MIA but in a Good Way

I haven’t been blogging much (again) but this time it’s because I’ve been reading.  I’m glad it’s Bank Holiday weekend, because I needed that extra time to catch up on my sleep, I’m been staying up way too late to finish “…just one more chapter”.

So an overview of my recent reads (pretty much spoiler-free as it’s more about my reaction to the books as opposed to the storylines):

 

51PzrTZeJGL._SL160_ Patricia Briggs’ “Hunting Ground” (urban fantasy):  I really can’t put my finger on why Ms Briggs’ writing works for me – all I know is it does.  So much so that I find myself re-reading passages all the way through the book, just to savour her words.  I never want to reach the last page.

Anyway, the story itself?  Very good.  I’m loving how Anna and Charles are slowly getting to know each other.  It’s refreshing how the “werewolf mates” device is not used as a panacea for all things, they still have issues to work through and their relationship isn’t necessarily all hearts-and-roses-forever just because they’ve bonded. As for the plot, I figured out the whodunnit just a couple of pages before the reveal, which was rather satisfying.  I’m also really enjoying getting another view on Ms Briggs’ world – very rich world-building indeed. 

41xrXP7zSL._SL160_silverBorne_bigAnd here’s something I just stumbled upon.  Here’s the cover to the next Mercy Thompson book “Silver Borne” (March 2010) from Ms Briggs’ website (link via OCD, Vampires, and Rants, Oh My!) in all its shiny glory.  I would squee a bit more, but (a) it’s a good eight months away and (b) us UK readers are probably going to end up with a totally different monochrome cover. 

ETA: I was right – UK version added on the left.  I mean, it’s not bad (and it’s still mass market paperback), but it sort of pales next to the US cover art.

 

51-GgSvTwuL._SL160_ Jo Beverley’s “The Secret Wedding” (historical romance):  It’s taken me a while to get around to reading this April release, but I haven’t been in the mood for a historical romance until recently.  This is second in a loose trilogy set in her Malloren world (the first, “A Lady’s Secret” was released last year, and the third, “The Secret Duke”, is out next April).  

I’m a fan of Ms Beverley’s books, especially her Malloren family books, so it was very nice to return to this world and revisit familiar characters.  To me, this book was solid, but lacked a bit of “oomph” relationship-wise.  I’m also not massively keen on plotlines that revolve around concealed identities, so I spent the first half of the book being slightly frustrated at Caro and Christian pretending to be other people.  But that is very much my personal preference, and once identities were revealed and Rothgar & co came onstage, there was no way I was putting it down.  Also, as with all Beverley books, this is in no way a wallpaper historical – the Georgian setting is beautifully described and comes alive.  And Thorne, the hero of the third book, completely caught my attention in this one – I’m very much looking forward to “The Secret Duke”. 

All in all, one that would be satisfying for long-time series fans, but probably not one I would recommend to Malloren newbies.

 

41CUcSmVuOL._SL160_ Richelle Mead’s “Blood Promise” (YA urban fantasy): I wasn’t 100% sure if I should shell out on the hardcover price for this book, but in the end I caved in.  Ms Mead has a trick of keeping you engrossed in the story, meaning I kept on turning the pages way into the night.  Having said that, while I do like this series, I’ve come to realise I’m not in love with it and I’m trying to figure out why. 

I think it’s because I’m not completely invested in the characters and their story, I’m not feeling everything that they are.  Having said that, I am impressed by the way Rose develops in this book and I have a feeling she’s pretty much left her younger self behind for good.  And something I appreciate about Ms Mead’s books (and this includes the Georgina Kincaid books as well) is that she’s not afraid to progress the series arc, there is a feeling of we’re heading somewhere, and even more, I trust her enough to sit back and enjoy the journey. 

I’m still not entirely sure that “Blood Promise” is worth the hardcover price, but then again, I did enjoy the book and finished it over a couple of days.

 

518A6QS3V1L._SL160_ Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown” (fantasy): I bought this based on Angie’s rec earlier this month when I posted about YA/adult fantasy crossovers.  While I had read Ms McKinley’s “The Blue Sword”, I wasn’t aware that there was a prequel.  So when I spotted this in the bookstore the other day, I had to pick it up.

I loved Ms McKinley’s use of language and her storytelling.  Within a few pages, I was firmly settled into her world – no mean feat considering I was reading this on my way back home, standing in a crowded carriage on the Tube. 

