Around the Web

Oooh – go and check out Patricia Briggsnew covers for her older fantasy books (the March 26 entry).  I like the “When Demons Walk” and “The Hob’s Bargain” ones, but think I preferred the old “Dragon Bones” cover.   Not entirely sure about the new “Steal the Dragon” cover, though it’s definitely an improvement over the old.  Agree that the old covers were looking a bit dated – I think the new ones are aimed at the Mercy readers.  

Kelley Armstrong has set up a website for her new YA “Darkest Powers” series.  Errr… too many clicky-things and moving pictures for me, but I don’t think it’s aimed at people like me!  The cover of the first book “The Summoning” is up – I think it looks great.

On the cover theme, here’s the French cover of Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “The Sharing Knife: Beguilement”.  It’s so completely different from the American one.  I like the imagery, but more colour would have been nice.

Books for April

217jwo36r2bl__aa_sl160_.jpgETA: I’m rubbish – I completely forgot about Jo Beverley‘s “A Lady’s Secret” (historical romance).  Seeing it in the bookstore today was a nice surprise!  It’s set in the Georgian era, and I’m pretty sure it’s part of her Malloren family series.  I’m also getting her two-in-one traditional regency reissues, “Lovers and Ladies”, when it appears on the shelves.  Ms Beverley blogged a bit about “A Lady’s Secret” on Word Wenches, btw. 

Excerpt here .

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Books I want to get this month:

21yskqc-xpl__aa_sl160_.jpgElizabeth Vaughan‘s “Dagger-Star” (fantasy romance) – I loved her Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy, and am looking forward to this one, which is set in the same world but with a different cast of characters, from what I can gather.  I think it’ll be interesting to see the Warlands from a different perspective.  The cover’s very… bright.  Striking.  I’m pretty sure it’ll stand out on the shelves due to colour alone. 

Excerpt here (out April 1).

21isv88habl__aa_sl160_.jpg2100kwwr5rl__aa_sl160_.jpgKaren Chance‘s “Embrace the Night” (urban fantasy) – Third book in the Cassandra Palmer series.  I really like this series – my thoughts on the second book “Claimed by Shadow” are here.  I’ve uploaded both the UK and US covers – UK on the left, US on the right.  Same picture, it’s just that they’ve gone for monochrome in the UK and changed the position and fonts used for the title and author’s name.  No idea why. 

Excerpt here (out April 1).

214p7q1lg5l__aa_sl160_.jpgLois McMaster Bujold‘s “Passages” (fantasy) – Third in her Sharing Knife series.  After my little fangirl squee over “Legacy”, I’m obviously going to get “Passages” now.  Not blown away by the cover, but I don’t think it’ll be the deciding factor for people buying this book. 

Umm… can’t find an excerpt, but blurb here (out April 22). 

 21uv5nuemnl__aa_sl160_.jpgLisa Shearin‘s “Armed and Magical” (fantasy) – Second in her Raine Benares series.  I wasn’t completely blown away by the first book “Magic Lost, Trouble Found”, but I thought the ending was clever and that this series had potential.  I love the cover too – it captures Raine’s attitude perfectly, IMO. 

Excerpt here (out April 29 – so I suppose this is technically a May book).

31okquwm16l__aa_sl160_.jpgElizabeth Peters‘ “Night Train to Memphis” (mystery) – Heh.  This is not a new release, but a re-issue.  It’s the one Vicky Bliss book I haven’t yet read (until the new one comes out in September!).  I have been searching everywhere for this one, so I’m super-happy they’re reissuing it (out 24 April).

I’m wondering about:

21je5llnizl__aa_sl160_.jpgSherry Thomas‘ “Private Arrangements” (historical romance) – I can’t remember the latest book that got so much buzz in blogland.  Maybe Joanna Bourne’s “The Spymaster’s Lady”?  Which err… is sitting in my TBR pile.  And has been since Jan.  Sigh.  I’ll probably get this one too, but not just yet.  I like the cover, but to me, it conveys this medieval feel.  And I’m pretty sure it’s set in the late 1800s.

Ebooks – The Downsides

Okay, I love my Sony Reader with a passion, but here’s why I still appreciate paper books.

#1 Paper books never give you panic attacks: My reader completely froze up the other night.  No response whatsoever.  If it weren’t for Google and the MobileRead forums, I’d probably have just sat and wept.  Anyway, after a few panicked minutes, I figured out that its battery was probably drained (despite two bars showing) and the solution was to charge it for a few hours.  And it worked – was I relieved!  I know it sounds like a simple solution, but trust me, you never get this worried about a paper book.

#2 I miss the book covers: I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to covers, so only seeing them in blurry black-and-white just doesn’t do it for me.  Maybe once colour e-ink technology makes an appearance, that will change.  Though the special effects, such as foil or embossing, still won’t come through.  Sigh.

