Book Randomness

October is flying past for me. In fact, all of 2016 appears to be progressing at 2x speed – anyone else feel that way?

I’ve sat down several times to try and compose a blog post, but have given up on anything coherent.  So here’s a random set of book-ish thoughts for today:

akh1) An Andrea K Höst new release!  Seeing her post about The Towers, the Moon pop up today was a pleasant surprise – I love her writing, and let’s face it, a set of short stories sounds about my speed lately.

2) Having said that, a new book want – Angie’s post about Beth Brower‘s THE Q made me want to run out and buy it immediately.

3) Old news, but I am loving Neil Gaiman‘s retro cover re-dos.  STARDUST especially!  I have such a soft spot for those old-school covers.

4) And finally, anyone on Litsy?  I joined after Chachic posted about the Android release (I’m meandmybooks), but I’m struggling.  Most of my reading is done on my Kindle, and I figure there’s only so many “arty” shots I can do.

Here’s my first (and only) Litsy contribution…  (also my reading list as of a week or so ago)litsy

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Books for February

It’s (barely) the second week of February, and I have done so much re-reading already.  I’m not a massive re-reader (I seem to have grown out of the habit over the years, as my teenage bookshelves are filled with much-loved and dog-eared paperbacks), but I made an exception for two sequels out this month.

26036399CS Pacat’s KINGS RISING (fantasy M/M romance): I don’t have words to describe how much I was looking forward to the final book in the Captive Prince trilogy.  And I don’t have words to describe how much I loved this book.

A lot of my spare time over the past week was spent re-reading the previous two books (possibly multiple re-reads *clears throat*) in advance of KINGS RISING’s release, and I’m still all about Damen and Laurent and Akielos and Vere right now.  I’ve labelled the subgenre as fantasy romance, but that bland label doesn’t even begin to hint at the political intrigue, the slow unexpected reveals, and the sheer levels of tension (both sexual and otherwise) in these books.  KINGS RISING is the perfect ending to one of my favourite trilogies ever, I think.

Damianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity – can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?

Out now

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Layout 1Lois McMaster Bujold’s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN (SF): It’s a good thing the e-ARC for this was released back in November, or I’d have really struggled choosing the first February release to read this month.  Despite having the e-version, I’ve splashed out and ordered the signed hardback book as well, because, well, Bujold.

Note SPOILERS in blurb for previous book, which was published four years ago, so I’m guessing the statute of limitations has expired…

Three years after her famous husband’s death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to spin her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in her web of plans in ways he’d never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his life.

Meanwhile, Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor’s key investigators, this time dispatches himself on a mission of inquiry, into a mystery he never anticipated; his own mother.

Plans, wills, and expectations collide in this sparkling science-fiction social comedy, as the impact of galactic technology on the range of the possible changes all the old rules, and Miles learns that not only is the future not what he expects, neither is the past.

Out now

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10493755Andrea K Höst’s THE SLEEPING LIFE (fantasy): The reason for the other re-read I’ve done this month.  I am a huge fan of Höst’s writing (understatement alert), and having a new book of hers this month is such a treat.  So obviously, I had to re-read the first Eferum book, STAINED GLASS MONSTERS, in preparation for this release – that was so not a hardship, and I’m kind of tempted to re-read her whole backlist now. 2016 is shaping up to be the year of the re-read for me!

(Oh, and TSL was definitely worth the wait.  What I love about Höst’s books is that her stories always feel fresh and new, and TSL was no exception.  It was interesting to see the aftermath of the events in the first book (both personal and on a larger scale), I enjoyed spending more time with the protagonists in the first book (and meeting new and fascinating characters), and although SGM is a self-contained story, I loved how Höst took the remaining plot strands and spun them neatly into a follow-up.  Really, this was one of the best ways to spend a Sunday.)

Also, 50% off both Eferum books @ Smashwords until 14 February using the coupon codes here.

Fallon DeVries has a sister who lives only in his mind. Paying the price of magic gone wrong, Aurienne is trapped watching a world she cannot touch, only able to communicate with her brother while he sleeps.

And it’s slowly killing him.