I will admit I had mixed feelings for a few chapters, and took a while to realise why.  The first chapters of this book had me thinking it would be a romance, and so I was reading with my romance reader’s hat on, firmly believing this would be Aerin and Tor’s story.  And then Tor disappeared from the pages, Aerin took over, and this very much became Aerin’s voyage of self-discovery. So, my bad… I adjusted my expectations, and it was all good.

Very very strong coming-of-age story, beautifully told, and totally deserving of its Newbery Medal.  And now I want to re-read “The Blue Sword”.

 

Next up: Diana Peterfreund’s “Rampant”.  I’m a few chapters in already, and it’s all very addictive. 

A Few of My Favourite… YA Books

smuggler_YA_final2 I’ve been horribly remiss at not mentioning The Book Smugglers’ YA Appreciation Month previously, but hey, I’m guessing you all know about it already (and if not, there is still a week to go!).

Anyway, today, they have invited all and sundry to join the party – if you’ve a YA-related post, just go over to their site and add your link.

I don’t really blog a lot about YA (you could argue I don’t blog a lot, full stop), but YA makes up a good proportion of my reading diet. 

So in honour of YA Appreciation Month, here are a few YA books / series that have been on my mind recently:

 

The “why did I take so long to read this” YA series: Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief books

51OpuIGbojL._SL160_51MplFBNkVL._SL160_Megan Whalen Turner (warning: reviews on her website have spoilers for the previous books) has created an incredible series.  I think fans of The Thief may be hitting critical mass – certainly I have noticed more and more mentions of these books in the blogosphere recently.  Ana did a fantastic spoiler-free review of the series and pretty much echoed my thoughts.

51jFfciA rL._SL160_I always read the copyright page before plunging into the book (I’m surely not the only one out there), and “The King of Attolia” had these as library keywords:

1. Kings, queens, rulers, etc–Fiction  2. Soldiers–Fiction  3. Loyalty–Fiction  4. Robbers and outlaws–Fiction  5. Adventures and adventurers–Fiction

How could you not be excited about a book with those keywords?

This is very definitely a standout series, YA or otherwise (and expect a separate post coming up!).

 

51R4585BFDL._SL160_ Next up, the “YA book that needs more love” book: Sharon Shinn’s “Summers at Castle Auburn”

Coriel, the illegitimate daughter of a high-ranking aristocrat, spends most of her life learning herbal medicine from her grandmother, but she spends her summers with her half-sister, Elisandra, at the royal castle where Prince Bryan resides. Corie has always been secretly in love with Bryan, but she is slowly realizing that he is a spoiled, selfish, dangerous man—and that Elisandra dreads her upcoming marriage to the prince. Corie hopes that the prince’s cousin Kent will save Elisandra, while she wonders if the taciturn guard Roderick might play a bigger part in her own life.

I adore Sharon Shinn’s writing.  No matter what she writes.  And she has a trick of closing her books with the most magical lines ever.  Her Samaria and Twelve Houses series get quite a few mentions (and they sit on my keepers shelf), but I don’t hear a lot about this standalone YA of hers.

“Summers at Castle Auburn” is one of my favourite Shinns, a perfect coming-of-age story.  It is very much a comfort read for me, and it never fails to satisfy.  Here’s a review from Jennie – seeing that she read it on my rec, I’m really glad she enjoyed it!

 

51PGQSREPAL._SL160_ And finally, the “I’ll never outgrow this YA series” books: Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” quartet

Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but somehow young Alanna knows she isn’t meant to become some proper lady cloistered in a convent. Instead, she wants to be a great warrior maiden–a female knight. But in the land of Tortall, women aren’t allowed to train as warriors. So Alanna finds a way to switch places with her twin, Thom, and take his place as a knight in training at the palace of King Roald. Disguising herself as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page in the royal court. Soon, she is garnering the admiration of all around her, including the crown prince, with her strong work ethic and her thirst for knowledge. But all the while, she is haunted by the recurring vision of a black stone city that emanates evil… somehow she knows it is her fate to purge that place of its wickedness. But how will she find it? And can she fulfill her destiny while keeping her gender a secret?

Tamora Pierce has written many books since her first Alanna series, but the Alanna books are the ones I always end up re-reading (and there are some scenes that always end up with me sniffling, even though I know exactly what is going to happen).

Angie included Alanna in her recent post on “Stubborn Girls (and Why I Love Them)” and I have to agree whole-heartedly.

