This and That

I’ve had one of those periods where it feels as though I haven’t read an actual book for ages. I think it’s because I’m a bit of a late-night reader and work has been totally killing me these past couple of weeks, so I’ve been falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow instead of opening my latest book.

24358527But there’s light at the end of the tunnel – I just picked up Marko Kloos‘ ANGLES OF ATTACK, and it’s the kind of story that quickly draws you in, which makes sense as it’s fast-paced MilSF that drops you into the action right from the start.  So my mini reading slump might be ending.  I also admit I feel a bit better about picking up his third book after he withdrew his acceptance for the Best Novel Hugo nomination – I’ve been reading some of the SP/RP arguments over the past few weeks (yes, as opposed to reading books!) and some posts just make me feel, well, icky.  I’m looking forward to the publication of the Hugos longlist when Worldcon rolls around – I think we’ll see which works got pushed off the Hugo shortlist because of the SP/RP slate, which would give me a better idea of what 2014-published books I’ve missed off my reading list.

To stop this from being purely a whiny woe-is-me post, here are two books I enjoyed over the past month (evidenced by over-usage of the word “fun” over the next few paragraphs – sorry).

21416690One was by a new-to-me author, Genevieve Cogman – I’d heard lots of buzz over her THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY (let’s face it, the title alone would make it an easy sell to the book-loving community) but only picked it up when the e-version was on sale earlier in the year.   Here’s what I said on Goodreads:

So – this book was just so fun.

I loved pretty much everything about this book – character-wise, we had Irene with her steadfast loyalty to the Library and its mission, her sidekick Kai (full of youthful exuberance, but also with secrets), and while I’m not usually one for Great Detectives, Vale started to grow on me as well. And then you have the Library itself, the secret librarian Language, and an action-packed romp through alternate-London in pursuit of a mysterious book.

The most tantalising part, though, is the hint that the next books in this series get a bit deeper than just superficial spooks-with-magic fun – I’m looking forward to them.

21331590The other book was Eloisa James‘ recent historical romance release, FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE.  This one… I think you’ve to be in a certain mood so it’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the right mood, it’d be just ridiculously OTT fun.  The last third of the book was unfortunately the weakest part for me – too many misunderstandings (rinse repeat), but it did leave me with a smile on my face.

25321367Oh, and Martha Wells also released a collection of her short stories and novelettes – one new story, with the rest previously-published.  Most, possibly all, were new-to-me, and I really enjoyed revisiting her Ile-Rien and Cineth worlds.  This one was part of a recent Kickstarter, by the way – I passed on it as I was really only interested in Martha Wells’ contribution, so I’m glad she’s released her collection as a standalone.  Definitely worth picking up if you’re a Wells fan, and I suspect they’ll also work well as an introduction for those who haven’t read her Ile-Rien/Cineth books before.

Shelving Habits

One of the (few) things I did during February was organise my bookshelves.  Despite me buying most of my books in e nowadays, I somehow still have piles of books stacked haphazardly here, there, everywhere.  Which meant I was running out of space, and so during a rainy afternoon, I made an attempt at organisation.

I say attempt, because, well, it’s not easy.

I’m not one of those people who need to have all the books in a series in the same format.  I’m a bit too much of an impatient reader – basically I just go for the format that’s available the soonest.  So I happily have US and UK releases, hardbacks and paperbacks (and ebooks) in the same series (yes, I’m talking about you, Mercy Thompson).  But when shelving my books, this means I can’t do everything by series/author because of the different-sized books (okay, I could, but what a waste of bookshelf real estate!).

However, I still want to make it easy for me to find whatever books I want quickly, so I try to shelve broadly by genre – romance, mystery, fantasy, SF – if possible.  But then there’s also a bit of an instinctive grouping happening.

7841670So my Lois McMaster Bujold SF hardcovers are next to those Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody mysteries I have in hardcover as well – different genres, but with protagonists that somehow strike me as very similar.  6571644Next to Amelia Peabody are my Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum mysteries (the few ones I bought in hardcover, before I started borrowing them from my library) and then my Lisa Lutz books – both offbeat contemporary mystery series, though quite different in style.

