Sorry for the quiet week.  I have been working on a couple of posts, but I wasn’t satisfied enough with them to post them yet.  However, I am hoping that means I can make up for this week and finish posts on the rest of the books I read in 2010 so I can move on to books read in 2011 (there’s only one so far but it was a lengthy book so I’m hoping books read will increase quickly now).  Also, last week I finished getting together some interview questions and sent those off.

For books received this week, I have 2 ARCS and one finished copy of books all coming out in March and my husband bought an e-book that he has reminded me twice now to mention (I usually remember books he buys in paper but usually forget about e-books).

Late EclipsesLate Eclipses by Seanan McGuire

This is the fourth book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, coming March 1.  It’s an urban fantasy series set in a San Francisco populated by faeries, unknown to the humans (and it’s in my top 3 favorite urban fantasy series along with Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson).  I’ve been getting ARCs of these since before the first book was in stores, and I’m very glad I have been (seriously, whoever suggested my site to Seanan McGuire when she was looking for people to review her books – THANK YOU!) since they’ve been getting better and better.  It may sound like I don’t entirely like them sometimes since I’ve mentioned some reservations about the main character as a PI, and while it does bug me, I mostly mention it so often so others better know what they are in for when they pick it up (since I can understand how some people may not be able to get past something like that).  Personally, it’s not a deal breaker for me because there is so much to love about the rest of it – Tybalt, Toby’s sense of humor, the different faerie creatures, the different characters, the fast-paced adventures, the eeriness in the last book… and did I mention Tybalt? The fact that I started shrieking and jumping up and down when I got this book in the mail and started reading it almost immediately says a lot about how much I really do enjoy the series.  Right now I’m almost halfway through it and it is definitely living up to my expectations of awesomeness.  I won’t review it until closer to its release date, though.  The fifth book, One Salt Sea, will also be coming out later this year (September).

Two years ago, October “Toby” Daye believed she could leave the world of Faerie behind. She was wrong. Now she finds herself in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, sharing an apartment with her Fetch, and maintaining an odd truce with Tybalt, the local King of Cats. It’s a delicate balance—one that’s shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended.

Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile. But if Oleander’s back, what’s her game? Where is she hiding? And what part does Toby’s mother, Amandine, have to play?

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher. For the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda, and there are more players in this game than Toby can guess. With everything on the line, she will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she thought she’d never have to face again…

The Lens and the LookerThe Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman

This debut novel (available March 16) is the first book in the Verona trilogy.  The description, particularly the idea of recreating history through the history camps, sounded intriguing so I figured I’d give it a try when I was offered a review copy.

THERE’S HOPE FOR THE FUTURE,
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PAST?

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history.

One of Our Thursdays Is MissingOne of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde

This is the sixth book in the Thursday Next series by New York Times bestselling author Jasper Fforde, coming March 8.  I have not read the first five books, but I have been curious about the series so when I was offered a review copy I asked whether or not it could work as a stand alone.  Since I was told this particular book could be read as a stand alone, I figured why not?  I’m also curious about the author’s work after seeing Thea from The Book Smugglers named Shades of Grey one of her favorite books from 2010.

The newest tour de force from The New York Times bestselling author of Thursday Next and Shades of Grey.

Jasper Fforde’s exuberant return to the fantastical BookWorld opens during a time of great unrest. All-out Genre war is rumbling, and the BookWorld desperately needs a heroine like Thursday Next. But with the real Thursday apparently retired to the Realworld, the Council of Genres turns to the written Thursday.

The Council wants her to pretend to be the real Thursday and travel as a peacekeeping emissary to the warring factions. A trip up the mighty Metaphoric River beckons-a trip that will reveal a fiendish plot that threatens the very fabric of the BookWorld itself.

Once again New York Times bestselling author Jasper Fforde has a field day gleefully blending satire, romance, and thriller with literary allusions galore in a fantastic adventure through the landscape of a frisky and fertile imagination. Fans will rejoice that their favorite character in the Fforde universe is back.

Agatha H. and the Airship CityAgatha H. and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio

This is a novelization of the first three volumes of the Hugo award-winning Girl Genius graphic novel (available online).  I haven’t read them although they do sound good, but my husband is a big fan so when he was looking for a new book to read on the Kindle, he bought this one.  It was just released on January 1.

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. It has been sixteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by the Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over – and terrorizing – the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Hetrodynes’ return. At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach – and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.

This week brought two books – one ARC and one bargain I found.  (Who can pass up a $5 trade paperback of a book they heard was good? Not me!)

