Favorites From… Carolyn Crane

Carolyn Crane
Hey Jen!!

Thanks so much for having me over to your recommending event! And how fun to do this.

Okay, a little background: I didn’t grow up reading romance, a fact I see as totally pathetic and sad. Oh, how my teen years would’ve been improved by some good romances.

But, oh well, I’m one of those people who came to romance later in life, entering through the door of urban fantasy and fantasy, which led me to paranormal romance, and then my ultimate love historical romance, which is what I read for pleasure, but would never be able to write in a million years.

Anyway, since my historical romance reading life started in 2008, I missed out on the great 1990’s Fabio era of books, these books people swoon over when you say their name on Twitter. But little by little I’ve been digging back and trying them out. Some of the oldies leave me thinking wtf!! (The Windflower, for example.)

Others have left me breathless. Panting for more. Amazed out of my head!

One of these amazing books is Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. Is the greatness of this book old news to everyone here? Is posting about this like announcing George W. Bush won an election? Are there other people like me who haven’t read it? Because it was just startling to me.

First published in 1992, the tale begins when the brilliant, dashing, rakish math genius, the scandalous Duke of Jervaulx, captures the eye (and pious disapproval because he’s a yummalicious rake) of sheltered Maddy, a Quaker goody two-shoes who assists her mathematician father.

Nothing comes of the brief interaction, but then Jervaulx is struck by an illness that leaves him unable to speak. People think he’s crazy and throw him into a horrible asylum. His mother thinks he’s being punished for his wicked ways.

The Duke of Jervaulx is alone in the world.

Maddy, who so looked down on him, is the only one who realizes he’s not the monster everyone thinks he is. She alone understands him, she alone can rescue the super-hot and damaged duke from the clutches of evil people. OMG, if you haven’t read this book, don’t even listen to my sucky description. It is so exciting and good.

Honestly, when I was reading this, I would often exclaim to my husband, OMG, I can’t believe how amazing this book is!!

He, of course, gave me massive crap for the Fabio-esque cover – yes, this is the edition I found at my trusty USB. Well, it was worth it. I can’t remember the last time I was so heart-racingly compelled by a plot and a hero and heroine.

So that is my recommend. A blast from the past. I hope, if you pick it up, that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks so much to Caroline Crane for sharing her flashback recommendation! I asked Caroline to be a part of this feature because I loved her Disillusionist trilogy. They are original and engaging and they shocked me with great plot twists. The story follows a hypochondriac heroine who ends up using her illness as a weapon. Plus, a great love triangle develops.  If you haven’t read these books, I strongly suggest you give Mind Games a try. I’ll bet you can’t stop there.

So, do you want a blast from the past?   I’m giving away an ecopy of Flowers from the Storm via Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  If you can receive an ebook from them, you are eligible to win. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.

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Favorites From… Michelle Willingham

Michelle Willingham

I think all authors are also book-hoarders. I have a closet with bookshelves from ceiling to floor and both are stuffed to the brim and overflowing. Some are books I’ve kept since I was in high school, others are research books, and some are new authors I’ve discovered through word of mouth. I tend to read a little of everything, and when I’m working on my own historical romances, I like to read paranormal romance.

The first romance I ever devoured was The Maiden by Jude Deveraux. It was medieval, set in a fictional country, and I was completely hooked from page one. I went on to read all of Jude’s books, and spent many happy hours reading and re-reading her historical romances.

While Jude’s stories were the ones that hooked me on romance, it was LaVyrle Spencer who held me in awe. The emotional complexity of her stories held me spellbound, and I’ve read her books so many times, they are falling apart. Favorites include: Morning Glory, a WWII-set story about an ex-con and a pregnant widow who shuns the town; The Endearment, a mail-order bride story; and Vows, which featured a heroine who wanted to be a veterinarian. Even now, I can re-read these books and find something new to savor. If LaVyrle ever comes out of retirement to write a new book, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

There are two series in the paranormal world that I adore. First, JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and in particular, Lover Awakened is my all-time favorite. It’s a Beauty and the Beast story, but with a paranormal twist. And as far as tortured heroes go, Zsadist is one messed-up hero….which makes it all the more delicious when he earns his happy ending.

