Shannon Stacey

Seeking: Less Happily Ever After?

Alison and Angie and a whole bunch of other people have been talking about reading challenges for 2009. While I’m not taking part in anything official, I commented on Alison’s blog that I do, in fact, have a sort of unofficial reading challenge for myself this year.

At the time I commented, I thought I hadn’t read anything outside of the romance genre in 2008 (and very, very little in 2007), but I did read the new Lucas Davenport novel—Phantom Prey by John Sandford. But still, that’s only one. (Depending, I guess, on how you classify the In Death series. While, by my own personal definition, only the first was a romance, it’s Nora and they’re utterly romantic, so I don’t really consider that reading outside the genre.)

And a huge chunk of that reading was category romance. Why? 1) I love category romance. 2) In 2008’s financial climate, you couldn’t beat category prices. 3) And I’ve grown horribly tired of good stories suddenly derailing into the gratuitous, overly detailed sex ditch. I’ve reached the point of fed-up-edness where coming across the female P-word will result in immediate book closure. The only exception is authors I trust to give me a strong story in addition to the hot sex—Jaci Burton and Lauren Dane, along with a handful of others.

But as much as I love romance, it’s unhealthy creativity-wise to stagnate in one place, so this year I’m going to read at least one book a month outside of the romance genre. And I’ll be starting with The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver (a Lincoln Rhyme story) and then I’ll move on to Just After Sunset by Stephen King, because short story collections have always been King at his best. I also haven’t read…Chelsea Cain?—Heartsick and Sweetheart are the titles, I think. (My laptop has been struggling with the opening of multiple windows so I’m not going to bother checking right now.)

So I’m looking for non-romance book recommedations! (Not that they can’t have romance, but they shouldn’t be considered a part of the genre.) A couple of things—I don’t care for urban fantasy or cozy mysteries, and I have to read a series in order or my head explodes so please don’t recommend book 19 of a 30-book series. I’m also not big on inspirationals or “Oprah books”.

Have you read anything non-HEA awesome lately?

25 comments to “Seeking: Less Happily Ever After?”

  1. Charlene
      · January 7th, 2009 at 9:32 am · Link

    Have you tried anything by Dean Koontz? I love his books. Odd Thomas series is good, and Life Expectancy rocks. And by his dog Trixie Koontz, Bliss to You is a good non-fic happy read. Also, I would read Lois McMaster Bujold’s shopping list. And for the way-back machine, Lois Duncan’s YAs are thrillers that would also satisfy your HEA need. And of course Terry Pratchett is so funny you’ll pee yourself.

  2. EmmaWaynePorter
      · January 7th, 2009 at 10:14 am · Link

    I like the occasional Vince Flynn (another St. Paul author) and I always go back to Barbara Michaels’ many personas when I need comfort-reads. Hers, though, do usually have some sort of HEA.

    Then there’s Steve Berry, with whom I have a love-hate relationship. Denis Leary’s Why We Suck was the best laugh I’ve had in a while. And last week was Sanford’s Dead Watch which, of course, was good except that whole Hello Kitty hat thing. I’m still trying to figure out wtf that was about.

    Otherwise, I like reading the old school Agatha Christies, Leon Uris, and I had a recent, very dissatisfying run-in with Mr. Hemingway that we won’t be talking about.

    And subs. A lot of subs.

  3. Annmarie
      · January 7th, 2009 at 10:20 am · Link

    Those Cain books made me wake up screaming in the night. Srsly.

    I enjoyed Karin Slaughter’s Triptych. Be aware that I once loved her other series and she destroyed my heart with the last book. But Triptych is good and it’s safe enough.

  4. Jaci Burton
      · January 7th, 2009 at 10:32 am · Link

    I have nothing to recommend as I’m pretty grounded in romance and tend to stay there with the occasional deviation into suspense now and then, and probably stuff you’ve already read. Sometimes a nonfiction will spark my interest. And then there are research books, but to me those don’t count.

    And :heart: thank you

  5. Jorrie Spencer
      · January 7th, 2009 at 9:35 am · Link

    Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin was my favorite non-romance read of 2008. It’s a mystery, set in 1100s England. Really well done, I thought.

  6. Ally
      · January 7th, 2009 at 10:17 am · Link

    First of all, let me say you almost gave me a heart attack! Less HEA???! Blasphemy! ;)

    But then I read the whole post, not just the headline, and I totally agree with you. In fact, it’s one of my new years resolutions to be a more well rounded reader…and by that I mean cook books, how tos, writing books, thought provoking books… not mystery, thrillers, horror or the dreaded literary novel. Bleh.

    I have a few non romance titles to recommend. The first deals with believing in yourself and practicing until you get it right. It’s called We Might as Well Win by Johan Bruyneel and it’s the story of how he’s coached 8 of the last 10 Tour de France winners. He’s got a lot of great tips and thoughts in there in addition to incredible stories.

    Second is called Brain Rules. My dh got this for Christmas and he’s already read it. It’s a fascinating look at how the brain really looks. Did you know that our bodies are meant to take a nap around 3pm? It’s just the way we’re made. And we thought we were just tired. Very interesting, entertaining read and thoroughly researched. He requires each of his 12 points to be confirmed by two unrelated experts in the field.

    I also got the Grammar Girl book. Liking that. We’ll be giving away a copy of it at CataUniversity in Feb.

    Also got a book on Forensics for writers and am really enjoying that. The case studies are absolutely chilling.

    I’ll be posting a list of all the books I bought everyone for Christmas later this week on my blog… I only bought two romances for presents but EVERYONE on my list got at least one book. Go me!

  7. Angela James
      · January 7th, 2009 at 10:24 am · Link

    The Chelsea Cain books are excellent. Also, you might think of fantasy and YA as sources of non-romance that would still satisfy a little romance niggle!

  8. Lori
      · January 7th, 2009 at 11:30 am · Link

    Hi Shannon – funny you mention this. I just finished The Kite Runner. Amazing book. Wowed me, to say the least. I reviewed it over at my blog today, if you want to get an idea of it. Gorgeous, stunning, sad, and amazing. Highly recommend it.

  9. S. G. Kiner
      · January 7th, 2009 at 2:42 pm · Link

    “The Hong Kong Connection” is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It’s a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

  10. Erin
      · January 7th, 2009 at 6:36 pm · Link

    Beguilement: The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold

    Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

    Janet Evanovich’s books- I didn’t read them for a long time even though they were everywhere. Then, one day I was at Target, and I’d read all the romance novels in their book section but I needed Something. So I bought One for the Money and it was hilarious. I don’t think it’s a cozy mystery- I don’t read mystery.

    The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss- a great book about simple ways to be more efficient.

  11. Ally
      · January 7th, 2009 at 6:59 pm · Link

    >> The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

    I’ve been meaning to read this! I just kept forgetting to put it on my list and then I forgot the title. I’m putting it on my goodreads TBR list right now so I won’t forget again!

    Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Shannon
      · January 7th, 2009 at 11:56 pm · Link

    @Charli: I’ve read Koontz’s older stuff, but not the Odd Thomas series, despite hearing it was good. I’ll have to check that one out of the library. And I’ve never read Terry Pratchett. I think I tried once, but I couldn’t figure out what the first book was.

    @Jorrie: For some reason I keep thinking I have a copy of that book somewhere. I’m hoping to get my new bookshelf soon so I can unpack my boxes!

    @Emma: I’ve never read Vince Flynn, and it’s been years since I read Michaels. And OMG, I’ve got to get Leary’s book! But why, oh why, would you even try to read Hemingway? Bleh.

    @Ally: Considering I’m a notorious HEA-demander, it must have seemed an odd blog title! That Brain Rules books sounds fascinating (bonus—the kind of book my tall kid would like, too). I’m going to order a copy!

    @Annmarie: OMG, I love make me scream in the night books! But I didn’t connect with the Slaughter book I tried to read. Not sure why.

    @Angie: My problem with fantasy is that they all seem to come in series of 983 and book # 976 is always the only one at Walmart.

    @Jaci: :kiss:

    @Lori: I commented on your blog (beautiful review!), but to repeat myself, I’ll be grabbing it tomorrow. I almost bought it at Fictionwise, but I feel the need to read it in paper.

    @S.G.: :cheer: The Hong Kong Connection sounds intriguing. It actually sounds like it would be a good movie, too. But I have to be honest—$30 for a 260-page hardcover’s a bit steep.

    @Erin: I loved the Stephanie Plum series for a long time. (And in a warped way I guess I classified it as an extended romance arc, even though I know the author considers it a mystery). Unfortunately, I think the schtick got stale for me because I’ve tried several times to read the most recent one and failed. I probably would have given up several books ago, but…Ranger. Babe.

    And, hey, I’m all for a 4-hour work week! (Except for my husband, because I need my alone time.)

    Thank you for the recs! I’ve got a nice list to start on now.

