Books for April

April is turning out to be a really good month for new releases.  Even better, we have two bank holiday weekends in the span of a fortnight – finally!  It’s felt like a really long haul since the Christmas/New Year holidays.

The new releases I’m buying (or have bought, in several cases):

33916695Jodi Taylor’s AND THE REST IS HISTORY (fantasy): I whizzed through all seven of Jodi Taylor’s St Mary’s books last year, which is not something I ever thought I’d be saying about a time-travel series.  She makes history come alive in vivid technicolour detail, while simultaneously having Max, Peterson, Leon, and pretty much everyone else at St Mary’s prove Murphy’s Law over and over again.

This book was released last Thursday (though it’s a May release for US readers), and I’ve already finished it.  I didn’t think it was possible for the stakes to be raised any higher in this series, yet AND THE REST IS HISTORY does that.  It was a rollercoaster ride all the way through, and I’ve no idea what else Jodi Taylor can put her characters through now.  (Also, I now know more about the Battle of Hastings than I ever thought I would.)

No one knows quite how, but Max and her baby are safe at last.

No one knows quite how, but Peterson has persuaded Dr Foster to marry him.

No one knows quite how, but Markham’s marital status remains unknown.

Certainly no one knows quite how a twelve-foot-high teapot has mysteriously materialised on the South Lawn, but it has.

But they do know that Clive Ronan is back.

They do know that he hates them and that this time he has good cause. And they do know that he will bring death and destruction in his wake.

Follow the disaster magnets of St Mary’s from the Egyptian desert to the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and from Hastings to the Sack of Constantinople in this, the eighth book in The Chronicles of St Mary’s

Out now

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34214319Sean Kennedy’s MICAH JOHNSON GOES WEST (YA): I’ve been a fan of Sean Kennedy ever since I read TIGERS AND DEVILS.  I loved the very Australian sense of place that he conveyed in the story, and have read all the sequels.  This one is a loose spin-off from the original series, so obviously I’m getting it.

On the outside, Micah Johnson seems to have everything. He is proving his worth on the field during his rookie year with his new professional football team, the Fremantle Dockers, but his personal life is a mess. Homesick, three thousand kilometres away from his family and friends on the other side of Australia, Micah isn’t coping. He’s using casual sex, alcohol, and drugs as crutches since he doesn’t feel comfortable approaching his foster family with his problems, and he’s left with nowhere to turn. It isn’t until he experiences a health scare and a friend is rocked by a personal tragedy that Micah realises he does have the strength to succeed at a new life in the West—but he has to learn to ask for help.

Out now

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28220678Kylie Scott’s TWIST (contemporary romance): I’m not loving her Dive Bar series as much as I did her Stage Dive rockstar romance books, but this one sounds good.

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they’re emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets… apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.

Out now

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34336498Elizabeth Vaughan’s WARDANCE (fantasy romance): It’s been so long since Elizabeth Vaughan’s original Warlands trilogy.  I haven’t reread those books for ages, so have no idea how the trilogy would stand up to time, but I remember loving them, so part of me is getting this new release purely for the nostalgia factor.  (The other part is hoping it’s really good.)

Spring returns to the Plains, and with it, the Time of the Challenges, when warrior fights warrior in a contest for rank and status. For Simus of the Hawk, now is the time to raise his challenge banner, to fight for the chance to finally become Warlord.

But his deadliest challenge does not come from other warriors, or even the sundered Council of Elders. For on the first night of the Challenges, a mysterious and deadly pillar of white light scorches the night sky—instantly changing everything for the People of the Plains.

Now a warrior-priestess, Snowfall, stands before Simus, who dares to speak of peace, of reconciliation. Her knives are sharp, her tattoos alluring, and her cool grey eyes can look through Simus and see…everything.

Now Simus and Snowfall must solve the mystery of the pillar of white light, and protect their people from all the destruction and chaos it brings. Snowfall fights for her place beside Simus, despite resistance from friend and foe.

The warrior-priests have abused their power for many years. Can Simus face the challenge of trusting Snowfall with his honor? And perhaps . . . with his heart?

Out now

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30312456Elizabeth Moon’s COLD WELCOME (SF): It’s been quite a while since we’ve had an SF book from Elizabeth Moon.  For some reason, I’ve never gotten into her fantasy series, but I’ve already finished reading COLD WELCOME.  It’s not quite standalone, but I never felt lost, even with my vague recollections of the previous Vatta storylines.  For an SF novel, we spend quite a lot of time planet-side, but it more than delivered on suspense and military detail, which is pretty much what I expect from a Moon book.

