Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dark Lover - J.R. Ward

Dark Lover
J.R. Ward
Signet Eclipse
Copyright: 2005
9780451216953

From the cover of the book:
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead...

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn't there before, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frighten her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both...
I've read Dark Lover before, but I enjoyed the book just as much this time as I did on my first reading. This time I was inspired by reading Covet, which started off a J.R. Ward kick.

Dark Lover sets up the world J.R. Ward has created for the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. As a result, the story starts off a little bit slower as the characters are introduced, but even so, things are off and running at a good clip pretty soon into the story. Again, it's a book that I had a hard time putting down.

J.R. Ward has done some pretty original things with her concept of vampires, setting up a parallel society that could live even without humans on the planet, rather than the 'parasitic' vampires so many have used. She's also used some very original and interesting turns of phrase and description in her writing.

These books are much 'denser' than many of the romances, paranormal romances and urban fantasy novels out there. There's no complaints about line spacing and font size here, and on top of that, the books are noticeably thicker than many of the books sharing shelves with Dark Lover. All of that space is used to enhance the story very effectively.

While the story does focus on one pair at a time, theirs isn't the only storyline in progress in any story. Each of the books sets up the situations for the next book, so there is also the overarching story arc spanning the entire series. That's something I appreciate, having started out reading fantasy series rather than romances. 

The one warning I have to make about the Black Dagger Brotherhood books is that the language the characters tend to use leans towards the crude at times. If that's not going to be a problem, and you like urban fantasy books, I highly, highly recommend Dark Lover and it's sequels. Definite five star material.

Covet - J.R. Ward

Covet
J.R. Ward
Signet
Copyright: 2009
978-0451228215

Amazon.com product description:

Redemption isn't a word Jim Heron knows much about-his specialty is revenge, and to him, sin is all relative. But everything changes when he becomes a fallen angel and is charge with saving the souls of seven people from the seven deadly sins. And failure is not an option. Vin DiPietro long ago sold his soul to his business, and he's good with that-until fate intervenes in the form of a tough- talking, Harley-riding, self-professed savior. But then he meets a woman who will make him question his destiny, his sanity, and his heart-and he has to work with a fallen angel to win her over and redeem his own soul.
 Covet is set in the same world as J.R. Ward's other series, the Black Dagger Brotherhood, so the rules are the same, although there was no mention or reference to the Brotherhood or to vampires in general, so the other aspects of the world were familiar. Not quite true, as Trez is a character in Covet, and one of the locations is the club the Iron Mask, but there's no clue that he's anything other than human.

I've seen quite a few reviews that mention a cameo of one of the Brothers showing up in Covet, but I didn't see it. On the other hand, I'm almost certain that one of the main characters, Marie-Therise has appeared in one of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.

Covet is the start of a new series, about the fate of the world, involving the struggle between good and evil, centered on Jim Heron, now a Fallen Angel. I don't want to say too much in case I spoil the story for anyone. There are some very interesting plot twists, where not everything is as it seems.

I found Covet to be slightly slower at capturing my interest than the first of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but once it had it, the book definitely had me hooked. And, I'm curious to find out what's going to happen in the next book in the series.

Another bonus in Covet for fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood is an excerpt from the next book, Lover Mine.

It's slightly unfortunate in some ways that J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series is so popular - it's quite overshadowed her new books. I've seen a lot of reviews comparing Covet to the Brotherhood books, and it usually came off slightly lower in people's preferences. I found myself making the same comparisons, but I still think that Covet was a great book.

The Shadow Queen - Anne Bishop

The Shadow Queen
Anne Bishop
New American Library
Copyright: 2008
9780451462541

From the chapters/indigo website:

From the national bestselling author of the new novel set in the adarkly fascinating worlda("SF Site") of the Black Jewels.
Dena Nehele is a land decimated by its past. Once it was ruled by corrupt Queens who were wiped out when the land was cleansed of tainted Blood. Now, only one hundred Warlord Princes stand without a leader and without hope.
Theran Grayhaven is the last of his line, desperate to find the key that reveals a treasure great enough to restore Dena Nehele. But first he needs to find a Queen who remembers the Blood's code of honor and lives by the Old Ways. The woman chosen to rule Dena Nehele, Lady Cassidy, is not beautiful and believes she is not strong. But she may be the only one able to convince bitter men to serve once again.
I've read The Shadow Queen before, but it was just as good this time as it was before. The inspiration for this read was to refresh my memory on the events that happened for Cassidy prior to the start of the newest book, Shalador's Lady, and the particular details of the characters. This is the book that links The Invisible Ring back into the direct line of the Black Jewels Trilogy. Talon's back (as demon-dead), and we find out what happened to Lia, Thera, Jared and the others.

The end of the Black Jewels Trilogy ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger as to the fate of the realms cleansed by Jaenelle and her family, but The Shadow Queen begins to answer what happened there. It's a story as captivating as the previous set of books was.

I have to say I love the interaction between the characters, particularly between the original characters, Jaenelle, Saetan, Daemon and all of the others. They always leave me laughing - especially the males when they're discussing the women among them. That persistant belief that it's better to remain ignorant of what they're doing always cracks me up. And, Luciavar's threat to let his son run unsupervised in the library..... That just cracked me up.

Shalador's Lady - Anne Bishop

Shalador's Lady
Anne Bishop
Roc Publishing
Copyright: March 2, 2010
978-0451463159

The Amazon.com product description:
For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.

But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever...
 Shalador's Lady, the sequel to The Shadow Queen, Anne Bishop's newest book set in the world of the Black Jewels picks up soon after the previous book left off. Where that book ends with a happy ending, this one left me wondering what had happened in the interim: the characters had returned to the same tense standoff that they'd had for much of the last book, particularly between Theran and Ranon.

Cassidy's past, only alluded to in The Shadow Queen really plays the pivotal role in Shalador's Lady, as do the Shalador people, now living only on small reserves within the province of Deha Nehele and forced to hide their customs.

One of the things I like about this series is the way each of the books adds to the world Anne Bishop has created. Each one explains some facet of the role that the Blood are supposed to play in the working of that world.