My paperback Elizabeth Peters mysteries are shelved separately – I have them with her romantic suspense books written under her Barbara Michaels pseudonym, which are in turn next to my collection of Mary Stewart paperbacks, because again, they have a similar feel.  I’m toying with adding my Susanna Kearsleys to that shelf as well.

7839024I have my Juliet Marillier hardcovers with Sharon Shinn‘s Twelve Houses and Elemental Blessings books as neighbours (and hey look, Goodreads has the the cover for the third book in the series, JEWELED FIRE!). 21528313 My smaller Shinn hardcovers (which tend to be more YA in feel) are with my Kristin Cashore books, a couple of Tamora Pierce hardbacks, and the two Cecelia and Kate books I have in hardcover.

And I could go on and on… but it’s probably only interesting to me.  I love how I can now lay my hands on the books I’m after so much more easily – my shelves now match how I think of the books in my head.  (Though we’ll see how long this state of affairs last…)

I’d love to hear how you shelve your books (or how you’d like to – if I had a whole wall of shelves, I’d totally follow Angie’s example and do this)!

Non-book related link: This post (and comments) totally cracked me up.

2014: My Favourite Books

Happy New Year!

I’m loving all the annual wrap-ups/best-of posts appearing around the book blogosphere, and my TBR list is growing by leaps and bounds (I’m also trying to be smarter by using the eReaderIQ price drop watch lists, but there is only so much restraint I can show).

My 2014?

It’s a weird one.  It’s not felt like an amazing reading year for me (again – I had similar feelings about 2013) but if I look at my book log, I actually read a lot of books I’ve enjoyed.  Good thing I track my reads, huh?

Maybe it’s because while I’ve stumbled across some new-to-me authors and read some really good books, there’s been no single author whose books I’ve just wholeheartedly glommed.  Am I being unrealistic?  Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by discovering authors like Eloisa James, Elizabeth Peters, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kelly Hunter etc relatively recently (where recently = since I’ve been blogging) and it doesn’t feel like a good reading year unless I discover a fantastic author with a massive backlist to dive into. Possibly.

Anyway, here are my favourite books read during 2014 (roughly in the order I read them):

Susanna Kearsley‘s THE WINTER SEA (romance): Yes, I finally got around to reading Susanna Kearsley in 2014, and fell headlong for her quiet swoon-worthy romances and the way she weaves together the then and now.  This one was my very favourite of the Kearsleys, and trust me, I made a dent in her backlist over the year.

KJ Charles‘s THINK OF ENGLAND (historical M/M romance): KJ Charles became an auto-buy author for me over 2014. This book wasn’t without its controversies (heck, 2014 may go down as the year the book blogging world did Controversy), but she nailed both the period feel and romance in this one, IMO.

Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (YA romance): I’ve had both hits and misses with her Hundred Oaks series, but this one was very definitely a hit.  Chemistry and feelings a-plenty in these pages.

Cinda Williams Chima‘s THE GRAY WOLF THRONE and THE CRIMSON CROWN (YA fantasy): I kind of cheat here, because it’s the whole quartet I loved, but Cinda Williams Chima didn’t let me down with the two concluding books to her Seven Realms series. It was just a really good story that hit all my buttons – court intrigue, magic, romance… I couldn’t ask for more.

Rainbow Rowell‘s FANGIRL (YA romance): I finally got the why behind Rainbow Rowell’s popularity this year.  I’d tried (and failed) with her popular ATTACHMENTS and was about to place her in the authors-everyone-else-loves pile.  And then I gave FANGIRL a go – I fell hard for Cath, and we had fanfic love as bonus (obviously, I’m dying over the CARRY ON 2015 announcement).

Stephanie PerkinsISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (YA romance): The wait for this book was worth it – no one can quite capture those dizzying extremes of teenage emotions the way Stephanie Perkins can.

Juliet Marillier‘s THE CALLER (YA fantasy): I admit I had doubts about this fantasy trilogy at the start, and the first book is unlikely to ever be a favourite of mine.  But Juliet Marillier ended the Shadowfell trilogy on a high.