Fallon and Auri’s best chance of untangling their lives is to win the help of a mage of unparalleled ability. But how can they ask for help when the warped spell prevents him from speaking?

Besides, Rennyn Claire – once the most powerful mage in the world – is a shadow of her former self: ill, injured and unlikely to recover unless she can hunt down the monster who once tried to make her his slave. But that Wicked Uncle is nowhere to be found, and other dangers, once slumbering dormant, are stirring…

Out now

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27069828Jen Frederick’s JOCKBLOCKED (NA romance): Despite my general lack of sportiness, I love reading sports romances – possibly because characters come to life for me when I can believe that they have passions and interests outside the actual relationship, if that makes sense, and having sports as a backdrop can do the trick.  This was the case with the first Frederick I read, so am looking forward to the second in the series even though I know nothing about American football.

She’s always played it safe…

College junior Lucy Washington abides by one rule—avoid risk at all costs. She’s cautious in every aspect of her life, from her health, to her mock trial team, to the boring guys she dates. When a brash, gorgeous jock walks into the campus coffeeshop and turns his flirt on, Lucy is stunned by the force of attraction. For the first time ever, she’s willing to step out of her comfort zone, but can she really trust the guy who’s determined to sweep her off her feet?

He’s always played around…

Entering his last year of college eligibility, linebacker Matthew “Matty” Iverson has the team captaincy in his sights. And it’s his for the taking, if he can convince his quarterback Ace Anderson to give up the starting position. Luckily, Matty already has an edge—the hottie he’s lusting over just happens to be Ace’s childhood best friend. Getting Lucy on his side and in his bed? Hell yeah. Matty is more than confident he can have both, but when he falls hard for Lucy, it’s time for a new game plan: convince the woman of his dreams that she’s not sleeping with the enemy.

Out Feb 11

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28101707KA Mitchell’s GETTING HIM BACK (NA M/M romance): Possibly KA Mitchell’s first NA?  Though her protagonists tend to skew on the younger side, IIRC.  I usually like her writing, so I’m definitely grabbing this one.  This may be on the short side for a novel though, possibly novella-length.

An unexpected fresh start leads to an unlikely-but-absolutely-perfect pairing in this male/male new-adult novel from bestselling gay romance author K.A. Mitchell

Ethan may have followed his high school sweetheart to college only to get dumped his first day there, but he’s not going to let that stop him from exploring all his new life has to offer. Sex-only hookups, his photography, new friends and a campus-wide game of zombies vs humans all help keep his mind off his broken heart and move him toward building a new, better life without his ex.

And then there’s Wyatt. Mysterious, grouchy—hot. And possibly not gay. But Ethan’s not going to let that stand in the way of figuring out what makes Wyatt tick. New college goal? Get Wyatt into bed and into Ethan’s life.

Step one: arrange a “tutoring” date. Step two: “accidentally” bump into Wyatt as often as possible. Step three: explore the sexy body under that ever-present hoodie. And when their friendship deepens into something neither of them expect, convince Wyatt he’s not just a pity fling or a one-time hookup, but that Ethan is in it for the long haul.

Out Feb 15

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15816410Kalayna Price’s GRAVE VISIONS (UF): The last book in the Alex Craft series came out in 2012, so “much-anticipated” is definitely the right word for this fourth installment.  I was enjoying this UF series a lot, so I’m glad to see GRAVE VISIONS finally make it to print.

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price is the much-anticipated fourth installment in the kick-ass urban fantasy series about Alex Craft, a grave witch who can communicate with the dead.

If you want to hear voices from the dead in Nekros City, you call Alex Craft. She’s a Grave Witch with reasonable rates and extraordinary powers, who specializes in revealing the secrets of the dead. But now she’s the one fighting to keep her own secret. She’s not human—and her newly discovered heritage is causing havoc for her both in the human realm and in Faerie. But her status as an unaffiliated fae also makes her an ideal candidate to investigate a new street drug that has surfaced in several of the spaces between the human and fae worlds.

