Books for May

I feel like the month of May just flew past.  This is less an upcoming book releases post, more of a “hey, here are all the new releases that came out over May and what I thought of them”.

32758901Martha Wells’ ALL SYSTEMS RED (SF): This novella totally lived up to the promise of the initial excerpt we got a couple of months ago.  How could you not fall for a (self-named) MurderBot who really just wants to be left alone to watch the latest soap operas.  There’s definitely a second in the series, and a potential third and fourth – fingers crossed she sells them.

A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that blends HBO’s Westworld with Iain M. Banks’ Culture books.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Out now

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30658022Jenny Han’s ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN (YA): I adored the first book, and was delighted when Jenny Han decided Lara Jean’s story wasn’t quite complete.  This is the last of the books, and it wraps up the now-trilogy quite nicely.  If I’m honest, I found ALWAYS AND FOREVER less successful than the previous two (there were times I wanted to give Lara Jean a bit of a shake), but overall, it caps off a lovely set of books that brings to life the rollercoaster of emotions that high school was.

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Out now

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30753671Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s THE GATHERING EDGE (SF): The twentieth book in the Liaden series… and it didn’t really work for me.  What I wanted was some sort of resolution (or at least progression) on the plot threads left dangling from previous books.  What I got was Theo and crew hanging around on their ship in space.  For a whole book.  YMMV, but I wish I’d waited for the next book and then read both THE GATHERING EDGE and the sequel in one go (because things have to happen in the next book, surely?).

The luck runs rough around Theo Waitley. Not only are people trying to kill her and capture the self-aware intelligent ship Bechimo to whom Theo is bonded, they’re also trying to arrest her crew members, and throw the dignity of an important passenger, the duly-constituted norbear ambassador Hevelin, into question.

No wonder Theo and her crew felt the need of a break, and retired to what Bechimo refers to as “safe space.” Unfortunately, safe space may not be so safe, anymore.  It seems that things are leaking through from another universe, and another time. In fact, whole spaceships are coming through.  One of those ships is a blasted battleship seemingly fleeing a long-lost war. What’s more, its crew may be members of Theo’s ancient ancestral line—her relatives. It’s certain that they are in dire need of help. Theo has a choice to make. It seems that Bechimo’s “safe space” is about to become deadly perilous.

Out now

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34593693Elizabeth Wein’s THE PEARL THIEF (historical YA): And here’s the first new release that I haven’t read yet.  I’m really looking forward to this, but it’s a matter of too many books, too little time, and I want to take the time to savour this one.  Also, I love the cover, BTW.

Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. It is not an idyllic return to childhood. Her grandfather’s death has forced the sale of the house and estate and this will be a summer of goodbyes. Not least to the McEwen family – Highland travellers who have been part of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember – loved by the family, loathed by the authorities. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. Suspicion quickly falls on the McEwens but Julie knows not one of them would do such a thing and is determined to prove everyone wrong. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

This beautiful and evocative novel is the story of the irrepressible and unforgettable Julie, set in the year before the Second World War and the events of Code Name Verity. It is also a powerful portrayal of a community under pressure and one girl’s determination for justice.

Out now

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8306741Megan Whalen Turner’s THICK AS THIEVES (YA fantasy): Speaking of books I want to savour!  I have the actual hardcover in my possession (and trust me, that is rare), but have not yet cracked open the pages.  Partly due to lack of spare time, but also, it’s been so long since I’ve read these books that I’m considering doing a series re-read before I dive into this.  We’ll see.

Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.

A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance.

Out now

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30245414Josh Lanyon’s THE MONET MURDERS (romantic suspense): I think Josh Lanyon’s at her best when she does the FBI agent thing, and hurrah, this is one of them.  There’s been a Kindle edition mix-up which means I’m still waiting for Amazon to push the correct version to my ereader, so I’m practising delayed gratification on this 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 now

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22303684Ilona Andrews’ WHITE HOT (paranormal romance): It’s been a while since the first Hidden Legacy book.  Despite that, I’ve only read good things about WHITE HOT.

