Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Faves of 2011: The Characters

Faves of TwentyEleven is hosted by Inkcrush.
Day One: The Books
Day Two: The Characters

1. favourite female main character
Lady Alexia Maccon nee Tarabotti: She knows the importance of a good cuppa tea and wields a parasol with great purpose and dexterity. Even whilst being 8 months pregnant. From Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. The latest title: Heartless.

2. favourite male main character
Vampire Richard (aka "Dick") Cheney. He's a supporting character in Molly Harper's Jane Jameson series. Lives in an trailer (which was blown up in Nice Girl's Don't Have Fangs), wears rock band t-shirts, makes a living from "fallen off the truck" deals, and has a delightfully snarky sense of humor.

3. best couple
Sookie and Eric in Charlaine Harris' Dead to the World, aka Book Four. Amnesia Eric = yummmmy.

4. who i so want to be best friends with
Lord Akeldama, another of Gail Carriger's wonderful characters. Fantastically flamboyant, deliciously decadent, notoriously naughty. Won't you be my friend?

5.  who i fell completely in love with (new literary crush)
Vampire Eric is still my favorite literary crush, but that's in no way new.

6. worst (best and baddest) villian
Brenda Fortunato Dupres from Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's Agnes and the Hitman. One time mob-wife turned Southern Bell bent on destroying her granddaughter's wedding to get her greedy hands on mob-money, and she doesn't care who she has to destroy, kill, or "bless her heart" to do it. She's on par with Professor Umbridge for hate-ability.

7. best character twist (who you loved then hated or vice versa)
In Brian Selznick's Hugo, the toy maker and notebook "burner" is actually George Melies, one of the original film makers, and the man behind the famous Man in the Moon film.

8. best kick-arse female
Agnes Crandall, or Cranky Agnes, in Agnes and the Hitman. She is one with whom you ought not mess. Cheat on her and you'll get a frying pan to the noggin. Try to steal her home and she'll cook you into submission. Mobsters and hitmen dine at her table and all of them fear her. And she cooks with butter - my kind of woman.

9. best kick-arse male
Curran Lennart, aka The Beast Lord, in Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniel's series (the latest entry is Magic Slays). When the Beast Lord roars, you'd best pay attention, or he may eat you for your disrespect.

10. broke your heart the most

11. favourite pet/animal character award
Rhett, Agnes' lump of a hound dog, who slobbered his way into my heart.

12. best YA parents award
It would appear that all the YA books I've read have dead or inept parents. Maybe Carter and Sadie Kane's parents in The Throne of Fire, by Rick Riordan. They may be dead, but they're still watching out for Carter and Sadie.

13. favourite sibling relationship
Speaking of Carter and Sadie Kane, they're definitely my favorite siblings. Sadie just turned 13 in Throne of Fire, and Carter isn't much older, so they're both firmly entrenched in the I-love-you-but-think-you're-terribly-annoying age. Still, they manage to save the world together and learn to better appreciate each other in the process.

14. favourite best friends/friendship award
Cecelia and Kate in Patricia Wrede's Sorcery and Cecelia Or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. They may be cousins, but they're also best friends. The entire story hinges on this friendship since it's told in the letters between the two. They completely trust one another and are delightful to read.

15. best/worst character names
This award goes to Eloise "Weezie" Foley and her ex-husband Talmadge Evans III in Mary Kay Andrews' Savannah Blues. Runner-up: Weezie's friend Bebe.

Bonus: best love triangle
Private Kaylin Neya, Corporal Severn Handred, and Lord Nightshade in Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra series. The newest entry is Cast in Ruin.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faves of TwentyEleven: Books

Faves of TwentyEleven is hosted by Inkcrush.

