Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff

For some reason, during my purge of all my YA books, this was one of the few I chose to hold on to. Something about it was different from your mainstream books- the way it was written, the context of the plot, and the plot itself. In some ways, this is much better than The Hunger Games, because it's so much more real- I can see this happening.

This is a book I'm surprised I even picked up- the style it is written in isn't exactly my type. There are loads of run-on sentences, paragraphs that are only one sentence long due to that reason, random mid sentence capitalization of separate thoughts, and the girl who narrates it has problems with her weight- as in, she doesn't eat enough (not quite anorexia, but getting there). Somehow, the style grew on me, and made the book more raw and real-feeling than many other of the books I've read dealing with war.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'“Every war has turning points and every person too.”
'Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.
'As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.'

I should also mention this book has incest- but it isn't as terrible as I felt the incest in City of Bones was. Daisy is Edmond's cousin, and they didn't even know each other until she was sent to England. In a way, this book provided the perfect recipe for this type of plot- because the teens were away in the countryside with no adults, it's feasible that might happen.

This is a book about the willpower to survive more than anything- at the end of the book, you get a glimpse of how some of the characters changed from who they were before the occupation. Even though they may have survived, they didn't survive intact. In a way, the lesson you take away from this book is summarized in my favorite quote:

"If you haven't been in a war and are wondering how long it takes to get used to losing everything you think you need or love, I can tell you the answer is No time at all."

            ~How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, page 111

How I Live Now takes a hard look at the consequences and horrors of war, while somehow entertaining you with the snarky teenaged heroine who grows through her experience. It is heartbreaking, but much more real due to its grimness. If you want to have your heart shredded to mincemeat with no promise of a happily-ever-after and don't mind thinking about how bad things could really be, How I Live Now might be the book for you.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great, if heartrending book about survival.

Content: Ages 16+ for graphic scenes of war, cousinly incest, tobacco use, and mentions of teen sex.

Page Count: 194 pages in my paperback edition.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Montana Book Roundup: Christmas Edition!

I hadn't planned on posting anything today, but since I visited my family and family friend in Montana, I managed to acquire quite a few books as gifts, and also as I browsed my favorite thrift shops. In addition, I received a Barnes and Noble gift card, which I spent on something that I had to search two bookstores in two separate states for.

My grandma decided to buy a new, more comfortable loveseat for her apartment, leading to a new addition for my library:

This loveseat is nice, despite its terribly unpadded arms, because it has a pull out twin bed. This means I can basically live in my library- provided I never need to bathe, eat, or drink. I was fortunate that the narrow library doorway/hole in the wall allowed this little piece of furniture to enter, as most of what I have in there had to be strategically maneuvered inside. My mother also bought me a little floor pillow (the brown leather-looking round thing), which will be nice for sitting on while I'm organizing the bottom shelves.

Thrift Shop Books

These are some I found at my favorite thrift shop:

Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey
I'm not sure who exactly recommended this to me, but for the past 2-3 years I've been looking for it. Tolkienesque, but also featuring gray morality, is what I've been told.

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger
This has also been on my 'need to find for super cheap' list for quite some time, and I was glad I found it at the thrift shop. I'd considered buying it at Barnes and Noble with my gift card, but got it for a fraction of the price instead.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I was recommended another book by the author, but couldn't find it, so I settled for this one. Described in a bipolar fashion on Goodreads, I'm not sure what to expect, but hope it's good.

Heaven's Net is Wide (Tales of Otori Prequel) by Lian Hearn (AKA Gillian Rubinstein)
Take a look at that cover! I couldn't resist buying it for that reason, and also it is about a mythical, medieval Japanese world. Sold.

Celtic Myths and Legends by T.W. Rolleston
I have just about every book on Greek myth, but know little about other culture's mythology beyond some basic folk tales. In order to remedy this, whenever I come across a book of myths and legends that isn't Greek or Roman, I buy it.

The Gift Horse

First of all, I bought Jeff Kacirk's Forgotten English Page-a-Day Calendar that covers 'Vanishing Vocabulary and Folklore' with my Barnes and Noble gift card. It may not be a book, but quality entertainment that helps me remember what day it is is always something I need.

