Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Just finished…wizards and vagabonds

Just finished…

Two completely different books, but loved them both.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Storm Front by Jim Butcher. 

The Glass Castle (thanks to Krystal for lending it to me!) is actually a memoir that focuses mostly on Jeannette’s crazy childhood.  It was unbelievable and amazing.  It had me completely captivated from start to finish and I found my jaw dropping several times as my brain tried to fathom the existence that this family had.  Not only were they constantly on the move but they lived in filth and squalor, the kids forcing their mother to get out of bed to go to work (when she was working) and fishing for scraps of food out of the school trash cans (when they went to school).  Their father worked odd jobs from time to time but spent most of his time drinking and gambling.  Both parents refused to work or accept any help from others, yet became outraged whenever the kids accused them of neglect or irresponsible behavior.  All I can say is that Jeannette and her siblings must be some tough people to have survived such an upbringing.  This isn’t the sort of book I would normally pick up and read but my friend practically shoved it in my face and swore up and down that it was fantastic.  She couldn’t have been more right.

Storm Front is the first of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, an urban fantasy series featuring Harry Dresden, the only practicing wizard for hire in the United States.  Dresden is a wonderful character and from the first few pages I was hooked.  He might be dangerous and powerful, with a streak of anger hidden just beneath the surface, but he’s got a sense of humor and really he’s just a nice guy.  Plus, he wears a duster.  That’s just awesome.  In the first book he gets caught up investigating a series of gruesome murders that could only have been the work of a sorcerer, while at the same time he’s hired by a nervous wife who wants him to find her missing husband.  The two cases turn out to be related and Harry faces a slew of dangers before finally getting down to the bottom of the mystery and facing off with the bad guy.  I’ll definitely continue this series and I’d like to check out his other fantasy series as well.

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Vampires and Werewolves and Sidhe, Oh My!

This summer has been a busy one, with lots of travelling – which means a lot of time to read but not much time to talk about it.  I think I’ve let about four books go by without posting a thing about them.  So I thought I’d just mention them briefly because they were all great, though wildly different, and merit a mention.

The first was an Emma Campion galley I won called The King’s Mistress, about Alice Perrers, who became entangled in a web of court intrigue after becoming the mistress of Edward III.  I love this type of historical fiction and I’m not all that familiar with this time period so it was interesting to get a chance to learn more about the Plantagenets and Lancasters while seeing through the eyes of a woman who was vilified for her affair with the king.  The story was engaging and I really enjoyed it, but when the tension began to mount I didn’t experience the delicious fear and constant anxiety that books like The Other Boleyn Girl evoked.  Alice made it plain the many dangers she faced throughout her life but I was more curious about what was going to happen than anxious.  The writing itself was beautiful and Alice was a strong and admirable protagonist.

For a change of pace I turned to an urban fantasy that was featured on the Nook’s weekly Free Fridays promotion – the first in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Darkfever.  It’s about MacKayla Lane, a woman in her early 20s who travels to Dublin, Ireland after the brutal and unsolved murder of her sister.   In the hopes that the local law enforcement will renew their efforts to find the killer if a family member is there in the flesh, Mac settles into the city where her sister’s life was cut short and unwittingly stumbles into a dark and magical world where faeries roam the streets disguised as humans and entire blocks are swallowed from memory.  She finds an unlikely partner in Jericho Barrons, a rich and eccentric book store owner with a few mysteries of his own, who tells her that she is a Sidhe seer – someone who can see the fae.  Not only that, but she can sense magical artifacts and freeze all manner of fae creatures with one touch.  Mac discovers that her sister was also involved with the Sidhe somehow and as she learns more about her abilities and continues the search for her sister’s murderer she becomes all the more bound to Jericho and his quest for an all-important Sidhe artifact that, according to Mac’s sister, is the key to everything.  Darkfever was a fast-paced urban adventure with a fantastic array of exotic and dark faeries – and these are no Tinkerbells, mind you.  I loved the tension and banter between Mac and Jericho.  It was just a lot of fun and great storytelling.  I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

