Still Here…

How in the world are we in mid-November already?  It feels like only yesterday that I was sweltering in the Heatwave of 2018, and now the heating is on, Christmas adverts are appearing on telly… and it’s been almost three months since my last post.

My blog hiatus has been slightly inadvertent in that I’ve managed to lose the habit of blogging, so this post is really more about me trying to remind myself that posting something can be a matter of minutes, not a couple of hours.

So a couple of tor.com posts I enjoyed:

I read and re-read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books in my teenage years (and beyond!), and I really enjoyed this take on her books: Revisiting Tamora Pierce’s Tortall as a Mother of a Daughter

KJ Charles is one of my autobuy authors, and this post made me want to re-read Simon Feximal.  Great recs in the comments too.

Finally for UK readers – the newest Kindle Paperwhite is on sale for the next week (£30 off).  I have been debating getting an Oasis for ever, but could never quite justify the price tag.  So I caved and bought a new Paperwhite (my current one is years old, so I expect to be suitably wowed by this one – will report back).

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Playing Catch-Up: Books for October, November, and December

It has been a busy few months indeed.  But better late than never – here are the new releases for the last quarter of 2017 on my want list.  Brace yourselves, it’s a long post.

34670092Genevieve Cogman’s THE LOST PLOT (fantasy): I’m really excited about this one – I love the Invisible Library world and the stakes keep on getting higher in Irene’s adventures.

A covert mission
A royal demand
And a race against time

The fourth title in Genevieve Cogman’s witty and wonderful The Invisible Library series, The Lost Plot is an action-packed literary adventure.

In a 1930s-esque Chicago, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai find themselves trapped in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail and fiendish security systems. And if this doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences for Irene’s job. And, incidentally, for her life…

Out Dec 14

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36535656Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby’s MAN HANDS (contemporary romance): Sarina Bowen’s an autobuy author and I’m keen to see how this collaboration works out.

He puts the “screw” in screwball comedy…

BRYNN

At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls.

But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass.

Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer.

Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don’t expect me to actually go through with it.

TOM

All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life.

I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them.

But I will find her.

Out Dec 11

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34099086Sarina Bowen’s BOUNTIFUL (contemporary romance): She’s a rather prolific writer!  Despite the fact this came out in October, it’s still waiting for me on my Kindle – it’ll be a Christmas holiday read for me.

No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules.

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave No-Last-Name will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.

Out now

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35495782Santino Hassell’s CITYWIDE (contemporary romance): His Five Boroughs series brings New York City to life, and I’m always up for more.  Even though reading about a heatwave right now strikes me as particularly unseasonable.

A record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

Out now

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33020122Eloisa James’s WILDE IN LOVE (historical romance): While I’m not that into historical romance anymore, I’m still getting this one.  As bonus, Georgian historical!

Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.

Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . . .

The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!

Out now

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35722751Elizabeth Wein’s COBALT SQUADRON (SF): How cool is this – Elizabeth Wein writing a Star Wars graphic novel!  Obviously timed to coincide with the release of The Last Jedi (yes, I’ve already bought my tickets…).

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire) journeys to a galaxy far, far away to bring readers the harrowing story of the courageous bomber pilots and technicians of Cobalt Squadron!

Out Dec 15

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17312145Tamora Pierce’s TORTALL: A SPY’S GUIDE (fantasy): Not quite a new Tortall book (that’s next year!), but I caved and bought this hardcover.  And I don’t regret it one bit.  This is only a must-have if you’re a Tortall fan, but if you know one, it’s the perfect Christmas present.

The secrets of Tortall are revealed. . . .

As Tortall’s spymaster, George Cooper has sensitive documents from all corners of the realm. When Alanna sends him a surprising letter, he cleans out his office and discovers letters from when King Jonathan and Queen Thayet first ascended the throne, notes on creating the Shadow Service of spies, threat-level profiles on favorite characters, Daine’s notes on immortals, as well as family papers, such as Aly’s first report as a young spy and Neal’s lessons with the Lioness. This rich guide also includes the first official timeline of Tortallan events from when it became a sovereign nation to the year Aly gives birth to triplets. Part history, part spy training manual, and entirely fascinating, this beautiful guide makes a perfect gift and is ideal for anyone who loves Alanna, King Jonathan, Queen Thayet, Kel, Neal, Aly, Thom, Daine, Numair, and the unforgettable world of Tortall!

