Splurge… and a Squee

I’ve been incredibly good lately – no major shopping sprees, despite the sale signs in practically every other shop and various discount vouchers making the rounds.  However, I caved in over the weekend and bought the following from BooksonBoard:

  • Jim Butcher’s “Princeps’ Fury” (fantasy): Fifth in his Codex Alera series.  Very different to his Dresden Files UF books, but equally enjoyable.
     
  • Jenna Black’s “The Devil’s Due” (urban fantasy): Third in her Morgan Kingsley series.  I liked the first, was a bit meh about the second, so this could determine whether I continue with the series or not.
     
  • Eloisa James’ “When the Duke Returns” (historical romance): Fourth in her Desperate Duchesses series.  This is the Squee.  See below.
     
  • Brent Weeks’ “The Way of Shadows” (fantasy): First in the Night Angels trilogy.  I’m totally blanking on who and where I saw the rec for this, but this was based on an online recommendation.
     
  • “The Magical Christmas Cat” (paranormal romance):  Anthology with Lora Leigh, Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, and Linda Winstead Jones.  This came out a while back in trade paperback, and the ebook version is now available.  I wish they were released simultaneously, but oh well.  And yeah, I obviously bought it for the Nalini Singh story.
     
  • Deborah Chester’s “The Pearls” (fantasy): First in a duology.  I have a few Deborah Chester books on my bookshelf, and was curious about her latest release.  And a duology instead of a long-running series?  Why not.
     
  • Lynne Graham’s “The Greek Tycoon’s Disobedient Wife” (series romance):  I’m ignoring the title on this one.  But Lynne Graham is my one autobuy M&B author.  Formulaic?  Oh yes.  Comfort read?  Totally.

And the squee?

I had to read Eloisa James’ “When the Duke Returns” immediately, because of Ana’s rave over it.  And… I totally loved it.  Loved.  I thought Isidore’s and Simeon’s courtship was wonderfully romantic and sexy, with some really humorous moments.  And the scenes with Jemma & Elijah and Elijah & Villier?  Perfect.  I can’t wait for Jemma and Elijah’s book “This Duchess of Mine” (out May 2009). 

If I had to be really picky, I would say I think Villiers is turning out to be ever-so-slightly too good to be true.  But hey, this is romance, and we’re going to get a HEA for him (“A Duke of Her Own”, July 2009), so I’m willing to ignore that little niggle.

Ana did a “I love this series” post at The Book Smugglers earlier this week that provides a great overview of this series, btw.

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Around the Web

I haven’t done one of these posts for a very long time – mostly because I’m incredibly swamped at work.  But some recent (and not so recent) links of interest:

Literary Escapism has the new Kelley Armstrong cover for “Frostbitten” (Nov 2009).  Rather different from the previous ones!  I like.  Also, rather intriguingly, I looked this title up on Amazon UK and while it had no image, it had the tagline “A New Hunt Begins… and an Ancient Secret is Revealed”. 

A long-ish Lois McMaster Bujold interview has been posted on her MySpace site.  It was done for her Chinese publisher, so there are some interesting questions in there.

Also on interviews, a three-part Diana Gabaldon one is up at Writers Unboxed.  Very detailed and thorough answers.  She apparently acquires a couple of hundred reference books when writing each novel – I am in awe.

TBR Day: Tara Janzen’s “On the Loose”

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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512T3f22wkL._SL160_ Book: On the Loose (romantic suspense) – excerpt here

Author: Tara Janzen

Copyright Date: 2007

Why did I buy this book?  I first stumbled upon Tara Janzen’s Steele Street books a good few years ago.  Centred around a super-secret Denver-based special forces group, there was fast-paced action, lots of testosterone, and super-alpha heroes matched up with feisty heroines.  Oh, and cars.  They were fun entertaining reads – sure, they required some suspension of disbelief, but I was hooked.  “On the Loose” is the seventh book in this series, and I picked it up a while back.

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long?  Well, as much I loved the earlier books, this series went horribly off-course in the fifth and sixth books, “Crazy Love” and “Crazy Sweet”, IMO.  The characters underwent dramatic personality changes between one book and the next, the plots became off-the-wall crazy (and not in a good way), and I lost interest in finding out what would happen next.

