I’m a convert

I’ve have my Sony Reader for a couple of weeks now, and the novelty still hasn’t worn off! 

I had to go to the doctor’s the other day, and instead of thinking about what reading material to bring, I just grabbed my reader – and yes, that was its first trip out of the house.  LOL.  I was terrified that someone would bump into my bag and break it.  I haven’t yet figured out how robust it is.  Having said that, I knocked it off the table the other day and had a minor panic attack, thinking I had broken it.  But no, it’s fine, so I figure it can stand up to minor knocks.

I can’t get over how easy it is to buy new books now.  I’m trying very hard to exercise self-restraint.  Err… on the other hand, actually getting the books on my reader – that’s another story.  I completely forgot how to convert HTML books to the Sony format yesterday, and spent 20 minutes becoming very frustrated.  I probably should jot down “how-to” notes for myself. 

See, that’s the downside of ebooks.  Conversion.  And that’s why I would never get an ebook reader as a present for say, my mum, who’s just figured out email.  I consider myself pretty computer-literate but I spent a good two hours on the internet when I first got my reader, trying to figure out what formats I could download and how to convert them.  Just thinking about how I would explain that to my mum makes me shudder.

And oh, the Sony ebook store.  How badly designed is that!  I couldn’t even figure out how to search for books at first.  They need to sort out their user interface – it’s so non-intuitive.  On the other hand, I think the Baen ebook store is fantastic.  I love their policy of offering non-DRM’d books in multiple formats and buying and downloading books from them is super-easy.

Oh, I’m a complete ebook convert.

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Quickies

In an attempt to get on top of the books I’ve read in the past couple of months, here are some quick reviews of books I’ve enjoyed recently:

21mhyl5v2b5l__aa_sl160_.jpg“Mirror Prince” by Violette Malan (fantasy) – An impulse buy for me, I was drawn in by the Charlaine Harris blurb on the cover!  The plot?  The hero thinks he’s human, but he’s actually a prince exiled from Faerie, and his enemies are after him.  And without giving too much away, yes, there’s a love interest.

I thought the prologue was slightly disconnected from the main story – in fact, I picked this book up a few times, but never got past the first few pages.  Once I got past the slow start though, I was drawn into the story – I wanted to know how it would end.  It works as a standalone book, though there are hints of a sequel, and Ms Malan creates an interesting fantasy world.  The not-so-great bits:  I would have liked more character development – the characters never really came *alive* to me; and their names… aarrghhh.  Each character has two names, and keeping them straight was a nightmare.  Having said that though, it was a great debut novel and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for other books by this author.  Grade: B-

21j38ns2bvfl__aa_sl160_.jpg“Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson (fantasy) – This is a heist-style story set in a fantasy world with lots of political intrigue.  I loved the creative magical system in this book – magic is based on metals, and Mr Sanderson has an almost scientific approach to it (in a good way!).  Well-developed characters and great action scenes as well.  I didn’t like the random POVs he started introducing towards the end of the book, but according to his annotations (excellent btw – I read them after I finished the book, and thought it was a fantastic behind-the-scenes type bonus), he used them purposefully to introduce a sense of climax and chaos.  I’m still not entirely sure if it worked, but I did enjoy this book and will get the next one in this trilogy.  Grade: B+

21a5egw6lzl__aa_sl160_.jpg“An Affair Before Christmas” by Eloisa James (historical romance) – I’m a big Eloisa James fan, and well, I loved this.  It’s the second book in her “Desperate Duchesses” series.  This actually sat in my TBR pile for quite a bit – it came out early Nov, IIRC, but I only read it over Christmas.  In a way, I’m glad I waited for Christmas because it’s a nice and Christmassy book!  It’s a marriage-in-trouble setting – some may say a rather contrived problem.  So while I do like stories that focus on what happens *after* the wedding, this was probably the main reason I didn’t read it earlier – I was thinking “oh, no, it’s going to be boring!”.  It wasn’t, and this is one of the things I love about Ms James’ books – that she can take storylines that have been used a million times and make them her own.

I also loved the setting – I’m a sucker for Georgian settings and I thought the decadence and lushness of this era was conveyed better than the previous book, IMHO.  Also realistic, especially on the major beehives they wore back then!  To me, this book was classic Eloisa James – beautiful writing, sizzling sex scenes, and yes, a large cast of characters.  Now I like the ensemble-cast books – I love the fact that we get to know not just the main h/h, but everyone else as well – but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste.  I think I compared the Duke of Villiers unfavourably with Georgette Heyer’s Duke of Avon in the last book – this time around, I’m happy to say I wasn’t tempted to compare the two at all!  He definitely came into his own in this book and had quite a lot of page time.

