More light SF, this time with a touch of romance

Bright Shards (The Vardeshi Saga, #2)
by Meg Pechenick

The second half of Ascending. I recommend reading both books back to back, they really feel like one novel, as the first novel leaves too many plot points unanswered.

This again is very, very light SF, with a dash of romance. The aliens are very humanoid and there isn‘t really much though given to the differences or how Avery deals with them. 

”Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.”

I am still flummoxed about the use of camping stoves. There never really is a clear description of how the Vardeshi cook. Anyway, in the middle I lost interest and skimmed quite a bit. I liked the third part the best. Enough actually to consider reading the third book, CELESTIAL NAVIGATION, when or if it comes out. I assume it will take us all the way back to Earth.

The various parts of the novel could have been separate novellas, they felt quite distinct. For me personally this was too little SF. It was all much too unlikely. Avery could have been on a climb in Nepal with some locals and it would have roughly been the same in terms of how alien it feels to a Western college graduate.

So, light SF romance, brain candy, nothing deep. New Adult Romance SF?

Ascending | My review

Cleaning my TBR shelf… Paranormal Romance!

The other day I picked three books from my shelf, decided for one of them and put the other two as nah-not-in-the-mood on my coffee table. Executive decision: putting them into my give-away-basket. Here is the second book that has to go:

In 2016 I read and loved a book, read two novellas from that world and then bought the sequel. But I was never in the mood. It‘s probably fun, but I am so done with historical and/or paranormal romance at the moment. Plus the very first sequence of the book was a sex scene of a lord and a whore. Sigh, really not in the mood.

Here is the book that I am tossing into my out-basket:

Moonglow (Darkest London, #2)
by Kristen Callihan

Finally free of her suffocating marriage, widow Daisy Ellis Craigmore is ready to embrace the pleasures of life that have long been denied her. Yet her new-found freedom is short lived. A string of unexplained murders has brought danger to Daisy’s door, forcing her to turn to the most unlikely of saviors . . .

Ian Ranulf, the Marquis of Northrup, has spent lifetimes hiding his primal nature from London society. But now a vicious killer threatens to expose his secrets. Ian must step out of the shadows and protect the beautiful, fearless Daisy, who awakens in him desires he thought long dead. As their quest to unmask the villain draws them closer together, Daisy has no choice but to reveal her own startling secret, and Ian must face the undeniable truth: Losing his heart to Daisy may be the only way to save his soul.

From the book blurb

And here are my 2016 reviews of the novellas and the first full-length novel, in series order:

Ember (Darkest London, #0.5) 

Entertaining prequel to Firelight, the first book in the Darkest London series. It revolves around Miri and Archer, same as Firelight. I would recommend reading Firelight first, as the prequel is quite spoilerish and would give too much away of the revelations in Firelight. Nice addition though, if you want to find out more about the time between Miri’s and Archers first meeting and their wedding.

Fairly well plotted, with alternating POVs. Some suspense, some sex. Pretty rudimentary world building, but then it’s fairly short. Probably a little hard to understand what is going on, without having read Firelight. Which I now want to re-read, as I have already forgotten quite a bit about Archer’s curse.

My Kindle edition contained previews of Firelight and Moonglow.

Firelight (Darkest London, #1) 

Beauty and the Beast? Or more Phantom of the Opera? 

Historical romance in the vein of Regency romance, but set a little later. Let’s call it Gaslight romance…? With a dash of magic and some intrigue. Definitely not Steampunk, PNR or UF.

A girl with a fire-magic gift of some sort and a mysterious, tall stranger, wearing a mask and suffering from some disfigurement or curse… 10% into the book I was enjoying myself already and wanted to marry him myself. 

Some romance tropes were not entirely avoided. The main characters falling into instant lust, lack of communication, mistrust… By the middle of the book I wanted to smack their heads together. There must be a better way to create tension and suspense in a novel than the main characters not talking to each other? It’s annoying and very over-done.

Bonus points for the female character not being a quivering virgin!

Details and world building on the supernatural parts could have been a bit better.

The beginning of the story was very good. Humour, plot, action, all well done and very entertaining. The last third of the book fell flat a little, as if the steam had gone out of it somewhat. I had expected more. 

But overall the book was much better than I expected and very entertaining. The glimpse into the next book makes me consider getting the next one in the series…

Entwined (Darkest London, #3.5) 

Highly entertaining. Silly. Full of the usual shenanigans of historical romance novels, with a small dash of the paranormal. Arranged marriage, Cyrano de Bergerac on crack, lots of lies, people keeping secrets all around and complete failiure to talk to each other. Steamy sex. Murder. Some violence and severed body parts. Great fun. 

