30 January 2012

Procrastination

Procrastination thy name is orannia. And in case you're wondering how I came to that conclusion, I have a box...Well, to be honest I have a number of boxes. Boxes that were packed years ago. And by years I mean anywhere from 6-12 years ago. No, you didn't read that wrong. And I'm only now unpacking them. But one particular box is significant in that I didn't pack it. I thought I knew what the contents were, but until I opened it I couldn't be positive. See, I bought the contents 10 years ago...in Ireland. And I sent them to New Zealand. And there they sat. Safe (I hoped) in the box. Until Saturday. Until I opened the box. Like to know what was in there?

But while writing this post it has struck me. Yes, I am talking about boxes. Tangible boxes. But I could also be talking about intangible ones. Boxes filled with feelings. Hopes. Dreams. Desires. All locked away. Somehow I don't expect such boxes to open as easily as the tangible ones. But I'm working on those boxes too. And somehow I think they will be just as bright and precious as the contents of Saturday's box. Pretty, yes?
So, what have you unpacked lately?

26 January 2012

Thoughts On Twilight's Dawn

Caveat: I do get on my soap box with this post...

When Twilight's Dawn was released last year I, like others, became caught up in the furore over one of the novellas - The High Lord's Daughter. At the time I decided not to read it, so I put it to one side on my library hold list where it has languished until the beginning of this week. And then I picked it up. I like to think that I didn't bring last year's baggage with me. But I did bring expectations. Overall I have to say that I enjoyed the book, but each novella evoked a different response.

The first novella - Winsol Gifts - made me laugh (which is a good thing :) It was the second novella - Shades of Honour - though which was my favourite of the four. Lucivar, Surreal and Rainier are three of my favourite characters (Daemon is the other), so any time spent with them was good. And I liked the premise...I just wish it had been longer. (I think that would be a wish for not just this novella but also the following one - Family. They all suffered [i.e. felt rushed because of the lack of detail] because they were so short.) And...if I'm honest I wasn't a fan of the ending. TBH there haven't been any good (as in scary) villains since the original trilogy. The characters all have so much power that they can deal with most potential villains relatively easily. So...no tension. And this was exactly what happened with Falonar. Daemon swooped in and...game over. It felt anti-climatic. And...I think Falonar would have suffered more where he was. And..perhaps, put under pressure, he had the potential to change? Kermilla (from Shalador's Lady) was given that chance - why not Falonar? And that's another thing - the characters that enter and exit with no resolution to their story arc. What did happen to Kermilla? Mikael? Rainier?

And that leads me to the High Lord's Daughter. I must confess to never being a massive Jaenelle fan. I don't dislike her, but Daemon, Lucivar & Saetan, and eventually Surreal & Rainier are my favourites. (Whoever said they don't have favourite characters has more willpower than I :) So...we've established that I like Jaenelle, yes? As for her relationship with Daemon? Hmmm...I wouldn't say I was massively invested. I have always approached this series as fantasy rather than romance novel, although I am invested in Daemon's well-being :) But...Jaenelle was always from one of the short-lived races and so I was aware Daemon would outlive her (although I didn't think the author would actually go there). And I could never work out how Daemon felt about Jaenelle, because it was tied up in how he felt about Witch, although I will concede that at the end of the Queen of Darkness it was Jaenelle he wanted. So...when I realized where the author was going with this novella I wasn't up in arms. Plus, I like Surreal. I have always wanted her to have...something (bearing in mind this isn't necessarily a romance series). But...I have to say...the whole novella left me with an...off feeling. How to explain? As I said, I had no problem with Surreal & Daemon 'together', and in a way it kind of made sense. But...we didn't get any of the slow development of their relationship. The first night they got together I kept thinking 'This feels off'. And that feeling never went away. Surreal never acted like Surreal. This series has never really got inside the characters' heads, but this novella out of all the stories had me feeling...disconnected. It didn't help that the timeline kept changing. I have OCD tendencies. I like to know...stuff. Lots of stuff. And I never felt like I did in this book. How old everyone was. What the timeframe was in relation to..anything. I would love to know more about Protocol. We get snippets, but it's never enough.

