February Reads

I may just title these posts Monthly Reads and leave the exact month to your imagination 😉

Here’s what I read back in February (I’ve almost finished logging my March books, though don’t hold your breath…).

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Mixed Magics (Chrestomanci, #7)Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones (children’s fantasy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I fell in love with Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci books last year, and this collection of four short stories was the one remaining Chrestomanci book that I hadn’t read yet.

It’s a slim book, but with trademark DWJ story-telling and sly humour throughout – “Stealer of Souls” with Cat and Tonino was my favourite short because of all the previous characters who make an appearance, and yeah, it was just plain fun to see Cat and Tonino again.

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The Salisbury KeyThe Salisbury Key by Harper Fox (contemporary m/m romance)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very good story that pushed the right buttons for me – I was completely engrossed from beginning to end.

I generally love Harper Fox’s stories, and this was another winner. It’s a lot of story to pack into one book, but she manages it rather well. You have the emotional arc – the book starts off with Daniel dealing with the suicide of his partner, working (very painfully) through the aftermath, fumbling through the start of a new relationship – combined with a rather complicated mystery plot (when Daniel’s lover’s legacy brings a decades-old cover-up to light), which in turn then kicks the action elements into full gear.

In style, this book was rather similar to Harper Fox’s Driftwood – lots of angst and emotion to start off with, before segueing into some rather OTT action scenes, and then a slightly prolonged ending, with the loose ends tied up just a tad bit too neatly and conveniently (though satisfyingly!).

I very much connected with Daniel – this book is in his first-person POV, and there is no getting away from the raw emotions evoked by his partner’s suicide. And Rayne, the uptight soldier who becomes an unexpected rock in Daniel’s grief, was incredibly appealing and engaging. The chemistry was there and very believable. And as with her other books, the Britishness of the setting comes to life.

One of my favourite reads for this year.

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The Warrior's Path (Sisters of the Sword)The Warrior’s Path by Maya Snow (children’s)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up due to Thea’s review at The Book Smugglers. I probably didn’t love this book as much as Thea did, but it was an enjoyable read and I would get the next book, especially if the series grows in complexity.

I really liked the Japanese setting and traditions, which lent depth to the story. Kimi is a great heroine – I found myself rooting for her throughout – and I loved her relationship with her sister, Hana, as well.

Niggles I had: I hate foreshadowing, and this book does it in spades throughout (especially in the epilogue!). And there was possibly too much time spent on fighting scenes for me, but I can definitely see its appeal to younger readers.

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Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of TalesTortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce (YA fantasy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A mix of previously-published and new stories from Tamora Pierce – of course I was going to buy this collection, being a long-time fan of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall stories.

I admit I was secretly hoping for an Alanna story, but oh well. We got Alanna’s daughter, Aly, instead – it was interesting to have a glimpse into Aly and Nawat’s married life and what happened after Trickster’s Queen.

Funnily enough, I think I liked the contemporary non-fantasy story, “Testing”, best. I’m not sure short stories are Tamora Pierce’s forte, but this was worth buying, and the sneak peek for her next novel, “Mastiff”, reminded me of how much I am looking forward to that coming out.

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The High King's Tomb (Green Rider, #3)The High King’s Tomb by Kristen Britain (fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I did finish this book, but it took a while. I was in the sort of reading mood where I just wanted to read a couple of chapters a day, and this probably suited the pacing of this book, because it was rather slow-moving all the way until the last few chapters.

Too many POVs meant I never really connected with the characters. The main character, Karigan, came across as a bit Mary Sue-ish and I don’t think she was charismatic enough to carry the book – much more a plot-driven than character-driven book, IMO. The most fascinating aspects of the world came at the end, when Karigan & co explored the underground tombs – this was possibly explored more in previous books, but I admit I can’t recall much about them.

All in all, the book suited my mood at the time, but I doubt I’ll pick up the next book in the series when it comes out.

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Barnburner (Jennifer Pierce Maine Mystery #1)Barnburner by Sharon Lee (mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the retro contemporariness of this book (yes, I just made that phrase up)… it’s set in the late 1980s and you have dial-up modems! Local BBSs! Cameras with actual film! Old-style computer menus!

