Friday, 28 December 2018

The year draws to an end…

The year 2018 is ending, and it’s time for the traditional ‘what I’ve managed to do’ this year post again. I have no idea where the year has gone; it seems I was reflecting the previous year only yesterday. If you count my blog posts (6), it looks like I’ve done nothing this year. But that’s an illusion created by my laziness to write blog posts.

All in all, it’s been a good year for me. I published two new books: The Assassin, a longer thriller set in MI5 in London, and Tracy Hayes, from P.I. with Love, the fifth book in my cosy mystery series. Both took off well, I’m happy to say. I also wrote two more books that aren’t finished yet, so those will see me to a good start next year. One of them, Crimson Warrior, the sixth book in Two-Natured London series, even has a publishing date already, and will come out in March.

The biggest change this year was giving up my second penname, Hannah Kane, under which I wrote contemporary romances. I had pondered the decision for quite some time, as you can read in this blog post, and I finally did it at the beginning of the year. I gave the books new covers, brushed up the contents for typos, and re-published them as Susanna Shore. I also created a bundle edition of three of the books, which I published this fall. I can’t say the move was a great success; the books still don’t sell. But it has made my life easier to maintain only one penname, so I’m happy with the decision.

Another rebranding I did was with my thriller The Croaking Raven. I had originally wanted to call it Personal, but Lee Child was publishing a Jack Reacher book with that name just then, and I wasn’t brave enough to take advantage of it. This year, as I prepared The Assassin for publication, I redesigned the cover of The Croaking Raven and gave it a new name. It’s now called Personal, but I can’t say I’ve got any advantage of the more popular book with the same name.

I redesigned the covers of my Two-Natured London and Tracy Hayes books too. The changes were mainly small, and had mostly to do with fonts and their legibility in small sizes. But a couple of the Two-Natured London books went through a larger redesign, especially the first book Ive ever published, The Wolf’s Call, which has gone through more redesigns than my other books.

My website got a new look this year. My sister was studying web designing and kindly created the pages for me as a practice job. I’m very happy with the result, and even if html has changed quite a bit since I studied it, I’m still able to update the pages myself. I redesigned this blog too, but by the time you read this post, it has probably changed looks again. I have that kind of a year-end itch...

I opened two new social media accounts this year. First one was BookBub, which is a community of readers that offers advertising opportunities for authors too. You can find me here if you like. I occasionally recommend books there. Another new account was Instagram. I’ve resisted joining, as I couldn’t really see how I could operate there as an authorand how I could avoid posting photos of every interesting meal I have. I’ve been there for about three months now, and even if I don’t feel quite at home yet, I’m happy to tell you that I haven’t posted a single food photo. You can find me here.

One big new thing in my author life this year has been advertising. I was hesitant at first, but Amazon has made it fairly easy to try, so I gave it a shot. After a full year, I’m fairly happy with the results, even if I’m basically spending every cent I earn in advertising. It has helped me to keep the first books of my two series in readers’ attention, and that is good enough for now. During this year, advertising has become gradually more expensive, as new authors join in, but I still hope that next year the advertisements start generating more income than I spend on them. I also tried BookBub adverts, with mixed results, and Facebook adverts, which I’ve decided never to try again. Its a waste of money.

I didn’t write any blog posts about the books I’ve read this year, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading. I managed to read fifty-five books, which was my goal in Goodreads reading challenge. I’ll do a separate re-cap post on my reading later.

I didn’t find great success as an author this year, and with the advertising costs, the year will end in red. But for the first time in years things are looking brighter. Tracy Hayes books are gaining traction one book at the time, giving me hope that readers will eventually find my other books too. So next year I’ll work harder to bring more books to my readers. Hopefully you’ll be among them too.

Happy New Year to you all.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Tracy is back!

