December 2012 wish list

>> Thursday, November 29, 2012

Not that many for December, I think publishers are saving them till January. Just wait till you see the monumental list I'll have for that month!

Books I'm definitely planning to get

Body Heat, by Susan Fox (Nov 27)

Yes, this is a November release, but I missed it in my wish list last month and I wanted to highlight it, since I absolutely loved Susan Fox's latest series. Sounds like a good girl / bad boy romance, and a younger bad boy, as well! I wonder what a "chickened past" is, though!

The Lady of Secrets, by Susan Carroll (Dec 11)

Susan Carroll hasn't had a book out in a few years, and I've loved all of her books that I've read, especially the Faire Isle series, of which this is part.

Your Wicked Heart by Meredith Duran (Dec 10)

One of those novellas published to introduce a new series. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the idea, in general, but this is one that I would buy regardless. Long journeys onboard a ship, people pretending to be someone they're not... I like. Duran mentions on her website that the story turned out a bit different from the official cover copy. I  hope not too much, because this sounds interesting!

A Kiss For Midwinter, by Courtney Milan (Dec 15)

Autobuy author. Hopefully this will actually come out the, unlike The Duchess War, which has featured in my October and November wish lists, and I'm still waiting on! Eh, well, two Milan books in one month is a nice Christmas present!

The Italian, by Lisa Marie Rice (Dec 19)

My favourite LMR books, and the ones I reread over and over, were the ones she published with Ellora's Cave. This sounds like it could be more like those than what she's been writing lately. Can't wait!

Books that interest me and I'll keep an eye on reviews for

Love In The Afternoon, by Alison Packard (Dec 17)

The hero and heroine are actors on a daytime soap! I’ve had a soft spot for that as a setting since Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s Again.

Always and Forever, by Farrah Rochon (Dec 18)

The plot (hero beats the heroine in the purchase of a house that has been in her home for generations and hires her to help restore it) doesn’t make me feel desperate to read it, but I really liked the one book I read by Rochon, and I’ve been meaning to try her again.

Unbound, by Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley (Dec 24)

Hmm...I’ve enjoyed both authors, and the plot of having a modern-day character discover the diary of someone in the past, and intertwining the stories, is one that really appeals to me. However, the words “modern girl’s guide to finding love and empowerment” make me want to run in the opposite direction! We’ll see.

Shadow Woman, by Linda Howard (Dec 26)

File this under “only if it gets brilliant reviews from romance readers”. It doesn’t sound great, but I live in hope.


Thicker Than Seduction

>> Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TITLE: Thicker Than Blood (in First Blood anthology)
AUTHOR: Meljean Brook

I've no idea how, but I seem to have missed this one when it came out. Good think I'm being methodical about this series reread!

A few years ago, Annie was turned into a vampire. One of the consequences of that was having to leave behind the man she loved, Jack. Jack was told Annie had died, and never really got over it. They meet again when Annie follows home a stranger who reminds her of Jack, intending to make him her blood donor that night.

This is a really good short story. The plot is interesting, but Brook keeps it simple and straighforward. The focus is really on the romance, and a lovely one it is, too. Jack and Annie already share a connection and the love they felt for each other hasn't gone away, which allows the author to concentrate on them coming to terms with the implications of Annie being a vampire. It's an emotional and powerful story.

The story is set in the Guardians universe, but it feels a bit separate, with the characters we know and love making only cameo appearances. Much as I love them, I didn't mind.

Thicker Than Blood was published in the First Blood anthology, alongside stories by Susan Sizemore, Erin McCarthy and Crystal Green. I had a look at reviews and I'm not tempted to try them. Seems like a bit of a waste, but I'd rather waste money than time.


TITLE: The Second Seduction of a Lady
AUTHOR: Miranda Neville

This novella sets up Miranda Neville's upcoming series, providing us with a glimpse of the heroine of the first book as a young, headstrong girl. The novella tells the story of her aunt, Eleanor Hardwick. 5 years earlier, Eleanor fell in love with Max Quinton, and he with her. Unfortunately, there was a bet involved (your typical "£££ for anyone who manages to get a kiss from that frigid bitch" kind of thing). Max wasn't really participating in that wager, and only approached Eleanor because he fell in lust with her the moment he saw her, but that's not what the instigator of the wager told Eleanor. So, as soon as she could be sure she hadn't got pregnant from the night they got carried away, she unceremoniously dumped Max and refused to have anything to do with him. As the novella starts, they meet again and keep meeting, when the young people they are responsible for become infatuated with each other.

I liked the idea of the set-up, but in the end, I just found this boring and not very engaging. The characters were fine, the writing was fine, the plot was fine... just ok. Nothing special. I didn't feel particularly engaged with the characters, and didn't particularly care what happened. I only finished it because it was short. Speaking of which, this finished at 60%ish on my kindle, which was very annoying. I usually check when the promo material starts, especially with novellas, but I completely forgot to do it here. The reading experience changes completely if you're reading the closing sequence and you think there's over a third of the book to go. It feels strange, you wonder what the conflict will be, since everything seems to be resolved. Hmph!



Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

>> Sunday, November 25, 2012

TITLE: Neverwhere
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman

PAGES: 400
PUBLISHER: William Morrow

SETTING: 1990s alternate version of London
TYPE: Urban fantasy
SERIES: Not that I know of

Under the streets of London there's a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, and pale girls in black velvet.

Richard Mayhew is a young businessman who is about to find out more than he bargained for about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his safe and predictable life and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and yet utterly bizarre.

There's a girl named Door, an Angel called Islington, an Earl who holds Court on the carriage of a Tube train, a Beast in a labyrinth, and dangers and delights beyond imagining... And Richard, who only wants to go home, is to find a strange destiny waiting for him below the streets of his native city.
Richard Mayhew has a very normal, even boring life. He has a job in finance he doesn't really care about, a fianceé who bosses him around and whom he finds a bit intimidating, and no particularly good friends. Still, he's relatively content. And then, everything changes. One evening, while walking to a restaurant with his fianceé, Jessica, he almost stumbles over a young woman who's clearly injured. Jessica wants him to at most call an ambulance, but Richard feels obliged to help, and ends up taking the young woman (who refuses to go to hospital) home with him.

