January 2012 Book Round Up

I’ve made quite a roaring good start to the year thanks, partly, to my new obsession  – the Kindle! That’s not to say I’ve been neglecting my paperbacks and hardbacks though – I’ve been reading those too. This month’s little lot of books sets me up nicely towards my target. I’m ostensibly aiming for a very modest book per week, but if I could manage to improve on last year’s total of 90, I’d be a very happy bookworm!

So, which books have I finished this month…?

BOOKS FINISHED IN JANUARY

1. Joss Stirling – Stealing Phoenix (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
I picked this one up from Amazon Kindle free of charge and was pleased to find it was rather good. Having seen fellow bloggers raving about it, I tried not to get too hyped up, but I did enjoy it. The characters of Phoenix and Yves are easy to identify with, and the not-so-nice characters, although not really fleshed out as much as I would like (and with really dumb names – honestly, Dragon and Unicorn? Really?), they were suitably villainous and offered a pretty decent threat.

I’m not sure I enjoyed it enough to warrant going back and reading Finding Sky, but it was certainly an enjoyable enough way to pass a few hours.

2. Anna Katharine Green – X Y Z A Detective Story (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
I downloaded this free from Amazon as it fit the A-Z challenge nicely for that ever-so-tricky “X” entry. I read a lot of crime fiction, both modern and classic, so I suppose that directly affected my enjoyment of this. It was plodding and predictable, and had it been any longer, I may well have not bothered finishing it. The idea is sound enough, but the execution is pedestrian and nothing special. As it is such a short story, the characters were not fleshed out much at all, leaving them barely two-dimensional, and the plot was thin at best. Rather disappointing, but at least it served its purpose and completed that hard-to-fill spot on my challenge.

3. Cody Young – The Lady and the Locksmith (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Cody Young has a lightness of touch which makes for very easy reading. Her characters are all very human (even if they are romanticised), the plotting is perfectly paced and the settings sumptuous. This romance is all the sweeter for its short length, as all the passion of the gentle yet swift love affair is swept along at a breathtaking pace, taking the reader along for the ride. I’m not usually a fan of romances, but I do make an exception for this author, as I love her style so much.

4. Cody Young – Johnny Doesn’t Drink Champagne (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
This has the singular distinction of being the only cross-genre novel I’ve come across which features vampires and time travel. Under normal circumstances, a vampire novel wouldn’t warrant a time travel element because vampires live, like, forever, but in this instance having that time slip makes it that little bit different and it really works.

Once again, we have Cody Young’s light touch and expert story telling, this time weaving the threads of historical and modern romance together, whilst tackling a 500 year old mystery that still confounds historians to this day, giving a plausible answer to one of the questions left unanswered since the War of the Roses. This has a universal appeal – really, anyone who likes anything to do with vampires, historical fiction and a little romance would do well to try this.

5. John H Carroll – The Emo Bunny That Should: A Story For Demented Children (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
A fun little tale of a depressed rabbit that inadvertently saves the day. It’s very short and should appeal to those who have a slightly dark or demented sense of humour. Which I do. Obviously.

6. Anne Brontë – Agnes Grey (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Anne Bronte has become my favourite Bronte sister. Both her novels, but especially this, have a quiet kind of passion, and Agnes Grey displays a very reserved longing for love without showing any expectation of it.

Based on Anne’s personal experiences of being a governess, I wonder how much of this novel is based on fact and how much is fabrication, but either way, Anne’s deft handling of the characters and situation, in my opinion, outshines the ability of both her sisters, giving a much more natural and realistic impression of life and love at that time.

7. Patrick deWitt – The Sisters Brothers Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
I’m not exactly sure what it is about this novel that I liked so much – I only know that I enjoyed it immensely. Perhaps it’s the simple eloquence of Eli Sisters’ narration that belies the complexities of character in both him and his brother. Perhaps it’s his dispassionate approach to killing juxtaposed by his wish to finally settle down and find a chance at love and redemption. Or perhaps it’s just that it’s a great story with great characters and the writing is superb.

