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.

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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.

 

Three Lists

Firstly, blogosphere events:

  • It’s not just Holly’s Seven Days for Sevenwaters taking place next week – the annual Book Bloggers Appreciation Week is on too (though it’s a more low-key version compared to previous years).  I haven’t participated in the past couple of years due to time pressures, but hopefully this time around, I’ll manage to join in on one of the daily blog topics.
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  • As a heads up, Bloggiesta is on for the weekend of Sept 28-30 (co-hosted by Danielle and Suey).  Sign-up post here, if you’re interested.  I took part in the April Bloggiesta, and it turned out to be a great way to do all those blog-type spring-cleaning tasks that I had been putting off for ages.  It was good fun because everyone was doing similar things, and also those mini-challenges were informative and useful.  And the peer pressure forced me to actually get things done 😉  I’m not sure if I’ll have time to take part this time around, but am certainly considering it.

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A couple of quick links:

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And finally, a couple of recent reads – good ones too:

  • Seanan McGuire‘s ASHES OF HONOR: Definitely worth sacrificing some sleep for.  I have crazy love for this series, and this was a fantastic installment, especially since Tybalt takes centre stage in this one.  But even without Tybalt (though I veer close to sacrilege here), I enjoyed exploring so much more of this alternate world that Ms McGuire has dreamt up, and Toby’s relationships with her friends – and enemies – were just engrossing.  It left me wanting more.
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  • Tammara Webber‘s EASY: Everyone appears to have loved this one, which usually tends to have the effect of me waiting until the hype dies down.  But prompted by the news that Razorbill UK (Penguin’s teen line) will be publishing Tammara Webber’s books, I decided to check this out, and ended up really connecting with this college-set story. While the plot was perhaps a tad bit on the predictable side, I was won over by Jacqueline and the realistic yet mature way she dealt with the cards handed to her – and of course, there is some rather sizzling chemistry on the romance side of things.  I’m going to have to check out her Between the Lines books now.

Linkage

Various (and random) items around the web that have caught my eye below.

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Discover a New Love’s $2.99 Georgette Heyer promotion is sadly only for US (or NA possibly?) readers (though bonus – their Heyer mini-site with excerpts and all), but I loved their blog post about favourite Heyer moments.  So much so that I’m tempted to do a massive Heyer re-read now.  What’s your favourite Heyer?  I’d completely forgotten about it, but I did a guest post for the Historical Tapestry gang a few years ago on my favourite Heyer books.  And I wrote about why I adore her COTILLION a while back as well.

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Sherry Thomas‘ debut book is still lying unread in my TBR pile, but her upcoming YA fantasy (fall 2013) sounds right up my alley – opening paragraphs:

Just before the start of Summer Half, 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys.  A sixteen-year-old student named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education. 

Amost every word in the preceding sentence is false.  Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb.  He had never before set foot in Eton.  His name was not Archer Fairfax.  And he was, in fact, not even a he. 

This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.

Expect magic.

Intriguing, eh?

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Free and fun Sarah Rees Brennan short – it’s previously published and I think I’ve read it before, but it’s still as good on the second re-read!  And a brand new website as well.

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Courtney Milan always makes sense, and her post on the number of followers/subscribers/likes and how they translate to readers is just as articulate as you would expect it to be.

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The new Patricia Briggs cover for FROSTBURNED – I don’t think I’ve ever not liked a Dan Dos Santos cover.  I love that the design is so consistent with the previous books in the series.  Though I admit that it could be the ugliest cover ever and I’d still get it.  And while we’re on the topic of Patricia Briggs, Orbit UK is doing a two-in-one release of her fantasy books MASQUES and WOLFSBANE (titled ARALORN).  They’re not my favourite of her high fantasy books (and the cover is kind of generic blah fantasy), but I’m glad they’re getting a UK release.

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And while I don’t want to end on a down note… Hachette UK, really? DRM working well?  I kind of wish that they would trust that the “mainstream readers who are so valuable to us and our authors” will actually pay for their books, instead of spending additional money on applying a DRM solution which anyone with access to Google could remove in ten seconds.  I’d rather they spend their money on digital world rights.

My Auto-buy Authors: The 2012 Romance Edition

Auto-buy Authors definition: You don’t have to know anything about their latest book, you just buy.  As soon as the release hits the shelves.

My auto-buy authors have changed a lot over the years, partly as my genre preferences have changed, but also because the internet has opened my eyes to numerous new-to-me authors out there.  You can probably guess at my list from either my monthly new releases posts (they’re always on there!) or my sidebar with authors I’ve blogged about, but I thought it would be interesting to pull both past and present together in a single post.  And then I decided to break it down by genre, else it would be a bit of an epic post.

So first up, romance.

Historical romance

There was a time when historicals made up the majority of my reading, now it is very rare that I run out to buy one on the day of release.  So the authors I still buy: Eloisa James (true fangirl here), Jo Beverley (primarily for her Georgian settings), Julia Quinn, possibly Lisa Kleypas (if she ever returns to historicals).

