Recent Re-Reads

I’ve said before that I’ve fallen out of the habit of re-reading.  I used to re-read my books all the time, evidenced by some of my teenage favourites that are on the verge of falling apart and have spines that are pretty much only sticky tape.  But then – and I suspect this probably coincided with the time I started getting a monthly pay cheque and therefore could spend without (much) guilt – my TBR pile started growing, and re-reading became a casualty of too many books, too little time…

But ebooks!  I succumbed to a few too-good-to-pass-up Kindle offers recently, and in addition to the assorted paper versions on my shelves, I now have e-copies of quite a few Georgette Heyers, Mercedes Lackeys, and Mary Stewarts (yes, I appreciate that is a fairly mixed bag).   It has been years since I’ve read these books (in the case of Lackey, nearing two decades), and I wondered how they would stand up to the test of time – more on that to follow.  What really struck me about my recent binge of re-reads was how much I had actually forgotten about the actual plot.  I kind of loved that I had a vague memory of where the story ends up, but still got caught by surprise by the actual events unfolding on the page.

176797First up, Mercedes Lackey – I started with her Vows and Honor omnibus (and I have to say, I am the biggest fan ever of ebooks, but there is no replacement for the sheer awesome-ness of the original covers – I mean, look at Tarma and Kethry on this DAW cover).  The good: old-school Lackey is so much better than current Lackey in terms of world-building, story-telling, and pacing, and the magic that drew me into her Valdemar world was still very much there.  The bad: Did I never notice how rape-y this series was?  Gendered violence galore, some very stereotyped thinking, and I ended up skipping the Tarma/Kethry origin short story, because I just couldn’t.

Having said all that, I definitely want to re-read the sort-of sequel BY THE SWORD and am currently in the middle of her Exiles of Valdemar omnibus, which I don’t believe I have actually read before (I lost interest in the series about the time Alberich’s story came out, IIRC).  I also want to re-read the Elspeth books, but haven’t bought that e-omnibus (yet!).

32108And as for the Georgette Heyers – there are a handful of Heyers that I re-read every now and again (COTILLION, FREDERICA, THE GRAND SOPHY, and VENETIA spring to mind), but equally, there’s a huge list of Heyers I’ve read only once or twice.  So having bought a whole heap of her e-editions (the only criteria being that they were £0.99 or less), THE TOLL-GATE was the first one I cracked open, and ah, Heyer’s love of period slang, whether real or not, was in full evidence here.  There’s a good story buried underneath with some very engaging characters, but I found it hard-going and there’s obviously a reason why it’s in my lesser-read Heyer pile.

THE TALISMAN RING, though, was much better, with an implausible setup which Heyer carried off with style.  Totally farcical comedy, but with heart; I loved the inevitable romance, and it had a perfect last page.

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2017: Lists and Numbers

It’s only two weeks into 2018, and typing 2017 is starting to feel so old-school.  Or is that just me?

Before I bid a final farewell to the year, I wanted to log my annual reading stats for (online) posterity – here’s my 2017 in lists and numbers.

2017 new-to-me authors

I read a total of 36 new-to-me authors this year (up from 21 last year – go me!).  There’s nothing like discovering authors who write stuff that speaks to you, and here are the authors I’m really glad I discovered over the year:

Glynn Stewart: I read pretty much his entire backlist in the space of two months, and trust me, it was a sizeable list.  Plus his December release was one of my favourites of 2017.

Intisar Khanani, Kate Stradling, and WR Gingell: All of their books made (my version of) honourable mentions of 2017 – I’ve loved their take on the fantasy genre.

MCA Hogarth: Okay, I admit it – I was a bit lukewarm on the one book of hers I read in 2017.  Then I read the Her Instruments series (conveniently packaged in a box set) in the first week of the new year, and am now reading through her backlist.  Non-stop.

SK Dunstall: Another one of my 2017 honourable mentions, and seeing I read their books way back at the start of 2017, this author pairing doesn’t feel like a new-to-me one!

Tansy Rayner Roberts: I really enjoyed her SF gender-swapped interpretation of Three Musketeers.

Authors most glommed during 2017

Err… Glynn Stewart by a mile – I read 22 of his books over the year.  Ahem.  The fact his books are in Kindle Unlimited* definitely helped, but I would have probably one-clicked them anyway.

My second most-read author was Megan Derr – I read 12 of her books, mostly during the first quarter of the year, I think.

