Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mary's Best SF of 2008

I’m one of those people who doesn’t do New Year’s resolutions or “Year’s Best “ lists. My brain just does not really work that way, but Kimber An asked us to come up with a list of our best reads of 2008 so I thought I would play along. I was so caught up in a huge home remodeling project that I’ve only read a handful of books since mid summer so, I have a top five list and some honorable mentions, not a top ten, and just fair warning, almost all the books are part of series. Again, just seems to be the way my mind works.

The list is in no particular order

1) Girl Genus -
This might be a bit of a cheat, since it is an on-line graphic novel / comic, and it has been around for a while, but it was new to me this year. Spunky, heroine, fun steampunk graphics. Well worth checking out.

2) Victory of Eagles Naomi Novik. This is the fifth book in the Temeraire saga, a cross between Anne McCaffery’s Dragonrider books, and Patrick O'Brian’s British Naval yarns. If you like fantasy that is more than just a script for a round of D & D you really need to read about Temeraire an his captain, but you will need to start at the beginning of the series with His Magisty’s Dragon. This series is one of the most entertaining in SF/Fantasy right now and this book would be one of my top two reads for the year.

3) The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest Edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. This is anthology is more Fantasy, and it’s from 2004, so it’s not new but I got it as a gift last Christmas and saved the stories for little treats throughout this year. I’ve been a fan of Terry Whindling’s anthologies since the Bordertown books back in the mid ‘80’s, and over the years I’ve seldom been disappointed with anything edited by Windling and Datlow. Their compilations entertain, but they also make you think, often at the same time.

4) Sly Mongoose Tobias Buckell. Swashbuckling cyber/steam punk Caribbean Space Opera. What’s not to love? The third interrelated book set in Buckell’s far future universe. I reviewed it earlier this year for Enduring Romance.

5) Order 66: Republic Commando 4 Karen Traviss . Yes it’s a media tie-in book. Yes it’s based on characters from a video game. Yes it’s military SF. Forget all that. Seriously. This is my best read of 2008. Traviss is talented writer who creates complex characters with hearts and guts and puts them in challenging situations where there are no easy answers. Order 66 is the conclusion of a four book series centered on the four clone commandos who make up Omega squad. The series starts with Hard Contact. After reading this series you will never look at anything in the Star War’s Universe the same way again. You don’t have to have a Princess Leia costume in you closet or be a member of the fighting 501st to enjoy this series, it truly transcends the source material and is as good as any ongoing SF series out there.

Honorable mentions:

Shades of Dark - Linnea Sinclaire. Sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost. Yummy SFR

Judge – Karen Traviss. This is in Traviss’s own Wess'har universe, so if you’re allergic to media tie-in books you can still give her work a try. Start with City of Pearl you will not be sorry.

Ghost Brigades, Last Colony – John Scalzi. Fun, character driven space opera. Great “gateway” books for people still getting their feet wet on reading SF. Heinlein without all the weird sex hang-ups.

And lastly just to blow my own horn a little bit. Not From Around Here, Are You? - Ed by Woody Carsky-Wilson. An anthology of work by Cincinnati area writers, which contains some SF and Fantasy including a sort story by me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


To wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hannukah, here's one of my favorite children's books.
"When a bad leak ruins the sacristy wall in his father’s church, Jonathan Jefferson Weeks thinks his family’s first Chritmas Eve in Detroit will be ruined too. Luckily, he and his father find a beautiful tapestry for sale in a second hand shop... just the thing to cover the damaged wall and give the church a festive look."But there is more to the tapestry, they discover, when an old Jewish woman who is visiting the church recognizes the lovely old cloth. It is her discovery that leads to the real miracle on this unforgettable Christmas Eve."Master storyteller and artist Patricia Polacco has outdone herself in this poignant holiday tale of two families, two faiths, and two lonely people united by a beautiful twist of fate."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Robyn's Top Ten!

I've reviewed a couple of these this year, but I've loved all of them.
1. The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs
A mature story not only of the bumps of a long-term marriage and what a woman goes through when she’s ready to grow when her older kids don’t need her so much anymore, it’s a glowing tribute to military families everywhere.

