Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Challenge 15: 'Code Name Verity'

Right, it's been a while. Let's get things moving again.

Luke, your Challenge is... Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.

Why I loved it:
Did I mention my thing for strong female protagonists? Code Name Verity give you not one but two - one English fighter pilot crashed in France, and one Scottish captured secret agent. They are awesomely brave, and totally sassy - even though there's a war on! It's hard to say much without giving things away, but I think it's a cross between Tomorrow When The War Began and Number The Stars.

Why Luke will like it:
Luke was right into Biggles for a while there - this is just the same! Tiger Moths and crash landings and the English Channel and things. The author is a pilot herself, so that should help give this book some cred. And while he may not have read Number the Stars, I'm sure he's enjoyed the Tomorow series.

Review 13: 'The Final Empire'

When I went to borrow this book, the librarian who checked it out for me said that she'd read it, but "didn't like where the magic came from." I had no idea what she meant, but when I started the book and figured it out, I actually thought that having the different powers come from different metals was a pretty cool idea - if somewhat problematic if you think too hard about things like earrings and whatever, although that was explained somehow. Either way, I tend not to think too hard about things like that so it was all good.

I did enjoy this book, although that is not the same as saying I will now go and seek out all the books that claim to be similar. I remember that I finished it and really wanted to know what happened in the next books - without having to actually to read it. I need the TL;DR version.

There is a lot of religion stuff in there, which I find fascinating if done in the right way. And it was interesting here, in a 'I wonder where it's going with that' sense.

I don't KNOW why I didn't like this book more. It did have cool characters, it did have strong female protagonists (Luke knows what I like), and I do want to know what happens next. I'm just hard to please, I think.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review 12: 'The Scorpio Races'

'Why Luke will like it: It is a "horse book".. kind of.'. This left me less than amazingly enthusiastic about this book. What that sentence doesn't tell you is that they are bloodthirsty killer horses that rise up out of the sea. I really like books that centre around legends and mythology, whether they are from Earth, or some fantasy world. I like a bit of romance. I'm a fan of life and death struggles. This book has all of these and yet I had to push myself to read it. I think Emma is partly right when she says most of the books I read are written in fairly basic prose, not in that they are, but in the fact that they don't waste words trying to sound pretty.* The Scorpio Races, I feel, spends too much time sounding pretty and not enough time doing things.That said, I did like how well Stiefvater portrays the emotions of the characters, and Puck's desire to remain on the island and in the house where they grew up.

So yeah, that's my take on this. I liked the fantasy, the story and themes, but it took too long to get anywhere. It is however, still a good read. You're up now Em.

- L

* Amusingly enough, both the books I read immediately before and after this challenge were of the  more complex/pretty/descriptive of the books I generally read.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Challenge 14: 'The Scorpio Races'

The book: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a very hard book to describe. It's about horse racing, and killer sea horses, and magic and superstition, and living on an island and moving away, and feminism and independence. I said when I finished it a few weeks ago that it was the best book I've read this year, but trying to convince other people to read about killer horses that come out of the ocean was a bit of a hard sell.

Why I liked it: I loved the phrases that Stiefvater chooses. I loved the connection that Puck and Sean have to the island and to the horses. I loved their relationship and their independence.

Why Luke will like it: It is a "horse book"... kind of, but only in the loosest sense of the word, and definitely not a giggly girly horse book. There is a boy main character and a girl one who kicks arse. There are fantasy elements to the story, although it feels very grounded to me, and while they're not like anything he's probably read before, I think that side will appeal to him.

Why Luke should read it: I may be wrong, but I think most of what Luke reads is written in fairly basic prose. I want him to appreciate language, and the poetry of word choices, and to feel like he just has to re-read or underline or email me a particular turn of phrase because it's just so perfect. Not to say that this is the best ever example of that, or that there aren't other books that could do this (in fact I have another one in mind for a future Challenge), but I think The Scorpio Races is a nice place to start.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Challenge 13: 'The Final Empire'

The Final Empire is the first in the Mistborn series, but can be read by itself. It is centred on Vin (female)*, who starts as a street urchin and is revealed to be a Mistborn, and Kelsier (Also a Mistborn), the leader of a group of thieves who plan to topple an oppressive Emperor. The Mistborn can burn some metals ( Iron, Steel, Tin, Pewter, Zinc, Brass, Copper and Bronze)** in their bodies to give themselves magical powers. This is the primary reason I chose this book for the Challenge, the magic in The Final Empire is very different from that in most other books, and is a nice change.

