As you’ll see in the post below, I’ve read 104 books this year. (I would have read more, especially e-books but my pockets contain mainly lint these days.) Actually I’ve probably read a few more than those on the list – I often forget to write down books I’ve read and then scramble later to remember them. I also didn’t include books that I’d re-read if I’d first read them in previous years. For instance, upon hearing of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ death, I re-read her first book – and my introduction to romances – The Flame and the Flower. My multiple readings of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander weren’t added either. And this year I was able to not only re-read the novel but to listen to it as well thanks to Gizmo Guy’s present of the Audio book – a wonderful reading by Davina Porter who has a knack with accents and gives each character his or her own ‘voice’.
Nor have I kept track of the number of times I’ve read a book – Christine d’Abo’s The Bond that Tie Us, or Robin Rotham’s Alien Overnight, both of which I’ve read at least three times. Lynsay Sand’s Single White Vampire – at least twice, and ALL of JR Ward’s books between two and four times each, Rhage’s story at least six times.
The top of the list of my favourite ‘discoveries’ this year is *nod to Wylie’s recommendation here* JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I am still amazed at how Ms. Ward managed to make Vishous – who is such a flawed character that technically he should qualify as Valedictorian for Hannibal Lecter’s School of Serial Killers – someone the reader cares about, feels compassion for. I read Lover Unbound four times the first week because I just HAD to figure out how she made what should have been an unredeemable character likeable. All because of something most writing teachers say to avoid – flashbacks. Yeah, sure, I have to snicker at the cheesy names, and the Valley Girl speech from vampires who were all born hundreds of years ago in Europe, but she writes the characters so well that I can ignore that.
My whole family has started reading Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novels – Night Passage, Trouble in Paradise, Death in Paradise, Stone Cold, Sea Change – that’s all I’ve managed to get my hands on so far, according to the bookstore clerks his books fly off the shelves faster than they can stock them. With a brilliance of simplicity, Parker has created a narrative that reflects the main character’s laid back personality. He’ll have short scenes between two characters with not much happening yet it’s a powerful scene – one comes to mind where two cops are on a stake-out and are discussing how one got a nickname of Suitcase. If I wrote that scene, I’d probably look at it and take it out thinking it didn’t advance the plot, yet it added such a full-bodied flavour to the story. Guess that’s why he’s a bestselling author. (By the way, they’ve made four movies so far with Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone. If you get a chance to see them, take a moment, not only for the great storytelling but also because they’re filmed in Nova Scotia which stands in for Massachusetts. The movies are amazingly faithful to the books – with a few exceptions. Stone Cold – a chilling look at thrill killing – actually has a more satisfying ending in the movie than the book.)
Included in a package sent by my editing partner Marley were quite a few books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I fell in love with Bobby Tom Denton in Heaven Texas, and howled with laughter in It Had to be You.
Another book that has a firm place on my ‘keeper shelf’ I discovered during Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS course. Marley and I were wrestling with getting emotion into our writing when she recommended that I read Kathleen Korbel (a pen name of Eileen Dreyer). I searched the used book shops and found an ancient copy of A Soldier’s Heart. Released in 1994, it’s the story of two Viet Nam veterans who are still struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome twenty some years after the war. It was so powerfully emotional that at times I found myself rubbing the heel of my hand across my chest as if I was trying to ease the ache that had formed there.
BlueSue and another critique partner, Terri, both recommended that I read Patricia Briggs. After repeated mentions in emails and in person during my trip to Texas, I finally got off my duff and found Dragon Blood and Dragon Bones, a medieval fantasy series – they were … okay. But I loved Patricia’s contemporary Mercedes Thompson shapeshifter/vampire/werewolf series – Blood Bound, and Moon Called. I’m looking forward to the next in the series Iron Kissed which is to be released next month.
I’ve noticed WHAT I read has changed too. Last year my list contained mainly historicals and fantasies, very few contemporaries unless they were in the non-romance genre. This year not only were there a lot of contemporaries, but – surprise, surprise – a lot of vampire novels have muscled their way in. Now I’d tried to read vampire stories before by authors such as Ann Rice and Maggie Shayne but I just couldn’t get into them. I found nothing sexy in vampires at all. But this year I fell in love with JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and Lynsay Sands’ sometimes hilarious Argeneau series (set in Toronto – I knew there was a reason for TO’s long underground PATH other than just avoiding bad weather. Local vampires use it to avoid sunlight!)
On the downside, I found some authors rather hit-and-miss. I’d like one book, then not the next. If the number of books I didn’t like exceeded the number of books by that author that I did like, I dropped the author. A couple big names dropped off my list this year. Ah, well, reading is subjective.
But that’s all right. There’s so many great authors out there,and my friends offering such great suggestions that I’m sure I’ll not be left without something to read. My To Be Read pile already includes Sue Grafton’s latest Kinsey Millhone novel – T is for Trespass, and I’m in the middle of Jeffrey Deaver’s The Sleeping Doll . The rest of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series are still on the list too. Along with the next in the Jack Absolute series by Canadian author CC Humphreys. Everyone keeps talking about Harlan Coben, so he’ll probably go on the list. If Red Garnier is as prodigious as she has been this year, there’s probably another good dozen purchases there. And I’m anxiously awaiting the release of Christine’s next ‘Bond’ series – especially the third in the series, Taber’s story. Let’s not forget the almost breathless anticipation for Robin Rotham’s sequel to Alien Overnight. Amy Ruttan’s got a book — no, 2, isn’t it? — coming out next year from EC & Cerridwen.
Any other suggestions?