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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May 22, 2013

Two new ebookstores have been launched in Australia. Exciting news for readers, but they come with a price—dollars and DRM (see price comparison below).

Sony Reader Store

Earlier this month, Sony finally launched the Reader Store in Australia. For a limited time, when you sign up to the Reader Store, you’ll get a free ebook (I got Friendship Bread by Darien Gee, but I’m not sure if everyone gets the same title). Sign up is relatively painless: enter your email address, choose a password, and active the account when you get the confirmation email.

You can sort the catalogue by date, relevance and price. I’m not sure how relevance is evaluated, but the first page using this sorting method didn’t produce many titles that I cared about, to be honest. Sort by price and you’ll find some free ebooks. It’s worth checking before you download because some of them are only excerpts rather than the entire book. Sort by date, and again, I’m not sure what it means—I’m assuming date of release—but out of curiosity I navigated to the last page. Don’t do this unless you want to read dodgy sounding books about what sound to me like dirty old men. Definitely not romance.

Navigation within the romance category is, frankly, a bit of a pain. There are no subcategories and when you look at the page number links, it only lists all the pages before the one you’re on, the next page, and the last page. This makes it difficult for me—I like to skip around and jump 2-4 pages at a time.

JB Hi-Fi NOW Books

Last month, electronics store JB Hi-Fi also launched an ebooktore, which you can find here. According to trade magazine Books+Publishing:

The store, which went live on 22 April, is part of the retailer’s NOW platform, which also sells digital music. Among the local publishers with titles in the ebookstore are HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, Allen & Unwin, Hachette, Lonely Planet, Pan Macmillan and Text Publishing.

Again, there’s no escaping DRM.

I only had a quick play with this store, but searching for titles seems faster than in the Reader Store and, with the exception of the cluttered and confusing first page, the interface seems more inviting to me.

Price comparison

I’ve listed a random sample of romance titles and their prices (AUD), along with corresponding prices from Diesel (USD) and the publisher (AUD unless otherwise noted). Ebook files have DRM unless otherwise noted.

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May 21, 2013

Heart Of Obsidian by Nalini Singh (Book 12, Psy-Changeling) - Australian edition Heart Of Obsidian by Nalini Singh (Book 12, Psy-Changeling) - US editionAt some point, I’ll catch up on reading, reviewing and blogging and we’ll be back to our regular posting schedule. In the meantime, this is way too exciting for me not to mention!

If you haven’t already pre-ordered the book, you can do so at BooktopiaGalaxyFishpondAmazon and Book Depository.

If you’re a fan of NZ author Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series—and who isn’t?—and you’re dying to know which main character will feature in her June release, Heart Of Obsidianand who isn’t?—then you need to head over to her blog and find out!

Yes, after months of secrecy and that oh-so-coy blurb, we finally find out that…

(Look away now if you don’t want to know!)

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Posted by Kat in Lucky dip (2 comments)
Keywords: nalini singh, psy-changeling
April 24, 2013

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After  by Julia QuinnThe series that made me—and the rest of the world—fall in love with Julia Quinn. If you haven’t read this series, start now! If you have, then this is the cherry on the cake.

Special note for fans: Julia Quinn will be a keynote speaker at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference at Fremantle in August. Click here for more details.

Actual text message from the year 2000:

BFF: Wandergurl! Anthony Bridgerton is getting married. We have to get The Viscount Who Loved Me.

Me (Thinking, Who the fuck is… ohhhhhhhhhhh.): Yes! Of course! We have to get someone to bring it from America.

Back in the early 00s when I was growing up in the Philippines, you didn’t get books on time and the bigger independent bookstores didn’t really exist yet. It’s easier to get things now, but back then, your best chance for immediate access during a release date was to have someone vacationing in America to bring it back to you. After reading The Duke and I in a rental book club called ‘The Armchair Reader’ (and buying the book when the book club closed down) I was determined to get the rest of the series.

Aside from the actual stories of the books, obtaining them involved their own stories. I had one of our clients, a big, burly bearded Texan bring one back for me from Austin. My managing director brought back my Amazon order with a Bridgerton and The Lord of the Rings, extended edition. My giant elfish geek of a friend went to a bookstore and never let me hear the end of it after he had to ask for Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. (He also very nicely climbed a ladder and alphabetised my romance novels at my request. Thank you, dear.) Another was brought back by a Goth friend from San Francisco, who also happened to read romances and thought Sir Phillip with Love wasn’t bad—except the title sucked.

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April 16, 2013

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London, Book 1)Original, witty and fun—this is my new favourite series.

Probationary Constable Peter Grant works for the Metropolitan Police Force and is the kind of mediocre that we all are sometimes, but don’t really want to admit. He’s smart, he can handle himself, but he needs an extra little push to get somewhere sometimes. He also wants to do something significant with his life but can’t seem to figure out what, and his boss seems to think he’s destined for a life of paperwork.

That is, until one night when, after being called to the scene, he interviews a witness who happens to be dead. Suddenly, he’s a detective constable working for a special branch of the police that previously had only one member. He’s also the first trainee apprentice wizard in Britain in fifty years. Oh, and he has to find out who killed that guy.

Creative, funny and very real, Peter Grant could be your friend, the blokey jokester that you hang out and have a beer with. He’s the kind of person who sometimes fumbles and could use a good woman to keep his head on straight (there is one, kind of). He’s a good guy; it just so happens that weird things keep happening to him.

This book, the first of a thoroughly entertaining series, shows us how Peter stumbles into the use of magic and finally finds his feet, solving a mystery (and developing his skills at coming up with witticisms) in the process. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this series, with its comedic interludes, rich characterisation and inventive world building.

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