Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1)" by Robin Hobb

Note on the Series: Though the events of this trilogy (Liveship Traders) take place after those of the Farseer Trilogy, the characters appear to be entirely different. Therefore, if you aren't categorically set on reading an entire fantasy world in successive order, you could probably read this trilogy by itself. Hence, no spoilers, and it is slightly standalone (as a trilogy- though it connects with a later series).

Let me start off by saying I didn't love this one as much as Assassin's Apprentice. It's not that this one won't have a piece of my heart (or a large section of my bookshelf), but rather... I think I'm a little fixated on royalty-centric fantasy. This book is likely much more creative than Assassin's Apprentice due to its lack of royals, but I nonetheless wanted some present. Instead of being set on land, most of this book is centered on the ocean, along with multiple trading hubs along the coast. Where Assassin's Apprentice was a coming of age, this one is definitely about a later stage version of that story: coming into one's own place in life.

A problem I encountered early on in the book was multiple character perspective choppiness- each character is given large chapters to showcase their perspectives, but I wasn't fond of some of the characters, leading to sections where I felt like skimming, but I read it all anyway. It's difficult for me to feel the book was a cohesive storyline when there were so many subplots with each character. I usually love that level of detail in my books (especially fantasy) but with this one, where I was already less than thrilled with some of the characters... it didn't work out so well.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships--rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown's oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship "Vivacia."
'For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her--a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea's young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, "Vivacia" is a life sentence.
'But the fate of the Vestrit family--and the ship--may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles...and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will....'

The concept of liveships is part of what made this book feel unique to me. Imagine sentient ships instead of ones made simply of dead trees, able to talk with you, and even affect the comfort of your journey aboard it. The liveship has wants and needs: it is quickened and shaped by those who die aboard it (who are usually of the Trader family that bought it). The liveship can be a boon or a curse, all depending on how you treat it.

One thing I love about this book is that the women can be, and sometimes are, sexually free. Usually in fantasy there is an ironclad rule against women being liberal with their affections and/or sex, but while some of the characters are forced to live under that rule in this book, there are a few who are immune to it. It makes me glad that there are such fantasy books available, since there is a rampant medievally-induced double standard in how males and females are allowed to act in fantasy.

Ship of Magic is one of the few fantasies I've read set mainly on the high seas, making it a bit of a novelty to me. Despite having many heroines (which I thought was lacking in the first of the Farseer Trilogy), there were so many characters that I didn't seem to find one who truly resonated with me. Nonetheless, it's a grand adventure, and I love the concept of liveships and sea serpents, and when it seemed I had read a few pages, I had actually read 100+. I recommend Ship of Magic to the stalwart fantasy fan who is up to reading a larger, multifaceted story that has little to do with royalty.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a grand adventure with characters I was ambivalent to.

Content: Ages 16+ for one nondescript sex scene (if I recall it right), slavery, and assorted other inhumanities (violence, death).

Page Count: 685 pages in my hardcover edition.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

SFF: The 5 Mistakes You Made With Your Blog You Wish You'd Never Done in the First Place

Sunday Fun Five #52:

#48: The 5 Paper Books You Treasure Most
#49: The 5 Books That Had You at "Hello"
#50: The 5 Résumé-Worthy Talents of the Average Book Blogger
#52: The 5 Mistakes You Made With Your Blog You Wish You'd Never Done in the First Place
For the 8th of May: #53: The 5 Choices You Made With Your Blog That You're Most Happy About

A Countdown of

The 5 Mistakes You Made With Your Blog You Wish You'd Never Done in the First Place

5. Assumed Established Bloggers Had It Together/Popular Blogger Idolatry
If a blog was over two years old and had lots of comments, I was often hesitant to even stop by and read the posts. Clearly this Blogger (yes, capital B) had it Together and never had reading slumps or other such mundane problems this lowly newbie blogger had. Therefore, they did not need me... other than to read, and be in worshipful awe of their posts.

Ironically, half the bloggers I idolized aren't even around any more!

4. Only Mingled with the Newbie Bloggers
Because I had such thoughts about popular and established bloggers, I often would only hang out with the newbie bloggers. The problem with that was... many of those newbie bloggers aren't blogging anymore!