2. Gift of Gold by Jayne Ann Krentz
An absorbing paranormal before they were all the rage- and not a vampire in sight. All Jonas Quarrel has to do is touch an object that has been associated with violence, particularly objects from the Renaissance, to re-live what the original owner went through. Someone knows and wants to turn Jonas into a weapon, but for Verity Ames’ ability to help him control his gift.

3. Fireflood and Other Stories by Vonda N. McIntyre
This wonderful science fiction anthology includes what I consider to be the finest SF/Fantasy short story ever written: Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand. The tale of a woman who uses snakes to heal rather than kill had me entranced. That story grew into the novel Dreamsnake, also well worth it.

4. Seducing the Mercenary by Loreth Anne White
It is incredibly difficult to write compelling political intrigue in a romance, and even harder to do it in category length. Ms. White does it beautifully in this story of a man trying to hold his small country together while fighting the world’s image of him as a tyrant.

5. Affair by Amanda Quick
She turns a bland, scientifically minded nerd, Baxter St. Ives, into one of the most Alpha gotta-love-him heroes ever. Throw in a heroine who has made a career for herself investigating the intentions, honorable or not, of her lady client’s suitors, and I was hooked. When someone Charlotte was investigating winds up dead, she and Baxter must find the killer. Great fun.

6. Starsight by Minnette Meador
A boy prince grows to manhood literally overnight, and must keep his kingdom from being destroyed. The old woman who was his magic teacher must now become his subject, while helping him deal with the strong powers he now possesses. Fabulous fantasy.

7. Stardust of Yesterday by Lynn Kurland
A young American inherits a castle in Europe complete with a ghost- who doesn’t want a roommate! But Kendrick grows to love Genevieve, and she him. And when the spirit of an impossibly noble knight asks her, “Shall I slay dragons for you, my lady?” I just about fainted. If you liked The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, you’ll love this book.

8. Naked In Death by J.D. Robb
The first in the series of futuristic mysteries by the alter ego of Nora Roberts, and perhaps one of my favorite couples ever. Tough cop Eve Dallas is completely believable, and I love investigating crimes with her. I also love Roarke, her ethically flexible husband, who owns almost every business there is. Good, good urban fantasy mystery.

9. The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell
Also the first in a series, plus-size Ellie hires gorgeous Bentley to be her escort to a family function; she’s tired of the veiled insults her relatives throw at her. But the old uncle who owns the family estate leaves it to Ellie and Bentley on one condition- Ellie must lose weight, and Bentley, who wants to write a great novel but can only manage trashy pulp, must pen a good work. As they try to meet the demands to gain the prize, they face dangerous opposition. This is a funny, witty series of really good English cozy mysteries.

10. The Mandarin of Mayfair by Patricia Veryan
A spectacular Georgian romance by one of the genre’s masters. Her heroine, Gwendolyn, has a physical disability, and her hero, August Falcon, is part Chinese. That alone was enough to sell me. Veryan is a genius at weaving the political and religious instability of the day with crackling dialogue and exciting plots. A good old fashioned no-nookie romance.
Merry Christmas, everybody!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Robin's Top Ten Books of 2008

My scheduled day for reviews happens to fall on a little holiday known around here as Christmas. So Kimber agreed that I could post my list a little early. :)

And here it is, in no particular order....

1)) The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff- ok, this does happen to correspond to my very favorite book this year. It's sold as general fiction but has elements of mystery, espionage, and romance. The best of all worlds! I love the soft, determined voice of the protagonist. It's a rewarding world to enter.

This is a wartime story of a Polish resistance worker in the 40's, recovering from a concentration camp. She finds love, heartbreak, and intrigue, all without looking. And although it could sound fantastic, the scenes are all so believable, I could feel myself in them - like when she is in danger, but is carrying a little girl on her hip and she is torn about setting her down. It's something you feel as a mom with little girls or boys riding your hip - how do you best help them? So go, pick this one up.

2) The Winter Queen, by Boris Akunin

It is a mystery set in 1876 Moscow, and reads much like Russian literature of the period, rather than a modern American novel with an exotic setting. You'll love the insecure hero, Erast Fandorin, and cheer for him as he tries to prove himself in his first case.

