Books for December

It’s a quieter month for new releases (in comparison to the previous couple of months, that is), but I’m really looking forward to these new releases – hopefully I’ll get a few chances to sneak away and finish these before Christmas…

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25339379Mercedes Lackey‘s CRUCIBLE (fantasy): It wouldn’t be December without a new Lackey-edited anthology, and this time, she’s back to Valdemar!  Sorry, I had to add an exclamation mark as Valdemar will always be one of my favourite fantasy worlds.  I’ll be honest and say that I’ve found the stories in these anthologies a bit hit-or-miss, but it is the land of Heralds and Companions.

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

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

Out now

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25761086Genevieve Cogman‘s THE MASKED CITY (fantasy): I thoroughly enjoyed Genevieve Cogman’s debut THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY when I read it earlier this year, and snapped up THE MASKED CITY as soon as it went on sale.  I’m halfway through the book at the moment, and liking this very fun take on alternate-Venice very much.

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.

Out now (UK only, sorry!  I think the US release for the first two books is scheduled for 2016)

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26009556LB Gregg‘s WITH THIS BLING (M/M contemporary romance): I was reminded of how much I liked LB Gregg’s writing when I finally got around to reading her recent(-ish) release HOW I MET YOUR FATHER.  I’m not normally a fan of May/December romances, but she made the relationship believable (and funny!), even when working within the constraints of a novella-length story.  So I’m looking forward to her latest installment in her Romano/Albright series.

Caesar Romano’s catering career is doing better than he’d ever dreamed. And so is his love life—even if his boyfriend’s house in Staten Island is way too far from civilization for his liking. But then in short order, Caesar is duped into helping his cousin propose, is tricked by his best friend and business partner into appearing on live television, and is harassed by a thug-like personal trainer and his far too beautiful wife. In fact, Caesar is almost too busy to notice that something is troubling his PI boyfriend, Dan Albright.

Almost.

Laid-back, open, charming—that’s the impression hunky former NYPD Detective Dan Albright gives everyone. Caesar can add sexually adventurous and a bit of an exhibitionist. But he also knows that Dan is hiding something—something dark and a little dangerous—and when Dan’s silence over his mysterious past threatens to harm them both, it’s Caesar’s turn to save the day.

But then again, a break-in, a gallery party, an heirloom ring, a new suit, and a stalker with bad BO are all just a typical week for Caesar Romano.

Out Dec 7

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25241403KJ CharlesA SEDITIOUS AFFAIR (M/M historical romance): I love KJ Charles’s writing, and I’ve loved the previous stories in this series.  She always creates this sizzling chemistry between the main leads, and the historical setting isn’t just period wallpaper.  This book will be shooting right up to the top of my to-read list on release date.

K. J. Charles turns up the heat in her new Society of Gentlemen novel, as two lovers face off in a sensual duel that challenges their deepest beliefs.
 
Silas Mason has no illusions about himself. He’s not lovable, or even likable. He’s an overbearing idealist, a Radical bookseller and pamphleteer who lives for revolution . . . and for Wednesday nights. Every week he meets anonymously with the same man, in whom Silas has discovered the ideal meld of intellectual companionship and absolute obedience to his sexual commands. But unbeknownst to Silas, his closest friend is also his greatest enemy, with the power to see him hanged—or spare his life.

A loyal, well-born gentleman official, Dominic Frey is torn apart by his affair with Silas. By the light of day, he cannot fathom the intoxicating lust that drives him to meet with the Radical week after week. In the bedroom, everything else falls away. Their needs match, and they are united by sympathy for each other’s deepest vulnerabilities. But when Silas’s politics earn him a death sentence, desire clashes with duty, and Dominic finds himself doing everything he can to save the man who stole his heart.

Out Dec 15

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Also on my radar:

  • Ilona Andrews‘ surprise novella, MAGIC STARS.  No idea when the actual release date is (or even a plot synopsis), but I’m expecting (or hoping for?) a December one.  It has Derek and Julie, and that’s all I know.  Totally buying though.
  • Jayne Ann Krentz‘s SECRET SISTERS – she’s one of those authors I can’t just quit, even if I haven’t loved her recent romantic suspense books.  Probably one I’ll try and borrow from the library though.
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Books for September

Now that summer’s almost over (yes, some denial here…), I’m hoping to settle back into more of a regular blogging schedule around here.  It’s been a busy few months – I’m not sure why, but when it’s still bright at nine in the evening, I feel as though I can cram more into my day?

I’ve also been reading a lot of books over the past couple of months…  Maybe I’ll actually talk about them at some point, but first, the new releases for September that I need to read.  All nine of them.

25615305Zen Cho‘s SORCEROR TO THE CROWN (fantasy): This one has had such good buzz.  I’ve been enjoying Zen Cho’s posts about her publishing journey on her blog – this is her debut novel.

In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite…

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Out now

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25958273Deanna Raybourn‘s A CURIOUS BEGINNING (historical mystery): It’s been a while since I’ve read a Raybourn.  I stopped reading when she moved on from her Lady Julia books, but this start to a new series sounds intriguing.

In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

Out now (Oct 1 in the UK)

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23664710Lee Child‘s MAKE ME (suspense): Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are always on my autumn reading list.  Though this looks like another small town setting, which always makes me feel claustrophobic…

“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal.

Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.

Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me.

Out now

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22095547Cindy Pon‘s SERPENTINE (YA fantasy): I love the cover.  Also, I read her Big Idea post over at Whatever, and was hooked.

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Out now

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26084594KA Mitchell‘s PUT A RING ON IT (M/M romance): KA Mitchell’s pretty much an autobuy author for me.  And it’s been a while since her last book.

Kieran Delaney-Schwartz—adoptee, underachiever, and self-professed slacker IT guy—lives his under-the-radar life by the motto: Don’t try, don’t fail. His adopted siblings are all overachievers thanks to his driven, liberal parents, but Kieran has elected to avoid disappointing anyone by not getting their hopes up. He’s coasting through his early twenties when he’s hit head-on by Theo. The successful decade-older Broadway producer sweeps him off his feet for a whirlwind thirteen months that are pretty sweet until it all comes screeching to a halt on Valentine’s Day, with an unexpected proposal via a NYC Times Square Flash mob.

Now everyone wants in on the wedding, except the grooms…

Out now

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24453021Seanan McGuire‘s A RED-ROSE CHAIN (UF): New Toby always makes me happy.

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

Out now

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17564519Rae Carson‘s WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER (YA fantasy): I quite liked Rae Carson’s previous trilogy, and this one sounds even better.

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance.

Out Sept 22

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24876258Jim Butcher‘s THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS (fantasy): Jim Butcher does something that’s not Dresden-related.  Okay, slightly unfair, as he did write the Codex Alera fantasy series… anyway, this looks like a take on steampunk?

 Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Out Sept 29

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25388580Kelley Armstrong‘s THE UNQUIET PAST (fantasy): I’ve no idea what this book is (looks like a shared-world series?), but I’ll give it a shot because, well, Kelley Armstrong.

You can only hide from the truth for so long.

Tess has always been tormented by waking visions that make her question her sanity. When the orphanage she lives in burns down, she decides to face her fears and find out once and for all what is wrong with her. She believes the truth must lie with her parents, and so, armed with only an address and phone number, Tess travels to a crumbling mansion in rural Quebec, where she discovers evidence of mistreatment of mental patients. She also makes an unlikely ally and gradually unearths her family’s sad history—and finally accepts the truth about her paranormal powers.

Out Sept 29

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And then the maybes:

  • Fran Wilde‘s UPDRAFT (fantasy): I’ve been hearing good things about this one.  Has anyone read this yet?
  • Mercedes Lackey‘s HUNTER (fantasy): I’ll always have a soft spot for some Lackey.
  • Holly Black & Cassandra Clare‘s THE COPPER GAUNTLET (YA fantasy): I read the first book, THE IRON TRIAL, recently – it was good fun, though a bit slow in parts.  And I’m a sucker for academy-type stories anyway.
  • Kelley Armstrong‘s LED ASTRAY (UF): More Armstrong, this time an anthology of mostly previously-published short stories, but with two new ones.  Which would be why I want the book…

Books for March

So – it was only two months ago when I was having a bit of a moan about the dearth of new releases?  March more than makes up for it.

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23524861Patricia BriggsDEAD HEAT (UF): Sadly, we don’t get the Dan dos Santos cover here in the UK.  It’s the inside that counts, anyway. Or so I keep on telling myself.  The important thing is that we finally get more Anna and Charles. Right?

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, or at least it starts out that way . . .

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up – and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Out March 5 (for the UK anyway), March 3 for those lucky enough to get the Dan dos Santos cover…

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21457243Anne Bishop‘s VISION IN SILVER (UF): I’ve seen this third book in Anne Bishop’s The Others series appearing on a lot of March want lists.  I stumbled across an early copy in my bookstore the other day, and grabbed it (obviously).  I hate to say this… but I didn’t love it.  Anyone else read it yet and want to discuss?

The Others freed the  cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

Out March 3

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22729664Elizabeth Wein‘s BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN (historical fiction): Both of Elizabeth Wein’s previous historicals left a lasting impression on me, and I suspect this one won’t be any different.  Also, unusual subject matter – it promises much!

Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.

Out March 5 (UK), March 31 for the US (I like to think of this as payback for the DEAD HEAT cover *tongue firmly in cheek*)

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16085457Rachel Hartman‘s SHADOW SCALE (YA fantasy): While I didn’t love SERAPHINA, it was a refreshing take on a dragon-centred fantasy, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Rachel Hartman does as a follow-up.

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Out March 10

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24580376Sarina Bowen‘s SHOOTING FOR THE STARS (contemporary romance): I think this release was temporarily derailed by Harlequin stopping its Harlequin E programme (anyone know what happened there?).  I’m glad Sarina Bowen’s self-pubbing this.

For one night she had everything.

Pro snowboarder Stella Lazarus has always loved her brother’s best friend. But the one time she tried to show him, she was shot down faster than you can say “competitor disqualified.”

Until one blissful night in Tahoe, when Stella finally gets her man.

Or does she? In the morning, Stella and Bear wake up to horrible news. The sort that sends them racing back to Vermont, and straight into the arms of guilt and family obligations.

For all of Bryan “Bear” Barry’s life, three natural laws held true: his best friend Hank was destined for greatness, Hank’s sister Stella was off-limits, and Bear would always manage to negotiate the rocky paths that life threw his way. In the space of two days, that’s all shattered.

Bear can’t believe he slipped up so badly with Stella. Even if his best friend wasn’t lying broken in a hospital bed, it would still be unforgivable. Determined to do better, he devotes himself to his friend’s recovery, denying himself the very person he loves. And the very thing he needs.

Out March 16

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18461986Kylie Scott‘s DEEP (contemporary romance): It’s no secret I totally fell for Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive rock star romance series last year, and I’m very excited about the final book in this series.

Positive. With two little lines on a pregnancy test, everything in Lizzy Rollins’ ordinary life is about to change forever. And all because of one big mistake in Vegas with Ben Nicholson, the irresistibly sexy bass player for Stage Dive. So what if Ben’s the only man she’s ever met who can make her feel completely safe, cherished, and out of control with desire at the same time? Lizzy knows the gorgeous rock star isn’t looking for anything more permanent than a good time, no matter how much she wishes differently.

Ben knows Lizzy is off limits. Completely and utterly. She’s his best friend’s little sister now, and no matter how hot the chemistry is between them, no matter how sweet and sexy she is, he’s not going to go there. But when Ben is forced to keep the one girl he’s always had a weakness for out of trouble in Sin City, he quickly learns that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay there. Now he and Lizzie are connected in the deepest way possible…but will it lead to a connection of the heart?

Out March 31

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21331590Eloisa JamesFOUR NIGHTS WITH A DUKE (historical romance): I may not read a lot of historical romance nowadays, but Eloisa James is still very much on my autobuy list.

As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal, but there’s one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain…he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can’t afford to lose.

Out March 31

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Maybes

  • I usually enjoy JL Merrow‘s Brit-flavoured stories, and she has a new M/M romance/mystery this month – HEAT TRAP  (out March 17).
  • Seanan McGuire‘s POCKET APOCALYPSE (out March 3) – I’ve not loved her InCryptid books the same way I adore her Toby Daye series, but I’ll probably get around to reading this at some point.  Not running out to buy it though.
  • Ebook bundle FIERCE: A FANTASY COLLECTION is one of those multiple-author boxed sets that I’m trying to stop buying, but for $0.99, you get 16 stories, including one by Mercedes Lackey (which I’ve probably read already, to be fair).  I’ve been meaning to read Kate SparkesBOUND (after this review @ Fantasy Review Barn), so that’s my excuse (out March 10, for a limited period of time).
  • Kate Meader‘s FLIRTING WITH FIRE (contemporary romance) – her novella in the Christmas anthology BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE was its one saving grace for me, so I’ve got her full-length novel on my radar (out March 24).

 

Books for December

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

Out Dec 7

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

A Few Book-ish Links

Happy November!  It was a bit of an October, wasn’t it?

A few links to kick off the month:

20344635Martha Wells talks a bit about her Raksura fantasy books @ SF Signal.

I mentioned in passing that I recently raced through those Raksura books, right?  That would be the original trilogy, plus the first collection of two (new) novellas and short stories, which came out fairly recently.  I was hooked pretty much from the first chapter of THE CLOUD ROADS – loved how she created this completely alien world, which is so very accessible at the same time.  And humour!  I was not expecting that, but there were some one-liners which made me laugh.  Basically, if you’re in the mood for adventure fantasy, give this series a go.

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I really enjoyed this Dear Author post about Betty Neels and her books.  I was one of those romance readers who grew up reading M&Bs, and Betty Neels, with her Dutch surgeon romances, was one of those reliable authors – you always knew what you were getting.  I’ve bookmarked that post for some Neels recommendations when I’m next in the right mood.

