Around the Web

Some Sharon Shinn news first (she’s one of my favourite authors, and writes fantasy with strong romance undertones):

  • Via her unofficial website:  She’s publishing a fifth book in her Mystic & Rider series – hurray!  Also, an anthology with four novellas set in each of her worlds (publication date yet to be confirmed) – this sounds strangely familiar to me somehow. 
  • Via SF Signal: one of Ms Shinn’s stories (“The Double-Edged Sword”) has been picked up for inclusion in an annual anthology “Year’s Best Fantasy 7”, to be published in June of this year.

On a completely unrelated note, All About Romance has published the results of their annual reader poll.  I find the results slightly surprising, but then again, I admit I didn’t vote.  I find their ballot form just too complicated and time-consuming – yes, I’m rubbish… 

A couple of comments nonetheless:

  • Elizabeth Hoyt won “Best New Author” – I must get around to reading “The Raven Prince”, which is currently languishing on my TBR pile, as I’m just not in a historical romance mood. 
  • I’m very surprised at the negative votes for Julia Quinn‘s “On the Way to the Wedding” – while it’s not the best of her books (and hey, she sets high standards), it is by no means the worst romance I’ve read in 2006!

The analysis of the results is an interesting read, especially since it has mini-interviews with the winning authors, including a couple of my favourites, Linda Howard and Jo Beverley.

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Non-romance related, but still interesting – SF author John Scalzi reviews his income from science-fiction writing in 2006.  I’ve no idea if the same applies to romance authors, but this is fascinating info nonetheless.  And this reminds me that I’ve his latest mass market paperback “Old Man’s War” in my TBR pile – must read it soon…

There is an interview with Patricia Briggs here (via Karen Chance’s website) – I just finished Ms Briggs’ latest book “Blood Bound” and absolutely loved it.  Yes, I know – it’s yet another urban fantasy with werewolves and vampires, but it definitely stands out from the rest out there.  It’s not a romance per se, but there is sort of a romance subplot…  “Blood Bound” is the second in the series (the first book is “Moon Called”), but can be read as a stand-alone, if you really wanted to.  There are two more books in this series – the third is tentatively titled “Iron Kissed”, according to Ms Briggs’ website.  I’m really looking forward to it!

2007 Reads to Date… and Blog Stuff

I’ve just spent the past hour trying to organise my blog pages.  I’m using this blog to keep track of my reading, and was listing all books (i.e. those read and those to-be-read) on a single page – which was rapidly becoming rather unwieldy.

So… I’ve now created three separate pages, all with hopefully self-explanatory titles:

I’m wondering if I should create another page to track my wishlist of books coming out soon – but that would be a bit too organised…

Anyway, doing this yielded some stats:

January

  • I read 31 books in January (excluding re-reads).  Now that’s a pretty high number even considering the fact I read really fast, but it’s probably because work-wise I, well, had nothing much to do.  Can I admit that?

February

  • I only read 14 books during February (though there is still four more days to go) – and that’s because I’ve been a lot busier at work (as evidenced by my blogging frequency as well *grin*).

TBR

  • There are 20 books in my TBR pile.
  • Four have been there since early January – I don’t know, should I just mark them as DNF?  I’ve started all of them, but haven’t really the inclination to finish them.
  • 14 arrived last weekend in my massive Amazon delivery – and I’m looking very forward to reading most of them.

Now, if I was really really organised, I’d look at the quality of reads as well…  nope, not anytime soon.  Generally though, a quick look at my Jan and Feb lists suggests that although I read fewer books in February, I really liked the majority of them.  Make sense – especially as I know I went on a couple of mini-gloms in February (Elizabeth Peters, Roberta Gellis and Jim Butcher, if you’re interested!). 

I do need to do some more blog stuff at some point – including adding a blogroll.

Around the Web

I’ve a bit of a thing for covers – a striking cover will definitely grab my attention in the store and get me to pick up a book I normally wouldn’t look at

So having a peek at the behind-the-scenes parts fascinates me.  Here’s a blog post that goes into some detail on how the cover for one of Pyr’s (an SF publisher) books was put together – it talks about the cover for Kay Kenyon’s “Bright of the Sky”.  I think it’s a lovely cover, and the post gives a great insight into the process.

I’ve to admit I’m not sure if I’ll buy this book based on its Amazon blurb.  I’ve never read any of Ms Kenyon’s books before, and very rarely buy a new-to-me author in hardcover, but I’ll certainly keep an eye out for this book in the stores.