Also a Nook Free Friday title, Cry Sanctuary came next.  Also an urban fantasy – werewolves this time – and the first in the Red Rock Pass series by Moira Rogers, this book was another speedy, brain candy type of adventure.  Werewolf packs live in secret all over the country and most are run by greedy alphas who abuse their position and power and terrorize their subordinates to get what they want.  Red Rock is place that provides sanctuary to any wolf who seeks a different way of life.  Abigail Adler escapes an abusive alpha with the help of her close friend, who risks everything to get her out of harm’s way, and the two of them find shelter in Red Rock.  The story follows Abigail and Keith Winston, a Red Rock wolf newly returned from Europe, fighting in the war between werewolves and wizards, who rescues her and her friend while they’re on the run.  As a newly turned werewolf Abby has a lot to learn about her new life and Keith, who is instantly and almost irrationally attracted to her, hopes he will be the one to act as her guide – but it has to be her choice.  Keith was my favorite character in the story, I absolutely loved him.  Part knight, part cowboy, all badass.  And I didn’t hate the hot scenes where Abby gave in to his charms.  Can’t say I blame her really.  Another really fun urban fantasy and I look forward to the next Red Rock book.

After reading Lamb a few months ago I’ve been dying to read another Christopher Moore book.  And of course with my incurable vampire obsession I decided to go with You Suck: A Love Story, which chronicles the new un-life of Tommy Flood after being turned into a vampire by his undead girlfriend Jody.  Tommy’s not exactly thrilled with his new situation and as he struggles to come to terms with being a bloodsucking fiend the pair get themselves in all kinds of shenanigans.  The ancient vampire who sired Jody is after them (you would be too if you were covered in bronze by Tommy’s biker neighbors and turned into a statue) and Tommy’s former Safeway stockboy co-workers have been compelled by a blue hooker (long story) from Vegas to hunt them down.  They decide to accept the dark and brooding (but hopelessly perky) goth Abby Normal to be their minion and run errands for them during the day.  There are whole chapters of Abby’s diary that are absolutely hilarious, and luckily since I’m fluent in angsty-teenage-girl-diary-speak I could understand it all with ease and appreciate it from a former angsty teenage diary author myself.  The book is a laugh-out-loud witty, outrageous, and ridiculously funny window into the mind of a genius wordsmith.  It’s definitely not as emotionally driven as Lamb, although it’s hysterically funny as well, it’s more like a romping adventure.  Unfortunately after I finished it I found out that it’s actually a sequel (Love Bites is the first book).  I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be, based on all the references to events that felt more like I should already be familiar with rather than backstory.  But I’ll just go back and read that one before continuing on with the next book, Bloodsucking Fiends

What are you reading?

2010 LA Times Festival of Books

 

In April I attended the LA Times Festival of Books for the first time and it was such an amazing experience I thought I’d share the highlights with you.  My cousin (who is co-authoring the fantasy novel I’m currently working on) flew down from Northern California for the event and when we arrived on Saturday morning my first impression was the sheer size of it!  As we made our way across the gorgeous UCLA campus we crossed a sea of booths and passed through throngs of fellow book lovers.  I’ve never seen so many people gathered to talk about reading and writing, and the buzzing atmosphere was contagious.

Over 400 authors were in attendance to do readings, speak at panels, and sign books.  The first panel we went to was called Science & Humanity: From the Past to the Future and it featured Brian Fagan, Michael Shermer, and Richard Wrangham, who discussed their books about human evolution, pre-history, and sociology.  Brian Fagan was my first archaeology professor at UC Santa Barbara and it was largely due to him that I decided to major in anthropology.  All three authors had fascinating things to say and after the panel I bought Fagan’s new book, Cro-Magnon, and we chatted about his days at the university as he signed it.

 

Then we hit the YA Stage to catch the tail end of Blood, Fangs, and Temptation: Everything Vampire with Heather Brewer, Rachel Caine, Melissa de la Cruz, and Richelle Mead.  I’ve read Vampire Academy and Glass Houses is in my TBR pile so it was interesting to see the authors in the flesh and hear them discuss their books and writing in general.  I’ve been obsessed with vampires since I was a kid so it’s delightful to see that they’ve made a comeback into popular culture. 