The Rules:
Your answers come from books you read this year
(They don't have to be limited to books that came out in 2011, obviously)

The Other Rules:
Do what you want
Skip a category, rearrange a category, smish some categories together. Create sub-categories and it for you :)
Nominate multiple books for one category (when you are torn) or limit yourself to one
Challenge yourself to not use the same book more than once, or sprinkle the same books throughout half the categories...
Join in some days and forget the rest...
Whatever works for you. Have fun :) 

Day One: The Books
1. favorite book read in 2011 Agnes and the Hitman (always), Cast in Ruin, Heartless

2. most powerful book n/a

3. brilliantly funny Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

4. best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read n/a

5. most beautiful story The Peach Keeper

6. delicious rainy day comfort read Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot

7. adrenalin-fuelled, unputdownable award Magic Slays

8. the beautiful prose award Chime

9. most atmospheric and vivid setting Cast in Ruin

10. i-so-want-to-go-there award Heartless, The Peach Keeper

11. most original and imaginative The Invention of Hugo Cabret

12. best under-appreciated, hidden gem book Cast in Ruin

13. i-had-no-idea-i-would-love this-so award The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

14. most haunting story Chime

15. outside my comfort zone but gosh how i loved it n/a

16. series that i’m loving Cast in Ruin, Heartless, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Magic Slays, Pack of Lies

17.  always recommending this book award Agnes and the Hitman

18. completely awesome premise award Pack of Lies, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Uncommon Criminals

19.  would make the best movie Agnes and the Hitman, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (and it was sooo good!)

20.  want to re-read already Cast in Ruin, The Peach Keeper

I know I reused a lot of the titles here (I did read more than this), but these were the standouts. A fantastic year of reading!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?
I'm still listening to the audio book version of  Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember. I just finished a couple of books, and haven't picked up another new one yet, but give me an hour or so and that will all change!

What did you recently finish reading? 
I recently finished two novels, both of which were in a series: Michelle Sagara West's Cast in Ruin (Chronicles of Elantra #7) and Jayne Castle's Canyon's of Night (Harmony #8). You can find my full reviews in the blog posts below.

What do you think you'll read next?
 I have a few options for this, and it'll all depend on my mood. I've recently picked up quite a few books from the library, and I can't wait to read them. A few of the titles are:  
The Grand Tour, or The purloined coronation regalia : being a revelation of matters of high confidentiality and greatest importance, including extracts from the intimate diary of a noblewoman and the sworn testimony of a lady of quality by Patricia Wrede. It's fabulous for it's title alone, but the first book in the series, Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, was fantastic.
The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne. Despite it's clinchy cover, Bourne's romance novels are so in depth, the world so realized, and the story so...full...that even non-romance-fans could delve into these books.
Tricks of the Trade, by Laura Anne Gilman. I love this author and this series (plus the series that came before it - this one is a spin-off).
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. This youth novel just looks so cute.

Book Review: Cast in Ruin

Cast in Ruin (Chronicles of Elantra #7) (*****)
by Michelle Sagara West

I've posted on several of the books in the Chronicles of Elantra series, and it still rates as one of my favorites. Cast in Ruin is the most recent publication, and unlike some series, each new title is as fantastic as the last.

Elantra is a fantasy world filled with strange people groups, including people with wings, people who resemble lions, elf-type people with a superiority complex, and dragons who can make themselves look like people. And there are some humans, too. In the last book, a new race entered Elantra through some kind of portal after losing their home to the same shadowy menace that plagues the outer fiefs of Elantra.

Private Kaylin Neya works as a sort of police officer/detective upholding the Dragon Emperor's laws, and when she's not walking her beat and investigating crimes, she tends to save the world a lot. Mysterious tattoos cover her body and allow her do work magic that no one understands and no one is able to duplicate. This magic generally means she's the first, last, and best line of defense against the aforementioned shadowy menace.

These books read, to me, like a procedural drama. You follow along as Kaylin goes from one place to the next, investigating the current mayhem and acting instinctively against the threats to Elantra (which is a good thing, since she knows just as little about the markings and her gifts as anyone else - and possibly less than some). And while it's not incredibly fast pace, it does have a consistent pace, and I had a hard time putting it down.

In Cast in Ruin, Kaylin is sent to investigate 7 identical dead bodies, and not identical as in twins, but identical as in everything about the corpses is exactly the same. And with the shadows encroaching on the fief, Kaylin doesn't have a lot of time to figure it out.

I would totally recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy novels or is looking to test the fantasy waters. They are awesome!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review: Canyons of Night

Canyons of Night (*****)
by Jayne Castle

I hate to say anything negative about a book, I really do. Even if I couldn't stand it or couldn't finish it (or both), I just don't like to say anything bad about it, at least in print. The way I see it, this author plus all the people who got this book ready for the market put in a lot of time, effort, and hard work. And yet...and yet...

