Books for May

May =  a mix of new releases I definitely want and those that I’m not quite sure about…

The definites:

21900150Julie Cross & Mark Perini‘s HALFWAY PERFECT (YA romance): I’m a big fan of Julie Cross’s YA sport romances – this one is a bit different but still sounds rather fun.

Bestselling author Julie Cross teams up with Ford model Mark Perini to pen a poignant and gritty YA novel about love and the dark side of modeling and the fashion industry.

Eve’s time as a fashion model nearly destroyed her-now she’s determined to build a career behind the camera lens. But landing a coveted photography internship brings her face to face with her dark past-and her ex.

While Eve is snapping pictures, up-and-coming male model Alex is launching his career-which, for him, involves maintaining a fake relationship with his (secretly) underage co-star, Elana.

But Alex is falling for Eve, and Eve won’t let herself get hurt again. If Alex can pull off a fake love with Elana, can he convince Eve to risk a secret affair with him?

Out May 5

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20698530Jenny Han‘s PS I STILL LOVE YOU (YA romance): Did I mention how much I liked Jenny Han’s TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE when I read it last year?  No?  Well, I did – it had a charming and slightly quirky protagonist, it was about growing up and having a bit of romance, but most importantly, it was about sisterhood.  I’ve pre-ordered the sequel – that’s how much I really liked it.

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Out May 26

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24744875Astrid Amara‘s SONG OF THE NAVIGATOR (SF M/M romance): Sometimes I really like her stories, other times they leave me a bit cold.  The blurb on this one has me intrigued though.

Worst Possible Birthday: Being sold into slavery by none other than your lover.

Tover Duke’s rare ability to move anything instantly across light-years of space makes him a powerful, valuable asset to the Harmony Corporation, and a rock star among the people of the colonies. His life is luxurious. Safe. Routine.

He has his pick of casual hookups passing through Dadelus-Kaku Station. His one brush with danger of any kind—the only bright spot in his otherwise boring life—is Cruz Arcadio, a dark-haired, hard-bodied engineer whose physical prowess hints he’s something much more.

When a terrorist abducts Tover, hurling him into a world of torture, exploitation and betrayal, it’s with shattering disbelief that he realizes his kidnapper is none other than Cruz. As Tover struggles to find the courage to escape his bondage, he begins to understand the only way to free his body, his mind—and his heart—is to trust the one man who showed him that everything about his once-perfect life was a lie.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of extreme violence and assault. It also contains graphic sexual depictions. It also has a lot of birds. And pirate movies from the future. And romance.

Out May 26

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17261670 (1)Josh Lanyon‘s WINTER KILL (M/M romantic suspense): I think Josh Lanyon has said this is more suspense than romance, but hey, a new Lanyon – I love his writing.

Clever and ambitious, Special Agent Adam Darling (yeah, he’s heard all the jokes before) was on the fast track to promotion and success until his mishandling of a high profile operation left one person dead and Adam “On the Beach.” Now he’s got a new partner, a new case, and a new chance to resurrect his career, hunting a legendary serial killer known as The Crow in a remote mountain resort in Oregon.

Deputy Sheriff Robert Haskell may seem laid-back, but he’s a tough and efficient cop — and he’s none too thrilled to see feebs on his turf — even when one of the agents is smart, handsome, and probably gay. But a butchered body in a Native American museum is out of his small town department’s league. For that matter, icy, uptight Adam Darling is out of Rob’s league, but that doesn’t mean Rob won’t take his best shot.

Out May 31

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And then the maybes:

  • THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR anthology (romantic suspense): Charity anthology (The Wounded Warrior Project) with a Suzanne Brockmann contribution. I’d buy this if it was sold in the UK – at the moment, the ebookstores are showing it as geographically-restricted.
  • Sarah Dessen‘s SAINT ANYTHING (YA romance): I had a bit of a Sarah Dessen glom when I first discovered her, and then her books started to feel a bit same-y (yes, these may be related).  I’ll probably borrow this one from the library.
  • Lisa Lutz‘s HOW TO START A FIRE (women’s fiction?): I don’t know – I’ve liked her offbeat Spellman mysteries, but this one sounds a bit too women’s fiction-y for me.

