28 February 2010

Scream

*SIGH* I have spent the majority of the weekend either with or managing various family members. Since a picture is worth a thousand words (and since I don't want to subject you all to a 1000-word diatribe of how I am feeling after said weekend) I give you The Scream.

Yes, that is how my family make me feel. Unfortunately, one can't chose one's family. So, how was your weekend?

26 February 2010

Next?

The lovely Kerry from Saving My Sanity emailed me yesterday to inform me that the sixth Mercy Thompson book (anticipated publication date: Spring 2011) is to be entitled River Marked. (Thank you Kerry!) And that got me to thinking about what, if anything, the title might mean. The fifth book, Silver Borne, has me thinking werewolves, while River Marked has me thinking of the crook...and the fae. How far off do you think I am? Anyway, all of this led me to the thought that Spring 2011 seems so far away, although, the publication of Silver Borne is on the horizon. And that in turn led me to the realization that, even though I'm all but drowning in books, I'm craving one particular book...

Is it always this way? We crave that which we don't have? Is it greed (one more precious book for the hoard) or is it anticipation? It's not like we have to go out and hunt down our prey any more, so is this hunting instinct reinventing itself in a modern world? I don't know the answer, but I am curious as to what you think. Do you finish a book and automatically crave the next one or do you finish a book, know a sequel will be forthcoming at some point in the future and move on to another book?

Edited to add: I discovered today - thank you oh lovely Kristen from Fantasy Cafe - that the first chapter of Silver Borne is available online.

24 February 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I looked at my library hold list over the weekend, which is the largest of my three TBR lists (I have my library hold list [online] and two print lists - one for books I want to place holds on, once they are listed on the library's catalogue, and one for books that are listed on the catalogue as 'Available' and thus I can't place a hold on them (evil system)] and almost fainted. I remember someone (Christine?) challenging me at the end of last year to surpass 100 holds. As of today I am now at 114 books! This is not good. Why? Because there are so many good books on my TBR list languishing unread. And the list keeps growing... So I've decided to be ruthless. *cue dramatic music*

I'm sure we've all read posts in which a blogger has said goodbye to a particular author - I've even written a letter to a book when we decided to part ways. But, apart from that one instance, I've never really taken such a step so...overtly. Normally DNF books and I just drift apart. But...the next book in a particular series is appearing on the horizon that is my TBR list and...I don't care. I don't want to read about the trials and tribulations of the female character.While I enjoy the world building, the book is always about this main character. EVERYTHING happens because of or about her to a greater or lesser degree. Honestly, any normal person would have experienced a breakdown considering the stress the author has put her through, but she keeps on keeping on. Oh, and she's getting more powerful. Honestly, my favourite characters are all secondary characters, particular one, who is the third in the love triangle that is not. And...how many times can the world almost end in this series? Because...it's getting...I dunno...boring! How about we change it up a little - have someone enslave the world or destroy the world for some other reason! So, I reached a decision over the weekend. It's goodbye to this series. *shock horror* I know that many, many people love these books but...not me...not any more. Actually, I'm surprised it has taken me so long to reach this decision because, as my best friend, the lovely Starfire, said on the weekend 'Haven't you not enjoyed these books for a while?' And the answer to that would be yes.

At that point I decided to read a review of this book - I want to know what happens, just not enough to read the book. So, I found a review and read. And then the dithering started. You see, I live in a world (of my own making, yes) in which I live in complete and abject fear of making the wrong decision. Oh, there seems to be a lot about my favourite character in this review...maybe he's in a lot of the book... Maybe I should read it? And that's when the lovely Starfire came to the rescue. This book (and yes I'm deliberately not mentioning the name :) is on her TBR list and she will be reading it at some point this year. The lovely Starfire has very kindly promised to read the book and inform me if my favourite character makes a number of appearances in the book and thus be something I might consider reading. Don't you just love friends that do that? (((Starfire))) So, the book is GONE from my TBR list. PHEW! *wipes brow* Only 113 books to go!

