New (to-me) Find

33867423It’s been a while since I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime to read just one more chapter, but that was pretty much what I was doing all of last week.

Estara recommended W.R. Gingell’s fantasy books some time back, and I finally got around to reading SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD, which is a compilation of three of her interlinked shorter novels (novellas?).  Needless to say, I loved it.

Her writing hit all the right buttons for me – she had clever and strong-minded heroines with a keen sense of the absurd, male counterparts who were worthy foils for them, and plots centred around twisty, mysterious puzzles.  I adored the first two stories, though the third felt a bit rushed towards the end.  All in all though, a most refreshingly enjoyable fantasy.

29481285I immediately dived into the second of her books that I own – MASQUE, a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and which, for some reason, has been sitting on my Kindle for a while (I suspect I picked it up when it was for free or discounted).  If you’re like me and don’t care for fairy-tale retellings, don’t worry as I was halfway through the book when I realised the parallels to Beauty (yes, I can be slow).  Again, this was pretty much my catnip – a whodunnit in a fantasy regency-like setting.  While the villain was a bit too obvious, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story one bit.  I thoroughly loved spending time with Isabella, Lord Pecus, and the rest of Bella’s merry band.

I’m currently reading SPINDLE, which you get for free when you sign up to her newsletter.  If you’ve guessed it’s a Sleeping Beauty (with some added Rapunzel) retelling, you’re right.  I have to say that I’m not loving this as much as the previous two, possibly because Poly has just awoken up from an enchanted sleep and is still trying to find her feet.  She’s different to the very self-assured heroines of the previous books, and I’m missing that self-confidence in her interactions – but things are picking up!  I noticed WR Gingell references Diana Wynne Jones in the dedication of this book, and this story definitely has a DWJ flavour to it.

And once I’m finished with this, well, Gingell’s written a couple more books, and there’s a new release in April.


randombookrec

I feel like this entire post has been a book rec, but here’s another one: Sherwood Smith’s LHIND THE THIEF.  I’ve a soft spot for YA fantasy – my Goodreads review here.

Advertisements

A Rec a Post?

Who can’t wait for 2016 to be over? *raises hand*

World events aside, I’ve been struggling with a cold for the past few weeks now, and a sniffly nose isn’t the best accessory when Christmas party season is in full swing. (I may also have been struggling with a self-inflicted achy head at various points in the past month.)

Anyway, my “a rec a post” idea. I saw this somewhere (can’t quite remember where now – I don’t think it was a book blog, but it was a similar concept), where regardless of the post topic, a recommendation was included at the end.

I freely admit to not blogging that often in 2016, but I liked this idea – I am always able to recommend a book, and it’ll give me a chance to mention both old favourites and new discoveries without feeling obliged to launch into full-blown review mode.

32591947So to end the year, here’s my first rec – Beth Brower’s THE Q. Angie brought it to my attention when she reviewed it a while back, but it’s taken me this long to get around to reading it.  If you were like me and hesitant to jump in based on the very limited blurb, THE Q’s a charming fantasy with a slow-burn romance (basically, it’s my catnip), and I found it reminiscent of Eva Ibbotson’s historical romances.  Quincy St Claire’s life revolves around her great-uncle’s printing business, The Q, and she has one year to save her inheritance.  As the story unfolds, she finds out that saving The Q is much more than retaining control over the business.  While the story starts off slow, stick with it, because the pay-off’s great.

And that’s it for now (I may have to get a bit better at writing snappier recs).

If you celebrate Christmas, happy Christmas, and if you don’t, I hope you get a chance to relax and recharge your batteries for the new year over the next week or so.

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.

Good Books!

Don’t you love it when you get a run of good books, especially if it happens when you’re on holiday and have the luxury of being able to stay up late reading without any guilt?

15748538I started off with Seanan McGuire’s ONCE BROKEN FAITH, the latest October Daye book.  (I hadn’t realised the UK release was a few days before the US one, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the book appeared on my Kindle!)

I’m always up for more Toby, so needless to say, it was a very enjoyable read- we had Toby being very Toby, Tybalt doing his King of Cats thing, Quentin (and family!), plus a magical whodunnit mystery plot.  I’ll be honest though – if you’re not into Toby’s world, this is not the book for you.  There were some rather self-indulgent passages, info-dumping galore, and McGuire’s plotting probably doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.  But I can forgive much when it comes to this series, and ONCE BROKEN FAITH was a solid installment.

30175057Next up was Alexis Hall’s newest, LOOKING FOR GROUP.  This, I loved.  It had the dubious honour of being the book I was reading while wandering around the most picturesque of settings, and I probably spent half my time sitting in various cafes ignoring the views (I can only apologise to my travel companions).  I’m not a gamer at all, but was wholly absorbed by Hall’s sweet romance, set partly in the alternate reality of an MMO.

