Random (but not really)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Books of 2021: Everything Else

Science Fiction

All Systems RedThe Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (2017) 9/10, Artificial Condition (2018) 8.5/10, Rogue Protocol (2018) 8.5/10, Exit Strategy (2018) 8.5/10, Network Effect (2020) 9/10, Fugitive Telemetry (2021) 9/10

Late to the game, I know. But in my defense, I tend to dislike science fiction, with just a handful of exceptions.

This is one of those exceptions.

I mean, this is the opening paragraph of the first novella.

I COULD HAVE BECOME a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

And it just gets better from there. I still have the latest book to read, but that’s I’ve been taking my time and savoring the stories.

 

Audio

Tales from the FollyTales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection (2020) Ben Aaronovitch narrated by: the author, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Ben Elliot, Felix Grainger, Sam Peter Jackson, Alex Kingston, Shvorne Marks, and Penelope Rawlins 8.5/10

Fantasy, Anthology

Despite there being other narrators besides Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, this was a great collection. Because of course we do get some Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, but we also get other narrators for other characters (such as Abigail).

I’ve always found Toby a pretty reliable magic detector. I’ve actually done controlled laboratory experiments that indicate that he can detect magical activity up to ten metres away, although false positives can be generated by cats, other dogs and the remote possibility of a sausage.

But most of all, Peter.

 

Murderbot Audio Editions: All Systems Red, (2017), Artificial Condition, Audio Edition (2018), Rogue Protocol, Audio Edition (2018), Martha Wells narrated by Kevin R. Free

Although the voice doesn’t quite match what I heard in my head, it is still very good.

When constructs were first developed, they were originally supposed to have a pre-sentient level of intelligence, like the dumber variety of bot. But you can’t put something as dumb as a hauler bot in charge of security for anything without spending even more money for expensive company-employed human supervisors. So they made us smarter. The anxiety and depression were side effects.

Because: Murderbot

 

Comics

Lady Mechanika Vol 6

Lady Mechanika: Sangre (2020) by Joe Benitez, M.M. Chen, Brian Ching, Martin Montiel 8/10

Steampunk

I love the story, but I also utterly adore the art.

Lady Mechanika Vol 6


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Monday, December 27, 2021

The Books of 2021: Mysteries

I read a lot of mysteries this year. Even more surprising, I read a lot of newly released mysteries.

 

Madison Square MurdersMadison Square Murders (2021) C.S. Poe (Memento Mori) 8.5/10

Police, LGBT

This is a new series in the same setting as the Snow & Winter series, with minor overlapping characters. Everett Larkin works on the NYC Cold Case Squad. He is an excellent detective, but an accident when he was a teenager changed his brain so that the past remains emotionally present for him. Forever.

If you know your romance tropes, this one is definintely grumpy/sunshine.

“Perhaps I’ve caught you at a bad time,” Joe suggested.

“You haven’t, I assure you.

One thing I struggled with was that the marriage of the main character was falling apart throughout the book. Which is rough going. Also, lots of triggers here for all kinds of dark things.

Yet, I did like it and can’t wait for the next one.


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

Contemporary

This book! Elderly woman kills people who annoy her!

(S)he had learned that it was smart not to reveal that all her senses were in full working order; instead, she allowed people to act in accordance with their own preconceptions.

Seriously. It’s about an old woman killing people who annoy her. You either want to read it based upon that, or there is no way you’ll ever read it.


Murder Most ActualMurder Most Actual (2021) Alexis Hall  8/10

Cozy, LGBT

Alexis Hall + Clue + Everyone is snowed in.

“Belloc’s an ass,” declared the colonel.

The door burst open.

“Oh, is he?” demanded Belloc, who Liza would have bet money had been waiting outside for the perfect moment to make a big entrance. “But I wonder, would the great Colonel Coleman have the courage to say this to Belloc’s face?”

The colonel stared at him. “You’re an ass.”

This is very much over-the-top, and very much delightful.


Mango Mambo and MurderMango, Mambo, and Murder (2021) Raquel V. Reyes (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery) 8/10

Cozy, Food

Miriam Quiñones-Smith has finished her PhD in food anthropology, but instead of becoming an author or education, she has moved back to Miami, where her husband was able to find a better paying job closer to support from his family.

“I’m a food anthropologist.”

“You dig up old food?” Ileana asked.

“No, I … I …” I’d never had it put that way before.

Although this is a murder mystery, it is also about Miriam finding her place in the world, both as a mother and daughter, and a woman whose life plans were upended and she has to decide who she wants to become.

Also, I now really wish there was a Cuban restaurant anywhere near me.


