June Books

Hmmm… is it just me or are there a lot of books scheduled to be released in June?  Here are the ones I’m planning on getting (and one I bought today) – starting off with the historical romances:

0451221494_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v46673742_.jpgJo Beverley‘s “Lady Beware” – This is the one I came across today and bought immediately.  It’s part of her Company of Rogues series – Dare Debenham’s sister meets the new Viscount Darien, who just happens to hate the Rogues.  From the back cover blurb, Viscount Darien’s name is actually Horatio Cave, which would nicely avoid the problem of too many Ds in the story…  While I prefer Ms Beverley’s Georgian books, her Regencies come a close second – so I’m looking forward to this one.  A couple of excerpts are up on her website.

0749938323_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v23241071_.jpgJulia Quinn‘s “The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever” – Not a Bridgerton book!  Yes, I do know Jo Beverley’s Company of Rogues series is probably longer than the Bridgertons, but let’s just ignore that fact.  Can’t remember if I’ve posted this before, but here’s a deleted scene (the original epilogue) from Ms Quinn’s “How to Marry a Marquis” – it’s reminded me of how much I love her books. 

Eloisa James‘ “Desperate Duchesses” – Start of a new series – a trilogy, I think.  Her Essex Sisters quartet bumped her up to my auto-buy list, so I’m keeping an eye out for this.  Ms James always provides a refreshing take on tried-and-true romance storylines, so this should be no exception.  Excerpt on her website here.

Moving on to the ummm… I think I’m going to say paranormal romance:

21twewxnsyl__aa_.jpgMeljean Brook‘s “Demon Moon” – Sequel to “Demon Angel”, which got a rather good reception in romance blogland when it came out early this year.  Having read the deleted snippets Ms Brook posted on her blog and Jennie‘s rec, I can safely say I’m grabbing this as soon as I see it!  I wonder if Colin can beat Hugh in the hero stakes?  Excerpt here.

Laurell K Hamilton‘s “The Harlequin” – The latest Anita Blake.  Okay, at 432 pages, it’s almost twice the length as “Mistral’s Kiss”, so that’s a good sign – I think!  Excerpts here – oh, and the cover’s pretty cool as well.

In fantasy:

Jacqueline Carey‘s “Kushiel’s Justice” – Second in Imriel’s trilogy.  Imriel has a secret affair with Sidonie, but chooses duty over love.  Ms Carey did hint at this in the first book, so I’m not surprised, though it isn’t my favourite plotline.  There had better be a HEA – if not in this book, in the next!  Excerpts here.

212b4xetwdl__aa_.jpgLois McMaster Bujold‘s “The Sharing Knife: Legacy” – While I would very much prefer a Vorkosigan book, I’m not really complaining – well, not much, anyway.  This is the follow-up to “TSK: Beguilement” – Fawn and Dag return to Dag’s Lakewalker home.  Full blurb here.

And finally:

0312349491_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v42704093_.jpgJanet Evanovich‘s “Lean Mean Thirteen” – I’m a big Plum fan, so I’m excited about this.  Yes, I thought the Valentine’s Day novella was a complete rip-off – but I just love this series.  More madcap antics, and oh yes, Morelli and Ranger.  Excerpts here.

Right, that’s my June booklist for now, though I suspect I’ve probably missed a few off.

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Around the Web

The Royal Mail will be issuing Harry Potter stamps – err… I’m probably going to be really sad and actually buy them.

Here’s an interesting interview with Jacqueline Carey on Fantasy Book Critic (link via SFBC).   She’s publicising her latest book “Kushiel’s Justice”, which is out June 14 – that’s definitely on my Must Get list.  She writes dark fantasy – or in her own words:

…alternate historical fantasy with lots of intrigue, adventure and sex. The writing style is fairly baroque and the books have a streak of dark eroticism…

A second excerpt from “Kushiel’s Justice” is also up on her website.

The first review I’ve seen of Laurell K Hamilton’s “The Harlequin” is here (link again via SFBC).  The last paragraph is particularly interesting:

Fans of the old Anita Blake will be happy to see a departure from the gratuitous sex seen in Danse Macabre and Incubus Dreams as this book focuses less on Anita feeding the ardeur and more on the dynamics of the triumvirates and the interaction between the paranormal community.

Hmmm…. what say you?

