The First Quarter of 2008

Okay, I’ve been wondering how to go about doing this, and I think I’m going to start off with a month-by-month review, based on notes made in my trusty reading spreadsheet. 

 

January

Highlights for me were Patricia Briggs’ “Iron Kissed” (urban fantasy), Eileen Wilks’ “Night Season” (urban fantasy) and Catherine Asaro’s “The Ruby Dice” (science fiction).  Now the first probably has had the most air-time (or is that blog-time), but I have much love for the other two as well. 

“Night Season” is the fourth book in Ms Wilks’ Lupi series – yes, werewolves as well, but so not Mercy Thompson.  Instead you have an equally kickass heroine in Lily Yu, a homicide detective, and a very alpha hero in Rule, the werewolf prince with a rather complicated family.

“The Ruby Dice” is the latest in Ms Asaro’s Skolian Empire series, and one that had me holding my breath up to the very end.  A very satisfying read.  If you’re a SF/Romance fan, you have to try this series.

I read 11 books in January, which was around average for me.  This included three Elizabeth Peters’ books (mystery, all standalone), so I was polishing off the rest of her backlist.

 

February 

Moving on to February, standouts for me were Julie Hyzy’s “State of the Onion” (cosy mystery), Nalini Singh’s “Mine to Possess” (paranormal romance), and Barbara Michaels’ “Stitches in Time” (mystery).

Ms Hyzy’s book was an impulse buy in a bookstore, and one that paid off in spades.  I really really liked – and moaned about the fact that not only was it the first in her White House Chef series, it was also her first cosy mystery.  Sigh.  I did note at that time that she had written a few suspense novels, which I still haven’t tracked down *checks The Book Depository and finds out that “Deadly Interest” is retailing for £20* umm… maybe not.

“Mine to Possess” was Clay and Tally’s story in Ms Singh’s Psy/Changeling series – one of the things I like most about this series is the worldbuilding and how the overall story arc is developing.

I continued reading Barbara Michaels a.k.a Elizabeth Peters backlist and “Stitches in Time” was a very spooky read.  This is loosely-linked to “Ammie, Come Home” and “Shattered Silk” – I think I preferred “Shattered Silk” best out of the three.

10 books read in total during February, but not a fantastic reading month.  I read Maria Snyder’s “Magic Study”, which *whispers* reinforced the fact that her books aren’t for me despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews elsewhere, Alexandra Potter’s “Me and Mr Darcy” my I-know-I-don’t-care-for-chicklit-so-why-do-I actually-buy-them purchase, and “My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon” anthology, where I only really liked three or so of the short stories (Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, and PN Elrod’s).

 

March

And then March – Keishon kicked off the TBR Day challenge and I started with Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Legacy”, which I loved.  This was the first blogland challenge I’ve participated in, mainly because I’m rather lazy and anything requiring me being organised normally ends in dismal failure.  But having viewed my TBR pile with horror at the beginning of the year, I decided anything that would make me read from my TBR pile would be a good thing.  And it was – it not only made me read books I already had, it made me post about them.  I daresay without this challenge, I would have been pretty rubbish at actually writing any reviews.

I also loved Deanna Raybourn’s “Silent in the Grave” (historical mystery), which I finally picked up after reading numerous recs.  This book totally wins my best opening line award for 2008: “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.”

I read Elizabeth Moon’s fifth and final book in her Vatta’s War series “Victory Conditions” (military SF) and thought it was easily the best in the series.  I also very much liked Jo Beverley’s “A Lady’s Secret” (historical romance) and JD Robb a.k.a Nora Roberts’ “Innocent in Death” (futuristic mystery), both part of long-running series, with the latter probably longer than most.

I read 15 books in total during March, and re-reading the list of books I read makes me smile, so it was a good month.

 

Much longer than I thought this would be – and nine months left to go!

My Rainy Day Fund

I was browsing the Waterstones website and noticed that they were running a competition to win one of two “hardback, original jacketed, first Atom editions” of “Twilight”.  Now I actually have this sitting on my bookshelf, so wondered how rare this version was.

Amazon is offering this for £12.99, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t be first edition?  So I hopped over to Abebooks and looked up first edition Twilights – two are on offer, one for £420 and £599.  The two actually signed by Stephenie Meyer are being offered for over £1000. 