*I posted about my early experience with KU a month or so after I subscribed, but want to do a follow-up (including a proper cost-benefits analysis!) in a few months.  I read somewhere that KU is more about discovering new authors as opposed to reading old favourites, and I definitely see that happening.

And the numbers…

I read *drumroll* 192 books over 2017, which is by far the highest annual number of books that I’ve read for a while (I usually average around 150, with last year being even lower than usual).

Why the leap in volumes?  It’s not what I was expecting, especially as 2017 has been incredibly full-on (both good and not-so-good), and I’ve felt like I’ve been running on empty for a good few months of the year.  So perhaps there’s nothing like escaping into a make-believe world for a few hours.

For the record, just under half of the books I read last year were published before 2017 (hurrah for backlists!), and about 60% of books read were published via non-traditional channels (this is the exact opposite of 2016, when that percentage was 40%).

Breakdown of genre and numbers over 2017 (obviously it was the fourth quarter that made all the difference):

2017 1

I should say my fantasy/SF genre split is rather subjective, as quite a few authors appear to be writing fantasy disguised as SF – or vice versa…

Finally – here’s my 2017 compared to previous years:

2017 2

And that’s it!  I’ve managed to log all my books in Goodreads (majority sans any actual review (for now, anyway), but with a rating) so here’s the fancy Goodreads summary.

2017: My Favorite Books

Happy New Year everyone!

I’ve done my by-now traditional collation of reading stats – numbers to follow in a separate post, but I will say that despite everything (or perhaps because of) 2017 threw at me, I’ve read more books during the past year than I have in previous years.  By far.  Obviously, there’s nothing like comfort reading.

Having said that, the list of my favourite 2017 reads is shorter than previous years.  In no particular order, these were my very favourite books I read during the year:

Lucy Parker’s PRETTY FACE (contemporary romance): You know when you keep re-reading passages in a book because you really want to savour the words properly?  That was PRETTY FACE for me.  Her leads had an amazing connection with chemistry a-plenty, the dialogue sparkled, and the London setting rang so true.  Basically the perfect romance for me.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s IN OTHER LANDS (fantasy):  I loved this portal fantasy when she serialised it on her blog, and this polished and expanded version is even better.  There’s hidden depths underneath the trademark SRB snark, and social commentary and humour are combined with ease.  Elliot shines as the pacifist hero who grows up but never loses his sense of wonder.

CS Pacat’s THE ADVENTURES OF CHARLS, THE VERETIAN CLOTH MERCHANT (fantasy): Yes, it’s very much a short story (26 pages according to Goodreads), and no, it wouldn’t work for anyone who hasn’t read the Captive Prince trilogy.  But for those who have, this was the perfect capstone to the trilogy, packed full of humour and emotional pay-offs – Charls is the most excellent of narrators, and Laurent and Lamen are on form throughout.

Glynn Stewart’s OPERATION MEDUSA (SF): For an author I only discovered in October, I’ve done a really good job of flying through Glynn Stewart’s backlist (helped very much by Kindle Unlimited, I admit).  OPERATION MEDUSA was packed full of action and suspense, and ended his Castle Federation series in the most satisfying way.

*****************

Ah, because that was such a short list, here are some other books/authors I had a lot of fun reading over 2017:

All of WR Gingell’s books, which is very much the kind of fantasy that appeals to me (intrepid yet sensible heroines, strong friendships, slow-burn romances… you know what I mean).  A few of her books that I liked especially: Shards of a Broken Swords trilogy, WOLFSKIN, and MASQUE.

Ditto for Kate Stradling – again, I read her entire backlist over 2017.  Specific recs: GOLDMAYNE, A FAIRY TALE (a take on a rather obscure fairytale), the duology A BOY CALLED HAWK and A RUMOR OF REAL IRISH TEA (inventive and twisty YA, give it a go even if you’ve been dystopian-ed out), and her Ruses duology (in theory standalone fantasy, but reading the first gives the second much more depth).

Another YA fantasy series I’ve enjoyed is Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt Chronicles – there’s two books so far.  The first is offered as a freebie now and again so keep an eye out for it, but be warned, it has a rather abrupt ending.  The second, MEMORIES OF ASH, is more of a complete story in itself, and I’m looking forward to the next book.

SK Dunstall’s Linesman books made up a really fun space opera trilogy, with intriguing world-building that hooked me from the start.  I read all three back-to-back, and wasn’t disappointed.

