Link Love

I know, I’ve been AWOL here recently.  I’ve quite a few links to share (some probably woefully out-of-date) – here’s what’s caught my attention over the past week or so:

And… I think that’s it!  I should post more frequently, huh?

Links Galore

Excerpt up for Sarah Rees Brennan‘s UNSPOKEN.  I adored her Demon’s Lexicon trilogy and cannot wait to see what she delivers in this new series.

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Andrea Höst contributed to a fantasy round table with some other fantasy authors on the topic of “One Step Sideways: What’s Fantasy FOR?”.  All their thoughts are great and well worth a read, but I loved how Ms Höst started off:

Fantasy, for me, is straightforward fun, awe and delight.  Like many others, I’m in it for the giddy dance of wonder, heart-stopping strangeness, numinous dusks, and the hidden, dreadful unknown.  Danger, adventure, romance, high stakes, epic magery, and most particularly Girls Doing Stuff.  I’m all for that.

YES.

She makes other really excellent points about why writing (and reading?) fantasy is so attractive as well, but I’m not going to even try and quote them here, else I would end up copying the entire thing.

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Sharon Lee has sold two more books in her CAROUSEL TIDES world – I really enjoyed CAROUSEL TIDES, so am thrilled with this piece of news.

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And a couple of other links I tweeted this week:

More Mini-Reviews (with Some Goodreads Rating Thoughts)

Heh – talk about ready-made content.  Here are the remaining books I read last April and added to Goodreads probably about a “couple” of months later.  Note I am still adding my 2011 reads there (umm… I think I’m up to September now – I mean, I hope I am), so take that timeline with a pinch of salt.

Speaking of Goodreads and the latest author/reviewer kerfuffles (I’m not adding any linkage, but if you’ve managed to miss the fun and want to know, ask!), I’ve been scanning through the numerous posts and commentary.  Just because.  I don’t think anyone’s made any new arguments, but one thing that did strike me was an example cited where an author said something along the lines of “I can’t believe she  wants to “fan” me on Goodreads after only giving my book three stars”.

Bearing in mind that was just ONE author and therefore not representative at all of the author community… it did make me think.  Because (and naming no names), I’m pretty sure there are authors that I “fan” (i.e. follow) there because I tend to love their books – however, let’s face it, not every book is great and if I’ve read quite a few of their books, there are bound to be a good distribution of grades in there.

Here’s my Goodreads rating breakdown by the way – you can see it’s sort of a normal distribution, skewed towards the positive:

Do authors get upset if they see books rated “only” three stars by readers who call themselves fans?  I “fan” authors (off-topic, but ugh, I hate that phrase) because I want to see their new releases and posts on Goodreads, and either I’m too lazy to add their blog to my blog reader or they don’t have one.   Maybe it’s more terminology than anything else, and with Goodreads classifying you as a fan if you want to follow an author’s updates, using that function carries slightly different connotations to what I’m using it for.

And also, three stars is actually a good rating – it’s “I liked it” in Goodreads-speak, as opposed to “It was ok” (2 stars) or “I didn’t like it” (1 star).

So did I have a point to this?  Uh, not really.  Only that I may think twice about listing myself as an author’s fan, especially if I’m not going to be one of thousands.  Maybe.

If you’ve read this far, well, on to the rest of my April reads – and hmm… this is possibly the more negative half.  As before, copied over from my Goodreads shelves, with some additional comments in italics.

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The Chase (Fast Track, #4)The Chase by Erin McCarthy (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve liked previous books in this series, but this one was a bit of a disappointment. The plot was ever-so-slightly OTT and I never really believed in the characters’ motivations. And okay, I never quite came to like Kendall herself.

I loved the first three books in this series, but the more recent ones have missed the mark somewhat.  I’m still going to be getting the next book in this series – whether I then continue really depends on how much I like it!

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City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (YA urban fantasy)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well. This sort of read like fanfiction for the original trilogy.

