Weekend Links

I had forgotten it was WorldCon this weekend (or a whole year since LonCon3!).  I didn’t pay much attention to the Hugo award shortlists this year – with the Sad/Rabid Puppies pushing full slates, I was much more interested in the Hugo longlists, which have just been released (pdf link).

20518872I’ve to admit the Best Novel longlist didn’t really excite me.  Of the books I haven’t already read, I have Cixin Liu‘s THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM on my Kindle (free via the Amazon Kindle for Samsung programme), John Scalzi‘s LOCK IN doesn’t really appeal (though I’ve his newest THE END OF ALL THINGS also on my Kindle – I couldn’t resist the £2.99 price point), and I DNF’d Andy Weir‘s THE MARTIAN (I know, sorry).  I’ve heard good things about Robert Jackson Bennett‘s CITY OF STAIRS though, so I may see if my library has it.

I don’t have much to say about the rest of the awards (apart from good result?), though I’m really pleased Julie Dillon won Best Professional Artist – love her art.

A few other (non-related) links that caught my attention recently-ish:

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Books for August

August appears to be an seriously good month for new releases.  And I mean seriously.

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25635416Rachel Aaron‘s ONE GOOD DRAGON DESERVES ANOTHER (UF): The second in Rachel Aaron’s self-pubbed series was released last weekend, and I’ve already read it.  I didn’t love it as much as the first book, if I’m honest – the plot setup felt overly-complicated to me and the pacing slightly off in places.  A lack of tension, perhaps?  Good action set pieces though.

After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

Refusal to play along with his mother’s plans means death, but there’s more going on than even Bethesda knows, and with Estella back in the game with a vengeance, Heartstriker futures disappearing, and Algonquin’s dragon hunter closing in, the stakes are higher than even a seer can calculate. But when his most powerful family members start dropping like flies, it falls to Julius to defend the clan that never respected him and prove that, sometimes, the world’s worst dragon is the best one to have on your side.

Out now

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23590296ML Brennan‘s DARK ASCENSION (UF): One of the stronger UF series at the moment, IMO.  I stumbled across an early copy at my local bookstore and snapped it up.  I felt that this one had more romance in the mix, and less of the internal family politicking and secrets that really intrigued me in the earlier books.  It was a good installment in the series, but there was nothing unexpected in how the plot unfolded, if that makes sense.  Or maybe I’m just being hard to please.

As the “wickedly clever” (Publishers Weekly) series continues, reluctant, slacker vampire Fortitude Scott learns that nothing is more important than family—or more deadly….

After a lifetime of avoiding his family, Fort has discovered that working for them isn’t half bad—even if his mother, Madeline, is a terrifying, murderous vampire. His newfound career has given him a purpose and a paycheck and has even helped him get his partner, foxy kitsune Suzume, to agree to be his girlfriend. All in all, things are looking up.

Only, just as Fort is getting comfortable managing a supernatural empire that stretches from New Jersey to Ontario, Madeline’s health starts failing, throwing Fort into the middle of an uncomfortable and dangerous battle for succession. His older sister, Prudence, is determined to take over the territory. But Fort isn’t the only one wary of her sociopathic tendencies, and allies, old and new, are turning to him to keep Prudence from gaining power.

Now, as Fort fights against his impending transition into vampire adulthood, he must also battle to keep Prudence from destroying their mother’s kingdom—before she takes him down with it….

Out now

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17333171Ilona AndrewsMAGIC SHIFTS (UF): This is next up on my reading list!  It’s always nice to return to Kate and Curran.

In the latest Kate Daniels novel from #1 New York Timesbestselling author Ilona Andrews, magic is coming and going in waves in post-Shift Atlanta—and each crest leaves danger in its wake…

After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece…

Out now

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18126966Lisa Kleypas‘s BROWN-EYED GIRL (contemporary romance): It feels like it’s been forever since my last Kleypas.  I stopped reading her recent Friday Harbour books because the magical realism elements didn’t work for me, but I’m all for a return to her Travis family.  Plus she has a new historical(!) coming out soon.

Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn’t believe in love–at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can’t resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.

After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can’t afford distractions. She’s been hired to plan the wedding of the year–a make-or-break event.

But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he’s not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.

The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything–including her well-guarded heart–will she find out what matters most.

Out Aug 11

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23834716KJ CharlesA FASHIONABLE INDULGENCE (M/M romance): KJ Charles is so an auto-buy author for me.  I’d read anything she writes.  Plus I adored the short story that’s set in the same world as this book, so really, a no-brainer.

In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation.
 
When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.

After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.

Out Aug 11

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18068907Kate Elliott‘s COURT OF FIVES (YA fantasy): I’m still making my way through Kate Elliott’s backlist, but this one sounds like a total winner.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test Kal’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Out Aug 18

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23601046Aliette de Bodard‘s THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS (fantasy): Aliette de Bodard’s a new-to-me author, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about her writing.  And the fact that “murder mystery” is mentioned in the first sentence below tipped the balance for me.

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

Out Aug 20

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23006161Kelley Armstrong‘s DECEPTIONS (urban fantasy): I’ve really enjoyed Kelley Armstrong’s previous two Cainsville books, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she wraps the story up.  Ummm… assuming this is a trilogy.

TRUST NO ONE

Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she has begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust, in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow?

RISK EVERYTHING

Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that want to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side.

FACE THE TRUTH

Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

Out Aug 20

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25912719CHARMED AND DANGEROUS (M/M paranormal romance anthology): This sounds like a whole load of fun, with an amazing line-up of authors – KJ Charles (see above), Jordan Castillo Price, Ginn Hale, Astrid Amara… to name but a few.  An excellent way to round off the month.

Magic takes many forms. From malignant hexes to love charms gone amok, you’ll find a vast array of spells and curses, creatures and conjurings in this massive collection—not to mention a steamy dose of man-on-man action. Charmed and Dangerous features all-new stories of gay paranormal romance, supernatural fiction and urban fantasy by ten top m/m paranormal authors.

Out Aug 25

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Recent Summer Reading

So it’s still technically summer, though the British weather appears to think otherwise.  The summer lull has meant that I’ve flown through quite a few books recently – here are some of them.

25686927I bought Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy‘s HIM as soon as it arrived on the virtual shelves, and they totally hit it out of the park (or whatever the relevant hockey analogy is) with Wes and Jamie’s story.  It was funny and sexy and really, the perfect “best friends to lovers” romance.  Loved the sports/summer camp angle, the supporting characters (I’m kind of hoping for a sequel for a couple of them now), and the relatively low level of angst (I know – I surprise myself).  One of my favourites of the year, most definitely.

25777000On the fantasy romance side, I tried a new-to-me author, Melissa McShane‘s SERVANT OF THE CROWN, after reading Sherwood Smith’s review (the pretty cover didn’t hurt either).  This wasn’t an entirely successful read for me.  I loved the protagonist’s passion for books, and which reader could hate a plot that centres around a library, right?  However, I found the prose a bit clunky (continual mentions of how Alison turned blotchy when embarrassed or how she freezes up when complimented on her beauty started jarring after a while), and the world-building was kind of sketchy.  There were hints of some really interesting bits, for example, I’d loved to have seen a bit more about how family bonds influenced history and society, but on the whole, everything felt a bit wallpaper-y.  I’ll still try another book by McShane though.

25090918And libraries appear to be the new thing in fantasy – I also read Rachel Caine‘s INK AND BONE, which is the start of a new series (trilogy?) set in an alternate-history version of our world, where original printed versions of books are incredibly rare (also see Genevieve Cogman‘s THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY, which I thoroughly enjoyed).  I hesitated over picking up INK AND BONE because my experience with Caine’s previous works is that she loves her cliffhangers, but eventually caved, because well, LIBRARIES.  And this was a good adventure romp, with some magic and err… library-ing packed in for good measure.  I thought the world she created was really imaginative – Jess, the main protagonist, is a book smuggler-turned-scholar trainee, who’s trying to get a place at the Great Library of Alexandria. Academy-type stories are like my catnip, and this was one of them.  The weakest element for me was Jess’s eventual romance (I’m picky!) – it was a bit insta-love to me, and I much preferred the friendships that developed over the course of the book.  But I’m looking forward to see where the story goes next.

