A Couple of Cover Reveals (and Links)

I will stop linking all the cover design articles at tor.com one day, promise.  Just not today.

AnAccidentOfStars-CoverHere’s a Julie Dillon cover for this upcoming novel by Foz Meadows. AN ACCIDENT OF STARS sounds really intriguing – one for my to-read list, I think:

When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.

There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl—an accidental worldwalker—really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

8-Sand_Malice_Front_Cover_FinalAnd I’ve not read any of Bradley P Beaulieu‘s books before, but enjoyed reading this post about the making of his cover for OF SAND AND MALICE MADE.  Love the title too (and have noted the Robin Hobb blurb!).  I think I’ve a book of his in my very large e-TBR pile, will have to dig it out now.

And in non-cover linkage:

April Reading…

For a book blogger, I don’t actually post that often on what I’m currently reading.  Which is weird, because I love reading posts about what other people are reading.  So here are some of my April reads so far:

20645592I’ve just finished Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES – yes, my “currently reading” book got bumped aside when this arrived on my Kindle on Monday.  Her New York Leopards NA series is an auto-buy for me, and this one didn’t disappoint – Abe and Tamar were charming, and there was more of both the NYC setting and football backdrop which made me fall in love with the series in the first place.  I do think Allison Parr’s prose veers towards the purple on occasion, but the emotional impact more than makes up for that.  However, I was frustrated by the handful of copy-editing errors in the text – both because I think Parr deserves better and also maybe I expect more from Carina Press?

15715406And oh!  Remember that list of my TBR books to read during 2014 that I posted a while back?  I am so pleased to say that I tackled the Susanna Kearsley that has been sitting on my shelves for years now.  And even better?  I loved THE SHADOWY HORSES – it was somehow so crazily romantic and yet quiet at the same time.  My favourite kind of romance.  I also really liked the archaeological details and the well-rounded secondary characters, plus I felt the touch of paranormal suited the story perfectly – and if you know me, I don’t often say that when the paranormal intrudes into my contemporary.  Obviously, I’m now making plans to get my hands on her extensive backlist.  I’ve also placed the Juliet Marillier book from that aforementioned list on my bedside table – buoyed by the success of the Kearsley read, I’m keen to dive into the Bridei Chronicles series.

1805295618335221To get my fix of historical romance, I’ve also read both the new Eloisa James (THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X) and Jo Beverley (A SHOCKING DELIGHT).  The Eloisa James started off slow, but once I got into it, the story really hit the right emotional buttons for me.  It’s ever so slightly OTT and (minor) misunderstandings abound, but I was in just the right mood for that kind of story.   And as I suspected (due to the blatant sequel bait), she’s just announced a follow-up – I’m totally up for it.  The Jo Beverley was less successful for me – it started off well, then started meandering around a bit too much in the middle and never quite recovered, plus there was a bit too indulgence Rogues-wise, even for a long-time reader like me.  Still, a decent read and I appreciated the less usual City of London and Devon settings.

What about you – tell me your current reads?

Books for April

Well.

I’m not quite sure where March went.  Or what I was doing.  Not much blogging, that’s for sure.  Not much reading either, I suspect.  Hopefully I break that streak in April.

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17404280Katherine Addison‘s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (fantasy): I know I was not the only one anticipating this new book from Katherine Addison a.k.a. Sarah Monette, but I was surprised by the flood of (positive) reviews and mentions for this book.  I’m about halfway through and *whispers* it’s kind of living up to the hype.

On a side note, I think the cover is perfect for the book: at first glance, you see a typical fantasy palace – look again, and you see Maia, the (half-)goblin emperor peering out cautiously.  So fitting.

A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Out now

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18006456Lynn Flewelling‘s SHARDS OF TIME (fantasy): I’ve a soft spot for this long-running fantasy series (the first book was out in 1996, according to Goodreads) – while I’ve found it uneven in places, I’ll be sad to see the end of the Nightrunner series.

Acclaimed author Lynn Flewelling brings her beloved Nightrunners series to a close—at least for now—with a thrilling novel of murder, mystery, and magic.

The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room. The sole witnesses to the crime—guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within—have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts . . . and things worse than ghosts.

Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want—and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec—who have died and returned to life—can step between the worlds and confront the killer . . . even if it means a second and all too permanent death.

Out now

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18335221Jo Beverley‘s A SHOCKING DELIGHT (historical romance): Jo Beverley is an autobuy author for me, and this is her latest Company of Rogues regency. ‘Nuff said.

The man she shouldn’t want. The woman he shouldn’t marry…

David Kerslake, smuggling master from The Dragon’s Bride, is now Earl of Wyvern and must survive the ton as well as the Preventive Officers.

