Mini-Reviews, Anyone?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last cross-posted my Goodreads reviews.  I stared at these ones for ages trying to figure out a theme, but none sprang to mind.  I should probably figure out how to curate these better.

Anyway – here’s a mix of historical mystery, YA SF, urban fantasy, m/m romance, and NA paranormal romance.

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First up, two boxed sets of historical mysteries by Ashley Gardner a.k.a. Jennifer Ashley:

Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume One (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, #1-3)Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume One by Ashley Gardner (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel as though I should love these books more than I did. Historical London + mystery whodunnits + a complicated nest of past relationships should be right up my alley… but the interpersonal side of things are not coming to life for me. I’m still not that invested in Lacey even when he’s playing for high stakes. But this is a decent boxset of historical mysteries (especially since I bought it on sale – around $1?), and I’ll continue with the series.

 

Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume Two (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, #4-6)Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Volume Two by Ashley Gardner (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel as though these stories could be more, but they are fun whodunnits. The mysteries are satisfying, and the secondary characters grow more three-dimensional as the series progresses – I’ll definitely keep reading.

The best way to sum these up is probably that I wouldn’t be upset if I never ever read another Captain Lacey book, but they’re decent mysteries and I don’t regret buying/reading them.  They’re worth buying if you’re into historical-set mysteries, especially if you’ve a Kobo coupon or similar to use.

I think I’ve read a couple of the books written under her Jennifer Ashley pen-name ages ago, but don’t really remember much.

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Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (YA SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trademark Brandon Sanderson writing, I thought – a really inventive magic system, combined with plot twists and lots of action. I didn’t care for the insta-love/lust/whatever, but I’ve never thought relationships were his strong point. I liked – while I wouldn’t run out to get the next book, I’m keeping this series on my to-read list.

Again, another author I enjoy reading but I don’t actively search out his books, though he obviously has a huge fan following. I think I bought this one when it was on sale.

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IndexingIndexing by Seanan McGuire (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a really fun read – loved the various twists on standard fairy tales. Probably could have done without the romance elements though. Also thought the two male secondary characters felt a bit more two-dimensional compared to Sloane, who was pretty amazing.

This was originally released as a Kindle serial in the US, but only as a single book in the UK.  She’s doing a follow-up next year, which I’d probably get at some point.  You could tell this was originally written as a serial (recapping at the start of each chapter, etc), but I thought the story flowed pretty well as a whole.

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Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown (suspense)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was painfully clunky – it felt as though the author was trying to cram in every single piece of related art history. The plot didn’t make sense at all, but the action scenes were relatively good in comparison. I should probably stop reading Dan Brown…

Uhhmmm.  In my defense, I read his books before The Da Vinci Code, and they were better.  Still predictable, yes, but there was plot. 

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Slide (Roads, #1)Slide by Garrett Leigh (m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought there was too much “tell, not show” at the critical moments, and struggled to connect with the main characters. Considering the subject matter, I thought the romance was surprisingly quiet. In the end, the characters were just too much on the broken side for me, and I struggled to believe in a HEA, or even a HFN.

Rec’d by various reviewers, IIRC, but her writing didn’t work for me.

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King Hall (Forever Evermore, #1)King Hall by Scarlett Dawn (NA paranormal romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mind candy, in a nutshell. But I did have fun reading it, eye-rolling scenes and all, and there is a good story buried inside once you make it past the first chapters. Everything is a bit too obvious, but there’s both friendship and romance, and the ending sets up the next book well.

 

King Cave (Forever Evermore, #2)King Cave by Scarlett Dawn (NA paranormal romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I… am not convinced there was an actual plot here – it felt like everything, including the kitchen sink, was crammed into this one. Also can’t quite pinpoint exactly why, but it read slightly like fanfic – possibly because so many scenes felt like they were written specifically for wish-fulfilment? Having said that, I still want to read the conclusion to the trilogy – so, well.

The first one was a total impulse buy.  And it was kind of fun.  The second was a lot messier.  I try to stay away from saying a book needed editing, because I’ve no idea how many editing passes a book has had before it’s released, but it did feel like the author had free rein with the story in the second.  And I… still want to read the next book.  Help. 

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Cathy Kelly’s IT STARTED WITH PARIS (with a Goodreads digression)

As you may have gathered, I use Goodreads quite a bit.

It does get a bad rep for the occasional author meltdown and sockpuppetery scandals, and the censorship fiasco some time back really didn’t help its cause.  But as a free service for keeping track of new releases and books I’ve read, getting book covers and descriptions, and seeing what other people thought of various books, I think it’s fantastic.  I know that in return for the “free”service it offers, I generate a good bit of content for Goodreads in terms of reviews, data-mining etc, but to me, that it’s a fair exchange (YMMV).

Also, while there is some overlap between the blogging world and Goodreads, it feels like separate communities?  It’s like this blog is my own place with people swinging past to say hi, and Goodreads is my local coffeeshop/pub/insert-your-hangout-place-of-choice where I know there’ll be conversations happening if I feel like wandering down the road (and Twitter is like standing in the middle of a busy and crowded railway station where you may or may not bump into people you know).  Was that a terrible analogy?  (Don’t feel as though you’ve to answer that.)

