What I’ve Been Reading

After a bit of a slump where I tossed a few and flipped through a few more somewhat forgettable books, I’ve recently hit a patch of really good reads. So of course I’m going to share them.

18774964A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This book. Oh my goodness. What a lovely surprise. Nearly the entire time I was listening to it, I either wished I’d written it or wanted to write my own version. Ove is exactly the sort of character I like. Gruff, rude, apparently selfish and not at all charming. Yeah, I sure know how to pick ‘em. Thing is, when a character like that is the star of a book, you can pretty much read on with two assumptions. One, he’s not as he appears. There will be hidden depths. Two, finding out why he’s like this is going to be your reward.

The present story is interlaced with pieces of Ove’s history and as the stories come together, his presence just grows and grows. He becomes one of those true voices, one you’ll remember long after you’ve put the book aside. A real human being. One you want to meet and hug—just because he’ll be all prickly and gruff and please stop touching me.

A really special book and one I’m so glad I took a chance on.

29523342Under The Knife by Laurin Kelly

Another lovely surprise! So, when I first moved to America, I discovered Food Network and fell head over heels for Emeril. I loved how grand all his dishes looked, while not actually being that complicated. Time consuming, yes. There are like three hundred steps to some of the recipes. But the recipes are very easy to follow and I’ve always had good results. From there I graduated to Iron Chef. Iron Chef is… an experience. The first time I watched it, I couldn’t believe it was real television. Like an actual show that actually happened.

I drifted away from cooking shows when we bought a house. Then I was all about HGTV. Then I got a TiVo and basically never watched live TV again, except, well, when my daughter got old enough to be interested in cooking shows. She only ever wanted to watch Chopped and Cupcake Wars and all the cutthroat cooking competitions. I watched over her shoulder for a while, then ended up on the couch next to her.

Under the Knife combines the thrill of these kitchen battles with a really wonderful love story. You’d probably have to like cooking, or food in general, to get as much out of the story as I did, but honestly, it was like being there. All the food, all the stabbity stabbity kill kill of reality TV and the UST between Nate and Zachary is off the charts.

lookingforgroup_600x900Looking for Group by Alexis Hall

I shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I liked this book. I haven’t read a book by Alexis Hall that I didn’t like. I was a little concerned going in that I wouldn’t follow all the gaming lingo and that the guild chat logs would form some sort of filter between me and the actual story.

Not so. For as much as this is a book about gaming and gamers, it’s also about how we form pocket communities around our hobbies, and how we as a society are moving toward bonds that aren’t necessarily physical. We can be friends with people we’ve never met and to say we’ve never actually ‘met’ one of our online friends actually feels somewhat immaterial.

Do we have to meet them to validate them?

Nope. But Drew does meet his new friend, because this is a very real love story set in a very real world. It’s sweet and fluffy and gave me all the happy feels. Again, you’d probably want to be really into games (especially MMOs) to appreciate the full flavour of the novel. I think it’s accessible to a wider audience, though.

Read my fuller, more rambly review here.

18849584Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1 by Tom Taylor

This comic has been on my radar for a while. I first discovered it when researching some images for my blog post, A Pantheon of Superheroes. I used a picture of Zeus credited to a comic book called Injustice: Gods Among us and then started looking into the series. Because it sounded cool. Amazingly cool.

It is pretty amazing. A warning up front: you will be forced to put aside your own perception or even a popular perception of some of these heroes, because the premise is that the Justice League basically splits into two and go to war against each other. Hero vs. hero. What I find so fascinating is who falls to which side, and why. There are subplots and new heroes being scooped up by the drama every episode. There is also the occasional visit by one of the Greek pantheon.

My favourite story line centers around Batman (of course). I’m also really enjoying Harley Quinn’s role. And the subversive nature of the whole story. That’s the part that really gets me. Some of the stuff that happens is truly shocking.

mirrordancecoverMirror Dance (Vorkosigan Saga, #8) by Lois McMaster Bujold

My favourite Vorkosigan book keeps changing. The Warrior’s Apprentice was a favourite until I read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Ivan. Then I went back and read Memory and just loved reading about the more mature Miles. The book is such a touching reflection on all he’s done thus far, and what it means. This year I read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen and sobbed my way through it. I love, love, love this book. If it’s the last one Bujold writes for the saga, I’m… Well, I’d always read another one, but to me, it was the perfect epilogue. Bonus, Miles is still alive at the end. It also felt like a wonderful reflection of the entire series, so far, and of the author’s relationship to her most beloved characters.

Then I read Mirror Dance. I’d put off reading Mark’s book because, well, Mark. I’d only had brief contact with him before, most memorably in Brothers in Arms where he’s not painted in the most flattering colours. But this book. This book. It’s really quite extraordinary. I could ramble on about the themes and how fantastically clever Lois McMaster Bujold is, but really, what makes this book so memorable is Mark. I’m so glad she wrote this for him and that she managed to make him likeable and sympathetic, even have him grow, without losing the essential parts. What makes him different from Miles and what makes him a mirror to Miles.

So, yeah, this is my new favourite Vorkosigan book and probably my favourite Bujold book so far. Oh, and an additional note: reading this series out of order has its own rewards. I’m really glad I approached it this way.

19367048Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This is the book that ended my reading slump. In desperation, I reached for something I hadn’t read in a while—contemporary romance. What a great selection. I haven’t read Susan Elizabeth Phillips before, but I’ve met her! She hosted a panel at the first RWA Convention I attended—about heroes. She was promoting this book at the time and I picked up a signed copy the next day. I hauled thirty-five pounds of books home, so you’ll forgive me for not getting to this one right away.

I’m sorry I didn’t, but also glad I didn’t, because I found this book when I really need to read it and enjoyed every word. It was so different! The set-up is awesome. Annie has just arrived on a remote Maine island, in a snow storm, and drives her car off the road. She is NOT rescued by the darkly mysterious horseman who rides across the road. At first, the book almost reads like contemporary gothic. There are also elements of suspense and good old small town romance.

My favourite part, however, was the slow unraveling of the hero, Theo. Oh, I loved Theo. I knew early on he couldn’t be as bad as all that. I mean, these two were going to end up together at the end of the book, right? And Annie wasn’t going to fall for a self-absorbed prick. The way his story is told is perfect. We’re kept guessing, right up to the end.

Bonus book:

28962895IQ by Joe Ide

Seriously good. Not like anything I’ve read before.

After receiving an invite to read IQ for possible review, I glanced at the synopsis, read the first line…

A resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.

…and thought, yeah, I’d like to read that. The title combined with the phrase blistering intellect were what hooked me.

I quite liked the idea of reading about a fish out of water—not that I imagined LA’s toughest neighbourhoods were full of dunces. (The range of stupidity displayed by Joe Ide’s secondary characters might have challenged this assumption. ;)) That simple sentence also dangled the promise of a vigilante hero in defense of the misrepresented and ignored—and that spoke to the comic book reader in me, and the reader who doesn’t mind a trip to the seamier side of town, so long as it was taken from the comfort of my armchair.

IQ delivered as promised, and then some.

You can read my full review here.

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