Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

I don't actually have much new to report this week. I'm still reading The Survivor by Sean Slater. It's over 500 pages, so it has taken me some time. But I only have just over 100 pages left, and it has really picked up, so I'm hoping to finish it today. Look for a review in a couple of days.

I had been good and not bought any new books in January and up until last week, but then I received a voucher for 10% off from The Book Depository and all my good intentions went out the window. I put in an order for seven books and one Moleskin notebook (don't you just love them?), but I have no idea where to put them when they get here.

I haven't decided exactly what I want to read next, but here is a list of the most tempting ones right now:

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

Which one do you think I should read first?

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for Heat Wave by Richard Castle! Ends today!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Trouble With Audio Books

Obviously there are a lot of advantages to audio books; one of the biggest being that you can listen to them while doing something else like driving or cooking or exercising or sewing. Well, maybe you can. I can't. Believe me, I have tried. But when it comes to audio books, my ability to multitask seems to vanish into thin air. The tiniest distraction and I completely forget about the book and start thinking about something else. It becomes background noise, like when the TV is on without anyone watching. When I realise this, several pages or even chapters have passed, and I have to rewind and try to find the place I zoned out. I can manage for a while if I sit completely still and focus on listening, but then another problem arises: I fall asleep. It doesn't matter how interesting or exciting the book is; if I listen to it for more than a few minutes, I start getting sleepy. And if I don't actually fall asleep, my mind starts to wander and we're back to problem number one again. It just doesn't work for me.

I have come to the conclusion that my attention span is simply too short for audio books. However, I must have a very selective attention span, because I normally never have this problem when reading "real" books. (Okay, sometimes I fall asleep with a book in my hands, but that is usually because I stayed up too late the night before.) There are several occasions when an audio book would have been great, like when I am stitching or scrapbooking, but no. I just can't seem to pay attention. I feel like I am missing out, because no doubt there are great adaptions out there. For instance, I love listening to Neil Gaiman reading his own works, but not even he can hold my attention for any length of time (sad, I know).

What do you think? Am I just not trying hard enough? Does your mind wander while listening to audio books?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Something Old, Something New

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about (mostly) books and reading.

This week's question is:

All other things being equal – do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical specimen, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?

I was going to say that my ideal personal library consists of nothing but new books, but then I realised that if they were to remain that way, I could never read them. The thing is that once a book is read, it is no longer new. Even though I try to be very careful when handling my books, they inevitably end up looking less new after a while.

I buy a lot of used books or get them through BookMooch, BookCrossing or the library, and I think it is a wonderful way of saving money as well as the environment. I am somewhat selective when buying used books though; if it is in really bad condition, like partly illegible or pages are falling out (or if it smells of cigarette smoke – major turn-off for me), I will of course pass. But some general signs of wear and tear don't bother me at all. The only exception is a favourite book; if I know I want to keep it forever, I will buy a new hardcover simply because it will last longer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Giveaway: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

The cast of Castle (photo credit)

I would like to give my gently read copy of Heat Wave to one lucky winner. All you need to do is comment on this post with a way to contact you and tell me who your favourite character on Castle is – or, if you don't watch the show, who your favourite television detective is. I will draw a winner on 28 February midnight CET. Oh, and this is international.

Read my review of Heat Wave.

My answer
As much as I love Castle and Beckett (and Ryan), my very favourite character on the show is Castle's daughter Alexis. She is the sweetest thing; friendly, caring, funny, smart, sensible and just plain adorable. I'm sure all parents wish their teenage daughter was like that. Heck, I wish I was like that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Heat Wave

Heat Wave
By Richard Castle

First published: 2009
Series: Nikki Heat #1

Read: 17 - 21 February 2011
Pages: 198
Challenges: 1st in a Series Challenge #3
Mystery & Suspence Reading Challenge #2

From the cover
Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly bestselling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. She's hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York's Finest. Pulitzer Prize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren't her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of a murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between her and Rook. The one called heat.