So that’s me – how’s your summer reading going?

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Books for July

Can I say that July’s flown by?  That’ll be my excuse for posting this new releases post in the second half of the month.  They’re good books, though.

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18775818Manna FrancisBLOOD & CIRCUSES (M/M paranormal romance): I was dancing around with delight when I heard there was going to be a new Administration book.  The Administration series is this online M/M futuristic/dystopian romance series, which is available for free online, but the stories have also been released for sale.  I devoured this series when I first stumbled upon it – this wasn’t exactly your standard everyday dystopian romance.  The last installment left the protagonists in a pretty good place, and I honestly thought the series had come to an end.  So this is fantastic news.  The not-so-great news is that the ebook is only coming out next year (I think), so I may bite the bullet and order the paperback.  Or I could re-read the first seven books in preparation for this…

It’s set to be a busy autumn in New London and beyond. With the ripples of the revolt still running through the European Administration, Val Toreth is slowly settling into the new flat he shares with Keir Warrick. But on orders from the very highest levels of the Administration, Toreth finds himself leaving his regular beat far behind and heading over the Atlantic to Washington D.C. Without his usual team or his authority as a Para-investigator to back him up, Toreth is caught up in a world of politics, diplomacy, and religion far outside his experience. Worst of all, he’s stuck with an unexpected and very unwanted companion on his trip. Can he keep his cool and win through when international reputations are on the line?

Back in New London, Investigator Barret-Connor is called on to deal with a case that lies outside the traditional areas of interest of the Investigation and Interrogation Division–the unexpectedly dangerous world of Europe’s music corporations. With dark secrets hidden behind the PR-groomed public façade, both his professional skills and conscience will be tested.

The eighth book in the Administration series contains the novellasInnocent Blood and For Your Entertainment, and continues the lives of now partially domesticated Para-investigator Val Toreth and somewhat harried corporate director Keir Warrick.

Out now

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16045315Miranda Kenneally‘s JESSE’S GIRL (YA romance): Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series is an auto-buy for me.  I’ve read JESSE’S GIRL and talked a bit about it last week.  This wasn’t my favourite of all her books, but one consistent thing that I do like about Kenneally’s books is how her protagonists aren’t always rich and privileged.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Out now

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25719764Sean Kennedy‘s TIGERS ON THE RUN (M/M romance): Another sequel I never really expected to see, and another one I’m delighted to see released. I adored the first book, TIGERS AND DEVILS, when I read it five(!) years ago – it’s a heart-warming sports romance (with an excellent snarky narrator), with an Aussie setting that comes to life. I’m reading TIGERS ON THE RUN right now, and seeing Simon and Dec again is a whole load of fun.

Young Australian Micah Johnson is the first AFL player to be out at the beginning of his career. Retired professional football player Declan Tyler mentors Micah, but he finds it difficult, as Micah is prone to making poor life choices that land him in trouble. Nothing Dec can’t handle. He’s been there, done that, more times than he’d like to admit. Being Simon Murray’s partner all these years has Dec quite experienced in long-suffering and mishaps.

As usual, Simon thinks everything is going along just fine until his assistant, Coby, tells him a secret involving an old nemesis. Simon and Dec’s problems mash together, and to solve them, they must undertake a thousand-kilometer round trip in which issues will have to be sorted out, apologies are finally given, and a runaway kid is retrieved and returned to his worried parents.

Out now

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16278318Ernest Cline‘s ARMADA (SF): Some people loved Ernest Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE, others thought it was an over-hyped piece of 1980’s nostalgia.  I fell firmly into the loved-it camp, so ARMADA is definitely on my to-buy list.

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Out now

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25686927Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy‘s HIM (M/M new adult romance): I’m always up for a surprise release by two of my favourite authors (yes, I got around to reading Elle Kennedy’s NAs and am now stalking her updates for when the next book will come out).  I’ve heard good things about this one.

