Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Fun 5: The 5 Blog Alternate Names For Your Blog

The Sunday Fun Five #9

Sunday Fun 5:
Feel free to participate by commenting below or writing a blog post: I wrote up some guidelines for blog participation here.

A Countdown of

The 5 Alternate Blog Names For Your Blog

5. The Forgotten Realms Books
...because I used to frequent a bookstore of the same name back in Montana. And it was my favorite, because unlike Barnes and Noble and Hastings, no teens made out there (and then stared at me for being in the same section as them- get a room, kids!). Also, it has a certain ring to it, and many of the books I critique could fall under this category.

4. The Paring of the-Piles
As many of you may know, I have shelves on Goodreads dedicated to tracking my ever-growing piles of books: the-invisible-pile for unread ebooks and the-pile for unread actual books. The Paring of The-Piles would be dedicated to getting them in more manageable shape more quickly than I currently am reading.

3. Lady Lithal's Literary Listings
Lady Lithal is my internet and gaming alter ego, and Lady Lithal's Literary Listings would be a place of both refinement and ruthless reviewing. With Victorian Soul Critiques, I try to only review the titles I really liked or ones that made an impression on me, but with Lady Lithal's LL I think I wouldn't hold my tongue as much (if that's even possible?).

2. The Kindle Daily Deal Addict Reviews
I've had a Kindle Fire HD for less than a year- I got it while Black Friday shopping in 2013 due to the startling lack of bookstores in my current city. Since then, I've accumulated 162 invisible-books, 105 of those being Kindle Daily Deals. Yes, I do have a problem, but The Kindle Daily Deal Addict does accurately describe me (and quite a few of my reviews).

1. The Bibliovore's Digest (Books. Nom Nom Nom.)
So this is one I thought up when I was initially starting my series Confessions of an Insomniac Book Devourer. Unfortunately, I didn't use "Insomniac Bibliovore" in my feature picture, so this would probably be my only other top contender with regards to blog names. Plus, the graphic is pretty cute, and I could have shorter reviews (something that's actually harder for me to write).

Have you ever thought up another name for your blog? Have you had any regrets with the naming or branding of your blog?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"A Storm of Swords (ASoIaF #3)" by George R.R. Martin

This is the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. For those of you who haven't read A Game of Thrones, (or haven't watched the tv series), there are major spoilers for the first two books of the series in this review.

This is the book where things start to differ from the tv series in small (but notable) ways. An excellent example of this would be Tyrion, who in the book is gravely injured, and loses about half of his nose. On the tv series, Tyrion is still looking the same. I would mention more differences, but I haven't watched much of the tv series, just snippets here and there. My greatest point of contention with regards to the television series is the scene that is consensual in the book between the twincest couple becomes rape on the small screen. And why? To be edgy? I think the series is plenty gruesome without those add-ins.

The Plot:
Samwell Tarly and the men of the Night's Watch prepare to fight the Wildling army, only to be ambushed by Others. Brienne makes her way to King's Landing, trying to keep her prisoner Jaime in line. Catelyn Stark gets no repercussions for her naughty behavior, so she sets her own punishment. Tyrion wakes to find his father the King's Hand, but wants his power back despite his grievous injuries. Sansa attempts to remain innocuous while plotting her escape. Jon Snow still knows nothing. Bran sets out to find the crow of his dreams. Dany tries to mother her dragons, whose desires differ from her own and are growing at an exponential rate. Arya meets up with a family friend, but will her journey grow any easier?

In this book of the ASoIaF series, I would like to showcase the sometimes infuriating disregard for women that is culturally characteristic of both Medieval Europe and Westoros.
For example:
"It was a mother's folly. Women are made that way."
    ~Greatjon (or not so great jon), end of page 191, relating to Catelyn Stark's decision to free Jaime in exchange for her daughters.

Isn't that so endearing? You frequently encounter such things in historical fiction, but did the author really need to use the same backwards people for his fantasy series? The short answer: no. We don't need more pseudo-Medieval Europe fantasies, even if it makes interesting plot points like women overcoming their oppression. It is amazing how many things you forget about a series when you haven't read it in three years: I could remember all the gorey and touchy elements of this series, but mostly forgot all the subtle humiliations all the heroines in this series at one point or another must endure.

That said, it reinforced the idea of Tyrion as one of my favorite literary characters ever. Because he's frankly ahead of his time with treating women like humans. And I really can't go on without getting spoilery, but he's one of the few men in this series that really sets the standards high for the rest of the fictional heroes.

