Diana Peterfreund’s “Tap & Gown”

tagfinalcover You know, I came thisclose to ignoring the first book in Diana Peterfreund’s “Secret Society Girl” series.  I can safely say if it wasn’t for the internet, I would never have given SSG a second glance.  However, thanks to a rather serendipitous series of events, I read the SSG excerpt and there was no looking back.

I grabbed the first two books (“Secret Society Girl” and “Under the Rose” respectively), before spending last June counting down the days to the release of the third book “Rites of Spring (Break)” (and yes, totally worth it).  And then I had to wait an entire year (okay, I exaggerate – eleven months?) for the fourth and final book “Tap & Gown” to be released.

Full disclosure:  The author realised I hadn’t received an ARC (I wouldn’t normally recommend wailing about how jealous you are that other people had gotten hands on advanced copies, but that unwittingly worked for me) and actually took the trouble to ask if I wanted one (err hello!). 

Anyway, the blurb:

For Amy the countdown to graduation has begun, and suddenly the perfect ending to a perfectly iconoclastic Eli career is slipping from her grasp.  Her new boyfriend’s been made an offer he just can’t refuse.  Her fellowship applications haven’t even been filed.  And the student she’s chosen to take her place in Rose & Grave – the country’s more powerful and notorious secret society – seems to come complete with a secret life already intact.

Lunging toward the finish line, Amy finds trouble around every corner, from society intrigues and unlikely stalkers to former flames and mandatory science credits.  Surely it couldn’t get worse…until Initiation Night explodes into a terrifying scene and into a last test of wits for a young woman just trying to make it out of the Ivy League in one piece.

For those who haven’t yet read the books, Amy Haskel has spent her final year at Eli University getting embroiled in the doings of the super-secret society Rose & Grave (although bearing in mind Amy and some of her fellow Diggers’ slightly irreverent approach towards recruitment in this book, I have to say I’m not entirely sure how secret it is anymore).

So, it’s her final semester at university, Amy’s just committed herself to the most unlikely relationship ever, she has to finish her thesis and get enough credits to graduate, she has to figure what she wants to do next, and yes, there’s the little matter of choosing her replacement in Rose & Grave.

This book very much reminded me of my final year at university, this sense of “so, what happens next”.  You spend the last four years of your life working towards graduation, and suddenly it’s upon you, and it feels like a major crossroads in your life.  Decisions you make now could affect the rest of your life.  There’s so much unknown ahead of you.  You’re saying goodbye to people who have been constants in your life for a good while.  And in Amy’s case, it’s made even more complicated by the fact she has to tap the next class of Rose & Grave.

Ah, how much did I love the whole tapping process!  As in previous books, I was completely engrossed in the rituals and traditions of Rose & Grave.  This time around, we didn’t spend that much time in the tomb, but the Tap Night events more than made up for it. 

One of the main reasons that this series just works for me is Amy herself.  She’s real.  She’s no Mary Sue, she’s not perfect, she makes mistakes – but she learns from them.  And you root for her.  There was this point in the book, and I’m paraphrasing slightly here, when she’s reminded of herself at the beginning of the year and thinks “who was that girl, Amy?”.  That probably summed up how much she has grown over the course of four books.  

And Pajamie.  I didn’t think I could crush on him more.  But T&G showed I can.

On a more serious note, T&G doesn’t shy away from tackling real issues either.  In previous books, the external conflicts are somewhat OTT, but not so in this one.  It fits in with the “growing-up” feel of this book, and rather neatly brings resolution to events in the previous book.

My quibbles.  Err quibble.  Singular.  It took a while for me to remember who was who, and some of the secondary R&G members never really get fleshed out. Then again, let’s face it – new readers are probably not going to start with the fourth book.

Looking back at the series as a whole, “Rites of Spring (Break)” remains my favourite (probably because I’m a total sucker for romance), but T&G definitely comes a very close second. 

