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

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

************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

************ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But at other times, well, I struggled.

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

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

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

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

************

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

A Bit of Everything

I’m starting to realise I actually read a lot last October, despite doing what I thought were 15-hour working days.  Here’s what else ended up on my Goodreads shelves (as always, additional commentary in italics).

************

Angels of DarknessAngels of Darkness by Ilona Andrews (urban fantasy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ANGELS was an anthology that was worth the money for me. Usually anthologies tend to have at least one author I’m indifferent to, but this one had the bonus of me liking (if not loving) all four contributors.

I loved the peek into Ilona Andrews’ new Alpha world – more please? It was definitely darker and scarier compared to their Kate/Curran books, more reminiscent of their The Edge universe somehow. Sharon Shinn’s Samaria novella – well, I’m a total Samaria fangirl and while this was not the strongest story ever, just being able to revisit the world made the story worth it for me. And I liked Meljean Brook’s Guardian contribution despite me having stalled out early in her series (I suspect I would have gotten a whole lot more out of this story if I had known the full backstory), while Nalini Singh’s novella was enjoyable even though I haven’t loved her latest Guild Hunter books.

I think this was one of the anthologies I was most excited about last year, especially as it had a Samaria story.  I didn’t regret splashing out on the trade paperback edition.

************

Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum, #18)Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich (mystery)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It used to be I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Stephanie Plum book. Nowadays, I put in a library request and it sits unread until close to the due date.

I didn’t care for Smokin’ Seventeen but EIGHTEEN surprised me – and in a good way. Alongside the usual zany antics from Lula et al plus the usual Morelli-or-Ranger dilemma, there was actually a plot that made sense. Yes, the usual suspects turn up, but Stephanie has actually developed some skills – both in bounty-hunting and self-defense AND she may – just may – be taking responsibility for her own actions.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the next book (but I’m still getting it from the library).

Ha.  I have just put in my library reservation for NOTORIOUS NINETEEN, as it happens.  I will keep you posted on whether the slight upwards trend continues (probably in a year’s time at the rate I’m going).

************

Shadow Kin (The Half-Light City, #1)Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott (fantasy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn’t quite sure if this was urban fantasy or not when I picked it up – answer: it’s not, despite the very UF-like cover. Which was a bonus, because I was in the mood for something different.

And this was different – to an extent. I liked the magic system, especially sunmages, but struggled with the incorporation of vampires and beastkin (i.e. shapeshifters/werewolves). I think the world-building suffered somewhat from the too-many-paranormal-creatures syndrome. The story is told in alternating POVs, which was slightly confusing as I really couldn’t tell the difference between the voices. I finally figured out that the symbols at the start of each section indicated the narrator, which helped – but I shouldn’t really need visual cues to tell POV.

However, good ending and I ended up liking this story well enough. I would probably get the next book to see how the writing and story develops.

I’ve not picked up the sequel actually.  I saw BLOOD KIN in the bookstore and was considering it, then I remembered the lack of distinct voices in the POV shifts in this book, and decided I didn’t really need to know what happens next.  Unless of course, one of you has read it and think it’s worth picking up?  

************

Canyons of Night (The Arcane Society,#12, Looking Glass Trilogy,#3,  Harmony, #8)Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle (paranormal romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jayne Ann Krentz (and her various pseudonyms) used to be an autobuy for me – however, the only books of hers I regularly read nowadays are the Jayne Castle ones. I suspect it’s because the paranormal aspects that so annoy me when they appear in her historicals and contemporaries fit in nicely with her futuristic romances.

If you’ve read other Harmony books, you know exactly what to expect from CANYONS OF NIGHT. Hero meets heroine, they argue, then realise their talents dovetail perfectly together, and have a HEA (after getting rid of the bad guys). Having said that, I liked how Slade and Charlotte had a bit of a history, the chemistry between the two, and the small-town atmosphere. The suspense angle? Didn’t work for me.

And Rex the dust-bunny (for a change, belonging to the hero, not the heroine) and his fondness for sparkly objects? Love. Yep, I may be just reading this series for the dust-bunnies.

I know, I know.  This is futuristic romance-LITE, but I can’t help myself.  

