Recent Reads – The Good, the Bad… and the So-So?

How about some actual book talk here?  For a book blog, I’m conscious I don’t post a lot about books I’m reading (probably because that would take some actual focus and thought, both of which have been sadly lacking here).  Let me see if I can get back into the rhythm of things…

27074515At the moment, I’m reading Alison Goodman‘s YA historical fantasy THE DARK DAYS CLUB (which is marked Lady Helen #1 on Goodreads, so am assuming it’s the first in a series).  I’m about a quarter in, and it’s all good so far – I’m suitably intrigued, the story’s moving at a snappy pace, and I’m liking the period flavour.  It is feeling a bit Buffy-like, so I’m reserving judgement (I wasn’t a massive fan).

28246697I finished Nora Roberts‘ new romantic suspense THE OBSESSION the other day – it’s been a while since I’ve really enjoyed an NR, and picked this up after seeing mostly positive reviews.  Alas, this didn’t work for me.  It had a promising start which sucked me in immediately, but a very soggy middle (if a book could be described as such) – I ended up flipping through the rest of the book just so I could find out whodunnit.  Spoiler: it wasn’t worth the time.

And then books by two new-to-me authors I’ve really enjoyed

25404499Santino Hassell’s Five Borough series – a M/M contemporary romance series set in New York City.  I picked up the first when it was on sale a few weeks back, and ended up buying both the second and the third (just released!).  I flew through all three books – the first, SUTPHIN BOULEVARD, may be my favourite because I really liked the school setting.  It’s also probably the angstiest; the second two books are much more straightforward romance. Each is a standalone romance, so feel free to dive into the series whenever. Hassell is definitely a new auto-buy for me.

29247999And then Julianna Keyes’ UNDECIDED Kaetrin’s review of this NA romance @ Dear Author piqued my interest and I one-clicked it.  I totally loved.  There’s a certain kind of NA that hits all the right buttons for me – I haven’t spent too much time analysing the exact formulae, but elements definitely include (1) protagonists who talk to each other (2) non-angsty conflict (3) some messy self-discovery and growing up (4) chemistry.  UNDECIDED had all of this a-plenty, with a college setting as bonus – I have a soft spot for college!

I loved the Keyes so much that I bought one of her contemporaries straight after (UNDECIDED is her first NA).  I picked GOING THE DISTANCE using my (not-so-)trusty Goodreads formula (highest rated standalone book), but I’m not entirely sure – not exactly connecting with the h/h.  Hence the jump to the current Alison Goodman read.

So that’s a few of my recent reads – have you read any of these?

 

Books for May

I know it’s been a bit quiet here over the past couple of months, but I feel like 2016 has been a really good year for new releases so far.  But it’s starting to calm down – there are a few books I want to get in May, but not as many as in previous months.

26067987Mary Balogh’s ONLY BELOVED (historical romance): I’ve been reading her Survivors’ Club series and enjoying it well enough, reflected by the fact I usually wait until my library reservations come through as opposed to buying.  This book wraps up the series – I’ve placed my library reservation!

From the legendary New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Only a Promise comes the final book in the rapturous Survivor’s Club series—as the future of one man lies within the heart of a lost but never-forgotten love…

For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again.

Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.

For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?

Out now

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29244653Ashley Gardner’s THE ALEXANDRIA AFFAIR (historical mystery): I’ve had a soft spot for Egyptian settings ever since I fell for Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books (I’m still keeping a ear out for rumours as to her final unpublished manuscript), and I probably will pick this up at some point.

Lucius Grenville at last persuades Captain Lacey to join him in an expedition to Egypt, to visit various ancient sites. Lacey is excited to go, though torn about leaving his new family. He discovers, though, that the burgeoning market for antiquities has made Egypt’s ancient history open for plunder, bringing forth ruthless men who will not stop short of murder for the sake of a fortune.

Out May 17

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26242354Lisa Kleypas’s MARRYING WINTERBORNE (historical romance): There’s a (unusual) historical theme to this month’s new releases for me – I felt like Lisa Kleypas’s previous book spent a lot of time setting up the Helen/Winterborne romance (and overshadowing the main relationship), so hopefully this book lives up to the promise.

A ruthless tycoon
Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better…

A sheltered beauty
Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable…the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss. And it all begins with…

Marrying Mr. Winterborne

Out May 31

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17927395Sarah J Maas’s A COURT OF MIST AND FURY (YA fantasy): I am on the fence for this (very likely a library reservation too) – I had fun reading the previous one, but I remember the doormat-y heroine also infuriating me at times.

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

Out now

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So not exactly a sterling month for new releases – any books you’re really excited about?

Bank Holiday Monday Links

Despite the doom-and-gloom weather predictions, it’s turned out to be a good Bank Holiday!  Lots of sunshine (where I live, anyway), and it feels like spring is finally here.  And not a moment too soon…

A few Monday links:

Sarah Rees Brennan talks about women and worldbuilding – she makes some interesting points.  Hand-wavey worldbuilding is one of my pet hates (I can overlook it if I’m really invested in the characters, but it takes a lot!).  I haven’t seen a male/female divide on “good” worldbuilding but then again, my reading skews heavily towards female authors so IDK.  Anyway, she mentions THE TURN OF THE STORY, which is one of the very few online serials I fell for (primarily because it wasn’t a serial until it was…) – definitely worth reading if you haven’t already.

Speaking of worldbuilding (or lack of), Marko Kloos talks about how his Frontlines military SF series started out.  Which made me think a bit about what I consider to be worldbuilding.  I don’t need to know the nth detail of a world, but I appreciate consistency between characterisation and the setting.  How characters think and react should be shaped by the society and culture in which they live, which in turn is influenced by history, technology, the physical setting and so forth.  When any of these are out of sync, it feels slightly jarring to me – does that make sense?  Do you think of worldbuilding differently?

Finally, an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, who’s an author who does amazing worldbuilding IMO.  It’s a great interview and covers quite a few topics.  On backlist books, I found this piece interesting – not surprised, though:

So, yes, I now make much, much more from my self-pubbed backlist e-books than backlist paper books. None of them sell more than modestly, but I have 20 or 30 titles up, depending, and they do add up. A frontlist (new) lead book publication with good push from a major publisher can still top that in the first years of a book’s life-cycle. By my current calculations, after about five years e-versions go back to being more advantageous.