My brother got me Goodnight Darth Vader (Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars) by Jeffrey Brown as a gift, so I spent Christmas night reminiscing about one of my favorite childhood film series. From the reviews on Goodreads, it sounds like some of his other books might be more entertaining, but I absolutely loved this one and gave it five stars. If I was still a kid, I'd read this every night.

My mom gave me a big pile of books for Christmas, which was slightly surprising. I only asked for one antique volume of The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott, which I found at an antique shop, but she also got me Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. She hadn't heard of the book before and thought it was rare, but I disclosed it wasn't- Little Men has a tv series and two movie editions of it, and is the sequel to Little Women, which I haven't yet read.

My mom also expanded my first edition Stephen King collection by getting me Pet Sematary. Sadly, I haven't gotten around to actually reading any Stephen King books yet, I'm simply collecting them for the time that I will read them.

The Simple Joys of Life Journal by Ellie Claire is kind of like a page a day calendar- it doesn't give much room for your thoughts on the quote or inspirational gesture of the day. My favorite part about it other than the quotes is the pages are cut with scalloped edges, which is cute. Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II is something my mom got me that kind of left me scratching my head as to the reason why. It is a first edition, but I doubt it's very rare- a pope should always have a massive audience, especially considering how beloved he was.

My Endurance Quest for the Holy Grail

When I got my Barnes and Noble gift card, I figured I'd spend it on things I haven't yet read. But when I was doing my inner price inventory on the things in the store in Billings, I couldn't buy any of the books I wanted to read. Not only did they not have a hardcover Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson  (the Benevolent) (an unpardonable sin, in my humble opinion), they also didn't carry a book I hoped to buy for myself for Christmas: Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews. What they did have that I actually wanted was a signed hardcover of The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss, one of my favorite books EVER. But, there was a problem- the signature in the book was exceedingly scribbly- I couldn't even make out anything besides the first letter.

Disappointed, I left the bookstore with only a page-a-day calendar, but continued to think about buying that damn book. Who cares if I can't read the signature? It's pretty much my favorite book by a living author, something I'll probably never find again. I'm too weird to ever go to a signing- I'd probably blurt out something profane followed by 'and my dogs like your beard' before melting into a puddle of perspiration.

Convinced of my inability to participate in any author signings, I returned to the bookstore, set on buying my very own holy grail.

An unforeseen problem occurred- in the three hours since I left the store, the book disappeared. Someone either hid it from me, bought it, or burned it on site to spite me. The holy grail was gone. The quest had ended.

I licked my wounds and a day later, we arrived in Idaho, where I knew I'd be able to find a signed copy of something by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent). Mr. Sanderson (the Benevolent) had been at a signing in a nearby city about a year ago, and I knew they would make him sign everything in their stock. Of course, I never considered going due to my confessed spontaneous 'say something incredibly weird when you're nervous' syndrome, so I obviously let that opportunity slip through my fingers.

I found more than several copies of his books I wanted to buy, but there was a problem (AGAIN) with the signature. Although Patrick Rothfuss's had been pretty illegible, Mr. Sanderson's (the Benevolent's) was worse in another way. To save time, he'd simply given his initials above his printed name on the title page.

In other words, there was a giant pile of B.S. in his books.

Let that sink in for a moment. Yeah, his signed books (despite their collective magnificence) were completely unbuyable for the native/rural Montanan in me.

I was completely crestfallen by this turn of events. I would not be getting any signed copies. I had run out of ideas for things I wanted in Barnes and Noble. This was the end.

Making my way back to the front, I noticed something prominently shelved in the Sci-fi/Fantasy section. A very recognizable cover. A sticker touting it was a "signed copy". Could I have found my holy grail again?

I opened the cover- what would the signature look like? Would it be unreadable? Simply initials?

Yes, the tail end of the signature isn't as neat as I'd like, but at least I can make heads and tails of it. While in the other I had seen only scribbling, this I can see "Pat" in, which is incredible. And, it wasn't a flaming pile of B.S.. All's well that ends well.

