Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Best Books in 2020

I guess I should have expected this list to be weird given how 2020 has gone so far.  In what world would I have expected 30% of this list to be nonfiction?  Even the fact that the other 60% are entirely romance or paranormal fantasy is would have been odd for me a couple of years ago.  And not a single fantasy or science fiction novel?? WHAT HAS HAPPENED??  

Actually I'm pretty ok with how this lines up - it's made for an interesting reading year.  I am surprised that I had exactly ten 5 star books for the year so far - usually I have to pare it down at least a little.  I think it's been hard for me (and I imagine many of you) to get fully lost in books in quite the same way I usually do.  It's also meant that I have a wide range of publishing dates and genres in the list below and I'm glad to be reading a little more diversely than I had been for most of my serious blogging time on here!

The Hot Zone - Richard Preston

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

God, the irony of the first book I read this year being about epidemics.  This was one of the most interesting books I've ever read - Richard Preston manages to make the workings of academia and medicine very approachable in this.  It's also graphic and horrifying and suspenseful, which is not what I generally expect from a nonfiction novel.

I had actually planned on recommending this to basically anyone and everyone because I thought it was really important people realize how easily an epidemic can happen but ummmm.....welp.  If you are someone who is prone to panic, doesn't do well with graphic bodily fluid descriptions, or are in general overwhelmed by the world I would pass on this one. That being said I do highly recommend it so even if you pass on it for now it's worth coming back to sometime down the road.

The Brightest Fell (October Daye, #11)

It is absolutely ridiculous how well Seanan writes.  She is constantly managing to up the ante with this series without it feeling cheap or contrived and I don't even know how it's possibly to consistently do this over 11 books!!  If you have not started this series, the fact that I am raving about ALL of her books ever, but consistently this series over the past year or so you should definitely take a look at it.  It's paranormal fantasy (deals with fae), urban fantasy (set in San Francisco), has diversity with race, sexuality, and gender that all feels very organic to the story rather than token characters.  And if you don't take my word on it, Christina at A Reader of Fictions has tons of reviews on Goodreads (as well as the review I linked above).

No Humans Involved (Women of the Otherworld, #7)

I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring Armstrong's Otherworld series.  When I discovered that each book in the series focuses on a different character, I wasn't sold at all on this concept because I had loved the first main character so much.  I decided to keep reading anyway and I am so glad I did.  I really like that each book expands the world, and the characters all interact so you do see them repeatedly although not necessarily every book (and some of them do get repeat opportunities as the main character!), but at the same time they are very self contained stories.  You'd miss out on things if you didn't start with the first book, but many of these you could read entirely as a standalone.  Armstrong also manages to make each character feel so distinct from each other which is really impressive as the cast is giant and I find that I have a harder time distinguishing first person narratives from each other.  This particular book features a couple I've been excited for throughout the series, even though I wasn't sure how I felt about the female lead.  She has ended up being one of my absolute favourite characters and it is really cool seeing how she has evolved through many different characters stories and then in her own.  Definitely a staple series of the paranormal genre!

Dreaming of You (The Gamblers of Craven's, #2)

Sarah MacLean and Jen from Jen Reads Romance host a podcast called Fated Mates and it is an absolute delight.  If you love romance you should be listening to this already - they give great recs and have really interesting and thoughtful takes on romance as a genre.  If you are at all interested in romance I also recommend this for people new to the genre - they will point in you in all the best directions!

All of this is to say that I don't think I've gone more than two episodes without them mentioning Derek Craven at least once.  They even made a Derek Craven day!  He is the ultimate romance hero for at least Sarah (but ranks up there for Jen too).  I wasn't sure how I would feel about his given that it was written in the early 90s, and older romance books can often be...problematic.  And guys, this book is absolutely BONKERS with the plot, but hooooooooly moly is Derek Craven swoonworthy.  (*disclaimer - must like alpha males for this to work for you I think).  Sara Fielding is an absolute delight, and definitely a favourite heroine. This one definitely stood out despite me approaching it with high expectations!