Who uses mouseover text these days anyway? Me, apparently.

I read this one a fair while ago, so I can't remember all the details, but  I remember liking the way Kelsier's background was slowly revealed, which suited his character (Mysterious, always with a plan, and never revealing all of his motives.). Vin was less complicated, but still had an entertaining history.

This is your Challenge: Read it, preferably all the way through this time (I'll forgive you DNFing the last book, it did look kinda long).

 - L

*Hey, look! More female protagonists!
** There's actually more than this, but they're the basics. Each metal does something different.

Review 12: 'Let's Pretend This Never Happened'

This book was... Not quite what I expected. Having said that, I'm not entirely sure quite what I expected. Perhaps just for it to be less engaging. I loved that way Jenny Lawson wrote this (and it was half the reason I enjoyed the book), it was very conversational, and did tend to run off onto amusing tangents, but nevertheless worked well to tell her story.

The rural Texas setting of her childhood, combined with (an admittedly odd) taxidermist father, makes for some great stories, which made me laugh frequently enough to keep reading. Even after she moved the 'Big City' (I can't actually remember where) with her husband Victor, interesting things kept happening* (Should I tell you about that Halloween party.. nah, you can read just the book yourself.).

I can't say that I'd go out and tell everyone that they should read this, but if it came up in conversation (admittedly unlikely) I'd recommend it. The wit, editors comments to cut down on tangents and occasional bouts of psychosis all contributed to something that was an interesting read, even if it wasn't something that I'd read all the time.

So yeah, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, good book, I'd recommend it, if you are into this sort of thing, and maybe even if you aren't. And I think there is a sequel coming, which I'd consider reading. Your next Challenge will be up shortly Em.

 - L

*Totally unfair, I think she stole my share of interesting life events.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

DNF Review 11: 'Insurrection'

This is our first Did Not Finish Challenge, which makes me a bit sad. I'm not even sure why I didn't finish, except that book? I'm pretty sure it's not you, it's me.

Or it might be you. Let's see.

You aren't really my favourite type of historical fiction. You spend a lot of time sounding like a history book giving a recount of battles or overarching policy. I prefer my historical fiction to be much more personal. Maybe you're trying to tell too much? More details and a shorter timeframe might have been better for me.

And speaking of personal, maybe I didn't persevere long enough (I read 348 out of 633 pages) but I didn't really connect with your hero. Maybe that's your point, and the whole thing is about how he's going to grow from this kinda boring, kinda self-centered, kinda average guy into this amazing leader of men and whatever. But you didn't make me want to stick around to find out. Plus he was having an affair with a married woman. I don't find that appealing.

And through no fault of your own, you are a book that I own. It's hard to compete against library books that demand to be read in a specific amount of time. And if FYA stopped recommending books I wanted to request, maybe this wouldn't have been a problem. But I'm sorry book, there are just too many things against you right now.

I have no doubt that you will be read sometime. Shall I aim for the Christmas holidays? I do want to finish you, because you cover a part of history that I'm not especially familiar with. But for right now, you are holding up this Challenge business, so I have to let you go. See you again.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

I'm Reading: Imaginary Internet Friends

The writers of three of my favourite blogs have recently published books. Yay!

1. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson of The

I gave this to Luke as his latest Challenge, and so I haven't finished it myself yet. I can't do a proper review of it, really, except to say that Jenny is hilarious. She seems funny and kind and she is capable of rallying the internet to any cause. I got to meet her at BlogHer08, where we hung out in a bathroom for a bit.

I read a review of this book which stated that it was better as a blog. Which ... yeah, I don't disagree, but I also think all memoirs are kind of blog-like. That's the whole point. But this is like bonus behind-the-blog-scenes material. So for people who would like a Bloggess blog to carry around with them, buy this book.

