YA reading

I haven’t been doing much reading this past month. Well, not entire books anyway. I’ve been reading a lot of Kindle samples on my iPhone. Love those samples. I always read before bed, but recently I’ve been using that time to read the samples instead of entire books. During my vacation, I had pictures of sitting by the pool and reading one of the many books I’d purchased previously. That didn’t happen. I didn’t read much during my vacation. Maybe a little at night, as I finished up my re-read of the Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series. I didn’t do any reading at all during RWA, or the week after my return (with the exception of the aforementioned sample chapters).

So this week, I became determined that I needed to just start reading again and stop with the reading-based anhedonia (look, my psych roots are showing when I use big words like that 😉 ) so read some more samples (I’m serious, that’s what I did!) and I bought two books based on those samples. Despite the fact that I have a number of unread-purchased books I should be reading. But I won’t disclose that number and you won’t ask. In fact, we’ll pretend I own NO unread books, shall we? Thank you.

First I read Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater. (there are some spoilers in this paragraph so you may not want to read it) I thought the sample was pretty good, and it got glowing–GLOWING–reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so it seemed like a safe bet. Um, yeah, I decided during the reading of this book that I’m broken. I didn’t really love it. I thought it was just middle of the road okay. I skimmed some parts in the middle, I felt like parts of the story were underdeveloped and I didn’t even like the heroine’s love interest a little bit and felt no empathy for him. I would have been okay if he’d died, it might have made the book more interesting.  Do you ever have one of those moments during a book where you realize you’re not really enjoying it but you push on, because many, many other people clearly enjoyed it and so there must be some big pay-off at the end that makes the book suddenly magical? That was me during the Lament. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a bad book, because I don’t think it was. I’m saying it was a book that didn’t work for me, I didn’t love it and I won’t be picking up the sequel. There are books like that out there for everyone, I suspect. In this author’s case, I’m pretty sure she’ll do just fine without my business because there are people out there who really think her work is wonderful, and I’m glad.

Next, I bought A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede. A Matter of Magic is actually an omnibus re-release of two books: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward. I’m only a third of the way into The Magician’s Ward, but I quite enjoyed Mairelon the Magician. It’s a YA alternate-history fantasy set in Regency England. In this case, magic is a huge part of the culture of England, and magician’s not a secret at all but living as part of society. In fact, if you’re a magician, you can be part of Society (capital S) even if you’ve come from the gutters.

Mairelon the Magician is a book that doesn’t take itself, or the story, seriously. There are a number of secondary characters to keep track of, but they add to the book’s plot/conflict. The conflict and plot themselves are not complicated, but they’re well-paced, with no extra “filler” and nothing to slow it down, which kept me turning the pages. And though the story doesn’t take itself seriously, and it is a magic-filled fantasy, it makes itself entirely believable, as if this alternate history just could have happened.

I enjoyed both the primary characters (Kim and Mairelon) as well as the robust cast of secondary characters, and I was glad to have the second book to start reading immediately. It’s by no means the best fantasy or alternate history I’ve ever read, but it’s good entertainment, well-paced and fun. And I haven’t felt the urge to skim, haven’t been bored or felt dissatisfied. Since I’ve been in a reading slump, I call that a win!

January reread challenge

Okay, I admit it, I didn’t know I was going to join this challenge. But I like to reread, and I do quite a bit of it for some reason (I think it gives my brain a break) so when I saw Nath’s monthly reread challenge, which just happens to be today, and I was wondering about blog content anyhow, I knew it was fate.

I actually reread a couple books this month: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn, Devil’s Bride and A Rake’s Vow both by Stephanie Laurens.

However, since I only reread Kitty and the Midnight Hour because I decided I wanted to see if I liked it better the second time (I didn’t really) and to read the books that followed in the series, I won’t talk about it here. Except to say that all this time I remember liking but not loving the book, and when I went back to read my “review”, it looks like I said I liked it more than I remember. And it’s not that I didn’t like the book, just that I felt kind of “meh” about it (and increasingly so about subsequent books). Enough meh that it took me three years to decide to read follow up books.