Tracey Livesay has quickly become a new favourite and someone I know I can trust to buy a book and I'll like it.  She features interracial couples frequently, which we all know is something I love to see in my books as someone who is in an interracial relationship.  She writes such human characters - flawed and tough and caring.  This book in particular features a neuro-divergent male lead who is brilliant and pushing the boundaries of new tech and a career driven woman who is at the top of her field. Often it's the men who put up these walls and are tough with a secretly vulnerable inside, but this time it's Chelsea who you see struggle through a lot of the emotional turmoil and growth. I really love this couple and have really enjoyed the other book in this series that I've read!

Wicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #1)

Would this year be complete without a Sarah MacLean novel on this list?  Bonus: her last book in this trilogy comes out in TWO DAYS!! Did I pre-order a signed copy of it? YOU BET I DID.  Even better? This one features a wallflower and I am HERE for a good wallflower story.  It features all the angsty boy not feeling like he deserves the girl, a heroine who was not a very nice person originally. It's also not a ballroom romance, which is pretty rare for historical fiction - the male MC is a smuggler/person who transports ice which is super cool.  It's always nice to find out interesting things while also getting all the swoons.

The Walmart Effect - Charles Fishman

The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works - and How It's Transforming the American Economy

This is one a friend of mine gave me to read about.....two or more years ago.  It was slow going for me at first (hence why it is making this list so much later than I started it), but I am SO glad he let me borrow it for such a long time because it is a hugely important book.  I generally avoid nonfiction like the plague, and I know next to nothing about economics, and haven't really made much effort to change either of these things.  Fishman does a great job of tackling how Walmart effects micro-economies (ie small towns) and global economies, as well as how Walmart has affected the literal ecology of places and how it has changed corporate attitudes.  It's important to note that while Fishman clearly has concerns about Walmart (rightfully so based on the numerous different types of research done for this book) he is also clear that he doesn't really blame Walmart - it is after all, entirely a product of a capitalist society.  He asks a lot of questions about how as consumers we want things immediately and cheaply - and then delves into the costs of what that means.  The main point of this books is that even if you don't shop at Walmart it absolutely has an affect on every product you buy and everywhere you shop.  This is another important one that I highly recommend everyone read.

The Mercy Thompson series is another urban fantasy series that has become a staple of my reading.  (If you like paranormal romance, Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series is also excellent).  This may be my favourite book in the series to date - the last few books have dealt with the fallout of Mercy making these giant decisions on a political level.  This one deals with more emotional fallout and it is SO GOOD.  I don't want to talk too much about this one for those of you who have not read the rest of the series, but this is a staple of the urban and paranormal fantasy genre and a really great series to start with. (Other than October Daye obviously). Bonus points: Mercy half Native American so there is lots of skinwalker lore and runs her own mechanic shop which isn't just used as a prop to make her seem tough and independent (which she is) - she clearly loves cars and it shows up in plenty of plot points throughout the series.

Dear Girls - Ali Wong

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life

Ok so technically this is a memoir which isn't exactly the same as nonfiction, but whatever it counts!  Ali Wong is HILARIOUS, and reading a book about her escapades is always a good time.  I especially loved her stories about her falling in love with her husband and what it's like to be a new mom.  It's hilarious and gross, but so full of love.  If your someone who doesn't like crass language this isn't for you, but if it doesn't bother you this is a great one to pick up!