#3 It’s easy to flip through the pages:  Until I started reading ebooks, I had no idea how often I flipped back and forth while reading.  Or skimmed the boring bits.  And it’s not easy doing that on the reader.  It takes about a second for the screen to refresh each time, so if I’m not sure where the passage I want to reread is, it can take a while.  On the positive side, I’m paying more attention when reading now!

#4 I can share them: I can’t share my ebooks.  Not without loaning out my reader – and nope, not going to do that.  So if, say, I want to get a book that I know my sis wants to read as well, I’ve to buy the paper version.  Unless she gets an ebook reader as well, and that’s probably not going to happen since she’s more of a casual reader.  And also, I can’t loan books I’ve really liked to friends.  Sure, I can still talk about them, but it’s not a “here, you’ve got to read this”-type thing.

#5 I don’t have to convert them: I grumbled about this when I first got my ebook reader – figuring how to convert all the different formats into something readable by the Sony Reader wasn’t fun.  Now?  It’s still a pain but to be honest, it only takes a couple of minutes max to get it sorted.  I wouldn’t complain if all vendors offered the Sony LRF format, but it’s not a dealbreaker.

Having said these – nothing can beat the sheer convenience of instantly getting the books you want.  Or not having to lug ten books on holiday just because you’re not sure what reading mood you’ll be in.  Or freeing up that shelf for something other than books.

I’m still hugely glad I caved in and got my reader  😀

This and That

Jennie and her sis have set up an unofficial website for Mary Stewart!  I think it looks fantastic.  I’ve never read any of Ms Stewart’s books before, but I really want to now.  Any author that can inspire fans to set up a website like that has to be good  😀

And how are you doing in the Dear Author / SBTB DABWAHA?  At this very moment, I’m joint 22nd – which is my highest position so far!  Yes, I know I’m tied with 11 others but let me savour the moment.

I’ve got Patricia Briggs’ “Blood Bound” as my Predicted Champion – she made it past Meljean Brook’s “Demon Angel” (that was a toughie) and is up against Colleen Gleason’s “The Rest Falls Away” in Round 3.  Fingers crossed.

Good Book Day

The weather’s all over the place today – started off with bright sunshine and then gale-force winds (well, almost), then it snowed (!) and then became drizzly and now it’s sunny again.  I did venture out to go shopping (and wasn’t the only one with the same idea – the shops were packed) and came back with… Kelley Armstrong‘s “Personal Demon” and Lee Child‘s “Nothing to Lose”! 

Yes – all sorted for the long Easter weekend  😉

21q9whs2bv0l__aa_sl160_.jpgAlso, thoughts on a couple of books I read recently – Julie Anne Long‘s “The Perils of Pleasure” was a B- for me.  She has a lovely unique descriptive way of writing – here’s one passage that I really liked.  Madeleine and Colin are on the run, and finally find somewhere safe where they can sleep.  They have an argument over who should stay awake to keep watch, and Madeleine persuades Colin to try out the flour sacks that they plan on using as a bed first, knowing that he’s completely exhausted:

All she had to do now was wait.

And not for long, as it turned out.  For his eyes soon began to take on a faintly surprised, abstracted… inward sort of look.  His body, little by little, was registering the softness and give of those sacks.

She’d seen that very expression before: on a cat when it crossed into a sunbeam.  It was all about helpless, inevitable surrender.

How perfect is that analogy!  While the romance wasn’t 100% convincing, this was a much better read compared to the last JAL book I read (“Ways to be Wicked”) – am glad I gave her another go.

21j6ojd-bwl__aa_sl160_.jpgAlso on Richelle Mead‘s “Succubus on Top” – I really liked the first book, “Succubus Blues”, and so picked this up when it came out back in January (see, I’m making an effort to tackle my TBR pile).  I liked it – it’s a B for me, but it’s a hard one to categorise genre-wise. 

To me, it’s a romance because the main conflict is all about Georgina and Seth not being able to be together – because she’s a succubus and if they get it on, she uses his lifeforce and shortens his life.  But this book also breaks the “rules” of romance – because she’s a succubus and has to have sex with other men in order to live.  So it’s a hard one – romance or urban fantasy?  Who’s the audience for these books?  Will romance readers be squicked out at the thought of the heroine having sex with other men?  Will it be too romance-y for fantasy readers?  I’ve no idea.

The romance didn’t quite work for me – I think Seth is an incredibly sexy man, but he’s a bit too… passive in the relationship for me.  What does he see in Georgina?  Also, one of the subplots struck me as inconsistent – as a succubus (i.e. denizen of Hell), you would think Georgina and her fellow succubi / inccubi / whatever would be all about sowing unrest in the human world.  So why are they trying to bring down the leader of this ultra-conservative faction that’s promoting intolerance, etc?  Surely they would be supporting them.  There is a belated sort-of explanation towards the end, but this really struck me as not being well-thought through.  Perhaps the underlying problem is that Ms Mead has to make Georgina a sympathetic character especially since this is first-person (and succeeds in my view, btw), but then ends up having plot inconsistencies like this because well, she’s a succubus.

