Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012: Xtra Scary Recs + Upcoming Holiday Reads

It's Halloween. For those of you celebrating the day, have a Happy Halloween! I've been reading many a scary book (or short story) these past few months. You can even read my recommendations post here where I chose some of my favorite books. The following three books are the last of my Halloween recommendations and I'm done for the year.

  • The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer released on May 8, 2012. I purchased this huge piece for my collection and have been reading stories here and there and believe me, it's no easy task to finish this book! I haven't finished it yet and am taking my time. There are 110 amazing stories, plus the introduction by VanderMeer alone is worth buying this collection. From Lovecraft to Borges, and from Mieville to Murakabi and Gaiman, there is no waste to this book.

  • Occultation and Other Stories by Laird Barron. This collection features the following short stories: The Forest, Occultation, The Lagerstatte, Mysterium Tremendum (original to this collection), Catch Hell, Strappado, and The Broadsword. If you like horror, read this collection! It is definitely on my list of favorite books read this year/ released in a previous year (May 2011).

  • The Light is the Darkness by Laird Barron is a novella that includes everything I expected to find in Barron's full-length novel The Croning, and sadly did not. This novella was released September 2012 by DarkFuse and it is worth reading. Here is the very short description: A man searches for his missing sister, while taking part in brutal modern-day gladiator fights and encountering cosmic horror on a grand scale. No kidding! Creative cosmic horror, grand scale, creepy, and all of it offered in a concise, bare bones writing style.

Now, I'm gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas reads! Here are some of the books I already have in my TBR to read and review:

From Kensington Books here are four titles and book descriptions:

  • Together For Christmas by Lisa Plumley (Zebra - Contemporary Romance): In a hilarious and heartwarming novel from USA Today bestselling author Lisa Plumley, a down-home diner owner meets a sexy Scrooge—but will it be a match made in holiday heaven?

  • The Trouble with Cowboys by Melissa Cutler (Zebra - Contemporary Romance): Cowboys have never been good for Amy Sorentino. First her hard-riding father bankrupted the family farm. Then her all-hat-no-cattle boyfriend sold her out on national television, ending her promising career as a chef. Now she and her squabbling sisters have partnered up in a final attempt to save their land by starting an inn and local restaurant. So it figures that with everything on the line, Amy’s key supplier is just the kind of Stetson-tipping heartbreaking bad boy she’s sworn to avoid. But Kellan Reed has a few secrets of his own–and cowboy or not, Amy can’t resist this kind of wild ride…

  • His Mistletoe Bride by Vanessa Kelly (Zebra - Historical Romance): When Major Lucas Stanton inherited his earldom, he never dreamed his property would include the previous earl’s granddaughter. Phoebe Linville is a sparkling American beauty, yes, but with a talent for getting into trouble. Witness the compromising position that forced them into wedlock. Whisked away to Mistletoe Manor, his country estate, it isn’t long before she is challenging his rules—and surprising him in and out of bed. Phoebe has no intention of bowing to Lucas’ stubbornness, even though he offers all that she wants. His kisses and unexpected warmth are enticing, but Phoebe is determined to show the Earl of Merritt what real love is all about. And if that takes twelve nights of delicious seduction by a roaring fire, she’s more than willing to reveal her gifts very slowly…

  • Season For Surrender by Theresa Romain (Zebra - Historical Romance): Alexander Edgeware, Lord Xavier, has quite a reputation—for daring, wagering, and wickedness in all its delightful forms. But the wager before him is hardly his preferred sport: Xavier must persuade a proper young lady to attend his famously naughty Christmas house party—and stay the full, ruinous two weeks. Worse, the lady is Louisa Oliver, a doe-eyed bookworm Xavier finds quite charming. Yet to refuse the challenge is impossible—he will simply have to appoint himself Miss Oliver’s protector… Louisa knows her chance for a husband has passed. But she has no desire to retire into spinsterhood without enjoying a few grand adventures first. When Lord Xavier’s invitation arrives, Louisa is more intrigued than insulted. And once inside the rogues’ gallery, she just may have a thing or two to teach her gentlemen friends about daring…

The Trouble with Cowboys by Melissa Cutler and His Mistletoe Bride by Vanessa Kelly look extra good to me! I think this is a good start, but I do have a few other Christmas books in my list and a couple of Americana historical romances that I want to read for Thanksgiving. How about you? Any holiday books you're looking forward to reading? 

Post Sandy...

Hey there! First, thanks to those who checked to make sure my family and I were okay through the craziness that was Sandy!

It was an incredible storm, and thankfully we are all safe and quite lucky! My husband and I rode it out at home and except for a few small instances when the lights blinked off and on, didn't lose power throughout the whole experience. The scariest moments came from the winds buffeting our building from three sides and feeling as if the couch was being pushed through the living room wall.

Binghamton Ferry Restaurant
Frankly we were more concerned about our family members than ourselves. My sister in law who is due to have a baby any minute, and didn't have but one contraction, thankfully! My husband and daughter work by the Hudson River and had to go to work in the middle of that madness, in and out of a flood zone, so I was a bit of a wreck for a while... but all was well. That picture I'm including is a historical ferry/restaurant right down the street from where one of my brothers lives in Edgewater, NJ. Do you see a parking lot anywhere? One of my nieces is still stuck with her boyfriend in Hoboken where the streets are flooded, but thankfully she's also safe.

Lives, homes, and livelihoods have been lost up and down the East Coast, so we are some of the lucky ones.  My thoughts are with those who have lost so much!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: My Scandalous Viscount (The Inferno Club, #5) by Gaelen Foley

Sunday, October 28, 2012 -- We are waiting for Sandy! The freak hurricane/nor'easter/whatever that's supposed to hit the East Coast tonight or tomorrow morning. We are already experiencing some mild wind gusts and the cloud cover over our area (NY metropolitan area) is a bit ominous. We're hoping for the best, of course, and preparing for the worst at this point. The worst section of the storm is supposed to hit New Jersey and come inland... but we'll wait and see what Mother Nature has in store for us.

My heart is with those people in the Caribbean (and particularly those in my country of birth, and the city where I grew up as a child) who have lost so much, including lives! My heart is breaking for you, and I cannot bare to watch images of the devastation...

Well... enough about Sandy! I will leave you with a review of a historical romance that I read this last week, an escapist read yes, but one I needed.
My Scandalous Viscount (The Inferno Club, #5) by Gaelen Foley
My Scandalous Viscount
Sebastian, Viscount Beauchamp, lives by a code of honor, and now honor dictates he must marry Miss Carissa Portland. He has no regrets over stealing a kiss from the adorable little busybody--a fitting punishment for putting her delectable nose where it didn't belong. But now, caught in a compromising situation, he knows he must make her his bride. He's faced danger before--but nothing like this!

