Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fortnightly Update #11: An Adoption Anniversary and Shiny New Book Reading

This is actually the first week in a long (long) time that I'm reading books that are both books that will be published in June. Usually I try to read widely in terms of publication date, genre, and so on, but since both books will be published in June within weeks of each other, I'm hoping to read them all now and have the reviews up early (as reviewing has been a true process for me lately- and a long one at that).

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

the-pile Additions:

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
I ordered this from the Book Depository after getting some coupon codes for a better deal- mostly, I was curious if I would like it as much as Vicious. I don't really know what to expect, as this is a hyped book and generally I'm apathetic toward hyped books, but I hope I'll like it. I also got two coloring bookmarks instead of one, as they stuck together, so I guess that was lucky.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

None... other than what I'm currently reading.

Currently Reading:

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey
I think what this book suffers from most is being compared with the authors they said this book was in the style of. On its own, it is a pretty good book so far (I'm 60% in) but when compared with the authors it was in its blurb (Alice Hoffman, Anne Bishop), it really doesn't make sense. The characters, while interesting, fail to grab my empathy- all that intrigues me is the plot and the unusual magic system.

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1) by Michael J. Sullivan
One of my Goodreads friends (who likes a lot of the books I like) loved this one, so I decided to request it. I haven't gotten far enough for impressions yet.

Finished These Books:

I expected to love this one, and in some ways I did, but there was some major conflict in me with the way a rape was portrayed. To me, it seemed to be used as a plot device to establish said character as strong, and to me it was just wrong- the character seemed to react somewhat, but then brush it aside like cobwebs. Others have really loved this one, but I have serious qualms about the way that rape was portrayed... it's almost unrate-able for me, but I think it'll still be a tentative 4 Star read.

Peasant Tales of Russia by V.I. Nemirovitch-Dantchenko
I reviewed this one, so you're better off clicking the link above if you want my full take on it- I loved one story in the collection, but some of them were overlong, and one was a tad too inspirational for my liking.

I don't recommend this one, however, I couldn't help but read it. Sometimes beginnings are very telling for a book, and sometimes I should just remind myself to never, ever read contemporary romance. The link is to my mini review on Goodreads.

In the Blogosphere/Other Great Links:

The Little Red Reviewer offers A Few Do’s and Don’t’s of Author Self Promotion. I'd think most of you may agree with them.

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer has some tips on Searching Images For Your Website Don’t Steal Them. Thanks to La La in the Library for retweeting this one so I actually came across it! Many of the images on Google are actually copyrighted, and no, they don't need a watermark for that. This article and the things it mentions are exactly why I watermark most of my images- I've seen too many Pinterest image thieves in my day.

Jenny @ Reading the End had me clicking the Want to Read button on Goodreads after reading the first two lines of her review of The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

Becca @ I'm Lost in Books reviews The Wander Society by Keri Smith- another book I may pick up if I find it.

Marlin Collingwood writes a moving post on an important topic: My Husband Died by Suicide, but Died From Depression (from the Mighty). Though the way we think about such topics is changing, I think it's important to realize the base cause of things.

In My Life:

We've officially had His George-ness for a year. Somehow, it feels like I've had him a longer and shorter amount of time simultaneously. That cat acted like he owned our house from the second he jumped out of his cardboard carrier. Long live the George!

Our cleaned-up porch, with plant minions
Speaking of the house, my mom recently refinanced the mortgage on it, which meant she had to get an appraisal. As normal human beings, both my mother and I have a penchant for clutter, so we underwent a total house cleaning campaign before the appraiser came, making it look like the Joneses lived there. I had a slightly defeatist attitude toward the entire endeavor, as I'd checked online and it said that the housing market in our city had actually fallen since we'd bought our old 1903 house in 2013... but then the appraiser came back and said our house was worth $15,000 more than when we bought it. That was surprising considering other than buy a new washer and dryer and having potted plants everywhere, we really haven't done much with it.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In Other News #2, or All the Things I've Learned From George

I don't know how many of you may have heard (bit of sarcasm there), but last year, on May 28th, I adopted a cat named George. I had expectations that he would be very much like my former cats (aloof but friendly while steering clear of the dogs), but he shattered those ideas quite succinctly. George had his own style of being a cat that wasn't really like my expectations at all.

