June Reads 2016

Allegiance_SinghJune was a slow reading month for me. I started off with what I think of as waiting room reads The Forgotten Child and A Baby and a Wedding by Lorhainne Eckhart. I picked them because they were free on Amazon, and, frankly, they weren’t particularly memorable. Sitting here, typing this, I can’t really remember what they were about except that it involved an autistic child, a doormat, and what I’ve seen another blogger aptly refer to as an Alpha-hole.  I’m just left with the overall impression that they sucked.

After that, I dived heart first into Allegiance of Honor and loved every moment of it. It was awesome! I could wish we’d Sighs_Robertsspent more time with the wolves, though, because for a book with an ensemble cast, it was definitely cat-centric.  Read my full review:  Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh.

Then there was a quick re-read of Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts before I picked up her latest, Bay of Sighs. It was fine. This isn’t shaping up to be my favorite of her trilogies, but it was interesting. Mostly, I think, due to the mermaid. That’s new. The rest of the cast, not to mention the overall plot, is kinda deja vu.

Albion_TampkeFinally, I read Ilka Tampke’s debut novel, Skin, which for some unknown reason was re-titled Daughter of Albion here in the States. Skin, in my opinion, is much more apt. I enjoyed this one immensely and am eagerly awaiting the sequel. Historically speaking, we know what happens, but how do the characters cope with it?  Here’s my full review:  Daughter of Albion by Ilka Tampke.

After I finished it, my reader’s palette was still feeling a little atavistic so, instead of picking up Britt-Marie Was Here like I’d intended, I reached for The Tiger and the Wolf by new-to-me author Adrian Tchaikovsky. So far, it’s good.

What have you been reading?

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Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

There may be a few minor spoilers, be warned.

Allegiance_SinghThe pacing was quite different from the other books in the series, so it took me a chapter or two to get into the rhythm, but after that, Allegiance of Honor was a treat for heart for all of us devoted to the characters of this series.  Ms. Singh describes this book as an ensemble cast, and it is, but there’s also a focus, though a soft one, on Lucas and Sascha.  On Naya.

But, as promised, there were scenes with just about everybody.  We got to meet the pupcubs and see Xavier reunited with his Nina.  Annie and Kaleb, finally, meet.  We see more of BlackSea, and of Faith’s brother.  I smell a romance there.  I’m also getting that vibe from certain members of BlackSea and the Alliance.  We’ll see. And, of course, there’s Anthony and Nikita.  Just what is going on there will be used to torture us for many books to come, I think.  The fun kind.

And, then there’s the Architect.  Who, by the way, I still think is Shoshana.  She’s been way too quiet for way too long not to be up to her neck in the Consortium.  And, as always, her overweening ambition is going come back and bite her in the ass.  The Architect has a rather long and bloody list of assassinations in their long range plans for world domination and, leaving aside the Changelings on that list, on the Psy will put her on the bad side of a particular powerful Clan and its extremely ruthless and cunning matriarch.  In the end, that final epic showdown, I think it might end up, at the heart, being Shoshona against Nikita.  There will be other players, of course, but they’ll be the epicenter.  Also, whether of not Shoshona is or is not the Architect, I have a feeling the Alliance chips are going to play into her Queen Bee delusion.  And isn’t it interesting that the Architect has so much respect for, and was so observant of, Zee Zen?  Truthfully, that part was just enough to poke a small hole in my Shoshona = Architect conviction.

I love this series and can’t wait for Wild Embrace in August.

Rating:  4.75 out of 5 stars

Most Anticipated Books of 2016, Part 1

Happy New Year, y’all. Here’s to hoping this new year is better than the last.

Now that we’ve said a farewell to 2015, and remembered, with nostalgia and/or exasperation all the books we experienced during it, we can, now, anticipate all the lovely voyages-by-page we’ll take in 2016. Here are a few of mine:

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Ireland is an enchanted place where history and magic meet and meld to create wonderful stories and tales for winter nights before a fire, or in a pub with friends. And no one weaves Irish history into a tale quite like Morgan Llywelyn. Her Lion of Ireland is among my favorite books. As is her Etruscans. Both stories combine magic and mythology, legend and history, to make a spellbinding, wild ride for the imagination. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Llywelyn does with the Faere Folk and their history.

The Blurb:
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A novel of the untold history of the Túatha Dé Danann, the ancient gods and goddesses of Irish myth and legend.

For centuries the Túatha Dé Danann lived in peace on an island where time flowed more slowly and the seasons were gentle – until that peace was shattered by the arrival of invaders. The Gaels, the Children of Milesios, came looking for easy riches and conquest, following the story of an island to the west where their every desire could be granted. They had not anticipated that it would already be home to others, and against the advice of their druids, they begin to exterminate the Túatha Dé Danann.

After a happy and innocent childhood, Joss was on the cusp of becoming a man when the Gaels slaughtered the kings and queens of the Túatha Dé Danann. Left without a mother and father, he must find a way to unite what is left of his people and lead them into hiding. But even broken and scattered, Joss and his people are not without strange powers.

Morgan Llywelyn weaves Irish mythology, historical elements, and ancient places in the Irish landscape to create a riveting tale of migration, loss, and transformation.

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Other Broken Things by Christa Desir
Release Date: January 12, 2016

Desir is a new for me author, but the blurb sounds really good.

The Blurb:

Broken_DesirNat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

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We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Release Date: January 19, 2016

Another new to me author.  The title’s what caught my attention.  It sounds quirky and unusual.  Just the thing that perks up my interest.  I loved The Bees, remember.  Then I read the blurb at Goodreads and promptly clicked “want to read.”