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Two Reddit author AMAs: Robin McKinley and Ilona Andrews  & Jocelynn Drake.

I haven’t yet read the latter, as I was reading the new Ilona Andrews’s BURN FOR ME, and didn’t want to be spoiled.  I’ve now finished the book – thought it was a promising start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to the next.  Also liking the comments/discussion following Janine’s DA review, where I add my (horribly ungrammatical – I was in a rush, really!) take on the book.

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Tor.com announced that they’re doing a re-read of Mercedes Lackey‘s Arrows of the Queen trilogy. *dies*  I can’t remember when I read this now, though I was very definitely an impressionable teen. I had a whole shelf of Lackey’s Valdemar books, and every single one of them was probably dog-eared and falling apart.  I loved those books… and still do.  White talking horses, anyone?

Books for April

Well.

I’m not quite sure where March went.  Or what I was doing.  Not much blogging, that’s for sure.  Not much reading either, I suspect.  Hopefully I break that streak in April.

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17404280Katherine Addison‘s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (fantasy): I know I was not the only one anticipating this new book from Katherine Addison a.k.a. Sarah Monette, but I was surprised by the flood of (positive) reviews and mentions for this book.  I’m about halfway through and *whispers* it’s kind of living up to the hype.

On a side note, I think the cover is perfect for the book: at first glance, you see a typical fantasy palace – look again, and you see Maia, the (half-)goblin emperor peering out cautiously.  So fitting.

A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Out now

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18006456Lynn Flewelling‘s SHARDS OF TIME (fantasy): I’ve a soft spot for this long-running fantasy series (the first book was out in 1996, according to Goodreads) – while I’ve found it uneven in places, I’ll be sad to see the end of the Nightrunner series.

Acclaimed author Lynn Flewelling brings her beloved Nightrunners series to a close—at least for now—with a thrilling novel of murder, mystery, and magic.

The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room. The sole witnesses to the crime—guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within—have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts . . . and things worse than ghosts.

Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want—and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec—who have died and returned to life—can step between the worlds and confront the killer . . . even if it means a second and all too permanent death.

Out now

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18335221Jo Beverley‘s A SHOCKING DELIGHT (historical romance): Jo Beverley is an autobuy author for me, and this is her latest Company of Rogues regency. ‘Nuff said.

The man she shouldn’t want. The woman he shouldn’t marry…

David Kerslake, smuggling master from The Dragon’s Bride, is now Earl of Wyvern and must survive the ton as well as the Preventive Officers.

Lucy Potter, daughter of a wealthy merchant, is more interested in trade than in the men after her dowry. When forced to have a London season, she sets out to enjoy herself rather than to find a husband. But once she meets the notorious Earl of Wyvern, her resolve weakens, and when they kiss, it dissolves—even though her instincts warn he’s dangerous.

Wyvern has a dark secret, which means he must win a rich bride. Lucinda Potter seems ideal. Not for her beauty and her lively charm, but because at first meeting she seems unlikely to realize the truth.

As he comes to know her, however, as they spar and kiss, he realizes she’s too clever and honest by far. Marrying Lucy would mean living a lie with the woman he has come to love…

Out now

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20645592Allison Parr‘s IMAGINARY LINES (NA romance): I loved Allison Parr’s writing almost from the first page of her debut, RUSH ME, so I’m really looking forward to reading the latest in her New York Leopards series.

Also worth noting is that Carina Press is going after the sports romance niche in their April 14 release week – so other books I’m eyeing are Rebecca Crowley‘s LOVE IN STRAIGHT SETS (obviously – it’s tennis!) and Kate Willoughby‘s ON THE SURFACE (hockey).  And I already have the first Kat Latham book (rugby) – just need the time to read it…

Side-note: Was 2013 the year New Adult officially became a proper genre?

Tamar Rosenfeld has been in love with New York Leopards linebacker Abraham Krasner since they were twelve years old. She’d always considered it destiny that they’d end up together…until Abe was drafted and she professed her feelings in a moment of blind excitement. The sting of his rejection was like nothing she’d ever felt before, and it’s nothing she’ll ever forget.

Older and wiser, Tamar has landed a dream job as a reporter for one of New York’s premier athletic websites. Determined to stop being the safe, boring girl she’s felt like for most of her life, Tamar makes a list of all the things she wants to do and see in her new city, and Getting Over Abraham is priority number one.

But destiny has finally chosen to interfere. Just as Tamar’s decided to move on, Abe’s realized she’s the only woman for him. When he confides the truth, Tamar has to decide if she can put her crush behind her, or take a chance on the very man who’s been holding her back all these years.

