February 24, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question from Wendi's Book Corner: Do you have a specialized blog where you only review a certain genre or type of book? If so, what is your favorite thing about that type of book? If not, what is/are your favorite genre(s)? What makes that genre(s) a favorite?
Nope. My blog is a random mix of mystery/suspense, romance, historical fiction, fiction, action/adventure. I get bored easily so I mix up what I read...usually I don't read the same genres back to back and I pretty much never read non-fiction. Also I do not post reviews on all the books I read. For romance I rarely post reviews because there are some really really good romance blogs out there that post reviews for books in the genre.
I like action/adventure for the thrill, mystery/suspense for the problem-solving and figuring out the whodunit, historical fiction for the escapism and living that time in history through the characters and romance for the HEA.

Indigo Launches e-Book Service Shortcovers

There has been a lot of progress with e-reading and e-books lately and soon Canadians will have expanded options. Indigo has annnounced a new e-book service 12 months in the making called Shortcovers which will work similar to Apple's iTunes store and will be accessible on BlackBerry Storm, iPhone, iPod Touch and Google Android, as well as on a computer. Shortcovers is being launched in both Canada through Indigo and the U.S.A through Barnes&Noble. Self-published and unpublished writers will also be able to submit chapters to the service either for free, with or without ads, or for a fee of $0.99. More details here.

February 22, 2009

Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell

Signora da Vinci is the riveting tale of Caterina, the unmarried mother of Leonardo da Vinci, and her determination to be a part of her son’s amazing life. This is Robin Maxwell’s first foray into Italian Renaissance history, her previous writing in Tudor historical fiction, with such novels as The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Mademoiselle Boleyn. I quickly became immersed in the story of Caterina, daughter of Ernesto of Vinci. Ernesto is Vinci’s apothecary but secretly also an alchemist and heretic, training the precocious Caterina in all the arts he knows. As Caterina approaches womanhood she feels stifled by her insular life and one day while gathering herbs she meets Piero, the son of the most prominent family in Vinci. They meet secretly over months and Piero, desiring to marry her, asks his father for permission. His father is irate and sends him to Florence, leaving Caterina behind, pregnant and desolate. From here unravels a gripping tale of a mother’s devotion to her genius son and her need to be close to him no matter the sacrifice. Leonardo’s intelligence is apparent as a young child, and Caterina pleads with Piero to arrange for an apprentice for him in Florence. When Leonardo leaves, Caterina spirit is broken, knowing she must be close to her son or she will die Ernesto suggests an astounding plan that will allow Caterina to be a part of Leonardo’s life. Caterina is one of the most fully developed and best-written characters I have read about in fiction. Robin Maxwell has given Caterina an amazing mind, fortitude, capacity for love, ingenuity, daring, loyalty and openness. As Caterina evolves the story evolves, branching down different paths that question religion, love, faith, identity, and knowledge. We are exposed to new ideas in every chapter…Signora da Vinci is not only the story of Caterina and Leonardo but a select treatise on Florence and the art, philosophy and tensions between the church and scholars of the time. A minor detail, but it would have been helpful for dates at each chapter header. I was always wondering the ages of the characters at points in the novel. Signora da Vinci is a refreshing and unique perspective in historical fiction that is amazingly successful. Highly recommended. I would also suggest The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant for more great historical fiction of Florence and the Italian Renaissance. My Rating: 4.5

February 17, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: How do you get your books for reviewing? (Feel free to participate in the poll below, you can check more than one answer) Do you track them somehow (excel, database, etc), or just put them in a tbr (To Be Read for anyone that doesn't know) pile? I participate in LibraryThings EarlyReviewer's program and have received a few books but I'm very picky so I only request a book every other month or so. I have been fortunate enough to win book contests. Thanks to everyone who holds those contests!! I belong to the Harper Collins Canada and Simon&Schuster Canada Facebook blogs and have won books through these sites. On occasion I have books given to me...that's always a surprise and I'm very thankful (Thanks Marcia). Mostly I just wait for sales or buy 3 get the 4th free promotions and buy my books either at the bookstore or online...I give myself a book budget every month. I track them using Bookpedia...really great software for the Mac (I would recommend using this instead of Excel as you can export as .csv files). I registered the product so have access to the frequent updates and unlimited additions...its amazing. I keep a Wish List and have created multiple collections. I catologue every book I buy/receive. With this software I can export my lists to my iPod, which I take with me to the bookstore. I also exported my catologue and then imported to LibraryThing when I initially set up my LT account. I highly recommend the software and am willing to answer any questions you may have about it.

