Next year I’m hoping will be a little less crazy so I can manage more of a one review per week schedule, but other than that, I don’t expect next year to be all that different.  While I’d love to be one of those people who posts 3 – 5 reviews a week, I’m afraid it just isn’t going to happen unless I win the lottery and get to manage my own schedule (which would be a great thing to have happen in 2011 but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that one!).  I do tend to write rather slowly since I often end up rereading part of the book when writing a review and trying to make sure I’ve really thought it through – and sometimes I even end up changing my mind about what I initially thought in the process.  I’d rather try to write the best review I can than try to write more reviews that I feel are rushed and not great quality (not that I think my reviews are particularly great now, but I at least feel like I’ve given it my best shot when I publish them).

So as far as reviewing goes, I’ll try to do more of what I’ve been doing but will hopefully improve with practice – which would be my hope for every year.  My goal is to give you some information about each book I read – if it fits into a series and where, if it works as a stand alone or not, the plot (while always putting this in the same spot so it’s easy to skip for those people who don’t care), and any thoughts on characters, pacing, writing, world-building and anything else that stood out.  Since everyone’s taste in books is different, I attempt to provide enough information that you can get an idea of whether or not it’s a book you will like regardless of if I liked it or not without spoiling too much – which can be a difficult balance to maintain.  I generally decide what is too much information by asking myself if knowing what I’m saying beforehand would have spoiled the reading experience for me, but of course that differs from person to person.  Also, I sometimes ask what my husband thinks since I generally ask him to read my reviews before I post them anyway (any editor’s notes you find occasionally sprinkled throughout reviews are his).

The one thing I would like to change in 2011 is that I’d like to do some more interviews with authors whose work I’ve read and enjoyed.  This year I did an interview with Ginn Hale and one with Danielle Bennett and Jaida Jones and both of these were a lot of fun to do.

I would also like to open this up to suggestions.  Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of in 2011?  Now that there’s a new website, is there anything you’d particularly like to see on the new site?  The only feedback I received about changes when the site first went up was that it would be nice if Disqus let you just post a name and URL, which it does if you type your comment and then go to submit it instead of logging in first.  Is there anything else that would make the new site better?

Thank you to everyone who read my site in 2010!

Midsummer Night is the second Aetherial Tales novel as well as the second book by British author Freda Warrington to be published in the United States.  The first Aetherial Tales book is Elfland, but both this and Midsummer Night stand alone even though they are set in the same universe.  The more recently published book does take place after Elfland, but it’s definitely not necessary to read the earlier book first.  There are some minor characters that appear, but it doesn’t add much to the reading experience at all to know who are they are beforehand.

After the recent accident that destroyed her dreams and changed her life, Gill Sharma just wanted some peace and quiet.  She left London to stay at a cottage in Cairndonan in Scotland for 6 weeks, thinking it would be isolated and she could just be left alone.  Instead, she finds that Dame Juliana, the owner of Cairndonan and a famous artist, is running an art class so chaotic that it reminds her of an insane asylum.  Also Peta, one of the other art teachers, keeps trying to befriend her and even convinces her to be one of her subjects for making a mask in one of her classes.

One day Gill leaves her cottage in search of a grocery store and finds herself in an unusual town.  It has no roads and she finds herself entering what must be a pub with a great statue of an angel outside.  At this point, she is in great pain from her injury, but a magnificent man named Rufus somehow makes her pain disappear.  He then offers her a drink, and Gill accepts some fruit juice and tries to find out more about where she is.  She’s told she is in Boundry, but later she cannot find anyone who has heard of this place – anytime she mentions it, people act as though she has lost her mind.

That night when Gill is in her cottage, someone begins pounding on her door and yelling for her to help him.  At first Gill is terrified, but he seems truly upset so she lets him in – and discovers it was the quiet man she noticed in Boundry with Rufus.  He seems hysterical and unable to say much other than to tell her not to let him go back there, so Gill fetches Peta.  The two women decide they want to find out just what is happening for themselves rather than involving any authorities, but they do involve Dame Juliana herself – who has her own secret fears that this man may be tied to her past and her artistic gift.

