rmc28: (books2010)
I started keeping track at the start of October, since when I've read 32 books. 20 were library books and the other 12 were from the to-read pile. Unusually for me there were no re-reads.

Until the 24th December, I had 'only' acquired 7 new books, so was only slightly behind on my 2 in, 1 out plan. But then I got another 10 books on and around Christmas Day.


The score now stands at: 357 to-read, of which 12 are library books, so 345 of my own.


I think trying to enforce 22 books out before I get any more is seriously setting myself up to fail, especially if I only manage 4 a month. So I've tried to break it down to more achievable numbers:

1. Read two books from the to-read pile to catch me up to 24th December
2. Then do 4 out, 1 in for the next 5 ins, to get out the 20 for the 10 new books
3. Then do 3 out, 1 in for the next 5 ins, to get out the 5 "extra" ins
3. Then do 2 out, 1 in as 'normal'

If I carry on at 4 books read each month, I'll be 27 books down by early October 2011, and then can hope to reach 33 down by the end of the year. Less than a tenth of the pile: perhaps this will be an incentive to acquire more slowly, and/or read faster. As it is, I have enough books to last me over 7 years if I never bought another (ho ho ho).
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
December Books 11) Bulletproof Princess, by Vicki Hinze
I could not finish this "romantic thriller": I was unengaged by the characters, irritated by a large amount of infodumping early on, and finally repelled by the repeated conspicuous name-dropping of expensive brand names.

December Books 12) Witch Blood by Anya Bast
I bounced off this romantic fantasy a few chapters in: there was too much info-dumping, the romance/erotic scenes were a bit too cheesy for my taste, and I found myself irritated by the spelling of magick. Some books I can forgive faux-archaic spellings, but there wasn't enough in this to keep me reading.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
This book has a neat trick of splitting the narrative between Lucas, a young warlock, and Hope, a half-demon attracted to chaos. To pay off a favour to Benicio Cortez, Hope agrees to go undercover in a gang of young supernaturals threatening the Cabals: this will bring her all the chaos she desires, perhaps too much so. Lucas's relationship with his father Benicio develops further, and he and Paige get sucked further into the Cabal setup. Shades of grey all round.
rmc28: (books2010)
Elena is pregnant but gets talked into helping to steal an old scroll related to Jack the Ripper. By accident she opens a portal to Victorian London and suddenly disease is threatening Toronto and people are disappearing. Elena and the other werewolves try to close the portal, with the help of Jamie Vegas and a local vampire, Zoe, who stole the scroll in the first place. Zoe is considerably more engaging than Cassandra, and openly gay too, though sadly she just gets to flirt.
rmc28: (books2010)
This is a good introduction to keeping hens, briefly covering all the practical aspects and ending with a handy list of breeds and their characteristics. It's a useful starting point for deciding if you want to keep hens at all, especially for outlining the level of work involved, but I would not want to rely on it as my sole manual for hen keeping. Luckily there are some useful pointers for further reading/research at the end.
rmc28: (books2010)
The stakes rise in this 4th book of 6 with murder, kidnapping and a huge surveillance consipiracy being uncovered. The werecat interpride politics are getting very nasty with Faythe's family directly threatened. A huge revelation leaves this book ending on a cliffhanger.
rmc28: (books2010)
Paige & Lucas get involved in a Cabal case because children are being kidnapped and killed. Another kind of magic is introduced in the person of celebrity necromancer Jaime Vegas. Elena and the other werewolves return in minor roles, along with Cassandra the vampire, who we begin to view with slightly more sympathy. Paige's own confidence and ability grow considerably during the book.
rmc28: (books2010)
3 linked short romances about three sisters adopted into different families, with romances taking up most of the plot. In the first, the revelation about the adoption when the protagonists's mother falls ill forms most of the alt. plot; the second alt. plot is about the protagonist's panic attacks and how she manages her life so no-one notices, with a bit of propaganda on the side about gifted children. Useful portrayal of chronic illness and mental illness in one go, though I suspect depression is a bit less easy to portray sexily; also the panic attacks are a bit too conveniently "healed" at the end when the birth family are reunited. Third alt. plot is about water rights conflict and the revelation as an adult of being adopted.