And I digress massively, because the purpose of me bringing up Goodreads in the first place was just to say that occasionally, I go to their Giveaways page and click on a few books that catch my eye.  But although I’ve been a Goodreads member since 2010 (ack, time flies), I’ve never ever won anything, so to be honest, browsing their giveaways tend to be something I do when I’m killing time on the internet.

22793566Until I got an email saying I’d won an early copy of Cathy Kelly‘s IT STARTED WITH PARIS.

*blinks*

I actually won something.  And while I’m not obligated to review the book, in the same spirit of fair exchange, here’s my review.

SUNDAY TIMES bestseller Cathy Kelly returns with a funny, emotional, heart-warming new novel.

It all started with Paris. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, a young man proposes to his girlfriend, cheered on by delighted tourists. In that second, everything changes, not just for the happy couple, but for the family and friends awaiting their return in Bridgeport, Ireland…

Leila’s been nursing a badly broken heart since her love-rat husband just upped and left her one morning, but she’s determined to put on a brave face for the bride.

Vonnie, a widow and exceptional cake-maker, is just daring to let love back into her life, although someone seems determined to stop it.

And Grace, a divorced head teacher, finds the impending wedding of her son means that she’s spending more time with her ex-husband. After all those years apart, is it possible she’s made a mistake?

With her warmth and insight, Cathy Kelly weaves a delightful tale spinning out from a once-in-a-lifetime moment, drawing together a terrific cast of characters who feel like old friends. IT STARTED WITH PARIS is the sparkling new novel from No.1 bestseller Cathy Kelly.

I’ve read quite a few Cathy Kelly books – it’s probably easiest to categorise what she writes as chick-lit, except it’s not really.  Woman’s fiction?  I’m not sure.  And the reason I say that is that I usually steer well clear of both those genres, but I’ve a soft spot for a Kelly book.  Here’s what’s normally in one of her books – Irish settings (both cities and small towns), strong friendship, heart-warming romance, a sprinkling of real-life issues (usually seen through slightly rose-tinted lenses, to be fair), and this sense of community woven throughout the story.

Safe to say, IT STARTED WITH PARIS ticked all those boxes.  There’s a lovely natural rhythm to Cathy Kelly’s writing, and I was drawn into the story from the very first page.  I’m not sure how she does it, but she has a knack for making you care about each and every character, even when there are numerous people and POVs.  The back cover copy names three protagonists, but each of them had their own circle of friends and family, all interlinked and with stories of their own.  So not only did we have Leila, there’s her sister Susie, who’s struggling as a single mother, and their mum, who’s in hospital after a car accident and coming to grips with her loss of independence.  And their lives are intertwined in various ways with Vonnie and Grace, and their own relatives, and well, you get the idea.  And yet, I never felt lost or confused once – each character was very deftly sketched, and had personalities of their own.

Having said that, a Kelly trademark is how she weaves together multiple subplots to become one, and I think here, some storylines suffered from not having enough page time – specifically I felt that Ruby’s issues were resolved a bit too easily.  (I know, you’re wondering who Ruby is and how she fits into the picture – but that’s part of a charm of a Kelly, the almost-organic way her stories expand to cover this whole community.)  In addition, while some plot lines had incredibly satisfying endings (you’ll know which one when you read it – all I’ll say is that I was mentally cheering [redacted] on), I had mixed feelings on the outcome of another.  But those are minor niggles, and I ended up finishing the book in a single day.

IT STARTED WITH PARIS was a delightful read, and one I suspect will be perfect for whiling away a quiet rainy autumn afternoon.

ARC courtesy of Goodreads/publisher giveaway. 

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Weekend Links… and New Bookshelf Additions

Hunting-Monsters1-e1411728587221The Book Smugglers published their first short story: “Hunting Monsters” by SL Huang.  It’s a retelling of Red Riding Hood – I’m not usually into fairytale retellings, but this one was lovely.  And the cover is striking (I love the colours) and fits the story perfectly.  Excellent start to their publishing venture, IMO.

The story’s free on their website, but they’re also publishing an ebook version with a couple of extras.

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Rachel Aaron (or Bach) posted a breakdown of her sales following her self-pubbed release of NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST (which was a good one to try if you’re in the mood for a new urban fantasy).  Some really interesting number-crunching and observations about Amazon.

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Does anyone read Joan Wolf?  I’ve fond memories of her Regencies – there’s an interview with her at Word Wenches, and she mentions a new Regency, THE AMERICAN EARL, which is already out (on Amazon, anyway).  I obviously bought it.

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Speaking of books I’ve bought – when I posted my take on 2014 new releases to date, I had a couple of comments about the fact I’d read most of the books I’d actually bought.  Just to prove this isn’t the case, here are the books I’ve bought (or downloaded for free) over the past week or so.  I know.

