Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fortnightly Update #33: May Flowers and a SEP

Technically, this is more of a monthly update because I skipped my last Fortnightly Update, but nonetheless I'll call it that. I won't be tempted to skip again next time, given how much I had to type up in terms of my invisible-pile acquisitions and my finished books. However, I'm happy to be on a reading spree rather than a drought, as it seems that most of this year has been a bit of a dry patch in terms of reading.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

Both of these books were from the Dollar Tree
The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell
This is historical fiction which I'm currently reading. I was initially attracted by the cover art and the mention of the author having penned Winter's Bone (I saw the film but never knew it was a book). It's one of those stories where a grandmother is telling the history to her grandchild, and it's interesting so far.

The Rebel Pirate (Renegades of the American Revolution) by Donna Thorland
I wasn't sure whether this one was historical fiction or historical romance, but it had me at the title and cover. I like books with pirate themes- perhaps because I know so little about pirates, sailing, and the ocean that I can put down my critic's monocle and simply read for fun. From the reviews, it sounds more like historical romance.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

Sister Light, Sister Dark (Great Alta #1) by Jane Yolen
This is actually an older YA novel by Jane Yolen, who wrote Briar Rose. Since I liked Briar Rose, I picked it up to add to my hoard of older fantasy that features prophecies and the like.

Time and Again by Clifford D. Simak
A while ago, I read Way Station which impressed me enough that I'm on the lookout for more of Simak's work. Time and Again features sci-fi and time travel.

Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell
About three years ago I wanted to read this book, but due to the Amazon/Hachette feud (remember that?) the price for the Kindle version was $27. I finally declared victory by snagging it as a Kindle Daily Deal.

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson
This is a middle grade book by Brandon Sanderson. Of course I had to have it!

Cards of Grief by Jane Yolen
Another book by Jane Yolen, but this one is a first contact story featuring aliens who center themselves around death and grieving. It won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for 1985.

Tales of Wonder by Jane Yolen
In one of the Amazon reviews, it was described as a book of fairy tales for adults. Who can resist that?

Latest Humble Bundle (which I now call humbly-bundly in my Goodreads tags):

Super Nebula Author Showcase
There are many books, novellas, and comics available in this bundle- as per usual, I chose the $1+ bundle. The most exciting thing to me in the entire thing was a cookbook (Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook) that featured a recipe for pineapple fried rice which Octavia E. Butler apparently liked. I love fried rice and pineapple, but I've never eaten pineapple fried rice before (which I'll soon be remedying). I won't be listing the titles but definitely check the bundle out if you're a fan of sci-fi and fantasy.

Currently Reading:

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell
I'm not very far in yet, but it is interesting.

Finished These Books:

A lot of romance authors would've avoided or tastelessly dealt with one of the core, spoilery issues in this book, but somehow Sabrina Jeffries wrote it in such a way that I had no complaints. This is a bit darker than your average historical romance, so tread on to lighter books if you prefer them.

This historical romance was on the verge of fantasy, but I liked it anyways. A shopgirl rescues a duke from death, which somehow leads to her inadvertently being assumed to be his fiancée. As you can imagine, some absurdities ensued.

I read the Kindle preview for this and kept reading it until I had to sleep, finishing it the next day. Though it was gripping, from a patient's perspective it was a bit... disconcerting. Both of my grandmas, and my cousin happen to be nurses at different points in their life, so although I do empathize with Theresa's perspective, I feel like she almost wanted to make herself out to be this absolutely fantastic nurse (the pinnacle of nursedom, perhaps?). Life in hospitals is so much different from the patient's perspective that seeing the nurse's take was a bit worrying (because she so obviously favored people, even though they didn't necessarily need her help- to the point she didn't tend to her core job of medical care). To add to that sour feeling, she tended to go off on literary tangents that I felt had little to do with the story itself ("X book had this to say about X, and here's why I dis/liked that"). Every chapter, I began to look for a reference to an obscure book, poem, story, or essay, almost as a game, because she usually did add one. I feel like if she took those out and relied on her own voice, it would've been a much better book. That said, she had a doctorate in English prior to becoming a nurse, so maybe that's why she felt the need to add those. And I found myself wondering why she became a nurse when she had such an education?
Nonfiction is not my strong point, but I felt this book could've been a lot better with more edits.