Ummm.  Must make sure not to misplace this.

It’s That Post-Christmas Period…

Which means that it’s that time of the year when “The Year in Review” and “Best of 2008” lists start appearing all over the place.  And yes, I will be doing mine too.

Last year, I got all excited about having a spreadsheet to analyse my reading over 2007 and came up with a whole bunch of statistics and graphs.  I’m such a geek.  And hmmm… I suspect I’ll be doing the same this year. 

Also, I’ll be posting about my favourite reads from 2008 over at The Book Smugglers next week (umm… yeah, must write up that post today).  I’ve been horribly remiss in not mentioning Thea and Ana’s Smugglivus earlier (pre-countdown, countdown, actual Smugglivus, etc) – on the other hand, if they’re not on your feed readers already, what are you waiting for?

My O_o Moment of the Day

I was checking out a bookstore in a new shopping centre today… guess what section was sandwiched between the “True Crime” and “Autobiographies / Biographies” shelves?

… “Tragic Life Stories”

I’m all for signposting sections in bookstores and all, but who on earth wakes up in the morning and thinks “I’m really in the mood for tragic life stories today”?!!

Holidays!

After a really hectic month or so, I am now officially on holiday until the New Year!  Even better, my Amazon order with Juliet Marillier’s “Son of the Shadows” finally arrived yesterday.  Perfect weekend reading.

I’ve been rubbish at blogging recently, but here are some not-so-recent reads that I’ve liked:

I enjoyed Jenna Black’s “The Devil’s Due” (third in her Morgan Kingsley UF series).  I had a couple of issues with the second book (mainly around a slightly unsympathetic protagonist and TSTL secondary characters), but this one totally worked for me.  Probably one of the few mainstream UF series out there with a secondary m/m romance with BDSM leanings as well – though feel free to prove me wrong  ;-)  I’m looking forward to the next.

Also really liked Julie Hyzy’s “Hail to the Chef” (second in her White House Chef cosy mystery series).  I would have liked a bit more romance (okay, a lot more – it was practically MIA here), but I love the way she incorporates White House traditions and protocol into her books.

Jim Butcher’s “Princeps’ Fury” (fifth in his Codex Alera fantasy series) was also an enjoyable read.  I was thinking about this series the other night, and came to the conclusion that it is “safe” fantasy – you know that the good guys always eventually win and no one you’ve invested in will be killed off.  Which means that you can read it late at night and know you’ll sleep soundly afterwards.  Does that sound silly?  Anyway, entertaining as always.

So plans for my first day of hols?*  Watching the Strictly Come Dancing final, followed by “Son of the Shadows”.  I’m probably growing old, but at the moment, that sounds like the perfect Saturday night.

 

*Yes, I know technically the first day is Monday, but still!

TBR Day: Donna Andrew’s “Murder with Peacocks”

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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51863G4YZPL._SL160_ Book: Murder with Peacocks (cosy mystery) – excerpt here

Author: Donna Andrews

Copyright Date: 1999

Why did I buy this book?  I’m always on the lookout for new cosy mysteries.

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long?  Because my last couple of impulse buys in this subgenre have been, well, shall we say more miss than hit?  But I read the anthology “Unusual Suspects” a couple of weeks ago, liked Donna Andrews’ contribution, looked her up and realised that she wrote cosy mysteries.  So I made a mental note to check out her books, then thought a bit harder, and delved into the depths of my TBR pile.  Sure enough, Ms Andrews’ “Murder with Peacocks” was there.

What is it about?  Meg Langslow is going to have a rather busy summer, she’s maid of honour for three weddings – her mum’s, best friend’s, and sister-in-law-to-be’s.  She heads back to her hometown to help organise the weddings, and finds herself involved in a series of possible homicides and near-fatal accidents.

So what did I think of it?  This book won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel back when it first came out, according to the front cover.  So after enjoying her short story in “Unusual Suspects” and seeing that award, it’s probably fair to say I had rather high expectations for this one.

Unusually for a cosy mystery, there isn’t much focus on Meg’s profession – she’s an ornamental blacksmith, but seeing she takes the summer off, I suppose there wasn’t much scope for exploring the ins and outs of blacksmithing.  The focus instead is very much on wedding preparations together with Meg’s family and friends.  Her hometown is populated with a whole cast of eccentric characters, of which her family are probably the craziest.  It’s not quite slapstick, but close to it, and sometimes it worked for me, and other times it didn’t.

