Reading Updates

Three random reading updates:

11056493#1: I’ve continued my exploration of audiobooks.  I finished Georgette Heyer’s VENETIA (the end was surprisingly suspenseful, despite me having read it a couple of times before), and moved on to her SYLVESTER, which is also read by Richard Armitage (based purely on the fact it was the only other Heyer my library had available).

I’m loving his narration, but it’s taken me a while to get into SYLVESTER.  It’s not one of my all-time favourite Heyers, partly because the heroine spends a good part of the book waiting for the other shoe to drop, and this sort of suspense is not my thing.  But all is revealed now, and the heroine and her trusty sidekick are embroiled in yet another pickle.  Good times.

Next on my list is an Elizabeth Peters book, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Amelia Peabody’s adventures translates to audio.

#2: Speaking of Elizabeth Peters, did you see there will be A NEW BOOK THIS YEAR?? I am so excited. (I thought I had posted this, but I possibly squeed on Goodreads only.)

THE PAINTED QUEEN is out in July.  I remember a post about this book being a work-in-progress back when she passed away in 2013, but after so long without any news, I thought it had been quietly shelved.  I have everything crossed that it’ll be a good one.

#3: Finally, I finished Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s GOOD BOY last week.  So much fun.  I had (very) slight reservations going in because of the series title (WAGs being a bit of a derogatory term used by the tabloid press here), but my fears were unfounded.  I loved how Blake didn’t get a personality transplant by the end – he was still the same Blake, but with a lot more depth to his character?  I’d liked to see more of Jess’s character growth though, I’m not entirely sure I bought her story arc.


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Mercedes Lackey’s BY THE SWORD: I devoured Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books as a teen (I may have mentioned that a few times before…).  If you set aside the Arrows of the Queen and The Last Herald-Mage trilogies (my copies are pretty much falling apart), Kerowyn’s story is one I always come back to – it’s loosely-related to the rest of the series, but I think it works well as a standalone too.

Romance, Mystery, and a Bit of Fantasy

I’ve been pretty bad at cross-posting my Goodreads reviews here – I think I heaved a sigh of relief when I finished with my 2011 reads, and then promptly forgot to continue cross-posting.  Here’s what I read in January 2012 (talk about a trip down memory lane) – additional thoughts in italics.

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Sleeping Partner (Modern Romance Series Extra) (Modern Romance Series Extra)Sleeping Partner (Modern Romance Series Extra) by Kelly Hunter (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sexy, sweet, yet sentimental romance – what more could you ask for? The humorous banter between Mia and Ethan made me laugh, and I loved the side interactions between Ethan and his father. The setting was fantastic – the local colour provided additional depth to the story, which was really all about complicated messy family ties and love.

The last of my Kelly Hunter backlist glom, IIRC. Her next release (finally!) is out in November 2013 – she posted a teaser scene on her blog and is calling WHAT THE BRIDE DIDN’T KNOW a “…friends-to-lovers, fake marriage amnesia story”.  How many more tropes can you pack into a category romance?  Obviously, I cannot wait. 

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Naked Once MoreNaked Once More by Elizabeth Peters (mystery)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book compulsively readable, just like all my other Elizabeth Peters – there was a lot of “just one more chapter” bargaining with myself.

As Jacqueline Kirby, the protagonist, is an author, I inevitably spent some time wondering how much of the publishing industry experience described is true and how much was just loving(?) parody. Jacqueline is the sort of person you either love or hate – I think I would detest her in real life, but as a heroine in a book, she is hilarious and her self-confidence rather impressive!

There were enough twist and turns in the plot to completely bamboozle me, and while I lost track of who was who occasionally (there is, or it feels as though there is, a cast of thousands in this book), it all came together in the end. And while there are also some side plots that don’t contribute very much to the main story, they just made this book all the more entertaining.

This was my last unread Elizabeth Peters mystery.  Jacqueline Kirby is no Amelia Peabody, but this mini-series of four books is still fun.

