Sunday, July 31, 2016

SFF: The 5 Books That You Might Want to Read After Harry Potter

Sunday Fun Five #59:

A Countdown of

The 5 Books That You Might Want to Read After Harry Potter

5. Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb
Though this is darker than the Harry Potter series, and Fitz wasn't my favorite starting out, something about this brought back memories of Potions with Professor Snape. Magic is taught in this series, and Fitz doesn't have many friends like Harry, but he instead learns his place in the palace (which is unfortunately not very high up at all). This is also more traditional fantasy, but it reminded me of Harry Potter nonetheless.

4. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
An orphan boy prodigy. A magic university. But still, not quite like Harry Potter. Kvothe (pronounced quothe) the hero of the series, isn't that perfect, and it shows by this book's across the board ratings. I loved it. It was one of the first adult fantasies to even mildly appeal to me. However, you may want to wait until Book 3/Day 3 is published, as this is a still unfinished series.

3. The Naming (The Books of Pellinor #1) by Alison Croggon
This is a YA fantasy I read while waiting for the next in the Harry Potter series to come out as a teen. Though it is more reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings in writing style, the series follows a girl who discovers she has a magical talent. It is also the only fantasy I've read that actually mentions menstrual periods, so yay for that!

2. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
This is an obvious choice, because it's about a wizard named Harry. From there, the resemblances dissipate, but there's something about this urban fantasy mystery series that just appeals to the Harry Potter fan in me.

1. The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy #1) by Clare B. Dunkle
Though this really isn't about a magic school, it is a coming of age story/mild romance/fairytale all in one book. For some reason, I just can't bring myself to put any other book at the top of this Fun Five list- perhaps because I found it so unique. The heroine is more Ginny than Hermione, but I still find myself drawn to this in relation to the Harry Potter series- perhaps due to the fact it's YA and I read it while the magic of Hogwarts was still being woven.

Which books do you recommend to Hogwarts alumni? What book did you most enjoy reading after the Harry Potter series?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fortnightly Update #15: Stuck in a Reading Rut and Adventures in Numbness

I seem to find myself floating in a sea of books that aren't quite what I was needing lately. It may be due to my insistence on selecting romance titles due to my overall lack of wits at the moment, or possibly that they just aren't the right ones for me. Either way, in the coming weeks I'll definitely be attempting to read something that isn't romance-y and see if that solves my quandary.

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

the-pile Additions:


the-invisible-pile Additions:

Technically none, because I read the one I bought!

Currently Reading:

The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

The Pride of Chanur (Chanur #1) by C.J. Cherryh 
Both of these are physical editions, which have been a bit troublesome for me to read (again) due to the distracting numbness in my left arm that increases as I use the arm. The Kindle is so nice in that I can generally read it only using one hand.

Finished These Books:

Restoree by Anne McCaffrey
Rating: 3 Stars
As I mention in my review, I was expecting McCaffrey's best, and instead got her mediocre. The worldbuilding was nice, and the plot kept me reading, but the characters just weren't for me.

Mind of My Mind (Patternmaster #2) by Octavia E. Butler
Rating; 4 Stars
The heroine for this one, Mary, is what really made the book for me. Unlike Anyanwu, she grows up knowing Doro, and knowing how powerfully he can assert himself. However, she chooses not to fear him and because of this, develops an interesting twist to the story. This was an excellent read, but something about it didn't quite satisfy my craving for a different kind of book.

The Rule of Luck by Catherine Cerveny
Rating: 2-2.5 Stars
I kept reading this book despite many reservations. I was pleasantly surprised by a plot twist, but it wasn't enough to save it for me. I think why I didn't like it so much was that it was more romance-y than sci-fi (even though it had surprising depth of worldbuilding), and it reminded me of my arch nemesis, contemporary romance. But really, any time you have a heroine complaining to a hero about how hurt and humiliated she was by his actions, and then two pages later (in the same scene) they're getting hot and heavy, I just can't understand it. Beyond that, I didn't even like the heroine and/or empathize with her because she cheated on her boyfriend early in the book, and kept having these really vindictive thoughts about people. Maybe the author meant her to be sarcastic, but I just couldn't bring myself to like her.

