Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? April 30

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by Sheila of Book Journey | Continuing
Adventures Of A True Bookaholic. Thanks for keeping us all on track with our reading for the last two or so years now.

After the last few abysmal weeks of reading, I had a really good week last week.
I finished reading:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Fiction, science fiction, teen. As good on this read as it was on my first read. A bit better in some ways as I was now a bit more aware of the various elements setting up the story for the later books in the trilogy. Definitely a highly recommended book for both teens and adults. Katniss is quite the intriguing character, to say the least. I'm just glad that this is a world we don't live in. I don't think I'd be all that likely to survive.
 Not to mention that it's a book worth re-reading, along with the sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I really want to see the movie - although I have this feeling that I'm not going to until it comes out on DVD. That's just the way things have been going for me lately.

Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward. Fiction, romance, paranormal. Lover Reborn is the tenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. A really good read once the story took off. I just found that it took more than half the book to truly do so.

Star Wars Panel To Panel Volume 2 by Randy Stradley. Graphic Novel, art, fiction. This one surprised me. I never thought I'd be enjoying a book based on graphic novels and their art so much. It's intrigued me enough that I want to look closer at this part of the Extended Universe a bit more closely. The artwork is just amazing in so many of the panels. Definitely a very quick read as the majority of each page is given over to the artwork/page panels rather than to text.

I'm currently reading (and this is another longish list):
Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Fiction, science fiction, teen. Based around a very interesting concept, this is turning out to be surprisingly good. Of course, it is a teen book, so some of the problems/issues are a bit predictable, but it's a good read none-the-less.

In Her Name: The Last War by Michael R. Hicks. Fiction, Science fiction. This is the second omnibus of Michael R. Hicks' work that I've read, and I'm absolutely loving it. The first was In Her Name. This one details the first contact between the two races and the start of the war we read about ending in the other book. My favourite book of the week, to be honest.

Facing Up: A Remarkable Journey To The Summit Of Mount Everest by Bear Grylls. Non Fiction, Biography. This one's on the back burner a bit, to be honest, although I've been enjoying it a lot.

True Strength by Kevin Sorbo. Non Fiction, Biography. Definitely a good book, but the most recent book I've started, so I can't say that much about it yet.

Beyond Snapshots by Rachel Devine and Peta Mazey. Non Fiction, Photography. As far into this book as I've gotten, it's been incredibly helpful, but I can see that the focus of the subject matter isn't really my interest. This book is geared around taking family and kid photos. The technical side of the book is incredible though. Easy to understand and make use of. Gotten via NetGalley.

With all of these on the go, I don't really think I should plan on starting more books this week :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Top Five Fantasy Authors

There are so many good fantasy authors out there that it's hard to know what to read next. And everyone's suggestions are going to be very different too. This list is only my top five favourite authors. I think I'd have a nearly impossible time narrowing it down to just five or ten books if I were to do the list that way. I know that if I asked you for yours, you'd come up with something very different.
  1. J.R.R. Tolkien. You can't have a list of fantasy authors (unless it's for a specific sub-genre of fantasy like urban fantasy) without J.R.R. Tolkien on it. However, I'm not just bowing to pressure here, Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings is my all-time favourite book. It might be Tolkien's best known book, bot it's not the only one. There's The Hobbit and The Silmarillion set within the world of Middle-Earth, but also some non-Middle-Earth books like Mr. Bliss.

    All of them are well-written, detailed and wonderfully descriptive, particularly the books set within Middle-Earth, which was something he worked on for most of his life. For a world that feels real - detailed and thoroughly described, as well as a great story with layers just waiting to be discovered, I can't think of a better author.

  2. Elizabeth Moon. Especially the book The Deed of Paksenarrion. The whole world she's created though is detailed and vivid. One of the things that puts Elizabeth Moon's work on this list is the additional realism she's added throughout. Mud, blisters, the cold etc. All little things that remind you that a fantasy world still has it's little problems and isn't all sunshine and roses. A lot of that comes from her own background - both owning livestock now and a past in the military. Basically, for all this is a fantasy world, Paks feels like a very real character, as do the rest of the cast: Stammel, Arcolin, Arvid, Duke Phelan, all of them feel like real people. Quite honestly, this is a series where I keep waiting eagerly for the next book to come out. For some variety, Elizabeth Moon also writes science fiction, more specifically military science fiction.

