At the beginning of the year for the past few years I have made a "books I enjoyed" post for the previous year, which is a list of the books I read during the year and particularly enjoyed. Previous posts can be found here, if you're interested, but let's proceed to 2015's books. Note that I am sticking to books that I read for the first time in 2015, because I've probably already told you how much I like the ones I re-read, otherwise they wouldn't be re-reads, natch.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater
Book 3 of the Raven Cycle YA series, the first two of which (The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves) I had on my list last year. These books, people, UGH. They are so good I can hardly bear it. This is what I said about them last year, and it still holds true:
Ostensibly the series is about a group of teenagers searching for the grave of a Welsh king they believe can be revived, but really it’s about forging friendships and family and falling in love for the first time and working out who you are as you grow up and how everything is so incredibly important and dramatic when you’re young. They’re killing me, in the best possible way.
The fourth and final book in the series, The Raven King, is out at the end of April and I CANNOT WAIT. But I'm also dreading it because it's going to be an emotional rollercoaster of grand proportions. UGH. THESE BOOKS. They kill me.
The Love Lesson series, by Heidi Cullinan
Specifically, I'm talking about Love Lessons, Fever Pitch and Lonely Hearts, I have not read the free short as yet. I listened to all these in audiobook format, and I'm lumping them together because they are pretty great. As you'll see later, I am totally there for college-set romances of any stripe, so these were right up my alley. The audiobooks were beautifully read by Iggy Toma, and aside from there being a few too many references to anime that I had no idea about in Lonely Hearts, and being a tad sappy in places in all three books, I enjoyed them a lot.
The Understatement of the Year, by Sarina Bowen
Ah, my favourite trope! Old friends harbouring some kind of unresolved issue of the romantic kind meet again years later. I would read the shit out of this trope until the end of time and never get tired of it. I've even written it, that's how much I love it so. This one is totally worth the time investment, and the rest of the series I've read is pretty good too, for those of you who read M/F. Also, they're college set, so BONUS.
Him, by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Here's another old-friends-with-issues-meet-again book. Told you I loved that trope. And this one was a GREAT example of it. SO GOOD, I could not stop reading it. This one is getting a sequel too, and I am there for it 100%. This one and the one above also features something else that became a theme of my books read this year: hockey. I have absolutely NFA what hockey's about, but holy shit I love reading romances about people who play it.
Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch
I love a good urban fantasy/magical realism tale, and this series of books fits the bill perfectly. Hapless police constable Peter Grant finds out that there's a lot more to the goings-on in London than he ever anticipated, and before he can blink he's neck deep in it. These are so good. I'm listening to them in audiobook format, and if you are at all fan of audiobooks, I recommend these unreservedly. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does an amazing job with the narration.
Breakaway, by Avon Gale
Hockey book #3 to make the list. What can I say? I'd apologise, but I'm not sorry at all. This one is enjoyable - a young man who's amazing at hockey but who has no social skills whatsoever gets involved with a veteran player in a rival team. Hi-jinks ensue. This is the first in a series, and I can tell you now that the second book (Save of the Game) will be making it onto my "books I enjoyed in 2016" list for sure.
The Deal, by Elle Kennedy
This book combines two of my favourite things: college setting, and hockey. And it is DELIGHTFUL. I really loved this one, I'd go so far as to say that it is a strong contender for my favourite book of the year. I just really loved the interaction between Garrett and Hannah. Definitely recommended.
It's that last one that's knocked me for a six. Several women in my circle have said to me that we've all known someone that this has happened to, and that's true, but for me this is the first person who's been really close to me who hasn't made it. Breast cancer is not in my family, and maybe I am still a bit young to have known that many people with breast cancer, and so my chance of being close with someone who died from it is smaller, I don't know. What I do know is that I have no desire to repeat this experience again. I have cried inconsolably more in the last 3 weeks than I have in the last 3 years, possibly more than in the last 3 decades. Tomorrow is the funeral, and I am speaking for a few minutes at the service. I've decided that since my friend was one of the jolliest, funniest people that I know, that I'll tell a funny story involving her so I can laugh for a while, and remember her how she'd want to be remembered.
