More of What I Read Last Year

One dud, but overall the first half of last Sept was a pretty good reading month for me.  As always, reviews were originally posted on Goodreads – additional comments in italics below.

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Loose Ends (Steele Street, #11)Loose Ends by Tara Janzen (romantic suspense)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know, I surprised myself when I ended up buying LOOSE ENDS. I loved the first few books in the Steele Street series, then some head-spinning WTF plots in the following books meant that I stopped buying them a few years ago. But having discovered this was the final Steele Street book, I found myself intrigued as to how Tara Janzen would wrap up the series and welcome home the (missing, presumed dead) final member of the crew.

There are paranormal elements, so be warned, this isn’t a straight contemporary romantic suspense (which is a shame, because the SF-ish twists didn’t really work for me). But in the end, I enjoyed this, though readers that have followed the entire series would probably have found LOOSE ENDS more satisfying than I did.

Tara Janzen has a knack for writing male dialogue that has this authentic ring to it and even though it has been years, I loved seeing Superman, Kid Chronopolous & the rest of the Steele Street special ops team back together again. The cars, well ahhh… I’m not into cars by any means (I’m happy as long as they get me from A to B), but the passion Janzen (and her characters) had for them added a fun and sexy dimension to the story.

One of my very first reviews on this blog (all the way back in 2007) was for Tara Janzen‘s CRAZY SWEET (no, I didn’t care for it).  So this was a slightly nostalgic read for me and I’m glad the series ended on a decent note.

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PreyPrey by Linda Howard

My rating: 1 of 5 stars (romantic suspense)

I’ve loved some of Linda Howard’s backlist, which is probably why I’m still reading her recent releases. But this was just boring. I’m normally a fan of survival/wilderness stories, but I skimmed a lot in this one – neither the plot nor the characters captured my attention. And when we got the POV of the bear… oh dear.

I borrowed this from the library – thank goodness.  I keep on picking up her new releases just in case the magic of her earlier books makes a reappearance, but I have generally been disappointed. 

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Mummy Dearest (The XOXO Files, #1)Mummy Dearest by Josh Lanyon (m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn’t fall in love with this novella. Don’t get me wrong, I finished it in one sitting (it’s a Lanyon after all!), but the story was too short for me to connect with the h/h. Having said that, I loved the writing as always, and I’d definitely read more books in this series.

Josh Lanyon is an autobuy author for me, but this one wasn’t one of my favourites.  

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Lola and the Boy Next DoorLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (YA romance)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Is that enough?

After the wonderful surprise that was Anna and the French Kiss, I was doing my best to temper my expectations. And it helped that the back cover copy didn’t exactly make me want to rush out and buy LOLA.

But Lola herself was a intriguing mix of insecurities and confidence, and before I knew it, I was caught up in her story. I loved how Stephanie Perkins integrated Lola’s love of costumes into her personality. Cricket was really sweet and lovable, so nice(!) – which, you know, isn’t exactly the norm for a romantic lead. But it worked – totally. I was rooting for them as they fumbled their way back together. The positive depiction of non-traditional families was a lovely unexpected plus, and the San Francisco setting made me want to go and visit. And oh, I did a slight squee as Anna and St Clair made an appearance – it was really interesting seeing them again, and this time from someone else’s perspective. Very cool.

I think the difference between ANNA and LOLA was that I could identify with Anna’s experience – Lola’s was slightly more distancing for me. But I loved every minute of reading this, and all I can say is bring on the third book, Isla and the Happily Ever After.

This was one of my favourite books of 2011.  Stephanie Perkins’ books are amongst the best that the YA romance genre offers, IMO.

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Dead Run (Dangerous Ground #4)Dead Run by Josh Lanyon (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adrien English will always be my all-time favourite Josh Lanyon series, but I have to say Dangerous Ground is rapidly making up ground on the AE books. I am dying to see where this series is going – or rather, when and how Will and Taylor get their HEA.

The Paris setting intruded slightly (a bit of a travelogue at times?), but the characters were beautifully drawn and leapt off the page. It’s sort of painful because Will and Taylor are fumbling around in their still new-ish relationship and hurting each other, sometimes on purpose but more often than not by accident. You just want to shake them at times. Possibly Will more than Taylor. But you know, I’ve a feeling the final pay-off will be worth it. <spoiler – highlight to read>I’m a sucker for the amnesia trope and I loved how this was played out in DEAD RUN. </spoiler>

I just want more.