The Hidden Legacy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews continues as Nevada and Rogan navigate a world where magic is the norm…and their relationship burns hot.

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice …

Out May 30

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As for other May releases that have also caught my eye:

SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS, edited by Paula Guran (fantasy): I’m a sucker for swords and sorcery-type stories, and this sounds like a promising curation of stories.

Sarina Bowen’s PIPE DREAMS (contemporary romance): I’ve read this, and while I normally love Bowen’s work, especially when it comes to sports romance, this one was one of the weaker ones for me.  Possibly because the narration uses flashbacks as part of the story, and I really don’t care for them.  I wasn’t onboard for one of the main plot points as well.  YMMV.

Joanna Chambers & Annika Martin’s ENEMIES LIKE YOU (romantic suspense): I loved the free prequel they released, but all the tension and promise kind of fizzled out for me when it came to the actual story.  Too much internalising, not enough action, and the twist was fairly obvious.

Lee Child’s NO MIDDLE NAME (suspense): This is a collection of Reacher short stories, most are previously-published but there’s one new novella.  A library request for me, I think, as I’ve probably read most of the shorts already.

Books for November

There are so many new releases in November that I want to read… and I’ve been reading quite a few of them, hence the radio silence.  I also caved and bought the eARC of Lois McMaster Bujold‘s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN (there’s a really interesting (and spoilerific) discussion on Goodreads, with LMB participating) – my first eARC purchase and I have no regrets.  I figured that if I’d waited until the official February release, I would have been so excited about the book that there was no way GJRQ could have lived up to my expectations… you can see how I talked myself into buying the early version, right?  It’s fairly clean, if that helps, and by that, I mean I’ve read finished books with many more typos.

But enough about 2016 books and back to November new releases – this is a long one (with a couple of mini-reviews), so brace yourself.

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23453463Eileen WilksMIND MAGIC (urban fantasy): It’s hard to believe this is the 12th(!) book in the Lupi series.  And unlike some series which are in severe need of winding up, this series is still delivering.  I finished MIND MAGIC in one night, and really enjoyed it.  The start was a bit weak (with a new character’s POV taking up the first couple of chapters), but once Lily and Rule made an appearance, I was hooked.  It’s always fun to explore more of Wilks’ Lupi world, and while I’d loved to have seen more of the usual gang, Lily pretty much carried the book by herself.  As she tends to do.  Probably not one for new readers, but if you’re a long-time Lily and Rule fan, I suspect you’d be pleased.

FBI agent Lily Yu’s mind is a dangerous place to be in the latest Novel of the Lupi…

Thanks to the mindspeech lessons she’s receiving from the black dragon, Lily is temporarily benched from Unit Twelve—until her brain acclimates and the risk of total burnout passes. At least she has her new husband, lupi Rule Turner, to keep her occupied.

But when her mentor calls in a favor and sends Lily to a murder scene, she’s suddenly back on active status—despite the hallucinations she can’t keep at bay. With one touch, Lily knows the man was killed by magic, but her senses don’t warn her how far the conspiracy goes…

A shadowy force within the government wants to take Unit Twelve down, and they don’t mind killing to achieve their goal. With none of her usual resources, Lily is up against impossible odds–because with her mind in disarray, she can’t trust anything she sees.

Out now

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18627947Karen Chance‘s REAP THE WIND (urban fantasy): Speaking of long-running UF series, this is “only” Karen Chance’s seventh Cassie Palmer book, but it feels like it should be a lot longer because of the wait between books.  It’s been two years since the last book, and I was a bit nervous starting RtW, because Chance does love her complicated plots combined with superfastnonstopaction.  And have I said it’s been two years?

