2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 1

I’ve done an annual recap of books read for the past few years running – this time around, it’s taken a bit more than usual to start writing this (possibly tied to my general lack of blogging motivation this year, you think?).  But I like revisiting my reading year – both when writing the recap and also when re-reading them months later – so, well, here we go.

January

I read 11 books in January, and actually, looking at the list of books read, there were some very good ones to start off the year.  I finished Diana Gabaldon‘s “An Echo in the Bone”, mainly by dipping in and out over a period of several weeks, which in hindsight, was the best way to finish such a massive tome.  The story was so sprawling and epic that I’ve no memory as to what the book is about now, except that I enjoyed it immensely and it had a dratted cliffhanger ending.

As for new-to-me authors, I read Sean Kennedy‘s “Tigers and Devil” (m/m romance) after seeing it appear on so many Top Books of 2009 lists, and yes, that was totally well-deserved.  I loved the Australian setting and even got to grips with Australian Rules football – I think.   Steve Kluger‘s hilariously funny yet sweet “Almost Like Being in Love” (rec’d by Nath) was another hit.  And I read my first Sarah Dessen (YA contemporary), “The Truth About Forever”, which was very definitely not my last Dessen of the year.

February

14 books read during February – unfortunately, none really worked for me until the end of the month, when I read and loved both Jacqueline Carey‘s “Naamah’s Kiss” (the first in her latest Kushiel fantasy trilogy, which held me enthralled from beginning to end) and Mary Stewart‘s “Touch Not the Cat” (romantic suspense, and one of the few books I missed during my Stewart glom back in 2008).

I read a few more Dessens, but none really as good as TTAF.  And that was about it in terms of memorable reads.

March

Nine books read over the month, including two of Seanan McGuire‘s Toby Daye books, which takes my “Best New-to-Me Urban Fantasy Series of 2010” trophy – I have to include the new-to-me caveat, as the first book came out in 2009, but got buried in the glut of new UF releases. When I finally got around to reading “Rosemary & Rue”, I was totally captivated and promptly followed up with the second book, “A Local Habitation”.  Ms McGuire’s Faerie/San Francisco world is incredibly refreshing and real, Toby is developing into a heroine you can properly get behind (character growth, I love you), and there is Tybalt.  The King of Cats.  Ahhh.

Apart from that, I read my first Jennifer Echols, “Going Too Far” – more YA contemporary!  It was good – strong characterisation, compelling believable romance – and I wanted more.

April

I was back up to 11 books this month (as an aside, I’m surprised I was reading as much as I’ve been over the months) and it was a good one.

I loved Lisa Lutz‘s “The Spellmans Strike Again”, the latest madcap adventure in The Spellman Files books and oh-so-satisfying (character growth!), and also Patricia Briggs‘ “Silver Borne” (I have not read a lacklustre Mercy Thompson book yet).  And Jim Butcher‘s latest Dresden Files book, “Changes”, was great storytelling, as always.  Elizabeth Peters released a new Amelia Peabody (I have no words to describe how much I was anticipating this one) and while it was not one of the best Peabody books, it was just so good to revisit the whole cast of characters again.  Finally, a new-to-me author this month was Sarah A Hoyt and her “Darkship Thieves” (which Janicu has just reviewed), which was an excellent blend of space opera and romance.

Probably a good time to stop – next post, the next four months…

Sort of Here

Be forewarned, this is a post about nothing really.

I’m recovering from a bout of the flu that came out of nowhere – after smugly avoiding the array of colds and coughs that have swept the office over the past few months, I get taken out by a virus that no one else seems to have (and I swear it’s not one too many Christmas drinks!).

Besides lying in bed for the past few days feeling rather sorry for myself, I haven’t really mustered up the energy to do anything.  I was sort of thinking I could get my list of books read in 2010 up to date – my latest update was back in October, ouch – but that appears to take mental energy which is somewhat lacking at the moment.

I have been reading though – I finished Juliet Marillier‘s latest Sevenwaters book, “Seer of Sevenwaters”, my thoughts paralleling Thea’s review at The Book Smugglers quite closely.  Bear in mind I was reading in stops and starts, but I thought Seer lacked the sense of epic-ness that previous Sevenwaters books had, with slightly uneven pacing throughout the first half of the book. Maybe it was the fact the book wasn’t set in Sevenwaters itself (though I don’t think all the previous ones were?), or that the two protagonists, Sibeal and Felix, never really had the same presence that other lead characters have had in previous books, I’m not sure, but this book failed to capture my imagination in the same way the other Sevenwaters novels have.  I’ve more to say (and not all just comparisons to previous books in this series!), but can’t quite string very many coherent thoughts together (or rather, I could, but then I’d probably still be sitting here at midnight trying to polish it all up), so we’ll leave it at “I enjoyed it, but didn’t love”.