We couldn’t stick around to get any of their books signed because we had to book it to our next panel: History Through Fiction’s Lens, with Gabrielle Burton, Thaisa Frank, and Indu Sundaresan.  This was another riveting panel about historical fiction, one of my favorite genres.  The authors were so different, but each brought their own unique perspective to the discussion and it was obvious that they were all equally passionate about their research.  As someone who aspires to write in this genre someday it was assuring to hear Indu say that when writing historical fiction, mistakes are inevitable – you just have to focus on creating a realistic setting to bring your characters, and their stories, to life.  I bought copies of Gabrielle’s Impatient with Desire, about Tamsen Donner of the ill-fated Donner party, and Indu’s The Twentieth Wife, about the Moghul Empire in India.  It was a pleasure meeting them both.

The author I was most excited to meet was Christopher Rice and I almost missed my opportunity, but by a small twist of luck I managed to not only meet him and get a copy of his new book signed, but he was nice enough to take his picture with us.  We’d missed the panel he was on so we ran over to the area where he was signing only to find it empty.  I was extremely disappointed but I talked to a volunteer and she confirmed that we’d missed the signing, but then someone else asked which author I was looking for and he happened to walk by the tent just then.  The volunteer called him over and he happily offered to sign my program.  When I said that I’d meant to buy his new book for the signing he said he and the other authors on the panel were just about to go buy each other’s books and suggested that we come with them.  I was so grateful and thrilled to meet him because I’ve been a fan since his debut novel A Density of Souls.  He was such a sweetheart!

With Christopher Rice

The rest of the day we wandered up and down the aisles of booths, meeting debut authors and picking up literature on writing associations.  We’d been too busy to eat lunch or drink any water so needless to say, we were exhausted as the day wrapped up and we headed home.

We got there earlier on Sunday to attend our first scheduled panel of the day – Publishing: The Editors Speak Out, with Sarah Crichton, Eli Horowitz, and Jack Shoemaker.  It was wonderful to hear about the publishing industry from these insiders’ perspectives and they each gave great advice and provided some insight into the ups and downs of the business.  The next panel we went to was also about publishing and we picked up some more tips that will surely come in handy when we start shopping our manuscript. 

Dionne loaded down with bookish goodies.

We hit some more booths next and remembered to eat lunch this time, copping a squat on the grass next to the Cooking Stage to watch Anne Byrn, the Cake Mix Doctor, whip up some tasty looking desserts. 

 Then it was back to the YA Stage to see Michael Reisman, Margaret Stohl, Tracy Trivas, and Heather Tomlinson at Making the Magic Happen: Writing Young Adult Fantasy.  This was a particularly interesting panel since it was all about our genre, although our novel is decidedly NOT for young adults.  Each author read a short passage from one of their books and answered questions from the audience.   

After reading Empress Orchid last year I was excited to see Anchee Min’s name on the list of authors attending the festival.  I bought a copy of her new release, Pearl of China, and waited in line for a chance to meet her.  Unfortunately the experience was quite a let down.  Unlike all the other authors we’d met so far, who greeted us with smiles and chatted personably, she didn’t say a word and barely cracked a smile.  Also unlike the other authors who personalized their autographs by including our names and a short message, Min just signed her name.  All this is fine, you never know if she was just having a bad day or if she gets nervous at events like that or who knows what, but it was kind of a turn off.  Hopefully the book will make up for it. 

Soaking up the glorious atmosphere.

Overall, the festival was absolutely thrilling and inspirational and we vowed to make it an annual tradition.  I can’t believe I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade and had never even heard of it before this year!  It was wonderful to see so many fantastic authors up close and personal and get to meet some of them.  I hope to be able to attend the festival as an author as well as a reader sometime in the future.

What bookish events have you been to?

Finding Deeper Meaning: The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs

Last week’s episode of South Park, entitled “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”, while outrageous and hysterical as usual, got me thinking about metaphors and finding deeper meaning in books. 

