13 for 2013: A Baker’s Dozen of My Most Anticipated Reads

“Love looks forward, hate looks backward, and anxiety stalks NetGalley and Edelweiss for early review copies.” That is not the way the saying goes, but it works for me.

I’m also hoping that there will be review copies of the Spring books at least on the American Library Association Midwinter Exhibits floor–especially since I won’t need to worry about what I carry home with me. I’ll be home. The conference is here in Seattle this year.

So, what books are at the tippy top of my wishlist for 2013?

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, otherwise known as Sookie Stackhouse’s last hurrah. Even though the last few books in the series haven’t been quite up to the high bar set by the early entries, I have to know how Sookie’s story ends. Don’t you?

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon is the 8th doorstop in her giant, world-traveling, era-spanning Outlander series. The series has been described as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist,” and that’s the best short summation I’ve read for the damn thing that makes any sense. What they are is the best way to lose about three days, every time there’s a new one–and I can’t wait.

The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay. I’ll confess that I have this one because I did stalk NetGalley for months after reading The First Rule of Ten, but the official date of publication is January 1, 2013, so it’s on the list. Tenzing Norbu is interesting as a detective because he is just different enough to see the world slightly askew, and it helps him solve crimes. The world he solves crimes in is itself slightly askew. Of all the places for an ex-monk to end up, Hollywood? Really? Marvelous!

Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara will be number 9 in her Chronicles of Elantra. I just finished book 8, Cast in Peril, last week, and I’m already jonesing for my next fix. It doesn’t help that Cast in Peril ended in the middle of a very dangerous journey, not that Kaylin ever manages to stay out of trouble for long. So this wait is even more cliffhanger-esque than normal.

Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt Jr. When I finished the first trilogy in Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, I thought he was done. The story was marvelous, but his hero’s journey was over. Little did I know he had a prequel in mind. Quaeryt’s journey from bureaucratic aide to military leader reads a bit like Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. And that’s not bad company at all.

Untitled Psy-Changeling #12 by Nalini Singh. I hate this. The publisher and the author are being particularly coy about this one. Even the title is supposed to be a huge spoiler for some shocking secret mystery. As annoyed as I am about this, I adore the Psy-Changeling series, so I can’t wait for the book. Whatever it’s called.

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French is the second book in French’s new mystery series featuring therapist Frieda Klein. Something about the first book, Blue Monday, absolutely grabbed me. I think it had to do with how much Klein wanted to keep the case at arm’s length, and how personal it all turned out to be.  Blue Monday was chilling and I want to see if Tuesday’s Gone is just as good.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is something I’ve wanted for a long time, but never expected to see. It’s a continuation of her utterly wondrous Promethean Age series. The Promethean Age books were urban fantasy of the crossover school, something that isn’t done well nearly often enough. In the Promethean Age, Faerie exists alongside our world, and events can effect both, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson is the second book in Dawson’s absolutely yummy Blud series. The first book, Wicked as They Come, was dark, creepy, sensual and extremely eerie. At the same time, the love story was hauntingly beautiful. And I want to see more bludbunnies. Any writer who can come up with piranha rabbits has to have more tricks up her sleeve.

Calculated in Death  and Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb. I still want to know how Nora Roberts does it. Calculated and Thankless are the two In Death books scheduled for 2013. I have a hard time believing that they are numbers 36 and 37 in the series. Odds are that one will be close to awesome, and one will be a visit with old friends, which is still not bad. I’m going to buy them both anyway and read them in one gulp the minute I get them.

The Human Division by John Scalzi is Scalzi’s first novel in his Old Man’s War universe since Zoe’s Tale in 2008. Old Man’s War is military science fiction, with a slice of social commentary, and just a hint of a love story. It’s also just plain awesome. And anything new by Scalzi is automatically great news. Even more fascinating, The Human Division is going to be released as a digital serial, starting in January. So the only question is whether I get it in bits, or do I wait for the finished novel? Or both?

Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens is the twelfth book in Owens’ Celta series. In Celta, Robin D. Owens has created the kind of world that readers want to live on, as well as experience vicariously through her stories. I’ve read the entire Celta series, and they are one of the few romance series I’ve read that manages to make the “fated mate” concept work–probably because she occasionally subverts it.

