My Favorite Reads of 2015 Part 2

Goodreads 2015

Goodreads 2015

Since I have so many books I loved from 2015, I had to split the list in half. If you missed Part 1, don’t worry! It’s the internet and you can read that after!

Here then are more of my favorite reads from 2015 in no particular order. As before, I consolidated series into a single entry and links will be Amazon affiliate links to the first book in the series. For the first half of the list, please click here.

11) Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling – Hilarious. Wise. Moving. But mostly, I want to be Kaling. And if not that, be her friend. A worthy followup to her first book of essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

12) The Human Division and The End of All Things by John Scalzi – Scalzi continues the story in The Old Man’s War‘s Universe – which seriously, if you love science fiction and you haven’t read this series yet, WHY HAVEN’T YOU?

The Old Man’s War series is thrilling with lots of fighting and stomping and Starship Trooper stuff. But ultimately what you find is a very human story. A story of a man who loved his wife – and still does even after her death. Those are the moments that feel most true. Scalzi does witty banter so well. But his moments of truth about love (whether for lovers or children) are the most moving.

As for the two books I actually listed, it is a continuation of that world and deals with the consequences at the end of The Last Colony and Zoe’s TaleAlthough you do not need to have read the previous books and they are certainly self-contained enough that Scalzi provides all the necessary information, I do think you will enjoy it much better after reading the first four books. (I know, I know. I look like I’m finally only recommending two books and really, it’s six.)

13) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Set in the world of The Grisha, you don’t need to read the other books at all (although I highly recommend them). I always love a good heist and this story was exciting, fun, and always skirting the edge of grim.

14) The Brothers Sinister Series and The Turner Series by Courtney Milan – Regency romances that are a cut above the rest. Milan writes stories that are highly intelligent with a lot of detailed science that doesn’t sound dumbed down or fake. I appreciate how Milan includes people we often don’t see included in Regencies. She also tends to have excellent stories without resorting to ridiculous tropes. When you have read as many Regency romances as I have (at least 375), that is really impressive!

15) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss – Set in the world of his Kingkiller Chronicles, this story is beautiful, lyrical, and wistful. The homonyms and rhythm of this book is lovely and sweet and poetic. Like a rolling brook. There is still an ever present sliver of dread in the background, but overall, a joyful and keen book. Lovely.

Oh, and it’s about a girl making soap.

Seriously, give it a shot.

16) Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne – God, I love spies. I also love Regency Romances. Perfect! Bourne is excellent as always. Her words and rhythm and humor infuse her books throughout. Part of her The Spymaster Series, I highly recommend you check out the other books.

17) The Jane Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Utterly charming and delightful. The book is set in an alternate 1985 where time travel, police states, and jumping in and out of books is normal. The names are hilarious (I can’t believe it took me almost the entire book to catch Paige Turner) and the book rewards a person with a wide background in classics. The ending is somewhat spoiled if you are at all familiar with Jane Eyre, but it is so worth it. I cannot wait to read the rest of this series.

Also, the series is quintessentially British in the sense that it feels familiar and homey. It reminds me a lot of The Rook or Ben Aaronovitch’s series. Highly recommend. I cannot believe it took me this long to discover!

18) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – Ok, I’m going to cheat here. Technically, I didn’t read/finish this book until this year. But since it was released last year and it was SO FUCKING AWESOME, I am including the book on the list. You’re welcome.

I stayed up until 5:30am reading this and I felt like I was hungover all day and it was SO WORTH IT. This book is violent, sexy, and violently sexy. So good.

Yes, it’s Book 4 out of a projected series of 6 (the other two won’t be out until late 2016 and 2017 – sorrynotsorry), so you do have to start with Throne of Glass (which again, is the weakest in the series). But come on! Super girly assassin who is a BAMF and is really a stone cold killer with a mysterious back story, several love triangles/squares/pentagons.

After you read the first, the rest just get better and better and don’t stop being awesome. Read in publication order to get the full effect: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of FireThe Assassin’s Blade: The Throne of Glass Novellas (set before Throne of Glass but is best read after ToG but before QoS due to QoS being further enriched by the info in TAB), Queen of Shadows.