And then there is the child. I mean...seriously? Could she be any more...like Jaenelle? Let us count the ways. The name for one. *shakes head* And then she's all precocious (like Jaenelle). And the Kindred make an appearance (like Jaenelle). And she's talking to a 'special friend' (who is Jaenelle/Witch). And then at her Birthright Ceremony (and I still can't work out if Daemonar's Birthright Jewel is Green or his Descended Jewel is Green) she is given a 'special Jewel' - Twilight's Dawn (like Jaenelle). It's like the author killed Jaenelle off, but then missed her so much she all but regurgitates the character. And to make matters worse we have the scene in which Tersa tells Surreal that Jaenelle hadn't come back as Jaenelle Saetian. Seriously? Because (to all intents and purposes) she has. TBH Jaenelle Saetian should have been a boy. And if she had to be female, then she shouldn't have been a Jaenelle replica but been her own character. And to top it all off (in cherry form) we have a whatever of Witch making an appearance to Daemon and telling him it's OK to love Surreal, but that's he'll never be alone in the abyss? Way to go to allow Daemon to 'move on'. Nope. Not. Going. To. Happen. I don't buy how Daemon feels about Surreal because I don't feel he has had time to move on. Moving on doesn't mean not remembering Jaenelle. And I feel cheated on Surreal's behalf because I feel she deserved more. Does any of this make sense? I guess what I'm trying to say is...I have no problem with the premise, but the execution didn't work for me. It all just felt...wrong.

From the comments on the Dear Author review of Twilight's Dawn Anne Bishop is planning more Black Jewel books at some point. I almost feel like she could have stopped the series at Dreams Made Flesh. I enjoyed the Shalador duology, but again...here were these big powerful characters sweeping in and awing everyone. I like the rebuilding/renovation trope, so I would love more along that line. But with new characters.

19 January 2012

Jumping On The Bandwagon

Whether focusing on the book or the movie(s), the hype surrounding The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has been intense. And...it has entirely passed
me by. Not. Been. Interested. I'm not sure exactly why. I never investigated enough to form an opinion. TBH I probably got put off by the hype, which I suppose is the secret nightmare of authors and directors.

Entirely passed me by that is...until now. And it's my best friend's fault *evil grin* See, the lovely Starfire from Songs and Spinnings and I are planning a catch-up. Just because, and also as a post-birthday celebration. We celebrate her birthday, 'our' birthday and then my birthday. Anyway, as the years have passed our celebrations have become less lavish (not that they were ever lavish exactly :) and more about just spending quality time together. (Which I love.) So we lunch. And occasionally see a movie. And the question of whether The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be a suitable 'us' movie was raised. And I ummed. And I ahhed. Still
apathetic about all the hype I finally said I would watch a trailer. Yes. Up until last night I had neither watched a trailer or read a book review...even a back cover summary. So I watched this:



And now I really want to see it.

So...have you read the book? Watched the movie? Are you even interest in doing so? And if not, what's on your movie radar ATM?

16 January 2012

The 2012 M/M Romance Challenge

In 2010 and 2011 I joined I Heart Paperbacks' M/M Romance Challenge. Unfortunately, I Heart Paperbacks appears to be offline and so I have decided to take up the challenge of hosting for 2012! The rules are as follows:

1. This challenge is for those of you who enjoy reading m/m romances (i.e. novels and novellas where the main focus is a romantic relationship between male protagonists) or who might like to try the genre.

2. You can join at any time throughout the year and do not need a Blog, LiveJournal (or equivalent) to participate, just the ability to keep a list of books read.

3. The books don’t have to be selected ahead of time and can be utilized in multiple challenges.

4. The books can be in any format (e.g. audio books, eBooks, and print) [and includes comics and manga] and re-reads are welcome.

5. There are 8 reading levels to choose from:
- Read 1 m/m Romance (For those of you who would like to try the genre) [Any book suggestions from those of you well read in the genre would be welcome!]
- Read 5 m/m Romances
- Read 10 m/m Romances
- Read 20 m/m Romances
- Read 30 m/m Romances
- Read 40 m/m Romances
- Read 50+ m/m Romances
- Surprise me! (For those of you who read mostly m/m...and considering I read 94 m/m books last year I think this is me :)

6. Optional. If you’re not new to reading m/m romances, re-read your first ever m/m title. Do you feel differently about the book now than you did when you first read it? You could also aim to read a series, along a theme, or a book that you wouldn't otherwise read...