This glamour-infused drug causes hallucinations that turn real—at least for a while and often with deadly consequences. Searching for the source of this drug—and its purpose—lands Alex front and center in the conflict brewing in Faerie and she must find answers before she’s dragged so deep she loses her freedom.

Out Feb 25 in the UK (out now in the US, I believe)

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And then my maybe (or almost definitely) books – quite a few this month:

  • Kirsty Eagar’s SUMMER SKIN (NA): Only a maybe because of the difficulty in getting Aussie books over here. I really enjoyed her RAW BLUE when I read it back in 2011; SUMMER SKIN sounds just as good.
  • Jacey Bedford’s WINTERWOOD (fantasy): I’ve not read any of Jacey Bedford’s books before (she’s written a couple of SFs, which I’ve been meaning to pick up at some point), but this historical fantasy with a cross-dressing heroine sounds rather fun.
  • Megan Erikson and Santino Hassell’s STRONG SIGNAL (M/M contemporary romance): I’ve heard nothing but good things about Hassell’s writing, and have liked the Erikson NA books that I’ve read.
  • Brandon Sanderson’s CALAMITY (YA fantasy): Sanderson’s YA books are always good for a couple of hours’ entertainment, though I’ll probably get this from the library as I’ve liked but not loved the previous books in this series.
  • Shannon Stacey’s FULLY IGNITED (contemporary romance): I’ve enjoyed the previous books in Stacey’s Boston firefighters series, so I’ll end up buying this at some point.  And I’ve just realised this is Scott’s story, which means “at some point” is sooner rather than later…
  • JL Merrow’s LOVERS LEAP (M/M contemporary romance): Merrow’s books are always so British in feel and have a good dollop of humour to go with the story.  I’m only hesitating over this one as it’s being published by Riptide Publishing, and their prices tend to be higher than other publishers.
  • Rosie Claverton’s CAPTCHA THIEF (mystery): Claverton appears to have had a switch of publishers for this one (the previous two books were published by Carina Press).  I need to finish the second book, but will be getting this at some point.

Random Links (and a Pretty Cover)

How in the world is it June already?  Though to be fair – I’m still wearing my winter(!) coat, so it doesn’t actually feel like summer right now.

Right, obligatory weather update done – here are a few links…

TanglewaysAndrea K Höst posted a new Julie Dillon cover – TANGLEWAYS (the sequel to her alternate-history fantasy THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON) is out next year. Pretty.

Everyone’s heard about John Scalzi and his $3.4m 13-book 10-year deal, right?  I found this interview with him at the Washington Post a fairly comprehensive read (in addition to the posts on his own blog) – apart from the deal, he touches upon the outcome of the digital publishing experiment where he released one of his books as an e-serial last year.

One of the things that we saw is that it didn’t really have an effect on the sales of the hardcover that we could see. […] So what we actually found, we sold hundreds of thousands of individual copies of the episodes of “The Human Division.” And then when the book came out, the book sold exactly in line with previous “Old Man’s War” books. So we didn’t lose any readers. We didn’t cannibalize our readership in any significant way as far as we could see. So that was a really useful insight: There are distinct markets if you take the time to address them.

When the deal was announced, there was some talk about his backlist sales being consistently strong even if he’s never been been a #1 bestseller – i.e. when people discover his books, they tend to buy his entire backlist.  I’m more on the fence on this – while I’ve enjoyed reading his SF novels, I’ve never felt the need to read every single book he’s written.  I feel that way about several other authors – I read one of their books, wonder why I’ve not read more of their backlist, and then never actually bother to get any other books of theirs…

Spoilers for Sarah Rees Brennan‘s THE DEMON’S LEXICON (though it came out in 2009, so I’m assuming the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired? Right?) – she talks about Nick’s gender and sexuality at her Tumblr.  Interesting stuff.

And Rachel Aaron talks about her RT convention experience as a non-romance author.  Maybe I’m not reading the right blogs (or following the right people on Twitter!), but I didn’t really feel as much RT buzz as I have in previous years.  Which is kind of good, because I’d usually be dying of envy.  Any good RT recaps, anyone?

