Random (and Late?) Linkage

20821263I poke my head in at the Muddy Colors fantasy art blog every now and again – I especially like it when the contributors give a behind-the-scenes peek into cover art decisions (probably because I’ve zero artistic talent, and it’s so interesting to see what influenced the final versions):

And on the subject of covers in progress, here’s one that Jody Lee did for the new Mercedes Lackey Valdemar novel – in my mind, her art will always be inextricably linked to my countless re-reads of the Valdemar books during my teenage years.

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A really late link, but I thought Jeannie Lin‘s post about writing Chinese historical romance and her (forced) transition to digital-only (she also links to a couple of interesting posts) was a good one – and I’m glad it ends on a happy note with her latest release making the USA Today bestseller list!  I’ve bought her books based on positive reviews, but I admit they’re languishing on that TBR pile – has anyone read them?

Another feel-good story: I loved Amy Jo Cousins‘ story about Tad Williams.

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Another late link (you can tell exactly how long I’ve not been blogging, right?) – Jo Walton posts @ tor.com about how e-readers have changed her reading habits.  I liked this article (plus comments) because of its positivity around digital reading, if that makes sense.

On a almost-related note, I’m impatiently waiting for the new Kindle Paperwhite software update to reach my device, purely because of the new Page Flip capability.  When I switched over to reading mostly digital, I realised that I flipped back and forth between pages a lot when reading paper books.  It’s not something I realised I did, and I had to train myself NOT to do that on my ereader, because I just ended up losing my place in the book.

I’m wondering if the Page Flip function makes that easy (and also if it’s something I still do!) – anyone have the latest PW or software release?  I may cave and sideload the software update if it’s not pushed out soon…

April Reading…

For a book blogger, I don’t actually post that often on what I’m currently reading.  Which is weird, because I love reading posts about what other people are reading.  So here are some of my April reads so far:

20645592I’ve just finished Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES – yes, my “currently reading” book got bumped aside when this arrived on my Kindle on Monday.  Her New York Leopards NA series is an auto-buy for me, and this one didn’t disappoint – Abe and Tamar were charming, and there was more of both the NYC setting and football backdrop which made me fall in love with the series in the first place.  I do think Allison Parr’s prose veers towards the purple on occasion, but the emotional impact more than makes up for that.  However, I was frustrated by the handful of copy-editing errors in the text – both because I think Parr deserves better and also maybe I expect more from Carina Press?

15715406And oh!  Remember that list of my TBR books to read during 2014 that I posted a while back?  I am so pleased to say that I tackled the Susanna Kearsley that has been sitting on my shelves for years now.  And even better?  I loved THE SHADOWY HORSES – it was somehow so crazily romantic and yet quiet at the same time.  My favourite kind of romance.  I also really liked the archaeological details and the well-rounded secondary characters, plus I felt the touch of paranormal suited the story perfectly – and if you know me, I don’t often say that when the paranormal intrudes into my contemporary.  Obviously, I’m now making plans to get my hands on her extensive backlist.  I’ve also placed the Juliet Marillier book from that aforementioned list on my bedside table – buoyed by the success of the Kearsley read, I’m keen to dive into the Bridei Chronicles series.

1805295618335221To get my fix of historical romance, I’ve also read both the new Eloisa James (THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X) and Jo Beverley (A SHOCKING DELIGHT).  The Eloisa James started off slow, but once I got into it, the story really hit the right emotional buttons for me.  It’s ever so slightly OTT and (minor) misunderstandings abound, but I was in just the right mood for that kind of story.   And as I suspected (due to the blatant sequel bait), she’s just announced a follow-up – I’m totally up for it.  The Jo Beverley was less successful for me – it started off well, then started meandering around a bit too much in the middle and never quite recovered, plus there was a bit too indulgence Rogues-wise, even for a long-time reader like me.  Still, a decent read and I appreciated the less usual City of London and Devon settings.

What about you – tell me your current reads?

Graham Edwards’ TALUS AND THE FROZEN KING

21494553It may not be immediately obvious from this blog (as fantasy and romance get the most mentions – when I do post, that is), but mystery, especially of the whodunit type, is another of my favourite genres.  So when an email with the subject line “Meet the world’s first detective…” appeared in my inbox one day, well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to refuse a review copy of Graham EdwardsTALUS AND THE FROZEN KING.

Meet Talus-the world’s first detective.

A dead warrior king frozen in winter ice. Six grieving sons, each with his own reason to kill. Two weary travellers caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit.