Arsenic and AdoboArsenic and Adobo (2021) Mia P. Manansala (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen) 8/10

Cozy, Food

Lila Macapagal has returned home both to reset her life after discovering her ex-fianace cheated, and also to help try to save the family restaurant.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stared down by an elderly Asian woman, but It. Is. Terrifying. Don’t be fooled by the cute florals and jaunty visors— these women will end you, wielding nothing but their sharp tongues, bony elbows, and collapsible shopping carts.

Then (because this is a cozy) murder happens. Lots and lots of food described in loving detail here.


Poisoned PrimroseMotts Cold Case Mystery by Dahlia Donovan

Poisoned Primrose (2020) 8/10, Pierced Peony (2021) 8/10, Pickled Petunia (2021) 7.5/10

Cozy, LGBT

Despite her mother’s unhappiness about it, Motts moved to the cottage she inherited from her aunt and is making a go of living on her own for the first time. Being autistic and ace is complicated, but she has family and friends who love and look out for her.

“Hello. Please go away.”

“I brought a sack of chips and a chocolate bar.”

“Well, fine. Come in.”

Motts definitely does not search out crimes to investigate, and doesn’t particularly want to get involved, but when the situations are somewhat forced upon her, she becomes fascinated by the puzzles.


Model Citizen
Haven Investigations by Lissa Kasey

Model Citizen (2015) 8/10, Model Bodyguard (2016) 8.5/10, Model Investigator (2017) 9/10, Model Exposure (2017) 9/10

PI, LGBT, Romance, Boinking

There are books you love the entire time you’re reading them, and you finish that last page with happy sigh.

Then there are the books that you keep thinking about, weeks and months after you finished them. This series is in the latter category.

There is a lot of sex in this series. So it is definitely not for everyone. But it had plot twists that kept me guessing, and the characters just stuck with me, both the things they went through and survived, but also the way they learned to lean on each other and their found family for support.

This four-book PI series was full of twists and turns and unexpected routes.

It has tons of trigger warnings, but what I loved best was that the mental health aspects (which were many) were dealt with so well.

“You know that little questionnaire you get every time you go in? You’re supposed to answer that honestly, not mark what you think you should feel.”

I had thought it was just me. That it was my place to fix what was wrong with me. That I’d been given help and it was my fault it wasn’t working because I wasn’t trying hard enough.

After his brother’s death by suicide, Oliver took over the PI firm, putting his (very successful) modeling career on hold. But he is barely keeping his head above water, so one of his brother’s friends calls in another to help Oliver out.

This series has a LOT of sex, so it won’t be for a lot of people, but I really liked both the characters and the mystery.


A Ladys Guide to Etiquette and MurderA Countess of Harleigh Mystery by Dianne Freeman

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019) 8.5/10, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020) 8/10, A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021) 8/10

Historical, Cozy

Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh has finally ended her mourning. However, since she was the spouse with the money, her in-laws don’t want her to leave, since she is all that is keeping the estates afloat.

“And how clever of you to have your own money.”

I chuckled. “The credit goes to my father. He set up this account although the Wynn family resented it at the time. They were rather offended at the idea of a wife having independent means— not the English way, you know.”

But when it begins to look like her husband’s death was not accidental, she is drawn into a mystery.

There is a delightful amount banter.

“I confess I had no idea what you were trying to tell me. Fortunately, your sister did.”

“I shall have to brush up on my skills,” he said with a sigh. “Or we could devise signals.”

I widened my eyes. “Or we could just speak to each other?”

“Well, if you insist on taking the easy route.”

And one of the things I especially like is that she doesn’t stumble blindly into situations but instead tries her best to keep out of danger.


Murder Most FairMurder Most Fair (2021) Anna Lee Huber (Verity Kent) 8.5/10

Historical

This is the best book in this series in a while. A lot of the things that were bugging me are starting to slowly get resolved.

“(W)ell, I thought I was managing it. Until clearly I wasn’t.”

Don’t start here is you have not read the series, but if you start to wonder if you should keep going once you’re in the series, the answer is yes.


Death at the Crystal PalaceDeath at the Crystal Palace (2021) Jennifer Ashley (A Below Stairs Mystery Book) 8/10

Historical, Cozy

Kat is a cook who has befriended the lady of the house, and so is far more involved in the lives of her betters than is necessarily good for her. But it is out of wanting to help those in need, rather than an overwhelming curiosity.

I was the same person, and yet in this dress and hat with a young man to handle the tickets for me, I suddenly deserved the conductor’s politeness. It made one think.

I’m very much enjoying this series.


Subtle Blood
Subtle Blood (2021) KJ Charles (The Will Darling Adventures) 8/10

Historical, LGBT, Romance, Boinking

Third book (and perhaps last?) of the series.

Will Darling came back from the War and struggled until meeting an uncle he didn’t know he had. When the uncle dies, leaving his bookstore to Will, he is inadvertently drawn into intrigue, and meets Kim, who has wealth and a name, and initially never tells Will the truth about anything.

