Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.
Without further ado, here’s the installment for July 2013 (and if you’ve missed any, be sure to check out past recs via the related posts section at the bottom of the post):
The Man Behind The Pinstripes by Melissa McClone gives readers one my favorite types of heroines—the heroine with a troubled past who doesn't use it as an excuse to run scared. Determined to move on after making some bad choices in her late teens, Becca Taylor has landed a job caring for a wealthy woman's dogs and taking them around the dog show circuit. Things get complicated when the woman's grandson, who runs the family company, decides to stick close to Becca for fear she's taking his grandmother for a ride. Soon the heroine from the wrong side of the tracks and the hero born into a world of privilege (and obligation) find themselves hopelessly attracted to each other. But it could never work out between them? Or, could it?
My best of July selection would have to be Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti. The intrigue and sexual tension is off the charts. Shane Dean walked away from his wife Josie two years ago, and is suddenly back, but he has no memory. He was found by police surrounded by three bodies and it looks like Shane killed them. So the questions keep building: Why did he leave? Why is he back? Did he kill those men? Who is trying to hurt them? Is Shane back to harm Josie or protect her? And when not even your characters know the answers, you just have sit back and let the story unfold. This was definitely a hard book to put down. Each chapter brought a new question and you just had to keep reading. I can't wait for the next book.
But then there's also Alice Clayton's book Wallbanger, which is hilarious. I haven't laughed so much at a book in a while. Caroline has just moved into her new apartment. The view is beautiful, the kitchen is a dream, and the walls are paper thin. Caroline is well aware of who her neighbor is since every woman in his bed screams “Simon” and she guessed if you were making up a name, it wouldn't be Simon. After confronting Simon about his late night wallbanging escapades, they spend some time trading insults and eventually decide to give in and call a neighborly truce. The verbal volleys traded become less insulting more sexual and include Simon's apparent obsession with baked goods. Once the wallbanging with bimbos stops, their friendship starts to develop slowly into a sweet, sexy seduction of both parties. I thought this book was great fun, romantic and an all around enjoyable story.
The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers
It's rare that I am wow'd by a novella but The Story Guy managed to do just that. I was blown away by the sweet romantic story about Brian and Carrie. I loved that these characters are so complex and yet are willing to be together, even if it's for one hour a week. The writing is beautiful. The characters are remarkable. You can't help but fall in love with them.
The best thing I read this month was a re-read, Patricia A. McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy (beginning with The Riddlemaster of Hed). These are among my most beloved childhood books, and it was lovely feeling the words fall one more time into their familiar places.
Finding Colin Firth by Mia March
While Colin Firth is most definitely swoonworthy, this book has little to do with him and much to do with three very different women—Bea, Veronica and Gemma - and a home for unwed mothers in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Twenty something Bea is waffling through life, unsure of her herself and her future after the death of her mother. On the anniversary of her mother's death, Bea's world is turned upside down when she learns she was adopted and Veronica is her biological mother. Veronica has returned to Boothbay Harbor to reestablish roots with the hope that her daughter will search her out. Gemma is the journalist who is writing the story of the home for unwed teens for its 50th Anniversary. The piece is especially poignant for her, as she has just found out that she is pregnant and is having very mixed feelings about becoming a mother. Through her friendship with Bea and Veronica, Gemma eventually comes to understand the special love a mother has for her child.
I enjoyed the book because March has written a wonderful story full of hope, happy endings and Colin Firth. A perfect beach read.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Usually my favorite books—the ones I order everyone to read immediately—feature a strong female heroine kicking ass or complicated romance. Not this time. Nope, I was wooed by the emotional honesty that can only come by saying things directly the way a child would. The majority of Neil Gaiman's latest novel is narrated by a seven-year-old boy. There are immortals and fae-type beings and demons and he accepts all of it matter-of-factly. It's the kind of story that sucks you in, reminds you why you're a reader in the first place and has some of the most honest prose I've read in ages. Gorgeous novel from end to end.
My favorite read of the last month was Wicked As She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson. The book excels in every category: world-building, characters, originality, and sucks you in immediately.
My best read of July is Gold and Glass by E. Catherine Tobler, first in the Rings of Anubis duology. An inquisitive archaeologist heroine and tortured investigator hero fight monsters both literal and metaphorical as they travel from Victorian Paris to the pyramids of Egypt in this steampunky adventure. Lots of surprises and excellent romantic chemistry.
I’ve recently read several romance novels that I rank highly. But if I have to choose a single top July read, I have to go with a non-romance—Susan Crandall’s Whistling Past the Graveyard. I’ve enjoyed Crandall’s other books, but this one is her best. Its nine-year-old narrator, coming-of-age plot, and portrait of racism in the deep South have drawn justified comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Secret Life of Bees. It’s a remarkable book, one I know I will reread.
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole—impossibly romantic and nail-biting!
My favorite book for July is Somewhere Between Luck and Trust by Emilie Richards. I love the complexity of her characters and the intricacy of her plots. And this book is no exception.
Making It Last by Ruthie Knox was a novella that I had been looking forward to ever since I heard rumours that it was in the Camelot pipeline. Amber and Tony’s story, How to Misbehave, was touching and adorable, with a steely core of real people with real issues falling for each other. Almost every romance ends with an HEA and a rosy glance towards a fuzzy warm future – Making It Last takes you inside a 10 year plus marriage and breaks it down, builds it up and does it in such a sexy way. There’s a George Strait song I like, “If You’re Thinking You Want a Stranger, There’s One Coming Home” is the lengthy title – that’s the core of what happens to this over-worked, under-sleeped couple, dealing with challenges from within (kids, family, a big house) and without (the economy, clients) … and how they make changes in order to embrace what’s most important to them: each other and their family. And just a side note, kudos to Knox for presenting a woman who decided to lose that baby weight and get back in runner shape and it doesn't magically sprinkle fairy dust over her life. That’s reality and respect for how women make decisions about their bodies. A terrific addition to the Camelot oeuvre.