Blood and Magick by James R. Tuck. This is the third book in the Deacon Chalk series, and I love them. I found Deacon because it’s getting to be too long a wait between Dresden Files books (and it looks like 2013 will be a year without Harry). Deacon Chalk mostly takes out his demons with guns. Lots and lots of guns. But he knows some on the side of the righteous, too. Deacon Chalk is urban fantasy of the purely kick-butt fun school.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay will be my birthday present this year, or close enough. Kay writes fantasy mixed with a large helping of historical fiction. The result is a magical blending of history as it might have been. Beautiful, complex, breath-takingly poignant. Kay writes worlds of awe and wonder. I can’t wait to be awestruck again.

These are the books. For 2013 it seemed fitting to choose a baker’s dozen, or 13, books that  I’m looking forward to the most.

If you’re curious about what happened to last year’s “Anticipateds” stop by Book Lovers Inc. on Thursday.

What books are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 12-30-12

Today is the last Sunday of 2012. We just brought another Billy Bookcase home from Ikea. There is no such thing as too many bookcases!

But seriously. We have lots (really lots) of the biggest ones, but one of the half-width ones died in the move here. They’re only particle board, after all. We use the half-width ones for the DVDs. We tried to get more Bennos too, but they were out.

We are settling in. Down to the last dozen boxes of miscellany. And a friend who is moving away gave us Mt. Catmore. The whole thing didn’t quite make it in the picture at right, but you get the idea. Also, there are two cats in the photo. Mellie is on top. But on the shelf between the two hutches, you can just make out a cat-shaped black hole. That’s Sophie.

In regards to other towering structures, like wish lists, the winner of the Gifting Books Blog Hop is Pauline Baird Jones, and she has received a $10 Amazon Gift Card to make a tiny dent in her wish list. Unfortunately for Pauline, filling your wish list just adds to the TBR stack. So many books, so little time!

And in the rest of the week’s posts…

All I Want For Christmas is a Duke: B- Review: The Twelve Days of Seduction by Maire Claremont, A- Review: Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle
Seasons’ Greetings
A Review: Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara
A Review: The Wish by Eden Winters; Guest Review by Cryselle
12 for 2012: The Best Dozen Books of My Year
Stacking the Shelves (28)

Coming up this week, Happy New Year! There’s one last bit of business before the end of the year. Tomorrow I’ll be posting my list of my most anticipated books for 2013. After tomorrow, it feels like it stops being anticipatory.

Tuesday starts the New Year’s Blog Hop here at Reading Reality and over 200 other blogs and author sites. Reading and blogging on New Year’s Day sounds like a lot of fun. Reading always sounds good to me!

Rounding out the week, Cryselle has another guest review, this time for Aleksandr Voinov’s marvelous Skybound. And I’ll have reviews of the first of Victoria Vane’s Devilish Vignettes, and The Second Rule of Ten.

What are your plans to celebrate the New Year? Do you have any resolutions of the bookish kind?

Stacking the Shelves (28)

The last Stacking the Shelves for 2012.  Wow!

And for the first time in over a year, all our books are on real shelves again. This deserves a celebration of some kind. Along with some serious moaning and groaning. Now that the books are finally out of boxes, we have to put them in order again. All 2,000  plus of them.

If you’ve ever wondered why I try so hard to get ebooks for review, that’s why!

Meanwhile, take a look at the fantastic new books I brought home, or downloaded, this week.

For Review:
The Better to See You (Transplanted Tales #2) by Kate SeRine
Devil in the Making Illustrated Edition (Devilish Vignettes #1) by Victoria Vane
Diana’s Hound (Bloodhounds #4) by Moira Rogers
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Jack Absolute (Jack Absolute #1) by C.C. Humphreys
Trickster by Jeff Somers

Dragonfly by Erica Hayes
Love Beyond the Curve by Kate Patrick
Red (Transplanted Tales #1) by Kate SeRine

Borrowed from the Library:
Naughty and Nice by Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, Megan Hart and Lauren Dane
Tainted Night, Tainted Blood (Kat Redding #2) by E.S. Moore (print)
To Walk the Night (Kat Redding #1) by E.S. Moore (print)

12 for 2012: The Best Dozen Books of My Year

It’s surprisingly difficult to decide which books were the absolute best from the year. Not so much the first few, those were kind of easy. But when it gets down to the last three or four, that’s where the nail-biting starts to come into play.