Martha WellsTHE SIREN DEPTHS (fantasy): Like the Cinda Williams Chima books, this really should be the Raksura trilogy as a whole.  Another of those series that I should have read a long time ago – memorable characters and really excellent world-building.

Kylie Scott‘s LEAD (contemporary romance): I enjoyed Kylie Scott’s previous Stage Dive rock star romances, but LEAD was miles better.  Jimmy and Lena won my heart with their banter, chemistry, and yes, drama.  There were some very perfect moments in this book.

In summary:

  • Six romance books and four fantasy books, with half of the list being YA
  • An even mix of new-to-me and previously-read authors (last year, it was all new-to-me authors)
  • And half of these books were published in 2014, with publication dates for the other five ranging from 2008 to 2013

Before I wrap up, I don’t normally call out short stories in my annual favourites, but there were two anthologies I had to mention this year – both of them M/M romance anthologies, coincidentally.  KJ Charles‘s (again) “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” was a standout for me (in the anthology ANOTHER PLACE IN TIME).  Seriously.  I’m really excited she revisits her Regency world in a new Loveswept release this year.  And COMFORT AND JOY was just a consistently good Christmas romance anthology (stories by Joanna Chambers, LB Gregg, Harper Fox, and Josh Lanyon) – it’s definitely one for my holiday stories keeper pile.

Next up: 2014 in numbers. Because I like stats.

More of What I’ve Read Recently

I’ve managed to get through a fair few books recently, both good and not-so-good.

Good ones:

21840287ML Brennan‘s TAINTED BLOOD, the third book in her Generation V urban fantasy series – my Goodreads notes:

This series gets better and better. This one was centred around a mystery whodunnit (so obviously the mystery fan in me was satisfied), with some really intriguing family dynamics promising much for the next book. Plus more reveals about the wider supernatural community, and yes, more Suze.

It was one of those books that leaves you wanting the next book immediately.  One of the rare new-to-me UF series I started this year.

Kelley Armstrong‘s WILD JUSTICE, the final book in her Nadia Stafford trilogy – this came out earlier this year, but I put off buying it because I kept on remembering how the lack of personal pronouns in Jack’s speech (Jack being Nadia’s mentor – and possibly more) really got on my nerves in the previous book.  That hasn’t changed much – Jack still speaks in very short sentences and Armstrong makes a point of this being one of his characteristics. Digression alert: it bugs me when authors use physical shorthand to bring out a facet of someone’s personality and then emphasise this trait ad nauseam, e.g. X always speaks in very short sentences, Y always drops her h’s when stressed, Z always drinks coffee, etc. (Shall we play “guess the other two books…?”)

That aside, I thought WILD JUSTICE ended up being a strong suspense novel overall – there was a slightly over-convoluted plot, which had the benefit of keeping me guessing throughout, and it ended with an HEA that I’d thought would be impossible at the start of the trilogy.  The strongest of the three books, I thought, and a satisfying read.

23524655Comfort and Joy – I mentioned this holiday m/m romance anthology in my December releases post, and I ended up really enjoying all four stories.  So much so that I’d be hard-pressed to pick one… okay, it would probably be “Rest and Be Thankful” by Joanna Chambers – I fell for her take on the enemies-to-lovers trope and the small village setting.  But generally, lots of angst-ing and sky-high UST mixed with humour, and yes, romance in all the stories.  All four contributions are available as individual stories, but I honestly don’t see why you wouldn’t buy the anthology.

Books I didn’t particularly care for:

From a great holiday romance anthology to a so-so one – I also finished Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which I picked up on impulse.  The good part first – I really liked Kate Meader‘s contribution, “Rekindle the Flame” and have added her upcoming firefighters romance to my To Read shelf.  The other stories ranged between okay to DNFs – I ended up mostly skimming two and skipping the other two.  I’m on the fence as to anthologies – it does help me discover new-to-me authors, but if I end up not liking the majority of stories, it’s not the best use of my book-buying budget.  Though let’s face it, I’m never going to kick my anthology habit.

