jacey: (blue eyes)
I did well this year – almost a hundred books read from cover to cover. I’m not counting books I bought and used for research because I don’t tend to read them in linear fashion, I cherrypick sections and information. The only non-fiction on this list has been read cover to cover. You can find full reviews of everything on this list at my Goodreads account or on my blog here. Filter by booklog 2016. (Note the numbers may not correspond exactly.)

So what have I been reading in 2016? Well, since I’ve also been busy writing I’ve tried to read books that haven’t interefered with my writing train-of-thought-at-the-time. Mostly I’ve succeeded. Highlights of 2016 have been:


  • the discovery of Jodi Taylor’s St. Marys books, wacky but with serious stakes

  • Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duo and the rest of her Grisha books

  • Gaie Sebold’s Babylon Steel novels which I’ve been meaning to read for a few years and finally managed it

  • Ann Aguirre’s final Sirantha Jax book which i kept putting off reading because I didn’t want the series to end

  • catching up with Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels at long last – now i can’t wait for the next one

  • Sean Danker’s The Admiral

  • finally finding a Zelazny that wows me. (A Night in the Lonesome October, narrated by Jack the Ripper’s dog.)

  • reading more Georgette Heyer Regency romances – always a delight

Here’s my full reading list.

FICTION


  1. Patricia Briggs: Fire Touched – Mercy Thompson #9

  2. Andy Weir: The Martian.

  3. Lois McMaster Bujold: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – Vorkosi #16

  4. Paul Cornell: The Witches of Lychford

  5. Seanan McGuire: Every Heart a Doorway

  6. Julie Kagawa: The Iron King – The Iron Fey #1

  7. David Tallerman: Patchwerk

  8. Jim C Hines: Codex Born – Magic ex-Libris #2

  9. Benedict Jacka: Taken – Alex Verus #3

  10. Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Tiger and the Wolf – Echoes of the Fall #1

  11. Zen Cho: Sorcerer to the Crown – Sorcerer Royal #1

  12. Emma Newman: Between Two Thorns – Split Worlds #1

  13. Veronica Roth: Insurgent – Divergent #2

  14. Liesel Schwarz: A Conspiracy of Alchemists  – Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1

  15. Ann Aguirre: Endgame – Sirantha Jax #6

  16. Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows – Six of Crows #1

  17. Anne Gracie: The Perfect Rake – Merridew Sisters #1

  18. Georgette Heyer: The Masqueraders

  19. Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Cinder Spires #1

  20. Diana Gabaldon: Virgins – Outlander (novella)

  21. Rachael Miles: Chasing the Heiress – The Muses Salon #2

  22. Tim Powers: Down and Out in Purgatory

  23. Guy Haley: The Emperor’s Railroad – Dreaming Cities #1

  24. Tim Lebbon: Pieces of Hate with Dead Man’s Hand

  25. Sarah Hegger: The Bride Gift

  26. Gaie Sebold: Babylon Steel

  27. Jodi Taylor: Just one Damn Thing After Another – Chronicles of St Mary’s #1

  28. Jodi Taylor: A Symphony of Echoes – Chronicles of St Mary’s #2

  29. Jodi Taylor: A Second Chance – Chronicles of St Mary’s #3

  30. Jodi Taylor: A Trail Through Time – Chronicles of St Mary’s #4

  31. Jodi Taylor: The Very First Damn Thing – Chronicles of St Mary’s 0.5

  32. Jodi Taylor: When a Child is Born – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 2.5

  33. Jodi Taylor: Roman Holiday – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 3.5

  34. Jodi Taylor: No Time Like the Past – Chronicles of St Mary’s #5

  35. Jodi Taylor: Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 6.5

  36. Jodi Taylor: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? – Chronicles of St Mary’s #6

  37. Jodi Taylor: Christmas Present – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 4.5

  38. Jodi Taylor: Lies, Damned Lies and History – Chronicles of St Mary’s #7

  39. Joe Hill: The Fireman

  40. Benedict Jacka: Chosen – Alex Verus #4

  41. Lisa Tuttle: The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief

  42. Peter S. Beagle: Summerlong

  43. Tom Lloyd: Stranger of Tempest (Couldn’t finish)

  44. Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch

  45. Benedict Jacka: Hidden – Alex Verus #5

  46. Isabella Barclay: A Bachelor Establishment

  47. Walter Jon Williams: Voice of the Whirlwind

  48. Alexandra Bracken: The Passenger

  49. Eileen Putman: The Dastardly Duke – Love in Disguise #2

  50. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric & the Shaman – Penric & Desemona #2

  51. Georgette Heyer: The Quiet Gentleman

  52. Karen Tuft: The Earl’s Betrothal

  53. Sally MacKenzie: What to do with a Duke – The Spinster House #1

  54. Julie Daines: Willowkeep

  55. Kevin Hearne: The Purloined Poodle – Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

  56. Willow Palecek: City of Wolves

  57. Georgette Heyer: Sylvester

  58. Georgette Heyer: Devil’s Cub

  59. Georgette Heyer: Regency Buck

  60. Jodi Taylor: The Great St Mary’s Day Out – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story

  61. Regina Scott: The Husband Campaign – The Master Matchmakers #3

  62. C.E.Murphy: House of Cards – The Negotiator #2

  63. Allison Butler: The Healer – Borderland Brides #1

  64. Sean Danker: The Admiral – Evagardian #1

  65. Jodi Taylor: The Nothing Girl

  66. Cassandra Rose Clarke: The Wizard’s Promise

  67. Jodi Taylor: Little Donkey

  68. Donna Lea Simpson: Lord St Claire’s Angel

  69. Roger Zelazny: A Night in the Lonesome October

  70. Georgette Heyer: The Talisman Ring

  71. Alastair Reynolds: Revenger

  72. Janis Susan May: Miss Morrison’s Second Chance

  73. Regina Jeffers: Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep

  74. Leigh Bardugo: Crooked Kingdom – Six of Crows #2

  75. Leigh Bardugo: Shadow and Bone – The Grisha #1

  76. Leigh Bardugo: Siege and Storm – The Grisha #2

  77. Leigh Bardugo: Ruin and Rising – The Grisha #3

  78. Sean Danker: Free Space – Evagardian #2

  79. C.C. Aune: The Ill-Kept Oath

  80. Den Patrick: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade – Erebus Sequence #1

  81. Julia Quinn: The Duke and I – Bridgertons #1

  82. Benedict Jacka: Veiled – Alex Verus #6

  83. John Scalzi: Miniatures – The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi

  84. Julia Quinn: The Viscount who Loved Me – Bridgertons #2

  85. Benedict Jacka: Burned – Alex Verus #7

  86. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Mission – Penric #3

  87. Bianca Blythe: A Rogue to Avoid – Matchmaking for Wallflowers #2

  88. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon – Penric #1

  89. Gaie Sebold: Dangerous Gifts – Babylon Steel #2

  90. Nick Wood: Azanian Bridges

  91. Genevieve Cogman: The Burning Page – Invisible Library #3

  92. Jodi Taylor: My Name is Markham – Chronicles of St Mary’s short story

NON-FICTION


  1. David McKie: What’s in a Surname

  2. Allison Kinney: Hood

  3. Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward: Writing the Other

  4. Susanne Alleyn: Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders

  5. Louise Allen: Walks Through Regency London

jacey: (blue eyes)
Voice of the WhirlwindEtienne Steward is a beta, a clone activated when his alpha is killed - murdered. Alpha Steward paid the insurance to store his clone then failed to update the memories. Beta Steward's memories stop fifteen years before Alpha Steward was killed. He knows nothing about the bitter Artefact War, fought over the loot on a deserted alien planet. he knows nothing of the aliens themselves, whose return put an end to the fighting between policorps, but not to the animosity.

Beta Steward, penniless, accepts a shady job from Griffith, a soldier who fought on Sheol in the Artefact War, and is sucked into a little not-quite-legal work on the side when he eventually gets his wish and goes back into space as an engineer on a cargo vessel plying its trade between stations in the solar system.