For example:

Here, George demonstrates that he can vanish at will (and/or he may be a ghost). I remain unsure if Scotty was trying to beam him back up during this photoshoot, or he can simply turn into a cloud of cat hair. More than likely, the cloud of cat hair- I don't recall my other cats shedding as much as George does.

George making use of my porch railing pots

Those "if it fits, I sits" internet cat memes? Entirely accurate.

Sometimes, even a Siamese cross cat can meow too much. During those times, it's best to air out your tongue/make a Miley Cyrus face.

Goldilox was much easier to please than George is with regards to beds. I bought George a nice new faux fur bed during Christmas time, which he used once, then started using the pile of blankets behind him. I then put a blanket on it- it still wasn't good enough. Finally, I realized if I combined George's favorite thing, cardboard boxes and the bed and the blanket, that might work. It did. That smug looking cat is relishing my weeks of experimentation. I may someday put a pea under it and find out if he's royal.

Cats can plank- even keeping their ridiculously long tails straight. Window hunting is a George approved activity.

George has a fascination with food wrapped in plastic bags. Here, you can see he shared some pilfered snacks with his dog friends (Keisha is not pictured). Apparently the yellow bag wasn't good enough, as it was salt and vinegar flavored. The most surprising thing he's pilfered is a brand new loaf of whole wheat bread, which, I'm just going to assume he shared with his dog friends again. George takes inspiration from Robin Hood, since he believes he's vastly underfed, and the dogs must be starving as well. Who needs humans when you have a cat to feed you from the countertop?

At some point, George won over both of the dogs with his antics. Keisha initially liked him, but she shied from him when he took to chasing her. Torrie initially followed him around, but then he began following her around like an annoying little brother, and she stopped caring about what he did while away from her side (which is seldom, any more). My mom and I have taught the dogs to be our enforcers- chasing him whenever he gets onto the counter, or tries knocking over the garbage (food is George's best friend). Half the time we have no idea he's on the counter or into something until the dogs take off after him, giving him a sound scolding. You would think George would dislike the dogs for their policing of his favorite pastimes, but George has a sort of Yogi Bear/Ranger Smith relationship with them. Sometimes he will just run through the house, goading the dogs to chase him. He gets upset with them when they don't. Some of their relationship can be seen in the boxing match video between Torrie and George.

Other than being a countertop thief, George has proved himself useful in other areas of the house. For instance, he loves to clean out things from under the couch. I'm still perplexed as to why he bothers, but as far as I can tell he thinks it's like a treasure hunt- he finds my shoes, Torrie's old toys (which he likes), and random bits of plastic. More importantly, I've trained him to remind me to take my nighttime pills- I have two rounds of pills a day on my regimen now, and while I always remember to take them the first thing in the morning, I can't remember to most nights. I give him a few kibbles of food if he reminds me by meowing incessantly at 7PM (which he's really great at). One night, I gave him his kibbles, and then forgot to take my pills. He kept badgering me about something, and it was only then I remembered- I gave him his stipend, as I call it, but I hadn't taken my pills. Luckily, he is so insistent, I now rarely or never forget to take my pills when I have him around. When I travel, the pill forgetting is more of a problem. Someday, they'll invent a pet friendly cellphone and I won't have that problem... but I will have trouble with him calling to "talk" to me all the time.

