>> Thursday, December 30, 2010
I'm flying home in a few hours, will be there midday on New Year's Eve, if all goes well. Hope you all have a wonderful start to your year, and see you in February when I return!
I'm flying home in a few hours, will be there midday on New Year's Eve, if all goes well. Hope you all have a wonderful start to your year, and see you in February when I return!
My favourite 2010 books
In no particular order...
The list this year is completely dominated by Meljean Brook. I react to her books like a complete fangirl, and almost feel like I should give one of her books a low grade at least once, just to restore my credibility. Can't do it, though, I love them too much.
Rosalia and Deacon's romance in Demon Blood was one of her best, and I just love, love, love the worldbuilding and the larger storyline that keeps developing in all the books.
Then I read the short story that starts her new steampunk series, The Iron Seas. Here There Be Monsters completely wowed me. Not only was I really intrigued by the unique world it was set in, the romance was so good I didn't want it to end.
And if HTBM was a promising start, The Iron Duke delivered, and how! This is probably the most amazing, fascinating world I've ever read about, and I can't wait to explore more, and the romance was just as good.
Lisa Marie Rice is an old favourite, and her latest, Into The Crossfire was among my favourites. I had started feeling a bit irritated by her heroes, but we get a truly lovely one here (and yes, it's just as over the top and unbelievable as her previous books, but I don't care in the least).
And oops, I wrote the bit below before this, and now I can't be bothered editing it. So I'll just say that The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory and What The Librarian Did, by Karina Bliss, also belong up here!
Julie James' Just The Sexiest Man Alive was fantastic fun, and I loved that the heroine could best the hero (who was being a bit of an arse and deserved it) without the author feeling the need to put her "in her place". I've now also read Something About You and I've been saving Practice Makes Perfect for my upcoming holiday.
What took me so long to read Philippa Gregory? The Red Queen was meaty but extremely readable, and when I finished it, I didn't want to leave the world she'd created. I feel a glom coming on! Fortunately, unlike Julie James, she's got a nice, long backlist.
Karina Bliss's What The Librarian Did made me laugh and cry. A snarky librarian heroine, a to-die-for hero and lots of lovely banter. Another glommable author!
I didn't expect to like Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games as much as I did... I don't really do YA. It was outstanding, though, a book that kept me up until 4 in the morning, practically biting my nails and racing through the pages. I've now read the rest of the trilogy and, although the 1st was best, enjoyed them all.
I really liked Kristin Harmel's romancey chick-lit. Italian For Beginners was my first and favourite, with its wonderful Roman setting, but I also liked The Blonde Theory.
Gail Carriger's steampunk paranormal, Soulless, was great fun, especially the homage to my beloved Amelia Peabody! It was also probably my first steampunk, although not my favourite this year (see above for that!)
Tess Gerritsen is another author I'm kicking myself for not having tried earlier. The Surgeon is the first in her Rizzoli / Isles police procedural series, and an excellent, if gory and graphic, read. I'm up to the 4th in the series now, and trying to keep myself from racing through the rest.
A book set in Germany during the 2nd World War and narrated by Death sounds pretty glum. Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is certainly not cheerful, but it's a beautiful, uplifting and tender read, which I really enjoyed.
Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap is a love-it-or-hate-it book, but I'm firmly on the love-it camp. Yes, it's full of unpleasant characters, but they're so damn interesting!
Finally, LM Turner's novella, The Subtle Build of Perfection, was probably one of the sweetest, most romantic reads of the year. Can't wait to read more!
And that wraps it up. 2010 was a really good year, let's hope for an even better 2011!
TITLE: The Red Queen
AUTHOR: Philippa Gregory
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
SETTING: 15th century England and Wales
TYPE: Historical fiction
SERIES: Second in The Cousins' War series, following The White Queen, but it stands alone.
