Book Randomness

October is flying past for me. In fact, all of 2016 appears to be progressing at 2x speed – anyone else feel that way?

I’ve sat down several times to try and compose a blog post, but have given up on anything coherent.  So here’s a random set of book-ish thoughts for today:

akh1) An Andrea K Höst new release!  Seeing her post about The Towers, the Moon pop up today was a pleasant surprise – I love her writing, and let’s face it, a set of short stories sounds about my speed lately.

2) Having said that, a new book want – Angie’s post about Beth Brower‘s THE Q made me want to run out and buy it immediately.

3) Old news, but I am loving Neil Gaiman‘s retro cover re-dos.  STARDUST especially!  I have such a soft spot for those old-school covers.

4) And finally, anyone on Litsy?  I joined after Chachic posted about the Android release (I’m meandmybooks), but I’m struggling.  Most of my reading is done on my Kindle, and I figure there’s only so many “arty” shots I can do.

Here’s my first (and only) Litsy contribution…  (also my reading list as of a week or so ago)litsy

Books for November

Yes, we’re in the second half of the month.  My excuse is that I’ve been on holiday (two things of note: (a) I have read so many books – total bliss! (b) why did no one tell me that Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci books are so much fun) and then fell into a bit of a post-holiday blogging slump – you would not believe how long it’s taken me to write this post.  Seriously.  I came thisclose to canning the entire post and just listing the titles.

However, many bars of chocolate later for some much-needed energy, here are the November releases on my to-buy list:

31BbrhQSomL._SL160_ Patricia Briggs’ “Wolfsbane” (fantasy): The sequel to “Masques”, which I read when it was re-released a couple of months back.  I also re-read another of her older fantasy novels, “When Demons Walk” last month – compared to her recent Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega UF books, I have to say both of these came off as having slightly rough edges, both still good reads though.  I’m really looking forward to reading “Wolfsbane” and seeing how she now writes fantasy.

Blurb from Amazon:

Shapeshifting mercenary Aralorn leads a dangerous existence. Now she must return home for her noble father, the Lyon of Lambshold, has passed away. But when Aralorn and her companion Wolf arrive, they find he’s not dead, but ensorcelled by the ae’Magi, using him as a conduit to destroy Aralorn and Wolf. She must overcome this mysterious mist or fall to the blackest of magic.

Out now (excerpt)

 

51co3aHGhL._SL160_ “Songs of Love and Death”, edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois (fantasy/SF/romance): I really need to kick the anthology habit – I have so many sitting around half-unread because I tend to read a couple of stories before abandoning the entire book.  I have no idea why, short attention span?

But with some of my favourite fantasy and romance writers amongst the contributors to this anthology (Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney to be more specific, full table of contents at SF Signal), I had to cave and get this.  My only concern is the “star-crossed lovers” aspect – I’m hoping this will not be a tear-jerker of a book.

Out now

 

311iJRfOQNL._SL160_ Nalini Singh’s “Play of Passion” (paranormal romance): Ninth book in her Psy-Changeling series.  I’ve a confession to make: I wasn’t exactly going to rush out and get this one straightaway.  Don’t get me wrong – I like these books well enough, but I’ve been finding myself reading them months after release date.  Also, “Blaze of Memory” (the seventh book) was not one of my favourites; I didn’t connect with the h/h, the resolution came off as a bit deux ex machina, and even the larger Psy plot arc which normally intrigues me didn’t quite capture my interest.  Umm… yeah, safe to say BoM didn’t work for me.

However, last week I read the eighth book “Bonds of Justice” (see massive book reading binge note above), and ended up really enjoying the romance as well as wanting to know what would happen next, which is always a good sign.  So yes, I’ve already bought “Play of Passion”.

Blurb for “Play of Passion” from Ms Singh’s website:

In his position as tracker for the SnowDancer pack, it’s up to Drew Kincaid to rein in rogue changelings who have lost control of their animal halves—even if it means killing those who have gone too far. But nothing in his life has prepared him for the battle he must now wage to win the heart of a woman who makes his body ignite…and who threatens to enslave his wolf.

Lieutenant Indigo Riviere doesn’t easily allow skin privileges, especially of the sensual kind—and the last person she expects to find herself craving is the most wickedly playful male in the den. Everything she knows tells her to pull back before the flames burn them both to ash…but she hasn’t counted on Drew’s will.

Now, two of SnowDancer’s most stubborn wolves find themselves playing a hot, sexy game even as lethal danger stalks the very place they call home…

Out now (excerpt)

 

51QVnfBTpTL._SL160_ Sharon Lee’s “Carousel Tides” (urban fantasy): I’m only familiar with Sharon Lee’s writing as part of the Sharon Lee & Steve Miller writing team for the Liaden books (and they have just sold three new Liaden books – yay!), but as those rank amongst my favourite books, Ms Lee’s solo effort was certainly on my radar.

