Around the Web

First off, bidding for two fundraising initiatives – Operation Auction and Genre for Japan – kicks off today/tomorrow.

Also, Tales for Canterbury is putting together an anthology of short stories to raise money for victims of the Canterbury earthquake – you can pre-order now and digital/print versions will be released in April.  Contributors include Juliet Marillier and Neil Gaiman, amongst many others.

I never cease to be amazed at the goodwill and generosity of the online book community.

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On  a different note, Amanda Hocking‘s name has been all over the place recently as a poster-child for self-publishing, especially since she’s now signed a major publishing contract with one of the big houses.  I finally caved in to my curiosity, and decided to download a sample of one of her books  to my Kindle – when I realised it was only £0.49, I bought the book.  It’s not a bad sales strategy, especially since “Switched” is the first of a trilogy.

Speaking of ebooks, Tracy Grant‘s also published “The Mask of Night” as an ebook-only release.  I loved her previous two releases, and was going to include her new release “Vienna Waltz” in my April books post.

Links are to the Amazon UK pages, but I’m sure they’re on Amazon US (and other online bookstores) as well.

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And Toni LP Kelner has published the table of contents for the upcoming “Home Improvement: Undead Edition” anthology (co-edited with Charlaine Harris).

It’s all sorts of good – especially since it includes a Toby Daye story from Seanan McGuire. Other contributors include Ms Harris herself (yep, a Sookie story) and Patricia Briggs (mention of vampires, so possibly a Mercy one?),

Happy dance.

Book Splurge!

I actually have been quite good spending-wise this year so far.  Not on purpose – I just haven’t had any spare time 😉

However, I’ve pretty much blown my book budget with this week’s purchases.

First up, thanks to Nath, Ames, and Monroe at Breezing Through, who held a giveaway to celebrate their 4th blogiversary, I had a $20 Kobo gift certificate (and a promise to do a buddy review, which I haven’t forgotten!).


I chose “Five Flavors of Dumb” by Antony John – which, rather appropriately, I first saw at Nath’s blog and sounded really interesting.  It’s a YA contemporary – Piper rashly promises to get her school’s newest rock band Dumb a paying gig within a month in return for becoming their manager.  Never mind the fact that Dumb is actually the most dysfunctional group ever or that Piper doesn’t really know anything about music, and oh, she’s deaf.

I also went for “An Unlikely Countess” by Jo Beverley, which was one of the March releases that I was eyeing.

And then because that wasn’t enough…

I mentioned several SFR books I sort of wanted some time back.  I caved and bought Sara Creasy‘s “Song of Scarabaeus”, because everyone seems to really really love it.  And since everyone also had nice things to say about Gini Koch‘s “Touched by an Alien”, I thought why not.

I added Elizabeth Bear‘s “Dust”, because Hilcia liked it so much and wrote a review that intrigued me.

And finally, because I have not read a single bad review yet – and every review I read makes me WANT it more and more, I got Stephanie Perkins‘ “Anna and the French Kiss”.

Stop liking books so much, everyone.

Around the Web

A bit late with this, but the annual Dear Author/Smart Bitches DABWAHA tournament is up and running, though my bracket has pretty much crashed and burned (how could Meljean Brook‘s “Here There Be Monsters” go out in the very first round??!).  Gah.

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Much better news – Sarah Rees Brennan has a UK cover for “The Demon’s Surrender”!  I loved the second book and have been impatiently waiting for the UK cover for the third to be released, after the US one came out last November (with a rather swoon-worthy Alan on it).

We get Sin instead, with a slightly different cover style from the previous two books (photographic as opposed to drawn art), which makes me ever-slightly-so-sad because I really liked that style – I thought it was unusual and fresh.  But that aside, I think this is a great cover and the typeface does an excellent job of tying all three covers together.  I cannot wait for June.

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While we’re on YA fantasy, Holly Black has released a series of short vignettes set in her Curse Workers world from the viewpoint of Lila Zacharov, one of the secondary characters in the first book, “White Cat”.  What’s interesting is that the vignettes are presented in random order, with each variation “… shading the same events a slightly different way and giving the story a different ending”.

I’ve read them and yeah, they’ve done the job of getting me excited about the second book, “Red Glove”, which is out next month.

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And finally, Dana Stabenow has released “A Cold Day for Murder”, the first book of her Kate Shugak mystery series, as a free ebook on her website.  I’ve heard good things about this series, but haven’t read these books before – looking forward to reading this one.