How was everyone's holidays? Anyone else find their holy grail?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Unusual Christmas Greeting

When people ask me what my favorite holiday song is, it isn't White Christmas or any other of the usual lovely vintage music I like. No. Instead, it's an unusual tune by my favorite band ever, The Killers, who came out with holiday songs for many years that would benefit charity if you bought them on iTunes, etc. My favorite of those is: Don't Shoot Me Santa. What makes it my favorite? Well, watch and learn:

[If on mobile device, click here to view on Youtube]

The components of a good Christmas song/music video:
-Catchy Tune
-Sock Puppets
-Ugly Sweaters
-A Vilified Santa Claus
-Absolutely No Snow
and last, but not least:
-The Threat of Imminent Death to Brandon Flowers

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and/or other Happy Holidays!

this Early Christmas Present of 2010, and a Disgruntled Reindeer:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SFF: The 5 Books You Hope to Read in 2015

The Sunday Fun Five #17

Sunday Fun 5:
#17: The 5 Books You Hope to Read in 2015
For the 4th of Jan.: #18: The 5 Characters You Have New Year's Resolutions For

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 Books You Hope to Read in 2015

...because 2014 is almost over and you haven't gotten to them yet.

I'm probably one of the few people who loves fantasy but can't get my head around this book. I've read roughly 100 pages, then given up, and then reread the 100 pages again. I just want to finally finish it so I'll feel like I'm not missing out!

4. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
This was one of the first Kindle Daily Deals I purchased because of the buzz surrounding it. I'm not exactly sure what to expect with this one, other than the title characters being present, but I hope to find a new favorite in it.

3. The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
During the Travel the World in Books Readathon, I desperately wanted to read this- but it was too long for me to finish with four other books in two weeks, so I moved on. In 2015, I hope to have enough time to read it- and learn a bit more about historical Greenland in the process.

This is a book I've heard very conflicting things about. Some people say they love it- some people say don't touch it with a ten-foot pole. I say I need to read it to find out why people are all over the board about this one.

Female warriors. Diverse characters. Epic fantasy. I need to read this.

Notable Exclusions:
I'm hoping I'll get to The Martian by Andy Weir before the year ends, but maybe that's too optimistic. I'd also like to read The Darkness that Comes Before (Prince of Nothing #1) by R. Scott Bakker, if only to free it from my pile, because I've had it forever.

What books do you hope to read in 2015?

Blog Notice: I'll not be posting anything bookish this week (December 22nd-28th) due to the holidays. So- happy holidays and travel safely if you're going anywhere!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Interview With The Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles #1)" by Anne Rice

Sometime during my thrift store jaunts, I started noticing a lot of old hardcover books that were languishing on the shelves. I have an interest in vintage fiction, and was shocked to find first editions in that section of both Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire and Steven King's The Stand. I wasn't sold on either genre or author at the time, but picked them up because I've never had first editions of any book published prior to 2005.

This October I'd planned to read the Interview, but didn't finish it until early December and have been procrastinating on my review of it ever since. This book is very emotional, highly descriptive, and I often found myself staring into space while reading it. These are Anne Rice's famous vampires? They're kind of strange... maybe even stranger than me.

The (Basic) Plot:
A vampire named Louis offers to have an interview to a budding journalist, who becomes enthralled with Louis's story.

I think one of the things that threw me off the most is that the entire book is a dialogue, and sometimes the moody Louis stops and stares into space (just like me). He is pretty angsty for a vampire, which I understand (immortality would be kind of boring after a hundred years or so), but Louis isn't exactly what I expected of the vampires in this book.

But there was something about those darn vampires that unsettled me- I didn't see them as the least bit scary, despite all their antics. It's true I don't get scared about much anymore beyond the inhospitable environment of hospitals (the U.S. healthcare system is positively medieval), but I still expected to fear at least one of the vamps. Instead, I watched their petty rivalries and quests for knowledge play out with fascination, not fear.