Lucy Potter, daughter of a wealthy merchant, is more interested in trade than in the men after her dowry. When forced to have a London season, she sets out to enjoy herself rather than to find a husband. But once she meets the notorious Earl of Wyvern, her resolve weakens, and when they kiss, it dissolves—even though her instincts warn he’s dangerous.

Wyvern has a dark secret, which means he must win a rich bride. Lucinda Potter seems ideal. Not for her beauty and her lively charm, but because at first meeting she seems unlikely to realize the truth.

As he comes to know her, however, as they spar and kiss, he realizes she’s too clever and honest by far. Marrying Lucy would mean living a lie with the woman he has come to love…

Out now

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20645592Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES (NA romance): I loved Allison Parr’s writing almost from the first page of her debut, RUSH ME, so I’m really looking forward to reading the latest in her New York Leopards series.

Also worth noting is that Carina Press is going after the sports romance niche in their April 14 release week – so other books I’m eyeing are Rebecca Crowley‘s LOVE IN STRAIGHT SETS (obviously – it’s tennis!) and Kate Willoughby‘s ON THE SURFACE (hockey).  And I already have the first Kat Latham book (rugby) – just need the time to read it…

Side-note: Was 2013 the year New Adult officially became a proper genre?

Tamar Rosenfeld has been in love with New York Leopards linebacker Abraham Krasner since they were twelve years old. She’d always considered it destiny that they’d end up together…until Abe was drafted and she professed her feelings in a moment of blind excitement. The sting of his rejection was like nothing she’d ever felt before, and it’s nothing she’ll ever forget.

Older and wiser, Tamar has landed a dream job as a reporter for one of New York’s premier athletic websites. Determined to stop being the safe, boring girl she’s felt like for most of her life, Tamar makes a list of all the things she wants to do and see in her new city, and Getting Over Abraham is priority number one.

But destiny has finally chosen to interfere. Just as Tamar’s decided to move on, Abe’s realized she’s the only woman for him. When he confides the truth, Tamar has to decide if she can put her crush behind her, or take a chance on the very man who’s been holding her back all these years.

Out April 14

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18742420KA Mitchell‘s BAD INFLUENCE (m/m romance): Is it just me or has it been ages since the last KA Mitchell release?  She’s another autobuy of mine, so despite me not loving the previous books in this (loosely-related) series, I’m still buying.

The young man the world knew as Jordan Barnett is dead, killed as much by the rejection of his first love at his moment of greatest need, as by his ultra-conservative parents’ effort to deprogram the gay away.

In his place is Silver, a streetwise survivor who’s spent the last three years learning to become untouchable…unless you’re willing to pay for the privilege. He shies away from anything that might hold him down long enough for betrayal to find him again.

Zebediah Harris spent time overseas, trying to outrun the guilt of turning his back on the young man he loved. Now, almost the moment he sets foot back in Baltimore, he discovers Silver on a street corner in a bad part of town. His effort to make amends lands them both in jail.

Trapped together in a cell, Silver sits on his mountain of secrets and plans a seductive form of revenge, but finds that using a heart as a stepping stone is no way to move past the one man he can’t forgive, let alone forget.

Warning: Contains a surly hero. May cause angst. A prolonged delay in sexual situations may cause frustration. Author recommends a steady dose of familiar friends and characters to alleviate those symptoms. No actual teenagers were used during the construction of the backstory.

Out April 15

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20504851KJ CharlesNON-STOP TILL TOKYO (romantic suspense): KJ Charles is probably better known for her A Charm of Magpies series (that would be in the historical/paranormal/mystery/m/m romance sub-genre – not as much a niche as you’d think…), so this looks like a new direction for her.  Having loved her writing in those aforementioned books, I’m looking forward to reading this.

A man with a past is her only hope for the future.

Kerry Ekdahl’s mixed heritage and linguistics skills could have made her a corporate star. Instead, she’s a hostess in a high-end Tokyo bar, catering to businessmen who want conversation, translation and flirtation. Easy money, no stress. Life is good—until she’s framed for the murder of a yakuza boss.

Trapped in rural Japan with the gangsters closing in, Kerry doesn’t stand a chance. Then help arrives in the menacing form of Chanko, a Samoan-American ex-sumo wrestler with a bad attitude, a lot of secrets, and a mission she doesn’t understand.

Kerry doesn’t get involved with dangerous men. Then again, she’s never had one on her side before. And the big, taciturn fighter seems determined to save her life, even if they rub each other the wrong way.

Then her friends are threatened, and Kerry has no choice but to return to Tokyo and face the yakuza. Where she learns, too late, that the muscle man who’s got her back could be poised to stab it.

Out April 29

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Other April new releases I want to read, but probably via the library:

  • GAMES CREATURES PLAY, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner (urban fantasy): Their annual(?) anthology outing – a library book for me, as their previous anthologies tend to be more miss than hit for me.  But I still want to read the Mercedes Lackey, Seanan McGuire, and Brandon Sanderson contributions in this one.
  • Laini Taylor‘s DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS (YA fantasy): Despite the overwhelming love out there for this series, it’s never quite clicked for me.  I’ll still read this final book to find out how it all ends.