The stories are all a bit lightweight but between them they cover a range of adoption outcomes: known adoptee in loving family; known adoptee cared for less well; child discovering only at adulthood they were adopted.
rmc28: (books2010)
Sweet and silly romance about a fundraising events organiser who happens to be a practicing white witch, and the injured hockey-player son of the trust fund who is persuaded to turn the fortunes of the charity trust around. Home for foster boys, and fairly early on it becomes obvious who the couple will adopt when they get together. There's also some very lightweight spookiness with crows and family legends.
rmc28: (books2010)
An British Indian woman goes to India for a huge family wedding, managing to combine the trip with work on a documentary about a nearby spiritual retreat with a new-found reputation for miracles. I quite enjoyed it but felt a bit uncomfortable at the very stereotypical Indian family dynamics and characteristics, which feel worse coming from (I assume) a white British author.

The book touches only briefly on Priya's reaction to being in India - a scene in which we are told, rather than shown, her feelings of being a foreigner in her "homeland". Far more internal dialogue is spent on the various men in her life and her mother's nagging, because after all this is first and foremost a romance. The plot is very larger-than-life Bollywood (even Priya notices this, in between angsting over men and her career) and I think every character is slightly exaggerated and stereotypical. Perhaps it's just a stylistic choice.
rmc28: (books2010)
This book leads straight into the resolution of the previous book's cliffhanger. Shane's father has come to vampire-run Morganville to kill the vampires who run it, and he's not too bothered about who gets hurt along the way. The black and white, vampires bad & humans good view of the world fades into shades of grey. Our protagonist Claire risks her life several times, gets kidnapped and beaten up by her college enemy Monica, and finds herself with awful choices. When all is apparently resolved, the book ends with another revelation/cliff-hanger.

cut for discussion of rape )
rmc28: (books2010)
Paige's life falls apart when Savannah's half-demon father tries to take custody, and a series of harassing actions undermine her status in the coven and her home town. We learn a great deal more about witch politics and the Cabal, with the werewolves who dominated the first two books barely even mentioned.
rmc28: (books2010)
This is a fascinating account of the coalition negotiations in May of this year, put together from interviews with key players on all sides. It is structured chronologically: a chapter on Preparations, then a chapter for each day (Friday 7th May to Tuesday 11 May), ending with the acceptance by LibDems of the coalition agreement, and the appointment of a new Cabinet. A Postscript provides a longer-term view of the implications of the coalition for all parties and the country.

The author, though a serving Conservative MP, has made a good effort to report rather than opine, and to distinguish between the two (he gets most opinionated in the Postscript). He has the advantage of telling a story which is intrinsically exciting. It's filled with quotes and little details: texts flying back and forth between and across party lines, biscuits and coffees in the negotiating rooms, aides running back and forth hand-delivering draft documents, culture clashes and back-channel communications.

As well as the basics of what-happened-when, it serves as a good example of selective memory and spin, with different people telling things different ways. Accounts of meetings between Conservatives and LibDems are generally in agreement, accounts of meetings between Labour and LibDems often diverge, especially the accounts of the three meetings between each party's negotiation teams. This of course mirrors the relative leakiness of each set of negotiations at the time, with Lib-Con negotiations staying tightly under wraps, while Lib-Lab talks were being briefed against almost from the start.

On the Lib-Lab talks, Mandelson, Balls, et al insist Labour were being constructive and the LibDems sabotaged the talks by being arrogant and pushy, strongly suggesting the negotiating team were ideologically opposed to Labour. Laws, Alexander et al insist they were constructive, Labour were ill-prepared, divided, and not taking negotiations seriously. Of course the spin is to the benefit of current party positions, and possibly even reflects internal party jockeying. Where you can't reconcile two versions, I think it has to come down to who you are more inclined to believe.