In a distant time long before our own, wandering bard Talus and his companion Bran journey to the island realm of Creyak, where the king has been murdered. From clues scattered among the island’s mysterious barrows and stone circles, they begin their search for his killer. But do the answers lie in this world or the next?

Nobody is above suspicion, from the king’s heir to the tribal shaman, from the servant woman steeped in herb-lore to the visiting warlord whose unexpected arrival throws the whole tribe into confusion. And when death strikes again, Talus and Bran realise nothing is what it seems. Creyak is place of secrets and spirits, mystery and myth. It will take a clever man indeed to unravel the truth. The kind of man this ancient world has not seen before.

The obvious comparison (and judging by the Goodreads reviews, I’m not the only one) for Talus and Bran is to that famous detecting duo of Sherlock and Watson.  Talus being the very analytical, super-observant, and well, socially-challenged Sherlock, with Bran his more impulsive and emotional sidekick.  I’m in two minds as to whether this was deliberate by the author from the outset (I suspect yes, based on the promo materials), but once I had that comparison in my head, I found it very hard to shake.

While I’ve read most, if not all, of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories, I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as a fan.  What I’m a fan of, however, is the BBC Sherlock series (because it’s brilliant), and as I’d watched the recent series, I had certain expectations of the characters – or characterisation.  Sadly for this story, Talus and Bran didn’t have the same chemistry or charisma as the on-screen pairing of Cumberbatch and Freeman.  So I don’t know – yes, it’s an unfairly high bar in terms of expectations, but the book almost sets itself up for that by forcing that comparison.

Having said that, as you’d probably expect based on the Sherlock references, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s certainly an unusual setting, but anyone expecting a “proper” Neolithic-era historical mystery may be disappointed – there is modern dialogue and thinking galore.  Which makes it easy reading – and this meant that despite me never really connecting with the protagonists, I found myself racing through the book to find out the who and the how.  And yes, I admit I wouldn’t mind returning to this world to see what Talus and Bran do next – the door is certainly left open for more adventures.

My verdict: TALUS AND THE FROZEN KING was a light and fast-paced mystery; while it has its flaws, if you go in with the right set of expectations, I suspect it would make a good beach read.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher.  

Books for April

Well.

I’m not quite sure where March went.  Or what I was doing.  Not much blogging, that’s for sure.  Not much reading either, I suspect.  Hopefully I break that streak in April.

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17404280Katherine Addison‘s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (fantasy): I know I was not the only one anticipating this new book from Katherine Addison a.k.a. Sarah Monette, but I was surprised by the flood of (positive) reviews and mentions for this book.  I’m about halfway through and *whispers* it’s kind of living up to the hype.

On a side note, I think the cover is perfect for the book: at first glance, you see a typical fantasy palace – look again, and you see Maia, the (half-)goblin emperor peering out cautiously.  So fitting.

A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Out now

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18006456Lynn Flewelling‘s SHARDS OF TIME (fantasy): I’ve a soft spot for this long-running fantasy series (the first book was out in 1996, according to Goodreads) – while I’ve found it uneven in places, I’ll be sad to see the end of the Nightrunner series.

Acclaimed author Lynn Flewelling brings her beloved Nightrunners series to a close—at least for now—with a thrilling novel of murder, mystery, and magic.

The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room. The sole witnesses to the crime—guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within—have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts . . . and things worse than ghosts.

Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want—and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec—who have died and returned to life—can step between the worlds and confront the killer . . . even if it means a second and all too permanent death.

Out now

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18335221Jo Beverley‘s A SHOCKING DELIGHT (historical romance): Jo Beverley is an autobuy author for me, and this is her latest Company of Rogues regency. ‘Nuff said.

The man she shouldn’t want. The woman he shouldn’t marry…

David Kerslake, smuggling master from The Dragon’s Bride, is now Earl of Wyvern and must survive the ton as well as the Preventive Officers.

Lucy Potter, daughter of a wealthy merchant, is more interested in trade than in the men after her dowry. When forced to have a London season, she sets out to enjoy herself rather than to find a husband. But once she meets the notorious Earl of Wyvern, her resolve weakens, and when they kiss, it dissolves—even though her instincts warn he’s dangerous.

Wyvern has a dark secret, which means he must win a rich bride. Lucinda Potter seems ideal. Not for her beauty and her lively charm, but because at first meeting she seems unlikely to realize the truth.

