Err… Fail

What a way to start Nath’s Re-Read challenge.  By not doing one.  All I can say is that I came as close as choosing the book from my shelves yesterday night… and promptly fell asleep instead of reading it.  It’s been a long week.

So instead of posting a review, let me talk about the book that I meant to re-read had I been organised enough to do so…

The book is Georgette Heyer’s “Powder and Patch”.  Not only it is umm… shall we say less lengthy than her other books, it’s set in the Georgian period (my favourite!) when men flounce around in lace and high heels which somehow doesn’t distract from their masculinity one bit, and it’s one of her more frivolous and comedic ones.  It is quite different in style to most of her other books, so maybe not the most representative of Heyer books.

Originally titled “The Transformation of Philip Jettan” and published by M&B in 1923, it starts with solid, reliable Philip Jettan being rejected by the beautiful Cleone Charteris because she doesn’t want a “raw country bumpkin”.  Philip promptly takes himself off to Paris to be transformed into Cleone’s ideal man, winning over Parisian society in the process.  Upon his return to London, he encounters Cleone again – and I don’t think it’s giving much away to say that she realises that she much prefers the original Philip.  But is it too late for the two of them?

I love how Paris is portrayed as being the place to acquire polish, and how Philip, despite his initial impatience with what he considers fripperies, immerses himself in his transformation, in the process becoming the “… craze of fashionable Paris”.  And despite painting Cleone as frivolous at the very beginning, Ms Heyer manages to keep the reader’s sympathies with her, especially when confronted with the much-changed Philip. 

So yes, one of my favourite Heyers.  Which I will re-read.  Soon.

Not Exactly a Reading Slump

But I’m still reading my LM Montgomery’s short stories.  Which I’ve been doing for the past three weeks, on and off.  I’ve also downloaded a few more of Ms Montgomery’s books from the mobileread.com collection of public domain books (which, btw, is a fantastic resource for free and beautifully formatted ebooks) and I don’t see an end to this glom anytime soon.

I’m on my last collection of short stories now, and have just come across this wonderfully in-depth series of articles discussing various books and short stories written by Ms Montgomery.  I love the author’s personal take on each book, and how she references additional information, whether it is the influence of the time period when the story was written, how the story relates to others in Ms Montgomery’s backlist, or even how the short story collections were grouped together for publication.  And now I really want to re-read my Emily books.

Which I could potentially read for Nath’s Re-read Challenge.  Which is on my list of things to get done err… between now and midnight tomorrow.  Which means well, I am probably going to read a short-ish book.

MIA…

… due to a combination of work, a long weekend, and intermittent internet access.

Ah well.

I did stumble across a book sale though, and got Mary Stewart’s “Stormy Petrel” (one of the few not yet in my possession), Donna Andrews’ “We’ll Always have Parrots” (wanted to give her another go after reading her debut novel for the Dec TBR Day challenge) and Jane Lindskold’s “Child of a Rainless Year” (always meant to pick this up).

And now to catch up on the 1642 posts in my blog reader.

TBR Day: Lynne Graham’s “The Boss’s Valentine”

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.

This month’s challenge theme: Category romance

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51DdmZ5dzPL._SL160_ Book: The Boss’s Valentine (category romance)

Author: Lynne Graham

Copyright Date: 2003 (re-released in 2008 )

Me and… Category Romance: I used to read tons of Mills & Boons (or Harlequins for those in the States) back in my university days, primarily because they formed the majority of the local library’s romance collection.  And then I moved to the big city and suddenly, there were bookstores!  With proper romance sections!  With American imports!  So I gradually started cutting back on the number of M&Bs I read, and started buying based on the author instead of the back cover blurb.  Now, only one author remains a M&B autobuy for me: Lynne Graham.  I’m a sucker for her innocent English heroine and ruthless Mediterranean hero plots.

Why did I buy this book? It’s a Lynne Graham.  Refer to previous paragraph.  Plus the fact they were re-releasing this with the old-fashioned covers.  Ah, nostalgia.

Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long? The downside of only reading one M&B author is that the books begin to feel very formulaic after a while.  And unfortunately the opening chapter of this one were so clichéd, I never got past the first few pages.

What is it about? Naive ditzy heroine, who secretly would prefer to be a nanny but forced by circumstances to do a nine-to-five job in Marketing.  A very alpha, very handsome Italian boss, who despite his best efforts, can’t help noticing the junior that constantly messes up in Marketing.  Company do.  Alcohol.  What else but a secret baby plot?  With a Big Misunderstanding for good measure.

So what did I think of it?  Okay, I hate to say this because it is a Lynne Graham and some of her books are on my keeper shelf, but the first half of this book bored me.  I skimmed through most of it, though once Santino figured out he had a baby, things got interesting.

