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Forum nameReading Challenges, 2010
Topic subjectBookwyrm's 5(2) Books in 2010
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=505&topic_id=30
30, Bookwyrm's 5(2) Books in 2010
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Jan-02-10 08:22 PM
I'm doing a 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge on my blog, so I should be able to make the 50 book reading challenge.

Then again, since I read 74 books (not counting novellas or graphic novels) in 2009, I shouldn't have a problem anyway.
297, 1. Urban Shaman (Walker Papers #1)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Feb-06-10 01:15 PM
Urban Shaman
by C.E. Murphy

(urban fantasy)

Urban Shaman is an example of why I have a love-hate relationship with series books that have been out for some time before I read them: I love the fact that I can go get the next book now instead of having to wait for it to be released, but I hate that it’s been out all this time (sitting on my shelf, even) and I haven’t read it before this.

The book (and presumably the series) focuses on Jo Walker, who hasn’t opened up to her shaman powers until she, herself, is in dire need of healing. She comes to the mystic stuff naturally, being of Irish and Cherokee blood. She’s essentially turned it off, however, until forced to acknowledge it.

As with any book, there are things that will annoy some readers and slip completely past others. Some descriptions get more focus than others, and there will be times when you have to stretch your disbelief a touch more than is, perhaps, comfortable.

But you know what? This is fantasy. We should expect that of a fantasy novel.

All told, I really enjoyed this book. It’s always hard to place a book in a numerical ranking of all the books I’ve read, so I’m not even going to try. But it was well written, well paced, and just plain fun.

Grade: A
298, 2. Hunter's Need
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Feb-06-10 01:16 PM
Hunter’s Need
by Shiloh Walker

(paranormal romance)

This is the latest in a series of novels (and, initially, novellas) about a group of supernaturals called The Hunters. They are werewolves (and other shifters), witches and vampires who act as a kind-of otherworldly police force, hunting down rogue supernaturals and stopping them. They sometimes stop mortal violence as well, but their job, the thing that really calls to them, is stopping the stuff that the mortal law enforcement can’t handle.

And in Hunter’s Need, the supernatural law enforcement is not sure they can handle it, either.

HN picks up the story that Hunting The Hunter left off, continuing with Ana and Duke’s story five or so years after we saw them last. They have grown and changed, and not. In some respects, it makes sense that they would be the same as they were in HTH – they went through some pretty traumatic experiences. On the other hand, I had a hard time thinking of the time between the two books as quite as long as it was supposed to be.

At any rate, once we do pick the characters back up, they develop quite believably. Perhaps the long period of time between the stories is for the best – they were each able to heal and move on without realizing it, so the lead-up to the steamy stuff was more a matter of admitting what had happened rather than needing to completely change.

As with the other books in the series, this is definitely a romance first. (I’m not complaining about the plot or the characters, mind. But do not expect sex scenes to fade to black.) I do think that Ms. Walker is growing as an author, as the plot and conflict seemed better developed in this book than the prior ones I’ve read of The Hunters series.

Probably my biggest (and perhaps my only) complaint is the style in which the narration jumps. I don’t have an issue with multiple narrators. I’m used to that in romances, and it can feel effortless. What throws me is the way a scene will start out in one character’s head and switch to the other’s part-way through. There is a gradual shift from one, to neutral, to the other, which makes the head-hopping acceptable, but it is not my preferred method of changing narrators.

Then again. Take my complaint with a grain of salt. I read this book in about 6 and a half hours, staying up until 3 in the morning (on a work night) to finish it because I couldn’t put it down.

Grade: A-
299, 3. Sorcery & Cecilia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Feb-06-10 01:17 PM
Sorcery and Cecelia; or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot

by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
(historical fantasy, YA romance)

Have I really read this book so many times and never yet reviewed it? Wow.

This is one of my comfort reads. It is pure fun, and well written. It has two difference voices for the two different characters, but that is easy since they are written by two different people. The authors collaborated on this book in letters they wrote each other, both taking responsibility for half of the plot and letter the other deal with the other half. Some bits intertwined, or traveled from one author to the other, while some pieces stayed with the originating author. It truly is a masterful piece of writing. It is executed that well.

