Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Books of the Year



Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Hard to believe the year is almost over and 2014 is upon us. I started blogging regularly in June, although my first real reviews went up in March. Since that time I've made new friends and discovered books I otherwise never would have read, or even known about. That's an amazing feeling. I'm grateful to everyone who comes by and leaves a comment, and I hope my readers discover a book here occasionally that is new or fun or takes them on an epic journey. That's the point of this blog, after all. To share a good book.

Here are my top 10 faves of 2013 in no particular order. The link will take you to my review, and I've included a link to Goodreads as well.

Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole is one of the best books I've read this year. It's got humor, drama and a great love story, and I was totally on the edge of my seat by the end, waiting to see what would happen to these characters. Can't recommend this highly enough. It's also told entirely in letters, and it worked for this story.

See my interview with Jessica Brockmole here.

Letters from Skye at Goodreads.

Rutherford Park

Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke is outstanding, probably in my top three of the year. I read a lot of books this year set in country houses but this one was by far the best. It has a real Downton Abbey vibe to it, but it's not just a DA knock- off. The author states on her website that the idea for the book had been with her for twenty years and was inspired by her grandfathers' service in a great house. She really captures the feel of a great house, and family, on the brink of change as World War I looms on the horizon. There are flawed characters here, human foibles on display and some tragedy and heartbreak as well- I was just really sucked in by this book and I understand a sequel is due in 2014. That will be one of my top draws for sure.

Rutherford Park at Goodreads.

Fangirl

Fangirl is the first book I've read by Rainbow Rowell, and man was I impressed. It's hilarious and moving and is guaranteed to resonate with anyone geeky at heart. I thought it was great. More Regan please. :)

Fangirl at Goodreads.

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin (spoilery review). To say I'm a big fan of A Song of Ice and Fire would be an understatement, and after a looong wait George RR Martin brought Jon, Tyrion and the rest of the cast back for another go- around. I really liked this book- it's big, sprawling, and truly epic. And you never really know what's going to happen. This is one of my favorite of the series, even though I think he is going a little overboard on the subplots and the story is just too big, but we see more of the world than ever and it is never less than compelling. Who knows if this series ever gets finished, but I am enjoying the ride.

A Dance with Dragons at Goodreads

Fractured (Slated, #2)

Fractured by Teri Terry is the sequel to Slated and is a thrill ride. We learn a lot more in this one about the circumstances surrounding Kyla's mindwipe, and things get very tense and dangerous for Kyla as she truly does not know who she can trust. This series totally rocks and Fractured is even better than Slated.

Fractured at Goodreads

Slated (Slated, #1)

Slated by Teri Terry grabbed me from the very beginning, as Kyla has been mindwiped and is being introduced to her new family- a family she has never met before. She soon learns there are very few, if any people, she can truly trust including the members of her own family! I loved this book and grabbed the sequel as soon as it came out, and will be chomping at the bit for book 3 in 2014.

Slated at Goodreads

The Paladin Prophecy (The Paladin Prophecy, #1)

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost. Another one of my favorites this year. This one is a YA about a guy (hey, a guy!) who is on the run and finds himself at an exclusive academy where many of the other students have "gifts" as well. This is longer than the average YA but I thought it was fantastic, mixing mythology and action and weird elements too. I didn't see this on very many blogs so it may have been overlooked by many, but the characters are great and if you love YA paranormal, you should give this a shot.

The Paladin Prophecy at Goodreads

13 Secrets

13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison is the third of the 13 series and I loved this book. This series seems to skew a little younger on the YA side but they are surprisingly dark so I think they're a great fit for older readers. Tanya and Rowan are reunited at Elvesden Manor after the events of the first two books and they must discover who is killing those who can see the fairies. The conclusion of the book, with everyone holed up inside the manor under attack by fairy creatures, is awesome. A great series all the way around.

