Tuesday, 21 October 2014

#CBR6 Book 105: "Etiquette & Espionage" by Gail Carriger

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Sophronia Temminnick is not all a proper young lady should be. She'd much rather be climbing trees, spying on conversations in the dumb-waiter and dismantle machinery than converse politely over tea. So her mother sends her off to boarding school, more specifically Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Sophronia makes new friends on her way there. Miss Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott and her brother Pillover are both being sent away to school (Pillover is to go to a boy's academy, naturally) and discover that Sophronia has no idea what kind of school she's enrolling in.

The youngsters are attacked by sky pirates on their way to school and Sophronia's quick thinking to get them out of the dangerous situation makes her a possible new enemy. It turns out that the school is in fact a training academy in the covert arts and espionage and the young ladies must learn how to fight, sneak and even possibly assassinate, in addition to learning comportment and proper manners. Sophronia and her new friends (among them a Scottish noblewoman raised by werewolves and a cross-dressing urchin with a passion for inventions) do their best to foil Sophronia's nemesis, trying to recover a stolen prototype before it gets sold to enemies of the state.

I mostly very much enjoyed Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series and there is no denying that the woman has a very colourful and creative imagination. Her alternate Victorian England with vampires, werewolves, Steampunk and the like is a delight and while some of her quirks may get a bit exasperating, her books tend to be entertaining, if not always the heaviest in substance.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in her new series for Young Adult reader, and it's actually set quite some time before the Parasol Protectorate books. Readers of both series will be pleased to see younger versions of Lady Kingair and Genevieve Lefoux and I have no doubt that as the series continues, there will be more familiar faces.

Carriger is fond of a headstrong heroine (as well as truly outrageous names). I actually think Sophronia is a more likable heroine than Alexia (who could be a bit of a pill), but it's clear to see that Carriger's pattern of pragmatic and impetuous protagonist paired with a ditzy, somewhat silly best friend is re-used in this series. The third book in the Finishing School series is out at the beginning of November, and if I don't get round to catching up this year, I'm sure I will revisit Sophronia and her little friends sometime in the new year.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

#Readathon October 2014: Finishing up

1) Which hour was the most daunting for you?
Hour 14, where I had to keep battling not to fall asleep. Hours 3-7, when I hardly got any reading done because of family dinner.

2) Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged next year?
Jackaby by William Ritter
Locke & Key: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

3) Do you have any suggestions for how to improve Read-a-thon for next year?
No, I think it all went excellently.

4) What do you think went really well in this year's Read-a-thon?
From an arrangement point of view, I really like that there is now a Goodreads group. I didn't spend too much time in it WHILE I was reading, but am really looking forward to browsing it now that I'm done actually reading. For myself, I'm glad I got as much reading done as I did.

5) How many books did you read?

6) What were the names of the books you read?
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts
Jackaby by William Ritter
Codename: Knockout. The Devil You Say by Robert Rodi, Louis Small Jr., Mark Farmer and Amanda Conner
Locke & Key: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

7) Which book did you enjoy most?
Jackaby by William Ritter

8) Which book did you enjoy least?
X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts. Let's just say I'm not going looking for more books by this author.

9) Do you have any advice for next year's Cheerleaders?
Keep up the good work. I want to thank all the lovely people who cheered me on through my blog or Twitter. It makes it so much more fun.

10) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Try to stop me from participating again. I will make very sure that I can take part in both the April and the October Read-a-thon in 2015. In 2015, my nephew's birthday will be on the Sunday, by which point I'll be done reading, so that will make it much easier.

Total amount of time spent reading: Exactly 10 hours (I love that spreadsheet). Hoping for more next year.
Total pages read: 1320 (Graphic novels for the win)

#Readathon October 2014: Mid-event survey

1) What are you reading right now?
X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts. Thankfully, I'm nearly done.
2) How many books have you read so far?
Nearly two
3) What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of Read-a-thon?
Anything that isn't X Marks the Scot, frankly.
4) Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Had to spend much of hours 3-7 at my brother's having family dinner. Dealt with it by starting my reading earlier in the day, to make up for some of the hours I'd be missing, as well as reading every time I went to the bathroom and in the car on the way there. I'm pretty sure my parents thought I was being pretty rude, but I don't care.
5) What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How perky I'm feeling, even though it's 1 am here.