Carissa is not a gossip--she's a "lady of information." And all she was trying to do was warn the rakehell Beauchamp away from an irate husband. But even she can't flaunt Society, and while her head tells her that Beau's a notorious scoundrel, her heart--and her body--are captivated by his dangerous charm. But when Carissa next goes snooping, the secrets she uncovers about the Inferno Club may prove even more hazardous than falling in love with her own husband.
The beginning of this book describes Carissa perfectly:
Some people in this world (fools) were happy minding their own business.
Miss Carissa Portland wasn't one of them. 
Carissa is often thought of as a gossip, but really she is more of a snoop and snooping gets her in trouble from the beginning of this romance to the end. Beau, or Sebastian, Viscount Beauchamp, is a rakehell and a spy who belongs to the infamous Inferno Club, so to Carissa he is more than just a gorgeous hunk who she drools after, he is a magnet full of secrets that she must discover. Once she does, Beau easily blackmails her into a marriage they both of them want, and that's where the story really takes off.

Beau wants someone to trust, to be his partner in life, and going by the way he feels about the beautiful Carissa, she is the one. Unfortunately, she seems to be keeping secrets for him and fully trusting her becomes a matter of waiting until she comes clean. While Beau is trying to resolve a serious investigation being led by enemies of the Order who are trying to destroy chivalry and honor, worrying about fellow spies battling what's left of the evil Prometheans overseas, and searching for his troublesome best friend Nick, Carissa can't help but get involved. After all snooping and gathering information is her specialty! Beau wants his wife at home, not involved in dangerous spy business, but Beau can't seem to deny Carissa anything, that is until he discovers the extent of her secret and finally puts his foot down. But when things come to a head Carissa being Carissa will do whatever it takes to keep her Beau safe!

This is a cute romance I read in one sitting and for the most part found amusing. I particularly like how frustrated poor Beau becomes while trying to keep Carissa under control and making her behaving "as a wife should." Carissa's curiosity and penchant for getting her nose into other people's business is both funny and annoying. I guess that's because you can read about it and smile, but a real person like her? Not funny... ;P

The romance between Beau and Carissa is enjoyable. It isn't fraught with lots of conflict, instead it's sweet and passionate. Beau desires Carissa, however he is really loving and in love with her. He shows it from the beginning and particularly in his understanding of her situation. Carissa is crazy about Beau, but she keeps secrets from him and is not forthcoming when she should be, creating one of the conflicts between them.

As a romance, My Scandalous Viscount is enjoyable, with two likable protagonists and spy and political games that really help the story along. I enjoy those as well. Unfortunately, there's a distinct 'wallpapery' feel to this historical romance, plus modern-sounding phraseology that pulled me out of the story more than once; example: Beau telling Carissa "you are a piece of work." However, basically I placed that aside and decided to finish the book and enjoy it for what it is, a sweet, amusing romance.

Overall, My Scandalous Viscount by Gaelen Foley turned out to be an enjoyable, if somewhat average, read for me. It is amusing, sweet, and passionate, and I'm quite sure that fans of the Inferno Club series will enjoy it much more than I did.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: The Inferno Club
Publisher/Release Date: Avon/September 25, 2012
Grade: C+

Visit Gaelen Foley here.

My Wicked Marquess, #1
My Dangerous Duke, #2
My Irresistible Earl, #3
My Ruthless Prince, #4
My Scandalous Viscount, #5

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mini: Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne

Her Ladyship's Companion
LOVE AND PERIL ON THE CLIFFS OF CORNWALL — Beautiful Melissa Rivenwood was leaving Mrs. Brody's Seminary for the Daughters of Gentlemen for a new life. But when she accepted the position as companion to the formidable Lady Dorothy, spirited Melissa could not have known that she would soon be caught up in a web of passion and intrigue at beautiful and remote Vinton Manor.

Giles Tarsin, her haughty employer, is maddeningly aloof--and irresistibly attractive. Darkly handsome Sir Adrian Hawkhurst admires her undisguisedly with, Melissa suspects, the most impure intentions. Harold Bosworth, a family connection, appears to be ever the gentleman. But why is seven-year-old Robbie, an orphan like Melissa and the future Earl of Keptford, so terrified? Before long, Melissa is struggling to unravel dark family secrets that will lead her suspicions to center on just one man...the one man she loves!
You might wonder why Her Ladyship's Companion is Spymaster #0? Well, that's because this book is actually where Hawk's character is introduced -- Sir Adrian Hawkhurst that adorable teenager and later awesome spy! In this story he is an adult, and of course he's an investigator and Giles Tarsin's friend, not the hero of the piece, but nevertheless a fascinating character.

Her Ladyship's Companion was written by Joanna Bourne and first published in 1983, and it was one of her early books. There is much to like about this historical, for example I enjoyed Bourne's prose and love how she sets the tone for the gothic atmosphere that permeates the whole story. The male characters, both Giles and Adrian, are early examples of Bourne's later characterization of Spymaster males, and of course there's a certain ruthlessness of character to some of the secondary characters (one female in particular) that did not come as a surprise at all.

The plot itself is not the greatest in my opinion. It is a Gothic historical and there's a certain level of predictability in how it is developed, plus lack of those fine details found in Bourne's later works. However, I do believe that some of my concerns about the story are mainly due to the female protagonist, Melissa Rivenwood. Melissa is sadly lacking in judgment and not necessarily the brightest bulb when it comes to deduction. She's impulsive and doesn't trust her instincts, so that when she makes mistakes they have dire consequences. The romance itself seems a bit unlikely if Melissa's doubts about Giles and her actions are taken into consideration.

All of the above makes for a slightly above average historical romance read. But was Her Ladyship's Companion worth reading? Absolutely. I enjoyed it regardless of its flaws. For me the best reason to read this book is that it is one of Joanna Bourne's early works and that it is the building block to what would later become her fantastic Spymaster series. I absolutely recommend it for fans of the series and this author.

