Books for July

I’ve totally failed at blogging this summer.  I generally post much less frequently during summer – it’s that fatal combination of long summer evenings, the tennis (following Roland Garros/Queens/Wimbledon basically takes over my life for a few weeks), holidays, and ah, just summer being summer.  But I have to admit this year has been pretty abysmal blogging-wise, even by my low standards.

But enough self-flagellation – here are the new releases for July that I’ll be reading (or have read, in a few cases).

34748555JL Merrow’s SPUN! (contemporary romance): I love the ever-so-British feel of JL Merrow’s and this one promises to be a fun summer read.

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

Out now

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29750595Kate Elliott’s BURIED HEART (YA fantasy): I’m so excited for this conclusion to her Court of Fives trilogy, and the book just appeared on my Kindle today.  Hurrah for pre-ordering magic.

The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series

In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war? Find all the answers in this beautifully written and exciting conclusion to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s debut New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy!

Out now

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32855152Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess’s THE PAINTED QUEEN (historical mystery): Speaking of being excited.  The very last Amelia Peabody book!  While there had been rumours of a final book, I had pretty much given up hope after several years, so confirmation of this was incredibly thrilling.  Joan Hess finished writing the novel based on a partially-written manuscript by Elizabeth Peters, so it may not be quite like the original, but I don’t really care…  I’m glad we see Amelia one last time.

Egypt, 1912—Amelia Peabody and her dashing archaeologist husband, Radcliffe Emerson, are once again in danger as they search for a priceless, stolen bust of legendary Queen Nefertiti and Amelia finds herself the target of assassins in this long-awaited, eagerly anticipated final installment of Elizabeth Peters’s bestselling, beloved mystery series

Arriving in Cairo for another thrilling excavation season, Amelia Peabody is relaxing in a well-earned bubble bath in her elegant hotel suite in Cairo, when a man with knife protruding from his back staggers into the bath chamber and utters a single word—“Murder”—before collapsing on the tiled floor, dead. Among the few possessions he carried was a sheet of paper with Amelia’s name and room number, and a curious piece of pasteboard the size of a calling card bearing one word: “Judas.” Most peculiarly, the stranger was wearing a gold-rimmed monocle in his left eye.

It quickly becomes apparent that someone saved Amelia from a would-be assassin—someone who is keeping a careful eye on the intrepid Englishwoman. Discovering a terse note clearly meant for EmersonWhere were you?”—pushed under their door, there can be only one answer: the brilliant master of disguise, Sethos.

But neither assassins nor the Genius of Crime will deter Amelia as she and Emerson head to the excavation site at Armana, where they will witness the discovery of one of the most precious Egyptian artifacts: the iconic Nefertiti bust. In 1345 B.C. the sculptor Thutmose crafted the piece in tribute to the great beauty of this queen who was also the chief consort of Pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother to King Tutankhamun.

For Amelia, this excavation season will prove to be unforgettable. Throughout her journey, a parade of men in monocles will die under suspicious circumstances, fascinating new relics will be unearthed, a diabolical mystery will be solved, and a brilliant criminal will offer his final challenge . . . and perhaps be unmasked at last.

Out now

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28960325Martha Wells’s THE HARBORS OF THE SUN (fantasy): This is the final book in her Three Worlds Raksura series, which is a bit bittersweet.  I’m glad that we get an ending to Moon’s story, but I’m going to miss this world.

A former friend has betrayed the Raksura and their groundling companions, and now the survivors must race across the Three Worlds to rescue their kidnapped family members. When Moon and Stone are sent ahead to scout, they quickly encounter an unexpected and potentially deadly ally, and decide to disobey the queens and continue the search alone. Following in a wind-ship, Jade and Malachite make an unlikely alliance of their own, until word reaches them that the Fell are massing for an attack on the Reaches, and that forces of the powerful Empire of Kish are turning against the Raksura and their groundling comrades.

But there may be no time to stage a rescue, as the kidnapped Raksura discover that their captors are heading toward a mysterious destination with a stolen magical artifact that will cause more devastation for the Reaches than anything the lethal Fell can imagine. To stop them, the Raksura will have to take the ultimate risk and follow them into forbidden territory.

The Harbors of the Sun, from celebrated fantasy author Martha Wells, is the thrilling follow-up to The Edge of Worlds, and the conclusion of a new Three Worlds duology of strange lands, uncanny beings, dead cities, and ancient danger.

Out now

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27422533Ilona Andrews’s WILDFIRE (paranormal romance): I don’t love this Hidden Legacy series as much as other people, but the books are fun reads, and I’m looking forward to this one.