It’s also (as are all KJ Charles books) full of wonderful dialog.

“You can’t expect me to take your word for things when I could work myself into a frenzy about them instead.”

This is not the place to start, but there are only two prior books, so it’s easy to get caught up, and then you can enjoy the intrigue and adventure.


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Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Books of 2021: Fantasies

Several of these are also romances, because as said before, I needed happy endings and HEAs.

A Marvellous LightA Marvellous Light (2021) Freya Marske (The Last Binding) 9/10

Historical, Mystery, LGBT, Boinking

Robin accidentally ends up as the magical liaison to the prime minister when the previous liaison disappears.

This is a problem because (like most of the public) Robin was unaware that magic was real.

Robin had never tried to deliberately clear his mind. He had the absurd image of taking a broom to waves on a seashore, trying to sweep the water back out across the stones.

I am very fond of historical LGBT romances, since the setting gives the characters a reason not to discuss their feelings (what with it leading to pillory (or worse) if discovered) and this does that well, along with interesting world building, and a good mystery.

It’s not action/adventure and a bit slower in places, but that was just fine with me.


Paladin's GraceThe Saint of Steel series by T. KingfisherPaladin’s Grace (2020) 8.5/10, Paladin’s Strength (2021) 8.5/10, Paladin’s Hope (2021) 8/10

Fantasy, Romance, LGBT, Boinking

This series is about paladins to a dead god, who were taken in by the Temple of the White Rat–at least those who survived their god’s death were.

Paladins were never a class I had any interest in, however, she has created a group of delightful ones.

“Istvhan, you ever kill someone with an ice swan?” he whispered.

“I clubbed someone unconscious with a frozen goose once. That’s similar?”

The Bishop suffered a mysterious coughing fit.

“No, you had to use the goose as a bludgeon, didn’t you? For the swan, I figure you’d snap the head off and try to stab with the neck.”

“Hmmm…” Istvhan eyed the ice sculpture speculatively. “It’s pretty big. And not well balanced.”

“I figure you’d have to go two-handed with it.”

“I think I’d grab one of the candelabras instead. Some of those are nice and heavy.”

“Far too unwieldy. I could take you apart with the ice swan while you were still trying to get the candelabra off the ground.”

This series is fun–although I felt like the third book was the weakest in the series. But despite that, start with Paladin’s Grace and read forward, because even her weakest book in the series was quite good.


WonderstruckWonderstruck (2021) Allie Therin (Magic in Manhattan) 8/10

Historical, LGBT, Boinking

Third book in the series closes the story arc. Rory is struggling now the antique shop is gone, and they still haven’t found the man murdering for magic.

One of the things I particularly like about Rory and Arthur is that neither wants to take advantage of the other, which leads to a lot of misunderstandings, but they are the normal kinds of misunderstandings.

“We don’t owe our hearts to people who hurt us, even if they’re our blood.”

This is one of the many books I loved this year that was set in the Interwar period, when so much of the world was changing.


The Noblemans Guide to Scandal and ShipwrecksThe Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (2021) Mackenzi Lee (Montague Siblings) 8/10

Historical, YA

The third (and seemingly final) book in the series, it can stand on its own, but is more poignant seeing Monty and Felicity twenty years later.

It’s also about grief and guilt and mental illness and love.

“God, is this going to take years?”

“It’s going to take your whole life,” Felicity says. “But it doesn’t have to be the defining element of it.

Although you can read this as a stand-alone, the previous two books are very good, and well worth reading, and I highly recommend them. Just be aware that if you start with the first book, Monty is complicated, and it took quite a while for me to warm up to him.


What Abigail Did That SummerWhat Abigail Did That Summer (2021) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) 8.5/10

Supernatural Mystery, YA

This book is set at the time as Foxglove Summer. Abigail speaks to foxes and wants more than anything to learn magic.

This could be read as a stand-alone I believe, because Abigail is only peripheral to the River of London novels, although she does have her own place in the comics and short stories.

The fox is sitting in my lap and still nuzzling my chin, which is beginning to vex me so I tell it to stop.

“Don’t you like that?” says the fox. The voice is slightly wheezy and pitched high. I suspect this is a vixen. “In training they said it promoted co-operation in humans.”

If you’ve not read any of the books in the Rivers of London series, this might be a good place to dip a toe in and see if you like it. That said, my favorite way to enjoy this series is listening to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith be Peter Grant.


Out of House and HomeOut of House and Home (2021) Drew Hayes (Fred the Vampire Accountant) 8/10

Supernatural

The seventh Fred book find Fred & Crystal married and back home. Except that the invading vampire clan wants Fred gone, and is willing to burn down Charlotte to do it.