On the other hand, I hope you've read The Shadow Queen some time recently. The entirety of Shalador's Lady assumes familiarity with the content of the previous book. I found, when I read Shalador's Lady that I was a bit lost in terms of the background for the story, sending me back to re-read The Shadow Queen. Even so, I really enjoyed the new book a lot, finishing it the say day I bought it.

I will admit that the series isn't going to be for everyone, but if you like the world of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series, Shalador's Lady is likelty to catch your mind and imagination as you read it. I definitely found it worth the price to buy in hardcover.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What Would You Recommend? - John Grisham

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

John Grisham. One of the more prolific authors out there. I've heard people (who didn't like his books) call him formulaic, but I've also seen a lot of people coming into the store and requesting them, so clearly they're quite popular. What else might someone who liked these books enjoy? They're not quite mysteries (at least, they're not classed as mysteries for sales purposes), but there's still the issues of crime and laws, although as I understand it, the books are from a lawyer's perspective. No, I don't know a lot about Grisham's books, so I'm at a bit of a loss here. On the other hand, I had another person who works at the same store asking me the same question earlier this week.

So, what would you suggest?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Darkover Landfall - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Darkover Landfall
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Daw Books
Copyright 1972
978-0099154105

The amazon.com product description:
Darkover, a planet of wonder, world of mystery, has been a favourite of science fiction readers for many years. For it is a truly alien sphere - a world of strange intelligences of brooding skies beneath a ruddy sun, and of powers unknown to Earth. In this new novel, Mario Zimmer Bradley tells of the original coming of the Earthmen, of the days when Darkover knew not humanity. This is the full bodied novel of what happened when a colonial starship crashlanded on that uncharted planet to encounter for the first time in human existence the impact of the Ghost Wind, of the psychic currents that were native only to that world, and of the price that every Earthling must pay before Darkover can claim for itself.
The story of the first people on Darkover, two thousand years before their rediscovery by the Terran Empire, this is the very beginning of the Darkover saga. Everything began with the crash of a colony ship so bad that there was no way it could be repaired.

Darkover Landfall is nowhere near my favorite novel in the series. In fact, I'd have to say it's down near the bottom of the list. I'd read it before, but this time, I found myself gritting my teeth at character attitudes. Thankfully it's a quick read.

The whole book is littered with assumptions that any woman who doesn't want children has been brainwashed, that women are not capable of doing the same things as men at all, and should want to have as many children as possible. Etcetera, etcetera.

While I can accept that attitude in most of the Darkover series, because it's a different culture, in this book, where the characters are supposed to be from this high-tech society where equality is mandated under the laws, it just annoyed the heck out of me.

Were we really that bad in the early 1970's that this is seen as reasonable behavior?

I like most of the Darkover books, but this one, as you can see just rubbed me the wrong way completely. Still, it was interesting to see where the culture of the rest of the series originated, and for that reason alone, the book is likely to stay on my shelves. On the other hand, it leaves a heck of a lot of unaswered questions, such as where the horses, dogs and hawks of the later books came from as it sure doesn't look as though they came with the colonists, but neither were they already present on the planet.

The Hastur Lord: A Novel Of Darkover- Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross

The Hastur Lord
Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross
Daw Books
Copyright: 2010
978-0756406226

The Amazon.com product description:
A never-before-published fantasy novel set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe.

The world of Darkover, a unique, isolated, and protected world, has long avoided becoming part of the technologically advanced Terran Empire. But things are about to change. Regis Hastur, lord of the most powerful of the seven Domains in Darkover, learns that the Empire is about to become a Federation, and is extending an invitation for all of the worlds to join. While the offer seems tempting to his people, Regis knows that Darkover would become little more than a military base, used for its unique planetary position, and will be sapped of its resources. He must now stop at nothing to save his world.
As far as it goes, the description above is a good one for this book, but there's a lot more to it than that. The Hastur Lord is also a book about family, duty and wisdom. The biggest problem with this book is the way it's set between other books in the series.

Because we know how the later books go, it's harder to see how the events in this book work. That was what I was finding all the way through the story. I kept going "But how come we've not heard of this character before?" and "How is this going to work out with Exile's Song and the later books?". There are a few major characters that are completely new too.

Regardless of my initial feelings towards The Hastur Lord, I did find it to be a good read, one that showed me a lot more about one of the pivotal characters in this period of Darkover's history: Regis Hastur. While not my favorite Darkover novel, it's certainly better than some of them - I'm finding this series to be a mixed bag. Some of the books are better than others. This one's pretty good, but not one of my favorites.

There is one other significant thing about The Hastur Lord: it's apparently, the last book that Marion Zimmer Bradley was writing before she died. How much of the book was her's and how much was written by Deborah Ross, I don't know, however.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday - February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday is hosted each Monday at The Printed Page. It's been warned to lead to book-envy and avalanches of new books, so you'd better watch out.

The books I bought in the last week are:
Devil Of The Highlands by Lynsay Sands
Amazon.com product description:
They call him the Devil . . .
He is the most notorious laird of Scotland: fierce, cold, deadly . . . and maybe even worse. Yet Evelinde has just agreed to wed him. Anything, she thinks, is better than her cruel stepmother. Though Evelinde should be wary of the rumors, she can't help but be drawn to this warrior . . . for the Devil of the Highlands inspires a heat within her that is unlike anything she has ever known.
They may call him whatever they wish, but Cullen, Laird of Donnachaidh, cares only for the future of his clan. He must find a wife, a woman to bear him sons and heed his commands. He has no need for beauty or grace, but one taste of his lovely bride's sweet lips and the sultry feel of her skin arouse an untamed passion. Perhaps there's more to marriage than he thought . . . 
And, this has looked interesting for a while:
Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life In Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz
The Amazon.com product description:
Internationally renowned Egyptologist Barbara Mertz transports us back thousands of years and immerses us in the sights and sounds of day-to-day life in a vanished desert culture.
Their civilization has inspired myriad films, books, pieces of art, myths, and dreams, and they built grand monuments that still stagger the imagination five thousand years later. But who were these people? Mertz ushers us into their homes, workplaces, temples, and palaces to give us an intimate view of the everyday worlds of royals and commoners alike.
Displaying the unparalleled descriptive power, unerring eye for detail, keen insight, and trenchant wit that have made the novels she writes (as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) perennial New York Times best-sellers, Barbara Mertz brings a buried civilization to vivid life, taking us closer than ever before to the people of a great lost culture so different from—yet so surprisingly similar to—our own. 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - Feb. 22

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is now hosted each Monday (It wouldn't be "It's Monday!" if it was posted on any other day of the week now, would it?) at One Person's Journey Through The World Of Books. I'm glad she took the meme over, as it's a great way to hopefully keep on track of your reading each week. Doesn't always work out that way though. I went completely off track this past week.

