Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review round-up

Because of travel and more I'm woefully behind on updating my reviews. As I'm thinking of doing away with reviews in any case, except for books I really love, that may not be a bad thing. But, for my own sake as much as anything else, here are the books I've read since I've been gone . . .

Kendall Kulper, Salt and Storm: the setting was the best part of this. Rich, evocative fantasy set in the whaling world of 19th century New England (think Moby Dick, but more accessible). The language was lovely and the atmosphere perfectly drawn: but I didn't love the ending.

Kelly Fiore, Just Like in the Movies cute, not entirely convincing story of two girls who set out to change their romantic fortunes by mimicking movie scenarios.

Kasie West, The Fill-In Boyfriend. I pre-ordered this book: I was that excited to read a new Kasie West book! And while it was fun and harmless, it didn't have quite the same depth or wit as her other books.

Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobsen, Heather Moore, Boardwalks Antique Shop. This collection of three related novellas about romances along Tangerine street in a delightful SoCal town is not quite as much fun as the previous one, but these stories are fun and sweet.

Martina Boone, Compulsion:  Martina has done a lot to support the YA community (she has a great website that runs all kinds of interviews and contests that was hugely helpful to me), and I've been wanting to read her debut for some time. There was lots I loved about it: richly evocative setting in the South, an intriguing cast of characters (Barrie, her scarred--and now dead--mother, her cross-dressing guardian, Eight, and so many more), interesting mysteries about Barrie's past. But while I enjoyed reading the book, I didn't love it, and I'm not entirely sure why. Boone is a good writer, her characters well-drawn and did I say I loved the setting? But I wasn't fully drawn into the world until the end.

Jude Morgan, A Little Folly. Jude Morgan might be the next best thing to reading Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen. He's got a great ear for period language and the details are wonderful. Sometimes the narrative is a little slow, but I still really enjoyed this story about siblings Louisa and Valentine who, when their strict father dies, plan to fully enjoy life--with some unexpected consequences.

A Little Folly

Nichole Van, Intertwine. A sweet, romantic, if sometimes implausible time-travel romance that plunges the heroine into Regency era England.

Josi Kilpack, A Heart Revealed. I've read several of Kilpack's culinary mysteries and liked them but didn't love them, so I was intrigued when I saw she'd written a Regency, even more so when I heard it had starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly. And while the story was more of a slow burn than a fast-action piece, there was a lot I liked about it: especially the extreme humbling of the heroine after she discovers her hair is falling out. I can imagine few things more horrifying to a woman who puts all her value in her personal experience. Amber's humbling and transformation give this Regency a lot more depth than most, and the romance (while I wanted *more*!) was sweet. (And if it looks like I've been reading a lot of Regency lately, well, yes, I have. And I have lots of recommendations.)

Marie Rutkowski, The Winner's Crime. Rutkowski is one of those authors I want to be like when I grow up: her books are effortlessly plotted, well-paced, and the heroes tread that fine line between complicated and unlikeable. I adored book one (The Winner's Curse), and I was so happy to find that the sequel didn't disappoint. It's hard to say much about the book without spoilers, suffice it to say that Kestrel  has engaged herself to the Emperor's heir to save Arin and his kingdom (though of course, she can't tell Arin, and he doesn't understand why she's done it). The politics were fascinating and well-drawn, the writing was sometimes so lovely it hurt, and, of course, the romance is still smouldering.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Since I've been gone . . .

It's been a while since I posted--but with good reason!

My  husband and I spent ten wonderful days in Europe (specifically, Hungary and Vienna) researching setting and period details for my forthcoming trilogy (THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, Knopf 2016).

Right after we got back, I plunged into three wonderful days at the LDStorymakers conference, absorbing the wisdom of my writing tribe. I'm only now getting back into the swing of my real life. (Not nearly so exciting).

But here's a sneak peak of what I've been working on:

This is Eszterhaza, a beautiful estate in Northeastern Hungary that belonged to the wealthy Eszterhazy family. Sometimes called the Hungarian Versailles (though I've been to Versailles and this is not quite on that scale!), the estate serves as the setting for part of my debut novel.

The beautiful Sala Terenna, a ground-floor reception room where some dramatic action unfolds near the end of the novel. Spoiler: someone dies.

I'll post more on my trip later, but it was wonderful to be able to actually explore the physical sites, to realize the limits of 19th century Budapest, to wander the same streets my heroine would have walked. Setting is a profoundly important aspect of any novel: place shapes our conception of self, the relationships we have with one another, and so much more.