What is it about?  C Smith Rydell and Honoria “Honey” York-Lytton were the secondary h/h characters in “Crazy Sweet”, and to be honest, they were the one redeeming factor in that book for me.  Coming from totally opposite worlds, Smith is the hardened Special Defense Forces agent, and Honey the East Coast heiress and socialite.  Reunited in this book, Smith has to escort Honey to the depths of the El Savadoran jungles, deliver a few million dollars and some gunpower to the rebels, and get them out safely again.  All in a day’s work for a man like Smith…

So what did I think of it?  I’ve always mentally grouped Ms Janzen’s books under the “If you like Suzanne Brockmann, you’ll probably enjoy the Steele Street books”, and to some extent, that still holds true.  There are a lot of similarities between the books, not least being we spend a lot of the book in the hero’s POV, and there’s usually a secondary couple that ends up being the h/h of an upcoming book.  Where it differs is that here, having a masculine POV appears to mainly consist of swearing and lusting after the heroine’s body, and the plot tends to be weak and cobweb thin. 

The plot in this book largely went over my head, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered to try and keep up with the twists and turns.  Everything, and I mean everything, was thrown in there as justification for the implausible storyline that had Honey trotting off to El Salvador with her Louis Vuitton suitcases – drugs, US political maneuvering, local governments, guerillas, blackmail, double-crosses, misunderstandings.  Did I care?  Not really.

I must admit to feeling some ambiguity when it came to the political aspects because I’m unfamiliar with South American politics and don’t know which cause I’m meant to identify with – the government or the rebels?  Maybe Ms Janzen is making a point that it’s not black and white, and that there are grey areas, but I do like feeling that I know where things are in relation to my personal views.  Perhaps this is where using an actual country as opposed to a fictional one makes it more difficult for a reader.

Okay, so I didn’t care for the plot.  But it wasn’t all bad, I liked C Smith and Honey.  I liked finally getting to know what the C stood for.  I liked the humour.  And I very much liked the intriguing Alejandro Campos that Ms Janzen introduced.  So much that I may even buy the next book if it’s his story.  And I guess this is where Ms Janzen excels, she makes certain characters so compelling that you really really want to read their story.

My conclusion?  Not the best book in this series, but not the worst either.  It had some of the magic of the earlier books, and I may, just may, get the next book “Cutting Loose”.  C+ for me.

If You Like…

Juliet Marillier, whose books would you enjoy as well?  I was thinking about this on and off throughout the day, which probably shows how much I loved Ms Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest”.

Sharon Shinn is the obvious pick, because romantic fantasy is the perfect description for the books both of them write.  However, I’m not entirely sure that this is accurate, because Ms Shinn writes more traditional fantasy, whereas Ms Marillier’s books tend to be based in the real world (err… please bear in mind I’ve only read “Daughter of the Forest” so far and have no idea what her other books are about).

So I’m more inclined towards suggesting Diana Gabaldon, because like Ms Marillier, her books are rooted in historical fact, and they have the same sweeping epic feel, with very strong characters and relationships.

Your thoughts?

Mad Mad Week at Work But…

A good week for reading!  And all I can say is what took me so long?!

I’ve had Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest” sitting in my TBR pile forever.  And I mean seriously forever.  But I never actually got around to reading it because… eh, I don’t know.  Because it was based around Celtic myths.  Because it looked too thick.  Because it had a green cover.  Ummm… not really.

Then Angie wrote a glowing review about the fourth book in the series.  I rooted around in my TBR pile and moved “Daughter of the Forest” to the pile on my bedside table.  Then Thea joined the general clamour of praise.  I moved it to the top of the bedside pile.

And last night, I picked it up, thinking a couple of chapters… I ended up staying up much much later than I had planned. 

I’m around halfway through and loving it.  It’s such an absorbing world and so beautifully written.  The only thing is… it had better end on an uplifting note (because I so don’t need tragedy after spending the week seeing redundancy headlines everywhere) and also not on a cliffhanger (because I don’t have the second book!).

