April Reading…

For a book blogger, I don’t actually post that often on what I’m currently reading.  Which is weird, because I love reading posts about what other people are reading.  So here are some of my April reads so far:

20645592I’ve just finished Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES – yes, my “currently reading” book got bumped aside when this arrived on my Kindle on Monday.  Her New York Leopards NA series is an auto-buy for me, and this one didn’t disappoint – Abe and Tamar were charming, and there was more of both the NYC setting and football backdrop which made me fall in love with the series in the first place.  I do think Allison Parr’s prose veers towards the purple on occasion, but the emotional impact more than makes up for that.  However, I was frustrated by the handful of copy-editing errors in the text – both because I think Parr deserves better and also maybe I expect more from Carina Press?

15715406And oh!  Remember that list of my TBR books to read during 2014 that I posted a while back?  I am so pleased to say that I tackled the Susanna Kearsley that has been sitting on my shelves for years now.  And even better?  I loved THE SHADOWY HORSES - it was somehow so crazily romantic and yet quiet at the same time.  My favourite kind of romance.  I also really liked the archaeological details and the well-rounded secondary characters, plus I felt the touch of paranormal suited the story perfectly – and if you know me, I don’t often say that when the paranormal intrudes into my contemporary.  Obviously, I’m now making plans to get my hands on her extensive backlist.  I’ve also placed the Juliet Marillier book from that aforementioned list on my bedside table – buoyed by the success of the Kearsley read, I’m keen to dive into the Bridei Chronicles series.

1805295618335221To get my fix of historical romance, I’ve also read both the new Eloisa James (THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X) and Jo Beverley (A SHOCKING DELIGHT).  The Eloisa James started off slow, but once I got into it, the story really hit the right emotional buttons for me.  It’s ever so slightly OTT and (minor) misunderstandings abound, but I was in just the right mood for that kind of story.   And as I suspected (due to the blatant sequel bait), she’s just announced a follow-up – I’m totally up for it.  The Jo Beverley was less successful for me – it started off well, then started meandering around a bit too much in the middle and never quite recovered, plus there was a bit too indulgence Rogues-wise, even for a long-time reader like me.  Still, a decent read and I appreciated the less usual City of London and Devon settings.

What about you – tell me your current reads?

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Graham Edwards’ TALUS AND THE FROZEN KING

21494553It may not be immediately obvious from this blog (as fantasy and romance get the most mentions – when I do post, that is), but mystery, especially of the whodunit type, is another of my favourite genres.  So when an email with the subject line “Meet the world’s first detective…” appeared in my inbox one day, well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to refuse a review copy of Graham EdwardsTALUS AND THE FROZEN KING.

Meet Talus-the world’s first detective.

A dead warrior king frozen in winter ice. Six grieving sons, each with his own reason to kill. Two weary travellers caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit.

In a distant time long before our own, wandering bard Talus and his companion Bran journey to the island realm of Creyak, where the king has been murdered. From clues scattered among the island’s mysterious barrows and stone circles, they begin their search for his killer. But do the answers lie in this world or the next?

Nobody is above suspicion, from the king’s heir to the tribal shaman, from the servant woman steeped in herb-lore to the visiting warlord whose unexpected arrival throws the whole tribe into confusion. And when death strikes again, Talus and Bran realise nothing is what it seems. Creyak is place of secrets and spirits, mystery and myth. It will take a clever man indeed to unravel the truth. The kind of man this ancient world has not seen before.

The obvious comparison (and judging by the Goodreads reviews, I’m not the only one) for Talus and Bran is to that famous detecting duo of Sherlock and Watson.  Talus being the very analytical, super-observant, and well, socially-challenged Sherlock, with Bran his more impulsive and emotional sidekick.  I’m in two minds as to whether this was deliberate by the author from the outset (I suspect yes, based on the promo materials), but once I had that comparison in my head, I found it very hard to shake.

While I’ve read most, if not all, of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories, I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as a fan.  What I’m a fan of, however, is the BBC Sherlock series (because it’s brilliant), and as I’d watched the recent series, I had certain expectations of the characters – or characterisation.  Sadly for this story, Talus and Bran didn’t have the same chemistry or charisma as the on-screen pairing of Cumberbatch and Freeman.  So I don’t know – yes, it’s an unfairly high bar in terms of expectations, but the book almost sets itself up for that by forcing that comparison.