For one of the greatest moment of the series (so far), and to spoil the first three books of the series, turn to page 829 (mass market paperback).

A Storm of Swords is a very bloody book where Mr. Martin hones his wedding planning skills (err... I don't want ASoIaF themed wedding anymore). I can't say I didn't absolutely adore it, but of course, there were some irksome things I mentioned above that spoiled some of the sweet, sweet, moments in this book. Overall, I can't say the quality of the series lessens any (at this point) and I highly recommend it to those of you who have read the first two books.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for a book with weddings and wakes!

Content: Ages 18+ for the usual suspects in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Page Count: 1128 pages in my mass market paperback edition

Friday, August 29, 2014

I'm Joining in on the Travel the World in Books Readathon!

So, you may notice I don't do a lot of readathons or challenges or much of anything besides plain old critiques on my blog. I'm kind of boring like that. But I've always kept an eye out for a readathon that would be my kind of readathon- something that I could use to pare down my pile of books to read in an interesting way. I heard about this one through the blogosphere (I'm Lost in Books and Joy's Book Blog) and thought why not? I have many (many) books that need devouring that are from different parts of this planet, and they're collecting dust at the moment, waiting to be read.

Rule (from the Sign-up):
Read book(s) set in another country or by author(s) from another country. Sign up whether you are reading for your own pleasure, with your kids, or both, fiction or non-fiction, it’s all fair game. Read as much as you can or want.

The Basics:
1. The readathon runs from September 1-14th (2014). You set your own goals- however much or little you want to read. It is hosted by Mom's Small VictoriesI'm Lost in Books, and Savvy Working Gal.
2. Sign-up here
3. Make a post with your goals, and then link it up here.
4. Here's the Schedule

My Goals:
1. Read 5 (or more) books from either my Selected Physical Pile Qualifiers (see below), or my the-invisible-pile shelf that pertain to the challenge (I live in the USA in case you're wondering).

My Selected Physical Pile Qualifiers:
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Historical Fiction/Magical Realism set in Chile)
Poison by Kathryn Harrison (H.F. set in Spain)
*The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley (H.F. set in Greenland)
*The Vagrants by Yiyun Li (H.F. set in China)
Dark Angels by Karleen Kohen (H.F. set in England)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (H.F. set in Cephallonia, an island of Greece)
*Out by Natsuo Kirino (Contemporary Mystery set in Japan)
*Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (H.F. set in China)
Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong (H.F. set in Russia, about Vietnam)
The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto by Pico Iyer (Travel Memoir set in Japan)
*The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (H.F./Contemporary set in Afghanistan)
The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (H.F. set in Japan)
Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel (Nonfiction History set in Italy)
One Man's Bible by Gao Xingjian (Contemporary/Historical set in China and France)
* indicates ones I've heard good things about, or am really excited to read.

2. Do two critiques from the books that I read, before the challenge ends.

3. Tries to think of another goal. Erm... Complete my two goals?

Well, that's it, I guess. I'll be camping this weekend, so hopefully my posts will publish as scheduled.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress #1)" by Jeaniene Frost

Kindle Daily Deals struck again, coaxing me into buying all of the Night Huntress series in one fell swoop. Also, these books are highly regarded by the people of Goodreads: the average ratings for all the books I bought were over the four star mark. This leads to very high expectations on my part.

The Plot:
Cat has been killing vampires since she was sixteen, picking up her victims in bars. Her birth was a result of her mother being raped by a vampire, making her not quite human, and she is out to make certain other humans won't be victimized the way her mother was. Until one night, when a vampire named Bones hunts her- and in exchange for her freedom, she agrees to be trained and used as bait for vampires he is hunting. But as their friendship evolves and the danger level increases, will Cat be able to keep her family safe?

Cat's Gut Reaction to Vampires:

Kill It With Fire Silver!
...which is probably why I liked this book more than I initially thought I would. I tend to like characters with vendettas: they have a lot of ambition.

Another thing you might notice is the skimpy attire Cat is wearing on the cover. She originally wore something like jeans and a low cut blouse, but then Bones decided she needed to look 10,000% vixen to distract and engage the vampires she's luring. He also tells her she needs to not wear panties, because vamps can super-smell if you have them on or not.

