Books for January

Happy New Year – here’s to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2016!  January has usually been a quiet time for new releases that I’m interested in, but not this time.  I’ve no idea why January 2016 is different to previous years, but hey, I’m not complaining.

(Seriously, the number of new releases this month is astounding.)

25361847Julie Hyzy‘s FOREIGN ECLAIRS (cosy mystery): I’ve always said that January signals a new White House Chef mystery.  Sadly, this is the last time I’ll be saying that, as this is the last book in the series (written by Julie Hyzy anyway).  It’s an interesting link, even if you haven’t been reading the series – I had no idea how the book packaging world worked.  I’ve had my ups and downs with this series, but I’ll be sorry to read the last page.

White House executive chef Ollie Paras has served plenty of meals to foreign dignitaries from around the world. But someone is ready to serve her an ice-cold dish of revenge…

Things are about to really heat up for Ollie. News of a bombing and attempted breakout at a federal prison reveals that the brother of a terrorist she helped defeat is back with a vengeance. And after she gets mugged on her way home from work, the Secret Service won’t leave her side, fearing she is now a target.

When a White House staff member is murdered, officials rush to action over a possible security breach. It may be time for Ollie to trade in her apron for a bullet-proof vest as she becomes part of a bold strategy to make sure this terrorist gets his just desserts…

Out Jan 5

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26262453Harper Fox‘s COLD FUSION (M/M contemporary romance): Harper Fox is one of my auto-buy authors (I love the sense of place her books evoke) and this looks to be a good one.

Their love is the catalyst that could save the planet…or cost their lives.

As an environmental activist for Peace Warrior, Kier Mallory never hesitated to throw himself into dangerous situations. Until his hotheadedness costs the lives of two fellow crewmembers on an anti-whaling mission.

He finds no refuge in his hometown on Scotland’s north coast, where everyone knows what this son of a broken fisherman has done. Effectively homeless, Mal returns to one of his favorite places—Spindrift, a rustic colony of artist and crafter huts.

Spindrift is dilapidated and empty, save for a lone resident. Vivian Calder, a brilliant but emotionally detached scientist who appears to have done the impossible—mastered cold fusion. A clean, free, limitless source of power.

Despite Viv’s aversion to contact, a fragile bond forms between them, seemingly one atom at a time. Until Mal, determined to redeem himself by revealing Viv’s accomplishment to the world, brings down the wrath of an oil-dependent establishment, risking not only their love, but Viv’s life.

Warning: Contains a disgraced environmentalist and an autistic genius who go from strangers to lovers-for-life in thirteen days. Don’t believe in miracles? We’ll make you.

Out Jan 5

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21414439Susan Dennard‘s TRUTHWITCH (YA fantasy): A new-to-me author, but there’s been a lot of hype over this YA fantasy.  And yeah, it sounds good.

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Out Jan 5

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28168696KA Mitchell‘s RISK EVERYTHING ON IT (M/M contemporary romance): Second in her latest Ready or Knot series and there was sufficient sequel-bait in the previous book to reel me in.

Former child star and deeply closeted adult actor Jax Conlon needs a boost to his flagging career. He promised his mom, just before she died. He hopes he’s found it in a guest spot with the latest directorial prodigy, but his research for the role gets derailed by an encounter with a handsome stranger with more… hands-on experience.

Oz Parsons is a devoted dad to two amazing little girls. Maybe a little too devoted—he hasn’t had anything resembling a personal life since his ex left, leaving Oz and the girls with broken hearts and abandonment issues. So a hookup with a hot guy is just what he needs to let off some pent-up steam without any complications. There’s something about Jax, though, that’s got him finding reasons to draw things out.

With their goals and families pulling them in two different directions, Oz and Jax have to figure if white-hot chemistry and desire that won’t quit is enough to roll the dice and risk now on forever.

Out Jan 8

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27252717Elle Kennedy‘s THE SCORE (NA romance): Finally, the next book in this highly-enjoyable ice hockey romance series.  I devoured the first two books (when I finally got around to reading them), so I’m thrilled we get more.