Having said that, as you’d probably expect based on the Sherlock references, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s certainly an unusual setting, but anyone expecting a “proper” Neolithic-era historical mystery may be disappointed – there is modern dialogue and thinking galore.  Which makes it easy reading – and this meant that despite me never really connecting with the protagonists, I found myself racing through the book to find out the who and the how.  And yes, I admit I wouldn’t mind returning to this world to see what Talus and Bran do next – the door is certainly left open for more adventures.

My verdict: TALUS AND THE FROZEN KING was a light and fast-paced mystery; while it has its flaws, if you go in with the right set of expectations, I suspect it would make a good beach read.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher.  

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Books for April

Well.

I’m not quite sure where March went.  Or what I was doing.  Not much blogging, that’s for sure.  Not much reading either, I suspect.  Hopefully I break that streak in April.

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17404280Katherine Addison‘s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (fantasy): I know I was not the only one anticipating this new book from Katherine Addison a.k.a. Sarah Monette, but I was surprised by the flood of (positive) reviews and mentions for this book.  I’m about halfway through and *whispers* it’s kind of living up to the hype.

On a side note, I think the cover is perfect for the book: at first glance, you see a typical fantasy palace – look again, and you see Maia, the (half-)goblin emperor peering out cautiously.  So fitting.

A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Out now

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18006456Lynn Flewelling‘s SHARDS OF TIME (fantasy): I’ve a soft spot for this long-running fantasy series (the first book was out in 1996, according to Goodreads) – while I’ve found it uneven in places, I’ll be sad to see the end of the Nightrunner series.

Acclaimed author Lynn Flewelling brings her beloved Nightrunners series to a close—at least for now—with a thrilling novel of murder, mystery, and magic.

The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room. The sole witnesses to the crime—guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within—have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts . . . and things worse than ghosts.

Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want—and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec—who have died and returned to life—can step between the worlds and confront the killer . . . even if it means a second and all too permanent death.

Out now

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18335221Jo Beverley‘s A SHOCKING DELIGHT (historical romance): Jo Beverley is an autobuy author for me, and this is her latest Company of Rogues regency. ‘Nuff said.

The man she shouldn’t want. The woman he shouldn’t marry…

David Kerslake, smuggling master from The Dragon’s Bride, is now Earl of Wyvern and must survive the ton as well as the Preventive Officers.

Lucy Potter, daughter of a wealthy merchant, is more interested in trade than in the men after her dowry. When forced to have a London season, she sets out to enjoy herself rather than to find a husband. But once she meets the notorious Earl of Wyvern, her resolve weakens, and when they kiss, it dissolves—even though her instincts warn he’s dangerous.

Wyvern has a dark secret, which means he must win a rich bride. Lucinda Potter seems ideal. Not for her beauty and her lively charm, but because at first meeting she seems unlikely to realize the truth.

As he comes to know her, however, as they spar and kiss, he realizes she’s too clever and honest by far. Marrying Lucy would mean living a lie with the woman he has come to love…

Out now

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20645592Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES (NA romance): I loved Allison Parr’s writing almost from the first page of her debut, RUSH ME, so I’m really looking forward to reading the latest in her New York Leopards series.

Also worth noting is that Carina Press is going after the sports romance niche in their April 14 release week – so other books I’m eyeing are Rebecca Crowley‘s LOVE IN STRAIGHT SETS (obviously – it’s tennis!) and Kate Willoughby‘s ON THE SURFACE (hockey).  And I already have the first Kat Latham book (rugby) – just need the time to read it…

Side-note: Was 2013 the year New Adult officially became a proper genre?

Tamar Rosenfeld has been in love with New York Leopards linebacker Abraham Krasner since they were twelve years old. She’d always considered it destiny that they’d end up together…until Abe was drafted and she professed her feelings in a moment of blind excitement. The sting of his rejection was like nothing she’d ever felt before, and it’s nothing she’ll ever forget.

Older and wiser, Tamar has landed a dream job as a reporter for one of New York’s premier athletic websites. Determined to stop being the safe, boring girl she’s felt like for most of her life, Tamar makes a list of all the things she wants to do and see in her new city, and Getting Over Abraham is priority number one.

But destiny has finally chosen to interfere. Just as Tamar’s decided to move on, Abe’s realized she’s the only woman for him. When he confides the truth, Tamar has to decide if she can put her crush behind her, or take a chance on the very man who’s been holding her back all these years.