I honestly didn't think I was going to like this one when I started - I'm always a little leery of second chance romances depending on the circumstances surrounding why the first chance didn't work out and the male MC wasn't really my taste (I straight up can't remember his name even though I KNOW I could look it up).  So how does a romance with a male lead I'm ambivalent about end up on this list? EVERYTHING else about this story rocks (and tbh I think the male lead will work for a lot of other people).  I have been waiting for Violet to get her story so I'm glad she finally gets her HEA.  I LOVED how Violet's family - blood or adopted came out in full force to make sure she was ok.  The MC's are also in their 40s which is positively ancient by most historical romance standards and it is so refreshing to get that! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Best Books of 2019

Best Contemporary

This Song Will Save Your Life

This book felt so....real.  I'm really picky when music shows up in my books, and although this was not a classical music book I can always tell when an author really doesn't get what it means to be a performer or musician.  This author? She gets it.  There's a lot to unpack in this one - social misfit, bad relationships, suicide attempts, but it somehow it manages to keep to story engaging without hurling you into an emotional tail wind. (I run away from heavy books generally speaking. I read like...one a year). I would recommend this one even to people like me who don't read a lot of contemporary fiction!

Honorable mentions: Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Best Fantasy

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)

Non-Western based fantasy is one of my favourite types of settings, and The Poppy War does not fail to be everything I dreamed of on that front.    Based on Chinese history (specifically the Second Sino-Japanese War which I definitely read up on after finishing the book).  There's some badass magic, absolutely GORGEOUS world-building, and characters who you will love and hate in equal measures.  If you want brutal heart stomping as well, then yeah this is your book.

Honorable mentions: The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher

Best Paranormal Fantasy

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

An Artificial Night (October Daye, #3)

It's no surprise that Seanan shows up on this list, I've been a huge fan of her work under the name Mira Grant.  This is the first time I've tried one of her paranormal series and by god the things she manages to do!  This is book 3 of the series, and it's the book where I think the series really starts to find it's pacing.  It is ridiculous how Seanan is able to keep the stakes so high in each book (I'm on book 12 right now I think) - it never feels like she is copping out or that things get easier.  The stakes just change, and the relationships change and it is so crazy to me seeing where the characters start out.  I will definitely be rereading this series frequently because there are so many things you don't realize she's planned out by planting small things in these early books.  

Honorable Mentions: Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong
Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Best Science Fiction

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

I have mentioned SO MANY TIMES on the blog that Shusterman's Unwind is basically  a life changing book that everyone needs to read.  And guess what?  So is Dry.  It has all of the intense adrenaline pumping moments of Unwind, the utterly heart wrenching emotional beats, and characters you love (and love to hate).   It is also particularly relevant in today's world with all the wildfires in Australia, and the fires in California and...it's just so scarily easy to see this world happening.  I grew up in the area that they are describing, so it felt especially real to me.  I've been there for the drought rations, I know the parts of the cities the name.


Honorable Mentions: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Best Novella

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5)

Considering how much I ADORE Milan's Brothers Sinister series, it is incredible that she managed to write a novella I love even more - especially because I'm usually not much of a novella girl.  This had ALL the feels, and the characters are heart breaking and gorgeous and wonderful and UGGHHHH.  Plus, it obviously has that hot x factor I get in Milan's stories.  If you haven't read her Brothers Sinister series DO, and this is a great place to start!

Honorable Mentions: How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger 
Small Magics by Ilona Andrews

Best Non-Fiction

Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion

It's probably no surprise to any of you that a book about Douglas Adams (and specifically his work on Hitchhiker's Guide) made it onto my favourites list.  What is surprising is just how well Neil Gaiman was suited to write it - particularly since at the time he was basically a no-name writer. I'm not sure I'd recommend this for non-Adams aficionados..but really everyone should be so I am saying that.

Best Thriller/Mystery

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6)

This book was INSANE.  Tana French always manages to create a weirdly atmospheric/fabulism kind of vibe to her books (which is a very odd choice for a thriller generally speaking, but has become the most iconic part of her writing in my opinion).  This one is no different...except that it REALLY messes with your head. You're solving mysteries on so many different levels...this is probably my favourite Tana French so far.  Definitely recommend listening to it on audio as well, the narrator, Hilda Fay, was fabulous!