The woman is called Door, and she's from what she calls London Below, an alternative world lying beneath the London Richard knows. Door, it turns out, is the daughter of one of its prominent family, a family known for being able to open anything (thus her name; her father was Portico). Door's family has just been slaughtered by two hired killers, who've come back to finish the job and kill her as well. Before they catch her, Door is able to open a door into London Above, and falls into Richard's path.

Richard manages to help Door and hide her from the killers, and when she leaves, that's supposed to be the end of it. But then Richard starts realising that he's become practically invisible in his world. Taxis won't stop for him and his landlord rents out his flat to someone else. He's now a citizen of London Below as well, and singularly unprepared for it, so he has no choice but to throw in his lot with Door and join her on her quest to find out who ordered her family killed.

I read Neverwhere for my book club. Interesting as the plot sounds, I've come to realise, after several unsuccessful experiments, that urban fantasy just isn't my thing. Some have worked a bit better than others (most recently, Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series), but there's something about the griminess of it, and how it's so often about political infighting, that doesn't appeal to me.

This didn't change my mind about it. I can recognise it's an ok example of the genre, but I didn't enjoy it much. And even if I enjoyed the subgenre, I suspect I might have had some issues with it.

The main one is that Richard is a complete non-entity. He's not particularly intelligent and he just reacts to things. Of course, in the end he turns out to be crucial to Door's quest, but all seems to happen almost by accident. The only time he ever takes action rather than go with the flow is when he chooses to help Door, against Jessica's wishes. It was a good start, but that's it. It never happens again. He's just... boring. And just to make it clear, my objections to Richard aren't about masculinity, or anything like that. A female character like this would drive me just as mad.

The rest of the characters... well, they were really cool, but I just couldn't find it in me to care one whit about what would happen to them. I didn't connect to them at all.

You would think the worldbuilding would be outstanding here, and indeed, it's an interesting idea for a universe. The problem is it's left a bit too undefined. I could picture it in my mind just fine, so it wasn't an issue with Gaiman's descriptions. It was more that when I closed the book, I didn't feel I understood it. So, how do things WORK here? How do people end up in this world? Is it all like Richard? I've no idea.



A Perfect Evil, by Alex Kava

>> Friday, November 23, 2012

TITLE: A Perfect Evil
AUTHOR: Alex Kava

PAGES: 461

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic suspense
SERIES: Starts the Maggie O'Dell series

A killer is watching...

The brutal murders of three young boys paralyze the citizens of Platte City, Nebraska. What's worse is the grim realization that the man recently executed for the crimes was a copycat. When Sheriff Nick Morrelli is called to the scene of another grisly murder, it becomes clear that the real predator is still at large, waiting to kill again.

Morreli understands the urgency of the case terrorizing his community, but it's the experienced eye of FBI criminal profiler Maggie O'Dell that pinpoints the true nature of the evil behind the killings -- a revelation made all the more horrific when Morrelli's own nephew goes missing.

Maggie understands something else: the killer is enjoying himself, relishing his ability to stay one step ahead of her, making this case more personal by the hour. Because out there, watching, is a killer with a heart of pure and perfect evil.
This audiobook was a random pick at the library, since I'd heard Kava's name before and the plot sounded like it could be interesting.

Five years earlier, a serial killer terrorised Platte City, Nebraska, targetting little boys. After three were killed, the cops caught Ronald Jeffreys, who promptly confessed to one of them. However, he claimed he'd had nothing to do with the other two. As the book starts, Jeffreys is executed.

Mere weeks later, another little boy disappears from Platte City. The cops, headed by Sheriff Nick Morelli, assume it's a custody dispute, and look for the kid's father. Until, that is, someone finds the boy's body, and the way he was killed is eerily similar to the earlier cases. To Nick, it's clearly a copycat, and he calls in an FBI profiler, Agent Maggie O'Dell.

The characters were actually quite interesting. Maggie is still psychologically recovering from a particularly gruelling and traumatic case, and her marriage is crumbling. Nick is a relatively new sheriff, and he only took up the post because his dad (the previous sheriff, and the man who he soon suspects screwed up in the Jeffreys case) pressured him into it. He is quite clearly out of his depth here, and he knows it. This is not one of those books where the sheriff resents having an outsider butting into his case. Nick is grateful to have Maggie there, which I thought was refreshing.

There's the attraction between them, as well, which when I stopped reading at the halfway mark, they were both still resisting. Maggie's marriage was clearly over long before she met Nick, so I didn't have a problem with this element, and would have been interested to see where it went.

The problem was, the way the investigation was conducted drove me crazy. Man, what utter idiots! At the point where I stopped, which was basically around the halfway mark, Maggie has just been on the phone with a person she's pretty sure knows who the killer is. This person works with the man who, in Maggie's mind, is increasingly looking like her main suspect. So, they're on the phone, and Maggie hears a couple of clicks, and correctly deduces that someone is listening in. The man tells her that he's willing to give her certain important information. Since they're being overheard, Maggie puts him off, and arranges to meet him that afternoon. I just could not believe what I was reading. She might as well have painted a target on the poor man's forehead. I'm pretty sure that man won't make their meeting later in the day. Of course, I might be wrong, but to be honest, it's not so much about the consequence of Maggie's actions, but her sheer stupidity, so I don't care how it turns out.

I gave up on the book because this was yet another of a long line of scenes where I was practically screaming at the characters "You should be doing X!!! Why on earth aren't you doing X?" X being the logical response to that given situation, the one that anyone with half a brain, let alone 8 years of experience as a profiler, should do. I like to apply a modified version of the What Would Nora Do? rule to romantic suspense: the What Would Eve Dallas Do? rule. The answer, in this case, is that if Nick and Maggie worked for Eve, she would fire their asses.

MY GRADE: It was a DNF.

AUDIOBOOK NOTES: This one was narrated by Richard Rowan, it's this version. It was ok. The voice he did for Nick felt a little bit off for the character, but it wasn't too bad. So, not great, but nothing that overly bothered me, either.


Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, by MC Beaton

>> Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TITLE: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

PAGES: 320
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's

SETTING: 1990s England
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: Starts the Agatha Raisin series

Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry—but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…
I confess I look at those cosy mysteries with punny titles the way lit fic readers probably look at Mills & Boons: assuming they're cookie-cutter and not the kind of book I'd want to read. I know I shouldn't judge before reading, but again, as that theoretical lit fic reader might think of M&Bs, there are so many of them, and no indication of which might be the wheat and which the chaff. And then someone I know, whose taste in books I respect, mentioned a few times that he loves Agatha Raisin, so I knew where to start.

