Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final 2008 reading numbers

I've just posted the list of my December 2008 reads over on Lists and Such. It was a quiet end to the reading year, but still a satisfying one.

Here are my final reading totals for 2008:
Books read in 2008 = 127
DNFs in 2008 = 19
10/10 reads in 2008 = 15
New reads in 2008 = 100
Rereads in 2008 = 27

Just for a comparison, here are the totals for 2007:
Books read in 2007 = 127
DNFs 2007 = 16
10/10 reads in 2007 = 17
New reads in 2007 = 107
Rereads in 2007 = 20

Interestingly, I read exactly the same number of books as last year and the other numbers are really pretty similar. I had a few more rereads compared to new reads this year, but DNFs and 10/10 reads were pretty close.

Okay, I'm all caught up now. I can relax and go and read some more of Dreams Underfoot.

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Along with The First Betrayal, I took two other book group reads on holiday with me. They were The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Eifelheim by Michael Flynn, both for [Beyond_Reality]. But when it came right down to it, I found I simply didn't feel like reading either. In line with the summer holiday, don't-exercise-the-brain-too-much mood, I decided to read Stephenie Meyer's New Moon instead.

While I enjoyed Twilight, I wouldn't class myself as a Meyer fangirl. New Moon didn't change my opinion, but I still enjoyed it and I'm still planning to read the other two in the series.

The main confilict between Bella and Edward remains the same; she wants him to turn her into a vampire while he, born at the beginning of the 20th century, belives that to do so would destroy her soul. This sets up the potential for a fascinating book about the nature of the soul and our beliefs about it. But...

This isn't that book.

In fact, that phrase - this isn't that book - could describe a lot of things about New Moon. There are a lot of thematic missed opportunities here. There could have been a contemplation on the differences between vampires and werewolves, or on the nature of loss, or love, or even the nature of youth and how being seventeen for a hundred years could affect the psyche. Meyer does none of those things.

Instead, we get the story of an angsty teenager so caught up in her own Romeo and Juliet drama (with ample references to the play in case we missed it) to really notice what is going on around her or to take the time to consider any deeper issues than her own pain. Her reaction to Edward leaving her (and no, that's not really a spoiler as it happens early on) is melodramatic and way, way over-the-top. I found myself rolling my eyes over it all rather than buying into the fantasy. This is how, as teenagers, we imagine love and loss should be (at least when it is happening to us). Love is forever, the pain of its loss is forever and something from which we will never recover.

It isn't like that in real life; instead we tend to survive our teenages loves and losses, we grow and we become better and stronger people for it. But if you're looking for that kind of treatment of the teenage years in your YA fiction, well, this isn't that book. Still, if you go into it, aware of that and without any great expectations, you can have fun going along for the ride.

When Bella finally starts taking some kind of action instead of going on and on about the hole in her middle, the story picks up in interest. Jacob is a great character and the final action with the vampires is pretty well done. The conflict between Bella and Edward still isn't resolved at the end, there is new conflict introduced between the werewolves and the Cullens and so long as you don't expect any great contemplation of what that means (remember, this isn't that book), then you can enjoy yourself.

New Moon
Stephenie Meyer
Twilight Saga, Book 2

Quick update on Marcus

He's still not well, but he's better than yesterday.

It's hot here today, and humid as well, so right now he's sitting around in his underwear while Daddy builds him the Lego house he was given for Christmas. So far he has a car and garage and most of a house, but it's lacking a roof. It's a good thing it's a sunny day.

The First Betrayal by Patricia Bray

This was the December read for [FantasyFavorites]. It seemed to be an interesting premise; the monk Josan is a lowly lighthouse keeper who is recovering from a debilitating illness five years earlier. Lady Ysobel is a trade delegate back in the Empire five years after a failed rebellion with a mandate to stir up further trouble. Unsurprisingly, both these characters and the rebellion turn out to be linked together.

Frankly, I found the book boring. I liked Josan as a monk and lighthouse keeper, but as soon as he started having strange spells and being hunted by unknown asassins he was, amazingly, less interesting. And Ysobel was a selfish upstart who seemed lacking in redeeming qualities. I guessed the "big secret" early on - gosh, how amazing so many different things all happened five years ago and I wonder if they're related? - and by chapter 15 I really didn't care any more and gave up.

However, having said all that, other members of the group loved the book and are intending to read the rest of the trilogy, so don't necessarily trust my judgement.

The First Betrayal
Patricia Bray
The Chronicles of Josan, Book 1

Thank you, Secret Santa

We went to the post office today to check the PO Box and pick up any mail that accumulated in the week we were out of town. Along with some Christmas cards and bills, there was a parcel for me. I opened up this package from Australia to discover my Book Bloggers Christmas Swap present. I was so tempted to rip it open then and there to discover what was inside, but we had some shopping to go and do after that, then we needed to pick up our cat from the cattery before heading home again. I managed to put it down and we carried on with our jobs.

However, I admit that my restraint didn't last as long as I intended. While Marcus and I were waiting in the car for Dave to check a few things, I succumbed to temptation and opened the package. What lovely things I found inside!

My secret Santa is Sarah from A Devoted Reader. Looking at her blog, she and I have quite different tastes, so she has done an amazing job and sent me a perfect gift. She gave me a beautiful card, some yummy chocolate frogs (I know because I didn't resist that temptation either and I've already eaten one) and a book I had never heard of before, called Finnikin of the Rock by Australian author Melina Marchetta. It looks very fascinating and like it will be just my kind of thing. (And it doesn't hurt that it has such a very pretty cover - I'm a sucker for a pretty cover.) It has already been added to my TBR list and I'm really looking forward to reading it.
The blurb from the author's website:
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.
And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.
Until the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.
And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.
But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light...
Thank you so very, very much, Sarah. I am really looking foward to reading this and after checking out the author's website there's a good chance I may be looking for some of her other books as well. As as for the chocolate frogs, they are totally yummy. Thank you.

The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody

Having throughly enjoyed Isobelle Carmody's first novel in the Obernewtyn Chronicles (conveniently titled Obernewtyn), I was looking forward to the second book, The Farseekers. Happily, I was not disappointed.

This book starts two years after the end of Obernewtyn. Obernewtyn is now safely in the hands of the Misfits and, exactly as Rushton intended, is a refuge for those with emerging mental talents who are hunted by the Council and therefore general society in the Land. As the book begins, Elspeth (who is now head of the Farseekers Guild) learns that the Beforetime machine hidden in caves near Obernewtyn has picked up the thoughts of a very powerful Misfit somewhere to the south. There is also believed to be a possibly-untouched Beforetime library in the same general vicinity. An expedition is mounted and Elspeth and several others of the Obernewtyn Misfits head south to try to find both the library and the Misfit.

Along the way they get caught up in two different rebellions against the Council, find themselves in terrible danger several times, get captured by Herders, learn some interesting things about the Beforetime and Elspeth gets more hints of her destiny as the Seeker who must find and destroy the powerful machines that caused the Great White.

The biggest problem I had while reading this was that I kept wanting to stop and take a break because I was so worried about what might go wrong and what might happen to Elspeth. So I'm actually going to count that as a point in favour of the book, rather than one against it. She gets herself into all kinds of peril and for all that I knew she'd be back in the next book, I got myself quite worked up about what was happening to her. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about her that evokes that kind of reaction in me, but it's there. Maybe it's that she's just the kind of heroine I would have liked to daydream about being when I was about her age. Whatever it is, I love Elspeth and want everything to work out well for her.

