31 March 2009

Cast in Silence (Michelle West)

Cast in Silence is the fifth book in Michelle West's Chronicles of Elantra series. This is definitely (for me anyway) one of those 'ooooooohhhh pretty' covers! And, the cover artist has obviously been briefed about the contents of the book, which is always nice!

The Chronicles of Elantra consists of:
1. Cast In Shadow
2. Cast In Courtlight
3. Cast In Secret
4. Cast In Fury
5. Cast In Silence

For those of you who haven't heard of this (fantasy) series, here is the premise for the first book, Cast in Shadow:
Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered -- and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin.…Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers -- powers that no other human has. Her task is simple - find the killer, stop the murders…and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!
I have to be honest, my favourite character is actually one of the secondary characters...who goes by the name of Lord Nightshade...

30 March 2009

Is It Just Me?

I was watching American Idol on Saturday night and after reading Stacy's post on Carrie Lofty's What a Scoundrel Wants, which mentioned the 1980s TV series Robin of Sherwood (starring Michael Praed), it got me to thinking: is is just me, or does Adam Lambert from American Idol look like Michael Praed from Robin of Sherwood, who in turn looks like Vanyel from Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald Mage series?

Then again, maybe it's just me?

28 March 2009

What the Frak? (Part III)

So I watched the final episode (well, the final episode if you don't count the made-for-TV movie The Plan, which is scheduled to air in the US in late 2009) of Battlestar Galactica (Episode 422: Daybreak Part II) on Wednesday.

I think the writers attempted to round up some of the loose ends but I still feel that, in this season anyway, they dropped the ball. Why we needed large amounts of non-relevant back story in the final two episodes I will never know. And as for Kara Thrace (AKA Starbuck)...what the frak?

And yes, the myriad ways in which various characters met their end continued... I personally don't think that the decisions made at the end of the episode by certain characters were realistic, but *shrug* I didn't write it.

For those of you who watched the final episode of Battlestar Galactica, what did you think? A fitting end....or not?

Updated to add: So I watched the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica last night and I realised (again) what an amazing pilot it was. (And yes, now I want to watch the series all over again...well, maybe not Season 4 *grin*) It contains some incredible acting (I just love that scene between Lee and his father near the end), one of my favourite quotes:

It's not enough to just live, you have to have something to live for.
And a mystery: who sent Commander Adama the note stating that there were only 12 Cylon models? It wasn't answered anywhere during the four seasons as far as I know...perhaps in The Plan?

26 March 2009

Smooth Talking Stranger (Lisa Kleypas)

The lovely Sarah from SmartBitches and Jane from Dear Author have teamed up to promote straight contemporaries at a new site: Save the Contemporary. This month's book is Lisa Kleypas' Smooth Talking Stranger:

Ella Varner has it all – a successful career as an advice columnist, a handsome boyfriend, and a circle of friends in Austin. When anyone has a problem, Ella knows the answers.
But one night she receives a call that changes everything. And as Ella’s world is turned upside-down, she meets a man who is the opposite of everything she ever wanted . . . a man who will offer her the most irresistible challenge she has ever known . . .
And you can read an excerpt here!

To win one of 20 copies of Smooth Talking Stranger and/or a grand prize of 20 titles (from the likes of Lora Leigh, Jennifer Crusie, Cheyenne McCray) courtesy of St Martin's Press, go to the Save the Contemporary site and forward the details of Smooth Talking Stranger to a friend using the 'Email This Page' link. (The more times you forward the details of the giveaway, the greater the chance you have of winning.) Alternatively, you can twitter/blog about the contest, but please let Jane or Sarah know of the twitter/blog via twitter (@smartbitches or @jane_l) or email (sbjcontests@gmail.com.).

And good luck!

25 March 2009

Books from Yesteryear

Certain books can't help but remind you of your childhood. My favourite book growing up was the New Zealand classic My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.

And before you ask, it does exactly 'what it says on the box':
The cat from Spain flew an aeroplane. The cat from France likes to sing and dance. But my cat likes to hide in boxes.
And no, I didn't need to open my myriad of book boxes to find the book and check the quote (yes I have a copy). It's engrained!
I also loved Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Richard Scary (although I can't remember which book... I wonder if I still have it?). As I got older Winne-the-Pooh (AA Milne) was another favourite. AA Milne had the most amazing chapter titles (e.g. Chapter 1: In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees and the Stories Begin; Chapter 2: In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place).