Where I started was at the beginning of this very long-running series. As Quiche of Death opens, Agatha Raisin, a self-made career woman, decides to sell her successful PR business and retire to a small village in the Cotswolds. Agatha grew up in Birmingham, with unemployed drunks for parents. One of the very few good things they ever did was take her on holiday to the Cotswolds once. Since then, the area has been a shining ideal in Agatha's head, her version of paradise.

Agatha pictures blissful scenes of easily fitting into village life, but it's not that easy. Everyone's polite enough. They say hello on the street and maybe make a comment about the weather, but that's it. She can't seem to progress any further than that, to get anyone to take any notice of her existence (other than her horrible snobby neighbour, who hates Agatha for stealing her cleaning lady).

And then Agatha sees a sign for the local fête, and she knows what she needs to do: win one of the prizes in the baking competition. That'll be the ticket! There's the small matter of her not knowing how to cook, but that's a minor obstacle. Agatha knows this little deli in London where they make the most amazing spinach quiche. And then, one of the judges died poisoned, and it was Agatha's quich that did it.

The police think it was just an accident, but Agatha is convinced there is something fishy there, and decides to investigate.

Agatha is a delight, mainly because she's so flawed and human. She can be self-involved and abrupt, and her professional background taught her how to be quite ruthless, but she's a decent person at heart, and I loved her to bits. The way she was written reminded me of Amelia Peabody, in Elizabeth Peters' wonderful series. Things are narrated from her point of view and voice, but even when she's completely oblivious to the effect she's having on others, you can see quite clearly the effects she's having.

The secondary characters were fun and really added to the story. There's a good combination of over-the-top and nasty (albeit in really human ways), and lovely people. Roy, one of Agatha's former employees, was the only exception. He didn't really make sense to me as a character.

I also loved the setting. Carsely is charming, but it's not an idealised perfect little village. The whole thing has a really good sense of place.

The plot of the mystery itself wasn't particularly great, but to be honest, this wasn't what the book was about, so I didn't really care. I really enjoyed it.

BTW, this was an audiobook, and it was really good. Penelope Keith's narration was great, and really made it come alive.

MY GRADE: A solid B


Exclusively Yours, by Shannon Stacey

>> Monday, November 19, 2012

TITLE: Exclusively Yours
AUTHOR: Shannon Stacey

PAGES: 282
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Starts the Kowalski series

When Keri Daniels's boss finds out she has previous carnal knowledge of reclusive bestselling author Joe Kowalski, she gives Keri a choice: get an interview or get a new job.
Joe's never forgotten the first girl to break his heart, so he's intrigued to hear Keri's back in town—and looking for him. He proposes an outrageous plan—for every day she survives with his family on their annual camping trip, Keri can ask one question.

The chemistry between Joe and Keri is as potent as the bug spray, but Joe's sister is out to avenge his broken heart, and Keri hasn't ridden an ATV since she was ten. Who knew a little blackmail, a whole lot of family and some sizzling romantic interludes could make Keri reconsider the old dream of Keri & Joe 2gether 4ever?
Shannon Stacey is an author I've been meaning to try for ages, and I've heard nothing but good things about her Kowalski series, even from people whose taste I usually share. Unfortunately, it looks like I'm the odd one out here, because I really disliked this. With other authors, I probably would have given up after being stuck for about 2 weeks at about the 20% mark, but I really did hope it would get better, so I kept pushing on. It did start to flow a bit better at one point, but it still didn't appeal to me.

The basic plot is an old lovers reunited one. Keri Daniels and Joe Kowalski were together through most of high school, and were mad about each other. After graduation, however, Keri broke up with Joe and left for California to make her name there. Joe didn't take this well at all. Now, some 20  years later, he's mostly over it. He's become a famous writer, one known for being reclusive and not talking to the media.

Keri now works for a celebrity magazine, one ran by a total barracuda of an editor. And the trouble starts when that editor finds out that Keri shares a past with Joe. She gives her an ultimatum: get an exclusive interview with him, and she'll get a promotion. Fail to do so, and she's out of a job.

With no other choices, Keri contacts Joe, expecting to be told to go to hell. Instead, Joe offers her a deal. If Keri joins the family in the annual Kowalski two-week camping trip, and participates in all the activities with them, he'll answer one question for every day she stays.

I was ok with the setup of the book, but the execution just got my back up. There were plenty of concrete issues (several of which I'll detail in the next paragraphs), but it was also the general sensibility of the book, the feeling that the author couldn't conceive of someone being happy without a husband or wife and a bunch of kids. There was a very telling line at one point, where Keri thinks of the past 20 years as spent choking down gourmet dinners just out of the microwave, which made me think of this book as the equivalent of that most annoying kind of smug married person who looks at you with pity if you're single.

Joe and Keri's relationship created really confused, even contradictory feelings in me. Unfortunately, most of them were unpleasant feelings. The romance actually had an interesting conflict. The reason why Keri had left Joe back when they were 18 was that she'd seen her mother completely disappear as a person, just become "Keri's mom", her husband's wife, and so on, and she wanted to be Keri Daniels, not just "Joe's girl". That made absolute and complete sense to me, and I wondered how Stacey would reconcile these feelings of Keri's with how Joe needed to be close to his family.

But, unfortunately,  that is not resolved at all. It's all "maybe being Joe's girl wouldn't be too bad", HEA, yay! What? The author completely glosses over the issue, and it annoyed me. But at the same time, I was having very strong, contradictory feelings. Even though, in abstract, I totally supported Keri's determination to not just give up the career she'd put so much work into, in practice, I found her actual career despicable and couldn't respect someone who'd want so badly to do it. Working for one of those scandal-mongering celebrity rags? Really? That was the career she valued so much? It's not much of a career, really, to be working for a trashy tabloid after 20 years.  And she had no compunctions at all about working for a magazine where even she freely admitted the stories were exploitative and written with a scandalous slant? Yeah, I totally judged her on that, and it made me not want to root for her.

