‘Rows and rows of books lined the shelves and I let my eyes linger on the sturdy spines, thinking how human books were, so full of ideas and images, worlds imagined, worlds perceived; full of fingerprints and sudden laughter and the sighs of readers, too. It was humbling to consider all these authors, struggling with this word or that phrase, recording their thoughts for people they’d never meet. In that same way, the detritus of the boxes was humbling – receipts, jotted notes, photos with no inscriptions, all of it once held together by the fabric of lives now finished, gone.’ – Kim Edwards

Top ten books

Prompt: If you were creating a list of top ten books, what would you choose and why? Is there an ongoing theme?

A Restored Man by Jaime Reese
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall
Keep Me Safe by Maya Banks
Love Comes in Darkness by Andrew Grey
Love Comes Silently by Andrew Grey
Morganna by Jackie Ivie
Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher
The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks

Putting together a top ten of books was crazy hard. They’re not in order of preference, by the way, that would have been even harder! I started off with all the books I’ve rated five stars on Goodreads, and then removed the ones that didn’t immediately leap out at me. Then I went with the ones that I’ve either re-read the most often or the ones where the story or characters have stayed clear in my mind over time.

It’s interesting to analyse.

  • 100% are romance. Duh.
  • 30% of my top ten are by Maya Banks and 20% are by Andrew Grey. That speaks highly for both those authors.
  • 70% are contemporary and only 30% are historical.
  • 30% are paranormal.
  • 50% are m/m and the other 50% are m/f.
  • 20% involve military or similar. Yep, those are both Maya Banks books. She does the military ones well.
  • A whopping 60% involve disabilities of some sort, whether physical or mental. And I know that some of the ones that I was humming and haaing over whether to include in my top ten did as well. Apparently I like characters with disabilities. If I break it down even further, excluding disabilities arising from the paranormal, it’s 50/50 for physical or mental disabilities. Interesting. And I haven’t included temporary disabilities arising out of injuries that will heal (which you tend to get with the military style ones).
  • I think 70% of them are based in America, which is interesting because I wouldn’t have said that’s my preference. I think there’s 20% Scottish and 10% English.

Yeah, very interesting.

The Harder He Falls, The Deeper He Hurts

Prompt: Tell about a book you’re currently reading (or have recently finished). Give us a brief synopsis and your thoughts on it.

Ugh, this is not a good time for me to be answering this prompt. Talk about embarrassing!  I’m currently in the middle of a series that features m/m couples who are each involved (to different extents) in the BDSM world.

So, I just finished reading The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher. And I’ve started on the sequel, The Deeper He Hurts. These are both re-reads for me. But… (ooh, exciting!)… I’ve just seen that the third book in the series is out, and I haven’t read that one before! It’s called The Farther He Runs, and it starts Finn who plays a big part in the first book.

So, all three books are based around a company called Adrenaline Kick Adventures. Their speciality is white water rafting. The first book starts a little over a month after Grady joined the company. On his first time leading a group down a river for Kick, with two of the company’s partners in the boat with him, they hit a submerged log. One of the partners is killed, and the other (Finn) ends up in a coma. Grady, of course, is drowning (forgive the pun) in guilt.

At the hospital, visiting Finn, Grady meets Micah, who reads to coma patients. Micah reaches out to Grady and offers to talk to him, as he has experience of being in a coma. Micah has some permanent mental health issues resulting from his time in the coma – primarily, he gets ‘lost’ at random times, being suddenly unable to recognise his surroundings. This can mean he can be lost in his own house or in his workplace. Pretty scary.

Grady and Micah hit it off. Unlike most of the guys who work for Kick, Grady isn’t ex-military, nor is he a Dom. Micah isn’t either, but due to his coma-related issues, Micah has a need to be in control during sex. Grady struggles with that, as he’s had a bad experience with a Dom before. He sees submitting as weak, even though he craves it. His struggle to accept this aspect of the relationship is one of the key conflicts in the book.

Another issue is that most of the partners at Kick are Doms. Grady is sure if they found out that he likes to submit to Micah in the bedroom, they’ll see him as weak, and he’ll never be seen as an equal again.

Meanwhile, Micah doesn’t understand how an adventurer like Grady, who has travelled the globe, can be happy with someone who gets lost in his own bedroom. He also needs to learn to trust Grady to be there for him when he’s lost.

It does all eventually work itself out, of course. This is a romance novel after all.

The sequel, The Deeper He Hurts, features another river guide who is convinced by Grady to join the company. He’s what is termed a ‘pain slut’. If you don’t really understand what that means, don’t worry. Neither did I. The BDSM world is not something I’m familiar with! He agreed to leave his current job and join Kick because he’d heard rumours that one of the partners was a sadist, and he was curious if the guy would be a match for him. That sadist is Asher.

I was genuinely unsure if I could like a character who liked hurting other people. My knowledge of sadism is pretty limited, but it’s about getting off on hurting someone else, right? That’s where my thinking was at when I started the book. But it’s not like that, and in fact, there’s a lot of focus on Asher looking after Sawyer, both in and out of the bedroom. Like any other couple in a romance novel, they slowly fall in love, and it’s not one-sided. The pain exchange (or whatever the term is called) doesn’t mean the two don’t have gentle feelings for each other. It’s hard to explain.

The third novel is about Finn, who is the one in the coma in the first book. I’m looking forward to reading that. I have already gathered that Finn is a Dom, but not sure about anything else at this stage.

I haven’t read many BDSM books, and I think the reason I can deal with these ones is that the relationships remain very equal, especially outside the bedroom. Although they do ‘scenes’, there isn’t one person who wears the pants all the time. That’s important to me. I’m not sure I could read a book where one of the couple was constantly grovelling and begging for scraps of attention. No thanks.

