Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of Year Summary

Before I know it a whole year has already passed and I've been blogging about my reads for the year. For once I met my new year's resolution: I wrote a review for each and every book I've read in 2009. Overall, I had a lot of fun reading, discovering new authors and new worlds and I am planning to continue with this blog in the upcoming year as well. I didn't meet my reading goal for the year, but will happily share my favorite reads of the year and some reading statistics.

Top 5 favorite books read this year

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Review
This was by far the best book I have read this year. I read it, wrote a review, and then proceeded to tell how much I liked it to everyone who would listen. I highly recommend it to speculative fiction lovers as well as everyone else who loves to read. It is a book about the love for books among other things and something all of us book-lovers may enjoy.

2. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey - Review
The first book in the new trilogy by Jacqeline Carey set in the same world as Kushiel but generations later. Just as Kushiel remains one of my favorite books, this new novel by Carey brings back all the excitement, intrigue, society and character building I enjoyed in the first books. Romance and adventure go hand in hand in this book.

3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - Review
The last book I've finished this year and by far one of the best reads. Get transported to 19th century England where two magicians work to bring back practical magic to the shores of England. It's a very mood-setting, atmospheric book and one written with a lot of skill. I highly recommend it.

4. & 5. Dragonfly in Amber & Voyager by Diana Gabaldon - Review 1 & Review 2
It's been a good year for enjoying lengthy novels. These stories following Claire Randall & Jamie Fraser were some of my favorites. Plunging deep into the history of Scottish uprising in 1740's, we get a good look at the lives of people and follow the adventures of the main characters. There is some very good romance and character building mixed with good writing and lots of historical details. I've read most of the series this year, but the first 3 books (2 of them read this year) are by far the most enjoyable of the bunch.

Statistics

Books completed in 2009: 37
Unique male authors: 9
Unique female authors: 15
Total blog posts: 99
Visitors: 1,974

I've read 8 books published in 2009, 5 published in 2008, and a couple books for each year from 2003 to 2007. The oldest publication I read was Enid Blyton's Five Go Off in a Caravan from 1946.

This year, I've started reading a lot more urban fantasy than previously. I finished 10 urban fantasy books, the next highest counts being 8 general fiction, 6 science fiction, 5 fantasy, 4 mystery and 3 children's books. I only finished one non-fiction book this year.

Early in the year, I made a post about 4 books I was looking forward to reading in 2009. Out of those books 2 did not end up getting published this year (The Wise Man's Fear and The Republic of Thieves), but I did read the other two (Naamah's Kiss and White Witch, Black Curse) and found both to be very good. Hopefully the other two books will get published in 2010.

Overall, it's been a great year and hopefully the next year will be even better. I am still planning out the reading goals for next year, but I will definitely continue reading and blogging.

Happy New Years!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2004

Recommendation: A must read for those who enjoy Gothic atmosphere, magic, and history.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Mr. Norrell is the first magician in ages to actually do practical magic in an age where only theoretical magicians are left. He demonstrates his magic in Yorkshire and then moves to London to start the revival of English magic.

Jonathan Strange becomes a magician in a very different fashion, but then comes to apprentice himself to Mr. Norrell. These two different magicians will then shape the history of English magic.

Reactions: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a very unusual work of fantasy. The format of the novel is surprisingly riddled with footnotes. The footnotes refer to books mentioned within the story, real-life references, and even tell back stories on their own. I found the format to work quite well, except for the size of the text which gets tiring on the eyes. The footnotes worked well with the tone of the book and were often a pretty interesting diversion from the main story line.

Speaking of the story line, this is not a book I would recommend to those who enjoy fast-paced, action-packed books. While the story is interesting, it tends to weave and wave and move around. There are times when I felt things were moving rather slowly and then they would pick up and I would be unable to put the book away. The pacing is a little strange and it took me quite a bit of time to get through all 1000 pages of the paperback edition, but at no point was I considering giving it up.

The story is very character driven, we learn the history of the two magicians, how their characters and their relationship with each other develops and many of their actions make sense to us because of that. Jonathan Strange is a much more sympathetic character than Mr. Norrell, but I also very much enjoyed reading about the supporting characters. There is Stephen Black, a servant of Sir Walter Pole, whose destiny is to become a King. There is also Lady Pole, who was brought back to life just to spend half of it in the faerie kingdom. We get to spend time with Lord Wellington and see the Battle of Waterloo as well as meet Lord Byron. Interesting characters crop up throughout the book and Clarke takes her time exploring them and their relationships to each other.

The scope of the book is rather epic. There is an amazing amount of research clearly put into the book as well as magical history woven very skillfully into the story. Everything from dates of birth to names of residences of older magicians may get mentioned and we get a logical extrapolation of early 19th century England as if the magic was always there.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the novel. It conveyed the tone, mood, and sentiment of 19th century England very well and managed to mix in magic, action, adventure in the right proportions to make this a very fascinating read. The story is stand-alone and the ending is satisfying though clearly with a possibility of return to the same world. I would definitely recommend this as an excellent read.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Book Purchases

It's certainly nice to be able to afford new books. And I think I may be getting addicted. For all that I've been thinking of keeping my reading queue down to a few books at a time, I just always jump at a chance to get new books. And only 6 days into December, I already replenished my reading list with 6 new books:

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This book seems to be all over bookstores and book blogs. I recently read a very good review for the book at Fyrefly's blog and I find we usually like similar types of books. So I am taking the dive to see what the hype has been all about.

2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
by E. Lockhart

This book was recommended to me as part of the 4R's challenge. This is much too late for the original challenge's time frame, but I expect I may still enjoy the book. I was a little disappointed with the amount of suggestions generated during the challenge's recommendation phase, but this certainly sounds like an interesting book, so I am giving it a chance.


3 & 4. Kitty and the Silver Bullet / Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn.

I give in. I am hooked on Kitty, Cormac, and Ben. I am going to continue reading until Carrie Vaughn inevitably will become Laurell Hamilton and then I will give up in disgust. But until then, I am sure I'll get to enjoy a couple more Kitty stories.

