New Author?

I try to be organised and keep a list of books I want to get – usually, this has books from authors I already know or with lots of buzz online.  However, I was looking at my list for May, and for some reason, this book is on it – Jes Battis‘s “Night Child” (excerpt here).

Tess Corday, Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver’s Mystical Crime Lab, is used to seeing dead vampires. But there’s nothing ordinary about this case. Not the lab results on the cause of death. Not the teenage girl living at the address found in the vamp’s pocket, who may well be in thrall to a demon. And certainly not Lucian Agrado, the necromancer who is liaison to the vampire community. Agrado is supposed to be part of the solution, but Tess suspects he might be part of the problem.

Soon she finds herself in the middle of a paranormal conspiracy that will change her life forever—and possibly end it.

It sounds cool and I will probably get it – but I’ve no idea where I came across it in the first place.

Recent Reads

I’ve been rather quiet here lately, but that’s because I’ve been reading lots, so it’s all good!

I finished Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “Passages” almost in one go (note to self: do not start reading LMB’s books at 11pm at night).  I really liked this one.  I think part of the charm is that it is just so readable – it’s effortless reading. 

In a way, it’s different from the previous two because it’s not as romance-focused.  The first book in this series, “Beguilement”, was more about Fawn and Dag falling in love in the farmer world, while the second one, “Legacy”, focused on acceptance of their relationship by the Lakewalker community.  In “Passages”, it’s not that there’s less time spent with Dag and Fawn – it’s more that there’s less focus on their relationship as a couple.  They still take centre-stage, but I think that there’s more time spent with their relationships with everyone else in the story.  Also, it’s a more light-hearted humorous story compared with “Legacy” – there were a couple of scenes that made me laugh out loud!  All in all, an excellent read – a very very strong B+ for me, it definitely lived up to my expectations.

Speaking of books I’ve enjoyed lately, another one I really liked was Eva Ibbotson‘s “A Company of Swans”.  When I started the book, I wasn’t sold on the Amazonian setting – not quite sure why, I suppose it’s just not as appealing to me as, say, her Eastern European stories.  But as I read on, I just was completely drawn into the story.  If you look at the plot objectively, it is a standard romance one – girl runs away from home, meets rich man, falls in love, has misunderstanding, resolves misunderstanding and gets back together.  But Ms Ibbotson has a very special gift – she makes what could be a very ordinary story in the hands of another author a completely magical story.  You fall in love with the characters and root for them to get back together.  You smile, laugh, and sniffle your way through the book.  An A for me.

 

Weekend Thoughts

To all those who said I should definitely read Elizabeth Peters‘ “Night Train to Memphis”, thank you!  I read it last night, and now am impatiently waiting the next instalment in the Vicky Bliss series.  I do think her later books are better than the earlier ones – there’s added depth in characters and relationships, IMO.  This book had everything I was expecting – mystery and romance with a large dose of humour.  And I’ve a soft spot for the Egyptian setting, thanks to Amelia Peabody.  Despite the setting, I have to say that this was distinctly a Vicky Bliss story.  If anything, it actually reminded me of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot’s Orient adventures rather than the Peabody books. 

However, this is driving me nuts – just what is the connection between the Tregarth family and the Peabody family?  From the hints dropped, there’s a connection (actual relationship?) on John’s mother’s side.  What he says about his great-granddad makes him sound very much like Emerson, and I can see his granddad being Ramses (sorry, can’t find the exact parts to quote now).  Only how does that fit in with the overall timelines?  Sigh.  Does anyone have a definitive answer?

On a completely different note, I bought a book today.  Only worth mentioning because it was an impulse buy in a bookstore, and I don’t do that many of those nowadays.  Not in bookstores, anyway – online is another story  😉

I think I’m more organised with my purchases nowadays as I keep an eye on the new releases each month and take notes on what I want to get.  Also, I’m consciously trying to make more ebook purchases these days, just because the paper version takes up space!  This especially goes for authors I haven’t read before, because space is precious… 

The book is Susan Grant‘s “The Star Princess”.  I’ve read one of her books before – I think it was “Contact” – and wasn’t hugely impressed, but this sounds like a lighthearted futuristic romance, which was exactly what I’m in the mood for.  Blurb:

Ilana Hamilton isn’t an adventurer like her pilot mother, or a diplomat like her do-right brother; she’s a brash, fun-loving filmmaker who’d rather work behind the camera than be a “Star Princess” in front of it. Heiress or not, she’s a perfectly normal, single woman…until Prince Ché Vedla crashes into her life.