I can't help thinking that the very serious, prepared approach of the Conservatives may have led the LibDem team to expect something similar from Labour, and act accordingly. I can see how that could be taken as being arrogant and pushy by an unprepared team which had expected LibDems to want to support Labour. The Conservative decision to take the LibDems seriously didn't just benefit their own negotiations: it set a bar which the Labour team just couldn't meet. The LibDems had a negotiating team appointed by Nick Clegg in late 2009; Osborne put together a "just in case" Conservative team about 2 weeks before the election; meanwhile Ed Balls found out there was a Labour negotiating team and he was in it late on Saturday morning, with the first secret meeting at 3pm that day.

Though generally well-written and accessible, the book has a few flaws. Sometimes information is repeated within the same page, occasionally even the same paragraph. There's a lot of dwelling on the merits and flaws of the statements released by each party, especially on the Friday, but no text of these statements to refer to. An appendix of the public statements and speeches would have been invaluable to provide context. Though the author has tried to remain neutral, his opinions do leak out: most of his critical comments are for Gordon Brown, with a few digs at Nick Clegg. I failed to notice any criticism of David Cameron at all, or indeed any Conservatives.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I'm catching up on the remaining "why you are awesome" comments (yes you can leave more). The hardest part is not finding nice things to say, but words to say it in that are a step up from "Squee! You are lovely!"

It occurred to me that one reason I've really enjoyed this particular exercise is that being able to focus entirely on positive things is a rare treat. My job is a mixture of fixing broken things & reviewing other people's work to find the flaws; housework is essentially finding the things that need fixing; political and current affairs discussion is so far from positive it's not actually funny any more. Don't get me wrong, I get deep satisfaction from fixing/improving things, but it's refreshing to focus entirely on the positive.

Also on the topic of finding words, I've started adding reviews to books as I mark them as read on LibraryThing. They're posted here, with a tag of books2010. I'm a bit ambivalent about them really, and the first batch I posted backdated to the completion date of the book, which had the useful side-effect of hiding them from everyone's Reading page. [livejournal.com profile] fanf is encouraging me to be less shy about them, so I've stopped backdating.
rmc28: (books2010)
7) Five Go To Demon's Rocks, by Enid Blyton (did not finish)
I remember this being a favourite when I was a child but I could not get past the first few chapters. The conversation is clunky and the characters one-dimensional and irritating. For all I loved Famous Five as a child, they really don't stand up to the competition now. There are so many good children's books that there's no need to keep the rubbish ones around, just because they were there first.

8) The Cricket Term, by Antonia Forest
By contrast with Enid Blyton, this is a children's story that really holds up. I've not read any Forest before, but I will definitely be looking out for more. Girls at boarding school, a large and close-knit family, plays, contests with the senior girls, and a cricket cup, culminating in an exciting final and a resolution to most of the term's dramas. Some of the wider cultural references made me check the publication date (early 1970s). In general it was a really lovely "school story" which managed to distinguish many different characters and switch between multiple viewpoints convincingly. Also I approve of girls playing cricket.

The one bit that made me stop dead and go "huh" was team selection for a swimming contest where one of the characters calculates that "she wouldn't be cursed". It took me entire minutes to realise this meant menstruation, and then I wondered why it would stop her competing, until I remembered some of the nastier times I had around 15-16 before getting appropriate medication.

9) Dimsie Moves Up, by Dorita Fairlie Bruce
This is also a girls school story which involves cricket matches and conflict with senior girls (there are also tennis matches and sea-swimming). It's enjoyable but very lightweight, especially compared with the Antonia Forest book, but then it was written about 50 years earlier. The characters and their conflicts are drawn fairly simplistically and I did slightly lose track of who was who apart from the central two or three. There is a bit of a tendency for exciting things to happen for the convenience of the plot rather than believably arising from the actions of characters.
rmc28: (books2010)
I enjoyed this fast-paced drama about an exorcist based in London, often recognisable London. A complicated plot, involving souls, demons, obsessive zombies and crime memorabilia.
rmc28: (books2010)
This read like a good military space opera that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe, especially as I like to pretend the Phantom Menace never existed and haven't seen its two sequels. The author has taken the setting (Republic, clone troopers, Jedi, clone wars) and woven an exciting adventure for a squad of clone commandos and a Jedi-in-training.

