amergina: (Default)
I read 28 books. That's not a whole lot, but I spent most of the year writing, so I think that's a fair trade.

My top two books read the year would have to be:

Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara. I love this series, and I actually sneak re-reads of parts of this book in from time to time.

Racing the Dark by Alaya Dawn Johnson. I read this as part of a challenge by [ profile] calico_reaction and I keep thinking about it. Very interesting world-building and characters. Great fantasy. So it wins the second spot.
amergina: (reading)
This entry is future-dated to December 31, 2009. My 2008 book list is here. I'm going to try to post more reviews this year, even if they are just short ones.

Books I read in 2009 )
amergina: (reading)
Book: Brand-New Science Fiction and Fantasy from Ace and Roc
Authors: Faith Hunter, Mark Del Franco, Patricia Briggs, Rob Thurman, Ilona Andrews, Steven R. Boyett, Julie Kenner
Pages: 134 (Sampler)
The sampler says science fiction and fantasy. It's more a sampler of urban fantasy, though. A bit misleading.

I won this sampler in a give-away over on [ profile] calico_reaction's book review blog. Part of the deal was that I'd post a review once I'd read it. :)

Also, if you like science fiction and fantasy books, you might want to check out [ profile] calico_reaction. She's a prolific reader and a good reviewer.
my review )

So, three out of seven I'd read. One that I am seriously thinking of picking up.
amergina: (reading)
(Another book I read for the reading course in recent Fantasy and Science Fiction for my MFA)

Magic for Beginners Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
An imaginative collection of short stories. Link had a vivid sense of story-telling in that these pieces pull you in and keep you on your toes. You never know quite were they're going, or what will happen next. It keeps you reading up to the end.

The themes are highly creative, the writing vivid an evocative.

However, because Link strays far from the normal modes of story-telling, the pieces just...end. There aren't any endings, the stories stop. It's up to the reader to provide closure and meaning, if you can.

I admire her obvious gift for creating new worlds, new images. But I missed greatly the closure that comes with stories that wrap up in some form.

I suspect that I'm just the wrong audience for her work.

View all my reviews >>
amergina: (seton hill)
First things: I'm 166/596 on my thesis revision. I've hacked off about 5000 words. It feels great. I'm really liking the process of uncovering the story nearly as much as I liked discovering it.

Second: Been thinking of a sequel or sequels. Need to ponder more.

Third: Desperately need to work on my 12 and 25 word pitches. People at Pennsic kept asking me what my book was about and I could not tell them. Because Lo! I am Lame. And not gold and glittery.

Fourth: Read Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. As part of the Genre Reading course I'm taking, I had to write up two journal essays about it. I'm going to stick them here under cuts.

Without a doubt, spoilers.

Story framing: Seducing the reader via two narrative angles )

Of MICE and Moths )

My "did I like it or not" review of PSS is over here at Goodreads.

Fifth: I had had had to read Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara before I started the next genre read book. Swallowed it whole in two days. Loved it. Except for the grimaces. My fangirl review is here at Goodreads, too. I CANNOT wait for the next book. Well, I can, because I know (now) how hard it is to churn one out.

Sixth: Started reading Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. Great book so far. But I'm way behind on posting about it. I need to do that tomorrow.
amergina: (reading)
Note: Another GoodReads review. I'm trying to catch up on the books I've read, but never did post about.

Thirteen Reasons Why Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was the common reading book for the June 09 residency of the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction Masters of Arts (now Masters of Fine Arts) program, as a study in Young Adult fiction.

There were painful things about this book, as it is all about high school and what kids do to each other therein. It's also about a young woman's decent into depression and suicide. Hannah Baker, a girl from Clay Jenson's school has committed suicide. She leaves behind a set of old cassette tapes on which she has recorded 13 reasons why she killed herself and each person on the tapes receives the box of them in sequence.

It's Clay's turn.

I wavered between 3 stars and 4. I can't say I liked the book, per se, but it is a well written and clever book. It alternates between the present view point of Clay Jensen, a nice kid, and Hannah's taped monologues as Clay listens to them. It pulls you in quickly and keeps you there. It's also a very fast read. You want to know who did what, as each indecent gets worse. And where is Clay on the tapes? What did he do?

So from the technical aspect of the book, it shines. It does all the things a book should do.

But as an adult, it had me curling my toes. Partly because I remember the casual cruelty of teens and there's a bit of a visceral reaction to that. Partly because poor Clay would have to live with knowing all of these things for the rest of his life.

If he were a real kid, I'd hope he talk to his parents eventually and get some therapy. Thankfully, he's just fiction.

The positive side of this book is that I do think it causes kids to stop and *think* about how what they say and do affects those around them.

The negative side was that in the end, I didn't believe Hannah's story. Oh, I think the events happened, but I didn't believe all of her reactions to them. She was the quintessential unreliable narrator. And I think what she did (especially close to the end) was horrible and selfish. She took no responsibility for her actions and shifted the blame... *all the blame* on everyone else. Did they play a part in what happened? Yes, but so did she.