With six months to choose a bride, the sexy royal wants to sow his wild oats. Ilana can’t blame him — but fall for the guy herself? Not a chance! Hotshot pilot or no, Ché is too stuffy, too arrogant, and too old-fashioned. But when he sweeps her off her feet Ilana sees stars, and the higher he takes her the more she loves to fly. Only her heart asks where she will land.

What was the last book you bought on impulse – purely from browsing and without any previous recs?

Around the Web

A great interview with Lois McMaster Bujold is up at Fantasy Book Critic, together with a review of “Passage”.  I skimmed the review because I don’t like reading reviews of books I know I’m going to get (is that just me?), but the interview has some interesting answers, especially when she talks about how different it was using romance as the central plot in a fantasy novel.  There’s an excerpt of “Passages” up on the HarperCollins website, btw, but it’s using their rather frustrating BrowseInside widget, which takes forever to load.

Urban Fantasy Land has this cover of an upcoming book “Magic to the Bone” by Devon Monk.  I’ve never heard of her, but she has a rather cool cover quote by Patricia Briggs (“Loved it.  Fiendishly original”).  And I’m gullible.  Back cover blurb on author’s website here, but no excerpt.  It’s out November of this year.  I’ll have to look out for it.

TBR Day: Mary Jo Putney’s “The Diabolical Baron”

This is posted as part of Keishon’s TBR Day challenge, which is aimed at encouraging us readers with the towering TBR piles (you know who you are) to start tackling the books that have been languishing in there for eons.

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Book: “The Diabolical Baron” (note that this is published with another story in “Dangerous to Know” – the other one is a novella “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”, which I’m not reviewing here)

Author: Mary Jo Putney

Copyright Date:1987

Why did I buy this book?  Mary Jo Putney was one of the first historical romance authors I stumbled across.  I loved her Fallen Angels series (not so much her newer paranormal romances, so I cheered when i heard she was moving back to straight historical romances).  Anyway, I picked up this copy for old times’ sake when I spotted it on the sales rack (and yes, the cover played a part).

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long?  Because I thought I had already read it!  I bought this book mainly for the novella, thinking that the blurb for “The Diabolical Baron” sounded familiar.  But when I picked up the book a couple of nights ago and started skimming through the main story, I thought “hey, this doesn’t feel familiar”…

What is it about?  It’s a Regency-set romance, and starts off with Jason Kincaid, nicknamed the Diabolical Baron, picking the name of his bride out of a hat.  He’s reached the age when he really should get married and he doesn’t quite care who he actually marries as long as she’s suitable.  So he ends up with Caroline Hanscombe, a young girl who meets all his criteria – well-bred, reasonably good-looking, etc, etc.  The only thing Jason hasn’t realised – and won’t until he invites them to his house – is that Caroline’s widowed aunt and chaperone, Jessica, was his first love.  Oh, and there’s Captain Richard Dalton, who at first sight appears completely unrelated to the main storyline, but ends up playing a major role in the story.

So what did I think about it?  “The Diabolical Baron” is not an unpredictable read – you pretty much figure out the entire storyline and who ends up with who after the first couple of chapters.  Having said that, the characters and their interactions were enough to keep me flipping the pages.

I liked Jessica – she was a refreshingly strong older heroine.  This isn’t one of the stories where the heroine sits around mourning the loss of her first love – instead, Jessica married someone else and had a good marriage.  She’s a typical Putney military wife heroine – an independent and strong-minded woman, following the drum with her husband.  I could see the attraction between herself and Jason, and their relationship was definitely the main thing that held my interest in this book.  There is also a secondary romance, which was sweet – actually, some of the scenes with Caroline and her music were lovely.

