My latest TBR additions

All complete impulse buys – except maybe one.

214hw1e6p8l__aa_sl160_.jpgBarbara Michaels’ “Smoke and Mirrors” (mystery) – Guess which one wasn’t the impulse buy.  Well, I could say that I didn’t go into the bookstore with the express intention of getting a Michaels book… but hey, I wanted one.  This is a 1989 book, and set in Washington DC.  I think I prefer her books set in cities to those set in the countryside.

213qy1eyzml__aa_sl160_.jpgLaura Childs‘ “Keepsake Crimes” (cosy mystery) – The cover blurb has “A Scrapbooking Mystery – Scrapbook Tips Included!”.  I think I can safely say that wasn’t what attracted me – I’m the most “non-crafty” person I know.  But the first few pages where Carmela Bertrand, the proprietor of a scrapbooking store in New Orleans, shows a group some tips on preparing a wedding scrapbook interested me.  Heh.  Never say never.

21d64faajrl__aa_sl160_.jpgMonica McCarty’s “Highlander Untamed” (historical romance) – The last Scottish historical I read was Julie Garwood’s umm… “The Bride”, “The Secret”?  Whichever one was her latest one.  I love her historicals but I’ve a horrible memory.  Anyway, there were three McCarty books displayed in a row, and at first glance, I thought they were the same.  And wondered how an author managed to get three prime spots on the New Releases table.  I thought the prologue faintly reminiscent of a Garwood one (okay, I have to stop with the comparisons) and so, why not…

2127u0cxgrl__aa_sl160_.jpgSuzanne Enoch’s “A Touch of Minx” (contemporary romance) – This is the latest in her Samantha Jellicoe/Rick Addison series (cat-burglar/super-rich billionaire with an English accent).  I wasn’t planning on getting this.  Heck, I didn’t even know it was out.  I’ve liked the first three, but they were a bit same-y with no real story arc progression.  But with three books in my hand already, I figured one more couldn’t hurt.  And err…  I cheated – I peeked at the last page.  That’s all I’m saying!

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Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Blues”

21ecmbzljll__aa_sl160_.jpgWhat with every other book being a vampire/werewolf/demon book, I admit I’m a bit “paranormal-ed” out.  I used to be more adventurous and willing to try new authors, but after reading a number of so-so paranormal books, right now, I tend to stick to the authors I’m familiar with.

So when Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Blues” came out back in March, I read the reviews (good ones, btw), thought “Hmm… US trade paperback? Nah, I’ll wait for the mass market version”; when I saw the mass market version in stores, I read the back-cover blurb, and thought “Nah, I’ll order it off Amazon and get it for slightly cheaper”; and then it came from Amazon and sat in my TBR pile for about a month.

And then I picked it up at 9pm last night, and didn’t go to bed until I finished it.

Right, blurb from Amazon:

Succubus (n.) An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men. Pathetic (adj.) A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven’t stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can’t have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy’s life. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore–free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny…

Georgina seems to have it all on the surface – good looks, charm, wit – but actually, no, it’s not all rosy.  The second sentence of the blurb above probably sums her life up.  Yet she’s not jaded or depressed or resigned.  She’s a great heroine, and part of her charm lies with the fact she hasn’t given up, she’s still rebelling in her small way against, well, the middle-management of hell.

Chemistry between Georgina and – okay, this is an urban fantasy – her multiple potential love interests was great.  Slight tangent here, but I do think portraying chemistry works especially well in first-person when done well.  And Ms Mead does first-person well.

The sex – hmmm… I would have thought I’d be slightly squicked out at the heroine having sex as part of her pact with the devil (hey, she is a succubus), but she’s matter-of-fact about it and has a sense of humour.  I admit it.  I liked Georgina.  And I liked the fact Ms Mead didn’t go for the safer route of having Georgina not have sex.  Because that would be inconsistent, and the world-building was great.

She took her time building up her world.  And did it rather well.  Unlike some other books, I wasn’t flipping ahead to see what was happening next.  I was interested in what was unfolding, and the interactions with secondary characters.  Right, see minor quibble below, but on the whole, it was interesting.  I was fascinated by the interaction between the forces of good and evil – or rather, Carter and Jerome. 

The mystery/murder plot wasn’t neglected either.  I was genuinely curious about the solution, and yes, that was part of the reason I kept telling myself “Just one more chapter”. 

Oh. And the setting completely worked for me.  Georgina works as an assistant manager at this bookstore.  Fact:  I’m fascinated by bookstores.  And one of the main characters is a writer, and Ms Mead goes to town on the absent-mindedness side and the ability to just shut out the world.  I found that amusing, and had more than a sneaking suspicion that she was drawing upon her own experiences!

