Julie Cross’s LETTERS TO NOWHERE

18046135Julie Cross‘s LETTERS TO NOWHERE was one of those impulse buys (helped along by the bargain price, I may add).

I’ve gotten used to the dead parents face. I’ve gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I’ve even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that’s made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan–being around him, talking to him, thinking about him–makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That’s something I haven’t been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it’s like to wonder–what now? I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you’re struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be…maybe…probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can’t happen, can it? But kissing him…well, let’s just say it’s not an easy activity to forget.

John’s review at Dear Author prompted me to give a new-to-me author a shot, and I ended up falling in love with this unexpectedly compelling YA. The plot sounded fairly generic YA if I’m perfectly honest – every other YA/NA seems to start off with a traumatic incident for the protagonist, and on the face of it, this was just another book telling the story of a teen who’s dealing with the death of her parents.

But Karen grabbed my attention from the start. She’s the kind of girl who is just so very easy to root for – she’s sixteen, and dealing with the loss of her parents with this hard-won maturity and wry humour. She’s trying to steer herself through her grief, balancing what she wants for herself against what she thinks her parents would have wanted, and I have to say some of her letters to her parents left me with a lump in my throat. But despite all of this, this was actually a feel-good story – not only did Karen make me laugh out loud at times, she has this competitive edge and quiet self-confidence, which made her come alive.

Which brings me to the sports element of this story, which completely worked for me. Julie Cross’s bio hints at her gymnastics background, which is put to excellent use here. I freely admit that all my knowledge of the sport is gleaned from the TV coverage whenever the Olympics come around, but I found this a fascinating peek into the world of elite gymnastics. Plus as bonus: the way Karen’s friendships with her fellow gymnasts were portrayed. They were both friends and competitors at the same time; it was really positive when showing how being supportive didn’t preclude holding back in competition – in fact, it was the opposite at times.

As for Jordan (a.k.a. swoony crush) – ah, he’s one of the good guys. It was one of those lovely friendship-to-romance relationships; I loved their funny and frank conversations and yes, their chemistry leapt off the page. And Coach Bentley… with all the media stories about authority figures crossing the line, you know it’s got to be handled well – and it is.

So yes, I loved this book, and I really hope Julie Cross returns to this world because I want to know what Karen does next.

Link Round Up

A list of links I’ve been meaning to post for a while:

  • Bookmarking this for whenever I’m in the need for more space opera goodness – though note the caveat that these aren’t necessarily positive recommendations.  From this, I can recommend the Sharon Lee & Steve Miller Liaden books, Catherine Asaro‘s Skolian series, Lois McMaster Bujold (that goes without saying, surely), and obviously Debra Doyle & James A Macdonald‘s books.  I’ve enjoyed James SA Corey‘s books, but they aren’t on my list of all-time favourites yet – possibly too much on the horror side for me – but then again, I’ve only read two so far.  It’s been a while since I’ve read the Margaret Weis books but I’ve a feeling they would hold up to the test of time (and yes, I really want to do a re-read).  I’ve never tried Elizabeth Bear‘s novels before, but she’s very much on my to-read list.
    *
  • Book View Cafe (or BVC) is an authors’ co-operative – there’s an interesting post @ Publishing Perspectives about how they organise themselves and also how their co-op model has evolved over the past few years (via Sherwood Smith).  I buy from BVC occasionally and have no issues with the quality of their books.  If they have a weakness (apart from covers that umm… could be improved?), it’s promo – it’s not always easy to find out about their new releases.
    *
  • Smart Bitches Trashy Books did an informative post about the Overdrive app – this allows you to borrow ebooks from your local library.  I only discovered this a few months back, and it’s opened up a whole new world of ebooks for me.  Highly recommend, if you’ve got a tablet is supported (I use my Kindle Fire).
    *
  • You know my feelings about exclusive editionshere’s a librarian’s take on it.
    *
  • Did you know there was a Carina UK? I didn’t – it’s Harlequin UK’s digital-first (only?) publishing arm.  I’m wondering how this fits in with HQN’s other digital-first imprints.  They seem to have a wider range of genres than the M&B line – it’s on my list to check out at some point.
    *
  • Teresa Medeiros was an auto-buy for me way back when – light yet charming historical romance.  I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading her, but I’m kind of tempted to get her e-backlist now.

Sunday Thoughts

I was really sad when I heard of Barbara Mertz‘s (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels) passing (link via Janicu @ SpecFicRomantic).  She was 85, and lived life to the full from all accounts – I loved this line from her website:

Shortly before her death, she had written a line to be posted on this webpage: “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.”

I remember discovering her Amelia Peabody mystery series back in 2007 and visiting pretty much every bookstore in central London to get my hands on the complete series (yes, those pre-ebook days).  I’d always seen numerous recommendations for her books whenever anyone asked about mysteries with strong romantic elements, but had discounted them, thinking that I’d never be interested in Egyptian archaeology – yes, I know.

I picked up the first book, CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, on a whim one day, and while it wasn’t necessarily instant love, there was something about her writing that meant I kept on reading, and before I knew it, I was hooked.  Her love of Egypt shone through her writing, and as for the Peabody family – addictive doesn’t even begin to describe their adventures as they pursue archaeological treasures in turn-of-the-century Egypt.  Her books are the main reason why I want to visit Egypt one day and sail down the Nile on a dahabeeyah.  She brought this previously-unknown world alive for me, which is really what books are all about – giving you a window into places that you’d never have imagined otherwise.  Here’s a review I posted for third Amelia Peabody, THE MUMMY CASE a few years back – the first paragraph may give you a feel for how highly I rate this series if it wasn’t obvious already…

Thank you for the many happy hours of reading, and RIP Barbara Mertz.

