A Look Forward: My Most Anticipated Reads for 2014

2014 numbersWhat a difference a year makes!

It was surprisingly easy to pick the books for this list. I know exactly which books I’m dying for this year. Well, the first ten, anyway. I wasn’t planning on fourteen, but Cass jumped in and rounded out the list. (Thanks, Cass!)

Then I took a look back at last year’s list, and my eyes crossed a bit. There are two repeaters. I don’t mean series where the next book in the series is on the list, although that happens too, but two books that were delayed in publication. So I’ve waited a whole year longer than originally planned. (Not that I didn’t find plenty to read instead)

And a couple of things I thought I would read as soon as they came out, I didn’t. (Best laid plans, etc., etc.)

So here’s this year’s set of newly laid plans. Let’s see how it goes. Why do I hear a “bwahahaha”, coming from somewhere in the shadows?

skin game by jim butcherSkin Game by Jim Butcher is the 15th Harry Dresden book. I can’t believe the series has been going on that long. I fell in love with Harry because he started out as a hapless and frequently luckless wizard in my favorite former hometown, Chicago. But I still love his trademark snark, even as Harry has gone from being a two-bit wizard-for-hire to the Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness.

Damnation by Jean Johnson is the fourth book in her Theirs Not to Reason Why military science fiction series. I heard her read from Damnation at WorldCon in San Antonio, and I can’t believe I have to wait until August to finally get the next chapter in Ia’s story. There have been moments in this series that have sent chills down my spine. This entire series has been awesome.

guild by jean johnsonThe Guild, also by Jean Johnson, is the third book in her Guardians of Destiny fantasy romance series. Her military sf is kick ass, but I found her through her fantasy romance, and she’s utterly marvelous. The second book in this series, The Grove, was on my 2013 best list. She does fantasy romance where the fantasy worldbuilding is top notch and her heroines are always the absolute equals of her heroes. Her women have friends who talk to each other, and the plot of the fantasy is as important as the romantic happy ending. Her stories are always a treat!

Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara is the tenth of the Chronicles of Elantra, and I can’t wait for Kaylin to get back to the city. She belongs there. Removing her from the city and the Courts for two books was interesting and told a lot about her friends among the Barrani, but took away from Kaylin as the center point. I want Kaylin back where she belongs!

silver mirrors by aa aguirreSilver Mirrors by A.A. Aguirre is the second book in their (A.A. Aguirre is the joint pseudonym of Ann and Andres Aguirre) Apparatus Infernum series. The first book, Bronze Gods, was one of my best of 2013. The world is just such an awesome mixture of steampunk and “magic goes away”, with an urban fantasy/detective duo that is something special.

Death Defying by Nina Croft has been the biggest tease for the end of December. It’s also the third book in her Blood Hunter series. I loved the first two books (Break Out and Deadly Pursuit) in that science fiction romance series so damn much that I gave Break Out an SFR Galaxy Award. I’ve been waiting since then. Death Defying almost made it into 2013, but not quite. What is so cool about the Blood Hunter series is that Croft figured out a plausible way for vampires and werewolves to make it into space. So along with a science that has granted immortality to a privileged few, there are vampires, who are also immortal. And it makes sense.

shield of winter by nalini singhShield of Winter by Nalini Singh is lucky 13 in her Psy-Changeling series. I still love this series, but it’s pretty obvious that the overall arc of the worldbuilding is drawing to a conclusion. The Silence Protocol will fall, the questions revolve around what is going to take its place; order or anarchy. I think I’ve become as or more fascinated with the big story than the individual romances. And I simply can’t express how grateful I am that the cover design has improved with Heart of Obsidian and Shield. The previous US covers were simply abominable.

Lock In by John Scalzi. Honestly, I wouldn’t care what the summary said on Goodreads. It’s by Scalzi, and I’m going to get the eARC from Edelweiss as soon as it pops up. But seriously, it sounds cool, but not one of his funny ones. This looks like one of his big idea books mixing virtual-reality, epidemiology and the misuse of power. Wow!