I needn’t have worried though, because I quickly sank back into Cassie’s world and by the second chapter, I had remembered how much I love the way Chance mixes up time-travelling seers, vampires, and mages to give good story.  She still packs a lot of action into relatively few pages, but the plot held together just fine (not to mention that I found myself giggling madly at times – some lovely exchanges here!).  Best of all though, was the fact that Cassie finally gains some agency in this book and starts to take control of her life – I’m really looking forward to the next book now.

You’d think that being Chief Seer for the supernatural world would come with a few perks. But as Cassie Palmer has learned, being Pythia doesn’t mean you don’t have to do things the hard way. That’s why she finds herself on a rescue mission skipping through time—even though she doesn’t entirely understand her dimension-bending new power.

Rescuing her friend John Pritkin should have been an in and out kind of deal, but with the near-immortal mage’s soul lost in time, Cassie has to hunt for it through the ages—with Pritkin’s demon dad in tow. He’s the only one who can reverse Pritkin’s curse, but with the guardians of the time-line dead set on stopping anyone from mucking about, Cassie will have to figure out how to get her friend back without ruffling too many feathers—or causing a world-ending paradox or two…

Out now

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20980680Kate Elliott‘s BLACK WOLVES (fantasy): After reading Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES and finishing her Spiritwalker books in the space of a couple of weeks, I was looking forward to her new book.  Spoiler: it didn’t disappoint.

BLACK WOLVES felt like a modern spin on epic fantasy, if that makes sense – still very recognisably epic fantasy, but with refreshingly different takes on the more traditional fantasy tropes.  I loved her variety of protagonists (including two older POV characters, one male and one female), though the multiple POVs did make me feel slightly distanced from the characters.  I also liked how different cultures and backgrounds were deftly interwoven into the story, making the world feel like a living, breathing one.  There were some interesting writing choices, including the usage of present tense for flashbacks and a time-jump about a quarter(?) of the way through the book – all of these worked for me, and I’m looking forward to the next book.

What I’ve just found out is that BLACK WOLVES is set in the same world as her Crossroads trilogy, but several decades on.  Which is interesting in itself, but should I have read the Crossroads books first???  I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything, but I wonder if I’d have gotten more out of the story had I known any previous history…

For readers of Brent Weeks and fans of Netflix’s Marco Polo comes a rich and inspired fantasy tale of warriors and nobles who must take the most desperate gamble of all: awaken allies more destructive than the hated king they hope to overthrow. Kate Elliott’s new trilogy is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series.

Twenty two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life.

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father’s fate.

Combining the best of Shogun and Netflix’s Marco Polo, Black Wolves is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

Out now

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22567177Juliet Marillier‘s TOWER OF THORNS (fantasy): Onto the books I haven’t yet read… a new Marillier is always a cause for celebration, and we return to her Blackthorn & Grim world here.  While it’s not exactly Sevenwaters (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), I still really enjoyed the first book in this series.

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier’s “lavishly detailed”* Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

Out now

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21528313Sharon Shinn‘s JEWELED FIRE (fantasy): While I was a bit lukewarm about the second instalment in this series, I have a soft spot for this world. And I do love Shinn’s writing in general.

The national bestselling author of Troubled Waters and Royal Airs returns to her Elemental Blessings series with the story of a young princess who will need more than blessings to survive in a kingdom where everyone will do whatever it takes to claim the throne…

As one of the four princesses of Welce, Corene always thought she might one day become queen. Only circumstances changed, leaving fiery Corene with nothing to show for a life spent playing the game of court intrigue—until a chance arises to become the ruler of a nearby country.

After stowing away on a ship bound for Malinqua with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, Corene must try to win the throne by making a play to marry one of the empress’s three nephews. But Corene is not the only foreign princess in search of a crown.

Unaccustomed to being anyone’s friend, Corene is surprised to find companionship among her fellow competitors. But behind Malinqua’s beautiful facade lie many secrets.

