Auto-Buy Authors

This book changed my life.

This book changed my life.

I saw a post fairly recently about “auto-buy authors.”  The general definition for this is an author that you love so much, that when they release a new book, you automatically buy it, no matter what, because you have to have it, and you have to read everything this person has ever written.  When I saw this, it got me to thinking about who my auto-buy authors are.  Some were obvious, others I only realized qualified when I took a good look at my shelves.

One of my obvious (to me) is Bryce Courtenay.  Someone I admired greatly recommended The Power of One to me when I was quite young.  She knew I loved reading and would often recommend books to me when she came to visit. I read it and it quickly became my favourite book of all time.  I read and re-read it so often that it got to the point that I could pick it up and open it to any spot and start reading with no problem.  My copy is so battered, but only because it is so well loved.  After reading this I bought everything I could by him and there were other favourites too, including Tandia and Four Fires.  Courtenay died in 2012, and though I haven’t read them all yet, I’m pretty confident that I have everything he’s ever written on my shelves.  The Power of One changed my reading life and opened me up to so many other books.  It got me away from the stereotypical teen books and romance novels (which I still love and I’m not knocking them at all) and broadened my horizons to historical as well as contemporary literature.

Another obvious auto-buy author for me is JK Rowling.  I started reading the Harry Potter series after cuckoo's callingGoblet of Fire came out.  I was hooked.  I truly love this series and the world that Rowling has created.  I became that person in line at the bookstore at midnight, or at the movie theatre hours before the show started on opening day to get a good seat.  I am a shameless Potter Head, and the day I finally walk through the gates at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando will be one for the history books.  So I obviously own all of the Harry Potter books, including the spinoff books from them, such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Naturally, when she started writing other books after the Potter series finished, I scooped them up.  Though I haven’t yet read The Casual Vacancy, I do own it.  I was also very impressed with The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, both written by Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  I look forward to the next installation of that series. I know that going forward I will continue to buy anything that JK Rowling releases, both because she is an exceptional storyteller, and also because I feel like I almost owe her, as thanks for the gift of Harry Potter.

Oh Heaven help me.

Oh Heaven help me.

I’m starting to realize the more I think about it that this list I longer than I thought, but one more obvious author that I must mention is Diana Gabaldon.  Outlander is a book that has stuck with me since the first time I read it.  I fell in love with Jamie and Claire and cared about them and what happened to them so much, that I recommend the series to anyone who will listen.  I am not caught up on the reading of the series, but I own them all and will continue to purchase anything she releases.  It is my intent to get caught up, and I was fortunate enough to have the 8th instalment of the series signed by her when I purchased it last June at my local Chapters.  She is as captivating in person as she is by what she puts on the page.  I was blown away by her and think she is amazing.

Last year Outlander the TV series premiered on Starz.  It was everything I hoped it would be, I thought it has kept to the plot and integrity of the story very well, and I can’t wait for the second half of the season to start, which I believe is in a week or so.  If you’re an Outlander fan, I highly recommend tuning in.  You will not be disappointed.  And I believe it has been picked up for a second season already.

I have several other auto-buy authors.  One is the Canadian author Kelley Armstrong, whose first book thatstill alice I read Bitten, grabbed me and compelled me to buy and read everything else she’s ever written, which I’m so glad that I did, because I have never been disappointed by her.  I love books with strong, vital female characters, and her books are full of them.

Lisa Genova is another one.  Still Alice has gained a lot of popularity lately with the movie coming out and Julianne Moore gaining so much recognition for her role.  I read it a long time ago and loved it.  I have also read everything else she has ever written and think she is a brilliant author who is especially gifted at telling a story from the point of view of someone that is actually suffering from Alzheimer’s or other neurological issues.

Others on this list that need to be mentioned are Sue Monk Kidd, Anita Diamant, Veronica Roth, and yes…Lemony Snicket – just for fun.

Who are your auto-buy authors?  Anyone from my list?  I’m looking for suggestions to add to my TBR list – as if it wasn’t long enough already.

Have a great weekend!

 

Pictures from here, here and here.  Here too.

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My New Obsession

I dare you to try it.  You can thank me later.

I dare you to try it. You can thank me later.