Things get complicated when Steward is taken to be his own alpha and is accused of murder. Getting more out of the interrogation than he gives, Steward begins to add things up and piece together what his alpha was doing to get himself killed. There's a nicely twisty plot. I did wonder whether the alpha was actually dead, but credit to the author that the plot didn't go where I expected it to.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Bachelor EstablishmanrIsabella Barclay is the pen name of Jodi Taylor, the writer of the St Marys historical time-travel books. This time she's written a straight historical. This is a Regency romance with a difference. Both protagonists have been round the block a few times and have given up on love. Neither is in the first flush of youth. Yay for middle-aged romantics.

Elinor Bascombe, a middle aged widow with a penchant for hard riding, almost tramples her new neighbour, Lord Ryde, while taking an illegal shortcut across his land. Ryde has neglected his property for years, taking whatever rents it yields while putting no effort into caring for the land. He's planning to do the same again and go straight back off on his adventure-seeking travels.

Elinor and Ryde don't exactly hit it off, but when Elinor is shot it's expedient that Ryde takes her into his decrepit and distinctly bachelor home. From that point he hardly knows what's hit him. Even from her sick bed Elinor (and her army of loyal servants) can manage a household, and Ryde finds himself thoroughly managed without actually realising it. The characters strike sparks right from the opening and a thoroughly believable romance develops without the usual breathless hearts and flowers. The shooter is still out there and after a second attempt the couple have to work out which one of them is the intended target and why.

I really enjoyed this somewhat unusual take on regency romance.
jacey: (blue eyes)
HiddenAfter the events in Chosen Alex, a magical diviner, is still trying to reassemble his little family of mages and apprentices. With his dark past now revealed, he’s disappointed, though not surprised that both Anne and Sonder want nothing to do with him. Sonder can look after himself, but Anne is vulnerable. When Alex’s apprentice, Luna, persuades him to hold out an olive branch, he’s soundly rebuffed, but hardly any time later, what he fears most of all happens. Anne disappears, probably kidnapped by a dark mage. The Council doesn’t want to know, so Alex together with Sonder (under protest), Variam and his new ‘master’ – female -- one of the council’s police equivalent, decide to take on the job. There’s also the undercurrent that Richard Drakh, Alex’s one time master and a very dark mage, indeed, is back. That’s not something that Alex really wants to contemplate, but as they get closer to Anne he realises that he might have to.

Another good instalment in this excellent urban fantasy series set in London.
jacey: (blue eyes)
NonesuchSir Waldo Hawkridge is possessed of everything his younger cousins envy: a large fortune, physical prowess and good looks, excellent taste, and the reputation of being a Corinthian, noted for his sporting endeavours. It hardly seems fair to them, therefore, when an eccentric uncle leaves Broom Hall in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to the man who already has everything - the Nonesuch of the title. His cousin Julian is especially upset, being short of funds, mostly because money trickles through his fingers like water. Waldo's new inheritance is dilapidated and hardly palatial, but when he travels north to assess it, he discovers the neighbourhood buzzing with excitement. The Underhills together with their spoilt, beautiful niece, Tiffany Wield, a soon-to-be heiress, and her impoverished but genteel companion Miss Ancilla Trent, are the inhabitants of the other house of some consequence in the area and Waldo (with his cousin George) quickly achieve visiting terms with them. For a time George is dazzled by Tiffany, but Waldo begins to realise that the quietly sensible Miss Trent has very commendable qualities.

Waldo is admirably but quietly persistent. Despite his reputation he's not ostentatious. (Good heavens, he drives a curricle rather than a high-perch phaeton, even though his horses are 'proper good 'uns'.) Tiffany is somewhat one-dimensionally selfish. The cousins, George and Julian are polar opposites. George is solidly dependable and even Julian, though not endowed with vast intelligence, is occasionally grasping, but not an utter cad.

The story unfolds in typical Heyer fashion and ends where you expect it to end. On the way it's a delightful, if frothy read. Exactly what you expect (and want) from a Heyer Regency romance.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Burning PageThis is the third adventure of librarian Irene and her assistant Kai, a dragon prince with two forms, also working for the Library. The library itself is an interdimensional repository of books in all their versions from the many worlds that are linked to its portals. Alberich, ex-librarian gone bad, is threatening the Library with total destruction and Irene and Kai, together with Vale a Holmsian ‘great detective’ in a steampunky alternate London, and his Scotland Yard friend, Inspector Singh are trying to stop him with occasional help and hindrance from a couple of Fae met in previous books un the series. The events in Book 2 are taking their toll, on Vale and Kai in particular. Expect explosions, assassination attempts and general mayhem.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Azanian BridgesSet in a present day South Africa where Apartheid was never abolished and the regime oppressed all the population, but particularly the black communities. Police checks; demands for papers; threats; casual, unthinking cruelty, and systematic institutional oppression. Sibusiso is an intelligent young black man who gets the opportunity to go to the city to go to college. At a demonstration he witnesses his friend killed and the resulting depression sees him admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he meets psychiatrist, Martin  who, together with his friend, Dan has invented an empathy machine. It’s not exactly a thought reader, but close enough for the authorities to be very interested. Martin wants to use it to make white South Africa empathise with black South Africa and reduce the chasm between them. The authorities see it as an interrogation machine. Sibusiso becomes Martin’s test subject but when he steals the machine in behalf of the Black African resistance movement he has to go one the run. This is told in first person from both Sibusiso’s and Martin’s points of view in alternating chapters, which works well in this instance. It’s intriguing and the taste of a dystopian South Africa feels terrifyingly real. The black South African experience comes over well, partly because of liberal use of isiZulu language and partly because of Sibusiso’s ‘voice’. Martin is a sympathetic character, lost in the system, white but also afraid of the authorities. He seems to learn more from his encounter with Sibusiso than Sibusiso does from him. The ending is entirely within keeping—sadly.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dangerous GiftsI like Gaie Sebold’s writing style. It grabs attention and has a good character voice. In this case the voice belongs to Babylon Steel, whorehouse owner in Scalentene, whore, part-time bodyguard and one-time avatar of the god of soldiers and sex. Now if that’s not a great resume, I don’t know what is. This is the second outing for Babylon. In the first one she rescued a young woman, designated as the Itnunnacklish, designed to bring together the Gudain and the Ikinchli – two races of Incandress where civil war is brewing. In this book Babylon is propositioned by Darask Fain of Scalentene’s Diplomatic Section, (spies etc) – no not in that way – she’d probably go for that. Fain wants her to go with the Itnunnacklish, Enthemmerlee, back to Incandress as her bodyguard, just until all the ceremonies are over. Babylon has severe misgivings. Her gut tells her not to go, but one of her girls, Lainey, has mortgaged the whorehouse to the hilt and unwisely invested the cash in a cargo of very expensive silk which has to make it through troubled Incandress without a hitch, or everything Babylon calls home is lost. Besides, she likes Enthemmerlee. Unfortunately she has to leave Chief Bitternut behind. He’s a werewolf in charge of policing Scalentine, and Babylon is realising that he’s become more than just a customer. In addition to bodyguarding Fain also wants Babylon to do a bit of spying on the side and to smarten up Enthemmerlee’s own house guard. Not a tough job, then. Babylon is once more plunged into mayhem, but everything comes together finally, when a plot is revealed. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Rogue to AvoidAh, sadly this may be a book to avoid. The good bits first. It’s amusing, nicely paced and has a pretty standard Regency romance plot. That’s fine. I don’t read Regency romance for innovation. It’s purely escapist fiction for me. Cordelia, the daughter of a very rich duke has been embarrassed by three broken engagements – all a bit hard to swallow when she’s aiming for perfection. The ton is starting to titter. Gerard doesn’t give a stuff about the ton. He’s up to his ears in debt thanks to his late mother’s gambling loans (from Cordelia’s dad) and the duke has sent a thug after him to chop off the odd finger or two unless he pays up. Fleeing from the thug Gerard comes across Cordelia. One thing leads to another and before you know where you are he’s asked her to marry him. Embarrased to make it four broken engagements Cordelia has agreed. Things go from bad to worse as the thug gets instructions to kill Gerard and the couple are running up and down the country trying to get married and avoid being murdered.

