New Vorkosigan Book

Old news by internet-time standards, but still…

From Lois McMaster Bujold’s MySpace blog:

The new Vorkosiverse book, henceforth to be titled CryoBurn, is finished and turned in to Baen.

To recap information mentioned previously, the story is an Auditorial investigation that takes place on a planet new to readers, called New Hope II or Kibou-daini.  Miles is 39, to go by the very Miles-centered series chronology we’ve been using.  The story uses three viewpoints: Miles, Roic, and a local lad named Jin.  The general mode is mystery/thriller/technological-social exploration.  About 103,000 words, in twenty chapters and an epilogue.

The book is, tentatively, on the Baen publication schedule for late 2010, probably November.

*happy dance*

Just umm… a year and a bit to go.

Mixed Feelings

The flagship Borders store in Oxford Street is closing.  I only stop by once a month or so, but still*.  I hated it when the large Waterstones closed down a year or so ago, and now Borders? 

But… they’re having a massive 50% off everything sale.  And although some of the sections were practically bare and it was massively crowded (who knew so many Londoners love books), I came away with the following:

Alison Goodman’s “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” (YA fantasy):  I read several reviews of this when it came out a couple of months ago, and was tempted.  It was hardcover though, and so I practised restraint for once.  I literally danced for joy when I spotted it on the shelves.  Can’t wait to read this one, especially as it’s been compared to Tamora Pierce’s books.

Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Heat” (urban fantasy):  May release.  Been meaning to buy, but keep forgetting.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Demon’s Lexicon” (YA fantasy):  OMG.  This just came out to really good reviews.  I grabbed this one.

Julie James’ “Practice Makes Perfect” (contemporary romance):  Right, everyone loves her books and I’ve never ever read one.  I figured why not.

And a couple of Suzanne Brockmann and Janet Evanovich reissues.

I could very easily have walked out with twice the number of books, but took a deep breath and told myself to stop.  So yay for cheap books, boo for bookstore closures. 

I can see why bookstores are fighting a losing battle though – when I got home and looked at my purchases, I figured that they would have been slightly more expensive had I ordered them online, but definitely cheaper than if I had bought them at full price on the high street.  I’m not sure what the solution is – bookstores somehow have to make the in-store book-buying experience something special, something worth paying a premium for.

I know I love browsing through the Waterstones at Piccadilly’s, because of the displays and how they highlight certain books.  But I only stop by if I’m in the area, I don’t go there just for Waterstones.  I’m not sure how they can make the bookstore a destination store in itself.

 

* Hmm.  Maybe that’s why.

Yay for Orion!

If you’re a Diana Gabaldon fan and live in the UK, head over to Diana Gabaldon’s website immediately:

Orion, Diana’s publishers in the UK, are happy to make the following offer so that all her UK fans can enjoy An Echo in the Bone at the earliest opportunity. If you pre-order the Orion hardcover edition (publishing on 21 January 2010) from Amazon, Play.com or Waterstone’s.com and send the invoice/receipt, which includes your delivery address, to dianagabaldonorders@orionbooks.co.uk, we will then send you a copy of our export trade paperback edition absolutely free on 22 September, the first date the book is available anywhere in the world.

I’ve pre-ordered my copy!  FYI – it was £12.69 at both Waterstones and Amazon, and I couldn’t find it at Play.com. 

It was slightly cheaper at The Book Depository (£11.24), but it wasn’t mentioned in the announcement.  My guess is that if I’d asked, Orion would probably have accepted a purchase at TBD, but I ordered from Amazon as I had a couple of gift certificates sitting around unused.

Books for July

Halfway through July and my sidebar is still displaying “May Books I Want”.  I feel slightly embarrassed.  I may even update it later today.

Anyway, here are the July books I want.  Rather unusually, there are three historical romances to start off:

51-AyvLw-DL._SL160_ Mary Jo Putney’s “Loving a Lost Lord” (historical romance):  A straight historical romance from Mary Jo Putney. *happy dance*  Her Fallen Angels series was one of the first historical romance books I read, together with Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick, et al., but it’s been quite a while since I last read one of her books.  According to Ms Putney’s website, LaLL is the start of a new Regency historical series as well, so fingers crossed it’s a good one.

Excerpt here (out now)

 

51wNmc1KHLL._SL160_ Eloisa James’ “A Duke of My Own” (historical romance):  The last of her Desperate Duchesses series, this is Villiers’ story.  While this series has been slightly uneven at times, it has definitely been my favourite historical romance series over the past year or so.  I’m hoping her next series will be just as good – I can’t wait to find out what she chooses to write next.

Excerpt here (out July 28)

 

51JsN1IdcFL._SL160_ Julia Quinn’s “What Happens in London” (historical romance):  This is loosely tied to her “The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever” book, but pretty much a stand-alone, from what I gather.  A Quinn book never fails to make me smile, and I’ve been hearing pretty good things about this one.

