Sirius’ Best 0f 2019
I thought I had a decent reading year, I don’t usually have a lot of A books and this year was no exception, but I did have several B+ and for me grade between B+ and A may often end up being relative anyway.
1. “The House of the Sundering Flames” ( Dominion of the Fallen #3) by Aliette De Bodard
The multi-award-winning author of The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns concludes her Dominion of the Fallen saga, set in a Paris devastated by a magical war.
The great magical Houses of Paris – headed by Fallen angels and magicians – were, however temporarily, at peace with each other. Until House Harrier was levelled by a powerful explosion. Now that peace has become chaos, tearing apart old alliances and setting off a race in which each House hoards magic and resources to protect itself against another such blast.
Thuan, the Dragon head of the divided House Hawthorn, is still consolidating his power when war comes to his doorstep. Aurore – exiled from and almost beaten to death by House Harrier – sees her moment to seek power in order to protect her family, even if she must venture back to her destroyed former home to get it. And Emmanuelle finds herself alone in the middle of it all, driven to protect others, trying to piece together what has happened, and hoping – eventually – to make sense of it all.
None of them know what destroyed House Harrier, though . . . and when they do uncover that fiery, destructive magic then divided Houses, old enemies and estranged friends will all have to make a decision: stand together, or burn alone . . .
“Sunita and Janine reviewed the first part of your trilogy and I reviewed the second here at DA.
This conclusion to your “Dominion of the Fallen” trilogy was brilliant. The end. Oh I do need to write a little more I suppose. This book is also an Exhibit A of how to end a trilogy. Do not do not start reading here, go back to Book 1, because really they are three parts of the same story, not separate stories in any way. Every plotline was completed, every character arc was completed . I thought it did not preclude further stories in this universe if the author so chooses, but there was *no sequel baiting in any way, shape or form*, nothing left hanging to annoy a reader like me.
As the blurb states, Thuan (one of my favorite if not the favorite characters in this trilogy), dragon prince who married Head of the House Hawthorn Asmodeus after some explosive events in the second book has the war suddenly come to his door step. In the beginning of the book Thuan is having a relatively calm day, but such a calm day very quickly transforms into the possible beginning of another war between Houses.”
2. Sweep of the Blade (Inkeeper Chronicles #4) by Ilona Andrews.
Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn’t in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her.Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had swore off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined.
Try as she might, she can’t just walk away from Arland. It doesn’t help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.
To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is a powerful vampire House, and Maud knows that a woman who turned down the proposal from its most beloved son wouldn’t get a warm reception. But Maud Demille never shied from a fight and House Krahr may soon discover that there is more to this human woman than they ever thought possible.
Published as an online free serial before the book is compiled and self-published shortly after completion
I enjoy these series, but as much as I love Dina, the main character in the three previous books, this book I think is going to be my favorite one as of today. I followed this story when it was published as a free serial and I know that it started as “Maud’s novella”, but then grew into the novel and I am not complaining. I also appreciate that the final edited version smoothed out some rough angles in the transitions from one chapter to another. I also liked that the beginning of the book has some retelling of the events of the third book. We are not treated to the retelling of the main storyline of the book three, we are just shown how Maud and Arland met from Maud’s POV.
I also suspect that the authors wanted this story to be if not self contained then at least to give new readers a chance to not be confused if they decide to start with this book. I still beg you, please don’t start with this book! Maud and Arland have A LOT of interaction in book three and this really has a second chapter of their romance ( which to me was excellent) with some fun adventure and fighting thrown in.”
3. “Heated Rivalry” (Game Changers #2) by Rachel Reid
Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.
Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.
Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.
As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise.
Sometimes negative reviews do sell books. I accidentally came a cross of one of the reviews which talked about excessive amount of sex in this story (which is usually a big fat NO for me), and about angry rivalry between the leads and I am all for that (provided the execution was good), and I decided I would try it and I am very glad I did.
First and foremost, I have to say that yes, absolutely there is A LOT of sex in this book, like A LOT so much that normally I would have abandoned it. This story was definitely an exception to the rule, I think mostly because a very skilled author wrote it. I *could not stop reading*. No, I cannot say that I became a huge fan of erotic romance in general after I finished this story. My thing always was a great plot with great characterizations and chemistry. If all of that is present, I don’t even need on page sex, although a couple of sex scenes that enhance the story is usually a perfect balance to me.
This book did something different though. The development of the relationship (yes the author did convince me that it was a relationship even if it was just a sexual one for a long time) spans eight or nine years between the beginning and end of the story and I just felt that very subtly author showed how slowly but surely they noticed more about each other, learned more about each other and started caring about each other more than in a purely sexual way much earlier than before their declaration towards each other.”
4. “Thrown to the wolves” ( Big Bad wolf #3) by Charlie Adhara
When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him.
But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help.
There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.
I want to note that I highly recommend this series as a whole, however this one so far had been my favorite book. I am looking forward to number four which is coming up in March 2020.
“What I initially did not like is that Parker who encouraged Cooper’s communicating with his father and brother in the second book, Parker who seemed to value the communication a lot in the said book just really didn’t communicate with Cooper as to what to expect from their visit (as much as Parker could predict of course). What I did not like even more that Parker did not communicate with his family at all as to Cooper being human.
I have to say though, the author achieved an almost impossible feat here. She convinced me that Park had his reasons for not talking to Cooper or his family before they came back. I bought that Park was that afraid of his past, or more specifically he was that afraid that he would not measure up to Cooper (things that Park did in the past.) Really, it almost never happens and it happened in this book. Park’s vulnerability in this book was very sweet without making the character unbelievable for me. It is as if the author kept peeling layers from the guys and making sure at the same time that the core stays the same.”
5. Spellbound (Magic in Manhattan #1) by Allie Therin
To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first…
Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.
Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.
Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.
“The setting of the story is New York at the time of Prohibition.The first world war took place in this world as well, that much we know because several characters fought during the war and obviously experienced significant trauma and some even died. Besides that I am not sure which features of the historical world in the 1920s that the author decided to have in her world, but one thing we know that magic users (aka paranormals) are very important part of this world and not everybody welcomes them with open arms.”
The story is a fantasy/adventure, but it is also a beginning of the romance. Can it be called heist? I guess so, because at least some attempts at theft did take place – I will leave you to find out how successful. I thought men had great chemistry and their banter was often amusing without overwhelming fast moving plot. Was the attraction a little fast? Maybe, but in the adventure story I sometimes don’t mind and this is one of those occasions.
It stops rather abruptly, but on the cliffhanger and quite satisfactory. I am looking forward to book 2.”
6. “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer.
Who says you can’t run away from your problems?
You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.
QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?
ANSWER: You accept them all.
What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.
Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.
A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” LESS shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.
For the most part, I really loved the story of Arthur Less. Since I often review m/m romance I cannot stress this hard enough for a romance reader who will read this review – this book is NOT that, even though it does have a happy ending. This is literary fiction and the language is a big part of why I rate the story so highly. I often call myself a defective reviewer because I often miss problems with the writing style, but I hope I can at least note an excellent one and I loved how this book was written.
When I just started the book, I thought it was written in the third person POV present tense, only that was not quite true. The narrative shifts to the third person past tense, and sometimes (very few times) in the dreaded second person POV. And I thought the writer did it so elegantly and it didn’t disturb the flow of the story at all for me. I do confess though that I needed to know the identity of the narrator and at about half of the book when I strongly suspected that I looked in the end. I was right :), but that was the main reason why I knocked half the star off – not because I was not happy about the ending, I was, but because I was not sure how the narrator would know all the details which one would know from narrating in the third person limited POV.
7. The First Step (Coastal Carolina #1) by Shira Anthony.
The first step is the hardest. After a scandal, New York political reporter Reed Barfield is lying low at the North Carolina coast, writing a story about the seafood industry. But it’s the harbor pilots on the Cape Fear River who capture his interest—men who jump across ten feet of open ocean to grab a rope ladder and guide huge container ships into port. Men like sexy but prickly Justin Vance.
After surviving an abusive childhood and a tour in the Navy, Justin isn’t fazed by his dangerous job—it’s certainly easier to face than Reed’s annoying questions. Justin isn’t out at work, and he doesn’t need Reed digging into his personal life or his past.
But Reed’s no stranger to using his considerable charm to get what he wants, and as he wears Justin down, they realize they have a lot in common—and that they like spending time together. Moving beyond that, though, will mean Justin confessing his sexuality and learning to trust Reed with his secrets—if Reed even decides to stay. Both men want a future together, but can they find the courage to take the first step?
I always appreciate when the guys in m/m books do some interesting things for a living and it is based on the real world. I did hear about harbor pilots/river pilots before, but basically I just knew that sometimes local mariners help the big ships come to their harbors. I did not even know that they are called pilots and I had no idea that their jobs could be very dangerous. Well paid, but also very dangerous.”
“The story spans across three or four weeks (I think closer to three), but the author managed to write a slow burn romance and I was very pleased about it. She mixed the slow burn romance with the constant sense of danger due to the fact that Justin steps into potential danger almost every time he goes to work and I thought it made for a very fun setting
I liked that both men mostly behaved as adults . There were couple of mini conflicts between them which made sense because it happened for plausible reasons, and even if conflicts did not make sense, I would have forgiven it since the men met only recently and didn’t necessarily know what makes each other tick yet and how to avoid it. I thought they avoided stupid melodrama in their communications and I was pleased.
I just thought this book was very well written and Reed and Justin had a shot at a great future.