Last week I finished:
Devil Of The Highlands by Lynsay Sands. Romance novel and a quick read.

Master of Desire by Kinley MacGregor. Another romance novel. Are you seeing a trend here for the coming week? I know I am :)

The Hastur Lord by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross. Just finished last night and haven't gotten the review up yet. The newest Darkover novel.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi. A collection of entries from his blog.

Firebird by Mercedes Lackey. One of Mercedes Lackey's fairytale retellings.

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. One of my favorite fantasy novels.

I'd say I had a really good week there. Hadn't realized until just now how many books I actually read there.

What I'm currently reading:

The Kindness of Strangers by John Boswell. I'm still reading this one from last week. Books like this are going to show up for more than one week at a time as I do a lot of my reading at work, but these ones I like to take notes on so they stay home.


Claiming The Highlander by Kinley MacGregor. Another Romance novel.

Seducing A Scottish Bride by Sue-Ellen Welfonder. And, another Romance novel.

King Arthur's Death The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and the Alliterative Morte Arthur edited by Larry D Benson. Middle English poetry for the Pre Printing Press Challenge (it just squeaks in under the requirements) and the Tournament of Reading challenge.

Books for the upcoming week (assuming I get through the list I'm reading now):
More of the Kinley MacGregor series
Knight of Desire by Maragaret Mallory
Bride For A Knight by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Devil of the Highlands - Lynsay Sands

Devil Of The Highlands
Lynsay Sands
Avon Books
Copyright: 2009
978-0061344770

Amazon.com product description:
They call him the Devil . . .
He is the most notorious laird of Scotland: fierce, cold, deadly . . . and maybe even worse. Yet Evelinde has just agreed to wed him. Anything, she thinks, is better than her cruel stepmother. Though Evelinde should be wary of the rumors, she can't help but be drawn to this warrior . . . for the Devil of the Highlands inspires a heat within her that is unlike anything she has ever known.
They may call him whatever they wish, but Cullen, Laird of Donnachaidh, cares only for the future of his clan. He must find a wife, a woman to bear him sons and heed his commands. He has no need for beauty or grace, but one taste of his lovely bride's sweet lips and the sultry feel of her skin arouse an untamed passion. Perhaps there's more to marriage than he thought . . . 
 A new author for me. This is the first of Lynsay Sand's novels I've read. Devil Of The Highlands is a romance set in crusade era Scotland (twelfth/thirteenth century). It looks like there are at least two more books relating to the same family/families as in this book, which I'm planning to read too.

In many ways, Lynsay Sand's Devil of the Highlands reminds me of the Brotherhood of the Blade books by Kinley MacGregor, but there was one intriguing difference: the mystery. There's a bit of an unsolved mystery running through the story, which made the book a bit different. Who could it be that's trying to kill the heroine?

Still, given that Devil of the Highlands is a romance novel, from the start you know it's all going to turn out well in the end, giving the characters their happy ending. As such, it makes for a nice, light, quick read.

If Scottish romances are your thing, then this one's for you. I know I'm going to have to hunt down the other ones soon.

More Olympic Photos

I've been downtown seeing some of the sights of the Olympics this week. Mostly the flame at the cauldron, but I've also been into the downtown core and the crowds. WOW! There's almost so many people you can't move without bumping into anyone, or move period.

 
It's kind of laughable. Daffodils in full bloom during a winter Olympics. These however, were just asking to be photographed. Besides, they're so bright and cheerful.

 
The crowds down near the Olympic Flame. A bit dark, I know, but this was the best photo I managed to take. This is what it was like all along Robson Street and also down at the waterfront by the flame.

 
And, finally, the flame at the cauldron, with the mountains in the background. This is just typical of the weather we've been having so far. Clear, blue skies and sun. Absolutely lovely.

Master of Desire - Kinley MacGregor

Master of Desire
Kinley MacGregor
Avon Books
Copyright: 2001
978-0061087134

The Amazon.com product description:
A Dream of Desire Awakened
Beautiful Lady Emily dreams of the rapture of love and the joys of marriage. The youngest daughter of an English lord at war, she is shaken by the arrival of a mysterious stranger to her father's castle. Could this breathtaking man be Emily's yearned-for lover? Indeed, Draven de Montague, Earl of Ravenswood, has come for Emily...but romance has nothing to do with it.In the Tender Embrace of an Enemy
Draven would never have entered the home of his most hated adversary had not the King himself ordered him to take in his foe's daughter for a year to forge bonds of peace between their two feuding houses. Worse still, here is a lass whose exquisite loveliness could tempt Draven to betray his sworn vow never to let anther close to his heart. Emily knows the searing heat of her passion could burn down the defenses of this proud warrior. But will the surrender of the sweet nectar of his lips and his bold, sensuous caress ignite a blaze so hot it consumes them both?
I've read Master Of Desire before, at least once (the review is up here to prove it), but I enjoyed it this time as much as last time. The plot-line seems to be fairly typical for a romance novel (at least based on the few I've read) but enjoyable nonetheless.

Knowing this book comes from the Romance section of the shelf, means that it's guaranteed to have a happy ending somehow. The question is how they're going to get to that happily-ever-after. Master of Desire is a fun romp that then ends in marriage, with the two enemy families united. But, in saying that, I'm not giving anything away. This is a romance after all, that's what's supposed to happen.

This was the first romance novel and the first Kinley MacGregor that I read, but it's been a great stepping stone into her other books. Master Of Desire is set in the same world as the Brotherhood of the Sword novels (Born In Sin, Claiming the Highlander, Taming the Highlander, etc), which are set in the time of the Crusades.

I definitely need to get a new copy of this book eventually. My copy is a library discard best described as "needing an elastic band". Which state it was in when I got it. I believe that says something about the popularity of Kinley MacGregor's novels.

