Sports Romances and Other Links (and I Get a Bit Wordy)

I was scanning through my Twitter timeline and apparently there was this thing called the Super Bowl happening yesterday?

Ha. Just kidding.

Kind of.

No, seriously, I know what the Super Bowl is (just don’t ask me to explain it), but know very little about American football. Though the tweets made me laugh. I gather there was some drama at the end.

You could probably swap “American football” in the paragraph above with practically any other sport (apart from tennis! I love tennis! I can talk about tennis for days!), and it would still be true. Which makes my love of sports romances all the more puzzling.

I’m not sure why – I think it’s that competitive spirit, coupled with the fact that if an author loves a sport, that passion comes through in the details and this whole new world springs to life in my mind.

So I’m always on the lookout for good sports romances and there were a lot of recs in this Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast (with transcript if you’re like me and can’t listen to podcasts at all – I’m missing the audiobook gene). I was doing my best to refrain from one-clicking every single book mentioned.

downloadAs for sports romances I’ve read:

  • I’m a big fan of Miranda Kenneally‘s Hundred Oaks YA romance books (it’s a loosely-connected series, most of them centre around a different sport)
  • Erin McCarthy‘s steamy contemporary Fast Track books (stock car racing, or NASCAR under a different name?) started off really well, and then dipped for me – I just read the last book and liked it a lot though
  • I enjoy Sarina Bowen‘s voice and her (just re-launched with new covers!) Gravity series have winter sports (skiing and snowboarding IIRC) as a background
  • And you may recall I adored Julie Cross‘s YA romance LETTERS TO NOWHERE (gymnastics), and her more recent WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU (baseball) was a good one – sweet but non-saccharine YA romance

I think that’s it – do you have any sports romance recs? I’d love to hear.

ETA: I forgot Allison Parr‘s New York Leopards NA romances (American football – ha!) – love them.

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Speaking of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, they’re celebrating their 10th(!) anniversary and Kate Elliott wrote a lovely post about discovering the SBTB blog and what it meant to her and what it meant to her. She also mentioned this experience:

I well recall the time I was on a panel at an sff convention (on what subject I can’t recall) and a certain male writer of hard sf (whose name I will not share), in answer to a question, suggested that he and the other man beside him at *that* end of the table wrote real sf as opposed to us two women at the other end (he waved contemptuously toward us) who wrote material tainted by romance.

I was flicking through my Feedly on my way home, and may have choked out loud on the bus when I read that sentence (no one looked at me though – it’s not the done thing on London public transport to admit your fellow commuters actually exist).  I’d love to believe that kind of attitude doesn’t exist nowadays, but…

Anyway, Kate Elliott’s post got me thinking about my early days exploring online reading websites – SBTB was one of the first romance blogs I read, and I also kept tabs on the All About Romance and (the now-defunct) Suzanne Brockmann message boards.  I was very much a lurker, but I read all the reviews, made obsessive lists of everyone’s recommendations, and nervously posted the very occasional comment.

We’ve come a long way since then.  The book blogging world has exploded (I feel like I stumble across a new-to-me one every other day), but I’m glad that we have places on the internet – that we have a community – where we can share and celebrate genre, and for me, SBTB was one of the pioneering blogs.

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And last but not least, here’s an interview with Robin McKinley @ SF Signal.

I don’t click with all the McKinleys I’ve read (*hides*), but loved THE BLUE SWORD and THE HERO AND THE CROWN, and she talks about winning the Newbery Award for the latter here, amongst other topics.  It’s a fantastic interview – really thoughtful questions and equally thoughtful answers.

 

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?

I’m Still Here, Really…

Even though it’s almost been three weeks since I last posted. 

I’ve been away on work-related matters for the past week or so, and although I was planning on sticking up a “Gone Away” post, I was my usual disorganised last-minute self and ended up running out of time. 

Anyway, am back, slightly jetlagged, and to my joy, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s “Mouse & Dragon” is available online at Webscriptions.  I sneaked a peek because Baen does release e-versions early (it’s hitting the shelves June 1), and yay!  I believe M&D is the direct sequel to “Scout’s Progress”, one of the earlier books in their Liaden universe.

I didn’t actually read that much while travelling.  Actually, I ended up not bringing my e-reader with me. 

I know.

I debated this for quite a while, because I have so many ebooks I am yet to read (seriously, we’re talking a lot), and hey, isn’t one of the key selling points of an ereader is that it’s easy to carry around?

But I finally ended up setting it to one side, because I knew I wouldn’t have that much time to read, hence there being no point in bringing a wide selection of books.  And I was lugging so much work stuff in my carry-on that I really didn’t want to chuck a not-so-sturdy ereader in the mix.

So I decided it was an excellent opportunity to tackle my physical TBR pile and selected the following:

  • Robin McKinley’s “Sunshine” (urban fantasy): I have been meaning to read this forever.  Seriously.  I mean, everyone seems to love it.  And Angie did a recent post on its various covers, so it was in the forefront of my mind.
  • Susanna Kearsley’s “The Shadowy Horses” (romance): I picked this up a while back, err actually seven months back, looking at the date of that post, and have never quite felt in the right mood for it.  But I figured this would cover any romance cravings I had.
  • George Mann’s “The Osiris Ritual” (steampunk fantasy/mystery): Added to my TBR piles at the same time as the Kearsley, and yes, again it was never quite the right time.  So I added this to my travelling pile to deliver a mystery fix if I wanted one.