Can you tell I LURV this series? Of course, it is also likely due to the fact that I just finished this book on the 3rd so it’s fresh in my mind.

Alright. Hapa Papa is going to be so annoyed with me that I stayed up until 3:30am to write this series, but you know what? These books were awesome and totally worth it. Now go read! (Or go buy or borrow, whatever the case may be.) Happy Wednesday!

My Love Affair With Romance Novels

As many of you may have surmised, I am an avid reader. I often go through periods where I tear through a book a day (sometimes more). Then I crash and burn because I have ignored my children for too many days in a row or my DVR is near to bursting or Hapa Papa can no longer stand my disappearing from the family anymore and last (and certainly least), I’m exhausted from lack of sleep.

People are often incredulous when they hear how much and how quickly I read. They ask, “How do you find the time?”

Well, the truth is, I’m a very fast reader (~80 pages/hr). However, the main reason I can read so much is because I make time. Any spare moment or second, I have my nose in a book or on my phone’s Kindle app. Of course, it is at the expense of other activities, (confer above) so every now and then, I have to resurface and take care of all the stuff I’ve pushed to the back burner in order to finish a particularly gripping series.

Now, long-time readers know from books I’ve recommended that I am a big fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasty and the YA genres (particularly SFF and the current dystopian craze). I’ve always loved fairy tales, myths and legends of King Arthur, and stories from 1,001 Arabian Nights so SFF was not really that big of a leap for me. I blame the gateway books of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. I mean, fairy tales have magic, good vs. evil, some type of quest, and lots of fantastical elements. I also loved the Chinese epic, Journey to the West and Chinese myths that my mother read to me.

Anyhow, I digress. What I meant to say is that though I often expound on my love for these genres, I rarely mention that I love Regency Romances. LOVE. They are my guilty pleasure. (Pun intended.) My Goodreads friends know I love romances because my updates are often flooded with them after I go through heavier series. When I’ve chewed through door-stopper books that are each part of a trilogy or heptalogy, I need a dose of fluff. (Heh.) Also, you can read out of order and most books are standalone and you always know how the book will end. Sometimes, all you want is a happy ending. (Heh.)

As a kid, especially in junior high, I was obsessed with romance novels. I was obsessed with sex and these novels were a gateway into understanding my body – that it was built with a capacity for physical pleasure and the romance sure didn’t hurt. When I look back on the novels I read, I wasn’t particularly discerning. In fact, the writing was quite bad. But I didn’t care. I was definitely ashamed, though. I would sneak the books out of the library versus check them out. I was afraid the librarians wouldn’t let me borrow the racy books. (For you young people, this was pre-self checkout stations.) One of the minor benefits to being an adult now, I guess.

Here’s the thing: I only like Regency romances. (I’ll allow for the occasional Georgian or Victorian period since they bookend the Regency period, but that’s just minor quibbling.) I abhor Medievals and can barely tolerate modern romances. Westerns are ok, but I really don’t find them enjoyable due to the spectre of slavery and genocide and sadly, I don’t like real history harshing my mellow. (Most often, the books don’t even allude to slavery – which is what annoys me. Or they have the hero or heroine be the one family with no slaves. In the South. You know, like Mel Gibson’s family in The Patriot. Like seriously? Please do NOT insult me or conveniently paper over an entire people’s suffering.)

Mostly, I just like Regencies because the time period is just close enough to ours such that the rumblings of women’s suffrage, industry, and class revolt are just beginning. But not so recent that sex on a first date (or dating at all) is possible. I particularly like marriages of convenience or “scandal” or spies. OKOK. I like spy stories in any time period.

Of course, the stories are 99% focused on the wealthy and peerage (ie: dukes and duchesses – you’d think they were a dime a dozen) but heck, it is a fantasy. I do find I enjoy glimpses into the lower classes as well, but as you can imagine, far fewer books on romances between the lower classes and if they’re mentioned at all, it’s a wealthy earl marrying the governess or something.

