Speak Its Name’s Best of the Year 2011

Happy New Year!

Last year I said that it had been a bumper year for historicals and I had trouble keeping up with reviews. Well, this year it’s official. I haven’t been able to keep up with the releases at ALL. There are books out there, I know, that I haven’t seen, haven’t been advised about and even today I heard that a good friend of mine has two books coming out and I hadn’t a Scooby.

Part of this is because it’s been a busy year for me, troubles healthwise myself and troubles as my Dad has deterioated, but the GOOD part is that there are so many gay historicals coming out that it’s a flood – and one that I hope is never dammed. 😀

The genre is going from strength to strength and I couldn’t be more proud of it. It’s wonderful to see existing authors trying it out – and even more wonderful to see newly published authors who are obviously brilliant at it.

Our “best of 2012” picks are books that have been read and reviewed, not just books that came out in 2011. They are taken from the very small list of books that merited our Five Star  and Four and a Half Star ratings.

The awards (other than the Reader’s Choice) are purely subjective and you may not agree. That’s not a problem, please comment and let me know your favourites that you’ve read this year.

Speak Its Name’s Best Book of the Year

The best thing I read this year was The German by Lee Thomas. Gritty, multiple POVs, fascinating and endlessly re-readable. I can’t recommend this book enough.


bestnovel2012

A very close second was All the Beauty of the Sun by Marion Husband

Speak Its Name’s Best Cover of the Year

This was a difficult choice, purely because there was no stand out cover for me this year – don’t forget we are only choosing from the books that were reviewed – I was disappointed with the covers I came across this year, nothing seemed to pop the way the covers did from last year. However, my favourite of the bunch was Reese Dante’s design for Shadowboxing by Anne Barwell.

bestcover 2012

Runner up for me was The German by Lee Thomas.

Speak Its Name’s Best Author of the Year

This goes to Charlie Cochet, who made a spectacular debut and since then has been consistently good. Every single book of hers I’ve read I’ve been impressed with, and she writes her specialist era with such skill and clarity that you can’t help but be transported to the 1920’s and 30’s America.  Keep it up, Charlie!

  

bestauthor2012

And finally, the

Speak Its Name Readers’ Choice Award

which was done by Poll (HERE) so you can see the results were fair.

The winner is Aleksandr Voinov with his lovely, poignant novella set in WW2 “Skybound
Well done!
readers choice 2012
A Happy New Year to all the readers of the blog–thank you for supporting, for commenting and for buying the books. Let’s hope 2013 is even better.

Review: Shadowboxing by Anne Barwell


Can physicist Kristopher and Resistance member Michel find love and safety in the middle of World War II?

Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

When Michel contacts the Allies, hoping they can work together, it isn’t long before the so-called “simple” mission becomes anything but. With both men realizing they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other,

Kristopher and Michel must fight—not just for a chance of a future together, but for their very survival.

Ebook and Print 266 pages

Review by Sally Davies

Dr Kristopher Lehrer, young, naive and intent upon his work, has no conception of the destructive potential of his research. Since he’s a physicist I’m assuming that he is working on the German equivalent of the Manhattan Project, though I don’t believe it’s ever actually stated. When he finds out that he’s not, as he thought, contributing to the sum of human knowledge but helping to build a weapon he is outraged and distraught.

Kristopher is a bag of nerves, but his paranoia is with good reason. He is being followed! One of the guards at his place of work, Schmitz, is showing a lot of interest in him. Luckily, when Kristopher’s panic makes a terrible situation worse, Schmitz shows his true colours. His real name is Michel and he is a member of the French Resistance, who was in the right place at the right time and able to take on the identity of the real Schmitz, killed in a bombing raid. He has been at the facility for six months, learning what he can, and has been ordered to steal the plans to the project but Kristopher convinces him to steal Kristopher too. The plan is incomplete. Vital formuli exist only in Kristopher’s brain. As if this isn’t argument enough, Michel fancies the pants of Kristopher, an attraction that has been growing over his months in disguise.

They go on the run, pursued by Holm, head of security of the facility and his scary assistant Reiniger, and assisted by three very nicely drawn strong women, and members of the Berlin Resistance. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Berlin, the team that has been sent to retrieve and verify the plans have problems of their own. Put together in a hurry they comprise two Englishmen, neither of whom speak good German, a Chinese physicist not qualified for field work, an American of Japanese-American extraction fighting his attraction for another member of the team and the leader, Matt, who is a bit of a loose cannon due to pyschological baggage he can’t shake off.

This spy caper is a detailed and meticulously researched account of an extraction attempt that goes horribly wrong. The trouble that the author has gone to with her research is clear. Official ranks, street names, medical details, routes and travelling times are laid out admirably. I felt confident that what I was being shown was a good picture of the scenes and situations through which the characters move.

The author also details the thought processes of her characters. I found it particularly interesting to see Holm’s point of view, and his absolutely sincere and uncritical devotion to his country. But elsewhere this is where the book fell down a little for me. Each action is mulled over and thought out – sometimes in the middle of what could have been quite exciting action scenes – and there were times where I found my attention wandering and I had to go back and re-read sections, skipping the internal monologue, to get a clear picture of what had happened. But the people who will be reading mostly for the romantic relationships won’t be disappointed. Emotions run at a high note and Kristopher and Michel are very tender with each other. The other relationship that developed in the latter part of the book is handled quite differently, which is good because very different personalities are involved. It should be noted that sex scenes are either non-explicit or fade to black.

The story arc is very good with plenty of alarms and excursions and various point of view characters that allowed some tense cliffhangers. I didn’t find the ending satisfying, in fact it was very abrupt. But this lays the story open to a sequel where, I hope, characters and readers will get more of a sense of closure.

Author’s Livejournal

Buy at Dreamspinner | Amazon UK | Amazon USA (ebook and paperback)

%d bloggers like this: