Quick Recaps: The Romance One

Slooowly clearing my backlog of new releases for the early part of 2018…

There was definitely more SFF than romance on my 2018 Want list so far, but here are the new releases in romance that I’ve read – basically four books by two authors:

Kelly Hunter’s SHOCK HEIR FOR THE CROWN PRINCE and CONVENIENT BRIDE FOR THE KING: Kelly Hunter is probably the only Mills & Boon author that’s still on my autobuy list, and despite the sheer OTT-ness of the titles, I snapped up these two books on release day.  Loved her snappy dialogue and humour as always, though the “secret baby” trope felt a bit tired in the former.  I’m a sucker for friends-to-lovers though so enjoyed Theo’s wooing of Moriana, and am looking forward to the next two in this mini-series.

Josh Lanyon’s THE MAGICIAN MURDERS: I admit I was hoping for some conclusion to the romance arc here, but it looks like the series is going to run for a bit longer.  Still, solid story, though her writing is starting to come across as a bit workman-like.

Josh Lanyon’s MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD: Perhaps more a “mystery with romantic elements” than straight-up romance.  Mystery-wise, there were red herrings a-plenty, though I’m not sure there were enough clues to let the reader have a fair stab at figuring out the ending.  I assume this was inspired somewhat by the real-life Anne Perry story, which makes me uncomfortable enough to avoid reading her books, so yeah, not sure.  I liked the whole Scottish Highlands bus tour setting though.

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Karina Bliss’s RESURRECTION

There’s nothing like discovering a new-to-you author whose writing just clicks with you; I’ve a Kindle Unlimited subscription, and it is certainly good at encouraging me to give new-to-me authors a go (more misses than hits, I have to admit, but there have definitely been some knock-it-out-of-the-park hits).

33815369Having said that, there is something about knowing that you’re in for a really satisfying read, and that’s how I felt when I cracked open Katrina Bliss’s latest, RESURRECTION (out June 17).  It’s the fourth (and final?) book in her rockstar romance series, and by now, I know I’m in for a treat.  Because her series isn’t your run-of-the-mill rockstar romance – yes, there is certainly music and celebrity, but friendships form the core of these books, and that lends depth to the stories.

No more rock stars. Ever.

Lily Hagen Stuart has done that scene to death. Her new career in early childhood education is way more rewarding and she deals with far fewer tantrums. Then a stolen sex tape is posted online and her future is in jeopardy. She needs to get away from the paparazzi and the only place that offers refuge is the world she swore never to return to: the music world. Fine.

A few months—tops. That’s all she needs to get her life back. And keeping her hands off gorgeous Moss McFadden? Should be easy since they’ve always avoided each other.

Moss McFadden may be a rising rock star, but he’s quite happy to keep everyone at arm’s length. Until Lily needs help, that is. They strike a deal that puts them in closer proximity than is good for his equilibrium. Still, he can keep his growing fascination with her in check. 

Or can he? 

Because when she lends him a hand in a life-changing situation, all his defenses are shot. And as he goes down in a wave of longing, he wonders if she just might be his salvation.

RESURRECTION is about Lily and Moss healing from past hurts and rediscovering themselves, both independently and together.  And if that sounds a bit heavy, that’s on me – Bliss handles it with ease and humour.  Her trademark snappy banter is present and accounted for, previous characters are given just the right amount of page time, and seriously, female friendships for the win here.  I appreciated that there was no slut-shaming, especially with #metoo stories fresh in my mind.  Rockstar romances can veer towards the wrong side of the line at times, so kudos for how Moss and his past was portrayed.

There’s also a lovely rhythm to Bliss’s prose, making it easy for me to sink into the story.  Here’s a passage from early on in the book, when Moss is faced with a technical issue onstage during their first performance:

He started strumming, just to have something to do with his hands, not a song but an improvised riff that didn’t know where it was going. Seth picked up the beat, Jared added bass notes, and suddenly they had a melody, subversive and sly.

However, I have to say, melodrama much?  On top of the sex tape leaks referred to in the blurb, there’s another later twist.  I’m not going to give it away, but I was left impressed at how Bliss wrapped up the story within the available page count.  Also, no spoilers, so I’m going to stay vague (sorry!),  but I was left wondering if a different decision could have been made in the end.  Bliss certainly has the skills to sell a less traditional resolution, and perhaps that would have felt more fresh.

All in all though, a really solid romance, and definitely a series I’d recommend.

Review copy courtesy of author

Quick Recaps: The SF/F One

A belated look at the new releases for the first umm… third of the year?  Starting off the ones I’ve actually read in the SF/F space…

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s NEOGENESIS: Latest Liaden installment, and unlike the more recent releases, I felt there was FINALLY some progress in the overall series arc.  I am still on the fence around some kind-of-icky cultural appropriation when it comes to their Bedel community, but hurrah for actually moving on with the story.  Could have done with fewer plot threads to track, but you can’t have everything…

Elizabeth Moon’s INTO THE FIRE: I probably would have benefited from a series re-read before diving into this book, and there were a few too many random POVs tossed in for my liking.  Also, the main protagonists (Ky, Stella, and yes, Grace) came across as being way too whiny, especially for people who are meant to be actual grown-ups.

Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming’s THE EMPRESS OF TIMBRA: A new-to-me author pairing and an interesting take on traditional epic-fantasy-type happenings, as it’s told from the POV of teenagers on the periphery of events.  I thought it a bit reminiscent of Sherwood Smith’s YA fantasy books.  I’d definitely pick up the next book.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s OBSIDIO: I’ve loved their innovative take on epistolary-style storytelling.  This concluding volume brought all the previous strands together, and yes, I shed a tear or two.

Jodi Taylor’s AN ARGUMENTATION OF HISTORIANS: She’s 100% an autobuy author and I wasn’t disappointed with this book.  As always, her writing is rich in historical detail without compromising entertainment (honestly, I’ve learnt more history from her books than I did at school).  There’s some properly suspenseful moments in this book, balanced out with lovely touches on the relationships front.    Really satisfying, and one of my favourite books this year so far.

Eileen Wilks’s DRAGON BLOOD: Way too much info-dumping and introspection.  The story just about came together at the end, but this was really the second half to the previous book.  Both books could have been edited down into a single volume IMO.

Patricia Briggs’s BURN BRIGHT: Ah, I loved seeing Anna & Charles again.  And Leah was the proper revelation in this book.  A solid Briggs, so if you like her writing, you’d like this book; if you don’t, this isn’t going to change your mind.

Oh Hey

*dusts off blog*

Safe to say that I’ve had a rather hectic start to 2018, and the easiest thing for me to shelve (temporarily!) was blogging.  But the urge to blog hits me every now and again, and a couple of weeks ago, I was itching to write a post about all the good books I had read over the first couple of months of the year.  Then the Santino Hassell and Riptide Publishing mess came to light, and that kind of sapped all my blogging energies for a bit…

But it’s Easter and the start of a new quarter and technically spring (despite the freezing temperatures and pouring rain), so here’s some book-ish updates to ease back into  the blogging swing of things.

38201274I won an ARC of THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY anthology, edited by Stephanie Burgis and Tiffany Trent (out end April).  I loved the idea of a fantasy anthology centred around a real-life underwater ballroom (okay, a smoking room under a roof aquarium, but still) and it didn’t disappoint.

Standouts for me was Burgis’s own “Spellswept” (a prequel to her fantasy novella SNOWSPELLED – and just as charming), Ysabeau S. Wilce’s “The Queen of Life” (a haunting take on the world of the fae with a rock’n’roll flavour), Iona Datt Sharma’s “Penhallow Amid Passing Things” (what’s not to like about a genderbent tale about  age-old rivalry between smugglers and Revenue inspectors, with magic thrown in for good measure), and Patrick Samphire’s “A Spy in the Deep” (a whodunnit in a alt-hist Regency setting on Mars – I know and yes, it works).  There were others that I didn’t connect with as much, but overall, a strong anthology, and it introduced me to quite a few new-to-me authors that I’ll be looking up.