2. In Dreams by Jenn Sterling of

This was the first book that I have read on the Kindle app on my phone. I am catching trains a lot these days and I liked not having to bring a big heavy book along. This did mean that my reading of the book was quite broken up, but I think I got quite good at remembering where I was up to by reading the last page I'd read to. If I had a tablet now, I might read a lot more on the Kindle.

I have read Jennster for ages. Definitely before 2008, because I got to dance with her at BlogHer08 which was awesome. So when she decided to write a book (series) I was of course going to check it out. Who would have thought that real people could write books?

And since real people write books, it means that real people are going to read comments about them. I know that this book was criticised for the writing style, and that Jennster then put a lot of work into making it a better piece of writing. I deliberately didn't update my Kindle copy as I was halfway through reading it at the time, and was interested to see the 'first edition'. And yeah, shifting points of view from paragraph to paragraph was confusing, but once I realised that it was the style of the book, it didn't annoy me. But! Despite the fact that I (was forced to) put it down fairly regularly, I was always like "Oh yeah, that's what was happening. Yay" when I started reading again. Apart from the unpolished writing (which, I do actually like when a writer has a particular style so being distinctive is not necessarily a bad thing), the story was interesting and compelling (and full of hot guys!).

3. Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan of

Sadly, the Fug Girls were not at BlogHer08 (or if they were, I missed them) or we could have made it a hat-trick.

Messy follows the Fug Girls' debut YA novel, Spoiled, which I forced the library I worked at at the time to purchase from overseas immediately, because it took a ridiculously long to be available in Australia. But now I work at a bookshop, and I have the buying power, so Messy was mine! The covers of both are awesome, although I could have done with a little splash of green on Messy's.

These books are just straight up fun. They are full of pop-culture references, absolutely chockers. Sometimes I felt like a reference was just put in to meet some kind of quota, but most of the time it was either fine or awesomely relatable.

There are also a bunch of things that feel like shout-outs to the readers of GFY, little jokes that have been standing themes on the blog for ages. This is awesome to have in a book, because it makes me feel like a special little reader who knows the secret words. PLUS, the girls reply when you tweet them how much you want to stalk them read their books. Famous people replied to me OMGawesome.

As I was reading, there were a bunch of lines that I wanted to remember, so I could tell you about how they had all these cool lines. I really should've had a bunch of post-its next to me, because I have now forgotten most of them. My favourite: "There is no such thing as a blog emergency." HAHAHA DISCONCUR.

So, in conclusion:

Blog writers becoming book writers is awesome.
I will support people I "know" by buying their books.
More blog-book authors need to include Australia on their book tours. Work on that for the next ones, thanks girls.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Challenge 12: 'Let's Pretend This Never Happened'

I'm not sure when I first started reading the Bloggess, but it was definitely before BlogHer08, because that was when I got to meet her and hang out in a bathroom with her and hear her read a hilarious post. I made Luke watch this when I got back, so this is not quite his first encounter with the Bloggess either.

Luke, your Challenge: read Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess.

PS: I went to order the book at the bookstore where I work, thinking I would add it to system and order some bonus copies for us to sell but guess what? We already had it in stock. Like, a lot. I was kind of insulted that I wasn't the sole person in Adelaide aware of the awesomeness of the Bloggess, but on the other hand YAY, Bloggess books for everyone!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review 10: 'A is for Alibi'

This has always been one of those books that sat on my parents bookshelf and I thought to myself "At some point I might try that series." It just never happened. A is for Alibi is a Detective/Crime novel set in California (well, mostly) and revolves around Kinsey Millhone, a tough, gun-toting PI. For her first case in the "Alphabet Mysteries", Kinsey is hired by Nikki Fife, who has just been released from prison after doing 8 years for the murder of her husband, to find the real killer.

The first thing that stuck me about this book was how it was structured. It really manages to capture the way Kinsey thinks about the world, everything was dry and precise. Few books I have read, even in this genre, manage to capture the essence of the characters so fully. A is for Alibi also surprised me with how fast paced it was, Kinsey followed leads across the state, meeting contacts and gathering information almost nonstop, gradually bringing together the pieces of the puzzle. A number of times she arrives just to late, to find that a crucial witness murdered, or files missing, and you know someone is one step ahead (At this point I figured out whodunit, although I almost changed my mind later, good storytelling there).