NOTE: At Amazon, a new print copy of this book is going for $1,049.29! A used print copy for $26.52, and the ebook edition for $3.99.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: Spymaster Series #0
Publisher/Release Date: Regency Reads/January 10, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: C+

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3) by Rick Riordan

The Mark of Athena
by Rick Riordan
The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3) by Rick Riordan picks up right where The Son of Neptune leaves off, just as Jason, Piper, and Leo arrive at Camp Jupiter led by Annabeth to pick up Percy. Their mission is to convince the Roman demigods that in order to defeat the vengeful Earth Mother, Gaea they must complete the Prophecy of Seven by choosing two Roman demigods who will accompany them in their perilous journey to find the Doors of Death in Greece. But first they must stop in Rome where Nico has been taken prisoner by two giants and where Annabeth has her own quest to follow.

Unfortunately just as the two group of demigods are exchanging prophesies all hell breaks loose and our friends barely get away with their lives. On the bright side Hazel and Frank help and go along for the ride, completing the Greek/Roman team. But is Annabeth really one of the Seven? Another prophecy says that "the daughter of Athena shall walk alone." Time is of the essence, but with all the obstacles they encounter along the way --attacks by Gaea's minions, mini-quests presented by spoiled gods, battles with demi-gods and monsters -- our friends don't even know if they'll get to Rome on time to save Nico never mind to the Doors of Death.

In the The Mark of Athena, Riordan again uses the third point of view and divides the chapters by featuring the different characters' perspectives -- that's seven points of view in total! Each character stars in their own mini-adventure along with one or two of the others, so it gets pretty busy along the way. As in the previous two books of this series, action is relentless making this a quick and enjoyable read.

The purpose of these mini-adventures and the journey is to forge a bond between the Roman and Greek demigods. They must learn how to work together or all is lost. Along the way, each character's weakness is revealed as well as self-doubts. Riordan uses these weaknesses to showcase the characters' strengths, then uses those strengths in a group situation to build a cohesive team. Character growth is also evident as each character works through lack of confidence and learns to trust him/herself as well as the others throughout the journey.

As opposed to those light, fun moments with the quick give and take and the amusing dialog we have all enjoyed in the previous books, particularly from Percy and Leo, self-introspection and yes, some darkness prevails in this installment. As a result this journey, although action packed and enjoyable, lacks that fun atmosphere found in The Son of Neptune. All the characters seem to keep information and details to themselves and it takes a while for them to share and trust each other with facts and visions. Annabeth in particular keeps a lot to herself by necessity, yet her point of view is really a winner. The final resolution to her lonely, frightening quest is a brilliant one.

There are moments and characters that I love in this book: I love how Riordan portrays the division of the gods (Roman/Greek), and how that division affects them. Dionysus/Bacchus is absolutely wonderful in this installment. Pepsi? Really? That is precious! And, the two giants keeping Nico prisoner had me in stitches! Those are some of the light moments that really made this book worth it for me. Percy still has the touch when it comes to witty dialog and clever lines and Leo is second best, although in my opinion his sense of humor was a bit off this time.

The Mark of Athena is a solid addition to this series, and now that Jason, Percy, Piper, Hazel, Leo, and Frank have bonded, there should be less of that transitional feel to the next book and hopefully the adventures will flow with a bit more cohesiveness. I do have questions! Will someone finally love Leo? How will Percy use his powers if there's no water in Hades? Will Jason ever develop a sense of humor, or is his resemblance to Jupiter too strong to do so? Will Piper finally learn to appreciate her powers? Who does Hazel really like? Will Frank ever get his pants back? Is Nico one of the Seven and will we get his point of view in the next book? If Annabeth is part of the prophecy, then does that make it Eight?

This book ended at a crucial moment, and needless to say I can't wait for the next book. Do we really have to wait until next year?

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Heroes of Olympus
Publisher/Release Date: Hyperion Book CH/October 2, 2012
Grade: B

Visit Rick Riordan here.

The Lost Hero, #1
The Son of Neptune, #2
The Mark of Athena, #3

Monday, October 22, 2012

. . . On Immobility by Brian Evenson

by Brian Evenson
When you open your eyes things already seem to be happening without you. You don't know who you are and you don't remember where you've been. You know the world has changed, that a catastrophe has destroyed what used to exist before, but you can't remember exactly what did exist before. And you're paralyzed from the waist down apparently, but you don't remember that either.

A man claiming to be your friend tells you your services are required. Something crucial has been stolen, but what he tells you about it doesn't quite add up. You've got to get it back or something bad is going to happen. And you've got to get it back fast, so they can freeze you again before your own time runs out.

Before you know it, you're being carried through a ruined landscape on the backs of two men in hazard suits who don't seem anything like you at all, heading toward something you don't understand that may well end up being the death of you.

Welcome to the life of Josef Horkai….
This novel is divided into short chapters that make for a quick paced, great read. Brian Evenson takes the reader through the devastated aftermath of the Kollaps, or collapse, of civilization by way of a physical journey, a sort of road trip. For most of this journey the author keeps the main character in the dark, along with the reader, about truths and real events with little foreshadowing of what's to come until about three quarters of the story when things begin to gel.

The title "immobility" is representative of more than the fact that the main character is a paraplegic, it also refers to a sort of paralysis that invades him as he has to make choices when events move quickly around him. This paralysis is well translated to the reader. However, there is also a sort of unreal or dreamlike sense to some characters and situations that are introduced by Evenson that are never quite brought to reality for anyone.

Immobility by Brian Evenson is a bleak, stark, dark, post-apocalyptic science fiction book with an edge. It is full of pessimism about humanity, and philosophical and religious undertones specifically focused on manipulations by Mormon-like groups and individuals keeping their flock in the dark for purposes of survival or to maintain a way of life. There's a search for self, knowledge as a purpose, and a pessimistic ending: returning to the known and choosing to forget rather than dealing with reality. With some excellent writing and just the right tone, not too heavy and definitely not too light, this book was the perfect read for me at this time.

Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Post-Apocalyptic
Publisher/Release Date: Tor Books/April 10, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: B+

Visit Brian Evenson here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Looking for more by way of Immobility & Boy Kings

I can't seem to shake the mood to pick up books that push those reading comfort zones, clearly searching for a challenge that comes from edgier reads instead of settling for the comfortable and pretty.

Right now I'm reading two books: The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo Martinez. This book is different from This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, for one it's a memoir and not literary fiction, but I find it interesting that in this book the author battles with the machista male culture that he has inherited from his Latino father, grandfather and uncles, although this time as perceived from a Mexican-American perspective. There is more there, of course, there's the push and pull of two very different cultures and how this can tear apart, confuse or have an adverse effect in the lives of that first generation born in America. The amazing sub-culture and different world found in a border town -- division of loyalties within communities or from individuals. So far I'm finding this book both amusing and sad, but honest in its rendering, and yes it does push comfort zones although in an entirely different way from Diaz's collection of fictional short stories.