13 Secrets at Goodreads.




The Vanishing Thief (Victorian Bookshop Mystery, #1)

The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker was a surprise, and a good one. I expected it to be a good cozy, but it was one of my favorite books of the year actually. Georgia Fenchurch is an antiquarian bookseller in Victorian London, and when she investigates the disappearance of a notorious thief she runs afoul of a duke who has his own reasons for wanting her investigation to stop. This has good period detail and a great story, and I will definetly be picking up the next installment of this series.

So have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Post #25/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

 
CURRENTLY READING 

Game (HP Pettersson, #1)





ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are in the public domain, rules judge 

The 24 Most Valuable Christmas Lessons from Calvin and Hobbes 

Stranded in Antarctica for Christmas, waiting for the icebreaker- this is kinda cool. At least they have some penguins come by and visit... 



So how was your week? 



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sunday Post #24/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Well I'm writing this on Saturday and yes, still have shopping to do! I kind of don't mind though, as I like the hustle and bustle of being out. Am I crazy? Probably! I probably won't be blogging much next week but I do hope to check in a bit and maybe post a few things as time allows. I hope everyone has a warm and relaxing holiday, with everything that makes the day special for you. 

Merry Christmas!!! 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG

Review: The Crab with the Golden Claws
Review: A Christmas Hope 
Sunday Post #23/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

CURRENTLY READING 

 Game (HP Pettersson, #1)

This book is a trip! I've seen a slew of reviews popping up for it, and they're right- it's great. The protagonist is not exactly likeable, but he's kinda funny in a slacker, totally self- centered way. He of course gets in WAY over his head when he accepts a game from a strange cell phone. Just say no to strange phones, people! 

ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

Rate the hottest dragon in pop culture courtesy of io9. Smaug? Yeah sure but I'm going with Vermithrax on this one. 

The 18 Most Dazzling Photos from National Geographic's history. Some of these are quite remarkable, check it out. 



Rogue is out of the X-Men movie. I don't think that bodes well- I thought the trailer was lame and Anna Paquin was one of the highlights of earlier movies. To cut her scene (and why only one scene?) just makes me more skeptical. I think this movie is going to suck anyway though.  

Are we going to get a Jonny Quest movie? Please yes. 

And the best... 41 cats who bit off a bit more than they can chew. You have to watch this... 

So how was your week? 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: The Crab with the Golden Claws

The Crab With the Golden Claws

The Crab with the Golden Claws is a relatively early entry in the Tintin series by Herge. Tintin, our intrepid reporter, gets pulled into an opium smuggling caper and makes the acquaintance of Captain Haddock, the tipsy companion who becomes a mainstay of the series in later volumes. There is the usual amount of slapstick comedy and outrageous coincidences, and the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson make an appearance as well, complicating things as usual.

Tintin runs into the smuggling ring quite by accident- he happens to come across a label from a crab tin that his dog Snowy finds in the trash. When a similar label turns up in the belongings of a man found dead at sea, Tintin makes a connection. His curiosity soon earns him the ire of the smugglers, and he finds himself imprisoned on a freighter. Escaping with Captain Haddock, they soon find themselves adrift in a lifeboat, stranded in the Sahara desert and then matching wits with the smugglers in an exotic Moroccan port.


The action is fast and furious and this one reads fast, with lots of narrow escapes. It's breezy fun, but This is not one of my favorite Tintin books, for various reasons. It’s very fast paced, which is good, but we seem to careen from event to event a bit much, even by the standards of this series. The story is a little less sophisticated than some of the later installments, and even the art seems a little less polished. Part of the problem could be that I recently read Tintin in Tibet and The Castafiore Emerald- both are later entries in the series and quite good, so this one may have just suffered by comparison.

The other issue I have is Captain Haddock. This is his first appearance, and while he is portrayed in later volumes as a lovable oaf, here he was just downright unlikeable, at least for me. He’s always been known for his fondness for drink, but here is a drunkard and a buffoon. He even attacks Tintin on several occasions! Not the most reliable ally…

Still, this is worth a read if you like the Tintin series, or just want a graphic novel style adventure with exotic locales that is suitable for both adults and children. I would not recommend this as the place to start though. While these can all be read as standalones, some are better entry points than others, and I think this one is of average quality in the series as a whole.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sunday Post #23/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The snow continues! The roads are finally better though, for about three days they were terrible. Welcome to winter! How is everyone's shopping coming, and more importantly are you enjoying the holiday season? 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG 

Thursday Quotables #2
Review: Ready Player One
Sunday Post #22/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading? 