Quite a few months ago, a friend asked me if I had ever heard of a show called Downton Abbey.  At the time, I hadn’t.  She said it was a great show, and she thought I would really like it.  So I looked it up on iTunes and downloaded the first season.

I sat down and watched the first episode.  I liked it.  I had the feeling that if I kept watching it, I might grow to like it a lot.   The fact that Maggie Smith was in it alone made it worth watching.  But that was it.  I didn’t watch any of the other shows at that time.  I guess I got busy, I didn’t feel like I had the time to dedicate to a new series, whatever.

So I heard recently that the end of the 3rd series (as they’re called across the pond – as opposed to seasons) was coming to an end in Canada and the US, and everyone online was raving about this show.  Many of the fansites had info on the show, and I thought to myself – I need to give this another shot.  So I re-watched the first episode of Series 1, Episode 1 to jog my memory about the show.  Then I watched Episode 2, 3, 4….well, you get the picture.  By this time, I was hooked.  When I finished the first series, I quickly downloaded the second.  After the 2 days it took me to devour it, I downloaded Series 3.

You know how it is.  You get watching a new show, or a favourite show that you have seen before but suddenly have all of the episodes for.  You become consumed.  All you can do is watch it.  All you can think about when you’re not watching it…is watching it.  I did this once during the summer of 2003 or 2004.  I was off work on vacation for two weeks, and I had recently acquired all ten seasons of Friends.  I watched the entire series in those two weeks.  Joe left the house one day in the morning with a ton of errands to run and things to do and people to see.  When he left the house, I was laying on the couch, watching Friends.  When he returned 8 hours later, the scene had not changed, except for an empty bowl on the floor in front of me with a few popcorn kernels.  I was obsessed.  One more episode…one more….I’ll just finish this DVD.  You get the picture.

Anyway, I digress.  I got seriously into Downton Abbey.  I loved it so much, that I started thinking in a British accent.  I started becoming afraid that I was going to answer people in a British accent.  Sad, but true.

So what is this show about?  Without giving too much away, because I totally want you to watch it for yourself, it is basically about the Crawley Family, and their servants.  Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham, and their three daughters, Ladies Mary, Edith and Sybil.  They live in a manor in the English countryside called Downton Abbey.  A huge house such as this obviously takes several live-in servants to run.  When you change your clothes every ten minutes, and formally dine at every meal, you can imagine that the house is constantly bustling with activity.  This story is as much about the lives of the employees of Downton as it is about the family that lives there.  Their lives are separate, yet they are intertwined.

The ups and downs, the love stories and broken hearts, the joy and the sadness, the downright devious deception – you will eat it all up and beg for more.  It is dramatic, it is beautiful to watch, and it is humorous as well as heartbreaking.  I can’t believe that we’ll have to wait basically until next year (or perhaps late this year if we can get our hands on the UK release) until we can see Series 4, which they are making right now.

Download this – or buy the DVD.  The video below is a preview of the first series.  It gives you a taste without giving away too much.

Gabriel’s Inferno/Gabriel’s Rapture – Book Review

I love Pinterest.  It’s so awesome.  Filled with all the recipes that I’ll never have the time to make, the decorating that I’ll never have the money to do, the crafts that I’ll never be creative enough to make.  I pin and repin, hoping against all odds that I’ll someday accomplish all these wonderful things.

One thing that I love about Pinterest is browsing through the humour pins.  I often find myself chuckling out loud as I scroll through.  There are a lot of the someecards – which are hilarious.

So I’m browsing through the laughter section of Pinterest, when I come across this pin:

Um…..who?

Okay…I thought to myself, I know who Gideon Cross is (more on him later) and I definitely know who Christian Grey is.  I mean come on, doesn’t everybody?  So who the heck is this Gabriel Emerson, and why the heck would I cheat on Christian Grey with him?

Four words: Thank goodness for Google. Within a few seconds, I was able to find out that Gabriel Emerson is a fictional character in a two book (so far) series, including Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard.  Well, if this guy was dreamy enough to compete with, or mentioned in the same context as Gideon Cross (oh mercy – more on him later) or Christian Grey – well where do I click to download these books?

