Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Eulogy

Today I'm ready to bury this year and not recall most of it, though some of the difficulties I've had this year will continue to bleed their way into the fresh field of dandelion fluff that is 2017. Because it's been such a tumultuous year, I feel it's only right to say my peace about it before letting it fade into memory.

2016 was an okay year for me until about midway through. In July, I was having such difficulties with my arm being a "zombie"- having intense pins and needles sensations constantly while trying to convince doctors that there was actually something wrong with me was a bit stressing. I had no idea that a mere 20 days after my 24th birthday I would be unable to walk without a cane or other aid to assist me. Then it was even more stressful trying to find an answer as to why my walking was so off. Medically speaking, it wasn't a very good year for normal function for me.

Keisha at her cutest and Dorkie-est
I always thought I'd have Keisha, my Dorkie (Dachshund Yorkie mix), until she was 12 or 14 years old, but when her heart began to fail, nothing I or the vet did seemed to help her. I knew her diagnosis of congestive heart failure was serious, but I thought she'd continue to be my couch buddy for at least another few years. Once her breathing deteriorated to the point she was barely scraping by, and she wouldn't move or eat, I knew it was time to let her go.

My grandma has fallen twice this year- fracturing both of her hips and getting 3 screws in one of them. She's 90 years old, but even though I've spent the most time with her of any of my grandmothers, I never want to not be able to go visit her in Montana.

On the positive side of things:

My minion army of plants and flowers spent a ridiculous amount of time alive before being slain by the snow. Because I had such a nice flower screen, I spent a bunch of time outside, with Keisha. I'm so glad her final summer with us was spent in the sunshine.

I read a lot of longer books this year- my page count was 2000 pages more than it was last year, according to Goodreads, even though I read 4 fewer books.

I ordered many (many) books this year from Better World Books, discovering many that I wouldn't have been able to find in my local stores.

Today we went to the shelter and adopted a dog named Princess, who we're rechristening Leia (for obvious reasons). She can't come home with us until the 3rd because she needs spayed (she was used for someone as their breeding dog, and they didn't come for her at the shelter even though they knew she was there), but from what I've seen of her in the shelter, she'll be perfect for us. If all goes well and she gets along with Torrie and George, we will be outnumbered by animals again.

In a month, I will be visiting a diagnostician at the University of Utah Neurology Clinic. Hopefully they'll have some answers and solutions for my walking and other issues.

Is anyone else ready for 2017?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

SFF: The 5 Books You're Excited to Read in 2017

Sunday Fun Five #69:

#66: The 5 Times You Found the Right Book at the Right Time (Or Did It Find You?)
#67: The 5 New-To-You Authors of 2016 You Wish You'd Read Sooner
#68: The 5 Characters You Won't Soon Forget That You Read About in 2016
#69: The 5 Books You're Excited to Read in 2017
For the 1st of January: #70: The 5 Vintage Sci-fi Books You Recommend (For Vintage Sci-fi Month!)

A Countdown of

The 5 Books You're Excited to Read in 2017

5. Age of Swords (The Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan
Expected Publication: June 28th 2017
This book will continue the story that started with Age of Myth, which I found quite excellent this year. Unfortunately I'll have to wait until I can either procure this on NetGalley or find it in stores- but I think it'll be worth the wait.

4. The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan
by Stephanie Thornton
This was a book I ordered with The Blood Mirror to get free shipping- but I bought it also because it's set in Mongolia, a place I don't know much about. It didn't seem like I read much historical fiction in 2016 and I'd like to return to more of it in 2017.

3. Rendezvous with Rama (Rama #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke
I bought this at Better World Books after hearing good things about it. I did read A Fall of Moondust this year and was less than impressed by it, but I'm willing to read more of Clarke's later works.

2. Kindred
by Octavia E. Butler
One of the new-to-me authors I am most impressed by this year is Octavia E. Butler, so I'm excited to read the rest of my stockpile of her works in 2017. She wrote complex sci-fi in a manner that's easy to devour.

1. The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4) by Brent Weeks
This book was just all wrong for me this year- I bought it in hardcover, which means I have to tote it around (it's hard with just one free arm) and also my grip has started to wane a bit, leading to the deaths of multiple ceramics in our kitchen. Then I was having the year end antics of 2016, most of which were negative, so I'm hoping 2017 will be bright enough that I can read this.