I know things will get better. Even now, they're better than they were at the beginning of the week. It's the nature of these things, isn't it? We can't crumple into a heap for too long, because the world goes on around us in ways that force our participation. So I'll get there eventually. It might just take a little while, that's all.
Needless to say, I've done absolutely no writing recently. I feel very bad for those blog visitors who look at my Coming Soon page and constantly see sweet FA. I'm not the type of writer who can write in the face of massive emotional turmoil, I'm afraid. But maybe I'll put a few words down tonight, and a few more down tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. One foot in front of the other and all that.
(Originally posted at Wordpress August 2nd. Forgot to crosspost, whoops)
2015 is turning out to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I have a very intense and mentally draining day job, which tends to ebb and flow in terms of workload, but I can safely say that we are the busiest that we have been in years, with no sign of it slowing down. Add to that some serious health issues being dealt with by people close to me, and all I can say is thank God it's Easter next week because I am so tired I can hardly bear it.
Having said that, I have been writing - my current WIP is around 53,000 words at the moment, so not insignificant. Given that I never plan things I'm not sure how long it'll end up being, but at least 80,000 I'd imagine. So a while to go yet, but it's getting there.
I hope you're all well, and getting much more sleep than I am!
In no particular order:
Infected: Bloodlines by Andrea Speed
The continuing adventures of Roan McKichan. If you're a reader of M/M and you don't know of this series by now, you either don't read paranormal, or you've been living under a rock. I am very, very far behind on them, because I find them incredibly intense, and sometimes I'm simply not in the mood for that. Having said that, I think they're excellent, and this one was heartbreaking. Absolutely, positively heartbreaking. I applaud Andrea for doing what she did with this one, because it was awful. But so incredibly realistic, it took my breath away.
Billy's Bones by Jamie Fessenden
A therapist sees a patient who attempted suicide, just the once. Three years later, they cross paths outside of the office, and a relationship develops, complicated by traumatic amnesia and a decades-old unsolved murder. This book has some triggering themes, but it was excellent. I couldn't put it down.
Shaking the Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus
A single father struggles to find a life for himself while taking care of his deaf son and dealing with his quirky family. I found this charming, funny and sad. While I think some people were offended by the political incorrectness of some of the book, I found it realistic - I don't know many families without a redneck bigmouth somewhere in the tree, and I think the portrayal of the frustrations of a parent dealing with a disabled child was absolutely spot on.
Machine by KZ Snow
I have waxed lyrical about the books in this series before, twice. I love them. All of them. I am very sad there will not be more of them. In this one, Fan (who I LOVE) struggles with his bipolarity and his past. If you have not read these, and are in any way a fan of steampunk/alternative universes, I recommend them all.
Lick by Kylie Scott
A girl goes to Vegas to celebrate her 21st birthday. She wakes up the next morning with a raging hangover, a tattoo, a scorchingly hot man in her room, and a ring on her wedding finger which matches the one on his. And she has no memory of any of it. Woops! This is labelled as new adult, and it's full of cliches but I thought it was great. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The Border by Kim Fielding
Two men on opposing sides of a war find they're not really enemies after all. This one was lovely, and reminded me a lot of the movie Joyeux Noel, which I also liked very much and is also totally worth spending time on.
The Protector by Cooper West
In this universe, law enforcement includes bonded human/dog shifter pairs called guardsmen. The shifter of the pair is not supposed to live beyond the death of the human half, let alone bond to another handler. Until one does. This was an unusual take on paranormal law enforcement and the emotional connections of bonded pairs, and I really liked it.
Most Beautiful Words by Raine O'Tierney
This book has quite the eyebrow-raising premise - an M/M romance narrated by a 12 year old girl? Um, no. No thanks. But it needs to be given a chance, because how much Autumn loves her grandfather is charming, and as his layers and his history are revealed you get more and more sucked in; at least, I did. And the M/M side of things is highly, devastatingly romantic.
In Me an Invincible Summer by Ryan Loveless
Closeted gay man and action movie star Joe Nestra signs up to do a gay-themed movie, and the effect doing the movie has on him causes his carefully constructed life to fall down around him. Fair warning, Joe is a dick at first, but as I read on, I got more and more engrossed. By halfway through I really needed to know how it would end for Joe. It ends on a bit of a happy-for-now where his life as a whole is concerned, but I felt the treatment of him as a gay action movie star (once it was known) was realistic.