Best Graphic Novel

The Prince and the Dressmaker

This book is absolutely ADORABLE.  If you need something that is thoughtful, pretty, and pure fun pick this one up.  It was the perfect palate cleanser after reading Neal Shusterman and Patrick Ness back to back (...which...tell me why I did that again?)

Best Historical Romance

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4)

The Brothers Sinister series is one of my all time favourites in historical romance, and Milan manages to top my already high standards with this one.  Free has been a favourite character of mine who pops up in the other books and god I just LOVE her!  I really struggle with remembering names and keeping characters straight across romance, but she is definitely one I never mix up.  It's dark, it's funny, you've got a male lead who loves everything about how strong Free is...it's like it was written specifically with everything I love in mind.

Honorable mentions: The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian
     The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Best Contemporary Romance

Trade Me by Courtney Milan

Trade Me (Cyclone, #1)

Ok so I didn't mean to pick so many Courtney Milan books as my favourites but...I can't lie about it right?  This book was EVERYTHING.  EVERYTHING.  So many things about the gender roles are flipped, it's interracial, it's so thoughtful with how it deals with some pretty tricky subject material, family is featured, friendship is featured.  It had all the feels, all the swoons, and beautiful writing to boot.  When I saw my library didn't have the rest of this series I immediately bought the next one (Which is, shockingly, excellent.  Who would have guessed?)

Honorable Mentions: One and Only by Jenny Holiday
 A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

Best "Other" Romance

Guardian by Emmy Chandler

Guardian (Prison Planet, #1)

This book basically changed the entire trajectory of my reading for the next couple years is my guess.  Until this year I pretty much exclusively read historical romances.  I started reading contemporaries and my mind was kind of blown that there were so many out there that really spoke to me.  I thought I was going out of my comfort zone and reading really diversely!


This book is so far from a historical romance.  It's crazy dark, (TW: rape, violence, etc) and somehow managed to make consent at the forefront all the time, it's ridiculously hot, and there's this whole massive world building involved.

GUYS. ROMANCE. WITH HUGE AMOUNTS OF WORLD BUILDING.  This is a thing that exists??? I can have all the sci-fi/fantasy places I want and it can be dark and intense AND I can be guaranteed a happily ever after???  As someone who read high fantasy for 90% of my reading life, I've felt a little lost now that I've lost my stomach for the brutal big fantasies.  This? This could save my reading life.

Late as usual, but again...not a surprise for anyone still reading.  What were your 2019 favourites?

Friday, July 19, 2019

When your reading tastes change: or Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3)

Guys I just don't know why I do this to myself.

First let me start off by saying: Patrick Ness is an AMAZING author, and you should absolutely read this series! It's incredibly well crafted in every possible way.  The world that Ness has built is so entirely different than any other book I've ever read. (Sidenote: I am curious how the audiobook versions of these work, because font plays such a big role in reading these and helping to create the world building).  You also fall in love with characters that you never thought you could possibly forgive, and the characters you love TO PIECES make some truly awful choices - and through all of it, your heart is just breaking for every character as you see these horrible decisions they make that are being informed partially by circumstance and partially through trauma.  It is really hard to balance all of this and maintain the heart of each character while keeping an incredibly intense plot going all set in a very foreign type of world building.  To say that Patrick Ness is a master at his craft is an understatement.


I don't think I can read soul destroying books the way I used to. I just don't have it in me. I'm going to have to seriously consider whether I am going to read any of Ness's other books, because I just really don't know if I can put myself through that. And again - he is an INCREDIBLE author! I've just changed a lot as a reader, and for whatever reasons am only capable of small amounts of emotional pain here and needs lots of fluff.  AND I JUST READ A SHUSTERMAN NOVEL AND TWO NESS NOVELS BACK TO BACK BECAUSE I AM CLEARLY A SADIST. Or an idiot. (I'm an idiot). So perhaps my mistake was just lumping in 3 incredibly emotionally fraught stories together back to back, and maybe I'll be able to read the tough books again.