Looking back at the books I reviewed, I gave out a fair number of “A” ratings–but not very many “A+” ratings. And that’s as it should be. But there were also a couple of books that I read, and loved, but didn’t review. I bought them and didn’t write them up.

Love counts for a lot.

And there were a couple that just haunted me. They might not have been A+ books, but something about them made me stalk NetGalley for the rest of the year, searching for the next book in the series. Something, or someone that sticks in the mind that persistently matters.

This is my list of favorites for 2012. Your list, and your mileage, may vary.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (reviewed 11/30/12). I started reading the Dresden Files out of nostalgia for Chicago, probably my favorite former hometown. But I fell in love with Harry’s snark, and stayed that way. Some of the books have been terrific, and some have been visits with an old friend. Cold Days is awesome, because Harry is finally filling those really big shoes he’s been clomping around Chicago in. He is a Power, and he finally recognizes it. And so does everyone else. What he does with that power, and how he keeps it from changing him, has only begun.


The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (reviewed 8/29/12). Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series are murder-mysteries. They are also intensely deep character studies, and none in the series more deeply felt than this outing, which takes the Chief Inspector and his flawed second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir to a remote monastery in northern Québec. The murder exposes the rot within the isolated monastic community, and the interference from the Sûreté Chief exposes the rot within the Sûreté itself, and within Gamache’s unit.


The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (reviewed 6/20/12) The latest volume in Gabaldon’s Lord John series, which is a kind of historical mystery series. Lord John Grey solves military problems that tend to get wrapped up in politics. The Scottish prisoner of the title is Jamie Fraser, the hero of Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and takes place in the gap between Drums of Autumn and Voyager. The Scottish Prisoner has to do with an attempt by Lord John and his brother to prevent yet another Jacobite Rebellion by working with Jamie. If you like the Outlander series at all, this one is marvelous.


Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara (reviewed 12/26/12) is the latest in Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series. Elantra is an urban fantasy, but the setting is a high fantasy world. The emperor is a dragon, for example. But the heroine is human, and flawed. She is also a member of the law enforcement agency. It just so happens that her desk sergeant is a lion. The commander is a hawk. Her best friends are immortal, and one of them is the spirit of a tower.  Kaylin’s striving each day to make the world better than she began it changes everything, even the unchanging immortals around her. Her journey fascinates.


Scholar and Princeps by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I didn’t write reviews of these, and I should have, because I loved them both. Scholar and Princeps are the 4th and 5th books in the Imager Portfolio. The first three books, Imager, Imager’s Challenge, and Imager’s Portfolio were so good I practically shoved them at people. These new ones are in a prequel trilogy, but equally excellent. What’s different about these series is that Modesitt’s heroes in both cases are coming into their powers without it being a coming-of-age story. They are adults who are adjusting to new power and responsibility. It makes the story different from the usual epic fantasy.


The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay (reviewed 1/6/12). This book was an utter surprise and delight. A former Buddhist monk leaves the monastery, becomes an LAPD detective, and eventually, a private investigator. What a fascinating backstory! Tenzing Norbu, known as Ten, retains just enough of his outsider perspective to be a fascinating point-of-view character. I stalked NetGalley for months waiting for the next book in this series to appear, because I wanted more!


The Fallen Queen (reviewed at BLI on 7/3/12) and The Midnight Court (reviewed 8/14/12) by Jane Kindred. I said that Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy reminded me of Russian tea, initially bitter, often and unexpectedly sweet, and filled with immensely complicated rituals. Also incredibly satisfying for those who savor a heady brew. Take Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen and cross it with the history of the House of Romanov. Leaven it with the most complicated pantheon of angels and demons you can imagine, then stir well with the political machinations and sexual proclivities described in Kushiel’s Dart. Only with more heartbreak.

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox (reviewed 6/8/12) had me at hand-knitted straight-jacket. But it’s way more fun than that. Also more complicated. It’s the story of a formerly bad girl trying so damn hard to make up for her past mistakes, and unable to forgive herself, and one man who has tried much too hard for much too long to live up to his family’s expectations, in spite of the fact that what his family wants has nothing to do with what he wants for himself. They make a glorious mistake together, that turns out not to have been a mistake after all.