He knows how to score, on and off the ice

Allie Hayes is in crisis mode. With graduation looming, she still doesn’t have the first clue about what she’s going to do after college. To make matters worse, she’s nursing a broken heart thanks to the end of her longtime relationship. Wild rebound sex is definitely not the solution to her problems, but gorgeous hockey star Dean Di-Laurentis is impossible to resist. Just once, though, because even if her future is uncertain, it sure as heck won’t include the king of one-night stands.

It’ll take more than flashy moves to win her over

Dean always gets what he wants. Girls, grades, girls, recognition,girls…he’s a ladies man, all right, and he’s yet to meet a woman who’s immune to his charms. Until Allie. For one night, the feisty blonde rocked his entire world—and now she wants to befriends? Nope. It’s not over until he says it’s over. Dean is in full-on pursuit, but when life-rocking changes strike, he starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to stop focusing on scoring…and shoot for love.

Out Jan 11

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23111882Seanan McGuire‘s REFLECTIONS (urban fantasy): I really enjoyed the twisted take on fairytales that was INDEXING so I’m looking forward to its sequel.  (Also, Amazon – when are you going to do Kindle Serials in the UK?)

“For her to love me, she had to be willing to kill me. Anything else would show that her heart was untrue.”

The struggle against not-so-charming storybook narratives isn’t the only complicating factor in Henrietta “Henry” Marchen’s life. As part of the ATI Management Bureau team protecting the world from fairy tales gone awry, she’s juggling her unwanted new status as a Snow White, dealing with a potentially dangerous Pied Piper, and wrangling a most troublesome wicked stepsister—along with a budding relationship with Jeff, her teammate.

But when a twisted, vicious Cinderella breaks out of prison and wreaks havoc, things go from disenchanted to deadly. And once Henry realizes someone is trying to use her to destroy the world, her story becomes far from over—and this one might not have a happily ever after.

Indexing: Reflections is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s continuing new urban fantasy, where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

Out Jan 12

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25362841Kelley Armstrong‘s THE CITY OF THE LOST (suspense): Another novel that was originally released as an e-serial.  I know Kelley Armstrong can do suspense, so this promises to be a good one.

New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author Kelley Armstrong delivers us to Rockton, a secret little town in the far north where the hunted go to hide. And where a hunter has now come to play.

Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police detective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Diana’s abusive ex finds her again, despite all Casey has done to help her disappear. And Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…

Out Jan 14

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22065067Kathy MacMillan‘s SWORD AND VERSE (YA fantasy): Another new-to-me author (and yes, another YA fantasy with lots of hype – I’m predictable), but again, I’m loving the back cover blurb.

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Out Jan 19

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27260565JL Merrow‘s OUT! (M/M contemporary romance): I’ve really been enjoying her Shamwell Tales books, with its slightly off-beat humour and small-town English feel, so hurrah for the third in series.

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Product Warnings: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.

Out Jan 19

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15993203Alison Goodman‘s THE DARK DAYS CLUB (YA fantasy): Alison Goodman’s perhaps better known for her East Asian-inspired YA fantasy duology, Eon, but this one sounds equally intriguing.

New York Times bestseller Alison Goodman’s eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter!

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Out Jan 26

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26063084Eloisa JamesMY AMERICAN DUCHESS (historical romance): A new Eloisa James!  Happy days.

The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford— an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.

But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.

The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:

All is fair in love and war.

Out Jan 26

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I wasn’t joking about the number of new releases this month, right?  What new releases do you have your eye on?

Books for January

New year, new releases?  Kind of.  January tends to be a bit quiet in terms of new releases that catch my eye, and 2015 isn’t really an exception.  Here are the ones that I’m interested in:

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22522026Julie Hyzy‘s ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MENUS (mystery): I’ve started to associate January with a new White House Chef cosy mystery from Julie Hyzy, and she’s not let me down. It’ll be eight books into the series this year, and I’m still finding Ollie’s adventures fun.

It’s an old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. But when a tour of the White House kitchen by a group of foreign chefs ends in murder, it’s Olivia Paras who finds herself in the soup…

Due to a government sequester, entertaining at the White House has been severely curtailed. So executive chef Olivia Paras is delighted to hear that plans are still on to welcome a presidential candidate from the country of Saardisca—the first woman to run for office—and four of that nation’s top chefs.

