Good Books

So that July new releases post I put up a week or so ago?  I’ve read three of them now - and loved all three.  Which is not always the case, let me assure you – I think I’ve had more misses than hits in 2014 so far.  But these three – let’s just say I resented having to put these books down when reading them (sometimes I feel like we should have “good book days” the same way we have sick days).

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16045306First up, Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE.  I first stumbled upon Miranda Kenneally’s books when I picked up CATCHING JORDAN almost two years ago now (time flies!).  They’ve been a bit uneven since, but I feel she’s really hit it out of the park with ANNIE (you can tell when I’ve read a Kenneally when I go for sporting metaphors).  Seeing that the main protagonist’s a teenager who’s training for a marathon in memory of her boyfriend, it would be easy for this story to veer too much into the territory of angst and depression.  But it didn’t – Annie’s not the only one with baggage in the book, but yet the emotions never felt overdone.  She felt real, as did Jeremiah – I loved their chemistry, the feelings, and I was with them all the way as they took tentative steps into friendship and then more.  I also loved that family – on both Annie’s and Jere’s sides – was so present and loving in this book, which is a bit of a rarity for a YA/NA!  And finally, while there are cameos by characters from previous Hundred Oaks books, I felt this one worked as a standalone as well.

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20426102I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting with Rachel Aaron‘s UF debut NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST - I knew she could give good story after her SF Paradox trilogy (btw, did you read she’s writing another trilogy in the Paradox universe – more Sainted King!), but was slightly wary after reading her first (admittedly debut) fantasy novel way back and being all meh about it.  But I needn’t have been worried – I was caught up in the story from the first chapter onwards, and I suspect this would appeal to those looking for a slightly different UF series.  I mean, what other UF has a all-powerful dragon seer named Bob (okay, Brohomir, but he prefers Bob), who uses <3 <3 in his texts (and just generally takes the piss out of everyone)?  As you can gather, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s a solid story with some very engaging characters.  Julius is the “nice dragon” of the title, but he’s no self-pitying pushover.  There’s fast-paced action mixed with humour and snark, and tantalising glimpses of the wider dragon community - and if they’re anything like the Heartstrikers clan members we’ve already met, we’re in for a ride.  I closed the book wanting more Heartstrikers now.  She mentions November as a possible release date for the next book, so fingers crossed!

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20822874And then KJ CharlesTHINK OF ENGLAND.  I had a feeling this was going to be it.  I mean, her Magpie Lord books were getting better and better, her romantic thriller NON-STOP TILL TOKYO drew me in despite violence not generally being my thing, but still, I was not prepared by how much I loved THINK OF ENGLAND.  Set in turn-of-the-century 20th-century England, the first thing that struck me was the period feel.  The usual tongue-in-cheek Samhain warning for this book read:

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

And all three were spot on.  I thought KJ Charles nailed the insular attitudes of the English upper class of that era, the country-house weekend (or fortnight, in this case) feel.  The story evolved so naturally, and before I knew it, Curtis was up to his ears with intrigue and deception.  And not knowing whether he was coming or going with Daniel… Their chemistry was off the page, and their interactions equally romantic and sexy.  As for the final suspenseful and action-packed chapters – well, let’s just say I couldn’t put the book down.  Unusually for an m/m historical, I closed the book thinking a HEA was actually possible, despite the challenges not getting hand-waved away or swept under the carpet.  I’m hoping this is just the start of a series, as I suspect any of Curtis and Daniel’s future adventures will be a joy to read.

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A This and That Kind of Post…

… reflecting my similarly unfocused state of mind – here are both links and recent reads.

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I grew out of my “classics” phase ages ago, but this post by Sherwood Smith on her latest re-read of George Eliot‘s MIDDLEMARCH had me running to manybooks.net to download the PD version.  I’ve never read MIDDLEMARCH before, but I want to now.  Hopefully I’m not in for a disappointment – thoughts, anyone?

Requisite tor.com post that I liked: This one about cover art for Orbit books.  If I’m honest, I hadn’t really thought much about Orbit covers having a certain artistic style, but some of their covers have been striking.

And because I link to almost every Courtney Milan post – she talks about her enhanced digital editions ($0.99 each for a short while, I believe) and how she was able to release her own version of the books she published with Harlequin.  Really interesting (or at least, I thought so!).