  • Eileen WilksUNBINDING (UF): Well, it was on my October new releases post.  I’ve finished this – mixed feelings really, not one of my favourites in the series.
  • FIFTY FIRST TIMES, edited by Julie Cross (NA romance anthology): I don’t usually do romance short stories, you’ve read my thoughts on NA before… but it was only £0.99.
  • Harlan Coben‘s THE WOODS (suspense): It was free (a UK-only offer, I think – and still free at Amazon as of today). I usually borrow his books from the library, but hey, free.
  • Kelly Hunter‘s SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (contemporary romance): This was meant to be released last month, but has just come out – $0.99 for the next week or so, if you’re interested.  I love her writing, so this was a no-brainer.
  • Carolyn Jewel‘s SCANDAL (historical romance): Courtesy of Dear Author’s Daily Deals posts – it’s free right now, and came recommended.
  • Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Nicole Burnham‘s FAMILY SECRETS (contemporary romance): Courtesy of the same DA deals post – not free, but three full-length novels for $0.99.  Yes, I do have a book-buying problem. I’ve enjoyed Christina Dodd’s books before, but the other two authors are new-to-me.
  • Joan Wolf‘s THE AMERICAN EARL (historical romance): See above…
  • Martha WellsSTORIES OF THE RAKSURA (fantasy): Oh. Did I mention I just glommed her Raksura fantasy trilogy, and LOVED it?  I’ve been meaning to read this trilogy forever.  Excellent world-building, and leaves you wanting to know everything and more about her characters.  Also, I obviously timed this really well, as this brand-new collection of two novellas (and two existing shorts) in the same world was just released.  She can write.
  • Rosie Claverton‘s CODE RUNNER (mystery): The first book, BINARY WITNESS, was mentioned by Sunita @ Dear Author last month – I liked a lot about it (ex-con Jason was not your everyday mystery protagonist, technology was front and centre, and Cardiff came to life), and jumped on the second book.

The conclusion? I’m a sucker for book deals and most of my impulse buys recs come from blog posts. Not surprising, really… tell me what triggers your book buying?

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Austin Williams’ MISDIRECTION

22613699I read the odd suspense title now and again.  I don’t read a lot in the genre – I tend to stick to the big names such as Lee Child and Harlen Coben (which may be the romance equivalent of reading Nora Roberts and umm… Lisa Kleypas?  Who are the romance big-name authors?).  But the street magician angle to Austin Williams‘ MISDIRECTION caught my eye when I was asked if I’d be interested in participating in a blog tour and so I accepted a review copy.

A street magician needs more than sleight-of-hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and George Pelecanos.

After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord’s brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he’s been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he’s been desperately trying to escape.

Austin Williams creates an unforgettable protagonist in Rusty, a flawed but relatable master of illusion in very real danger. As the suspense builds to an explosively orchestrated climax, Williams paints a riveting portrait of both a city—and a man—on the edge.

I feel the cover reflects the story remarkably well.  It’s not a light fluffy one – it’s dark, drugs play a central role in the plot, and there’s a fair bit of violence.  The Ocean City boardwalk is very much part of the story’s backdrop.  And the way the title’s split across three lines hints at the book’s USP, i.e. Rusty’s street magician background and the usage of misdirection when pulling off magic tricks.

And as the latter was a fairly large part of the book’s appeal to me – did it come off?  Well, this will probably only make sense if you’ve watched BBC’s Sherlock, but you know when they’re showing how Sherlock’s mind works, and everything goes into slow motion as he makes connections?  There’s a similar stylistic device used in this book – for instance, when Rusty’s having a not-particularly cordial exchange with one of the police, we get this passage:

Rusty knew he could disarm this uniformed frat boy in just about 2.7 seconds. The task wouldn’t present much of a challenge. He could easily divert Neely’s eyeline with a lateral, non-aggressive movement of his left arm.

Momentarily distracted, the cop would never see the fingers of Rusty’s right hand extracting a one-inch smoke pellet from a customized hidden pocket in his jeans. Pinched at the proper angle, the pellet would explode in a blinding flash followed by a plume of gray smoke. Utterly harmless but highly effective for misdirection.

The span of time Officer Neely would need to recover from his surprise would offer Rusty ample opportunity to relieve him of the gun. Using his fingertips, he’d grab the wrist and isolate pressure points causing Neely’s hand to open involuntarily. From there, Rusty would simply reposition his body at a 45-degree angle and use his left hand to retrieve a sterling set of monogrammed handcuffs tucked in a different hidden pocket. One more second would be sufficient to cuff the young patrolman to a column of the bannister directly behind him.

It did take a couple of chapters for me to get used to the style, but it ended up working for me, and the peek behind the curtains for a few magic tricks was fascinating.  The stakes quickly get higher as Rusty tries to solve his landlady’s murder and finds himself embroiled in the local drug-dealing crowd, needing to call on his arsenal of tricks to save his skin and reveal the ringleaders.  It’s more of a thriller than a mystery (we get the POV of the murderer fairly early on), and the action certainly ramps up as the book progresses.

