And In Other News…

… which, at this time of year, means tennis of course!

Anyone else watch the Murray-Gasquet match?  I left work and Murray was two sets down… thought damn, it’ll be over by the time I get home… turned on the telly when I got home, and what a comeback!  I was on the edge of my seat during the last few games, and I don’t even think of myself as a Murray fan  🙂  All credit to Gasquet though, I thought he was an incredibly gracious loser, and both of them just played fantastic tennis. 

Anyway, I’m gutted because I’ve to go on a team-building / training course for the rest of the week which means I miss the quarters and semis! Arrgghhh.  I can’t believe I’m going to miss the Murray-Nadal match!  I’ve a sneaking suspicion that it’s one of those places with no internet access and strictly limited TV.  Obviously brilliant scheduling by a non-tennis fan.

Books for July

Time flies!  I can’t believe half the year has already gone past.

Anyway, new month, new books… here are the July releases that I’m looking forward to (although most of these are August or later releases in UK, I just may have to haunt bookstores that do US imports!):

 

41cJFka00oL__SL160_ Linda Howard’s “Death Angel” (at a guess – romantic suspense):  Ms Howard is one of my auto-buy authors.  Having said that, I haven’t been too crazy over her last two books (too heavy on the survivalist stuff and too light on the romance), so I’m hoping this one is better. 

Excerpt here (out July 1)

 

 

 

61eYT1zu1UL__SL160_ 51YcHRfZmiL__SL160_ Naomi Novik’s “Victory of Eagles”  (historical fantasy) – Fifth book in the Temeraire series (think Napoleonic Wars with dragons if you’re not familiar with this series already).  Temeraire is the most adorable dragon ever (yes, I’m aware how absurd that sentence sounds, but it’s true – hmm… precociousness in dragons obviously comes across better than in children).   The previous book left Laurence is a rather precarious situation so I can’t wait to get this. 

UK cover on the left, and US one on the right, btw.  I prefer the US cover (more colour!), but the UK version is very similar in style to the previous editions – very striking if you have all five in a row.

Excerpt here (out July 8 )

 

51W-EpQ0YFL__SL160_ Eoin Colfer’s “The Time Paradox” (children’s fantasy) – Sixth book in the Artemis Fowl series.  Speaking of precocious children, here’s the poster child.  I can’t remember how I first stumbled upon this series, but it’s brilliant.  Artemis is a teenage boy who could probably take over the world (in his spare time) if he wanted to.  In this one, apparently he has to go back in time and outsmart his ten-year-old self – excellent premise!  Oh, and I love the cover.

Excerpt here (out July 15)

 

212Bv9w5i2BbL__SL160_ Diana Wynne Jones’ “The House of Many Ways” (children’s fantasy) – I wouldn’t describe myself as a massive fan of Ms Wynne Jones (or is that Ms Jones?), but “House of Many Ways” is a follow-up to… “Howl’s Moving Castle”!  And I love Howl.  And Sophie.  And Calcifer!  Unusually, I liked both the book and the animated movie, although the movie did take a lot of liberties with the story.  Definitely going to get this book. 

Excerpt here (out July 1 – think it’s already out in the States)

 

21b7e8p2BbEL__SL160_ 51I9bKIEshL__SL160_Kelley Armstrong’s “The Summoning” (YA urban fantasy) – This is a YA spin-off  from her Otherworld series and apparently, the book’s written from the POV of a 15-year-old who’s just coming into her powers.  I can’t wait to see the Otherworld from such a different perspective, and I do like Ms Armstrong’s writing.  Again, UK cover on the left and US on the right – I think the US lucked out this time around.  The UK version is a bit blah, hopefully it looks better in real life!

Excerpt here or you can read the Flash version somewhere here, okay, go to Story > Excerpt (out July 1)

 

51hRsnr9rDL__SL160_ Patricia Briggs’ “Cry Wolf” (urban fantasy) – Is there anyone out there *not* waiting for this one?  After giving us a taster in the “On the Prowl” anthology, here’s Anna and Charles’ story.  And the cover’s amazing.