I could probably have swallowed this book whole, but for the author’s sense of history. I’ve come across historical inaccuracies in Regency Romance before, of course. (There was the author whose heroine ate cold popovers for breakfast… ouch!) Unfortunately there were a couple of things in this that were so obvious I was immediately jerked right out of the book. Describing the hero’s hair colour as espresso, some fifty years before espresso was invented is bad enough, but having Regency characters referencing Scott of the Antarctic just gobsmacked me. If you don’t care about obvious historical bloopers then the rest of the book is fine. Me? I guess I’m a bit too pedantic about these things. Sorry.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Penric's MissionPenric and his resident demon, Desdemona, have moved positions. They are no longer in the court of the archdivine in Martensbridge. On her death Penric has been sent into the service of a duke. Penric and Desdemona are sent on a secret mission to contact a general who is about to defect. Unfortunately it's a put-up job. The general never intended to defect to Penric's people in the first place and penric is caught up on a trap for the general, brought down by manufactured evidence. So upon arrival Penric is thrown in jail, not a nice, cosy straw-carpeted jail cell, but an oubliette. The general - outmanoeuvred politically - is arrested, blinded, and sent home in disgrace, possibly to die. When Penric finally escapes and finds the general he finds that his simple courier job has become much more. Can he heal the general's eyes (one of Desdemona's previous hosts was a physician) and if he does, can he bring the general round to defecting? I like Penric. His solutions are always positive and in a violent world he truly seeks to do no harm. A good addition to the Penric cycle of novellas in the world of the Five Gods.

In writing this booklog I realised I'd missed book logging the first Bujold/Penric book, so here's a retrospective.


Penric's DemonPenric's Demon
This is the first Penric novella. Penric is a bright eyed innocent. On the way to his betrothal he stops to help and elderly lady and his life suddenly changes. She's a temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, 'master of all disasters out of season." She carries a demon inside her. When she dies, the demon makes a jump, and that's how Penric, totally unprepared, acquires a demon who has the memories and knowledge of twelve previous hosts, and a mind of her own. This novella is bascally how Penric and his demon form a relationship, uneasy at first, and Penric joins the clergy. In the world of the Five Gods, religion is a practical subject raher than theoretical. The gods can, and frequently do, make their presence felt. This is a good set-up novella, in the world of the Five Gods where Curse of Chalion (my favourite book) and Paladin of Souls are set.
jacey: (blue eyes)
BurnedAlex is really up against it this time. All his enemies are dogpiling on top of him and his friends. When the Light Council—for no good reason that anyone, including Alex, can figure out—issues a kill order, his first thought is to protect his apprentice Luna and Anne and Variam who are considered to be his ‘dependents. He’s got a week before it all comes into force (even Caldera doesn’t know about it, yet), but though that may be a long time in politics, it’s a short time when he has to play nice with other mages to even stand a chance of survival. There’s an artefact that the Council wants (which is also wanted by Alex’s ex boss, Dark Mage Richard Drakh) and if Alex can get it, he might get a reprieve. Richard is not on the page in this book but he’s an ever present menace. Lines are being drawn and Alex is about to be on the wrong side of them from whichever angle you look. This is a good addition to the Alex Verus series and the ending raises the level of the game considerably.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Viscount Who Loved MeJulia Quinn's sequence of books about the Bridgertons takes the matrimonial foibles of each alphabetically-named Bridgerton sibling in turn. The first book featured Daphne, oldest girl but fourth sibling. In it we met Anthony who was pigheaded and hot tempered, attempting to shove a sharp spoke into the wheel of matrimonial bliss for his sister and his one time best friend from school.

Now Anthony gets his own book.

It's interesting to see a character broadened out. Not an entirely lovable character in the first book, we now see something of what was behind his actions. He's got a secret. It's a little nuts, but he believes it implicitly. Because the recent males in the Bridgerton family have died young, he thinks that will be his fate, too. After all, his father was killed by a bee sting. If something like that can fell so great a man, then what chance does Anthony have. As a result of seeing his mother's life as a widow, he determines that though he must marry and produce an heir, he shouldn't marry for love. He's not afraid of death, but he is afraid of leaving someone he loves to face widowhood.

Bonkers, right? Of course. He's devoted the last ten years of his life to being a principled rake (his conquests have always been women who knew what they were getting into) but now he's looking for an innocent. He draws up a list of the attributes his wife should have and picks out a very pretty miss. Only then does he discover that her older, plainer and much stronger sister is determined to protect her from suitors such as him. Sparks fly when he meets Kate...

Quinn injects humour and snappy dialogue into the Regency romance and this is a perfectly diverting piece of fluff.
jacey: (blue eyes)
MiniaturesI'm not generally a great reader of short stories, but these are short stories by John Scalzi. OK, I thought - I'll give it a go. I'm glad I did. Verging  on the humourous (mostly) there are stories here about sentient youghourt ruling the world, a superhero booking agent, complaints form smart-applicances, absurdities of human/alien interaction and a selection of all the alt. history ways Hiltler might die. All this and a poem for Penelope. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Duke and IDaphne Bridgerton is blessed (or cursed) with four strapping brothers. Unfortunately she's everyone's pal and so in her second London season she's still on the shelf. Her only suitors are totally unsuitable. Simon Basset, having spent the last several years abroad to keep clear of his hateful father has sworn never to marry or produce an heir for the dukedom. Unfortunately the ambitious mamas of the ton still see him as fair game for their darling daughters.

Simon and Daphne never intended to fall in love when they concocted a plan to make it seem as though they'd formed an attachment. With a duke sniffing at her heels Daff suddently becomes remarkably attractive to plenty of other suitors, and with Daff rumoured as his intended Simon can avoid advances from prospective mothers in law.

Unfortunately being caught in a compromising situation by one of Daff's brothers the pair are more or less forced into marriage. They love each other, so what's the problem? There's the small matter of Simon vowing never to produce an heir.

This is a good-hearted and good humoured book. No it's not a comedy, but the couple really do care for each other and they laugh together - a lot. Quinn's dialogue is snappy and the book is charming. I'll certainly look out for more of her Bridgerton books.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Boy witrh the Porcelain BladeI’d heard very good things about this book, so I was a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to its hype. There was much to admire, but also things that rankled. I’ve lost track of the number of times Lucien, our hero, was knocked unconscious, for instance. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Set in the sprawling castle of Demesne in the kingdom of Landfall, Lucien is an Orfano, one of the despised and feared, yet privileged Orfani (orphans, geddit?) who are all deformed in some way—born different—but not imbued with any special powers as far as I can tell. Raised in the castle and given the best education in all things, including martial arts, the Orfani are neither one thing nor the other. Set against each other by the system of annual testing, their lives are constantly in danger, from each other as well as from factions who should be protecting them (the mysterious Major Domo and one particularly vicious teacher).

Lucien’s story is told in two separate timelines: from his fateful testing at eighteen and what follows, interspersed with chapters from his childhood, filling us in on the backstory. He’s a lonely little boy who grows up into a lonely young man. He’s desperately concerned with his deformity (lack of external ears, though it doesn’t seem to affect his hearing). Much of this book is concerned with the origins of the Orfani and what Lucien discovers causes an eventual confrontation with the mad king and his Major Domo. The alternating chapters don’t really work for me. Breaking the forward narrative to leap back to a childhood incident pulled me out of the story. I could have done without the flashbacks altogether. Each one made a point or added information, but this could have been covered by a brief summary.

The setting is vaguely Italian Renaissance, delivered mostly via the names and the occasional swear word, yet nothing seems to exist beyond the island kingdom of Landfall. There’s no trade, no diplomatic missions, no sense of geography. We are given an origin myth which involves a ship landing and sleepers being woken, which hints at spacefarers being woken from coldsleep by the person who becomes the king, but it’s never followed through, so maybe this is foreshadowing for a future book, since this seems to be the first in a sequence. Is it possible that Landfall is the only human settlement on an earth-type planet?

Received from Netgalley in return for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Ill Kept OathI almost didn’t finish this one even though it has many of the elements I like in a novel. It’s a Regency romance with magic. Nuff said? Just my sort of thing, usually, but it took me a little while to get into it.

Prudence Fairfeather and Lady Josephine Weston have been raised together as cousins, but have not been told of their magical inheritance. Lord Middlemere (Josephine’s somewhat lacklustre father) has taken an oath to keep them from magic.

