Catching Up

I’m back!  Well, not that I was actually away, though it may have appeared to be the case – I’ve just been spending way too much time watching tennis.  And with the Olympics coming up, I suspect this rather infrequent posting schedule is set to continue for a while.  Bear with me.

Not very many things have caught my eye around the internets recently – though a free Archers Beach story by Sharon Lee @ Splinter Universe was one of them.  I haven’t read it yet, but as I really enjoyed CAROUSEL TIDES, which was set in the same universe, I’m expecting to like it.  And also looking forward to the upcoming sequels.

I also liked this interview with Kristin Cashore @ Helen Lowe’s blog – she talks more about BITTERBLUE, and there are some excellent questions and equally fantastic answers.

And as for what I’ve been reading – I finished Lisa Shearin‘s Raine Benares fantasy series.  Confession: I stalled a few years ago in the middle (or so I thought) of the third book, but as the sixth and final book in the series had just been released, I wanted to know how it ended and decided to re-visit the book that had been giving me trouble.  So I dived back into THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS and was surprised to find out that I had actually stopped in the second chapter.  I could have sworn I was much further in.  Oh well.

I’ll get around to posting reviews eventually, but while the books were generally an easy read, they wouldn’t be a re-read for me.  I’ve been pondering why I’ve failed to connect with the series – it has a lot of things going for it, not least the modern urban fantasy-like take on the traditional sword-and-sorcery fantasy genre.  I think it probably boils down to what I see as lack of character growth or development in Raine.  Five books in, and she’s still in the same place mentally (generally long-winded internal debate around the lines of “arrrghhh, I’ll be evil and corrupted forevermore if I use the Sarghred’s powers” followed by “but I have to protect the weak and defenceless” – major paraphrasing but you get the idea) as she was in the first books.  At least the dreaded love triangle was resolved in the fourth book.

I also read Veronica Roth‘s DIVERGENT (SF YA), primarily because of all the hype around the release of the second book.   I can see why it’s getting a lot of attention, and I was certainly fascinated by her dystopian world.  Ultimately though, the story fizzled out for me towards the end – I wasn’t invested enough in the main characters and the romance felt a bit forced to me.  I’ll probably get around to reading the sequel, but am in no rush.

So a pretty quiet couple of weeks when it comes to reading – I’ve not fallen in love with any new books, but haven’t hated any either.  What about you – any recs or rants?

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Mostly Urban Fantasy

Here’s the rest of what I read last September, including the last book in Richelle Mead’s Succubus series.  Yes, an UF series finally wraps up.  As usual, reviews originally on Goodreads, with additional comments in italics.

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The Affair (Jack Reacher, #16)The Affair by Lee Child (suspense)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A page-turner that kept me engrossed, which is exactly what I expect every time I open a Jack Reacher book. THE AFFAIR was set very early on in Reacher’s career – it was rather interesting to see Reacher when he was in the army (well, just about). Also, like the more recent books, another small-town setting – I think I prefer it when he does big cities, but that’s probably my city girl side coming out! One thing that did bother me slightly about this book was what struck me as lawlessness – everyone (including Reacher himself) seemed to run around killing without facing any consequences.

Lee Child is one of those authors who don’t necessarily write in chronological order series-wise (others include Lois McMaster Bujold, Catherine Asaro, and Elizabeth Peters).  I’ve mixed feelings about this – while I enjoy having a look at earlier events that played a part in shaping the main characters, another part of me  just wants to know what happens next.  

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Spell Bound (Women of the Otherworld, #12)Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong (urban fantasy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to admit I wasn’t wowed by this installment, even as a long-time Otherworld (and Savannah) fan. I get the feeling we’re heading towards a big-bang climax to the series (with the final book out in 2012), and this had the “middle-book-trilogy” feel to it for me. None of the plot threads were really resolved in this book, though action-wise, my heart was speeding up towards the end.

I found it hard to empathise with Savannah – I’m not sure why, it certainly wasn’t that she was “immature”, as was constantly emphasised in the book. I have to say I didn’t really view her as being that, just more of someone who has strong powers and relies on them, as you would expect! I did like seeing more of the Cabals – I find them a fascinating construct – and also Savannah’s “other” family in this book.

So not a keeper, but I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing how Kelley Armstrong wraps up this series with the next and final book, Thirteen, because I have a feeling she was setting things up for this.

Speaking of UF series wrapping up… this wasn’t my favourite of the series, but I hope Kelley Armstrong pulls something special out of the bag for THIRTEEN (or 13 – I’m not entirely sure what the official title is!).

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Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)Bloodlines by Richelle Mead (YA urban fantasy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up BLOODLINES with some trepidation, after Cassandra Clare’s revisit to her original trilogy where she basically undid the conclusion to her previous books.

But (surprisingly?) BLOODLINES was an enjoyable return to an already-familiar world – perhaps because the main characters in the original Vampire Academy trilogy weren’t a looming presence, we got to get to know the new protagonists without constantly making unfair comparisons to Rose, Lissa, Dmitri, et al.

By the end of this book, I could see Sydney beginning to unbend, and I would look up the next book, The Golden Lily, when it releases. Not a must-read, but a decent one.

Only one thing… no more love triangles please?

Spin-offs from established series appear to be getting increasingly popular – I thought Richelle Mead delivered a good story in this one.  Admittedly, I wasn’t massively into the original VA series, so I didn’t miss Rose and the original gang – others may feel differently.

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Succubus Revealed (Georgina Kincaid, #6)Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is sometimes just so satisfying to read a final book in a series, especially when it is a perfect wrap-up.