In a way, Ms James reminds me of Suzanne Brockmann – the way she drags out this overall plot arc over the whole series.  I wonder when she’s going to write Jemma and Elijah’s story (and I really hope they end up together).  A keeper for me and I *want* the rest in this series.  Grade: A

Around the Web

In case you haven’t yet heard, Diana Gabaldon has a new blog – yay!  Also, she’s put up a picture of a young Claire on her website (scroll about halfway down the page, in the Jan 11 post) – that’s Claire in the upcoming Outlander graphic novel (2009). 

What I didn’t realise was that it’s actually a brand-new story set in the Outlander universe, not a version of an existing book.  Very cool – I can’t wait to see pictures of the other characters.  I like the Claire pic, it looks somewhat like how I imagine her to be and it has the right period-feel to it.

Speaking of pictures, the cover for the next Lois McMaster Bujold book is up on her website (scroll down).  This is for the third book, “Passage”, in her “The Sharing Knife” series (April 2008). 

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t grab me.  The first two covers were much better – they had an otherworld-type quality and definitely said “fantasy” to me.  And they matched each other, IMO.  This one has a turn-of-the-century frontier feel to it, not fantasy.  I think the two people in the background are a distraction, but then again, if it was just Dag and Fawn, maybe it would be too much like a romance.  Not quite sure about the body language between Dag and Fawn as well.  On the other hand, I (still) haven’t read the second book “Legacy” (sigh, TBR pile guilt), so it’s difficult for me to say whether this one fits the series or not…

The Year in Review – Part 5

Final post, and this time, looking ahead to 2008 (or the next eleven and a half months, anyway) based on 2007 reading.

So, in 2008, I predict:

  • I’m going to get started on ebooks!  Just because of my new Sony reader, which I *love love love*.  I’ve been downloading books (Baen Free Library’s a great starter source for SF/F, btw).  I’ve read one full-length novel and three short story collections so far on the reader, and have around err… unread ten books on it at the moment.  Not bad for just over a week.  And the instant gratification part of it is just – wow.  Read a review of a book you like?  Five minutes later it’s on your reader (I figure I’ll get that time down once I actually get to grips with the software, but that’s a moan for another time).  I really don’t want to see my credit card bill for this month.
     
  • I’ll read roughly the same number of new books I read in 2007, so between 150 to 200.  I don’t see this number increasing – it may even decrease because I don’t count re-reads, and I suspect I’ll take advantage of my ebook reader to do re-reads of old favourites.
     
  • The mix of genres I read now will not change substantially.  I think the number of historical romances I read has been falling steadily over the past year or so. A couple of years back, I predominantly read historical romance, but now, I probably read more urban fantasy / paranormal romance.  I’ve always enjoyed this subgenre, and there’s so many more books out there now.
     
  • Blogging-wise – well, I averaged about 12 posts a month in 2007.  I suspect it’ll remain the same as well in 2008.  It’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed having my own place on the web!

What I want to do in 2008 blog/book-wise – not quite resolutions, because I never manage to keep those…

  • I’d like to do better on the review front – in an ideal world, I’d review all the books I’ve read.  As it stands, I slacked off in the last quarter when real life got in the way and I’ve a whole backlog of books I want to mention.
      
  • Mmm… maybe become a bit more disciplined around my blog posts.  Come up with some sort of structure and be organised enough to do monthly wrap-ups.  I already post the list of books I want to get each month, so I’m partway there…
     
  • Redo my blog template – it’s okay, but the sidebar’s starting to get a bit unwieldy.  A bit limited on this front as I’m too cheap to shell out for custom templates.  LOL.
     
  • Redo the way I track my reads – For lack of a better idea (and spare time), I’m sticking with the sidebar pages to list the books I’ve read in January so far.  I’ve grouped the 2007 ones under a master page so it doesn’t look too messy.  But I want to do it properly… ahhh, I actually just want Jennie’s archives 🙂

Previous posts:

  • Part 1 – Quick look at the first third of the year
  • Part 2 – I ramble on about reading stats for the year
  • Part 3 – My favourite books for 2007
  • Part 4 – New-to-me authors during 2007

Around the Web

Patricia Briggs posted a January update on her website.  Have I mentioned that I just loved her latest Mercy book, “Iron Kissed”?  It was everything an urban fantasy should be.  And I was so rooting for the guy she picked.  Heh.  I’m really pleased she didn’t drag on that love triangle.  I’m not entirely sure if it was *too* tidy, but I did like how it was resolved.

Ms Briggs also had a online chat some time back – if you can’t be bothered wading through the transcript for the important bits, I’ve done the dirty work 🙂  Ummm… I think I’ve picked out the interesting parts – however, I may have skipped and/or misinterpreted some bits…

  • She has a short story in an anthology, “Wolfsbane and Mistletoe”, coming out in October 2008 – this focuses on David the mercenary from “Moon Called”.  I’m completely blanking on this character, methinks I will have to reread “Moon Called”.  As an aside, Charlaine Harris is co-editing this anthology, and there will be a Sookie Stackhouse story as well.
     
  • Vampires make a return in the next Mercy book – expected to be out next Jan (sigh)

The rest are spoilers for “Iron Kissed”, so only read on if you’ve finished “Iron Kissed” – or really, if you don’t care one way or the other, err… in which case, never mind…

**SPOILER**SPOILER**SPOILER**SPOILER**

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  • The next Mercy book will start where “Iron Kissed” left off, i.e. in the bedroom.  I’m glad it does actually, it doesn’t feel like a cop-out that way – err… that is, if she means what I think she means.  And I think it’ll be an important scene.

Finally, re the way the book ended, Ms Briggs posted an explanation on her website –  I thought it was a really thoughtful article explaining why she wrote what she wrote. 

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The Year in Review – Part 4

Okay, I’m almost done with my Year in Review posts – promise.  The dangers of having a spreadsheet!

In this post, I’m covering new-to-me authors.  During 2007, I read books by 95 authors – of which 44 were new-to-me authors.  I was quite surprised by that number as I didn’t think I was that adventurous in my reading.

Looking a bit more closely into the detail, only around ten were “proper” debut authors during 2007; I read a lot of non-2007 books during the year. 

Also, I obviously rely on the internet when it comes to finding new authors – I came across two-thirds of this group either via internet reviews or mentions, mostly from blogs.  The rest came from me browsing in the bookstore, where I know book placement and/or covers (including cover blurbs, because I’m gullible that way) persuaded me to try out a good few.

So did I find any new favourites?  Well, I don’t think I would care to read 21 of them again, I’m still on the fence when it comes to eight authors (so I would still get their next book), but yes, I definitely would read the remaining 15.

And these are, in alphabetical order:

  • Barbara Michaels / Elizabeth Peters (mystery) – Umm… I don’t think I need to expand very much on this one.  I now know more about Egyptology than I ever expected I would.
  • Deborah Donnelly (cosy mystery) – Loved her Wedding Planner series, which I read at the beginning of the year – I’m always on the lookout for more cosy mysteries.
  • Eva Ibbotson (YA romance) – I’m not entirely sure about the YA part, but that’s where her books are shelved.  I included both the books I read on my 2007 favourites list.
  • Jacqueline Winspear (mystery) – Another period mystery author – 1930s London.
  • Jenna Black (urban fantasy) – I really liked the “The Devil Inside” (that kicked off her Morgan Kingsley series), not so much her other series, so a qualified yes.
  • John Flanagan (YA fantasy) – His books are aimed at a younger audience, but I do like.  I should really try and figure out why I enjoy YA fiction so much.
  • John Scalzi (SF) – I like his blog and I like his books.  Entertaining reads both.
  • Kerry Greenwood (mystery) – Err… yet another period mystery author, this time 1920s Melbourne.  Rec’d by Marg at the Historical Tapestries blog.  My only complaint is that these books are rather expensive, so I’ve only read one so far.
  • Laura Lee Guhrke (historical romance) – Not sure why I haven’t read her before actually, but loved her book “And Then He Kissed Her”.  I’ve the second in this series in my TBR. 
  • Meljean Brook (paranormal romance) – Feeling a bit guilty on this one, as her second novel “Demon Moon” is buried in my TBR pile – must read before her third book “Demon Night” comes out next month.
  • Nathalie Mallet (fantasy) – Her debut novel “Princes of the Golden Cage” was fantasy with a murder-mystery in it.  While some parts were unpolished, it kept me engrossed until the end.
  • Rachel Gibson (contemporary romance) – I don’t read much contemporary romance, but I really loved a couple of her books I read this year.
  • Richelle Mead (urban fantasy) – I loved her first book “Succubus Blues” and I have the follow-up “Succubus on Top” in my TBR pile.
  • Roberta Gellis (mystery) – Her medieval mysteries wowed me with the detail – I plan to try some of her other books soon.
  • Violette Malan (fantasy) – Another one I have yet to review, but in short, her debut novel, “The Mirror Prince”, had an intriguing storyline and good worldbuilding, though I would have liked to see more character development, and oh, the names drove me mad.

