May Books

Another month, another batch of new releases…  At the moment, there are only two books which I *must* get this month – at least for now!

AllTogetherDeadCharlaine Harris‘ “All Together Dead” is out *happy dance*  I do like Sookie and her world.  And there are rumours that there is a lot of Eric in this book.  Though having said that, I’ve a soft spot for Sam… NoHumans

 The second book is Kelley Armstrong‘s “No Humans Involved”.  I admit I haven’t really warmed to Jaime Vegas, who is the first-person narrator for this book, but Jeremy intrigues me and I’m looking forward to reading more about him!



Random Updates

The weekend’s finally here – thank goodness!  Let’s put it this way – it hasn’t been one of my better weeks, but it’s over now…

0451221494_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v46673742_.jpgOn to book-related news, Jo Beverley‘s latest newsletter is out, and she’s just put up excerpts from her latest book “Lady Beware” (June 2007).  This is part of her Company of Rogues series, and the book excerpt appears to explain the striking cover with the heroine in a red dress.  I admit I’m not a great fan of Ms Beverley’s fantasy novellas, but I love her historicals.  They’re richly detailed and you can sense the research that has gone into each one of them.  IMO, her Malloren books, which are set in Georgian times, are even better than the Rogues series, but then again, I’m a sucker for the Georgian time period.   

I’ve been reading more SF than romance lately.  I re-read Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “A Civil Campaign” just because – it’s one of those feel-good books that I could re-read over and over again.  Apart from the rather painful dinner-party scene which I skimmed over!  Also, two new books I’ve recently read:

21c49xf03kl__aa_.jpgOld Man’s War (John Scalzi) – Military SF.  I bought this sight unseen because I like John Scalzi’s blog, so that would be the power of the internet for you!  It’s written in the first person, and the main character sounds very much like the author on his blog, or maybe it’s vice versa, which makes sense in a way.  Slightly disconcerting though.

Anyway, it’s a rather original plot and a very readable book too.  Mr Scalzi’s ten-words-or-less description of this book is “Old people get new bodies and fight nasty aliens”.  That’s probably a very concise and accurate summary *grin*.  The main character, John Perry, signs up to join the Colonial Defense Force (CDF) on his 75th birthday – the idea being that the CDF will sort out your old and creaking bodies, in return for you doing a two to ten-year stint in their forces, helping protect Earth and its allies against hostile aliens.

If you don’t normally read SF, this would be a good introduction.  It’s more hard / traditional SF than Ms Bujold’s Vorkosigan series or Elizabeth Moon’s “Vatta’s War” series (see below), but not too hard-core.  Although it is part of a loose trilogy, it reads very well as a stand-alone novel.  The characters are very likeable, and I closed the book wanting to read more about them and their world.  I’ll be buying the next book set in this universe, which, I believe, is “The Ghost Brigades”.  Grade: B

21y6rxx9wal__aa_.jpgCommand Decision (Elizabeth Moon) – Military SF; fourth in the Vatta’s War series.  I’ve said previously that while I like Elizabeth Moon’s books, I don’t fall in love with her characters.  Maybe that’s the difference between this series and, say, Ms Bujold’s Vorkosigan books.  I don’t think this book’s changed my mind, but I did enjoy it – it is an entertaining series. 

The main character, Ky Vatta, is trying to organise a multi-ship force of her own to go after her family’s enemies.  While doing so, she ends up in a planetary battle.  Elsewhere, Stella (Ky’s cousin) is continuing her efforts to keep the family’s shipping business going.  Which actually vaguely reminds me of Pat Rin in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller‘s “I Dare” in their Korval series.  Which was probably one of my favourite books in that series and another of those feel-good books I can re-read over and over again.  But I digress.

There’s lots of action and politics in “Command Decision”, and while I still haven’t fallen in love with Ms Moon’s characters, I finished the book in one sitting – can you tell I’m so on the fence on this one?  It’s slightly frustrating – I think Ms Moon could very easily move to my auto-buy list, but it’s not really happening with this series.  I will get the next Vatta book though – no news yet as to what it’ll be called or when it will come out though. 