REASON FOR READING: Book club choice for December
The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.The Red Queen tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, the Lancastrian heiress who was the mother of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Completely dismissed by everyone as not being worth anything beyond her capacity to pass on her bloodlines, and married off to a man twice her age at barely 13, Margaret devotes her whole life to plotting and planning to put her son on the throne.
"I take up my rosary and pray again. The words are for the safety of my king; but I cannot think of anything but my jealousy that a woman, far worse born than me, far worse educated than me, without doubt less beloved by God than me, should be able to run to her husband with joy and show him their son and know he will fight to defend him. That a woman such as her, clearly not favored by God, showing no signs of grace (unlike me), should be Queen of England. And that, by some mystery—too great for me to understand—God should have overlooked me."Lovely woman, eh? The issue of religion is quite an interesting one. I've read many medievals in which the characters religiousness felt completely alien... basically, their religiousness was all-encompassing, a prism through which they saw everything and affected everything they were. I get the feeling that might be quite an accurate way of portraying the way things were back then, but I had no problem with Gregory taking a different tack. Because while Margaret was extremely religious, and convinced that doing God's will was the most important thing in her life, Gregory's portrayal of her is that of a woman I could perfectly well meet here and now. At one point, one of her husbands tells it to her like it is, and makes the point that she might tell herself that she does what God wants, but funny how God always tells her to do what she wants to do, anyway. He never points her in any direction that doesn't involve acquiring more power and wealth. She has no answer to that, but neither does it give her more than a twinge of concern.
In 1995, economist Rachel Kranton wrote future Nobel Prize-winner George Akerlof a letter insisting that his most recent paper was wrong. Identity, she argued, was the missing element that would help to explain why people--facing the same economic circumstances--would make different choices. This was the beginning of a fourteen-year collaboration--and of Identity Economics.This was a work/professional development read. We've been doing a lot of work on alternatives to regulation lately, and there are quite a few developing areas in economics that provide some interesting material. So far the bulk of our efforts has been on behavioural economics (not least because this government is very keen on it), but there are other possibilities. Identity Economics could be one of them.
Identity economics is a new way to understand people's decisions--at work, at school, and at home. With it, we can better appreciate why incentives like stock options work or don't; why some schools succeed and others don't; why some cities and towns don't invest in their futures--and much, much more.
Identity Economics bridges a critical gap in the social sciences. It brings identity and norms to economics. People's notions of what is proper, and what is forbidden, and for whom, are fundamental to how hard they work, and how they learn, spend, and save. Thus people's identity--their conception of who they are, and of who they choose to be--may be the most important factor affecting their economic lives. And the limits placed by society on people's identity can also be crucial determinants of their economic well-being.
TITLE: Obsidian Prey
AUTHOR: Jayne Castle
SETTING: The planet Harmony
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: It stands alone, but it's one of several novels set in Harmony and also ties in to the Arcane Society books, although this element is not very prominent.
REASON FOR READING: JAK, in all her guises, is a comfort read.
Amber tuner and independent prospector Lyra Dore lost her heart-and her discovery of a rare amethyst ruin-to cutthroat businessman Cruz Sweetwater. At least she had her artistically talented dust-bunny to comfort her...This is one of several books JAK has written under her Jayne Castle pseudonym, set in the planet called Harmony. The basic premise is that several centuries earlier, a "Curtain" opened between Earth and this planet, allowing Earthlings to travel to and from the previously unreachable location. Humans colonised Harmony, but had to keep bringing technology from Earth, as the magnetic fields in their new home made it malfunction after a short while. And then, suddently, the Curtain closed and the people on Harmony were left isolated and struggling to survive.***
But the ruin's mysterious power has put everyone involved with the project in danger. And only by trusting their psychic instincts will Cruz and Lyra survive- and surrender to the desire that binds them.
TITLE: The Thirteen Problems (also published as The Tuesday Club Murders)
AUTHOR: Agatha Christie
SETTING: 1920s-30s England
SERIES: A collection of Miss Marple stories. Includes recurring characters.