Needless to say, I don't approve. She wears extremely short dresses, pantieless? Yeah, I'm not feeling that, save if she was going somewhere as Britney Spears for a costume party. Another aspect of this is the heel factor- I just don't see high heels as practical to stake vamps in, but will be utterly converted if in a future episode Cat uses silver stilettos to send a vampire back to his maker.

The character I like most is obviously Cat, but I really wasn't a believer about her relationship to Bones. In one of their conversations, Bones essentially quoted The Runaway Bunny to her. It was kind of creepy, because they'd only know each other for two months, but other people have differing opinions.

The best part of the book is probably Cat's relationship with her mother, which grows throughout the course of the book. Her mother sees Cat as evil waiting to be unleashed, when Cat is really trying her best to do everything like her mother tells her all while not being herself. It's a tricky situation, and usually you don't see evolving relationships like them in paranormal romance or urban fantasy.

Halfway to the Grave is more an urban fantasy/paranormal romance hybrid than one or the other. It has plenty of action, stakes, vampires, arsenals of weapons, and steamy romance to satisfy most any Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance fan, but it didn't quite hit the notes of four stars for me. If you're craving a romantic urban fantasy with a focus on relationships, consider this for your next read.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great genre hybrid!

Content: Ages 18+ for cursing, violence, and sex scenes.

Page Count: 358 pages in the mass market paperback edition

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison

This is a book people either love or hate, mostly due to the grisly content. There is nothing beautiful to be found about slavery, and this is a book about an escaped slave who isn't free. Some people cry that this is a pretentious book, and I somewhat agree- there is only so much weirdness I can take, and this book is highly weird for such a lauded and acclaimed piece of fiction. It won both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for Literature, in addition to many others.

Another thing I should mention is that symbolism is utterly lost on me- I am highly immune to it and often overlook its presence because I read books for the story and characters, not metaphorical nonsense. And this book is chock full of symbols- symbols I'd never see without the boon of this book having been marked for them by a previous owner. Thanks to that person, this review is easier for me to compose- she even marked a paragraph that was "the whole point of the book". Thank you, previous owner and defiler of books! (I bet they don't hear that often).

The Plot:
Sethe and her daughter Denver live in exile in a house haunted by Sethe's deceased daughter who is known as Beloved. One day, Paul D, a slave from Sethe's enslaved past, arrives at her doorstep, and their loneliness is somewhat relieved. Paul D seemingly manages to banish Beloved's presence from the house, but is she truly gone?

I'll be honest, the synopsis for this on Goodreads makes it seem like the greatest book in the world. It isn't, at least not on my bookshelf, and so it becomes a little hard to talk about- so many people loved or hated it, and all I really can say was it was strange and underwhelming for me. It seems sacrilege of me to rate Gone With the Wind higher, but honestly I enjoyed it so much more and received more from it than reading this book.

The characters in this book have gone through hell, but I didn't emphasize with them, despite having been in similar conditions in my life. It was as if they were all frozen in time, unwilling to move on and do what needed to be done through the entire book. I've been frozen like that before, but I persevered and was resilient, because if you wallow in the misery of your past and how you've been wronged, there is no point in living: you are stuck in a death-state of your past. And that is a very sad place to be.

Spoiler Alert!
The characters kind of move on in the end, but for me it felt highly underwhelming. I still felt as if the characters were from a different planet by the end.

Beloved is a hard book for me to critique because through the entire book I couldn't feel for the characters. Through the scribblings of a former reader, I learned what the book meant, but it fell short for being such a "masterwork". I admire the author's wordsmithery, but didn't particularly enjoy the book.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good, but underwhelming read.

Content: Ages 18+ for a slew of darkness: bestiality, animal abuse, slavery, human abuse, cursing, ...homicide.

Page Count: 275 pages in my paperback edition

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Not Quite a Confession: Biweekly Update

I must confess the Confessions of an Insomniac Book Devourer grow hard to write, especially when I am having a relatively uninspired week and it rains ceaselessly (no joke) and that causes my pain to flare. So instead of forcing myself to write five to six paragraphs about a bookish subject, I will entertain you with my recent acquisitions, what I've read (admittedly not much since the rain), and dish out some of my favorite blog posts of the two weeks. And also... random things. Kind of like Weekend Update on SNL, with books and fewer corny jokes.

Note: Confessions of an Insomniac Book Devourer will still be an active feature, for the times when I'm feeling inspired and willing to discuss bookish things. This is a fill in for times when my brain malfunctions.