5. Soulless by Gail Carriger

I saw some pretty good reviews of this new author, and the tagline sounds pretty catchy too: "A novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols". It's either going to be seriously stupid or ironically hilarious. I guess I am going to find out which one it is.

6. Ringworld by Larry Niven

This one is to fill out gaps in my classic science fiction. I've heard so much praise for Larry Niven and so many references to Ringworld in particular that I want to read it for myself. I am hoping it's a good read. For all the enjoyment I get out of kick-ass heroines, classics often end up being a great treat.

So now I am looking forward to all this great reading. I don't think I am going to hit my yearly goal by the end of the month, so I will just relax into reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell slowly.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

November Recap

November actually ended up being a pretty productive month in terms of reading. I pretty much managed a book per week throughout and I finally finished watching Battlestar Galactica, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Also lots of turkey was eaten, so this is a pretty happy wrap-up.

Reading
Books Read: 5
  1. Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
  2. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
  3. A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen
  4. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
  5. Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn
Favorite book: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Authors
Male: 2
Female: 2

Blog
Posts: 6

Next on the line is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I've heard much about this book and 2 chapters in I am already enjoying it, so hopefully it'll live up to my expectations.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kitty Takes a Holiday

Title: Kitty Takes a Holiday
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, book 3
Genre: Urban fantasy
Published: 2007

Recommendation: Any Kitty fans won't be disappointed in this one.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Kitty rents a cabin far off from civilization to take some time off and write a memoir. All of a sudden Ben and Cormac show up at her door after Ben has been attacked by a werewolf. Now Kitty has to deal with the tension in the house and also find out why there are dead animals showing up around her house.

Reactions: Kitty Takes a Holiday is an enjoyable continuation of Kitty's saga. The setting is dramatically different from her last stint in Washington and Vaughn keeps the plotline different enough to make the series fun to read.

There's some sexual tension between Kitty, Cormac, and Ben going on in this book and the relationship dynamic is pretty explosive. There is also quite an interesting set of supporting characters. From Tony, the helpful curandero to small town sheriff Marks to skinwalkers and gun-pointing shop owners, there are plenty of personages to enjoy.

The plot keeps moving along pretty well throughout and the ending is somewhat unexpected. It's definitely a quick read and the ending makes me want to pick up the next book very very soon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Agent to the Stars

Title: Agent to the Stars
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2005

Recommendation: Amusing first contact story with well-written characters.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: Thomas Stein is an enterprising Hollywood agent who has just closed the biggest deal of his career. He gets an unexpected meeting with his boss who asks him to take on a new client: an alien of race Yherajk who looks like a pile of green goo. The challenge ahead of Tom is to figure out how to present the alien to humanity.

Reactions: The premise of the novel is pretty great. Aliens come to Earth and hire a Hollywood agent to get the best representation. As you might expect with a premise like that the novel is not entirely serious. There are a number of comic moments in the book and there were some places I laughed out loud.

The good news is that funniness of the book doesn't get in the way of character development. Tom's character is very sympathetic despite being a negotiations shark. We get to learn a lot about him and he is definitely my favorite human in the novel (some of the Yherajk are pretty great characters too). The least believable part for me was Tom's budding romantic relationship, which I honestly wasn't feeling. It was a little sudden and in my opinion not very well done.

In a number of places I also had some trouble suspending disbelief. Some things work out a little too easily and certain characters don't react in a way I would expect them to react. But overall, the motivations are there and the ending is quite satisfying.

I was also pleasantly surprised that Scalzi didn't skirt around creating the new culture for aliens and came up with both technology and art for the culture which were coherent and fascinating at the same time. He also didn't bog down in any sort of info dumps on the aliens along the way, which is definitely a plus in a story.

Overall, it was an action-adventure plot with well-developed main character and amusing supporting cast that was easy to read and enjoy. There were some pretty interesting thoughts in the book on managing perceptions and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Royal Pain

Title: A Royal Pain
Author: Rhys Bowen
Series: A Royal Spyness Mystery, book 2
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2008

Recommendation: A fun continuation of Gergie's adventures.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Georgie is still penniless living in London when the queen asks her to host visiting princes of Bavaria whom the queen would like to marry her son to. But between dealing with the princess and her grumpy chaperon several deaths occur and it may be up to Georgie to find out what really happened.

Reactions: When I mentioned in my last review that I'll pick up the next book in the series, I really meant it. Yearning for more adventures of Georgie, I went to Borders, picked up this sequel and finished reading the book same night. As you may guess I found it enjoyable.

The book has a slightly different cast with the princess of Bavaria featuring in many of the adventures. But it's now clear that the queen Mary, Belinda, and Darcy are going to be recurring characters in the series. I am looking forward to seeing where Georgie's relationship with Darcy is going to go.

The mystery itself once again revealed itself to be pretty much as I expected, but with a few details I didn't pick up on. Georgie got quite a bit of detective action this time and was more clearly going out of her way to solve the mystery. Overall it was a slightly simplistic, but fun romp and I definitely recommend this book for those who enjoyed the first one.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Her Royal Spyness

Title: Her Royal Spyness
Author: Rhys Bowen
Series: A Royal Spyness Mystery, book 1
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2007

Recommendation: A funny light read that is almost more adventure than mystery.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Georgie is a great granddaughter of queen Victoria, 34th in line to the throne and completely penniless in 1930s. She escapes her dreary life in Castle Rannoch to go to London and desperately attempts to make some money and fend for herself there. Until a murder occurs in her house and now she has to figure out who the murderer is and clear her family name.

Reactions: I picked up this book completely randomly on my last visit to the bookstore. I think the bright purple cover attracted my attention and the summary on the back looked quite witty, so I bought it. And the novel completely met my expectations: it was fun, witty, character driven, and a quick read.

The main character, Georgie, feels very modern. She is all about doing it herself, getting places and figuring things out. In fact I feel she was too modern, her thoughts seemed more like those of a contemporary woman than a pampered royal 70 years back. I ignored this aspect and found the rest of the story believable (mostly).