I've been reading Jayne Castle's (aka Jayne Ann Krentz, aka Amanda Quick) Harmony series for years and years. I think reading any new editions has just become habit. So here's the gist: some time in our (us real people) future and a few centuries in the character's past, some kind of cosmic door opened between Earth and another planet and we earthlings, being intrepid adventurers that we are, went through it. All was fine, until said cosmic door closed, and suddenly everything the earth-folk brought with them (computers, electronics, and such) stopped working. They created a primitive type society, working to stabilize the population, all next to a green (and long empty) alien city. The city couldn't be inhabited because...well...weird alien stuff. Jump to the character's present, and former-earthlings have since developed various psychic abilities enabling them to cope in their new environment, they're back up to speed with technology, and at least one protagonist will have a "pet" dust bunny - a dust bunny that has four eyes and likes to viciously attack anyone who threatens their humans.

So, I could tell you about this novel, but as so often happens with long-running series, it's exactly like every other book in the series. Ugh. The main differences here are that instead of taking place in one of the main cities, this story takes place on an island, and instead of the hero and heroine going underground into the strange, green, alien city, there's some kind of wonky nature preserve that people go in, but never return. Oh, and as the series goes on, each hero and heroine has bigger, badder powers and faces bigger, badder dangers. But everything else? Exactly the same.

Once upon a time, I really liked these books. The first few times. It was new and interesting; now it's old and stale. It also ties in to Krentz's Arcane novels. I've never read any of those, so I don't know how they stack up, but I probably will never attempt to find out. And yet I keep reading this series as new titles are published. Maybe I'm a masochist. I don't know.

I'd suggest one of the first few titles in this series if you like a bit of sci-fi mixed in with your romance, or romance mixed in with your sci-fi, but stop there. Because after that: they're all the same.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors (Jane Jameson #4)
By Molly Harper
Publication date: February 28, 2012

From Goodreads:
Just as Jane Jameson’s unlife seems to be stabilizing, fate sinks its fangs firmly into her butt. Despite her near-phobia of all things marital, her no-frills nighttime nuptials to her sexy boyfriend Gabriel are coming along smoothly. But the road to wedded bliss gets bumpy when a teenage acquaintance is fatally wounded in front of Jane’s shop and she turns him to save his life. The Council pronounces Jane responsible for the newborn vamp until he can control his thirst.

Jane’s kitchen at River Oaks barely holds enough Faux Type O to satiate the cute teen’s appetite and maintain Gabriel’s jealous streak at a slow simmer. As if keeping her hyperactive childe from sucking the blood out of the entire neighborhood isn’t enough to deal with, the persnickety ghost of Jane’s newly deceased Grandma Ruthie has declared a war on the fanged residents of River Oaks. Suddenly,
choosing monogrammed cocktail napkins and a cake that she can’t eat seems downright relaxing in comparison.

Tensions inside the house are growing…and outside, a sinister force is aiming a stake straight for the center of Gabriel’s heart. Most brides just have to worry about choosing the right dress, but Jane fears that at this rate, she’ll never make it down the aisle for the wedding all nice girls dream of…

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Monday: What are you reading? (20)

It's Monday: What are you reading? is a weekly meme from Book Journey.

I recently finished listening to two audio books, Chime and The Throne of Fire. See the posts below for my full review.

Currently Reading:
Cast in Ruin, by Michelle Sagara West
City of Ember (audio book), by Jeanne DuPrau

To Read:
Oh, who knows... :)

Coming Soon: Books into Film

Hollywood is looking to books for many of their upcoming movies; everything from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss and fairy tales to memoirs, all types of print are meeting celluloid. Below is a list of books and their corresponding movies you can find at the theater in the next several months!