Finally, for what it’s worth – my “success” rate when it came to internet recs was 41% v. 29% for bookstore browsing… 

Previous posts:

  • Part 1 – Quick look at the first third of the year
  • Part 2 – I ramble on about reading stats for the year
  • Part 3 – My favourite books for 2007

The Year in Review – Part 3

My favourite books of 2007 – roughly in reading order:

** Patricia Briggs‘ “Blood Bound” (urban fantasy) – The second book in her Mercy series didn’t disappoint.  I’ve just finished the third (“Iron Kissed”) and can safely say this is one of my all-time favourite series.  It stands out from the hundred and one werewolf urban fantasy series out there.

** Elizabeth Peters‘ “The Falcon at the Portal” and “He Shall Thunder in the Sky” (mystery) – I loved the entire Amelia Peabody series, but these two books are my favourite because of the romance.  Rambling series review here.

** Kelley Armstrong‘s “No Humans Involved” (urban fantasy) – I love all her books and the seventh book in her Otherworld series is no exception.  Review here.  Her Nadia Armstrong book, “Exit Strategy”, nearly made it onto this list as well…

** Jacqueline Winspear‘s “Maisie Dobbs” (mystery) – Set in 1930s London, this is the first book in her Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series.  I love the post-WWI setting and all the period detail – Ms Winspear really brings the era to life.  Series review here.

** Jacqueline Carey‘s “Kushiel’s Justice” (dark fantasy) – This is the second book in her Imriel trilogy, but definitely doesn’t suffer from the “middle-child” syndrome.  I posted some thoughts about it here, but appear to have spent more space ranting about the spoiler on the copyright page than actually talking about the book.

** JK Rowling‘s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (YA fantasy) – Well, this just had to be on my list!  I thought it wrapped up the series perfectly.

** Suzanne Brockmann‘s “Force of Nature” and “All Through the Night” (romantic suspense) – I’m a big Jules fan, and I’m glad he finally got his HEA.  Apart from that, I thought FoN was classic Brockmann, with a great ending.  Review of ATTN here.

** Eva Ibbotson‘s “The Secret Countess” and “The Morning Gift” (YA romance) – Jennie’s review inspired me to buy the former, and I’m so glad I did.  It’s the perfect feel-good story.  Review of “The Secret Countess” here.  “The Morning Gift” is just as good – I don’t think I could pick the one I like better (some initial thoughts on it here).

** Diana Gabaldon‘s “Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade” (historical mystery) – She’s one of my favourite authors, and Lord John’s one of her most fascinating characters.  I don’t think think anyone else out there writes the way she does.

** Nalini Singh‘s “Caressed by Ice” (paranormal romance) – Third in her Psy-Changeling series, this was the one that wowed me.  I don’t think I reviewed it (lazy me!), but I loved the romance and the world-building.

** Lisa Kleypas‘ “Mine Till Midnight” (historical romance) – Ms Kleypas is a relatively new-to-me author, but now one of my auto-buys.  I liked how Cam wasn’t a typical hero and loved his story.

** Sharon Shinn‘s “Reader and Raelynx” (fantasy) – Fourth in her Twelve Houses series.  I think I would read anything Ms Shinn writes.  Fangirl gush aside – I thought this wrapped up her Twelve Houses series very well… but I’m still hoping for one more.   

** Eloisa James‘ “An Affair Before Christmas” (historical romance) – I loved this one.  I haven’t yet done a review (am waaaaay behind), but I thought it was better than the first book (“Desperate Duchess”) in this series.  Loved the Georgian setting, her writing, the cast of characters… everything about this book really!

Previous posts:

  • Part 1 – Quick look at the first third of the year
  • Part 2 – I ramble on about reading stats for the year

Squeeeee…

Guess what?  I got a Sony Reader!

I wasn’t going to get one – really.  I just wanted to see what they looked like in real life.  So I walked into this Sony store, and there it was.  And it was just so sleek and shiny and sexy.  I don’t know why, but I thought it would be, well, thicker.  More like a paperback.  But it isn’t.  It’s really slim and the perfect size.  So I ummmed and ahhhed for a day, and went back to get it.  My new toy.  I’ve been playing with it for a few hours now and it’s beautiful.  I haven’t actually tried to read anything on it though – LOL.  Maybe that will shatter my illusions.  I think I’ll take some time to get used to the refresh rate on the pages – it takes about a second or so.  I think it’s just a different style of reading – not too worried about that at the moment. 

Also, major book haul – it was a rather productive holiday in Boston, all in all.