In other news, the 2018 Hugo nominations are also out!  I’m thrilled that Sarah Rees Brennan got a nod in the (not a Hugo) YA category for IN OTHER LANDS, which I utterly loved.

Other thoughts on the nominees:

Best Novel: I’ve enjoyed John Scalzi’s THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE, but in the way I’ve enjoyed all his books – they’re entertaining and fast-paced, and then I struggle to remember the actual plots a few weeks after.  I’ve the Yoon Ha Lee on my Kindle, waiting to be read, and I’ve been meaning to pick up both the Ann Leckie and NK Jemisin at some point.  I’ve heard of the other two nominees, but neither appealed – I may take a closer look.

Best Novella: Martha Wells appears to be getting a lot of love for ALL SYSTEMS RED – deservedly so!  I’ve always thought she flies under the radar somewhat.  On my to-read list is Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy (I think?) and the Sarah Gailey one.  Also tor.com is pretty much sweeping the nominations in this category, and it shows what can be done when a publisher really focuses on a particular length IMO.

Best Semiprozine: Hurrah for the Book Smugglers!

Best Series: Interesting.  I’m still not sure if this category is going to have the depth to stand the test of time, but again, good on Martha Wells for the Raksura series nomination.  I’ve given up on Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, but seeing that it’s seven books in and going strong, I’m probably in the minority.  Needless to say, I’m a Lois McMaster Bujold fan, so yay for the Chalion series getting some love. The first book of the Marie Brennan series is on my Kindle, so that may give me the nudge I need to start.   I’ve also not really been interested in the Brandon Sanderson books (this is very definitely a minority view) and the Robert Jackson Bennett series is only faintly on my radar, so perhaps I need to check them out.

Finally and more generally, I’m thrilled with the breadth and diversity shown in the nominations list.  Not all may be to my taste, but I’m starting to feel the Hugos are truly representing the SFF reading (and writing) population.

2017: Lists and Numbers

It’s only two weeks into 2018, and typing 2017 is starting to feel so old-school.  Or is that just me?

Before I bid a final farewell to the year, I wanted to log my annual reading stats for (online) posterity – here’s my 2017 in lists and numbers.

2017 new-to-me authors

I read a total of 36 new-to-me authors this year (up from 21 last year – go me!).  There’s nothing like discovering authors who write stuff that speaks to you, and here are the authors I’m really glad I discovered over the year:

Glynn Stewart: I read pretty much his entire backlist in the space of two months, and trust me, it was a sizeable list.  Plus his December release was one of my favourites of 2017.

Intisar Khanani, Kate Stradling, and WR Gingell: All of their books made (my version of) honourable mentions of 2017 – I’ve loved their take on the fantasy genre.

MCA Hogarth: Okay, I admit it – I was a bit lukewarm on the one book of hers I read in 2017.  Then I read the Her Instruments series (conveniently packaged in a box set) in the first week of the new year, and am now reading through her backlist.  Non-stop.

SK Dunstall: Another one of my 2017 honourable mentions, and seeing I read their books way back at the start of 2017, this author pairing doesn’t feel like a new-to-me one!

Tansy Rayner Roberts: I really enjoyed her SF gender-swapped interpretation of Three Musketeers.

Authors most glommed during 2017

Err… Glynn Stewart by a mile – I read 22 of his books over the year.  Ahem.  The fact his books are in Kindle Unlimited* definitely helped, but I would have probably one-clicked them anyway.

My second most-read author was Megan Derr – I read 12 of her books, mostly during the first quarter of the year, I think.

*I posted about my early experience with KU a month or so after I subscribed, but want to do a follow-up (including a proper cost-benefits analysis!) in a few months.  I read somewhere that KU is more about discovering new authors as opposed to reading old favourites, and I definitely see that happening.