I was quickly pulled in by these books.  I have to admit, the first 1/3 of Gabriel’s inferno had me questioning things and maybe a little confused.  Once it got going though, and some questions were answered and things explained, I started to enjoy the books.  I thought it was kind of cool that the primary location for the book was at the University of Toronto.  I always like reading books that mention streets and buildings that I am familiar with.

The book follows the story of Professor Gabriel Emerson.  He is a Dante Specialist at the U of T.  This also made it interesting to me as I read The Divine Comedy in high school and it remains one of my favourite works to this day.  All the Dante, Beatrice and Virgil references were quite interesting to me.

Back to Prof. Emerson.  So upon first meeting him, we get the idea that he is pretty much an ass.  A gorgeous ass, but definitely an ass.  We are also introduced pretty much right away to Julia Mitchell, a MA student, studying Dante and writing her thesis.  She seems shy, compassionate, and quite nervous around Professor Emerson.  The story unfolds, though a bit slowly at first, to reveal a past and current connection between Gabriel and Julia.

These books are somewhat similar to the 50 Shades and Crossfire series, in that they are very steamy.  The sexual tension in these books is palpable.  However, there aren’t 50 million love scenes in these books like there were in the other ones.  Actually, most of both of these books are about the building of a relationship without all the sex.  They certainly don’t jump into bed with each other the way they do in the other series.  It’s not so much about the sex act as the buildup to the sex act.

Of course there is also the typical plot line where the gorgeous god of a man who seems like such a jerk is actually dealing with a whole bunch of crap from a really horrible past, and the woman in the story is usually a saviour of sorts, saving them from their past, from their current state of miserableness, and from themselves.  This seems to be a fairly prominent theme in romance novels in general, but especially the blockbusters of late.  The man is usually in a position of power, wealth and huge control over everything around them.  The woman comes along and shatters them, showing their true vulnerability and opening them up to a whole new world.  One they never thought they wanted, or perhaps deserved.

One thing that I found very interesting was that Sylvain Renard is actually male.  I did not think these books read like they were written by a male.  Often when sex scenes and relationship stories are written by a male, the sex, and a man’s anatomy tend to be prominent in the writing.  This was not the case here.  Not to say that male or female writers are any better suited for one genre than another, but finding out that these were written by a male surprised me.

Overall, there are a lot of twists and turns, a lot of ups and downs.  I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did like these books.  They announced just recently that there are plans for a third book.  I’m definitely interested enough to read on to see what is next in store for these two characters.

 

 

Thirteen – Book Review

I am a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong. I’ve reviewed a few of her books here, and have never been disappointed with anything she’s done.  I’ve read her YA books, but by far, my favourite of her books are her Women of the Otherworld series.  This series started with a story about a female werewolf, Elena Michaels – in Bitten.  This series has it ALL.  Basically all supernatural types are featured throughout this series – werewolves, witches, sorcerers, vampires, demons, half demons, necromancers, zombies, ghosts, angels…you name it.

Thirteen is the latest and final installment of the Otherworld series. I was disappointed to hear that it was going to be ending, but I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.

The thing I liked most about this whole series is that it centered around strong, powerful, independent women.  The other cool thing about it is the men they choose.  Pretty much without exception, they choose equally strong men, who support them and work along side them, as opposed to trying to hold them back and oppress them.

The thing that I liked most about Thirteen in particular, is that we get a full ensemble cast.  All the favourites from the past installments were there.  I was thrilled to see Elena and Clayton, Jamie and Jeremy, Paige and Lucas, Eve and Kristoff, Hope and Karl, and of course, Savannah and Adam.

The supernatural world is at war.  Those who want to out the supernaturals, let everyone know about them, that think they will be free from hiding, that their offspring will have a better life if they are out in the open.  This of course is ridiculous for several reasons.  The interracial council and the cabals find themselves with a common goal, which doesn’t happen very often.  We even get a little insight into Lucifer, and you may be surprised as to how he is depicted.

This book, as the previous two before it, was told from the point of view of Savannah.  I think Kelley Armstrong always planned to have a trilogy within a series type of thing with Savannah in the centre as the final part of this series.  There is a chapter from Elena, as well as one from Paige, which is also very cool.