The Dragon's PathThe Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

This is the first book in a new series by Daniel Abraham called The Dagger and the Coin.  It will be available in trade paperback on April 7.  On the same day I received the book, I also got a Spring/Summer 2011 catalog from Orbit (the publisher) and the catalog says that the other books in the series will be coming out a year apart.  It doesn’t say how many books there will be, but Abraham’s website lists two more titles in the series coming out after this one – The King’s Blood and The Spider’s War.  I liked the one other book I’ve read by the author as well as his stories in the Wild Cards books I’ve read so I’m looking forward to this one, which is “classic epic fantasy – world-building on an epic scale, and a great cast of characters” according to its entry in the catalog.  The description also sounds interesting:

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war.

ReplayReplay by Ken Grimwood

I had actually never heard of this novel until recently even though it won the World Fantasy Award in 1988.  I first heard about it on Calico Reaction where it is the January Dare Book.  It sounded fascinating – apparently, it is about a man who dies and gets to relive his life with the memory of all his past mistakes.  After hearing about it, I looked it up to add to my wish list and saw it just happened to be a bargain book available for only $5 so I snatched it up.  I probably won’t be reading it for the January challenge since there are too many books I already want to read this month and A Fire Upon the Deep is proving to take a long time to get through, but I will read it at some point.  Has anyone else read this?  If so, what did you think of it?


Spin, the first book in an eponymous trilogy by Robert Charles Wilson, was published in 2005 and won the Hugo award for best novel shortly thereafter.  The second book in the series, Axis, came out in 2007 and the final book, Vortex, is scheduled to be released in May of this year.  My understanding is that this is a very good thing as I’ve read that Axis suffers from a strong case of middle book syndrome and Spin, despite some flaws, is strong enough that I am anxious to see where Wilson plans to take us with the rest of his story.

Much like Axis, Tyler Dupree suffers from middle child syndrome.  In Tyler’s case this is a bit odd since he is an only child; he and his widowed mother live in what is effectively the servants’ quarters across the lawn from the Big House owned by E.D. Lawton, aerospace magnate and anthropomorphic personification of the military-industrial complex.  Lawton’s two children Jason and Diane are the ones that have boxed Tyler in throughout his life, always encouraged to show the genius and drive that Tyler lacks.  They and the rest of this extended family–Tyler’s staid mother and Lawton’s occasionally-sober wife–are simply living out their lives with the other seven billion people on the planet when something truly odd happens: the stars disappear.

Despite some initial panic, life goes on and humanity tries desperately to understand what has happened to block off the Earth from everything beyond low orbit, an effect that is eventually named the Spin.  It is clear that there are some fairly benevolent rules to this new order: the sun, or at least a something that kind of looks like it, still rises every morning to keep the biosphere running, and something is preventing rogue asteroids from causing another K-T event.  Other effects are not so nice: time inside the field passes at a hugely accelerated rate, moving so quickly that cosmological events outside the Spin take place over the course of a single human lifespan.  The timescales involved transform the Sun from a source of heat and life to a ticking timebomb that puts a definite expiration date on how long humanity can stay on Earth.  From the perspective of those inside the field, Earth will be out of the solar system’s habitable zone within a generation, and humanity will be wiped from the universe.

Lawton’s aerospace business puts him and his family in a unique position to watch all of this unfold.  His son Jason, whom E.D. has been grooming to be his heir more or less since birth, applies himself to noble causes like saving the world.  Diane, on the other hand, gets too close a view of the looming disaster and, well, reacts badly.  Tyler is left somewhere in between, charged by E.D. with supporting Jason as he fulfills his potential but hamstrung as he watches his not-entirely-secret love Diane self-destruct, powerless to help.  Through it all, the big questions remain: can such a bizarre phenomenon be natural, and if it isn’t natural, who is controlling it?

I have to start out by saying that I think Spin is a very good book.  The reason I have to start that way is that there are several things about it that bothered me quite a bit, and I don’t want that point to get lost amongst my complaints.  I believe it may be a case of a story that is just on the edge of excellence, but has enough of what I consider to be technical flaws that those flaws become obvious and disproportionally distract from what is potentially an interesting tale. Even though I think it is very good, I probably see it as a bit worse than it actually is because I feel like there was a lot of missed potential. Obviously others may see it a bit differently; it did win the Hugo, after all.

Even though I know it is a common technique, and I do in fact like it in some other stories, I don’t feel like the structure of Spin‘s storytelling works well for the story being told.  Most of the book is told in flashbacks, with occasional stops in the present day.  I can understand the motivation for Wilson setting up the book in this way since it covers thirty or forty years and the flashback structure makes it easy to pull out scenes and skip large chunks of time, but it would work better if the story being told in the present was more pertinent.  As is it feels extraneous, told in far more detail than the far more important events that took place in the past, and takes away from the overall impact of the book.

