book log 2015 – February

Yes, I am slow at my book log, which is why some of these have only brief comments…

7) Cecilia Tan — The Siren and the Sword
Previously reviewed. I liked it a lot, enough to buy the series box set when it came out recently.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Kobo

8) Doranna Durgin – Barrenlands
Reviewed earlier this week. A short fantasy novel offering an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.
http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/barrenlands/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/barrenlands

9) Helena Newbury – Dance for Me

Natasha’s a ballet student who uses dance as one of her ways of coping with her demons, not always successfully. Darrell’s an engineering genius who designs weapon delivery systems as a way of coping with _his_ demons. Darrell’s stuck on his latest design, and then finds inspiration in watching a ballerina dance – so much so that he hires Natasha to dance for him privately at his workshop. They fall for one another, but they’re very damaged people and the road will be hard, even without someone deliberately trying to break the relationship up before it really gets started. Cue much angst before the happy ending. That happy ending acknowledges that True Love doesn’t magically fix everything, and Natasha and Darrell have a long way to go before their demons are vanquished. That the characters recognise this make it much more believable that they really will make it work in the long run.

This wasn’t a bad read, but it did need rather a lot of willing suspension of disbelief regarding a lone genius being allowed to work on a a secret defence contract in his garage. It also leans heavily on the Evil Brit trope for the plot’s antagonist; which doubtless appeals to many not-British readers, but was merely irritating to me. I’m glad I read it and would happily read the next, but I’m not desperate to rush out and buy it.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

10) Mindy Klasky – Perfect Pitch (The Diamond Brides series Book 1)

Contemporary romance starting with a baseball star who is unwise enough to publicly sneer at the local beauty queen, only to find that a) this is bad PR with the team’s supporters and his manager is not amused, b) the beauty queen is no dumb blonde, and she’s not amused either. They soon realise there’s more to both of them than meets the public eye, but they’re also very much in the public eye, and Samantha’s contest contract includes a morality clause…

A pleasant enough read. Currently on offer as a start-of-series freebie.

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/perfect-pitch/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/perfect-pitch-1

11) Margery Allingham – A Cargo of Eagles (audiobook)
Abridged audiobook of the last Campion novel, read by Phillip Franks. Enjoyable, and as usual with this series of Hachette abridged CD sets, can be enjoyed even if you aren’t already familair with the novel.
Amazon UK

12) Ashley Gardner — The Hanover Square Affair
First in a Regency-set mystery series. Excellent historical mystery, and on my list of series to pursue when I’ve made some headway on Mount TBR. Currently free as a series promo.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-hanover-square-affair

Book log 2015: 9) Helena Newbury – Dance for Me

Natasha’s a ballet student who uses dance as one of her ways of coping with her demons, not always successfully. Darrell’s an engineering genius who designs weapon delivery systems as a way of coping with _his_ demons. Darrell’s stuck on his latest design, and then finds inspiration in watching a ballerina dance – so much so that he hires Natasha to dance for him privately at his workshop. They fall for one another, but they’re very damaged people and the road will be hard, even without someone deliberately trying to break the relationship up before it really gets started. Cue much angst before the happy ending. That happy ending acknowledges that True Love doesn’t magically fix everything, and Natasha and Darrell have a long way to go before their demons are vanquished. That the characters recognise this make it much more believable that they really will make it work in the long run.

This wasn’t a bad read, but it did need rather a lot of willing suspension of disbelief regarding a lone genius being allowed to work on a a secret defence contract in his garage. It also leans heavily on the Evil Brit trope for the plot’s antagonist; which doubtless appeals to many not-British readers, but was merely irritating to me. I’m glad I read it and would happily read the next, but I’m not desperate to rush out and buy it.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Book log 2015: 8) Doranna Durgin – Barrenlands

Prequel fantasy novel which works well as a standalone. The Barrenlands of the title are a magical wasteland that forms an almost impassable border territory between two countries. But where there is a border, there will be crossings, and people who make a living bringing things across that border, whether it is with or without the blessing of the governments concerned. Ehran, head of the King’s Guard, will end up tangling with it more than once in his quest first to find the murderers of his beloved king, and then to find and dispose of the family of the king’s brother. He’s been sent on the latter mission supposedly to prevent the exile trying to seize the throne from the king’s young son, a mission he rightly sees as a means of getting him out of the way of an unknown traitor within the court.

Some nice world-building here, with appealing characters and a worthwhile mystery. It’s obvious from the first who the villain is, because Ehren’s not stupid and already has his suspicions. But means and motive are another matter, and untangling those make for an entertaining story. A short novel offering an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/barrenlands/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/barrenlands

Book Log: Mr Bingo – Hate Mail: the Definitive Collection

I had far too much fun backing random “that looks interesting/amusing” publishing projects on Kickstarter a few months ago, and the fruits are now falling into my letterbox. Yesterday’s was this:

Hilariously obscene collection of Mr Bingo’s favourites from his Hate Mail project – pay good money to a professional artist to have him draw a lovingly rendered insult on the back of an item from his collection of vintage postcards, and post it to you. Having done nearly a thousand of these, he then launched a Kickstarter to publish his favourites as a high quality art book. Whether or not you enjoy the contents depends very much on your sense of humour, but if it is your sort of thing, here it is in a physical object that’s a work of art in itself. It’s printed on heavy art paper, Smyth-sewn, clothbound casing, and tastefully stamped in gold foil with the title on the spine and a line drawing on the front cover reflecting the contents. That line drawing being of an octopus putting two fingers up at the world with all eight legs…

Book review: Diana Green – Bronze Fox

Posting well out of order since this is a review copy. I may or may not get earlier book log done…

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author through Reading Alley in exchange for an honest review.

