June 2011

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the largest your personal library has ever been? What’s the greatest number of books you’ve ever owned at one time? (Estimates are fine.)

Is your collection NOW the biggest it’s ever been? Or have you down-sized?

What’s the fewest number of books you’ve ever owned (not counting your pre-reading years)?

I haven’t counted the books I’ve read. My TBR pile is still around 200 books and I’d guess that I’ll have at least 100-150 read books, so my library is biggest now. I’ve given away some books that I’ve read but that hasn’t made a much of a dent to my book shelves.

I’m also constantly buying many audio books and the occasional ebook so my library is definitely just growing. However, my collection of single issue comics, both in English and Finnish, is much larger.

Last Tuesday in the Top Ten Tuesdays the topic was Bookish Websites, Organizations, Apps. Etc.

In addition to blogs, I use:

1, Audible.com, since I listen a lot of audiobooks.

2, The Book Depository is the place where I usually buy my print books because the postage is already included in their pricing.

3, BookMooch for international book swapping.

4, Amazon.com for reviews and recommendations. Although after I added UF books into my read books, it has started to recommend paranormal romance and different editions of Buffy DVDs (I own one set already, thanks, and I can’t afford another) so it has become less convenient.

5, Wikipedia for bibliographies.

6, Fantasticfiction.co.uk usually have great covers.

7, my local library for translations and the occasional English or Finnish book, too.

And Google, of course, for finding reviews of interesting books.

The first in a four part SF series which can be read as a stand-alone. I got it used.

Publication year: 1975
Page count: 192
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

The setting is clearly science fiction with high-tech Gates which can transport matter not just from one place to another but from one time to another, too. Yet, the world and the main character are from a pre-industrial society which is common in (epic) fantasy.

The prologue is just a couple of pages and introduces to the reader the concept of the Gates and that the species which built them, the qhal, was apparently ruined by the time travel aspect. The time travel part also changed the cultures and people on other planets, too. The survivor want to destroy the Gates, There’s also a short historical account from the place where the story starts, Andur-Kursh. The history remembers only one woman, Morgaine, who is thought to be evil incarnate when she was alive about a hundred years ago.

Vanye is a bastard son of Lord Nhi Rijan. He has two elder half-brothers who have enjoyed tormenting him through his childhood. One day, they go too far and Vanye kills his eldest brother and wounds the other grievously. Their father gives Vanye a choice – to kill himself or become a clanless exile, an ilin. Vanye goes into exile.

He’s chased mercilessly for months and finally he’s forced to northern lands which as still considered evil. Accidentally, he triggers a Gate and a fair woman on a gray horse comes out of it, as if from thin air. Vanye is scared when he realizes that the woman is legendary Morgaine. Still, he’s in a wintry climate without proper clothes or food, and so he’s forced to accept Morgaine’s shelter. In exchange Morgaine claims Vanye as her underling, as is customary, although not usually for women. So, Vanye has to follow and protect the strange woman.

Morgaine has only one goal: to destroy the Gate of Ivrel, and Thiye Thyie’s-son who has some understanding of how the Gate works and is using it for his own benefit. However, for her no time has passed inside the Gate and some of her old allies have become enemies. Nobody trusts her but some want her knowledge and power for themselves.

Vanye is a quite bitter protagonist. He’s had a hard life and at the start of the story, he’s lost everything but his life. Still, he wants to live and he’s honorable after his own customs; once he’s Morgaine’s ilin he will do everything in his power to protect and aid her, even if he should die protecting her. However, he doesn’t trust her and he doesn’t even know what she is. At the start, he thinks that she’s a qhal which seems to be a demon-like creature to him. Still, he keeps his oath once he’s made it.

Morgaine is a far more distant character; we see her only through Vanye’s eyes. She’s a young woman with a single goal and she will do anything to achieve it. I thought she also worried about the choices she had to make and even regretted some of them. She carries weapons that seem magical to the pre-industrial characters but seem to be technological.

The rest of the cast all have their own agendas and seemed very human to me, perhaps appallingly human and illogical 🙂 at times. I especially enjoyed Roh and Eirj. Roh, the chief of Chya clan, for his stubbornness that ended not only him but lots of others in trouble. Erij is almost as single minded as Morgaine once he made up his mind. He’s another tortured character but he’s also vindictive which Vanye doesn’t seem to be. However, Erij is a maimed man in a culture where all men are supposed to be warriors – that has be hard.

Morgaine’s fair hair color is said to be remarkable, so I wonder if fair skin color is also remarkable; maybe all the other characters are non-white? It’s not said, though.

