Best of 2009 and New Year’s Resolution for 2010

I liked looking back last year at 2008 so this year I’m also looking back at 2009. I didn’t make my goal of reading 100 books, but at 79 books I was above last year’s number (77). Anyway, here’s my Best of 2009 list, broken down in the same way I broke down books last year:

The Books that Blew Me Away – This is a very small list, just three books, like last year.  I only put books on the list when a book consumes me.

  • Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliosotti
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (this is technically a 2010 book. Review to come) –
Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away This list is of books which I’d recommend without reservation and I loved them while reading them. There are more of these this year than last year (5 versus 4!)
  • Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre
  • Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James
  • Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine
  • Endless Blue by Wen Spencer
  • Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Books I Really Liked/ Keepersthese are also recommended and all have several moments that I loved in them and I think many people will like these books:

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
  • Must Love Hellhounds (anthology) Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Charlaine Harris — I liked 2 of the 4 stories a lot
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
  • Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • Sins & Shadows (Shadows Inquiries) by Lyn Benedict
  • The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percey Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber
  • What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
  • Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  • Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James
  • Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair
  • Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon, Bk 1) by Ann Aguirre
  • Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Bk 6) by Carrie Vaughn
  • What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Kitty Norville, Bk 4) by Carrie Vaughn
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, Bk 3) by Carrie Vaughn

And for my New Year’s Resolution – First I have the usual one which is to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 – 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – 79 books

The second resolution is to make the TBR go down. I was really bad over my Christmas vacation and the TBR is over 190 right now. The plan is that I can’t buy a book unless I read two or more. Let’s hope I have the willpower.

Endless Blue by Wen Spencer

Endless Blue
Wen Spencer

Wen Spencer is among the Authors I Stalk. Yes, she is on my list. Therefore I have been eagerly anticipating Endless Blue since I knew it was coming out. Unfortunately it came out in hardcover, and I’m a paperback girl, so I waited another few months for the paperback copy to be released. Finally I bought it last week and although it’s about 495 pages, I inhaled it. Ah, sweet space opera!

The Premise: Mikhail Volkov is a clone of Peter the Great and heir apparent to the great Novaya Rus Empire.  He’s captain of the warship the Svobada, and helping the United Colonies fight off the alien Nefarim when it’s requested that he investigate the sudden appearance of a warp drive from the long lost Fenrir. With the drive being covered in coral and sea life, it’s apparently come from some body of water, but according to it’s data, it’s last jump was a misjump to location zero. Mikhail accepts the mission, jumps to the same location and crashes. His adopted brother Turk becomes separated from him in a world where they are surrounded by aliens and humans in the same situation and who never escaped.

My Thoughts: Wen Spencer is one of those authors with sometimes really complex ideas. I find I have to read about 100 pages in before what the characters are talking about begin to make sense.  It’s always worth my patience, because once I get it, it’s smooth reading. In this case I had a hard time first understanding the world of the Sargasso Sea which Turk and Mikhail find themselves, and I had to understand what a Red was. To help others this is what I understood:

  • A Red: is an “adapted” human. Basically, human genes were manipulated to create a super soldier who is faster, stronger and better at surviving harsh conditions, but they were also taught to obey and treated as second class citizens, like animals. Usually they are grown in batches and raised in a creche where they all undergo some behavioral imprinting.
  • The Sargasso Sea: A world where spaceships disappear into when they misjump. Most of it is covered in water, gravity follows strange rules, and no one can figure out how to get out. To me it sounded like the inside of a very large egg, but don’t ask me where the sun is, I still don’t know.

After I got those two concepts, I felt comfortable enough with the world and what was going on, but there are still some complex ideas going on in here about communication and behavior and faith.  There’s also a LOT of ideas from japanese culture (Tinker also had this). In some ways it’s refreshing to be expected to be able to follow these ideas, but it meant I couldn’t read this book when I was really tired, my brain just wouldn’t work. Anyway, the world building was awesome – boats, floating islands, minotaurs, cannibals, the list goes on, I really can’t describe it. I think if you’ve read Tinker maybe you’d see what I mean, it can get very out there in a good way.

Wen Spencer writes well rounded, three dimensional characters too. Turk and Mikhail are leaders and quick thinkers but they have fears and problems. Mikhail suffers from depression, and Turk has issues with being a Red. Having a clone and a super-soldier as adopted brothers was an interesting twist on common science fiction tropes, plus we get to see the family dynamics, which seems to be a Wen Spencer trademark (see A Brother’s Price). There are Turk and Mikhail, and then there are the Baileys, who have a huge extended and remarkable family. Their familial bonds felt realistic – you know what the pecking order is, who is better than this than who, what they always fight over, how siblings could easily guess their siblings reactions and thoughts. It was very well done. Of course comparing the Baileys and the Volkovs, there are some big differences in upbringing which had a big part in the book. The big difference seems to be Turk’s status as a Red, and being treated like an animal in normal space. He can “fur up” and there’s a contingent of people who call themselves “cat fanciers” and get off on the idea of sex with Reds. This brings a whole level of effed up to his psyche.

There is a nice romance going on here between Turk and one of the Baileys. Near the beginning of the book when Turk was separated from his brother, the narrative would go back and forth between Turk and Mikhail. I just wanted to skip ahead to all the parts with Turk (and the romance), and ignore Mikhail. Thankfully the narrative stopped bouncing back and forth before I become really impatient, and by then I’d become equally interested in both their stories.

The romance had some interesting problems on the way to the couple’s HEA – race is one, having to choose between love or the world you came from is another. The way these problems were resolved were interesting, though one resolution felt a little implied and off screen. In some ways a lot of the romance is also off-screen, with very key scenes shown or mentioned to the reader. Which means it felt like I had missed something because the book would sometimes fast forward between the couple’s relationship milestones. This was OK, but I did crave for a little more.