Body Option by Talya Andor
Soldier Grant Badu is partnered with a human-inside-a-machine, Trefoil Argent. Argent has an option to take a human body, but has not, for reasons unknown to Grant. Grant doesn't want to pry, but when Argent is forced into taking his body option to complete a dangerous mission, they can no longer avoid talking about it. This was a very, very interesting story. There were certain sensitive aspects of the plot which were handled non-offensively, which I appreciated. I enjoyed it.
The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater
These are part of a 4-book young adult series called the Raven Cycle, and they are SO GOOD. I can't even express how much I loved them. I've got the third one on order at the library (I am listening to them in audiobook, which I get through the library because they are outrageously priced in my country), but I'm torn about listening to it because then I will have to wait FOREVER for the fourth one to come out (later this year) and then it's all going to end in tragedy and I will DIE. Ugh.
These were definitely the best books I read all year. Ostensibly the series is about a group of teenagers searching for the grave of a Welsh king they believe can be revived, but really it's about forging friendships and family and falling in love for the first time and working out who you are as you grow up and how everything is so incredibly important and dramatic when you're young. They're killing me, in the best possible way.
OK, I'll stop now! If you made it this far, thanks for reading my rambling, and hope you found something that sounds like it's up your alley. Here's to a good reading year in 2015!
For the entire month of January, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is showcasing 28 authors from Australia and New Zealand. Journey by way of these authors stories and settings through the mountainous regions and rocky coasts, and cities of New Zealand, or the vastly different and beautiful territories of Australia! Get to know the authors and let them act as your travel guides, introducing you to faraway countries, places they call home.
Think everyone in the US, CAN, AUS, and NZ all speak the same English? Oh the joy of discovering what an “esky”, “chilly bin”, “jandals”, “mozzie” or even a “woop-woop” is. Each day brings a new author, new books, new giveaways and, yes, new surprises.
In addition to these wonderful authors and their novels, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has multiple event prizes to be awarded to readers who participate in the Down Under Author Showcase Scavenger Hunt. Visit each author’s page in January, search out the Scavenger Hunt word or phrase, and then follow the directions on the Showcase page at our website.
For all the details and information for our first January Down Under Author Showcase, visit http://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com
Check out our participating authors below (in no particular order):
N.R. Walker * Christian Baines * Anne Barwell * Nic Starr * Renae Kaye * Meredith Shayne * John Terry Moore * John Wiltshire * Lily Veldon * Barry Lowe * L.J. LaBarthe * Beany Sparks * Jack Byrne * Nicki J. Markus * Michelle Rae * A.B. Gayle * Lisa Harris * Isabelle Rowan * N.J. Nielson * Bette Browne * Lisa Henry * Toni Griffin * Pelaam * RJ Jones * Penny Brandon * Cecil Wilde * Ellen Cross * Maggie Nash
Plus Down Under publishers:
Wayward Ink Press * BDPublications
I talk about Australia versus New Zealand at Two Men Are Better Than One (and highlight a HILARIOUS video from a Flight of the Conchords episode)
At My Fiction Nook, there's an exclusive excerpt from the book, plus a 4-star review from Sandra, who says:
I loved the descriptions of the landscape, loved how the author didn't shy back from showing the reality of shearing, working with sheep, and how hard these men work for the money they make. The writing is crisp, straight-forward, realistic and organic. A wonderfully rounded story, a character study of two men, and a romance that is, while quiet, also strong and enduring.
I'm also delighted to report that Cutting Out has been nominated in two categories in the Goodreads Member's Choice Awards - Best Contemporary/Mainstream and Best Blue Collar. Thanks so much to those who nominated it!
You have to be a member of the group to vote, but if you are, the topic at the group is here. Voting opens November 28th.
- I answer some great interview questions from Gen at SydneyGen Reads
- I talk about shearing competitions at Erotica For All
- The Novel Approach gets some of my gushing about Queenstown, plus some photos of the gorgeous Otago-region scenery
- The Aussie accent and slang is the subject of my blog post at Zipper Rippers
- I talk about the life of a New Zealand shearer at Hearts on Fire Reviews
- Finally, CJ Baty interviews me over at her blog. I manage to talk about my love of reality TV once again!
