Thursday, June 30, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Size Matters

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

This week's question is:

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)?

My personal library is definitely at its biggest right now (and getting bigger all the time!). I don't know exactly how many books I own, but I'd say somewhere around 350, plus Pickwick (my Kindle) carries about 150 e-books. When I was younger I used the library a lot, so I didn't own that many books. But after discovering BookCrossing in 2005 and then book blogging last year my book purchases have skyrocketed because I keep finding interesting books my library doesn't carry. Also, I don't like reading Norwegian translations, so for the most part buying books is my only option.

I have always owned books, ever since my mother subscribed to a series of Disney books when I was 4 years old, but I haven't always had room for that many. One of these days I will have a house instead of this tiny flat, and a whole room (or perhaps attic) that contains nothing but my books – and a reading chair.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: The Doomsday Key

The Doomsday Key
By James Rollins

First published: 2009
Series: Sigma Force #6

Read: 4 - 12 June 2011
Pages: 526
Challenges: Mystery & Suspense Challenge #6

From the cover

At Princeton University, a famed geneticist dies inside a biohazard lab. In Rome, a Vatican archaeologist is found dead in St. Peter's Basilica. In Africa, a U.S. senator's son is slain outside a Red Cross camp.

Three murder victims on three continents, linked by a pagan Druidic cross burned into their flesh.

Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force have only days to solve an apocalyptic puzzle dating back centuries. Aided by two women from his past—one his ex-lover, the other his new partner—Gray must uncover a horrifying secret that threatens America and the world, even if it means sacrificing the life of one of the women at his side. The race is on—from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway to the lost tombs of Celtic kings—and the future hangs in the balance. For humankind's ultimate nightmare is locked within a talisman buried by a dead saint—an ancient artifact known as . . . The Doomsday Key.

My thoughts

Ever since I read Map of Bones a few years back, James Rollins has been my go-to guy for scientific thrillers. His books are always current, well-researched and suspenseful, and the sixth installment of the Sigma Force series is no exception.

I won't say too much about the story because I don't want to spoil anything for you, but like a proper thriller should, it includes explosions, gun fights, burning peat bogs, stormy weather, and ponies. And of course many of the elements are based on facts. "Everything in this book is true, except for what's not," Rollins appropriately states in a note at the end of the book. The notion that at least some of the events described could happen in real life is more than a little unsettling. I do like an action thriller that actually makes you think.

I have been a fan of the series' main character, Commander Grey Pierce, since the first book I read. Grey is a good guy, smart and capable, although a little wooden in this particular book. Another character who has become a favourite of mine is Joe Kowalski. His main purpose is obviously to serve as comic relief (which he does well), but it turns out he can be quite endearing when he wants to be. I couldn't help picturing Adam Baldwin delivering his deadpan lines every time Kowalski spoke. If ever this series make it to the big screen, Baldwin would be the perfect choice.

There is a sort of love triangle involving Grey and two prominent women in his life (one of whom is really intriguing, the other not so much), but it didn't really lead to anything with either of them except a minor cliffhanger (hillhanger?) at the end of the book which I frankly could take or leave.

Being Norwegian I was especially excited to see that parts of the book took place in Norway; Oslo and Svalbard respectively. Now, I've never been to Svalbard so I can't comment on that (I remember the Seed Vault being a big deal on the news here when it was opened), but the bits from Oslo were accurately described; from the cruise ship anchored by Akershus Castle to the main street and the dreary October weather (and they blow up the Grand Hotel! Hilarious!). It's not often Norway is a setting in a thriller not written by a Norwegian author (and there aren't that many of those around either), so that was fun to see.

One word of warning: If you're new to the Sigma Force series, you should probably start with one of the earlier books to fully understand some important story arcs and character background, unless you don't mind spoilers.