I feel I used to seek these stories out more frequently though back when I first started blogging. I used to THRIVE on the soul crushing brutality and felt like stories didn't ring true unless someone had something utterly awful happen to them/die.  (I crowned Sarah Rees Brennan the True Queen of heart stompery.  I still stand by absolutely LOVING her writing).  I do think that I was a lot more dismissive of "fluffy stories", (I have admitted more than once that I keep finding hidden pockets of snobbery left in me on reading tastes) and while I have always loved historical romances, I thought paranormal romances were AWFUL.  Here we are years later, and for the past year, paranormal romance has ended up being my MOST read genre, and I've been finding many contemporary (of the fluffy sort) stories that I am actually excited to get my hands on.

So....what changed?

I'm not entirely sure, to be honest.  Some of it is that is completely normal (and expected) for reading tastes to change. That's just part of human and tastes are always evolving. I guess I just always thought I would actually start liking adult contemporary (of the unhappy marriages and middle age crises) or go back to reading more classics. I didn't see myself as going towards lighter fare.  (It does look as if I will never find adult contemporary literature any less baffling, but then who knows?).  I have a few theories:

1. My only prior experience to paranormal romance had basically been Twilight.  While I appreciate what it did for YA literature in the marketing sense, and how many readers it got back into reading at all, it's definitely not what I'm looking for.  As I've read more in the genre it is clear how much diversity and positive sexuality you find readily available. So it's a combination of finding writing that I find engaging and not necessarily enjoying paranormal romance aimed at young adults (and to be fair, I'm hardly in the correct demographic for that anymore).

2. Most of my experience with contemporary has been with "issue" books, which clearly with my not being able to handle traumatic experiences is probably still not a good choice for me at the moment.  Again, I think it's been a combination of me overcoming some stigmas that I have undeservedly set up, and a matter of discovering writing styles that suit me well.  Even in the books that rip my heart out, I very much enjoy snark and humour (I reiterate, Sarah Rees Brennan is QUEEN.)

3. Maybe being younger makes you more resilient to tragic reading experiences, from the sheer standpoint that statistically the longer you live the more likely you are to have them (not always true, of course).  While I'd like to think this is the case, I was definitely reading brutal books at a time when I was dealing with multiple loved ones having died or dealing with terminal illness, so I'm not sure this one rings true for me.  That being said, there has been some of that going on in the past year, so maybe there is something to be said for it.  Maybe I'm just dealing with grief a little differently?  Regardless, I've definitely reached my threshold of being able to cope with books that hurt.  Fluffy books can still challenge how I think about the world, but make me feel good about the world at the end of it.

So where does that leave me?  I do think books like this series are important.  I do think that I would be missing out if I stopped reading books like these.  And maybe this is just a phase, like not reading paranormal romance was and I'll be able to come back.  After all, it took me THREE YEARS to recover from the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, so maybe it's just a matter of time.  (And I'll have to be VERY choosy about what sad books I read since it is clear I am not going to get to many of them). 

Needless to say, I am going to be reading the equivalent of cotton candy for a while I think.  Send me all your fluffiest recommendations in any genre!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Top Ten Autobuy Authors

Hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl

A few disclaimers and notes about my choices:

1. The author photo is either from their Goodreads account or website, and the book chosen was the most popular on their list.

2. I either don't own every book they have written, or they are still alive and being published

Tamora Pierce  Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)

This is OBVIOUSLY going to be my number one choice. I have been buying (or have books being bought for me) her books since I was seven years old. She is one of three authors on this list I automatically pre-order books from (see the next two authors on the list for that) without question or hesitation.  I know I'm not the only one in saying that Tammy's writings have been hugely influential on my life, and in some ways have shaped who I am both as a read and a person.  

As an added note, like most bloggers I know, I grew up on her Tortall novels and am most familiar with those.  I know a lot of people who have read her Tortall novels, but not her Circle of Magic novels and I think that is such a shame!  While they are geared, for more of a middle grade audience, rather than a young adult one, there is SO much she puts in there that you don't necessarily get in her Tortall books until much later. (Racial diversity? Check. LGBTQ representation? Check. Different body sizes, including fat? Check.  All of the above found in at least one main character?  Check.)