After nearly a decade away, Nebula Award–winning author Elizabeth Moon makes a triumphant return to science fiction with this installment in a thrilling new series featuring the daring hero of her acclaimed Vatta’s War sequence.

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

Yet even as Ky leads her team from one crisis to another, her family and friends refuse to give up hope, endeavoring to mount a rescue from halfway around the planet—a task that is complicated as Ky and her supporters find secrets others will kill to protect: a conspiracy infecting both government and military that threatens not only her own group’s survival but her entire home planet.

Out now

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31423483Alexis Hall’s HOW TO BANG A BILLIONAIRE (contemporary romance):  You know, I’ve no idea what this book is about, but I’ve already pre-ordered it.  Which is pretty much the definition of an auto-buy author.

Rules are made to be broken . . .

If England had yearbooks, I’d probably be “Arden St. Ives: Man Least Likely to Set the World on Fire.” So far, I haven’t. I’ve no idea what I’m doing at Oxford, no idea what I’m going to do next and, until a week ago, I had no idea who Caspian Hart was. Turns out, he’s brilliant, beautiful . . . oh yeah, and a billionaire.

It’s impossible not to be captivated by someone like that. But Caspian Hart makes his own rules. And he has a lot of them. About when I can be with him. What I can do with him. And when he’ll be through with me.

I’m good at doing what I’m told in the bedroom. The rest of the time, not so much. And now that Caspian’s shown me glimpses of the man behind the billionaire I know it’s him I want. Not his wealth, not his status. Him. Except that might be the one thing he doesn’t have the power to give me.

Out April 16

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33932233WR Gingell’s BLACKFOOT (fantasy): Speaking of autobuy authors, here’s a new one.  I’ve had such fun exploring WR Gingell’s backlist, and a new release is a bonus!  She does this thing where her books skip around within the internal chronology of the series, for which I’ve discovered an unexpected fondness (Megan Derr also does similar).  I’m not sure why that appeals to me – perhaps part of the fun is seeing events being retrofitted within the overall story arc.

Bad luck is the least of their worries…

Annabel has never wanted a cat. She certainly didn’t want a secretive, sarcastic black cat who takes over her pillow and makes remarks that no one else ever seems to hear. Despite that, Blackfoot manages to slink into her life like a small, furry shadow.

Now Annabel and her friend Peter are being over-run by cats. More and more arrive each day, turning up at the old castle ruins where Annabel and Peter spend most of their time. And some of those cats aren’t as…friendly…as Blackfoot.

When someone tries to kill Annabel and a spell goes very badly wrong, they find themselves trapped in the castle ruins, which are now growing back at an alarming rate. Even more alarming is the fact that the person who tried to kill Annabel is rapidly gaining control over the magical ruins.

Worst of all, Blackfoot knows more than he’s telling, and what he’s not telling could be enough to get them all killed.

Out April 17

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30245414Josh Lanyon’s THE MONET MURDERS (romantic suspense): I’ve been finding Josh Lanyon’s books a bit hit or miss recently, but she excels at FBI agents and that Unresolved Sexual Tension thing, so I think this could be a good one.

All those late night conversations when Sam had maybe a drink too many or Jason was half falling asleep. All those playful, provocative comments about what they’d do when they finally met up again.

Well, here they were.

The last thing Jason West, an ambitious young FBI Special Agent with the Art Crimes Team, wants–or needs–is his uncertain and unacknowledged romantic relationship with irascible legendary Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy.

And it’s starting to feel like Sam is not thrilled with the idea either.

But personal feelings must be put aside when Sam requests Jason’s help to catch a deranged killer targeting wealthy, upscale art collectors. A killer whose calling card is a series of grotesque paintings depicting the murders.

Out April 25

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33125611KA Mitchell’s RELATIONSHIP STATUS (NA romance): This book wraps up KA Mitchell’s debut NA romance trilogy.  I liked the first book, but was a bit more lukewarm about the second.  I’ll still get this to see how it all wraps up though.

Falling in love is easy. Staying there is the trick in this third book in bestselling author K.A. Mitchell’s male/male Ethan & Wyatt trilogy.

Life doesn’t come with a syllabus.

Ethan knows firsthand that long distance is hard on love. If Wyatt is spending his summer at an internship in Pittsburgh, that’s where Ethan will be. Even if it means inventing his own career goal just to find a reason to stay with his boyfriend. He didn’t expect they’d be living in a hot, crappy apartment, with work schedules that keep them apart more than together.

Wyatt’s past has taught him to keep his head down and focus on living through the day. Loving Ethan has him looking to the future for the first time; he’s just not in as big of a rush to get there. It’s hard to trust in happiness when life has been busy kicking you in the nuts.