Having said that, I enjoy this series (love the bureaucratic version of Hell Ms Mead has created and the secondary characters) and this book has progressed the overall story arc.  I’ll continue reading and hope there is a HEA conclusion for Georgina and Seth (and without a deus ex machina type device being used).

The TBR Pile Increases

I had a 15% off coupon for Fictionwise, so here’s what I bought this week:

A bundle of Suzanne Brockmann‘s “Tall, Dark And Dangerous” books (romantic suspense) – Now this is cool.  Someone mentioned on the AAR boards that Harlequin was releasing this series as ebook bundles.  I love this series, but a lot of them are hard to find.  There are three different bundles, and I’d read the ones in Part 1 and 3, so I passed – though I am tempted to buy them just to have e-versions around.  Anyway, Part 2 had the following:

I haven’t read the first three (at least, I don’t think so – and if I have it was ages ago!).  I’ve read “The Admiral’s Bride” relatively recently, and it’s not one of my favourites, but all in all, it’s a good selection for me!

Joan Wolf‘s “Lord Richard’s Mistress” (historical romance) – I’m a fan of her older historicals, and this is a new one to me.  I think this is one of her much earlier works, so I’ve no idea whether this is good or not.

21z32bqinuml__aa_sl160_.jpgMoira J Moore‘s “Heroes Adrift” (fantasy adventure) – Now this was an impulse buy because while I thought the first book in this series had potential, I really didn’t like the second – I thought the heroine was whiny and self-obsessed, and it was very almost a DNF.  So I’ve no idea why I picked this up – maybe it’s the cover (which btw, is completely misleading – it’s not a ship-based adventure despite the cover setting at all!). 

Anyway, I did finish it last night – it’s a quick read, definitely an improvement over the second book and there were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments for me.  But the plot twist was very obvious (and coming from me, that’s saying a lot!) and it’s not one of the books that leave much of an impression once you finish it.  Even though it’s a series, I don’t feel any more attached to the characters after the third book than I did after the first.  So while it’s a B- for me, it’s a bit of a qualified rec, because it’s not really a standalone, and to read book 3, you’d have to read book 2 which didn’t quite work for me…

210pv4054al__aa_sl160_.jpg217kdsf9h5l__aa_sl160_.jpgGoing off on a tangent, the cover for the third book is completely different to that of the first two books, even though Ms Moore’s website says they’ve all been done by the same artist.  The first two covers (first one on the left, and second on the right) seem to be aimed more at a YA audience, although I don’t think they were really YA fantasy books.  I do like the cover of “Heroes Adrift” – think it’s a huge improvement over the first two!

Finally, I also pre-ordered Elizabeth Vaughan‘s “Dagger-Star” (April 1) – looking forward to this one!

TBR Day: Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Sharing Knife – Legacy”

This is posted as part of Keishon’s TBR Day challenge, which is aimed at encouraging us readers with the towering TBR piles (you know who you are) to start tackling the books that have been languishing in there for eons.

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212b4xetwdl__aa_sl160_.jpgBook: The Sharing Knife: Legacy (2nd in the Sharing Knife series)

Author: Lois McMaster Bujold

Copyright date: 2007

Why did I buy the book?  Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my all-time favourite authors.  When I dicovered her Miles Vorkosigan SF series (relatively late – I think late 2006), I went on a massive glom and finished all of them within a couple of months.  A couple of them are A+ reads for me, and I do the occasional re-read every few months.  Ms Bujold then started a new fantasy series – the first book was “Beguilement”, followed by “Legacy”.

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long?  Well, I read “Beguilement” pretty much as soon as it was released, and I have to admit that it didn’t quite grab me.  Not because it wasn’t good (the reviews were all pretty amazing), but *sigh* I just wanted another Vorkosigan book – and let me just say, if you’ve ever read one, you’d understand why.  And this world Ms Bujold has created is just so completely different from the Vorkosigan universe.  So while I bought “Legacy” when it first came out, this book never quite made it to the top of the TBR pile.  Until now.

What is it about? 

Warning:  This review will contain spoilers for the first book.  It’s hard to separate the two books, and I will say “Legacy” is not a stand-alone book.  

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This book picks up exactly where the first book ends, so starts with Dag and Fawn on their honeymoon journey back to Lakewalker country.  Their marriage has been reluctantly accepted by Fawn’s family – now they find out how Dag’s family and community will react.  I don’t think it’ll give anything away to say that they’re not welcomed with open arms.  The news of Dag’s marriage with a Farmer girl is greeted with rather more than a raised eyebrow.  Before anything can be resolved, a vicious malice attack calls Dag away to lead a dangerous counter-attack, leaving Fawn alone to deal with the rising tensions in the Lakewalker camp.