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Books I’ve read recently (I flirt with the idea of a weekly/monthly wrap-up, and then figure I’d never stick to a schedule):

A couple of new-to-me category authors (spoiler: I wasn’t wowed by either) – Joss Wood‘s MORE THAN JUST A FLING? and Jessica Gilmore‘s THE RETURN OF MRS JONES.  I picked up the Wood because it was on sale and Nath likes her writing, and the Gilmore because I read a review somewhere.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember where now, so shout if you’ve seen it reviewed fairly recently – it wasn’t an overly-glowing review, but I was in the mood for an exes reunited premise.

Plus and minus points for each (I know – call this a book blog…) – okay, I liked that both stories felt fresh (as opposed to how category romance can sometimes feel dated) and there was some sparkle, but pacing felt a bit slow in spots.  So while I’d probably read more by each author at some point, I’m not running out to get the rest of their backlists.

20878147KS Augustin‘s THE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY (urban fantasy): I picked this up because of an interview Andrea K Höst did with KS Augustin a few weeks back - it piqued my interest in her writing and this book is (was?) free.  Slightly a bit too much info-dumping for me at the start, but that wasn’t a show-stopper.  I did like how the Malaysia/Singapore setting came to life and the book whiled away an hour or so on the train very nicely.  However, I felt the story read more like a series of episodes as opposed to a full novel, plus it ended very abruptly, which caught me by surprise.  Having looked up the series detail now, the “complete” version is a five-book omnibus – I’ll probably get that at some point.

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Non-books related: I’m not sure how or when I stumbled onto this site, but I am hooked on Ask a Manager (have I mentioned it before?).  Alison Green just talks plain common sense when it comes to workplace dilemmas – well, the answers are almost always obvious when you read her responses, but they’re not at the same time.  And it’s always nice to see that mine is not the weirdest office out there.

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Books for July

Between Wimbledon reaching its climax and the Tour de France kicking off in Yorkshire over the weekend, I almost felt as though I’d reached my sports (spectating) limit.  We’ll pass on the World Cup because, well, I’m not a massive football fan – I’m one of those who was only persuaded down to the pub after work last week with the promise of sunshine and a G&T.  I’m impressed by the number of USians who appear to have gotten into umm… soccer though.

But regardless of your chosen sport, there was certainly plenty to watch over the last couple of weeks (unless of course you’re just not a sports fan, in which case, ouch), which is my rather rambling lead up to why this July new releases post is closer to being a mid-month than start-of-month post.  So – new releases this month:

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20822874KJ CharlesTHINK OF ENGLAND (historical m/m romance): I’ve enjoyed KJ Charles’ ventures into both paranormal m/m romance and (straight) romantic suspense (haven’t blogged about it yet, but I thought NON-STOP TILL TOKYO was very good - violence galore, yes, but an amazing sense of place).  So if she’s decided to take a step sideways into the historical m/m romance genre, I don’t really care – I’m totally buying.

Lie back and think of England…

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

Out now

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18007521Mary Balogh‘s THE ESCAPE (historical romance): I admitted to being slowly won over by Mary Balogh’s historicals a couple of posts back, so it’s no surprise that I’ve her new release on my radar.

In this poignant novel of longing and salvation, a hopeful widow and a resilient war hero discover the promise of love’s magic and new beginnings.
 
After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.

Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.

Out now

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16045306Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (NA romance): I like how Miranda Kenneally’s New Adult romances focus on a different sport in each book (except perhaps THINGS I CAN’T FORGET, which had religion at its heart, IIRC), so yay for a new Hundred Oaks book.  I have to mention the multiple cover changes for this book here (scroll to the bottom of the linked post) - I was amused that three different covers came out in fairly quick succession, though I have to say I really like the final one they settled on.

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Out July 15

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20426102Rachel Aaron‘s NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST (urban fantasy): After whizzing through Rachel Bach’s (a.k.a. Rachel Aaron) space opera romp in the Paradox trilogy, I’m giving her fantasy another chance.  This one’s a self-pubbed UF (she talks about the why of self-publishing here) and I have to say I love the cover.

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: stay quiet, don’t cause trouble, and keep out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t cut it in a family of ambitious predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove to his mother that he can be a ruthless dragon or lose his true shape forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are seen as monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes that humans are more trustworthy than dragons.

Out July 15

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12119529Ilona AndrewsMAGIC BREAKS (urban fantasy): An Ilona Andrews is always an auto-buy for me, and this time, a new Kate Daniels!  I don’t really need to say much more, do I?