Out now

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36103416Jodi Taylor’s CHRISTMAS PAST (fantasy): It may only be a short story, but I adore her St Mary’s books.  A Christmas Day treat!

Max, Leon and Matthew – together at last for Christmas at St Mary’s – a time of conspicuous consumption, riotous misbehaviour and the traditional illegal Christmas jump. And this time, it’s inter-generational.

Donning her unfamiliar mother hat, Max takes Matthew back to 19th century London, where they plan to deliver a parcel of Christmas cheer to his former friends, but find themselves confronting the terrifying Old Ma Scrope in the process.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

It’s also the season of goodwill towards all mankind.

Pity no one told Max.

Out Dec 25

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33798968Josh Lanyon’s THE GHOST HAD A EARLY CHECK-OUT (romance): Another Christmas Day treat perhaps?  I can’t quite remember the first book, so may do a re-read ahead of this release.

Sequel to The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks

To live and draw in L.A.

Now living in Los Angeles with former navy SEAL Nick Reno, artist Perry Foster comes to the rescue of elderly and eccentric Horace Daly, the legendary film star of such horror classics as Why Won’t You Die, My Darling?

Horace owns the famous, but now run-down, Hollywood hotel Angels Rest, rumored to be haunted. But as far as Perry can tell, the scariest thing about Angels Rest is the cast of crazy tenants–one of whom seems determined to bring down the final curtain on Horace–and anyone else who gets in the way.

Out Dec 25

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And then the longlist of ones that are maybes (as well as the ones that I’ve read and am lukewarm about):

Melissa Caruso’s THE TETHERED MAGE (fantasy): I’ve read so many good reviews of this debut.  Perhaps one to try and get from the library.

KJ Charles’s AN UNSUITABLE HEIR (historical romance): KJ Charles is an autobuy author, but the romance in this final book in her Sins of the Cities trilogy wasn’t entirely successful for me.  I really love the diverse historical backdrops in her books though.

Ginn Hale’s THE LONG PAST & OTHER STORIES (fantasy): I’d get this if I wasn’t on a short story buying ban.  I have so many half-finished anthologies and collections that I’m trying out a one-out one-in thing – let’s see how successful I am…

THE BOOK OF SWORDS, edited by Gardner Dozois (fantasy): Speaking of anthologies, here’s another one I kind of want.  I’ve a soft spot for the sword & sorcery kind of fantasy, and there’s a Kate Elliott in here.

INFINITE STARS, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (SF): And I may as well list the final anthology I want.  This one is space opera and military SF – so another subgenre I love.  I think this one is mostly previously-published short stories though.

Jen Frederick’s PLAYED (NA romance): I’ll get this once I’m all caught up with the series.  I adored the romance in the first book, but the second one is still sitting unread on my Kindle.

Santino Hassell’s OVERSIGHT and SIGHTLINES (paranormal romance): I wasn’t won over by the first in this trilogy, but I still have books two and three sitting on my Kindle.

Lynn Kurland’s THE DREAMER’S SONG (fantasy romance): I’ve learnt to wait until Kurland finishes the three-book arc within the series before picking up the books as she’s a habit of cliffhanger-ish endings.  By my count, this is book two, so I’m waiting until next year’s release.

Alexis Hall’s HOW TO BLOW IT WITH A BILLIONAIRE (contemporary romance): I’m slightly torn on this one – again, it’s book two of three, and the author has warned that that the HEA is only in book three.  I’ll probably wait until the final book, and read both at the same time.

Tammara Webber’s BRAVE (NA romance): Is it just me or has it been a while since the last new Webber novel?  I didn’t love the last in this series, but I’ll keep an eye out for this.

