In December, I always like to blog about my favorite books of the year. Because I do a lot of editing and beta reading, I recognize that can cause bias, so my only rules for this annual accounting are:
1) I read the book in the prior 12 months, and
2) I had nothing to do with the production of the book.
However, this year, I’m breaking this second rule for one book. Scroll down to find out which one!
(Click on any of the covers to learn more about the book.)
This was the year of Gail Carriger for me. I read all five books of her The Parasol Protectorate series, starting with Soulless, and then proceeded to read almost all of the associated books in her catalogue. She has two spin-off series from this starter set, one I’ve read all of and the other I plan to get into next year. She also has some stand-alone spin-off novels associated with side-characters of this universe, and I read all of them as well. I absolutely 100% recommend these books for entertainment and characters you’ll fall for more and more over time. They contain: werewolves, vampires, soul-stealers (of a sort), ghosts, and lots of manners, tea, and historical frippery. A+ would read again, and likely will.
The Custard Protocol series, the spin-off series set after the Parasol Protectorate books, were a wonderful addition to the universe. I dare to say that Prudence and Imprudence might actually be my favorites of the entire universe, but you really should read the first series to fully enjoy them. The last two in the series were a bit of a fizzle instead of the fireworks of the first, but they were necessary to close out the series and satisfying in their own way. Again, I absolutely recommend these books. More werewolves, vampires, soul-stealers, ghosts, and adventures via dirigible!
There are important queer side-characters in the Parasol Protectorate/Custard Protocol universe that get their happy endings in delicious and delightful side novellas. I eagerly read each and every one. Absolutely worth reading the series in exacting order to hit the peaks of these side character novellas at the right moment to really feel them in your bones.
There was also a straight side character that got a much deserved happy ending. But be aware! If you read these books out of order, and don’t include the side-novellas at the right juncture, you may not fully understand why this character gets a happy ending. He’s spends much of his time in the main novels acting like a jerk. But if you read them all in order, when you get to this one, it is oh so very satisfying!
MOVING ON FROM GAIL CARRIGER NOW!
I started this classic m/m series, Tyack & Frayne by Harper Fox, in late 2018 and finished it over the course of 2019. I loved the development of the characters and the psychic phenomena. I loved the relationship between the two men, and hope eagerly for more from them in the future. Not too scary for me to read at night, but definitely spooky at times. I recommend this series whole-heartedly.
IN KINKIER READS!
I’m almost always a fan of Marie Sexton’s books. This book delivered in some daring and interesting ways, going deeper into some difficult places than many authors dare to tread. I read a number of kinky books this year, but only this and one other stood out for me. Trigger warning for past sexual abuse and the use of BDSM to deal with that trauma.
I started The Escort’s Tale by MJ Edwards (aka Robert Winter) expecting a naughty, fluffy read, and found that while it was plenty naughty, there wasn’t really anything fluffy about it. The book is layered and meaningful, including themes of bisexual awakening, dealing with a disability, and polyamory. A+ work. Do recommend!
NOW ON TO SOME LITERARY WORKS
If I had to give one book the title of “Leta’s Top Read of the Year” it would be this one. Not that We Are the Ants was fun to read. It was, in fact, incredibly wrenching, and, frankly, over the top, and at times a bit melodramatic, but it was, in my opinion, the perfect representation of what it feels like to be Gen Z right now. Maybe it’s what it always feels like to be a teenager? My Gen X self certainly saw parallels in it with the Gen X teen years, but at the same time so much more traumatizing. I both recommend this book and caution people about it. You’ll feel a lot of feelings–including frustration and anger at the main character–but it is what it is, and this book pretty much captures that. Anyway, read it or don’t. As the great motivational speech from the 1979 movie Meatballs said and as this book points out, “It just doesn’t matter.”
Beautifully written, moving version of a Russian fairytale about an old man and woman who make a child of snow and wake in the morning to find the child is real. There’s a deeper look within this novel version about the fight between our wild and civilized selves as well, and the way that culture kills a woman’s wildness. It was one of my most memorable reads this year, but again, it’s a sad one. So I don’t recommend it without noting that it will take you to some quiet, sad, lonely places inside. For what it’s worth, though, it has inspired a novella in my Heat of Love universe that I hope to put out this year. The connection will be obvious if you read this book and then read mine, but, of course, they will be completely different, too.
This was a book that only rewards the patient reader. The very patient reader. I might have given up if one of my best friends who usually shares my taste in novels hadn’t told me that this book was an absolute must read and warned me in advance about the need for patience to get to the pay off. Highly recommended for the person who loves magic, mystery, and long stories of other lands with a splash of queerness all over it.
AND NOW THE BOOK THAT BREAKS MY RULE
I did edit this book and so I recognize the bias in that. However, I feel like Bars & Butterflies deserves a mention because it was one of the most unique books I read this year. It was daring in many ways and I was impressed that Grace Killian Delaney embraced the strangeness of her premise and her characters, as well as the beauty, without worrying for a moment that the oddness of it meant she’d be looking at reduced sales figures. I adored the bravery of taking this on and presenting this beautiful, unique tale about grief, magic, and more, and I also loved how willingly Grace worked to improve the book in edits. It’s well worth your $2.99! Recommended!