Together they’re getting the hang of real life, when a new responsibility for Wyatt throws everything off balance. Ethan’s doing everything he can to prove he’s in this forever, while Wyatt is torn between a future with Ethan and a debt to the past. Too bad they didn’t cover this in college.

Out now

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And the maybes:

  • COSMIC POWERS: THE SAGA ANTHOLOGY OF FAR-AWAY GALAXIES, edited by John Joseph Adams (SF): The contributor list for this anthology is a mix of authors I really like and authors I’ve been meaning to read forever (Seanan McGuire, Kameron Hurley, Becky Chambers, Charlie Jane Anders, and Yoon Ha Lee amongst others), so I will very likely get this if the ebook price is reasonable.
  • Dianna Gunn’s KEEPER OF THE DAWN (fantasy): This is the first work to be published as part of the Book Smugglers’ Novella Initiative, and the cover is beautiful.  I’m easy like that.
  • Cinda Williams Chima’s SHADOWCASTER (YA fantasy): I will get this – I just need to finish the first book first!  I abandoned FLAMECASTER halfway, so will need to restart it.
  • Becky Albertalli’s THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED (YA romance): I enjoyed Becky Albertalli’s debut last year, and I think this is getting an equal amount of buzz.

Mixed Bag

Here are more books that I read last May.  Speaking of which, I’m finding it hard to remember that we’re already in February 2012.  Every time I see something dated February, I keep on thinking 2011.

This is a bit of a mix – a few books I loved, one I didn’t, some new-to-me writers, and some auto-buy authors.

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A Kiss at Midnight (Fairy Tales, #1)A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James (historical romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The “it’s not you, it’s me” when it comes to DNFs… so true.

I started reading this ages ago, but stalled after about one-fifth of the book and put it  aside. Well, I eventually returned to the book and just fell in love.

Fairytale retellings are not my favourite, but Eloisa James pulled this off perfectly. I loved the banter between the h/h pairing and their relationoship came across as a strong connection, both mentally and physically. There was both humour and passion, and of course, a perfect HEA. Great secondary characters as well, and I am glad Wick’s story was told in Storming the Castle. I closed this book with a silly grin on my face.

I should have included this in my previous post when I talked about WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST.  Because after finishing this one, I dived straight into BEAUTY and couldn’t put it down.

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Faster Than The Speed Of LightFaster Than The Speed Of Light by Lucius Parhelion (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a lovely and quiet sort of romance and captured the feel of the 1940s very well. A lot of the American history and physics talk just went over my head – if not, I think I would have liked this book a bit more. And unfortunately, historical m/m romances always leave me with slight doubts over the HEA just because of the period.

This was  a new-to-me author – I can’t remember what piqued my interest in the first place, I think it was a review blog somewhere.   I think someone more familiar with American history or into physics would have really liked this book.

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And Thereby Hangs A TaleAnd Thereby Hangs A Tale by Jeffrey Archer (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Say what you will about Jeffrey Archer, he’s a true story-teller. An entertaining collection of short stories, all with a twist in the ending.

I borrowed this one from the library, and finished within a couple of days.  One of the few short story collections I actually completed reading last year – I usually tend to skip some stories, but not with this book.

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Warcry  (Chronicles of the Warlands, #4)Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan (fantasy romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t come across many fantasy romances (maybe I’m hanging out in the wrong places) but this is very definitely one. I originally hesitated over this book as I couldn’t get into Elizabeth Vaughan’s previous trilogy, though I loved the original Warlands trilogy. This was a good one though.

The humour in this book caught me by surprise, but it worked – it kept the book on the side of light and easy reading. The characters were appealing and engaging, and it was good to revisit Lara and Keir from the original trilogy. Yes, some fantasy tropes were way overused (long cheesy titles, anyone?) but it was great to spend a couple of hours in a slightly different world.

I’m not convinced this book would work for readers new to the world, but I think I still stand by my recommendation for the original trilogy, and I’ll definitely get the next book she writes.

Nath‘s strong recommendation for this book persuaded me to pick it up sooner rather than later, and I’m glad I did.

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Paper PlanesPaper Planes by M. Jules Aedin (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really good voice and smooth writing – I sank straight into the story right from the start. The slightly unusual h/h pairing with disability, age, and cultural differences was handled well IMO.

The falling in love part was nicely done and I loved the humour in this book, but I think the eventual lack of conflict meant the book sort of fizzled out – once the initial issues were worked through, the main conflict was really just a lack of time to see each other.

Good read though, and I am definitely on the lookout for more books by this author though.