 

Jean Webster’s “Just Patty” and “When Patty Went to College”

I had one of those moments the other day when I just didn’t know what I wanted to read.  The perils of too much choice…

Anyway, I flipped through my ereader thinking “Fantasy, nope, historical romance, nah, urban fantasy, nooooo…”, and then came across my copy of Jean Webster‘s “Daddy-Long-Legs”, which is one of my all-time favourite books (both Kailana @ The Written World and Ana @ The Book Smugglers reviewed it fairly recently).  And I was sort of tempted, but I had just re-read the book back in November and wanted to give it a little longer so that the story’s ridiculous charm could once again take me by surprise on my next re-read (am I the only one who thinks that way?).

But it had given me an idea – I checked, and sure enough, I had two other unread Jean Webster books – “Just Patty” and “When Patty Went to College” (both public domain, and I’ve linked to the manybooks.net versions, which are usually well-formatted).

Not knowing anything about either of them, I picked “Just Patty” and within ten minutes, was completely engrossed in the book.  Rather than a novel as such, “Just Patty” is a collection of short stories about Patty and her school friends at boarding school.  The first story sets the scene, introducing Patty and her two best friends, as well as the teachers and other pupils who we get to know better in later stories.

I’m an unashamed fan of old-style school stories, but haven’t read many with American settings.  “Just Patty” is set at St Ursula’s, a “church school” for – and I’m reading in between the lines here – daughters of the more privileged classes.   There was talk of dancing dresses for the evening, games of blindman’s bluff and hoop-rolling, and singing school songs – I’m not sure how typical this was of the times, but I enjoyed this peek at a bygone era.

Patty’s impetuous or “exhilarating” nature is possibly over-emphasised at times, but overall, I thought these were a set of genuinely charming stories.  My favourites were probably the two loosely-linked ones: when Patty decides to make the most of some “unexpected” free time and explores the grounds of a irascible millionaire – outcome predictable, but fun all the same – and a hilarious one about a failed midnight prank and a burglar, which ends on a sweet and uplifting note.

“When Patty Went to College” is in a similar vein, a series of short stories about Patty at a women’s college (Ms Webster went to Vassar, and apparently both this book and “Daddy-Long-Legs” were based on her experience there, which makes it even more fascinating).  Again, the focus is on college life, with Patty making her way though her last year of school in her own happy-go-lucky fashion.

I didn’t realise until now that “When Patty Went to College” was actually written before “Just Patty” (and was Ms Webster’s first book), but it makes sense – I was somewhat puzzled by the lack of connection between the Patty of the boarding school days and the college-age Patty, and I have to say that while I liked the former book, it felt slightly less finished than “Just Patty”.

There is some moralising in these stories, some coming across as more heavy-handed than the others, but I expected that from books written in the first decade of the 20th century and aimed at children/young adults.  If anything, I thought there was some rather modern thinking in these books – women’s rights and socialism were amongst themes included in these books, and obviously women’s education.  Bearing in mind when these were written, there is also some stereotyping around various socioeconomic groups, so be forewarned if these elements bother you.

“Daddy-Long-Legs” still remains my favourite Jean Webster, but the two Patty books were certainly worth reading, both entertaining reads in their own right, with the bonus of providing an insight into life and norms in the early 1900s.  I’ve now grabbed Jean Webster’s other books from manybooks.net and am hoping they are just as fun.

January Reads

Alternative post title: Better late than never.

No, really, I have an excuse!  I’m still trying to figure out how to cross-post between Goodreads and here.  And I did get all my January reads eventually logged onto Goodreads, and then realised it would also make sense to get them here as well.

So, without further ado, here are the books I read in January – not full reviews as such, but pretty much my response to Goodreads’s question “What did you think?”.

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A Grand Deception (Signet Regency Romance)A Grand Deception by Elizabeth Mansfield (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun farce of hidden identities, though you’ve to suspend disbelief at times. It did go down the road of “love at first sight”, which is not a favourite trope of mine, but oh well. I liked the charity schoolmistress aspect – with the caveat I’m not a stickler for historical accuracy.

 

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Blood Challenge (World of the Lupi, #7)Blood Challenge by Eileen Wilks (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely one of the stronger installments in this series – while I wouldn’t recommend this to someone new to the series, I thought this book built on existing relationships beautifully. More Rule/Lily, more Isen and his sons, and without going into too many details, I loved Arjenie and thought she was a breath of fresh air.

It’s funny how you love some books so much that aspects that would usually bother you otherwise don’t – here it was the info-dumping. Some scenes were pretty exclusively info-dumping sessions, but you know, I love, so Ms Wilks gets a pass.