The whole nanny-turned-incompetent-office-worker and super-powerful-and-rich-businessman setup felt dated, and then the bitchy secretary setting up the Big Misunderstanding didn’t make it feel any fresher. 

But then, Poppy developed a backbone and faced life as a single mum, Poppy and Santino bumped into each other again, and then I got into the story.  And there were bits that made me smile: Security turning a blind eye to Poppy trying to get out of the office the morning after, Santino sneaking upstairs to see his daughter for the first time, etc.

This really felt like a story of two halves to me, and I suspect part of it is due to me working in an office environment as well and rolling my eyes at Poppy’s fumbling around with computers and coffee, etc, in the first few chapters.

My conclusion? Not one of Ms Graham’s best, but I must admit I wasn’t quite in the right mood for it.  And my own experience may have influenced my reaction to the plot.  I’m going to read her latest release and see if I feel differently or if I just need to take a break from her books for a while. 

As an aside, what’s happened to titles like “The Boss’s Valentine”?  Now we have “The Greek Tycoon’s Disobedient Bride” and “The Ruthless Magnate’s Virgin Mistress”.

Now Reading…

LM Montgomery’s short stories, except I will have to put them down soon-ish and go dig up a category romance for Keishon’s TBR Day challenge.  Ms Montgomery’s probably best-known for her Anne of Green Gables series, though I much preferred her Emily trilogy.  I do have to say that “Rilla of Ingleside” (the last of the Anne books) had enough romance and heartbreak to satisfy the romantic in me and I recall reading and re-reading the last chapter many times.

Anyway, I can’t remember what inspired me to go look for her short stories, but I’m glad I did.  They’re making me slightly nostalgic, because I read so many of her books when I was younger.  Revisiting her world, where girls named Nan and Theodosia are studying to be teachers or making up dresses for a social, and when letting a man walk you home from prayer meeting is an indication of serious interest, is a very refreshing break from the more recent paranormals or urban fantasy that I’ve been reading.

I’m amazed at how much “story” she can pack into a few pages, how she so quickly makes you care for her characters, whether they be whimsical or practical, on the brink of womanhood or approaching middle-age.  Some of them can get a bit same-y after a while (I suspect I’m not meant to read around fifty-plus at one go), and there are some misses amongst the many hits, but most of them are fantastic feel-good stories and a lovely peek into a bygone era.

Around the Web – or Free (Legal) Reads

Not breaking news by any means, but Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Beguilement” (first in the Sharing Knife series) is available to read online for free during January.  And the first 20% of Ms Bujold’s “Horizon” (the fourth and final book in the Sharing Knife series) is also available here.

Also free (and Angie piqued my curiosity on this one) is Anna Godbersen’s “The Luxe”.  I personally think HarperCollins’ Browse Inside widget needs serious rethinking and/or redesigning, but if nothing else, it gives you a feel for the story and the writing.

As an aside, I’m sort of torn when it comes to reading excerpts for books I’ve been anticipating – part of me wants to gobble them up, but the other part prefers to wait because it sort of spoils me for the actual book when I do get my hands on it.  On the other hand, if it’s a series and/or author I’ve not read before, I almost need to read an excerpt before deciding if I want to purchase or not.

Back to free reads, Catherine Asaro posted her short story “The Spacetime Pool” on Facebook (public access).  It’s on the preliminary ballot for the Nebula Award – I’m definitely reading this one.

Vote and Win $25

Urban Fantasy Land are running a Best of 2008-type poll – go vote for your favourite books and authors in their Readers’ Choice Awards (by 30 Jan 2009) and get entered in a draw for a $25 gift certificate from a major online bookseller.

Detailed rules from their site:

  1. Vote.
  2. On your own blog, journal or website, tell everyone about the URBAN FANTASY LAND READERS CHOICE AWARDS, linking to this post. You’ll be automatically entered into the draw for the $25 gift certificate.
  3. Polls close at midnight 30 January 2009. Winners will be announced 31 January 2009.
  4. Note: if you don’t have a blog, journal or website, send me an email: lindsayyorklevack @ gmail . com

Go cast your vote!

Final 2008 Wrap Up

Otherwise known as the post with statistics and lists.

So… the numbers:

  • A total of 155 books read during 2008 (v. 183 in 2007 – oh well)
  • Of which 73 were published during 2008 itself
  • 88 authors in total
  • With 27 new-to-me authors
  • And 61 of them being ebooks

Genre-wise:

  • 51 of them were romances (inc. 16 romantic suspense, 12 paranormal)
  • 46 fantasy (inc. 23 urban fantasy)
  • 27 YA & children’s
  • 25 mystery

Continue reading

The Fourth Quarter of 2008

And the end is in sight!  I may actually finish my 2008 Review posts before the end of January.

