Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mid-Year Round Up

So here we are, just over halfway through the year. Summer's just started and it's time to enjoy the long days, sunny skies and warmth.

I wish I could say I have been. But it's rained 14 of the last 23 days...most of those being pretty impressive thunderstorms. I love a good thunderstorm as much as (and probably more than) the next person, but I'm very tired of the humidity that just won't let up. I'm sure most people wouldn't think humidity when they're thinking Wisconsin. And yet I can't remember a summer without it. It's a damp climate up here, so while our heat and humidity doesn't begin to touch on most of the southern climes, it's certainly more than enough for me.

It's been a fairly good year for me so far. I've had time to read, watch movies, see the end of favorite television shows, or story arcs (and get hooked on some new ones) and go to a couple of great concerts.

Earlier this year I took on two challenges for reading, and I think I'm doing pretty well at this point. So here's the update:

2010 Reading Challenge
I've read one book beginning with each letter, except for E, N, Q, X and Y. I haven't been purposefully searching out books that begin with the letters, just reading what's come naturally to me. Here's my list as it stands right now:

A - Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunters 4) by Nalini Singh
B - Breaking Free (Masters of the Shadowlands 3) by Cherise Sinclair
C - Candy Coated Passion by Kat Alexis
D - Dark Desires After Dusk (Immortals After Dark 6) by Kresley Cole
F - From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse 8) by Charlaine Harris
G - Graceful Submission by Melinda Barron
H - He Loves Lucy by Susan Donovan
I - Ice Cream, You Scream by Kat Alexis
J - Judgement in Death (In Death 12) by JD Robb
K - A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
L - Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood 2) by JR Ward
M - Mistral's Kiss (Merry Gentry 5) by Laurell K. Hamilton
O - An Offer From a Gentleman (Bridgertons 3) by Julia Quinn
P - The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
R - Roping the Wind (Turner Brothers 1) by Kate Pearce
S - A Spanking for Valentine by Evangeline Anderson
T - The Turning (Blood Ties 1) by Jennifer Armintrout
U - Undercover Submission by Melinda Barron
V - Veil of Midnight (Midnight Breeds 5) by Lara Adrian
W - Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? (Turner Brothers 2) by Kate Pearce
Z - Zane's Way by Maggie Casper

New Author Challenge
The other challenge I took on was a retry from last year. I never did manage to even get more than one or two new-to-me authors tried last year. And while I'm not at the halfway point yet this year, I have expanded my horizons by 15 authors already. Here's the list as of today:

1. Jennifer Armintrout - The Turning
The Turning is the first book in Jennifer's Blood Ties series. I loved this first book, and pretty quickly went through the other three. And picked up the first book in her next series: Lightworld/Darkworld.

2. Kate Pearce - Roping the Wind
Roping the Wind is the first book in Kate's Turner Brothers series. It was a really good, fun cowboy read. I supremely enjoyed it. And quickly read the other two. I look forward to reading more of hers.

3. Lauren Dane - Giving Chase
A good fun read. I'm definitely gonna get to some more of her work.

4. Susan Donovan - He Loves Lucy
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the love story between Lucy and Theo was not only touching, but believable.

5. Melinda Barron - Graceful Submission
This was a fantastic book. I loved the development of the characters, and how BDSM was handled in it. I will definitely be looking for more of her books.

6. Kat Alexis - Candy Coated Passion
To be honest the sex scenes got a bit tedious, and it felt like there was little to no growth with the characters. I'd love to see the author do more with them, so it's not just sex scene after sex scene.

7. Maggie Casper - Zane's Way
Hmm. It had the potential for a really good book. The characters were interesting, the storyline was interesting, but it just seemed to rushed. I didn't get enough time of them together, much more time of them apart. Not enough time to see how their relationship grew. Pity, because I missed that.

8. Julia Quinn - The Duke and I
I absolutely adored this book. The characters are lively, quick, smart and interesting. People that I would love to know. The romance is sweet, hot, and beautiful. The dialogue is fabulous. The secondary characters (coming up in future books) are absolutely fascinating. I can't wait to read more from Julia Quinn. (Yes - I know I'm quite late to this party...lol)

9. Jennifer Ashley - The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie
What a fantastic book. I love the way that the author showed the hero having AS. How it wasn't a passed over part of the story, how it was completely integrated into the love story and the overall story. Fantastic romance with a real hero and heroine. I couldn't put it down, and can't wait to read more in this series.