WINGER by Andrew Smith – a new-to-me author and another impulse buy (there is a reason why I should stay clear of bookstores).  So I was swayed by the number of awards this YA novel picked up, including a Top 10 YALSA Best Fiction for YA.  Really, I should have checked out the GR reviews. While I did have some problems with some of the views of the POV protagonist, I figured I’d never been a 14-year old boy myself, plus as the story progressed, there were signs of redemption.  So it was a fairly decent enough read until I hit the last couple of chapters.  And then there was a WTF twist (and not a good WTF, mind).  I’m probably in the minority here (considering the awards and Best Of lists), but I’d rather not have wasted an afternoon on this book.

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?

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?

Weekend Links… and New Bookshelf Additions

Hunting-Monsters1-e1411728587221The Book Smugglers published their first short story: “Hunting Monsters” by SL Huang.  It’s a retelling of Red Riding Hood – I’m not usually into fairytale retellings, but this one was lovely.  And the cover is striking (I love the colours) and fits the story perfectly.  Excellent start to their publishing venture, IMO.

The story’s free on their website, but they’re also publishing an ebook version with a couple of extras.

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Rachel Aaron (or Bach) posted a breakdown of her sales following her self-pubbed release of NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST (which was a good one to try if you’re in the mood for a new urban fantasy).  Some really interesting number-crunching and observations about Amazon.

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Does anyone read Joan Wolf?  I’ve fond memories of her Regencies – there’s an interview with her at Word Wenches, and she mentions a new Regency, THE AMERICAN EARL, which is already out (on Amazon, anyway).  I obviously bought it.

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Speaking of books I’ve bought – when I posted my take on 2014 new releases to date, I had a couple of comments about the fact I’d read most of the books I’d actually bought.  Just to prove this isn’t the case, here are the books I’ve bought (or downloaded for free) over the past week or so.  I know.

  • Eileen WilksUNBINDING (UF): Well, it was on my October new releases post.  I’ve finished this – mixed feelings really, not one of my favourites in the series.
  • FIFTY FIRST TIMES, edited by Julie Cross (NA romance anthology): I don’t usually do romance short stories, you’ve read my thoughts on NA before… but it was only £0.99.
  • Harlan Coben‘s THE WOODS (suspense): It was free (a UK-only offer, I think – and still free at Amazon as of today). I usually borrow his books from the library, but hey, free.
  • Kelly Hunter‘s SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (contemporary romance): This was meant to be released last month, but has just come out – $0.99 for the next week or so, if you’re interested.  I love her writing, so this was a no-brainer.
  • Carolyn Jewel‘s SCANDAL (historical romance): Courtesy of Dear Author’s Daily Deals posts – it’s free right now, and came recommended.
  • Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Nicole Burnham‘s FAMILY SECRETS (contemporary romance): Courtesy of the same DA deals post – not free, but three full-length novels for $0.99.  Yes, I do have a book-buying problem. I’ve enjoyed Christina Dodd’s books before, but the other two authors are new-to-me.
  • Joan Wolf‘s THE AMERICAN EARL (historical romance): See above…
  • Martha WellsSTORIES OF THE RAKSURA (fantasy): Oh. Did I mention I just glommed her Raksura fantasy trilogy, and LOVED it?  I’ve been meaning to read this trilogy forever.  Excellent world-building, and leaves you wanting to know everything and more about her characters.  Also, I obviously timed this really well, as this brand-new collection of two novellas (and two existing shorts) in the same world was just released.  She can write.
  • Rosie Claverton‘s CODE RUNNER (mystery): The first book, BINARY WITNESS, was mentioned by Sunita @ Dear Author last month – I liked a lot about it (ex-con Jason was not your everyday mystery protagonist, technology was front and centre, and Cardiff came to life), and jumped on the second book.

The conclusion? I’m a sucker for book deals and most of my impulse buys recs come from blog posts. Not surprising, really… tell me what triggers your book buying?