Excerpt here (out now)

 

 

And moving on to urban fantasy and paranormal romance:

510nfONrO-L._SL160_ Jenna Black’s “Speak of the Devil” (urban fantasy): Fourth in her Morgan Kingsley series, Morgan being a demon exorcist.  I was almost ready to stop after the second book, but the third one redeemed this series IMO, so I’m now excited about the fourth.

Excerpt here (out July 28)

 

 

51BQzbjQiuL._SL160_ Nalini Singh’s “Branded by Fire” (paranormal romance): Part of her Psy-Changeling series, this is Riley and Mercy’s story.  This is one of the few paranormal romance series I read, as Ms Singh manages to combine really strong world-building with wonderful romance.  I have no idea why I haven’t bought this one yet.  Must go get.  Now.

Excerpt here (out now)

 

51Krb5pZfCL._SL160_ Linda Howard’s “Burn” (romantic suspense):  I really really wish Linda Howard had a website.  And I wish Piatkus Books would publish the UK version closer to the US release date – Amazon is currently showing October.  Oh well, it is a Linda Howard so I will buy.  I’m hoping it’s not as outdoor-survival-focused as her recent ones.

No excerpt (out now in US)

 

 

517vRFujEzL._SL160_ Suzanne Brockmann’s “Hot Pursuit” (romantic suspense):  The latest in her Troubleshooters series, this is a Sam and Alyssa book, IIRC.  There was a whole lot of controversy around her January release earlier this year, but I haven’t heard much about this one.  Or maybe I just haven’t been hanging out in the right places.

Excerpt here (out July 28)

 

 

51FS025 PVL._SL160_ And finally, the anthology “Strange Brew” is already sitting on my bedside table.  Edited by PN Elrod, it has short stories by Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Karen Chance, and Charlaine Harris, amongst others.  My thoughts so far?  The Briggs story didn’t really grab me until the last few pages,  Jim Butcher’s contribution is a nice Harry Dresden interlude, the Karen Chance one is very representative of her non-stop action writing (I really liked it), and the Charlaine Harris story is slightly disturbing (set in her Sookie Stackhouse universe but no Sookie).

Georgette Heyer’s COTILLION

COTILLION is one of my favourite Georgette Heyers, and one that has been gathering dust on my bookshelves for a very long time.  So when I was looking for something different to re-read*, this sprang to mind.

A quick recap of the plot: Mr Penicuik, a rich miserly cantankerous man with no direct heirs, has finally had enough of waiting for his favourite grandnephew, Jack, to propose to his ward, Kitty Charing.  He decides to force Jack’s hand by promising his fortune as Kitty’s dowry, provided she marries one of his grandnephews.

A pretty safe choice, seeing that Kitty has had a schoolgirl crush on Jack since, well, forever.  However, Mr Penicuik fails to take into account Jack’s dislike of being manipulated.  And both Jack and Mr Penicuik have failed to take into account Kitty’s embarrassment at having suitors bribed to marry her.

So instead of waiting for Jack, Kitty asks Freddy, another of Mr Penicuik’s grandnephews, to propose.  Freddy is nowhere near ready to get married and, having a sizeable fortune himself, is not swayed by the promise of a substantial dowry.  But Kitty persuades him to agree to a fake engagement so that she can go to London, where she just might bump into Jack and show him what he is missing.

And so we are off…

Warning: I’m going into specifics about what I loved about this book so there are spoilers in this post.  But read on if you don’t mind being spoiled – or want to know how a Heyer Regency reminded me of Lois McMaster Bujold!

At the heart of COTILLION is one of the more popular romance plotlines – the fake engagement that turns into a real one.  And yet it is done so beautifully that I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out when I read it for the first time.  Upon re-reading it this time around and knowing that Kitty and Freddy end up together, the first scene when they meet was infinitely more enjoyable.

Kitty is a charming heroine, somewhat naive due to her upbringing in the country, but certainly strong-minded and good-hearted.  I’ll be honest and say that she is a run-of-the-mill romance heroine.  And COTILLION would not stand out from the other Heyers if it wasn’t for Freddy.

Because Freddy, unusually for a hero, is a very beta hero.  Some of Ms Heyer’s heroes are very alpha, and certainly Jack, who is arrogantly sure Kitty will come running when he snaps his fingers, is as alpha as they come – when he first makes an appearance, he is described as “… a tall man whose air and bearing proclaimed the Corinthian”.  Compare that to Freddy’s entrance, that of “… a slender young gentleman, of average height and graceful carriage.  His countenance was unarresting, but amiable; and a certain vagueness characterised his demeanour”.

