Thursday, December 19, 2013

SM Johnson ~ My best reads 2013 ~

Good morning, darlings! Happy winter! (This is me putting on my happy face. Note that what appears to be a smile is, in fact, gritted teeth. Also note that I am bundled up like an Eskimo while inside my house. Also note... eh, never mind. Whining really doesn't help. Much.) This is pretty much my writing uniform - what I look like when I spend all day holed up at home in my pajamas.

I clean up a little better when I am forced to go out into the world, I swear.

Kyle the snake stopped eating about two weeks ago. Then he got extremely shy and started hiding all the time. So, me being concerned (and probably annoying), I got a flashlight and spied on him. His eyes were milky. Hmm.... milky eyes, check; refusing food, check; hiding more than usual, check. Kyle was preparing to shed his skin. It's very winter here (have I mentioned that?), and the air in the house is so dry that skin feels like paper and more than one of us has had dreams about filling the hot tub with lotion and just having a good roll around in it. Dry is not great for reptiles shedding. I moved the humidifier across the room from Kyle, kept it full, and even turned the fan up a couple of notches. I moved it across the room because it does blow out damp air, but that damp air is COLD, and of course, I really wasn't going for cold and humid.

Kyle's shed skin
I also found a small plastic container and put some leftover from planting spanghum moss into it. Added enough water to make it damp, and cut a hole in the lid. This sort of thing is known in the reptile world as a "humidity box." (Yeah, fancy terminology, right?). I put the box half on the warm side of the tank, and Kyle absolutely adored it.

And on Friday the 13th, when I wasn't paying attention, he slid right out of his skin. A perfect shed, from eye caps to tail tip. Go, Kyle!

I removed the humidity box, FYI, after the shed, because although Kyle really adored it, garter snakes aren't aquatic snakes, and I hear that too much damp can give them a terrible sounding thing called blister disease. So yeah. It'll be like, a special little hiding place for him pre-shed.

Pretty after shedding
He's been a bit off his food ever since the shed, though, and actually threw up a worm on Monday. So we've graduated to nightcrawlers, just because I continue to be nervous about accidentally feeding him red wrigglers. He ate a whole nightcrawler today - so man, talk about freaking COOL. He was ecstatic about the new offering, and positively bulging. I was less ecstatic, having to be the one to cut the crawler into three pieces to ensure that it cannot crawl back out of the snake, because... well, gross. But... I guess it's worth doing, because so long as I'm feeding him nightcrawlers, I can't be feeding him toxic worms. Which is a good thing.

All right, let's move on to the real topic.... the best books I've read in 2013. I am going to apologize to you in advance here, because some of these books are not yet published, so it's a little bit unfair. But some of them ARE published, and those ones you should run right out and buy from your favorite bookseller immediately (grin).

I've been keeping a list of everything I've been reading this year. You can see the full list under the tab titled "My Reads 2013" - it's been fun, and is definitely something I plan to continue doing. This here will be the short list.

BEST READS of 2013 (in no particular order)

Schadenfreude by 19.

By far the book that had the most impact on me this year.

I read an online draft version in January, and just... really could not get it out of my head. This writer... I don't even know how to put into words the pure, raw talent here. If you don't experience this, you're missing out on something that is as beautiful as it is terrible. Truth of the matter is that I so much couldn't get this out of my head that I wrote a gushing fan-girly squee email to the author. He was already working on getting this book ready to publish as a paperback, so I offered to format it for ebook, and this I did. We worked well together, and have become close friends. Funny how a book can change a life, isn't it?

So... when you see my five star reviews all over the place, I want you to know that my love of this book came long before my friendship with the author, and I stand by my 5-stars despite the fact that I ended up being sort of an editor for this book. It's not nepotism. It's NOT.

War by JC Andrijeski

The Allie's War series has just been... part of my internal make-up for going on two years now. I stumbled into it when JC and I were part of a web-based book promotion circle-jerk sort of thing together, and the first book of the series, Rook, just blew me away. It felt, honestly, like JC had written this story just for me. And that didn't change with books two, three, four, or five. Yeah, that's a little nutty, I know, but truth. It has all my favorite story elements - some erotica, some danger, something that needs puzzling out, an alpha-male love interest with a tortured past... I dunno, just... an amazing and complicated story that's so well-written I can chew and swallow four hundred pages in two days.