Going back to reading this series in it’s proper order now. You probably should read it in order anyway. The last line of this novella might be spoilerish for another novel. I can’t tell yet, as I’ve definitely not followed my own advice. But I don’t care. Getting the next book now.

Space pirates, marriage of convenience — lacking both pirate action or romance…

The Red Scholar’s Wake
by Aliette de Bodard

Space pirates, galactic empires, a marriage of convenience, sentient ships, avatars and Vietnamese-inspired culture.

I liked the two main characters, but never really connected with them emotionally or warmed up to the writing style. The story was less exciting than I had hoped and really lacked some pirate action, all things considered. Kinda mellow, with a developing relationship that lacks explanation. I could have done with backstory and intro into the Xuya Universe. The concept of the mindship is an interesting one, but I was lacking context or a touch more hard SF. As a romance this didn‘t convince me either.

I could have easily given up on this book in the first half. The second half had more action and I enjoyed it more. Not enough world building and depth. For example, who are the Ashling? It is never explained. How do the bots look and work? Why are there mind ships, how are they created? Other ship types are mentioned and I have read enough hard SF to figure out what those ships are, but it‘s never even hinted at. How and why are there so many avatars and how do they interact on a physical level? How do people project them? Where does all the tea and food come from? Why are there passengers onboard of Rice Fish? I have so many unanswered questions.

And if this is romance, it lacks chemistry between the main characters. And I don‘t get the timeline. The characters behave as if longer time passes, but the story telling doesn‘t give any indication of that. There are scenes that hint at connections made over time between characters, but you never actually experience those developments. So how can I care?

This was a buddy read and a Netgalley, which compelled me to continue reading, but I did not feel an urge to do so. Which is a shame, because I like the plot idea. But the execution felt so… lacking? Not a satisfying read. Pretty frustrating, actually.

Would I read further short stories or novellas by the author? Yes, probably. Full-length novels? Not so much. Talking of that, there is a follow-up to this book, A Fire Born of Exile. The ebook contains what looks like the first chapter. I skimmed, but will not get it. Different characters to Red Scholar.

About the author | free short stories on her website | the Hugo-award nominated Universe of Xuya

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher or author through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

Six Degrees of Separation, the romance edition

Welcome to #6degrees. I haven’t done one of these memes in a year!. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. Or to give myself a reminder of the books on my TBR pile or want-to-read-shelf.

So, as usual, this month starts the chain link with a book I haven‘t read or ever heard about.

Beach Read
by Emily Henry

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
They need to write bestsellers before the end of the summer.

The result? A bet to see who can get their book published first.
The catch? They have to swap genres.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…

From the book blurb

It sounds mildly interesting. When I pick romcoms, which I very occasionally do, it usually involves marriage-of-convenience or some other fake-relationship thing. Or sourdough or… It‘s a mood thing. For example something like this:

Link #1 — The Love Hypothesis
by Ali Hazelwood

So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. 

From the book blurb

I haven‘t actually read this one, but it sounds like the kind of romance I enjoy. Fake boyfriend takes me to a book that I definitely want to read at some point. Some of my reading buddies liked it:

Link #2 — Boyfriend Material (London Calling, #1)
by Alexis Hall

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

From the book blurb

Right down my alley! Links # 3, 4 and 5 are three other LGBTQ+ romcoms that I did actually read:

Conventionally Yours (True Colors, #1)
by Annabeth Albert

When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.

I read this in November 2020. It was a Netgalley. I gave this New Adult enemies-to-lovers M/M romance the benefit of the doubt, rounding it up to three stars. It was ok. Full review is here.

One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston

All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.

This one I read in the summer of 2021. Or rather, I attempted to read… The blurb reminded me of Kate & Leopold, the movie that put Hugh Jackman on my radar as an actor. After reading the first three chapters, I put the book away. Not bad, but I couldn‘t work up much interest. August (Kate) mets Jane (Leopold) in the subway and eventually realizes that something fishy is going on, namely that Jane is from the 1970s. Nice idea, I just wasn’t feeling it. DNF at 19% and 70-odd pages. It was probably me.

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston

Same author, read in January 2020 (my review) and much better. I really liked this one. It was a lot of fun.

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. 

From the book blurb

That leaves me with Link #6… four of the above book have been with LGBTQIA couples. So I can‘t possibly leave out this big hit from last year — printed as well as the Netflix adaptation for the little screen. I have neither read or watched it yet though, so no idea if it is as good as everybody says. Too YA for my taste.

Heartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)
by Alice Oseman

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

This is a comic, btw… maybe I will pick it up at my local bookshop after all one of these days…

Let’s give ’em something to talk about…

Something to Talk About
by Meryl Wilsner

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time – threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.