To round up this widely rambling post- last year I adopted a cat, and I didn't really expect much of him. His adoption fee was $35.00 in honor of June being Adopt a Cat Month, but to be honest, I would've paid much more than that had I known how great (and naughty) of a cat he'd be. He's changed our house by bringing chaos, clouds of cat hair, and at times, the yowling cat version of karaoke, but he's also kept me healthier (by keeping me on my pill schedule), livened up the two "old" dogs (by making them chase him), and generally injecting a bit of excitement (and/or mayhem) into our mundane lives. We likely would've passed him by if he hadn't had the note "Good with dogs" next to his cage at the shelter, because despite his george-ous eyes, we weren't really looking for a cat (despite our mouse problem, which he also solved). I can't say that everyone should go out and adopt a cat, but it would've been a huge mistake on our part if we'd said, "Nah, we don't need a cat," and left him there at the shelter.

If you happen to be looking for a cat, June is an awesome time to adopt one- many shelters are flooded with kittens and cats as the heat rises. Since June is Adopt a Cat Month, many shelters also offer extra discounts on cat adoptions, which helps when you have to buy all the essentials (again) like we did. If you have another animal in the house, you may want to ask the shelter volunteers their opinion of which cats would be the most cat and/or dog friendly, because generally they know some of the history of the cat. Not all cats are like George, but generally if you want a calmer, more placid cat, you won't want a kitten/young adult- go for an older animal. Since cats can live 20 years (or longer), keep in mind that it isn't a temporary commitment, and be determined to stay in it for the long haul (even if it means paying pricy pet deposits for rent, veterinary bills, and replacing scratched furniture... or new loaves of whole wheat bread).

Happy George Adoption Day!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

SFF: The 5 Books That Scream Summer (to You)

Sunday Fun Five #54:

A Countdown of

The 5 Books That Scream Summer (to You)

5. Vicious (Vicious #1) by V.E. Schwab
I'm not that partial to superhero tales (save for X-men, but that's another story) but Vicious is one of those superhero/supervillain books I did really enjoy last summer. It reminded me of summer because summer blockbusters often have a superhero flick (or three) among their ranks anymore.

4. Pirates! by Celia Rees
A YA historical fiction I read as a teen (in the summertime, if I recall right) this one gives you both an adventure tale and an informative look at pirates, slavery, and the place of women in the 1700s. It reminds me of summer because... Pirates!

3. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (series starts with Storm Front)
Despite a lack of summer-y themes, The Dresden Files have always reminded me of summer- maybe because they harken back to my Harry Potter series rereads, which I also used to do over the summer.

2. Kesrith (The Faded Sun #1) by C.J. Cherryh
Set on a desert planet, Kesrith (name of the book and the planet) isn't the fastest-paced book, but it does fit my idea of a summer read. Filled with alien beings and cultures, it brings you to a different place in the universe... one perhaps only perceptible beneath the stars on a warm summer's night.

1. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert 
Another book named for the place it's set, Moloka'i is an island in Hawaii that used to be where people afflicted with Hansen's disease (AKA leprosy) were quarantined. Set over a long span of time, you get to see the island evolve, and Rachel (the main character) grow up. It reminds me of summer because Hawaii equals warmer weather, which as someone who grew up/lives where you get to see all four seasons (Winter, Still Winter, Summer, and Almost Winter), summer is the only time it's decently and generally reliably warm.

Which books remind you the most of summer? Do you plan to do any seasonal reading during the summer this year?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Peasant Tales of Russia" by V.I. Nemirovitch-Dantchenko

Since this is a collection of short stories, I'll review each of these and then summarize my experience of the collection. I found this ebook on Amazon and picked it up (despite its poor rating) because the book I had been reading for #TTWIB May Russian book read wasn't grabbing my attention. Since I gathered this would be a shorter read with folk tales (something I generally enjoy), it didn't take much thought to switch what I was reading.

"The Deserted Mine"
The plot of this one is simple- miners are trapped with no apparent escape in a deep shaft that is filling with water. They look to a somewhat senile-seeming old man (who they all know has worked the tunnels for the longest) for a way out.

This story almost seems like a Russian addition to the Bible, for spoilery reasons that I cannot disclose. That said, religious imagery of the Christian variety is front and center for this story, and it kind of spoiled the end of it for me (and I'm a Christian, darn it!). There is a fine line between inspirational and oh my word- look, it's an INSPIRATIONAL story. Subtlety is not one of the virtues of this short tale, but I did enjoy the first part of it more than the other stories in this collection.