The other book I'm reading is Immobility by Brian Evenson, a post-apocalyptic tale that so far strikes me as a mixture of science fiction and horror. I'm not far into this book, but there's a starkness and darkness to it that grabbed me from the start that makes me want to return to the book again and again.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the beginning:

"A sensation of coming back alive again, only not quite that, half life maybe." [...] "Slow shift to white noise."


When they first woke him, he had the impression of the world becoming real again and he himself along with it. He did not remember having been stored. He could remember nothing about what his life had been before the Kollaps, and the days directly before they had stored him were foggy at best, little more than a few frozen images. He remembered tatters of the Kollaps itself, had a fleeting glimpse of himself panting and in flight, riots, gunfire, rubble. He remembered a bright blast, remembered awakening to find himself burned and naked as a newborn -- or perhaps even more naked, since all the hair had been singed from his body or had simply fallen out. He remembered feeling amazed to be alive, but, well, he was alive, it was hard to question that, wasn't it?

And then what? People: he had found them, or they had found him, hard to say which. A few banded together, acting "rationally" instead of "like animals," as one of them must have put it, attempting to found a new society, attempting to start over.

Not having learned better, he thought grimly, the first time.

Was it all coming back to him? He wasn't sure. And how much of what was coming back was real?

What was his name again?

I have Christmas books to read and hmm... not in the mood to read those yet. (grin) Let's see if my reading mood changes soon!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TBR Review: On Thin Ice (Ice #6) by Anne Stuart

On Thin Ice by Anne Stuart
Elizabeth Pennington has come to the war-torn South American country of Callivera to volunteer at a tiny mission. Kidnapped by the local rebels who are more interested in ransom than politics, she ends up at their camp in the Andes where she meets Finn MacGowan, member of the infamous Committee, a covert organization dedicated to destroying terrorism. MacGowan has been held hostage for almost three years, and he's chosen the night she arrives as the night he plans to escape. When he does, she follows him, heading down the steep mountainous terrain with another hostage, the teenage son of a Hollywood millionaire. Rebels, soldiers, traitors and near-drowning follows them on their journey. As they travel from the mountain fortress to a transatlantic freighter, an old cafe in Spain ending in a shootout at a farmhouse in France, MacGowan reluctantly falls in love, and Beth learns that the cynical, dangerous soldier-of-fortune might be worth saving after all.

I first read Black Ice (Ice #1) for the TBR Challenge this month, but having had some pretty mixed feelings about that book decided to read and review another book by Anne Stuart that I had waiting in my Kindle, the last book of the same series, On Thin Ice (Ice #6). It was a great move on my part. On Thin Ice has all the elements that I really enjoyed about Black Ice, the thriller non-stop action with a male character who has all the skills to survive in a dangerous environment, and a plot full of violent danger and twists and turns, where the differences between the villains and good guys are not always clear to the reader. However what's different in On Thin Ice is the romance and the fact that the male and female protagonists turn out to be likable, and our female character doesn't immediately fall for the "hero," although of course she does fall for him.

Both Finn MacGowan and Elizabeth Pennington have been kidnapped by the Guiding Light in the fictionalized South American country of Callivera. Elizabeth arrives on the camp, where MacGowan has been held for three years, and that same night they escape along with sixteen year-old Dylan and another captive. Once they're on the run the action doesn't really stop until the end of the story as they are pursued by the members of the Guiding Light through the mountains, and later on by CIA agents. MacGowan is running towards revenge against anti-terrorist organization members of the Committee whom he believes let him rot as a captive for three years, and Elizabeth rightfully believes she can only survive by sticking with him.

Throughout the dangerous escape, Finn and Beth develop and maintain a dialog that is both entertaining and sexy. Finn wants Beth, at first because he spent three whole years without a woman (this becomes an ongoing joke between them), and slowly because he truly falls in love with her, but Finn's failed Irish charm and the way he goes about turning Beth around to his way of thinking is the best part of their romance. I love Finn's character and the fact that he is ruthless but caring and tender with Beth, and that he uses his ruthlessness to fight his own needs in order to protect Beth from himself.

On the other hand, Beth hates sex and doesn't understand why she's attracted to cynical Finn, a man who kills for a living, and convinces herself that her conflicting emotions surfaced as a result of Finn saving her life more than once. Beth is rather stubborn and frustratingly straight at times, but I like that she gives as good as she gets from Finn, and that she doesn't roll over for him or is intimidated just because she is dependent on him for survival.

Characters from other Ice novels make appearances as secondary characters. Peter Madsen plays a big role, while others play small roles. This is the last of the Ice novels, so it serves as sort of an epilogue novel with babies and happy ever afters for some of the Committee agents, but they don't take page time away from the main couple. The climactic scene is actually anticlimactic and not as good as the action that takes place up to that point in the novel, and the romance between Finn and Beth ends with a really good line that is "very much Finn," but it is a rather abrupt ending for my taste.

These two novels, Black Ice and On Thin Ice, are my first reads by Anne Stuart. Black Ice is super exciting when it comes to the thrilling action, but for me the "romance" is questionable and did not work. However, I'm glad that I read it first and picked up On Thin Ice which turned out to be a well balanced thrilling romance suspense with likable central characters. I will probably give some of the other Ice novels a try to see if they work for me.

Theme: PNR/Romantic Suspense
Category: Romance Suspense/Thriller
Series: Ice Series
Release Date: September 15, 2011
Grade: B

Visit Anne Stuart here.

Black Ice, #1
Cold as Ice, #2
Ice Blue, #3
Ice Storm, #4
Fire and Ice, #5
On Thin Ice, #6

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Halloween Reads: Steampunk/PNR/LGBT Spec Fic/Horror

October means Halloween! So it is time vampires, zombies, evil-doers, the strange and the weird to give us chills and thrills. For the past month I've been in the mood for the chills, thrills and the strange, so I've been reading and accumulating recommendations for you -- both recent releases and back list books. Here are some of my favorite reads:

STEAMPUNK & PNR: (Click on titles to read reviews)

Riveted (Iron Seas #3) by Meljean Brook (Steampunk/Adventure/Romance)
If you like romance with great world building and amazing steampunk details that do not get in the way of the story, then Riveted is for you. This third book is the latest release in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series and it was a favorite for me because of the sweet romance between the main characters, as well as for all those great details I mentioned above. 
New Amsterdam Series by Elizabeth Bear (Fantasy/Mystery/Steampunk)
The New Amsterdam series by Elizabeth Bear is not a new release, as a matter of fact the first book was released in 2007 and the last in the trilogy in 2010. But this wonderful series with its excellent writing, vampire detective and a forensic female sorcerer as central characters, alternate world, unique format, and subtle steampunk details is worth reading. My favorite two pieces of the trilogy were New Amsterdam and The White City, but believe me... Seven For A Secret is no slouch either. A moody, atmospheric and different kind of mystery solving read. 
Hearts of Darkness: A Deadglass Novel by Kira Brady (Paranormal Romance) 
Of the paranormal romances I've read recently, Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady is the darkest one, and the one I recommend be read during this time of the year. It has vampires, dragons, werewolves and other pretty unique beings, but I think what I loved the most about this novel was the way that Brady fused the dark, moody atmosphere usually found in an urban fantasy book with the romance found in PNR. There's a combination of dark and light that I enjoyed about this book, so yes... I recommend it.