I’ve already read this one and liked very much – I actually found it slightly reminiscent of Tanya Huff’s equally-enjoyable “The Enchantment Emporium” because of the way the fantastic is seamlessly blended with the real.  “Carousel Tides” is not the all-guns-blazing type of urban fantasy; in fact it takes you quite a while to realise that this book is not a straight contemporary.  I loved how this played out and also the unusual setting (a Maine amusement-park coastal town), which is so clearly portrayed that it is almost a character in its own right.

Blurb from Baen’s Webscriptions site:

Kate Archer left home years ago, swearing that she would die before she returned to Maine. As plans go, it was a pretty good one — simple and straightforward.

Not quite fast enough, though.

Before she can quite manage the dying part, Kate gets notice that her grandmother is missing, leaving the carousel that is the family business untended.

And in Archers Beach, that means ‘way more trouble than just a foreclosure.

Out now (excerpt)

 

HF_AMidwinterPrince_coversm Harper Fox’s “A Midwinter Prince” (m/m romance): I don’t think I’ve mentioned Harper Fox on my blog this year (unfortunately not an unusual occurrence – I haven’t blogged about many things this year, have I?), but she’s one of my new-to-me author discoveries this year.  I’m a total sucker for angst-filled stories, and boy, does Ms Fox deliver on that front.  She also has a knack of writing characters that stay in your mind for way after you finish the last page, and I love the way she makes her very British settings come alive (her debut, “Life After Joe”, was all grimy industrial Newcastle, while the beauty and isolation of Cornwall came across wonderfully in her second novel “Driftwood”).

Blurb from Loose ID’s site:

When Laurie, son of a wealthy London baronet, takes a homeless young man off the bitter winter streets, he only means to shelter him. But Sasha is beautiful and passionate, and he knows what he wants. Soon the two are entangled in a wild and illicit romance. Sasha, an illegal alien, has dangerous connections and a violent underworld past that won’t let him go. Privileged Laurie has problems of his own — a brutal father who holds the keys to Laurie’s golden cage and would rather kill him than accept his son and heir is gay, let alone in love with a street urchin. Laurie’s only hope is to run. In a Romani encampment with Sasha, he finds not only a safe haven but sexual fulfilment beyond his wildest dreams.

But their new happiness is fragile. Sasha’s secrets run too deep, and he vanishes, leaving Laurie desolate, as much an exile in his own city as Sasha has been. Now Laurie must grow up and find his own strength. Can he break free of his suffocating aristocratic world in time to save his lover and himself?

Out now (excerpt)

 

51ps0frjlSL._SL160_ Jim Butcher’s “Side Jobs” (urban fantasy): This is a collection of Harry Dresden short stories, most of which I’ve probably read already.  The one story I know I haven’t read – and the reason why I want this collection – is “Backup”, which was the limited-edition novella published by Subterranean Press and narrated from Thomas’s point of view.  I love Thomas, but could not quite convince myself to shell out $20 (IIRC) for a 72-page novella.

Actually I lie – there would be a second story I haven’t read yet in this collection, as it also contains a previously-unpublished story taking place after the latest Dresden book.  This one from Murphy’s viewpoint, apparently.

Blurb from Jim Butcher’s website:

The first short story collection in the #1 New York Times bestselling series-including a brand-new Harry Dresden novella!

Here, together for the first time, are the shorter works of #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher-a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre of allies managed to close in record time. The tales range from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious. Also included is a new, never-before-published novella that takes place after the cliff-hanger ending of the new April 2010 hardcover, Changes. This is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan as well as a perfect introduction for readers ready to meet Chicago’s only professional wizard.

Out now

Around the Web

Karen Chance has put up the first four chapters of a free short story set in her Cassie Palmer world, the rest of the story to follow soon, hopefully.  This is the first of the short stories she’s writing to fill in the gap until the next Cassie book is released in summer 2011.  I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that date will be brought forward – in the meanwhile, I’m all for more Pritkin, Marlowe, and Mircea.