#Readathon October 2014: Hour the eleventh

It's just turned midnight here in Oslo and I've been trying to read as much as possible. Today is my nephew's first birthday, and I know it's the firstest of all first world problems to complain that my Read-a-thon is hampered by the fact that I had to go have dinner at my brother and sister-in-laws and spend some time with my family. But there was just so much time spent talking about polite nothings or watching small children romping around when I could have been reading! And in the car on the way back it was so dark that I wasn't able to get any reading done at all. I know, I am insufferable. I don't deserve nice things - like a whole weekend when I can just indulge in reading.

Even so (and because I may have done an estimation of how many hours would be spent at my brother's and started the Read-a-thon a bit earlier as a result), I have got a fair amount of reading done.

Thanks to my audio book of The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant by Dan Savage, I was able to get some reading in while having to rush to the shops. I've also finished Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and am 70% through X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts, a truly preposterous historical romance that I need to finish to complete my Alphabet soup challenge. It's not great, you guys. There's sworn enemies forced to marry, and witchcraft accusations and an archery contest and the hero being implicated in the Gunpowder Plot (yes, that one). So much crazy sauce, not a lot of greatness.

Food consumed so far: Some ham, cheese and scallion muffins, Fårikål (courtesy of my brother, it was delicious), some birthday cake, a can of Coke, some chocolate, some jelly candy and some crisps. That thing I wrote in the opening meme about sticking with healthy snacks because of my diet has been completely blown out of the water. I cracked, and I cracked spectacularly. May as well enjoy myself.

Pages read: 589 (Yes, I may have acquired an e-book of the audio book I'm reading to work out the exact number of pages I listened to)
Challenges completed: Recommend Me a Book
Currently reading: X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts
Books completed: 1 (Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake)

Saturday, 18 October 2014

#Readathon October 2014: Opening meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Oslo, Norway. Where the weather is cold, grey and rainy, so it feels extra satisfying to curl up and indulge with books.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I haven't actually entirely decided what I'm reading yet, despite my love of making lists and planning things.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Because they've served me well in previous Read-a-thons, I've made my favourite ham, scallion and cheese muffins. Otherwise I'm going to have to be careful with the snacks. Am trying to lose weight.

4) Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I'm 35, I'm a teacher. I probably actually have way too much work I should be doing to take a whole 24 hours to spend reading, but I don't care. I love Read-a-thon and need some quality reading time to recharge my batteries.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what's one thing you'll do different today?
I'm going to allow myself some breaks, and may actually go to bed a bit earlier, and get up early, instead of reading for as long as I possibly can and then, as a result, sleeping through the final hours of the read-a-thon.

Monday, 22 September 2014

#CBR6 Book 104: "The Witch with No Name" by Kim Harrison - DOUBLE CANNONBALL!

Page count: 512 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is the thirteenth and final book in the Hollows series, and as such, a really very stupid place to start reading. Start at the beginning with Dead Witch WalkingI also shouldn't have to tell you that this book will most likely contain spoilers for previous books in the series. You have been warned. Proceed at your own risk.

Rachel Morgan's life hasn't exactly been peaceful since she decided to become an independent runner and start her own business with her vampire friend Ivy and the pixy Jenks. There's been a lot of water under the bridge, extensive property damage, loved ones lost, secrets uncovered, truths discovered, villains vanquished and new alliances made. Rachel is an entirely different person, much more skilled in her magical abilities. She's found happiness with the man she once considered her worst enemy and while she fears that happiness is temporary, even though he's pretty much sacrificed much of his wealth and reputation in order to be with her, she is willing to take what she can get for as long as she can get it.

Of course, she's not going to live much longer if she doesn't figure out a way to save the souls of the vampires in Cincinnati. Rynn Cormel, leader of the vampire faction, is sick of waiting for Rachel to find a magical solution and threatens not just her life, but that of her best friend, Ivy, if she doesn't come up with a fix. The demons who she could once have counted on helping her are shunning her, and Al, her former mentor has threatened to kill her because he feels she has betrayed him by choosing Trent. To make matters worse, Ellasbeth wants custody and is willing to ally with Landon, weaselliest of all the elves to achieve her goals. In order to gain control over the elven council and wrest power away from the vampires for good, Landon may do something drastic enough to destroy all magic. Sorting all of this out is all in a day's work for Rachel Morgan.