Taste Me (reviewed 12/11/12) and Chase Me (reviewed 12/12/12) by Tamara Hogan. The Underbelly Chronicles were a complete surprise, but in an absolutely fantastic way. They are paranormal romance of the urban fantasy persuasion, or the other way around. Every supernatural creature that we’ve ever imagined is real in Hogan’s version of Minneapolis, but with a fascinating twist. They’re real because they are the descendants of a wrecked space ship. That’s right, the vampires, and werewolves, and sirens, are all E.T. And when they find the wrecked ship’s black box after a thousand years, it phones home. The family reunion is coming up in book three. In the meantime, there is a lot of yummy interspecies romance.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and The Line Between Here and Gone (reviewed at BLI 6/19/12) by Andrea Kane. I disappeared into The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and didn’t reappear until the end of The Line Between Here and Gone, although I still find the title of the second one more than a bit incomprehensible. Just the same, the Forensic Instincts team that solves the extremely gripping and highly unusual crimes in this new series by Kane is a force to be reckoned with. They have that kind of perfect balance that you see in crime-solving teams with the best chemistry. They are a fantastic “five-man band” which makes it a pure pleasure to watch them work, no matter how gruesome the crime they were solving.

Blue Monday by Nicci French. I’m currently stalking Netgalley for the next book in this series, Tuesday’s Gone. Which is not here yet, so it can’t be bloody gone! This is a mystery, but with a more psychological bent, as the amateur sleuth is a forensic psychologist. This one gave me chills from beginning to end, but it’s the protagonist who has me coming back. Because her work is so personal, she’s both strong and fragile at the same time, and I want to see if she can keep going.


And for sheer impact, last and absolutely not least…

The Mine by John A Heldt (reviewed at BLI on 9/28/12). There are surprises, and then there are books that absolutely blow you away. If you have ever read Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, The Mine will remind you of Finney. Heldt has crafted a story about a boy/man who accidentally goes back in time to America’s last golden summer, the summer of 1941. All he has is a few stories of Seattle in the 1940s that his grandmother told, and a fortunate memory for baseball statistics. What he does is fall in love, with a woman, a time, a place, and a way of life. And then he learns that he can come home, and that he must. No matter how much damage he does by leaving the people he has come to love, he knows that he will do more harm if he stays. The Mine will stick with you long after you finish.

That’s a wrap. I could have gone on. I though about adding honorable mentions, but that way lies madness. Definitely madness! I did list my Best Ebook Romances for 2012 on Library Journal again this year. There are a couple of repeats from that list to this one, but the qualifications are different. LJ has lots of other “best” lists, if you are looking for a few (dozen) more good books.

I’m dreaming of next year.


Guest Review: The Wish by Eden Winters

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Series: The Wish #1
Length: 193 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: July 19, 2012
Purchasing Info:Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

At his death, Byron Sinclair left behind more than just his much older partner Alfred Anderson. The couple helped raise their respective nephews, and while Paul Sinclair and Alex Martin are now adults, they still have some growing up to do, particularly when it comes to getting along with each other.

If they refuse to be in the house at the same time, how can Alex be so sure Paul is an opportunistic suck-up with the morals of an alley cat? Paul isn’t impressed with aloof and arrogant playboy Alex, either. Both swear they know all they need to about the other–and about themselves.

Byron’s dying wish is for Alfred to help Paul and Alex see how perfect they are for each other. But when the boys stubbornly refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of them, Byron must get creative – though it’ll be difficult without hands, or a voice, or a body….

Guest Review by Cryselle

Honest to goodness, I don’t know how Eden Winters does it—she can start a novel in a funeral home, and still produce not one love story but two, plus chuckles, groans, gasps, and tears of the happy sort as well as the sad. By the end of this story I was well and truly run through my emotions.

Byron and Alfred are one love story, though Byron appears as a young and vibrant lover only in the memories of those he left behind. Alfred, his much older life partner, always expected to be the one to go first, as befit a man nearly a generation older. In the thoughts of their nephews Paul and Alex, we see both Byron and Alfred as trailblazers for gay love and acceptance, and as men thwarted in their desire for family by law, the times, and conventions. Still, they manage to be huge influences in the lives of their nephews, though not in the same way for both youths.

Byron is an opinionated man—a little drawback like being dead and incorporeal isn’t going to keep him from achieving a last deed before leaving—such an intrusive little busybody he is! A few of his wispy nudges have the possibility of going horribly awry, but that just might get his two hard-headed nephews to talk, something for which they’re decades overdue.