This series remains delightful. I mean…

With a quick recovery, Amy turned hard on the steering bars of her goat, setting a good angle on the goal and whipping her crosse forward.

You shouldn’t start here, but all the books are available and on Hoopla if not at your library.


Cry Wolf
Cry Wolf (2021) Charlie Adhara (Big Bad Wolf) 8/10

Supernatural, LGBT, Boinking

The fifth book in the Big Bad Wolf series. Part of the story is wedding planning, part of the story is Eli wanting Cooper to solve a mystery for him.

Also, this book has one of the best disclaimers I’ve read in ages.

Any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental. Though if you do know of a criminal plot involving werewolves that has taken place at any of these locales, that is a coincidence I would love to know about.

Don’t start here. Start at the first book, A Wolf at the Door (which is available on Hoopla) because the character arcs are really wonderful.


White Trash WarlockWhite Trash Warlock (2020) David R. Slayton (Adam Binder) 8/10

Supernatural, LGBT

I love the world building here, as it’s not like anything else I’ve read before (though there are bits and pieces that remind me of other magic systems). I also love that the story doesn’t shy away from showing real poverty–the kind with beat up trailers and broken windows covered with cardboard and tape and the cheapest foods at the store.

The parking meters had mouths where their coin slots should be. They undulated like hungry snakes, begging for coins. “How many of you can do that?” he asked. He fed the meter a few quarters. Contented, it tried to lick his face before closing its eyes and drifting to sleep like a cat in the sun.

The second book came out this year, however, I am very angry at it, because it ended on a big cliffhanger. Yet, I’m still planning on buying the third book as soon as it comes out.


Recipe for a CurseRecipe for a Curse (2021) Lissa Kasey (Romancing a Curse) 8/10

Supernatural, LGBT, Boinking

I actually got this free, and was expecting a mediocre short story. Instead a got a novella with marvelous world-building and complex characters.

Also, one of the main characters is a chef, so lots of food and cooking.

People didn’t like to think their quiet towns or pockets of wealth housed those with food insecurity, but I’d found that it was a reality everywhere. Even in upstate New York, buried in a small tourist area with large plots of land.

This is a pandemic story, which not everyone might be ready for, but I thought it was very well done.


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Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Books of 2021: Romances

I read a lot of romance this year, because I desperately needed the HEA to help me escape reality. Although I did nothing but reread for seemingly four months, I did squeeze in some new and new-to-me books.

 

The Charm Offensive

The Charm Offensive (2021) Alison Cochrun  9/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Closed Door

I initially didn’t want to read this. I mean: reality TV dating show? Ew.

But It kept popping up as something I’d like, and so I decided to borrow it from the library. Then I all but devoured it in one sitting when it came in. Now I own it and have been holding off rereading, because it’s only been, like a month.

Charlie is a disaster. A famous disaster. After getting fired from the company he founded, he is in desperate need of an image rehabilitation.

Dev wants to call bullshit. A reputation of being difficult isn’t enough to blacklist you from any industry when you’re as white and male and traditionally handsome as Charlie, not to mention a certifiable genius.

And for some reason his PA and best friend thinks a reality dating show will do the trick.

“I have only drunkenly proposed to you twice, and I assumed you rejected my offers of a marriage of convenience because you intend to fall madly in love with a former Miss Alabama.”

“That… will not happen.”

“Because there is no former Miss Alabama on this season? Seems unlikely.”

This book ends up dealing with so many important subjects, from asexuality to mental health to casual homophobia and just how awful the TV industry can be.

It’s sweet, it’s affirming, and it was one of my favorite books of the year.

 

Best Laid PlansGarnet Run series by Roan Parrish : Best Laid Plans (2021) 8/10, The Lights on Knockbridge Lane (2021) 8/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Boinking

When I read Better than People last year, it was just what I needed. So I had high hopes for the rest of the series.

Best Laid Plans is Jack’s brother)’s romance. Charlie gave up his dreams to raise Jack after their parents died, and he ended up making a small success of the family business and generally being nearly everyone’s favorite person.

Rye is a mess, and when he inherits a house from a grandfather he never knew, he packs everything up and moves to Garnet Run. This does not seem to be a good decision.

“You need any help with…” Charlie gestured at the hardware equivalent to marshmallows, cheese, and spaghetti before him.

Like all Roan Parrish books, this is a good deal of focus on mental health, with it being treated as something that is simply a part of being alive. Although it can be read as a stand alone, the glimpses of Charlie you got in Jack’s book make the story all more poignant. It’s really just lovely.

The third book, The Lights on Knockbridge Lane is good, but wasn’t quite as good as the two stories that went before for. Neither character appeared in the earlier books–although characters from previous books did appear in this story.