And I was really rather pleased with my selections because I had pretty much all bases covered and three books I’ve been meaning to finish for a while.  Yes, I probably put more thought into this than the rest of my packing.

Well, best-laid plans and all that… guess how many of the above I read? Three-quarters of one.  Wait, I can explain!

The day before I left, I had one of my library requests come in – Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Shadows”, the latest in her Georgina Kincaid series.  Now, I’m trying to make more use of my local library.  And Mead is one of those authors whose books I do like, but not love.  So I thought it would be a good library candidate and added my name to the reservations list, not expecting it to come in so soon, but arrive it did and I collected it the morning before I left.

And guess what?  Obviously I started flipping through it on the way home from the library, obviously I decided that since I had started, I needed to finish it, and obviously it ended up being the one book I did finish on the trip.  So much for tackling my TBR pile.

The three-quarters book is “Sunshine”, and I am determined to get through the rest of it this weekend.  I am liking it, but – and maybe it’s because I’ve been reading it at spare intervals throughout the week – I’m not that deeply invested in the characters.  It is very good writing, like the other McKinley stories I’ve read, but I’m missing that magic spark that makes me flip pages frantically until I hit “The End”.

And I may be distracted by that “Mouse & Dragon”.

2009: Recap of My Reading Year Part II

Continuing my January to June recap, here’s the second half of my 2009 in books:

 

July

51OpuIGbojL._SL160_ I finally got around to reading Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Thief” and yes, kicked myself in the what-took-me-so-long kind of way.  Because this series is an indisputable gem, so cleverly written and populated with wonderful characters.

I hit double-digits in terms of books read this month, a whole eleven books, most of which were good.  On the not-so-good side, I think I gave up on Janet Evanovich’s Plum books.  Or at least buying the hardcover.

 

 

August

51PzrTZeJGL._SL160_ Another Patricia Briggs book, this time “Hunting Ground” in her Anna and Charles series, was the standout book of the month for me.

I also loved Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown” (YA fantasy, and a beautifully-told coming-of-age story), which I picked up thanks to a rec from Angie, and heaved a huge sigh as I turned over the final page of Megan Whalen Turner’s “King of Attolia”.  Ah, Gen.

And with eleven books read this month, this quarter was looking good.

 

September

Wait for it… I read a massive 21 books.  Yes, I was on holiday.

51l1odgzyAL._SL160_ Lisa Kleypas’s contemporary romances “Blue-Eyed Devil” and “Smooth-Talking Stranger” impressed me with the way she dealt with serious issues while keeping the romance firmly at the centre of the story – her contemporaries are now autobuys for me.

I also got around to reading Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows’ “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” – it made me laugh and cry (at different times, before you ask).  A proper feel-good book.

And I also enjoyed Lisa Lutz’s “Curse of the Spellmans” (mystery, funny with heart), Ellen Crosby’s “The Merlot Murders” (mystery, loved the winemaking focus), and Mary Kay Andrews’ “Savannah Blues” (contemporary romance, filled with Southern charm and lots of humour).

 

October

510CGKLV3pL._SL160_ So after the wonder that was September, I read seven books in October.  But they were mostly good.  I loved Sharon Shinns “Quatrain” (fantasy anthology) because her writing is beautiful and it was like revisiting old friends.

I finished my mini-glom of Joanne Dobson’s Karen Pelletier books (mystery) – I very much enjoyed the small-town college setting and the literature element of the mysteries.  And I really liked Ilona Andrews’ “On the Edge”  (paranormal romance, which felt almost like a frontier-set historical romance) and Ellen Emerson White’s “The President’s Daughter” (YA, and read thanks to another rec from Angie – no prizes for guessing who was responsible for quite a bit of my book spending this year).

 

November

518m9fIkHlL._SL160_ A measly four books read (I think this was payback for September).  I made time to read Juliet Mariller’s “Heart’s Blood” (fantasy), and it was very much worth it.  Not quite as magical as her Sevenwaters world perhaps, but a very good read.

And really, that’s all I can say about November, which saw my number of blog posts also fall to a dismal three during the month.

 

 

December

41K28wvJBOL._SL160_ the_dark_tideRounding off the year with 17 books read, I read and raved about Kristin Cashore’s “Fire” (fantasy) and Josh Lanyon’s “The Dark Tide” (mystery / m/m romance) in the final days of 2009.

But before that, I also loved Eloisa James’ “A Duke of Her Own” (historical romance), which wowed me with the very sexy and steamy chemistry between the hero and the heroine.  Unusually standalone for an Eloisa James book as well.

And technically a 2010 release, except I read it this side of the new year (just), I adored Karen Chance’s “Death’s Mistress” (urban fantasy), which was packed full of action and humour, and sneaked into my list of top reads for the year.

 

And that brought my total number of books read over the year to 115, which, while 40 fewer than what I read during 2008, had some truly excellent books.

