November Reading – Continued…

November hasn’t been a fantastic reading month for me.  More because I’ve been distracted with so many other things, which means I’ve not really been able to sit down and finish a book in a single sitting.

21412186I’ve just finished Catherine Asaro‘s UNDERCITY, which is technically a December release, but Baen releases the ebook edition on its own website a couple of weeks early.  UNDERCITY is a spin-off of her main Skolian Empire series – same universe, different characters, and set fairly early in the overall series timeline, I think.  The first part of the book is actually a novella (“The City of Cries”) written back in 2005.  I didn’t realise that until a good way in, and I’m not entirely sure using the novella as part of this book was a good decision as I thought its age showed.  Hard for me to pinpoint exactly why – perhaps it was that the world-building felt somewhat old-fashioned?  It’s funny how some stories date so quickly, while others don’t.

The story picked up once we moved to the more recently-written section of the book, and I was impressed by how she spun out additional story threads from the original novella.  Overall though, I have to say this was not a particularly exciting nor innovative SF novel – a decent mystery/adventure, yes, but it’s a story I’ve read before.  It made me realise that my fondness for her books is very much because of the emotional investment I have in the original Skolian Imperialate characters (I gave the most recent “proper” Ruby Empire book 5 stars on Goodreads…), which I’ve been reading since way before I started blogging.

Oh, and random fact: the first ebook I ever read was Catherine Asaro’s THE RUBY DICE on my now-retired Sony Reader.

20893315I also finished Tanya Huff‘s THE FUTURE FALLS.  Well, to be honest, I finished it a while back, but hadn’t quite figured out how to talk about it.  Partly because it’s one of her Gale Girls books, which is her kind-of-incestuous-if-you-squint-at-it fantasy series, what with family and magic and interfering aunties pairing up cousins left, right, and centre.  But also because… that ending.

Right, I did like TFF – okay, I really liked it – but I suspect a lot of it was because I read it with my romance hat on and therefore totally wallowed in Charlie and Jack’s star-crossed lovers situation all the way through.  I didn’t completely get Charlie in the previous book, but was surprised with how much I bonded with her in this one.  I loved the older woman-younger man dynamic as well (and Jack in his Dragon Prince guise was just plain adorable).  But the ending – I had to read the final chapters several times because I had no idea what happened the first time round (was that just me?). However, the fact I took the trouble to re-read the ending should tell you how much I enjoyed the story.  Because I really wanted to get it.  And I did figure it out eventually…  Now you see why I haven’t written about it before, right?

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A Couple of Books (and some rambling, as always)

It’s not often I’ve absolutely no idea what to blog about, but I’m struggling here.

I suspect it’s partly because the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament took place in London last week.  I’m normally all about the tennis, especially when we get tennis on the BBC.  So that has distracted me somewhat, especially since the (ahem) WTF tournament lived up to its initials.  Weird week, really.  There were a lot of great match-ups on paper (as you’d expect with the top eight tennis players in the building), but the whole thing ended up being a bit of a damp squib, with some really one-sided matches in the round-robin section and a walkover in the final.

And you’re obviously reading this blog because of the informed tennis commentary.

Ha.

Anyway, that’s taken up some of my brainpower over the past week, and work has done a number on everything else.  Let’s not talk about work, people. *sobs*

Which leaves me with recent reads?

17305016I finished Juliet Marillier‘s DREAMER’S POOL.  I thought it was a bit slow in the beginning – possibly as Marillier took her time weaving the strands together and I had no idea where it was going.  So I found the book quite easy to put aside at first… until it suddenly wasn’t.  Marillier’s a born storyteller, and once I got caught up in Blackthorn, Grim, and Oran’s world, I had to stay up late to see how their story would end.  I think she’s previously written on the writers’ blog, Writers Unboxed, about the more technical aspects of writing, and it was interesting how she used both past/present tense and prose to create very distinct POVs for each of the narrators.  Too often I find authors have interchangeable narrators, but this wasn’t the case here.  Plot-wise, the mystery fan in me liked the whodunnit subplot and as for the resolution, I ended up second and third-guessing myself throughout.  And oh, I liked Nathan’s review @ Fantasy Review Barn, which starts with “Once upon a time Juliet Marillier wrote a fairy tale and it was wonderful”.  Very apt.

21880559I also read Josh Lanyon‘s FAIR PLAY, which was less successful for me.  Probably for a couple of reasons – I labelled it as romance in my list of November new releases, and actually, the mystery elements overshadowed the romance.  So there was definitely an expectations thing in play.  The other reason is because a lot of the mystery revolved around 1960s radicalism in the United States – not an era/movement I know very much about, and unfortunately, the story didn’t leave me wanting to know more.  I’ve had the same reaction to some of Isabelle Holland‘s books when I was overdosing on her modern Gothics a year or so ago.  Maybe because I can’t really identify with the thinking and arguments of that time, or I’ve not read any books (yet) that makes that period feel more immediate and accessible?  I hesitate to say it’s the former because numerous books have gotten me interested in things I’d previously had zero interest in…

Next up is either ML Brennan‘s TAINTED BLOOD or Meljean Brook‘s THE KRAKEN KING.  Decisions, eh?

