June 27, 2013

The Romance Writers of Australia has announced the finalists for the Romantic Book of the Year awards, more commonly known as the R*BY. The winners will be announced on August 17 at an awards gala at RWA’s annual conference. The RB*Ys are one of the few literary awards determined by readers—members of the RWA are ineligible to judge the entries. This always makes the results very interesting, I feel.

I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read most of the books nominated, and I’m going to try and rectify this. However, it seems unlikely that I’ll get through the list by mid-August. So I’d like to propose a challenge: I’ll send you a free copy of one (or more—but one at a time) titles listed below in exchange for your guest review at Book Thingo. You have to pick a title that hasn’t already been reviewed, and you need to send me the review by the end of July (this gives me time to post them before the awards night). The review should reflect your opinion, and yes, by all means dnf it if it’s not working—and say why in your review—but I ask that you read at least 50 pages before giving up. If you’re interested, leave a comment below or email me at kat@bookthingo.com.au.

And now, the finalists…

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June 26, 2013

Untamed by Anna CowanAn ambitious debut that has polarised romance readers. Whether or not it works for you will depend on how well Anna Cowan’s narrative voice can lull you into looking past its flaws.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

When I heard that Australian writer Anna Cowan had sold her cross-dressing duke novel to Destiny, I couldn’t wait to read the book. I’m an occasional visitor at Cowan’s blog, and her analyses of romance tropes, characters and themes led me to expect an extraordinary debut effort. I wasn’t disappointed, but Untamed is also not an easy book to read or even to like. It’s definitely not an easy book to review.

Kit Sutherland agrees to bring Jude, the Duke of Darlington, to her country home in exchange for his promise to end his affair with Kit’s married sister. Outwardly charming, Jude can’t help but manipulate the people around him, sometimes for no other reason than for his own amusement, so When the Duke arrives dressed as an aristocratic lady, Lady Rose, Kit recognises the danger he poses to her family’s equilibrium—as well as her own.

Jude is hovering on the brink of self-destruction, but after a chance encounter at a ballroom where his lover’s sister, Kit, inadvertently gives him her scathing opinion of the Duke of Darlington, Jude is drawn by instinct to her.  He ingratiates himself into her family and her life, and thwarts her every attempt to keep her distance—and he does so arrogantly, selfishly and ruthlessly. Eventually, their deceit is unravelled at great consequence to Kit and her family, and Cowan reveals the darker undercurrents surrounding Kit’s relationships with her siblings, as well as Jude’s secrets.

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June 24, 2013
Me with Sylvia Day

Me with Sylvia Day

Jen’s recap of Sylvia Day’s exclusive morning tea with members of the Australian Romance Readers Association.

On Friday morning I was fortunate enough to be a part of ARRA’s exclusive morning tea with Sylvia Day at Dymocks 234 Collins, as a sort-of organiser (but I was merely the +1 among the other twenty ARRA members). Actually I wasn’t even expecting to go, but HELLO JEN?, it’s SYLVIA DAY–when will another opportunity come again?

I can safely claim with all my arrogant fangirl authority that I have been a long-time Day reader, pre-Crossfire. I was almost out of high school when I discovered that there was even more smut beyond FanFiction.Net and Anne Rice (see, I got corrupted early). Now that was some tertiary education right there.

So it comes with great delight, some bemusement, and not a little “I saw her first!” smugness that we come to this Day (sorry, can’t help myself).

Sylvia Day morning tea

Pamela welcomes Sylvia

For the event, we were led into the upstairs Bargain Books alcove of the bookstore, away from the public (it felt kind of funny, actually). There was already a significant line in the general queue waiting for Sylvia’s 12pm signing, from which we received quite a lot of perplexed and envious stares and pointing fingers. Yeah, that was nice to drink in.

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Posted by Jen in Events (3 comments)
Keywords: dymocks, sylvia day
June 20, 2013

The King by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 12) - US editionJ. R. Ward has posted the US cover for her next Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, The King, on her official Facebook page. (Thank you, Decadence, for your vigilance in all matters relating to the BDB!)

As Decadence pointed out to me, the widow’s peak and the ring fit his description, and ‘the background looks fucking awesome’. I do agree with her in that I always pictured Wrath as being much larger, but maybe it’s just because all the BDB characters are written larger than life.

Check out those tight leather pants. I can’t even imagine how sweaty and stinky they get.

What? Am I ruining the illusion? ;-)

You can preorder the US hardcover from Amazon and Book Depository. It comes out March 25, 2014.

Click here for more BDB cheat sheets and spoilers.

June 18, 2013

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa DareJust like a prospective duchess, it was charming and witty and able to stand alone.

The Dowager Duchess of Halford is desperate for her son Griffin, the current duke, to get married. He absolutely refuses. She drags him to Spinster Spindle Cove to check out prospective candidates and says that he can pick anyone and she will turn that girl into his duchess.

Pauline Simms is having a really shitty day. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, but she is trying to make the most of her life as a serving girl in a tavern. Her day is about to get better or worse, depending on your point of view, when the duke picks her to be his duchess.

Griffin and Pauline make a deal: if she fails in a week he will give her the money she needs to open her dream bookshop in the village. The catch is that Pauline is actually really good at her duchess lessons. And serving girl or no, she would make an awesome duchess. Will love prevail? Of course, it will.

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June 11, 2013

Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams - Australian editionWhether you’re a tourist, an Indiana Jones wannabe (or you just love Harrison Ford) or an armchair traveller, this is the perfect book to take you away to faraway lands.

In line with Travel Tuesday (#traveltuesday) on Twitter, Wandergurl is attempting to review a travel book once a month. It does not always happen, obvs.

