Summer Check-in

We’re currently in the middle of the second mini-heatwave of summer, which feels like it should be some sort of record for London.  I’m also in a post-Olympics slump, and trying to remind myself what I did before there was cycling/diving/pentathlon on TV every evening…

26853604The Olympics has meant I’ve done very little reading during August.  I did finish Kate Elliott’s brand-new release POISONED BLADE though, which I count as a win!

It’s the sequel to her YA debut COURT OF FIVES and even better than the first, IMO. I felt COURT OF FIVES was more straightforward adventure; in POISONED BLADE, she brought the layers of complexity I expect from an Elliott book, while continuing to build on the relationships established in the first book.  The slight threads of romance (or attraction?) worked better for me as well, perhaps because more ambiguity and growth (on all sides) was introduced.  At times though, there was so much arguing between Jessamy and other characters that it frustrated me.  But maybe that’s what I’m meant to feel – anger is tiring, and the conversations made sense in the larger context of the story. TL;DR: Good installment and I look forward to the next book!

Links of interest:

 

Bank Holiday Monday Links

Despite the doom-and-gloom weather predictions, it’s turned out to be a good Bank Holiday!  Lots of sunshine (where I live, anyway), and it feels like spring is finally here.  And not a moment too soon…

A few Monday links:

Sarah Rees Brennan talks about women and worldbuilding – she makes some interesting points.  Hand-wavey worldbuilding is one of my pet hates (I can overlook it if I’m really invested in the characters, but it takes a lot!).  I haven’t seen a male/female divide on “good” worldbuilding but then again, my reading skews heavily towards female authors so IDK.  Anyway, she mentions THE TURN OF THE STORY, which is one of the very few online serials I fell for (primarily because it wasn’t a serial until it was…) – definitely worth reading if you haven’t already.

Speaking of worldbuilding (or lack of), Marko Kloos talks about how his Frontlines military SF series started out.  Which made me think a bit about what I consider to be worldbuilding.  I don’t need to know the nth detail of a world, but I appreciate consistency between characterisation and the setting.  How characters think and react should be shaped by the society and culture in which they live, which in turn is influenced by history, technology, the physical setting and so forth.  When any of these are out of sync, it feels slightly jarring to me – does that make sense?  Do you think of worldbuilding differently?

Finally, an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, who’s an author who does amazing worldbuilding IMO.  It’s a great interview and covers quite a few topics.  On backlist books, I found this piece interesting – not surprised, though:

So, yes, I now make much, much more from my self-pubbed backlist e-books than backlist paper books. None of them sell more than modestly, but I have 20 or 30 titles up, depending, and they do add up. A frontlist (new) lead book publication with good push from a major publisher can still top that in the first years of a book’s life-cycle. By my current calculations, after about five years e-versions go back to being more advantageous.

 

Books for February

It’s (barely) the second week of February, and I have done so much re-reading already.  I’m not a massive re-reader (I seem to have grown out of the habit over the years, as my teenage bookshelves are filled with much-loved and dog-eared paperbacks), but I made an exception for two sequels out this month.

26036399CS Pacat’s KINGS RISING (fantasy M/M romance): I don’t have words to describe how much I was looking forward to the final book in the Captive Prince trilogy.  And I don’t have words to describe how much I loved this book.

A lot of my spare time over the past week was spent re-reading the previous two books (possibly multiple re-reads *clears throat*) in advance of KINGS RISING’s release, and I’m still all about Damen and Laurent and Akielos and Vere right now.  I’ve labelled the subgenre as fantasy romance, but that bland label doesn’t even begin to hint at the political intrigue, the slow unexpected reveals, and the sheer levels of tension (both sexual and otherwise) in these books.  KINGS RISING is the perfect ending to one of my favourite trilogies ever, I think.

Damianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity – can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?

Out now

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Layout 1Lois McMaster Bujold’s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN (SF): It’s a good thing the e-ARC for this was released back in November, or I’d have really struggled choosing the first February release to read this month.  Despite having the e-version, I’ve splashed out and ordered the signed hardback book as well, because, well, Bujold.