The expanded version (because this sounds as though I’m disparaging fanfiction, and I’m not – I love good fanfic, operative word being good) is that well, I didn’t quite see the point of this book.  It wasn’t a new story – instead it took the original trilogy and sort of negated that story arc.  And the characters stagnated.  Does that make any sense?  

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Misfits (Adventures in the Liaden Universe, #15)Misfits by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am loving the fact that Sharon Lee & Steve Miller are releasing their Liaden Universe chapbooks in ebook format.

This one was another great “fill-in-the-gaps”-type short story – we get to see Miri from another person’s perspective, and it had a totally satisfying ending.

Oh yes, I continued my Liaden short story glom.  Can you tell I was thrilled to be able to read their backlist in e-format?

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Eidolon (Adventures in the Liaden Universe, Volume14)Eidolon by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just because “Shadow Partner” fills in the backstory for “A Day at the Races” (in Two Tales of Korval) so perfectly…

I really liked this one – it had my favourite Liaden characters in it, and as I said, it took a previous short story and just added so much more depth and colour to it. 

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Alien in the Family (Katherine Alien in the Family by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

And this book, unfortunately, is where I draw a line under this series.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s still fun, but in the end, there were too many things that niggled me about the book to get into it and continue with the series.

It felt as though there were too many plotlines, combined with some slightly-off pacing and plotting – the big action finale takes place around three-quarters into the book, with the last quarter focusing on Kitty/Jeff’s wedding… which had zero conflict or tension.

Also, trying to keep the character names straight drove me mad – for instance, Kitty would think of someone as Reader, but call him James. There were more than enough characters already – having different names for each person made it even more difficult to remember who was who.

And finally, this came across as a bit of a throwaway comment in the book, but really pulled me out of the story and was possibly the tipping point in my decision to finish with this series: [spoiler – highlight to read] Kitty gets changed into a sexy outfit, the other character essentially tells her to get a cover-up and then they have this exchange:

He took my shoulders and turned me around. “God, it’s as bad from the back. Really, go put on some clothes.”

“I don’t have a wrap, okay?”

“Find one. Before I rape you.” He gave me a gentle push toward the bedroom.

??!!!!

Fair enough – there had been some romantic tension between these two previously and this was meant as a joke, but seriously?? I thought we had moved on from rape being a female’s fault for dressing “inappropriately” – even as a joke. Aarrghh. However it was meant, I have to say this episode yanked me out of the story and had me fuming a little. I would have said I don’t normally get on my high horse about books having to have the RIGHT message, but really.

[end spoiler] I just don’t have enough invested in either the characters or the story to continue reading this series.

Oooh, I had a bit of a rant here – it was my feminist side getting up on a soapbox.  But I’m not continuing with this series – my non-enjoyment was starting to outweigh my enjoyment.

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An Unlikely Countess (Malloren #11)An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverley (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slightly mixed feelings on this book, not one of the stronger Malloren books, IMO.

What I didn’t like first – and these are very much YMMV* things: One of the plotlines I’m not particularly keen on is when characters purposely mislead others, and this formed one of the bigger conflicts in this book. Secondly, Jo Beverley has always excelled in historical detail, which is why I love reading her books, but this book was possibly too realistic in parts – and with her spelling out the chasm between local gentry and the aristocracy, I sometimes felt the obstacles to a forever kind of HEA were too much. Prudence didn’t come across as having the strength/character to eventually grow into the role demanded of Cate’s countess. And I found the eventual villain and explanation slightly over-melodramatic.

Having said all that, I liked Prudence and Cate’s relationship – their initial attraction to each other and subsequent romance felt very organic and real. And I was fascinated by the feudal nature of the Yorkshire society and the non-London settings – most historicals are set in London society so this was a refreshing change.

So yes, a good read, but not a keeper for me.

*YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary

Jo Beverley has written some books which were keepers for me, but her recent ones have been more solid reads – still good, but lacking that spark that elevates them to magic reads.  Her new release is coming out soon-ish, IIRC – I’ll be getting it but possibly not rushing out to buy.

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Outcast MineOutcast Mine by Jamie Craig (SF m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Very much a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Alien sex just doesn’t do it for me – however, great premise and good writing. I’d read more by Jamie Craig, I’ll just steer well clear of anything with a hint of aliens.

Ummm… yeah.  My review says it all.  I did like the SF setting, but it was too… out there for me.  Hey, I tried.

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Paris A to Z (Coda Books, #6)Paris A to Z by Marie Sexton (contemporary m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m probably in the minority here, but this book didn’t really work for me. Maybe because it’s been a while since I’ve read the previous books, but I kept on losing track of who was who. It felt a bit like because the author knew her characters so well* that there was a lot of assumed knowledge which didn’t necessarily translate well to someone not as fully invested in the world she had created.

*And to be fair, it’s book 6? I have read the previous books, I swear.

I know a lot of people loved this.  It just didn’t work for me.

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The Mask of Night (Charles & Mélanie Fraser #4)The Mask of Night by Tracy Grant (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It has been quite a while waiting for this book, and it was a pleasure to sink back into Tracy Grant’s complex world of Regency intrigue.

I love how things were not always what they appear to be at first glance, and how Ms Grant peels away the layers of the various relationships in this book, each reveal providing a fresh take on things. Melanie and Charles’ relationship remains rather complicated – the revelations in the previous books have put their marriage at risk, but they are both determined to work at it and learning to trust each other again. Painful, but potentially so rewarding.

I will say the sheer number of characters and the rather intricate political plotting lost me at times – possibly not helped by it being years since I’ve read the previous two books. But I have the latest book, Vienna Waltz, in my TBR pile, and am looking forward to reading more in Ms Grant’s world.

I’ve been meaning to start VIENNA WALTZ for ages now – it’s been sitting on my Kindle for months and I still haven’t opened it.  I think it’s because Tracy Grant’s books require a level of mental concentration to really get the plot – one that has been sadly lacking on my part for a while…

Some Mini-Reviews

Some of my Goodreads posts from last April – I was going to title this “April Reads Part 1” and then got a bit embarrassed that it would be eight months late.

I’m going to be reposting my Goodreads reviews here by the way, because I find it more convenient if they’re on my blog – so sorry for the dupes for those of you who follow me on Goodreads!

They’re pretty much word-for-word identical, though I have added some commentary (in italics) around reading order and context.  Uh, that sounds grander than what I actually mean.

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Raw BlueRaw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (young adult)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because of Angie’s review, which made me hunt down the ebook version immediately.

Well, raw is right. RAW BLUE is hard-hitting, yet full of the uncertainty and the “growing-up” that I love about YA books.

The Aussie voice is wonderfully authentic and so different from the other books out there that it immediately felt refreshing while doing the trick of immersing me in Carly’s world on the other side of the planet.

And surfing – where do I start? I’ve never surfed ever in my life, and I admit I have no more than a passing interest (if that) in the sport, and yet it didn’t matter at all. Carly lives and breathes the surfing culture, therefore I did as well.

RAW BLUE ends with Carly trusting in herself, independent, and willing to grow up – and if she still has some open issues to work through with her family and friends, you close the book with the feeling that she’s ready to do so.

There’s a bit of an Aussie YA moment in the spotlight, and I think that’s because they have genuinely different voices to the rest of the YA books out there. 

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Touched by an Alien (Katherine Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the quirkiness and humour in this book, but Kitty, the heroine, was just that little bit too clever and, well, perfect. There was more SF and world-building than I expected (never judge a book by its cover?), although arguably the characters spent a lot of time explaining and theorising.

For me, this was *almost* a good ‘un, but never quite made it onto my list of 2011 favourites. The ending, however, totally worked and I definitely want to read the sequel.