Another plot that becomes significant in this book, is the role of animals in this new psychically gifted world. We already knew, from Obernewtyn, that there were Misfits that could speak to animals and Elspeth's cat friend, Maruman, was a significant character. The animals are every bit as intelligent as the humans - if with a different persepective on things - and in this book they begin to demand a place on the Obernewtyn council and a say in the future that is being built. It becomes clear in this chapter of the saga that the animals are going to be just as important to the future as the humans will, and that a lot of attitudinal changes will be needed on all sides.

There are a lot of plots and issues in this book - the political status of the Land, the mysteries of the Beforetime, Elspeth's destiny as the Seeker, the future of the beasts, the introduction of new characters and Misfit abilities, as well as the return of at least one old enemy - and, all in all, Carmody manages them well. This being a YA book, she doesn't have a huge number of pages to fit in everything, but nothing felt too dwelled upon or overly skimped.

I am looking forward to the next installment, Ashling, although I also remain worried about what awful things may happen to Elspeth before she can eventually triumph in 2010 when the last two books in the series will be published. I can't help it. I'm a wimpy reader.

The Farseekers
Isobelle Carmody
Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 2

My "Best of..." Post

There are a lot of "Best of 2008" posts turning up around the blogsphere at the moment (hardly suprising since today is the last day of 2008), so I thought it might be interesting to play along.

I rated 15 books as 10/10 this year. Looking back at them, they seem to fall naturally into four categories.
  1. Old (and one new) favourites that prove still to be great reads.
    • The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
    • The Changeling Sea - Patricia A. McKillip
    • Emergence - David R. Palmer
    • A Company of Swans - Eva Ibbotson
    • The Secret Countess (aka A Countess Below Stairs) - Eva Ibbotson
    • Alpha and Omega (in On the Prowl anthology) - Patricia Briggs

  2. Trusted favourite authors that deliver yet again
  3. New Discoveries
    • Grimspace - Ann Aguirre
    • Rhapsody: Child of Blood - Elizabeth Haydon
    • The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett

  4. Well, I loved it at the time (but I might debate the quality with you now)
For all that there are fifteen books here, looking over the list I'm inclined to think that 2008 wasn't the most stellar of years in my reading. After all, the largest category is rereads of old favourites, while the second is from authors I already know I like. As for that last category, I could also have called it "Guilty Pleasures", so they kind of fall into that second list of tried and true authors.

Only three new books/authors that really blew me away this year. That's kind of sad. That, or an indication that I haven't been very adventurous in my reading this year. Hmmm, yes, probably the latter. Health wise, it is still hard work for me to read (or at least, harder than it was before I got sick), so I'm less inclined to take risks on things that might be brilliant but may also be hard to read.

I did really enjoy Rhapsody and do want to continue with the series, but each time I looked at the second one, the size (700 pages) would put me off and I'd pick something else instead. Similarly, for all that it fell into my favourite authors category, it took me six months to get up the courage to read The Ruby Dice because I knew parts of it were going to be unpleasant to read (when you're an empath surrounded by human barracudas who want to soak up your pain, some of it's got to be nasty). And there are other books that I think look interesting, but I chicken out on, usally because of one or other of those two factors - large size or possible nastiness in the book. I'm not sure if I have always been an reading wimp, but I readily admit that I am one now.

I think perhaps I need to set two personal goals for my 2009 reading. First, to conquer my reading fear, and secondly, to keep up with posting book comments here. After all, it's always great fun to share one's reading (whether anyone else reads what I write or not). How I go with either remains to be seen, but it's always good to have goals!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bits and pieces

Well, we're home from our holiday. We had a lovely time catching up with friends and family, but it is also great to be back home. Marcus caught a cold in the last few days of the visit, which turned out to include conjunctivitis, so he hasn't been a very happy boy today and travelling for seven and a half hours wasn't the best thing for him. He was sick a couple of times on the trip and is now sound asleep in our bed. He wanted Dave to sleep there with him tonight, so I am relegated to the spare room for the night. Oh well, at least it means I can write this up and listen to a podcast before going off to sleep myself.

I took several books away on holiday with me (mostly book group reading), but when there and choosing, I realised that I didn't particularly feel like reading any of them. I wanted something light that I didn't have to put too much work into, so I fired up the PDA and read Stephenie Meyer's New Moon instead. It was perfect for the type of reading I wanted so it turned out to be a good choice. My comments to come.

Yesterday I stared Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint. Looking at the length of it (it comes to 1683 PDA pages in eReader) there's no way I'll get it finished tomorrow, so this evening I started thinking about my reading list for December. That made me realise my good intentions of making comments on my reads had (yet again) slipped away from me. All the same, I want to write something for each one before writing up my December list. As the previous two entries show, I've done a couple and I'll try to do the rest tomorrow. They may be short, but I figure something is better than nothing. Also, I want to get into the habit so that as I read books for the various challenges I've joined for 2009, I'll have a post over here that I can link to in my book lists.

I've also been aware for a long time that my book ratings may not be all that useful as I tend to rate books high. I go into books intending to enjoy them and they have to be pretty bad for me not to do so. I also rate as much (in fact, probably more) on my emotional reaction to what I've just read as on the qualities of the story itself in the writing, themes, characters etc. (Which is one of the reasons why I don't write "real" reviews since I am focusing on my reaction to the book rather than trying for at least some impartiality.) So, to cut a long story short, I've added a rating guide to my sidebar. This gives at least a vague idea of what my numerical ratings mean to me. Also, please be aware that I am quite willing to give a book with faults a 10/10 grade if it pushes all the right buttons. For me, 10/10 grades are primarily emotional grades and if you point out specific faults in such a book to me, I'm quite likely to agree with you.

Right, bed and podcast (The Dragon Page - Cover to Cover) time for me. Hopefully there will be some more book posts tomorrow. Sadly, there won't be any stitching ones as I barely stitched while I was away. It was a bit too much for the rest-and-don't-think-too-hard kind of holiday I decided I wanted to have.

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

I readily admit that I loved David Eddings' Belgariad series when I first read it, way back in the dark ages of the late eighties when I was a teenager. While it would probably be considered old and formulaic now, it was something new and captivating at the time. Having recently gained access to the audiobooks of the series, I decided a "reread" was just what I needed. And I'm happy to say that I am enjoying the books all over again.

Queen of Sorcery is the second in the series (I listened to the first, Pawn of Prophecy before I started up with book coments again - something I intend to try very hard to keep up with in 2009 as I've joined a number of book challenges and want to have some entries to link to from my reading lists). In this volume, Garion continues to travel with his Aunt Pol and her father, Mr Wolf (revealed at the end of the first book to be the ancient sorcerer Belgarath and his daughter Polgara) to retrieve the stolen Orb of Aldur before it can be used to waken the evil god, Torak, who will then set out to destroy the kingdoms of the West. So, yes, I admit the books are formulaic (Garion even starts out as the scullery boy on a farm, fulfilling the whole "farmboy" cliché) but they are fun. In this book we continue to amass a cast of characters who are generally equally formulaic (a barbarian swordsman, a thief and spy, a master of horses, a spoiled princess etc etc) and Garion (surprise, surprise) discovers that he has a sorcerer's power himself.

The thing is, as I've already said, the books are fun. They're a light weight adventure that refuses to take itself too seriously. The cracks between the characters, while not outstanding in their wit and style, are still amusing and lying back (literally as I've mostly listened to these in bed at night) and going for the ride is a pleasure.

I was a bit worried that the books wouldn't stand up to my fond memories of them, and I am delighted to discover I was wrong. Sure, if I wanted to indulge in literary criticism, I could probably rip them to shreds. But that isn't what I want to do. I just want to enjoy a fun story where I don't have to think too much and can spend some time adventuring with old friends as I drift off to sleep.

