reading this book twice this year and could probably read it a third time.


Dine with Me
Dine with Me (2019) Layla Reyne
Contemporary, LGBT (boinking)

I read both Layla Reyne’s FBI series and very much enjoyed them. But once the pandemic started I really didn’t have the headspace for thrillers. This story is of a chef taking a farewell tour of some of his favorite restaurants, after a cancer diagnosis.

The best thing about this story is the amazing descriptions of the meals they eat.

(W)hen he tasted the chocolate soufflé with Earl Grey crème anglaise, it was beyond semi-orgasmic. Hell, beyond orgasmic. It was a night full of hot-sweaty-blow-your-mind-sex, in a baking ramekin and gravy boat. He eyed the latter, debating whether to turn it up and drink the remaining crème anglaise right from the boat.

Miller followed his gaze, accurately reading his intent. “I will think less of you.”

“I’m not sure I care right now.” The sauce was calling his name, loudly.

The next best thing was Miller coming to terms with his illness.

But also, the food.

She also made it onto the mysteries list, with one series completed last year, although I prefer the prior series a little more.


The Books of 2020

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