So, Devil’s Bride is one of those books that I can turn to for an enjoyable comfort read. While I was rereading it this past week, I was actually trying to figure out exactly what it is about the book that I like so well, and I finally decided it’s because I love a hero in pursuit story. I think it’s odd, but many of my favorite rereads (Stephanie Laurens, Catherine Coulter, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey) are all historical. The reason that’s odd is because, if you look at my current reads, very, very few are historical. I don’t edit a lot of historicals either (though I do like them, but I only have a couple of authors who write them, including Gia Dawn and Lynne Connolly). Historical romance used to be one of my favorite genres, but that was probably over ten years ago and sometimes I wonder if I read so many of them because they were what’s available. Like, if paranormals and urban fantasy had been more prevalent then, would I have been reading less historicals?

But regardless, I return at least once a year to Devil’s Bride and I always enjoy it. I particularly like the first chapters of the book, the setup, where they meet for the first time, and she comes to realize who he is. Perhaps it’s politically incorrect of me, but I enjoy his bossy, domineering ways. And hello, the descriptions of him are positively delicious!

For me, the book is an easy read, always entertaining with both the main character interactions, the story, love story, secondary plot and secondary characters.

I enjoy the setup for future books with other Cynster relations, and though I haven’t read all the books in the Cynster series, I have read quite a few. I’ve moved on to rereading A Rake’s Vow , Vane’s story, and will probably read a few more in the series. I will tell you one odd thing about my rereading of this series, though: I never reread Richard (Scandal’s Bride ) story. I’ve never cared for it so I always skip it.

Anyhow, if you’ve somehow never read these books (Erin) and you’re looking for a historical romance read, I suggest trying out Stephanie Laurens and starting with Devil’s Bride.

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TBR: Black Magic Woman by Justin Guistainis

The first TBR challenge of 2009! This year Keishon is doing monthly categories for the challenges, but I chose to do an open format because it’s so hard for me to read for pleasure sometimes, I don’t feel I can also force myself to be in the mood. Which is a shame since this month was category romance and I have plenty of those TBR!

Black Magic Woman (Quincy Morris Supernatural Investigation) is a book I’ve had on my TBR pile for awhile. I picked it up because I’m always interested in trying something different, new authors in the UF category. I finally decided to read it for this challenge because I’d been seeing a lot of positive reviews around the web for the second book, Evil Ways (Quincey Morris, Book 2) and, duh, I can’t read out of order.

The blurb: Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his “consultant”, white witch Libby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials. Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself – the very heart of darkness.

My thoughts: The book has a great opening, it’s extremely catchy. I love a book that plops me down in the middle of action and then lets me catch up without trying to dump a bunch of backstory or character internal narrative on me. I think getting to know the character through internal narrative can get…old. And kind of trite. But I digress. So we’ve established how the book starts out. This is different from a more typical urban fantasy in that it’s 1) not in first and 2) told in multiple POV from a variety of characters. That doesn’t work for all books but it works in this one. I love seeing scenes from a variety of characters.

I did feel like this somewhat prevented me from really feeling attached to Quincey, the protaganist, because I spent a lot of time with other characters. But at the same time I was attached enough to root for him. Just not attached enough to cry for him (not that there was one of those moments in this book, it’s just an example of the distance created by multiple POV, which is fine for this book).

The story itself is interesting and moves forward at a good clip, keeping the reader interested, though I did find the climax of the story a bit abrupt. However, I liked this book and will definitely read the next one. Now, if only they’d put them in ebook!

TBR Day: The Final Empire, Mistborn Book 1

51F5GMVQP7L._SS500_ First, let me start by saying that this cover drives me nuts. I can’t seem to remember that Mistborn is the series name, not the book name, because the series name is so huge and the title is so teeny weeny. I’m sure this must have been a marketing decision to get the series name locked in readers’ heads, so they could go into a store or online and type in Mistborn, and get all the books in the series, but still. Did the title have to be THAT tiny?

I’ve had The Final Empire on my TBR shelves for probably 9 months, at least. I’ve been wanting to read something by Brandon Sanderson for quite some time, especially after it was announced that he would be writing the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which I’ve been a fan of for years.

But still, the book languished on my shelves until Nicole did a great review of it and spoke of it kind of glowingly, pushing me to read it for this month’s TBR challenge. Sadly, my feelings for it weren’t quite as glowing as Nicole’s.