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

Out July 28

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Summer Reading

Oh, hey. *dusts off blog*

Actual summer weather combined with Wimbledon = not enough time to blog.  But I’ve some time to kill before the women’s final starts, so here are a few books I’ve read recently – no real standouts unfortunately.  Or maybe I’ve just been grumpy.

16045315Miranda Kenneally‘s JESSE’S GIRL: Enjoyable fluff.  Very enjoyable, mind, but also total fluff.  I was expecting a bit more after last year’s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (one of my 2014 favourites), so a bit of a letdown.  It reminded me a bit of Jennifer Echols’ BIGGEST FLIRTS (which I read last year).  That was also a sweet and fun YA romance, but with no surprises plot-wise.  I’ve been wondering if I’m expecting too much from YA romance though – I’d probably have loved both these books as a teen, so is it fair for me to be judging these through an adult lens now?

16096824Sarah J Maas‘s A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES: An impulse borrow from the library, as I hadn’t really cared for her debut, but this turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing fantasy that stitches together various fairy tales to come up with something a bit more modern, if not exactly unique.  There’s not much depth in world-building nor in characterisation, and it took me a while to settle into the book.  But things got better as the story progressed, and I needed to know how things would end.  There’s something about Feyre and her story that makes me think this would appeal to those who’ve liked Anne Bishop’s recent books.

23305614Sophie Kinsella‘s FINDING AUDREY: Another library borrow, as I wasn’t entirely sure I’d love a Kinsella YA, and this was probably a good call.  Kinsella’s well-known for her chick-lit… and this was YA chick-lit style.  One I’d recommend for a light beach read, but I never really connected with Audrey and her family.  I adore the cover though.

23403402VE Schwab‘s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC: I’d been hearing good things about this fantasy, and grabbed the Kindle edition when it was on sale recently.  I loved the concept of alternate-Londons, but again, never quite connected with the protagonists.  It’s also a bit on the grimdark side, which is not a mood I particularly care for.  I’m on the fence as to whether I’d pick up the next book.

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Links on a Drizzly Saturday

Despite the lack of sunshine, it’s definitely summer – or rather, that time of year when live tennis is on (free-to-air) TV.  Hence the sparseness of posts around here, which will likely continue for the next few weeks.

But it’s pouring drizzly and the tennis has stopped for the day, so a few links…

Rosie Claverton‘s post on notes she gets from her editor makes me smile – “what’s a chav” indeed.  One thing I really like about her Amy Lane mystery series is the sense of place I get from her writing, so it’s interesting to see some of the questions her (American) editor asks.

I thought this was an insightful post on female writers in fantasy by Tansy Rayner Roberts @ SF Signal.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt the lack of female fantasy authors myself – at least half, if not more, of the SFF books on my shelves are by female authors.  I sometimes wonder if that’s also because I read a lot of romance, which is so female-dominated.

Heartstrikers2-1000Not exactly breaking news, but it’s a pretty cover – Rachel Aaron‘s cover for her upcoming ONE GOOD DRAGON DESERVES ANOTHER.  I found the first book a whole load of fun, so this one’s definitely on my to-buy list.

Also, she posted her (or rather, her husband’s) number-crunching on reader retention rates across a series, which was interesting – not least because it backed up her viewpoint of “the first book sells the second, but the second sells the series”.

As a reader, I think that’s pretty accurate – the first book in a series needs to be strong in order to get me to pick up the second, but by the end of the second book, I’m either invested in the characters or not.  And if I am, then I really want to know what happens next.

Having said that, I do think my reading habits have changed over the years – it used to be really difficult for me to stop reading a series (the row of Laurell K Hamilton and Janet Evanovich books occupying prime bookshelf space being an excellent example of that).  Nowadays, I’m quite happy to abandon series halfway if the books aren’t living up to my expectations.  Any thoughts on this?

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Books for June

June!  New books!  Need I say more.

Well, yes, actually, because I seem to have come out of my reading slump, and have been reading.  I hesitate to say that I’m reading a lot (pesky things like sleep and work are still getting in the way), but despite the fact it’s only the second week of June, I’ve finished reading quite a few new releases here.