Not only did I get six of the books I wanted for January – all except Catherine Asaro’s “The Ruby Dice” (not yet out) and Janet Evanovich’s “Plum Lucky” (I was strong and did not cave in) – I also got… *deep breath*

“Shadow Music” by Julie Garwood (historical romance) – I know, I know.  Reviews aren’t great and it’s a hardback.  But I couldn’t not get Julie Garwood’s first historical in years.

“Firebirds” and “Firebirds Rising” (SF/F anthologies) – Firebird is an SF/F imprint aimed at teenagers, and these are their first two anthologies of original short stories.  I admit I only picked up “Firebirds Rising” for the Sharon Shinn story, but liked the other pages that I flipped through, so I bought it.  Other authors in these anthologies that I wanted to read were Sherwood Smith and Tamora Pierce – I’ve only read a couple of other stories so far, but it’s all good.

“The State of the Onion” by Julie Hyzy (cosy mystery) – Centred on the adventures of a White House chef.  Impulse buy – I was looking at the New Releases rack.  Book placement works.

“Dangerous to Know” by Mary Jo Putney (historical romance) – I didn’t get this when it first came out because it was a re-issue of “The Diabolical Baron” (which I already had) and another novella, but it was on sale!  And I do like the cover of this one.

“The Seventh Sinner”, “The Night of 400 Rabbits”, and “The Dead Sea Cipher” by Elizabeth Peters (mystery) – Ahhh.  Couldn’t resist.  I’m sure there are a *few* more EPs that I haven’t yet read.

“The Spymaster’s Lady” by Joanna Bourne (historical romance) – Wasn’t meaning to get this one, but what the heck?  Online buzz has convinced me.

“Magic Study” by Maria V Snyder (fantasy) – Again, wasn’t meaning to get this one in trade paperback, because the first book in this series didn’t wow me, but I was swayed by the cover.

“Line of Sight” by Rachel Caine (paranormal romance, I think) – This is part of Silhouette’s Athena Force series.  While I haven’t *loved* anything by Rachel Caine recently, she writes a good story. 

I don’t even want to think about my credit card bill next month.  I couldn’t help it – books were so cheap in the States! 

What else?  Oh, I finished Patricia Briggs‘ “Iron Kissed” – WOW.  Even though I was completely jetlagged and I couldn’t sleep until I reached the last page.  And I did some chapter re-reads the following day to make sure I didn’t miss anything. 

And I haven’t even mentioned the Amazon delivery that was waiting for me when I got back – three Noel Streatfeild books that I ordered after watching “Ballet Shoes” on telly over Christmas (great adaptation and actors include Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame, but I get the feeling the book will be better).

I was actually feeling pleased at my attempt to tackle my TBR pile during the holidays, but now… uh-oh. 

Around the Web

I wanted to post my favourite reads of 2007 before disappearing on hols (short shopping break – yay!) but it doesn’t look as though it’s going to happen.

So instead, here’s some Kelley Armstrong news – she’s posted her January website updates, including her newsletter.  Even better, she’s put up her 2008 release schedule.

It looks as though we’re going to be completely spoiled in 2008 -*two* Otherworld books (“Personal Demon” in April and Book 9 in December).  And a new YA book set in the same universe in August.

On the downside, it looks as though the second Nadia Stafford book and the “Men of the Otherworld” book will be delayed to 2009.  While I did like the Nadia book, I prefer urban fantasy so not hugely bothered.  And we have read the draft version of MotO online anyway…

The Year in Review – Part 2

I should have better things to do with my time… but oh no.  I’ve finally finished transferring my 2007 reading into a spreadsheet, so what’s the first thing I do? 

Ta-dahhh!  A graphical representation of my 2007 reading:

2007_1.jpg 

January was a very good month for reading!  I did pretty well during summer as well, though towards the end of the year, I just haven’t had much time for reading.  I did make a bit of an effort to get through my TBR pile in December (reviews to come).

Overall, a pretty good mix of fantasy, mystery, and romance – although I admit if you dig down into the detail, you’ll find most of the non-romance books have pretty strong romance threads running through them.  The one non-fiction book I did read in 2007 was Georgette Heyer’s biography, so that was romance-related as well!

Quick stats for the year:

  • 183 books read in total – Mysteries made up about a third, as did romance, while fantasy books accounted for around one-fifth
  • And I read books by around 95 authors – I say around, as I’m excluding anthologies from this count
  • Most-read author: Elizabeth Peters (surprise, surprise) – 30 EPs plus 6 of her Barbara Michaels books
  • 2nd most-read author: Eloisa James – 13 books in total and I finished her backlist this year

 For the next post, I promise I’ll stop blathering on about overall stats and start naming books – and authors!

Previous posts:

  • Part 1 – Quick look at the first third of the year