Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.
Ladies and gents, please give it up for the awesome Katiebabs!
When the Book Smugglers asked me to take part in Smugglivus again this year, it was pretty much a given I would. I’ve been invited to do so since their very first Smugglivus. Here is where I can talk about my favorite things from this past year- meaning books and hot men (ahem, well more about books). My Smugglivus has a theme this year. I give you what I call my hidden gems of 2011.
These gems have snuck up on me unexpectedly and have made my reading this year all the better.
The most beautiful line I’ve read this year comes from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus: “The circus arrives without warning”. The buzz behind The Night Circus was intense and I can see why. I was enthralled to the point I wanted to curse Erin because I was utterly obsessed with this fantasy world she has created. Words are poetry where the writer is the artist responsible in creating beauty in every line. Erin Morgenstern has done that here and more so with The Night Circus. It’s a ballet on the pages, an intricate spellbinding tale that will leave you breathless as two people, by no choice of their own, are victims of a game set out by two devious individuals. The prize is not certain or guaranteed. What is certain is there can only be one winner, one left standing, while the other wastes away, overcome with madness for the deceit and manipulation that rules their life until they can’t take it anymore and destroy themselves.
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi had me hooked from the first chapter. I got this book at BEA in May and started reading it on the bus ride home and didn’t stop until I finished in the wee hours of the morning. Shatter Me was an all-consuming reading experience, a dystopian YA and one, even with the strange wording and lyrical prose that worked for me. Shatter Me is all about survival and we see that through the eyes of Juliette and how through her touch, she can be used as a weapon of torture. But what made this book a winner in my eyes is Tahereh’s portrayal of the villain. I count Warner as one of my all-time favorite villains. He’s a combination of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, Erik from The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. I can’t remember the last time a villainous character like Warner resonated with me. Warner is psychotic, and freakishly obsessed with Juliette to the point of madness, but there’s something about him that overrides the heroics of Adam. Warner is like the snake in the Garden of Eden waving the forbidden fruit in front of Eve’s face. All Juliette has to do is reach out and take what Warner is offering her. But she knows it comes at a cost.
I love protective virgin heroes and heroines who are older, wiser and a cut above the mold. Monica Burns has done that with Pleasure Me. Pleasure Me has a perfect combination of what I love in romance. We have a semi-alpha type hero who has been scarred from an event in his younger years due to a horrendous relative. Because of that, he feels he’s less than a man and has never been intimate with a woman. The heroine is considered past her prime at 41 years old, a courtesan who should retire and never been seen again. Both Baron Garrick Stratfield and Lady Ruth Attwood are two maturely written characters I had the delight to read about set in a Victorian London, England at the turn of the 19th century.
Keys to the Castle by Donna Ball really struck home for me. I’m dismayed there aren’t more romances written with an older main couple. It seems most love stories with a man and a woman over forty are delegated to second story status. What grabbed me with Donna Ball’s Keys to the Castle is that the hero and heroine are over forty-five. Also, Donna Ball, known as Donna Boyd, who wrote The Passion, (one of my all-time favorite books) is an excellent story teller. This is proven perfectly with Keys to the Castle, an endearing romance that has a nice chick-lit but mature tone to it. From beginning to end, this book left me with a warm, fuzzie feeling because the elements written create a wonderful story and one I’ll remember for a long time.
Here are a few gems for 2012 you may not be aware of and have caught my eye:
Ever since I watched the BBC version of Robin Hood and every smoldering hot and sexy with Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne, my interest in the Robin Hood tale has me anxious for books that have a spin on the Robin Hood myth like A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet (Walker & Co., 2/14/12).
The twist with this one is that Scarlett is female. The romantic in me wonders if there will be a love triangle with Robin, Scarlett and Gisborne. And since love triangles are big in current YA’s, don’t be surprised if there’s one here.
I bow down to everything Edgar Allen Poe, so when I saw a take on his classic horror short, the Masque of the Red Death, this release coming in April from HarperCollins caught my eye. The cover for Bethany Giffin’s Masque of the Red Death is striking and the story even more so.
It’s a post-apocalyptic YA with Victorian undertones that features a club called Nights in the Debauchery. The seductive club owner, the woman who may or may not fall under his spell and an aristocrat who vies for her hand sound very appealing. You can’t go wrong with an atmospheric Gothic romance (and probably another love triangle, but they are my guilty reading pleasure!)
I can’t believe Blackout, the final book in Mira Grant’s futuristic zombie apocalypse trilogy will be unleashed on the reading public in June from Orbit. Mira has taken a new spin on the zombie myth and added human cloning into the mix. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. You’ll be certain my fingers will be chewed into ragged nubs as I read this one.
Also from Orbit and coming in July is a futuristic Steampunk from Kate Locke called God Save the Queen. The synopsis for this story sounds wild with goblins, werewolves, vampires and hysteria with Queen Victoria as an immortal.
But wait, there’s more…I give you three books I’m DYING to read, so much so that I have the shakes:
One is what I call my crack. Lover Unborn by JR Ward is the 10th book in her immensely popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series, coming in March from NAL. I can’t quit this series with her larger than life, swoonworthy vampire men who made me look at peaches in all the wrong ways (in order to understand, you have to read the very first book, Dark Lover).
Who’d have thought a drug addict and a less than attractive, hulking hit man would be the most talked about super couple of 2012? Stacia Kane’s Sacrificial Magic, book #4 in her Downside Ghost series, will be released in March from Harper Voyager (coincidentally the same day as Lover Unborn). Stacia’s world is gritty and intense and one that has me on the edge of my seat. She makes angry sex in a dive bar bathroom and in underground sewer sexy and hot.
And finally, Meljean Brook ends a good run with her Guardian series (book 8, not yet titled). This is about Michael, the former head of the Guardian angels and one character who has me chomping at the bit for the past 5 years and one I want to claim as my own! I’ve become obsessed with this character and have no worries that Meljean will give him the HEA he deserves. This book should be out sometime in late 2012.
In closing, nothing says gem-worthy like some nice eye candy to bring you into 2012.
Ever since I watched Game of Thrones, I was enthralled by Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drago, the warrior-king of the nomadic Dothraki tribe and Conan in the remake of the Conan the Barbarian movie. This man is not just a pretty face, but lights up the screen in ways that not only makes me hot under the collar but really shows his range as an actor. If you saw Game of Thrones, you’ll understand why.
And the biggest gem for me was having the pleasure to sit in on a panel he was on at NYC Comic Con in October and see how gracious, humble, funny and adorable he is. And when I asked to shake his hand, he let me. Touching the hand of the Moobs (means awesome man boobs) had me giddy.
And there you have it! My reading gems for 2011, some future reading gems and one hot man gem.