My rating:
The Sigma Force Series
  1. Sandstorm (2004)
  2. Map of Bones (2005)
  3. Black Order (2006)
  4. The Judas Strain (2007)
  5. The Last Oracle (2008)
  6. The Doomsday Key (2009)
  7. The Skeleton Key (short story exclusive) (2011)
  8. The Devil Colony (2011)

Monday, June 27, 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 Monday post will be very short, as I have practically nothing to report. I hardly read anything at all last week; not because I didn't have time, but I just didn't feel like picking up a book at all. After finishing my last read I went for three days without so much as looking at my shelf, and I haven't gone that long without reading at least a few pages for years now. I finally picked up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the hopes that its magic might make me want to read again, but even that has been slow going. And it's not just books; I've been feeling rather indifferent towards everything from watching TV to blogging to cooking dinner the past week. I don't think there is a specific reason, but I'm starting to wonder if it's time to take a step back and figure out where I'm going with everything, because at the moment I just seem to be stuck. 

Have you felt like this? What did you do to get out of the rut? Can you recommend any good books that might help? Maybe something funny or unique?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Soundtrack

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

This week's question is:

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

I usually don't listen to music while I read, because I'm easily distracted. If the book is a bit heavy in either content or language, I'm sure to start paying attention to the music instead of the words on the page. Sometimes I like to have some background music on, but it has to be something "light" (hard rock won't work!) or maybe instrumental (film soundtracks for instance). Songs that I don't know that well are good, because then I don't start singing along. :) And the lyrics have to be in the same language as the book I'm reading. Try reading in English while listening to a song in another language you know. Very confusing.

Usually it's just better to skip the music and get lost in the book. :)

Do you listen to music while reading?

Monday, June 20, 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.

Warning: Gushing about Bon Jovi concert ahead. Feel free to skip straight to the book talk further down the page. :)

Source: Puls
So last Wednesday I went to see Bon Jovi live in Oslo, and wow, was that something to remember. The show was amazing; the guys were in their best form and gave us a helluva performance that lasted nearly 3 hours. Such a great live band! They played mostly older stuff, including some gems like Wild is the Wind. The whole thing ended with 30,000 people standing up and singing Livin' on a Prayer a cappella - goosebump moment. Unfortunately I was at the far end of the stadium and had to rely on the big screens to see what was going on, so there was no point in taking pictures. Instead I spent all weekend making a playlist of all the best videos posted on YouTube so I can re-live the moment whenever I want to (in the remote event anyone is interested, you can find it here).

Now onto the books!

I read a Sigma Force short story, The Skeleton Key by James Rollins, on the plane ride to Oslo. I also finished A Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers, which was an exceptionally good romance novel set mostly in lovely Scotland. Highly recommended (review coming soon)!

Reviews posted: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Nothing! I haven't even looked at a book since I finished A Scottish Ferry Tale on Saturday. I'm not sure why, maybe I simply need a break from reading. It happens, I guess. Or I just haven't found the right book (which is a laugh, since I have at least 200 unread books in my house, including the ones on my Kindle). Either way, I just don't feel like reading right now. Hopefully it will pass soon!

Good question. I have a couple of review books I need to read soon, but right now I can't think of something to read right now, let alone what comes next.

Do you ever feel like this?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Bloody Jack

Bloody Jack
Being An Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy
By L.A. Meyer

First published: 2002
Series: Bloody Jack #1

Read: 28 May - 4 June 2011
Pages: 283
Challenges: 1st in a Series Challenge #7

From the cover
Life as a ship's boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.

There's only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life – if only she doesn't get caught ...

Salty Adventure

I have read many a great review of the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, and as I was in the middle of a pirate phase (I watched all 4 Pirates of the Caribbean movies in a short period of time) I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I soon understood why everyone seems to love Bloody Jack. This middle-grade adventure of the high seas is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids.

Meyer has expertly weaved a fantastic story of adventure, friendship, love and everyday life onboard a ship of the Royal Navy, but at the same time he doesn't shy away from more serious themes such as survival, violence, sodomy, and death. The characters are believable and well-developed, and everyone is important to the story. I can't vouch for the historical accuracy, but the setting pulled me right in and I could practically smell the ocean and feel the spray of the sea.