Paul and Alex are two of the most stubborn men to walk the planet—Paul is bent on independence to a degree that almost requires a slap and a lesson in graciousness, while Alex can hold a notion so tightly it dies of strangulation before he can reassess it. These two have to knock heads over and over before they can come to any appreciation of each other, but ghostly Uncle Byron has ways of shaking them up that provide some giggles along the way. When they do release their assumptions, Paul and Alex are sweet, hot, and more startling to one another than any manifestation of ectoplasm could be.

We get to look at the cogs turning in Alex’s head and know the tragedies that can accompany a privileged upbringing. He’s the one who changes the most in his understanding of love, and with his new-found appreciation of Paul, he can be a bastion of strength when it’s needed. His numerous wrong assumptions are the grist for the comedy, although Paul has his share of preconceived notions to give up. Paul’s almost a little too goody-goody, until he slangs back as good as he gets.

The style is sometimes bouncy and sometimes solemn—it’s a strength of the writing that some very serious notions permeate the work but don’t bog it down. Aging, ill health, death, and surviving loss all play a role, but there’s more hope than gloom, and love absolutely triumphs over everything else. For a wonderful emotional journey, a reader couldn’t wish for better than this.

Escape Rating: A

Cryselle can regularly be found blogging and reviewing at Cryselle’s Bookshelf.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The System by Heather Lin

system heather linFormat Read: ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages: 177 pages
Release Date: August 11, 2012
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Capri is an alluring young prostitute with a painful past; Brody is a ruthless mercenary running with a crew of thieves who live on a spaceship called Gypsy Lass. When he enters her brothel, the attraction between them is instant, electric, and too much for him to handle. He leaves unsatisfied, never wanting to see the girl again for fear she might soften his hard heart.

But Brody’s captain has other ideas. The crew attempts to rob the brothel, and when things don’t go quite as planned, they take Capri hostage, forcing her and Brody to remain in close quarters until they see fit to drop her on another planet.

But Capri’s plight and the intense feelings between her and Brody turn out to be the least of their problems. Together–whether they like it or not–they uncover realizations not only about themselves but also about the world they live in.

My Thoughts:

FireflyopeninglogoThe comparison between Heather Lin’s The System and Joss Whedon’s Firefly is not too far off the mark, with a few notable exceptions. The System is probably even darker and grittier than Firefly, and the backstories for our main characters, Brody and Capri, are even more tragic than their Serenity counterparts Mal Reynolds and Inara Serra.

Yes, I said more tragic. Even though there is no equivalent to the horrific Battle of Serenity Valley.

Brody is the muscle for a free-trader ship called the Gypsy Lass. And by free-trader I mean that sometimes the Gypsy Lass carries a legitimate cargo, and sometimes, she smuggles goods to places that the authorities don’t let legit ships serve. It’s a living for her crew.

And by muscle, I also meant shooter. The crew calls Brody “Shots”.

Capri is a prostitute in a fairly high-end brothel that the Gypsy Lass is supposed to rob. But the job goes horribly wrong. When Brody comes in to case the place, he and Capri connect on one level, but not on another. He can’t use her when he can tell she’s not remotely interested, and she’s honked off because he’s suddenly very not interested.

Then his crew comes back and fights off a rival gang of mercenaries. In the shooting, there’s only one survivor. Capri. Brody can’t stand to leave her there, so he takes her back to the ship.

She’s the only woman on the Gypsy Lass, but there’s never a moment when the Captain expects her to pay her passage on her back. Capri decides that it’s time to start her life over. To become someone she wants to be, instead of what she had to be. She’s only 19.

Capri and Brody are drawn to each other, even though they both know that they are wrong for each other. Whatever is happening between them, it’s part of the adrenaline of the escape. Part of being on the ship.

And for him, it’s a feeling he’s trying to fight, because he never wants anyone close to him again. People close to him get killed. And he’s not a good man. He never was.

But the crew of the Gypsy Lass, they all like Capri. Not just because she’s pretty, but because she’s trying so hard to fit in and make a place for herself. She wants to earn a place. To belong.

To become more like Kaylee, since she never wanted to be Inara. And it works. She’s freer as a mascot and grease monkey and occasional fifth gun on assignments than she ever was before.