Whatever it is, this has awakened in me a desire to try more westerns when, before this, I had no interest in them at all.

8. Philippa Gregory – The Women of the Cousins’ War Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
This non-fiction study of the three women (Jaquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort) portrayed in the Cousins’ War series is absolutely fascinating! I was aware that women have been marginalised throughout history, but I never stopped to think how those who did make it to the pages of the history books might have been so horrendously misrepresented.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially of the period of unrest known as the War of the Roses, irrespective of whether you are a fan of Gregory’s novels, I think you’ll find this interesting.

9. Marissa Meyer – Cinder Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
A cyborg Cinderella? Count me in! This is one of the most innovative twists on the Cinderella story I’ve encountered so far. I was intrigued by the cover when I saw it on a blog and reading the reviews confirmed it as something that would most likely appeal to me – it certainly lived up to its promise!

I absolutely loved the character of Cinder – her mix of cool machine and emotional person made for a great combination and she was both believable and sympathetic.

The setting could have been anywhere, if I’m brutally honest, as there was very little in the way of actual description or mention of traditions in New Beijing that might link it to old Beijing, but I get the feeling it’s a set up for the rest of the series, so I’m more than willing to let that slide ni the hopes that it’s developed further in the subsequent novels. I’ll certainly be looking out for the next book when it’s published.

10. Caroline Hanson – Bewitching the Werewolf (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
A fun, slightly sexy little paranormal romance short story. It could have done with being a little sexier, and even though it’s very short, I would have liked a little more character and romantic development. That said, for the short length, it’s entertaining enough and fills a half hour or so nicely.

11. Frances Hodgson Burnett – Little Lord Fauntleroy (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Although I enjoyed the writing in this novel every bit as much as I did with The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, this story was a little more “goody-goody” than either of those. I think if I had actually known Little Lord Fauntleroy personally, he would have annoyed me intensely as he is just TOO good to be true. The story is also rather predictable so there were no actual surprises for me.

However, the writing is really excellent and it’s worth reading it just for the beautiful, flowing style as much as the sweet story. So, not quite as much of a favourite as the other two I’ve read, but still rather good.

12. Susan Hill – Howards End is on the Landing Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
I’d heard so many wonderful things about this book that I think I fell victim to the hype and wanted to like it so much more than I did. That’s not to say it’s not good – it IS good, just not as good as I’d hoped.

Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home is less a love letter to the books Susan Hill loves, and more a recounting of the many anecdotes she has of meeting and working with other writers, and their books which have subsequently helped shape her life, both personally and professionally.

It’s a little dry in places and, I confess, it did not actually inspire me to search for any of the books mentioned that I had not already read, but I did enjoy some of the little stories that were triggered by Hill wandering round her book-filled home and choosing to read only books she already owns for a year.

If we were all to follow her example, I’m sure everyone’s “Final Forty” would look very different. Certainly, there are not many books on which she settles that I would include in my own list, and there are many others I would insist upon that are omitted, but, as I’ve already intimated, everyone’s tastes are different.

This is an interesting read for anyone who loves books and, who knows, may lead to others discovering the joys of those tomes Hill pulled down from her own shelves.

13. Jonathon Pinnock – Mrs. Darcy Versus the Aliens Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Not quite as clever as Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, nor quite as funny as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but still a fun read. Pinnock pits our beloved Elizabeth against invaders from another planet and, on the whole, it does well, but some of the pop-culture in-jokes will probably not age quite as well as the ones based on more classic areas. This really is a major mash-up, not just between Austen and aliens, but also time, as the Regency meets the Victorian age too.

If you’re a fan of mash-ups, especially of Austen-based ones, you’ll probably enjoy this. If not, then you’re probably best to steer clear, as you simply won’t get it.

14. Anne Frasier – Hush (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
This is so good it’s hard to believe it’s a debut, so polished it the end result! It’s a taut crime thriller with precision plotting – I even fell for one or two of the red herrings (which, I’m proud to say, is a rare thing) – and I was kept literally on the edge of my seat for the entire thrilling journey.

