Tuesday, January 1, 2013

End of 2012 Re-cap

Happy New Year Everyone!

2012 was a sensational year for me and books.  I discovered a few "new to me" authors, some great new series, and finally finished The Dark Tower series by Stephen King that (literally) took me about 20 years to finish!  I guess the biggest difference to my blog this year was the way I'm reviewing books.  I'm no longer writing the lengthy reviews I used to.  It was becoming too difficult, especially since I was reading faster than I could write.  It was starting to feel more like a chore - and what's fun about that?  Instead, I'm saving the quick and short reviews up for a couple of times a month.  On a personal and sad note, I lost my beloved Hector, our ten year old golden retriever to lymphoma this summer. It was sudden and my heart broke.  I still have trouble thinking of it, tears fill my eyes easily.  I miss him so.  It will be a long time before I get over him.  Everyone tells me to get another dog, but I just can't yet.  We will eventually, but I am still in mourning, I guess.

Without further ado, let's get started with the past year...

I think I read about 142 books total this year, some were Christmas themed novellas as well.  I usually don't care for novellas all that much, but there were a few that I read this year that were especially good.  My two favorites were Courtney Milan's Unlocked and A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon which is an Outlander related story about Roger's parents (surprise, surprise!)  The Milan novella was a surprise for me, for I was not overly bowled over by her longer novels, with the exception of Unraveled.  I discovered a lot of new romance authors that I love, and I also read a few non-fiction books as well, all either about WWII espionage or the presidential secret service, it seems.

I had a few clunkers of 2012, I'm afraid.  What were they?

Overseas by Beatriz Williams - A time travel love story that flipped back and forth to present day and  WWI.  I listened to this one on audiobook and I think what really disappointed me was that it had so much potential and it wound up being so trite and sappy.  The syrupy dialogue was awful as well.  She's coming out with another book this Spring, and I will give her another try (in print).  Maybe I'll have better luck this time, I'm not writing her off completely.  I gave this one a 2.5 of 5.

Seven Night's in a Rogue's Bed by Anna Campbell - an historical romance and the first time I'd read anything by this well known author.  In my review I said it "defies all logic."  I gave it a 2.5/5, but I am going to read another book of hers soon that I was able to download for real cheap on kindle, so I'll give her one more try.  We'll see what I think of it.

What were some of my author discoveries that wowed me in 2012?

Lorraine Heath. Her trilogy set in Texas: Texas Destiny, Texas Glory and Texas Splendor was simply amazing.  Written several years ago, it's an early series for her but new to me.  A fabulous historical romance trilogy centering on three brothers in late 19th century Texas.  I loved every word of this emotionally charged and often heartbreaking series.

Tessa Dare.  Her Spindle Cove Series: A Night to Surrender, A Week to Be Wicked, and A Lady by Midnight completely blew me away!  It's funny and sexy, my favorite combination.  They are historical romances set in England.  I'd never read anything by Tessa Dare before, so I was very happy to make this new discovery.  I'm now making my way through her backlist and waiting eagerly for her next installment in Spindle Cove.  She is now an auto buy for me.

Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas. A new to me author who's been around for a while and doesn't seem to be writing any longer, a pity for I simply love her books!  Each one has been great, I still have a few more to read, but my absolute favorites that I read this year were Untie My Heart and The Indiscretion.  Again, my favorite combination of humor and steamy sex.

Rhys Bowen. I've only listened to the Her Royal Spyness Series on audiobook, but these books are a riot!  I did read one novella from the series, and it was just as great, so it's not just the audio that makes them good.  This is a mystery series centering on Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie Rannoch, aka Georgie.  She is of Scottish descent, and a distant relative to the royal family in London during the 1930's.  She's also flat broke.  All of Georgie's friends and acquaintances are a crack up, and her potential love interest, the mysterious - and penniless - Irish Darcy is worth a second look.  I eat this series up like candy!

Okay, so what were my top three favorite books of the year?  All romances, no surprise there, I really can't seem to get enough of historicals these days, here they are and I'm re-posting my five star reviews:

Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath  
Synopsis: Arriving on the Fort Worth train, Miss Amelia Carson, mail-order bride, had never met Dallas Leigh, the Texan she promised to marry. The tall cowboy at the station wasn't Dallas. He was Houston, Dallas's brother, sent to escort her on the rugged three-week trek to the ranch where Dallas waited. Brought up in war-ravaged Georgia, Amelia thought Dallas's letters made Texas sound like heaven, a place for her dreams to grow with the right man beside her.

By all appearances, Houston Leigh would hardly be considered the "right man." The war he survived had scarred him inside and out, and he was little competition for his handsome brother. But from the moment Houston met Amelia, he knew she possessed the courage this wild land needed. She had eyes that could see past his wounded face to his soul. And he would fight any man—except his brother—for her heart. Now he and Amelia were riding down dangerous trails, sleeping under the stars, and God help them, they were falling in love.