It is also fun. The story follows two young women in the Regency period of England, but an alternate England where magic exists as a part of society. One gets to have a Season in London while the other must remain at home, and that creates the reason for the letters going back and forth between the two.

This is easily a YA romance, because while there are romantic elements it is very tastefully written and I would not hesitate to recommend this to any young girl regardless of how relationship-aware she is. However, I am certainly no longer a young girl, and I love this book. It is one of my favorites ever, whether adult or YA.

I could say more to make it a proper review: there is magic! There is mystery! There is intrigue! But at its heart, this is a fun book, and there is nothing better I could say about it.

Grade: A+
300, 4. Heart's Blood (Blood Magic #2)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Feb-06-10 01:19 PM
Heart’s Blood
by Gail Dayton

(historical romantic fantasy)

This is the second in a series of romantic fantasy novels set in Victorian England. It has almost but not quite got steampunk elements to it – there are some machines mentioned, but I suspect these machines are created more by magic than by a scientist the way true steampunk would be. (They are not discussed a lot in this book, but I get the impression they are in the first book more… I have not yet read that one.) I picked up the novel because I was looking for examples of steampunk romances to inspire me. It’s not so much a steampunk, but it was good inspiration!

I really enjoyed this novel. The characters were easy to believe, the plot was enjoyable, and the magic was nicely explained. I didn’t even matter that I hadn’t read the first book prior to this one – though I did end up finding out things that may spoil the first plot.

My one real complaint was that we get hints of the main characters’ big hang-ups, but they don’t really come out until they have their major argument. We get hints of her issues, and he tells her (and therefore us) that he has major issues with his family. However, I didn’t really get the impression that they were huge issues until they blew up into something that threatened the HEA. I would have preferred more screen-time for these issues, since they were obviously so important.

The rest of it, though, was quite well done. And while it is a romance, it is not what I would label an erotic romance. There are a couple detailed love scenes, but for the most part it fades to black. And even when detail is given, the language is shyer than most modern-era romances.

I hope Ms. Dayton continues with this series, as I want to see more of what she has planned. And in the meantime, I’ll be picking up the first book in the series the next time I head into a bookstore.

Grade: A-
301, 5. Daily Life in Victorian England
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Feb-06-10 01:20 PM
Daily Life in Victorian England
by Sally Mitchell

(non-fiction)

What we have here is very rare breed: the non-fiction book I've read cover-to-cover. I started out thinking this would be a good way for me to get a glimpse into background details for my steampunk world, and I ended up finishing the thing. There are so many aspects of the Victorian and Regency novels I enjoy that I thought I understood, but didn't. So many little details of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas that make much more sense after reading this book. It is one that I intend to buy for my research shelf.

How do you review non-fiction? I'm really not sure. But I do know that this book was:

1. Helpful.
2. Entertaining enough for me to read the whole thing.
3. Well organized and laid out, so if you are just looking up a specific detail you can find it.
396, 6. Heart of Ice (e-book, no review)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Tue Feb-23-10 10:40 PM
Heart of Ice by Brynn Paulin
397, 7. Hurts So Good (e-book, no review)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Tue Feb-23-10 10:41 PM
Hurts So Good by Joely Sue Burkhart

(beta read)
398, 8. Silent Night (e-book, no review)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Tue Feb-23-10 10:42 PM
Silent Night by Kim Dare
399, 9. Caressed by Ice (Psy-Changeling #3)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Tue Feb-23-10 10:43 PM
Caressed by Ice
by Nalini Singh

(paranormal romance)

This is the third book in a series about an alternate future Earth where psychics and changelings co-exist with humans. The Psy have conditioned themselves to feel no emotion, putting their children through a process called the Silence. Changelings, on the other hand, are very sensual and emotional. (A point of curiosity is we have yet to really see any humans. I wonder if they will ever show up in the series, or if they are just there to make this an urban fantasy rather than a completely different world.) Also, changelings can be many different species: this book focuses on wolves. The two previous books were more about cats.

This book’s hero is a Psy whose telekinetic abilities cause intense accidental damage when his emotions run wild. So for him, Silence works. The problem is, one of the wolves loves him… And being near her breaks down his resistance to emotions. To be fair, he feels the same way about her, he just tries to convince himself otherwise because he wants to keep his emotional shields up.

I really enjoyed this book. It flowed well, and the story was believable. It could be read without having read the others before it in the series, but I would recommend against it. Things make much more sense if you have the references that they keep going back to in the story. (Plus, there’s no spoilers that way.)

If I had one complaint with the story, it’s probably that there’s a lot of points of view. It’s not a big problem, but it is not my preference for reading. I prefer to have a few (2-4, but even 4 is pushing it) really strong POVs. This had 2 strong POVs (the hero and heroine) with a minimum of 3 weaker ones. It wasn’t as confusing as some books I’ve read, but as an author I’ve come to the conclusion that you can often cut out a POV and have other characters convey the information… and that by not introducing another voice, you dilute the narrative less.

Still, it is a very solid addition to the Psy-Changeling series, and I’ve already ordered book #4.

Grade: B+
594, RE: 9. Caressed by Ice (Psy-Changeling #3)
Posted by bonnieann, Tue Apr-06-10 09:13 PM
I love this whole series, but this was my favorite. I think it is the "cold" ice man who is changed/transformed by love.
400, 10. Grace Hammer
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Tue Feb-23-10 10:43 PM
Grace Hammer
by Sara Stockbridge

(historical fiction)

I got this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers. It took me a while to get around to reviewing it, however, because it took some time to read it… and even then, I ended up not finishing it. Whether it’s a bad time for me to be reading this particular book, or whether it’s because I’m on a paranormal kick (and this is not a paranormal), or whether it’s because of the odd present/past tense style of writing, I just couldn’t get into it.

The basic premise was good, or at least what I saw of it. (I’m not sure how much more depth is in the 2/3rds of the book I didn’t read.) I like the way the Victorian era is portrayed. From the research I’ve done, it seems quite feasible. I also like the way the characters are written, mostly. They are believable and likeable. (I actually kept reading as long as I did because of the characters.)

My biggest problem was the way it was written. Some sentences are in present tense and others are in past tense and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for which is used. As a writer, this drives me ABSOLUTELY CRAZY.

Someone who is less picky about tense and who prefers historical fiction to paranormals might enjoy this book much more than I did. However, I won’t be returning to this book as it was not written for people with my personal preferences.

Grade: D
401, 11. Ecstasy Unveiled (Demonica #4)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Tue Feb-23-10 10:51 PM
Ecstasy Unveiled

by Larissa Ione

(paranormal romance)

This is the fourth book in a really awesome series. (And I would highly recommend reading the whole series from the top rather than jumping in part-way through.) They are set in a world where demons and werewolves (wargs) and vampires and angels (fallen and otherwise) all co-exist with humans. The main characters are all siblings who work in a demon hospital.

Hmmm… how to describe the awesomeness that is Lore’s book without spoilers… It’s definitely a romance, with some good steamy scenes and a little light bondage (nothing approaching BDSM). It’s also got great character development and a plot that manages to advance both the series and the individual book seamlessly.

This might be my favorite of the Demonica books. It’s hard to say. They’re all so good, and yet different. I particularly like the heroine in this book (Idess). As with many romance novels, the heroine is the one abstaining from sex while the hero tries to get her in bed. Idess’ reasons, however, are more believable than most. And when she gives in (no spoilers here – this is a romance, after all) it’s just as believable.

Ione has crafted a very realistic (if you accept the demons and all) world here, and I can’t wait for the next book. Sin Undone looks to be a great addition to the series.

Grade: A
563, 12. Mine To Possess (Psy-Changeling #4)
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Apr-03-10 01:03 AM
Mine To Possess
by Nalini Singh

(paranormal romance)

This is the fourth book in Ms. Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, and I’m still enjoying every minute of it. I am pleased to report that this book contains a real, live HUMAN. One pet peeve about so many paranormal series is that while they are often set in approximately our own world, there are next to no humans in them. Sometimes we get what seems to be a human, only to find out that this person has supernatural powers! OMG!!

But Talin is human. And she doesn’t have any non-standard human skills (she’s not secretly a ninja assassin, for instance). She’s a good person, but she’s just a person. And I find that an incredibly refreshing change.

Clay is also a good addition to the series’ heroes, someone who’s on the edge and fighting it, and we can finally find out what’s been so close to setting him off all these years. (He doesn’t develop any hitherto unknown powers either, but as a shifter he’s already got powers. So we’re good.)

The bad guy… On the one hand he seemed to have a serious motive and be well fleshed out, and yet on the other he seemed pretty stereotypical. It’s really hard to pin this down, because a lot of the time and words that would normally be spent showing how evil the bad guy is were spent showing how someone who works with him is on the wrong side but isn’t as bad as all that. (Hmm. Could this be a set-up for the next book? Gee. Let me think.) (Okay, I’ll stop being snarky now.) I don’t have a problem with showing that someone is not as bad as the evidence points to, but it does dilute the villain’s character and motivations a bit. Not enough to make the story unbelievable, but it’s there all the same.

I had been given a “spoiler” of sorts that this series just keeps getting better. So far, from what I’ve seen, that was a highly accurate statement. I don’t know that this is my favorite book in the series, but it’s definitely up there.

Grade: A
564, 13 - 17. Twelve Houses series
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Apr-03-10 01:06 AM
Mystic & Rider (book 1)
by Sharon Shinn

(fantasy, light romance)

This book, for me, was everything a series opener should be: it introduces the characters you’ll follow through the rest of the books, it sets up the world quite nicely, and it has a conflict that can be concluded in one book while still leaving plenty of larger conflict for the rest of the series. Sometimes it is hard to find a book-concept that does not drown in the series-conflict. Or a series-conflict that does not seem slapped together to make the individual book-conflicts into one large story.

Senneth and Tayse are the main characters in this book, though there is less focus on them than there is on the MC’s in the later books of the series. I suspect this is because the whole world, and the whole group of friends, needed to be created. We couldn’t look back to what came before to make this story make sense. Even so, they are the best developed, theirs is the POV we see, and theirs is the romance at the heart of the story. I really enjoyed this book, enough that upon getting it out of the library I decided I wanted to own it. (I now do.)

Grade: A-

~*~

The Thirteenth House (book 2)
by Sharon Shinn

(fantasy, light romance)

Coming after a book I liked so much, this installment was a huge disappointment. The “why” of my dislike for it is easy to sum up: the main character has an affair throughout most of the story, and it turned me off. Not to say that my MCs have to be perfect, far from it. But I had been looking on this as a romance series, which meant I was going to get a Happily Ever After, which meant… what? That the unfaithful couple were going to end up together? That they would end the affair and be with people they didn’t truly love? Since I read this around a time in my life where my own guy was being unfaithful, this was not a way to make a repeat reader out of me. I am just glad that the first book in the series was interesting enough to me that I read book 3, because — as I’ve said — that one is my favorite. This one (book 2) is my least.

Now, not to bash on the characters. Kirra is an enjoyable POV character, and it’s fun to see her viewpoint on everything. It’s hard to pin down her character type, because the people around her see her as flighty but there are many hints that she is not. Being inside her head is fun.

The plot, also, advances the story well. (Both the book-specific and the series plots.) It is well told, and I got over my dislike of the affair to buy this book as well as the rest of the series.

Grade: B-

~*~

Dark Moon Defender (book 3)
by Sharon Shinn

(fantasy, light romance)

I love this book. I want a guy like Justin. If there is one book in this series that I wish I could claim as my writing, it is this one. Style-wise, it feels the way the others do. It is as well written, as well plotted. It doesn’t have my favorite cover art. But I love it.

Somehow, I suspect it is the romance of this book that makes me love it most. This one has the sweetest of the romances, the love that tugs at your heart and makes you believe that it’s real. And the scene where Justin essentially proposes to Ellynor in front of her family? Makes me cry every time I read it. It’s so sweet.

I do also like the several different ways this book ties into the first two. There are things hinted at in the other books that are answered here, though I don’t know if they were planned from the start or just happened to work out. Whatever the reason, this book really shines for me. And based on her website, it looks like this is one of the author’s favorites, too.

Grade: A/A+ (depends on my mood)

~*~

Reader & Raelynx (book 4)
by Sharon Shinn

(fantasy, light romance)

(This book, for those keeping score, has my favorite cover art of the series.)

Arguably, the series-conflict ends in this book. There is a war, which is what the plots of the books before this one have all been leading up to. As such, this book ties up a lot of loose ends (though it does create a few more).

I really enjoy the character development in this book. Some people who had been minor characters become more important in this one, and we get more answers. Cammon is perhaps my second favorite character in the series, so I am glad to have his book to read. I am not as sure about Amalie, partly because her personality is rather different than mine and it took me a while to “get” her. But also partly because I was wary (the first time I read it) of having another “forbidden love” kind of thing like in book 2.

However, I love the way the war plays out. I love the way so many different characters we’ve met reconnect with each other. I love the way the book resolves itself. My favorite is still book 3, but this is a very good read.

Grade: A

~*~

Fortune & Fate (book 5)
by Sharon Shinn

(fantasy, light romance)

Of the books out to date (and not counting a short story that I just found out about), this is the first to not follow one of the main 6 characters. And that has an impact. I like Wen, I really do. But it’s not quite the same. (It’s close enough to the same that I still want more books in the world. Don’t get me wrong.)

I find it fascinating how this book looks at the aftermath of the war. What things have changed, what things have not, and all that. It really is a study on humanity to see what we can believe will change when someone preaching hate is taken out of the picture. It is also a book that has strong themes of loyalty and belonging. While I don’t always agree with Wen’s choices, I do sympathize with them.

That said… my favorite part of the book is when Justin seeks Wen out and gets her to return to see everyone else. My second favorite part is when they go off on their rescue mission together. The romance stuff doesn’t even get considered for my third favorite part. It, to me, is the weak link in this book. But, a weak link in a strong book is still not a bad part… just not as good a part.

Grade: A-
565, 18. Sherlock Holmes
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Apr-03-10 01:06 AM
Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(mystery, classic)

The main reason I picked up this book (one of the collections of short stories, rather than any of the longer works) is because I am writing a novella set in Victorian London, and wanted to get in the mood. The secondary reason is because I had just watched “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law when I placed the hold at the library. Either reason was a good one, and I’m glad to have returned to the stories. (Though… One book was enough. I don’t think I could have comfortably kept reading more Holmes stories without a break for something else in between.)

Of this batch of stories, there was only one I can recall having read before: the one about the Speckled Band. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that of these stories, there was only one I guessed correctly before Holmes revealed the answer to Watson. Yes, there were parts I got right and parts I suspected even though I couldn’t give any reason why. But there was only one I actually knew.

On the other hand, this was a good reminder of what makes a mystery story interesting to the reader. There have to be enough clues that the reader thinks he had a chance to figure it out. There can’t be too many things left out so that there’s no possible way for a reader to guess the correct answer. And yet the story must always be just one teeny step away from the obvious answer in order to keep the reader’s interest.

Doyle did this well. Part of the reason he was able to is because Watson is the POV character, and not Holmes. Another part of why is because the clues which point obviously to the true culprit are often the ones that Holmes notices but doesn’t point out until later. Regardless, however, the reader is left feeling like there was a chance he could have solved the mystery… though, in truth, there wasn’t.