It has taken me awhile, but I’ve published a new Tracy Hayes book. Did you miss her? It didn’t seem like such a long stretch between this and the previous book, but it’s been a full year. For me, that is. For Tracy, it’s only been about four weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

If you’re not familiar with Tracy, she’s a Brooklyn waitress who, after losing her latest job to almost no fault of her own, becomes an apprentice to a private investigator. Jackson is everything she’s not: enigmatic, calm and competent. He also yells a lot, but Tracy usually deserves it, like after almost getting shot. Other characters include Tracy’s family, her two brothers and a sister who all are over-achievers, whereas she’s a college drop-out; Cheryl the office goddess and her dog Misty Morning, and Jonny Moreira, a mafia henchman Tracy can’t help liking even though they’re on the opposite sides of law. The stories are fast-paced and funmost of the timeand more cosy than hard-core.

In the latest book, Tracy Hayes, from P.I. with Love, it’s a couple of days before Christmas and Tracy is one present short of starting the holidays. But when she finally finds the exact thing she wants, the vendor turns up dead. And it may be the killer wants the same item she does. She also has to solve a number of thefts from old people in retirement homes, and go to her first date in six years. If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll know it’s kind of a big deal for her. You can read the first chapter here. And if you haven’t read the previous books, you can start with the first one, Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I. And the latest book you can find here.

Chapter One
I love Christmas in New York. It’s loud, colorful, and bright, and it fills me with energy and good-will that carries me through the darkness and dreary weather. I’d thought I was a real early-bird for starting my gift-shopping and putting up decorations in my small apartment the first day of December. But I’d met my match in Cheryl Walker, our office goddess at Jackson Dean Investigations where I worked as an apprentice P.I.

Cheryl had filled every available surface in the two rooms of the agency with decorations—complete with a large plastic tree in the corner next to Jackson’s desk—the day after Thanksgiving, and had played her favorite Christmas songs non-stop ever since. Three days before D-day—or C-day?—I was heartily bored with even my favorite carols, and the office good-will would’ve been in serious jeopardy, if I hadn’t deleted the most annoying tunes from her playlist when she was in court one afternoon.

That was Jackson’s idea, by the way. He even provided the list of songs he wanted removed.

This morning, however, I welcomed the music. I was browsing the internet for one last Christmas gift that had eluded me for weeks, and I needed all the inspiration I could get—excluding All I Want for Christmas, which was mercifully no longer on the playlist. Also helpful would’ve been the use of all my fingers, but my hands were currently covered in thick mittens that I wouldn’t remove unless I absolutely had to, so I had to settle with following a link after another by clicking the mouse.

We were experiencing unseasonably cold weather that had reduced all but the most foolhardy fashionistas to walking advertisements for winter clothing if we hazarded the outdoors, and occasionally indoors too—like at the agency today. We were located in an old but fairly nice building on Flatbush Avenue near Barclay’s Center that the management generally kept in good repair. But they hadn’t anticipated this weather. The heater had decided it didn’t like the extra work the cold spell put on it and had stopped operating completely. It was the second morning of no heat and it was freezing in there.

In addition to the mittens, I was wearing a black down coat several sizes too large for me. I’d salvaged it from the closet of my brother Trevor, who was quite a bit bigger than me. It wasn’t at its peak of usability anymore, but I could fit a thick sweater Mom had knitted for me underneath, plus a couple of other layers too. I also wore a colorful woolen scarf around my neck and a tasseled beanie in my head.

The last piece of clothing really annoyed me. I wasn’t hipster enough to pull it off, and it hid my one distinguishing feature: my hair, shoulder-length and fire-engine red again after a brief period of cotton-candy pink. Wearing it, my average face went unnoticed, except for the slightly frost-bitten nose and cheeks, which it emphasized. Not an improvement. But I was freezing even with it on, so it would stay.

Jackson’s concession to cold was to wear a black, long-sleeved T-shirt instead of his usual black, short-sleeved T-shirt. I swear that man had to have hot lava running in his veins to be able to sit by our frosted-over windows and not freeze to death. That, or his muscles created kinetic energy even when he was in repose, keeping him warm. They were very fine muscles, so who knows what sort of feats they were capable of.