REASON FOR READING: I read this one years and years ago, and decided to pull it up for reread after Ana posted about it on her blog.
Each member at a Tuesday night get-together tells a tale of mystery, preferably one he or she has personal knowledge of, and the rest of the crowd tries to figure out the solution. As Miss Marple is among them, looking harmless with her knitting, the rest hardly stand a chance...The basic premise of this collection of short stories involves a bit of a game. A group of people tell each other stories of mysteries they've been involved in, and see who in the group can guess the right solution. At first everyone completely ignores Miss Marple, who is a lot less worldly than the other participants. And yet, time and time again, she's the one who hits on the answer.
TITLE: Below Deck
AUTHOR: Dorien Kelly
SETTING: Cruise ship in the Mediterranean
TYPE: Category romance
SERIES: Part of the Mediterranean Nights continuity series (which I didn't know)
REASON FOR READING: I loved Do-Over
Not everything is aboveboard... When Mei Lin Wang met young radical social activist Wei Chan she knew it was fate. She didn't know that less than three years later she would be left widowed with a newborn son after a suspicious illness claimed Wei's life.I enjoyed Do-Over so much that I barely looked at what Below Deck was about before ordering it. When it arrived, I was very happily surprised, as it sounded different and interesting.
Now, still convinced of their shared destiny, Lin is determined to avenge Wei and continue his work, but she must also protect her son from those responsible for her husband's death.
For months Lin has secreted her son below deck on the cruise ship Alexandra's Dream, under cover of her job. It's turned into a game of hide-and-seek with the ship's security officer, Gideon Dayan, whose interest is piqued by the mystery that surrounds her.
But through his attraction, Gideon sees his own haunted past when he looks at Lin...and she can't let her past go. Will they finally be able to face the future...together?
TITLE: A Rake's Guide to Pleasure
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl
SETTING: 19th century England
SERIES: It's linked to the other historicals I've read by this author, To Tempt a Scotsman and One Week as Lovers (I think it's in the middle of those two, but I might be wrong).
REASON FOR READING: Picked it up at the library
TRUE PLEASURE...Emma Jensen is playing a dangerous game. After the death of her scandalous father, she was left with very little security, and has found it necessary to make her own fortune in London. The way she's chosen to go about it is a very risky one: she's pretending to be a widowed noblewoman, and using the freedom confered by that status to try gamble her way into making some money. She's getting close to getting enough to put together a nest egg that will allow her to live a modest but comfortable life when she attracts the attention of the Duke of Somerhart.
Raised by a titled, yet degenerate, father, Emma Jensen never imagined the gamblinglessons she learned as a child would one day serve her well. When she finds herself indire need of money, she concocts the alias of Dowager Lady Denmore andsets off to bewitch London’s noblemen by engaging them in games of chance. The fact that respectable ladies do not gamble does notintimidate her in the least. But the darkly handsome Duke of Somerhart does—for he’s awakened a deep, sensual hunger in her…
IS ALWAYS WORTH THE GAMBLE…
The dashing Duke of Somerhart has the notorious reputation of being one of London’s most incurable rogues. When he meets the alluring Lady Denmore, he is immediately intrigued. Her recklessness and innocence intertwined titillates him as no other woman ever has. But what secret is the lovely Lady Denmore hiding? He’s determined to find out. But first he must seduce her until she surrenders completely to his most wicked desires...
TITLE: The Careful Use of Compliments
AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith
SETTING: Contemporary Scotland
SERIES: 4th in the Sunday Philosophy Club series.
REASON FOR READING: Random pick at the library.