Time to Catch Up

I got back yesterday, after a rather hectic trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo.  In the past week, I reckon I’ve spent more than 40 hours in airports and on planes – and then there were the trains and taxis and… let’s just say I’ve spent more time travelling than I care to remember in the past seven days.  It was my first time in Tokyo, so that was pretty cool – but then again, I didn’t really get to spend much time sightseeing.  It was very much hotel-office and vice versa.  Surprisingly, I didn’t really get jetlag apart from the first night, when I woke up at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Anyway, I’m very very glad to be home again – and also that my broadband access is sorted out!

21tjnkkpi-l__aa_.jpgDespite the long flights, I spent more time sleeping than reading – the only book I finished was Dave Duncan‘s “Children of Chaos”.  I loved his King’s Blades novels, so bought this a while ago and decided that it would make a good airport book.  Err… that would be if you didn’t mind the typical fantasy cover, with a large furry grey monster and half-clad girl on it.  I’m not easily embarrassed – though I certainly didn’t wave it in front of my work colleagues *grin*. 

“Children of Chaos” is the first of a duology, and follows four siblings who were taken as hostages in order to guarantee their father’s good behaviour – their father being the Doge of Celebre.  I find Mr Duncan’s books very readable and this was no exception – though the scenes where he described the effects of prolonged shape-shifting may not be your thing if you’ve a weak stomach.  It’s an very interesting and imaginative world, and I’ll be picking up the second book “Mother of Lies” to find out how the story concludes.  Excerpts here on the author’s website if you’re interested.

21n-fbkjfjl__aa_.jpgI also picked up Colleen Gleason‘s “Rises the Night” in HK – this is her second book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles series (five books in total, IIRC).  The first book wasn’t really my thing – to me, Victoria seemed just a bit too modern for the Regency setting.  But “Rises the Night” has been getting good reviews, and so I decided to give this series another go.  I’ve just read the first couple of chapters so far, and it appears to be a bit more angst-y, with Victoria struggling to get over the events in the first book.  Whether I still feel if she’s too modern for her times remains to be seen.  Oh, and like the first book, this one has a great cover.

Other books read in May – Charlaine Harris‘ “All Together Dead” – not the best in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I’ve got a thing for Eric.  Oh, and a new (to me) gem – Jacqueline Winspear‘s Maisie Dobbs books.  These mystery books are set in the 1930s after WWI – I read the first book (“Maisie Dobbs”) and immediately picked up the next two in the series, “Birds of a Feather” and “Pardonable Lies”.  More about Maisie Dobbs to come…

Back – but not for long…

Well, after umpteen phone calls to Orange technical support, my broadband problem turns out to a relatively large one affecting a few thousand people in the London area.  And this despite them assuring me that there was no issues with the broadband service every time I called, and asking me to do something completely unnecessary such as update my router settings, check my DSL filter, etc., etc. 

Complete incompetence.  When I think of the time spent waiting on hold and the cost of the phone calls… I would switch ISPs, but well, it’s free, or at least free with a mobile phone package. 

It’s finally been fixed, but I’m off on a business trip for the next week now! 

I’m Still Here…

…but my broadband Internet connection isn’t!  For some reason, my broadband stopped working four days ago, and I’ve just realised how dependent I am on the Internet. 

I’m suffering from major withdrawal symptoms – I’d forgotten what life was pre-Google!  Hopefully, I’ll get it sorted within the next few days…

Hardback v. Paperback?

I never ever used to buy hardcovers.  Never even considered buying them.  Though I did spend a lot of time lurking in the New Releases section, and counting down the days to the paperback release.

And then I started.  It’s a long slippery slope, I tell you.  Once you start, it becomes, well, normal.  And then you can’t stop.  I can’t quite remember my first hardcover – I’ve a very sad suspicion that it was a Harry Potter!  Looking at my shelves, I would say about a quarter of the space is now taken up by hardcovers… 

I can rationalise it away a lot more easily now that I’m working – it’s my money, I earned it and therefore am entitled to spend it however I wish!  And if I do buy a book in hardcover, well, that just means I don’t splash out on that new top or the latest face cream.  And I’ll probably get more enjoyment out of the book – hopefully!

Having said that, I rarely buy hardcovers at retail price – they’re either discounted on Amazon, part of a bookstore promotion, or in the discount book store.  I was going to say I can’t think of the last time I bought a hardcover at full price, but I can actually.  It was Elizabeth Peters’ “Tomb of the Golden Bird” – I swore I would wait for the mass market paperback to come out, but I just happened on it in the bookstore and caved in!  It’s that instant gratification thing.