Recommended for fans of Sherrilyn Kenyon (Kinley MacGregor's real name), and fans of romances set in Scotland. Just generally recommended for anyone looking for a light-hearted happy ending of a quick read.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Library Loot - Feb 20

Library Loot is hosted this week by Eva from A Striped Armchair. Back at the library again, returning the books I had out last time. I seem to be getting back to the library more (probably helped by the free wi-fi that I don't have at my place).

This time all three of the books I got out are romances, and I'm pretty sure I've seen reviews of them on other blogs in the last year or so.

Knight of Desire by Margaret Mallory
Amazon.com product description:
FEARLESS IN BATTLE

His surcoat still bloody from battle, William FitzAlan comes to claim the strategic borderlands granted to him by the king. One last prize awaits him at the castle gates: the lovely Lady Catherine Rayburn.

TENDER IN BED

Catherine risked everything to spy for the crown. Her reward? Her lands are declared forfeit and she is given this choice: marry FitzAlan or be taken to the Tower. Catherine agrees to give her handsome new husband her body, but she's keeping secrets, and dare not give him her heart. As passion ignites and danger closes in, Catherine and William must learn to trust in each other to save their marriage, their land, and their very lives.

The other two books are by Sue-Ellen WElfonder:
Bride For A Knight
Amazon.com product description:
On the eve of his return to BaldreaganCastle, Highlander Jamie Macpherson cannot believe his eyes: a golden-haired beauty haloed in the moonlight of St. Bride's glade, so delicate and fair she can only be a faerie. With his desire rising like a wave, the knight longs to see her again. The next time is even more surprising: Aveline Matheson is the flesh-and-blood bride of his arranged marriage, a woman eager to discover the pleasures of wedded bliss. And woe to those who would stop their lovemaking!

Yet danger threatens the newlyweds. Jamie's darkest foe has already murdered his brothers and now threatens to destroy every Macpherson. But the enemy hasn't counted on one thing: Jamie will do whatever he must to keep his bride alive and in his arms forever...
Seducing A Scottish Bride
Amazon.com product description:
Gelis MacKenzie is one of the most desirable heiresses in all the Western Highlands. She is the youngest and much adored daughter of the indomitable Black Stag of Kintail, Duncan MacKenzie, who was the hero of Welfonder's novel DEVIL IN A KILT. Unfortunately, Gelis has been branded unmarriageable, but not for lack of masculine interest. No matter how lofty the ancestry, how deep the purse, or how mighty the sword arm, nary a one of her suitors is good enough for her father. Although he loves Gelis fiercely and knows he must someday see her settled and wed, Duncan isn't quite ready to let her go.

But now Duncan has received an offer for Gelis's hand in marriage that he is honor-bound to accept-and it comes from the worst possible quarter. The suitor, Ronan MacRuari of Castle Dare, is the last man Duncan MacKenzie would wish for a son-in-law. Known as the Raven, Ronan is the scion of a dark clan that has been marked by a deadly curse.

Ronan and Gelis are instantly attracted to one another, but they are immediately estranged. Ronan's last two wives have died abruptly and he doesn't want to see his vivacious newly-wed Gelis suffer the same fate, so he distances himself from her as much as possible. In the meantime, Ronan searches for the Raven Stone, a fabled treasure that he believes holds the power of the curse over his clan. But Gelis has fallen in love with her new husband, and she's determined to help him. Though Ronan doesn't know it, Gelis also has the gift of second-sight, and she has seen a future in which she is destined to help redeem her cursed husband.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded - John Scalzi

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
John Scalzi
Tor Books
Copyright: 2010
978-0765327116
The Amazon.com product description:
On September 13, 1998, John Scalzi sat down in front of his computer to write the first entry in his blog Whatever--and changed the history of the Internet as we know it today.

What, you're not swallowing that one? Okay, fine: He started writing Whatever and amused about 15 people that first day. If that many. But he kept at it, for ten years and running. Now 40,000 people drop by on a daily basis to see what he's got to say.

About what? Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he's funny. Sometimes he's serious (mostly he's sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back. Along the way, Scalzi's become a best-selling, award-winning author, a father, and a geek celebrity. But no matter what, there's always another Whatever post to amuse and/or enrage his readers.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded collects some of the best and most popular Whatever entries from the first ten years of the blog – a decade of Whatever, presented in delightfully random form, just as it should be. 
Given what I've thought about John Scalzi's other books I've read: Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony, I thought this would be an interesting read. It was. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded is a selection of blog posts that Scalzi has posted over the last decade to his blog Whatever (I'm having an impossible time getting the url to work, so no link unfortunately).

He's posted on just about every subject under the sun over there, and they're collected together in this book: politics, religion, the War on Terror, celebrities, family, all of it and more. Yes it's controversial at times, what else do you expect with a title like Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded? However, it's also highly entertaining to read.

They're blog posts, so of varying lengths. Most are one or two pages, but there are a few longer ones mixed in, and there's not much organization that I can see. Each entry/chapter has the date it was originally posted on at the top of the page, but the entries aren't sorted by date either. Scalzi had me laughing many times as I read the entries he's selected for this book. It's certainly a change of pace from science fiction and fantasy novels, but I could see the similarities in the writing here and in his novels.

Perhaps this book isn't for everyone, certainly not for the easily offended, but I liked it quite a bit.

What Would You Recommend? - Tamora Pierce

Being posted early because I'm pretty sure I won't have internet access tomorrow (Friday).

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.


Tamora Pierce has written a number of very popular childrens/teen books suited for various ages and set in at least two very different worlds. I'm more familiar with the world of Tortall, which is the world that the Song of the Lioness Quartet, the Wild Magic quartet, the Keladry books and others are all set in. She's also written the Circle of Magic series, which I haven't read.

What I'd like to know is what else I can recommend to people who've already read these. I've been suggesting The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, which is one of my favorite fantasy novels. I also recommend the Heralds of Valdemar books for older fans of Tamora Pierce, but what else could I suggest, especially for younger readers?