And she’s happy.

If only Brody doesn’t screw things up. For both of them. Again.

MalReynoldsFireflyVerdict: If you remember Firefly fondly, just get this book. But it is not for the faint of heart. The world of The System is very dark. Brody is right, he is not a good man. And he does some really stupid things to prove it to Capri.

Very harsh things happen on this world. There are scenes of rape and near-rape and murder. The happy-for-now is an HFN for certain fragile values of happy, but it feels like the right ending for these people.

There’s no white picket-fence subdivision in this universe. Surviving together is the best option. Figuring that out is the journey.

4-StarsI give The System 4 blaster-shot stars

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Chronicles of Elantra #8
Length: 544 Pages
Publisher: Harlequin Luna
Date Released: September 25, 2012
Purchasing Info:Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

It has been a busy few weeks for Private Kaylin Neya. In between angling for a promotion, sharing her room with the last living female Dragon and dealing with more refugees than anyone knew what to do with, the unusual egg she’d been given began to hatch. Actually, that turned out to be lucky, because it absorbed the energy from the bomb that went off in her quarters.…So now might be the perfect time to leave Elantra and journey to the West March with the Barrani. If not for the disappearances of citizens in the fief of Tiamaris—disappearances traced to the very Barrani Kaylin is about to be traveling with…

If you adore urban fantasy, pick up Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra. Start from the first book (Cast in Shadow) and be prepared to wallow. Also, if you like epic fantasy, dig in! Because Elantra is both. It’s an urban fantasy set in an epic fantasy world.

What it isn’t is a romance. Like many true urban fantasy series, someday, at some point, Kaylin might figure herself out enough to let love happen. But it will be at the right time for her. That’s not what this story is about.

It is Kaylin’s journey. And she has way too much pain in her past having to do with sex to think about love. Especially since the man she knows loves her murdered two children that she thought of as her sisters.

And Kaylin took a long time about it, but she finally admitted that he was right to do it. For certain select painful definitions of right. Definitions that only belong to orphans eking out an existence in the fiefs of Elantra.

Kaylin has come a long way from there. Kaylin is now a Hawk. An officer of the law in Elantra. She is also a Lord of the Barrani Court. One of only two human lords in that otherwise immortal court. And she is currently the roommate of the only female dragon to be seen in hundreds, if not thousands of years.

And she is Chosen. Her skin is inked with runes of power. But not inked by tattoos. No one knows how or why she was Chosen, only that it happens once in so many generations. And that it gives her power.

Few mortals, few humans ever become Chosen. It shapes her life, and she shapes others.

She saved the High Lord of the Barrani, when no one else could. She fought an Outcaste Dragon, and survived.

Mostly, Kaylin gets into a LOT of trouble. Without even trying. Every time she does, she changes her world. She always tries to change it for the better, and someone always tries to stop her. They usually fail, but not without doing a great deal of collateral damage.

In Cast in Peril, a Barrani Arcanist embezzles money from the Imperial Exchequer. Always a bad idea, but especially when the Emperor is a Dragon. Dragons guard their hoards zealously.

It turns out that the Arcanist was using the money to attempt to make himself a Lord of Chaos. He misjudged his ability to become a Lord, but he certainly got the chaos part right.

Especially with Kaylin involved.

Escape Rating A: Reading this was my holiday treat to myself. The story gets off to a rollicking start and never lets go. I love Kaylin’s voice. She’s snarky and snarly and insecure, all at the same time. She hopes for the best from everyone, but knows that it just isn’t possible. She hopes for the best from herself, and tries always.

She’s playing so far above her weight class, all the time, and knows it, but keeps on, because that’s the only life she’s ever had.

The characters around her are fascinating. Everyone’s backstory is so deep, but we only see what Kaylin sees, and the urge to peel back the layers is overwhelming. Elantra is a world I could explore forever.

At the same time, while the Elantra Chronicles as a whole are Kaylin’s journey, Cast in Peril is about one very specific journey, and it’s not done. We get cut off right before the climax and this story feels a bit incomplete because of it. The completion of this specific trip will be told in Cast in Sorrow (ominous title, that) which won’t be out until September, 2013. Dammit.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: A Little Bit Wicked by Robyn DeHart

little bit wickedFormat Read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Number of Pages: 229 paged
Release Date: December 2, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: Forbidden Love #1
Genre: Historical Romance, Holiday Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Marcus Kincaid has returned to England after a ten-year absence. His older brother died during that time, making Marcus the Earl of Ashford. Not only that, his younger sister is embroiled in a potential scandal that could ruin her chance at marriage. His aunt has already called in reinforcements—The Paragon.