There was a spoilery issue I had with this that had to do with the hero's conduct early in the book... which pretty much made the rest of it not so good for me.

I wrote a review for this one, but basically I didn't feel like the author made the elements of urban fantasy her own in such a short book, and I didn't like the characters all that much.

Violet (V #6) by Jane Feather
A historical romance with a strong heroine who acts more like a fantasy heroine, Violet was right up my alley. Given that I felt tempted to skim at times and some of the set up for the sex scenes was a bit outrageous, I had to rate this one three stars instead of any higher.

A mystery that was actually pretty good, but a bit on the long side of things. I was surprised at how much I guessed right, given how far out I thought my guesses to be. In other words, this is a bit nontraditional for a classic book.

Legion (Legion #1) and Skin Deep (Legion #2)* by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent)
I wrote a Twofer Review for these- basically, I prefer high fantasy Sanderson.

In a word, this one was trippy. It starts out like a normal mystery, but then devolves into pseudo-philosophy (which is not my strong suit). 

In My Life:

Oops.. phlox, not plox.

The weather has been up and down the thermometer lately- at the end of April, we had snow, which is unusual, and this Wednesday we are supposed to get more. I've been very impressed with the yard this year because although I haven't been able to do half of what I used to (trim hedges, fertilize roses, etc.). The fantastic PHlox has endured one snow shower without wilting, so we'll see how long it lasts.

I'm scheduled for a SEP, a Somatosensory Evoked Potential in about a week. I've done an EEG (a long time ago) and from what I read, this sounds similar, only trying to detect if signals/sensations from my feet/hands/etc. are being properly sent to my brain through my spine. It's another test they're attempting to rule out the syrinx with, but because I have so many unexplained symptoms from eyelash to toe (double vision, random muscle weakness, occasional tremor/spasms in my hands, and not to mention my fabulously unique walk), it may still take a while longer.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1)" by Annie Bellet

I'm a sucker for Kindle freebies lately. And since this was a Kindle freebie, in one of my favored genres, with an author who knew to have a great cover for her book, I decided to give it a shot.

I know a bit about RPGs, board games that aren't Monopoly, and comic books, but I admit that in the grand scheme of things they aren't my favorite. Jade has a comic and game store in a small town, which also happens to be an attractive area for paranormal beings. Somehow, (perhaps through a surfeit of nerds in the area?) she makes a living, even though the local stores in my area in Idaho (and in a larger city) barely coast by. Being that this is urban fantasy, I wasn't too at odds with it, but when some of the minor inconsistencies that irk me started adding up, I began to question why I was reading this.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress.
'Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe.
'As long as she doesn’t use her magic.
'When dark powers threaten her friends’ lives, a sexy shape-shifter enforcer shows up. He’s the shifter world’s judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one, and he thinks Jade is to blame. To clear her name, save her friends, and stop the villain, she’ll have to use her wits… and her sorceress powers.
'Except Jade knows that as soon as she does, a far deadlier nemesis awaits.
'Justice Calling is the first book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series. Readers who enjoyed The Dresden Files or The Iron Druid Chronicles will likely enjoy this series.'

One thing I enjoyed about this book was it did have some humorous moments, but there was a quote I found tasteless (not to mention other things):
He wears his hair in a long Mohawk and has enough piercings in his face that I joke I could peel his skin and use it to strain pasta.
            ~Justice Calling by Anne Bellet, 3% Kindle Edition (of the first three books)

At one point while reading this book, I'd just had enough. Because I like to finish all the books I start, though, I checked how many pages were left. Given I was more than halfway through, I decided to finish, even though I connected to zero of the characters and felt like most of the book was a rehash of urban fantasy things I'd seen before. Don't get me wrong- I can endure/adore a lot of vampire, werewolf, and evil magician rehashes, but the author has to make them their own. I'm not sure if it was the short length of the book or the way the author went about it, but I found myself not giving a crumbly cookie about what happened in Justice Calling or how it ended.