But while leading the chefs on a kitchen tour, pastry chef Marcel passes out suddenly—and later claims he was drugged. When one of the visiting chefs collapses and dies, it’s clear someone has infiltrated the White House with ill intent. Could it be an anti-Saardiscan zealot? Is the candidate a target? Are the foreign chefs keeping more than their recipes a secret? Once again, Olivia must make sleuthing the special of the day…

Out Jan 6

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23566506Courtney Milan‘s TRADE ME (contemporary romance): Courtney Milan does contemporary!  I’m very excited.  I’ve liked her historicals well enough, but I’ve never really clicked with them – there is something very clean and precise about her prose that makes me feel like a contemporary would suit her voice well?  We’ll see.

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

Out Jan 20

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And to finish off, a couple of novella/short stories which are being released for free this month:

  • KJ Charles“A Case of Spirits” is a short story set in her Charm of Magpies series (a blend of historical M/M romance/fantasy that really works), coming out Jan 6.
  • And Viv Daniels (a.k.a. Diana Peterfreund) has a series prequel coming out Jan 20 (“Island Escape”) – note I’m guessing it’s a short and a prequel purely based on the fact it’s in Goodreads as #0.5 in the Island series.  I don’t actually know very much about this series – it may be a serial release?  It will most probably be a NA romance.

Oh, I probably should mention Sharon Lee‘s CAROUSEL SEAS hits physical bookstores this month (Baen releases the ebook version a few weeks earlier, so I’ve finished this already).  A solid urban rural contemporary fantasy – I could have done without the incursions into the wider political machinations of the fae, but it was good conclusion to the trilogy.

So slim pickings for January new releases, but it just means I can work on my TBR pile, which somehow managed to grow exponentially over December.

Are you eyeing any more?

Books for January

I’ve not that many January new releases on my list of books to buy – I think that’s been true for previous years as well.  I suspect January is a quiet time for those authors/genres I like to read.

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17938355Julie Hyzy‘s HOME OF THE BRAISED (cosy mystery): A new White House Chef mystery has signalled January to me for the past six or so years, and 2014 is no exception.  I’ve had both hits and misses with this series, but a new Ollie Paras book is always on my to-read list.

With the pressure of an upcoming state dinner that could make or break the president’s foreign policy, White House executive chef Olivia Paras has precious little time to focus on her wedding plans—or to catch a murderer….

Tensions are running high as the White House staff adjusts to a new chief usher and prepares for a high-stakes state dinner, where everything must be perfect. But as the date for the event approaches, things go disastrously wrong when the secretary of defense is found dead in his home, seemingly killed during a break-in.

At the same time Olivia’s fiancé, Gav, is looking into the mysterious murder of an old friend. Is there a connection? Despite an increase in security following the secretary’s death, Ollie learns the president is in imminent danger at the dinner and must do everything in her power to get to him—before it’s too late.

Out Jan 7

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18074870KJ CharlesA CASE OF POSSESSION (m/m romance/fantasy): I wasn’t surprised to see KJ Charles’ debut novel THE MAGPIE LORD pop up on various Best of 2013 lists, and I’m glad the next book in the series is out so soon.

Lord Crane has never had a lover quite as elusive as Stephen Day. True, Stephen’s job as justiciar requires secrecy, but the magician’s disappearing act bothers Crane more than it should. When a blackmailer threatens to expose their illicit relationship, Crane knows a smart man would hop the first ship bound for China. But something unexpectedly stops him. His heart.

Stephen has problems of his own. As he investigates a plague of giant rats sweeping London, his sudden increase in power, boosted by his blood-and-sex bond with Crane, is rousing suspicion that he’s turned warlock. With all eyes watching him, the threat of exposure grows. Stephen could lose his friends, his job and his liberty over his relationship with Crane. He’s not sure if he can take that risk much longer. And Crane isn’t sure if he can ask him to.

The rats are closing in, and something has to give…

Warning: Contains m/m sex (on desks), blackmail, dark pasts, a domineering earl, a magician on the edge, vampire ghosts (possibly), and the giant rats of Sumatra.