After reading Elfland, reading Midsummer Night was a must.  While I enjoyed Midsummer Night and think that it was better than Elfland in some ways (mainly in that it didn’t border on too much melodrama), my personal preference is Elfland.  The newer novel didn’t have the same intensity and turbulence as the previous book, which had me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.  The characters in Midsummer Night were likable but didn’t capture me the same way as Rosie and Sam and the others from ElflandMidsummer Night was a good book that I’m glad to have read, but ultimately it wasn’t as memorable as Elfland.

Personal preference aside, Midsummer Night is both very different from and very similar to Elfland.  Both books have some beautiful writing and an interesting setting in the earth that is accessible to the Aetherial realm. Each book starts out with a prologue that involves different characters than the ones introduced at the start of the first chapter, and both novels are character-driven but with very different protagonists.  In Elfland, the main characters are children who end up as adults in their twenties by the end of the story, and it feels like a coming of age story in a lot of ways.  As the protagonists grow up, they make a lot of mistakes and make huge realizations about life and themselves along the way.  In Midsummer Night, the ages of the protagonists vary from youngish adults to a woman in her sixties.  They still develop throughout the novel but to a lesser degree, and they have more past mistakes than ones made during the course of the novel (although these past mistakes do certainly play an important role in what happens in Midsummer Night).  It’s also less intensely dramatic and more atmospheric than Elfland was, and Elfland had a lot of romance while Midsummer Night had very little.  There’s also a little more explanation about how the Aetherial realm manifests itself on Earth in Midsummer Night, but Elfland also has the gorgeously written Aetherial creation story.

While Midsummer Night contains a lot of different characters, the main focus is on Gill, an athlete whose career and engagement were shattered by an accident, and Dame Juliana, a renowned artist who is struggling to keep Cairndonan Estate because she hasn’t yet completed her master work titled Midsummer Night.  Of the two, the latter is the more compelling although I still sympathized with Gill, who just wanted some solitude after her ordeal.  Dame Juliana is in her sixties and has not sold any of her art in years, resulting in her financial difficulties.  She is certainly a perfectionist who discards her creation as inferior when others think it is brilliant, but mostly she fears the unusual properties of her art and the origin of her gift – and does not understand either of these.  Throughout the story she learns more about them as well as her family’s past, mostly through the journals left by her Aunt Corah, and the discoveries about the past came together well and really made sense given certain other characteristics of Dame Juliana.  It does all tie in with the appearance of Leith, a young man trying to escape from Rufus, and more is revealed about the Aetherials.

Midsummer Night did not have the same passionate energy that made me love Elfland so much, but it was still a very enjoyable book in its own right.  With its elegant but not over-the-top flowery prose, immersive setting, well-developed characters, natural dialogue, and mystery-filled plot, it has left me eager for more Aetherial Tales.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher (I requested one after reading Elfland and finding out there was going to be a new book soon).

Read an Excerpt

Review(s) of Related Books:

Other Reviews:

My end-of-the-year lists will probably be up next week since I want to make sure I’ve read all the books I’m going to for the year before I post them.  That very last book read in the year could end up being a favorite – after all, that happened to me last year when I read The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge, which I got for Christmas!  So I’m taking a brief break from the review I’m writing now to write one of the first posts about looking ahead to 2011 – reading goals for the year.

Actually, I’m trying not to have many goals for next year.  I’ve tried to do some the last few years and I’m too much of a mood reader to really stick with them.  After glancing at my goals for last year, I didn’t do very well at all.  It ended up being a tough year for reading since it was busier than normal (mostly due to moving twice in one year – that took up a lot of my weekend time for quite a few weekends).

2010 Goals: A Sad State of Affairs

1. The first goal will most likely be met: reading 50 books.  It’s not a huge number, but considering I try to review everything I’ve read it seems that somewhere between 50 and 60 books is all I can do.  I’m reading book #50 of the year right now so I’ll probably end up reading 50 books (that’s debatable, though, since this one seems like it will take a while to read), but other than that, my goals have not been met even though I tried to keep them somewhat easy to meet. Actually, I’m surprised it’s possible I’ll make this one since I had quite a few months where I only read 3 books.

2. Reading more science fiction didn’t go well at all, and I actually read less of it this year than the last. I think this is largely because I started getting a great number of review copies that I was very interested in reading this year and most of those are fantasy.  So I probably actually read fewer books already on my shelves than in previous years (not that I’m going to complain about free books that I want to read!).