In the Blogosphere:

Karina @ I, fat robot reviews The Copper Promise, by Jen Williams, a fantasy with awesome characters that sounds exactly like my cup of coffee.

Becca @ I'm Lost in Books has a great post about our political climate these days: I Need to Talk About America for a Minute.

I definitely need to start surfing blogs more or saving posts more- that's all I have for this week.

In My Life:

I think I've been complaining about my frozen arm/numb arm/zombie arm for most of this year. I recently had an EMG study done to see if something's wrong with the nerves in that arm, only to have the numbness branch out to my feet, right hand, and parts of my face. The EMG, which was relatively painless (until 3 hours later), revealed all the nerves and muscles in my left arm are normal. Because of that, I'd begun to do more stretches in hopes it would simply vanish like I want it to. Unfortunately, due to the spread of the numbness, I have a feeling I'll be undergoing more tests, and/or demanding them as I see fit.

The last time I went to see my general practitioner, she was on vacation, so I saw someone else in her office. The "doctor" (and I use that term loosely) couldn't be bothered to listen to my symptoms, instead telling me "if you move your arm, it'll get better" when I'd just (five minutes prior) told him the opposite was the case, and he then also said the arm numbness was just "fibromyalgia". When I went to see my pain management doctor to get an upped dose on my fibromyalgia meds, he did not think it was fibromyalgia (at all). He scheduled the EMG, but when my mom called back to see what was next last week, they never got back to us. Therefore, if I can't get into my general practitioner or my pain management doctor, I may have to resort to going to the emergency room if things keep progressing as they have been.

I haven't been around as much due to this lovely turn of events, which leave me a little bit more brain tired than I'm used to. When I don't feel like myself, I tend to avoid reading and writing, though I did manage to read three books in the past few weeks, so there's hope for me yet.

In other news, my grandmother's 90th birthday will be in the coming week. I'm hoping that my symptoms are manageable enough so I can go up to Montana to visit her/make her cake.

Which books have you finished lately?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Restoree" by Anne McCaffrey

A Sci-Fi Summer Reading Challenge Pick

If you're a McCaffrey lover like me, you'll probably be expecting a book that, despite its cover, will wow you with a strong heroine, a strange planet, and a variety of alien species. It won't feed into any of the old book stereotypes (i.e. sexism, racism, etc.) because McCaffrey was very ahead of her time, right?

If the above is the case with you, this is not the book you're looking for. This is one of McCaffrey's early works (1967) that shows some of the promise she would eventually live up to, but also includes some things that made me squirm while reading it. There are other books I'd recommend before this one if you're new to McCaffrey, mainly The Rowan, which continues to be my favorite.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Sara had been torn from Earth by a nameless black force and taken to Lothar where she was forced to care for a strange man, who she discovered was the Regent. She escaped in panic, and become a fugitive in a world of multiple evils....'

The above synopsis is misleading, but the gist of the story is Sara gets snatched from Earth by aliens, ends up in a mental recovery center caring for someone who she notices isn't quite as mentally handicapped as his keepers portray him to be. Eventually she finds out that Harlan, the man she's caring for, is one of the men in charge of the planet she's now on. Another thing- her appearance has changed quite drastically.

Sara's appearance changing is one of my main nitpicks with this book. Before with her "awkward" appearance, it was clear no man would ever love her. Because love is always based on appearance. Luckily, the aliens warped her into looking alien (golden skin, but overall human appearance), correcting her nose and "awkward self" so she looked just shy of inhumanly beautiful. It's like an Ugly Duckling story.

To quote the cover, this is what the book is about:

In another body on another world, Sara risked her life for a man of power and for an alien dream!