New Books…

I’ve been a bit lazy with blog updates lately.  Ummm… I’m very busy at work.  Is that a valid excuse?  Seriously, I haven’t even enough time to read new books lately, let alone go blog-hopping.  I need a holiday.

Moving on to book-related stuff, I received a massive delivery from Amazon yesterday – and I didn’t even remember ordering some of the books.

“Blood Bound” by Patricia Briggs finally arrived, and I’ve already started reading it.  I love Ms Briggs’ books – I’ve all of her traditional fantasy books and I think her urban fantasy series has got off to a really good start.

What else arrived?  Oh, Roberta Gellis‘ second and third books in her medieval mystery series that I blogged about previously – I’m excited about them too.  The only thing is that the fourth book in this series is published by a different house (a small publisher called Five Stars apparently), and is more expensive than the first three.  Oh well, I’ll see how much I like these books before I decide whether to get the fourth.

And a new YA book I bought based on an online blurb (what can I say – teenagers nowadays have great books to read) – Ally Carter‘s “I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’ll Have to Kill You” is about a girls’ boarding school… where they’re trained as spies.  Brilliant concept, and I’ve linked to the first chapter on Ms Carter’s website.  If I like this as much as I think I will, I’ll definitely post a review.

Some of the other books that arrived:

  • John Scalzi‘s “Old Man’s War” – Never read any of his books before, but I like his blog *grin*.  It’s a SF book.
  • Elizabeth Hoyt‘s “The Raven Prince”  – This historical romance has been getting really good online press, I admit I have rather high expectations for this one.
  • Emma Holly‘s “The Demon’s Daughter” – I liked her other book in this series “Prince of Ice”. 

And there were more too, but then this will turn into a really long post.

Also, on a trip to Books Etc today, I somehow ended up buying books five and six in Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody series (even though I knew I had a ton of books waiting to be read!).  Now, I’ve read the first three books, but not the fourth.  And they didn’t have the fourth book in stock, dammit.  Now, I’m slightly anal about reading books in order, but I’m thinking that it probably doesn’t matter as much for this series because they’re all very much stand-alone… but I don’t want to!  Ah well, I’ve so many other books to read right now – I’ll keep an eye out for that elusive fourth book when I (hopefully) go shopping tomorrow.

Time to stop blogging and start reading, methinks!

Some Reviews

I’ve had a run of really good books lately, but no time at all to blog about them.  So in an attempt to catch up, here are quick summaries of some recent reads that I really really enjoyed.

045002154802_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgGaudy Night (Dorothy L Sayers) – Well, Rosario assured me I would love this, and I did.  This is the book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series where Peter and Harriet finally get engaged, and it’s part-mystery, part-romance.  There’s a poison-pen writer in Harriet’s old Oxford college, whose pranks are slowly escalating to violence.  I found the academic Oxford setting fascinating – it was a wholly different and new world to me.  The mystery itself is actually quite suspenseful, maybe because it was more psychological, rather than straight physical violence.  And finally, I was wondering how the romance would play out – all I can say is that the way it happened was just perfect for Peter and Harriet.  Umm… and in case you’re like me and wonder what the heck is meant by certain passages in the book – here’s a website that explains some of the more obscure references scattered throughout.   Grade:  A-

044101268×01_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgFuries of Calderon (Jim Butcher) – I’ve read a couple of his Dresden Files books, and while I enjoyed them, I never felt the need to rush out and buy the rest.  This, however, is different.  It’s an epic fantasy in the most traditional sense.  The protagonist is an oddity – in a world where each person can command furies (fire, water, earth and air elementals), he doesn’t have any powers.  But yes, he ends up saving the world anyway.  I’m making it sound very simplistic, but it’s not.  It’s a great story where good triumphs over evil in the end.  Even though there are numerous characters and multiple storylines running through this book, I was never lost.  A great read and a fascinating world – I’m hooked.  Grade: A

081257236×01_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgA Mortal Bane (Roberta Gellis) – I bought this after Ms Gellis guested at the Word Wenches blog because I was intrigued by her comments about this series.  It’s a medieval mystery with a difference – the main sleuth runs a whorehouse, which is not a profession you’ll find in other books!  When a visitor is murdered practically on her doorstep, she has to clear her name – together with a knight who’s been assigned to find the killer.  So there’s the romance bit sorted *grin*.  There’s obviously an attraction, and I’m keen to see where it’s going to lead.  Having said that, this is not a romance, it’s very much a mystery – and a good one too.  Ms Gellis brings the medieval world to life with her rich language and detailed knowledge of the politics of the era, yet never falls into the trap of completely confusing or boring you with overuse of information.  On an aside, I wasn’t aware that “Hey, chick!” was a term used back then, but you know what?  If it’s in this book, I’m sure it was!  Grade: A

Review – Eloisa James’ Essex Sisters Series

I’ve just finished reading PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE, the final book in Eloisa James‘ Essex Sisters series.  I actually read the first three books (MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU, KISS ME, ANNABEL, and THE TAMING OF THE DUKE) in early January, but didn’t want to blog about them until I had completed the whole series.

Eloisa James is a new-to-me author.  I’m not quite sure why, as she has quite an extensive backlist.  I suppose I’d always seen her typical Avon covers in the bookstore and dismissed her as just one of the many historical romance authors out there… I’m very happy to admit I was wrong!

680332This is probably a testimony to the power of covers – the first book, MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU, appears to have been picked up by a UK publisher, who gave it a great cover (left) that stood out on the shelf (the book’s also larger than mass-market paperback, which helped).  I picked it up out of curiosity and started reading the first chapter… by page ten, I was enthralled, and promptly bought books two and three, without even reading their back-cover blurbs!

Ms James’ inspiration for this series was LITTLE WOMEN, i.e. she wanted to write about the bond between sisters.  The four Essex sisters have just been orphaned, and have come to London to make their debut under the auspices of their new guardian, the Duke of Holbrook.  So a completely standard series set-up.  However, Ms James manages to make these stories utterly hers, with some unique twists.  Just when you think you know where the plot’s going, it takes a completely different direction.

So, for instance, I thought that Tess, the eldest sister, would end up with the Duke, especially as they begin bickering in the opening chapters (hey, can you blame me?).  But no, Ms James avoids that tried-and-tested storyline, having Tess and the Duke build a proper brother-sister relationship instead, which is just as satisfying.  Ms James then kills off a secondary(-ish) character and introduces alcoholism (later on in the series). Eeeeep.  Not your standard historical romance then.  But it completely works, and I loved these books.

Just a warning – I’m going to talk about who ended up with who in each book, so if you prefer to have that come as a surprise, you may want to stop reading (having said that, my sister figured out the upcoming pairings by the middle of the first book).  And I don’t really summarise the story, I just ummm… write about what struck me about each book.

Right, with those caveats, moving on.

6641606The first book MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU is Tess and Lucius’s story.  Tess is looking determinedly for a husband, while also trying to help with her younger sisters’ varied problems (ranging from grief over their father’s death to unrequited love).  Lucius doesn’t want to get married, but doesn’t really want to see Tess marry anyone else…  It sounds like it should be a run-of-the-mill story, but it’s not.

During the final pages, there was one revelation that made me go “Aaaahhh…”.  I don’t know, part of me thought it should have come earlier, but then again, perhaps it wouldn’t have had the impact it had.  Once I went back and re-read the first scene – it made such perfect sense.  The one thing I didn’t quite like about this book was that it was a bit too much of an ensemble story.  I just wanted to read about Tess and Lucius, dammit.  Having said that, I felt Ms James made each character an individual, rather than just one of the cast, and this book set up the rest of the series really well.

715787The next story KISS ME, ANNABEL is err… obviously Annabel’s.  Annabel’s trying to hook a rich English husband, but ends up being caught in a compromising situation and forced to marry an impoverished Scottish nobleman – the exact type of person she most definitely does not want to marry.

I really liked Annabel.  I liked the fact she was completely honest about wanting to marry for money, because she knew what it was like being poor.  She’s just being practical!  Yet when she had to, she just mucked in and got on with it.  There are hints of Shakepeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” here (in fact, there are allusions to Shakespeare throughout this series, quite obviously).

298371The third book is Imogen’s story, THE TAMING OF THE DUKE.  Imogen’s been trying to deal with her loss over the past couple of books (or 1 1/4 books to be more precise), and isn’t doing too well.  Rafe, in the meantime, has been spending a bit too much time with only alcohol for company.  And a long-lost brother turns up, just to add to the fun, and to set the scene for a mistaken identity plot.

I thought Ms James did an excellent job of redeeming the self-absorbed (admittedly, with good reason) Imogen in this book, and showing her softer, more vulnerable side.  I liked how Imogen and Rafe tried to resolve each other’s troubles despite not being to handle their own problems.  And I loved the tavern scene when Imogen gets all tipsy and lets her hair down.

Oh, this is also the book that caused a bit of an uproar online, with a controversy about the mistaken identity plotline.  Ms James’ response was to post a “spoiler trail” on her website (which is great, btw), explaining just how and when Imogen knew Rafe was Rafe.  I read the book all the way through, then went onto her website for the spoiler trail.  And yes, I missed all the clues.  But as I kept on saying to myself “She knows, she knows” all the way through, the ending wasn’t a huge surprise.  Heh.  I can see that if I had been reading the book without having heard anything beforehand, I would have been a bit taken aback by the ending.  Oh, and you’ll have to read the extra chapter Ms James posted on her website as well – that wraps everything up nicely.

428677And finally, Josie’s story, PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE.  Josie, the youngest sister, is having a bit of a nightmare Season.  Mayne (who appears in the first three books) tries to help Josie, who he considers to be like a sister to him (or so he believes, obviously).  It’s not all that straightforward, though, as Mayne is madly in love with his beautiful French fiancee…

I liked this book the best and thought that it was a great way to end the series.  I loved all the scenes between Mayne and Josie, and felt that they had real chemistry.  One negative comment I read regarding this book was that Mayne appeared to be in love with his French fiancee all the way through the book, before suddenly switching his focus to Josie.  I don’t agree – I thought Mayne was more in love with the idea of “being in love” when he was with Sophie, and I think the scene where he fell for Josie (without realising it, of course) came really early in the book.  And I thought it was amusing how Ms James dealt with his fiancee – it was certainly a more unique twist than simply marrying her off to a secondary character.  I did think Darlington was redeemed a bit too quickly but I could sort of see where he was coming from.

I’ve to admit that I never would have bought these books based on online reviews, and that would have been my loss.  I think a lot of the negative remarks stem from the fact the twists are not at all well-telegraphed – I would agree that I would probably enjoy the books more had they been well… a bit more obvious.  As it is, at times, it appears as though the characters know more than the reader does.

Having said that, for me, it’s a solid A for this series and Eloisa James has just made the jump to my auto-buy list.

Around the Web

I haven’t had much time to visit authors’ websites lately – but here’s the results of some site surfing today.

many_bloody_return_sm.jpg

Courtesy of Rachel Caine‘s website – the cover of a new anthology called “Many Bloody Returns”.  This will have short stories from authors including Charlaine Harris (a Sookie Stackhouse story), Kelley Armstrong  (I believe her contribution will be set in her Women in the Otherworld universe), Tanya Huff, and Jim Butcher

Ms Caine’s contribution is a Morganville Vampires story – which reminds me, the second book in this YA series, “Dead Girls’ Dance”, is coming out in April 2007 (and the third “Midnight Alley” in August 2007).  I reckon this series would appeal to the same people who liked Stephenie Meyer‘s “Twilight” (which I loved so much, btw, that I ordered the second book “New Moon” directly from the States, instead of waiting until the UK publication date of April this year).

Anyway, “Many Bloody Returns” is coming out in October 2007, but in hardcover – sigh.  I will probably shell out for this though… 

Ms Caine also has a new(-ish) story up on her website:   Witchgrave is a classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy tale – I like!

icecoldgrave.jpgOn Charlaine Harris‘ site, she’s posted the cover of the next Harper Connelly book “An Ice Cold Grave” (also out in October 2007).  I’m not sure if I’m going to get this in hardcover – I like Ms Harris’s writing, but I’m not really getting into this series. 

On a related note (and just for the heck of it), here’s three different cover versions of the first Harper Connelly book “Grave Sight” (from left to right, US, UK and large-print editions).  I think I prefer the US version – the UK version doesn’t quite capture the quirkiness of this series, and the large-print edition cover screams Horror, which it isn’t really.

042520568101_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpg     057507883901_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v47003547_.jpg      159722139201_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpg

Around the Web – Sherrilyn Kenyon

It’s now February and for some reason, instead of being really cold and gloomy, it’s a very sunny and warm spring-like day here in London.  I’m not complaining!

Here’s an interview with Sherrilyn Kenyon (via SFBC).  It’s a rather long article, but contains some interesting bits of info – well worth reading!  Her books aren’t usually on my must-read list, but are usually a fun way to spend some time (and I probably have most of her backlist). 

On a related note, Ms Kenyon’s website has been revamped since the last time I visited (or at least I think it has – it’s not one of my regular haunts).  She’s also offering a free e-book called “Fear the Darkness” that apparently explains the connection between her Dark-Hunters and Dream-Hunters – I’ve just requested it via email.