Old favourites who I’ve stopped buying: Amanda Quick, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood , Mary Jo Putney, Stephanie Laurens. Their recent releases (recent being relative here) feel as though they’ve lost the magic that their early books had.

Authors who have sadly passed away: Georgette Heyer – I’ve all her books, both romances and mysteries; Elizabeth Mansfield – I’ve a lot of her books and her backlist is being released in e-format (yay!); Eva Ibbotson, though I don’t think of her as “traditional” historical romance

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Contemporary romance

It’s not a genre that I read a lot, but if you include category romances in this subgenre, Kelly Hunter was my 2011 discovery.  And I used to read Lynne Graham as my guilty pleasure, but either my tastes have changed or her writing has.   Oh, Suzanne Brockmann – though does it count as an auto-buy if you only like certain series?  Her new paranormal/suspense series is not working for me.

I used to love Jayne Ann Krentz and Linda Howard.  Past tense being the operative word – I liked JAK’s straight contemps, but her recent releases with paranormal themes just leave me cold.  And it’s been years since I’ve loved a new Howard.  Who else?  I follow Erin McCarthy’s stockcar racing series, but don’t read all her books, so I wouldn’t really count her as an autobuy author.

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M/M romance

Josh Lanyon.  I’ve only started reading m/m romance in the past few years, but he is one of my all-time favourite authors regardless of genre.  Other auto-buy authors?  KA Mitchell. Harper Fox. Jordan Castillo Price.

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Paranormal romance

Ummm… it’s a lot more series-specific here.  Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling books. Meljean Brook‘s Iron Seas series – I abandoned her Guardians series a couple of books in (okay, one and a half books in) and have yet to go back.  Though seeing I’ve really liked her steampunk romance book, I should give it another go.  Ilona Andrews for their Edge series (I classify the Kate Daniels books as UF).

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Fantasy romance

Drawing a blank here.  I think I lean more towards romantic fantasy, which I’ll save for the fantasy post (which I suspect will be longer).  There is Elizabeth Vaughan, but I wouldn’t call her an auto-buy author.

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YA romance

I’ve loved both of Stephanie Perkins‘ books, so I’m guessing she probably counts as an auto-buy now.  I enjoy Sarah Dessen’s books though they do come across as a bit same-y after a while, and the one Jennifer Echols book I’ve read, but I don’t think that qualifies them as auto-buys for me.  This is probably the subgenre I read least.

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I think that’s it for romance – how do your auto-buys compare to mine?

Georgette Heyer’s COTILLION

COTILLION is one of my favourite Georgette Heyers, and one that has been gathering dust on my bookshelves for a very long time.  So when I was looking for something different to re-read*, this sprang to mind.

A quick recap of the plot: Mr Penicuik, a rich miserly cantankerous man with no direct heirs, has finally had enough of waiting for his favourite grandnephew, Jack, to propose to his ward, Kitty Charing.  He decides to force Jack’s hand by promising his fortune as Kitty’s dowry, provided she marries one of his grandnephews.

A pretty safe choice, seeing that Kitty has had a schoolgirl crush on Jack since, well, forever.  However, Mr Penicuik fails to take into account Jack’s dislike of being manipulated.  And both Jack and Mr Penicuik have failed to take into account Kitty’s embarrassment at having suitors bribed to marry her.

So instead of waiting for Jack, Kitty asks Freddy, another of Mr Penicuik’s grandnephews, to propose.  Freddy is nowhere near ready to get married and, having a sizeable fortune himself, is not swayed by the promise of a substantial dowry.  But Kitty persuades him to agree to a fake engagement so that she can go to London, where she just might bump into Jack and show him what he is missing.

And so we are off…

Warning: I’m going into specifics about what I loved about this book so there are spoilers in this post.  But read on if you don’t mind being spoiled – or want to know how a Heyer Regency reminded me of Lois McMaster Bujold!

At the heart of COTILLION is one of the more popular romance plotlines – the fake engagement that turns into a real one.  And yet it is done so beautifully that I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out when I read it for the first time.  Upon re-reading it this time around and knowing that Kitty and Freddy end up together, the first scene when they meet was infinitely more enjoyable.

Kitty is a charming heroine, somewhat naive due to her upbringing in the country, but certainly strong-minded and good-hearted.  I’ll be honest and say that she is a run-of-the-mill romance heroine.  And COTILLION would not stand out from the other Heyers if it wasn’t for Freddy.

Because Freddy, unusually for a hero, is a very beta hero.  Some of Ms Heyer’s heroes are very alpha, and certainly Jack, who is arrogantly sure Kitty will come running when he snaps his fingers, is as alpha as they come – when he first makes an appearance, he is described as “… a tall man whose air and bearing proclaimed the Corinthian”.  Compare that to Freddy’s entrance, that of “… a slender young gentleman, of average height and graceful carriage.  His countenance was unarresting, but amiable; and a certain vagueness characterised his demeanour”.