Out Jan 28

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Also, technically a February release, but Sharon Lee‘s CAROUSEL TIDES should be available from Baen midway through January.  I loved the first book, CAROUSEL SEA, and am looking forward to returning to her otherworldly Archers Beach.

Have I missed any of your January must-reads?

Romance, Mystery, and a Bit of Fantasy

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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Naked Once MoreNaked Once More by Elizabeth Peters (mystery)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

And you know what? I really really liked it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

Another middle-of-the-road category romance.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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February ThawFebruary Thaw by Tanya Huff (fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

Books for January

So we’ve just about hit the end of the post-Christmas/New Year period – I think this has to be my least favourite time of year (back to work after a long-ish break, no holidays to look forward to, etc etc), with the only bright spot being that the days are slowly getting longer.

And I have to say that my new releases list for January isn’t that long either.  In fact, if it wasn’t for Kelly Hunter, it would look incredibly depressing.  Talk about January blues.

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17155520Kelly Hunter‘s THE TROUBLE WITH VALENTINE’S DAY (contemporary romance): This is an interesting experiment – it’s actually an expanded version of her first M&B romance, WIFE FOR A WEEK.  From her website:

[…] ‘The Trouble With Valentine’s’, which is my first ever published story (Wife for A Week) writ long – as in I’ve expanded it by 30,000 words. It’ll be released in Jan/Feb in the UK and Aus under the Mira imprint. […] I love this story – it’s the first in the Bennett series – and the expansion explores more of the brothers, more of Jasmine and Kai (the secondary romance) and more of my favourite themes.

I was curious about this because WFAW was the book that kickstarted my Kelly Hunter glom, and despite my reservations about this being the same book recycled in new packaging, I caved and bought it.  I’ll be honest and say I probably wasn’t the ideal audience for this book – I was distracted by the fact it was WFAW II, and probably spent more time flipping between the two books to see what had been added or changed than actually reading the story itself.  If you’re curious, the Jasmine/Kai strand has been expanded significantly (and for the better, IMO), there are nods towards the fact this is being packaged as a Valentine’s Day romance, more mentions of Hallie’s brothers, and some additional scenes between Hallie and Nick.

I think when (because it will probably be when, not if) I do a re-read of this one, it’ll work much better because I’ll be focused on the actual story instead of wondering about the differences. If you haven’t read WFAW and are interested in starting this series, I’d recommend you pick up this version instead – it’s more expensive than a M&B as it’s been published under the Mira imprint, but you can probably get it off Kobo with a discount coupon.

The perfect Valentine’s gift?

As far as women’s fashion accessories went, he was spectacular. A black-haired, cobalt-eyed, dangerous- looking toy who no doubt warned you outright not to bother playing with him if you didn’t like his rules. He was like a Hermes handbag; women saw and women wanted, even though they knew the price was going to be astronomical.

Hallie Bennett likes a challenge, though – and his offer is tempting: $5,000 if she pretends to be his wife for a week. It might not be the most traditional Valentine’s Day proposal… but she’s hardly a traditional girl. Maybe a week in the high life, with a man to match, will be just the ticket. Just as long as she doesn’t start wishing the ‘I do’ is real…

Out now

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15825773Kelly Hunter‘s THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (contemporary romance): And then the Kelly Hunter that I’m really looking forward to – her debut for the new Harlequin KISS line in the US.  I’d have picked it up regardless of reviews, but I’ve already heard good buzz about this book and it had a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.  It’s also the Dear Author book club pick for February.

Good job? Tick. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting. Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking. Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever, and this time he’s not going anywhere…

Out January 22

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15742820Julie Hyzy‘s FONDUING FATHERS (cosy mystery): And the last of the January new releases on my list (I did say it was short).  I’ve been following this series since the first book was released, and while I’ve had my ups and downs, the White House setting keeps me intrigued.  If you’re interested, Christina @ Babbling Book Reviews did a series spotlight that summarises all the books to date.

White House executive chef Olivia Paras has enough on her plate. But after gaining new information about her father’s death, the First Family isn’t the only family Olivia is concerned about.

