Linkage Time

It’s been a while since I last posted some links, so here are some links, both old and new:

One SF, One (Almost) Fantasy

reviewafreeebookI posted a while back about my plan to start talking about free (or bargain-priced) ebooks.  And then that kind of fell by the wayside, as many of my grand(-ish) blogging plans do.  But new year, new start, so here are a couple.

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16180352Firstly, you may have heard about John Scalzi‘s THE HUMAN DIVISION, which is a serialised novel being released in 13 parts on a weekly basis from around now onwards. Once all installments have been released, it’ll also go on sale as a single book (both hardcover and e), but at a price point comparable to buying each individual short.  I like John Scalzi’s writing – I’ve read his debut novel, OLD MAN’S WAR, and its immediate sequel, and I have ZOE’S TALE sitting in my TBR pile somewhere.  He writes accessible and entertaining SF – and while that may sound like damning with faint praise, it’s not.  It may not be ground-breaking SF, but it’s good storytelling of the sort that keeps you turning the pages.  And I like his blog – which counts for quite a bit too!

So I pre-ordered the first installment, THE B-TEAM – my thinking being that if I liked the story, I would order the next in the series.  If not, well, £0.63 (or $0.99, I believe) wasn’t going to break the bank.  And then last week, I had an email come through from Tor – apparently, I had signed up on some sort of mailing list, and as a result, I got a free copy of THE B-TEAM a week in advance of the on-sale date.  Win.

And I really enjoyed THE B-TEAM.  I liked that it was a standalone short with quite a bit of story packed in (Scalzi does note that it is one of the longer stories in this serial). I also liked that I was caught somewhat off-guard after the first chapter – I thought the story was going to go one direction, but it ended up going down another route, and that certainly caught my attention.  I didn’t find the setting confusing, though having said that, it is set in the OMW universe, so I do have the benefit of having read previous books set in the same world.  All in all, it’s a great introduction to a bigger story and I’m looking forward to following the characters on their next adventure (or at least, I’m assuming it’s the same cast of characters), and if you’re in the mood for some SF, I’d certainly suggest you give the first story a go.

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462421Hilcia @ Impressions of an Reader is taking part in the 2013 Science Fiction Experience and she’s been reviewing a few Andre Nortons.  While I’ve read a few Nortons, they’ve not been a big part of my SFF reading past.  So inspired by Hils, I “dusted off” an Andre Norton that was in my e-TBR – THE PRINCE COMMANDS was offered as a freebie a while back and so I had it sitting on my Kindle.

So first off, this is not an SF.  In fact, it barely qualifies as a fantasy – the only fantastical element being the setting, it being one of those made-up Eastern European kingdoms.  I did some research (i.e. Googling) when I finished the novel, and it turns out that this is actually Andre Norton’s first book.  I know – fail on the SFF history front.

Anyway, once I figured out what I was getting into, this turned out to be a very fun, very Ruritanian adventure.  Michael Karl, the young protagonist, finds out that he is the heir to the kingdom of Morvania, and reluctantly sets out to be crowned king.  But it’s obviously not going to be smooth sailing, and well, hi-jinks ensue with escapes and near-escapes, conspiracies, hidden identities, secret passages, passwords… It has some unexpectedly touching moments, and ended up being slightly more than just a straightforward adventure.

While I enjoyed the story, something struck me as being slightly off, and it was only after I finished reading THE PRINCE COMMANDS that I pinpointed what was missing.  And it was that there was no women or POC playing any significant parts in this novel – from memory, the only female character with a couple of cameos played a vaguely mother-ish capacity.  This made me realise how far we have come in around eight decades (THE PRINCE COMMANDS was published in 1934), and the diversity that I tend to take for granted in the YA fantasy books on the market nowadays.  So yes, this book came with an unexpected social history realisation.

Books for January

So we’ve just about hit the end of the post-Christmas/New Year period – I think this has to be my least favourite time of year (back to work after a long-ish break, no holidays to look forward to, etc etc), with the only bright spot being that the days are slowly getting longer.

And I have to say that my new releases list for January isn’t that long either.  In fact, if it wasn’t for Kelly Hunter, it would look incredibly depressing.  Talk about January blues.