It didn't help that Keri didn't feel like a cohesive character. We were being told things about her normal life that just didn't jibe with the character we were seeing on the page. She didn't think at all like a woman who valued her career so much. She was supposed to be this big city sophisticate, but then the whole "my skin regime alone takes 20 minutes every day, and that's even before I start on the hair and clothes" felt completely fake, too. The woman took to the camping like a duck to water, with no difficulty adjusting. She never made sense as a character.

Joe was a bit more coherent. Nice guy, regular guy, loves his family, still carries a torch for his high school girlfriend. Fine. Just... not very interesting, and this is from someone who absolutely loves a good beta hero.

Somethng else I disliked was that I found the sense of humour extremely juvenile. There is a lot of (attempted) humour here, and it just didn't work for me at all. Take the concept of "dirty Scrabble", with extra points for words none of the women can bring themselves to say, tee-hee!. Asinine. What are they, 13? Honestly, I may be a horrible potty-mouth, but there isn't a sexual word in the world I would refuse to say. I can think of a few words I'd feel uncomfortable saying even if not directed at a particular person, but these are basically on the racist, homophobic, generally hateful side, not merely "sexy", so I hardly think that's what Stacey had in mind. The only word they actually mention is "pubic". Seriously? In what fucking world is the word "pubic" dirty?? For fuck's sake!

Ok, I'm ranting and swearing now, so probably time to bring this to a close. Yeah, not a success, this one.

MY GRADE: A D. I was going to go for a C-, because I did kind of zip through the second half, at least, but then I remembered how long it took me to get into it, and how I stopped every 2 or 3 pages to roll my eyes. I really didn't enjoy this.


Instruments of Darkness, by Imogen Robertson

>> Saturday, November 17, 2012

TITLE: Instruments of Darkness
AUTHOR: Imogen Robertson

PAGES: 384

SETTING: 1780 England
TYPE: Historical mystery
SERIES: Starts a series following Harriet and Crowther.

In the year 1780, Harriet Westerman, the willful mistress of a country manor in Sussex, finds a dead man on her grounds with a ring bearing the crest of Thornleigh Hall in his pocket. Not one to be bound by convention or to shy away from adventure, she recruits a reclusive local anatomist named Gabriel Crowther to help her find the murderer, and historical suspense's newest investigative duo is born.

For years, Mrs. Westerman has sensed the menace of neighboring Thornleigh Hall, seat of the Earl of Sussex. It is the home of a once- great family that has been reduced to an ailing invalid, his whorish wife, and his alcoholic second son, a man haunted by his years spent as a redcoat in the Revolutionary War. The same day, Alexander Adams is slain by an unknown killer in his London music shop, leaving his children orphaned. His death will lead back to Sussex, and to an explosive secret that has already destroyed one family and threatens many others.
Mrs. Harriet Westerman has spent most of her adult life travelling the world with her naval commander husband, giving her experiences most other women in late 18th century England can't even imagine. Family circumstances and obligations, however, have meant that for the past couple of years she's stayed behind running her husband's country estate. One morning, while on a walk, she finds a dead body, a man whose throat has been slit. Being a sensible and non-squeamish woman, she takes matters into her own hands.

A reclusive, mysterious gentleman has recently moved to the village. His name is Gabriel Crowther, and gossip has it that he has the most disgusting preserved specimens of bodies in his study. Harriet has read one of his articles in a medical journal, and knows he's an anatomist, and one with a special interest in what can be deduced from dead bodies about the manner of their deaths. The perfect person to have a look at the body she's found, clearly.

Crowther is not happy to have his self-imposed solitude disturbed, but he agrees to go have a look. Their examination shows that the man is carrying a ring with the crest of the neighbouring Thornleigh Hall, home to the Earls of Sussex. This makes them fear he might have been the heir, Alexander, who abandoned the family decades earlier and hasn't been seen since.

And then it turns out that this death is only the first, and with the magistrate not particularly interested in finding the truth, it falls on Mrs. Westerman and Crowther to do so. And at the same time as this is going on, we follow events in London, where a man called Alexander Adams is murdered, and his children are under threat.

This was a solid historical mystery, with an interesting case and engaging characters I'd love to see more of.

On the "mystery" part of the "historical mystery" tag, I was mostly satisfied. The mystery itself is not bad at all. Even though we've got three threads from three different places and two different time-frames (Crowther and Harriet and the events in London, as mentioned, but also some sections set 5 years earlier, during the Revolutionary War in America, where the other son of Thornleigh Hall served), it's pretty straightforward, and not hard to guess the solution. I still enjoyed it.

I liked that Harriet and Crowther's investigation proceeds in a logical way. I never felt like shaking them for not doing the obvious, which is more than I can say about other mysteries, and their involvement in the investigation felt natural and understandable. I especially liked the application of very early forensics. Crowther doesn't have many tools at his disposal, but it's more of an attitude thing, the willigness to actually look at the body and attempt to base conclusions on the evidence on what can be discerned from it. That feels, from other characters' reactions, like a quite revolutionary attitude!

On the "historical" bit of the tag, that was actually really good as well. Harriet feels like quite the modern woman, and doesn't seem to have any constraints on what she can do, but that's explained by her past experiences. We don't get to find out much about her husband, but I can only assume he's the open-minded sort. All the other characters, though, feel more of the time. I have no idea how accurate it all is, but I can say that Robertson succeeded in creating a sense of place, a sense that this is a different world, and to give us quite a bit of colour.

One of the elements I enjoyed the most was Crowther and Harriet's developing relationship. This isn't a romance (at least not here, and I didn't really perceive any sort of sexual chemistry between these two, so I wouldn't expect the series to turn into one). They do become good friends, though, and it's a true meeting of minds. I got the feeling that there is a lot more to discover about these two. Crowther clearly has secrets in his past, and I suspect we haven't found out about all of them. Harriet remains even more of a cypher, especially since we see a lot less of her point of view than of Crowther's. We know she feels a bit constrained by being stuck in one place, compared to her previous life, and that she's intelligent and brave, if sometimes a bit foolhardy, but not much more. They're both interesting people, and I want to find out more about them.

The tone of the story is dark, and some really bad things happen (both to people and to animals -I suggest that if you've got an issue with animal experimentation, you skip this). It's not a grisly book, though, and I liked that quite a few of the secondary characters were really decent people. Even some of the bad ones were drawn with some subtlety. Well, a couple of people were irredeemably bad, but there was one particular person who I couldn't help but feel pity for, in spite of their actions. Anyway, the existence of several decent characters made the feel of the book a bit more hopeful and easier to read.

