Sunday, August 16, 2009

And this is why I love my Sony Reader!

As most of you know I have been trying to go paperless for the last year and I mostly have succeeded. This year, out of 119 books that I have read, only 11 have been paper-books. I think I'm doing fairly well.

When I first looked into which eBook reader I would buy I did some research and searched among those that read the largest amount of formats, because let's face it, eBooks come in different shapes and colors and until the format war was decided I wanted to be able to read all my books in the same device. Well, Sony really did it for me and I have never looked back.

What was great about the Sony Reader was that even though they sold their own format at their eBook store (format was .lrf) it also allowed you to upload .rtf files and .pdf files which for me was a biggie. I can take almost any format and change it to a .rtf file (a real text format is similar to a word document) or a PDF file which made Sony the winner for me.

Well, this past week Sony took the step that us eBook readers have been waiting to hear (from the NYTimes):

On Thursday, Sony Electronics, which sells e-book devices under the Reader brand, plans to announce that by the end of the year it will sell digital books only in the ePub format, an open standard created by a group including publishers like Random House and HarperCollins.

Sony will also scrap its proprietary anticopying software in favor of technology from the software maker Adobe that restricts how often e-books can be shared or copied.

After the change, books bought from Sony’s online store will be readable not just on its own device but on the growing constellation of other readers that support ePub. Those include the Plastic Logic eReader, a thin device that has been in development for nearly a decade and is expected to go on sale early next year.

“There is going to be a proliferation of different reading devices, with different features and capabilities and prices for a different set of consumer requirements,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading unit. “If people are going to this e-book shopping mall, they are going to want to shop at all the stores, and not just be required to shop at one store.”

Yeah... I love my Reader!

Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia Series

I have been putting this review off for a while now (no reflection on the books, I'm just a lazy bum) but I thought I'd get to it since this series is probably one of my favorites in 2009. First off these books are a YA (young adult) series. I mention this because many people (adults) prefer to leave the YA books to YA, and they don't know what they are missing so I'd thought I'd give a heads up.

To set the scene, the Attolia series takes place among three kingdoms, Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia in an era that likens itself to ancient Greece with all the mythical gods and beliefs firmly in place. The main character is a thief called Eugenides who finds himself in jail more times than he would like.

The Thief (A): We start the series with Gen incarcerated in the Sounis prisons where he was thrown after boasting of and then stealing the King's seal. Gen twiddles away his time the best he can until the King's top adviser comes a calling. The Magus makes Eugenides an offer he has a tough time refusing... Help me retrieve this ancient artifact from this mythical temple or die a long, slow, excruciating death. Hmm... let me think about that one and get back to you. Yeah, Gen accepts.

Off they go, Gen, the Magus, the magus apprentices Sophos and Ambiades, and a soldier called Pol in search of the hidden temple. The story builds up slowly and at times you wonder, where is this going? but Turner has a purpose for everything, from the confrontations with the apprentices "Useless the younger and Useless the elder" to his unlikely friendship with Pol who never seems to fit in. The book just wraps around you and then when you get to the end you have to do a double take because nothing is what it seems... and then some.

Honestly, Gen wormed his way into my heart and kept a firm grasp. He made me smile, laugh out loud and finally gasp in surprise. You really need to start the series with this one because it introduces you to Eugenides and gives you a clear idea of what this mild manner Thief is capable of.

The Queen of Attolia (A): A lot to live up to as the sequel to The Thief, The Queen of Attolia doesn't disappoint. You won't find the silly Eugenides in this one but more of a man dealing with loss. The three kingdoms (Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia) are losing the uneasy balance they have achieved in the past under the pressures of the Mede Empire. No one knows who is to be trusted and the Queen of Attolia, who has had to prove herself a capable queen since she took her throne, finds herself with the reputation of an implacable and cruel monarch which is put to the test when she captures the Thief of the Queen of Eddis.

Gen had been sent to spy on the neighboring kingdom when he was captured. At first he believed that the Attolian's would kill him but was proven wrong when he receives the sentence thieves of old received and is sent home maimed. Eddis is devastated by the pain and loss that Gen suffers and retaliates by declaring war against the Attolians, something that the Mede Ambassador encourages since it falls right into plans with his Emperor

This one is full of political intrigue and alliances made and broken. The author deviates from the single point of view of Eugenides and gives us the Queen of Attolia's point of view as well. Everyone talks about this book as the star of the series because there is so much going on but it really depends on what you are looking for in the book (my favorite is the last book - more on this later).

Like in the Thief, you sometimes have to pay close attention to what you might think are insignificant details because when all is revealed you end up with a WTF? Superb writing and wonderful characterization brings the war and different sides of the confrontation to life as well as Eugenides' pain and in the end the one handed thief still is capable of stealing our hearts.

The King of Attolia (A+): For me this one was the prize that had been promised through the other two installments of this series. I graded the others as wonderful but this one was fabulous! In the King we find Eugenides married to the Queen of Attolia, which makes him... The King of Attolia! but this is not a position that he actually wanted and the Attolian's would want him off the throne too. They show him no respect and think little of him as their monarch, regarding him as a humiliation to all Attolia.

