No, this post is not some link to yet another site in the vast and ever-growing Cheezburger network that threatens to consume the web like some bastard child of Rick Astley and Walmart (well, I guess it is now). It’s a mea culpa from the guy who didn’t adapt a site design to fit Blogger’s broken CSS/templating system three years ago, causing an annoying bug that was only visible at 800×600 resolution. My argument was: how many people browse the web at 800×600 the better part of a decade into the new millennium? Even my flying car has a higher resolution web browser than that.

So much for that argument. Since somebody recently mentioned it–and now that Blogger is a bit more flexible in their templating–it can be fixed. The coffee cup graphic down in the corner should no longer eat text when browsing with a narrow window. Sorry for the inconvenience folks, my fault, not Kristen’s!

This week was much lower key than the giant pile from last week; I received one ARC. (And it’s another October book – there are so many books on the review pile that look good coming out that month!)

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

This is Rachel Aaron’s debut novel and the first book in the Legend of Eli Monpress series. It will be released in October and it will be quickly followed by the next two books – The Spirit Rebellion in November and The Spirit Eater in December. On her website, the author mentions she is currently working on a fourth book, The Spirit War, which is supposed to be available next year. I was pretty happy to get a copy of this since it sounds like fun (thieves do often make for some pretty entertaining reading) and I was sad to hear I missed it at BEA. The first two chapters can be read online.

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

Now that I’ve written reviews for all books read during the first half of 2010 it’s time for the favorites list! This list is composed of all books read regardless of publication date since only 8 of the 26 books read by the end of June were published this year. I’ll probably do a list of both at the end of the year since I expect that number to climb due to the number of books on the review pile for later this year that I really want to read. Plus I’m on my eleventh book published this year now.

It has been a fantastic reading year so far – much, much better than the first half of last year was. I’ve discovered some great new authors who dominate the top of my list.

This list does not include the two books I’ve read so far this month – if it did, one of them would definitely be on it. Favorites of the first half of the year are as follows:

1. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (Review)
2. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews (Review)
3. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (Review)
4. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (Review)
5. Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (Review)
6. Changeless by Gail Carriger (Review)
7. A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (Review)
8. World’s End by Joan D. Vinge (Review)
9. Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Review)
10. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs (Review)

What are your favorite books read in 2010 so far?

Naamah’s Kiss
by Jacqueline Carey
656pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 3.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.1/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.12/5

Naamah’s Kiss is the first book in Jacqueline Carey’s latest trilogy set in the world of Terre d’Ange, although it takes place a few generations after the first two trilogies in Kushiel’s Legacy. The second book, Naamah’s Curse, was just released last month, and the author is still working on Naamah’s Blessing which does not yet have a release date according to the June update on her website.

Moirin, the great-granddaughter of Alais de la Courcel, is of the Maghuin Dhonn, a people in Alba who follow the Brown Bear goddess. At one time, the Maghuin Dhonn were powerful magicians, but they have only had smaller magics after making a great mistake. Although they are still feared and viewed with suspicion, they cannot predict the future or shapeshift but mostly have smaller tricks such as concealment and an awareness of animals.

When Moirin is very young she has visions of a man with a seedling and a beautiful bright lady. Later Moirin learns her father was a d’Angeline priest, and the man and woman she saw are a god and goddess from her other heritage. Because of this lineage she has some additional gifts, such as the ability to sense the feelings of plants and manipulate their growth. Once Moirin becomes old enough to undergo a rite of passage in which she will find out if she has been accepted by the bear goddess, she learns from Her that she has a destiny outside of Alba. All she knows is that she must cross the sea, so she goes to Elua to look for her father and embarks on a journey that brings her to the even more distant land of Ch’in.