And now for those books that I hoped to see last year, but were delayed in publication…

written in my own hearts blood by diana gabaldonWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth doorstop in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The Outlander series has been described, and it sounds about right to me, as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist”. The past and the future intertwine in a way that has to be read to be believed. Her 18th century is like you are there, and in a way you are, because you are experiencing it through the eyes of a 20th century woman who found the love of her life in 18th century Scotland. Outlander is the standard by which all other time travel historical fiction and romances are judged. I can’t wait to lose three days in the next one.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is the continuation of her completely splendiferous Promethean Age series. They are portal fantasies, where Faerie exists next door to our world in a way that means events can, and do, affect both us and them, usually to the detriment of one or the other. And whoever scored last has a nasty tendency to strike back. The original cover sucked, and it went back for a better one. At least, that’s what the author said at WorldCon. (The first cover really, really does suck, we’ll have to see about the second one when it gets here. I just want the damn story)

Two books I should be anticipating but aren’t exactly…

Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. DawsonWicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson and Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr. These two books have nothing to do with each other, except that they are both January books, and I would normally be chomping at the proverbial bit to get at them. However, I have ARCs. I’ve already read Rex Regis, and can’t recommend it, and the entire Imager Portfolio series, highly enough to anyone who loves epic fantasy.

I started Delilah S. Dawson’s Blud series after I met her at Dragon*Con in 2012. The series is steampunk with a slightly creepy twist to it, but they are darkly enchanting and I scoop up each book as soon as they are available. I know Wicked After Midnight is going to be a treat.

And now for a few words from the Alaskan delegate. Here’s Cass!

tropic of serpents by marie brennanThe Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan! Clearly. I invented a new rating system for Book #1 Then I preordered Serpents 6 months before it’s release. I’ve NEVER preordered something so far in advance. I have no idea what edition it is (hardcover? paperback?), what the cover art looks like…nada. Doesn’t matter. Don’t care. WANT BOOK NOW.

Symbiont by Mira Grant. Argh! I have to see what is happening with the Tapeworm Uprising! And then find some anti-parasitcs to ingest, thus purging my body of our future Tapeworm Overlords.


Wyrd-Sisters by Terry Pratchett new coverThe Discworld Collector’s Library. Holy shit these covers are gorgeous. (http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2013/10/announcing-the-discworld-collectors-library/). I’ve read the covers off several of my favorite Terry Pratchett books, and I upgrades. Particularly the Death, Cultures of Discworld, and Witches Collections. I am only interested in certain Unseen University and City Watch books.

Untitled by Connie Willis. Connie read the first chapter from an untitled (and as yet unfinished) book at WorldCon and I have no idea when it is coming or what it will be called by I am waiting. Credit card in hand. Just give me a sign Connie…..

And there you have it. A few of the books we are looking most forward to in 2014. Of course, there will be more. Lots, lots more.

Which books are you looking forward to the most in 2014?

Review: Wicked As She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson

Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. DawsonFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss and NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Paranormal romance, Steampunk romance
Series: Blud, #2
Length: 420 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: April 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Blud princess Ahnastasia wakes up, drained and starving in a suitcase, she’s not sure which calls to her more: the sound of music or the scent of blood. The source of both sensations is a handsome and mysterious man named Casper Sterling. Once the most celebrated musician in London, Sangland, he’s fallen on hard times. Now, much to Ahna’s frustration, the debauched and reckless human is her only ticket back home to the snow-rimmed and magical land of Freesia.

Together with Casper’s prickly charge, a scrappy orphan named Keen, they seek passage to Ahna’s homeland, where a power-hungry sorceress named Ravenna holds the royal family in thrall. Traveling from the back alleys of London to the sparkling minarets of Muscovy, Ahna discovers that Freesia holds new perils and dangerous foes. Back in her country, she is forced to choose between the heart she never knew she had and the land that she was born to rule. But with Casper’s help, Ahna may find a way to have it all….

My Review:

Have you ever wondered what happens to the failed member of a love triangle? Especially when it’s a truly epic fail?