The characters are endearingly, humanly flawed, the plot is gripping, and the writing is perfectly suited to the genre. I will certainly be trying more by this author because if this introduction to her works is indicative of her style, it will be a thrilling ride!

15. Jackson Pearce – Sisters Red (Fairytale Retellings 1) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Not so much a modern retelling of a fairytale, but a modern paranormal urban adventure with fairytale overtones, Sisters Red gathers together elements of the Red Riding Hood story with Snow White and Rose Red, and sets in firmly in modern-day Atlanta, GA with the wolves being supernatural creatures, and the sisters themselves being anything but victims.

Jackson Pearce has twisted the tale and skewed it in such a way that the feisty heroines are a force to be reckoned with – woe betide the wolf that tries to prey on them! The scarred and battle-weary Scarlet is such a wonderful character that it would be easy to overlook her quieter younger sister, Rosie, were she not so brilliantly realised herself. As for Silas, well a good friend is always an asset and although these girls can stand firmly on their own two feet, an extra pair of hands always comes in handy in the fight against evil.

I’ll not say I didn’t see the big twist coming, because I did spot it quite early on, but I didn’t care because I still wanted to read on and find out where the story would go and what ,exactly, would become of our intrepid trio.

If you like your fairytale heroines practical, with no need to wait for rescue from a handsome prince, then the Sisters Red are the girls for you. Long may the new breed of folk legends and twisted tales continue!

16. Tony Levy – A Turnkey Or Not? (e-book) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
A Turnkey Or Not? is a humorous and frank autobiography by an ex-prison officer. As my Dad has been a prison officer in the Scottish Prison Service for 25 years, I thought I might find it interesting… and I was right! It’s an insightful, often surprising look at life on the outside of the bars, but inside the prison system and I loved it!

Levy’s professional life has been filled with quirky characters (and I actually feel he is one of them!) and his anecdotes are, more often than not, touched with a fondness for those featuring in this story of his work, and where friendly feelings have not been evident, he has been respectful and mindful of how others might take his revelations, giving nicknames and pseudonyms at every point.

Reading this book, I almost felt like I was meeting all his colleagues in person and I found I could picture them, hear their voices and join in their camaraderie as each chapter unfolded, and I progressed with them all, moving from one prison and position in the hierarchy to the next. Really, I almost felt like I was sitting having a coffee with an old friend who was recounting the more interesting episodes he had experienced and seeing the twinkle in Levy’s eye as he jests, then the more serious expressions as the tide turns.

Whether or not you know anyone who has ever been a prison officer, I think this has a broad appeal that should leave most readers feeling satisfied and entertained. It’s definitely well worth picking up.

BOOKS STARTED, BUT CARRYING OVER TO FEBRUARY:
Amor Towles – Rules of Civility
Another review request to the BCF reviews team, this time from the publisher. I’ve only just started this one so I can’t really comment on it so far, apart from to say that the writing is wonderful. I can only hope the plot and characters live up to that promise…

SJ Parris – Heresy (e-book)
I love historical fiction. I also love murder myseries. What better way to entertain myself than to combine the two? I’ve read about a quarter of this and so far I love it! I can hardly wait to see where the story goes in this novel set during the reign of Elizabeth I. Already I think the rest of the series may be swiftly downloaded to my Kindle!

PRIORITY FOR FEBRUARY
Jenn Ashworth – Cold Light
Yes, another review request. I’ve not started this one and all I know is bascially from the blurb. Suffice to say, that blurb sounded interesting enough to make me say “Yes,” to taking a look at it! I’ll be starting it as soon as I’ve finished the other two…

Catherine Cooper – The Golden Acorn (e-book)
This is the choice for February in the Kindle Klub group. We only choose e-books that are available for FREE download, so there’s no expense to take part if you have a Kindle. If you fancy joining us, please feel free. Just click on the link HERE.

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One response to “January 2012 Book Round Up

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