Before I conclude, I should mention this was an audiobook, and the narrator, Joanna Mackie was good. It looks, however, like the version in audible is narrated by someone else. The one my library has is this one, published by Oakhill.

MY GRADE: A strong B


Pushing The Limits, by Katie McGarry

>> Thursday, November 15, 2012

TITLE: Pushing The Limits
AUTHOR: Katie McGarry

PAGES: 416
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Teen

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: YA romance

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
Echo can't remember the traumatic night that pushed her mother out of her life and put her in hospital, Noah is struggling to keep in touch with his younger brothers after reacting against an abusive foster parent labelled him a troublemaker, a label that has followed him round in the system. Being respectively a "good girl" from a wealthy family and a "bad boy" in foster care, these two have never really interacted, although they've been definitely aware of each other. And then their counsellor at school decides to get Echo to tutor Noah.

I read maybe a quarter of this one, and it didn't really capture my attention and make me want to keep reading. Mostly, it felt very high-schooley and immature. Although Echo and Noah are very close to graduation and the biggest amongst their issues are on the grown-up side, so the book could therefore be considered to be closer to New Adult than Young Adult, it's very high-schooly. There's the big deal made of popularity in school, and how Echo is now a freak and an outsider, that made me roll my eyes. For heaven's sake, she and her friends seem not to have much of a problem that her popular friend will only be private friends with her, and will ignore her in public. All this stuff really alienated me, these are issues I have absolutely no empathy with. Which is exactly why I don't read YA, except for some very rare exceptions.

Actually, I'm still trying to figure out where I stand with YA on the whole. I know I can can take teenaged characters in certain non-romance contexts. Novels not set in a world other than our own seem to be fine (e.g. Hunger Games, or even Divergent), but also some set in our own have worked well. I've liked things like John Green's An Abundance of Katherines, which was set during the summer holidays, and Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star, with a paranormal plot and set in a London boarding school. I think it's the American high school setting that has me running in the opposite direction. Not sure where that allergy comes from, but there it is.

Something else to mention is that I started out listening to the audiobook, which had male and female narrators (MacLeod Andrews and Tara Sands) each reading the alternating sections from Echo and Noah's points of view. Good thing I'd got it from the library, because the female narrator was incredibly annoying, and I ended up switching to text after the first few chapters. Her rendition of Echo's friends' dialogue was exactly what you think when you think annoying teenage girl, and even her slightly more neutral non-dialogue sections were grating. Plus, McGarry often has her characters think a snarky response to a question, and then say something more acceptable, and with audio, it was difficult to tell which bit was spoken and which only thought.



Unraveled, by Courtney Milan

>> Tuesday, November 13, 2012

TITLE: Unraveled
AUTHOR: Courtney Milan

PAGES: 501
PUBLISHER: Self-published

SETTING: 19th century England (Bristol)
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Last in the Turner series

Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past--secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm's length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom...

Miranda Darling isn't in trouble...yet. But she's close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can't bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back--straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away...
Unraveled is the book that closes Courtney Milan's Turner series, which follows three brothers who grew up with a dangerously insane mother. Smite was the middle child, and the one who was left responsible for his youngest brother, Mark, when the oldest, Ash, left to make his fortune. Ash returned after a few years and, having acquired money and power, was now able to rescue his brothers. In the interim, however, Smite bore the brunt of his mother's insanity.

Now an adult, Smite has become a magistrate. Most of his fellow magistrates in Bristol take a pretty relaxed approach to justice, but not Smite. He's determined to make sure everyone, rich or poor, has access to real justice. He feels magistrates (and therefore, justice) failed him when he asked for help as a child, and wants to make sure other people have that. He's acquired a reputation as a rigid, cold man.

Miranda Darling is a young woman doing her best to survive in the dangerous slums of the city. In order to keep herself and Robbie, the teenage boy in her charge, safe, Miranda has entered into an agreement with the Patron, the shadowy figure who controls the area. In return for the Patron keeping Robbie out of the petty crime all the boys in the area get involved in (controlled, of course, by none other than the Patron), Miranda will use the skills she acquired growing up in an actors' company. Mainly, she puts on a character and gives false testimony to keep other people in the Patron's protection out of jail.

Miranda is a fine actress, but her skills with disguise are no match for Smite's photographic memory. It also doesn't help that something about this woman captures his attention. He recognises Miranda as the same person who was in his court a few months earlier, looking quite different and under another name, and confronts her about it. After this, Miranda doesn't feel she can work with the Patron any longer. But the Patron won't take no for an answer, and Miranda must continue to approach Smite...

Unraveled really, really worked for me. Having read a couple of reviews in my usual haunts after finishing the book, I know some readers have had issues with the justification of some of the decisions the characters make, such as Miranda's immediate acceptance of Smite's offer for her to become his mistress. I have to say, I didn't even blink at that. To me, it felt perfectly natural. Miranda had been portrayed up until then as a very pragmatic young woman, willing to do what she had to to protect herself and Robbie, even if it was strictly illegal. Over previous years, she was under the Patron's protection, so she didn't feel pressure to become anyone's mistress. But now that protection has not only been withdrawn, but turned into a threat. And here's a man she not only likes, but is extremely attracted to, offering her both protection but a sum of money big enough to set her up for the rest of her life. I felt the character Miranda had been established to be would have jumped at this opportunity, and so she did, especially since she was fooling herself that she wouldn't fall in love with Smite, or anything silly like that. Of course, that doesn't quite work out, neither for her nor for Smite.

These two fit perfectly well together. They seem to immediately understand who the other is, under their disguises, which, especially for Smite, is a revelation. I'm often bored by the more suspense-type elements in romances, but this was one case where these really helped develop the romance. I was afraid the issues with the Patron would turn into something truly tedious. The Patron blackmails Miranda, she hides it from Smite to protect him, he feels betrayed that she preferred doing something illegal to confiding in him when he finds out, blah, blah, blah, predictable, boring conflict. I shouldn't have feared Milan would lower herself to this. It appears at one point that it's going to go that way. And then Milan just turns things around completely, and this apparently cliched situation becomes fresh and original and develops Smite and Miranda romance in a very satisfying manner. I also quite liked the resolution of this element, the very subtle way Milan contrasts the different types of justice Smite and the Patron stand for.