Excerpt here (out July 29)

 

 

 

Maybes for July include John Scalzi’s “The Last Colony” (SF – will probably get if it comes out in ebook format), Nathalie Mallet’s “The King’s Daughters”  (fantasy – second in the Prince Amir series) and Sherwood Smith’s “The Fox” (fantasy – this is the mmp version, so I will most likely get).

Oh, and finally, there’s this anthology titled “The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance” which sounds interesting – contributors include Karen Chance (which probably makes it a “Buy!”), Lilith Saintcrow, Keri Arthur, and Vicki Pettersson.

Around the Web

51l53MP1AXL__SL160_ There’s a Jacqueline Carey interview up at Fantasy Book Critic (together with a review of her latest “Kushiel’s Mercy”.  I really liked the book, btw, thought it was a good conclusion to the Imriel trilogy, and as always, Ms Carey writes beautifully.

And there’s also an interview with Stephenie Meyer on the Times website.  This is from May, so before “The Host” was published.  Speaking of which, “The Host” is still sitting in my TBR pile.  Reviews have been unanimously positive, but I’m just not in the mood for an SF romance right now (which is what I’m assuming it is!).

PS: I’m writing the post using the rather cool Windows Live Writer, which is an application you install on your PC.  Still early days, but I’m liking this very much because it looks as though you’ll get all the functionality that you would when blogging online, but it’s faster to save, insert pictures, preview posts, etc.  I’ve been struggling with WordPress’s image editing lately and this may be the perfect solution.

Review – Diana Peterfreund’s “Rites of Spring (Break)”

The very fact I’m finding time to post this in the midst of Wimbledon mania is an indication of how much I adored this book. 

A bit of background: I stumbled across the first book “Secret Society Girl” about a month ago and promptly fell in love with Diana Peterfreund‘s Rose & Grave series.  I immediately snapped up the second book (“Under the Rose”) and squeeeee’d with joy when I realised the third book was being released in a month’s time.

“Rites of Spring (Break)” (clever title, btw) came out on the 24th of June, and thanks to the magic that is ebook technology, I had it on the very day it was released.  And just to re-emphasise how much I was looking forward to it – I had to get up at half-six the next morning, but I still started it that very night.  And couldn’t put it down.  I ended up getting about four hours of sleep that night… and you know what?  It was completely worth it.

My post on the first book provides more background info on the series (or have a look at Ms Peterfreund’s website).  Amy Haskell’s a member of the Rose & Grave secret society at Eli, a (fictional) Ivy League university.  RoSB starts off with Amy in her senior year and looking forward to a peaceful final year after the rather hair-raising adventures of previous terms.  However, a prank on rival secret society Dragon’s Head goes ever-so-slightly wrong, and Amy finds herself the target of an increasingly personal vendetta.  Plot-wise, this is almost a book of two halves, the first half set in the environs of Eli University and dealing with the aftermath of the Dragon’s Head prank, before moving to a different setting as the Diggers (i.e. Rose & Grave members) head off to their private island to enjoy spring break in Florida. 

Okay, rather than doing a “proper” review, I’m going to list some points below because I can’t seem to organise my thoughts (hugely distracted by the tennis in the background!):

  • While reading the second book, at times I struggled with the question of why on earth would anyone remotely sane *want* to join a secret society.  I’m glad to say that it made complete sense in this book – and without Ms Peterfreund having to batter me senseless with the reasons.  The camaraderie and friendship between a very diverse group of people tied together through R&G came through very strongly in RoSB. 
     
  • As per usual with this series, I loved Amy’s voice and her slightly snarky sense of humour.  And there was excellent dialogue – there were some exchanges I just had to re-read over and over again. 
     
