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Manga CoverI’ve never quite got the hang of reading manga (or any kind of graphic novel, come to that), but this Harlequin post about how they translate their HQNs into manga form fascinated me, especially the comments from the artists themselves.  The article features novels by Gena Showalter and Lynne Graham – the latter’s OTT romances used to be my guilty pleasure and I’m quite tempted to order the manga version of THE DESERT SHEIKH’S CAPTIVE WIFE now.

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Library Journal published their Best Ebook Romances list for 2013. I normally feel a bit out of step with the various “Best of” lists (and can’t believe it’s that time of the year already!), but I quite liked this list, possibly because of the ebook focus. I’m not sure what the differences in criteria were for this v. the LJ Best Romances list – possibly digital-only releases?

I’ve read the first Lindsay Buroker, and certainly plan on continuing the series at some point, and I’ve always wanted to read Zoë Archer.  Plus the Jeanette Grey NA book sounds interesting, as does the Jane Kindred fantasy romance (primarily due to the Jacqueline Carey Kushiel comparison).  I know that there are many Ruthie Knox fans out there (I’ve only read her BIG BOY novella, which I did like and plan on checking out her other books), and I’ve the Mary Ann Rivers novella in my e-TBR after the entire romance blogosphere (or what felt like it) went crazy for THE STORY GUY earlier this year.

So basically – I want to read all the books on the Best Ebook Romances list (well, most of it, I read my first Jessica Scott some time back and wasn’t blown away), while the books on the Best Romances list don’t tempt me at all.  To be fair, there is also a lot of historical romance on the latter, and I’ve not been reading much of that this year.

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World Fantasy Con 2013 was held in Brighton this year, and while there appears to be a bit of post-con fallout around anti-harassment fail on the part of the organisers, I did like this post @ The Writer’s Greenhouse detailing the unfortunately-titled panel “Broads with Swords” (uh, can’t believe I actually typed that out on my blog), which was thankfully subverted by the panelists. Apart from notes about the panel discussion, the post includes a list of women authors writing martial fantasy recommended by the panel and their audience – it’s a great list, IMO, probably because I totally agree with the recs for the authors I recognised (Kate Elliott, Martha Wells, Lois McMaster Bujold, to name but a few…) and have made mental notes to check out the rest!

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Recent (Re)Reads

I realise my blog posts tend to either focus on either upcoming releases or what I read ages ago.  There is some method to my madness – the former helps me track what books I want to buy (or have bought!), and the latter is a way of me getting my Goodreads notes onto my blog (and I figure that there’s not much overlap between my GR friends and blog readers, so well).

Anyway – just to shake things up a bit, here’s what I’ve been reading (or re-reading) recently:

367333Martha WellsThe Fall of Ile-Rien books – I’ve been meaning to read this fantasy trilogy for ages (prompted by Estara‘s recs – or at least, I associate my interest in Martha Wells’ writing with Estara!), and finally got around to them a while back.  I pretty much finished all three in a couple of days – that was how much I was caught up in the story.  Strong worldbuilding + engaging characters + subtle romance = my kind of fantasy, basically.  I think it helped that I had read DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER some time back as it gave me a bit more investment in the characters (same world, but about a generation earlier). I still have one more Ile-Rien book to read (THE ELEMENT OF FIRE) – this is set much earlier than the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, I think, so I’m taking a bit of a break before reading that.

18141373I used to be a massive re-reader (as evidenced by the well-loved books on my bookshelves – and yes, well-loved is a euphemism), but not so much in recent years – I blame that on the fact there are SO MANY new-to-me books out there to read.  But I re-read Allison Parr‘s RUSH ME recently (prompted by finishing her new release RUNNING BACK).  I liked RUSH ME the first time around – I liked it even better on the re-read and bumped up my GR rating to 5 stars.  It’s the escapism elements offset by the grounded feel of Rachael/Ryan’s relationship (contradictory, much?) which really works for me. I liked RUNNING BACK as well, but not as much – thought there was great chemistry between Natalie & Mike, and believed in their romance, but the ending felt a bit overdone and I didn’t care for the epilogue. Plus some poor copy-editing annoyed me (enough that I actually jotted down “missing ponytail?!!” – and I rarely do that!).  Allison Parr is firmly on my autobuy list, though – she makes the New Adult genre work for me, and I’m really looking forward to her third book in this series (due out next year, IIRC).

6084532I’m currently re-reading Josh Lanyon‘s Adrien English mysteries – I don’t think I’ve read these since the last book came out in 2009, and so it’s really feeling new to me again. The AE books were the ones that made Josh Lanyon’s works autobuys for me, and this re-read is reminding me of exactly why that was the case.  I have to say that the mystery plots are stronger than I had remembered (I was possibly distracted by that romance arc) and I had forgotten how messed up both Jake and (to a lesser extent) Adrien were, especially in the earlier books.  But I’m just as caught up in the ups-and-downs of Adrien/Jake’s relationship as I was when I first read these books, and can safely say that Lanyon’s writing still stands out in the crowded M/M romance marketplace nowadays.

