My favorite books of the last decade

50 Favorite books from 2010 – 2019

Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy did her best books of the decade post which I thought was great so I’ve created my own. It was lots of fun to look back at the last 10 years and remember books I’ve loved. I’ve kept a spreadsheet of the books I’ve read every year since 2004 so I went back through my spreadsheets and picked out these books. I didn’t give all of them an A, but these are the ones that have stuck with me.

I’ve listed anywhere from three to six favorite books a year. These books span a number of genres and some are books published that year and some are books published years and years ago. I don’t review all the books I read so if I have a review for the book on my blog I will show a link after the book covers. (I started my blog during 2013 so there are no reviews before that.)

2019

Doggirl by Robin Brande

2018

What the Dog Ate by Jackie Bouchard

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

2017

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

2016

Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima

Cold in the Earth by Aline Templeton

In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany

2015

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Lock In by John Scalzi

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Martian by Andy Weir

2014

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

Iron Night by M.L. Brennan

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

2013

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Death Masks by Jim Butcher

The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst

2012

2011

2010

Have you read any of these books? How did you like them? Are any of them favorites of yours?

May books on my list

These are the May books on my list. I keep a list of all the books that I might want to read and then each month take the books for that month to post on my blog.

books-on-my-listI don’t buy all the books (not during the month they’re released at least)–since I already have way too many books to read and some of the new books are expensive. I’m trying to stick to a budget.

But the list I make each month helps me not forget books. The Goodreads links help me keep track of these books.

And I hope people reading my post may find some new books, too! I also hope they will point me toward books I missed.

May 3

only-belovedOnly Beloved

by Mary Balogh

Series: The Survivor’s Club #7

Published by Signet

Genre: Historical Romance

400 pages

Synopsis: For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again.

Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.

For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?

admiralAdmiral

by Sean Danker

Series: Evagardian #1

Published by Roc

Genre: Military Science Fiction

320 pages

Synopsis: He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer.

Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

the-woman-in-blueThe Woman in Blue

by Elly Griffiths

Series: Ruth Galloway #8

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Mystery

368 pages

Synopsis: Known as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again.

 warrior-witchWarrior Witch

by Danielle L. Jensen

Series: The Malediction Trilogy #3

Published by Angry Robot

Genre: YA fantasy

384 pages

Synopsis: Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

the-summer-dragonThe Summer Dragon

by Todd Lockwood

Series: The Evertide Series #1

Published by DAW

Genre: Fantasy

512 pages

Synopsis: The debut novel from the acclaimed illustrator—a high fantasy adventure featuring dragons and deadly politics.

Maia and her family raise dragons for the political war machine. As she comes of age, she anticipates a dragon of her own to add to the stable of breeding parents. Her peaceful life is shattered when the Summer Dragon—one of the rare and mythical High Dragons—makes an appearance in her quiet valley. Political factions vie for control of the implied message, threatening her aspirations, her aerie, her entire way of life.

The bond between dragons and their riders is deep and life-long, and Maia’s desire for a dragon of her own to train, ride, fly, and love drives her to take a risk that puts her life at stake. She is swept into an adventure that pits her against the deathless Horrors, thralls of the enemy, and a faceless creature drawn from her fear. In her fight to preserve everything she knows and loves, she exposes a conspiracy, unearths an ancient civilization, and challenges her understanding of her world—and of herself.

the-raftThe Raft

by Fred Strydom

Series: Unknown

Published by Talos

Genre: Science Fiction

432 pages

Synopsis: “The day every person on earth lost his and her memory was not a day at all. In people’s minds there was no actual event. . . and thus it could be followed by no period of shock or mourning. There could be no catharsis. Everyone was simply reset to zero.”

On Day Zero, the collapse of civilization was as instantaneous as it was inevitable. A mysterious and oppressive movement rose to power in the aftermath, forcing people into isolated communes run like regimes. Kayle Jenner finds himself trapped on a remote beach, and all that remains of his life before is the vague and haunting vision of his son. . .

Kayle finally escapes, only to find a broken world being put back together in strange ways. As more memories from his past life begin returning, the people he meets wandering the face of a scorched earth—some reluctant allies, others dangerous enemies—begin to paint a terrifying picture. In his relentless search for his son, Kayle will discover more than just his lost past. He will discover the truth behind Day Zero—a truth that makes both fools and gods of men.

a-front-page-affairA Front Page Affair

by Radha Vatsal

Series: Kitty Weeks Mystery #1

Published by Sourcebook Landmarks

Genre: Historical Mystery

336 pages

Synopsis: Kitty Weeks is nineteen, well-traveled and well-off. She’s just arrived in New York and writes for the New York Sentinel Ladies’ Page.

New York in 1915 is an exciting place. J. P. Morgan has been shot. The Lusitania has been sunk. America tries not to take sides as war rages on in Europe. And that’s before Kitty comes face to face with murder at a Fourth of July party.

a-useful-womanA Useful Woman

by Darcie Wilde

Series: Rosalind Thorne Mysteries #1

Published by Berkley

Genre: Historical Mystery

368 pages

Synopsis: Inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, this new mystery series set in 19th-century London introduces the charming and resourceful Rosalind Thorne, a woman privy to the secrets of high society—including who among the ton is capable of murder…

The daughter of a baronet and minor heiress, Rosalind Thorne was nearly ruined after her father abandoned the family. To survive in the only world she knew, she began to manage the affairs of some of London society’s most influential women, who have come to rely on her wit and discretion.

So, when artistocratic wastrel Jasper Aimesworth is found dead in London’s most exclusive ballroom, Almack’s, Rosalind must use her skills and connections to uncover the killer from a list of suspects that includes Almack’s powerful patronesses and her former suitor Devon Winterbourne, now Lord Casselmaine.

Torn between her old love and a growing attraction to a compelling Bow Street runner, Rosalind must not only unravel the mysteries surrounding Jasper’s death, but the mysteries of her own heart as well…

May 10

children-of-earth-and-skyChildren of Earth and Sky

by Guy Gavriel Kay

Series: Unknown

Published by NAL

Genre: Historical Fantasy

592 pages

Synopsis: The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

the-wolf-in-the-atticThe Wolf in the Attic

by Paul Kearney

Series: Unknown

Published by Solaris

Genre: Historical Fantasy

320 pages

Synopsis: A novel that will enchant readers of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman. The fantastical appears in the middle of 1920’s Oxford as a young refugee looking to escape her grim reality rubs shoulders with two of the founding fathers of modern fantasy, Tolkien and Lewis.