Out April 14

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18742420KA Mitchell‘s BAD INFLUENCE (m/m romance): Is it just me or has it been ages since the last KA Mitchell release?  She’s another autobuy of mine, so despite me not loving the previous books in this (loosely-related) series, I’m still buying.

The young man the world knew as Jordan Barnett is dead, killed as much by the rejection of his first love at his moment of greatest need, as by his ultra-conservative parents’ effort to deprogram the gay away.

In his place is Silver, a streetwise survivor who’s spent the last three years learning to become untouchable…unless you’re willing to pay for the privilege. He shies away from anything that might hold him down long enough for betrayal to find him again.

Zebediah Harris spent time overseas, trying to outrun the guilt of turning his back on the young man he loved. Now, almost the moment he sets foot back in Baltimore, he discovers Silver on a street corner in a bad part of town. His effort to make amends lands them both in jail.

Trapped together in a cell, Silver sits on his mountain of secrets and plans a seductive form of revenge, but finds that using a heart as a stepping stone is no way to move past the one man he can’t forgive, let alone forget.

Warning: Contains a surly hero. May cause angst. A prolonged delay in sexual situations may cause frustration. Author recommends a steady dose of familiar friends and characters to alleviate those symptoms. No actual teenagers were used during the construction of the backstory.

Out April 15

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20504851KJ CharlesNON-STOP TILL TOKYO (romantic suspense): KJ Charles is probably better known for her A Charm of Magpies series (that would be in the historical/paranormal/mystery/m/m romance sub-genre – not as much a niche as you’d think…), so this looks like a new direction for her.  Having loved her writing in those aforementioned books, I’m looking forward to reading this.

A man with a past is her only hope for the future.

Kerry Ekdahl’s mixed heritage and linguistics skills could have made her a corporate star. Instead, she’s a hostess in a high-end Tokyo bar, catering to businessmen who want conversation, translation and flirtation. Easy money, no stress. Life is good—until she’s framed for the murder of a yakuza boss.

Trapped in rural Japan with the gangsters closing in, Kerry doesn’t stand a chance. Then help arrives in the menacing form of Chanko, a Samoan-American ex-sumo wrestler with a bad attitude, a lot of secrets, and a mission she doesn’t understand.

Kerry doesn’t get involved with dangerous men. Then again, she’s never had one on her side before. And the big, taciturn fighter seems determined to save her life, even if they rub each other the wrong way.

Then her friends are threatened, and Kerry has no choice but to return to Tokyo and face the yakuza. Where she learns, too late, that the muscle man who’s got her back could be poised to stab it.

Out April 29

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Other April new releases I want to read, but probably via the library:

  • GAMES CREATURES PLAY, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner (urban fantasy): Their annual(?) anthology outing – a library book for me, as their previous anthologies tend to be more miss than hit for me.  But I still want to read the Mercedes Lackey, Seanan McGuire, and Brandon Sanderson contributions in this one.
  • Laini Taylor‘s DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS (YA fantasy): Despite the overwhelming love out there for this series, it’s never quite clicked for me.  I’ll still read this final book to find out how it all ends.

Books for December

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

They’re from two different worlds.

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

Out now

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

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

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

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

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

Out now

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Other books I want to get:

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

Mini-Reviews – Or What I Read Last Year, Part II

Maybe I should speed  up my Goodreads cross-postings?  It’s a mixed batch this time – some long-time favourites (I need more Skolian books), a couple of new-to-me authors, and some former autobuy authors.

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Diamond Star (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #13)Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading this way back when it was first released (yes, we’re talking 2009 here) and then stopped halfway – not entirely sure why now, but I think it was to do with the fact I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go where I thought the book was going (and hopefully that makes sense to you – I’m not sure it makes sense to me!). Anyway, as the next book in the series, Carnelians, had been released, and I’ve an aversion to reading books out of order, I bit the bullet and picked up DIAMOND STAR again.

With the caveat I started reading from where I stopped, as opposed to restarting the whole book, I ended up really liking DIAMOND STAR. The story wasn’t as dark as I thought it was going to be, but perhaps not everything was fully resolved.

I have a very soft spot for the SF world that Catherine Asaro has created, and so while the bubbles and colours (and incestous relationships) feel slightly dated, I can’t help but give them a pass because I love the Skolian universe so much.

This book is not one for new readers to the Skolian series, but if you’re a long-term fan, it was satisfying to see more of the tangled family relationships resolved, and particularly Del stepping out of his family’s shadow and making his life his own.

All in all, DIAMOND STAR is a slightly heavy-handed coming-of-age story, but I’m glad I finally got around to finishing it, and now I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t cross-posted this review before (or if this sounds familiar, maybe I have!).  Catherine Asaro’s Skolian series is one of my favourite space opera series, and although some elements do feel dated, they’re ultimately comfort reads for me.

