Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Glorious Return of Mini Macabre Review Monday and Its Wonky Scheduling

Many of you may have never heard of Mini Macabre Review Monday, a spooky short story review October-only feature I had on my blog last year, but despite an initial lack of enthusiasm about it last year, I'm reviving it this year because it ended up being one of my most read posts. Also, I liked it.

Although my schedule for this blog occasionally runs errant, this feature means (most likely) I will post in October on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday. I'm also planning to make a spooky header for the blog, but I may have slightly overestimated the time I have to do that.

For those of you who are curious about Mini Macabre Review Monday, here are last year's posts:

#1: Mini Macabre Review Monday: "The Lottery" and "The Most Dangerous Game" (my favorite Mini Macabre Review Monday)
#2: MMRM: "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe (one of the most popular posts of 2014)
#3: MMRM: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Fall of the House of Usher
#4: MMRM: "The Birds" and "The Oval Portrait"

If there is anyone interested in participating on their own blogs, I may start a link-up at the end of the Mini Macabre Review Monday posts. For now, if you'd like to join in, just mention my blog somewhere in your Mini Macabre Review Monday post. You can also steal the header image (as seen on my old posts), or make your own with PicMonkey's Halloween-ish Themes (Witches, Trick or Treat, Demons, Zombies, Vampires, oh my!). I personally love this feature, as it gets me in the mood for Halloween (and also, I love scary/macabre short stories. Edgar Allan Poe is my homeboy.).

                       Until next time,

Sunday, September 27, 2015

SFF: The 5 Foods You've Read About in Books, But Want to Try In Real Life

The Sunday Fun Five #37

Sunday Fun 5:
For the 11th of October #38: The 5 Scary-Sounding Books You Want to Read

A Countdown of

The 5 Foods You've Read About in Books, But Want to Try in Real Life

5. Kimchi (Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick)
I've never had fermented cabbage, but when you read about people starving to death it starts to sound good. Definitely not my usual choice, but I think it would nicely round out my experience of the book.

4. Chocolate Frogs (Harry Potter)
Harry Potter will feature strongly in this list because of the close association with my fonder childhood memories. Chocolate Frogs happen to be one of my fascinations growing up- food that could be an animal and then chocolate? I'm not sure if it's vegetarian-friendly in the Wizarding World, but I wouldn't mind trying one.

3. Butterbeer (Harry Potter)
I think it would be hard to read the Harry Potter series without recalling the drink of champions wizards, butterbeer. Because of this, it is on my list of recipes to make, even though it might not be my thing. I'm not one for rich-tasting beverages.

My basket of thai basil (Siam Queen variety, I believe)

2. Thai Rice (Heart Like Mine)
^I call it Thai Rice because it didn't have a definitive name to it. The recipe calls for a chunk of ginger, coconut milk, Thai Basil (which I happen to be growing because it's pretty), and basmati rice (1 cup). It made my mouth water a little while reading.

1. Treacle Tart (Harry PotterSoulless,  Among Others)
I've been trying to find 'golden syrup' to make a treacle tart for the longest time- I may end up ordering it online at this point, but because it features strongly in several books I've read, I've wanted to try it. The recipe vaguely reminds me of my grandma's pecan pie.

Notable Exclusions:
I definitely DON'T want to eat the raw potatoes featured in The Martian by Andy Weir, nor do I want Puking Pastilles (again from Harry Potter- because J.K. Rowling is a boss at food-building worldbuilding).

Have you read about any food in books that you'd like to try?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

O.o.O.C.: "Heart Like Mine" by Amy Hatvany

Out of Orbit Critiques are the reviews on books that stray outside my usual genres. In Heart Like Mine's case, this book is a work of contemporary fiction.

I was feeling like reading something completely different when I picked this up, as evidenced by the genre. Generally I stay far away from contemporary books, as they usually don't offer much for me other than entertainment value and an interesting story. That was very much the case with this book, which I picked up on a whim when it was a daily deal.