Books for November

It’s a strong month for new releases, which really means that I want some of these books RIGHT NOW. Fortunately for me (though not necessarily for my bank account), a lot of them are already out.

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17305016Juliet Marillier‘s DREAMER’S POOL (fantasy): Gorgeous cover aside (because it is truly one of the prettiest I’ve seen this year), a brand-new Juliet Marillier is always a cause for celebration.  Plus first in a new series – I’m excited to explore the new world she’s imagined here.

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

Out now

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20893315Tanya Huff‘s THE FUTURE FALLS (urban fantasy):  Tanya Huff’s become an auto-buy author for me in recent years.  I’ve always read her SFF books back since, well, forever, but they used to be of the take-it-or-leave-it variety.  I’m not sure whether it’s my reading tastes or her writing style that have changed over the years (possibly both), but her books have been hitting all the right buttons for me lately.

When Auntie Catherine warns the family of an approaching asteroid, the Gales scramble to keep humans from going the way of the dinosaurs. Fortunately for the world, they’re wielding a guitar and a dragon.

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, which has caused some supernaturally complicated family shenanigans in the past. So when NASA and Doomsday Dan confirm Auntie Catherine’s dire prediction, Charlotte “Charlie” Gale turns to the family for help.

But Allie is unavailable because the universe seems determined to have her produce the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son of a Gale.  And the Aunties can’t help because they’re tied to the earth – although they are happy to provide their delicious, trademark pies.  And in the end, all Charlie has is a guitar…

…and Jack. The Dragon Prince, and a Sorcerer.

But Charlie might like Jack just a little too much, and Jack might like Charlie a little too much in return. Actually, between Allie’s hormones, the Aunties trying to force her and Jack into ritual, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack’s sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie’s fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems.

The Gales are going to need more than pie to save the world from an incoming asteroid. But together there isn’t anything they can’t deal with – except possibly each other.

Out now

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15788727Meljean Brook‘s THE KRAKEN KING (fantasy):  I adore her steampunk Iron Seas series (in fact, it’s the only steampunk series that works for me), but I stayed away from the serial release of this story earlier this year.  I’d see all the 5-star reviews pop up for each installment and had to force myself to stay away from that one-click button because I knew I’d want all the stories in one go. (It’s the same with Ilona Andrews and their Innkeepers Chronicles – I’m  waiting for the full novel to be released later this year…)

A former smuggler and thief, Ariq—better known as the Kraken King—doesn’t know what to make of the clever, mysterious woman he rescues from an airship besieged by marauders. Unsure if she’s a spy or a pawn in someone else’s game, Ariq isn’t about to let her out of his sight until he finds out…

After escaping her fourth kidnapping attempt in a year, Zenobia Fox has learned to vigilantly guard her identity. While her brother Archimedes is notorious for his exploits, Zenobia has had no adventures to call her own—besides the stories she writes.

But when she jumps at the chance to escape to the wilds of Australia and acquire research for her next story, Zenobia quickly discovers that the voyage will be far more adventurous than any fiction she could put to paper…

Out now

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21840287ML Brennan‘s TAINTED BLOOD (urban fantasy): The second book was better than the first (which didn’t exactly suck), so I’ve high hopes for this book.  Fort’s family dynamics has been one of the more intriguing elements of this series so far, and this one looks to be all about family.

In the third Generation V novel, Fortitude Scott proves that working with family can be deadly…

Former film student Fortitude Scott is finally gainfully employed. Unfortunately, said employment happens to be with a group of sociopathic vampires—his family. And as much as Fort is loath to get too deep into the family business, when his brother, Chivalry, is temporarily unable to run the territory, it’s up to Fort to keep things under control.

So when the leader of a powerful faction of shifters turns up murdered, Fort finds himself tracking down a killer while navigating dangerous rivalries, longtime grudges, and hidden agendas. Even with the help of his foxy kitsune sidekick, Suzume, he’ll need to pull out all the stops to hunt for the paranormal assassin.

But as he calls on fairies, witches, and ghouls for help, he discovers that the problem is much bigger than a single dead werebear. The supernatural community is preparing for a massive shift in power within the Scott family leadership—and Fort has landed right in the middle of the gathering storm.…

Out now

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21880559Josh Lanyon‘s FAIR PLAY (m/m romance):  Okay, I admit it – I love sequels.  Stand-alones are great, but when you get further books to learn more about the characters you fell in love with?  Nothing better.