Overall: I really liked this one. At almost 500 pages long, it’s a clunker, but it’s a standalone with well written characters, and I thought it was worth the read. Recommend this one to space opera fans and fans of science fiction romance (although I’d say the romance is a secondary plot), with the warning that there’s some complex plotting and ideas going on, but if you’re willing to deal with a little thinking, you’ll be rewarded.

Other reviews: I couldn’t find any reviews of this book amongst the book blogs I read. Go forth and read it! Amazon | B&N

My first giveaway!

It's eight days to my wedding – which is on 08/08/08. To make everyone participate in the mix of anticipation and dread (haha), I've decided to have a giveaway. If things go well with this, I'm probably going to continue. I've given books to people before, just not in any kind of contest, but I enjoy entering other people's giveaways, so let's spread the fun.


1. $20 dollar e-certificate to Barnes and Noble (I figure this makes things a bit easier for non-US participants)

2. Your choice of a paperback book from one of the authors in the list below. It has to be currently in print (you can ask for Wanderlust too, just expect to wait a bit until it comes out in order to get it). 

Some authors in urban fantasy/futuristic/space opera that tickle me

Linnea Sinclair

Wen Spencer

Ann Aguirre

Ilona Andrews

Patricia Briggs

Eve Kenin

Michelle Sagara

Jocelynn Drake

What you have to do

Just comment with your name here on vox or on my LJ ( by midnight EST on 08/08/08. Anyone on the planet who amazon/bn ships to can enter. If you spread the word and post a link of where you spread the word, you get two entries in this contest (cause – this blog has um… about 5 readers).

I'll probably be recovering from the wedding so likely won't pick winners till 8/11/08. I'll try to be earlier. We'll see how it goes.

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Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer

Wolf Who Rules
Wen Spencer

This is book 2 of The Tinker Series by Wen Spencer. I think it this is it - only 2 books in the series, but I could see it continuing, so I'm actually not sure if this is the last book. I can't figure it out from Wen Spencer's website.

I really liked Tinker so I was really looking forward for Wolf Who Rules to come out in paperback. Tinker is a young female genius who lives in an interdimensional Pittsburgh. Her father created a gate which transports the whole city to Earth once a month for supplies (a day called Shutdown), while the rest of the time it is in Elfland. In book 1 Tinker saves Windwolf (aka Wolf Who Rules Wind), viceroy of the elves and gets tangled up in elf culture and in fighting off their enemies. I loved the world and the ideas used to explain elves and japanese folklore like oni and tengu. I did notice some Mary-Sue aspects to Tinker (smart, so many men are in love with her, she doesn't realise her own beauty .. blah), but some flaws did help her from becoming a complete Mary-Sue: she is only 18 and completely clueless about relationships with men and her own hormones, and she is capable of acting before thinking despite her genius. These traits continue in the second book.

In Wolf Who Rules we continue right where Tinker leaves off, and I found I had forgotten certain parts of Tinker – like who certain people were again and what certain japanese words meant in Spencer's world. For the most part I managed to pick it up but there are a couple of things I'm still confused about but I don't have my copy of Tinker to go look it up on vacation.

To add to that confusion, Tinker herself is confused and not feeling like her normal self – she has dreams like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz and wanders around feeling out of sorts for most of this book. There was one action-y bit at the beginning of the book, then there is this waiting/set up feeling for a good 250 pages before Tinker gets in gear and charges forward to do what she does best (save the world) again.

I guess that the book is named Wolf Who Rules because this book is more about his elf world than Tinker's human one and much of the book has Tinker having to flail about in this new culture and find her way really quickly and without much instruction. Wolf Who Rules Wind actually says this about her and what she is going through and while he tries to help he doesn't have the time to be with her constantly because he's busy with elven politics.

Unfortunately in the end I felt shocked because I was actually disappointed in this book compared to Tinker. Which is a big deal because I love this author and I love her plots and amazing ideas (ok interdimensional Pittsburgh? elves? oni? spaceships?), but I felt like I expected Tinker to be take charge like she was in book 1 that seeing her out of sorts for what felt like much too long in book 2 just made the story drag. Wolf Who Rules was still full of some interesting concepts that blew my mind, so worldbuilding was still wonderful but the plot was off for me. I think trying to get the plot to fit in with an Alice in Wonderland-ish dream and a Wizard of Oz-ish dream just didn't work. Unbelievable! So far I've read 5 books by this author that are in a league of their own so me being disappointed is weird. I will still will keep buying from this author though. And I'm still keeping this book since I'm a fan of Tinker and this is the continuation of that. Maybe one day I'll reread them one after another and see if I like part 2 better then.

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Things to look forward to

Patricia Briggs posted the cover of the next book in the Mercy Thompson series on her site. Nice ass huh. This will be out January 08.

She also says on her website that there will be a total of 7 books in this series to be released in Jan/Feb of each year. Also there is another series starting in the same world following characters in the "Alpha and Omega" story that was is in the anthology "On the Prowl". Three books have been proposed: to be released in July-ish of each year, so a new Patricia Briggs novel every six months.

Also here is an interesting link – Briggs explaining why many fantasy authors write multi-book stories which I found after my mini-rant on series that go on too long. Still, she talks about trilogies more than anything which is a series length I'm ok with so no disagreements here.

The Mercy Thompson series is one of my auto-buys. Another one is the Cast series by Michelle Sagara West, the Magic series by Ilona Andrews and the Tinker series by Wen Spencer. 

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