My favorite character in this book, despite all the rest of the characters being well drawn out, was Lestat. The guy reminds me greatly of Joffrey of A Game of Thrones, in that he's an insufferable brat, but there's something very lovable about his brattiness (while nothing is lovable about Joffrey). Lestat does as he pleases: taunting, terrorizing, and manifesting crocodile tears to get exactly what he wants. When I see Lestat- I don't see Tom Cruise, I see Jack Gleeson.

I know why Interview With The Vampire is a classic: there's something in the way Rice spins the story, and her wordsmithery is evocative. But it was also easy for me to put it down and not pick it up until a week later, even in the midst of reading an action scene. The strength of this book lies heavily in its outstanding characters, and so I recommend this for anyone who likes character-driven vampire tales.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent vampire classic!

Content: Ages 18+ for violence and sexual content.

Page Count: 310 pages in my hardcover first edition.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)" by Ilona Andrews

This review features a book that is the second in the Kate Daniels series, and may have minor spoilers for those who have not read Magic Bites. My review of the first book can be found here.

I completed my Goodreads challenge of 100 books a little early this year, and the reason why is: the Kate Daniels series. I kid you not, once I began the second book (for the second time), I was enthralled, addicted, and kept swiping the pages of my ereader like a madwoman. So far I've read #2-4, plus the short stories up to #5 from Curran's perspective. So yes, if you don't have time to read the next few in the series, I would advise you not to pick Magic Burns up.

What changes in this book? Although we are briefly reminded of the world in which it's set, this book packs more action scenes and banter in instead of world-building. Kate may be one of my favorite heroines ever due to her incessant snark. Gods and goddesses also play a bigger role in this book, somewhat reminiscent of the Dresden Files.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Down in Atlanta, tempers – and temperatures – are about to flare…
'As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.
'When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive…'

I love Irish mythology, even though most of it I've had to learn from the internet. Most books tend to use Greek/Roman myths anymore, and while I think they're incredibly enthralling myths, they are also incredibly overused in books. Magic Burns introduces you to the myth of one particular god/goddess who I cannot reveal without spoiling, and I definitely learned more that myth while reading it.

Kate is less of a hardass in this book, showing her softer side more often (like anyone knew she had one in the first book). She has someone you might call a friend: Andrea, a sharpshooter and knight of the Guild, which is an experience she isn't quite used to. Although Curran takes to the background more in this book, the Beast Lord is still one of the driving characters in this book, and his unusual relationship with Kate comes to play in a fantastic ending.

Magic Burns is a hell of a sequel. Usually with me, the second book of a series is almost always a let down, and this is one of the rare cases (like Words of Radiance) where it outrates its predecessor. I recommend the Kate Daniels series to anyone looking to get caught up in an action-packed and surprisingly snarky urban fantasy series.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for an exceptional second book in the Kate Daniels series!

Content: Ages 18+ for violence, sexual reference, and choice swearing.

Page Count: 260 pages

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1)" by Rod Duncan

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter features the kind of crossdressing I heartily endorse. It's cleverly done to avoid the semi-dystopic authorities, and the heroine doesn't always look the perfect hero (I'm looking at you, The House of Four Winds). Also, there isn't much romance to speak of, sometimes making the book more focused on the story, a label which applies to this book.

Steampunk is not a new genre for me, but the steampunk books I've read (halfway through) before have generally turned me off the genre. Victorian soul I may be, but I've found a lot of steampunk is hard to follow, or so filled with useless gadgetry it irks me. I appreciate that The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter doesn't use steampunk apparatuses to excess.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…'

In some ways, this reads like a spy novel. Elizabeth is excellent with her disguise, and a lot of effort goes into keeping the illusion of her brother and herself alive without the anyone noticing. In the private detective brother persona, she also has to keep on her toes and be largely unremarkable, as well as quick on her feet if anyone suspects anything.

This is set in an alternate history type of world, where some countries are very sexist (there is a weight limit for the appropriate amount of undergarments and women can't own businesses), while others almost look like late 1800s England (and one of them kind of is- the Kingdom of England and Southern Wales). Because of the circumstances where she lives, Elizabeth risks much for the income of her double life.