************

What Happened To GoodbyeWhat Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (YA romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was engrossed in this book from start to finish. Sarah Dessen can be a bit hit-or-miss for me, and if you read too many in one go, her plots can start to feel slightly recycled. But WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE was complicated in the way the best YAs are. The beginning chapters hinted at hidden mysteries in Mclean’s life – the different names, the must-orders from the restaurant’s menu… they all promised a good story and I wasn’t disappointed. Mclean’s relationship with her parents came across as realistic – love mixed in with resentment and confusion – and at the end, I admit to a few sniffles. This book left me with warm fuzzy feelings.

I slightly overdosed on Sarah Dessen when I first stumbled over her books and did a Dessen glom, but this reminded me of how good her books can be.

************

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3)Mastiff by Tamora Pierce (YA fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A really long book that could have possibly done with some additional editing as it dragged in places. I’m glad to have Beka’s story completed (and the linkage between her family and Alanna’s explained!), though I would have liked to have spent more time with Beka’s friends and family who we met in the first book. [Slight spoiler – highlight to read: The twist at the end left me slightly bemused and sad – I suppose it was part of Beka’s growing up but, well.] All in all, I’ve liked this glimpse into Tortall’s history, but I’ll probably wouldn’t re-read the trilogy.

I tend to be a diehard Tortall fangirl, but this was not my favourite of the books, unfortunately.  On the other hand, the Mark Reads chapter-by-chapter reviews for her Alanna books are reminding me what a fantastic series that was.

************

Quarter Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #1)Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell (SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this following a suggestion when I asked for space opera recs, with the caveat this wasn’t exactly space opera with big battles etc, but focusing on the trading side of things.

And it’s a easy read – a coming-of-age academy-type story, but this time, the academy being a merchant spaceship. Interesting world, and I can see myself getting the next to follow Ishmael on his adventures.

I did buy the next book, but have stalled a couple of chapters in.

************

Slow Ride (Fast Track, #5)Slow Ride by Erin McCarthy (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked SLOW RIDE more than the previous book The Chase, which perhaps isn’t saying too much.

What I liked about this one? Tuesday and Kendall’s interactions – having female friendships amidst the testosterone-fueled atmosphere is always a nice contrast. And you felt that they were real friends. I also liked how Tuesday’s journalistic background was incorporated through the articles and gossip columns inserts – they were fun. And (not that I’m saying I have first-hand experience or anything – ahem), the drunken scenes came across as being spot on… [Slight spoiler – highlight to read: Although was alcoholism an actual problem for Tuesday? I’m not quite sure – and while I did think that Erin McCarthy was trying to tackle a serious issue, I’m not quite sure if it worked. Which probably means it didn’t.]

What I didn’t really care for: I did wonder why Kendall and Elec’s storyline had pivotal scenes in this book – this isn’t their story and really, it should have been wrapped up in the previous book. And while this series has a reputation for having some really steamy sex scenes (and I have loved the first few books), I felt this book had too many sex scenes scattered throughout that didn’t really advance the plot. However, it was interesting to see (very light) BDSM in a mainstream contemporary romance – a sign of the times?

Tuesday came across as a bit of a caricature at times, and too much on the laddish side – does anyone really ever describe themselves as “looking like ass”? Eh. And finally, the final argument was a bit OTT and I admit I lost respect for Tuesday at that point – drunk or not, she should have known better. I think it just came off as Diesel/Daniel being too nice for her.

So the jury’s still out on this series – I’ll still be reading the next, but not rushing out to buy.

I bought the next book FAST TRACK, but again stalled in the first couple of chapters – the hero came across as being incredibly condescending and the heroine had zero self-esteem.  Though I have seen relatively good reviews around, so I may return to the book at some point… 

Books for June

It’s that time of the year when I write blog posts while keeping an eye on the tennis on telly.  Wimbledon remains my favourite Grand Slam, but there is something to be said for Slams that are held in your time zone.

Summer is well and truly here (and that is not a sentence I thought I would use anytime soon).  And here are the June books I want.

*

HEX APPEAL edited by PN Elrod (urban fantasy): PN Elrod has come up with some pretty good urban fantasy anthologies previously, and HEX APPEAL looks to be no different.  With contributors including Ilona Andrews and Jim Butcher, this is very much on my to-buy-asap list.

Blurb:

Fall under the intoxicating spell of their hex appeal…

In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?

In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.