A (Partial) 2013 Survey + Looking Ahead to 2014

I managed to start off the year by accidentally marking all posts in my feed reader as read.  Whoops!  While it’s hopefully not an omen for the year ahead, it’s kind of refreshing to look at Feedly and think I’m completely up-to-date with everyone’s posts 😉

best-books-2013

Anyway, I’ve been seeing the 2013 End of Year Survey hosted by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner pop up around the internets.  I wanted to do it – I even started drafting the post, but then realised that most of the answers would be along the lines of Parr, Pacat, Doyle & MacDonald, Wells, Elliott, Cross, Ryan… rinse & repeat…

I’m serious.

And while I’d love to gush a bit more about how I loved all their books, it would make for a pretty boring post.  So I decided that I’m going to cheat a bit and only answer the questions where the answers WEREN’T any of those above.  I know.  I’m a rebel, right?

Here goes:


2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Well.

I feel like this is sort of a negative way to start off the post, but then again, I skipped question #1, which was Best Books You Read in 2013.  Serves me right.

I mentioned this in my annual wrap-up post, but most of the series books I was anticipating just didn’t hit it out of the park for me.  Not that they were letdowns or anything, but I WANTED MORE.

So while an answer could be most of them, that’s only because I had really high expectations for a lot of books (and to be fair, I marked most of them as 4 star reads on GR anyway).  However, one book that didn’t quite work for me was Sharon Lee & Steve’s Miller‘s TRADE SECRET, which was depressing because I’d been looking forward to a sequel to BALANCE OF TRADE for so long.  But I never connected with the main protagonist nor cared enough to follow the obscure-ish plot(s).  I eventually finished the book, but it was a bit of a drag.

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7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Elle Kennedy‘s HOTTER THAN EVER – I don’t think I’ve ever read a ménage à trois book before, but I was convinced by the Dear Author review.

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10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

13578466I love this Goodreads covers view of my 2013 books (even though I’m still in the process of listing all my 2013 reads).  I actually think most of the covers are fantastic, and there’s a real mix of styles – from retro to romantic, from atmospheric to just plain intriguing.

If I had to pick one (and obviously it would be one that I haven’t added to GR yet), it would probably be Sharon Shinn‘s ROYAL AIRS, and not just because the colours match my blog…  I love the ethereal feel, which contrasts quite nicely with that steely look of determination on Josetta’s face.

Jonathan Barkat was listed as the cover illustrator – I think he also did the cover for the previous book, TROUBLED WATERS.

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13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? and 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling

I grouped these two questions together as Elizabeth Wein‘s WWII novel ROSE UNDER FIRE would be the answer to both.  ROSE was hard-hitting and powerful in ways I didn’t anticipate, and I closed the book thinking “lest we forget”.  I’m glad she wrote it, and I’m glad I read it.

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19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

All my very favourite books for the year were from new-to-me authors, so here are two I haven’t mentioned yet: Anne Bishop‘s WRITTEN IN RED (not perfect and problematic in places, but it hit the right spot) and Andrea K Höst‘s HUNTING (added to the list of YA fantasies I’d recommend).

And to be honest, pretty much everything Ilona Andrews and Kelly Hunter released in 2013.

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25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Seanan McGuire‘s INDEXING was a very fun and imaginative take on fairytales – and I say that as someone who generally does not get on with fairytale retellings.  It was released as a Kindle serial in the US, but only in book form in the UK – while I grumbled about not having the weekly episodes, I’m glad I got to read the entire story in one go!

Speaking of serials, I did read John Scalzi‘s THE HUMAN DIVISION in serial form, and Episode #7, “The Dog King”, was hilarious.

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And looking ahead to 2014:

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

Ann Leckie‘s ANCILLARY JUSTICE – everyone and their mother appears to be loving this debut SF.  It’s on my Kindle now, so no excuses!

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2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?

What, just one?  Here are four:

A new Andrea K Höst hopefully, fingers crossed – though she’s said that she may not release anything during 2014.

The next New York Leopards book by Allison Parr (I swear I read somewhere it’s Abe’s book – I hope so!).  Oh, I’ve obviously lifted my moratorium on mentioning these authors for 2014 😉

Sarah Rees Brennan‘s TELL THE WIND AND FIRE is a YA fantasy retelling of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, which sounds incredibly fun.

And Anne Bishop‘s MURDER OF CROWS (the follow-up to WRITTEN IN RED) is due out in March.

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3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don’t really track debut authors, so I’m totally going to cheat and say Katherine Addison‘s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (April 2014).  This is Addison’s debut work, but it’s Sarah Monette writing under a new name.