And the numbers…

I read *drumroll* 192 books over 2017, which is by far the highest annual number of books that I’ve read for a while (I usually average around 150, with last year being even lower than usual).

Why the leap in volumes?  It’s not what I was expecting, especially as 2017 has been incredibly full-on (both good and not-so-good), and I’ve felt like I’ve been running on empty for a good few months of the year.  So perhaps there’s nothing like escaping into a make-believe world for a few hours.

For the record, just under half of the books I read last year were published before 2017 (hurrah for backlists!), and about 60% of books read were published via non-traditional channels (this is the exact opposite of 2016, when that percentage was 40%).

Breakdown of genre and numbers over 2017 (obviously it was the fourth quarter that made all the difference):

2017 1

I should say my fantasy/SF genre split is rather subjective, as quite a few authors appear to be writing fantasy disguised as SF – or vice versa…

Finally – here’s my 2017 compared to previous years:

2017 2

And that’s it!  I’ve managed to log all my books in Goodreads (majority sans any actual review (for now, anyway), but with a rating) so here’s the fancy Goodreads summary.

2017: My Favorite Books

Happy New Year everyone!

I’ve done my by-now traditional collation of reading stats – numbers to follow in a separate post, but I will say that despite everything (or perhaps because of) 2017 threw at me, I’ve read more books during the past year than I have in previous years.  By far.  Obviously, there’s nothing like comfort reading.

Having said that, the list of my favourite 2017 reads is shorter than previous years.  In no particular order, these were my very favourite books I read during the year:

Lucy Parker’s PRETTY FACE (contemporary romance): You know when you keep re-reading passages in a book because you really want to savour the words properly?  That was PRETTY FACE for me.  Her leads had an amazing connection with chemistry a-plenty, the dialogue sparkled, and the London setting rang so true.  Basically the perfect romance for me.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s IN OTHER LANDS (fantasy):  I loved this portal fantasy when she serialised it on her blog, and this polished and expanded version is even better.  There’s hidden depths underneath the trademark SRB snark, and social commentary and humour are combined with ease.  Elliot shines as the pacifist hero who grows up but never loses his sense of wonder.

CS Pacat’s THE ADVENTURES OF CHARLS, THE VERETIAN CLOTH MERCHANT (fantasy): Yes, it’s very much a short story (26 pages according to Goodreads), and no, it wouldn’t work for anyone who hasn’t read the Captive Prince trilogy.  But for those who have, this was the perfect capstone to the trilogy, packed full of humour and emotional pay-offs – Charls is the most excellent of narrators, and Laurent and Lamen are on form throughout.

Glynn Stewart’s OPERATION MEDUSA (SF): For an author I only discovered in October, I’ve done a really good job of flying through Glynn Stewart’s backlist (helped very much by Kindle Unlimited, I admit).  OPERATION MEDUSA was packed full of action and suspense, and ended his Castle Federation series in the most satisfying way.

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Ah, because that was such a short list, here are some other books/authors I had a lot of fun reading over 2017:

All of WR Gingell’s books, which is very much the kind of fantasy that appeals to me (intrepid yet sensible heroines, strong friendships, slow-burn romances… you know what I mean).  A few of her books that I liked especially: Shards of a Broken Swords trilogy, WOLFSKIN, and MASQUE.

Ditto for Kate Stradling – again, I read her entire backlist over 2017.  Specific recs: GOLDMAYNE, A FAIRY TALE (a take on a rather obscure fairytale), the duology A BOY CALLED HAWK and A RUMOR OF REAL IRISH TEA (inventive and twisty YA, give it a go even if you’ve been dystopian-ed out), and her Ruses duology (in theory standalone fantasy, but reading the first gives the second much more depth).

Another YA fantasy series I’ve enjoyed is Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt Chronicles – there’s two books so far.  The first is offered as a freebie now and again so keep an eye out for it, but be warned, it has a rather abrupt ending.  The second, MEMORIES OF ASH, is more of a complete story in itself, and I’m looking forward to the next book.