2014 New Releases So Far…

The one regular feature that I have on this blog are the monthly posts listing the new releases on my radar (it counts as a feature even without a clever title, right?).  I thought it would be interesting to have a look back at the year so far and see which ones I’d read, and how they stacked up.

The books marked with an * are the ones I really liked, some additional comments in italics as well.

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January

18074870Bought and read:

All were 3-star reads in Goodreads terminology, i.e. I’m glad I read them, but while they were good installments in their respective series, they didn’t quite make it to my re-read/keeper shelf.

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February

085286-fc222Bought and read:

  • Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula JonesTHE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA (MG fantasy): I did wait until the price dropped though.  Worth reading – thought it was lots of fun, though the ending was a bit too tidy. 

Possible DNF:

  • Suzanne Brockmann‘s DO OR DIE (romantic suspense): I stalled midway – not yet an official DNF as I may still go back to it.  Nothing was happening, really.

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March

night broken_front mech.inddBought and read:

Bought, but still lurking in that TBR pile:

  • Carla Kelly‘s THE WEDDING RING QUEST (historical romance): It’s a bit weird – I never feel an urge to read a Carla Kelly, but when I do get around to reading one, I wonder why I waited so long.

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April

20645592Bought and read:

Bought, but still in the TBR pile

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May

20738173Bought and read:

  • Tammara Webber‘s BREAKABLE (NA romance): Very much a companion book as opposed to a standalone
  • Joanna ChambersENLIGHTENED (historical m/m romance)
  • Josh Lanyon‘s STRANGER ON THE SHORE (m/m romance/mystery)

Borrowed from library and read:

  • Jim Butcher‘s SKIN GAME (UF): I had a feeling this wouldn’t be a re-read, hence the library reservation.

Borrowed from library, but DNF:

  • Richelle Mead‘s THE IMMORTAL CROWN (fantasy?): Couldn’t get into the story, may borrow again as I suspect it was more my mood. 

Waiting for price drop:

  • Seanan McGuire‘s SPARROW HILL ROAD (fantasy): I’ll wait until the mass-market paperback, I think.

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June

21798646Bought and read:

Bought, but in TBR pile:

Library reservation:

  • Nalini Singh‘s SHIELD OF WINTER (paranormal romance): I totally planned on buying this, then started seeing mixed reviews, and figured that I could wait on reading it.

Waiting for price drop:

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July

16045306Bought and read:

You can tell July was a good month for reading.

Library reservation:

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August

9627755Bought and read:

  • Stephanie Perkins‘ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER* (YA romance): No other author captures that teenage rush of crazy-emotions-all-over-the-place like she does

Borrowed from library, read:

  • Kelley Armstrong‘s VISIONS* (UF): I suspect I’ll be buying the next book.

Library reservation

Not yet bought

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So, in numbers?

  • 8 months = 41 new releases in total
  • 28 bought & read, 3 bought & not read (could be far worse…)
  • 2 borrowed from library & read, 3 waiting on library reservations
  • 2 DNFs (1 purchased, 1 from the library)
  • 3 to be bought at some point

Some Really Good Books*

I… have been reading some really good books.  I don’t even feel guilty (okay, I do, vaguely) about not putting up my August new releases post because I’ve just Been Reading.  And now I’ve to gush talk about them, possibly slightly incoherently, but, well.

9221793First was a bit of a glom for new-to-me author Cinda Williams Chima.  I’ve heard good things about her writing, and have had the first book of her Seven Realms YA fantasy series on my Kindle for ages.  But I was never quite in the right mood for it – and still wasn’t really.  It was just that I had a three hour train journey and wanted some fantasy.  So I chose a book at random, and I’ll be honest – THE DEMON KING didn’t grab me from the start.  I thought the first chapters were inclined towards over-exposition and was concerned that this would be fantasy dumbed-down for the teen market.  The alternating POVs struck me as a rather tired narrative device, the characters felt a bit generic-fantasy archetype (the streetwise ex-thief turned good, the rebellious princess, etc etc…), and the dreaded love triangle threatened.

I know.  Thank goodness for that three-hour journey because I continued reading.