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

Out July 29

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22444651KellyHunter_honeymoontrap_eBook_final-200x300Finally, two novellas (both out now) – Kelly Hunter‘s THE HONEYMOON TRAP and Sarina Bowen‘s BLONDE DATE .  Am linking to Kelly Hunter’s blog as the book doesn’t seem to be on Goodreads (I know, that sounds impossible, right?) – anyway, there is something about her writing that just works for me, so this is a no-brainer autobuy.  Sarina Bowen’s novella  is part of her Ivy Years series (NA college-set romance, in case you’re wondering), which I’ve been quietly enjoying.

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Sarah Morgan’s SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER

21207141It’s fair to say that I was… less than impressed by Sarah Morgan‘s first O’Neil Brothers book, SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW – unfortunately the heroine’s issues with Christmas struck me as ridiculously OTT, and while I developed a soft spot for Jackson’s family and enjoyed the (very) snowy Vermont setting, my inability to understand where Kayla was coming from meant that the romance never quite took off for me. But the O’Neil brothers sequel-bait scattered throughout the story did its job, and when offered the second book in the trilogy for review, I looked forward to seeing how Sean and Élise’s story would play out in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER.

Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the opening day plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O’Neil is back in town, and looking more delectable than ever. Last summer, they shared an electrifying night together…and the memories have Élise really struggling to stick to her one-night-only rule! Her head knows that eventually Sean will be leaving, so all she can do is try to ignore her heart before she spontaneously combusts with lust.

Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O’Neil’s worst nightmare. For Sean, returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means being forced to confront the reasons and the guilt he feels about rejecting his family’s rural lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise has settled in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Thinking he can persuade her into a replay of last summer is tempting, but remembering how good they are together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine…

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER takes place a few months after the first book, I think, and as the title implies, it’s set at the height of summer so we get to see a completely different side to the Vermont resort.  Familiar faces are present and accounted for, but handled very deftly – while the extended O’Neil family played their role in the story and there was some groundwork laid for the next book, this one was very definitely Sean and Élise’s romance.

20937456And the two of them had chemistry that worked – it more than worked at times.  We started off with a messy back history and with both parties in denial about their feelings (just how I like my romances!), before the pair of them slowly opened up to each other over the course of the book.  Their competence in their respective spheres added an extra something as well.  Élise’s passion for ingredients and her eye for recipes had me wishing for Pinterest-style pictures of her delicious-sounding creations, and as for Sean’s steely confidence when it came to matters of blood and gore – well, I wonder if Sarah Morgan writes M&B medical romances, because I would be all over them.

However, like the previous book, sometimes things came across as slightly exaggerated - Élise verged on being a stereotype of the “passionate French chef” at times and the rift between Sean and his grandfather dragged on for a tad bit too long.  I thought some points were laboured, sometimes to hilarious effect (or I may just have an unfortunate sense of humour) – I felt for poor Élise, as everyone knew she dropped her h’s when stressed and kept on telling her that…  I read an digital version so I’m not sure what the page count was, but at times it felt as though there was too little story to fill the pages.

But overall a decent romance with some spark (with bonus points for those O’Neil brotherly dynamics) and despite my niggles, I kept on reading – so while I’m not yet 100% in love with Sarah Morgan’s writing, I’ll certainly be picking up Tyler’s story, MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS, when it hits the shelves later this year.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

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Romance & Fantasy (yes, again)

It’s been the crazy-busy kind of week lately (as evidenced by lack of activity on this blog).  And well, Wimbledon starts this week, so I make no promises about posts in the next couple of weeks.

But it was one of those lovely lazy Sundays yesterday, and I spent some time posting on Goodreads about some books I read towards the end of last year (yes, only six months later – I’m catching up on my backlog…).  Here they are (with some additional thoughts in italics).

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Royal Airs (Elemental Blessings, #2)Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent read, but not one of Shinn’s best, IMO. The story was on the predictable side of things, and Rand/Josetta’s relationship felt a bit too much like insta-love. Having said that, I have such a soft spot for the world of Welce and its elemental blessings, and I’d love to see more in this world.

I wanted to like this more – a lot more.  Sharon Shinn’s previous books have set the standard in fantasy romance (see Samaria, Twelve Houses, etc) and the elemental blessings concept in this world appeals to my inner teen.  But the romance in this felt flat – not sure why. 

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I also raced through a trilogy that turned out to be one of my favourites of 2013.  I’d been meaning to read more of Martha Wells, and finally found myself with time on my hands, so I cracked open her Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy.  Totally satisfied my fantasy craving.  And it was one of those trilogies where the later books are full of twists and turns that make you see earlier events in a different light – I love those.