10. Stacia Kane - Unholy Ghosts
Read my review here

11. Charlaine Harris - Dead Until Dark
I really enjoyed this first novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Enough that it made me immediately get the following 9 full length novels and devour them in a week.

12. Desiree Holt - Double Entry
This was a decent book that had some likable characters, although I can't remember much specifically about them. It was a short story, heavy on sex, and light on conflict. I did have some problems with one scene in particular that was just beyond unrealistic for me - not in that it couldn't be done, but in that it definitely shouldn't, and any woman would know that. There was also some unrealistic dialogue that felt more like the author trying to give distinctive personalities rather than the characters actually having distinctive personalities. Other than that, I'd be willing to try another novel by her sometime.

13. Kasey MacKenzie - Red Hot Fury
A debut author with a fresh new look at urban fantasy. I've been working on a review for this. The concept is awesome and intriguing, but there were some definite debut-novel issues I had.

14. Gena Showalter - The Darkest Night
First book in the Lords of the Underworld series. Interesting premise, good characters. A good read, and I look forward to seeing where she takes the series.

15. Cherise Sinclair - Club Shadowlands
The best thing I can say about this author is that as soon as I finished Club Shadowlands I immediately read everything else she has available. I find her characters believable, charming, interesting and hot. The end of Master of the Mountain still strikes me as perfect - just because of how realistic it was. And beautiful. I eagerly await anything and everything Cherise sends my way.

On top of these I thought it'd be fun to keep track of all the books I've read this year. It's been awhile since I've kept an eye on that sort of thing, and it's definitely been fun. I've already read 83 books. 2010 Year In Books.

Here's my list at this point. Some of these were re-reads, but not many. I've bolded the ones that I'd previously read.