LGBT SPECULATIVE FICTION & HORROR:(Click on titles to read reviews)

Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone (Queer Speculative Fiction) 
When it comes to speculative fiction if you're going to read one book this year, I recommend that you pick up Tom Cardamone's Green Thumb. If you are a spec fic fan, you'll appreciate the amazing characters, the atmosphere and worldbuilding, and most of all the creative twists and turns Cardamone uses to take this story from beautiful beginning to amazing end. 
Wilde Stories 2012: The Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman (Gay Speculative Fiction
I recommended last year's edition Wilde Stories 2011 because I loved it. This year's edition is also recommended. There are excellent speculative fiction stories and wonderful variety in this anthology with themes to please tastes all around. It's filled with quality stories and excellent writers. Some of my favorite LGBT writers are included, but there are new great writers in there whose stories are not to be missed.
Torn by Lee Thomas (Horror/Speculative Fiction)
I read a few straight up horror books, but of those only one had all the ingredients that worked for me, Torn by Lee Thomas. This novella was relentless in action, kept me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end, and gave me all the chills and thrills that I expect from horror. Lee Thomas' skills are in full display in this novella and I highly recommend it to horror fans.

I didn't list any romance suspense reads or straight mysteries in this list. I just read a wonderful book from my TBR that I really enjoyed, Anne Stuart's 2005 romantic suspense thriller, "Black Ice." Are there any books in those categories that you would recommend? What books have you read lately that you would recommend as a great Halloween/October read?  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman

Wilde Stories 2012 Ed. Steve Berman
Cover Art: Ben Baldwin
Last year I loved the Wilde Stories 2011 anthology, so picking up Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman was a no brainer for me. In this year's edition, I again found excellent creative speculative fiction by favorite authors plus new-to-me authors whose works I'm going to explore in the future.

The anthology begins with an introduction by Berman where he nails exactly how I feel about reading a story/novel as opposed to watching the same (or similar) story on film. And don't get me wrong, I also love film.
Reading is such a different experience than watching film. More intimate. More revealing of the self. More secrets are told, as if the author stands just over your shoulder and bends down to whisper in your ear his tale rather than performing on a set several feet away. 

Following this introduction, Berman showcases fifteen very different stories that show the wide range and variety he discovered last year in gay speculative fiction. Personally, I think that variety is what I love and enjoy the most about reading speculative fiction. That and the fact that there's no placing most of these stories into a neat little box even when certain genres are used as a base in their construction.

I'll give you a few samples of the variety found in this anthology, even when stories seem to share similarities. There are two stories that really touched me, "Ashes in the Water by Joel Lane and Mat Joiner," and "Hoffman, Godzilla and Me by Richard Bowes." These tales are quite different in setting, mood, atmosphere and writing styles, yet pain and loss oozes out of the pages while that darkness and other worldliness that comes with a speculative fiction story is central to both. And while one story is edgier than the other, they both leave the reader in deep thought while chilled to the bone.

There are also fun tales such as "The Peacock by Ted Infinity and Nabil Hijazi," a science fiction based love story between a spambot program and a man that made me snort and laugh from beginning to wonderful over-the-top end, and Tom Cardamone's very short excellent Chinese mythology-based story, "The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons," which surprisingly left me with a smile at the end. These two stories while very different are both excellent, quite creative, and fun!

Of course a speculative fiction anthology would not be complete without the all popular horror-based tale, and this year Berman features great stories I enjoyed, his own creepy contribution "All Smiles," featuring young adults, is one of them. And while Steve Berman's story is full of dread and quick action followed by a hopeful ending, in "The House By The Park," Lee Thomas contrasts the bliss of a gay couple as they find love and lulls the reader with everyday life details while all along dark evil slowly hunts them. Both horror tales are nightmare worthy, but compare that horror to the magic found in Justin Torres' creative fable "Fairy Tale," Ellen Kushner's fantasy-based tale of swordsmen "The Duke of Riverside," or another favorite, "We Do Not Come In Peace by Christopher Barsak" where Peter Pan-like young men in a familiar Neverland-like setting battle the Fair Ones, and you get the idea as to the variety of stories included.

I enjoyed reading this anthology slowly, savoring each tale on its own. It is interesting to note that even as personal taste led me to find favorite stories, it is also easy to say that the quality of the stories and writers, gay themes, plus the variety found in Berman's Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction make this anthology an overall well-balanced, rock solid read.

Category: LGBT/Gay Speculative Fiction
Series: Wilde Stories Anthologies
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/July 11, 2012 - Print Ed.
Grade: B

Stories and authors included in order of appearance:
"The Arab's Prayer" by Alex Jeffers
"Fairy Tale" by Justin Torres
"Thou Earth, Thou" by K. M. Ferebee
"Hoffmann, Godzilla and Me" by Richard Bowes
"Color Zap!" by Sam Sommer
"All Smiles" by Steve Berman
"The Peacock" by Ted Infinity & Nabil Hijazi
"Ashes in the Water" by Joel Lane & Mat Joiner
"A Razor in an Apple" by Kristopher Reisz
"The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons" by Tom Cardamone
"Filling Up the Void" by Richard E. Gropp
"The House by the Park" by Lee Thomas
"Pinion" by Stellan Thorne
"We Do Not Come in Peace" by Chris Barzak
"The Duke of Riverside" by Ellen Kushner

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: If I Wait For You by Jane Goodger

If I Wait for You by Jane Goodger
Everyone in New Bedford, Massachusetts believes Sara Dawes murdered her own parents. A price is on her head and someone has tried to kill her—not for revenge but to keep her quiet. Fearing for her life, Sara begs the stern and too-handsome-for-his-own-good Captain West Mitchell to allow her to go with him when he leaves port. She wants only to be safe.