Includes stories from: Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Carole Nelson Douglas, P. N. Elrod, Simon R. Green, Lori Handeland, Erica Hayes, Carrie Vaughn

Out June 5

*

Erin McCarthy‘s JACKED UP (contemporary romance): I haven’t loved the last couple of installments in this stock-car racing series as much as the first three, but I’m willing to give this one last go.

Blurb:

She’s holding tight. He’s hanging loose.

Eve Monroe is a stock-car PR pro who puts her career first—until an on-track wardrobe malfunction reveals more than the sexy smile of her race-car brother’s jack-man, Nolan Ford. The video’s become an internet sensation, and it’s Eve’s job to calm the sponsors and put a spin on the unexpected exposure. It may be purely a public relations job, but now that Eve’s seen what’s under Nolan’s crew suit, it’s gotten a little personal—and after a few dates she has Nolan pretty revved up. If only she’d learn to relax and enjoy it…

And they both have the same drive.

Nolan’s sure that the spontaneous birthday bash he’s throwing for Eve in Las Vegas should loosen her up. It does more than that. Somewhere between cocktails and a smoking-hot motel-room derby, Eve and Nolan wake up hitched, thanks to a post-sex-high detour to a Vegas chapel. A hangover marriage to a virtual stranger isn’t good for anyone’s image, so Eve plans to play the happy wife long enough to satisfy the press, and then quietly part ways. Now all she has to do is convince her new personal jack-man. But Nolan has plans of his own…

Out June 5 (excerpt)

*

Diana Peterfreund‘s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS (YA dystopian SF): There’s been a lot of buzz about this post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, and seeing that I loved Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl books, I’m definitely getting this.

Blurb:

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Out June 12 (book page)

*

Julia Quinn‘s A NIGHT LIKE THIS (historical romance): Julia Quinn is a bit of a comfort read for me.  You always know what you’re getting with a Quinn – delightful romance with sparkling dialogue, if a bit on the frothy side.  Her latest release doesn’t appear to be a departure from this tried-and-tested formula.

Blurb:
Anne Wynter’s job as governess to three highborn young ladies can be a challenge – in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he’s the first man who has truly tempted her, and it’s getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger, but that’s not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family’s annual musicale, he vows to pursue her. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending…

Out June 7 (excerpt)

More Mini-Reviews (with Some Goodreads Rating Thoughts)

Heh – talk about ready-made content.  Here are the remaining books I read last April and added to Goodreads probably about a “couple” of months later.  Note I am still adding my 2011 reads there (umm… I think I’m up to September now – I mean, I hope I am), so take that timeline with a pinch of salt.

Speaking of Goodreads and the latest author/reviewer kerfuffles (I’m not adding any linkage, but if you’ve managed to miss the fun and want to know, ask!), I’ve been scanning through the numerous posts and commentary.  Just because.  I don’t think anyone’s made any new arguments, but one thing that did strike me was an example cited where an author said something along the lines of “I can’t believe she  wants to “fan” me on Goodreads after only giving my book three stars”.

Bearing in mind that was just ONE author and therefore not representative at all of the author community… it did make me think.  Because (and naming no names), I’m pretty sure there are authors that I “fan” (i.e. follow) there because I tend to love their books – however, let’s face it, not every book is great and if I’ve read quite a few of their books, there are bound to be a good distribution of grades in there.

Here’s my Goodreads rating breakdown by the way – you can see it’s sort of a normal distribution, skewed towards the positive:

Do authors get upset if they see books rated “only” three stars by readers who call themselves fans?  I “fan” authors (off-topic, but ugh, I hate that phrase) because I want to see their new releases and posts on Goodreads, and either I’m too lazy to add their blog to my blog reader or they don’t have one.   Maybe it’s more terminology than anything else, and with Goodreads classifying you as a fan if you want to follow an author’s updates, using that function carries slightly different connotations to what I’m using it for.

And also, three stars is actually a good rating – it’s “I liked it” in Goodreads-speak, as opposed to “It was ok” (2 stars) or “I didn’t like it” (1 star).

So did I have a point to this?  Uh, not really.  Only that I may think twice about listing myself as an author’s fan, especially if I’m not going to be one of thousands.  Maybe.

If you’ve read this far, well, on to the rest of my April reads – and hmm… this is possibly the more negative half.  As before, copied over from my Goodreads shelves, with some additional comments in italics.