This story also had a slightly different feel from the previous books in the series. Although Wes did have his own issues, most of the focus of the story was on Adam and Gus (his daughter) and how Gus wheedles her way into Wes’ house to see his exciting pets.

The kid parts were well done, which is always a plus, and Adam was written like a real parent, rather than someone with an adorable plot moppet.

It was a good story, I just didn’t love it as much as the previous two books.

 

Rosaline Palmer Takes the CakeRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2021) Alexis Hall (Winner Bakes All) 8/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Mostly Closed Door

Another story with a single parent, Rosaline has been (mostly) making ends meet but she wants more, and hopes that winning THE big baking show will give her the push she needs to escape her current job and be more.

“I don’t want to be famous. I just want… enough money to pay for some things and enough people to think I’m good at baking that I might be able to get a slightly better job.”

“Truly. Yours is a hubris of Homeric proportions.”

As one expects with Alexis Hall, so tropes are subverted and things don’t go at all as you’d think they would.

Also, as one expects with Alexis Hall, there are complicated friendships and parental relationships, and things aren’t perfect, but that’s kinda lovely because life isn’t perfect.

Additionally, he was spot-on writing Amelie. I actually love kids in stories, except that so many people just get them wrong, with the kid sounding both too old and too young for their stated age. This story felt like he’d actually spent time around 8-year olds.

 

Sweetest in the GaleSweetest in the Gale (2020) Olivia Dade (There’s Something About Marysburg) 8/10

Contemporary, Boinking

This is three novellas, all set in the town of Marysburg: “Sweetest in the Gale”, “Unraveled”, “Cover Me”

Although these are romances, they are also about the struggles of life, including grief, and dealing with a health crisis while not having insurance.

Which is a lot, but it’s well done and lovely.

Why couldn’t he seem to feel the same about his own fracture, his own pain? Why couldn’t he greet his own healing with uncomplicated relief?

So although two of the stories covered deep and painful subjects, it was done with care and concern, and ended up being soothing.

 

Grumpy Bear (2021) Slade James (Bear Camp) 8/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Boinking

This story ended up being a surprise.

I was pretty sure that I had no interest in reading a story set in a men’s gay nudist camp that seems to be a good deal about casual sex, but yet–it was actually sweet, and one of the characters read as demi-sexual. So there is a lot of the two getting to know each other–including a discussions about science fiction.

He was just… hugging me like he’d been missing me for ages. And I thought it, I sent it out to him with my mind and my body, without saying a word, I’ve missed you too.

It was much sweeter than I was expecting it to be, and quite enjoyable. (Even with the boinking)

 

The Queer Principles of Kit WebbThe Queer Principles of Kit Webb (2021) Cat Sebastian  8/10

Historical, LGBT, Boinking

I tend to be hit and miss with Cat Sebastian stories–I love some and others don’t work for me at all.

This is one of the stories that worked.

After retiring from being a highway man and instead running a coffee shop, Kit is not pleased when a young nobleman wants him to help in a heist.

Of the young lord’s father.

One of the things I liked about this story were the little details that Percy noticed about Kit.

This time part of the web caught in Kit’s hair— which, given the state of Kit’s hair, was hardly surprising— and Kit carefully disentangled it. Then he murmured something that looked awfully like “beg pardon” to the spider.

There was a mystery as to what Percy’s father had been doing, and there was a lot of strategy and planning for the heist, which I enjoyed. Because who doesn’t love a good heist story?

 

The Gentle Art of Fortune HuntingThe Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting (2021) K.J. Charles 8/10

Historical, LGBT, Boinking

Robin Loxleigh and his sister Marianne have come to London to seek their fortunes through marriage. But the young woman Robin has set his eye on has a protective uncle who seems to see through Robin and doesn’t trust him in the slightest.

“Wins fifty or sixty pounds a night.”

“That’s not huge.” It was vast amounts by normal standards, of course, entire sections of the annual accounts to John Hartlebury the prudent brewer, but mere tokens to a gaming baronet.

“It’s not breaking the bank, no. It’s the kind of money you can win at a gaming hell without attracting too much attention. The question is how many gaming hells he’s winning sixty pounds a night at, and how often.”

I don’t like enemies-to-lovers, so that made the story much harder for me to get into, but I did adore how much Robin and Marianne obviously cared for each other–and would do absolutely anything for each other, including give up their own happiness.

Not that there was anything wrong with Hart, but how Robin and Marianne would manage their own happiness as they tried to move beyond what they were was my favorite part of the story.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Books of 2021: Mystery Covers

Apparently most of the new books I read this year were mysteries. Plus, I discovered some new-to-me mystery series that I devoured.