What else?  I liked the tongue-in-cheek humour – for example, the wry aside about angels not having middle-management, because that was something invented by the dark side.  Heh.  That made me smile after having a bad day at the office struggling with layers of bureaucracy.  But the humour never crossed the line into slapstick comedy, well, almost never, I don’t think.

Quibbles?  Info-dumping… just a bit.  In a plausible way, I admit.  And Georgina’s backstory wasn’t always smoothly interwoven with the main plot.  And apart from Georgina, there was a lack of strong female characters – she was just surrounded by guys.

But on the whole, I just found this an immensely enjoyable and entertaining read, and it’s an B+ for me. 

I wish I had read “Succubus Blues” earlier, but on the bright side, I now only have to wait three months for the sequel “Succubus On Top” to come out, especially having read the excerpt at the end of this book.  I’m very keen to read more about this world, and to get to know the characters a bit more.  I’m wondering how Georgina will resolve her pact with the devil (okay, her immediate line manager) with her conscience.  I’m wondering how things are going to work out for Georgina and her new man.  I’m *hoping* Ms Mead will keep this series moving forward, and that it doesn’t stagnate with nothing getting resolved plot- and relationship-wise.  Okay, the last was a bit negative. 

Oh bah.  I just checked my copy again because the sequel’s title didn’t sound familiar, and the UK version is called “Succubus Nights” and… is out in August 2008.  Right, so that would be a more expensive book in January 2008 then.

Ms Mead does have another book out right now.  It’s the first book of a YA series and called “Vampire Academy” – I may look out for it this weekend.

ETA: I just re-read this post and am slightly stunned by the number of “okays” I wrote.  I’m now going to remove at least half of them 🙂

Some new releases

31b4g0glqrl__aa_sl160_.jpgI was just browsing through new releases – a couple that caught my attention:

Eoin Colfer‘s “Artemis Fowl” is being released as a graphic novel.  Keishon posted the other day about this trend.  I like this YA fantasy series – there’s humour, action, great characters, and a unique take on the whole fey/fairy trend.  The following Amazon blurb summarises the basis premise of the books nicely.  I think there are currently five books in the series now – def worth taking a look.

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a brilliant criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories. These fairies are armed and they’re dangerous. Artemis thinks he’s got them just where he wants them, but then they stop playing by the rules …

21yi3vjkwsl__aa_sl160_.jpgTwo of Laurell K Hamilton‘s books, “Micah” and “Strange Candy” are being released as an omnibus (mass market paperback judging by the price).  This could be a good deal because “Micah” is a novella that was sold at mmp prices (think double-spacing and lots of blank pages).  “Strange Candy” is an anthology of older stories written by Ms Hamilton – IIRC, there is one rather good Anita Blake story in there from the early days.  I think.  Don’t hold me to it though.

This isn’t my October “I want” list, btw – that will follow shortly as there are quite a few I want next month!

The one where I start over-analysing things

I finished reading “Driven” by Eve Kenin the other day.  I think I got my expectations wrong with this one.  It’s very much a romance set in a post-apocalyptic world, as opposed to a SF book with a romance.  Does that make sense?

I don’t think I’ve ever read a SF/F romance that I’ve whole-heartedly loved.  Sure, I’ve liked many – Nalini Singh’s “Caressed by Ice” being the most recent – but I don’t spend much time thinking about the characters and their world once I’ve finished the book.

But I’ve read many SF/F books with a strong romance thread which have captured my imagination – Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Korval series, Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, practically all of Sharon Shinn’s books… I could go on and on.

Hmm… it’s the same with the mystery books I’ve loved – I was obsessed with Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series earlier on in the year, and they were made extra-special by the romance subplots.

Maybe if it’s a book where the romance is the main focus, I start getting bored.  Maybe the conflict between the hero and heroine isn’t enough to keep me interested.  But that would mean I wouldn’t like pure romance, and that’s not true – I love Julia Quinn and Eloisa James.  I adore Georgette Heyer’s books. 

Maybe it’s because if it’s an SF/F book, I have different expectations.  Maybe I get frustrated if there’s not enough detail in the world-building because there’s too much focus on the h/h’s relationship.  Maybe that’s why SF/F romances seem weak to me.

Lots of maybe’s and no conclusions.  I’m going to have to think about this a bit more.  Feel free to rec SF/F romance authors if you think I just haven’t been reading the “right” ones – I’ve read Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, Liz Maverick… and a few more I’m sure.

PS:  As for those who have been asking about “Driven”, I liked it, but once Wizard’s “secret” was revealed, I sort of lost interest in the story.  I did finish the book, but really wasn’t that interested in how it would end.  Oh, and I seem to be in the minority here, judging by the good reviews it’s had elsewhere.