Elizabeth reminded me a lot of Kate Daniels (of Magic Bites) because she is alone in the world and relies heavily on her instincts. The situations she gets herself into can be comical, especially when dealing with a certain man (her kind-of-sort-of love interest).

I think what kept this from being a five-star read was, despite my love of the heroine, I didn't connect with her emotionally- the best books for me make me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. Although The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter was positively delightful, there was a certain depth of the characters that was missing. If you like alternate history and espionage-themed books, I recommend this one to you.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for my favorite steampunk book I've read so far!

Content: Ages 16+ for violence... but I noted no other vices. This is book is halfway between YA and NA in terms of age group interest.

Page Count: 384 pages

Kindle Ebook Format Errors: There are several instances of run on words with no spaces between them, but as far as I noticed, no spelling/grammar issues.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

NQAC: Biweekly Update #5 A Kindle Fire HDX... Possessed?

You may have heard me brag about a refurbished Kindle Fire HDX during last time's Not Quite a Confession. Shortly after I posted about it, the HDX went 'down the rabbit hole' crazy. Areas of the touchscreen were completely dead, the screen would zoom in and out while my fingers weren't even touching it (as if possessed by a... hacker), and if I got it to work properly for two minutes, I was lucky. So I eventually chatted with an Amazon associate who convinced me to restore the factory settings (for the third time), and I couldn't even get through the initial setup. Long story short, I sent it back for another refurbished Kindle Fire HDX, which is performing perfectly... but I've only had it for a week.

I also chose to name this new/old HDX, in hopes it will live longer than the possessed one. I'm still holding onto my original 2013 Fire HD which may be slower (and have half the storage), but hey- it still works, thirteen months after I first bought it.

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

The Martian by Andy Weir
Everyone is blogging about this book, therefore, I want to blog about it too. Plus, the blurb is pretty enticing, and a tad name-droppish:
'Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.'
I hope it is brilliantly ingenious. Or just plain ingenious. Way to raise my expectations, blurb-writer!

This cover looks better than the ebook edition cover.
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
I actually bought another book by this author a while back, but had forgotten to add it to my invisible pile shelf. This is apparently about Nefertari, Nefertiti's niece, who later weds Ramses the Great- you know, that guy from Exodus (who is being played by a white actor in the upcoming film? Ugh). Anyways, it sounds like something I'd like to read for my Travel the World in Books Challenge, and hopefully learn a little more about Ancient Egypt (in the interest of full disclosure, I had a teacher who made us mummify an orange to learn about Egypt- because mummification is everything you need to know).

The Girl Who Came Home (A Novel of the Titanic) by Hazel Gaynor
I may not be as obsessed with the Titanic as everyone else in the world, but early 1900s history is fascinating to me and this was a very affordable ebook ($0.99 + tax). It is one of those past/present books which aren't always winners with me, but again- affordable = I must snag it for my hoard pile.

Cyber Monday Deals:

The Phoenix Guards (The Khaavren Romances #1) by Steven Brust
A fantasy version of the Three Musketeers, that I've heard good things about but have never found in my thrifty book searches. And the man on the cover in front of the phoenix is all 'en garde!' which kind of displays the book's title perfectly without having to read it.

Lilith's Brood (Xenogenesis #1-3) by Octavia E. Butler
Synopsis from Goodreads:
'Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected -- by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story...'
I had to buy one of Octavia E. Butler's trilogies because I haven't read anything of hers and she sounds like an interesting author. Lilith's Brood beat out the other set in ratings, and the summary was more intriguing to me.

The Sun Wolf and Starhawk Series: The Ladies of Mandrigyn, The Witches of Wenshar, and The Dark Hand of Magic (Sun Wolf and Starhawk #1-3) by Barbara Hambly
Synopsis for the first book, The Ladies of Mandrigyn, from Goodreads:
'When the women of the City of Mandrigyn, led by Sheera Galernas, hired the mercenary army of Captain Sun Wolf, to help them rescue their men from the mines of evil, he refused. Little did he realize how insistent the ladies could be, and how far they would go to persuade him to train them against the evil of Altiokis....'
I'm always looking for more fantasy books by female authors, as female authors are generally the ones I like more. And also, there is less chance of sexism and female characters being extant or simply in the background. Seriously- in some fantasy books they are relegated to the broodmare/happy homemaker category and rarely seen beyond the kitchen, healing chamber, or harem. That's not what I want to read about, so female authors in fantasy are a must.