Any fans of the series I think will not be disappointed with this book.  It ties everything up nicely, and fulfills any need to know how characters are doing, and where they will end up.  I’m sad the series is over, but excited to see what Armstrong will come up with next.

Uglies – Book Review

Once again in Chapters, once again with my friend Karen, browsing the stacks, in the YA section, and she points to a book, saying “have you read this?  It’s pretty good.”  This time, she was referring to Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

I hadn’t read it, so I picked it up.  Of course.

This is the first in a series, followed up by Pretties, Specials and Extras.

This is another story of dystopian fiction.  Our story is about Tally.  She exists in a world where you are either Ugly or Pretty.  You are born cute and remain so until you are 12.  Then you are considered Ugly, and are shipped off to live with the other Uglies until you are 16, where you will undergo an operation to become “Pretty.”  Basically taking away all your features and starting from scratch, making your face perfectly symmetrical, your skin flawless, your hair perfect, etc.  Pretties have no job but to have fun, and party and be happy.  Sounds amazing to an ugly like Tally, whose best friend Peris just became Pretty a few months prior.  She can’t wait until she turns 16 and it will finally be her turn for the operation.

The idea behind these operations are to bring peace to society.  They are based on the idea that if everyone is beautiful, and equal, there will be no wars, no disagreements between anyone, because no one will have anything to fight about.  Flawed logic, obviously, and there is usually a sinister element in these dystopian societies, as people are usually brainwashed into believing that everything is perfect.  The freedom of choice is usually non existent.

On her own as an ugly in the weeks prior to her 16th Birthday, Tally meets and becomes friends with another Ugly, Shay.  They become very close and Tally eventually realizes that Shay feels like there is something wrong with the operation, and society on a whole (Duh!) and she doesn’t want to become Pretty.

Eventually, Tally is given a choice.  And with her own future as a Pretty in the balance, she needs to choose whether to betray her friend and become Pretty, as she has always wanted and has been waiting for her whole life, or rebel and live a much different life than she had imagined.

I liked this book.  It wasn’t literary genius, but the concept is pretty cool, and most of the characters are fairly likable.  Dystopian fiction is really catching on, especially in Young Adult Fiction, and this is unlike a lot of the others.  Tally is a good heroine, spunky and strong, capable and resilient, though for the most part, she is quite taken with the idea of becoming a Pretty and is willing to do whatever it takes to be one.  She is overall a good, caring person, and I like her as the main character.

I’m getting ready to start Pretties, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

Bloodlines & The Golden Lily – Book Reviews

If you read my previous blog entry about the Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead, you’ll know I’m a fan.  I was very happy to learn that there was indeed a spinoff planned of these books.  The Bloodlines Series started with Bloodlines, and continued with The Golden Lily.  The Indigo Spell is due out in February of 2013.

You don’t totally have to have read the Vampire Academy books to understand this series, but it certainly helps.  Many things are written as though it is implied that the reader has read the previous series.

Bloodlines is basically the story of Alchemist Sydney Sage.  If you read the VA books, you’ll recognize her as one of the people who aided Rose in her quest.  The story picks up a little while after the VA books leave off, and we are re-united with Sydney, who is somewhat suffering the consequences of her involvement in aiding a fugitive.

She is recruited by the Alchemists to go on a mission to keep Jill Dragomir (Lissa’s half sister) safe from the ones who are trying to kill her.  Lissa’s reign as Queen of the Moroi is only valid as long as she has a living relative.  Trying to kill a queen is tough work, so the rebels are going after her sister Jill, who is more vulnerable, and in killing her they basically achieve the same thing: removing Lissa from the throne.

So Sydney is posing as Lissa’s sister at a totally human school under complete secrecy.  We get to see many others from the VA series as more central characters in this series.  Aside from Sydney, we have Eddie and Adrian, and even Sonia and Dmitri play supporting rolls.  There is even a cameo appearance near the beginning from Rose herself.  Those who read and enjoyed VA will appreciate that.

These books are kind of the same as VA, but very different in some ways too.  Our heroine is very different.  With Rose, we had a badass, ass kicking, brave, impulsive heroine.  Sydney has her own style, and though she is very intelligent, and brave as well, she certainly goes about life more differently and more responsibly.