Edited to add: I had meant to add a comment on the narrator and had completely forgotten until a reader asked me about him/her. In all honesty, the narrator is pretty sucky. Not so bad I can't listen, but annoying. He over-pronounces all the names with great gusto that doesn't match the general narration. He's also tried to do individual voices for each character which means they are all a bit over the top. He's taken different European-type accents for the main nations and used those. So Durnik sounds like some kind of hick-German, while Mandorallen is an over-the-top Frenchman and Polgara is an upper-crust kind of Englishwoman.

All the same, I'm still enjoying myself and that's why counts. I just roll my eyes at the narrator every so often.

Queen of Sorcery
David Eddings
The Belgariad, Book 2
Audiobook / Reread

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

After really enjoying Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells, I reserved her other book, The Sugar Queen from the library. This is a winter book, set around Thanksgiving in North Carolina and, while setting doesn't usually affect me, reading it in a New Zealand summer felt a little strange. All the same, I was soon enjoying reading about Josey Cirrini, only daughter of a rich, aging mother who controls her life yet refuses to show any appreciation for her daughter's efforts. Joesy's only rebellion is her secret stash of sweets and romance novels in her closet. However, these become unavailable to her when local waitress Della Lee Baker takes up residence there. Della Lee forces Josey out into the world and Josey soon finds herself making new friends, including heart-broken Chloe who magically attracts books and the Adam the mailman, on whom Josey has had a crush for years. This is a book about family and relationships, love and pain and starting over, spiced up with some facing up to unwanted truths.

Again, the magic realism in the book is mild - even more mild than in Garden Spells, which I didn't think was possible. The most "gifted" character is Chloe, who is haunted by books. Whether she wants them to or not, books simply appear in her vicinity, their subjects potentially relevant to her situation at that moment. She has a whole storage shed of books waiting for her to find a home for them, something Chloe does indeed do in the course of the book.

I have to admit that I wasn't as enamoured of this novel as was the case with Garden Spells. The characters and setting didn't resonate with me in quite the same way and there were times when I considered leaving the book and trying something else. All the same, I am very glad I persevered. The book comes into its own as it reaches the conclusion and, as I look back a couple of weeks later (yes, I'm late with my book comments again) I find myself thinking fondly of the characters and feeling glad that they all reached the endings they did. I'm certainly still looking forward to reading Allen's next book and she has joined the list of authors whose books I keep an eye out for.

I guessed the main twist of the book fairly early on, but that didn't hurt the story. Instead, it became a case of looking for evidence to see if I was correct or not. Josey was a pleasant character, quiet and hesitant at the beginning, who needed the push Della Lee gave her to start questioning her life and trying to change it. She resists that change at first, not really believing it is for her, and it was nice to see her begin to find herself throught he course of the book. I liked the story and do recommend it, but if you only want to try on of Allen's books, I'd point you towards Garden Spells rather than The Sugar Queen.

The Sugar Queen
Sarah Addison Allen

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

For anyone who's read/seen Twilight

It made me literally laugh out loud, anyway.

I got it from Angieville. It originally came from Maggie Stiefvater.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge

Lenneth over on Livejournal is holding a Patricia McKillip reading challenge for 2009 that I just can't resist joining. Her guidelines are beautifully simple.

Read 3 novels by Patricia A. McKillip between January 1st and December 31st 2009.

This is just the gentle push I need as I already have 2 McKillip books I never read when they came out sitting on my TBR list and any challenge that helps me whittle down the TBR is a good one as far as I am concerned. As for the third, my inclination is either to have another attempt at reading The Tower at Stony Wood which I didn't manage to finish the first time I tried, or to reread Song for the Basilisk which I loved when I read it. Of course, I could go crazy and try to do both.

So my planned list is:
  1. In the Forests of Serre
  2. Alphabet of Thorn
  3. The Tower at Stony Wood or Song for the Basilisk
I will be listing my books read over on my Lists and Such blog as usual, but I will also have a specific post for this challenge over there and a single list of my 2009 McKillip book reads. [list]

Packing for the holiday

I was down in the study/library with Dave and he was choosing a couple of books to take on holiday with him. Literally. He picked two.

"Aren't you taking any?" he asked me.

"No," I said easily. "I've got a few library books upstairs and I'll be taking 30 or 40 others."

He gaped at me for a moment, then insisted my statement was worthy of a blog post.

Who am I to disagree?

P. S. In the interests of accuracy, I will actually be taking 55 books with me. And we're only going for a week!

Yes, exactly!

I saw this on Christine's LJ and as an ex-scientist (which seems to be like being an ex-Catholic in that you never really escape) I had to laugh and agree.

(Click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Changing my reading plans

I seem to be in a bit of a reading slump at the moment, which is frustrating. (I'm in a total stitching slump to the point I packed my project away, which is also frustrating.) As a result, I keep tweaking my TBR list as I change my mind about books, take things off and add things on.

I'm currently reading The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody, which is the sequel to Obernewtyn. I'm actually really enjoying it, but the problem is that I'm emphasising with the main character to the point I keep taking a break because I'm worried about what is going to happen next. Objectively, I know this is silly. I know she'll survive as she's the heroine of what is technically a YA book - and she's still the heroine for several more after this one. But I can't help worrying about her. So on one level I want to read the series straight through, and on another I keep wanting to put the current book down.

(It's also kind of embarrassing to realise that my behaviour is basically exactly the same as that I try to help my four year old overcome. He gets so caught up worrying about what's going to happen in his kids' TV shows that he runs out of the room or comes to hide behind me. "Who's going to win?" I ask him and when he admits the heroes of the show will, I point out that he doesn't need to worry then and he can keep watching. Hmmm, sound familiar?)

Back before it came out, I put Christopher Paolini's Brisingr on my holds list at the library. While I acknowledge the books aren't exactly ground breaking, I thoroughly enjoyed the reads for Eragon and Eldest. Brisingr turned up for me last week. I looked at it tonight and read through the synopsis of the first two books. (I love books that have a quick "story so far" in the beginning. With my faulty memory I can never remember all that much of what happened before and it's nice to have it there for me. Why can't more books do this? It's only a few pages extra.) I looked at the thickness of the book and decided I really didn't feel like 750 pages of more of the same. Sigh. I did like the first two and maybe I would like this one too, but I totally don't feel like it now, so off the TBR list it goes.

Of course, being me, while I took one book off the list, I added on three more, so instead of reducing the total number, I actually increased it. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is waiting for me at the library and Eifelheim by Michael Flynn is in transit. Both are the January reads for my [Beyond_Reality] book group, so hopefully I will be able to pick both up on Saturady and take them with me when we head down to Palmerston North to spend Christmas with our families. Of course, with the way things are going right now, whether I read them or not remains to be seen (and let's not forget The First Betrayal by Patricia Bray which is the December read for [FantasyFavorites]).

Maybe I'll just suck it up and keep reading Isobelle Carmody.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

I have a memory of standing in a bookstore in my hometown and seeing Obernewtyn on the shelf. I don't know exactly how long ago it was, but I'm pretty sure it was when this was a standalone book and not the first of six as it is now. I can't imagine why I didn't take it home with me as it was just the sort of book I loved at the time. Now, having read it many years later, I can safely say that it's the sort of book I love now as well.