Okay, I’ll stop now. That aside (though those details really made the book for me), this was an enjoyable mystery and I loved the fact that Jennifer was not a TTSL heroine. The resolution sort of snuck up on me – I was not expecting the (e)book to finish when it did as I was so busy taking in – and just plain enjoying – the small-town Maine setting and the characters.

And yeah, I bought its sequel Gunshy as soon as I finished.

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Speed Dating (Harlequin Nascar)Speed Dating by Nancy Warren (category romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One of the free reads offered by Mills & Boon/Harlequin, I downloaded this because I enjoyed Erin McCarthy‘s stock car racing books and was hoping this would be in a similar vein.

While I liked the initial setup (and having a heroine as an actuary), the romance lacked zing and I never connected with the characters. Quick way to spend an hour, but not really a memorable romance*.

*Obviously proven by the fact I said I hadn’t read a category romance in years when I posted last week.

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GhosTV (PsyCop, #6)GhosTV by Jordan Castillo Price (paranormal m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the strongest PsyCop books so far, IMO – though not one to start off with.

I love reading series that have a long-running relationship over the course of several books as you get to see what happens after the initial HEA, which to me, is equally as interesting, if not more, than the initial attraction and falling in love part.

And we have this in GhosTV – Vik and Jacob’s relationship continues to develop, there’s still strong chemistry combined with vulnerability on both sides, which makes for great relationship dynamics. And of course, with Vik being an excellent protagonist of the smart-ass type, this makes for a wonderfully funny and satisfying read.

The mystery plot was strong too, and I have to say that I was still thinking about the PsyCop world a day later, which just shows how much this world has captured my imagination.

Around the Web

I’m still here, really.  Just… lazy.  Lurking quite a bit.  Okay, a lot.

Anyway, before my blog falls into disuse, here’s what I’ve picked up from my lurking around your blogs.

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Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have started releasing their Liaden Universe chapbooks as ebooks.  I’m downloading them to my Kindle as soon as they appear on Amazon.  As an aside, I have really upped my spending at Amazon ever since I got my Kindle.  I used to buy from Amazon all the time back at university (those were the days when they offered free shipping above £25, and I saved up for bulk ordering my books), but then slowly drifted away over the years.  But the sheer convenience of buying ebooks via the Kindle has reeled me back in again.

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You’ve all seen Seanan McGuire‘s “One Salt Sea” cover by now, right?  I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  I think it’s lovely, but it’s very different from the first three covers, style and atmosphere-wise.  But it makes for a striking cover, and I think it gives us a more vulnerable Toby than we’ve seen before.  The picture Ms McGuire has on her blog is without the text, and makes it really clear it’s mermaid-Toby.  Which is all kinds of fascinating.  I cannot wait.

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And speaking of tantalising hints, Juliet Marillier blogs about writing from the POV of someone with a severe disability for her next book.  Which means her next Sevenwaters novel has Maeve as the narrator.  I’m looking forward to it.

And now I really should go and update my Goodreads account, which is at least two weeks behind.

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 3

And the final four months of 2010…

September

I’m not quite sure what happened in September – no, actually, I do, it was a complete nightmare work-wise – but I ended up only reading six books this month.

But they were good ‘uns – I read Seanan McGuire‘s third Toby Daye book, “An Artificial Night” (oh, I have some crazy love for this series), and also really liked Jo Beverley‘s latest Georgian historical, “The Secret Duke”.  I read very few historical romances nowadays, but Jo Beverley remains on my autobuy list because she brings her historical settings to life (and she writes in the Georgian period – I am a total sucker for men adorning themselves in lace and jewellery).

And I discovered Manna Francis‘s Administration series – a (free) online science fictional m/m series that I glommed over the month.  Some really excellent writing set in a dystopian universe, with two main characters (one rather damaged to start with) growing over the series arc, and eventually giving you a HEA you can believe in.  I know it doesn’t sound like the cheeriest of stories, and it’s not – it’s dark and violent and grim (I’m really selling this, aren’t I?) – but trust me, incredibly satisfying when you reach the end.

Oh – and I received my new Kindle, which deserves a whole other post of its own (there is one sort of fermenting away in draft status).  Suffice to say it has replaced my Sony Reader in my affections…

October

I read eight books during October – the highlight being the long-awaited new Miles Vorkosigan book, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “Cryoburn”.   You know how I said I could not wait for Elizabeth Peters‘ new Amelia Peabody?  This was exactly the same, but even more so – seriously.  And “Cryoburn” didn’t disappoint.  It was perfectly-written on so many levels – it could be read as a straight Miles adventure/mystery (and Miles was very definitely at his “forward momentum” best in this one) , and then you hit the last pages and realisation comes crashing down on you, and you think “oh”.  And start re-reading all over again.