Sports romances are my catnip, and I’m loving the author pairing of Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.  Despite my initial misgivings about the title of the series, I’ve really liked GOOD BOY and STAY.

Last but not least, KJ Charles nailed it with SPECTRED ISLE, her M/M historical romance set in the aftermath of WWI.  She interweaves the paranormal with the ordinary so seamlessly, and always gets the period feel just right.

Reading Updates

Three random reading updates:

11056493#1: I’ve continued my exploration of audiobooks.  I finished Georgette Heyer’s VENETIA (the end was surprisingly suspenseful, despite me having read it a couple of times before), and moved on to her SYLVESTER, which is also read by Richard Armitage (based purely on the fact it was the only other Heyer my library had available).

I’m loving his narration, but it’s taken me a while to get into SYLVESTER.  It’s not one of my all-time favourite Heyers, partly because the heroine spends a good part of the book waiting for the other shoe to drop, and this sort of suspense is not my thing.  But all is revealed now, and the heroine and her trusty sidekick are embroiled in yet another pickle.  Good times.

Next on my list is an Elizabeth Peters book, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Amelia Peabody’s adventures translates to audio.

#2: Speaking of Elizabeth Peters, did you see there will be A NEW BOOK THIS YEAR?? I am so excited. (I thought I had posted this, but I possibly squeed on Goodreads only.)

THE PAINTED QUEEN is out in July.  I remember a post about this book being a work-in-progress back when she passed away in 2013, but after so long without any news, I thought it had been quietly shelved.  I have everything crossed that it’ll be a good one.

#3: Finally, I finished Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s GOOD BOY last week.  So much fun.  I had (very) slight reservations going in because of the series title (WAGs being a bit of a derogatory term used by the tabloid press here), but my fears were unfounded.  I loved how Blake didn’t get a personality transplant by the end – he was still the same Blake, but with a lot more depth to his character?  I’d liked to see more of Jess’s character growth though, I’m not entirely sure I bought her story arc.


randombookrec

Mercedes Lackey’s BY THE SWORD: I devoured Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books as a teen (I may have mentioned that a few times before…).  If you set aside the Arrows of the Queen and The Last Herald-Mage trilogies (my copies are pretty much falling apart), Kerowyn’s story is one I always come back to – it’s loosely-related to the rest of the series, but I think it works well as a standalone too.

Audiobook Musings (and a Question!)

Guess what? I’ve rediscovered the Overdrive app.

I used to use the app on my Kindle Fire, but then stopped using the Fire (I had one of the older versions, and it was just a tad too bulky to justify carrying it around all the time) and so I kind of forgot about Overdrive altogether.

Then my library sent a reminder recently that we could borrow ebooks via Overdrive, so I downloaded the latest version on my phone in a spare moment… and I may have gone a bit overboard with the digital borrows.  I’m finding the app really easy to use and I love that my digital holds get checked out automatically (providing that I haven’t exceeded my library allowance).

But, I digress.

I realised I could also borrow audiobooks from my library via Overdrive.

I’ve been wanting to try audiobooks for a while.  However, let’s put it this way – when doing languages at school, I almost failed the listening skills part because I just stopped paying attention.  And for a while, conference calls at work was the hardest for me because I would get distracted and drift off.  So I wasn’t keen on the idea of spending money on something which may not have worked for me.  But now that I’ve (ahem) mastered conference calls?  And I can borrow audiobooks?  Why not.

18220481I read up on audiobooks tips for a first-time user (listener?) – suggestions included trying a book you’ve read before and also choosing a good narrator (which apparently makes all the difference).

So I weighed up my choices, listened to a few samples, and landed on Georgette Heyer’s VENETIA (read by Richard Armitage).  Partly because it met the criteria above (well, I assume it does meet the second one, I’ve no other narrator to compare him to) and partly because I was inspired by Angie’s Heyer read.

It’s worked so far.  I’m about three-quarters through, and am really enjoying it!  No problems with following the plot, though this may be due to the fact I’ve read it a couple of times before…  It’s definitely an different experience listening to the story, as opposed to reading it – I hadn’t realised that Damerel pretty much assaults Venetia at their first meeting before, for instance.

But – and we finally get to my question: If you listen to audiobooks, when do you do it?  And what else do you do when listening?