My mother usually read to me - my father tried once (so I have been told) but attempted to skip sections (so as to speed the process up)... He was not amused when I pointed this out and that was the end of my father's career in reading.

So, which books do you remember from your childhood?

21 March 2009

An Unusual Response

Every book engenders a response. It may be one of intense passion (love or hate), one of disinterest or it may fall somewhere in between. Each reader is likely to experience something different; who you are and what you have experienced flavours how you respond.

What if you read a book that numerous people have expressed their love for but it leaves you feeling...not disappointed or angry but...lacking? What if the book was extremely well written, with amazing world-building and fascinating characters, but one of those characters generates feelings of...inadequacy? How do you respond - to yourself and to others - when you haven't enjoyed a book as much as someone else, especially if the reasons for that lack of enjoyment have nothing to do with the author's 'craft' but instead stem from your own insecurities and doubts?

I will freely admit to being incredibly insecure about a myriad of things - some tangible, some not. If I were a heroine in a novel I think the majority of - actually, probably all - readers would throw the book at the wall in frustration with my lack of...spine (for want of a better word). Kick-a*s heroines are my Achilles heel. I can't picture myself as them in any way shape or form because I'm diametrically opposite. I'm not sassy or confident. It's not what they do (saving the world) [because who in real life has super powers?] but their demeanour and confidence...and what they look like. Kick-a*s heroines have a mould - gorgeous, fit, with amazing hair and skin. They are what I want to be...because they're everything I'm not.

I worried incessantly about reading this book before I picked it up; I thought having a kick-a*s heroine would push my insecurity buttons. But I got caught up in the hype surrounding the book and I thought it would be fine. And in a couple of the reviews I read the heroine didn't seem so kick-a*s. My mistake, because the heroine did push my buttons, more so I think because I love this author and...her heroine is as far from me as it is possible to be. Before you ask, no, my imagination is not good enough that I can 'pretend' to be her as I read the book, and yes, I do want to read the second book in the series. And yes, I am insane to be comparing myself to a fictional character, except that I compare myself to everything and everyone. It's...ingrained.

I have read other books with kick-a*s heroines since I started reading romance novels, but over the last 6-12 months these characters have bothered me more and more. I'm trying to work out who I am, deal with the issues I carry, but...before I started down this path I could ignore my emotions. Now they, as well as all of my faults, are right in front of me...and I don't know how to cope, except by not to read books that bring all of this...whatever it is I am feeling...to the surface. I guess I could try to learn to love myself, except for the small fact that I hate pretty much everything about me (and what I don't hate I dislike), so it's a pretty big call. And no, that statement is not meant to generate compliments. I'm not looking for compliments, I'm stating a fact. (And if I'm honest I don't really know how to deal with compliments anyway.) I think twice in my life I've looked in the mirror and thought I 'passed muster', but that was a long time ago...and I was younger then. Now I feel like the faults are all I see and no matter how hard I try I can't seem to fix one of them. Just one would be nice. *SIGH* Sometimes I wonder why I read romance novels. It isn't real...that connection...it doesn't happen in real life, does it? And if it does, I don't think it will happen to me. And obviously the majority of my friends and family assume so too as they have stopped asking about dates and partners. They assume I'm going to be single for the rest of my life. And considering what any potential partner would have to deal with, I think they are probably right.

And in case you are wondering where all of this...bile..is coming from, I don't know. Maybe it's because I spend all of my time fixing and organizing the lives of various family members who can't (and I do mean can't, not won't) and yet I can't fix myself.

So, do you ever compare yourself to a character from a novel? And, if so, have you ever read a book that has made you feel in some way less or perhaps more than who and what you are? And it is worth it?

19 March 2009

Honoured

I am very honoured to have been awarded an Excellence Blog Award and a Premio Dardos award from the lovely Renee of Renee's Book Addiction. Renee directed me to The Thrillionth Page where Carolyn Jean (CJ) has been investigating the origins of the Premio Dardos award: Growing Suspicions About The Premio and Premio Dardos Award Mystery Deepens. Regardless of the origins: thank you Renee! (((Renee)))

Also, I am very honoured to have received a 'Your Blog is Fabulous' award from The Books Smugglers!