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4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?

CS Pacat‘s conclusion to her Captive Prince trilogy – I’m really hoping this is a 2014 release.

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5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

Umm… the usual.  Post more, comment more, read more from that TBR mountain of mine…

2013: The Summary

Happy New Year!

Here’s my annual wrap-up post for 2013 (2012 summary for comparison) – it’s a long one, so settle in.

My Very Favourite Books of 2013

I’ve felt like this year hasn’t been a fantastic reading year for me in terms of keeper books, and looking back at the list of books I’ve read this year, the number of 5-star reads support that feeling – I’ve only had seven (compared to the usual ten or more) books on this list.  It’s a personal list and I’d be the first to admit that these aren’t necessarily technically perfect, but they’re the stories that just… work for me – I kind of wander around for a few days afterwards just thinking about the world and characters (please say I’m not the only one!).

Interesting (to me, anyway) things about this list

  • They’re all by new-to-me authors, so either my usual favourite authors didn’t wow me with their 2013 books or I had too high expectations for their releases – I suspect the actual answer’s somewhere between the two.
  • Three of them are for the final books in their respective series/trilogies – so if I’m being honest, the 5 stars are really for the series as a whole, as opposed to the book listed here.
  • I’m going old-school with this list – four out of the seven were released prior to 2013 (as you can probably tell by the some of the covers – love them!).

Enough rambling – here are my favourite books of 2013 (in the order in which I read them, more or less):

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Allison Parr‘s RUSH ME (new adult): I actually gave this 4 stars to start off with, but then (a) I kept on thinking about Rachael and Ryan and (b) did a re-read (I usually never do re-reads, much less in the same year), and loved their romance so much that I ended up bumping up my grade.  Escapism romance + messiness of first love/lust + NYC brought to life = keeper.

CS Pacat‘s CAPTIVE PRINCE Vols 1 and 2 (M/M fantasy romance): Listing both together, as they’re two halves of the same book, IMO, though it was really Volume 2 that elevated this series to one of my favourites of the year.  I’m excited that Berkley snapped up these self-pubbed books because it’s an amazing story and deserves a wider audience.  Although be warned, these books aren’t for everyone – they’re certainly trigger-y (at least, the first book is), but that incredibly intriguing Damen/Laurent relationship combined with court intrigue and politics took over my head for a few days, and I cannot wait to see where Volume 3 takes us.

Debra Doyle & James D MacDonald‘s BY HONOR BETRAY’D (SF): I had the first book in the Mageworlds series in my TBR pile forever, and finally got around to reading it – and then promptly glommed the rest of the trilogy.  I’ve a soft spot for space opera in general, but what elevated these books above the rest was the sheer twistiness of plot reveals.  Clever and excellent fun.

PB Ryan‘s A BUCKET OF ASHES (historical mystery): The first book transported me straight into 1860s Boston, and I was immediately hooked on not just the mysteries, but a slow-burning (and surely impossible) romance.  This sixth and final book was the culmination of the series-long romance arc – and PB Ryan totally delivered.

Julie Cross‘s LETTERS TO NOWHERE (YA): I was not expecting to enjoy this YA as much as I did.  The elite gymnastics aspect wasn’t just wallpaper – everything rang true, especially that positive yet competitive friendships which were portrayed to perfection.  Plus sweet romance and feelings that left a lump in your throat.

Kate Elliott‘s JARAN (SF): I’m not sure how I’ve not read this before, but I loved this old-school epic SF/fantasy hybrid, which was the first in the Jaran series.  Not just Tess & Ilya’s relationship (though that obviously kept me up late reading), but this whole foreign world came to life for me.

Martha Wells‘ THE GATE OF GODS (fantasy): This was the final book in her Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy and proved to be one of those unputdownable books for me.  It was the perfect ending to the series, and like JARAN, I was left wondering how I managed to miss out on these books earlier.

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New-to-Me Authors I’m Glad I Read in 2013

Apart from all of those listed above, here are the other new-to-me authors I enjoyed during the year:

SF/F

  • Ankaret Wells: Self-pubbed author, intriguing world-building but plotlines tend to wander on a bit
  • Helen S. Wright: Another old-school space opera gem – I thought A MATTER OF OATHS was lots of fun
  • Marko Kloos: Originally self-pubbed, his military SF novels will be published by Amazon’s 47North in 2014
  • Emma Bull: Only read a short story of hers, but liked it – her WAR FOR THE OAKS is meant to be a UF classic (and is in my TBR!)
  • Katriena Knights: Her UF NECROMANCING NIM was both fast-paced and sexy, and begs for a sequel