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17155520Kelly Hunter‘s THE TROUBLE WITH VALENTINE’S DAY (contemporary romance): This is an interesting experiment – it’s actually an expanded version of her first M&B romance, WIFE FOR A WEEK.  From her website:

[…] ‘The Trouble With Valentine’s’, which is my first ever published story (Wife for A Week) writ long – as in I’ve expanded it by 30,000 words. It’ll be released in Jan/Feb in the UK and Aus under the Mira imprint. […] I love this story – it’s the first in the Bennett series – and the expansion explores more of the brothers, more of Jasmine and Kai (the secondary romance) and more of my favourite themes.

I was curious about this because WFAW was the book that kickstarted my Kelly Hunter glom, and despite my reservations about this being the same book recycled in new packaging, I caved and bought it.  I’ll be honest and say I probably wasn’t the ideal audience for this book – I was distracted by the fact it was WFAW II, and probably spent more time flipping between the two books to see what had been added or changed than actually reading the story itself.  If you’re curious, the Jasmine/Kai strand has been expanded significantly (and for the better, IMO), there are nods towards the fact this is being packaged as a Valentine’s Day romance, more mentions of Hallie’s brothers, and some additional scenes between Hallie and Nick.

I think when (because it will probably be when, not if) I do a re-read of this one, it’ll work much better because I’ll be focused on the actual story instead of wondering about the differences. If you haven’t read WFAW and are interested in starting this series, I’d recommend you pick up this version instead – it’s more expensive than a M&B as it’s been published under the Mira imprint, but you can probably get it off Kobo with a discount coupon.

The perfect Valentine’s gift?

As far as women’s fashion accessories went, he was spectacular. A black-haired, cobalt-eyed, dangerous- looking toy who no doubt warned you outright not to bother playing with him if you didn’t like his rules. He was like a Hermes handbag; women saw and women wanted, even though they knew the price was going to be astronomical.

Hallie Bennett likes a challenge, though – and his offer is tempting: $5,000 if she pretends to be his wife for a week. It might not be the most traditional Valentine’s Day proposal… but she’s hardly a traditional girl. Maybe a week in the high life, with a man to match, will be just the ticket. Just as long as she doesn’t start wishing the ‘I do’ is real…

Out now

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15825773Kelly Hunter‘s THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (contemporary romance): And then the Kelly Hunter that I’m really looking forward to – her debut for the new Harlequin KISS line in the US.  I’d have picked it up regardless of reviews, but I’ve already heard good buzz about this book and it had a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.  It’s also the Dear Author book club pick for February.

Good job? Tick. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting. Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking. Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever, and this time he’s not going anywhere…

Out January 22

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15742820Julie Hyzy‘s FONDUING FATHERS (cosy mystery): And the last of the January new releases on my list (I did say it was short).  I’ve been following this series since the first book was released, and while I’ve had my ups and downs, the White House setting keeps me intrigued.  If you’re interested, Christina @ Babbling Book Reviews did a series spotlight that summarises all the books to date.

White House executive chef Olivia Paras has enough on her plate. But after gaining new information about her father’s death, the First Family isn’t the only family Olivia is concerned about.

Olivia has always believed that her father was an honorable man—until a trip to visit her mother reveals that he was dishonorably discharged from the army. Olivia is even more shocked to learn that he was brutally murdered because someone at his company suspected him of selling corporate secrets. Refusing to believe that her father was a scoundrel, Olivia won’t rest until she proves his innocence.

Enlisting the help of her boyfriend, Gav, Olivia must reach out to her father’s colleagues to discover the truth behind his murder. What she’s about to discover may not only put her at risk, but threaten national security as well…

Out now (author website)

2012: The Summary

Happy New Year everyone!

Time for my annual reading recap in lists and numbers (here’s what I posted for 2011, if you want to take a peek).

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My Very Favourite Books Read in 2012

Mainly fantasy and SF, with only one outside those genres – all of these books made it onto my keeper shelves.