Please sign-up below:

To date I have read the following:
1. Strange Fortune (Josh Lanyon)
2. Handyman (Claire Thompson)
3. Double Blind (Heidi Cullinan)
4. The Twelve Days of Randy (Heidi Cullinan)
5. Song of Oestend (Marie Sexton)
6. Driftwood (Harper Fox)
7. Prisoner (Megan Derr)
8. Outcast Mine (Jamie Craig)
9. Where You Least Expect It (M Durango)
10. Life Lesson (Kaje Harper)
11. By His Rules (JA Rock)
12. And To All A Good Night (Kaje Harper)
13. The Matchmaker (Megan Derr)
14. Breaking Cover (Kaje Harper)
15. Counterpunch (Aleksandr Voinov)
16. Accidentally in Love (Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow)
17. Blind Space (Marie Sexton)
18. At His Throat, A Promise (Lilith Grey)
19. Shattered Glass (Dani Alexander)
20. The Rebuilding Year (Kaje Harper)
21. Private Eye (SE Culpepper)
22. WM Smoker Seeks Seclusion (Pirate Grrl)
23. Moving in Rhythm (Dev Bentham)
24. Knight Errant (KD Sarge)
25. The Only Gold (Tamara Allen)
26. PetSitting (Syd McGinley)
27. Lost and Found (Syd McGinley)
28. A Short Leash (Syd McGinley)
29. Attitude Adjustments (Syd McGinley)
30. Sol Invictus (Syd McGinley)
31. Samhain (Syd McGinley)
32. Ain't Misbehavin' (Syd McGinley)
33. Un Bel Di Vedremo (Syd McGinley)
34. Pink: Dolorosa (Syd McGinley)
35. Wrong Customs (Syd McGinley)
36. Tommy and the Magi (Syd McGinley)
37. White Day (Syd McGinley)
38. Sky Blue Pink: Flying Pigs (Syd McGinley)
39. Fundamentals (Syd McGinley)
40. Poster Child (Syd McGinley)
41. Under Contract (Helen Saito)
42. Not Sir (Syd McGinley)
43. Fun With Dick & Shane (Gillibran Brown)
44. More Fun With Dick & Shane (Gillibran Brown)
45. Achilles and the Houseboy (Gillibran Brown)
46. Warrior's Cross (Madeline Urban & Abigail Roux)
47. Armed & Dangerous (Abigail Roux)
48. Falls Chance Ranch (Rolf & Ranger)
49. Three Traders (Rolf & Ranger)
50. Mustang Hill (Rolf & Ranger)
51. Silver Bullet (Rolf & Ranger) [Incomplete]
52. Diversion (Eden Winters)
53. Don't Judge A Book (Scarlet Blackwell)
54. It's Like This (Orbiting Jupiter)
55. Wacky Wednesday (JA Rock)
56. Dash & Dine (Abigail Roux)
57. A Better Man (RJ Scott)
58. Calling the Show (JA Rock)
59. Between Sinners & Saints (Marie Sexton)
60. Stars & Stripes (Abigail Roux)
61. Whitetail Rock (Anne Tenino)
62. The Fix (Anne Tenino)
63. Frat Boy and Toppy (Anne Tenino)
64. Love Hypothetically (Anne Tenino)
65. Latakia (JF Smith)
66. Pressue Head (JL Merrow)
67. How to Become a Man (liketheroad)
68. Importand Things (suzvoy)
69. The Good Fight (Andrew Grey)
70. Tigerland (Sean Kennedy)
71. The Hot Floor (Josephine Myles)
72. Gilliflowers (Gillibran Brown)
73. Home Work (Kaje Harper)
74. The One That Broke Free (TC Blue)
75. Cost of Repairs (AM Arthur)
76. Power Exchange (AJ Rose)
77. The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters (Amy Lane)
78. Cherish (Tere Michaels)
79. Great Restorations (Libby Drew)
80. Second Hand (Heidi Cullinan)
81. How to Raise an Honest Rabbit (Amy Lane)
82. The Nothingness of Ben (Brad Boney)
83. Winner Takes All (Jenny Urban)
84. Cover Up (KC Burn)
85. The First Supper (Sean Kennedy)
86. Countdown Until the End of the World (Sean Kennedy)
87. Chicken Soup for the Soul, and All That Crap (Sean Kennedy)
88. Taverners' Inn (Rolf & Ranger)
89. First Impressions (Josephine Myles)
90. Fuzzy (Josephine Myles)
91. Last Chance (Josephine Myles)
92. Falls Chance Ranch (Rolf & Ranger) [re-read])