Lately, he’d begun to hint that I should start working towards similar muscles too, just so I would able to tackle a bad guy if the need arose. He’d even promised to buy me a membership in an inexpensive gym near his home that he went to. So far I had heroically resisted, preferring my hard-earned round parts, even if some of those stubbornly clung to my waist. It was bad enough he made me jog regularly.

When he went out, he didn’t wear a hat, even though his dark brown hair was currently very short after Cheryl had made him have it tidied and the cold had to bite his scalp particularly sharply. He would occasionally put on gloves, but he only remembered to close his winter parka if I or Cheryl reminded him of it. But at least he wore the coat.

Cheryl, for the first time that I’d ever seen her, was wearing trousers. Pink, naturally, like pretty much everything she wore. Honest-to-God Ugg boots protected her feet—also the first time I’d seen her in flats. The pink angora sweater she had on today was so fluffy it practically doubled her already ample girth. Misty Morning, her Border terrier-Yorkie mix, wore the cutest pink down coat and boots when she went out, but she refused to wear them indoors. She was currently sleeping next to me on the couch that was my workspace, leaning against my thigh and warming it nicely.

On top of the cold spell, the snowstorm of the century—because we’re not at all prone to hyperbole—was predicted for Christmas Day, causing everyone to panic and creating a hoarding frenzy. The latter included my mother. Her pantry was so well-stocked by now that the entire family, spouses and grandchildren included, would survive until after the New Year.

I wasn’t panicking. Mom would feed me, and even if the storm hit earlier than predicted, paralyzing the city, I had all my Christmas preparations done—apart from that one gift. My sister Theresa and I had done our traditional Christmas shopping trip to Manhattan two weeks ago. I had helped her select her presents, and in return she had paid for mine. It’s not quite as exploitative on my part as you might think. Tessa is a brilliant doctor, with a clinical mind, but she absolutely lacks imagination and the initiative to buy presents. She doesn’t quite understand the need for the ritual of exchanging gifts, and in her opinion only practical gifts should be given. Since she earns well as a doctor—and doesn’t have any student loans—whereas I had barely survived on minimum wage and tips when I was waitressing, the arrangement suited us both. I was doing better now as an apprentice P.I., but I saw no reason to alter the arrangement. I might need that money later.

The presents that I’d paid for myself, for Jackson, Cheryl, and Jarod, my roommate, I’d bought online well in advance. Jackson would get a T-shirt with a picture of Sherlock Holmes and the text “On par with the best” on it. I thought it described him perfectly. Plus it wouldn’t put undue strain on our boss-apprentice relationship. Things had been slightly weird since Thanksgiving, largely because he’d kissed me. He’d been worried to death for me, which explained it, and though it was a great kiss, I needed things to be back to normal. He hadn’t even yelled at me lately—much.

Everything I’d ordered had arrived as advertised and in good time, and was now wrapped nicely. Online shopping was so easy that I hoped Tessa would never learn about it. Not solely so that she could keep paying for my presents, but because the shopping trip was the only time we went anywhere as sisters, and I didn’t want to lose that. We seldom saw each other as it was, if you didn’t count my all too frequent visits to her ER since I started as an apprentice P.I.—which, sadly, I did.

Tessa was the cause of my frantic browsing this morning. The one last Christmas present that eluded me was hers for her live-in partner, Angela. I’d known Angela for such a short time that I had no idea what she would like. The only facts I knew about her were that she was a pediatrician, Italian, and Catholic, none of which helped me to figure out what she might like from the woman she loved. Tessa, obviously, was no help. She would’ve wanted to buy her an espresso machine, and couldn’t understand at all when I said it wasn’t romantic enough for their first Christmas.

I tried to imagine what I would want from the person I loved, but my ex-husband, in addition to being a bastard band-leader who cheated on me, had been utterly negligent when it came to presents. I would’ve been happy even with the espresso machine, just as long as he would’ve remembered. Frustrated, I sighed loud enough for Jackson to give me a questioning look.

“What are you giving Emily for Christmas?” I asked, a true testament to how stuck I was.

