Jinxed

I’ve been having a run of bad luck when it comes to books lately – nothing to do with the story itself, but with the production of the actual book.  Sigh.

First up was Richelle Mead’s “Frostbite” – I was completely absorbed in the story, reached the end of the page… and then went “Huh?”.  Yes, about 30-plus pages were missing!  I had a brief internal debate about whether to stop reading and do an exchange the next time I was in the bookstore, but I wanted to know what happened so badly that I took a deep breath and continued reading.  So I missed the events of Rose’s Christmas, though I sort of gathered that it wasn’t a very good one.  And yes, the next time I went to the bookstore, I spent five minutes speed-reading through the missing bits…

And then came Katie MacAlister’s “Up in Smoke”.  This one was an ebook version, which I don’t quite understand, because how in the world can you mess up the sequence of chapters in an ebook?!  Well, Penguin managed it, and so I had chapter 14 following on from chapter 9, with chapter 10 making an appearance after chapter 17.  Which totally confused the hell out of me, especially seeing chapter 9 ended in a bit of a cliffhanger, with May (the heroine) setting off some rather disastrous pyrotechnics.  And then the next chapter had May merrily chatting away with her twin.  Not being one to track chapter numbers, I figured that it was a stylistic decision on the part of the author, and that flashbacks would be inserted later.  Err… yes, in a way.  At least there weren’t any missing pages in this one.

But the winner of the worst formatted ebook is Tanya Huff’s “Valor’s Trial”.  Why?  No, there weren’t any missing pages, but there were also no separators or white space between different scenes, which made it confusing beyond belief.  Especially in the first chapter, when there were lots of brief vignettes as the main character reacquainted herself with her fellow Marines.  So you had one paragraph having Torin (the protagonist) all by herself in her room, and the next paragraph having her interacting with others at a Marine briefing.  A few paragraphs later, Torin is suddenly sorting out missing inventory with the supply officer before appearing at the firing range, and then dealing with drunk sergeants at the bar.  You get the picture. 

I would have loved reading about Torin settling back into Marine life, but I was constantly confused about where she was and what she was doing!  It was so bad that I re-downloaded the book from the Fictionwise bookshelf because I thought I did something wrong the first time (though how you can mess up a download is beyond me).  It got better in the latter chapters, as there were fewer scene shifts, but every time I encountered one, it would completely throw me.

Okay, rant over.  I hope my luck improves with my next books.

More October Releases

I’ve stumbled across these two October releases, which I also want – unfortunately, they appear to be either hardback or trade size.  Sigh.

 

51SEXXtr7dL._SL160_ Tamora Pierce’s “Melting Stones” (YA fantasy):  This was originally released as an audiobook.  I just can’t do audiobooks (I sort of tune out!), so I’m glad this is being released in print.  It’s loosely related to her The Circle Opens series.  I must say the Amazon reviews are a bit lukewarm, so I may hold off on this.

 

 

   511S4a9BkXL._SL160_

“Blood Lite” (urban fantasy), an anthology with Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Kelley Armstrong headlining.  With my newfound love for Harry Dresden, that means three out of four are my auto-buy authors.  The Armstrong story features Jaime, but I’m not sure if the Harris one is a Sookie Stackhouse story.  It’s labelled (humorous) Horror rather than UF, but I don’t know, I don’t necessarily think of the above as horror writers. 

Am back!

I will never ever take a reliable broadband connection for granted again.  You’ve no idea how long it took me to upload and schedule the TBR Day post for Wednesday.  Seriously.  I was thisclose to giving up.

But I’ve also been putting my offline time to good use.  Books I’ve been reading and loving:

Richelle Mead‘s “Vampire Academy” series (YA urban fantasy): Excellent rec from Thea and Ana, I read both “Vampire Academy” and “Frostbite”, and now can’t wait for “Shadow Kiss” to come out next month.  Especially after reading the first chapter on Ms Mead’s website – what a cliffhanger!!  (Note: MAJOR spoiler for Frostbite in excerpt)

Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series (urban fantasy):  A big thank you to Nath for assuring me the series does get better, and telling me to skip to Book 4 (and helping me ignore my must-read-series-in-order compulsion).  I read the first book sometime back, and was left wondering what the fuss was about.  Now I know.  I’m up to “White Night” (only one more book to go until I catch up, dammit!) and am seriously considering splashing out $20 for the Subterranean Press novella “Backup” (*hoping common sense will win out*).  Besides the excellent storytelling, I love the fact each book is complete in itself (no cliffhanger endings!), and that Harry and his fellow characters change and grow over the course of this series.

I’ve just noticed Nath has done a massive TBR Day post on the Dresden Files series, so good timing!

Kristin Cashore‘s “Graceling” (YA fantasy):  Angie loved and I did too.  If you’re a Tamora Pierce fan, I think you will too. 