This is a YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic world, significant generations after a disaster known as the Great White. While it is not clearly stated, the impression is given that this was a nuclear war. The main character and narrator is Elspeth who has telepathic mental powers. In the totalitarian society she lives in, such mutations are anathema and those that possess them are burned or sent away to the far north, to a place called Obernewtyn. When Elspeth is found out, she is taken to Obernewtyn, where she finds a dangerous place and others like herself.

Post-apocalyptic and telepathy; two favourite themes of mine. Again, I find myself wondering why I didn't read this book long ago. Elspeth is a pleasant heroine, well if not deeply developed and her adventures before and after being sent to Obernewtyn are well told. There are nicely dropped hints about the Beforetime and the blurbs of the later books suggest the truth of what happened in the past (and whether or not it might happen again) will become a significant part of the plotline.

Carmody's world is small in this book, focussed around the orphan's home where Elspeth first lives and later at Obernewtyn. I'm not a visual reader, so I didn't get a good picture of the world (one of the reasons I like maps, and a good one is provided in this book) but as the story was about Elspeth and Obernewtyn, this was not an issue. All the same, I look forward to learning more about the entire world as the hints were suitably teasing.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and while I'm sorry I didn't discover it sooner, I'm delighted to know there are more books in the series waiting for me to read them. I want to know what happens to Elspeth and her fellow Misfits next. With Obernewtyn so isolated, it's easy to get caught up in their story and forget about the harsh and dangerous world outside the walls.

Isobelle Carmody
Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 1

Monday, December 15, 2008

eBook Reading Challenge

And yes, J. Kaye does it yet again. I've also signed up for her 2009 eBook Reading Challenge. I admit that this one is going to be easy for me. I already read a lot of eBooks, but it will certainly be interesting to see just how many I read in a year.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading to your books prior to 2009.
2. Read 10 eBooks in 2009.
3. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.
4. You do not have to list your books ahead of time. If you decide to, you can change them as you go. Feel free to remove or add titles as needed.

I will be listing my books read over on my Lists and Such blog as usual, but I will also have a specific post for this challenge over there and a single list of my 2009 romance book reads. [list]

YA Reading Challenge

J. Kaye is holding another challenge I've decided to join. This time it's the 2009 YA Challenge. I like her challenges as I'm not required to choose books in advance. Instead, I can list them as I go. So in a way, it ends up a list of what I've read in a certain category instead of a millstone around my neck. I like YA and while I don't read heaps and heaps of it, I read enough to feel I can manage the challenge.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. Read 12 Young Adult novels. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.

I will be listing my books read over on my Lists and Such blog as usual, but I will also have a specific post for this challenge over there and a single list of my 2009 YA book reads. [list]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I've been trying to figure out what to write about this book ever since I finished it. There was something about it that got to me and I can't work out exactly what it was.

I'd heard lots of good things about Deanna Raybourn's debut mystery novel set in Victorian London. I read several good reviews and it was highly recommended by a friend. So I started off reading it with high hopes of a good story. And I got exactly that. Yet, as I hit the second half, I found my pleasure diminishing. Not to the point I didn't like the story - I did, a lot - but it wasn't quite as much as I had expected. And ironically, as I've thought about it I've come to the conclusion that Raybourn did her job a bit too well.

The main character and narrator, Lady Julia Grey, is beautifully conceived. She's from a noble and eccentric family and has always been the quiet one. With the death of her husband she finds herself investigating his possible murder with investigator Nicholas Brisbane. Along the way she gets caught up with prositutes, gypsies, the members of her unconventional family and the lives of her servants. For all she develops her own sense of independence and is willing to befriend society's outcasts (most likely due to her father's influence), Julia is still very much a woman of her time and place in society. She is offended when an acquaintance of her brother's calls her "Julia" leaving off her title and she seems to genuinely believe her family's position grants her not only rights and advantages but to some degree a natural superority. Julia's sensibilities are those of her time, not the reader's.

Raybourn shines here, creating a real sense of the Victorian era even while including enough "eccentricity" on Julia's side to appeal to the modern reader. And I think this is where the book dropped out a bit for me. The solution to the mystery is - in the eyes of Julia and those around her - rather squalid and sordid. Totally appropriate, beautifully written and very convincing, but still kind of dirty, and Julia is left very hurt and disturbed by it all. And Raybourn got me feeling that way too, even though with my modern sensibilities I completely understand the situation that led up to the murder (although I totally don't understand or condone murder in case you were wondering). So I was left with a feeling quite different from what I was expecting and that's where the book was a slight let down for me. I think the author was a little too successful in my case.

All the same, this is a very good book and a very good start to the series. I loved Julia and Brisbane was also a excellent character with an interesting past that I'm sure will continue to effect his future behaviour. (Although I hope he and Julia snipe at each other a little less as that began to annoy me by the end.) Julia's family are strange and wonderful and I'm delighted to see that they will be major players in the second book, which I plan to read.

Despite my downbeat response, I really do recommend this book as a successful period mystery and I'm looking forward to reading Silent in the Sanctuary (as soon as I convince my library to buy it).

Silent in the Grave
Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia Grey, Book 1

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Go the library - and other book babble


In the Forest of Hands and Teeth and Princess of the Midnight Ball are both now on my holds list with the library. I also requested they get The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop, but no sign of that at this point.

I had been feeling myself to be in a bit of a dilemma, as three of my favourite authors (to the point I will buy them in hardcover) have books coming out early next year. (For any interested parties, they are The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold, Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs and The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop.) I want to buy them, but since I need to combine the three to make shipping from Amazon vaguely reasonable (it'll still be US$20 for the three), that means they won't ship until the third one is released and then, going on my Acheron experience, could possibly still take two months to get here.

The books are going to be in the library by then and I'll be desperate to read them. So I was caught, feeling I really should read my own copies, but for the one that is published first at the end of January, it could be as late as May before I get it.

Then I had a moment of revelation.

I'm doing two different things here. I'm getting hold of books I want to read and I'm supporting favourite authors that I want to get the sales to keep getting the contracts to write more books for me to read. Which means it doesn't matter if my own copies of the books sit on the shelf unread until the day I decide to reread them (which will happen with these being favourite, keeper books).

So now I have library holds on both Horizon and Bone Crossed, and as I said above, I've put in a purchase request for The Shadow Queen.

Life is particularly nice when you can have your cake and eat it too.

And in further library news, I picked up three books I'd reserved today (The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, Thirteen Orphans by Joan Lindskold and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, which is a particularly fat one). When this is added to my discovery and enjoyment of The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, means my TBR list has suddenly expanded back close to 40. My dream goal was to read some of the books on it and get it under 30, but I guess I'll just have to work on keeping it under 40.

I've been aware of the original Obernewtyn book since it came out in around 1985 but never read it. I can't remember what got me aware of the series again this year, but I went looking for it in the bookshops here and finally found it - for NZ$32 for an itty bitty YA paperback. There was no way I was paying that much and when I found a website saying the series was being released as ebooks this December I decided waiting a bit longer wouldn't hurt me. I'm now about halfway through Obernewtyn and thoroughly enjoying it. It's the kind of book I loved when I was a YA (as I was back in '85 when it came out) and so I'm getting a good story and a nice dose of nostalgia at the same time. At halfway, I went and bought the next two from Fictionwise (one of the dangerous sides to ebooks being the ability to purchase immediately). I'd loved to have picked up the whole rest of the series, but decided I should read a couple more before spending even more money. All the same, I suspect I'll keep going. Oh dear, more for the TBR list.

I finished Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn yesterday and I'm struggling to come up with what I have to say about it. I liked it, but... I especially liked the characters but as it progressed, something about the overall thing turned me off it a bit and I'm still trying to figure out why. The thing I think is my problem, I also consider a strength of the book and well done, so I'm feeling kind of confused. Hopefully some kind of post will show up about it in the next few days.