As with 19, I contacted JC (I know, right? I'm such a stalker!) to tell her what a huge fan I was, and since then have started beta-reading for her. And again, I stand by my reviews, despite my friendship with the author. I really feel that indie artists should stick together, and if you love something, you should promote the hell out of it. So that's what I do. My "adore" is absolutely genuine. I wouldn't steer you wrong, I promise. (The Allie's War series books have beautiful"new adult" covers, so if something in your niggling brain says, "wait, I thought the covers were mostly green" - you're not wrong (grin).

King Perry by Edmond Manning

From my review:

This book. O happy sigh. It is sweet. It is gentle. It is kindness and taking a risk and a leap of faith, and learning about trust and truth and happiness. Vin Vanbly asks Perry, a virtual stranger, to spend a weekend with him, and the condition is that Perry has to do everything Vin tells him to do. I know, sounds porny, right? But noooo, it's not at all. During the course of the weekend Vin tells Perry about some of the lost and found kings, and asks Perry to trust him over and over and over. This book is funny, and sad, and poignant, and just... a beautiful journey.

Buy it. Read it. You won't be sorry.

Hamelin's Child by DJ Bennett

Well, call me a sucker for a good kidnap/forced prostitution story, what can I say? I read it twice, adored it twice, was inspired to write my own kidnap/prostitution story (because I'm just naughty that way) and waited with breath held for the second book, Paying the Piper, and the third book, Calling the Tune. Seriously. They're all good books in their own right, but the entire trilogy as Michael is kidnapped, rescued, makes poor choices, can't stay away from the bad guys, gets kidnapped again, and ultimately faces the person willing to pay an inordinate amount of money to "own" him - well, wow... it's just a read story all the way around, and I truly enjoyed Michael's growth as a character, and thought all three books were well done.

I think it's very difficult to write a "perfect trilogy" - but I really think DJ Bennett did a great job of telling a very satisfying story in three parts. Read my review here.

Not His Kiss to Take by Finn Marlowe

This is a sweet, darling and VERY erotic story written for... hmm, I think a Goodreads Love Has No Boundaries challenge. One of the most fun M/M erotica stories I've read all year - in that I laughed out loud frequently. The younger character, Jamie, has a sassy mouth on him like you would not believe, and had me in hysterics.

At 78,000 words, this is pretty much a full-length novel, and it's free for download from Smashwords. If you like M/M erotica, and you like a mouthy smart-ass character, I highly recommend this one. I rarely, rarely re-read books, but I've read this one a couple more times since my first reading, and have enjoyed it every time. Here's a review excerpted from my blog.

Psychomotor Agitation: by 19.

Affectionately known in my little world as "PMA."

Same writer as Schadenfreude. 220,000 words of serial killer porn that grabs one by the throat and Just. Never. Stops. The linky up there goes to an excerpt that is posted at Archive of Our Own, FYI.

I've read the whole of available text, because I emailed the author and begged and pleaded and promised to be the best little girl EVER and also promised to turn over the first-born Goth child that might possibly spring from my loins even if I did guess his name....

Well, okay, except for the "reading the whole of the available text" all the begging and pleading and promising part in the above paragrah is a lie. What I really did was send a polite email requesting the full text and within a day received said text with a (warning? promise?) to have sticky nightmares. GRIN. Oh yes. Happy sigh. Adore. Adore. Love. And adore some more. Like Schadenfreude, PMA is kind of a read at your own risk sort of book. It will probably fuck you up a little. But you know, sometimes we need that, right?

This is not a comprehensive list, and if I am as brain dead next week as I am this week, I might continue it. It's a fairly fun and interesting way to round out the year of blogging.

To all of my darlings - I wish you a lovely, safe, and peaceful holiday season, no matter what you celebrate, or if you celebrate. Please don't get trampled to death by reckless shoppers, 'kay? And hey, did you remember to buy a gift for yourself? Might I recommend any one of the above books for an afternoon's delight or a few self-indulgent days? I treated myself to a 2nd paperback copy of Schadenfreude (because I already gave my first copy away), and a paperback copy of War. So as you run around hither and tither trying to make sure you don't forget anyone, make sure you don't forget YOU. (smile). Be good to yourself.

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