So yes, I’ve been busy.  You’ll also notice the common theme – all of these great reads have been recommended by fellow bloggers, so thank you!

TBR Day: Julie Garwood’s “Shadow Dance”

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.

*******************************

Book: Shadow Dance (romantic suspense)

Author: Julie Garwood

Copyright Date: 2007

Why did I buy this book? Julie Garwood was one of the first authors I read when I started reading romance. While I’m not sold on her contemporaries (see next paragraph), that doesn’t stop me from getting her books…

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long? For me, the charm that her writing has in her historicals hasn’t translate well to contemporaries.  I’m not entirely sure why – maybe the mixture of stubbornness and innocence her heroines display in her historicals come across as irksome ignorance in a modern setting, while the alpha hero’s arrogance and take-charge attitude become hmmm… just plain bull-headed insensitivity.  So I don’t have as much invested in the romance, and it isn’t enough to distract me from the (weaker) suspense subplot.

What is it about? “Shadow Dance” is one of the books in Ms Garwood’s loosely-linked series of contemporary romantic suspense novels.  The heroine, Jordan Buchanan, is the sister of the hero in a previous book, and I’m pretty sure the hero in this one, Noah Clayborne, is also a recurring character. Having said that, you needn’t have read the previous books in this series – I’ve read all of the rest, but can’t really recall them.

The basic plot: Jordan’s just sold her IT company (she’s a technological wizard) and is at loose ends.  Noah winds her up (okay, slight oversimplication) so she heads off to the middle of nowhere to collect old papers relating to her family history, and manages to get herself entangled with various dead bodies.  So it’s Noah to the rescue…

So what did I think of it? I love the “friends to lovers” storyline and here, Jordan and Noah have known each other pretty much forever (Noah being Jordan’s brother’s friend and FBI partner).  I liked the interaction the two of them had, especially in the beginning, and I thought that the book slowed down a bit once Jordan headed off on her own (for about 60-plus pages). There are some typical Garwood scenes that had me smiling, for instance, having all the ladies swooning over Noah and Jordan befriending everyone in town.

However, I have to say the characterisation didn’t feel “authentic” – I mean, Jordan’s meant to be an IT genius, yet that only went as far as her treating her laptop like an extension to her body.  Similarly, with Noah’s FBI background, again it didn’t feel that FBI-like. You know how the phrase “wallpaper historical” gets tossed around?  Well, this felt like a wallpaper contemporary to me – Jordan could easily have been some sort of err… successful florist or caterer or whatever, and Noah a police detective or something.  She just needed to be a successful businessperson, and he just needed to be somebody who was in law enforcement.  I’m probably doing a bad job of explaining, but if I compare this to another recent read of mine, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s “I Shall Not Want”, her heroine’s Clare religious background was part of her. Ms Spencer-Fleming couldn’t have had Clare become an IT expert without completely changing the whole book, whereas this is not necessarily the case for “Shadow Dance”.

There was also some jarring head-hopping – I’m not a fussy reader by any means, so if I notice something like this, it probably means it’s glaringly obvious.  And I’m also not convinced that the links to Ms Garwood’s previous books were needed.  They didn’t really add anything to the story, even for the longtime reader.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Oh, and the suspense plotline? Eh. It’s not one of those that could have been figured out by the reader (i.e. not enough clues), but then again, I rarely figure out the whodunit, so I’m not 100% sure she didn’t do any foreshadowing. Not the strongest, IMO.

My conclusion? “Shadow Dance” entertained me for a couple of hours or so, but isn’t a keeper, and it hasn’t changed my mind about Ms Garwood’s contemporaries.  I wavered between a B and C for this, because I did enjoy the Jordan/Noah interaction, but at the end of the day, if I hadn’t read this, I really wouldn’t mind one way or the other.  C+ for me, I think.

Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” trilogy

I’m on a sort of mini-vacation at the moment (visiting parents, which does count as a holiday, though not one of those where you spend the day sightseeing and doing new things, but one where you can just be lazy and revisit old haunts… which in some ways, are even nicer than the other type).

Obviously old haunts include bookstores, and I’ve realised that I spend more time in the YA section than the “adults” area.  I swear, I’m jealous of the reading selection teenagers have nowadays.  I’ve just read Cassandra Clare‘s “City of Ashes”, the second in her Mortal Instruments trilogy (YA urban fantasy).  You may recall I was umming and ahhing about getting the first book sometime back – well, I did get “City of Bones” last month and it was a B for me. And then I picked up its sequel and LOVED.

Ms Clare wrote in her bio:

In fairy tales, it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger.  I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest-where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries and strange beauty.