 

Andrea K Höst’s THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON

12390040I’m a diehard AKH fan, but I admit to feeling a bit nervous about her latest book THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON when I first read the blurb – talk about everything and the kitchen sink…

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt’s vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia’s fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome’s automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the New Republic’s supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia’s Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.

With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton makers, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric’s sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.

But I needn’t have worried.  Although it’s the kind of book that drops you in the middle of the action, and trusts you to work out the details for yourself (my favourite!), it was never overwhelming, and everything fell into place fairly quickly – yes, vampires, pyramids, airships, and well, everything else somehow worked together in this incredibly inventive alternate-history setting.  And characterisation or story isn’t sacrificed for world-building either.

PYRAMIDS features what I’m starting to think of as trademark Höst – strong female protagonists, a diverse cast of characters, and as bonus, a narrative that subtly challenges gender assumptions*.  Or at least, it challenged mine – specifically, I liked how it made me think about how often I unconsciously default to assuming male for certain occupations.

Story-wise, I was caught up from the start – we begin in the POV of Rian (or Arianne), who’s trying to investigate her brother and his wife’s deaths by infiltrating a vampire’s household (though not vampires as we know them…), but her plans rapidly goes awry.  Massively awry.  The other POV character is Eluned, Rian’s orphaned niece, who, together with her siblings, is determined to gain justice for her parents, while coping with the upheaval of being sent to live with an hitherto-unknown aunt.  The plot is a complicated one (one could even say painfully complicated at times), but it all comes together satisfyingly in the end.

I’m of two minds around the use of dual POVs – my main objection is along the lines of “I love Rian! I don’t want to switch to Eluned’s POV… oh heck, I love Eluned, I don’t want to go back to Rian”.  But I also enjoyed seeing the characters from different perspectives – Höst tends to write stiff upper-lip kind of characters (you can tell she hits all my buttons, right?), so this was an interesting way of seeing behind the facade, so to speak.

I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in this book, because a large part of my enjoyment came from not knowing how the story would unfurl as it takes several unexpected directions.  All I’ll say is that I’m glad this is the start of a series, because it feels as though there’s so many more stories for Höst to tell in this world – and I want to know what happens next.

Disclosure: I’ve exchanged the (very) occasional tweet with the author.  I bought this book pretty much as soon as it hit the virtual shelves.  I don’t generally state when I’ve bought a book (basically, if I don’t say it’s a review copy, assume I bought it with my own money or borrowed from the library), but I thought it was worth mentioning again.

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*I wrote this review when the whole Hugos controversy kicked off – to me, the (simplified) SP slate argument appears to be that “we want good stories, not books that push an agenda, and that’s why we’re doing this”.  My view is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but there’s no need for me to write an essay on this when there are a whole load of blog posts on this topic (with accompanying screeds of comments, finger-pointing, personal insults etc).  But one comment that really stood out to me was Marie Brennan’s contribution @ John Scalzi’s blog:

[…]

“Heavy-handed” is often shorthand “politics I don’t agree with, which therefore draw my attention.”

Politics you don’t notice in a story are the water you swim in, the air you breathe: they’re still there. You just don’t notice them because you take them as the natural state of the world.

Politics absolutely permeate stories, at every level of their creation *and* reception. Because “politics” are not just a matter of what you vote on at the ballot box, but what values you hold, what rights you take for granted, which fights you think are heroic and which are foolhardy, who makes a good protagonist and who a suitable villain. Saying you are just evaluating the “quality” of a story, or how much you “enjoyed” it, as if that were completely divorced from the extent to which it supports or challenges your assumptions about the world, is either massively disingenuous or massively lacking in self-awareness.

Which, apart from it being an incredibly sensible comment, struck me as very apt for my experience reading PYRAMIDS.  The emphasis on female characters stood out for me because it was different to other books.  PYRAMIDS isn’t what I’d class as a “message” book at all, but I liked that it made me think a bit more.

Books for February

There is something rather uplifting about leaving work when it’s still light outside.  (I’m pretending the freezing temperatures don’t exist.)  It’s felt like a very long dark gloomy January, and even the tiniest signs of spring cheer me up. So yay for a new month… and of course, new releases.