Out April 14

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18742420KA Mitchell‘s BAD INFLUENCE (m/m romance): Is it just me or has it been ages since the last KA Mitchell release?  She’s another autobuy of mine, so despite me not loving the previous books in this (loosely-related) series, I’m still buying.

The young man the world knew as Jordan Barnett is dead, killed as much by the rejection of his first love at his moment of greatest need, as by his ultra-conservative parents’ effort to deprogram the gay away.

In his place is Silver, a streetwise survivor who’s spent the last three years learning to become untouchable…unless you’re willing to pay for the privilege. He shies away from anything that might hold him down long enough for betrayal to find him again.

Zebediah Harris spent time overseas, trying to outrun the guilt of turning his back on the young man he loved. Now, almost the moment he sets foot back in Baltimore, he discovers Silver on a street corner in a bad part of town. His effort to make amends lands them both in jail.

Trapped together in a cell, Silver sits on his mountain of secrets and plans a seductive form of revenge, but finds that using a heart as a stepping stone is no way to move past the one man he can’t forgive, let alone forget.

Warning: Contains a surly hero. May cause angst. A prolonged delay in sexual situations may cause frustration. Author recommends a steady dose of familiar friends and characters to alleviate those symptoms. No actual teenagers were used during the construction of the backstory.

Out April 15

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20504851KJ CharlesNON-STOP TILL TOKYO (romantic suspense): KJ Charles is probably better known for her A Charm of Magpies series (that would be in the historical/paranormal/mystery/m/m romance sub-genre - not as much a niche as you’d think…), so this looks like a new direction for her.  Having loved her writing in those aforementioned books, I’m looking forward to reading this.

A man with a past is her only hope for the future.

Kerry Ekdahl’s mixed heritage and linguistics skills could have made her a corporate star. Instead, she’s a hostess in a high-end Tokyo bar, catering to businessmen who want conversation, translation and flirtation. Easy money, no stress. Life is good—until she’s framed for the murder of a yakuza boss.

Trapped in rural Japan with the gangsters closing in, Kerry doesn’t stand a chance. Then help arrives in the menacing form of Chanko, a Samoan-American ex-sumo wrestler with a bad attitude, a lot of secrets, and a mission she doesn’t understand.

Kerry doesn’t get involved with dangerous men. Then again, she’s never had one on her side before. And the big, taciturn fighter seems determined to save her life, even if they rub each other the wrong way.

Then her friends are threatened, and Kerry has no choice but to return to Tokyo and face the yakuza. Where she learns, too late, that the muscle man who’s got her back could be poised to stab it.

Out April 29

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Other April new releases I want to read, but probably via the library:

  • GAMES CREATURES PLAY, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner (urban fantasy): Their annual(?) anthology outing – a library book for me, as their previous anthologies tend to be more miss than hit for me.  But I still want to read the Mercedes Lackey, Seanan McGuire, and Brandon Sanderson contributions in this one.
  • Laini Taylor‘s DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS (YA fantasy): Despite the overwhelming love out there for this series, it’s never quite clicked for me.  I’ll still read this final book to find out how it all ends.

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Links!

It’s that sort of day. (ETA: It’s also the sort of day when I hit Publish by accident, so totally that sort of day.  Anyway, you get links with a wander down memory lane.)

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night broken_front mech.inddA Patricia Briggs interview @ Confessions of an Opinionated Book Geek (love that title!), where she tackles the question as to why Mercy Thompson has no female friends. Patricia Briggs has obviously given it some thought… I’m not entirely sure whether I agree with some of the arguments she made (will have to ponder a bit more), but I love knowing Mercy’s close to her half-sisters (I didn’t know she had any!) and her college roommate (who gave her the tattoos).  Who knew?  (And NIGHT BROKEN releases Tuesday! I’m halfway through Seanan McGuire’s HALF-OFF RAGNAROK at the moment, but may have to put it to one side…)

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I obviously haunt Courtney Milan‘s blog because she’s clever, articulate, and all of that – I found this post of hers about self-publishing v. traditional publishing really interesting. I have no interest in writing, but I find industry posts from the author’s perspective fascinating.

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Kind of random, but this post by Sherwood Smith @ Book View Cafe on everyday phrases that relate to anachronistic objects  (plus comments) made me think. It’s like the phrase “dial in” – I can’t remember the last time I used a phone with a rotary dial, but I still use the phrase every day, e.g. “Can you add a dial-in for that meeting as I’ll be working from home?”. And everyone knows what you mean!