 

I think that’s it for my May new releases list – any others on your list?

Books for July

The July new releases I have on my list…

16130105Lisa Lutz‘s THE LAST WORD (mystery): It’s been a while since the last Spellman book – I wasn’t sure if there would be another one, so was delighted to see this new installment pop up.  The Spellmans are just on the right side of crazy-hilarious, and I love how the story is told through transcripts, case notes, and numerous other devices.  I also have a massive soft spot for Izzy, and this is one of the very few books I’ve pre-ordered this year.

Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.

In The Last Word, Izzy’s troubles are just beginning. After her hostile takeover of Spellman Investigations, Izzy’s parents simply go on strike. Her sister, Rae, comes back into the family business with questionable motivations. Her other employees seem to be coping with anxiety disorders, and she has no idea how to pay the bills. However, her worst threat comes from someone who is no relation. Within months of assuming control of the business, Izzy is accused of embezzling from a former client, the ridiculously wealthy Mr. Slayter, who happens to have Alzheimer’s, which Izzy and he are diligently trying to keep under wraps. Not only is Slayter’s business and reputation on the line, but if Izzy gets indicted for embezzlement, she’ll lose everything—her business, her license, and her family’s livelihood. Is this the end of Izzy Spellman, PI? The answer makes The Last Word, hands down, the most thrilling book in this bestselling, award-nominated series.

Out July 9

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17237161Juliet Marillier‘s RAVEN FLIGHT (YA fantasy): I’ve been enviously eyeing the early reviews appearing on this one. The first book, SHADOWFELL, may not have been my favourite Marillier, but it’s still a Marillier, and I need my fix.

Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn’s love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows.

Out July 9

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Magicrises_UK-184x300Ilona AndrewsMAGIC RISES (urban fantasy): I don’t really think I need to explain why this book is on my list at all.  The authors say they will be uploading the ebook version for the UK market as soon as the US version is released, which makes me happy.  Love the UK cover as well – that’s one fierce Kate.

Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

Out July 30

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16078584Ben Aaronovitch‘s BROKEN HOMES (urban fantasy): If you’re looking for a proper British UF, this series is probably it.  His London feels real and I’m looking forward to more.

A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

Out July 25

Books for February

Compared to the one new January release I wanted, there are a few more new releases this month that I’m planning to get…

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Jo Beverley‘s A SCANDALOUS COUNTESS (historical romance): Jo Beverley remains on my auto-buy list – despite me not falling in love with her more recent releases, they’re still solid readable historicals.  And they’re not wallpaper historicals by any means – she has a knack for bringing the time period to life in her books.

Back cover blurb:

Georgia, Countess of Maybury has it all, but then her husband is killed in a duel and she loses her homes, most of her possessions, and her reputation as well. Innocent of all charges, she returns to the beau monde determined to regain all through a second brilliant marriage, but a scarred ex-naval officer threatens to tempt her in a different direction…

Out Feb 7 (excerpt)

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BRAVE NEW LOVE, edited by Paula Guran (YA dystopian romance): An anthology of 15 stories from a mix of authors I recognise (and love) and some new-to-me names.  I’m probably most excited about the Diana Peterfreund contribution, but there are a couple of other authors in there that I’m keen to read too.

ETA: Diana Peterfreund makes a good point about other reasons why this anthology should be standing out from the crowd (apart from the excellent line-up, of course 😉 ).  Some of you may remember the uproar last year when an editor of a YA anthology asked Jessica Verday to rewrite her short story featuring a same-sex romance, and change the m/m relationship to a m/f one (FYI Ms Verday has since released her original story as a standalone e-book).  

BRAVE NEW WORLD, while not the anthology in question, had the same editor and was pulled from the schedule.  From Diana Peterfreund’s blog:

“… what ended up happening was that the anthology lost half its line up and the editor was removed from the project. We got a new editor, and a new line-up (an AMAZING line up, if I say so myself), and the publisher pledged to donate the proceeds to a homeless shelter for LGBT youth.  The new anthology includes several LGBT stories. I’ve read them, they’re great.”

Which is really rather cool and while NOT the reason why I’ll be getting this anthology (that would be for the stories), is the reason why I bought the UK edition today (yep, it’s already out here in the UK).