Wicked As They Come (absolutely awesome, see review) introduced us to the world of Sang, a world sort of parallel to our own, one that we can go to when we dream, or if we have the misfortune to end up in a coma.

Tish Everett was called there by circus owner Criminy Stain because she was his one true love. Casper Sterling found himself there because in our world, Casper’s love of fast motorcycles left him in a coma.

Casper falls in love with Tish, or thinks he does. Tish almost loves him back, but not quite. Her future is with Criminy, even though he isn’t human, like her and Casper. Criminy is a predator of Sang. He’s a Bludman.

Losing Tish breaks Casper, and he begins his long, slow slide into despair and other dark places. But in Sang, Tish is a fortune-teller. Truly. And the fortune she tells for Casper is that after he has lost everything, he will find his true destiny.

In the basement of the absolutely most disgusting dive in London, a Bludwoman wakes up in a suitcase to the sound of Casper Sterling, “The Maestro” himself, playing “Hey Jude” on a harpsichord…and she tries to kill him. But Princess Ahnastasia discovers that he doesn’t care if she kills him, and he doesn’t quite smell edible. Then he cuts her and drinks a bit of her Blud.

Smart and dumb, both at the same time.

He’s also completely debauched, incredibly handsome, and surprisingly willing to help her reclaim her birthright from the witch who drained her and packed her in a suitcase four years ago.

Ahnastasia is the rightful Tsarina of Freesia, and she wants Casper to help her depose the witch who killed her family and stole her kingdom. He cares so little for his life and his future that he decides to help her.

As far as Casper is concerned, one crazy way to die is as good as another. As long as he’s distracted as he goes, he doesn’t care. Until he discovers that he does.

Escape Rating A-: Wicked As She Wants is wicked good. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, we’ll move on to the review.

Ahna is a royal bitch. She was raised to be, and she certainly fulfills her role. Part of the story is Ahna discovering how not to be quite so much of a bitch, and that people (using the term loosely) are worth caring about. She learns a bit about walking in someone else’s shoes, or at least their kidskin slippers.

Casper grows up. He becomes who he was meant to be. It’s ironic that who he was meant to be required a motorcycle accident on our Earth, and a serious dive, but his “resurrection” makes a terrific story.

The third wheel in this story, the orphan Keen, is a neat addition. Keen latched on to Casper because they are both “Strangers”, people from our world, but Keen wants him to be Good, and Casper has been Bad for quite a long time. On the other hand, Keen is the vehicle that helps both Ahna and Casper grow up and learn, or learn again in Casper’s case, to care about others.

fallen queen goodreads**Reviewer’s note: If you are particularly fascinated by the dark and decadent alternate Russia portrayed in Wicked As She Wants, I also highly recommend Jane Kindred’s The Fallen Queen and The Midnight Court.

***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 Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance by Delilah S. Dawson

The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance by Delilah S. DawsonFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Steampunk romance, Paranormal romance
Series: Blud, #1.6
Length: 100 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date Released: April 1, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

In a world ruled by blood, live pets are rare and kindness rarer still. London pet shop owner Frannie Pleasance has a mysterious way with animals and keeps her charges (and heart) locked in a veritable Eden. She thinks Casper Sterling is just another stray…until she takes in the troublesome lodger (and unwelcome suitor) and becomes the victim of a series of strange and dangerous occurrences.

When an unexplained fire threatens to destroy Frannie’s carefully guarded world, firefighter Thom Maccallan is there to extinguish the blaze and help gather the lost creatures. The heat between Frannie and Thom begins to burn,but someone’s still after the lady. Could it be Casper himself, or is Frannie’s new lodger just another victim of fate? Will they be able to figure out who’s pursuing Frannie—and stop them—before she loses everything?

My Review:

As a reminder of all things Blud, The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance is a treat. It also serves as a re-introduction to Casper Sterling, Tish’s failed suitor from Wicked as They Come, since that unlucky gentleman will be the hero of Wicked As She Wants.

Casper, last seen leaving Criminy’s circus in a rather despondent mood, doesn’t appear any too well when Frannie Pleasance finds him in a London gutter. The first thing he does is yark all over himself. Then he discovers that he’s been rolled and has neither wallet nor luggage.