***********

The Chase (Fast Track, #4)The Chase by Erin McCarthy (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve liked previous books in this series, but this one was a bit of a disappointment. The plot was ever-so-slightly OTT and I never really believed in the characters’ motivations. And okay, I never quite came to like Kendall herself.

I loved the first three books in this series, but the more recent ones have missed the mark somewhat.  I’m still going to be getting the next book in this series – whether I then continue really depends on how much I like it!

***********

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (YA urban fantasy)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well. This sort of read like fanfiction for the original trilogy.

The expanded version (because this sounds as though I’m disparaging fanfiction, and I’m not – I love good fanfic, operative word being good) is that well, I didn’t quite see the point of this book.  It wasn’t a new story – instead it took the original trilogy and sort of negated that story arc.  And the characters stagnated.  Does that make any sense?  

***********

Misfits (Adventures in the Liaden Universe, #15)Misfits by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am loving the fact that Sharon Lee & Steve Miller are releasing their Liaden Universe chapbooks in ebook format.

This one was another great “fill-in-the-gaps”-type short story – we get to see Miri from another person’s perspective, and it had a totally satisfying ending.

Oh yes, I continued my Liaden short story glom.  Can you tell I was thrilled to be able to read their backlist in e-format?

***********

Eidolon (Adventures in the Liaden Universe, Volume14)Eidolon by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just because “Shadow Partner” fills in the backstory for “A Day at the Races” (in Two Tales of Korval) so perfectly…

I really liked this one – it had my favourite Liaden characters in it, and as I said, it took a previous short story and just added so much more depth and colour to it. 

***********

Alien in the Family (Katherine Alien in the Family by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

And this book, unfortunately, is where I draw a line under this series.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s still fun, but in the end, there were too many things that niggled me about the book to get into it and continue with the series.

It felt as though there were too many plotlines, combined with some slightly-off pacing and plotting – the big action finale takes place around three-quarters into the book, with the last quarter focusing on Kitty/Jeff’s wedding… which had zero conflict or tension.

Also, trying to keep the character names straight drove me mad – for instance, Kitty would think of someone as Reader, but call him James. There were more than enough characters already – having different names for each person made it even more difficult to remember who was who.

And finally, this came across as a bit of a throwaway comment in the book, but really pulled me out of the story and was possibly the tipping point in my decision to finish with this series: [spoiler – highlight to read] Kitty gets changed into a sexy outfit, the other character essentially tells her to get a cover-up and then they have this exchange:

He took my shoulders and turned me around. “God, it’s as bad from the back. Really, go put on some clothes.”

“I don’t have a wrap, okay?”

“Find one. Before I rape you.” He gave me a gentle push toward the bedroom.

??!!!!

Fair enough – there had been some romantic tension between these two previously and this was meant as a joke, but seriously?? I thought we had moved on from rape being a female’s fault for dressing “inappropriately” – even as a joke. Aarrghh. However it was meant, I have to say this episode yanked me out of the story and had me fuming a little. I would have said I don’t normally get on my high horse about books having to have the RIGHT message, but really.

[end spoiler] I just don’t have enough invested in either the characters or the story to continue reading this series.

Oooh, I had a bit of a rant here – it was my feminist side getting up on a soapbox.  But I’m not continuing with this series – my non-enjoyment was starting to outweigh my enjoyment.

***********

An Unlikely Countess (Malloren #11)An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverley (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slightly mixed feelings on this book, not one of the stronger Malloren books, IMO.

What I didn’t like first – and these are very much YMMV* things: One of the plotlines I’m not particularly keen on is when characters purposely mislead others, and this formed one of the bigger conflicts in this book. Secondly, Jo Beverley has always excelled in historical detail, which is why I love reading her books, but this book was possibly too realistic in parts – and with her spelling out the chasm between local gentry and the aristocracy, I sometimes felt the obstacles to a forever kind of HEA were too much. Prudence didn’t come across as having the strength/character to eventually grow into the role demanded of Cate’s countess. And I found the eventual villain and explanation slightly over-melodramatic.

Having said all that, I liked Prudence and Cate’s relationship – their initial attraction to each other and subsequent romance felt very organic and real. And I was fascinated by the feudal nature of the Yorkshire society and the non-London settings – most historicals are set in London society so this was a refreshing change.