Justice Calling is urban fantasy that might appeal better to those who are deeper into the game side of nerd than I am. For me, it just didn't cut it. I'm tempted to read the next book in the series just to see if there's any improvement for me, but only because I got the first three books as freebies.

Rating: 2 of 5 Stars for an urban fantasy I just didn't care for.

Age Advisory: Ages 16+ for the occasional swear (including f-bombs), violence, and lines I wish I hadn't read.

Page Count: 119 pages

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Month in Review for April 2017: Flowers and Snow Showers

Some of my minion/seedling army
April started out with mild temperatures and left with a few snow showers, which is unusual for my neck of the woods. After I had my May 2nd appointment with the neuromuscular neurologist, I was a bit put out to hear I'd need more testing and to have more doctors look at my case (particularly the way I walk, which the neurologist videotaped because it's unique). I wasn't really surprised, though, with the slow but steady pace that my diagnosis is proceeding. Anyway, I'm looking forward to more flowers in May.

 Total Posts: 8
  Total Critiques: 2
    Sci-fi: 2
    Part of a Series: 1

Most Popular Posts of the Past Month:
Three Cheers for Three Years! (And a Giveaway!)
Fortnightly Update #32: Feline Junk Food and a Rereading Spree
Fortnightly Update #31: A CT Myelogram and Back Again

Flashback Post (From a Previous Year):
"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley

Pageviews for the Month: 1266
Comments: 23!

Reading Stats:

Books read this Month: 7

Book Stats:
Rereads: 3
First Time Reading: 4
Has a Diverse Main Character: 7
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 0 (Yikes!)
Female Main Character: 0
Male Main Character: 3
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 4
 Historical Romance: 1
 Paranormal Romance: 3
 Urban Fantasy: 2
 Classics: 1
Published in 2017: 0
Published in 2000-2016: 6
Published in 1900s: 1
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 2
Traditionally Published: 5
Series Books: 6
Standalones: 1
Ebook Version: 7
Paper Version: 0
Favorite of the Month: Bound by Flames (Night Prince #3) by Jeaniene Frost because there is a particularly hilarious revelation at the end of the book.
Least Favorite of the Month: Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent)- because I have very high expectations of this author (as one of my faves), and this was a big letdown.
Most Interesting of the Month (or Book I Learned the Most From): The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton because this book is set in a period of time in which anarchy and its supporters is the big fear, and I quite frankly didn't know much about anarchy as a political movement before reading this. I gave it two stars because it ended very strangely in a pseudo philosophical way that I didn't appreciate.
From the-pile: 0
From the-invisible-pile: 0
Recently acquired: 4
Added to the-invisible-pile: 2
Books bought: 2

5 Stars: 0
4-4.5 Stars: 3
3-3.5 Stars: 2
2-2.5 Stars: 2

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 3
Female: 4
Male/Female Team: 0
Diverse: 0
Not-so-Diverse: 7
Living: 6
Deceased: 1

Planning to Read This Month:

So far, I've already read 5 books in May (which surprised even me!). I need to read more diverse books, as those tend to make my ratings go up. As you may have noticed, save for my 3 rereads (which were the three 4 Star books), my ratings have been rather flat of late. I'm hoping with the increased rate of reading, I'll be able to find some excellent books again!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SFF: The 5 Books That Remind You of Star Wars

Sunday Fun Five #75:

A Countdown of

The 5 Books That Remind You of Star Wars

5. Kesrith (The Faded Sun #1) by C.J. Cherryh
Initially, I put this near the top, but somehow I remembered thinking it was more Star Trek-esque than Star Wars-esque. One must be a vigilant geek and distinguish betwixt the two. Still, the alien flavor of this book reminds me greatly of a galaxy far, far away.

4. Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews
This book contains a section that reminds me of the market and Cantina scenes in Star Wars. Though the overarching theme isn't to save the world, somehow this innkeeper helps to keep the whole "aliens on Earth" thing under wraps.

3. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This one has plot elements I cannot disclose (AKA spoilers) that make it like Star Wars. If you've read the entire series, you'll probably know what I'm talking about, but suffice to say, it's on this SFF list for a reason.

2. The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Though not rooted in space travel, this epic fantasy features an alien world and customs that harken back to the first three episodes of Star Wars (for me, at least). Also, the characters are robust as those you'd find in Lucas's universe.

1. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin
Spaceships? Check. Intergalactic travel? Check. Strange beings? Check. Cats? Err... plenty.
To me, this one feels the most like Star Wars because it's fun, it involves saving the world(s) (albeit not from the Empire), and has all the expected trappings of a sci-fi set in space. Alas, there is no badass female in this book. Really, though... there's only one Princess Leia. And she happens to be a year old terrier mix.

Which books remind you of Star Wars?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Twofer Review: "Legion" and "Skin Deep" by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent)

Legion and its sequel, Skin Deep are novellas written by Brandon Sanderson. Being that they're short-ish, I thought it a better idea to combine their reviews (even though they differ in rating) and not include anything spoilery so you can get a feel of what I thought of the series itself.

Stephen is a man with many hallucinations that are people (to him, at least) he refers to as 'aspects'. Aspects have names, families, skill sets, and identities beyond what Stephen feels he could dream up, but he nonetheless consults with them on multiple projects and/or cases he picks up as a kind of/sort of private investigator. He also has a mansion to keep his aspects happy in, a butler/driver, and a seemingly open schedule. Is there anything Stephen doesn't have?

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Stephen Leeds, AKA 'Legion,' is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his 'aspects' are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society.'

In response to my very own rhetorical question, I have to say there is something that did bother me about dear Stephen. His aspects have almost off-the-wall sorts of personalities, while his own seems nonexistent. Sure, he's polite and snarky on occasion (in the first book, at least), but he seems there almost as a peacekeeper for his aspects. It's very hard for him to do anything without his aspects' inputs. He's the sort of mediocre/shadowy male lead I expect more from Neil Gaiman, to be quite honest.

Initially, it was hard for me to identify what was wrong about Legion to me. It was charming enough, creative enough, and mysterious enough to keep me engaged and reading, but somehow didn't measure up to enough in my book. Once I finished Legion's sequel, Skin Deep, I realized the problem- this is Diet Sanderson. I'm used to full fat, full sugar Fantasy Sanderson, and this being Urban Fantasy, well... it measures out to less in my estimation. I came to love urban fantasy later in my reading career, and though I do have favorite books in that genre, when I read something by Mr. Sanderson I want the works. Being that this is set in the "real world" and one of the key ingredients of the Sanderson works in my opinion is his worldbuilding, well- that's the problem, along with my high expectations of anything Mr. Sanderson writes.

Legion is a good, short urban fantasy novella that may have been better received by me if it had been penned by any other author. Skin Deep, meanwhile, felt like just a longer version of Legion, without as much of the aspects/characters that I loved in it. Both had good storylines, but I don't feel any sense of urgency in wanting another book in this series, despite Stephen's aspects charming me. If you like Gaiman-esque leads and find yourself craving urban fantasy, these novellas might suit you.

Legion Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a light urban fantasy that held my attention.

Skin Deep Rating: 2 of 5 Stars for a sequel that lacked the primary novella's zing.

Age Advisory (for Legion and Skin Deep): Ages 16+ for violence, racism, and the occasional stereotype.

Page Count: Legion is 88 pages, Skin Deep is 208 pages

Monday, April 24, 2017

SFF: The 5 Picture Books You Loved as a Kid

MonSunday Fun Five #74:

A Countdown of

The 5 Picture Books You Loved as a Kid

I can't recall if I did picture books or not before as a SFF theme, but these are some of the ones that helped me read when I didn't necessarily want to. Interestingly, all the books I remember best were published before 1950.

5. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco and William Nicholson (Illustrator)
A classic tale of a well-loved rabbit, but other than that I don't remember much about it- which is why I gave it a place at the bottom of my list. This is actually the oldest of the books, having first been published in 1922.