 

The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #1)The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the prequel, The Death of the Necromancer, but it took me a while to settle into this story. But once I did, it worked for me – well, strong fantasy with a subtle romance would obviously tick all my boxes. This was written almost ten years ago, and I thought its age showed slightly, but overall, good read.

 

The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #2)The Ships of Air by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a middle book in a trilogy, this one held up very well – there were some major twists in the story… but all made perfect sense in hindsight. Needless to say, I dove into the third book, The Gate of Gods, straight after.

 

The Gate of Gods (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #3)The Gate of Gods by Martha Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third book in a trilogy usually has a lot of expectations attached to it, and I’m glad to say that this one delivered for me. It was one of those unputdownable books – I was totally caught up in the story and invested in the outcome. Having said that (and despite this being a rather action-packed book), I didn’t think the plot was particularly suspenseful – but it was emotionally satisfying. So the perfect ending to the trilogy for me – though possibly with the caveat that I think you get even more out of the story if you’ve read the prequel, The Death of the Necromancer, first.

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I then read two Diana Peterfreunds (one under her Viv Daniels pseudonym):

One & Only (Canton, #1)One & Only by Viv Daniels

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I admit it – I picked this up purely because it was Diana Peterfreund writing New Adult, and I loved her Secret Society Girl books so much. Else I probably would have passed because the premise didn’t really grab me – so the fact that the story ended up working for me says much.

There was a bit too much of the “Yes, I totally am in lust with you” followed by “No, we really shouldn’t” (rinse/repeat) throughout the middle section of the book, but I did believe in Tess/Dylan’s connection. And I’d have liked to have had more on Tess’s parents, which to me was the more fascinating and complex relationship, but maybe Hannah’s story, Sweet & Wild, will reveal more.

Yessss… I wasn’t wild about the “falling in love with my secret half-sister’s boyfriend” conflict, but like I said, Diana Peterfreund’s writing got me over that.  I didn’t love this as much as the SSG books (okay, unfair comparison), but I’ll be getting the next.  I loved the SSG dedication in this book though. 

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Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #2)Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the companion book For Darkness Shows the Stars, but this one didn’t work as well for me – I can’t quite put my finger on why, but there was something lacking with my connection with the protagonists and the world-building didn’t feel as in-depth as FDSTS. Having said that, it was a cleverly-written story (with an excellent ending), and kept me reading through to the end.

With this retelling, I’m not sure if I’d enjoyed this more had I read THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL first – certainly part of what I loved about FDSTS was how Diana Peterfreund kept the essence of PERSUASION, while making the story feel fresh and different, so I enjoyed the book from two separate angles.  I only know the vague outlines of PIMPERNEL, so it’s possible that a lot of the allusions flew over my head.

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The Temporary WifeThe Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not a massive Balogh fan – this was more of an impulse buy as the back cover copy appealed to me. And I’m glad I bought as the story ended up hitting the right spots for me – formulaic romance, yes, but with enough tweaks to make it different enough, and I liked the focus on family.

This actually kick-started my mini Balogh glom towards the end of 2013.  

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Books for June

It’s hard to believe it’s June already.  Though I probably suspect I feel like this at the start of every month.  I (sadly) don’t have a proper summer holiday planned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put my summer reading list together!

So – June releases that have caught my eye:

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21798646Sarina Bowen‘s THE YEAR WE HID AWAY (NA romance): Sarina Bowen’s a new-to-me author who came to my attention when Diana Peterfreund did a cover reveal for the first in her series, THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN.  Which I read a couple of months back, and ended up liking quite a bit – I’ve a soft spot for the college setting (I get all nostalgic for my university days – it’s easy to remember just the good bits, isn’t it!), plus her characters grabbed my attention from the start.  So yes, I’m totally up for the second book.

She’s hiding something big. He’s hiding someone small.

Scarlet Crowley’s life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror.

It’s a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet’s fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID — with a newly minted name on it — she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she’s falling for.

Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.

The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won’t work anymore. And if they can’t learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they’ve struggled to keep.

Out now

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21523030Nalini Singh‘s SHIELD OF WINTER (paranormal romance): I dare you to name one PNR fan who’s not waiting on this book.  I’m actually really curious to see where she takes this series now, following the culmination of the main series arc to date in the last book.  And… I love the UK cover.

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she’ll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness…

Out now (or June 5 for the UK)

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21849648SUMMER RAIN, edited by Sarah Frantz (romance): I’m not usually a fan of romance shorts (I find it difficult to believe in a HEA – or even a HFN – in the space of a short story), but this is for a good cause, and I’ve been meaning to read some of these authors (ahem – Mary Ann Rivers) for quite a while.