If I had a choice, i.e. if a book came out in hardcover and paperback at the same time, I would buy paperback every time.  Not just because of the cost, but also because of the additional space a hardcover takes up – I’ve a small flat and there’s only so much space for books, as much as I love them.  I’m also one of those anal people who can’t crease the dustjacket, so I’ve to take it off while I’m reading, and then I normally lose it and have to spend ages searching for it once I’ve finished the book !  Oh, and a hardcover’s just heavier and less comfortable to read.  Lord, I’m fussy.

At the end of the day, if I really want the book and it’s in hardcover, I’ll buy it.  I’m a publisher’s dream, aren’t I?

Review: Kelley Armstrong’s No Humans Involved

21bjyeouhjl__aa_.jpgKelley Armstrong is one of the first authors I started reading in the urban fantasy genre, along with Laurell K Hamilton and Charlaine Harris.  This was when these authors were still shelved under Horror because no one quite knew where to place their books.  In a way, it was easier finding them back then – now if they’re not in Horror, I have to wander through Mystery, Romance, SF/F and Crime (yes, in that order usually) trying to track down their books.

Anyway, “No Humans Involved” is the latest in Ms Armstrong’s Otherworld series.  It’s one of the 2007 books I’ve been waiting for – and I’m glad to say I loved it!   I bought it on my way home from work Friday, and thought that I would read just a couple of pages before I went to bed.  Let’s just say that I had to force myself to put the book down a couple of hours later.

The Otherworld books are narrated in the first-person by one of the female characters in the series.  In this book, Jaime, a necromancer, is the narrator – I was a bit wary at first, as I hadn’t really warmed to Jaime in previous books.  However, she won me over in the first couple of chapters – and her crush on Jeremy made me giggle.  Oh yes, Jaime just happens to have a thing for the Alpha of the North American werewolf pack – so this was their story as well.

Back-cover blurb from Ms Armstrong’s website:

Jaime, who knows a thing or two about showbiz, is on a television shoot in Los Angeles when weird things start to happen. As a woman whose special talent is raising the dead, her threshold for weirdness is pretty high: she’s used to not only seeing dead people but hearing them speak to her in very emphatic terms. But for the first time in her life – as invisible hands brush her skin, unintelligible fragments of words are whispered into her ears, and beings move just at the corner of her eye – she knows what humans mean when they talk about being haunted.

She is determined to get to the bottom of these manifestations, but as she sets out to solve the mystery she has no idea how scary her investigation will get. As she digs into the dark underside of Los Angeles, she’ll need as much Otherworld help as she can get in order to survive, calling on her personal angel, Eve, and Hope, the well-meaning chaos demon. Jeremy, the alpha werewolf, is also by her side offering protection. And, Jaime hopes, maybe a little more than that.

The reality TV angle made for an interesting plot device, and I enjoyed learning more about necromancers in the Otherworld universe.  I mean, we know a lot about werewolves, witches and sorcerors from the previous books, so it was nice reading about another supernatural race.  (Oh, and as a complete aside, I’m looking forward to one of the books where Cassandra, a vampire, is the planned narrator – now that should be interesting).

It was fascinating seeing events from Jaime’s perspective.  In previous books, I think the reason I didn’t like Jaime was that I was seeing her from Paige’s and Elena’s perspective, and they felt that she was constantly trying to push her way in.  Having seen things from Jaime’s perspective, it was less that she was being pushy, and more of trying *not* to be useless.  I think Ms Armstrong said the same about why some readers didn’t like Paige – it was because Elena didn’t really like Paige to start off with, and readers were only seeing Paige from Elena’s perspective.  I’m paraphrasing horribly – and perhaps somewhat inaccurately as I can’t find the source of that piece of info – but that was the general gist, I believe.  For me, seeing events from different viewpoints is part of the attraction of this series.

I thought the book was tightly plotted, and both Jaime and Jeremy were very strong characters.  Both of them are also older characters, and that came through in the maturity of their actions and thinking.  And I appreciated that the romance and sexual tension was handled in a realistic manner.  It wasn’t inappropriate lusting a.ka. “Oh, I must have sex with you right now, never mind the hundred and one demons right behind me” – unlike some of the other books I’ve read recently.  But the first time they slept together was hot!

What else?  I did find it slightly surprising that Jaime knew so much about the Pack and their politics – maybe it was because of her thing for Jeremy…  actually, I suspect she and Jeremy kept in closer contact than most people knew.