So, do you find breaking up with a series difficult? Are you ever tempted to go back?

Edited to add: I was thinking of confessing the name of the book/series if anyone asked, but after reading a post by the lovely Carolyn Crane from The Thrillionth Page I thought I would join said evil and pernicious new trend and answer only yes or no to any questions asked by you about the title of the book...

Edited again to add: It has been deduced that the book/series is urban fantasy. I thought I would provide a clue. The female character that drives me bat-f*ck crazy is called Jo...

22 February 2010

Back From The Fray...

I'm back...sort of. Thank you all for your comments on my AWOL post. To clarify, last week wasn't so much about taking time offline to watch the Winter Olympics (although that was part of it) but more about reallocating time so that I could make it through an extremely hectic week without feeling overwhelmed and hiding in a closet (which was rather tempting). It was my own fault - I arranged for too much to occur in one week and I sort of imploded. I'm feeling slightly calmer now, although rather exhausted - I wish I could have a weekend when I didn't actually have anything on and could just...vegetate instead of running around like a headless chicken (a common pass time for me) completing chores.

This week is looking slightly better, but dance class has started so for two days per week I will probably be offline. (I only have until June to learn the entire syllabus for Advanced II and I'm worried...OK, petrified! Par for the course then :)

Plus, I ending up spending 4 hours at the AA (Automobile Association not Alcoholics Anonymous) on Saturday rather than the 1.5 hours I had originally budgeted as the brakes on my 14-year-old car needed replacing. On the positive side (one of my grandmother's always used to tell me to look for the silver lining) I was able to watch the men's downhill competition (Winter Olympics) while I waited and finish Corambis (Sarah Monette). I've now entered the glum phase...the one when you finish a book/series you've been completely in love with and now everything looks...grey and flat. Or is that just me? Review of Corambis to follow... Hmmmm. I'm not the only one who has wished that an author would keep writing a series, am I? Just one more Doctrine of Labyrinths book Ms Monette please...who I am kidding, I want more than one. Ten is a nice round number, isn't it *grin* (And I mean ten more books not ten in total :)

17 February 2010

AWOL

As you may have noticed, I have been Absent WithOut Leave (AWOL) this week. Life outside of the online community has raised its head and I am currently impersonating...badly...a headless chicken, which is not in any way beneficial considering that dance class started last week and the chicken dance is not part of the current curriculum. Plus...the Winter Olympics are on. *deep breath* I have a confession. Yes, another one *grin* I'm addicted to the Olympics - Winter and Summer. And while the figure skating is indeed my favourite event, I also love curling and the Super G...

Anyway, I just wanted you all to know that I'm not packing a sad or deliberately avoiding anyone. Just simply overwhelmed, and in an effort not to end up in a closet (it was a close call yesterday) I'm trying to not spread myself too thinly. But it doesn't mean I don't miss y'all and I can't wait to catch up with everyone online over the weekend.

So, what is everyone up too this week? Are you watching the Winter Olympics?

13 February 2010

From Where I Sit

I've discovered something interesting - I love it when that happens *grin* The lovely Meredith Shayne and I were discussing a scene in A Dangerous Thing (Josh Lanyon). It starts with Jake asking Adrian:
'So,' he said casually, 'You want to fu*k?'
And was followed by:
'Sure,' I said.
At the time of reading said scene (while having breakfast, which I don't think had any impact on my response but I thought I should disclose it) I felt...I'm not exactly sure...disquieted? It wasn't until Meredith and I were chatting about the book that I mentioned my disquiet over how the scene was set up. Hmm, that's not quite right. It wasn't the scene itself, but the dialogue. It felt...rough, blunt. Physical, not emotional. Very...basic! That's the word I was looking for. Basic! Not romantic.

Meredith's reply was that, when she first read the scene, it struck her as incredibly masculine. And our resulting conversation got me to thinking about how men approach sex - with women and with men. So, are the m/f romance novels we read accurately reflecting how men approach sex with women, or are they romanticizing it? And are the m/m romance novels we read accurately reflecting how men approach sex with men? Is the scene in A Dangerous Thing typical (and yes, I know use of the word typical is a bit strong).