Oh, and although her website says this is in hardback, it was published in mass market paperback in the UK.  Grade: B-

Around the Web

I posted previously about wanting to get Sharon Lee and Steve Miller‘s “Web of the Trident”, which was “indefinitely delayed” for an unspecified reason.  I’m now guessing this is why – their publisher Meisha Merlin has closed its doors.  Sigh.  I’m not sure what that means for future Korval stories.  However, the authors are still doing their online serialisation “Fledgling”, which is set in the Korval universe.

There is an interview with the Dabel Brothers here (via SFBC), who are probably best-known in the romance world for their Anita Blake comic books.  Halfway down, they make mention of Kinley MacGregor‘s “Lords of Avalon” series – apparently, that’s going to be turned into a comic too.  Interesting!  Ms MacGregor is probably better known as Sherrilyn Kenyon (err… that may depend on whether you prefer historicals or paranormals) – but anyway, I would have thought there would have been a larger audience for her Dark Hunter books, as opposed to the LoA series.  Of course, I say this not having read the LoA series…

Around the Web

Interview with Jacqueline Carey posted on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist – she talks about her latest book “Kushiel’s Justice” (June 2007), which is the second book of her Imriel trilogy.

The Annual Cover Contest, which highlights the best (and worst) romance book covers for 2006, is now open for voting (closing date May 11 2007).  I’ve voted – and the shortlisted covers, especially in the Alternate Reality and Two-Cover categories, are beautiful.

I received Lilith Saintcrow‘s latest newsletter – her next Dante Valentine book “The Devil’s Right Hand” (urban fantasy) is out in September 2007.  I’ve read the first two books and liked them, but they have very open endings, which drive me mad.  Having said that, it’s a five-book series – mmm… maybe I should just wait for the fifth book to come out before continuing?  Heh – cliffhanger-type endings don’t exactly draw me in…

Ms Saintcrow also says:

A lot of you have written to me about the new covers for the Valentine books. The entire series was picked for the stateside launch of Orbit (which UK fans will recognize as a Bit Of A Big Name in sci-fi and fantasy publishing.) With this launch came a reissue and new covers, both to draw the series together visually and also to present the series as less paranormal romance and more hard-edged urban fantasy.

deadmanrising.jpg1841494674_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v45549705_.jpgI obviously had to hop over to Amazon to have a look at the new covers to see what was meant by the more “urban fantasy” feel.  The original cover is on the right, while the new cover is on the left.  Well, while I definitely prefer the newer cover, I wouldn’t exactly say the original one screams “paranormal romance”.  In fact, the original one seems more traditional fantasy to me – err, the sword-and-sorcery kind, not urban though.

Around the Web

Tracy Grant is one of my “Where are they now?” authors.  She wrote two books “Daughter of the Game” and “Beneath a Silent Moon”, and then completely vanished from the publishing world.  It’s been a while since I read them, so I’ve forgotten the exact details, but I remember what stood out was the fact the second book is set before the first book. 

Errr… so what, you may ask?  Well, one of the main plotlines in the first book focused on cracks in Charles and Melanie’s marriage arising from earlier deceptions and lies, so it was interesting to re-visit them in the second book, when they were (mostly) blissfully unaware of what was going to happen.  It’s not something all authors can – or want – to do.  I suppose one exception was Stephanie Laurens’ prequel to her Cynster series “The Promise in a Kiss”, which was Sebastian and Helena’s story (Helena being the matriarch of the Cynster family).  I thought it was lovely as a stand-alone book – but knowing beforehand that Sebastian somehow produces a love-child and dies young(ish?) doesn’t make the HEA ending quite ring true… 

Going back to Ms Grant, “Daughter of the Game” is also one of those few romances where it starts off with the main characters already happily married with children.  It’s different enough to be refreshing – I only recall reading one other book that started off like that, it was a M&B by one of the well-established names, maybe Susan Napier or Emma Darcy?  I liked that one too. 

Anyway, there is a point to these ramblings – Ms Grant posted on the AAR boards that her new book “Secrets of a Lady” (September 2007) is actually “Daughter of the Game” re-issued under a different name in trade size, so not a new book, unfortunately.  However, there is a “bonus” addition in the form of letters between Charles and Melanie.  Ms Grant also said she will be updating her website shortly (probably about time because it was last updated in 2003!) and also starting a blog to keep us readers updated on her books.