While I did enjoy this book, I'm not sure if I would read more, for a number of reasons:
  1. While the writing style was novel, well executed, and even fitted the book well; it did at times irritate me, although I'm not entirely sure why. 
  2. There just weren't enough explosions. (Or any Magic)
  3. I don't like starting a series which I seriously doubt I'll ever [get to] finish. I've heard that the later books in the series aren't quite as good, and let alone that, I dont really want to read 24 books about a character with whom I have no real emotional attachment (Oh yeah, I found Kinsey hard to relate to).
 So yeah.. To sum up: A is for Alibi is a good book, written well; but isn't really my favourite type of read, so I probably wont come back to it in the near future.. later however, I may be running out of things to read.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I'm Reading: 'A Game Of Thrones'

I requested A Game Of Thrones from my library approximately a bajillion years ago. Then it came in for me, and I decided it was too much of a big undertaking (have you seen how thick this book is? Not to mention the many many books after it) so I gave it back, and requested it again. I think this may have happened a couple of times, and all the while I was itching to watch the TV show, but couldn't (COULD. NOT.) because I hadn't read the book.

It came in again recently (well, in the recent past. See: OMG SO LONG), and I started reading it, even though I was in the middle of my Challenge book. Bad idea, what was I thinking, etc.

In the first place, my Challenge book was obviously not going to read itself. And secondly, really not a good plan to read two books at the same time that feel the need to include family trees and/or maps in the front, and feature royal houses and multiple battles and things like that. I got a little confused, especially as wolves figure prominently at the start of each book and wait doesn't the wolf mean this? Or was it that? I soon forgot about my Challenge book's things, though (yay?), so it was all good.

I really enjoyed it. Even though it was SEVEN BAJILLION PAGES LONG and felt like it took me a trillion years to get though it, it felt like a quick read - as I was reading it. Does that make sense? I felt like I'd fly through a chapter or a few chapters, and then I'd look and there would still be a million chapters to go.

Since chapters are dedicated to specific characters, I didn't find it hard to keep them straight (even with my other-book issues). I also found it quite easy to put down, but I always wanted to pick it up again. And turns out there is not much need to keep people straight, as most of them will be dead by the end of the series (according to Facebook friends who clearly have more time/dedication than I do).

Also, Game of Thrones brings people together! I was at a party last weekend with different 'groups' like work friends and school friends and things, but at one point, there was a massive group comprised of people from all these groups, all going on about A/Game Of Thrones and then I ran away because ARGH SPOILERS.

Recommended! (Or you could just watch the TV show.)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

I'm Reading: Historical Fiction

As Luke so kindly pointed out, yes it has taken me a while to start on the book he generously lent me. But it's not like I didn't have other things to do! (I've started now. And hey, I still haven't finished the Women Of Marvel graphic novel I'm supposed to be reading to make my boyfriend think I'm interested in what he's interested in. Bros before bfs.)

Over Easter, there was a massive book sale happening at the Showgrounds. (I suspect Borders may have had something to do with it.) It had zero books by authors I read but I still came away with five or so books. (For $20. Bargain.) The only one I've read so far was Philippa Gregory's The White Queen.

The part where Luke may have a problem: I also borrowed from the library and read The Queen's Fool and now have The Red Queen waiting for me.

I love finding an author others have (presumably) known about for ages. Did you know, there's this author, right? And she writes about, like, kings and queens and stuff? From the olden days? It's awesome!

I knew the name from seeing the movie The Other Boleyn Girl, but turns out she's written a ton of other books, and they follow the royals all the way through the 15th and 16th Centuries. It's like she knew we wouldn't be paying attention in high school History class (supposing they taught us Tudor history, which they didn't). When this semester (or this month's challenge!) is over, I will be getting right into all her books, in order, and possibly into The Tudors on TV. And I plan to draw a Tudor family tree all over my bedroom wall so I can keep all the Henrys and Elizabeths straight.