One thing I did appreciate in this book was Grace's job as the boss of an organization dedicated to helping survivors of domestic abuse. I found it kind of unrealistic that she got paid much (those sort of jobs generally aren't meant to pay well), but as it wasn't the main storyline of the book I didn't mind as much. I think fiction can be as much of a powerful and persuasive tool for change as any other medium, especially due to it being more subtle about things than nonfiction, so I thought the little detail of her work was a good add-in for this book.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'When a young mother dies under mysterious circumstances, those she leaves behind begin looking for answers in the past—and find a long-buried secret they could have never imagined.
Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?
'At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.
'But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.
'Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant and hopeful portrait about womanhood, love, and the challenges of family life.'

Another aspect I liked was that Grace really didn't want to be a mother, but she still steps up to the plate despite her fears when Kelli dies. I couldn't stand Ava, despite briefly empathizing with her- she just acts like a three year old, despite having been her mom's sort of caretaker. Grief does strange things to everyone, but it doesn't completely reset all of our personality traits. Victor was probably the most frustrating- he's an adult, but he acts like he's mute with no source of communication. Even as someone who often struggles to say what I mean (in a semi-tactful manner) I'm not as silent as the grave when things need to be said.

The main story and the secrets that Kelli kept frustrated me as someone who knows a lot more on the subject than most. I'm not sure the plot was realistic, despite its obvious entertainment value, as many of the things mentioned would be outrageously illegal in the time that this book was set in. However, I may have also been irked that some of the characters would make the same mistake over and over again, with quite obvious intent to advance the plot. I think I may give historical fiction a lot more leeway in creative license because I wasn't around during the time it was set (and the legal system was shadier in past times) but to me some of the drama in this book was just over the top and not realistic to the time it was set in.

Heart Like Mine proved to be an interesting story, but didn't make me want to go on a contemporary fiction binge. It may be frustrating to read for those of you who abhor secrets as much as I do- it's one thing to keep a couple of details of your life private from your family, but your entire past? It may have been a little too dramatic for my taste, especially considering I have a family member with a similar past as Kelli who is completely transparent about it. If you love contemporary fiction with a focus on familial issues, you'll likely enjoy this book more than I did, due to my genre proclivities.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good story that wasn't my gateway drug for contemporary fiction.

Content: Ages 16+ for brief sexual tidbits, too much tweenage angst, and too many secrets.

Page Count: 370 pages

Friday, September 25, 2015

"The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker

This book had me hooked from the beginning. Not only is it a historical, its main characters happen to be quite unusual in that they don't often grace the pages of historical fiction. Chava, a golem, was not made for the usual golem purposes of protection, but rather as a wife for a young man going abroad to seek his fortune. Ahmad, the jinni, arrives via an antique vase that someone asked to buff. Both end up in the city that never sleeps at the turn of the century, and eventually meet through happenstance.

My favorite aspect of this story is the atmospheric writing. It isn't often I sit down and read a book halfway through, especially when the book is roughly 500 pages, but with this one it was easy for me to sit back and forget I had been reading for a few hours straight. The day prior to me starting this, I feared I was in a reading slump, but as it turns out, I was simply trying to read the wrong books.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
'Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
'The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.'

I've never really aspired to see New York City, but I must say, after reading this book, I'm tempted to. Despite it being set in 1899, many of the landmarks mentioned in the book are still around today, and I couldn't help but feel transported, which many books fail to truly accomplish with me. In other words, the atmosphere in this book is spot on, and I loved that about it.

Although I was emotionally moved by the characters, you feel a bit cheated by the end of the book. It seems like you only truly know them by the end, and then it ends, despite this connection leaving you in want of more story. This phenomena happens a lot in books I rate Exceptional (4.5 Stars), and I think it's often what keeps me from giving the elusive 5 Star rating. I want a story where I get to know the characters, am enthralled with them, and can stand up and cheer when I read the final page of their story, knowing that I've had enough, or even more than enough. It's a lot to ask for and a high standard, but I'm not known to lower my own as a perfectionist, so why start now?

