Sunday, 30 May 2010

In my mailbox (5)

Wow, I don't think I've ever got this many books in a week before! It's so exciting for me. At the moment, life is busy enough that I'm barely getting through one book a week, so these should keep me busy for a while.

(My theme for this week's In my mailbox: how many times can I use "presumably" and "apparently"? Apparently (ha!), far, far too much.)

Goodreads summary: Once upon a time, a fairy is born. She lives in an old oak tree at the bottom of a garden with the rest of the fairy folk. Never has she known a time when life hasn't been hard, with many dangers and much adversity. But when she becomes the Hunter of the group and learns to do battle in the outside world, her adventures really take off.

Read an excerpt of Knife at Amazon.com.

Goodreads summary: In nineteenth-century England, a powerful sorcerer and King of the Goblins chooses Kate, the elder of two orphan girls recently arrived at their ancestral home, Hallow Hill, to be his bride and queen.

Read an excerpt from author Clare B Dunkle's website or at Amazon.com.

I won One for the money from Geeky Blogger's Book Blog.

From GoodReads: Stephanie Plum's Miata has been repossessed and she's so poor that she just drank her last bottle of beer for breakfast. Her only chance out of her rut is her repugnant cousin Vinnie and his bail-bond business. She's blackmailed Vinnie into giving her a bail-bond recovery job worth $10,000 (for a murder suspect), even though she doesn't own a gun and has never apprehended a person in her life. And the guy she has to get, Joe Morelli, is the same creep who charmed away her teenage virginity behind the pastry case in the Trenton bakery where she worked after school.

Incarceron sounds really interesting — and unusual — to me. It's a fantasy book about a guy who lives in a prison that was sealed up centuries — so everyone living there now is descended from those long-dead criminals. The book's also about a girl Outside the prison (presumably a spoilt little rich girl who feels imprisoned in her society of finery). (Presumably the guy escapes and falls in love with the girl.) (Presumably it's the first book in a trilogy.) But sounds an interesting premise for a book.

I feel a little guilty about this one! I won Monsters of men from Good Golly Miss Holly, and apparently it's the third in a trilogy. So I figure I'd better order the first two books in the series so I know what I'm reading about in this one!

The cover, by the way, is much more awesome than it looks from the picture - the dust jacket is clear and has a bunch of pictures on it that complete the hardcover's picture underneath.

Books 2 and 3 in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. At first I wasn't sure I'd like Kushiel's dart, the first one in the series, but it definitely grew on me. I also love that on the cover of Kushiel's chosen you can see Ph├Ędre's full marque (the tattoo down her back that was completed when she finished her apprenticeship and became free).

Lynette’s Two Cents I won The personal shopper from Lynette's Two Cents. I really like Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, and these look pretty similar — light-hearted chick lit with insane shopping sprees. It's all about living vicariously!

I pre-ordered The demon's covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan a while ago — the sequel to The demon's lexicon, it moves on from Nick's point of view to pink-haired Mae's. Apparently, this book is about Mae trying to convince Alan and Nick to help her brother out.

Wait... wasn't that the plot of the first one?

In my mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Thought blogging

I don't thought-blog any more.

Sure, I talk about books, and do the occasional review, or make some comment about some event that's happened in my life; but I don't tend to talk about my thoughts — except for the occasional rant about Christianity.

It's not that I don't think about issues any more; it's not that my life is perfect. It's not that I have any other outlet for discussing deeper issues.

At university, I tend to be quiet; I'm generally content to listen to other people. And my friends and family and I discuss events in life, not things we think about life.

As far as this blog goes, the only people that generally read it are those interested in the book side, not the personal side; my friends tend to rely more on Facebook for my "updates", and I'm disinclined to sum up my musings on life in such a short and public space.

I know a blog is more public in that anyone can read it; but it's less public in that most people won't care enough to.

I think one reason I stopped blogging is that I'm now happy. I'm in a good relationship, I'm heading for a future I want, and I like the person I am.

But I've been feeling a little lonely lately. It's not for lack of friends or people to talk to; it's just that I don't have a friend I can sit down and talk with for hours about random theoretical rubbish that will never matter.

I might start to write down my feelings and thoughts here again. I don't want or expect an audience for my thoughts, but it's nice to be able to express them somewhere.

So while this blog will remain book-focussed, there might be a bit more of me in it, too.

Monday, 24 May 2010

In my mailbox (4)

Books! I have new books! And so, time for another round of In my mailbox, hosted by The Story Siren.

I actually received The red tent by Anita Diamant last week, but didn't end up doing an "In my mailbox" last week — so figured I'd add it to this week's stash, with a thanks to Helen at Helen's Book Blog, whom I won it off!