What happens when love gets caught in the rain?

In this romance anthology, RITA-Award winning author Molly O’Keefe shows us the power of a city thunderstorm from the top of a skyscraper, while Amy Jo Cousins soaks us in a rain in Spain. New York Times bestselling author Ruthie Knox’s heroine is devastated by a winter storm, while a summer thunderstorm grants Alexandra Haughton’s hero and heroine a second chance at love. Rain sparks self-awareness in the robot in Charlotte Stein’s story and allows Mary Ann Rivers’s heroine to fall in love with her hero and her own art. Rain causes romance between the college students in Audra North’s and Shari Slade’s stories, while romance causes rain in Cecilia Tan’s myth-inspired tale of a sacrifice to a demi-god. Nine romance novelettes, edited by Sarah Frantz.

All proceeds from the volume will be donated to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org), the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States.

Out June 9

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18755531Johanna Lindsey‘s STORMY PERSUASION (historical romance): Remember when I talked about how Justine Davis’ THE SKYPIRATE was my gateway to romance (and you all totally made fun of Dax Silverbrake’s name)?  Well, here’s another of my gateway romance authors - I must have read Johanna Lindsey’s Malory books a million times, and now she’s releasing a new one.  Yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve outgrown Lindsey and this is not going to live up to my expectations… but I’m going to buy it anyway.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Johanna Lindsey returns to the dazzlingly passionate world of the Malorys, an aristocratic family of rakehell adventurers and spirited ladies, in a thrilling new tale of unbridled desires.

James Malory sets sail for America to honor a promise he made to his in-laws: His and Georgina’s daughter, Jacqueline, will have her come-out in America. Judith and Jacqueline Malory are not simply cousins; they are inseparable best friends. Refusing to miss Jacqueline’s come-out in Connecticut, Judith convinces her parents to let her delay her London debut by a few weeks so she can accompany her cousin. Neither girl intends to fall in love during her first Season. But Judith’s plans are overturned when aboard ship she comes face-to-face with the ghost who has been haunting her dreams.

Unknown to the Malorys, deckhand Nathan Tremayne is a smuggler with a noose around his neck. Determined to carry out a covert mission in America that could gain him a pardon, Nathan senses that beautiful Judith Malory is trouble. Somehow the minx knows his secret—and now she’s blackmailing him into doing her bidding. While passions can soar on the high seas, Nathan knows this aristocratic beauty is merely amusing herself with a scoundrel like him.

When the unthinkable happens in Connecticut and the elder Malorys’ hands are tied, Nathan takes command of a dire situation. Captaining his own ship, he turns the tables on Judith, as he steers them into some intense Caribbean heat where he will fight with all his mettle to win the right to her heart.

Out June 10

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19425258Diana Gabaldon‘s WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD (historical fantasy): Just how long has it been since a Jamie/Claire book?  That was rhetorical, by the way – it was 2009 according to Goodreads, which means it’s been five years or so since I had to prop up the latest Gabaldon tome on cushions in order to actually read it.  I’m so doing the Kindle version this time.   And no, I can’t really remember what happened in the previous book now – may have to go and search out spoilers.

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD is the eighth novel in the world-famous OUTLANDER series. In June of 1778, the world turns upside-down. The British army withdraws from Philadelphia, George Washington prepares to move from Valley Forge in pursuit, and Jamie Fraser comes back from the dead to discover that his best friend has married Jamie’s wife. The ninth Earl of Ellesmere discovers to his horror that he is in fact the illegitimate son of the newly-resurrected Jamie Fraser (a rebel _and_ a Scottish criminal!) and Jamie’s nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for Ian’s Quaker betrothed.

Meanwhile, Claire Fraser deals with an asthmatic duke, Benedict Arnold, and the fear that one of her husbands may have murdered the other. And in the 20th century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna is thinking that things are probably easier in the 18th century: her son has been kidnapped, her husband has disappeared into the past, and she’s facing a vicious criminal with nothing but a stapler in her hand. Fortunately, her daughter has a miniature cricket bat and her mother’s pragmatism.

The best of historical fiction with a Moebius twist, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD weaves the fibers of a family’s life through the tapestry of historical drama.

Out June 10

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22304800Julie Cross‘s RETURN TO US (YA romance): Her latest Karen/Jordan novella – always a fun read (why yes, I’ve finished this one).  Julie Cross has said she’ll be collecting the novellas to date plus one more (so four in total, if I’ve my maths right) to release as a collection, if you’ve been hesitating about buying the individual installments.