SK Dunstall’s Linesman books made up a really fun space opera trilogy, with intriguing world-building that hooked me from the start.  I read all three back-to-back, and wasn’t disappointed.

Sports romances are my catnip, and I’m loving the author pairing of Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.  Despite my initial misgivings about the title of the series, I’ve really liked GOOD BOY and STAY.

Last but not least, KJ Charles nailed it with SPECTRED ISLE, her M/M historical romance set in the aftermath of WWI.  She interweaves the paranormal with the ordinary so seamlessly, and always gets the period feel just right.

Playing Catch-Up: Books for October, November, and December

It has been a busy few months indeed.  But better late than never – here are the new releases for the last quarter of 2017 on my want list.  Brace yourselves, it’s a long post.

34670092Genevieve Cogman’s THE LOST PLOT (fantasy): I’m really excited about this one – I love the Invisible Library world and the stakes keep on getting higher in Irene’s adventures.

A covert mission
A royal demand
And a race against time

The fourth title in Genevieve Cogman’s witty and wonderful The Invisible Library series, The Lost Plot is an action-packed literary adventure.

In a 1930s-esque Chicago, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai find themselves trapped in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail and fiendish security systems. And if this doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences for Irene’s job. And, incidentally, for her life…

Out Dec 14

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36535656Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby’s MAN HANDS (contemporary romance): Sarina Bowen’s an autobuy author and I’m keen to see how this collaboration works out.

He puts the “screw” in screwball comedy…

BRYNN

At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls.

But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass.

Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer.

Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don’t expect me to actually go through with it.

TOM

All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life.

I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them.

But I will find her.

Out Dec 11

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34099086Sarina Bowen’s BOUNTIFUL (contemporary romance): She’s a rather prolific writer!  Despite the fact this came out in October, it’s still waiting for me on my Kindle – it’ll be a Christmas holiday read for me.

No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules.

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave No-Last-Name will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.

Out now

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35495782Santino Hassell’s CITYWIDE (contemporary romance): His Five Boroughs series brings New York City to life, and I’m always up for more.  Even though reading about a heatwave right now strikes me as particularly unseasonable.

A record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

Out now

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33020122Eloisa James’s WILDE IN LOVE (historical romance): While I’m not that into historical romance anymore, I’m still getting this one.  As bonus, Georgian historical!

Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.

Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . . .

The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!

Out now

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35722751Elizabeth Wein’s COBALT SQUADRON (SF): How cool is this – Elizabeth Wein writing a Star Wars graphic novel!  Obviously timed to coincide with the release of The Last Jedi (yes, I’ve already bought my tickets…).

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire) journeys to a galaxy far, far away to bring readers the harrowing story of the courageous bomber pilots and technicians of Cobalt Squadron!

Out Dec 15

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17312145Tamora Pierce’s TORTALL: A SPY’S GUIDE (fantasy): Not quite a new Tortall book (that’s next year!), but I caved and bought this hardcover.  And I don’t regret it one bit.  This is only a must-have if you’re a Tortall fan, but if you know one, it’s the perfect Christmas present.

The secrets of Tortall are revealed. . . .

As Tortall’s spymaster, George Cooper has sensitive documents from all corners of the realm. When Alanna sends him a surprising letter, he cleans out his office and discovers letters from when King Jonathan and Queen Thayet first ascended the throne, notes on creating the Shadow Service of spies, threat-level profiles on favorite characters, Daine’s notes on immortals, as well as family papers, such as Aly’s first report as a young spy and Neal’s lessons with the Lioness. This rich guide also includes the first official timeline of Tortallan events from when it became a sovereign nation to the year Aly gives birth to triplets. Part history, part spy training manual, and entirely fascinating, this beautiful guide makes a perfect gift and is ideal for anyone who loves Alanna, King Jonathan, Queen Thayet, Kel, Neal, Aly, Thom, Daine, Numair, and the unforgettable world of Tortall!

