Mixed Bag

Here are more books that I read last May.  Speaking of which, I’m finding it hard to remember that we’re already in February 2012.  Every time I see something dated February, I keep on thinking 2011.

This is a bit of a mix – a few books I loved, one I didn’t, some new-to-me writers, and some auto-buy authors.

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A Kiss at Midnight (Fairy Tales, #1)A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James (historical romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The “it’s not you, it’s me” when it comes to DNFs… so true.

I started reading this ages ago, but stalled after about one-fifth of the book and put it  aside. Well, I eventually returned to the book and just fell in love.

Fairytale retellings are not my favourite, but Eloisa James pulled this off perfectly. I loved the banter between the h/h pairing and their relationoship came across as a strong connection, both mentally and physically. There was both humour and passion, and of course, a perfect HEA. Great secondary characters as well, and I am glad Wick’s story was told in Storming the Castle. I closed this book with a silly grin on my face.

I should have included this in my previous post when I talked about WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST.  Because after finishing this one, I dived straight into BEAUTY and couldn’t put it down.

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Faster Than The Speed Of LightFaster Than The Speed Of Light by Lucius Parhelion (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a lovely and quiet sort of romance and captured the feel of the 1940s very well. A lot of the American history and physics talk just went over my head – if not, I think I would have liked this book a bit more. And unfortunately, historical m/m romances always leave me with slight doubts over the HEA just because of the period.

This was  a new-to-me author – I can’t remember what piqued my interest in the first place, I think it was a review blog somewhere.   I think someone more familiar with American history or into physics would have really liked this book.

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And Thereby Hangs A TaleAnd Thereby Hangs A Tale by Jeffrey Archer (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Say what you will about Jeffrey Archer, he’s a true story-teller. An entertaining collection of short stories, all with a twist in the ending.

I borrowed this one from the library, and finished within a couple of days.  One of the few short story collections I actually completed reading last year – I usually tend to skip some stories, but not with this book.

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Warcry  (Chronicles of the Warlands, #4)Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan (fantasy romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t come across many fantasy romances (maybe I’m hanging out in the wrong places) but this is very definitely one. I originally hesitated over this book as I couldn’t get into Elizabeth Vaughan’s previous trilogy, though I loved the original Warlands trilogy. This was a good one though.

The humour in this book caught me by surprise, but it worked – it kept the book on the side of light and easy reading. The characters were appealing and engaging, and it was good to revisit Lara and Keir from the original trilogy. Yes, some fantasy tropes were way overused (long cheesy titles, anyone?) but it was great to spend a couple of hours in a slightly different world.

I’m not convinced this book would work for readers new to the world, but I think I still stand by my recommendation for the original trilogy, and I’ll definitely get the next book she writes.

Nath‘s strong recommendation for this book persuaded me to pick it up sooner rather than later, and I’m glad I did.

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Paper PlanesPaper Planes by M. Jules Aedin (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really good voice and smooth writing – I sank straight into the story right from the start. The slightly unusual h/h pairing with disability, age, and cultural differences was handled well IMO.

The falling in love part was nicely done and I loved the humour in this book, but I think the eventual lack of conflict meant the book sort of fizzled out – once the initial issues were worked through, the main conflict was really just a lack of time to see each other.

Good read though, and I am definitely on the lookout for more books by this author though.

Another new-to-me author – haven’t read any more of her books yet, but maybe this year…  

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Private (Private, #1)Private by Kate Brian (YA)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

You know, I usually say I wouldn’t finish a book I disliked… well.

The frustrating thing about this story was that I kept hanging on, hoping that Reed would grow up or that the characters would redeem themselves or you know… something, anything that would make this book worth the time spent reading it. And it never came.

This was the sort of story which is one step forward, two steps back – you think Reed has grown a backbone, and then she suddenly she is exactly where she was a couple of chapters ago. It’s the sort of YA book that is candy with no nutritional value whatsoever.

And finally – I read the ebook version and there were typos galore – at least one per chapter.

Sigh.

Err… I don’t think I have anything to add to that.

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Long May She Reign (The President's Daughter, #4)Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White (YA)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really engrossed in this book from start to finish and the only reason I hesitated over the 5 star/favourites rating was the overall tone of this book. It’s gritty. Depressing may not be the right word but it is very personal and well, not an entirely uplifting story.

I posted about this earlier in the year, and ended up choosing this book as one of my 2011 favourites.  

