A Look Back at My March Reading…

17 books read during March, which was completely dominated by my Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody glom!

I read ten Amelia Peabody books during this month – here are my thoughts on the series as a whole.

WARNING: Minor spoilers in the next couple of paragraphs, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know *anything* that happens as the series progresses…

The series started off well – I rated the first book “Crocodile on the Sandbank” a B+, and was intrigued enough to pick up the next few books in the series.  They’re all now blurring into each other (since I read them in such quick succession – this is not a criticism!), but I know there was a point, maybe in the third or fourth book, where I felt as though the series was flagging somewhat.  However, I continued reading – Amelia’s voice was very engaging and Ramses was an adorably precocious kid. 

When Ms Peters introduced Ramses’ viewpoint into the series (Book 9 – “Seeing a Large Cat”), the series came completely alive for me.  I didn’t realise how limited it was having just Amelia’s viewpoint – not that I don’t like her, but well, I love Ramses.  And it means we get to know Ramses and Nefret a lot better, and they become main characters in the story.

For instance, here’s one scene that I loved.  From Amelia’s viewpoint, Ramses appears from the shadows of a dark garden, slightly dishevelled, with blood running down the side of his head and carrying in his arms an unconscious Dolly Bellingham – all he says is:

“I beg your pardon for being so long,” Ramses said.  “I assure you the delay was unavoidable.”

Wonderful scene in itself, and the reader is left thinking of Ramses as a suave James Bond-type character.  Yet when the scene is repeated from Ramses’ viewpoint, well, he actually feels like a bit of a fool and is completely embarassed by having his entire family present:

Since it was clear that God was not going to do him the favour of striking him dead on the spot, he tried desperately to think of something to say that would not make him appear more of an idiot than he already felt.  “Er – I beg your pardon for being so long.  I assure you the delay was unavoidable.”

And so Ramses becomes that much more human, and more loveable!  My favourite books were The Falcon at the Portal and He Shall Thunder in the Sky, which brought Ramses and Nefret’s love story to a perfect conclusion.  Heart-wrenching at times, but a wonderfully happy-ever-after ending.

Sigh.  The only book I haven’t read yet is the 18th, “Tomb of the Golden Bird” – that’s because it’s only available in hardcover at the moment, and Amazon is quoting delivery times of 4-6 weeks.  Or I could wait until the mass market paperback at 1/3 the price is released in May – tough one, eh?  Well, to be honest, if I’d come across the hardback in a bookstore, I’d have bought it instantly.  As it is, I’m practising patience…

The last series I loved as much was Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan series, and I think before that, it was Georgette Heyer‘s books.  It’s funny how some authors just work for you, isn’t it?

Apart from Elizabeth Peters, I did manage to read some other books during March, but I’ll be honest – none came close to Amelia.  Authors I usually love didn’t even get a look in – for instance, Anne Bishop‘s “Belladonna” has been languishing in my TBR pile for about two weeks now, when normally, I’d finish it within a day of getting it.  I did start reading the first chapter, but put it down when I realised I just wasn’t in the mood for it.  I picked up “Guardian of the Horizon” instead…

I mentioned in a previous post that my addiction to Amelia Peabody this month probably meant I didn’t enjoy some books as much as I would normally have.  Mmm… I need to figure out how to mentally change gears now.  Maybe I’ll re-read the Vorkosigan books – Rosario’s post reminded me how much I love Miles!

Advertisements

More Nominations…

On the heels of the RITA finalists announcement, the Hugo nominations (roughly the RITAs equivalent in the SF/F world) have just been released:

  • Naomi Novik‘s “Temeraire / His Majesty’s Dragon” (depending if you live in the UK or the US) has been nominated for Best Novel.  She’s also been nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
     
  • Another familiar name nominated for the Campbell Award is Sarah Monette (“Melusine” and “The Virtu” – dark fantasy set in a very compelling world).  Her third book in this series, “The Mirador”, is coming out in August 2007.
     