 

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019), A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020), A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021) Dianne Freeman (Countess of Harleigh)

A Ladys Guide to Gossip and MurderA Ladys Guide to Mischief and MurderA Fiancees Guide to First Wives and Murder

Published by Kensington Books. Cover artist Sarah Gibb

Historical, Cozy Mystery

I love the covers of these books, from the quirky cartoon-like characters to the title font.

Yeah, I know the title font is all curly and hard to read, but I love it anyway.


Fortune Favors the DeadFortune Favors the Dead (2020) Stephen Spotswood (Pentecost and Parker)

Published by Vintage Crime. Cover illustration by Rui Ricardo / Folio Art, Cover design by Michael J. Windsor

Historical Mystery, LGBT

This cover really evokes the feel of the book, from the WWII look to the strong noir atmosphere with the woman in heels and a red dress.

An Unexpected PerilAn Unexpected Peril (2021) Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell)

Published by Berkley. Cover art and design by Leo Nickolls

Historical Mystery

All of the covers in this series are gorgeous, and I really love the silhouettes as well as the mountains in the background that reflect part of the mystery.

Death at the Crystal PalaceDeath at the Crystal Palace (2021) Jennifer Ashley (Below Stairs)

Published by Berkley.  Cover art Ernesto Rogata and NorthScape

Historical Mystery

Although this is a lovely cover, I actually prefer the look of the earlier books, which had a woman on the stairs, a hand on the railing as she goes.

This cover has the stairs, but there was something about the view being mostly of a hand and arm that I particularly liked.

Still, this is a perfectly fine cover.

A Wicked ConceitA Wicked Conceit (2021) Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby)

Published by Berkley. Cover art by Larry Rostant. Cover design by Emily Osborne

Historical Mystery

These covers are always gorgeous–the woman moving away from you in a gorgeous gown into an almost monochrome setting.

Murder Most FairMurder Most Fair (2021) Anna Lee Huber (Verity Kent)

Published by Kensington Books.

Historical Mystery

The feel of these covers is quite different from the Berkley covers for Lady Darby.

These covers show how things have changed in the years between 1830 and 1920. In both, the women’s clothes help set the time period, but also how much things had changed in the intervening years.

Dead Dead GirlsDead Dead Girls (2021) Nekesa Afia

Published by Berkley. Cover art by Emma Leonard. Cover design by Emily Osborne

Historical Mystery, LGBT

Another cover that evokes the time in which it is set–in this case the roaring twenties.

This book is set less than a decade after the Verity Kent books, but it’s clear just how much times have changed, in both women’s dress and how she is clearly relaxed and comfortable in a speakeasy. Yes, there were class differences, but many things shifted amazingly rapidly after the Great War.

Interlude Snow & Winter Collection Volume OneInterlude: Snow & Winter Collection Volume One (2021) (Snow & Winter)

Published by Emporium Press. Cover Art by Reese Dante

Contemporary Mystery, LGBT

This is an entry into her Snow & Winter series (a collection of outtakes and short stories) and it perfectly matches the look and feel of the other books in the series, the monochrome washed-out view of how Sebastian most likely sees the world.

Madison Square MurdersMadison Square Murders (2021) C.S. Poe (Memento Mori)

Published by Emporium Press. Cover Art by Reese Dante

Contemporary Mystery, LGBT

This is a new series set in the same world as the Snow & Winter series. Unlike the Sebastian books, we get color, however, I love how things are fractal and fractured, which gives me a feel for how the main characters brain processes and remembers things.


The Whispered Word (2018), The Book of Candlelight (2000), Ink and Shadows (2021) Ellery Adams (Secret, Book, & Scone Society)

Whispered Word   The Book of Candlelight   ink and shadows

Published by Kensington.

Contemporary, Cozy

These are a little busier than I tend to prefer but the more limited color palette helps, and the title formatting makes it clear these are part of a series.


Arsenic and AdoboArsenic and Adobo (2021) Mia P. Manansala (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen)

Published by  Berkley. Cover art and design by Vi-An Nguyen

Contemporary Mystery

I know lots of people hate the cartoon / line block drawing type covers, but I really like them.

This cover has lovely bold primary colors, I like the action of her cooking (even if I don’t understand where her other arm is, or how her dachshund got up on her shoulder).


Poisoned Primrose (2020), Pierced Peony (2021), Pickled Petunia (2021) Dahlia Donovan (Motts Cold Case Mystery)

Poisoned Primrose   Pierced Peony   Pickled Petunia

Tangled Tree Publishing. Cover Designer: BookSmith Design

Contemporary, Cozy, LGBT

Another series with a consistent design across the series and bold colors.

Plus the cat.


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

Published by Soho Crime.

Contemporary Mystery

I love everything about this cover.

It’s perfect.


Murder Most Actual
Murder Most Actual (2021) Alexis Hall

Published by Rakuten Kobo Inc. Original illustration & cover design by Monika Roe.