22750124Martha WellsSTORIES OF THE RAKSURA VOLUME 2 (fantasy): This is Martha Wells’ second collection of novellas/short stories set in her Raksura world.  I loved this trilogy when I finally got around to reading these books last year (they were in my 2014 favourites) and I was delighted to hear that she was continuing to write more stories in the same universe.  This is one of the books I’ve raced through, and it may sound weird as they’re new-to-me stories, but they’re almost like comfort reads.  She delivers exactly what you’re expecting – there are no surprises, and I mean that in a good way.

Moon, Jade, and other favorites from the Indigo Cloud Court return with two new novellas from Martha Wells.

Martha Wells continues to enthusiastically ignore genre conventions in her exploration of the fascinating world of the Raksura. Her novellas and short stories contain all the elements fans have come to love from the Raksura books: courtly intrigue and politics, unfolding mysteries that reveal an increasingly strange wider world, and threats both mundane and magical.

“The Dead City” is a tale of Moon before he came to the Indigo Court. As Moon is fleeing the ruins of Saraseil, a groundling city destroyed by the Fell, he flies right into another potential disaster when a friendly caravanserai finds itself under attack by a strange force. In “The Dark Earth Below,” Moon and Jade face their biggest adventure yet; their first clutch. But even as Moon tries to prepare for impending fatherhood, members of the Kek village in the colony tree’s roots go missing, and searching for them only leads to more mysteries as the court is stalked by an unknown enemy.

Stories of Moon and the shape changers of Raksura have delighted readers for years. This world is a dangerous place full of strange mysteries, where the future can never be taken for granted and must always be fought for with wits and ingenuity, and often tooth and claw. With these two new novellas, Martha Wells shows that the world of the Raksura has many more stories to tell…

Out now

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24397828Nalini Singh‘s SHARDS OF HOPE (paranormal romance): I was debating whether this book was a buy or borrow, right up to the last moment when I caved and bought the Kindle version.  And yes, I’ve read it.  I haven’t loved her more recent Psy-Changeling books (hence the internal debate), but I thought this was the best one since the Hawke/Sienna book (which was, gosh, published back in 2011 – time flies).  There was quite a bit of repetition and the story felt a bit padded out, I thought the level of violence was slightly OTT, but I liked Aden and Zaira’s story more than I thought I would.

Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn’t welcome outsiders.

And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she’s too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what.

This time, even Aden’s passionate determination may not be enough – because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken . . . like Zaira.

Rich, dark, sumptuous and evocative . . . bestselling author Nalini Singh is back with a stunning, dark and passionate new tale.

Out now

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25395582Sherwood Smith‘s LHIND THE SPY (YA fantasy): Sequel to her LHIND THE THIEF (which I’ve read – no idea why I haven’t reviewed it).  I’m reading this right now, and it’s actually taking some discipline to write this blog post as opposed to continuing with Lhind’s adventures.  Lots of fun so far.

In this sequel to Lhind the Thief, Lhind has gone from castoffs to silks, back alleys to palace halls—and is not having an easy time of it. That’s before she’s snatched by an angry prince she’d robbed twice, who is determined to turn her over to the enemy who frightens her most, the sinister Emperor Jardis Dhes-Andis.

When her own dear Hlanan comes to rescue her, it’s Lhind who has to do the rescuing, setting off a wild chase to fend off mercenaries and then to confront an entire army intent on invasion.

Lhind and Hlanan try to negotiate the perilous waters of a relationship while on the run—straight into a trap.

Just when Lhind is beginning to figure out where she might fit into the world, she finds herself alone again, surrounded by enemies, in one of the most dangerous courts in the world.

And she begins to find out who she really is.

Out now

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24684698KJ Charles‘ THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL (M/M historical romance): I’ll buy anything KJ Charles writes. ‘Nuff said.

A story too secret, too terrifying—and too shockingly intimate—for Victorian eyes.

A note to the Editor

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide.

You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.