Romance

  • Elle Kennedy: Ménage stories are somewhat out of my comfort zone, but she sold me with HOTTER THAN EVER
  • Joanna Chambers: Historical M/M romance that felt authentic, which is a bit of a rarity
  • Alexis Hall: His M/M romance debut GLITTERLAND promises much to look forward to
  • KJ Charles: M/M romance in a historical fantasy setting – I’m looking forward to more in her A Charm of Magpies series

New Adult / Young Adult

  • Scarlett Dawn: I suspect her paranormal Forever Evermore series will be my new guilty pleasure in 2014
  • Diane Stanley: YA-veering-on-MG (or vice versa) fantasy, liked her Silver Bowl books, but thought there was potential for so much more
  • Sherry Thomas: Kind of surprised it took me this long to read one of her books – and also that it was a YA fantasy, not historical romance

Mystery

  • Ashley Gardner: Her Regency-set Captain Lacey series kept me pretty much occupied over October, which leads nicely on to…

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Author Most Glommed in 2013

Apart from the authors in my favourites list (I’m sounding like a broken record, sorry), I read my way through the first six of Ashley Gardner‘s historical mystery books – while these didn’t capture my imagination the way that PB Ryan’s series did, they were solid and showed a different side of London to the more usual glittering balls of the ton (and the first three are available in an e-bundle for £0.77  at the moment – you’re welcome).

I also read five Mary Baloghs (I know, I kept quiet about both of these authors over 2013, didn’t I?), prompted by the 2-in-1 reissues of her backlist.  I’m not yet a Balogh die-hard, but I’m starting to understand why her historical romances are favourites amongst so many readers.

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The Statistics

 


2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
# of books read 150 164 144 141 115
# published during current year 90 (60%) 78 (48%) 73 (51%) 77 (55%) 55 (48%)
# of authors read 100 103 91 88 71
# of new-to-me authors 41 (41%) 31 (30%) 26 (29%) 29 (33%) 22 (30%)
# of library books 14 (9%) 28 (17%) 24 (17%) 20 (14%) n/a
space space space space space space

I’m not surprised my total is down from 2012 – I thought it would be a lot lower, to be honest.  Yay for the number of new-to-me authors I branched out and read this year (and I was obviously rewarded for that, based on my lengthy list above of new-to-me authors I enjoyed) .

I was dreading the library books percentage – I pretty much stopped using my local library during the last quarter of the year.  But I think that was also driven by me reading more digital-only releases and from smaller/indie pubs – I tend to use my library for the higher-profile new releases in hardback (i.e. when I’m not entirely sure I want the book and I know the library will be ordering it), and there was fewer of these in 2013 for me.

Genre-wise, romance and fantasy pretty much made up two-thirds of what I read over 2013 (61 and 44 books respectively) – I suspect there was a fair few books that could fit into either though, bearing in mind they’re two of my favourite genres.

And finally, here’s how the year looked like for me:

2013

And that’s it (I’m glad I only write this once a year)!

I’m still in the process of adding all my 2013 reads onto Goodreads (I’m up to September at the moment), but the full 2013 list will be here once I’m done.

Recent (Re)Reads

I realise my blog posts tend to either focus on either upcoming releases or what I read ages ago.  There is some method to my madness – the former helps me track what books I want to buy (or have bought!), and the latter is a way of me getting my Goodreads notes onto my blog (and I figure that there’s not much overlap between my GR friends and blog readers, so well).

Anyway – just to shake things up a bit, here’s what I’ve been reading (or re-reading) recently:

367333Martha WellsThe Fall of Ile-Rien books – I’ve been meaning to read this fantasy trilogy for ages (prompted by Estara‘s recs – or at least, I associate my interest in Martha Wells’ writing with Estara!), and finally got around to them a while back.  I pretty much finished all three in a couple of days – that was how much I was caught up in the story.  Strong worldbuilding + engaging characters + subtle romance = my kind of fantasy, basically.  I think it helped that I had read DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER some time back as it gave me a bit more investment in the characters (same world, but about a generation earlier). I still have one more Ile-Rien book to read (THE ELEMENT OF FIRE) – this is set much earlier than the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, I think, so I’m taking a bit of a break before reading that.

18141373I used to be a massive re-reader (as evidenced by the well-loved books on my bookshelves – and yes, well-loved is a euphemism), but not so much in recent years – I blame that on the fact there are SO MANY new-to-me books out there to read.  But I re-read Allison Parr‘s RUSH ME recently (prompted by finishing her new release RUNNING BACK).  I liked RUSH ME the first time around – I liked it even better on the re-read and bumped up my GR rating to 5 stars.  It’s the escapism elements offset by the grounded feel of Rachael/Ryan’s relationship (contradictory, much?) which really works for me. I liked RUNNING BACK as well, but not as much – thought there was great chemistry between Natalie & Mike, and believed in their romance, but the ending felt a bit overdone and I didn’t care for the epilogue. Plus some poor copy-editing annoyed me (enough that I actually jotted down “missing ponytail?!!” – and I rarely do that!).  Allison Parr is firmly on my autobuy list, though – she makes the New Adult genre work for me, and I’m really looking forward to her third book in this series (due out next year, IIRC).