 

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s320x240 I just saw the table of contents for the anthology “Songs of Love & Death”, edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, and all I can say is I WANT.  NOW.  I started typing out the contributors that caught my eye, then realised I was pretty much listing all of them, so here is the full list instead:

  • Jim Butcher, "Love Hurts" (a Harry Dresden story)
  • Jo Beverley, "The Marrying Maid"
  • Carrie Vaughn, "Rooftops"
  • M.L.N. Hanover, "Hurt Me"
  • Cecelia Holland, "Demon Lover"
  • Melinda M. Snodgrass, "The Wayfarer’s Advice" (an Imperials story)
  • Robin Hobb, "Blue Boots"
  • Neil Gaiman, "The Thing About Cassandra"
  • Marjorie M. Liu, "After the Blood"
  • Jacqueline Carey, "You and You Alone" (a Kushiel story)
  • Lisa Tuttle, "His Wolf"
  • Linnea Sinclair, "Courting Trouble"
  • Mary Jo Putney, "The Demon Dancer"
  • Tanith Lee, "Under/Above the Water"
  • Peter S. Beagle, "Kashkia"
  • Yasmine Galenorn, "Man in the Mirror"
  • Diana Gabaldon, "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" (an OUTLANDER spinoff)

It’s out in November, a whole seven months away.  The cover’s pretty cool too.

 

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And Seanan McGuire has been nominated for the John W Campbell Award for best new writer, one of the big SF/F awards.  I totally adored her October Daye series, so yay for her nomination!  Full list of Hugo and Campbell nominees is also up at the AussieCon website.

The Third Quarter of 2008

Ploughing on with my year in review posts (I’m beginning to regret starting this!), here’s July to September:

 

July

A fairly quiet month reading-wise.  I enjoyed Naomi Novik’s “Victory of Eagles” (historical fantasy, Book 5 of the Temeraire series) – how can you not like Temeraire?  Ms Novik’s take on dragons and the Napoleonic Wars era remains fresh, and I recall shedding some tears during this one.  That was probably expected, seeing how the previous book ended, but all’s well and I look forward to seeing what Will and Temeraire get up to next.

I liked Tanya Huff’s “The Heart of Valor” (military SF, Book 3 of the Confederation series).  This surprised me slightly, because while I enjoy her urban fantasy books, her SF books had never really captured my imagination.  This one did, to the extent I bought the next book in hardcover.

I also read Sherwood Smith’s “The Fox” and “King’s Shield” (fantasy, Book 2 and 3 of the Inda series).  This is slightly different from her other books, as it isn’t YA, though I think it’s set in the same universe.  I had a hard time getting into “The Fox”, primarily because it’s been around two years since I had read “Inda” (Book 1), and I struggled with the large cast of characters and multiple plotlines.  However, by the end of “The Fox”, I was taken enough to buy “King’s Shield” in hardcover – here’s hoping I remember enough when “Treason’s Shore” (fourth and final book) comes out in August 2009.

The last book I really liked is Suzanne Brockmann’s “Into the Fire” (romantic suspense, Book 13 of the Troubleshooters series).  I wasn’t quite sure going in, since the Jules/Robin arc had been wrapped up in the previous book (and Jules/Robin is up there with Sam/Alyssa for my favourite Brockmann couple), but I really liked this one.  Though I will say it probably fell victim to the “everyone-who-has-ever-been-mentioned-pops-in-and-says-hi” curse.  And I will be getting “Dark of Night” when it comes out in January (whoops, missed it off my January releases list) – while I’ve been unable to avoid DoN spoilers, I’m not that invested in the Sophia arc to have a strong opinion as to what the HEA should be.

 

August

Another quiet reading month, with the highlight being Patricia Briggs’ “Cry Wolf” (urban fantasy).  I liked it so much that I was moved to declare if I could only ever read one author for the rest of my life, it would be Patricia Briggs.  Not that I actually want to be in a situation where I had to read only one author, mind you.  But still.  I loved revisiting Ms Briggs’ Mercy universe from a different angle.

I won a copy of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s “I Shall Not Want” (romantic suspense, Book 6 in the Russ/Clare series) at Keishon’s earlier in the year, and finally got around to reading and reviewing it.  I really liked the small-town feel and how Clare’s faith was blended seamlessly into the book, definitely a new series for me to follow.

Other books I read and liked during August were Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust” (fantasy, reviewed for the TBR challenge here) and Linda Howard’s “Death Angel” (romantic suspense).  “Death Angel” got mixed reviews in blogland and I can get why, but Ms Howard made the rather unsympathetic main characters and the whole second chance at life scenario (which would normally make me roll my eyes and close the book) work for me.

Oh, and I was thrilled to find a 1958 paperback in pristine condition at a secondhand bookstore, it even had a promotional postcard in it and everything.  Don’t laugh.  Anyway, while I didn’t love the story that much (Josephine Tey’s “One Shilling for Candles”, mystery), I intend to read a few more books from Ms Tey’s backlist.

 

September

Speaking of quiet reading months, I only managed to finish five books in September (though I more than made up for this in October).  That is shockingly low for me, but on the bright side, I did enjoy the books I read.