Fans of Castle Will Love This Book

If you have, like me, been watching and enjoying the police drama Castle on ABC, you know all about Richard Castle and Heat Wave. If you haven't, well, what has been stopping you?

Okay, okay, here is a quick summary: Castle is about the famous mystery writer Richard Castle who, thanks to his friendship with the mayor, gets to tag along with NYPD Homicide Detective Kate Beckett as research for his new series about famous journalist Jameson Rook who gets to tag along with NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat as research on an article he is writing about the NYPD.

I will give you a moment to think that through.


Got your head around it yet? Good! Then let us carry on with this review.

I don't know if the real author or authors of Heat Wave (should I call them ghost writers?) work on the television show, but the book certainly reads like a regular episode. I almost expected there to be commercial breaks between each chapter.

I love how Richard Castle is presented as a real, living author. There is a short bio of him inside the back cover, and at the end of the book there is a 4-page interview with him. The book even has blurbs by James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell on the cover (these two have also appeared on the show as themselves).

The murder mystery itself is presented like in an episode; the reader gets the same information as the detectives and at the same time, so it is not easy to guess the murderer early on. In fact, I only realised who it was just before it was revealed in the book, and even then I was not sure.

I adore the dialogue between the characters (again, just like in the tv show). The banter between Heat and detectives Raley and Ochoa (affectionately known as Roach) reflects people who are comfortable with each other and used to thinking in unison. Rook's wise-cracking is very funny, and the sexual tension between Heat and Rook is (excuse the pun) hot.

Because I am so familiar with the tv show, it is impossible for me to think about Heat Wave without thinking about Castle. When I read it, I was seeing Stana Katic as Kate Beckett and Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle in my head instead of picturing Heat and Rook. Would I have enjoyed Heat Wave as much if I had not seen a single episode of Castle? I have no idea. Chances are it would have made me want to watch the show.

Best: The murder mystery, the banter, the sexual tension and being able to get inside the head of Kate Beckett – eh, Nikki Heat.

Worst: My biggest problem with this book was actually the binding. I have the mass market paperback, and the font was very small and the inner margins too thin, so I had to use force to hold the book open enough so that I could read the words closest to the spine. I wish I had bought the Kindle version instead; it would have been much easier to read.

Bottom line: A must-read for Castle fans, a clever mystery novel for everyone else.

My rating:

The Nikki Heat series
  1. Heat Wave
  2. Naked Heat
  3. Heat Rises (coming autumn 2011)
Come back tomorrow for a giveaway of Heat Wave!

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

I finished rereading one of my all-time favourite books, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It is an amazing fantasy book, and I am so glad I gave in to my urge to read it again, because I had a great time. I will try to write a non-fangirly review, but no guarantees!

I also finished Heat Wave by Richard Castle, which should be familiar to all of you who watch Castle. It was like reading an episode of the show, and I really liked it. Review coming later today.

I will be starting The Survivor by Sean Slater when I finish work today (seems I am always starting a new book on Mondays – I think it has something to do with this meme!).

So much to choose from! Maybe an ebook, as I haven't used my Kindle in a while.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Beginnings On Friday

The beginning of Heat Wave by Richard Castle:

It was always the same for her when she arrived to meet the body.

Now, I am a fan of the tv series Castle, which is about the (fictional) author of this book, so I immediately think of this as the opening scene of an episode of the show. As far as opening lines go, this one tells us there is a body (a key ingredient in a murder mystery), and that "she" is most likely the police investigator, because she is on her way to "meet" the body (rather an odd phrase, don't you think?) and that she has done this thing before. How's that for detection skills?

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by A Few More Pages

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be here at A Few More Pages every Friday.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Patiently Awaiting

I wanted to share with you some of the forthcoming books that I am patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting the release of.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
Expected publication: 22 February 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton (UK)

This is the sixth book in the Thursday Next series. I still haven't read book five, First Among Sequels, but I have enjoyed the first four and will definitely be getting this too.