3. Making more progress in series I’ve started didn’t go badly, but most of that progress was with books that just came out this year in series I had started instead of books I already had around from series I started.  The point was really to read more books already on my shelf from series I had started. I did read 3 more books in the Miles Vorkosigan series, though, so I’ve now read the first 10 books and only have 4 left including the one that just came out a few months ago.

4. I picked 5 specific books from my bookshelf to read.  Of those, I have only read 1.  I just wasn’t in the mood for the others any time I was thinking about reading them.  That would be why I am not going to set a goal of reading specific books ever again other than maybe 1 or 2 picked out by a friend.  One of my friends and I picked out 3 books for each other to read this year and I read 2 of the 3.  I read a little bit of the third, but I was sick at the time and it was over 700 pages long and it just wasn’t drawing me in so it’s a DNF (I’ll do a post including DNF books later).

2011 Goals: Keeping it Simple

Due to this sad state of affairs, I’m keeping 2011 goals pretty simple.  I’m just going to face up to the fact that I have Book ADD and will constantly be distracted by the next shiny book that needs to be read right now.  So here are my goals for 2011:

1. Read 50 books.  It’s a fairly attainable goal and it keeps me trying to make sure I get in 4 – 5 books a month.

2. Read some of the books for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club and the Women of Fantasy Book Club.  I already have some of these books and really want to read a lot of them.

That’s it.  I still want to read more science fiction, but if it’s a crazy year and those aren’t the books that are calling my name, I’m not going to worry about it.

Do you make reading goals for a new year?  Or did you ever start to and then give up on them for being too restrictive?


Today is the day of my guest post for Smugglivus, a month long (plus one week) year-end/beginning celebration of books held by Thea and Ana of the terrific site The Book Smugglers.  Head on over to see some of my favorite series and author discoveries of the year and some books I can’t wait to read next year!

I hope everyone who celebrated had a good holiday!  Due to Christmas this week’s leaning pile of books post is pretty long – I got a few signed books and some books off my wish list.  Often I include books my husband gets since there’s potential I’ll read them, especially if he says they are good, but this took me forever to put together so I’m just going to list them at the end.

In other news I’m on vacation this week so I’m hoping to get lots of reading done (at least if I don’t get caught up in playing Dragon Age which I also got for Christmas) and get started on some of those “end of the year” posts.  I’ll wait until I’ve read everything I’m going to read for the year before posting about favorites but might as well get them started since they’re not likely to change more than a little!  Maybe I’ll even be able to coerce my husband into writing a post now that he’s out of school for a couple of weeks.

Ash: A Secret HistoryAsh: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

This has been on my wish list for a very long time because I’ve heard a lot about how good it is.  Unfortunately, it’s also very hard to find (at least in the United States).  This year my husband got me a copy from England, though, and I was thrilled to open it.  Now to find the time to read such a massive book…  Between the page count and the size of the print, I have a feeling this one will take quite a while to read.

For the beautiful young woman Ash, life has always been arquebuses and artillery, swords and armour and the true horrors of hand-to-hand combat. War is her job. She has fought her way to the command of a mercenary company, and on her unlikely shoulders lies the destiny of a Europe threatened by the depredations of an Infidel army more terrible than any nightmare.

Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

This is the only book on this list that I have already read – the copy I received for Christmas is a signed first edition.  I didn’t have anything signed by Neil Gaiman so I was quite happy although a bit confused when I opened it.  A couple of weeks ago my husband told me how upset he was that he ordered me something that wasn’t what he had thought.  So he said he’d just give it to me now since it wasn’t the right thing so we already had it.  He brought out a copy of Anansi Boys and said he had thought it was signed, but it wasn’t and that must have been why it was so cheap.  He also told me he had checked around and made it sound like signed copies were too expensive for him to buy.  So imagine my surprise when I opened a copy.  It turned out he bought the extra copy just so he could put on that whole act about being disappointed about not getting it.  That sneak!

Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider is on his doorstep—about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting . . . and a lot more dangerous.

Death NoteDeath Note Box Set (Volumes 1 – 12) by Tsugumi Ohba

The box set contains the entire manga plus a “how to read guide.”  This was a little puzzling since I wasn’t sure why you needed a whole volume on how to read, but it just seems to be a collection of information on the series.  I’ve seen the anime series and really liked it so I’m looking forward to reading the manga.  It looks like it is very similar from when I was flipping through it.  The art looks the same and the small part I read toward the beginning seemed to be much the same.  I’m considering trying to read one of these a month next year, but we’ll see – it probably depends on just how busy I am, but one of these really shouldn’t take long to read through at all.

Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects – and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal…or his life? Light tests the boundaries of the Death Note powers as L and the police begin to close in. Luckily Light’s father is the head of the Japanese National Police Agency and leaves vital information about the case lying around the house. With access to his father’s files, Light can keep one step ahead of the authorities. But who is the strange man following him, and how can Light guard against enemies whose names he doesn’t know?

LaviniaLavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is another signed first edition, but this time it’s a book I didn’t have yet.  I didn’t have a book signed by Le Guin, and this retelling of The Aeneid sounded particularly interesting to me so I’m looking forward to reading it.  It came out around the same time as Black Ships by Jo Graham, which was another retelling of this poem from a female perspective.  I’m hoping it’s been long enough since I’ve read the latter now that I won’t compare the two since it seems a lot of people did compare them and usually seemed to prefer the one they had read first.

Troy has fallen. Rome is a tiny village by the seven hills… At the end of Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid, the Trojan hero Aeneas, following his destiny, is about to marry the Italian girl Lavinia. But in the poem, she has played only the slightest part, and has never spoken a word.

Daughter of a local king, Lavinia has lived in peace and freedom, till suitors came seeking her hand, and a foreign fleet sailed up the Tiber. Now her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus, but strange omens, prophecies spoken by the voices of the sacred trees and springs, foretell that she must marry a stranger. And that she will be the cause of a bitter war. And that her husband will not live long.

Lavinia is determined to follow her own destiny. And when she talks with the spirit of the poet in the sacred grove, she begins to see that destiny. So she gains her own voice, learning how to tell the story Vergil left untold — her story, her life, and the love of her life.

The Misted CliffsThe Misted Cliffs by Catherine Asaro

This is another signed book and the second book in Catherine Asaro’s romantic fantasy series.  I’ve read the first book and while I much prefer her science fiction series, I did like it enough that I wanted to read the next one.  Technically, I felt it had a lot of problems with too much coincidence and some bizarre naming, but I did love the characters in the book and their different situations.  Plus I’m thrilled to have a book signed by Catherine Asaro – I have one other book by her that is signed, but it’s actually got one of those stickers inside that’s signed instead of the book itself being signed.  For some reason, that’s not quite the same to me.

Award winning author Catherine Asaro, creator of The Skolian Empire, returns to the world of Aronsdale, a place rich with magic and power. One generation after war had nearly destroyed three nations, evil was returning. And only Mel Dawnfield’s daring sacrifice could stop it.

The promise of peace rested on this young woman’s noble vow: to marry Cobalt the Dark heir to a family of legendary cruelty. With only her uncontrolled spells to guide her, isolated in Cobalt’s solitary home in the Misted Cliffs, knowing poisoned blood ran through her husband’s veins, Mel struggled to embrace her unexplored mage powers and unveil the light in her shadowy new world including the radiance hidden in her husband’s soul. For her enemies were gathering strength and they would soon unleash the darkest of evils in the name of war.

Against a Dark BackgroundAgainst a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks

This is not signed – it’s just a book off my wish list that I’m excited about reading.  This is one of the books by Banks that is science fiction but not a Culture book.  I really enjoyed both The Player of Games and Use of Weapons by him so I’ve been working on getting more of his books to read, and I thought this one sounded very interesting.

Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilization based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith’s apotheosis, and her only hope of escape is to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns before the Huhsz find her.

Her journey through the exotic Golterian system is a destructive and savage odyssey into her past, and that of her family and of the system itself.

China Mountain ZhangChina Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh

I’ve wanted to read this one for quite a while since I keep hearing it is excellent.  It was bumped up as a higher priority on my wish list when I found out it was the August selection for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club, though, and I ended up unwrapping it this Christmas.  I’ll save it until sometime closer to August so I can remember the details for discussion.

When talking about this book you have to list the awards it’s won–the Hugo, the Tiptree, the Lambda, the Locus, a Nebula nomination–after that you can skip the effusive praise from the New York Times and get to the heart of things: This is a book about a future many don’t agree with. It’s set in a 22nd century dominated by Communist China and the protagonist is a gay man. These aren’t the usual tropes of science fiction, and they aren’t written in the usual way. But, wow, it’s one heck of a story.