As he comes to know her, however, as they spar and kiss, he realizes she’s too clever and honest by far. Marrying Lucy would mean living a lie with the woman he has come to love…

Out now

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20645592Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES (NA romance): I loved Allison Parr’s writing almost from the first page of her debut, RUSH ME, so I’m really looking forward to reading the latest in her New York Leopards series.

Also worth noting is that Carina Press is going after the sports romance niche in their April 14 release week – so other books I’m eyeing are Rebecca Crowley‘s LOVE IN STRAIGHT SETS (obviously – it’s tennis!) and Kate Willoughby‘s ON THE SURFACE (hockey).  And I already have the first Kat Latham book (rugby) – just need the time to read it…

Side-note: Was 2013 the year New Adult officially became a proper genre?

Tamar Rosenfeld has been in love with New York Leopards linebacker Abraham Krasner since they were twelve years old. She’d always considered it destiny that they’d end up together…until Abe was drafted and she professed her feelings in a moment of blind excitement. The sting of his rejection was like nothing she’d ever felt before, and it’s nothing she’ll ever forget.

Older and wiser, Tamar has landed a dream job as a reporter for one of New York’s premier athletic websites. Determined to stop being the safe, boring girl she’s felt like for most of her life, Tamar makes a list of all the things she wants to do and see in her new city, and Getting Over Abraham is priority number one.

But destiny has finally chosen to interfere. Just as Tamar’s decided to move on, Abe’s realized she’s the only woman for him. When he confides the truth, Tamar has to decide if she can put her crush behind her, or take a chance on the very man who’s been holding her back all these years.

Out April 14

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18742420KA Mitchell‘s BAD INFLUENCE (m/m romance): Is it just me or has it been ages since the last KA Mitchell release?  She’s another autobuy of mine, so despite me not loving the previous books in this (loosely-related) series, I’m still buying.

The young man the world knew as Jordan Barnett is dead, killed as much by the rejection of his first love at his moment of greatest need, as by his ultra-conservative parents’ effort to deprogram the gay away.

In his place is Silver, a streetwise survivor who’s spent the last three years learning to become untouchable…unless you’re willing to pay for the privilege. He shies away from anything that might hold him down long enough for betrayal to find him again.

Zebediah Harris spent time overseas, trying to outrun the guilt of turning his back on the young man he loved. Now, almost the moment he sets foot back in Baltimore, he discovers Silver on a street corner in a bad part of town. His effort to make amends lands them both in jail.

Trapped together in a cell, Silver sits on his mountain of secrets and plans a seductive form of revenge, but finds that using a heart as a stepping stone is no way to move past the one man he can’t forgive, let alone forget.

Warning: Contains a surly hero. May cause angst. A prolonged delay in sexual situations may cause frustration. Author recommends a steady dose of familiar friends and characters to alleviate those symptoms. No actual teenagers were used during the construction of the backstory.

Out April 15

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20504851KJ CharlesNON-STOP TILL TOKYO (romantic suspense): KJ Charles is probably better known for her A Charm of Magpies series (that would be in the historical/paranormal/mystery/m/m romance sub-genre – not as much a niche as you’d think…), so this looks like a new direction for her.  Having loved her writing in those aforementioned books, I’m looking forward to reading this.

A man with a past is her only hope for the future.

Kerry Ekdahl’s mixed heritage and linguistics skills could have made her a corporate star. Instead, she’s a hostess in a high-end Tokyo bar, catering to businessmen who want conversation, translation and flirtation. Easy money, no stress. Life is good—until she’s framed for the murder of a yakuza boss.

Trapped in rural Japan with the gangsters closing in, Kerry doesn’t stand a chance. Then help arrives in the menacing form of Chanko, a Samoan-American ex-sumo wrestler with a bad attitude, a lot of secrets, and a mission she doesn’t understand.

Kerry doesn’t get involved with dangerous men. Then again, she’s never had one on her side before. And the big, taciturn fighter seems determined to save her life, even if they rub each other the wrong way.

Then her friends are threatened, and Kerry has no choice but to return to Tokyo and face the yakuza. Where she learns, too late, that the muscle man who’s got her back could be poised to stab it.

Out April 29

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Other April new releases I want to read, but probably via the library:

  • GAMES CREATURES PLAY, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner (urban fantasy): Their annual(?) anthology outing – a library book for me, as their previous anthologies tend to be more miss than hit for me.  But I still want to read the Mercedes Lackey, Seanan McGuire, and Brandon Sanderson contributions in this one.
  • Laini Taylor‘s DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS (YA fantasy): Despite the overwhelming love out there for this series, it’s never quite clicked for me.  I’ll still read this final book to find out how it all ends.