Gen is away from everything that is familiar to him and misses his carefree days but he loves his Queen and will not give up his position by her side. The Queen sees how her people disrespect the man she has chosen to rule with her and knows that the only way that they will change their minds is if Eugenides steps up to the plate and starts acting like the kind his is but he refuses to become King to her Queen.

Love Love Love this one. We see Gen not so much from his point of view but that of a complete stranger. Costis is a guard that eventually gets to know the real Eugenides and little by little finds himself respecting the thief turned king. We watch through the eyes of the Attolians how Gen is perceived and how that perception changes.

I loved the relationship between Gen and the Queen, loved how human she became from the first time we met her in the previous book. I love that she was a strong Queen but also a strong partner for Gen who needs a bit of nudging to get him going. We can see in this book how she matches him perfectly, something we were left wondering in the previous installment. Like the previous books there is a twist at the end that should not catch us off guard because we should have learned to expect this from Turner but still she marvels us with her twists and turns.

This series is my favorite (as of yet) for this year and it's a YA. Doesn't surprise me since last year a YA series was also my favorite for the year (Stephanie Meyer's Twilight). The Thief was awarded the Newbery Honor award in 1997 and each subsequent installment also deserves a prize. If you have not yet read this series, don't hesitate in picking it up, you will not regret it. I recently posted about the announcement of a new addition to this series (more of a spin off as I'm lead to believe) which is centered in the world Whalen-Turner created. It is suppose to release early 2010 and is called A Conspiracy of Kings.

Can you guess I'm a bit excited about that?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Night with Sherrilyn Kenyon

There are just a few authors I consider autobuys - which means that regardless what they write I will go out and pick it up automatically due to their proven ability to produce exceptional work. Kenyon is an autobuy for me and her Dark Hunter series is one of two series that are on my keeper shelf and actually gets re-read (on purpose).

Last Wednesday, my daughter Nyshma and I had a chance to meet Ms. Kenyon when her book signing tour brought her to Dallas.

The signing started at 5pm but we couldn't head out to Barnes & Noble until 5:15 which is when Nysh got out of work. Then we battled rush hour traffic for over an hour to arrive at 6:30 for the signing. Kenyon was to have a reading and a short Q&A that we missed but we were able to secure a ticket for the signing (#191).

While we waited, Diana Love (co-author to some of Kenyon's books from the B.A.D series) entertained us with anecdotes and gave out door prizes. We found a cozy corner where we settled in to wait our turn to get our copy of Bad Moon Rising (as well as our copy of Acheron) signed. I pulled out my Sony eReader and finished reading Night Play (I'm re-reading her Dark Hunter series) and started Phantom Lover while Nyshma started reading the new book. On occasion we would pull our noses out of our books to pay attention to the shenanigans happening around us and actually heard our door prize ticket being called. We won a little B.A.D. booklet autographed by Kenyon & Love.

While we waited we also met Sara Reyes from Fresh Fiction who was sitting next to us twittering about the signing for Fresh Fiction. She was so charming chatting us up about the Readers and Ritas get togethers and the DFW Tea Readers group. Susan Elizabeth Phillips (another favorite of mine) will be stopping by their book club in August!

It was finally our turn to get our books signed around 10pm. We spoke to Kenyon for about two minutes but she was a doll. She found Nyshma's name interesting (what a shocker there - this is why she goes by Andrea / Dre) and commented that her own children have name issues as well.

We chatted about her series coming out in Audiobook and that she is trying to get the older books done in that format and how handsome the narrator of Night Pleasure was.... It's funny how much you can chat about in a little over 2 minutes.

Pictures taken and books signed, we waved goodbye to Sara and headed home.
Wonderful evening!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ice Series by Anne Stuart

I recently found the excuse to get back into Anne Stuart's Ice Series after reading the first book a few years ago and have found that the books that have followed are a bit of a mix bag for me.

Cold as Ice (A): Genevieve Spenser is getting ready to spend the next few weeks in Costa Rica on a humanitarian expedition but her boss asks her to get a few signatures on some legal documents from their client Harry Van Dorn. Harry, though, is not your regular client, he is a bit of a psycho with a plan for seven worldwide acts of destruction that will yield him a decent profit.

Peter Jensen is an undercover operative of the 'committee' and is in place as Van Horn's personal assistant. He is waiting for just the right moment to end Harry's plans for good but when the prim lawyer comes on board the yacht his plans are shot to hell. The stuck up Genevieve cannot seem to get the hint he keeps sending her to get off the darn boat so Peter is resigned to kill her as collateral damage, but the woman just gets under his skin and even his years as a ruthless assassin cannot bring him to kill the woman that has broken through his ice laden soul.

Although the romance was rushed in this one, the heroine's personality was quirky enough to make it believable. Genny pretended to be a stuck up b*tch because it was the only way to move ahead as a lawyer but she loved coming home and letting her hair down while Jensen was constantly pretend as well, to the point that he almost lost himself completely.

I also like the action on this one, with yacht's blowing up and deserted islands and finally a race through California. I would have said this one was more an action book vs a true romance, but it worked for me.