Which I did…

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Alien Tango (Katherine Alien Tango by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the sort of book where you keep on reading because you have to know just how it ends.

It’s addictive reading, but I have to say Kitty, the heroine, veers between being too clever (the only person who figures out what’s happening, really?) and being incredibly dense at times. I found this one somewhat reminiscent of early Mary Janice Davidson‘s Betsy books – plot combined with crazy humour that somehow *works*, and oh, the fact that everyone falls in love with Kitty.

Having said that – see addictive comment above. I still want more.

Famous last words… 

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Calamity's ChildCalamity’s Child by Sharon Lee (SF/fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised by how much I liked these two short stories – the first one, “Sweet Waters”, being about a Liaden scout crash-landing on an isolated world and integrating himself into local culture. Bittersweet but satisfying at the same time – the sort of story begging for a sequel.

The second (non-Liaden) story, “A Night at the Opera”, was something completely different – a fantasy/mystery in a world reminiscent of Caroline Stevermer or Patricia Wrede turn-of-the-century fantasy novels, with sly references to Nick & Nora Charles. A one-off story from what I gather, but I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in this world.

This was when Sharon Lee and Steve Miller was releasing their short story backlist as ebooks and I, well, just bought them all.

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Halfling Moon (Adventures in The Liaden Universe Number 16)Halfling Moon by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two short stories that fill in a couple of gaps in the Liaden universe post-I Dare – definitely worth reading for Liaden fans.

I liked the first story especially, as it focused on the characters who have been off-stage in the latter books as well as giving a glimpse of the next generation of the Korval clan.

I don’t think I reviewed all the Liaden shorts on Goodreads – only the ones that left a bit of impact.

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Juggling Briefcase and BabyJuggling Briefcase and Baby by Jessica Hart (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I posted the original review on my blog.  One of the rare few this last year.

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Song of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #1)Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading SONG OF SCARABAEUS trying to keep my extremely high expectations in check (because everyone appears to have really loved this book) but I’m glad to say this book totally met my expectations and more.

SONG is very much a romance, but also an excellent SF story at the same time. Sara Creasy has built an inventive, yet accessible world – I was initially worried the jargon would be hard to grasp, yet I sank easily into her world right from the start.

The story is written deep in Edie’s perspective, and her backstory is slowly unveiled. I loved how she developed, growing stronger and more independent, over the course of the book. And Finn mmm… well, he just grew on me.

The writing was spot-on – there were some beautiful sentences that really struck me, as well as some genuinely horrifying images towards the end, and the story held my attention from beginning to end.

There was an almost-cliffhanger ending, which for once, I didn’t care about as I get to pick up Children of Scarabaeus straightaway.

I will say – the book title? SONG OF SCARABAEUS totally makes sense *after* having read the book, but it didn’t really do anything to draw me to the book and I still find it difficult to spell Scarabaeus!

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Children of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #2)Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy (SF)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought the first book, Song of Scarabaeus, was good – well, CHILDREN OF SCARABAEUS was even more satisfying.

I may have mentioned previously that I love reading books that focus on the same set of characters over time because we get to see them grow, and CHILDREN just proved that to be true. Both Edie and Finn have matured since SONG; Edie, especially, is so much stronger in this book, which in turn meant I could really believe in Edie and Finn’s relationship and HEA. As with SONG, the world-building had depth and I found myself sinking back easily into Sara Creasy’s universe, this time with the added benefit of knowing and caring about the characters from the start – learning more about Finn’s background in particular was a bonus.

The plot reveal caught me by surprise – I probably should have guessed, but didn’t. And there was possibly a slight tinge of deus ex machina towards the end to wrap things up, but I didn’t really care by that point.

A very excellent duology – easily one of my favourites of the year – and I look forward to seeing what Sara Creasy writes next.

I devoured these two books – I am impatiently waiting for Sara Creasy to announce her next project.