I don't know a lot about what the book's about, but apparently it's a re-telling of Dinah, one of Jacob's daughters from the Bible. Never heard of Dinah before — don't even know if she actually existed — but that background on its own makes me want to read the book!

(I'm not sure what the title refers to, but my money's going on whatever the woman on the cover is wearing.)

I read this book years ago, along with a lot of George MacDonald's books. I loved them then for their fairytale qualities (and ignored their blatant overmoralising). I loved his books like A light princess (about a princess who is always happy and laughing, never cries, and weighs nothing, and her kingdom is in great peril as the lake begins to drain away to nothing. Those things may not sound related, but I think they are in the book. My summary makes it sound weird, but it was an awesome book) and of course this one, The day boy and the night girl, about a girl who's never seen light (literally) and a boy who's only ever seen the day. And, of course, about how the two meet and fall in love.... I don't remember anything else about the book other than those bare basics, so I'm looking forward to rediscovering the book!

My brother sent me a copy of The princess and the goblin for my birthday! (I may have dropped a hint that I was rediscovering George MacDonald.) This is a story about young Princess Irene, who discovers a secret stair to the top turret of her castle which, according to the back cover of the book, leads to a wonderful revelation. I have no idea what the revelation is, although I read and re-read this book many times about ten years ago. I do remember a miner's son called Curdie who saves Irene from goblins, who I think kidnap Irene to marry their king, or something of the sort.

George MacDonald was one of the granddaddies of fantasy, and influenced J R R Tolkein, C S Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle and G K Chesterton (according to wikipedia).

An anthology! I haven't actually bought one before. But I saw Elemental advertised on author Juliet Marillier's website, and learned that she and several other fantasy authors have all contributed stories to the anthology. Best of all, proceeds from the book go toward the Save the Children Fund — when the book originally came out in 2006 the proceeds all went to helping people in the aftermath of the Christmas Day Tsunami, which is such a good cause. And as I say, I haven't bought an anthology before — I don't generally read a lot of short stories, but why limit yourself? I'm looking forward to discovering a few new authors in this book.

Authors who have written stories for the book: Brian Aldiss, Jacqueline Carey, William C Dietz, David Drake, Lynn Flewelling, Esther M Friesner, David Gerrold, Joe Haldeman, Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Sherrilyn Kenyon writing as Kinley MacGregor, Tim Lebbon, Juliet Marillier, Syne Mitchell, Larry Niven, Eric Nylund, Stel Pavlou, Adam Roberts, Sharon Shinn, Michael Marshall Smith, Martha Wells, Sean Williams and Shane Dix, and Janny Wurts.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Review: What my mother doesn't know (Sonya Sones)

So I thought about writing this review in verse, but... I couldn't even get past the first two lines, so wisely decided against it.

What my mother doesn't know by Sonya Sones is a YA book written entirely in verse, so I really wasn't sure what to expect from it. But it's good: light, but nice. I read it in just over an hour, I think.

Since it's written all in poem form, it has lots of cute quotables.

On having a crush on a guy she's chatting to online: If I could marry a font / I'd marry his.

On being in love in high school:

I wish I could drink a magic potion and
shrink way down till I was small
enough to fit right into his
shirt pocket and live
there tucked near to
his heart listening
to it beating in
rhythm with
mine every
minute of
every
day

And sometimes a few words can contain heartbreak in them, as you realise your perfect relationship's dying: Way back in the beginning of September / when I wasn't even sure yet / if he liked me, / I used to imagine what I'd do / if Dylan told me he loved me. / In my fantasy I'd just throw back my head / with a triumphant sexy laugh, / and then / he'd rake his fingers through my hair / and kiss me hard on the mouth. / But tonight / when he finally said the magic words, / I didn't laugh and he didn't kiss me. / He just peered at me with this worried look / and I suddenly felt like crying.

Because it's all in verse, it's all read very quickly; but you skip over the meaningless stuff, you cut to the real parts of life as a teen, the arguments at home, having fun with your best friends, your crushes, your fantasies, that dress your mum made you wear....

It's like reading snapshots of a person's life, and they can be silly and trivial and funny or deep and sad or anything in between.

I won this from Natalie at This Purple Crayon in her "Unsung YA" giveaway, and to be honest I had some doubts about whether it would be any good.

But it was.

Yes, it's quick to read; it gives the feeling of being a "light" read, because you get through it all so quickly. But it's still deep, and still emotional. It's a very different book — in a good way.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Review: The poison throne (Celine Kiernan)

It's a sad fact that when you're really looking forward to a book, it'll probably disappoint.

This was the case with The poison throne by Celine Kiernan; while I hadn't heard much about it, I liked the excerpt I'd read, so decided to give it a try.

