Best Books of 2015

2015b

As the last grains of sand pour through the hourglass that was 2015, every one of us, I think, is taking a few moments to reminisce about the year that was. It’s the time of year to shift around the beads on the abacus of life and, if you’re a geek like me, to remind yourself of all the indelible pop culture experiences you had this year. A tough year for me personally, but an epic one in terms of the entertainment I consumed, and the thoughts about it I shared with my social media friends. So, over the next couple of days, I’m rolling out my best of 2015 in books, TV, and film. Because who doesn’t love a good list?

Thanks to the lovely folks at GoodReads, putting together my best books of 2015 list was a breeze! I pressed a button and presto, changeo, they tallied all the stats and collected all the book covers for me. A huge help! But also surprising. The year has been a busy one, and that’s reflected in the smaller number of books I got through. Not a surprise, since as I type this there are at least a dozen on my waiting list, with at least five by major authors. I also tend to rate books quite highly, but I attribute this to the fact that I’m very good at selecting books for myself that I will enjoy. I have my stable of trusted authors, and though I do sample works by new writers (four of which made it to this list), just keeping up with my favorites eats up the largest chunk of my reading time.

So, without further ado, here are the seven best books I read in 2015 (in no particular order).

23435261

A Death at the Dionysus Club by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold–A Victorian mystery series with occult leanings, beautifully drawn characters, a fascinating and terrifying underworld, and a complex, touching romance. What’s not to love?

untitled25

Captive Prince 1&2 by C.S. Pacat–I’ve written about them before. If you’ve read this series, you know how expertly plotted, devastatingly smart, and utterly riveting they are. Laurent is one of the best characters of all time.

20893614

Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme–If you, like me, love old movies and are just as fascinated by the stories behind the making of those movies, you will love this book. A film buff’s romance with strong mystery element, with a lovely, complicated, silent film-loving heroine and her dashing mathematician foil. I ached when this one was over.

24901214

Hoarfrost by Jordan L. Hawk–A new Whyborne & Griffin book is always a cause for celebration. This one’s winter setting hit close to home, and made for a particularly emotional outing. I marvel at the depth of Mrs. Hawk’s imagination, which conjures up civilizations and creatures that, like the best episodes of Doctor Who, touch the head and the heart.

22885333

Jackdaw by K.J. Charles–What else is there to say about Mrs. Charles other than she is the best historical M/M writer working today? I could have put all of her releases on this list, but my love for the Charm of Magpies world knows no bounds, so Jonah and Ben it is.

17316561

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates–A pitch-black book about six Oxford University students who start a game of dares that transforms all their lives. Twisty and addictive, Mr. Yates pushes all of his characters to the brink and beyond.

Unnatural

Unnatural by Joanna Chambers–An engrossing historical that had me by the heart for its entire length. I just loved James and Iain to bits. But it’s the brushstrokes of her writing that stay with me, the quiet moments and the compelling images that linger in the mind long after the last page.

What books made you stay up into the wee hours to finish them this year? Hit me up in the comments!

 

Five Things I’m Loving Right Now — Summer Edition

Friends,

In belated celebration of the solstice and the lovely summer weather, here’s another round of the five things I’m loving right now. Be sure to hit me up in the comments about the stuff you’re grooving on!

17261670

1. All the new releases in M/M romance

Some heavy hitters have new releases out this month, perfect for those easy days at the beach or lazing on the balcony drinking your bevvy of choice. The only real concern is in which order to read them in. The one I’ve chosen is Josh Lanyon’s Winter Kill, Amy Lane’s The Deep of the Sound, followed by K.J. Charles’ The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, then Jordan L. Hawk’s Mocker of Ravens, Harper Fox’s Last Line 2, J.L. Merrow’s Played, and Kaje Harper’s Life, Some Assembly Required. The only downside is it will take me less than a month to get through them all, and what am I going to do with the rest of July and August?

718sNkR1l7L__SX522_

2. Acupressure mats

I don’t usually go in for what my friend J. describes as “that woo-woo stuff,” and the various web sites for this product claim it does everything from help you lose weight to cure major ailments. But I am here to tell you that after a long, stressful day, especially at the end of your workout, lying on this bad boy is like an evil massage that works your muscles but feels so good afterwards. My friend A. is the fairy godmother who gave me this “torture device” for my last birthday, and I have been singing her praises ever since. Especially good on feet swollen from long walks in the hot sun, or those hard to reach places on the back of your neck. And way cheaper than paying for regular massages, as well.

3. Brandon Flowers’ The Desired Effect

A buoyant ’80s-influenced pop extravaganza that combines Flowers’ playful, evocative lyrics with one of the best male voices out there right now. If you grew up loving the New Romantics, like I did, this album will bring you back. Favorite tracks include Can’t Deny My Love, I Can Change, Untangled Love, and Lonely Town.

