Tag Archives: TBR Challenge

Kiss of Steel, by Bec McMaster

23 Jul

KissOfSteelIt’s TBR Challenge time again, and I’m late (like, three months and change late, but who’s counting, right?). July’s theme is “Award Winner or Nominee,” but after last year’s Nazi ‘hero’ dêbacle, I just couldn’t look for a Rita book this year.

On top of which, I’m still struggling to read new stuff.

However, I had read “Tarnished Knight,” the novella that follows this story,  sometime ago, and liked it quite a bit; and Steampunk hits all my “I wanna read it right NOW!” buttons.

So when I saw that I had this in the digital TBR of doom, bought sometime ago (probably during one of those 99¢ deals), of course I had to try it.

Kiss of Steel, by Bec McMaster

Let me begin by saying that I like how Ms McMaster introduces the reader to her world–I love it when authors credit readers with enough smarts to deduce things, instead of explaining everything at the first opportunity. Here, the author lets the characters show us her world, bit by bit, in a very organic way.

Our heroine, Honoria, is a gently reared lady whose circumstances have been drastically, and irrevocably, changed. Six months before the novel starts, her father was murdered, leaving her in charge of her younger sister, Lena, and her much younger brother, Charlie. He also entrusted a number of diaries, containing important information that must be both preserved and hidden, to her keeping. Hiding from the authorities, and other, more sinister interests, the small, nigh destitute family struggles to survive–and hide–in the rookeries of London.

Where Blade rules with an iron and merciless hand. For fifty years, he has kept the aristocracy at bay, biding his time to exact revenge on the creature who made him. And Honoria just may give him the means to do so.

Here, have a blurb:
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Skintight, by Susan Andersen

25 Apr

SkintightI am so very late with this month’s TBR Challenge review, it ain’t even funny. This year, though, I’m just going to push through; better late than skipping the month entirely.

(Sez I)

I actually got this book signed by the author, which means that I either got it at RWA 2009 in DC, or RWA 2010 in Orlando. Either way, it’s been sitting on the TBR mountain range for ages. Oh, and I note that this is a rare one for me: a straight contemporary that is not a category romance.

There’s explicit sex and adult language, so if those are not your thing, skip this one.

Skintight, by Susan Andersen

I’m pretty sure that this is only the second of Ms Andersen’s novels that I’ve read, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did All Shook Up; partly, because I’ve been in a filthy reading mood–my inner critic (hat tip to Liz at My Extensive Reading) just wouldn’t shut up. And partly because…oh, where to begin?

But I’m getting ahead of myself; here’s the blurb:

Professional poker player Jax Gallagher should have known better than to wager a World Series baseball that wasn’t his to lose. Now the man who won the collectible is demanding his prize…or else. Trouble is, the ball is owned by his estranged father’s widow–a flamboyant Las Vegas showgirl. Jax will do whatever it takes to get it back.

Yet Treena McCall is anything but the ruthless gold digger Jax expects. She’s build a life for herself filled with good friends and hard work. And she’s got enough on her plate trying to hang on to her job as a dancer without being wined, dined and seduced by sexy Jax Gallagher.

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The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

16 Mar

thedaughteroftime(I don’t want to jinx myself (hey, it’s only March, after all), but the reviewing mojo seems to have come back with a vengeance.)

As I mentioned yesterday, the theme for this month’s TBR Challenge was a recommended book. As I have piles and piles, and piles of recommended books in the many valleys and peaks of my TBR, an utter ’embarrassment of riches,’  the real problem lay in finding one that would grab me.

Did I mention most of the books in the TBR of Doom are there due to recommendations?

A couple of months ago, if that, Marilyn (aka MFOB), mentioned on twitter that this book was on sale, and recommended it. I grabbed it, but, still suffering from reader slump, had let it sit in the digital TBR, one more forgotten title. Then, last week as I was strolling through my digital library, I saw the cover, re-read the blurb, and started reading.

Thank you, Marilyn, what a wonderful read!

Two caveats: first, this novel shouldn’t need yet another glowing review–not for nothing, the UK Crime Writers’ Association named it as number one in the Top 100 Crime Novels of all time back in 1990, and it’s number four in the Mystery Writers of America Top 100 Mystery Novels of all Time, published in 1995 (see both lists in full here). Unfortunately, Ms Tey’s work is not as widely known as one might wish, and so, here we are.

Second, wherever you stand on the issue of whether Richard III was the quintessential Wicked Uncle or not, reading this book is likely to, at the very least, push you to learn more about this period in history, and at most, convert you into a fervent Ricardian.

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

While you really don’t need to know much about The War of the Roses, it helps to have a basic idea of the succession (the digital edition does have two handy family trees at the beginning, but it’s not as easy for me to flip between them and the text, as it is on a print edition. YMMV, of course).

The second, this novel is entirely an exercise in deduction. There are no chases, interrogations, or, indeed, any action. Our intrepid hero, an experienced and successful detective, is immobilized, strapped to, and in traction, on a hospital bed, for about ninety percent of the story.

Here, have a blurb:

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains—a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing’s most gifted masters.