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

Out now

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34293313Rachel Caine’s ASH AND QUILL (YA fantasy): I have mixed feelings on this one.  I enjoyed the first couple of books (alt-world fantasy centred around libraries and books – what’s not to like?), and was looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy.  Then it was announced that the series would be extended to five books, and  well, it kind of showed here.  Not enough story IMO, and drama for the sake of drama got a bit tiring after a while.  But I’m invested in the world and the characters, so I’ll still get the next book…

Held prisoner by the Burner forces in Philadelphia, Jess and his friends struggle to stay alive in the face of threats from both sides … but a stunning escape guarantees worse is coming. The Library now means to stop them by any means necessary, and they’ll have to make dangerous allies and difficult choices to stay alive.

They have only two choices: face the might of the Great Library head on, or be erased from life, and the history of the world, for ever.

Win or die.

Out now

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Maybes for the month:

Rachel Aaron’s A DRAGON OF A DIFFERENT COLOR (UF): I loved the first Heartstrikers book, but have stalled with the third book.  It’s sitting half-read on my Kindle, so I’m not sure when (or if) I’ll buy this fourth installment in the series.

Miranda Kenneally’s COMING UP FOR AIR (YA romance): A bit of a trend here.  Sport romances are my weakness and I loved the first few books in her Hundred Oaks series (also, her BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE was one of my favourite books of 2014), but I haven’t really connected with her more recent releases.  I’ll still get this at some point though.

Kalayna Price’s GRAVE RANSOM (UF): I don’t think this series has quite recovered from the long break between the third and fourth books yet.  I suspect I’d be a lot more invested in the characters if I started this series today.

Suzanne Brockman’s SOME KIND OF HERO (romantic suspense): Ah, I really don’t know here.  I loved her Troubleshooters books, but her recent spin-offs have not worked for me at all, and I regretted shelling out for hardcovers.  Now that she’s back to her Troubleshooters world, just maybe the old magic’s back?  I’ll probably wait for a price drop.

Sarina Bowen’s HELLO FOREVER (contemporary romance): Normally Sarina Bowen’s an autobuy for me, but the first book in this duology didn’t really work for me.  It was all a bit too neat and tidy, with the end conflict feeling rather manufactured.   I’ll hold fire for now, but will probably buy at some point.

Kylie Scott’s TRUST (NA romance): I’m feeling a bit burnt out on NA romance at the moment, but I do like Kylie Scott’s writing.

Books for July

There’s quite a few new releases on my radar this month.

22846823Miranda Kenneally’s DEFENDING TAYLOR (YA romance): I’ve always enjoyed Miranda Kenneally’s sports romance books (my very favourite being BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE, and the latest in her Hundred Oaks series is out this month.

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

Out now

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23510834Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s ALLIANCE OF EQUALS (SF): This is my current book on the go, and it’s keeping me occupied (in between watching tennis points!).  Some of the plot threads from previous books appear to be coming to fruition in this one, so hurrah.

A new novel in the popular and exciting science fiction Liaden Universe® series. Over a half million Liaden Universe® books sold with an audience that keeps growing!

Beset by the angry remnants of the Department of the Interior, challenged at every turn by opportunists on their new homeworld of Surebleak, and somewhat low on funds, Clan Korval desperately needs to reestablish its position as one of the top trading clans in known space. To this end, Master Trader Shan yos’Galan, aboard Korval’s premier trade ship, Dutiful Passage, is on a mission to establish new business associations and to build a strong primary route that links well with existing Loops and secondary routes.

But reestablishing trade and preserving the lives of the few remaining members of the clan aren’t all of Korval’s problems. Matters come to a head as Dutiful Passage, accustomed to being welcomed and feted at those ports on its call-list, finds itself denied docking, and blacklisted, while agents of the DOI mount armed attacks on others of Korval’s traders, under the very eyes of port security systems.

Traveling with Dutiful Passage on this unsettling journey is Padi yos’Galan, the master trader’s heir and his apprentice. Padi is eager to make up for time lost due to Korval’s unpleasantness with the Department of the Interior. She is also keeping a secret so intense that her coming of age, and perhaps her very life, is threatened by it.

Out now

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29087455Sarina Bowen’s STEADFAST (contemporary romance): The first book in this trilogy, BITTERSWEET, came out last month, and it totally whetted my appetite for Jude’s story.  I could get on board with this trend of releasing books in quick succession…

She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.

Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there’s no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, he’s everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never turn up volunteer in the church kitchen.

She knows it’s foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie’s police chief father. But it’s a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

Out July 12

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30651327Rachel Caine’s PAPER AND FIRE (YA fantasy): I had a good time with the first book in this series so bring on the second.  Also obviously – libraries.