Right, it is past my bedtime - as Dave has just come to tell me - so I shall stop meandering (or I could go on all night) and post this. I hope it doesn't have too many typos as it is kind of late for me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Interesting Upcoming Books

Between book blogs, Amazon and, I've just added a bunch of books that I think look interesting to my Amazon wishlists. I thought I'd share them here.

In the Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

I've asked my library to purchase this one. I hope they do as it sounds interesting and the excerpt on Ryan's site reads well.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn... Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

I admit, but attention was first caught by the cover. It's not usual these days to have a woman in an old-fashioned dress with some or all of her head cut off on a cover, but the way she is moving rather than still on this one was what caught my attention. I'm also generally interested in fairy tale retellings, although I don't read as many as I might. I've also requested that the library purchase this one. They have a good YA section, so I'm hoping they will.

Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen

While I don't think I could take a diet of it all the time, a little touch of magic realism in my reading can be a delight. Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel, Garden Spells is perfect in this regard. It's the story of two sisters reconnecting after ten years apart mixed in with a lovely dose of gentle magic.

I find it hard to write about this book as just talking about the plot doesn't capture to magical feeling of it and I'm not sure what else to say about it. This is a book about the characters and their innate magic and relationships with others and they are drawn with a deft hand. Organised, lonely Claire who is terrifed to reach out to others in case she is abandoned as her mother abandoned her years ago is the focus of the story, but the other characters share the spotlight with her. Her sister Sydney has returned to the family home after years away, running for an abusive partner and finally finds herself and her gift while her daughter, Bay (whose gift is to know where things "belong"), finds a place where she herself belongs. And linked inextricably with the sisters is the apple tree in the Waverly garden which tries desperately to guide their lives.

The side characters are also delightful, and of these Evanelle was probably my favourite. Her gift is to give people things they will need, but she never knows why or when. She finds herself with a house full of "stuff" so that she won't need to go looking for it and odd and difficult hours when the need to give someone something strikes her. How her gifts come to be used and the impact they have on the people around her is a lovely thread through the book.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to someone looking for a light, but crisp and delightful story. It did remind me of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic in places as the books have some of the same elements - estranged sisters with family magic, an abusive boyfriend and the magical realism element - but how they are used is totally diferent and both books are lovely in different ways (and Practical Magic the book is totally different from Practical Magic the movie in tone and emphasis) and I recommend both.

I have now requested Allen's second book, The Sugar Queen from the library and I'm looking foward to reading it. I'm also looking forward to her third book with the evocative title of The Girl Who Chased the Moon which is to be published in May next year.

Garden Spells
Sarah Addison Allen

Thursday, November 27, 2008

12.2% Completed

Today I finished the first strip across "Defender of the Kingdom" and I'm feeling very pleased with myself about it.

I worked out that with this (which has taken me a couple of years at least) I have the design 12.2% completed. So there's still quite a lot to go. :-)

I made 2008 the year of smaller projects, and I'm very glad I did that. It worked out really well. But I'm ready to go on with my big projects now, so until I feel I need a change, my plan is to work on Defender of the Kingdom, Dawn Star and Second Chances.

So on to Dawn Star next and I hope to finish the current page I'm on before going on to the next choice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I guess I'd better include a page of the happy couple too, hadn't I? This photo is one of the ones taken by the professional photographer and I think it's lovely.

Background paper from "Crazy Love" by Dani Mogstad; alpha is "Doodled Paper Alpha" by Kate Hadfield.

Langs Beach

On the way home from the wedding, we stopped for a walk along the beach. It wasn't the warmest of days, but it was a lovely stop before we got on with the serious business of driving home.

Background paper from "Sea Oh Sea" by Jofia Devoe; boat, shell and tag from "Candy Beach" by Jofia Devoe; frames from "Blessings" by Tracy Ann Robinson; alpha is "Gralpha 1" by Birgit; font is Chiquita Banana.

Mummy and Marcus

These photos were taken our friends' wedding back in June. I haven't been in a scrapping mood for ages, but I desperately needed to do something different last night and so I've been doing some scrapbooking.

Background paper from "Project 26: Lamington" by Tracy Ann Robinson; everything else from "In My Mommy's Dream" by Jofia Devoe; font is Cathie's Hand.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Romance Reading Challenge


I've found another reading challenge for 2009 to join.  This one, as the graphic and title show, is to read some romance novels.  As I've got a number of paranormal romance series I now read, I think this should be a pretty easy one, especially since it's for a minimum of five books.

The rules:
1) Now, "Romance" isn't limited to steamy Harlequin novels. There is a huge selection of books in this category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance to name a few. As long as the story has romantic love between the two main characters your selection will fit this challenge. The novels do not need to have a happy ending either, there can also be unrequited love.
2) Choose at least 5 novels read them between Jan 1st though Dec 31st 2009. You can change your choices at any time. Crossovers between other challenges are fine.
3) Read them at your own pace in 2009 then go here and post the link to your review(s).

I will be listing my books read over on my Lists and Such blog as usual, but I will also have a specific post for this challenge over there and a single list of my 2009 romance book reads. [list]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Support Your Local Library Challenge


Here's another challenge hosted by J. Kaye that I can't resist joining.  I do use the library regularly, but I also tend to buy books as that lets me read them whenever I'm ready, rather than having to fit my read into the borrowing time.

I'm only going to commit myself to TWELVE books as I don't want to increase my stress levels too much.  If I read more, that's great.

The Support Your Local Library Challenge is being hosted at J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Here are the guidelines:
What better way to pay homage than by having a reading challenge in 2009? Since we are all different, there will be three sizes of challenges.

** The first is to read 12 books from your local library in 2009.
** The second is to read 25 books from your local library in 2009.
** The third is to read 50 books from your local library in 2009.

You decide which one of the three challenges is best for you.

1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.
2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.
3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.
4) Our goal is to read 12, 25, or 50 books checkout from our local library in 2009. Please decide which when you sign up and don’t change it.
5) These can be audios, downloads, children’s, YA. As long as it’s a book, format and target age group does not matter.

I will be listing my books read over on my Lists and Such blog as usual, but I will also have a specific post for this challenge over there and a single list of my 2009 library book reads. [list]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2009 100+ Reading Challenge


Okay, this is a challenge I'm ready to face-down, take-on and take-down.  Or whatever.

Each year, I set myself an unofficial goal of reading at least 100 books.  (Although in my heart of hearts, I always hope to read 120, giving an average of 10 a month.)

So for 2009 I'm going to make that official and join J. Kaye's 100+ Reading Challenge.

The 100+ Reading Challenge is being hosted at J. Kaye's Book Blog for 2009.

Here are the guidelines:
1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.
2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.
3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.
4) All books count: children’s, YA, adults, fiction, non-fiction, how-tos, etc.

I will be listing my books read over on my Lists and Such blog as usual, but I will also have a specific post for this challenge over there and a single list of my 2009 reads. [list]

2008 Challenges Update

As much as I enjoy reading about the many and varied book challenges around the blogsphere, I tend to avoid joining them.  My reason for this is simple - if I put too much pressure on myself about my reading it stops being fun and I get all stressed about it.  Since I tend to find my TBR stress enough, I try not to make it worse.

So I only joined two challenges in 2008 and had a 50% success rate.

