So romantic I could die.
That’s my review for this extraordinary book.
Should I try to explain the depth and evolution of character, the beautiful turns of phrase, the unending love, and the real peril suffered by these characters? No review or blurb could do it justice. The book’s blurb itself doesn’t touch on any of this (I read the blurb again after finishing the book and wanted to laugh—no no no, not even close to what happens in these pages). And with its previous cover (imagine your typical historical romance cover with a bare-chested man, hair blowing in the wind), it’s not something I’d normally pick up.
This is the most tortured of heroes, thrown straight into his own version of hell. A heroine who sticks to her morals in the most challenging of trials, her head held high. Two people who need each other with the intensity of Cathy and Heathcliff, but who wouldn’t dare play games or hurt one another intentionally. The plot itself is unrelenting, and the setting is epic—from an insane asylum, to a haunted castle, to a bustling city, and back again.
This book went on my All-Time-Favorites and Favorite-Love-Stories shelf before I was even half finished, and the final half only strengthened its place.
FLOWERS FROM THE STORM by Laura Kinsale
Amazon | Goodreads | Laura Kinsale’s website
There is no book more perfect than this. I will think about it every day for the rest of my life.
DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST
by Juliet Marillier
Amazon | Goodreads | Juliet Marillier’s website
Here’s the book that has been ruining all my writing progress. It’s the kind of story that forces you to slow down and savor every word of the enviable prose. And then when you’ve finished, you’ll have to start over at page one just so you can read it again with the knowledge you have gained at the end.
Quietly twisted, to horrifying, to bitterly sad, with the most fitting ending I never expected. What a perfect horror story. It left me perfectly unsettled just as it should have. Exceptional on every level. My favorite read of the year.
(For those of you who are sensitive to animal cruelty, skip a few pages when rabbits are mentioned. It’s not graphic, but the details are haunting enough for me to wish I could unread.)
THE GIRL FROM RAWBLOOD by Catriona Ward
Amazon | Goodreads
Here’s another magical story I couldn’t put down. Part of me was bothered by the idea of capturing and caging mythical sea horses, and that feeling only seemed to get worse as the story went on.
But I think that’s kind of the point. It adds to a darkness in this book that wouldn’t be so pronounced without it, and in that darkness this love story shines so bright.
One of my favorite concepts in love stories is when the differences between two people create the perfect connection, a meant-to-be team, and each brings something to the other. Where each person guards the other, keeps them safe from their demons. They don’t just love each other, they need each other in a life-or-death way.
And there’s so much more going on in this plot which I don’t want to mention for fear of ruining the magic.
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
Amazon | Goodreads | Maggie Stiefvater’s website
Characters so real and honest that when tragedy strikes it’s shocking and chilling and so utterly traumatizing. Five hundred stars. Because it’s that damn good. Don’t read this book unless you like reading books with a hand over your mouth and a storm in your heart. But yes, do read it, because the writing is too good to miss.
There are some lulls in the plot early on, and at times it’s a serious slow burn, building lives and characters with lots of talk of ballet. I’ll admit I almost set it aside. Don’t set this book aside. Keep going. Once you reach the thick of it there is no option to set it down until you reach the end.
I read books to find complex, real characters who temporarily–and sometimes forever–become a part of me. I read books to find raw human struggle and survival and portrayals of deepest love. This book has all of that.
THE MAN I LOVE (THE FISH TALES BOOK 1) by Suanne Laqueur
Amazon | Goodreads | Suanne Laqueur’s website
This book has everything I love to read (and write). Ancient magic, underground war. Detailed modern setting with an undercurrent of fantasy. A hero haunted by the past. A heroine with her own demons. Both hunted, both fighting. Reluctant allies. Equals. Soul mates. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
If you like my books, you have to check out this series. Right now the first book is only $.99 on Kindle!