I am a bit more meh about the “Great Bitch” plot arc, but having said that, I thought the book ended on a really good note and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A slightly shaky start to the book – a bit too much info-dumping and some rather over-the-top melodramatic scenes. However, once the hunt for the fallen archangel started in earnest, I was drawn into the story, and yeah, the sequels are now on my list of books to buy.

The angel twist – very unlike the angels in, say, Sharon Shinn‘s Samaria books. Instead, it was more of “right, what can be more bad-ass than a vampire… let’s have angels!”. Or archangels, rather.

I’d have liked more exploration of the angel mythology, possibly one for later books? And there was sequel-bait everywhere, not that I’m complaining – I vote for Ilium myself!

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The Magicians of Caprona (Chrestomanci, #4)The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones (children’s fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fun read, but not as addictive as the first two Chrestomanci books, IMO.

I think this is partly to do with the numerous POV characters – I suspect I’m not quite the right audience for this book. Also, there was a slight lack of Chrestomanci himself in this book – sigh. I’ve a soft spot for that man.

It is a nice play on Romeo & Juliet and I loved the Marco/Rosa subplot. And like all DWJ books, very inventive storytelling and a villain that would probably have given me nightmares had I been younger.

On a sidenote: I borrowed my copy from my library and it dated back to the 1970s, IIRC, and had a totally old-school cover.

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Wings of EquityWings of Equity by Sean Kennedy (m/m fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An imaginative setting – though I have to admit I’m still trying to get to grips with steampunk and am wondering if this is it? Certainly this book appears to be tagged as steampunk in various places.

It was a quick and easy read, but it’s the world, rather than the romance, that has left more of a lingering impression.

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Buffalo West Wing (White House Chef Mystery #4)Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, the bad first: Some of the secondary characters are very black and white, and really become very annoying in a frustrating way, as they appear to have no redeeming characteristics at all. I suppose this could be viewed as a plus point – the writing is good enough to actually have the characters annoy you?

I’m still loving the White House backdrop and the whole Presidency transition thing reminded me of Ellen Emerson White‘s President’s Daughter series, except from the other side of the fence, so to speak, which was intriguing.

The whole book built up to a rather fast-paced and action-filled climax, which I was not expecting, but it was in a good way! I am surprised Ms Hyzy is hinting at a new love interest, which is an interesting choice in a cozy mystery IMO – on the other hand, I don’t read that many cozies myself…

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The Fifth KissThe Fifth Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one had a massively intriguing back cover blurb – the heroine kissing her brother-in-law. How does the author redeem both the heroine and hero after that?

A sweet regency (published in 1981), and I really enjoyed the romance. Not sure I was entirely comfortable with some of the underlying messages – she marries him to look after his children, six months after the wife/her sister died, but at the same time I did believe in the romance.

I’ve a soft spot for Elizabeth Mansfield and ended up buying quite a few off Better World Books over Christmas – I’m glad I’ve a few more to read!

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So that’s it for January.  And yes, I’m currently working on my February books list – but don’t hold your breath 😉

The Best Sort of Dilemmas

I ended up laughing at myself.

I encountered the best sort of dilemma this week – whether to read Patricia Briggs‘ “River Marked” or Seanan McGuire‘s “Late Eclipses” first.

The postman brought both books on the same day, and I literally picked up one book, then the other, changed my mind, went back to the first book, started reading the first few pages, changed my mind again… and realised how ridiculous I must be looking.

For the record, I ended up reading “Late Eclipses” first.  And yeah, stayed up until 2am (on a weeknight!) to finish it – I am irrationally in love with Toby and her world.

To balance out my slight sense of guilt of picking Toby Daye over Mercy Thompson, here are a couple of Patricia Briggs links:

  • A free short story on her website – “Wishing Well”.  It was her first fantasy short story sale, and is a lovely quick read.
  • A transcript of her live blog interview at “Bitten by Books”.  Some interesting tidbits of information on her Mercy books/spin-offs there.  She also mentions Barbara Hambly and Jane Fancher amongst her favourite SF/F writers – I think I’ve only read one Barbara Hambly and none of Jane Fancher’s works, so will have to go and check them out.

Books for March

March is a good month for new releases.  I’m sort of overwhelmed, but in a good way.

 

Patricia Briggs“River Marked” (urban fantasy): The sixth Mercy Thompson book and the series is still going strong.  The (rather skimpy, admittedly) blurb for this book implies we’re learning more about Mercy’s background, which has been left as a bit of a mystery to date.  I’m excited about this one.

Although the UK cover?  The only word I have is “unfortunate”.  I could have lived with the previous UK covers, but this change in cover art style halfway through the series is bugging me.  Okay, I really want the Dan Dos Santos US covers, though I suppose the one consolation is that these are still paperback releases in the UK (for the moment anyway!).