Really, what it should have said is, "Stay away Litha, stay away- you'll never like this one as much as you have Anne McCaffrey's other books," because that is the case. What I thought would be a fun read ended up being a bit of a disappointment- not because I didn't enjoy some parts, but because I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as her other works.

Restoree just didn't meet my expectations. For a sci-fi romance, it's still a good read, but I had a different idea of what it should be about (more sci-fi action, less romantic). However, if you happen to like heroines who go through Ugly Duckling transformations to meet the man of their dreams on an alien planet, I suppose this one might be for you.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good sci-fi romance that I don't really recommend.

Content: Ages 16+ for cut-away sex scenes, violence, and shallow mindedness, at points.

Page Count: 256 pages

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The 5 Literary Villains You'd Like to Read an Entire Book About

Sunday Fun Five #58:

A Countdown of

The 5 Literary Villains You'd Like to Read an Entire Book About

5. President Snow of The Hunger Games trilogy
So you're the megalomaniac president of a dysfunctional dystopian society. Other than reading up on Donald Trump's origin story, I just don't have quite the imagination to figure out how he got there. And also, why would you want to be in that position anyway?

4. Eli of Vicious by V.E. Schwab
We get snippets about Eli, but it's always from Victor's perspective. Could a book from Eli's point of view change the plot completely?

3. Prince Regal of The Farseer Trilogy
Other than being the third (overambitious) son, Regal really doesn't have much reason to do what he does. Is there another reason that drives him so, or is he just another Donald Trump anomaly?

2. Roland, of the Kate Daniels series
Roland looms large throughout the now eight books, despite not being directly involved in every event of the series, which is now nearing its end (or so I presume). Something about Roland just makes you want to know more about him, even if he is magically scary.

1. Voldemort AKA He Who Must Not Be Named, of the Harry Potter series
Although you get a few snippets of Voldemort's life from the Harry Potter books, I've never quite been satisfied with those choice morsels the author threw our way. I would love to see more of Voldemort's perspective, especially when he was younger.

Which literary villains would you like to learn more about?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Best Books I've Read in 2016 (So Far)

It's that time of year again- it's hard to believe more than half of 2016 is over, but a quick consult with the calendar confirms it. So far, I've read 48 books this year- fewer than other years, but I don't recall having this many 5 Star ratings from the beginning of other years, either.

FYI: An asterisk* indicates I have a review for the title. All other links go to Goodreads.


Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy #2)* by Robin Hobb
Rating: 5 Stars
Obviously, this one won my affections by having a wolf companion in it, but also because Fitz really came into his own with this book, which made it much more palatable to me. In the first book, he was a bit of a blank slate character and not the brightest (though he was a child).

Assassin's Quest (Farseer Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb
Rating: 5 Stars
The end of this trilogy overwhelmed me to the point that I still haven't reviewed it. You'll see this recur in many other books I've rated five stars- it's difficult to explain why I love them so much. I did manage a simple quote review on Goodreads (as in one quote from the book that pretty much sums up my feelings for the book).

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1)* by Robin Hobb
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Assassin's Apprentice was an exceptional fantasy read for me because prior to 2016, I was in a bit of a fantasy slump. Yes, I followed fantasy series, but usually I'm able to find other, new to me fantasy series to enjoy. That didn't happen until this year, when I finally broke down and read some Robin Hobb books. You may notice that fantasy has the most recommendations this year, and it's because I was able to break free of that genre slump.

Although I did also read The Liveship Traders Trilogy* after the Farseer Trilogy, I was not as impressed with it, nor did I like the last book of that series as much as I thought I would. It is also recommended, but I didn't want a huge wall of Robin Hobb recs to dominate this post.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles #1)* by Intisar Khanani
Memories of Ash (The Sunbolt Chronicles #2) by Intisar Khanani
Rating: 4-4.5 Stars (all the books are highly recommended)
Generally, I don't read Young Adult books- I guess I like my blood, gore, and gray areas too much. But I had Thorn recommended to me by several bloggers as one not to miss, so I grudgingly bought it and expected to be disappointed. I wasn't- Thorn is a beautifully written fairytale retelling. Since I liked Thorn, I bought the author's other series, The Sunbolt Chronicles, and read that- which I also greatly enjoyed. If you like a unique take on fantasy, look no further.