And that’s it!  I’m all caught up now – well, until 2018…

Sunday Thoughts and Links

(Alternative title: I couldn’t really think of a blog post title)

Really late (it’s back to sporadic blogging now), but I’m liking the Hugo Awards shortlist.  I think it’s back to being a source of new-to-me authors, instead of being hijacked by personal vendettas.  My thoughts on the Best Novel finalists FWIW:

  • ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders: I admit I keep on changing my mind on this one.  One review makes the book sound like something I’d really enjoy, and then the next review makes me think it wouldn’t speak to me at all.  I guess there’s only one way to find out…
  • A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by Becky Chambers: I’ve the first book on my Kindle, I guess I should really get around to reading it?  I’ve only read good things about this series.
  • DEATH’S END by Cixin Liu: Ditto re first book, Kindle.
  • NINEFOX GAMBIT by Yoon Ha Lee: Oh hey, I’ve read this one.  I’ve mixed feelings – I can see why it’s earned its place on the shortlist (it is brilliant), but I also found it genuinely difficult to understand (and it’s rare I say that about a fiction book!).  I did get into the story eventually, and will definitely get the sequel, but it’s one of those books where you really have to pay attention at the start.
  • THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin: Err, I can only repeat that I’ve been meaning to read her books for ages.  This may be the spur I need.
  • TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING by Ada Palmer: I was really interested in reading it, but the price of the hardback put me off.  And then I’ve read not-so-great reviews of the second book.  So this is probably in the same category for me as the Charlie Jane Anders. for me.

And a couple of links that caught my attention recently:

153784Tamora Pierce is one of my favourite YA fantasy authors – her Alanna books have a special space in my heart.  I found her Margaret A Edwards Awards speech really interesting – she talks about Alanna (of course), but also how she came up with Keladry’s story, and how she wanted Kel to be different to Alanna.  Also:

Kel’s story is more political than Alanna’s because I have grown more political over the years[…]

Yes.

Speaking of favourite authors, Elizabeth Mansfield also wrote some of the most well-loved Regency romances on my shelves (and I’ve been grabbing the e-versions as they become available).  Her daughter has posted some of unpublished anecdotes on her website – they’re wickedly funny and well worth a read.


randombookrec

Intisar Khanani’s SUNBOLTMEMORIES OF ASH: A YA with a strong female lead in a wonderfully-realised fantasy world – this ticks a lot of boxes for me.  Fair warning, SUNBOLT is more of a lead-in novella than a standalone story – it doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, but I was left wondering what happens next.  MEMORIES OF ASH more than ably answers that question, and I stayed up (very) late following Hitomi on her adventures with my heart in my mouth.

Links, Anyone?

Yes, I’m slightly distracted by the French Open.  And will be for the next week or so.  Fortunately, I’ve a whole collection of links I’ve neglected to post over the past few weeks.

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15793208I’ve not entirely made my mind up over Mary Robinette Kowal‘s Glamourist History series – I admire how she’s managed to blend fantasy with the Regency setting pretty much seamlessly, but the characters left me slightly lukewarm in the first book.  However, I recently borrowed the third from my library on a whim (okay, it was the pretty cover) and ended up enjoying it more than I expected – so maybe I’ll get her most recent release?  My not-very-helpful ramblings on her books aside, she’s one of those authors with an online presence that impresses, and I really liked her blog series on debut author lessons (link to the one on covers).  Lots of interesting stuff there.

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It’s no secret that I’m a Sarah Rees Brennan fan, and I love the free online serial she’s been posting at semi-random intervals.  Even though I’m not a serial kind of person.  She totally tricked me into loving this one. Anyway,  two new installments of TURN OF THE STORY recently(-ish) popped up – Elliot is such a character.  I hope she releases a full-length book when she finishes the serial – I would definitely buy.

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589979Author Tansy Rayner Roberts is doing a re-read of Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts‘ Empire trilogy at tor.com.  THIS BRINGS BACK SUCH MEMORIES.  Sorry, but that totally deserved capitals.  I remember diving into Feist’s Magician books during my teenage years, and then I discovered this trilogy he co-authored with Janny Wurts – and I must have just lived and breathed those books for umm… however long it took me to read them.  I haven’t re-read them for YEARS, and I’m kind of nervous as to whether the story holds up to the test of time, but just reading the first couple of posts makes me want to join in the re-read…

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Interview with Tamora Pierce @ The Speculative Craft – there’s a great bit where she talks about how the publishing industry has changed since the early 1980s and how it’s affected her approach to writing.  Plus her biggest writing regret:

[…] I regret that I didn’t have more space with the Alanna and Daine books to develop the characters, I concentrated more on the plots. I don’t feel like I do plots well and I would have liked to have expanded on the characters more in those books, but in those days they were holding us to a 200 manuscript page per book limit, very strictly, so it’s not like I had the chance then and could have done it.