Grade: A
566, 19. Broken
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Apr-03-10 01:07 AM
Broken
by Shiloh Walker

(contemporary romance)

Let me start by saying that I don’t normally read contemporary romances. I don’t, actually, typically read contemporary fiction of any kind other than the urban fantasy genre. Every now and then I will read a contemporary mystery or thriller that has no paranormal element to it at all, and sometimes I’ll even enjoy them. But the last non-paranormal, non-fantasy, contemporary book that I can remember reading was Holly Lisle’s Night Echoes, and that was released in 2007.

Until Broken. I really enjoyed this book, too.

I think I would have enjoyed it a touch more (enough to make the A, rather than the high-B grade) if the suspense had stayed ramped up a bit more going into the final confrontation with the bad guy. There’s a fun mystery twist that was obvious in retrospect and completely took me by surprise when I was reading it. I’m not going to spoil it. But: that twist was revealed just before the big showdown. I think I would have preferred the suspense to have been kept up until the middle of the showdown. It would have required a bit more creative license, and I can see why Ms. Walker didn’t do it, but that would have been my choice. Then again, when I do read a contemporary book, I like the thrill aspect. (Not horror. Just suspense.) So that could easily be a personal preference.

The romance aspect of this book is good, too. Some steamy scenes, some sweet ones, and both characters keeping secrets that eat them up inside. All that makes for a good romance-novel-relationship. The character development was very well done, as I have come to expect from one of Shiloh’s books.

Now, I haven’t yet read Fragile, the book that precedes this one. After reading Broken, I think I need to.

Grade: B+
567, 20. Crimson & Steam
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Apr-03-10 01:08 AM
Crimson & Steam
by Liz Maverick

(paranormal romance / historical romance)

First of all, this book is well into the Crimson City series, and I haven’t read any of the other books in that series. So there could easily have been some details I missed, or some characters that I would have different opinions of had I read the other books. Secondly, while the whole series has sounded interesting to me before this, I will admit to only picking it up now because I read that it had steampunk elements, and I am currently writing a steampunk story.

Now... Disclaimers out of the way, I can begin my review.

I enjoyed this story a lot. It had some fun points, and while bits of the world didn’t seem explained enough for me, I felt like the world was built fully, it was just my understanding that was lacking. (see first note, above) For existing readers of the series, I’m sure these would not have been issues. One of the issues I had — where vampires and werewolves actually *came* from in this world — was actually addressed over the course of the novel. I hadn’t expected it to be, so this was an added bonus.

The way the story is set up, there are essentially two different plots, each with a romance that plays out independent from the other. This was a very neat way of doing it, but it did mean that there was less screen time for each couple. It didn’t hurt the couple in the past, even though they were in less than half of the novel, but I did end up feeling like I didn’t know the main couple as well as I should have.

All told, actually, I was more interested in the steampunk part of the story. That was the story that seemed more unique to me, more new and interesting. Don’t get me wrong: I liked both halves. But there are lots of vampire/werewolf stories out there. The part of Crimson & Steam set in the past was unlike most things I’ve read. The only published novel I’ve read that I can compare it to at the moment is Heart’s Blood by Gail Dayton (which I loved).

On the other hand, both parts of the story fit together well and made the novel as a whole work. I liked the hints given throughout, and they way the answers came into play. I liked what I understood of the world building. And I liked the whole picture enough that I still want to continue with the series... though this time I think I’ll start at the beginning.

Grade: B
568, 21. Winter Moon
Posted by ca.bookwyrm, Sat Apr-03-10 01:15 AM
This is a collection of three novellas (by Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee, and C.E. Murphy) and I haven't written a review of it yet.

To be brief:

I like Lackey's story. It's a good comfort read for me, as most of her work is.

Lee's story was beyond me. I don't mean anything bad by it, but while the imagery was lovely the story just didn't hold my interest. I don't think I "got" it.

Murphy's story was, in my opinion, the best written of the bunch. It seemed the most complete as a novella, it left nothing to be desired, and it packed an emotional punch. Loved it.