I was a bit nervous going in (see: not a gamer), but having to work out online gaming shorthand was not dissimilar to having to get my bearings in a fantasy novel.  I loved how Hall explored online (and offline) relationships, celebrated the gaming culture, and managed to cover the whole growing-up/going-to-university thing all in one book.  LOOKING FOR GROUP was diverse, nerdy, and quite possibly one of my favourite books of the year.

22349087And then I read Jodi Taylor’s THE NOTHING GIRL. I keep on saying that I’m going to do a proper blog post on her Chronicles of St Mary’s time-travel series because they are utterly brilliant, packed full of laugh-out-loud moments and yet totally grounded in history, but despite me making the time to read all seven novels (and numerous short stories) in the space of four weeks, I haven’t managed to even draft a post.  So take this as a very strong recommendation for the books, even if you don’t normally care for time-travel stories; I would not have classified myself as a fan, but these books proved me wrong.

Anyway, I grabbed THE NOTHING GIRL when Kobo had their recent 50% off sale. I wasn’t sure how her writing would translate to contemporary romance, but Jacey Bedford’s review persuaded me to give it a go.  If LOOKING FOR GROUP reminded me of READY PLAYER ONE (for the sheer celebration of geek culture), THE NOTHING GIRL was faintly reminiscent of LM Montgomery’s standalones – the quiet protagonist who’s set apart slightly from everyone else, a small-town setting, and of course, a man with a not-entirely-unearned reputation. I went in having no idea of the plot, and enjoyed the story tremendously – layer upon layer of reveals unfolded as I got to know each character, and if I guessed the ending a bit ahead of the final pages, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment one bit.

(And I’m currently reading Sarina Bowen’s ROOKIE MOVE – she does sports romance so well, it’s shaping up to be a good one!)

So that’s me – tell me your recent good reads?

 

Summer Check-in

We’re currently in the middle of the second mini-heatwave of summer, which feels like it should be some sort of record for London.  I’m also in a post-Olympics slump, and trying to remind myself what I did before there was cycling/diving/pentathlon on TV every evening…

26853604The Olympics has meant I’ve done very little reading during August.  I did finish Kate Elliott’s brand-new release POISONED BLADE though, which I count as a win!

It’s the sequel to her YA debut COURT OF FIVES and even better than the first, IMO. I felt COURT OF FIVES was more straightforward adventure; in POISONED BLADE, she brought the layers of complexity I expect from an Elliott book, while continuing to build on the relationships established in the first book.  The slight threads of romance (or attraction?) worked better for me as well, perhaps because more ambiguity and growth (on all sides) was introduced.  At times though, there was so much arguing between Jessamy and other characters that it frustrated me.  But maybe that’s what I’m meant to feel – anger is tiring, and the conversations made sense in the larger context of the story. TL;DR: Good installment and I look forward to the next book!

Links of interest:

 

A Couple of New Releases

You know you haven’t been reviewing for a while when you forget how to use your tagging system at Goodreads.  And it wasn’t even that complicated to start with…

Anyway, I had grand plans to start posting more regularly, and then I remembered why my posting frequency dips (even more) over the summer – Wimbledon starts this week!  As I type, I’ve “Today at Wimbledon” in the background (thank goodness the BBC got rid of last year’s trying-too-hard highlights show “Wimbledon 2day”).

So before I get too caught up in the tennis (with the Olympics coming up next), here are a couple of recent reads.

28161530I’ve just finished Sarina Bowen‘s newest release BITTERSWEET.  Talk about foodie heaven!  And she accomplishes that without the dreaded infodump. It also takes skill to weave such a cosy and close-knit small-town (farm?) picture without ever veering into saccharine territory, and again, Bowen manages that with ease.  Obviously Griff and Audrey’s chemistry was off the charts and the relationship worked for me.

However, in what is becoming a familiar pattern in Bowen’s books, I spotted the major flashpoint a mile away and spent most of the book waiting for the axe to fall.  Which is why I happily abandoned the book halfway through for about a week before finishing it in a single gulp.  And a minor niggle – there were a few typos scattered throughout.  Not many, but enough to catch my attention.

29607276An unexpected new release read for me was Linda Howard‘s TROUBLEMAKER – I was expecting to wait a few months for my library reservation to come through.  Let’s get this out of the way – it’s not up to the standard of vintage Howard.  Then again, maybe it’s time to adjust expectations when it comes to Howard.

Janine’s review @ Dear Author said that the heroine’s dog, Tricks, was a Mary Sue character, which made me laugh because I’d scribbled in my notes that it felt like a love story between Bo (the heroine) and Tricks.  But it was suspenseful enough, though I think Howard overdid the dark damaged hero somewhat.  I felt there were some slightly anachronistic notes in what’s meant to be a modern romance, for instance, Bo thinking that she needed to buy “guy foods” for Morgan (and similar thinking in Morgan’s mind, IIRC).  Overall, the perfect commute-type read for me – it made the time pass quickly enough, but I never needed to know what happened next.