  13. Angela James
      · January 8th, 2009 at 9:45 am · Link

    Dear Shannon, I don’t know how to break this to you, but Wal-mart isn’t the only place that sells books. And there’s also *gasp* libraries!


  14. Kerry Allen
      · January 8th, 2009 at 1:30 pm · Link

    If you like Sandford, I’d suggest Jack Kerley’s The Hundredth Man.

    Charlie Huston is my new favorite writer. His vampire series is my favorite, but his utterly-devoid-of-anything-supernatural books have the same breakneck pace that makes him unputdownable. I think the first one in that series is Caught Stealing.

    If you want funny, John Moore’s Heroes for Beginners takes a poke at every fairy tale trope.

  15. HelenKay Dimon
      · January 8th, 2009 at 3:13 pm · Link

    Okay, how lame am I that I don’t even know what this means: “…fed-up-edness where coming across the female P-word will result in immediate book closure.” I feel so dumb… :shrug:

    I second the Chelsea Cain recommendation. If you want to go way off the romance train, try Malcolm Gladwell’s books OUTLIERS, BLINK and THE TIPPING POINT. Interesting stuff.

  16. azteclady
      · January 8th, 2009 at 4:06 pm · Link

    I think you’d love Good Omens, but Pratchett and Gaiman. And Dean Koontz’ Mr Murder if you haven’t read it yet. Have you read Eric Flint’s 1632? It’s the first in a cool alternative historical series. Both 1632 and the second title, 1633, are available for free downloads at Baen’s Free Library.

  17. Shannon
      · January 8th, 2009 at 5:11 pm · Link

    Dear Shannon, I don’t know how to break this to you, but Wal-mart isn’t the only place that sells books

    What? It’s not? :angie:

    @Kerry: Ironically, I just downloaded that trilogy that includes “Caught Stealing” because Random House is offering them free and they sounded interesting. I can’t think of a better way to reach out to new readers.

    Okay, how lame am I that I don’t even know what this means: “…fed-up-edness where coming across the female P-word will result in immediate book closure.”

    It means I stop reading when I come across the word for female genitalia that starts with P and is another word for cat.

    Here’s the thing—I have NEVER heard any of the women I’ve ever known (in person, not online) EVER use that word, even girl-talking, so it just doesn’t ring true to me in a story. It has to be a damn good book to get me past it. Plus I just strongly dislike the word. Especially in so-called historicals, when it’s used by young ladies who wouldn’t say “damn” if they dropped a wagonwheel or two on their toes.

    Okay, that’s a rant for another day. A bad day when I’ve run out of chocolate.


    @azteclady: So if Pratchett and Gaiman co-wrote it, then it’s not connected to P’s series, right? So I wouldn’t have to flail around trying to find the first book?

    Oh! Is that the one that had two different covers?

    And I did see 1632 and 1633 on the free list, but I had nothing to base any choices on, so I didn’t download any. Now I’ll go grab them.

  18. HelenKay Dimon
      · January 8th, 2009 at 6:45 pm · Link

    Ohhhhh. Now I get it. I’m a bit slow today, but I agree. Doesn’t work for me either. Don’t even have to run and check to see if I’ve ever done it because it’s just not a word that pops into my head while writing. Whew.

  19. Shannon
      · January 8th, 2009 at 11:20 pm · Link

    Irony—I’ve used it, in both of my EC books. Then I promised myself I’d never use it again and I haven’t broken that promise yet.

    Fortunately I’ve whittled my erotic romance reading down to the authors I know will give me a solid story, an emotional romance and great characters, so I don’t mind the word choices nearly as much.

  20. mikaela
      · January 12th, 2009 at 6:13 am · Link

    Tim Davys! He is awesome! I don’t know if they are translated to english yet, though. Otherwise I recommend Wen Spencer. Anything by her, she writes science fiction with romance influences…

  21. Shannon
      · January 12th, 2009 at 9:47 pm · Link

    I haven’t heard of Davys, but I’ve heard people talk about Wen Spencer. I’ll have to check her out, too.

  22. Erin
      · January 14th, 2009 at 3:01 pm · Link

    Dorchester is offering Beguilement for free

  23. Angela James
      · January 14th, 2009 at 3:05 pm · Link

    Small correction: Harper Collins is offering Beguilement for free. Dorchester was just showing that widget as an example.

  24. Shannon
      · January 14th, 2009 at 4:57 pm · Link

    I think I saw that mentioned somewhere, but you have to read it online and can’t download it. I can’t read on the computer, even on Penelope (the wee baby Asus).


  25. Erin
      · January 15th, 2009 at 8:13 pm · Link

    Thanks Angela.

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