I can’t say how accurate the books are in terms of the actual BDSM world, or any parts thereof. I have no idea. If you’re curious, read them yourself and let me know.

Books read in January

Stay With Me by Ann T Cee *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Quinn by Lily Baldwin  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

A Cowboy’s Home by R J Scott *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Snow In Montana by R J Scott *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Second Chances by Jerry Cole *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Switched by N R Walker *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Speechless by Kim Fielding *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Stay With Me by Ann T Cee
There was no conflict in this story.  I was hoping for something…more.  It was sweet and…boring.

Switched by N R Walker
We’ve all heard stories of babies being switched at birth, but few of us can imagine what it must feel like to be in that situation.  N R Walker gives us a fascinating insight.

At first I felt like Israel’s parents were too evil.  No one is black and white.  But the author corrects this by giving us insight into their behaviour and showing other sides of their personalities making them more multi-dimensional.

Overall, I found the concept and story quite fascinating.

Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg
The characters in this were well fleshed out, which made them feel real and believable despite the paranormal aspect.  I loved the Princess Bride references and the general humour.

Books read in December

Downtime by Tamara Allen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Fractured Hymns by A M Arthur *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

The Alpha’s Hunger by Renee Rose  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

An Ordinary Girl by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Ricky by Ashley John *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise Maggie McGinnis *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Talking Trouble by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Chosen by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Downtime by Tamara Allen
Morgan Nash is a 21st century FBI agent. He is somehow accidentally ‘summoned’ back to the 19th century by some scholars who were testing their Latin.

The book with the spell in it is stolen and as they hunt for the means to send Morgan back to his own time, he becomes embroiled in the legendary Jack the Ripper case (irresistible to an FBI agent!) and starts falling for Ezra, his housemate.

Sometimes when writing time travel novels, authors go to the ridiculous (or tedious) trying to convince us that they are familiar with the time period and to help us ‘see it’. In this case, the author focuses on the characters and the plot, and the time periods are secondary, to the point where they feel natural rather than forced. It’s well done.

I actually ended up researching ‘Prince Eddy’ online to find out more about the real man and what happened to it. It’s always great when an historical story prompts you to do real research.

Talking Trouble by Barbara Elsborg
The plot was good, but I would have enjoyed it more without all the gratuitous sex scenes.

Chosen by Barbara Elsborg
Kate is kidnapped by Jack.  He not only rapes her, but threatens every good Samaritan that Kate tries to seek help from, and kills the one man who does try and help her.  Then Jack kidnaps a child from a McDonalds and takes Kate and the child to live in a remote house in the woods where they are going to be happy families.  The raping and violence continues, and Jack threatens the child to help keep Kate in line.  She tries desperately to seek freedom for herself and the child, enduring increasingly more violent punishments each time she is caught.  Meanwhile, Jack’s half brother Nathan has been stalking and monitoring Jack ever since he came out of the mental hospital he went into after sleeping with Nathan’s fiance.  He doesn’t really have any better motive than revenge, but it does mean that he is the one that notices that Jack has disappeared right after buying flowers for a mystery woman.  He hunts Jack down and when Kate appeals to him for help, Jack draws Nathan into his sick and violent plot.  When Nathan and Kate finally manage to escape with the child, Jack goes straight to the police with a twisted sob story that is practically impossible to unravel.  Now Nathan and Kate are wanted for kidnapping and the police believe that Kate is not only mentally unbalanced, but involved in an S&M relationship with Jack and not only enjoys the pain but invites it.  There is little hope of ever being free of Jack’s machinations.

For me, this wasn’t a romance.  Kate and Nathan don’t even meet until 75% through the book, and by the time the book has finished, they’ve probably only known each other a week.  That week has been spent either in the hospital or on the run and filled with constant danger.  They really know nothing of each other.  On top of that, Kate has just endured rape as well as physical and mental torture by Nathan’s half brother.  There is no way she is in any state of mind (or body) for what is her first consensual relationship.  No way.  It was completely unbelievable.

The plot was incredibly convoluted.  I haven’t even gone into all the twists and turns the plot takes.  Not only is there the current events which are convoluted, there is Jack’s twisted interpretation of events which are exceptionally complicated, there are events from history which feed into the current events that we learn about in bits and pieces, and on top of all that, there are other people manipulating the main characters.  By the end of the book I was so confused.  It would have been a better story without all the drama from the past, and without the other people who were doing the manipulating.

It is an incredibly dark story.  There is a lot of violence, both sexual and not.  The violence escalates as the book progresses, and I simply can’t imagine that Kate could come through it without horrific mental scars to go with the physical scars she would bear.

The writing style itself was good, and easy to read.  It was the convoluted plot and the fact that the romance was not only far from the focus of the plot but also utterly unbelievable that led me to give it two stars.

2016

Prompt: It’s nearly 2017. Go ahead and rant about 2016 or what you want to see happen in the new year.

So, in 2016

  • I wrote 11 site newsletters for Writing.com
  • I wrote 2 short stories
  • I wrote two novel chapters
  • I wrote 113 poems
  • I wrote 172 blog entries
  • I read 159 books

These were my five star reads for 2016:
A Restored Man by Jaime Reese (audio version)
A Mended Man by Jaime Reese
My Viking Vampire by Krystal Shannan
Demon Possession by Kierstan Fay
Demon Slave by Kierstan Fay
The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
The Heart As He Hears It by A M Arthur
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall
Nameless by Jessica Sorensen
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews
Tall, Tatted and Tempting by Tammy Falkner
Let It Go by Mercy Celeste
The Bloodline War by Tracy Tappan
Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg
Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg
Ridiculous by D L Carter
Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon
This Isn’t Me by T.A. McKay
Don’t Tempt Me by Lori Foster
Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher
Signs of Attraction by Laura Brown