A panicked look spread on his face. His was a manly face, clean lined, with dark brown brows and eyes, and it could express a wide range of emotions from amusement to anger and then revert to curiously plain and unnoticeable. But what it never, ever expressed, was panic. He was thirty-five, eight years older than me, and a former Marine turned homicide detective turned private eye. He had seen it all, and had the eyes of a seasoned cop to go with it. Nothing ever fazed him. Except, apparently, the thought of buying a Christmas present for his girlfriend.

“I don’t know. Why do you ask? Could you suggest something?”

I rolled my eyes, blue and as seasoned as any Brooklyn waitress’s. “If I had any inkling, I wouldn’t ask you. But never mind. Cheryl!” I yelled through the open door to the reception area. “What should Tessa give Angela for Christmas?”

“A locket,” she immediately answered, and I perked, excited.

“Excellent idea.” I instantly googled for lockets and inspiration abounded.

“Can I give Emily a locket too?” Jackson asked hopefully.

“No!” Cheryl and I answered simultaneously, and he pulled back, baffled.

“Why not?”

How to explain? “It’s a more intimate gift than what your relationship seems to be,” I said carefully. They’d been together for about three months and he’d intended to end the relationship many times already. Why he hadn’t, I had no idea.

“So no jewelry?” he asked, not terribly upset by my estimation.

“You can give her earrings,” Cheryl consoled him, entering the office in her pink gorgeousness. “And I know just the place where you can get both your presents. Bundle up, and follow me.” 

* * *
 You can read the next chapter on my webpage. And if you liked the book, you can find purchase links here.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Assassin: excerpt

I’m taking a bit of a jump start to my upcoming thriller The Assassin by publishing a small sample here. I had intended to wait until I have the edited version, but I got impatient and wanted to share it with you instantly. All the typos and grammar mistakes are therefore mine.

The Assassin by Susanna Shore

The sharp retort of a ball hitting the centre of the tennis racket reverberated around the court. The sound was much like a single round from a marksman’s rifle with a silencer on. His rifle. And he’d timed the shot perfectly to coincide with the women’s number one returning the first serve of the third best player in the world. It was the women’s final at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. No one would pay attention to the strange echo. And as his mark didn’t collapse and the dark colour of his shirt covered the entrance wound, he would be well on his way before anyone even noticed that the man was dead.

As it was, he was in the service area on the ground floor when the ruckus began, audible through the loudspeakers that broadcasted the game to the dressing rooms. He was carrying a tennis racket shaped bag like so many others there, dressed in fashionable tennis clothes, with wrap-around sunglasses and a cap pressed deep in his head. He didn’t look back when people around him reacted to the sounds from the court, but just put the bag into the booth of the car that was exactly like at least a dozen cars on the players’ parking area. What was it with tennis players and black Audis anyway?

He drove calmly to the gate where the security waved him out, the news not having reached them yet. It was only coming in that they’d payed any attention to his right to be there, but his credentials were sound—if fake. After the gate, he blended into the Saturday afternoon traffic, heavy, but not congested. He’d scouted beforehand a route with the least CCTV surveillance, and followed it to an anonymous rental garage in Kingston, ten kilometres west of Wimbledon. Securely in, he took out the racket bag containing his rifle, spent ten minutes cleaning both, and shelved the bag with its rifle among all the similar innocent-looking items.

He removed the number plates from the car and replaced them with the originals, careful not to scratch them. The fake plates went on the shelf in their box with others. A quick change of clothes into a dark, tailor-made suit, a removal of the blond surfer wig he’d worn over his short black hair and adding brown contact lenses, and he was indistinguishable from the couple of million suits filling London.

After the last check that the garage was neat and the car was in pristine condition, and wiping the door handles and the steering wheel clean with his gloves on, he drove out. Forty minutes later, he was in a car rental at the Heathrow airport, chatting up the pretty receptionist as he returned the key, leaving her an impression of a charming Frenchman. A television mounted on the wall behind her showed breaking news from the Wimbledon tennis court where a high-level Saudi diplomat had been assassinated. The police had no clues.