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien… and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer’s wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.

clouds-in-my-coffeeClouds in My Coffee

by Julie Mulhern

Series: The Country Club Murders #3

Published by Henery Press

Genre: Mystery

256 pages

Synopsis: When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again? Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee…

too-like-the-lightningToo Like the Lightning

by Ada Palmer

Series: Terra Ignoti #1

Published by Tor Books

Genre: Science Fiction

432 pages

Synopsis: Tor Books is proud to launch the first novel in a new political science fiction series, Too Like The Lightning by debut novelist Ada Palmer. Palmer’s unique vision mixes Enlightenment-era philosophy with traditional science fiction speculation to bring to life the year 2454, not a perfect future, but a utopian one, described by a narrator writing in an antiquated form to catalog the birth of a revolution. The result is The Iliad meets I, Claudius mixed with the enthusiasm of The Stars My Destination and Gene Wolfe style world building.

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labeling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destabilize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…

Perfect for fans of Jo Walton, Robert Charles Wilson and Kim Stanley Robinson, Too Like The Lightning is a refreshing change of pace from the current trend of gritty, dystopian novels. Much like Homer telling of heroic deeds and wine dark seas, Mycroft Canner’s narration will draw you into the world of Terra Ignota—a world simmering with gender politics and religious fervor just beneath the surface, on the brink of revolutionary change.

walleye-junctionWalleye Junction

by Karin Salvalaggio

Series: Macy Greeley Mysteries #3

Published by Minotaur

Genre: Mystery

336 pages

Synopsis: When outspoken radio talk show host Philip Long is kidnapped and murdered, Detective Macy Greeley leaves her young son in the care of her mother and heads up to remote Walleye Junction, Montana to take charge of the investigation. It is initially believed that Long’s murder is the result of a controversial radio show he’s done on the rise of far right militias in the state. Within days the two kidnappers are found dead following a massive heroin overdose, and the authorities are hopeful the investigation is finished. But there are too many discrepancies for Macy to settle for obvious answers. The kidnapper’s bodies have been moved, their son is on the run and a series of anonymous emails point investigators toward the murky world of prescription painkiller abuse. Macy soon finds herself immersed in small town intrigues as she races to find who’s really responsible for Philip Long’s murder.

Meanwhile, Philip Long’s daughter Emma is dealing with her own problems. It’s been twelve years since she left Walleye Junction after her best friend died from a drug overdose. Emma finds that little in Walleye Junction has changed in her absence. She is also becoming increasingly uneasy as the familiar surroundings stir up memories that are best forgotten.

With Walleye Junction, a taut, propulsive mystery, Karin Salvalaggio will once again grip readers from the opening page to the stunning conclusion.

central-stationCentral Station

by Lavie Tidhar

Series: Unknown

Published by Tachyon Publications

Genre: Science Fiction

288 pages

Synopsis: A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive…and even evolve.

May 17

company-townCompany Town

by Madeline Ashby

Series: Unknown

Published by Tor

Genre: Science Fiction

288 pages

Synopsis: Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she’s an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she’s been charged with training the Family’s youngest, who has been receiving death threats – seemingly from another timeline.

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability – serial killer? Or something much, much worse…?

runtimeRuntime

by S.B. Divya

Series: Unknown

Published by Tor.com

Genre: Science Fiction

128 pages

Synopsis: The Minerva Sierra Challenge is a grueling spectacle, the cyborg’s Tour de France. Rich thrill-seekers with corporate sponsorships, extensive support teams, and top-of-the-line exoskeletal and internal augmentations pit themselves against the elements in a day-long race across the Sierra Nevada.

Marmeg Guinto doesn’t have funding, and she doesn’t have support. She cobbled her gear together from parts she found in rich people’s garbage and spent the money her mother wanted her to use for nursing school to enter the race. But the Minerva Challenge is the only chance she has at a better life for herself and her younger brothers, and she’s ready to risk it all.

Runtime is S. B. Divya’s exciting science fiction debut.

the-god-waveThe God Wave

by Patrick Henstreet

Series: The God Wave Trilogy #1

Published by Harper Voyager

Genre: Science Fiction

400 pages

Synopsis: A team of neuroscientists uncover amazing new capabilities in the brain that may steer human evolution toward miraculous and deadly frontiers in this spectacular debut work of speculative science fiction—Limitless meets James Rollins—that combines spirituality and science in an inventive, mind-blowing fashion.

For decades, scientists have speculated about the untapped potential of the human brain. Now, neuroscientist Chuck Brenton has made an astonishing breakthrough. He has discovered the key—the crucial combination of practice and conditioning—to access the incredible power dormant in ninety percent of our brains. Applying his methods to test subjects, he has stimulated abilities that elevate brain function to seemingly “godlike” levels.

These extraordinary abilities can transform the world, replacing fear and suffering with tranquility and stability. But in an age of increasing militarization, corporate exploitation, and explosive technological discovery, a group of influential powerbrokers are determined to control these new superbeings for their own manipulative ends?and their motives may be far from peaceful.

roses-and-rotRoses and Rot

by Kat Howard

Series: Unknown

Published by Saga Press

Genre: YA Fantasy

336 pages

Synopsis: Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

the-crowns-gameThe Crown’s Game

by Evelyn Skye

Series: The Crown’s Game #1

Published by Balzar + Bray

Genre: YA Fantasy

416 page

Synopsis: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love… or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear… the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

May 31

hot-flashHot Flash

by Carrie H. Johnson

Series: Muriel Mabley

Published by Kensington

Genre: Mystery

320 pages

Synopsis: READY, AIM…

She sweats every detail as a forensic firearms specialist—and as a forty-something single mother. She’s got more responsibilities than she can count, more baggage than she wants to claim, and way too many regrets. But Muriel Mabley will do whatever it takes to put Philadelphia’s most vicious killer in lockdown for good…

BURN…

Until her troubled younger sister in witness protection receives a terrifying warning—and Muriel’s long-time partner, Laughton, reveals he knows more than he should about her and Muriel’s shattered past. And when Laughton’s ex-wife and her new husband turn up dead, his own secrets will send Muriel down a twisted trail of lethal leads, disappeared witnesses, and the ultimate wrenching betrayal….

………………..

The books I plan to read soon:

  • Runtime by S.B. Divya
  • Hot Flash by Carrie H. Johnson
  • Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

The books I’ve already read:

  • Admiral by Sean Danker
  • A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal
  • A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde
  • Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern

What books are you excited about this month?

Excerpt: ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

til-death-do-us-part

Excerpt from ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

I reviewed this book yesterday. I really like it–gave it a B+. This excerpt comes from the beginning of the book and luckily there aren’t too many from this point-of-view! This POV really creeped me out…l0l. I like that the book is suspense and also historical romance!

She belonged to him.

He was locked inside a cage the size and shape of a coffin. A dark thrill heated his blood like a powerful, intoxicating drug.

When the time came he would purify the woman and cleanse himself with her blood. But tonight was not the time. The ritual had to be followed correctly. The woman must be made to comprehend and acknowledge the great wrong that she had done. There was no finer instructor than fear.

He huddled inside the concealed lift, listening to the sounds of someone moving about in the bedroom on the other side of the wall. There was a narrow crack in the paneling. Excitement sparked through him when he caught a glimpse of the woman. She was at her dressing table, adjusting the pins in her dark brown hair. It was as if she knew he was watching and was deliberately taunting him.

She was passable in appearance, but he had seen her on the street and had not been particularly impressed with her looks. She was overly tall for a woman and her forceful character was etched on her face. She was dangerous. It was all there in her unnerving eyes.

The woman rose from the dressing table chair and moved out of sight. A moment later he heard the muffled sound of the bedroom door opening and closing.

Silence.

He slid the cage door aside and opened the wooden panel. The wall sconce had been turned down low but he could make out the bed, the dressing table, and the wardrobe.

He moved out of the lift. The heady exhilaration he always experienced at such moments roared through him. With every step of the ritual he came closer to achieving his own purification.

For a precious few seconds he debated where to leave his gift. The bed or the dressing table?

The bed, he decided. So much more intimate.

He made his way out through the tradesmen’s entrance and slipped, unseen, into the gardens. The gate was still unlocked, just as he had left it.

A few minutes later he was lost in the fog. The weight of the knife in its sheath beneath his greatcoat was reassuring.

The ritual was almost complete.

The woman with the unnerving eyes would soon understand that she belonged to him. It was her destiny to be the one to cleanse him. He was certain of it. The connection between them was a bond that could be shattered only by death.

 

Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Jayne Ann Krentz, 2016.

 

‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

til-death-do-us-part‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick
Series: Unknown
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery
Setting: Victorian London
Published by Berkley
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: April 19)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
352 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.

Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.

But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

Initial impressions

  • Amanda Quick is a favorite author of mine. I love her characters and the humor and fun she puts into her books. This book has all those things plus suspense!

The story

  • Calista Langley is a businesswoman who introduces respectable people to other respectable people and provides them a place to meet and get to know each other.
  • She has attracted a stalker who is sending her increasingly menacing “gifts.”
  • Trent Hastings, a successful author, visits her pretending to want her services to meet people, but is really concerned that she’s taking advantage of his sister.
  • When he learns about Calista’s stalker he and his sister offer their help.

Pluses

  • It has been awhile since I read an Amanda Quick book. This book is just as much fun to read as I remember all the others being. The characters have Ms. Quick’s trademark humor.
  • Calista is a strong, likeable character who has managed to carve out a life and business for herself.
  • Calista’s stalker and the things he does are very spooky.
  • I like that Calista has the sense to be scared about the “gifts” she’s receiving and to tell someone else who may be able to help. The items she’s receiving are called “memento mori” by Victorians. (Many Victorians were obsessed with death.)
  • Trent is a great character. He’s an author who writes a detective series which is serialized in a newspaper and he’s quite famous. He meets many fans during the book–some who like the direction his book is taking and some who don’t! He also channels his main character when he’s helping Calista! Sometimes with funny results.
  • There are a number of red herrings in the story that kept me guessing to the end.

Minuses

  • Trent is described as standoffish and he’s suspicious of Calista, but that changes very quickly. Having Trent change more slowly might have been more realistic, however I have to admit I like the two characters a lot and his change of heart didn’t bother me too much!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  •  I hope the author decides to turn this into a series. I really like the characters and the time period.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • The author of a string of New York Times bestsellers, JAYNE ANN KRENTZ uses three different pen names for each of her three “worlds”.   As JAYNE ANN KRENTZ (her married name) she writes contemporary romantic-suspense.  She uses AMANDA QUICK for her novels of historical romantic-suspense.  JAYNE CASTLE (her birth name) is reserved these days for her stories of futuristic/paranormal romantic-suspense.
  • She earned a B.A. in History from the University of California at Santa Cruz and went on to obtain a Masters degree in Library Science from San Jose State University in California.  Before she began writing full time she worked as a librarian in both academic and corporate libraries.
  • She is married and lives with her husband, Frank, in Seattle, Washington.

Reading Challenges

April books on my list

books-on-my-listEach month I write about the books I’ve noticed and think might be good. Sometimes they’re from favorite authors and sometimes a new author strikes my fancy.

I don’t get all the books (not during the month they’re released at least)–since I already have way too many books to read. And I’m trying to limit the new books I get each month to the ones I’m going to read soon. Right…that doesn’t always work…lol.

But the list I make each month helps me not forget books. The Goodreads links help me keep track of these books.

And I hope people reading my post may find some new books, too! I also hope you will point me toward books I missed.

Apr 1

skeleton-bluesSkeleton Blues

by Paul Johnston

Series: Quint Dalrymple #7

Published by Severn House Publishers

Genre: Science Fiction Dystopian, Mystery

256 pages

Synopsis: Ex-cop Quint Dalrymple discovers there is something very rotten in the independent city-state of Edinburgh in this near-future dystopian thriller.”