11 February 2010

Romance Fail...

Caveat: This post may be controversial, so I apologise in advance if any offence is caused - it was not my intent.

I think I have romance fail. Yes, romance fail! It's insidious, creeping up on me when I wasn't looking. At first I thought it was nothing (just like you do that light cough); I brushed it off as just a small irritation, and delved happily back into my fantasy novel (which in and of itself should have told me something). But by the time I realized...it was too late. And that moment of revelation? I read the back cover summaries of two (paranormal) romance novels earlier this week and I couldn't muscle up any enthusiasm at all! I just kind of looked at them and thought 'blah, blah, blah'.

It was only then that I realized how strong a hold romance fail had. I honestly felt, upon reading the summaries, that I was reading the synopsis of a soap opera. (Don't get me wrong, at the right time and place I love soap operas - it's all Kris' fault I'm currently hooked on watching One Life to Live excerpts of the Kyle & Oliver storyline on YouTube!)

Anyway, generally speaking, soap operas are over exaggerations. What the characters are put through - everything - is so much....more! And that's what I discovered when reading the summaries. The words & phrases felt exaggerated and, to thrown in another analogy (just to confuse you even more), ...overdesigned (I've been watching too much Project Runway). It felt like everything (including the kitchen sink - I love that phrase) was present. And, what was utilized in one was all but repeated in the other. (Note the avoidance of the word 'copied'; I'm not insinuating that there is a copyright issue. It's more that the summaries had the same 'feel'.)

And these words & phrases? Beauty, claim, deadly, exquisite, forever, irresistible, loss of control, lust, pleasure, risk, seductive, secrets, wicked...

Don't get me wrong, all of these words have their place. But, all of them? At the same time? Come to think of it, it's like an overactive hormonal teenager ran rampant. (I missed that phase entirely BTW.) See, romance fail!

And my personal (not) favourite word: feisty. Reading that word in a book drives me completely bat-f*ck crazy (since I'm reading Corambis I'm going to channel one of the characters - Mildmay :) I was chatting about this with my best friend, the lovely Starfire, and for her the 'hit the wall' word is 'spitfire'. To paraphrase, the only time she expects to read that word is if she is reading a World War II novel! (I love Spitfires BTW - just so we're clear, I'm referring to the plane *grin*)

Now, I know that it is often not the author that writes these summaries, and I will concede that maybe I just happened to read the wrong two summaries on the wrong day, but I do think I have developed a rather serious case of romance fail, Which is no doubt why I'm reading fantasy ATM (and FYI it's going down a treat).

So, have you ever developed romance fail (and is there a cure or do I just need to wait it out?) and/or are there any words of phrases in summaries (or the novels themselves) that drive you bat-f*ck crazy?

07 February 2010

The Mirador (Sarah Monette)

Caveat: This is not so much a review as my random thoughts...and since it has been so long since I read the book I’m not promising that said thoughts will be coherent *grin*

A long, long time ago (August 2009) in a galaxy (country) far, far away (New Zealand), I read The Mirador, the third book in Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series:
The dashing wizard Felix Harrowgate has reclaimed his sanity, magic, and position in society. But even as he returns to his former place in the Mirador-the citadel of power and wizardry-there are many who desire his end. Mildmay the Fox is an ex-assassin, a cat-burglar, and Felix's half-brother. Tied to Felix by blood and magic, Mildmay goes where Felix goes-even into the Mirador. There, Mildmay finds himself drawn to an alluring spy of the Bastion, a rival school of wizards. The Bastion desires above all else to bring down the Mirador, and Felix is the key to its destruction. But Mildmay cannot let Felix stand alone, and will fight to save both his brother and his city from certain ruin.
While I was relatively prompt in reviewing Mélusine and The Virtu, the first two books in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series, my partly completed review of The Mirador has languished in draft form for...months. At times I honestly considered not completing the review, but, in the interests of consistency, I decided to proceed. And, to aid in the reviewing process, I made myself a deal – not to read Corambis, the fourth and final book in the series, until I had written a review of the Mirador. At long last I am finally putting pen to paper...or should that be fingers to the keyboard? *grin* So, where to start?