So yes, a good read, but not a keeper for me.

*YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary

Jo Beverley has written some books which were keepers for me, but her recent ones have been more solid reads – still good, but lacking that spark that elevates them to magic reads.  Her new release is coming out soon-ish, IIRC – I’ll be getting it but possibly not rushing out to buy.

***********

Outcast MineOutcast Mine by Jamie Craig (SF m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Very much a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Alien sex just doesn’t do it for me – however, great premise and good writing. I’d read more by Jamie Craig, I’ll just steer well clear of anything with a hint of aliens.

Ummm… yeah.  My review says it all.  I did like the SF setting, but it was too… out there for me.  Hey, I tried.

***********

Paris A to Z (Coda Books, #6)Paris A to Z by Marie Sexton (contemporary m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m probably in the minority here, but this book didn’t really work for me. Maybe because it’s been a while since I’ve read the previous books, but I kept on losing track of who was who. It felt a bit like because the author knew her characters so well* that there was a lot of assumed knowledge which didn’t necessarily translate well to someone not as fully invested in the world she had created.

*And to be fair, it’s book 6? I have read the previous books, I swear.

I know a lot of people loved this.  It just didn’t work for me.

***********

The Mask of Night (Charles & Mélanie Fraser #4)The Mask of Night by Tracy Grant (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It has been quite a while waiting for this book, and it was a pleasure to sink back into Tracy Grant’s complex world of Regency intrigue.

I love how things were not always what they appear to be at first glance, and how Ms Grant peels away the layers of the various relationships in this book, each reveal providing a fresh take on things. Melanie and Charles’ relationship remains rather complicated – the revelations in the previous books have put their marriage at risk, but they are both determined to work at it and learning to trust each other again. Painful, but potentially so rewarding.

I will say the sheer number of characters and the rather intricate political plotting lost me at times – possibly not helped by it being years since I’ve read the previous two books. But I have the latest book, Vienna Waltz, in my TBR pile, and am looking forward to reading more in Ms Grant’s world.

I’ve been meaning to start VIENNA WALTZ for ages now – it’s been sitting on my Kindle for months and I still haven’t opened it.  I think it’s because Tracy Grant’s books require a level of mental concentration to really get the plot – one that has been sadly lacking on my part for a while…

Books for October

New month, new releases – here are the ones I’m getting:

*

ANGELS OF DARKNESS anthology (fantasy): It’s rare when you’ve read all four authors in an anthology; it’s even rarer when you like all four.  But that’s the case with this one – Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, and Sharon Shinn all in one book. *happy dance*

I get my Shinn fix for the year (I don’t think she has a full-length novel out this year?) as she returns to the world of Samaria.  Ilona Andrews’ contribution is from the world of the Alphas mentioned on their blog every now and again – looking forward to finally reading it.  Nalini Singh contributes a Guild Hunter novella and Meljean Brook a Guardian one – I admit to stalling somewhat on both these series, so this may give me the impetus to continue.

The (slightly boring) blurb:

Tales of alpha angels…from four alpha authors.  They soar through the night, unearthly creatures of legends and lore. Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance explore the rapture of the heavens above, and the darkness below in four all-new stories of angels and guardians, and good and evil.

Out Oct 4

*

Erin McCarthy‘s SLOW RIDE (contemporary romance): I pretty much glommed the first three books in one go when I came across this stock-car racing series – it was the perfect combination of testosterone-filled settings and steamy romance.  However, the fourth and most recent (THE CHASE) didn’t really do it for me – I just didn’t get the relationship and found the plot a bit OTT.  Having said that, I’m still planning on getting this one just because of how much I liked the first three.

Blurb:

As a tribute to her late journalist father, Tuesday Jones is planning a career benefit, auctioning off racing memorabilia and meet-and-greets with drivers. Ex-racing star Diesel Lange has had his own brush with death, and is determined not to waste another minute of his life- especially when he meets Tuesday. He wants nothing more than to shift their romance into high gear, but he knows she’s still grieving. Can Diesel do the one thing he could never do on the track and take it slow?