6084532I’m currently re-reading Josh Lanyon‘s Adrien English mysteries – I don’t think I’ve read these since the last book came out in 2009, and so it’s really feeling new to me again. The AE books were the ones that made Josh Lanyon’s works autobuys for me, and this re-read is reminding me of exactly why that was the case.  I have to say that the mystery plots are stronger than I had remembered (I was possibly distracted by that romance arc) and I had forgotten how messed up both Jake and (to a lesser extent) Adrien were, especially in the earlier books.  But I’m just as caught up in the ups-and-downs of Adrien/Jake’s relationship as I was when I first read these books, and can safely say that Lanyon’s writing still stands out in the crowded M/M romance marketplace nowadays.

Next on my list to re-read is Andrea K Höst‘s MEDAIR, I think, or possibly her CHAMPION OF THE ROSE in advance of BONES OF THE FAIR (which has a Nov 30 release date on Goodreads!).

So – mostly older books here and re-reads.  I’m quite liking this re-reading phase of mine (though part of me is screaming “what about those new releases?!”) – do you re-read much?

Books for October

So many October new releases… seriously.

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12528745Karen Chance‘s TEMPT THE STARS (urban fantasy): A new Cassie Palmer!  It’s only been, oh, two years or so since the last one, although we did get a Dory book to tide us over.  I may need a bit of a refresher as to what’s been happening, but a new installment in one of my favourite UF series always makes me happy.

Being a goddess is a lot less fun than you might think. Especially when you’re only a half goddess, and you only found out about it recently, and you still don’t know what you’re doing half the time. And when you’ve just used your not-so-reliable powers to burglarize the booby-trapped office of a vampire mob boss.

Yeah, that part sucks.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Cassandra Palmer, aka the Pythia, the freshly minted chief seer of the supernatural world. After all, Cassie still has to save a friend from a fate worse than death, deal with an increasingly possessive master vampire, and prevent a party of her own acolytes from unleashing a storm of fury upon the world. Totally just your average day at the office, right?

Out Oct 1

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17340100Jacqueline Carey‘s AUTUMN BONES (urban fantasy): I’m a fan of Jacqueline Carey’s writing and enjoyed the first in this series (though I now take back what I said about Norse mythology being uncommon!).  Fingers crossed that the love triangle thing is not played up in this book.

Fathered by an incubus, raised by a mortal mother, and liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, Daisy Johanssen pulled the community together after a summer tragedy befell the resort town she calls home. Things are back to normal—as normal as it gets for a town famous for its supernatural tourism, and presided over by the reclusive Norse goddess Hel.

Not only has Daisy now gained respect as Hel’s enforcer, she’s dating Sinclair Palmer, a nice, seemingly normal human guy. Not too shabby for the daughter of a demon. Unfortunately, Sinclair has a secret. And it’s a big one.

He’s descended from Obeah sorcerers and they want him back. If he doesn’t return to Jamaica to take up his rightful role in the family, they’ll unleash spirit magic that could have dire consequences for the town. It’s Daisy’s job to stop it, and she’s going to need a lot of help. But time is running out, the dead are growing restless, and one mistake could cost Daisy everything

Out Oct 1

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16102412Diana Peterfreund‘s ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA (YA fantasy): The companion book, FOR DARKNESS SHOWED THE STARS, was one of my standout reads of 2012, so I’m looking forward to revisiting Elliot’s world and reading Diana Peterfreund’s re-interpretation of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL.  Speaking of which, I’ve never read it, though I’m pretty sure I downloaded a (public domain – free!) copy a while back – hmmm… to read or not to read?

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.

Out Oct 15

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18141373Allison Parr‘s RUNNING BACK (NA): Remember when I had a bit of a fangirl-y moment earlier this year about Allison Parr’s debut RUSH ME? Yes, me too.  Companion book alert, and this sounds promising.

Natalie Sullivan is on the verge of a breakthrough most archaeology grad students only dream of: discovering a lost city. Her research points to a farm in Ireland, but to excavate she needs permission from the new owner: the Michael O’Connor, popular NFL running back.

On TV Mike seems so charming and good-natured that Natalie figures getting his cooperation will be a breeze. So she’s not prepared to deal with the arrogant—and adamantly opposed—man she meets in person. Or the way one look from him sends shivers down her spine…

Determined to kick-start her career, Natalie travels across the Atlantic and finds herself sharing an inn with Mike, who has come to Ireland in search of his roots. She tells herself her interest is strictly professional, but the more she gets to know him, the harder it is to deny her personal attraction to the sexy sports star. And when Mike confides why he refuses to allow the dig, Natalie must decide if she can follow her heart without losing sight of her dreams.