I also finally got around to reading Deanna Raybourn‘s “Dark Road to Darjeeling”, which is the Lady Julia Grey historical mystery that came out back in October.  It’s not exactly what I would call a feel-good book, but certainly a well-told story.  I skimmed most of the reviews when the book came out, not wanting to be spoilt, so I can’t remember if anyone was left feeling ever-so-slightly unsettled and disturbed by the closing events?  Probably not a book I’ll re-read, but I’m looking forward to more Julia and Brisbane though, as they negotiate their life together.

Heh.  I actually managed to talk books.  Though that took more concentration that I thought it would…

Around the Web

This week’s linkage:

Major spoilers for Anne Bishop‘s “Twilight’s Dawn” at Dear Author – I normally avoid spoilers like the plague for books that I plan to get, but I’m glad I read this one as I would have hated to be blindsided by the last story in this collection.  Having read the spoiler, I’m in two minds about whether I’m going to be getting this book when it comes out next March.  I haven’t been blown away by the recent Black Jewels books, so maybe it’s time to call a halt instead of reading something that goes somewhere I don’t want it to go.

I don’t think I’ve linked to this previously (though my memory has been like a sieve recently so I wouldn’t guarantee that), but here’s an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold at Worlds Without End.  She describes the Ivan work-in-progress as a series prequel, with the “…mode so far as comedy/romantic-suspense or something like that”.  No contract yet, so it sounds as though it’ll be a while until we see this one on the shelves.  You know, I adore Miles, but just thinking about having Ivan as the main protagonist puts this crazy grin on my face.

I’ve been seeing reviews start popping up for Stephanie Perkins‘ “Anna and the French Kiss”, led by Angie’s review (or maybe it’s because I see a review at Angieville, and then start paying more attention?).  I’m curious, but put off by the price – it’s around £10 and not available in e-format here, so I’m holding off for now.

Books for December

See, a timely post! Here are the new releases I’m planning to buy this month and then indulge in over the Christmas holidays:

Juliet Marillier‘s “Seer of Sevenwaters” (fantasy): I only discovered Juliet Marillier a couple of years ago, but her Sevenwaters books sit firmly on my keeper shelves.  So a new Sevenwaters book  is always a cause for celebration – the only fly in the ointment is that there is no UK release.  Why??!!!  Not happy, people.  The silver lining is that because of this, I pre-ordered the US edition from The Book Depository and just received an email saying it’s on the way.

The blurb from the author’s website (Sibeal’s story!):

Sibeal has always known that she is destined for a spiritual life, and is committed to it with all her heart. Before making her final vows, she travels to the northern island of Inis Eala to spend the summer with her sisters, Muirrin and Clodagh.

But Sibeal has barely set foot on the island when a freak storm out at sea sinks a ship before her eyes. In spite of frantic rescue efforts, only three survivors are fished alive from the water, and one of them, a man Sibeal names Ardal, clings to life by the merest thread.

As Ardal fights for his life, the island community discovers that there is something unusual about the three shipwrecked strangers. The beautiful Svala is mute and disturbed. Stalwart warrior Knut seems ashamed of his grieving wife. And Ardal has a secret he can’t remember … or won’t tell. When the astonishing truth comes out, Sibeal finds herself drawn into a perilous quest. At its end, she will face a decision that may break her heart.

Out Dec 7 (excerpt)

LB Gregg, ZA Maxfield, Josh Lanyon, and Harper Fox‘s “His for the Holidays” (m/m romance): This anthology from Carina Press is sounding like a very good one.  Each writer brings something different to the table, IMO – I love the slightly offbeat sense of humour in LB Gregg’s writing, the angst that Harper Fox excels in, and oh, pretty much all aspects of Josh Lanyon’s writing.  And ZA Maxfield is on my to-try list, so this anthology really ticks all the boxes.

Hope brightens a bleak Edinburgh December. A man gets a second chance with his high school crush. A decade-long game of cat and mouse comes to a passionate conclusion. And Santa Claus drives a red muscle car. Heat up your holidays with this collection of four festive tales from some of the top talent in the male/male genre.

Out Dec 6 (book page at Carina Press)

Richelle Mead‘s “Last Sacrifice” (YA urban fantasy): The last book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series,  though there will be a spin-off series in the same world.  I like these books, but haven’t fallen in love with the series – I’m not sure why.  Ms Mead has a massive fanbase for these books though, so I’m probably in a minority.  Having said that, I do find the VA series pretty addictive reading, and I will be getting this because I want to know what happens in the end.  Also, the UK cover?  Meh.