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Oh-So-Sensible Secretary (Harlequin Romance)Oh-So-Sensible Secretary by Jessica Hart (contemporary romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked the heroine’s first person POV in this book – I found it fresh and engaging, more please!

What I didn’t care that much for was the well-used plot – the heroine pretending to be in love to get her ex back and then falling in love with the hero. Having said that, it was done well. And as a bonus (as I managed to read the sequel Juggling Briefcase & Baby first), I loved Lex’s sardonic cameos in this book.

Good read.

I picked this up after loving the previous Jessica Hart – I think 2011 was the year I started getting back into category romance.

Around the Web

A new Sharon Lee & Steve Miller short story is always a cause for celebration – even better, it’s free, though they are experimenting with asking readers for donations if they like the story.  I haven’t read the story yet, but I believe it’s set in their Liaden universe.

*****

Speaking of free short stories, I recently read Tamara Allen‘s free historical m/m romance short “If It Ain’t Love” and really liked – not just the romance, but also how the 1930s New York setting came to life.  I’ve seen Ms Allen’s name around, but have never quite got around to buying her books – this may be the spur I need.

*****

I liked this post at All About Romance about mysteries with a touch of romance – one of my favourites.  While there’s something to be said for straight romance (or straight mysteries, come to that), there is something even more satisfying when you get both in a book.  There are some recommendations for new-to-me series, so I’m bookmarking this post.

*****

A fascinating guest post by Toni LP Kelner @ Janice Gable Bashman’s blog about putting an anthology together.  Ms Kelner co-edits the themed anthologies with Charlaine Harris, so this is like a behind-the-scenes peek at what happens.  And bonus tidbit – their next anthology will be “An Apple for the Creature” coming out next fall.  Yeah, it took me a while too, but if I say it’s school-themed, does the title now make sense?

*****

Chelle @ Tempting Persephone posted a while back about some Sherlock fanfiction she’s enjoying – and she was totally right to plug it.  I’m not a massive Sherlock Holmes fan – though I’ve read the stories, that was way back when, and to my shame, I’ve not watched the BBC series that has had rave reviews.  So when I say this piece made me want to re-read the books AND watch the BBC episodes…

Mad_Lori’s “The Blog of Eugenia Watson” is an excellent re-imagining from the point of view of (new character) Genie Watson, John’s daughter, and is set in modern-day London, with the twist that Holmes and Watson are married.  Which probably means that this will never be an approved adaptation, which is a shame, because the author captures the teen voice perfectly.  I loved Genie and the whole story, from start to finish.

Three Favourite Authors

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

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

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

Musings and Such

Do you know how long I’ve had the “Add New Post” window open in my browser?

Yep, no inspiration.  So you get some random ramblings instead.

I’ve been working my way through a pile of second-hand Elizabeth Mansfield books that I got off Better World Books.  I don’t mention Elizabeth Mansfield often, but I’ve a soft spot for the sweet regency romances she wrote.  Way back when, I got my hands on a whole bunch of her books and had a bit of a glom.  Scanning her backlist, the ones that I remember loving include “Passing Fancies” (sweetest romance ever), “The Phantom Lover” (ahhh… the angst), “Her Man of Affairs” (ignore the dodgy Scottish dialect), and “Love Lessons” (guardian/ward trope working beautifully here).  They can be a bit hit or miss, however, so I’m hoping that I’ll come across a keeper in my latest stack.

And when googling for her backlist to link here, an active(-ish) website!  And her daughter is planning on digitalising the books.  Happy days – fingers crossed this progresses well.

Umm… linkage?  Nothing much – here’s a free compilation of the short stories on Baen’s website so far, including the Sharon Lee & Steve Miller‘s Liaden story “Intelligent Design”, which thrilled me when I figured out what it was about (me being a long-time fan and the story filling in a backstory gap very nicely).