February 16, 2009

Great way to spend the holiday today!

Thanks again to Amy at Passages to the Past for holding a contest to win a copy of Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell.  It came in the mail today... which is really odd actually because today is a holiday for most provinces in Canada - in Alberta its Family Day... so I would have thought no mail would have been delivered.  Great timing since I just finished Sizzle and Burn and had posted my review... and no sooner was I done than my boyfriend walked in with the mail and the book I have been eagerly awaiting to arrive.
I started the novel immediately and am already 100 pages in. It is soooo good!  I'm taking a little break to absorb what I have read so far and have a snack. What a great way to spend a holiday... drinking lots of tea and reading a good book when normally you would be at work! Watch for my review to be posted soon.
Here is Amy's review and here is her interview with Robin Maxwell - her first author interview!
Guest posts by Robin at HISTORICAL BOYS and Historical Tapestry.

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz

I am a die-hard Jayne Ann Krentz-Amanda Quick-Jayne Castle-Stephanie James fan and own over 130 books by the author. It all started when I picked up one of Quick’s “S” books (Seduction, Scandal, Surrender) while in University and then discovered Quick was a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz and that she wrote books under other pseudonyms too (Jayne Castle, Amanda Glass, Jayne Taylor, Jayne Bentley, Stephanie James). I am very familiar with her writing style and therefore I endeavor to judge each new book somewhat less harshly than I would normally because having read so many of her books, at times dialogue, details, scenes etc. can seem repetitive to me…but a reader picking up one of her books for the first time would have a much different experience. The last book of hers that I read before Sizzle and Burn was White Lies released way back in February of last year. I have been a bit confused by the progression of the Arcane Society novels… skipping back and forth from historical to contemporary and between her different pseudonyms. You can find details of the Arcane Society here. Sizzle and Burn is the third book in the Arcane Society series…a society that to the outside world is nothing more than an investigative agency…but to its members the Arcane Society is a secret organization who’s true purpose is to investigate paranormal talent. Here is a summary of Sizzle and Burn. I enjoyed Sizzle and Burn and thought the shorter chapters enhanced the fast-paced plot. Krentz’s novels are usually characterized by snappy dialogue, strong-willed women and hard-edged men…no exception in Sizzle and Burn. Raine and Zack have a great connection that is enhanced by their paranormal talents. Only a few details are revealed about the ruthless Nightshade organization that is developing the potentially lethal drug to enhance paranormal abilities…and I am curious as to where Krentz will take this storyline. I was intrigued by the Fallon Jones character and was hoping for his story next but her next novel, Running Hot, is the story of Luther Malone and Grace Renquist. I’m strict about organization and consistency and I try to have each author’s books in the same format, whether trade paperback or mass market (e.g. Robb all MMP but Lisa See all TP) and avoid buying hardcopy entirely. I wish publishers would get rid of this tall mass market paperback format...I was told it makes the text easier to read but I don’t think it makes a difference…its just a waste of paper and are we not supposed to be green conscious now?? It also takes up more space in my purse and ruins the lineup of books on my shelves. I hope this trend is not here to stay! My Rating: 4.0 Chapters Amazon

February 13, 2009

Fourth Installment to Lady Julia Grey Mysteries

In my post review of Silent on the Moor I mentioned that the novel was the last installment in the Lady Julia Grey novels. I was wrong, and have subsequently crossed out those references. Exciting news...Deanna Raybourn mentions on her blog she will be writing a fourth installment...I look forward to Julia and Brisbane's next adventure and only hope we don't have to wait too long.