Note SPOILERS in blurb for previous book, which was published four years ago, so I’m guessing the statute of limitations has expired…

Three years after her famous husband’s death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to spin her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in her web of plans in ways he’d never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his life.

Meanwhile, Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor’s key investigators, this time dispatches himself on a mission of inquiry, into a mystery he never anticipated; his own mother.

Plans, wills, and expectations collide in this sparkling science-fiction social comedy, as the impact of galactic technology on the range of the possible changes all the old rules, and Miles learns that not only is the future not what he expects, neither is the past.

Out now

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10493755Andrea K Höst’s THE SLEEPING LIFE (fantasy): The reason for the other re-read I’ve done this month.  I am a huge fan of Höst’s writing (understatement alert), and having a new book of hers this month is such a treat.  So obviously, I had to re-read the first Eferum book, STAINED GLASS MONSTERS, in preparation for this release – that was so not a hardship, and I’m kind of tempted to re-read her whole backlist now. 2016 is shaping up to be the year of the re-read for me!

(Oh, and TSL was definitely worth the wait.  What I love about Höst’s books is that her stories always feel fresh and new, and TSL was no exception.  It was interesting to see the aftermath of the events in the first book (both personal and on a larger scale), I enjoyed spending more time with the protagonists in the first book (and meeting new and fascinating characters), and although SGM is a self-contained story, I loved how Höst took the remaining plot strands and spun them neatly into a follow-up.  Really, this was one of the best ways to spend a Sunday.)

Also, 50% off both Eferum books @ Smashwords until 14 February using the coupon codes here.

Fallon DeVries has a sister who lives only in his mind. Paying the price of magic gone wrong, Aurienne is trapped watching a world she cannot touch, only able to communicate with her brother while he sleeps.

And it’s slowly killing him.

Fallon and Auri’s best chance of untangling their lives is to win the help of a mage of unparalleled ability. But how can they ask for help when the warped spell prevents him from speaking?

Besides, Rennyn Claire – once the most powerful mage in the world – is a shadow of her former self: ill, injured and unlikely to recover unless she can hunt down the monster who once tried to make her his slave. But that Wicked Uncle is nowhere to be found, and other dangers, once slumbering dormant, are stirring…

Out now

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27069828Jen Frederick’s JOCKBLOCKED (NA romance): Despite my general lack of sportiness, I love reading sports romances – possibly because characters come to life for me when I can believe that they have passions and interests outside the actual relationship, if that makes sense, and having sports as a backdrop can do the trick.  This was the case with the first Frederick I read, so am looking forward to the second in the series even though I know nothing about American football.

She’s always played it safe…

College junior Lucy Washington abides by one rule—avoid risk at all costs. She’s cautious in every aspect of her life, from her health, to her mock trial team, to the boring guys she dates. When a brash, gorgeous jock walks into the campus coffeeshop and turns his flirt on, Lucy is stunned by the force of attraction. For the first time ever, she’s willing to step out of her comfort zone, but can she really trust the guy who’s determined to sweep her off her feet?

He’s always played around…

Entering his last year of college eligibility, linebacker Matthew “Matty” Iverson has the team captaincy in his sights. And it’s his for the taking, if he can convince his quarterback Ace Anderson to give up the starting position. Luckily, Matty already has an edge—the hottie he’s lusting over just happens to be Ace’s childhood best friend. Getting Lucy on his side and in his bed? Hell yeah. Matty is more than confident he can have both, but when he falls hard for Lucy, it’s time for a new game plan: convince the woman of his dreams that she’s not sleeping with the enemy.

Out Feb 11

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28101707KA Mitchell’s GETTING HIM BACK (NA M/M romance): Possibly KA Mitchell’s first NA?  Though her protagonists tend to skew on the younger side, IIRC.  I usually like her writing, so I’m definitely grabbing this one.  This may be on the short side for a novel though, possibly novella-length.

An unexpected fresh start leads to an unlikely-but-absolutely-perfect pairing in this male/male new-adult novel from bestselling gay romance author K.A. Mitchell

Ethan may have followed his high school sweetheart to college only to get dumped his first day there, but he’s not going to let that stop him from exploring all his new life has to offer. Sex-only hookups, his photography, new friends and a campus-wide game of zombies vs humans all help keep his mind off his broken heart and move him toward building a new, better life without his ex.