Here are the ones for February that have caught my attention:

22162129Kate Elliott‘s THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOT short story collection (fantasy): I’m slowly making my way through Kate Elliott’s backlist (JARAN has been my favourite so far), and this one sounds like a must-read.

Also, the 10/10 review by Ana @ The Book Smugglers didn’t hurt.

Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (“Crown of Stars,” “Crossroads”). Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends.

In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.

Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

Out Feb 10

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23524359Amy Bai‘s SWORD (YA fantasy): I admit it was the cover that made me take a second look, but the back cover blurb makes this book sound right up my alley.  Debut novel, I think.

Sword shall guide the hands of men . . .

For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.

For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.

Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her–politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world–and her closest friends–fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.

Out Feb 10

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22885333KJ Charles‘s JACKDAW (M/M paranormal romance): KJ Charles is an autobuy author for me – I love how she gets the balance between romance and conflict just right, regardless of whether she’s doing historical, contemporary, or paranormal. Plus I’m guessing we get to see the protagonists of her Charm of Magpie series from a different perspective in this book.

If you stop running, you fall.

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Warning: Contains a policeman who should know better, a thief who may never learn, Victorian morals, heated encounters, and a very annoyed Stephen Day.

Out Feb 17

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12390040Andrea K. Höst‘s THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON (fantasy): I really don’t want to get my hopes up, but this has a release date of Feb 28 on Goodreads.  Another auto-buy author for me, if you hadn’t figured that out already.

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt’s vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia’s fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome’s automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the Imperium’s supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia’s Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.

With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton crafters, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric’s sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.

Out Feb 28 (fingers and everything else crossed)

And then the possible buys

  • Elizabeth Harmon‘s PAIRING OFF (contemporary romance): Remember when I mentioned my fondness for sports romances?  Here’s one featuring figure-skating Olympians by a new-to-me author. I’m tempted.
  • Viv DanielsISLAND BORN (NA romance): I’ve the (free) prequel ISLAND ESCAPE still sitting unread on my Kindle, so I’m holding off until I’ve read that. Also, it’s a series of four books – I’ve no idea how they link together and want to avoid cliffhangers if any…

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…

Post-Christmas Linkage

For those of you who celebrated Christmas, I hope you had a wonderfully festive time with friends and family.

I love this period between Christmas and New Year – it always struck me as a quiet (and much-needed) lull before the year starts in earnest.  I’m usually still off work (using up those days before the end of the year – every year I say I’ll plan my holidays better…), but the mad Christmas rush is over, and the most stressful thing on my plate is checking out the Boxing Day sales – usually from the peace and quiet of my living room as opposed to tackling the crowds on the high street 😉

And of course, I can ease back into that blogging habit…

A couple of time-sensitive links to start off with:

ewein-special-ops

Other links that caught my eye over the past month or so:

Books for December

The countdown to Christmas is in full swing and there are SO many things to do.  I’m ticking off the number of working days left in the year myself (ten more days here!) and trying to make time for the (very many) new releases I want to read this month.

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10487466Andrea K Höst‘s BONES OF THE FAIR (fantasy): She’s an auto-buy author for me, so this is really a no-brainer.  It’s a companion novel to CHAMPION OF THE ROSE – I’m looking forward to revisiting that world!

Darest stands on the verge of a Golden Age. The revival of the Rathen line and a blood price won from the Fair has drawn a flood of visitors eager to snatch their share of changing fortune – or at least one of the fabulous prizes offered at the Spring Festival.

Among those coaxed back to the once-failing kingdom is Gentian Calder, daughter of Shapers. Before she can decide whether to risk her life by staying, news arrives to put all other considerations aside. The Atlaran Ambassador and half the heirs of the western kingdoms have disappeared on Darest’s border.

Gentian agrees to join the Diamond Coeurveur and his apprentice in a rush to join the search. Will they find the missing? A plot against Darest? Or uncover older secrets, buried deep?