LET THE WORLD BURN

With an iron fist, the Great Library ruthlessly controls the knowledge of the world, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but his life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered for ever. Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe any more. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or a Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control …

Out July 21 in the UK (think the US version is out now)

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29536947JL Merrow’s BLOW DOWN (M/M contemporary romance): I find my experience with JL Merrow’s books a bit hit-or-miss, but her Plumber’s Mate series has definitely been on the hit side so far.

Death is what happens while you’re making other plans.

The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, Book 4

The last thing newly engaged plumber Tom Paretski needs is to stumble over another dead body. He’s got enough on his mind already as the reality of his impending marriage sinks in. Not only is his family situation complicated, his heroism at a pub fire made him a local celebrity. Now everyone and their uncle wants a piece of his psychic talents.

Hired to find a missing necklace, Tom and his fiancé, private investigator Phil Morrison, wind up trying to unmask a killer—and there’s no shortage of suspects, up to and including the local bishop himself.

As Tom and Phil try to uncover the truth, they find themselves pulled in all directions by the conflicting pressures of their families and their own desires. But the murderer they’re up against is a ruthless schemer who won’t hesitate to kill again. If Tom and Phil aren’t careful, their love—and all their plans for the future—could be blown down like a house of straw.

Warning: Contains a bishop of questionable Christian charity, a necklace of questionable taste, and a plumber of questionable nationality who may be running out of time.

Out July 12

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27804510Megan Derr’s THE PIRATE OF FATHOMS DEEP (M/M fantasy romance): I’m not usually one for fluffy romance, especially fluffy fantasy romance, but the first book in this series somehow hit the right buttons for me.

High Commander Lesto Arseni is the most feared man in the Harken Empire. None but the High King dares risk his wrath—and a pirate who once punched him in the middle of the imperial pavilion. A pirate who later snuck away with Lesto to an empty room, touched him in ways far more memorable. And then immediately bolted like a man who’d gotten what he wanted.

Shemal just wants to live a normal life, leave his pirating days behind him and prove that he’s respectable now. The last thing he needs is the two idiots who show up wanting his help with the noble they’ve kidnapped—the very man Shemal had been hoping to prove himself to, the man he hasn’t forgotten since Shemal punched him a year and a half ago.

Out July 13

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So, that’s my list – what’s on yours?

Books for July

Can I say that July’s flown by?  That’ll be my excuse for posting this new releases post in the second half of the month.  They’re good books, though.

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18775818Manna FrancisBLOOD & CIRCUSES (M/M paranormal romance): I was dancing around with delight when I heard there was going to be a new Administration book.  The Administration series is this online M/M futuristic/dystopian romance series, which is available for free online, but the stories have also been released for sale.  I devoured this series when I first stumbled upon it – this wasn’t exactly your standard everyday dystopian romance.  The last installment left the protagonists in a pretty good place, and I honestly thought the series had come to an end.  So this is fantastic news.  The not-so-great news is that the ebook is only coming out next year (I think), so I may bite the bullet and order the paperback.  Or I could re-read the first seven books in preparation for this…

It’s set to be a busy autumn in New London and beyond. With the ripples of the revolt still running through the European Administration, Val Toreth is slowly settling into the new flat he shares with Keir Warrick. But on orders from the very highest levels of the Administration, Toreth finds himself leaving his regular beat far behind and heading over the Atlantic to Washington D.C. Without his usual team or his authority as a Para-investigator to back him up, Toreth is caught up in a world of politics, diplomacy, and religion far outside his experience. Worst of all, he’s stuck with an unexpected and very unwanted companion on his trip. Can he keep his cool and win through when international reputations are on the line?

Back in New London, Investigator Barret-Connor is called on to deal with a case that lies outside the traditional areas of interest of the Investigation and Interrogation Division–the unexpectedly dangerous world of Europe’s music corporations. With dark secrets hidden behind the PR-groomed public façade, both his professional skills and conscience will be tested.

The eighth book in the Administration series contains the novellasInnocent Blood and For Your Entertainment, and continues the lives of now partially domesticated Para-investigator Val Toreth and somewhat harried corporate director Keir Warrick.

Out now

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16045315Miranda Kenneally‘s JESSE’S GIRL (YA romance): Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series is an auto-buy for me.  I’ve read JESSE’S GIRL and talked a bit about it last week.  This wasn’t my favourite of all her books, but one consistent thing that I do like about Kenneally’s books is how her protagonists aren’t always rich and privileged.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Out now

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25719764Sean Kennedy‘s TIGERS ON THE RUN (M/M romance): Another sequel I never really expected to see, and another one I’m delighted to see released. I adored the first book, TIGERS AND DEVILS, when I read it five(!) years ago – it’s a heart-warming sports romance (with an excellent snarky narrator), with an Aussie setting that comes to life. I’m reading TIGERS ON THE RUN right now, and seeing Simon and Dec again is a whole load of fun.