14 January 2012

Instigation

According to the Oxford Dictionaries:

Instigation • noun [mass noun] the action or process of instigating an action or event. Origin: late Middle English (in the sense 'incitement'): from Old French, or from Latin instigatio(n-), from the verb instigare (see instigate).

I loathe instigating...anything. Why? Because by doing so I feel exposed. I feel...vulnerable. I feel...open to be judged that what I have instigated isn't worthwhile.

This all from earlier this week when I realized that I had received no comments on a post. No big deal, right? Wrong. The fact that this is the first post not to receive comments in 3 years of blogging doesn't factor in. Because I'm always about what is wrong, not what is right. To me, a post with no comments indicates an uninteresting post, a boring post. A post that isn't good enough. And I worry that if the post is not good enough then I am not good enough... (I know, it sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? At least I'm come far enough to know that.)

But all of the above is the reason why I have been sitting on a post. In 2010 and 2011 I joined I Heart Paperbacks' M/M Romance Challenge. And I loved it, Unfortunately, I Heart Paperbacks appears to be offline and so the challenge is not happening :( And no one else appears to be hosting it :( So...I thought about hosting it. And then the fear started. That no one would join. (Yes, even though six people other than myself have joined the 2012 Big Book Challenge.)

But...the thing is, a post isn't about others. This blog isn't about others. It is about me. For me. So whether people comment or not, or join challenges or not, isn't the point. I'm always telling others that their blog is about them and they can do what they want on it. And yet I don't take my own advice. If this is something that I want to do, if it is something that makes me happy (and doesn't hurt anyone else) then...why not do it?

Remember the quote from my previous post entitled Thoughts on Double Blind? The one about the wheel? I read it (and the other quote) out to the unnamed expert this week and realized that I was doing exactly what the character (Ethan) was. I keep waiting for things to go right. And by right I don't necessarily mean what I deserve but more in terms of balance. Except the wheel isn't about me. It isn't about anyone. It just is. And as the quote said:
You had to go and be your own wheel.
And that's when I realized that's what I have to do. (The unnamed expert was grinning away at me when I said this.)

So...here's me, being my wheel. Look out for the 2012 M/M Romance Challenge...coming to a blog near you! In other words this one *grin*

10 January 2012

Thoughts on Double Blind

Apologies in advance, but this is likely to end up as pure gushing! But this book (and the author) so deserve(s) it!

I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick up Double Blind. In an way I'm glad I waited, because the amount of emotion Heidi Cullinan pours into her writing? Blows. Me. Away. For instance:
It wasn't tidy, this pain. There was no one person or place that caused it, no demon to exorcise it, not by a single name. There was just pain, all thirty-some years of it, piled on in flakes and dust and bricks on top of itself, for aches remembered and wounds forgotten, at least by source. They were just there, all the things that had hurt him, that he'd been too tough to let get through, the Great Fucking Wall of Randy didn't let any fucking shit get through, God fucking damn it.

Or anybody, either.

Except for Ethan.

And Sam.

And Old Man Mitch.
But it's not just the emotion. Double Blind follows Randy (who we met in Special Delivery) and Ethan. And the game of poker. Gambling, particularly poker, plays a very special role in this book, and the author uses it beautifully to demonstrate Randy & Ethan's growth...as individuals and as a couple. For instance:
Like Carter he kept waiting for the big payout. Waiting for the moment things would go right. For the time when the wheel would come around to his number and give him what he deserved.

Except sometimes the wheel didn't come around. Because the wheel wasn't about you. The wheel wasn't about anyone. It was just a damn wheel. It was like Randy said: you had to get the best of it.