A favorite quote (that is slightly mocking of my above pontification):

She was coming to realize that some people, for whatever reason, would never be satisfied.

       ~The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, 30% Kindle version

The Golem and the Jinni is an exceptionally magical read that brought an end to my much-bemoaned-about reading drought. While reading this I completely ignored my usually unignorable dogs and cat, making them want to band together and destroy my Kindle. Luckily their plot never came to fruition. I recommend this to those who live for atmospheric reads, if you don't have attention-mongering companions who will plot to destroy this book due to its excellence.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for an exceptional story that transports you to another time and place!

Content: Ages 16+ for brief sexual material, violence, and magic.

Page Count: 486 pages

Sunday, September 20, 2015

NQAC: Biweekly Update #18: The Post That Got Away and a Virtual Reality Dream Library

Although I haven't truly confessed (as in, Confessions of an Insomniac Book Devourer) in a while, I frequently get post ideas that become fully-fleshed-out in my head. Then I sit down at my office chair to write them down and BAM! I remember the title I was planning to use, as well as the topic, but all those fully fleshed out paragraphs? Gone without a trace. I've tried staring fruitlessly at a rather blank Blogger post page, trying to recall what I had to say previously, but it's as though inspiration has fled me completely. I've tried notes to recall paragraph points, but when I look at them later I'm very confused (and sometimes frightened) by them. Someday soon I'll knock out another Confession, but until my notes/ideas start making any sense, I'll just have to keep Biweekly Updating.

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

the-pile Additions:

The Glimmer Palace by Beatrice Colin
I visited Montana awhile back, and picked this up, along with another copy of The Samurai's Garden, since I love that book and I gifted my original copy to my brother for his birthday. I had seen this at the thrift shop previously, but decided to pick it up this time because I'm looking to Travel the World in Books a bit more often before the end of the year. This is set pre-WWII in Berlin, Germany.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin
The other day when I was bemoaning my reading slump (which was rather short-lived), I thought to myself, "If only George R.R. Martin had a book out, for cheap, that I could devour." A few days later, this was available as an ebook for $2.99. Although not a true novel, it is a collection of short stories about the same character (Haviland Tuf), so I'm excited to read it. I've never read any of Martin's science fiction before.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years #1) by Gregory Maguire
This was available for a very limited time for free as an ebook, so I snagged it. I used to have the paper version of it, but after reading so many disparaging reviews, I purged it from my TBR. I love that ebooks take up no physical room.

Currently Reading:

The Third Son by Julie Wu
I know absolutely nothing about Taiwan (other than its geographical location), so I'm hoping to learn more by reading this historical fiction. Not a spoiler, but it begins with a bang.

Kutath (The Faded Sun #3) by C.J. Cherryh
I haven't gotten very far yet, but it's interesting to see other humans' impressions/perspectives on Sten Duncan, who was pretty much the main character in the second book in this series.

Finished These Books:

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
This was the beast that shook me out of my reading torpor. I read half of it in a day, after being rather miserable with my reading issues during the previous day. After reading this, I must say there is a book for every mood, and sometimes it can just be overwhelming to try and pick one, especially when you have piles of books to read like I do.

In the Blogosphere:

Becca @ I'm Lost in Books reviews The History of Glitter and Blood. I just love fairy books and weird fiction, so I think this one might be my cup of coffee.

If you've ever wondered why I'm tweeting back to you hours after you tweeted something, check out Shannon's post at River City Reading on How to Streamline Twitter with Tweetdeck. I use it to keep track of people, even if they're offline when I tweet back. Insomnia and odd hours are kinda my thing.

Jamie @ Mayhem Books reviews Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a book in my invisible-pile that I've been wanting to get to soon.

I haven't fully made the rounds this week, so I may have more posts than usual to share next time.

In My Life:

I may have mentioned I bought Skyrim: Legendary Edition in my last update, which I actually didn't think would add much to the experience of the game, since I've already played the base game many (many) times. I quickly reformed my opinion when I realized with the Hearthfire expansion, you can build the library tower of your virtual dreams.

