The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune

4.5 stars, but we’ll round up to 5 bc it’s the holidays.

This was a juvenile, awkward, teenage-boy-pervy, laugh-out-loud good time. Gay Shrek. Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a cabaret.

Listen, either you have a huge, ridiculous, immature sense of humor or you will hate this book. It’s about a young wizard(‘s apprentice – I know, Gary. I know) on a quest to rescue a prince from a dragon. Accompanied by a hornless unicorn and a half-giant. It’s one silly situation after another – with some massively ribald sexual commentary. There’s plenty of heart and even some angst. But I spent much of the book smiling ear to ear.

I suspect I’m on the road to worshipping at the altar of Klune. I’m good with that. His two books that I’ve read so far have an insane amount of sweetness tempered with the perfect amount of goofy. I’m excited for more!

Wolfsong by TJ Klune

As previously mentioned, I have a Book SoulMate. And she has carte blanche. Also, as previously mentioned, I prefer not to read blurbs and especially reviews before I read a book. I will check to see if a particular respected reviewer has given it any stars, but that’s generally as far as I go in deciding on a read. If the BSM recommends it then I absolutely dive in without checking the waters first. I know she’s got me.

In this case it led to a teeny mix-up. For whatever reason I got it in my head that this was a post-apocalyptic survival story with a mentally handicapped hero. You know – Cormac McCarthy combined with William Faulkner. The first chapter only reinforced my belief. So imagine my surprise when I figured out what I was reading! Right – awkward.

Storyline – Ox has a crappy dad and a rough childhood. New neighbors move in, and Ox steps outside of drab constructs into a world bursting with frightening color. It’s a first person POV – which I frequently hate. But when it’s good it’s so so good. You truly experience the naivety and kindness that is Ox. He’s lovely. If you’ve read TJ Klune before you understand that the romance aspect of this book is not mainstream. And this is a paranormal.

It turns out that I was reading a story about family – the family you’re born into and the family that you create. A story about what it means to be “us” when you’re not even sure who you are. The ties that we choose and those that choose us – and how you handle those decisions.

There was adventure. Sadness. Loss. Heartache. But most of all an overwhelming feeling of love. Belonging. Acceptance. Our differences make us better – make us a thing to be revered.

The truth is this book should not have worked. An M/M paranormal romance with a very simple first person POV? It just sounds terrible. Like when you go to the restaurant and learn that dessert that night is avocados and chocolate. That’s just wrong, right? WRONG! It turns out that this sweet, complex, moving story couldn’t have been told any other way.

I cannot imagine reading anything else right now. I’m debating more Klune, but I’m nervous this was a one-off. Mostly I want to bask in the glow of this book for just a little longer.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Excellent!

This is my second Claire North. There’s a clear pattern in her writing, and I love it. This book starts out with a large concept. It’s complex, and comprehension was touch and go for a bit. And then she weaves this big idea into a particular story of good versus evil. The last half of the book is more readable than the first as we settle into the heart of our story.

The concept – a man that dies and is reborn into the same life over and over again. And as he comes back he remembers his last go-round. So at 3 years old he remembers doing this before, and he knows what’s coming. We get 15 trips with Harry as he learns and grows and fails and rallies. Slowly a dilemma arises – bc with Harry’s plight comes great power – and Harry has to figure out what he wants to do.

The story is sad at times. Overall there’s a vibe of loneliness in the life that Harry faces. But mostly it’s a stunning concept that lets a reader stretch her mind, emotions and imagination. This was heady stuff, but less cerebral (and therefore more accessible) than The Sudden Appearance of Hope.

North writes a sort of “Sci/Fi With A Heart” genre that I find enchanting. Intellectual but also warm and vivid. She’s an amazing author, and I look forward to great stuff to come from her.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

This was the worst book in recent history that I’ve actually finished. Literally from page 1 it was boring, cumbersome and awkward. The choices of POV made no sense. And the father was so unrealistic that he was funny.

I don’t want to spoil this for anyone – so no details. Needless to say – I didn’t enjoy this. And no – it’s nothing like Gone Girl. Every. Single. Current. Thriller. Says that. Be like Elsa, man. Let it go. No book is Gone Girl. Shit, at this point, Gone Girl is barely like Gone Girl. Anyhow. I digress.

It was a fast read. Nothing stressful bc I didn’t care about the characters. Nothing graphic or horrible. Just a ridiculous kidnapping story – not my first and prolly won’t be my last.

Wait For It by Mariana Zapata

One of the difficulties of modern romance books is timing. A large percentage throw you into the relationship early on in the story. Thus you have to learn to love the characters and their relationship as they struggle with whatever obstacles the author is throwing their way. It’s one of the reasons that Insta-love books are so awful. How can you pull for 2 people in whom you have no investment?

Mariana Zapata fixes all of that. She does love right. In her stories Zapata starts out with a strong heroine who has struggles in no way related to love. At some point we meet the hero – and there’s inevitably a non-romantic relationship. And it grows. The heroine handles her shit. The hero turns from a jackass to someone amazing. All of it slow and steady and so freaking real. I finish every one of her books so in love with her characters that I’m grinning ear to ear. I smiled for at least the last 50% of this book. Shoot – I even cried once!

Synposis – Diana is 29 years old and raising her nephews. She faces all of the normal parenting challenges and then some. She actually meets a few men – but one of them is prickly and distant. And AMAZING. I don’t wanna give away anything about the story. I went in having not even read the cover blurb – no regrets. If you’ve read her before you know how it’s going to go down – if you haven’t read her before what are you waiting for?

I don’t want to offer the misconception that all of Mariana’s books are the same. There’s always the slow burn. The cranky men who turn out to be so much more. All of her books are romantic in a meaningful way. But they are all vastly different too. Diana is a heroine unlike any other. While the writing and style felt comfy and familiar nothing felt boring or redundant.

I am so happy that I read this book today. I can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly Sunday.Wai

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

Readers had told me ahead of time that this book made them cry. I went in confident it wouldn’t happen to me. HA! I cried at least twice. Not sobbing, but sniffling all over the place. And they were random happy/sad tears.

This felt like Grapes Of Wrath meets Andy Griffith with a romantic twist. Smooth flowing writing. Characters that seemed to blossom as the book progressed. An overall happy sweet vibe that made this a charming read. Lavyrle Spencer’s writing is something to behold – she carries a down-to-earth tone that make her romances unlike most that i’ve read. I suspect that i will gradually make my way through most of her work – and at this rate it may be more than gradually.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

The thriller genre is one of the most fun for me to read. I like being on the edge of my seat, and i enjoy trying to figure out the twists before they happen.

This book had excellent pacing – the time span that it covered felt smooth. It moved but it wasn’t rushed and desperate. I also really liked the story – particularly part 2. There was some edge. Some violence. Some harrowing moments. I was, occasionally, “desperate to find out what happens next.”

Plot – a little boy is killed in a hit and run. We have to solve who did it.

I would have given this book 4 stars except for 1) a story point that i feel is done to death in this genre and 2) a plot twist so stupid my eyes almost rolled completely back in my head.

All in all it was a highly enjoyable read – the perfect break from my endless romance books.