Out Oct 4 (excerpt)

*

Catherine Asaro‘s CARNELIANS (SF): Speaking of series stalling, I never quite got around to finishing the prequel to this book, DIAMOND STAR – not because it wasn’t good, but because I had a feeling it was going to go somewhere rather painful.  And I didn’t want to read that.  I know – stupid, huh?  Anyway, I now have to bite the bullet and finish that story because I really want to read the latest in her Skolian series.

Blurb:

Two emperors navigate an uneasy peace, while a powerful trader guild does everything in its power to bring on war. And as if Kelric, the Skolian Imperator, didn’t have enough problems, his own brother—who happens to be a rock star of galactic proportions—has a hit song that calls the traders out as the hidebound blueblood jerks they are, and pleads for an end to centuries of war. Kelric and his Eubian Trader Empire counterpart Jabriol attempt finally to meet in a public summit and sign a treaty that will save billions of lives and end the grinding, millennium-long war. But assassins lurk everywhere, and intrigue is afoot as the baroque old order has no intention of giving up its war-bought privilege and power without a fight to the death—and they don’t care if they take the rest of galactic civilization down with them.

Out now (excerpt)

*

DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois (urban fantasy): These two editors have a talent for attracting big names to their genre-crossover anthologies, and DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS is no exception.  There’s Patricia Briggs, Diana Gabaldon (new Lord John Grey novella!), and Charlaine Harris amongst others.  And this time around, the theme is mysteries, so of course I’m going to cave and buy.

Blurb:

All new strange cases of death and magic in the city by some of the biggest names in urban fantasy.

In this all-new collection of urban fantasy stories, editors George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois explore the places where mystery waits at the end of every alley and where the things that go bump in the night have something to fear…

Out now

*

Tamora Pierce‘s MASTIFF (YA fantasy): The previous book was published back in April 2009 – talk about a long wait for this trilogy to be wrapped up.  I’ll be honest – none of Tamora Pierce’s later books have yet displaced the original Alanna quartet from the top of my favourites list, but I’m always up for another visit to Tortall, especially when it’s set in the past and gives us tantalising peeks at how Alanna’s Tortall was shaped.

Blurb:

Beka and her friends will face their greatest and most important challenge ever when the young heir to the kingdom vanishes. They will be sent out of Corus on a trail that appears and disappears, following a twisting road throughout Tortall. It will be her greatest Hunt—if she can survive the very powerful people who do not want her to succeed in her goal.

Out now

Books for April

This month’s new releases that I’ve been anticipating…

Teresa Grant‘s “Vienna Waltz” (historical mystery): Technically a March 29 release, this book has been a long time in coming.  I won’t go into the slightly convoluted history of why I’ve been waiting for this book for ages (mainly because it is of no interest to anyone but myself), but if this is in the same vein as her previous two books, it promises to be an excellent mix of historical intrigue and suspense, with some rather complicated romance.

Blurb:

Nothing is fair in love and war. . .

Europe’s elite have gathered at the glittering Congress of Vienna–princes, ambassadors, the Russian tsar–all negotiating the fate of the continent by day and pursuing pleasure by night. Until Princess Tatiana, the most beautiful and talked about woman in Vienna, is found murdered during an ill-timed rendezvous with three of her most powerful conquests…

Suzanne Rannoch has tried to ignore rumors that her new husband, Malcolm, has also been tempted by Tatiana. As a protégé of France’s Prince Talleyrand and attaché for Britain’s Lord Castlereagh, Malcolm sets out to investigate the murder and must enlist Suzanne’s special skills and knowledge if he is to succeed. As a complex dance between husband and wife in the search for the truth ensues, no one’s secrets are safe, and the future of Europe may hang in the balance…

Out now (excerpt)

 

Erin McCarthy‘s “The Chase” (contemporary romance): I can’t remember the last time I’ve been waiting impatiently for a contemporary romance to be released.  But I was completely captivated by her previous three Fast Track novels last year and am very much looking forward to this one.  I’ll be the first to admit that not all of Erin McCarthy’s books have worked for me (there have even been some DNFs), but I loved how she brings together the testosterone atmosphere of stock car racing with some very steamy romance.

Blurb:

Kendall Holbrook is determined to make it to the top, even with the challenge of being a woman on the male-dominated racing circuit. She doesn’t have time for romance- especially not with racing rival Evan Monroe, the man who nearly crushed her dreams years ago. Forced into meeting up with him, Kendall is experiencing all those old feelings again- and she can’t deny that they still have more than enough chemistry to set fire to the track.