West Mitchell wants nothing to do with Sara, but when she nearly dies in his arms, he has no choice but to take her aboard his ship. He quickly realizes he’s made a terrible mistake. The girl he thought would be a hindrance is finding a way into his heart—a heart he’d already promised to another.

When West finally realizes he cannot live without Sara, it may already be too late…
I originally picked up If I Wait For You by Jane Goodger because the settings looked particularly interesting. Part of the story takes place in a whaling ship and the other in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and of course that made this historical romance different enough to draw me like a magnet.

Captain West Mitchell takes Sara Dawes aboard his ship as his make-believe wife after she almost dies in his arms. She's sister to his third mate and has been forced to flee New Bedford, Massachusetts after having been wrongly accused of murdering her parents and setting fire to their home. Since West is already engaged and an honorable man, he figures sharing his cabin with Sara won't be a hardship. That changes quickly when sharing close quarters and Sara’s beauty unexpectedly trigger dishonorable thoughts. In the meantime, Sara can't believe that she's sharing space with a man she has admired for years, but no matter all the day dreaming, she knows that he's only keeping her aboard his ship on sufferance, and that his heart will never belong to her. Or will it?

This is one of those romances that takes years to reach the happy ever after and a final resolution to all the different threads -- a whole three years. I love the sexual tension that Goodger uses to build up the relationship between Sara and West while they are on the whaling ship. Sara's relationship with the crew, the whaling details, and the adventures they all share are part of what makes this a wonderful read. Later, the story moves to New Bedford where we meet Sara again after she has become part of society, and where the mystery of her parent's murders are finally solved.

The romance and main characters did not quite win me over, though. There's a push and pull that, although great at the beginning, goes on for way too long. West and Sara both play a game where neither will admit to themselves, never mind to each other, that they love the other when it's plainly obvious that they do. West becomes frustrating during their shared voyage, while Sara is frustrating in the extreme once West returns to New Bedford and the two are reunited after a few years apart. During those years apart Sara supposedly grew up, unfortunately her actions rarely show maturity and she uses West's younger brother in a way that was tough to appreciate.

If I Wait For You by Jane Goodger is an enjoyable historical romance with an excellent setting. It also has that 'old style' historical atmosphere with wonderful details that I so enjoy (particular to this story: the whaling and seafaring life details), a sea voyage with a great crew as secondary characters, and excellent sexual tension that is used to build up intimacy between the protagonists. However, at times the main characters are not necessarily sympathetic and the plot devices utilized to drive the romance somewhat overdone, making this a mixed bag read for me.

As a side note, If I Wait For You is self-published, so expect a few of those pesky editing errors along the way. It is also the prequel to Jared's romance, *Gifts from the Sea, a backlist release by Goodger that is currently out of print. However, per the author, look for a release in ebook format in the future. Jared is West's older brother and one of the most intriguing secondary characters appearing in this book. I’m looking forward to reading his romance.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: None (related books)*
Publisher/Release Date: Self-published/July 26, 2011
Grade: B-

Visit Jane Goodger here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

This Is How You Lose Her
by Junot Díaz
Junot Díaz's third book, This Is How You Lose Her, follows his 2008 Pulitzer winning novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Yet, with this third book, he returns to a familiar format, world and characters his readers first encountered in his first collection of short stories, Drown.

This time, although again the Dominican immigrant's experience is very much an intrinsic part of his stories, the main theme is infidelity. Using a distinctly male point of view, language that is prosaic and, at times, beautiful, with these nine stories Díaz depicts a critical and distinctly honest portrait of Dominican males and a Latino machista culture bred on infidelity, as per his observations.

Díaz's now familiar character Yunior, brother Rafa, his boys and their women serve as his instruments. The stories, with narrative and dialog from the males' perspectives, are raw in content, and the language is so realistic that oftentimes they leave the reader with a feeling of discomfort. 

Frankly most women in these short stories, even the ones who are supposedly loved, are described in sexual terms or as sexual objects. However when placed into perspective, I believe that Mr. Díaz has written a disturbingly honest account of men with a learned sense of entitlement that leads to cheating on partners in a machista Latino culture where manliness in proven through sexual exploits. (Personally, I've always thought of this phenomenon as male insecurity and have argued this point countless times) Díaz shows how boys learn, by example and encouragement, to become the same type of men who cheated on their mothers, aunts and sisters by emulating their fathers, brothers, and friends, even as they initially reject and hate those same men for their actions.

Women are not necessarily spared. Yes, there are the women who are being cheated on. Most of the stories are named after them: Nilda, Alma, Flaca, The Pura Principle, Miss Lora, -- but there are also those women who knowingly become part of the infidelity cycle -- the sucias, as Yunior calls them. Actions in this collection have consequences as is evident by the title. And then there's one of my favorite stories of the collection, the only one written from a female's perspective: Otravida, Otravez.

In Otravida, Otravez an immigrant woman working as a laundress for a hospital has been conducting a long-term affair with a married man whose wife lives in the Dominican Republic. Díaz captures the hardworking woman's tough life, but also her lack of expectations when it comes to this long-term relationship. There's also a sense of displacement and "not belonging" about this woman, both in terms of the relationship and place (as the immigrant). A need to feel settled and safe and the inability to find that safety, as well as the expectation of being abandoned, let down, and ultimately unfulfilled. This restlessness, the lack of expectations, and the sense of displacement are all found throughout the stories. The book ends with a bang with what I consider the strongest piece of the collection, The Cheater's Guide to Love an honest, fascinating, and intimate look into a man's life after he loses the love of his life. There's almost a sense of the autobiographical that makes this particular story even more intriguing.

Mr. Díaz's grasp of multiple settings -- New Jersey, the Dominican Republic, Boston -- and Dominican/Latino culture is impressive in its authenticity, the details more than show that he has personal knowledge of both. It is important to note that I specify Dominican/Latino culture in this case, as there are some aspects of these stories that particularly apply to the Dominican culture. However this behavior and/or way of thinking should, if not in general terms at least partly, be applied to males in the Latino machista culture as a whole.

I am a bit conflicted about This Is How You Lose Her, but that is only because Mr. Díaz returns to Yunior and the Drown setting. I was hoping for radically different content from him in this new book. However, and here's where my conflict comes in, the theme is fresh, pertinent and controversial even if the format, characters, and setting are familiar. The problem is that because of the familiarity and/or similarities, This Is How You Lose Her invites comparison to Drown, and as a collection in my opinion Drown is a tighter, better flowing short story collection.