Young Australian Micah Johnson is the first AFL player to be out at the beginning of his career. Retired professional football player Declan Tyler mentors Micah, but he finds it difficult, as Micah is prone to making poor life choices that land him in trouble. Nothing Dec can’t handle. He’s been there, done that, more times than he’d like to admit. Being Simon Murray’s partner all these years has Dec quite experienced in long-suffering and mishaps.

As usual, Simon thinks everything is going along just fine until his assistant, Coby, tells him a secret involving an old nemesis. Simon and Dec’s problems mash together, and to solve them, they must undertake a thousand-kilometer round trip in which issues will have to be sorted out, apologies are finally given, and a runaway kid is retrieved and returned to his worried parents.

Out now

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16278318Ernest Cline‘s ARMADA (SF): Some people loved Ernest Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE, others thought it was an over-hyped piece of 1980’s nostalgia.  I fell firmly into the loved-it camp, so ARMADA is definitely on my to-buy list.

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Out now

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25686927Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy‘s HIM (M/M new adult romance): I’m always up for a surprise release by two of my favourite authors (yes, I got around to reading Elle Kennedy’s NAs and am now stalking her updates for when the next book will come out).  I’ve heard good things about this one.

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

Out July 28

Summer Reading

Oh, hey. *dusts off blog*

Actual summer weather combined with Wimbledon = not enough time to blog.  But I’ve some time to kill before the women’s final starts, so here are a few books I’ve read recently – no real standouts unfortunately.  Or maybe I’ve just been grumpy.

16045315Miranda Kenneally‘s JESSE’S GIRL: Enjoyable fluff.  Very enjoyable, mind, but also total fluff.  I was expecting a bit more after last year’s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (one of my 2014 favourites), so a bit of a letdown.  It reminded me a bit of Jennifer Echols’ BIGGEST FLIRTS (which I read last year).  That was also a sweet and fun YA romance, but with no surprises plot-wise.  I’ve been wondering if I’m expecting too much from YA romance though – I’d probably have loved both these books as a teen, so is it fair for me to be judging these through an adult lens now?

16096824Sarah J Maas‘s A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES: An impulse borrow from the library, as I hadn’t really cared for her debut, but this turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing fantasy that stitches together various fairy tales to come up with something a bit more modern, if not exactly unique.  There’s not much depth in world-building nor in characterisation, and it took me a while to settle into the book.  But things got better as the story progressed, and I needed to know how things would end.  There’s something about Feyre and her story that makes me think this would appeal to those who’ve liked Anne Bishop’s recent books.

23305614Sophie Kinsella‘s FINDING AUDREY: Another library borrow, as I wasn’t entirely sure I’d love a Kinsella YA, and this was probably a good call.  Kinsella’s well-known for her chick-lit… and this was YA chick-lit style.  One I’d recommend for a light beach read, but I never really connected with Audrey and her family.  I adore the cover though.

23403402VE Schwab‘s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC: I’d been hearing good things about this fantasy, and grabbed the Kindle edition when it was on sale recently.  I loved the concept of alternate-Londons, but again, never quite connected with the protagonists.  It’s also a bit on the grimdark side, which is not a mood I particularly care for.  I’m on the fence as to whether I’d pick up the next book.

2014: My Favourite Books

Happy New Year!

I’m loving all the annual wrap-ups/best-of posts appearing around the book blogosphere, and my TBR list is growing by leaps and bounds (I’m also trying to be smarter by using the eReaderIQ price drop watch lists, but there is only so much restraint I can show).

My 2014?

It’s a weird one.  It’s not felt like an amazing reading year for me (again – I had similar feelings about 2013) but if I look at my book log, I actually read a lot of books I’ve enjoyed.  Good thing I track my reads, huh?

Maybe it’s because while I’ve stumbled across some new-to-me authors and read some really good books, there’s been no single author whose books I’ve just wholeheartedly glommed.  Am I being unrealistic?  Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by discovering authors like Eloisa James, Elizabeth Peters, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kelly Hunter etc relatively recently (where recently = since I’ve been blogging) and it doesn’t feel like a good reading year unless I discover a fantastic author with a massive backlist to dive into. Possibly.