Out now

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36103416Jodi Taylor’s CHRISTMAS PAST (fantasy): It may only be a short story, but I adore her St Mary’s books.  A Christmas Day treat!

Max, Leon and Matthew – together at last for Christmas at St Mary’s – a time of conspicuous consumption, riotous misbehaviour and the traditional illegal Christmas jump. And this time, it’s inter-generational.

Donning her unfamiliar mother hat, Max takes Matthew back to 19th century London, where they plan to deliver a parcel of Christmas cheer to his former friends, but find themselves confronting the terrifying Old Ma Scrope in the process.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

It’s also the season of goodwill towards all mankind.

Pity no one told Max.

Out Dec 25

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33798968Josh Lanyon’s THE GHOST HAD A EARLY CHECK-OUT (romance): Another Christmas Day treat perhaps?  I can’t quite remember the first book, so may do a re-read ahead of this release.

Sequel to The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks

To live and draw in L.A.

Now living in Los Angeles with former navy SEAL Nick Reno, artist Perry Foster comes to the rescue of elderly and eccentric Horace Daly, the legendary film star of such horror classics as Why Won’t You Die, My Darling?

Horace owns the famous, but now run-down, Hollywood hotel Angels Rest, rumored to be haunted. But as far as Perry can tell, the scariest thing about Angels Rest is the cast of crazy tenants–one of whom seems determined to bring down the final curtain on Horace–and anyone else who gets in the way.

Out Dec 25

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And then the longlist of ones that are maybes (as well as the ones that I’ve read and am lukewarm about):

Melissa Caruso’s THE TETHERED MAGE (fantasy): I’ve read so many good reviews of this debut.  Perhaps one to try and get from the library.

KJ Charles’s AN UNSUITABLE HEIR (historical romance): KJ Charles is an autobuy author, but the romance in this final book in her Sins of the Cities trilogy wasn’t entirely successful for me.  I really love the diverse historical backdrops in her books though.

Ginn Hale’s THE LONG PAST & OTHER STORIES (fantasy): I’d get this if I wasn’t on a short story buying ban.  I have so many half-finished anthologies and collections that I’m trying out a one-out one-in thing – let’s see how successful I am…

THE BOOK OF SWORDS, edited by Gardner Dozois (fantasy): Speaking of anthologies, here’s another one I kind of want.  I’ve a soft spot for the sword & sorcery kind of fantasy, and there’s a Kate Elliott in here.

INFINITE STARS, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (SF): And I may as well list the final anthology I want.  This one is space opera and military SF – so another subgenre I love.  I think this one is mostly previously-published short stories though.

Jen Frederick’s PLAYED (NA romance): I’ll get this once I’m all caught up with the series.  I adored the romance in the first book, but the second one is still sitting unread on my Kindle.

Santino Hassell’s OVERSIGHT and SIGHTLINES (paranormal romance): I wasn’t won over by the first in this trilogy, but I still have books two and three sitting on my Kindle.

Lynn Kurland’s THE DREAMER’S SONG (fantasy romance): I’ve learnt to wait until Kurland finishes the three-book arc within the series before picking up the books as she’s a habit of cliffhanger-ish endings.  By my count, this is book two, so I’m waiting until next year’s release.

Alexis Hall’s HOW TO BLOW IT WITH A BILLIONAIRE (contemporary romance): I’m slightly torn on this one – again, it’s book two of three, and the author has warned that that the HEA is only in book three.  I’ll probably wait until the final book, and read both at the same time.

Tammara Webber’s BRAVE (NA romance): Is it just me or has it been a while since the last new Webber novel?  I didn’t love the last in this series, but I’ll keep an eye out for this.

And that’s it!  I’m all caught up now – well, until 2018…

Kindle Unlimited: My Impressions and a Couple of Recs

If you’re in the UK, I’ve just noticed that Amazon’s offering a free three-month subscription to Kindle Unlimited as part of their Black Friday deals.  It’s normally a one-month trial, so definitely worth considering if you’ve been curious about KU.

