December 2008

Booking Through Thursday

No, no … this isn’t the question you’re probably expecting, that asks about your winter reading habits.

What I want to know today is … what are the most “wintery” books you can think of? The ones that almost embody Winter?

Off the top of my head:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The kids have to constantly battle against the winter and of course the White Witch and the eternal winter she has created.

The novella the Snow Women in Fritz Leiber’s first Lankhmar book. Fafhrd has to fight against the women of his clan to gain his freedom.

Since I have to live in the middle of cold and ice, I don’t much like to read about them.

Here’s my newest review: James Swallow’s Star Trek: Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers.

One more reading challenge for 2009! I feel that I’m almost cheating with this one because almost all of the books are overlaps from other challenges. Yup, in the recent years I’ve started to read a lot of ebooks. They are very handy and usually also cheaper than printed books. I don’t have an eReader; I just read them on my computer. I’d love to have them all in .html or Abode Acrobat format but most of them are available in Microsoft Reader which comes free with the PC.

The guidelines for the challenge:

1. You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading to your books prior to 2009.

2. Read 10 eBooks in 2009.

3. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.

4. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, list the direct link to your post where your eBooks will be listed. If you list just your blog’s URL, it will be removed.

If you’ll be posting your challenges on your sidebar, then please put the button up and link before signing up.

If you don’t have a blog, leave the URL blank.

5. You do not have to list your books ahead of time. If you decide to, you can change them as you go. Feel free to remove or add titles as needed.

My list:
Cook: Nights of Sin (overlap with 2nds)
Lilith Saintcrow: A dead man rising (overlap with 2nds)
Julie E. Czerneda: Ties of Power (overlap with 2nds)
Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels: Star Trek: Titan: Red King (overlap with 2nds)
Laurel K. Hamilton: Guilty Pleasures (overlap with 2nds)
Ann Agueira: Grimspace
Kage Baker: In the Garden of Iden (overlap with 1st of the series)
Patricia Briggs: Dragon Bones (overlap with 1st of the series)
Rachel Caine: Ill Wind
Charlaine Harris: Dead until Dark

I’ve now completed the challenge!

I decided to take part in this challenge, too. The rules can be seen here.

1. Anyone can join. You don’t need to have a blog to participate.

2. Read 12 books by authors that you have only read once. It doesn’t have to be a series.

3. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009. Don’t start reading until January.

4. You may list your chosen books any time during the year. Change the list if needed.

My list:

Sharon Shinn: the Thirteenth House (Another second in the series.)
To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last
Garrett: Murder and Magic (I’ve read Too Many Magicans from him before.)
Naomi Novik: Throne of Jade (Second in the series.)
Kim Harrion: the Good, the Bad, and the Undead (Second in the series again.)
Cook: Nights of Sin (This is Cook’s second book and I rather enjoyed reading Blood Magic.)
Ellen Kushner: Thomas the Rhymer (I’ve only read Swordspoint from her.)
Lilith Saintcrow: A dead man rising (Second in the series)
Julie E. Czerneda: Ties of Power (second in a series)
Martin A. Mangel: Star Trek: Titan: Red King (Another second in the series)
Laurel K. Hamilton: Guilty Pleasures (I’ve only read the first in the Merry Gentry series from her.)
Kage Baker: Sky Coyote (Another second in the series.)

I decided to take part in a couple of other reading challenged. Since I’m always starting new series even though I have way too many series to follow already, this a great challenge. The rules are here.

Guidelines for 1st in Series Challenge 2009

1. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate.

2. Read 12 books that are the first in any series. You may read & list your chosen books any time during the year.

3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.

4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

Here’s my current list:

Michelle West: Hunter’s Oath
Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking (also listed in my 9 read for 2009)
John Maddox Roberts’ the King’s Gambit (also listed in my the 9 reads for 2009)
Sczerna: a Thousand Words for a Stranger
Morson: City of the Dead
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Diving into the Wreck
Megan Whalen Turner: the Thief
Jenny White: the Sultan’s Seal
Patricia Briggs: Dragon Bones (overlap with ebook challenge)
Kage Baker: In the Garden of Iden (overlap with ebook challenge)
Kate Elliott: Spirit Gate
C. J. Cherryh: Pride of Chanur

This is a stand-alone (as far as I know) steampunk novel and apparently the author’s first novel.