Also, your thoughts on opening chapters – are they make or break?  There’s a collection of 25 opening chapters from various SFF authors here (note fairly large download, IIRC).  I don’t know – I flirt between reading the first chapter and opening  the book to a random page when deciding whether to buy or not (in a physical bookstore, that is).  And that would be after the cover grabs my attention.  Then again, when buying a new-to-me author’s books online, I always read the excerpt first, which usually tends to be the first chapter…

Books for August

Yep, I know it’s been quiet around here.  I’m in a bit of a reading slump at the moment – recs, anyone?

I’m not even madly excited about any of the August releases – though that could be because I’ve read them already.  Not that there were many to start off with.

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Sharon Lee & Steve Miller‘s “Ghost Ship” (SF): The hardcover hit the shelves earlier this month, but I got my hands on the ebook version mid-July – I love Baen!

I always sit down with a Liaden book expecting a good read, and this one was no exception.  It was a rather satisfying mix of finding out what happened to previous characters and taking Theo’s story forwards.  Possibly too many POVs used in this book, but yeah, good read.  And I will even forgive the ending…

Blurb:

Theo Waitley is an ace starship pilot—and pure maverick. Her mom is a renowned Terran scholar and her birth father is an interstellar aristocrat in hiding. Whatever, thinks Theo. She still feels like a socially-challenged misfit. But after being selected to train with the best-of-the-best at the pilot academy, she figures she can leave behind those gawky, misfit days of teenage angst that made life so complicated before! But for Theo, life is about to get even MORE complicated—and deadlier still. For even though she’s survived the Academy and become one of the best pilots in the galaxy, the past is about to blast her with gale-force winds. Theo can run, but she can’t hide. Her destiny as master pilot and leader of a powerful Liaden clan calls, and there are LOTS of enemies who will try to make sure she’s quite dead before she has the chance to make an answer.

Out now (excerpt)

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“Home Improvement: Undead Edition” edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner (urban fantasy): I’m a sucker for these anthologies, as I may have mentioned previously.  I’ll be honest and say I splashed out on the hardcover primarily because of Seanan McGuire‘s contribution (I needed my Toby fix – am counting down the days to September’s “One Salt Sea”), but there is also the mandatory new Sookie Stackhouse story as well as a Patricia Briggs contribution, which kind of made me sniffle a bit.

Blurb:

There’s nothing like home renovation for finding skeletons in the closet or otherwordly portals in the attic. Now, for any homeowner who’s ever wondered, “What’s that creaking sound?” or fans of “how to” television who’d like a little unreality mixed in with their reality shows, editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner return with an all-new collection of the paranormal perils of Do-It-Yourself.

Sookie Stackhouse resides in these pages, in a never-before-published story by #1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris. And New York Times bestselling authors Patricia Briggs, James Grady, Heather Graham, Melissa Marr, and nine other outstanding writers have constructed more frightening and funny fixer-upper tales guaranteed to shake foundations and rattle readers’ pipes.

Out now

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Richelle Mead‘s “Succubus Revealed” (urban fantasy): So the final book in the Georgina Kincaid series… I am looking forward to finding out how Georgina gets her HEA. Because she had better get one.  This series has had its ups and downs, but I’ve found myself firmly on the side of the morally ambiguous succubus.

Blurb:

In Georgina Kincaid, succubus and she-demon, #1 New York Times bestselling author Richelle Mead has created one of her most enticing characters. But with a shot at love, and maybe even redemption, is the ultimate seductress finally going soft? Like hell she is…

Georgina Kincaid has had an eternity to figure out the opposite sex, but sometimes they still surprise her. Take Seth Mortensen. The man has risked his soul to become Georgina’s boyfriend. Still, with Lucifer for a boss, Georgina can’t just hang up her killer heels and settle down to domestic bliss. In fact, she’s being forced to transfer operations… to Las Vegas.