Prudence goes to London for her debut season, but when she’s given some artefacts that belonged to her late mother, things start to get weird. In particular the wearing of her mother’s ring seems to imbue her with a talent for the truth. She managed to have a few fairly disastrous happenings which put a dent in her chances in the Marriage Mart. Meanwhile Josephine, still too young to attend the London season, discovers a talent for swordsmanship and an attraction to a certain young lieutenant who is hunting trolls (yes, trolls) in the district.

The characters are well-drawn, though I could have wished that the pace was a little more sprightly, especially in the first part of the book. It picks up in the second half, however and fairly romps home to an ending. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it’s a competent debut.

Received from Netgalley in return for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Free SpaceI really enjoyed the first Evagardian book, The Admiral, and on a general level I enjoyed this one, too, but where The Admiral had more questions to answer, in Free Space we already know some of the answers, so a large chunk of the intrigue is missing. When the Admiral (we still don’t know his real name, but we now know what he did and why the Evgardians want to silence him) and three companions are kidnapped while on a jaunt to a leisure destination, this book turns into another get-me-out-of-here story, though not on the same scale as The Admiral. Our main character (I can only keep calling him the Admiral, sorry.) is relying on his wits (and his date, Salmagard, one of the trio of rookies from The Admiral) to survive. It would help, of course, if he hadn’t been injected with a deadly poison to start off with. He may not necessarily be at his best.

When the opening kidnap took place I expected that it would be resolved quickly and the story would move on, but, in fact, the whole book is the kidnap and how they all survive it. The writing is equally gripping, but the scope of the whole book smaller than its predecessor. It’s still worth reading (and I will read the next one when it’s published) but it didn’t grip me as much as The Admiral.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Ruin and RisingIn the final Grisha book things come to a head for Alina and Mal. The Darkling rules and Alina has fallen under the power of a bunch of zealots who worship her as a saint, but won’t let her reclaim her Sun-Summoner power. Alina determines to find the last of the amplifiers to boost her power to defeat the Darkling, but there’s a nasty twist lying in wait for her. The triangle between Alina, Mal and Sturmhond/Nickolai is still causing problems. Alina has a big decision to make.

I’ve enjoyed Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. I wish I’d read it before the Six of Crows duo as the knowledge of the Grisha feeds into Six of Crows, and some of the characters return in a minor role. Also Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom shows the author’s growth. (They are also highly recommended.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Siege and StormFollowing on from Shadow and Bone, this book sees Mal and Alina fleeing Ravka, but their freedom is fleeting. Alina is unhappy, and covering up her Sun Summoner powers takes its toll. The Darkling emerges with a frightening new power. We meet a fabulous new character, Sturmhond, a privateer who turns out to be so much more. There are complications between Mal and Alina, between Alina and Sturmhond and between Mal and Sturmhond. This is not exactly a love triangle, but it is a triangle and it’s developed quite well (though Mal spends a fair bit of time being an arse in this book.) It’s all about the search for amplifiers that will increase Alina’s power an enable her to defeat the darkling and reverse the big nasty darkness that splits the land.

I can’t say much more without spoilers. The whole Grisha trilogy is one story served up as three books, rather than three standalones. I recommend reading all three together.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Shadow and BoneAlina and Mal, Mal and Alina. It's always been just the two of them against the world. Brought up on charity, both refugees from Ravka's seemingly endless war, they end up doing military service, Mal as a tracker, Alina as a cartographer. When their unit has to cross the Shadow Fold, a preternatural darkness filled with flesh-eating monsters, danger strikes and Alina saves Mal by manifesting light. It turns out she has a rare power that just might save Ravka, so without a by-your-leave she's carted off by the darkling to train as a Grisha. That's good, right? Well, yes and no. Her talent is elusive and something is going on that she doesn't understand... (If I told you any more I'd have to shoot you.)

This comes before Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and in a way I wish I hadn't read the other two first because the other two are superb and this is merely good. Having said that good is GOOD, and I've immediately started reading the second book in the trilogy. Alina is an excellent character and the plot is twisty.

The setting is interesting. It’s a secondary world fantasy with heavy Russian overtones. For someone who knows little about Russian culture and history, there’s enough here to give a flavour and to lift it out of generic medievaloid fantasy. The level of technology is interesting. There’s gunpowder and the army has rifles, but there’s not much evidence of an industrial revolution, so no trains or heavy industry (that we see).
jacey: (blue eyes)
Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom begins where Six of Crows ended. After pulling a successful caper at the Ice Court on behalf of Jan van Eck Kaz Brekkers gang has been ruinously doublecrossed and Inej, the Wraith, taken prisoner. Though he would never admit it Inej means more to Kaz Brekker than anything else, but Kaz is a hard-nosed criminal and part of his invulnerability is caring for nothing.

Kaz is nominally second in command of a street gang called the Dregs, though their leader Per Rollins has relaxed into letting Kaz do all the work. Kaz has assembled his own little team: Nina, a grisha (magic) heartrender who can control the human body with the power of her mind, but who is now suffering the after effects of a drug; Matthias, a Fjerdan soldier who promised to kill Nina, but fell in love with her instead; Inej, the Wraith, a light-footed, acrobatic spy who was brought to Ketterdam as a slave; Jesper, a sharpshooter whose big failing is that he's addicted to gambling. The sixth member of the team is Wylan, the son of Van Eck, the council member who doublecrossed Kaz and his team. Wylan has his own problems with dear old dad. In addition there's Kuwei Yul Bo, half their hostage, half under their protection and all trouble. Kuwei's father invented a horrific drug, jurda parem, which amplifies the talents of Grisha before killing them, and Kuwei might be the best hope for finding an antidote. The problem is that he's wanted by almost every faction in the city.

Thus the stage is set for another hectic visit to Ketterdam and, more specifically, the Barrel - the bad part of a bad place. Kaz Brekker is out for revenge and one way or another he intends to see van Eck pay for his doublecross and Pekka Rollins pay for a much deeper hurt inflicted six years earlier.

The characters are fascinating. They are a bundle of conflicting flaws. Kaz is clever, twisted and dark, ruthless and desperately trying to hide the fact that he's become fond of (and reliant upon) his gang. He's as hard as nails, but has a weakness that he keeps hidden, knowing it could kill him. Inej can scale a building or walk a high wire, but after a year imprisoned in a brothel she doesn't want to be touched. Nina is still at the stage of withdrawal that she'll beg for another dose of parem. Wylan, despite his cleverness with chemicals, can't read and believes this makes him a second class human being because it's what his father has always told him. Jesper is always driven towards risk and the next big gamble. Matthias thinks he's a traitor to his own country, which isn't too far from the truth.

The action is fast and furious with many twists and turns while Kaz and his gang try to keep ahead of the people who want them dead--which is just about everyone in the city, mercher and criminal alike. There's a satisfactory ending (no cliffhangers like Six of Crows) but enough possibilities that I hope this is not the last we see of Brekker and his Crows. Though this seems to be written for the YA market, it’s hard enough and fast enough to easily appeal across the board.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Angel comes to Devils KeepAn unlikely but amusing plot. When Angelica Lovelace, American born daughter of an English ‘younger son’ comes to England to find a husband she promises her father she’ll make a good marriage. On the way to a house party her coach is wrecked in a storm and she stumbles across Huntington McLaughlin – almost literally. Hunt’s horse throws him when Angel pops out of the forest and he sustains a head injury resulting in amnesia. Angel rescues him from rising waters but gets into a tangle when she claims to be his wife so as not to scandalise the farmer who takes them in. I’m certainly not going to outline the plot, but one thing leads to another and Hunt and Angel spend a fair amount of the book knowing that they shouldn’t fall in love but… Well, you get the drift. It’s a bright and breezy read.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Miss Morrison's Second ChanceA Regency romance featuring Verity Morrison and her one time sweetheart Bradford Pemberton, torn apart by jealousy some twelve years earlier. Verity has dwindled into spinsterhood while Pemberton, exiled to foreign lands, made his fortune. When Pemberton returns for a visit to set some affairs in order he expects that Verity must me long married. Verity, seeing Pemberton in the company of her flighty and disreputable married sister, wonders whether she ever had his heart in the first place. It’s one of those stories where the protagonists could have solved a lot of misunderstandings if they’d sat down together over a nice cup of tea, but I’m probably not giving much away to say that it all works out in the end.  It’s a pleasant read – worth spending a few hours on.
jacey: (blue eyes)
RevengerSet in the far, far future when there are myriad small worlds interconnected by trade routes and some 'baubles' containing remnants of alien tech which are valuable but difficult (and dangerous) to get. There are vessels and crews whose sole purpose is to penetrate the baubles and amongst those crews there's a fair amount of rivalry, but no crew as cruel or ruthless as that led by the legendary Bosa Sennen

Two teen sisters, Adrana and Arafura Ness, escape the clutches of their overprotective father to go off adventuring into space, ostensibly to shore up the family's failing finances. They are bone-readers with the capability to jack into alien skulls and communicate across space instantly. Captain Rackamore takes the girls on board and teaches them the basics, but when they are attacked by Bosa Sennen everything goes pear-shaped. Adrana and Fura are separated and Fura, who narrates the story, must go to extraordinary lengths to keep a promise she's made to herself.