It's not a heavy mystery in terms of plot. The final resolution is not obvious, but not completely unexpected and the plot lacked the twists of more "serious" mysteries. Instead Gerogie gets into trouble, digs herself out and then gets into trouble again. It's fun to follow her adventures and the book resolution is fairly satisfying.

I finished the book quickly and had a lot of trouble putting it down while I was reading. I will definitely consider picking up more Georgie novels.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Flashforward

Title: Flashforward
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Genre: Science fiction
Published: 1999

Rating: 6.5/10
Recommendation: Middling science fiction novel with few interesting ideas.

Summary: Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides schedule their Large Hadron Collider experiment for 5pm sharp. Except instead of producing the Boson particle they expect, they find the whole world displaced 21 years into the future for a little over 2 minutes. Everyone experiences their lives 21 years from today. But how did this happen and what do the visions really mean is left to the interpretation of the world.

Reactions: I thought the premise of this science fiction novel was pretty neat. Being able to see what happened to you in 21 years and then return to deal with what you have seen can open many avenues for discussion. Robert Sawyer picks up one of the more obvious themes: predestination vs free will. Though there are some interesting discussions present, I felt the author didn't go in depth on many of them and didn't contribute anything particularly new to the discussion. His physics explanation for the phenomenon didn't interest me too much and I felt a lot of time was spent discussing various physics particles.

My biggest problem with the book though were the characters. I didn't particularly like the scientists in the novel, though I somewhat warmed up to them by the end of the book. But at least for the first third of Flashforward I struggled to keep my interest because I didn't like the characters too much.

Overall, it was an okay read. I was a little disappointed with the lack of interesting ideas and characters. But I did enjoy some very realistic glimpses of Toronto described in this book.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October Recap

And before I know it, October is all over. I spent last night giving out candy, but still have way too much left over. I don't even know what to do with the rest.

Once again, I finish the month and I'm low on my book count. I only finished the two Diana Gabaldon's novels, but since they were pretty thick can we count them as four? :) No? I didn't think so.

Reading
Books read: 2

Favorite book: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Authors:
Male: 0
Female: 1

Blog
Posts: 2

Now I am off to read some more of Robert Sawyer's Flashforward. Planning to finish the book in the next few days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Breath of Snow And Ashes

Title: A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, book 6
Genre: Historical fiction
Published: 2005

Rating: 7.5/10
Recommendation: Anyone who got this far in the series will enjoy the book.

Summary: The revolution approaches and Jamie & Claire cannot ignore it any longer. They prepare for the oncoming conflict as well as fight plenty of battles closer to home. And the time at which their death was reported is looming closer and closer.

Reactions: So far this month continues to be all about Diana Gabaldon. I immediately started reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes after The Fiery Cross and I finished it within 10 days. The speed with which I completed the book is entirely representative of what I thought of the plot: it was fast paced, enjoyable, and gripped me until the end.

I cannot say that the book is formed as one big solid plot arch, but rather a number of smaller events. Yet, compared to the previous book in the series, the plot stayed much more on track. We got to see a resolution to a whole lot of conflicts started in earlier books: Stephen Bonnet, the relationship between Roger and Brianna, Malva's apprenticeship with Claire, Mrs. Cameron's gold, and the death notice in the newspaper. I was quite satisfied with the ending and while I will definitely be reading the latest book in the series, An Echo in the Bone, I don't feel the need to start on it immediately.

In some ways this book is educational for me as well. I know only a bare minimum about the American revolution and I feel the book is giving me insight into the period in a much more entertaining way than a history textbook would have. I just hope the facts are not completely inaccurate, but I suspect a lot of research has gone into this book to make it believable even to those who know more about the revolution than I do.

Overall, it was a very pleasing experience to get back to the characters, follow their lives once again, and continue with their adventures. The main characters are the reason I keep coming back to the book and I will be looking forward to their future adventures.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Fiery Cross

Title: The Fiery Cross
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, book 5
Genre: Historical romance
Published: 2001

Recommendation: If you got to book 5, no reason to stop now.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Claire and Jamie continue building a settlement on the Ridge. Bree and Roger are planning to marry. But nothing runs smoothly. The war is coming and early conflicts are beginning already. And Jamie is starting to look around for Captain Bonnet to seek vengeance.

Reactions: I picked up The Fiery Cross to continue with Claire and Jaimie's story and it didn't disappoint. Plenty of adventures, descriptions of life on the Ridge, family intrigues, and so forth. I enjoy Diana Gabaldon's writing and her setting the mood of people living in wilderness, struggling to do various things with primitive tools, and waging war. In particular, it's interesting to follow Claire's progress in growing penicillin on stale bread and practicing medicine in general.

Even though it took me almost a month to read through this 1400 page tome, I stayed drawn into the story throughout. Yet, at the same time, at the end I felt there was no good overarching plot to the novel. I would describe the book as a number of disconnected stories set consecutively.

Still, having finished the book, I feel ready for more of Claire and Jamie adventures. And I think everyone who got to this point would not leave the series now.


On a related note, I went to listen to Diana Gabaldon talk at a local book store yesterday. She was an engaging speaker and had a very appreciative audience that was 99% female with a mean age of about 55. Diana spoke about becoming a published writer and her writing process. In particular, she described writing various scenes for a book independently and then pulling them together. Somehow that didn't surprise me.

I now have signed copies of A Breath of Snow and Ashes and her recently released An Echo in the Bone. So it seems there will be plenty more Outlander hours in store for me.

Of course I couldn't spend two hours at the bookstore without picking up several other books as well. So a couple of Robert J. Sawyer books join my reading stack since I've been hearing a lot about this Canadian science fiction writer and on a whim I also picked up the next book in Kitty series as well. So now I am well-stocked for my fall reading...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

September Recap

Well, the spirit of the new school year didn't stick with me for very long. I did remember how to procrastinate quite well ;) and sat on a book review for almost 3 weeks after book completion. Even now this wrap up post is coming several days late. It's hard to feel bad though after a thoroughly enjoyable camping trip so I won't.