Recent Reads

I’m never going to get organised enough to post my monthly reads on a regular basis or to review every single book I read (or even every other book), so here are some quick thoughts on a few books I’ve recently read.

I loved Karen Chance’s “Midnight’s Daughter” (urban fantasy), but I’d have to say it’s probably not one for new readers.  Even though it’s the start of a new series, it’s set in the same world as her Cassie Palmer books and I suspect that without having read the Cassie books, the world-building would leave you a bit lost.  This book also references a novella in the “On the Prowl” anthology, which I vaguely recalled, and so helped me to understand some events that occurred off-stage, so to speak.  But I love Ms Chance’s writing and I enjoyed exploring more of her world through a different viewpoint.  I want more.

I also read Mary Stewart’s “The Gabriel Hounds” (romantic suspense).  I’m fascinated by contemporaries written decades ago because of the insight you get into everyday life and cultural norms back then.  What life was like without mobile phones and the internet.  When you had to go through an operator to make international calls.  When it was acceptable to have a heroine who smokes.  Anyway, I liked this one, especially the Middle East setting and the mystery of the reclusive and eccentric grand-aunt who styles herself after Lady Hester Stanhope.  But I was wondering about the romance: [slight spoiler] – surely first cousins are slightly too close, especially if their fathers are twins (identical, I’m assuming)?  Or was that considered acceptable back then? [/spoiler]*

And then I read Laurell K Hamilton’s “Swallowing Darkness” (err… paranormal romance?  I’m not entirely sure how to classify this).  I wasn’t going to read this one as I’ve almost given up on the Merry Gentry series, but my curiosity was piqued by several posts asking if this was the final Merry book (it isn’t, btw), which sort of implied that the overall story arc had reached a conclusion.  It wasn’t as bad as one of the previous books (can’t remember which now, the one that pretty much consisted of a couple of scenes and nothing else) but it was almost a DNF for me, because I was just… bored.  The bad guys would attack, Merry (or rather, the Goddess) would save the day and heal everyone.  Repeat.  Even the sex scenes felt tame to me (or maybe the heat-level that’s prevalent in romance nowadays has raised the bar a bit).  FWIW, yes, there is some sort of conclusion to the whole Merry-Cel saga, but it’s definitely a borrow, not buy, book).

And I finished Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Dreams” (urban fantasy – I think) yesterday.  As always, an entertaining read.  I like the fact Ms Mead’s not afraid to have her characters move on and change, the series doesn’t feel static to me.  And Georgina is a very likeable character.  However, while I know I will probably get the next book in the series (and will enjoy it), I don’t feel as though I must know what happens next.  I guess I’m not as invested in the series as I am in others.

 

*Spoilers in comments as well

More November Releases

5180YM gnJL._SL160_ I knew my list appeared rather short… how could I forget “Shadow Kiss” (YA fantasy), the third in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series?  I devoured the first two (“Vampire Academy” and “Frostbite” respectively) after strong recs from Thea and Ana a.k.a. The Book Smugglers, just in time for this release!

Excerpt here, but with major spoiler for previous book (out Nov 13).

 

51nTUyWKn-L._SL160_ Also, I thought this was a December release, but it’s actually an end of November one.  Eloisa James’ “When the Duke Returns” (historical romance) is the latest in her Desperate Duchess series.  I’m a complete Eloisa James fangirl, so I can’t wait for this to come out.  Even better, Jemma’s book is scheduled for spring of next year.  I really really hope she and Elijah work things out.

Excerpt here (out Nov 25).

Credit Crunch and All That

I may have mentioned that I very rarely go to my local library, seeing that it’s been re-branded as an Idea Store, with half the space given up to PCs and training rooms, and a very limited selection of books. 

51v9DxT3GgL._SL160_ However, I was browsing in the bookstore earlier, and my eye was caught by this bee-yoo-ti-fool hardcover book displayed face-out on the shelf.  It’s an Orla Kiely design and is even more striking in real life.