  3. Mercedes Lackey. One of the more prolific writers on my shelf, and one that I can keep coming back to again and again. Her Valdemar series is at over thirty books at my last count, and some of them manage to bring me to tears every time I read them. Yes, some of the stories are a bit formulaic - having the same "type" of main character or what have you, but I find that regardless of that, the stories are ones I can read again and again. And that's just the Valdemar books.

    Mercedes Lackey has also written several other series, including the Free Bards books (starting with The Lark And The Wren), the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, several of which are reviewed here, including the most recent one Beauty and the Werewolf, and a teen series.

    Personally, I find her books to be the kind I can pick up at any time, almost in any order now, and enjoy. Great for pulling myself out of a reading slump, or when I'm just not feeling a hundred percent.

  4. Jo Graham. The perfect (in my mind at least) blend of history and fantasy. My favourites of hers are Hand of Isis and Black Ships, although she's written other books as well, including several Stargate novels (which would be more Science Fiction than Fantasy). I absolutely love the way she's taken the time period and made it real, and yet added the fantasy as well.  Hand of Isis is retelling the story of Cleopatra and her life - a story we know, yet in this telling, I kept going "if only". Black Ships has taken the story of The Aeneid as told by Virgil, and fleshed it out into a full novel. Each of the books in the Numinous World, though set in a completely different period of time is connected by a thread of reincarnation. Something I honestly find quite intriguing.

  5. Patricia Briggs. You can't have a list like this these days without having some urban fantasy on in. That said, Patricia Briggs isn't just a place-holder here. She's my favourite of the urban fantasy authors I've read. Starting with Moon Called, the Mercy Thompson series, together with the spin-off series Alpha and Omega is possibly one of the best out there.

    In a lot of the urban fantasy novels the paranormal is kept completely secret. In others it's completely exposed to the public. The troubles from it's coming out are already over with. In the Mercy Thompson series, some parts of the paranormal world are out - others are still secret, and the stresses and backlash are going on as the books progress. And, of course, I just like the main character, Mercedes Thompson herself.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Snapshots - April 28

Saturday Snapshots is a fun little meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books each Saturday. The idea of the meme is to post a snapshot or photo you or a member of your family has taken. While I try to post photos taken in the previous week, this week I wasn't able to do that - the photos are all still on the camera right now - though there are a few that I really want to see.

This one was taken at the Ferry dock on Bowen Island a few weeks ago. Just a common Seagull, but I like taking photos of birds in flight.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
Copyright: 2008

The product description:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
As I said in my last review, The Hunger Games got a lot of press when it first came out, and even more on the release of the movie, which is currently in theatres. Actually, it was the release of the movie that made me re-read the book this time.

I have to say that I found it as good this time as I did last time, and in some ways, found it even more intriguing. Mostly due to noticing the various hints of things to come in the later two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Not to mention having skimmed through books like The Girl Who Was On Fire, a book of essays on the world of The Hunger Games, including aspects of the different characters. All these factors combined to make me both more aware of the details of the characters and world that Suzanne Collins has created and more thoughtful about the read.

 Yes, this world is a violent and brutal place - It's perfectly normal for people to starve to death, and any world where children being forced to kill each other on TV is seen as normal and entertaining can't be called anything but violent and cold, but at the same time, The Hunger Games isn't only about that. It's also about doing the right thing, even when that's nearly impossible. This isn't just a book glorifying violence, it's more.

Katniss is quite the character too. From the start, she's a rule-breaker, breaking the rules about hunting - of course, that's simply the only way she and her family: mother and sister, can survive. But, the skills she picks up in hunting will serve her well in the arena, as will the attitude. Katniss is a survivor, and it shows. But, there's more to the games than simply being able to find food and avoid the other tributes. And those games (or not games) are where she's going to have a bit more trouble.

The Hunger Games is a teen book, and it shows with the inevitable love triangle aspect, but that just adds to the struggle for Katniss. Who will she choose? By the end of the Games, the question might be more "who can she choose?" Peeta or Gale? That question will last through the whole trilogy.

Teen book or not, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is an immensely popular book that will grab the attention of more than just the teen readers out there. If you haven't read it yet, it's well worth the time.

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Time To Read?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite time to read is.

