January 2013 reads

>> Friday, February 01, 2013

A very good start to the year. Not quite sure why I'm suddenly reading so much, when I'm actually pretty busy. 15 this month, and only a couple of them were shorts. Plenty of fantastic reads, too, and only a few bad ones.

1 - Fire, by Kristin Cashore: A-
review coming soon

This fantasy novel blew me away. It's set in this really fascinating world, and has a brilliant heroine and a really nice romance. There's a lot of political intrigue (the plot's mostly about trying to avoid / preparing for a war), which is not usually my thing, but I loved it here.

2 - Stitches in Time, by Barbara Michaels: A-
original review here

Reread, last in a trilogy of connected books. The story is set in the vintage clothing store opened by Karen and Cheryl in Shattered Silk. There's an antique quilt with strong, quite scary powers, a heroine to cheer for, a lovely romance (the love interest is just adorable) and Pat is in great form. I loved it.

3 - The Secret Mistress, by Mary Balogh: A-
review coming soon

I love it when Balogh takes a well-used romance plot and turns it on its head. She did it with A Summer To Remember, and she does it again here. The heroine is the very elegible and airheaded young débutante the hero's family want him to marry, the hero is the stick-in-the-mud nobleman the heroine's family encourage her to accept (of course, both are much more than that). In most books these characters would be there to create conflict between hero and heroine. Here, they're perfect for each other, and I loved this.

4 - Deep Desires, by Charlotte Stein: B+
review coming soon

Completely different to my first Stein (Restraint, which I adored), but also very, very good. Guess this confirms it's the author's writing that works for me, rather than her simply having hit on a plot that appealed to me. I find it hard to find an erotica author who works well for me, so I'm very glad to have discovered Stein.

5 - Blind Spot, by Meljean Brook: B+
original review here

Part of my reread of the Guardians series. In this short story published in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology, for the first time, we get two humans as protagonists, albeit one with some paranormal powers. Brook packs a lot into this one, without making it seem overcrowded. A lovely romance, an interesting plot and the hero's powers and what Brook does with them are very cool.

6 - A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka: B+
original review here

Reread for my book club. Two estranged sisters have to learn to work together when their father announces he's marrying a woman much younger than himself, clearly a trashy gold-digger. I liked it just as much as the first time. It's funny and heartbreaking, ridiculous and serious at the same time, and there were things about it that really resonated with stuff in my family history.

7 - The Moving Finger, by Agatha Christie: B
review here

Audiobook. It's an early Miss Marple, but she shows up only in the last bit. The book is narrated by a young pilot who's movedto a small country village to recuperate. The mystery here is one of poison letters, which seem to lead to someone's death. Fun plot and characters I enjoyed, but it was all marred by a romance I found really, really icky.

8 - Emotional Geology, by Linda Gillard: B
review here

Women's fiction. The heroine is bipolar and has moved to a remote island in the North of Scotland seeking peace, after a chaotic end to an affair. She finds that, and a potential romance, too. I liked this one, especially for the acceptance with which the heroine's mental health issues are treated, and the way they are dealt with in the romance.

9 - The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson: B
original review here

Bryson's adventures and observations as he drives around the USA. It's fun, and I always like his voice, but it's very much of its time (the late 80s). While that's good sometimes as a record of its time (it was interesting to remember just how much New York City was thought of as dangerous and terrifyingly murderous), at times it does feel a bit dated in a cringy way that affected my enjoyment of it.

10 - About Last Night, by Ruthie Knox: B
review coming soon

Bad girl, good boy romance, but the plot is done in a nuanced way, with characters who actually seem modern. I liked it very much, but some of the only-in-romance-novels tropes used clashed with the more modern feel, even if I liked what Knox did with them.

11 - Ten Tiny Breaths, by KA Tucker: B-
review coming soon

New Adult. Heroine survived a horrendous tragedy, and is now all alone in the world with her younger sister. When the uncle they live with becomes a threat to her, they run away to Miami, and rent an appartment in a low-rent Melrose Place-type building. There she starts to make friends, including with a really hot guy next door, and begins to think she can live again. Very angsty, but in a way I enjoyed. Still, not perfect, and I'm not sure the ending is quite healthy.

12 - Gather The Bones, by Alison Stuart: C+
review here

Romance set a few years after WWI. The heroine is an Australian who comes to stay with her late husband's aristocratic family in England, and encounters both a new love and some ghosts who want her to solve a 100-year-old mystery. Loved the sense of time and place and the idea of it, but the story felt a bit clunky and didn't grab me as much as I would have wished.

13 - Last Rituals, by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir: C-
review here

Audiobook. Mystery set in Iceland, which was something I really enjoyed. The protagonist is a lawyer who's asked to assist in the investigation into the death of a student, whose body was found mutilated, with eyes missing. Interesting mystery (with some truly fascinating links with Medieval witch hunts in Iceland and Germany), but an utter twit of a heroine whom I despised.

14 - Wicked Intentions, by Elizabeth Hoyt: C-
review coming soon

The heroine runs a foundling home in dangerous St. Giles, hero is looking for his mistress's murderer there. They make a deal: if she'll be his guide, he'll introduce her to rich potential patrons for the home. Disappointing. It felt very half-baked, especially the quasi-paranormal thing the hero had, where touch was painful, and he behaved like a jerk for ages, for no reason.

15 - Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion: still reading
review coming soon

Audiobook, this one's for my February book club. The main character and narrator is a zombie (yes, really). On a raid, he eats a young man's brain, which allows him to see some of his memories, and feels compelled to save the man's girlfriend. He takes her back with him to the airport his group of zombies is holed up in. So far, although I'm enjoying it (in spite of several icky moments), I'm not quite sure what to make of it. We'll see.


Vinagrinhos 1 February 2013 at 16:13  

Plenty of good books this month. I do have the Balogh in the TBR pile so I'll pick it up soon.

Rosario 2 February 2013 at 07:25  

It's vintage Balogh, you'll enjoy it.

Li 2 February 2013 at 15:29  

I loved FIRE - I think it's my favourite of Cashore's books so far.

I remember reading the Barbara Michaels' trilogy a while ago as well - I'm not always a fan of horror elements, but she made that one work.

Rosario 3 February 2013 at 07:38  

Li: It was my first, and now I'm dying to read the rest. I'm trying to wait a bit and space them out, but I'll probably be reading Graceling very soon.

I'm not sure I'd describe what Michaels does as horror -it can be a bit creepy, but it's usually more an interesting mystery and puzzle.

Christine,  5 February 2013 at 19:32  

I adore "Stitches In Time"- it's one of my favorite Michaels books (and I have a lot of favorites). The hero is just charming and sweet. I don't think anyone can do a "beta" hero better than Michaels. I agree her books are more mysterious than horror. For me there is always a nice balance of the supernatural elements with nothing gory- just good old fashioned suspense and mood building. I also enjoy how her heroines are not always just sweetness and light. Rachel and Kara both have a bit of bite to them and knowing Karen/Kara's back story it makes sense for her character. The first time I read this book when it was brand new I genuinely did not see the "twist" coming and enjoyed the surprise. Can't wait to read the full review.

Rosario 6 February 2013 at 17:03  

Christine: Yes to all of that. I particularly loved that the heroines were allowed to be a bit difficult when I first started reading her. I was reading old-school romance back then, and the heroines tended to come in 2 flavours: stupid-feisty or doormat-martyr!

I did not see the final twist coming at all, either, but it made a huge impression. I haven't read it for a while, and I remembered it exactly. Oh well, it didn't make me enjoy it any less!

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