3) The Grape Thief, by Kristine Franklin

Not long ago I was in Roslyn, Washington, thinking it would be a wonderful setting for a historical fiction. It did well for Northern Exposure, but the history seemed fascinating. Then, I stumbled on this book and saw that I was right! This is about a boy who is struggling for the opportunity to stay in school amid the poverty that immigrants faced in Roslyn about 100 years ago. The boys are well drawn and the town comes alive. I believe this is considered YA and would be a great choice for boys to read this year.

4) A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly

Another YA historical, this time from a girl's POV. This is the story that inspired Dreiser's An American Tragedy, well, that is to say that the murder is part of Mattie Gokey's experience and helps solidify for her what she wants for her life. It's ultimately a story about a young girl choosing for herself what kind of life she wants.

5) A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray

Again we have a YA historical, but this time with fantastical elements. Gemma is able to enter "realms" where she can control her surroundings. Her mother, who died protecting her, is there to guide her and teach her about her powers. This is considered for 9th grade and up, but also has some light horror in it. It's very good, but spooky, so be forewarned.

6) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. Simply put, this book is about power. It's a YA, again, about a girl in a boarding school who finds that from one spring to fall she's jumped into a different social set, and she likes the power that brings with it. And she learns to use that to get more power. It's not your typical girl in high school, wants a boy, wants good grades, wants a good mom or dad. No, she wants power, and it's a really interesting tale.

7) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. This book got rave reviews for good reason! It's a partly autobiographical novel about life on the Spokane Indian reservation and a boy trying to find out who he is and what he wants from life. He gets a chance to go to school off of the reservation (20 miles away and often he has to walk) and it opens doors for him that are exciting, but stab at his self-identity. It's funny, and eye-opening, and sad all at the same time.

8) The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.

I love automatons - mechanical men and animals that moved like robots before we had robotics. They were part toy, part humanoid, part creeeeepy! Hugo Cabret is a boy who lives in a train station keeping the clocks running after his father dies. He wants so badly to fix his father's automoton that he's hung onto for years, as well as keep himself warm and well fed. This book is told both through words and illustrations - where the words leave off, the pictures pick up the story. This is a middle grade, but so beautiful that I loved it as much as my daughter.

9) Gaslight Mysteries, by Victoria Thompson.

A wonderful mystery series set in 1905 New York. Sarah is a midwife from a wealthy family but with a heart for the city’s poor. Frank is an Irish-American detective who ends up collaborating with Sarah on many cases. Each of them has access to parts of the world that the other never would, so they make a perfect team. Throw in a mystery about how Sarah’s husband died and a love affair beginning between Sarah and Frank and it’s a near perfect series.

10) The Collaborator of Betheleham, by Matt Benyon Rees. I was intrigued by this series when I read that the author worked as a journalist in the West Bank, then turned his hand to writing fiction because he thought he could tell the story better, and to more people. As he says in his brief introduction, the people are fictional, but the deaths are real. The detective is an 58 year old history teacher who is a richly drawn, well thought out character. I really encourage you to pick this one up especially if you love stories set in the middle east, like I do.

Well, that's it for 2008. Happy Reading!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kimber An's Top Ten Books for 2008

I've been a little distracted lately.
Heck, if you told me the publishing industry was in crisis right now, I'd probably respond by thrusting a little pink baby dress in your face and croon, "Isn't this adorable?" But, I figured I'd better come down out of the clouds long enough to tell you all about my Top Ten Books. It's good for the authors to get their books bought new right now and it's good for you all to find some great books to give as holiday presents. And so, without further ado, my Top Ten Books-

Oh, wait. One little preface. Our policy here at Enduring Romance is to only review books we like. This is because our goal is to help readers find the books they'll love. It doesn't make a lick of sense to me to read and review books I don't like. I don't have the time and readers aren't looking for books they'll hate. So, if you don't find anything you like in my Top Ten list or the lists of the other reviewers, scroll down to the archive and check out all our other reviews. Our books were all good books and tastes vary. I had a really hard time choosing the Top Ten this year!