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Carnelians (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #14)Carnelians by Catherine Asaro (SF)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s a good thing I read this straight after finishing the previous book, Diamond Star. It’s definitely not one for readers new to the series, and without a knowledge of the story so far, I think the key moments would lack impact somewhat.

I loved this book – I stayed up very late to finish it, and it totally delivered on the satisfaction front. It’s not a technically perfect book, but that emotional impact thing? A million times yes. [Click through to GR review for spoiler]

This book wraps up one of the main arcs in the series – all I can say is when is the next book coming out?

I obviously jumped straight to the next Skolian installment, which turned out to be one of my favourites of 2012, IIRC.  Catherine Asaro said she signed a contract with Baen for SF mysteries set in the Skolian Empire universe – I cannot wait.

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The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1)The Next Always by Nora Roberts (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I read a Nora Roberts (I think) and this book didn’t really make me regret not picking it up sooner.

This came across as a quiet-ish romance, with a slightly OTT stalker plot that felt a bit out of place. I liked the relationship between Beckett and his brothers – one thing Nora Roberts does very well, I think. And Claire’s kids were fun, if a little on the overly-sweet side. A bit too much page-time was spent on the inn construction (and in a way, it was weird knowing the inn and the bookstore were real-life places). And unfortunately, the ending [click through to GR review for spoiler] made me roll my eyes.

I used to haunt the bookstore for the new Nora Roberts release.  Now – well, it’s a possible library borrow if I see it on the shelves.  I suspect it’s a “me, not you” thing – I’ve grown too familiar with her writing style, characters, and plots, and they don’t feel as fresh or exciting anymore.

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (YA fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was both great story-telling and writing. Karou’s story felt so immediate, keeping me on the edge of my seat, and the setting was so different and imaginative. While a bit predictable towards the end (and I wasn’t expecting the abrupt ending), I was completely drawn into Laini Taylor’s world and am looking forward to see how the story continues.

Oh, there was a lot of hype around this one.  I didn’t fall in love, but there were a lot of good things here.

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The Sleeping Beauty (Five Hundred Kingdoms, #5)The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I stopped reading this series a while ago, but was persuaded to pick this one up because of good reviews. And this was generally a good read.

I do like Mercedes Lackey’s take on The Tradition – it’s clever and delivers an entertaining twist on the traditional fairy tale, while the same fairy tale elements somehow means I can give the “too-perfectness” of the protagonists a bit of a pass, because it fits the worldbuilding (whereas the same aspect just tends to frustrate me in other recent Lackey books). Having said that, I found it difficult to differentiate between the heroes/heroines, and as a result, never really empathised with the characters. A good, if not memorable, read.

That Nora Roberts bookstore haunting thing I used to do for new releases? 10x that for a Mercedes Lackey release.  Reading a Lackey is usually a nostalgic thing for me nowadays. 

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Hot Head (Head, #1)Hot Head by Damon Suede (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this, but did not thoroughly get (or connect with?) the main characters. Maybe the plot driver behind h/h getting together (i.e. the posing for the gay website) didn’t work for me. However, I loved the friends-to-lovers part.

New-to-me author – again a lot of buzz around this release, IIRC.  I was not entirely won over (one day, I’m sure I’ll be telling you about a new release that lived up to the hype for me!).

Mini-Reviews: The Last of 2011

Another batch of reviews cross-posted from Goodreads with additional comments in italics – this time it’s the final set of books that I read during 2011.  Be warned: it’s a long-ish post as it was a bit of an uneven reading month and I couldn’t figure out how to split them up without having a post all about “just okay” books.

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Men Under the MistletoeMen Under the Mistletoe edited by Angela James (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really good collection of Christmas m/m romances – I loved the Josh Lanyon story (second chance romances always get me), the KA Mitchell contribution was funny-sweet-romantic, and Harper Fox’s story was just different and unusual. The only one that didn’t quite work for me was Ava March’s historical – it was a good read, but not a standout.

I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by Carina Press’s Christmas anthologies, and this was a good one with three out of four contributors being favourite authors of mine.  

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Carol of the Bellskis (Bellskis, #1)Carol of the Bellskis by Astrid Amara (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unexpectedly good read. I loved the inclusion of Jewish traditions in this story and found them fascinating. Romance-wise, I liked how Seth discovered new things about Lars and I believed in their relationship. A strong ending, and I just want to know what happens next now.

I think I have pretty much all of Astrid Amara’s backlist (though I’ve only finished her contemporaries to date). I really like her writing – I just checked as I don’t recall seeing any new releases from her lately, and found out that she’s been working on a romance set during an alternate-universe Crimean War.  Sounds very interesting. 