The setting is the city of Ondinium, which owes its prosperity and stability mostly to the mechanical inventions which power much of the everyday life. The most significant of these are the analytical engines which determine practically everything in the city; how trustworthy a person is, what should be his or her profession…

The people of the city are divided into different casts which are upheld somewhat rigidly. In other words, the highest of the castes, the Exalted, don’t really interact with the rest of the people and they are always masked and robed in public. Also, the police officers, or lictors, keep away from other people. However, the rest of the people such as artisans, factory workers, and mechanics, seem to speak with each other frequently and with little or no formality. Then again, even though marriages between castes aren’t forbidden, they are strongly discouraged so there are significant boundaries even there. And then there is the caste of icarii. They are the messengers who fly with metal wings to deliver mail to everyone no matter what their caste is. The icarii depend on metal which makes the wearer lighter. It’s called ondinium. The city itself is also divided into at least three parts: Primus (where the exalted live and where the university and government buildings are), Secundus, and Tertius (which can a dangerous place to a woman alone).

Taya was born into the caste of factory workers but she managed to pass the tests and become an icarus. She has also taken a test to become an ambassador to other lands and is waiting for the results. The book starts when a wireferry girder is broken and Taya has to rescue the high up people inside the wireferry car: the exalted Viera Octavus and her young son. The lictors believe that it wasn’t an accident but terrorism and suspect a group called Torn Cards who are against mechanisms.

Taya is made something of a hero because of her daring rescue. The next day she meets Viera’s cousins: the handsome exalted Alister Fornlorn who flirts with her shamelessly and Alister’s gruff and grim brother Cristof who has chosen to cast aside his exalted caste and lives as a clockmaker in Tertius. Taya is very taken with Alister although their caste differences mean that nothing serious can develop.

Next day, on her way back from her sister’s wedding Taya is attacked by three men, foreigners, who apparently want her wings to bring back to their country. Taya barely escapes with only a wound because Cristof happens to be close by and help her. Soon, there is an explosion near by and Taya starts to suspect Cristof of being one of the terrorist Torn Cards.

I love the setting here and I would love to read more about it. The different countries here even have different languages! Although Taya does speak all of them because of her training to become an ambassador. There just enough description of the engines. The wing mechanics are also well done to my definitely not engineer’s eye. Tertius and Secundus and everyone who lives there are often covered in soot because of the factories there. In contrast the eyrie where the icarii live and Primus are clean of the dust and soot.

I also quite liked the characters. Taya herself is a very charming protagonist. She’s friendly to the point of foolhardiness (although I was a bit surprised that she didn’t already have hordes of existing friends but instead made a lot of new ones), curious, and very interested in other cultures. She has two close friends who are both icarii: Cassi who is much more concerned with her looks than Taya but is loyal and headstrong, and Pyke Taya’s former boyfriend who is a conspiracy-nut and an avid social critic. Alister is a very charming ladies man and Cristof his complete opposite.

There’s also a very intriguing group of engineers but they come on the stage later.

There were a couple of things that chafed me a little, though. The society of the Ondinium city has a rather rigid caste system and the movement between the different parts of the city is apparently limited so the society is very structured. And yet, when a machine which arranges marriages that would produce best children and harmonious relationships, is suggested, people are horrified. I find it hard to believe that the Exalted marriages aren’t arranged even though Viera’s and her much older husband’s marriage was purely out of love. Also, the marriages inside one caste are strongly encouraged. So they actually are already limiting marriage options. There’s probably no need to even point out that the only kind of marriage available is a hetero pair bonding. Although there was one or two characters who were hinted to being gay. They did seem ashamed of that, though, which tells a lot about the way society treats non-heteros.

Also, Taya has a dangerous job that carries a lot of trust and responsibility. Yet she seems to have curiously low self-esteem about her appearance. Fortunately, that was downplayed and only came out a couple of times when she was invited to the Exalted ball. I found myself rolling my eyes at the comments that Taya isn’t delicate and ladylike. Of course she isn’t; flying is manual labor.

The pace is at time leisurely but it fits well.

I second set of questions the same day! A treat indeed.

Booking Through Thursday
What is the best book you ever bought for yourself?

And, why? What made it the best? What made it so special?

Any time I manage to get and out-of-print book or very hard to get here -book, it’s special. But I did manage to win some months back Kate Elliott’s Spiritgate and Shadowgate on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. It’s the first time I’ve won books.

Booking Through Thursday

Do you give books as gifts?

To everyone? Or only to select people?

How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

Yes, when I think I know their tastes in books.

I give gifts to select few people. Including books.

I love to get them when they are the sort of books I like. Otherwise, I’m just as happy to get gift certificate.