...where are all the bloggers disappearing to?

3. Read/Requested a Lot of the Pretty Looking ARCs
I think most bloggers have done this at one point or another- you request the most fantastic looking and sounding ARCs to be sorely disappointed in them. I still do this, but I have limited my selections to only the ones I'm almost 80% sure I'll enjoy- therefore, usually no romance-heavy books (which I can love or hate just by a few wrong or right paragraphs).

2. Not Commented on the Right Blogs
I did comment on blogs when I started out, but I'm not so sure I commented on the right ones. There are some bloggers who will never, ever comment back, or be curious enough to click your profile pic and even glance at your blog. Sadly, I did end up commenting on quite a few of *those* blogs in my first year. There's no sure tell of who will comment back and it's gauche to comment simply for a comment back, but... yeah, I don't comment on unfriendly blogger's blogs much anymore.

My favorite old design header... I painted it myself. ;)
1. Design
I think I would've been happier with my blog a lot earlier if I'd found a simple design and stuck to it (like I have for about the past year now) instead of changing it every three or so months like I did the first time around. True, nothing was appallingly wrong with the design, and the color scheme has remained very much the same, but there is something restful about focusing your energy on blog posts and reviews, as opposed to frenetically wasting time and energy changing your design.

Do you have regrets about blogging, or any mistakes you wish you hadn't made? Share them so I can commiserate with you!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fortnightly Update #8: The Curse of the Zombie Arm

This week I haven't done much at all- mostly, I've been trying to figure out how to do my daily tasks by using my right hand as much as possible. Of course, now that I'm doing that, I'm worried that it, too will fail me, but I guess that's something I'll just have to risk. My left arm, in general, has been beastly this past week, which is why I was scarcely seen on the interwebs, except to lodge complaints about its functionality on Twitter. Touching a keyboard is painful, but holding a video game controller doesn't even seem to hurt much. It still baffles me.

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

the-pile Additions:

I think I ordered these from Better World Books in March, but they arrived shortly after my last Fortnightly Update. With this shipment, I now have a bookshelf full of Anne Bishop's works to finish off while I wait for the price for Marked in Flesh to drop. I also picked up some of C.J. Cherryh's fantasy books, because her Faded Sun Trilogy was so rich in worldbuilding for science fiction. Daggerspell has been on my to-read list forever on Goodreads, likely due to it being authored by a female (I'm a bit biased). I was surprised to find The Language of Threads in such fine shape- it looks like it came straight off of a bookstore shelf and was never read. I picked that one due to Gail Tsukiyama tearing my heart out with The Samurai's Garden, which was a just plain beautiful book.

The Language of Threads by Gail Tsukiyama

Daggerspell (Deverry #1) by Katharine Kerr

The Dreaming Tree (Arafel #1-2) by C.J. Cherryh

Fortress in the Eye of Time (Fortress #1) by C.J. Cherryh

Bridge of Dreams (Ephemera #3) by Anne Bishop

The Pillars of the World (Tir Alainn #1) by Anne Bishop

Shadows and Light (Tir Alainn #2) by Anne Bishop

The House of Gaian (Tir Alainn #3) by Anne Bishop

the-invisible-pile Additions:

I found myself on an ebook buying spree due to delicious deals at the evil empire that is Amazon:

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries #1) by James Runcie
I bought this because I'm absolutely addicted to Masterpiece Mystery's take on the series (Grantchester). I'm hoping that it has a somewhat similar feel to the books.

I've wanted to read another of Tanya Huff's books, but since this one was on sale for very cheap as a daily deal, I may start with it. I'm curious about it, as I've read The Naming/The Gift by Alison Croggon, which is a similar in theme YA fantasy and liked it a lot.

Midnight Riot [AKA Rivers of London in the UK] (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch
True story: as with many (many) books I picked up before I found Goodreads, I found a later book in this series and bought it, thinking it was the first in the series (this happens a lot with me). Anyway, now that I have the actual first book in the series in my grasp, I expect to be entertained with a fun urban fantasy, especially given Charlaine Harris's endorsement/blurb.