Back cover blurb:

Young love has always had its challenges, but even so, the world falling apart at its seams is a pretty big obstacle. This stellar collection of YA dystopian tales explores survival of the fittest in terms of love, passion, and humanity. When the survival of the human race is at stake, what will it take for the bond between two people to hold strong together?

Featuring some of the most well known and best-selling names of the dystopian genre, as well as the hottest up-and-coming authors, this anthology includes works from Jeanne DuPrau (City of Ember), Kiera Cass (The Selection), William Sleator (Interstellar Pig), Jesse Karp (Those That Wake), Diana Peterfreund (Secret Society Girl), Carrie Vaughn (The Kitty Norville Series), and Carrie Ryan (New York Times bestseller The Forest of Hands and Teeth).

Out Feb 14

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Lisa Kleypas‘s RAINSHADOW ROAD (contemporary romance): I’m guessing I’m not the only person looking forward to this release.  It’s been a while since a new Kleypas made an appearance, and while I was not blown away by the first in this series (the novella CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOUR), I’m willing to give this series another go because hey, that was a novella.

However, I’ve heard that this can be classified as magical realism though, and that gives me a slight pause for thought because (a) I’ve never quite figured out what is magical realism exactly (I know Sarah Addison Allen‘s books are often mentioned in this category – but (confession time) I’ve never read any of her books despite the glowing reviews) and (b) if magical realism means random woo-woo elements (like Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane Society books), well, I may just go away and sulk in a corner.  I’m reserving judgement until I’ve read this one though!

Back cover blurb:

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancé Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy’s bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life. Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy’s parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to “romance” Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

Out Feb 28 (excerpt)

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Lisa Lutz‘s TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS (mystery): And the best is saved for last!  I am madly excited about this one  as I’ve loved the previous books in this series.  I’m wondering where Lisa Lutz takes Izzy this time around – and if they’re anything like the previous books, I’m expecting hilarious times.  Also, all the covers of the series have been redesigned – while I liked the previous covers (especially the UK ones), I think the new graphics are really clever and suit the story better.

(Rather long) back cover blurb:

For the first time in Spellman history, Isabel Spellman, PI, might be the most normal member of her family. As always, the Spellman clan has yet to settle into any kind of status quo. Mom, Olivia, has taken on an outrageous assortment of extracurricular activities, seemingly without motive. Dad, Albert, has a secret. Her brother and sister, David and Rae, are at war, but neither will reveal the source of the conflict. And Izzy’s niece, Sydney, keeps saying banana even though she hates bananas. That’s not to say that Izzy isn’t without her own troubles. Henry Stone keeps wanting “to talk,” a prospect Isabel evades by going out with her new drinking buddy, none other than Gertrude Stone, Henry’s mother. While domestic disturbances abound, there is one source of sanity in the Spellman household: Demetrius Merriweather, now employee of the month for 18 months straight (the entire tenure of his employment).

Things aren’t any simpler on the business side of Spellman Investigations. First, parents hire the firm to follow their daughter. Rae is assigned the case, only to fake the surveillance reports. Then a math professor hires Izzy to watch his immaculate apartment while he unravels like a bad formula. A socialite has Isabel follow her husband, despite a conspicuous lack of suspicion. A man in a sweater vest hires the firm to follow his sister, who turns out to be the socialite. Isabel wants to get to the bottom of all this, but her father erects a Chinese wall to protect the clients’ wishes. As the questions pile up, Izzy won’t stop hunting for the answers-even when they threaten to shatter both the business and the family.

Once again, it’s up to her to pull the Spellmans back from the brink.

Out Feb 28 (excerpt)

Books for April

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

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

Blurb:

Nothing is fair in love and war. . .

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

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

Out now (excerpt)

 

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

Blurb:

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

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

Out April 5 (excerpt)

 

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

Goodreads blurb:

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

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

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

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

Out April 12 (excerpt)

 

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

Blurb (note this has SPOILERS FOR FIRST BOOK):

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blurb:

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

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

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

Out April 5 (excerpt)

 

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

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

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 1

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

January

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

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

February

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

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

March

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

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

April

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

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

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

Epistolary = Love

I have a thing for epistolary-style books.