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

(Kindle Daily Deal)
Walker Paper Series
Both the Night Huntress and Walker Papers were Kindle Daily Deals, and I have low resistance to Kindle Daily Deals, so I bought all of the Night Huntress and the first four of the Walker Papers.

I hadn't heard of the Walker Papers but as soon as I heard Irish/Native American I was forced to buy. Because that's sort of my ancestry- a large part Irish slash Norwegian slash German slash Scottish with a distant dash of Native American. I know, you could call me David Sawitzky. Also, I'm cozying up to the idea of Urban Fantasy.... but just those without the Boobs Debacles.

Night Huntress I had heard of, but I'm usually unwilling to pay full price for a series, so I waited for it to become a Kindle Daily Deal. Anything with a half-vampire heroine who hates vampires has to be more than a little bit interesting.

I also found this- Citadel by Kate Mosse, a book I've been scouring thrift shops for two years to find. Oddly, it was either a monthly deal for the Kindle or a countdown deal, but either way I'm glad I found it. It's the third in the Languedoc series, which is a past/present historical thriller type of series. My favorite was the first, Labyrinth, but it appears I'm one of the few who actually liked these books, so I'll have to review them soon.

Currently Reading:
Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress #1) I'm about halfway through and a bit worried. The characters are likeable enough, but it's really more Paranormal Romance than Urban Fantasy. The covers are actually an accurate depiction of what she wears while hunting, which is somewhat disturbing to me.

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) I haven't read that much of it yet, but I expect it to be good. And hopefully no lingerie as battle attire.

Finished These Books:
The Curse Giver was recommended to me by both Amazon and Goodreads because I liked Entreat Me. However, it dragged on for me due to multiple POVs, frustration over no good information given about the curse, and a few other things that irked me. I marked this as not-my-cup-of-coffee because not everyone is as critical as me, and the little things that irk me may not bother anyone else.

The first three books of the Dark Hunter series: I'm glad I didn't buy more of them because they were again, not my cup of coffee. I found the Dark Hunters easy to bait, too perfect (and probably more pretty than the girls, if that's possible). On the third book the only characters I liked (or believed may be actual people) were Acheron and Simi (his demon).

In the Blogosphere:
  Book Blogs:
   Book Reviews:
     The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII (Cute Peach)
     Ebony Rising (Nessie at Innocent Smiley)
     The Fault In Our Stars (The Hardcover Lover)
     Update aka I'm Back! (Book Dancer)
     Adults and YA -- Should There Be A Cut Off Age (This Girl Reads a Lot!)
     Mid-Year Book Freakout! (Anatea's Bookshelf)
  Fashion and Lifestyle:
     The Happiness Project: Day 5 (Bearika Rose)
     Simply Be's Secrets to Summer Confidence (The Human Mannequin)
     6 Must-Have Sweaters For Fall (I AM A FASHIONEER)

In My Life:
So, if you've seen my monthly updates, you'll probably know I've been scraping off five layers of wallpaper in my bedroom. Being that the house I live in was built in 1903, I was surprised I didn't find more wallpaper layers- all the one's I've found are Union-made and therefore from about the 70's, but I think the base layer was from the 40's to 50's.

One night I was scraping away and came to a loose patch. A very loose patch. As if there were nothing beneath the wallpaper. I found this:

What is it, you ask? Why, my room used to have a coal or wood-burning stove- and wasn't dependent on the radiator I have now for heat. It makes a lot of sense, because there is an unaccounted-for space in the hallway that isn't part of either bedroom. It was a chimney.

And so, instead of closing the chimney-outlet off, a former owner decided to wallpaper over it. And now my plans include closing that hole off in addition to texturing the room. I hope dearly there will be no more little surprises beneath the other wallpaper I have yet to scrape off.

So if I seem grumpy at all lately, it's probably because I got the black lung from breathing in all that dusty, disturbing chimney smoke.

Until Tuesday,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Early Critique: "Beauty's Beast" by Amanda Ashley

From Goodreads
I received this e-book for free via NetGalley, but in no way did it affect my literary taste buds. This critique is my honest opinion.

To Be Released: September 2nd 2014

The Plot: (Also From Goodreads)


Fair of face and figure, Kristine is young, innocent, pure. Yet she has been condemned to the gallows for killing a man. The only one who can save her is a lord so infamous that some say he is the son of the Devil himself...

