Sunday, May 29, 2011

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.
The Deed of Paksenarrion is a book I've read and reviewed several times now. My most recent previous review is here, and the one before that is here. In a way, I'm glad I finished the read finally, just because of how long it took this time. I definitely love the book though, so that's not a complaint in any way.

Elizabeth Moon has created a wonderfully detailed world with this series. This time I was noticing little things about the way she's written all the scenes involving horses. Mostly I think that's due to my having read Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Getting It Right, by Judith Tarr. If my memory's not playing tricks, I seem to recall that Judith Tarr had some good things to say about Elizabeth Moon's writing there. But, based on my own limited knowledge, she's gotten it right.

Reading The Deed Of Paksenarrion after reading the two most recent books in this world, Oath of Fealty and Kings of the North was kind of neat. This is a completely self-contained novel, and yet, after reading the two latest books, I was noticing all these little details that hinted at things which are being revealed now. And there are things I'd love to know more about too - the sleepers in Luap's stronghold, for example.

That's honestly how I've been looking at this book this time, in relation to the two newest books. It's a wonderful story on it's own, and even better with the hints of things to come.

Watching Paksenarrion grow through her experiences, first with Phelan's mercenary company, and then later on her own is an intriguing experience. There's a gritty reality to all this which I find quite different and enjoy. The mud, blisters and all the little details that the author has included just make the book for me.

If you haven't given The Deed of Paksenarrion a try and you like fantasy novels, you should. This is a book that I rate with five stars every time I read it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Kittens (or should I say cats?)

It's been a while since I've posted any pictures of the two kittens I have, so I thought I'd best change that.
This is Maddie (short for Madeline). She's always full of fun and mischief, and can usually be found wherever there's food to be eaten. At the moment, she's "helping" me write this post by blocking my view of the screen with her sister.
This is Jenny (I say it's short for Jenny Any Dots). Possibly the most talkative cat around, but she's such a sweetie). Also, quite possibly, she's got the fastest claws. I know I don't dare dangle a toy mouse in front of her anymore.

The two of them are usually fairly obliging targets for my camera, thankfully.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 23

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by Sheila, over at her blog, One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. It's lots of fun each week to see what everyone's reading, not to mention, the weekly list is a great way to stay on track with my reading. In other words, this is one of my favourite memes.

Last week I only got one book read (this is becoming a trend I'd like to change):
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward. Paranormal Romance. This is the most recent book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Follows Manny and Payne into their happy ending. Although I had a couple of problems with the start of the book, I was soon unable to put it down. Loved it!

I'm currently reading:
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward. Paranormal Romance. This is the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and one I've read twice before and reviewed on the blog, here and here.

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. Fantasy fiction. One of my favourite fantasy novels. Still, it's taking me a while this time. I think because I'm so distracted by other books.

I'm planning to read:
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Lover Unleashed - J.R. Ward

Lover Unleashed
J.R. Ward
NAL  Hardcover
Copyright Date: March 29, 2011
978-0451233165

The amazon.com product description:
#1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward's thrilling new novel in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, seductive cloth as her brother. Imprisoned for eons by their mother, the Scribe Virgin, she finally frees herself-only to face a devastating injury. Manuel Manello, M.D., is drafted by the Brotherhood to save her as only he can-but when the human surgeon and the vampire warrior meet, their two worlds collide in the face of their undeniable passion. With so much working against them, can love prove stronger than the birthright and the biology that separates them? 
Well, after more than a month on my "Want to read list" I finally got around to reading Lover Unleashed, the latest book in J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The previous book in the series was Lover Mine, which I read and reviewed last April.

The reviews I was seeing were saying that this book is Manny's story, which it is, as well as being Payne's story. The only problem I had with that, was that for the first part of the book, I couldn't remember who Manny was. After that though, the whole book was smooth sailing, and when I had to put it down, I couldn't wait to get back to the book.

It's hard to review Lover Unleashed without getting into the whole Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which at this point is now made up of nine books. However, the place to start in this incredible series of paranormal romances is Dark Lover. Without that, the whole world that J.R. Ward has created probably won't make as much sense - especially as the world and the storylines are getting more complicated as the books go on. Now there's several storylines in each book, with more and more different characters. The books all seem to set up the next book in the series.

One of the things I love about this series of books is that there's plenty of time with all of the characters from the previous books. Yes they got their happy endings - these are romance novels, after all, but their stories aren't over. Which means we get more time with the characters we got to know in the earlier books. Lover Unleashed gives us plenty of time with Vishous and Jane, and Butch, as well as Payne and Manny. Not to mention a few surprises.

I've said it in other reviews, but this series does deserve to come with a few warnings. Namely language, and some illegal activities, though they're not as noticeable in this book. But, the characters don't hesitate to use foul language at all.

