Category Archives: books

Romancing the Duke, Confessions of a Viscount, and the Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever

Here are some quick reviews of some romance novels that are discounted on the Kindle! The majority of my reading is now bargain-priced romance novels, I find it very restful after looking doing more technical stuff at work.

Romancing the Duke: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare is one of those authors whose books I expect to be delightful and I am never disappointed. Romancing the Duke is extra charming, with plenty of warm humor and character development. Isolde Ophelia Goodnight is orphaned at a young age and not provided for by her feckless author father who is famous for his well-known fairytale series. Seizing a last chance at independence when she arrives at Gostley Castle to claim an inheritance from an Earl who seems to be leaving castles to all his goddaughters (instant series!). As she arrives at the castle, Izyy faces some satiric gothic horrors out of Northanger Abbey. She makes the unfortunate discovery that the castle is actually still inhabited by Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury.

If you really like the ending part of Jane Eyre, than this book is for you, because as Izzy and Ransom get to know each other, there’s a similar dynamic here. It takes a little while for Izzy to realize that Ransom is blind, wounded by a duel gone wrong. Ransom is understandably hostile yet involuntary attracted to this young woman who shows up and announces that she now owns his house. Izzy is a fun heroine, a bit insecure about her appearance and saddled with a healthy dose of Christopher Robin syndrome because the fans of her father’s works expect her to be like the precious little girl that appears in his books. The fans call themselves Moranglians after the imaginary land where her father’s stories took place, and the roam about the countryside LARPing. This was one of most amusing romance novels I’ve read in a long time, and I’m going to snap up the next book in the series, Say Yes to the Marquess when it comes out in December.

The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn is always a reliable romance author, and she has excellent taste in coffee mugs. The Bridgerton series is one of the better sprawling romance series featuring a family that I’ve read, and it was a bit of a coincidence that I read this book featuring a psychologically damaged hero shortly after reading Romancing the Duke. Of course there are many many romance novels featuring psychologically damaged heroes, so maybe the odds were pretty good that I’d be reading similar scenarios one after the other. This is the first book in the Bevelstoke series.

Miranda has been in love with her best friend Olivia’s older brother Turner since she was a little girl. Miranda is basically brought up by Olivia’s family, as her own father is a neglectful scholar, and her headstrong friend Olivia needs a moderating influence. While some might view Miranda as a bit of a wallflower, she’s very aware of her own position in Olivia’s household and isn’t shy with expressing her opinions. Turner’s horrible wife has just died, and he and Miranda meet again at the funeral, when Turner expresses very unfuneral feelings at his wife’s grave. Turner and Miranda become reacquainted for the first time since she was 10, and he finds himself suddenly intrigued by a grown up Miranda, yet tortured at the same time because he has no desire to enter into a relationship again. Some of the plot elements in this book were a bit predictable, particularly the events that led up to the happy ending. Still, this is well worth trying if you’ve read the Bridgertons and the Two Dukes of Wyndham series and want to read more Julia Quinn. There are many witty moments, and all the characters are richly developed. I’m assuming that the next book in the series focuses on the headstrong and less than tactful Olivia, and I’m curious to read what happens to her.

Confessions of a Viscount by Shirley Karr

This book’s cover doesn’t match up very well with the contents, because the cover looks like a typical old school bodice ripper and the book actually features a LADY SPY. I absolutely adore lady spies in historical romance books. I am also a fairly uncritical consumer of lady spy romances, but this one is very good. The Viscount in the title is Alistair Moncreiffe, who is an astronomer. He makes decisions about which parties to attend purely due to whose house has a good roof for astronomical observation. The spy in question is Charlotte Parnell, who has been trained to spy by her brother. Spying was an ok occupation for a lady when the siblings were not in England, but now that they are back Charlotte’s brother wants her to give up her life of adventure for a respectable marriage.

