It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

The Mine by John Heldt

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

The Proposition by Judith Ivory

Reading Now

This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees

The Week Ahead

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

The Burning Star by Jessie Lane

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Historical Romance Books

1. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

The first of many Beauty and the Beast adaptations on my list, James’s take on the classic tale features a cranky protagonist modeled after the television character House.

2. The Proposition by Judith Ivory

Men are rarely the subjects of makeover tales, which makes Ivory’s reverse-Pygmalion adaptation all the more compelling.

3. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Another take on Beauty and the Beast, Chase’s novel features some of the most electrifying dialogue between protagonists that I’ve come across in the genre.

4. Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas

Love-hate relationships are one of my favorite romance tropes, and Kleypas writes the progression of emotions at a perfect tempo. This is the fourth in the Hathaways series, all of which is recommended.

5. Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Another favorite trope is the ugly duckling scenario, which Quinn writes to perfection. This is the fourth in the ever-humorous Bridgertons series.

6. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

Another book with an imperfect heroine, MacLean’s story also features one of my favorite rake characters. This is the first in the Love by Numbers series.

7. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Providing deceptive depth for its slim page count, you’ll want to read Balogh’s story again from the start after finishing. For fear of giving the secret away, I’ll let you discover the reason on your own.

8. Ravished by Amanda Quick

Another favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling, Quick’s novel features two imperfect leads with great chemistry.

9. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley

I’m always intrigued by imperfect male protagonists, yet Ashley is one of the few authors I’ve read who has delivered that imperfection in a mental rather than physical form. It makes for a powerful and impressive read.

10. Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros

I had to give you one last Beauty and the Beast retelling, and this one has a twist that sets it apart from its peers.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011

1. The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop

There are two series that have shown up consistently on every favorites list since I started blogging. The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of them. Bishop’s world might be dark, convoluted, twisted, and heavy-handed, but it’s engrossing nonetheless. I adore Daemon, Saetan, and Lucivar, with their family dynamic that was both hilarious and heartbreaking at times.

2. Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

The second perpetual resident of my favorites lists, Moning’s Fever series was nothing like I expected it to be. I had avoided it for years, having heard it was very much angst with very little joy to be had for the heroine. Thankfully, I decided to ignore those reviewers this year, and was immediately swept away into Mac’s world of fae-infested Dublin. In a year of great character discoveries, Barrons is definitely one of my favorites.

3. Blackout by Rob Thurman

I’ve been following Thurman’s Cal Leandros series for years, yet for some reason, I always manage to forget just how great it is before reading a new installment. Blackout likely cured me of that habit for good, for as great as the series had been until this point, the sixth book is her best by far. Blackout is like a love letter to fans who have stuck it out since the beginning. I won’t explain how that’s the case for fear of revealing too much, since the reward lies in piecing together each bit on your own.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

It was with reluctance that I purchased this book at the start of the year. Everything about it seemed too young to resonate with me: the inane title, the saccharine cover, even the description failed to truly appeal to me. Yet it was receiving such rave reviews that I knew there had to be something deeper lying beneath the surface. What I found was one of the most charming, realistic, and sympathetic love stories I’ve read. Anna and the French Kiss captures utterly what it is like to be in the beginning stages of crushing, friendship, and love. Its characters aren’t perfect, but Anna is such a relatable and likable narrator that your devotions and hope never sway.

5. Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

I believed that I had given up on the Cassie Palmer series, having read and been slightly annoyed by Cassie’s incessant whining in Curse the Dawn. While Cassie’s relationship with Mercea was interesting at the start, I didn’t really care for the direction it was going in, and Cassie herself wasn’t compelling enough as a heroine for me to stick with her story. Yet after several years’ hiatus, the series returned this summer with Hunt the Moon, and the excellent reviews prompted me to pick it up despite myself. The fifth installment returned to the action-packed, high-speed storytelling of the first novels, yet for once Cassie seemed confident and competent. She still did her fair share of whining, but it no longer came across as petulant. Shockingly, as I became engrossed in the story, I realized a faux pas of my own that I rarely make, yet that will affect how I view the series going forward. It’s not often that I jump on the wrong ship at the start, but suffice it to say my affections have shifted, and having reread the series with that perspective in mind, I’m now fully on board.

6. Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund

This series is so far outside my comfort zone that I expected to set it down within the first twenty pages. I care nothing for chick lit, especially when the heroine is a rather self-absorbed, promiscuous college student being sucked into the underbelly of secret society life. Yet while I never managed to warm up to Amy fully, I fell in love with the camaraderie she shared with her fellow Diggers and with the unusual courtship she shares with one particular Rose and Grave member.

7. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Despite my love of romance, I tended to stay away from pure romance novels, particularly contemporaries. Yet this title showed up so frequently on Best Of lists that I had to give it a try. Bet Me wound up being a rare one indeed, one in which I was consistently surprised yet never disappointed. I hugged it when I finished, which is a rare honor.

8. The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater

I made it halfway through Shiver in college before putting it down, having determined that the instalove romance was nice yet not intriguing enough to take time away from the other books in my TBR pile. After winning a copy of Forever this summer, I decided to give the series one more chance, and while I had the same initial impressions, by the end of the book, I realized that Stiefvater’s lovely writing and the conviction with which she writes Sam and Grace’s relationship elevates this series above its peers despite its questionable premise.

9. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

After months of searching for this title, I finally found an arc for a dollar in a thrift store. While I hadn’t read Saving Francesca in a while, I remembered having liked Tom’s character in the previous novel and was interested to see how Will and Francesca were faring. As with every Marchetta novel, I was captivated by the storytelling, yet The Piper’s Son took me to a place that Saving Francesca only hinted at. I’m confident that adults and teens alike can enjoy Marchetta’s novels, yet this was the first that I felt really deserved a spot in the general fiction section. Tom’s story is frustrating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, yet it wrings your emotions out several times before it achieves its ultimate goal.

10. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

While reading this series, I knew I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t sure whether I found it merely entertaining or compulsively readable; since I rarely start a book without finishing it in the same day, I wasn’t able to set it down and answer that question. It wasn’t until I had completed the third book in this series that I realized how brilliant it is. As Turner follows Gen through triumph and tragedy, she shifts perspective in each novel so that, even with Gen as the narrator, no one is ever as they seem. Thus, even those revelations guessed ahead of time taste all the sweeter.

 Honorable Mentions

Ravished by Amanda Quick, When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, and The Proposition by Judith Ivory

I read at least a dozen Beauty and the Beast-inspired novels this year, and of them all, these three were my favorites.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

A quick, easy read, this novel written in verse tells one of the sweetest love stories I read this year. Unfortunately, you have to wade through quite a bit of teen melodrama to get there, but the payoff is worth it.

The Curseworkers series by Holly Black

White Cat and Red Glove are the first two in a trilogy of young adult urban fantasy novels that introduce a world unlike anything I’ve read in the genre before. Throw in a male narrator reminiscent of Cal Leandros, and my love for this series is sealed.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

This young adult book about love and loss managed to take multiple tropes that I despise and work them is such a way that I loved the story and the characters anyway.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Every book in the Toby Daye series is golden, and the latest upped the game in such a way that my expectations for Ashes of Honor are ridiculously high.

Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

This penultimate book in the Sirantha Jax series was hard to read, yet it cemented my dedication to the characters. Sirantha has displayed one of the most pronounced character developments in any series that I’ve read, and while her ending has no guarantee of happiness, I have no doubt that Aguirre will give these great characters a worthy finale.

Review: The Proposition by Judith Ivory

When I closed the last page of this book, I hugged it.

To say that I was surprised by this response would be an understatement. In a classic case of judging a book by its cover, I had gone into The Proposition expecting an overly-sentimental, flowery tale typical of many of the old-school romances that I have read and not truly enjoyed. Shame on me for being hasty in my judgment, for in The Proposition, Judith Ivory crafts one of the loveliest and most believable relationships I’ve read in romance fiction.