It is a time of unrest in the BookWorld. Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?

All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worth of her illustrious namesake.

The written Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself. (Amazon)

Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Expected publication: 22 February by Grand Central Publishing (US)

I have never read anything by either of these two authors, but this sounds like a good place to start. Actually, it had me at "trickster, prodigy, master thief".

Introducing Gideon Crew: trickster, prodigy, master thief.

At twelve, Gideon Crew witnessed his father, a world-class mathematician, accused of treason and gunned down. At twenty-four, summoned to his dying mother's bedside, Gideon learned the truth: His father was framed and deliberately slaughtered. With her last breath, she begged her son to avenge him.

Now, with a new purpose in his life, Gideon crafts a one-time mission of vengeance, aimed at the perpetrator of his father's destruction. His plan is meticulous, spectacular, and successful. But from the shadows, someone is watching. A very powerful someone, who is impressed by Gideon's special skills. Someone who has need of just such a renegade.

For Gideon, this operation may be only the beginning . . . (Amazon)

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
Expected publication: 3 March 2011 by Little, Brown (UK)

I love the No. 1 Ladies' Detectove Agency series, and am always looking forward to a new book about Mma Ramotswe. This is the 12th in this lovely series.

The twelfth installment in the beloved, best-selling series is once again a beautiful blend of wit and wisdom, and a pro­foundly touching tale of the human heart.  Precious Ramotswe is haunted by a dream in which she is driving her dear old white van. Grace Makutsi dreams that her 97 percent on the Botswana Secre­tarial College exam was a mistake. When Mma Ra­motswe discovers that her van is actually still in use (and, of course, sets out to retrieve it), Mma Makutsi wonders whether her dream will turn out to be pro­phetic as well. They can only wait and see, but, in the meantime, one of Phuti Radiphuti’s apprentices has gotten a girl pregnant and, under pressure to marry her, has run away. Naturally, it is up to Precious and Grace to help the couple work things out. In other developments, Mma Ramotswe investigates a case of rural jealousy in which cattle are being poisoned. Add to the mix Violet Sephotho’s newly begun, already unstoppable run for the Botswana Parliament and the possibility that wedding bells may finally ring for Phuti Ra­diphuti and Grace Makutsi—whose love for each other is as great as their love for Botswana—and we have a charming and delightful tale in the inimitable style of Alexander McCall Smith. (Goodreads)


Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
Expected publication: 10 May 2011 by Henry Holt & Co (US)

I have been a fan of Rob Lowe for many years, and I'm looking forward to reading his autobiography (and look at pretty pictures. Yes, I'm that shallow (but have you seen the man?).)

A wryly funny and surprisingly moving account of an extraordinary life lived almost entirely in the public eye

A teen idol at fifteen, an international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at twenty, and one of Hollywood's top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences as a painfully misunderstood child actor in Ohio uprooted to the wild counterculture of mid-seventies Malibu, where he embarked on his unrelenting pursuit of a career in Hollywood.

The Outsiders placed Lowe at the birth of the modern youth movement in the entertainment industry. During his time on The West Wing, he witnessed the surreal nexus of show business and politics both on the set and in the actual White House. And in between are deft and humorous stories of the wild excesses that marked the eighties, leading to his quest for family and sobriety.

Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable. (Goodreads)

What books are you patiently awaiting?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: The Castle in the Pyrenees

The Castle in the Pyrenees
Slottet i Pyreneene
By Jostein Gaarder

First published: 2008
Read: 1-2 January 2011
Pages: 270

Through five intense years in the 1970s, Steinn and Solrunn had a happy life together. Then they suddenly parted ways, for reasons that are unclear to both. In the summer of 2007 they meet again on a balcony of an old wooden hotel by a fjord in western Norway. It is a place they both have fond memories from, and their meeting turns out to be fateful. But is it purely coincidental that they meet at that particular spot at that particular time? Over a couple of weeks that summer they write emails to each other, and it becomes clear that they have been living with very different interpretations of their shared past. THE CASTLE IN THE PYRENEES is both a love story and a novel of ideas, exploring the place of human consciousness in the universe. Its main theme is of great current interest: can science explain everything, or does some invisible force influence our lives? (Goodreads)

