Archive for April, 2015

There are three books being released in May about which I am very excited.  Some good books to have ready for my vacation in a couple of weeks!

A Court of Thorns and RosesThe one about which I am most excited is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas of Throne of Glass fame.  This is a retelling of the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast and tells the story of Feyre, a young woman who becomes entangled with the mysterious fey in order to save her loved ones.  I understand this will be the start of a series of books as well. I’ve loved the Throne of Glass series and the five chapter sample which has been released has only served to whet my appetite. A Court of Thorns and Roses is released on May 5th 2015.  I can’t wait!

The HeirThe next upcoming release I’m looking forward to is Keira Cass’s The Heir.  This is a new story set 20 years after the events of The Selection and deals with the attempts of America and Maxon’s daughter to find her partner in a Selection of her own.  I’m also really looking forward to this one.  The One, the final book in The Selection was one of my top reads of 2014 – if you remember, it’s The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor.  I look forward to seeing what’s gone on in Ilea in the last 20 years and if Maxon and America have been able to achieve their aims.  It’s not often that you get to see the aftermath of a dystopian series 20 years later.  The Heir is also released on May 5th 2015.

The Sword of the NorthThe Sword of the North is the second in Luke Scull’s grimdark series The Grim Company.  It’s been a while since I read book one, so I can’t remember much about it.  I do remember though that I was very invested in the characters at the time.  Book two is on preorder and should hit my Kindle also on May 15th.

Are you planning to pick up any of these?  Let me know in the comments.

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Reading roundup – April 27th 2015Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
Series: Chronicles of St Mary’s #1
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Humorous, Humourous
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Zara Ramm
Length: 9 hrs and 30 mins
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
five-stars

It’s always fun to come across a great new series by accident.  A couple of weeks ago, Audible sent me one of their new release by author X emails advising me that book five in Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s series had been released.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this series, it’s about time travelling historians, or as I like to think of it, Connie Willis with more tea.  

The premise sounded interesting, so I went to check out the rest of the series on Audible. I was surprised to find that book one was listed as In my library.  It appears Audible had included it as one of their Daily Deals some time ago, and I’d picked it up.  As an aside, it’s definitely worth signing up for those daily deal emails – you can find some excellent deals for $4.

What I liked

The humour.  The humour is very British and, being British born and bred, it really appealed to me.  I also appreciated the references to the copious amounts of tea drunk by the historians!  

The protagonists.  I really enjoyed hearing about Max and her disaster magnet coworkers.  I enjoyed the way she found humour in the most dire situations in which she ends up.  The way the romance was slowly built up was beautifully done and realistic.

The concept.  Time travelling historians.  That pretty much says it all.  I understand from Taylor’s bio that she is particularly interested in history and it shows in the descriptions of the times and places Max and her coworkers visited.  The business model the historians of St Mary’s come up with towards the end of the book is intriguing and should provide fodder for many more stories to come.  The concept of a vengeful “history” seems not quite yet fully fleshed out, but promises good things for future books, if that is the direction Taylor chooses to go.  Alternatively, I rather enjoyed the evil historian antagonist plotline.

Surprising twists. When I first started listening to it, my first thoughts was that this was a very amusing, if light story, but then there were a few twists that raised the stakes for our protagonists and drew me in even more to the story.

The narration.  The audiobook narration was brilliantly provided by Zara Ramm.  She really “got” Max’s voice and  the humour of the story.  I will certainly continue with this series in audiobook format rather than ebook because of the wonderful narration.

What I didn’t like

Unexplained/unlimited time travel.  This for me was one of the biggest weaknesses in the story.  Certainly, Taylor has chosen to focus more on the historical side of time travel rather than the science fiction, so makes no attempt to explain how it works.  That I can live with.  What was more problematic for me was that there appeared to be no limitations on Taylor’s time travel.  They can set the coordinates and go wherever and whenever they wish.  The historians appear to have no fear of disturbing the timeline – aka the grandfather paradox.  As with fantastical magic systems, often what you can’t do can be more interesting than what you can.

Leaving out limitations means there is a whole area of narrative tension left unexplored. This is also what led to my initial thought of light, amusing fluff.  I will say though that there are definite seeds in this first book in the series which indicates this may be addressed more fully in later books.

Despite these few concerns, I loved Just One Damned Thing After Another and gave it five stars out of five.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’ve just gone out and purchased the rest of the series.  Go check them out and enjoy.

As I mentioned in my last blog, my husband and I are setting off on a big train trip in a couple of weeks;  we’re doing the ViaRail trans Canada journey on The Canadian.  Being the avid reader that I am, I have been reading some books for advice. 

All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide 

One of the main books I read for my research was All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide by Jim Loomis.  This is a very detailed guide to train travel in North America and includes everything from tips on how to get the best fare to the facilities you’re likely to have onboard.  Although I have travelled by train many times before, this is my very first long haul train journey and I found this book invaluable.  

Equally importantly, Loomis’ passion for train travel comes across very well and that only served to enhance my excitement for our trip.  

Trans-Canada Rail GuideThe Trans-Canada Rail Guide is more of a traditional travel guide than a how-to of long distance rail travel.  It contains tourist information on the places we will visit on our trip and most interestingly a route map for the train journey indicating places of interest at each point.  My biggest gripe with this book is that it is not available in ebook format – I will have to take the hard copy with me rather than having it on my Kindle.

That’s all for this week.  Back soon. 

Star Wars NPR productionAs I mentioned in my last reading roundup, I’ve been catching up with John  Stephens’ Books of Beginning in preparation for the release of The Black Reckoning.  As I’ve been on nightshift, I’ve listened to these books in audiobook format, narrated by Jim Dale.  I’m generally not a big fan of Dale’s narration – a personal opinion; I know many listeners value his work highly – but I did enjoy his narration for this series.  For those of you unfamiliar with this series, it’s about three sibling orphans who find that they are fated to be the Keepers of the mystical Books of Beginning.  This concluding book brings all the threads of the series together.  I did enjoy that the series didn’t end immediately after they defeated the Big Bad; it’s always interesting to see heroes try to adapt to the normal world and family life.  While no Harry Potter or even Percy Jackson, this is an enjoyable series and is work picking up.  

I gave The Black Reckoning four stars out of five.

Tales from the Shadowhunter AcademyEvery month in the leadup to the release of Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight, the first in a new Shadowhunter series, she along with co-writers is releasing a short novella set in Shadowhunter Academy following fan favourite Simon Lewis.  I particularly enjoyed this month’s entry, The Whitechapel Fiend, focussing as it does on the Victorian era, around the time of the Infernal Devices trilogy.  Personally I loved the Infernal Devices more that the Mortal Instruments, so I appreciated revisiting old friends.  Each of these novellas is self contained and takes the edge of the wait for Lady Midnight.

I gave The Whitechapel Fiend four stars out of five.

After having read so much middle-grade/YA books in the last couple of weeks, I really needed something more… adult, so I’ve picked up book four in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, The Drums of Autumn.  I’m listening to this in audiobook format, narrated by the wonderful Davina Porter.  I’m really enjoying the continuation of Claire’s and Jamie’s story.  Interestingly, Gabaldon announced this week that an audio version of her Outlandish Companion will be released later this year.  Porter will narrate the book summaries and, I believe, character lists etc, while Gabaldon herself will narrate the anecdotes.  That could be interesting.  However, I’ve been using my Kindle copy  of the Outlandish Companion more as a reference, which isn’t so easy in audiobook format.

Speaking of upcoming audiobook releases, I read today that Blake Charlton’s Spellwright trilogy is coming to audiobook.  This is a really fun series with a fascinating magic system, and is worth checking out.  Book three isn’t scheduled until June 2016, which is a bit of a wait.  You’ve time to get caught up on Spellwright and Spellbound!

Also newly in audiobook format is V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic.  I’ve already read this in Kindle format, so I will probably give the audiobook a miss.  However, if you’ve not read it, it is well worth picking up.  I was excited to see the cover and synopsis for book two in the series, A Gathering of Shadows, due in February 2016.  I have my pre-order in already.

One book which I’m disappointed is not yet in audiobook format is Ian Doescher’s The Phantom of Menace. I’ve loved, loved LOVED Random House Audio’s full cast productions for the previous books in the series.  I really hope they do one for Phantom.  I’ve been leafing through this in Kindle format and am enjoying what I”m reading.  As Doescher himself would say though, Shakespeare (even a Star Wars universe version) is best experienced in the hands of talented actors.  I’m particularly appreciating what he’s doing with Jar Jar Binks.  It may even make watching him in the movies more tolerable. In any case, you should check it out.

In a couple of weeks my husband and I set off for our trans Canadian train trip.  If anyone can recommend any good Canadian travelogues, preferably in the style of Bill Bryson, I would be grateful.

That’s all for this week folks.  Talk to you soon.

This week for me has been a week of Skull Thrones and Star Wars and Shakespeare, Oh My!  

The Skull Throne by Peter V. BrettOne of the big releases of last week was The Skull Throne, the fourth in Peter V Brett’s Demon Cycle fantasy series.  I have read and enjoyed the three previous ones so I was keen to read the fourth.  More accurately, I should say listened to as I experienced this book in audiobook format. In general, I did enjoy it, but I did have a few issues.  

The biggest challenge I had was the sheer amount of in world vocabulary Brett has invented for this series.  I admit it’s been a while since I read any books in the series, but at first I found all the jiwah Ka, khaffit, Shar’Dama Ka, inevera  rather disconcerting and it threw me out of the story on many occasions.  I ended up having to keep the Krasian dictionary open on my computer while I was listening.  Eventually I was able to move beyond this and enjoy the story.

For me one of the highlights of the book were the beautifully written interpersonal relationships, notably that between Ahmann Jardir and Arlen Bales.  These are two men of honour, with very different life views, both of whom want the same thing.  The chapters in which they have to work to come to terms with their history and achieve some kind of detente were particularly enthralling to me.  I also enjoyed reading about Rojer’s unconventional homelife and Leesha’s baby daddy drama.

Personally, I was not particularly engaged by the chapters relating to the Krasian political drama.  I did not find Jayan a particularly threatening villain.  Also, I was completely hooked by Arlen and Jardir’s storyline, which I imagine will form the backbone of The Core, the final book in the series.  I found myself wishing I were reading about them rather than the Krasian internal politicking.

Narration for The Skull Throne was performed by Pete Bradbury.  I would say the narration was competent rather than outstanding.

All in all though I did enjoy The Skull Throne and would give it four stars out of five.  More thought, it whetted my appetite for the series finale.

For those of you who are unaware, last week saw the release of all six Star Wars movies in digital download format.  I already have the original trilogy on Blu Ray, but I did pick up the prequel trilogy.  I am seriously excited for The Force Awakens, which I hope will take after the originals and not the prequels.

The Phantom of MenaceIn keeping with the Star Wars theme, Ian Doescher has published his Shakespearean take on the first of the prequels, The Phantom of Menace.  I’ve not yet read it, but I’m hearing good things about it, particularly in Doescher’s handling of the prequels’ most controversial character Jar Jar Binks.  I was extremely disappointed though that as of yet there is no sign of an accompanying full cast audiobook production.  I really hope that there will be.  These productions were a real highlight for me of the first set of Shakespearean Star Wars books.

The Emerald Atlas This week also saw the release in the final book of John Stephens’ middle grade series The Books of Beginning – The Black Reckoning.  I wanted to catch up before reading it, and I saw that my library had the audiobooks of the first two.  These are narrated by Jim Dale.  Now, normally I am not a big fan of Dale’s narration.  It’s kind of hit and miss for me.  I didn’t enjoy his Harry Potter narration but did enjoy the Night Circus.  I did really enjoy his narration for these books though and have added the Black Reckoning to my audiobook collection.

Well, that’s all for today.  Have a good week everyone!

Good morning and welcome to another reading roundup.  This was another week of nightshifts so a lot of audiobook consumption was involved.  Here are some of the books I enjoyed this week.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige The Wicked Will Rise is the second novel in Danielle Paige’s reimagining of L Frank Baum’s Oz in which Dorothy has turned evil.  Some of you who read my review of the first novel, Dorothy Must Die, may remember that I had a few issues with it, notably the pacing and the audiobook production.  I am happy to say I found no such issues with the sequel.  I found the pacing much more lively and consistent and it kept me listening along.  I would strongly suggest that you read the e-novella The Wizard Returns beforehand – it’s not strictly necessary, but it will fill in a few blanks.

The protagonist, Amy Gumm, continues to be kickass and engaging and I loved hearing the continuation of her story.  I found some of the situations and emotional problems she has to deal with very well done.  The narrator, Devan Sorvani, once again did an excellent job of bringing her to life and the production was much better this time in that there were no annoying long pauses between paragraphs.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book was that it took the story in a completely different direction – and a new and interesting direction – than what I had been expecting.  It’s always excellent when an author can surprise you.  I really look forward to book three now.

I picked up The Wicked Will Rise in both Kindle and Audible format and gave it five stars out of five.

The Skull Throne by Peter V BrettI had been eagerly awaiting this fourth instalment in Peter V. Brett’s Warded Man cycle..  I’ve only just started it, but so far there have already been a couple of WTF?!? moments.  One thing that did strike me though was how much in-world Krasian jargon Brett uses that I’d forgotten about – it’s been a while since I read/listened to Daylight War.  The first section of the book that I’ve been listening to deals with the Krasians and every fifth word or so it seemed was a made up Krasian word.  I eventually had to open the Krasian dictionary on my computer as a reference so that I could remind myself what khaffit, Jiwah Ka and other phrases meant.  It did put a real hurdle in my enjoyment of the book, but I’m sure I’ll overcome that.

I picked up The Skull Throne in both Kindle and Audible formats.

The Outlandish Companion The Outlandish Companion is, as it says on the tin, a companion volume to books 1-4 in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. It is written by Gabaldon herself and has been freshly updated to include information and behind the scenes titbits on the Starz TV show.  The book is a fascinating mixture of reference material – synopses, character lists – and anecdotes from Gabaldon about her experience writing the novels.  As I’ve only read 2.5 of the four books, I have had to be a little careful to avoid spoilers, but otherwise I found the book engrossing.  I’ve treated it more like a reference book – jumping to the chapters that interest me.  Gabaldon’s wit and intelligence really come across in this book.

As a bonus, reading it has FINALLY managed to get me across that reading hump I experienced about a third of the way through Voyager.  Three times I reached the same point, put the book down and got stuck at the same point when I came back to it.  Thinking about it, it’s because for me, that point seems to be the natural conclusion of the framing story started in Dragonfly in Amber and I really, really struggled to get past it.  I’m now happily well beyond it and becoming once again sucked in to Jamie and Claire’s next adventures.

I picked up The Outlandish Companion in Kindle format only.

Other than the books mentioned, I have added two other books to my library this week – my poor bank balance.

Given my revived interest in the Outlander books I preemptively purchased the Kindle and Audible books of book four in the series, Drums of Autumn.  Yay for Whispersync for Voice – the audiobook cost me $3.99 instead of nearer $40.  Bargain!

Mark Lawrence recently released a short story in his Broken Empire world – Sleeping Beauty: A Broken Empire short story.  Now, I’ve not read it yet, but based on the author and the synopsis, it has to be a winner.  I picked it up in Kindle format.

Thats all I have time for today folks – Claire and Jamie call.  Talk to you next week!