I thought the pacing was too slow at the beginning, though it picked up once the first murder occurred.  The trying-to-throw-suspicion-on-everyone conversations were slightly boring, mainly because a lot of suspects just didn’t feel plausible.  Meg doesn’t really play amateur sleuth in this one – it’s her dad that takes up the investigation with gusto, and Meg just gets dragged into his various madcap schemes.

Character-wise, I liked Meg, but I felt as though she was rather doormat-ish in the way she just agreed to do everything for the three brides-to-be.  I mean, she was doing them a favour in the first place.  If it had been me, I’d told them exactly where to get off.  And there could have been a tad bit more chemistry between Meg and her romantic interest.  I wasn’t really feeling the attraction on her part nor the frustration on his part.  Having said that, I did like their blossoming relationship, and the ending made me want to read the next book.

My conclusion?  I’m wondering whether my OCD-ish need to start series from the beginning means that I start with books where the author hasn’t really hit his or her stride yet.  Despite my issues with this book, I thought there was some promise here, so I’m planning on picking up more books in this series.  B- for me.

Around the Web

A Sharon Shinn interview at Word Wenches, where she talks a bit about potential future projects.  I vote for more Donnal and Kirra myself!

A free download (PDF) of LJ Smith’s “Secret Vampire”, the first Night World novel (limited time download, not sure how long it will be up for).  Also, Ms Smith has finished a new Vampire Diaries book – I loved this series way back then, and I bought the re-released versions, though they’re still sitting in my TBR pile.  I also can’t wait for “Strange Fate”, the last Night World book, to be released.  It sounds as though it will be a thick one.

Books for December

Okay, a bit late with this one, but here are the new releases I’m planning on getting this month:

51ZUCDyoG6L._SL160_ Jim Butcher’s “Princeps’ Fury” (fantasy):  Book 5 in his Codex Alera fantasy series.  Technically a November release, and one I bought in my BooksonBoard splurge last week.  I’m a couple of chapters in at the moment, and am hoping to finish it over this weekend.  It’s a completely different setting to his Dresden Files books, but just as enjoyable, if not more.  The last book finished with a couple of major events and revelations, so it’ll be interesting to find out what happens next.

Excerpt here (out now)

51 FXbZ9y2L._SL160_ Julie Hyzy’s “Hail to the Chef” (cosy mystery):  I loved the first book in this mystery series (“State of the Onion”) when I read it at the beginning of this year, and have been waiting impatiently for the second book to come out.  Olivia (Ollie) Paras is a White House chef, so you get food and mystery combined in this series, with a sprinkling of White House trivia.  Oh, and a dash of romance.  The perfect recipe.

No excerpts, but more series info here (out now)

 

518YU2V5HxL._SL160_ “Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar” (fantasy): This is a collection of short stories set in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar world.  Contributors include Tanya Huff, Judith Tarr, Rosemary Edghill, and many others, plus there is an original short story by Ms Lackey herself.  I’m a sucker for all things Valdemar, so yes, I think I will probably get this.

No excerpts (out now)

 

 

51RDQ7KDGdL._SL160_ “Unusual Suspects” (mystery/fantasy):  I got this the other day, it’s a follow up to the “Powers of Detection” anthology that came out a couple of years ago, IIRC.  Contributors include Charlaine Harris (with a Sookie story) and Sharon Shinn (contemporary ghost story).  I’m about three-quarters through and have enjoyed most of the stories so far, only skipping one because the way the dialogue was written gave me a headache.  The Sookie story is much better than the one in the “Mistletoe and Wolfbane” story, btw – but then again, I thought the MaW one was a bit of a letdown.  I liked the Donna Andrews story, and oh, I’ve just looked her up and she writes straight cosy mysteries – I may have to check them out!

No excerpts (out now)

 

So it’s a quiet month for new releases, especially full-length novels.  A couple of other releases that I’m considering are “Fast Ships, Black Sails”, a pirate anthology with Sarah Monette and Naomi Novik amongst the contributors, and “The Vorkosigan Companion”, a reference book for Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.