The boys were assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye in class and were told beforehand that it had offensive material that had gotten it banned from schools across the country.  Naturally that piques their interest and they race through the pages, waiting for the alleged offensive parts (aka the good stuff) which never come.  Incensed that they’d been tricked into reading an entire book and baffled as to why it was considered offensive, they decide to write their own book.  One that would be so outrageously offensive that it would be banned in a heartbeat. 

So they set out to write The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs – the most disgusting, revolting, twisted, and generally effed up piece of writing ever created.  Their parents get their hands on the manuscript and despite only being able to get through a few words at a time before projectile vomiting, they think it’s brilliant and the book is quickly published and sells millions of copies. 

The best part was how everyone interpreted the book and sought some deep meaning out of all the gratuitous vulgarity and obscenities.  It’s pro-life!  No, it’s clearly pro-choice!  It draws attention to the plight of the lower class (represented by Sarah Jessica Parker)!  Meanwhile, the boys are shocked and appalled that not only was their trashy book not banned like they’d intended, it’s being lauded as a masterpiece and the work of a genius (and since they were quick to blame Butters for writing the book to avoid getting into trouble, they’re getting none of the credit).  They go on a campaign against the book, trying – and failing miserably – to make people realize that there is no deep meaning behind the disgusting words. 

People will see what they want to see I guess. 

The episode was hilarious and it made me think about my reading habits.  I realized that I don’t tend to look for hidden themes or messages when I read.  Unless the entire book is a glaringly obvious metaphor, like Animal Farm, I generally don’t think about what certain characters represent or whether different events address any political ideologies or global themes like war and poverty.  I tend to call a spade a spade.  When I read it’s more about connecting to the characters and their stories emotionally.

Am I missing out by overlooking big-picture themes and sweeping metaphors?  Maybe.  But I’m also willing to bet that nine times out of ten the messages and themes a reader picks up were totally unintended by the author. 

What kind of reader are you?  Do you look for deeper meaning in the pages?  

Did you catch the episode of South Park?  If not, watch it here (warning: uncensored)!

Author Q&A and Giveaway with Maria V. Snyder

Today I’m very excited to have Maria V. Snyder, author of the award-winning Study and Glass series, with us today to answer some questions and host a giveaway of her new book, Inside Out, which hits the shelves today!

Maria, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.  And without further ado…

Jamye – Yelena and Valek are wonderful characters.  Do they feel like old friends by now?  Many writers say that they’re emotionally invested in their characters.  Does it upset you when you have to throw obstacles in their way for the sake of the story?

Maria – They are old friends and I think of them often 🙂  It doesn’t upset me to make their lives difficult – otherwise there wouldn’t be conflict and we’d all be bored.  Sometimes when they need to make a hard decision, I struggle with them and am upset with them, but I don’t feel bad for putting them in that situation.

Jamye – Have you ever considered writing a prequel to Poison Study, maybe from Valek or Commander Ambrose’s point of view?  I would love to read more about the start of their friendship and the creation of Ixia under his regime.

Maria – Yes I have!  I would like to write about the Commander and Valek before the take-over.  I would think the story would be from both of their point of views, alternating chapters.  I just don’t know when a book like that will fit into my schedule 🙂

Jamye – Your book covers are gorgeous!  After the title, the cover was what first made me interested in checking out Poison Study.  Did you have any say in what they looked like?  Happy with how they turned out? 

Maria – I don’t have a lot of say in the covers.  I fill out an art fact sheet for my publisher’s art department and that’s it.  Sometimes they ask my opinion.  Like for Inside Out – in an early draft of the cover, the girl wasn’t looking straight at the reader, but off to the side.  I didn’t like that and mentioned it to my editor.  She sent me a bunch of photos of the model looking straight and I picked the one I liked and they used that!  Otherwise, I haven’t had much input, but I’ve been very happy with all my covers.  They are gorgeous!

Jamye – You took some glass blowing classes in preparation for Fire Study and your Glass series.  Have you done any other research for your books?  Do you enjoy it? 