The City of Sin is a dream gig for a succubus, but Georgina’s allies are suspicious. Why are the powers-that-be so eager to get her away from Seattle—and from Seth? Georgina is one of Hell’s most valuable assets, but if there’s any way out of the succubus business she plans to take it—no matter how much roadkill she leaves behind. She just hopes the casualties won’t include the one man she’s risking everything for…

Out Aug 30 (excerpt)

Around the Web

A whole heap of links that I’ve been meaning to post for ages…

From Kristin Cashore‘s blog, the Japanese cover of “Graceling” (too cute) and if you scroll right down to the bottom… I’m so hoping that is what I think it is!

Only of interest if you live in East London (so yes, possibly rather limited), but a branch of Foyles will be opening in the new Westfield Stratford City shopping mall later this year.

Orbit UK has bought the rights to Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid trilogy Nath has totally piqued my curiosity about these books, so yay for UK releases.

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller have a free Liaden short story up on Baen’s website, “Intelligent Design” – I am very much looking forward to their new book “Ghost Ship”. And it is now available for purchase although the official release date is 1 August!  This may actually get me out of my reading slump (I’ve no idea what happened because June was a great reading month, but I’ve read close to zero books in July so far).

Anyway, I digress.  Back to clearing out my list of links:

Not just the new cover for Patricia Briggs‘ “Fair Game” (I heart Anna & Charles – January can’t come soon enough), but also a behind-the-scenes type post from the cover artist, Dan dos Santos.

Karen Chance is one of my favourite UF authors – here’s an interview with her at Book Lovers Inc.

And finally, Angie and Holly loved Linda Gillard‘s “House of Silence” – here’s an interview with the author talking about the self-publishing story behind the book.  I’ll be honest – I didn’t love HoS as much as Angie and Holly did, but it was probably more to do with the mood I was in than the book itself.

March Reads

Books I read during March – copied over from Goodreads.

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Breaking the Rules (Troubleshooters, #16)Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann (romantic suspense)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BREAKING THE RULES is the last full-length novel in the long-running Troubleshooters series, and while I’ll miss these books, I would agree it is possibly time to wrap up this series.

BREAKING THE RULES probably isn’t one for new readers, as the romance angle is focused on two longer-running relationships. The storyline isn’t as addictive as previous books (on the other hand, what could beat the Alyssa/Sam romance?), but the book’s still jam-packed with action and romance, though I found a few of the sex scenes slightly superfluous. And oh, the angst. If you’re not a fan of angst, you may find this book slightly painful – me, I liked it 😉

I have to mention topical issues as well – Suzanne Brockmann is definitely an “issue” author, and in BREAKING THE RULES, she packed quite a few in; we had gay rights, domestic abuse, alcoholism, child sex trafficking… and I probably missed some. It’s something I expect when I pick up a Brockmann book, so the preaching didn’t bother me massively, but it certainly isn’t a subtle thing.

This was a very long book – twice the length of my other recent reads, according to my Kindle – and while it isn’t amongst my favourite Troubleshooter books, I still finished it in one go. I’m curious to see what Suzanne Brockmann tackles next.

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Late Eclipses (October Daye #4)Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (urban fantasy)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED. The series just gets better and better with each book.

Having said that, this is not the book to start the series with, and if you didn’t like the previous books, I don’t think this would change your mind about the series.

I really liked finding out more about Toby’s heritage, and mystery-wise, I thought the plotting was tighter – even though a new character with the right skillset appeared rather conveniently to help with the reveal. And we got more Tybalt…

I will say that considering some rather devastating events happened in this book, I didn’t feel as emotionally raw as I thought I would.

But all in all, an excellent installment and I cannot wait for One Salt Sea.

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Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (YA contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much hype around this book… and yeah, totally well-deserved.

It’s a feel-good book that avoids being too fairytale-like, because the characters are just, well, real. I liked how both Anna and St Clair had had flaws, and I think that made the story more believable – things aren’t always black-and-white in real life either.