Did you enjoy the sample? You can continue reading on my webpage. The Assassin will be published on September 23. You can preorder it here.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The book that wasn’t supposed to be

Every once in a while, a book wants to be written. The need to realise an idea or a story in words becomes so strong that I leave everything and start writing. Often, the ideas fall flat, resulting in only a few feverishly written chapters that don’t lead to anything. But occasionally, a book is born.

This spring, the story I needed to follow was that of an assassin. The spark was a random tweet asking what kind of a sound a tennis ball made hitting the racket. My answer became the opening line of the book:
The sharp retort of a ball hitting the centre of the tennis racket reverberated around the court.
I left it at that. But a half hour later, I realised that instead of writing the book I was working on—the sixth Two-Natured London novel—I was imagining the scene that would follow from the opening line. And I simply couldn’t continue with the job at hand until I’d written the entire first paragraph:
The sharp retort of a ball hitting the centre of the tennis racket reverberated around the court. The sound was much like a single round from a marksman’s rifle with a silencer on. His rifle.
The opening chapter flowed naturally from there and in no time at all I had the entire story pictured in my mind. A clever assassin and the agent trying to find him. I gave myself three weeks to write the story, chose a strict frame of twenty-one chapters, thousand words each. It would be a compact novelette that would purge the story out of my system.

Three weeks flew by. At the end of it, I had about the 20 000 words I had decided on. But instead of a full story, I had maybe a half of it. As the story had unfolded, the motivations behind the assassination had become more complex. I’d added new point of view characters and a subplot. Much more was needed to finish the book. Now I had to make a choice: do I leave it be, or do I continue: restructure what I’d already written to match the pace of a longer book and see where that takes me.

I chose the latter. And I don’t regret it, even though finishing the book took me longer than I’d anticipated, and there were more rewritings than I could have imagined. Pantsing a thriller isn’t an ideal approach; the story becomes unnecessary convoluted as new ideas pop up and they have to be fitted in the overall story, sometimes with forceful tweaking that either works or not, in which case a rewrite is needed. And when I finally reached the end and figured out the motivations of the antagonist, it didn’t match anything I’d written so far. So I had to rewrite it once more.

Diving into a book head-first has other drawbacks too. Story-flow takes precedence over fact-checking. I called my protagonist Agent Morris, as she works for the MI5, only to learn much later that MI5 doesn’t call their personnel ‘agents’ but ‘officers’. Agents are their non-staff informants. The plot that relied heavily on the British government trying to sell Wildcat helicopters to Saudi Arabia unravelled towards the end, when I had time to do some research on British helicopter industry and learned that the manufacturer is owned by the Italians now. So another rewrite was needed.

The book isn’t quite finished yet. Once the plot is logical—and hopefully exciting—there are the characters to think of too. They grew fairly organicly at first, as pantsed characters do, so some fleshing up is required there as well. But I’m almost done, and hopefully the book will be out in September. It won’t be a 40 000 word book though; it grew into 65 000—a long way from the novelette it was supposed to be. Sometimes that happens. A book that wasn’t supposed to be is born.

The Assassin will be published on September 23. You can preorder it here.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

I’m back!

In truth, I've never been away. I've only been neglecting my blog. No reason, just laziness. And I can't promise I'll improve my attendance here, as I have a book to finish for September publication. It's taking up pretty much all my time.

For those waiting for the sixth Two-Natured London book (with Gabe in the lead) and the fifth Tracy Hayes book: those will come, fear not. However, I got it into my head to write a spy thriller first. It's called The Assassin, and it's set in the exciting world of MI5. Here's the description:

The sharp retort of a ball hitting the centre of the tennis racket reverberated around the court. The sound was much like a single round from a marksman's rifle with a silencer on. His rifle.

A Saudi diplomat has been assassinated, and MI5 agent Olivia Morris is assigned to investigate. The matter is delicate: not only are political relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia wrought; Britain wants to sell rescue helicopters to Saudis too, preferably without alerting the general public to the deal. Messing this up will result in demotion for Olivia, or worse. And she's morbidly afraid of helicopters.