Out now

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15980677KICKING IT edited by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price (UF): I love Kalayna Price’s writing, so she’s the main attraction for me in this one.  But I’m also keen to read the contributions by other authors and figure out if I should be trying any other UF series.

Featuring stories by FAITH HUNTER * KALAYNA PRICE * RACHEL CAINE * CHLOE NEILL * ROB THURMAN * SHANNON K. BUTCHER * LUCIENNE DIVER * CHRIS MARIE GREEN * CHRISTINA HENRY

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine has modern-day potions witches Holly and Andrew facing off against a firebrand politician who wears literally killer boots in a Texas-sized rodeo of trouble.

Boot-loving Cadogan vampire Lindsey must team up with off-again, on-again vampire partner Luc when a woman from her past is targeted by supernaturals in New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill’s all-new adventure.

And New York Times bestselling author Rob Thurman features Trixa Iktomi from her Trickster series dealing with magical vengeance and magical footwear.

Taking kick-ass urban fantasy literally, USA Today bestselling authors Kalayna Price and Faith Hunter bring together the best of the genre to once again prove when you’re fighting supernatural forces, it helps to keep your feet on the ground.

Out now

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16045296Miranda Kenneally‘s RACING SAVANNAH (NA): I’ve enjoyed all of Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks books – she has this breezy writing style which sucks you straight into the story, and this should be no exception. Plus horse racing!

They’re from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…

Out now

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17279560DANGEROUS WOMEN edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois (UF): Every single GRRM/Dozois anthology makes me think “I want!” and this is no exception. It probably would be worth it just for the new Diana Gabaldon story (okay, and the new Jim Butcher), but there are also many others.

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.

Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

Out now

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17859577ELEMENTARY edited by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy): Nothing says Christmas like a Lackey anthology – oh, is that just me?  This is the annual DAW anthology of stories set in one of Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy worlds – like last year, she’s chosen her Elemental Masters universe.  I would have preferred her Valdemar setting, but I’ll get this regardless…

In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book would be the beginning of a fantasy career that would span decades and more than a hundred novels, with no signs of slowing yet.

And among Ms. Lackey’s many novels, few are as critically-acclaimed and beloved as those of the Elemental Masters. The novels in this series are loosely based on classic fairy tales, and take place in a fantasy version of turn-of-the-century London, where magic is real and Elemental Masters control the powers of Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

Now the voices of other authors join Mercedes Lackey to add their own special touches to this delightful alternate history, in a world where magic is always just around the corner…

Out now

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18221555Kelley Armstrong‘s BRAZEN (UF): This is a Subterranean Press release – I’m glad they’re doing an ebook edition as well, because as beautifully-produced as their hardcovers are, I can’t really justify the shipping costs to the UK.

Nicholas Sorrentino knows everyone in the supernatural world considers him the Pack’s playboy, the pretty but not very useful werewolf whose only reputation involves his amorous exploits.

Usually, Nick couldn’t care less what anyone outside the Pack thinks of him. But when it affects his hunt for Malcolm Danvers, a psychotic bogeyman from the Pack’s past, it matters.

Necessity forces Nick to team up with mercenary half-demon Vanessa Callas to run Malcolm to ground in Detroit. Together, they discover Malcolm is more deadly than ever. And he wants to play.

It’s time for Nick to prove he’s not just a lover.

Out now

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Other books I want to get:

  • Kelly Hunter‘s THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (contemporary romance): It’s a Kelly Hunter!  It’s also a novella, so I’m counting on this filling the need for  a quick satisfying read amidst the Christmas bustle.
  • EL Tettensor‘s DARKWALKER (fantasy): Jan brought this to my attention and I’m intrigued now – I’m a sucker for a fantasy/mystery.
  • Julie Cross‘ RETURN TO YOU (NA): The third installment in Julie Cross’s Letters to Nowhere series – I’m looking forward to catching up with Karen & co!
  • Harper Fox‘s TINSEL FISH (contemporary m/m romance): An unexpected sequel but welcome to ONCE UPON A HAUNTED MOOR.
  • Joanna Chambers‘ BEGUILED (historical m/m romance): Another sequel, this time to PROVOKED – I’m hoping for a HEA this time around.