I’m not precisely sure why – perhaps it’s because I get to fill in the blanks, to read between the lines and figure out what’s left unsaid based on what has been written and what hasn’t.  The text is personal in a way you normally only get from first-person POV, yet at the same time the story isn’t (usually) just from one person’s perspective.  There are so many different ways the author gets to flesh out his or her characters – the salutations used, the medium, the style… they all add to the sheer fun of reading one of these books.

One of my all-time favourite books – and probably the first epistolary book I read back in my teens – is Jean Webster‘s DADDY-LONG-LEGS*.   I remember when I first started the book, I was wondering when the letters from Jerusha (Judy) Abbott to her benefactor would end so that the real story could begin.  I think I was halfway through when it suddenly clicked that this was the story… Anyway, Judy’s letters to her mysterious orphanage trustee were a lovely way to watch her develop from a cautious girl fresh from an enclosed orphanage environment to a young woman brimming with confidence  – they were hilarious at times, beautifully poignant at others.  The ending was wonderfully romantic to my teenage self – and still is.

ETA: DADDY-LONG-LEGS is available as a free public domain ebook in the US and possibly other countries depending on local copyright law.

What inspired this post, you ask?  Reading Jaclyn Moriarty‘s FINDING CASSIE CRAZY (a.k.a THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS in the US) last night and absolutely loving it.  I know – I’m late to the party, aren’t I?  This is my first Moriarty but certainly won’t be my last.  Ms Moriarty first came to my attention in Ana’s 10/10 review of THE GHOSTS OF ASHBURY HIGH, followed by her “I love this series” post on the Ashbury/Brookfield books.  I initially thought the former was a paranormal YA and thought “maybe later” … I was wrong!

One of the pitfalls of epistolary narratives is that it is difficult to write the ending – because the events have already taken place in the characters’ real lives, how do you write it without falling into the “As you know, Bob…” trap, yet ensuring your readers close the book satisfied?  Ms Moriarty did it by providing one of the most satisfying transcripts ever – I was mentally cheering on Em and Lydia and Cassie over the concluding pages of the book.

I’ve also loved Steve Kluger‘s ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE and MY MOST EXCELLENT YEAR (both rec’d by Nath and definitely living up to her glowing reviews), which are told through a very varied mix of emails, diary entries, lists, posters and oh, all sorts of other media.  And one of my favourite series, Lisa Lutz‘s Spellman books, is partly in epistolary format, this time in the form of interview transcripts and lists.

I also have to mention Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer‘s wonderful SORCERY AND CECELIA – OR THE ENCHANTED CHOCOLATE POT, which unfolds in the form of correspondence between the Cecilia of the title and her best friend Kate, and set in an alternate Regency England.  There are also two sequels, but my favourite remains the first – a perfect blend of magic, friendship, adventure, and romance.

Finally, I was racking my brains trying to think of more examples (drawing a blank, unfortunately) and idly wondered how an urban fantasy would translate – and then I realised Ilona Andrews had posted an example on her blog.  If only!

What do you think of epistolary novels?  Like them?  Hate them?  And oh, any recommendations most welcome.

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

*Although I am more on the fence about its sequel DEAR ENEMY, which falls into the “very much a product of its time” bucket.

Books for March

Though I was bemoaning the lack of new releases in February, March more than makes up for it.  Seriously.  Here are the books I’m getting this month:

 

51srWbCExCL._SL160_ Deanna Raybourn’s “The Dead Travel Fast” (historical mystery): I’m a big fan of her Silent books, and while I’m ever-so-slightly disappointed that this new book isn’t the latest installment in that series, it sounds just as wonderfully gothic and fascinating:

A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.

With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh — and a disappointed suitor — far behind. She is bound for Roumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.

She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle’s master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.

Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora’s imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute — Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.

Before her sojourn is ended — or her novel completed — Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal…and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51hl6F3qqL._SL160_ Lisa Lutz’s “The Spellmans Strike Again” (mystery): I became addicted to this off-the-wall series last year – I liked the first book well enough, but it was the second book that hooked me.  They’re hilarious with heart, and as a reader, I’m very invested in Izzy and her family.  “The Spellmans Strike Again” is the fourth in the series and here’s the blurb:

At the ripe old age of 32, former wild child Isabel "Izzy" Spellman has finally agreed to take over the family business. Let’s just say the transition won’t be a smooth one.