This is a little coy about admitting it's a book suitable for the older end of the YA market, but it's actually a book that can easily cross over into both adult and YA. It's a rip-roaring space-based adventure with high stakes. The blurb says it's for lovers of Firefly and Star Wars and I can see where it's coming from. There are certainly echoes of Firefly in the independent nature of the small crews risking all, sometimes scoring, sometimes not.

The worldbuilding is imaginative, but Reynolds doesn't spoonfeed the details to the reader. What are the baubles? How are they sealed? What were the alien occupations that went before? We gradually find out more as we go through, but there are many more layers to this universe that could be unveiled in future books.

Imaginative and exciting. Well worth reading.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Talisman RingLord Lavenham’s dying wish is that Sir Tristram Shield should marry Eustacie, his young French cousin and take over the administration of the estate, since the heir, Ludovic, is currently out of the country, having been accused of murder a few years earlier. Tristram is mature and sensible, Eustacie young and flighty (and somewhat silly). It looks like a match made in hell, though Tristram is willing to go through with it as he thinks it’s about time he should wed. His heart is not involved.

Things turn rapidly when Eustacie decides to run away and with the organisational ability of a cucumber manages to get herself into trouble almost immediately by running into smugglers on a dark and lonely stretch of road. But the leader of the smugglers is Ludovic and when he’s shot by excisemen, Eustacie ends up at an inn with him where they meet Sarah Thane who is travelling with her brother who has settled in to the Inn with a severe case of man-flu and several bottles from the inn’s excellent cellar. Tristram isn’t far behind and soon Sarah muscles in on the adventure,too. It turns out that Ludovic, protesting his innocence in the murder, reckons that his cousin (who stands to inherit the Lavenham estate) is the guilty party and finding the talisman ring will prove the matter.

A regency romance with a twist of mystery, adventure: smugglers and a murder. A missing ring can prove one man’s innocence and another’s guilt. There’s a riotous cast of characters, not all playing the traditional roles. Whose story is it? Who’s the hero and who’s the heroine?
jacey: (blue eyes)
Night in the Lonesome OctA friend recommended this to me a couple of years ago and I kept forgetting about it – which is a pity because it’s great. Set in a Victorianesque England and told from the point of view of Snuff, the dog, who belongs to Jack, it’s horrific, quirky and funny (those aren’t mutually exclusive). We’re left to figure out what’s happening as a bunch of characters from (his)story and fiction (Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Rasputin, Dr Frankenstein, Larry Talbot and The Great Detective amongst others) prepare for some kind of game or contest which involves a fair amount of grave robbing and—it seems—a little murder and mayhem. There are factions—openers and closers—and we must fathom who is aligned with whom. Snuff does occasionally get to discuss things with Jack, but mostly his circle of friends-who-might-be-enemies includes the familiars of the other magical types: cat, rat, snake, bat and owl. We follow the crew through the days of October, day by day, as the game builds to Halloween. Light in tone, but grim in subject I have to admire Zelazny’s imagination and brilliance.

Review copy provided by Netgalley.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Lord St Claires AngelI’ve had a spate of reading Regency romances of late, so maybe I’m getting a bit jaded, but this wasn’t the best. The heroine is an arthritic spinster (which is a refreshing change) and the hero a rake about to reform. Both of them are sympathetic characters, but unfortunately they spend far too much time musing on the meaning of love and the whole thing seemed somewhat over-long to support the simple story. Sweet but not riveting.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Little DonkeyA short story which follows in from The Nothing Girl. Apart from a glitch in timing (something right at the end of The Nothing Girl doesn’t tie into the timeline of Little Donkey) this is a fun read. The vicar wants to borrow Marilyn the Donkey for the church nativity play but anyone who knows what kind of chaos the Checkland household lives in could predict the results. More about Jenny and Russell (post wedding) together with the excellent peripheral characters and even a visit from Thomas the invisible (to most people) horse. You should probably read The Nothing Girl first. Recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Nothing GirlI’ve burned through all Jodi Taylor’s back catalogue this year – her Chronicles of St Marys’ books and her historical fiction under the name of Isabella Barclay– but since I mostly read SF and historicals I hadn’t considered reading The Nothing Girl. At first glance it looked like chick-lit, which I’m not fond of, however, I’ve loved all of Ms Taylor’s writing so thought I should give it a try. I’m not disappointed. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not actually sure how to categorise it. Chick-lit crossed with fantasy? Possibly. Mystery – yes, there’s a bit of that, too. Romance? Ditto. Or maybe it’s just mainstream fiction. It all depends on whether you think the giant golden horse that only Jenny can see is real or imaginary. The fact is that Jenny thinks he’s real, so that’s good enough for me.

Jenny is an introverted young woman with a dreadful stammer not helped by her aunt and uncle’s overprotectiveness. Her parents died and left her well provided for, but traumatised. She lives quietly in an attic room, fully equipped with bookshelves, computer, and a giant golden horse called Thomas who arrived on the day she tried to commit suicide as a thirteen-year-old. Thomas is still with her – and will remain with her until she doesn’t need him any more.

It’s a complicated family worthy of Jilly Cooper. The daughter of the house, Jenny’s glamorous cousin, has had (or maybe is still having) an abusive on-off relationship with Russell Checkland (currently off) whom Jenny has known since school (where he was one of the few who treated her kindly). Russell, a talented artist, lost his muse and his will to paint when Jenny’s cousin left him. Jenny’s cousin has a new man but doesn’t want anyone else to have Russell – which is a pity because Russell has just asked Jenny to marry him. What? Where did that come from? Well, it’s simple enough. Russell has a fabulous old farmhouse but no money to repair it. Jenny has an inheritance but no life outside of her bedroom. Jenny gets a home, Russell gets to keep his home together. It’s a simple arrangement that’s about to get a whole lot more complicated, especially since Jenny keeps having ‘accidents’. Who’s to blame or is she just very clumsy?

As ever I loved Jodi Taylor's 'voice'. There were definite giggle moments in this book. It's light and entertaining while telling an interesting story of genuine depth.

BTW, I don't think the cover does this book any favours and is probably what originally contributed to me dismissing this book as 'chick lit'. without examining it too closely
jacey: (blue eyes)
AdmiralFour cryo-sleepers wake on a strange vessel in space, the first three are rookie Evagardian military personnel and the last is an admiral - or so it says on his sleeper. He's as surprised about this as the other three are. This is a get-me-out-of-here story paced like a race over hurdles. Problem after problem besets our quartet at breakneck speed. They are not actually in space, but on a planet, their ship on unstable ground, and the crew is dead--in bizarre circumstances. The planet is uninhabited and uninhabitable, but are they alone? Though they don't all trust him the three rookies (skilled but inexperienced) follow the admiral's lead. Throughout the story we get hints as to who this 'admiral' might be. I guessed (about halfway through) what he'd done, if not who he was, and it turns out I was right, but the narrative kept me engrossed to the end. Yes, the 'admiral' is an unreliable narrator deliberately hiding his identity, but I can forgive that for the rest of the book and the fact that it is the first book in a series. I'll be looking for the next. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
HealerDid the fashion for sexy men in kilts begin with Outlander or was there an earlier trend that I missed? (Disclaimer: I’ve never had a thing about men in kilts!) Well, this is one of those sexy men in kilts books, but for all that it’s engaging and a quick, light read.