"Mahmoud's Family"
I'm not too up on my history, so all I can say of the plot for this one is it's set during a war between the Russians and the Ottomans (or so I'm led to believe). Russian soldiers find an escaped prisoner of war (Mahmoud), who they plan on taking back to the main encampment for safekeeping, though he begs them not to. The soldiers are forced between a choice of duty and common decency, which proves to be a difficult decision.

This story has the flavor of a fable about it- leaning less towards religion-y lesson and more towards morality tale. I think other than The Luck of Ivan the Forgetful, it's my favorite of the bunch because of its concise storyline. Although there was still plenty of description, this story was a lot faster paced than the others.

"A Misunderstanding"
The plot of this story isn't apparent until the end- Helene became a nun for what seemed like an altruistic reason, but something went terribly awry.

My main complaint with this story is that there's really not much buildup to the end- most of the story is just fluff about Helene's martyrdom and humility. The thing is, becoming a nun isn't something one should take lightly, as she seemed to. She resigned herself to it without a really good reason, though it's unclear what the timeframe was for her decision (I'm thinking it's set in the 1800s). Regardless, it was a choice that didn't make sense, but I'm sure it could've happened back in those days.

"The Luck of Ivan The Forgetful"
My favorite of the book, this story reads the most like a fairytale. Ivan the Forgetful escapes jail to stumble upon an orphaned girl in the forest. He tries his best to teach her right from wrong despite his seeming unsuitedness to parenthood. But will his luck run out?

There's lots of imagery and some minor anomalies in this story (I think it may be missing a page or a paragraph) but it captured my attention regardless. I think there's something more human about this story than the others, which may be why I like it so much. Ivan isn't a paragon, which many of the previous main characters appear to be. He's somewhat relatable, though the author tries to make him seem horrible by injecting out-of-character speech and deeds to impugn him. I guess in my eyes, the author didn't succeed in that.

I wish I could give Peasant Tales of Russia a higher rating, but there too are many issues that stick out for me to raise it. It may be an issue of translation or of time, but some of these tales which may have once been regarded as timeless seem to have lost some luster over the years. Nonetheless, I recommend it for those interested in Russian folk tales, as it is available in multiple formats online for free.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good collection of folk tales that could use some edits.

Content: Ages 14+ for violence and death.

Page Count: 112 pages in my Kindle edition

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fortnightly Update #10: Unfortunate Book Covers and Porch Sitting

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

the-pile Additions:

The heroine of Volume 2 looks like she walked off a bad music video set...

The Quarters Novels: Volume I (Quarters #1-2) by Tanya Huff
The Quarters Novels: Volume II (Quarters #3-4) by Tanya Huff
I would advise you not judge these books by the plague of their older covers. Had I picked these up in a bookstore, I would assume they were dated, corny, and quite possibly sci-fi, NOT fantasy (as they actually are). However, having read Sing the Four Quarters, I can tell you that is not the case. I'm excited to dive into the final three books in this series, even though I'm a bit put out that Annice and Pjerin don't show up in it.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

I've somehow avoided buying this book before, though I've had it recommended to me. I just can't resist a book with dragons in it...


I won Coloring for All Seasons, some bookish swag, and an Amazon gift card from La La in the Library! Thanks, La La! (I actually ran out of bookmarks last night [the bookmark elf stole them from me] so the bookmarks came in handy).

Currently Reading:

Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders #3) by Robin Hobb
The more I read this series, the more I love it. Although I was lukewarm about the characters in the first book, they have grown a lot, and I don't have trouble remembering which person they are (which happens to me in a lot of multiple POV fantasy books).

The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry
I'm reading this for Travel the World in Books (we are reading any book set in Russia and/or authored by a Russian), and also to help clear out the dregs of my pile. I can't recall how long I've had this, but thrillers are generally not for me.