The second paranormal series I’ve enjoyed is Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. The first book, Dark Fever, featured a heroine who reminded me of Elle from Legally Blonde. When MacKayla tries to find out who murdered her sister, she discovers an apocalyptic world of things that go bump in the night¬—and her manicure will never be the same. It’s a funny, suspenseful series that grabs you by the throat and the transformation of MacKayla is amazing. I loved every minute of it, and was thankful I hadn’t started the series until Moning had finished the last book. I read all of them in a week.

These are some of my favorite books, and I hope you’ll try some of them!

Thanks so much to Michelle Willingham for sharing these fantastic recommendations. I asked Michelle to particpate in this feature because her tortured hero in Tempted by the Highland Warrior really hit my sweet spot.  The guy was so tortured he lost the ability to speak!! It was a great love story and a Highlander book and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you check it out.

In the meantime, I must say that I am also a huge fan of Karen Marie Moning. So much so that I invited her to participate here as well. Unfortunately, she is crazy-busy with the upcoming Iced release. But she offered to provide a signed copy of Fever Moon to give away to one of you! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win.  US/CAN only.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.

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Favorites From… Julie Anne Long

Julie Anne Long

I read constantly and across all genres, but I read far fewer historicals than I used to (and I used to wallow in them), in part because I’ve learned that my muse needs to be fed something very different from what I’m writing—it’s a sort of flint for my creativity to strike against, if that makes sense. And my first responsibility to my readers is to write a great book, so when I’m starting work on a new book, I fish around for a book or two to read that’ll help prime my creative pump.

First off, I want the writing to be fabulous. And by that I don’t mean…oh, lyrical descriptions of s manor houses or what have you. For me, prose is utterly secondary to (or rather—I should say it should only be the delivery medium for) a voice and vision and world view that creates a reading experience so immersive that I feel a little disoriented, almost drunk, when I lift my head from the book, as if I’m surfacing from a deep sea dive or a vivid dream. I don’t really need a happy ending, but I like the ending to feel right. And I may or may not want to read a particular amazing book again. Some pack such a visceral wallop I may never read them again, because I never want to risk altering the way I felt when I first read it. Others I’ll read a half dozen or so times or more. I might critically parse books as I read them, questioning a plot direction, for instance, but I ultimately judge a book on its net impact: was I entertained throughout? Was I moved? Does the story linger? What ultimate feeling was I left with? I’m a pretty egalitarian reader—I don’t really think a “light” book has fewer merits than a “heavy” one, and I don’t believe one genre is superior to another. A good book is a good book; a dull book is a dull book. If it takes you away, it’s done its job. If it transforms you, better still. Reading is a GOOD thing.

YA Author John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS just…blew me away. And if you haven’t read it, and if you don’t think reading about two teenagers who meet in a support group for terminal cancer is something you want to read…well, start reading and try to stop. It’s gorgeously romantic—a true love story in every sense of the word—but it’s very witty, a bit dark, compassionate, tragic, profound, philosophical, intelligent, compulsively readable, and ultimately uplifting. John Green accomplishes all of this with a deceptively light touch. I know better than to use the word “effortless” to describe anyone’s book—even if a writer is propelled by instinct and hard pressed to dissect his or her process, so is, say, a panther when it leaps. I suspect little chunks of the author’s heart and soul are the kindling for a book like this. But it’s utterly effortless to read. Fair warning: it’ll likely wreck you, but in the best way.

David Mitchell is a writer that leaves me kind of blinking and drop-jawed, very, “How…HOW…the HELL does he do THAT??” Again there’s that temptation to pull out the word “effortless”—CLOUD ATLAS is a set of linked stories that leap from genre to genre, from era to era, from voice to voice, absolutely seamlessly, with wit, skill, depth, enormous intelligence and grace without ever losing the narrative thread or my attention. The writing is quite simply astonishing. They’ve made a movie of it (Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, among many others are in the cast), and I can’t wait to see how they try to pull it off. And if you’re a child of the 80’s, I’d recommend Mitchell’s BLACK SWAN GREEN, a story of a boy growing up in England in that era, his challenges at school, his parent’s disintegrating marriage, so much more. It’s lovely, funny, wrenching and gorgeous, and a bit more traditional in format that CLOUD ATLAS.