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1)* by Michael J. Sullivan
Rating: 4 Stars
The only reason I picked this one up off of NetGalley was that some other Goodreads user loved it, and we have similar taste. I was truly impressed with the worldbuilding and characters, though I wish some of the stock fantasy tropes hadn't appeared. Nonetheless, this is still an excellent series starter.

Rating: 4 Stars
I was recommended The Silvered by Tanya Huff by someone (not sure who), but I couldn't find it at a decent price, so I settled for Sing the Four Quarters. I didn't expect a pregnant heroine to be able to work as a character in traditional fantasy, but Annice proved me wrong. Beyond your average fantasy, you can expect a few laughs with this one- Annice and Pjerin are simply the perfect adventuring duo.

Urban Fantasy:

Fate's Edge (The Edge #3) by Ilona Andrews
The Edge Series by Ilona Andrews (On The Edge*, Bayou Moon*, Fate's Edge, and Steel's Edge)
Ratings: On The Edge 4.5 Stars, Bayou Moon 4 Stars, Fate's Edge 5 Stars, Steel's Edge 4.5 Stars
I didn't know too much about the Edge series before buying it at Better World Books, other than my favorite author team wrote it and I would read anything they had written. This is urban fantasy with a bit of paranormal romance to spice it up, though I think fans of both genres will find something to like about it. In my case, it was the pet raccoon and con/thievery of book 3, Fate's Edge, but honestly, each of these books has something to celebrate for those who love strong heroines. I highly recommend reading them in order, because there are occurrences in previous books that last 'til the last book.

Vision in Silver (The Others #3)* by Anne Bishop
Rating: 4 Stars
This series continues to be one of my favorites, though the first book has yet to be matched in quality (in my humble opinion). Still, if you like urban fantasy beings that have an animal side and/or characteristics, this series might be something for you to look into. Also, Wolf puppies.

Science Fiction:

The Xenogenesis Triad (AKA Lilith's Brood) by Octavia E. Butler
Rating: Dawn 3.5 Stars, Adulthood Rites 4 Stars, Imago 4 Stars
Some days I'm really glad aliens don't exist (or if they do, they run minimum interference- like causing Brexit and creating Donald Trump). The Xenogenesis series shows the myriad reactions humanity might have if aliens were to try and take over, in a realistic way. I prefered the last two books in the series due to Lilith being so frozen that she was difficult to relate to.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Rating: 4 Stars
Though I never got around to writing a review for this one it was a fun dystopian/video game romp. Also, if you love the '80s, there are '80s references galore.

Alternate History/Steampunk:

The Custodian of Marvels (Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #3)* by Rod Duncan
Rating: 5 Stars
I hadn't expected to rate this one 5 Stars, but it snuck up on me and satisfied all my wants for the plot (and wants I didn't know I had). If you like historical fiction and urban fantasy, and a little mystery, this series is definitely for you.

Wild Seed (Patternmaster #1)* by Octavia E. Butler
Rating: 4 Stars
Another of Octavia E. Butler's works I picked up recently, Wild Seed experiments with similar themes as the Xenogenesis triad, with no alien interference. Instead of aliens playing God, there are humans who have special abilities. And instead of being set in the future (like X Men), this is set in the past, making it an alternate history.

Historical Fiction/Classics:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Rating: 5 Stars
I still can't fully grasp why I love this book so much, but somehow it garnered a five star rating from me, despite having a myriad variety of bad relationships and domestic abuse. However, it's beautifully written and has a strong heroine, and despite some of my lingering grievances, it was just perfectly imperfect.