Similarly, parts of the relationship between the three main characters also feel like they have been bolted on to the main plot.  At the risk of sounding like Mr. Spearhead, quite a bit of the personal drama in Spin simply wasn’t necessary.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with these sorts of character studies when they are done well and are supportive of the main plot, but that just isn’t the case here.  It feels like Diane was created just to give a counterweight to Jason, and Tyler’s relationship with both of them is strained just to provide Wilson a mechanism to pull out whichever of those two opposing viewpoints is most useful at any given moment.  Between that and the flashback structure there is little feeling of gravity or true jeopardy in any of the characters’ relationships.  Additionally, there is a sort of ongoing mystery surrounding the three parents in the story which Wilson drops hints about throughout the book; without giving it away, I’ll just say that the ultimate reveal is clearly intended to be a big “a-ha!” moment but instead falls flat in both content and delivery.

My other big issue is that there are many places where it feels like Wilson is trying too hard.  For example, many chapters end with an obvious hook sentence that hints at some ominous event that’s going to be taking place soon.  I don’t know if Wilson is afraid I’m going to put the book down and forget about it between chapters or what, but these lines are delivered with all the subtlety and annoyance factor of a season-ending cliffhanger on a television show.  In other places the dialog or prose seems forced, like it was a line that sounded good in his head and even seems fun on its own but is just distracting in the middle of a novel:

 
Police helicopters peppered the crowd with tanglefoot gel until much of Gamla Stan looked like something a tubercular Godzilla might have coughed up.

Interesting phrasing, but, um, really?

When I wasn’t being annoyed by these sorts of technical issues though, I did find Spin to be a compelling mystery with an exploration of interesting and non-obvious solutions to the problems of life inside the Spin.  I was left with the impression of a realistic, human response to events that were firmly in the “indistinguishable from magic” category.  The scientific handwaving was mostly kept to the Spin itself though, as Jason’s efforts to defeat it were logical and creative extensions to existing technologies and theories.  The mystery and slow reveal are the strength of the book; I can only imagine how great it would be if the personal aspects explored how each development changed the individuals involved.  It may not be fair, but I can’t help but compare it to Beggars in Spain–one of my favorite books and an excellent example of that kind of integrated storytelling.  The attempt and ultimate failure to bring those elements together is probably worse than not even making the attempt would have been, but the result is still interesting enough to be worth not only reading this book but also picking up the rest of the trilogy.  Even though I think Spin stands well enough on its own that I don’t feel its necessary to get the rest of the trilogy to complete the story, Spin‘s flaws are not so great that they overcome its potential and I am eager to find out where the story goes next.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Bought it as the first eBook to try out the new Kindle I got for Christmas (thanks, Kristen!).

Read the first chapter.

Jan
02
2011

There are no books for this week (unless you count the crockpot cookbook I bought, but that’s not quite the same) so the December reading post will be the Sunday substitute.  I’m mostly taking the weekend off since it’s the end of my vacation, but next week I’m hoping to get started on the next reviews I need to write (The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker and Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold) or perhaps the post on a book I didn’t finish.

Books read in December are:

47. Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington (Review)
48. The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker (To Be Reviewed)
49. Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold (To Be Reviewed)
50. Death Note: Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba (Will probably wait and review the whole graphic novel series instead of each individual volume)

Favorite Book of the Month: Tough one.  I liked all of these a lot.  I’m going to go with Midsummer Night, but this is a case where it could be any one of the three novels depending on my mood as they’re all very different but very good.  Midsummer Night was very atmospheric, The Folding Knife was very clever, and Memory was very fun and one of my favorite books in the Miles Vorkosigan series (out of the 10 I’ve read so far).

Currently Reading: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.  I’m a third of the way through it and I like it so far.  My husband told me I should read it since I was on vacation, but I actually didn’t end up reading that much over vacation so I’ve still got a ways to go before finishing it.

What did you read in December?  What did you think of the books you read last month?

Now that it is New Year’s Eve and I know there is no way I will finish the lengthy book I am reading by tonight, it is time to compile the favorites list.  2010 was a very good year – sure, there were a few books I didn’t enjoy or thought were mediocre, but there were a lot that I really liked a lot.

It was also a good year for blogging in other ways since I got to go to Book Expo America and the first Book Blogger Convention and meet a lot of other reviewers I had never thought I’d really get to meet.  Getting to actually talk to some of these people in person was one of the highlights of the year since they were all just as nice and fun in real life as on their blogs!  Also, my husband revamped the website and I have to say I’m very happy with the results and still love the new header.  Getting to interview Ginn Hale and Danielle Bennett and Jaida Jones was also exciting and has made me want to try to do more interviews next year (and I’ve already got one lined up as of today that I’m thrilled about).