In Ms Clare’s alternate New York, there are the usual suspects including vampires, werewolves, and warlocks.  But it’s not all standard UF fare – the main characters in the book are the Nephilim, or Shadowhunters, humans with the blood of angels running in their veins.  They’re tasked with keeping the world safe from demons, and also to keep the peace between what they call Downworlders (the vampires, werewolves, etc.). To help them, they are able to draw Marks – runes they trace on their bodies that can help them attack, defend, or heal.

Clary is a human who stumbles upon the secret world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders – except of course, it’s not really a coincidence.  The first book centres on Clary figuring out her family secrets and discovering more about the hidden world.  And falling in love.  Yes, there is romance alongside the action.  Young love.  First love.  Forbidden love. Lots of angst.

I love the characters and their relationships in these books.  You have Clary, who has feelings that she really shouldn’t have for the beautiful blond Shadowhunter Jace (or should she???  I suspect there are yet more twists to come).  And then there’s Simon, Clary’s practical best friend, who’s suffering from unrequited love, but hmmm… has plenty of other things to keep him more than busy.  The secondary characters are fun too.  I’ve a soft spot for Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of… Brooklyn.  Who, despite his love for glitter and sparkle, is really a rather powerful magician. And oh yeah, the evil guys.  Black.  White.  Shades of grey.  It’s not all just romance and lust in these books, there’s also a focus on relationships between people who aren’t related by blood, but are family all the same.  Or, conversely, blood relatives who aren’t family.

Also, Ms Clare adds contemporary detail – from Simon’s t-shirts to Clare’s love of manga – that helps round out the characters and just makes this series more fun.  I stumbled upon the Characters page when writing this post and love the sketches, btw.

I’m not going to say the plot is the most original ever or the world the most unique ever, but hey, you could have the best plotline in the world, and if I don’t care about the characters, the book doesn’t work for me.  This book works because I like the characters, I feel for them, and… they make me laugh.  Yes, the snappy comebacks and one-liners sometimes seem out of place, but they do make me snicker, and definitely add to the charm these books have for me.

So while the first book, “City of Bones” was a decent read (but didn’t send me running to the bookstore to get its sequel straightaway), “City of Ashes” picked up where CoB left off and completely captured my imagination.  I can’t believe I have to wait five more months for the final book “City of Glass” (released March 2009).  Damn.

Books for October

Books I’m planning on getting this month:

516EGUQZs6L._SL160_ Karen Chance’s “Midnight’s Daughter” (urban fantasy):  I’m a big fan of Ms Chance’s Cassie Palmer series, and this title is the first in a new-but-related series and is set after the third Cassie book (“Embrace the Night”).  Dorina Basarab is a dhampir (human-vampire mix, apparently) who occasionally has psychotic episodes.  Err… I have to say if I read that backcover blurb while browsing, I would put that book straight back on the shelf.  But this is Karen Chance and therefore I want. 

The cover is the UK one – same basic picture as the US version, but closer-up and with different fonts… they’ve cropped out the gun she’s holding in her left hand on the US cover.

Excerpt here (out Oct 7)

 

51zs8JTx8jL._SL160_ “Wolfsbane and Mistletoe” (urban fantasy):  Anthology with, hmmm… wild guess here, but I’m thinking all of the stories will feature werewolves.  I’ve never really liked anthologies (I’m not a short story person), but with authors including Patricia Briggs, Karen Chance, and Charlaine Harris, it becomes a must-get.

Out Oct 7

 

 

51bMcsitwJL._SL160_ Katie MacAlister’s “Up in Smoke” (paranormal romance):  Second in her Silver Dragons series.  I was getting a bit bored with Ms MacAlister’s Aisling Grey books, and to be honest, wasn’t expecting much from her spin-off Silver Dragons series.  But the first one (“Playing with Fire”) was a fun read, and I want to know what’s next in store for May and Gabriel.

Excerpt here (out Oct 7)

 

 

51d9CCLVtWL._SL160_ Lisa Kleypas’ “A Wallflower Christmas” (historical romance): Ms Kleypas revisits the world of the Wallflowers in this Christmas novel.  Her Wallflowers series is probably my favourite of all her books, so I’m excited about reading more about this world.  Even though it’s a hardcover release.  And 224 pages long.  Hmmm… this seems to be a St Martin’s Press speciality, I think they also release Janet Evanovich’s “between-the-numbers” Plum books for hardcover prices, and they come in at less than 200 pages.  Sigh.  I will probably shell out for this though.

Excerpt here (out Oct 14)

 

And then the maybe books:

Mercedes Lackey’s “Foundation”, the start of a new series in her Valdemar world, and which I blogged about here – if it is released in ebook format, I will probably cave in and get it.

“The Magical Christmas Cat” is another anthology, this time featuring a story by Nalini Singh, hence me considering it.  I’m not that excited about the other authors featuring in this book (Lora Leigh, Eric McCarthy, Linda Winstead Jones), but I may cave for the DarkRiver story.