Summer is definitely heating up…

So yeah, that really happened. Karen’s fist connecting with TJ’s face.

Not only is TJ dealing with a decent sized bruise on his face where Karen gave her best attempt at a knock-out match, now he’s got some explaining to do after Jordan finds out what happened.

Karen’s not ready to forgive TJ for his tough-love tactics to help get her bar routine back in full swing, but she is ready to figure out how to get through to Jordan. He’s being a complete idiot, not dealing with his health issues, forcing her to keep things a secret from Coach Bentley.

With her teammate, Stevie’s, help Karen comes up with a plan to steer Jordan in the right direction—all she needs is a night alone with him and the hiking and camping expedition he promised her weeks ago might be the perfect opportunity.

Or her plan could backfire and he could slip further away from her.

While Karen and Jordan are out playing lumberjack couple in the Pocono Mountains, TJ is dealing with a stranger trying to give him advice on his tumbling, some pretty overt advances from one of Nina Jones’ gymnasts (aka: off limits), and a random hook-up that will most likely end up being a big mistake.

Out now

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20870070LB Gregg‘s SAM AND AARON (m/m romance): It’s been a while since a new LB Gregg, IIRC.  Her books have always been quirky fun, so I’m pleased she’s writing again.

With our family’s legacy, Meyers B&B, in the flailing hands of me, Sam Meyers, and my sister Wynne, we’re determined to revive the place. We’ve started a series of blind-date cooking classes, and taken on our first boarder. Granddad is even now rolling in his grave.

Signed up for the class is our new guest, Aaron Saunders, a Californian transplant who’s distractingly handsome and clearly up to no good. I can’t quite figure him out. He blew into town and has been relentless in his search for…something.

The sexy sneak is intriguing. And we’ve had a steamy moment. Or two. But now I can’t stop wondering why he’s searching in secret. From the library, to the historical society, to my own backyard, Aaron leaves no stone unturned or record book unopened. He’s definitely gotten my attention. But that might not be the only thing he’s after.

Out June 16

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Other books on my radar:

  • Meljean Brook‘s self-published novella, FROZEN, to tide me over until the full release of THE KRAKEN KING
  • Maybe the latest anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, ROGUES – unusually for a Martin/Dozois anthology, the theme and contributors haven’t really grabbed me this time.  Still sounds good though.

 

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Links, Anyone?

Yes, I’m slightly distracted by the French Open.  And will be for the next week or so.  Fortunately, I’ve a whole collection of links I’ve neglected to post over the past few weeks.

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15793208I’ve not entirely made my mind up over Mary Robinette Kowal‘s Glamourist History series – I admire how she’s managed to blend fantasy with the Regency setting pretty much seamlessly, but the characters left me slightly lukewarm in the first book.  However, I recently borrowed the third from my library on a whim (okay, it was the pretty cover) and ended up enjoying it more than I expected – so maybe I’ll get her most recent release?  My not-very-helpful ramblings on her books aside, she’s one of those authors with an online presence that impresses, and I really liked her blog series on debut author lessons (link to the one on covers).  Lots of interesting stuff there.

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It’s no secret that I’m a Sarah Rees Brennan fan, and I love the free online serial she’s been posting at semi-random intervals.  Even though I’m not a serial kind of person.  She totally tricked me into loving this one. Anyway,  two new installments of TURN OF THE STORY recently(-ish) popped up – Elliot is such a character.  I hope she releases a full-length book when she finishes the serial – I would definitely buy.

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589979Author Tansy Rayner Roberts is doing a re-read of Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts‘ Empire trilogy at tor.com.  THIS BRINGS BACK SUCH MEMORIES.  Sorry, but that totally deserved capitals.  I remember diving into Feist’s Magician books during my teenage years, and then I discovered this trilogy he co-authored with Janny Wurts - and I must have just lived and breathed those books for umm… however long it took me to read them.  I haven’t re-read them for YEARS, and I’m kind of nervous as to whether the story holds up to the test of time, but just reading the first couple of posts makes me want to join in the re-read…

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Interview with Tamora Pierce @ The Speculative Craft – there’s a great bit where she talks about how the publishing industry has changed since the early 1980s and how it’s affected her approach to writing.  Plus her biggest writing regret:

[...] I regret that I didn’t have more space with the Alanna and Daine books to develop the characters, I concentrated more on the plots. I don’t feel like I do plots well and I would have liked to have expanded on the characters more in those books, but in those days they were holding us to a 200 manuscript page per book limit, very strictly, so it’s not like I had the chance then and could have done it.