Reading
Books Read: 2
  1. Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre
  2. Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn
Favorite book: Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn

Authors
Male: 0
Female: 2

Blog
Posts: 3

I actually spent most of this month reading The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon which took me weeks to finish since it's over 1400 pages (paperback edition). Review for The Fiery Cross is forthcoming, but meanwhile I am planning to meet Diana Gabaldon since she is going to be passing by on her new book tour.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kitty Goes to Washington

Title: Kitty Goes to Washington
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, book 2
Genre: Urban fantasy
Published: 2006

Recommendation: Read it if you liked the first book in the series.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Kitty is traveling around, putting on her radio show at different stations around the country until she is summoned to Washington to testify at a Senate hearing dealing with the existence of supernatural creatures. Washington has its own scene: vampires, weres, journalists, and politicians. Everyone has their own agenda for Kitty.

Reactions: I am writing this review almost a month after finishing the book. Fortunately this will constitute a timely catch-up since I didn't finish a book since. Still I find that this installment was actually more interesting than the first book in the series.

There was an expanded set of characters in this book and it was more colorful. I didn't like Kitty's love interest, he was too perfect and boring at the same time. I didn't get a feel for any sort of personality. But to make up for it, there was Alette, a master vampire with her ironically maternal influence and Leo her cruel consort. We get a whole lot more insight into Elijah Smith and his cult. There's also Jeffrey Miles the psychic and Roger Stockton the sensationalist reporter. Altogether they make for a lively crew.

The plot moves well, and Kitty acts thoroughly within her character and capability. Some of the twists are a bit hard to believe. The "bad guys" seem a little too tractable and agreeable when it comes to doing their "evil deeds". However, altogether the book comes together well and it was definitely a fun read. Plenty of twists, some good humour and an interesting investigation.

Altogether it's a pretty standard urban fantasy, but with a fairly likable heroine and an enjoyable plot. A great read as long as you are looking for some escapist fun.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blue Diablo

Title: Blue Diablo
Author: Ann Aguirre
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: 2009

Recommendation: Fun read, but nothing out of the ordinary for the genre.
Rating: 6.5/10

Summary: Corine Solomon has a special gift. She is able to touch items and know their history. She is hiding in Mexico when her ex-boyfriend Chance finds her and enlists her help in finding his kidnapped mother. The search will lead them to the underworld of dark magic, demons and sorcerers.

Reactions: I picked up this book for the flight during my vacation. I've read Grimspace before and had a good idea what to expect. And indeed Blue Diabolo is a quick, fun romp and was great for a long flight.

There is quite a bit of romance in this book, as Corine straightens out her relationship with Chance. Both characters are pretty likable -- Corine is not a pushover and Chance is a dashing alpha male. They make a fun couple to follow and the supporting cast are quite colorful.

Unfortunately, most aspects of the book are rather standard. The magic of the world has a couple small twists, but it's mostly unexplained and typical. The adventures are what you'd expect and the ending is not particularly surprising. But if you are looking for a book that's easy to read with fun character dialogue and a detective-like romp, this is the book for you.

August Recap

I expected much more reading to get done this month since I took a bit of a vacation. But Night Soldiers took quite some time to get through and I am a bit behind on reviews as well, so I end up the month with only a couple of books reviewed.

Reading
Books Read: 2
  1. The Briar King by Greg Keyes
  2. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
Favorite book: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst

Authors
Male: 2
Female: 0

Blog
Posts: 4

P.S. So strange, it's the first of September but I don't need to go back to school. Perhaps I shall do more reading and posting this month in the spirit of the new school year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Night Soldiers

Title: Night Soldiers
Author: Alan Furst
Genre: Historical Spy Fiction
Published: 1988

Rating: 8.5/10
Recommendation: Good read even for those new to the genre.

Summary: Khristo Stoianev witnesses his brother get killed by the local fascists and gets recruited by an NKVD agent to be trained as a secret agent for the USSR. He is trained in Moscow and then sent to Spain in the middle of the civil war. There he becomes more involved in intrigues until he has to flee Stalin's purges and runs away to Paris. But his adventures are far from over.

Reactions: This is not the genre I am familiar with. I was recommended Night Soldiers after singing accolades to The Shadow of the Wind which could also be called a historical novel, albeit not nearly as definitively. Night Soldiers follows Khristo from 1934 to 1945 and provides glimpses of various momentous WWII events.

Furst does very well with the setting. In addition to providing some necessary background to the events, he also manages to portray the mood of the era very well. For example, Khristo's first impressions of Moscow:

And though the Moscow of his dreams - grand boulevards, golden domes - was as he had imagined, it shared the stage with a riptide of ordinary life. For every glossy Zil or Pobeda that disgorged important-looking people into important buildings, there seemed to be ten carts pulled by horses: the carts piled high with coal or carrots, the horses' breath steaming from flared nostrils, the red faced draymen drunk and cursing like maniacs. The streets were crowded with old women in black dresses and shawls, bearded Jews in back homburs, Mongolian soldiers with flat, cold faces. [...]
Yet, a moment later, turning the corner into Arbat Street he saw, he was almost certain a ballerina. His spirit swooped, that such glory could exist on earth.

I enjoyed reading descriptions of various places, meeting a various cast of character Furst narrates, following Khristo's insight into the politics of spying. At the same time, the reading went fairly slow. I spent several weeks on this 450 page trade paperback. Partially, the slow reading came from the need to keep track of various characters in the book. Partially, it was due to the structure that moved away from Khristo every so often to introduce a completely new cast that eventually would make a connection with the main plot. I didn't feel there was any particular climax to the plot, but sustained level of interest that comes from feeling invested in a character.

One aspect I enjoyed about Night Soldiers is that it's not written in a sentimental way. While the overall mood is far from happy, a lot of scenes that could be turned into tearjerkers are instead treated as facts of life at the moment. While I really felt for the characters in some of the scenes, especially towards the end of the book, I am glad that I didn't end up feeling completely depressed by the end of the novel. Combined with seeing Inglorious Basterds last weekend, this has been a great WWII period immersion. Recommended.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hugo Award Winners 2009

The Hugo Award winners were announced at the WorldCon last night. And the winners are:

Best Novel: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- I am very glad The Graveyard book won! Read my review above.