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His Untamed InnocentHis Untamed Innocent by Sara Craven (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was an impulse purchase – I liked the premise and recall liking some of Sara Craven’s previous books. While the setting felt current enough, Marin came across as being too much on the naive side, and I never got into their romance. Nothing wrong really with this story, but it doesn’t deliver anything fresh either.

I don’t really remember very much about this book unfortunately.  Standard category romance fare.

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The Iron Duke (Iron Seas, #1)The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (steampunk romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am very late to the party on this one judging from the number of GR reviews. I’m not quite sure what took me so long to pick this up, but winning the second book Heart of Steel in a giveaway hosted by the author finally prompted me to start reading THE IRON DUKE.

And you know what? I really really liked it.

I loved the incredibly imaginative, in-depth, and consistent world-building. There wasn’t just a passing nod to steampunk – instead, everything, including the mindset and behaviour of the characters, came across as note-perfect, making this alternate-history world feel real and believable.

The plot itself is not a complicated one – it’s a murder mystery with political undertones, combined with some old-school romance. But combined with the refreshingly unique backdrop, this was an thoroughly entertaining and satisfying read.

I know this book generated some controversy, which I do want to mention [click through to GR review to see spoiler].

I’m glad I have HEART OF STEEL in my TBR pile, because I need to know more about this world.

I never quite got into Meljean Brook’s Guardians series (read the first, stumbled to a halt halfway through the second, and am pretty sure I still have the third (and possibly the fourth – what can I say…) in my TBR pile somewhere) but THIS – I love her Iron Seas world.

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Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2)Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook (steampunk romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meljean Brook has probably done the impossible with this series – that is, I’m actually reading (and loving) zombie books. To be fair, it is more that I’m reading books that just happen to have zombies in them, but still, that’s more than any other author has done.

After the first book, The Iron Duke, I admit to secretly wanting to see more of alternate-world England in HEART OF STEEL. While I was initially disappointed that this was not to be the case, Yasmeen and Archimedes made such a fitting h/h pairing and I was rapidly caught up in their story. I liked that the author did not shy away from the more difficult parts – Yasmeen would not have become a mercenary ship captain by being all sweetness and light, and Meljean Brook showed the brutality that Yasmeen would have had demonstrated over her career. And yet somehow, there was still humour and charm in this story, and I was firmly rooting for Yasmeen and Archimedes to get their HEA.

This is such a fantastic (and fantastical) world, and I’m excited about the next Iron Seas book.

*In the interest of transparency, note that I won this book in a giveaway hosted by Meljean Brook. I can safely say this hasn’t influenced my review or rating (though I do get a feeling of glee when I look at my personalised copy).

Ummm… giveaways work?  Seriously, I’m glad I entered (and won), else it would have probably taken me a couple of years more to stumble upon this series.

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Majesty, Mistress...Missing HeirMajesty, Mistress…Missing Heir by Caitlin Crews (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this one up after hearing good things about the author. The Yorkshire setting appealed and I liked how she played around with the accidental pregnancy plotline. Having said that, I never really connected with the h/h, and it ended up being a so-so read. I did like Caitlin Crews’ writing and I would probably try another of her books though.

Another middle-of-the-road category romance.

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Affairs of Steak (A White House Chef Mystery, #5)Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve had both hits and misses with this series, so was slightly cautious when I started this book, but ended up liking it overall.

I was glad that we got to see a different side to Sargeant, who has been a pretty one-dimensional villain in previous books (though Virgil now appears to have taken his place!). There was some genuinely suspenseful moments in this book, and all in all, it was a pretty good story. As usual, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek into the running of the White House and Secret Service. And Ollie’s new romantic interest is slowly starting to grow on me.

These books tend to be released around January, so they’re starting to signal New Year to me.  Probably the only cosy mystery series I’m following now.  

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February ThawFebruary Thaw by Tanya Huff (fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love that Tanya Huff has been re-releasing her short story backlist, and I enjoyed every single one in this collection (which, trust me, is a rather rare occurrence).

Standouts for me were A Midsummer’s Night Dream Team (a hilarious take on what happens when elves decide they’re interested in the Olympics!) and February Thaw (a marital falling out between Hades and Persephone), but the other five shorts were good reads too.