Thank you Ana & Thea! (((Ana + Thea))) Since you specifically mentioned my Melusine review, I suppose I might consider inflicting writing another review at some point...hmmmm...decisions, decisions *grin*

Updated to add: Kristen from Fantasy Cafe has suggested my next review book - The Virtu by Sarah Monette. To be honest, I was kind of hoping for something a little easier....say a picture book *grin*

I would also like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who read and/or comment here - I so appreciate it! I know blog wouldn't be what it is without your input!

18 March 2009

What the Frak? (Part II)

I watched Episode 421 (Daybreak Part I) of Battlestar Galactica yesterday and I am now convinced that the writers are stark raving mad! Approximately 99% of the episode was filler (IMO), which I find strange considering that there is only 3 hours left to wrap up the whole series! And I have to be honest, for the first time ever I wanted to fast forward *hangs head*

I'm also finding rather fascinating the number of different ways various characters are being....disposed off, although I think this was the first episode in which no one died.... For those of you watching the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, what do you think the likelihood is of anyone surviving? I'm thinking pretty close to zero...

And yes, I'm planning on watching Daybreak Part II...just so I have something to rant about next week *grin*

17 March 2009

Naked

I woke this morning to find that my watch had stopped...at 1.28 AM. (Out of interest, is it just me or do all watches stop during the middle of the night rather than during the day?) Being the sort of person that I am, I went looking for my other watch (because it always pays to have a spare). It too had stopped. So now both watches are in my bag preparing themselves for a afternoon visit to the watch doctor (jeweller). My wrist, on the other hand, feels naked without a watch. I feel naked without a watch. I never leave home without a watch...or a book.

What do you feel naked without? (And no, I'm not referring to clothes *grin*). What is the thing that you can't do without in your day? The item that has to 'travel' with you?

Today (17 March) is St Patrick's Day. It also would have been my grandmother's 88th birthday. She passed away on 23 July 2008.

14 March 2009

As A Pig In Mud

....that's how happy I am. Why? Because I have, in my grubby little hands, copies of Angels' Blood and Bone Crossed. And according to the results of the poll (and thank you so much for voting), my next read is.....

*drum roll please*

ANGELS' BLOOD!!!!!!!!

OK, so I kind of gave the results of the poll away by adding the cover of Angel's Blood to my sidebar...but I still felt a drum roll was needed *grin* And congratulations to Nalini Singh: Angels' Blood is #19 on the New York Times Bestseller List and #117 on the USA Today Bestseller List!

I also bought the first five books in Anne Bishop's Black Jewels' series (mass market paperback format) this morning. The covers are so pretty!

13 March 2009

Mélusine (Sarah Monette)

Last month I was challenged by the lovely Ana from The Book Smugglers and the lovely Amyless to review Mélusine (Sarah Monette). This was a book that The Book Smugglers had been challenged to read by Kristen (from Fantasy Cafe) and while the word on the street (blog) had me intrigued, the back cover summary hooked me line and sinker:
Mélusine - a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption - and destinies lost and found. Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But his aristocratic peers don't know his dark past - how his abusive former master enslaved him, body and soul, and trained him to pass as a nobleman. Within the walls of the Mirador - Mélusine's citadel of power and wizardry - Felix believed he was safe. He was wrong. Now, the horrors of his previous life have found him and threaten to destroy all he has since become. Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. Raised as a kept-thief and trained as an assassin, he escaped his Keeper long ago and lives on his own as a cat burglar. But now he has been caught by a mysterious foreign wizard using a powerful calling charm. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay - but for Felix Harrowgate. Thrown together by fate, the broken wizard Felix and the wanted killer Mildmay journey far from Mélusine through lands thick with strange magics and terrible demons of darkness. But it is the shocking secret from their pasts, linking them inexorably together, that will either save them, or destroy them.
I finished reading the book on Sunday and have attempted to cobble together a few of my thoughts. Where to start? Firstly, did the book work for me? The answer is a resounding YES! A caveat: this book is what is known as 'dark fantasy' and it is, while slightly humourous in places, very, very dark. Nasty, nasty things happen to the characters, things that only in the depths of depraved humanity would people inflict on others. Sometimes I'm not sure which is worst, specific, vivid details or my imagination filling in the gaps. This book had both!

