Checking In

November’s been such a hectic month – whatever happened to winding down for the year?  I admit that despite my best intentions, I’ve spent a good amount of time on the internet hitting that One-Click button over the past couple of days.  I’m not sure what’s happened (I suspect some price-matching algorithm going haywire), but my inbox has been flooded with price drop emails* over the weekend.  I’ve been fairly good, but the 50% rebate at AllRomanceEbooks (today only (30 Nov)!) may be the tipping point.  Who needs Christmas presents anyway, right?

I wanted to post about a couple of my recent reads before I completely forgot what I’ve been reading over November – because despite the busy-ness that was November, I’ve been getting through quite a few books.

24876258Most recently, Jim Butcher‘s foray into “steampunk” fantasy, THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS.  I borrowed this from the library as his more recent Dresden Files books (his very long-running UF series) have been just okay for me, and his other fantasy series felt very much like fantasy-by-numbers (entertaining fantasy-by-numbers, to be fair, but still, nothing groundbreaking).

But you know what?  I actually ended up enjoying this book a whole lot.  And I liked it precisely of what it wasn’t.

1) It wasn’t Harry Dresden in a steampunk setting, and by that, I mean the story didn’t feature a snarky dude with tendencies towards heroism, and transplanted into a fantasy setting.  (Also interestingly, this appears to be a negative in some of the reviews I’ve read.)

2) It wasn’t steampunk (hence the inverted commas above). Although this was branded as steampunk on Butcher’s website, the most steampunk-ish angle was probably the goggles the aeronauts wore, oh, and some passing references to steam engines?  The energy sources for his airships appeared to be magic crystals of the hand-wavey type, which kind of contradicts the whole basis for steampunk setting (not that I’m an expert or anything).

And this is a good thing how, you ask?  Because despite my best intentions (I feel like I should like steampunk, you know?), I’ve never really gotten steampunk as a genre (I adore Meljean Brooks’ IRON SEA series, but I suspect that’s more a testimony to her world-building skills than anything else), and I was more than fine with a fast-moving military/adventure fantasy with an intriguing setting and some surprisingly strong female POVs.

THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS isn’t a perfect read – there are quite a few POVs to get to grips with, especially at the start, and it doesn’t exactly challenge any fantasy conventions, but it’s lots of fun and I’m looking forward to the next book.

To wrap up, a couple more November reads I liked:

  • Josh Lanyon‘s JEFFERSON BLYTHE, ESQUIRE (M/M NA): I usually enjoy Lanyon’s books, and this was no exception – she has a way of hitting the right buttons for me.  This was branded as a caper-style story, and was very definitely one.  However, it did have the (trademark Lanyon) abrupt ending, and I’d liked to have a bit more (also, I kept on wondering how Jefferson could afford the many last-minute jaunts between London and the continent – train travel isn’t exactly cheap…).
  • Zen Cho‘s SPIRITS ABROAD (fantasy collection): I didn’t love her debut novel SORCEROR TO THE CROWN as much as I thought I would (I appreciated how she made the story feel current, for instance, we had everyday microaggressions translated in a fantasy Regency context, and also how Britain’s colonial history was woven into the story, but overall, never quite connected with the characters).  But I thought the short story length in this collection worked really well across the board, and I loved how fantastical and traditional elements were all transposed into a modern setting.

 

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*Not a sponsored nor affiliate link – eReaderIQ has just saved me so much money over the past couple of years.  They earn a % of any purchases you make by clicking on their links, though you could probably remove/change the affiliate tags if you really really wanted to.

Books for November

There are so many new releases in November that I want to read… and I’ve been reading quite a few of them, hence the radio silence.  I also caved and bought the eARC of Lois McMaster Bujold‘s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN (there’s a really interesting (and spoilerific) discussion on Goodreads, with LMB participating) – my first eARC purchase and I have no regrets.  I figured that if I’d waited until the official February release, I would have been so excited about the book that there was no way GJRQ could have lived up to my expectations… you can see how I talked myself into buying the early version, right?  It’s fairly clean, if that helps, and by that, I mean I’ve read finished books with many more typos.

But enough about 2016 books and back to November new releases – this is a long one (with a couple of mini-reviews), so brace yourself.

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23453463Eileen WilksMIND MAGIC (urban fantasy): It’s hard to believe this is the 12th(!) book in the Lupi series.  And unlike some series which are in severe need of winding up, this series is still delivering.  I finished MIND MAGIC in one night, and really enjoyed it.  The start was a bit weak (with a new character’s POV taking up the first couple of chapters), but once Lily and Rule made an appearance, I was hooked.  It’s always fun to explore more of Wilks’ Lupi world, and while I’d loved to have seen more of the usual gang, Lily pretty much carried the book by herself.  As she tends to do.  Probably not one for new readers, but if you’re a long-time Lily and Rule fan, I suspect you’d be pleased.