You know what?  I’d love to see what she would have done with the Alanna books had she not had a page limit.

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And to close off because it’s turned out to be a bit of a nostalgic collection of links: It’s 20 years since Julia Quinn‘s first historical romance was accepted by Avon – loved this letter she posted.  This is like a piece of romance history.  I totally fell for her Bridgerton books – admittedly, I haven’t been as enamoured of her more recent Smythe-Smith books, but they’re still good frothy fun.

 

A Few Links

Juliet Marillier answers some FAQs on what’s in the pipeline, writing-wise.  I’m excited about her new series, Blackthorn & Grim:

The series is adult fantasy set in early medieval Ireland, and features a pair of older, more flawed protagonists who appear in every novel. There are both fairy tale and mystery elements.

Also, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that as much as I love her Sevenwaters books, I’ve not yet read her Bridei Chronicles or her Wildwood books.  Any thoughts on these books?

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I would love to work in a library (I’m madly jealous of you librarian bloggers out there), but I suspect my expectations don’t match reality at all.  I mean, I kind of imagine spending a lot of my day sitting hidden behind large stacks of books, just reading…  I know – one can dream, right?

So that’s why I found Kelly @ Stacked’s post on weeding out her library’s YA collection so fascinating.  Something I’ve never thought about at all!

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I forgot to link this earlier, but Tamora Pierce did an interview @ Goodreads when BATTLE MAGIC was released.  She’s one of my favourite YA authors (and an autobuy), so I’m always up for more Tamora Pierce.  I liked how she referenced Georgette Heyer when talking about secondary characters she likes:

I like characters with wit and self-awareness. One of my favorite writers for her broad cast of characters is Georgette Heyer: Ulysses, the scruffy dog, and Jemmy, the climbing boy of Arabella, are both favorites of mine for their spirit and commentary; Frederica’s younger brothers always catch the Marquis flat-footed in Frederica, and the smooth Sir Vincent in The Grand Sophy as well as Beau Brummell in Regency Buck always have dignified, sarcastic comments to make.

Books for September

Just where did summer go??  I can’t believe it’s September already.  And references to Christmas are starting to pop up.  Ack.

BUT – I am really excited about these September releases, so I can’t complain too much about seeing summer in the rear-view mirror…

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10184403Seanan McGuire‘s CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (urban fantasy): It has been way too long since we last met up with Toby.  Way too long.

Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down…at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets–and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne….

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists–and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

Out Sept 3

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18368204Eileen WilksRITUAL MAGIC (urban fantasy): I’ve always loved this series, but Chachic’s recent series glom (complete with Goodreads status updates) has whetted my appetite even more for this 10th installment in the series (which, based on the back cover blurb, sounds both intriguing and terrifying in equal measures).

 In Eileen Wilks’s new Novel of the Lupi, FBI agent Lily Yu is about to confront a power even darker than magic…

On her 57th birthday, Lily’s mother suddenly loses all memory beyond the age of twelve. Lily knows her mother was attacked by something more than magic. More . . . and darker.

When Lily and Rule discover that others suffered the same, mysterious loss—at the same time on the same night—their investigation into the darkness begins. Joining them is someone Lily never thought she’d see again: Al Drummond, who once tried to destroy her. He also happens to be dead. But the mysterious attacks were caused by a power strong enough to affect matters beyond the world of the living.

With some victims losing years of memory and others their lives, Lily must discover what on earth—or beyond—connects them.

Out Sept 3

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18048366Tamora Pierce‘s BATTLE MAGIC (YA fantasy): Speaking of a long wait, the last new Tamora Pierce feels like ages ago.  She’s always an autobuy for me, and this excerpt has made me even more excited.  Boo to the fact no UK publishers picked this up though (seriously??!).

On their way to the first Circle temple in Gyongxi, mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy pay a visit to the emperor’s summer palace. Although treated like royalty when they first arrive, the mages soon discover that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxi, posing a fatal threat to the home temple of the Living Circle religion. Accompanied by one of the emperor’s prize captives, the three mages rush to Gyongxi to warn its citizens of the impending attack. With the imperials hot on their trail, Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy must quickly help the country prepare for battle. But even with the help of new allies, will their combined forces be enough to fight the imperial army and win the war?