Since this is a newly-discovered genre for me, anyone have any recommendations of other authors for me? (Lord knows I don't have enough to read!)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Challenge 11: 'Insurrection'

Your Challenge, for the first time, is a book which I haven't read. I got you this book for Christmas, mainly because you had been reading other books set (more or less) around the same time. The book is Insurrection, by Robyn Young.

The book, from what I remember, is centred around the power struggle caused by the murder of the Scottish King in 1286. As the Scottish Lords vie for the throne the King of England, Edward, is making his own plans, but "a young squire will rise to defy England's greatest king. His name is Robert the Bruce".

One other reason why I bought this book (and why I give challenges) is that this is the first book in a trilogy. Giving the first book in a series will not only give the recipient something else to read if they like it, but gives me something to buy them at future Christmases. So yeah... let me know what you think so I can buy you a birthday present ;)

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Challenge 10: 'A Is For Alibi'

When I was thirteen, my family took a very long train trip, and I had the worst ear infection I've had in my whole entire life. I also read my first Sue Grafton book. On the same trip, I also read my first Janet Evanovich, so that year was really the beginning of my detective fiction reading.

Luke, your Challenge is the first in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series, which if you ask me really went downhill after a while and also this is why you don't start theming your titles if you're not going to be able see it through, A Is For Alibi.

As I said to Luke, I don't think he will enjoy the Challenge when he hears it, but I think he will enjoy the book. There are bad guys, shooting, swearing, and um other things guys like.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

New Bookshelves

When I moved into my new house, I decided to treat myself to some new bookshelves. I was thinking of buying them in a set of three, but I think two is enough... for now.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Review 9: 'The Ambassador's Mission'

For the first time I went into this challenge full of enthusiasm. The first few chapters of the book were a tad confusing as they referenced an earlier series which I haven't read (Will be getting onto them now though). I gradually figured out what had happened, and from there on in I enjoyed the book immensely. I think I might have gotten more out of it if I had read the books before it, but they really aren't necessary.

I can't really compare this book too much to The Way of Shadows, as they are fairly different; TWoS is far more action-y, whereas The Ambassador's Mission focuses more on the politics (Well hello, 'Ambassador's Mission'?) and intrigue.

I would definitely read this again, probably after I have read the earlier series. After which I'd read the books which immediately follow it - as much as I want to go straight to them (Cliffhangers #rage) - I think I'd enjoy them more after I know all of the back story.

Review 8: 'Hunting Party'

This is definitely the most satisfying round yet. Two Challenges, two happy customers.

I enjoyed Hunting Party.

Heris Serrano was an officer born of a long line of officers ... until a treacherous superior officer forced her to resign her commission. ... Heris finds employment as 'Captain' of an interstellar luxury yacht. Being a rich old woman's chauffeur isn't quite the same as captaining a Fleet cruiser ... Or so she thinks.

I had read the Elizabeth Moon/Anne McCaffrey novel Sassinak, and thought this would be quite similar. The writing style was, but this book, I thought, wasn't sure what it was supposed to be - it starts out all spacey and catching criminals and the like, quickly becomes a book about fox-hunting, before turning into a cross between Survivor and Swallows and Amazons.

I do feel like this book was quite a set-up for the rest of series, which is hopefully set in space, chasing bad guys. I will read another one to find out - especially as the only copy I could get my hands on was a three-title omnibus edition.

Oh and also, character names should begin with different letters. I'm easily confused.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Challenge 9: 'The Ambassador's Mission'

For once, Luke gave me a Challenge book that I was actually excited to read. And wouldn't you know it, it's crazy hard to come by. I am on the waiting list at my library, but in the meantime, I thought I'd go ahead and issue Luke with his next Challenge.

Your Challenge: The Ambassador's Mission, by Trudi Canavan.

This book was chosen solely for the fact that its cover art reminded me of that of Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows, which I happen to know Luke loves. Since my aim was to get Luke trying a new author that he would enjoy, I'm really hoping similar cover art equates to Luke having a similar love of the contents.

Or he'll at least enjoy describing in detail the many ways in which it's inferior. Still fun!

(LUKE: Sweeeet, I've actually been wanting to have a look at this for a while.)