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And to round off, a little trip down memory lane…

Do you know what my first “proper” romance book was?  I don’t mean one of those Sweet Dreams books (anyone read those, by the way?) or a M&B/Harlequin (which I graduated to after running out of Sweet Dreams books).  I mean a full-length romance novel.

Not unexpected, as I’d always been hanging out in the SFF aisles, it was an SF romance.  I suspect it was mis-shelved, but it was a mis-shelving I took full advantage of…

584009The book was Justine Davis‘s THE SKYPIRATE (and yes, with that very cover – I know, I’m not quite sure how I got it past my mother either).

I loved it (as you may suspect, there were dashing sky-pirates, hidden identities, missing heirs, and equal amounts of angst and action), and it was the start of my romance reading career.  So very good memories – I’m pretty sure I read and re-read the book many times over, until poor Fabio (it is Fabio, right?) was practically separated from the rest of the book.

And guess what?

Justine Davis has announced she’s re-releasing THE SKYPIRATE and its prequel (which I never managed to track down), PLUS writing the long-awaited wrap up to the trilogy (because threads were left hanging…).  I am very very excited.

So – has anyone else out there read THE SKYPIRATE before (it’s a mid-1990s release according to Goodreads)?  And do you have equally good memories of your first “proper” romance novel?

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Books for March

I was debating between posting the March new releases I wanted and clearing out my “links that caught my eye” file.  The post title is probably a dead giveaway, but I figured the links would keep and I’m loving my new releases list this month.  Never say I don’t make the big decisions…

Onto the March releases:

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17563080Anne Bishop‘s MURDER OF CROWS (fantasy): So many people have already mentioned that the sequel to WRITTEN IN RED is out this month – and yes, it’s at the top of my to-buy list.  I have to say that as much as I enjoyed the first book, I was surprised by how many people mentioned WRITTEN IN RED in their Best of 2013 round-ups. It feels that Anne Bishop is getting a bit more air time for this series compared to her last major series, the Black Jewels books – possibly because it’s more accessible fantasy?

After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

Out March 4

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17667009Seanan McGuire‘s HALF OFF RAGNAROK (UF): I’m hoping this book in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series is when it finally starts to click for me.  Don’t get me wrong – the previous two books were lots of fun with that trademark in-depth world-building of McGuire’s… it’s just that they’re just missing the heart which I know she can deliver. New book, new protagonist, new start?

When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn’t expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.

Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone…

The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.

Of course, so do the talking mice.

Out March 4

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night broken_front mech.inddPatricia BriggsNIGHT BROKEN (UF): The new Mercy Thompson installment!  I sometimes feel the Mercy books suffer from being released so early in the year that they don’t really stand out when I look back at all the books I read during that year. Nevertheless, I always look forward to a new Briggs – this time round, it sounds as though Mercy and Adam’s relationship takes centre-stage, which promises to be good as Patricia Briggs excels at relationships.

An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam’s ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from her new boyfriend. Adam isn’t the kind of man to turn away a person in need—and Mercy knows it. But with Christy holed up in Adam’s house, Mercy can’t shake the feeling that something about the situation isn’t right.

Soon, her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Christy has the farthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, including turning Adam’s pack against Mercy.

Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. Christy’s ex is more than a bad man—in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies start piling up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.

Out March 11

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18689477Carla Kelly‘s THE WEDDING RING QUEST (historical romance): Carla Kelly is one of those historical romance authors that has a knack for evoking the feel of the period so perfectly – no wallpaper historicals here. She also excels at writing military (or ex-military in this case) men – she doesn’t romanticise war nor does she shy away from portraying both direct and indirect after-effects, but she always manages to infuse her stories with hope and humanity.

Searching for a ring…finding a family!

Penniless Mary Rennie knows she’s lucky to have a home with relatives in Edinburgh, but she does crave more excitement in her life. So when her cousin’s ring is lost in one of several fruitcakes heading around the country as gifts, Mary seizes the chance for adventure.

When widowed captain Ross Rennie and his son meet Mary in a coaching inn, they take her under their wing. After years of battling Napoleon, Ross’s soul is war weary, but Mary’s warmth and humor touch him deep inside. Soon, he’s in the most heart-stopping situation of his life— considering a wedding-ring quest of his own!