The Blurb:

Ants_HutchinsonHenry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

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The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Release Date: January 26, 2015

When I first saw this on Amazon, I let out a loud gasp and did a little happy dance in my chair. I loved, completely and absolutely loved, Secret Daughter. It made it onto my best reads list for 2013. I’ll be eagerly awaiting this one, with plans to read it with a cup of cardamom tea and a box of tissues.

The Blurb:

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From the beloved author of Secret Daughter comes a moving new novel of a young man at the crossroads of life
Anil is the cherished son of a large family in rural India. As the eldest boy, he is expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes, dispensing wisdom and good advice. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain they inhabit and her close-knit family. As childhood friends, they are inseparable-but as adulthood approaches, they grow apart.

Anil is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to attend college, the first to become a doctor. Half a world away in Dallas, Texas, he is caught up in his new life, experiencing all the freedoms and temptations of American culture: he tastes alcohol for the first time, falls in love, and learns firsthand about his adopted country’s alluring, dangerous contradictions. Though his work in a gritty urban hospital is grueling, Anil is determined to carve out his own life in America.

At home, Leena dreams of marriage, a strong and true love like the one shared by her parents, and leaves her beloved home to join her new husband’s family in a distant village.

Then things start to go wrong: Anil makes a medical mistake with tragic results, his first love begins to fray and a devastating event makes him question his worth as a doctor and as a friend. On a visit home, Anil rekindles a friendship with the woman who seems to understand him better than anyone else. But their relationship is complicated by a fateful decision made years earlier.

As the two old friends discover each other again, they must also weigh the choice between responsibility and freedom, and between loyalty and love.

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That Other Me by Maha Gargash
Release Date: January 26, 2016

I’m always interested in being introduced to new cultures when I read and this is one I’ve never read about.  And the plot sounds fascinating.

The Blurb:

Other_GargashFrom the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Sand Fish, Maha Gargash’s second novel is set in mid-1990s Dubai and Cairo and tells the story of how secrets and betrayals consume three members—an authoritarian father, a rebellious abandoned daughter, and a vulnerable niece—of a prominent Emirati family.

Majed, the head of the eminent Naseemy family, is proud to have risen into the upper echelons of Emirati society. As one of the richest businessmen in Dubai, he’s used to being catered to and respected—never mind that he acquired his wealth by cheating his brother out of his own company and depriving his niece, Mariam, of her rights.

Not one to dwell on the past—he sent Mariam to school in Egypt, what more could she want from him?—Majed spends his days berating his wife and staff and cavorting with friends at a private apartment. But he’s suddenly plagued by nightmares that continue to haunt him during the day, and he feels his control further slipping away with the discovery that his niece and his daughter are defying his orders.

Mariam despises Majed, and although she blames him for her father’s death, hers is a strictly-organized, dutiful existence. But when she falls for a brash, mischievous fellow student named Adel, he might just prove to be her downfall.

Largely abandoned by Majed as the daughter of a second, secret marriage, the vivacious Dalal has a lot to prove. The runner-up on “Nights of Dubai,” an American Idol-type reality show for Arab talent, Dalal is committed to being a singer despite the fact that it’s a disreputable career. When her efforts to become a celebrity finally begin to pay off, she attracts the attention of her father, who is determined to subdue Dalal to protect the family name. As Majed increasingly exerts his control over both Dalal and Mariam, both girls resist, with explosive consequences.

An exhilarating look at the little-known Khaleeji (Gulf-Arab) culture, That Other Me explores the ways social mores contribute to the collapse of one family.

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Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Release Date: March 29, 2016

The Bridgertons are back! That’s all I need to know to put this book, solidly, in the “must have” column.

The Blurb:

Bridgerton_QuinnSometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places…

This is not one of those times.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband… someday.

Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should…

Or not.

There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest heir to the earldom, but he’s arrogant, annoying, and she’s absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can’t stand the sight of him, either.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor…

Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can’t abide is the one person they can’t live without…

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A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi
Release Date: May 3, 2016

I’ve read and loved all five of her books. A Breath of Fresh Air is an especial favorite. It makes me cry every time I read it. So I was thrilled when Amulya Malladi announced the publication of this sixth novel on her blog.

The Blurb:

Mothers_MalladiA stunning new novel—full of wit and warmth—from the bestselling author of The Mango Season.

In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs—a loving husband, a career, and a home—but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much—raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads—but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset—her womb—to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world—and renewed hope to each other.

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Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Release Date: May 10, 2016

A sequel to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, which I adored.  Sign me up.

The Blurb:

Britt-Marie_BlackmanFrom the bestselling author of the “charming debut” (People) A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, a heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?

Zany and full-of-heart, Britt-Marie Was Here is a novel about love and second chances, and about the unexpected friendships we make that teach us who we really are and the things we are capable of doing.

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The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Release Date: May 24, 2015

Finally, the third and final book in Cronin’s The Passage Trilogy.  Testimony to just how awesome The Passage was, because I continue to anticipate The City of Mirrors even though The Twelve sucked.

The Blurb:

Mirrors_CroninIn life I was a scientist called Fanning.

Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died.

I died, and then I was brought back to life…

Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards to one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future.

What she finds is not what she’s expecting.

A journey into the past.

To find out how it all began.

And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.

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Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh
Release Date: June 14, 2015

All I really needed to be seized with an avid desire to read this was the word “pupcubs”, which Ms. Singh uttered in relation to this book during the Google Hangout she had back in October of last year. Sold! Everything, and everyone, else is icing.

The Blurb:

Allegiance_SinghThe “unparalleled romantic adventure”* of Nalini Singh’s New York Times bestselling series continues as a new dawn begins for the Psy-Changeling world…

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

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