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?

Fantasy x 3

It wasn’t all fantasy last year despite appearances… but here are three more fantasy novels I did read – spoiler: all three were winners.  As usual, reviews originally posted at Goodreads, but with additional thoughts here in italics.

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MedairMedair by Andrea K. Höst (fantasy)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I probably do sound like a bit of a broken record when it comes to Andrea K Höst, but I have fallen in love with pretty much all of her books.

MEDAIR has adventure, magic, and love (with a healthy dollop of angst), and I was drawn into Medair’s world from the start. I loved the premise of “what happens if the hero(ine) fails to save the world” combined with the Sleeping Beauty spin – Medair emerges from her version of an enchanted sleep half a century after the war. The world is much changed and the battles and Medair herself are part of history, but for her, it was only yesterday when the country was on the verge of war.

Perhaps a tad too much time was spent revisiting the debate on right v. wrong and the grey areas in between; however, that didn’t stop me from being completely immersed in Medair’s story and wondering how it could all end happily. The intricate world-building and the examination of complex cultures was an added bonus. And gosh, the ending – it was a surprise, but not quite a surprise at the same time. In hindsight, the seeds were laid throughout the book and I don’t think the ending could have worked any other way.

Yes, I loved this one.

This is on my to-reread list, and considering how FEW books I actually reread, that says a lot.  Also, this may be redundant considering the gushy-ness of the above (I may have over-used the word “love”?), but MEDAIR was very definitely one of my favourite books of 2012.

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Champion of the RoseChampion of the Rose by Andrea K. Höst (fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrea Höst has given me consistently good storytelling, and I loved the concept of CHAMPION: a king’s champion who has essentially been made redundant and whose main purpose is purely decorative… and then suddenly everything changes and Soren is thrust blinking into the spotlight. And this is the story of how she faces up to the challenge.

I liked how Andrea Höst colours in her characters – the shades-of-grey villain, the true “otherness” of fae, and so on. Also unusual was how the practicalities of rescuing a failing kingdom were considered – its issues may have been caused by magic, but trade becomes a way of bringing the country back to life. Having said that, traditional fantasy elements were also present and perhaps the most disturbing was the use of magic to bring about the loss of free will.

The ending, perhaps, was a little too easy and I’m dying for a sequel to find out more about certain characters. And as there will be one, I’m all excited.

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Not really relevant but it’s probably a sign of how engrossed I was in the story that I didn’t realise until 3/4s of the way through that Strake’s position was almost the same as Medair‘s in that both of them had returned to a land that has moved on. Obviously the stories are not the same at all, but that makes it even more fascinating.

I’ve probably said this a million times already, but what I really like about Andrea Höst’s stories is the fact that her plots are DIFFERENT – she always gives me a story that I’ve never read before (umm… obviously I don’t mean that literally). Plus her characters live and breathe.  And… I really would like a new Höst novel now.

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Crucible of Gold (Temeraire, #7)Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik (fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CRUCIBLE had a lot of what I loved in the early Temeraire books – plenty of action and adventure, with fantasy melded seamlessly with historical fact. I found the pacing in CRUCIBLE much better than in previous book – it took me a couple of chapters to sink into the rhythm of Naomi Novik’s prose, but once I did, I was engrossed in the story.

I liked how Ms Novik gave us a peek into the very different dragon society of the Incas, and I can see this experience certainly shaping Temeraire’s thinking in future books! The human-dragon culture clashes provided some humorous moments as always, though there were some sombre undertones with Will still dealing with the consequences of his actions a couple of books back, and an incident reminding you of the dangers of travel back then. There was a lot of Iskierka/Granby in this book, and while she’s gradually grown on me (and it was great to see Granby finally standing his ground), an appearance of old friends late in the book made me realise how much I miss the camaraderie in the earlier books.

One of the better installments in this series, I think.

Naomi Novik’s more recent Temeraire books have been a bit hit-or-miss for me, but this one worked (the previous felt like an endless travelogue, IIRC).  I haven’t yet gotten around to reading the latest installment that came out this year – any views on that?