Robin McKinley   Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
*I am....kind of surprised? I would not have pegged this as her most popular book by a LONG shot, but according to Goodreads I am Extremely Wrong about this. It is in fact my least favourite of all her books, although still a pretty good book regardless.  I would have thought The Blue Sword was more popular *shrugs*

Robin McKinley is another author I've been reading and buying since I was about seven years old.  She writes fantasy, many of which are classic retellings (my favourites being Deerskin and Spindle's End).  I will say she's an author I don't think is for everyone - I absolutely ADORE her long tangential descriptions, but I'm not sure everyone has the patience for that.  For me they add the perfect about of humour, as well as help deepen understanding of characters and world building.  She has a blog she used to regularly update, but she's been MIA for the past year and hasn't published a new book in quite a few years now (she lost her husband a few years back and it's been very heartbreaking) and it's made me worry about her a bit. So here's hoping I DON'T actually own all of her books and that she is doing ok!

Intisar Khanani   Thorn

I met Intisar at a con I go to see Tamora Pierce actually!  She is the only author I can think of who I met and then read.  So I'm telling you now, if you're on the fence about it at all, you SHOULD go read her books.  (Especially since in my list of three auto-no-hesitation-buy books she's the youngest of the lot and I would like her to keep publishing books FOREVER).  Also, if she is at a con near you, you should definitely go hear her speak and then say hi.  I own every single one of her books (some in multiple formats, which is something I only do for authors who I need to be able to read their books AT ANY MOMENT and still hold a special place for the hard copies.)  In fact, my last post was about her rerelease of Thorn! While you'll have to wait until 2020 for that one, her Sunbolt Chronicles are available now. If you like non-Western based fantasy, magic, resourceful heroines,  and racial diversity in your characters - this is for you!

Tanith Lee     Wolf Tower (Claidi Journals, #1)
*While Wolf Tower was my own introduction to Tanith Lee's work, and I do highly recommend the series, I don't think it is very representative of her writing as a whole. For something a little more in line with the rest of her writing, but still as a good starting point for her I'd probably recommend The Silver Metal Lover.

I've mentioned on the blog before that I have a weird relationship with Tanith Lee's writing.  Her writing is just so....weird.  Sometimes delightfully so, sometimes confusingly so, but always unapologetically so.  That's really what the key is in her writing - no matter how she frames her characters (almost entirely unlikeable the lot of them) they are always extremely unapologetic in their power, or their apathy, vulnerability, or sometimes even in their choice to be powerless.  No matter their choices - good, bad, or just plain stupid - they are fierce.  At the end of the day, even if I find problematic things, Tanith Lee was writing all different types of women back in the 70s - and she was writing it in genre fiction at that!  I have often lamented that it is a shame she is not nearly as well known as she deserved given the sheer magnitude of her catalogue, influence on other writers, and many awards, but I try to make up for it for finding as many copies of her work as I can (which, while easier than when I spoke of it in my earlier post, is still somewhat of a challenge at times).

Madeleine L'Engle   A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1)

There's a theme here that the authors I automatically buy are from my formative years, but I suppose you grow up with an author and you know you'll love them.  I've just now started reading some of L'Engle's journals and adult works, and unsurprisingly they contain in them many of the things that I find joyful and inspiring in her fictional books and work for children.   I have always loved that L'Engle finds ways that science and Christianity (or perhaps religion in general, but from what I remember it was Christianity specifically) not only coexist, but make MORE sense together and enhance the understanding of the other.  In doing this she always makes both seem magical and wondrous.  As a nonreligious person, particularly one who grew up in an area where during the evolutionary unit of science parents could choose to have their students take a bus to bible study instead, I have always appreciated this.  Her writing always has this sense of wonder to it, and is interspersed with science, philosophy, as wells as a quiet contemplative style.