However, it’s safe to say the TSTL* archetype is not limited to urban fantasy heroines.  Halfway through the book, Rusty does a mind-blowingly stupid thing – it left me speechless, and I almost wanted him to be killed.  But that wouldn’t really be good for the protagonist of the first book of a trilogy, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying Rusty’s still alive at the end of the book?

But maybe that describes Rusty’s character – I’m not entirely sure that he cares about whether he lives or dies at times.  We see glimpses of his past and why that may be the case, but I felt a bit distanced from him as a result.  And while MISDIRECTION ends on a good note (with a minor twist telegraphed a mile away), I’m hoping Rusty grows up some in the next book.  There’s definitely some promise – he’s made some new connections by the end, and there are a few dangling plot threads, so all’s set up well for the second installment.

(*TSTL = Too Stupid To Live. For instance, when the protagonist heads down to a dark basement in an abandoned house, or say, when one wanders into the house of known drug-dealers without any plans.)

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Follow Austin Williams on Twitter and Goodreads.

Review copy courtesy of book blog tour organised by Book Junkie Promotions.

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Sarina Bowen’s THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR

The Understatement of the Year coverSo [digression alert: skip the next few paragraphs if all you want to know is what I thought of Sarina Bowen's latest] – I read this discussion board thread recently around the New Adult sub-genre, and someone’s very definite declaration that NA was contemporary romance that was crammed full of angst, with immature protagonists who basically mess each other up throughout the entire book (paraphrasing quite a bit, but that was the general gist) touched a nerve somewhat.

Because I think there is so much more to NA than that one single plot line – yes, some NA books use that plot, but not all do. My personal view is that NA stories are about that stage in life when you’ve the trappings of adulthood and living independently, but you’re still finding your feet and trying to figure out who you are and how you want to live your life.  Yes, it’s messy and you make mistakes, but not because you want to hurt other people.  The protagonists don’t necessarily need to have a broken family background or tragic events in their past; it doesn’t have to be high-octane drama all the time.  I feel that setting those expectations around NA stories narrows and constricts the sub-genre unnecessarily, when there are so many story possibilities out there.

But then – in today’s publishing world, I guess sub-genres are really defined by readers?  If all the super-angsty romances that are being published are being tagged as NA by those buying the books, then maybe that is NA (which, to be fair, is not even a subgenre that existed a few years ago).  So who am I to throw all my toys out of the pram and scream “But that’s not what I consider New Adult!”?

For the record, NA writers I love – and NA in this instance being my definition (hey, my blog etc etc) – are Allison Parr, Tammara Webber, and now Sarina Bowen.

[Yes, the review starts here]

I first came across Sarina Bowen’s books when Diana Peterfreund hosted a cover reveal of her first Ivy Years book earlier this year (I’d digress into “what do cover reveals achieve”, but I think I’ve reached my quota for this post), and started stalking her new releases.  I received a copy of her latest book, THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR, when I hosted its cover reveal a month or so back and as I’ve already talked about why I really like her books there, we’ll jump straight into this book, shall we?

What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.

As with the previous Ivy Years books, Graham and Rikker’s story takes place in her Yale Harkness College setting.  I have a stupidly soft spot for residential college settings – it reminds me of my own university days, when you pretty much live on top of one another and hang out in the same places, so we were off to a good start.  Characters from previous books make cameos, though this works well as a standalone.  Plus this installment had lots of ice hockey as a bonus.  I cheerfully confess that I know next to nothing about ice hockey (and I mean that – to me, ice hockey = hockey played on ice, and that’s it), but I liked the sports backdrop of this book; the technical details felt real, the rough-and-tumble of the games made me wince, and the passion the players had for the sport brought it alive.

And as for the romance?  It’s an M/M romance – I love how the previous romances in this series were straight M/F relationships, and then a gay romance is centre-stage in the third book.  Possibly not the most commercial of decisions, but possibly indicative of where mainstream romance is heading?  You get both Graham and Rikker’s alternating POVs in this book, so it’s easy to root for both of them, even when you wanted to smack one or the other on their heads at times.  What got to me was the level of foreboding that ratcheted up throughout the book as Graham and Rikker figure out what they mean to each other… Graham’s obviously in the closet, and you know that it would all implode eventually – and you’re loving the characters so much, and you just want it OVER AND DONE WITH ALREADY.  Without giving anything away, everything works out in the end (it’s a romance!) – and very satisfyingly, but ack, I spent a lot of the book on tenterhooks (and not in a good way).

I have to loop back to the definition of NA that annoyed me in the first instance.  I have to admit that THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR is totally angst-y, that the book starts with events in both Graham and Rikker’s pasts that they would rather forget, and that Graham really acts like an idiot at times.  But it was also lots of fun, there is both some growing up and falling in love happening, and I closed the book feeling satisfied.

So if this is NA, more please?

Review based on an ARC courtesy of the author.

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Books for October

Hard to believe we’re heading into the final stretch of 2014, right?  Part of me hates that it’ll soon be dark by 4pm, I’ve to unearth my winter coats from the depths of my wardrobe, and it’s basically going to be miserably cold for the next few months (though the weekend was practically summer weather – what’s up with that?).  But hey, new books?  That always cheers me up.