Irish author Marian Keyes has been a longtime favorite of mine. She began her career classified as a Chick Lit author—she in fact may have been one of the pioneers of the genre, along with Helen Fielding—but to me, she reads more like…oh, maybe more like a female Nick Hornby: she’s a literate, nuanced, writer with a marvelous emotional intelligence who again employs that deceptively light touch even as she navigates some darker themes, like addiction or domestic abuse or grave illness. But basically, she writes about life: friends, family, romance, betrayals, beginnings, endings, transformation. And she is HILARIOUS— one of the few authors who can force me put the book down because I’m laughing so hard. She started out a great writer and has simply gotten better with every book. I’ve read everything she’s written several times, but I’m a little too old now for some of the issues in her earlier books (e.g., girls with low self esteem navigating the dating world), but I suspect she is, too, because her themes have also matured. If you haven’t yet read her, I’d recommend THE BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE SKY (hated to see that book end) or IS ANYBODY OUT THERE, my favorite so far of the Walsh sister books, and another book that’ll wreck you, in a good way.

Other books that I devour: M.C. Beaton’s light and addictive Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth cozies; anything written by Alexander McCall Smith, who writes with such compassion and intelligence and humor and has a fabulous sense of place—his wit is a little edgier and more satirical in his Scotland Street series, and I love it; Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell books—excellent writing, some dense history, wonderful characterizations; I’ve been on an noire kick lately, gobbling up Raymond Chandler and Vera Caspary, both brilliant and unique writers; I love Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti mysteries set in Venice; and lately I’m catching up on David Sedaris books I’ve missed.

Thanks so much to Julie Anne Long for sharing these recommendations. I asked Julie to be a part of the feature because her Pennyroyal Green series finds just the right blend of romance and humor.  I always laugh when I’m reading these books, but the love stories really deliver as well. My favorite is probably How the Marquess Was Won, but What I Did for a Duke was a huge fan favorite as well.

Would you like to try one of Julie Anne Long’s recommendations?  This seems like a great time to remind you that you can enter to win ANY book recommended in the entire Favorites feature, valued up to $15. We’ve got an ongoing international giveaway (anywhere The Book Deposity will ship to.)  Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites From… Loretta & Larissa

Loretta Chase & Larissa Ione

Loretta: I do read contemporary romance a bit more than my own genre and my go-to authors are Susan Elizabeth Philips and Jennifer Crusie. While neither has ever written a book I didn’t like, here are my favorites:
SEP: Heaven, Texas
JC: Bet Me

And outside romance but inside Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Alternate Reality: I think Terry Pratchett is just brilliant. I would start with Guards, Guards, rather than at the very beginning of the Discworld Series. Then, once the reader is completely hooked, she’ll want to read the first book and continue—which has the bonus of allowing her to read Guards, Guards again.

Larissa: My two all time favorites are Robert Jordan and Sharon Kay Penman…but since you’re probably wanting romance-y, I’d go with Sharon Kay Penman. She writes historical fiction, but her books always have a romantic subplot, and they’re just amazing!!!! My favorite is Here Be Dragons, which features a very strong romance. Love it!

Neither Loretta & Larissa could contribute a full guest post, but I wanted to share their recommendations with you. I asked Loretta to participate in the feature because I love her historicals, especially Lord of Scoundrels. It features an “ugly” hero who never really feels worthy of his heroine. And it makes me swoon just thinking about it.

Larissa writes fabulous PNR. I love her Demonica series and its spinoff Lords of Deliverance books. They have such amazing world-building and a huge cast of character that give the stories such a rich canvas.  And –holy wow– the lady can write some sex.  Thanks to both Larissa & Loretta for taking the time to share their recs with us.  

And, of course, we’ve got a giveaway to share.  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win Loretta’s recommendation, Heaven, Texas.  US/CAN only.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites From… Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell
Peabody for President!
By Anna Campbell

Hi Jen! Thank you for having me as your guest today. I love the idea of asking authors to share recommendations for their favorite books. The hardest part was deciding just which books to choose – there’s such a wealth of fantastic reading out there.

Recently I’ve tempered my diet of wonderful romance novels with mysteries. I love how in a good mystery series, we follow that single character through what is often a very long arc (for something like the Nevada Barr series, there are at currently 17 books!). I also love how in many of these series, there’s a romantic subplot that occasionally pushes its way up to become center of attention. Think C.S. Harris’s brilliant Viscount Devlin series set in the Regency period, starting with WHAT ANGELS FEAR.

Yeah, I know, I’m cheating. I’m fitting some extra recommendations in before I get to my ACTUAL recommendation! No mystery there.

The Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters are absolute corkers. They’re a recent discovery for me, but they’ve been around for yonks. CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, the first book, was published back in 1975. The latest installment A RIVER IN THE SKY came out in 2010. Talk about longevity! A RIVER IN THE SKY is number 19 and more are promised. Huzzah! Long live Amelia and her many cohorts.

You might worry about the earlier books seeming dated. And they are – right back to late in Queen Victoria’s reign. One of the advantages of writing historical mysteries is that it really doesn’t matter if flares go in and out of style in the current era, the specificity of period is part of the charm.

In CROCODILE, we meet Amelia Peabody, forthright, brave, self-opinionated (although often wrong) spinster. When Amelia unexpectedly inherits a fortune, she fulfills her dreams of travel to Egypt in the golden age of archeology. There she meets irascible, disheveled and extremely sexy Radcliffe Emerson, “the greatest Egyptologist of this or any other age” as we are told at least once in every book (the running jokes are one of the joys of this series). Sparks fly, romance ensues, and in between, there are dead bodies galore. Some of these dead bodies are meant to be that way – mummies feature strongly – but some aren’t. Amelia and Emerson play amateur sleuths in between their digging. “Every year, another dead body” as their overseer Abdullah puts it.

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK sets the pattern for future books. There’s fun and sparkling wit. There’s romance. There’s danger and intrigue. There’s fascinating information about Egypt, both ancient and (relatively) modern. Amelia and Emerson have one son, the dashing, mysterious and charismatic Ramses who becomes the swashbuckling hero of later books. Do you remember I mentioned extended romance plots? Ramses’s path to true love is littered with drama and heartache and by the time he gets his happy ending in THE FALCON AT THE PORTAL, the reader (and Ramses) have been through the wringer. Great stuff!

Another joy is the huge cast of characters who swing in and out of the stories. Eccentric scholars, master criminals, young lovers, Egyptians, uppity servants, spies, suffragettes, rotters, real people like Howard Carter or Lawrence of Arabia. Not to mention cats who are characters in their own right. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get in an Amelia Peabody novel apart from rollicking enjoyment, a great story and a plethora of corpses.

The tone is dry and witty with hints of high Victorian. Surprisingly the humor doesn’t jar with the dramatic or tragic elements. There’s Bronte-esque melodrama and Austenish wit and Dickensian universality, yet somehow the books emerge all of a piece. As a writer, I’m in awe every time I read one.

If you haven’t read Amelia Peabody, I highly recommend her. If you have, I’m sure I’m speaking to the converted. If possible, read the books in order. Many of plot strands about the family run from book to book with revelations timed for maximum effect. I’m currently up to number 14, THE GOLDEN ONE, and I’m loving it.

If you’d like to read more about Amelia, her family and her adventures, here’s a link to the official website: http://www.mpmbooks.com/peabody/index.html

So are you a fan of historical mysteries? Do you like a little (or a lot!) romance mixed in with other genres? Have you read any of the Amelia Peabody stories? What’s your favorite? 

Thank you to Anna Campbell for sharing her recommendations today. I asked Anna to be a part of this feature because I absolutely adored her Beauty and the Beast themed Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed.  It follows a woman willing to pay off her sister’s debt in the bed of a scarred recluse.  It was one of my favorite books this year.

Now is your chance to check out one of the Amelia Peabody books. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win The Ape Who Guards the Balance by Elizabeth Peters. This one is open US/CAN. 

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites From… Nicole Peeler

Nicole Peeler

Hi folks! Nicole Peeler here, sharing with you one of my favorite subgenres. It’s a little different, maybe, for some of you, but if you like para-rom or UF I really think you’ll like…

Paranormal cozy mysteries!

The mystery genre, for those of you who don’t read it much, are divided into two primary strains: thrillers and cozies. Thrillers are things like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Snowman, which have lots of action, violence, and violent themes. As for cozies, you’re probably most familiar with them in the shape of Murder She Wrote or Miss Marple. Cozies usually feature an amateur sleuth, rather than a professional, and the sex and violence are toned way down. There are still murders, but they will often be offstage, using a method such as poisoning or a single stab-wound, rather than showing a big gory murder like a thriller would.

I love cozies and always have, but recently cozies have begun to stretch their wings a little, allowing things into the genre that would never have been considered before. One example of this is the paranormal cozy. You might remember stories like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” in which there appears to be a paranormal element. But, just like in Scooby Doo, those elements were always “unmasked” to reveal a human villain.

Lately, however, some cozy authors have been playing with the supernatural in a “real” way. The murderers in these books are still going to be human, and that’s one of the things that makes the paranormal cozy different from urban fantasy. But nowadays we have amateur sleuths who are witches with real arcane power, or true psychics, or mediums who really can see the dead, et cetera.

So a cozy paranormal mystery will have all the elements of a cozy. There will be a murder to be solved by an amateur sleuth. There will be minimum sex and violence on stage, although there may be a love interest and some “closed door” intimacy. There will be a really developed world that’s small in feel, so an actual small village or a small community within a larger one. And there will be lots of great character development, as part of the joy of the cozy is watching someone who shouldn’t have to deal with murder and intrigue being forced to chase after baddies.

But a paranormal cozy will have some fun supernatural extras that will appeal to readers of both para-rom and UF.

If you like the sound of this genre, two writers I highly recommend are Juliet Blackwell and Victoria Laurie. Both have series with great supernatural elements, wonderful love interests, and very intriguing murders to solve by fun protagonists.

As someone who has always loved the cozy, I’m happy to see it opening up to new themes and premises, while still remaining true to its roots.

Thank you to Nicole Peeler for sharing her recommendations today.  I asked Nicole to be a part of this feature because her Jane True books add some much needed laughter to my life. The title character is a half-human half-selkie who is just learning about the supernatural world around her and her place in it. The series also features a sexy shapeshifter named Anyan who ratchets up the sexual tension between action and the humor. You can check out my review of the first book in the series, Tempest Rising, for more info.

In the meantime, I’ve got a cozy mystery for you to try. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win a copy of Juliet Blackwell’s In a Witch’s Wardrobe. US Only.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites From… Amanda Carlson

Amanda Carlson

I don’t get much read time these days, but for full on reading enjoyment you can’t go wrong with these authors:

My favorite historical romance author is Georgette Heyer. I discovered her about fifteen years ago and each book is like opening a new gift. I started collecting them immediately off eBay (they were actually my first foray onto eBay!) and never looked back. I have hundreds. Some of my personal faves are The Grand Sophy, Arabella, The Toll-Gate, and The Convenient Marriage. She writes in a voice perfect for the genre. I think she’s brilliant.

On of my first reads in PNR was Kresley Cole. I hadn’t read much of the genre before her, so she literally popped my genre “cherry” with her Immortals After Dark series. And can I say it was an awesome way to pop! She has an amazing voice. (Voice is huge for me.) Her characters jump off the page and her sex is diiiirty. Start with the first and read all the way through. You won’t be sorry.

Jane Yellowrock is badass and one of my very favorite urban fantasy heroines. Faith Hunter is at the top of the urban fantasy food chain for me. Her writing is flawless and her world absolutely rocks. I like my heroines tough with a mind of their own. Faith delivers every single time. If you haven’t read Jane yet, I urge you to pick one up. The story is original and Faith writes action all day, everyday.

My happy go-to place has always been humor. I love to laugh. And for that it’s always David Sedaris. I laugh until I cry when I read one of his books. They are the only books I’ve ever read out loud so my spouse can enjoy by proxy. (Often much to his dismay.) I’ve been known to yell, “Wait, wait…there’s one more,” laughs too hard to speak, “you gotta hear this one. It’s the last one. I promise.” “No wait, there’s just one more…” Me Talk Pretty One Day is one of his best, but they all rock if you love to laugh.

Amanda’s bookshelf

I’d like to thank Red Hot Books for inviting me to chat about books I love. There’s nothing better than an excellent book—a book that leaves you with happy tingles is a true gift. If you’d like to find out more about me and my debut FULL BLOODED, I’m in all the regular places. For more info visit my website at: www.amandacarlson.com

Thanks to Amanda Carlson for sharing these recommendations today. I asked Amanda to be a part of the feature because I really enjoyed her debut, Full Blooded. It features a kick-ass werewolf heroine who is the only one of her kind. It’s got plenty of action and at least one hot roll in the hay.  Check out my review for more deets.