Alistair and Charlotte meet when she uses him for cover when she’s tailing someone, sidling up to him and taking his arm and talking to him as if they’ve known each other for years. He plays along and tries to catch her name, but she manages to disappear when his attention is diverted. They meet at a party later, and Charlotte proposes a fake engagement. Later, Alastair manages to rescue Charlotte when she finds herself unexpectedly dangling off the side of a building. The couple agree to enter into a fake engagement in order to stave off Alastair’s relatives who want him married off and give Charlotte time to complete her spy mission in secret while making her brother think that she’s retired from her previous life of intrigue. The developing relationship between Alastair and Charlotte kept my interest throughout the book, because I appreciated the contrast between Alastair’s more scientific mind and Charlotte’s intelligent sneakiness. For only .99 cents right now, this is well worth picking up.

Books Read in August

For my YA Book Club meeting later this month I read:

The Song of the Lioness Quartet (rereads)
and Defy by Sara Larson

We picked these books due to the plot similarity because both involve heroines masquerading as knights and falling in love with princes.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – I enjoyed this, as I’ve enjoyed Rowell’s other books.
Talk Sweetly To Me – by Courtney Milan – any new Milan is an automatic buy for me.

Currently I’m rereading in a slightly skimming sort of way A Discovery of Witches – I started the third book in the series and realized that I’d forgotten what happened in the earlier books.

For last month’s book club we accidentally picked Code of Silence, which is a Christian YA book. It was honestly pretty horrible, as the central messages of the book that were repeated over and over again were “don’t lie” and “trust the police”. To which I say, bleh.

What I read in July

I have been a MEGA slacker with this blog, but I still manage to post semi-regularly on Manga Report and contribute to some of the weekly features on Manga Bookshelf. Anyway, I hope to post a bit more here, even if it is a bit dusty. Maybe I will cover a bit of knitting progress, books I’ve been reading, and one of these days I want to finish out my posts on Amethyst Princess of Gemworld by outlining some of the references to her in Legion of Super-Heroes.

Along with lapsing in blogging, I stopped updating goodreads very often, so I lost my reliable metrics about what I’ve been reading. I’ve been trying to do a much better job though, so this is what I was reading in July. I actually had a vacation in July so I was able to breeze through many many books.

Rereads – Vast portions of the Dark Hunter Series. I bought this bundle when it was on sale for the low low price of $20:

I started wading through this in June, then my interest petered out in July after finishing Acheron.

I read books 1-6 of the Charley Davidson (haha) series:

This was a good, clever paranormal series, even if some of the mysteries explored in the books end up a bit obvious. Great and engaging cast of characters.

Historical Romances:

I read a couple of Eloisa James’ fairy tale series, The Ugly Duchess and The Duke is Mine. James is really up there with Loretta Chase and Courtney Milan as my favorite romance authors. These books were witty, with memorable characters. It is always interesting to see how James interprets the fairy tale inspiration of the plots, set in a non-magical historical setting.

I read the Suffragette Scandal, by Courtney Milan, a book that should be celebrated for many reasons, not the least is the phrase “puppy cannon”. I also read Proof By Seduction and Trial by Desire.

I also read the Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood, Scotsmen Prefer Blonds by Sara Ramsey and a couple linked books by Lorraine Heath, In Bed by the Devil and Between the Devil and Desire. The Heath books were a bit different from the typical historical romance, since they were a bit inspired by Dickens’ Artful Dodger and his band of thieves.

For contemporary romance, I read Sarah Morgan’s Sleigh Bells in the Snow, which is really a great example of a contemporary Harlequin done well.

I also read Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire, which I had to force myself to finish. It was clever, but it was clever in exactly the same way to a degree that reading it became a bit grating. Also, the heroine interrupted the main flow of the story so many times to digress about thinks like her Great Aunt Myrtle’s adventures in dragon hunting, I realized the book was 85% asides and 15% actual plot and character development.

YA

My book group was reading Paul Zindel, so I read the classic The Pigman. It is very odd but nice going back and reading books that I had practically memorized when I was 14 years old (oh so very long ago)

That’s what I finished reading!

