Reading Round Up

It's been too long since I posted a review round-up. I've been reading a lot, so I'll post the highlights. I've been reading a bit of everything (fantasy, contemporary romance, nonfiction, fairy tale retellings, sci-fi...)

For fantasy: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whelan Turner, Champion of the Rose & Bones of the Fair by Andrea Host, Sarah J Maas's entire backlist. And, sidestepping into urban fantasy, Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy trilogy.

Megan Whelan Turner writes books where you can really linger over ever sentence, where re-reading and close reading are richly rewarded. Which is why it pays to start with the first book in the series, The Thief. The two Host books are stand-alones but set in the same world--beautifully written fantasy romances with excellent worldbuilding and good LGBT representation (homosexual marriages are the norm in this world). 

The Sarah J Maas books are interesting. I read both of her series, the Court of Thorns and Roses books and then the Throne of Glass books. They both play a similar trick, which I now intensely admire but served as a barrier to entry for me as a reader: the first book in each series more or less plays a trope completely straight. So with the Court of Thorns and Roses books, a human girl is kidnapped by a handsome fae prince who falls madly in love with her and lavishes her with wealth and adoration. In the Throne of Glass books, a young assassin is released from prison to serve an Evil King, but she finds herself drawn to his charming and good-hearted heir. 

But then subsequent books in the series turn the initial set-up upside down. Every critique I might have made (for instance: the fae prince of the Court of Thorns and Roses books is possessive and overprotective; he cages the heroine as much as he cares for her) ends up being part of the story, which turns and advances in new and surprising directions.   

It's a very epic series, everything turned up to eleven, full of high drama and intensity and big emotions and hard choices. It's also smart and engaging, never resting on its laurels, with heroines who earn their swagger and heroes who admire them for it. 

A little bit of contemporary romance--The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, two books that showed up on a lot of 'best of the year' lists when they were published, for good reason.

Going Nowhere Fast by Kati Wilde had some great banter and good chemistry, even if the plot doesn't stand up to intense scrutiny. I've also indulged in some sports romance--the Brooklyn Bruisers books by Sarina Bowen are really satisfying because the characters are legitimately wrapped up in their work, the minutae of training and conditioning, and the characters behave like mature adults. Ditto Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang, about a doctor and a pro hockey player at the end of his career--a funny sexy romance between two people whose 'meet cute' is complicated by the fact that the heroine has a problem with the sports whose players stand a strong risk of getting concussed and developing lasting brain damage. 

I re-read Robin McKinley's Beauty and the Beast retellings, Rose Daughter & Beauty, because the book I'm working on has shades of Beauty and the Beast.

I enjoyed a bit of historical goodness--The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian is male/male historical romance with great chemistry and humor, a little like Tessa Dare, and A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas--I absolutely adore her Lady Sherlock books. 

Some nonfiction: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin is gripping as a historical account of Lincoln's presidency, with some frightening similarities to the present political situation, and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is the book that gave rise to the movie. The book isn't structured as a gripping narrative and doesn't feel like a story, with a plot that twists and turns. But as a piece of American history, it's riveting and important. 

And a bit of sci-fi, too: All Systems Red by Martha Wells is a novella about a murderbot that would rather watch TV than do its job. I can't wait for the sequel. The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin is probably the definition of 'hard sci-fi'--it's an alternate history, set in China and rooted in the cultural revolution, about physicists in a country hostile to science and a peculiar video game called The Three Body Problem. It's hard to explain much more without spoilers and it had more math & physics than I, personally, could ever find enjoyable... but it was also incredibly memorable and I've found myself recommending it to others fairly often. 


New News

How is everyone? 

I've been updating the blog infrequently but how about a roundup of recent goings on? 

In February, I left Kentucky to try out life as a 'digital nomad'--the name is a little grandiose and silly but it's also the most apt description I've heard so far. The idea is that certain jobs (like writing novels or--more commonly--web development) can be done from anywhere in the world, so there's no need for a fixed home. Instead, you roam the world as you please--working hard and exploring when you get the chance. 

So far I've drifted through Bali (Indonesia), Thailand, and now I'm in Vietnam, with sidetrips to Cambodia and Laos. I'll be returning to the US briefly in December but so far I've got to say, this lifestyle suits me pretty well... and I don't think it's hurt my productivity.

This year, I've released a novella in Sight Unseen--and after three months of mystery, this week we're finally revealing who wrote which story. Emma Barry did a great interview with All About Romance about her novella, Free, Meredith Duran discussed her story A Clear View of You with Heroes and Heartbreakers, and I did an interview over at USAToday's HEA Blog about my contribution, Lost That Feeling

I really suggest checking out the interview. I talk about where I got my inspiration for the story and the real-world history and landscapes that I drew on for the worldbuilding. 

I've also got a few big releases planned for the future. The first is a box set of the No Better Angels books. Check out the gorgeous new cover: 


I'm releasing it at $9.99, which means that anyone who reads The Secret Heart for free would still save a couple of dollars if they go on to buy the box set instead of purchasing The Lover's Knot, The Orphan Pearl, and The Young Blood individually. 

So it's a great time to recommend my books to your friends! You can preorder the Box Set at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Google Play store and iBooks. It releases on September 20.

For anyone who's thinking, "This is all well and good but I'm waiting for a new historical romance from you, Ms. Satie," well... that's on its way too. I'm almost done with the new book--I'm at the stage where I'm getting my post-production ducks in a row, reaching out to my editors and I just finished commissioning a new cover.

It'll be at least a month or two before I have any really concrete news for you, but I plan to have this book out before the end of the year and, so far, I'm really excited by how it's turning out. I'm excited about my concept for the series arc, the individual characters are shaping up to be fun people I enjoy spending time with, and the new book has some exquisitely emotional moments. 

More soon--I think I owe everyone a reading list--but in the meanwhile, I hope that you're safe and well.