Contemporary, Cozy, LGBT

This is fun and queer and aside from her not wearing enough clothes in the cold and snow, pretty great.

I love the background bits of the guy falling down and the women in the window. They give you a hint as to how perfectly over-the-top this is going to be.


As in previous years, Berkley has the most great covers over-all, but Kensington was far closer than expected.

Berkley – 7
Kensington – 5
Tangled Tree Publishing – 3
Emporium Press – 2
Vintage Crime – 1
Soho Crime-1
Rakuten Kobo – 1

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Covers,Yearly Round-Up  

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Books of 2021: Fantasy Covers

What Abigail Did That SummerWhat Abigail Did That Summer (2021) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London)

Published by Subterranean Press. Cover map image by Stephen Walter.

Supernatural Mystery

This is pretty clearly a Rivers of London book cover, but also there are plenty of signs it’s not a Peter Grant book. Like The October Man, the title has a backing, unlike Peter’s books, and even more noticeably, the Fox Whisperer Badge, which if you read the rest of the series you know refers to Abigail.

Trailer Park TricksterTrailer Park Trickster (2021) David R. Slayton (Adam Binder)

Published by Blackstone. Cover design by Sean M. Thomas

Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

This is a relatively simple cover design, but like the previous book, refers to events in the book. I also think the starkness of the nearly monochrome art is fitting for the story.

Paladin’s Grace (2020), Paladin’s Strength (2021), Paladin’s Hope (2021) T. Kingfisher (The Saint of Steel) 

Paladin's Hope   Paladin's Strength   Paladin's Grace

Published by Red Wombat Studios

Fantasy

My guess is that the T. Kingfisher / Ursula Vernon designed these herself, so kudos for that!

My favorite of the three is Paladin’s Grace, with the blue and green hues, but all three covers are striking, and quite clearly the same series.


Out of House and HomeOut of House and Home (2021) Drew Hayes (Fred the Vampire Accountant)

Self Published

Supernatural

This is another self-published author with a very distinct cover style, and all of them are good–better than some traditionally published novels, really.

Fred books all have accounting papers, blood drops, an item related to the story, and the title done as an old label.

Cry WolfCry Wolf (2021) Charlie Adhara (Big Bad Wolf)

Published by Carina Press

Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

This series also has a distinct look to its covers. All have the elements of earth and water and wolf prints.

It’s simple, but it’s also effective and I quite like it.

Daydream, Colorado: Blindspot (2021) Mischief (2021), Faces (2021); A.M. Rose

Mischief   Blindspot   Faces

Self Published. Cover designed by BCJ Art & Design

Supernatural Romance, LGBT

Seeing all three together, it’s clear that the first two books are part of a series, and the third is not.

The two styles are very different, but all are good.

I think the cover for Faces especially is good, since the outlines hint at the blindness of one of the characters, but also of two people finding each other.

The other series is playful and colorful, which also works well for that series.


The Noblemans Guide to Scandal and ShipwrecksThe Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (2021) Mackenzi Lee

Published by Tegen Books. Photo composite by Travis Commeau Cover design by David Curtis

Historical Fantasy

I’m guessing about the cover artist since I can’t find the copyright page for this book (borrowed from the library) but the design is very much like the previous two books in the series.

The dress tells you immediately this is an historical, but I absolutely love the whimsy of the font and the doodled elements.

This is hands-down my favorite fantasy cover of the year, and might be my favorite cover of any genre from this year.


The Fog of War (2021) The Quid Pro Quo (2021) A.L. Lester

The Fog of WarThe Quid Pro QuoPublished by JMS Books LLC. Cover Design: A.L. Lester

Historical, Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

Another self-published author that does their own covers.

Simple but the design tells you this is an historical, and that the pairings are likely same-sex.

I also adore the font, and the decorations above and below the title.


A Marvellous Light (2021) Freya Marske

A Marvellous LightPublished by Tor. Cover art by Will Staehle Cover design by Christine Foltzer

Historical, Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

More silhouettes. Single color. Wallpaper-type background.

It’s eye-catching and lovely.


Looking at which publishers came out on top:

self – 7
Katherine Tegen Books
Carina
Blackstone
Subterranean Press

Self published authors blew away all other publishers, which is quite impressive.

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Categories: Books & Reading,Covers,Yearly Round-Up  

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Books of 2021: Romance Covers

Apparently “cartoon” covers are the current big thing in romance, and I’ll be honest–I don’t hate it. I’ve never liked clinch covers, or models with the clothing falling off in a ridiculous manner. So I liked most of the covers this year.

Which means that pretty soon it will once again be shirtless men and clinging partially-clad women.