I also liked Sharon Shinn‘s latest fantasy, “Troubled Waters”, and Ilona Andrews‘ new paranormal romance “Bayou Moon” – the latter met with almost universal praise throughout the blogosphere, while the former had more mixed reactions, IIRC.

November

I went on holiday and read a massive 24 books over this month.  Bliss.

I glommed new-to-me YA author Jaclyn Moriarty‘s fantastic epistolary-style novels following a group of teenagers attending both private and public high schools in Australia – they were completely addictive reading, cheeky and irreverent, yet completely compelling and poignant at times.   I followed that up by reading four of Diana Wynne Jones‘ equally-addictive Chrestomanci YA fantasy novels – just so fun and inventive and plain good story-telling.  And then to mix things up, I read all three of Erin McCarthy‘s stock-car racing contemporary romances – which were steamy, funny, and yes, addictive.

Yes, I do glomming in a big way – why do you ask?

Other books I enjoyed this month – Nalini Singh‘s “Play of Passion”, her latest Psy/Changeling paranormal romance, which I thought breathed fresh air into this long-running series (and just in time for the big Hawke/Sienna book next year), new-to-me m/m romance author Indigo Wren‘s “The Trap”, based on the Dear Author review which promised melodrama and angst in spades (it delivered), and Sharon Lee‘s contemporary fantasy “Carousel Tides”, which is one of the books that has done that weird trick of “the more I think about it, the more I realise how much I liked it”.

December

I wrapped up the year with 20 books (yep, more holidays) .  However, not many books stood out for me – the biggest surprise was that I ended up reading a number of Joan Wolf‘s Regency romances.  I used to love her historicals and stocked up on her backlist when they were re-released as ebooks at Fictionwise – they’ve sat unread until now, when for some strange reason, I just felt like dark brooding heroes, horse-mad heroines, and sweet romances.

And finally, new-to-me authors this month included Elizabeth C Bunce‘s “Starcrossed” (YA fantasy), Kalayna Price‘s “Grave Witch” (urban fantasy), Marie Sexton‘s “Strawberries for Dessert” (m/m romance) – I didn’t fall in love with any of these books, but I would definitely read more by these authors.

And that’s it!  Next up will be the lists and statistics post, and maybe one about 2011 resolutions…

Previous 2010 wrap-up posts

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 2

Continuing my month-by-month recap of 2010 (the first third of the year covered here):

May

Amongst the ten books I read in May was the excellent “Magic Bleeds” by Ilona Andrews.   This series has grown in leaps and bounds – I remember not being impressed by the first book way back when, but am rather glad I persevered.  I think if I had to name my top three UF series, it would be this one, together with Patricia Briggs‘ Mercy books and Seanan McGuire‘s Toby Daye series.

Nothing else stands out during May.  Scanning the titles I’ve jotted down show that I ranked all the rest as “Glad I read”, which is pretty much what it says – I’m glad I read the book, it wasn’t a waste of time (or money!) but it’s not one that really stood out for me.

Oh, I’ve experimented with a new grading system this year (it was a very quiet experiment and I don’t think I mentioned it anywhere!), moving on from letter grades (A, B, C, etc) to a statement-based one (“Glad I read”, “Wish I’d passed”, and so on).  This was because I never really used the full extent of the letter-based grading scale, and wanted to try something more meaningful as opposed to marking everything a B grade (obviously I’ve just moved on to “Glad I read” instead).

Seriously, I’ve found this more useful, but I’m thinking of moving to the equivalent of 1 to 5 stars in the New Year because I’ve started a Goodreads account (err… one review and one friend – hi Estara! – at last count, so don’t all rush over at once).  We’ll see – I don’t shout very loudly about what grades I give books and it took me a couple of years to actually change my grading system, so it’ll probably continue being rather unobtrusive here on the blog…

June

After that slight detour into my grading system, back to books read… I read ten books this month, unusually two re-reads amongst them, though very different ones – Louisa May Alcott‘s “Eight Cousins” and Sharon Lee & Steve Miller‘s “Conflict of Honors”.