Lynelle is an outcast in her own family home just south of the Scottish border (in the days when the border was somewhat flexible and border raids were de rigeur). She’s been rejected by her father and stepmother and has been brought up by the local healer (now deceased). When her half-brother is kidnapped by a Scottish raiding party from just over the border, Lynelle sets out to rescue him, not so much out of love for the boy, but because she wants to prove herself to her father. She exaggerates her healing skills – learned but little practised. In a trade (two weeks of her time in return for the release of the boy) she’s sent along to Closeburn with Laird William Kirkpatrick to tend his injured brother. William is shy of healers, having banished one from Closeburn for failing to save various members of his family.

Of course Lynelle falls for the brooding William (rather too easily, maybe) and you can probably more-or-less guess the rest. It’s a fun, light read and there are no great surprises in the ending, but it satisfies the story.

Just for the record, I hate historical romance covers that have headless bare six-packs on the cover. At least this one has a headless bare back.

Note: Review copy provided by netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
House of CardsThis is the second outing for lawyer/negotiator Margrit and gargoyle, Alban, in contemporary New York City. Following the events in Heart of Stone, Margrit, who works for the city as a public defence council, is now fully aware of the Old Races, Vampires, Dragons, Djinni, Gargoyles and Selkies, though Selkies, as far as she knows, are a diminishing race. She’s in a dangerous position, but things have quietened down somewhat since Alban (Gargoyle) has decided that he's going to step back from any kind of relationship with Margrit in order to keep her safe. Sadly, his logic doesn’t work. Margrit is attacked in Central Park, and then drawn into a negotiation between crimelord Janx (a Dragon) and billionaire Eliseo Daisani (a Vampire). Tensions mount when Margrit’s boss is murdered, with all the signs of a Djinn being the culprit and Margrit suspects Janx’s henchman, Malik, whom Margrit finds even more scary than Janx. Her on-off relationship with detective Tony is even more off than on and finally she admits that it may be permanently off. The balance of power shifts when a new player comes to town. Margrit is offered an ultimatum and a new job and learns a few hard truths. And then there’s Alban…

I thoroughly enjoyed this and will certainly be watching out for more books by C.E. Murphy in future.

Because I bought this book for my kindle, I didn’t pay much attention to the cover until I came to do my write-up. Margrit in the book is most definitely African American, consistently described as ‘café latte’ in skin tone, however the cover, though a night-time scene with lots of shade, makes Margrit look distinctly pink in hue, which is a pity. No reflection on Ms. Murphy since the cover choice usually belongs to the publisher, not the author.
jacey: (blue eyes)
City of WolvesA murder mystery. Private investigator Drake doesn't work for nobility, but he's not given much choice when he's set upon by two thugs. It's not entirely the best way to set on a new employee, but he's persuaded to investigate the death of Lord Abergreen. His investigations lead him to a shocking discovery. If I said the clue is in the title, that's as much as you're going to get.

I'd almost decided not to finish this book when there was a turn of events that piqued my interest. Luckily the book itself was short or I might still have given up.. I think my main gripe was the fact that I didn't much care for Drake. He was a bit of a negative character and didn't seem to care for much himself, except staying alive.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Husband CampaignI downloaded this from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Note this is number three in a series, but not having read the first two wasn’t a problem. It works as a standalone. Maybe I didn’t look too carefully at the rest of the blurb once I’d seen there was a horse element to the story, but I didn’t realise this was a Christian–inspired historical romance. If I had I wouldn’t have started it. However the Christian aspects didn’t grate on me. Since this is set in the Regency it’s quite likely that the protagonists have a deep and abiding belief and that in times of trouble their thoughts turn skyward.

That said, unfortunately the characters and the storyline left me feeling a little meh. Other than two socially awkward people deciding they are in love after their marriage the only thing at stake is an equine transaction. The hero, John, is a minor aristocrat and a breeder and trainer of fine horses. Having accidentally ‘compromised’ the heroine he marries her out of a sense of duty and the rest of the book is Amelia setting out to earn his love and to get him to turn their relationship sexual. She would probably have an easier time of it if she had four hooves and ate oats for breakfast. John seems somewhat colourless and mostly sexless and Amelia is too nice (which she freely admits).

It’s a fast read and not without some interest, however the thing that really threw me out of the story is the heroine breakfasting on cold popovers—in a REGENCY novel! Harlequin, what was your copy editor thinking? Also the author is obviously American because a lot of her horse terms are particularly Americentric and they don’t transfer across the Atlantic. So instead of a stud or stud farm we have a ‘horse farm’ and instead of a bridle or even a headcollar, Amelia’s horse wears a ‘headstall’. John does explain to Amelia what a girth is, but instead of tightening the girth he ‘cinches’ it. Okay, maybe I’m being picky, and it doesn’t really affect the quality of the writing, but I do wish editors would run books set in England past an English beta-reader. Each time I came across something like that it dragged me out of the story.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Gt St Mary's day OutMax and Leon now have a child which means they can't go on missions together in case they don't come back. So on this occasion Max, fresh from maternity leave, gets to go on a 'day out' to see a Shakespeare play - which just happens to be Hamlet at the Globe in 1601, with the Bard himself playing the part of the ghost. Most of St Mary's volunteer for the trip, including Dr. Bairstow, the director, the cook, the costume mistress, not to mention the usual suspects: Max herself, Guthrie and Mr Markham. If only Professor Rhapson hadn't become a stowaway on a voyage to the New World and Mrs Mack hadn't used a skillet in anger things might have been OK... until, that it, the point at which Shakespeare went up in flames. Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Marys are an instant must-buy and until there’s a full-length novel available I’ll settle for a short story full of the usual disasters and humour.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Okay, I admit it, I've just binge-read three Heyers in a row. It must be the after effects of finishing my own historical fantasy and sending it on its way to the publisher.

Regency BuckOn the death of their father, Judith and Peregrine Tavener, rich but underage, are left to the guardianship of Julian Audley, Lord Worth, someone they have never met and know nothing about. They decide to leave Yorkshire and set themselves up in London. Worth, their guardian, turns out to be not much older than they are and, after the unfortunate circumstances of their first accidental meeting, dislikes the guardianship arrangement as much as they do. Judith is contrary and independent. Worth is overbearing and domineering and Heyer pretty much tries to set him up as the villain of the piece to begin with. (Heyer readers will, of course, realise this is a false trail of breadcrumbs.) Apparently this was Heyer's first Regency Romance. It contains real historical characters (Beau Brummell, the Prince regent, the Duke of Clarence etc.) mixed in with fictional ones. Judith is contrary and occasionally downright stupid. Audley is arrogant and annoying beyond belief, but (contrary to Judith's belief) has their best interest at heart. I'm inclined to think that these two characters deserve everything they get. The best character is Worth's brother, Charles Audley, who will reappear as the main male character in This Infamous Army. I wondered how the Alastair-Audley books linked up, but apparently the female protagonist in Infamous Army, is the granddaughter of Dominic, Duke of Avon from Devil's Cub.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Devils CubThis is the next generation book following on from These Old Shades, which makes the setting slightly earlier than the Regency, so let's say 'Georgian' - however it's still a 'silver fork' novel. Dominic Alastair, Marquis of Vidal, is a reckless, hot-headed youth, a duellist, a rake and a seducer posessed of a murderous temper. He plans to steal away with the lovely Sophie Challoner, who (encouraged by her grasping mother) believes he'll have to marry her if he compromises her (not what Vidal has in mind at all). At the last minute he's thwarted by Sophie's thoughtful older sister who (masked) takes her place at the rendezvous. In a rage Vidal kidnaps Mary, taking her aboard his yacht and sailing to France. Once he calms down he realises she's 'not that sort of girl' and that he's compromised her reputation beyond repair. The rest of the book is Vidal making amends and Mary, not believing his sincerity, and trying to look out for herself. Typical Heyer, very enjoyable.
jacey: (blue eyes)
SylvesterSylvester, Duke of Salford, somewhat self-important and a bit of an arse, decides he needs a wife and clinically begins to consider suitable young ladies. Persuaded by his godmother that Phoebe Marlow (her granddaughter, might suffice he goes to Wiltshire to meet her, finding her overbearing parents insufferable and Phoebe a nondescript country miss. She's had one season in London and on returning home has (secretly) has written a novel in which Sylvester (whom she met only once) is the thinly disguised villain. It turns out that Phoebe, far from nondescript except when her stepmother is urging her to be on her best behaviour. She learns that Salford is likely to propose and decides to run away to London, to her grandmother, to avoid being married to an insufferably arrogant man she barely knows. Persuading her best friend (male) to drive her she gets herself into an awkward situation which Sylvester gets her out of. This follows Heyer's usual pattern of misunderstandings (especially when the novel is published and becomes the talk of the ton) and an eventual reconciliation, so we get the expected ending, of course. (And Sylvester is not quite such an arse by the end of it.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Purloined PoodleOne of the best characters in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series is Atticus O'Sullivan's Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. Oberon can talk (telepathically) to Atticus and can understand human speech. He likes watching TV, and even has some grasp of human history and literature, but forget numeracy, (his grasp of that is none, one, lots). Despite his language and education, he remains wholly dog and can't quite understand why humans refuse to sniff each others' butts on first meeting.