If I could give it 3.5 stars I would.

I do completely get why teens would love this book, however. It's full of angst and taps so very well into the high school experience.

View all my reviews >>
amergina: (reading)
Note: I'm pulling this from my Goodreads review, 'cause it's easier than coding it myself.

Reader and Raelynx (Twelve Houses, Book 4) Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the things I have greatly enjoyed about this series of books is that I don't need to reread the previous books when the next comes out. While it certainly helps to have read the others, each works well as a standalone. And each of the previous books is memorable enough that re-reading is not required.

The drawback is that Reader and Raelynx--nominally about Cammon, played double duty. It really held two stories: Cammon's growing love for Amalie and Senneth's final showdown with the Gisseltess's. It is both a romance and the final wrap-up of the political plot started in Mystic and Rider.

If both stories had not gripped me so, I think I would have given it three stars. However, once I got over the initial "Oh, darn it! we've switched character focus!" I was still sucked into the story and didn't skip ahead.

So Shinn pulled off the double-duty just fine.

View all my reviews >>
amergina: (reading)
I did not finish this book.

It's marketed as a paranormal romance about werecats. Yes, I know. But I *like* cats.

There were several issues with the book:

1) The POV starts off as 3rd person, limited. That's what I expected, given a romance. It's usually two POVs, Heroine and hero. Maybe a third--the villain. But in this case, the POV devolved into 3rd person omniscient and we got to head hop into everyone! Villains, minions, main characters, everyone. bleh.

2) The book tells a lot. We're told that people are dumb. Or that all they want is money. Or that the hero finds the heroine sexy. Tell tell tell. Sometimes telling is necessary, but this reads more like a past-tense synopsis with a smattering of dialogue.

3) The flippant use of rape. The Leader of the heroine's werecat clan is out of control. We know this because he tries to rape the heroine. Of course, she is able to escape his clutches... but later, she finds out that two other women (married, I might add) are raped by the leader when they confide in her. And she does nothing. Nothing. She mentions the rapes to the hero as she *crawls into bed with him*.

That's when I put the book down. Because rape should not be casual pillow talk before getting it on. Ever.

It's going into the recycling. I don't usually toss books, but this one is actually trash. Had it just been 1 and 2, I would have finished it. But with 3, I realized that I need not waste my time.

The author supposedly wrote historicals a while back under another name. I wonder how long ago, because the writing felt like popular fiction from the 80s. Genre fiction writing has gotten much better in 20 years.
amergina: (reading)
Book: Characters & Viewpoint
Author: Orson Scott Card
182 Pages

This was the how-to book I chose for this term. This is a long entry. Beware. )
In summary: Lots of useful information. A good basic reference on characters that touches on POV.
amergina: (reading)
Book: The Cipher: A novel of Crosspointe
Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis (also [ profile] difrancis)
432 Pages

Short Thoughts: Reasonable read. Great opening line. Love the resistance to explaining.
From the cover:
A member of the royal Rampling family, Lucy Trenton possesses a most unique talent: the ability to detect majick and those who wield it. She has kept her ability secret all her life to avoid bringing scandal to her family, but lately Lucy has grown careless. When she recklessly uses her gift to locate a valuable and treacherous magickal cipher, she finds herself embroiled in a dangerous intrigue that threatens her life--and the life of every person in Crosspointe.

And to make her troubles worse, she's also kept her secret from a most persistent suitor, dashing and mysterious ship captain Martin Thorpe. And now she desperately needs his help...
Here there be spoilers. No, really. )

This is the first in a series of books about Crosspointe, but I believe that each book is supposed to stand alone.

Interestingly, I read some reviews that commented that the romance seemed flat and that's why they didn't like the book, and that's true. The romance is flat. As a subplot, it could almost be removed and the book would still work. However, I think those reviewers were looking at The Cipher as a romance first and a fantasy second, and despite the male/female POV, the book is a fantasy. The romantic sub-plot is just a vehicle, not the heart of the book.

I have to wonder, though. Are all books that have a male and female POV automatically read as romances? I have issues with my own romantic sub-plot (which is going to be toned down a lot a lot a lot, as it's not supposed to be the heart of the story, but kind of takes over for a while), but I really like alternating my two main character POVs. How many people will be cranky when they read a fantasy that isn't really a romance? Something to ponder.
amergina: (reading)
Book: The Hero of Ages
Author: Brandon Sanderson (also [ profile] mistborn)
576 Pages

Short Thoughts: A satisfying ending to an epic fantasy trilogy.
From the cover:
To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness---the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists---is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.

Having escaped death at the climax of The Well of Ascension only by becoming a Mistborn himself, Emperor Elend Venture hopes to find clues left behind by the Lord Ruler that will allow him to save the world. Vin is consumed with guilt at having been tricked into releasing the mystic force known as Ruin from the Well. Ruin wants to end the world, and its near omniscience and ability to warp reality make stopping it seem impossible. She can’t even discuss it with Elend lest Ruin learn their plans!