4.  The 100

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on or binge shows that you missed during the year, and this one has been on my list for a while. While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it was definitely worth the wait. I call it “Lost and Battlestar Galactica’s teenage love child,” because you will recognize a good deal of those shows’ ideas, themes, and actors (I swear half of BSG’s Canadian cast has appeared on this show at least once–just waiting for you to show up, Tamoh!), but that doesn’t make its dystopian space opera narrative any less riveting. The premise is simple: 100 delinquent teens from a space station orbiting Earth are sent back down 100 years after nuclear war to see if the planet is inhabitable (spoiler alert: it is, because duh). We keep track of the teens as they try to survive in this new, brutal environment (think Lord of the Flies on crack), but also follow their parents and elders stuck on the dying space station.

One of the best parts of the show is the amazing gender equality and diversity of the cast. Among the main actors, it’s a 50-50 split between men and women, with two women as the show’s lead characters. I’d actually say white men are in the minority on the show, and they are most often portrayed as evil, or at least misguided, characters. Though everyone has flaws, and the character arcs progress beautifully, and the action is pretty non-stop. But the writers aren’t precious about squeezing all the life out of a situation to maintain the status quo. Things are constantly changing on the show, and they aren’t afraid to reward the viewer with major, long-awaited events when the time is right. You’ve seen a lot of it done before, and most of the teens are unreasonably good-looking (if perpetually muddy), but for summer viewing? The 100 definitely hits the spot.

5. My dog’s fur

This is on the more personal side. My little poochie turned eight this year, which is more or less senior age for a dog, and I’ve become more aware of the ticking clock. She’s never been the cuddliest dog–too independent, like her person–but as she’s gotten older, she’s mellowed a bit about the whole “curling up” thing, and I’m stupidly grateful. There’s nothing like mushing my bare feet into her fur when she sits on the far end of the couch while I write, or feeling her silkiness on my cheek as we snuggle while watching TV. I’ve shaved her down for the season, so it’s a bit pricklier than normal, but that just makes her all the more huggable. I never want to take that feeling for granted, and I’m so grateful that she’s in my life.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Selina

The Twelve Smutty, Geeky Treasures of Xmas!! Happy Holidays!!

Friends,

Thank you one and all for making this one of the most intense and interesting years of my life. I hope it was an equally eventful one for all of you! I hope this holiday season is whatever you wish for it to be, whether cozy and relaxing, or exhilarating and full of adventure, or a flurry of social activity with family or friends. However you choose to celebrate, make your own list of all the good things in your life. We are luckier than we think, and to me, remembering that is the real spirit of the season.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little decadence to go along with it. So along with a very Happy Holidays, I wish you…

Twelve sexy gingers from the Red Hot 100 calendar to indulge your every whim!

The Eleventh and best Time Lord to whoosh you off to the far reaches of the galaxy/time period of your choice!

Ten episodes of Fargo, an ice-hearted, atmospheric delight, to binge on!

Nine (okay, a lot more, but just go with it) amazing LGBTQ-related charities that could definitely use a bit of help in this season of indulgence!

A box of Eight grand cru chocolate sticks from Valrhona, the best chocolatier in the world!

The Seven movies in cinemas now actually worth your valuable dollars and time: Selma, Birdman, Nightcrawler, Whiplash, Gone Girl, The Theory of Everything, and Inherent Vice! (People, it’s Christmas. Google them!)

Six exceptional holiday shorts, some free, some not, from the best M/M authors out there: Joanna Chambers, Harper Fox, L.B. Gregg, Josh Lanyon, Jordan L. Hawk, KJ Charles.

Five new Christmas codas from the exceptionally generous Josh Lanyon!

Four incredible restaurants that will revolutionize your taste buds if you ever visit Montreal, Quebec: Au Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef, Hostaria, Satay Brothers.

A riveting Three-book series that plunges you into an indelible world and shows the moral and personal consequences of magic, by Lev Grossman!

Two interconnected superhero shows, Arrow and The Flash, that you won’t regret watching for a second!

One very grateful author and blogger who can’t wait to see what the new year brings, and is so thankful to have all your scintillating insights and disparate opinions to read and react to. Keep it coming in 2015!!

Much love,

Selina

 

Coming Soon to an M/M Publisher Near You…

It’s Labor Day weekend, peeps. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking, “When did that happen?” The temperatures for early September are already looking on the chilly side. I just bought my first sweater of the year (short-sleeved, but still). Doo-doo just got real.

Here at Chez Selina, it’s been one tough summer, and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve caught my share of rays. So, in order to get myself excited for fall—which, really, is usually my favorite season, and this year may just feature the release of a certain book by a certain blogger (AKA me!)—I’ve decided to list the M/M books I’m most looking forward to reading. Nothing wrong with giving some of my favorite authors a little free promo, either, right? (*And* I’m fairly sure you weren’t exactly salivating for another recipe post. There are a couple of pop culture pieces in the pipeline, but probably won’t see the light of day until my schedule relents a bit—see the aforementioned rough summer.)

So, without further ado, here are the titles that have got my eyes twinkling, my fingers itching, and my loins… well, you know. In other words: Can’t. Bloody. Wait!

FlightOfMagpies72lg

Bloodline_200x300

Flight of Magpies, KJ Charles and Bloodline, Jordan L. Hawk, here and here. I’ve mentioned my love for these ladies’ work before, and I am beyond eager to dive back into their respective series.