************

I’ve recently discovered a new-to-me historical mystery series that I’m really enjoying – PB Ryan‘s Nell Sweeney series:

The Nell Sweeney historical mysteries, which are set in post-Civil War Boston, star a young Irish-born governess and her employer’s black sheep son, the dissolute, wounded, dangerously charming Will Hewitt. If you like twisty-turny mysteries with a breathless whisper of romantic tension, you’ve come to the right place.

I couldn’t describe them any better myself – 1860s Boston comes to life, Nell is a very engaging heroine, and her relationship with Will is filled with chemistry from the very first book.  The first book, STILL LIFE WITH MURDER, is usually on sale for a lower introductory price, but I ended up buying the omnibus collection of all six novels.

************

I posted last week about the August new releases on my list, and then realised I’d missed two – here they are:

15808437Jo Beverley‘s SEDUCTION IN SILK (historical romance): I always say Jo Beverley remains one of my few auto-buy authors in the historical romance genre, and that’s still true.  This one is linked to her Malloren world, which means Georgian historical!

Peregrine Perriam, son of an earl, has no desire to marry, but when he’s named heir to Perriam Manor, he finds he has only a month to persuade a stranger, Claris Mallow, to the altar or the property will be lost to his family forever, and his line will be cursed.

Having survived her parents’ tormented marriage, Claris prefers poverty to any husband. When a high-born stranger demands her hand, she drives him off at pistol point.

Perry finds weapons of his own, however, and soon Claris is compelled to accept his proposal. But she does so on her own terms—especially that the marriage be in name only. Once mistress of Perriam Manor, however, she discovers she isn’t immune to Perry’s charms. Perhaps a real marriage might be worth the risk—including a real marriage bed…

Out now

*

18294089Sherwood Smith‘s WHISPERED MAGICS (SF/fantasy): This is a BVC-published collection of short stories, with an MG slant. All previously-published, I think, as majority were not new-to-me, but I had fun re-reading them and it was nice to have all of them in a single e-edition.  Sherwood Smith talks about WHISPERED MAGICS briefly on her LJ.

As a child, Sherwood Smith was always on the watch for magic: no fog bank went unexplored, no wooden closet unchecked for a false back, no possible magical token left on the ground or in the gutter. In these nine stories, the impossible becomes possible, magic is real, aliens come visiting. How would our lives change?

Out now

 

 

Books for August

August new releases on my radar:

*

17158158Tammara Webber‘s HERE WITHOUT YOU (NA romance): The first book in Tammara Webber’s Between The Lines series ended up being one of my favourite reads of 2012, and I promptly glommed the next two towards the end of last year.  So it feels like quite a while since I’ve last had my BTL fix – I’m very much looking forward to this final book in the series.

Everyone has secrets.
Some are buried so deep, their existence is forgotten.
But a secret never told can turn into a lie.
And in love, a lie is one thing:
Poison.

Reid’s in love with Dori, though she hasn’t told her parents that she’s fallen hard for the guy they’d forbidden her to see. Now she’s leaving for college, and Reid’s promise not to push her to go public is wearing thin, especially when she can’t – or won’t – return those three important words he wants to hear.

Five years ago, Brooke and Reid were a Thing. That relationship is long gone, detonated amid allegations of cheating – but they still share a secret that would stun everyone they know and alter public perception of them both if it ever comes out. And it’s about to do just that.

Out Aug 6

*

11431896Rae Carson‘s THE BITTER KINGDOM (YA fantasy): I didn’t love the first book, but the second intrigued me enough that I’ll probably spring for the third (I borrowed the first two from my trusty local library).  Judging by the early reviews of THE BITTER KINGDOM, this trilogy may be ending on a high. On a side note, I have to say that the UK cover is excellent, IMO.

The epic conclusion to Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

Out Aug 27 (UK release 19 Sept)

*

15801763Sarah Rees Brennan‘s UNTOLD (YA urban fantasy): I’m not a fan of the change in cover design (I loved the original UNSPOKEN cover, and the revised covers scream generic UF to me), but if it helps these books sell better…*shrugs* I liked a lot about UNSPOKEN, and I’m hoping UNTOLD delivers.

It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?’

Out Aug 29

*

17612868Lee Child‘s NEVER GO BACK (suspense): I’m a Jack Reacher fan, even if I’ve found the recent installments growing more formulaic and violence-heavy.  Intriguing blurb.

After an epic and interrupted journey all the way from the snows of South Dakota, former military cop Jack Reacher has finally made it to Virginia. His destination: a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington D.C., the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. It was the closest thing to a home he ever had.

Why? He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner. He liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind his old desk isn’t a woman. Is Susan Turner dead? In Afghanistan? Or in a car wreck?

What Reacher doesn’t expect to hear is that Turner has just been fired from her command. Nor that he himself is in big trouble, accused of a sixteen-year-old homicide. And he certainly doesn’t expect to hear these words: ‘You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’

Will he be sorry he went back? Or – will someone else?

Out Aug 29

*

16156292Naomi Novik‘s BLOOD OF TYRANTS (fantasy): This is the penultimate book in the Temeraire series according to Goodreads.  I do think it’s time this series is wrapped up – it’s starting to feel a bit unwieldy and rambling in places – but I’ll still probably get around to reading it soon.

Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.

For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge…and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.

Out Aug 13

*

12140024Kelley Armstrong‘s OMENS (UF): I can’t be the only one pleased that Kelley Armstrong is starting a new series.  I’ve skipped her newer MG/YA books, but I’ve high hopes for this one.

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home, and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Out Aug 20