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What Sunita is reading, for the week ending September 11

I read a bunch of novellas and short-ish stories this week, as well as returning to a novel I’d laid aside for a while. Mostly m/m with one m/f, and a number of new-to-me authors.

 

The Seventh Veil (The Etsey Series, #1), by Heidi Cullinan

I began this back in the spring and had a difficult time getting into it. Then I restarted it and suddenly it clicked. This is a big, ambitious, densely plotted and written novel, and very unlike the other Cullinan novels I’ve read. It features m/m and m/f relationships, it’s Fantasy, and it demands the reader’s full concentration. I was having a difficult time reading it at the same time that I was reading Hale’s Rifter serial. But #2 in the series, Temple Boy, is releasing next week, and I really wanted to have this finished before the second book came out. I picked it up again and I’m enjoying it. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a rewarding one. The setting is a fantasy land that draws on 18th or 19th-century England. The characters include a witch, a goddess, two brothers, a wicked alchemist, and an equerry from another land. There are cross-cutting relationships from past and present, regular magic, sex magic, violence, and hot sex. Review to come.

Let’s Misbehave, by Rae Summers

This short story/novella is a debut that received an enthusiastic review from one of my go-to reviewers, and it garnered a number of 4- and 5-star reviews on Goodreads.  I was intrigued by the premise: it’s set in late 1920s London and features a free-spirited heroine and a buttoned-up hero. I loved the setting and thought it was well done. Unfortunately, I found the overall reading experience marred by the author’s tendency to tell me about the characters (and the characters’ tendencies to tell me about their feelings) rather than showing me through behavior and natural-sounding dialogue. Since the characters are archetypes rather than fully-fleshed-out human beings, the telling became overwhelming. The heroine felt like a legitimate free spirit, the hero really was a decent guy but hemmed in by convention, but they just didn’t come alive for me. And the revelation at the end about one of the characters restrospectively undercut the power of the conflict in a major way. But I’m in the minority on this one, so you may enjoy it more. Warning: the hero is engaged to someone else for most of the story, and she’s quite sympathetic. I’d rather read a story about her, to be honest. Grade: C

Goodreads | Amazon |  nook

Vindaloo and the T-Bird, by Sarah Black

This is one of a slew of books I picked up in last week’s Fictionwise coupon sale. I’ve heard good things about Black for years and the title caught my eye. I was a bit apprehensive that the (South Asian-American) character would be named Vindaloo, but no worries, Black knows what she’s doing. Vin is a mechanic and Race is an eye surgeon. They broke up months before the story begins but are brought back together when Race falls in love with a vintage Thunderbird coupe and asks Vin to help him restore it. Through the course of this short story we find out that Race is much better at surgery than relationships and that Vin is a smart mechanic and no pushover. Both characters are sympathetic and deftly portrayed, and the supporting characters come to life despite their brief on-page time. Vin’s grandmother in particular is a hoot. Black manages to capture the essence of a loving, interfering Indian female relative without getting mired in stereotypes; believe me, I know this lady! The story is full of lovely, small details, from the main characters’ shared love for T-Birds, to why Vin isn’t short for Vindaloo, to Race’s earnest and overly systematic study of the roots of rock ‘n roll. And it’s set in Boise! Grade: B+

Goodreads | Amazon

Primal Red, by Nicole Kimberling

I’ve been meaning to try one of Kimberling’s Bellingham mysteries and Fictionwise made it easy. This is the first of three in a series featuring journalist Peter Fontaine and artist Nick Olson. When artist-professor Shelley Vine is murdered in her studio, suspicion falls on the other artists in the loft building they shared. Peter and Nick are attracted to each other but their budding relationship is hindered by Peter’s investigation for The Bellinghamster weekly, aka the Hamster. Peter’s research dredges up Nick’s past and Nick’s status as prime suspect endangers his carefully rebuilt art career. Meanwhile, Peter’s other story lead on the Russian Pierogi-Tea-Café/Bordello puts his own health and well-being in jeopardy. The novella is smoothly written and light on the angst and gore, and it features witty dialogue and eccentric supporting characters. Peter is self-deprecating without being annoying, and while Nick is gorgeous and taciturn, he reveals himself to be more multi-dimensional than Peter’s besotted POV initially suggests. Grade: B

Goodreads | Amazon |  nook | Sony | Kobo

If It Ain’t Love, by Tamara Allen

I’ve saved the best for last. Allen slipped a free story onto the internet with little fanfare, but eventually even I noticed. I downloaded and opened the file to read away some of my disappointment with Let’s Misbehave, and I didn’t look up until I was done. This is a short story, but it has more depth and richness than many full-length novels. The setting is Depression-era Manhattan. Whit is a gifted journalist at the New York Times who is having trouble writing his highly-regarded feature articles. He lost his apartment and is barely hanging on, borrowing from his editor, sleeping in Bowery “hotels” and trying not to notice how hungry he is. Peter doesn’t have a job either, but he has a huge empty townhouse, a well-stocked refrigerator, and a closet full of expensive suits. Peter comes to the Bowery looking for companionship and Whit goes home with him. Their begin a tentative relationship without asking or offering much in the way of information to each other, and when they inevitably discover each other’s backgrounds, it jeopardizes the tiny bit of happiness they’ve begun to build together. There’s a hopeful HEA, or at least an HFN, but Allen doesn’t shirk from portraying the misery of that era. It’s the Depression, and she takes that seriously. But the story is full of small and not-so-small acts of generosity and grace, and it reminds us that even in the midst of degradation, human beings are able to draw on reserves of dignity and compassion. There were a couple of plot points that didn’t quite work for me, but the writing is beautiful and overall this is a terrific read. Easily one of the best stories I’ve read all year. And did I say it’s free? Go forth and download! Grade: A-

Goodreads | Amazon |  nook | Smashwords (free)

Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley. She blogs as VacuousMinx and tweets as @sunita_p.