H&M3_BoyWithPainfulTattoo_400x600 (2)

The Boy with the Painful Tattoo by Josh Lanyon, here. Never miss a book of his! Can’t wait to dive back into the lives of Kit and J.X. (now played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott in my mind palace).

FeverPitch72lg

Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan, here. I have to pass on a lot of Heidi’s books, not because she isn’t a kickass author (she so is), but because of the kink level, which makes her less kinky books that much more precious to me. That we get to read more about Kelly and Walter only sweetens the deal.

Unjustified Claims by Kaje Harper (no cover or link yet). I was always a vampire girl, until a JesseWave review convinced me that Ms. Harper’s books were different. I love all her books, but have a special place in my heart for her wolves. Can’t wait to meet the new members of the pack.

But the most exciting news of all, though so many details are still very much TBD and this is not an official announcement, is that one of the books on my In the Works page will soon be in the works no more! More concrete information to follow…

In the meantime, show some of these authors some love and pre-order these tantalizing new titles!

Cheers,
-Selina

The Very Model of a Historical Occult Investigator

It’s been one of those weeks here at Chez Selina, so this post is going to be the Internet equivalent of a cheerleading squad at a football game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I know there’s a lot of ‘Read this!’ out there, but when I recommend something, know that it’s because the book/show/film took possession of my mind for a few blissful hours and left me feeling giddy as a two-year-old on a sugar high. I generally keep a weather eye on trends in my reading, and lately there has been a particular genre that has been altogether obsessing me, so, without further ado, can I get a rah, rah, sis-boom-bah for K.J. Charles and Jordan L. Hawk?

I love historicals. I love stories about the supernatural and the occult. I love M/M romances. Know what I love most of all? Historical supernatural M/M romances with occult storylines! Whoo!

Two authors kicking ass and taking names in the genre are the aforementioned K.J. Charles and Jordan L. Hawk. Over the past two months, I have been mainlining every book of theirs I could get my hands on, and just when I thought I couldn’t get a bigger buzz off these gals, it turns out they wrote a book together, combining both pairs of characters. Closest thing to literary nirvana since the third Adrien English mystery? Signs point to yes.

Here are the deets you need to know:

17730586 18656381

K.J. Charles is a self-described “editor and writer who blogs about life on both sides of the publishing fence.” She currently has two historical supernatural series going, her Charm of Magpies series and the Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal series of shorts. Her Stephen Day from the Magpie series is one of the most unique, fascinating, and endearing characters I’ve encountered in a good long while—not that his romantic foil, Lucien Vaudrey, is by any means the lesser of the pair. Their backstories and their personalities are expertly contrasted; the dance they perform around each other, and eventually together, is as compelling as the events that endanger them at every turn. They are one of those couples that seem impossible on paper, but in life make perfect sense.

All I’ll say about period accuracy and detail is that I bow before her ability to conjure up the past.

Ms. Charles is also not afraid to raise the stakes as high as they can go. The danger in her books is not just real, not just potentially fatal, but the stuff of night terrors and childhood horrors. It’s a wonder her two protagonists haven’t gone mad from the living of these vicious otherworldly episodes. I’m not often genuinely scared reading M/M books, but I have been known to keep the lights as bright as possible and cuddle up with my doggy when reading these. I have been haunted by them, in more ways than one.

16128152 17840306

The same could be said of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series. They are the American equivalent of Crane and Day (or Feximal and Caldwell, take your pick), living in the Hellmouth-esque seaside town of Widdershins, Massachusetts. Whyborne and Griffin are more of an obvious match as a couple, but that doesn’t make their meeting and subsequent courtship any less enthralling, especially as it involves undercover missions, a grimoire written in an arcane language, cults, sorcery, and the end of the world. Oh, and one of the strongest female protagonists in the M/M cannon in the dashing and cutthroat Christine.

I confess that Whyborne’s “child of wealth and repression who feels ostracized from his family and the world due to his bookishness, proclivities, and desire to take the road less travelled” struck a chord in me (for obvious, semi-autobiographical reasons). But I especially admire the way Ms. Hawk never lets Whyborne or Griffin (who has his own set of issues) wholly recover from their personal challenges and insecurities. They grow, little by little, inch by inch, over the course of the first four novels, but these changes and victories are hard-won, and ready to beat them back down at every turn. She also marries their supernatural investigations to their inner turmoil, so the case itself affects them on a spiritual and psychological level.

If the love story is especially involving, the supernatural elements are especially icky. There are scenes in these books that, excuse my French, grossed me the fuck out, and also inspired me to make like a Dalek and exterminate every last creepy crawly lurking in the corners of my apartment.

20880073

The apotheosis of their talents occurs in Remnant, where Simon Feximal and Robert Caldwell meet Whyborne and Griffin. Bickering and flirtation, as well as the hunt for a serial killer sorcerer, ensue.

Really, what more reason do you need to gorge on these delectable books? I promise, you’ll be thoroughly slaked and not gain a pound. That’s my kind of feast.

Cheers,
-Selina