January 2010

I noticed a very interesting and timely reading challenge, TBR 2010. The goal there is to read as many books as you can from your to-be-read-pile and post the reviews once a month. Keishon has even suggested themes for each month.

Fellow blogger Memory had an awesome success lowering her TBR last year so she inspired me to join this challenge and try to lower mine, too. I counted my TBR which is currently 257 books including ebooks and 20 short story collections.

I’m afraid that I’m going to ignore most of Keishon’s themes except maybe the SF/F theme on April. Anyway, my themes would be more along the lines of “finish that series!” or “start all of those series!” or “stand-alone month” rather than genres. Actually, Keishon’s August theme (authors you’ve never read before) fits in with that. Maybe August will be my “start that Urban Fantasy series” –month.

This month my TBR book is Peters’ Hippopotamus Pool. Next Peters’ book, Seeing a Large Cat, is coming from the library, though.

I’m aiming for 24 books read from my TBR this year.

TBR books read this year:
1, Elizabeth Peters: The Hippopotamus Pool
2, Kristine Smith: Rules of Conflict
3, R. A. MacAvoy: Tea with the Black Dragon
4, Ilona Andrews: Magic Bites
5, Amanda Cross: In the Last Analysis
6, Ian Rankin: Knots and Crosses
7, Julie Czerneda: To Trade the Stars
8, Jim Butcher: Fool Moon
9, Kate Elliott: Shadow Gate
10, Elizabeth Bear: Hell and Earth
11, Martha Grimes: The Man with the Load of Mischief
12, Marjorie Liu: The Iron Hunt
13, Steven Brust: Brokedown Palace
14, Lisa Shearin: Magic Lost, Trouble Found
15, Carrie Vaughn: Kitty and the Midnight Hour
16, Michelle West: Hunter’s Death
17, Paul DiFilippo: The Steampunk Trilogy
18, C. J. Cherryh: Chanur’s Venture
19, Roger Zelazny: Isle of the Dead
20, Steven Brust: Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill
21, Roger Zelazny: Roadmarks
22, C. J. Cherryh: The Kif Strike Back
23, Dana Stabenow: A Cold Day for Murder
24, Zoë Sharp: Killer Instinct
25, Alexandre Dumas, père: The Three Musketeers
26, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, ed.: The Faery Reel: Tales From the Twilight Realm
27, C. L. Moore: Jirel of Joiry
28, Kristine Smith: Law of Survival
29, Rachel Caine: Heat Stroke
30, L. A. Banks: Minion
31, Barbara Hambly: Immortal Blood
32, Lloyd Alexander: The El Dorado Adventure
33, Peter Elbling: the Food Taster
34, Anton Gill: City on the Horizon

By Waid, Hitch, Neary

This is an oversized graphic novel which touches on personal faith and spirituality. Not so much on organized religion, though.

A huge space craft enters Earth’s solar system and proceeds to kidnap Earth. The JLA are on their Moon base and need the help of the Flash to teleport aboard. They set out to both find out what just happened and to calm down the humans on Earth.

It turns out that Earth isn’t the only kidnapped planet; the space ship has taken with it a lot of planets. The ship belongs to a group of aliens who are nearing the end of their lives.

The story then proceeds to tell how all atheists and agnostics are in denial and also willfully keeping themselves apart from all other species in the galaxy who do believe in “a greater divinity”.

I’ve always been a bit bemused how the big superhero companies are rather desperately trying to not alienate readers of any religion. Marvel has evolution (which is pretty clear in mutants), Asgardian gods, and entities like Eternity. At the same time, Thor refers to a higher divine will (not Odin’s). There are a few characters who follow a clear religion, such as Judaism (Kitty Pryde) or Catholism (Nightcrawler, Wolfsbane). Ororo refers to a Goddess. Yet, the vast majority of characters have some indefinable but Christian faith and I can’t remember any Buddhists, Hindus, atheistic characters.

I’m less familiar with DC characters. They seem to fall pretty much in the indefinable Christian category, though. Even if they’re from, say, Mars or Apokolips.

Oh well. At least the pictures are pretty.

Booking Through Thursday

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

I didn’t know at first what an inside flap is. Apparently, it’s the inside of a dustjacket which either has a synopsis of the book or the author’s biography. No wonder I didn’t know what it was; the vast majority of the books I read are paperbacks. Also, in my native Finland dustjackets are really rare; usually the covers and the text in the back are printed directly into the hard cover.

In answer to the question: neither. I had a rant a while back about how erroneous or spoilery back covers tend to be. I might read the synopsis after I’ve read the book but most of the time I don’t bother. However, I’m curious enough about the writers so I usually read the biography if it’s available.

