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fromdead.jpgDespite me not completely loving the last two books in the series, Charlaine Harris‘ Sookie Stackhouse series remains one of my favourite urban fantasy series out there.  Ms Harris has put up an excerpt for the latest Sookie story “From Dead to Worse” (May 2008).  Also another kooky cartoon-like cover.

21buid0l2bml__aa_sl160_.jpgAnother of my favourite urban fantasy authors is Eileen Wilks – here’s the excerpt from her latest installment in the Lupi series “Night Season”, out in January.  I really liked the previous book, “Blood Lines” (heck, I liked it enough to post about it), so am looking forward to this one.  And I hope that even if it’s Cullen and Cynna’s story, we get to see more Rule and Lily.

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The Year in Review – Part 1

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I wanted somewhere to keep track of my reading, and this is a good time to take a look back at my reading over 2007. 

Although there are lists of books read each month on my sidebar, I’ve rapidly realised that they aren’t good enough for detailed analysis (because I don’t do enough number-crunching at work, obviously!), and have started to transfer them over into an Excel spreadsheet.  Err… not the most interesting of tasks, and I’m only up to April.  Sigh.  I’ll be smarter next year.

However, I think it’s quite safe to say, even without having the figures, that the “Author I Most Glommed during 2007” is Elizabeth Peters.  I started off with her Amelia Peabody series (which I loved loved loved), moved on to her EP stand-alones and Vicky Bliss books, then her Barbara Michaels’ books, and am now tracking down the few EP and BM books I haven’t yet read.

Some other quick stats for the first third of the year:

  • 79 books read in total –  Hmmm… that equates to a book every 1 1/2 days?  LOL.  I know why though – I was looking at moving jobs at the beginning of the year, and err… it’s safe to say I had a lot of spare time on my hands!
  • Just under half (36) were mysteries – Well, not really surprising as I classify Elizabeth Peters’ books as mysteries
  • 22 were romances, while 15 were classified under fantasy (about half of them were “traditional” fantasy, while the other half urban fantasy)

More to come, once I finish getting all my books in the spreadsheet – and figure out some meaningful stats!

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Christmas is an exhausting time of year!  Monday’s mince pies and champagne party started off the week (btw, I do not recommend three-and-a-half glasses of champagne on an empty stomach), Tuesday was a mad after-work dash through the shops to get last-minute presents, Wednesday was a complete disaster at work, and Thursday was the big company Christmas bash.  Had an early night yesterday, and all I want to do now is curl up and have a nice afternoon nap.  I’m fighting temptation here!

Catching up on various blogs and newsletters:

Jo Beverley‘s November newsletter with a cover of her upcoming book “A Lady’s Secret” (April 2008) is here.  Okay, I’m definitely getting this book because she’s one of my auto-buy authors, but I’ve to admit the cover is a bit blah.  Yes, the dress is probably historically accurate, but… it’s not very nice, is it!  I think it’s the bows down the front that put me off.  Anyway, the book’s set in the world of the Mallorens (hurray – love her Georgian stories!) and an excerpt is here.

Also, and it is horribly belated, Tracy Grant wrote a fascinating blog post on character names back in November, both on choosing character names and also how her characters are addressed differently throughout the novel.  She is also posting excerpts from the next Charles and Melanie novel “The Mask of Night” – I’m keeping everything crossed that it will be published soon.  Please.

Random Diana Gabaldon stuff

213lrxl3ekl__aa_sl160_.jpgI’ve been debating whether to get the new Diana Gabaldon novella collection (“Lord John and the Hand of Devils”) – I’ve already read two, but you know, there is one new story, and it’ll be nice to have them all in a single book…

21rws6uoptl__aa_sl160_.jpgI need to be sensible, but it’s difficult when they’ve given it such a beautiful cover – and the UK version (upper left) is even better than the US cover (right).  Arrrghhh…

In other news, Ms Gabaldon has announced the title of the new Jamie and Claire book – it’s “An Echo in the Bone”.  A rather interesting and unusual title.  She explains how it came about on her website – definitely worth a read. 