I really liked the characterisation of the commandos and the exploration of what it's like being inside one of those thousands of identical faces and suits of armour. I was less engaged by the unconfident Jedi trainee Etain, but she does grow over the course of the book. The plot rattles along and comes to a neat conclusion, but one leaving plenty of room for sequels. I will look out for them.
rmc28: (books2010)
This book is primarily focused on Gwen, a former police officer now working as a private detective. She suspects corruption in the police department, and that her former mentor was murdered while everyone is writing it off as accidental death. She's also a changeling: an elf raised among humans, and only recently discovering her heritage. The main thrust of the story is her search for a missing woman, which turns up more mysteries than it solves; but interwoven with it are many other strands and a number of new characters.

The book is second in a series and there are possibly slightly too many threads going on: I'm writing this a week or two after finishing it and can't remember much of what happened. Gwen is a likeable character, tough, determined and practical. I think this is an enjoyable if not outstanding contribution to the urban fantasy genre.
rmc28: (books2010)
This is a 2-in-1 Mills & Boon which I think [livejournal.com profile] nassus left with me.

The Family Plan is a great combination of highly-unlikely events, even more so than usual for Mills & Boon, in very much the modern world (there's even reference to Facebook!).Read more... ) I noted in passing that the book handles consent very well: she says "let go of me", he lets go immediately.

By contrast, The Boss's Proposal would have been a nice little romance but is spoiled by the appalling nature of the relationship and interactions: consent: ur doin it rong ) For some reason, I thought Mills & Boon had stopped doing forced-seduction storylines, but I was obviously wrong. I should probably write and complain.
rmc28: (books2010)
This is something like book 16 in the Anita Blake series, and after a lengthy stretch of very thin plots stretched over a lot of shagging and angst, it was a delight and relief to have a book that returns Anita to the role of federal marshal and vampire hunter. Ok, there's still some sex and some angst but there's a lot more plot than in recent books, and in feel it is a lot more like the early books.

Cut for spoilers )

Skin Trade is a vast improvement over everything since Narcissus In Chains redirected the series into more-porn-than-plot territory. I really hope this is the beginning of a new phase in the series, and for the first time in years I find myself looking forward with interest to the next instalment.
rmc28: (books2010)
From werewolves to vampires, witches, demons and dotcom millionaires.

Elena Michaels, reluctantly reconciled to her Pack, is investigating werewolf stories to protect their secret. It turns out the stories are a plant by a council of "supernaturals" who want to bring the werewolves in against a common enemy. In Bitten, the first in the series, there is no hint of any other supernatural beings, but in this book we meet witches, half-demons, vampires and sorcerors. Elena takes some convincing both of the other beings' powers but also of the need to co-operate.

But then she is kidnapped and things take a decidedly nasty turn. The kidnappers take her to an isolated research facility where a number of other "supernaturals" are held for research of various kinds. The group doing the research is somewhat ill-assorted, with each person in it for different reasons. The power structures shift over time, and Elena does her best to survive, figure out the power structures and do everything she can to escape and break out her fellow captives.

Like Bitten, the previous novel, there is gore, nastiness, swathes of moral grey areas (some of the worst monsters are humans), and action-packed plot. The sudden expansion of supernatural powers is a bit of a surprise, but unfolded well, and a good basis for the rest of the series.
rmc28: (books2010)
A modern werewolf adventure, with murder, mystery and romance.

Elena is a journalist in Toronto, engaged to be married, with an unfortunate habit of turning into a wolf at least once a week. It's tough enough keeping this secret from her fiance, but then she's summoned home by a family crisis.

Elena's "family" is the Pack, a small band of loosely-related werewolves who strive to keep their territory clear of "mutts" i.e. non-Pack werewolves. While the Pack are disciplined enough to only prey on animals, most mutts find humans easy and tempting prey. Now a mutt is killing humans and leaving them on the Pack estate, risking everyone's exposure, and they need everyone on hand to help hunt down and eliminate this threat.

The Pack, including Elena, are fairly ruthless, as are their adversaries. The body count rises throughout the story, and some of the most gripping scenes are of the Pack hunting and killing as wolves. Most ruthless of all is the Pack enforcer, Clay: Elena's once-and-sometimes-again lover, who brought her into the Pack by biting her without her consent. While they are hunting mutts, Clay continues to pursue Elena at every opportunity.

I enjoyed the action-packed plot of this book, and that Elena is just as competent and strong as her male Packmates. I also appreciated the fairly large grey areas of morality. The romance between Elena and Clay is neither love-conquers-all nor it's-over-I-can-never-forgive-you, but something messy and difficult in the middle, with no easy answers. The hunting of mutts by the Pack is sometimes vicious, and the Pack are neither morally squeaky-clean nor free of mistakes and error.

I shall be looking out for more "Otherworld" novels by this author.
rmc28: (books2010)
Kenzie Daniels is a political cartoonist estranged from her family after embarrassing her father. Ross Calder has just taken responsibility for his 7-year-old son Angus, and is trying to bond on a holiday on the North Carolina coast.

It is love at first sight - for Kenzie and Angus. For Kenzie and Ross, loves takes longer to develop, be recognised, and overcome both their pasts.

I enjoyed this Special Edition story, especially the background detail of Kenzie's involvement in the local community and bird rescue. The end of the book was a little hurried: Kenzie's reconciliation with her family seemed too easy, as was clearing up misunderstandings with Ross. But a pleasant read with a beautiful setting and a happy ending.
rmc28: (books2010)
This is a gripping story of magic, war, love and betrayal.

The large island of Hyre is divided between the Tonks, a race of horse-breeders with a clan-based society, and the Eastils, a multi-ethnic monarchy with limited democracy. They have been at war for centuries, using both conventional and magical means. Talyn is a magically-talented soldier of the Tonks, dismayed to hear that a third race, the Feegash, are trying to encourage both sides to join peace talks. Under a particularly fierce attack, Talyn learns a vital clue to a covert Eastil mission that threatens all the leaders of her race.

What I thought was going to be a typical magic-and-battles epic rapidly changes direction: peace talks bring huge change to Tonk society and its relations with the outside world. The story shifts from the first-person viewpoint of Talyn to a third-person viewpoint primarily following Geir, the spy leading the mission Talyn uncovers. Both are full of determination to work for their country, each sure that it is the only right way and the other country is barbarian and wrong. The mysterious Feegash, and the peace they bring, change all the old certainties.

I could not put this book down, and stayed up late into the night finishing it. I loved the characterisation and background. I loved that Talyn felt like a real person: likeable, heroic, but far from perfect. Most of all I loved the plot, unfolding in surprising ways.
rmc28: (books2010)
Timothy Zahn has written an engaging and accessible military-sf novel that happens to be set in a movie tie-in world. This book is a prequel to the movie Terminator Salvation, and introduces us to the post-Judgement Day world in the ruins of LA.

John & Kate Connor are leading a Resistance cell and there's some kind of command structure co-ordinating resistance (across the US alone, I presume, no hint of any other countries anyway). Meanwhile in a broken up hotel, a teenage Kyle Reese is part of a small community of civilians trying to stay alive against the threats both of Skynet and other humans.

The book follows the attempts of Connor's cell to capture a Skynet "staging post" while all its defences are out murdering the remaining humans in this part of the city. The action is seen from many viewpoints, both fighting in the streets & aerial battles, and Zahn's ability to keep the reader gripped is as good as ever.

The book comes to a resolution and a satisfying close, but it is clearly just a chapter in a longer story.
rmc28: (books2010)
Book 15 in the Anita Blake series. In what even the characters agree is a cheesy plot, Anita agrees to pretend to be the girlfriend of her friend Jason so he can go back to his hometown and try to rebuild bridges with his abusive father who is dying of cancer.

Arriving in the home town, they hit a media circus as the governor's son is getting married the same weekend, the governor is a potential presidential candidate, and the governor's son looks uncannily like Jason. The media merrily go down the wrong track at first, but being convinced of Jason's and Anita's real identities doesn't make things better as they manufacture controversy about them and their relationship with Jean-Claude.