FBI agent Lily Yu’s mind is a dangerous place to be in the latest Novel of the Lupi…

Thanks to the mindspeech lessons she’s receiving from the black dragon, Lily is temporarily benched from Unit Twelve—until her brain acclimates and the risk of total burnout passes. At least she has her new husband, lupi Rule Turner, to keep her occupied.

But when her mentor calls in a favor and sends Lily to a murder scene, she’s suddenly back on active status—despite the hallucinations she can’t keep at bay. With one touch, Lily knows the man was killed by magic, but her senses don’t warn her how far the conspiracy goes…

A shadowy force within the government wants to take Unit Twelve down, and they don’t mind killing to achieve their goal. With none of her usual resources, Lily is up against impossible odds–because with her mind in disarray, she can’t trust anything she sees.

Out now

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18627947Karen Chance‘s REAP THE WIND (urban fantasy): Speaking of long-running UF series, this is “only” Karen Chance’s seventh Cassie Palmer book, but it feels like it should be a lot longer because of the wait between books.  It’s been two years since the last book, and I was a bit nervous starting RtW, because Chance does love her complicated plots combined with superfastnonstopaction.  And have I said it’s been two years?

I needn’t have worried though, because I quickly sank back into Cassie’s world and by the second chapter, I had remembered how much I love the way Chance mixes up time-travelling seers, vampires, and mages to give good story.  She still packs a lot of action into relatively few pages, but the plot held together just fine (not to mention that I found myself giggling madly at times – some lovely exchanges here!).  Best of all though, was the fact that Cassie finally gains some agency in this book and starts to take control of her life – I’m really looking forward to the next book now.

You’d think that being Chief Seer for the supernatural world would come with a few perks. But as Cassie Palmer has learned, being Pythia doesn’t mean you don’t have to do things the hard way. That’s why she finds herself on a rescue mission skipping through time—even though she doesn’t entirely understand her dimension-bending new power.

Rescuing her friend John Pritkin should have been an in and out kind of deal, but with the near-immortal mage’s soul lost in time, Cassie has to hunt for it through the ages—with Pritkin’s demon dad in tow. He’s the only one who can reverse Pritkin’s curse, but with the guardians of the time-line dead set on stopping anyone from mucking about, Cassie will have to figure out how to get her friend back without ruffling too many feathers—or causing a world-ending paradox or two…

Out now

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20980680Kate Elliott‘s BLACK WOLVES (fantasy): After reading Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES and finishing her Spiritwalker books in the space of a couple of weeks, I was looking forward to her new book.  Spoiler: it didn’t disappoint.

BLACK WOLVES felt like a modern spin on epic fantasy, if that makes sense – still very recognisably epic fantasy, but with refreshingly different takes on the more traditional fantasy tropes.  I loved her variety of protagonists (including two older POV characters, one male and one female), though the multiple POVs did make me feel slightly distanced from the characters.  I also liked how different cultures and backgrounds were deftly interwoven into the story, making the world feel like a living, breathing one.  There were some interesting writing choices, including the usage of present tense for flashbacks and a time-jump about a quarter(?) of the way through the book – all of these worked for me, and I’m looking forward to the next book.

What I’ve just found out is that BLACK WOLVES is set in the same world as her Crossroads trilogy, but several decades on.  Which is interesting in itself, but should I have read the Crossroads books first???  I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything, but I wonder if I’d have gotten more out of the story had I known any previous history…

For readers of Brent Weeks and fans of Netflix’s Marco Polo comes a rich and inspired fantasy tale of warriors and nobles who must take the most desperate gamble of all: awaken allies more destructive than the hated king they hope to overthrow. Kate Elliott’s new trilogy is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series.

Twenty two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life.

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father’s fate.

Combining the best of Shogun and Netflix’s Marco Polo, Black Wolves is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

Out now

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22567177Juliet Marillier‘s TOWER OF THORNS (fantasy): Onto the books I haven’t yet read… a new Marillier is always a cause for celebration, and we return to her Blackthorn & Grim world here.  While it’s not exactly Sevenwaters (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), I still really enjoyed the first book in this series.

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier’s “lavishly detailed”* Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

Out now

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21528313Sharon Shinn‘s JEWELED FIRE (fantasy): While I was a bit lukewarm about the second instalment in this series, I have a soft spot for this world. And I do love Shinn’s writing in general.

The national bestselling author of Troubled Waters and Royal Airs returns to her Elemental Blessings series with the story of a young princess who will need more than blessings to survive in a kingdom where everyone will do whatever it takes to claim the throne…

As one of the four princesses of Welce, Corene always thought she might one day become queen. Only circumstances changed, leaving fiery Corene with nothing to show for a life spent playing the game of court intrigue—until a chance arises to become the ruler of a nearby country.