Book to Movie

Now Playing:
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick  -  Hugo (in theaters now)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le   -  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (opening 12/9/11)
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle  -  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (12/16)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson  -  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (12/21)
The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1, by Hergé  -  The Adventures of Tintin (12/21)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer  -  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (12/25)
We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Changed Their Lives Forever, by Benjamin Mee  -  We Bought a Zoo (12/25)

January 2012:
Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare  -  Coriolanus (opening 1/20)
One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich  -  One for the Money (1/27)
We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver  -  We Need to Talk About Kevin (1/27)

The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill  -  The Woman in Black (opening 2/3)
The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne  -  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2/10)

The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss  -  Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (opening 3/2)
The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales: Hänsel and Gretel, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm  -  Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (3/2)
A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs  -  John Carter (3/9)
The Raven and Other Poems, by Edgar Allan Poe  -  The Raven (3/9)
The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales: Snow-White, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm  -  Mirror, Mirror (3/16)
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins  -  The Hunger Games (3/23)

Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers (Volume 1), by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby  -  The Avengers (opening 5/4)

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales: Snow-White, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm  -  Snow White and the Huntsman (opening 6/1)
The Classic Fairy Tales: Jack the Giant Killer, by Iona and Peter Opie  -  Jack the Giant Killer (6/15)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith  -  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (6/22)

Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man: Vol. 1, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko  -  The Amazing Spider-Man (opening 7/6)
Batman Chronicles: Volume 1, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane  -  The Dark Knight Rises (7/20)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Audio Book Review: Chime

Chime (*****)
Author: Franny Billingsley
Narration: Susan Duerden

From Goodreads:
Briony has a secret. She believes her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her twin sister’s mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea. She yearns to be rid of her terrible secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul. That’s what happens to witches: They’re hanged by the neck until dead.

Then Eldric arrives—Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy—and he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony. But he wonders what’s been buried beneath her self-hatred, hidden in Rose’s mangled thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones. And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry. Especially when everyone knows that witches can’t cry.

A wild, haunting mystery and romance that is as beautifully written as it is captivating.

From Me:
Please pardon the tone of this review; I'm still in the moody mental state this story created.

This book sucked me in, but I'm not entirely sure why. It wasn't necessarily action packed or fraught with danger or suspense, romance or excitement. I think it may have been the mood of the story. I listened to the audio book, and it felt like listening to a folktale by firelight. It was a puzzle I tried to put together as I listened. I managed to match up a few of the pieces on my own, but it wasn't until the end that everything clicked; Franny Billingsley gave just enough clues that when all was revealed, the reader wasn't left wondering at how everything fit.

The audio reader had an elegant voice that made listening a pleasure. I wonder how I would have liked it if I read the story from the page rather than listening to it, how that would have changed my response. I'm honestly not sure.

One last thought: I'm not certain the cover of the book matched the style of the story. I think the cover art is lovely, but it gives the expectation of something edgier. If I'd had my druthers, I would have gone for a moodier, more whimsical cover art, something with flowing hair or mysterious landscape.

Audio Book Review: The Throne of Fire

The Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles #2) (*****)
Author: Rick Riordan
Narration: Kevin Free, Katherine Kellgren

From Goodreads:
Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven’t given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians. And now their most threatening enemy yet—the chaos snake Apophis—is rising. If they don’t prevent him from breaking free in a few days’ time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it’s a typical week for the Kane family. To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished. First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly? Narrated in two different wisecracking voices, featuring a large cast of new and unforgettable characters, and with adventures spanning the globe, this second installment in the Kane Chronicles is nothing short of a thrill ride.

From Me:
This is such a great series! I completely love the adventure story Riordan has created. It's like Indiana Jones for kids. The Kane siblings are on another quest to save the world, this time from Chaos (aka Apophis). Again, the story alternates between Sadie and Carter's narration. The book is is supposed to be a transcript of a recording, which is why the audio version is so great. Plus the readers are fantastic! (A good reader makes all the difference.)

Fun story, fun series. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted @ Broke and Bookish
Favorite Fictional Couples in Books

1.  Amy and Rory (Doctor Who - I'm counting this because they make books based on the series, and I heart them)
2.  Agnes and Shane, Agnes and the Hitman
3.  Alexia Tarabotti and Lord Conall Maccon, Soulless
4.  Wesley and Buttercup, Princess Bride
5.  Ron and Hermione, Harry Potter
6.  Eowyn and Faramir, Lord of the Rings
7.  Alice and Jasper, Twilight
8.  Viola and Count Orsino, Twelfth Night
9.  Sookie and Eric, Dead to the World
10.  Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, Persuasion
Runner Up: Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables

Teaser Tuesday: The Throne of Fire

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"Our camels plodded along. Katrina tried to kiss, or possibly spit on Hindenburg, and Hindenburg farted in response. I found this a depressing commentary on boy-girl relationships.”    Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan