Five Thoughts for a Monday

Because numbers make everything feel a bit more organised.

  1. I am so far behind on getting my reviews up at Goodreads that I’m half-tempted to catch up by adding the books to my “read” shelves without any comments.  And then I have this internal debate with myself because I’ve always posted at least a couple of thoughts on each book, and I don’t want to stop doing that.  But will I ever catch up otherwise?  Ack.  If you see a flurry of GR reviews from me over the next few weeks, you’ll know what I’ve decided.
    *
  2. 50715I’ve been reading and loving Lynn Kurland‘s Nine Kingdoms fantasy romance books.  I finally got around to picking up the first book after a rec from Angie, and pretty much raced through the first trilogy.  I’d move on to the next set if they weren’t so expensive – a £10 ebook for a work published in 2011 is a tad bit too steep!  Are all Berkley backlist books priced at this price point?  And if they are, who’s paying those prices??
    *
    Anyway, on the trilogy – it’s just plain fun, really.  I loved the self-deprecating humour and chemistry between the two leads, the story moves forward at a fast clip, and the cast of supporting characters do a great job of, well, supporting.  A couple of annoying niggles (including some lapses into faux Scottishness and a bit too much reliance on people not talking to one another as plot devices), but safe to say, this is one of my favourite trilogies of the year.  Fair warning though, the trilogy is really a book in three parts as neither the romance nor the story reach a conclusion until the final book.  Which would have made me raise cliffhanger hell if I hadn’t been able to buy the the next two books PDQ (funnily enough, the first three ebooks are priced fairly reasonably – even more so if you’ve a Kobo coupon from their latest competition).
    *
  3. Not a new topic for book blogging, but I’ve been pondering timing for book reviews (possibly because I’ve a couple of reviews I need to write for new releases *clears throat*).  Standard practice has reviews being posted on or around release dates, but whenever I see reviews for a book I intend to buy, I skip them because I wouldn’t have finished the book by then and generally want to avoid any spoilers.  And if it’s not a book I was planning on reading, a review probably wouldn’t get me to buy it – it’s usually reader discussion that works as a spur, and as per previous point, it’s rare you get a good discussion on release date.   What think you?
    *
  4. I’ve been on a book buying binge lately.  Including pre-orders, I make it 27 books purchased this month so far.  That would be at an average rate of one a day?  Some were planned purchases (see Rowell’s CARRY ON and, well, pretty much all the Oct new releases), but there were plenty of impulse buys as well.  Ebook deals are so bad for my wallet.
    *
  5. I’m not convinced that the new Kobo’s Super Points VIP loyalty scheme is worth it.  And I can probably say that because of the number of books I’ve bought lately?  The 10% VIP discount tends to apply to certain trad-published books only, and generally excludes self-published books (I assume self-pubbed authors choose to opt in/out), which make up a large percentage of my purchases.  And where the 10% discount is available, Amazon usually has the books for even cheaper.  Finally, looking at the number of points required for a free book, it’s probably safe to say Kobo’s not going to be giving away many of them.  Still early days though.
Advertisements

Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES

I’m a late starter when it comes to Kate Elliott’s writing.  She’s a fairly prolific author, but I somehow never got around to reading her works when I was in my teenage read-all-the-fantasy stage.  I finally read JARAN back in 2013 (can’t remember why now, though very likely it was this conversation between Kerry and Estara), and promptly fell for Tess’s story – old-school SF/F it may have been, but the fascinating matriachal society of Rhui combined with the romance of Tess/Ilya’s relationship made JARAN one of my favourite reads of 2013. I then made my way through the rest of the Jaran books, her Highroad trilogy, and was starting on her Spiritwalker books… and then I must have gotten distracted because COLD MAGIC is still mostly unread on my Kindle (not for long, though – more on this in a bit).

18068907So, a long-winded way of saying although I’m relatively new to Kate Elliott’s works, I’m doing my best to make up for it!  Not easy when she’s continuing to release more books – COURT OF FIVES, her debut YA fantasy, came out a couple of months ago, and she has another new book coming out in November.

I won COURT OF FIVES in a author giveaway a month or so ago (kind of still pinching myself, because I never win anything and then to win a book which was not out in the UK at that point of time – yeah, happy dance).

On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

IIRC, COURT OF FIVES was marketed as “Little Women meets Game of Thrones” – while this probably was a great PR tagline, I have to say that any comparison is superficial at best (the Little Women comparison probably being strongest in the opening scene).  If anything, it was Sharon Shinn that sprung to my mind as I was reading COURT OF FIVES.  It took me a while to pin down why, but I think it’s partly to do with the thoughtful way that race is brought to the table (as in Shinn’s HEART OF GOLD specifically, with similar themes in some of her YAs as well).  Another loose connection is the Fives game, which somehow was reminiscent of Shinn’s worldbuilding in the Elemental Blessings series.  They’re not the same at all, mind (some people may say not at all!), but the skill challenges and obstacles in the Fives courts reminded me of the way Shinn constructed her world around the elemental blessings.