Anyway, here are my favourite books read during 2014 (roughly in the order I read them):

Susanna Kearsley‘s THE WINTER SEA (romance): Yes, I finally got around to reading Susanna Kearsley in 2014, and fell headlong for her quiet swoon-worthy romances and the way she weaves together the then and now.  This one was my very favourite of the Kearsleys, and trust me, I made a dent in her backlist over the year.

KJ Charles‘s THINK OF ENGLAND (historical M/M romance): KJ Charles became an auto-buy author for me over 2014. This book wasn’t without its controversies (heck, 2014 may go down as the year the book blogging world did Controversy), but she nailed both the period feel and romance in this one, IMO.

Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (YA romance): I’ve had both hits and misses with her Hundred Oaks series, but this one was very definitely a hit.  Chemistry and feelings a-plenty in these pages.

Cinda Williams Chima‘s THE GRAY WOLF THRONE and THE CRIMSON CROWN (YA fantasy): I kind of cheat here, because it’s the whole quartet I loved, but Cinda Williams Chima didn’t let me down with the two concluding books to her Seven Realms series. It was just a really good story that hit all my buttons – court intrigue, magic, romance… I couldn’t ask for more.

Rainbow Rowell‘s FANGIRL (YA romance): I finally got the why behind Rainbow Rowell’s popularity this year.  I’d tried (and failed) with her popular ATTACHMENTS and was about to place her in the authors-everyone-else-loves pile.  And then I gave FANGIRL a go – I fell hard for Cath, and we had fanfic love as bonus (obviously, I’m dying over the CARRY ON 2015 announcement).

Stephanie PerkinsISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (YA romance): The wait for this book was worth it – no one can quite capture those dizzying extremes of teenage emotions the way Stephanie Perkins can.

Juliet Marillier‘s THE CALLER (YA fantasy): I admit I had doubts about this fantasy trilogy at the start, and the first book is unlikely to ever be a favourite of mine.  But Juliet Marillier ended the Shadowfell trilogy on a high.

Martha WellsTHE SIREN DEPTHS (fantasy): Like the Cinda Williams Chima books, this really should be the Raksura trilogy as a whole.  Another of those series that I should have read a long time ago – memorable characters and really excellent world-building.

Kylie Scott‘s LEAD (contemporary romance): I enjoyed Kylie Scott’s previous Stage Dive rock star romances, but LEAD was miles better.  Jimmy and Lena won my heart with their banter, chemistry, and yes, drama.  There were some very perfect moments in this book.

In summary:

  • Six romance books and four fantasy books, with half of the list being YA
  • An even mix of new-to-me and previously-read authors (last year, it was all new-to-me authors)
  • And half of these books were published in 2014, with publication dates for the other five ranging from 2008 to 2013

Before I wrap up, I don’t normally call out short stories in my annual favourites, but there were two anthologies I had to mention this year – both of them M/M romance anthologies, coincidentally.  KJ Charles‘s (again) “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” was a standout for me (in the anthology ANOTHER PLACE IN TIME).  Seriously.  I’m really excited she revisits her Regency world in a new Loveswept release this year.  And COMFORT AND JOY was just a consistently good Christmas romance anthology (stories by Joanna Chambers, LB Gregg, Harper Fox, and Josh Lanyon) – it’s definitely one for my holiday stories keeper pile.

Next up: 2014 in numbers. Because I like stats.

Good Books

So that July new releases post I put up a week or so ago?  I’ve read three of them now – and loved all three.  Which is not always the case, let me assure you – I think I’ve had more misses than hits in 2014 so far.  But these three – let’s just say I resented having to put these books down when reading them (sometimes I feel like we should have “good book days” the same way we have sick days).

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16045306First up, Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE.  I first stumbled upon Miranda Kenneally’s books when I picked up CATCHING JORDAN almost two years ago now (time flies!).  They’ve been a bit uneven since, but I feel she’s really hit it out of the park with ANNIE (you can tell when I’ve read a Kenneally when I go for sporting metaphors).  Seeing that the main protagonist’s a teenager who’s training for a marathon in memory of her boyfriend, it would be easy for this story to veer too much into the territory of angst and depression.  But it didn’t – Annie’s not the only one with baggage in the book, but yet the emotions never felt overdone.  She felt real, as did Jeremiah – I loved their chemistry, the feelings, and I was with them all the way as they took tentative steps into friendship and then more.  I also loved that family – on both Annie’s and Jere’s sides – was so present and loving in this book, which is a bit of a rarity for a YA/NA!  And finally, while there are cameos by characters from previous Hundred Oaks books, I felt this one worked as a standalone as well.