And the Beast

Erik Trevayne is called the Demon Lord of Hawksbridge Castle, but few know of the curse he lives under. Or the terrifying changes slowly gnawing away at his humanity. When he weds her, all he wants of Kristine is a son. But when he beds her, a wild hope is born—that love that can tame even the most monstrous of beasts...

Let's start with the premise: a lord wants an heir so he frees a prisoner (who would have been killed) and takes her as a bride. We all should know where this is headed. Luckily enough, there is no insta-love and only mild lust between them, so I can't raise any objections of probability and fate.

What I do object to is the wedding night- I think it would've been better served written as a reflection (or flashback). As the heroine herself ruminates, "...but neither had she expected him to take her with such blatant disregard for her feelings." I would've rather read that than the groping and the don't-touch-me-woman! awkwardness that transpired from reading about their encounter.

Erik and Kristine's relationship evolves slowly, which in my eyes is a good thing. Erik tries everything to keep her away from him and to keep a minimum of contact between them. Kristine refuses to respect his need for space due to her need for companionship: the castle has few servants and they don't like to talk (and some of them are mute).

In the beginning of the book, you know just enough about Erik's curse to keep you reading and wondering. This novel has an excellent pace and maintains a high threshold of tension throughout the book. What I can tell you about Erik's curse (without spoilers) is that it isn't as simple (or pretty) as many other Beauty and the Beast curses I've read about.

Beauty's Beast is a surprisingly suspenseful fairy tale retelling laced with plenty of romance. Despite its faltering beginning, it developed into a compelling and insightful version of a tale most of us are familiar with. I recommend this to anyone looking for a different (and more romantic) twist on an old fairy tale.

Note: Due to this being a pre-release review, I have no idea if my quote will be the same in the final version of the book.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great Beauty and the Beast tale with an awkward start.

Content: Ages 18+ for violence and sex scenes.

Page Count: 352 pages expected in the paperback edition

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blog News: Liebster Award #3

I received a third Liebster Award from Angie @ The Paperback Reader (Thanks, Angie!). For those of you who are clueless as to what it is, Liebster means "dearest" in German and the award is something bloggers pass on to other bloggers they like or whose blogs they admire. It seems it has been around the blogosphere since about 2010 and appears to be going strong.

This particular Liebster Award has a different variation of the rules:

1. Link and Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asks.
3. Pick 11 other bloggers who have 200 or less followers.
4. Ask the 11 bloggers you nominated 11 questions and let them know you nominated them!

Angie's Questions:

1. What is your favorite book series?

So far in my reading life, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite. I have trouble with my favorite books, though, because I feel like I have to write a perfect review for them, and that's why many haven't been already reviewed here.

2. Why did you start blogging?

This is an interesting question, because this isn't my first blog. My original blog was posted when I was maybe 13-14 and blogging was relatively new- I started that one out of curiosity and then stopped when my curiosity was exhausted. Victorian Soul (Book) Critiques was started because I saw other people on Goodreads reviewing books for a blog, and they had read relatively few books. And also, once I got a Kindle, I decided I wanted to review books on Amazon with very little (or incredibly vague) feedback.

3. What is your favorite part of blogging?

Umm... a tie between making graphic designs (headers, memes, pictures for the Sunday Fun Five) and writing. The writing part tends to come and go with my mood, but it doesn't take inspiration for me to edit pictures.

4. Who is your favorite book character and why?

A tie between Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Arya Stark (A Game of Thrones), because they're both awesome and know how to defend (and seek vengeance) for themselves.

5. If you could live in the shoes of one book character who would it be?

Probably James Herriot, from All Creatures Great and Small, even though he's an actual person and not a character. I would enjoy living in 1950s England, being a veterinarian, and then eventually writing about my adventures.

6. Where is your favorite place to read?

The background quilt for all my physical books
Oddly enough, my bed is better for reading than my nicely equipped library, when my dogs let me read there. Torrie thinks it's her bed, not mine, and thinks I'm dog-shaming her in this picture (believe me Tor, I wouldn't do that to you).

7. You have been told you have to sell all your books but one, which one would you keep?

This one- it's a family heirloom version of Gone With The Wind and I couldn't be parted from it. Most other books of mine are replaceable (save for my first editions of The Stand and Interview With a Vampire).