Jessie L. Star   So Much to Learn
*Her most popular book is actually one I haven't read yet, which bodes well for me!  

I actually originally read Jessie L. Star when she was publishing on fictionpress.net!  I was delighted when she decided to publish her works and if I haven't bought all of them quite yet, I'm pretty close.  (And for you Aussies out there, here's another Aussie author for you!)  I am extremely picky about contemporary and contemporary romance, so the fact that I have anyone writing in that genre on this list should tell you boatloads about the quality of her work.  There's plenty of banter and snark, but her stories still have real substance in them to offset any fluffiness, and all of her characters feel like real, wonderfully flawed people.  Private Lives, Public Property is my personal favourite (I've reread it SO MANY TIMES), but really you can't go wrong with any of her works.  Pick your favourite trope (hate to love? wallflowers? friends to lovers? secret romance? second chance? fake romance?  SHE HAS THEM ALL).

Anne McCaffrey   Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern, #1)

Anne McCaffrey is arguably one of the most influential science fiction writers of her time (don't be fooled by the dragons - it IS science fiction).  She was the first woman to win the Hugo Award as well as the first woman to win the Nebula Award, and she was publishing science fiction all the way back in the 60s!  So...needless to say she's an author I've always admired.  While I am most familiar with her books set in Pern, The Ship Who Sang (the first in her Brainship series) made my best of 2018 books for being so ahead of its time (let alone books we see now).  Her different series are really very different from each other, and I really think there's something for anyone who like science fiction (and fantasy - because while the dragon books are science fiction, fantasy lovers will definitely enjoy them).

Author Jacqueline Carey   Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)

The Kushiel series is one of my all time favourite fantasy series.  For me (and many others), it is the sexier, more feminist version of Game of Thrones - just as intricate and filled with political intrigue, but with more female power and lots more sexy good times instead of rape.  The whole world-building is around sex, but not in a titillating sort of way, and again very empowering.  While her Kushiel's series isn't for everyone, Jacqueline Carey also writes plenty of very fun paranormal romance! Her work features a lot of diversity both racial and romantic (and maybe trans? I can't remember). An extra big bonus in my book - lots of bi representation!!

Sarah MacLean   Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)

No matter what book it is Sarah MacLean is one of the most reliably excellent romance authors I read. I don't think I've ever rated one of her books poorly.  While she isn't as quippy as Julia Quinn (who I also recommend), there's plenty of humour and she has all my favourite romance tropes, while still managing to stand separate from many other romances with the same tropes.  I am particularly forgetful, and when I read romance it tends to be a large binge, so the fact that I remember any of her characters, let alone most (all?) of them is a testament to them feeling fully realized.

   Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

Gail Carriger is just pure steampunk-paranormal romance FUN. There's simply no other way to put it.  It's fluffy and hilarious and ridiculous and just all the best things.  I always know that I'm safe to buy something I will reread when I get one of her books. (Added bonus, she has a very cool blog dedicated to fashion  that I definitely recommend).

Honorable Mentions

Both of the following authors get a special category because it's not so much that I'll autobuy their books (although I would, but I'm usually broke so I don't.  Almost all of the above authors I autobuy and used bookstores or thrift stores (minus the first three), so I can afford to autobuy them!). It's more that they have a book that every time I find a copy I will buy it - I will buy ALL the copies just so I can give them to people so that they can read it because they MUST.

Neal ShustermanUnwind (Unwind, #1)         

Unwind was a book that SHOOK ME.  I mean...I mentioned it on the blog oh, I don't know only a billion times, and devoted a rare post solely to the necessity of reading this book.  I don't want to say too much about it because it's been so long I won't be able to remember what is spoilers or not, but the general premise is that abortion is no longer legal. If you don't want to keep the baby you can "stork" them (leave them on a family's doorstep) and they have to raise them.  But as a compromise, between the ages of 13-17, if you have a troublesome teen you can't manage (or if they are orphans), they can be sent to the government to be "unwound"...or in other words, their body parts can be used to save other people's lives.  Yeah. And the crazy thing is that so much of the technology discussed in the series EXISTS.  I don't think many books should be required reading (in fact it is a list of two and it is this book and the one below) BUT EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS.