Back to the books.  As far as number read went, I read 50 (including one graphic novel) which is a little less than last year when I read 59 total.  It’s still better than I thought it would be since it was somewhat of a crazy year, as it was also the year in which my husband and I became homeowners which ended up leading to moving twice in just 2 or 3 months. (Which is insane!  I do not recommend it!)  Due to the increasing number of random review copies coming through my door that I really want to read, I’ve read more books published this year than is normal – 24.  There were still a lot of books published this year I wanted to read and haven’t gotten to yet, though (Cold Magic by Kate Elliott, The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg, The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman, Passion Play by Beth Bernobich and so many more!).  For the main list, I’ve decided to do favorites for the entire year and then I’ll add the favorites published of 2010 to the end (these will overlap some, although I am limiting each to one book per author which means if a book isn’t on one of these another book by the same author may be on the other).

All Books Read in 2010


I’m sure it’s no surprise that my number one favorite book read this year is the lovely Elfland by Freda Warrington (review).  It’s a very character-driven, intense book and that made it right up my alley.  Not only did I enjoy it, but it’s one of only three books read this year that were ones that I couldn’t stop thinking about.

The second spot on this list probably isn’t all that shocking, either, since The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner is another book I can’t stop talking about (review).  It impressed me greatly with its subtle writing and emotionally charged story.  And that last line?  Such a perfect ending.

Magic Strikes

It’s a little tough to choose whether or not I preferred the third or fourth book in the Kate Daniels series, but in the end, I have to go with the Magic Strikes since it never had a dull moment (review).  It was both action packed and full of character development, and I just love the way Ilona Andrews has been slowly revealing more and more about Kate’s background and building up the mystery about the villain.

The Broken Kingdoms

This was another one where I liked two books in the same series pretty close to equally, but I definitely preferred The Broken Kingdoms (review). With her first and second novel out this year and both of them incredibly good, N. K. Jemisin is an author I’m going to have to watch.  I just loved her world mythology and the narrative voice of Oree.

Lord of the White Hell Book 1

This was one story split into two so Lord of the White Hell really counts as one book in its entirety to me (Book 1 Review, Book 2 Review).  I loved this book for so many reasons – the characters, both the romance and the friendships, the curse and the white hell, and the different cultures and how they clashed.

The Habitation of the Blessed

The Habitation of the Blessed is a book that I enjoyed, but it’s also grown on me a lot more since finishing it (review).  It’s vast and epically imaginative and gorgeously written.  At times it’s also very thoughtful and insightful, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book sometime after it is out next year!

Naamah's Kiss

A lot of people don’t seem to like these as well as the first series, but I really enjoyed Naamah’s Kiss (review).  Maybe it’s because I still haven’t finished the original series, but I liked reading about Terre d’Ange and later alternate China through Moirin’s eyes.  I also liked that Moirin was a completely different character than Phedre with a completely different narrative voice that fit her better.  (While I also enjoyed it, I can see why people don’t like Naamah’s Curse, though – it is rather flawed).

Blameless

The Parasol Protectorate series just keeps getting better and better, and Blameless is my favorite so far (review).  These books are both witty and just plain fun with lots of well-worded phrases.

An Artificial Night

The October Daye series has gotten better with the second and third book, and this is another case where I liked them almost equally but An Artifical Night was just a little better (review).  It had a darker, creepier atmosphere plus there wasn’t quite as much mystery solving, which was a plus since I still don’t understand how Toby ever got to be a PI.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the series for the characters (Tybalt!), the humor, and faerie, but Toby seems a little dense at times…

World's End

While it’s not as epic as The Snow Queen, I still was very glad I read World’s End (review).  It was about one of my favorite characters from the former, and both reading about him and what happened at the end was fantastic.

There were a couple of books I considered for the tenth spot, neither of which I’ve reviewed yet since I just read them both, but I wanted to mention them since they were in consideration: The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker and Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Books Published in 2010

If I just go by books published in 2010, here is what the list looks like (the first few are pretty similar since half the books on my first list were published in 2010 and one of the other series had a new book out this year that was nearly as good):

  1. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (Review)
  2. The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Review)
  3. Lord of the White Hell by Ginn Hale (Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review)
  4. The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente (Review)
  5. Blameless by Gail Carriger (Review)
  6. An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (Review)
  7. Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington (Review)
  8. The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker (Review Coming Soon)
  9. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs (Review)
  10. Killbox by Ann Aguirre (Review)

Books Coming Out in 2011

Of course there are many books I’m looking forward to in 2011.  I’m sure there are some I am forgetting but some of the ones that I’m really looking forward to are:

  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • A Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
  • The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear
  • The Hammer by K. J. Parker
  • The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
  • Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
  • River Marked by Patricia Briggs
  • Heartless by Gail Carriger
  • Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin
  • Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire
  • Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente
Magic Slays

What are some of your favorite books of the year?  Which books coming out next year are you really excited about?

Happy New Year!

Dec
31
2010

“Police helicopters peppered the crowd with tanglefoot gel until much of Gamla Stan looked like something a tubercular Godzilla might have coughed up.” Robert Charles Wilson, Spin