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What Janine is Reading 11/1/11-11/15/11

I read a bit more than I usually do in the first half of November. Here is my latest reading list:

Tis the Season to be Sinful by Adrienne Basso

This book arrived in a package from Jane. I had heard good things about Basso’s writing so I opened it with high hopes, but after a few chapters, I realized it wasn’t for me. The 1858-set story of an American businessman trying to buy an impressive country estate in order to hobnob with aristocrats and a widow who owns such an estate but does not want to sell it, Tis the Season to be Sinful felt predictable to me.

The problem wasn’t so much the plot (since I love marriage of convenience stories, and this turns out to be one) or even the main characters’ basic personalities (Richard and Juliet seemed likable enough). Rather, the problem lay with the slow pacing of the story, the lack of nuance and complexity to the character development, and the language, which occasionally jarred me. I felt unengaged and couldn’t make myself read further. DNF.

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The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh

This book was fun if occasionally silly (in a deliberately silly way), but the poignancy underlying the farce gave the story depth. My review can be found here.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My husband and I recently read this YA dystopian which was reviewed by Jia back in May. Both my husband and I loved it up until the last 20% or so, where, for separate reasons, we each felt that implausibilities and inconsistencies cropped up. Even so, the book was well worth reading because Tris, the main character, was such a compelling mix of vulnerability and toughness, competitiveness and selflessness.

The romantic subplot was touching and there was a nice balance between it and the rest of the book. The book’s exploration of the nature of courage was fascinating as well. The first half of the book was marvelous and I was astonished that the author was only twenty-two when Divergent was published. The later sections had more flaws, but I’m still very glad to have read this book. B+/A-.

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Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

This was an ARC of a book that will be out on November 29. Ilona Andrews’ Edge series has quickly become one of my favorite urban fantasy series.

In this one Kaldar Mar, Cerise’s cousin from Bayou Moon, has become an agent for the Mirror, the Andrianglian spy agency in the magical dimension known as the Weird. Kaldar’s latest assignment, to travel to the Edge (a dimension between the Weird and our own world), and enlist the thief who stole a top secret gadget to retrieve the stolen item, goes awry when twelve year old Jack and fourteen year old George, who first appeared in On the Edge, stow aboard Kaldar’s wyvern.

It doesn’t help that when Kaldar finds the thief, Audrey Callahan, she tasers him and ties him to a chair. But Kaldar isn’t one to give up, not when at stake is his revenge on the organization that killed his family members. So with the evil Hand in pursuit, Kaldar, Audrey, Jack, George and Kaldar’s cousin Gaston soon embark on elaborate con games designed to win back the gadget.

Fate’s Edge is filled with daring deeds, humor, and romance. Although I wished the romantic relationship had deepened earlier in the story, I enjoyed seeing Audrey and Kaldar, both con artists, impress and outdo each other. I love how capable Andrews’ heroines are, and Audrey is no exception. Kaldar was on the slick side, but he grew on me. Jack and George stole the show and I hope to see more of them in future books. There were a few inconsistencies, but overall, this book was a lot of fun. Normally I don’t even enjoy books about con artists so the fact that I had a blast reading this book says a lot. High B+.

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What about you? What have you been reading lately? And if you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned, what did you think of them?

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character-driven books. Examples include novels by Shana Abe, Loretta Chase, Patricia Gaffney, Cecilia Grant, Judith Ivory, Carolyn Jewel, Laura Kinsale, Julie Anne Long, Alison Richardson, Nalini Singh and Pam Rosenthal. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, "Kiss of Life", appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com. or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

20 Comments

  1. Carolyn
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 17:11:49

    I can’t wait to get my hands on Fate’s Edge. The authors have been posting snippets on their blog and whetting my appetite. I fully intend to enjoy this book.

    As for what I’ve been reading, the standouts are Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook and Death Magic by Eileen Wilks. Other than that, I’ve been downloading some freebies by known authors and plan to give them a try.

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  2. Darlynne
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 17:11:51

    I loved Divergent and, interestingly, it was the last half that really drew me in. Initially, I wasn’t particularly engaged, but eventually, I was hooked as Tris came into her own. Can’t wait for book two.

    If Ilona Andrews wrote copy for cereal boxes, I’d be all over the raisin bran. She is one of a handful of authors I automatically pre-order and pay for without my usual bitching about agency pricing. When I saw that the hero of the new book was going to be Kaldar, I knew she’d have her work cut out for her. He was not one of my favorite characters, but if Jack and George are on-board, I can be swayed.