Out March 18

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18590125Julie Cross‘s THIRD DEGREE (new adult): I loved Julie Cross’s YA LETTERS TO NOWHERE – of course I’m giving her NA debut a go.  She wrote an interesting blog post about the “rules” of NA, and we had an exchange of comments which makes me even more curious to see her take on NA.

I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

Out March 25

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18052956Eloisa JamesTHREE WEEKS WITH LADY X (historical romance): I… can’t even. So you may recall way back in the days, I loved Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses series (when I talked about them every other month or so?). And then she went off and did her historical fairy tale retellings – which were fine (and okay, I may have really liked a couple), but really, I preferred her Georgian-set historicals. And now she’s revisiting that world with the son of the Duke of Villiers (who pretty much carried that entire Desperate Duchesses series)… well, yes, I’m very definitely getting this (and you’ll probably see a post from me in a few months’ time cursing that sky-high expectations thing).

Having made a fortune, Thorn Dautry, the powerful bastard son of a duke, decides that he needs a wife. But to marry a lady, Thorn must acquire a gleaming, civilized façade, the specialty of Lady Xenobia India.

Exquisite, head-strong, and independent, India vows to make Thorn marriageable in just three weeks.

But neither Thorn nor India anticipate the forbidden passion that explodes between them.

Thorn will stop at nothing to make India his. Failure is not an option.

But there is only one thing that will make India his—the one thing Thorn can’t afford to lose…

His fierce and lawless heart.

Out March 25

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And if that’s not enough, a couple of other books on my radar:

  • Diana Peterfreund did a cover reveal for this NASabrina Bowen‘s THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN (out March 17).  Any book that remotely references Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl series catches my attention – yes, I’m easy like that.
  • Teresa Grant‘s Malcolm & Suzanne books are always good if you’re in the mood for proper historical intrigue (though I admit they are twisty to the extent that my head sometimes hurts trying to figure out what’s happening) - THE BERKELEY SQUARE AFFAIR (out March 25) promises to deliver the more of the same (plus really pretty cover!)

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Catherine Gaskin’s THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

The Property of a Gentleman cover artworkETA: New cover for the ebook! I do prefer it to the original cover for the re-release  (right), but my comments below re the original retro covers still stand…

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I’ve a bit of a soft spot for modern Gothics, and so when I was offered a review copy of Catherine Gaskin‘s THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN, I took one look at the blurb and was sold.

A poignant, thrilling tale, full of intrigue, mystery and romance.

Shortly after her mother’s death in a Swiss plane crash, Jo Roswell is sent from the London auction house where she works to the remote and mysterious Thirlbeck – stately home of the Earl of Askew. Jo’s task is to evaluate the house’s contents for a sale, but she soon finds herself drawn into the complex lives of Thirlbeck’s inhabitants, each with their own secrets and desires.

Jo is absorbed by the tragic story of The Spanish Lady, whose young life was cut short at Thirlbeck many centuries before. She also encounters La Española, the brilliant diamond which, according to legend, brings disaster to all who try to possess it. And she is shocked to learn of her own mother’s connection to Thirlbeck.

1250541The book was first published in 1974, so falls into the category of “past contemporary” stories that always intrigues me.  Social norms and mores of a bygone era are captured unconsciously on the pages because the era is not at all historical to the author – it’s the present, and as a result, I feel as though I get this sneaky peek into what life really was like back then* (always allowing for any author biases and artistic licence, of course…).  It’s the little things that add an extra dimension to the story for me – in PROPERTY, we have Jo, the heroine, smoking cigarettes with wild abandon (and in bed!) and all the characters appear to have cigarette cases of their own.

As for the story itself, you’re immediately plunged into the mystery that is Thirlbeck, this isolated manor with hidden art treasures in the middle of the Lake District.  The brooding country house atmosphere of Thirlbeck contrasted nicely with Jo’s trips to the metropolis that was London, which certainly felt very real and had a genuinely British feel – which made a single throwaway reference to “soccer” all the more jarring and had me wondering whether I’d missed the fact Jo was American (she wasn’t).  That aside, I did like Jo’s London, especially when we spent time at the art auction house where she worked (loosely modelled on Christie’s, according to the author’s note) .  If you were wondering, the title of the book comes from that world, and I thoroughly enjoyed the related nuggets of information scattered throughout the book:

There could be heartbreak behind the sale of some single item, or a whole collection, cloaked, the owner hoped, by the discretion of Hardy’s and under the obscure designation of “The Property of a Gentleman”, or some other kindly shield and salve for pride.