Pride and Prejudice* by Jane Austen
Rating: 4 Stars
I have finally read this book! And I even liked it! I was worried I wouldn't like it, having watched every Pride and Prejudice adaptation beforehand, but I was able to enjoy this book for what it was. One scene in particular made it for me, despite my ambivalence to Elizabeth Bennet.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Rating: 4 Stars
Though I thought I published a review on this, I hadn't fully completed it, leading me to look rather disappointed in my brain as far as remembrance goes. Anyway, this is the first Toni Morrison book I've enjoyed reading and actually "got something" from. The Bluest Eye has some harsh content, but it is remarkably insightful on racism, and on things like that I hadn't even thought of before. I don't think I'll look at Shirley Temple in quite the same way as before again.

The Vagrants* by Yiyun Li
Rating: 4 Stars
A gorgeously penned look at China in the late 1970s, The Vagrants has a lot going for it, especially if you like historical fiction. However, this is another one of those books whose content snuck up on me, as I didn't expect to read some of the scenes of sexual assault. But if you're willing to read that sort of thing, this is one of the more memorable books I've read this year.

Magical Realism:

The Incarnations* by Susan Barker
Rating: 4 Stars
This isn't a magical realism for those who can't read disturbing content. I give that disclaimer first, because though I was warned, it is a bit more than I had anticipated. Nonetheless, the concept of soulmates being reincarnated to different ages and sometimes, but not always recognizing each other is worth a read for those of you who can tolerate graphic content.

Historical Romance:

Virtuous Scoundrel (The Regency Romp Trilogy #2) by Maggie Fenton
Rating: 4 Stars
Though not quite as magnificently hilarious as its predecessor*, this book still had me laughing much more than your average historical romance. I think why I didn't like it quite as much is that it's shorter than The Duke's Holiday, which gave me more time to get to know the characters. I would recommend reading The Duke's Holiday first, since there is a bit of setup in it that will help this book make a lot more sense.

My Reading Stats for 2016 (So Far):

Books Read: 48
Pages Read: 17,502 pages (according to Goodreads)

Rating Index:
5 Stars: 5!
4-4.5 Stars: 23
3-3.5 Stars: 16
2-2.5 Stars: 4
0 1 Star Ratings!

Book Stats:
Has a Diverse Main Character: 13
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 35
Female Main Character: 24
Male Main Character: 7
Gender-Neutral/Genderless Main Character: 1
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 16
 Autobiography: 1
 Biography: 1
 Classics: 2
 Contemporary Romance: 1
 Fantasy: 10
 Folk Tales: 1
 Historical Fiction: 3
 Historical Romance: 11
 Magical Realism: 1
 Paranormal/Horror: 1
 Sci-fi: 5
 Steampunk/Alt History: 2
 Urban Fantasy: 8
Published in 2016: 7
Published in 2000-2015: 22
Published in 1990s: 8
Published in 1980s: 4
Published in 1970s: 1
Published in 1960s: 2
Published in 1930s: 1
Published in 1800s: 2
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 3
Traditionally Published: 45
Series Books: 34
Standalones: 14
Ebook Version: 29
Paper Version: 19
From the-pile: 13
From the-invisible-pile: 17
Recently acquired: 18
Added to the-invisible-pile: 19
Books bought: 50

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 7
Female: 37
Male/Female Team: 4
Diverse: 13
Not-so-Diverse: 35
Living: 38
Deceased: 10

Have you read any of the books I've listed before? What are some of the best books you've read this year?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fortnightly Update #14: More Books and an Oddball Birthday Cake

These past two weeks have tested my ability to not watch the news. Generally I'm all for keeping on top of the latest news (as long as it doesn't involve Donald Duck Trump because I loathe him), but when outbursts of violence seem just to continuously happen and the newspeople try to cover every single minutiae about the happenings (as it is their job), I just really don't like watching it. I'm all for covering the basics, but once it delves past that point, it isn't of use to me (as I'm not a conspiracy theorist). Mostly I've been staying home and reading all the fluffy books I own because it's easier than focusing on all the things beyond my control.