February 12, 2009

Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

Marcia at The Printed Page passed along her ARC copy of Silent on the Moor to me. Thank You! Despite his admonitions to stay away, Lady Julia arrives in Yorkshire to find Brisbane as remote and maddeningly attractive as ever. Cloistered together, they share the moldering house with the proud but impoverished remnants of an ancient family—the sort that keeps their bloodline pure and their secrets close. Lady Allenby and her daughters, dependent upon Brisbane and devastated by their fall in society, seem adrift on the moor winds, powerless to change their fortunes. But poison does not discriminate between classes…. A mystery unfolds from the rotten heart of Grimsgrave, one Lady Julia may have to solve alone, as Brisbane appears inextricably tangled in its heinous twists and turns. But blood will out, and before spring touches the craggy northern landscape, Lady Julia will have uncovered a Gypsy witch, a dark rider and a long-buried legacy of malevolence and evil. I’ve been having a difficult time getting motivated to write this review…I think mostly because I’m sad to see an end to the vibrant, charismatic characters of Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane. The last installment of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey mystery novels, Silent on the Moor is a compelling and very, very satisfying denouement to the story of Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane. Raybourn could have chosen to write a more straightforward story and I’m sure I would have been pleased but SOTM is so much more and I would venture to say the most complex out of the three novels. This novel has everything anyone would require for a great story…eccentric characters, multi-layered twisting plotlines, an evocative setting - mysterious and ancient mansion on the moor, historical detail, multiple secrets…and multiple deaths. Accompanying Julia to Grimsgrave is her sister Portia, her brother Valerious and their pets Florence, Puggy and Grim. After a tedious journey, Lady Julia hopes to be welcomed but their arrival falls quite short of expectations: Brisbane is temperamental and reticent, there are three poverty-stricken ladies in residence and the mansion is decrepit and full of secrets, with room after room empty - all except for a study full of dubious Egyptian artifacts. Lady Julia is determined to investigate why Brisbane gave up the reward of a gentleman’s title for the purchase of Grimsgrave, and as she unravels the mystery more questions arise. Lady Julia is finally coming into her own, determined to go after what she wants, Nicholas Brisbane. What I appreciate about Raybourn’s stories is that she creates relationships between characters and finds it unnecessary to go into explicit detail about their intimacy. Raybourn creates passion, tension, chemistry and yearning using dialogue, emotion and restrained expression not physical action. A true talent! A little longer than the previous two novels, in SOTM Raybourn stays true to her writing style and although each book stands on its own they form a cohesive whole…not always easy for authors writing series. I strongly recommend reading the novels in order, as there are storylines following back to the first novel, resolved in SOTM. For each chapter in each book there is a quote by bard summarizing the chapter (that must have been a lot of research), my favourite being the quote for the last chapter in Silent on the Moor…but you will have to read it to find out!

***Note I saw posted on Deanna Raybourn's blog that she plans on a fourth installment to the series.

My Rating: 4.5

Silent in the Sanctuary Silent in the Grave Chapters Amazon

February 10, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: Do you use a rating system on your blog? How do you feel about using the rating system provided on sites like Library Thing and Amazon? When looking up information on a book you are interested in, do you use the ratings provided by these sites (or similar sites) to help you make the decision on purchasing the book?
Yes I do! I like to rate the books because I compare all the books I have read to each other. I don't base my decisions too much on other people's ratings because its all subjective...I like what I like and so do you. I do use the rating system on LibraryThing as a guideline but never use Amazon.com/Amazon.ca...they always seem to be skewed one way or another. I think the rating systems for Chapters and Barnes&Noble are more true. I look more at the reviews posted and not the ratings...about what aspects of the book reviewers like/dislike.

February 8, 2009

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Sanctuary…in one word, delightful! This second installment in the Lady Julia Grey novels by Deanna Raybourn takes a very gothic turn compared to the first book, Silent in the Grave, adding a dramatic element and keeping the storyline fresh. 
I’m not going to go into great detail about the novel…not wanting to spoil the story. After the murder of her husband and almost losing her own life in the subsequent investigation of the murder with private inquiry agent, Nicholas Brisbane, Lady Julia Grey is recovering in Italy with her brothers Plum and Lysander.  At the summons of their father, they return home to England for Christmas and the seat of the March family, the very gothic Bellmont Abbey. Accompanying them on the journey is the young Count Alessandro Fornacci, who has developed a passion for Julia but does Julia return the sentiment?  Her relationship with Brisbane complex and disturbing, Julia is not quite sure of her regard for him and in the four months she has been in Italy she has not heard one word from him…no sooner have the Marches arrived at the Abbey and Julia is introduced to Brisbane, now Lord Wargrave, and his fiancĂ© Mrs. Charlotte King.  Of course then there is murder and Julia and Brisbane are thrown together again to investigate.  
There are not many characters I have encountered in novels that have the taut chemistry that Raybourn has created with Nicholas Brisbane and Lady Julia Grey…they are individuals in their own right and we get to learn many fascinating facets of their personalities. Raybourn as well has a talent for dialogue…varying at times biting, witty, playful, sarcastic, emotional, etc., each character having their own distinct voice.  
I am confused about the switching of formats and cover art between Silent in the Grave HC/MMP and Silent in the Sanctuary HC to the change in the MMP version. Now SITS MMP has a similar cover to the upcoming TP release of Silent on the Moor (March 1, 2009). I wish cover art for series books could be kept consistent…they look so much nicer on your shelves! I suppose the publisher is trying to attract romance fans but I don’t think the series can be classified as romance (yet), so why change the covers?  
You can find my review of Silent in the Grave here. This is a great series and next I will be reading Silent on the Moor, an ARC given to me by Marcia at The Printed Page.  If you like Victorian or Regency mysteries, I would also recommend Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily Ashton series (And Only to Deceive, A Poisoned Season and A Fatal Waltz).  Try A Whisper in the Dark by Louise May Alcott and The Thirteen Tale by Diane Setterfield for gothic overtones.
My Rating: 4.5