And then there’s Wyatt. Mysterious, grouchy—hot. And possibly not gay. But Ethan’s not going to let that stand in the way of figuring out what makes Wyatt tick. New college goal? Get Wyatt into bed and into Ethan’s life.

Step one: arrange a “tutoring” date. Step two: “accidentally” bump into Wyatt as often as possible. Step three: explore the sexy body under that ever-present hoodie. And when their friendship deepens into something neither of them expect, convince Wyatt he’s not just a pity fling or a one-time hookup, but that Ethan is in it for the long haul.

Out Feb 15

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15816410Kalayna Price’s GRAVE VISIONS (UF): The last book in the Alex Craft series came out in 2012, so “much-anticipated” is definitely the right word for this fourth installment.  I was enjoying this UF series a lot, so I’m glad to see GRAVE VISIONS finally make it to print.

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price is the much-anticipated fourth installment in the kick-ass urban fantasy series about Alex Craft, a grave witch who can communicate with the dead.

If you want to hear voices from the dead in Nekros City, you call Alex Craft. She’s a Grave Witch with reasonable rates and extraordinary powers, who specializes in revealing the secrets of the dead. But now she’s the one fighting to keep her own secret. She’s not human—and her newly discovered heritage is causing havoc for her both in the human realm and in Faerie. But her status as an unaffiliated fae also makes her an ideal candidate to investigate a new street drug that has surfaced in several of the spaces between the human and fae worlds.

This glamour-infused drug causes hallucinations that turn real—at least for a while and often with deadly consequences. Searching for the source of this drug—and its purpose—lands Alex front and center in the conflict brewing in Faerie and she must find answers before she’s dragged so deep she loses her freedom.

Out Feb 25 in the UK (out now in the US, I believe)

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And then my maybe (or almost definitely) books – quite a few this month:

  • Kirsty Eagar’s SUMMER SKIN (NA): Only a maybe because of the difficulty in getting Aussie books over here. I really enjoyed her RAW BLUE when I read it back in 2011; SUMMER SKIN sounds just as good.
  • Jacey Bedford’s WINTERWOOD (fantasy): I’ve not read any of Jacey Bedford’s books before (she’s written a couple of SFs, which I’ve been meaning to pick up at some point), but this historical fantasy with a cross-dressing heroine sounds rather fun.
  • Megan Erikson and Santino Hassell’s STRONG SIGNAL (M/M contemporary romance): I’ve heard nothing but good things about Hassell’s writing, and have liked the Erikson NA books that I’ve read.
  • Brandon Sanderson’s CALAMITY (YA fantasy): Sanderson’s YA books are always good for a couple of hours’ entertainment, though I’ll probably get this from the library as I’ve liked but not loved the previous books in this series.
  • Shannon Stacey’s FULLY IGNITED (contemporary romance): I’ve enjoyed the previous books in Stacey’s Boston firefighters series, so I’ll end up buying this at some point.  And I’ve just realised this is Scott’s story, which means “at some point” is sooner rather than later…
  • JL Merrow’s LOVERS LEAP (M/M contemporary romance): Merrow’s books are always so British in feel and have a good dollop of humour to go with the story.  I’m only hesitating over this one as it’s being published by Riptide Publishing, and their prices tend to be higher than other publishers.
  • Rosie Claverton’s CAPTCHA THIEF (mystery): Claverton appears to have had a switch of publishers for this one (the previous two books were published by Carina Press).  I need to finish the second book, but will be getting this at some point.

2015: My Favourite Books

I was going to start off by saying I felt that I had read fewer books over 2015 that had really captured my imagination compared to previous years. These are the books where I find it hard to let go of the characters and their world after the last page, and they’re the ones that end up on my annual favourites list.

Then I looked at my previous years’ summaries (this is obviously why I do them), and in 2013, I “only” had seven on my list.  So having eight* in 2015 hasn’t been that bad considering.

*I also have 30 books which would occupy the Honourable Mentions spots (if I had them!) so I’m not feeling that bad.

