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.


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.

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

Male: 2
Female: 2

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.