Just Not Enough Plot

Jostein Gaarder has been my favourite Norwegian writer, possibly my favourite writer ever, since I was a kid and got lost in the pages of The Solitaire Mystery for the first time. His YA novels are amazingly creative and exciting. The thing is, Gaarder is an intellectual; a modern philosopher. His adult books scare me to death. I am so intimidated by all the big thoughts and ideas and philosophising (is that even a word?). It makes me feel ... inadequate, sometimes even dumb. Yes, philosophy is a big part of Sophie's World, but there Gaarder manages to make it interesting and fun. So far I have not had much luck with his adult books, as they tend to go way over my head. Still, I picked this up from the library, confident that this time I would be able to follow his stream of consciousness. After all, I have three years of university, including a course in philosophy, under my belt now. Of course I could handle a grown-up Gaarder novel!

I was wrong.

"A novel of ideas" should have been my first clue, "exploring the place of human consciousness in the universe" the second. Remind me to pay proper attention to desciptions from now on.

There is no doubt that Gaarder is a very clever man, and his thoughts are very interesting, but to me this was simply too much. I found myself reading paragraph after paragraph and not understanding a word. Well, obviously I understood the words, but I completely failed to decode their meaning. Now, I should probably mention that I am generally not the smartest person in the room (except when I am the only person in the room), but I do enjoy a challenge now and then, and this book certainly was a challenge to me.

That being said, there was a real plot hiding underneath all the layers of philosophy, and like all of Gaarder's plots it was very interesting with some surprising twists along the way. These parts of the book I raced through, eager to find out what really happened between the two lovers, and these parts were the reason I finished the book. If the story of Steinn and Solrun had been the main focus and the various ideas and theories had been toned down, I would have liked it that much more. As it is, there simply was not enough story to hold my interest throughout the entire book.

I am hesitant to give this one a rating, because it would not be based on the quality of the book, but simply on my personal preference. Bearing that in mind, I am going to rate it 2 out of 6 stars for my own reference.

I know many readers wil enjoy the story of two estranged lovers meeting again by chance and starting up a correspondence discussing their different ideas, world views and the universe itself. If you are interested in intellectual topics, then I am sure you will like Gaarder. If you prefer to start with something a little lighter, I would recommend trying one of his YA books like Sophie's World, Through a Glass Darkly, The Orange Girl or my personal favourite, The Solitaire Mystery.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. This week Sheila has been hosting this meme for a year. Happy anniversary, Sheila!

So January came and went, and with it went the snow. We have had mostly rain here lately, which is fine by me, because I am not a fan of shoveling snow. This coming Sunday is Mother's Day here in Norway, so I will be busy this week baking a cake and making a card for my lovely Mum. Oh, and I have to pay the VAT on Thursday, so I need to get some accounting done as well.

I finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Monday, bringing my final total of books read in January up to 8 books.

Lately I have been drawn to old favourites, so now I am rereading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It has only been two years since I read it for the first time, but I had forgotten just how good it really is. Definitely one of my all-time favourite books. At 715 pages it is a small brick, and after a week I am only just over half-way through. But I am enjoying it so much I would not have minded if it was twice that long. Besides, I will most likely finish it this week - last time it took me almost a month.

I received an ARC of The Survivor by Sean Slater through Book Chick City's Mystery & Thriller Challenge. It will be published in March, so I am thinking I should get that out of the way soon. If not, I have about 200 other TBRs to choose from!

What are you reading this week?