Maria – Yes, I do research for all my books.  Hands on research is my favorite – it helps me to translate an experience–the sights, smells, feelings, and how things taste or what they feel like–for the reader.  If I experience it myself, then I can draw a better picture for the reader. Some of the research I’ve done is learned how to ride a horse, learned how to taste food, and recently I spent a day at a maximum security prison for Spy Glass.

Jamye – Did you work out the plot for all the books in your Study and Glass series ahead of time or take it one book at a time?

Maria – One book at a time 🙂  I’m a pantser (a seat of the pants writer) and get myself into all kinds of trouble.  But I think that helps with keeping the writing fresh and in surprising the readers 🙂

Jamye – You got your degree in Meteorology and decided it wasn’t for you.  Was it then that you discovered writing or had it been a longtime passion?

Maria – It was when I was bored in work that I discovered writing.  I hadn’t written any fiction before, but I always had a good imagination and use to daydream a lot!  My family was so shocked I started writing.  Before, I avoided it.

Jamye – You recently did a mini book tour in the UK.  How did it go?  Do you enjoy the promoting side of being an author?  Do you ever get nervous at book signings?

Maria – I had a wonderful time in the UK!  It went well and I wrote all about my trip on my website and included some pictures.  You can read all about it at: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/UK.php   I do enjoy promoting my books and I love hanging out with my readers – they’re so fun!  I don’t get nervous at book signings, but I sometimes get nervous before a presentation.  When I was invited to the Library of Congress to do a talk, I about died!  It was so intimidating!  But it went well and I’ve been back 3 more times and now I’m not so nervous 🙂

Jamye – If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?  Is there anything about the business that surprised you when you were starting out?

Maria – Persistence is my biggest advice. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!

I also have a whole web page of writing advice on my website – aspiring authors are welcome to go to the page at: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php.

Jamye – What was your most challenging writing moment?  Most triumphant?

Maria – I’d have to say writing Spy Glass was the most difficult book to do and encompasses all my most challenging writing moments!  Nothing about that book came easily and I don’t know why.  As for the most triumphant, is when I write my two favorite words: The End 🙂  Finishing a book is always a triumph, and I celebrate for a few days before starting revisions.

Jamye – Your new book, Inside Out, is being released today by Harlequin Teen.  Can you tell us a little about it?

Maria – Inside Out is about Trella. Trella lives in Inside, and she has a very jaded and hard view of her metal world. Along with thousands of other “scrubs” who live in the lower levels, she cleans the pipes and ducts that crisscross her world and keep them all alive.

In order to escape the noise and presence of so many scrubs, Trella prefers to be by herself in the ductwork. She has explored almost every region of Inside and has the ability to go to any level without being detected by the Pop Cops (Population Control Police). Because of her expertise, she is recruited by a prophet to seek a gateway to Outside. As she searches for the gateway, she’s pursued by Pop Cops, and upper level workers (those who control the government and mechanical systems), but she’s also aided by a few unlikely sources which make her realize she’s been a little too critical of her world.

Jamye – How different is it to write a Young Adult book?  Do you find that you change your style significantly or is it just the content that changes?

Maria – I wrote the book the same as all my others.  The only difference is Inside Out is shorter.  The interesting thing about my books is they appeal to all ages.  I’ve had emails from readers as young as 9 years old and as old as 81 years old. I wrote with adults in mind at first, but when my niece read Poison Study in one weekend (she was 14 at the time and before I found a publisher), I realized that maybe young adults would enjoy my stories as well.

Jamye – So what’s next for you?  Are you currently working on anything that you can tell us about?

Maria – After Inside Out is published, Spy Glass will be coming out in September 2010.  I just finished revisions on Spy Glass and am going to start Outside In, which is a sequel to Inside Out.  After that…I don’t know. I have a few book proposals to send to my editor and we’ll see what she likes 🙂 

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Be sure to check out the website for Inside Out, www.whatsinsideout.com, to read the first three chapters, take a personality quiz, and other fun goodies!

Just leave a comment to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of the book (U.S. and Canada only please)!  The contest will end April 6th so make sure to check back to find out if you’re the lucky winner. 

In the meantime, here’s the book trailer.  Enjoy!

Musing Mondays – March 29th

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about multitasking.