Tobias is both a fox shapeshifter and a rifter – someone who crosses the rifts between worlds. He works as a field agent for a covert organisation that tries to control rift traffic, but he’s of an independent mind even if he’s loyal to the organisation. He needs a partner agent suited to him, not one chosen for him to suit others’ views.

Etty’s from the slums, barely earning a living by disguising herself as a boy and driving her dad’s hackney carriage after he was injured. She’s driving the nearest cab when Tobias needs a quick getaway one night, and her world will never be the same again.

Tobias may have stumbled upon the perfect sidekick, but first he’ll have to convince the people who pay his wages. And even if he does, there’s a baptism of fire waiting for the new partnership. There’s a whisper of new technology that could change the rift worlds forever — and it’s in the hands of a vicious criminal.

This is an excellent fantasy thriller with a strong romance subplot. The lead characters are engaging and well drawn, and I finished the book wanting to spend more time with them. There’s some good world-building, with the main setting being roughly Victorian with low key magic, but references and scenes that make it clear the rift links to worlds at different levels of social and technological development.

This is the first book in a series, and sets up the universe and series arc. It does an excellent job of wrapping up its own story without an annoying cliffhanger while still pointing the way to the next book. I’ve been annoyed of late by too many books that tried to force me to buy the next by not giving me the resolution to the story – this book does it the better way, by making me want to spend more time in this world.

I’ve only two minor criticisms; there’s a scene that’s flat out “beautiful blue-eyed blonde girl awes the primitive natives”, and there are some formatting glitches in my copy that made two chapters very difficult to read. It’s a measure of how much I was enjoying the book that I persisted through the section with scrambled formatting.

Overall a very enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

book log 2015: 7) Cecilia Tan — The Siren and the Sword

Hey, look – book log! Less than four months after reading the book! Posted only two months after writing the notes!

(Disclosure: I don’t know the author particularly well, but I’ve long admired her work as an editor, and have submitted material to her publishing house in the past. This hasn’t had any impact on my reaction to the book, other than I wouldn’t have known about a promo deal on the new edition and run off to buy it if I didn’t have her blog on my LiveJournal feed.)

Erotic fantasy novel which is quite openly inspired by Harry Potter. “Inspired by” means “loving homage”, not “rip-off”; this is a worthy novel in its own right, and could be enjoyed as such by someone who’s never read any of Rowling’s books (or indeed any of the other speculative fiction Tan pays homage to). But it’s most easily described as what would happen if Harry Potter was an American taking up a scholarship at Harvard University, and on arrival walking into the admin office of a faculty housed in buildings which aren’t findable by most people on the campus, to the confusion of himself and the faculty administrators. Since we’re dealing with undergraduates here, there’s sex. Lots of sex. Sex for actual plot purposes, no less, and all the better for it. For there is indeed a plot, concerning the covert presence on campus of a siren, what that is, and the dangers it poses to the students. It’s intertwined with various other plot threads, most of which are resolved satisfactorily while leaving openings for further stories about next year’s adventures. While I think there’s some room for improvement, it’s well written, by someone who understands her material. I liked it a lot, enough to want to read the next one in the series (a quartet of novels plus a collection of short stories). If that brief description sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, I’d recommend you try it out — the prologue and first chapter are available as free samples on Amazon and other online retailers.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
Kobo

book log 2015 – January summary

Summary of the books read in January, posted only a month or so late… All were reviewed in more detail earlier in the blog.

1) Ben Goldacre: Bad Pharma
Excellent non-fiction analysis of the problem of biased research in the pharmaceuticals industry.
Kobo, Amazon US, Amazon UK

2) Gemma Halliday – Spying in High Heels
Chicklit mystery, not to my taste.
Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

3) Christmas in the Duke’s Arms
Regency romance anthology with linked novelettes by four authors, set in a small village one Christmas.
Amazon UK, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Kobo

4) Pati Nagle — Dead Man’s Hand
A lovely short ghost novel for Halloween, with the emphasis on the human soul rather than on horror.
direct from Book View Cafe, Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia

5) Summer Devon — The Gentleman and the Lamplighter
Gentle and lovely Victorian m/m romance.
Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Kobo

6) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett — Good Omens
Yes. Well. I mentioned on Twitter while reading the book and when I wrote my review that it coloured the book to be re-reading it for the first time since Pterry announced The Embuggerance. I posted the review two days before he died. It’s no bad thing to be reminded of why he was so special.
Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Kobo