Out Oct 21

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17900241Kelly Hunter‘s WHAT THE BRIDE DIDN’T KNOW (contemporary romance): Okay, sneaking this in as this is technically a November release – but Harlequin will release the ebook version on its site on 1 Oct.

Shh…it’s a secret!

Special ops expert Trig Sinclair is a man’s man, and that means he knows the cardinal rule of the bro code—no matter how dynamite Lena West is, as his best friend’s younger sister, she’s strictly off-limits!

But when a secret mission to Istanbul sees Lena and Trig pretending to be married (and sharing a bed!), he finds himself in a whole new world of sweet torture. But if Trig thinks playing the honor-bound hero is tough, it’s got nothing on how Lena feels when she discovers what her “groom” is really hiding…

Out Nov 1 (but Oct 1 on the Harlequin site)

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And that’s not all – other books I’m eyeing:

  • Julia Quinn‘s THE SUM OF ALL KISSES (historical romance): I still have the second Smythe-Smith book in my TBR pile, but Quinn is a safe bet for when I’m in the mood for a fun and witty romance, so I’ll probably end up getting this third book sooner rather than later
  • Diane Stanley‘s THE CUP AND THE CROWN (YA fantasy): The first book, THE SILVER BOWL, was one of those books that left me smiling, but I’ve actually been practising my self-restraint for a change and waiting for the second book to be released in paperback.  Which it will be on Oct 1.
  • Mary Kay AndrewsCHRISTMAS BLISS (contemporary romance): Is October too early for a Christmas story?  I may save this for a December read…
  • AD Robertson‘s CAPTIVE (romance): I received a review copy, so you’ll be reading more about this soon, but this is YA author Andrea Cremer writing under a different name – same world as her YA books, but with the “steamier” bits included apparently.  Is this a trend?

Mini-Linkage + Surprise Encounter

There are lots of adverts on the Underground, which I tend to ignore (head buried in my newspaper/e-reader/random reading material) – imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw this:

CNV

CNV2

I’m obviously talking about the huge CODE NAME VERITY poster on the right, though it’s nice to see other books getting some love – here’s another pic (apologies for my lack of camera phone skills – click for larger versions).  I didn’t recognise the new paperback cover at first, but I quite like it – shouts historical fiction, doesn’t it?  Also note the last quote is from Ana @ Things Mean a Lot‘s review of CODE NAME VERITY – very cool.

FYI the Kindle version of CNV is £1.09 on Amazon UK right now if you’re interested – and the companion book ROSE UNDER FIRE has just been released (in the UK).

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Sarah Rees Brennan posts Part 1 of a free short story “The Turn of the Story” (I think, not entirely sure as to the title – it’s a belated Christmas present!) – I cannot wait for Part 2.  You know any story that starts with the following sentence has to be good:

So far magic school was total rubbish.

And it is.  It’s all kinds of SRB goodness, alternating between subversive humour and laugh-out-loud funny.

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17203923Angie posted her review of Allison Parr‘s NA debut RUSH ME and explains exactly why it’s a good one (apart from the fact there is much swoon).  I’m slightly relieved as I did recommend the book strongly – yes, I do the “hate the book, not the recommender” mantra (the book-ish version of “don’t shoot the messenger”?), but let’s face it, it’s so much BETTER when other people get exactly why the book worked for you too.

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I found Judith Tarr‘s Escaping Stockholm post @ CE Murphy‘s website interesting, although it’s primarily aimed at writers – she talks about the changes in the publishing industry since the early 80s based on her personal experience.  It’s fascinating how much the agent/publisher/author dynamic has changed over the past few decades – and will probably continue to evolve rapidly over the next few years.

A Tale of Two NAs: Allison Parr’s RUSH ME and Erin McCarthy’s TRUE

I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular fan of New Adult books – I like (and occasionally love) the odd NA, but don’t search them out specifically. But I somehow ended up reading two NAs back-to-back: Allison Parr‘s RUSH ME and Erin McCarthy‘s TRUE.

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17203923So first, the Allison Parr: RUSH ME was an impulse buy, primarily because it’s currently priced at $2.69 at Carina Press.  For that price, I’m certainly willing to give a debut author a shot.  And I was glad, because it ended up being one of those compulsively readable books that kept me up for way too late.

When post-grad Rachael Hamilton accidentally gate-crashes a pro-athlete party, she ends up face-to-face with Ryan Carter, the NFL’s most beloved quarterback.

While most girls would be thrilled to meet the attractive young millionaire, Rachael would rather spend time with books than at sporting events, and she has more important things to worry about than romance. Like her parents pressuring her to leave her unpaid publishing internship for law school.

But when Ryan’s rookie teammate attaches himself to Rachael, she ends up cohosting Friday-night dinners for half a dozen football players.