Dreamsongs Volume I (Dreamsongs #1) by George R.R. Martin
I almost skipped this one, but then decided I needed another George R.R. Martin book in my stockpile, just in case Winds of Winter will take forever and a day to write, which looks to be the case as of now.

Currently Reading:

I'm supposed to be reading Belladonna, but with my hands being cranky, it's a bit of a chore. I have a feeling I'll be picking up something else to read soon.

Finished These Books:

I liked this one, though it didn't quite reach the heights of Assassin's Apprentice. I've been chipping away on a review for it, though it is taking a while to come to fruition.

Think Cinderella set in the Regency era. I really enjoyed this book's take on the tale, though something about it didn't quite merit 4 stars.

With this one, there were too many threads to it to make it enjoyable. I think what I disliked most was the characters really didn't behave the way I expected them to, and beyond that, it took a while for me to differentiate the four sisters distinctly. The author claims Little Women as this book's inspiration, which I can see, but it really didn't impress me as much as I thought it would, given my like for A Kiss at Midnight.

In the Blogosphere:

La La in the Library has a review of an adult coloring book, along with a giveaway!

Heather @ Based on a True Story shares her DNA Results, which makes me wonder about what my own might be if I ever save up enough to do it.

Megan @ The Never Ending Book Basket shares her lovely experience with Amazon, just in case you thought you might be safe posting your reviews there. Personally, I don't post reviews there unless the book is 4+ stars because of trolls.

In My Life:

I repotted much of my minion army, resulting in this lovely conglomeration in the sun porch:

In pet news, George learned to plank/hunt birds from inside the house:

I think his icy blue eyes give him away.

Happy reading, take it easy with the blogging (says my undead left arm), and make sure to enter my blogiversary giveaway (there's a few free entries available)!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

SFF: The 5 Books that Make Profound Statements in 300 Pages or Less

Sunday Fun Five #51:

#48: The 5 Paper Books You Treasure Most
#49: The 5 Books That Had You at "Hello"
#50: The 5 Résumé-Worthy Talents of the Average Book Blogger
#51: The 5 Books that Make Profound Statements in 300 Pages or Less
For April 24th: #52: The 5 Mistakes You Made With Your Blog You Wish You'd Never Done in the First Place

A Countdown of

The 5 Books that Make Profound Statements in 300 Pages or Less

Sometimes you just don't have the patience for a longer read, so I decided to round up my favorites that have profound things to say about life in general.

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (268 pages)/Anthem by Ayn Rand (105 pages)
In general, I try to not pair books together, because they should each stand on their own (which these two do), but last year I read these within a relatively close time frame to each other, and since they have a somewhat similar theme (classic dystopian sci-fi, pre-1940s), they just fit together. Either of these reads is a great way to embark on some profound thoughts about totalitarian governments.

4. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (168 pages)
The memoir of a girl who spent time in a mental health facility in the 1960s- a true thought provoker on sexism, mental health, and other subjects, all in one easily read volume.

3. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (256 pages)
This book makes you think about what the definition of beautiful should be (and why it isn't that way).

2. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (194 pages)
One of the few books that survived my post-YA book purge, How I Live Now is another of those books that touched something in me, despite the unusual way in which it was written.

1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (207 pages)
It's hard to describe how this one effected me, but I'm still reluctant to review it for fear of going about it in the wrong way. This book has profound statements on life in general.

What are some of your favorite shorter books? 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

How to Break a Book Blogger: In 3 Easy Steps!

Step 1: Set up a book blog- type up lots of posts, reviews, and make sure to comment frequently on other blogs. Read lots of books- use your wrist a lot.

Step 2: Continue to do this for two years.

Step 3: Congrats! You made it to your 2nd blogiversary. Here's your present:

You may have noticed I've been a bit slow to respond to comments, comment back, or, you know, do my usual thing (post, visit other blogs, etc.). Well, blogging has broken me for a bit.