I've also reviewed the first novel Mistborn and the second novel The Well of Ascension. This is the second of my genre readings this term for the Masters in Writing Popular Fiction program I'm in.
Big honking spoilers )
amergina: (reading)
Book: A Darkness Forged in Fire
Author: Chris Evans (also [ profile] chris_r_evans)
432 Pages

Short Thoughts: Elves, guns, and colonialism. Not a bad first book.
From the cover:
Konowa Swift Dragon, former commander of the Empire's elite Iron Elves, is looked upon as anything but ordinary. He's murdered a Viceroy, been court-martialed, seen his beloved regiment disbanded, and finally been banished in disgrace to the one place he despises the most -- the forest.

Now, all he wants is to be left alone with his misery...but for Konowa, nothing is ever that simple. The mysterious and alluring Visyna Tekoy, the highborn daughter of an elfkynan governor, seeks him out in the dangerous wild with a royal decree that he resume his commission as an officer in Her Majesty's Imperial Army, effective immediately.

For in the east, a falling Red Star heralds the return of a magic long vanished from the earth. Rebellion grows within the Empire as a frantic race to reach the Star unfolds. It is a chance for Konowa to redeem himself -- even if the entire affair appears doomed to be a suicide mission... and that the soldiers recruited for the task are not at all what he expects.

And worse, his key adversary in the perilous race for the Star is the dreaded Shadow Monarch -- a legendary elf-witch whose machinations for absolute domination spread deeper than Konowa could ever imagine....

This is the first of my genre reads of the term for the Writing Popular Fiction masters program.
Elves and Gunpowder )
I do have to say that all in all, it is a good first book. It could have been tighter, but I know that comes with practice. I'll probably pick up the next one, to see what happens, but I might wait for the paperback. I think it will greatly depend on the amount of Evil Font in the next book.
amergina: (reading)
Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder.

I should note that Maria is a graduate of the Masters in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill and is one of the instructors for our residencies. She's a classy, funny woman. :)

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.…

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

This is the Third book in her Study Trilogy and while it *could* be read stand-alone, I recommend reading the other two first. It's certainly the most dense of the three, in terms of plot and action.

However, it almost had too much action for me. Very much a crisis, crisis, crisis book, as everything came to a head. There were times when I just wanted it to slow down a bit so I could reflect on what had happened. On the other hand, it kept me reading. :)

I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I think it was a decent wrap-up to Yelena's story, while leaving some interesting things to come back to in future books about the world. The magic system is interesting, and I'm curious to see where that goes. I know Maria's next books are more about Sitia than Ixia (The two rival nations in the Study books). I do hope Maria revisits Ixia at some point.

I'm also grateful that both nations are shown to have good points and bad points. But that's more of an allover series comment, though it does pertain to this book too. Yelena balances her love of both nations and her loyalty well.

Overall, 4 out of 5 stars.
amergina: (reading)
Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

Always assume there’s someone after you. That was the paranoid wisdom her mother had hardwired into Jasmine Towne ever since she was a little girl. Now, suddenly on her own, Jazz is going to need every skill she has ever been taught to survive enemies both seen and unseen. For her mother had given Jazz one last invaluable piece of advice, written in her own blood.

Jazz Hide Forever

All her life Jazz has known them only as the “Uncles,” and her mother seemed to fear them as much as depend on them. Now these enigmatic, black-clad strangers are after Jazz for reasons she can’t fathom, and her only escape is to slip into the forgotten tunnels of London’s vast underground. Here she will meet a tribe of survivors calling themselves the United Kingdom and begin an adventure that links her to the ghosts of a city long past, a father she never knew, and a destiny she fears only slightly less than the relentless killers who’d commit any crime under heaven or earth to prevent her from fulfilling it.

My mom suggested I read this book, so I took it out of the library in my hometown. It's an urban fantasy based in London, but one without any "monsters." That is, there are no fantastic creatures, but there is fantastic elements. Using the terminology of Rhetorics of Fantasy, this is an Intrusion fantasy, where magic intrudes on the normal world and must be either sent back or incorporated into the current world.

It's a well written book, a bit on the violent side, but not gratuitously so. It's light on the fantastic elements and reads a bit more like a suspense novel with fantastic elements. It's not a book I would have normally picked up, but I'm glad I did. The first chapter grabs you and keeps you reading. There really wasn't a place in the book that was dull. The authors do a good job of using all the senses to describe the Underground and the ground under the Underground. You do get a sense of the age of London and all the secrets there.

I gather the authors are doing a whole series of books like this one, based on hidden cities. While I liked this book, I wasn't so enthralled that I would hunt down others in the series, but I do recommend it to anyone who wants a different kind of Urban Fantasy.