THE ANNOTATED TBR: an autumn collection of recommendations and reviews from some of my favorite bloggers

Some badass book reviewers and my overly hopeful list of books for late fall reading…

I’m trying out a new feature, which looks to be an occasional round-up of great reviews of books from my TBR. The idea is sort of an annotated TBR for myself (to help with the “now WHY was I thinking I wanted to read this…?”), with links to the reviews and reviewers most responsible for fueling the out-of-control growth of the pile.

This is also a way for me to share my enthusiasm for the art of the book review itself, and the incredible writing I’m so enjoying as I spend more time in the Romanceland bloggiverse.

I used to read reviews only after finishing a book, as a way of interrogating my own response, checking in with fellow readers, and and having some kind of “dialogue” about it. But since starting the blog I’ve discovered that many of the best conversations about the genre, and the romance reading experience, are happening in and around reviews and related comments threads. I’m reading lots of reviews for books I’ll probably never read.

So here are some fantastic essays about books I do want to read. And even if you don’t think the book sounds up your alley, be sure and check out the links, because these reviews are outstanding, insightful and fun reading in their own right.

THE GRAND SOPHY, by Georgette Heyer: Over at Something More, Liz takes another look at a classic Heyer, or rather, another listen. The Comments here are so good — I’m both inspired to do more re-reads of vintage and classic authors, and a little afraid of what I’ll find I may have been willing to overlook in a romance that I’d find egregious in other genres, or in a book published today. With this throwback review, Liz and her discussants dig into Heyer’s anti-Semitic characterization of the villain, and how interpretation and response may be variable when listening as opposed to reading the printed page.

LOVE, CONTINUANCE, AND INCREASING, by Julian Griffith: And then for a Regency which, I imagine, might make dear Miss Heyer blush. Natalie at Radish Reviews has written an intriguing and very persuasive review of a historical menage romance, which, actually, really makes me want to read it. It’s not the polyamorous part that makes me need persuading, it’s the historical part. I mean I know historical people had all kinds of intimacy just as people do now, but to make a menage work as a romance I have to believe in the love story and suspend disbelief about the practicalities involved in setting up housekeeping and achieving the HEA. Which is a LOT harder to do within the confines of a historical setting. But Natalie’s review gives Griffith kudos on this very challenge, along with the emotional intimacy, so I am definitely intrigued, in spite of the slightly creepy cover art and the fact that she didn’t love the ending.

RIVETED, by Meljean Brook: Nicola of AlphaHeroes is one of my favorite romance reviewers. She’s not posting new reviews this fall, but her weekly Sunday Soup posts are newsy, intelligent, sometimes opinionated summaries of Romanceland chatter and buzz …. and for an autumnal reading suggestion I love this review from September 2012 of the third book in Brook’s Iron Seas series. I’ve only read The Iron Duke (book one), which I found impressive, fascinating, and flawed. Nicola says RIVETED is the best of the three, so I’m planning to check it out.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, by Sandra Antonelli: I’ve been wanting to read this “older heroine” romance ever since I learned from twitter that Antonelli is doing her doctoral dissertation on the subject of representations of women and age in romance fiction. It takes alchemy to turn academic writers into romance novelists, and sometimes the wonk factor is much too evident, but Read React Review Jessica’s marvelous review (a guest post at Radish Reviews) has only moved this higher up on my TBR.

A LADY’S SECRET WEAPON, by Tracey Devlyn: If Miss Bates (Miss Bates Reads Romance) says Devlyn’s Regency spy romance beats out Joanna Bourne for delivering emotional and exciting historical suspense with a full and satisfying HEA, this is a book I need to read. I find myself so often in agreement with MissB (though never expressing myself with such clarity or elegance!) that I feel compelled to investigate further. I am a great admirer of Bourne’s beautiful Spymaster series and if MissB is calling my spies out with this polite yet clear challenge, I need to see what’s what! Also, Devlyn’s novel has just been nominated for an RT award for Best Innovative Historical Romance of 2013.

And finally, for the sheer pleasure of reading a great review of a book NOT receiving a recommendation, you can’t do better than Miss Bates’s delightfully proper yet hilariously underwhelmed post on THROUGH THE SMOKE by Brenda Novak.

So that’s what I’m hoping to read between now and the New Year (ha! As if.) – what about you? And what about book reviews? Do you enjoy reading them in their own right, even if it’s not a book you’re likely to read?

5 thoughts on “THE ANNOTATED TBR: an autumn collection of recommendations and reviews from some of my favorite bloggers

  1. willaful says:

    I’ve been meaning to do something like this too, to try and keep track for the next time I get to pleasure read. :-\ As long as I’m copycatting, tell me how you do your cool blogroll?

    • pamela1740 says:

      Hmm, do we like the tile/grid format for the blogroll?? I’m not sure. I’m frustrated I can’t seem to get it to list the blogs alphabetically. I just changed to the tile format today as an experiment. The text list I had before was in some weird chron order (date followed the blog, I think) and I prefer the traditional alphabetical way of looking things up, so I was messing around with it to see if I could change the order. I’m not sure I’ll keep the pictures because I don’t think it’s showing everybody.

      I do love some of the images, though! I use pictures with my posts as much as possible because respond to visual information and love images (art history training dies hard).

  2. Miss Bates says:

    Greetings and thank yous from Miss Bates herself. 🙂 What a lovely post and gracious inclusion of all of us having fun writing reviews! Badass rocks!

    Miss Bates is tickled to hear that A LADY’S SECRET WEAPON has been nominated for its innovation. How cool. Miss Bates would aver that Bourne is a much better stylist in penning her spies, but Ms Devlyn is more emotionally engaging, more sympathetic, more likely to inspire that little hitch of the romance reader’s heart. Miss Bates would also highly recommend that you read book two of the Nexus series, CHECKMATE, MY LORD, which in Miss Bates’ opinion is even better than A LADY’S SECRET WEAPON.

  3. Caz says:

    I’ve just finished the Devlyn and have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous book (“Checkmate My Lord”) in the series, but “Weapon” just never came to life for me 😦

    If you’re interested, I just listened to and reviewed a new audio version of The Grand Sophy, which was really good.

  4. Nicola O. says:

    Aww, heck, I’m honored to be up there. I do love Everything Meljean.

    I just went through part of my TBR stack — part of the physical stack, that is, not including the ebooks languishing on my Kindle. The last thing I need is more recs, dammit. But I’ve been eying Ms. Antonelli myself….


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