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 September 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):
Wendy the Super Librarian
I love dark and angsty as much as the next girl, but sometimes I want fun erotic romance. The kind of erotic romance where you need to tell reality to take a hike and just roll with the fantasy. Training the Receptionist by Juniper Bell is the first book in a novella trilogy featuring an aimless 20-something heroine living in “Low Life” Long Island who accepts an entry level receptionist job. Turns out the job entails a whole lot of naughtiness, and one of her hunky new bosses is pretty hard to resist. If you can leave real life bound and gagged in the corner, this was a sexy fun read with a dynamite first-person point-of-view. A great escapist read.
Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun — It's rare to find a virgin heroine in contemporary romance that is not only believable but original, on top of that a rakish military hero who lives up to the name. But Anne Calhoun's latest novel about a young woman finding herself after leaving a restrictive religious group is heartfelt and healing, profoundly real and current, and stirringly romantic.
My best read of September was The King's General by Daphne Du Maurier. The author of classics Rebecca and Jamaica Inn spins a compelling romantic historical drama set against the tumult of the English Civil War. An injury the day before Honor Harris' wedding to the love of her life, Richard, takes marriage off the table, but the love story is only beginning. Royalist and military man Richard is a deliciously tortured and sometimes jerky hero, while Honor holds down the homefront and guides her family through the rigors of war. Secret rooms, a love forbidden and some serious angst combine to make a compelling tale. Not a true HEA here, but a memorable love story and you-are-there historical details keep pages turning until late in the night.
My best read for September was Rush by Joan Swan. This is the third book in the Phoenix Rising series and our group has just learned that their fellow firefighter Quaid, did not die the chemical accident as they were all told. Since Quaid sustained twice the exposure than the others, a government agency faked his death and has been using him and his new supernatural abilities for their own benefits. They keep his drugged and they have continually wiped Quaid’s mind so that he cannot use his abilities to escape his prison and he would not know where to go if he ever did. When the team rescue Quaid, he does not remember them, and he believed he only dreamed about the one named Jessica. He is surprised to find she is real, but he is unaware that she is his wife. What stood out to me the most is that Joan doesn’t fall back on the usual storyline of how Quaid magically gets his memory back. Quaid is a severely damaged hero who knows that he can’t ever go back to being the guy his friends remember and from the beginning, Jessica acknowledges to herself that same fact and she is willing to accept the new Quaid, damage and all.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi was one of the best space opera novels I've read in a long time. The heroine deals with a chronic disease while negotiating a new relationship and trying to find out why people from an alternate universe so desperately want her twin sister. The relationship between the sisters was complex and realistic, and all the characters were intriguing enough that I am eager to read a sequel.
My “Best of September” book is Suspect by Robert Crais, This book was released in Jan of this year but I didn’t discover it until this month. I loved Mr. Crais’ Two Minute Rule, but I not a fan of many series that feature the same characters in every book, so he dropped off my radar. But I can tell you this – I hope that Maggie, a German Shepherd dog and LAPD cop Scott James are featured in many more books to come. Both Maggie and Scott are trying out for the LAPD’s K-9 unit; both Maggie and Scott suffer from PSTD and both have lost a partner. While the book has all the ingredients of a “good” book – a hint of romance, a mystery, it was the interaction between Maggie and Scott that made this an outstanding read for me. Being in Maggie’s head just added that extra poignancy that moved me. I don’t think you have to be a dog lover to enjoy this book, but if you are, this is a book you don’t want to miss.
I've just finished Meljean Brook's Guardian Demon, the eighth, and final, book in the Guardian series—it is the best book of all, and that is saying a lot. This has all the elements that have made this series so incredible to begin with—passion, life or death situations, three-dimensional characters, fantastic battle scenes, fantastic love scenes, intricate plot structure, and an incredible blend of serious and light-hearted writing that mimics how people really are, and talk, even during incredible stress. I am blown away.
I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe is the best book I've read in a while. I liked everything about it, and the only bad thing is it's the first book in a series so I have to wait to read the rest. I read it in a day, and can't wait to read it again.
Whenever I start reading a romance out loud to my husband from a book, it's for one of two reasons: Either it's so bad it's funny, or it's so funny it's great. Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project is so funny it's great, and I started reading aloud immediately upon starting the story of a 39-year-old genetics professor who looks like Cary Grant but acts like Sheldon Cooper. Professor Don Tillman's utter cluelessness about his Asperger's will charm even those without an Aspie in their life, but it will have special resonance for those among us who do know or love someone on the spectrum. The professor has never managed to even get to the second date with a woman. It never crosses his mind that the reason why is connected with his own behavior, so to solve his Wife Problem, he develops the most extensive and esoteric dating questionnaire in the history of mankind to find a woman suitable to be his mate. His plan is interrupted by a woman who wants him to scientifically determine the identity of her birth father. He agrees to help with the Rosie Project, all the while wondering why, because it's taking time away from his Wife Project, and Rosie is not at all the sort of woman who'd score highly on his questionnaire. Don struggles to Become a Human Being, and many of his exploits are funny, but others illustrate the difficulty we all have in retaining our individuality while at the same time making the changes necessary to be in a love relationship. This is my favorite romance of the year, and right now one of my brothers-in-law is waiting for the October 1st “on sale” date so he can download it onto his Kindle.
My re-read was Mary Balogh’s The Notorious Rake. Thanks to a provocative blog at Dear Author on Heartless by Janine Ballard, and the consequent discussion on Twitter, I decided to see if the book held up. Was Edmond a rake, was the opening explosive encounter believable? I thought so. A review from All About Romance explains its appeal. Lucky for us, the book is now available again, in a combo package with The Counterfeit Betrothal.
And on books leading to TV recommendations... Consider me hook, line and sinker into Sons of Anarchy. Unfortunately, I ignored the recommendations of all my friends to watch this mesmerizing series—I was told, “If you like Kristen Ashley, you’re going to love SoA.” So why did I start? Because the somewhat anti-hero of SoA was just announced as Christian Grey. So of course I had to see for myself if Charlie Hunnam would fit the bill. In a word, yes. I’m about a third of the way into Season 2 on Netflix. I bought Season 5 on dvd and I’m taping Season 6. Moral of the story—don’t ignore your friends when they tell you to read/watch/listen to something great!
Body of Evidence by Rachel Grant — Although I am a lifelong voracious reader, I’ve had to pace myself this last year as I recover from a head injury. But I’ve discovered that when the mind comes back, the mind comes back! I was tired of having nothing to read and found Rachel Grant by dumb luck and a general keyword search on Amazon. First of all, Rachel Grant is a professional archaeologist, which totally speaks to the awful wanderlust I’ve suffered from forever. But this story is so exciting and adventurous … and timely. It’s set in North Korea, and archaeologist Mara Garrett is sentenced to death by firing squad. Her saving grace, by the skin of her teeth and a pause in the secondhand, is the US Attorney prosecuting her uncle, former vice president of the United States. It’s like she had a mental starting pistol in her imagination and once she fired it, the whole story was off and running. I get out of breath just thinking about it. And you know what? I read it in three days – my fastest read in about 14 months – and went in on Amazon at 2 am to buy the next book in the series. I enjoyed it that much.