On the horizon for August:

Book club book Code of Silence
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Book of Live by Deborah Harkness

Recent Reading for January, February, and March

I’ve been less rigorous about tracking my reading. I used to be really good about logging everything in GoodReads, but I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even managed to do that! But I want to have a record somewhere, so here are some of the things I’ve been reading for the past few months.

For whatever reason in addition to my usual diet of manga, I read VERY LONG Books.

Lies of Locke Lamora – amusing fantasy novel about a gang of con artists. Would appeal to people that like the Vlad Taltos series by Brust. Great worldbuilding, but sometimes gets bogged down a bit with the descriptions.
The Twelve by Justin Cronin – This is one of those series that is so much better than the plot makes it sound! I love the shifting points of view and the way the narrative all comes together between characters scattered across a post apocalyptic America.

Romance Novels

I’m forgetting some of what I read here, but I did finish up:

It Happened One Midnight by Julie Ann Long
Heiress Without a Cause by Sara Ramsey
Heart of Iron and Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster


Young Adult Books

I’ve been on a big YA reread binge recently. The Vampire Academy sale on the Kindle happened to match up with a work trip I was taking, so I reread the entire series. They are the perfect airplane books, easy to read but engrossing enough that I almost forgot that I was crammed on a plane for untold hours.

I reread the first two books of Divergent, and read the final book Allegiant. I enjoyed the first book if I didn’t think about it too hard, but as the series develops there’s just so much that makes no logical sense, and I found myself getting really sick of the characters to the point where I was delighted when they started to die off. I actually think these books might be better served by the movie adaptations, because at least then the audience would be spared the whiny self-indulgent first person narration that I found so annoying in the last book of the trilogy. Also the charisma of the actors might cause the audience to not thing so very hard about the abundant plot holes.

I also read Eleanor and Park and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, both of which were excellent!

Hideous Love: The Story of hte Girl who Wrote Frankenstein was my YA book club pick for the month, and it was an interesting blend of fictionalized biography and blank verse.

Graphic Novels

There was a Johnathan Hickman sale on Comixology! I finally picked up some of his work on Fantastic Four and really enjoyed the first couple volumes. Hickman really did an effective job of balancing the cosmic themes and family problems that I’d expect to see in a FF title. I plan on picking up more of these collections soon.

I also did a fair amount of Captain America rereading in preparation for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

His Fair Assassin Books 1 and 2

The book my book group read last month was Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. I finished up the sequel Dark Triumph today and am now impatiently waiting for the third book to be published in the spring. This is very enjoyable young adult series, partially because it has a very entertaining central concept, well executed, and the author avoids some of the cliches and narrative traps that plague less entertaining novels. Really any review of these books is unnecessary simply because telling you that the books revolve around TEENAGE ASSASSIN NUNS IN BRITTANY DURING THE MIDDLE AGES is likely to either draw you in or leave you repulsed (if you are a boring person who doesn’t enjoy assassin nuns).

The first book centers on Ismae, who is a peasant girl with a brutal life who escapes to the convent of Saint Mortain, the God of Death. Trained to be a top notch assassin, Ismae is assigned to go to the court of the Duchess Anne, accompanying the handsome yet extremely suspicious Duval. Ismae uses her assassin’s gifts to begin unraveling the plots that surround the Duchess, but she is distracted by her growing attraction to the man she’s assigned to spy upon. One of the things that I enjoyed very much about this book was the combination of historical research and a unique narrative voice. The convent of Saint Mortain is clearly a cover for worship of a much older, more pagan god, given a vaguely Christian appearance in order to survive the religious pressures of the day. Ismae as a peasant who is transformed by her convent training has the zeal of a fervent believer, but even she notices that sometimes her orders to kill that come from the convent might be more politically expedient than they are the will of her god. The fantasy elements are blended in well with Ismae’s assassin training. She can see dark smudges when someone is marked for death, and only then will she act as an assassin. I have a bit of YA Love Triangle fatigue at this point, so I was very happy when the book just concentrated on the growing relationship between Ismae and Duval without the distraction of a third party. It seems like more often in YA these days a love triangle is a required element, so the lack of one felt very refreshing. Ismae has close friends at the convent who were trained at around the same time as her, and this plays in nicely to the sequel books.