Please leave either your response in the comments or a link to your response.

My answer is:
Probably the later evenings - just before bed. In reality, it's "any time I can get". I nearly always have a book within reach, but I do like to read in bed at night. There's something soothing about winding down the day with a couple of chapters from a good book. On the other hand, I find myself going "just one more chapter" sometimes. That used to be more common than it is now though. Notable books where I've read into the mornings include: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward and His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik.

Despite that being my favourite time to read, I sometimes feel as though I get most of my reading done on my breaks at work.

Favourite time or not though, when it comes to a really good book, any time is a good time to read it.

What's your favourite time to read?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lover Reborn - J.R. Ward

Lover Reborn
J.R. Ward
NAL Hardcover
Copyright Date: March 27th, 2012

The product description:
#1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward’s novels of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continue as a vampire warrior crosses the line between life and death…and ventures into an erotic world of dark dreams and darker desires.

Ever since the death of his shellan, Tohrment has been unrecognizable from the vampire leader he once was. Physically emaciated and heartbroken beyond despair, he has been brought back to the Brotherhood by a self-serving fallen angel. Now, fighting once again with ruthless vengeance, he is unprepared to face a new kind of tragedy.

When Tohr begins to see his beloved in his dreams—trapped in a cold, isolated netherworld far from the peace and tranquillity of the Fade—he turns to the angel in hopes of saving the one he has lost. But because Lassiter tells him he must learn to love another to free his former mate, Tohr knows they are all doomed....

Except then a female with a shadowed history begins to get through to him. Against the backdrop of the raging war with the lessers, and with a new clan of vampires vying for the Blind King’s throne, Tohr struggles between the buried past and a very hot, passion-filled future…but can his heart let go and set all of them free?
Lover Reborn is the tenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which starts with the novel Dark Lover. To be honest, although I've been waiting for Tohr's story, this wasn't my favourite of the books to date. I just didn't feel that the focus was there on his story as much. There were just too many other things going on at the same time, and new characters being introdued: Issues between John and Xhex, Layla, Quhinn, Saxton and Blay. Not to mention the main event storyline, a new contender in the realms of "bad guy".

J.R. Ward is heading more in the direction of urban fantasy rather than paranormal romance with this series, I think, coming up with storylines that span several books at a time. Not that that's a bad thing, it just seems to be pushing the "happily ever after" that a romance novel requires slightly out of the center focus. Of course, there hasn't been any real firm boundaries between the two genres at all.

I did like Lover Reborn, despite my grumbling, it's just that it took just over half of the book for the story to really take off. But, once it did, I couldn't put it down - as per normal for the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

The whole series has reached a point in the last few books where it's no longer possible to really read the individual novels out of order, which I think you could do fairly easily with the earlier books. Too much of the story now revolves around the events from the previous books.

Which might be where my frustration with this book came from - I don't want to give any spoilers of any sorts, but I didn't feel as though much of the story was resolved - aside from the requisite happy ending for the two main characters.

Still, as I said, I did enjoy this instalment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I'm looking forward to the next.

Star Wars Panel To Panel Volume 2 - Randy Stradley

Star Wars Panel To Panel Volume 2
Randy Stradley
Dark Horse Comics
Copyright: 2007

The product description:
From 5,000 years before Luke Skywalker first picked up a lightsaber to nearly 150 years after the events in Return of the Jedi, Dark Horse Comics has chronicled the major events in every era of the Star Wars galaxy in amazing drawings and paintings by some of the most accomplished artists in our own galaxy. In this all-new companion to the first Star Wars Panel to Panel volume, we've spotlighted not only the stunning work of comics' greatest artists, but also the legion of characters Dark Horse has contributed to Star Wars' Expanded Universe - characters who have not only carried the romance and adventure of the galaxy far, far away far beyond the events in the films, but those who have made the jump from the pages of comic books to television and the silver screen! Every Star Wars fan will cherish this look back, forward and beyond!
This one honestly surprised me. I love Star Wars, but I've never been big on graphic novels. As a result, although I have all three of the Rogue Squadron graphic novel omnibus editions, I've yet to read them - and I never really thought I'd be wanting to read the rest of the comics. Now though, I'm intrigued.