THE SCRIBE by Elizabeth Hunter
Amazon | Goodreads | Elizabeth Hunter’s website
I wrote a review on Goodreads immediately after finishing NOBODY BUT US, and although it’s a bit frantic and simple, I can’t come up with anything better. So here it is. This book will gut you. In the best way possible. And right now it’s only $3.99 on Kindle.
OH MY GOD. I hate this book. I love this book. Five screaming stars. Thank you to the author for having the courage to do that. Poignant, explosive, so brutally romantic.
I do have to add, though, that if you’ve read my books you know my definition of “romantic” is a bit, uh, weird? Twisted? Gory? I’m surprised I don’t get hate mail over what TB does to Liv in Chapter 33 of THE ALIGNMENT.
NOBODY BUT US by Kristin Halbrook
Amazon | Goodreads | Kristin Halbrook’s website
THE GASLIGHT DOGS is my favorite read of 2016. It was published six years ago and I don’t know why I waited so long to read it.
Karin Lowachee’s writing is filled to the brim with powerful storytelling enriched by poetic, expert prose, and this book is proof of that. The care that goes into each and every word leaves me speechless. And the characters… their struggles, their reluctant unions, how human and authentic they feel… at times in this book it was almost overwhelming. I often had to set it down just to catch my breath.
I love Sjenn, her peaceful strength, her morals, her refusal to accept the violence that was coming into her land. I found her to be the perfect anchor to Jarrett’s (understandable) bitterness and hostility. Their journey from the comfort of their known worlds into each other’s was both beautiful and devastating. The layers of emotion and human struggle are piled thick, and I know it will take me a long time to fully process it all.
And that ending? My heart! I know there’s been mention of a second book and a third. If it’s really happening I know it’s probably years from being published but I need the second book now. My advice to readers is to buy this book now but hold onto it until #2 is published. Maybe #3 as well.
Wait, what am I saying? Read this book!! You can read it again when #2 is out. Because if you wait, you’re going to be screaming just like I am. Why did I wait so long to read this book?!
I have such hope for these characters, and they are going to be on my mind until I can finish their story.
THE GASLIGHT DOGS is alternate history/fantasy/literary fiction. Some readers classify it as steampunk but I don’t think that’s accurate at all. Don’t let the alternate history part throw you though. This book is a story about people. The setting is historical but the story is timeless. And the fantasy element is just perfect. There’s no romance but it’s really not needed. The relationships built in this book are just as touching as any love story.
THE GASLIGHT DOGS by Karin Lowachee
Amazon | Goodreads | Karin Lowachee’s website
Oh, and if you do read and enjoy this book please post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Right now it only has a 3-star average which is outrageous.
Vengeance Road isn’t just one of my favorite books of this year, it’s one of my favorite books of all time. I read it in three days and I have no idea how–I don’t have enough spare time in two weeks to read a full book. But I guess it helped that this one was simply glued to my face. I couldn’t get it off.
Incredibly immersive and real and the dialect was dead on–the Western flavor was heavy but somehow also very readable. Maybe it helps being American and from Missouri. I know it’s not the West, but we do have cowboys here if you know where to look. :)
I loved every character, even when they broke my heart. I was rooting for them even when they were being stupid. And this book has one of my biggest pet peeves with books, especially YA books, yet I forgive it.
I only have two regrets. One, that I read it so rabidly and at times in such short bursts (elevator rides, waiting in short lines, etc.) that I didn’t fully enjoy it. And two, that it was YA, because I so wanted to see some more smoochin’.
Many thanks to the author for making this book actually about vengeance instead of about learning not to be vengeful. Sometimes we just want to see the heroine blow a bad guy’s head off. That’s not a spoiler because it happens in the first chapter. :)
This book is gritty, so beware. But it’s not at all graphic. If you can take the violence and death in my books, you’ll love this one.
Right now it’s only $2.99 on Kindle!
VENGEANCE ROAD by Erin Bowman
Amazon | Goodreads | Erin Bowman’s website