Her first priorities as head of Spellman Investigations are to dig up some dirt on the competition—slippery ex-cop Rick Harkey—and to track down a stolen screenplay called The Snowball Effect. Next, faced with a baffling missing-persons case at the home of an aging millionaire, Izzy hires an actor friend to infiltrate the mansion as an undercover butler. Only he enjoys the role a little too much.

Meanwhile, Izzy is being blackmailed by her mother, who threatens to distribute photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994 unless Izzy commits to regular blind dates with promising professionals—an arrangement that doesn’t thrill Connor, an Irish bartender on the brink of becoming ex-boyfriend #12.

At Spellman headquarters, it’s business as unusual. Doorknobs and light fixtures are disappearing every day, Mom’s been spotted crying in the pantry, and a series of increasingly demanding Spellman Rules (Rule #27: No Speaking Today) can’t quite hold the family together. Izzy also has to decipher weekly "phone calls from the edge" from her octogenarian lawyer Morty, as well as Henry Stone’s mysterious interest in rekindling their relationsh … well, whatever it was.

Just when it looks like things can’t go more haywire, little sister Rae’s internship, researching pro bono legal cases leads the youngest Spellman to launch a grass-roots campaign that could get an innocent man out of jail—or land her in it.

Out March 16 (excerpt here)

 

41xrXP7zSL._SL160_ Patricia Briggs“Silver Borne” (urban fantasy): I’ve already pre-ordered it (and yes, I’ve gone for the UK paperback, even though I’m madly envious about those who get the US hardcover version – I’ll just lust over the cover online).  It’s a close call between the Mercy series and the Anna & Charles one for me at the moment, but Mercy just edges it, so to say I’m madly excited about this fifth book is probably an understatement.

Being a mechanic is hard work. Mercy Thompson, for instance, just spent the last couple of months trying to evade the murderous queen of the local vampire seethe, and now the leader of the werewolf pack – who’s maybe-more-than-just-a-friend – has asked for her help. A book of fae secrets has come to light and they’re all about to find out how implacable – and dangerous – the fae can be. OK, so maybe her troubles have nothing to do with the job. But she sure could use a holiday…

Out March 30 (excerpt here)

 

51VgbfEvzTL._SL160_ Megan Whalen Turner’s “A Conspiracy of Kings” (YA fantasy): Speaking of wildly excited, I cannot wait to get my hands on the latest book in MWT’s Thief series (or whatever the “official” series name is).  I completely appreciate that I’ve only had to wait a year or so (probably less, actually) whereas die-hard fans have been waiting years for this, but still!  Just reading the blurb gives rise to this massive sense of anticipation:

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

Out March 23 (excerpt here)

 

51NsvV6rNNL._SL160_ Anne Bishop’s “Shalador’s Lady” (fantasy): I’m getting this one because I’m a long-time Black Jewels fan, but I will admit her more recent books have not quite done it for me.  Still, I do want to see where this storyline goes (this book is the sequel to last year’s “The Shadow Queen”) and I’ve been hearing good things about this one.  The blurb:

For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. And even though the refugees found sanctuary in Dena Nehele, they have never been able to call it home.

Now that Dena Nehele has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore the land and prove her ability to rule. She knows that undertaking this task will require all her heart and courage as she summons the untested power within her, a power capable of consuming her if she cannot control it.

And even if Lady Cassidy survives her trial by fire, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land—and Lady Cassidy—forever…

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51MD6vXXEIL._SL160_ Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Shadows” (urban fantasy): Ms Mead’s Vampire Academy YA series seem to be getting more attention nowadays, but I read her Succubus books first.  A lot has happened since the first book – heck, a lot happens in each book, and I really want to know what happens next. 

Georgina Kincaid has formidable powers. Immortality, seduction, shape-shifting into any human form she desires, walking in heels that would cripple mere mortals—all child’s play to a succubus like her.

Helping to plan her ex-boyfriend’s wedding is a different story. Georgina isn’t sure which is worse—that Seth is marrying another woman, or that Georgina has to run all over Seattle trying on bridesmaid dresses. Still, there are distractions. Georgina’s roommate, Roman, is cluttering her apartment with sexual tension. Then there’s Simone, the new succubus in town, who’s intent on corrupting Seth.