Over pancake brunches, charity galas and Alexander the Great, Rachael realizes all the judgments she’d made about Ryan are wrong. But how can a Midwestern Irish-Catholic jock with commitment problems and an artsy, gun-shy Jewish New Englander ever forge a partnership? Rachael must let down her barriers if she wants real love–even if that opens her up to pain that could send her back into her emotional shell forever.

I loved it, but I can totally see how opinions may be all over the place and this Dear Author review is an alternative take on the book. What works for me, I think, is the escapism aspect in this story (which is very similar to Tammara Webber’s Between The Lines series, so that may be my weak spot), which means that it feels perfectly possible that the girl-next-door gets together with an NFL quarterback.  You do have to take the plotline with a pinch of salt – I mean, Rachael accidentally gate-crashing an NFL party? And then becoming BFFs with Ryan’s teammate? Definitely requires a suspension of disbelief, but I went along with it.

What I really liked was Allison Parr’s voice – it’s self-ironic and aware. Rachael is abrasive from the start (and to be fair, Ryan doesn’t exactly shower himself in glory either), but I understood where she was coming from and that self-defence mechanism of hers.  I also liked that this story felt real (I know, that kind of contradicts my escapism point, but stay with me) – the characters are far from perfect, there’s lust-not-love-at-first-sight and morning-after regrets, but the story’s laced with humour and spark, there’s some growing up being done, and yes, romance.

There were various elements that brought the story to life for me, including the strong sense of place in this book – I really liked Rachael’s NYC.  I also enjoyed the fact that sports played a large part in this book (disclaimer – I know next to nothing about American football and a true sports fan may just be cringing in horror), and how Rachael’s Jewish heritage was portrayed – again, it felt real, not perfect.  And as Rachael’s struggling to find her feet in publishing, we got a peek into the industry (though some potential sequel/prequel bait there felt strangely out of place).

I ended the book really rooting for Rachael and Ryan’s relationship – I’m not entirely sure they’ll have a HEA, but it’s definitely a HFN. They’re both in a much better place from where they started, and really, isn’t that what a satisfying story is all about?

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17332551Next  up was Erin McCarthy’s TRUE (and I keep on wanting to call it EASY – I obviously can’t differentiate between one-word titles) – this came to my attention after its giveaway at Dear Author triggered the extremely vocal thread on DA’s new commenting policy.  Which goes to show no publicity is bad publicity, right?  I then saw the ARC offered on NetGalley, and decided to give it a go.

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.

Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…

Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…

Erin McCarthy is not a new-to-me author but I’ve only read her contemporary adult romances – I’ve really liked her earlier Fast Track books, but ended up feeling fairly indifferent about the more recent ones. Unfortunately, TRUE fell into the latter category for me.  It is kind of unfair for me to compare TRUE to RUSH ME because apart from the NA label, they’ve not much in common.  TRUE is more of a straight romance, while although RUSH ME has a romance at the core, I felt that it was also a coming-of-age story for Rachael, which adds a bit more dimension.

The start of TRUE intrigued me – the setup was in place to see Rory grow up, from feeling like the odd one out to becoming confident in her own skin.  In the end, I thought there were mixed results – there were moments where I did connect with Rory, understood her attraction to Tyler and empathised with her struggle between the safety of the familiar and the unknown.

But at other times, well, I struggled.

I alluded to RUSH ME feeling real, and I felt that this was missing here.  Not just the sense of place – this could have been ANother University campus for all I knew, but also other niggling bits.  For instance, Tyler’s smoking – controversial for a romance protagonist (and this is a romance).  BUT.  Tyler smokes all the time, but it never really came off as real – his habit felt like it was a shortcut (a) to signal he was not a typical “good guy”, i.e. that Rory was playing with fire and (b) for Rory to realise when he was feeling awkward (and react accordingly).  The actual implications of making out with someone who smokes, the constant smell of smoke, the taste – all of that was missing or glossed over.

Also, Rory’s friends – she’s best friends with her roommates.  Or so the book says.  To me, they were there just to trigger certain plot points – I never got the “why” behind their friendships.  I did like Rory’s relationship with her dad’s girlfriend though – for some reason, that slightly-awkward relationship intrigued me the most, probably because it came across as realistic and also matured over the course of the book.

And finally, the resolution – or lack of.  The ending came across as abrupt and I closed the book feeling that no real resolution had been reached anywhere, not in Rory’s relationship with Tyler, or her dad, or even with her roommates.  There is a sequel centering around two of the secondary characters, so it may be that Rory and Tyler’s story is not over yet.

TRUE certainly kept me entertained for a couple of hours, but at the end of the day, I never felt invested in the characters and I’m on the fence as to whether I’d pick up the next book.

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I purchased RUSH ME from the publisher’s site. TRUE was an ARC courtesy of the publisher/NetGalley.