Vivian March is known simply as The Paragon. She moves through every circle within Society, smoothing out scandals and stopping gossip in its tracks. Everyone in London knows that if she aligns herself with you, Society will forgive you your sins. What they don’t know is that she uses their secrets to cover her own jaded past.

But with every kiss and every touch that Marcus thrusts upon her, Vivian comes to believe life is infinitely more fun when you can be just a little bit wicked…

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t finish this one. It’s not even that long,  but I still couldn’t do it. At the 60% mark I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The heroine, Vivian March, is 34 by the time of the story, and she keeps going on and on (and on) that she must be wearing a “Scarlet W” or the equivalent. That every man who sees her must somehow be able to sense that she is secretly a “wanton woman”.

In spite of the fact that for the past decade she has made her living as “The Paragon”–the woman who sweeps everyone else’s scandals under the carpet. And that no man has even bothered to do more than mildly flirt with her in ages.

Her breakdown in mental acuity is all because Marcus Kincaid is back in town, and he not only knows that she isn’t the paragon of virtue society believes she is, but he is determined to prove it to her at every available private opportunity.

One evening, long ago, Vivian kissed Marcus passionately, believing that he was the man she was betrothed to. The man she had already compromised herself with. That’s the problem with masked assignations, you often don’t realize your catastrophic mistakes until it is far too late.

Her supposed betrothed left for the continent that evening, and Vivian was lucky–she was not pregnant. She hasn’t seen him since, but she is just sure he’ll be back some day to ruin her reputation.

She hadn’t seen Marcus since that night either. He left to travel the world as a leader for an adventure exploration company, but now he’s back. His brother has died, and now, instead of being the spare, he’s the Earl.

He’s never forgotten that kiss. But when the scandal that his younger sister has created requires the services of “The Paragon”, he’s astonished to discover that it is the woman who stole his senses for one all too brief moment so long ago.

Marcus is determined to re-experience that moment, and make sure it lasts, this time. Maybe forever.

Verdict: DNF As I said at the beginning, I gave up.  This is the first time I’ve  just given up on a book I’m supposed to review, but I just couldn’t stand Vivian’s dithering another page.  She is supposed to be 34, not 17.

The concept of this story was good. I liked the idea of a scandal-sweeper. It may or may not have been historically accurate, but it made for an interesting premise. And Marcus’ background was fascinating. That a man who was intended to be the spare and not the heir would be leading adventure tours had to come home and suddenly be the Earl, made him a very different hero. He didn’t want the title. He loved the travel and the adventure and being away from society. But he knew his duty and loved his sister and knew what was required. Even if it hurt him quite a bit to give up a life he really loved.

It was obvious that Vivian’s old flame was going to come back and attempt to ruin things. The cat-and-mouse game he was playing started too soon and dragged out far too long. It got boring and so did Vivian’s melodramatic reaction to it.

But what killed it for me was that I didn’t sympathize with Vivian. At 34, she should have known her own mind. Or body. She was experienced. Not just sexually, although not much at that. The villain was clearly not very good at it. But Vivian was very experienced in the way society worked. She’d built her reputation for over a decade, and he was a nobody. Gone to the continent. She should have been able to outface him easily. Or simply blackmail her former clients into submission, because the secrets she knew were truly damning, and she had actual proof.

On the other hand, blaming her behavior with Marcus on a spell or mind-control, then thinking that everyone could see her secret wanton-ness, she just got ridiculous. She was not just an adult, but a woman of 34. She should have acted like one. Not a simpering chit fresh from the schoolroom.

The Grinch gives A Little Bit Wicked 1/2 star for the Epic Fail.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: All I Want for Christmas is a Duke by Delilah Marvell and Maire Claremont

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Historical Romance, Holiday Romance
Length: 209 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: December 5, 2012
Purchasing Info:Delilah Marvelle’s Website, Maire Claremont’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Two ladies. Two dukes. One Christmas. And scandal galore.