In the meantime, you have a chance to win one of Amanda’s recommendations. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win Skinwalker, the first in the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter.  US Only please.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites From… Jeaniene Frost

Jeaniene Frost

First, thanks to Jen at Red Hot Books for having me on the site! I was a reader long before I became a writer, so it’s great to talk about authors I love. First, a disclaimer: There’s no way I can mention every author I enjoy because that would take too long. For a more complete list, you can go here and that still won’t cover everyone. Disclaimer aside, here are the top five authors that make me drop everything when they have a new release:

Melissa Marr. Whether it’s sinister-yet-sensual faeries (Wicked Lovely); the Hungry Dead (Graveminder); witches, shifters, and daemons in a mesmerizing carnival (Carnival of Souls), or an otherworld that gives Cowboys and Aliens a run for its money (not-yet-released The Arrivals), I am hooked on Melissa’s stories. She blends richly-layered world building with characters so vibrant it’s not unusual for me to dream about them.

Ilona Andrews. Another author who matches awesome world building with addictive characters. If you’re a series junkie like me, I can’t recommend the Kate Daniels books highly enough. If you like your stories in one-and-done form, then check out Gunmetal Magic, a stand-alone spinoff set in the Kate Daniels world, or any novel in Ilona’s “The Edge” series. Don’t blame me when you miss out on sleep, though. Her books don’t like to be put down.

Kresley Cole. Her Immortals After Dark series is my literary crack. Each book is filled sexiness, humor, and enough emotional drama to make me tear up at times. These books are firmly on my Keeper shelf for whenever I wanted a guaranteed great read, or a great re-read.

Charlaine Harris. She’s the woman who brought us Sookie, Eric, Bill, and Alcide. Need I say more? Okay, I will: The Southern Vampire Mysteries manages to blend quirkiness with horror, humor with sensuality, and the supernatural with the mundane so smoothly that one might be tempted to believe Bon Temps actually exists. Also, Charlaine is so warm and gracious that someone ought to tell her she’s a rock star because clearly she’s unaware of that.

Nalini Singh. Her Guild Hunter series is pure magic. I love the blend of angels, vampires, and natural-born hunters. Elena and Raphael burn up the pages, as do Dmitri and Honor, and in case Nalini didn’t hear me the first time I said it…can we get a Bluebell book? PLEASE?! *wink*

Thank you to Jeaniene Frost for sharing these recommendations! I asked Jeaniene to be a part of this feature because her Night Huntress books were among my very first UF/ PNR reads and I still love re-reading them.  The series follows the lives and romance of half-blood vampire Cat and her uber-sexy partner Bones.  Jeaniene has also written spinoff books featuring side characters in the series (which I also love.)  If you haven’t read this series yet, start with Halfway to the Grave.  It won’t let you down. 

In the meantime, here is your chance to try out one of Jeaniene’s recommendations. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win Graveminder by Melissa Marr.  US/CAN only.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites from… Stacia Kane

Stacia Kane

It’s hard to pick just one book to recommend, isn’t it? I have a long list; stuff like Sharon Kay Penman’s medieval novels (and don’t ignore her Justin de Quincy mysteries, which I loved), Angela Huth’s WIVES OF THE FISHERMEN, Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY, Josephine Tey’s THE DAUGHTER OF TIME (which I think should be required reading!), THE CHURCH OF DEAD GIRLS by Stephen Dobyns, INTO THE WOODS by Tana French…the list goes on and on. And yes, of course there are other urban fantasy novels and authors on it, ghost stories and mysteries.

But I’m going to step out of genre and talk about Herman Wouk (who, at the age of ninety-something, has a new book coming out soon, btw). His Pulitzer-prize winning THE CAINE MUTINY is my favorite novel ever. But lately I’ve been thinking about, and listening to on audio, MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR. So that’s what I’ll discuss today.

MARJORIE is about Marjorie Morgenstern (“Morningstar” is her stage name), a young Jewish girl in 1930s New York who dreams of becoming an actress, and who finds herself in a complicated, years-long romance with a fascinating but irresponsible songwriter. The back cover of the first copy I bought—which fell apart, and I had to replace it—described it as something like “a searing romance that crosses two continents.” Which is true, ultimately, but the book is not genre romance by any stretch, and the relationship is both more mundane and more interesting than that. It defines Marjorie…until she decides to stop allowing it to do so.

It’s difficult to talk about MARJORIE without spoiling the ending, which is one of the greatest “upsets” I’ve read, but I’ll try. I’ll just say that the ending is both surprising and not surprising, and that it is deeply satisfying. Having spent something like 500 pages with Marjorie, we care about and like her; we understand her. And whatever she may or may not become, when we close the book on the last page, we know that she is truly happy, truly satisfied.