 

October

I was on holiday for most of October, which explains the massive total of 20 books read during this month.

I had never quite managed to understand why Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series (urban fantasy) was so popular, having read the first book “Storm Front” a while back and not being too impressed.  Nath convinced me to give the books another go, and restart the series from Book 4 (“Summer Knight”) instead.  That made all the difference and I’m now an official Dresden Files fangirl.  Proved by the fact I read the next seven books in this series during the month.  I will say that I’m unlikely to go back and read the second and third books in this series though.

I got my hands on Kristin Cashore’s novel “Graceling” (YA fantasy, first of three linked books) and discovered why there was such a buzz around this debut.  One to appeal to Tamora Pierce fans (of whom I am one), with good storytelling, a strong heroine, and a touch of romance.  Although in hindsight, I could have done without the cutesy names.

Mercedes Lackey released a new Valdemar book (“Foundation”, fantasy and first in a trilogy, I think), the first one in years, and despite it not really being up there with the Arrows and Last Herald-Mage trilogies, I loved revisiting her world and reading more about the founding of the Heralds’ Collegium.

And I started Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy” series (YA urban fantasy), reading both “Vampire Academy” and “Frostbite” (Books 1 and 2 respectively), and found it an engrossing and entertaining series.  I’ve enjoyed her Georgina Kincaid books, so I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading the VA books.

 

November

It was back to work, and I managed to read ten books this month.

Karen Chance is one of my favourite UF authors, and I enjoyed her “Midnight’s Daughter” (urban fantasy, Book 1 of a Cassie Palmer spin-off series).  While probably not one for new readers to the series, I liked seeing her world from the viewpoint of a different protagonist, and as always, I love the plotting and non-stop action.

I only read nine historical romances throughout 2008 and my favourite by a mile was Eloisa James’ “When the Duke Returns” (Book 3 of the Desperate Duchesses series).  On the face of it, the series premise doesn’t sound that much different from that of other historical romances out there – the duchesses and their recalcitrant, indifferent men – but as it is, I can’t remember when I’ve last enjoyed a historical romance series so much.  The opulent Georgian setting, the characters, their chemistry, the angst – it all came together in this one to make an excellent book.  I have very high expectations for the final two books out in 2009. 

And oh, Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest” (fantasy, Book 1 of the Sevenwaters series).  I’ve had this book sitting in my TBR pile forever, and was finally moved to read it following the glowing reviews of the new book “Heir to Sevenwaters” set in this world.  And I loved.  Adored.  Passed the book on with a you-have-to-read-this-now recommendation.  Ordered the next two books from Amazon.  You know, on paper, this wouldn’t be a book that I’d enjoy.  I never was keen on retelling of fairytales or Celtic settings or the fey.  But Ms Marillier is a wonderful storyteller, and I’ve fallen in love with her Sevenwaters world.

It may have been only ten books read this month, but there were some very good ones there!

 

December

A very good reading month to end the year with.  I liked practically all the books I read this month and I’m finding it tough to narrow it down to the ones I liked best.

I finished Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy (“Son of the Shadows” and “Child of the Prophecy”) and immediately ordered “Heir to Sevenwaters” (no, I don’t know why I didn’t order them all in one go either).  I always start the year hoping to come across a new-to-me author with a marvellous backlist that will capture my imagination, and Juliet Marillier was probably my 2008 author (previous years being Elizabeth Peters, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Georgette Heyer in 2007, 2006, and 2005 respectively).

I read Josh Lanyon’s “Death of a Pirate King” (mystery, m/m romance, fourth in the Adrien English series) and “The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks” (mystery, m/m romance, standalone), and wasn’t disappointed.  I’m completely hooked on the Adrien English series and the Adrien/Jake relationship (think dysfunctional yet sooo right at the same time).  And Mr Lanyon’s writing is beautifully sparse yet descriptive.  I love the way he sketches in the background and atmosphere so easily, and his strong characterisation – his stories are the type where you never want to reach the last page.  M/M romance is a new subgenre for me this year, and I’m glad I decided to try something new.

And honourable mentions must go to Jenna Black’s “The Devil’s Due” (urban fantasy, Book 3 of the Morgan Kingsley series), Jim Butcher’s “Princeps’ Fury” (fantasy, Book 5 of the Codex Alera series), and Julie Hyzy’s “Hail to the Chef” (cosy mystery, Book 2 of the White House Chef series), all three of which were latest installments in ongoing series, and which I enjoyed very much.

 

So that’s my month-by-month review (previous parts one, two, and three linked here)… and err I’m not finished yet with 2008.

The Third Quarter of 2008

Ploughing on with my year in review posts (I’m beginning to regret starting this!), here’s July to September:

 

July

A fairly quiet month reading-wise.  I enjoyed Naomi Novik’s “Victory of Eagles” (historical fantasy, Book 5 of the Temeraire series) – how can you not like Temeraire?  Ms Novik’s take on dragons and the Napoleonic Wars era remains fresh, and I recall shedding some tears during this one.  That was probably expected, seeing how the previous book ended, but all’s well and I look forward to seeing what Will and Temeraire get up to next.

I liked Tanya Huff’s “The Heart of Valor” (military SF, Book 3 of the Confederation series).  This surprised me slightly, because while I enjoy her urban fantasy books, her SF books had never really captured my imagination.  This one did, to the extent I bought the next book in hardcover.

I also read Sherwood Smith’s “The Fox” and “King’s Shield” (fantasy, Book 2 and 3 of the Inda series).  This is slightly different from her other books, as it isn’t YA, though I think it’s set in the same universe.  I had a hard time getting into “The Fox”, primarily because it’s been around two years since I had read “Inda” (Book 1), and I struggled with the large cast of characters and multiple plotlines.  However, by the end of “The Fox”, I was taken enough to buy “King’s Shield” in hardcover – here’s hoping I remember enough when “Treason’s Shore” (fourth and final book) comes out in August 2009.

The last book I really liked is Suzanne Brockmann’s “Into the Fire” (romantic suspense, Book 13 of the Troubleshooters series).  I wasn’t quite sure going in, since the Jules/Robin arc had been wrapped up in the previous book (and Jules/Robin is up there with Sam/Alyssa for my favourite Brockmann couple), but I really liked this one.  Though I will say it probably fell victim to the “everyone-who-has-ever-been-mentioned-pops-in-and-says-hi” curse.  And I will be getting “Dark of Night” when it comes out in January (whoops, missed it off my January releases list) – while I’ve been unable to avoid DoN spoilers, I’m not that invested in the Sophia arc to have a strong opinion as to what the HEA should be.

 

August

Another quiet reading month, with the highlight being Patricia Briggs’ “Cry Wolf” (urban fantasy).  I liked it so much that I was moved to declare if I could only ever read one author for the rest of my life, it would be Patricia Briggs.  Not that I actually want to be in a situation where I had to read only one author, mind you.  But still.  I loved revisiting Ms Briggs’ Mercy universe from a different angle.

I won a copy of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s “I Shall Not Want” (romantic suspense, Book 6 in the Russ/Clare series) at Keishon’s earlier in the year, and finally got around to reading and reviewing it.  I really liked the small-town feel and how Clare’s faith was blended seamlessly into the book, definitely a new series for me to follow.

Other books I read and liked during August were Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust” (fantasy, reviewed for the TBR challenge here) and Linda Howard’s “Death Angel” (romantic suspense).  “Death Angel” got mixed reviews in blogland and I can get why, but Ms Howard made the rather unsympathetic main characters and the whole second chance at life scenario (which would normally make me roll my eyes and close the book) work for me.

Oh, and I was thrilled to find a 1958 paperback in pristine condition at a secondhand bookstore, it even had a promotional postcard in it and everything.  Don’t laugh.  Anyway, while I didn’t love the story that much (Josephine Tey’s “One Shilling for Candles”, mystery), I intend to read a few more books from Ms Tey’s backlist.

 

September

Speaking of quiet reading months, I only managed to finish five books in September (though I more than made up for this in October).  That is shockingly low for me, but on the bright side, I did enjoy the books I read.

Jayne Castle’s “Dark Light” (futuristic romance) was a solid fluffy romance (and no, that’s not an oxymoron).  If you read a Jayne Castle, you always know what you’re going to get, and that makes for a great comfort read.  I also read Nalini Singh’s “Hostage to Pleasure” (paranormal romance, Book 5 of the Psy/Changeling series) and Ann Aguirre’s “Wanderlust” (SF romance, book 2 of the Jax series), both again worth the time.

And I read Cassandra Clare’s “City of Bones” and “City of Ashes” (YA urban fantasy, Books 1 and 2 of the Mortal Instruments trilogy).  I was a bit on the fence after reading CoB, but bought CoA when I had to grab something in five minutes (hey, you know you need reading material).  And I was very glad I did because I totally loved CoA and did a bit of a squee here.

 

So that was July, August, and September 2008 – my reviews of the first half of 2008 are here and here.