Having said that, Díaz's writing style is consistently powerful with a rhythm and vibrancy that keep the reader engaged, although frankly in this collection there are some stories that stand out more than others. He continues to pepper his works with Spanish, slang, and brutally raw street language combined with a beautiful turn of phrase that define him. The subject matters addressed in his books continue to challenge readers' comfort zones -- a fact evident in This Is How You Lose Her.

On a personal note, some of these stories have previously been published in The New Yorker and some might have read them before, however, as a collection with a theme, this is a book that I've already recommended to family and friends, both males and females. We've already begun discussing and debating its content from all points of view. Whether you love them or hate them, the very nature and frankness of Junot Díaz's short stories lend themselves to vigorous and passionate discussion, and to me that's always a sign of a book worth reading.

Category: Literary Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Riverhead/September 11, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: B

Other works reviewed:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Jamie Brenner: The Gin Lovers (Books #1 & #2)

Prohibition, flappers, bootleggers, illegal booze, speakeasies, jazz jam sessions, illicit love affairs, fashion, society matrons, politics, and money. . . lots of money. The gilded, repressed world of New York's high society meets and collides with the sophisticated, liberated, and seedy world of flappers, bootleggers, speakeasies and jazz in Jamie Brenner's new soap-opera style serial, The Gin Lovers.

The Gin Lovers (Book #1) 

The Gin Lovers
Book #1
It's 1925 and New York City is mourning the passing of society leader Geraldine Delacorte in a grand funeral attended by upper echelons of society that includes the Vanderbilts and Astors. William is now the head of the family and his wife Charlotte Delacorte better make sure everything goes without a hitch. Unfortunately, his sister Mae shows up at the funeral in full flapper regalia driven by Jake Larkin, a most inappropriate escort whose presence and manner intrigue Charlotte. Not about to let Mae embarrass the family, William kicks her out of the funeral. Mae runs to her lover, Fiona, with whom she is conducting an openly hot and heavy affair.

Charlotte tries her best to play hostess at the funeral, but can't seem to impress her controlling husband or exacting social nemesis, the high and mighty Amelia Astor. Almost as soon as the funeral is over, however, William departs for Boston leaving Charlotte in charge of the troublesome Mae. When Mae sneaks out of the house late at night and Charlotte follows her to the Vesper Club, Charlotte ends up getting a taste of the illicit world of night clubs and speakeasies, and to her surprise not only meets Mae's lover Fiona, but ends up enjoying the evening and Jake Larkin's company more than expected.

I was hooked on all the drama when I was done reading the first episode of this serial! There is Mae's impulsive behavior and passionate love for money grabbing Fiona, which causes havoc for everyone. Fiona making a play for a bigger role at work when her boss Boom Boom asks her to find a new source of liquor after she loses her suppliers, and sexy bootlegger Jake Larkin who has his eye on Charlotte. Charlotte surprises herself by enjoying the underworld nightlife and becoming protective of Mae, while recognizing William's controlling streak and discovering one of his secrets.

The Gin Lovers serves as a good set up for this serial, as well as an introduction to the cast of characters. The atmosphere is excellent in this first installment, particularly in the clubs where Brenner uses fashion, music, and dancing, plus contrasting (liberal vs. conservative) societal attitudes and moral beliefs of the times to take the reader to a different time.

Little White Lies: The Gin Lovers (Book #2) 

Little White Lies:
The Gin Lovers
Book #2
I thought I was hooked with The Gin Lovers. However, Little White Lies is when things really begin to get good! This is where the story as a whole begins to take shape.

Charlotte's world is spinning out of control. She finds out that William has been keeping some darn big secrets from her. Suspicious already, she catches him talking on the side with the high and mighty Amelia Astor, who Charlotte suspects is after her husband, and yes. . . William is off to Boston. Again!

Well, that's fine with her because she takes the time to go off to the clubs with Mae where she can wear her new dress by Coco Chanel and spends the night listening to music at a Harlem speakeasy with sexy Jake where their mutual fascination with each other grows by the minute. But just as Jake and Charlotte's feelings are growing, Amelia and William scheme and plot, and after key revelations from William these two make decisions about Mae's life behind Charlotte's back.

In the meantime, Boom Boom promotes Fiona to "hostess" at the Vesper Club and she accepts. This means more than just keeping men in the club, and Fiona takes it a step further -- maybe a step too far. To top it all off? The D.A. has an agent hoping to get at Boom Boom working undercover inside the nightclub. Fiona wants/needs money and since Mae's inheritance is frozen her passion has turned to icicles. Poor Mae is desperate, heartbroken, and reacts accordingly. Oh, the drama!!

Little White Lies is a great second episode ending in a cliff hanger that left me wanting the next installment immediately! The Mae/Fiona melodrama and the possibilities that seem to be opening up for Charlotte and Jake were high points for me, and curiosity about William's secrets is killing me. Plus, I'm really taken with William and Charlotte's butler, Rafferty! What is it with him? More!

Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: The Gin Lovers
Publisher/Release Date: St. Martin Griffin/October 8, 2012
Format: Digital (ebook)
Episodes 1 & 2 - Grade: B

The Gin Lovers, #1
Little White Lies: The Gin Lovers, #2

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: Faun by Trebor Healey

Faun by Trebor Healey
Cover Art & Design: Niki Smith
Categorized as queer urban fantasy, Trebor Healey's latest release, Faun,  comes fully equipped with a confused young adult as main character and a sexually charged atmosphere. In Healey's world, Greek mythology, the Catholic religion, and Mexican culture collide in an urban setting where by focusing on ethnic characters and the Los Angeles Latino culture, his tale gains a distinct West Coast flavor.

Introducing Gilberto Rubio, a boy known for his angelic beauty throughout childhood, unfortunately Gil and his mother Lupita are in for a shock when puberty hits the boy hard. One day Gil looks like an angel and Lupita's hopes that he'll go into the priesthood are still viable, and the next the boy literally oozes testosterone and needs a razor. Lupita is afraid the girls will lust after her son, but more than anything she's afraid of her own son's strange, compelling beauty. Gil on the other hand has other, more pressing worries.

Poor Gil! A razor to shave his face is nothing, what the boy really needs are loads of hot wax for legs that every day look more like hairy shrubs. But that's not all, his feet are changing into hooves, and what the heck is it with the pointy ears, the nubs growing from his forehead, the tail, and the umm... new impressive package? What kind of monster is he turning into? The physical changes are bad enough, but confusion intensifies when as he grows older people and animals around him react to those they love or desire by experiencing sexual ecstasy and uncontrollable arousal. He tries to hide behind hoodies and dark clothing, however eventually things get seriously out of hand and adults begin to notice him, even his own mother! Freaked out, Gil runs away and on his way out of LA meets old man Walt, an online acquaintance claiming to have answers to most of his questions.