The story is told with Jacky as a first-person narrator. She has a distinctive voice that changes and evolves throughout the book, and as the story progresses you really feel like you get to know her. She's straight-forward and honest and tells everything like it is. She is also down to earth and practical, finding a solution to her problems when they arise but doesn't worry about them until it's necessary. There is an interview with the author at the back of the book, saying Jacky is only as brave as she has to be, but I'd say that is still pretty darn brave.

My biggest complaint is about the cover of my copy (pictured above). Although I love the dark colours and the ship in the top left corner, I think the girl looks much too modern for this historical tale. What do you think?

My rating:
The Bloody Jack Series
  1. Bloody Jack (2002)
  2. Curse of the Blue Tattoo (2004)
  3. Under the Jolly Roger (2005)
  4. In the Belly of the Bloodhound (2006)
  5. Mississippi Jack (2007)
  6. My Bonny Light Horseman (2008)
  7. Rapture of the Deep (2009)
  8. The Wake of the Lorelei Lee (2010)
  9. The Mark of the Golden Dragon (2011)

Monday, June 13, 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.

Summer finally came to Northern Norway! Over the weekend we had sunshine and pretty high temperatures, which was great after weeks of cold and even one snowfall. Tomorrow I'm leaving for Oslo to see Bon Jovi in concert. I've never been to a huge concert like this before, and I love Bon Jovi, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm going with one of my best friends, so I imagine the trip will include shopping and eating out as well. I'll be back Thursday night, so see you then!

I stayed up until 3 AM last night because I just had to finish The Doomsday Key by James Rollins. He's one of my favourite authors of scientific thrillers, and this one was very interesting.

I just downloaded The Skeleton Key, the next installment of the Sigma Force series by Rollins, to my Kindle (now named Pickwick!). It's a short story set between The Doomsday Key and the next book, The Devil Colony. I'll probably finish it either today or on the plane tomorrow.

I got the second book in the Jolie Wilkins series, Toil and Trouble by H.P. Mallory, as a RAK from the lovely Rebecca of Kindle Fever. I found the first book to be a good holiday read, so I figured I'd tackle book two during my trip this week.

Are you doing anything special this week?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 5

Yeah, so I'm not doing one a day, but I guess you've all figured that out already, eh? ;) I'll just post a new "day" whenever I have the time and it fits my usual schedule.

Day 5 – A book that makes you happy

This question was actually a lot harder than I first thought. I went back through my list of read books trying to remember how they made me feel while I was reading them, and I realised I don't read all that many feel-good books. However, reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone made me happy because it's such a great start to a wonderful series, and besides enjoying the fun and excitement while reading, you know that this is only the beginning.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman also made me happy, and even though I haven't read it yet, The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen make me happy just by looking at the beautiful whimsical cover and feeling the anticipation of delving into it.

Just give me a bit of magic and I'll be happy. :)

Which book makes you happy?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Favourite Book Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature / weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week we make a top ten list from a given topic.

This week's topic is

Top Ten Favourite Settings in Books

I haven't done a TTT in ages, but I just couldn't resist this topic. There are so many fantastic settings in books and I had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten. Note that these are not necessarily places I'd like to live or even visit, they are just amazing settings that I love reading about and imagining in my head. I deliberately left out Hogwarts and Middle-Earth because I wanted to highlight some settings that maybe won't be on everyone's list this week, but they are still favourite settings of mine.

1. Camorr (The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch)
This Venice-like city with its canals, narrow streets and elderglass structures sounds both magical and frightning.

2. London Below (Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman)
Like London Above, only different.

3. Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory 
(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)
Seriously, who would not want to visit this place?

4. Cemetery of Forgotten Books (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
“Welcome to the cemetery of forgotten books. This place is a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. Now they have only us."