  • Brandon Sanderson, who was brought to the attention of romance blogland by Dear Author *grin* is also up for the Campbell.   For the record, I’ve read his first novel, “Elantris”, and liked it – it’s a good read.  It’s that rare thing in today’s publishing world – a stand-alone fantasy.  Yep, and no plans for a sequel (as far as I know).  It has a slightly unusual chapter structure where events are repeated from different viewpoints.  He also has a good website with lots of bonus-type content, e.g. his take on various chapters, etc, which makes interesting reading when you’ve finished the book. 

My Thoughts on the RITA Finalists

The list of 2007 RITA finalists has been published – here’s my take on it: 

1) I’ve read very few of those books nominated – my comments on finalists I’ve read (or recognise) in the categories that interest me:

  • Best First Book
    I’ve only heard of two of these books previously: Eyes of Crow (Jeri Lynn Smith-Ready) and The Husband Trap (Tracy Anne Warren), but haven’t read either of them.  I actually didn’t realise Ms Warren was a new author – I could have sworn I’ve seen quite a few of her books around!  Oh well, I’m obviously really observant.
     
  • Best Long Historical Romance
    I’ve read two finalists:  The first one I’ve read is The Marriage Spell (Mary Jo Putney) – I would have thought this fell under paranormal romance, there’s magic in it!  Ah well, she’s an auto-buy for me, anyway.  The second finalist I’ve read is On the Way to the Wedding (Julia Quinn), which was voted by AAR readers as the Most Disappointing Read and Worst Read of 2006.  I didn’t agree with the AAR vote (I thought that there were way worse reads), but this is an interesting difference.
     
  • Best Paranormal Romance
    Now I read a lot of paranormal romance, and I’ve only read one on this list, The Dream Thief (Shana Abe).  Ummm… I don’t know – I liked this book, but was it one of the best paranormals of the year?  Marjorie M Liu has two books listed in this category – I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t really get on with her books.  Maria V Snyder also finalled for Magic Study, which I haven’t read.  I read Ms Snyder’s first book, Poison Study in hardcover, but decided to wait for the paperback release of Magic Study.  Another thought – you have to submit your book for consideration in the RITAs, I suspect a lot of the SF/F writers whose work would fall under this category just didn’t submit an entry.
     
  • Best Romantic Suspense
    Not surprised by the Born in Death (J.D. Robb) nomination, but I haven’t read this yet.  I like Eve and Roarke, but I’m in no hurry to read these books.
     
  • Best Short Historical Romance
    Lots of familiar names here – I haven’t read Christina Dodd’s The Barefoot Princess though.  I’ve ordered Laura Lee Guhrke’s latest release And Then He Kissed Her, based on the online reviews and excerpt, but I haven’t read any of her books before.  The Taming of the Duke (Eloisa James), Devil In Winter (Lisa Kleypas) and Scandal in Spring (ditto)- yep, these were among my favourite historical romances last year. 
     
  • Novel with Strong Romantic Elements
    I’ve only read California Demon by Julie Kenner – I liked it but don’t really recall it having strong romantic elements, though.  Maybe it did, I thought it was a lighthearted vampire read.

2) I was surprised at the distinction between Long and Short Historical Romance, i.e. Julia Quinn’s OtWttW under Long Historical, and Lisa Kleypas / Eloisa James’ books under Short Historical Romance, but an AAR poster explained that this was purely based on word count.  Apparently, 95 000 words is the cut-off point for Short Historical – another mystery explained!

3) I’m disappointed that the YA category was cancelled due to low turnout – I think there were quite a few good YA romances published last year, e.g. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, Sharon Shinn’s Dream-Maker’s Magic, etc.  Oh well.

Generally, my reading doesn’t appear to be very much in sync with the RITA awards.  It is a writers’ award for writers though, and heck, even though the online romance readers’ community is very active, it probably forms a small part of the romance-buying world as a whole.

April 2007 Books

I’m on a roll – third post in a day! 