In addition to Love Triangle Fatigue, I also have a bit of Trilogy Fatigue, as there are plenty of series that have 2 books of content that are stretched into three, or 4 books of content turned into an unsatisfying trilogy. I also get a bit weary of trilogies that are basically one long book with two horrible cliffhangers spaced out into three volumes. The His Fair Assassin Series is one of my favorite types of trilogies because instead of following the same character and story throughout, the protagonist changes with each book. The timelines cover some of the same periods, but the shift in character perspective makes the series very interesting.

Dark Triumph has Sybella as a protagonist. A girl of noble birth who arrives at the convent acting utterly wild and not particularly thrilled to be there, Ismae regarded Sybella with affection but not a lot of true understanding, as their backgrounds and life experiences are totally different. Sybella is the daughter of the evil (EXTRA EVIL) nobleman D’Albret, who is determined to gain control of Brittany by forcibly marrying the young Duchess Anne. While Ismae may have foiled some of his plots in the first book, he is still around (STILL EVIL!) and Sybella must work to carry out the will of Mortain while dodging her own relatives. Sybella’s main activity is rescuing The Beast, one of Duvall’s close friends whose martial powers when he’s enraged by battle lust are unmatched. As they journey together, more and more of Sybella’s troubled background is revealed, but even she is able to transform and grow into a whole person. The contrast in personalities between the two heroines was enjoyable. Ismae is a true believer, but Sybella is cynical and pragmatic. She enjoys killing people for her own reasons, and in a way she’s almost perfectly matched with The Beast, who leaves trails of corpses in his wake.

The conflict between the political maneuverings of the nuns in charge of the convent and the will of the god Mortain itself are alluded to in the first book and developed even more in the second. I’m wondering if there will be some larger upheaval in the convent for book three. Sometimes there are authors who might seize upon an interesting idea, but the execution and back story isn’t very well filled out, so the reader has to do a lot of suspension of disbelief and mental gymnastics in order to get through the book. I’m thinking particularly of Divergent, which was fun but there were so many loopholes in the events and future history portrayed in the books that it didn’t seem like there was much initial world building taking place before the book was written. This is absolutely not the case with the His Fair Assassin series, where it is very clear that LaFevers has done extensive research into the time period. The reader can just sit back and be transported into another world and enjoy the unique setting and fantasy elements. I highly recommend this series if you enjoy historical fantasy.

First Quarter Reading Update

I’ve been slacking on doing my reading lists, which I do find useful when I want to look back and see what I’ve read over the year. This is a partial list of what I’ve read from January 2013-May 2013:

YA
The Giver and Messenger Lois Lowry – We are reading a ton of Lois Lowery for my YA book club this month.
Graceling and Fire Kristin Cashore – Throughly enjoyed the first book in the series, but the switch to a different country in the same world with a complicated and detailed backstory left me a little bit unenthused by the second volume. Both were well-written, and I probably will check out the third volume in the series at some point.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Jennifer E. Smith – This was cute, but in terms of young romance in a foreign country, I much preferred Anna and the French Kiss. The timeline here in the characters getting to know each other was so compressed, I didn’t feel like I got a very full picture of their personalities.