Once upon a time, there was a writer called Mark Adams. He wrote for an adventure magazine but never really had any adventures. One day, he decided to follow the footsteps of Hiram Bingham, the man who made Machu Picchu known to the world. This is Adams’s thoroughly engaging, adventure-filled story.

About five years ago, I did a version of the Inca Trail called the Lares Trek (I booked late and couldn’t get a permit to do the actual one). After about four exhausting days, I made it to Machu Picchu and it was one of the best experiences of my life, never mind that I had never hiked before and had problems with altitude. Like Adams, prior to this adventure I had never slept in a tent (unless you count that one time in high school when they made us go camping overnight), or owned hiking boots. It was the trip that inspired many more adventures, so when I saw this book, I had to have it.

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June 6, 2013

The Mad Earl's Bride by Loretta ChaseI love Loretta Chase and this story did not disappoint. I only wished it had been longer.

The Earl of Rawnsley has quite possibly gone mad, and is dying besides, and now lives in the moors of Dartmoor. Gwendolyn Adams has just been asked to marry him to secure an heir before he dies. (This actually made a lot of sense to me in a romance novel context.) Is he really mad? What’s in it for her? And is he really going to die?

Dorian, the Earl, is your classic tormented hero—tormented by the actions of his past, a hard-handed, unforgiving family, and the ‘spirits’ that he supposedly sees. He just wants to be left alone to die in peace. Given his past history, he is incredibly worried about what will happen to him when he finally succumbs to this madness (warning: the descriptions of mental institutions in that time are pretty heartbreaking, and while author Loretta Chase doesn’t go into a lot of detail, things happen to a certain character and it is well described). When he unexpectedly inherits the earldom, he has no intention of continuing the title, but suddenly this lady shows up on his doorstep and somehow also saves his life.

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June 4, 2013

Heart Of Obsidian by Nalini Singh (Book 12, Psy-Changeling) - Australian editionTwo Psy, each damaged in different ways. Ill-fated lovers. An emotionally repressed virgin hero who moves the earth for his true love. And all the feels. The feels! This one is definitely a keeper.

Before we start, let’s get this out of the way: I’m not going to tell you explicitly who the Ghost is in this review, but it might be guessable. Also, we don’t have a spoiler filter in the comments, so if you haven’t read the book, I’d suggest avoiding the comments until you do.

If there’s any criticism I could level at the last few Psy-Changeling books, it would be that the romances tended to be overshadowed by the worldbuilding. It’s clear that New Zealand author* Nalini Singh has been building up to some big revelations, and many of them culminate in Heart Of Obsidian.

* In true Aussie fashion, I propose claiming her for our own. It’s a long-standing tradition. We have precendents—the pavlova, Phar Lap, Keith Urban. And now Nalini Singh. Let’s start the rumour today and make it happen.

Kaleb Krychek has always been billed as the ruthless Councillor who has had no compunction in assassinating those who stand in his way, but as the series progressed it’s clear that he has his own agenda, which might not align with my first impression of him. (Jane at Dear Author posted this awesome cheat sheet on what we know of Kaleb up to Kiss of Snow.) After seven years, two week and two days, Kaleb has finally found the woman he has been searching for.

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May 28, 2013

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Australian edition)Compelling characters in an unusual but richly rendered setting—I felt the chill on their skin and harshness of the landscape.

Agnes, a servant woman in early 19th century rural Iceland, is condemned to death for the murder of her master. While awaiting execution, she is sent to live in care of the local district officer’s family. Horrified at the prospect of living with a murderess, they try to avoid her but, with the advent of the harvest and the need for extra hands, are forced to interact. Agnes is sent a priest to preside over her repentance, and she has chosen Toti, for seemingly random reasons. Through her discussions with him and interactions with the household, we find out the other side to the story. Did Agnes really murder her master? What really happened the night the farm burned down?

More than just a murder, this historical novel, based on an actual case, also provides a picture of relationships, and how it is to be human. From the first page, I was drawn into Agnes’s story, to her character and spirit of fierce determination. Everyone in the story seems to be fighting for a chance to survive, and this is clear in their way of life, their traditions, and deep spirituality. Every character and their motivations are shown and juxtaposed with the harsh landscape, seemingly a pattern for how unforgiving both the land and its people can be.

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May 24, 2013

Hey, Psy-Changeling fans! So you think you know who The Ghost is? This post might have you thinking again… (Updated 25/5/2013 to add link to Storify.)

Heart Of Obsidian by Nalini Singh (Book 12, Psy-Changeling) - Australian editionHeart Of Obsidian by Nalini Singh (Book 12, Psy-Changeling) - US editionThis morning Twitter users got to ask the Ghost some questions directly. He gave us some hints as to his identity, but some of his answers just raised more questions. Berkley will post a Storify link tomorrow (click here), but in the meantime, here is a summary of what we learned:

The Ghost was damaged before the PsyNet began to degrade, but he still does not want to leave. He is a male (not multiple people) who was ‘broken’ as a child, and who got rid of his conscience to survive. It hasn’t and (he believes) will never return. But he bonded with a woman (who is not his lover and is still alive today) during that time, and she is the only one to whom he is loyal and the only one who will keep him from carrying out his plans. He refuses to say what those plans are, only that they will become clear in time and he has been putting them into effect for over 20 years. He doesn’t discuss his plans with anyone except sometimes Judd and Xavier. He suspects Judd may have an idea of his ultimate goal. Sienna is no longer a part of his plan, but he would not answer why (is it because she is no longer a surprise?).

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