Ice Blue (C- ): We met Taka O'Brian in Cold as Ice as the operative the can be many faces and that rescues Genny from Van Horn at great personal expense. It's Taka's turn to work on a project close to his heart when he has to recover an antique Japanese urn that a religious cult leader has deemed necessary in a plot to destroy the world.

Summer Hawthorne is a museum curator and owner of said urn. The cult leader was promised the urn by her mother and since it has an emotional connection to Summer, she has setup an elaborate hoax to avoid handing it over to the Shirosama. It is not until the Shirosama tries to kidnap her that she realizes the extent he will go in order to get his hands on the urn.

Taka is out to recover the same urn and is willing to do anything to stop the Shirosama from getting his hand on the artifact as well as the information that Summer doesn't know she has. But when the time comes to kill Summer he balks and everything goes downhill.

The difference between this operative (who I really liked in the other book) and Peter is that Genevieve made the whole I've fallen for you and now cannot kill you believable. There was NO reason why Summer should have fallen for Taka. He showed no emotion and really did nothing that could explain to me why she was hot for him and why she eventually fell for him. The reader knew Taka and could see his struggles but Summer should have had no clue. For some reason Stuart failed to show me how these two fell in love and it took away from the book.

I still enjoyed the action and being a Japanese culture junky, the chases around Japan moved this book from a D to a C-.

Because this last book was such a disappointment I think I need to stop reading this series for awhile so that I will not prejudice myself to book 4 which is the story of Madame Lambert or book 5 which is the story of Summer's sister Jilly and Taka's cousin Reno which were excellently portrayed in Ice Blue.

Format: Audiobook/eBook

Monday, August 03, 2009

Harper Connelly Series by Charlaine Harris

Ms Harris has me hooked. I love her Southern Vampire series and now I am hooked on her Harper Connelly series. what is fascinating is that the series are completely different, not just in theme but also in the author's voice. Harper is not as light hearted as Sookie is, she has a more skeptical view of the world, a bit more darker, which in turn makes the books more solemn but just as delicious!

Grave Sight (B) : The first book took me a bit to get into but after I got to know Harper and her step brother, Tolliver Lang, I was off and running. Harper and Tolliver come from a messed up home. His Father hooked up with Harper's mom and their efforts to keep the so-called family together united them in a cause. Harper's mom was a alcoholic/drug addict and her father was sent to jail for one thing or another. Harper was struck by lightning when she was a teenager and as a side effect of that experience she has the ability to sense the dead. she does not speak to the dead but can sense when death is near by which allows her to easily find dead bodies. She can also determine the cause of the death by getting a glimpse of the final moments of the victims life. This final quirk comes in handy when Harper is brought in to find the body of a teenager who was suppose to be the second half of a murder-suicide. When Harper find the body of the young girl she knows it's murder but when she stands on the boy's grave it's clear to her that he also was murdered and did NOT commit suicide. This opens up a can of worms because now there is an unsolved murder on the books. The Sheriff of the little town has no problems with this since the girl found was his sister in law. His wife also died several years ago, but he suspects foul play in that death as well (which Harper confirms) and is determined to find out who wanted these sister's dead. The murder mystery just wraps itself around this small town and Harper and Tolliver just get sucked into it.

Grave Surprise (B+) : The second book draws you in from the get go. Harper has been invited to do a demonstration of their abilities at Bingham College by identifying bodies and causes of death in a historic Memphis cemetery. What She discovers among the dead is the body of Tabitha Morgenstern, a young girl she failed to find on a case several years ago. Falling under suspicion in the death Harper and Tolliver must stay in the small town attracting all sorts of characters to themselves..

When the professor that originally invited Harper to the college is found dead in the same grave that Harper had found the other body things heat up and she realizes she must unravel the mystery to clear her name if she ever expect to get out of the town in one piece. This is the book that has Harper looking at Tolliver in a not so sisterly manner and makes us re-examine that relationship too.

Ice Cold Grave (A) : At the end of the last book Harper and Tolliver's relationship shifts a bit and I was so happy I had the next book all lined up to read and I didn't miss a beat.
In this third installment Harper deals with one of her most emotional cases when she is hired by a woman to find her missing grandson. It seems that several boys have gone missing in the small town of Doraville, N.C. and although the local police had dismissed them as runaways the new sheriff, Sandra Rockwell suspects something else. She is proven correct when Harper finds, not just the missing grandson, but all the missing boys (plus two) buried in an abandoned farmhouse. They all had been tortured and abused by a serial killer who is still on the lose. Harper is emotionally drained and would do anything to get away from the horrors she sensed in those bodies but she is suddenly attacked and injured causing her and Tolliver to stay in the town that has become a media circus.

In this book we see the return of psychic Xylda Bernardo and her grandson, Manfred whom we met in the previous book. This book also has Tolliver and Harper discovering that there is no brotherly affection between them but something much more precious.

I cannot tell you how much I loved this series. I cannot wait for more Harper and Tolliver. I was greatly relieved that, even with the popularity of her Southern Vampire series, this series is still active.

We will be getting a new installment in October with the release of Grave Secrets!

Thank goodness I don't have to wait too long!
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