My initial assumption was that I’d listen to VENETIA while commuting to work.  But I quickly realised that didn’t work for me because I don’t really have uninterrupted commute time as such – my journey to work involves a 10-minute walk, a 15-minute train journey, and another 10-20 minutes’ walking.  I considered plugging in my earphones as I make my way to the station, but I’m half-asleep at that point, and flicking through my emails during my train ride is probably as much as I can manage.  And it’s just a bit too stressful dodging other commuters on my way home to lose myself in the audiobook.

So now I’m trying to figure out how best to incorporate audiobooks into my day – I’d love to know when you listen to audiobooks!  Or if they don’t work for you either.

(And also any audiobook recs would be brilliant.)


randombookrec

SK Dunstall’s LINESMAN: This fun space opera has the distinction of being the most recent book that had me staying up way too late to read “just one more page”.  I also flew through the other two books in the trilogy in short order.

 

2016 Best Ofs?

All these 2016 wrap-up posts are not doing good things to my TBR mountain.  Help.

Here are the books/authors that have caught my attention so far:

27068944Cathy Yardley’s LEVEL UP: Courtesy of Angie, bookpusher extraordinaire.  Also, incredibly cute cover.

Chanel Cleeton’s Wild Aces books: I’ve not read her before, but a mention by Mandi @ Smexy Books got me looking, and perhaps fighter pilots are the new SEALs?

Julianna Keye’s THE GOOD FIGHT: I loved her NA book, UNDECIDED, but kind of stalled out on the next book of hers that I tried.  Kini @ Smexy Books now has me thinking that I picked the wrong book to read.

Karen Odden’s A LADY IN THE SMOKE: Tasha @ Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books made this Victorian mystery sound so good.

Ana and Thea @ The Book Smugglers reminded me of the authors I MUST try in 2017: Becky Chambers, NK Jemisin, Rachel Neumeier (yes, I already have their books on  my Kindle…)

Lyn Gala’s Aberrant Magic series and Robert Innes’s UNTOUCHABLE: Sirius’s list @ Dear Author had me adding both of these books.

Kel Kade’s FREE THE DARKNESS: Kailana @ The Written World name-checked this several times in her post.

I suspect I’ll probably add to this post as I work my way around the blogs.  Would you second any of these?


randombookrec

Martha Wells’s THE DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER: I’m sticking with old-school fantasy.  Thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery fantasy.

2016: Lists and Numbers

Here’s my traditional wrap-up of 2016 in lists and numbers (I like spreadsheets, what can I say).  I may have done my favourite reads of 2016 already, but here are a few other lists.

2016 new-to-me authors

I read books by 21 new-to-me authors over the course of 2016, which is pretty much on par with the previous year.  The authors I’m really glad I discovered?

Well, four of them wrote books that featured in my favourites of 2016 so that probably goes without saying:

  • Beth Brower
  • Jodi Taylor
  • Leigh Bardugo
  • Santino Hassell

And the other five authors:

Authors most glommed in 2016

Unsurprisingly, Jodi Taylor – not only did I read all seven of her St Mary’s books, I also read her standalone romances – a contemporary, THE NOTHING GIRL, and a historical, A BACHELOR ESTABLISHMENT.  Slightly different voices, but no less enjoyable.

Coming a close second with seven books each were Megan Derr and Lynn Kurland.

I’ve read Megan Derr before, but never quite got on with her books. This year however, for whatever reason, her M/M fantasy romances became my comfort reads (I read all of her Tales of the High Court, Unbreakable Soldiers, and Princes of the Blood series – the last being my favourite so far).

I also finished reading all of Lynn Kurland‘s Nine Kingdoms fantasy romances (spot a trend there?).  It was a bit of a mixed bag overall, but at least I’m caught up now.

And some numbers…

I read 127 books over the year, way down on previous years (I usually average around 150).  Let’s just say 2016 had distractions galore (not all bad though, I suspect the summer Olympics was a contributing factor!).

About one-third of the books I read were published prior to 2016, and roughly 40% were published via non-traditional channels.

Breakdown of genre and numbers by month (see what I mean by the Olympics?):

2016

Compared to previous years (perhaps read more fantasy should be my 2017 resolution?):

2016-trend

And that’s my 2016 reading year!  Here’s the Goodreads version, which is all pretty and fancy.


randombookrec

I know, I totally forgot about my plan for doing a regular book recommendation in my last post.  Memory of a goldfish, sorry.