February 5, 2009

Conceit by Mary Novik

Conceit (Merriam-Webster) 
1 a (1): a result of mental activity: thought (2): individual opinion b: favorable opinion ; especially : excessive appreciation of one's own worth or virtue 
2: a fancy item or trifle 
3 a: a fanciful idea b: an elaborate or strained metaphor c: use or presence of such conceits in poetry d: an organizing theme or concept   
I’m an enthusiastic historical fiction fan and I especially like medieval fiction, maybe because it is not as popular as other periods, and I’m always looking for unique concepts.  I’d been to the bookstore numerous times indecisive whether to buy Conceit and I finally gave in because the great cover captivated me. The story is about the famed love John Donne has for his wife Ann, their children and in particular John’s daughter Pegge and her life.  On a broader level it is about the many facets of love and death set in the 17th century. I really really wanted to like this book but I just could not warm to it.  Normally I read a book within a week no matter how many pages but Conceit took just under two!   
The first 75 pages were plodding and confusing…and then I figured out the general direction of the plot and reading became smoother. Conceit was engrossing in a way, that of being a voyeur to disturbing behavior and unable to look away, as if spellbound with witchery. I didn’t mind the gore or rude language (Novik seems to detail every imaginable bodily function and irritating humor of the period), the complex, rambling ideas, and skipping back and forth through time, rather I detested all the characters.  The characters were for the most part brash, uncouth, self-involved, superstitious and unlikable. To be blunt I finished the book then threw it across the room. What I have realized about myself is that I need to like the characters to enjoy the story.    
But Conceit IS a masterful, authentic debut by Mary Novik and I would recommend it to those who prefer challenging, unique fiction.   
As an aside, there were a lot of foreign words I did not know the meaning of and didn’t bother to look up…I would have a dictionary with you reading this book.  For other medieval fiction I would recommend Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series, Elsa Watson's Maid Marian: A Novel, any of Elizabeth Chadwick's novels, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn.
My Rating: 3.0   

February 3, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Do you post links to your reviews? Here on Library Thing, or anywhere else? How else do you like to promote your site?
In every review I write I post the link to my website at the bottom and I post my reviews to GoodReads, LibraryThing and Chapters besides on my blog. I really don't want to post anywhere else because it gets to be too much maintenance.  The only way I promote my site is to comment on posts at other blogger's sites that interest me...again I don't think I could keep up with responding to a lot of comments on my blog and I don't want to snub anyone who comments on my posts (asks self "Why am I blogging?").  I may do a giveaway someday...if there is a new release I absolutely love and want to promote.  To be honest I am apprehensive about getting more attention!!

February 2, 2009

My Blog POV

Ok, so I do know my blog is not that exciting or sparkling...I don't post every day or use pictures, videos and graphics very often besides book covers...I don't blog on controversial topics, etc., etc. But, really I started the blog as a place to organize all my reviews and be able to come back and revisit my thoughts on books previously read. Also I had a few ideas for things I liked and wanted to expound upon (sometimes when I am trying to get to sleep I get these insights and ideas about books I have read I furiously scribble down before I nod off)...hence Blogger. Before Blogger I had created an offline site using iWeb on my Mac but then it grew into bigger and better ideas and finally a live blog. Now to confirm the fact that I know I am a pedantic blogger I used the Typealyzer tool posted about by Jace Scribbles, Joyfully Retired, Tracy's Place, and The happily every after to name a few. Here are the results: The analysis indicates that the author of http://myobsessionwithbooks.blogspot.com/ is of the type: ISTP - The Mechanics The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighter Analysis This show what parts of the brain that were dominant during writing.

I thought the results were very spot on. I'm definitely the problem-solver type, needing challenges and everything is kept organized. I have to learn things for myself. Also I'm an aggressive driver and would love to drive a race car someday! That's about as exciting as I get. :)