In other news around the internet, Laurell K Hamilton has posted the first chapter of her next Anita Blake book “The Harlequin” (June 2007).  Now say what you will about the latest Anita books, but this one has Edward – errmmm… do you think Anita will end up sleeping with him?  It’s the first time I’ve seen the cover as well, and it is rather striking.

And Karen Chance has confirmed the next Cassie Palmer book is out in May 2008, with another book “Midnight’s Daughter”, set in the same universe, coming in October 2008.  I’m definitely looking out for them.

More Recent Reads

Two more books from my TBR pile:

0380733390_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgBorrower of the Night (Elizabeth Peters) – First in the Vicky Bliss series.  I’m a huge fan of Ms Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, which I only discovered early this year.  Having read all the Peabody books, I’m now branching out into her other books (and there are a lot!).

The Vicky Bliss books focus on art history as opposed to Egyptology, but Ms Peters’ background knowledge and attention to detail is just as evident.  Vicky is on the trail of a ancient religious shrine and travels to Germany to track it down.  She’s obviously not the only one looking for it, and the usual elements of an Elizabeth Peters come into play – multiple suspects, danger and suspense.  I suppose the only thing that’s missing from this one is a romance, as while Vicky has a couple of men after her, she doesn’t really care for any of them (though I could be wrong here…).

I thought this had a satisfying mystery and rather likeable characters.  This is one of Ms Peters’ earlier books, and as with her Peabody books, I suspect the books will get better over the course of the series.  I’m definitely looking out for more Vicky Bliss books.  B for me. 

0451221419_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v46055310_.jpgMurder of a Botoxed Blonde (Denise Swanson) – Cosy mystery, part of the Scumble River series.  Skye is asked to help investigate vandalism at a new spa opening near Scumble River, and ends up stumbling over a body – someone’s been drowned in a mud bath. 

I’m in two minds on this series.  On one hand, the plots and set-ups are always unusual, I love the cast of eccentric and amusing secondary characters, and Skye has an interesting love triangle with Simon, the coroner, and Wally, the police chief.  However, I find it hard to warm to Skye as a person, and in this book certainly, Skye seems overly obsessed with her weight.  In addition, her school psychologist work, which is one of the more interesting aspects of this book, is more or less absent here as it’s Thanksgiving holidays.

The murder and the secondary plot around vandalism is tightly plotted and clues are scattered carefully throughout the book.  In terms of relationships and ongoing story arc, Skye does reach some kind of closure with her relationship with Simon, though a new mysterious character is introduced, whom I suspect may have something to do with her new relationship with Wally.

When I was reading this, I was questioning whether it was realistic for the chief of police to have hired his lover as a civilian psychologist consultant, and get her to help out by interviewing the suspects?  I don’t know – it all seems slightly off, especially since Skye’s the one who found the body in the first place, and technically should be a suspect.

I suppose these questions are all niggling at me because I didn’t love the book – if I did, I could quite happily ignore them.  C+ for me.

Around the Web

Eloisa James has posted an excerpt of her upcoming book “Desperate Duchesses” (May 2007) on her website.  I believe this book starts off a series of three books.  The excerpt reads as though it will very much be an ensemble story, and will set up the background of all the other main characters in her series.  I loved Ms James’ Essex Sisters series, so this is on my must-buy list for May.

Mills & Boon (Harlequin in the UK) is planning to distribute their books via text messages.  Errr…. okay.  Somehow I don’t see myself reading an M&B book on my mobile, where I can see maybe thirty words at a time on my screen.  Apparently it’s big in Japan.  Anyway, while trying to find out more about this, I went to the M&B website, where, nope, there was nothing on this initiative, BUT I found out that you can actually read online novels for free.  I skimmed through one, and I think it’s a pared-down version of the print book, but still – a large publisher offering free tasters?  Excellent. 

Oh, and if you haven’t already been, Baen’s Free Library has free SF/F downloads as well – it’s a good way of testing the waters and finding new authors.  I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold‘s short story “Mountains of Mourning”, which is set in her Vorkosigan universe.  I also remember liking Mercedes Lackey‘s fantasy book “The Lark and the Wren” (start of her Bardic Voices series).