Best Novella: The Erdmann Nexus by Nancy Kress
Best Novelette: Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear

Best Short Story: Exhalation by Ted Chiang
- Also a very deserving winner in my opinion

Best Professional Artist: Donato Giancola
Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Foglio
Best Editor, Long Form: David Hartwell
Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Wall-E
- I am one of the few people who was not super impressed by Wall-E. Pixar has made better movies.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog by Joss Whedon
- I am really really glad to see it on the list. Neil Patrick Harris is just amazing not to mention Joss Whedon (!)

Best Related Book: Your Hate Mail will be Graded by John Scalzi,
Best Semiprozine: Weird Tales by Ann VanderMeer and Stephen Seagal

Campbell Award for Best New Writer: David Anthony Durham
- In my to-read pile right now. One more reason to pick up Acacia soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Briar King

Title: The Briar King
Author: Greg Keyes
Series: The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bones, book 1
Genre: Epic fantasy
Published: 2003

Recommendation: If you like character-driven epic fantasy, you will love this book.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: Thousands of years ago Genia Dare won the war, freeing humans from Skasloi overlords. Her descendant, Anne Dare is a princess of the throne and may have a much bigger role to play than she dreams of. For the Briar King is starting to awaken in the far away forest and no one knows for sure how the world is going to change.

Reactions: I have been meaning to read Greg Keyes for some time now. There are many praises written about this series and I was not disappointed in the least. The Briar King is a well-woven story bringing together a diverse set of characters.

The story switches between several story lines each chapter, but after some time you can start to see a bigger picture coming together. I am very impressed with how the plot is crafted to tie in the story lines and keep a good pacing in each individual quest at the same time. My biggest disappointment is that there is very little closure at the end of the novel. It's definitely not meant to be read as a stand-alone and in many ways just a start of a story rather than a complete book.

I also enjoyed getting introduced to Keyes' characters. Some of them may sound like stock characters; there is a royal family, a cheeky princess, a traveling monk, a rough woodsman, and a knight. Yet somehow, each of them manages to stand out, capture attention, and make you want to meet them in person. I felt quite involved with most of the characters by the end of the book and wanting to know more.

At the same time, Keyes sticks to the traditional epic fantasy tropes. It's easy to tell the good characters from bad. The good guys all possess heroic traits, while the bad guys are outright villains. All in all, it's a traditional fantasy epic, well written and fun to read. I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July Recap

Poof and July is over. It is now the hottest month of the year in this hemisphere and I am planning to take a vacation at the end of it, which means I will have to stock up on some airplane reading. As for July, the reading went fairly lively for me and for the first time in a while I finished 5 books. Here's the tally.

Reading
Books Read: 5
  1. The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  2. Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
  3. I Like You: Hospitality Under Influence by Amy Sedaris
  4. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  5. Finger Likin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Favorite Book: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Authors
Male: 1
Female: 4

Blog
Posts: 7

Comments
Thanks to Carl V., David Anthony Durham, ediFanoB and Hagelrat for leaving comments this month. It's great to know you've visited :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Title: Finger Lickin' Fifteen
Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Plum Novel, book 15
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009

Recommendation: Won't disappoint any Evanovich fans.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Someone is out to get Ranger's security firm clients and it looks like an inside job. Ranger hires Stephanie to work at Rangeman and secretly investigate. Lula witnesses a murder and now the two killers are after her.

Reactions: Anyone who has gotten to book 15 of any series usually knows what they are in for. Finger Lickin' Fifteen is no exception. As expected Stephanie and Lula are trying re-capture
skips and in the process get hit, paintballed, shot, and have their cars blown up. There are several mystery plotlines meanwhile and lots of typical Evanovich humour on Stephanie & Lula's expense.

I was happy to see plenty of Ranger in this book. Sparks fly between him and Stephanie and of course there's Morelli in the picture. The book went fast and I finished reading it in just a couple hours. Overall, it was quite satisfying: a quick, fun read of the guilty pleasure kind.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sunshine

Title: Sunshine
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2003

Recommendation: A mediocre urban fantasy novel with a few interesting characters.
Rating: 6/10

Summary: Rae Seddon aka Sunshine is a baker at Charlie's Coffeehouse. One evening she goes for a drive and gets captured by a gang of vampires who bring her to an empty mansion and chain her together with another vampire. There an unlikely alliance starts and Sunshine begins to discover her powers.

Reactions: The back cover of the book has the following quote which I found very promising:

McKinley [balances] the dark drama with light touches of humor. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will feel at home.
--Orlando Sentinel

Considering I like the above mentioned show A LOT, I figured this might be the book for me to enjoy. The plot summary sounded quite interesting too if not particularly original.

However, there is one huge problem with the novel. Writing. McKinley seems to be a huge fan of long info dumps, thought purges and just random ranting. I imagine the reader is meant to feel as if they are in the protagonist's head (it is a first person narrative), but I found the paragraphs and paragraphs of thoughts to introduce the history of the world to be overwhelmingly distracting from the story. In fact throughout the book there would be long pauses in action to fill us in on some piece of Sunshine's history or her thoughts on family, etc. Overall, the back story was not supplied very well.

The second source of my irritation with the novel are a few very contrived plot devices. For example, Sunshine figures out the means to escape her vampire antagonists in a memory-dream. Her proficiency in magic once she starts to use it also feels like a bit of a stretch. Overall, I had some trouble suspending my disbelief in several spots. It would have probably been easier to swallow if the book moved a bit faster overall, but much time is spent on Sunshine's thoughts.

It was not all bad, however. I enjoyed the character of Sunshine, having her be a baker and seriously into baking was an interesting twist. Her family and other characters were all pretty well drawn and fun to read about. I never quite figured out what made her relationship with Mel work, but most of Sunshine's relationships seemed somewhat dysfunctional, so I let it slide.