Olivia has always believed that her father was an honorable man—until a trip to visit her mother reveals that he was dishonorably discharged from the army. Olivia is even more shocked to learn that he was brutally murdered because someone at his company suspected him of selling corporate secrets. Refusing to believe that her father was a scoundrel, Olivia won’t rest until she proves his innocence.

Enlisting the help of her boyfriend, Gav, Olivia must reach out to her father’s colleagues to discover the truth behind his murder. What she’s about to discover may not only put her at risk, but threaten national security as well…

Out now (author website)

Books for January

Or maybe book.  I’m not sure why, but January tends to be a really slow month for new releases that interest me.

So there’s only one book this month that I’m thinking of getting (and note the thinking, because previous books in this series have been a bit hit-or-miss for me:

Julie Hyzy‘s AFFAIRS OF STEAK (cosy mystery): I love the White House setting of this series, but the characters sometimes grate on my nerves.  I’ll still probably get a copy when this books comes out though.

Blurb:

White House chef Olivia Paras and her arch nemesis, White House Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, must work together to solve the double murder of one of the First Lady’s assistants and the Chief of Staff-before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda.
Out Jan 3
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And yeah – that’s it.  However, I’ve recently discovered Fantasy (and now Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy) online magazine – I’m enjoying browsing their free stories.  The Naomi Novik one (“Vici”) was previously published in THE DRAGON BOOK anthology and I’ve read it already, but it was a lovely funny re-read.  And there’s a Seanan McGuire contribution, “Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage”, which combines loving pokes at old-school fantasy adventures with a bit of a haunting twist. And well, lots more which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

January Reads

Alternative post title: Better late than never.

No, really, I have an excuse!  I’m still trying to figure out how to cross-post between Goodreads and here.  And I did get all my January reads eventually logged onto Goodreads, and then realised it would also make sense to get them here as well.

So, without further ado, here are the books I read in January – not full reviews as such, but pretty much my response to Goodreads’s question “What did you think?”.

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A Grand Deception (Signet Regency Romance)A Grand Deception by Elizabeth Mansfield (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun farce of hidden identities, though you’ve to suspend disbelief at times. It did go down the road of “love at first sight”, which is not a favourite trope of mine, but oh well. I liked the charity schoolmistress aspect – with the caveat I’m not a stickler for historical accuracy.

 

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Blood Challenge (World of the Lupi, #7)Blood Challenge by Eileen Wilks (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely one of the stronger installments in this series – while I wouldn’t recommend this to someone new to the series, I thought this book built on existing relationships beautifully. More Rule/Lily, more Isen and his sons, and without going into too many details, I loved Arjenie and thought she was a breath of fresh air.

It’s funny how you love some books so much that aspects that would usually bother you otherwise don’t – here it was the info-dumping. Some scenes were pretty exclusively info-dumping sessions, but you know, I love, so Ms Wilks gets a pass.

I am a bit more meh about the “Great Bitch” plot arc, but having said that, I thought the book ended on a really good note and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A slightly shaky start to the book – a bit too much info-dumping and some rather over-the-top melodramatic scenes. However, once the hunt for the fallen archangel started in earnest, I was drawn into the story, and yeah, the sequels are now on my list of books to buy.

The angel twist – very unlike the angels in, say, Sharon Shinn‘s Samaria books. Instead, it was more of “right, what can be more bad-ass than a vampire… let’s have angels!”. Or archangels, rather.

I’d have liked more exploration of the angel mythology, possibly one for later books? And there was sequel-bait everywhere, not that I’m complaining – I vote for Ilium myself!

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The Magicians of Caprona (Chrestomanci, #4)The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones (children’s fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fun read, but not as addictive as the first two Chrestomanci books, IMO.

I think this is partly to do with the numerous POV characters – I suspect I’m not quite the right audience for this book. Also, there was a slight lack of Chrestomanci himself in this book – sigh. I’ve a soft spot for that man.

It is a nice play on Romeo & Juliet and I loved the Marco/Rosa subplot. And like all DWJ books, very inventive storytelling and a villain that would probably have given me nightmares had I been younger.