Finished These Books:

This was so cute and funny. I've had traumatic experiences with some of Tessa Dare's other works (they were WAY too far-fetched and dramatic), but this one is a gem. And usually I loathe historical romances with Scottish heroes in them.

Although I did get stalled about midway through, it was more a wandering brain issue than an actual issue with this book. I liked this one better than the first one, but it did take its sweet time getting to the scene pictured above.

As I mentioned in my review, I didn't think a pregnant heroine would work in a traditional fantasy setting... but Annice did- to the point I bought the rest of the series. The characters were fantastic in this book.

In the Blogosphere:

Wendy @ Musings of a Bookish Kitty shares her Bookish Thoughts on When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi. I love the cover!

Guiltless Reader has an interview and (INT) giveaway with author Jessica George about her YA fantasy, Gifted.

Michelle @ Bookaholic Banter reviews Armada by Ernest Cline. I've wanted to read more books from the author ever since I finished Ready, Player One.

Laura W @ Blue Eye Books shares some Hug Your Cat Day Quotes (warning- one spoiler for The Hunger Games/Mockingjay... if you still haven't read it or watched it yet).

In My Life:

I finally have my driver's permit (no pictured proof because I was frazzled that day), which means if I get in enough practice before the first days of June, I will be my mother's chauffeur during her hip surgery convalescence. Though it is strange, I had a really good experience with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)- I got there during their normal hours on their last day of business (Thursday), but the lady at the counter said they don't do the tests after 5. Against her superior's advice, she let me take the test and I passed! Otherwise, I would've had to wait until Monday, and my mom would've had to take off early from her job. There are nice DMV workers in the world!

Tomato seedlings are about as tall as Torrie, who senses the Force around her.
I've been spending a lot of time outside lately enjoying my porch, and admiring the growth of my plant minions. It's about time to till our garden plot and plant them, but we could still get a frost here, despite the late date. Therefore, they remain on my porch. I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm a crazy dog and plant lady. Clearly, they've never seen my book collection...

My first minion flower to bloom is the alyssum in the lower left corner.

Anyone else have friendly DMV experiences? Or books with misleading cover art?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Usually I don't write posts about my illnesses and medical issues, but today I decided to because when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was absolutely perplexed. It is still a mysterious illness despite afflicting so many people from so many different walks of life. When I noticed today was Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, I knew I had to share some of what I go through, just so if you or a loved one is ever afflicted, you won't go, "Fibromy-whata?", like I did when I first learned of it.

What is Fibromyalgia?

What Fibromyalgia Feels Like to Me (From Falling Skies)
As defined by the Mayo Clinic: "Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues." In laywoman's terms, this means your body aches, you feel like the walking dead, you can't sleep (or you oversleep), you can't remember (as seen below in My Story), and all of this adds up to make you incredibly curmudgeonly. Beyond those symptoms there are many more, but the basis of all fibromyalgia diagnoses is that. Worse yet, there is no cure, despite many doctors' assurances that if you just get off your butt, the pain will lessen (which isn't the case, in my experience). It can be managed- there are those fibro sufferers who can work, there are those who want to work, and there are those who have so many medical challenges that make it impossible to fathom working. 

Fibromyalgia doesn't discriminate- a few famous fibro sufferers are purported to be Morgan Freeman (the actor) and Frida Kahlo (the artist). The mystery of this disorder is the why of it- we still don't know why so many people have it, or how we got it. I think that may be one of the worst parts of this disorder, other than the symptoms- because it has no rhyme or reason, people make assumptions on what causes it. Speaking from experience, all of those assumptions are wrong, the major assumption being that it isn't real.

My Story

This sounds awful, but I don't really remember when or what age I exactly was when I was diagnosed. I was in the range of 16-17 years old, I'd just recovered from a bout of Vitamin D deficiency (caused in part by my chronic stomach pain/proton pump inhibitor use). Though I don't remember the dates, I do remember what I felt like- every day, I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a train- and no, that isn't an exaggeration. I've had lots of illnesses in my then-young lifetime, but waking up feeling that is something I won't soon forget, because it happens to me again almost every day of the week even now. 

