paranormal romance

Reading Highlights from 2018

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to write a 2018 Reading Highlights post… but maybe I will, after all. (I’ve just read over last year’s posts and they’re rather a nice record for me!)

I’ll keep this brief, though. Just one post. Probably.

The top three

Only three books got my top ranking (of 9/10) last year. Not sure if this is because I’m getting fussier, but I don’t think so…

I’m not writing reviews, because it’s too long since I’ve read them; but in order of reading, they are:

A Frost of Cares by Amy Rae Durreson

a-frost-of-caresLast year Spindrift, by the same author, was one of my favourites, so this year I served it up to my reading group for discussion. I think most of them liked it, although possibly not as much as me. Anyway, it prompted me to read A Frost of Cares, which is also a ghost story, although unrelated.

This one is about Luke, a military historian, hired to catalogue the archives of the (fictitious) Royal Military School of Medicine, housed in a seventeenth-century country mansion. But soon after settling into the old house, he hears strange noises and begins to suffer from terrible nightmares. Together with Jay, the ex-military caretaker, he tries to understand the mansion’s history in order to face down the angry spirit.

Oh my goodness, I loved A Frost of Cares even more! It’s written from Luke’s perspective some time later, with Jay peering over his shoulder and inserting comments… I seriously adored that device. It’s a lot more spooky than Spindrift too.

Unfortunately it’s not very long (only 138 pages), but there’s a lot packed into it nonetheless. It’s wonderful.

Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

band-sinisterK.J. Charles just keeps on delivering. Everything she writes is fantastic — well written, well researched, well plotted. Band Sinister is more or less an ode to Regency Romances a la Georgette Heyer — so of course I was always going to adore it.

Band Sinister is is about a genteel brother and sister, poor and keeping their heads down because of a family scandal, who come into contact with a notable rake and his house party of atheists. Of course they turn out to be charming, educated, wildly fascinating — and very attractive. Sir Philip (the rake) sets out to seduce Guy (the innocent country gentleman) with… outcomes.

It’s a delightful romp that’s more than mere froth, but keeps things light, romantic and fun.

Kip’s Monster by Harper Fox

kips-monsterHarper Fox is always an auto-buy for me (as is K.J. Charles above). I love her lyrical writing, the strong emotions on the page, the wonderful way she uses setting — in this case a camp for Loch Ness Monster hunters on the shores of Loch Ness. (Not that the individuals in question refer to Nessie as a “monster”.)

I admit I was a little unsure about this one at first… For starters, the title and cover sound and look like it could be a middle grade book. Not the case! I’m so glad I decided to trust in Ms Fox and click away…

Kip’s Monster is about Oz, who has dropped out of his engineering degree to support his grandmother and sister with an admin job, and Kip, the boyfriend Oz also discarded as part of his life reprioritisation when his father abandoned them. But Oz and Kip belong together, even if Kip is battling his own demons and seeking escape on the remote shores of Loch Ness.

There are a few twists and turns and many layers to Kip’s Monster. It’s a deeply emotional book, dealing with themes of parental abandonment, responsibility, and substance abuse in a beautiful way (but it could be a little triggery for some). Like many of Harper Fox’s works it veers a little into the mystical as well. But only a little.

Worthy mentions

In addition to the three mentioned above, I read plenty of other good stuff.

Josh Lanyon (another auto-buy author, who writes crime and mysteries) had several new releases. I’m also still working through Ms Lanyon’s extensive backlist, because they’re all awesome. I re-read several of her books as well. Titles I read for the first time include: Dark Horse, White Knight (two related novellas), Fair Chance (All’s Fair book 3), The Ghost had an Early Check-out, In Other Words… Murder (Holmes and Morarity book 4), The Magician Murders (The Art of Murder Book 3), M/M Mystery and Suspense Box Set (6 Novellas), Murder Takes the High Road, Point Blank: Five Dangerous Ground Novellas. Okay, that’s a lot! Obviously I can’t get enough of Josh Lanyon.

Megan Derr is an author whose books I encountered for the first time last year… Although that’s not strictly true, because I had one on my kindle for a year before I read it. This was The High King’s Golden Tongue (Tales of the High Court – book 1), which I adored. I then inhaled the next two in the series: The Pirate of Fathoms Deep and The Heart of the Lost Star. It might be evident from their titles that they’re fantasy — Huzzah! — albeit still in the M/M romance genre. But there’s plenty of non-romance plot in all three books, and it’s not too grim. There are also interesting things going on with gender roles.

Finally, I’ll just mention that I went on a bit of a Cornwall bender during September and October, in preparation for (and simultaneous with) my visit there. I had a delightful time re-reading some of Harper Fox’s books set in Cornwall — including Driftwood and the first few in the wonderful Tyack and Frayne series. I also dipped into Jay Northcote’s Rainbow Place series, and books by Garrett Leigh, J.L. Merrow and Alex Beecroft in the multi-author Porthkennack series from Dreamspinner Press. It definitely got me into the mood for Cornwall!

I’m going to leave it there for 2018. Apologies to the great books I haven’t mentioned — there were plenty of them.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me until the end of the post. I wish you all another fabulous year of wonderful books!

Reading Highlights from 2017 – Part 3 (Final roundup)

It’s time for the third and final post in my 2017 reading highlights. At this point I will explain that for the past couple of years I’ve been keeping a list of all the books I read, assigning them a rank out of 10. So far my top ranking is 9.

Favourites for the year!