The challenge was to read a minimum of three books featuring dragons.  I managed five and enjoyed myself reading books on what is a favourite topic anyway. [list] [wrap up]

Here the challenge was to finish three books that were already on-going unfinished reads.  Sadly, of the three I only managed to complete one and as the end date is the 15th November (ie 4 days away) I know I won't be getting either of the other two finished in time.  I still hope to complete them at some point, but I didn't make it in the time frame of the challenge. [list]

I'm already tempted by some of the 2009 challenges appearing, but so far plan to go with just two that I'm pretty confident I can manage to complete.  We'll see if anything else wins me over.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blogger's Secret Santa

Dewey (she of the wonderful Weekly Geeks in which I haven't participated lately) is running a Secret Santa swap for bloggers.

You can find all the details on her blog here.

Essentially, you sign up for the swap with your postage details and little bit of information to help your Secret Santa. (You need to sign up by 18th November.)

From Dewey's blog:
What you have to do next is send that person a little something - it can be a book, a journal or bookmark, a box of holiday cookies, a mixed CD, whatever you can think of. It doesn’t have to be anything pricey, of course. Second hand books are perfectly acceptable, as are homemade gifts.

A different person will be assigned as your Secret Santa, and you’ll only find out who they are when you get their package in the mail.

Something to keep in mind: Because there are book bloggers from all over the world, this is going to be an international swap. I understand that not everyone can afford to send a package overseas, though, so if that’s the case with you, please don’t feel that you can’t sign up. Just include a note saying so in your e-mail, and we’ll make sure you get a blogger who’s near you.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Foundation - Mercedes Lackey

Sorry, Ms Lackey, but you've done it all before. And really, I just don't care. I tried, but I don't.

Mercedes Lackey
Collegium Chronicles, Book 1

October Reading

  1. Acheron - Sherrilyn Kenyon
    Dark-Hunters, Book 21; Paranormal Romance; 10/10
    What can I say? These books are my guilty pleasure. I love the series and like many other fans, I had been waiting for Ash's book for, like, forever. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the first half of the book, which chronicled Ash's past. We already knew it was bad; and yes, it was bad. But it was written with enough distance not to totally gross the reader out, but with enough closeness to make the reader care. It was well done by Kenyon and an important tale to tell, but I admit that I'm much more likely to reread the second, modern-day, half of the book than the first. I loved that. I loved Ash's heroine (and while probably anyone who cares knows who she is by now, I'm still not going to give it away). She was wonderful and an ideal foil for Ash. The scene with her and Ash when Ash gets drunk (on Sprite of all things) is just priceless. While serious things happen, there's also a lovely sense of fun in this part of the story - and Ash deserves that after all that has happened to him. This was an interesting turning point in the overall story arc and it'll be interesting to see what happens next, especially since the next "hero" is one of the bad guys. Yes, I am most definitely still a fan.
  2. Mr Cavendish, I Presume - Julia Quinn
    Two Dukes of Wyndham, Book 2; Historical Romance; 9/10
    I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of this pair, and wasn't sure how this one would go. Would it fail because it was retelling the same story? I know that proved true for some readers, but I really liked it, even a little more than the first book. Thomas proved to be a great character and Quinn did a good job of telling either the other side of an already written scene or by expanding in this book areas she didn't cover in the first one. These books certainly aren't rocket science, but they are a delightful, fun read and the multiple viewpoints thing usually tends to work for me.
  3. The Empress of Mars - Kage Baker
    Short story in The Company universe; SF; 9/10
    This was a fill-in story to Baker's Company series, showing the creation of the situation on Mars that is seen in The Life of the World to Come (at least, I think it's that book). It was a short, neatly told tale with a pleasant cast of characters (at least some of which I'm pretty sure were cyborgs doing their part to set things up as required). I enjoyed it a lot and I'm glad I got hold of it and got to fill in that bit of Company history. I think I heard somewhere that Baker is expanding it into a full novel and I'll be interested in that too, when it comes out.
  4. Sugar Daddy - Lisa Kleypas
    Contemporary/Romance; 6/10
    I found this a strange book. It was compelling enough that I wanted to get to the end - although I did start skimming after a while - but it really wasn't my cup of tea. I don't read a lot of contemporaries and I'm not exactly sure why except that they simply aren't my thing. That was exactly the case with Sugar Daddy for me, but don't take my rating as an indication this is a bad book. It isn't. If it sounds interesting to you, give it a try.
  5. Sea Swept - Nora Roberts
    Chesapeake Bay, Book 1; Contemporary Romance; Audiobook; 8/10
    This has always been my favourite of Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay books and I was delighted to see unabridged versions of the series turn up on Audible. This one went straight onto my PDA and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I don't get a lot of time each day to listen (usually before I go to sleep, so I end up driting off while still listening). That made the story rather more disjointed than when I read the book straight through, which is the main reason for the lower rating than the book itself has always garnered. But I enjoyed listening to this very much and I'm now happily working my way through Rising Tides, the next one in the series.
  6. Wanderlust - Ann Aguirre
    Sirantha Jax, Book 2; SF; 8/10
    Jax, now jobless, broke and not a little infamous, finds herself agreeing to be an ambassador to Vel's people. Of course, for Jax nothing is ever simple and she finds herself up against mercenaries, flesh-eating aliens, old friends and enemies and organised crime. Not to mention the fact that her relationship with March is struggling. Well, no-one ever said life was easy. Another fast-paced, action adventure written in first person, present tense from Ann Aguirre. I enjoyed Jax's latest adventures, although the ambassador thing is a bit of a misdirection as she doesn't actually make it to Vel's planet until the end of the book. I guess that part of the job will be chronicled in the next book. While I preferred Grimspace, this was still a very good read and I'm looking forward to Ms Aguirre's next release.
  7. Tracking - David R. Palmer
    SF; serialised in Analog Science Fiction and Fact; 8/10
    A friend introduced me to David R. Palmer's classic novel, Emergence many years ago and I reread it a few months ago in anticipation of this serialised novella in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. This isn't nearly as strong a story as Emergence (but considering all that happened in that book, a novella wasn't really going to come close). All the same, it was great to see Candy again and go with her on a single-handed quest to rescue her father who it appears may have survived Armageddon after all. The story is left open for a sequel and I'll look forward to reading that.
  8. Fantasy Lover - Sherrilyn Kenyon
    Dark-Hunters, Book 1; Paranormal Romance; DNF
    After reading and loving Acheron, I thought I wanted to go back to the beginning of the Dark-Hunter series. However, when I went to read the first book I found I just wasn't in the mood after all. Maybe another time.
  9. Father Mine - J. R. Ward
    Black Dagger Brotherhood short story; Paranormal; 8/10
    This short story about Zsadist and Bella's continuing relationship was released in the Insider's Guide to the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Not wanting to buy the volume, I expected to read this story when a friend borrowed the book from the library. Then the story was released on its own as an ebook. I went shopping pretty much immediately. This was a lovely little addition to the story of two characters we already know well. Bella and Zsadist's daughter, Nalla, has just been born and Zsadist is struggling to connect with her while making peace with his past. At the same time, Bella is struggling with his distance and neither knows how to reconnect with the other. Not a complicated story, this is a very nice short read as we see the two of them finding a new way forward in this new family they have made.
  10. The Bell at Sealey Head - Patricia A. McKillip
    Fantasy; 10/10
    I've always loved Patricia McKillip, but the last of her books I tried to read, Od Magic turned into a DNF as I struggled to put the many, many plot threads together. I heard McKillip reading the first chapter of this, her latest release, on a podcast and was very taken with the story and the style. I tossed up over buying it at hardcover price, but when Fictionwise had it at a 50% rebate I threw caution to the winds and bought it. I'm so glad I did. I loved this one. It is in McKillip's trademark lyrical style without being so obscure as to frustrate the reader. The characters and their interactions are a delight and the setting is easy to imagine (which is saying something for a non-visual reader like me). Kinuko Craft's cover is as beautiful as ever and very evocative of the story. This will be joining the ranks of my favourite McKillip books and it encouraged me at add a couple more I've never read to the TBR.
  11. The City of Ember - Jeanne duPrau
    The Books of Ember, Book 1; YA SF; 8/10
    I first heard about this book when the trailers started appearing for the film that is due to begin screening any day now. The trailers looked interesting and comment on the books was also good so I decided to try it for myself. This is a very solid, well done YA novel that tells a fascinating story. While the main characters, teenagers Lina and Doon are well realised, it is the city of Ember itself, built underground and rapidly running out of everything that is the star. It is atmospherically written and easy to imagine. The shortage of everything was well described, so that a precious piece of drawing paper is actually the back of a tin can label and everything must be reused and reused until it can't be used any more. Lina and Doon's quest to find the way out of Ember to a new beginning parallels the collapse of the city itself and they slowly find the answer not only to the "Instructions for Egress" but to the hows and whys of Ember's construction as well. The journal they find of the woman who was one of the first settlers is a touching document that also helps the final pieces of the overall story fall into place. I hear the movie is essentially true to the book and I'm looking forward to seeing it. I also have the sequel, The People of Sparks sitting on the PDA waiting for me to find the moment to read it.
  12. Polaris - Jack McDevitt
    Alex Benedict, Book 2; SF Mystery; 7/10
    This was a solid mystery and I enjoyed my read. I did guess at least part of the answer well before the characters but needed to be told the "how" of the solution. The first story was told by Alex, while in this one Chase is the narrator. I found that I preferred Alex's character and voice and while this wasn't a bad book I liked the first one, A Talent for War, much better. All the same, I do like the SF mysteries and will probably continue with the series, just from the library in future.
  13. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
    The Dark is Rising, Book 2; YA Fantasy; Audiobook; 9/10
    It was great to listen to this. It's a long time since I last read the book and I was surprised at just how much of it I had forgotten (like most of it). The winter atmosphere is suitably cold and creepy and the language is a delight. This is a great mixing of myth, legend and new tale all making for a wonderful story. I'm collecting up the rest of the series and anticipating listening my way through the rest of Susan Cooper's classic tale. This deserves the acclaim it has won and I highly recommend it to adults and children alike.
  14. Prophecy: Child of Earth - Elizabeth Haydon
    Symphony of Ages, Book 2; Fantsy; DNF
    This isn't a DNF because it is a bad book, but because it has been sitting on the shelf with a bookmark a couple of chapters in for months. I got scared off by the length of it when I saw it was 700 pages long. So I decided to call it a DNF and start over from the beginning when I pick it up again.
  15. The Curse of the Pharaohs - Elizabeth Peters
    Amelia Peabody, Book 2; Historical Mystery; 8/10
    Many people, including good friends I trust, have often told me how wonderful the Amelia Peabody mysteries are. I bought the first three many years ago now and, as does happen with me, ended up putting them on the shelf and not getting around the reading them. I read the first one, Crocodile on the Sandbank a few years ago and again, the next ones languished on the shelf. I tried listening to this one several times but obviously never at the right time as I kept falling asleep in the first chapter. While on holiday, I suddenly got the urge to try again. I managed to stay awake longer this time and soon got hooked. Once I was home again (fortunately only 36 hours later) I pulled to book off the shelf and got on with some serious reading as the audiobook was going too slowly for me. I enjoyed this second outing with Amelia and Emerson and have put the third on the TBR shelf. I don't intend to let years go by without continuing the series this time.
  16. The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
    Fiction; 10/10
    I had seen good things around the blogsphere about this novella about the Queen discovering the pleasures of reading. It seemed at bit rude to me, to assume the Queen didn't read and, in all honesty, this put me off. But while on holiday a friend recommended it, so I got it from the library when I got home. I see my misapprehension now; there was never any indication that the Queen didn't read at all, just that she had never before discovered that passion that makes one a reader as opposed to someone who reads. Watching her fit this new passion into her busy life was wonderful - as someone who carries a book with me wherever I go and pulls it out at a moment's notice, I could relate to the Queen surreptitiously reading a book on her lap while waving to her subjects out the carriage window. This is a book about finding yourself - and shows that it doesn't matter what age you are or who you are, it is never too late. I often found myself laughing out loud. I loved this little novella (it's only 124 pages) and hope others will do so as well. If you're a reader yourself, you'll find aspects of yourself in here as well as a lovely little story. I'm now tracking down a copy to add to my own collection.
September reading:
Books read this month = 14
DNFs this month = 2
10/10 reads this month = 3
New reads this month = 12
Rereads this month = 2

