What I’ve Been Reading

May 2018 Edition.

I had planned a new blog series for this year to replace my regular reading updates. Every month, I wanted to feature the first sentence or paragraph of a single book, with commentary on how that line or those lines had measured up against the book as a whole. I might still get around to posting a few, but it’s been six months or more since my last reading recap and I’ve read some amazing books that I really want to share with you. So, here’s what I’ve been reading.

 

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

I really enjoyed The Curse of Chalion when I read it last year. Loved it, in fact. I’d recently finished all but one of the Vorkosigan novels and had tried the Sharing Knife series (which I also recently finished). The Curse of Chalion had everything I was looking for in a book from Lois McMaster Bujold: rich world-building—with a genuine history that extended back before the beginning of time—a fascinating plot, and characters I wanted to cheer for. I adored Cazaril and though he’s nothing like Miles, the way he was voiced often reminded me of Miles. He was a complicated character and sometimes not particularly likable. But when the fate of others was at stake, he’d always do the right thing because he’s inherently GOOD.

So I was looking forward to Paladin of Souls. It started slow and I had trouble paying attention, but I really liked the choice of Ista as a main character and looked forward to seeing her get over her past. As the story deepened, I got more involved. I started hoping for things. When the story got more complicated, I experienced my usual awe regarding just how talented Bujold really is. By 60% I couldn’t put the book down, by 80% I had set aside a morning on the couch just so I could finish, and by the time I was done, I thought this could possibly be the best book she’s ever written. Then I saw that nearly every judge of literary awards agreed with me.

There is so much I could say about the plot, but this is one of those books you really need to discover for yourself, because the plot complicates so much as it unfolds, revealing new secrets and twistier twists. The characters become more engaging and real, with the secondaries being just as important as the primaries—which is one of the aspects of Bujold’s writing I love so much. What pleased my romantic little heart the most, though, was that final scene between Ista and [spoiler, ha!] and knowing that both of them had won the love and the partner they deserved.

 

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

Is it too early to have read my favourite book of the year? I loved Now That You Mention It from the first chapter, the first page, the first paragraph—the first line! It’s actually a book I’d liked to have featured in my First Line series. Here’s why:

The first thought I had after I died was: How will my dog cope with this?
The second thought: I hope we can still go with an open casket.
Third thought: I have nothing to wear to my funeral.
Fourth: I’ll never meet Daniel Radcliffe now.
Fifth: Did Bobby just break up with me?

Everything you need to know about this book is right there, in black and white. Nora is obviously at a turning point in her life, and she has questions. What follows was a funny, deeply thoughtful, honest, romantic and just a damn fine story about a woman finally coming to terms with herself. As always, the secondary characters were wonderful, populating the small island off the coast of Maine with authenticity and charm. I particularly loved Nora’s mother and niece. The dialogue was amazing—effortlessly flowing through every subject—and the romance was sweet without overwhelming the true message of the book.

I loved every minute spent within the covers of Now That You Mention It and can’t wait for my next Kristan Higgins. She’s fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

 

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals has been on my wish list for a while and now that I’ve finally read it, I almost wish I hadn’t so that I could read it all over again—for the first time. Briefly, it’s the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as related by one of William Shakespeare’s younger brothers.

The history of the play itself would have made a fascinating story—and Cornwell’s attention to detail stood out here with facts so expertly interwoven with fiction as to give the book that peculiar weight of good historical fiction. I came away feeling as if I’d learned something, and with a desire to read more about the subject.

What made this book so special, though, was Richard. He’s a compelling character in his own right with a very Dickensian life story. I loved his point of view and enjoyed his unique insights into the character of his older brother William. I actually became so engrossed in the lives of the players in Shakespeare’s company that I could have kept reading forever.

 

Touch by Claire North

I invented chores to keep listening to Touch. I baked muffins. They were horrible because I left them in the oven too long because I was listening to this. But I did get all the bathrooms cleaned and even vacuumed my stairs. I hate vacuuming stairs.

What drew me to Touch was the premise: Kepler is a being that can pass from host to host through touch. There’s also a mystery. Kepler is trying to solve the murder of his most recent host, a woman killed while Kepler was “in residence.” Toss a mystery plot into a novel with speculative elements and I can’t help myself.

Touch was exciting, compelling, different, but not weird. There was a logic to it all and it was kind of beautiful. I don’t think it made quite the comment on gender that some reviewers seemed to think it did, though. I thought was actually more about self and love.

