Jan. 2nd, 2011

jmc_bks: (meninas)
Between work, travel for work, and holiday prep, I didn't read much in December.  

1.  Not Knowing Jack by K.A. Mitchell.  Gay romance.  I need to write a review of this book, because it was awesome.  I'm not usually a fan of secrets or angst, but they worked here.  A-.

2.  The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig.  European historical, suspense.  Abandoned this series several books ago, but was intrigued by the idea of Turnip Fitzhugh as a hero:  Willig made him seem an utter dolt in earlier books, though a cheerful, kindhearted one, so I was curious to see his transformation into a hero.  Was not thrilled with yet another author using Jane Austen as a character.  C

3.  Love Ahead (Expect Delays) by Astrid Amara.  Gay romance.  This is a road romance set over Hanukkah, and the heroes encounter one disaster after another on their trip from the West Coast to Colorado (I think).  It was a pleasant read, although the details are a little fuzzy for me now.  I like Amara's style generally, and have enjoyed her Hanukkah romances, although her Holiday Outing remains the gold standard of her work for me. 

4.  Katrakis's Last Mistress by Caitlin Crews.  Category romance, reviewed here.

5.  The Trap by Indigo Wren.  Gay romance.  If I had realized the plot set up, I wouldn't have spent money on this book.  Other readers may love it, but the set up pushed some serious buttons for me.  DNF.

6.  All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon.  Gay romantic suspense.  The whodunnit in this case was fairly clear, and it was a little frustrating to read Kit bumbling about, but Kit as a character is growing on me.  For all that he laments turning 40, he seems a little Peter Pan-ish to me, and is only now growing up.

7.  The Admiral's Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly.  European historical, category.  Feel a little ambivalent about this book: well-written and in Carla Kelly's usual style, but something about the set up puts me off.  Marriage of convenience doesn't bother me, and I enjoyed the secondary characters.  Think maybe it's the uber-drama that seems out of place for the main characters?  Still a good read, just not going to be a favorite Kelly read for me. B.
jmc_bks: (Chocolate)
In no particular order, these are my favorite books of 2010:

No Souvenirs by K.A. Mitchell — contemporary romance
Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly — Napoleonic-set romance
The Search by Nora Roberts — romantic suspense
Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews — fantasy romance
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook — steampunk romance
Fair Game by Josh Lanyon — romantic suspense
Not Knowing Jack by K.A. Mitchell — contemporary romance
Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs — urban fantasy
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo — mystery
Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre — urban fantasy
Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews — urban fantasy
No Mercy by Lori Armstrong — mystery
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold — science fiction, the most recent installment of her Vorkosigan space opera series

If you made me narrow the list to three books:  No Souvenirs, Cryoburn, and The Iron Duke.

The new annotated edition of Persuasion gets an honorable mention, as does Critic's Choice by Josh Lanyon and Roadkill by Rob Thurman.

Looking at my best of list, it’s striking that few European historicals (the bedrock of genre romance) are on my list, and also how much my reading is veering away from standard genre romance to less mainstream areas and to science fiction and fantasy.

Biggest reading disappointments of the year:

Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik -- this wasn't a bad book, but it needed better editing through the middle, which was slow as molasses during a hard freeze in January. 

Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann -- it had all the usual elements to make a good Brockmann-style book, but somehow it just didn't work.  Reviewed here.

(Best of portion originally posted at Readers Gab last week.)
jmc_bks: (meninas)
Title:  The Vespertine
Author:  Saundra Mitchell
Publication Date:  March 7, 2011
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source:  eARC via Net Galley

It's the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.


Why this book?  The setting caught my attention:  late 19th century Baltimore?  I'm in.

Amelia is sent to Baltimore to stay with cousins, essentially to find a husband.  After living under the thumb of her brother, August, she relishes the freedom to be had in the Stewarts' household, and the companionship of her cousin, Zora.  At dinner one evening, Amelia "sees" the future -- her cousin in a dress not yet made, dancing with a young man.  When she first mentions it to Zora, they both treat it as a joke:  Zora has a dress being made, but her young man never dances.  But eventually the vision comes true.  And then another.  And soon Amelia is receiving calls from many people who want to know their futures.  

In addition to popularity via prediction, Amelia meets a mysterious young man, Nathaniel Witherspoon.  Poor and working class, he's inappropriate as a suitor by her family's standards, but she doesn't care about that.  She does care and is fascinated to learn that he has a paranormal gift, one quite different from hers:  he can travel by wind and be called when she whispers his name to the wind.

Sadly, some of Amelia's predictions rebound upon her, ending with her exile.  (I don't think that's a spoiler, given the information revealed in the first paragraph of the book.)

What did I think of the book?  I enjoyed it, and I think anyone who likes YA paranormals or Anna Godberson's The Luxe series would probably appreciate the book.  The narrator is impulsive and self-indulgent, which is to say she is a teenager and acts like it.  She sees things, dreamlike, in the twilight, hence the name of the book.  The book had a sort of frothy gothic feel to it.  

Liked the use of the Baltimore "hon", arabbers, and the mention of different neighborhoods, although I do wonder if the Inner Harbor was called that back in 1889 -- at that time, it was still a light freight and passenger port, not a location a young lady would expect to inquire about or visit unless in the company of her family for some business purpose.  

Random editing comment:  Mademoiselle Thierry would be abbreviated Mlle. Thierry, not Mme. Thierry, which is short for Madame.

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