It is rather miserable and gloomy out there today, so I figure I may as well spend time on the Internet.  Anyway, I’ve been looking at my Amazon wishlist (which I actually use to track upcoming releases that I want), and here are my April books.

042521575x_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgVisions of Heat (Nalini Singh) – Paranormal romance.  Follow-up to Slave to Sensation, which was part of the viral blogging experiment organised by Dear Author.  I liked StS, so am looking forward to this – some reviews are already out there in blogland.

 

0446618748_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v24311171_.jpg

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Carrie Vaughn) – Urban fantasy (mainly werewolves).  Third book in this series – it’s slightly different from the other werewolf stories out there.  Kitty’s a radio DJ (and yes, she’s a werewolf).

 

 

0451221419_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v46055310_.jpgMurder of a Botoxed Blonde (Denise Swanson) – Cozy mystery.  Part of her Scumble River series.  I will get this book because I like the series, but well, I can’t quite warm to the main character – it’s a problem I have with Charlaine Harris’ non-Sookie Stackhouse books as well.  I’m not sure why?

0451220897_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v46055116_.jpgThe Dead Girls’ Dance (Rachel Caine) – YA paranormal.  Second in her Morganville Vampire series, which is about a college girl who accidentally ends up in a town run by vampires.  Ms Caine also writes the Weather Warden series, which I liked at the beginning, though I think she needs to bring it to some sort of conclusion soon.

0451461525_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v24538152_.jpgClaimed by Shadow (Karen Chance) – Urban fantasy (vampires mainly).  Sequel to Touch the Dark, which I really liked.  The protagonist is a clairvoyant called Cassie, who gets involved with a group of vampires unwillingly.  I thought the world-building was done well, and I want to read more about this world.

        

Heh.  It’s going to be a bit of a paranormal romance month.  Also interestingly (or not), all of them are part of a series.  I wonder if there are any traditional romances coming out soon that I should look out for?

Around the Web

0345496876_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v24223295_.jpgWhile I was looking for Naomi Novik’s covers for my last post, I also came across the cover for her next Temeraire book, Empire of Ivory, due out 25 September 2007 according to Amazon.  I reckon the publisher (Del Rey) is favouring strong colours for this series – the first book was red, the second green, the third black, and now blue.  Definitely eye-catching, though, and it fits in nicely with the rest of the covers of this series.

Blog news:  Twisted Kingdom has relaunched – it’s a reader blog focusing primarily on fantasy books.  To celebrate, it’s running various contests – go visit! 

On an aside, I’m still working on that blogroll of mine – it’s a lot more time-consuming than I expected.  I was going to export all my Bloglines subscriptions and then import them into WordPress, but for some reason, WordPress doesn’t like the OPML file.  So I’m having to do it manually, and I do about five at a time, before getting bored and giving up…

Borders Pulling Out of UK? And Other Random Thoughts…

Well, it’s not breaking news, but it looks like Borders will be pulling out of the UK.  When I first heard this, I wasn’t as upset as I would have been five years back, because I’m now a convert to the joys of Amazon (despite their habit of emailing me ever so often to tell me that my books are delayed – why can’t they get hold of Vicki Pettersson’s The Scent of Shadows, dammit?).

Don’t get me wrong, I think Borders is great for instant gratification and their books are priced reasonably, but they do only stock the more mainstream romance books – by that, I mean the ones by Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas, Jo Beverley, Jayne Ann Krentz, etc.  So if I wanted to get, say, Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warlord, I would either have to make a trip to my Covent Garden bookstores (get the books now and pay over the odds) or order off Amazon (less pricey but I’d have to wait to get them). 