5. Creagan, Scotland (Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher)
I think I have mentioned it before, but I would love to celebrate Christmas in this charming (fictional) village in Northern Scotland.

6. Cornwall, England (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper)
Fog, rain, and sharp cliffs don't make for the best holiday experience, but it is a great setting for a fantasy novel.

7. The Australian outback (Several books by Tamara McKinley)
Hot, dusty and unforgiving. I would never want to live there myself, but I greatly admire everyone who does.

8. The Mysterious Bookshop, New York 
(Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop (and other short story collections, I believe))
 One of the oldest mystery specialist book stores in America, owned by Otto Penzler. I could probably spend days in here, and can't believe I didn't know about it when I was in New York.

9. Incarceron (Incarceron by Catherine Fisher)
This vast, futuristic prison monitors your every move and can think for itself. Scary yes, but a brilliant setting!

10. The Secret Island (The Secret Island by Enid Blyton)
The story of three siblings, Mike, Peggy and Nora and their friend Jack who run away to a hidden island in a lake and live there all by themselves, was one of my favourite books as a kid. I loved the idea of being on a secret island that no grown-ups knew about (what kid doesn't?).

What are your favourite settings?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: Curse of the Spellmans

Curse of the Spellmans
By Lisa Lutz

First published: 2008
Series: Spellman Files #2

Read: 29 April - 28 May 2011
Pages: 500
Challenges: 2nds Challenge #2
Mystery and Suspense Challenge #5

From the cover

When Izzy Spellman, PI, is arrested for the fourth time in three months, she writes it off as a job hazard. She's been (obsessively) surveilling a suspicious neighbor and attempting to apprehend the copycat vandal whose attacks on Mrs. Chandler's holiday tableaux eerily match the 1991-92 crime spree when Izzy and her best friend Petra, were at their most delinquent. After the displeased management (i.e., Mom and Dad) at Spellman Investigations refuses to bail Izzy out, her octogenarian lawyer comes to her rescue. But first Izzy must unveil the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as only a thirty-year-old licensed professional can...

Fast, fun and fresh

I read the first book in the Isabel Spellman series last year and absolutely loved it. This sequel does not disappoint.

Isabel Spellman, licenced PI, is in trouble. Again. A new guy has moved in next door, and after dating John Brown (that can't possibly be his real name) for a short time, Izzy is sure he is hiding something. She just doesn't know what. And she can't rest until she finds out.

Izzy is one of my fictional BFFs. She's clever, funny and just the right amount of crazy. (Random fact: Her preferred method of entry is through windows.) I was afraid her obsession with the suspicios neighbour would be too much after a while, but it never got to the point of annoying. Instead I was just as curious as Isabel to figure out what he was really up to.

I love the way the novel is built up. It begins in the middle of the story, after Isabel has been arrested for the fourth time and goes back to the beginning as she is trying to explain her actions to her elderly lawyer. Izzy's story catches up to the present towards the end of the book and then we move forward to the solution. Like in the first book, the chapters are short and full of footnotes, lists and transcripts, and with Izzy as the narrator, we also get lots of digressions and distractions. This may sound confusing, but it really isn't. I find it very refreshing, not to mention frequently hilarious (there's even a curling reference in there!).

Curse of the Spellmans is just as witty and smart as it sounds, and if you haven't made the acquaintance of the Spellmans yet, I urge you to do so immediately. You won't regret it.

My rating:

The Spellman Files
  1. The Spellman Files (2007)
  2. Curse of the Spellmans (2008)
  3. Revenge of the Spellmans (2009)
  4. The Spellmans Strike Again (2010)

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 finally got to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last week. It was a fun movie; not as good as the first two but decent entertainment. Johnny Depp is always good, and I liked Penelope Cruz as well. Missed Jack Davenport as James Norrington though. :)

After having read great things about the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer I decided to pick up the first in the series, Bloody Jack, Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy. All the praise was not misplaced, it was a very good read.