Star Wars Panel To Panel Volume 2 takes the reader on a quick trip through Star Wars history as written in the comics from five thousand years before the movies to a hundred years or so after, showing highlights from all the comics and the artists in a full page format with a brief summary of what's going on: who, when and why etc as well as how it fits with the history as given in the movies etc. As a result, most of this book is art-based, making it a very quick, though intriguing work.

As an introduction to the (confusing) world of the Star Wars comics/graphic novels, I think that Panel To Panel serves very well. Now I have a bit more of an understanding of which series fits where, and a definite appreciation for the various styles of art included in the books. Some are more flat appearing, others are just gorgeous, detailed full-page paintings.

Beautifully illustrated and fun, though I wish there had been more detail in the captions. Oh well, I guess I might have to give the graphic novels another try if I really want to know what's going on in the stories referenced.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - April 23

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each Monday by Sheila of Book Journey: Continuing Adventures Of A True Bookaholic...
The idea is to chart the books you've read, the books you are currently reading and the ones you intend to read.

As I noted last week, I've been having trouble finishing books lately. On Tuesday last week I made a list of the books I was reading. None of them have been completed, and the list has only gotten longer. Instead I've been doing things like re-doing the blog layout, photography and the like.

Currently the list of books I'm reading is:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Fiction, science fiction, teen. A re-read of a great novel that I enjoyed a while ago.

Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward. Fiction, paranormal romance. The latest book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I know I said last time that I wasn't racing through this book, but I have to say that that has changed. I'm really enjoying it now.

Facing Up: A Remarkable Journey To The Summit Of Mount Everest by Bear Grylls. Non-Fiction, biography, outdoors. I'm a couple of chapters in now and finding this book to be great reading.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Fiction, teen. This is an intriguing one. I've had the book for a while now, and finally started reading it. The world is a weird one, where love is viewed as a disease and everyone is eagerly waiting to get the cure for it, which is given after your eighteenth birthday.

I want to read:
I'm thinking of giving the three omnibus editions of the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron comics by Dark Horse another try. Beyond that, I think I have quite enough on my plate.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Snapshots - April 21

Saturday Snapshots is a fun little non-book-related meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. The idea is to post a photo that you or a friend or family member has taken.

I've got a couple to post this week:

Here's hoping that the Canucks keep going with the series. I made this cake back around the second game, and only just got around to pulling the photo off of my camera. The cake itself is made from scratch from a recipe that's at least three generations old now. And absolutely delicious!

This was one of my first shots with a macro lens. I have to say I really like the effects it gives, but it's challenging to use too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Audiobook?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite audiobook is.

Please leave either a link to your response or your response in the comments.

My answer is:
The BBC Radio Play version of The Lord of the Rings. Thirteen hours long, and every minute of it is done extremely well. This isn't simply a narrator doing the whole thing, but a  full cast extravaganza. You've got Ian Holm, who does the voice of Frodo, Michael Hordern doing Gandalf's voice, Peter Woodthorpe for Gollum, and he does a really good job of it too, and Robert Stevenson doing Aragorn's voice. On top of that there's the music which is also extremely well done.

So much of this one is taken directly from Tolkien's own descriptions and the dialogue is word for word in many places that the magic is still there. And then, there's the inclusion of the poem Bilbo's Last Song, which is a separate book on it's own, enchantingly illustrated by Pauline Baynes.

When I'm listening to this thing I'm ending up completely involved with the story - laughing along at some points, jumping out of my skin at others - I remember one point where I swear I jumped several inches and ended up having trouble getting to sleep afterwards - and even ending up with tears in my eyes.

This version of the Lord of the Rings is one I've listened to several times now and I love it every time.

So, what's your favourite audio-book, and why?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

I know it's been quiet around here the last couple of weeks. I guess I've been in a bit of a reading slump - well that and doing a whole lot of other things like taking photos and going camping. Photography has been a bit of a priority for me these days, having just gotten a new macro lens - something I've wanted since I got the camera a few years ago. Now I'm trying to learn more about photography and how to use my camera better.

I do have several books on the go, and there are a couple I finished in the last week or so too. Consider this a bit of a late "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" post if you wil.

Finished books:
White Tiger by Kylie Chan. Fiction, fantasy, e-book. I've read the book, in fact the whole trilogy before and absolutely loved it.  One of the things I find heat, which I stated in my last review is the way that this whole series is peopled by a whole different world and culture that the usual urban fantasy that I've read.