In the fourth installment of this enchanting, beloved series, Isabel Dalhousie, who is now a mother, returns to investigate an irresistible puzzle in the art world.I wondered if I should keep reading when I started The Careful Use of Compliments. I picked this one up at the library without knowing anything about it, so I hadn't realised that it was the 4th in a series. That was immediately clear once I started reading: a lot had happened to these characters in previous books. Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher and the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. She is involved in a relationship with a much younger man, Jamie, who used to date her niece, Cat. Not only that: Isabel has just had a baby by him, little Charlie. All this seems to have happened in the previous books, and in the first couple of chapters, there are also mentions of other characters I would probably have recognised had I read those earlier installments. I wondered if I shouldn't just go back to the library and start at the beginning.
Isabel Dalhousie—the nosiest and most sympathetic philosopher you are likely to meet—now has a son, Charlie, whose doting father Jamie has an intriguing idea to pose to Isabel: marriage. But Isabel wonders if Jamie is too young to be serious? And how would Cat respond? On top of these matters, the ambitious Professor Dove has seized Isabel's position as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. However, nothing it seems can diminish Isabel's innate curiosity. And when she recognizes that two paintings attributed to a deceased artist have simultaneously appeared on the market, she can't help but think that they're forgeries. So Isabel begins an investigation and soon finds herself diverted from her musings about parenthood and onto a path of inquiry into the soul of an artist.
TITLE: Lord Sin
AUTHOR: Kalen Hughes
SETTING: 1780s England
SERIES: First in the Rakes of London series
REASON FOR READING: I picked it up when it came out because it sounded interesting and it's been in my TBR ever since
Six Nights Of Pleasure...Six years earlier, the young Ivo Dauntry developed a huge crush on recently-married Georgianna Exley. When one night at a party he saw her being harassed by a drunken guest, Ivo didn't stop to think. The ensuing duel, in which he killed the other man, resulted in him being exiled in Italy for years.
Georgianna Exley's passionate nature has always been her undoing, and for this reason the beautiful young widow allows her lovers only a single night in her bed. But Ivo Dauntry has come home to England, and for him she'll break her most sacred rule: granting him six nights of sensual bliss, one for every year he's given up for her...
Six Years To Wait...
As a gentleman born, Ivo risked his reputation and his life in a duel to defend Georgianna's honor. Now, returned from exile, Ivo discovers that she has proven to be less than a lady...and soon, his daring seduction becomes a sensual contest of wills. But the long-ago duel that bound them forever has fueled the hatred of a madman determined to make Georgianna pay for her misdeeds with her life, and once again, Ivo must risk everything to save the woman he loves...
TITLE: Provocative in Pearls
AUTHOR: Madeline Hunter
SETTING: Regency England
SERIES: Second in the Rarest Blooms series
REASON FOR READING: I picked this up right after loving Ravishing in Red, the previous book in the series.
When Verity’s past abruptly finds her, her recent behavior promises to unleash the scandal of the decade. Of more concern to her, she now has to outwit fate or be forced back into a marriage to a lord whom she never freely accepted. She never expects for the stranger who is her husband to create so much sensual excitement, however, or for her quest for the life she was supposed to live instead to reveal a conspiracy that endangers them both.We met both Grayson, the Earl of Hawkswell and Verity Thompson in Ravishing in Red (although Verity was going under another name there). Hawkswell's problems were made clear to us then. He'd married the heiress of a trade fortune for her money, only for the previously seemingly biddable girl to disappear right after the ceremony. All indications were that she'd either met with an accident and drowned or committed suicide, but there is no body, so Hawkswell is left stuck in limbo. As far as the law's concerned, there's no proof his wife is dead, so he can't inherit her money yet. At the same time, thanks to her greedy cousin, even as her husband, he can't touch her money at all. He cannot even try to get the marriage annuled. And meanwhile, his estate continues to deteriorate and his people to suffer.