CURRENTLY READING 

The Crab With the Golden Claws

The Crab with the Golden Claws. I'm slowly working my way through the Tintin series (at least the ones I have). I recently reviewed Tintin in Tibet and The Castafiore Emerald, now I'm going back towards the beginning to try an earlier episode. They can all pretty much be read as stand alone.

UPCOMING REVIEWS 

Game (HP Pettersson, #1)


Do you want to play a game? A guy finds a smartphone on a train after a hard night of partying... and the phone keeps calling him. OK that piqued my interest- I'm also a fan of the movie The Game and this seems kinda similar, even though I guess it's not really. I'm intrigued enough to give it a shot though... 

ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

io9's take on the new Hobbit movie. I want to see this one, but for the life of me can't figure out why we need 3 movies at 3 hours each to tell this story. Too much padding, I think. I'll go see it though. :) 

Which Middle Earth character Are You? Take this quiz, it is kinda fun. My result was Wizard, which surprised me a bit. 

Speaking of Middle Earth- Why Smaug Still Matters. A neat little essay. 

Emilia Clarke (Daenerys of Game of Thrones) has been cast as Sarah Connor in the new Terminator reboot. Apparently SHE'LL be back (and Arnie too). It doesn't ever end apparently.  

Meet Jane Austen's biggest fans. Interesting article, with pics, a good read if you're a fan. 

 So how was your week? 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday Quotables #2

quotation-marks4

Thursday Quotables is a meme hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. This is the place for a great line or quote from a book, whatever you want to share. For more details head on over to Lisa's blog and linky up, and join the fun! 

Ready Player One

The OASIS is the setting of all my happiest childhood memories. When my mom didn't have to work, we would log in at the same time and play games or go on interactive storybook adventures together. She used to have to force me to log out every night, because I never wanted to return to the real world. Because the real world sucked. 

Here we're learning about Wade's early life, and how the OASIS ( a virtual reality universe) has taken over the world, to the point where millions of people spend all their time there, go to school there, the whole nine yards. The OASIS is truly a fascinating place, where you can access any fictional world. Want to visit Middle- Earth, Pern, or any other fictional world? They're all there- who wouldn't want to go?

I just finished this book and loved it. Check out my review here.

From Goodreads:

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

Review: Ready Player One


Ready Player One

Ready Player One is an awesome thrill ride. Don’t know how else to describe it. Wade Watts is a gamer and hacker in a dystopian 2044. The world has changed, for the worse, and people all around the world log into the OASIS, a virtual reality wonderland, to escape the drudgery and horror of everyday life. The OASIS has permeated society to the point that Kids even go to school virtually. Wade lives with his aunt in a trailer, in what is basically a slum, but also has a hideout where he spends all his time logged into the OASIS. All his free time is devoted to winning a game, set in motion several years before by the creator of the OASIS- but he is not the only player. All over the world gamers and hackers compete to win the prize- a fortune and control of the OASIS. Clues were left behind by the creator of the OASIS- clues rooted in pop culture references from the 1980’s, his favorite decade. 

Everyone has an avatar in the OASIS, and this avatar is often more important to the player than their real life persona. Wade goes by the name Parzival in the OASIS, and when he uncovers a clue to the first puzzle in the game, he may have just taken a step into the big time. The problem is, another gamer makes the connection at the same time. Art3mis (named after the Greek goddess of the hunt) shows up, and the race is on. Art3mis is a well known gamer and blogger, and when Parzifal meets her he finds himself falling for her. Art3mis seems to have feelings for him too, but for her the game (and the prize) come first.