Crusade by David Weber and Steve White. Fiction, science fiction, e-book. I read Crusade, and some of the other books in the series years ago. To be honest, this is my favourite of the series, and I almost think of it as a stand-alone book. This time I was inspired to read it by my read of the Michael R. Hicks In Her Name omnibus edition. My favourite bits are the two speeches made by Howard Anderson towards the end of the book. They just stick in  my head - even years later I remembered them and was looking forward to reading them again.

Starting A Successful Business In Canada Kit from Self Counsel Press. Non Fiction, business. I have an idea, now I'm just figuring out how to take it somewhere. Anyway, this book is clear and easy to understand.

I'm reading several books too, although it's somewhat slow going these days.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen. I've read the book before, but in honour of the movie, I decided to read it again. Currently, I'm about half way through and enjoying the read as much this time as I did last time. Last time I put the book down, Katniss was just past the arena fire.

Lover Reborn, the latest book in J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Fiction, Paranormal Romance. As much as I loved the earlier books in this series, I'm finding this one to be a bit of a slog. Of course, I'm only half way in at the moment, so I'm waiting for the story to just take off completely.

Canadian Small Business Kit for Dummies by Margaret Kerr and Jo-Ann Kurtz. Non Fiction, business. As I said, I've got an idea that I'm working on fleshing out right now. For the moment, I'm not going to say anything more about it. As for the book, well normally I hate the "Dummies" series, if only for the name, but this one is clear and actually fairly funny at times.

Facing Up: A Remarkable Journey To The Summit Of Mount Everest by Bear Grylls. Non Fiction, Outdoors, Biography. I've only just started reading this one to very high recommendations. I do know I loved both his Living Wild survival guide and Facing The Frozen Ocean - not to mention the t.v. series Man Vs. Wild.

In terms of photography, this might just be a really neat coincidence, or it might be a bit of a sign. I'm starting to think about microstock photography, and guess what just got approved from NetGalley: Beyond Snapshots by Rachel Devine and Peta Mazey. Already, within the first few pages, I'm finding a whole lot of helpful information. This is a book I may end up having to buy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Favourites: Your Favourite Book From March?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking the question I should have asked last week: What was your favourite read during the month of March?

My answer is simple:
The omnibus edition of In Her Name by Michael R. Hicks.

Honestly, this was a book that grabbed my attention and held it from about the tenth page on. Even re-reading the first third of the book was as exciting as the first time.

For my full thoughts, please check out my review.

What was your favourite book from March?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday Snapshots - April 7

Saturday Snapshots is hosted each week by Alyce of At Home With Books. It's my favourite of the non-book-related memes I've seen.

The idea is to post a photo or a snapshot you or a friend/family member has taken. It doesn't even need to have been taken in the last week - although I'm trying to do that now.

This one was taken last Monday:
Hummingbird at the feeder. Not sure what species though. I just feel lucky to have been able to get this one at all. I'd seen them zipping by (and heard them too), but never managed to get my camera up in time to catch them. I'd just given up and gone back to the door to go back inside and there it was!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Source For Books?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite source for your books is. Your local bookstore? Used bookstore? the library?

I know the library is a popular source for books due to the popularity of the Library Loot meme.

Please leave either a link to your response or your response itself in the comments.

My answer:
I'm going to have to say my local bookstore is my favourite, although it's closely followed by a used bookstore - Russell Books in Victoria. It's not the other way around, simply due to travel time, frequency and the cost of getting there. Still, the vast majority of the history books in my Unread Books List each year comes from Russell (those that aren't textbooks, anyway).

I wish I used the library more, if only to save both money and space, but working at the bookstore does add a whole lot of temptation to impulse buy. And, having a Kobo doesn't help with that exactly, although I do know of quite a few places to get free e-books, so that's not so bad. Still some of those impulse buys have worked out really well - the books by Jo Graham come to mind, for example: Hand of Isis and Black Ships have both become favourites of mine. As have the books by Kylie Chan: White Tiger, Red Phoenix and Blue Dragon. I'm waiting for the next trilogy to come out this fall.

There are so many ways of getting books these days: Bookstores, online, books for review, e-books, the library - The best thing is, I think to not be exclusive to any one. Still, I can't help but wonder what your favourite is.


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