On the other hand, don’t hold your breath waiting for it to come out – she’s planning on finishing it end of 2008, and then it’s up to the publisher to decide when to release it, so I’m thinking sometime in 2009, at the very earliest.  Having said that, the last book, “A Breath of Snow and Ashes”, came in at 1500 pages or thereabouts, so it’s almost like getting three books in one.  Almost.

And finally, there are plans to bring out a manga version of Jamie and Claire’s story (via Dear Author).  LOL.  Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen.  Actually, while I’ve a pretty clear image of Jamie in my mind, I never really could picture Claire.  This will be interesting.  I can’t wait to see the first pictures of this.

New Vicky Bliss!

Elizabeth Peters has her winter newsletter up on her website, and it says that a new Vicky Bliss book, “The Laughter of Dead Kings”, is out in September 2008  *happy dance*

Sounds vaguely Egyptian, doesn’t it?  I still have to track down the fifth VB book, and since I’ve a thing about reading a series in order, I better make sure I find it before next September!

So, fantastic news – though I admit if it was a new Amelia Peabody, I’d be even happier…

Beedle the Bard worth £1.95 million?

Amazon has bought JK Rowling’s “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” for £1.95 million (full story and pictures on Amazon’s website). 

I admit I was a bit “ehhh” when I heard Ms Rowling was planning on writing this book.  Well, actually, my first thought was “Hand-written?  Who writes books by hand nowadays?  And how difficult will it be to read!”.  The last one probably prompted by my own illegible scrawls…  Anyway, it’s probably safe to say that I wasn’t too excited about another book from the Harry Potter world.

But I think it’s fantastic Amazon has bought the book (though £1.95 million???!!!).  Firstly, all the money goes to charity – so yay for Ms Rowling and Amazon.  Secondly, Amazon will be putting pictures and reviews up on their website (initial ones already up), which means everyone all over the world can actually see what this book looks like (and I’m pretty impressed by Ms Rowling’s illustrations).  And finally, I believe Amazon will be using it to encourage reading amongst kids by doing school tours and exhibits (though I could be just making that up – I swear I read that somewhere but can’t find an online source to verify that).

So, pretty smart publicity move by Amazon.  And hey, I’m glad my numerous book purchases are being used to subsidise things like this 🙂

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kushiels_mercy_cov.jpgJacqueline Carey has posted the cover for her upcoming book “Kushiel’s Mercy”.  This is the last book in the Imriel trilogy and is out in June 2008.  The cover’s lovely, and possibly the best in the series so far.  Very lush and evocative.  I like how the model’s eyes are hidden, also the hint of bondage in the scarves wrapped around her wrists.  And the rich detail in the background tapestry.  All very suited to the story, IMO.  Also, Ms Carey mentions (in her November update) that she is working on a new trilogy set in the same world.

I can’t say much about it until Kushiel’s Mercy is released next summer for fear of divulging spoilers, but suffice to say that it will definitely take place a few generations later and feature a whole new cast of characters, as well as a return to a female protagonist.

How fantastic is that!  I’m a bit torn about the fact that it is a change of cast – on one hand, I think it’ll be great to see what happens a few hundred years down the line, but I will miss Phedre and Joscelin.  And Imriel.

In other Jacqueline Carey news, she also has a rather interesting interview up at Writers Unboxed (the interview was done by Juliet Marillier, another fantasy writer – I have one of Ms Marillier’s books sitting in my TBR pile, but for some reason or other, have not gotten around to reading it yet).

Jenna Black’s “The Devil Inside”

215gbh7m4wl__aa_sl160_.jpg“The Devil Inside” by Jenna Black (urban fantasy) was an impulse buy while browsing in the New Releases section – I liked the cover, there was a Kelley Armstrong blurb on the front, I was intrigued by the couple of pages I read… so thought why not? Excerpt here.

