Mini-Reviews – Or What I Read Last Year, Part II

Maybe I should speed  up my Goodreads cross-postings?  It’s a mixed batch this time – some long-time favourites (I need more Skolian books), a couple of new-to-me authors, and some former autobuy authors.

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Diamond Star (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #13)Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading this way back when it was first released (yes, we’re talking 2009 here) and then stopped halfway – not entirely sure why now, but I think it was to do with the fact I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go where I thought the book was going (and hopefully that makes sense to you – I’m not sure it makes sense to me!). Anyway, as the next book in the series, Carnelians, had been released, and I’ve an aversion to reading books out of order, I bit the bullet and picked up DIAMOND STAR again.

With the caveat I started reading from where I stopped, as opposed to restarting the whole book, I ended up really liking DIAMOND STAR. The story wasn’t as dark as I thought it was going to be, but perhaps not everything was fully resolved.

I have a very soft spot for the SF world that Catherine Asaro has created, and so while the bubbles and colours (and incestous relationships) feel slightly dated, I can’t help but give them a pass because I love the Skolian universe so much.

This book is not one for new readers to the Skolian series, but if you’re a long-term fan, it was satisfying to see more of the tangled family relationships resolved, and particularly Del stepping out of his family’s shadow and making his life his own.

All in all, DIAMOND STAR is a slightly heavy-handed coming-of-age story, but I’m glad I finally got around to finishing it, and now I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t cross-posted this review before (or if this sounds familiar, maybe I have!).  Catherine Asaro’s Skolian series is one of my favourite space opera series, and although some elements do feel dated, they’re ultimately comfort reads for me.

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Carnelians (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #14)Carnelians by Catherine Asaro (SF)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s a good thing I read this straight after finishing the previous book, Diamond Star. It’s definitely not one for readers new to the series, and without a knowledge of the story so far, I think the key moments would lack impact somewhat.

I loved this book – I stayed up very late to finish it, and it totally delivered on the satisfaction front. It’s not a technically perfect book, but that emotional impact thing? A million times yes. [Click through to GR review for spoiler]

This book wraps up one of the main arcs in the series – all I can say is when is the next book coming out?

I obviously jumped straight to the next Skolian installment, which turned out to be one of my favourites of 2012, IIRC.  Catherine Asaro said she signed a contract with Baen for SF mysteries set in the Skolian Empire universe – I cannot wait.

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The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1)The Next Always by Nora Roberts (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I read a Nora Roberts (I think) and this book didn’t really make me regret not picking it up sooner.

This came across as a quiet-ish romance, with a slightly OTT stalker plot that felt a bit out of place. I liked the relationship between Beckett and his brothers – one thing Nora Roberts does very well, I think. And Claire’s kids were fun, if a little on the overly-sweet side. A bit too much page-time was spent on the inn construction (and in a way, it was weird knowing the inn and the bookstore were real-life places). And unfortunately, the ending [click through to GR review for spoiler] made me roll my eyes.

I used to haunt the bookstore for the new Nora Roberts release.  Now – well, it’s a possible library borrow if I see it on the shelves.  I suspect it’s a “me, not you” thing – I’ve grown too familiar with her writing style, characters, and plots, and they don’t feel as fresh or exciting anymore.

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (YA fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was both great story-telling and writing. Karou’s story felt so immediate, keeping me on the edge of my seat, and the setting was so different and imaginative. While a bit predictable towards the end (and I wasn’t expecting the abrupt ending), I was completely drawn into Laini Taylor’s world and am looking forward to see how the story continues.

Oh, there was a lot of hype around this one.  I didn’t fall in love, but there were a lot of good things here.

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The Sleeping Beauty (Five Hundred Kingdoms, #5)The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I stopped reading this series a while ago, but was persuaded to pick this one up because of good reviews. And this was generally a good read.

I do like Mercedes Lackey’s take on The Tradition – it’s clever and delivers an entertaining twist on the traditional fairy tale, while the same fairy tale elements somehow means I can give the “too-perfectness” of the protagonists a bit of a pass, because it fits the worldbuilding (whereas the same aspect just tends to frustrate me in other recent Lackey books). Having said that, I found it difficult to differentiate between the heroes/heroines, and as a result, never really empathised with the characters. A good, if not memorable, read.

That Nora Roberts bookstore haunting thing I used to do for new releases? 10x that for a Mercedes Lackey release.  Reading a Lackey is usually a nostalgic thing for me nowadays. 

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Hot Head (Head, #1)Hot Head by Damon Suede (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this, but did not thoroughly get (or connect with?) the main characters. Maybe the plot driver behind h/h getting together (i.e. the posing for the gay website) didn’t work for me. However, I loved the friends-to-lovers part.

New-to-me author – again a lot of buzz around this release, IIRC.  I was not entirely won over (one day, I’m sure I’ll be telling you about a new release that lived up to the hype for me!).

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4 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews – Or What I Read Last Year, Part II

  1. I haven’t read a Catherine Asaro book for several years and I like the Skolian universe very much, too. I don’t know exactly where I left off, but I know I haven’t read either of the ones in your review. Another series I should catch up with!

  2. LOL, you make me feel better, Li 🙂 Kristie made fun of me because I just posted my Monthly Reads post of April… in September… but you’re still on 2012 🙂 Yay!

    The Next Always wasn’t the best book to pick up to get back on the NR bandwagon. However, it’s true that she does relationships well 🙂

    I’ve always wanted to read Catherine Asaro, but the covers… Ugh.

    • LOL – I figure that late is better than never. It’s more cross-posting if I’m honest – they’re all on GR, I’ve just been lazy about posting them here.

      All Baen covers are… challenging to get past, shall we say. I’m not entirely sure that I would love the first Asaro book if I read it today, but we’ve a history now!

      NR – yeah. Maybe I should have a look at one of her standalones.

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