Firebird - Mercedes Lackey

Firebird
Mercedes Lackey
Tor Books
Copyright: 2008
978-0765317193

Amazon.com product description:
Ilya, son of a Russian prince, is largely ignored by his father and tormented by his larger, older brothers.  His only friends are three old people: a priest, a magician, and a woman who toils in the palace dairy.  From them Ilya learns faith, a smattering of magic, and the power of love--all of which he will need desperately, for his life is about to be turned upside-down.

            The prince’s magnificent cherry orchard is visited at midnight by the legendary Firebird, whose wings are made of flame.  Ilya's brothers’ attempts capture the magical creature fail.  When Ilya tries to catch the Firebird, he sees her as a beautiful woman and earns a magical gift:  the speech of animals. 

            Banished, the young man journeys through a fantastical Russia full of magical mazes, enchanted creatures, and untold dangers.  As happens in the best fairy tales, Ilya falls in love with an enchanted princess, but to win her freedom will be no easy task.
 Firebird is a really good retelling of a Russian fairytale, or at least that's what I think. I'm less familiar with the Russian tales than I am some of the European ones (and I'm not especially familiar with those), but regardless of how accurate Mercedes Lackey's Firebird is or is not, it's still a really good tale.

There are definitely echoes of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series in here, but both are working from more or less the same source material, so similarities are to be expected. Either way this is a quick and charming read (I read the whole thing last night after work). It is a fairly typical Mercedes Lackey story, and she's used a couple of lines that I've seen in her other books. Of course, if you like her stories, it's bound to bring on a chuckle or two, or at least a smile.

As with most Mercedes Lackey books, Firebird is suitable for everyone from early teens to adults of any age. I should note, however, that I've been told by several people that this is a reissue of an earlier book, so some people may already have it.

I recommend this if you like Mercedes Lackey books in general, but also if you like fairy-tale retellings, which are something she's done a lot of it seems. There's this one (which Amazon.com calls Fairy Tales Book 1, although I don't know what the other books are), The Black Swan, the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, and also several of the Elemental Masters books.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Library Loot - Feb 16

Library Loot is hosted this week by Marg of Reading Adventures. I know I'm not a regular at this meme, but I'm trying to get into the habit of using the library and borrowing books rather than buying them.

Anyway, I've got two books out right now:


Cory Doctorow's Little Brother
Young Adult fiction.
The Amazon.com product description:
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
I've got this book out so I can do the review for Royal Reviews. The book's read, but I haven't written up the review yet. I've been distracted by the Olympics. Speaking of, I just saw a Canadian win Gold in snowboarding.

The other book I've borrowed as of last night is:

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi
The Amazon.com product description:
On September 13, 1998, John Scalzi sat down in front of his computer to write the first entry in his blog Whatever--and changed the history of the Internet as we know it today.

What, you're not swallowing that one? Okay, fine: He started writing Whatever and amused about 15 people that first day. If that many. But he kept at it, for ten years and running. Now 40,000 people drop by on a daily basis to see what he's got to say.

About what? Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he's funny. Sometimes he's serious (mostly he's sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back. Along the way, Scalzi's become a best-selling, award-winning author, a father, and a geek celebrity. But no matter what, there's always another Whatever post to amuse and/or enrage his readers.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded collects some of the best and most popular Whatever entries from the first ten years of the blog – a decade of Whatever, presented in delightfully random form, just as it should be. 

The Deed Of Paksenarrion - Elizabeth Moon


The Deed Of Paksenarrion
Elizabeth Moon
Baen Books
Copyright: 1992
978-0671721046

Product Description copied from the chapters/indigo.ca website:
From the Publisher
The Finest Trilogy of the Decade -- in a Single Volume

Paksenarrion, yearning for adventure and glory, joins a mercenary company. Her chosen path will lead her on a holy quest that will bring down the gods'' wrath on her and test her to destruction.

From the Jacket
Never in our experience has a new author burst upon the sf/fantasy field to such immediate enthusiastic recognition as Elizabeth Moon with her fantasy trilogy, Sheepfarmer''s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold. Now at last we are able to offer all six hundred thousand words of The Deed of Paksenarrion in a single trade edition. Note that because of its size the complete Deed of Paksenarrion will probably never be offered in a mass market edition.


I love this book. Elizabeth Moon has created a world that feels 'real', with characters that are well rounded, solid and interesting. You can't help but feel for Paksenarrion as she experiences the highs and lows along her life journey. The Deed of Paksenarrion is made up of Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold.

From reading Elizabeth Moon's livejournal/blog (MoonScapes) I've become aware that she has a military background herself. That may well be one of the things that adds realism to the writing in this book. Elizabeth Moon has not ignored all of the less pleasant things of life in the writing of these books. There are so many details we don't normally hear about included in this book, and all of it just adds to the story.

I've seen reviews and blurbs that compare this book to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and honestly, I think that Elizabeth Moon's writing comes closer than some of the other authors and books that have been given the same comparison. There's a sense of stories untold and a depth of history that somebody knows about, even if the reader doesn't. So many things are hinted at. Everything about the story is coherent. The writing is rich and moves along well. The Deed of Paksenarrion is over a thousand pages, but you wouldn't know it, the way the story catches you up.

The first time I read this book, I ended up turning back to the first page and reading it again as soon as I'd finished it, it was that good. Five stars aren't enough for this book.


If you love the Deed of Paksenarrion, you should know that there's finally another book in the series coming out next month: Oath of Fealty, which, I think, starts a new series. I can't wait.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday - February 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Marcia from The Printed Page is quite right about that! I love seeing what people are getting each week, even though I'm getting my buying under control (knock on wood).

This week I only bought one book:
Mariana by Susan Kearsley
The amazon.com product description:
Julia Beckett believes in destiny. When she moves into Greywethers, a beautiful sixteenth-century farmhouse, she suspects that more than coincidence has brought her there. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially the eligible squire of Crofton Hall, yet beneath the ordinariness, Julia senses a haunting sadness about her new home. Then she learns of Mariana, a beautiful young woman who lived there three hundred years ago. It seems history has been waiting for Julia.
 This is a book I've been eyeing for a little while but didn't want enough to pay full price for. When I saw it on the sale table at my local library, I took the chance to snap it up (the library needs my money anyway). I'm definitely looking forward to reading it, although I don't know just when that'll be yet.