You had to go and be your own wheel.
I know nothing about poker, but I didn't need too. The game (at its simplest) is explained to the reader as it is to Ethan. For he, potentially like the reader is a novice. And as the game is explained more fully so the story progresses. The two main characters from Special Delivery, Sam & Mitch, make a welcome return. Bringing in two previously beloved characters can be risky - they can overwhelm the other characters and you are left with half a story. But that doesn't happen with Double Blind. Sam & Mitch's story (as individuals and as a couple) [although to be fair we get far less of Mitch than we do of Sam] was not yet complete, but they act as a catalyst in a way, for Randy and for Ethan.

And what's even more amazing is how much this book spoke to me (see above quotes). As Randy & Ethan learned about themselves, so I learnt about me (and I love it when books do that). They are the true keepers.

So, what book has spoken to you recently?

04 January 2012

The 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge

The 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge is being hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf. The guidelines are as follows:

1. Anyone can join.

2. You don't need a blog to participate. If you are a Non-blogger please leave a comment with a link (if you review elsewhere) to your review or with the book(s) you read.

3. Audio, ebooks (some libraries allow ebooks to be checked out), bound books are ok.

4. No re-reads.

5. Create a sign up post and post the link in the linky.

6. Challenge goes from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012.

7. Levels:
* Level 1 - Read 12 library books
* Level 2 - Read 24 library books
* Level 3 - Read 36 library books
* Level 4 - Read 37+ library books

I have decided to sign up for Level 2 (24 library books), which is realistic (I think :) based on last year.

To date, I have read the following library books:

1. River Marked (Patricia Briggs)
2. Archangel's Blade (Nalini Singh)
3. Treachery in Death
4. The Dark Enquiry (Deanna Raybourn)
5. Downpour (Kat Richardson))
6. A Deadly Penance (Maureen Ash)
7. A Safe Place for Caleb (Kathleen A Chara)
8.

03 January 2012

The 2012 Big Book Challenge

Tis the season for Book Challenges! And since it's the season I thought I would...play *grin* So, I hereby bring you: The Big Book Challenge (yes, again). And when I say big I mean really big, because in this challenge, size really does matter. You see, even after reading a number of 'big' books last year, I still panic when I see them... They are so big I'm afraid they will eat my alive! *hides under bed* So, this challenge it to help me tackle those big books that scare me. The challenge rules are simple:

1) Read a big book, and by a big book I mean a book with more than 400 pages, before the end of 2012. Note the change in page length to 400 pages!

2) The book can be in any format as long as its length is equivalent to more than 400 pages in print (hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback) format.

3) The big book can be from any fiction genre (e.g. fantasy, romance, science fiction). It can even be non-fiction.

4) A review is not required (although I'm going to attempt a post detailing my thoughts on the book, or the reasons why I didn't finish it *grin*).

5) No penalties if the book isn't read by the end of 2012 (because this is meant to be fun and I'm sure we'll put enough pressure on ourselves without this challenge being the last straw).

6) The book can be changed at any time! (Flexibility is important IMO :)

7) You can join at any time throughout the year!

Please sign-up below and let me know in the comments what big book you have been avoiding! For me, it's a re-read: Sarah Monette's Corambis!

This challenge was inspired by the lovely Heidenkind from Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books and a discussion I had at some point....somewhere ...back in 2009.

02 January 2012

The (Book) Year (2011) In Review

Edited to add: This post is looong!

So, another year has ended. TBH I'm not quite sure where 2011 went. It hasn't been...the easiest of years, although compared to what others have been through it has been a walk in the park. *shrug* I guess it's all a matter of perspective :) And where have I ended 2011? Do I know who I really am? (Does anyone ever work that out or is it a journey of a lifetime?) Do I know what I want? Do I even know how to begin to answer these questions? *deep breath* If I worked anything out in 2011 it is that I need to keep on...keeping on. Take that stunted (hiding) human being and let her...grow beyond the walls of her own making, allow her to develop confidence and faith in her own abilities and...trust herself. Because...even though I'm working on pulling that emotional wall down I'm still hiding behind it. It's safer there. I almost think I functioned better with the wall intact. No panic attacks for one. But it's not living, it's existing. And one can't exist forever. Also...I need to learn to relax - being hypervigilant 24/7 is exhausting and I'm so over it - and to be happy. You wouldn't think that is something one would have to learn how to do, but..when have I ever been normal? *grin* So...obviously I have delusions of grandeur if I think I can accomplish all of that? Perhaps...not in 2012, but I make a start, yes?