Edinburgh, spring 2034. The weather s balmy, there s a referendum on whether to join a reconstituted Scotland coming up and a tourist is found strangled. As usual, maverick detective Quint Dalrymple is called in to do the Council of City Guardians dirty work.

For the first time in his career, Quint is stumped by the complexity of the case. An explosion at the City Zoo is followed by the discovery of another body and the prime suspect is nowhere to be found. Can Quint and his sidekick, Guard commander Davie, put a stop to the killings before the city erupts into open violence? Are the leaders of other Scottish states planning to take over Edinburgh, or is the source of unrest much closer to home? Quint must race to pull the threads together before he becomes one of the numerous skeletons on display.

Apr 4

the-butcher-birdThe Butcher Bird

by S.D. Sykes

Series: Somershill Manor Series #2

Published by Pegasus

Genre: Historical Mystery

336 pages

Synopsis: Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more—something the King himself has forbidden.

Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear. Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumor, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.

From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald’s journey is full of danger, dark intrigue, and shocking revelations.

Apr 5

braking-for-bodiesBraking for Bodies

by Duffy Brown

Series: Cycle Path Mysteries #2

Published by Berkley

Genre: Cozy Mystery

304 pages

Synopsis: Moving from Los Angeles to small, picturesque Mackinac Island to work in a bike shop might seem crazy, but Evie knows it’s the best decision she’s ever made. That’s not to say she’s gotten rid of all her stress; after all, the upcoming Lilac Festival has everyone in town riding in circles.

But things really go downhill when a ferry full of tourists—including Evie’s friend Fiona’s former boss, the editor of a sleazy rag in LA—arrives on the island. No one knows why Peephole Perry came all the way to Mackinac, but things aren’t looking good for Fiona when Peep is found dead. Now Evie has to gear up and get a grip on the truth if she wants to clear her friend’s name…

reading-up-a-stormReading Up a Storm

by Eva Gates

Series: Lighthouse Library Mystery #3

Published by NAL

Genre: Cozy Mystery

336 pages

Synopsis: Misfortune blows into North Carolina’s Outer Banks when a dead body in a boat on the shore leaves local librarian Lucy Richardson racing to solve a strange new mystery….

After a successful party at Bodie Island’s Lighthouse Library, librarian Lucy Richardson is ready to curl up with her cat, Charles, and a good book. But her R and R is cut short when she notices some mysterious lights leading a small boat to crash into the coast.

The two shipwrecked seafarers survive the ordeal—but one of them shows up dead ashore a few days later. Lucy finds herself again roped into a murder investigation and navigating a sea of suspects, all of whom had motives to deep-six the deceased. And this time, she has a sinking feeling that finding the real killer won’t be so easy…

 arenaArena

by Holly Jennings

Series: None

Published by Ace

Genre: Science Fiction

336 pages

Synopsis: A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming…
 
Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier…
 
The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside…

the-murder-of-mary-russell

 

 

The Murder of Mary Russell

by Laurie R. King

Series: Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #14

Published by Bantam

Genre: Historical Mystery

384 pages

Synopsis: Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell novels—the New York Times bestselling series that Lee Child calls “the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today”—will never be the same after this bombshell: The Murder of Mary Russell.

 

every-heart-a doorwayEvery Heart a Doorway

by Seanan McGuire

Series: Every Heart a Doorway #1

Published by Tor.com

Genre: Fantasy

160 pages

Synopsis: Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

the-edge-of-worldsThe Edge of Worlds

by Martha Wells

Series: The Books of the Raksura #4

Published by Night Shade Books

Genre: Fantasy

400 pages

Synopsis: An expedition of groundlings from the Empire of Kish have traveled through the Three Worlds to the Indigo Cloud court of the Raksura, shape-shifting creatures of flight that live in large family groups. The groundlings have found a sealed ancient city at the edge of the shallow seas, near the deeps of the impassable Ocean. They believe it to be the last home of their ancestors and ask for help getting inside. But the Raksura fear it was built by their own distant ancestors, the Forerunners, and the last sealed Forerunner city they encountered was a prison for an unstoppable evil.

Prior to the groundlings’ arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court’s mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura’s idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.

The Edge of Worlds, from celebrated fantasy author Martha Wells, returns to the fascinating world of The Cloud Roads for the first book in a new series of strange lands, uncanny beings, dead cities, and ancient danger.

Apr 8

delivering-the-truthDelivering the Truth

by Edith Maxwell

Series: Quaker Midwife Series #1

Published by Midnight Ink

Genre: Historical Mystery

312 pages

Synopsis: Quaker midwife Rose Carroll hears secrets and keeps con­fi­dences as she attends births of the rich and poor alike in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town. When the town’s world-famed car­riage indus­try is threat­ened by the work of an arson­ist, and a car­riage fac­tory owner’s adult son is stabbed to death with Rose’s own knitting needle, she is drawn into solv­ing the mys­tery. Things get dicey after the same owner’s mis­tress is also mur­dered, leav­ing her one-week-old baby with­out a mother. The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier helps Rose by lending words of advice and support. While strug­gling with being less than the per­fect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and prob­lem solver to bring two mur­der­ers to justice before they destroy the town’s carriage industry and the people who run it.

quiet-neighborsQuiet Neighbors

by Catriona McPherson

Series: None

Published by Midnight Ink

Genre: Mystery

336 pages

Synopsis: It’s the oldest bookshop in a town full of bookshops; rambling and disordered, full of treasures if you look hard. Jude found one of the treasures when she visited last summer, the high point of a miserable vacation. Now, in the depths of winter, when she has to run away, Lowell’s chaotic bookshop in that backwater of a town is the safe place she runs to.

Jude needs a bolt-hole; Lowell needs an assistant and, when an affordable rental is thrown in too, life begins to look up. The gravedigger’s cottage isn’t perfect for a woman alone but at least she has quiet neighbors.

Quiet, but not silent. The long dead and the books they left behind both have tales to tell and the dusty rooms of the bookshop are not the haven they seem to be. Lowell’s past and Jude’s present are a dangerous cocktail of secrets and lies and someone is coming to light the taper that could destroy everything.

