Books for May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

All those late night conversations when Sam had maybe a drink too many or Jason was half falling asleep. All those playful, provocative comments about what they’d do when they finally met up again.

Well, here they were.

The last thing Jason West, an ambitious young FBI Special Agent with the Art Crimes Team, wants–or needs–is his uncertain and unacknowledged romantic relationship with irascible legendary Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy.

And it’s starting to feel like Sam is not thrilled with the idea either.

But personal feelings must be put aside when Sam requests Jason’s help to catch a deranged killer targeting wealthy, upscale art collectors. A killer whose calling card is a series of grotesque paintings depicting the murders.

Out now

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

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

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

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

Out May 30

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

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

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

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

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

Three Favourite Authors

Seanan McGuire‘s “One Salt Sea” is out next week (not that I’m counting down the days or anything…) and she’s doing a series of posts about Toby’s world.  Talk about in-depth world-building.  I love.

Via Sounis: I had no idea that there were bonus short stories in Megan Whalen Turner‘s paperback releases of “The King of Attolia” or “A Conspiracy of Kings“.  Even better, they’re available online via HarperCollins’ BrowseInside – click on Table of Contents on the top right and then scroll down to Bonus Page.

And a twopart interview with Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, in which they talk about many things, including their ebook ventures and upcoming works (a sequel to “Balance of Trade”? Yes please!).

More Linkage

Okay, so I am failing at this one review a month thing, but I have had no time to even think recently.  To clear my backlog of interesting links:

Ilona Andrews posted about her take on author responses to readers’ reviews.  Very sensible.

An Eugenides fanfic which imagines how a scene in Megan Whalen Turner‘s “Queen of Attolia” could have played out.  It’s rare to read a piece of fanfiction that feels just right – I think this one is spot on.

Kelley Armstrong‘s limited-edition novellas for Subterranean Press are also available as ebooks.  While “Counterfeit Magic” is still in stock, “Angelic” is out of print and I have never been able to convince myself to pay $25 for a novella.  I’ve bought the Kindle editions for both and liked, though they are probably priced slightly on the high side for short stories.  Still, probably worth the cash for fans who wanted to read the novellas (that includes me).

And sticking with the ebook novella theme, Jo Beverley has also re-released “The Demon’s Bride”, a Georgian-set story, under Penguin’s eSpecial programme.  I’ve bought it, but not have had a chance to read it yet, though I am wondering if I have the original anthology it appeared in (“Moonlit Lovers” according to her website).

 

Around the Web – The Cover Edition

I am not handling this back-to-work thing well.  Especially since it’s pretty full-on at the moment.  So many things to do, so little time…

I want to review Eileen Wilks‘ “Blood Challenge”, which I will, but probably not today, as I’m finding myself yawning at odd intervals, and will probably cave in and have a bit of a nap soon.  So in lieu of actual content, here are some links:

Jennie has posted new Mary Stewart covers at her Mary Stewart Novels fansite, and I am totally in love with them.  I am very tempted to get another copy of the “The Ivy Tree”, which is possibly my favourite Stewart!

At Sounis, the Megan Whalen Turner livejournal fan community, they’ve put up the concept art for the cover of  “A Conspiracy of Kings”, which is all kinds of fascinating.

And sticking with the cover art theme, here’s a new-to-me group blog called Muddy Covers, by some of the cover artists I love, and again, it’s really interesting behind-the-scenes stuff.  For instance, Dan Dos Santos (who does the fantastic Mercy Thompson US covers, amongst others) blogs about his covers for Gini Koch‘s Alien SF books, which I am meaning to read at some point.

Bad Blogger Take n

I’ve been neglecting my blog recently.  And I don’t even have the excuse of the Olympics or Wimbledon or, well, anything else being on.  But here’s a quick catch-up on a new release, a new-to-me author, and new books (despite a fangirl fail):

 

510v2-gYD-L._SL160_First off, yay for Carolyn Crane a.k.a. CJ @ The Thrillionth Page’s “Mind Games” debut release! From her website:

Mind Games heroine Justine Jones isn’t your typical kick-ass type – she’s a hopeless hypochondriac whose life is run by fear.

She’s lured into a restaurant, Mongolian Delites, by tortured mastermind Sterling Packard, who promises he can teach her to channel her fears. In exchange, she must join his team of disillusionists – vigilantes hired by crime victims to zing their anxieties into criminals, resulting in collapse and transformation.

Justine isn’t interested in Packard’s troupe until she gets a taste of the peace he can promise. Soon she enters the thrilling world of neurotic crime fighters who battle Midcity’s depraved and paranormal criminals.

Eventually, though, she starts wondering why Packard hasn’t set foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant for eight years. And about the true nature of the disillusionists.

A very cool premise and I’ve already bought my copy – ummm… okay, I’m going to admit it.  I would have bought a copy regardless of reviews,  because I love Carolyn’s blog and her wickedly funny posts.  But it is an added bonus that fantastic reviews are popping up all over the place – I’m very excited about reading this.

 

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51xZgCAG9VL._SL160_Next, I’ve fallen completely for Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels, so thank you to those of you who said things along the lines of “one of the best new UF series I’ve read last year” whenever I mentioned I had the first book, “Rosemary and Rue” in my TBR pile.  You were right.

LesleyW reviewed “Rosemary and Rue” recently, and said:

I think I’d almost despaired of finding something new and original in UF – preferably ferret free – and yet here it is.

51wXdzXN0L._SL160_And I completely agree.  Too many UF series nowadays seem to blend into one another and there are only so many vampire and werewolf mythologies out there, unfortunately.  Ms McGuire focuses on the world of Faerie, seamlessly bringing the fae into an urban setting, and in the process, creating a fresh new world.  I loved that this is really a mystery whodunnit-type plot wrapped up in an urban fantasy, and a very-well realised cast of characters ticked the final box for me.

