Thursday 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!


Still a couple of hours to go in my little corner of the world. But in some places it's been 2010 for a while now.

I wish everyone the best for the coming year and hope it will include lots of reading and good books.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Reading Challenges for 2010

So after failing at the TBR challenge in 2009. In 2010 I'm going to take part in the DIK reading challenge. Details on DIK here. Basically you have the choice of the 188 books on the DIK island. There is an incredibly wide range from the classics, to romance, to sci-fi, so should definitely be something there to interest me every month.

Also as Nicole suggested I'm going to try and read 52 books in 52 weeks. Which should make a little dent (at least) in my TBR pile.

Edited to Add - I've also joined the m/m reading challenge for 2010. Aiming to read 20+ stories. (If anyone knows how to make the button in my sidebar completely viewable please let me know. I suck at the tech stuff.)

Thursday 24 December 2009

Book of the Year, Breakout Author, Series of the Year

It's only when I came to look back through the books I'd read that I was able to pick out my top choice. And an author I am definitely looking forward to following in the future. My favourite book of 2009 and break out author - Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville. She brought two distinctly different characters to life in Jack and D, and I hope to read more of their adventures soon.

In December I started to read manga for the first time. And my series of the year and books I haven't been able to put down since I got them are the Loveless volumes by Yun Kouga. Look for my reviews of the remaining volumes in 2010.

All that remains to say is Happy Christmas. May Santa bring you lots of books. :)

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Favourite Books of 2009

When I look back on my reading of 2009 I realise a couple of things. 1) Most of my favourite books have been m/m. 2) I think this may be the year that I became disenchanted with the UF genre. Something I didn't think I'd ever say. Maybe I've overglommed and just need a break. (At the moment I feel very drawn to steampunk)

So Favourite books of the year:-


Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon
A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon
Hero by Perry Moore
Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville
Mind Fuck by Manna Francis
Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

Of Urban Fantasy I have most enjoyed:-
Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
In the Blood by Adrian Phoenix
Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl

Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong - And if I could have one reading wish it would be that there is going to be another Nadia Stafford book

Comfort Read of 2009
I have just noticed that I never wrote a review of this book - how remiss of me - but my comfort read of 2009 is The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop. I wish we could have left the older characters behind to concentrate on the new, but it's a book I love to dip into. It's the one that I keep next to my computer so when I'm waiting for things to load or the internet to come back up, I fetch it off the shelf and have a little read.

Looking back at 2009 I definitely didn't read as many books as I have in previous years. It been a busy year what with one thing and another. Hopefully 2010 will have better things (and more reading) in store.

So, were there any breakout authors for me this year? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Monday 21 December 2009

Make a Snowflake

I was just going through my e-mail deleting stuff and I found this link from a couple of years ago.Make a Snowflake.

Be warned it's quite addictive.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

This is a story I probably wouldn't have picked up if it hadn't been chosen as a pick for the m/m book group. And I am so glad it was chosen otherwise I would have missed out on a real treat.

Ten years ago, the Human Hemovore Virus blazed through the world, and left the few victims who survived unable to eat, allergic to sunlight and craving the taste of blood.

Mark Jensen used to think V-positives were incredibly sexy with their pale, flawless skin and taut, lean bodies. Not anymore. Not since he’s been stuck procuring under-the-counter feline blood for his control-freak boss, Jonathan Varga. Why cat blood? Mark has never dared to ask.

It’s not as if he’s usually at a loss for words. He can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang”. But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away.

So he endures their strange, endless routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, painting solid black canvases. Mark hurling insults as he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes and maps out the mysterious “routes” he’s required to drive.

Then a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of events neither of them saw coming. As secrets of Jonathan’s past come to light, it becomes clear all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.
This story is set in an alternate universe where sufferers of the HHV virus (yes I know that's virus virus) who survive the four stages of the disease become technically what we'd call vampires. They live a very long time and have to drink blood (and lots of oil) to survive.

The story is told from Mark's point of view and I loved him. As a character he reminded me somewhat of Adrien English though more solid (I always imagine Adrien as being quite slight physically). He has a very snarky inner voice and a self-deprecating sense of a humour, a combination which I am a complete sucker for.
Damn it. Where had I been while my body was hurtling towards forty?
Possibly my favourite line in the book. :)

Jonathan remains something of an enigma, which for me worked very well. We only know as much as Mark knows, and Jonathan especially for the first part of the book keeps part of himself back from Mark.

I thought the world-building was incredibly well-realized. You got a real sense that HHV was a terrible disease, that only a lucky few were able to 'survive', and once they became vampires they carried the continual possibility of infecting someone else. Someone else who may not be as 'lucky' to turn into a vampire. The day-to-day practicalities of caring for and being a vampire were an integral part of the story - getting blood, being careful not to pass the disease on, staying out of the sunlight. And not in a cheesy vampire movie way, but a mundane 'this is something I'd have to do for the rest of my immortal life way'. Immortality may sound like an attractive option but when your bagged blood supply fills with clots are you still going to think it's romantic?