After getting dropped by his biggest sponsor, Evan is watching his racing season go up in flames. Now, the only replacement available is completely humiliating: a co-sponsorship for his-and-her deodorant with Kendall Holbrook- the girl who once broke his heart. Acting like Kendall doesn’t still get him all hot and bothered is bad enough, but the biggest challenge awaits him on the track- where Evan has to decide if a second chance at love is more important than making it to the finish line…

Out April 5 (excerpt)

 

Julia Spencer-Fleming‘s “One Was A Soldier” (mystery): I won (and actually reviewed) the previous book in this series, “I Shall Not Want”, when Keishon hosted a giveaway back in 2008.  I loved how the mystery was set against the backdrop of Clare’s faith and the small-town setting, and was also intrigued by the rather complicated relationship between Clare and Russ – and this book sounds as though things aren’t getting any easier.  It’s been quite a long gap in between books, but this may be worth the wait judging from the online buzz.

Goodreads blurb:

Julia Spencer-Fleming’s debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, burst onto the mystery scene like a wild fire, snatching up almost every award imaginable. Since then, the series has only been picking up speed, the characters only digging deeper into our hearts. One Was a Soldier takes the suspense and heart-tugging to the next level, making for a truly devastating read.

At the Millers Kill Community Center, five veterans gather to work on adjusting to life after war. Reverend Clare Fergusson has returned from Iraq with a head full of bad memories she’s using alcohol to wipe out. Dr. George Stillman is denying that the head wound he received has left him with something worse than simple migraines. Officer Eric McCrea is battling to keep his constant rage from affecting his life as a cop, and as a father.

High school track star Will Ellis is looking for some reason to keep on living after losing both legs to an IED. And down-onher- luck Tally McNabb has brought home a secret—a fatal one. Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne just wants Clare to settle down and get married—to him. But when he rules Tally McNabb’s death a suicide, Clare sides with the other vets against him. Russ and Clare’s unorthodox investigation will uncover a trail of deceit that runs from their tiny Adirondack town to the upper ranks of the Army, and from the waters of the Millers Kill to the unforgiving streets of Baghdad.

Fans of the series have been waiting for Russ and Clare to get together, and now that burgeoning relationship is threatened in this next tantalizing novel by Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Out April 12 (excerpt)

 

Holly Black‘s “Red Glove” (YA urban fantasy): I’ve been meaning to read Holly Black’s faerie urban fantasy books for years, but never quite got around to it.  Then last year, I read her first Curse Workers book, “White Cat”, which sucked me into a very cool and inventive world – so I’m all excited about the second book now.

Blurb (note this has SPOILERS FOR FIRST BOOK):

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

Out April 5 (though June 16 for the UK edition – sigh) – book site (I’m linking to the News page as opposed to the frontpage as video starts playing automatically)

 

Lisa Lutz and David Hayward‘s “Heads You Lose” (mystery): I am a BIG fan of Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files books.  They’re slightly loopy and incredibly funny, but leave you with a big smile on your face at the end of it.  And while this is not a Spellman book and may have a bit of a gimmick-y concept (okay, very), I’m curious and do know that Ms Lutz, at least, does good comedy, so I’ll be getting it.

Blurb:

From New York Times–bestselling author Lisa Lutz and David Hayward comes a hilarious and original tag-team novel that reads like Weeds meets Adaptation.

Meet Paul and Lacey Hansen: orphaned, pot-growing, twentysomething siblings eking out a living in rural Northern California. When a headless corpse appears on their property, they can’t exactly dial 911, so they move the body and wait for the police to find it. Instead, the corpse reappears, a few days riper … and an amateur sleuth is born. Make that two.

But that’s only half of the story. When collaborators Lutz and Hayward—former romantic partners—start to disagree about how the story should unfold, the body count rises, victims and suspects alike develop surprising characteristics (meet Brandy Chester, the stripper with the Mensa IQ), and sibling rivalry reaches homicidal intensity. Will the authors solve the mystery without killing each other first?

Out April 5 (excerpt)

 

And finally, two maybes for the month: Kelley Armstrong‘s “The Gathering” (out April 12), the first in her new YA trilogy and Alison Goodman‘s “Eona: The Last Dragoneye” (out April 19).