Goodreads blurb:

Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She’s never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River—one that her father’s people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help…

Out March 1 (excerpt)

 

Seanan McGuire‘s “Late Eclipses” (urban fantasy): See, this is what I mean by a good month.  Not only a new Briggs, but also a new McGuire.  Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series is one of the UF series I completely fell in love with last year, and it sounds as though the stakes are getting higher by the book.  I can’t wait.

Goodreads blurb:

Two years ago, October “Toby” Daye believed she could leave the world of Faerie behind. She was wrong. Now she finds herself in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, sharing an apartment with her Fetch, and maintaining an odd truce with Tybalt, the local King of Cats. It’s a delicate balance—one that’s shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended.

Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile. But if Oleander’s back, what’s her game? Where is she hiding? And what part does Toby’s mother, Amandine, have to play?

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher. For the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda, and there are more players in this game than Toby can guess. With everything on the line, she will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she thought she’d never have to face again…

Out March 1 (author’s book page)

 

Jo Beverley‘s “An Unlikely Countess” (historical romance): I have a thing for Jo Beverley’s historical romances, which is probably evident from this blog.  I’m liking this, and not just because of the Georgian historical setting – I love the first sentence of the blurb!  And heroines named Prudence remind me of Georgette Heyer‘s “The Masqueraders”, which is one of my favourite Heyers.

Blurb:

A hero called Cate, who’s not at all effeminate, and a heroine called Prudence, who isn’t particularly prudent. They meet one dark night in Yorkshire, both impoverished and at their limit, so how do they end up as Earl and Countess of Malzard. And can they survive the trouble that brings?

Out March 1 (excerpt)

 

Suzanne Brockmann‘s “Breaking the Rules” (romantic suspense): It’s been a pretty long time in coming, this one.  The 16th, and final (for a while at least), book in her Troubleshooters series, this means all loose ends get wrapped up for once!  I’m not sure if Suzanne Brockmann kickstarted the whole Navy SEALs trend in contemporary romance, or just caught the wave at the right time, but looking back at these books as a whole, this has been one of the best military romantic suspense series out there, IMO.

Goodreads blurb:

Izzy Zanella didn’t need another reason to butt heads with his Navy SEAL teammate and nemesis, Danny Gillman. Then he met Danny’s beautiful younger sister, Eden. When she needed it most, he offered her a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on—and more. And when she got pregnant with another man’s child, he offered her marriage. But Eden’s devastating miscarriage shattered their life together—and made the intense bad blood between Izzy and Danny even worse.

Now Eden’s back, on a mission to rescue her teen brother, Ben, from their abusive stepfather. Winning legal custody is her only chance, if she and Izzy can prove their broken marriage is still in one piece. But they’re not alone: when Danny and his girlfriend Jenn offer to help, he and Izzy agree to bury the past and fight for Ben’s future.

As they plan their strategy, Izzy and Eden grapple with the raw passion that still crackles between them—while Danny and Jenn confront new depths in their own rocky relationship. But events take a terrifying turn after Ben befriends a girl fleeing a child prostitution ring. When the young runaway seeks refuge with Eden and Izzy, her pursuers kidnap Ben—and a deadly standoff begins. Now, they must all pull together like never before, and strike back swift and hard, to protect their unconventional little family and everything they hold most precious.

Out March 22 (excerpt)

 

And finally, two UF anthologies that have caught my attention, primarily because of various contributors – “After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar” (edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray), which has a Seanan McGuire story:

Science fiction and fantasy readers have long shown an affinity for a good “bar story”. Now some of today’s most inventive scriveners have decided to tell their own tall tales-from an alewife’s attempt to transfer the gods’ curse to Gilgamesh, to Odin’s decision to introduce Vikings to the Ur-Bar, from the Holy Roman Emperor’s barroom bargain, to a demon hunter who may just have met his match in the ultimate magic bar, to a bouncer who discovers you should never let anyone in after hours in a world terrorized by zombies.

and “Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives” (edited by Justin Gustainis), with contributors including Tanya Huff, Rachel Caine, Carrie Vaughn, and Lilith Saintcrow:

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives, is your one-stop-shop for Urban Fantasy’s finest anthology of the supernatural. 14 sleuths are gathered together for the first time in all-original tales of unusual cases which require services that go far beyond mere deduction!

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives brings together popular characters from many Urban Fantasy paranormal investigative series, for your enjoyment.

 

So, that’s my March new releases list, any others you’re looking to get?