I’ve always wondered if an £8/month subscription was worth it, bearing in mind most KU books are self-pubbed and go for between £2-3 anyway.  I had a free two-month trial offer via email the other day, and that finally persuaded me to sign up.

I can now say it was an unequivocal yes for me (and no, this post is not sponsored by Amazon nor are there any affiliate links).  I did do some research (because I’m a geek like that) to confirm that there were KU books that I was interested in before hitting the Subscribe button – to save you some time, here are a couple of authors I would recommend.

9325172Kate Stradling: I discovered her books when I stumbled across her Ruses duology earlier this year.  I loved her voice, and what’s not to like about charming YA fantasies with a satisfying romance?

So I took advantage of the fact that all her books are in KU, and found myself racing through A BOY CALLED HAWK and its sequel, A RUMOUR OF REAL IRISH TEA – these are futuristic YA, so completely different to the previous books, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.  And I would also rec her newest portal fantasy, NAMESAKE, and her take on a lesser-known fairytale in GOLDMAYNE.  So basically all her books.  (Even if you don’t have a KU subscription, her books are really reasonably priced between £0.99 and £2.)

30966931Glynn Stewart: I’ll be honest – at the moment, he is probably the entire reason why my KU subscription has been worth it.  His books sit in on the border between military SF and space opera (with some fantasy mixed in, depending on the series), which is exactly the kind of SF that appeals to me.

I’ve read around 15 of his books to date – seeing that they retail for around £3 each, it’s probably covered my subscription costs for the next few months.  Ironically, the first book of his that I read (STARSHIP MAGE) was by far the weakest – I’m glad that didn’t put me off, because the series gets stronger and stronger, and both the Duchy of Terra and Castle Federation series have been excellent from the start.

As you can probably tell from my not-so-mini glom, his books are addictive page-turners, so much so that I always ensured the next book in the series was downloaded to my Kindle (you can borrow up to ten KU books at any one time, btw).  His books are faintly reminiscent of Marko Kloos with some excellent space battle scenes and characters that really grow on you (though again like Kloos, I am on the fence about the romance threads in his books – I’m picky!).

Any of your favourite authors in KU?  I admit I’ve not really paid any attention to which authors do KU before, so I’d love to get more recs!  Also, shout if you’ve any KU questions, I’m happy to try and answer them.

(Belated) Books for September

Well, September totally escaped me.  (I’ll probably get to the end of December and be like “what happened to 2017…”.)  Here were the new releases in September that I wanted to get (and mostly got)

34913546Stephanie Burgis’s SNOWSPELLED (fantasy romance): I’ve a couple of Stephanie Burgis’s books on my TBR pile, but haven’t quite gotten around to them yet.  However, I convinced myself that I could make time for a (long-ish) novella and wasn’t disappointed – SNOWSPELLED is a satisfying alt-historical fantasy romance, with some clever reworking of historical romance tropes.  It’s the first in a series, and I’m definitely picking up the next one.

In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules…

Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults from the author of Kat, Incorrigible, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets.

Out now

*

23383896Seanan McGuire’s THE BRIGHTEST FELL (urban fantasy): Once upon a time, I’d haunt the bookstores a couple of weeks before release date, hoping to stumble across an early copy of the latest Toby Daye book.  While this isn’t necessarily the case anymore, this is still one of my favourite UF series, and Seanan McGuire has delivered another solid installment for the longtime reader.

For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better.

Maybe not.

Because suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors.

Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option.

Out now

*

35911393Sarina Bowen and Sarah Mayberry’s TEMPORARY (contemporary romance): I’m a bit off contemp romance at the moment, but this collaboration sounds great and is going on my to-buy list.

The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen is the one who can ruin everything…

The first time I lay eyes on Callan Walker, I know he’ll be trouble. With his smug grin, hot Aussie accent and thousand dollar shoes, he’s just the kind of rich guy who always gets what he wants.