A ranking of 9/10 means I adored the book all round — story, writing, characters etc. It means the book resonated with me and I keep thinking about it and will almost certainly re-read, maybe more than once. A 9/10 generally means it is pretty well written, or at least there’s something I love about the writing, although it may not necessarily be perfect from a craft perspective.

In 2017, I rated the following 12 books and series as 9/10:

  • Spindrift — Amy Rae Durreson
  • Stygian — XX (name removed)
  • Spirit — John Inman
  • Spectred Isle (The Green Men book 1) — KJ Charles
  • Sins of the Cities (series of three) — KJ Charles
  • The Community (series of three) — XX (name removed)
  • Wolfsong — TJ Klune
  • Bear, Otter, and the Kid (series of four) — TJ Klune
  • House of Cards — Garrett Leigh
  • Preacher, Prophet, Beast (Tyack & Frayne book 7) — Harper Fox
  • Locked in Silence (Pelican Bay book 1) — Sloane Kennedy
  • Murder in Pastel — Josh Lanyon

The above list will likely explain why I focused on TJ Klune, XX and KJ Charles in my first highlights post, and then spotlighted three “spooky house” stories in my second highlights post.

Here are a few thoughts on the remaining novels in the above list.

house-of-cardsHouse of Cards by Garrett Leigh is one of the multi-author Porthkennack series, which spans both contemporary and historical m/m romances set in the fictitious village of Porthkennack in Cornwall. For starters, I’m instantly attracted to anything set in a Cornish village, and I love all the Garrett Leigh books I’ve read; she writes about broken characters wonderfully well.

Here, a tattoo artist flees a toxic relationship and finds himself staying with a friend (another tattoo artist) in Porthkennack. In addition to the gorgeous setting, it’s all the small details I love: the beloved old-style tattoo machine, the chicken rescue activities, the smuggling(!), the fascinating secondary characters. I’ll be reading this one again soon, so I can dive into the next one by Ms Leigh (Junkyard Heart).

preacher-prophet-beastPreacher, Prophet, Beast by Harper Fox is the seventh in her Tyack and Frayne series. It’s also the only novel-length installment and takes our heroes and their daughter to some interesting and horrifying places, centred as usual around paranormal happenings in Cornwall, and specifically their new family home on Bodmin Moor.

This is a wonderful series that takes Gideon (a policeman) and Lee (a psychic) from their first meeting (in the brilliant Once Upon a Haunted Moor) through dating, marriage, fatherhood… and in this installment they’ve been married for three years. It’s a series (mostly longish novellas) I will re-read over and over again.

locked-in-silenceLocked in Silence is the first in a new series from the extremely prolific Sloane Kennedy. It’s very different in style from her popular Protectors and Barretti Security series — and a level above, I think. This one is more grounded in reality. More poignant, as both men have been wrongfully accused and vilified for different transgressions.

The premise is not earth shattering: a concert violinist returns to his home town broken and in disgrace, only to discover his childhood nemesis suffered a tragedy that broke him and ensured he’s never left… But the journey is layered and complex, with all the feels. I hope Ms Kennedy returns to Pelican Bay soon.

murder-in-pastelFinally, Murder in Pastel is a republication of one of Josh Lanyon’s early works (originally under another pseudonym, apparently). I’m a big fan of Ms Lanyon, whose novels usually revolve around some form of crime to be solved. This one is a whodunnit set in a seaside art colony in California, and involves the usual cast of eccentric characters.

The viewpoint character is a young mystery writer and son of a renowned painter who disappeared a decade ago, along with his masterpiece painting — so, in addition to the person who inevitably gets murdered, there’s a cold case to solve too. It’s kind of timeless, the way it’s written, and it’s probably now one of my favourite Josh Lanyon novels. (The Adrien English series would come first.)

Also worth mentioning

In my personal ranking system, a rating of 8/10 means it’s above average in terms of my enjoyment, and I logged 45 of these. I’m not gonna list them all, but here are some particularly worth mentioning:

  • Hailey Turner’s Metahuman Files is kind of x-men meets military adventure series (3 books)
  • Undaunted by Devin Harnois is a secondary world quest fantasy with vampires and werewolves(!)
  • Anna Butler’s Taking Shield series is excellent award-winning military science fiction set in the far-distant future (4 books so far, more to come)
  • NR Walker’s two-part Imago series is set in Australia with butterflies, her Thomas Elkin series is a three-part May-December romance featuring architects, and Switched is a fabulous standalone novel about a man who discovers he was switched at birth
  • Leta Blake’s Slow Heat is a sophisticated take on the MPreg non-shifter genre (if you can get past the whole MPreg thing)
  • Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt brings 1950s rock n roll to life in a gritty romance with jazz and synchronised swimming
  • Amelia Faulkner’s incredible Inheritance series features ancient gods and psychic powers in San Diego
  • Silver Scars by Posey Roberts is about two scarred men who meet through a work secondment
  • Renae Kaye’s The Blinding Light set in Western Australia is about a guy who takes on a housekeeping job for a blind man

And that, my friends, is the end of my annual reading highlights. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve been very patient.

If you read in the m/m genre, I hope you’ve found a few interesting ones to try. There are certainly heaps of speculative fiction titles listed — both urban paranormal series, classic science fiction and some fantasy.

Thanks for reading this post! I wish you all another fabulous year of wonderful books.


This post has been edited to remove references to a particular author, who was revealed to be seven shades of unsavoury.