This time the stakes are really high. Mirror Dance is significantly darker in tone than the previous books and it has a lot of character growth and interaction. I think of Mirror Dance as the book where the Vorkosigan –series rose to a new height in quality. The previous book, Brothers in Arms, laid the ground work for Mirror Dance and in turn to the next book, Memory. Mirror Dance explores issues of identity, integrity, family, loyalty…

The book starts with a man who is impersonating Dendarii Admiral Miles Naismith. Only one man can do this, of course: Miles’ clone Mark Pierre Vorkosigan. Mark was cloned by a man who wanted to use Mark as a weapon against Barrayar and the Vorkosigan family in particular. This man used coercion and torture to train Mark as Miles’ placement long enough to assassinate Miles and Miles’ father and to throw Barrayar into political chaos. Mark though that he would be an emperor… When Miles learned of Mark’s existence he tried to set Mark free, but the indoctrination was almost too ingrained. In the end, Mark was able to flee with a significant amount of money Miles gave to him. Oh, and Mark was called Miles all his life until Miles told him that according to Barryaran custom his name would be Mark Pierre. It’s no wonder that Mark is confused and paranoid. He also hates Miles but at the same time he desperately wants to impress Miles.

It has been a couple of years after the end of BiA and all that time Mark has tried to gather resources for taking down one of the criminal Houses on Jackson’s Whole. House Bharaputra is in the business of making clones for rich people who take out the clone’s brains and take over the bodies of the young clones. Unfortunately, Mark has not been successful and has only one last, desperate try left: to impersonate Admiral Naismith long enough to take the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet’s starship Ariel and use the personnel to steal the next batch of clones. Mark succeeds in taking Ariel to Jackson’s Whole but there things go disastrously wrong.

For the first time in a Vorkosigan book, Mirror Dance has two point-of-view characters: Miles and Mark. Most of the time we see things through Mark’s eyes.

This is not an easy or light read. At times it can be down right tortuous but in a good way; because I care about the characters and can barely stand to read what is done to them and what they are doing to themselves. (Bel, what were you thinking??) I have to admit that part of the problem I have with the book is that I don’t like Mark. I can sympathize because he has had an awful life so far (and it doesn’t really brighten during most of the book) but I still can’t like him. He’s paranoid about everyone and yet he tries very hard to do the best he can. His problem is that he can’t trust anyone else with his plans or even his identity. He is also inexperienced in military matters. While he has read about leading troop in battle, doing it yourself is a very different thing.

I also liked very much the Miles and Quinn romance which we didn’t see nearly enough. After this book it doesn’t continue (one more thing I can sort of blame Mark for ;)).

On the other hand, most of the familiar characters are back and we even get a glimpse of Aral (yay!). We also get intriguing new characters such as the Duronas.

Very good read but I don’t reread it often.

I’m taking part in this challenge. It’s just right for me because it’s a great way to read books from my to-read-pile. The challenge and the categories can be found here.


* Open to anyone, whether you have a blog or not!
* No need to register or to announce what you are going to read.
* Start in any category that you wish.
* 3 books from this reading challenge can be used in other reading challenges.
* Just post in the comment section.
* The genre of the books can be ANYTHING (fiction or non-fiction), but it must be decent (because you have to write reviews about the books).
* Other reading materials (graphic novels, poetry, museum catalogs, art books, zines etc.) are OK.
* The book must already be in your bookcase or storage area.
* The Challenge starts 12/27/08 to 12/27/09. (I hate to begin anything on January 1st).
* You can post starting on 12/27/08.
* Format of work can be paper, audio, or electronic.

1. Long: Kate Elliott’s Spirit Gate. The paperback is 630 pages long. It’s the first book in a fantasy series and part of my 1st in a series -challenge.
2. Free: Sarah Stewart Taylor: O’ Artful Death. I get a lot of books through Book Mooch.
3. Dusty: Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. I’m actually fairly certain that I did read this in my teens but I have clearer memories of the Three Musketeers cartoon (with the dog characters) and the movies than the book.
4. Used:Zelazny’s This Immortal. Also, a BookMooch book.
5. Letter: Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking . The letter is E. This book is also part of my 1st in a series -challenge.
6. Strange: Hmmm. This is really difficult. My preferred genres are fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction. So I guess something like romance would fit. The closest thing to that which I have in my TBR-pile I think is Suzanne Brockmann’s the Unsung Hero.
7. Distance: John Maddox Roberts’ the King’s Gambit, the first in the SPQR series. Roberts was born in Ohio and I live in Finland so the distance is 7121 kilometers or 4425 miles.
8. Alive or Not: Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (which won the World Fantasy Award in 1975).
9. Cover: Marjorie M. Liu: The Iron Hunt. Yes, is an urban fantasy with a tattooed woman with a sword in the cover. 🙂 However, she isn’t in a submissive or sexually suggestive pose unlike 99% of UF covers.

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