I had so much fun reading comics for the comic book challenge last year that I couldn’t resist joining the Graphic Novel Challenge 2010.

I intend to start with the oversized JLA graphic novel Heaven’s Ladder and to continue with the Authority. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on the new Buffy comics, too. I’m aiming at the Expert level with 11 trades.

1, Don Rosa: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
2, Essential X-Men vol. 2
3, Buffy the Vampire Slayer vol. 4: Time of Your Life
4, Fray
5, The Authority: Under New Management
6, Ultimates vol 2: Homeland Security
7, Ultimates vol 1: Super Human
8, The Authority: the Relentless
9, JLA: Heaven’s Ladder
10, Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority
11, JLA: Terror Incognita


My next reading challenge will be the Historical Reading Challenge 2010.

2. There are four levels:

— Curious – Read 3 Historical Fiction novels.

— Fascinated – Read 6 Historical Fiction novels.

— Addicted – Read 12 Historical Fiction novels.

— Obsessed – Read 20 Historical Fiction novels.

This time I’m aiming for 12 books. I’ll start with Elizabeth Peters’ Hippopotamus Pool and hopefully I’ll be able to read so many of the Peabody books that I’ll be able to start getting them from Audible. I also started a couple of historical fiction series last year in the 1st in a series -challenge and I may continue with them.

Books read:
1, Elizabeth Peters: The Hippopotamus Pool
2, Elizabeth Peters: Seeing a Large Cat
3, Elizabeth Peters: The Ape that Guards the Balance
4, Alexandre Dumas, père: Vingt ans après
5, Alexandre Dumas, père: The Three Musketeers
6, Elizabeth Peters: Lord of the Silent
7, Elizabeth Peters: He shall Thunder in the Sky
8, Elizabeth Peters: The Falcon at the Portal
9, Peter Elbling: the Food Taster
10, Anton Gill: City on the Horizon
11, Claire McCleary: The Alchemy of Murder
12, Elizabeth Peters: The Golden One

The fifth book in the Temeraire-series. It starts again straight from the events at the end of the previous book

At the end of the Empire of Ivory, Temeraire and Laurence became traitors to England. Now, they are paying for it; Temeraire has been confined to the breeding grounds in Wales and is bored while Laurence is a prisoner aboard the warship Goliath.

There’s little to do in the breeding grounds but to sleep, eat, and mate, but Temeraire has decided to be at his best behavior so that the government won’t execute Laurence. None of the other dragons are interested in discussions and it’s very hard to get any news. The only thing the other dragons seem to be interested in, is taking over the nicest caves. But then Temeraire hears that Goliath has been sunk and Laurence with it. The Celestial decides to take matters into his own hands. Clearly, the humans aren’t doing a good job at fighting the French, so Temeraire encourages the other dragons to leave the breeding grounds and fight all by themselves.

As a member of the Aerial Corps, Laurence has met scorn before. But even then he was a member of a tightly knit soldier unit. As a traitor, Laurence is completely on his own. People he doesn’t know, and even some who he does know, insult him and treat him badly. For his part, Laurence feels that he deserves everything and doesn’t even try to defend himself. He knows that he’s only alive because the Admiralty has still some use for Temeraire and even so he could be executed at any moment.

However, soon the Admirals need Laurence as a dragon captain again because the French are moving in force. However, his sentence isn’t forgotten, just delayed.

There’s an interesting mix of old and new characters in the book. Most of the new characters are dragons. We finally meet a dragon who isn’t too keen on fighting and in fact finds it not quite rational. Once again, I also quite enjoyed Iskierka; the rash fire breathing dragon who just wants to fight and win more prizes for herself and her captain. She brings conflict where ever she goes.

Temeraire makes some headway in his quest for more rights to dragons. Many, especially the Admirals, consider it blackmail, though, so it remains to be seen if the rights will stay after war.

This book is rather grimmer than the previous ones. The French invade England and there’s a lot of fighting, some of it rather nasty. Laurence does his duty grimly and without his previous enjoyment. This makes also Temeraire unhappy and the dragon wonders if he has done something wrong. Yet, Novik’s writing style doesn’t change and there are even some comedic moments, such as Temeraire meeting a “dragon scholar” who insists that dragons are no more intelligent than dogs.

I also enjoyed the brief discussion where it was revealed that the treasonous act at the end of the previous book could have been done quietly and without any treason at all. But Laurence is such a noble man that he couldn’t have agreed to sneak around.

Again, there’s a twist at the end which changes the duo’s life and I’m very curious to see what happens next.

Definitely a good continuation to the series.

My third challenge this year is going to be the Fantasy Reading Challenge by Royal Reviews.

I’m trying again to reach the highest level which is Obsessed with 20 fantasy books.

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