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20426102I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting with Rachel Aaron‘s UF debut NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST – I knew she could give good story after her SF Paradox trilogy (btw, did you read she’s writing another trilogy in the Paradox universe – more Sainted King!), but was slightly wary after reading her first (admittedly debut) fantasy novel way back and being all meh about it.  But I needn’t have been worried – I was caught up in the story from the first chapter onwards, and I suspect this would appeal to those looking for a slightly different UF series.  I mean, what other UF has a all-powerful dragon seer named Bob (okay, Brohomir, but he prefers Bob), who uses ❤ ❤ in his texts (and just generally takes the piss out of everyone)?  As you can gather, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s a solid story with some very engaging characters.  Julius is the “nice dragon” of the title, but he’s no self-pitying pushover.  There’s fast-paced action mixed with humour and snark, and tantalising glimpses of the wider dragon community – and if they’re anything like the Heartstrikers clan members we’ve already met, we’re in for a ride.  I closed the book wanting more Heartstrikers now.  She mentions November as a possible release date for the next book, so fingers crossed!

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20822874And then KJ CharlesTHINK OF ENGLAND.  I had a feeling this was going to be it.  I mean, her Magpie Lord books were getting better and better, her romantic thriller NON-STOP TILL TOKYO drew me in despite violence not generally being my thing, but still, I was not prepared by how much I loved THINK OF ENGLAND.  Set in turn-of-the-century 20th-century England, the first thing that struck me was the period feel.  The usual tongue-in-cheek Samhain warning for this book read:

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

And all three were spot on.  I thought KJ Charles nailed the insular attitudes of the English upper class of that era, the country-house weekend (or fortnight, in this case) feel.  The story evolved so naturally, and before I knew it, Curtis was up to his ears with intrigue and deception.  And not knowing whether he was coming or going with Daniel… Their chemistry was off the page, and their interactions equally romantic and sexy.  As for the final suspenseful and action-packed chapters – well, let’s just say I couldn’t put the book down.  Unusually for an m/m historical, I closed the book thinking a HEA was actually possible, despite the challenges not getting hand-waved away or swept under the carpet.  I’m hoping this is just the start of a series, as I suspect any of Curtis and Daniel’s future adventures will be a joy to read.

Books for July

Between Wimbledon reaching its climax and the Tour de France kicking off in Yorkshire over the weekend, I almost felt as though I’d reached my sports (spectating) limit.  We’ll pass on the World Cup because, well, I’m not a massive football fan – I’m one of those who was only persuaded down to the pub after work last week with the promise of sunshine and a G&T.  I’m impressed by the number of USians who appear to have gotten into umm… soccer though.

But regardless of your chosen sport, there was certainly plenty to watch over the last couple of weeks (unless of course you’re just not a sports fan, in which case, ouch), which is my rather rambling lead up to why this July new releases post is closer to being a mid-month than start-of-month post.  So – new releases this month:

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20822874KJ CharlesTHINK OF ENGLAND (historical m/m romance): I’ve enjoyed KJ Charles’ ventures into both paranormal m/m romance and (straight) romantic suspense (haven’t blogged about it yet, but I thought NON-STOP TILL TOKYO was very good – violence galore, yes, but an amazing sense of place).  So if she’s decided to take a step sideways into the historical m/m romance genre, I don’t really care – I’m totally buying.

Lie back and think of England…

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

Out now

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18007521Mary Balogh‘s THE ESCAPE (historical romance): I admitted to being slowly won over by Mary Balogh’s historicals a couple of posts back, so it’s no surprise that I’ve her new release on my radar.

In this poignant novel of longing and salvation, a hopeful widow and a resilient war hero discover the promise of love’s magic and new beginnings.
 
After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.

Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.

Out now

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16045306Miranda Kenneally‘s BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (NA romance): I like how Miranda Kenneally’s New Adult romances focus on a different sport in each book (except perhaps THINGS I CAN’T FORGET, which had religion at its heart, IIRC), so yay for a new Hundred Oaks book.  I have to mention the multiple cover changes for this book here (scroll to the bottom of the linked post) – I was amused that three different covers came out in fairly quick succession, though I have to say I really like the final one they settled on.

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Out July 15

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20426102Rachel Aaron‘s NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST (urban fantasy): After whizzing through Rachel Bach’s (a.k.a. Rachel Aaron) space opera romp in the Paradox trilogy, I’m giving her fantasy another chance.  This one’s a self-pubbed UF (she talks about the why of self-publishing here) and I have to say I love the cover.

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: stay quiet, don’t cause trouble, and keep out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t cut it in a family of ambitious predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove to his mother that he can be a ruthless dragon or lose his true shape forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are seen as monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes that humans are more trustworthy than dragons.