In a city crawling with bludrats, being left for dead could have had worse consequences. He would have been dead quite soon.

Frannie takes Casper home with her. She picks up stray animals, and thinks he’s another one. And, he looks just like her brother. Her dead brother.

But Casper Sterling is NOT a stray. He’s “The Maestro”, the greatest harpsichord player that this version of London has ever seen. He’s also a drunk, and a user, and someone wants him very, very dead.

Frannie Pleasance just owns a pet shop. She takes in stray pets that wander through from our world to Sang and finds homes for them. She keeps them safe until she finds the right place for them.

But accidents start happening. Her house catches fire. Then fireman Thom Maccallan comes in to put out the fire in the house, but starts a whole new fire in Frannie.

Frannie has secrets that she has never revealed to a soul. Secrets that may be worth more than her life. Someone might be after her house. Someone might be after Casper. Casper might even be after her.

Can her fireman get to the bottom of the mystery before Frannie and her precious pets all wind up dead?

Escape Rating B: This was fun but not as absorbing in and of itself as The Mysterious Madam Morpho (see review). It hinges too much on the need to re-introduce Casper and the mystery surrounding whatever he’s doing to himself. He’s doing something and we’re teased about it, but we don’t find out the consequences until well into Wicked As They Come.

I’d have enjoyed this more if the story had focused on Thom and Frannie. Their love story was sweet and sensual and didn’t need Casper’s business in particular.  Alternatively, there needed to be more resolution, which of course we can’t get because that’s the next book. Which I’m glad is here. Wicked As They Come was fantastic so I’ve been on pins and needles for Wicked As She Wants for months!

(Your patience will be rewarded. My review of Wicked As She Wants will be posted later this morning.)

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-5-13

Sunday Post

It’s been a good week! I managed to get a plug in for science fiction romance at my day job this week. The Seattle Public Library blog Shelf Talk mostly talks about books (surprise!) My post this week, Romance, with a little rocket fuel, highlighted some recent SFR. I’ll be posting semi-regularly on romance, but I wanted to start off with a bit of a zing.

Back to our regularly scheduled Sunday Post on this blog.

Gina L. Maxwell Swag PackWe have a Winner! The winner of The Magic Touch Blog Hop last week was Trix. I’ve already contacted her and sent her the $10 Amazon Gift Card. I hope she gets something really wonderful (dare I say magical) to read.

There is still time to enter the giveaway this week for an autographed copy of John Marco’s The Forever Knight. This one is print, so it’s US/CAN shipping only.

And, there is still time to enter Gina L. Maxwell’s Seducing Cinderella/Rules of Entanglement swag pack giveaway AND her tourwide giveaway of a Kindle Fire HD or $200 Amazon Gift Card.

The forever Knight by john MarcoHere’s everything that happened this week:

A- Review: The Forever Knight by John Marco
Interview with Author John Marco + Giveaway
Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh: Beat of Temptation B-; Stroke of Enticement B; Declaration of Courtship C; Texture of Intimacy B+
B Review: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
B Review: Rules of Entanglement by Gina L. Maxwell
Guest Post by Author Gina L. Maxwell on the Yin-Yang Relationship + Giveaway
B Review: Thank You for Riding by Meg Maguire
Stacking the Shelves (43)

Bare It All by Lori FosterComing up this week, on Tuesday Lori Foster’s Bare It All tour will be stopping at Reading Reality. In addition to a review of the latest book in her Love Undercover series, I have a Q&A with Lori and a chance for one lucky commenter to win a copy of the book.

On Thursday, Robin Covington will be here for an interview, and readers will have a chance to win a copy of her new book, His Southern Temptation. (My review of that delicious story was posted on April 17)

Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. DawsonAnd because I find the Blud series irresistibly wicked, I’ll have reviews of Delilah S. Dawson’s The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance and the long awaited Wicked As She Wants to round out the week.

I hope you’re having a wickedly delicious spring!