Edited to add:
I got to work to find an ARC waiting for me:
Doing Dangerously WellDoing Dangerously Well by Carole Enahoro
Due out May 2010

The Amazon.com product description:
A dark comedy about disaster capitalism, cutthroat office politics, vicious sibling rivalry, hapless do-gooderism and the corporatization of water.
When a humanitarian catastrophe strikes Nigeria, an unforgettable cast of Machiavellian opportunists and quixotic do-gooders swoop in to make the most of the tragedy.

Some time in the near future, Kainji Dam, the engineering marvel that is the pride of Nigeria, collapses, killing thousands of villagers. The Minister of Natural Resources can hardly believe his luck - now he can make a bid for the presidency. On the other side of the world, the grimly ambitious executive of a water company also sniffs an opportunity - to make her bosses happy by privatizing a major African river. Her sister, Barbara, who has never encountered a cause she wouldn't carry a placard for, joins forces with Femi Jegede, a charismatic Nigerian activist whose family was swept away in the disaster. The result: a wickedly satirical romp along a road to hell paved with both good and bad intentions. Brazen, hilarious and sublimely written, Carole Enahoro's debut novel is simply dazzling.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Feb 15

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted each week at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks for taking over and helping keep me on track with my reading each week.

This past week I read the following books:
Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs. The first book in the Alpha And Omega spin-off from the Mercy Thompson series. Loved it.

The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson. Fiction that reads like a biography. Good, but not my favorite book ever.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Read for my guest review at Royal Reviews. I've got to get the review written up and sent off. A good story even though it made me uncomfortable.

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs. The fourth book in the Mercy Thompson series, this book just came out in paperback recently. Loved it, possibly the best in the series to date.

What I'm reading now:

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. One of my favorite fantasy novels to date, I'm rereading it now, because the next book, Oath of Fealty is coming out mid-March. This book is actually made up of Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegience and Oath of Gold. I'm midway through the Divided Allegience part of the book.

The Kindness of Strangers by John Boswell. A nonfiction book on the history of child abandonment from late antiquity through the Middle Ages. I'm reading this one for the Tournament Of Reading. It's interesting, if dense going. There are sometimes pages (frequently) where there's four or five lines of text and the rest of the page is footnotes.

What I plan to read this week:

I haven't planned much beyond reading Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs. I'm being distracted by the Olympics.

Blog Award: One Lovely Blog

This was a neat surprise to wake up to, the news that my blog won an award. Holly from Bippity Boppity Book has decided that I'm one of the people she's passing the One Lovely Blog award on to me.

The rules for this award are:
1. Accept the award, and post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.

2. Pass the award to 5 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know that they have been chosen for this award.
 My choices are:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Canadian Author/Book Tag

Given the way I'm raving over the Canadian medal winners in the 2010 Olympics over on Twitter,(I watched the first Canadian Gold Medal won on our home soil tonight), it's futile to hide the fact that I'm Canadian, and live in the current Olympic city.

So, I'm changing my policy a bit and identifying the Canadian books and authors I read. As of tonight, I've gone back and added a tag for Candadian authors and books to the blog, tagging those authors and books I'm aware of as Canadian. I may have missed one or two, so if you are aware of one I didn't get, please let me know.

Cry Wolf - Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf
Patricia Briggs
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 2008
9780441016150

From the back of the book:
Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack...and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she'd learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cormick, the enforcer - and son - of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna's inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf - a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten the entire pack.

This is a re-read of Cry Wolf, the first book in the Alpha and Omega series. My original review of the book is here. I have to say I enjoyed the read, staying up far too late last night and finishing it this morning. Cry Wolf was as good this time as it was last time.

The story picks up after Patricia Briggs' short story in the anthology On The Prowl, which introduced us to the character Anna Latham, now Anna Cornick. We've already met Charles Cornick briefly in the Mercy Thompson series. You don't have to have read the Mercy Thompson books (which begin with Moon Called), but it does help set up the world and the situations the characters in the Alpha And Omega series find themselves in.

Patricia Briggs has done something somewhat different with this series than she did in the Mercy Thompson books. Where those ones are in a first person viewpoint and are entirely from the view of Mercy Thompson, this series is a more standard viewpoint and does include scenes from other characters views: Charles, Walter and the Moor's as well as others.

While I personally prefer the Mercy Thompson books, I have to say these are so very close a second that there's very little to choose from between them. I'm waiting for the next book following Hunting Ground eagerly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Would You Recommend? - Shantaram

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is one of those books on my "to read" list, although I haven't gotten a copy yet. Everyone seems to have enjoyed it, and over the last few years I've had a lot of people in the bookstore looking for it. Based on that, I know I have to read it some day. From the back cover and the Chapters.ca computer write-up I get the feeling that this is a cross between a novel and a biography, but I'm not certain.

Now, what would you suggest as a recommedation for someone who liked reading Shantaram? I'm pretty sure that the author doesn't have any other novels available (or not widely available, anyway). I'm thinking that the book A Place Within by M. G. Vasanji, a biography which has also been getting a lot of good reviews would be one possible recommendation. Of course, I have to admit that I haven't read either of them, so I can't say for sure. What would you recommend?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Olympic Torch Relay

I know it's nothing to do with books at all, but I just have to share these photos from the Olympic Torch Relay this morning. There wasn't much of a crowd at this spot so I got some great photos. I think I'm finally getting into the Olympic spirit.

 
  
  
  
  
  

I knew the torch was going to be passing by that location, but I hadn't expected as good a view as I got (was expecting a lot more people to be there, but most went to the party-spots (I went to one of them later in the morning and it was absolutely packed), so I got a great view (and one of the free flags). I thought all I was going to see was the torch going by. What a surprise when the flame got passed to the next bearer right in front of me. I think the photos tell the story of that well enough on their own.