The culture reminded me first of Mongols or Tolkien’s Rohirrim with the way they relied on horses and took good care of them, and also for being very patriarchal (there are only two named women in the book and the other is Vanye’s dead mother). However, they also have a strict honor system more reminiscent of Japanese culture’s samurai and ronin. Even though the book is slim, it manages to bring to life the culture, even though some parts are by necessity left vague, such as religion.

There’s a lot of traveling in the book and it’s realistic; it rains or snows or is too hot, and all of that have an effect. Horses are also not just cars but living creatures that tire and need to be taken care of.

The plot is very fast-paced and full of uncertainty and betrayals. About the only thing I didn’t really care for was the very ending. Oh and the lack of female characters.

For some reason I didn’t like it as much as the Chanur books.

Oh, that cover is awful! Both Morgaine and Vanye are specifically mentioned wearing armor.

Jeff VanderMeer has another awesome book project! He’s going to write and edit a compendium of 30 Science Fiction and Fantasy worlds called If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds. It’s going to be published by Underland Press. It seems that the worlds are limited to books and that’s understandable; there are a lot of interesting secondary worlds in TV and movies, not to mention comics, which could make the book to a series.

People can nominate up to three worlds into the project. Just three. I’m going to nominate Zelazny’s Amber but the other two are really, really hard.

Today the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life is Favorite Subgenres which aren’t Urban Fantasy.

I’m a latecomer to UF so I have a lot of these.

1, Fantasy
I love a lot of different kinds of fantasy books from epic to new weird to steampunk.
Some of the series I love are Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, Anne Logston’s Shadow series, and Roger Zelazny’s Amber.

2, Space Opera
I tend to love SF more in TV and movies but some space operas are great, such as Lois McMaster Bujold’ Vorkosigan series, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s the Disappeared, and C. J. Cherryh’s Chanur series.

3, Historical Mystery
I tend to like historicals which are set in ancient world such as Lynda S. Robinson’s Lord Meren series but I like some Victorian series too, such as Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series.

4, Historical Fantasy
I noticed that I’ve been reading a lot of these lately. I love series like Naomi Novik’s Temeraire, Dave Duncan’s Alchemist’s Apprentice, and Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court.

5, Science Fantasy
I read a lot of this when I was younger but not so much these days. Books like E. R. Burrough’s Barsoom series have technology but it works with magic, really.

I was going to include Alternate History but then I realized that a lot of the UF series can be put into this category. After all, in a lot of them there are secret histories which most of humanity don’t know about or some event changed the current world into a different world, such as the Turn in Harrison’s Hollows series.

The fourth book in the Hollows Urban Fantasy series. I bought this one first and didn’t know that it’s a part of a series. I really like the book titles which all allude to Westerns. The stories don’t resemble them, though.

Publication year: 2006
Page count: 528
Format: print
Publisher: HarperTorch

Rachel Morgan is again in trouble. She became part of David’s pack in order to get cheaper health care but right at the start another Werewolf alpha challenges her. Rachel has to fight her surprised and weaponless while six other alphas back up Rachel’s challenger. Rachel manages to win but only barely and she knows that she has pissed off several Werewolves. So, she searches for a way to defend herself in the future – and finds one in a demon curse. The curse allows her to change herself into a wolf but takes a toll on her soul. Rachel convinces herself that she will only do it once.

Jenks is still angry to Rachel and doesn’t want to talk to her. However, when Jenks’ wife Matalina tells Rachel that Rachel’s former boyfriend Nick has convinced Jenks’ oldest son Jax to leave with Nick and help him steal something, Rachel realizes that she has to help Jax – and at the same time Nick. Nick and Jax are out of town and as a small pixie Jenks can’t go after them. Rachel manages to convince Jenks to work with her again and together they go after the thieving duo. However, Nick is in a lot more trouble than Rachel could have imagined.

In order for Jenks to travel to another city, Rachel uses a demon curse (just this once!) to make him six foot tall. Jenks turns out to be a really handsome young man and Rachel drools over him several times. However, we also find out the real reason why Jenks has distanced himself from his previous partners. It turns out that he’s actually quite old and he’s worried that his skills are going to deteriorate soon.

Ivy and Rachel’s relationship seems to come to a turning point. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really change anything as they are both just as angsty about each other as before, if not more so. Poor Ivy has to also do a pretty bad thing to bail out Rachel and she seems to be more messed up than before. Rachel is now with the vampire Kisten but she still has feelings for Nick and Nick wants her back, so there’s also lots of angst about them. She’s also increasingly confused about Ivy and insists that she’s strictly hetero while wanting to ”filling in the emotional void” inside Ivy. So, the soap opera content is high. The unresolved plot thread is Kalamach doesn’t continue. Also, Ivy and Jenks call Nick “crap for brains” and constantly threaten to mutilate or kill him. I think he deserved it but it got old quickly.