But the real danger lies in the mysterious force that’s visiting her thoughts, trying to draw her into a dark, otherworldly realm. Sooner or later, Georgina knows she’ll be too weak to resist. And when that happens, she’ll discover who she can trust, who she can’t—and that Hell is far from the worst place to spend eternity…

Out March 18 UK,  March 30 US (excerpt here)

 

And the maybes? 

Jenna Black’s fifth book in her Morgan Kingsley series, “The Devil’s Playground” (urban fantasy, out March 23) – this series has been a bit hit or miss for me, with more misses than hits recently.  I have heard this is the final book in the series (though I can’t remember where now, and could be completely wrong), so I may get it to see how it all pans out.

Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book (suspense), “61 hours”, is out in the UK on March 18.  I usually end up buying these books sooner or later, though the recent ones haven’t grabbed me the way the earlier ones did.

“Warriors”, a fantasy anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, with some excellent contributors, including Diana Gabaldon and Naomi Novik.  The reason I’m hesitating on this one is the price, it’s showing up as £21 on The Book Depository.  And as much as I love those two authors, that’s a bit too pricey for me – fingers crossed for a UK edition.

2009: Recap of My Reading Year Part II

Continuing my January to June recap, here’s the second half of my 2009 in books:

 

July

51OpuIGbojL._SL160_ I finally got around to reading Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Thief” and yes, kicked myself in the what-took-me-so-long kind of way.  Because this series is an indisputable gem, so cleverly written and populated with wonderful characters.

I hit double-digits in terms of books read this month, a whole eleven books, most of which were good.  On the not-so-good side, I think I gave up on Janet Evanovich’s Plum books.  Or at least buying the hardcover.

 

 

August

51PzrTZeJGL._SL160_ Another Patricia Briggs book, this time “Hunting Ground” in her Anna and Charles series, was the standout book of the month for me.

I also loved Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown” (YA fantasy, and a beautifully-told coming-of-age story), which I picked up thanks to a rec from Angie, and heaved a huge sigh as I turned over the final page of Megan Whalen Turner’s “King of Attolia”.  Ah, Gen.

And with eleven books read this month, this quarter was looking good.

 

September

Wait for it… I read a massive 21 books.  Yes, I was on holiday.

51l1odgzyAL._SL160_ Lisa Kleypas’s contemporary romances “Blue-Eyed Devil” and “Smooth-Talking Stranger” impressed me with the way she dealt with serious issues while keeping the romance firmly at the centre of the story – her contemporaries are now autobuys for me.

I also got around to reading Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows’ “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” – it made me laugh and cry (at different times, before you ask).  A proper feel-good book.

And I also enjoyed Lisa Lutz’s “Curse of the Spellmans” (mystery, funny with heart), Ellen Crosby’s “The Merlot Murders” (mystery, loved the winemaking focus), and Mary Kay Andrews’ “Savannah Blues” (contemporary romance, filled with Southern charm and lots of humour).

 

October

510CGKLV3pL._SL160_ So after the wonder that was September, I read seven books in October.  But they were mostly good.  I loved Sharon Shinns “Quatrain” (fantasy anthology) because her writing is beautiful and it was like revisiting old friends.

I finished my mini-glom of Joanne Dobson’s Karen Pelletier books (mystery) – I very much enjoyed the small-town college setting and the literature element of the mysteries.  And I really liked Ilona Andrews’ “On the Edge”  (paranormal romance, which felt almost like a frontier-set historical romance) and Ellen Emerson White’s “The President’s Daughter” (YA, and read thanks to another rec from Angie – no prizes for guessing who was responsible for quite a bit of my book spending this year).

 

November

518m9fIkHlL._SL160_ A measly four books read (I think this was payback for September).  I made time to read Juliet Mariller’s “Heart’s Blood” (fantasy), and it was very much worth it.  Not quite as magical as her Sevenwaters world perhaps, but a very good read.

And really, that’s all I can say about November, which saw my number of blog posts also fall to a dismal three during the month.