So what did I think of it?

Right, in the first couple of chapters, I had trouble with the May-December aspect of Fawn and Dag’s relationship – I had to constantly keep reminding myself that he looks a couple of decades younger than he is.  Added to that, I also had trouble shutting out Miles’ voice completely – I read a couple of sentences and I either think “That is so Miles” or “How would Miles have reacted?”.  

But as I continued reading, it paid off – I become completely and utterly drawn into Fawn and Dag’s story.  It’s a… quiet story.  But not peaceful – no.  Ms Bujold always get the characters spot-on – every word, every action is completely true to the character’s  personality.  And oh, wonderful wonderful world-building.  The Lakewalker and Farmer communities, their power structure, the setting, the magic – all of these feels completely real and true.  On an aside, the physical setting, for some reason, I’m thinking Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn country.

The writing, well, there were a couple of scenes that stood out for me.  The night before Dag leaves on his mission – his worry for Fawn.  Especially if he didn’t come home.  Fawn’s fear and anxiety for Dag.  It was very very real.  And then when the patrol is closing in on the malice, the sheer weariness of the patrollers and their dogged determination to just keep on going – that was conveyed beautifully. 

As to the plot, I sort of knew how the book would end (hey, it’s been out almost a year now and the buzz about the next book has started), but what I didn’t know was how Dag and Fawn were going to get there.  They didn’t quite go about it the way I expected, but it was satisfactory. 

Umm… any niggles?  The sharing knife and malice explanations – I think I could have happily left it at sharing knives kill malices.  It made my head hurt to follow the explanations.  So I skimmed those bits.  Heh.  But it’s nice to know that err… it’s all been thought out properly.

Also, the underlying message about how the Lakewalker and farmer communities should work together, and how Lakewalkers shouldn’t isolate themselves from the rest of the world – hmmm… ever-so-slightly heavy-handed perhaps?

Finally, I’m wondering about Dag’s brother and his attitude – I’m getting the feeling there’s something unexplained there.  Or unfinished.  I hope we get to revisit that in a later book – there are two more planned in this series.

My conclusion? 

Well, I started the book late one evening, not feeling particularly excited about it, and reluctantly stopped about one-third through.  The next night, I stayed up until 2am to finish it.  It’s a solid A read for me – my second of the year. 

214p7q1lg5l__aa_sl160_.jpgI suspect I was just in the wrong mood when reading the first book, “Beguilement”.  Or just had very different expectations.  This book is really more a romance than a fantasy, if that makes sense. 

The third book, “Passages”, is out next month, and it’s definitely on my To Buy list.

Ebooks, etc

Tor’s giveaway of the week was Jo Walton‘s “Farthing”.  Am pleased with this one as it’s a book that I’ve been meaning to check out.  Next week’s book is Tobias Bucknell‘s “Crystal Rain” – again, he’s an author I’ve been curious about, so yay!

Oh, in case you were wondering why they were giving away ebooks, all is explained here.

And on ebook readers – I saw this Times article on “The £99 laptop” (manufactured by Elonex).  And the first thing I thought was hmm… potential ebook reader.  Apparently you can detach the screen from the keyboard, sort of tablet-style, but unfortunately the screen isn’t touchscreen as that was too expensive.  There’s wifi included (and Bluetooth as well if you upgrade to the £119 version). 

Possible downside?  The operating system is Linux, which I’m not hugely familiar with – hmm… remind me to check what ebook reader software is available on Linux. 

But all in all, very interesting possibilities here.  It launches in June, but to reserve one, they’re asking for a £10 deposit.

New Covers

51zoltroxwl__ss500_.jpgCame across this cover for Eloisa James‘ “Desperate Duchesses” on Amazon – it’s a UK edition that came out last month.  What do you think?  I like the the male hand holding a chess piece – very nice touch.  But major cleavage!  Hmm… probably quite true to the era though.

Also, on her website, she has the new cover for “Duchess by Night” (July 2008) up – my first thought was it’s green!  Am slightly puzzled by the model pose – she’s just sitting on her bed errr… showing off her legs.  I preferred the “An Affair Before Christmas” cover.

Julia Quinn‘s also unveiled the cover of her new book “The Lost Duke of Wyndham” (May 2008).  It’s very very different to her previous ones and almost like a TV adaptation book cover.  I think it would work if my mental image matches that of the models, else it could be rather distracting.  The UK covers (scroll down) are pretty consistent with her other books – more chick-lit cartoony characters style.  They’re inoffensive, IMO – they wouldn’t make me think “wow” but neither would they put me off.