This novella is from Oberon's viewpoint. When champion show dogs begin to disappear Oberon determines that he (assisted by Atticus) should be the one to find them. (He even insists on a deerstalker hat and a pipe to make himself truly Sherlock Holmesian.)

Told in Oberon's unique voice this is an amusing novella, set somewhat later in the series timeline that I've read, but as a standalone it's not a problem.
jacey: (blue eyes)
WillowkeepCharlotte Darby is in dire straits. She's run out of money; her mother is dead; her shipping merchant father has vanished presumed dead, and she's the guardian of her much younger special needs sister, a difficult, uncommunicative child prone to massive temper tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour that has made her a target for derision in Hull, where this story begins. Then the unimaginable happens, a young man appears on her doorstep to tell her she's heiress to the prosperous Willowkeep and a vast fortune. So you'd think everything would be all right, yes? Well, no. Though Charlotte is no longer in danger of starving, her good fortune brings its own problems.

Henry Morland is Charlotte's estate steward, an astute young man, impoverished by the need to pay off his father's considerable debts. He's Charlotte's only friend. Her late uncle's widow, resident at Willowkeep, resents Charlotte having the fortune to which she assumed her son (by her first marriage) would inherit. The son has set his cap at the heiress, and there are strange goings on designed to part Charlotte from her fortune. Then she discovers that in order to keep her inheritance she must marry before her twenty-first birthday but she's determined that even if she goes back to a life of poverty, she'll never marry. There are reasons...

I've been reading a lot of Regencyesque romances lately. This one is quite refreshing as it avoids London and the season in favour of staying in the country. Charlotte tries hard, but she doesn't have the polish that the ton expects, and she's also independently minded, having looked after herself since she was in her early teens. Also the challenging sister, possibly autistic, is an unusual and by no means unwelcome character. And then there's the ghost of Anne Boleyn...
jacey: (blue eyes)
What to do with a DukeI had this as a review copy from netgalley. it's a fun read as long as you don't know too much about the period. Both the main characters have incredibly modern ideas for people of the Regency. Having said that, if you take it for what it is, this is engaging, light and frothy and you'll rip through it in a day, forgiving it its inconsistencies and somewhat odd central concept. The duke of the title, Marcus, has been cursed for the deeds of his ancestor two hundred years ago. Unless he marries for love he'll die before his heir is born. Family history bears out that the curse is effective. His own father died while he was still in his mother's womb. The curse also demands that he maintains a house in the village of Loves Bridge (close to the ancestral seat that he avoids like the plague) which can be occupied in peace by a spinster. When the incumbent spinster unexpectedly decamps to get married, there are three Loves Bridge females vying for the place but Marcus only has eyes for one of them.

Cat is twenty four and considers herself on the shelf. She wants to be an author so she's not anxious to find a husband even though her desperate mother keeps throwing her at a local farmer who persistently asks for her hand. The vacancy at the spinster house is an opportunity to get away from the crowded vicarage and her six younger siblings, so she pursues it with vigour, even though the arrival of the (absentee landlord) duke does turn her head a little. More than a little, in fact.

You can see where this is going, can't you? Yes, of course you can, and it does go there in no uncertain terms. If I have one criticism it is that the duke's head is in his pants every time he sees Cat. He seems to have a problem with... err... tumescence. (Quite a problem in tight breeches and cutaway jackets I presume!) Pretty soon Cat's head is also in her nethers... as I say, attitudes not usually seen in Regency romances. It adds to the fun, but detracts from the period feel.

My other caveat is that there's rather a large loose thread at the end, which apparently is finished off in the next book, so this is not really a standalone if you want to see how Cat and Marcus' future plays out. It does make the ending slightly unsatisfactory, but I guess has the effect of encouraging the reader to seek out the next in the series.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Earls BetrothalA damaged hero. A beautiful heroine who has no expectations because of her lowly birth. A good hearted family. This book has a typical Regency romance, but also shows the returning soldier with a case of PTSD after happenings at Badajoz in the Peninsular War.

Amelia Clarke, destitute daughter of a deceased country vicar, has (through the good offices of the aunt of her late mother's school friend) taken up the position of paid companion to a kindly lady whose two sons are dead and whose husband is at death's door. And then the younger son, Anthony, not dead after all, turns up on the doorstep having left Wellington's army following his wounding at the brutal seige of Badajoz. There's much rejoicing, but Anthony's scars are more than physical and he's barely holding it together, especially since his older brother's death has left him the heir and now his perilously ill father is pressing him to marry and produce the required 'heir and a spare'.

Despite the obvious growing attraction, Amelia knows that Anthony is out of her reach, until something happens that makes her situation both exciting and untenable.

Being able to guess how something will end doesn't necessarily spoil the enjoyment of finding out how the characters get there. There's a nice double twist regarding Amelia's humble origins and a surprising way for Anthony to expunge his demons.

Sadly I don't think the cover does this a lot of favours.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Quiet GentlemanNot my favourite Heyer by any means, but still worth reading. Gervase Frant, having been estranged from his father for most of his life inherits the earldom, much to the chagrin of his younger half-brother, Martin, and his father’s second wife, an annoyingly boring dowager with barely two brain cells to rub together. He’s in the army (just after Waterloo) and waits a year to resign and go home – home being a rambling old castle in Lincolnshire – and is met with barely concealed hostility from his stepmother and half-brother, though welcomed by his amiable cousin, Theo, who stewards the earl’s holdings exceedingly well. Soon after Gervase’ old army friend arrives and there ensues some rivalry for the hand of Marianne whom Martin considered to be ‘his’, though Marianne has other ideas. After a couple of suspicious accidents it becomes obvious that someone is trying to murder Gervase. Suspicion naturally falls on the hot-headed and ill-tempered Martin, but there is no proof. This isn’t so much a whodunit as a who’s-trying-to-do-it. Gervase figures it out with the help of Miss Morville, a guest at the castle and a young woman possessed of a great deal of solid common sense, though, sadly, not looks. The romance in this Regency romance, is downplayed in favour of the attempted murder plot, but it’s sweet all the same, even though we don’t get to see much of it from inside the character’s heads. The heroine is stoically intelligent and her parents (who have raised her to be solidly republican) are amusing. So why isn’t it one of my favourites? Perhaps because the main viewpoint characters are heavily male the conversations are somewhat verbose and a little stiff at times. Yes, I know, that’s Heyer all over, but this took a little chewing through in the early chapters and only picked up pace towards the end. Also Ms Heyer doesn’t reveal much of what’s in her characters’ heads, so we’re locked out of Gervase’s thought processes, simply to make the end reveal a surprise.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Penric & the ShamanThe second Penric novella, picking up Penric’s story after he’s been trained and installed as a Divine of the Bastard’s Order, and a Sorceror, in the religious house of the princess archdivine in Martensbridge. Penric rides (or is ridden by) a demon, Desdemona who has already inhabited many other divines in her long relationship with humans, so Pen not only had the demon personality breaking through his own, but also the other divines Des had inhabited. It gives him skills and powers he can call on when he needs to, but the other personalities also pop up when he doesn’t always want them.