Regardless, the whole series is one of my favourites, and I'm already looking forward to the next book, as well as starting to re-read some of the earlier books. If you like paranormal romances, you should give J.R. Ward a try.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday - May 18

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

My pick for the week is:

The Shadow Grail #2: Conspiracies
By Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Tor Books
Release Date: July 5, 2011
978-0765328236

The amazon.com product description:
The second book in the Shadow Grail series by the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling authors Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Spirit and her friends Burke, Loch, Muirin, and Addie have managed to defeat the evil force that has been killing students at Oakhurst Academy for the past forty years—or so they think. When a series of magical attacks disrupts the school, Doctor Ambrosius calls upon alumnus Mark Rider to secure the campus—and start training the students for war. The only student without magic, Spirit doesn’t trust Mark or his methods. She knows that Oakhurst isn’t safe. And if Spirit and her friends want to live long enough to graduate, they have to find out what is really going on—before it’s too late.
 I read the first book in The Shadow Grail series, Legacies last year and really enjoyed it - of course, I can't really think of any Mercedes Lackey books I haven't liked over the years. The concept is an intriguing one, being the typical reverse of the usual.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crosslinking Done!

And if anything deserves an exclamation point, it's that. Over the last week or so, I've gone back to the first post and linked up reviews to book titles all the way back. That's over seven hundred posts. Of course, I'm going to have to do it again periodically as I add more books and posts.

The main culprit posts are the It's Monday..., Upcoming Books, and formerly the Mailbox Monday posts as there are a lot of books in those that have yet to be read and reviewed. Those are the ones I went back and linked to their review posts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 16

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks Sheila for trying to keep us all on track with our weekly reading. Besides, this meme is a great way to find new books. I know I often see books that I end up wanting to read.

Last week I read:
Divergent by Veronica Roth. Teen science fiction set in a dystopian future. An interesting and popular book these days, but not my favourite by any means.

I'm currently reading:
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. Fantasy fiction. The re-read is going slowly, but I'm still really enjoying it.

I'm planning to read one or more of the following:
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward. Paranormal Romance, fiction. The latest novel in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Fantasy fiction. The first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

I'm also putting a lot of time into an attempt at crocheting a shawl.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Divergent - Veronica Roth

Divergent
Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books
Copyright: May 2011
978-0062024022

The amazon.com product description:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
 I've seen Divergent compared to The Hunger Games in other reviews, and I have to say, I can see where the comparisons are coming from. Like that series of books, Veronica Roth's debut novel is set in a society that's managed to put itself back together after some kind of terrible war. It's in the aftermath of that war that society takes on the shape it has at the start of the book.

The glimpses we get of that society - through the eyes of Beatrice - are intriguing. I would have liked more of them. We learn quite a bit about Beatrice, but at the same time, it feels like there's a whole lot about the world that she doesn't know - especially about the other factions. And, even about her own family. It rather felt to me as though family was meant to come in second to the faction in terms of loyalty.

Actually, having finished reading Divergent this afternoon, I'm not really sure what I think of the book. I enjoyed the read, but there were things about it that bugged me. And at least one of these is just personal preference: font size. When it comes to a book, I like to feel that I'm getting full value from the book in terms of the amount of story there is. Divergent feels somewhat deceptive on that count. The font size is pretty large, making the book a quick read.

While the book was definitely exciting - what else would you expect from reading about a faction where initiation tests include doing things like jumping into and out of a moving train? - at the same time, it felt flat too. I think it was that most of the focus was on Beatrice, or Tris as she chose to be called and Four. As a result, the other characters and the world didn't seem to be completely developed as much as it could have been.

Also, Beatrice seemed surprisingly ignorant at times, but a lot of that could be because of the way the world is set up and controlled - eg the school and what it teaches. But still...

For all that this review seems to be mostly negative, I still have to say that I enjoyed reading Divergent, and I'm curious to read the sequels - it's a planned trilogy. It's just that, to be honest, this book isn't going to be making it's way onto my favourite books list.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Status update: Crochet, Reading & Gardening

It's spring, so some other activities besides reading are creeping into my spare time now. I'm making another attempt at gardening on my balcony in pots. Last year, the plants got overrun by aphids. Hopefully I'll have better luck this year. Anyway, over the last couple of days I planted a window box of lettuce and Swiss Chard, a pot of radish seeds, and two pots of parsley seedlings. I'm planning another window box of bean plants, some more herbs and four tomato plants in different pots - as well as another pot of radishes in a week or two. The herbs and tomato plants I already have - just waiting until it gets a bit warmer out - maybe the end of the month before I plant them. As well, I'm planning on making another attempt at square foot gardening, like I have the last few years. Thinking of more beans, squash, carrots, beets and peas to start with there. But that's a different project than the one on my balcony. That one is waiting for a combination of a day off and nice weather to make a good start on.