I loved how Richelle Mead managed to resolve the insurmountable hurdles keeping Georgina and Seth apart, and though there were parts which were somewhat predictable and corny, this book was a good one. Great plotting – I really liked how seemingly unrelated events and characters in other books ended up playing an important part in this book. I admit to some tears being shed towards the end, and can I just say the final courtroom scene rocked.

I remember reading the first book back in 2007 and really liking the world Richelle Mead created (gosh, that was a bit of a rambling review).  It’s been a good series. 

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One Salt Sea (October Daye, #5)One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best way to start a month is to read an October Daye book, IMO. I really liked this one – sleep deprivation was a fair price to pay on my part. Maybe a tad bit too much info-dumping in the story, but really, I savoured every word on each page and every bit of the world-building. I LOVE this series and this was a hugely satisfying instalment as we get to spend more time with Toby and her people (Quentin! Raj!) and more is revealed about Toby’s world. Yeah, sorry, nothing concrete to say – just some giddy fangirl gushing.

Speaking of good series, this is a fantastic one.  Admittedly, the early books were a bit patchy in places, but I think Seanan McGuire has hit her stride – this is probably my favourite UF series at the moment.

Random Bits

You know, I was a bit grumpy last week when we missed out on a long bank holiday weekend, but this four-day weekend has probably made up for it.

Reading-wise, I started on Carla Kelly‘s new release, MARRIAGE OF MERCY, over the weekend – enjoying the historical setting and the quiet attraction between heroine/hero (not so much the compulsory evil cousin though).  I also got around to reading the new-ish Nora Roberts courtesy of my library – her romantic suspense standalone THE WITNESS.  This was more of a mixed bag –  I liked the suspense sections, but thought the pacing slacked off somewhat when I reached the romance part.  The library also came through with Isabelle Holland‘s TRELAWNY’S FELL – this was a proper old-school hardcover published in 1976, with original library cards still intact.  It got me into the right mood, and I loved the book – it had all the modern Gothic must-haves, including a spooky manor house with a maze of attics, identity-swapping, and a sprinkling of romance.

And links of interest I’ve come across:

I loved Ernest Cline‘s READY PLAYER ONE when I read it earlier this year (I know, I haven’t really been talking about books I loved this year, have I?), and That Cover Girl had a great post about the covers of the various editions.  While I had seen the hardcover edition in the bookstore, it was the paperback cover that made me grab it off the shelves.

I’ve enjoyed reading all the blog posts on this Unconventional Blog Tour.  They’ve been thought-provoking and informative – I especially liked Kate Hart’s post on Citing Your Sources.

Everyone’s probably seen this by now, but this Almack’s voucher posted by Jane @ Dear Author?  Ahhhh.  I’m guessing you can tell who the historical romance reader are by reactions (or lack of) to this picture.

Books for June

It’s that time of the year when I write blog posts while keeping an eye on the tennis on telly.  Wimbledon remains my favourite Grand Slam, but there is something to be said for Slams that are held in your time zone.

Summer is well and truly here (and that is not a sentence I thought I would use anytime soon).  And here are the June books I want.

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HEX APPEAL edited by PN Elrod (urban fantasy): PN Elrod has come up with some pretty good urban fantasy anthologies previously, and HEX APPEAL looks to be no different.  With contributors including Ilona Andrews and Jim Butcher, this is very much on my to-buy-asap list.

Blurb:

Fall under the intoxicating spell of their hex appeal…

In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?

In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.

Includes stories from: Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Carole Nelson Douglas, P. N. Elrod, Simon R. Green, Lori Handeland, Erica Hayes, Carrie Vaughn

Out June 5

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Erin McCarthy‘s JACKED UP (contemporary romance): I haven’t loved the last couple of installments in this stock-car racing series as much as the first three, but I’m willing to give this one last go.

Blurb:

She’s holding tight. He’s hanging loose.

Eve Monroe is a stock-car PR pro who puts her career first—until an on-track wardrobe malfunction reveals more than the sexy smile of her race-car brother’s jack-man, Nolan Ford. The video’s become an internet sensation, and it’s Eve’s job to calm the sponsors and put a spin on the unexpected exposure. It may be purely a public relations job, but now that Eve’s seen what’s under Nolan’s crew suit, it’s gotten a little personal—and after a few dates she has Nolan pretty revved up. If only she’d learn to relax and enjoy it…

And they both have the same drive.

Nolan’s sure that the spontaneous birthday bash he’s throwing for Eve in Las Vegas should loosen her up. It does more than that. Somewhere between cocktails and a smoking-hot motel-room derby, Eve and Nolan wake up hitched, thanks to a post-sex-high detour to a Vegas chapel. A hangover marriage to a virtual stranger isn’t good for anyone’s image, so Eve plans to play the happy wife long enough to satisfy the press, and then quietly part ways. Now all she has to do is convince her new personal jack-man. But Nolan has plans of his own…

Out June 5 (excerpt)

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Diana Peterfreund‘s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS (YA dystopian SF): There’s been a lot of buzz about this post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, and seeing that I loved Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl books, I’m definitely getting this.

Blurb:

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Out June 12 (book page)

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Julia Quinn‘s A NIGHT LIKE THIS (historical romance): Julia Quinn is a bit of a comfort read for me.  You always know what you’re getting with a Quinn – delightful romance with sparkling dialogue, if a bit on the frothy side.  Her latest release doesn’t appear to be a departure from this tried-and-tested formula.

Blurb:
Anne Wynter’s job as governess to three highborn young ladies can be a challenge – in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he’s the first man who has truly tempted her, and it’s getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger, but that’s not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family’s annual musicale, he vows to pursue her. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending…

Out June 7 (excerpt)