I have just started The Doomsday Key by James Rollins, a scientific thriller in the Sigma series. Part of it is set in Norway, which doesn't happen very often in thrillers, so that's quite fun.

Hard to say. Right now just thinking about all the books I should read makes me a little giddy. We'll see what I feel like once I've finished The Doomsday Key.

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Month in Books - May

As I'm writing this on 4 June, it is 6 degrees Celcius outside and all but snowing (actually, it looks like it has been snowing in the mountains). Not fair.

May was a busy month for me, and between having a friend staying for a while and my trip to Scotland I didn't get much reading done. But that's okay – I've still read more books than this time last year and I'm still ahead of my 45 books in 2011 challenge. I will be staying home all summer except for 3 days in June when I go to Oslo to see Bon Jovi in concert (wheee!!), so I should have plenty of time to sit in the sun and read. Or more likely sit inside in the rain and read.

Read in May

Links go to my reviews

20) Serenity: Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad – my first graphic novel. I love Firefly.
21) Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory
22) Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz – love this series!

I also posted my review of The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell.

Incoming Books

I wonder how long I can keep up this 3:1 ratio when it comes to incoming/read books before it has to come to a screeching halt.

For review
The Devil Colony by James Rollins (NetGalley/HarperCollins)

The Devil's Pitchfork by Mark Terry (thank you EmmaD!)
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (thank you Stella from Ex Libris!)

Sun Signs by Linda Goodman (free Kindle book)
Royal Wisdom by Kate Petrella (free Kindle book)
Stuff to Die For by Don Burns
The Lost Relic by Scott Mariani
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad

Challenge Progress

First in a Series Challenge – 6/6 – Will upgrade to next level!
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
2. Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block
3. Heat Wave by Richard Castle
4. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
5. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
6. Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory

2nds Challenge – 2/3 
1. Outside In by Maria V. Snyder
2. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Mystery & Suspense Challenge – 5/12
1. Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block
2. Heat Wave by Richard Castle
3. The Survivor by Sean Slater
4. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
5. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz 

Other Posts of Interest

30 Day Book Challenge
Intro post
Day 1 – Best book you read last year
Day 2 – A book you've read more than 3 times
Day 3 – Your favourite series

So how was your May?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Solar Eclipse

Wednesday night we saw a rare thing happening: a partial eclipse of the midnight sun. The moon passed between the earth and the sun at around midnight and created this stunning sight.

I have read that this won't happen again for another 73 years, so I guess this was the only chance I had of seeing it. Pretty amazing, huh?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness - June

New month, new RAK courtesy of Book Soulmates:

I received some fantastic e-book RAKs in May:

From EmmaD: The Devil's Pitchfork by Mark Terry
From Stella @ Ex Libris: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Thank you both so much!

Now come join the June RAK!

The Rules:

• Sign up each month you'd like to participate in.
• Show off your participation! Grab one of the buttons available :)
• Create a wishlist and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month.
{Post on your blog, Amazon, where ever as long as there's a link to it.}
• If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wishlist and contact that blogger for their address.
• At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K!
Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it with us :)

Lets's keep our International bloggers in mind and in our hearts.
Remember, there's always the Book Depository and they offer FREE shipping!

My wishlists are pretty full because I add anything that sounds interesting, but these are the main two: Kindle wishlist and general wishlist.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 - Favourite book of your favourite series

Well, I said my favourite series was the Dirk Pitt Adventures by Clive Cussler, but I'm not sure it's possible to pick a favourite book in the series. They all kind of blend together in my mind and I honestly couldn't tell you the plot of one specific book (other that they all contain guns, a bunch of power-hungry bad guys, a beautiful woman, several explosions, water and at least one classic car). I have the same problem with the James Bond movies, which probably explains why I can watch them so many times without getting bored - I simply don't remember what happens.

That being said, I'm going to choose Shock Wave, simply because it was the first Dirk Pitt novel I read (and also the book that made thrillers one of my favourite genres).
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