Called away from his task of making woodcuts of the Temple’s books (magically) Pen is sent on a mission to retrieve Inglis, a rogue shaman wanted for murder. His companion (apart from the ever present Desdemona) is Senior Locator Oswyl, a man who takes his duties very seriously. Pen and Oswyl don’t really see eye to eye. Oswyl follows his head and Pen follows his heart. When the shaman is found their troubles are only just beginning. Set in the world of the Five Gods (like The Curse of Chalion) theology is a practical discipline, not just a theoretical one.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dastardly DukeI guess the author is American because we didn’t have lynx and bobcats in British woodland in the Regency period. Neither did we eat ‘biscuits’ for breakfast. I recommend Ms Putnam reads: Susanne Alleyn: Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders to remind her that a little fact checking is better than making assumptions.

OK that’s got that out of the way. That apart, the rest of it works well. The book is fun. The Duke of Claridge takes a bet and must take a street wench and turn her into a society lady. (Yes, one of those stories.) The difference here is that his street wench, Hannah Gregory, is not quite what she seems. She is a lady but has fallen on hard times due to the fact that she’s profoundly deaf. It adds another dimension to what might otherwise be a Regency re-tread of My Fair Lady (or Pygmalion).
jacey: (blue eyes)
PassengerEtta Spencer is an up-and-coming concert violinist about to make her debut in New York when her world is turned upside down. She fluffs her performance because of a strange sound and then, following it, trips over the corpse of her beloved teacher and then is shoved down a time tunnel ending up in seventeen hundred and something on a sailing ship heading for America with a bitchy young woman (the one who pushed her) and a mixed-race young sailor, Nicholas. (Plus a piratical crew.)

It turns out that Etta is one of the great time-travelling families, but her mother, rather than training her, has left her in complete ignorance. The head of the Ironwood Family has kidnapped Etta's mother back in the present, and unless Etta retrieves a hugely valuable and powerful astrolabe for him her mother will die.

Etta and Nicholas go hurtling off through time tunnels. It's a story of love, intrigue and adventure. Officially this is aimed at the Children's market but it doesn't much feel like a children's book. It's at least YA/New Adult.

I did enjoy this except... except... I hated the ending. In fact it didn't have an ending. It simply stopped. I felt completely let down. This broke the implicit contract between author and reader in that I was looking for a resolution which was absent. It may be a cunning trick to get me to buy the next book, but it was such an abrupt cut-off that all it did was to leave me feeling extremely let down. I don't mind a few loose ends to tease me into reading the sequel, but I do want some kind of resolution at the end of the book.
jacey: (blue eyes)
SummerlongA beautifully written allegorical tale set in the Pacific North West of the USA. Abe, a retired history professor who plays harmonica and writes his book has a long term relationship with Joanna Delvecchio, a senior airline stewardess, with four years to go to the end of her career, and with Jo's often troubled daughter, Lily, who has a series of failed lesbian relationships behind her. They've all been together for twenty years, though they each maintain a separate household, Lily and Del on the mainland, Abe on Gardner, one of the many islands in Puget Sound.

Life is predictable until the arrival of the unlikely sounding Lioness Lazos, a quiet but charismatic waitress at Abe's local diner. Whatever it is that causes Abe and Del to brefriend the newcomer spins its gentle effect wherever she treads. The island seems to be undergoing a perfect summer, flowers bloom where no flowers should be, orcas dance offshore and gradually the lives of three people are irrevocably changed. Who is Lioness and what, or who is she running from?

Saying more than that would give away the twist, but suffice it to say it's a retelling of a very old story.  This is a gentle tale with a bittersweet ending - slightly more bitter than sweet.

I received this as an uncorrected proof review copy from Netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
Somnabulist and the psychic thiefThis is a detective story with a supernatural theme. Miss Lane, having left her previous job as companion to a psychic investigator (who turns out to be a fraud) ends up falling into the job of assisting Jasper Jesperson, a Sherlock Holmsian type of consulting detective. It’s all very proper as the household is managed by Mrs Jesperson, Jasper’s formidable mother. Clients are not exactly falling over themselves to employ Jesperson and Lane and the rent is due, but they take on a seemingly simple job to discover where a somnambulist goes when he sleepwalks. Things get complicated when this crosses over with a mystery which brings Miss Lane back into contact with her previous partner. Someone is kidnapping psychics and the police don’t seem very interested in finding out who. Naturally it’s a job for Jesperson and Lane.

I found myself liking the characters. Miss Lane (she hates her name Aphrodite) is intelligent and proactive without ever stepping out of the character of a Victorian lady while Mr Jesperson is hugely talented, though has an enormously high opinion of himself which takes a while to justify. I’m not a natural reader of Victorian detective fiction, though the supernatural elements appealed. To be honest, though it’s extremely well written, I found this a little slow at times, especially in the first half. Ms Tuttle tries for the Victorian voice, and succeeds, but that does mean that everything is very polite and steady; slightly stiff, in fact. It does, however, warm up in the second half as the mystery deepens. I would guess, that this is setting up a series for Jesperson and Lane. Recommended for lovers of detective fiction and the Victorian era.

I received this as a review copy via Netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
ChosenAlex Verus, keeps a magic shop in London and keeps his head down, or tries to. He’s not very popular with mage society, having once been apprenticed to a dark mage. His particular skill is that of a diviner. He can see possible futures. It’s not a very strong power, especially when compared to someone who can throw firebolts, but if he can see where the firebolt will land it enables him to not be there when it does.

As this series develops Alex, once a loner out of necessity) begins to gather friends and he’s discovering that he’s comfortable with it. Unfortunately that means when there’s a threat it rebounds on to them as well, and he doesn’t want to put them in danger. The Nightstalkers are hunting dark mages and they have Alex firmly in their sights. The mage council isn’t going to step in (what’s it to them if Alex is killed?) so Alex is more or less on his own… though maybe not entirely.

There are rumours that Alex’s old dark master is returning and Alex is faced with the prospect of revealing things he’s really not proud of to the people he’s come to like and trust. He’s pretty sure that once they learn the truth about him he’ll lose their friendship and support.

One of the charming things about these Alex Verus novels is the voice. Alex is an excellent narrator, wry and down to earth. Jacka is a master of pacing and tension. Highly recommended (though I suggest you read them in series order).
jacey: (blue eyes)
FiremanI’ve had Joe Hill recommended to me a number of times, but this is my first foray into his writing. The Fireman picked me up and wouldn’t let me stop until the very last page. It’s a long book and doesn’t always move at a fast pace, but there’s always something to hold interest. The cultural referencing is a neat trick that keeps the reader grounded in the increasingly horrific world.

There’s a plague – not a virus but a spore. It has a fancy name but everyone calls it dragonscale. First you get the marks on your skin then you burst into flame and burn to death. Understandably the world is trying to keep this in check, but no one really understands how it’s spread, so it’s spreading rapidly – and huge swathes of America are burning.

Harper is a school nurse, but when the schools are closed she volunteers at the local hospital, fully covered in a protective suit. That’s where she meets The Fireman for the first time.  He brings in a child for emergency treatment (appendicitis) and Harper helps him to get medical attention in time to save the boy’s life, thus putting him in her debt. When Harper herself gets the first signs of scale the Fireman is there to save her (and her unborn child) from the husband, Jakob, who wants them to both die in a suicide pact. He takes Harper to a summer camp, a secret refuge for the scale-infected, and there she learns that there’s an alternative to going up in flames.

But the camp is not the ultimate answer. Duelling paranoias cause problems and Harper’s troubles are only just beginning. Her husband has become one of the anti-scale vigilantes and no one is safe. Harper has to protect herself and her baby while at the same time unravelling secrets of the Fireman’s past and his extraordinary talents.

Gripping and involving. Highly recommended.

I had this as a galley proof from netgalley in exchange for a review.

June 2017

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