I’m not quite sure when Tanya Huff turned into an auto-buy author – I think she kind of snuck up on me.  I’ve read her books since forever, I think, but it’s only fairly recently I’ve started stalking out her new releases page.  

Sunday Thoughts

I was really sad when I heard of Barbara Mertz‘s (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels) passing (link via Janicu @ SpecFicRomantic).  She was 85, and lived life to the full from all accounts – I loved this line from her website:

Shortly before her death, she had written a line to be posted on this webpage: “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.”

I remember discovering her Amelia Peabody mystery series back in 2007 and visiting pretty much every bookstore in central London to get my hands on the complete series (yes, those pre-ebook days).  I’d always seen numerous recommendations for her books whenever anyone asked about mysteries with strong romantic elements, but had discounted them, thinking that I’d never be interested in Egyptian archaeology – yes, I know.

I picked up the first book, CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, on a whim one day, and while it wasn’t necessarily instant love, there was something about her writing that meant I kept on reading, and before I knew it, I was hooked.  Her love of Egypt shone through her writing, and as for the Peabody family – addictive doesn’t even begin to describe their adventures as they pursue archaeological treasures in turn-of-the-century Egypt.  Her books are the main reason why I want to visit Egypt one day and sail down the Nile on a dahabeeyah.  She brought this previously-unknown world alive for me, which is really what books are all about – giving you a window into places that you’d never have imagined otherwise.  Here’s a review I posted for third Amelia Peabody, THE MUMMY CASE a few years back – the first paragraph may give you a feel for how highly I rate this series if it wasn’t obvious already…

Thank you for the many happy hours of reading, and RIP Barbara Mertz.

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I’ve recently discovered a new-to-me historical mystery series that I’m really enjoying – PB Ryan‘s Nell Sweeney series:

The Nell Sweeney historical mysteries, which are set in post-Civil War Boston, star a young Irish-born governess and her employer’s black sheep son, the dissolute, wounded, dangerously charming Will Hewitt. If you like twisty-turny mysteries with a breathless whisper of romantic tension, you’ve come to the right place.

I couldn’t describe them any better myself – 1860s Boston comes to life, Nell is a very engaging heroine, and her relationship with Will is filled with chemistry from the very first book.  The first book, STILL LIFE WITH MURDER, is usually on sale for a lower introductory price, but I ended up buying the omnibus collection of all six novels.

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I posted last week about the August new releases on my list, and then realised I’d missed two – here they are:

15808437Jo Beverley‘s SEDUCTION IN SILK (historical romance): I always say Jo Beverley remains one of my few auto-buy authors in the historical romance genre, and that’s still true.  This one is linked to her Malloren world, which means Georgian historical!

Peregrine Perriam, son of an earl, has no desire to marry, but when he’s named heir to Perriam Manor, he finds he has only a month to persuade a stranger, Claris Mallow, to the altar or the property will be lost to his family forever, and his line will be cursed.

Having survived her parents’ tormented marriage, Claris prefers poverty to any husband. When a high-born stranger demands her hand, she drives him off at pistol point.

Perry finds weapons of his own, however, and soon Claris is compelled to accept his proposal. But she does so on her own terms—especially that the marriage be in name only. Once mistress of Perriam Manor, however, she discovers she isn’t immune to Perry’s charms. Perhaps a real marriage might be worth the risk—including a real marriage bed…

Out now

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18294089Sherwood Smith‘s WHISPERED MAGICS (SF/fantasy): This is a BVC-published collection of short stories, with an MG slant. All previously-published, I think, as majority were not new-to-me, but I had fun re-reading them and it was nice to have all of them in a single e-edition.  Sherwood Smith talks about WHISPERED MAGICS briefly on her LJ.

As a child, Sherwood Smith was always on the watch for magic: no fog bank went unexplored, no wooden closet unchecked for a false back, no possible magical token left on the ground or in the gutter. In these nine stories, the impossible becomes possible, magic is real, aliens come visiting. How would our lives change?