Catherine Gaskin. The Property of a Gentleman (Kindle Locations 216-217). Corazon Books.

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However, I have to say that I felt a bit let down by the romance subplot.  Although the eventual romantic interest was telegraphed clearly to any romance reader, there was something lacking – I was left thinking it could have been more.  But I loved Jo’s independence and the way she tackled life.  There was a nice twist at the end, which I didn’t see coming at all (make of that what you will – I admit to being notoriously oblivious at times), and an ending that tied up loose ends rather nicely.

So a satisfying read overall – I’d never heard of Catherine Gaskin before this, but having looked her up, I can see she was a prolific writer, and I can only hope more of her backlist gets released in digital form**.

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*As an aside, I wonder what people will be saying about today’s contemporaries in fifty years’ time…

**Though perhaps with covers that retain something of the original feel?  The original hardback and paperback covers of PROPERTY (which I’ve included in this post) have this retro charm about them which I love.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

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Weekend Linkage

Random collection of links, with a bonus digression into what I’m not liking about NA at the moment…

16056408While we’re talking NA, I’ve noticed the genre doesn’t appeal to me as much as it once did – and what’s starting to pall for me is the number of characters with a traumatic past (hidden or otherwise).  Thinking back to when NA first burst onto the scene (and I admit I was late onto the bandwagon so am open to corrections!), the breakout authors had protagonists who had some sort of distressing event in their past, and that was the springboard for the primary conflict in their stories.  And as it obviously worked for them, more and more authors used the same formula, and now it feels to me as though this device has begun to define the genre?  It’s almost like it’s not an NA unless something dreadful has happened to the main character.  To me, however, when something becomes so endemic in a genre, it loses its impact – it’s probably no coincidence that the NAs that have worked best for me is where the protagonist is “just” an ordinary person.

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Books for February

Not a massive number of new releases on my list this month, which means I can ramble on a bit more?

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17874997Suzanne Brockmann‘s DO OR DIE (romantic suspense): Pre-ebooks (yes, in those long ago days), the big decision when it came to new releases was whether I would (a) pre-order and get the online discount, but wait a bit longer to get my hands on them or (b) haunt my local bookstore on the off-chance they actually had them in on release date, and pay full price.

With Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter books, I usually went with option (b) – that was how much I loved them.  After the 16th (or so) book, she wrapped up that series (to be fair, it was probably about time) and ventured into a near-futuristic world, which was umm… a bust for me (to put it mildly), and I resigned myself to the fact that I was just not loving her books anymore.  And then she announced she was starting a Troubleshooters spin-off series – I guess I’m not the only one who didn’t love her new series?  So new protagonists etc but a (semi-)familiar world – I’m hoping this one has both the action-packed story, humour, and chemistry that her Troubleshooter books always brought to the table.

TL;DR version: I pre-ordered the ebook and am reading it right now.

Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his own kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission… for reasons he will not–or cannot–reveal.

But saying no is not an option. Especially not to Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s bespectacled, beautiful, and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, she not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible-style operation, whether he likes it or not.

Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty.

Or die trying.

Out now

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18143924Sharon Lee‘s CAROUSEL SUN (urban fantasy): Or small-town fantasy.  I mentioned this in my January new releases because Baen releases the ebook a month early, so although technically a February release, I’ve already read this.  I was looking forward to this follow-up to CAROUSEL TIDES - I had a couple of minor niggles around pacing and voice (which I mentioned in the comments to Laura’s GR review – and will get my own review up at some point…), but overall a decent read and I really like the unusual (for a UF) setting.

 A gripping contemporary fantasy thriller from master storyteller Sharon Lee, award-winning co-creator of the highly-popular Liaden Universe® saga.

When magic meets mundane, sparks fly: these are exciting times in Archers Beach, Maine! A unprecedented Early Season has united townies and carnies in an effort to expand into a twelve-month resort, recapturing the town’s former glory.

Kate Archer, owner-operator of the vintage wooden carousel, is caught up in the excitement—and is quite possibly the cause of it. Because Kate leads a double life, as carny, and as Guardian of the land. Her recent return to the home she had forsaken has changed the town’s luck—for the better—and energized the trenvay—earth and water spirits who are as much citizens of the Beach as their mundane counterparts.

But the town’s new energy isn’t the only change afoot. Joe Nemeier, the local drug lord, whose previous magical consultant was vanquished by Kate, has acquired a new ally—and this one plays with fire.