Like most of her other books, Elliott drops the reader into this new world with little information, and I had to do some work to figure out how the pieces all fit together, and especially just how much Jes and her interracial family stand out in the very traditional Patreon society.  It was a slightly slow start, but when Jes stops reacting and starts doing, when she gains agency, and when the action ramps up – that’s when I became totally absorbed in her world.

The story was familiar, yet different enough for me to feel unsure of where Jes would end up.  Elliott is one of those writers who adds depth to tropes that could easily feel a bit too worn out in other hands.  And the book did finish with a bang – I liked that there was no easy solution, because moral dilemmas aren’t usually clear-cut, and family ties and loyalties can be complicated.  I probably could have done without the hints of romance… though I’m thinking that this may not necessarily go where it seems to be going in future books.

Because yes, I’m totally up for the next book.

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

Also – slight digression, but Kate Elliott has referenced how writing a YA was different to writing an “adult” fantasy.  Having now restarted the aforementioned COLD MAGIC, which has a protagonist in her early 20s (I think!) but was not written as YA, I can tell there’s a difference between COLD MAGIC and COURT OF FIVES.  Not one that I can pinpoint easily – I hesitate to say simplified because that’s not the right word and implies YA needs to be dumbed-down, but they’re certainly different.

I ended up doing a quick search to see if Elliott had talked about this in more depth and came up trumps – she did an interview @ The Book Wars where she talks about the very thing: more immediate pacing and more focused world-building appear to be the elements she focused on for YA (I paraphrase, probably not very well).  It makes sense, and I certainly found her Spiritwalker trilogy harder to get into at the beginning (it paid off though!).

Books for October

I am loving the October new releases.

23734628Rainbow Rowell‘s CARRY ON (YA fantasy): Rainbow Rowell’s novels have been a bit hit-or-miss with me, but I adored her FANGIRL and was obviously going to read CARRY ON as soon as it was released.  (For those who haven’t read FANGIRL, CARRY ON is basically set in the universe that Cath, the main protaganist in FANGIRL, was writing fanfic in.  Very meta.)

And then I completely forgot about CARRY ON’s release date (it’s been one of those weeks) until it appeared on my Kindle – that seriously made my day.  Yes, I’ve read it.  So many thoughts, but main ones being: (1) I think you pretty much have to read FANGIRL first, else you’d be constantly wondering where the first five (or so) books are (2) It’s Rowell’s take on the Chosen One trope, and I love what she did with it (3) It’s so British that I was seriously wondering how I missed the fact Rowell was British* before (she references Ant and Dec!).

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

*Ummm… she isn’t.

Out now

*

24611981Tanya Huff‘s AN ANCIENT PEACE (SF): I pretty much read anything Tanya Huff writes, which is good as she’s one of those incredibly versatile writers who can switch between genres with ease.  And does.  This time, it’s SF and back to her Confederation world.  It’s been a while.

The first book of a thrilling new military science fiction spin-off of Tanya Huff’s Confederation series.

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. But when she learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting, she left the military for good.

But Torin couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, she drew together an elite corps of friends and allies to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not—or would not—officially touch. Torin just hoped the one they were about to embark on wouldn’t be the death of them.

Ancient H’san grave goods are showing up on the black market—grave goods from just before the formation of the Confederation, when the H’san gave up war and buried their planet-destroying weapons…as grave goods for the death of war. Someone is searching for these weapons and they’re very close to finding them. As the Elder Races have turned away from war, those searchers can only be members of the Younger Races.

Fortunately, only the Corps Intelligence Service has this information. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about it—bound by laws of full disclosure, their every move is monitored.

Though Torin Kerr and her team are no longer a part of the military, the six of them tackling the H’san defenses and the lethally armed grave robbers are the only chance the Confederation has. The only chance to avoid millions more dead.

But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder Races and the Younger, the more she begins to fear war might be an unavoidable result.

Out now

*

25357539Sarina Bowen‘s THE FIFTEENTH MINUTE (NA romance): Speaking of auto-buy authors, I cannot wait to read Sarina Bowen’s latest Ivy Years book.  Lianne was a pretty intriguing character in the previous book.

Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks.

She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid.

But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel “DJ” Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. There’s something haunting his dark eyes and she needs to know more.

DJ’s genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans.

Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can’t get close to Lianne, and he can’t tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.