Interestingly for a fantasy book (or at least the ones I've read), Mélusine is written in the first person, which I have to admit to not being a huge fan of. However, in this book it worked, maybe because the reader moves between the POV of the two main (male) protagonists - Mildmay the Fox and Felix Harrowgate. As the story develops, we get a very clear picture of both Felix and Mildmay. Often when I read books written in the first person I feel like I am getting a sanitised view. In Mélusine everything is raw, which meant that our impressions of the characters and the emotions the words evoke were, for me, just as raw. Both Mildmay and Felix have a strong voice. I just loved Mildmay's self-deprecating humour:
I trailed along after Felix all fu*king afternoon. We hit this kind of goat track after a while - and if you ask how I know it was for goats, it was because they were standing around laughing at us the whole way.
And his matter-of-fact way of looking at situations:
I met Ginevra Thomson in the ordinary way of business. She was looking for a cat burglar. I was looking for a client.
Mildmay has one face, which is not to say that he is one-dimensional, because he is far from it. (There is definitely more to Mildmay that meets the eye.) I guess what I'm trying to say is that while Mildmay uses many pseudonms he is, for the most part, comfortable in his own skin, with who and what he is.
Felix is Mildmay's diametrical opposite. I have heard that Felix is a love him/hate him character. I loved him. We see so many different sides to Felix as the book progresses and not all of them are nice. Felix runs from himself, hides himself within layers. In parts he isn't...likeable, but I was drawn to him. His madness was...interesting, and I spent most of the book thinking he wasn't completely mad. His magic was (IMO)...warped, and so he saw things others didn't. The big turning point for me with Felix was early on in the book, when he almost started down the path of his abuser. Instead, he looked inside himself, realised where he was going and decided he needed to be punished...by the one person who could truly, in his mind, punish him. So he went back to his abuser. That one small scene told me how broken Felix truly was.

Yes the author does kind of throw you in (at the deep end) to the story. No mass info dumping (because otherwise there would be nothing else as the world Mélusine inhabits is incredibly rich and complex, and different and yet at the same time not. I enjoyed stumbling over the occasional Earth-like references - Mark Polaris the explorer for example. There were definitely some VERY long sentences, that were a little confusing at times and had to be re-read. Then again, they could be likened to somone's thoughts. And thoughts can and do...ramble. It just meant I had to concentrate that much harder, which wasn't a bad thing as the imagery evoked was so vivid. I will echo all the reviews I have seen to date (including a marvellous review by The Book Smugglers at Fantasy Cafe) and suggest checking the author's website for a guide on the calenderical system and a map of Mélusine. However, where all the various suburbs in the city were didn't worry so much as where all the countries were. I spent the intial part of the book trying to remember what other book the Lower City reminded me of...then I remembered. Tamora Pierce's Terrier, although Terrier is a YA book and so sanitized to a certain extent. In Mélusine the depravities that humans can inflict on each other were very apparent.

The lack of a map was, however, a minor issue. I didn't want to put the book down and kept getting annoyed at how pesky things (like life) kept interfering. So I had to snatch pages here and there - not the best way to read a book such as this. Then again, considering how dark some scenes were, a break might have been beneficial. I think for The Virtu I will deliberately start reading it on a weekend so I am not interrupted! And the last 10 pages of the book just ripped at my heart - it was raw and I loved it!

So, will I read the second book (The Virtu)? Definitely! Once I have 'cleared the deck' (so to speak) of the library books I currently have I will be hunting down The Virtu. Hopefully if the review is as rambling as I fear it is then the fact I want to read the second book so desperately will give you a inkling into whether I liked the book or not *grin*

12 March 2009

The Power Is In Your Hands

A copy of Bone Crossed (Patricia Briggs) is currently waiting for me at the library. I was going to pick it up tomorrow, once I had read Into the Shadow (Christina Dodd). However, I noticed this morning that a copy of Nalini Singh's Angels' Blood is currently 'In Transit'. So by tomorrow afternoon there will be two (very eagerly anticipated) books waiting for me to collect. (Thank goodness I have [just] read The Shadow Queen or I would an indecisive blob on the floor!) So, which book do I read first? A poll.....I should have a poll *grin*

Oh, and the review of Mélusine is coming. I'm...fussing with it!