At the same time, I've started another attempt at crocheting the shawl I started in February. This time I've made it to row ten and counting. And, it seems to be working out a bit smoother too this time. The shawl is the Bernat # 4922, which uses the mosaic yarn. I'm using the Ambrosia variety. All I can say about this one is be very careful as to the number of stitches. That's what's mucked me up a few times now. Although, it is my first attempt at doing a pattern.

In terms of reading, I'm well into the novel Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I'm quite enjoying the read, although I think (at least right now) that Hunger Games was a bit better. I don't want to say too much more right now though - I'd like to save it all for my review of the book.

Also, I'm back to reading The Deed of Paksenarrion again. Still loving it. And, I've bought another book. I'm finally going to make a crack at reading George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Here's a book You Might Like, Anassa

Writing The Paranormal Novel: Techniques And Exercises For Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story
Steven Harper
Writer's Digest Books
March, 2011
978-1599631349

The amazon.com product description:
Paranormal novels (those with ghosts, telepaths, vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches and more) for adult and young-adult readers continue to top bestseller lists, but, until now, no resource exists to help writers craft these stories. This book shows how to successfully introduce supernatural and paranormal elements into your stories, create engaging and relatable characters and craft plots where even the most unusual twists are not only possible, they are believable. 
 I don't know if you've seen this book already, Anassa, or are even beyond what it discusses (very possible), but I thought of you right away when I saw it the other day. It certainly looks intriguing to me.

Amusing!

I finished reading a copy of Michelle Moran's novel Madame Tussaud on Sunday, which I'd borrowed in order to read, and on Monday, guess what came in the mail? A copy of Madame Tussaud.

I'd borrowed it because I'd promised to review the book well before it came out in February, and was feeling rather guilty. The vagaries of the post office prove themselves again! What I found amusing though, was the timing of the book's arrival. The day after I'd read and reviewed it.

Madame Tussaud is definitely a good read as are Michelle Moran's other novels.

The Guardian: The Stars of Modern SF Pick The Best Science Fiction Book - Link

The Guardian's article on the best science fiction book: The Stars of Modern SF Pick The Best Science Fiction Book.

Definitely interesting, as they've picked a lot of classic science fiction: Alfred Bester, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin, etc. Also neat is the authors they have doing the picking: Margaret Atwood and others. If you like Science Fiction novels, this might be well worth checking out to see if there's something there you haven't read. I know I'm going to be taking a closer look!

This link found thanks to Twitter.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 9

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at Sheila's blog, One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks for keeping us all on track in our reading each week.

Last week I got one book finished:
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Fiction about the French Revolution. It was an interesting read and a different perspective on that part of history. It's neat because I've heard of Madame Tussaud and her wax museums but didn't know anything about her, or much about that time period in history.

Currently I'm reading:
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. Fantasy novel. I was reading this one a couple of months ago, and put it down for a while. Now I've picked it up again and I'm still really enjoying it.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. Teen fiction. I've just picked this book up last night and I'm only a few pages in. So far, I'm quite enjoying the read. I should note that I'm expecting Divergent to be a quick read just based on the font size, which is quite large.

Medieval Households by David Herlihy. Non fiction about the late Classical and Medieval periods of history. Specifically looking at the make-up and evolution of the household. Not a book I'm racing through, but one I'm finding quite interesting.

I'm planning to read:
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward. The most recent book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I've been looking forward to this one for a while now, and the reviews all look really good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Madame Tussaud - Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud
Michelle Moran
Crown Publishing
Copyright: February 15, 2011
978-0307588654

The amazon.com product description:
The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.

Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away
from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.

As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse √Člisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and caf√©s across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom. 
Madame Tussaud is something of a departure from Michelle Moran's previous books: Cleopatra's Daughter, The Heretic Queen and Nefertiti, all of which are set in ancient Egypt and Rome. This one's set just before and during the French Revolution.

When I first heard about the book, last year, I decided I was going to read it just based on the fact that I'd really like Michelle Moran's previous books. I was expecting a carefully researched and written book peopled with vivid and interesting characters. That's exactly what I got. Lafayette, Marie, her family, Camille and so many others, not to mention the Royal Family.

Now, I will admit that my knowledge of the French Revolution is spotty at best, dating from when I was back in grade school, but the perceptions I have of what I learned back then portray it as a good thing and the leaders - especially Lafayette as being heroes, but that's not the impression I particularly got from reading the book. Instead, things are very ambiguous as they're seen from Marie's point of view - a person who had friends on both sides of the divide. Were the Royal Family and Marie Antoinette really as bad as they're made out to be? In a sense, especially as the book progressed, I found it to be rather hard to read - especially for the part of the book that describes the Reign of Terror.

