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What Sunita is reading, for the week ending August 21

My reading weeks are highly variable. Sometimes I read half a dozen (or more) novels in their entirety, sometimes I don’t make it through a single one. This was a good week. I was doing some catching up of series in preparation for new releases, as well as following up on reads that have been recommended here and elsewhere. A number of these are short-story or novella length, so I read more variety than I do in a week where I’m reading full-length novels.

Enemies and Shadows (The Rifter #7) by Ginn Hale

Yes, I have the ARC. And yes, it totally rocks. #6 and #7 are set in the same time frame and focus on Kahlil and John, and they integrate fantasy and romance beautifully. There are some lovely scenes between the protagonists, the plot moves forward in a way that grips me and doesn’t let go, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better, emotion-wise. I can’t say much more than that for obvious reasons. I’ll have a post on these two installments early next month. This serial continues to be one of the best things I’ve read all year, maybe one of the best things I’ve read in any year.

Blind Eye Books

Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow

Reviewed here by Joan/SarahF. The review and the comments made me want to read this. I agree with Tumperkin/Joanna’s take: Al is slow, but not exactly stupid. I enjoyed the book, although it didn’t grab me as much emotionally as I expected. I’m okay with that, because sometimes I read to see what the author is going to do with a particular trope or setup. In this case, Merrow’s choice to use a somewhat inarticulate narrator made the story particularly interesting. It was a thought-provoking exploration of what we mean when we say someone is smart (or stupid), and what might lead opposites to become attracted to each other. An unusual story that has stayed with me.

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Old Poison by Josh Lanyon

This is the second novella in the Dangerous Ground series (Jayne reviewed the first one here). Federal agents Will and Taylor got together in DG #1 and they are working out the parameters of their relationship. They have to keep it hidden if they want to continue as partners, and they’re still kind of hesitant even though they have strong feelings for each other. Although Will is the reliable one, he feels less trustworthy than Taylor in terms of commitment because he doesn’t seem to believe that Taylor is in it for the long haul. Plot-wise, something and someone from Taylor’s past come back to haunt him and he narrowly escapes. This series is as close to timepass for me as anything written by Josh Lanyon can be. I’m not really invested in the characters, but the writing is first-rate and Lanyon plots a romantic mystery as well as anyone in the genre. The fourth in the series releases next month, and I plan to catch up by reading #3 before then.

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For One Night Only by Anne Brooke

Even when her books don’t entirely work for me, I find Brooke’s work to be compelling and readable. She reminds me a bit of Harper Fox, in that the emotional level is intense but emotions are taken seriously and explored with sensitivity and nuance. This is a short character study of a Dom who discovers the hard way how dangerously insensitive and callous he has been, and who takes steps to learn to be a better person, not just a better practitioner of BDSM. It’s not an easy read, and it’s not particularly romantic, but it’s unusual, intriguing, and well written. Apparently another story from the second protagonist’s perspective is in the works, and I’ll be on the lookout for it.

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Under the Gun by HelenKay Dimon.

This is the first book in Dimon’s current series in Harlequin’s Intrigue line. There are five in all, and the fifth is out next month. I read one out of sequence and I wanted to go back to the beginning and read in order. The hero is an agent with The Recovery Project, a quasi-governmental organization. The heroine is his former fiancee who dumped him for someone she soon regretted. Together they try to find out who has framed her for murder and wants to kill her. Dimon can really write category suspense; her plotting is tight, her writing is good, and you can believe it when the characters start to fall for each other. The romance has to occur fairly quickly, given the constraints of the line, but I still found it satisfying. Dimon has quickly become one of my go-to authors in the Intrigue line.

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Immortality is the Suck by A.M. Riley

Riley is one of my autobuy authors for mystery and contemporaries in m/m, but I had avoided the menage and paranormal books. Then last week I really needed to read a sure thing by a reliable author and I downloaded a sample. Even though it was midnight, I had to buy the book immediately. So far, we have a decidedly unheroic narrator who doesn’t know why he’s undead, and although he clearly loves his fuck-buddy and best friend, he is incapable of even temporary fidelity. Even while mostly dead. The protagonists are cops, with the narrator deep undercover in a gang and in danger of going rogue before he’s shot. Being mostly dead doesn’t keep him from being wanted by both the criminals and the cops. I’ve only read a few chapters, but it’s Riley, so I’m pretty sure it will stay this good. I love the narrator’s voice. And there’s a sequel!

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Spoil of War by Phoenix Sullivan

Yeah, I went there. I’m only four chapters in, although I have skimmed more than that, but I had to take a break. I see nothing so far to make me disagree with January’s review. I was prepared for the rapetastic nature of the plot, but I didn’t expect to find the heroine quite so appalling. The author seems to want the reader to like and even admire Elsbeth, because everyone except the Bad People wants to be her friend or fall in love with her. But I find her immature, self-centered, and oblivious of other’s feelings to an extreme that makes her unbelievable as a heroine. And while I’m not an expert on the early medieval period, even I can tell a historical mashup of the 6th through 12th centuries when I see it.

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Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley. She blogs as VacuousMinx and tweets as @sunita_p.

17 Comments

  1. Keishon
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 10:14:40

    Another eclectic list here. I have all of Ginn Hale’s stuff and will need to *make* the time to read them. You make them sound really good so I am looking forward to them. Thanks.

  2. Sarah Frantz
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 10:39:32

    Oh, god, I could NOT get into the Riley. I’ve tried like three times, but the vampire guy is SUCH an asshole, such a bastard to his partner, and they’re apart for a lot of the book, AND the mystery is utterly boring (to me), that I just can’t make myself finish.