Ah, the angst.  I love Will and Taylor.

Links of Interest

I nearly missed a typo and the post title was almost Kinks of Interest – which may have attracted more attention admittedly.  LINKS to items that have caught my attention recently:

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Courtney Milan put up a post about royalties received from her self-published v. traditionally published novellas so far – fascinating reading.  Ebooks have completely changed the publishing landscape from where it was a few years ago.

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Congratulations to Mary Jo Putney on her marriage – I loved her wedding post and pictures @ Word Wenches.

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Kristin Cashore answers some BITTERBLUE questions on her blog – be warned as there are spoilers about GRACELING, but I definitely appreciate the thought she put into the answers.

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John Scalzi puts up a thought-provoking post about straight white males and umm… privilege – having just read (and loved) Ernest Cline‘s READY PLAYER ONE, it was an interesting (and timely to me) analogy he chose to use (and comments are worth reading too).

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Sourcebooks’ Discover a New Love is doing a cover vote for the re-release of Patricia Rice‘s MUST BE MAGIC historical romance – both options based on very different concepts.  I’m not massively keen on either (the elements in the non-traditional option don’t feel cohesive enough, while the more period version is on the boring side), but if pushed, would probably go for the second.

Speaking of Discover a New Love, has anyone signed up for their monthly subscription package?  I was briefly tempted, but not all their books would be available to international readers, and I wasn’t sure if the more limited selection would work for me.

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Meljean Brook has had a website redesign and is giving away ten copies of THE IRON DUKE (UK edition) to celebrate (and for feedback on the new website) – I read this earlier in the year and was completely caught up in the world she created.

She’s also put up the UK cover for the third book, RIVETED, which is out later this year – I love.  I’m really pleased these books are being released in the UK as well.

Books for May

It doesn’t feel like May, does it?  Partly because it has been the gloomiest April ever, weather-wise, and I swear it still feels as though it’s winter.  Maybe it’ll stop raining in time for the Olympics.

But new releases always cheer me up – here are the ones I’m reading in May.

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Kristin Cashore‘s BITTERBLUE (fantasy): This is the final book in Kristin Cashore’s loosely-connected trilogy, and well, I loved it.  The reception has not been all positive – there appears to be a healthy mix of opinions on this book, but for me, it was the sort of story that held me completely enthralled.  Ms Cashore’s also put up some pre-BITTERBLUE letters on her blog (warning: spoilers for the first book GRACELING), which was a nice bonus!

Blurb:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Out now (excerpt)

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Charlaine Harris‘s DEADLOCKED (urban fantasy): The penultimate Sookie Stackhouse book, IIRC.  I’ve not felt the urge to run out and buy it yet – I’ve been holding off and waiting for reviews, and to be honest, it’s looking like the library for me.  Still, it is a Sookie book, so I’ll end up reading it eventually.

Blurb:

With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.

Out now (excerpt)

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Jordan Castillo Price‘s MNEVERMIND 1: THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY (m/m romance): Jordan Castillo Price is an autobuy author for me. I’ve no idea what this book is about, but I know it’ll be good.

Blurb:

Every day, Daniel Schroeder breaks his father’s heart.

While forgetting your problems won’t solve them, it does seem like it would make life a heck of a lot easier. Daniel thought so once. Now he knows better. He and Big Dan have always been close, which makes it all the more difficult to break the daily news: the last five years were nothing like his father remembers.

They’re both professionals in the memory field—they even run their own memory palace. So shouldn’t they be able to figure out a way to overwrite the persistent false memory that’s wreaking havoc on both of their lives? Daniel thought he was holding it together, but the situation seems to be sliding out of control. Now even his own equipment has turned against him, reminding him he hasn’t had a date in ages by taunting him with flashes of an elusive man in black that only he can see.

Is it some quirk of the circuitry, or is Daniel headed down the same path to fantasy-land as his old man?

Out now (excerpt)

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Carla Kelly‘s MARRIAGE OF MERCY (historical romance): It’s been a while since I’ve read a full-length Carla Kelly novel.  Or a newly-released one, come to that – I’ve been reading her re-released short story backlist mostly.  The author hates the title and wanted it called CHOOSING ROB INMAN – I’ve seen worse titles!

Blurb:

MARRYING THE WRONG GROOM… From riches to rags, Grace has had to swallow her pride and get a job as a baker.