This is more than just a gamer competition though- there is also a company called Innovative Online Industries (IOI) that wishes to gain control of the OASIS and monetize it. And they don’t play nice. At stake is the virtual reality simulation that the entire world uses. Wade soon finds himself in danger outside the OASIS as well as in the virtual world. Tragedy strikes and Wade finds his life, both online and off, changed forever. Can he and Art3mis survive the game?

This book is just so much fun. The OASIS as described is fantastic, and the concept of clues buried in 80's movies, music and pop culture is unique.I actually thought the beginning of the book was a bit depressing, so in that sense the author succeeded in evoking the dystopian tone he was no doubt looking for. Once the pace picks up and things start happening, it turns into a real page turner.

Some personal highlights for me- getting to go inside the Tyrell building, from the movie Blade Runner, was a guilty pleasure of the first order. Love the way the author did it.  If you have a favorite movie from the 80’s, you may find it makes an appearance here. Having the classic videogame Joust play a prominent role in the story, as well as references to arcade chain Aladdin’s Castle, made me smile.

I do have some quibbles about the story. There are references to various programs and social media, such as Saturday Night Live and Youtube, that kind of took me out of the story. Does anyone think that SNL will still be on in 2044, or that Youtube will be just like today? Also Wade is something of an uber- hacker, but he’s only in high school. Sure there are good hackers that are young, I have no doubt, but some of the things Wade pulls off just strain credulity to the breaking point. I mean, really. The author lost me a couple times with that, but I just accepted it and moved on. Also, the last third of the novel just really stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. Wade makes a decision that risks his entire future, and bases it on a very risky gamble, and I just couldn’t buy it that anyone would risk all on such a flimsy hope.

The other issue I have is the nature of the narrative. There is plenty of good dialogue, but this is a very expository book. There are just pages and pages of description, both of the state of the world and of Wade’s own narrative. After reading books recently with lots of dialogue and witty repartee, this was an adjustment that, frankly, took me a while to get used to. Having said that, this is still a fascinating read. The ending was good, and has a great message about what’s important in life. It was also nice to have no cliffhanger, no wait for a sequel- just a good solid ending. The most fun here are the 80’s pop culture/ geek references, and the sheer imaginative scale of it all. A very impressive first novel.

From Goodreads:

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sunday Post #22/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Well the first full week of December is behind us and I feel like Christmas is approaching fast- like a freight train.  Hope you're having a great start to the holiday season as well. 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG

Review: The Vanishing Thief
Thursday Quotable #1 The Vanishing Thief 
Giveaway Winner The Clockwork Scarab 
Sunday Post #21/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

CURRENTLY READING

Dangerous Women 

COMING DOWN THE PIKE

Ready Player One

ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

See Entertainment Weekly's review of GRRM's The Princess and the Queen here




Go here to see 3!! behind the scenes videos of The Hobbit 2: Desolation of Smaug. Looks like fun. And Beorn's house looks fantastic, I want to go there! 

This is a neat article about a man who grew up without a car, a trend he says is growing among the current generation. I saw this on Twitter and wanted to share it here, an interesting read. 


So how was your week? 


Review: The Vanishing Thief

The Vanishing Thief (Victorian Bookshop Mystery, #1)

Georgia Fenchurch is an antiquarian bookseller in The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker. She is also, unbeknownst to most, a member of the Archivist Society, an organization that investigates disappearances and other delicate matters. Georgia has never married and is comfortable in her middle class life, and running the bookstore with her beautiful assistant Emma and working on Society cases takes up most of her time. 

Georgia is approached by a distraught young woman who wants the Society to find her neighbor, Nicholas Drake, who has been abducted. She suspects the Duke of Blackford has taken him for nefarious purposes. Georgia is reluctant to take the case at first but decides to pursue it. It is not long before she is asked to drop the case by no less than two members of the peerage. It turns out Drake is a thief and a blackmailer, and has been victimizing the upper crust, and there are several aristocrats who would prefer he not be found. One of those is the Duke of Blackford, who is a prime suspect in Drake’s disappearance.