Something else that was amazing was the brothers' relationships with one another. Most especially, I loved the way Smite and Ash's relationship evolves. There's a lot of pain and unacknowledged resentment there, in addition to very deep love, so the scenes these two have together are heart-wrenching. I also liked the way Smite's relationship with his illegitimate brother, Richard, develops. There's a very complicated past there, which you can only really appreciate if you read book 1, aggravated by the fact that these two were friends when at Eton, but then Richard did some very hurtful things, and Smite cut him off completely from his life.

I also really liked the setting. It's refreshing to have an urban setting outside of London, and to have it have such a vivid sense of place. It was wonderfully done. I'm still waiting for one set here in Liverpool, though!



Nightfire, by Lisa Marie Rice

>> Sunday, November 11, 2012

TITLE: Nightfire
AUTHOR: Lisa Marie Rice

PAGES: 320

SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Third in the Protectors series

Chloe Mason’s childhood memories consist of seemingly endless hospital stays. Now all grown up and healthy, her determination to fill the gaping holes in her past leads her to her long-lost brother, Harry . . . which brings Harry’s friend and business partner, Mike Keillor, crashing into her life and her heart.

Former Marine Force Recon sniper and SWAT officer—a martial arts expert and owner of a successful security company—Mike can deal coolly and efficiently with any threat . . . until he’s blindsided by something he never expected: fierce, fiery passion . . . and love.

But when Chloe inadvertently crosses the Russian mob, Mike realizes that evil is darkening his world once again. He has already lost his family; he will not lose the woman who enflames him, who makes him whole. Failure is not an option.
Chloe Mason hasn't had an easy life. She was gravely injured as a child by her mother's partner, and then adopted by her rich aunt. She spent the next 10 years in hospital, undergoing operation after operation for her injuries. It was a lonely life, as her aunt's sense of obligation extended only to paying for treatment, not to affection, or even visits. When she was well enough to go home with her aunt, it soon became clear the woman's husband was a pervert, so off she went to boarding school.

Now both aunt and uncle have died, and Chloe has inherited their estate. Amongst their papers, she discovers evidence that she has a brother, one who her aunt refused to adopt with her. As the book starts, she's waiting to see him at the business he owns with two partners.

That brother is Harry Bolt, hero of the first book in the series, Into The Crossfire. Harry is ecstatic to discover his beloved little sister is still alive, and welcomes her into the family with open arms. But it's one of his partners, Mike, who's happiest to meet her. Mike has been a bit of a hound dog (well, a total hound dog, actually) with women, but as soon as he meets Chloe, that's it for him. Unfortunately for Mike, his previous behaviour means that Harry is especially protective of Chloe where Mike is concerned.

And then all hell breaks lose, when Chloe's innocent actions put the Russian mafia on her trail, and Mike has no choice but to brush aside Harry's objections.

Things start out with a chemistry between Chloe and Mike that is intense, even for LMR. I was fanning myself, and then things come to a head. Mike's particularly sleazy actions the night before come back to bit him in the ass, and Harry puts a stop to his rapidly budding relationship with his sister.

I was very conflicted about this. On one hand, these two are patriarchal idiots. Who the hell does Harry think he is, forbidding Mike to go after his sister? And why does Mike just accept that, not even taking into account what Chloe might want? But on the other hand, I was a bit queasy myself, as I read the book and saw Mike going so strongly after Chloe in such a sexual way, when the aftereffects of the sleazy night before were still being felt. I was even feeling he should back off, that it all felt, well, yes, a bit sleazy. And also, I'm glad that for once, the hero's promiscuity and the sordidness of his sex life is presented as something bad, rather than a mark of manhood, and that he suffers some adverse consequences on him.

A few months of nothing (really nothing, Mike is now "disgusted" by other women *rolls eyes*), and then Chloe is in danger, and everything moves ridiculously fast. It was hot, but I kind of wanted a bit more of the falling in love process. Most of it seems to happen kind of off the page, in the months we gloss over. I quite enjoyed the romance, in the end (in spite of myself, as usual), but it could have been better.

The secondary characters were a mixed bag. The couples from the previous two books were nauseating. I actually liked them in their own books, but here, the overwhelming smugness made me want to puke. My favourite character was Consuelo, the prostitute Chloe tries to help. Some of her scenes made me tear up (especially when, after years of being exploited, she's finally treated with respect by someone), and I loved the hint at a possible romance for her. I loved that she wasn't portrayed as a pitiful victim, but as someone who basically rescues herself, taking a massive risk. I would love to read more about her, especially that romance!



A Matter of Class, by Mary Balogh

>> Friday, November 09, 2012

TITLE: A Matter of Class
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh

PAGES: 2009
PUBLISHER: Vanguard Press

SETTING: Early 19th century England
TYPE: Romance

Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by title, a factor that pains him and his father within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancement arises, namely, Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family, Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her branded as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Reginald Mason, Senior, wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Reginald Senior serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in their suffering.

So begins an intoxicating tale rife with dark secrets, deception, and the trials of love—a story in which very little is as it seems.
The families of Bernard Mason and the Earl of Havercroft have lived in neighbouring estates for decades, ever since Mr. Mason bought his property, after making enough money to leave behind his early life. Mr. Mason started out in life as a coal miner, and the Earl was shocked that such a man would dare to buy the property next door to his. He forbid his family to ever speak to anyone in the Mason household, and for over 20 years, the families have completely ignored each other.

At 24, Reggie Mason has become a complete wastrel. He does nothing useful with his life and his gambling debts are getting out of hand. His father is sick of it, and he presents Reggie with a ultimatum: get married to a young woman of Mr. Mason's choosing. But that's so unfair, Reggie protests. At least he hasn't caused the sort of scandal that Havercroft's daughter Annabelle has, running off with the family coachman. And of course, on hearing that, Mr. Mason has a bright idea about who to get Reggie married to.

I'm reluctant to say too much about the plot, as this is one Balogh book where the concept of spoilers is actually relevant. However, in order to properly discuss what worked and didn't work for me, I'm going to have to go into some detail (although trying to stay relatively cryptic!). So be warned if you continue reading this, you might enjoy the book more if you don't know some of these details!

