Saturday, December 3, 2011

November 2011 Reads + Minis: Joanna Bourne, Xavier Axelson and more...

November is over! The month just flew by, didn't it? I don't think I accomplished half of what I wanted to do. There were stressful and frightning moments along the way, but also some really wonderful times with family and friends.

Reading-wise the month was definitely a good one. I read a mixture of contemporary, historical, and gay romances, plus some gay fiction -- must of them really enjoyable reads! So it's a tough month to choose favorite reads because for different reasons in one way or another most of them had so much to offer. You'll see mostly Bs below, and that's because for the most part I chose to read what turned out to be solid books in November. I was lucky that most of the new releases and TBR reads suited me just fine!

In addition to the books I'm listing, I also read a few of the novellas included in the Christmas anthologies my friend sent me last month with the Mary Balogh books. However, I'm not including them with my November reads because I want to finish the whole anthologies first. :)

November reads:

Total books read: 14
  Contemporary: 4
  Historical Romance: 4
  LGBT: 6 (Romance: 4 YA/Mystery: 1 Fiction/Romance: 1)

Top Reads
  • The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas: A-
  • The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne: B+
  • The Lady's Secret by Joanna Chambers: B+
  • The Forbidden Rose by Joanna BourneB+
I read this book in preparation for The Black Hawk (because that book looked so good!), and I wanted to get some background on the main characters, Justine and Hawker. Well, surprise, surprise The Forbidden Rose turned out to be quite a read! I was immediately caught up in the romance, the adventure and most of all with Joanna Bourne's prose.

I loved how Bourne weaved romance and adventure with some history. Loved, loved how she fictionalized Robespierre's downfall and all the twists and turns that took place in the spy plot. Very well done! The characters are outstanding as are the circumstances that surround them. Doyle and Marguerite's romance turned into an exciting sensual adventure that I couldn't stop reading. Why not an A then? For me there are a few instances where circumstances become quite convoluted (the jailbreak for example), but where the danger factor turns out to be minimal, so that those scenes end on a flat note after all the build up. Of course I couldn't help but fall in love with young Hawk and Justine -- I mean talk about excellent, intriguing, secondary characters. I finished this book and rushed to read The Black Hawk.
All those wonderful Bs! 
  • Chulito by Charles Rice-González: B
Although I already reviewed this book, I have to mention (again) that this story really grabbed me. And this is where choosing favorites this month was quite tough for me. Why? Well, although a B grade to me means that it's a solid read with few issues, this book is also the one that stayed with me the longest. So don't let the grade or whatever minor personal issues I found mislead you, this is a great, great read! And for those of you who emailed me and want to know (I left this out of my impressions/review), there is a "happy ending" to this story. *g* 
The Incident by Xavier Axelson is one of those books that is tough to qualify and I thought I would begin by just giving you a quick idea of what it's all about. Officer Michael Carmac made a split-second decision while in the line of duty that haunts him. He drinks and the one person who kept him together throughout the whole mess was his partner, Officer Bertram Angel. As time goes by, Michael discovers that his needs for more than support and friendship from Bertram are tougher to hide. But losing a friendship that means so much to him because of his desire is not an option.

This is not a long story, yet I found that it has the qualities of both romance and fiction. Both characters are quite compelling, particularly Carmac whose situation is heartbreaking. Axelson delves deep into this man's painful and guilt-ridden, lonely life. The relationship between Bertram and Carmac is complex and beautifully realistic in the way that it is related. They have been friends as well as partners for years, and Bertram is the one person who has always been there for Michael -- the one he leans on maybe too much. This is a romance with a happy ending, but it's not a typical gay romance, and that is due mainly to Axelson's approach and execution. This is another solid and enjoyable B read for me. (Seventh Window Publications/August 13, 2011)
  • Muscling Through by JL Merrow: B 
This is a quicky. I enjoyed this gay romance for its point of view! Al's simplicity of thought and uneducated background expose the truth behind people's cruelties and flaws. There's more to him that what's obvious at first glance. There's a great lesson here -- treat people for who they are, not "what" they are or appear to be. I love that Larry truly sees and loves Al. (Samhain Publishing/July 19, 2011)
  • A Spirit of Vengeance by Angela Benedetti: B
This is a Single Shots Classic I've had in my TBR for a long time and it's a very short story. I've enjoyed Angela Benedetti's writing in the past and I know I will continue to do so in the future. I don't know if I mentioned it here before, but the pacing and momentum experienced when reading her stories, always make them fast paced reads -- I love the tempo in her writing. In A Spirit of Vengeance I did find that, however the emotions, the grief and love were also a huge part of what kept me reading. Do I have a complaint? I always want more! I wanted it to be longer... *g* (Torquere Press, September 29, 2009)
And some really good Cs! 
NOTE: The holidays are almost here and I can tell because my UPS guy showed up with the package containing my books for review (for the month of November) on November 29th! That's unfortunate because some of the books in that bundle really caught my eye. I will be reading and reviewing them in December since they look good.