Friday, October 31, 2008

Made it to 100!

I've just done the list for my October reading over on my "lists" blog (Lists and Such) and discovered that I've now read 100 books so far this year. Technically, it is actually 101 (and 101 was a delight) but I'm focusing on the "passing 100" aspect.

I want to do my list plus a paragraph of comment thing over here and it's a bit late tonight for me to do that now, so I'm going to attempt it tomorrow.

I'm trying an old favourite author who is a less favourite one now and have just started the new Valdemar novel by Mercedes Lackey. I've only read two chapters so it is much too soon to comment, but it feels comfortably familiar if not earth-shattering.

I do wish I had the energy to share more about the books I've been reading because while some as nothing more than escapism, there are often still things I think of blogging about, but I'm more interested in carrying on with the book than stopping to write. When I have time to write either I've forgotten or I'm tired.


Oh well. I'll do what I can.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How silly is this?

I can't resist giving these people a bit of free advertising.

I could survive for 51 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Created by Bunk Beds Pedia

Monday, October 20, 2008

Second Chances

secondchances02 Progress at 20th October, 2008.  First motif done in Carrie's Creation threads, Deep Purple.

Now I get to use the same pretty red as is in Book of Ink Circles for the next motif.  It's bedtime for me now, so I have it all ready to go and shall start it tomorrow.  I find I'm loving stitching on the 32-count fabric and I'm looking forward to working on the rest of this project.  It will certainly remain my focus project for the immediate future.

Happy Boy

Marcus is NOT a good eater.  We had had battles, frustrations and attempted bribes galore to get him to eat.  The current plan is a star/reward chart with set goals for him as he earns his stars.

Last night, by eating his dinner and then not screaming or yelling when his hair was washed, he earned enough stars for a WALL-E toy he has been lusting after.

It took trips to two toy shops to find the exact one he wanted, but we did and there is now a very happy boy playing with his new treasure.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Second Chances

I'm just packing up for my trip tomorrow, so here's what I've done so far on Second Chances before putting it away for travelling.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book of Ink Circles

Hooray, I'm up to date again with Book of Ink Circles.

New Start

After constantly changing my mind for a while, I decided to start on Second Chances.

I wanted to do one of the over 1 designs and decided it was far more sensible to start with the light coloured fabric than the black.

I've done just a tiny little bit of the first motif, so will get some more done before posting a picture. It turns out I was totally wrong about the fabric and what I have is 32-ct Starquest Opalescent Lugana from Silkweaver. It's really nice to stitch on and so far I'm finding it easy to see and easy to work with.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What Next?

I'm working on the latest part of Book of Ink Circles while I decide what to stitch next, but for any obsessed stitcher, that's a big decision to make.

I managed to whittle the stash down to four.