Anyway, with no choice in the matter, Reggie and Annabel become engaged, and their families finally start to mix (with no little reluctance, on Havercroft's part). But as we follow them in the lead-up to the wedding, we start getting flash-back scenes, starting when Reggie and Annabelle were children. It quickly becomes clear that, contrary to what their parents think, this is very definitely not the first time these two have met, and there might be more to things than first meets the eye.

What Balogh tries to do here is clever, but it didn't quite work for me in its execution. I had a niggling feeling that Balogh hadn't played fair. I like a twist, but it didn't feel quite natural that, having been in the relevant characters' heads, certain information that would have been pretty prominent in their minds had been withheld from us. Balogh has these people thinking in a way that they wouldn't have, really, in those circumstances. Even more importantly, I felt that I didn't really get to see Reggie and Annabelle fall in love (possibly because of the restrictions the coming twist placed on the author), and as a result, the romance wasn't as satisfying as it might have been.

So, for me, the experiment didn't quite worth. It's probably worth a try if you normally like Balogh, though, since quite a few people whose taste is usually in line with mine did enjoy it. Just get it out of the library, it's way overpriced for a hardcover.



One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing, by Jasper Fforde

>> Wednesday, November 07, 2012

TITLE: One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing
AUTHOR: Jasper Fforde

PAGES: 388
PUBLISHER: Hodden & Stoughton

SETTING: The Bookworld, and an alternate version of our world
TYPE: Fiction
SERIES: 6th entry in the Thursday Next series

It is a time of unrest in the BookWorld. Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?

All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worthy of her illustrious namesake.

The fictional Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself.
It took me a while to pick up this book after reading the fifth one in the series. Even though I quite liked First Among Sequels, parts of the plot felt a bit tired, as if Fforde didn't know quite where to take Thursday's story and had reached the end of that road. There was a definite whiff of staleness there.
One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing gets around this issue by moving the focus from the real Thursday to her written version, the Thursday who lives in the Bookworld and plays that character in the books written about her adventures.

The Bookworld is on the verge of a very damaging conflict, as hostilities between Racy Novel and Women's Fiction and Feminism increase. Speedy Muffler, Racy Novel's leader is threatening to unleash a dirty bomb (of badly written sex scenes, of course, which would then spread to other genres). Peace talks are coming up soon and Thursday Next is supposed to lead them. She's the only person who's got a hope of getting all parties to stand down. Except, the real-life Thursday is missing.

OOOTIM was loads of fun. Much as I enjoy the usual Thursday, I loved spending some time with the written one. With a very different personality to that of her real-life counterpart, Written!Thursday strives to play her character as Real!Thursday wishes to be played (more tree-hugging, less sex and violence, basically). This has meant a precipitous decline in readers, something she pretends she isn't concerned about. Real!Thursday could sometimes feel a bit cold and mechanical, in the last books, but Written!Thursday never does. In some ways, she feels more real than the real one. I also was very intrigued by how she had her own personality, but playing Thursday influenced how she felt and reacted as well.

I also thought the move back into the Bookworld was a good one. The outside world in this series is an interesting one, but it can't really compare with the stuff Fforde comes up with when he's describing what goes on iside books. I just loved to read about the detail of the whole thing: the way things work, the different genre districts and areas and what's in them (the dangerous mimefield in Comedy was priceless), the zones between them and the intergenre politics. Fforde is a brilliant satirist, and he had me laughing out loud as I recognised the reality behind his exaggeration. There was something completely new as well: the detail of what it means to be read, and what the characters need to do when that happens. Best of all, while the last book was a bit pseudo-jargon heavy and the technical details got a bit boring, that's never the case here.

Best of all: Fforde combines his brilliant world-building with a good, solid whodunnit, and that makes the whole work perfectly.



Make Room for What Was Lost

>> Monday, November 05, 2012

TITLE: Make Room! Make Room!
AUTHOR: Harry Harrison

This was the book for my October book club. It's a futuristic, written in 1966, but set in 1999, in a world where overpopulation has taken a terrible toll. Water, food, housing, everything is running out, and millions live either in indigence or on the edge of it. As things get worse and worse, we follow police detective Andy Rusch as he investigates the murder of a powerful mafioso, and falls in love with Shirl, the murdered man's mistress.

The most notable thing about this one is really how, for all its 1999 setting, this reflects the time in which it was written. Overpopulation is the big worry, gender roles are pretty retrograde, and so on. I found all these details pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the story Harrison chose to tell in that setting was very humdrum. Neither the mystery (which wasn't much of a mystery, anyway) nor Andy and Shirl's relationship captured my attention. I did like that Harrison portrays Shirl as a survivor, and doesn't demonise her for doing what she can to have a good life.

MY GRADE: C+. I enjoyed the idea of it and the setting, but it needed a better story.

Semi-interesting factoid: the film Soylent Green was apparently inspired by this book. Don't get too excited, though: the big, shocking plot point of the film is not in the book at all.

TITLE: What Was Lost
AUTHOR: Catherine O'Flynn

In 1984, a 10-year-old wannabe PI dissappears without a trace. 20 years later, two employees in the shopping centre that was one of the little girl's usual haunts start noticing a mysterious little girl wandering the service corridors at weird times. Thinking it can't really be a ghost, they investigate.

This was one of those books where you have absolutely no idea where the author's going, and I quite enjoyed that. The sections narrated from little Kate Meaney's point of view, as she compensates for the loneliness of her life after the death of her father by creating a very vivid imaginary life, are truly touching. I also really liked the sections featuring Lisa and Kurt at the shopping centre. They are a very good character study of two people caught in a world (and the behind-the-scenes at the shopping centre truly is a world of its own) they never intended to spend much time in, but where they seem to be trapped in by their feelings of alienation. The link between the two sections is obvious, but it's meaning and what it implies isn't. It was a book that left me feeling sad, but hopeful.



You Belong To Me, by Karen Rose

>> Saturday, November 03, 2012

TITLE: You Belong To Me
AUTHOR: Karen Rose

PAGES: 480

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic suspense
SERIES: None (although there are some recurring characters)


When forensic pathologist Lucy Trask stumbles across a mutilated body in her local Baltimore park, its face unrecognisable, her sole concern is that it might be her old school teacher Mr Pugh.


On identification Lucy is shocked to discover that the victim is actually another man from her past. Who killed him and why he was left for Lucy to find is unclear but what appears to be a number ‘1’ burned into his back proclaims that this corpse won’t be the last.