October new releases on my radar:

The Understatement of the Year coverSarina Bowen‘s THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR (NA M/M romance): I’ve actually read an ARC of this one already, review coming in the next couple of days.  I’m loving her Harkness College series.

What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.

Out Oct 1

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16219338Josh Lanyon‘s THE BOY WITH THE PAINFUL TATTOO (M/M romance/mystery): A new Josh Lanyon!  It’s no secret I love his writing – he has a knack for getting feelings into the story so easily.  This is the third book in the Holmes & Moriarity mystery series – it’ll be good to see how Kit’s getting on, insecurities and all.

It’s moving day at Chez Holmes. Somehow, against Kit’s better instincts, he and J.X. are setting up house together. But while J.X. is off at a writing conference, Kit unpacks a crate that should contain either old books or new china. It doesn’t. Within the mounds of green Styrofoam popcorn is a dead body. A very dead body.

There goes the neighborhood.

Out Oct 5

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17340103Jacqueline Carey‘s POISON FRUIT (urban fantasy): Her UF series is starting to grow on me.  They’re no Kushiel books, but they are fun and fast-paced, and I don’t even mind that love triangle thing.

The hot-as-Hel series with the “Sookie Stackhouse type of vibe” (Paranormal Horizon) is back—but this time the paranormal Midwestern town of Pemkowet is feeling a frost in the air and the residents are frozen in fear…

The Pemkowet Visitors Bureau has always promoted paranormal tourism—even if it has downplayed the risks (hobgoblins are unpredictable). It helps that the town is presided over by Daisy Johanssen, who as Hel’s liaison is authorized by the Norse goddess of the dead to keep Pemkowet under control. Normally, that’s easier to do in the winter, when bracing temperatures keep folks indoors.

But a new predator is on the prowl, and this one thrives on nightmares. Daisy is on her trail and working intimately with her partner and sometime lover from the Pemkowet PD, sexy yet unavailable werewolf Cody Fairfax. But even as the creature is racking up innocent victims, a greater danger looms on Pewkowet’s horizon.

As a result of a recent ghost uprising, an unknown adversary—represented by a hell-spawn lawyer with fiery powers of persuasion—has instigated a lawsuit against the town. If Pemkowet loses, Hel’s sovereignty will be jeopardized, and the fate of the eldritch community will be at stake. The only one who can prevent it is Daisy—but she’s going to have to confront her own worst nightmare to do it.

Out Oct 7

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20757528Julie Cross‘s WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU (YA romance): You know how much I loved her LETTERS TO NOWHERE books, right?  Another YA romance from Julie Cross sounds exactly like what I need.

Life loves a good curveball…

Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas’s life is completely upended the moment her dad returns to the major leagues as the new pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Now she’s living in Missouri (too cold), attending an all-girls school (no boys), and navigating the strange world of professional sports. But Annie has dreams of her own—most of which involve placing first at every track meet…and one starring the Royals’ super-hot rookie pitcher.

But nineteen-year-old Jason Brody is completely, utterly, and totally off-limits. Besides, her dad would kill them both several times over. Not to mention Brody has something of a past, and his fan club is filled with C-cupped models, not smart-mouthed high school “brats” who can run the pants off every player on the team. Annie has enough on her plate without taking their friendship to the next level. The last thing she should be doing is falling in love.

But baseball isn’t just a game. It’s life. And sometimes, it can break your heart…

Out Oct 7

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20299706Eileen WilksUNBINDING (urban fantasy): Is it just me, or does it feel like ages since the last World of the Lupi novel?

In the newest Novel of the Lupi, the human and elven worlds are both about to come under attack…

After questing through the sidhe realms with her ex-hellhound lover, Nathan, Kai Tallman Michalski has finally returned home. But she knows Nathan will eventually be called back to serve his queen—and Kai will have to decide whether to enter her majesty’s service as well. Sure, the job comes with great bennies, but there’s one big downside: she would have to swear absolute fealty to the Queen of Winter.

For now, though, Kai is glad to be home, and glad that Nathan completed his mission for his queen with surprising ease. But what seemed to be a quick conclusion turns out to be anything but. The two of them helped thwart the sidhe god of chaos—and he is not happy about that. He’s got plans for them. Plans, too, for the sidhe who killed him some three millennia ago. Nor has he abandoned his plans for Earth, as they learn when chaos begins bursting out all over…

Out Oct 7

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21529170KJ CharlesFLIGHT OF MAGPIES (historical M/M romance/fantasy): The last Crane & Stephen!  I’m looking forward to seeing how KJ Charles ends their adventures.

With the justiciary understaffed, a series of horrifying occult murders to be investigated, and a young student who is flying—literally—off the rails, magical law enforcer Stephen Day is under increasing stress. And his relationship with his aristocratic lover, Lord Crane, is beginning to feel the strain.

Crane chafes at the restrictions of England’s laws, and there’s a worrying development in the blood-and-sex bond he shares with Stephen. A development that makes a sensible man question if they should be together at all.