Secondary characters?  Well, you have the standard outspoken aunt with a heart of gold, a best friend who works at being a dandy, the ambitious stepmama, etc, etc.  The most interesting character is Reggie Davenport, who is cast in the role of the heir-apparent to the abandoned Wargrave estate.  A gambler, a drunk, and a bit of a letch, he actually has some of the best lines in the book.  He’s attractive because you get the feeling he’s not completely lost beyond all hope, and I’m pretty sure MJP redeemed him in a later book (ETA: have checked, and yes, he is the hero in “The Rake”).  The ambiguity in most characters is something I liked about this book – for instance, Caroline’s stepmother, while being wildly ambitious and not really caring about her stepdaughter, also has a strong honest streak.

What I didn’t like was the ending – the reason for Jason and Jessica’s original breakup really frustrated me.  It just felt like too trivial a reason for something that completely changed their lives.  And the last third of the book felt padded out and slightly lazy – a lot of assumptions by all the four main characters that typified the big MIS being used as a plot device.

My conclusion? It’s not one of Ms Putney’s best books – it’s one of her earlier ones and it shows.  It’s interesting because you can see hints of her later style peeking out, but as it is, it feels clumsy in places.  I couldn’t help but think it would have been a much better book if she had written it now.  I’m sort of torn between a B and a C for my grade – for sentimental reasons let’s call it B-. 

Appealing or Not?

Baen’s catalogue is out for Fall 2008 (link via Lois McMaster Bujold’s email list).  Scanning quickly, these are the releases that caught my eye:

“Gentleman Takes a Chance” by Sarah A Hoyt (Oct 2008 hc, urban fantasy)

Description:

There are those living secretly among us who have the power to change their physical form from that of a human to an animal, even animals thought to be mythical, such as dragons. Throughout the ages, these shape shifters have come together in a loose organization to protect themselves from humans—and other shape shifters. According to their code, killing another shifter is a crime, no matter if the shifter was slaughtering humans. Kyrie Smith, a young panther shifter, must decide where she will stand: with her group or with humanity at large. And she’ll have to do it while both older shifters and her boyfriend Tom Ormson—a dragon shifter—push her from quandary to quandary and police detective Rafiel Thrall—a lion shifter—demands her help in solving mysterious murders. Someone—or something—has been killing shifters in large numbers, and the most ancient and powerful of shifters are converging on the city to find the killer. And anyone, human or shifter, who gets in their way will be eliminated without mercy.

The tagline was “The Sequel to “Draw One in the Dark” – Romantic Adventure by a  New Star of Urban Fantasy”.  LOL.  I don’t think they could have written a phrase more likely to grab my attention.  I’ve never heard of the first book, so I may have to track that one down.

 

“The Vorkosigan Companion” ed. Lilian Stewart Carl (Dec 2008 hc)

Description:

Lois McMaster Bujold’s best-selling Vorkosigan series is a publishing phenomenon, winning record-breaking sales, critical praise, four Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. And the thousands of devotees of the series now have a book that will be a goldmine of information, background details, and little-known facts about the Vorkosigan saga. Included are an all-new interview with Bujold as well as essays by her on crafting the Vorkosigan universe, articles on the biology, technology and sociology of the planet Barrayar, appreciations of the individual novels by experts, maps, a complete timeline of the series, and more. Readers can’t get enough of the Vorkosigan series and they’ll jump at the chance to read this story behind the stories. (And Baen has a new novel in the Vorkosigan series under contract.)

Ooooh.  I want.  Doesn’t sounds as though there will be any new short stories, dammit.  But I still want.  Apparently there will be new covers as well for some of the Vorkosigan books.  About time too.  (Sigh.  I’ve just reached p.38 and they show the new covers.  Not good – they’ve just added a thick black border around most of the original covers.)

 

“Lucy’s Blade” by John Lambshead (Jan 2009 mmp, historical fantasy)

Description:

Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, was the greatest spymaster the world had ever seen. But when he asked Dr. Dee to summon a demon the result was unexpected, especially for his orphaned niece Lucy. Sir Francis’ duty as her guardian was to find Lucy a suitably aristocratic husband, not to let her fight demons and witchcraft for the Queen’s Secret Service. But his—and Lucy’s—duty to protect Queen and country from enemies both natural and supernatural kept getting in the way. And so did all those demons….