Out now

 

 

What’s Occupying My Thoughts

It’s Read an Ebook Week, which means all sorts of ebook freebies abound.  The MobileRead forums are great at filtering the slush pile, so to speak, but here’s a good one: Kelly Hunter‘s offering her self-published novella WISH for free.  It’s no secret that I fell in love with her books last year (possible understatement there), so this is a great chance to try her writing if you haven’t already.

While on the topic of Kelly Hunter, her April release CRACKING THE DATING CODE is up on the M&B website for purchase – the only reason I’m holding off is because of the disaster I had the last time I purchased directly from M&B.  I couldn’t download the books despite trying for ages – finally got a refund and repurchased at Amazon.  Gah.  I may cave though, and see if it’s different this time around.

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If you’re following my Goodreads updates, you may have noticed I’m a tad bit preoccupied with this new author.  Just a bit.  Okay, I have totally fallen for Andrea K Höst‘s stories, so much so I may go as far as actually writing a post about them shortly.  The Touchstone trilogy pushed all the right buttons for me, while STAINED GLASS MONSTERS was the sort of YA fantasy I’ve been missing for a while.

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Free short story called ONE HELL OF A RIDE from Seanan McGuire, set in her new InCryptid world – I can’t wait to get my hands on this.  Speaking of which, there are so many new releases this month that I want – it makes up for the drought that was January and February.

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And… new Amelia Peabody!  Still a way off, but from Elizabeth Peters‘ website:

And I have started the next book. Tentative title is The Painted Queen, though that may change. It takes place during the 1912-13 season (more “keeping track” of the other books in the series). Give you three guesses as to who she is. I can’t promise when it will be finished – the mind works a little slower as time goes on! – but, I hope to turn in a manuscript this spring.

I have no words to express how thrilled I am.

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 1

I’ve done an annual recap of books read for the past few years running – this time around, it’s taken a bit more than usual to start writing this (possibly tied to my general lack of blogging motivation this year, you think?).  But I like revisiting my reading year – both when writing the recap and also when re-reading them months later – so, well, here we go.

January

I read 11 books in January, and actually, looking at the list of books read, there were some very good ones to start off the year.  I finished Diana Gabaldon‘s “An Echo in the Bone”, mainly by dipping in and out over a period of several weeks, which in hindsight, was the best way to finish such a massive tome.  The story was so sprawling and epic that I’ve no memory as to what the book is about now, except that I enjoyed it immensely and it had a dratted cliffhanger ending.

As for new-to-me authors, I read Sean Kennedy‘s “Tigers and Devil” (m/m romance) after seeing it appear on so many Top Books of 2009 lists, and yes, that was totally well-deserved.  I loved the Australian setting and even got to grips with Australian Rules football – I think.   Steve Kluger‘s hilariously funny yet sweet “Almost Like Being in Love” (rec’d by Nath) was another hit.  And I read my first Sarah Dessen (YA contemporary), “The Truth About Forever”, which was very definitely not my last Dessen of the year.

February

14 books read during February – unfortunately, none really worked for me until the end of the month, when I read and loved both Jacqueline Carey‘s “Naamah’s Kiss” (the first in her latest Kushiel fantasy trilogy, which held me enthralled from beginning to end) and Mary Stewart‘s “Touch Not the Cat” (romantic suspense, and one of the few books I missed during my Stewart glom back in 2008).

I read a few more Dessens, but none really as good as TTAF.  And that was about it in terms of memorable reads.

March

Nine books read over the month, including two of Seanan McGuire‘s Toby Daye books, which takes my “Best New-to-Me Urban Fantasy Series of 2010” trophy – I have to include the new-to-me caveat, as the first book came out in 2009, but got buried in the glut of new UF releases. When I finally got around to reading “Rosemary & Rue”, I was totally captivated and promptly followed up with the second book, “A Local Habitation”.  Ms McGuire’s Faerie/San Francisco world is incredibly refreshing and real, Toby is developing into a heroine you can properly get behind (character growth, I love you), and there is Tybalt.  The King of Cats.  Ahhh.

