Karina Bliss’s FALL

28230419I seem to have hit the motherlode of autobuy authors this month.  (Also – four blog posts in a month?  I’m not sure what’s happening either.)

I’ve always liked Karina Bliss’s writing, but I’ve never rushed out to buy her latest releases.  I bought her self-pubbed RISE on an impulse (okay, fine, it was a weakness for rock star romances), and had a lot of fun reading it.  So when she offered me an ARC of the sequel, FALL, I was very quick to say yes please!

Keep Rage together at all costs…

Powerhouse PA Dimity Graham is off her game. Her career is everything to her and she never lets anything personal mess that up. So how can she explain getting busy between the sheets with Rage’s nice-guy drummer Seth Curran? She’s supposed to be keeping this band out of trouble, not getting into it.  But before she can put everything back where it belongs, Seth needs her help.

Faking a relationship seemed like a good idea that night, right before they fell into bed together. But standing on New Zealand soil, facing the people he disappointed to pursue his dream, Seth doubts he and Dimity will convince anyone they’re hot and crazy for each other. To his surprise, Dimity is working her magic on everyone and they’re all convinced this is the real deal. The problem is, he’s almost convinced, too.

It’s perhaps inaccurate to bill FALL as a rock star romance – Seth does rock out a couple of times (and I may have swooned alongside Dimity), but the overall story focuses more on the aftermath of events that happened in RISE. As a result, it’s less rock star, more intimate, and all about Seth and Dimity’s developing romance. There’s sizzling chemistry, a lot of denial, some pursuing, and yes, a HEA that made me smile.

Snappy dialogue and sparkling humour made the time whizz past for me (I won’t spoil it for you, but there was a LotR analogy that made me splutter with laughter). But it’s not just all light frothy romance – at its heart, FALL is about family, both the family you’re born into and the family that you create for yourself, and this added substance to the romance.

Dimity’s that rare breed in a romance novel – she’s a thoroughly alpha female, though Seth is no pushover either. I loved that Seth was confident enough to let Dimity be herself, and that Dimity wasn’t magically transformed into a new person at the end of the book. Bliss makes the most of alternating POVs here, and I had so much fun seeing Seth and Dimity through each other’s eyes.  I also appreciated the well-rounded secondary characters in the book – Seth’s family play a solid supporting role, as do the other members of the band (yes, total sequel bait, but I’ll bite).

I have to say one thing did pull me out of the story at times: Seth’s nickname for Dimity was Honey B (after she was not-so-kindly compared to a honey badger). This is purely me (and rather poor timing), but there is a contestant called Honey G on this year’s UK X Factor, and well, having my mind link the two of them is not a good thing!

Unfortunate nicknames aside, FALL was a winner for me, and I’m really looking forward to the next installment in this series – or whatever Bliss writes next.

Elizabeth Bonesteel’s Central Corps Novels (or When You Discover a New-to-You Author)

25817527I got a copy of Elizabeth Bonesteel‘s debut novel THE COLD BETWEEN via instaFreebie earlier this year (or perhaps late last year?).  I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me military SF authors and well, the Chris McGrath cover didn’t hurt…

And then the book languished on my TBR pile for a while – until I was in the mood for SFF and decided to give it a go.

From my Goodreads review:

Let’s get the not-so-good stuff out of the way first: this is pseudo-MilSF at best (liberties are taken with the fraternisation and chain of command elements and I’m not entirely sure the science here would hold up to close scrutiny).

But the setting and characters were enough to convince me to go with the flow and pretend that military science fantasy was the genre, and once I did, then THE COLD BETWEEN turns out to be an entertaining and fast-paced murder mystery in space. I’m not fully invested yet, but I suspect I could grow to care about these characters in future books, and the romance fan in me liked the (unresolved) romance threads in this one.

You could tell I wasn’t 100% convinced, right?  But I did finish the book in a couple of days… and you know how sometimes characters stick around in your head?  It was like that with Elena, Greg & co – I had to know what they did next.

29099274So I pre-ordered the sequel, REMNANTS OF TRUST, and fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long as it came out this week (and proved to be a really good distraction from RL events, I have to say).

[Slight spoilers for previous book removed!] […Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster have] been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.

But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders. A PSI generation ship—the same one that recently broke off negotiations with Foster—is also in the sector and joins in the desperate battle that leaves ninety-seven of Exeter’s crew dead.

An investigation of the disaster points to sabotage. And Exeter is only the beginning. When the PSI ship and Galileo suffer their own “accidents,” it becomes clear that someone is willing to set off a war in the Third Sector to keep their secrets, and the clues point to the highest echelons of power . . . and deep into Shaw’s past.

REMNANTS OF TRUST was great.

Still not perfect, mind (I suspect this is going to be one of the YMMV books, similar to Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye books, which I adore and others just… don’t), but something about Bonesteel’s writing just hits the spot for me.

The story held my attention throughout.  There’s some excellent and breath-taking action sequences, interspersed with quiet (and not-so-quiet) conversations.  And then there’s the immediate whodunnit (and why), overlaid with bigger-picture political manoeuvring, all in a space opera setting (which is basically my catnip).

Bonesteel has a knack of writing protagonists that you grow to care about, with several new faces being introduced here.  She uses the trick of multiple POVs to create reader empathy with her characters, and it worked for me here.

I also appreciated how she wove diversity into her SF world, without it being in your face.  One thing that I want to mention specifically: one of the central characters in REMNANTS is of (implied) Chinese descent, and with the recent discussions of othering being at the forefront of my mind, I did wince at how she was presented initially.  In the end though, I felt that Guanyin turned out to be as human and vulnerable as the other characters, and it ended up being the right balance for me.