A Christmas anthology by two hot names in historical romance fiction…

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle

Lady Jane left her father, the Earl of Chadwick, and the ton behind to experience life on the stage. After a disastrous marriage, the widow is living on the edge of poverty, determined to guard her heart, when a secret admirer from her past demands a second chance.

Shy and retiring Martin Nicholas Pierce, the Sixth Duke of Somerset, has carried a torch for Lady Jane since her youth, but he is five years her junior. When she married another man, he left for Europe, determined to put her out of his mind. After returning to find Lady Jane free, he vows to replace the memories of her cursed Twelfth Night with a new beginning.

The Twelve Days of Seduction By Màire Claremont

Alexander Hunt, Eighth Duke of Berresford, is aware his ward’s governess isn’t quite what she seems. Although Miss Flint is beautiful and intelligent, she misrepresented herself to gain employment, and he threatens to give her the sack mere days before Christmas.

Desperate to convince the sexy duke not to tear her from the little girl she’s grown to adore, Adriana challenges him to seduce her before the Twelve Days of Christmas have come to an end, although she fears it may cost her heart. Alexander accepts the challenge, unconcerned that he has as much to lose, if not more, than the delectable Miss Flint.

Two Christmas romances, both featuring Dukes as the heroes. You’d think that these stories would be similar, but beyond that superficial detail, they’re not.

The Twelve Days of Seduction by Màire Claremont starts with one of the classic themes, the governess who falls for her employer. Of course, the author adds more layers onto that trope. The governess also falls for her charge, the Duke’s somewhat willful daughter. And she also falls for the whole gig. She wants to be part of a family, because she never was. Adriana Flint definitely bootstrapped herself up from the underclass.

When the Duke of Berresford discovers that she isn’t what she seems, he should give her the sack. What he wants is to finally take her to bed. Because all the things that were forbidden when she was his daughter’s prim and proper governess are not forbidden if he fires her.

Adriana wants to stay. She loves the child, she loves being part of a family. She might even love Alex, her Duke. But the trick is to get him to let her stay long enough to let him convince himself that she’s the right woman for him. Not as his mistress, but as his duchess.

I found this story to be quite entertaining, and very sensual, but it did break the willing suspension of disbelief quite a bit even though it had lots of Christmas spirit. Maybe it would take the Ghost of Christmas Present to make this one come true.

Escape Rating for The Twelve Days of Seduction by Màire Claremont: B

The first story in this duology is Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle. The story gets off to a slightly rocky start, but turns out to be an absolute polished gem by the end.

Lady Jane takes to the stage, and leaves the life she should have had behind in favor of the glittering world of being a singing sensation. While it might not be the same as being Lady Gaga in our time, Lady Jane has a musical gift that carries her beyond singing in drawing rooms for a few friends, think of Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes’ A Scandal in Bohemia. She has a major talent, and a need to share it.

But Ladies don’t sing on stage.

She has a secret admirer, a man who sends her beautiful letters, every night, letters that reveal his understanding of her true spirit. But she never knows his name. The man she marries claims to be the mysterious Mr. X turns out to have been stealing the letters to read in advance so he could pretend to be the man she loved but had never met.

When confronted with the truth, her husband has a stroke and dies instantly, leaving her a young widow, cut off from society.

Years later, she ekes out a living giving music lessons, unwilling to sing, unwilling to return to her family hat in hand, when a friend from her youth comes to her boarding house.

Martin Pierce has recently become the Duke of Somerset. He’s discovered that his great-aunt, cut off from his family long before he was born, is living out her remaining years in that boarding house.

And is surprised beyond all belief to find Lady Jane. Surprised, stunned, relieved. Gobsmacked, although that term hadn’t been invented yet.

Because when Lady Jane sang on the stage, she was in her early 20s, and Martin Pierce was a 17-year-old boy painfully in love with her. He was the real Mr.X. He loves her still.

Now that they are both adults, the five-year gap in their ages is immaterial, but the difference in their status suddenly looms very large. As does his secret.

Can they start over? Should they? Martin is no longer the shy boy he once was, and he knows that he has to try.

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson turned out to be utterly marvelous. Lady Jane’s pride was painfully well drawn, as was the spritely character of Martin’s aunt, Lady Ernastine. She’s a gem. Watching Martin take charge of his life is beautiful and powerful to watch.

Escape Rating for Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle: A-

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.