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Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2)Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely better than the first book IMO. I’m not sure if the melodrama (which I thought was OTT in the first book) in this one has been toned down or whether it was just more suited to the story. I did want more urban New York – I didn’t really care for the Refuge setting and we didn’t really get much China either. I am starting to feel the romance in Elena/Raphael’s relationship and would definitely read the next book.

A bit of an uneven series this, at least from my perspective.  I read the next book the following month, and if you read my Goodreads reviews, you’ll know I did not love it.  

Free Extras for Physical Books? And Other Links

Kelley Armstrong‘s announced that the THIRTEEN hardcover (the final Otherworld book) will have a free Clay/Elena short story.  The short story won’t be in the ebook edition nor will it be released as a separate ebook, but will be included in a future anthology (she mentions 2016).

I’m quite not sure how I feel about this.  Ms Armstrong outlines her reasoning in her post – basically wanting to give her readers an extra for spending the additional money on getting the hardcover as opposed to the ebook, and also doing something special because it is the last book in the series.  I understand the latter argument, but the first one doesn’t really make sense – why would buying a hardcover edition be better for the author than buying an ebook?*

I get that publishers are still essentially experimenting with this ebook thing, and figuring out acceptable pricing points etc.  And there’s a precedent for including bonus material with new editions (Meljean Brook‘s mass market paperback release of THE IRON DUKE has a brand-new novella included – I am sort of tempted, but trying to wait until it comes out as a standalone e-short** and there are different reasons as to why it’s not included in the e-edition of the mass market).  But it’s frustrating that readers that choose to read ebooks don’t get access to the same material that people who buy the hardcover.

I suspect that I’ll probably end up borrowing the THIRTEEN hardcover from the library in order to read the Clay/Elena short.  And if I do, I’m in two minds about whether I end up buying the ebook on release date – unless the reviews are glowing, I can probably hold off until I get it from the library.  Which really  is not a win-win scenario.

*Royalties and bestseller lists are the two things that come to mind – on the first, I’ve read author posts that say they get more money from ebooks compared to paper editions, and on the second, surely e-sales count towards your rankings (agree this is more shrouded in mystery, but I have never really bought into the “buy during the first week of sales, don’t buy before this date, buy only from these retailers…” kind of mantra).

**Yes, I finally got around to reading THE IRON DUKE after winning a copy of the second book, HEART OF STEEL, in January.  I really liked it.  Amazing inventive world-building.  I will hopefully get around to writing a separate blog post about it.

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Right, that first item turned out to be longer than I expected it to be – I didn’t realise I felt that strongly about it.  Anyway, the next piece of news that caught my eye – Richelle Mead announced that she’s sold a new paranormal series (adult).

I really liked her Georgina Kincaid Succubus books (better than her Vampire Academy series, IMO), so am looking forward to this one:

NYT bestselling author Richelle Mead’s GAMEBOARD OF THE GODS, the first novel in her new adult paranormal series, Age of X, featuring an unlikely pair charged with investigating mystical phenomena in a futuristic world that was nearly destroyed by religious extremists…

Sounds really interesting.

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And finally, I liked this Austen v. Heyer blog post by Sherwood Smith at the Book View Cafe.  Apart from the fact that I’ve never heard the phrase “Silver Fork novel” before, she explains why Jane Austen’s romances are so different to Georgette Heyer’s – fascinating stuff.

A Mystery Discovery (and Others)

One day, I’ll post about what I read last week.  Until then, you get what I was reading last year – here are more Goodreads cross-postings with additional thoughts.

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The Affair of the Mutilated Mink (Burford Family Mysteries, #2)The Affair of the Mutilated Mink by James Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A new-to-me find in the Golden Age Detectives mystery field! Though there are only three books in this series – sigh.

I found this book reminiscent of Heyer’s and Christie’s mysteries with the 1930s British country house setting. The ending was completely unexpected but lovely, and I of course bought the other two books immediately.

And oh, the references to other fictional detectives (Wimsey and Alleyn) made me laugh.

Yes, I did really like this series.  James Anderson sadly passed away in 2007 – he’s written some other fiction but I haven’t read them (yet?).  The three books in this series were written more than twenty years apart apparently – not that I could tell when reading them. 

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The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks (Burford Family Mysteries, #3)The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks by James Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish James Anderson had written more than three books in this series!

I loved the 1930s setting and the twisty plot – admittedly the ending didn’t catch me by surprise as much as the previous book, but the numerous red herrings, the wonderful Wilkins, and the Earl of Burford and his entertaining family kept me happily occupied for a couple of hours.

This wasn’t the cover of the edition I read – in fact, I’m not sure any of the three cover pictures are – but I love seeing the different styles.  So no, I’m not very particular about selecting the “correct” version of the book I read on Goodreads – are you?