Another new-to-me author – haven’t read any more of her books yet, but maybe this year…  

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Private (Private, #1)Private by Kate Brian (YA)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

You know, I usually say I wouldn’t finish a book I disliked… well.

The frustrating thing about this story was that I kept hanging on, hoping that Reed would grow up or that the characters would redeem themselves or you know… something, anything that would make this book worth the time spent reading it. And it never came.

This was the sort of story which is one step forward, two steps back – you think Reed has grown a backbone, and then she suddenly she is exactly where she was a couple of chapters ago. It’s the sort of YA book that is candy with no nutritional value whatsoever.

And finally – I read the ebook version and there were typos galore – at least one per chapter.

Sigh.

Err… I don’t think I have anything to add to that.

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Long May She Reign (The President's Daughter, #4)Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White (YA)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really engrossed in this book from start to finish and the only reason I hesitated over the 5 star/favourites rating was the overall tone of this book. It’s gritty. Depressing may not be the right word but it is very personal and well, not an entirely uplifting story.

I posted about this earlier in the year, and ended up choosing this book as one of my 2011 favourites.  

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Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2)Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely better than the first book IMO. I’m not sure if the melodrama (which I thought was OTT in the first book) in this one has been toned down or whether it was just more suited to the story. I did want more urban New York – I didn’t really care for the Refuge setting and we didn’t really get much China either. I am starting to feel the romance in Elena/Raphael’s relationship and would definitely read the next book.

A bit of an uneven series this, at least from my perspective.  I read the next book the following month, and if you read my Goodreads reviews, you’ll know I did not love it.  

Another UK v. US Cover

51CfabG6gGL._SL160_

I swung past the bookstores today, and while I didn’t see Patricia Briggs’ “Bone Crossed” on the shelves (and no, my Amazon order hasn’t shipped yet), I did see this book (right) in the SF/F section.

51aCu4XCO3L._SL160_ I thought it looked vaguely familiar, and had a closer look – yep, it’s Elizabeth Vaughan’s “Dagger-Star”, not just with a different title and cover art, but also with the author’s name changed from Elizabeth to Beth.

519AJZRLx2L._SL160_ Am wondering what the reason for the change is; while US and UK versions do have different cover art quite often (and also different titles to a lesser extent), the author’s name tends to remain the same.  Especially since Ms Vaughan’s previous Warprize trilogy was released here under her full name.

 

Books for April

217jwo36r2bl__aa_sl160_.jpgETA: I’m rubbish – I completely forgot about Jo Beverley‘s “A Lady’s Secret” (historical romance).  Seeing it in the bookstore today was a nice surprise!  It’s set in the Georgian era, and I’m pretty sure it’s part of her Malloren family series.  I’m also getting her two-in-one traditional regency reissues, “Lovers and Ladies”, when it appears on the shelves.  Ms Beverley blogged a bit about “A Lady’s Secret” on Word Wenches, btw. 

Excerpt here .

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Books I want to get this month:

21yskqc-xpl__aa_sl160_.jpgElizabeth Vaughan‘s “Dagger-Star” (fantasy romance) – I loved her Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy, and am looking forward to this one, which is set in the same world but with a different cast of characters, from what I can gather.  I think it’ll be interesting to see the Warlands from a different perspective.  The cover’s very… bright.  Striking.  I’m pretty sure it’ll stand out on the shelves due to colour alone. 

Excerpt here (out April 1).

21isv88habl__aa_sl160_.jpg2100kwwr5rl__aa_sl160_.jpgKaren Chance‘s “Embrace the Night” (urban fantasy) – Third book in the Cassandra Palmer series.  I really like this series – my thoughts on the second book “Claimed by Shadow” are here.  I’ve uploaded both the UK and US covers – UK on the left, US on the right.  Same picture, it’s just that they’ve gone for monochrome in the UK and changed the position and fonts used for the title and author’s name.  No idea why. 

Excerpt here (out April 1).

214p7q1lg5l__aa_sl160_.jpgLois McMaster Bujold‘s “Passages” (fantasy) – Third in her Sharing Knife series.  After my little fangirl squee over “Legacy”, I’m obviously going to get “Passages” now.  Not blown away by the cover, but I don’t think it’ll be the deciding factor for people buying this book. 

Umm… can’t find an excerpt, but blurb here (out April 22). 

 21uv5nuemnl__aa_sl160_.jpgLisa Shearin‘s “Armed and Magical” (fantasy) – Second in her Raine Benares series.  I wasn’t completely blown away by the first book “Magic Lost, Trouble Found”, but I thought the ending was clever and that this series had potential.  I love the cover too – it captures Raine’s attitude perfectly, IMO. 

Excerpt here (out April 29 – so I suppose this is technically a May book).