  • By the third book of a series, there is bound to be a large cast of characters, and while you probably can’t please everyone in terms of page-time (or is that space?), I thought it was well-balanced.  I loved seeing old characters (yes, Malcom makes an appearance), and the major secondary characters were spot-on.
     
  • One random observation that struck me halfway through this book – Ms Peterfreund is not big on physical descriptions of the characters.  I mean, I know Poe has silvery-grey eyes, but for instance, I have no clue how Amy herself looks like.  Or Josh.  It’s more impressions than physical descriptions.  And I do like that.
     
  • The reveal in the first half of the book really surprised me, but for the second half, I pretty much figured out the villain straightaway.  But I didn’t really care, because for me, the romance was the main focus of the second half.  I’ve been waiting for this since Book 1 and the wait was completely worth it.
     
  • I love Amy as a heroine – she isn’t perfect, she’s human, she makes mistakes, she’s not holier-than-thou…  Some bits were painful to read, but really rang true.
       
  • And last, but definitely not least… I L-O-V-E-D the romance.  Ah, let’s face it – I’m a romance fan, and this was just perfect.  This is where I slip into spoiler territory, so skip the following bit if you haven’t read the book yet:
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    The first half of the book had me a bit worried.  Surely I didn’t misread the hints in the previous books.  Looking back at it, I can see how the first half wrapped up various loose ends relationship-wise.  And in a way, it made the second half even better.  Amy’s realisation that a certain person had a major thing for her, and the hilarious conversation she had with Malcolm, and the not-date that was a date… aaahhhhh.  Perfect. 
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Okay, fangirl gushing over.  This is one of my favourite books of the year.  An A for me and I cannot believe I now have to wait an entire year before the next (and final) book in this series comes out. 

(Oh, and a big thank you to the publisher for including the first chapter of the next book at the back.  I loved it.)

I’m Still Here

Just completely distracted by Wimbledon.  Bear with me for a couple of weeks…

It is, however, release day, which means that I get my hands on:

  • Eloisa James‘ “Duchess by Night” – For some reason, I thought it was a July release!
  • Diana Peterfreund‘s “Rites of Spring (Break)” – Am probably going to start this tonight, despite the fact I’ve to get up at half-six tomorrow…
  • Lynn Flewelling‘s “Shadows Return” – Finally.

A v good book day.

 

TBR Day: Nora Roberts’ “Blood Brothers”

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: Blood Brothers (paranormal romance)

Author: Nora Roberts

Copyright Date: 2007

Why did I buy this book?  Err I didn’t.  I nicked it off my sister ages ago… and never quite got around to reading it.  See next question.

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long?  I’ve read practically all of Ms Roberts’ backlist, and while I still enjoy her writing, I’ve felt that there has been a bit of a same-ness about her recent books.  Also, her previous “Circle” trilogy, which had paranormal elements, really didn’t work for me – so when I heard that this one also had a paranormal storyline, I just couldn’t get excited about reading it.

What is it about?  The first in Ms Roberts’ latest trilogy, “Blood Brothers” starts off with three boys, Cal, Fox, and Gage, swearing blood brothership on their tenth birthdays and accidentally unleashing a demon that brings chaos and murder to their small town every seven years.   Fast forward 21 years, and Quinn, a writer (and obviously the heroine of Book 1), turns up to investigate the phenomenon.

So what did I think about it?  Well, first off, this is very much a NR trilogy – if you’ve read a couple, you’ll be very familiar with the set-up in this book.  Three men, three women, each of a certain “type” (the clever one, the quiet one, etc), all end up in the same place and relationships develop.  And as I alluded to earlier, unfortunately this just didn’t feel fresh to me.  It reminded me a lot of previous trilogies, especially the Chesapeake Bay series – an association not helped by the fact the heroine’s name is Quinn, which is the name of the main family in that series!