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The Affair of the Blood Stained Egg Cosy (Burford Family Mysteries, #1)The Affair of the Blood Stained Egg Cosy by James Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have really enjoyed all three books in this series – I read them out of order but I don’t think that matters.

If you’re looking for a 1930s country house mystery, this would be it. Delightful characters with a spot-on period feel. Like the other two, there are twists and turns and red herrings galore. This one ends on a slightly ambiguous note, but fitting to the story.

And this was the first book chronologically, but the one I read last.  I should really have read them in order, but like I said, I don’t think it matters massively.

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Dragon Bound (Elder Races, #1)Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For some reason, I expected urban fantasy but got paranormal romance instead. There was massive hype around this book, which led to high expectations on my part – and unfortunately they weren’t met.

I liked the modern, slightly snarky feel to this story, but didn’t connect with the world-building. I thought it lacked depth somewhat, and felt as though random elements were just thrown together. The POV was slightly off at times which jarred me out of the story.

All in all, it was okay – a bit cliched and nothing groundbreaking in the field of PNR. I probably would have enjoyed this more if it hadn’t been for the high expectations I had going in.

I haven’t bothered to get the next book in this series, and probably won’t.  Unless I come across a review from someone who had a similar experience but loved the other books…

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Making it UpMaking it Up by T.C. Blue (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

New-to-me author – I enjoyed this book and would track down TC Blue’s backlist.

A funny and heart-warming read overall, though there was just too many characters and POVs for me to really connect with them. I liked the small-town community feeling in this one. There was an attempt at angst but I don’t think that really worked.

Hmmm… I think I did get more of the author’s backlist but nothing is coming to mind immediately…

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Ordinary Girl in a Tiara (Harlequin Romance)Ordinary Girl in a Tiara by Jessica Hart

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have been buying quite a few Jessica Harts, after reading (and loving) Juggling Briefcase & Baby.

This one unfortunately didn’t quite live up to my expectations – too much head-hopping (pet peeve of mine) and also umm… less realistic than previous Harts (I know, I know – it IS an M&B, but I think I prefer something more rooted in reality).

Oh well. I did think the release was spot-on timing-wise, what with Wills & Kate’s wedding at the same time.

Nothing really to add to my notes above – I am still reading her books though, and will probably get her most recent release WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS at some point.

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When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Fairy Tales, #2)When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was initially disappointed that this had a different cast of characters to the first book A Kiss at Midnight but you know what? I quickly forgot about about AKAM after the first few pages.

Great take on the Beauty & the Beast fairy tale and the dialogue between the hero and heroine kept me smiling the way through. Yes, it has a bit of a modern spin which means the book’s not going to win any prizes for historical authenticity, but it was totally funny and charming. And the romance was sexy and steamy.

Loved the secondary characters – the parents, the butler – and there was a nice bit of angst to finish the story.

Frothy? Possibly yes. Good? Absolutely.

Heh, I think I loved this one… It ended up as one of my top favourite reads of 2011.

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A Fool Again (Duchess Quartet, #1.5)A Fool Again by Eloisa James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked – although it took me a tad bit too long to actually figure out who the hero was meant to be! Which does tend to be a trait in Eloisa James’ books, although I’m not quite sure it works for a short story.

I’m still a die-hard EJ fangirl.

I just like her writing.  Though I tend to leave it quite long between books, and then read a couple at a time.

Books for February

Compared to the one new January release I wanted, there are a few more new releases this month that I’m planning to get…

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Jo Beverley‘s A SCANDALOUS COUNTESS (historical romance): Jo Beverley remains on my auto-buy list – despite me not falling in love with her more recent releases, they’re still solid readable historicals.  And they’re not wallpaper historicals by any means – she has a knack for bringing the time period to life in her books.

Back cover blurb:

Georgia, Countess of Maybury has it all, but then her husband is killed in a duel and she loses her homes, most of her possessions, and her reputation as well. Innocent of all charges, she returns to the beau monde determined to regain all through a second brilliant marriage, but a scarred ex-naval officer threatens to tempt her in a different direction…

Out Feb 7 (excerpt)

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BRAVE NEW LOVE, edited by Paula Guran (YA dystopian romance): An anthology of 15 stories from a mix of authors I recognise (and love) and some new-to-me names.  I’m probably most excited about the Diana Peterfreund contribution, but there are a couple of other authors in there that I’m keen to read too.