The Elephant Keeper - Christopher Nicholson

The Elephant Keeper
Christopher Nicholson
William Morrow (Publisher)
Copyright: 2009
978-0061651601

Amazon.com product description:
"I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth."
England, 1766: After a long voyage from the East Indies, a ship docks in Bristol, England, and rumor quickly spreads about its unusual cargo—some say a mermaid is on board. A crowd forms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magical creature. One crate after another is unpacked: a zebra, a leopard, and a baboon. There's no mermaid, but in the final two crates is something almost as magical—a pair of young elephants, in poor health but alive.
Seeing a unique opportunity, a wealthy sugar merchant purchases the elephants for his country estate and turns their care over to a young stable boy, Tom Page. Tom's family has long cared for horses, but an elephant is something different altogether. It takes time for Tom and the elephants to understand one another, but to the surprise of everyone on the estate, a remarkable bond is formed.
The Elephant Keeper, the story of Tom and the elephants, in Tom's own words, moves from the green fields and woods of the English countryside to the dark streets and alleys of late-eighteenth-century London, reflecting both the beauty and the violence of the age. Nicholson's lush writing and deft storytelling complement a captivating tale of love and loyalty between one man and the two elephants that change the lives of all who meet them. 
The Elephant Keeper is a book I picked up on a whim (or rather, I was looking for something to read, after abandoning Lorri Moore's A Gate At The Stairs) thinking it looked interesting. It was indeed. Originally this was going to be the book I reviewed for Royal Reviews, but then I just discovered that I'd marked down the wrong row, and I'm supposed to have a YA novel for that one. I've still got time to get that done though, and therefore I'm reviewing this one here.

It's a book that constantly makes you question whether or not you're reading a novel. It's written as if it's a biography of a young man who has ended up making his life through caring for an elephant. At times it almost felt like I was there.

The whole book is written from his perspective, save for the last chapters, as he struggles with the task of writing a history of the Elephant, the history of Jenny, the elephant it has become his task to care for. At the same time we learn about the young man's life, the changes that caring for the creature has made, and the effects it has had on how he lives. Through the course of the book, Tom becomes very real and you feel for the highs and the lows.

I loved the 'dialogues' between Tom and the Elephant (Jenny). They're just charming. It's as though she's another person in the story, rather than just an animal. She's as much of a character (or more than) as any of the people walking around on two legs in the book.

Christopher Nicholson's book has a very ambiguous ending that left me questioning everything about it. Even the book's status as a novel. Is it based on fact? is there a true story behind this book somewhere? I'd love to know, but then that might take away some of the magic of the story.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs

Bone Crossed
Patricia Briggs
Berkely Trade
Copyright: 2009
9780441016761

From the cover of the book:
Welcome to Patricia Briggs's world, a place where "witches, vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters live beside ordinary people" (Booklist). It takes a very unusual woman to call it home - and there's no one quite like Mercy Thompson.

By day, Mercy is a car mechanic in the sprawling Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington. By night, she explores her preternatural side. As a shapeshifter with some unique talents, Mercy has often found herself having to maintain a tenuous harmony between the human and the not so human. This time she may get more than she bargained for.

Marsilia, the local Vampire Queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan - and she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack (and her close relations hip with its sexy Alpha), it won't be Mercy's blood Marsilia is after.

It'll be her friends.
This is a re-read, as I first read Bone Crossed last year when it came out in hardcover. My original review is here.

The sequel to Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed takes up the story within a couple of days of the ending of the previous book. Mercy certainly doesn't get a break! While she's dealing with the aftermath of the events of Iron Kissed, the events of Blood Bound come back to haunt her. As she knew they would, just not when.

At the same time, she's made her choice between Samuel and Adam. As I said in my last review of Iron Kissed, I'm definitely feeling sorry for Samuel, and I hope Patricia Briggs has something nice planned for him in the future. Charles has his own series: the Alpha and Omega series, so it would be nice if there's something similar planned for his brother.

Definitely a good read, and there's plenty more for the next book, Silver Borne, due out in April (I think). I can't wait. The way the Mercy Thompson series has been going, it should definitely be good. Overall, this is a series that you can read at least twice (probably more, the way I'm enjoying it this time).

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now hosted at One Person's Journy Through A World Of Books. This is the one meme that I tend to do every week, so I'm really glad to see it continuing.

Anyway, last week I read:
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
The Lazy Investor by Derek Foster
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
The Last Colony by John Scalzi

However, from Friday onwards, it's been a bad week. I'm only reading one book at the moment:
The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson. This one I need to get done, as I'm intending it for a guest review over at Royal Reviews.

Books I intend to read this week:
Honestly, I haven't a clue. I just don't know what I feel like reading this week. I've picked up and put down several different books over the weekend (and ended up watching several movies).

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Would You Recommend? - Alex Rider, Maximum Ride, Cherub

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.


Not quite "What would you recommend?" this time around, but similar. I've been recommending the above series interchangeably to people who like one or the other of them, but I've started to wonder for the younger readers if the content levels are the same. The reading level looks similar to me, but I haven't read any of the books. I'm recommending them simply based on how many times I've had customers ask me about them (and the positive reviews I've seen on blogs I read).

Why I'm asking is because at the store I work at, Stormbreaker (and the rest of the Alex Rider series) is located in the 9-12 year old's section. The Maximum Ride series and the Cherub series is found under "teens". Are there likely to be any issues with recommending them interchangeably?

And then, there are the kids who've read them all already. What other suggestions could I make? I've been (when I remember) recommending the Young James Bond series, but I don't know of any other books or series I could recommend as well. What would you recommend?

Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs

Iron Kissed
Patricia Briggs
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 2008
9780441015665

From the back of the book:


I could smell her fear, and it satisfied something deep inside me that had been writhing under her cool, superior gaze. I curled my upper lip so she could get a good look at my sharp teeth. I might only weigh thirty or so pounds in my coyote shape, but I was a predator...

Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape - but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not

Mercy's loyalty is under pressure from other directions too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can't decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her...

This is a re-read of this book, which is the sequel to Moon Called and Blood Bound. My original review from last March is here. I have to say I liked it as much this time as I did last time. However, I also found that Iron Kissed is the most disturbing of the series so far, given what happens to Mercy at the climax of the book.

I have to admit, I found myself feeling sorry for Samuel by the end of Iron Kissed, and I hope the author has something nice in mind for him in the future. He's certainly had enough sorrows in his life from what we've seen in the books so far.

As the title suggests, Iron Kissed is the book about the Fae, the way Blood Bound was for the Vampires. We find out a lot more about how they live, the reservations, and their abilities among other things. Also, about the attitudes towards them from the humans who've only recently found out about their existence.