This was a beautiful love story of a scarred and lonely cowboy who must escort his brother's mail order bride fiancee to the brother's ranch from Ft. Worth. It's a month long trek in which they meet many trials and tribulations, but the main one is how how do they cope with the fact they are falling deeply in love with one another and she is meant for another? Much of this story was touching and bittersweet. I simply loved it and nearly cried in a few parts. Houston's scarred life both physically and mentally was sad and painful to read about, but Amelia understood him so well. They were truly soul mates for one another. Well written, evocative of the time, Texas in the late 1870's, it pulled at my heart strings. Is it any wonder? I'm a sucker for scarred hero romances. On the surface it appears to be a quiet story, involving a simple romantic triangle, but there is so much emotion going on beneath the surface, it's much, much more. It's simply great.  This is my first book by Lorraine Heath and I'm eager to read the rest of her backlist, this being one of her earlier books.

His Very Own Girl by Carrie Lofty
Synopsis: After the War took the lives of Lulu Davies’s parents and her fiancé, she promised herself she would guard her heart carefully and concentrate on her great love—flying the biggest and best airplanes in the sky. Lulu is a pilot in the British civilian air force, ferrying planes around Great Britain and keeping her eye on a coveted spot in a training program for world-class pilots. She’s perfectly content to strive for greatness in the skies, and dance with a few GIs on the way.

Brawny, quiet American medic Joe Weber signed up with the paratroopers to escape his checkered past; he’s hoping that jumping out of planes and patching up soldiers will earn him respect and a hopeful future. Joe’s first real test of medical skill is on a pilot whose plane takes a hard landing in a training field; after rushing to the crash scene, he is stunned to come face-to-face with a gorgeous Rita Hayworth lookalike. And when the two cross paths at a dance hall a couple weeks later, he can’t resist the urge to find out more about this spirited, dark-haired beauty.

Their flirtation breaks all of Lulu’s rules, but dance by dance, week by week, walk by walk, she finds herself falling in love with this honest, vulnerable man on the run from his demons. But as Lulu and Joe’s undeniable attraction gains momentum, World War II steadily intensifies toward D-Day. The lovers only have one night together before Joe is transported to France for the Battle of the Bulge, where his skills and his instinct for survival will be pushed to their limits. Lulu distracts herself with flight school and the friendships of her colleagues, but she can’t get the handsome medic out of her head. Only time and hope will tell if her love will return unharmed from War, and if the two will be able to overcome their pasts to form a beautiful life together in peace-time.

I absolutely loved this book! Not surprising for I love WWII settings and history and to combine it with a romance - this was a no brainer for me!  Feisty pilot heroine and I adored the vulnerable medic hero!  This was such a surprise, and I was riveted from start to finish.  Exciting moments while flying her planes, near crash landings and what have you.  Joe was a dear, I loved him.  I just adored this whole WWII scenario!  I want more of this couple and see what happens next in their lives.  A real keeper, sexy, evocative, memorable - and what a cover!

Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall
Synopsis: 1817- After a lifetime in the Royal Navy, surgeon Alexander Murray finds himself castaway with brainless beauty Daphne Farnham and her fluffy little dog. While the dog could be supper, she’s useless. 

Daphne can’t understand why the humorless surgeon doesn’t like her—everyone likes her! She’s beautiful, rich, and has excellent fashion sense, a most useful skill when putting together an ensemble.

This unlikely pair (and Pompom) will have to figure out how to survive together, and may discover that each holds attractions not obvious at first—or even second—glance.

I totally loved this book! I've read all of Darlene Marshall's previous books, but this one takes the cake! It is simply wonderful!  Story of stodgy older navy surgeon, Alexander Murray who finds himself shipwrecked and stranded on an island near Bermuda with Miss Daphne Farnham, who he considers to be the most useless and dimwitted society miss he has ever had the unfortunate pleasure of being stuck with. Of course, his opinion changes drastically over time and I loved every word of this endearing romance of how two complete opposites fall in love. It had everything: steamy sex, humor, and an excellent plot line that kept me interested with top notch writing and research to go with it.  Very, very clever story, a tour de force for Ms. Marshall!  Who would have thought curmudgeonly Dr. Murray would turn out to be such a sexy hero? But of course on second thought, why should I be surprised? He's a Scot with red hair (with a bit of gray thrown in for gravitas). A keeper, though I'm not crazy about the cover...

As I do every year, if you want, head on over to my LiveJournal where I've posted my 2012 book poll and see which books you've read.  I'm not sure if non-LJ members can take part in it or not, but if you can't, please leave me a comment and let me know how many!

2012 Book Poll

Thanks and let's all hope 2013 is a great and happy new year for everyone!


Joanne said...

Great year of reading, Julie! I have to get to a Tessa Dare novel this year. I'm away for week, so when I get back I'll drop by to take your poll. :)

p.s. I never met Hector but I know how beautiful he was to you. Always in your heart forever. You 'll one day be ready for another friend...never a replacement, just a new member of the family. My sheltie was with me for 15 yrs! Many years have passed, and I can't imagine our home without our sassy and spoiled cavalier King Charles!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Thanks Joanne, enjoy your time away from home and thanks for the kind words and advice about another dog. I know one day I'll be ready, but when that day is seems a long way off. But you never know, maybe another pup will just fall in my lap someday!

Julia Barrett said...

You've been busy! I read the Lorraine Heath series. Loved the characters, liked the overall story arc, but certain details bugged me. Fortunately I liked the characters and the overall story enough to ignore the little things.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Julia, glad you read them and liked them overall. I've begun to read her English historicals, but they don't have the same emotional punch as this Texas series, I'm afraid.

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