If I had any quibbles it would be that I wished we'd had a strong sexual scene between Mark and Jonathan, something more than what happens at the end. All the way through I felt like we were building to a climax but that we never quite reached a peak. (Thanks must go here to Diane who pointed me in the direction of.Jordan Castillo Price's website where there is an alternate sexy ending. Please read Hemovore first as the alt-ending has spoilers).

I am so glad I picked this story up. And I will definitely be checking out Jordan Castillo Price's backlist. I hope at some point in the future there might be another visit to the Hemovore universe.

Monday 14 December 2009

Present Tense Problems

I was over at the Rain on the Roof blog checking out Sarah's latest m/m recommendations and was intrigued by The Strongest Shape, so decided to go check out the excerpt. (Something I always try to do when it's a new author to me unless I've agreed to read a book for the bookclub).

The excerpt begins
Caleb doesn't actually remember how he ended up coming home with Jason. He remembers going to Jason's concert alone after Damian broke up with him.
I continue reading, I don't know what the problem is, but for some reason it's the reading equivalent of trying to swim through treacle. Then I realize - this is written in the present tense.

I don't know why but I struggle to read present tense. I find it hard going.

Maybe, it's because growing up all the stories you hear as a child are past tense - "Once upon a time there was a..." Maybe it's the difficulty of getting your brain to assimilate a story that is happening THIS INSTANT.

I've found I can take it in very small doses where it's used mainly for effect, for example in the prologue of Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. For me as far as present tense is concerned it's a question of less is more.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Falling Out of the Story

Whenever I read a story I like to lose myself in it. One of the things that I really don't like is when something says in big quote marks:-

"You're reading a story!"

This is usually caused by info-dumping. I think the last time it happened was when I read Karen Chance's first Cassie Palmer story. And it happened again this week when I started reading Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland.

Right at the beginning of the story the heroine Kara has summmoned a demon...
He towered over me, his head topping mine by several feet...
Erm...hold on a moment did you say several feet? Exactly how high are the ceilings in your house anyway? But luckily the heroine can take a few moments away from worrying about the demon in her house to inform the reader
Fortunately for him, my Acadian style house had the traditional fifteen foot ceilings designed for the subtropical climate of south Louisiana where high ceilings helped keep houses cool.
Great. Good to know. But between those two sentences you've knocked me completely out of the story. If the heroine can take time aaway from the demon in her living room to inform me about the intricacies of Acadian architecture why should I be bothered about the freakishly tall other planar being?

I'm hoping this is a one-off as I've heard really good things about this book and at some point this year I would like to find a new UF author to follow. I've been kind of underwhelmed with the UF I've read this year.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Loveless Volume 1

And now for something completely different. My first manga. I picked this up after watching the Loveless anime and admit I have glommed the entire series (up to volume 8 so far).

So the blurb.
When 12-year old Ritsuka discovers a posthumous message from his brother Seimi indicating that he was murdered, he becomes involved in a shadowy world of spell battles and secret names. Together with the mysterious Soubi, the search to find Seimi's killer and uncover the truth begins! But in a world where mere words have unbelievable power, how can you find true friendship and happiness when your very name is Loveless?
One Amazon review compared Loveless to marmite - you either love it or hate it. From the glomming you can probably tell I'm in the former category.

The story begins with Ritsuka having just transferred to a new school. He's introduced to his new classmates and despite being somewhat aloof, one of the girls in the class - Yuiko - decides she's going to be his friend. Soubi is waiting for him outside of school. Soubi - we find out is a fighter unit - and Ritsuka is a sacrifice. The pair of them are to battle other fighter and sacrifice pairs through wordspell. Basically the fighter units battle using words but it is the sacrifices who receive the damage in the form of restrictions. The battle ends when the sacrifice is completely restricted.

Because of this emphasis on the power of words, names are very important. Fighter and sacrifice usually share the same (real) name. For example there is a unit called Breathless, both fighter and sacrifice sharing the same name, which is found somewhere on their bodies. Here Soubi and Ritsuka are something of an anomaly, they don't share a name.

We learn things as Ritsuka learns them so as yet it is unclear why the battles are taking place. There's also a mystery regarding Ritsuka himself, something happened two years ago and now his mother no longer thinks he's the 'real' Ritsuka. Part of her 'illness' involves testing him - giving him food which the 'real' Ritsuka didn't like and when he likes it, she hits him. A fact he is keeping secret from his friends and teacher. Ritsuka knows he has changed and worries about changing back to the Ritsuka of before, in a way he feels like for that to happen the Ritsuka he is now would have to (figuratively) die.

In the Loveless universe all children are born with cat ears and a tail, these features are lost when the individual loses their virginity. This allows an immediate distinction between who is considered an adult and who is considered a child. And also places further definition on what is innocence and experience. (Example Ritsuka's teacher is 23 but still has her ears, which is something of a talking point!) The child characters have a much greater emotional expressiveness through these additional ears. Whereas the adult characters - notably Soubi - are harder to read.