Having read more than a few so-so urban fantasy books recently, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.  It’s set in a world where some humans voluntarily choose to host demons, while others are possessed against their will.  Back cover blurb…

Exorcism isn’t a job, it’s a calling—and a curse. Just ask Morgan Kingsley, a woman who has a stronger aura than any demon. Or so she thought. Now, in a pair of black leather pants and a kick-ass tattoo, Morgan is heading back to Philadelphia after a nasty little exorcism—and her life is about to be turned upside down…by the demon that’s gotten inside her.

Not just any demon. Six feet five inches of dark, delicious temptation, this one is to die for—that is, if he doesn’t get Morgan killed first. Because while some humans vilify demons and others idolize them, Morgan’s demon is leading a war of succession no human has ever imagined. For a woman trying to live a life, and hold on to the almost-perfect man, being possessed by a gorgeous rebel demon will mean a wild ride of uninhibited thrills, shocking surprises, and pure, unadulterated terror…

Morgan Kingsley has the power to exorcise demons, and as you may have guessed from the title and blurb, she ends up hosting a demon against her will.  Err… the last line of the blurb is probably overly-dramatic, but you get the idea.  As the story progresses, Morgan starts to question her  original beliefs about demons.  There are some very interesting secondary characters in this book, including Adam (a demon host who heads up the police department that deals with rogue demons), Dominic, Adam’s boyfriend with a bit of history, and oh, Morgan’s demon.

I liked the world-building and the whole demon backstory – hmmm… thinking about it some more, this book is vaguely reminiscent of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake books, and her vampire Church of the Eternal Life.  There’s also a parallel with Anita starting to change her mind about vampires as she finds out more about their world.  And instead of being a vampire executioner, Morgan’s a exorcist.  Or something like.  They’re essentially very different books though.

Morgan was a very likeable character – yes, she does some stupid things but I can understand her motivations and why she does them.  Though (and at the risk of offending some people out there), Morgan’s on-off boyfriend’s name is Brian.  And I struggle with the idea of a romantic lead named Brian.  Maybe Bryan.  But Brian?  Okay, I’m shallow.  Also, just a heads-up that there are a couple of explicit sex scenes, some m/m, and S&M, if that’s your thing.  Or not. 

There are a few holes in the plot, and you could argue that there are a couple of unnecessary sex scenes, but Ms Black creates a fascinating world with shades of grey.  I’ll definitely be buying the next book “The Devil You Know” (and damn, I’ll have to wait until August 2008 to do so), and looking out for her other books as well.  B for me.

December Books

21icbgive7l__aa_sl160_.jpgNew releases that I’m keeping an eye out for this month…

“Shadow Music” by Julie Garwood (historical romance) – I’m really excited about this one!  A new Scottish historical from Julie Garwood *happy dance*  She was one of the first authors who introduced me to romance (along with Judith McNaught and Amanda Quick a.k.a. Jayne Ann Krentz) and I fell in love with her medievals and Scottish historicals.  She then made a slight detour into contemporary romantic suspense, and the quirkiness and the charm of her characters didn’t quite translate.  I wonder if it’s somehow related to “Shadow Dance”, her most recent contemporary (which I haven’t read).  A bit of a blah cover, IMO – suspect the publishers are aiming for a more mainstream audience with this one. It’s only out on the 26th of this month, but I’ll be hoping some bookstores put it out early! 

21ivfs7kgwl__aa_sl160_.jpg“Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher (fantasy) – Jim Butcher’s probably better known for his Dresden Files series, but I much prefer his Codex Alera books.  I’ve read the first few Dresden Files books and while it’s a rather clever concept (Harry Dresden being a wizard P.I. who solves supernatural crimes), I’ve never really connected with the characters.  The Codex Alera series, on the other hand, is more classic fantasy, and combines great story-telling with a pretty unique world.  I’ve really liked the previous three, and while I’ve no idea whether this is the final book in this series or not, it promises to be a good read.  Excerpt here.

Heh.  I can’t believe there’s only two books I’m anticipating this month (unless I’ve missed off any major releases!).  Well, there’s Diana Gabaldon‘s “Lord John and the Hand of Devils” novella collection – okay, I want this, but I believe I’ve already read two out of the three stories in this one.  And with two hardcovers already on my “I want” list, I can’t really justify getting another hardcover just for one story…