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McKettrick's Heart (McKettrick Men, #3) (McKettricks, #8)McKettrick’s Heart (McKettrick Men, #3) by Linda Lael Miller (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heart-warming story, though be warned, a bit of a tear-jerker. I did feel the climax was a bit of letdown after all the build-up, but a satisfying read overall. The relationship between Keegan and his cousins was hilarious, and I’ll be picking up their books.

I can go months without reading a Linda Lael Miller, and then I sometimes feel as though I need a LLM fix, even though she can be hit or miss for me.  I think I picked this off the shelves at random – it hit the right buttons. 

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Bad Boyfriend (Bad in Baltimore, #2)Bad Boyfriend by K.A. Mitchell (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After some slight confusion about exactly who was who, I got into the story – this was a romance with a nice dollop of angst, and there was a good build-up to a satisfying ending, though I’m not quite sure if Quinn’s relationship with his ex’s family had been properly resolved? Also, minor spoiler – click through to read.

I liked this, but not one of her standout books, IMO.  I’m hoping the new release works better for me. 

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Fate's Edge (The Edge, #3)Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews (paranormal romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I find the Edge world fascinating, and George and Jack, who play quite a large part in this book, pretty much stole the show whenever they appeared. As for the Kaldar/Audrey relationship, I liked them well enough and thought they suited each other.However, I never really got into this book – it may be that the writing just failed to capture my imagination completely. A good read, but not one of my favourite Ilona Andrews.

I bought (and read) all the Edge books, but they never quite worked as well for me as the Kate Daniels books.  I think part of it is because the world-building felt a bit more forced compared to the Kate Daniels’ alternate-Atlanta world.  It also may be due to the fact we get different h/h pairings for each book in this series – I certainly feel more invested in George and Jack as recurring characters… 

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Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book kept me occupied during a very long plane journey. While there was more Jamie than I expected, I liked how the book filled in some of the gaps in the main Outlander story. I really enjoy the relationship between Lord John and his brother Hal – it’s not something we’re often given the chance to see. And as with all Diana Gabaldon’s books, this book is jam-packed with entertaining historical detail. I’m always glad to revisit the Outlander world, and this was a solid read.

Diana Gabaldon did a Q&A and cover reveal on the upcoming Outlander novel, if you missed it.  Part of me almost prefers her “shorter” side-novels about Lord John, because they’re not the epic Claire/Jamie sagas where I have to remember this large cast of characters, but I’m glad we finally get to find out what happened next. 

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Fire and Ice (Buchanan, #7)Fire and Ice by Julie Garwood (romantic suspense)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m at a loss as to why something that I would think endearing (possibly?) in a historical romance doesn’t translate to contemporary. In the book, the heroine says/thinks something along the lines of “He loves her (her being the best friend, IIRC) and I love her therefore he is okay” (yes, I’m paraphrasing wildly but it’s been a while and I don’t have the book to hand). And I sit there and think “naive girl”. Whereas I swear I have read something similar in Julie Garwood’s historicals and probably went “Awww…”.

So that aside, FIRE AND ICE was okay, nothing special.

Ha. I did struggle with this one.

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Promises in Death (In Death, #28)Promises in Death by J.D. Robb (futuristic romantic suspense)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I ended up skimming through most of this book, to be honest. It was an impulse buy, and as with the more recent In Death books I’ve read, I didn’t really get into the story – it may be that I’ve read too many of these books and they’re all starting to come across as too similar. I did find it interesting to get to know Morris in more depth (I have to say he was not what I imagined him to be) and yay, Eve gets a new car! Apart from that, Eve was Eve, Roarke was Roarke, etc etc – no earth-shaking developments in this book.

I think I’ve pretty much given up on this series.  Unless I read a review that says Nora Roberts has completely shaken things up.

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Trio of Sorcery (Diana Tregarde, #0.5) (Jennifer Talldeer, #2)Trio of Sorcery (Diana Tregarde, #0.5) by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was familiar with Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer books and was keen to read more stories set in their world – they were good stories, but not particularly memorable. I did like how she explored “previous contemporary” settings in the first two stories – it brought a few nostalgic memories back. The third story featuring a new protagonist focused on computers (and I’m sure it’ll become “previous contemporary” quite quickly as well) – again, it was a decent read, but didn’t stand out. I’m glad I restrained myself and waited for the library request to come through. It’s possibly worth the price if you get it in paperback, but not worth the hardcover, IMO.

I remember being so tempted to get the hardcover for this one, primarily because of the new Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer stories. I’m glad common sense prevailed.  Nice to revisit these old settings though. 

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Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls, #2)Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter (YA)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A fun, light read, but IMO, the book lacked substance and left me somewhat unsatisfied. I continue reading this series because it’s such a great concept (secret spy-school for girls!), but I’m not invested.

I keep requesting this series from the library because I want these books to click with me, dammit.  They end up being more mind-candy than anything else.

