Wednesday, June 1, 2011

May Roundup of Books

Yesterday was so much fun that the rest of this week can’t possibly compete. First, two of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews and Nalini Singh, released new books yesterday and they were both fantastic. It’s so rare to have your expectations met and exceeded, isn’t it? Both Magic Slays and Kiss of Snow were great books, and I highly recommend them. I also joined the 21st century yesterday with the arrival of my new smart phone. I was pleasantly surprised by how tech savvy I am, considering my last phone was just a phone. We’ll have to see how pleased I am once I receive my first bill.
After basking in the glow of downloading the Kindle app to my phone and re-reading sections of the two aforementioned books, I was surfing the blogosphere and found one of my favorite bloggers had done a short post of some of her favorite reads from this month. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I thought I’d do the same! She highlighted books that were new releases this month, but I’m going to list favorite books I read this month that were new to me. Some of these books were released as long ago as (gasp!) 1986. These are not all the books I read in May, but they’re some of my favorites.
Lois McMaster Bujold Cordelia’s Honor
This is an omnibus of two novels, Shards of Honor (1986) and Barrayar, published together in 1999. Even if you’re not familiar with Bujold’s Vorkosigan series or even a sci-fi fan, these two novels are outstanding. The hero and heroine are older than your typical lovers in a romance – she’s in her 30s and he’s 40 – and the development of their romance is a pleasure to read, particularly since they begin as adversaries, if not quite the out and out enemies their societies would like them to be. Cordelia’s Honor is considered more sci-fi than romance, but it has enough elements of both to satisfy any reader of either genre.
Stacey Jay Dead on the Delta
I really enjoy novels that take place in the South, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The action takes place in Louisiana after fairies have mutated because of a chemical spill, and Annabelle Lee is one of the few humans immune to the deadly fairy bites. Because of her immunity, Annabelle is forced to work with an antagonistic ex-lover to help find a possible serial killer. She isn’t a very sympathetic character at the beginning, but by the end you’re rooting for her. This novel reminded me of Diana Rowland’s Blood of the Demon in its setting and use of forensic science and the arcane, which is always a good thing.
Karen Hawkins Scandal in Scotland
Karen Hawkins’ novels are always a lot of fun, and the only thing disappointing about Scandal in Scotland is that it ends too quickly. This is the second book in her Hurst Amulet series, and if you’ve read any of her other novels, some old favorites make appearances to help Marcail Beauchamp and William Hurst get together. Captain William Hurst needs to sail to Egypt with the infamous Hurst Amulet to free his brother Michael, who’s being held for ransom for the object. Unfortunately, his ex-lover Marcail is being blackmailed and her blackmailer demands that she steal the Amulet from William. There’s an exciting race towards Scotland after the amulet is stolen from Marcail, and the two are forced to work together to recover it and free Marcail of her blackmailer. It’s a great read for summer, but I would have liked it to be a bit longer, and I’m still not sure exactly what the amulet is for, although we do get a hint at its purpose towards the end of the novel.
Courtney Milan Unlocked (novella)
I learned about this novella from several romance blogs, and I’m so glad I did! It’s only 99₵ at Amazon and was worth much more. Courtney Milan self-published the novella, and it is so clear that she is an experience, published author, because the quality of the story is infinitely better than the other self-published work I’ve read. In this novella, Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfield, is returning to London after nearly 10 years away. Before he left, he’d singled out Lady Elaine Warren and made her an object of ridicule and misery at the hands of the ton. He hopes for her forgiveness and to rectify past wrongs, but when you read the story, you’ll realize just how difficult that task will be. He made her absolutely miserable, and she’s suffered ever since. This is a sweet love story, and it has encouraged me to try other Courtney Milan books.
Carrie Vaughn Kitty and the Silver Bullet
This is the fourth novel in Carrie Vaughn’s series about werewolf talk radio host Kitty Norville, and so far it’s my favorite. I did an earlier blog post about the public library’s odd collection of this series: they have books one through three, then seven, so I had to purchase this book for my kindle, but it was well worth it. Kitty and her packmate Ben are forced to return to Denver and find themselves in a turf war between vampires and Kitty’s old pack leaders. The pacing of this book was just right; there was plenty of action and tension between the warring factions, plus some sexual tension between Kitty and Ben. I believe you could pick up the series at this point and still follow along, but I highly suggest you read all three prior novels as you’ll enjoy the characters more.
Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs
Maisie Dobbs is the first in Winspear’s series of mysteries set in post-WWI London. Maisie Dobbs is a young women working as a private investigator in London ten years after the First World War ends. She was at Cambridge when war broke out and left school to serve as a nurse, witnessing innumerable horrors and experiencing personal loss. The novel is fascinating in its depiction of class differences and the opportunities available to women at the time. I highly recommend it but feel I should warn you that because of the setting and the mystery dealing with injured WWI veterans, it’ll leave you feeling wrung out. I suggest you read it on a sunny day, because it’s fairly grim in places, even though any violence is implicit and there’s no sex or inappropriate language.
Ilona Andrews Magic Slays
This is the long-awaited fifth installment of Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, set in Atlanta. As I mentioned earlier, I love books set in the South, and this is one of my favorites, because I’m an Atlanta native. It cracks me up to see how the different Atlanta neighborhoods have changed after the tech fails and magic makes its unpredictable return. I adore the characters of Kate Daniels and Curran, the Alpha of all the shapeshifters in Atlanta, and this novel picks up where the fourth, Magic Bleeds, ends, with the two mated and living in the Pack’s Keep. Seeing their relationship develop is a delight, and Kate’s snarky comments and dry wit make an appearance at just the right moments to help alleviate any tension. When Kate is hired to investigate a kidnapping, she learns that the man kidnapped was creating a deadly machine that is now in the hands of an anti-magic terrorist group. As Curran’s consort and alpha to the thousands of pack members, she has to find and disarm the weapon. In her race to do so, she learns some shocking and uncomfortable truths about her mother and step-father that lead her to question her relationship with Curran. This is an outstanding addition to the series, and I loved it. I think you could follow along without having read the previous novels, but it’s a lot more fun to read the others first.
Nalini Singh Kiss of Snow
Kiss of Snow is the tenth installment of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, and readers have been waiting for this book for a long time. Singh has been building the tension between wolf alpha Hawke and Psy Sienna Lauren for a long time. I wasn’t sure how this novel would turn out, because Sienna is only 19 while Hawke is in his early thirties. I’ve never been a big fan of large age differences between characters, even in Regency romances when it would be historically accurate. But Singh definitely convinced me with this one! Sienna is one of the most powerful Psy (psychic) characters we’ve seen to date, and she’s very capable of calling Hawke on his behavior and making him pay attention to her without acting immature. There’s also a secondary romance between Lara, the pack healer, and Walker, Sienna’s Psy uncle, that’s really touching. The tension between the pack and the Pure Psy factions that are threatened by the Psy-Changeling alliances has grown steadily throughout the series, and it reaches a critical point in this novel. It will be interesting to see where Singh goes next with the series, because the situations between the Psy and the Changelings and even among the Psy themselves have become chaotic. This is one of my favorites of the series, and I’ll be re-reading it many times!

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