“Eight Cousins” was inspired by Angie’s review of its sequel “Rose in Bloom”, and it was fascinating to re-read this as an adult – it is very much a product of its times (1875), for example, when talking about what a woman’s role should be, but at the same time, surprisingly modern in its views on, say, fresh air and exercise.

“Conflict of Honors”, on the other hand, is very much a comfort read for me, and re-reading this book straight after the authors’ latest release “Mouse & Dragon” gave me a slightly different perspective – I’ve always loved how the authors somehow manage to combine space opera with a fantasy of manners, but this time around, having just read the prequel, the events just prior to the start of this book (avoiding spoilers!) felt more immediate and hard-hitting, so there was more of an emotional impact.

New-to-me author – I read Meg Burden‘s “Northlander”, again based on an Angie rec, which turned out to be the type of coming-of-age YA fantasy that presses all the right buttons for me.  Loved.

Oh, and I think I may have finally kicked my Laurell K Hamilton‘s Anita Blake habit this month as well.

July

There were some good ones in the nine books I read this month.  I remember very much enjoying Julia Quinn‘s “What Happened in London”, even though I actually had to go and look up the book to try and remember what the plot was about.  Ahem.  I do recall liking it very much at the time, and thinking it had her trademark Quinn humour.

I loved Sarah Rees Brennan‘s “The Demon’s Covenant”, so much so it was one of the very few books I actually blogged about this year – bearing in mind how much I blogged this year, you know I really really liked it if I posted about it.  Oh, and I enjoyed Kelley Armstrong‘s latest Otherworld novel, “Walking the Witch”, though points deducted for yet another blasted cliffhanger ending.  Seriously.  I have stopped reading series before because of cliffhanger endings – I completely detest them.

August

Wrapping up a post that turned out to be slightly longer than anticipated – I read another nine books in August, including my first books from Carina Press, which has been an excellent addition to the epublishing scene.  I loved both Josh Lanyon‘s “Fair Game” and new-to-me author Harper Fox‘s “Life After Joe” – Josh Lanyon was already an autobuy m/m romance author, and Harper Fox’s lyrical writing and fantastic sense of place makes her another one for me.

I also got around to reading my second Steve Kluger, “My Most Excellent Year”, which was just as good as the first – a very feel-good book.

And I finally read Suzanne Collins‘ Hunger Games trilogy, all three in a month – it didn’t exactly disappoint, but I’m not entirely sure it lived up to all the hype.  On the other hand, what book could?  I ended up liking the middle book, “Catching Fire”, best, but all three were very good summer reading.

So that was the middle third of 2010 – final four months next…

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

Heather @ The Galaxy Express has asked for suggestions for “must read” science fiction romance, and the discussion thread is getting pretty interesting.  It’s been flagged that the list of authors is almost exclusively female as well, which, to be honest, is not a massive surprise to me. 

I’m thinking the list so far is very much a YMMV list – I adore some of the authors listed, but am more on the fence about others.  My standard SFR author recs – Catherine Asaro, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller – are already on the list, though I did propose Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s Star of the Guardians quartet for inclusion.  Has anyone else ever read it?  I think they’re OOP now, but I remember being totally caught up in the whole saga and devouring all four novels within a very short period of time (seriously, Maigrey and Sagan set the standard for star-crossed lovers, and you then add a lost royal heir, intergalactic battles, and a gang of very cool mercenaries).  I’ve found the Wikipedia entry for the series (here, but major spoilers) and just reading the very terse plot summary makes me want to re-read (alas, my copies are packed away somewhere in my parents’ home – safely, I hope!).

 

On a different note, Kelley Armstrong is doing the graphic novel thing – she’s writing an original Otherworld story with the Dabel Brothers.  If my memory serves me correctly, the Dabel Brothers did the first of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake graphic novels before they parted company with Marvel or something, and left the Anita rights with Marvel?  In fact, I think it’s the same artist, Brett Booth.  And they did the first Mercy Thompson graphic novel “Homecoming” too, before that moved somewhere else as well, IIRC.

Anyway.  As an introduction to the Otherworld universe, they’re doing a limited-edition Otherworld Primer, which is being exclusively offered to Ms Armstrong’s fans before being officially announced.  I’m sort of on the fence – it’s around £16, which is on the pricey side.  Decisions.