Apart from that, I read my first Jennifer Echols, “Going Too Far” – more YA contemporary!  It was good – strong characterisation, compelling believable romance – and I wanted more.

April

I was back up to 11 books this month (as an aside, I’m surprised I was reading as much as I’ve been over the months) and it was a good one.

I loved Lisa Lutz‘s “The Spellmans Strike Again”, the latest madcap adventure in The Spellman Files books and oh-so-satisfying (character growth!), and also Patricia Briggs‘ “Silver Borne” (I have not read a lacklustre Mercy Thompson book yet).  And Jim Butcher‘s latest Dresden Files book, “Changes”, was great storytelling, as always.  Elizabeth Peters released a new Amelia Peabody (I have no words to describe how much I was anticipating this one) and while it was not one of the best Peabody books, it was just so good to revisit the whole cast of characters again.  Finally, a new-to-me author this month was Sarah A Hoyt and her “Darkship Thieves” (which Janicu has just reviewed), which was an excellent blend of space opera and romance.

Probably a good time to stop – next post, the next four months…

Books for April

I have been rather remiss in not posting this earlier, but better late than never, and it is still April…

Here are the new releases for April that are on my To Buy list (and in most cases, have already been bought and read):

 

61lZlurY4L._SL160_ Elizabeth Peters“A River in the Sky” (historical mystery): I posted about this last week when my copy arrived and I did a little dance of glee.

The latest book in the Amelia Peabody series is set chronologically before “The Falcon in the Portal”, which is one of my favourites in the series due to ermm… various romantic entanglements, shall we say?  For a change, “A River in the Sky” is not set in Egypt; instead Amelia & co are in Palestine, and while this expanded their adventures to a new locale, it also meant that I missed some of the familiar settings and characters.  All in all though, I enjoyed revisiting the Peabody family, and can only keep my fingers crossed that there is yet another installment in this series.

Out now US, April 29 UK (excerpt here)

 

51opJaC77NL._SL160_ Kelley Armstrong’s “Tales of the Otherworld” (urban fantasy): Another April release I have already bought, this time during my failed attempt at attending a signing.

This book collects a few more of the short stories Ms Armstrong previously published for free on her website, with all proceeds going to her chosen charity, World Literacy of Canada. I think I’ve previously read most, if not all, of these online, but it was nice to have them in a single book.  There is also a new Eve story, which appealed to me, seeing Eve is one of my favourite characters.  I would say that this collection is more for long-time fans as opposed to new readers, because of their origin as online freebies – the stories have been aimed at filling in the background of the main characters and therefore can feel somewhat open-ended if you haven’t read the full-length books.

Out now (no excerpts, but more free shorts here)

 

51hH6KJTfGL._SL160_Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s “Saltation” (SF):  The second in a duology (the first is “Fledgling”), which covers events only alluded to in the main Liaden storyline.  These two books are somewhat unique, as the authors serialised both online in return for reader donations, prior to selling both books to Baen.

I bought this during my little Baen ebook haul a couple of weeks back, and while I liked (and read in one sitting), I have to add a caveat that this is probably not a book for readers new to the Liaden universe, which is a shame, because I remember thinking that its prequel, “Fledgling”, was a perfect jumping-off point.  There were one too many references to off-screen (off-page?) events which would only make sense if you had read the previous books, and there is a bit of a cliff-hanger ending as the book brings you right up to the same point as the main storyline.

Oh, and I have to add a cover note: for a Baen cover, this isn’t half-bad.  I have just finished reading another Baen book that I really really liked, but had a cover that did it no favours.

Out now (excerpt here – a whole nine chapters of it)

 

51CqsSW-evL._SL160_ Jim Butcher’s “Changes” (urban fantasy): A new Dresden Files book and yet another April release I have already read, which must make it some sort of record.

“Changes” was hyped as a turning point for the entire series, and when the first line of the book was revealed, it looked as though that would be the case.  Verdict?  As with all of his books (okay, most – I still haven’t managed to get through the first three books of this series yet), this was a good, solid fun read – he is an excellent storyteller.  However, I continue to find Harry’s love life (or what passes for it) somewhat two-dimensional; his friendships are wonderfully strong, yet his romantic relationships fail to move me.  If that changes, this would be up there as one of my all-time favourite UF series.