Which books are you looking forward to reading in 2017? 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fortnightly Update #25: The Odd Case of the Cat Condo

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

the-pile Additions:

The Time Weaver (Drakon #5) by Shana Abe
This is another of Shana Abe's fantasy romances, which I am slightly addicted to. I like romance books that are have unique worldbuilding.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

The Forever War (The Forever War #1) by Joe Haldeman
This was for sale as a Kindle version for $0.25- and also it qualifies for my Vintage Sci-fi Month challenge in January. I enjoy older sci-fi.

Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith by Gabrielle Douglas with Michelle Burford
Generally, I don't read memoirs, but when it comes to Gabrielle Douglas, I, like many Americans, have become a fan. And fans read memoirs, especially when they are on sale for cheap.

Currently Reading:

Not much at all! I keep jumping from book to book because I'm in a "bah humbug" mood- I keep finding fault/getting sad with the books I read. I need to find a happy book that I don't find absurd/can't find fault with.

Finished These Books:

One thing that stuck out to me about this book is that the hero is definitely not your average regency romance hero. I can't recall what made me downgrade the rating on this one, but I likely found something fishy about the hero's interactions with the heroine- he was a bit on the creepy side.

A Christmas Dance by Alissa Johnson
I think this one was a bit too rushed for me- it was a cute novella, but I wanted a bit more from it.

In My Life (The Odd Case of the Cat Condo):

George in the cheap cat condo
As I mentioned in my month in review, I had to put Keisha down at the end of November. Although I still have one dog (Torrie) and a cat (George), our house seems so quiet without Keisha, who liked to interject her barking commentary in the many mundane events of our household when she was still well. Keisha had a few odd and downright puzzling traits- one of them being her love of crates and den-like areas. When my mom and I adopted George, we got him a little cheap cat condo that he seemed to ignore. Keisha loved his cat condo. When George would chase her, she hid in it (which is not very good logic, but Keisha wasn't the most logical- hiding from a cat in a cat condo). A few days after I put her down, George started using it as his own again- as if he had respected Keisha's wishes and not used it while she was alive because it was "hers". I find this unusual in part because George liked to steal Keisha's place in her pink fluffy bed on my bed, and yet the cat condo, which was originally intended for his own use, was left for Keisha. My misfit animals have always had a strange way of getting along.

What books are you reading this week? Do your pets have an odd hierarchy?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Month in Review for November 2016: Bah Humbug

I didn't have the best November. After Keisha got worse (she refused to eat, even when I tried to feed her people food, and she could barely breathe) I took her to the vet and put her down. While I know it was the right decision, it left me feeling out of sorts and guilty, of what, I'm not sure. In my analysis of her condition, I did everything I could- but when it comes to my pets, I always think I can pull off some sort of magic healing ritual. Anyway, I couldn't, and I've been in a bad mood since then. 2016 has had some nasty surprises for me, and of them, the nastiest was Keisha's illness.

 Total Posts: 6
  Total Critiques: 1
    Out of Orbit: 1

Most Popular Posts of November:
Fortnightly Update #24: Waiting on 2017
SFF: The 5 New-To-You Authors of 2016 You Wish You'd Read Sooner
O.o.O.C.: "Out" by Natsuo Kirino
Fortnightly Update #23: Destination Destressed

Flashback Post (From November of a Previous Year):
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1)" by Douglas Adams

Pageviews for the Month: 871
Comments: 11

Reading Challenges Updates:

Travel the World in Books Challenge

Applicable Books:
Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss #1) by Nalini Singh (Set in New Zealand)

Total for 2016 So Far: 17 of 15 Books, 11 of 5 Countries (Completed/Overachiever Status)

Reading Stats:

Books read this Month: 6

Book Stats:
Has a Diverse Main Character: 3
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 3
Female Main Character: 1
Male Main Character:0
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 5
 Sci-fi: 1
 Historical Romance: 1
 Fantasy Romance: 2
 Mystery (Contemporary-ish): 1
 Contemporary Romance: 1
Published in 2016: 0
Published in 2000-2015: 4
Published in 1990s: 2
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 1
Traditionally Published: 5
Series Books: 4
Standalones: 2
Ebook Version: 5
Paper Version: 1
Favorite of the Month: Bloodchild: And Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler- I was surprised how much I liked these stories- it also includes her take on them, and some essays and articles she had written.
Least Favorite of the Month: Mistletoe Murder (Lucy Stone #1) by Leslie Meier- their family cat dies, and Lucy barely bats an eyelash. O_O
Most Interesting of the Month (or Book I Learned the Most From): Bloodchild: And Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler again- I didn't know much about Miss Butler, but I learned a lot from this book.
From the-pile: 1
From the-invisible-pile: 2
Recently acquired: 3
Added to the-invisible-pile: 1
Books bought: 0
Pages Read in 2016 Thus Far (according to Goodreads): 30,303 pages

5 Stars: 1
4-4.5 Stars: 1
3-3.5 Stars: 2
2-2.5 Stars: 2

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 0
Female: 6
Male/Female Team: 0
Diverse: 3
Not-so-Diverse: 3
Living: 5
Deceased: 1

Planning to Read in December:

Mostly, I'll be reading anything that is on the positive end of the spectrum since I've had such a hard time lately. I also reduced my reading challenge so I can focus more on what I want to do and celebrate this year than be nervous about not meeting that.