You know what?  I’d love to see what she would have done with the Alanna books had she not had a page limit.

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And to close off because it’s turned out to be a bit of a nostalgic collection of links: It’s 20 years since Julia Quinn‘s first historical romance was accepted by Avon – loved this letter she posted.  This is like a piece of romance history.  I totally fell for her Bridgerton books - admittedly, I haven’t been as enamoured of her more recent Smythe-Smith books, but they’re still good frothy fun.

 

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Recent Reading + Links

œF$¿Æ‘$8Òò¤»däå¸R8BII can admit when I’m wrong and this is one of those times.

Some time back, Rachel Bach‘s new SF trilogy started making the rounds with some rather positive buzz.  Me… well, I kind of sniffed and said I read her debut fantasy novel (as Rachel Aaron) and wasn’t massively impressed.

But Nathan, and Jan, and Hils kept on talking up this series, and when I spotted the first book in my library, I caved and picked FORTUNE’S PAWN off the shelf.  And this is really me surfacing briefly from the third book to say that umm… everyone else was right, and this is a brilliant fast-paced space opera (with a fairly solid romance subplot – that can make or break the deal for me) and a protagonist that just grabbed me from the first chapter.  Lots of fun and if you’re in the mood for a SF, this would fit the bill quite nicely.

There is a silver lining to every cloud – the whole trilogy is now out, so I’ve been able to dive straight into the next book as soon as I’ve finished one.  I love my Kindle.

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Elsewhere, Meljean Brook‘s serial, THE KRAKEN KING, is being released – I’m determinedly avoiding all the (positive) reviews as I’m holding out for the full novel.  Mainly because I don’t think I’m a serial girl at heart (I rambled on a bit about my experience with reading John Scalzi‘s THE HUMAN DIVISION serial a while back), but I’ve been liking her various posts, especially this one about what actually constitutes a cliffhanger.  There was some discussion about narrative turning points - I said I thought they were cliffhangers, which I detest (as you may be aware!).

So interestingly (to me) and coincidentally, the first of the Rachel Bach trilogy ended with one of those turning points – and that didn’t annoy me that much.  I’m thinking that it was because I had the second book bought and downloaded onto my Kindle, so I didn’t have to wait to find out the outcome, plus regardless of that event *trying to be vague here*, I’d want to know what happens next.

FWIW, I didn’t care for the twist, but then I don’t really care for that kind of twist in general *trying to be even vaguer*.

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And two final links with less commentary:

I really liked this post by Liz de Jager @ tor.com on how she (and her agent) sold her debut novel (the book itself also sounds very interesting and I’m looking forward to its release).

Totally non-newsy, but I came across Kristin Cashore‘s cover gallery, with all her international covers – I’ve always loved the more commonly-seen US and UK covers, but enjoyed looking at the very different interpretations across the board.  Especially the Japanese cover for GRACELING (about one-fifth of the way down) and the German ones.

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Books for May

Quite a few May new releases on my radar this month (though having read through my list, it sounds like I’m not 100% sold on any of them - I am, really!):

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17666976Seanan McGuire‘s SPARROW HILL ROAD (fantasy):  I’m approaching this with slight caution, as her non-October Daye books have been a bit hit or miss for me, and I’m not a fan of ghost stories in general, but still, it is Seanan McGuire.  I’m expecting impressive world-building and a page-turning kind of story.

Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Out now

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17936925Tammara Webber‘s BREAKABLE (NA romance): I’ve been on the fence about this retelling of EASY from Lucas’s POV – while I liked EASY well enough, I don’t really get different POV retellings (which appears to be a bit of a trend in the NA world – or am I generalising?).  But Tammara Webber is on that list of authors I stalk (not literally, and definitely not in a creepy way, I hasten to add) and I’m pretty sure Jane @ Dear Author tweeted this was a good one, so it’s on my Kindle.

He was lost and alone. Then he found her.
And the future seemed more fragile than ever.

As a child, Landon Lucas Maxfield believed his life was perfect and looked forward to a future filled with promise — until tragedy tore his family apart and made him doubt everything he ever believed.

All he wanted was to leave the past behind. When he met Jacqueline Wallace, his desire to be everything she needed came so easy…

As easy as it could be for a man who learned that the soul is breakable and that everything you hoped for could be ripped away in a heartbeat.

Out now

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20309995Joanna ChambersENLIGHTENED (historical m/m romance): This is the last of the trilogy – the previous books have ended with HFNs, so a HEA is well overdue… I usually struggle with historical realities when it comes to m/m romance, but I’ve felt that Joanna Chambers has got just the right balance between portraying social constraints of the times and giving the reader a believable romance.  Plus previous books have been set in Edinburgh, a bit of a change to the more usual London.