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51fV53d8D4L._SL160_Jo Beverley’s “The Secret Duke” (historical romance): Oh look, an April release I haven’t yet bought.  Not for lack of trying, I was trying to find it in ebook format, but haven’t had any luck.

You know how the most fascinating characters are usually saved for the last book?  Well, this is the third book of Ms Beverley’s Secret trilogy, and in the previous two books (“A Lady’s Secret” and “The Secret Wedding”), I have been intrigued by the Duke of Ithorne, who is the focus of this story.  This book is also part of her Malloren family series, which is set in Georgian times – I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I adore Georgian-set historicals.  And Jo Beverley excels in bringing historical settings alive in her romances.

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51m7Gj-IB9L._SL160_ 51byDuc4toL._SL160_Finally, two April releases I may get: Mary Jo Putney’s latest historical romance, “Never Less than a Lady”, a maybe only because I haven’t yet read the first Lost Lords book – I really need to get around to it.

And the mystery anthology “Crimes by Moonlight”, edited by Charlaine Harris, and containing a “Sookieverse story”, i.e. a story set in her Sookie Stackhouse world, but not featuring Sookie herself.  I want, not just for the Harris story, but also because the lineup and theme sounds great, however, it’s a hardcover so I will probably practise patience!

Utter Glee

51tv4U4L7yL._SL160_The new Elizabeth Peters arrived in my post today – and I have the whole weekend to savour it.

“A River in the Sky” is an Amelia Peabody book, and ever since I found out there would be a new book, I have been counting down the days.  It has been a whole four years since the last one came out, and I was pretty much resigned to never ever having a new Peabody to read again. 

61lZlurY4L._SL160_I caved and ordered the US edition (left), because it’s out a whole three weeks earlier than the UK version (which is released April 29).  It is probably a good thing I don’t care much about having a matched set of books – my Amelia Peabody books are a lovely mix of US and UK (both old and new) hardbacks and paperbacks. 

It’s the inside that really counts.  And I have a mad irrational love for this series.

New Amelia Peabody!

Not exactly breaking news, but Elizabeth Peters’ website is announcing a new Amelia Peabody book “River in the Sky” to be released April 2010.

After some frantic Googling, here’s a blurb courtesy of Simpleng Kaligayahan:

Still banned from exploring the Valley of the Kings, Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson and his intrepid amateur sleuth wife Amelia are spending a peaceful summer at their home in England. One day, the Emersons are visited by two men: Major John Morley and the Reverend Plato Pangopolous. The former wants to mount an expedition to the Holy Land; the latter is a Greek cleric on the lunatic fringe of Biblical scholarship. These two men have arrived for the same purpose: they both want Radcliffe and Amelia’s help on a daring mission to locate the fabled Ark of the Covenant!

I could not be more excited.  So… the new Megan Whalen Turner in March, a new Peabody in April, and a new Vorkosigan book in November. 

Happy days.

ETA:  Another blurb, this time with a date, courtesy of Constable & Robinson:

1910. Having brought Egypt firmly under her thumb, Amelia Peabody turns her attention to a harder challenge: Palestine, a province of the crumbling, corrupt Ottoman Empire and the Holy Land of three religions. Hearing that Morley, an English adventurer, has raised money to mount an expedition to search for the vanished treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem, Emerson and Amelia are persuaded to go after him in order to prevent a catastrophically inept excavation and the possibility of armed protest by the infuriated members of all three religions who view the Dome of the Rock as sacred. The War Office is concerned about increasing German influence in Palestine and insists that Morley is secretly working for German intelligence. Emerson doesn’t believe it, but could he be mistaken?