Overall, it was a mediocre read. I found there were too many problems with the writing and plotting to enjoy it thoroughly, but there were interesting characters and some fun action every so often to keep me going.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence

Title: I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence
Author: Amy Sedaris
Genre: Non-fiction, cookbook
Published: 2006

Recommendation: A good collection of advice and recipes to get if you like snarky humour and lots of butter in your cooking.
Rating: 6/10

Reactions: I read very little non-fiction in book form. In fact this is probably the very first cookbook I've read from cover to cover. I've been reading it on and off for several month now and I finally finished. Phew.

Starting the book, it was a pretty fun read. This is not so much a cookbook as a manual to housekeeping & entertaining guests with recipes interspersed in between. At first the tongue-in-cheek commentary keeps things pretty fun. For example, Amy Sedaris lists the suggests the following topics for a blind date:
  • Does the sun make noise?
  • Do you tip a cobbler?
  • How do you tech hope?
  • When can we see each other again?
These fairly random lists permeate the book from cover to cover and range from funny to somewhat tasteless. A lot of time is spent on dealing with drunk people and making money off of the guests. By about mid-book I was started to wince at all the mentions of the tip jar for your house.

There is a lot more discourse in the beginning of the book, whereas the last third is pretty much just recipes. I am somewhat tempted to try out the cheese balls recipe mentioned quite a few times, but the fat content of the recipe is more than a little scary.

The recipes are somewhat balanced, there are some very simple ones (i.e. mashed potatoes or baked chicken) and some slightly more elaborate cakes and dishes. For myself I didn't find that many interesting new things to cook. Many of the items just didn't seem that interesting from cooking viewpoint and were targeted towards casual cooking. Perhaps I should give them more of a chance, but I felt disappointed that recipes were not that tempting. Though I suppose that's more practical than a fancy cookbook where you don't have ingredients to prepare half the meals. Somehow I find the latter a more interesting reading though.

Overall the book was decent, but didn't sweep me off the feet. You might enjoy her humour more than me, so if the date conversations list made you laugh and you are looking to expand your recipe pool, perhaps it's a good book for you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grimspace

Title: Grimspace
Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax, Book 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2008

Recommendation: A quick and easy to read story, would make a good beach read.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Sirantha Jax is held prisoner by Corp following a landing on Matins IV which only Sirantha survived. She is losing her mind, when March sneaks in and gives her a chance to escape. Together with a new crew, Sirantha heads off to discover if Corp's monopoly on trade can be broken and the truth surrounding the Matins IV accident.

Reactions: I finished this paperback very quickly. It was easy to get into the story and the pacing kept up pretty well until the end of the book. I felt the ending itself was a little rushed. It also felt like the resolution was a bit too easy while the impact somewhat extreme.

Character-wise the story is pretty interesting. Jax is a jumper who thanks to her J-gene is able to navigate a ship through grimspace. March, is a strong and handsome pilot who is also able to read minds. The ship's mechanic Dina is bitchy, while Doc Saul is calm, and finally Loras is an alien with talent for languages. The crew interaction while predictable is pretty well written and fun to observe.

Overall, it was a fun, action-packed read. Nothing deep, a good book for a day out at the beach.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Angel's Game

Title: The Angel's Game
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009 (US)

Recommendation: Enjoyable, dark, and moody mystery in the style of The Shadow of the Wind. Read it.
Rating: 8.5/10

Summary: David Martin starts out as a paper boy at The Voice of Industry. Given a chance to write by his rich patron Pedro Vidal, he proceeds to become a low-key mystery novelist. David acquires a mysterious tower house that no one else wants, and slowly living there get entangled into the mysteries of the previous owner and some of his own.

Reactions: With The Shadow of the Wind being my favourite read this year, I was very much looking forward to this novel by Zafon. The book takes place earlier, in 1920s Barcelona and is a stand-alone tome. The only ties to The Shadow of the Wind are two fairly minor characters appearing in both and the presence of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

The style and the voice of The Angel's Game are reminiscent of the previous novel. The mood settings and the descriptions of Barcelona are uniquely Zafon's. If I were given this book without a cover, I would not have trouble placing the author.

Thematically, The Angel's Game revolves around literature as much as about David's life, romance, and mysteries. The cast includes the writer Martin, aspiring writers Pedro Vidal and Isabella, mysterious writer of Lux Aeterna Diego Marlasca, and bookseller Sempere. Much of the book is spent discovering what it means to be a writer and the effect of writing on one's soul. It's a homage to the importance of books and one I appreciate as a reader.

The plot is dark, and has many magical realism threads woven through it. While the plot kept my attention throughout, I didn't find the book as captivating as the first one. One of the things I enjoyed a lot in The Shadow of the Wind was Daniel's coming of age. Well, David starts out being rather mature in a sense and I didn't connect to him nearly as well. Also the ending does not feel as conclusive, with many questions in my mind still unanswered.

Still, it's a very good read, one I would certainly recommend, especially to those who have enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind.

First Line:
A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Birthday Books

It was my birthday last month and I've got a whole lot of books as a present off of my Amazon wish list. Now they are all sitting on my shelf tempting me to read them all at once.

1. Acacia by David Anthony Durham
This is a fantasy novel someone recommended to me. I have not been reading a whole lot of fantasy lately, but I have a feeling I'll enjoy this one. The premise looks interesting and the story sounds rather dark.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
This book made a big splash when it first came out 5 years ago. There were a lot of people who loved it for its language, and new subject matter. This is going to be my chance to see whether all the fame is well-deserved.

3. Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
This is a steampunk book that has been reviewed quite a bit in the blogosphere. With all the positive reviews, I decided it will be worth reading even though I am not a huge fan of the genre as a rule.

4. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Tia Nevitt from Fantasy Debut wrote a post discussing The Name Of The Wind as a Character Development (CD) book. In the same post she spoke of this book as being one of her favorite CD books. Since I am a huge fan of Rothfuss's work and think that characters are the most important attribute of any book for me, I decided this might be a very worthwhile read.

5. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Sunshine was recommended to me at a forum where I requested recommendations. The main character sounded interesting and all the positive reviews got me convinced I'll enjoy the book.

6. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
I was in the midst of evangelizing The Shadow of the Wind to everyone who would listen, when a friend suggested I might enjoy Alan Furst's historic fiction. It is not a genre I have read much of, but if his name is spoken in the same sentence as Zafon's, then I am certainly willing to give it a try.

7. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Considering I love all the Kushiel books by Carey, I couldn't possibly skip her new book. The reviews I have seen so far are positive and I hope her new world and characters are as exciting as those of her previous books.

8. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
There were a whole lot of reviews of Scalzi's latest book Zoe's Tale. And it seems he got quite a few fans for every single book out there. Aliens invading Hollywood sounded like a pretty fun theme to me and it's nice to have some science fiction in the mix.

9. The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
For the life of me, I cannot remember adding this book to my Amazon wish list. It looks like a collection of fairy tales and I don't know why I picked it out, but I hope I had good reason's back then. We'll see.

So nine new shiny books sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. I'd better get going.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mid-Year Recap

Time flies! It's already been half a year since I started this blog. It's been fun to keep track of my reviews here even though I haven't had as much time for the blog lately.

First the summary for June:

Reading
Books Read: 3
  1. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
  2. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  3. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Favorite book: Naamah's Kiss

Authors
Male: 0
Female: 2

Blog
Posts: 5

Now looking over the past 6 months:

Total # of books read: 20
Total # of stories read: 13

Total Male Authors: 15
Total Female Authors: 14

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal of reading 50 books this year. Looks like I am consistently reading fewer books/month than I need to reach that goal. Still, I will be happy if I can reach 40. I am sure I only read maybe half that last year.

Now my top 3 favorite books read so far:
1. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
3. Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Favorite Story:
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang

Overall, I am really happy about how many interesting books I've got to read and how few of them have been disappointing. I am looking forward to reading many more exciting books this year and I hope you might try some of my favorites from this year too.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Naamah's Kiss

Title: Naamah's Kiss
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2009

Recommendation: An excellent fantasy saga you shouldn't miss.
Rating: 9.5/10

Summary: Moirin grows up in a remote forest of Alba where she is taught by her Maghuin Dhonn mother small magics and living in the wild. When she comes of age, her mother reveals Moirin's parentage. Her father is a priest to Naamah who lives in Terre D'Ange. And during the adulthood ritual, Moirin finds there is a larger destiny in store for her and sets out to follow it and find her father.

Reactions: I have been looking forward to reading Naamah's Kiss. Carey already has two trilogies set in the same world and the Kushiel's series is certainly excellent. I found Naamah's Kiss to be in a very similar spirit to the earlier books without being a repetition..

The heroine, Moirin is very different from Phedre, the heroine of the earlier series, but Moirin is lovable in her own right. She is spunky, serious, brave and naive all at the same time. Following her adventures at the Terre d'Ange makes us root for her. She gets immersed into the culture of "Love as thou wilt" and reclaims her d'Angeline heritage with ardour.

There are plenty of love threads weaved into the story, but they go hand in hand with the political intrigue, magic, and learning. The relationships in the story take a few pretty interesting turns I did not expect. The book is certainly not for people who want to avoid sex depictions. There is explicit sexual content throughout the novel, but it fits within the story and I enjoyed that aspect of the book.

There are some references in the book to the heroes of the previous trilogy. We don't get to find out what really happened to them as much as get glimpses of what their lives might look like to those living several generations later. In addition, we get to see more of Maghuin Dion culture and learn much more about Ch'in, not visited previously in the series. My edition came with a map and I found it handy for putting names to the visited places.

Still, I found the first half of the story to be somewhat more interesting than the latter adventures. I am guessing some myths just resonate better for me than others. The Ch'in portion of the story did not draw me emotionally in the same way as the first part did. Still I read it non-stop and finished the book in a couple of evenings. The ending makes me suspect there will be a sequel and I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of Moirin.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Drums of Autumn

Title: Drums of Autumn
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, book 4
Genre: Historical romance
Published: 1997

Rating: 7/10
Recommendation: A worthwhile read for those following the series, though not as strong as the previous books.

Summary: Jamie and Claire are pulling their life together in North Carolina. With some adventures, they meet Jamie's aunt, start their own homestead, and deal with surrounding Indian tribes. Two centuries in the future, Brianna and Roger are learning what they can about what has happened to Claire and Jamie. The research will cause them leap back to the dangerous past.

Reactions: In many ways Drums of Autumn is what the reader expects from the next Outlander volume. There are pirates, adventures, 18th century society, parties, Indians, and much more. We also get to follow Claire and Jamie struggling together to make new life for themselves in the New World. However, Brianna and Roger take up a much larger portion of the book than they have previously. I have not necessarily enjoyed following Brianna's story line as much. Claire is a more interesting character, combining strength, smarts, and femininity. Brianna tends to annoy me a bit with her lack of intuition for what's going on around her.

While the book flowed smoothly and held my interest throughout I found some of the plot devices a bit over the top. In several places the coincidences of people and places and misunderstanding just make it feel too unlikely. Also given the relationships of the characters, the amount of trouble they have communicating seems a bit strange. And everyone involved could save themselves a lot of trouble by just talking.

Still, it was an enjoyable read. I will be continuing with the series and looking forward to see what's in store for the characters.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The 4 Rs Challenge

I saw the 4 Rs challenge announced on Fyrefly's blog and decided it sounded like a lot of fun.

The 4 Rs are:
1. Recommend
- You register for free on the forum and give 5 recommendations to other challenge participants.
- You also start a thread for yourself where others give you recommendations based on your interests

2. Read
- Pick a book out of those recommended and read it!

3. Review
- Post a review of the book somewhere
- Leave a link to the review in the forums for drawings and giveaways

4. Repeat
- The process starts over every 3 months!

You can read more at the blog for the challenge.

I am done with my recommendations now and waiting to see what others will recommend for me. Fun!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Voyager

Title: Voyager
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: The Outlander, book 3
Genre: Historical romance
Published: 1994

Rating: 9/10
Recommendation: Another excellent book in the series that will not disappoint the fans.

Summary: Claire Randall and her daughter Brianna visit Scotland in 1968. There they engage Roger Wakefield's help to find out what happened to Jamie and other men Claire knew in the past. Meanwhile we get glimpses of the 20 years she spent with Frank. Jamie who survives the battle of Culloden is hiding from the English and surviving in the consequences of the battle.