Out now

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085286-fc222Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula JonesTHE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA (MG fantasy): I had to double-check the publication date on this as I think the US version is out later in April, but yes, the UK version looks to be pubbed end of February.  This is the book that Diana Wynne Jones was in the midst of writing when she passed away, and I believe her sister finished it.  So I’m not entirely sure it will be “proper” DWJ – but the plot sounds totally DWJ and I cannot wait to read it.

The brand new and final novel from the magical and whimsical pen of ‘the Godmother of Fantasy’, Diana Wynne Jones; co-authored with her sister Ursula Jones.

Aileen was supposed to grow up magical – just like the other women in her family. Unfortunately, she’s just found out that the magic seems to have skipped a generation… but that’s not her biggest problem right now.

In her world, there are four Islands of Chaldea. The largest and most magical island has been cut off from the other three for decades – and is slowly draining the magic from them.

But now a prophecy has come to light. Someone from Aileen’s island will gather a man from each of the three islands, bring down the magical barrier, and unite them with the fourth island again. And according to the king, that someone is Aileen’s Aunt – who insists on dragging Aileen along. AND the boy Aileen is sure she’ll marry (one day); AND the local boy with more brawn then brain. Someone seems to want to stop them too… someone with an interest in keeping the Islands apart. But still, with magic on their side, nothing can go wrong. Right?

Out Feb 27 (UK)

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Other books I’m interested in:

Tell me about your February new releases list – any must-gets I’m missing?

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A Post to Keep Me Honest

Also known as a list of books in my TBR pile that I really need to read over 2014, as opposed to just saying I’m going to read them ;-)

Pulling this list together has highlighted a bit of a pattern – they’re mostly hefty tomes (or at least I imagine them to be!) and/or the start of a series, and the (possibly imaginary) time commitment is putting me off a bit.  I’ve read Elizabeth Wein, Martha Wells, and Juliet Marillier (obviously!) before, but these are new series and… I’m a bit daunted.

In no particular order:

17333324Ann Leckie‘s ANCILLARY JUSTICE (SF): I mentioned this in my year-end wrap up posts, but I have not read a single negative review of Ann Leckie’s debut SF novel.  That’s pretty amazing in itself.

Elizabeth Wein‘s THE WINTER PRINCE (historical fantasy): Chachic’s EWein Special Ops week back in December convinced me I had to make time for Elizabeth Wein’s Lion Hunters series, and so it’s the most recently-acquired on this list…

127455Scott Lynch‘s THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA (fantasy): Everything about this series sounds great – except possibly for the fact it isn’t finished yet?  The third book in the Gentleman Bastard series came out last year, and reminded me that I’ve the first book still to read.

Patrick Rothfuss‘s THE NAME OF THE WIND (fantasy): There are a lot of diehard Rothfuss fans out there, and I picked up this book when the Kindle version was on offer last year.

112077Dorothy Dunnett‘s THE GAME OF KINGS (fantasy historical fiction – thanks Nathan!): Hang out in romancelandia long enough, and you’ll see references to Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, usually accompanied with the “must read if you’re in the mood for twisty complicated protagonists” kind of recs.  My excuse has been they were difficult to buy – not any more as they’ve been released in digital format, and the first one is on my Kindle…

Elizabeth Bear‘s DUST (SF): Another book I’ve had for ages, plus I’ve been meaning to explore Bear’s backlist in more depth.

Martha WellsRaksura trilogy (fantasy): I’ve pretty much devoured her older backlist books – don’t ask me why I’ve not yet cracked open her newer trilogy.

13122293Emma Bull‘s WAR FOR THE OAKS (urban fantasy): I’ve heard this described as the first-ever urban fantasy.  So it’s obviously on the must-read list, right?  Even if it’s just so I can say I’ve read it.  Just joking.

Susanna Kearsley’s THE SHADOWY HORSES (romance): Every time someone posts a glowing (and yes, it’s always glowing) Susanna Kearsley review, I eye that Kearsley lurking on my bookshelves and swear I’m going to read it.  I haven’t yet.

Juliet Marillier‘s THE DARK MIRROR (fantasy): I usually haunt the bookstore for Juliet Marillier’s new releases – there’s no reason why I haven’t started her older Bridei Chronicles… except I haven’t.

So that’s mine – do you have similar books lurking in your TBR pile?  Or tell me something to convince me to pick up one of these!

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New Year, New Links

Recent links that have caught my eye:

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