The visiting princesses are more hostages than guests. And as the deadly nature of the court is revealed, Corene must rely on both her new allies and Foley’s unwavering protection—for the game she has entered is far more perilous than she ever imagined…

Out now

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27271538HOW WE BEGAN (LGBT romance anthology): Yes, proceeds go to a good cause, but also contributors include Alexis Hall (he has a knack of bringing contemporary romance to life) and Amy Jo Cousins (I’ve really enjoyed her Bend or Break NA romance books).

How does love begin?

A glance, a gesture, an unexpected offer of help from a stranger…or from a good friend. A smile across a counter at a coffee shop or video store. A secret revealed in a song from another place and time. Or in a love ballad crooned at a high school dance.

In this anthology of never-before-published sweet LGBTQ+ stories, six authors explore the beginnings of love between young and new adult couples. All proceeds will support The Trevor Project’s work with crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth.

Out Nov 9

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19504964Ilona AndrewsSWEEP IN PEACE (urban fantasy): I’ve not read the free online serialised version, so this will be an all-new Ilona Andrews book for me. I found the first Innkeepers book good fun, so am looking forward to this.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Out Nov 13

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25719256Josh Lanyon‘s JEFFERSON BLYTHE, ESQUIRE (NA M/M romance): I think this may be Josh Lanyon’s first NA romance?  Looks promising, and I love the cover that Carina Press produced.

In this fast, fun and dead-sexy male/male new-adult caper from multi-award-winning author Josh Lanyon, twentysomething Jefferson Blythe gets lost, gets found, falls in love and comes out…all in the span of one wild summer

After his first relationship goes disastrously awry, Jeff Blythe uses his savings to tour Europe—the old-fashioned way. Armed with his grandfather’s 1960 copy of Esquire’s Europe in Style, Jeff sets off looking for adventure but finds much, much more than he bargained for…

In London, dodging questions from shady criminals about a mysterious package he most certainly does not have is simple. Losing the gunmen who are convinced he’s someone else is not. And when George, an old friend, offers him help—and a place to stay, and perhaps something more—things become complicated.

Is George really who he seems? And is Jeff finally ready to act on his attraction?

From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives. But trusting George at his word may leave Jeff vulnerable—in more ways than one.

Out Nov 16

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26400106Amy Jo CousinsREAL WORLD (M/M romance): I mentioned Amy Jo Cousins’ Bend or Break series above, and this is the latest instalment.  I requested an ARC of this because I liked the first few books so much, and this was a really sweet wrap-up to Tom/Reese’s story (which started in OFF CAMPUS).

Set several years later, while the initial conflict felt slightly forced (or perhaps I just wanted to thump Tom’s head for not learning from his previous mistakes), REAL WORLD ended up being a steamy read that gave me the warm fuzzies at the same time, if that’s something that’s possible.  It was lovely to see old friends pop up – I’m not sure if REAL WORLD isthe last book in this series, but if it is, it’s a fitting bookend to a strong NA series.

Also, what I love about Cousins’ Bend or Break books (or actually, her writing in general) is the way she deals with social issues – they’re front and centre, but the “message”, if that’s what it’s called, doesn’t detract from the story-telling nor the romance at all.  If anything, the current-day issues she highlights make her stories feel more real with added depth.

When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.

Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.

Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.

At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.

Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.

Out Nov 17

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25704796Joanna ChambersUNNATURAL (historical M/M romance): Joanna Chambers does historical romance well, and this one promises much. I think I read an excerpt on her website and added UNNATURAL to my must-get list immediately.

