Short Story Linkage

ETA: Here is the link to Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Warrior’s Apprentice” in the Baen Free Library.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I said I was tempted by Mary Robinette Koval’s debut novel “Shades of Milk and Honey” but wasn’t sure about spending the money on a hardcover release for a new-to-me author.  So it must have been fate when I noticed she had a free short story up on Tor.com

“First Flight” is an excellent and charming time-travel story – I highly recommend it, even if you’re not generally a SF fan.  Or time-travel.  Trust me.  I don’t want to give too much away, but Eleanor Louise Jackson (aged well over a hundred, but not senile, thank you very much) is a delightful protagonist, the plot has just enough twist, and it ends on a wonderfully heart-warming note.

And if you’re wondering, yes, I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying “Shades of Milk and Honey” now.

 

Also, Lois McMaster Bujold, who is the author of what is possibly my all-time favourite series, the Miles Vorkosigan books (with a new book out in October!) has pointed out that not only is the novella “Mountains of Mourning” available in the Baen Free Library, but another novella “Borders of Infinity” is also available free online as the “first” chapter in her Miles Errant omnibus at Baen’s Webscriptions.  I love both of these novellas – they may not be full-length novels but pack quite a punch, and I like to think that the events in both are defining moments in Miles’ life, something that becomes clearer in subsequent books. 

Also, in the same post, Ms Bujold says there are apparently plans afoot to release the first book “The Warrior’s Apprentice” in the Baen Free Library – this is all sorts of wonderful because it will make it easier to hook new readers on this series *rubs hands in glee*

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Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Demon’s Covenant”

517tOGVXOSL._SL160_ Let’s get it straight, I didn’t not like Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Demon’s Lexicon” – it’s just that I didn’t love it as much as I’d expected I would, having read all the glowing reviews about Ms Rees Brennan’s* debut.  There were some bits that appealed very much too me – the British feel, that twist at the end, but all in all, I didn’t fall in love with it.  Which is why I didn’t rush out to get “The Demon’s Covenant”, the second book in the trilogy, when it was released earlier this year. 

Fast-forward a couple of months, I was browsing in Foyles and irrationally pleased to see Megan Whalen Turner’s books featured in a display case right in the middle of the YA section – I mean, I’ve never ever seen her books in a UK bookstore before, much less spotlighted.  Why, they even had a hardcover of “A Conspiracy of Kings”.  Looking a little closer, I realised it was in honour of Sarah Rees Brennan’s recent visit to the store and her picks.  So how could I not buy “The Demon’s Covenant” after that?

So I did, and wow, was I pleasantly surprised.  This was a complete page-turner for me, and trust me, the book wasn’t far from my side throughout the entire day, that’s how much I wanted to know what was going to happen. 

“The Demon’s Covenant” picks up the story pretty much after the events of the previous book, but with a POV switch to that of Mae.  Mae is trying to put her life back together, except she can’t.  Magic exists.  Her life has changed irrevocably, and as much as she’s trying to ignore it, she can’t.  So she’s almost relieved to have a reason to have to call on Alan and Nick for help when she finds out that her brother Jamie is once again dabbling with magic and the dark magician Circles are trying to lure him away.  But Alan and Nick have issues of their own, and Mae finds herself entangled in a wider web of intrigue and power struggles.  Oh, and there’s also her attraction to both of the boys, for very different reasons…

It all builds up to an an exhilarating climax, and I was left slightly misty-eyed at the end of it.  The ending was one of those when you have to flip back and re-read a passage and you think “no, that can’t have happened”, but it did.  Several times.  And sets things up very nicely for the third and final book.

I’m thinking part of the reason I liked this better was because of the change in narrator.  In hindsight, it made sense that Nick, because of who and what he is, was somewhat detached from the world, and that possibly carried through to me as a reader.  I also didn’t quite grasp Mae’s character in the previous book – okay, if I’m totally honest, she was borderline irritating for me.  Maybe because she was to Nick, and it was his POV.  Job done.  Whereas in this book, the story is from Mae’s viewpoint, I understood where she was coming from, and empathised with her more.

This book just wasn’t about the plot, it was very much about relationships.  The main ones obviously being the sibling relationships – Mae/Jamie and Nick/Alan – which were very strongly drawn.  And so many other complicated relationships in the book: Mae and Jamie and their mother, Nick and Alan and Sin, Mae and Nick, Mae and Alan, Jamie and Gerald… the list goes on and on.  Characters make or break a book for me, and they certainly made this one.

There were some bits in this book that jarred on my ears slightly, such as overuse of certain adjectives when it came to describing some things, but the positives easily outweigh the negatives.  Oh, and something which amused me greatly: I occasionally read Ms Rees Brennan’s livejournal because she is hilarious.  And Jamie’s voice in the book is exactly the same as her livejournal voice.  Whether that is intentional or not, I have no idea.