Do you – or are you even able – to do other things while you read? Do you knit, hold a conversation, keep an eye on the TV? Anything?

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.

Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page…

I’m pretty decent at multi-tasking in general, but honestly I can’t do much else while reading.  I can munch on a snack or sip coffee (which is much easier to do now that I have my Nook), but I get distracted so easily it’s hard for me to keep my head in the story with too many other things going on in the background.  If I’m really engrossed in the book I can usually read on the couch while my husband has the TV on, but that’s pretty much the extent of my reading multi-tasking.  And I’m not sure that even counts since I’m not watching the show as well.  Although I do take the opportunity to read a few pages during commercials if we’re watching something live.  Sometimes I can have music on in the background but I’ll usually start paying attention to the lyrics and it snaps me back to reality.  

Yesterday I spent a couple hours reading on the beach (which was fantastic!) but even that proved to be too much of a distraction at times.  The temptation to people-watch or just stare at the waves crashing on the rocks, dogs and kids running by, locals complaining about the growing sea lion population, trying to figure out why one girl was posing by the water a la Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition while her mom (I’m guessing, anyway) snapped pictures of her.  You know, a typical day at the beach.  While all this was going on I only read a few pages at a time before taking a break to splash in the water to cool off or survey my surroundings.  

What’s your answer?

Blog Award!

This is long overdue but many thanks to Jody and Rae at With a Good Book for passing along the Blog Monster Award to me!

The Blog Monster award was created by Eleni at La Femme Reader:

It signifies all the bloggers out there who constantly work hard to keep an updated and insightful website. They aren’t afraid to take a bite with their honest reviews and enjoyable content. You amaze me, you inspire me so I call you a blog monster.

I’m so thrilled and it’s my pleasure to pass the award on to these fantastic bloggers:

Alayne at The Crowded Leaf

Nick at Lions and Men

Greg at The New Dork Review of Books

Lori at Escape Between the Pages

Angela at Reading Angel

Happy reading and writing!

BTT: Break

btt button

Do you take breaks while reading a book? Or read it straight through? (And, by breaks, I don’t mean sleeping, eating and going to work; I mean putting it aside for a time while you read something else.)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

My initial reaction to this question was, No way do I do that!  But after some consideration, I realized that I have taken breaks while reading books in the past and in fact I’m doing it right now. 

I started two books on writing not long ago – Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and The Constant Art of Being a Writer by N.M. Kelby – and while I didn’t consciously decide to take a break from them, I realized that I haven’t finished either one yet and have moved on to other books.  I fully intend to finish both of these at some point (although I think the Bradbury book ran away from me and is hiding somewhere in the living room).

A few Anne Rice books also came to mind when I was pondering this question.  One, Violin, I picked up and finished last year after taking a break from it that lasted probably about nine years, since I bought the first edition hardcover (needless to say I had to start it from the beginning.  The cobwebs covering my memories of that book were way too thick to bother with).  The other two, The Feast of All Saints (which I’ve actually taken two breaks from) and Cry To Heaven, I started over ten years ago and never got around to finishing.  I guess it remains to be seen whether I’m on a break from them too or if they’re just going to be lumped into the small category of books I never finished, which I promise is rare for me.

Aside from those few embarrassing exceptions, I typically read books straight through without taking any breaks, even when I’m reading multiple books at once. 

What about you?

Series Amnesia and Other Thoughts

I don’t have any reviews to post so far this week so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the three books I’m currently reading.

An Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon

This is the 7th book in the Outlander saga and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it after it waited patiently in my TBR pile since Christmas.  I’m almost halfway through it and so far so good.  The beginning was a bit frustrating because I couldn’t remember what happened at the end of the last book and I was struggling to recall who a few characters were (yes, even major characters like Fergus!).  It was quite distracting, to say the least.  In my defense it’s been a couple years since I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes so I was wracking my brain trying to remember why Roger and Brianna weren’t with Claire and Jamie anymore and why they’d left the plantation (or that Roger and Bree now had a daughter).  It kind of makes me wish I’d re-read the last one to refresh my memory, but again I would have encountered the same problem.  Eventually I want to read the whole series because the first two books are by far my favorite so maybe I’ll do that before the next one comes out (because undoubtedly it will take another couple of years to be released and I will have forgotten everything that happens in this book by then).