Upcoming Posts:

I hope to have some year end lists, but we'll see how it goes. I expect to be more active in the blogosphere next year with many things to look forward to including Vintage Sci-fi Month in January.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

SFF: The 5 Characters You Won't Soon Forget That You Read About in 2016

Sunday Fun Five #68:

#66: The 5 Times You Found the Right Book at the Right Time (Or Did It Find You?)
#67: The 5 New-To-You Authors of 2016 You Wish You'd Read Sooner
#68: The 5 Characters You Won't Soon Forget That You Read About in 2016
For the 22nd of December: #69: The 5 Books You're Excited to Read in 2017

A Countdown of

The 5 Characters You Won't Soon Forget That You Read About in 2016

5. Haviland Tuf of Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin
Haviland Tuf is a logical vegetarian who also loves cats, and though his travels seem a bit moot in the end, if there were more books about him I'd pick them up in a heartbeat.

4. Jodahs of
Imago (Xenogenesis #3) by Octavia E. Butler
Jodahs is the first of their kind- a third sex ooloi with human DNA, and their experiences are riveting. I won't say more for fear of spoiling this book, but definitely consider picking up the Xenogenesis series if you want something different from the usual science fiction offerings.

3. Wang the Taxi Driver of The Incarnations by Susan Barker
Wang has been on my mind a lot this year- something about this story simply sticks with me, but most of all I think of Wang and his experiences in this book.

2. Janie of
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Janie doesn't have an easy journey in Their Eyes Were Watching God, but it becomes more evident as the book progresses that she is a singular personality. There are some things in this book that made my eyebrows raise, but in the end I couldn't think of a thing I'd change about it, or Janie for that matter.

1. FitzChivalry Farseer of Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb
I am so glad I finally gave in and read these books this year. I'd been told Robin Hobb is great by multiple bloggers, but it was only this year I decided to put those claims to the test. Fitz wasn't originally one of my favorites of the series, but after reading the first trilogy featuring him as a main character, he has become one of my favorites, along with the Fool, Nighteyes, and the many other characters of this series.

Which characters made an impression on you this year?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fortnightly Update #24: Waiting on 2017

I spent last week with family in Montana, and though I do have a lot to be thankful for this year, I'm not loving 2016. Keisha, my Dorkie, hasn't felt like herself since she began coughing in early November. We took her to the vet thinking it was kennel cough, when actually she has congestive heart failure. In addition to that, she doesn't like to eat much (or even at all) sometimes, which makes me eager to take her back to the veterinarian in hopes of a miracle pill. I'm not that hopeful, given the fact that she doesn't eat, and my last dog who suffered that way (Tsuki) had to be euthanized, despite our attempts at stirring his appetite with steroids. I'm firmly in the camp of euthanasia for severely suffering animals, given my aunt who died of colon cancer told me the next time one of her dogs suffered the way she was (not being able to eat or participate in life) she would put them to sleep without hesitation.

I hate to open my post with such a downer, but that's my state of mind at the moment. I love Keisha- she's the happiest dog I've ever met, but lately she can barely muster a tail wag. One thing I hate about adopting older dogs is you never have enough time with them- but I felt exactly the same way with Jewels, a dog I raised from puppyhood. The most important scientific advance we need for pets is a longevity potion.

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

the-pile Additions:


the-invisible-pile Additions:

Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2) by Octavia E. Butler
I have the Parable of the Sower, which is the first book in this series, so I picked this one up to complete the series. I'm honestly beginning to feel like there aren't enough Octavia E. Butler books out there for my liking.

Currently Reading:

I'm still working on this one- maybe I'll get it read by the end of the year. I'm just worried because the last book in the series didn't end in the happiest fashion, and an unhappy ending is not what I need right now.

Finished These Books:

Because I enjoyed her writing in Slave to Sensation I picked this one up when it was a freebie, even though I'd promised myself not to read any more contemporary romances because I rarely if ever like them. Long story short, I'm sticking to her paranormal books.