Sometimes, the middle book of a trilogy feels somewhat lacking as it doesn’t have the novelty of the first nor the climax of the third – to me, “The Demon’s Covenant” had the wow factor that the first was missing and was a very satisfying story in itself.  I am now dying to know what happens next and how Ms Rees Brennan is going to wrap up this excellent story.

51RGn6bD9aL._SL160_ Finally, and somewhat irrelevantly, but curious minds want to know – why is Sin featured on the US cover, when it is Mae who is the narrator and has a much bigger part?  Unless that is Mae, but surely she has pink hair?

 

* I’m guessing it is Ms Rees Brennan and not Ms Brennan?  This always trips me up.

Oh So Tempting

My monthly new releases posts usually, if not exclusively, focus on authors whose books I’ve read previously.  Not surprising, because, you know, there’s a reason why I keep an eye out for their books… 

However, here are two new-to-me authors whose books are making me curious:

 

512A7hoGL._SL160_ Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Shades of Milk and Honey” (out 3 August) – it’s touted as “the fantasy novel that Jane Austen may have written”, and the title intrigued me enough to read the first chapter.  I ended up liking both the style and the concept far more than I expected, so this is now very much on my radar.  It is a hardcover release though, and for a new-to-me author, that may be a bit of a stretch for me.

From the author’s website:

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a version of Regency England where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

 

31XEWldESnL._SL160_ Beth Bernobich’s “Passion Play” (out 12 Oct) is another hardcover being released by Tor.  It has an excellent blurb by Patricia Briggs and said to appeal to fans of Jacqueline Carey.  What more could I ask for?

The fact that the title is somewhat similar to Nalini Singh’s “Play of Passion” November release could be slightly confusing, though having said that, they have very different covers.

Book description from Amazon:

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the way to survive when Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes that he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever and it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land s most notorious pleasure houses…and, who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppet master of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart. Lush fantasy. Wild magic. Intrigue, seduction, and treachery, with a kingdom at stake.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing these two books on the shelves and also finding an excerpt for the second (anyone have a link to one?).  The hardcover factor, on the other hand, may mean I don’t actually get them at this point – I’m trying to figure out if releasing these first novels in hardcover a sign that the publisher is massively confident that they’re going to be big sellers or whether it’s just standard practice for Tor.

Books for July

June was a bit of a quiet month for new releases, but July more than makes up for it.  In no particular order, here are the books I’m planning on getting:

 

41ryYv9FPTL._SL160_ Kelley Armstrong’s “Waking the Witch” (urban fantasy): I am loving the bright red UK cover and what they did with the title.  Not that the US cover isn’t good, but it’s a bit same-y kick-ass urban fantasy heroine IMO. 

Anyway, putting covers aside, I’m looking forward to the eleventh(!) book in Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, and not just because Savannah is the narrator (yes, she’s one of my favourite characters, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a story from her perspective before).  This was one of the first UF series I started reading, and I have a soft spot for these books – I’m looking forward to revisiting old friends.

Out July 27 (PDF excerpt)

 

51AK4c-YWL._SL160_ Naomi Novik’s “Tongues of Serpents” (fantasy): Speaking of old friends, the next Temeraire book is also out in July, or at least, it is in the States.  This may have to be an import for me.

I’ve been hooked on this series ever since the first one, “His Majesty’s Dragon” (or “Temeraire”, depending on which version you got) came out back in 2006.  I think the focus of the books have moved somewhat from the Will/Temeraire relationship (let’s face it – Temeraire is the most adorably precocious dragon evah!) to the wider historical intrigue and political twistiness of the times, but you know, alternate historical fantasy with dragons still works.  The last book ended on a bit of a tearjerker note, and now Will and Temeraire are off to Australia – I can’t wait to find out what they get up to.

Out July 13 US, September 2 UK (excerpt)

 

51stXKvCx2L._SL160_ Jennifer Echols’ “Forget You” (contemporary YA): Jennifer Echols’ “Going Too Far” caught me by surprise earlier this year, and while I have yet to have an in-depth glom of her backlist (any recs most appreciated, btw), I’m planning on getting her new release.

The blurb on Ms Echols website is certainly piquing my curiosity:

WHY CAN’T YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU FORGET…AND WHAT YOU REMEMBER?

There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.

But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people—suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

Out July 20 (excerpt)

 

519ZABKkb9L._SL160_ Eloisa James’ “A Kiss at Midnight” (historical romance): I don’t normally jump up and down at the thought of fairytale retellings, but ah, this is an Eloisa James.

It’s her take on Cinderella, and while I can count the number of historical romances I’ve read this year on the fingers of one hand, there is something about Ms James’ writing that does it for me every time.  I’ve been a bit spoilt with her gorgeous Georgian-set Desperate Duchesses series, and this sounds like a Regency from what I gather, but still.  Definitely on my list.