Around the Web

I didn’t think I would be interested in this, but after reading Nalini Singh‘s “Caressed by Ice”, I just want another Psy/Changeling story – so I’ll be getting the “An Enchanted Season” anthology (out in October).  An excerpt from Nate and Tamsyn’s story is up on her website.

Patricia Briggs has posted a update on her website – one interesting-ish point is that the new Charles and Anna book (expected July 2008, I think) is not an expanded version of her novella “Alpha and Omega” in “On the Prowl”.  Instead, it picks up immediately after the end of the novella.  I’m looking forward to this one as well – oh well, there is the next Mercy book (“Iron Kissed”, January 2008) in the meantime.

New books

Here’s what I picked up today:

  • “The Mirror Prince” by Violette Malan (fantasy).  The power of cover quotes!  I wouldn’t have given this book a second glance, if the front cover hadn’t had a quote by Charlaine Harris.  So I picked it up, glanced at the back – and hey, a Tanya Huff quote (“… given a complex, high fantasy world a very readable contemporary voice” if you’re interested).  So I actually started reading the first few pages and thought it intriguing enough to toss into my basket.
     
  • “The Master of Blacktower” and “Ammie, Come Home” by Barbara Michaels (mystery) – Am starting to build up my collection of Barbara Michaels now.  “Ammie, Come Home” was strongly rec’d by Rosario (if I remember correctly), while “The Master of Blacktower” has a scarred and tortured hero according to the back cover blurb – so hey, why not.  I’d have bought more, but I’ve a few coming from Amazon, and I’m incredibly bad at remembering what I’ve ordered online.  Oh damn, I’ve just checked and what I really wanted was “Stitches in Time”, which is related to “Shattered Silk” and “Ammie, Come Home”.  Sigh – next time.
     
  • “Driven” by Eve Kenin (fantasy) – After all the uproar about the Shomi line (all publicity being good publicity, or something like?), I was on the lookout for their books.  This one appears to be the most popular among reviewers, and the concept (truck-driving in a post-apocalyptic world?) fascinated me, so am giving it a go.

Around the Web

21a5egw6lzl__aa_sl160_.jpgEloisa James has posted the first half of the preface to her next book “An Affair Before Christmas” (second book in the Desperate Duchesses series – coming out November 2007).  What I like about Ms James’ books is that they usually take unexpected twists – she manages to turn a traditional romance into something slightly different.  Am looking forward to this one!

Suzanne Brockmann‘s posted an afterword of sorts for “Force of Nature” (link via csquared’s blog).  Warning: spoilers galore, if you haven’t yet read FoN!  I love the way she described how her characters “forced” her to write the story she did – and I’m really glad they did 🙂 

And there’s a Lois McMaster Bujold interview up on the Baen website, where she talks at length about her career.  I don’t think she’s mentioned anything new that I haven’t already read somewhere, but she does talk a bit about how the new Miles omnibus “Miles, Mutants and Microbes” came about.

I won, I won!

I entered because I was intrigued by the quiz – and really didn’t expect to win, because I don’t win contests… seriously, I don’t.

21ypizlafbl__aa_sl160_.jpgBut you know, doing a quiz to figure out which of Nalini Singh‘s Psy/Changeling heroes are for you – that was fun and interesting.  And as a way of reminding peeps that “Caressed by Ice” was out in September?  Really good idea.

And this means now I definitely have to read CBI this weekend.  Err… not really a hardship, because I was going to anyway!

Thank you, Nalini! 😀

September books I want

A bit late with this one, but anyway, here are the books coming out this month that I’m planning on getting / have bought.  Not that many this month, really.

21ypizlafbl__aa_sl160_.jpg“Caressed by Ice” by Nalini Singh (Paranormal romance) – Despite the rather awful cover, I’ve been looking forward to this one.  It’s the third in her Psy-Changeling series, and the first where the hero is a Psy, not a Changeling.  Bought this one today – excerpts here.

0345496876_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v24223295_.jpg“Empire of Ivory” by Naomi Novik (Historical fantasy) – I so want this one.  It’s the fourth book in her Temeraire series.  Excerpt here.  The first Temeraire book (think dragons in the Napoleonic Wars era, if you haven’t read or heard about them before) was one of my favourite books last year, and since the publisher did that trick of issuing three books really closely together, it feels like ages since the third one came out.

Books that I’m in two minds about:

21e3wi-1eml__aa_sl160_.jpg“Fairyville” by Emma Holly (Paranormal romance) – My interest in this one is more for the author, than for the story.  I’m just not into stories about fairies or the fey, but I liked the last Holly book I read, “Prince of Ice”.  Hmmm… actually, I think I still have “The Demon’s Daughter” in my TBR pile – maybe I should finish that first.