And he wants two things: a night of sin, and my cooperation as he outmaneuvers his powerful mother to take control of his uncle’s estate.

I can’t afford either one. I’m the only thing standing between my little sister and the foster care system. He may have money and charm on his side, but I have something even more powerful — pure desperation. This temp job at his mother’s company can become a full time job for me. It has to.

But when Callan’s eyes rake over my body, sometimes I forget my obligations. His piercing gaze finds the fun, optimistic girl I used to be and not the tired person I’ve become.

And it works–if only for a moment. Our night together was a mistake. I can’t afford to get sucked into his high-powered family’s treachery. But the closer I get to Callan, the more layers I find beneath those expensive clothes. Though I can’t forget this is temporary. He’s temporary. I have too much to lose.

Too bad my foolish heart didn’t get the memo…

Out now

*

32991569Kristin Cashore’s JANE, UNLIMITED (fantasy?): According to Goodreads, this is YA fantasy/mystery – who knows?  The blurb leaves it pretty ambiguous.  Anyway, Kristin Cashore has written some of my favourite YA fantasy books, and a new book from her is always a cause for celebration.

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

Out now

*

32919683Catherine Asaro’s THE BRONZE SKIES (SF): I’ve been a fan of Catherine Asaro’s Skolian books since forever, though I didn’t really care for the first in this spin-off series (possibly because it was a revised and extended version of an older novella, and it showed).  I’m glad to report I enjoyed this one better – while not quite vintage Asaro, it had strong worldbuilding and the mystery kept me absorbed.

Major Bhaajan achieved the impossible. Born Undercity, the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, she broke free to become a military officer with Imperial Space Command. Now retired from military duty, she works as a private investigator on retainer to the Majda Family.

Hired by The Ruby Pharaoh herself, Major Bhaajan is tasked with finding a killer. But this is no ordinary murderer. The Ruby Pharaoh witnessed a Jagernaut cut down Assembly Councilor Tap Benton—which shouldn’t have been possible. The Jagernauts are the elite of the elite soldiers in the Imperial Space Command. What’s more, the spinal node implanted in all Jagernauts should have prevented the murder. But the Ruby Pharaoh is sure of what she saw, and she has reason to believe that the Jagernaut will kill again.

Now, Major Bhaajan must hunt down a killer before it is too late. To do so, she must return to the one place on Raylicon she knows best: Undercity.

Out now

*

35516086Jodi Taylor’s WHITE SILENCE (suspense): I discovered Jodi Taylor last year, pretty much raced through her backlist, and am now snapping up her new releases, even when it’s branded a “supernatural thriller”, which isn’t exactly my thing.  This one’s waiting for me on my Kindle.

“I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I am.” 

Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.

What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control.

When her husband dies, Elizabeth’s world descends into a nightmare. But as she tries to piece her life back together, she discovers that not everything is as it seems.

Alone in a strange and frightening world, she’s a vulnerable target to forces beyond her control.

And she knows that she can’t trust anyone…

White Silence is a twisty supernatural thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Out now

And my maybes:

Weekend Links

31944679A random collection of links for your weekend reading:

Lady Business interviews Kate Elliott.  It’s a nice in-depth interview.  I am slowly making my way through Kate Elliott’s backlist, but that may take a few more years.

Sarah Rees Brennan talks about the changes she made when revising her TURN OF THE STORY serial to become IN OTHER LANDS.  Which, by the way, is very definitely one of my favourite books of 2017, so much so that I’m seriously considering shelling out for a hardcover version to grace my shelves.

I re-read Mary Stewart’s THE IVY TREE earlier this year (I think, the months have flown past) and re-confirmed its place as one of my favourite Stewarts.  This was a lovely review of the book.

Non book-related, but I found this fascinating: Anne Helen Peterson wrote about how she goes about writing celebrity profiles.  And here’s the resulting Charlize Theron profile, if you’re interested.