Fifty years ago, Roland Mills belonged to a violent activist group. Now, someone is willing to kill to prevent him from publishing his memoirs.

When ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills is called out to examine the charred ruins of his childhood home, he quickly identifies the fire for what it is–arson. A knee injury may have forced Elliot out of the Bureau, but it’s not going to stop him from bringing the man who wants his father dead to justice.

Agent Tucker Lance is still working to find the serial killer who’s obsessed with Elliot and can’t bear the thought of his lover putting himself in additional danger. Straightlaced Tucker has never agreed with radical Roland on much–“opposing political viewpoints” is an understatement–but they’re united on this: Elliot needs to leave the case alone. Now.

Tucker would do nearly anything for the man he loves, but he won’t be used to gain Elliot access to the FBI’s resources. When the past comes back to play and everything both men had known to be true is questioned, their fragile relationship is left hanging in the balance.

Out Nov 10

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Hot sexy fit man leaning against treeViv Daniels‘ HEAR ME (paranormal NA): A surprise Christmas story from Viv Daniels (a.k.a. Diana Peterfreund)?  Count me in.

Listen… the bells have stopped ringing.

Once upon a time, Ivy belonged to Archer, body, heart, and soul. They spent long summer days exploring the forest, and long summer nights exploring each other. But that was before dark magic grew in the depths of the wilderness, and the people of Ivy’s town raised an enchanted barrier of bells to protect themselves from the threat, even though it meant cutting off the forest people—and the forest boy Ivy loved—forever.

And there’s a naked man lying in the snow.

Three years later, Ivy keeps her head down, working alone in her tea shop on the edge of town and trying to imagine a new future for herself, away from the forest and the wretched bells, and the memory of her single, perfect love. But in the icy heart of winter, a terrifying magic blooms—one that can reunite Ivy and Archer, or consume their very souls.

Out Nov 14

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21857389NIGHT SHIFT (urban fantasy): And to round off the month, novellas from Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Milla Vane (a.k.a. Meljean Brook), and Lisa Shearin.  Lisa Shearin’s contribution looks to be part of her new-ish series, which I haven’t read, so it’ll be a good taster.  There’s been buzz about Milla Vane’s barbarian romance, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out… and I don’t think I need to say anything about the first two authors.

Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark…

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh delivers a smoldering story with Secrets at Midnight , as the scent of Bastien Smith’s elusive lover ignites a possessiveness in him that’s as feral as it is ecstatic. And now that he’s found his mate, he’ll do anything to keep her.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews’ novella,Magic Steals , when people start going missing, shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar shifter Jim Shrapshire must uncover the truth about the mysterious creatures responsible.

From Milla Vane—a warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. But she quickly discovers that the beast isn’t a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.

It’s seer Makenna Frazier’s first day on the job at Supernatural Protection and Investigations, and her first assignment is more than she bargained for when bodyguard duty for a leprechaun prince’s bachelor party goes every which way but right in national bestselling author Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms.

Out Nov 25

A Few Book-ish Links

Happy November!  It was a bit of an October, wasn’t it?

A few links to kick off the month:

20344635Martha Wells talks a bit about her Raksura fantasy books @ SF Signal.

I mentioned in passing that I recently raced through those Raksura books, right?  That would be the original trilogy, plus the first collection of two (new) novellas and short stories, which came out fairly recently.  I was hooked pretty much from the first chapter of THE CLOUD ROADS – loved how she created this completely alien world, which is so very accessible at the same time.  And humour!  I was not expecting that, but there were some one-liners which made me laugh.  Basically, if you’re in the mood for adventure fantasy, give this series a go.

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I really enjoyed this Dear Author post about Betty Neels and her books.  I was one of those romance readers who grew up reading M&Bs, and Betty Neels, with her Dutch surgeon romances, was one of those reliable authors – you always knew what you were getting.  I’ve bookmarked that post for some Neels recommendations when I’m next in the right mood.

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Two Reddit author AMAs: Robin McKinley and Ilona Andrews  & Jocelynn Drake.

I haven’t yet read the latter, as I was reading the new Ilona Andrews’s BURN FOR ME, and didn’t want to be spoiled.  I’ve now finished the book – thought it was a promising start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to the next.  Also liking the comments/discussion following Janine’s DA review, where I add my (horribly ungrammatical – I was in a rush, really!) take on the book.

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Tor.com announced that they’re doing a re-read of Mercedes Lackey‘s Arrows of the Queen trilogy. *dies*  I can’t remember when I read this now, though I was very definitely an impressionable teen. I had a whole shelf of Lackey’s Valdemar books, and every single one of them was probably dog-eared and falling apart.  I loved those books… and still do.  White talking horses, anyone?