1. Celtic Band Sampler by Homespun Sampler

I'm going to stitch it on Very Vintage 32-ct Belfast linen from The Blended Needle, using DMC floss. (The Blended Needle hasn't existed for years, showing how long this has been in my stash. I originally bought it to stitch L&L's In the Arms of an Angel when I was pregnant but didn't feel well enough to stitch so it's been waiting to be used for something else.) I really do like this, but I think it's a bit bigger than I want to work on at the moment, so it's probably my fourth choice at present.

2. Cirque des Circles by Ink Circles

I just love this and I love the fabric (black 32-ct Belfast) and the thread (Dragon Tongue silk floss from HDF) I've chosen for it. But I'm going to spend about 10 days with my parents next week and I don't have a stitching light there. Since I'm planning to do this 1 over 1, I don't think it is a practical choice to begin and then need to put aside for a while almost immediately.

3. Second Chances by Ink Circles

I have the recommended Carrie's threads for this one. I hadn't really thought about what I was going to stitch it on when I remembered I had a piece of opalescent Dusk 32-ct Belfast from Silkweaver. I bought it as a possibility for Chatelaine's Watergarden but it was much to bright and too purple. I hadn't planned to do this sampler on anything as dramatic, but the Carrie's threads look just beautiful on it. I'm going to do this 1 over 1, but I think I could do it at Mum and Dad's even without a light as it's not dark like the black. I'm really, really tempted by this.

4. The Bookshelf by Little House Needleworks

I bought a bit of Flax 32-ct Belfast for this today. I'm going to change some of the authors from ones I don't really know or don't appeal (basically the more American ones) and because I've never had any interest in reading Wuthering Heights, change that picture to belonging to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. This will be standard 2 over 2 and it's the smallest pattern so it is probably the most sensible one to start. But I remain tempted by the others, especially the two Ink Circles ones.

What do readers think? What should I stitch next?

A finish

I finished Sampler del Lago Maggiore last night. I'm delighted with how it turned out and since it's a Christmas present (for my parents who visited Lake Maggiore last year - and they know about it as Mum helped me pay for the GAST threads) it's nice to be finished with plenty of time to spare.

Sampler del Lago Maggiore
GPA Designs
Started: 1 June, 2008
Finished: 8 October, 2008
Stitched on 32-count Belfast linen (not sure of the colour)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thieves and assassins

I've been reading through my blog feeds and noticed the continuation of a trend.

Lots of books where the hero and/or heroine is either a thief, an assassin or both.

With a few exceptions, I hate these books. If I read a blurb that mentions either word (or "con man/woman" for that matter), I immediately turn off. Maybe I'm missing some good books (after all, I loved Robin Hobb's Fitz books) but I don't really care.

Now you might, if you work at it, convince me about thieves. But how do you make a hero or heroine out of someone who kills people for a living? And the whole point of a con is essentially to make a fool out of someone - usually a nice, ordinary someone. As a person who hates feeling like I've been a fool, I'm not prepared to read that either.

Why is this such an "in" theme in books at present?

September Reading

September reading up on my other blog.

Cumulative Totals:
Books read so far in 2008 = 87
DNFs so far in 2008 = 13
10/10 reads so far in 2008 = 12
New reads so far in 2008 = 68
Rereads so far in 2008 = 19

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sampler del Lago Maggiore

I'm so pleased with how this is coming along. It's a lovely design and the colours are so pretty. I think I'll be sticking with this one until it is finished.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book Comments Catch-Up, Part the First

Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom - Julie Kenner
Contemporary Paranormal; Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, Book 1; DNF
I saw this book (or possibly this series) reviewed on a blog recently and thought it looked amusing. I'm a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and loved the idea of what might happen when such a character was a settled wife and mother. However, it only took me about 30 pages to realise it just wasn't my kind of book. I found myself reading along and thinking "oh, this is a funny part" instead of actually being amused. The tone wasn't for me and although I skipped around a bit to pick up a bit more of the story I soon official gave up. A DNF for me, but still a book I expect others would enjoy.

The Spacetime Pool - Catherine Asaro
SF; 8/10
I enjoyed this story about a modern mathematician who gets pulled through a gate to an alternative dimension. She soon finds herself the object of a prophecy concerning two warring brothers, running for her life and caught up in a mystery about the history of this new world. For all it sounds like fantasy, this is actually a science fiction story (with the maths and physics to back up that assertion) and once again Asaro creates a fascinating reality where things are not what they seem on the surface. It's a good little story and worth reading, although at the end I was most left wondering if she'll ever write the (at least) two very obvious other tales that need to be written to explain the mysteries she presented to her readers.

Hostage to Pleasure - nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance; Psy/Changeling, Book 5; 9/10
Nalini Singh continues to develop the characters and world of her Psy/Changeling series. This time the book focuses around Psy Ashaya Aleine and Changeling Dorian (can't remember his last name). When we first met Ashaya in the previous book, I didn't think I was going to like her. She seemed cold and harsh and I couldn't see how Singh was going to turn her into a sympathetic character for her own book. Of course, I should have had more faith. Ashaya turns out to be a fascinating character, one way on the outside and another completely on the inside. She needs to learn to integrate the two and slowly does so over the course of the book. What is different about Ashaya is that she has chosen Silence (or an approximation of it) for herself and Dorian has quite a job to convince her the alternative is an option for her. As for Dorian, the Changeling who cannot change, I loved him the first time I met him, way back in Slave to Sensation and I love him just as much here. He's carrying a lot of rage and guilt and to find himself attracted to a Psy just exacerbates both, meaning he too has a significant journey to make before he can find a happy ending. Singh does her usual wonderful job of blending world-building, outside plot, character development and relationship development without going to extremes in any particular direction. I also loved the ending of the book. She had a choice to make on whether or not to allow Dorian, latent since birth, to gain the ability to change shape. To have him learn to shift would really have been too pat considering he'd been latent all his life, but while making him stay latent would probably be more realistic, it would also be desperately sad for Dorian (and for me the reader, who wanted him to learn to shift, but didn't want it to feel like Singh was tying up the resolution with a pretty ribbon for the sake of it). Again, I should have trusted more. Singh finds an alternative solution that works perfectly. Now I'm hanging out for her next books - Angel's Blood, which is the start of a new series that sounds like it has an equally unique spin on the world-building, and Branded by Fire the next Psy/Changeling book, both due out next year. (Although I do have to say that the think the titles to the Psy/Changeling series are pretty awful.)

Heart Fate - Robin D. Owens
Fantasy Romance; Celta, Book 7; 8/10
I found this latest book in Owens' Celtan series to be slow going. I wasn't quite sure if it was me, a flaw in the book or intentional. I have come to the conclusion that it was intentional. This is a slow, gentle book without the swifter more dramatic action of some of the others in the series. Both the main characters are wounded and this book is as much, or possible more, about their healing than it is about their romance. Lahsin is only 17 but was married to a brutish older man at fourteen. As the story begins she runs away, determined to escapse and make her own life. Tinne, the hero, is a little older and, as the story opens, forced to face up to the fact that his marriage is over. The two, HeartMates although only Tinne knows this, meet at a hidden, abandoned estate where both find a sanctuary and a chance to heal. They do so slowly, neither interested in another relationship but gradually discovering a precious friendship with the other. This is a romance as well, so it isn't a spoiler to say these two end up together, but for all that it was relatively quick I didn't find it rushed. It worked well for me, that their HeartMate bond pulled them together even as they were both cautious about another relationship. And in the end it is Lahsin that makes the decision for them, simply by choosing to follow her heart. But she had to do the work first be to in a position to do that, as did Tinne. So a quieter, slower addition to the series, but one I enjoyed. I do like these books and I'm glad to hear Owens has sold several more.