When a thief strikes at the heart of Crane’s home, a devastating loss brings his closest relationships into bitter conflict—especially his relationship with Stephen. And as old enemies, new enemies, and unexpected enemies paint the lovers into a corner, the pressure threatens to tear them apart.

Warning: Contains hot-blooded sex, cold-blooded murder, sinister magical goings-on and a lot of swearing.

Out Oct 28

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20705702Ilona AndrewsBURN FOR ME (paranormal romance): A new series from this writing team.  I’m definitely getting, but as their previous paranormal romance series was a bit hit-or-miss for me, I am not entirely sure whether this one will work for me.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire…

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

Out Oct 28

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Possibles:

  • FEARSOME MAGICS, edited by Jonathan Strahan (fantasy): I really liked the last anthology he edited (FEARSOME JOURNEYS) and the theme for this one sounds right up my alley.
  • Ashley Gardner‘s MURDER IN GROSVENOR SQUARE (historical mystery): I’ve finished all previous eight books in this series (I’ve not been talking very much about them, true), and I’m glad she’s still writing them.
  • MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, edited by Stephanie Perkins (YA romance): Primarily because it’s edited by Stephanie Perkins, but lots of familiar YA names here, including Laini Taylor, Rainbow Rowell, and Jenny Han (did I mention I loved her TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE?). Slightly offset by the fact I don’t think short stories and romance mix well together, but we’ll see.
  • Sarah Morgan‘s MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS (contemporary romance): I had mixed feelings on the previous two in this series, but I was very intrigued by Tyler, and you know, a Christmas book!

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Things That Caught My Eye Recently(-ish)

Otherwise known as random links:

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2014 New Releases So Far…

The one regular feature that I have on this blog are the monthly posts listing the new releases on my radar (it counts as a feature even without a clever title, right?).  I thought it would be interesting to have a look back at the year so far and see which ones I’d read, and how they stacked up.

The books marked with an * are the ones I really liked, some additional comments in italics as well.

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January

18074870Bought and read:

All were 3-star reads in Goodreads terminology, i.e. I’m glad I read them, but while they were good installments in their respective series, they didn’t quite make it to my re-read/keeper shelf.

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February

085286-fc222Bought and read:

  • Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula JonesTHE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA (MG fantasy): I did wait until the price dropped though.  Worth reading – thought it was lots of fun, though the ending was a bit too tidy. 

Possible DNF:

  • Suzanne Brockmann‘s DO OR DIE (romantic suspense): I stalled midway – not yet an official DNF as I may still go back to it.  Nothing was happening, really.

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March

night broken_front mech.inddBought and read:

Bought, but still lurking in that TBR pile:

  • Carla Kelly‘s THE WEDDING RING QUEST (historical romance): It’s a bit weird – I never feel an urge to read a Carla Kelly, but when I do get around to reading one, I wonder why I waited so long.

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April

20645592Bought and read:

Bought, but still in the TBR pile

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May

20738173Bought and read:

  • Tammara Webber‘s BREAKABLE (NA romance): Very much a companion book as opposed to a standalone
  • Joanna ChambersENLIGHTENED (historical m/m romance)
  • Josh Lanyon‘s STRANGER ON THE SHORE (m/m romance/mystery)

Borrowed from library and read:

  • Jim Butcher‘s SKIN GAME (UF): I had a feeling this wouldn’t be a re-read, hence the library reservation.

Borrowed from library, but DNF:

  • Richelle Mead‘s THE IMMORTAL CROWN (fantasy?): Couldn’t get into the story, may borrow again as I suspect it was more my mood. 

Waiting for price drop:

  • Seanan McGuire‘s SPARROW HILL ROAD (fantasy): I’ll wait until the mass-market paperback, I think.

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June

21798646Bought and read:

Bought, but in TBR pile:

Library reservation:

  • Nalini Singh‘s SHIELD OF WINTER (paranormal romance): I totally planned on buying this, then started seeing mixed reviews, and figured that I could wait on reading it.

Waiting for price drop:

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July

16045306Bought and read:

You can tell July was a good month for reading.

Library reservation:

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August

9627755Bought and read:

  • Stephanie Perkins‘ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER* (YA romance): No other author captures that teenage rush of crazy-emotions-all-over-the-place like she does

Borrowed from library, read:

  • Kelley Armstrong‘s VISIONS* (UF): I suspect I’ll be buying the next book.

Library reservation

Not yet bought

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So, in numbers?

  • 8 months = 41 new releases in total
  • 28 bought & read, 3 bought & not read (could be far worse…)
  • 2 borrowed from library & read, 3 waiting on library reservations
  • 2 DNFs (1 purchased, 1 from the library)
  • 3 to be bought at some point

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Three Links for a Monday

0451418425.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL500_Recent-ish interview with ML Brennan, author of the American Vampire urban fantasy books (or the Generation V series, as the covers have it) @ SF Signal.  I read the first two books earlier this year, and the third (TAINTED BLOOD, out Nov) is most definitely on my to-read list.  There are two new(-to-me) UF series that I’m excited about this year, and this is one of them (the other is Rachel Aaron‘s Heartstrikers series, if you’re wondering).