And somehow I got sucked in.  The characters grew up and became three-dimensional – I liked them, I rooted for them, and I wanted them to win through even though it felt impossible at times.  The stakes for Raisa, Han, Dancer, Amon, Cat, and well, so many others, became higher over the course of the series and I was totally invested in the outcome.  The romance (of course there was romance) was of the sort that came ever so slowly to the boil and was oh-so-satisfying.  I surfaced from the world of the Seven Realms a while later, having gulped down the entire quartet in around three days.  It’s the sort of series where midway through the final book, I almost didn’t want to finish it because that would have meant the story was over.

So if you’re in the mood for fantasy with a healthy mix of court intrigue, magic, and romance, you could do worse than to check out this series.  And I need to have a look at Cinda Williams Chima’s other series, obviously.

And that’s not all.

16068905I finally caved and bought Rainbow Rowell‘s FANGIRL after the numerous fangirl (sorry) squeeing reviews about her books (and also because of the current bargain-ish price of  £1.59 for the Kindle edition on Amazon UK).  Plus I needed to switch genres as I suspected any other fantasy would pale compared to the Seven Realms books at the moment.

All I’m going to say is that I only put down FANGIRL last night because it was 2am and I had a 9am meeting this morning.  So excuse me as I’ve to find out how Cath is doing…

*You may have noticed I’ve run out of inspiration when it comes to blog post titles.

A This and That Kind of Post…

… reflecting my similarly unfocused state of mind – here are both links and recent reads.

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I grew out of my “classics” phase ages ago, but this post by Sherwood Smith on her latest re-read of George Eliot‘s MIDDLEMARCH had me running to manybooks.net to download the PD version.  I’ve never read MIDDLEMARCH before, but I want to now.  Hopefully I’m not in for a disappointment – thoughts, anyone?

Requisite tor.com post that I liked: This one about cover art for Orbit books.  If I’m honest, I hadn’t really thought much about Orbit covers having a certain artistic style, but some of their covers have been striking.

And because I link to almost every Courtney Milan post – she talks about her enhanced digital editions ($0.99 each for a short while, I believe) and how she was able to release her own version of the books she published with Harlequin.  Really interesting (or at least, I thought so!).

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Books I’ve read recently (I flirt with the idea of a weekly/monthly wrap-up, and then figure I’d never stick to a schedule):

A couple of new-to-me category authors (spoiler: I wasn’t wowed by either) – Joss Wood‘s MORE THAN JUST A FLING? and Jessica Gilmore‘s THE RETURN OF MRS JONES.  I picked up the Wood because it was on sale and Nath likes her writing, and the Gilmore because I read a review somewhere.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember where now, so shout if you’ve seen it reviewed fairly recently – it wasn’t an overly-glowing review, but I was in the mood for an exes reunited premise.

Plus and minus points for each (I know – call this a book blog…) – okay, I liked that both stories felt fresh (as opposed to how category romance can sometimes feel dated) and there was some sparkle, but pacing felt a bit slow in spots.  So while I’d probably read more by each author at some point, I’m not running out to get the rest of their backlists.

20878147KS Augustin‘s THE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY (urban fantasy): I picked this up because of an interview Andrea K Höst did with KS Augustin a few weeks back – it piqued my interest in her writing and this book is (was?) free.  Slightly a bit too much info-dumping for me at the start, but that wasn’t a show-stopper.  I did like how the Malaysia/Singapore setting came to life and the book whiled away an hour or so on the train very nicely.  However, I felt the story read more like a series of episodes as opposed to a full novel, plus it ended very abruptly, which caught me by surprise.  Having looked up the series detail now, the “complete” version is a five-book omnibus – I’ll probably get that at some point.

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Non-books related: I’m not sure how or when I stumbled onto this site, but I am hooked on Ask a Manager (have I mentioned it before?).  Alison Green just talks plain common sense when it comes to workplace dilemmas – well, the answers are almost always obvious when you read her responses, but they’re not at the same time.  And it’s always nice to see that mine is not the weirdest office out there.