Next on my list to re-read is Andrea K Höst‘s MEDAIR, I think, or possibly her CHAMPION OF THE ROSE in advance of BONES OF THE FAIR (which has a Nov 30 release date on Goodreads!).

So – mostly older books here and re-reads.  I’m quite liking this re-reading phase of mine (though part of me is screaming “what about those new releases?!”) – do you re-read much?

Fantasy x 3

It wasn’t all fantasy last year despite appearances… but here are three more fantasy novels I did read – spoiler: all three were winners.  As usual, reviews originally posted at Goodreads, but with additional thoughts here in italics.

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MedairMedair by Andrea K. Höst (fantasy)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I probably do sound like a bit of a broken record when it comes to Andrea K Höst, but I have fallen in love with pretty much all of her books.

MEDAIR has adventure, magic, and love (with a healthy dollop of angst), and I was drawn into Medair’s world from the start. I loved the premise of “what happens if the hero(ine) fails to save the world” combined with the Sleeping Beauty spin – Medair emerges from her version of an enchanted sleep half a century after the war. The world is much changed and the battles and Medair herself are part of history, but for her, it was only yesterday when the country was on the verge of war.

Perhaps a tad too much time was spent revisiting the debate on right v. wrong and the grey areas in between; however, that didn’t stop me from being completely immersed in Medair’s story and wondering how it could all end happily. The intricate world-building and the examination of complex cultures was an added bonus. And gosh, the ending – it was a surprise, but not quite a surprise at the same time. In hindsight, the seeds were laid throughout the book and I don’t think the ending could have worked any other way.

Yes, I loved this one.

This is on my to-reread list, and considering how FEW books I actually reread, that says a lot.  Also, this may be redundant considering the gushy-ness of the above (I may have over-used the word “love”?), but MEDAIR was very definitely one of my favourite books of 2012.

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Champion of the RoseChampion of the Rose by Andrea K. Höst (fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrea Höst has given me consistently good storytelling, and I loved the concept of CHAMPION: a king’s champion who has essentially been made redundant and whose main purpose is purely decorative… and then suddenly everything changes and Soren is thrust blinking into the spotlight. And this is the story of how she faces up to the challenge.

I liked how Andrea Höst colours in her characters – the shades-of-grey villain, the true “otherness” of fae, and so on. Also unusual was how the practicalities of rescuing a failing kingdom were considered – its issues may have been caused by magic, but trade becomes a way of bringing the country back to life. Having said that, traditional fantasy elements were also present and perhaps the most disturbing was the use of magic to bring about the loss of free will.

The ending, perhaps, was a little too easy and I’m dying for a sequel to find out more about certain characters. And as there will be one, I’m all excited.

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Not really relevant but it’s probably a sign of how engrossed I was in the story that I didn’t realise until 3/4s of the way through that Strake’s position was almost the same as Medair‘s in that both of them had returned to a land that has moved on. Obviously the stories are not the same at all, but that makes it even more fascinating.

I’ve probably said this a million times already, but what I really like about Andrea Höst’s stories is the fact that her plots are DIFFERENT – she always gives me a story that I’ve never read before (umm… obviously I don’t mean that literally). Plus her characters live and breathe.  And… I really would like a new Höst novel now.

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Crucible of Gold (Temeraire, #7)Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik (fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CRUCIBLE had a lot of what I loved in the early Temeraire books – plenty of action and adventure, with fantasy melded seamlessly with historical fact. I found the pacing in CRUCIBLE much better than in previous book – it took me a couple of chapters to sink into the rhythm of Naomi Novik’s prose, but once I did, I was engrossed in the story.

I liked how Ms Novik gave us a peek into the very different dragon society of the Incas, and I can see this experience certainly shaping Temeraire’s thinking in future books! The human-dragon culture clashes provided some humorous moments as always, though there were some sombre undertones with Will still dealing with the consequences of his actions a couple of books back, and an incident reminding you of the dangers of travel back then. There was a lot of Iskierka/Granby in this book, and while she’s gradually grown on me (and it was great to see Granby finally standing his ground), an appearance of old friends late in the book made me realise how much I miss the camaraderie in the earlier books.

One of the better installments in this series, I think.

Naomi Novik’s more recent Temeraire books have been a bit hit-or-miss for me, but this one worked (the previous felt like an endless travelogue, IIRC).  I haven’t yet gotten around to reading the latest installment that came out this year – any views on that?