I noticed about two weeks ago my left arm felt crappier than usual (usually it's painful, but manageably painful [for me]). I thought it was related to my usual array of symptoms, so I prepared a berating speech for my pain management doctor. My pain management doctor said then that it was likely not in his area of expertise (he said since I came in for abdominal pain and fibromyalgia, that's not his problem), so I was sent to my primary care doctor, having been a bit freaked out by my pain doctor (or maybe not a doctor- it's hard to tell these days). My conversation with my pain doctor went a bit like this:

Pain Dr.: You should see your primary care doctor- why didn't you see her before?

Me: Erm... You're a "pain" specialist, right?

PD: Did you notice your arm is cold?

Me: No... it is? *Suddenly notices left arm is much bluer than my right.*

PD: Go see your primary care doctor, or go to the ER.

Me: *Begins to internally freak out.*

PD: Okay, I refilled your prescriptions. Go see a doctor. *Gives a concerned look to my left arm. Exits scene dramatically while soap opera hospital music plays in the background.*

Me: (to self) Did that just happen?

Luckily, my primary care doctor was easy to get into, and she thinks I either have a pinched nerve, carpal tunnel, and my Raynaud's is causing my Smurf coloration, or I have something wrong with my spine (which wouldn't be the first time, but...). So for now, I'll be blogging less (due to having to wear a medieval knight's gauntlet on my wrist all the time) and trying to keep up with my normal tasks as much as possible. If you've noticed I haven't been around as much, that's why.

Happy Reading (and Take It Easy With the Blogging)!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Victorian Soul Critiques Turns Two!

It's hard to believe it's been two years since I started this blog! Although some things have changed, a lot (including the design) has stayed the same. I don't have a theme or wall of gifs this year, but let's get this party started!

Here are a few of my favorite posts from the past year:

"Better World Books" Haul Round 2 because I can't get over how cute George is boxing with Torrie in his video debut.

My Out of Orbit Critique of "Autobiography of a Face" by Lucy Grealy because through the process of reviewing it, I was able to better analyze its impact on me.

My review of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1)" by Douglas Adams because... I don't know- I just liked it!

And last but not least, the not-remotely-related-to-books announcement of In Other News...

Here are a few of your favorite posts from the past year:

"Better World Books" Haul, which was likely viewed a lot due to it being shared by Better World Books. And also, George was being cute again.

Color Me Happy: An Unofficial Guide to Adult Coloring Book Bliss which I thought was going to flop as a post, but people actually liked it.

My review of "Kesrith (The Faded Sun #1)" by C.J. Cherryh, which was a completely unanticipated hit. The book itself is older than I am, but I guess people love C.J. Cherryh and vintage science fiction.

Now on to the good stuff:

I have a giveaway for a $10 gift certificate for your choice of Better World Books.com or Amazon.com, open to those 13 years and wiser (with parental consent if under 18 years young). This giveaway is open internationally, though I would advise that Better World Books would be the better choice if you aren't from the United States, as it has free shipping worldwide, while Amazon has spendy shipping (particularly because their gift cards are only applicable in the Amazon US site, which makes no sense at all). There will be three lucky winners for this giveaway.

Terms and Conditions: Giveaway ends May 2nd 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT. This giveaway is open internationally- I am not responsible for lost packages. This giveaway is open to those 13 and older, as long as you have parental consent if you are under the age of 18. Winner must respond to the host's email **within 50 hours**, or a new winner will be selected. If you use multiple aliases and/or emails to enter this giveaway, you will be automatically disqualified. You may use any/all your previous comments on this blog as entries (by visiting daily), just make sure they are all from different posts, and weren't used in last year's giveaway. If you already follow me on any site below, it's a free entry, as long as you leave your profile URL. **May the odds be ever in your favor!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck and Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fortnightly Update #7: Of Computer Meltdowns and Blogiversary Bashes

This week we've had a death in the household- my mom's trusty, but slow (as a tortoise walking backwards) laptop died. Ironically my older mini desktop is still in fine shape, so that means until her laptop arrives in about five days, we'll be sharing a computer. The weird thing about her computer dying was that I was able to help her revive it for a day or two, but then it crashed again. Oh, well... it wasn't like I expected to be able to make it run like new again.