Blurb from Goodreads:

Murder. Love. Jealousy. And the ultimate sacrifice. Now, with Rose on trial for her life and Lissa first in line for the Royal Throne, nothing will ever be the same between them.

Out Dec 7 (excerpt)

Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway‘s “The Lady Most Likely…” (historical romance): Julia Quinn and Eloisa James are amongst the very few historical romance authors that remain autobuys for me (I probably have read some Connie Brockway before, but none of her books comes to mind immediately).  I’m never quite sure how a collaboration between different authors will turn out – sometimes it works, sometimes not – but I’ll still be getting this.  I’m also not sure exactly how this book is structured; the authors refer to it as “a novel in three parts” – does this mean three linked but separate stories, one story with three acts… anyone know?

From Ms James’ website:

Hugh Dunne, the Earl of Briarly, needs a wife, so his sister hands him a list of delectable damsels and promises to invite them—and a few other gentlemen—to her country house for what is sure to be the event of the season. Hugh will have time to woo whichever lady he most desires… Unless someone else snatches her first.

Out Dec 28 (excerpt)

Mercedes Lackey‘s “Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar” (fantasy): I don’t know why I always feel as though I have to justify my addiction to the Valdemar stories (she says, embarrassedly).  I think a new collection of Valdemar stories has been released at this time of the year for the past few years, so yay for more Heralds, white Companions, and all that.

Blurb from Amazon:

In March 1987, a young author from Oklahoma published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. This modest book about a magical land called Valdemar was the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles. Now readers can take a journey to the world of Valdemar-including Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, and Judith Tarr-each adding their own special touches.

Out Dec 7

“Love and Rockets” edited by Martin H Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes (SF romance): I was in two minds about whether to put up the cover or not, because DAW appears to have decided to enter this one into the “Worst Cover of the Year” award.  I like the monthly themed DAW anthologies, but I have no idea why their covers are so hit or miss.  There have been some rather striking ones, but equally some that make me think no one was that bothered, and some truly awful ones.  Cover aside, this is an SF-romance crossover anthology, which is a genre I’m quite keen on, so I’m hoping I come across some new-to-me authors in this one. I can’t find a list of contributors, though I know Lois McMaster Bujold has written an introduction.  Here is the table of contents, courtesy of contributor Steven H Silver.

Blurb from Amazon:

Space…the final frontier. Or is it? Many say there’s no frontier more forbidding than a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. But what if one’s a human, and the other’s an alien? Here is an original collection of space opera stories where authors take love (unrequited or not), on a spaceship, space station, or planetary colony, and add enough drama, confusion and mayhem to ensure that the path to true love-or short-term infatuation-is seldom free of obstacles.

Out Dec 7

A This and That Post

I went to the bookstore for the first time in ages yesterday (okay, three weeks – but it feels like forever), and while the December releases weren’t in-store yet, nothing quite beats browsing shelves full of new books.  I ended up buying Kalayna Price‘s “Grave Witch”, which came to my attention a couple of months back.

I had seen Ms Price’s book featured on quite a few blogs then, and while I usually end up hitting the “Mark as Read” button when I see the same book featured on every other blog, the sheer number of blog posts wore me down and I actually read the blurb.  Which intrigued me enough to read the first few pages when I saw the book on the New Releases shelves, which in turn was enough to have me bringing it to the till.

Apart from that, a couple of excellent links I came across:

December Lights Project (apologies, can’t remember where I first saw this link),where a number of authors are putting up free short stories this month.  As they explain:

At this time of year – as the sky goes dark by 4.30 pm in Wales, where we live, and the cold wraps around us, chilling to the bone – what we really want more than anything else are stories that make us laugh and feel good about the world.
So we thought we’d gather some, and share them with with you, as our December Lights Project.

Every December Lights Project story is sure to have a happy ending. As we reached out to other authors to join our project, we asked for stories that were light-hearted and upbeat, stories that could fill us with warmth no matter how cold the weather. (Or cool us down, for those living in Australia or New Zealand!)

I’ve read the first, Sarah Prineas‘s  “Jane: A Story of Manners, Magic, and Romance” (the title was enough to win me over!) and have bookmarked the page to read the rest when I have some spare time.

And John Scalzi has put up a post on his massively popular Whatever blog for authors to offer suggestions for your holiday book list (or just books for yourself!).  I’ve been reading the thread, and several have caught my eye…