Currently Reading:
A Passage of Stars (Highroad Trilogy #1) by Kate Elliot
Kind of a quirky sci-fi: a robot named Bach and a tattooed street urchin named Paisley are both sidekick-type characters.

The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber
I actually am not currently reading this, but will be in January. I want the book fresh in my mind for when I write the review

And I'm considering reading another of my TBR Lottery Picks, but I'm trying to squeeze in as many books as I can before 2014 ends. I really liked the second book of the Kate Daniels series, so I may pick up the next in the series Magic... Something. I'm sorry, but the titles for the series may be hard to remember in order- at least I know it starts with Magic.

*Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3) by Ilona Andrews
So far I love it. I'm highlighting every other quip for posterity. I started it last night after I finished this post, and I'm already 40% through.

Finished These Books:
Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) by Ilona Andrews
This was better than the first book- Kate makes me laugh with her observations, and even though it starts slow, it builds. This is probably my favorite new urban fantasy series this year... sorry Dresden.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1) by Rod Duncan
This is steampunk that treads the line between YA and Adult- people have shelved it as both on Goodreads. I really liked this one- to the point I almost gave it five stars. An unexpected gem that's easily devourable (I almost read it in one sitting) and has a plausible crossdressing scenario.

Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles #1) by Anne Rice
The vampire doth wax poetic eternally. It took me a long time to read this, and although the characters were awesome, they were also a bit... moody. You wouldn't think vampires as being too emotional, but Louis kind of was. Still a solid four star read, but... I may have liked The Wolf Gift (another four star read) better. And everyone hates on that book.

In the Blogosphere:

Haley of My Addiction: Books writes a scathing DNF review of Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck, something I never plan on reading, despite one of my favorite animals gracing the cover.

Kristen of BookNAround guest posts on I'm Lost in Books's Holiday Extravaganza about the stressors of the season quite snarkily. It made me grin.

Karina of I, fat robot reviews The Queen of the Tearling, which I'm hoping to read in January, and her take on it gives me hope that I'll like it too.

La La of (Fa La La) La La in the Library posts her Tell Me Tuesday about a rather disheartening author encounter on Twitter. I guess I don't believe in writing just for the money, maybe because I've been writing books ten years simply for my own entertainment.

In My Life:

Nothing much has happened with me, other than my dogs getting a photo op for the holiday card I made, in addition to my guest post on I'm Lost in Books about crafting bookish ornaments, both of which can be found here.

I did manage to put a few ornaments on my tree, which sort of reflects my color scheme for this blog:

That's actually a nice size tree, but with the ceilings being so tall downstairs it looks sort of small. I couldn't find blue tinsel to match the color of the ornaments within my budget, so last year I picked up some cheap purple/silver tinsel. With our living room being profusely yellow (not the best color for me), the purple probably works better than blue anyhow.

Also, I may be headed back to Montana for Christmas, which is a feat with two dogs and no one to stay with. Hopefully I will be able to stop by my favorite thrift shops there for books, as where I'm at in Idaho doesn't have much selection. I'm not sure I'll be around much on the blog during Christmas/New Year's weeks, but it depends on how exhausted I get during my travels.

Did anyone else get good deals on books during Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales? What are your plans for the holidays?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Ugly (Dog) Sweater Holiday Card, and Where to Find My Guest Post

As you may be able to see, I finished both of my dogs' ugly sweaters in time for a Holiday Card, in addition to finding them some glorious headpieces (Torrie has the giant bow, as she was an early Christmas present, and Keisha has the forward-facing antlers with a glare in her eyes). I think other than the main (bigger) pic, my favorite is this one:

Keisha is clearly planning my imminent demise, while trying to hide her pink sweater. And people think cats are evil masterminds? If Ernst Stavro Blofeld were alive today, he would be stroking Keisha's fur as he clicked the trapdoor button with his foot.