It doesn't take long for Olivia to realise that the chopper contract might only be the surface. Who wants to kill the diplomat's son? How are the Russians involved? And who is the charming toff that insinuates himself to her investigation? An innocent bystander-or the assassin?

As the death-toll rises, Olivia has to run against the clock to prevent a larger disaster. And then she becomes a target herself.

The Assassin will be published in September. Stay tuned for preorder links. In the meanwhile, check out my other books, and my new webpages, at And did you notice my blog has a new look too?

The Assassin by Susanna Shore

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Streamlining my author profile

When I began to publish my own books in 2012, one thing seemed obvious. I couldn’t publish different genres under one name. It would confuse my readers and possibly accidentally make them read books in genres they didn’t want to. They’d naturally be upset for this.

So from the beginning, I’ve been publishing with two author names: Susanna Shore for paranormal romances and Hannah Kane for contemporary romances. I even had a pen name ready for historical romances, but I’ve never got around to publishing those, and so haven’t needed it. Incidentally, I have a folder full of unfinished regency romances.

From the start, the two author names were a hassle. Do I create different webpages for them, and social media identities? I tried the first, which resulted with such a complex system of pages that I had no idea what was where. It also took me a great deal of time to keep each page updated. Fairly soon, I collected my pages under one address,, which made my life easier. My social media accounts were under that umbrella also, hence my twitter handle @crimsonhouseboo.

But I couldn’t really have an effective, enjoyable social media presence under such an impersonal name, so I made the decision to use one author name for all my social media instead. I chose Susanna Shore for that. While it, too, is a pen name, Susanna is actually my given name, so it felt more personal to me. And I’ve been happy with my decision.

Little by little, Hannah Kane was side-lined completely. Those books didn’t sell – at all – so I never wrote new ones and concentrated on my paranormal romances instead. And when I wanted to write something different, first a thriller, then a series of light mysteries, I chose Susanna Shore as their author.

By then I’d come to a conclusion that readers might actually be able to discern between genres, even if the author name is the same. And so I started to think that I should give up Hannah Kane altogether. I should publish all my books as Susanna Shore and let readers decide what they want to read.

It’s been a slow process of letting go. Even though I’d decided to republish Hannah Kane books as Susanna Shore, it made me sad to give up that part of my author’s journey. And I knew some of those books needed editing too, for which I didn’t seem to have time, so I postponed the change.

But I couldn’t postpone it forever. So when I had a bit of time in my hands, I made new, uniform covers for the books and went through the contents with a critical eye. And now they are ready to be published.

The first three books to be republished are It Happened on a Lie, a fairly short romance of lies and misunderstandings, To Catch a Billionaire Dragon, a book about a fantasy author and a billionaire who inspires her, and At Her Boss’s Command about a PA whose job depends on the new CEO. They’re stand-alone books with no recurring characters, but I chose to publish them under a series name anyway, mostly to give them more visibility in searches. I chose Contemporary Romances to Go, as they are light, quick books you can read anywhere.

And here they are:

You can preorder them on Amazon (here, here and here) and Smashwords (here, here and here), and they’ll be published in February 6. You can read more about each book here. I’m really feeling positive about this change, but I’ll have to see what it brings with it. Hopefully new readers.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Reading recap: December

Happy New Year! I’m starting the year by rounding up the series of posts I did last year about the books I’ve read. December was a good reading month despite the fact that I was busy publishing my Two-Natured London Christmas short story collection. The Goodreads reading challenge counted nine books into my challenge, and even though two of those are actually very short stories, I think reading seven proper books is still impressive.

For I have Sinned by Darynda Jones

The stories were For I Have Sinned by Darynda Jones and Black Friday by Karen Chance. The first was a bit of a disappointment. The story – part of Charley Davidson series – was told from a ghost’s point of view, and it was nice. However, it was only a ten or so pages long and took about twenty per cent of the e-book. The rest was filler material I’d already read, so I kind of felt cheated out of my money. The second story was one of the many that Karen Chance offers for free on her website, a mad Christmas romp in Hell in the best Cassie Palmer style. It was about the same length than the first and not something I’d necessarily have paid money for. I’m not saying authors should offer all their stories for free, but at least inform your readers better about what they’re getting when they buy your filler stories.