I enjoy Jeannie Lin's Tang Dynasty series, though I've never given them a full review on my blog. Any book in this series should appeal to historical romance addicts, because it isn't a stereotypical English setting, though some of the gender roles and restrictions are similar. This one is different from her other books in that the heroine and the hero wed first and fall in love later.

Bloodchild: And Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
My favorite book from the past two weeks, and probably of this month (or even the past two months)- Bloodchild and Other Stories includes Octavia E. Butler's thoughts behind each of her short stories and what inspired them. It also includes some articles she wrote about being an African American woman writing science fiction. I had looked up her bio, but I learned a lot more about her through reading this collection.

This was a freebie I thought I'd try, despite it not being my usual choice of genre (I think this is a cozy mystery). I may have enjoyed it, but it has a lot of outdated, and even straight up offensive ideas. Beyond that, (slight spoiler) when Lucy's kids' cat dies suddenly, she barely bats an eyelash. Sure, her father died a few months ago, but for her to be so unaffected by it basically means I don't like her at all as a character. This book was published in 1991, and it shows its age.

In My Life:

Other than Keisha not feeling well, I naturally don't feel that up to par either. I'm looking forward to next year's appointment with the University of Utah, because although I do have some relief from what my doctors have given me, I feel like whatever I have is gradually worsening. My grandmother even noticed I walk a lot worse from when I visited her in July, which was when this all started.

One bright spot in all of this is that even though I've only read 90 books in 2016, I surpassed the page count I read in 2015 (when I read 100 books). I guess I've been reading longer books this year. If you keep track of your reading on Goodreads, you can look at your own stats to compare by going to your Goodreads profile and clicking the Stats button under your Bookshelves widget.

Are you on track for your yearly reading challenges?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

SFF: The 5 New-To-You Authors of 2016 You Wish You'd Read Sooner

Sunday Fun Five #66:

#66: The 5 Times You Found the Right Book at the Right Time (Or Did It Find You?)
#67: The 5 New-To-You Authors of 2016 You Wish You'd Read Sooner
For the 4th of December: #68: The 5 Characters You Won't Soon Forget That You Read About in 2016

A Countdown of

The 5 New-To-You Authors of 2016 You Wish You'd Read Sooner

I'm kind of glad I read these authors in 2016 because I've had a bit of a tough year. Between losing my ability to walk normally 20 days after my 24th birthday, the hot mess that was the elections in the States, and more recently having Keisha (the Dorkie) diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I've been disappointed with 2016 to say the least. But, I have read some really, really good books to balance it out somewhat, even if good books cannot bring health back into our household.

5. Zora Neale Hurston
I haven't reviewed Their Eyes Were Watching God, but it isn't for lack of trying- I have trouble coming up with accurate words to describe how much I loved it, despite it having some problematic relationships (which usually make me lower my ratings). Although I've only read one of her books, it has stuck with me through this entire year, which is more than I can say for the many other books I've read.

4. Tanya Huff
An author who can make fantasy fun with quirky, unconventional characters who make the pages fly by? If only I'd known about her sooner! I'm not the easiest person to please, but all of Tanya Huff's books I've read this year have been fantastic.

3. Intisar Khanani
I'd seen the standalone fairytale retelling Thorn recommended far and wide in the blogosphere, but it took me some time (and a sale) to finally pick it up. For whatever reason, I never finished the review, but I did review Sunbolt, which is the first in a series. Young Adult books usually just aren't for me, Intisar Khanani's books have unique elements that keep me reading.

2. Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler wrote the perfect sort of books for me- they make you think, but they aren't pretentiously difficult to read, unlike other books written by authors who attempt to impress you with their "intellect" tend to write. She wrote in a deceptively simple style about science fiction concepts I haven't seen fully explored by anyone else.

1. Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb made me believe in fantasy again. Last year, I hit a dry spell that made me feel like I would never find a new fantasy series I would enjoy again, but clearly the problem was with which books I was reading. To top it off, the ending of Assassin's Quest was just what I needed to read this year. Sometimes, you need books that don't exactly end with the perfect happily ever after.

Which new-to-you authors impressed you this year?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

O.o.O.C.: "Out" by Natsuo Kirino

Out of Orbit Critiques are reviews of books outside my usual genres. Out is a contemporary crime thriller set in Japan.

What continues to strike me about this novel is that, despite having finished it awhile ago, it's one of those stories I won't soon forget. Often I can read a book and a few days later if you ask me something about it, I'll be unable to conjure up anything unrelated to what I've written on this blog- I simply have more important things to remember: like when my next appointment is. Out remains in my fickle brain despite almost a month passing since I finished it, and having written no notes about it.

