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.

Statistics:
 Total Posts: 8
  Total Critiques: 2
  Genres:
    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
Genre:
 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

Ratings:
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?

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