Black Friday by Karen Chance

The first proper book of the month finished my Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence binge. The sixth book, The Ruin of Angels, started what the author called ‘a new cycle’ in the series and it showed. The story was very different from the earlier ones that focused mainly on the economics and the gods driving it. This was more character driven and focused on the relationships between the characters – again an all-female cast. The setting was new too, a strange city with layers from the past coexisting with the present as a result of the Gods War, but it featured a couple of familiar faces, like Kai from Full Fathom Five, who tries to save her sister from murder charges – a thankless job – and Tara Abernathy. Ley, the sister, was a thoroughly dislikeable person and if her ruin wouldn’t have meant the ruin of the entire city, I would have wanted her to perish. Still – or because of it – this was definitely the best book in the series – so far.

The Ruin of Angels by Max Glandstone

Sometimes books improve on a reread. I needed a short book to while away a couple of hours and read again Suzanne Enoch’s The Black Duke’s Prize, one of her earlier Regency romances. I’d given it two stars the first time, mostly because of a messy plot, but the second time round it turned out to be a perfectly charming story. Not in any way her best book, but delightful.

The Black Duke's Prize by Suzanne Enoch

I’ve had a similar disappointment with Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series. They sound promising, but the plots have been messy and Irene, the main character, is quite insufferable. But I gave the third book, The Burning Page, a try and I was pleasantly surprised with it. It still wasn’t a strong book, but the plot made sense and the secondary characters gained some – well – character. It felt like an end of a trilogy, but since there is another book out, the story continues.

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

A great new acquaintance was Murderbot from Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries. All Systems Red was a compact book of a security android on a distant planet protecting a mining survey. The first person narrative was wry, and the Murderbot’s attempt to pass as a proper security robot instead of one that had hacked itself to be independent was interesting. The story was fast paced and good, and the ending a bit heart-breaking. I’ll definitely read the next book the moment it comes out.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet was another disappointment. I already disliked the first book – the tired plot of an abducted woman falling for her captor – but the second book was on sale so I bought it. I shouldn’t have. All the annoying things were still there, like Cat being all-powerful – and gaining more as the story continued. And I really don’t know why an editor would allow a publishing of a book where over half of the story is spent on a mission that doesn’t contribute to the overall plot at all and the goal of which is immediately made redundant by the last third of the book. However, the last third was good enough for me to give the book three stars instead of two. Add a LOT of gratuitous sex, and you have everything you need to know about the book.

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey gave me mixed feelings. The premise was interesting – an exorcist who’s given up his work after accidentally summoning a demon inside a friend of his – and the setting in London good. The story was great too, and, as it turned into a murder mystery, more complex than appeared at first. There were comparisons made in reviews to Harry Dresden and they weren’t entirely off. But what makes Harry and his world so likeable – his sense of humour and his animal sidekicks – were completely absent here. The overall feeling was glum and hopeless, and the feeling lingered long after I’d finished reading. I’m not entirely sure I’ll read another book in the series.

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

I like fantasy books with thieves as heroes, so I was eager to read The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung. Not much thieving took place, to my disappointment. Instead, it was a revenge story with a complicated plot to solve a murder. Amra was a great heroine, but despite the first person narrative, she remained distant. What drove her on was revenge, and though bits and pieces of her past were revealed, they didn’t really add much to her character. But the story was a bit above average and since the setting for the next book was intriguing, I think I’ll read the next book too.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung

So that was my reading year. I finished sixty books of the fifty-five I’d pledged in my reading challenge – or fifty-seven if you count out the couple of short stories I read along the way. Thirty of those sixty books ended up being from outside of my reading list, which means I didn’t read half of the books I intended to. But I don’t count that as a failure. I’ve started another reading challenge on Goodreads and pledged to read fifty-five books this year too. Those unread books from my list are waiting for me to read them this year.