My Very Favourite Books Read During 2015 (in random-ish order)

Kate Sherwood‘s MARK OF CAIN (M/M contemporary romance): This one narrowly missed my cutoff for 2014 favourites – I think it was one of the first books I read in 2015.  Sherwood made a really unlikely pairing (Mark’s a gay priest, Lucas’s an ex-con who was jailed for killing Mark’s brother) more than work for me.  (Also, this one prompted a rather large glom of Sherwood’s backlist.)

Naomi Novik‘s UPROOTED (fantasy): This very lovely fantasy is making the rounds of the Best Of lists, and it’s made mine too. UPROOTED was an unexpected surprise from the author of the very different Temeraire books, and earned a place on my keeper shelf.

Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy‘s HIM (M/M NA romance): I already knew I loved Sarina Bowen’s writing; I discovered I loved Elle Kennedy’s writing as well this year.  And this collaboration more than lived up to its promise.  It was funny, sexy, and romantic (plus sports romance – always a bonus!).  I’m thrilled there will be a sequel in 2016.

KJ CharlesA FASHIONABLE INDULGENCE and A SEDITIOUS AFFAIR (M/M historical romance): KJ Charles’ writing is always pitch-perfect, regardless of genre.  I fell hard for the first two installments of her Regency trilogy – both packed full of political intrigue and tension – and am eagerly awaiting the third.

Kate Elliott‘s COLD STEEL (fantasy): I was not convinced by the first book in this trilogy at all. But I kept reading and was amply rewarded by the final book.  COLD STEEL brought the entire story together – I was totally engrossed in the rich fantasy world dreamt up by Elliott, and rooting for Cat and Vai (and Bee!) all the way.

Lois McMaster Bujold‘s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN (SF): Slightly cheating here as this is technically a 2016 release, but I bought the e-ARC direct from Baen because well, a new Vorkosigan.  I don’t know if it’s my favourite in the series (MEMORY probably still holds that spot), but because of the significance of this book to the series arc as a whole, it could not not be on this list.

Lynn Kurland‘s PRINCESS OF THE SWORD (fantasy romance): I finally got around to starting Lynn Kurland’s much-loved Nine Kingdoms series this year, and well, why did I wait so long?  PRINCESS wraps up the first trilogy in the series – I adored the humour and the chemistry between the two leads in these books, and spent quite a few late nights reading just one more page.

Finally, not on this list because they’re technically re-reads, but ahead of Manna Francis‘s new Administration 2015 release, I splashed out and bought the series as ebooks (most of the stories are also available for free online). They’re probably not stories for the super-squeamish as sex and violence abound in this SF dystopian series, but the story, the character arcs, and yes, the romance kept me engrossed and living in Toreth and Warrick’s world for a good few weeks.  There are hints of another sequel, and I cannot wait.

Three Fun Links

27781572Do you know what a “larrikin” is?  I had no idea – my vocabulary obviously doesn’t stretch to Australia slang!  Kelly Hunter explains what a larrikin is (and isn’t).  There’s also an excerpt from her new-ish contemporary romance A BAD BOY FOR CHRISTMAS (I really enjoyed this one – she always manages to pack so much story (and chemistry) into a category-length romance).

You’ve noticed the new Vorkosigan covers, right?  The cover artist Ron Miller wrote an interesting post on good cover design.  I’m a bit on the fence about the new covers – they’re better than some covers Lois McMaster Bujold has had (understatement of the year, possibly) but I’m not entirely sure they’ll appeal to new readers.  Here’s LMB’s post talking about the alternative cover concepts (also interesting!).

And this totally made me smile.  Olivia Hunyh is such a great illustrator, and I adored her Google Doodle tribute to LM Montgomery.  Check out the Anne of Green Gables scenes she captured in the second two doodles – they are so perfect!

September Links

I thought I’d have more time for blogging now that summer’s over… and then Davis Cup happens.  It’s been an edge-of-seat type of TV spectating over the past couple of days.