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Out Nov 24

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And that’s not quite all (I know).  The other November new releases that are maybes for me this month:

  • Astrid Amara‘s CRASH PLUS EXPENSES (M/M romance): I like her writing, not so sure about the premise of this one.
  • Richelle Mead‘s SOUNDLESS (YA fantasy): Mead’s been a bit hit-or-miss for me lately, and while I love(!) the cover of SOUNDLESS, I’m nervous this is going to be on the wrong side of the appropriation line?  I’m waiting on reviews before deciding.
  • Carla Kelly‘s DOING NO HARM (historical romance): I will cave and buy this sooner or later.
  • Janet Evanovich‘s TRICKY TWENTY-TWO (mystery): So, remember when I said some series should be brought to an end?  I err… will still likely request this from the library.
  • Sally Andrew‘s RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER (mystery): No idea what prompted me to add this to my to-read shelf (anyone review it recently?), but it sounds interesting.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal‘s WORD PUPPETS (fantasy): A collection of short stories (with gorgeous cover) – I really liked her “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” (free on tor.com), so would love to read more of her shorts.

More of What I’ve Read Recently

I’ve managed to get through a fair few books recently, both good and not-so-good.

Good ones:

21840287ML Brennan‘s TAINTED BLOOD, the third book in her Generation V urban fantasy series – my Goodreads notes:

This series gets better and better. This one was centred around a mystery whodunnit (so obviously the mystery fan in me was satisfied), with some really intriguing family dynamics promising much for the next book. Plus more reveals about the wider supernatural community, and yes, more Suze.

It was one of those books that leaves you wanting the next book immediately.  One of the rare new-to-me UF series I started this year.

Kelley Armstrong‘s WILD JUSTICE, the final book in her Nadia Stafford trilogy – this came out earlier this year, but I put off buying it because I kept on remembering how the lack of personal pronouns in Jack’s speech (Jack being Nadia’s mentor – and possibly more) really got on my nerves in the previous book.  That hasn’t changed much – Jack still speaks in very short sentences and Armstrong makes a point of this being one of his characteristics. Digression alert: it bugs me when authors use physical shorthand to bring out a facet of someone’s personality and then emphasise this trait ad nauseam, e.g. X always speaks in very short sentences, Y always drops her h’s when stressed, Z always drinks coffee, etc. (Shall we play “guess the other two books…?”)

That aside, I thought WILD JUSTICE ended up being a strong suspense novel overall – there was a slightly over-convoluted plot, which had the benefit of keeping me guessing throughout, and it ended with an HEA that I’d thought would be impossible at the start of the trilogy.  The strongest of the three books, I thought, and a satisfying read.

23524655Comfort and Joy – I mentioned this holiday m/m romance anthology in my December releases post, and I ended up really enjoying all four stories.  So much so that I’d be hard-pressed to pick one… okay, it would probably be “Rest and Be Thankful” by Joanna Chambers – I fell for her take on the enemies-to-lovers trope and the small village setting.  But generally, lots of angst-ing and sky-high UST mixed with humour, and yes, romance in all the stories.  All four contributions are available as individual stories, but I honestly don’t see why you wouldn’t buy the anthology.

Books I didn’t particularly care for:

From a great holiday romance anthology to a so-so one – I also finished Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which I picked up on impulse.  The good part first – I really liked Kate Meader‘s contribution, “Rekindle the Flame” and have added her upcoming firefighters romance to my To Read shelf.  The other stories ranged between okay to DNFs – I ended up mostly skimming two and skipping the other two.  I’m on the fence as to anthologies – it does help me discover new-to-me authors, but if I end up not liking the majority of stories, it’s not the best use of my book-buying budget.  Though let’s face it, I’m never going to kick my anthology habit.

WINGER by Andrew Smith – a new-to-me author and another impulse buy (there is a reason why I should stay clear of bookstores).  So I was swayed by the number of awards this YA novel picked up, including a Top 10 YALSA Best Fiction for YA.  Really, I should have checked out the GR reviews. While I did have some problems with some of the views of the POV protagonist, I figured I’d never been a 14-year old boy myself, plus as the story progressed, there were signs of redemption.  So it was a fairly decent enough read until I hit the last couple of chapters.  And then there was a WTF twist (and not a good WTF, mind).  I’m probably in the minority here (considering the awards and Best Of lists), but I’d rather not have wasted an afternoon on this book.