Out Sept 24

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17665110Sherry ThomasTHE BURNING SKY (YA fantasy): I’ve not read any Sherry Thomas novels before, though I’m pretty sure her debut historical romance novel is lurking in my TBR pile (okay, I know it is).  But her new YA fantasy sounds amazing – elemental mages, prophecies, and romance – what’s not to love?

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Out Sept 17

Around the Web

Not book-related at all, but I don’t know how many of you heard about Martha Payne and her blog NeverSeconds when it hit the headlines a while back because her school tried to ban her from blogging her meals. They backed down after the publicity, but Martha and her family used her new-found fame to raise money for Mary’s Meals, a charity that funds meals for school children in poorer communities – she’s raised over £120,000 for them (and she is not yet quite ten years old).

I just saw a documentary on BBC about Martha and her family’s trip to Malawi to see the kitchens built by the money that was raised and it made me sniffle – it’s a very worthy cause.  Also, her blog is charming and she has guest posts from school children all over the world – it’s interesting to see how school meals differ between countries!

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Back to books, I’ve heard about Mark Reads and have skimmed through a couple of his posts when he was reading Harry Potter, but didn’t realise he was now reading the Alanna books.  Tamora Pierce‘s Song of the Lioness quartet is way up there on my list of favourite YA fantasy books, and Mark’s take on them is hilariously funny.  Obviously spoilerific, but this post about Chapter 2 of THE WOMAN WHO RIDES LIKE A MAN made me choke with laughter. Go Alanna!

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I read Rachel Hartman‘s SERAPHINA a while back (YA fantasy with dragons) and stumbled across a prequel, which I really quite liked.  As for SERAPHINA itself, I found the story slightly too slow-paced and it had a bit too much politics for me.  But I enjoyed the fantasy world, especially the “otherness” of dragons, and will probably pick up the sequel.

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Finally, a Lois McMaster Bujold interview where she talks about CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE – she describes CVA as “… romantic comedy and caper novel”.  Spot on description, really.

Books for October

New month, new releases – here are the ones I’m getting:

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ANGELS OF DARKNESS anthology (fantasy): It’s rare when you’ve read all four authors in an anthology; it’s even rarer when you like all four.  But that’s the case with this one – Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, and Sharon Shinn all in one book. *happy dance*

I get my Shinn fix for the year (I don’t think she has a full-length novel out this year?) as she returns to the world of Samaria.  Ilona Andrews’ contribution is from the world of the Alphas mentioned on their blog every now and again – looking forward to finally reading it.  Nalini Singh contributes a Guild Hunter novella and Meljean Brook a Guardian one – I admit to stalling somewhat on both these series, so this may give me the impetus to continue.

The (slightly boring) blurb:

Tales of alpha angels…from four alpha authors.  They soar through the night, unearthly creatures of legends and lore. Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance explore the rapture of the heavens above, and the darkness below in four all-new stories of angels and guardians, and good and evil.

Out Oct 4

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Erin McCarthy‘s SLOW RIDE (contemporary romance): I pretty much glommed the first three books in one go when I came across this stock-car racing series – it was the perfect combination of testosterone-filled settings and steamy romance.  However, the fourth and most recent (THE CHASE) didn’t really do it for me – I just didn’t get the relationship and found the plot a bit OTT.  Having said that, I’m still planning on getting this one just because of how much I liked the first three.

Blurb:

As a tribute to her late journalist father, Tuesday Jones is planning a career benefit, auctioning off racing memorabilia and meet-and-greets with drivers. Ex-racing star Diesel Lange has had his own brush with death, and is determined not to waste another minute of his life- especially when he meets Tuesday. He wants nothing more than to shift their romance into high gear, but he knows she’s still grieving. Can Diesel do the one thing he could never do on the track and take it slow?

Out Oct 4 (excerpt)

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Catherine Asaro‘s CARNELIANS (SF): Speaking of series stalling, I never quite got around to finishing the prequel to this book, DIAMOND STAR – not because it wasn’t good, but because I had a feeling it was going to go somewhere rather painful.  And I didn’t want to read that.  I know – stupid, huh?  Anyway, I now have to bite the bullet and finish that story because I really want to read the latest in her Skolian series.