I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell
September 1914

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And then my maybes/library requests:

  • Erika Johansen‘s THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING (YA fantasy): Probably a library request.  I read the first book last year – thought it was a decent start, though over-hyped.
  • Garth Nix‘s TO HOLD THE BRIDGE (fantasy): A collection of his short stories.  I’ve read a few of his books (and liked), but have a few more unread on my Kindle – another one for the library.
  • Ashley Gardner‘s MURDER MOST HISTORICAL (mystery): Another collection of short stories.  I’ve liked her Captain Lacey historical mysteries (hey, I’ve read all nine of them), so I’ll get this at some point
  • Mary Balogh‘s ONLY A PROMISE (historical romance): I’ve requested this from the library.
  • Sophie Kinsella‘s FINDING AUDREY (YA): Ditto.  I’ve had good times reading her more recent releases, but I’m not entirely sure I want to splash out on a Kinsella hardcover, especially for her first(?) YA.

 

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Random Links (and a Pretty Cover)

How in the world is it June already?  Though to be fair – I’m still wearing my winter(!) coat, so it doesn’t actually feel like summer right now.

Right, obligatory weather update done – here are a few links…

TanglewaysAndrea K Höst posted a new Julie Dillon cover – TANGLEWAYS (the sequel to her alternate-history fantasy THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON) is out next year. Pretty.

Everyone’s heard about John Scalzi and his $3.4m 13-book 10-year deal, right?  I found this interview with him at the Washington Post a fairly comprehensive read (in addition to the posts on his own blog) – apart from the deal, he touches upon the outcome of the digital publishing experiment where he released one of his books as an e-serial last year.

One of the things that we saw is that it didn’t really have an effect on the sales of the hardcover that we could see. […] So what we actually found, we sold hundreds of thousands of individual copies of the episodes of “The Human Division.” And then when the book came out, the book sold exactly in line with previous “Old Man’s War” books. So we didn’t lose any readers. We didn’t cannibalize our readership in any significant way as far as we could see. So that was a really useful insight: There are distinct markets if you take the time to address them.

When the deal was announced, there was some talk about his backlist sales being consistently strong even if he’s never been been a #1 bestseller – i.e. when people discover his books, they tend to buy his entire backlist.  I’m more on the fence on this – while I’ve enjoyed reading his SF novels, I’ve never felt the need to read every single book he’s written.  I feel that way about several other authors – I read one of their books, wonder why I’ve not read more of their backlist, and then never actually bother to get any other books of theirs…

Spoilers for Sarah Rees Brennan‘s THE DEMON’S LEXICON (though it came out in 2009, so I’m assuming the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired? Right?) – she talks about Nick’s gender and sexuality at her Tumblr.  Interesting stuff.

And Rachel Aaron talks about her RT convention experience as a non-romance author.  Maybe I’m not reading the right blogs (or following the right people on Twitter!), but I didn’t really feel as much RT buzz as I have in previous years.  Which is kind of good, because I’d usually be dying of envy.  Any good RT recaps, anyone?

 

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Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED

Sometimes all you need is a really good book to get you out of a reading slump.

I’ve been seeing mentions of Naomi Novik‘s new fantasy release around the blogosphere, but wasn’t that interested because I haven’t been that convinced by the more recent installations of her Temeraire series and wasn’t sure if UPROOTED would be worth the hardcover price.

But I just so happened to be in a bookstore the other weekend, and they had UPROOTED on their display stands.  The cover caught my attention (I admit to an unashamed bias towards the UK cover) and so I flipped it over and read the back cover blurbs.  Guess what sold me?

Uprooted Back

 

So – I’m a sucker for pretty covers and blurbs from my favourite authors… sounds about right.  I’ve been caught out before, but this time around, both were reliable predictors of a really good read.

Uprooted-The back cover description:

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

This was basically one of those books I gulped down, staying up very late to finish “just one more chapter…”.  Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED is that rare thing in today’s fantasy – a wonderful standalone novel that leaves you completely satisfied at the last page.