0007219121_02__aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpg0345481291_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_v47180183_.jpgOh, by the way, Ms Vaughan’s trilogy has just been picked up by a UK publisher – I saw Warprize on the shelves recently, but in hardcover.  This for a paperback that has been out in the States for at least a year?  Madness.  But the same is being done for Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books – the third one (Black Powder War) has just been published in hardcover here, even though all three have been out in mass market paperback for ages in the States!  This is what they call Rip-Off Britain, I believe.  I will admit Ms Novik’s UK hardback covers are really nice (UK cover on left and US cover on right for Throne of Jade), though I prefer Ms Vaughan’s US covers.

Getting back on-topic, what I do like about Borders is that it actually has a proper Romance section, compared to other UK bookstores that either shelve what romance books they have under General Fiction, or have a token Romance section with some Mills & Boons (the UK Harlequin line), chick-lit (Cecelia Ahern, Marian Keyes) and women’s fiction (ummm… think family sagas by Maeve Binchy). 

UK bookstores may be learning though – the Waterstones on Oxford Street appears to have woken up to the fact that there are romance readers out there and actually has a decent Romance section.  It’s not huge, mind, but it’s a pretty good selection of books.  However, it seems as though having these sections is at the discretion of the store manager – for instance, the two Waterstones I’ve been to in the City (Leadenhall Market and Ludgate Hill) don’t have Romance sections at all.  I guess they don’t think City workers read romance… 

Having said that, they were giving away JD Robb’s Born in Death with the Evening Standard (London’s evening newspaper, mainly read by commuters) the other day – maybe Eve/Roarke is considered to be mainstream suspense?  Maybe it’s Piatkus’ sneaky strategy to introduce Nora Roberts to this market? 

Speaking of Piatkus, I’ve realised that they’re actually rather good at getting the more popular romance authors into the UK market – apart from Nora Roberts/JD Robb, they also publish Stephanie Laurens, Sherilyn Kenyon, Mary Janice Davidson, etc, and I’m sure there are more authors that I can’t remember now.  The publisher also has a blog, with occasional giveaways, though it’s not updated very frequently (heh, pot meet kettle?). 

Okay, ramble over.  I will miss Borders, but I’m not going to go into mourning just yet.  I’m guessing that their stores will be sold to some other large UK chain of bookstores – I shall wait and see!

ETA:  Corrected my reference to Ms Novik’s books – Throne of Jade is the second Temeraire book, not the third.  The third book is Black Powder War.

Housekeeping…

I’ve just updated my TBR Pile and Books Read During March lists on this blog, and realised that my March reading may have been affected by my Amelia Peabody glom.  You know how sometimes, a book you would normally enjoy just doesn’t work, because you subconsciously (or otherwise) want to read something else?  I’m pretty sure someone blogged about this the other day, but I can’t find the post now.

So for instance, when I fell in love with Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan series (SF with strong romance), the next few books I read just didn’t do it.  Heck, even Ms Bujold’s latest fantasy “The Sharing Knife: Beguilement” didn’t quite work for me – probably because it didn’t have Miles in it!  I need to go back and re-read it, just to see if I feel differently about it now.

So now, all I want to do is read Amelia Peabody, so I think I’m more, well, lukewarm to the other books I’m reading this month.  Gah.  Oh well, three more Peabody books, and then perhaps something err… cleansing before I read the other books I’ve been looking forward to.

As an aside (but sort of related), if you’re into Vorkosigan fanfiction, the sequel to “A Deeper Season”, which set up an alternate universe, has been posted recently – it’s called “What Passing Bells”.  [Warning: it’s Gregor/Miles slash, so don’t click if you’re not into that – or if you don’t want to picture anything except the canon universe!]  I really like these stories – I think the two co-authors have captured the right tone and voice.  There are some (but very few) jarring notes in the first story, and almost none in the sequel (or at least to me).  There will be another Bujold Vorkosigan book coming out, but I think only in 2008/9 and not in the near future.

Around the Web

Anyone for an Anita Blake prequel?  There are July plans for a comic, which will be set about a year before “Guilty Pleasures” (via SFBC).  According to Ms Hamilton’s blog:

In the comic you will get to see the first time Anita and Jean-Claude meet.  Anita’s first time inside Guilty pleasures, her first serial killer case, and a very early encounter with Edward.