Georgia has a complicated relationship with Blackford from the beginning- she is torn between viewing him as a suspect and a grudging admiration for the man, which soon turns into attraction. For his part, he seems to both hinder the investigation and help Georgia from time to time, even coming to her aid when she is in danger. Georgia soon discovers that Blackford has his own reasons for wanting Drake found- but Blackford wants to do the finding! More suspects among the aristocracy come to light and Georgia and the Society have their hands full finding out who is lying to them- it appears Drake has no shortage of enemies. Secrets are revealed and there are a few surprises too.

I liked Georgia a lot, she is a fun character, brave and determined. The fact that she is not of the aristocracy makes for a fun dynamic with Blackford and the other members of the gentry she comes in contact with. She is more a regular person, which I think makes it easy to relate to her. The supporting cast is good, from Georgia’s assistant Emma who comes from a dubious background to Lady Westover, an older woman who helps the Society gain access to the upper crust. I did at times have a little trouble keeping track of all the developments, I found myself having to flip back to reacquaint myself with a clue that had been laid down, but maybe that was just me. Also the ending seemed a little far- fetched to me, the reveal of who the villain is and the showdown seemed a little melodramatic. On the other hand, I really liked the scene where Georgia and Emma attend a masquerade ball in stunningly beautiful dresses –they are there to find a killer but are they the hunters or the hunted? They get separated and Georgia has to navigate the crowd, looking for a possible victim and a killer in a sea of costumes. I thought the author did a great job evoking the mood and sheer luxury of such an event- easily my favorite part of the book. Very well done.  

The Vanishing Thief is a fun cozy with interesting characters and a nice mystery. It is the first in the Victorian Bookshop series and I will definetly watch for the second installment. If you like cozies or mysteries set in the Victorian era, this is highly recommended. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday Quotable #1

quotation-marks4  

Thursday Quotables is a meme hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week. Whether it's something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you're invited to join in.

The Vanishing Thief (Victorian Bookshop Mystery, #1)

"Ser Broderick's note says we need to turn you into a society miss. Not an easy task when everyone knows everyone else's family tree back five generations. I'm afraid you'll have to have a questionable pedigree. Would you prefer slightly wanton or deliciously decadent?"

Here Georgia Fenchurch, an antiquarian bookseller, is investigating an abduction of a thief and blackmailer who has been victimizing high society. There are of course multiple suspects and Georgia and her friend Emma are preparing to invade drawing rooms and society functions to learn the truth... oh, and stay alive too.

I like this book, it's a cozy I suppose that just came out and I bought it off the shelf. I liked the cover and after paging through it I thought it sounded good. I like this time period, Victorian era, and it's the first of a series. Started out a bit slow but it's rolling now and is a lot of fun.

From Goodreads:

Georgia Fenchurch appears to be an unassuming antiquarian bookseller in Victorian London, but the life she leads is as exciting as any adventure novel. For Georgia is a member of the Archivist Society, a secret association of private investigators led by the mysterious Sir Broderick. 

When a frantic woman comes to Georgia claiming that her neighbor, Nicholas Drake, has been abducted by the notorious Duke of Blackford, Georgia and the Archivist Society agree to take the case. But Drake is no innocent—he is a thief who has been blackmailing many of the leading members of London society. To find Drake and discover who is behind his abduction, Georgia and her beautiful assistant, Emma, will have to leave the cozy confines of their bookshop and infiltrate the inner circles of the upper crust—with the help of the dashing but dubious Duke of Blackford himself.

But the missing thief and his abductor are not the only ones to elude Georgia Fenchurch. When she spies the man who killed her parents years ago, she vows to bring him to justice once and for all…at any cost.

If you want to join in the fun, link up over at Bookshelf Fantasies and share your quotable. 



 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Giveaway winner- The Clockwork Scarab

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)

Congratulations to Ashlie Dawkins for winning the giveaway for a copy of The Clockwork Scarab. A copy of the book is on it's way to you, Ashlie! Hope you enjoy!!