I picked up this book a year ago, probably triggered by the Bonnie Raitt title. I love that song! And then there is the accidental relationship and a pretty cover. Sold. Pity it took me so long to read this, because it means I missed the Netgalley of Wilsner‘s next book as well. 

Believable story and characters, well developed side characters, fun story. A little extra with a me-too subplot in the middle. Blessed absence of unnecessary silliness. I would have liked to see more of Emma‘s family and would have loved a „meet the parents“ scene.

The drama between Jo and Emma in the second half took the fun out of it all just a little bit, hence only 4 stars instead of 5. I am getting a little tired of romance drama due to people not talking to each other like adults.

Bottomline, solid contemporary LGBTQ+ romance novel with a nice amount of humor. I would definitely pick up something else by the author. Recommended.

I really want potato pancakes now.

People are talking, talking ’bout people
I hear them whisper, you won’t believe it
They think we’re lovers kept under cover
I’ll just ignore it, but they keep saying
We laugh just a little too loud
Stand just a little too close
We stare just a little too long
Maybe they’re seeing something we don’t, darlin’

Lyrics of Bonnie Raitt‘s song

November 2022 Wrap-up

My November 2022:
– The Stand-In ★★★☆☆ audio, romance, slightly more diverse than the usual fare.
Wolfsong by T.J. Klune ★★★★★ ebook, gorgeous! What a great take on werewolves and found family.
– A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers ★★★★★ ebook, novella, roadtrip in the pursuit of meaning and comfort.
Explorer (Foreigner #6) by C.J. Cherryh ★★★★★ audio, conclusion to the second trilogy. Fun!
– How the Earth Works ★★¾☆☆ audio, non-fiction, The Great Courses, exhaustive lectures on everything from the Big Bang to plate tectonics, volcanoes and more. DNF after 10.5 hours and 13 more hours to go.
– The Nox ★★½☆☆ full-cast audio, horror in the arctic circle. Meh.
– The Drowned World ★★★☆☆ paper, StoryGraph #1, anachronistic climate fic, post-apocalypse. Dated, but with some good imagery.
– Neanderthal Seeks Human ★★★☆☆ audio, romance, nothing special.

Currently reading:
–  Ship of Destiny, ebook, moving really slowly… for a while now. I like it, I just have Liveship overload.
Thistlefoot, ebook, sweet and a little creepy…
Children of Memory, audio, odd, but good. The zoo is growing.

Pages and minutes in November 2022
1,142 pages, 49.05 hours

No more knitting in the city

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City, #1)
by Penny Reid (Goodreads Author), Jennifer Grace (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 
1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 
2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 
3) She doesn’t know how to knit.

Unsecure woman who thinks that she is not much to look at, but is perceived as gorgeous by others. Check.
Blames herself for boyfriend cheating on her. Check.
Is generally TSTL. Check. 
And Sir Sexy McHotpants is generally too touchy/grabby and unreasonably jealous. Oh well.

It took till chapter 12 until the story developed into something slightly more interesting. Although, the fact that she does not get who he is until well past the middle of the book—it is such a lame gimmick, because it‘s so glaringly obvious. The rest of the story never gets off the beaten track. Some of the unresolved plot bunnies will presumably feature in the next book(s). It‘s hard to tell, as they just sort of dropped off the radar.

“… the Knitting in the City series. Each book is a standalone, full length (110k words), contemporary romantic comedy novel, and follows the misadventures and exploits of seven friends in Chicago, all members of the same knitting group.“

It sounded like a fun series, but it wasn’t. I am going to delete the next one, Neanderthal Marries Human, off my eReader and I will not pick up any of the others either. There was no chemistry—between the main characters or between the book and myself.

Thistlefoot — currently reading
by GennaRose Nethercott

In the tradition of modern fairytales like American Gods and Spinning Silvercomes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore–a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

Anybody interested in Eastern European folklore has probably come across Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut before. My last encounter was when watching The Witcher. So colour me intrigued, when I read about the Yaga siblings, their inheritance of a house with chicken legs and a road trip. I had to go along.

The siblings come across as amicable characters, when they are introduced—a wood-working sister and her trickster-like brother. The Longshadow Man though is creepy right off the bat. I am about 20% into the book and still have a few hundred pages to go…

Currently reading

Yes, I am still around, but I haven‘t gotten a lot of reading done this week. It happens. What am I currently reading?

Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders, #3)
by Robin Hobb

The third and last book of the LIveship Trader trilogy. Still reading the odd bit here and there. I think I am in chapter 8?