 

 

December

41K28wvJBOL._SL160_ the_dark_tideRounding off the year with 17 books read, I read and raved about Kristin Cashore’s “Fire” (fantasy) and Josh Lanyon’s “The Dark Tide” (mystery / m/m romance) in the final days of 2009.

But before that, I also loved Eloisa James’ “A Duke of Her Own” (historical romance), which wowed me with the very sexy and steamy chemistry between the hero and the heroine.  Unusually standalone for an Eloisa James book as well.

And technically a 2010 release, except I read it this side of the new year (just), I adored Karen Chance’s “Death’s Mistress” (urban fantasy), which was packed full of action and humour, and sneaked into my list of top reads for the year.

 

And that brought my total number of books read over the year to 115, which, while 40 fewer than what I read during 2008, had some truly excellent books.

One more post with lists and numbers, and that’ll be it for 2009, I promise!

Lisa Lutz’s “Curse of the Spellmans”

You know those books by new-to-you authors which make you think “oh, I should really try other books by this author”, but it’s not quite I-need-to-go-and-order-other-books-by-this-author-NOW?  And then you never actually get around to trying their other books.

41W8wZUwIL._SL160_Lisa Lutz is one of these not-so-new-to-me authors.  I came across a mention of her Spellman books that compared them to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series* back in January.  Enough to intrigue me, and when I asked for opinions, Lys recommended it.  Rather serendipitously, I stumbled upon the first book “The Spellman Files” in the library around the same time, enjoyed it, and made a mental note to watch out for the second book when it was released in mass market paperback.  Which I promptly forgot about, oh, a couple of weeks later.

51Jvza-MR7L._SL160_Then this week, I was killing time in a bookstore, and spotted “The Curse of the Spellmans” in mmp (helps that the UK cover (right)` is pretty eye-catching, and IMO, captures the slightly offbeat spirit of the series perfectly).  I went “ah!”, read the first page, and had to buy it.  I mean, when a book starts with this:

Saturday, April 22
1900 hrs

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Who is this?”

“Isabel, and don’t ask me again.”

“Who?”

“Mom, it’s really not funny when you do it.”

“Seriously, who is this?”

“I don’t have time for your games right now.”

“Neither do I,” said Mom, finally dropping the amnesia act.  “I’ll call you in a few days.”

Don’t hang up!!!” I shouted into the receiver.

“Isabel, calm down.”

“Just don’t hang up.”

“Why not?”

“Because… I only get one phone call.”

Heh.  Of course I had to continue reading.

The tagline for the book is the perfect introduction to the Spellman family:

Meet the Spellmans, a family in which eavesdropping is a mandatory skill, locks are meant to be picked and blackmail is the preferred form of negotiation.

To say “Curse of the Spellmans” is crammed with action is an understatement.  I mean, for starters, Izzy is convinced their new next-door neighbour’s involved in something illegal (she just needs to figure out what it is), her younger sister Rae is trying to make up for accidentally running over her new friend Inspector Henry Stone (or as Rae puts it, “almost accidentally manslaughtering my best friend”), both her parents are behaving suspiciously (or more than usual, anyway), and her best friend and sister-in-law Petra is avoiding her.

The book is fast-paced and hilarious, helped along with flashbacks, interview transcripts, and lists scattered throughout.  All the above plotlines (plus others!) came together very satisfyingly in a coherent whole.  The characters, seen though Izzy’s first-person POV, were beautifully sketched out.  I loved Izzy but wanted to shake her at times for being so incredibly single-minded, I adored her younger sister Rae and her mad obsessions, and oh, I have high hopes for Inspector Henry Stone.  The Spellman family may be complete nutters, but they are family.

Ms Lutz really hit her stride in this second Spellman book – it’s comedy with heart.  And it’s safe to say that I’m now ordering the third book “Revenge of the Spellmans”.

..

*The comparison to Stephanie Plum is not really fair to either, IMO – they’re very different stories, the only similarity is that both Izzy and Stephanie are female.  And that the plotlines are completely OTT.

The Next Plum?

Has anyone read Lisa Lutz?  I’ve been hearing her Spellmans series is reminiscent of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.  And apparently the first book “The Spellman Files” is being made into a movie.

The excerpt on her website isn’t really giving me a feel for the book.  It needs to either be longer or from a different chapter, I think.