My primary care doctor had suspicions, but sent me to a rheumatologist to make sure I was diagnosed correctly. After many tests, the doctor told me I had fibromyalgia. I remember asking, "What next?". Even though I knew at that point doctors aren't miracle workers, I expected to be given a magic bean to swallow to eradicate the symptoms. He shrugged at me and told me there was no cure- I would have to "live with it" and it could be "managed". One doesn't say such hopeful things to a naive teenager who believed doctors knew their shit.

Long story short: I thought if I exercised every day, ate healthy food, and pretended I was fine, the fibromyalgia would magically disappear. I mention magic a lot as I tell this because even then, fantasy worlds were my escape. If I did not have my books and my dogs, I wouldn't have been able to cope- I already had chronic stomach pain at that point, which I was also told would go away with time. I tried the then-new wonder drug Lyrica, which ruined my life for a month while my doctor ensured I "gave it a fair try". Every other drug recommended for fibro, I also tried, to little success. Every home and naturopathic remedy was pursued as well, to no avail. The only part of my symptoms that was manageable (somewhat) was my mood, but even an incredibly positive outlook cannot overcome days, weeks, and years of pain. 

By the time I was 18, I had been told, "But you're too young to be so sick," enough times I wanted no one to know what I was in pain, and fumbled my way through my GED graduation party by saying what I had planned to do... if I was well (become a pharmacy technician, then take college courses for something big- like become a doctor who treated patients with honesty instead of platitudes AKA House M.D.).

I wish there was a positive spin I could twist with this post other than the fact that I've survived (at times by the skin of my teeth), but there really isn't. I always, always try to try something new for fibro: I exercise even though it's painful, I try to regulate my insomnia/sleep schedule so I can pretend to be your average human, and I give my doctors cow's eyes and beg whenever a new fibromyalgia drug comes out so I get to try it. For me, the most helpful things to get through the day have always been my trusty heating pad, ibuprofen, Savella (which actually works for me, somewhat), books, and animals- Torrie, Keisha, and George do not allow me to stray from our schedule. 

Although this section of my post may sound dismal, I know someday the cause for fibromyalgia will be found and stamped from the face of the Earth, just as the many other syndromes, diseases, cancers, and maladies will be cured. I know because I have a closet full of high heels I've been unable to wear for longer than ten minutes without pain, and I intend to preserve them until the day I can again wear them (for half a day at least), even if that day comes when I am 90-some years old. I plan on making the best of every day I am given, even if I cannot be who I thought I was destined to be when I was younger- I know that envisioned version of myself could not be nearly as tough and resilient as I am now.

Last year on a bad pain and insomnia day

Some days, I don't look sick. My illnesses are an easy secret to keep (especially online) because they are often invisible. Most fibromyalgia sufferers, like me, are easy to mistake for able-bodied people. When someone tells you they have any medical diagnoses, it's best to just listen, and not assume. They likely don't want your sympathy or pity (or medical suggestion you read about on Pinterest/Facebook), they just want to be honest and live without faking so much around you. Even on a very painful day, I can smile (most of the time it's while imagining I'm a T-Rex and just bit some obnoxious person's head clean off, but sometimes it is genuine). Life goes on, and you have to make the best of what you have available to you, even if it's simply a positive attitude.

In conclusion to this post, I hope you now have some idea of what fibromyalgia is like. Though it varies in severity from individual to individual, I have heard others describe it as feeling like having been run over by a train, so I know I'm not alone in that. The more people who realize fibromyalgia is real, and that many (many) people have it, the closer we come to finding a cure (as you can't find a cure for something no one's ever heard of). 

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles #1)" by Intisar Khanani

It's kind of unusual that I don't review a book I read while actively blogging, but that's what happened to another book by this author that I read first, Thorn. Sometimes you do everything right to review a book (highlight, take notes about what you'll cover) but you nonetheless draw a blank when staring down a review draft, and that was the case with Thorn. I mention this because Thorn was the reason I bothered to pick up another of this author's books, despite having a massive book hoard/TBR full of every kind of book already. Fair warning: I do compare this book against Thorn despite not having completed a review for it.