After being angry with Rachel for a long time, Jenks starts to quickly trust her again and becomes extremely loyal to her. He’s also very effective fighter even though his size has changed drastically. We also get to see the more savage side of the pixie up close and personal. Even though we’ve been told about the bloody fights between pixies and fairies, it didn’t really feel real to me, or supposed wild fighting between four inch people felt even humorous, until Jenks kicks werewolf ass with just a lead pipe.

The main plot starts fast-paced but slows considerably once Ivy shows up. Unfortunately, there’s little character development. Rachel is still doing stupid mistakes; somehow she assumes that demon curses aren’t black magic and she still doesn’t know much about vampires even tough she lives with one and is dating another. She’s also again keeping secrets from her partner and walking around with a vampire bite.

The book has as much humor as the previous books; the people in the small town aren’t used to Interlanders and they are really racists towards Jenks and Rachel. However, the duo get their revenge. As pixie, Jenks has to constantly do something and that’s amplified when he’s so large. The local ladies are also very attracted to him. And of course, Rachel has her humorous lines.

Booking Through Thursday

What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!)

Nothing usually. When I read, I turn off the computer. I don’t have stereos.

I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I read, so on the few occasions I listen to music it’s either classical or movie sound tracks.

The Boss is back!

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyck
Running Time: 10 hours, 33 minutes

The story starts in other time and place. The good ship Ivoire is under attack from several enemy ships and Captain “Coop” Cooper has to make the decision to use his Anacopa drive which can fold space. Unfortunately, the drive is damaged at just the moment when it’s used.

After the events in “Diving into the Wreck” Boss has created a large company which is tracking down Stealth Tech which is very dangerous to everyone else except a small group of people who have the genetic marker to survive it. So far, the tech has always been found inside the ancient Dignity Vessels, huge space crafts. Boss wants to keep the tech out of the hands of the biggest government around, the Empire, in order to keep the balance of power.

Even though Boss is a loner by nature, she now has a lot of employees and she has to start trusting them. One of her people has noticed the city of Vaychen which is at least five thousand years ago and is convinced that they will find Stealth Tech in the caves below the city. Boss isn’t convinced but agrees to the mission and leads it herself. She’s very uncomfortable on ground and leading a group people who are mostly strangers to her. The people she calls the Six are the six other individuals who have the genetic marker to survive the Stealth Tech. Unfortunately for Boss, they don’t have much experience in exploration.

The locals don’t make matters any easier. The people of Vaychen are insular to the point of xenophobia; they don’t trust outsiders and try their best to limit the outsiders’ moments. Also, while they welcome tourists and make things easy for touring groups, they don’t like anyone snooping into their business. They don’t let anyone into the caves without six local guides. And they’re very patriarchal to the point that Boss has to appoint one of her male employees as a liaison between her and the guides.

Once the team starts to work in the caves, they make a startling discovery: a sleek Dignity Vessel appears. Boss and her crew are frantic to conceal this from the local government and to explore it themselves.

The Dignity Vessel is, of course, Coop’s ship. The crew are startled to find themselves in an abandoned outpost with strange people and they start to investigate the place and the people.

The two crews couldn’t be more different: Boss’ team has archeologists and scientists and space explorers who are at odds with the own government (and each other) while Coop’s crew is military. Yet, they both trust their leaders. Coop and Boss are startlingly similar: both are cautious and think about their crew first. In the past, Boss has acted impulsively and others had paid the price. Now, she forces herself to be careful. Coop and his crew are also investigating things but are more limited because they don’t want to reveal themselves to the strange people.

This time the story is slower and suspenseful. I was delighted to find out that Coop’s first contact team is linguists! They don’t have any instant translating machines so they have to painstakingly gather linguistics’ data and extrapolate from there. This makes the tale slower but the focus isn’t on fast-pace but the slow revealing of secrets and discovery of what has happened. Well, some people might find it slow but I found it fascinating. While Boss’s (and Coop’s) team is underground doing the legwork, the rest of her people are above ground researching the city’s history.

However, the story depends a lot on the background information that is found in the first book, so I recommend reading that first.