 

Interestingly, all these three are straight fantasy – something that I wasn’t actively thinking about when I was thinking about the YA books I wanted to highlight.  All three are also pretty much coming-of-age stories, which is much less of a rarity in the YA genre.

I could have chosen many other YA books – LM Montgomery’s Emily trilogy is amongst my all-time favourites, I was addicted to LJ Smith’s books, including her “Secret Circle” and “Dark Visions” trilogies, I buy Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books as soon as they hit the shelf, and I’m on a mission to complete my Eva Ibbotson collection… however, I think I’ll stop here and head off to check out everyone else’s YA posts

Books for August

Books I am definitely getting this month:

51PzrTZeJGL._SL160_ Patricia Briggs’ “Hunting Ground” (urban fantasy):  Second in the Anna and Charles series. 

Mated to werewolf Charles Cornick, the son—and enforcer—of the leader of the North American werewolves, Anna Latham now knows how dangerous being a werewolf is, especially when a werewolf opposes Charles and his father is struck down. Charles’s reputation makes him the prime suspect, and the penalty for the crime is execution. Now Anna and Charles must combine their talents to hunt down the real killer—or Charles will take the fall.

51-LmgG6mDL._SL160_ (1)I get the impression that Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is more popular, but I think that the first A&C book (“Cry Wolf”) was slightly hampered as Anna and Charles’ story actually starts in the novella “Alpha and Omega” (in the “On the Prowl” anthology), and those who picked up “Cry Wolf” without having read A&O may have felt a bit lost at first.  I think that’s a bit of a shame, but I’m not sure what either the publisher or the author could have done, apart from possibly including A&O as a freebie in the first novel?

41mzXiXT6dL._SL160_Anyway, I love Ms Briggs’ writing and she is most definitely an autobuy for me.  The other release she has coming out this month is the graphic novel “Homecoming” (above), which is a prequel to the Mercy books (and is a collection of the four graphic novels previously released).  And finally, while on the topic, here’s the UK cover for “Cry Wolf” (left), which I’ve just seen.

Out August 25 (excerpt here)

 

 

51fW2XRxrSL._SL160_ Diana Peterfreund’s “Rampant” (YA fantasy):  First in a new series.  I’m excited about this one.  And that was before the (really good) reviews started appearing.

The sparkly, innocent creatures of lore are a myth. Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. And they can only be killed by virgin descendants of Alexander the Great.

Fortunately, unicorns have been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.

Or not.

Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed at her eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend in the woods – thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to prom – Astrid learns that unicorns are real and dangerous, and she has a family legacy to uphold. Her mother packs her off to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters, all is not what is seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to – perhaps most dangerously of all – her growing attraction to a handsome art student… and a relationship that could jeopardize everything.

Out August 25 (excerpt here)

 

51nYyUliH L._SL160_ (1) Jayne Castle’s “Obsidian Prey” (futuristic romance):  Sixth in the Harmony series.

I am such a sucker for Jayne Castle’s futuristics.  They’re my (not so) secret vice.  Even though (or perhaps because) the plot and h/h are totally predictable, they’re total comfort reads.  Even the Arcane Society* making an appearance in this one doesn’t upset me because there were already psychic powers from the start.

*Why, oh why, are paranormal storylines appearing in her previously-straight contemporaries (Jayne Ann Krentz) and historicals (Amanda Quick)?

Two hundred years after the closing of the energy Curtain that allowed interplanetary travel – cutting off all contact to Earth – the planet Harmony is thriving. Thanks to an abundant supply of amber, which powers not only electrical machines for everyday use but also psychic abilities in the colonists, Harmony has created a stable, progressive community. But when that stability is threatened, resolving an ancient family feud and a fresh lover’s quarrel might be the planet’s only hope.

Three months ago, Lyra Dore suffered a heartbreak and a hostile takeover – both at the hands of the same man. A descendant of her ancestors’ fierce rival. Cruz Sweetwater charmed his way into Lyra’s heart and gained access to her pet project, an amethyst ruin. Then he took over the project and took off. When Cruz walks back into her life and requests a private meeting, Lyra convinces herself he’s there to crawl and beg forgiveness. Wrong again – he just needs her help. With the project he stole from her.

Five innocent men are trapped inside a chamber in the amethyst ruin, and Lyra is the only one who can reopen the door. Reluctantly she agrees to help. Then Cruz wants her to apply her talents to the rest of the ruin – because no one else can work it. Lyra and Cruz are both harboring psychic secrets. Unknown – and dangerous – powers pulse within the amethyst ruin, and the closer Lyra gets to them, the more at risk she becomes. And now she must decide whether to trust her guts or her heart.