We know above all that she has been true to herself. Despite the complex and contradictory advice she is given, despite her battling the demands of her parents and the demands of society, Marjorie ultimately chooses to live as she wants to live, and no other way.

I first read the book at eighteen, having devoured THE CAINE MUTINY the year before. I remember being a bit confused by the ending; I liked it, I loved Marjorie and I loved the book, but I was…kind of let down. I’d been expecting something else. Marjorie’s final decisions seemed odd to me. I mean, I got it, but I didn’t “get” it.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t old enough yet to see what Marjorie saw, and to fully understand what led to that decision. This may be due in part to my immaturity at the time—I was only eighteen, after all—but I also believe it’s partly due to Wouk’s skill and the subtlety of the clues he dropped, the way he showed us the character of Noel Airman (the songwriter). At the end, Noel has not changed; he is not presented one tiny bit differently than he has been throughout the book. At eighteen I saw that and didn’t understand what it meant. At eighteen I didn’t quite see, yet, where that led and would lead, how even as Noel is exactly the same the book’s perception of him, and thus Marjorie’s perception of him, has shifted ever so slightly, the way the angle of the sun has shifted in the last week or so, making it feel like fall instead of summer. Everything looks the same; everything is the same, but the way we perceive it, the way it feels, has changed just a bit. It’s like we’ve taken one step to the left.

There’s a moment right at the end where Marjorie sees the room before her as if through a green lens, and everything looks clownish and false. Then the lens disappears and she realizes it was the “lens” itself that was false. She realizes that she is who she is, and she is proud of that, and excited about the future. That’s rather how it feels reading the scene I can only think of as the “showdown” in the book’s penultimate chapters, except in that case it’s a rosy lens that has been removed. At eighteen I didn’t see the removal of the lens, at least not as clearly. Now I do. Now I know why Marjorie made her decision. And, silly as it may sound when referring to a fictional character who appeared over fifty years ago, I’m proud of her.

Perhaps the life Marjorie chooses isn’t one many women choose now, but the fact remains that it is her choice; her decision and no one else’s. The fact remains that she is offered a different life and says no, and never regrets that decision, and we see later how right she was to say no and how strongly she both knew herself and stuck to her guns.

You may feel differently, of course. But either way I recommend the book highly. It’s a lovely, absorbing, wonderful story, and I adore it.

Thank you to Stacia Kane for sharing her recommendations today. I asked Stacia to be a part of this feature because I am absolutely captivated by her Downside series.  The heroine is a drug addict. She is fundamentally broken in many ways by neglect and abuse.  She makes bad decisions.  But Chess Putnam hasn’t given up on life. She maintains loyalty to the Church that employs her and does her job well, banishing ghosts for them.  The male lead, Terrible, is officially one of my favorite heroes of all time.  He is an uneducated, unattractive thug.  But he loves Chess in a way that turns him into a damn prince.  The series is gritty and disturbing at times.  It’s also amazingly good.  If you want to know more, check out my review on book one: Unholy Ghosts.

I don’t have a giveaway just on Marjorie Morningstar, but if you want to give it a try, you can enter the giveaway below. It is for any book recommended by an author during the Favorites From My Favorites feature.  (Valued up to $15.) This giveaway is international. 

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
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Favorites From… Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh

I’ve enjoyed Joss Ware’s ENVY series since I first read Embrace the Night Eternal (which is actually the second book in the series – of course, I then had to go and read book 1!).

It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world (starting about 50 years from the apocalyptic event), and features a great cast, plus a really cool concept about how the apocalypse happened. There’s action, adventure, romance, and some creepy zombies who go around saying something that makes no sense…until it does. 😉

It’s definitely a series I would recommend to paranormal romance fans. While there is a continuing backstory, each romance stands on its own.

I hope those of you who decide to try this series enjoy it!

Thank you to Nalini Singh for sharing her recommendation today.  I asked Nalini to participate in this feature because her Guild Hunter books are sooo good.  The first three center on the Archangel Raphael and Elena, the woman who has captured his ancient, bad-ass heart. Later stories feature other angels or vampires in his circle.  Nalini’s also the author of the popular Psy-Changeling series. Both that series and the Guild Hunters are recommended reads by other authors taking part in Favorites From My Favorites. In fact, Nalini was recommended three times… more than any other author.

Now, here is your chance to try Nalini’s recommendation. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win the first book in the Envy Chronicles, Beyond the Night. This one is US/CAN.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.

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