On a sidenote: I borrowed my copy from my library and it dated back to the 1970s, IIRC, and had a totally old-school cover.

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Wings of EquityWings of Equity by Sean Kennedy (m/m fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An imaginative setting – though I have to admit I’m still trying to get to grips with steampunk and am wondering if this is it? Certainly this book appears to be tagged as steampunk in various places.

It was a quick and easy read, but it’s the world, rather than the romance, that has left more of a lingering impression.

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Buffalo West Wing (White House Chef Mystery #4)Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, the bad first: Some of the secondary characters are very black and white, and really become very annoying in a frustrating way, as they appear to have no redeeming characteristics at all. I suppose this could be viewed as a plus point – the writing is good enough to actually have the characters annoy you?

I’m still loving the White House backdrop and the whole Presidency transition thing reminded me of Ellen Emerson White‘s President’s Daughter series, except from the other side of the fence, so to speak, which was intriguing.

The whole book built up to a rather fast-paced and action-filled climax, which I was not expecting, but it was in a good way! I am surprised Ms Hyzy is hinting at a new love interest, which is an interesting choice in a cozy mystery IMO – on the other hand, I don’t read that many cozies myself…

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The Fifth KissThe Fifth Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one had a massively intriguing back cover blurb – the heroine kissing her brother-in-law. How does the author redeem both the heroine and hero after that?

A sweet regency (published in 1981), and I really enjoyed the romance. Not sure I was entirely comfortable with some of the underlying messages – she marries him to look after his children, six months after the wife/her sister died, but at the same time I did believe in the romance.

I’ve a soft spot for Elizabeth Mansfield and ended up buying quite a few off Better World Books over Christmas – I’m glad I’ve a few more to read!

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So that’s it for January.  And yes, I’m currently working on my February books list – but don’t hold your breath 😉

Books for January

I’m a bit late putting this post up, but there aren’t that many January new releases I’m excited about (for a change!).  The two that I’m getting are continuations of existing series:

Eileen Wilks“Blood Challenge” (urban fantasy): Eileen Wilks’ Lupi series appears to fly somewhat under the radar (or maybe I’m just hanging out in the wrong places?), as I don’t see them appearing on many review sites.  On the other hand, this is the seventh in the series, so it must have an audience.  It’s an autobuy for me – I love the Lily/Rule relationship and the Lupi world created by Ms Wilks.

Back cover blurb:

Lily Yu and Rule Turner’s engagement announcement is stirring up ugly passions in the Humans First camp. There’s hate mail. Death threats. Lily’s car is vandalized. But professionally, things are going smoothly . . . until a lupus in Tennessee goes on a killing spree.

Then Rule’s brother, Benedict, catches a lovely intruder–twice. The first time she’s sneaking around the home of the leader of Humans First. The second time, she sneaks into Nokolai Clanhome with a mysterious potion.

It may not be possible to deal with the rapidly escalating situation the way Lily always has: through the law. Especially when she’s pulled off the case due to an alleged conflict of interest. Lily’s loyalties will be stretched to the breaking point when she discovers that the deaths in Tennessee were only the opening skirmish in an all-out war.

Out now (excerpt)

Julie Hyzy‘s “Buffalo West Wing” (cosy mystery): I was more on the fence about this one, because while I loved the first of these White House Chef mysteries, the previous release, “Eggsecutive Orders”, didn’t quite work for me – I thought the story itself felt disjointed and Ollie, the main character, frustrated me with her unwillingness to trust other characters without any real reasons.  However, I recently read and enjoyed one of Julie Hyzy’s backlist books on the Kindle, which reminded me that I do like her writing.  And I really like how these mystery books gives us a peek behind the scenes at the White House.

Back cover blurb:

With a new First Family, White House executive chef Olivia Paras can’t afford to make any mistakes. But when a box of take-out chicken mysteriously shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a “no-wing” situation. After Olivia refuses to serve the chicken, the First Lady gives her the cold shoulder. But when it turns out to be poisoned poultry, Olivia realizes the kids are true targets.