So in November, what book made it to the top of your list? I had a tough time choosing, and as you can tell by my notes above, I enjoyed most of them. Any great, unforgettable reads?


  1. Looking through my list, I see that I had three A's this month - all UF books. One was Angel Town, which is the final book in Lilith Saintcrow's Jill Kismet series. I actually could not finish the previous book, Heaven's Spite, it was just too grim, but Angel Town was a great ending and wrapped everything up nicely - no HEA, as that really wouldn't have been appropriate given the tone of the series, but an HFN at least.

    The other two books that I graded an A were Blood LInes and Night Season, Books 3 & 4 in Eileen Wilks' World of the Lupi. I am loving this series, and best of all, there are still 4 more books out for me to read. Complex world-building and great characters in this series.

  2. Jen, I like what I've read by Lilith Saintcrow - a novella and a standalone novel - although I haven't read the Kismet series. Ellen WIlks? I've seen her name around, but have not read her series either. They sound good! I just looked up the Lupi series and hmm it really does sound... interesting. ;P

  3. Thanks for including The Incident! It's a pleasure and honor. :) XA

  4. Xavier, as you can tell by my mini-review, I really enjoyed The Incident. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Wooohooo, I'm so glad at your grade for The Comforts of Home! Wasn't it a great book? I just loved it :)

    And really great reading month for you, considering everything :) Bs are good :)

  6. Nath, I did too! I finished it and felt great! I'm looking forward to the next book now. :)

    And yes, I was surprised at how good November turned out to be in #'s and enjoyment... good reading month. :)

  7. Thanks for all these minis
    I think I need to read the Joanna Bourne one, I read the first one in the series... or maybe it was the second?
    I don't know, but I remember I thought it was very good and wanted to read more but then I somehow never did.


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these books!

  8. LOL, Alex I'm on the same boat! I "think" I read The Spymaster's Lady, but hmm... not sure if it was that one or the other one that comes after? A couple of years ago, anyway... but don't remember anymore and I don't have the book any longer! This one was fun, and perfect as a set up for The Black Hawk. :)

  9. Bourne is an author I need to catch up on. Good to hear I've got some good reading ahead of me with her. :)

    My favorites that I read and reviewed in November would be Hoyt's Scandalous Desires and Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. Both different but very good.

    I still need to get my October reads up as well as November.

  10. Leslie, I also need to catch up with Bourne's backlist now. Great writing!

    Ohhhh, Scandalous Desires! We agree on that book... sigh... I liked the one book I read by Stiefvater, and meant to read more -- still have one more in my TBR. I should get to it. Maybe next year. LO! Soooo many books!

  11. Hi Hils!
    I haven't gotten around to posting my November reads yet, but it's on my agenda. I only read five books---and the top of that short list is .... ... wait for it........

    a re-read of THE SPYMASTER'S LADY by Joanna Bourne. A+ book. I LOVED it as much this second time as I did the first time I read it in 2008!

    I'm ready to read more by Ms. Bourne. Lucky for me, I have at least the next two books on my shelf. :)

    It will have to wait until January, though. I am on a tight schedule to finish a bunch of challenges by Dec. 31 and have my reading mapped out! LOLOL!

  12. Hi Christine! I'm going to have to read/re-read The Spymaster's Lady. I truly can't remember if or when I read it. If it was in 2008 (which probably was), I didn't keep track of it!

    You're in for a treat with her latest book(s) though. Great reads! And lol... I'm also leaving a lot of my reads for next year at this point. Busy, busy, busy and not enough time to catch up with what I want to read at the moment. :(


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