8. What book universe would you like to live in?

I answered a very similar question for the Sunday Fun 5, and I'll stick with that answer: Shadow of the Wind's world, due to its Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

9.  Who are your top three favorite book blogs?

I don't always stalk book blogs (nose grows nine feet long and pants spontaneously combust). But when I do, I lurk at these ones:
Cute Peach (has a vast variety of book reviews, from graphic novels to college books)
Snowflakes and Spider Silk (Sci-fi, Fantasy, Historical... and more)
Ivy Book Bindings (All kinds of books)
...many more to be found on my Lovely Links tab.

10. What is your favorite book this year so far?

Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent). Probably the best second book in a series I've read yet.

11. Do you have a preference hardcover,  paperback or e-reader?

If I had unlimited space, I'd definitely go with hardcovers. Right now I've been reading mostly ebooks, as the closest big box bookstore is an hour away, and I'm attempting to stymie my book collecting.

(I used Bloglovin' to gauge follower count. If you were nominated and have more than 200 followers: Congratulations, you still get this lovely award and my questions!)

My Nominees (in no particular order):

Isabell from Dreaming With Open Eyes

Karina from I, Fat Robot

Anna from My Reading Antlers

Mollie from Bookdictive Reviews

Wendi from All Who Wander

"Khaleesi" Charlotte from Bookmarks and Blogging

Carriejo from Carriejo's Book Blog

Bree and Nemo from Blame It on the Books

Ronyell from Rabbit Ears Book Blog

Erin from The Paperback Stash

Benni From Benni's Bookbiters

Questions for My Nominees (Stolen from My First Liebster Award Post):

1. What is your favorite time of day to read?
2. What makes your favorite book your favorite: the characters, the plot, or something else?
3. What is your favorite dessert?
4. Do you have a favorite villain? (Literary or otherwise)
5. What three books would you bring to a deserted island with you, if you had everything you needed (food, water, shelter, bookshelves, etc.)?
6. Which book do you consider underrated and under-read (people don't read it as much)?
7. If you could travel to another universe (bookish or otherwise), would you stay here or go?
8. If you could travel back in time once, where would you go, and what would you do?
9. Is there a book you think is over-hyped (a lot of people like it, but you don't)?
10. If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would you meet, and why?
11. Do you judge a book by its cover?

I currently have more than 200 followers on Twitter, so I'm over the limits of the Liebster (even though it's easy to get followers there, and they probably don't all frequent my blog). It's safe to say if I get another, I won't be doing more nominations (because I'm old and Grinchy and planning on stealing Christmas this year)...

From Giphy
...but I might answer some questions.

Over and out,

"Crystal Singer (Crystal Singer #1)" by Anne McCaffrey

This is one of my favorite book covers
This was originally published in Roger Elwood's Continuum Series (a sci-fi anthology in 1975) and was later converted to book format (1982).

Anne McCaffrey's specialty has always been the strong heroines she seemingly effortlessly created. I'm always ready to read her books due to that, as well as the interesting sci-fi stories she always seemed to come up with. She also provides more than one love interest for the heroine, though in this case we never end up with a fully blown love triangle.

A Crystal Singer is someone who harvests (and cuts) crystals that are used for instantaneous communication in this story. They must be musically inclined to be able to cut the crystal without ruining it, and be willing to stay in the same career for the rest of their lives.

The Plot:
After ten years perfecting her voice, Killashandra Ree's dreams of being a top-rank singer are thwarted by her teacher, Maestro Valdi and a panel of vocal experts. Unable to handle the disgrace of taking a second tier job, she goes to the spaceport of her planet to travel some other place. She meets Carrik, a man of seemingly endless wealth, when both of them hear a crystal in a shuttle failing. Killashandra then vacations with him, finding out he's a Crystal Singer just as his health begins to wane, and decides she wants to become one herself. But when someone joins the Crystal Singers, they rarely, if ever, leave the planet...

When I first read this book, I really liked the heroine, but during the reread for this review her personality seemed a bit overbearing. That said, I've met many people like Killashandra Ree, so her persona isn't unrealistic, it's simply arrogant (and naive and slightly annoying). But by the end of the book, she was in my good graces again due to her bravery.

What sets this book apart from many other sci-fi novels is it's musicality. A significant aspect of this book is that the heroine has perfect pitch, and that is a requirement to be a Crystal Singer because it helps the Singer cut the crystals. More often, the qualities wanted in a main character of a book are more mundane, like being physically strong, or more supernatural, like telepathy, but in this book it's best if you have good pipes.