Here's a look at the bottom floor, from Wikia:

And the top, via Chorrol:

My virtual library shelves are currently bare, but I plan on collecting as many virtual books as I can to fill it.

And also, in my 'real' life, I washed the exterior side of our windows with vinegar, because have hard water hitting them from our sprinklers, leaving an ugly ghost of mineral residue. George decided he wants to be a window washing assistant/supervisor whenever he grows up:

Do you suffer from Blog Post Disapparating Disorder? What helps you remember blog post ideas?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"The Martian" by Andy Weir

I was, perhaps, a little too excited for this one. I admit, reading all those positive reviews floating about the blogosphere, as a book blogger, you can't help but get more than a bit amped up to read something just about everyone is buzzing about. Because of the Snowflake and Spidersilk Bingo Card, I decided to add this as an audiobook as well, despite having the ebook version handy already.

The beginning was probably the most impressive (and immersive) part of the book for me. You get to know Mark, his situation (which doesn't look very hopeful), but you also realize how resilient he is, despite being pretty much doomed. My favorite parts to listen to were the 'meanwhile, back on Earth' bits, as the narrator did a splendid job with the voices/inflections.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?'

The parts I enjoyed most were Mark's attitude and snark, which kept me reading, even if I found him a bit too sunny for a man about to starve to death. The plot, while enthralling at points, often lost me when Mark went off the wayside with his engineering ingenuity, something I'll expound upon below. The 'back on Earth' chapters became my favorite as the book drew on, mostly because as much as Mark was an awesome protagonist, without interaction between characters, I find myself a bit bored with things.

The big issue with me is that I grew up with a father who was just about as zany as Mark when it came to everyday solutions. If something was wrong with one of our cars, he'd rather jury-rig it than go and buy a part, leading to my mom having to hotwire our van for the past several years we lived with him. So when Mark went all MacGyver, I knew what would happen, even though I couldn't grasp the science behind it. And when the cycle he got into repeated itself, all I wanted to do was this:

I did find some issues with some of the plot points/food (since I'm rather OCD about food), especially with some spoilers, which I will hide for those of you who haven't read this yet (Highlight to view): the youngest astronaut, Johanssen, is supposed to eat her crewmates if their plan to rescue Mark goes awry. The problem? They would commit suicide using pills. I'm not sure which pills they were planning to take, but even on the off chance the pills won't spoil Johanssen's meals (eww), plain old strangulation would be a better bet. Sure, that's macabre of me to even think about, but I just found it odd that detail wasn't more ironed out, since this has since been 'traditionally' published. Also, Mark eventually mentions eating 'raw potatoes'. Unless you want to be ill- NEVER eat raw potatoes. It was never mentioned that he got ill from eating them, which I find a little difficult to believe, given a little Googling leads me to suspect raw potatoes are a serious no-go.

The Martian is a fun book to read, but needed some extra polish when it comes to my other obsession, food. I loved the concept, but part of me grew tired with the incessant- "well this happened, here's this semi-probable solution I'll complete to fix it", due in part to my patriarch driving me up a wall with his own jury-rig-itis. I recommend it to those interested in space, but I'll remind you to do yourself a favor and don't jury-rig. It just ain't worth it.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great space odyssey with a little too much ingenuity.

Content: Ages 16+ for swearing (including f-bombs) and the occasional sexual reference.

Page Count: 369 pages

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Early Critique: "The Heart Goes Last (Positron #0)" by Margaret Atwood

I was given a free advance e-copy of this book from Doubleday Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

I believe this is a pre-publication review for the US version (which is expected to be released September 29th), but other countries may have it already available.

One thing Margaret Atwood consistently does to the best of her abilities is give the reader the experience of being a voyeur, even if they don't want to see it all. In The Heart Goes Last's case, there are certainly many of those latter mentioned moments to be had- as the book is a dystopian exploring themes of desperation and desire. I wouldn't recommend reading this unless you are comfortable with sexual themes, because although the book isn't raunchy in my view, some other reviewers were put far from their comfort zones.