In Other, Semi-Related Holiday News:

I did a guest post on Becca's blog (I'm Lost in Books) for her Holiday Extravaganza where I show how to make some bookish ornaments with your favorite book quotes or your yearly Goodreads reading stats, There are also TONS of giveaways for her Holiday Extravaganza, so even if you aren't interested in my crafty ways, you should stop by. Because my giveaways are nonexistent, as of the present.

                      Until Sunday,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Legacy" by Susan Kay

If you're looking for a cursory glance into Elizabeth Tudor's life, this isn't it. This book has astonishing depth, to the point the characters are almost real people. It also is dense, with lots of peripheral characters' point-of-views dispersed throughout.

Although this is historical fiction, it's clear that Susan Kay took great pains for this to be accurate. For example, during the first part of the book, there was a mention of a relative of Elizabeth's getting handsy when she was fourteen. I thought that was maybe just a rumor, but apparently it's widely accepted as fact- the author even used the exact wording you can find online (and the internet wasn't publicly available when she wrote this).

The Plot:
A fictionalized account of Elizabeth Tudor's life, from her experiences as a daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to how she became the queen we all know, Elizabeth I of England.

You definitely get a feel for period clothing while reading this book- I even had to Google what a snood was (essentially it's a hood that covers the hair). Additionally, there were codpieces, ruffs, and multiple descriptions of Queen Elizabeth all blinged out. Because diamonds were a girl's best friend, even in the Elizabethan era.

This book has aged well for something written in the eighties, but there were some elements that turned me off. For a mildly spoilerish example (Highlight to view), the character of Robin (Robert Dudley, as he's more commonly known) Duke of Leicester has a scene with Elizabeth where he thinks "...for years he'd dreamed of raping her." That's so romantic (NOT). That is also why I refuse to label this a romance even though the 'love' story features strongly, because clearly there is nothing remotely romantic about the way he views his Queen. If I were Elizabeth, I'd have him hanged.

Speaking of Elizabeth, this book may be about her, but the sheer amount of side characters (and sections told from their point of view) give you a better feel for what she was like. Feared, revered, and sometimes mocked, she remains strong throughout the book despite her circumstances. I think the best part of the book is the descriptions of her early life, and how, in a way, she was essentially an orphan, almost always a ward to someone other than her parents.

Legacy may be one of the better portrayals of Elizabeth Tudor the human being. Although some of the characters irked me to no end, none of them were one-dimensional. If you want to be immersed into the life of royalty during the Elizabethan Era, this is your book.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a story of a Queen who was just as fallible as the rest of us.

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

Page Count: 570 pages in my hardcover edition.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"The Inheritance" by Louisa May Alcott

First off, this book was never intended to be published. It was Louisa May Alcott's first novel she wrote when she was seventeen, but in 1997, publishers discovered and published it (I'm assuming one of her family members had it). I kept that in mind when I read it, because there are some unusual themes and rigidly moral plot choices. It is a good book, but I see why she chose not to publish it. I haven't read her other works, but this book lacks some polish.

The Plot:
The story follows Edith Adelon, orphaned governess to the highborn Amy Hamilton. Edith was taken in by Lord Hamilton after her mother passed away in Italy, but is mindful of her place in society and acts accordingly. But when it becomes clear that highborn men are interested in her rather than her benefactor's niece, how will she deal with the undue attention?

One of the things I was bothered most by in this book was the character of Edith herself. She was chronically described as teary-eyed, and whenever there was a break in the teary-eyed fest, it was mentioned. I realize her place in the book is semi-martyr-esque, but come on... she had tears in her eyes for 80% of the book. That's overkill on the gothic melodrama.

Morality-wise, this book has clear-cut heroes and an equally clear villain. My nine-year-old self might have loved that, but in real life, heroes and villains aren't entirely evil or good. My favorite characters have usually been painted in shades of gray, and so I admit that I'm not too fond of the characters being so uptight upright.