So far so cheesy, but something else is going on and Anita can't help picking up on it: extra security around the wedding, odd reactions from the security guards she can't help baiting, and a very drunk bride-to-be. And then in the middle of the "bachelorette party", the Mother of All Darkness intervenes spectacularly.

I enjoyed this book more than the previous: there's still a lot of sex-and-relationship angsting, but there's also some gripping non-sexual action, actual character development and creepily convincing depictions of what its like having one's memory and perceptions messed about with. And hurray and hurrah, Anita suddenly discovers how to feed on something other than sex, and Richard gets to stop being the annoying whiny bundle of angry angst that has put me off some of the more recent books.

Anita's never-ending power-uprating continues, this time getting her (and Jean-Claude) entangled with the insular were-tiger community. This book only gets a chance to skate over the new problems: to be continued in number 16?
rmc28: (books2010)
Another installment in the Anita Blake series: some very nasty very powerful vampires come to town and put Anita, Jean-Claude, Richard and the rest in mortal danger. Anita gets yet more Mysteriously Powerful and there's some more shapeshifter politics. I found it gripping while I was reading it, but have no strong wish to read it again.

It suffers from the two main flaws of this series: Anita continues to be implausibly and increasingly powerful and irresistible; and the sex-and-relationships chapters take up so much of the book that very little other plot takes place. The early books were thinner but had a lot more (non-sexual) action packed into them.

I want to like that the series shows working polyamorous relationships, but I'm a bit dubious about most of it being on Anita's terms and no-one else's. Some of her lovers seem to be little more than a name placeholder for all the character development they get. In addition, I don't think it's a spoiler to say I really wish the author would either kill Richard off or allow him to grow up a little. The nearest I came to giving up on the book were the chapters with him in.

On the good side, Edward appears again in this one. I've always liked Edward, probably because Anita isn't having relationship angst with him.
rmc28: (books2010)
I'm afraid I bounced off this book without finishing it. The execution is good, in that I kept turning the pages when I first picked it up, but on having to put it down for a few hours I found in myself no desire to pick it back up: none of the characters particularly interested me and there was a fair bit of unpleasant pain-and-torture I could have lived without reading.

This may be a weakness of a series book: I picked it up at the library because it looked interesting, not realising how far through the series it was. There was perhaps too much backstory I was missing out on, even with the narrator chattily filling me in. I did find the narrative voice intrusive sometimes, especially the recurrent "by the way".

This book, maybe even this series, is not for me, but I will look out for other works by the author.
rmc28: (books2010)
Fifth and final in the "Young Bond" series by Charlie Higson, this book has a teenage James Bond learn to ski, save the King, discover some of the grey areas of espionage, defeat some Nazis, and have his first taste of a broken heart.

From the Tyrolean alps to Eton and back again, this gripping book kept me turning the pages, and filled in a little more of Bond's early life. The setting is firmly in the 1930s, and the attention to detail remains excellent: skiing equipment, Eton rituals, royalty and references to the rise of Hitler.

Of the four books I've read in this series, this one is perhaps the most serious, the one that starts taking a likeable young boy down the path towards the ruthless man of Fleming's novels. That said, it's still suitable for the "young teen" target audience: with only moderate violence and only the mildest hint of sexual feelings. It should be enjoyed by Bond fans of all ages.
rmc28: (books2010)
A tarot-reading at a hen night tells Fern that she already met her soulmate "but let him go". Fern finds herself obsessed with working out who it could be: first love Luke, now a movie star; college boyfriend Matt, or latest ex Seb, dumped for cheating on her?

Moving around between London and Prague, this fun romance follows set-designer Fern on her quest, along with costume parties, weddings, spoiled dogs and an unexpected swim in the Vltava.

Fern is a likeable thirty-something city girl with a thriving set-design career and a unique sense of style. The plot is slightly by the numbers, contrasting the different personalities and approach to life of Luke, Matt & Seb, and in doing so allowing Fern to assess her life and what she wants out of it. I guessed the happy ending some way in advance, but it was no less fun for that.

I will be looking out for the rest of the series by Jessica Fox.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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