31okquwm16l__aa_sl160_.jpgElizabeth Peters‘ “Night Train to Memphis” (mystery) – Heh.  This is not a new release, but a re-issue.  It’s the one Vicky Bliss book I haven’t yet read (until the new one comes out in September!).  I have been searching everywhere for this one, so I’m super-happy they’re reissuing it (out 24 April).

I’m wondering about:

21je5llnizl__aa_sl160_.jpgSherry Thomas‘ “Private Arrangements” (historical romance) – I can’t remember the latest book that got so much buzz in blogland.  Maybe Joanna Bourne’s “The Spymaster’s Lady”?  Which err… is sitting in my TBR pile.  And has been since Jan.  Sigh.  I’ll probably get this one too, but not just yet.  I like the cover, but to me, it conveys this medieval feel.  And I’m pretty sure it’s set in the late 1800s.

Some covers…

It’s been, oh, a week since I last mentioned my ebook reader so…

It’s the little things that add to the experience, like when I press the Bookmark button on my Sony Reader, it changes the top right corner of the page so that it looks as though I’ve folded the corner of the page.  Rather clever.  I have to say though – if Apple came out with an ebook reader, I’ll be the first in the queue.  I don’t think anyone can top Apple when it comes to design. 

What I do miss about print books though are the covers.  Sigh.  Some ebooks have covers, but black-and-white pictures don’t do it.   Just to indulge myself, here are some covers from upcoming releases this year:

21eebmda3vl__aa_sl160_.jpg31b98aegstl__aa_sl160_.jpg

Kelley Armstrong‘s “Personal Demon” (March 2008) – The UK cover (left) beats the US one (right), IMO.  Too many colours on the US cover, I think.  The girl looks orange, and the purple background and green letters don’t help!  Maybe it’ll look better in real life.  On the UK cover, I wonder what the mask represents?  The UK covers in this series can sometimes be a bit blah, but they have a pretty consistent look and feel.

21yskqc-xpl__aa_sl160_.jpgElizabeth Vaughan‘s “Dagger-Star” (April 2008) – Ms Vaughan has posted some info on her new book (finally!) – same universe as the Warlands trilogy, but different characters.  Sample chapter here.  A rather eye-catching cover, methinks.

My Sunday Trip to the Bookstore…

Or bookstores rather.  There’s this area in Central London where there are several great bookstores within easy walking distance of one another.  First up, on Charing Cross Road, you have a Borders – this isn’t as large as the one on Oxford Street, but it’s still pretty good for romance, mystery and SF / fantasy. 

A couple of minutes down the road is a small bookstore called Murder One – yes, they stock crime and mystery novels, but they also have a very comprehensive romance section.  Good for US imports (i.e. books released in the US, but not yet in the UK) that Borders don’t have, but they are admittedly on the pricey side.  I go there if I *have* to get a new release straightaway, as they are really good at getting the latest books.

Just five minutes away around the corner, heading down Shaftsbury Avenue, there’s a Forbidden Planet – yes, the website has loads of action figures, comics and toys, but in the basement of the store, they have a fantastic SF and Fantasy book section, and even with a special section for Fantasy Romance!

I could happily spend the whole afternoon browsing through these three bookstores, followed by a wander around the Covent Garden shops – especially if it’s a lovely sunny day, as it was yesterday!

Anyway, I did come back with a few books – of course.

Firstly, “Warlord” (Elizabeth Vaughan), which was on my March book list.  I’ve already started it, and it’s shaping up to be an interesting read.  I didn’t bother to re-read the first two books in this trilogy before starting this one, and there are a couple of references to events in the second book that I can’t quite remember.  Not enough to take me out of the story, but it’s slightly annoying…

I also bought Keri Arthur‘s “Tempting Evil”, the third book in her Riley Jensen Guardian series (paranormal romance with werewolves/vampires, set in Australia).  Despite having read the first two, I still haven’t quite made up my mind about this series – after this book, I’m hoping I’ll have decided whether to continue or not!  The publisher did that clever trick of issuing three books in consecutive months, which definitely persuaded me to pick this one up, as the last two are relatively fresh in my memory. 

Finally, I bought a new-to-me author, Susan Wright‘s “To Serve and Submit” – it’s a fantasy novel, with shades of BDSM, I think.  The back cover blurb from Library Journal said it would appeal to fans of Jacqueline Carey, and while I do take blurbs with a pinch of salt, I thought I’d give this one a shot.  My impulse buy of the day!

And finally, my sister dropped off her copy of Nora Roberts‘ “Angels Fall”, which I still haven’t read.

That TBR pile is growing ever larger…