The author was Barbara Pym, and despite me never hearing of her name (yes, I’m a plebian), I picked up the book and started leafing through.  I liked what I read, but sadly, could not bring myself to spend £10 for the book.  Or even £7 for any of her other paperbacks on the shelf.

51VQSRETAAL._SL160_ So because I had some spare time, I decided to stop by the Idea Store and see if they had any of her books.  I left with “Jane and Prudence”, which had the rather boring back cover blurb of:

Middle-aged Jane is the well-intentioned but far from perfect clergyman’s wife and mother. Prudence, who at 29 is teetering at the edge of spinsterhood, is an attractive, educated working girl. The two best friends share memories of their carefree days at Oxford, leisurely lunches, and gossip, but their ultimate goal is to find a suitable mate for Prudence.

but a rather pretty cover!  We’ll see.  I still want to read “Excellent Women”, which is the one with the Orla Kiely cover, and which, unfortunately, wasn’t available in the library.

Oh, and I spent some time browsing the various aisles – as expected, a bit hit or miss.  There were books 4 and 5 of Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series, but none of the first three.  I have read the first and second books, so may return to finish off the series.  Ummm… Laurell K Hamilton, only the third Anita Blake book.  Jim Butcher, again, only one – “Storm Front”, I think.

The Romance section consisted of Mills & Boons only, but there were some other books scattered in the General Fiction area, including Jayne Ann Krentz.  I also left with JAK’s “Sizzle and Burn”.  I stopped buying her contemporaries a while ago because I don’t like the paranormal elements, but I figured I’d give them another try.

I was reminded, actually, of how I used to be more adventurous in my reading, and borrowing books I knew nothing about, just because they were shelved next to my favourites, or I liked their spines, or they were left out on the tables.  Nowadays, while I still read quite a few new-to-me authors, I rarely buy “blind”, always relying on recs and reviews online before purchasing.

So maybe cutting back on book buying and spending more time in the library isn’t such a bad thing.  As long as I remember to return them by 23 Nov, because one of my bad habits is forgetting the due date and ending up paying fines.

Books for November

I’m still reading my way through my massive book haul from October (yes, I know I haven’t posted what I bought, but rest assured I took full advantage of Fictionwise’s 50% rebate last month).

But November brings yet more new releases:

51KtPq8WxoL._SL160_ Sharon Shinn’s “Fortune and Fate” (fantasy):  The fifth and final (I think) book in Ms Shinn’s “Twelve Houses” series.  How much do I want this?!  Blurb from publisher’s site:

National bestselling author Sharon Shinn’s “lyrical and entertaining” (Kirkus Reviews) Twelve Houses books have captivated readers and critics alike with their irresistible cocktail of fantasy, romance, and adventure. Now Shinn returns with a new novel set in the same world, where a troubled Warrior Rider named Wen faces her greatest challenge in the last place she ever expected: behind the walls of a great family estate known as Fortune, where Wen has been hired to guard the young heiress. Once there, she will find that fate has other plans for her…

No excerpt that I can find (out Nov 4).

 

51NhiYJvLTL._SL160_ Kelley Armstrong’s “Living with the Dead” (urban fantasy):  The latest in Ms Armstrong’s “Otherworld” series.  I actually finished reading this one last night and I think her writing has changed over the course of this series.  I don’t mean in terms in style, but the story themes have gradually grown darker and more disturbing.  Engrossing, but not a light read.  This very much reminded me of her Nadia Stafford book actually.  The next book “Frostbitten” returns to Elena and Clay, and I’m wondering if the tone will be similar to the earlier Elena/Clay books or continue in the same line as these latter ones.

Excerpts here (out 6 Nov in UK and already released in the States).

 

51AI-puqVeL._SL160_ Jenna Black’s “The Devil’s Due” (urban fantasy):  Third in Ms Black’s Morgan Kingsley series.  I loved the first book in this series (“The Devil Inside”), but had a few problems with the second (“The Devil You Know”), including a seriously TSTL secondary character and a rather unlikeable heroine.  I still really like the premise of this series though, so will get this and see if I continue further.

Excerpt here (out Nov 25).

 

I think that’s all the November releases I want – a rather short list this month!