I'm thinking that maybe I should do some more reading on the subject sooner or later - and for me, that feeling is a big plus when I'm reading historical fiction. Another plus in my mind is the author's note of sorts that Michelle Moran has at the end of the book, summing up the real lives such as we know them for the main characters of the book, and for what was going on at the time - what was condensed and changed from fact, especially. To me, having both those there are big bonuses. I'm also trying to remember - my copy of Janson's Art History and the other art books I have are inaccessible at the moment, if there is a painting of Camille just after his death. I'm inclined to think so, but not a hundred percent certain. It's one of the scenes in the book, where that's being talked about. I just can't quite picture it.

Overall, I really liked reading Madame Tussaud, and I recommend it, even if it's not your usual forte in historical fiction reading. It's definitely worth a try, as are Michelle Moran's other books.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Couple of New Arrivals

Picked up a couple of ARCs yesterday. One I got through work (The Lion Wakes - book one in The Kingdom series) and the other was waiting at home for me: Queen By Right.

Queen by Right
Anne Easter Smith
Simon & Schuster (Canada) Touchstone Originals (USA)
ISBN: 978-1416550471
Release Date: May 10, 2011

The Amazon.com product description:
From the award-winning author of A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, and The King’s Grace comes another masterful historical novel—the story of Cecily of York, mother of two kings and the heroine of one of history’s greatest love stories. Anne Easter Smith’s novels are beloved by readers for their ability “to grab you, sweep you along with the story, and make you fall in love with the characters.” * In Cecily Neville, duchess of York and ancestor of every English monarch to the present day, she has found her most engrossing character yet.History remembers Cecily of York standing on the steps of the Market Cross at Ludlow, facing an attacking army while holding the hands of her two young sons. Queen by Right reveals how she came to step into her destiny, beginning with her marriage to Richard, duke of York, whom she meets when she is nine and he is thirteen. Raised together in her father’s household, they become a true love match and together face personal tragedies, pivotal events of history, and deadly political intrigue. All of England knows that Richard has a clear claim to the throne, and when King Henry VI becomes unfit to rule, Cecily must put aside her hopes and fears and help her husband decide what is right for their family and their country. Queen by Right marks Anne Easter Smith’s greatest achievement, a book that every fan of sweeping, exquisitely detailed historical fiction will devour. 
This is a book I'm definitely looking forward to reading. I've looked at Anne Easter Smith's other novels before, but have yet to get around to reading them - mostly because they seem to be set a bit later than I'm really passionate about. On the other hand, they sell well, and I'm definitely intrigued. I've heard people saying good things about her other three books before.

The Lion Wakes (Kingdom series Book One)
Robert Low
HarperCollins UK
ISBN: 978-0007337910
Release Date: July 1, 2011

The Amazon.com product description:
Robert Low moves from the Vikings of his acclaimed Oathsworn novels to the making of Scotland in this first novel in a major new series
It is 1296 and Scotland is in turmoil—the old king, Alexander III, has died after falling off his horse one dark and stormy night. Edward I of England, desperate to keep control of his northern borders, arranges for John Baliol, a weak man who Edward knows he can manipulate, to take leadership of Scotland. But unrest is rife and many are determined to throw off the shackles of England. Among those men is Robert the Bruce—darkly handsome, young, angry, and obsessed by his desire to win Scotland's throne. He will fight for the freedom of the Scots until the end. But there are many rival factions and the English are a strong and fearsome opponent. The story culminates in the Battle of Falkirk which proves to be the beginning of a rivalry that will last for decades.
I'm looking forward to reading this one too - even though I have yet to read anything by Robert Low. But, this period in history is one that I find intriguing. There are a few other books about it reviewed on All Booked Up already. And, Low's other books look good too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 2nd

Or, in Canada, Election Day.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted each week over at Sheila's blog, One Person's Journey Through A World of Books. It's lots of fun to see what everyone is reading each week, and I find it a great way to keep on track with my reading too.

Last week I only got one book read:
The Call of the Wild by Jack London. One of the classic books about the North and the Gold Rush. Not to mention it's a great dog story. Also, it's one of the hundred books that came with my Kobo E-Reader. A book I've read before several times.

I'm currently reading:
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Fiction about the French Revolution. Yes, I'm still reading it and enjoying the read, although it's taking longer than I'd thought to finish.

White Fang by Jack London. Another of the books that came with my Kobo. I'm not enjoying it as much as Call of the Wild though.

Medieval Households by David Herlihy. Non Fiction about the structure of households through late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

I'm planning to read (if I get through Madame Tussaud):
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward. Fiction, the latest book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book in the reviews.

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