The secondary characters were well-rounded, and I think she’s set up the Hope and Karl pairing for the next book rather well – it’s an intriguing relationship.  If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ll probably be lost with references to other characters, but I actually wish there were more Elena and Clay.  I love Clay…

So in summary, lots of action, well-paced, with more in-depth world-building – an excellent addition to the series.  I wavered between an A- and B+ for this – it would be an A for sure if there had been more Jeremy time.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that this is first-person and I do like Jaime – it’s just that I just want more Jeremy, and I would have absolutely loved reading his perspective! 

Having thought it over, it’s an A- for me.  It’s definitely a book I would re-read and makes it onto my keeper shelf.  However, if you haven’t already read previous books in this series, I wouldn’t start here as you’ll probably miss a lot of the world-building details and relationships that make this series special.

The next book in the Otherworld series is called “Personal Demon” and is due out Spring 2008.  It’s narrated by Hope and Lucas – more details on Ms Armstrong’s website.  And Ms Armstrong is also starting a completely new series (still suspense but with absolutely no supernatural stuff) – “Exit Strategy” is coming out July 2007, details and excerpts again on her website.

NoHumansPS:  And on the cover – damn, the UK cover isn’t as good as the US one.

April Reading

So what did I read during April?  17 books in total (full list here) but some thoughts:

I finished the final Amelia Peabody book “Tomb of the Golden Bird” *sigh*.  I do hope Elizabeth Peters writes another.  Though I suspect she might have to dig up some of Amelia’s missing journals, else you’ll have a 70+ year old Amelia running around her Egyptian tombs and pyramids.  Heh.  That could be interesting.  

I tried to ease through my Amelia Peabody obsession by reading other Elizabeth Peters books – I started the Vicky Bliss series with “Borrower of the Night” and have the others in this series on order from Amazon.  I’ve also been reading other stand-alone books by Ms Peters (mysteries with Gothic overtones mostly) – they’ve been mainly B- books for me.  

On the romance front, I finally read a few books I’ve been meaning to read for ages:  Lisa Kleypas‘ first contemporary “Sugar Daddy”, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ “Natural Born Charmer” and Elizabeth Hoyt‘s “The Raven Prince”.  Unfortunately, none of them blew me away – still Bs though.

I’ll post my thoughts on Ms Phillips’ and Ms Hoyt’s books soon, but on “Sugar Daddy” in particular – it was weird, but I kept on thinking of Judith McNaught while I was reading this.  Maybe it was the “rags to riches” storyline and how everything just worked out perfectly.  Liberty was just a bit too good to be true for me, but I did like Hardy and Gage.  It also pretty much felt like two separate stories in one book for some reason.  Despite this, my feeling is that Ms Kleypas can write contemporary, even though I prefer her historicals.  Her follow-up book to “Sugar Daddy” will still be on my To Buy list (update on sequel here – with spoilers if you still haven’t read “Sugar Daddy” as it reveals who Liberty ends up with). 

Fantasy – it was mainly sequel month: I read Jim Butcher‘s third Codex Alera book, Karen Chance‘s “Claimed by Shadow” and Anne Bishop‘s “Belladonna”.  Again, all good books, but none that I fell in love with.

And finally, one new-to-me author who I discovered this month – John Scalzi, who writes SF (my thoughts on his “Old Man’s War” here), and whose books I’ll definitely be buying going forward.

Wheeee…

I have “No Humans Involved”!  Just in time for the weekend, which just happens to be a Bank Holiday weekend as well.  It’s all good!  Now if only I could get hold of the latest Sookie Stackhouse…

I know I’ve been rubbish at blogging over the past week – things at work have been hectic.  Really.  Anyway, around the Internet, if you don’t already know – Kelley Armstrong has been guesting at Twisted Kingdom and The Good, The Bad and The Unread this week.  There’s also a Charlaine Harris interview up at SFREvu – no hugely interesting bits of info, though.

What else?  I wasn’t going to get the new Amanda Quick book “The River Knows”, mainly because it’s in hardcover (and I’m already getting two hardcovers this month) and well, her books have been a bit hit-and-miss recently.  My resolve has been wavering though, because I’ve read three excerpts so far, and they have that old JAK (or Quick rather) sparkle.  Here’s the latest excerpt (scroll to the 29 April post).  Sigh – I’m tempted.

Oh, and check out this comic strip someone forwarded me – “The Seven Stages of Falling in Love with An Author”.  It’s scarily familiar.