Crystal Singer introduces us to a world reliant on crystals for their technology, differing vastly from our reliance on manufacturing technology, in that the crystals must be mined and are naturally occurring. While it does provide a unique world concept, it often lacks a sense of urgency (and/or a save the world plot) that many other sci-fi novels embrace. If you're looking for an interesting sci-fi coming of age story, this may be your book.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great science fiction adventure.

Content: Mentions of sex and mild violence, Ages 16+

Page Count: 311 pages in my edition

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1)" by Ilona Andrews

Cover from Goodreads
As usual, I couldn't resist snatching these up due to the first six of the series being offered as a Kindle Daily Deal. I'd heard pretty good things about the series before, and hoped (oh, how I hoped) it would be more my thing than the Dresden Files.

It wasn't at first. I admit to not being that fond of shape-shifters in urban fantasy or paranormal romance. The pack mentality, the dominance, and the generic themes never fail to make me a bit tired of the same old thing. But luckily, the heroine of this novel is as sarcastic as I am, and my feelings about this book improved greatly once past the 70% mark.

The Plot:
Kate Daniels is a mercenary who uses her magical talents to complete her jobs. She receives notice from a vampire (of an associate) that she should check up on her guardian, Greg, a knight-diviner with the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid. When she finds out he's dead, she'll stop at nothing to exact retribution, even if she can't afford to...

What I liked about this book (and what set it apart from other UFs, like the Dresden Files) was that the vast majority of females in the book weren't stereotypical damsels in distress, they were pretty competent. The heroine tends to be a bit surly, but due to her frequent use of sarcasm and other endearing traits (she has a sword named Slayer and she doesn't take crap, even when she should) I found myself adding her to the seldom used Heroines I Love category.

Also, the world- it is more dissimilar than ours than most Urban Fantasies use. Magic has taken over the tech-world (our world before magic), knocking down the new skyscrapers and factories in favor of the older buildings. People often ride horses instead of cars, because cars break often due to magic's disdain of anything complicated or technical. There was no mention of road apples (horse manure), which leads me to believe magic must somehow negate that? Horses have no respect for roads and will crap wherever they want to- I've been to too many small town parades to think the world presented in Magic Bites would smell very nice.

The Beast Lord, Curran, provides much of the comic relief in this book. Kate is constantly poking fun at him, and (at the 70% point of reading it on the Kindle version) proves she's masterful at it. One thing that irks me about their relationship is when he's clearly flirting with her, she thinks he's joking. Too many novels have heroines like this, they think they look simply okay and then when someone compliments them, they laugh (or shrug) it off. Overall I really loved Kate's character, but she clearly has some growing up to do in that area.

Magic Bites is an excellent beginning of an urban fantasy saga, setting the stage for future books with its humor, characters, and its unique world. If I hadn't been told it had been written by two people (a husband and wife no less) I would never have known. The writing style is distinct and it's clear they work well as a team. I recommend this to anyone looking for an urban fantasy series with a strong and spunky heroine who isn't a doormat.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a superb starting point for an urban fantasy series!

Content: Ages 18+ for graphic violence, the making of vampire soup, swearing, and general bad*ssery.

Page Count: 276 pages in the Kindle edition

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Fun 5: The 5 Books You'd Rather Steal Than Wait For (To Be Published)

The Sunday Fun Five #8

Sunday Fun 5:
Feel free to participate by commenting below or writing a blog post: I wrote up some guidelines for blog participation here.

Note: This post contains several mockup book covers made by yours truly. They're basically fan art, and by no means the official covers: I just made them to give a feel for the books (even though I haven't read any of them... yet).

Also, you may notice brief lapses of articulation in the writing below. Do Not Panic. That is my superfan breaking free.
Let Loose the SuperFan!!! From Giphy

A Countdown Of

The Five Books You'd Rather Steal Than Wait For (To Be Published)

Cover From Brent Weeks' Site
5. The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3) by Brent Weeks (Expected Publication: August 26th 2014)
This one is only about a week away, but I want it now! Yes, I'm very impatient, and I realize there are more books to this series than three (dang it), but I'm more than a bit excited about this one- I can't wait to see what plot twists are up the author's sleeve. And also, the Guile twins: I want need to hear about them. The first seven chapters are available here.