I've been reading this series since 2005. It's one of the first paranormal series I can remember really being hooked on. It was such a lovely surprise to discover that while book 12, The Undead Pool, was released on schedule in February, I didn't actually have to wait a whole year to read the conclusion of the series. Of course, I also dreaded the ending, because these characters have been part of my world for such a long time.

I love how far Rachel has come and how, through it all, she's stayed true to herself. One of the reasons I've liked her so much as a protagonist is that she isn't perfect. She's brave, and stubborn and loyal to a fault and will frequently throw herself into insanely dangerous situations if it means protecting one of the people close to her. She's had to learn that there is more between heaven and earth than used to exist in her philosophy and she's become a better person with it.

There are so many things Harrison needs to finish off in this final book, and I sort of wish she'd managed to do it with a plot that didn't feel so messy. There is a lot going on here, and I didn't actually care all that much about quite a lot of it. There were a lot of threats to characters that I cared about, but the resolution of some of the plots felt confusing and a bit haphazard. I'm not sure exactly what I was hoping for or expecting, but while the book was good, it sadly wasn't great. I'm not going to complain, too much though. It's not like Rachel ended up with Sam in the end, just because he's the only dude she hasn't hooked up with. Endings are always tricky. You need to tie up all the story lines and try to satisfy all the readers who have followed your books for years and years. I thank Kim Harrison for the years she's devoted to these characters and this fascinating urban fantasy world. It's going to be fun to re-read the whole series from the beginning.

And with that, I complete my double Cannonball.

#CBR6 Book 103: "The Winter Long" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 358 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is book eight in the October Daye series, and as such, NOT a great place to start reading the books. If you want to start at the beginning, Rosemary and Rue is the book you're looking for. It is also, by this point, completely impossible for me to review the book without some spoilers for earlier books in the series. You may therefore want to skip this review until you've caught up, if you're worried about that sort of thing.

You'd think things would finally be looking up for October "Toby" Daye, changeling knight, rescuer of lost children. There is finally a Queen of the Mists that actually likes her, she's discovered the true identity of her squire and her relationship is just getting stronger. Then the man she's feared and hated ever since he abducted her liege lord's wife and daughter and transformed her into a fish for over a decade, ruining the life she once had, turns up on her doorstep and claims he needs her help. She also discovers that Simon Torquill is a much more significant person in her life than she ever imagined, and that he believes he was saving her life by merely making her a carp in the Japanese Tea Gardens. His mysterious employer actually wanted him to kill Toby.

Toby wants nothing to do with Simon Torquill and is terrified that his return means that her liege, Sylvester, or his family are in danger. As it turns out, unless she manages to identify who Simon's sinister employer is, all those she loves might perish. Her enemy is someone from her past, but much more dangerous and ruthless than Toby ever imagined.

In the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, Seanan McGuire confesses that this is the book the entire series has been building towards. This is the first book in the series she had fully plotted, and all that's gone before has been leading to this point. It therefore has much of the same feel as Changes by Jim Butcher or Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. So many characters and plot lines that I thought were finished long ago suddenly take on new significance. I actually managed to figure out who the villain was just a tiny while before it was revealed, but only because I racked my brain by going through all possible suspects.

I've always liked the covers for the October Daye books, and hadn't realised just how appropriate the cover for this book is until after I finished actually reading it. Fans of the series will know that Toby's clothes rarely survive for long without being soaked completely in her own or someone else's blood, and if you look closely, her t-shirt isn't actually naturally red. A gruesome and very accurate detail, in a genre where the covers are often cringe-worthy in their badness.

With every new book, Toby discovers more about herself and who she is. Her mother has never exactly been a steady presence in her life, but here Toby realises that there are more family secrets buried than she ever could have imagined. When members of her actual family can't be relied on, it's a great comfort to her to have her chosen family around her, in Quentin, May, Tybalt, Raj and the Luidaeg. It's obvious that while the series as a whole has been leading to this book, this is by no means the end, and it's going to be very interesting to see where Seanan McGuire takes her characters in the coming books.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.