Naamah’s Kiss is a fairly long book; the hardcover version is 656 pages. However, it goes by quickly for its length since it is very readable from the start and has lots of small paragraphs and relatively short chapters. After reading Kushiel’s Dart, the expectation was lots of dense prose but the style in Naamah’s Kiss is very different – still elegant, but much more concise, which fits the narrator better. The complexity of Phedre’s voice in Kushiel’s Dart went with her more complex role as a well-educated, trained spy with an awareness of political machinations. While she is certainly intelligent, Moirin grew up in the woods in near isolation and goes out into the world without a lot of knowledge about how it works. As a result she is naive at times, plus with her gifts that keep her close to nature, she seems much more earthy. Her more straightforward, uncomplicated tone reflects her character well, and she is a completely different person than Phedre.

While Phedre was more interesting to read about, Moirin was easier to relate to, partially due to having an upbringing in which she wasn’t prepared for a life but was allowed to be a child. Although she was influential in events due to her magic, Moirin also served as a pillar of strength and support for some with important duties and helped guide them in their decisions. She was kind-hearted and open-minded but still special given her abilities and the fact that she had a destiny. This role also made her very sympathetic since she had to go wherever fate lead her – and often her idea of what she would like to do and what she was supposed to do did not match, making for many heartbreaking goodbyes.

Terre d’Ange is an alternate earth and it is a fascinating place to visit. It was enjoyable to get to see so many places in this novel since it started in Britain, then went to France and eventually ended up in China. At first, I was sad to leave the European area, but I really liked Moirin’s adventures in China and the incorporation of more Eastern culture and myths, particularly the dragon. Yet there was no boring travelogue even with so many long trips; the actual time spent traveling was kept to minimum and the relatively few pages that were dedicated to the trip were never boring.

As those familiar with the other books set in this world could probably guess, the goddess Naamah plays a role in Moirin’s life so there is quite a bit of sex in this book. Unlike the Kushiel books, there is not BDSM but Moirin does have sexual relationships with several people of both genders (the d’Angelines are pretty open about sex as they follow the philosophy “love as thou wilt” and have a priesthood dedicated to Naamah). I felt it was tasteful and not too cheesy – it wasn’t terribly overwritten or described in such a way that made it sound as though the people involved had a serious medical condition.

Although it was not quite as excellent as the more complex, political Kushiel’s Dart, Naamah’s Kiss was a very absorbing story with another great heroine. I’m looking forward to seeing where Moirin’s destiny leads her in Naamah’s Curse.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I won it in a giveaway.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

I knew there was something I was forgetting in my links post yesterday! Memory over at Stella Matutina is currently doing a series on women writing fantasy (that is not contemporary as there are plenty of women writing urban fantasy and paranormal romance). I think it’s a great idea since it does seem that often women writing historical or epic fantasy don’t seem to be as well known. Plus she is going to cover (or has already covered) a lot of excellent authors I love – Ginn Hale (I’m in the middle of her forthcoming novel Lord of the White Hell Book One right now and am LOVING it), Sarah Monette, Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Bear and many more. And I’ve already discovered one author I hadn’t heard of before whose books sound really interesting, Elizabeth Knox.

There are a couple of links I’ve been meaning to write about and they keep collecting so I figured I may as well just aggregate them all instead of making separate posts.

After the flooding in Nashville, Tennessee, the schools really need children’s books as well as storage bins. There are also wish lists on Barnes and Noble (mostly books for younger children) and Amazon (mainly books for YA/older children) for specific books that they would like replaced. To read more about how to help there is a very informative post on the Reader with a Capital “R” blog.

Ilona Andrews announced the title for Kate Daniels #5 will be Magic Slays. Although I’m a little worried about it based on a comment made in another post.

Ilona Andrews also provided a link to a collection of the stories written from Curran’s point of view available to read online. (Yeah, so I’ve been obsessively checking for release date news on book 5.)

Regal Literary has a summer giveaway for the Fourth Realm trilogy by John Twelve Hawks (contest rules state it is only available to US residents). They are giving away 5 signed hardcover sets and 10 signed paperback sets.