4. Corduroy by Don Freeman
I remember this a little better because I was absolutely enamored with the illustrations of the charming teddy bear (and it has a rather standout cover).

3. Goodnight Moon (Over the Moon #2) by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (Illustrator)
This is an old standby of picture books, though I remember absolutely hating Runaway Bunny, because there was no point to the plot. This one, at least, had a bit of a seek and find aspect that made it more palatable to my peculiar childhood sensibilities.

2. Madeline (Madeline) by Ludwig Bemelmans
I loved Madeline so much I almost wished I was an orphan and could go live with her and the other girls. Her misadventures made for an interesting picture book.

1. King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (Illustrations)
This book I liked best because I was obsessed with horses, and also it's a much longer story than any of the others (I think it's considered a chapter book, but the illustrations are gorgeous). I liked many of Marguerite Henry's books, but this one was my favorite.

Which picture books did you like best as a kid?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fortnightly Update #32: Feline Junk Food and a Rereading Spree

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

La La in the Library mentioned Dollar Tree book finds in one of her Monthly Mash posts. I often looked through the books at the Dollar Tree but never found any books I'd want to read, but I checked again after her post and found these two:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Although I'm not technically doing Travel the World in Books this year (I've decided to forego all challenges until my health stops challenging me *hard stare at health*), I was intrigued when I learned it was set in Iceland and involved a murder mystery.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
This is a fictional account of the life of Anne Morrow, the wife of Charles Lindbergh. Given the turmoil involved with being a public figure in those days and the notorious kidnapping of their baby, I figured it would be a good book to pick up.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

There is a Brandon Sanderson Humble Bundle happening right now that has some novellas of his as well as audiobooks (which are cut up into parts of books- you have to buy the complete bundle to get a complete set of some of the books). I bought the $1+ one and got these novellas and short stories:

Legion (Legion #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson
The Emperor's Soul (Elantris) by Brandon Sanderson
Firstborn & Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson

Currently Reading:

Nothing- I'm trying to choose between starting a new book or finishing off the Night Prince series.

Finished These Books:

"Way Station"* by Clifford D. Simak
I just reviewed this book yesterday, but basically it's vintage sci-fi that's ahead of its time and somewhat solemn in tone.

Asterisks indicate a review, however- my review of Once Burned is the same, but I'd up the rating to 4 stars since I know now where Jeaniene Frost was going with her characterization of Vlad the Impaler (you read that right). When I read the first book for the first time, I thought the author may disappoint me as she had done in the past by having a hero who was violent/liked to play head-games with the heroine. That kind of hero I can really do without, which is why I never really finished the Night Huntress series even though I actually really liked At Grave's End (Night Huntress #3). I didn't find myself too drawn to that series, but when I saw this one I was willing to gamble that I'd like it because the main character is Vlad the Impaler.

I reread all these because I recently bought the final book in the series, Into the Fire (Night Prince #4) but I don't know if I can bring myself to read it just yet. Leila and Vlad have become one of my favorite paranormal romance pairings.

In My Life:

I have pretty much no health news, but I'm ready for my next appointment in early May.

George being a panda bear slash lethal tiger in repose

George, on the other hand, has become obsessed with the feline junk food known as Feline Greenies:

We've always had different kinds of cat treats you can buy at the grocery store for George, but after I bought Torrie and Leia some Greenies, I decided to even the score and get George a big box. George usually didn't care if we gave him treats with his food or not, but now he has become very demanding if he just gets cat food- he wants the Greenies too. I'm not sure if they actually clean a cat's teeth or not, but I know if I run out I'll be buying more- George has never liked a cat treat as much as these.

Since it's that day of the year, I'm recycling this from a previous year:

If you're wondering, that is a picture of a bunny bun (a family tradition- basically rolls with bunny faces made with raisins and expert use of the fork) on a white chocolate rabbit body. It isn't usually served like that, but I thought it was rather funny at the time.

Happy Easter! Do you have any tasty family traditions?

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