    I’m almost finished with Angels of Darkness and am looking forward to Susanna Kearsley’s Rose Garden.

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  3. Janine
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 17:35:17

    @Carolyn: Fate’s Edge was tremendous fun. I still need to read Heart of Steel. I’ve never read the Eileen Wilkes series, though.

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  4. Kim
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 18:07:33

    I didn’t read Adrienne Basso’s book, but the holiday cover made me want to try it. Since I’ve never read any of her books, I was waiting for a few reviews.

    I just finished Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis. It was good, but I thought the heroine held onto her secrets too long. It was almost the end of the book before Jade told Dell the circumstances surrounding her fears.

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  5. Brie
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 18:20:25

    @Darlynne: I just finished The Rose Garden and it was such a beautiful book! You’re in for a treat. I liked it so much that I got a couple of her previous books, so right now I’m reading The Winter Sea and also Jill Shalvis’ Head Over Heels. I’m in good company!

    Can’t wait to read Fate’s Edge I’m in love with that series.

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  6. Janine
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 18:56:26

    @Darlynne: Interesting that it was the last half that hooked you. I loved the first half because it was great to see Tris discover her inner toughness. Some of the choices she made in the second half (for example performing so well on the simulations, and getting the Abnegation tattoo on her shoulder) just seemed careless because they could have so easily led to her death. I also noticed plot holes and character & world inconsistencies in the second half whereas the first half seemed (once you accepted the premise) almost seamless. But that may be because the first half was so gripping.

    Re. the Edge series, yeah, Kaldar isn’t my favorite character. But the book was still tons of fun. Jack and George play a significant role and I loved seeing them again.

    @Kim: I don’t think I’ll be reviewing the Basso. I didn’t get far enough to do more than report on the first few chapters. A lot of it has to do with her voice. This is such an individual thing, but her voice didn’t click with me and when that’s the case it’s very hard for me to persist in finishing a book.

    Jill Shalvis is another author I need to get around to…

    @Brie: I have The Winter Sea TBR; Sunita’s review sold me on it.

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  7. Darlynne
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 19:12:08

    A huge second for Kearsley’s Winter Sea. I thought I was the only one on the planet who hadn’t read it by the time I got around to it. Great story, even better characters.

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  8. Bettie
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 19:54:20

    Major ARC envy over Fate’s Edge — I have it on preorder and am just waiting for the day it shows up on my reader. I second that rec on Heart of Steel. Every story in Brook’s Iron Seas series has been fun from start to finish–but you probably know that. I think you were the one who told me to try the early Iron Seas shorts in the first place.

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  9. Jennie
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 19:59:01

    I keep meaning to try Ilona Andrews. I’ve never heard anything but good things about her.

    I read a book by Adrienne Basso years ago – probably, more than ten. I don’t remember much about the book, but I remember thinking it was boring and I didn’t feel inclined to try her again.

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  10. Janine
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 21:29:54

    @Bettie: You are correct re. the Iron Seas series, but I am trying to limit my plugging of other Agony/Ecstasy authors (at least here on DA) for reasons having to do with the conflict of interest. I figured it was okay to do so in the A/E Q&A thread, but now that that’s over, I’m going to try to keep my lips zipped for the next year or so. Among other things, that means no Meljean Brook reviews for me here at DA in 2011 or 2012.

    @Jennie: Re. Ilona Andrews, what are you waiting for! Start with On the Edge; it’s the first in this series and probably the best introduction to the characters and the world.

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  11. Evangeline Holland
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 21:58:24

    I’m reading the Andrews book right now! I had a difficult time with the “rustic fantasy” elements despite loving the first Edge book, because I hear “fantasy” and think elves and fairies (which make me shudder with loathing). However, I like that the series is romantic without being romancey-romance (you know…emphasis on the physical lusting for one another, rather than on the emotion and friendship between the h/h).

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  12. MarieC
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 07:54:16

    Funny, I am currently reading Divergent, but have Adrienne Basso in my Kindle (haven’t touched yet) and Fate’s Edge as a pre-order.

    But, in conjuction with Divergent, I am reading Julie Kagawa’s Iron King (Iron Fey series). Great so far!