Review: The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

mysterious madam morphoFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Steampunk romance, Paranormal romance
Series: Blud #1.5
Length: 100 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: October 2, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Taking place after Wicked as They Come, this original eBook features a mysterious lady and a reclusive mechanical genius who find love and danger in a traveling circus. An elusive woman arrives at Criminy’s doorstep with a steamer trunk, begging for a position in the caravan to perform her unique new act. She opens her trunk to reveal a menagerie of brilliantly colored butterflies. The woman, who calls herself Madam Morpho, is on the run from a dark past in London, where she was forced to leave her equipment behind and abscond with only her tiny performers. Playing a hunch, Criminy hires Madam Morpho on the spot. Taking her down to meet Mr. Murdoch, the reclusive talented engineer who keeps the carnival’s clockworks running, Criminy instructs them to work together to design and build a groundbreaking new circus for the butterflies. Amid the magical ambiance of the circus and the hint of danger from Madam Morpho’s pursuers, she and Mr. Murdoch soon find that their scientific collaboration has produced chemistry of a more romantic kind.

My Review:

wicked as she wantsI was hungering for the next full installment of Delilah S. Dawson’s darkly delicious Blud series after the chills and thrill’s of last year’s Wicked As They Come (click here for review), but was disappointed to discover that Wicked As She Wants won’t be out until April 30.

And that Edelweiss doesn’t seem to have egalleys. Damn.

Then I remembered that I have egalleys of two “tide-me-over” novellas, that might just satisfy my taste for Sangland until the end of April.

So the Mysterious Madam Morpho comes to Criminy Stain’s traveling carnival. As with all of Criminy’s other carnivalleros, Imogen Morpho is running away.

In Sang, only the truly desperate run off to join the circus. And Imogen Morpho is truly desperate. Or she would be if there really were an Imogen Morpho.

Instead there’s only Jane Bumble, running from London with a fortune in carefully preserved butterflies and a circus act that lets her make them perform spectacular feats of magic.

All of it stolen from the greatest museums in London. Along with an artifact that is worth more than Jane’s life. Or the life of the entire carnival.

Criminy should turn her away. Her act is a dead giveaway, pardon the pun, of her spectacular theft.

But his wife, the oracular Tish, tells him that the circus needs the butterfly mistress.

Or rather, that one particular member of the circus family needs the butterfly mistress. And Criminy’s circus needs that very special family member.

Jane Bumble thinks that her value is in her butterflies. Her real value is in emerging from her crysalis and becoming a butterfly herself.

And in helping one of the circus’ most important family members shed his cocoon at the same time.

Escape Rating B+: It was marvelous to visit the world of Sang again. There is no place quite like this one, where the adorable prey animals have evolved into vicious predators like bludbunnies. When Jane/Imogen is attacked by bludbadgers, it is frightening, incongruous and hilarious all at the same time.

This is a romance between two unlikely people. Not unlikely because they are not suited, but unlikely because they are people who have both remained hidden behind masks, drab clothing, inside walls and/or wagons, and fake identities. They both have to reveal who they really are before they can have a chance.

With a bit of help from a clockwork cougar to clean up the bloody mess. Sang is not for the faint of heart. But neither is emerging from your shell and facing the world as the person you were meant to be.

***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.

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?

Stacking the Shelves (16) Dragon*Con Edition

This would be Stacking the Shelves, the Dragon*Con edition.  I say it’s the Dragon*Con edition for a couple of reasons.

The first is simply because I was at Dragon*Con over Labor Day weekend, and didn’t do a Stacking the Shelves post.  Romance at Random started their Labor Day Blog Hop, and Reading Reality was a participant. There’s still plenty of time to enter, so hop on over to the post and take a look at the giveaway.

About Dragon*Con. Downtown Atlanta looked like it had been invaded by aliens. I’ve been to big cons (Chicago holds three a year) but nothing like this. 50,000+ fen is a lot of fen. (For those unfamiliar, fen is the collective noun for science fiction fans)

While I did go to a couple of media tie-in events (any Mythbusters fans in here?) there were a bunch of authors I wanted to see. Mercedes Lackey and Katherine Kurtz in particular. I’ve been reading both their signature series since Arrows of the Queen and Deryni Rising, respectively. It was awesome to see them in person.