As much as I was led to believe this would be some sort of odd sex-fest of a book from other reviews, it really wasn't. Sure, you have characters with exploratory sex lives, but it's set in a dystopian compound where there is a 1950's era revival going on. It's almost a satire, but also an examination of the American obsession with sex- or at least that was my take on it. To live in a world as manicured and merciless as the Positron Project, you have to have guts.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.'

I still feel bad for Charmaine. Some characters are so misguided, you can't help but pity them, and in her case, that's a very apt description. When something sounds too good to be true, it often is, but if you happen to be desperate enough and in dire enough straits, you buy in, regardless of the eventual cost. Her husband Stan is another story- he was very hard to relate to for me.

Some parts of the story are a little too shocking for my taste, but Margaret Atwood always seems to push my buttons. I obviously won't be disclosing those shockers, because they would ruin the book, but it's safe to say if I'm surprised about something, I won't be the only one.

The Heart Goes Last is a dystopian of a kind I haven't seen before. Depending on the person, it can be a fearless narrative or just plain exacerbating to read, and I found myself leaning more toward the fearless narrative camp. I don't kid when I say this book won't be for everyone, so I only recommend it to those who love Margaret Atwood, or aren't afraid to read books that push the limits.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great fearless narrative that kept me on the edge.

Content: Ages 18+ the obvious sexual themes and the odd f-bomb, along with some more disturbing moments.

Page Count: 320 pages

Sunday, September 13, 2015

SFF: The 5 Types of Reading Slumps Every Reader Suffers From

The Sunday Fun Five #36

Sunday Fun 5:

A Countdown of

The 5 Types of Reading Slumps Every Reader Suffers From

5. The "Busy Bee" Slump
Sometimes, life gets in the way of your reading life (in other words, your actual life). You know that you have a few moments to spare to read, but those are often filled with things like feeding yourself, or, in my case, my insatiable cat who gets into mischief if I don't feed him on time. Once things in your life have calmed down, you know you'll be back to reading, but during this type of slump, you're simply swamped.

Grumpy Cat Accepts No Substitutions
4. The "That Book Was Awesome- Nothing Can Compare!" Slump
I remember having this slump after I finished the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In my case, rereading it and carrying it around the schoolyard eventually cured my slump, since I moved on to other books, but sometimes this type of slump takes time to get over.

3. The "I've Read This Book Before" Slump
Okay, so you haven't read this book before, but everything you pick up feels like a knockoff of some other book you've read. The solution I've found with this one is to change genres completely- read a genre you normally wouldn't. But don't just read any book of that genre- read the one people like... a lot. Look on the "Best of" lists on Goodreads, and you should be able to scrounge up a whole list-full of possibilities.

2. The "Feel Too Terrible to Read" Slump
There are times in my life I've been much too sick to read. Mostly I've found I get into this type of slump when I'm recovering from a surgery where they've given me painkillers to 'help' me afterwards, and I'm completely incapable of any type of concentration. This may be because I'm mildly allergic to most painkillers, and have an awful itchiness whenever I take them, but I digress. Sometimes, you're just to sick to read- and the only cure is time.

Steven Colbert- Master of Meh.
1. The "Meh" Slump
I'm in this kind of slump pattern right now- I'll finish a book, look at my full to the bursting TBR shelves, and shrug to myself. I'm actively (albeit slowly) reading things, but not at the breakneck pace I was last year. I think for me the cure might be changing genres, but at this point I'm trying to read along with The Martian audiobook version in hopes it may foster better reading progress than forcing myself to read the same page over and over on other books without obvious enjoyment.

Have you had reading slumps before (Dear Lord- I hope it's not just me!)? What has pulled you out of your reading funks?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Post #300: So I Guess This Blogging Thing is Going Well?

I always planned to do a "100th Post" post, but apparently my procrastination caught up with me and it's now time for my 300th. I also planned to have a more whimsical post, but since yesterday, I haven't been in a very whimsical mood.