  3. Sunita
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 11:56:30

    @Keishon: Be prepared to immerse yourself! Lord of the White Hell is sunnier than Rifter, if that helps you prioritize.

    @Sarah Frantz: Yes to the first two, but that’s part of what I liked about it. To me he’s a likeable and intriguing asshole. I’ve finished the book since I wrote the post, and I appreciated that Peter grew a spine over the course of the story, and Adam started to try and change. Adam reminds me a bit of Don Strachey in the gay mystery series by Richard Stevenson series, although Don is a much more decent guy. And not undead.

  4. Amy Kathryn
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 13:30:44

    I also went out and bought Muscling Through after reading about it here. I enjoyed the different narrator and it was such a lovely story.

    I keep meaning to try Josh Lanyon but haven’t decided where to dip my toe in. I’m thinking Fair Game or one of the Adrien English to start with…

  5. etv13
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 14:01:28

    @Amy Kathryn: On Josh Lanyon, can I recommend Come Unto These Yellow Sands as a starting-point? Unlike Adrien English, it’s a stand-alone (at least so far), and while I liked Fair Game, I liked Come Unto These Yellow Sands much better. (Much better as in, have already re-read it twice.)

  6. Sunita
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 15:31:02

    @Amy Kathryn: @etv13: I would also recommend a stand-alone unless you’re ready to commit to the series (and if you like the first AE you’ll be hooked through #5). Fair Game is more of a classic mystery-romance, while Yellow Sands is less focused on the mystery and more on the romance and the character of Swift. I’ve reviewed them both here if you want to see what I thought of them. But you really can’t go wrong with any of those!

  7. Janine
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 16:42:32

    @Sunita: Re. Ginn Hale. I’m currently working on segment 4 of The Rifter, “Witches’ Bones.” It is so, so good but also so dark that I’m afraid to keep reading. I am feeling so much fear for John.

    I really wish I had started the serial back when the first installment came out since I think the pacing of one installment per month would have helped to allay that darkness and intensity.

    I’m so looking forward to #6 and #7 after what you said here, though.

    And I’m thinking I really need to read some Josh Lanyon, too.

  8. Sirius
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 17:27:46

    Josh Lanyon, heeeee, I think I have read all of his works so far and yeah, will continue reading them. So good. As I may have mentioned before, I finally broke down and bought subscription to Rifter, but still holding up for as long as I can to start reading :). Want to see the last page first and really do not like cliffhangers. But the first six installments are sitting in my Kindle and begging me to read it :) I really enjoyed Muscling through and do not find Al stupid myself. AM Riley is my autobuy author, really love her works. Hmmm, looks like I love everything that you are reading. Oh, no, not going into Spoils of war at all!

  9. Sirius
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 17:29:08

    Oh and yes I really enjoyed For one night only. Anne Brooke is another one of my favorites.

  10. Janine
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 18:41:43

    @Sirius: Good for you!

    @Sunita: What is a mistorical? Is that a newfangled word for a historical mystery?

  11. Amy Kathryn
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 19:10:31

    Thanks for the suggestions about which Lanyon to try. I think I will start with Yellow Sands since it seemed to have such a lasting effect. Looking back at the reviews, I don’t think I can go wrong with any of his books.

  12. Sunita
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 21:51:59

    @Sirius: I think we are sharing the same brain! I need it next week when classes start, if that’s okay.

    @Janine: Yes, it emerged on twitter while you were occupied with real stuff. I think it was Robin who came up with it? Or maybe it was crowdsourced. It applies when authors claim their books are historically accurate but they are clearly not.

    Rifter gets very dark, but there are wonderful scenes that lighten the tone and give us hope.

    @Amy Kathryn: I don’t think you can go wrong either, but I do love Yellow Sands.

  13. Robin/Janet
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 22:53:15

    @Sunita: It’s all mine, Mine, MINE! BWAAAHHAAAAA

    Actually, Jane and I were talking about bad-history historicals and it just came to me. I was surprised it hadn’t been offered before because it seems so obvious. In any case, I’m going to be writing a bit about it in my op ed next week on the various uses and misuses of history in and around the genre.

  14. etv13
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 03:21:09

    As an antidote to the Spoil of War thing (which I haven’t read, and don’t intend to), I recommend Loki’s Daughters. I got it free on my Kindle and almost gave up after about the third page, but I kept on, and I was glad I did. Historically, it’s at least as dubious as Spoil of War seems to be, but in the opposite way. The Northmen (they insist they’re not Vikings) move in in a Cumbrian village where all the men have died off or been killed in earlier Viking raids, and woo the surviving women, not with their irresistible sex appeal, but by mending their roofs and plowing their fields. It’s kind of silly, but charming.

  15. Sunita
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 10:33:48

    @etv13: Thanks. That sounds like the perfect palate cleanser after this SoW’s ear.

  16. What Sarah’s been reading, August-ish - Dear Author
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 10:00:53

    [...] Christmases by Anne Brooke (Dreamspinner): I was intrigued by Sunita’s short review of Brooke’s For One Night Only, so I bought that, but liked the look of this one too. And it [...]

  17. What Sarah’s been reading, August-ish
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 10:27:12

    [...] Christmases by Anne Brooke (Dreamspinner): I was intrigued by Sunita’s short review of Brooke’s For One Night Only, so I bought that, but liked the look of this one too. And it [...]

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