One thing I've found funny about the whole series this time around is Mercy's musings about how useful her history degree is (or isn't). I've had the same thoughts at times too (only Classical and Medieval history), given that I don't use it at all in my job, and the only jobs that come to mind for the degree are things like teaching.

Overall, the whole series is five star, and if you haven't tried them yet, you should.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Lazy Investor - Derek Foster

The Lazy Investor
Derek Foster
Foster, Underhill Financial Press
Copyright: 2007
9780973696011

The blurb from the Stop Working Website:
The Lazy Investor: Start with $50 and no Investment Knowledge was written for beginner investors. The book details a step-by-step plan for you to gradually accumulate wealth over time without falling victim to the high fees many beginner investors pay. A strategy simple enough for anyone to understand and one that runs on “autopilot” once it’s set up. Derek’s children are currently using this strategy to accumulate wealth.
This little book is written for Canadians who are interested in getting started with investing. It's designed for people who are starting with no knowlege of the subject. Which, I have to say fits me exactly. The book is short (I read it through in one evening), and simple. It's also written in a way that made me feel that this is something I can do.

The idea of being able to start investing without needing a lot of money is an intriguing one. The claim on the cover is that you can start with as little as fifty dollars CDN. Inside it turns out to be a bit more, but not by much. The initial purchase as described still comes out to less than a hundred dollars.

The author gives suggestions for some good companies to start with (including their histories) and also goes over the process of getting started and buying your first stock certificates step by step. I haven't gone out and tried it yet, but the process looks like it makes sense and the book is clearly and simply written.

At the back of the book is included a list of further books on the subject that your could read if you want to learn more.

The one thing that makes me a bit hesitant is that the book was written before the great crash of the last couple of years and quite a few of the companies the author looks at are banks. On the other had, they're all Canadian ones and my understanding is that we made it out a lot better than some of the other countries.

Blood Bound - Patricia Briggs

Blood Bound
Patricia Briggs
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 2007
9780441014736

From the back of the book:
Under the rule of science, there are no witch burnings allowed, no water trials or public lynchings. In return the average law-abiding solid citizen has little to worry about from the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes I wish I was an average citizen...

Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places - and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.

But this new vampire is hardly ordinary - and neither is the demon inside of him...
Blood Bound is the sequel to Moon Called. I should note this is the second time I've read and reviewed this book on this blog. The first time is here. I'm loving the Mercy Thompson series as much this time around as I did last year. I'd forgotten the details enough that it was almost like reading the book for the first time again.

So far, none of the books are more than short reads, but they're the type to keep you up far past your bedtime as you keep wanting to know "what happens next?". Both Moon Called and Blood Bound have kept me up past one in the morning, and Iron Kissed did the same thing last night.

Where Moon Called introduced us to the whole world Patricia Briggs has created, she focused on the werewolves in that book. This book has the story focus on the vampires who are both the good guys and the bad guys of the book. And, they are creepy! Stefan's not so bad but the others?

Mercy still hasn't made her choice between Adam and Samuel, which is leading to some tension in the pack, and tension between the two men. That's the main difference between this series and paranormal romances - the relationships take more than a book to set up and resolve.

I loved this book and the rest of the series. I'm pretty sure I said it the first time I reviewed Blood Bound and the others, but this is still my favorite urban fantasy series. Definitely five stars.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Book Rambling: Cookbooks (Again)

For some reason I keep coming back to cookbooks on these rambles. I've started joking that the cookbook section of the store is a dangerous one for me, as I keep finding books I want. This is even though I haven't tried most of the recipes in the books I have. The latest book to add itself to the "want" list is Ina Gartner's book Barefoot Contessa: Back To Basics.

The recipes and photos just look so good. Especially the roasted tomatoes and the buttermilk and cheddar biscuits. I'm sure if I look in my other books (most likely Marc Bittman's How To Cook Everything) I'll find something very close, so why do I want to get this one?

I know what attracts me to cookbooks. Simple recipes for food I'll actually eat, and good photographs. Jamie Oliver's good for that. I keep coming back to the two books of his that I have: Jamie's Food Revolution and Cook With Jamie. Most recently I tried the brownies and the sweet and sour squash out of the latter and they turned out really well (The brownies were a bit decadent, but they were good).

What catches your attention when it comes to cookbooks? The show the writer has on the T.V.? I have to admit that I've not seen one episode of any of the Jamie Oliver shows or any of the other cookbook writers either, so I don't know how much of a draw that is.

Is it the recipes themselves? That and the presentation are what does it for me.

The presentation? For all that this is what you'd think is the least important part of the book, it's the layout and the photos that pull me in. All of the cookbooks in my collection are laid out in a clear fashion that's easy to read at a glance, making it easier to check what I'm doing mid-recipe quickly.

And, when you do get a cookbook, do you find yourself sticking to just a few recipes or do you end up using most of the recipes in the book? So far I've just found myself using a few from each book repeatedly, but I'm also starting to work to change that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Moon Called - Patricia Briggs

Moon Called
Patricia Briggs
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 2006
9780441013814

From the back of the book:
Werewolves can be dangerous if you get in their way, but they'll leave you alone if you are careful. They are very good at hiding their natures from the human population, but I'm not human. I know them when I meet them, and they know me too.

Mercy Thompson's sexy next-door neighbor is a werewolf.

She's tinkering with a VW bus at her mechanic shop that happens to belong to a vampire.

But then, Mercedes Thompson is not exactly normal herself... and her connection to the world of things that go bump in the night is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble.

Yes, this is a re-read of a book I read and reviewed last year. My original review is here. I have to say I loved reading Moon Called as much this time as I did last time. Admittedly, I'd forgotten a whole lot of the plot so events were surprising to me, as though I was reading it for the first time again.

I still think the characters are interesting and compelling, flaw, quirks and all. Mercy Thompson is an interesting character, and the world Patricia Briggs has created for her is interesting and coherent. It's rather neat seeing a world where some things are still secret, but others are coming into the open. Generally it's more of an "everything is hidden" or "everything is known about and has been for some time". The problems they're facing seem to work as well: racism, bigotry and the like.

Even having read Moon Called before, I found that the mysterious plots, twists and turns kept me enthralled late into the night (when I finally finished the book). Honestly, the Mercy Thompson series is my favorite urban fantasy series. I can't recommend the books enough.

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