Recent Reads

My thoughts on two books I’ve recently read: 

0451461525_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v24538152_.jpgClaimed by Shadow (Karen Chance) –  Urban fantasy, sequel to “Touch the Dark”.  I really liked the first book, so I grabbed this as soon as it came out.  Note: Slight spoilers ahead for the first book.

Cassie Palmer’s a clairvoyant who, at the end of the first book, has become the Pythia, i.e. basically the head of all clairvoyants with an ability to travel back in time.  The mages don’t want her to be Pythia, while the vampires (who brought her up) want to get her and her powers under their control. 

This book picks up right where the first book “Touch the Dark” left off, and we’re plunged straight into the thick of the action.  As in the first book, I liked the time-travel aspect, where small things Cassie (or anybody else) does while travelling to the past can have major impact on the present.  Or can completely change history, so that the backstory’s different even though the present remains (seemingly) unchanged.  There are hints of Laurell K Hamilton’s ardeur here, with a geis imposed on Cassie by a vampire that creates a strong attachment between the two of them.  However, she does take control and circumvents it in her own fashion.  Cassie’s a strong heroine, and has equally strong and fascinating male characters to play off.

I wouldn’t read this without having read the first book, and the plot gets overly complicated at times, but this was still a good fast-moving read.  I love this world and its characters.  B+ for me, and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

The Cater Street Hangman (Anne Perry) – Victorian-era mystery, with a murderer roaming the streets and picking off young females seemingly at random.  First in her Thomas Pitt series – I picked this up because I’d been hearing good things about her mystery books, and I was keen to read a book set in Victorian times.  

I’m slightly anal about having to start with the first book in a series, and this time around, it might not have been the best option.  This was written back in 1979, so right back at the beginning of Ms Perry’s writing career.  I thought the POV shifted a lot – at times, I was completely lost as to whose perspective we were seeing, probably because I didn’t think any of the characters had distinct enough voices, and some of the names were too similar (Charlotte v. Caroline – one’s the mother and one’s the daughter).  The mystery wasn’t much of a mystery, and if I say that, it means it’s blindingly obvious, because I’m not great at seeing clues!  A C for me.

Coincidentally, Rosario reviewed a couple of Anne Perry books and really liked them – she said they do get much better later on and suggested that I look at the William Monk series instead.  I’ll keep an eye out for them.

Books, Books and More Books

Well, Amazon appears to have got its act together, and has been flooding my mailbox with books I ordered back in January.  I also stopped by the bookstore (before the Amazon parcels started arriving on a daily basis), so I do have plenty to read – errr… 27 books to be exact.

New books in my TBR pile:

The Dead Girls’ Dance (Rachel Caine) – YA paranormal.  Second in Rachel Caine’s YA series (she also writes the Weather Warden books) – the first book sort of ended on a cliffhanger, which, unfortunately, is becoming all too common in her books.  I do think she’s got a knack for coming up with unique ideas, her heroines are very likeable and her male characters completely yummy, but I’m really starting to dislike the way she ends her books.  So I’m hoping that this book doesn’t continue the trend…

0060833254_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v44251814_.jpgWarrior Angel (Margaret and Lizz Weis) – Paranormal romance.  I ordered this online as soon as I heard Margaret Weis was writing a paranormal romance.  I loved her SF and fantasy books, especially the “The Star of the Guardians” SF series, which had the most bittersweet romance ever, the related “Mag Force” trilogy (actually, I really wish she would write more stories in that universe), and on the fantasy front, “The Rose of the Prophet” series, which she co-wrote with Tracy Hickman…  And then I read the online reviews for this book and now I’m not too excited about reading this.  Sigh.

The Scent of Shadows (Vicki Pettersson) – Urban fantasy.  As I said in my last post, this book has been generating good buzz online, and I’m looking forward to reading this.  Since the tagline is “The First Sign of the Zodiac”, I’m guessing that there are twelve books planned for this series?

Coupon Girl (Becky Motew) – Chick-lit, I’m thinking, based on the cover and blurb.  Huh.  This is one of the books I ordered back in Jan, and now have no idea where or how I heard of it.

1841493996_02__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v46734812_.jpgFool Moon (Jim Butcher) – Urban fantasy, second in the Dresden Files series.  I read the first book “Storm Front”, but it didn’t really grab me.  After reading and loving his Codex Alera fantasy books, I decided to give this series another go.  I think the problem with the first book was that I didn’t really connect with the main character, Harry Dresden (Chicago’s first (and only) wizard private investigator), which is not good, especially if the story is written in first-person POV.

Command Decision (Elizabeth Moon) – Military SF, fourth in the Vatta’s War series.  I’ve read the first three books in this series, and I like them enough to buy the fourth (rather obviously).  I like Ms Moon’s books, but I don’t love them – again, possibly due to the fact I don’t love her characters.  They’re very readable though, and a decent way to spend an afternoon.

0441014895_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v45599629_.jpgMagic Bites (Ilona Andrews) – Urban fantasy.  This is her debut novel (or rather their debut novel?  I think it’s a husband-and-wife team).  I bought this due to online reviews and err… the cover.  I’m a sucker for covers. 

Disappearing Act (Margaret Ball) – SF.  This was a complete impulse buy in the bookstore – I was looking for another author, saw the cover (one of Baen’s SF-ish ones) and, well, I like Lois McMaster Bujold’s books (okay, I love her Vorkosigan books) and they’re published by Baen as well, as is Catherine Asaro… so I grabbed it.  Talk about tenuous connections.  And as if I don’t have enough books to read already…

And as to what I’m reading now – I used to be the kind of person who only ever read one book at the time.  For some reason, that’s now gone out of the window, and what I read appears to be dependent on whatever book is in the room where I am.  Unless it’s a really good book, in which case I finish it in one sitting!

So books that I’m reading:

  • I’m a couple of chapters into “Magic Bites”, but it hasn’t really grabbed my attention. 
  • I’m also a couple of chapters into “Fool Moon”, which I’ll probably finish before “Magic Bites”.
  • I read the first chapter of “The Dead Girls’ Dance” last night, but I’m not in the mood for teenage angst at the moment, so it’s being put aside for now.
  • I started Elizabeth Hoyt’s “The Raven Prince” the other night, but fell asleep, and I suspect this will be a book I’ll finish in one go, so I’m waiting until I’ve a good long period of free time to start it again – maybe tonight!
  • And I’ve two more stories left in the “Dragon Lovers” anthology, which I’ve found slightly disappointing, as I said the other day.  I’m not sure when I’ll return to it…

So really, five books on the go at the moment.  Hmmm… it’s probably also dependent on my mood, and I’m lucky because I’ve so many books that I can pick and choose exactly what I want to read!

Mid-Week Update

0060898917_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v44246480_.jpgAmazon has finally got hold of Vicki Pettersson‘s “The Scent of Shadows” – hurray!  I’ve been hearing very good things about this book, so am looking forward to reading it – let’s hope Royal Mail doesn’t lose it now…

Interesting cover – the front-cover blurbs placed very prominently are from Diana Gabaldon and Kim Harrison.  The blurb for the second book “The Taste of Night” (out now) is from Charlaine Harris.  Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris I can understand, but Diana Gabaldon?   Don’t get me wrong – I love Jamie and Claire, but I’m surprised they’ve used her to blurb an urban fantasy.  Maybe it’s the big-name factor the publisher’s going for.

First chapter excerpt is up on her website.

And as for what I’m currently reading, it’s the “Dragon Lovers” anthology – I’ve read Jo Beverley‘s and Mary Jo Putney‘s stories so far, and unfortunately have not loved them. 

Ms Beverley’s story lost me from the start, with the SVP (Sacrificial Virgin Princess) wanting to lose her V.  I got confused between the different uses between dragon eyes and mother stones – one prevents pregnancy while the other allows someone to get pregnant?  Nope, couldn’t remember and didn’t care.  And dragon drool features rather heavily as an aphrodisiac.  Eewww.  This was meant to be a light-hearted story, but the humour and the tone didn’t work for me at all.  I love her historicals, but this short story was no more than a C- for me.

Ms Putney’s story was better, and had a knight setting out to slay a dragon who was setting villages afire.  Unfortunately, all the cliches about peace-loving dragons, etc., etc., came into play, and I saw the twist from a mile away.  A C+ for this one.

Ahhh – I just don’t think I’m a short story person…