The story drew me in from the first, right from the point the Dragon made his surprising choice, and I was enthralled all the way to the end.  Novik manages to make UPROOTED feel familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time.  It was familiar enough that I had enough of an inkling as to how Agnieska’s story would unfold, but the various twists and turns – both in terms of plot and characterisation – kept this from being a tale I’ve read before.  The final reveal and eventual resolution managed to be both unexpected yet logical, tying together all the various hints dropped throughout.

[Slight spoilers follow]

I so appreciated the strong female characters in this book here, and loved the strong friendship between Agnieska and Kasia.  It’d have been so easy to set up Kasia and Agnieska to be on opposing sides and to paint Kasia in an unflattering light – I’m glad Novik didn’t choose that route.  Also, the Dragon – I don’t want to spoil too much, but I enjoyed seeing Agnieska’s perception of him evolve throughout the book as he moves from being the all-powerful Dragon to, well, still a very powerful magician, but also a human being.

Only niggling negative for me is the body count – let’s just say the numbers climb quite a bit.  Most happen (slightly) off-page to be fair, and create this atmosphere of ever-higher stakes as things reach a climax.  This contributed towards the fairytale-like aspects of the book for me – I always feel that fairytales have this veneer of pretty glossiness over some very scary and grim bits.

But this is probably one of the very few books where I’ve paid full retail price for a while (and hardcover prices at that), and I don’t regret that one bit.  UPROOTED is a really lovely fantasy, and without a doubt, one of my favourite books this year.

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Some Scattered Thoughts (and Links)

ARed_Rose_ChainI’m feeling slightly brain-dead at the moment, so you get some rambling.

First, some cover squee – I don’t think I’ll ever not be excited about a new October Daye cover.  Chris McGrath always gives good cover. A RED-ROSE CHAIN is out in September, and I’m looking forward to it – I only hope Toby doesn’t end up half-dead again.

Speaking of covers, I feel that we’re living in a golden age when it comes to cover art.  Ginger @ GReads posted a Top Ten list the other day (books recently added to the TBR pile) and there’s not one bad cover in the whole lot.  Seriously.  When did covers get so good?

There’s been some conversation recently around the (romance) blogging community and if there’s still such a thing (I paraphrase horribly, but bear with me).  Hils @ Impressions of a Reader had a great related post about why she prefers small blogs.  I’ve had this blog now for around eight(!) years – every now and then I wonder if I should put more effort into blogging, and then realise I’m really way too lazy.  This blog is my personal outlet for book-ish stuff and treating it as anything more than a hobby is very likely to backfire on me.

But I digress.  Going back to the romance online community question, my view is that things always evolve.  Remember when everyone just hung out at message boards?  Then blogs started taking off – I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure some posters at message boards got upset when people started linking to blogs, because they saw blogs as a threat to their message board communities.  And now there’s Twitter and Goodreads and Tumblr and Facebook and Instagram and well, a hundred and one other places to interact online.  I think it makes sense that communities become a bit more disparate because there’s so many places to hang out, and different people are spending their time at different places (or even offline…).  I’ve had conversations that started on blogs and continued on Goodreads, and I see that played out a lot across different social media platforms.

I’m most active at Goodreads after this blog (err… please treat “active” in a relative sense) – GR gets a lot of bad press, but I like it a lot.  I can quickly skim through and see what people in my “friends” list are reading, it’s really easy for me to comment on people’s reviews or status updates, or like a post – all without having to spend much time.  You could argue that’s a downside and that interactions there don’t have as much depth as elsewhere – I think that’s fair comment, but bearing in mind time pressures, it’s a bonus for me.  And I’ve also had some really interesting conversations there, so it’s more about the who and not the where for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love blogs, especially the more personal ones.  I’d say that I feel a lot of blogs have a more impersonal feel to them nowadays – though I don’t know, which way do you think my blog leans?  I like to think it reflects my reading personality pretty accurately, but I tend to keep things here to book-related bits on purpose so I’m aware it may feel a bit one-dimensional.

And so… I’m not actually sure what my point is, or even if I had one.  But that’s the whole beauty of having a blog – I can post whatever I like ;-)

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