Out now

Books for January

Happy New Year all!  The requisite 2009 wrap-up posts will be coming your way shortly, but first, here are the January books I’m planning on getting.

 

514u969kn-L._SL160_ Karen Chance’s “Death’s Mistress” (urban fantasy):  Karen Chance* is one of my all-time favourite UF writers, and this is the second installment in her Dorina Basarab series, set in the same world as her Cassie Palmer books.

I saw this on the shelves yesterday (can I just say I heart Penguin for releasing the UK version at the same time as the US?) and promptly grabbed it.  And pretty much devoured it immediately.  Never mind the fact I was having a wonderful time reading another book** – I started reading “Death’s Mistress” on the Tube on the way home due to lack of other reading material, and really, couldn’t stop.  It was good.

51YTS-73UFL._SL160_ Karen Chance’s writing just gets better with each book.  I remember finishing her first book and feeling slightly dazed with the nonstopactionfromthefirstpagetothelast, not to mention the complicated plot, which made so much more sense on the re-read.  While “Death’s Mistress” is still a brilliantly fun rollercoaster of a ride, the pacing has improved immensely, and the characters remain just as engaging as ever.  And yes, sexy vampires.  I’m going to say it, Karen Chance’s books are my replacement for the Anita Blake series.

Out Jan 5 (though obviously on the shelves now), excerpt here

 

51EwR5NvSaL._SL160_ Julie Hyzy’s “Eggsecutive Orders” (mystery): Cute-sy title aside, I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book in Julie Hyzy’s cosy mystery series, focused on Ollie Paras, the executive chef at the White House. 

The blurb:

Chef Olivia Paras has too many eggs in one basket-and is feeling like a basket-case…
When NSA big shot Carl Minkus dies right after eating the dinner Olivia Paras’s staff had prepared, all forks point to them. Now the Secret Service is picking apart the kitchen–and scrutinizing the staff’s every move. The timing couldn’t be worse with the White House Lawn Easter Egg Roll to prep for without access to a kitchen. Olivia must find the real culprit–before she cracks under pressure.

Out Jan 5, can’t find an excerpt

 

51XVq2Ml4rL._SL160_ Courtney Milan’s “Proof by Seduction” (historical romance): After stumbling over Courtney Milan’s blog sometime back and loving the excerpt from her debut novel, she’s going to be the first new-to-me historical romance author that I’m reading in ages. 

I’m serious.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a historical written by someone not already on my autobuy list.  But the scene in the “Proof by Seduction” excerpt made me snicker and her prose is beautiful.  Maybe 2010 will be the year I rediscover my historical romance reading roots?

The blurb:

SHE IS HIS LAST CHANCE FOR A FUTURE OF HAPPINESS . . .

Jenny Keeble has never let her humble upbringing stop her. She’s made her way in the world as a fortune teller, one who convinces her clients her predictions are correct by telling them what they most want to hear. Business is good… until she meets her match in the form of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a scientist and sworn bachelor.

HE JUST DOESN’T KNOW IT YET.

Broodingly handsome, Gareth is appalled to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmerelda," and he vows to prove her a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth’s calculated plan— until he can’t decide whether to ruin her or claim her for his own. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know . . . and the boundless possibilities of love.

Out Jan 1, excerpt here

 

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* Linking to her News page instead of the homepage, as that has music.

** Diana Gabaldon’s “An Echo in the Bone”: I’m reading Echo as though it was a series of short stories or a collection of vignettes from [Claire / William / Brianna and Roger – delete as appropriate]’s perspective, as opposed to one massive doorstopper of a book. And enjoying it immensely.  We’ll get to the end when we get there.

The Fourth Quarter of 2008

And the end is in sight!  I may actually finish my 2008 Review posts before the end of January.

 

October

I was on holiday for most of October, which explains the massive total of 20 books read during this month.

I had never quite managed to understand why Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series (urban fantasy) was so popular, having read the first book “Storm Front” a while back and not being too impressed.  Nath convinced me to give the books another go, and restart the series from Book 4 (“Summer Knight”) instead.  That made all the difference and I’m now an official Dresden Files fangirl.  Proved by the fact I read the next seven books in this series during the month.  I will say that I’m unlikely to go back and read the second and third books in this series though.