And great to meet authors whose books I have reviewed, like James R. Tuck. He was terrific, and I think even remembered my review. I’m pretty I’m going to finally review Blood and Silver this week. Damn it was good.

Speaking of his reading, he had all his friends who were authors also read from their books, so I picked up Delilah S. Dawson’s Wicked as they Come from her at that panel. And started it immediately, finished it and reviewed it this week. Decadently delicious.

So what delicious books have you added to your stacks this week?

For Review:
When Snow Falls (Whiskey Creek #2) by Brenda Novak
Wife for Hire by Christine Bell
Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire edited by Mitzi Szereto
The Scientific Sherlock Holmes by James O’Brien
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
All He Ever Needed (Kowalski Family #4) by Shannon Stacey
Racing With the Wind (Agents of the Crown #1) by Regan Walker
The Cowboy and the Vampire by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd
Forge (Thrall Web #1) by T.K. Anthony
Spice and Smoke (Bollywood Confidential #1) by Suleikha Snyder
Spice and Secrets (Bollywood Confidential #2) by Suleikha Snyder
Babylon Confidential by Claudia Christian
Clean (Mindspace Investigations #1) by Alex Hughes (print)
Operation: Endgame (When the Mission Ends #1) by Christi Snow
A Date with Death (1Night Stand) by Louisa Bacio
Forty Shades of Pearl by Arianne Richmonde
Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed (Sons of Sin #1) by Anna Campbell
Rapture (Bel Dame Apocrypha #3) by Kameron Hurley

Interview with a Jewish Vampire by Erica Manfred (free)
My Vampire Cover Model by Karyn Gerrard
The Lost Night (Rainshadow #2, Harmony #9) by Jayne Castle
Wicked As They Come (Blud #1) by Delilah S. Dawson (print, signed by the author at Dragon*Con)
Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles #1) by D.B. Jackson (print, signed by the author at Dragon*Con)
Intentional Abduction (Alien Abduction #2) by Eve Langlais (free to Dragon*Con attendees!)

Review: Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

Format read: signed paperback purchased from the author at Dragon*Con
Formats available: Mass Market paperback, ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance, steampunk
Series: Blud #1
Length: 395 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Purchasing Info: Author Website, Publisher Website, Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, Book Depository

Have you ever heard of a Bludman? They’re rather like you and me—only more fabulous, immortal, and mostly indestructible. (They’re also very good kissers.) Delilah S. Dawson’s darkly tempting debut drops her unsuspecting heroine into a strange faraway land for a romantic adventure that’s part paranormal, part steampunk . . . and completely irresistible.

When Tish Everett forces open the ruby locket she finds at an estate sale, she has no idea that a deliciously rakish Bludman has cast a spell just for her. She wakes up in a surreal world, where Criminy Stain, the dashing proprietor of a magical traveling circus, curiously awaits. At Criminy’s electric touch, Tish glimpses a tantalizing future, but she also foresees her ultimate doom. Before she can decide whether to risk her fate with the charming daredevil, the locket disappears, and with it, her only chance to return home. Tish and Criminy battle roaring sea monsters and thundering bludmares, vengeful ghosts and crooked Coppers in a treacherous race to recover the necklace from the evil Blud-hating Magistrate. But if they succeed, will Tish forsake her fanged suitor and return to her normal life, or will she take a chance on an unpredictable but dangerous destiny with the Bludman she’s coming to love?

Run away and join the circus–it’s almost a cliché for living a life of adventure. But what if that adventure were in another world, a world parallel to our own? That’s the choice facing Tish Everett in Delilah S. Dawson’s Wicked As They Come. But it’s not the only choice Tish faces. It’s not even the hardest choice.

Tish has escaped from a controlling relationship with not much more than the shirt on her back and the tattered remnants of her self-respect. But she also has a career as a nurse that she has put back together, a terminally-ill grandmother who is helping her get back on her feet, and a desire above all else to never, ever lop off bits of herself to fit into someone else’s dreams or desires.