Also, rugby.  I’m not a massive rugby fan (understatement of the year).  Let’s just say that I can barely describe the rules of the game (“you need to get the ball to the other side of the field and then you can kick it through the posts for a conversion” is pretty much the extent of my knowledge), but somehow, the fact the World Cup is taking place in the UK has meant I’ve been watching more rugby matches in the past two days than I have in the past year?

So that was a roundabout way of saying that I was planning on writing a couple of reviews*, but instead here are some links and musings…

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1277695Lois McMaster Bujold posted the new cover of FALLING FREE – the first book in her Vorkosigan series, if you go by internal chronological order.

I’d never recommend starting the series with FALLING FREE though – IMO it’s probably best read once you’ve finished all the other books because (a) it’s pretty stand-alone and (b) it’s not her best book by far.  It helps fill in some of the blanks and history, but I tend to suggest new readers start with THE WARRIOR’S APPRENTICE.  I started with CORDELIA’S HONOR myself (an omnibus version of the two books set before TWA) and while I liked both Aral and Cordelia, I didn’t feel the need to continue with the next books.  And then I read TWA, and pretty much devoured the entire series in a couple of months.

Anyway, new cover!  I like it a lot better than her previous self-pubbed versions – the cover artist, Ron Miller, posted in the thread:

…  As I told Lois, too many of her past covers have scarcely done her justice (and not just because they weren’t accurate in details—that’s not really a prime consideration—they were just plain bad art). After two or three false starts where I was going in a more realistic direction, I realized that what she was after was a graphic style that I’d always admired—and have had little opportunity to indulge in. Which made the whole project immensely fun and rewarding for me. The goal, of course, was to create images that were not only meaningful to existing readers, who would be already familiar with the stories, but also attractive to brand-new readers as well…a sometimes tricky balancing act. I can only hope we succeeded!

I totally agree LMB’s not had the greatest luck with covers (though I quite liked the CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE cover).  I’m glad she’s found an artist who can translate her vision into (hopefully) commercial covers – am looking forward to seeing the next set.

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I haven’t been watching the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon‘s OUTLANDER, mostly because it’s not on free-to-air TV here in the UK.  But from what I gather, it’s been a pretty good adaptation?  Also, casting appears pretty good in terms of matching the mental images I have of Claire and Jamie.

Diana Gabaldon’s writing the script for one of the Season 2 shows, and she posts about the experience here – it’s an interesting read, even if you haven’t been watching.  Also, funny:

P.S. I had breakfast with George R.R. Martin shortly after the agreement that I’d do a script, and mentioned it to him—knowing that he’d done a good deal of television writing before taking to novels. He laughed and said, “Oh, so you’re about to learn the Great Secret of screenwriting!”

“Reckon so,” I said. “And what’s that, George?” He leaned toward me conspiratorially and said, “It’s MUCH easier than writing a novel!”

No, I haven’t watched GoT either.  Yes, I live under a rock.

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I love the intricate world-building of Seanan McGuire‘s Toby Daye universe, and was thrilled to see her do more Q&As  about Toby’s world in the lead-up to the release of A RED-ROSE CHAIN.  It’s always fascinating to learn more about the fantastical world that she’s created, especially when it becomes obvious that we see in the books is only the tip of the iceberg.

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*One of those reviews is for Kate Elliott‘s COURT OF FIVES, which I won in a giveaway.  Notable as I very rarely win anything, and then a month later, I won Groupee’s Open Road Media SciFi bundle (offer’s closed now, but it was an excellent bundle).  It was a good month! I promise I’m not saying this because I won the Groupee giveaway, but I love Open Road’s SF/F catalogue.  They publish backlist SF/F, and whoever curates their selection has very good taste.

Weekend Links

I had forgotten it was WorldCon this weekend (or a whole year since LonCon3!).  I didn’t pay much attention to the Hugo award shortlists this year – with the Sad/Rabid Puppies pushing full slates, I was much more interested in the Hugo longlists, which have just been released (pdf link).