Reactions: While this novel managed to stretch for over 1000 pages in my paperback edition, I found myself completely immersed in the world. In fact I enjoyed the descriptions of Claire and Jame's lives apart almost more than their inevitable reunion and the adventure that followed. Still the plot is quite intricate with some surprising discoveries. We get to meet minor characters from previous books again and make new interesting acquaintances.

Voyager doesn't have as much historical detail as the previous book. There are fewer famous historical figures involved (though perhaps I might have not recognized some of them). Instead the book follows private lives, though the culture and surroundings are also well-researched and rich in detail.

This is not a deep read, but it's absorbing and very fun. I already bought the next book and I am looking forward to finding out what happens next.

May Recap

May has passed so quickly and was mostly occupied by reading Diana Gabaldon. After finishing Dragonfly in Amber, I almost immediately picked up Voyager, the next installment in the series. A review for Voyager will be coming soon and I think I will be continuing on with the series as well. I have to admit to being a little obsessed, once I start enjoying a series I feel the need to read it to conclusion unless it deteriorates. That's not the case so far and I am happily enjoying my reading even if it takes me a couple weeks to get through a tome.

Reading
Books Read: 2
  1. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
  2. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite book: Dragonfly in Amber

Authors
Male: 0
Female: 2

Blog
Posts: 3 (All time low!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dragonfly in Amber

Title: Dragonfly in Amber
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, book 2
Genre: Historical romance
Published: 1992

Recommendation: For those who enjoyed the first book or like strong female protagonists and epic stories this is a must read.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Claire Randall and her 20 year old daughter Brianna come to Scotland where Claire tries to uncover what happened to the men of Lallybroch to tell a complete story of her trip to the past to her daughter. Most of the book narrates the adventures of Claire and Jamie trying to prevent the Battle of Culloden picking up where the last book left off.

Reactions: Dragonfly in Amber has been sitting on my shelves for some time now, while I gathered my courage to start on this 800-page tome. Yet once I started, I enjoyed the book immensely. I really like the language of the book, it's easy to read but descriptive, the kind of language that immerses the reader into the atmosphere of the book and keeps her there.

The plot moves along well, every time I put the book down, I felt there was something interesting to come back to. I kept my interest throughout and now I am looking forward to the next novel in the series since this one ended with a bit of a cliffhanger.

The two main protagonists are Claire Fraiser/Randall and her husband Jamie Fraser. Both are extremely likable, but Claire is my favorite in particular. In this book especially, she develops her ability as a healer and shows her strength of character throughout the many trials she goes through. At the same time, she is feminine, funny, with her own flaws. What's not to like?

Overall, it was a very good read. Lots of adventure, emotions, discoveries. I definitely recommend it even for those who don't usually read this genre.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kitty and the Midnight Hour

Title: Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, book 1
Genre: Urban fantasy
Published: 2005

Recommendation: Pick this one up if you enjoy urban fantasy in the style of early Anita Blake.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Kitty is a night DJ on a local radio station and was turned werewolf a few years back. She is trying to get her life together when she begins discussing supernatural life on the waves. From then on, her show takes off, but not everyone is happy about that...

Reactions: I picked up this novel because I've read a few blog posts by Carrie Vaughn awhile back and while I don't entirely agree with her thoughts on the genre, I thought her books might be worth trying. Overall, Kitty and the Midnight Hour was a fun read. I read it pretty quickly and it was satisfying: well-moving plot, interesting characters, a nice mystery resolution, and a hook for the next book.

At the same time this book seems very heavily influenced by the Anita Blake series. Carrie changes the main character enough to suit her own tastes (the main character is blond and doesn't wear stilettos on her arms), but there are plenty of similarities. Kitty does investigations in a style similar to Anita's, she consults for the police, she develops a friendship with a werewolf/vampire hunter so much like Edward in Anita series I'd have trouble telling them apart. Carrie also gets caught up in Vampire/Lycanthrope politics and befriends people on both sides of the fence.

While there are plenty of similarities to Anita Blake series, I like the fact that Kitty is much easier to relate to in her struggle than Anita. Her transformation from very passive to aggressive is a little forced and I felt the author gets her out of some situations a little to easily, but overall I find Kitty quite likable and realistic. Her unusual profession is also a plus in my books.

To sum it up, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is a well-paced book taking traditional urban fantasy tropes. If you enjoy urban fantasy, chances are you will enjoy this book. I will probably pick up the next book in the series.

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Recap

I was very sure I would get through more books this month, but once again I finish the month with only three books completed. Well, at least the reading was quite rewarding. The Shadow of the Wind is the best book I've read this year and it felt great to immerse myself in Zafon's world. I am also making my way through Eclipse Two anthology, so there will be more short story reviews forthcoming. But here's the tally for the month:

Reading
Books Read: 3
  1. Five on Kirrin Island Again by Enid Blyton
  2. Daemon by Daniel Suarez
  3. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlor Ruiz Zafon
Favorite book: The Shadow of the Wind

Stories Read: 4
  1. The Candidate by Jack McDevitt
  2. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
  3. Michael Laurits is: Drowning by Paul Cornell
  4. Elevator by Nancy Kress
Favorite story: The Candidate

Authors
Male: 5
Female: 2

Blog
Posts: 10

Commenters
Thanks to Carl V., wend, and ediFanoB for leaving comments!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Elevator

Title: Elevator
Author: Nancy Kress
Published: Eclipse Two, 2008
Genre: Fantasy, short story

Rating: 5/10

Thoughts: It's a commonly used plot technique: put a bunch of characters into forced confinement with each other and watch interesting things come out of it. Elevator begins with a number of people stuck together in a hospital elevator. No help comes for hours while characters deal with their issues. Typically, this is the sort of plot I enjoy, but I found these characters not very interesting and the story resolution rather anti-climatic. I am also somewhat opposed to the message as a whole, many problems are just resolved for the characters with no action of their own and at the end I didn't feel there was much to take away from the story.