Okay, now I really will get on with the Top Ten and in no particular order.
PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE by Nathalie Mallet. If only there was a baby in the main cast of characters, this book would be perfect. The Sultan has a lot of women, but not a lot of brains when it comes to dealing with the resulting offspring. Well, what do you expect from someone who regards women as cattle? Anyway, he locks up all his sons in The Golden Cage because he fears them overthrowing him. Guess it never occurred to him that being a great dad might engender loyalty, so he wouldn't have to worry about stuff like that. The Princes, meanwhile, compete with each other, hoping to be the next Sultan. If one bites it in the process, no big deal. There are plenty more where he came from. Then, the Princes start getting killed in bizarre ways and Prince Amir, who long ago learned to stay off the radar, is swept into the investigation as pretty much the only brains in the lot. Then, a princess shows up to marry the next Sultan, which isn't Amir but he falls in love with her anyway, of course. This story has such well-rounded characters, fully realized world-building, logical magic, and suspenseful pacing that I had no idea who the real bad guy was until the end. Then, I screamed and threw the book in the air! This one would be great for young men to mommies pushing forty like me. It's that good.

ENDLESS UNIVERSE by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Okay, this book really is perfect, because there ARE babies in the main cast of characters. The Explorers travel through space, endlessly discovering new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before, while everyone else is stuck dirtside. The pay a price for this glorious adventure, however. Among other things, space travel renders them infertile. Ever so often, they need to stop and make a Baby Haul. A team goes to a place where excess babies are sold and buys a few. Baby-selling is repulsive to the Explorers, but the babies would die or be sold into prostitution if they didn't buy them. And so they buy them and that is how they continue their space-born civilization. The geniusness of this story is that MZB doesn't impose her personal beliefs on socities, parenting, sex, or anything. She, quite obviously, asked herself 'What if?' and extrapolated from there. The way the Explorers raise their children evolved naturally based on their environment and culture, just as it does for cultures all around the real world. Although it's not a Science Fiction Romance, the main character does fall in love and it's bittersweet, because he and his mate wonder what it would be like to have their own children. This one's for all the ages too. I'm focused on the babies and cultural aspect, because that's just the kind of girl I am. ENDLESS UNIVERSE was released in 1975, so a really good used bookstore or will have it for you.


Speaking of Science Fiction Romance, the next book on my list is MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant. There were a lot of good SFR books released this year and a good many were reviewed her by me and my accomplices, uh, I mean fellow reviewers. It was a really tight race and what pushed MOONSTRUCK over the edge into the Top Ten was the Intimate Adventure. ***Spoiler Alert*** The Heroine, Admiral Brit Bander goes from crushed young, widowed mother to hardened warrior to learning that it takes a lot more courage to embrace true love when it finds her again. That whole journey just ripped me to peices. If you know someone who needs a Romance novel about the healing power of love, get MOONSTRUCK. It is Highly Sensual and turns a Romance trope on its head, but it's all consistant with the characters and their story.


ARMED & MAGICAL by Lisa Shearin. There weren't any babies in this one, goshdarnit, and the ending left me hanging because it's the second in a trilogy, but that's okay because the trip is well worth it. ARMED & MAGICAL picks up Raine's story where MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND left her. She's stuck between a rock and hard place, literally. The Saghred stone has been ingesting souls for centuries and it thinks Raine is yummy. Meanwhile, the bad guys want her dead because of it and the good guys try to protect. She's got two, count 'em, hotties in love with her. The girl can't even have a relaxing bath without a dead mage popping in. It's crazy.


PROTECT AND SERVE by Gwyneth Bolton. I don't read Contemporary Romance much, but this is one of two I loved this year. Penny's Grandma just died and she's down from California for the funeral. She's totally broken up by it because she was raised by her grandmother. Then, she runs into her high school flame, Jason Hightower. Their passionate romance had ended when she lost their baby and they haven't seen each other since. They both resent each other for how badly they ended things, but even as they rekindle the flame her nutty mother gets into trouble. The great thing about this story is it includes family, a nutty mother, a lunatic aunt, and so on. You know, it's like when two people fall in love in real life. It's not just about them, it's about the coming together of their two families as well. Fantasy is nice, but too much of it and I cannot relate. I can't get absorbed by the story. PROTECT AND SERVE is real life romance in a fictional setting. The world and the characters, secondary as well as main, are fully realized. It carries a Sensual Heat Level and no one writes those better than Gwyneth Bolton.