Out July 15

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12119529Ilona AndrewsMAGIC BREAKS (urban fantasy): An Ilona Andrews is always an auto-buy for me, and this time, a new Kate Daniels!  I don’t really need to say much more, do I?

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

Out July 29

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22444651KellyHunter_honeymoontrap_eBook_final-200x300Finally, two novellas (both out now) – Kelly Hunter‘s THE HONEYMOON TRAP and Sarina Bowen‘s BLONDE DATE .  Am linking to Kelly Hunter’s blog as the book doesn’t seem to be on Goodreads (I know, that sounds impossible, right?) – anyway, there is something about her writing that just works for me, so this is a no-brainer autobuy.  Sarina Bowen’s novella  is part of her Ivy Years series (NA college-set romance, in case you’re wondering), which I’ve been quietly enjoying.

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.

Books for March

Here’s a pretty long list of March releases that I’m eyeing (plus a whole load of maybes).  Also, Andrea K Höst‘s HUNTING is now scheduled for a March release, so lots of book goodness this month.

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11035657Patricia BriggsFROST BURNED (UF): *inarticulate noise* Yes, I’m that excited about a new Mercy Thompson story.  It’s been one of the very few books I’ve actually pre-ordered this year.  I’m wondering if we’re going to see the repercussions of the events in the last Anna & Charles book in FROST BURNED – I hope so.

Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more…

After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

Out March 5 (excerpt)

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12551082Miranda Kenneally‘s THINGS I CAN’T FORGET (YA romance): Miranda Kenneally’s CATCHING JORDAN was an unexpectedly good read when I stumbled upon it last year, so I’m all up for a new book in her Hundred Oaks setting (this is termed a companion book, which appears to be a quiet trend in the YA space).

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

Out now (excerpt)

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13501633Seanan McGuire‘s MIDNIGHT BLUE-LIGHT SPECIAL (UF): So I didn’t quite love the first InCryptid novel, but this is Seanan McGuire.  I’m giving this series another go.

Cryptid, noun:
1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.
2. That thing that’s getting ready to eat your head.
3. See also: “monster.”

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity–and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn’t quite work out that way…

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city’s readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there’s no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity’s apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ–assuming there’s anyone left standing when all is said and done. It’s a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit…and carnage.

Out March 5 (excerpt)

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13414149QUEEN VICTORIA’S BOOK OF SPELLS, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (YA fantasy): The subtitle is An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, which just intrigues me.

“Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period.

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!)

Out March 19 (publisher page)

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15714478Teresa Grant‘s THE PARIS AFFAIR (historical mystery): I’m a long-time fan of Teresa Grant’s books and am looking forward to a new installment in Suzanne and Malcolm’s life.  Her novels are packed full of historical detail and political intrigue; add the rather complicated relationship between Suzanne and Malcolm and you get a very satisfying read.

Warning: SPOILER in book description for previous books(!):

From the ashes of war rise the secrets of its darkest hearts…

In the wake of the Battle of Waterloo, Paris is a house divided. The triumphant Bourbons flaunt their victory with lavish parties, while Bonapartists seek revenge only to be captured and executed. Amid the turmoil, British attaché and intelligence agent Malcolm Rannoch and his wife, Suzanne, discover that his murdered half sister, Princess Tatiana Kirsanova, may have borne a child—a secret she took to the grave. And Malcolm suspects there was more than mere impropriety behind her silence…

As Malcolm and Suzanne begin searching for answers, they learn that the child was just one of many secrets Tatiana had been keeping. The princess was the toast of Paris when she arrived in the glamorous city, flirting her way into the arms of more than a few men—perhaps even those of Napoleon himself—and the father must be among them. But in the mêlée of the Napoleonic Wars, she was caught up in a deadly game of court intrigue, and now Malcolm and Suzanne must race against time to save his sister’s child from a similar fate…

Out March 26 (excerpt)

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And then my maybes:

Anne Bishop‘s WRITTEN IN RED (YA UF): I’ve skipped her more recent fantasy releases, but may pick up her YA UF debut. (ETA: This is not a YA according to commenters – no idea where I got my original impression from!)

Jennifer Nielsen‘s THE RUNAWAY KING (MG/YA fantasy): I liked but didn’t love the first book in this trilogy (THE FALSE PRINCE) so this is on my library reservation request list.

Nalini Singh‘s WILD INVITATION (paranormal romance): Another library reservation request, I think – primarily because I’ve read both of the previously-published short stories in this anthology.  I’m not keen on paying full price for two new stories.