Out August 25 (no excerpt, but some book info here)

 

41CUcSmVuOL._SL160_ Richelle Mead’s “Blood Promise” (YA urban fantasy):  Fourth in the Vampire Academy series. 

The previous book “Shadow Kiss” ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, to put it mildly.  Which pretty much means I will be getting this book to see how Ms Mead resolves things, although seeing that there are two more books in this series, I probably shouldn’t be expecting everything to be neatly tied up in this one.

Note the blurb has SPOILERS for the previous book.

Rose Hathaway’s life will never be the same.

The recent attack on St. Vladimir’s Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose’s neck, a mark that says she’s killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life’s vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She’ll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved?

Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir’s and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?

Out August 25 (excerpt here)

 

As for other August releases:

51aYDnO6uTL._SL160_ I’ve already bought (and read) Sherwood Smith’s “Treason’s Shore” (fantasy), which brings her Inda quartet to an end.  I’m still gathering my thoughts on this book, but Ms Smith has also posted an epilogue of sorts on her website, which explains exactly what happens to the main characters after the end of the book.  With Ms Smith’s books, I always get the impression she is retelling a story she knows (as opposed to coming up with one, if that makes sense), and getting such a detailed epilogue just adds to that impression.

51FZmYs7C0L._SL160_ I’ll probably get Moira J Moore’s “Heroes at Risk” (fantasy, fourth in the Heroes series, out August 25), but I have to say Ms Moore probably has the worst luck in covers.  I thought the cover of the third book was a turn for the better (even though it was completely misleading), but I am left slightly speechless at this one.  It doesn’t even have the saving grace of being similar to any of the previous ones in the series.

519ACkq10KL._SL160_

And finally, out August 27 is “Love Bites”, a follow up anthology to last year’s “The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance”, and also edited by Trisha Telep. 

I’ve noticed most of these have August 25 release dates – which means I’ve the next couple of weeks to tackle some of my TBR pile books!

Oh Dear

41pntdnAGiL._SL160_Okay, Twilight is a global phenomenon, and goodness knows how many YA covers have adopted the black background with a striking image.

So was I surprised to see Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” with a new cover in the YA section?

Well, not entirely.  I quite like the image and composition, and I love the font.  And I completely applaud the publisher for trying to reach those who stay well clear of the Classics section.

But I admit I nearly disgraced myself in the bookstore by whooping with laughter.

It wasn’t so much the fact that these were displayed right next to the Meyer books.

It wasn’t even the tagline of “Love Never Dies…”.

It was the little red stamp – the one that’s probably too small for you to see.  Do you know what it says?

It says… *drumroll*… “Bella and Edward’s favourite book”.

Books for Grownups?

I was in Waterstones today, and saw Holly Black’s books being very prominently displayed in the SF/F section with new covers. 

Ironside_AdultValiant_AdultTithe_AdultI can’t remember the shelf blurb word-for-word, but it was along the lines of these books were originally released as teenage fiction, but have been re-released with new covers for adults.

The new “grownup” ones are above, the original YA ones below.  I have to say that I prefer the YA ones myself.  The new ones are fairly generic and look more as though they should be shelved in the Mystery / Crime / Suspense sections.

Tithe YAValiant YA Ironside YA Thoughts?

I’ve been meaning to try Holly Black for ages – I remember reading some pretty good reviews last year, the year before?  I never did get around to buying “Tithe” though.  So maybe the new covers aren’t a bad thing, they certainly have me considering these books again.

I’m trying to remember other teenage/adult crossovers.  There has been lots of talk recently around UK v US covers, but not much around teenage v. adult covers.  I know Philip Pullman’s books have different covers and so do Maria V Snyder’s “Study” books.  Oh, and obviously the Harry Potter books.  And Harlequin Teen’s re-releasing PC Cast’s Goddess books soon.

So maybe it’s not that unusual – what struck me about this one was the direction, i.e. teenage to adult, instead of the other way around.  I’m thinking the massive success of Stephenie Meyer is encouraging publishers to think about already-published YA books that would have mass appeal.  And if it’s in the paranormal / urban fantasy genre, even better!

Are there any recent crossovers that have caught your eye recently?  Or what do you think of this trend?