After stowing away on a ship bound for Malinqua with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, Corene must try to win the throne by making a play to marry one of the empress’s three nephews. But Corene is not the only foreign princess in search of a crown.

Unaccustomed to being anyone’s friend, Corene is surprised to find companionship among her fellow competitors. But behind Malinqua’s beautiful facade lie many secrets.

The visiting princesses are more hostages than guests. And as the deadly nature of the court is revealed, Corene must rely on both her new allies and Foley’s unwavering protection—for the game she has entered is far more perilous than she ever imagined…

Out now

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27271538HOW WE BEGAN (LGBT romance anthology): Yes, proceeds go to a good cause, but also contributors include Alexis Hall (he has a knack of bringing contemporary romance to life) and Amy Jo Cousins (I’ve really enjoyed her Bend or Break NA romance books).

How does love begin?

A glance, a gesture, an unexpected offer of help from a stranger…or from a good friend. A smile across a counter at a coffee shop or video store. A secret revealed in a song from another place and time. Or in a love ballad crooned at a high school dance.

In this anthology of never-before-published sweet LGBTQ+ stories, six authors explore the beginnings of love between young and new adult couples. All proceeds will support The Trevor Project’s work with crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth.

Out Nov 9

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19504964Ilona AndrewsSWEEP IN PEACE (urban fantasy): I’ve not read the free online serialised version, so this will be an all-new Ilona Andrews book for me. I found the first Innkeepers book good fun, so am looking forward to this.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Out Nov 13

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25719256Josh Lanyon‘s JEFFERSON BLYTHE, ESQUIRE (NA M/M romance): I think this may be Josh Lanyon’s first NA romance?  Looks promising, and I love the cover that Carina Press produced.

In this fast, fun and dead-sexy male/male new-adult caper from multi-award-winning author Josh Lanyon, twentysomething Jefferson Blythe gets lost, gets found, falls in love and comes out…all in the span of one wild summer

After his first relationship goes disastrously awry, Jeff Blythe uses his savings to tour Europe—the old-fashioned way. Armed with his grandfather’s 1960 copy of Esquire’s Europe in Style, Jeff sets off looking for adventure but finds much, much more than he bargained for…

In London, dodging questions from shady criminals about a mysterious package he most certainly does not have is simple. Losing the gunmen who are convinced he’s someone else is not. And when George, an old friend, offers him help—and a place to stay, and perhaps something more—things become complicated.

Is George really who he seems? And is Jeff finally ready to act on his attraction?

From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives. But trusting George at his word may leave Jeff vulnerable—in more ways than one.

Out Nov 16

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26400106Amy Jo CousinsREAL WORLD (M/M romance): I mentioned Amy Jo Cousins’ Bend or Break series above, and this is the latest instalment.  I requested an ARC of this because I liked the first few books so much, and this was a really sweet wrap-up to Tom/Reese’s story (which started in OFF CAMPUS).

Set several years later, while the initial conflict felt slightly forced (or perhaps I just wanted to thump Tom’s head for not learning from his previous mistakes), REAL WORLD ended up being a steamy read that gave me the warm fuzzies at the same time, if that’s something that’s possible.  It was lovely to see old friends pop up – I’m not sure if REAL WORLD isthe last book in this series, but if it is, it’s a fitting bookend to a strong NA series.

Also, what I love about Cousins’ Bend or Break books (or actually, her writing in general) is the way she deals with social issues – they’re front and centre, but the “message”, if that’s what it’s called, doesn’t detract from the story-telling nor the romance at all.  If anything, the current-day issues she highlights make her stories feel more real with added depth.

When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.

Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.

Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.

At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.

Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.

Out Nov 17

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25704796Joanna ChambersUNNATURAL (historical M/M romance): Joanna Chambers does historical romance well, and this one promises much. I think I read an excerpt on her website and added UNNATURAL to my must-get list immediately.

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Out Nov 24

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And that’s not quite all (I know).  The other November new releases that are maybes for me this month:

  • Astrid Amara‘s CRASH PLUS EXPENSES (M/M romance): I like her writing, not so sure about the premise of this one.
  • Richelle Mead‘s SOUNDLESS (YA fantasy): Mead’s been a bit hit-or-miss for me lately, and while I love(!) the cover of SOUNDLESS, I’m nervous this is going to be on the wrong side of the appropriation line?  I’m waiting on reviews before deciding.
  • Carla Kelly‘s DOING NO HARM (historical romance): I will cave and buy this sooner or later.
  • Janet Evanovich‘s TRICKY TWENTY-TWO (mystery): So, remember when I said some series should be brought to an end?  I err… will still likely request this from the library.
  • Sally Andrew‘s RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER (mystery): No idea what prompted me to add this to my to-read shelf (anyone review it recently?), but it sounds interesting.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal‘s WORD PUPPETS (fantasy): A collection of short stories (with gorgeous cover) – I really liked her “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” (free on tor.com), so would love to read more of her shorts.