Once I got over my initial irritation at my lack of memory, I was able to ease into the story and get back in the swing of things on Fraser Ridge.  I found it to be a bit on the slow side in the beginning, although there was some action (involving a certain character that of course had temporarily slipped my mind) that happened right off the bat.  Jamie still somehow manages to be the most charming, witty, badass, sweet, and stubborn man all at the same time.  Claire is..still Claire, quoting 20th century song lyrics and crying out “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”  But you have to love the pair of them.  The story is told from various points of view and the only character I just can’t seem to connect with is William, Jamie’s bastard son (no really, he’s illegitimate) who’s serving in the British army.  I really want to like him, and it’s not that I don’t, I just find myself skimming rather quickly through his chapters waiting for something to happen.  I’m surprised by how much I’m getting into the parts with Roger and Bree and the bairns, adjusting to life in the 1980’s in Scotland and finding out letter by letter the fate of Claire and Jamie and the rest of the loved ones they left behind when they went through the stones.

I read a review on Amazon today about this book and learned that there isn’t really an ending so I’m sure I’ll be thoroughly annoyed when I finish the last page, but it’s still Outlander and I adore this series.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore

I’m only about 100 pages in so far but from the very first page (truthfully, from the author’s bio prior to the first page) I became a fan.  This is my first Moore experience and I know it’s early but I have a feeling I’m going to become a devout follower of the man’s work after this.  Just the extended title alone was enough to leave me guffawing like an idiot (The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.  Seriously?  How can you not crack up at that?).  Not only is the narrative and dialogue witty and hilarious, but the subject matter really intrigues me.  I’m sure a lot of people would be offended by it, but it really is fascinating.  Think about childhood for a second, and how hard it can be.  Now imagine you’re the son of God.  Yikes, right?  Luckily Josh (from Joshua from Yeshua) has his good pal Levi (aka Biff) to watch his back (not to mention do all his sinning for him) while he tries to figure out his destiny and how to fulfill it.  And then there’s Raziel, the dim-witted angel who resurrected Biff 2,000 years after his death to force him to write his own Gospel by orders of the big man himself, who spends all hours of the day watching day-time dramas and believing they’re real (despite Biff’s best efforts to assure him that they’re the equivalent of a Greek drama) and that Soap Opera Digest must have been written by a prophet. 

I’m going to have some serious fun with this one.

Brighid’s Quest, by P.C. Cast 

I requested this one from NetGalley after the gorgeous cover caught my eye and I recognized the author’s name, having just read Marked (the first House of Night novel).  I hadn’t gotten very far when I noticed that there was an awful lot of back-story summing up and I thought to myself she probably should have written a book about these events if she was planning on mentioning them so often.  Then I found out that, in fact, she did.  It’s called Elphame’s Choice and it came out in September of last year.  Oops. 

The good news is, because of all the reminders of what happened in that book (and I’m not usually a fan of re-capping previous books in a series but it was just fine in this case, and I wish Diana Gabaldon would make use of it a little more) I’m up to speed with who all the characters are and the basic premise of the world and story.  I haven’t gotten very far yet but so far I’m getting reeled in and can’t wait to find out what happens next.  This is my first experience with a centaur as the main character, and I love the winged race of New Fomorians – a hybrid of humans and demons.  Hopefully I’ll make some good progress on this on over the weekend and have a review for you sometime next week.

Have you read any of these?  What’s your strategy on reading a new book in a series?  Re-read the previous book or just go for it and hope you don’t develop series amnesia?

50th Post Giveaway at the New Dork Review of Books

Congratulations to Greg at the New Dork Review of Books for his 50th post!  To celebrate he’s hosting a giveaway of A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore.  Here’s a synopsis of the book from B&N.com:

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is foreverchanged.

This long-awaited new novel by one of the most heralded writers of the past two decades is lyrical, funny, moving, and devastating; Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date—textured, beguiling, and wise.

So head on over to enter for your chance to win!

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