I liked these books.  I will have to wait to pass my full judgment until I read farther into the series, obviously.  They move a little slower, and spend a lot of time building up the characters and giving insight into them.  Sydney can be extremely frustrating at times as she has literally no dating experience and is completely oblivious to the world of love and dating.  As an Alchemist, she also has several prejudices against vampires that have been ingrained in her since she was little.  She literally has a physical reaction to the use of magic.  She is certainly more tolerant of vampires and damphirs than most of the rest of her kind.  She considers them friends and allies, and shares her life with them, above and beyond her mission to protect Jill.  But those prejudices are there, and though I hope she shakes them as she continues throughout this series, I imagine that will take some time and will cause much more frustration for the reader as she does.  She is already starting to see many things about her kind that are disturbing to her, and making her question the foundation upon which her life has been built.

These books have everything.  A bit of action, a bit of magic, some romance, friendship, you name it.  Adrian plays a large role, as I loved him in the other books.  I didn’t love him for Rose, as I am a huge fan of Dmitri and believe that they are totally right together.  But he is still a wonderful and very misunderstood character, and from what I can see, I think he will finally get a chance to really shine in these books.

Overall, if you like this kind of thing, definitely read these.  I’m looking forward to the rest.  I had heard somewhere I think that there were six planned, but I’m not 100% sure about that.  I hope there is, because there are a lot of directions this story can go.

Until the next one… 🙂

Divergent – Book Review

I had seen Divergent by Veronica Roth in Chapters many times.  I knew it was a pretty popular book for young adults, and a friend had recommended it to me.  In Chapters it always was in the featured sections, often having a display of its own.  So when Chapters had their buy 3 get the 4th free deal on, I picked it up.

I’m so glad I did.

I am a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy.  I find Dystopian Fiction quite interesting and scary in a sense, because I suppose anything is possible.  Reading Harry Potter and Twilight, there is the fantasy element there with wizards and vampires, so while you’re reading it though you are thoroughly entertained, there is always that element of disbelief.  Obviously.  I mean, Lord Voldemort is scary, yes, but he doesn’t exist. I’d hate to have to go up against the Volturi, but I know I never will.

Books like The Hunger Games, and this one – Divergent – don’t have that magical element.  There is no fantasy here.  This is all about how people have screwed the world up, and due to decisions that real people have made, other real people are controlling others and oppressing others, and brainwashing them to think that it is normal, and that they like it.  That’s what’s scary about it.  I suppose that no matter how outlandish it may seem, it really could happen.  That’s what makes it good though, and that’s what keeps you coming back for more – you’re almost desperate for a happy ending, because in a way it could be your happy ending one day.

Divergent takes place in dystopian Chicago.  It is the story of Beatrice Prior, who is about to choose her path in life.  The city is broken down into 5 factions.  Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent).  At the age of 16, all youth must take an aptitude test to tell them which faction they are most suited for.  Though most stay within their own faction, it is ultimately the decision of the youth themselves to choose one of the five.  If they choose one that is different than the one they came from, it usually means that they will be cutting off all ties from the family they are leaving behind.  They then must survive an initiation process that tests their abilities to the limit, before they are welcomed into the faction of their choice.

Our story centers around Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old from Agnegation who finds out something very interesting during her test, and then must make her choice.  She renames herself Tris, and it follows her story as she works through initiation, makes new friends and enemies, and learns surprising things about herself, and about the people around her that she thought she knew so well.  It’s interesting to read as she tries to figure out who she can trust, who is good, who is evil, and what people’s true intentions are.

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s like Hunger Games, but not.  It’s good, but different.  The sequel, Insurgent, is out, and I’m waiting for the paperback version to be released so I can scoop it up.  I’m really looking forward to reading it.  This was a very fast paced, interesting and entertaining read.  I like the character of Tris because she is definitely the heroine, but she is flawed, not incredibly beautiful, and a bit of a badass at times.  She’s believable, and strong, which is a good example to the female demographic this book is aimed to.  Much as Katniss was an independent, strong female.

Check it out for one of your summer reads.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.