Lately, I've been having more than my share of health/exhaustion problems from travelling to and from Montana, since my grandma has been sick. She saw her doctors about the masses in her breasts the other day, and then on September 11th, (which is a crappy day anyway- it should be mandatory to stay inside with the shades down on that day), my mom and I got to hear that those lumps are cancerous. Grandma said the doctor (in those wonderfully abstract medical advice tidbits) expected her not to die from the cancer, but rather with the cancer. He left the timeline open-ended, but I'm guessing based on the pain she's been having and other health issues, I will likely have more than a few more trips to and from Montana in my near future.

That all doesn't have very much to do with this blog, or my 300th post, but it will likely impact the frequency of my posts, along with putting a damper on my (usually) cheerful moods.

Every one of us on this planet is dying (except fictional characters not penned by George R.R. Martin), but some of us take the scenic route. It's hard when one of those people headed to death's door at a more speedy clip happen to be someone you wish would just get bitten by a vampire and live forever.

Now for some random cat gifs:

I wish George were this timid. He's more likely to bat at you for attention, much like this cat:

I never realized how cute a cat butt wiggle prior to pouncing could be, until I got George.

Now for some dogs and cats: Torrie is actually in charge of George's reprimands, not the other way around, like these two, but he has actually learned how to herd her (and keep her in the room with him- because Torrie is his 'best buddy' [and he is her annoying little brother]) by using her as a rubbing post. Ironic, considering Torrie is a herding dog... and George is a Siamese cat.

I've seen the video version of the below gif enough to know if we get a Robo-vacuum, George's full reign of terror will ensue on my poor dogs. He's only brave enough to bat at them when he's on top of, or under, furniture at the present moment.

                            Until tomorrow,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Shon'jir (The Faded Sun #2)" by C.J. Cherryh

This review is of a book that is the second in the Faded Sun Trilogy. There may be *ARE* spoilers for those of you who haven't read Kesrith. My review for the first book in the series, Kesrith, is here.

In the first book, the mri were a dying race. In this book, they're pretty much extinct. Although Niun and Melein are of the opposite sex, they're also related and of the wrong castes. Hope is pretty sparse for their survival, but Sten Duncan, their resident savior, is still fighting the good fight. Even though they're doomed.

Even C-3PO concurs

The Regul didn't win, but it's pretty clear the chances the mri will 'win' now are nonexistent. Between being outnumbered, the human governor's taste for an alliance, and Sten's demotion, not much is in the mri's favor. Even their sacred artifact, the silver egg-looking object, is in the hands of the humans. The dusei, however, continue to roam free, although they're no longer getting free meals at the mri compound.

The Plot:
As the last two mri cling to life in the care of humans, Sten Duncan attempts to save them from a life as test subjects. The Regul continue their machinations against him, as they try to convince the humans to rid the world of mri completely. Will Sten be able to free the mri, or will their problems be solved another way?

It isn't often that I don't empathize with a female character, but in Melein's case... it's obvious I don't care for her. Maybe in time, the reason why she alienates everyone and makes crappy decisions will be revealed, but I refuse to believe it's just because she's the she'pan and is intensely 'mri-stubborn'. I think the fact that we rarely get a look at the world through her perspective is only part of the problem, not all of it, but maybe I'm wrong.

Sten Duncan is pretty much the main character in this book. You might get a glimpse or two through Niun's perspective, as well as through the other political bigwigs (both human and Regul), but Sten is your mainstay for this book. Through the course of the book, Sten's loyalties evolve: he doesn't sit back and watch as the Regul try to reestablish their power- he fights it. And as the Regul believe everyone who happens to be younger are disposable, Sten may have an actual fight coming his way.

Shon'jir is clearly a buildup for a grand finale- and although my review doesn't reveal it, a lot happens in this book. The restive Regul (who, coincidentally, remind me of Jabba the Hutt) may have big brains, but I'm hoping the humans will wise up to what's really happening in this book. If you've read Kesrith, I would highly recommend continuing the journey with Shon'jir, as Kesrith's ending may have left you wanting.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a sci-fi sequel that doesn't disappoint!