Apr 11

a-murder-in-timeA Murder in Time

by Julie McElwain

Series: Unknown

Published by Pegasus

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel, Mystery

320 pages

Synopsis: Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place – Aldrich Castle – but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady’s maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there’s some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

Apr 12

masks-and-shadowsMasks and Shadows

by Stephanie Burgis

Series: Unknown

Published by Pyr

Genre: Historical Fantasy

300 pages

Synopsis: The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus’s mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband’s death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace’s golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress–a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

dying-for-a-tasteDying for a Taste

by Leslie Karst

Series: Sally Solari Mystery #1

Published by Crooked Lane Publishing

Genre: Cozy Mystery

304 pages

Synopsis: After losing her mother to cancer, Sally Solari quits her job as an attorney to help her dad run his old-style Italian eatery in Santa Cruz, California. But managing the front of the house is far from her dream job.

Then in a sudden twist her Aunt Letta is found murdered in her own restaurant, and Sally is the only one who can keep the place running. But when her sous chef is accused of the crime, and she finds herself suddenly short-staffed, Sally must delve into the world of sustainable farming—not to mention a few family secrets–to help him clear his name and catch the true culprit before her timer runs out.

Leslie Karst serves a platter of intrigue in her stirring and satisfying debut Dying for a Taste, which is sure to become a new favorite of food mystery fans.

Apr 19

the-emperors-railroadThe Emperor’s Railroad

by Guy Haley

Series: Dreaming Cities #1

Published by Tor.com

Genre: Fantasy

192 pages

Synopsis: Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

the-everything-boxThe Everything Box

by Richard Kadrey

Series: Unknown

Published by Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

368 pages

Synopsis: Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff, the first entry in a whimsical, fast-paced supernatural series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels-a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again

2000 B.C.
A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll be get a big promotion.
And now it’s time . . .
The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word.
“Crap.”

2015
A thief named Coop-a specialist in purloining magic objects-steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him-and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him.

It’s a doomsday device. They think. . .
And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.

til-death-do-us-part‘Til Death Do Us Part

by Amanda Quick

Series: Unknown

Published by Berkley

Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery

352 pages

Synopsis: Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.

Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.

But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

Apr 21

the-body-on-the-doorstepThe Body on the Doorstep

by A.J. MacKenzie

Series: Romney Marsh Mystery #1

Published by Bonnier Publishing

Genre: Historical Mystery

272 pages

Synopsis: Kent, 1796.

Shocked to discover a dying man on his doorstep – and lucky to avoid a bullet himself – Reverend Hardcastle finds himself entrusted with the victim’s cryptic last words.

With smuggling rife on England’s south-east coast, the obvious conclusion is that this was a falling out among thieves. But why is the leader of the local Customs service so reluctant to investigate?

Ably assisted by the ingenious Mrs Chaytor, Hardcastle sets out to solve the mystery for himself. But smugglers are not the only ones to lurk off the Kent coast, and the more he discovers, the more he realises he might have bitten off more than he can chew.

Apr 26

sleeping-giantsSleeping Giants

by Sylvain Neuvel

Series: Themis Files #1

Published by Del Rey

Genre: Science Fiction

320 pages

Synopsis: 17 years ago: A girl in South Dakota falls through the earth, then wakes up dozens of feet below ground on the palm of what seems to be a giant metal hand. Today: She is a top-level physicist leading a team of people to understand exactly what that hand is, where it came from, and what it portends for humanity. A swift and spellbinding tale told almost exclusively through transcriptions of interviews conducted by a mysterious and unnamed character, this is a unique debut that describes a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts.

………………..

This month I have a number of NetGalley books I’ve already read (and liked):

  • Skeleton Blues by Paul Johnson
  • Reading Up a Storm by Eva Gates
  • Arena by Holly Jennings
  • ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick
  • Dying for a Taste by Leslie Karst

What books are you excited about this month?

Christmas Gifts by Mary Balogh

christmas-giftsChristmas Gifts by Mary Balogh
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance–Regency England
Setting: Christmas in England
Published by Class Ebook Editions Ltd., 2015 (reprints of three out-of-print novellas)
E-book, purchased
168 pages
Overall Grade: A-
Synopsis: CHRISTMAS GIFTS brings together three previously published and long out-of-print novellas, each on the theme of Christmas gifts that will last forever because the gift, in essence, is love.

In “The Best Christmas Ever” a boisterous house party is in progress and all the children when asked are eager to tell what they want for Christmas. But one man feels sad, for his young child has not spoken since her mother died and he does not know if the gifts he has bought her will be what she really wants. Unknown to him, her one fervent wish is for a new mother for Christmas, and when she sees one of the guests she knows who that will be. But the lady concerned has an unhappy history with the child’s father.

In “The Porcelain Madonna” a gentleman becomes involved with helping an impoverished lady, who thinks of everyone’s happiness but her own. However, he has seen her gaze with longing at a porcelain madonna well beyond her means displayed in a shop window.

In “The Surprise Party” a man and woman who are antagonistic to each other find themselves landed with the care over Christmas of children who are related to each of them. They quarrel over which of them should undertake the task. It is not a happy situation until the children teach them the true meaning of Christmas, and of love, and they discover that they can do it together.

Initial impressions

  • I know why Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors when I read these novellas. These stories show how we all hope Christmas will be.
“The Best Christmas Ever”  — Rating: A
  • This is such a lovely story. A little girl (5 years old) who hasn’t spoken since she saw her mother drown three years ago. Her father who loves her fiercely, but is so worried she might never speak again.
  • Each of the children at their grandparents’ home tell their wish for Christmas. Except for Anna who doesn’t speak, but still makes a wish for a mother.
  • On Christmas Eve Day she sees the woman whom she is sure will be her mother, but her father doesn’t cooperate very well since he knows Emma Milford from the past and is still angry with her.
  • This is my favorite story in this series.
“The Porcelain Madonna”  — Rating: B+
  • This is a lovely story about a gentleman who has lost faith in people, is cynical and dislikes Christmas. When he sees a shabbily dressed young woman gazing into a jewelry shop window he sees it as “…the perfect picture of Christmas sentimentality….”
  • He stops a street urchin from running off with her reticule, but when he is going to teach the boy a lesson she stops him. She doesn’t want the boy harmed.
  • “But of course she was beautiful, and of course she was educated, and of course she was impoverished, he thought scornfully. What else could he have expected? And she had been admiring, not a golden bracelet or a diamond necklet, but a porcelain Madonna….”
“The Surprise Party” — Rating: B+
  • The parents of three young children have died. It’s nearly Christmas when their maternal uncle and paternal aunt arrive to take care of them. However, the aunt and uncle dislike each other and neither really wants the children.
  • However, when they decide the children should have a real and happy Christmas, they begin to forget their enmity and discover love for their nephew and nieces.