Five months ago, David Lauriston was badly hurt helping his friend Elizabeth escape her violent husband. Since then, David has been living with his lover, Lord Murdo Balfour, while he recuperates.

Despite the pain of his injuries, David’s time with Murdo has been the happiest of his life. The only things that trouble him are Murdo’s occasional bouts of preoccupation, and the fact that one day soon, David will have to return to his legal practice in Edinburgh.

That day comes too soon when David’s friend and mentor takes to his deathbed, and David finds himself agreeing to take on a private mission in London. Murdo is at his side in the journey, but a shocking revelation by Murdo’s ruthless father leaves David questioning everything they’ve shared.

As tensions mount and the stakes grow higher, David and Murdo are forced to ask themselves how far they’re prepared to go—and how much they’re prepared to give up— to stay together. And whether there’s any chance of lasting happiness for men like them.

Out now

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20738173Josh Lanyon‘s STRANGER ON THE SHORE (m/m romance/mystery): Josh Lanyon is an autobuy for me, especially with his more  recent infrequent release schedule, so I’ve already bought AND read this.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for me – the romance certainly did, especially when the h/h were on-page together, but that didn’t really happen until later in the book.  The mystery… started off strong and fizzled out towards the end, plus there were elements that felt out of place.  Still a decent read, but probably not a one I’ll recommend for someone new to Lanyon.

Twenty years ago young Brian Arlington, heir to Arlington fortune, was kidnapped. Though the ransom was paid, the boy was never seen again and is presumed dead. Pierce Mather, the family lawyer, now administers and controls the Arlington billions. He’s none too happy, and more than a little suspicious, when investigative journalist Griffin Hadley shows up to write about the decades-old mystery. Griff shrugs off the coldly handsome Pierce’s objections, but it might not be so easy to shrug off the objections of someone willing to do anything to keep the past buried.

Out now

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19486421Jim Butcher‘s SKIN GAME (UF): It’s hard to believe this is the 15th Dresden Files book, and the series is still going strong.  I’ve to say the major twist Jim Butcher introduced a few books back has made this series feel fresh again, so it’ll be interesting to see how Harry’s getting on in this one.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…

Out May 27

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16156357Richelle Mead‘s THE IMMORTAL CROWN (fantasy?): It’s fair to say I was very surprised to see the cover of this one – it’s quite a departure to the cover of the first book, and I’m wondering if the redesign is to attract more of Richelle Mead’s core YA UF audience.  Speculation aside, I reviewed the first Age of X book when it came out last year, and while it took me a while to get into the story, I was impressed by the ambitious world-building – it’ll be interesting to see how she develops it in this book.

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Out May 29

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Possibles:

 

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Random (and Late?) Linkage

20821263I poke my head in at the Muddy Colors fantasy art blog every now and again – I especially like it when the contributors give a behind-the-scenes peek into cover art decisions (probably because I’ve zero artistic talent, and it’s so interesting to see what influenced the final versions):

And on the subject of covers in progress, here’s one that Jody Lee did for the new Mercedes Lackey Valdemar novel – in my mind, her art will always be inextricably linked to my countless re-reads of the Valdemar books during my teenage years.

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A really late link, but I thought Jeannie Lin‘s post about writing Chinese historical romance and her (forced) transition to digital-only (she also links to a couple of interesting posts) was a good one – and I’m glad it ends on a happy note with her latest release making the USA Today bestseller list!  I’ve bought her books based on positive reviews, but I admit they’re languishing on that TBR pile – has anyone read them?

Another feel-good story: I loved Amy Jo Cousins‘ story about Tad Williams.

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Another late link (you can tell exactly how long I’ve not been blogging, right?) – Jo Walton posts @ tor.com about how e-readers have changed her reading habits.  I liked this article (plus comments) because of its positivity around digital reading, if that makes sense.

On a almost-related note, I’m impatiently waiting for the new Kindle Paperwhite software update to reach my device, purely because of the new Page Flip capability.  When I switched over to reading mostly digital, I realised that I flipped back and forth between pages a lot when reading paper books.  It’s not something I realised I did, and I had to train myself NOT to do that on my ereader, because I just ended up losing my place in the book.

I’m wondering if the Page Flip function makes that easy (and also if it’s something I still do!) – anyone have the latest PW or software release?  I may cave and sideload the software update if it’s not pushed out soon…

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