  1. Veil of Midnight (Midnight Breeds 5) by Lara Adrian
  2. Ashes of Midnight (Midnight Breeds 6) by Lara Adrian
  3. Shades of Midnight (Midnight Breeds 7) by Lara Adrian
  4. Candy Coated Passion (1) by Kat Alexis
  5. Ice Cream, You Scream (2) by Kat Alexis
  6. A Spanking for Valentine by Evangeline Anderson
  7. Deal with the Devil by Evangeline Anderson
  8. The Turning (Blood Ties 1) by Jennifer Armintrout
  9. Possession (Blood Ties 2) by Jennifer Armintrout
  10. Ashes to Ashes (Blood Ties 3) by Jennifer Armintrout
  11. All Soul's Night (Blood Ties 4) by Jennifer Armintrout
  12. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Highland Pleasures 1) by Jennifer Ashley
  13. Graceful Submission (1) by Melinda Barron
  14. Graceful Mischief (2) by Melinda Barron
  15. Undercover Submission (3) by Melinda Barron
  16. Sweet Vibrations by Melinda Barron
  17. Amethyst Eyes by Melinda Barron
  18. Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson 5) by Patricia Briggs
  19. Zane's Way by Maggie Casper
  20. Dark Desires After Dusk (Immortals After Dark 6) by Kresley Cole
  21. Kiss of a Demon King (Immortals After Dark 7) by Kresley Cole
  22. Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark 9) by Kresley Cole
  23. He Loves Lucy by Susan Donovan
  24. Mistral's Kiss (Merry Gentry 5) by Laurell K. Hamilton
  25. A Lick of Frost (Merry Gentry 6) by Laurell K. Hamilton
  26. Swallowing Darkness (Merry Gentry 7) by Laurell K. Hamilton
  27. Divine Misdemeanors (Merry Gentry 8) by Laurell K. Hamilton
  28. Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse 1) by Charlaine Harris
  29. Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse 2) by Charlaine Harris
  30. Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse 3) by Charlaine Harris
  31. Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse 4) by Charlaine Harris
  32. Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse 5) by Charlaine Harris
  33. Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse 6) by Charlaine Harris
  34. All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse 7) by Charlaine Harris
  35. From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse 8) by Charlaine Harris
  36. Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse 9) by Charlaine Harris
  37. Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse 10) by Charlaine Harris
  38. A Touch of Dead (Sookie Stackhouse collection of shorts) by Charlaine Harris
  39. Double Entry by Desire Holt
  40. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  41. Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts 1) by Stacia Kane
  42. A Tapestry of Spells (Nine Kingdoms 6) by Lynn Kurland
  43. Red Hot Fury (Shades of Fury 1) by Kasey MacKenzie
  44. A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
  45. Roping the Wind (Turner Brothers 1) by Kate Pearce
  46. Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? (Turner Brothers 2) by Kate Pearce
  47. Riding the Line (Turner Brothers 3) by Kate Pearce
  48. The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1) by Julia Quinn
  49. The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons 2) by Julia Quinn
  50. An Offer From a Gentleman (Bridgertons 3) by Julia Quinn
  51. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Bridgertons 4) by Julia Quinn
  52. To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons 5) by Julia Quinn
  53. When He Was Wicked (Bridgertons 6) by Julia Quinn
  54. It's In His Kiss (Bridgertons 7) by Julia Quinn
  55. On the Way to the Wedding (Bridgertons 8) by Julia Quinn
  56. Glory in Death (In Death 2) by JD Robb
  57. Immortal in Death (In Death 3) by JD Robb
  58. Rapture in Death (In Death 4) by JD Robb
  59. Ceremony in Death (In Death 5) by JD Robb
  60. Vengeance in Death (In Death 6) by JD Robb
  61. Holiday in Death (In Death 7) by JD Robb
  62. Midnight in Death (In Death 8) by JD Robb
  63. Conspiracy in Death (In Death 9) by JD Robb
  64. Loyalty in Death (In Death 10) by JD Robb
  65. Witness in Death (In Death 11) by JD Robb
  66. Judgement in Death (In Death 12) by JD Robb
  67. The Darkest Night (Lords of the Underworld 1) by Gena Showalter
  68. The Darkest Kiss (Lords of the Underworld 2) by Gena Showalter
  69. Club Shadowlands (Masters of the Shadowlands 1) by Cherise Sinclair
  70. Dark Citadel (Masters of the Shadowlands 2) by Cherise Sinclair
  71. Breaking Free (Masters of the Shadowlands 3) by Cherise Sinclair
  72. Lean on Me (Masters of the Shadowlands 4) by Cherise Sinclair
  73. "Simon Says" in Doms of the Dark Haven by Cherise Sinclair
  74. Master of the Mountain by Cherise Sinclair
  75. Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunters 4) by Nalini Singh
  76. Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood 1) by JR Ward
  77. Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood 2) by JR Ward
  78. Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood 3) by JR Ward
  79. Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood 4) by JR Ward
  80. Lover Unbound (Black Dagger Brotherhood 5) by JR Ward
  81. Lover Enshrined (Black Dagger Brotherhood 6) by JR Ward
  82. Lover Avenged (Black Dagger Brotherhood 7) by JR Ward
  83. Lover Mine (Black Dagger Brotherhood 8) by JR Ward

I also managed to be here more frequently, and posted 3 new reviews. Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane - and after even more time passing, I have to say I'm looking forward to seeing where Stacia takes us (and Chess) in the next book (Unholy Magic due out July 6, 2010). Red Hot Fury by Kasey Mackenzie. And last (but most assuredly not least) Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh. Which is one of my top 5 reads of the year.

Speaking of top reads for the year so far, here are my top ten...in no particular order, because that's just too hard.

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh
Silver Born by Patricia Briggs
Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
Breaking Free by Cherise Sinclair
Lover Mine by JR Ward
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole
Master of the Mountain by Cherise Sinclair
The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout

This is getting a little long, so maybe I'll leave the movies, tv and music for another post ;)

How has your reading been this year? I'm pretty happy with mine so far, and look forward to finding a lot more great books in the second half of it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Red Hot Fury - Kasey Mackenzie

Marissa Holloway, Chief Magical Investigator for the Boston Police Department has spent the years since fully coming into her Fury birthright maintaining the peace between the arcane and the mundane of the world. Usually by solving supernatural crimes, more specifically murders.