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  • Catherine Asaro‘s CARNELIANS (2012) – SF
    Totally delivered on the emotional satisfaction front for this long-time Skolian Empire reader
  • Andrea K Höst‘s MEDAIR duology (2010/11) – Fantasy
    This fantasy had it all: adventure, magic, and love (with a healthy dollop of angst), and a hold-your-breath kind of ending 
  • Andrea K Höst‘s TOUCHSTONE trilogy (2011) – YA SF (or science fantasy, arguably)
    Unputdownable trilogy (plus a very Gratuitious Epilogue)
  • Kristin Cashore‘s BITTERBLUE (2012) – YA fantasy
    Twisty and captivating coming-of-age story for Bitterblue
  • Diana Peterfreund‘s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS (2012) – YA SF
    Intricately crafted and compelling re-interpretation of PERSUASION
  • Lois McMaster Bujold‘s CAPTAIN’s VORPARTRIL’S ALLIANCE (2012) – SF
    Wonderful madcap kind of adventure worthy of Miles at his best, but Ivan-style
  • Tanya Huff‘s THE SILVERED (2012) – Fantasy
    Standalone fantasy that left me wanting more. PLEASE.
  • Seanan McGuire‘s ASHES OF HONOR (2012) – Urban fantasy
    If you’re a Toby Daye reader, I dare you not to love this one. Each book just gets better, and swoon-y relationships aside, ASHES OF HONOR revealed so much more about Toby’s world and I’m dying to know what happens next. 
  • Juliet Marillier‘s FLAME OF SEVENWATERS (2012) – Fantasy
    I have so much love for these books – FLAME was such a fitting end for the Sevenwaters series. 
  • Tammara Webber‘s BETWEEN THE LINES (2011) – YA romance
    Most people appear to have gone for EASY as their favourite Webber; I’ll be the first to admit that BETWEEN THE LINES is somewhat fluffier, but I fell headlong for the romance in this one, and the positive portrayal of female friendships and surprise twists were a bonus.

Links to my reviews where available, I’ll update the links for the rest hopefully soon-ish.

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New-to-me Authors that I’m Extremely Glad I’ve Read in 2012

Fantasy/SF

  • Andrea K Höst
  • Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • Daniel Abraham / James SA Corey
  • Ernest Cline
  • Garth Nix
  • Laini Taylor

Romance

  • Isabelle Holland
  • Miranda Kenneally
  • Shannon Stacey
  • Tammara Webber

Historical (for want of a better category!)

  • Elizabeth Wein

Here’s my 2012 new-to-me authors shelf on Goodreads, if you’re curious – I add the first book of theirs that I’ve read.

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Author Most Glommed in 2012

It was a quiet glom because I don’t think I mentioned it much on the blog, but I ended up reading nine of Isabelle Holland‘s contemporary Gothics over 2012 (and have more on my TBR pile!).  Strong female leads, with brooding heroes and mysterious villains, all against a fascinating “past-contemporary” backdrop of the 70s.

Second most-read author for me was Andrea K Höst – five books, but including two omibuses, so technically eight books in all (or alternatively, her entire backlist).  I’ve probably bored all of you to death over 2012 with how much I’ve loved her refreshing take on fantasy and SF tropes so I won’t continue here – all I will say is her books have been the best discovery of the year for me.

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The Statistics


2012 2011 2010 2009
# of books read 164 144 141 115
# published during current year 78 (48%) 73 (51%) 77 (55%) 55 (48%)
# of authors read 103 91 88 71
# of new-to-me authors 31 (30%) 26 (29%) 29 (33%) 22 (30%)
# of library books 28 (17%) 24 (17%) 20 (14%) n/a
space space space space space

Like last year, I’m amused by how (unintentionally) consistent my reading patterns have been over the years.  Although I read a lot more than in 2011 (that would be where the blogging time went!), the %s for new-to-me authors, new releases, and library loans have stayed remarkably similar to previous years.

I’m pleased that I’m still discovering new-to-me authors (as evidenced by the long list above) – and that probably explains the ratio of 2012 releases to pre-2012 ones, as I have a habit of glomming backlists if I’ve loved an author’s most recent work.

Also, I say this every year, but I really want to make better use of my local library.  I’m definitely borrowing more books than I was five years ago but the % could still be higher.  Instead of randomly browsing the shelves, I tend to make reservations for new-to-me authors that have caught my attention via blog mentions, which reduces my number of unread or DNF library books.

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And finally, my graphical view of 2012 by month and genre:

2012

Rather than including YA as a separate genre as in previous years, this time I’ve included them in the other categories, which kind of makes sense to me.  If you’re wondering , 24 (or 15%) books fall in the YA (or MG) category.

The full list of my 2012 books is on my Goodreads Read in 2012 shelf (or will be, when I get around to listing all of them!).

So that’s it – it was a good year in 2012 reading-wise.  Here’s to 2013!