One small part of me never wants to see this series end.  I mean, there’s so much potential story left in this universe.  I could do with knowing how the class of D178 get on (and gosh, did they make a strong start) or what happens to Jenny’s startup.  But then again, they would be different stories, they would be other people’s stories, and I have to say, as the final book in the SSG series, “Tap & Gown” is an incredibly satisfying finish to Amy and D177’s Rose & Grave days.

Me = Bad Blogger

Real life completely gets in the way. 

Ah, anyway, bank holiday weekend – hurray!  Dawdling home, I decided to stop by the library (rare occurrence, trust me) and came out with these two books:

210vUxkSmML._SL160_ John Scalzi’s “The Last Colony” (military SF):  I have the first two books in this very loose trilogy (or is it a series now that “Zoe’s Tale” is out?), but for some reason, never quite got around to getting this one.

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The other book I grabbed was the UF anthology “Many Bloody Returns”, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner.  I don’t *think* I have this – I say think because I have pretty much lost track of the anthologies I own!  Apart from the named authors on the cover (Charlaine Harris herself, Jim Butcher, and Kelley Armstrong), other MBR contributors I recognise are PN Elrod, Rachel Caine, and Tanya Huff.

So plenty to read this weekend.  But… Roland Garros also gets underway tomorrow!  I will definitely be watching – anyone else?

Mary Stewart Revisited

319W34BS01L._SL160_You may recall I went on a Mary Stewart mini-glom last year.  After reading around hmmm… eight Stewarts in two months, I took a bit of a break.

Angie just posted a lovely essay about how she discovered Mary Stewart.  This inspired me to dig up “Stormy Petrel” from the depths of my TBR pile and I am completely enthralled.  Ahhh… I may have to track down the Stewarts I have not managed to obtain yet.

Angie is also giving away a copy of “Madam, Will You Talk?” to one lucky commenter (giveaway closes midnight May 6) – even if you already have a copy, there are some wonderful comments in the post that are totally worth reading.

Books for May

So after the fantastic month that was April (no, I haven’t posted my thoughts on any of the April releases in detail, and yes, I still have the Ann Aguirre and Jo Beverley left to read), here are the May new releases I’m anticipating:

 

tagfinalcover First up, Diana Peterfreund’s “Tap & Gown”, the fourth and final book in her Secret Society Girl series.  It’s no secret that I adore these incredibly addictive books, and while part of me gets slightly teary-eyed at the thought of waving goodbye to Amy and the rest of her fellow Diggers, I cannot wait to find out what happens in Amy’s final year.

Re-reading the excerpt for this one has made me so ridiculously excited about “Tap & Gown” now.  Ack.  I’m going to take a deep breath and try to calm down. 

 

Excerpt here (out May 19)

 

51QU6s2W8DL._SL160_ I posted a bit about reading Catherine Asaro’s “Diamond Star” earlier, and yes, that’s a May release too.  Okay, that is so a typical Baen cover, but you know what?  Baen has such a great user-friendly digital publishing strategy ($6 ebooks for hardcover releases, no DRM, multiple formats), plus they provide lengthy excerpts (the first eight chapters for “Diamond Star” is online) and they have a large Free Library to try out new-to-you authors… I’m just going to ignore the covers. 

Anyway, I’m a big fan of Ms Asaro’s Skolian Empire books and getting this one was a no-brainer for me.  From her website:

…Del, the renegade prince who would rather be a rock singer than sit on the throne. The royal family wants him to stop, his friends want to use him, his label wants to own him, and his enemies want to kill him. Del just wants to sing—without starting an interstellar war.

Also, Ms Asaro collaborated with the band Point Valid to create a soundtrack accompanying the book, and some of the songs are available on the Diamond Star MySpace website (warning: music plays when you enter the site!).  It’s pretty cool as the lyrics are included in the text and I’m loving the fact I can listen to the actual music.

Excerpt here (out May 5, ebook available now)

 

51FTO0Y-nnL._SL160_ 51ZqOhK1ML._SL160_ Charlaine Harris’ latest Sookie Stackhouse, “Dead and Gone”, is also out in May.  This is the ninth book in the Sookie series, and while I’ve wondered whether the series is running out of momentum, that’s not going to stop me from getting this one.