Mythago WoodMythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

This is a book I’ve thought maybe I wanted to read for a while, but I decided I had to read it after reading Sarah’s review at Bookworm Blues.  She described it as an exploration of myth with layers and I knew I had to read it.

Myth and Terror in the Forest Deeps

The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain’s last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley’s entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation.

For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth full of myths come to life, “mythagos” that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams. . .and may drive you insane.

Mythago WoodThe Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny

This is a collection of all 10 books in the Chronicles of Amber.  It’s been on my wish list for a long time and I’m excited about reading it!  It’s a massive tome, but since it’s 10 books total each book isn’t actually all that long.

Roger Zelazny’s books have three things in common: a flawed hero who sometimes fails, endlessly surprising plot twists, and a blend of lyricism, literary allusions, and sly puns that makes the pages fly. The Great Book of Amber, collecting all 10 Amber novels, is vintage Zelazny. Despite some irritating typographical errors, it’s invaluable for anyone who wants to read or reread the tales of Corwin and his son, Merlin.

Corwin is a prince of Amber, the “immortal city from which every other city has taken its shape.” All other worlds, including Earth, are shadows of that reality. Corwin has spent centuries on Earth as an amnesiac. But when someone in the family tries to kill him there, Corwin begins a search for his past. He quickly learns that his family has some very unusual powers. They can travel between Amber, its shadows, and Chaos by manipulating reality; use magical playing cards to communicate and travel instantaneously; and are able to walk the Pattern that created Amber. Corwin regains his memory, solves the mystery of his father Oberon’s disappearance, and fulfills his destiny–only to disappear into Chaos.

Merlin searches for Corwin and his destiny as a son of both Amber and the Courts of Chaos. His story parallels Corwin’s, answering many questions about Amber, Chaos, and the next generation in the family.

Many readers have complained that the series goes on too long and the ending is disappointing. None, however, would deny that it’s filled with fascinating ideas, complex characters, and action-adventure. Don’t miss a chance to make up your own mind.

There’s one more book I am getting later since it is not out yet.  My husband pre-ordered me a signed copy of Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss from The Signed Page.  I was excited even if I have to wait a few months!

Here’s what my husband got for Christmas for books:

  • Myth-Interpretations by Robert Asprin (short stories associated with his Myth series, of which my husband is a huge fan)
  • Dragons Deal by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye (third book in the Dragon series – this was one Robert Asprin was writing by himself, but sadly he died before it was completed)
  • The Philosophical Strangler by Eric Flint (I bought him this after looking up books that were supposed to be somewhat similar to Discworld)
  • Bring Me The Head of Prince Charming by Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley (another one I got based on recommendations for books similar to Discworld)
  • We3 by Grant Morrison (a comic book – he’s already read it and thought the quote on the back about it being “creepily touching” summed it up pretty well)
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (which he actually downloaded for his new Kindle from a wonderful individual and is reading now)
  • The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (which he’s also already read)

What did you get for books for the holidays?


Since I was forgetful on Sunday and forgot to mention it, I was just wanted to write a quick update to say it’s probably going to be a bit quiet here until sometime after Christmas.  Unfortunately, I’ve been sick for about 2 weeks (I think it’s finally coming to an end!) and I’ve been unusually busy due to the holidays so I haven’t had time to write much.  And when I have been writing I’ve been working on a certain guest post for next week (that I ripped to shreds and rewrote most of last night because trying to write when I’m sick makes for awful writing – made me glad I haven’t written too much lately).

After things calm down, here’s what’s in line for reviews (not necessarily in the following order):

Lady Lazarus by Michele Lang (I know, I’ve had this one in the pipeline for a while – I’ve started it, but I keep getting behind so I keep putting up reviews up books I’ve read more recently since I can write them faster and get closer to caught up faster)

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington

The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold (I’m about 60% of the way through this one now)

Of course, I will also be writing a favorite books of the year post but I’m waiting until I’m sure I’ve read all the books I’m going to read this year to post it.  After all, my very favorite book of last year was the last book I read that year (The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge, which I received as a Christmas present from my husband).