From GoodReads: 15-year-old Wynter Moorehawke returns home after a five-year sojourn in the bleak Northlands. All has changed in her absence. Wynter is forced to make a terrible choice: stay and bow to the King's will, or abandon her ailing father and join her friend Razi and the mysterious Christopher Garron in their efforts to restore the fragile kingdom to its former stability. But this changed kingdom is a dangerous place, where all resistance is brutally suppressed and the trio constantly risk assassination, torture or imprisonment.

First, I love the cover. It evokes a kick-ass heroine, striding off with her sword to conquer or save the day or whatever she needs to do. And while the blurb sounded a tad cheesy, the pages I read were good.

Unfortunately (plot spoiler!), nothing really happens in the book. Wynter arrives at the fortress with her father on page one; she then hangs out, meets a guy, does some work, and leaves in the last chapter.

Don't get me wrong, there's certainly suspense in the book. There's torture, and death, and secret plots, and treason, and mystery. But nothing really changes. Character A is tortured, and is unhappy and beaten up aftewards, but nothing's changed. Character B is forced to betray his best friend, and is unhappy about it, but nothing changes. For a lot of the book, the characters are holed up in their bedrooms, communicating via a secret passageway between the rooms; and to me, that's just not interesting.

I liked Wynter, the main character; I liked her father; I liked her friend; I liked the conflict presented in the book. I loved the concept of the talking cats and ghosts; I liked the whole concept of the book. But somehow in delivery it didn't quite make it.

A few things bothered me. The relationship between Wynter and her love interest seems to go from blind, distrustful hatred on first meeting to absolute trust and friendship, very quickly — not buying it.

Another sudden about-face was the previously awesome king (a) turned into a tyrant very quickly for no discernible reason and (b) isn't particularly tyrannical for a tyrant. Those may sound like contradictory problems. But as far as (a) goes, the characters keep talking about these harsh laws and terrible things the king is doing; but when you meet him, he doesn't seem evil at all. But nor does he seem like a genuinely confused man doing bad things for a good reason, which I assume is what the author wants us to feel. Again — not buying it.

It's possible a couple of unexplained things, like the king's sudden about-face, are explained in the next two books. But for me, while I don't mind waiting till the end of one book to find out whodunnit — while I don't even mind waiting till the end of a trilogy to find out what the mysterious Machine behind it all is — I do need some small mysteries explained, like the king, to help me understand the characters. Because if I can't believe in the characters, I'm not going to buy the next book.

It also seemed to me as though the author's a little idealistic in terms of who she wanted her character to be. She makes a point of saying how Wynter's grown up in court, how she knows how to lie and, essentially, talk pretty. But throughout the book, Wynter seems to be a terrible liar, disobeys an almost direct order from the king (who pretends not to notice her disobedience — terrible tyrant. I would make a much better tyrant, they should cast me as the evil king instead), and is basically as undiplomatic as possible. I cringed at times. I have to say, I like a bit of deception in my fictional heroines, a little bit of knowing when to lie and when to play nice, a little bit of turning situations to your own advantage, a little bit of playing the game. I certainly don't expect a heroine to be like that — but when she advertises her own deceit and then shows none whatsoever, I'm not impressed.

I don't know if it comes through, but I didn't hate this book by any means. It was fine. I liked the characters, I thought the concept was really good, and I'm mildly interested to find out what happens in the end. But the unresolved character mysteries and lack of action just spoiled the book for me, and I won't be buying the other two books in the trilogy.

Other reviews: Angieville, Graeme's fantasy book review, my fluttering heart, Persnickety Snark, The Speculative Scotsman, Valentina's room

Sunday, 2 May 2010

In my mailbox (3)

Just two books this week (it's like I'm a student on a budget, or something), but looking forward to both of these!

I won What my mother doesn't know in a contest held by Natalie at This Purple Crayon. It's told from the perspective of 14-year-old Sophie — and it's all in verse. Wow. I wasn't sure what it would be like, but having had a quick look at some of the pages so far, it looks really interesting and funny — I'll try and write a review of it once I've read it!
Read some excerpted poems from What my mother doesn't know.

GoodReads summary: 15-year-old Wynter Moorehawke returns home after a five-year sojourn in the bleak Northlands. All has changed in her absence. Wynter is forced to make a terrible choice: stay and bow to the King's will, or abandon her ailing father and join her friend Razi and the mysterious Christopher Garron in their efforts to restore the fragile kingdom to its former stability. But this changed kingdom is a dangerous place, where all resistance is brutally suppressed and the trio constantly risk assassination, torture or imprisonment.
Read an excerpt from The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan.

In my mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.