And a final link: While trying to verify my patchy information about Dabel Brothers above, I came across this interview linked on Patricia Briggs’ website – it’s with the writer doing the upcoming adaptations of “Cry Wolf” and “Moon Called”, David Lawrence.  There are some great sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes links.

Books for June

Here’s a much more timely post than I’ve managed for the past two months running.  However, is it just me or are June releases thin on the ground?

 

41JHNOwcdqL._SL160_The only book I have on my must-get list is Jacqueline Carey’s “Naamah’s Curse” (fantasy) – the second book of her latest Kushiel trilogy, this is an auto-buy for me. 

51Ezx8npQML._SL160_I thought the first book, “Naamah’s Kiss”, had a slightly different feel to Ms Carey’s previous Kushiel books, maybe because the narrator was Alban-born and had a more pragmatic worldview than the previous two narrators, but I was still pretty much swept along from the first page, and can’t wait to read the follow-up. 

I’m delighted the UK edition (cover on the left) is being released in the same month as the US one, else I’d be very tempted to shell out the cash for the US version. 

Out now US, June 24 UK (excerpt here)

 

51AQMVcQmPL._SL160_ I’ve already bought Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s “Mouse & Dragon”, which officially hits the (physical) shelves June 1.  I’ve also seen their “The Dragon Variation” in-store – it’s an omnibus edition collecting “Local Custom”, “Scout’s Progress”, and “Conflict of Honors” into one volume.  I was tempted, but I do have slightly beaten-up paper copies of the three already, so decided to pass.  Though I have just noticed the ebook version is $6, which is really too good to pass up…

 

I grabbed Lynn Flewelling’s “The White Road” yesterday while browsing in the bookstore, and really, that was the last of the June releases on my list.

51sEN7yeML._SL160_ Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum, “Sizzling Sixteen”, is out June 22 but I’m hesitant to buy hardcover because the recent books have been, well, lacking, shall we say?  Same with Laurell K Hamilton’s latest Anita Blake book, “Bullet”, which I’ve also seen out on shelves now, in its bright-red glory.  I’m holding out on both of these until I see more reviews.

I must be missing some June releases surely – what other books are you planning on getting this month?

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”.

Books for April

I have been rather remiss in not posting this earlier, but better late than never, and it is still April…

Here are the new releases for April that are on my To Buy list (and in most cases, have already been bought and read):

 

61lZlurY4L._SL160_ Elizabeth Peters“A River in the Sky” (historical mystery): I posted about this last week when my copy arrived and I did a little dance of glee.

The latest book in the Amelia Peabody series is set chronologically before “The Falcon in the Portal”, which is one of my favourites in the series due to ermm… various romantic entanglements, shall we say?  For a change, “A River in the Sky” is not set in Egypt; instead Amelia & co are in Palestine, and while this expanded their adventures to a new locale, it also meant that I missed some of the familiar settings and characters.  All in all though, I enjoyed revisiting the Peabody family, and can only keep my fingers crossed that there is yet another installment in this series.

Out now US, April 29 UK (excerpt here)

 

51opJaC77NL._SL160_ Kelley Armstrong’s “Tales of the Otherworld” (urban fantasy): Another April release I have already bought, this time during my failed attempt at attending a signing.

This book collects a few more of the short stories Ms Armstrong previously published for free on her website, with all proceeds going to her chosen charity, World Literacy of Canada. I think I’ve previously read most, if not all, of these online, but it was nice to have them in a single book.  There is also a new Eve story, which appealed to me, seeing Eve is one of my favourite characters.  I would say that this collection is more for long-time fans as opposed to new readers, because of their origin as online freebies – the stories have been aimed at filling in the background of the main characters and therefore can feel somewhat open-ended if you haven’t read the full-length books.

Out now (no excerpts, but more free shorts here)

 

51hH6KJTfGL._SL160_Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s “Saltation” (SF):  The second in a duology (the first is “Fledgling”), which covers events only alluded to in the main Liaden storyline.  These two books are somewhat unique, as the authors serialised both online in return for reader donations, prior to selling both books to Baen.

I bought this during my little Baen ebook haul a couple of weeks back, and while I liked (and read in one sitting), I have to add a caveat that this is probably not a book for readers new to the Liaden universe, which is a shame, because I remember thinking that its prequel, “Fledgling”, was a perfect jumping-off point.  There were one too many references to off-screen (off-page?) events which would only make sense if you had read the previous books, and there is a bit of a cliff-hanger ending as the book brings you right up to the same point as the main storyline.