This should be interesting!  I’m not big on comics or graphic novels, and am just taking tentative steps into the world of manga, but I will look out for this.

Jacqueline Carey warns that the Amazon blurbs for her upcoming release (“Kushiel’s Justice – June 2007) contains major spoilers, and offers up an alternative blurb on her website.  I’m intrigued by the description and looking forward to the book.

Finally, Anne Bishops next Black Jewels book will be out in March 2008, and will be called “Tangled Webs”.  And yes, there will be Daemon and Janelle – hurray!  I’ve just started her latest book “Belladonna” – I’m trying to ration out my remaining Amelia Peabody books…

Why I’m Sleepy

I’m very very sleepy.  Two reasons:  Firstly, I just started my new job today, which is not something I’ve mentioned here before (I didn’t want to jinx anything!).  And for some reason, first days are always exhausting – I’m not sure why!  It went pretty well, though, and I’m excited about my new role.

The second reason is that I’ve been staying up too late reading Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody books.  I’m almost done with the series – I’ve just started the umm… 15th book, I think, (“Children of the Storm”) and there are 18 books in the series (so far).  I’m completely in love with this series, as you probably can guess based on the fact I mention these books practically every time I post.  You know you have it bad when you *have* to finish the book, never mind it’s already midnight and you have to get up at 7.30am for your new job tomorrow!

“The Falcon at the Portal” and “He Shall Thunder in the Sky” were just perfect.  I was absolutely hooked on Ramses and Nefret’s love story.  At this point, I’m not really reading these books for the mystery, I’m reading them because of the characters and their relationships.  My only niggle is that I’m not loving Sennia – is it just me, or is she just a brat?  I think that once I finish the 18th book, I may have to go back and re-read the first few books and see if they read differently, now that I know how the story arc plays out.

In other (and completely unrelated) news, I received an email that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller‘s “Web of the Trident” has been “indefinitely delayed” even though Amazon and B&N.com are saying it has a March release date.  I’ve no idea what’s happening, but I suppose it means I get to err… re-allocate my book budget this month (I was going to say I get to save some money, but that’s not going to happen!).

If you haven’t read any of their Korval books yet, they are being released as e-book bundles at Baen Webscriptions.  And if you’re curious about their writing style, they’re serialising a new story online, set in the same universe.  I’ve only read the first couple of chapters (as I’ve been madly busy doing real-world stuff), so can’t really comment on it yet, but I certainly plan to sit down and read it properly one day.  I’m a big fan of their Korval books – it’s proper space opera (their Liaden society, in particular, has a really intricate dance of manners – it’s been called Heyer in space).

My Books Are Here…

Anne Bishop‘s “Belladonna” finally arrived from Amazon – together with more of my Amelia Peabody books, so I’m a very happy bunny at the moment.  “Belladonna” was on my must-buy March releases list – as for the rest of the list…

0749937629_01__aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgI picked up Lisa Kleypas‘ “Sugar Daddy” the other day – my copy has the UK cover, which I prefer to the US one.  Ms Kleypas did a guest author day at The Good, the Bad, and the Unread, which I completely missed!  I haven’t yet started “Sugar Daddy”, but I will soon.  As an aside, I can’t wait until her next historical comes out later this year – I thought the Wallflowers series was one of the best romance series that I read last year, so I’m looking forward to Cam’s book.  It’ll also be her first for St Martin’s Press (I believe), so it’d be interesting to see if her style changes in any way.

I bought Elizabeth Vaughan‘s “Warlord” last Sunday.  And finished it on Monday.  So yes, it was pretty good.  Ms Vaughan’s posted the first chapter on her website, and also did a guest author day at Squawk Radio.

So the only book I haven’t bought yet is the “Dragon Lovers” anthology, and that’s mainly because I haven’t seen it in the bookstores yet.  I may get it from Amazon, if I still can’t find it this weekend.