RED QUEEN'S DAUGHTER by Jacqueline Kolosov. I love YA Fantasy Historical. If I can just convince myself that my own has a shot, I'll polish it up for submission. But, in this economy, I don't know. Anyway...Mary is the daughter of Katherine Parr (King Henry VIII's widow) and the scoundrel, Thomas Seymour. Orphaned, she grows up in the care of a couple of foster mothers, the last of whom instructs her in magic. Then, she's sent to the court of Queen Elizabeth I as a lady-in-waiting whose secret task it is to ensure the success of her reign. Soon after arrivel, however, she encounters her own scoundrel with magic of his own. A riveting tale and not to be missed.


BABY, I'M YOURS by Karen Templeton. Well, duh, there's a baby on the cover! Seriously though, anyone who's actually cared for real babies knows a fakey baby-centered Romance novel when they see one. Karen Templeton is the Queen of this kind of story though. She knows real babies and real romance and how to combine them in a real way. Kevin Vaccaro returns to his old girlfriend's hometown to make amends after cleaning up his drug addiction. He's not looking to make up, just to apologize. When he gets there he finds out she died in circumstances related to her own drug addiction and he finds she gave birth to their daughter right before that. His daughter is in the care of his dead girlfriend's sister, Julianne. She's still in the throes of grief from losing her sister right after losing her husband and she's totally wrapped up in that baby girl. I mean, sure, Julianne is changing the baby's diapers, but it's really the baby who is taking care of Julianne and giving her a reason to live. Now, Kevin wants to be a dad. Can they work out a custody arrangement? Not likely. Julianne can hardly let the baby out of her sight. Only love can bring this family together. The Heat Level is Sensual and left me wishing we had a swimming pool of our own, and we live in Alaska!


THE HERETIC QUEEN by Michelle Moran. Well, I love Ancient Egypt, the history, the art, the culture, the mythology, so of course I'm going to like a Historical novel set there. But, love's a whole 'nother thing. Nefertari is the neice of the Heretic Queen, Nefertiti, and Egypt's still pretty sore about what Nefertiti's husband, Akhanaten did to it. Nefertari's been in love with the next pharoah, Ramses, since they were kids growing up in the royal harem together. Considering her heritage, however, marrying him against court approval is going to be a challenge, to say nothing of being made Queen of Egypt. She doesn't get to be queen simply by marrying pharoah, because he can marry a lot more women than her, women the court might like better. The whole Nefertari and Ramses romance is wonderful young love, though the Heat Level is Sensual, so flip through those pages if you're thinking of giving this to a teenager and use your best judgement. The world-building is awesome and the history, though not entirely accurate, is riveting. Hmm, I think I'll watch THE MUMMY after this.


CRYSTAL RAIN by Tobias S. Buckell. A lot of alien worlds have been inspired by Asian culture and I admit I love that. I'm totally into Ancient China and Old Japan, but this story goes in a completely different direction - South. The humans were transplanted onto this alien culture from the Carribean and their society evolved from that. The good guys are protected most of the time by a great mountain. They go on with their business, fishing and living a life not much encumbered by advanced technology. Then, the bad guys start breaking through, the Azteca. Sound familiar? Like the Aztecs, these guys are into a lot of blood-letting too. The world-building is what blew me away with this story. Like MZB, the author asked himself 'What if?' and then brilliantly extrapulated from there. This Science Fiction will appeal to anyone who loves the genre, guys or girls.
PIRATICA by Tanith Lee. This is an alternate earth story. What I loved about is the 16 year old heroine grew up with her Kick-Butt Heroine Mama on her pirate ship. Then, her mom died and her dad found her and put her in boarding school. There, she's supposed to learn how to be a proper young lady, but she escapes and finds her Mom's old crew. If you're having a hard time finding good adventure stories with girl heroes, you should consider this one. And it's the first in a series too!