 

 

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?

 

Checking In (and Reading on the Go)

Errr… unexpected blog hiatus?  RL has been rather hectic recently, and I’ve fallen out of the habit of regular(-ish) blogging.

However, I’ve discovered the pleasure of reading on my commute (nothing fancy, just using the Kindle app on my smartphone).  I kind of laugh at the me-of-five-years-ago, who would be politely dubious (at best) about reading on the go, and especially off a small screen.  I was never one to lug around a book – a newspaper or magazine, yes, but there was something about the extra weight of a bound book that put me off.  Now, I’m reaching for my phone as soon as I reach “my” spot on the train platform.

But my commute-time reading only works for a certain type of book – it may be blinkingly obvious, but the books that worked best for me:

  • A book that I could put down whenever without feeling the need to read just one more page or finish the chapter*
  • A fairly linear plot with a small cast of characters
  • Not too action-packed, though not too boring either (I don’t ask for much, do I?)

*There were a couple of books that I ended up reading on my phone because I had to finish the story. Another reason for liking e-books, huh?

I started off with short story anthologies/collections (I have a weakness for themed anthologies – I seem to buy a lot, but never quite get around to reading them, so what better way to start clearing out my e-TBR):

  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s WORD PUPPETS: I’ve enjoyed a few of her short stories before (both included in this collection, IIRC).  In fact, I’ve probably liked them more than her novels (I thought there was more emotional connection, but YMMV) so I was keen to read more of her backlist.  I think the two I’ve previously read remain the strongest of the lot, but I generally liked all.
  •  WITCHES: WICKED, WILD & WONDERFUL, edited by Paula Guran: This was a collection of older previously-published stories, and more of a mixed bag for me.  Liked some, others left me feeling a bit icky and I skipped a couple.  (Unfortunately, don’t ask me which – downside of reading on my commute is that I read this book over a long period of time, and can’t remember who wrote which stories now.  I may have to return my book blogger badge.)

And then I moved on to full-length novels:

  • Susan Dennard’s TRUTHWITCH: I had high hopes for this one following the buzz, but this didn’t work for me.  Possibly because the story didn’t lend itself to commute reading – I struggled to understand the magical systems, and the multiple POVs made the story a bit choppy and left me feeling disconnected from all of the protagonists.
  • Naomi Hirahara’s  MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE: This was based off a rec on someone’s blog (unfortunately I can’t remember who), and the whole LAPD bicycle cop thing intrigued me.  I liked the insight into LA communities and politics, and appreciated the diversity portrayed in the book (for instance, differentiating between Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese-American as opposed to all Asian-Americans).  However, it got a bit too detailed at times – I suspect someone who’s familiar with the LA geography would appreciate the detail more.  I’ll probably pick up the next in the series at some point.

And I’ve just started BLITZING EMILY by Julie Brannagh (like the previous two, also a new-to-me author – maybe I should add that to my commute reading criteria?).  I found the beginning a bit slow-going and very much romance-by-numbers, but am continuing for now!

So that’s my newly-discovered joys on reading on the go – do you have any tricks when it comes to selecting reading material for your commutes?

A Few January Reads

I’m trying to keep to a every-Monday blogging schedule (bet no one noticed!), but I’ve to say that inspiration has really not struck today.

26036399The biggest book-related thought I have is wondering how I can fit in a Captive Prince re-read before the third and final book comes out next Tuesday – I am so excited about KINGS RISING.  Unfortunately, the conclusion is that I probably can’t, so I may have to hold off starting KINGS RISING until the weekend. #firstworldbookbloggerproblems

Recent reads have all been of the so-so variety… I just finished Jayne Ann Krentz‘s latest, SECRET SISTERS.  It was going pretty well… until it wasn’t.  Not wanting to spoil anyone who’s planning on reading it, but as reveal after reveal spilled out, I was left thinking ???!!!.  Let’s just say I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

I also finished Lisa Kleypas‘s COLD-HEARTED RAKE (can you get any more generic title-wise?).  Not one of her best historicals, IMO.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it while I was reading it, but two weeks later, I’m struggling to remember the details.  I think the h/h setup for the second book  was probably its strongest point.

Actually, I lie about the so-so reads.  I really loved Harper Fox‘s M/M romance MARTY AND THE PILOT (ignore the cover), and it may be one of my favourite reads of 2016 (if we’re allowed to start talking favourites this early!).  It’s on the shorter side of category romance, but had so much story packed in.  Fox has a gift for conveying setting so easily, plus there was chemistry a-plenty between the two protagonists, and really, all the feels.   There is a required suspension of disbelief about a pretty major plot point, but I was happy to go along with the flow because I was enjoying myself so much.

So that’s me for this week – tell me about your latest reads?