Romance
Something About You Julie James
Irresistible (Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, #3) Mary Balogh
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae (The Cynster Sisters Trilogy #3) Stephanie Laurens
Twice Tempted (Night Prince, #2) Jeaniene Frost
The Inconvenient Duchess (The Radwells #1) Christine Merrill
The Other Side of Us Sarah Mayberry
Temptation and Surrender (Cynster, #15) Stephanie Laurens
Potent Pleasures (Pleasures, #1) Eloisa James
Winterblaze (Darkest London, #3) Kristen Callihan – This was a fun historical paranormal romance series. Looking forward to the next book!
Firelight (Darkest London, #1) Kristen Callihan
Moonglow (Darkest London, #2) Kristen Callihan
If I Fall (The Blue Raven, #4) Kate Noble
Revealed (The Blue Raven, #1) Kate Noble
The Taste of Night (Signs of the Zodiac, #2) Vicki Pettersson
The Scent of Shadows (Signs of the Zodiac, #1) Vicki Pettersson
The Promise in a Kiss (Cynster Prequel) Stephanie Laurens
Devil’s Bride (Cynster, #1) Stephanie Laurens
The Ideal Bride (Cynster, #11) Stephanie Laurens
Skies of Fire (The Ether Chronicles, #1) Zoe Archer
The Forbidden Lord (Lord Trilogy, #2) Sabrina Jeffries
The Pirate Lord (Lord Trilogy, #1) Sabrina Jeffries
The Dangerous Lord (Lord Trilogy, #3) Sabrina Jeffries
Spiders Bite (Elemental Assassin Series #1) Jennifer Estep

Manga
The Story of Saiunkoku, Vol. 9 Kairi Yura
Crimson Empire Vol 1: Circumstances to Serve a Noble QuinRose
Tiger & Bunny, Vol. 1 Mizuki Sakakibara
Pepita: Takehiko Inoue Meets Gaudi Takehiko Inoue
Kare First Love, Volume 1-6 Kaho Miyasaka
Otomen, Vol. 15 (Otomen, #15) Aya Kanno
Dengeki Daisy 12 (Dengeki Daisy, #12) Kyousuke Motomi
Mobile Suit Gundam: THE ORIGIN volume 1: Activation Yoshiyuki Tomino
Paradise Kiss, Part 2 Ai Yazawa
Demon Love Spell, Vol. 2 Mayu Shinjo
Vagabond, Vol. 10 (VIZBIG Edition) Takehiko Inoue
Please Save My Earth, 1- 6 Saki Hiwatari
Kekkaishi, Vol. 14 (Kekkaishi, #14) Yellow Tanabe
Kekkaishi, Vol. 17 (Kekkaishi, #17) Yellow Tanabe
Barrage, Vol. 2 Kouhei Horikoshi
Barrage, Vol. 1 Kouhei Horikoshi
Jiu Jiu, Vol. 4 Touya Tobina
Oresama Teacher , Vol. 13 Izumi Tsubaki
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 12 Julietta Suzuki
Skip Beat!, Vol. 30 Yoshiki Nakamura
Strobe Edge Vol. 2 – 4 Io Sakisaka
Paradise Kiss, Part 3 Ai Yazawa
Library Wars: Love and War #9 Kiiro Yumi

2012 Year in Reading

Well, it took me a bit to get all the metadata in my Goodreads account in order to get some decent numbers but I fixed the issues. The irony of a librarian having insufficient Goodreads metadata is not lost on me. So, for 2012, I read 167 total volumes counting both books and manga/graphic novels. I’m going to round up that a bit to account for manga ebooks (from Jmanga) that aren’t listed on Goodreads, so it was probably closer to 175-180, really. I read roughly 75 volumes of manga. I’m estimated roughly 90-100 books, and the reason why that total is so high is due to the high percentage of fluffy romance series that I can tear through in a very short amount of time. I’ve also been reading more and more ebooks, which I think I tend to read a bit faster than print.

Favorite book I read this year:

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt – This Cohen Brothersesque novel about two assassins during the Gold Rush was so good, it totally spoiled me for reading for a long time because absolutely nothing else could measure up to it. The dialog and use of language was spectacular, and the combination of violence, humor, and unlikely adventure gave it the feeling of an unlikely epic.

Best Manga I should have read a long time ago

Co-hosting the Takehiko Inoue manga moveable feast was great, because I finally got around to reading parts of Slam Dunk and Real. Inoue’s sports manga is just as fantastic as Vagabond.

Quirkiest manga:

Working Kentauros by Est Em – God bless Jmanga for translating Est Em’s slice of life book about centaur salarymen.