 

The Charm OffensiveThe Charm Offensive (2021) Alison Cochrun

Published by Atria Books. Cover illustration and design by Sarah Horgan

Contemporary, LGBT

This cover does an excellent job giving you an idea about the characters in the story. Charlie lost his job as a tech CEO due to his compulsive (and other) issue, and is looking to rehabilitate his image by going on a reality dating show.

Dev is a handler for THE reality dating TV show, whose job is trying to keep Charlie from losing it.

I really love how Charlie looks uncomfortable in the spotlight, while Dev is hovering in the background, waiting to come in with a quiet word.

The Love StudyThe Love Study (2020) Kris Ripper

Published by Carina Press

Contemporary, LGBT

This cover is also cute, and the heart as an O actually fits both the concept of the podcast episodes the two are doing and the feel of the story.

I think they could have done a better job making it clear the story centered around a podcast, but at least they have the technology bits correct.

It is an appealing, eye catching cover, with bright colors and easily readable fonts.

Rosaline Palmer Takes the CakeRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2021) Alexis Hall (Winner Bakes All)

Published by Forever. Cover design and illustrations throughout by Lila Selle.

Contemporary, LGBT

Rosaline is a single mother who loves to bake and so decided to take a chance on a popular British baking show.

This is one of the few covers I really liked that does not have a couple on the cover, but instead has Rosaline standing by herself, in the kitchen.

Despite the hearts in the background, that might make people think this was not a romance, however, as there are several things about the story that are not traditional for a romance, I think that works quite well.

I also really like the clean look of the solid background, which drew my eye to the title.

Sweetest in the GaleSweetest in the Gale (2020) Olivia Dade

Published by Hussies & Harpies Press

Contemporary

This is another drawn covers, but unlike the three above, the characters are more detailed, and it’s absolutely clear this is a romance.

It’s also clear that the women (women) in these stories are plus sized, which is Olivia Dade’s thing, and absolutely fantastic.

Even though yellow is not one of my favorite colors, it works well here, and I love the dappled light.

Best Laid PlansBest Laid Plans (2021) Roan Parrish (Garnet Run)

Published by Carina Adores

Contemporary, LGBT

I love the sunrise / sunset color here.

It is interesting that all three books in this series have very different covers. Especially since the series prior to this (Riven) had covers that were very strongly all of a series.

I don’t think the elements of home renovation are quite as clear as they could be, since this house is barely visible, and the drafting lines aren’t at all clear in a smaller size, however, the wide open spaces around the couple do match the feel of the characters, that they are just a little bit apart from the world.

Especially since this isn’t initially the case with Charlie, who seems to be friends with everyone in town, but still feels isolated and alone.

A Ladys Formula for LoveA Lady’s Formula for Love (2021) Elizabeth Everett

Published by Berkley. Cover design by Rita Frangie

Historical

I really love this cover: the color, the silhouettes, the flask of bubbling chemicals. Even the mismatched fonts work for me. All of it makes it clear at a glance this is an historical with a lady scientist.

I also love the two-color look, with everything seemingly in shades of the two strong colors.

Sadly for me, the story didn’t live up to the color.

Bringing Down the DukeBringing Down the Duke (2019) Evie Dunmore

Published by Berkley. Cover design and art composition by Farjana Yasmin

Historical

Another silhouette design (which I really like). Everything tells me this is an historical romance.

Although he is most likely the one in charge of the horse, she is still in front of him from the viewers point of view, and they are off doing something and having some sort of adventure. I especially love the sense of movement that comes with the horse.

I also love the font and bold blue for the title and author.

Sadly, the story wasn’t for me.

The Labours of Lord Perry CavendishThe Labours of Lord Perry Cavendish (2021) Joanna Chambers (Winterbourne)

Self published. Cover art: Natasha Snow

Historical, LGBT

I love all the covers she has done for this series. They are simple and evocative. I could probably have done without Lord Perry being in a super curly script, but at least it’s a legible even at a smaller size.

And the blue is very very pretty.

Especially the splat of paint, which very much fits with the story.

My only ding is that it’s not clear this is a romance–and a MM romance at that–which could be problematic for some readers. However, it is obvious it’s an historical, and since it’s a later book in a series, you’re probably already aware it’s a MM romance.

A Ladys Guide to Mischief and MayhemA Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem (2020) Manda Collins

Published by Forever. Cover design and illustration by Sarah Congdon.

Historical

Another book with a very pretty cover. The title font should have been easier to read, but it’s illegible at a smaller size. Just a bit of a struggle to parse initially. And like Bringing Down the Duke above I very much like the line drawings of the city behind them, as well as the two primary colors for everything.

Sadly, I didn’t like was the romance. Or much about the story.

Here is a breakdown of the publishers:
Carina – 2
Berkley – 2
Forever – 2
Atria
Self

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Covers,Yearly Round-Up  
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