And yet, Freddy quietly steals the book – and the girl.  He doesn’t change from the Pink of the Ton he is introduced as in the third chapter, who knows exactly what to wear to the country and whose main concerns upon reaching his destination are that “… the high points of his shirt-collar were uncrumpled, and the intricacies of a virgin cravat no more disarranged than a touch would set to rights…”.  But somehow, over the course of the book, Ms Heyer slowly reveals the qualities that are hidden under the exterior (though of course, Freddy would scorn the idea that he has any depths).  In the last chapters, he rides to the rescue, not as a dashing hero of the sort he disdains, but in a much more prosaic manner.  A perfect ending.  A very Freddy ending.

The next point may not mean much if you haven’t read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series**, but this realisation struck me like a thunderbolt halfway through the book… if Ms Bujold ever wrote a story with Ivan as the protagonist, it would be exactly like COTILLION.  Freddy is Ivan.

Freddy’s not the person who will plunge headfirst into reckless enterprises, he is persuaded to take part despite his inner voice screaming “no!”.  Well, not persuaded exactly, it’s more that people know exactly the right buttons to press.  Similar to how Miles gets Ivan to sign-up to the most hair-brained of schemes by making it impossible for him to refuse, Kitty gets Freddy to agree to a fake engagement by appealing to his better instincts.

He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, certainly, yet family and friends underestimate him to their own peril.  He’s incredibly practical, and even more importantly, knows his way around society, which counts for a lot more than book smarts.  It is honestly the perfect Ivan story.

Okay, random observation over.

There are so many passages I loved that when it came to deciding which ones to quote, I struggled.  Here are the two I ended up picking.

The first is one with Freddy and his father together.  I adored Lord Legerwood and his astute observations.  There is affection and respect on both sides, but their exchanges never failed to amuse me, especially when Lord Legerwood’s attempted barbs completely miss the mark due to Freddy’s obliviousness.  For example, in this passage where Lord Legerwood tries – and fails – to make the point that Freddy has been rather neglectful of his parents recently:

These led [Freddy] to seek counsel of his father, whom he met one day in St James’ Street, and who exhibited great surprise at seeing him, saying that he had supposed him to have gone out of town again.  But this shaft went wide.  Freddy eyed his satirical parent in mild bewilderment, and said reasonably: “Can’t have thought that, sir!  Dash it, met you at Meg’s two nights ago!”

Lord Legerwood sighed.  “You have your own armour, have you not, Frederick?  Of course I should have known better!”

“Offended you, sir?” asked Freddy intelligently.

“Not at all.  How came such an idea as that into your head?”

“Notice more than you think,” said Freddy, with simple pride.  “Never call me Frederick except when I’ve vexed you!”

“Almost you encourage me to look forward to a brilliant career for you!” said his lordship, impressed.

I’ll stop there, but I re-read the whole scene several times, laughing.

And this one with Kitty and Freddy also amused me.  The two of them are talking entirely at cross-purposes; Freddy has finally had enough of people implying Kitty is going out behind his back with Dolph (yet another of Mr Penicuik’s grandnephews) not because he cares of course, but because of how it reflects on himself and his family!  He tracks her down to remonstrate with her, but Kitty is completely bewildered as she’s actually trying to help Dolph woo his secret sweetheart***:

“Freddy!” cried Miss Charing, jumping almost out of her skin.

“And don’t you say Freddy to me!” added Mr Standen severely.  “I told you I wouldn’t have it, Kit, and I dashed well meant it!  Have the whole town talking!”

Kitty looked very much bewildered, but as it was plain that Mr Standen was filled with righteous wrath she refrained herself from protest, merely saying in a small, doubtful voice: “Frederick? Should I, in public, call you Mr Standen?”

“Call me Mr Standen?” said Freddy, thrown quite out of his stride.  “No, of course you should not!  Never heard such a silly question in my life!  And it ain’t a bit of use trying to turn the subject!  Not one to take a pet for no reason, but this is the outside of enough, Kit!”

“I wasn’t trying to turn the subject!  You said I must not call you Freddy!”

Mr Standen stared at her.  “Said you wasn’t to call me Freddy?  Nonsense!”

COTILLION has reminded me of how much I love Georgette Heyer’s books.  It’s one of her lighter, funnier ones (though I must admit the Regency slang at the start of the book was heading towards impenetrable at times) and well, I adore Freddy.  It remains a strong B+ read for me.

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

* I did attempt to meet Nath’s Re-read Challenge for June – hey, I’ve only missed it by a few days.

** And if not, why not?  Seriously.  Start with “The Warrior’s Apprentice”.  I mean it.

*** Another thing that struck me was how Ms Heyer referred to the characters.  When either was on their high horse (horses?), the character was referred to as Miss Charing or Mr Standen, else it was Kit and Freddy.