Some readers may find Soubi's attachment to Ritsuka a little disturbing - after all Soubi is an adult and Ritsuka still a child. But for me, it is more to do with the fact that Soubi - as a fighter unit - has no place without his sacrifice. He is incomplete. (His friend Kio repeatedly calls him a pervert, an accusation Soubi denies every time).

The other notable character in this volume is Yuiko - the annoying girl character. She eventually becomes a) much less annoying and b) Ritsuka's friend, and does provide some of the more comic moments which help relieve the tension.
Ritsuka - And also, you need to be smarter. I hate idiots.
Yuiko - Am I stupid?
Ritsuka - You are. Read more books! Read! I thought you were illiterate!
Yuiko - You want me to read?
Ritsuka - That's right.
Okay, this seems a little harsh, but Yuiko is one of those people that doesn't do subtle, unless you hit her over the head with a metaphorical brick she isn't going to get it. Once Ritsuka persuades her to stop referring to herself in the third person she immediately becomes 90% less annoying.

I love the little snarky asides you get in the manga which were missing from the anime.

Because spells rely on wordplay the language during the spell battles is very precise. Beautifully written and illustrated, I'm impatiently awaiting the arrival of volume 2, which for some reason was harder to get hold of then 3,4,5,6,7 and 8.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Coming Up on the Blog this Week

I'm going to have my first review of some Manga - Loveless Volume 1.

And I'm also going to start a couple of posts - these will probably be occasional things - one on my favourite animals in fiction, which will no doubt be a short list as I'm not a huge fan of animals in fiction*, and another on unlikely heroes, which may also be a short list. :) Mainly because it's taking me a lot longer to read books at the moment.

There will also be a review of Quid Pro Quo by Manna Francis, which I'm probably going to do as a series of reviews as the book itself is a novella and several short stories.

And finally, I couldn't resist and nipped into Borders again today. I picked up:-

Vanished by Kat Richardson
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

* - People will probably get a very good idea from the posts that I have a little bit of a warped idea of what makes a good animal character.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Mind Fuck by Manna Francis

Mind Fuck is the first book in the Administration Series by Manna Francis. Set in the future dystopia of New London it concerns the investigation into a series of suspicious deaths that might be corporate sabotage. It's also follows the developing 'relationship' between Val Toreth, interrogator for the Administration and sadist, and Keir Warrick, corporate executive and masochist.

As the tagline says - "There are no bad guys or good guys. There are only better guys and worse guys." Warrick being one of the better guys and Toreth being one of the worse guys. It's a world where dissent is dealt with through 're-education' and those lucky enough to have corporate status can live a relatively nice life as long as they keep the party line.

Told mainly from the point of view of Toreth, this allows us an incredible insight into his perspective. What you don't appreciate here (until you've read the later stories and then come back and re-read this one) is how multilayered the characters are. As readers we really only scratch the surface here, each book, each story takes you deeper into the world.

Manna Francis is a brilliant writer (excuse the bias) she makes you side with Toreth, appreciate how compelling he is as a character, yet at the same time she doesn't hide what he is. He's a sociopath (this is explored in more detail in later books), he interrogates people for a living (including torture), he'll virtually screw anything with a pulse, he uses people unapologetically but there is something about him that fascinates. Toreth is perhaps not as clever as Warrick on an intellectual level (Warrick is a genius after all) but he has a survival instinct that rivals a cornered wolf.

Keir Warrick is less well defined. We learn he is calm, self-controlled and precise and perhaps prefers to play the game with the deck stacked in his favour. One of the things that maybe pulls Toreth towards Warrick is that occasionally the other man surprises him. That he is unpredictable.

Mind Fuck might at first seem quite a provocative title. But it actually has multiple meanings. As well as being slang for the psychoprogramming department (the department responsible for reeducation), it sums up the initial relationship between Warrick and Toreth. And Toreth says to Warrick in their first conversation together.
"I fuck minds."
Warrick however is not easily intimidated - perhaps part of what attracts Toreth - and his corporation is developing a form of virtual reality known as the Sim, so he later responds:-
"Come and experience the future of mind fucking..."
This continues...
" told me you rape minds."
"I said, 'I fuck minds,' I think you'll find."
Warrick shrugged. "It's all in the inflection, really."
This is quite a good example of how their relationship is one of shifting power dynamics and oneupmanship. Toreth himself doesn't see, or doesn't want to see how attached (not the right word but I can't think of a better one) he is to Warrick. As readers we see this more through the eyes of other characters - Marian
Toreth was manipulative and dangerous, and Warrick understood him perfectly.
and Toreth's admin Sara.

This is not a romance. It is erotic. It is the story of the beginnings of a relationship between two people. By relationship I mean an interaction which has the potential to become something more. It's probably the best book I've read this year and I fear my review has not done it justice. I love the Administration Series and hope there will be many more books to come.

* I think this has to be the most times I've used the word fuck in a review.