The tagline was “Sir Francis Walsingham Was Queen Elizabeth’s Top Spymaster but His Niece Lucy Was the Queen’s Daemon fighter. First Time in Paperback for This Fast-Moving Historical Fantasy Adventure.” 

There’s a Buffy comparison in the Key Selling Points section, which I’ll take with a pinch of salt – Buffy doesn’t really do it for me.  But these sentences “A stunningly original novel from a new author, set in one of the pivotal and most interesting periods of western history, that combines science fiction, espionage and magic in a new mix” and “This science fantasy novel is set within an accurately described Elizabethan England—with a young girl who fights the forces of evil for the Queen’s Secret Service” do.

I may pop over to the Baen site and have a look at these…

Finally…

I had to upgrade both the Java and Shockwave versions on my laptop, but I can now post pictures!  It’s the little things…

Okay, here’s why I wanted to post pictures – I came across the Eva Ibbotson covers for the US and UK markets. 

The UK ones:

       

The US ones:

     

I’ve the UK editions for all except “A Company of Swans” – I loved the US tutu cover, but now I’m thinking the UK one is prettier.  And compared to the US “A Song for Summer” cover, the UK one is just plain bland.  On the whole though, I think these are all fantastic covers.

And speaking of covers, Urban Fantasy Land has the cover art for the next Patricia Briggs Mercy novel “Bone Crossed” (Jan 2009).  I can see it standing out on the shelves. 

Around the Web

Sigh.  WordPress did some sort of upgrade and I can’t post pictures at the moment. Here’s hoping they fix the problems next week – after all, posting covers is half of the fun 🙂 I’m also reserving judgement on the new design – sure, it looks pretty, but I somehow think the old version was more intuitive. Or maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Anyway, Anne Bishop has a new contract with Penguin for three new books – two of which will be Black Jewels books (via her website).  One will be a sequel to “The Shadow Queen”, which is the next Black Jewels book out March 2009, while the other will be a collection of short stories. 

The cover of the next Kelley Armstrong book, “Living with the Dead” (Nov 2008), is up on her website.  Call me slow, but I’ve just realised that the pendant makes an appearance on all the covers.  I want to see what they do for the UK version.

I Went Slightly Mad…

… at Fictionwise’s April sale (50% off in Micropay rebates until 4 April).

Books I bought:

  • “Silent in the Santuary” by Deanna Raybourn – Historical mystery.  I haven’t posted about this (because I’m wayyyy behind), but I read “Silent in the Grave” (the first book in this series) the other day and really liked it – I’m a sucker for historical settings and it was a good mystery, with some unexpected laugh-out-loud moments.  I wasn’t expecting this book to be funny! 
        
  • “Private Arrangements” by Sherry Thomas – Historical romance.  Ah well, I didn’t hold out long, did I?
        
  • “Steelflower” by Lilith Saintcrow – Fantasy.  I read the first two books of her Dante Valentine series, and stopped because the heroine was really getting on my nerves, and I hated the cliffhanger endings.  Having said that, I did like her writing style so I’m trying another book of hers.
        
  • “Dark Watcher” by Lilith Saintcrow – Urban fantasy.  And another one, because why stop at one when you can have two?  This is book 1 of a series, actually, so I’m wondering if it suffers from the cliffhanger syndrome too.
        
  • “Met by Chance” by Lynne Connolly – Historical romance.  The review at Dear Author piqued my interest.  And it’s Georgian!
        
  • “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” by Jennifer Rardin – Urban fantasy.  LesleyW loves this series, so I’ve been meaning to read the first book for a few months now.
       
  • “Embrace the Night” by Karen Chance – Urban fantasy.  Third in the Cassandra Palmer series – this was on my Must Get list for April.  And I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.  I loved it – borderline A for me.  It’s a refreshingly different urban fantasy series, not least because the main character is clairvoyant and can travel through time.  I love how Ms Chance builds a story around time travel paradoxes.