And yet, Freddy quietly steals the book – and the girl.  He doesn’t change from the Pink of the Ton he is introduced as in the third chapter, who knows exactly what to wear to the country and whose main concerns upon reaching his destination are that “… the high points of his shirt-collar were uncrumpled, and the intricacies of a virgin cravat no more disarranged than a touch would set to rights…”.  But somehow, over the course of the book, Ms Heyer slowly reveals the qualities that are hidden under the exterior (though of course, Freddy would scorn the idea that he has any depths).  In the last chapters, he rides to the rescue, not as a dashing hero of the sort he disdains, but in a much more prosaic manner.  A perfect ending.  A very Freddy ending.

The next point may not mean much if you haven’t read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series**, but this realisation struck me like a thunderbolt halfway through the book… if Ms Bujold ever wrote a story with Ivan as the protagonist, it would be exactly like COTILLION.  Freddy is Ivan.

Freddy’s not the person who will plunge headfirst into reckless enterprises, he is persuaded to take part despite his inner voice screaming “no!”.  Well, not persuaded exactly, it’s more that people know exactly the right buttons to press.  Similar to how Miles gets Ivan to sign-up to the most hair-brained of schemes by making it impossible for him to refuse, Kitty gets Freddy to agree to a fake engagement by appealing to his better instincts.

He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, certainly, yet family and friends underestimate him to their own peril.  He’s incredibly practical, and even more importantly, knows his way around society, which counts for a lot more than book smarts.  It is honestly the perfect Ivan story.

Okay, random observation over.

There are so many passages I loved that when it came to deciding which ones to quote, I struggled.  Here are the two I ended up picking.

The first is one with Freddy and his father together.  I adored Lord Legerwood and his astute observations.  There is affection and respect on both sides, but their exchanges never failed to amuse me, especially when Lord Legerwood’s attempted barbs completely miss the mark due to Freddy’s obliviousness.  For example, in this passage where Lord Legerwood tries – and fails – to make the point that Freddy has been rather neglectful of his parents recently:

These led [Freddy] to seek counsel of his father, whom he met one day in St James’ Street, and who exhibited great surprise at seeing him, saying that he had supposed him to have gone out of town again.  But this shaft went wide.  Freddy eyed his satirical parent in mild bewilderment, and said reasonably: “Can’t have thought that, sir!  Dash it, met you at Meg’s two nights ago!”

Lord Legerwood sighed.  “You have your own armour, have you not, Frederick?  Of course I should have known better!”

“Offended you, sir?” asked Freddy intelligently.

“Not at all.  How came such an idea as that into your head?”

“Notice more than you think,” said Freddy, with simple pride.  “Never call me Frederick except when I’ve vexed you!”

“Almost you encourage me to look forward to a brilliant career for you!” said his lordship, impressed.

I’ll stop there, but I re-read the whole scene several times, laughing.

And this one with Kitty and Freddy also amused me.  The two of them are talking entirely at cross-purposes; Freddy has finally had enough of people implying Kitty is going out behind his back with Dolph (yet another of Mr Penicuik’s grandnephews) not because he cares of course, but because of how it reflects on himself and his family!  He tracks her down to remonstrate with her, but Kitty is completely bewildered as she’s actually trying to help Dolph woo his secret sweetheart***:

“Freddy!” cried Miss Charing, jumping almost out of her skin.

“And don’t you say Freddy to me!” added Mr Standen severely.  “I told you I wouldn’t have it, Kit, and I dashed well meant it!  Have the whole town talking!”

Kitty looked very much bewildered, but as it was plain that Mr Standen was filled with righteous wrath she refrained herself from protest, merely saying in a small, doubtful voice: “Frederick? Should I, in public, call you Mr Standen?”

“Call me Mr Standen?” said Freddy, thrown quite out of his stride.  “No, of course you should not!  Never heard such a silly question in my life!  And it ain’t a bit of use trying to turn the subject!  Not one to take a pet for no reason, but this is the outside of enough, Kit!”

“I wasn’t trying to turn the subject!  You said I must not call you Freddy!”

Mr Standen stared at her.  “Said you wasn’t to call me Freddy?  Nonsense!”

COTILLION has reminded me of how much I love Georgette Heyer’s books.  It’s one of her lighter, funnier ones (though I must admit the Regency slang at the start of the book was heading towards impenetrable at times) and well, I adore Freddy.  It remains a strong B+ read for me.

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* I did attempt to meet Nath’s Re-read Challenge for June – hey, I’ve only missed it by a few days.

** And if not, why not?  Seriously.  Start with “The Warrior’s Apprentice”.  I mean it.

*** Another thing that struck me was how Ms Heyer referred to the characters.  When either was on their high horse (horses?), the character was referred to as Miss Charing or Mr Standen, else it was Kit and Freddy.

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.