If you read last December's post, you'll know that my hands-down favorite of the year was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. The next in her series, Bring Up the Bodies, will most likely top my 2013 list as well--and I say that knowing the year is only half over!
Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel - Amazing follow-up to Wolf Hall. We all know the story of how Anne Boelyn came to grief, but somehow Mantel makes it fresh and exciting. She's a master at sketching a character through a few choice words. Cromwell remains a fascinating character; we're in his head the entire time, and yet somehow he's still a bit of an enigma, managing to hide essential bits of his character for long stretches, so that we're continually surprised and riveted by this man and what drives him. Ever pragmatic, ever clever, ever resourceful, Cromwell is also determined to better the lot of the poorer classes, while profiting handsomely from the foibles of the rich. He bends to suit the shifting winds, and yet he steadfastly plots in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to take revenge on those who've wronged him or those he loves. I can't wait for the final book!
I was a huge Stephen King fan as a teenager, and I dip back into horror from time to time when I want a change. One of the best I've read so far this year is Jack Kilborn's Afraid.
Afraid, Jack Kilborn - Super, super creepy story! I don't want to say much about the plot for fear of spoiling it (you kind of think you know what's it about, but you don't, not really, for a long time). I very much liked the main characters and rooted for them along the way; I even teared up near the end. And the bad guys are truly frightening. This story doesn't let you feel safe for even a minute; anything can (and will) happen.
A word of warning if you have a weak stomach; there's gore galore in this story, though the author does leave some of the worst stuff to your imagination (which is maybe worse). Very well done, and I highly recommend it to horror fans. I read this story all in one go; I couldn't put it down, even though I had pressing things to do.
My favorite in historical romance so far this year is Forever a Lord by Delilah Marvelle. She writes historical romance like no one else!
Forever a Lord, Delilah Marvelle - My favorite of the Rumor series! Nathaniel is a great hero--tortured, complex, and with his heart in the right place--and Imogene is a very relatable heroine. I also had fun learning more about bare knuckle boxing, which I knew nothing about. Once again, Ms. Marvelle treats us to a unique storyline and locations. I love her historicals because she manages to come up with fresh and interesting facets of history to explore. Looking forward to Ms. Marvelle's next series!
In paranormal romance, my favorite so far this year is Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones. The Charley Davidson series has rapidly become one of my favorites, and I'm looking forward to the next book!
Third Grave Dead Ahead, Darynda Jones - Wow, wow, wow. I enjoyed the first two books in this series, but this one was even better. Charley and Reyes are quite the pair--scorching hot together, but oh, what a mess! I don't want to say much for fear of spoiling the story, but I will say one of my favorite things about this book is that it holds out some hope for Charley and Reyes maybe, possibly, having a future together one day... at the same time that it lets us know that future is very much in jeopardy. And did I mention this book is laugh-out-loud funny?
Somehow, I went on a bit of a gigolo romance kick (started by Showtime's Gigolos series--don't ask!). Here are three I enjoyed:
Escorted, Claire Kent - This book was a total page-turner for me, and I finished it in two days. The premise drew me in, but it was the characters that nailed it. Lori is interesting enough--she's a famous romance author, and yet almost utterly clueless about men and sex--but Ander, the male escort she hires, is something else altogether. He's an enigma for much of the book, with the sort of tortured back story that I love. The more we learn about him, the more fascinating he becomes. I like that the author didn't go all "Pretty Woman" with the story and instead made it relatively realistic.
My Gigolo, Molly Burkhart - I loved this book! The premise is entertaining in itself (concerned sister hires a gigolo for her sister who's been single too long, hoping this will spark the single sister into dating), but the characters and the writing made this book a truly compelling read. The story develops in a fashion I didn't expect, but that comes down to the characters. This isn't one of those books where you can predict every single scene in advance. Sure, you know they'll end up together, but how they get there is hardly clear and certainly not smooth sailing.
Most of all, the writing is compelling. Tight pacing and great character and plot development meant there was never a dull moment, and I could hardly put the book down. I love it when a book makes me late to appointments and makes me blow off errands because I don't want to stop reading. My Gigolo is that kind of read. It's a sexy book to be sure, but it has so much more going for it than just that.
Memoirs of a Gigolo (Vols 1-6), Livia Ellis - If you're looking for quality literary erotica, this is it. Tightly written and with a sexy, cynical, sharp as a tack, honest to a fault narrator in Oliver, the titular gigolo, this story sucks you in, and you won't put it down until you finish.
Volume 7 was just released, and I can't wait to dive into it!
And then a friend of mine got into M/M romance and shared some of her favorites with me. She recommended Aleksandr Voinov, even though what he writes is really best termed "gay erotic fiction," as he likes to call it rather than M/M romance. What he writes is unique, raw, disturbing, and somehow utterly addictive.
Dark Soul: The Complete Collection, Aleksandr Voinov - I'm not sure what to say about this book, other than "Wow." From the first sentence, I was drawn into this dark, disturbing, and amazing (and amazingly well-written) story. I went into it thinking it was M/M romance, but it's not. There is a love story, yes, but it's not a romantic one in the traditional sense. It's a twisted, violent, and raw story of flawed people coming together in a highly charged environment (the Mafia) and learning to love and care for each other. The characters are human, deeply human, and deeply real and imperfect.
This is not a story for the faint of heart. There's violence (including sexual violence) and other behavior that most people would consider immoral or disgusting. And yet, even if I didn't like everything that happened, I was able to understand it and why the characters had done it. Mr. Voinov is truly skilled; he made me empathize with these characters even when their behavior was so far removed from anything I'd ever consider "right."
Was this book perfect? No. Is it for everybody? No. Will I remember it for the rest of my life? Yes. Will I read more by Mr. Voinov? Hell yes. He's an incredible talent, and my hat is off to him.
Yes, I know this is an eclectic list, to say the least! I definitely like to switch it up.
If you want to see more of my recommendations, feel free to friend me on Goodreads.
And now it's your turn: What books have you enjoyed most this year so far?