 Libba Bray   Beauty Queens

Ok, I'm betting that any of you who are regular readers thought I was going to out Going Bovine since that book absolutely WRECKED ME and I went on about it forever.  PYSCH!  (It is an excellent book, but very weird and not for everyone I admit).  Beauty Queens is the book we are here to discuss today, and if you have not read it, you should!  It's cynical, and hilarious, and feminist, and I'm not kidding - it should be required reading. For everyone.  

Monday, July 8, 2019

Thorn - In which a favourite book gets a cover reveal and giveaway!

Many of you have heard me mention Intisar Khanani's books in the past.  She's an author I've been a huge fan of for years now, and Thorn was the very first book of hers I read.  In a very exciting turn of events, she got picked up by HarperTeen and they are republishing this - so even if you read the original Thorn there have been a lot of changes so it is worthwhile to check out a copy of the new version!

I love Intisar's works for a few reasons.  If you know me at all, you know that fairy tale retellings, and non-Western based fantasy settings are my JAM.  Intisar's works are chock full of this!  Beyond that, she is really interesting as an author. She's spoken at Chessiecon on panels multiple times, and has been one of the highlights on every panel I've seen her on.  Every time she spoke it was well thought out, to the point, and thought provoking.  She brings all of these qualities to her writing, which again is why she has remained a favourite author of mine since I first picked up her books.  If that isn't enough to convince you to pick this book up, read on for excerpts as well as a giveaway!

Title: Thorn
Series: A standalone in the “Dauntless Path” world
Author: Intisar Khanani (http://booksbyintisar.com)
Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek (http://www.seedlingsonline.com)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: March 24, 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Price: US $18.99 (Hardcover), US $9.99 (e-book)
Buy it: Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Google Play


A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own.

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

About the author:

Website: http://booksbyintisar.com

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. She is the author of The Sunbolt Chronicles and Thorn (HarperTeen 2020). 


I lead the king down to the back entrance to the gardens, and we walk along between plots of dill, thyme, and chives. I wait, knowing he will speak when he is ready.

“How much does your mother confide in you?” he asks as we near the middle of the gardens.

I slide a look at him from the corner of my eye. “Enough. My lord.”

His lips quirk, the first true smile I have seen from him. “Is that honest?”

I pause beside a bed of borage. “How much do I need to know, my lord? You are here seeking a wife for your son.”

“I am,” he agrees. “How often do you participate in the discussions between your mother and the council?”

“I don’t, my lord. You should know I am not . . .” I hesitate, aware that I have no place telling this king what he should or should not know. Or jeopardizing such an alliance for my land.

“Not what?”

I struggle to find an appropriate way to finish. “Not—it is not thought my place to attend such meetings.”

“You would never inherit the throne?”

I could inherit, it is true, but I doubt the council would allow it given my history—and certainly not now that I might marry into another royal family, one that would be happy to add our lands to their own. Either way, should my brother die, the council would certainly pass over me in favor of our nearest cousin. “It is unlikely,” I say finally.

“I doubt that,” the king says. “It has been my experience that even young men die. What you mean to say is your council would not accept you should your brother die without issue and you were yet unwed. Why?”

If he knows all the answers, why is he asking? I look him in the eye and quip, “Perhaps I am too honest, my lord.”

He laughs. “And too straightforward. You will have to learn to play with your words more.” He reaches out, his fingertips brushing my arm where my brother held me. I flinch back reflexively, as if the bruises have already darkened—as if he could see them through my sleeve. He watches me, his eyes glinting in the sunlight. “Once you are Menaiya’s,” he says, “your brother will never hurt you again.”