The cast of characters is pretty large with both teams and the locals. There are two point-of-view characters: the Boss who narrates in first person and present tense and Coop’s story is told in third person and in the normal past tense

The universe doesn’t seem to have any aliens. Instead there are several cultures of humans who have colonized various planets thousands of years ago. There’s a reference to a myth about Earth.

The ending is left open for the next book (yay!) but it’s not really a cliffhanger.

Van Dyck’s narration is good. She uses a slower tone, a deeper voice, and an accent for the locals which I found appropriate; all the local characters are male and it’s mentioned in the text that they have an accent.

Huge congrats to the Broke and Bookish blog which is celebrating its first blogoversary! Today, in the Top Ten Tuesdays the topic is reasons why we love book blogging.

Aside from the obvious one: the books :).

1, New authors and books.
I’ve found lots of new authors to try by reading other book blogs. A longer book review on a blog tells a lot more than few lines on Amazon reviews.

2, Entertainment.
Lots of other book blogs are really entertaining.

3, Talking about books.
Because I usually read in English, I don’t really meet many people in real life with whom I could talk about the books I read. Even less with comics.

4, Finding other people who have somewhat similar tastes than mine.
Ever since I burned out on epic fantasy, I’ve felt like I’m a freak or not a “real” fantasy fan because I crave other types of fantasy. Lots of fantasy forums discuss only male epic fantasy authors.

5, Becoming more analytical towards the books I read.
When I write a review, I have to spell out just what I liked or didn’t like.

6, It’s okay to like “just for fun” books.
On the other hand, I’ve realized that sometimes I just like a book even if the plot doesn’t make any sense. 🙂 So, I guess I’ve become even more eccentric with my reading tastes.

7, Memes.
Like this one. 🙂 Short and fun memes focusing on one thing are fun!

8, It keeps me reading.
Instead of watching some inane TV show or a favorite movie for the twentieth time or playing through Baldur’s Gate 2 for the thirtieth time.

Well, for one I didn’t make the whole ten.

I liked this season more than the first one. I felt that the show really found its direction.


The continuous story lines are back with a vengeance!

The previous season ended when we found out that Wolfram & Hart had brought back Darla, who turned Angel into a vampire. Darla is haunting Angel’s dreams and trying to turn him evil. However, she was brought back as a human and that, and everything she remembers doing as a vampire, is driving her nuts. Angel, being the resident knight errant, wants to help her while the rest of the gang wants nothing to do with her. I really enjoyed this story because it showed how far Angel had come not only just since his time as Angelus but also since his brooding days before he met Buffy. However, Angel himself starts to spiral into darkness and he fires his gang.

It was pretty painful to watch Angel’s descent. However, I really enjoyed watching how the relationships between Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn evolved into trust and friendship, and they managed to make Angel Investigations to work, too. They evolved from side kicks (especially Wesley) to real heroes. Of course, Angel and the gang made up eventually and it was also interesting to watch Angel working for Wesley. I’ve never really appreciated Angel’s leadership qualities (which IMHO didn’t really exist in Buffy) until he tries very hard not to lead.

Wesley grows a lot during the season from a humorous side kick to the leader. He takes over Giles’ role as a researcher but he also kicks demon ass. We also get a glimpse into his earlier life when he phones to his father which was really sad. Gunn has to deal with the consequences of walking out of his vampire hunting gang. I felt that Cordelia was more neglected; pretty much her only side plot was the visions becoming more painful and that was dealt with pretty quickly.

Even Lindsey from the enemy side gets character development! He and Lila are rivals but also have to sort of rely on each other to get things done. “Dead End”, where Lindsey gets a new hand, was a creepy episode and I’m interested to see where he will pop up next.

The three last episodes (“Over the Rainbow”, ”Through the Looking Glass”, and “There’s no place like Plrtz Glrb”) focus on Lorne’s home world where humans are slaves. I really enjoyed them; they felt more like Buffy episodes than ever before. The tone of the episodes were humorous on the surface but underneath there where serious issues. There’s of course slavery; but that was handled very lightly and humorously. The humans were called cows which made me laugh every time (admittedly, I watched them late at night) and took away the seriousness. Then there’s leadership issues with both Cordelia, when she finds out that she’s not really in charge, and Wesley and Gunn when they lead the rebel group. Angel deals with a lot of issues: in this other dimension he can walk in the sun and see his own reflection. On the other hand, when he uses his vampire side, he changes into a rampaging monster and can hurt even his friends. And then there’s Fred, the brilliant Winifred Burkle, one of my favorite Whedon characters ever. So, the writers managed to cram a lot of stuff in just three episodes.

The ending was, of course, tragic as Buffy fans will know.

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