I thought the voice and the setting was spot-on – it very much reminded me of my college/university days (though sadly without a St Clair). So that was a bonus, as I obviously identified with Anna’s fish-out-of-water feelings and rooted for her as she settled into her new life.

I have to say St Clair’s “sexy” British accent threw me, as I couldn’t quite place it and it kept on taking me out of the story. And the British swearwords – umm, they verged on the rude side! I’m sure the equivalent American swearwords were not used. I think.

But moving on… there was some excellent chemistry between Anna and St Clair, and the falling-in-love part was done beautifully.

Oh, and the ending? Perfect.

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A Secret Affair (Huxtable Series)A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This caught my eye when I was browsing the New Releases shelves in the library – and I decided to borrow it when I found myself still standing in front of the shelves and two chapters into the book.

This was my first Balogh (I know, where have I been…) and I was pleasantly surprised. Possibly too much introspection on the part of the characters – I admit I skimmed some passages – and the falling-in-love part happened a bit too quickly for me, but I liked the interaction and interplay between the heroine and hero. I do think I would have found this book more satisfying had I read previous books in the series (there was definitely some backstory that I missed out on), but it worked pretty well as a standalone.

I loved the ending, and I definitely would pick up more books by Balogh.

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River Marked (Mercedes Thompson #6)River Marked by Patricia Briggs (urban fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Mercy Thompson books have been consistently good, and RIVER MARKED was no exception.

RIVER MARKED reminded me of why I love reading series that focus on a single couple – you get to see their relationship grow and change over time, and I enjoyed seeing Mercy and Adam grow more comfortable in their relationship and, well, *learn* each other.

This time around, Patricia Briggs gave us a fascinating take on Native American legends, which I really liked, especially with Mercy learning more about her own heritage.

Oh, and the last page reduced me to tears (in a good way, I hasten to add).

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With Abandon (With or Without Series, #4)With Abandon by J.L. Langley (m/m paranormal romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Quick read, but the romance didn’t quite work for me.

The relationship didn’t feel consistent with the world-building or the characters. It came across as though the romance was being told independently of who the characters were – for instance, we had Aubrey falling in love, and while we were told he was the alpha of the pack, I didn’t *believe* he was. And the “fated mates” plotline happens to be one of my least favourite tropes, so, oh well.

Good writing and I did want to know how the story would ended, but ultimately not a winner.

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Gunshy (Jennifer Pierce Maine Mystery #2)Gunshy by Sharon Lee (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m still loving the “retro-ness” of this mystery series.

What surprised me with this book is that the mystery sneaks up on you, unlike the first one Barnburner, where the resolution snuck up on me.

I would really like more in this series – I would totally love to see the relationship between Jennifer and Fox develop. There is so much potential there…

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Five Flavors of DumbFive Flavors of Dumb by Antony John (YA)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really satisfying read – my attention was first caught by the fact it had a deaf protagonist, and the first chapter reeled me in.

I’m doing a buddy review with Nath for Breezing Through for this one.

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Just Patty and When Patty Went to College  by Jean Webster

My rating:  4 of 5 stars and 3 of 5 stars respectively – I posted about these books when I read them back in March.

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Gale Force (Weather Warden #7)Gale Force by Rachel Caine (urban fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really liked the Weather Wardens series way back when, but stopped reading because of the [insert adjective of choice here] cliffhanger endings, which I completely detest. Now that Rachel Caine’s finished writing the series though, I decided to borrow GALE FORCE from the library and see whether I wanted to continue reading the books.

GALE FORCE was a quick read, but nothing out of the ordinary IMO. I like how Joanne and David’s strong relationship was portrayed, but the story-telling itself wasn’t engrossing enough – I admit to skimming in parts. The overall atmosphere was all doom-and-gloom as well, with nothing ever going right for Jo. The “what’s the worst thing that can happen to XYZ” kind of plotting usually makes for great stories, but here it was just rather depressing.

And yes, there was a cliffhanger ending. Gah. I’m not invested enough to get the final two books in the series.