It's much easier to like Hitomi than the protagonist of Thorn, who had more growing to do before she came into her own. Despite her lack of parents, Hitomi seems fluent in the language of survival, with a little help from her friends. The start of the book is gripping because it springs from an action scene, which spurs the pace of the story, despite it being a relatively short book.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.
'When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.'

You don't get more than a glimpse at the possible central plot to the series with this book, but there are plenty of progression points (and action) to keep this book from feeling unfocused. Hitomi joins forces with Ghost (a disguised vigilante) to aid the rebellion against Blackflame, even though it means likely drawing more attention her way- attention she doesn't need, as she's already seen as a foreigner in Karolene.

Although this book is short in page count, it covers a large swathe of story. Unique twists on paranormal staples like vampires and werewolves help define it as different from the rest, despite a relatively staid plotline. I did begin to notice some commonalities with some of Robin McKinley's books near the end, but it read more like an homage than a detraction. I likely wouldn't have noticed it as much, had I not read an interview with the author noting McKinley as one of her favorites.

A favorite quote:
I know it the moment I wake, an almost physical awareness, as if the air I breathe has lost its moisture, or a color had disappeared overnight so that, on waking, I find a world without amber or topaz, or amethyst.
            ~Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, page 129 Kindle edition

Sunbolt is an excellent young adult fantasy I wish I had around when I was young. Not only is it a diverse fantasy book (a rarity in YA ten years ago... or even now), it also proves a quick read can also have a great deal of story to it. If you're in the mood for a unique fantasy read that won't take you very long to read, Sunbolt might be your next book.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a magically short YA fantasy!

Content: Ages 14+ for violence, adventure, and trapped souls.

Page Count: 142 pages

Sunday, May 8, 2016

SFF: The 5 Choices You Made With Your Blog That You're Most Happy About

Sunday Fun Five #53:

A Countdown of

The 5 Choices You Made With Your Blog That You're Most Happy About

Book blogging, despite being centered on the love of books, is a personal experience. I see why other bloggers have chosen the route they went, but as for me, these are the choices I made with my blog that continue to make me happier to this day.

5. Making My Own Post Series
When you start out blogging, you tend to notice everyone tends to pick up some fun memes. For some reason, I decided to do my own, perhaps because I liked the challenge of coming up with topics and being able to personalize everything. It hasn't always been easy, but I enjoy having a variety of posts that aren't necessarily identical to everyone else's.

4. Writing Reviews for Older Books
It seems almost a dirty word in some of the book blogging world- old books. But after realizing ARCs weren't really everything they were cracked up to be during my first year of blogging, I try to read more old books in order to keep variety and interest in blogging alive- for me! I don't think I would be blogging about books if I could only blog about the latest and "greatest".

3. Keeping My Blog Ad-Free
This is something I noticed early on when I started blogging- ads are so annoying. As a gift to myself, I decided to try and maintain my blog in an ad-free fashion. It's worked well for me so far!

2. Not Signing Up For Blog Tours
I've almost signed up for different blog tour companies, but to be honest, the practice irks me a bit. I know authors don't have time to beg each individual blogger to advertise and/or review their book, but I would hope they'd magically come upon my blog and realize I might like their book... instead of paying someone else for that realization. It's not realistic, but darn it- I don't need any more emails about books for review in my inbox- it's stuffed already!

1. Doing My Own Thing
I like being free to do whatever on my blog. Despite it being named Victorian Soul Critiques, I've also done posts on Cat Acquisition/Adoption (In Other News), Vacation Posts ("The Lazy Vacationer" by Litha Nelle and Gone Camping: Moose, Mesa Falls, Dog Antics, and Lots of Rain), and even a post on another thing I love, antiques (Gone Junkin'). It may not amount to massive amounts of pageviews, but if it keeps me happy, I'll post about it.

What choices have you made with your blog that continue to make you happy? And happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

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