Holidays are moments in time. Atom Yang has taken these moments and used them to capture the essence of a love story, giving us what matters most: the beginning, the middle and the end. Layered with humour, pathos, culture and philosophy, Red Envelope delivers more than many novels—mostly due to the skillful way Atom voices his characters. They feel like someone you’ve met, someone you know. They’re real people, even those who don’t get a point of view.
I wanted to read more, but found the Happy Ever After immensely satisfying. Not only had I been invited to share the holidays with Clint’s family, but came away feeling replete—just as one should after a dose of good company and cheer.
Mr. Penumbra’s 14-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This is such a fun story. It’s a little Google-centric at times—in a creepy, but interesting, should I be frightened and omg, they actually fund projects like that kinda way. What I really enjoyed, though, was the mystery, which is a meaning of life question. The answer isn’t really a surprise, but that’s not why we read books like this. More, it’s the journey—through literature and philosophy, ideas big and small, and the personal life of Clay Jannon, which is more interesting than it has any right to be.
I listened to this one on audio and though I’m sure I’ve had enjoyed it as much in print, I think this was definitely a case where narrator, Ari Fliakos, added inflection and perspective to the story.
The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos, #4) by Dan Simmons
I’ve featured the Hyperion Cantos before and while I’m not in the habit of doubling up, I couldn’t let this edition of What I’ve Been Reading pass without adding this title—mostly because it’s the end of an epic journey with one of the most talented authors I’ve ever read as your guide.
All of the books in the Hyperion Cantos are long, involved, convoluted and startlingly literary. I often felt as if I barely clung to the meaning of a passage, and only then because I’d heard something about something, or had studied the referenced luminary in some way. It’s also space opera in the manner of encouraging the reader to care about a number of characters and societies, even those who shouldn’t have our sympathy. Finally, it’s just a heck of a good story, from beginning to end, one that kept me enthralled for over a hundred hours. I don’t often read series back to back, but this one absolutely required it.
Touched by an Alien (Katherine “Kitty” Kat, #1) by Gini Koch
Men in Black with sexy aliens, hot federal agents and a kick-ass heroine who doesn’t suffer from “strong female character” syndrome. Katherine “Kitty” Kat is a hoot. She’s loud, obnoxious, flirtatious, disorganized, a fan of her awesome parents—which is just so damned refreshing—and always ready to rumble, even if the only weapon she has to hand is a pen or a can of hairspray, extra hold.
I loved that all the aliens were good looking and sexy. It could have come across as completely ridiculous and it does, but author Gini Koch has such fun with it that you do too. Also, I’m never going to complain about multiple hot men in one book. I also really loved the way the heroes were portrayed. Alpha when they needed to be, capable and manly. But also insecure when they should be; jealous, petty and sometimes just really, really dumb.
The love story was fun, the sex steamy and the adventure rip roaring. I’ve already read the second book in the series, which was even more fun, and I’ve got the third in the queue.
(Neat fact: Chaos Station was recently featured along with this series in Book Riot’s recent list of 10 EXCELLENT PARANORMAL AND SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCES)
Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton
I love stories that challenge faith—it’s one of the aspects of the Hyperion Cantos that worked so well for me. In Between Sinners and Saints, Marie Sexton does it in a careful, insightful and respectful manner.
Levi is the sort of character readers will connect with. Not because he’s a nice guy—he’s not. But he is, deep down, and it’s that kernel of decency that saves him—as the hero of a romance novel and as a human being. He’s not superficial, not a stereotype. He’s deep, and beautifully flawed.
I was so moved by his struggle, and beyond pleased that he found a place of acceptance without rejecting who and what he was, and where he came from. Highly recommended.
Mnevermind by Jordan Castillo Price
Another series I read back to back, purchasing each installment as I neared the end of the previous book—which I never do. Like, ever.
I’m fairly new to the JCP fandom, but I can see what makes her an auto-buy author for so many readers. Her stories are Interesting. The romance and feels you want are there, but wrapped in a story that turns the pages more compulsively than the need for the main characters to kiss. Her worlds are also wonderfully detailed—they’re places you feel you could visit, populated with secondary characters that brim with life.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel this story needed to be separated into three separate parts. It could have been condensed into one tight, thrilling novel. But you know what? I’m glad JCP decided to publish Mnevermind the way she did, because while Elijah was entertaining to read and I wouldn’t have missed his point of view for all the world, I can see how it might have interfered with the story as a whole, where giving over one single part to him worked as far as inviting the reader to understand and come to love him, while giving us the information we needed to really enjoy his part in the third installment.