I bought the second book, “A Local Habitation”, pretty much as soon as I finished R&R, and can happily say it is as good, if not better, than the first.  The third book, “An Artificial Night” is due out in September, and I can’t wait.

 

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Finally, new books for me…

51VgbfEvzTL._SL160_Megan Whalen Turner’s “A Conspiracy of Kings” arrived on my doorstep today *happy dance*   I may have stroked the cover several times, and peeked at the inside jacket blurb, but I haven’t yet opened it properly.  Because I know as soon as I start reading, I’m not going to want to put it down, and unfortunately, I can’t afford the time to do that today.  But this weekend, most definitely.

51opJaC77NL._SL160_ And I have Kelley Armstrong’s “Tales of the Otherworld”, her second short story collection.  It’s officially out in a couple of weeks, but Ms Armstrong was in London for a signing (thanks Nath for the heads up) and Forbidden Planet had out the paperback version of “Frostbitten” as well as this for the event.  Anyway, I turned up at about half-six (the signing started at six) and the queue was halfway around the store.  At which point, I decided to get the (unsigned) book and disappear, because as much as I like her books, I realised that didn’t quite extend to waiting 30 minutes or more to get the book signed.  I fail at fangirl-ness.

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!

A Few of My Favourite… YA Books

smuggler_YA_final2 I’ve been horribly remiss at not mentioning The Book Smugglers’ YA Appreciation Month previously, but hey, I’m guessing you all know about it already (and if not, there is still a week to go!).

Anyway, today, they have invited all and sundry to join the party – if you’ve a YA-related post, just go over to their site and add your link.

I don’t really blog a lot about YA (you could argue I don’t blog a lot, full stop), but YA makes up a good proportion of my reading diet. 

So in honour of YA Appreciation Month, here are a few YA books / series that have been on my mind recently:

 

The “why did I take so long to read this” YA series: Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief books

51OpuIGbojL._SL160_51MplFBNkVL._SL160_Megan Whalen Turner (warning: reviews on her website have spoilers for the previous books) has created an incredible series.  I think fans of The Thief may be hitting critical mass – certainly I have noticed more and more mentions of these books in the blogosphere recently.  Ana did a fantastic spoiler-free review of the series and pretty much echoed my thoughts.

51jFfciA rL._SL160_I always read the copyright page before plunging into the book (I’m surely not the only one out there), and “The King of Attolia” had these as library keywords:

1. Kings, queens, rulers, etc–Fiction  2. Soldiers–Fiction  3. Loyalty–Fiction  4. Robbers and outlaws–Fiction  5. Adventures and adventurers–Fiction

How could you not be excited about a book with those keywords?

This is very definitely a standout series, YA or otherwise (and expect a separate post coming up!).

 

51R4585BFDL._SL160_ Next up, the “YA book that needs more love” book: Sharon Shinn’s “Summers at Castle Auburn”

Coriel, the illegitimate daughter of a high-ranking aristocrat, spends most of her life learning herbal medicine from her grandmother, but she spends her summers with her half-sister, Elisandra, at the royal castle where Prince Bryan resides. Corie has always been secretly in love with Bryan, but she is slowly realizing that he is a spoiled, selfish, dangerous man—and that Elisandra dreads her upcoming marriage to the prince. Corie hopes that the prince’s cousin Kent will save Elisandra, while she wonders if the taciturn guard Roderick might play a bigger part in her own life.

I adore Sharon Shinn’s writing.  No matter what she writes.  And she has a trick of closing her books with the most magical lines ever.  Her Samaria and Twelve Houses series get quite a few mentions (and they sit on my keepers shelf), but I don’t hear a lot about this standalone YA of hers.

“Summers at Castle Auburn” is one of my favourite Shinns, a perfect coming-of-age story.  It is very much a comfort read for me, and it never fails to satisfy.  Here’s a review from Jennie – seeing that she read it on my rec, I’m really glad she enjoyed it!

 

51PGQSREPAL._SL160_ And finally, the “I’ll never outgrow this YA series” books: Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” quartet

Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but somehow young Alanna knows she isn’t meant to become some proper lady cloistered in a convent. Instead, she wants to be a great warrior maiden–a female knight. But in the land of Tortall, women aren’t allowed to train as warriors. So Alanna finds a way to switch places with her twin, Thom, and take his place as a knight in training at the palace of King Roald. Disguising herself as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page in the royal court. Soon, she is garnering the admiration of all around her, including the crown prince, with her strong work ethic and her thirst for knowledge. But all the while, she is haunted by the recurring vision of a black stone city that emanates evil… somehow she knows it is her fate to purge that place of its wickedness. But how will she find it? And can she fulfill her destiny while keeping her gender a secret?

Tamora Pierce has written many books since her first Alanna series, but the Alanna books are the ones I always end up re-reading (and there are some scenes that always end up with me sniffling, even though I know exactly what is going to happen).

Angie included Alanna in her recent post on “Stubborn Girls (and Why I Love Them)” and I have to agree whole-heartedly.

 

Interestingly, all these three are straight fantasy – something that I wasn’t actively thinking about when I was thinking about the YA books I wanted to highlight.  All three are also pretty much coming-of-age stories, which is much less of a rarity in the YA genre.

I could have chosen many other YA books – LM Montgomery’s Emily trilogy is amongst my all-time favourites, I was addicted to LJ Smith’s books, including her “Secret Circle” and “Dark Visions” trilogies, I buy Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books as soon as they hit the shelf, and I’m on a mission to complete my Eva Ibbotson collection… however, I think I’ll stop here and head off to check out everyone else’s YA posts