The many characters in Out are what hasten the plot- Yayoi Yamamoto may have been the central character in any other crime book, having been the perpetrator, but in Out that isn't the case. Her work friend Masako Katori takes the spotlight from her to help solve her "problem"- a problem I myself would find distasteful to even think about helping with. Luckily for Yayoi, her work friends are eager enough to help... for the right price.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Natsuo Kirino's novel tells a story of random violence in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works a night shift making boxed lunches brutally strangles her deadbeat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.
'The ringleader of this cover-up, Masako Katori, emerges as the emotional heart of Out and as one of the shrewdest, most clear-eyed creations in recent fiction. Masako's own search for a way out of the straitjacket of a dead-end life leads her, too, to take drastic action.
'The complex yet riveting narrative seamlessly combines a convincing glimpse into the grimy world of Japan's yakuza with a brilliant portrayal of the psychology of a violent crime and the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse between seasoned detectives and a group of determined but inexperienced criminals. Kirino has mastered a Thelma and Louise kind of graveyard humor than illuminators her stunning evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extreme deeds and the friendship that bolsters them in the aftermath.'

To be honest, the character who intrigued me most in this book wasn't all that involved: Yoshie Azuma. Yoshie is the eldest of the work crew (earning the nickname "the Skipper"), takes care of her mother in law and daughter, and doesn't have all that much money to her name, which may be why she ends up helping with the plot of Out. Kuniko rounds out the work crew as the only supremely unlikable character, who did introduce some problematic elements in my opinion. True, she was vain to an exacerbating degree, but it seemed like her weight presented more of a problem to other people's perception of her than it should have. This was originally published in Japan in 1997, which makes many of the problems I had with it seem less irksome- the '90s weren't precisely a high-tech time for crime solving, perhaps because CSI didn't premier until 2000.

As I don't often finish books involving crime and mystery, the only one I have to compare this one to is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In some ways, they're similar- Out is also gruesome, but has somewhat less sexual violence, and both books feature females who aren't purer than the driven snow. Where they differ is with the setting, and somewhat of a difference in the tone- I found Out to be a bit bleaker than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but perhaps it's because this is a standalone novel.

Out is the blast of cold air I needed this October in terms of shaking up my usual tried-and-true genres for reading. It hasn't converted me into a crime thriller fan, but the next time I see a translated crime thriller, I'll be all the more likely to pick it up. I recommend Out for those who enjoy darker elements in the human nature, because this one lacks a fairytale ending.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent crime thriller that gave me chills.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for graphic violence, sexual violence/assault, and fearsome women.

Page Count: 400 pages

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fortnightly Update #23: Destination Destressed

I've been completely out of sorts this week- it started as tired apprehension pre-Election Day, and post-Election Day, let's say I'd rather have eaten bars of chocolate than talked (or even mentioned) books. Between my chronic illnesses, politics, and cloudy days, I was in a grumpy mood for much of the week, and other than the therapeutic cleaning I did, I didn't get much done.

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

the-pile Additions:


the-invisible-pile Additions:


Currently Reading:

I plan on adding another (lighter) read to my currently reading pile, as this one is dark and I can only take so much of that these days, 

Finished These Books:

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
A novella-length classic about vampires that predates Dracula, Carmilla won me over with its concise length. However, it did have racism, so the rating was knocked back. 

I really enjoyed this one, despite some of the parts of it being a bit too convenient for the plot, and the heroine changing a bit from the previous book. I think I might read the next book in the series soon, because these are traditional (rather happy) fantasies with just enough romance.

All the Stars Look Down (Elemental Mysteries #4.5) by Grace Draven and Elizabeth Hunter
This holiday-themed novella set was on sale for Kindle, and since it features two of my favorite indie authors, I snapped it up. Both of these have paranormal romance stories set during the holiday season, and one of them features a special needs child (in a realistic manner). I preferred All the Stars, as it was more standalone and had its own unique world- Look Down is part of the Elemental Mysteries series, which I'm not too fond of (though many people would beg to differ). 

In My Life:

To destress, as I've been in a terrible mood even pre-Election Day, I'm slowly beginning to decorate the house for Christmas. As I'm in a worse state physically than last year, it takes me twice as long to do anything that involves walking, reaching, and/or standing still. Mostly, Christmas decorating involves sorting through all the stuff my mother and I have accumulated and putting out what looks best. Also, I'm mad at my plant minions, because despite the fact it's November 13th, they still haven't died yet, which means I still have to hobble about to water them. If you want good, consistent exercise, make sure to have a lot of potted plants... and not live in a cold climate.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

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