As an aside, Touch reminded me of another of my favourite books, Purpose by Andrew Q. Gordon. If the premise of Touch appeals, I’d suggest you add Andrew’s book to your wish list as well.

 

Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

Every book in the Out of Uniform series by Annabeth Albert is better than the last, which is quite an accomplishment, because as I’m reading every book, I think it’s my new favourite.

Squared Away is special, though. It’s about a guy who isn’t an innately sexual being, but who craves the same connection most of us do. Mark wants to love someone, to share his life with someone. His… not indifference, but lack of ease with sex, is holding him back, though. For the most part, he’s stopped dating.

But Mark has never forgotten Isaiah. When tragedy brings these two into close quarters, Mark begins the process of figuring himself out. It’s scary, because he’s always perceived Isaiah as someone inherently sexual. But Isaiah proves he has the maturity to keep their relationship at any pace required.

What I really adored about this book was the almost gentle way Annabeth addressed asexuality. Not tentative, but respectfully and genuinely. Mark came across as a real person who wasn’t simply waiting for the right person to have sex with, but the person who was willing to not simply accommodate him, but connect with him. All in all it was a beautiful love story with a lot of deep feels that had me crying while driving—which is not advised, but I do a lot of my listening at the wheel—crying over the dishes—justified—and crying into my pillow.

I am even more eager for the next book and will be devastated when this series finally comes to a close.

 

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

While discussing the premise of this book with my husband, we both agreed we’d last maybe three days. The day of the crash, the day after, when we were both unconscious from the pain of our injuries, and the day after that when we argued about what to do next, each tried to do our own thing, fell off the mountain, and died.

It’d have been a very short book. Thankfully, Martin wrote much more sensible and likable characters, providing the reader with hours of adventure, suspense, entertainment and a love story like no other. The Mountain Between Us will probably end up being one of my top recommendations for the year.

After enjoying the book so much, I rented the movie and was horribly disappointed. I could sort of understand why they changed things around, from beginning to end, but in the process the writers destroyed nearly everything I loved about the book, including the unique characters of Ben and Alex, and the motivation behind everything they did. So skip it. Or, if you have seen it, do yourself a favour and read the book. 😉

 

That’s it for now. What have you been reading?

What I’ve Been Reading

How is it October already? Just last week (in August), I was thinking to myself: “You need to do another reading post.” I made a note in my planner and… turned the page. As always, I’ve been reading lots of awesome books, though. And, as always, I want to share the most awesome ones with you.

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire

The art caught my eye on this one. It’s an interesting style—less “comic” and more “fine art,” with swift lines and watercolour shades. It reminded me of another of my favourite comics, East of West, and it’s just as good. The story starts simply: ten years ago, giant harvester robots swept through the galaxy leaving destroyed cities, dead bodies, and terror in their wake. Since then, even the simplest robots have become enemy number one and hunting them down has given rise to an entire guild of scrappers who hunt rogue bots with the enthusiasm of bounty collectors. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

What I’ve Been Reading

I have participated in the Goodreads reading challenge for six years now. It’s the only challenge I’ve ever actually completed – probably because it’s based on the number of books rather than specific titles. This year I lowered my goal from 200 to 100, thinking I wouldn’t have as much time to read. I’m at 97 books right now and June has only just begun, so I think I’ll be adjusting the total back to 200.

Apparently I found time to read. I also found some great books!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I hardly need to recommend this book. It has won all the awards, and has over 400 five star reviews on Amazon. I’m going to recommend it anyway, because it’s just that good, and because of the sweet nature of the romance, it will appeal to a wide audience.

I love coming of age stories and I adore the trope “friends to lovers.” Both are handled beautifully in this slow burn love story about two boys whose friendship is all about discovering the secrets of the universe – and themselves. Ari’s struggle to accept himself will break your heart. The way he cares for and protects Dante will put it back together again. The final chapter is just beautiful. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

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. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

What I’ve Been Reading

January is always a great month for books. By accident or design, I often read books in January that make my Favourite Things list at the end of the year. This past January has been no exception.

4716894Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is a writer I truly admire. I read The Keep years and years ago and it frightened the socks off me. Last year, at the insistence of a friend, I picked up the adventures of Repairman Jack, starting with The Early Years, and I cannot say enough good things about the stories, the characters and the talent of Wilson.