ETA: Diana Peterfreund makes a good point about other reasons why this anthology should be standing out from the crowd (apart from the excellent line-up, of course 😉 ).  Some of you may remember the uproar last year when an editor of a YA anthology asked Jessica Verday to rewrite her short story featuring a same-sex romance, and change the m/m relationship to a m/f one (FYI Ms Verday has since released her original story as a standalone e-book).  

BRAVE NEW WORLD, while not the anthology in question, had the same editor and was pulled from the schedule.  From Diana Peterfreund’s blog:

“… what ended up happening was that the anthology lost half its line up and the editor was removed from the project. We got a new editor, and a new line-up (an AMAZING line up, if I say so myself), and the publisher pledged to donate the proceeds to a homeless shelter for LGBT youth.  The new anthology includes several LGBT stories. I’ve read them, they’re great.”

Which is really rather cool and while NOT the reason why I’ll be getting this anthology (that would be for the stories), is the reason why I bought the UK edition today (yep, it’s already out here in the UK).

Back cover blurb:

Young love has always had its challenges, but even so, the world falling apart at its seams is a pretty big obstacle. This stellar collection of YA dystopian tales explores survival of the fittest in terms of love, passion, and humanity. When the survival of the human race is at stake, what will it take for the bond between two people to hold strong together?

Featuring some of the most well known and best-selling names of the dystopian genre, as well as the hottest up-and-coming authors, this anthology includes works from Jeanne DuPrau (City of Ember), Kiera Cass (The Selection), William Sleator (Interstellar Pig), Jesse Karp (Those That Wake), Diana Peterfreund (Secret Society Girl), Carrie Vaughn (The Kitty Norville Series), and Carrie Ryan (New York Times bestseller The Forest of Hands and Teeth).

Out Feb 14

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Lisa Kleypas‘s RAINSHADOW ROAD (contemporary romance): I’m guessing I’m not the only person looking forward to this release.  It’s been a while since a new Kleypas made an appearance, and while I was not blown away by the first in this series (the novella CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOUR), I’m willing to give this series another go because hey, that was a novella.

However, I’ve heard that this can be classified as magical realism though, and that gives me a slight pause for thought because (a) I’ve never quite figured out what is magical realism exactly (I know Sarah Addison Allen‘s books are often mentioned in this category – but (confession time) I’ve never read any of her books despite the glowing reviews) and (b) if magical realism means random woo-woo elements (like Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane Society books), well, I may just go away and sulk in a corner.  I’m reserving judgement until I’ve read this one though!

Back cover blurb:

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancé Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy’s bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life. Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy’s parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to “romance” Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

Out Feb 28 (excerpt)

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Lisa Lutz‘s TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS (mystery): And the best is saved for last!  I am madly excited about this one  as I’ve loved the previous books in this series.  I’m wondering where Lisa Lutz takes Izzy this time around – and if they’re anything like the previous books, I’m expecting hilarious times.  Also, all the covers of the series have been redesigned – while I liked the previous covers (especially the UK ones), I think the new graphics are really clever and suit the story better.

(Rather long) back cover blurb:

For the first time in Spellman history, Isabel Spellman, PI, might be the most normal member of her family. As always, the Spellman clan has yet to settle into any kind of status quo. Mom, Olivia, has taken on an outrageous assortment of extracurricular activities, seemingly without motive. Dad, Albert, has a secret. Her brother and sister, David and Rae, are at war, but neither will reveal the source of the conflict. And Izzy’s niece, Sydney, keeps saying banana even though she hates bananas. That’s not to say that Izzy isn’t without her own troubles. Henry Stone keeps wanting “to talk,” a prospect Isabel evades by going out with her new drinking buddy, none other than Gertrude Stone, Henry’s mother. While domestic disturbances abound, there is one source of sanity in the Spellman household: Demetrius Merriweather, now employee of the month for 18 months straight (the entire tenure of his employment).

Things aren’t any simpler on the business side of Spellman Investigations. First, parents hire the firm to follow their daughter. Rae is assigned the case, only to fake the surveillance reports. Then a math professor hires Izzy to watch his immaculate apartment while he unravels like a bad formula. A socialite has Isabel follow her husband, despite a conspicuous lack of suspicion. A man in a sweater vest hires the firm to follow his sister, who turns out to be the socialite. Isabel wants to get to the bottom of all this, but her father erects a Chinese wall to protect the clients’ wishes. As the questions pile up, Izzy won’t stop hunting for the answers-even when they threaten to shatter both the business and the family.

Once again, it’s up to her to pull the Spellmans back from the brink.

Out Feb 28 (excerpt)