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Month in Books: January

January was a fantastic reading month for me. I finished 8 books, which is more than double my usual monthly average! I'm not sure why I managed to read so much this month (perhaps because there is not much interesting on TV these days), but I'm glad I did. My personal 2011 challenge of reading 40 books is off to a great start, and if I can keep this up, I will have to update that goal soon. :)

Read in January

Links go to my reviews

1) Slottet i Pyreneene by Jostein Gaarder
2) Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
3) Flaggermusmannen by Jo Nesbø
4) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
5) Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block
6) The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
7) The Greek Symbol Mystery by Carolyn Keene
8) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling 

Incoming Books

January also brought some new books onto my shelves. I participated in The Broke and the Bookish's Secret Santa 2010, and got a belated, but wonderful present from Jana.

She sent me The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer and Reckless by Cornelia Funke. Thank you so much, Jana! Unfortunately I don't have your email address or blog URL so I can't thank you personally - I just hope you see this!

I also got an ARC of The Survivor by Sean Slater from Simon & Schuster UK through Book Chick City's Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2011. Thank you both!

Speaking of challenges; I have joined 3 challenges for 2011. There are a couple of others I have had my eye on, but I decided that 3 were enough. I don't want any pressure.

Challenge progress

First in a Series Challenge - 2/6 (this might be updated to the next level during the year)
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
2. Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block

2nds Challenge - 0/3

Mystery & Suspense Challenge - 1/12
1. Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block

Other posts of interest

Discussion posts
Reading Impatience
Kindle Cover

Top Ten Tuesday
Books I Resolve To Read
Bookish Resolutions
Inspirational Characters
Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid

Booking Through Thursday

Here's hoping the rest of the year will be as good!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Match Made ... On My Bookshelf

I own hundreds of books, and quite a few of them belong to series. Traditionally I haven't cared much what edition the different series books are or whether the covers match; I was just happy to have the books. But lately I have realised the aesthetic value of matching covers (even though some of them disappear in the back row of double-stacked shelves) and so I try to get the same edition of books I know I want to keep. Sometimes this is easy; sometimes it can be very frustating. Let me give you some examples.

Example number 1: I wish these covers matched

This is my Dirk Pitt shelf. I know, it is a mess. I fell in love with the enigmatic hero invented by Clive Cussler back in 2002, and I now have all books in the series but the latest (yay!). The thing is, when I first started buying the books I had not started caring about matching covers. By the time I realised I did care, I had too many to buy new matching editions. I decided the inside was more important than the outside, so I continued buying whatever editions I could get my hands on. If you look closely, you will notice that some of them are even in Norwegian (I regret that now, but that is for another post). And yes, that is a wombat. His name is Fatso.

Example number 2: What went wrong??

By pure luck (different sources, back when I did not care so much etc.) I already had the matching UK Bloomsbury paperback editions of the first six Harry Potter books, so naturally I wanted HP7 to match. I found the Bloomsbury edition online and ordered it. It had the same cover art as my other copies, so I figured it had to be the right one. It was, except for one little detail: It was much smaller than the other books. *headdesk* Now they look like this on my shelf, and it annoys me no end.

Example number 3: This required some work, but I'm happy

I bought the movie cover version of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke because it was the cheapest edition in the store. I loved the book, but I didn't have room in my backpack to take it home with me (I was in Australia at the time), so I gave it away before I left. But I wanted to read the rest of the trilogy, so I went to Amazon and found that the cheapest edition of Inkspell was the special Gift Edition (go figure). Unfortunately I didn't order the same edition of the other two books at the same time, and when I went back to do so, they were gone. I spent a long time looking for this particular edition, and after a while I stumbled across Inkdeath in a Norwegian online store and ordered it on the spot. Inkheart, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found, and I was getting desperate. Finally I found a copy through AbeBooks, and I ended up buying it for double its regular price. I have never paid that much or worked that hard to find a particular book, but they do look pretty on my shelf, so I think it was worth it in the end.

I have learnt my lesson and from now on I will consider covers as much as price when I buy new books.

What are you like when it comes to covers? Match, no match, don't care? Do you have any other cover issues?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sound Advice

"Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain."
– Mr. Weasley in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
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