Out October 13

*

17410991Sherry Thomas‘s THE IMMORTAL HEIGHTS (YA fantasy): Sherry Thomas wraps up her YA fantasy trilogy (as an aside, she had the best covers for this series), so I obviously need to know how it all ends.  I haven’t loved the insta-love aspect of these books, but the adventure, yes.

In a pursuit that has spanned continents, Iolanthe, Titus, and their friends have always managed to remain one step ahead of the forces of Atlantis. But now the Bane, the monstrous tyrant who bestrides the entire mage world, has issued his ultimatum: Titus must hand over Iolanthe, or watch as his entire realm is destroyed in a deadly rampage. Running out of time and options, Iolanthe and Titus must act decisively to deliver a final blow to the Bane, ending his reign of terror for good.

However, getting to the Bane means accomplishing the impossible—finding a way to infiltrate his crypt in the deepest recesses of the most ferociously guarded fortress in Atlantis. And everything is only made more difficult when new prophecies come to light, foretelling a doomed effort….

Iolanthe and Titus will put their love and their lives on the line. But will it be enough?

With The Immortal Heights, Sherry Thomas brings the acclaimed Elemental Trilogy to its breathtaking conclusion.

Out Oct 13

*

25494249Carla Kelly‘s CHRISTMAS EVE PROPOSAL (historical romance): I think this is a new Carla Kelly, but don’t hold me to it.  It’s a Harlequin Historical omnibus called IT HAPPENED ONE CHRISTMAS, and she’s listed as one of the contributors.  Possibly a novella?  Anyone know anything?

THREE HEARTWARMING REGENCY TALES OF CHRISTMASES GONE BY!

CHRISTMAS EVE PROPOSAL by Carla Kelly

Christmas gets more interesting when sailing master Ben Muir takes lodgings with Mandy Mathison! Because when her scandalous past is revealed, only he can save her future…

THE VISCOUNT’S CHRISTMAS KISS by Georgie Lee

Lily Rutherford is shocked to learn the man who snubbed her years before will be staying for Christmas. Can she forgive the viscount in time for a stolen kiss under the mistletoe?

WALLFLOWER, WIDOW…WIFE! by Ann Lethbridge

Penniless widow Cassandra Norton faces Christmas on the run with her two stepdaughters, until Adam Royston sweeps her off her feet and into his country estate!

Out Oct 20

*

24431358Lisa Kleypas‘s COLD-HEARTED RAKE (historical romance): How long has it been since we could mention “Lisa Kleypas” and “new historical” in the same sentence?  I’m hoping her historicals are as good as I remember…

A twist of fate…

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.

A clash of wills…

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?

Out Oct 27

*

So that’s me – have I missed any of your must-read new releases?

Links: New McGrath Cover and Book Promos

GhostTalkers_comp_webHappy October!

Look at this beautiful cover for Mary Robinette Kowal‘s upcoming WW1-set fantasy novel, GHOST TALKERS (out July 2016).  She talks a bit more about the input she provided the Tor art department at her blog.  I’d be tempted to get this in hardcover just so I could admire it on my shelves.  She has had some very good covers from Tor.

Artist is Chris McGrath – I kind of recognised his style, but the lighter colours threw me off a bit.  I guess I’m more used to his dark and brooding urban fantasy covers.

Oh, and the book itself sounds pretty good too.

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

Writer Unboxed has a couple of posts up on Bookbub (Part 1 and Part 2) – while they’re aimed more at authors, there’s some interesting information and stats on how they select books for inclusion in their promotional emails.  They get 100-300 requests a day, which is pretty amazing.  I think they do a good job of curating deals and targeting preferences – or rather, I find myself clicking through on their links more often than I do on other book promo services.

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

Speaking of book promo-type services, Kobo just started a new loyalty/discount programme, Kobo SuperPoints, where you earn points for spend, which you can eventually redeem for books.  They also have a VIP version, where it’s £6 (or local equivalent?) for a year, and you get additional points together with 10% off various titles (I assume books which are discountable).  I haven’t done the calculations, but signed up out of curiosity (as I had a spare discount code that brought the annual membership down to around £4) – I’ll let you know if the cost’s worth it in about a year’s time.  Has anyone else signed up?

If we’re talking loyalty programmes, I think AllRomanceEbooks “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” programme is a good one, especially if you buy a lot of indie/self-published books.

None of these are affiliate links or sponsored, BTW.

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

Non-book related, but really fascinating: The Simpleton (a design blog) talks about schema theory (yeah, me neither) with user guides on self-service shopping (1950s) and on using a telephone (1920s).  It makes you realise how everyday events, like shopping in supermarkets and answering phone calls, would have been viewed as truly extraordinary in the early half of the 20th century.