Jeers

  • No real jeers. I just like one of the stories a little better than others.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  These are lovely stories of people who have lost faith in themselves and others, who are down on their luck or need the spirit that can come at Christmas to change their lives.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Balogh‘s first book was published in 1985 and she’s been writing (over 70 novels and close to 30 novellas) ever since. The latest book is Only a Kiss, the 6th book in The Survivors’ Club series, published in September 2015.
  • She grew up in post-war Wales. She wanted to teach and travel so she took a 2-year contract in Saskatchewan, Canada. After a blind date with Robert Balogh she ended up marrying him and staying in Canada! She and Robert have three grown children. Her dream was to write, but that had to wait until their children were older.
  • When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Reading Challenges

The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie & King

the-last-chance-christmas-ball-by-Mary-Jo-Putney, et al.The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie, Susan King
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance
Setting: Great Britain, 1815
Published by Kensington
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: Sep 29, 2015)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
320 pages
Grade: C+
Synopsis: Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…

A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight—or be wed to another….the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her…a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude …a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays…

Initial impressions

  • The Last Chance Christmas Ball is a ball held every year for the last 50 years. Of course, this is just the name the bachelors who come give the ball, because Lady Holly is something of a matchmaker.
  • Most of the stories are second-chance romances where the main characters already know each other and for one reason or another separated. Many of the men were soldiers and fought Napoleon and the French. That war is now over.
  • As is often the case with an anthology I like some stories better than others.

The stories:

  • “My True Love Hath My Heart” by Joanna Bourne–C+
  • “A Scottish Carol” by Susan King–C
  • “Christmas Larks” by Patricia Rice–C+
  • “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Mary Jo Putney–B
  • “Flames Dance” by Cara Elliott–C
  • “A Season for Marriage” by Nicola Cornick–C
  • “Miss Finch and the Angel” by Jo Beverley–B
  • “Mistletoe Kisses” by Anne Gracie–B-

Cheers

  • As I state below I didn’t connect with most of the characters in these stories. However, a few of the stories had characters I like and remember:
    • Roxanne (Roxie) from Mary Jo Putney’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a memorable character. She’s self-confident, owns and runs her own property and a colorful character.
    • Lady Holly is a character in all the stories and the reason the Last Chance Christmas Ball happens. She’s an out-spoken old lady, has many godsons and goddaughters and is liked by all of them.
    • Clio Finch is Lady Holly’s companion. There’s mystery about her so that makes her interesting. Her story is “Miss Finch and the Angel” by Jo Beverley. The angel in the story is Lord Gabriel Quinfoy. He’s an interesting character and I like their story.

Jeers

  • Most of these stories just didn’t capture my attention. Perhaps because of the length of the stories I didn’t connect with most of the characters.
  • The ball takes place after Christmas and there really isn’t a lot about Christmas. In a few of the stories the characters gather holly and mistletoe to decorate houses and sometimes they sing some Christmas carols. However, I didn’t feel immersed in these stories as I want to when I read Christmas stories.
  • Also even though the characters are invited to the Ball many of them don’t actually get to the Ball or if they do that happens days after they meet and fall in love.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I chose this book because I usually enjoy short stories set at Christmas and I’ve read and enjoyed books by Jo Beverley, Anne Gracie, Mary Jo Putney and Joanna Bourne.
  • I don’t read very much romance these days so part of my reaction to these stories may very well be me not enjoying romances very much anymore. Others may enjoy these stories more than I did.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge

Fall 2015 TBR books

toptentuesday2Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme I take part in when I can think up answers! It’s a great meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish blog. Every week they suggest a new book-related topic. It’s not only fun to think about my list, but to read what other people come up with!

This week we talk about the Fall books we want to read. I haven’t kept my list to 10 books. . . I just couldn’t lol. So I have added books on my actual TBR list, books for Fall challenges, anticipated books for Fall and NetGalley books. Nearly 20 books!

the-sound-of-broken-glass

My TBR list books to read

These are all long-time favorite series I love and I already own these books:

The Sound of Broken Glass

  • by Deborah Crombie
  • Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #15
  • Contemporary Mystery–Police Procedural, United Kingdom

The Brutal Telling

  • by Louise Penny
  • Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5
  • Contemporary Mystery–Police Procedural, Quebec, Canada

The Winter Long

  • by Seanan McGuire
  • October Daye #8
  • Urban Fantasy, San Francisco, California

Books for fall challenges

I’m participating in a few challenges and these are books I’ve picked out so far to read for the challenges:

Earth 2788–The Earth Girl Short Storiesearth-and-fire

  • by Janet Edwards
  • Earth Girl 0.5
  • Science Fiction

Zoe’s Tale, The Human Division, and The End of All Things

  • by John Scalzi
  • Old Man’s War #4-6
  • Science Fiction

The Last Chance Christmas Ball

  • by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Anne Gracie, Nicola Cornick, Susan King & Cara Elliott
  • No series
  • Historical Romance–Regency, Christmas
  • A NetGalley book

The Christmas Joy Ride

  • by Melody Carlson
  • No series
  • Contemporary Christmas book
  • Also a NetGalley bookthe-immortal-heights

Fall 2015 books to read

These are two of my most anticipated books this Fall:

The Immortal Heights

  • by Sherry Thomas
  • The Elemental Trilogy #3
  • Young Adult Fantasy–Romance
  • The last of the trilogy

White Hot

  • by Ilona Andrews
  • Hidden Legacy #2
  • Urban Fantasy

Library books to read this fall

I’ve already gotten these books from the library. Super excited to get to them and read them!