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

the-pile Additions:

 From Better World Books:

I bought a bunch of books during one of their Bargain Bin sales because I'm clearly an addict. Mostly I bought books by authors I love, but a few are specific buys.

The Grass Dancer by Susan Power
I wanted to read a historical fiction about the Sioux, so after some furious Googling I found this one. It's one of my current reads.

The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Since I'm steadily devouring all things Robin Hobb, decided to get another of her trilogies. I actually didn't realize two of the books were hardcovers when I ordered them.

The Chanur Saga (Chanur #1-3) by C.J. Cherryh
As I mentioned before, I bought this book because SPACE CATS. And also, C.J. Cherryh's books have impressed me so far.

The Silvered, Blood Trail (Vicki Nelson #2), and Blood Price (Vicki Nelson #1) by Tanya Huff
Because The Silvered was originally on the Want to Read list for me, I finally got it, in addition to some of Tanya Huff's urban fantasy books.

Carry On, Jeeves and Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse
Since I loved My Man Jeeves and I could really use a laugh these days, I bought some of the Jeeves series so I can continue it (though not in exact order- I'm missing one).

The Servants of Twilight, Darkfall, and Phantoms by Dean R. Koontz
I loved the Odd Thomas series, and I've been considering getting more Dean Koontz books since I read its finale. I thought I'd give these three a try and see if they appealed to me.

 From Book Depository:

The Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse, and George's Foot (not included in all packages)
Proving I can never gather too much P.G. Wodehouse for my liking, I bought this from the Book Depository. This is different from the Jeeves series, but I think I'll like it just as much.

 From My Birthday:

The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin and A Dog of Flanders by Louise de La Reme

This is basically a collection of short stories with illustrations. I collect many older books, so this was a welcome addition.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Since I love a good fairytale retelling, and this was a Kindle Daily Deal, I snatched it up.

From NetGalley:

Faithful by Alice Hoffman
Thanks to Rita @ My View From Books's review, I learned this was a Read Now title on NetGalley. Generally I don't request books this time of year (summer is read whatever time), but given it's by one of my favorite authors and its publication date is the 1st of November, I decided to add it to my pile. FYI: this is in the Women's Fiction section of NetGalley. I loathe the term Women's Fiction- I think all fiction should be in one big category for people to sort through what they want to read.

Currently Reading:

(Covers are above)
The Grass Dancer by Susan Power
I'm impressed with it so far- I enjoy the characters. I noticed this has an endorsement from Alice Hoffman, which makes sense to me, as the author has a similar storytelling ability.

The Pride of Chanur (Chanur #1) by C.J. Cherryh 
I haven't gotten far on this one because the worldbuilding is difficult to follow (and my left arm has been not so nice lately). The author throws you in the deep end and expects you to pick up everything from there- it isn't a bad thing, but when I'm in a lot of pain it's difficult to concentrate on anything other than fluffy books, as seen below.

Finished These Books:

Rating: 3ish Stars
I bought these two historical romances with some free money I picked up from a coupon from a fellow blogger. This one was the longest, but I read it in maybe two days despite its length. The fun part of this one is the heroine is fixing up an old house, which leads to some interesting situations. The bad part is, the plot is pretty far fetched and scattered- I think it's one of the most random historical romances I've read. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3ish Stars
This is a shorter length novella (approximately 140 pages) and covers all the basic historical romance plot twists. What I enjoyed most about this one was the characters.

In the Blogosphere:

I haven't been saving things as diligently the past few weeks, but I did enjoy Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings's review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

In My Life:

Last Wednesday was my 24th birthday, and I faced a dilemma. I have two cake recipes I really like, but I didn't want to choose between them. That's how my cake was born:

I simply halved both recipes (chocolate cake with white chocolate frosting and yellow cake with chocolate whipped frosting) and put them together. It was plenty tasty for me.

Have you read any of the books I bought before? What's your favorite cake?

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