20518872I’ve to admit the Best Novel longlist didn’t really excite me.  Of the books I haven’t already read, I have Cixin Liu‘s THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM on my Kindle (free via the Amazon Kindle for Samsung programme), John Scalzi‘s LOCK IN doesn’t really appeal (though I’ve his newest THE END OF ALL THINGS also on my Kindle – I couldn’t resist the £2.99 price point), and I DNF’d Andy Weir‘s THE MARTIAN (I know, sorry).  I’ve heard good things about Robert Jackson Bennett‘s CITY OF STAIRS though, so I may see if my library has it.

I don’t have much to say about the rest of the awards (apart from good result?), though I’m really pleased Julie Dillon won Best Professional Artist – love her art.

A few other (non-related) links that caught my attention recently-ish:

Links of the Spoilerific Kind

The book blogosphere is doing its best to keep life interesting, huh? I thought I’d seen it all with plagarism, piracy, and other scandal-of-the-week-type events, but obviously not.

However, not all unexpected events are unpleasant ones – there still are surprises of the pleasant book kind!  Specifically in this case, the new Vorkosigan book from Lois McMaster Bujold as well as the upcoming third book in CS Pacat‘s CAPTIVE PRINCE trilogy.

2jebdwjLinks for the latter first:

As for the LMB Vorkosigan book – well, the non-spoilery bit first:

I was practically bouncing in glee when I read LMB’s post about the new Vorkosigan book, GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN.  I’d pretty much thought the series had come to an end, especially as LMB has been refusing to comment on the possibility of a new book for quite a while.  It’s one of my all-time favourite series – up there with Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books.  I love so much about her stories – the sheer pace of her plots, this knack of hers for capturing that quiet moment that reveals so much, how her characters live and breathe… well, I could go on and on.

And then I read the spoilers coming out from her first reading, and O_o doesn’t even begin to reflect my reactions.  I cannot wait for next February.

Spoiler links follow. I mean it.  Don’t click unless you want to be spoiled….

Continue reading

Quick Links

Manga CoverI’ve never quite got the hang of reading manga (or any kind of graphic novel, come to that), but this Harlequin post about how they translate their HQNs into manga form fascinated me, especially the comments from the artists themselves.  The article features novels by Gena Showalter and Lynne Graham – the latter’s OTT romances used to be my guilty pleasure and I’m quite tempted to order the manga version of THE DESERT SHEIKH’S CAPTIVE WIFE now.

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Library Journal published their Best Ebook Romances list for 2013. I normally feel a bit out of step with the various “Best of” lists (and can’t believe it’s that time of the year already!), but I quite liked this list, possibly because of the ebook focus. I’m not sure what the differences in criteria were for this v. the LJ Best Romances list – possibly digital-only releases?

I’ve read the first Lindsay Buroker, and certainly plan on continuing the series at some point, and I’ve always wanted to read Zoë Archer.  Plus the Jeanette Grey NA book sounds interesting, as does the Jane Kindred fantasy romance (primarily due to the Jacqueline Carey Kushiel comparison).  I know that there are many Ruthie Knox fans out there (I’ve only read her BIG BOY novella, which I did like and plan on checking out her other books), and I’ve the Mary Ann Rivers novella in my e-TBR after the entire romance blogosphere (or what felt like it) went crazy for THE STORY GUY earlier this year.

So basically – I want to read all the books on the Best Ebook Romances list (well, most of it, I read my first Jessica Scott some time back and wasn’t blown away), while the books on the Best Romances list don’t tempt me at all.  To be fair, there is also a lot of historical romance on the latter, and I’ve not been reading much of that this year.

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World Fantasy Con 2013 was held in Brighton this year, and while there appears to be a bit of post-con fallout around anti-harassment fail on the part of the organisers, I did like this post @ The Writer’s Greenhouse detailing the unfortunately-titled panel “Broads with Swords” (uh, can’t believe I actually typed that out on my blog), which was thankfully subverted by the panelists. Apart from notes about the panel discussion, the post includes a list of women authors writing martial fantasy recommended by the panel and their audience – it’s a great list, IMO, probably because I totally agree with the recs for the authors I recognised (Kate Elliott, Martha Wells, Lois McMaster Bujold, to name but a few…) and have made mental notes to check out the rest!

Random Linkage

Or non-timely linkage?  Things that have caught my eye over the past month or so…