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A Stone Creek Christmas (Stone Creek, #4) (Silhouette Special Edition #1939)A Stone Creek Christmas (Stone Creek, #4) by Linda Lael Miller (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not a massively memorable story – I bought it primarily because I was in the mood for Christmas stories. I think the talking-to-animals angle plus Kris Kringle required a suspension of disbelief that I couldn’t quite manage.

And this was a Linda Lael Miller miss.  Too cute-sy for me, IIRC.

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Legacies (Shadow Grail, #1)Legacies by Mercedes Lackey (YA urban fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have a soft spot for academy/boarding school type stories, so was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was one. But at the end, I wasn’t quite sure where the overall story was going and I didn’t feel invested in the characters. There wasn’t enough pay-off to make me interested in the next book.

It’s been a while since a new Mercedes Lackey novel really worked for me, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was no exception.  I noticed the final book in this trilogy is out this year, but I’m probably not going to bother. 

Books for December

Yes, this post is late, but on purpose this time!  There just haven’t been many December new releases that I’m interested in, so I’ve been holding off in the hope that I’d come across a few more.  Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case, so here’s the list of December releases on my radar – I will admit I’m fairly lukewarm on a few.

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13547361Sarah A Hoyt‘s DARKSHIP RENEGADES (SF): This is a follow-up to DARKSHIP THIEVES, an impulse borrow from my library a couple of years back and one I ended up liking very much.  I’m glad a sequel has finally been released, but my memory of the first book is somewhat hazy.  Also, this is published by Baen, so in theory, you should be able to purchase the e-version at both the Baen ebookstore or Amazon following their announcement last week.  I can see the price is now $8.99, as opposed to the original $6, so I’m assuming that’s gone through…

After rescuing her star pilot husband and discovering the dark secret of her own past on Earth, Athena Hera Sinistra returns to space habitat Eden to start life anew. Not happening. Thena and Kit are placed under arrest for the crime of coming back alive. The only escape from a death sentence: return to Earth and bring back the lost method for creating the Powertrees, the energy source of both Eden and Earth whose technological origins have been lost to war. But that mission is secondary to a greater imperative. Above all else, Thena must not get caught. If she does, then suicide is to be the only option.

With the odds heavily stacked against not only success, but survival, Thena comes to understand what her cynical accusers do not: it is not merely one woman’s life on the line anymore. For it’s on Earth where the adventure truly begins. Thena realizes that what is truly at stake is the fate of Eden and Earth alike, the continuance of the darkship fleet–and freedom for all in the Solar system–and beyond.

Out now (excerpt)

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13589141ELEMENTAL MAGIC, edited by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy): December normally signals a new Valdemar anthology, but not this year – it’s the turn of Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series.  It’s the same concept as the Valdemar anthology – various authors (the usual suspects, plus a few others) contribute short stories set in Lackey’s world.  I always end up buying the Valdemar anthology, which tends to be a mixed bag (i.e. a couple I really like and the rest ranging from decent to mediocre), but then again, I have a soft spot for Valdemar stories in general.  I’m not as fond of her Elemental Masters books, but I suspect I’ll also end up buying this one.

Among Mercedes Lackey’s many novels, few are as critically acclaimed and beloved as those about the Elemental Masters. The novels in this series are loosely based on classic fairy tales, and take place in a fantasy version of turn-of-the-century London, where magic is real and Elemental Masters control the powers of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. Now other authors join Mercedes Lackey to add their own special touches to this delightful alternate history, in a world where magic is always just around the corner…

Out now

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1600621616007364Carina Press also has their Christmas (holiday?) anthologies out this month – the previous ones I’ve read have been good value for money, so I keep an eye out for them.  This year, their three anthology themes are contemporary romance (ROMANCING THE HOLIDAY), erotic romance (RED HOT HOLIDAY), and SF romance A GALACTIC HOLIDAY.  I’ve already bought the latter two based on generally positive reviews (and am especially excited about the SF one), and will probably get the contemporary one at some point.

Out now

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13561603Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway‘s A LADY MOST WILLING (historical romance): This is a follow-up to the previous collaboration between the same authors, which I haven’t read yet, but I’m guessing these three authors should have put together a pretty fun and Christmassy read.

During their annual Christmas pilgrimage to Scotland to visit their aged uncle in his decrepit castle, the Comte de Rocheforte and his cousin, Earl of Oakley, are presented with unique gifts: their uncle has raided an English lord’s Christmas party and kidnapped four lovely would-be brides for his heirs to choose from… as well as one very angry duke, Lord Bretton. As snow isolates the castle, and as hours grow into days, the most honourable intentions give away to temptations as surprising as they are irresistible.

Out Dec 26 (excerpt)