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“Entwined” by Kristen Callihan

15 Mar

EntwinedThe theme for this month’s TBR Challenge is ‘a recommended read.’ Nothing could be easier: about three quarters of the unread books in my possession are there because someone recommended them to me, at some point or another. Then, something else shiny (or horrid, like the reading slump from hell), gets in the way, and the books languish there unread–while I keep on acquiring more words that too often, go unread for long, long periods of time.

And sometimes, when I finally get around to reading them, I could kick myself. Hard.

That was the case here.

It is no secret that I’m a fan of Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas world, and that I mourn the fact that there are so very few stories in that series, as well as knowing that there will probably be only one more full length book (the Blacksmith’s). Perhaps we will be lucky to have another short story released at some point (Scarsdale’s, pretty pretty please?)

So there I was, feeling bereft, when someone (don’t remember who), somewhere (no clue where), said something really glowingly positive about Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series. I checked amazon, where this one is listed as Book 1 of the series, and priced at only 99¢. (Turns out, this is not the first story set in Darkest London, but the fifth.)¹ Of course I one-clicked it!

And then, it languished in the TBR until Saturday, when I read it in one delicious gulp.

(I really, really liked it.)

“Entwined” by Kristen Callihan

The story starts with two young men, barely out of childhood, a drunken brawl, a promise and a secret. It continues with a lovely exchange of letters between two people who, despite all good intentions, soon reveal to the other who they truly are.

(Aside: this is one of the things I love about well written epistolary novels. People do tend to be more who they truly are through the written word, particularly when they don’t know each other face to face. A lot of prejudice and preconception, particularly those we are not aware of, is absent, and therefore, it doesn’t influence how we see the other person, when all we have is words between us.)

Here, have a blurb:

Eamon Evernight has always lived in his older brother’s shadow.  While his brother is fair of hair and lithe in body, Eamon sparks fear with his fiery locks and massive frame—and rumors of a mysterious power. But when his brother has the good fortune to be betrothed to a beautiful stranger, it’s Eamon’s help—and quick wit and romantic heart–that he needs. Eamon agrees to write the noble lady…a generous offer that will forever leave him a changed man.

Lady Luella Jane Moran has no interest in an arranged marriage and tries valiantly to dissuade her betrothed from afar. Though her own letters plainly state her case, the words her husband-to-be writes her leave her aching for his touch. Will Lu give in to the desire the missives have kindled within her? Or will desire turn cold when she discovers their true author?

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“Tempted” by Molly O’Keefe

18 Feb

TemptedI’m late, I’m late, for a very important date…¹

So this month’s TBR Challenge is ‘series catchup.’

Which is usually embarrassing, because these days there are very few, if any, series I follow, so it’s not easy to be behind on any.

Or it wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for the awful, terrible, no-good, apotheosis of a reading slump of 2015.

Which, looking for the silver lining here, means that this year I did have at least one title in a series languishing in the (digital) TBR pile.

So, yay! (and very much so, because I loved this one!)

(Edited to add: a trigger warning for suicide of a secondary character, on the page.)

“Tempted,” by Molly O’Keefe.

This is the second (and hopefully not the last) in Ms O’Keefe’s Into the Wild series, about sisters Melody and Anne, and their lives in Colorado in the late 1860s. Here, have a blurb:

Denver, 1869

Annie Denoe has fought hard for her independence. She has a new life and new freedom as the assistant to a doctor, and though she risks both propriety and her safety, she is determined to be happy in a life on her own.

Steven Baywood is trying to rebuild his shattered life, even though the ghosts of his harrowing stay in Andersonville prison still haunt him. He craves Annie and her quiet strength, but he can’t give her the love she deserves. When a tragedy changes everything for Annie, can Steven find peace with his past in order to give Annie a future?

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A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters

20 Jan

A Morbid Taste for BonesA few months ago, I don’t remember exactly how or where (though I am pretty sure it was during the many discussions of the puppies and the Hugos), it was brought to my attention that the author of the Brother Cadfael novels was, in fact, a woman.

On impulse, the next time I happened to visit the one remaining used bookstore within fifty miles, I bought over half a dozen of the Cadfael Chronicles, thinking it was about time I read at least one of the books that helped popularize historical mysteries.

Unfortunately, by then I was suffering form the most horrific reading slump known to woman, and so the books have been languishing in the many peaks and ridges of ye olde TBR Cordillera.

Until Saturday.

On Saturday, I grabbed the first title and didn’t let go until I was done.

So here it is, my first TBR Challenge review of 2016.¹

A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters

I am not exactly sure how I had managed to keep myself innocent of all things Brother Cadfael. I mean, I knew that there was a television series, apparently very good, but that was pretty much it.

Now, I’m kicking myself over and over–what. an. idiot! I’ve been, not reading these novels!

Here’s the blurb, from my battered paper copy:
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This bodes well!

16 Jan

In the midst of panic–the TBR Challenge review is due this Wednesday!–I just managed to laugh out loud.

While reading.

While reading a new-to-me author, to boot.

This truly bodes well.

 

(and I just realized I need to change the image and link on the sidebar–gah)