In the meantime, their son Ramses has been working on a dig at Samaria, north of Jerusalem, where he encounters an unusual party of travellers. One is a female German archaeologist, and the other a mysterious man of unknown nationality and unknown past. Ramses’s insatiable curiosity leads him to a startling discovery about the pair. He must now pass the information on to his parents in Jerusalem – but only if he can get there alive…

So, if the date is correct on this one, the new book is set between the events of “The Ape who Guards the Balance” and “The Falcon at the Portal”.  I was hoping for one following the events of “Tomb of the Golden Bird”, but I will very happily settle for this!

Re-Read Challenge: Elizabeth Peters’ “The Mummy Case”

617PNTs22kL._SL160_ I made the deadline this month!  Just.

Right, after umm-ing and ahh-ing about the choice of books, I went for an Amelia Peabody book.  Despite only stumbling onto this series relatively recently (I read the first one just over two years ago, and the first book “Crocodile on the Sandbank” was written back in 1975), I love love love this series.  I cannot describe how much I adore the Amelia books.  It is one of my all-time favourite series.  Ever.

In case you haven’t read any of these books yet (in which case, what are you waiting for?!), these are mysteries set in turn-of-the-century Egypt.  Amelia, her husband Emerson, her son Ramses, and other family members are keen archaeologists, who manage to embroil themselves in mysteries and mayhem during their annual excavations.  And yes, there is a strong romance element in these books.

I chose “The Mummy Case”, because this is the first book where Ramses (Amelia and Emerson’s son) plays a large part – and I am completely infatuated with Ramses.  This is the first time I’ve re-read TMC since finishing the Peabody series, and it was interesting to revisit these characters early on in their family life.  I wonder if Ms Peters knew where she was going to take these characters in later books when she wrote the early ones?

These books are written in Amelia’s POV, journal-style (though in later ones, Ramses and others’ POV are also included), and Amelia is on fire in this book.  Her relationship with Ramses is forefront in this one, with her attempts to conceal her pride in her son (even in her personal journal) hilarious.  And I love her matter-of-factness about things; this is a typical paragraph:

[Ramses] was also alarmingly precocious.  A lady of my acquaintance used that term to me, after Ramses, aged four, had treated her to a lecture on the proper method of excavating a compost heap (hers, in point of fact). (Her gardener was extremely abusive.)  When I replied that in my opinion, the adjective was ill-chosen, she believed me to be offended.  What I meant was the word was inadequate. “Catastrophically precocious” would have been nearer the mark. (p.6)

The running joke in this book is Emerson’s reproaches to Amelia for being undemonstrative towards Ramses, but after one of the final scenes, I don’t think he will ever accuse her of being unmaternal again!

As always, Ms Peters brings late 19th-century Egypt to life.  There is one scene when Amelia and Emerson set out to a rendezvous with a possible villain in the midst of the old city at night – incredibly atmospheric and wonderfully suspenseful.  Ms Peters’ love and knowledge of Egypt shine through in her writing and always make me want to visit Egypt – this is an example:

[The pyramids of Dahshoor] are built of white limestone, and this snowy covering exhibits bewitching changes of tint, according to the quality of light – a mazy gold at sunset, a ghostly translucent pallor under the glow of the moon.  Now, at a little past noon, the towering structures shone dazzlingly white against the deep blue of the sky. (p.132)

Ahhh… there is so much I loved about this book that I have no idea how I’m going to cover it all.  The chaos that follows young Ramses despite his parents’ best efforts, Amelia’s passion for pyramids, Emerson’s insistence that he doesn’t want to get tangled up in mysteries (hah!), the multiplying mummy cases…

Oh yes, and the ending in this book is brilliant.  Without giving too much away, Amelia and Emerson end up in what seems like a hopeless situation (and I do mean hopeless), and how Ms Peters resolves it and the aftermath is incredibly funny.

“The Mummy Case” is packed with hilarious scenes, Egyptian detail, characters that capture your heart, and a plot full of twists and turns.  This is a wonderful installment in the Amelia Peabody series, and I’m glad I chose to re-read it for this challenge.  In fact, I’ll probably continue on to the others now.