Sean Vargos is quiet, well respected, and dedicated to his job. But Dave Simpson sees Sean as more than a coworker. He's fought his attraction to Sean for months but can't get him out of his thoughts.
They tentatively embark on a relationship, but Sean isn’t all that he seems. He struggles to put his past behind him and overcome his fears.
Dave, with his good looks and open nature, accepts that sometimes Sean’s doubts get the better of him and he runs. Dave just wants the chance to show Sean he can be trusted and the past doesn't have to dictate their future.
Now it's time for you to meet Shane, from my newly released novel, Cutting Out.
What is the name of your character?
Shane Cooper, Coop to his friends. "That Aussie bastard" to people who are not his friends. :)
Is he a fictional or a historic person?
Most definitely fictional.
When and where is the story set?
Cutting Out is a contemporary romance set in New Zealand, mostly in the shearing sheds of various sheep farms across the country. Queenstown and Christchurch also feature.
What should we know about him?
He's Australian, something that is rare enough in New Zealand that everybody constantly comments on it. He's been in New Zealand for 10 years, after leaving Australia for reasons that he never talks about. He's a shearer at the top of his game, earning the title of gun shearer without breaking a sweat. He turns 40 during the course of the story, and all he sees when he looks in the mirror is the grey in his hair and the crows feet at the corners of his eyes.
What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
Meeting a young shearer by the name of Lachlan Moore. Fifteen years Shane's junior, when we meet Lachie he's a bit of a party boy, but then he suffers a personal tragedy during the Christchurch earthquake that changes his life forever. Shane wants to get to know Lachie more than he's wanted anything for a while, but Lachie's issues build a sturdy, almost-insurmountable wall between them.
What is the personal goal of the character?
To have a quiet, peaceful life. He's ready to settle down and find someone who's more than just a one-night fling.
Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The book is called Cutting Out, and it's available now from Bottom Drawer Publications
A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.
Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.
As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.
Now to introduce you to the two authors who I'm handing the blog hop baton to. Both of these lovely ladies will be posting on November 3rd, so watch out for their posts. Enjoy the rest of the blog hop!
LJ LaBarthe (Blog: http://misslj_author.livejournal.com/)
A long-term friend of mine, LJ has just released Mythica from Bottom Drawer Publications.
Caiden Jones is part-selkie and lives an idyllic life by the sea in South Australia. He’s had his fair share of disappointments, like being kept out of the Navy due to his mythica status, but overall he’s got a pretty good life. Until he’s in the wrong place at the right time.
Cai steps in to subdue an out-of-control minotaur and in the process suffers a serious injury to his ribs. As Cai struggles to breathe, a gorgeous suit-clad sy’lph with mesmerising blue eyes races to his rescue. When it’s learned that the minotaur was poisoned, the sy’lph, Gray, makes it his personal mission to keep Cai and his family safe.
Cai has always harboured some resentment towards the sy’lph because of their easy acceptance into the community, so the attraction he feels for Gray takes him by surprise. But how can they find out what this might mean when the lives of Cai and his family are endangered by someone closer than they realise?
Renae Kaye (Blog: http://renaekaye.weebly.com/renae-blogs)
Renae is a woman after my own heart; that is, she likes to write about shearers. Her new release, The Shearing Gun, is available from Dreamspinner Press.
At twenty-five, Hank owns a small parcel of land in Australia’s rural southwest where he supplements his income from the property with seasonal shearing. Hank is a “shearing gun”—an ace shearer able to shear large numbers of sheep in a single day. His own father kicked him out when his sexuality was revealed, and since no one would ever hire a gay shearer, Hank has remained firmly closeted ever since.
Elliot is the newbie doctor in town—city-born and somewhat shell-shocked from his transplant to the country. When a football injury brings Hank to Elliot’s attention, an inappropriate sexual glance and the stuttered apology afterward kickstarts their friendship. Romance and love soon blossom, but it’s hard for either of them to hope for anything permanent. As if the constant threat of being caught isn’t enough, Elliot’s contract runs out after only a year.