Having said that, it is a Nora Roberts, and it has her characteristically smooth flowing writing style.  The background is deftly sketched in and the secondary characters nicely brought to life.  I did like the relationship between Cal and Quinn, and I loved the male viewpoints and dialogue.  For instance, this had me smiling – when Fox’s secretary suggests he refer a problematic client to someone else:

“You can’t refer off the first girl you got to second base with when she’s filing for divorce.  It’s against the laws of God and Man.”

And then the plot, well.  Okay, I’m not a huge fan of horror, and I think this book veers towards the horror side of the scale.  Not massively, but horror’s really not my thing.  And maybe I missed something, but what I just don’t grasp is why anyone is still living in this town.  I mean, if I knew my neighbours went mad and started murdering everyone every seven years, there is no way I’d still be living there.  Yes, the period’s a bit of a blur to anyone actually experiencing it, but if the phenomenon has been written up so much that a writer comes to town to find out more about it, it’s hardly a secret.  So I did think there were a few logical gaps in the plot.

And finally, my other main bugbear with the plot is the ending.  Yes, I know it’s the first in a trilogy, but the plot climax really came across as a letdown and I felt as though the book didn’t really have a proper ending.  Definitely not a standalone at all, which irked me.

My conclusion?  I think that someone fresh to Ms Roberts’ writing would probably rate it higher, but this book didn’t wow me.  And the ending?  Just plain disappointing.  However, I still enjoyed the humour and the writing flowed well, so a B- for me.

Just to Say…

I’ve finally gotten hold of Jacqueline Carey‘s “Kushiel’s Mercy”, and that’s going to keep me occupied for a while. 

Except I still haven’t read a book for the TBR challenge, dammit.  Yes, I know – how difficult is it to read *one* book a month from my TBR?  Answer: Very, when you’ve new Mary Stewart books arriving daily.  Arrghhh – I will just have to make time between now and Tuesday evening.

Btw, “The Ivy Tree” may just have displaced “Nine Coaches Waiting” as my favourite Stewart.  Really cleverly written (and yes, I cheated and skipped ahead to the ending).

PS: This is for Jennie who strongly rec’d “This Rough Magic”:  I liked it very much too, but not as much as “Nine Coaches Waiting” – I mean, it didn’t have Philippe! 

That HP Prequel

If you want to read the 800-word prequel to Harry Potter that sold for £25,000 (that’s £31.25 a word!), it’s on the web here – click on “Read our authors’ stories” and then on JK Rowling’s name (link via Diana Peterfreund‘s blog).

I admit I gave up after squinting at the first few lines.  I don’t love Harry Potter enough to spend the next thirty minutes trying to decipher her handwriting.

123…

I’m normally too lazy to do memes, but this is a nice easy one that has been doing the rounds for quite some time. 

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Err… my nearest book is actually “This Rough Magic” by Mary Stewart, but I’ve just started it and there’s no way I’m skipping ahead, so I’m going for my next-nearest book – Elizabeth Peters‘ “Night Train to Memphis” (fifth in her Vicky Bliss series).

His voice kept dropping in pitch. ‘I don’t believe I can possibly address Professor Schmidt as Anton.’

‘Try Poopsie,’ I suggested, losing it for a second.

If you’re a fan of Vicky Bliss, it’s quite easy to guess who the “he” is.  I actually got the page wrong at first, and was typing out the sentences from p.122 (see, this is why I don’t do memes):

The late-afternoon heat was intense, but it felt refreshing after the confined airlessness of the tomb.  Even in the shade I seemed to feel my skin drying and shrinking over my bones.  It was the climate of Egypt, not the well-meaning but often destructive process of burial, that produced such excellent mummies.

These two (very) short excerpts probably sum up why I love Ms Peters’ writing.  You have the humour and chemistry between the main characters as in the first excerpt, and then you have the vivid descriptions that make you feel as though you were present.

I was tagged by Marg, and I’m not going to tag anyone in particular, but feel free to grab your nearest book.