While both centre around fairly common paranormal creatures (vampires and dragons respectively), I really like how they’ve brought something new to the table.  Jan @ Notes from a Readerholic pointed out that the main characters in both series have similarities in the sense they’re perceived to be weak to their families, which may be one factor.  Also, the protagonists in both are male – maybe I’ve just had enough of the kickass female heroine (TM)?  Don’t get me wrong – I still love the take-no-prisoners attitude of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels and Karen Chance’s Dory Basarab; it’s just refreshing to have different characters out there in UF-land.

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I found this post (plus comments) @ Ruthless Culture fascinating.  The post talks about why there shouldn’t be back-to-back US-based WorldCons (as the title implies…), but then there’s a discussion in the comments around logistics for WorldCon bids – really interesting, including the commercial considerations I’d not really thought of before.  Location is obviously a massive factor in terms of attendance decisions – I don’t think I’d have gone if the UK con had been outside London (see FantasyCon = York, for example), so I probably fall into that “London boost” bracket.

(My last mention of WorldCons for a while, I swear.)

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I’m not entirely sure this will take off, but it’s a new technology in the world of physical/ebook bundling.  Basically, write your name in the (physical) book, take a picture, and you get the ebook via BitLit.  I’ve had a look and the catalogue appears rather limited at the moment (biggest is the Joe Hill / HarperCollins promotion for Heart-Shaped Box), but it’s certainly innovative.  I’ve really cut down on print books dramatically over the past couple of years (I just need more bookshelves), so I’m probably not part of their target audience.  I can see this really working for people who either don’t have that bookshelf real estate constraint I have, or for readers who want to dip their toes into the ebook space?

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Books for September

For whatever reason (stars aligning etc etc), there are a LOT of new releases in September that I want.  It’s going to be a good reading month…

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22559338Sherwood Smith‘s RONDO ALLEGRO (historical romance): Sherwood Smith is better-known for her fantasy novels (CROWN DUEL is probably the gateway novel into her works), but I really liked her take on Regency romance in DANSE DE LA FOLIE, so I’m up for this.  I’m guessing this is a romance based on the blurb…

At the end of the eighteenth century, all of Europe is at war.

In Palermo, sixteen-year-old singer-in-training Anna Maria Ludovisi is married by her dying father to Captain Henry Duncannon, the Perennial Bachelor. Mere minutes after the wedding he sets sail.

The threat of French invasion causes Anna to flee to Paris. At the end of the Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte is transforming France; Anna must transform herself into a professional singer in order to survive.

in 1805, Anna’s opera company is traveling through Spain when events bring the long-missing Captain Duncannon and his forgotten wife back together again, as the English, Spanish, and French fleets converge for battle off the Cape of Trafalgar.

For Henry Duncannon as well as Anna, everything changes: the demands of war, the obligation of family, the meaning of love, and the concept of home. Can they find a new life together?

Out Sept 9

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22821635Patricia BriggsSHIFTING SHADOWS (urban fantasy): So not quite a new Mercy Thompson novel, more a collection of both old and new short stories (roughly half-and-half, I think, based on the info on her website).  I’ve read all the previously-released short stories, but I think there’s enough new content to persuade me to get this (though I may wait for a price drop).  Plus I’ve always liked the original Alpha & Omega novella.

Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger . . .

Including a number of original short stories, this stunning collection is set in the world of Mercy Thompson – mechanic, shapeshifter and fighter – and the characters she calls friends.

Out Sept 2

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22392751Sarina Bowen‘s FALLING FROM THE SKY and Amy Jo Cousins‘ WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN (contemporary romance):  Both of these are in the latest Harlequin E Contemporary Romance Box Set (together with two other stories), which makes it a no-brainer (the Harlequin E box set being a limited period e-bundle of four categories for a lower price).  If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been really enjoying Sarina Bowen’s NA romance books, and while I haven’t mentioned it, I thought both these authors’ stories in the first Harlequin E box set had potential.

Four different men. Four unforgettable romances…

Falling from the Sky by Sarina Bowen

A brutal spinal cord injury robbed snowboarder Hank Lazarus of everything. But just as Hank gives up, Dr. Callie Anders shows him something that’s really worth fighting for….

Maid to Love by Rebecca M. Avery

Academic Courtney Wells has waited long enough and is going to have a baby on her own. But then she meets military-man-turned-maid Ian Hamilton….

When the Lights Go Down by Amy Jo Cousins

A new play could mean stage manager Maxie Tyler is finally Broadway-bound–as long as she can resist wickedly hot producer Nicholas Drake. Because getting involved with the “money” is a no-no…and this show must go on!

Start Me Up by Kristina Knight

When Hollywood hunk Chase MacIntyre proposes a faux relationship, disgraced L.A. matchmaker Nina Wright can’t refuse…until some serious sexiness makes “on paper” happen between the sheets!