Oh, and I have to add a cover note: for a Baen cover, this isn’t half-bad.  I have just finished reading another Baen book that I really really liked, but had a cover that did it no favours.

Out now (excerpt here – a whole nine chapters of it)

 

51CqsSW-evL._SL160_ Jim Butcher’s “Changes” (urban fantasy): A new Dresden Files book and yet another April release I have already read, which must make it some sort of record.

“Changes” was hyped as a turning point for the entire series, and when the first line of the book was revealed, it looked as though that would be the case.  Verdict?  As with all of his books (okay, most – I still haven’t managed to get through the first three books of this series yet), this was a good, solid fun read – he is an excellent storyteller.  However, I continue to find Harry’s love life (or what passes for it) somewhat two-dimensional; his friendships are wonderfully strong, yet his romantic relationships fail to move me.  If that changes, this would be up there as one of my all-time favourite UF series.

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51fV53d8D4L._SL160_Jo Beverley’s “The Secret Duke” (historical romance): Oh look, an April release I haven’t yet bought.  Not for lack of trying, I was trying to find it in ebook format, but haven’t had any luck.

You know how the most fascinating characters are usually saved for the last book?  Well, this is the third book of Ms Beverley’s Secret trilogy, and in the previous two books (“A Lady’s Secret” and “The Secret Wedding”), I have been intrigued by the Duke of Ithorne, who is the focus of this story.  This book is also part of her Malloren family series, which is set in Georgian times – I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I adore Georgian-set historicals.  And Jo Beverley excels in bringing historical settings alive in her romances.

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51m7Gj-IB9L._SL160_ 51byDuc4toL._SL160_Finally, two April releases I may get: Mary Jo Putney’s latest historical romance, “Never Less than a Lady”, a maybe only because I haven’t yet read the first Lost Lords book – I really need to get around to it.

And the mystery anthology “Crimes by Moonlight”, edited by Charlaine Harris, and containing a “Sookieverse story”, i.e. a story set in her Sookie Stackhouse world, but not featuring Sookie herself.  I want, not just for the Harris story, but also because the lineup and theme sounds great, however, it’s a hardcover so I will probably practise patience!

A Book Splurge

I have no idea what’s going on with the ebook pricing mess, but it looks to be complete chaos at the moment between publishers and retailers.  Books have disappeared from my Fictionwise wishlist, I’m hearing conflicting rumours about book availability, pricing, loyalty programmes… may you live in interesting times indeed.

Despite all this, I still was in the mood to buy books (go figure), so I hopped over to Baen’s Webscription site (because you can always count on Baen to do things right when it comes to ebooks) and here’s what I picked up:

 

51hH6KJTfGL._SL160_ Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s latest release, “Saltation”, the sequel to last year’s “Fledging”.  I’m a big fan of their Liaden books (think fantasy of manners set in space), and this was on my list of April books to get.  Instead of buying this one as a standalone, I bought the Webscription April 2010 bundle, which had six other books as well, for a grand total of $15.

 51SEG-c6xVL._SL160_Because that wasn’t enough, I also bought Nathalie Mallet’s “The King’s Daughters”, a follow up to her first book “The Princes of the Golden Cage”, which I enjoyed reading way back when.  I’ve been meaning to buy this one for ages, but have never quite gotten around to it until now.  The first book was a mystery-fantasy combo, and it sounds as though this will be similar – I’m hoping so.

519ccxjywXL._SL160_ I then recalled hearing good things about P.C. Hodgell’s (warning: music plays on website) Godstalker fantasy series along the lines of “thank goodness this series is being re-released”, so I also bought the first one (I think), “The God Stalker Chronicles”.

51ofbvRGyJL._SL160_ And finally, I picked up the anthology “Tails of Wonder and Imagination”, edited by Ellen Datlow, even though I’m not a cat person and I’ve a slight allergy to cutesy titles.  But again, I’ve read good reviews on this one, and hey, Neil Gaiman is a contributor.  Along with many many others.

With Baen’s very consumer-friendly pricing policy on ebooks (individual books generally priced at $6), my haul came to $33 for ten books.  Bargain.