This week will also be my blogiversary bash, which means (due to my excellent procrastination) I have one post planned for tomorrow (April 4th) since it was somehow designated my blogiversary by Blogger. I'm still a bit perplexed by it, but I'm not changing it, even though my first post was published April 10th. I suppose I may have started it, and didn't bother writing anything until then. Anyway, there will be a giveaway (open internationally) so stop by if you like winning free bookish gift certificates.

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

the-pile Additions:

As per usual, I found some irresistible buys for books during my trip to Montana, one of which I've already finished.

George helping point out the book I read with his flame-licked nose
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
I'm not sure if Toni Morrison ever writes about happy things, but this book covers subjects just as dark (sexual abuse, incest, domestic abuse) as Beloved does. This was her first novel, and I have to say I enjoyed it much more than Beloved (which, at times, I felt was baffling).

Pearl of China by Anchee Min
This is a novel based on the life of Pearl S. Buck, the famous writer of historical fiction (set in China). I thought this would be a good pick for my Travel the World in Books challenge.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (with a deliciously vintage cover)
I like collecting classics, especially those with vintage cover art. I've also wanted to read this one for a while, but hadn't found an edition I liked until I stumbled across this one.

Fortress of Eagles (Fortress #2) by C.J. Cherryh
I accidentally bought the second in this series, but luckily Better World Books had the first in the series available for me. I've read Cherryh's science fiction epic (The Faded Sun Trilogy), but I also wanted to try her fantasy, because I liked her other work so much.

Winter Rose (Winter Rose #1) by Patricia A. McKillip
Goodreads has always tried to foist this one off on me in my suggestions. To be honest, I was enthused about this author's work, but could never get past the first few pages of her Riddle-Master Trilogy. However, since this one is more fairy tale based, I'm hoping I'll be able to actually read it (in its entirety).

the-invisible-pile Additions:

My brother apparently had to search far and wide to find a physical copy of this, though I found it for free as a Kindle edition. This apparently has to do with railroads and California (mostly I was intrigued that he'd go to that much trouble to find it).

Currently Reading:

Belladonna (Ephemera #2) by Anne Bishop
I haven't gotten very far because... well, I've started a new game of Skyrim while I do my biking instead. I need to find a book holder for while I'm biking (with my indoor bike, of course), because it's hard for me to work up a sweat and read while awkwardly holding a physical book in front of me and turning said book's pages.

Finished These Books:

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
As described above, I liked this one a lot more than Beloved (which is generally more beloved to people- but not me, I guess). Maybe it was the perspective of a child, or maybe the subject matter, but something about The Bluest Eye struck a chord with me that wasn't quite hit with Beloved.

You know when you finish a book you love, and all you feel you can do to give it a proper review is quote your favorite snippet? Yep, that's what happened with this one. I'm still digesting the feelings it evoked.

Sebastian (Ephemera #1) by Anne Bishop
What this had going for it: unique worlds and worldbuilding, sentient demon cycles (think motorcycles), and a gripping storyline. What it didn't: one of the characters was unabashedly similar to Meg Corbyn (of the Others series) without her depth, and a Den of Iniquity that wasn't what I'd pictured. This is still recommendable for Anne Bishop fans and lovers of unique fantasy, but I didn't like it near as much as Written in Red.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington ~ Nugi Garimara
I had seen some or most of the film version of this, which did spoil my experience to some extent, but I still greatly enjoyed most of the book, despite some dry spots. This book has more girl power and sheer determination than your average read.

In the Blogosphere:

Kritika @ Snowflakes and Spider Silk discusses Book Talk: Fact vs Fiction. As you may have noticed, I tend to slip in at least one nonfiction or memoir read a month now, which is more than I used to read.

Cari and Haley @ My Addiction: Books are celebrating their second blogiversary, with giveaways!

Jenny @ Reading the End reviews Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter, which looks to be an interesting science fiction read- I'm not sure that I've read sociopolitical science fiction before.

In My Life:

Other than trying to study for my driver's permit test, tending to my minions, and sprucing up the yard, there isn't much going on in my life. I did, however, make a delicious triple chocolate cheesecake with ganache topping for my brother's birthday two weeks ago.

Happy Reading!

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