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  13. Janine
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 08:02:31

    @Evangeline Holland: I thought there was actually quite a bit of lusting in Fate’s Edge, although since it was used for humor it didn’t bother me as much as lusting often does. But that is what I meant by my comment about how I wish the relationship had deepened earlier. I would have liked more focus sooner on friendship and other emotions besides physical attraction and admiration.

    ETA: OTOH, I love the “rural fantasy.” The fact that it’s so different from the usual fantasy world-building is a big part of what appeals to me so much about this series. The strong heroines and are also wonderful. Just in general I love the characters.

    @MarieC: Wow, that is quite a coincidence, especially since I have The Iron King TBR! I hope you enjoy the Basso better than I did. How are you liking Divergent?

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  14. JacquiC
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 09:14:21

    I am reading (actually re-reading) Hot Head by Damon Suede. God I love this book! Also reading the third in the Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon, which I also love. It’s making me giggle out loud on the streetcar on the way to work. Just finished an Elizabeth Hoyt (To Seduce a Sinner). Really liked it. I have the Winter Sea in by TBR pile and it’s great to hear more people recommending it. Also have the second book in the Ilona Andrews “Magic” series. Read the first one a while ago and liked it, but got distracted by other stuff so haven’t gone back to this series. Sometimes I wish I only read one or two romance genres — my TBR list is massive.

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  15. Janine
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 12:46:10

    @JacquiC: Sounds like you are on hot streak with your reading. I know what you mean about the massive TBR! We are approaching the end of the year and I have to think about my best of the year list. It’s hard to make that list when I haven’t gotten to all the 2011 releases I wanted to try.

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  16. MarieC
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 13:11:00

    @Janine: the setup for Divergent so far is really good (I’m about a third of the way through). I’m finding that I’m not ‘connecting’ to Beatrice as a character but enjoying the relationships and world building.

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  17. Estara
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 13:48:46

    @Janine: If you do read Wilks, start at the beginning. By now the series world building and plot is too complex without having read the previous books – something I personally see as a feature (we don’t get As You Know, Bob infodumps), by the way.

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  18. JoannaV
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 16:51:04

    I picked up the Basso book at a store and flipped through it, immediately found a character saying something so modern sounding (and not Victorian) I knew it was going to be a problem and put the book back!

    I have really not had time to read much, major unexpected illness in the family that has taken all my energy to deal with as a caregiver. However, I was really glad I had my kindle when I had to pack in a hurry and fly to another city – didn’t have to stop and think about what to take along to read in hospital waiting rooms. I have almost finished Colleen Gleason’s “The Shop of Shades and Secrets” It’s a light paranormal romance ebook so has been just the thing for reading in snatches. Looking forward to something more substantial in future weeks.

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  19. JenM
    Nov 19, 2011 @ 10:26:59

    I want Fate’s Edge so badly. I always joke and say that if Ilona and Gordon wrote the phonebook, I’d be happy to read it. I will follow them anywhere they choose to go. They’ve apparently gotten some heat for the Alphas story in the Angels of Darkness anthology, because it’s quite dark, but I don’t think it would surprise anyone who is already familiar with (and loves) their style.

    As for Eileen Wilks, that’s my current obsession. I’m so glad that there are already 8 books out, so that I can indulge for a little while longer. Definitely don’t try to pick these books up in the middle. I’ve just finished book 3 and this world is already too complex to pick up easily, plus there are virtually no info-dumps.

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  20. Janine
    Nov 19, 2011 @ 12:30:19

    @MarieC: I see. I actually connected with Tris pretty early on (not right away, but soon after she made her faction choice). You might be more like Darlynne, and enjoy the second half more, because Tris does as Darlynne says, come into her own.

    @Estara & @JenM: I’ll try to remember to take your advice if I pick up the Wilks series.

    @JoannaV: That was one of the things I was referring to when I mentioned that Basso’s writing jarred me. The characters’ dialogue did not always sound true to the time period.

    I’m so sorry to hear about the illness in your family, but glad that your kindle served as a source of comfort. I feel the same way about my ebook readers (a Kindle 3 and a Sony Pocket) — glad I can always take them with me on trips without having to think about what books to bring along.

    @JenM: So far in this thread we’ve had readers saying they’d read cereal boxes and phonebooks if Ilona Andrews wrote them. Maybe we should warn the authors to guard their shopping lists…

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