When she's called to the site of a murdered sister-Fury, only to discover the body isn't who she's supposed to be, things get crazy in a hurry. Suspended from her job, Riss finds herself on the run from enemies she didn't know she had.

Unable to trust almost anyone, Riss turns to her ex, Warhound Scott Murphy, to help her solve the mysteries that just keep piling up on one another. But with the protection Scott can offer comes a resurgence of feelings between them. Riss'll have to keep a tight hold on not only passion, but her Rage in order to solve the case, and stop an impending war.

I went into Red Hot Fury excited and interested in the world that Kasey Mackenzie created. Her main protagonist is a Fury, a rarely written about character from mythology. Ms. Mackenzie continued to do this, drawing from not only Greek and Roman myths, but others – including Irish and Egypitian. When the Bastai showed up (Cats from Egypt’s goddess Bast) I was ecstatic.

Red Hot Fury maintains a furiously (ha) fast pace. The storyline moves along quickly, leaving you gasping for breath from one thing before plunging you headlong into the next. There are numerous action sequences which are very well-written and vivid.

Unfortunately the concept and fast pace weren’t enough to make this novel great. While the plot hurtled along, at times it felt like it was doing so to cover up some very incomplete world building. There were gaping holes in how the arcane, magical beings, interacted with each other, the mundanes (humans) and their powers. For example, while I have a good idea that furies can shape-change into a variety of forms, I have little understanding of each of them. I think there are three main forms, but I’d be hard pressed to describe any of them except full-Fury.

I truly liked Riss. She’s an interesting character to read through which is especially important in a first-person POV novel. She’s sassy, caring and smart-assed, with just a touch of naiveté thrown in there to round her out. However, she never felt completely real to me. I didn’t understand some of her thoughts or emotional processes. Sometimes I felt like her inner thoughts didn’t match her outer actions, with no reasoning given for that discrepancy.

All of the other characters in the novel suffered because of the first-person POV. It was hard to get to know any of them well or understand their motivations. More than once I wanted to just jump into Scott’s head and find out exactly what he was thinking.

Ms. Mackenzie has a great idea that I would love to see expanded and built upon in future Shades of Fury novels. However, in the end, despite this intriguing concept, Red Hot Fury didn’t live up to what I was hoping for. Still if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed novel with a fresh, new subject, then Red Hot Fury is definitely for you!!

Grade: C+

Book Link | Amazon (print) | B&N (print) | Borders (print) | Book Depository | Ace

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Charlaine Harris Book Order

Sookie Stackhouse (or Southern Vampire Mysteries)

1. Dead Until Dark

2. Living Dead in Dallas

3. Club Dead

4. Dead to the World

* "Fairy Dust in Powers of Detection (also A Touch of Dead)

* "Dancers in the Dark" in Night's Edge (Sookie Universe, No Sookie)

* "Dracula Night" in Many Bloody Returns (also A Touch of Dead)

5. Dead as a Doornail

* "One Word Answer" in Bite (also A Touch of Dead)

6. Definitely Dead

* "Tacky" in My Big, Fat Supernatural Wedding (Sookie Universe, No Sookie)

7. All Together Dead

* "Lucky" in Unusual Suspects (also A Touch of Dead)

8. From Dead to Worse

* "Gift Wrap" in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (also A Touch of Dead)

9. Dead and Gone

* "Bacon" in Strange Brew (Sookie Universe, No Sookie)

* "The Britlingens Go To Hell" in Must Love Hellhounds (Sookie Universe, No Sookie)

10. Dead in the Family

* "Dahlia Underground" in Crimes by Moonlight (Sookie Universe, No Sookie)

* "Two Blondes" in Death's Excellent Vacation

11. Dead Reckoning

* The Sookie Stackhouse Companion

12. Deadlocked

13. Dead Ever After

13.5. After Dead (29 October 2013)

Please note: This page was written by me, so as always, please visit the author’s website for up-to-date, author-verified information as well as for information on books that have not yet been included to this list.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Judge A Book By It's Cover??