Favorite graphic novel:

As much as I enjoyed Saga, reading the first couple volumes of Mark Waid’s Daredevil was such a fresh take on the character, I’m going to have to go with this, both in visual execution and the fun of seeing Daredevil not act like the Marvel Universe’s Prince of Gloom.

Most Underwhelming Comic Reboot:

I wouldn’t expect that a new Amethyst of Princess of Gemworld series would leave me largely indifferent but after looking forward to it with guarded optimism, I was just generally disappointed by the Amethyst reboot. The occasional cute character moments and humor don’t really make up for the rapes as narrative device and shuffled reenvisioning of the Gemworld.

Notable Romance novels

This was the year I read most of Courtney Milan’s books. I also enjoyed reading Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series and Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series.

Favorite YA

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races were my favorite YA reads.

Books Read, November and December 2012

I got a Paperwhite for Hanukkah! So I have been tearing through some ebooks recently.

Books

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This was a standout recent read. I am kicking myself for not reading this earlier. Who knew that a book about teens with cancer could be so intelligently quirky and hilarious and epic at the same time.
The Dark Highlander (Highlander, #5) by Karen Marie Moning
The Immortal Highlander (Highlander, #6) by Karen Marie Moning
Iced by Karen Marie Moning
A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister, #1.5) by Courtney Milan
The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1) by Courtney Milan
Season for Surrender (Seasons, #2) by Theresa Romain
A Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove, #2) by Tessa Dare
A Lady by Midnight (Spindle Cove, #3) by Tessa Dare
When You Give a Duke a Diamond (Jewels of the Ton, #1) by Shana Galen
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation, #6) by Lauren Willig
The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, #2) by Richelle Mead – There was just way too much exposition in this book for the second volume of a continuing series. It bogged the book down for me quite a bit.
The English Witch by Loretta Chase
Knave’s Wager by Loretta Chase
Viscount Vagabond by Loretta Chase

Manga and Graphic Novels

Recently I’ve been working my way through some volumes of Kekkaishi due to the current Viz Digital Sale. I’ll have to pick up a few more volumes before the sale ends on the 8th.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan – Nice to see that the hype about this series was justified!
Captain America and Bucky: Old Wounds
Kamisama Kiss 11
A Devil and Her Love Song 6
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 5
?07 Ghost 1
Strobe Edge 1
Oresama Teacher 11 and 12
Kimi ni Todoke: From me to You 15
Story of Saiunkoku 8
Give My Regards to Black Jack 1-4

Books Read, September and October

I can’t believe I skipped my reading update in September! I’ve been a bit busier than usual lately. I’ve not been great about logging what I’ve been reading in Goodreads either, so I think I’m missing some titles.

Books

Shiver, Linger and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater – I remember deciding not to read these when they came out because I had werewolf fatigue due to Twilight. I did love the Scorpio Races so much, I figured that I would finally try this series. While not as great stylistically as the Scorpio Races, this trilogy was much better than than the average YA paranormal romance book, with unique and clearly delineated characters.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – this was one of the October selections for my YA book club along with Vampire Academy #1, which I reread.
Dragon Actually by GA Aiken
Against the Wind by Kat Martin

Manga and Graphic Novels

Full Moon O Sagashite #1-7
Gentlemen’s Alliance #1-6 – I need to pick up the last couple books and finish this series
Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden #10
Kamisama Kiss #10
Paradise Kiss #1
Limit #1
Record of a Fallen Vampire #1-3
Jiu Jiu #2
Showcase Presents: Amethyst Princess of Gemworld

Smart Chicks Kick It Tour

I’m always happy to have a local bookstore like King’s English that is so excellent at programming events. The launch of the Smart Chicks Kick It! tour was here in Salt Lake City so it was fun to go see the author panel, which consisted of Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Ally Condie, Bethany Griffin, Richelle Mead, and Margaret Stohl.

I came away with new books: The Golden Lily, Faery Tales and Nightmares, and The Gathering.