Clearing Out My Links File

13515074Tanya Huff‘s THE SILVERED was one of my favourites of 2012.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll be inspired to revisit that world (because well, so many possible stories!), but in the meanwhile, there’s a tantalising first line snippet from the next Gale Girls book plus more in this interview @ Toasted Cheese.

And Jan just reviewed the first Gale Girls book, THE ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM, and reminded me of how much I enjoyed that one.

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16033642I’ve posted a couple of recent links about anthology editing – well, here’s another one.  Deborah J Ross talks about that very topic @ Book View Cafe.

Which reminds me – I’ve been meaning to check out her recent DAW release THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD, partly because I’m shallow and love the title, but also because Sherwood Smith’s review piqued my curiosity (could do without the cliffhanger ending, though).  Has anyone read it?

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12594400It’s no secret I’m a massive Andrea K Höst fangirl (or if it is, I’ve obviously not mentioned her enough in the past few months).  She did an interesting post about her sales to date, breaking down the numbers by book and year.

I’ll be hard-pressed to name my favourite Höst – possibly MEDAIR?  Though the Touchstone books are obviously up there, and CHAMPION OF THE ROSE had the most intriguing anti-hero.

Ha – I’ve just noticed I glommed her backlist in the first quarter of last year, so I should be posting about them on my blog ummm… shortly.

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Do you do Kickstarter?  I’ve backed a handful of projects, all for SFF ebooks (or rather, I’ve backed them at the ebook reward levels) because I figure I’d buy the ebook anyway.  I’ve not been tempted by non-writing projects, but the other challenge is actually identifying projects I want to back – there are so many out there.

Here’s an interesting interview @ SF Signal with the author Bradley P Beaulieu about his experience running Kickstarters for his novels.

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Sharon Lee posts about what’s next on the writing schedule for Sharon Lee & Steve Miller writing team.  I’m actually looking most forward to CAROUSEL SUN – I’ve always been a fan of her books.  But it’s good to know the plans for the Liaden series.

Books for November

I know I said October had a lot of new releases – well, I feel as though November has even more.

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13578466Sharon Shinn‘s ROYAL AIRS (fantasy): I am so excited about this one, you have no idea.  I loved TROUBLED WATERS, the first book in this series (though I recall reviews were slightly mixed) – I’m glad she’s decided to revisit this world.

“Master storyteller Sharon Shinn created the thrilling and enchanting world of Welce in her acclaimed novel “Troubled Waters.” Return with her to that elemental universe in this tale of secrecy, romance, and a battle for power…”

Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city.

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she’s stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her.

Josetta has never encountered anyone like him—someone seemingly devoid of elemental blessings. He is drawn to her, though he thinks they are unlikely to ever meet again—but their connection grows strong when she nurses him back to health after he is assaulted by foreign mercenaries.

And when they learn the reason he’s being hunted, they know that the truth about his history could endanger not only their love but also their very lives…

Out Nov 4

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13544081Sharon Lee & Steve Miller‘s TRADE SECRET (SF): I actually have this book already, thanks to Baen’s policy of releasing ebooks the month before the hardcover publication. While it’s another Liaden Universe book, it’s not part of the Korval storyline (I think, anyway) – I remember liking Jethri’s story in BALANCE OF TRADE, so I’m glad we get to see what happens next.

Star-spanning galactic trader Jethri Gobelyn’s story continues in the seventeenth entry in the Liaden Universe series by master storytellers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

In a universe full of interstellar intrigue and burgeoning commerce, novice Terran trader Jethri Gobelyn, adopted by a Liaden clan after an ill-directed bow of honor insulted the scion of a major Liaden house, is alive and whole to tell the tale. Convinced that the adoption has saved his life and made his future, he settles into a comfortable and even elite routine, a Trader’s Ring his goal.

Even as Jethri’s initiation into the mysteries and joys of Liaden Festival bring him to manhood, he’s forced to face Necessity and the facts of life: his adoption has also invigorated a net of unfinished Balance far more complex and potentially deadly than a simple Terran blood feud. He must embrace his Terran birthright as well as his Liaden connections while leaving behind the safety of the great Liaden trade ship Elthoria to defend his honor and that of shipmates past and present. Forced to sit Second Board as a back-up pilot on a Liaden Scout ship, Jethri’s convinced he’s already at wit’s end—when several familiar faces threaten all that he knows of himself, and all that he wishes to do.

Out Nov 5

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15724097Julia Spencer-Fleming‘s THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS (mystery): How long has it been since the last JSF?  More than two years apparently – it says a lot that just reading the blurb below has me remembering Clare, Russ, and Millers Kill vividly.