At the beginning of the book I felt a little like Alice (in Wonderland), right after she has fallen down the rabbit hole. Because with The Mirador you just jump straight in to the story – there is no prologue (although approximately 25 pages in there is a rough update). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the lack of a prologue is a bad thing, just...sudden. Actually, I rather like that the author is treating me (the reader) as an adult, and not slowly and painstakingly going over everything that has occurred to date. The author has assumed I will remember. And I did...eventually *grin*

The Mirador definitely has a slower pace than the previous books, with more political intrigue and machinations. The danger in The Mirador is...not as overt as it was in Mélusine and The Virtu, but it is still present:
It wasn’t that Styrch [Malkar Gennadion] was everywhere I looked. It was that he was about to be everywhere I looked...
But, since I liked political machinations, particularly when mixed with strong characterization, the book worked for me (understatement of the decade). The other main difference (compared with the previous books) is the introduction of a third POV, that of Mehitabel, who we met in The Virtu. I still don’t think I know who Mehitabel really is...and I have a feeling neither does she. Everything is pretence with Mehitabel, endless layers of pretence:
The door swung shut behind me, and I heard the bolt thump home. I could have screamed, like a good bourgeoisie, or fainted, like the ingénue I was getting to old to play. I said 'Who are you?' and made sure I said it crossly.
Because I knew how careful she [Mehitabel] ran her life...What bothered me was, she didn’t want me to know that. She didn’t want me to know who she was. Not really. Not down when it counts.
And then there are the secrets...the ones that she hides from others, and the ones that she hides from herself:
And I couldn’t. Couldn’t get rid of the love. Or the guilt. For I should have stopped him from running, should have confessed my own plans, gotten him to wait, to be silent, to pretend acquiescence. But I’d protected myself. And the fact that I hated myself for it now meant absolutely nothing. It didn’t change anything. Didn’t redeem anything. It was just something I had to live with as part of who I was.
And then we have Felix. Self-destructive, cruel Felix, who is so lost. At the beginning of The Mirador Felix is, on the surface, back to his arrogant best (a la Mélusine). However, it is, to all intents and purposes, a facade:
'Of all the things you know about Felix, how many of them really matter? To him, I mean?'
'The same way you’re never going to tell me anything except exactly what you want me to hear.'
Felix was weird about being watched. For one thing he almost always knew. He didn’t mind – f*ck, he loved it. But when he knew, which like said was mostly, he’d...I dunno. He’d perform...I couldn’t even begin to imagine how tired it must have made him.
The obligation d’ame has changed Felix & Mildmay’s relationship:
And Mildmay was just behind Felix, like a shadow...The obligation d’ame meant that his only allegiance was to Felix, making them a separate kingdom of two, with Felix as king and Mildmay as ministers, army and populace, all coming in one. A stormy little kingdom I though, with periodic flare-ups of civil war and a magnificently unstable government.
And although the obligation d’ame ties Mildmay to Felix, Mildmay still gifts Felix with his loyalty...and his love. And yet that loyalty is sorely tested time and again by Felix. It’s like...it’s like a child, continually testing the bonds of a relationship to ensure that they are solid...while at the same time punishing those closest to them because the relationship (and their feelings) makes them feel vulnerable. Felix does care for Mildmay. He just...can’t admit it to himself. Felix is so wrapped up in his façade, in the present, in the immediate machinations of all and sundry, including his own, that he doesn’t seen the trap until it has sprung. Because the Bastion, unlike the Mirador, realizes that the Mirador’s fate is intricately tied up with that of Felix. And when that trap is sprung Felix only has Mildmay...the last chapters all but broke my heart. And it is then that he admits the truth, that he loves Mildmay.