Content: Ages 16+ for violence, a fight for species survival, and political un-niceties.

Page Count: 253 pages

Sunday, September 6, 2015

NQAC: Biweekly Update #17: Writing Like the Wind and a Sad Kitty Tale

Although I haven't been reading too much lately, I've noticed an uptick in my output on the other end of the literary spectrum. I've written more pages for my book (which will likely never be published, for reasons). I would guess I've written more this past week than I have in a month, so there is a surprising upside for my reading drought- I can write fictional things with the greatest of ease.

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


A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair #1) by Emma Jane Holloway
Since I've had a lot of luck with reading steampunk this year, I picked this one up. If it fulfills the premise correctly of having the protagonist being Sherlock Holmes's niece, it could get interesting.

I haven't bought many books in two weeks (well, at least not much by my standards)... although I did just buy Skyrim Legendary Edition since I love that game and wish to play the DLC.

Currently Reading:

The Heart Goes Last (Positron #0) by Margaret Atwood
Despite reviews that have been saying this book is all about the sex lives of the characters, to me it centers around themes of desire and desperation. If you want something you can't have (much like I do much of the time in regards to good health) you grow desperate. Actually, I haven't really found it raunchy at all, which is what I was expecting, but I guess I'm pretty open-minded about things, despite being a Victorian soul.

Finished These Books:

Kesrith (Faded Sun #1) by C.J. Cherryh
You can see my full thoughts in my review, but I really enjoyed it, despite there being some pacing issues when the character perspectives shifted.

In the Blogosphere:

This post by The Avid Book Collector shows the premier example of why you only loan out your precious books to people you trust- with your life.

Anne @ Addicted 2 Heroines reviews The Martian by Andy Weir, which I've been diligently procrastinating about reading since I bought it as an ebook.

Nikki @ There were books involved... professes my exact thoughts on excerpts. How do you feel about them?

Soudha @ Of Stacks and Cups shows us one of the beaches in her home country of Mauritius. And here I thought I was content with mountain life...

Guiltless Reader has some free bookmark printables Jane Austen-esque style for her Bookmark Monday post.

Tracy @ Cornerfolds lists the five types of reviews that annoy her greatly. I definitely agree with some of them!

Bonus Post! Not really a blog, but Book Riot has an awesome article on how book maps are made: Making Maps for Books: Two Cartographers Tell Us How It’s Done

In My Life/On Cat Adoption:

This is a bit of sad news, which I've had too much of lately: you may recall me adopting George the cat back in late May. George is perfectly fine, but they recently had to euthanize every cat at the shelter I adopted him from, due to an outbreak of disease. This is why I'm all about adoption from shelters- you are saving a cat's/kitten's life if you adopt it, instead of getting a 'free' kitten from your neighbor who will go on to continue to populate said shelter because they're too cheap/poor/uneducated about animals to spay and neuter their own pet and stem the crisis. If every owned cat were spayed or neutered, we would still have mountains made of kittens, because we have that many feral/stray cats in the world. So if you want a pet, you'd better adopt it. Then, someday, we might not have enough pets to fill a shelter. That would be amazing.

And yes, I'm still very happy with my choice of pesky Siamese cat, who thinks he's king of the house. I can't imagine what might have happened to him had I not adopted him.

George's Cat Castle, or Catstle. The heart window is his fave.

In happier news, here's an amazing commercial on cat adoption from a shelter that REALLY knows how to sell/adopt out a cat:

When I volunteered at a shelter in Montana, I had to show people the kitties. It is incredibly hard to adopt out cats, even when their adoption cost is much less than their vet bill costs the shelter, because people are like, "Oh, I can get a cat/kitten for free in the paper". Well, you can do that, put in the vet costs, and tell me that is still cheaper. And, your adoption fee keeps the shelter open- adopting out pre-owned cats and dogs is never profitable. I would personally use this method of car-salesman-like behavior to adopt out cats if I find a shelter I can volunteer at again.

Do you experience a boost in other hobbies when you have a reading slump? 

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