Eloisa James‘ WITH THIS KISS (historical romance): Normally Eloisa James is an autobuy author, but I’m not sure this serial-in-three-parts will work for me.  I’ll wait on reviews.

Jacqueline Winspear‘s LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED (historical mystery): Her Maisie Dobbs books are hits or misses with me, so I’ll probably play safe and borrow a copy from the library.

Good Books are like Buses (Almost)

Can I paraphrase that buses saying here – you know, good books are like buses, you wait for ages for one and then three come along at once.  And even better, the first two were impulse buys in bookstores – something I find myself doing fairly infrequently nowadays, so bonus!  Here are my thoughts on three YA books – one being a space opera adventure, the second a contemporary romance, and the third a futuristic romance.

The first serendipitous finding was Garth Nix‘s A CONFUSION OF PRINCES, which turned out to be an imaginative YA SF romp through space.  I hadn’t heard of this book before, though having done a quick blog search since, there appears to have been a spate of reviews when it was released earlier this year, which I obviously completely ignored. The engaging (and totally self-centred) narrator, Prince Khemli, made this book for me, and although I normally hate the foreshadowing device, having Khemli announce at the start that this is the story of how he has died three times adds a certain something.

Khemli may be a prince, but in an empire that has ten million princes and all of them vying to be the next Emperor, the title has less meaning than you would expect.  So Khemli needs to figure out just how he can put himself into contention for the Imperial throne – and solve various mysteries on the side, like just why has he, of all the millions of princes, has been assigned a Master of Assassins (head bodyguard, in other words) who is more than competent (not that he’s complaining)?

This is the kind of story where the protagonist manages to get himself slowly but surely entangled in what appears to be a no-win situation, and I had no idea how Khemli was going to pull it off until the very end.  Perhaps as a trade-off for the strong and charismatic first-person narrative, the secondary characters felt less well-drawn, and the love interest was probably the weakest part of this book (I found it difficult to believe that it was the forever kind of love), but all in all, an unexpectedly fun and enjoyable SF story that I finished in one go.  I’d love to read more set in this world, and also really need to get around to reading Garth Nix’s SABRIEL.

The next book won’t be a surprise for those who have seen my recent Goodreads updates as I’ve been busy adding the rest of Miranda Kenneally‘s books to my To Read shelf.  CATCHING JORDAN was another impulse purchase, but this time what tipped me into buying the book was that I recalled seeing positive reviews around the blogosphere for this YA romance centred around American football.

Despite knowing next to nothing about American football*, CATCHING JORDAN really worked for me – I loved that Jordan was so passionate about her sport, I loved her positive relationships with her guy friends on the football team (and her eventual realisation that girl friends were equally as good), and I loved her close family ties (there may have been a few sniffles at the end as Jordan and her father figured each other out).  And while there was potential for too much annoying obliviousness when it came to the “right” love interest, it didn’t drag on for too long, and the eventual romance was swoon-worthy.  I want more, and I’m looking forward to reading the companion book STEALING PARKER.

*Or perhaps because of that – I’ve noted some reviews that feel the sports element wasn’t that realistic.

And the third – Diana Peterfreund‘s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS.  This wasn’t an impulse buy – I’d been planning to read it ever since it was released back in June.  But I was never quite in the mood for post-apocalyptic YA fiction until now (and if I’m really honest, I don’t think I was really in that mood – I just wanted to get a book off my TBR pile).  So I cracked open FDSTS and started reading Elliot and Kai’s correspondence to each other… and didn’t surface for air until the very last page, which was when I heaved a sigh of pure satisfaction.

I adored this re-interpretation of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION – FDSTS was a perfect translation of not just the romance, but also the unstoppable march of change, to this strange new world of Luddites and Posts.  While the basic bones of the plot owed its inspiration to Austen, Elliot and Kai’s own story had quite a few twists – some which I suspected, and others that caught me by surprise (yet made complete sense in retrospect).

I understood Elliot’s strong sense of duty as part of her inherited obligations as a Luddite. I understood Kai’s frustration with the status quo for Posts and his need for something different.  With an excess of stubbornness and pride on both sides, the scene was set for a memorable love story. But FDSTS was also so much more than just a romance.  I loved the thought that had gone into creating a distant future that could be, providing a backdrop against which age-old money and power conflicts played out.   And there were some scenes… picturing Kai and Donovan’s daredevil stunts when reading the cliff scene made me feel as though I had vertigo, and I think I was actually holding my breath as I read Kai’s final letter to Elliot.

So a good run of books – and getting even better as Lois McMaster Bujold‘s CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE has hit the e-shelves at Baen *happy dance*