second-street-station

Magic Shifts

  • by Ilona Andrews
  • Kate Daniels #8
  • Urban Fantasy

Ink and Bone

  • by Rachel Caine
  • The Great Library #1
  • Young Adult Fantasy

Second Street Station

  • by Lawrence H. Levy
  • A Mary Handley Mystery #1
  • Historical Mystery–Brooklyn, late 1800’s

NetGalley books to read this fall

I’ve started participating more in NetGalley and these books all come out this Fall and I’m super excited about reading these books! Just so happy I was approved for them. . . lol

Tower of Thornstower-of-thorns

  • by Juliet Marillier
  • Blackthorn & Grim #2
  • Fantasy

Guaranteed to Bleed

  • by Julie Mulhern
  • The Country Club Murders #2
  • Historical Mystery–1970’s, Kansas City

Named of the Dragon

  • by Susanna Kearsley
  • No Series
  • Fiction–Historical, Contemporary, Romance

An Ancient Peace

  • by Tanya Huff
  • Peacekeeper #1
  • Science Fiction–Military

What books do you want to read this fall?

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

only-a-promise-by-mary-baloghOnly a Promise by Mary Balogh
Series: The Survivors’ Club #5
Genre: Historical Romance
Setting: London and Sussex in the English countryside
Published by Signet, 2015
E-book, purchased
400 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

There could surely be nothing worse than having been born a woman, Chloe Muirhead thought with unabashed self-pity as she sucked a globule of blood off her left forefinger and looked to see if any more was about to bubble up and threaten to ruin the strip of delicate lace she was sewing back onto one of the Duchess of Worthingham’s best afternoon caps.

and

What irritated him most about her, perhaps, was that she really was a help–an invaluable help, in fact. And that she did it all cheerfully and efficiently. And that she could–and did–think and act independently.

It fairly set his teeth on edge–until he remembered how unabashedly happy his grandfather had been yesterday.

Cheers

  • I like this series a lot. And this book has a Marriage of Convenience plot which I enjoy in historical romances when they are well done. And this is well done!
  • Even though they marry for their own convenience: Ralph because he needs an heir and Chloe because she is 27 years old with little prospect for marriage and children which she wants. They do not plan to have any emotional involvement with each other.
  • I like that we get the point-of-view of both Ralph and Chloe. Ms. Balogh does a great job of showing that what people are thinking isn’t the same as what they outwardly show or say. They both outwardly show lots of confidence even when inside they don’t feel that confident!
  • I like this series a lot partly because it shows that people who go to war not only need physical wounds we can see healed, but also the wounds we can’t see.
  • Ralph promises Chloe they won’t travel to London. They will live in the country. Of course, events happen and he can’t keep that promise.
  • That’s not the way to begin a marriage. Chloe has good reasons to not want to face the Ton after two disastrous seasons.
  • Ralph has his own demons from the war, of course. He was severely injured in the war, but that’s not where his personal demons are: his three closest friends killed in front of him in the same battle which injured him. He feels responsible for their deaths. He has lived in such hell that he has tried to commit suicide.
  • I like how Ralph supports Chloe. For example, when he discovers how Chloe feels about her hair he is with her all the way. And this is when he still thinks this is a Marriage of Convenience and that he is not going to feel anything for Chloe!
  • I like how Ms. Balogh shows that these two damaged people need each other and each other’s strength to find their own strength and face their fears to make themselves whole again.
  • Mary Balogh does such a great job showing emotions–showing two damaged, but ultimately courageous, sincere and honest people falling in love.

Jeers

  • Chloe should have known that Ralph wouldn’t be able to keep the promise that they wouldn’t go to London. When they’re married Ralph is the Duke’s heir after all. However, this is a small quibble.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I read this book for the September TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy @ The Misadventures of Super Librarian. The theme for September is to read a Historical novel.
  • Mary Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance authors. I don’t read very much romance, but when I do Mary Balogh is usually my first choice.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Balogh‘s first book was published in 1985 and she’s been writing (over 70 novels and close to 30 novellas) ever since. The latest book is Only a Kiss, the 6th book in The Survivors’ Club series, published in September 2015.
  • She grew up in post-war Wales. She wanted to teach and travel so she took a 2-year contract in Saskatchewan, Canada. After a blind date with Robert Balogh she ended up marrying him and staying in Canada! She and Robert have three grown children. Her dream was to write, but that had to wait until their children were older.
  • When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Reading Challenges

September books on my radar . . .

RadarEach month I write about the books I’ve noticed and think might be good. Sometimes they’re from favorite authors and sometimes new author strikes my fancy.

I don’t buy all the books (not during the month they’re released at least)–since I already have way too many books to read. I’m trying to limit the new books I buy each month to the ones I’m going to read soon.

But the list I make each month helps me not forget books. The Goodreads links help me keep track of these books.

And I hope people reading my post may find some new books, too! I also hope they will point me toward books I missed.

September 1

Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors. And I like this series a lot.

only-a-kiss-mary-baloghOnly a Kiss by Mary Balogh

Series: Survivors’ Club #6

Published by Signet

Genre: Historical Romance

400 pages

Synopsis: Since witnessing the death of her husband during the wars, Imogen, Lady Barclay, has secluded herself in the confines of Hardford Hall, their home in Cornwall. The new owner has failed to take up his inheritance, and Imogen desperately hopes he will never come to disturb her fragile peace.

Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford, has no interest in the wilds of Cornwall, but when he impulsively decides to pay a visit to his estate there, he is shocked to discover that it is not the ruined heap he had expected. He is equally shocked to find the beautiful widow of his predecessor’s son living there.

Soon Imogen awakens in Percy a passion he has never thought himself capable of feeling. But can he save her from her misery and reawaken her soul? And what will it mean for him if he succeeds?

This is a debut and I’ve read and reviewed it. It’s good.

sorcerer-to-the-crown-by-zen-choSorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Series: Sorcerer Royal #1

Published by Ace

Genre: Historical Fantasy

384 pages

Synopsis: Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

I read the short story prequel–Sideswiped–so I’m eager to read this book.

the-drafter-kim-harrisonThe Drafter by Kim Harrison

Series: The Peri Reed Chronicles #1

Published by Gallery Books

Genre: Fantasy

432 pages

Synopsis: Detroit 2030. Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her to use her body as a weapon, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run.