But everything changes when she’s the beneficiary of a surprise inheritance. Her benefactor’s deal comes with a catch: give up her life of toil and live in luxury only if she marries his illegitimate son, a prisoner of war. It’s an offer she can’t afford to refuse. But her husband-to-be is dying, and he begs her to take one of his men instead-to marry purely out of mercy….

A marriage of convenience with a complete stranger…Could this arrangement ever work?

Out May 22 (excerpt)

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Lynn Flewelling‘s CASKET OF SOULS (fantasy): It has been a while since the last Nightrunner book, so I’m looking forward to this new one.  I remember when I read the first few books, and gay protagonists were such a ground-breaking concept – now, (almost) no one blinks.  Progress.  And she tells a good story.

Blurb:

More than the dissolute noblemen they appear to be, Alec and Seregil are skillful spies, dedicated to serving queen and country. But when they stumble across evidence of a plot pitting Queen Phoria against Princess Klia, the two Nightrunners will find their loyalties torn as never before. Even at the best of times, the royal court at Rhíminee is a serpents’ nest of intrigue, but with the war against Plenimar going badly, treason simmers just below the surface.

And that’s not all that poses a threat: A mysterious plague is spreading through the crowded streets of the city, striking young and old alike. Now, as panic mounts and the body count rises, hidden secrets emerge. And as Seregil and Alec are about to learn, conspiracies and plagues have one thing in common: The cure can be as deadly as the disease.

Out May 29 (excerpt)

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Nalini Singh‘s TANGLE OF NEED (paranormal romance): I’ll be honest – I’m not quite sure anything could top last year’s KISS OF SNOW, so I have much lower expectations this time around.  Also, cover-wise?  Not entirely sure what they were thinking when it came to the US cover.  Granted, the UK cover is a bit on the bland side, but I much prefer it to the US one – too much going on there!

Blurb:

Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past–one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.

For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.

Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

Out May 29 (excerpt)

And that’s it for me – any others on your radar?

A Short Reading Month

Picking up where we left off, here are books I read in August last year.   And I only read four during the ENTIRE month.  Huh.  It also looks to have been a bit of a romance month.

As always, reviews were posted on Goodreads originally, but with additional comments in italics this time around.

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Regency StingRegency Sting by Elizabeth Mansfield (regency romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like Elizabeth Mansfield’s historicals – she gives good romance within the length constraints dictated by categories. This was a traditional regency with an American heir being the main plot point. It was a decent read – I liked the relationship between the h/h and how the story eventually played out. Yes, it was a bit predictable and the secondary romance didn’t do anything for me, but overall, I enjoyed this.

And the rating of three stars probably holds true, i.e. I liked.  Or in other words, I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but only have a vague memory of the plot and characters eight months later.

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Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith Quartet #1)Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, it’s a Julia Quinn so it has to be a fun read – it delivered on that front, her trademark Quinn humour made me smile. I liked revisiting the Bridgertons (it’s been too long!) and loved seeing the Smythe-Smiths from another angle. However, I struggled somewhat trying to remember the h/h a couple of weeks later. Fun and frothy, but not necessarily memorable.

Julia Quinn is still an auto-buy author for me, but I don’t rush out to buy her books on the first day of release any more.  Her Bridgerton books are still my favourites. 

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Life Lessons (Life Lessons, #1)Life Lessons by Kaje Harper (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A slightly convoluted murder mystery with a rather unbelievable villain. However, while the story started slowly, it built up to an ending that had me buying the next book, Breaking Cover, to find out what happens next.

This was my first Kaje Harper, and I suspect I picked this up based on a rec on a review site somewhere.  I liked it, but it was the second book (below) that sealed the deal.

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Breaking Cover (Life Lessons, #2)Breaking Cover by Kaje Harper (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The setup reminded me slightly of Josh Lanyon‘s Adrien English series – and comparisons against the AE series always leave the other books looking slightly lacking. Having said that, I thought the suspense was balanced well against the romance elements in this book. Generally, the relationship was more angst-y than the prequel Life Lessons, which is always a plus for me!

I did like this book, and have added Kaje Harper to my list of authors to read.

I think there’ll be another book in this series coming out soon – I hope so, as this is shaping up to be a good romantic suspense type of series.  Then again, my weak spot is relationships that develop over the course of several books, as opposed to insta-love + HEA in one book.

Link Love

I know, I’ve been AWOL here recently.  I’ve quite a few links to share (some probably woefully out-of-date) – here’s what’s caught my attention over the past week or so:

And… I think that’s it!  I should post more frequently, huh?