I got my hands on Kristin Cashore’s novel “Graceling” (YA fantasy, first of three linked books) and discovered why there was such a buzz around this debut.  One to appeal to Tamora Pierce fans (of whom I am one), with good storytelling, a strong heroine, and a touch of romance.  Although in hindsight, I could have done without the cutesy names.

Mercedes Lackey released a new Valdemar book (“Foundation”, fantasy and first in a trilogy, I think), the first one in years, and despite it not really being up there with the Arrows and Last Herald-Mage trilogies, I loved revisiting her world and reading more about the founding of the Heralds’ Collegium.

And I started Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy” series (YA urban fantasy), reading both “Vampire Academy” and “Frostbite” (Books 1 and 2 respectively), and found it an engrossing and entertaining series.  I’ve enjoyed her Georgina Kincaid books, so I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading the VA books.

 

November

It was back to work, and I managed to read ten books this month.

Karen Chance is one of my favourite UF authors, and I enjoyed her “Midnight’s Daughter” (urban fantasy, Book 1 of a Cassie Palmer spin-off series).  While probably not one for new readers to the series, I liked seeing her world from the viewpoint of a different protagonist, and as always, I love the plotting and non-stop action.

I only read nine historical romances throughout 2008 and my favourite by a mile was Eloisa James’ “When the Duke Returns” (Book 3 of the Desperate Duchesses series).  On the face of it, the series premise doesn’t sound that much different from that of other historical romances out there – the duchesses and their recalcitrant, indifferent men – but as it is, I can’t remember when I’ve last enjoyed a historical romance series so much.  The opulent Georgian setting, the characters, their chemistry, the angst – it all came together in this one to make an excellent book.  I have very high expectations for the final two books out in 2009. 

And oh, Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest” (fantasy, Book 1 of the Sevenwaters series).  I’ve had this book sitting in my TBR pile forever, and was finally moved to read it following the glowing reviews of the new book “Heir to Sevenwaters” set in this world.  And I loved.  Adored.  Passed the book on with a you-have-to-read-this-now recommendation.  Ordered the next two books from Amazon.  You know, on paper, this wouldn’t be a book that I’d enjoy.  I never was keen on retelling of fairytales or Celtic settings or the fey.  But Ms Marillier is a wonderful storyteller, and I’ve fallen in love with her Sevenwaters world.

It may have been only ten books read this month, but there were some very good ones there!

 

December

A very good reading month to end the year with.  I liked practically all the books I read this month and I’m finding it tough to narrow it down to the ones I liked best.

I finished Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy (“Son of the Shadows” and “Child of the Prophecy”) and immediately ordered “Heir to Sevenwaters” (no, I don’t know why I didn’t order them all in one go either).  I always start the year hoping to come across a new-to-me author with a marvellous backlist that will capture my imagination, and Juliet Marillier was probably my 2008 author (previous years being Elizabeth Peters, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Georgette Heyer in 2007, 2006, and 2005 respectively).

I read Josh Lanyon’s “Death of a Pirate King” (mystery, m/m romance, fourth in the Adrien English series) and “The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks” (mystery, m/m romance, standalone), and wasn’t disappointed.  I’m completely hooked on the Adrien English series and the Adrien/Jake relationship (think dysfunctional yet sooo right at the same time).  And Mr Lanyon’s writing is beautifully sparse yet descriptive.  I love the way he sketches in the background and atmosphere so easily, and his strong characterisation – his stories are the type where you never want to reach the last page.  M/M romance is a new subgenre for me this year, and I’m glad I decided to try something new.

And honourable mentions must go to Jenna Black’s “The Devil’s Due” (urban fantasy, Book 3 of the Morgan Kingsley series), Jim Butcher’s “Princeps’ Fury” (fantasy, Book 5 of the Codex Alera series), and Julie Hyzy’s “Hail to the Chef” (cosy mystery, Book 2 of the White House Chef series), all three of which were latest installments in ongoing series, and which I enjoyed very much.

 

So that’s my month-by-month review (previous parts one, two, and three linked here)… and err I’m not finished yet with 2008.