Last but not least, there is Mildmay. Mildmay is taken from what he knows (the Lower City), and placed among what he does not know...and amongst those who do not understand him at best and revile him at worst. He is seen at Felix’s shadow. And although Mildmay has no illusions about Felix, he still wants that elusive relationship...he wants Felix to care. Yet throughout The Mirador he is...alone.

There are numerous symbols used throughout the book: Felix’s odd-coloured eyes – one yellow, one pale blue – reflecting his dual personality; the perseid tree in the Khloidanikos, reflecting Mildmay:
I stopped, as I always did, to check on the mostly dead perseid tree that stood against the ruined wall. I didn’t know if the tree still retained any symbolic connection to the waking world, but it had been linked to Mildmay...I could not enter the Khloidanikos without making sure that the perseid still had some life in it, even if only a bare handful of leaves.
And then there is the imagery. Sarah Monette has such a beautiful way with words. I think this has to be my favourite quote in the entire book:
Mildmay trailed me like my own black thundercloud of disapproval to Isaac’s rooms, where he sat wearing the dullest look in his arsenal like a shield.
And it’s not just the primary characters that take centre stage in The Mirador – the stories of various secondary characters (e.g. Gideon) are expanded, and we are introduced to new characters (e.g. Vincent De Mabrien, who I loved BTW). As always, the characters are so vivid they all by leap off the page. I felt connected to them and upon finishing the book I felt...lost.

If I had to sum this book up with one word (and couldn’t use brilliant *grin*) I think I would use the word secrets. This book is all about secrets – the secrets we keep from others and ourselves – and lies. And everything has come full circle. By the end of the book, Felix is all but back to where he started – banished from The Mirador. However, this time, unlike the last, he has one person standing with him, one person who has gifted him unequivocal loyalty – Mildmay. The question is, whether Felix can trust Mildmay. Hopefully the author has answered that in Corambis...

04 February 2010

Why I Love Josh

Yes, I will admit it. I'm in love. With Josh Lanyon. His books are...a dream to read. Completely effortless and amusing (which I will admit to not expecting [the amusing, not the effortless - after all the rave reviews I was expecting the books to be good] as I would classify the Adrian English series as suspense and from where I sit suspense and humour don't quite fit *grin* But feel free to dissuade me of this notion).

I love Adrian's self-deprecating humour. As for Jake... I'm sorry Kris (I hope this doesn't mean I am going to be sent to Coventry?), but ATM I like Jake. I do think he is trying to force himself to be other than what he is, but I'm guessing (hoping) that eventually he will work out that what he is is actually OK. Saying that, I am (slightly...OK, completely) worried about how he will get from A to B and whether collateral damage (to Adrian) might occur along the way.

*SIGH* I love it when a book/series just clicks so well *grin* So, have you read any/all of Josh Lanyon's Adrian English books and, if so, please let me know if they get better (not sure if that's possible). If you haven't read them, are you tempted?

01 February 2010

Books 2010: January Update

Total to date: eight books (eight books this month: contemporary romance [one book]; manga [four books]; urban fantasy [two books]; young adult [one book])

The 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge total to date: three books (three books this month)

The 2010 Big Book Challenge total to date: one book! (Eclipse [Stephenie Meyer]) [However, I am still planning on reading Kushiel's Dart (Jacqueline Carey) as my official book for this challenge]

The M/M Romance Challenge 2010 total to date: zero books (zero books this month) [However, I am reading a book for this challenge ATM]

A list of all the books I've read to date (from 01 January 2010) can be found at GoodReads.

Favourite books of the month?

* Eclipse (Stephenie Meyer)

* Magic Strikes (Ilona Andrews)

Books I 'did not finish':

* Fragile (Shiloh Walker)

Currently reading: Fatal Shadows (Josh Lanyon) [Yes, I have figured out how to read an eBook on my iPhone; that is, however, about all I've figured out how to do ATM *grin*]

And the book I'm most looking forward to reading next month:

* Cormabis (Sarah Monette)

What did you read last month?