Back cover blurb:

The irascible husband of Victorian Egyptologist Amelia Peabody is living up to his reputation as ‘The Father of Curses’.  Denied permission to dig at the Pyramids of Dahshoor, Emerson is awarded instead the ‘Pyramids’ of Mazghunah – countless mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing in this barren spot seems of any interest – but then a murder in Cairo changes all of that.  The dead man was an antiques dealer, killed in his shop, so when a sinister-looking Egyptian spotted at the crime scene turns up in Mazghunah, Amelia can’t resist following his trail.  At the same time she has to keep an eagle eye on her wayward son Ramses and his elegant and calculating cat and look into the mysterious disappearance of a mummy case…

The Second Quarter of 2008

In my January-March wrap up, I forgot to mention the major book-related event in January – I got my Sony Reader.  And Catherine Asaro’s “The Ruby Dice” was the first ebook I read on it.  It’s funny how that sticks in my mind.  I think the first 50 or so pages, my main thoughts were “Wow, I can actually read books on this thing” and “I hope I don’t break it”.  And then it became a non-issue and I forgot I was reading an ebook.  So yes, love love love my Sony Reader.

Anyway, continuing my rambling review of 2008…

 

April

Karen Chance’s “Embrace the Night” (UF) was one of my Top Five releases of 2008, with the other standout read being Eva Ibbotson’s “A Company of Swans” (YA romance, or at least it’s shelved in the YA section).  I’ve adored all the Ibbotson novels I’ve read to date, and this was no exception.  Lyrical writing, beautiful settings and characters she makes you care about. 

I also read the fifth book in Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss series “Night Train to Memphis” (mystery).  Ahh… John Smythe.  While I still love Amelia Peabody more, I totally understood why Vicky fans were jumping with joy at the prospect of a new VB book coming out later in the year.

Three other books I really liked were Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Passages” (fantasy, Book 3 of the Sharing Knife series), Barbara Michaels’ “Patriot’s Dream” (mystery), and Ann Aguirre’s “Grimspace” (SF romance).  The Barbara Michaels was unusual because it had two linked stories set in different timelines, one during the American Revolution and the other in contemporary times – while I loved the history focus, I didn’t think they intertwined with each other very well.

 

May

Two author gloms during this month, the first being Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl series, which I’ve already mentioned ad nauseum.  So I will restrain myself here.  Though does it qualify as a official glom if there were only two books in the author’s backlist at the time of said glom?

The second author was Mary Stewart (romantic suspense) and this definitely qualifies as a proper glom with me reading six Stewarts in May alone.  I finally decided to find out why so many bloggers love her novels, and gosh, I fell hard.  “Nine Coaches Waiting” became my favourite Stewart, until displaced by “The Ivy Tree” a month later.  I’m so fickle.

Anyway, between these two authors, I didn’t read much else during May – oh, I really liked Ilona Andrews’ “Magic Burns” (UF, Book 2 in the Kate Daniels series).  Which quite surprised me (in a good way!), because I hadn’t loved the first book in this series.  But I enjoyed MB, and can’t wait for the third.  I’m glad I like these books because – and this is going to sound really shallow – I like the covers for this series.  Heh.

 

June

And in June, I read a lot.  20 books in total – I’m not sure where I found the time actually.  Especially seeing Wimbledon was on at the same time.  Oh yeah, I remember now, it was a rather quiet time at work.  How things change.

I continued reading Mary Stewart’s backlist, five books this month including the aforementioned “The Ivy Tree”.  So good.  Even though I cheated and skipped ahead to the ending.  I know.  Curiosity killed the cat and all that.

Other standouts: Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Mercy” (fantasy, Book 3 in the Imriel trilogy), a perfect ending to Imriel’s story.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but all I have to do it to read the opening lines of her books, and the way she writes, the cadence of her sentences, they instantly draw me into her world.  And I discovered Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English books (mystery / m/m romance) – he’s one of the best new-to-me writers I came across this year.  I love his writing and he has me totally invested in Adrien and Jake’s relationship.

 

So in the first half of the year, I read 83 books altogether.  It doesn’t feel like it, but I appear to have had more A reads during the first half of the year compared to the second.  I think November and December were good reading months for me, and the more recent reads are sticking in my mind.