I like it, I am just a little over saturated with the whole thing. I am taking my time with this, as I am practically reading this trilogy back to back. I keep reading other, shorter books and novellas between chapters. 

Continues seamlessly from the end of Mad Ship. The sailors on the ships have to put up with a lot of casual and pointless violence. It‘s bothersome, but maybe not far off the reality of sailors on the sailing ships of the past. I wonder if it‘s really necessary to have a mate on board who brutalized sailors to keep discipline. And I wished that Althea and the other characters in charge didn’t take that practice as a given. It makes me like Althea a little less.

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City, #1)
by Penny Reid (Goodreads Author), Jennifer Grace (Narrator)

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 
1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 
2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 
3) She doesn’t know how to knit.

I thought this would be funny chicklit with lots of knitting, actually. Sigh. 3 hours to go on the audio, I can do it…. It‘s ok, at best. Very formulaic, not as funny as I had hoped. Predictable. Unsecure woman who thinks that she is not much to look at, but is perceived as gorgeous by others. Check. Blames herself for boyfriend cheating on her. Check. Is generally TSTL. Check. Really stupid. And Sir Sexy McHotpants is generally too touchy/grabby and unreasonably jealous. Oh well.

It took till chapter 12 until the story developed some interesting depth. Although, the fact that she does not get who he is until well past the middle of the book—it‘s so glaringly obvious, it is just such a lame gimmick. Sigh.

by GennaRose Nethercott

In the tradition of modern fairytales like American Gods and Spinning Silvercomes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore–a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

Can‘t say much yet, I have only read the first chapter. My current NetGalley.

Blast from the past with Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb

Do you read romance? In that case you probably have come across Nora Roberts and her alter ego J.D. Robb. My mother loves the In Death series by Robb and in 2016 I finally got the first book of the series. Here is what I thought of it.

Naked in Death (In Death, #1) — read in 2016
by J.D. Robb

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fairly stereotypical police procedural, with some futuristic gadgets and a love interest who is, at first, a suspect, as well as tall, dark, mysterious and the common alpha male of romance novels. I think the correct label is romantic suspense. The first book in the very successful In Death series by The Nora. My mum is a huge fan, so curiosity made me pick it up, to see what all the fuss is about.

I did not really like the relationship much at first between Eve and Roarke. He definitely had problems accepting her wishes, which bugged me. If you do not mind his consent issues, he’s fine as a romance MC. 

The world building could have been better. The gadgets and some futuristic concepts were not explained, so if they weren’t self-expalantory, you were left to guess. However, they only play a very small part in the story. If you want to read sci-fi with suspense, hands off this book.

This is mostly told from Eve’s view, third person. There is the odd change of POV, mostly to Roarke and sometimes to others. These changes are not well done and jarred me every time. It could be the formatting (or lack thereof), the various protagonists do all sound exactly the same as well, though.

The mystery wasn’t very gripping and, at least from the second half onwards, pretty predictable. 

The romance and sex were ok. Fairly tame, I like my nooky more explicit.

Bottom line: Ok, nothing gripping, as light entertainment on the side not bad. Decent writing. I wasn’t very happy with the early Roarke and his consent issues. I would recommend it and will probably read the next book in the series, to see where their romance goes.

PS: I never got the next book in the series and don‘t feel tempted to get back to this series.

And a long, long time ago I read two romance novels by Roberts…

Birthright by Nora Robert — read in 2003

Rating: 3 out of 5.

5000 year old bones are found at a construction site in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our heroine Callie, an archaeologist, comes to investigate. So does her ex-husband, annoying, but good-looking and charming Jake. And then a death occurs. Is the site cursed? And, least but not last, someone gives Callie some shocking news about her past that shake the foundations of her life.
If you are looking for a book with a serious archealogical twist, forget it. You are looking at a slightly upscale romance novel with a bit of mystery strewn in for added suspense. Not too trashy and quite a good read to relax after a hard day at work.

Three Fates by Nora Roberts — read in 2004

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great fun! Roberts manages to give you low-brain-power entertainment, but with wit and a lot of humour, without getting too sloppy on the romance side of things. Did I mention steamy sex? 🙂

This is what the story is about: Three siblings embark on a quest to re-unite 3 parts of a mythical statue. They are not sure that it even exists, but they are determined to find out and try. From Ireland they travel to Eastern Europe, Helsinki, New York, to follow clues and find romance, adventure and a deadly enemy…

Out of this World by J.D. RobbLaurell K. HamiltonSusan KrinardMaggie Shayne

And this one has been languishing on my bookshelf since 2015. Maybe next year?

Have you read anything by Roberts? What is your favourite?