As much as I like Kelley Armstrong’s books, I’ve not fallen in love with her YA writing, and this may be a library borrow for me.  As for Alison Goodman’s sequel to “Eon”, I liked the first (and love the cover of this one!), but may wait for the UK paperback release in August.

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 3

And the final four months of 2010…

September

I’m not quite sure what happened in September – no, actually, I do, it was a complete nightmare work-wise – but I ended up only reading six books this month.

But they were good ‘uns – I read Seanan McGuire‘s third Toby Daye book, “An Artificial Night” (oh, I have some crazy love for this series), and also really liked Jo Beverley‘s latest Georgian historical, “The Secret Duke”.  I read very few historical romances nowadays, but Jo Beverley remains on my autobuy list because she brings her historical settings to life (and she writes in the Georgian period – I am a total sucker for men adorning themselves in lace and jewellery).

And I discovered Manna Francis‘s Administration series – a (free) online science fictional m/m series that I glommed over the month.  Some really excellent writing set in a dystopian universe, with two main characters (one rather damaged to start with) growing over the series arc, and eventually giving you a HEA you can believe in.  I know it doesn’t sound like the cheeriest of stories, and it’s not – it’s dark and violent and grim (I’m really selling this, aren’t I?) – but trust me, incredibly satisfying when you reach the end.

Oh – and I received my new Kindle, which deserves a whole other post of its own (there is one sort of fermenting away in draft status).  Suffice to say it has replaced my Sony Reader in my affections…

October

I read eight books during October – the highlight being the long-awaited new Miles Vorkosigan book, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “Cryoburn”.   You know how I said I could not wait for Elizabeth Peters‘ new Amelia Peabody?  This was exactly the same, but even more so – seriously.  And “Cryoburn” didn’t disappoint.  It was perfectly-written on so many levels – it could be read as a straight Miles adventure/mystery (and Miles was very definitely at his “forward momentum” best in this one) , and then you hit the last pages and realisation comes crashing down on you, and you think “oh”.  And start re-reading all over again.

I also liked Sharon Shinn‘s latest fantasy, “Troubled Waters”, and Ilona Andrews‘ new paranormal romance “Bayou Moon” – the latter met with almost universal praise throughout the blogosphere, while the former had more mixed reactions, IIRC.

November

I went on holiday and read a massive 24 books over this month.  Bliss.

I glommed new-to-me YA author Jaclyn Moriarty‘s fantastic epistolary-style novels following a group of teenagers attending both private and public high schools in Australia – they were completely addictive reading, cheeky and irreverent, yet completely compelling and poignant at times.   I followed that up by reading four of Diana Wynne Jones‘ equally-addictive Chrestomanci YA fantasy novels – just so fun and inventive and plain good story-telling.  And then to mix things up, I read all three of Erin McCarthy‘s stock-car racing contemporary romances – which were steamy, funny, and yes, addictive.

Yes, I do glomming in a big way – why do you ask?

Other books I enjoyed this month – Nalini Singh‘s “Play of Passion”, her latest Psy/Changeling paranormal romance, which I thought breathed fresh air into this long-running series (and just in time for the big Hawke/Sienna book next year), new-to-me m/m romance author Indigo Wren‘s “The Trap”, based on the Dear Author review which promised melodrama and angst in spades (it delivered), and Sharon Lee‘s contemporary fantasy “Carousel Tides”, which is one of the books that has done that weird trick of “the more I think about it, the more I realise how much I liked it”.

December

I wrapped up the year with 20 books (yep, more holidays) .  However, not many books stood out for me – the biggest surprise was that I ended up reading a number of Joan Wolf‘s Regency romances.  I used to love her historicals and stocked up on her backlist when they were re-released as ebooks at Fictionwise – they’ve sat unread until now, when for some strange reason, I just felt like dark brooding heroes, horse-mad heroines, and sweet romances.

And finally, new-to-me authors this month included Elizabeth C Bunce‘s “Starcrossed” (YA fantasy), Kalayna Price‘s “Grave Witch” (urban fantasy), Marie Sexton‘s “Strawberries for Dessert” (m/m romance) – I didn’t fall in love with any of these books, but I would definitely read more by these authors.

And that’s it!  Next up will be the lists and statistics post, and maybe one about 2011 resolutions…

Previous 2010 wrap-up posts