I long ago realized that I judge books by their covers.  This is just something I do, subconsciously. I used to be somewhat contrite that I did this. I would force myself to pick up books with awful covers and read the blurbs, or the first few chapters, but I never bought them. Ever. Okay, maybe I need to qualify this statement. If it's an author that I love, it hardly matters what the cover may look like. I may cringe while buying it, and not look at the cover while reading it, or carrying it, but I'll still buy it. But that is the only time it will happen.

A couple of years ago I stopped being ashamed and just realized this is how I am. I like visually pleasing covers. I don't have a 'type' or a specific standard that I can say what I like, I just know. It either grabs me or it doesn't. I stopped making myself pick up books to check them out despite their cover. Now I just grab what I like to look at, and if I miss out on something because of that, then I guess that's my loss. Usually this works for me. Sometimes it doesn't.

I think for me a big part of it is that if someone puts time and thought into a cover, making it aesthetically satisfying, then I know that they feel the book is worth it, and thus so should I. If a book has a crap cover with fake people, or a cartoon-y feel on an adult book, or something that is just plain 'ole ugly then I assume (yes, I know...one shouldn't assume) that the publisher didn't feel it deserved their very best. And if it doesn't deserve the very best cover, then it doesn't deserve my money either.

As an aside - I used to absolutely hate covers that had people on them.  It took me a long time to get over that - probably the reason that I came to romance so late.  My problem (still) with people on the cover is that they are never what I picture the character to look like.  Obviously as you look below, some of the covers I've picked up because I liked them have people on the covers, so this is no longer a hard and fast rule - though I still do prefer to have it be more vague instead of specific, or to not include the face.

I started thinking about this because I just started reading Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, the first book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series. I always heard people talking about this series, I've watched the last two seasons of True Blood on HBO, and I forced myself to pick up this book numerous times in the bookstore. I just couldn't get past the cartoon vampires on the cover.

I mean, really? This is what you think is going to draw people in? Well, obviously it has because they're wildly popular books so I must be in the minority. Even when they changed the cover after True Blood started I just couldn't make myself start reading it. I have never been able to get the corny covers out of my mind. In fact it's taken months of my best friend telling me to start reading the series for me to even turn to the first page in the first chapter of Dead Until Dark. It's probably a great book (I'll be sure to say when I'm done), but I've always passed it by for nicer looking books.

There are several instances where this worked particularly well for me. I picked up Dreams of Stardust by Lynn Kurland because I liked the way the cover looked. The colors were nice, the picturesque setting was nice. I was intrigued by the jewels and wondered what meaning they had to the story. All in all, a good cover. And I love this book. Love the entire series in fact. Here is the reading order.

The simplicity of the the cover for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon caught my eye and I was incredibly glad I read it. It’s still a favorite – even if I haven’t stayed caught up on the series.

Otherland by Tad Williams featured a golden city on the cover. Someplace fantastical and beautiful. I wanted to learn more about that place. This was a book I picked up not knowing it was part one of a four part series…

This cover led me to one of my all-time favorite authors, Nalini Singh. I think her Guild Hunter novels have some of my favorite covers.

More books I picked up solely because of the cover and really enjoyed:

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Almost a total exception to my person/face rule...
Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe

Welcome to Tempation by Jennifer Crusie

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

Books I’ve picked up strictly based on the cover, but haven’t had the chance to read yet.

Sebastian by Anne Bishop

Steamed by Katie MacAlister

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Nightlife by Rob Thurman

Lord of the Fading Lands by CL Wilson

Of course this isn’t always fool-proof. I can’t think of many examples of books where I loved the cover, but didn’t like the book (though I know there have been some). But I do have a very good example of a cover I hated, and a book I enjoyed. In fact, the author of this book became one of my very favorites.

On the left is the original cover for Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning. On the right, the more recent version. I strongly dislike the original version of the cover. I can’t even remember what prompted me to pick it up, but I like the newer version much better.

So I try to remember this when I see a cover I can’t stand, or don’t like…but I still find myself picking up more books based on the cover.

Anyone else do this? What are some of your favorite covers? Are there books you love, but covers that just don’t do them justice?
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