I did enjoy the book, but I found it really easy to put down and go do something else. The world building and set up of the world and story are quite dense, which I sometimes appreciate and don’t appreciate. In this case, I thought the book had some slowww pacing issues in spots but if you were to ask me what I would have cut, I’d have to go back and take a second look because I don’t have clue one. My other small quibble would be that the “romance” aspect was a bit…lame to me, and I could have lived without it because it was poorly developed and so, not too believable. Unfortunately, to buy into certain actions and developments in the book, I needed to buy into the romance and I didn’t. It seemed superficial and I think part of that was because I only knew (and liked) one half of the people in the relationship.

So you’re probably wondering what I did like about the book? In truth, the world building was quite thorough and complex, and several of the characters had wonderful character development, which I really appreciate in a book. Though I found the pacing slow, the story itself was still interesting and well-written, and the secondary characters along with the settings gave the story even more depth that I enjoyed. I also appreciated the twists that were thrown in the book as well as the ultimate resolution for this particular story (which is the first in a trilogy, from my understanding).

As you can see, I had mixed feelings about the book, but I think an author who can make me think this closely about what I did and didn’t like, and who drew me forward despite my perceived problems with it, did his job. I will be reading the second book, Well of Ascension, and actually have it on my Kindle now, though I don’t feel ready to start it right away. Actually, I’m probably going to try Elantris first because I’ve also heard great things about it (proving twice in one review that word of mouth recommendations work on me!).

Do I recommend The Final Empire? Hm. I think I do, if you’re a fan of fantasy with a minor romance subplot (minor though it does have bearing on some events in the book) and deep world building, along with a cast of secondary characters.

ETA: I just read in an email newsletter that Brandon Sanderson will be at RT in Orlando in 2009. (as will Piers Anthony). Interesting!

TBR Day: The Desperate Game by Jayne Castle

Let me start with a small side tangent. A few weeks ago one of the cats had a vet appointment. My vet’s office is really great about calling me the day before and confirming the appointment. Usually the evening before. So they did and I confirmed. I’d remember early, had it on my calendar and was all set to bring the cat in. The next morning rolls around and the cat’s appointment did not ONCE enter my mind until that evening when they called to see if I wanted to reschedule. Yes, in the space of a few hours, I’d completely blanked–not even had a glimmer of–something that I’d been keeping in mind for days.

That’s what happened again with TBR day. I’ve been wondering what to blog about today and decided to catch up on some blog feeds (because I finished some edits I’ve been working on for a few days, and needed a mental break) and I got to Keishon’s blog. And remembered it was TBR day. Yes, she blogged and reminded us earlier in the week. Yes, I commented on that post. Yes, I still forgot. I’ve been forgetting a lot lately!

Anyway, on to the book review. I’ve long been a fan of Jayne Castle, Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick or whatever name you want to call her by. I’ve been reading her books for years, and some of her older books are favored re-reads for me. But the Guinevere Jones books have always been hard to get a hold of, so I’ve been collecting them over the years. For whatever reason, I decided to read the first in the series, Desperate Game, a few weeks ago.

I think I can easily say that this is probably my least favorite book of the author’s that I’ve ever read. I picked it up and put it down half a dozen times before I finally forced myself to finish it. I found the characters rather…blah. I do see the same basic characteristics in these characters that have become a trademark of her writing: independent female who allows herself to be overpowered in love/lust/infatuation with the hero, who is usually a little brooding, and unusual, so often “normal” females don’t “get” him and his secret, dark passions. The hero generally thinks of the heroine as the one who can calm his raging beast (no not THAT raging beast. Well, okay, not ONLY that raging beast) whether it’s whatever secrets, or dark emotions, etc he has.

There’s also the same basic plot, some sort of mystery, intrigue, the male trying to take charge, the female inserting herself, a dangerous climax and a forceful kiss at the end.

Look, I’ve been reading her for years, I’m okay with the basic setups. I LIKE her books partly for that reason, I think they’re yummy. But this one fell flat for me on all levels: characters, story, plot, secondary characters. It didn’t grab me and I think I could have easily put it aside and not finished it, except in the back of my head, I knew I needed to finish a book to complete this month’s TBR challenge. I think it says something that that is the reason I finished.

I do have the other three, but I don’t see myself going back to them any time soon. However, I do have an itch to re-read some of her older books, some of the stronger ones, now that I got a small taste of her again.

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