On a frigid January night, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are called to the scene of a raging fire, that quickly becomes a double homicide and kidnapping. Which is the very last thing Russ needs…Currently he’s struggling with the prospect of impending fatherhood. And his new wife is not at all happy with his proposal for their long-delayed honeymoon: a week in an unelectrified ice-fishing cabin. The vestry of St. Alban’s Church has called for the bishop to investigate Clare’s “unpriestly” pregnancy. She has one week to find out if she will be scolded, censured, or suspended from her duties. Officer Hadley Knox is having a miserable January as well. Her on-again-off-again lover, Kevin Flynn, has seven days to weigh an offer from the Syracuse Police Department that might take him half a state away.

As the days and hours tick by, Russ and Clare fight personal and professional battles they’ve never encountered. In the course of this one tumultuous week the lives of the Millers-Kill residents readers have come to love and cherish change forever.

Out Nov 5

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18392843Viv Daniels‘ ONE & ONLY (NA): Viv Daniels aka Diana Peterfreund aka author-of-one-of-my-favourite-ever-series… I’m so looking forward to seeing what she does with her self-pubbed venture into the New Adult genre.  Especially as she wrote NA even before it was labelled NA.

One night they can’t forget…

Tess McMann lives her life according to the secrets she’s sworn to keep: the father who won’t acknowledge her, the sister who doesn’t know she exists, and the mother who’s content playing mistress to a prominent businessman. When she meets the distractingly cute Dylan Kingsley at a prestigious summer program and falls in love, Tess allows herself to imagine a life beyond these secrets. But when summer ends, so does their relationship — Dylan heads off to Canton College while Tess enrolls at the state university.

One love they can’t ignore…

Two years later, a scholarship brings Tess to Canton and back into Dylan’s life. Their attraction is as strong as ever, but Dylan has a girlfriend…who also happens to be Tess’s legitimate half-sister. Tess refuses to follow in her mother’s footsteps, which leaves her only one choice: break the rules she’s always followed, or allow Dylan to slip away for a second time.

…And only one chance to get things right.

Out Nov 8

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18524333Julie Cross‘s RETURN TO SENDER (YA): Remember when I raved about LETTERS TO NOWHERE?  This is the follow up.  Fair warning: it’s going to be shorter than LoW – Julie Cross is doing shorter but more frequent releases to round off this series.  FYI I tweeted her to ask about the price point for this one and she reckoned $2.99, but with some $0.99 sales and potentially collecting these novellas in a couple of volumes at either $3.99 or $4.99.  I liked LoW so much that I’d probably pay full price.

If only summer could last forever…

Karen and Jordan might be out in the open with their relationship, but that doesn’t make it any easier for them to face events looming in the future. Like Jordan leaving for college halfway across the country. Or Karen’s win at a big international gymnastics competition setting the bar high for her future and adding pressure like she’s never experienced before.

But when Nina Jones (aka-US Gymnastics Dictator), makes plans for Karen and teammate Stevie to train at a gymnastics camp for a month—the same camp where Jordan coaches—romantic summer interludes replace their fears of being apart. Both Jordan and Karen know that when fall comes, some very tough decisions will have to be made, but for now, it’s stolen kisses, racing hearts, and whispered words.

Out now

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13431883Kelley Armstrong‘s WILD JUSTICE (suspense): If there’s a theme to this month’s releases, it appears to be long-awaited sequels finally turning up.  The last Nadia Stafford book was published in 2009 – I seem to recall talk of Kelley Armstrong considering self-pubbing this (though I could just be making that up), but it’s being released via the traditional route.

Protect the innocent. If there is any one principle that drives hit man Nadia Stafford, it’s this. In her own mind, when she was thirteen, she failed to protect her older cousin Amy from being murdered. Now she fails again, disastrously, when she botches a hit. To help her find her equilibrium, her mentor, Jack, brings her a gift: the location and new identity of the predator who killed her cousin and disappeared after the case against him failed.

Vengeance, justice? With the predator in her sights, nothing seems more right, more straightforward, more easy. But finding justice is never as simple as it seems.

Out Nov 26

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And that’s not all – other books I’m looking forward to:

  • Kelly Hunter‘s WHAT THE BRIDE DIDN’T KNOW (contemporary romance): I mentioned this last month’s list, as the M&B/Harlequin ebook release was last month, but the book goes on general sale 1 Nov.
  • Josh Lanyon‘s KICK START (m/m romantic suspense): I may think Josh Lanyon occasionally prices his self-pubbed works on the high side, but I’m a massive fan of his Dangerous Ground series, so I’m getting this for more Will & Taylor
  • Richelle Mead‘s THE FIERY HEART (YA UF):  The 4th installment in her Bloodlines series.  I’ll probably end up borrowing this from the library, as the previous books haven’t really blown me away.
  • A COSMIC CHRISTMAS 2 YOU edited by Hank Davis (SF anthology): It’s the Baen Christmas anthology – I suspect I’ll get this because of the familiar names on the list of contributors (including Wen Spencer and Sarah A Hoyt)