Out July 27 (excerpt)

 

510TzMpWHUL._SL160_

PN Elrod’s “Dark and Stormy Knights” anthology (urban fantasy): I’m not entirely sure how PN Elrod manages to secure some if her headline contributors, but coming up with excellent themes may have something to do with that.  I mean, this one sounds excellent:

They’re the last defenders of humanity, the lone wolf bad boys— and girls—who do dark deeds for the right reasons. Modern day knights who are sexy, funny, mad, bad and dangerous to know because they do what most of us only dream about…and get away with it.

And when we have Ilona Andrews (a Kate Daniels story) and Jim Butcher (a Dresden story from the POV of John Marcone – interesting) amongst the authors, count me in.

Out July 20 US, Sept 5 UK

 

51TwmuLctEL._SL160_ Eoin Colfer’s “The Atlantis Complex” (children’s fantasy): I’m a big fan of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series and have enjoyed every single book – not often you can say that about a series spanning hmmm… six books to date?

Artemis has committed his entire fortune to a project he believes will save the planet and its inhabitants, both human and fairy. Can it be true? Has goodness taken hold of the world’s greatest teenage criminal mastermind?

Captain Holly Short is unconvinced, and discovers that Artemis is suffering from Atlantis Complex, a psychosis common in guilt-ridden fairies. Symptoms include obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia, multiple personality disorder and, in extreme cases, embarrassing professions of love to a certain feisty LEPrecon fairy.

Unfortunately, Atlantis Complex has struck at the worst possible time. A deadly foe from Holly’s past is intent on destroying the actual city of Atlantis. Can Artemis escape the confines of his mind—and the grips of a giant squid—in time to save the underwater metropolis and its fairy inhabitants?

Artemis Fowl has lost his mind… Just when the world needs him most.

Out July 20 (PDF excerpt)

 

And finally, because that isn’t enough new books for a month, I will also probably get Ellen Crosby’s “The Riesling Retribution”, the fourth in her Wine Country mystery series that I stumbled across late last year.  I didn’t quite want to shell out for the hardcover, but the paperback is out at the end of July.   And quite possibly Suzanne Brockmann’s new standalone “Infamous” (out July 27) – it’s been a while since she’s released a non-Troubleshooters book.  She describes it as a “paranormal-cowboy romantic suspense”

Oh, and yes, Nalini Singh’s latest Psy-Changeling book “Bonds of Justice” should very much be on this month’s list of books to get, but for some random reason, I still have her previous book on my TBR pile.  Must go read now.

Oh Hello

Well, that was a completely unplanned blog absence – it only hit me today that it’s been almost three weeks since I last posted. 

I can only blame it on the Heat – and yes, that’s heat with a capital H.  I know I say this every summer, but it has been a proper heatwave for the past few weeks, and London is not built to cope with temperatures of more than, say 22 degrees (that would be Celcius, by the way).  Certainly not temperatures of near 30 degrees for what feels like a good long month.

So the fact I have not felt like doing very much in this weather, combined with the fact that Wimbledon is completely distracting me (World Cup?  What World Cup?), well, it only adds up to my annual blogging slump.

Anyway, random things on my mind:

Juliet Marillier mentions that her next book “Seer of Sevenwaters” is available for pre-order (out in December, yay!) BUT there is no UK release.  Whyever not, people?!!  I’ve no idea how her sales are doing here, but she is an excellent author.  And I’ve loved her UK covers best for her past two releases.  Sigh.  I’m guessing I will end up with the US edition this time around. 

Speaking of Ms Marillier, she has a Sevenwaters novella in the “Legends of Australian Fantasy” anthology, but I am not seeing this in stock on Amazon or The Book Depository.  And shipping from the Australian bookstores she links to is as much as the book itself, making it around £32 in total.  As much as I love Sevenwaters, I have to draw the line somewhere.  Fingers crossed it becomes available more widely.

Oh, and since we’re on book availability, I caved and ordered Meg Burden’s “Northlander” based on Angie’s review and after she got her hands on the sequel.  Which I liked very much, by the way, despite it feeling a bit like two separate stories linked together.  I do agree with Angie that it reads somewhat like early Tamora Pierce (who is one of my favourite YA fantasy authors, so that is a good thing, trust me).   But now, the sequel is out of stock again at the two online bookstores mentioned above.  Arrghh.  (And yes, it’s still listed as in stock at the other two US bookstores Angie linked to.  And yes, I’m a cheapskate and don’t want to pay for shipping.)

Gosh, this is a bit of a grumpy post, isn’t it?  It’s the heat, I tell you.  I’ll be in a better mood the next time, promise.