Blogging A to Z: “R” is for Reading

Cover of "An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Conne...

R is for reading…

as in my favorite books and why.

I don’t write public reviews now that I’m an author myself. I love reviews from others but shy away from treading that thin line between being constructive and possibly bruising someone’s chances.

That being said, I do pick my favorite ten books each year. I’ll list my 2010 and 2011 top ten and explain why I liked the books I chose. The books are listed in the reverse order in which I read them.


Bayou Moon (Ilona Andrews) UF  The stunning world of The Edge–the land that forms the border between the Weird (where magic rules) and the Broken (where non-magical humans live)–is a fantastic urban fantasy. Strong female heroine and an alpha male with a secret mission. Ilona Andrews at her best.
Silk Is For Seduction (Loretta Chase) Rom A seamstress (yay!) is commissioned to dress the fiancee of a rake only the seamstress and the rake fall in love with each other.
Goliath (book 2 of Leviathan) and Behemoth (book 3 of Leviathan) (Scott Westerfeld) YA (Steampunk) Wow! Incredibly creative alternative world where Darwinists and “Clankers”, those who use machines, clash in World War 1 era. One male and one female main character except female is disguised as male so almost like three characters.
Scared Stiff and Frozen Stiff (Annalise Ryan) Mys  See my notes on Working Stiff in 2010.  More witty dialogue and narrator observations and a bit of slapstick.
The Virgin Proxy (Georgia Fox) Rom (Ero) The story’s premise is erotica-oriented, but what made it good was watching the hero try to get the heroine admit she was the woman he took to bed on his wedding night all the while falling in love with her and she with him though neither will admit it.
Divergent (Veronica Roth) YA — What can I say? I’m a sucker for YA dystopian books. This and Hunger Games were among the best of the genre/sub-genre I read.
Just Like Heaven (Julia Quinn) Rom (Hist) I just love Julia Quinn and this romance between two childhood friends all grown up was sigh-worthy
Wicked Games (Jill Myles) Rom — Mix a rocky love story with a very realistic portrayal of Survivor and you get this little gem. I’m a HUGE Survivor fan and Jill Myles injects just the right amount of wit and humor into her writing.  ‘Nough said.


Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson) YA — Wow, blew me away with not only the story but how the words were placed upon the page.
Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins) YA — Fantastic feel good book, despite its very flawed hero and heroine.
Magic Bites (Ilona Andrews) UF — This series got better and better the more we got to know Kate. I particularly liked this one
Working Stiff (Annelise Ryan) Mys — I adore Annelise Ryan’s sense of humor and like my book, she writes about a heroine whose unusual job factors into her crime-solving.
The D.U.F.F. (Kody Keplinger) YA — Wesley…sigh…bad boy who really isn’t so bad on the inside and when he shows us his vulnerability, we melt.
City of Ghosts (Stacia Kane) UF and Unholy Magic (Stacia Kane) UF — These two Downside Ghosts books will grip you by the shirt collar with its drug-addicted heroine, the terrifying supernatural creatures she deals with and her heartbreaking romance with her drug dealer.
Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) YA — You have to be living under a rock to have not heard of this book. Horrifying, compelling, unforgettable.
Naked in Death (J.D. Robb) Mys — the first of the Eve Dallas futuristic cop tales with a healthy dose of romance with gazillionaire Roarke.
An Ice Cold Grave (Charlaine Harris) Mys — Sigh…I love Harper and Tolliver in this book so much because so much finally happens for them in their personal lives, despite all the chaos around them. The concept is uber cool too. Watch for this to be made into a movie or TV show too…or so I’ve heard.


Please be sure to visit more A to Z Blog Challenge participants today! Here’s where you can find their names and link to their blogs. The topics are endless.

What Is a Darkly Romantic Curmudgeon?

A curmudgeon is:

  • A bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person. (
  • A crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man (
  • An ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions. (

You get the idea.  Examples would include House (Hugh Laurie’s eponymous character), Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes (RIP), Hallmark’s Maxine, and The Grinch.  Amongst up and coming curmudgeons I’d include Sheldon, the physicist nerd from the Big Bang Theory, which also goes to show that not ALL curmudgeons are old.

Being a curmudgeon is a glass is half empty attitude. It’s the little old lady (played by Clara Peller) demanding “Where’s the Beef!” in the famous Wendy’s commercial of the 80s. It’s bracing for the worst (because everyone wants to rip you off) but secretly hoping for the best. It’s crusting over the outside to protect the tender, gullible insides.  I’d go so far as to say that within every curmudgeon is a sensitive but bruised soul.

So what is a darkly romantic curmudgeon? Isn’t romance the antithesis of curmudgeonliness? Well, yes and no. They are indeed yin and yang, opposites, but together they are pretty terrific. Let me explain.

People often say they “fall” in love, as if it’s not a natural state.  For curmudgeons, it’s not, but when we fall, we plummet.  Personally, I love reading stories where the hero or heroine stands atop a lofty perch built on arrogance or hubris, greatly increasing the distance of their forthcoming fall into the waiting arms of love.  The farther the fall, the greater the thrill in my tummy as I read.  I love to see the main character flailing about in mid-air, trying desperately (but failing) to grab hold of something familiar to check his or her fall.  It’s scary; it’s dark; it’s sarcastic; it’s grouchy; it’s curmudgeonly!  That character will fight tooth and nail denying love matters to them because they are deathly afraid no one will catch them before they strike the ground. Wise readers get that it’s all a front with a kind of smug omniscience, especially if they’ve been treated to the object of the affection’s point of view and know those arms are open and ready to receive…or will be if the object looks up.

So, favorite fictional romantic curmudgeons who demonstrate that reluctance or grouchiness I’m talking about?

  • Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews’ urban fantasy series (who put up a hell of a fight against her eventual love interest)
  • Mr. Darcy (and probably Elizabeth Bennet too) from Pride and Prejudice (“Pride goeth before the fall”)
  • Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (such evil that grew from love thwarted)
  • Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre (Boss of the Year award recipient…NOT!)
  • Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol (ok, so he found a different kind of love at the end but that’s still what it was)
  • Margaret (Sandra Bullock) in The Proposal (another meanie boss but you just knew she was all gooey inside didn’t ya?)
  • Elizabeth Perkin’s character Joan in the 80’s brat pack movie, “About Last Night” (Ok, I threw that in there because Elizabeth and I were born on the same day and I really did like her snarky character in that movie)
  • Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) in Remains of the Day (remember what he was caught reading? a ROMANCE!  I rest my case.)

But how does the “darkly” part fit in?

All my heroes have dark hair?  Well, that’s true, but that’s not what it means.  Darkly, within my writing context, means I may (usually) include elements of dark humor in my stories, mostly sarcasm or snark.  The bad guys get to be funny occasionally, maybe even crack a few jokes.  At least that is what I’m striving for.  Humor is always subjective, of course.  I enjoy a happy ending as much as anyone else though, so I don’t see myself ever having the main character wiped out by a bus on her way to her wedding.  That’s a different kind of dark that I don’t mess with.

The best news about declaring myself a lover of darkly romantic curmudgeons and claiming the title for myself?  I am now a certificate-bearing member of the International Society of Curmudgeons:

I’d love to tell you more about the ISOC, but I’m currently angry with them for having the most annoying website I’ve ever visited.  When I calm down, I’ll tell you all about it.  Suffice to say the ISOC agrees with my self-designated title of Master Curmudgeon.