The irony is, now that I’m old enough to read these books with impunity, I don’t care about the sex scenes anymore. Incidentally, the love scenes have gotten steamier than I recall from when I was a kid. And now that I’m old enough to have sex, the sex scenes do not appeal nearly as much. In fact, I often skim the scenes or skip them entirely.

Don’t get me wrong. I still quite enjoy the love scenes. (They were quite helpful for the begetting of three children, after all.) But on the whole, I actually read the romances for the story. You know. Like you do with Playboy. 

Hey, I still enjoy PWP types (Plot, what Plot?) of books, but again, now that I can have sex, written porn has limited appeal. (Oh, come on. We all know that’s what romance novels are!)

Anyhow, this is just a long preamble to what I actually wanted to write about today: My Favorite Regency Romance Authors. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my favorites and some recommendations. (All links are affiliate links.)

My Favorite Regency Romance Authors

1) Mary Balogh – It is evident that Balogh is head and shoulders above all other romance writers. Balogh consistently writes romances that are deeply moving and I love her writing and her vividly portrayed characters. But most importantly, I love the truth that is present in her stories. Of course, all good writers tell truth via lies, (after all, isn’t that what fiction is?), but Balogh is vastly superior. Her stories are imbued with warmth, love, and sincerity. Dare I even say, even sweetness?

Bonus: Balogh has an extensive backlist. As a reader, there is nothing worse than finding a good author and then realizing they only have two books written. That makes readers have a sad.

Start With: Huxtable Quintet or Mistress TrilogyChoose anyone in any of these two series to start. No need to go in order. After all, we all know how the books end.

2) Julia Quinn – Most noted for her Bridgerton family series, Quinn is definitely the Nora Ephron of Regencies. Her books are hilarious, goofy, and a joy to read.

Bonus: Quinn quit Harvard Medical School to write romances. I heartily approve.

Start With: The Duke and I (the first of the Bridgerton series), When He Was Wicked (personal favorite of the series)

3) Eloisa James – Most known for her Desperate Duchesses series set in the Georgian period, James often has long, over-arching B-plots that span a series.

Bonus: James is a Shakespearian professor in her day job and it shows in her liberal use of Shakespeare and her excellent writing.

Start With: Once Upon A Tower (part of her fairy tale series)

4) Joanna Bourne – Bourne is the least prolific of my favorite writers and it is a crying shame. In particular, because she writes fantastic banter, sexy spies, and makes me love the French. She has a total of five books out (so consider yourself forewarned). Choose a random one and it will be excellent and funny and sly. I just finished her most recent one and I am already sad it’s over. As far as I know, Bourne was never a spy, but man, she makes you believe!

Start With: Oh, just pick a book of hers and it will be excellent. But if you must, why don’t we go in order of publication and start with The Spymaster’s Lady.

5) Courtney Milan – Milan is an author that only recently came (heh) to my attention via Bookbub (a great site for free or cheaply priced ebooks). It was a free ebook download and I’m all about free! I immediately exhausted my library and LinkPlus’s selection and broke down and spent actual money to buy her ebook novellas and the books I haven’t read. She does have a few clunkers, but for the  most part, her books are highly intelligent with a lot of detailed science that doesn’t sound dumbed down or fake.

Bonus: That’s because Milan has a graduate degree from UC Berkeley and went to law school at University of Michigan (summa cum laude). She also clerked for some SCOTUS judges and was a law professor. She quit to write romances full time. I also heartily approve of this decision.

I appreciate how Milan includes people we often don’t see included in Regencies. She also tends to have excellent stories without resorting to ridiculous tropes.

Start With: The Duchess War

Skip: Proof by Seduction (utterly abysmal)

Also, she has novellas in packs so you don’t have to buy them individually. Hey. You can save one whole dollar!

Ok. This was a super long (heh) post. I realize this may only attract a certain subset of my readers but whatever. I enjoy these authors. I hope you do, too.

What are some of your favorite romance authors?