Well, that's it. My babies will be waking soon and wanting their oatmeal. Happy holiday shopping, Merry Christmas, and all that. I already got what I wanted.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday News

Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate! I don't know about you, but time seems awfully short this time of year. Baking, buying, decorating, all that stuff- and my reading time gets cut in half. So I'm thankful for Harlequin/Silhouette category romances this season. A shorter length, a quicker read, but wonderfully satisfying stories. And to make it better, you can find books that celebrate the holiday, too.

There are also as many genres as you might want; from Inspirational to Historical to Contemporary to Paranormal. The covers I've shown are just a sprinkling of what's available.

I don't know if there are any romances surrounding other holidays, like Kwanzaa or Chanukah. I looked. If you know of any, please clue me in!

And whatever your family celebrates this season, Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday's Oldies but Goodies...Top 10 of 2008

Greetings, all!

This week, I will be posting quick shots of the 10 best books I have read this year. Some of them will be ones I have reviewed, and some won't. Others will be new releases, but most will be older books I have picked up & couldn't put down.
So, without further ado...(I love that line!) we go!
(books are in no particular order, btw...)

The Down Home Zombie Blues
Linnea Sinclair
We love Linnea at Enduring Romance, and with good reason.
She writes a damn good story. You will definitely be rooting for the good guys, Theo and Jorie, by the end of this one.

Sally Painter
My lone e-book title of this list.
The Gargoyle race is dying, and one woman is the key to their salvation.
Garret has been searching for her for centuries, and one night he finds Jen, their last hope.

Captain's Glory
William Shatner

I am continually impressed with Shatner's writing. It is detailed, it flows well, and his world building is outstanding. In this world, Kirk was brought back to life after 'Generations' and this story is set with Kirk, once again, saving the universe. Oh, but the twists & turns make this story just delicious!

Fish Out of Water
MaryJanice Davidson

You know, I don' think there's anything I have read by Ms. Davidson I haven't liked. This is the third and final (BOOHOO!) installment of her Fred the Mermaid series, and we find Fred debating on whether or not to marry the prince of the Undersea Folk, and saving the royal family from her bio-father, a mer-dude with an evil streak a mile wide.

A Scandalous Proposal
Julia Justiss

An absolutely gorgeous Regency historical, with our heroine, Emily, hiding out from the clutches of her nasty father-in-law, and falling in love with an Earl, Evan Mansfield. Little does he know his beloved shopkeeper is actually a Duchess.

Matthew Reilly
The 6 Sacred Stones

I love my kick-ass action novels, and Reilly is the Master to whom I bow in reverence. This sequel to 7 Deadly Wonders finds our heroes, led by Jack West, once again trying to save mankind, using their brains and hints left throughout mankind's history to build 'the Machine', a device that will stop the end of the world.
The Immortal Highlander
Karen Marie Moning

Words cannot convey how much I love this novel. Adam, my favorite leading man of all time, is a Fae cursed by his Queen to live as a human in penance for his interference in the human realm. Enter Gabrielle, a Sidhe-seer, and watch sparks fly. Gorgeous settings, beautiful flow, just a wonderful story.


Dark Curse
Christine Feehan

Oh, how I love the Dark series. her newest installment finds Nicholas De La Cruz ready to walk into the dawn after centuries of life with no color or emotion, until Lara Calladine shows up and brings the color and emotion back to his soul.
Her Carpathian series just gets better and better with every book.
The Cinderella Rules
Donna Kauffman
Ms. Kauffman has a knack for writing stories that snag your attention from the get-go, and before you know it you have read the whole novel. Darby is a swan-in-hiding, but thanks to the Godmother's at Glass Slipper, Inc. she will discover her Prince Charming has been there the whole time.
Therese Fowler
Ms. Fowler's first novel, and a gorgeous story it is. I am looking forward to more stories from her in the future. Meg Powell grew up with Carson Mckay, and even though she has now been married for 17 years, shocking news makes everyone re-evaluate their lives.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and may you all have time to read, read, read!