Books for December

A bit late here, but here are the December new releases that I’ve been eyeing – fairly light pickings, which obviously gives me the chance to catch up on that TBR pile of mine… I tried to do a bit of a Kindle clearout the other day, as I’ve more than 400 books on mine with the majority unread.  Let’s just say that I ended up creating a rather large To Read collection with books I’d forgotten I had.  The only saving grace is that they are ebooks, not physical ones – I shudder to think of the amount of bookshelf real estate I’d need if it was a physical TBR.

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13542374NO TRUE WAY, edited by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy): Heh. Of course this would be on my to buy list, even though I haven’t read a Valdemar book for ages.  I always buy her annual anthology – it’s practically a December tradition by now, even though the stories tend to be a bit hit-or-miss.  This anthology has been centred around her other universes for the past couple of years, I think, so I’m glad we’re back to Valdemar this year.

In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.

Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astouding adventurerers in sixteen original stories.

Out now

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22922375Joanna ChambersTHE DREAM ALCHEMIST (m/m romance/fantasy): I’ve enjoyed her historical romance, so am curious to see what Joanna Chambers does with umm… I don’t know? Urban fantasy? Plain fantasy? Not entirely clear from the blurb. But sounds intriguing nonetheless.

When the sun goes down, their passion awakens…and so do their nightmares.

Centuries ago, a man with Bryn Llewelyn’s dreamwalking ability would have been a shaman or a priest. In this time, he’s merely exhausted, strung out on too much caffeine and too little sleep.

Sleep means descent into Somnus—an alternate reality constructed of the combined dreaming consciousness of ordinary humans. A place he’d rather avoid. Trouble is, his powers don’t include the ability to go without sleep indefinitely. At some point his eyes close…and his nightmare begins.

As a teen, the treatment that cured Laszlo Grimm’s sleep disorder stole his dreams—and his ability to feel emotion. Petrified of needing more “treatment”, he clings to familiar rituals and habits. But lately his nightly terror has returned, and when he meets Bryn in the real world, the man seems hauntingly familiar. Not only that, Bryn awakens feelings in Laszlo for the first time in years…

Slowly Bryn and Laszlo realize they are both unknowing pawns in a plan of unspeakable evil. And that their powerful attraction could release the destinies locked within them—or be the instrument of their doom.

Out now

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COMFORT AND JOY (m/m romance): A holiday anthology by four of my favourite authors (Joanna Chambers (again!), Harper Fox, LB Gregg, and Josh Lanyon) – really, I don’t have to say more.  I’ve high hopes for this one, basically.  The stories are also being sold individually, IIRC.

Rest and Be Thankful by Joanna Chambers – Two stormy hearts find peace when feuding neighbors in the Scottish Highlands are trapped by a blizzard.

Out by Harper Fox – Can a stranger unlock the courage and passion in a young man’s captive heart?

Waiting for Winter by LB Gregg – Some mistakes are worth repeating.

Baby, It’s Cold by Josh Lanyon – Or maybe it’s the flu. Breaking up is hard to do — especially around the holidays.

Out Dec 7

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Also hopefully, Ilona Andrews will release the second Innkeepers book, SWEEP IN PEACE.  It’s down on Goodreads for a December release, if that counts for anything. I loved the first book, but haven’t been reading the free serial online as I’d rather wait for the full book.

Books for May

Quite a few May new releases on my radar this month (though having read through my list, it sounds like I’m not 100% sold on any of them – I am, really!):

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17666976Seanan McGuire‘s SPARROW HILL ROAD (fantasy):  I’m approaching this with slight caution, as her non-October Daye books have been a bit hit or miss for me, and I’m not a fan of ghost stories in general, but still, it is Seanan McGuire.  I’m expecting impressive world-building and a page-turning kind of story.

Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Out now

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17936925Tammara Webber‘s BREAKABLE (NA romance): I’ve been on the fence about this retelling of EASY from Lucas’s POV – while I liked EASY well enough, I don’t really get different POV retellings (which appears to be a bit of a trend in the NA world – or am I generalising?).  But Tammara Webber is on that list of authors I stalk (not literally, and definitely not in a creepy way, I hasten to add) and I’m pretty sure Jane @ Dear Author tweeted this was a good one, so it’s on my Kindle.

He was lost and alone. Then he found her.
And the future seemed more fragile than ever.

As a child, Landon Lucas Maxfield believed his life was perfect and looked forward to a future filled with promise — until tragedy tore his family apart and made him doubt everything he ever believed.

All he wanted was to leave the past behind. When he met Jacqueline Wallace, his desire to be everything she needed came so easy…

As easy as it could be for a man who learned that the soul is breakable and that everything you hoped for could be ripped away in a heartbeat.

Out now

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20309995Joanna ChambersENLIGHTENED (historical m/m romance): This is the last of the trilogy – the previous books have ended with HFNs, so a HEA is well overdue… I usually struggle with historical realities when it comes to m/m romance, but I’ve felt that Joanna Chambers has got just the right balance between portraying social constraints of the times and giving the reader a believable romance.  Plus previous books have been set in Edinburgh, a bit of a change to the more usual London.

Five months ago, David Lauriston was badly hurt helping his friend Elizabeth escape her violent husband. Since then, David has been living with his lover, Lord Murdo Balfour, while he recuperates.

Despite the pain of his injuries, David’s time with Murdo has been the happiest of his life. The only things that trouble him are Murdo’s occasional bouts of preoccupation, and the fact that one day soon, David will have to return to his legal practice in Edinburgh.

That day comes too soon when David’s friend and mentor takes to his deathbed, and David finds himself agreeing to take on a private mission in London. Murdo is at his side in the journey, but a shocking revelation by Murdo’s ruthless father leaves David questioning everything they’ve shared.

As tensions mount and the stakes grow higher, David and Murdo are forced to ask themselves how far they’re prepared to go—and how much they’re prepared to give up— to stay together. And whether there’s any chance of lasting happiness for men like them.

Out now

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20738173Josh Lanyon‘s STRANGER ON THE SHORE (m/m romance/mystery): Josh Lanyon is an autobuy for me, especially with his more  recent infrequent release schedule, so I’ve already bought AND read this.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for me – the romance certainly did, especially when the h/h were on-page together, but that didn’t really happen until later in the book.  The mystery… started off strong and fizzled out towards the end, plus there were elements that felt out of place.  Still a decent read, but probably not a one I’ll recommend for someone new to Lanyon.

Twenty years ago young Brian Arlington, heir to Arlington fortune, was kidnapped. Though the ransom was paid, the boy was never seen again and is presumed dead. Pierce Mather, the family lawyer, now administers and controls the Arlington billions. He’s none too happy, and more than a little suspicious, when investigative journalist Griffin Hadley shows up to write about the decades-old mystery. Griff shrugs off the coldly handsome Pierce’s objections, but it might not be so easy to shrug off the objections of someone willing to do anything to keep the past buried.

Out now

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19486421Jim Butcher‘s SKIN GAME (UF): It’s hard to believe this is the 15th Dresden Files book, and the series is still going strong.  I’ve to say the major twist Jim Butcher introduced a few books back has made this series feel fresh again, so it’ll be interesting to see how Harry’s getting on in this one.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…

Out May 27

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16156357Richelle Mead‘s THE IMMORTAL CROWN (fantasy?): It’s fair to say I was very surprised to see the cover of this one – it’s quite a departure to the cover of the first book, and I’m wondering if the redesign is to attract more of Richelle Mead’s core YA UF audience.  Speculation aside, I reviewed the first Age of X book when it came out last year, and while it took me a while to get into the story, I was impressed by the ambitious world-building – it’ll be interesting to see how she develops it in this book.

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Out May 29

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Possibles:

 

Books for December

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

They’re from two different worlds.

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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Other books I want to get:

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