Don’t forgive and never forget has always been Peri’s creed. But her day job makes it difficult: she is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote.

When Peri discovers her name on a list of corrupt operatives, she realizes that her own life has been manipulated by the agency. She joins forces with a mysterious rogue soldier in a deadly race to piece together the truth about her final task, unable to trust even herself.

I read many of Cecelia Holland’s historical fiction many years ago and I loved them. I’m looking forward to see how she writes fantasy.

dragon-heart-by ceclia-hollandDragon Heart by Cecelia Holland

Series: Unknown

Published by Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

288 pages

Synopsis: America’s most distinguished historical novelist steps fully into the realm of fantasy and makes it her own

Where the Cape of the Winds juts into the endless sea, there is Castle Ocean, and therein dwells the royal family that has ruled it from time immemorial. But there is an Empire growing in the east, and its forces have reached the castle. King Reymarro is dead in battle, and by the new treaty, Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor’s brothers. She loathes the idea, and has already killed the first brother, but a second arrives, escorted by more soldiers. While Marioza delays, her youngest son, Jeon, goes on a journey in search of his mute twin, Tirza, who needs to be present for the wedding.

As Jeon and Tirza return by sea, their ship is attacked by a shocking and powerful dragon, red as blood and big as the ship. Thrown into the water, Tirza clings to the dragon, and after an underwater journey, finds herself alone with the creature in an inland sea pool. Surprisingly, she is able to talk to the beast, and understand it.

So begins a saga of violence, destruction, and death, of love and monsters, human and otherwise.

This is another book I’ve already read and reviewed. Good! And this is a beautiful cover.

a-curious-beginning-by-deanna-raybournA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1

Published by NAL/Penguin

Genre: Historical Mystery

352 pages

Synopsis: London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

Updraft sounds very intriguing.

updraft-fran-wildeUpdraft by Fran Wilde

Series: None

Published by Tor

Genre: Fantasy or Science Fiction? (not sure)

352 pages

Synopsis: In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever—if it isn’t destroyed outright.

September 8

I love this series!

Earth Flight--US-cover-janet-edwards
Earth Flight–U.S. cover

Earth Flight by Janet Edwards

Series: Earth Girl #3

Published by Pyr

Genre: Science Fiction

300 pages

Synopsis: Jarra never wanted to be a celebrity. All she ever wanted was to gain some respect for the people left on Earth: the unlucky few whose immune system prevents them from portaling to other planets.

Except now she’s the most famous Earth girl in the universe

Earth-Flight-by-janet-edwards-UK-Cover
UK Cover

– but not everyone in the universe is happy about it, nor the fact that she has found love with a norm. Jarra’s actions have repercussions that spread further than she ever could have imagined, and political unrest threatens to tear apart the delicate balance of peace between humanity’s worlds.

On top of everything, the first alien artifact ever discovered appears to be waiting for Jarra to reveal its secrets. But to do so, she must somehow find a way to leave Earth – or else the alien artifact will be lost forever. Is there a way for Jarra to travel to another planet? Or is her destiny only to look to the stars – but never to reach them?

September 15

One of my favorite urban fantasy series.

a-red-rose-chain-by-seanan-mcguireA Red Rose Chain

by Seanan McGuire

Series: October Daye #9

Published by Corsair

Genre: Urban Fantasy

256 pages

Synopsis: Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

Lots of Sherlock Holmes inspired books out there right now. I hope this is good.

lock-&-Mori-by-heather-w-pettyLock & Mori

by Heather Petty

Series: Lock & Mori #1

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: YA Mystery

256 pages

Synopsis: In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James “Mori”Moriarty and Sherlock “Lock” Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule–they must share every clue with each other–Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

September 24

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but they both sound interesting.

angel-of-storms-by-trudi-canavanAngel of Storms by Trudi Canavan

Series: Millenium’s Rule #2

Published by Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

512 pages

Synopsis: Tyen is teaching mechanical magic at a school respected throughout the worlds. News arrives that the formidable ruler of all worlds, long believed to be dead, is back and enforcing his old laws – including the one forbidding schools of magic. As teachers and students flee, Tyen is left with no home and no purpose… except the promise he made to Vella, the sorcerer imprisoned in a book. Tyen must decide what he is willing to do to free her.

After five years among the tapestry weavers of Schpeta, Rielle’s peaceful new life has been shattered by a local war. As defeat looms, the powerful Angel of Storms appears and invites Rielle to join the artisans of his celestial realm. But what will he require in return for this extraordinary offer?

September 29

I love Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books so I’m really looking forward to this new series.

the-aeronauts-windlass-by jim-butcherThe Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Series: The Cinder Spires #1

Published by Roc

Genre: Fantasy

640 pages

Synopsis: Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

This sounds very interesting. I like the idea of young adult science fiction.

return-once-more-by-trisha-leighReturn Once More by Trisha Leigh

Series: The Historians #1

Published by Bloomsbury Spark

Genre: YA Science Fiction

??? pages

Synopsis: If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

I read the first book in the series. I want to see what happens next.

the-bloodforged-by-erin-lindseyThe Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey

Series: Bloodbound #2

Published by Ace

Genre: Fantasy

368 pages

Synopsis: As war between Alden and Oridia intensifies, King Erik must defend his kingdom from treachery and enemies on all sides—but the greatest danger lurks closer to home…

When the war began, Lady Alix Black played a minor role, scouting at the edge of the king’s retinue in relative anonymity. Though she’s once again facing an attacking Oridian force determined to destroy all she holds dear, she is now bodyguard to the king and wife to the prince.

Still, she is unprepared for what the revival of the war will mean. Erik is willing to take drastic measures to defend his domain, even if it means sending Prince Liam into a deadly web of intrigue and traveling into the perilous wild lands of Harram himself.

Only the biggest threat to the kingdom might be one that neither Alix nor Erik could have imagined, or prepared for…

………………..

The books I plan to get (and hopefully read) soon:

  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (already reviewed)
  • A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (already reviewed)
  • Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh
  • Earth Flight by Janet Edwards
  • A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire
  • The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
  • The Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey

What books are you excited about this month?