To begin this review I have to mention what impressed me the most about Faun, and that is how Healey really captures the essence of an immigrant household that still holds beliefs intrinsic to their culture. In my opinion that is key to this story and Healey nails it. I also love how he sets the overall atmosphere by using contrasts in settings as he moves the story between the urban Latino populated neighborhood, Los Angeles as a whole, and the mountains.

Throughout the first few chapters of Faun, Healey introduces his characters and gives them depth by using background details and personal histories to establish distinct personalities, giving the reader a well-rounded idea behind motives that drive the characters' actions. Initially, Healey concentrates on Gilberto and Lupita's perspectives to establish his world. Later, however, other perspectives are also shared with the reader. The result is a somewhat slow beginning frontloaded with pertinent information, but one that sets the rest of the story quite well. After those first couple of chapters the action picks up and flows through to the end.

This is only my second encounter with Trebor Healey's works. The other is Trunk, an edgy short story where he addresses religious beliefs, sexual orientation and the gay lifestyle. In Faun, through Gil's search for his place in the world, Healey explores the confusion that comes from being different, religion, ignorance, and queer themes. He features various characters and relationships -- straight, gay, trans, polyamorous, and both young and mature love. Along the way, some experience or battle lack of control and confusion, others, however mistakenly, attempt a reconciliation between deeply held religious beliefs and love, while most search for acceptance, knowledge and that all illusive happiness.

Woven throughout the story there are highly amusing moments and some favorite scenes. Chupacabra? Poor Gil! There's a high school classroom scene that became a favorite, and well... there's the whole "nutting" bit which was a bit over-the-top and had me in stitches -- now you must read the story to find out what this is because I'm not about to explain. And talking about favorites, from the secondary characters my favorite is old hippy dude Walt, and the moments Gil spends with him on the mountains surrounded by nature are some of the most beautiful in the book.

Faun by Trebor Healey is categorized as queer urban fantasy, but with its excellent characterization, atmosphere, and blend of Greek mythology, religion, and Mexican culture, by the end of the story I thought of it as a beautiful contemporary urban fable. Now, if I could only hear Gil really play that flute, again. . .

Recommended for mature young adults and adults.

Category: LGBT/Queer Urban Fantasy
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/October 1, 2012
Source: Lethe Press
Grade: B+

Visit Trebor Healey here.
About the Author: Trebor Healey is an American poet and novelist. He was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and studied English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He spent his twenties in San Francisco, where he was active in the spoken word scene of the late 80s and early 90s, publishing 5 chapbooks of poetry as well as numerous poems and short stories in various reviews, journals, anthologies and zines. He received both the Ferro-Grumley Fiction Award and the Violet Quill Award for his first novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, and his story "Mercy Seat" was named one of the top ten online stories of 2004 by StorySouth. He lives in Buenos Aires.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012: Reads + Update

Things have been quiet around here lately. Well, I've been a bit under the weather this past month and undergoing doctor's exams and all that jazz. I'm afraid that I haven't had much energy left over for blogging lately. Instead in September, I read like a fiend -- escape and all that! You all know how it is.

Anyway, I read lots of books from my TBR in September, caught up with a few series, and also re-read some favorite books that either made me happy or that I wanted to read just because.... Again, I'm sure you all know how that goes.

My favorite books of the month? The Last Renegade by Jo Goodman, Riveted by Meljean Brook, the New Amsterdam Series by Elizabeth Bear.

The book that most confounded me last month? This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. I swear to you, I still don't know how I feel about this book! Process, process, process.

Disappointments: The last two installments in Kresley Cole's Immortal After Dark series, Dreams of a Dark Warrior and Lothaire. I loved this series, but at this point three words describe these books for me: rinse and repeat.

Total Reads: 25   Re-reads: 4
 Contemporary Romance/Suspense: 1
 Historical Romance: 4
 Paranormal Romance: 2
 Urban Fantasy: 1
 Steampunk Romance/Spec Fic/Sci-Fi: 7
 Literary Fiction: 1
 Non-Fiction: 1
 LGBT: 8

From my TBR: 11

1.   A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant: C+
2.   The Werewolves of Central Park by Tom Cardamone: C-
3.   Sidecar by Amy Lane: B-
4.   The Last Renegade by Jo Goodman: A- *
5.   Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher: B
6.   The Secret of Othello: A Fisher Key Adventure #2 by Sam Cameron: B
7.   Riveted (Iron Seas #3) by Meljean Brook: B+
8.   Heart of Steel (Iron Seas #2) by Meljean Brook: B-
9.   Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City (Iron Seas #1.5) by Meljean Brook: B-
10. Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory by Carrie Hamilton: B
11. The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2) by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith: C
12. New Amsterdam (New Amsterdam #1) by Elizabeth Bear: B+
13. Seven for a Secret (New Amsterdam #2) by Elizabeth Bear: B
14. The White City (New Amsterdam #3) by Elizabeth Bear: A-
15. Mistakes Were Made by Tristan Cole: C
16. The General's Lover (Assassin/Shifter) by Sandine Gast-Dion: D- 
17. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (Upcoming Review)
18. Faun by Trebor Healey (Upcoming Review)
19. Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne: C+
20. Heart's Desire by Jacquie D'Alessandro: C
21. Nowhere to Hide by Nancy Bush: C+
22. Dreams of a Dark Warrior (IAD #11) by Kresley Cole: C-
23. Lothaire (IAD#12) by Kresley Cole: C-
24. Men of Smithfield: Max and Finn by L.B. Gregg: B
25. Tinder by Tory Temple: C+

1. Here There Be Monsters (Iron Seas #0.5) by Meljean Brook (Re-read): A-
2. Coming Home by Victor J. Banis (Re-read): B
3. Gobsmacked: Men of Smithfield by L.B. Gregg (Re-read): B+
4. Happy Ending: Men of Smithfield by L.B. Gregg (Re-read): B


What am I reading? Note that in September I read 7 books in the speculative fiction/steampunk category and I'm still in a bit of a spec fic kick. Right now I'm slowly reading Berman's best of collection of gay spec fic, Wilde Stories 2012. I saved that book to read in October for Halloween month. It's going well so far.

I'm woefully behind on reviews from August and September. Hopefully after all medical tests are done, I'll be in a better frame of mind to catch up. How was your September? I hope you had a great reading month. :D