09 March 2009

09 March

Today would have been my mother's 64th birthday. She passed away on 26 June 2007 from pneumonia secondary to metastatic breast cancer. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever known....and I still miss her.

I was hoping to post a picture of my mother (on her 21st birthday) but in my haste to leave for work this morning (and drain my tomato relish concoction - more on that later) I forgot the photo. I have, however, written myself a note and I will update this post when I have the photo.

06 March 2009

What the Frak?

I watched Episode 419 (Someone to Watch Over Me) of Battlestar Galactica yesterday and I am still trying to work out where the writers are going with the plot...and what they were consuming when writing this episode! The consensus among those of us who watched it was that it was possibly the worst in the series to date. What was 45 minutes long could have been condensed into 10 minutes for all the information it gave us.

Are you watching the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica and, if so, where do you think the writers are going? And with only three episodes to go do you think we will have a conclusion or will it be another Pretender? (For those of you who know me, don't worry, I'm not getting on my soapbox about The Pretender!!! [again])

Updated to remove the photo (as it was driving me nuts!)

04 March 2009

Brought To You By The Letters 'B', 'D' And 'M'

I have a confession. I spend large quantities of time attempting to think up witty titles for my posts. Why? I'm not exactly sure. I think the small child still inside me seeks approval. I invariably fail (with the witty titles), because I don't really have a sense of humour, but at least I amuse myself to some extent (I'm still grinning over The Risotto Affair.) As for today's title, well I have a hodgepodge of miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam floating around in my head (not that unusual) so I thought it might make up a 'holding' post while I'm attempting to write something with a little more meat on its bones. And yes, I was addicted to Sesame Street as a child (hence the title!).

'B' is for Books! And this week I have been lucky enough to win not one, not two, but three books! I should point out that this is a very rare occurrence (me winning), so I wanted to say a huge thank you too:
- JL Langley and Maria & Marisa from Romance Novel TV for an eBook of JL Langley's The Englor Affair (It's my first ever eBook and my first ever JL Langley book, so I'm very excited)
- Nalini Singh and Dani from Confessions of a Romance Book Addict for a copy of one of Nalini's Singh's Psy/Changeling series (pre-2009) [I chose Mine to Posses, which is rather apt as I hope to be posting about it within the next week]
- Michelle from Romance B(u)y the Book, Random House and Suzanne Brockmann for a copy of Suzanne Brockmann's Dark of Night

'D' is for Dance! I received two positive comments on my dancing last night! Yes, this is very unusual and may be because we were just doing a small combination of steps rather that the full amalgamation but still...*happy dance*

'M' is for Movie! On the weekend I watched Mama Mia for the first time (although I did see the stage show version in the UK years ago). It is such a fun movie! I was attempting to stew apples at the time but I keep getting sidetracked...and I had the to watch Donna and the Dynamos perform Super Tropper numerous times :)

So, did you (or do you still) watch Sesame Street? Who was your favourite character? Me? I liked Cookie Monster...and Oscar...and mad Harry...hold on...nope, he's a Muppet!

01 March 2009

Books 2009: February Update

Total to date: 15 books

The 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge total to date: 11 books

A list of all the books I've read to date (from 01 January 2008) can be found at Library Thing.

Favourite books of the month?

* Beauty and the Black Sheep (Jessica Bird)

* I Shall Not Want (Julia Spencer-Fleming)

* The Defiant Hero (Suzanne Brockmann)

Currently reading: Melusine (Sarah Monette)

Book(s) I 'did not finish':

* House of Cards (CE Murphy)

* Kitty & the Midnight House (Carrie Vaughn)

And the books I'm most looking forward too next month are:

* Angels' Blood (Nalini Singh)

* Bone Crossed (Patricia Briggs)

* The Shadow Queen (Anne Bishop)

Updated to add: Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Carrie Vaughan) [I might attempt this book again a little later on in the year as I think the DNF was in all likelihood because of my ennui with urban fantasy on that particular day rather than the book.]