One more post with lists and numbers, and that’ll be it for 2009, I promise!

MIA but in a Good Way

I haven’t been blogging much (again) but this time it’s because I’ve been reading.  I’m glad it’s Bank Holiday weekend, because I needed that extra time to catch up on my sleep, I’m been staying up way too late to finish “…just one more chapter”.

So an overview of my recent reads (pretty much spoiler-free as it’s more about my reaction to the books as opposed to the storylines):

 

51PzrTZeJGL._SL160_ Patricia Briggs’ “Hunting Ground” (urban fantasy):  I really can’t put my finger on why Ms Briggs’ writing works for me – all I know is it does.  So much so that I find myself re-reading passages all the way through the book, just to savour her words.  I never want to reach the last page.

Anyway, the story itself?  Very good.  I’m loving how Anna and Charles are slowly getting to know each other.  It’s refreshing how the “werewolf mates” device is not used as a panacea for all things, they still have issues to work through and their relationship isn’t necessarily all hearts-and-roses-forever just because they’ve bonded. As for the plot, I figured out the whodunnit just a couple of pages before the reveal, which was rather satisfying.  I’m also really enjoying getting another view on Ms Briggs’ world – very rich world-building indeed. 

41xrXP7zSL._SL160_silverBorne_bigAnd here’s something I just stumbled upon.  Here’s the cover to the next Mercy Thompson book “Silver Borne” (March 2010) from Ms Briggs’ website (link via OCD, Vampires, and Rants, Oh My!) in all its shiny glory.  I would squee a bit more, but (a) it’s a good eight months away and (b) us UK readers are probably going to end up with a totally different monochrome cover. 

ETA: I was right – UK version added on the left.  I mean, it’s not bad (and it’s still mass market paperback), but it sort of pales next to the US cover art.

 

51-GgSvTwuL._SL160_ Jo Beverley’s “The Secret Wedding” (historical romance):  It’s taken me a while to get around to reading this April release, but I haven’t been in the mood for a historical romance until recently.  This is second in a loose trilogy set in her Malloren world (the first, “A Lady’s Secret” was released last year, and the third, “The Secret Duke”, is out next April).  

I’m a fan of Ms Beverley’s books, especially her Malloren family books, so it was very nice to return to this world and revisit familiar characters.  To me, this book was solid, but lacked a bit of “oomph” relationship-wise.  I’m also not massively keen on plotlines that revolve around concealed identities, so I spent the first half of the book being slightly frustrated at Caro and Christian pretending to be other people.  But that is very much my personal preference, and once identities were revealed and Rothgar & co came onstage, there was no way I was putting it down.  Also, as with all Beverley books, this is in no way a wallpaper historical – the Georgian setting is beautifully described and comes alive.  And Thorne, the hero of the third book, completely caught my attention in this one – I’m very much looking forward to “The Secret Duke”. 

All in all, one that would be satisfying for long-time series fans, but probably not one I would recommend to Malloren newbies.

 

41CUcSmVuOL._SL160_ Richelle Mead’s “Blood Promise” (YA urban fantasy): I wasn’t 100% sure if I should shell out on the hardcover price for this book, but in the end I caved in.  Ms Mead has a trick of keeping you engrossed in the story, meaning I kept on turning the pages way into the night.  Having said that, while I do like this series, I’ve come to realise I’m not in love with it and I’m trying to figure out why. 

I think it’s because I’m not completely invested in the characters and their story, I’m not feeling everything that they are.  Having said that, I am impressed by the way Rose develops in this book and I have a feeling she’s pretty much left her younger self behind for good.  And something I appreciate about Ms Mead’s books (and this includes the Georgina Kincaid books as well) is that she’s not afraid to progress the series arc, there is a feeling of we’re heading somewhere, and even more, I trust her enough to sit back and enjoy the journey. 

I’m still not entirely sure that “Blood Promise” is worth the hardcover price, but then again, I did enjoy the book and finished it over a couple of days.

 

518A6QS3V1L._SL160_ Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown” (fantasy): I bought this based on Angie’s rec earlier this month when I posted about YA/adult fantasy crossovers.  While I had read Ms McKinley’s “The Blue Sword”, I wasn’t aware that there was a prequel.  So when I spotted this in the bookstore the other day, I had to pick it up.

I loved Ms McKinley’s use of language and her storytelling.  Within a few pages, I was firmly settled into her world – no mean feat considering I was reading this on my way back home, standing in a crowded carriage on the Tube. 

I will admit I had mixed feelings for a few chapters, and took a while to realise why.  The first chapters of this book had me thinking it would be a romance, and so I was reading with my romance reader’s hat on, firmly believing this would be Aerin and Tor’s story.  And then Tor disappeared from the pages, Aerin took over, and this very much became Aerin’s voyage of self-discovery. So, my bad… I adjusted my expectations, and it was all good.

Very very strong coming-of-age story, beautifully told, and totally deserving of its Newbery Medal.  And now I want to re-read “The Blue Sword”.

 

Next up: Diana Peterfreund’s “Rampant”.  I’m a few chapters in already, and it’s all very addictive.