Mockup by me, with a little help from The Sims 3
4. The 3rd Book in the Irin Chronicles by Elizabeth Hunter (No title yet, No Publication Date Yet)
Putting this book on my list proves my general lack of patience, as The Singer (the second in the series) was recently published. As a book devourer (and avid world-hopper), I appreciate the settings, mythology, and characters of the Irin Chronicles, but I can't help but want the next book right now!

Mockup is very sad compared to the previous series' covers.
3. Skybreaker (Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent) (No Publication Date Yet, but it says 2015 on Goodreads)
Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent)'s best quality as an author, in my humble opinion, is his ability to speed-write, and have the book end up as beautiful as Words of Radiance. And yet, I really can't wait another year just to hear what Szeth is up to (Breaking the Sky, perhaps?), and so this book is listed on my hit list of nefarious plunder.

Mockup made with my art. Doors of Stone need metal bindings.
2. Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicle Day 3) by Patrick Rothfuss (No Publication Date Yet)
I'm a huge Kingkiller Chronicle fan, which may seem odd to those of you who follow this blog (I've yet to write up the reviews, because I love them and I'm afraid of imperfect reviews on my favorite books). I can't wait any longer for Doors of Stone because of my super fan status, but I must link to Patrick Rothfuss's review of it, because it's hilarious. If time-travelers like his book, chances are I will too.

Cover From Air Herald
1. Winds of Winter, and the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin (No Publication Date)
I rue the day I picked up A Game of Thrones, thinking it was a complete series. Nope. Not even close (but about halfway there). But really, I love the characters (that he mercilessly assassinates), so I should be able to wait a little while longer for this book. And by a little while, I mean probably a hundred years. (His manuscripts are virtually steal-proof, by the way- he uses a non-internet computer [or was it a typewriter?]).

Do you have any books you'd rather steal than wait for? Have you ever waited for a book that disappointed you when you finally were able to read it?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Night Pleasures (Dark-Hunter #1)" by Sherrilyn Kenyon

From Goodreads
I picked up this book as a Kindle Daily Deal, mostly because I'd heard of the series and was curious. Also, its Goodreads rating is 4.24, which led me to think this book would be something different than the average Paranormal Romance fare.

Dark-Hunter Mythology (The Quick Version):
Dark-Hunters are out to kill Daimons (Apollites who drink blood and eat human souls to live past 27, nom nom). Dark-Hunters were originally humans who suffered terrible deaths and want revenge. In exchange for a chance at vengeance, they give their souls to the keeping of Artemis and receive immortality, an allergy to sunlight (which Apollites and Daimons also have), and special skills (which depend upon the Dark-Hunter). Apollites are beings Apollo (Greek Mythological god of the sun) made and then shunned when they killed his lover.

The Plot:
Dark-Hunter Kyrian lives to do only one thing: kill Daimons. Amanda Devereaux, on the other hand, leads a normal, boring existence working as an accountant, until one day she's kidnapped and handcuffed to Kyrian. They soon realize they face a common enemy in Desiderious, but will Kyrian be able to protect Amanda from him?

There is a lot to love about this series, and I could understand why people like it so much. The Dark-Hunters are attractive, mysterious, and a lot a bit tortured. The humor makes it well worth reading this story, but there were a lot of little other things that irked me.

Kyrian has mind-reading abilities that he was gifted when he became a Dark-Hunter. He actively reads Amanda's mind until she has enough of his crap and tells him not to. I can understand reading her mind at their first meeting, but the rest is truly unnecessary and intrusive.

The use of the words yummy, scrumptious, and other silly things by Amanda to describe Kyrian. As a former Montanan, I've never heard those words outside of a diner, or a middle school girl's bathroom. At twenty-six (and supposedly college-educated?) she should have more words than those to describe a handsome man.

The Dark-Hunters are a group of men with physically "perfect" bodies (and faces). There is no ugly duckling in the bunch: not one with just passably good looks. I understand these are romance novels, but I like a little more variety in terms of characters and I don't like reading about perfectly beautiful people.

Night Pleasures is a good start to a paranormal romance series, but I wasn't too impressed due to all the little nitpicks above. It certainly doesn't lack for romance, action, or humor, but falls flat compared with other books I've devoured before. If you're willing to look past its flaws, Night Pleasures may be the book for you, but otherwise, look elsewhere.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good, but decidedly flat read.

Content: Ages 18+ for sex, violence, and a little gore. Also, tortured soul(less) alert.

Page Count: 336 pages in the ebook edition
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