I read the last three Repairman Jack books he wrote, then went back and read the first. These books were written thirty years apart—and yet Jack’s voice is the same.

Conspiracies is the third book in the series and it’s a great one. It’s all about conspiracy theories and the nuts who live (and die) by them. I laughed out loud a number of times. The conclusion of the book is important too, in that a door has been opened, one that will transition Jack’s existence from, ah, simple “repairs” into something else entirely. I cannot wait to read on.

 

22701480The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen

I really, really liked this book! If I sound surprised, it’s because this was something I picked up on a whim—on sale—and tucked away for a rainy day. For when I wanted to read something sweet and sexy. Sale books are most often the ones I toss, but not this one.

I really connected with both guys and their separate journeys were equally heartbreaking. Their loneliness was palpable. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters (Bella!) and all the hockey. Apparently I’m a sports romance fan!

One wish: I’d have liked one more scene with the hockey team, or at least with Bella and/or Hartley. Or an epilogue. Something to cement the fact Graham and Rikker were moving forward. A glimpse at what’s next. I’d also love to read the summer vacation. 😀 Either way, I’ll be reading more Sarina Bowen.

 

Layout 1Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

I adored this book, and the longer I sit on it, the more I love it. I keep remembering snatches of dialogue and particularly provoking scenes. It was quiet and contemplative in parts as Memory, which was, until recently, perhaps my favourite Vorkosigan novel. It was also as rewarding to a longtime fan as Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. Melancholy and joyous in turns. Meditative. I couldn’t help feeling as I read that if this was it, the end, it’s as good and complete as it could be.

The book also felt like a love letter to Aral Vorkosigan, in a way, and perhaps to every character whoever held a shred of importance in this universe. There were so many passages that simply wrung tears from me because in my head, I was thinking “I know.”

I rarely reread books, but I really want to go back to the beginning of the saga now and read it all again. Bujold has gifted us with a most marvelous universe and I wish I could read about it forever.

 

s-typeopts13Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Now that I’ve finished all six books of Riyria Revelations, I’ll take a breath…and yell: this serious is FABULOUS. It’s been a while since I was truly swept away by a fantasy series, or since I actually dedicated myself to reading through a series, beginning to end. I’d estimate half of my To Be Read collection is books and three of something or other.

I circled Theft of Swords, the first book of Riyria Revelations for a while, reading reviews and noting that what people generally liked about the series were things I usually liked. That what people didn’t like weren’t really the things I wouldn’t like. Still, it took an Audible Daily Deal to get me started. The rest is history.

A good portion of my enjoyment of this series was the wonderful performance of Tim Gerard Reynolds. He’s one of my favourite narrators and I have bought audiobooks simply because it’s more enjoyable to listen to him than read the book myself. But without a good story to tell, he’d just be speaking, right? What really makes these books, though, is the friendship between Hadrian and Royce. It’s the bromance of the century, folks. It’s one of the truest expressions of deep and abiding affection between friends I’ve ever read.

Then there are the secondary characters, the world building, the plot—it’s all fantastic.

 

20738173Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

As I was saying to Jenn the other day, I dole out my Lanyons carefully. Josh Lanyon has an extensive back catalog, but it’s not going to last forever. So I need to take my time in order to make sure there will always be a Lanyon available for when I want that unique blend of mystery, characterisation and sweet romance.

Stranger on the Shore is a very good book. Probably a favourite. I really, really liked it. I enjoyed Griff’s journey of discovery in all things and while there were some conclusions you could draw early on, the why of it all remained a mystery to the end. The romance was surprisingly sweet.

 

27411786Tied to Trouble by Megan Erickson

Megan has a recognisable voice and it really suits the characters she writes. It’s why I read her books. Her characters resonate with me, whether male, female, gay, straight or other. They’re always a little quirky—even when they’d self-identify otherwise—and always have GOOD hearts. I know there’re a lot of folks who like to read about the bad boys and all the, ah, bad things they do, but I like to read about the good guys. The sweet men who feel stuff and acknowledge they feel stuff, even if they’re not ready to actually talk about it for a while.

Tied to Trouble is a fun book. The opening scene is one of my favourites because you just know the owner of those wide blue eyes is going to show up again soon, and that these two guys are going to get off on the wrong foot. But because it’s a sexy book, the chemistry is there right from the start. And you just need them to get together. Somehow, some way.

Also, bow tie sex. It’s a thing!