The Proposition is a reverse Pygmalion tale with shades of Cinderella, as Edwina Bollash

The Proposition by Judith Ivory

attempts to refine and sophisticate ratcatcher Mick Tremore. For those familiar with either of its inspirational predecessors, The Proposition holds few surprises in plot progression. Indeed, some revelations toward the end threaten to drop the story down a star in ratings, as Ivory seems to take the easy way out on a rather crucial story element (though, according to an
interview with Ivory, she meant for this particular point to be rather more ambiguous than it comes across). Yet, ultimately, Ivory’s scant focus on plot paves the way for what romance novel readers are really craving: intense character development that shows us the hows and whys of falling in love.

One of my favorite things about Winnie and Mick’s relationship is that Ivory didn’t feel compelled to include manufactured drama. In too many romance novels, it seems that, come the last quarter of the book, the reader inevitably finds herself in the there’s-been-a-misunderstanding-and-due-to-lack-of-communication-the-couple-is-torn-apart stretch. Rather than making the relationship appear more true to life, this overused plot device instead jolts me out of the story, since, in my observations and experience, a necessary infancy stage in most relationships does not include a threat to the relationship itself before the couple can
truly be together. Such distrust and discord between the main couple speaks to me of a relationship that is founded largely on physicality, as simple communication could clear most of these problems up before they have a chance to grow to proportions large enough to create a chasm in a relationship. Thankfully, Ivory seems to understand this, as Winnie and Mick acknowledge the potential problems in their relationship, recognize and apologize for hasty
decisions, and work together by each compromising in order to ensure their relationship will last.

I suggested in an prior post, based on reviews I had read, that this was a type of Beauty and the Beast retelling. After reading it, I must amend my earlier statement. While there are certainly elements of the tale in Ivory’s story, it is in the revelation of both the beautiful and the beastly parts of both characters, rather than a dichotomy between the two. While Winnie and Mick are both worthy and utterly likeable personalities, they each have aspects of themselves that call for improvement, and they work together to achieve that end. I especially loved that Mick never doubts his own value. In attaining sophistication, Mick doesn’t eschew the priorities he gained from his ratcatcher origins, for he knows that he deserves a life and a wife like that which he can have with Win. Instead, he patiently waits for Win to come to this
realization as well as she completes her own progression, lessening the stranglehold of fears and inhibitions to allow for recognition of her own desires.

I have no doubt I will be rereading The Proposition before long. Track down a copy if you can, for typical romance novel cover waits a truly atypical storytelling talent.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

It wound up being sort of a crazy week in a good week, so I got lots of reading in. Fingers crossed for this week as well.

Past Week

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway

What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

Peeps by Scott Westerfield

The Proposition by Judith Ivory

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Reading Now

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

 The Week Ahead

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson

Simply Love by Mary Balough

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme created by Kristi over at The Story Siren to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

This month’s post is a roundup for the past month’s book influx (it’s been a very good month).

Bought

  • Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison
  • Shadow Fall by Erin Kellison
  • Huntress Anthology
  • Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas
  • Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
  • Too Much Temptation by Lori Foster
  • Major Crush by Jennifer Echols
  • Princess in Waiting by Meg Cabot
  • Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
  • Are We There Yet? by David Levithan
  • The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
  • Mia Tells It Like It Is (PD I & II) by Meg Cabot
  • Princess in Love by Meg Cabot
Gifted

  • Blood Challenge by Eileen Wilks
  • Wages of Sin by Jenna Maclaine
  • Grave Sins by Jenna Maclaine
  • Bound by Sin by Jenna Maclaine
  • Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis
  • Crimson Wind by Diana Pharaoh Francis
  • Reunion by Meg Cabot
  • The Proposition by Judith Ivory
  • Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi
  • A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh
  • Simply Love by Mary Balogh

  • Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
  • The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
  • Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  • River Marked by Patricia Briggs
  • Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
Won