So here’s my first rec of 2017 – Kate Elliott’s JARAN: If you’re in the mood for some old-school SFF with romance a-plenty, I adored JARAN. It’s the first of a series, but works very well as a standalone.

2016: My Favourite Books

I’m joining in with the general sigh of relief that 2016 is finally over – happy new year everyone!

Here are my very favourite books of 2016, in no particular order:

 

Beth Brower’s THE Q (fantasy): This fantasy had the perfect amount of charm and romance swirled into the mix, and was the highlight of my December reading.

CS Pacat’s KINGS RISING (M/M fantasy romance): So much anticipation for this final book in the trilogy, and you know what?  She delivered in spades.

KJ Charles’s A GENTLEMAN’S POSITION (M/M historical romance): Having read hundreds of historical romances, it’s rare for one to blow me away – but this one did.

Harper Fox’s MARTY AND THE PILOT (M/M contemporary romance): Harper Fox has a knack for getting the chemistry between her leads just right.

Leigh Bardugo’s CROOKED KINGDOM (YA fantasy): Full of twists and turns, full of feelings.

Santino Hassell’s SUTPHIN BOULEVARD (M/M contemporary romance): His Five Borough series have a real sense of place, and there’s no lack of romance (or angst, come to think of it).

Alexis Hall’s LOOKING FOR GROUP (M/M NA romance): This was full of sweet geeky goodness of the best sort.

 

Not on this list, but Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s novels also deserves a mention – they were totally addictive, and I finished the whole seven-book series in the space of a month (which is probably why no one particular book stood out, come to think of it…).

Book Randomness

October is flying past for me. In fact, all of 2016 appears to be progressing at 2x speed – anyone else feel that way?

I’ve sat down several times to try and compose a blog post, but have given up on anything coherent.  So here’s a random set of book-ish thoughts for today:

akh1) An Andrea K Höst new release!  Seeing her post about The Towers, the Moon pop up today was a pleasant surprise – I love her writing, and let’s face it, a set of short stories sounds about my speed lately.

2) Having said that, a new book want – Angie’s post about Beth Brower‘s THE Q made me want to run out and buy it immediately.

3) Old news, but I am loving Neil Gaiman‘s retro cover re-dos.  STARDUST especially!  I have such a soft spot for those old-school covers.

4) And finally, anyone on Litsy?  I joined after Chachic posted about the Android release (I’m meandmybooks), but I’m struggling.  Most of my reading is done on my Kindle, and I figure there’s only so many “arty” shots I can do.

Here’s my first (and only) Litsy contribution…  (also my reading list as of a week or so ago)litsy

Personal/Politics

I try to keep this blog mostly book-related, but it seems weird not to acknowledge that we just had a once-in-a-lifetime event here in the UK. I work for an organisation that will 100% be affected by the Brexit vote, and it was a very strange morning yesterday.

You may have seen that London was very pro-Remain.  I went to bed pretty convinced that Remain would win the vote, that Friday would be a bit of a damp squib following the buildup, and we would all have a good laugh over the over-the-top contingency planning.

And then I woke up to the news that it was an Out vote; as I walked into work, David Cameron was resigning.

Wow.

Not much work got done during the morning at all. There was a lot bit of black humour, I think most people were stunned by the result and trying to figure out the implications. By mid-afternoon, the reality had settled in somewhat, and I do expect it to be pretty much business-as-usual on Monday.

Like everyone else in the UK, I’ve no idea what it means for me. There are so many ramifications, and all of them will take time to play through.  I’d be surprised if anything crystallises in the next few weeks (then again, I’ve obviously proved a failure at reading the tea leaves).

I won’t lie.  The massive uncertainty is worrying.  But there’s nothing I can do about it right now, and I don’t want to stress myself out imagining worst-case scenarios.  So let’s wait and see what happens – it will be an interesting few months, I suspect.  (And I may have to severely limit my time on social media!)

One thing I need to get off my chest before I wrap up: I find myself biting my tongue when someone says they voted without understanding the consequences. Seriously?

It doesn’t matter which way you voted, but voting on something as momentous as this without taking the time to think, or even worse, voting arbitrarily because “oh, one vote doesn’t count”? Arrrrgghhhhh.

But what’s done is done. We have to unite to move forward, and on a personal level, me ranting IRL at people is not going to help at all. So consider this my rant in a private space, and hopefully I won’t fall out with the next person who says they didn’t really think before voting.

That’s it – usual service will be resumed shortly!