Nevertheless, I did like the basic storyline and read this book in one night, even while marking every mention of tearful past the first ten pages (which I was unwilling to count for this review). Louisa may have been only seventeen, but she had a flair for storytelling, even if this story truly needed some edits in content.

The Inheritance is a good story- but perhaps it's just a tad too good. In a way, Edith's piety came off as pride- almost as if she were too good to associate amongst the rest of humanity. In short, I recommend this to fans of Louisa May Alcott and gothic melodrama, but assume the author's other books would be a better choice for modern readers.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a story with morally upright characters.

Content: Ages 12+ for tame action scenes and mean spirited people.

Page Count: 147 pages in my thin paperback edition.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SFF: The 5 Best Gifts for Book Lovers

The Sunday Fun Five #16

Sunday Fun 5:
For the 21st of December: #17: The 5 Books You Hope to Read in 2015

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 Best Gifts For Book Lovers

(This list includes a few no-brainers, in addition to specialty items.)

Even as a frequent Kindle-book reader, I never seem to have enough bookmarks for my physical book collection. Maybe it is because I read many books at the same time, or maybe it's because there is a magical bookmark thief who steals them while I sleep. We'll never know, but if you know a book lover, chances are they could use a few pretty bookmarks for their collection.
Craft Ideas for Making Bookmarks - Pinterest
Guiltless Reader's Bookmark Monday Lots of cool bookmarks to suit any personality.
Or my favorite: Lord of the Rings Bookmarks with rings of power.

From Spoonflower
4. Bookish Series Collectables
I've already professed my love of the LotR series, but I also love A Song of Ice and Fire, Kingkiller Chronicle, the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series), and the Harry Potter Series. But I have very little in the way of bookish accessories to display my love of them (besides LotR, of course). Naturally some accessorizing is in order.
A trunk to put your Harry Potter books in: Hogwarts Wooden Steamer Trunk - Patronus Edition (Amazon)
To replace my icky paperback Millennium Trilogy: Deluxe Boxed Set Millennium Trilogy (Amazon)
A map of Westeros bag you can sew yourself: Map of Westeros Bag (Spoonflower)
Denna's Ring from the Kingkiller Chronicle: (Medieval Collectibles)

3. Book Ends
This really depends on the person, but I happen to like bookends (specifically anything dragon-themed) even if I often cram my books together on my bookshelves with no breathing room. My mother is excellent about finding interesting ones (as shown above), but I also like a few of these:
Gothic Castle Dragons Sculptural Bookends (Amazon)
Kikkerland Leaning Men Bookends, Set of 2 (Amazon)
Invisible Bookends (Paul Cocksedge Shop)

2. Bookish Board Games
Other than Scrabble, I've never played any literary board games. This needs to change, and so I've found some bookish board games you can play by yourself or with others.
Bookopoly Board Game (Multiplayer Only - Amazon)
Haikubes (Individual or With Others - Amazon)
The Storymatic Classic Tell Stories, Play Games, Make Art, and More (Single or Multiplayer - Amazon)

1. More Bookshelves, Please!
I always seem to be running out of space on my bookshelves regardless of the amount of books I buy, due in part to my constant reorganization. Series books are stacked lying on their sides to save room, and some books live a perilous existence on 'the edge'. Here are some neat bookshelves that I admire:
SEI Metal Spine-Style Book Tower (Amazon)
Nightstand in Oak. Floating bedside table. Hanging bedside rack (Etsy)
Southern Enterprise Black X Etagere (Hayneedle)

Notable Exclusions: I chose to omit any ereading devices (Kindle, Nook, etc.) due to the personal nature of buying things like that. My mom almost bought me an ereader despite my insistence I did not want one (for reasons), and I'm glad I was able to later buy a tablet/ereader myself instead.

The links I provided in this post aren't sponsored/affiliate links, they're just gift ideas I'm drooling over.

Do you have your eyes on any bookish gifts for the holidays? What's on your holiday wishlist?

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