21zr2bmht0rl__aa_sl160_.jpg“The Devil’s Right Hand” by Lilith Saintcrow (Urban fantasy) – I’ve read the first two books in this series, but two things are holding me back: first, I can’t warm to the heroine, and second, the previous two books did the cliff-hanger ending thing.  Which I really really don’t like.  So a maybe for me.

21p3-21kjxl__aa_sl160_.jpg“Many Bloody Returns” (urban fantasy anthology) –  In a nutshell: vampires and birthdays.  I want this because contributors include Charlaine Harris (Sookie), Kelley Armstrong (Cassandra’s the narrator!), Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampire short story), Tanya Huff (Henry, I presume), and Jim Butcher.  I’m hesitating because it’s hardcover, and reeeaally expensive for a relatively slim book – I think I saw it for £14 today.  Sigh – I think I’ll wait for the paperback version.

Two more books I read recently

0749938323_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v23241071_.jpg“The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever” by Julia Quinn (historical romance): I’m a bit late with this one – it came out ages ago but I somehow never managed to pick it up.  Anyway, it’s Ms Quinn’s first standalone historical for ages – i.e. not Bridgerton-related!  Miranda Cheever has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s elder brother forever.  He, on the other hand, has just been widowed and is completely disillusioned with the idea of love, due to the unfaithfulness of his late wife.

This book reminded me just why I like Julia Quinn – no other author comes close to the way she writes dialogue.  The scenes between Turner and Miranda were wonderfully humorous and I just loved the wry snippets from Miranda’s diary. 

But I’ll be honest, I couldn’t figure out why Miranda was in love with Turner.  I completely understand the schoolgirl crush (I mean, which girl wouldn’t?), but why and how it turned into proper love – well, Ms Quinn didn’t quite sell me on that.  And the conflict in the last third of the book – again nope, not really.  But a B- all the same, because her writing makes me smile.

And oh, did I think of the Bridgertons when I was reading this?  Err… yes.  Did that detract from my enjoyment?  I don’t think so.  I think her voice comes through no matter what she’s writing, which is why some of the scenes, especially the family ones, reminded me of the Bridgerton books. 

Also, slight spoilers: 

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I don’t have the book with me, so I can’t check, but the last third of the book somewhat reminded me of Anthony and Kate’s story, when he was obsessed with the idea he would die young, and that took over his life.  Except that obsession was more understandable than Miranda’s hang-up in this book.

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21axwdc9d6l__aa_sl160_.jpg“The Mirador” by Sarah Monette (dark fantasy): Third book in Ms Monette’s Labyrinth series, this book sees Felix and Mildmay back in the Mirador.  It’s been awhile since the events of the second book “The Virtu”, and well, nothing much has changed.  Mildmay still hates the Mirador, Felix is still struggling with his inner demons, everyone is still stepping gingerly around Felix… you get the idea.  In this book, a new first-person POV is introduced, Mehitabel, and through her, we get to know a couple of other secondary characters a bit better.

I was halfway through and still waiting for something to happen, when it hit me – this was it.  “The Mirador” is different from the first two books in the sense it focuses more on political intrigue and plotting, rather than action-packed scenes.  While slow-moving, it’s still immensely readable.

What started to frustrate me was all the third-party descriptions of arguments between Felix and Mildmay/Gideon/anyone else – you know, when Mildmay thinks back to an argument the night before.  Sure, it’s first-person and Mildmay can’t hear, say, Felix and Gideon arguing mind-to-mind, but at some point I was wondering if it was a cop-out on Ms Monette’s part.  Is leaving Felix’s cruelty to the reader’s imagination more effective than putting the dialogue down on paper?  Towards the end, it does change – there is a particularly effective passage between Felix and Mildmay on trust.  And I wish there had been more of that.

And then I was really trying to figure out why the hell does Mildmay behave the way he does with Felix.  What’s the draw?  Was I missing something horribly obvious?  Their relationship didn’t seem to be developing – they kept repeating their long-established patterns, and it made me want to shout “Enough already!”.  And then Mildmay has a moment of self-realisation and again, towards the end, it all picked up and I felt like cheering. 

It all comes together at the end (that’s the third time I’ve used the phrase, so I think you get the idea) and everything’s set up nicely for the final book.  I do like tortured heroes, and hey, you get two in this book, so well, it works.  This isn’t for new readers to the series – heck, I was getting confused, and I’ve read the first two – but I’m still glad I read this one. 

Two very different books, but both rate a B- for me.