Out Sept 1

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15748529Seanan McGuire‘s THE WINTER LONG (urban fantasy): Under normal circumstances, I’d be counting down the days to this release.  However, through pure serendipity, I stumbled upon a copy at a bookstore, and yes, have already read it.  If you love Toby Daye (*raises hand*), you’ll like this one – I enjoyed revisiting Toby’s world, the usual suspects are all present and accounted for, and there are some rather interesting twists plot-wise, combined with a bit of emotional punch.  On the not-so-good side, there were bits that did feel repetitive (I know people who struggle with this series call this aspect out, and I could definitely see that in this book) and I kind of wanted more.

Short and straight-to-the-punch blurb:

 Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.

She was wrong.

It’s time to learn the truth.

Out Sept 2

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18744715Juliet Marillier‘s THE CALLER (YA fantasy): While I had a couple of issues with the first book (still liked it, mind – just wasn’t up to the standards I set for a Marillier book), the second worked better for me, and I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy.

In the final book in this gripping, romantic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of Robin McKinley, Kristin Cashore, and Shannon Hale, Neryn’s band of rebels reach their climactic confrontation with the king. The stunning conclusion to the story that began with Shadowfell and Raven Flight is full of romance, intrigue, magic, and adventure.

Just one year ago, Neryn had nothing but a canny skill she barely understood and a faint dream that the legendary rebel base of Shadowfell might be real. Now she is the rebels’ secret weapon, and their greatest hope for survival, in the fast-approaching ambush of King Keldec at Summerfort.

The fate of Alban itself is in her hands. But to be ready for the bloody battle that lies ahead, Neryn must first seek out two more fey Guardians to receive their tutelage. Meanwhile, her beloved, Flint, has been pushed to his breaking point as a spy in the king’s court—and is arousing suspicion in all the wrong quarters.

At stake lies freedom for the people of Alban, a life free from hiding for the Good Folk—and a chance for Flint and Neryn to finally be together.

Out Sept 9

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22839846Nalini Singh‘s ROCK ADDICTION (contemporary romance): Nalini Singh’s surprise rock star book!  Are rock stars becoming one of those really specific romance subgenres, something like motorcycle clubs?  I’m wondering how her PNR writing will translate into contemporary, to be honest (I know she started off in category romance, but I haven’t read any of those books) – it could go either way.

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh stuns with a sizzling contemporary romance…

A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk…

Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that’s all it was meant to be…

Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn’t only her body that’s become addicted to Fox, but her heart…

Out Sept 9

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20697444MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant (YA fantasy): So I’ll be perfectly honest – I’m getting this purely for the Sarah Rees Brennan, because her contribution is set in the Turn of the Story universe (which she’s been serialising on her blog for free).  Or at least I think it is, so if it turns out to be a completely separate story, I’ll be horribly disappointed…

Fifteen top voices in speculative fiction explore the intersection of fear and love in a haunting, at times hilarious, darkly imaginative volume.

Predatory kraken that sing with – and for – their kin; band members and betrayed friends who happen to be demonic; harpies as likely to attract as to repel. Welcome to a world where humans live side-by-side with monsters, from vampires both nostalgic and bumbling, to an eight-legged alien who makes tea. Here you’ll find mercurial forms that burrow into warm fat, spectral boy toys, a Maori force of nature, a landform that claims lives, and an architect of hell on earth. Through these, and a few monsters that defy categorization, some of today’s top young-adult authors explore ambition and sacrifice, loneliness and rage, love requited and avenged, and the boundless potential for connection, even across extreme borders.

Out Sept 9

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18309803Sarah Rees Brennan‘s UNMADE (YA urban fantasy): As we’re talking SRB, the final book in her Lynburn Legacy trilogy is out this month as well. I’ve liked the first two books (the first worked for me more than the second, however), so again I’m looking forward to reading the final book.

Fairly major spoilers for the first two books in the book blurb, so I’ll just link to the book’s Goodreads page.

Out Sept 23

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20359719Sherry Thomas‘s THE PERILOUS SEA (YA fantasy): Moving on to a second book in a trilogy, Sherry Thomas is also releasing her follow-up to THE BURNING SKY, which I liked, but didn’t entirely love (you may have figured out by now that insta-love is really not my favourite thing in a book).  So potentially middle-book syndrome here, or possibly not…

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother’s prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Out Sept 16

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BadBoys_Hunter_Final_medium-672x1024Kelly Hunter‘s SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (contemporary romance): I like Kelly Hunter’s books so much that I actually added this to Goodreads so I could link it here (go easy on me if I’ve set up the page wrong please – I do this probably once in a blue moon).  More info plus prologue on Kelly Hunter’s blog – it’s related to her earlier book THE HONEYMOON TRAP (but setting up a GR series is beyond me, and I don’t think there’s an official series title anyway…).

Sympathy For The Devil is Caleb Jackson’s story. Dive master, charter boat operator, one third of Jackson’s boat building enterprises – you may have met him in The Honeymoon Trap. He played the good brother in that story, and he can be a good brother. He tries to be.

He just doesn’t always succeed.

Have you ever done something you shouldn’t have? Ever screwed someone over and vowed never to do it again?

Welcome to Caleb’s world.

Out Sept 23 (or thereabouts)

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Well.  I did say it was a long list…

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