And that brings me to family. It would be all but impossible to walk away unless I was suddenly thrust into Witness Protection (hopefully with a gorgeous hero to keep me company while I renovate a house) [Note to self: must stop re-reading Hide Out and day dreaming incessantly!]. But...the situation as it is is untenable. I can't move on and grow when I'm so entangled. So...I think I need to draw a firm line in the sand as far as family is concerned and ensure that in 2012 I do not cross it except as pre-specified. Something to discuss with the unnamed expert methinks...

And that brings me to the world of reading and challenges. I read a total of 125 books in 2011 (yes, the same number as 2010). At the beginning of the year I signed up for I Heart Paperbacks' M/M Romance Challenge 2011 and went for the option of reading 20+ m/m romances in 2010. And I read....94 novels/novellas! *blushes* What can I say, I love the genre! 2012 has been the year of Megan Derr, Ginn Hale, and Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux, and of course favourite authors such as Amy Lane, James Buchanan, Josh Lanyon and Jordan Castillo Price (to name but a few).

I also reissued the 2011 Big Book Challenge in an effort to actually read a large tombed book...you know, the ones with more than 500 pages that can be used as a paperweight? In 2011 I chose Astrid Amara's The Archer's Heart! And I finished it! *throws confetti* Will the Big Book Challenge be back for 2012? That is the question!

The last challenge I signed up for in 2011 was Home Girl's Book Blog's 2011 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge. In 2010 I read 40 library books so I accepted the challenge to read 25 library books in 2011. And...I manged to read *drum roll* 29 library books! There definitely seems to be a downward trend, but I put that down to reading more m/m (eBooks) and to my wrists.

Unfortunately book reviews in 2011 were few and far between. I still have review notes for Corambis (Sarah Monette), which I read over a year ago, and I would like to review it so I have reviewed the entire (brilliant) series, so I think I might have to re-read the book. (Such a shame and ohhh it's a Big Book [in mass market paperback format anyway]!)

And finally I come to my favourite books for 2011. I read a number of five star books this year, but...these were the books that spoke to me. So...in no particular order (OK, alphabetical):

* Coda series (Marie Sexton) [Particularly the first and fourth books - the latter (Strawberries for Dessert) had me in tears]

* Cut & Run (Madeline Urban & Abigail Roux) [Ty & Zane, need I say more? *swoon*]

* Gathering Storm (Lyn Gala)

* Life After Joe (Harper Fox)

* One Real Thing (Anah Crow)

* Rescue Me (Scarlet Blackwell)

* Simple Gifts (LB Gregg) [For such a small book it packed a big punch!]

* Talker series (Amy Lane)

* The Rifter (Ginn Hale)

It's the emotional books I'm drawn to obviously :)

So, what challenges (reading or otherwise) are you thinking about accepting for 2012?

01 January 2012

Books 2011: December Update

Total: 125 books (16 books this month: fantasy [one book]; m/m [12 books]; paranormal romance [one book]; urban fantasy [two books])

The 2011 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge total: 29 books (three books this month) COMPLETE!

The M/M Romance Challenge 2011 total: 94 books (12 books this month) [COMPLETE!]

The 2011 Big Book Challenge: COMPLETE!

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? (There were a few)

* Divide & Conquer (Madeline Urban & Abigail Roux)

* His Holy Bones (Ginn Hale)

* Men Under the Mistletoe (Anthology)

* Of Blood & Honey (Stina Leicht)

* Simple Gifts (LB Gregg)

Currently reading:

* Strange Fortune (Josh Lanyon)

And the books I'm most looking forward to reading this month:

* Prisoner (Megan Derr)

Thank you for being such an integral part of my online experience in 2011! *hugs* Happy New Year and may your 2012 be filled with joy and happiness!