TITLE: Indulgence in Death
AUTHOR: JD Robb
SETTING: 2060 New York
TYPE: Romantic suspense / Police procedural
SERIES: 32nd full-length novel in the series, if I'm counting correctly
REASON FOR READING: Autoread series
First it was a limo driver shot through the neck with a crossbow. Then it was a high-priced escort found stabbed through the heart with a bayonet.After a particularly successful visit with Roarke's family in Ireland (not only nice time spent with aunties and cousins, but even a murder solved!), Eve arrives back to a very strange case. First it's a limo driver killed with a crossbow in a car park. A few days later, it's an exclusive call girl stabbed with a bayonet in the house of horrors at Coney Island. The early evidence points to someone killing purely for the thrill of it, someone with the money to indulge their vile fantasies. And they're clearly not finished.
Random hits, thrill kills, murderers with a taste for the finer things in life-and death-are making NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas angry. And an angry Eve can be just as an efficient and dangerous predator as the killer.
As time runs out on another innocent victim's life, Eve's investigation will take her into the rarefied circle that her husband, Roarke, travels in-and into the perverted heart of madness...
TITLE: A Place of Secrets
AUTHOR: Rachel Hore
SETTING: Contemporary England
REASON FOR READING: I kind of liked the first of this author's books that I read, The Memory Garden. Her plots appeal to me, even if the execution of TMG wasn't as good as it could have been.
The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again ...When antiquarian Jude is offered the opportunity of valuing a collection of books and telescopes belonging to 18th century astronomer Anthony Wickham, she grabs it with both hands. Her grandmother and sister both live in the area (her gran even grew up in a cottage in the very estate where the collection is housed), and Jude doesn't see them as often as she'd like to. Plus, the subject matter is interesting.
Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her. A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she's asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up.
As Jude untangles Wickham's tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer's nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky? With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?
TITLE: Missing in Death (in The Lost anthology)
AUTHOR: JD Robb
PAGES: Approximately 80
SETTING: 2050s New York
TYPE: Mystery short story
SERIES: Part of the In Death series
REASON FOR READING: Autobuy author and series
.In Missing in Death, Eve is called in when Carolee Grogan, on holiday in New York with her family, suddenly disappears from the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Her family is terrified, as she was last seen intending to enter a toilet which is now covered in enough blood that it's clear someone died there. Carolee soon turns up alive and fine, but without any memory of what just happened, and for Eve, that's only the beginning of the mystery.
.J. D. Robb's Missing in Death investigates a female tourist's disappearance during a ferry ride. Detective Eve Dallas wonders...if she didn't jump, and she's not on board, then where in the world is she?
TITLE: The Sinner
AUTHOR: Tess Gerritsen
SETTING: Contemporary US (Boston)
SERIES: #3 in Jane Rizzoli / Maura Isles series
REASON FOR READING: I'm really getting into this series
Not even the icy temperatures of a typical New England winter can match the bone-chilling scene of carnage discovered at the chapel of Our Lady of Divine Light. Within the cloistered convent lie two nuns–one dead, one critically injured–victims of an unspeakably savage attacker.It's a frigid winter's day in Boston and Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are called to investigate a murderous attack in an unlikely place: a covent for cloistered nuns. Two of them have been found in the chapel. One has been bludgeoned to death, the other one is only barely hanging on.
The brutal crime appears to be without motive, but medical examiner Maura Isles’s autopsy of the dead woman yields a shocking surprise: Twenty-year-old Sister Camille gave birth before she was murdered. Then another body is found, mutilated beyond recognition.
Together, Isles and homicide detective Jane Rizzoli uncover an ancient horror that connects these terrible slaughters. As long-buried secrets come to light, Maura Isles finds herself drawn inexorably toward the heart of an investigation that strikes close to home–and toward a dawning revelation about the killer’s identity too shattering to consider.
I don't usually plug contests or other sites, but I'm making an exception for this: the Historical Tapestry blog, one of my favourites, is having a week devoted to the wonderful Susanna Kearsley. As part of it, they are giving away 6 copies (some international, some US-only) of The Winter Sea (aka Sophia's Secret). If you haven't read it yet, I strongly encourage you to enter. It's an amazing read (just see my glowing review here).