Blurb:

Two emperors navigate an uneasy peace, while a powerful trader guild does everything in its power to bring on war. And as if Kelric, the Skolian Imperator, didn’t have enough problems, his own brother—who happens to be a rock star of galactic proportions—has a hit song that calls the traders out as the hidebound blueblood jerks they are, and pleads for an end to centuries of war. Kelric and his Eubian Trader Empire counterpart Jabriol attempt finally to meet in a public summit and sign a treaty that will save billions of lives and end the grinding, millennium-long war. But assassins lurk everywhere, and intrigue is afoot as the baroque old order has no intention of giving up its war-bought privilege and power without a fight to the death—and they don’t care if they take the rest of galactic civilization down with them.

Out now (excerpt)

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DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois (urban fantasy): These two editors have a talent for attracting big names to their genre-crossover anthologies, and DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS is no exception.  There’s Patricia Briggs, Diana Gabaldon (new Lord John Grey novella!), and Charlaine Harris amongst others.  And this time around, the theme is mysteries, so of course I’m going to cave and buy.

Blurb:

All new strange cases of death and magic in the city by some of the biggest names in urban fantasy.

In this all-new collection of urban fantasy stories, editors George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois explore the places where mystery waits at the end of every alley and where the things that go bump in the night have something to fear…

Out now

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Tamora Pierce‘s MASTIFF (YA fantasy): The previous book was published back in April 2009 – talk about a long wait for this trilogy to be wrapped up.  I’ll be honest – none of Tamora Pierce’s later books have yet displaced the original Alanna quartet from the top of my favourites list, but I’m always up for another visit to Tortall, especially when it’s set in the past and gives us tantalising peeks at how Alanna’s Tortall was shaped.

Blurb:

Beka and her friends will face their greatest and most important challenge ever when the young heir to the kingdom vanishes. They will be sent out of Corus on a trail that appears and disappears, following a twisting road throughout Tortall. It will be her greatest Hunt—if she can survive the very powerful people who do not want her to succeed in her goal.

Out now

Around the Web

Links galore!

I stalk quite a few authors, but I don’t often go to their home pages, normally clicking through directly to their blog etc.  For some reason, I did go to Ilona Andrews‘ home page, and found this wonderful post* describing “Magic Slays” (out this month!) and how it’s about what happens after the Happily Ever After.  Love.

*I can’t find a permalink, so I’m assuming it’s only there until their next book release.

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Sarah Rees Brennan‘s put up a short story (in two parts) to celebrate the release of her second book, “The Demon’s Covenant”, in the States.  It’s set just before the first book (“The Demon’s Lexicon”) and it’s slightly spoiler-y if you haven’t read either book yet.  It’s just made me even more impatient to get my hands on the final book “The Demon’s Surrender” when it comes out in June.

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Also on the subject of Sarah Rees Brennan and short stories, I mentioned earlier she had a short story in Subterranean Press online magazine’s special YA issue.  Well, “Queen of Atlantis” is now up.  It’s fantasy set in a completely different world from her Demon books.  I’m not usually a massive fan of short stories, so if I say I was pulled in right from the start and finished reading with a lump in my throat – well.

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An advantage of adding upcoming releases to my Goodreads shelf is seeing new covers pop up.  Here are Tamora Pierce‘s “Mastiff” (Oct 2011) and Holly Black‘s “Black Heart” (April 2012 – and that has to be Cassiel and Lila).

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Finally, Macmillan obviously thought their SF/fantasy oriented site, tor.com, was a success – they’ve rolled out a romance-focused site, Heroes and Heartbreakers, a couple of months back, and have now launched a crime & mystery one, Criminal Element.

I subscribe to the RSS feeds of all three, and occasionally click through to read articles that interest me, but I’m curious – what do you think Macmillan’s getting out of these?

I’m not sure about the latter two, but I believe tor.com is more publisher-agnostic, i.e. it doesn’t necessarily stick to promoting Tor books and authors.  So I’m slightly puzzled as to what’s in it for Macmillan, especially as I suspect there’s been substantial investment in starting them up.

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.