Then she accidentally walks out of an estate sale with a Victorian locket hidden around her neck–and wakes up naked in the world of Sang, the world of the Blud.

She thinks it’s all a dream. Until one of the rabbits bites her ankle. This is no fluffy child’s tale, no cute Bunnicula. It sucks her blood. And it has lots of friends. After all, it’s still a rabbit.

The man watching her is a predator. He wants her to come with him, to trust him. His picture was in that locket. She thought he resembled a decadent Mr. Darcy. He still does, but so much more. This Mr. Darcy has fangs, like the bludbunny he just killed for her.

Criminy Stain claims to have made the locket for her. That he called her. But Tish is too damaged to be let herself be “claimed” by any man, not just now. Still, she needs protection in this place where everyone, and everything will drink her blood for a meal. Even the deer.

Tish can’t quite wrap her head around a place where even Bambi is a deadly predator.

Then she discovers that she herself is something different in Sang. She sees the future. When she touches someone, she gets a “glance” at what their future will bring…if they do not deviate from their path.

When Criminy takes her hand, she sees their future. Together. And she is not ready. Nor does she know if he wants the real her, or just a woman to fit into his own dreams, as her abusive ex did. But Tish still needs his protection.

Discovering just how much, and what she needs protecting from, is a revelation.

Sang is…just a half-step off from Tish’s reality. London is London. London is always London. But on the maps, Brussels is Bruzzles, and Russia is, well, Freesia (it is freezing, after all). And everything in Sang is either predator, or prey. Or Stranger.

Tish discovers that one of her coma patients is in Sang. Casper Sterling plays the harpsichord in Criminy Stain’s carnival, and he’s like Tish, a Stranger from the world she knows. But Tish knows he’s wasting away after a motorcycle accident. But not in Sang.

Tish is just asleep. Until Jonah Goodwill, the despotic, and creepily bigoted ruler of Sang Manchester, sends agents to steal Tish’s locket, trapping her in Sang. Tish can’t bear to be trapped. To have her choices taken away. She’s already been there and done that.

Criminy magicked that locket to bring his perfect match to Sang. He can only do everything possible to let her come to believe that. No matter what it costs him or how much it might hurt. Even if what he has to do is get her the means to walk away from him.

The magic was to find his perfect match. Not to bring him someone he could force into that role. But someone who was already that right person. Tish just doesn’t believe she could be right for anyone, even herself.

It takes Tish a long time, and a lot of pain, to realize that the carnival is all about freedom. And so is the bludman who is its master.

Escape Rating A-: Wicked As They Come was a book that had been teasing me since I first saw it. I knew I would succumb to temptation eventually, and when I finally did, the story was every bit as deliciously wicked as the cover promised.

It succeeds on multiple levels. The world Ms. Dawson creates is an amalgam of off-kilter Victoriana, outright steampunk and paranormal alternate universe magickal delight. Not only is Tish not sure this isn’t a dream, the reader occasionally isn’t either. A dream with teeth.

There’s a quest mixed into this love story, and it is both. Tish needs to find herself, and Criminy needs to prove, not that he’s worthy, but that he wants Tish for who she is, not for who he wants her to be. It’s a crucial difference that isn’t often dealt with in romance. Very nicely done.

The other theme is that every dream has a price. Criminy wants his soul mate. Tish wants to retain her freedom to choose. The price of both of those desires is high, and Tish will eventually have to make a final choice. Freedom is never free.

Speaking of freedom, the world of Sang is not free. There is a villain in the piece, Jonah Goodwill. While the picture of Sang is clearly drawn and compellingly beautiful, although it takes a while to fill in, Jonah’s motivations are a little less clear. He comes across as a charismatic bigot with a devout and murderous following. But how did he get such incredible power? Defeating him was absolutely necessary, and made for a hair-raising climax on both sides of the story, but he felt a bit like a cardboard cutout.

I want to go back to Sang right now. The next book, Wicked As She Wants, is much, much too far away. Good thing there’s an enovella, The Mysterious Madam Morpho, coming next month to tide me over.

***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.