Jayne Castle’s “Dark Light” (futuristic romance) was a solid fluffy romance (and no, that’s not an oxymoron).  If you read a Jayne Castle, you always know what you’re going to get, and that makes for a great comfort read.  I also read Nalini Singh’s “Hostage to Pleasure” (paranormal romance, Book 5 of the Psy/Changeling series) and Ann Aguirre’s “Wanderlust” (SF romance, book 2 of the Jax series), both again worth the time.

And I read Cassandra Clare’s “City of Bones” and “City of Ashes” (YA urban fantasy, Books 1 and 2 of the Mortal Instruments trilogy).  I was a bit on the fence after reading CoB, but bought CoA when I had to grab something in five minutes (hey, you know you need reading material).  And I was very glad I did because I totally loved CoA and did a bit of a squee here.

 

So that was July, August, and September 2008 – my reviews of the first half of 2008 are here and here.

Another Ebook Post

Neil Gaiman is offering the chance to read “Neverwhere” for free for the next thirty days or so.  I really liked “Stardust” when I (finally) got around to reading it a few weeks ago, and Thea suggested that I try "Neverwhere” next.  I love happy coincidences like this.

The not-so-great part?  It’s in Adobe Digital Editions format, and the downloaded copy will expire in 30 days’ time.  So I better get around to reading it soon.

The tech-y bit?  You need Adobe Digital Editions installed on your PC to read the book.  Or if you’re a Sony Reader owner, the good news is that the recent firmware update means that you can now read Adobe DE books on the Reader.  I’ve just downloaded “Neverwhere” and it appears to have transferred safely to my Reader, so I don’t have to read this on my laptop (good thing too, because it just wouldn’t happen).

I remember Mr Gaiman did a similar thing with “American Gods” some time back, but that really didn’t work for me because you had to read the book online, using HarperCollins’ BrowseInside feature, which was massively slow – I wonder how many readers actually managed to read the whole book.

Oh, btw, you can still read “Neverwhere” online using BrowseInside, but I highly highly rec you download it instead.

TBR Day: Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”

This is posted as part of Keishon’s TBR Day challenge, which is aimed at encouraging us readers with the towering TBR piles (you know who you are) to start tackling the books that have been languishing in there for eons.

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5126P1XE2QL__SL160_ Book: Stardust (fantasy)

Author: Neil Gaiman

Copyright Date: 1999

Why did I buy this book?  My sister had a bit of a Gaiman glom some time back, and insisted that I read this one.  We more or less share the same tastes when it comes to reading, so I took her word that this was a good one.

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long?  I read the first couple of chapters about a year ago now, just before the movie came out.  While I thought his writing had a certain charm, I just wasn’t in the right mood.  And once I’ve started a book and not continued, I have a very bad habit of not returning to it!

What is it about?  From the back-cover blurb:

In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall.  Young Tristan Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is as cold and distant as the star she and Tristan see fall from the sky one evening.  For the prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristan vows to retrieve the star for his beloved.  It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town’s ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

So what did I think of it?  Once I made up my mind to read this, I was totally engrossed.  I thought it read like a charming fairy tale for adults.  And for such a slim book (194 pages in my version), it packs so much story and is wonderfully-plotted.  All the subplots somehow tie themselves in with the main thread and come together beautifully at the end.  I say “somehow”, because it’s not at all obvious how they’re going to fit together or resolve themselves, yet everything works out perfectly!

It’s full of whimsical gems; this sentence describing the size of Fairie is a lovely example:

But Faerie is bigger than England, as it is bigger than the world (for, since the dawn of time, each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there has taken refuge in Faerie; so it is now, but the time that we come to write of it, a most huge place indeed, containing every manner of landscape and terrain).

Character-wise, Tristan, the protagonist, is a very engaging young man, and watching him grow into himself throughout the book was completely satisfying.  All the secondary characters are nicely fleshed-out, and for a story that reads like a lighthearted fairy-tale at first, the evil characters do radiate a proper sense of menace and danger.  Which makes it all the more gratifying when they get their come-uppance.  And yes, there’s humour – there were some bits that made me snicker.

The only thing that kept niggling at me – and this is very much just me – is that because I knew that there was a movie (sigh, I held off on watching the movie because I wanted to read the books first… time to hit the DVD rentals, I think), I kept on trying to visualise how a scene would transfer onto the big screen!  Arrghh.  I did try to stop myself, but I would catch myself doing it.  Very annoying.

My conclusion?  A very strong B+ and I think I’ll have to track down more of Mr Gaiman’s backlist.  Does anyone know if his other books are written in the same style?