What I Read This Summer

I don’t often write about books I’ve read. There are several reasons for this. One is that I know an awful lot of writers, and I’m always worried someone will feel slighted if I don’t mention their book. Another is that my reactions to books I enjoy are so visceral, and I have trouble analyzing and/or verbalizing what it is about them that touches me. (I have less trouble figuring out why certain books don’t work for me, but I’d rather be a fangirl than a critic.) But I thought I’d write about a few I read (and loved) this summer, because Dames should talk about what they read sometimes and not always what they write. These won’t be reviews, just little hints that I think you should go out and buy these books and read them immediately.

Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers. I don’t know Robin (except for having written her a fangirly letter after finishing the book), and I hadn’t heard a lot of word-of-mouth buzz about this book (mostly because I don’t get out much to hear word-of-mouth about anything). If I remember correctly, I discovered this one through an Amazon.com recommendation. I’m often reluctant to buy hardback books by people I don’t know. My bookshelves are overstuffed, and hardbacks take up so much room. But the description for this book immediately caught my attention, and I’m so glad I did. I am a total sucker for tales of court intrigue, and this one fit the bill perfectly. It’s a YA, but it’s easily accessible to adults–the kind of book that might have been marketed as adult before YA became the “in” thing. I love all the twists and turns the story takes, and I really feel for Ismae and her conflicting loyalties.

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

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Tin Swift, by our own Dame Devon. I often like steampunk, but I rarely love it. The Age of Steam series has made a true believer out of me. There’s an exciting story, lovable characters, a fascinating world, and beautiful writing. (The kind I read and have jealous little why can’t I write like that thoughts.) If you haven’t read this series, you don’t know what you’re missing. Start with the first book, Dead Iron.

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines and magic battle to claim the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, one man fights to hold on to his humanity–and his honor. . .

Life on the frontier is full of deceit and danger, but bounty hunter Cedar Hunt is a man whose word is his bond. Cursed with becoming a beast every full moon, Cedar once believed his destiny was to be alone. But now, Cedar finds himself saddled with a group of refugees, including the brother he once thought lost.

Keeping his companions alive is proving to be no easy task, in part because of the promise he made to the unpredictable Madder brothers—three miners who know the secret mechanisms of the Strange. To fulfill his pledge, Cedar must hunt a powerful weapon known as the Holder—a search that takes him deep into the savage underbelly of the young country and high into the killing glim-field skies defended by desperate men and deadly ships.

But the battles he faces are just a glimmer of a growing war stirring the country. To keep his word Cedar must navigate betrayal, lies, and treacherous alliances, risking everything to save the lives of those he has come to hold dear…

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Shadows Before the Sun, by Kelly Gay. Bias alert: Kelly and I have been critique partners at times, including for the first book in this series, so I may be predisposed to enjoy her books. That said, I know I would have loved this series even if I didn’t know Kelly. I love Charlie, and Kelly takes obvious pleasure in torturing the poor woman. The fact that Charlie is a single mom makes this series stand out from all the other urban fantasies out there for me. Charlie has to factor in the welfare of her daughter with every decision she makes, and it makes her life a whole lot more complicated. This is another series I’d highly recommend wholeheartedly. Start with the first book, The Better Part of Darkness.

Between life and death lies a chasm of pain beyond imagining. . . .

Elysia may be a heavenly off-world destination, but beyond it, in the siren city of Fiallan, the Circe have punished Charlie Madigan’s partner, Hank, into a torturous state between life and death. With all the proper legal channels cleared, Charlie heads to Elysia, not knowing what she’ll find, or if she’ll ever see the siren again . . . while at home, jinn crime boss Grigori Tennin has begun an all-out hunt for the divine being Ahkneri. Tennin’s tactics set off a chain reaction that puts Charlie in the crosshairs of the shadowy creature known as Death, and stirs Ahkneri from her long sleep—and if Vengeance awakes, Atlanta will never be the same.

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About Dame Jenna

Jenna Black got her BA in physical anthropology from Duke University. She dreamed she’d be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making discoveries about primate behavior. But then she did some research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend about 80% of their time doing exciting things like sleeping and eating. Concluding this discovery was her life’s work in the field of primatology, she moved on to such jobs as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. She writes urban fantasy for Bantam Dell and young adult urban fantasy for St. Martin’s.

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