21 Comments

  1. Maili
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 12:33:53

    Oh in that case, I’ll get a copy of new-to-me Sarah Black’s Vindaloo and the T-Bird. Thank you.

  2. Joy
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 12:48:58

    If It Ain’t Love is now 99 cents. Sounds like it worth the money though.

  3. Jane
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 12:53:42

    @Joy It was free at Smashwords yesterday but .99 at Kindle and Nook.

  4. Jayne
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 12:53:46

    Sunita, have you tried Tamara Allen’s m/m book “Whistling in the Dark?” It’s a post WWI NYC set book which I highly recommend.

  5. Sunita
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 12:59:24

    @Joy: Still free at Smashwords!

    @Jayne: Yes, I really liked it and it was one of John’s Hidden Treasures in our Pride Week post. I have her other two novels in my TBR. I’m saving them as palate-cleansers to follow awful reads, I think. :-)

  6. Sirius
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:00:04

    @Joy: It is 99 cents on Amazon it is still free on All romance and Smashwords I believe, but yes IMO well worth even 99 cents :)

  7. Sirius
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:01:13

    @Sunita: I love everything that Tamara Allen writes, in my very biased POV this short was truly lovely and Whistling in the Dark and Once only Gold, I loved them all. Maybe I loved Downtime a little bit less, but only in comparison with other two :)

  8. Sirius
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:03:06

    Oh Sunita, I started Seventh veil when it was just released but then looked at the end (yes I am one of those who has the tendency to do that) and decided to wait for second book, no matter how much I love this writer’s works. Yay.

    And thank you for pointing me to Sarah Black’s book. Love hers too. Sorry for sounding too enthusiastic today, it is just I really like these three writers’ books :)

  9. Sunita
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 15:44:03

    @Sirius: Not at all! And I meant to link to your wonderful review of the Allen story over at Jessewave’s site. I couldn’t agree more:
    http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/09/10/if-it-aint-love/?wpmp_switcher=desktop

  10. Sunita
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 15:44:30

    @Sirius: Not at all! And I meant to link to your wonderful review of the Allen story over at Jessewave’s site. I couldn’t agree more:

    http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/09/10/if-it-aint-love/?wpmp_switcher=desktop

  11. Tamara
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 18:33:31

    Thank you so much for reading and reviewing, Sunita.

    If It Ain’t Love is free at Smashwords, Goodreads, and All Romance Ebooks (Kindle, epub, pdf, and a couple of other formats Smashwords offers.)

    http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ifitain039tlove-598655-145.html

    I made it available at Amazon under the impression that Amazon, if informed of the price elsewhere, would price match and offer it free on Kindle. Same with Barnes & Noble and the Nook.

    So far, they haven’t (or I did something wrong in setting it up.) I put a notice on the product pages that the story could be downloaded free at other sites, but a few people have purchased it, anyway.

    I only ever intended to give this story away. If you purchased a copy, thank you. I will donate those proceeds to cancer research (or refund them, if you would prefer and will let me know.)

  12. Sirius
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 20:09:01

    @Sunita: Oh thank you Sunita :)

  13. Darlynne
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 20:29:31

    Tamara, between Sunita’s review and your generous heart, I am happy to pay for this story. Thank you both.

  14. Merrian
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 22:14:11

    I really enjoyed the 7th veil and would categorise it with ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell’ as a type of story. I am reading Heidi’s ‘Miles and the magic flute’ at the moment and have started thinking of it as HC’s Narnia story. Miles is Edmund and Terrier is the white witch.

  15. Merrian
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 22:14:37

    I really enjoyed the 7th veil and would categorise it with ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell’ as a type of story. I am reading Heidi’s ‘Miles and the magic flute’ at the moment and have started thinking of it as HC’s Narnia story. Miles is Edmund and Terris is the white witch.

  16. KKJ
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 00:39:23

    I paid for If It Ain’t Love and just finished it with happy tears, something I haven’t done in a very long time, and I didn’t even know of the author’s generous offer.

    Keep my 99c and I will encourage, implore or coerce everyone I know to read it, simply because it’s beautifully written and ridiculously romantic.

    I have a feeling the next thing on my TBR – or more likely the next dozen or so – will seem utterly predictable and shallow.

  17. Sirius
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 15:09:31

    @Merrian: Yes, I like comparison with Narnia. I love both her fantasies and her contemporaries. There are couple of her contemporaries that I love a little less than her other works, but Nowhere Ranch and Dance with me was awesome IMO.

  18. jmc
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 23:43:02

    I went back and dug up my copy of “Vindaloo and the T-Bird” after you mentioned it on twitter. Loved it when I first read it, and it was nice to revisit.

  19. orannia
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 20:03:25

    I can’t wait to read your review of The Seventh Veil. I’ve been drooling over it since its release, but am swamped with books so haven’t picked it up yet. But with the second in the series due out shortly (and your review :) I may have to just let it jump the TBR list!

  20. Tamara
    Nov 27, 2011 @ 13:52:47

    A little late in the game, I know, but I want to add that Amazon (at last) is offering If It Ain’t Love for free on Kindle. To everyone who purchased it at 99 cents, thank you. You have donated to the Knight Cancer Institute with your purchase.

    Here is the link for a free Kindle copy -

    http://www.amazon.com/If-It-Aint-Love-ebook/dp/B005KV1EHW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322423534&sr=8-1

  21. Sunita’s Best of 2011 List | Dear Author
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 10:39:04

    [...] If It Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen (my review here) [...]

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