The discovery of a second body – also branded on the back – raises worrying questions: how many more lives may be at risk before the killer’s real intent is revealed? And can Lucy solve the killer’s gruesome puzzle before his thirst for revenge is complete?
As the story begins, Baltimore Medical Examiner Lucy Trask arrives home to discover a body, left right where she would find it. It turns out it's someone who was connected to her in the past. And so was the second body. Each of the bodies has a number branded on it, making it clear that they're not isolated incidents, and the killer is not finished. And what's also clear is that something in Lucy's past holds the key to the solution.

Karen Rose was a revelation when I first discovered her books, but in the past couple of years, I've kind of gone off her a little bit. Her books have become a bit too grimy and gritty for my taste, the violence and ugliness a bit too horrific and the body count too high. Case in point, this one.

Oh, it was very competently done. The puzzle element of the mystery was really good, and right till the end, I wanted to know what would happen. Rose is excellent at setting up the situation and then giving us small clue after small clue, allowing us to keep up with her detectives, who as always, are clever and know what they're doing. So I enjoyed the whodunnit element, even as I felt slightly sickened by the results.

Rose is also one of the very few people who can pull off a romance in the context of such a dark suspense plot, without making it feel inappropriate. This one wasn't one of her most successful, mainly because I didn't quite get Lucy (there was a bit of WTF with her secret life and her secrets in general), but JD Fitzpatrick, the detective she falls in love with was a great character. I especially liked that he was a lot kinder and gentler than the rough, burnt-out cops I'm used to in romantic suspense. From the moment he shows up on the scene he's polite. He's nice. He's also only just started in homicide, so he's very much junior to his female partner, and I loved their relationship. JD does have a lot of experience as a cop, and in Narcotics, no less, so it's not like he's a fresh-faced rookie, but still, it made for a character who was different from the usual.

So, all in all, an ok book. Not amongst Rose's best (which are her early ones, IMO), but solid enough.



October 2012 reads

>> Thursday, November 01, 2012

Not the greatest month. Even the best ones were only Bs (not even a measly B+!), and I had more C+s than usual.

Thicker Than Blood, by Meljean Brook: B
review coming soon

Short story in the First Blood anthology, one I'd missed the first time around. It tells the story of Annie, a vampire, and the man she loved before her transformation separated them. It's set in the Guardians universe, but a bit separate, with the characters we know and love making only cameo appearances. I didn't mind, it was a good one.

Murder At The Vicarage, by Agatha Christie: B
review here

Audiobook of the first Miss Marple. The body of a horrid man no one likes is found shot in the vicarage. The police investigate, but it's Miss Marple who sees all the clues. Miss Marple is not quite the full character she develops into, but she's still great. Interesting case, too, even if the solution is a bit overcomplex.

One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing, by Jasper Fforde: B
review coming soon

6th in the Thursday Next series. Hostilities are about to break out between Racy Novel and its neighbours, Women's Fiction and Feminism, and Thursday is the only one who can ensure peace negotiations are successful. Problem is, Thursday has disappeared, and the written Thursday, the person/character who plays her in the books, is the only one who can find her. Fun, fun, fun!

Nightfire, by Lisa Marie Rice: B
review coming soon

Third and last in LMR's The Protectors series, and really is Mike very protective of his friend Harry's long-lost little sister, especially when she gets targeted by Russian hit men. Not my favourite by the author, but I did get what I was here for: the hero's total devotion towards the heroine.

A Matter of Class, by Mary Balogh: B-
review coming soon

Wastrel young man forced by his Cit father to marry compromised young woman, daughter of a nobleman in financial trouble (who, in turn, is forcing her to marry). More to this than it appears at first sight. What Balogh tries to do here is quite clever, but it didn't quite work for me in its execution.

Three Fates, by Nora Roberts: B-
original review here

One of Nora's 3-in-1 books. We follow 3 couples falling in love as they travel the world in search of 3 little statues of the Fates. Honestly, I've no idea why, out of all the NRs I've adored, I picked this one to reread. It's not bad, but I didn't think it was great when I first read it, and I actually liked it a little bit less this time.

I did really like the friendship between the women and Tia's character arc (she goes from completely pathetic to a brave woman taking control of her own life in a way that felt natural). The secondary characters are good, and the plot is clever. However, I wasn't emotionally invested in any of the couples (in fact, smug Rebecca and Jack annoyed the hell out of me), and the gender dynamics felt a bit more old-fashioned than usual with NR. Jack's first wife was... *gasp*... a career woman who didn't want kids and didn't help his gran clear the table!

Divergent, by Veronica Roth: C+
review coming soon

Set in a world where people have organised society in factions based on one characteristic. The 16-year-old heroine grew up in Abnegation (the selfless), but it turns out she's "divergent", not clearly defined by a single characteristic. We follow her as she chooses which faction she'll spend the rest of her life in. The world-building is preposterous and the heroine can be really, really, really dense, but it's a page-turner, and strangely compelling. I doubt I'll read the next in the series, though.

Deja Dead, by Kathy Reichs: : C+
review here

Audiobook. Starts the Temperance Brennan series, of which I've read books 4 to 6. Tempe is a forensic anthropologist in Quebec, and this book sees her on the trail for a serial killer. Not too bad, and it's a real page-turner, but it did have a couple too many TSTL moments.

Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison: C+
review coming soon

Read for my book club. Futuristic, written in 1966, but set in 1999. Harrison imagines a world on the edge of catastrophe due to overpopulation, and sets a noir-ish police investigation there. Interesting example of how much a futuristic reflects the time in which it was written. Liked the world-building, not so much the story.

Pushing The Limits, by Katie McGarry: DNF
review coming soon

YA novel. Good girl / bad boy romance. Both main characters are outcasts in school, and have quite big issues to work through, setting things up for loads of angst. I read maybe a quarter of this one, and it didn't really capture my attention. Mostly, it felt very high-schooley, and that does not appeal to me AT ALL. I need a bit more maturity in a romance.

Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife, by Mary Roach: still reading
review coming soon

Also published as Spook in the US, Six Feet Over explores all sorts of issues related to death and what happens right after. Fascinating, full of material I didn't know and had never wondered about. Still not completely sure about Roach's writing style, though.


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