And okay, my jaw just dropped when Amazon UK came up with the cover on the right – please do not say that is the UK cover for “Dead and Gone”?  That is just so wrong – it doesn’t capture the dark but offbeat feel of the series at all!

Excerpt here (out May 5)

 

51YNwr9vjNL._SL160_ Another book that has taken what feels like forever to be released is Eloisa James’ “This Duchess of Mine”.  I am an unashamed Eloisa James fangirl, and have been completely absorbed by her Georgian historical romance series. 

This, of course, is Jemma and Elijah’s book – finally.  I know Ms James’ habit of including an unresolved secondary romance is not everyone’s favourite, but the way she has woven the overarching storyline focusing on the Jemma-Elijah-Villiers conflict throughout the past four books has totally worked for me.  I am so invested in Jemma and Elijah getting their HEA (look, it’s a romance and therefore they will have one).

Excerpt here (out May 26)

 

And that’s not all the new releases I want.  Also due out is:

Jacqueline Carey’s “Santa Olivia”, which is something completely different from her Kushiel books.  The blurb says it is Ms Carey’s “… take on comic book superheroes and the classic werewolf myth”.  Okay, I’m not a massive fan of the former (though I expect Thea and Ana to be all over this?), but I love her writing and I will definitely be giving this a go.  Excerpt here (out May 29).

Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Heat”, fourth in her Georgina Kincaid series.  I’ve enjoyed the previous three in this UF series and the last one ended on a bit of a pivotal note, IIRC.  It’s the UK version of the cover below, btw.  Excerpt here (out May 26).

A maybe is Kim Harrison’s “Once Dead, Twice Shy” – when I read the short story setting up this novel in the anthology “Prom Nights from Hell”, I actually thought it felt like a first chapter of a novel.  Well, there you go.  My “maybe” is because it’s a hardcover.  Some further poking around Amazon UK indicates a possible paperback July release for the UK.  Excerpt here (out May 26).

And speaking of “Prom Nights from Hell”, a follow-up anthology is out this month, “Vacations from Hell” featuring contributions from Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski (out May 26).

 

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How Many Books…

I used to be the sort of person who only ever read one book at a time (then again, I also never ever had a TBR pile – I blame book blogging).

Now at the moment, I’m reading:

Catherine Asaro’s “Diamond Star” (SF, part of her Skolian Empire series):  I picked this up at Baen’s Webscription ebook store (I love Baen’s pricing policy, btw – $6 for an ebook, even when it’s in hardcover).  I’m about one-third through at the moment, and have mixed feelings.  I definitely want to finish it, but I’ve got a really really bad feeling that Del’s going to mess things up for himself and something’s going to go badly wrong before the payoff at the end? 

Lisa Shearin’s “The Trouble with Demons” (fantasy, Book 3 in the Raine Benares series):  I started this a couple of nights ago when I was looking for an excuse to put down “Diamond Star” for a while, and wanted a light easy read.  However, I’m finding it slightly difficult to get into this because – and I am being picky – there are some phrases that I feel are repetitive, and now that I’ve noticed, they sort of jump out at me.  It’s like when someone says don’t think of pink elephants and then all you can think of are pink elephants.  So I’m putting Raine and Tam and Mychael aside for a bit.

Also, I’ve sort of started JD Robb’s “Salvation in Death” (futuristic romantic suspense) and Mike Shepherd’s “Intrepid” (military SF) – “sort of” meaning I’m at least one chapter in but haven’t yet committed fully to the book  ;-)  There are also the anthologies I picked up last month, I’m still slowly making my way through them (and a massive collection of Agatha Christie short stories).

And finally *deep breath* I just bought Kelley Armstrong’s “The Awakening” (YA urban fantasy, 2nd in her Darkest Powers trilogy), and well, had to start reading it on my way home – hey, there were delays on the line! 

My plan of attack?  Finish the Kelley Armstrong, then the Catherine Asaro (I think I just need to get on with it!) – and then re-evaluate where I am…

How many books do you normally have on the go?