My criticisms about pseudo-MilSF from the first book still hold true, but I’ve decided to think of Central Corps as an alt-MilSF world where people can freely fraternise with anyone regardless of rank (yes, I can rationalise with the best of them).  I’m also on the fence on the unresolved relationship arc – part of me wants to bang heads together and say enough already, while the other part of me just wants to sit back and see what happens next.

Regardless of these niggles, safe to say Elizabeth Bonesteel is now firmly on my list on autobuy authors, and I can only hope she writes many more stories.

A Minor Accomplishment (and Links)

Look!  It’s only taken me eleven months to log all my 2015 reads on Goodreads.  Ha. *eyes 2016 notes*

I think I’ve mentioned my “process” before – I basically jot down some rough notes (and rating using GR stars) in a Google Docs document and then transfer over in a (much) more coherent form to GR when I’ve some time to spare.  (This excludes those books that I feel strongly enough to blog about here, obviously!)

What I have found myself doing when transcribing my notes a year some time later is that I occasionally adjust my original rating for a book – rarely upwards, usually downwards.  Not very often – it was maybe for ten or so books when I was finishing off my 2015 updates?  In a way, distance helps me to calibrate my ratings – if I can barely remember the plot a few months later, that 4* was probably a bit too generous in hindsight.  Does anyone else adjust ratings retrospectively too?

Anyway, a couple of links for the weekend:

Books for November

Happy… November?  It’s almost Christmas! *ducks and hides*

I had a look at my Goodreads to-read shelf for November, and the list seems shorter than in previous months.  Though that’s possibly a good thing as I decided to go though my Kindle in an attempt to clear out my books…  let’s just say I’m very glad that a virtual TBR pile takes up no physical space at all!

The November new releases that I’ll be getting:

28941103SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L Hughes (urban fantasy): I know, I know.  I keep on saying I’m not a short story fan, and then I promptly run out to buy more anthologies.  This one has some UF big names – I’m most keen on the Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire and Tanya Huff.

In this dark and gritty collection—featuring short stories from Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin J. Anderson, and Rob Thurman—nothing is as simple as black and white, light and dark, good and evil..

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes it so easy to cross the line.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher’s Cold Case, Molly Carpenter—Harry Dresden’s apprentice-turned-Winter Lady—must collect a tribute from a remote Fae colony and discovers that even if you’re a good girl, sometimes you have to be bad…

New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s Sleepover finds half-succubus Elsie Harrington kidnapped by a group of desperate teenage boys. Not for anything “weird.” They just need her to rescue a little girl from the boogeyman. No biggie.

In New York Times bestselling Kevin J. Anderson’s Eye of Newt, Zombie P.I. Dan Shamble’s latest client is a panicky lizard missing an eye who thinks someone wants him dead. But the truth is that someone only wants him for a very special dinner…

And New York Times bestselling author Rob Thurman’s infernally heroic Caliban Leandros takes a trip down memory lane as he deals with some overdue—and nightmarish—vengeance involving some quite nasty Impossible Monsters .

ALSO INCLUDES STORIES BY

Tanya Huff * Kat Richardson * Jim C. Hines * Anton Strout * Lucy A. Snyder * Kristine Kathryn Rusch * Erik Scott de Bie *

Out now

*

28953458Sharon Shinn’s UNQUIET LAND (fantasy): Her Elemental Blessings series has been a bit uneven for me (really liked the first, the second was so-so, and the third somewhere between the two), but Sharon Shinn remains an auto-buy for me.  And I really like the world-building in this series.

From the national bestselling author of Jeweled Fire and Royal Airs comes the latest novel in the Elemental Blessings series.

Leah Frothen has returned home. But she can scarcely catch her breath before she is summoned by regent Darien Serlast, the man who made her a spy. Leah is reluctant to take on a new assignment, but Darien has dangled the perfect lure to draw her in…

Leah finds she enjoys the challenges of opening a shop catering to foreign visitors, especially since it affords her the opportunity to get to know Mally, the child she abandoned five years ago.

But when the regent asks her to spy on ambassadors from a visiting nation, Leah soon learns that everyone—her regent, her lover, and even her daughter—have secrets that could save the nation, but might very well break her heart.

Out now

*

28230419Karina Bliss’s FALL (contemporary romance): I really enjoyed the first book in this rockstar romance series, and her linked story in the You Had Me at Christmas anthology was one of the rare romance shorts that worked for me.

Keep Rage together at all costs…

Powerhouse PA Dimity Graham is off her game. Her career is everything to her and she never lets anything personal mess that up. So how can she explain getting busy between the sheets with Rage’s nice-guy drummer Seth Curran? She’s supposed to be keeping this band out of trouble, not getting into it. But before she can put everything back where it belongs, Seth needs her help.

Faking a relationship seemed like a good idea that night, right before they fell into bed together. But standing on New Zealand soil, facing the people he disappointed to pursue his dream, Seth doubts he and Dimity will convince anyone they’re hot and crazy for each other. To his surprise, Dimity is working her magic on everyone and they’re all convinced this is the real deal. The problem is, he’s almost convinced, too.

Out Nov 15

Maybes:

  • Juliet Marillier’s DEN OF WOLVES (fantasy): She’s normally an auto-buy for me, but I’ve not managed to get into these Blackthorn & Grim books.  This is the last of the trilogy and I’ll probably wait for the paperback edition.  Beautiful covers though.
  • Stephanie Burgis’s CONGRESS OF SECRETS (fantasy): I’ve enjoyed her short stories, but never read a full-length novel of hers yet – maybe this will be the first!  Again, fab cover.
  • Lee Child’s NIGHT SCHOOL (suspense): I haven’t yet weaned myself off the Jack Reacher books despite the recent less-than-suspenseful plots, though this may be one I get from the library.