Thursday, April 27, 2017

Twofer Review: "Legion" and "Skin Deep" by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent)

Legion and its sequel, Skin Deep are novellas written by Brandon Sanderson. Being that they're short-ish, I thought it a better idea to combine their reviews (even though they differ in rating) and not include anything spoilery so you can get a feel of what I thought of the series itself.

Stephen is a man with many hallucinations that are people (to him, at least) he refers to as 'aspects'. Aspects have names, families, skill sets, and identities beyond what Stephen feels he could dream up, but he nonetheless consults with them on multiple projects and/or cases he picks up as a kind of/sort of private investigator. He also has a mansion to keep his aspects happy in, a butler/driver, and a seemingly open schedule. Is there anything Stephen doesn't have?

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Stephen Leeds, AKA 'Legion,' is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his 'aspects' are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society.'

In response to my very own rhetorical question, I have to say there is something that did bother me about dear Stephen. His aspects have almost off-the-wall sorts of personalities, while his own seems nonexistent. Sure, he's polite and snarky on occasion (in the first book, at least), but he seems there almost as a peacekeeper for his aspects. It's very hard for him to do anything without his aspects' inputs. He's the sort of mediocre/shadowy male lead I expect more from Neil Gaiman, to be quite honest.

Initially, it was hard for me to identify what was wrong about Legion to me. It was charming enough, creative enough, and mysterious enough to keep me engaged and reading, but somehow didn't measure up to enough in my book. Once I finished Legion's sequel, Skin Deep, I realized the problem- this is Diet Sanderson. I'm used to full fat, full sugar Fantasy Sanderson, and this being Urban Fantasy, well... it measures out to less in my estimation. I came to love urban fantasy later in my reading career, and though I do have favorite books in that genre, when I read something by Mr. Sanderson I want the works. Being that this is set in the "real world" and one of the key ingredients of the Sanderson works in my opinion is his worldbuilding, well- that's the problem, along with my high expectations of anything Mr. Sanderson writes.

Legion is a good, short urban fantasy novella that may have been better received by me if it had been penned by any other author. Skin Deep, meanwhile, felt like just a longer version of Legion, without as much of the aspects/characters that I loved in it. Both had good storylines, but I don't feel any sense of urgency in wanting another book in this series, despite Stephen's aspects charming me. If you like Gaiman-esque leads and find yourself craving urban fantasy, these novellas might suit you.

Legion Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a light urban fantasy that held my attention.

Skin Deep Rating: 2 of 5 Stars for a sequel that lacked the primary novella's zing.

Age Advisory (for Legion and Skin Deep): Ages 16+ for violence, racism, and the occasional stereotype.

Page Count: Legion is 88 pages, Skin Deep is 208 pages

Monday, April 24, 2017

SFF: The 5 Picture Books You Loved as a Kid

MonSunday Fun Five #74:

A Countdown of

The 5 Picture Books You Loved as a Kid

I can't recall if I did picture books or not before as a SFF theme, but these are some of the ones that helped me read when I didn't necessarily want to. Interestingly, all the books I remember best were published before 1950.

5. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco and William Nicholson (Illustrator)
A classic tale of a well-loved rabbit, but other than that I don't remember much about it- which is why I gave it a place at the bottom of my list. This is actually the oldest of the books, having first been published in 1922.

4. Corduroy by Don Freeman
I remember this a little better because I was absolutely enamored with the illustrations of the charming teddy bear (and it has a rather standout cover).

3. Goodnight Moon (Over the Moon #2) by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (Illustrator)
This is an old standby of picture books, though I remember absolutely hating Runaway Bunny, because there was no point to the plot. This one, at least, had a bit of a seek and find aspect that made it more palatable to my peculiar childhood sensibilities.

2. Madeline (Madeline) by Ludwig Bemelmans
I loved Madeline so much I almost wished I was an orphan and could go live with her and the other girls. Her misadventures made for an interesting picture book.

1. King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (Illustrations)
This book I liked best because I was obsessed with horses, and also it's a much longer story than any of the others (I think it's considered a chapter book, but the illustrations are gorgeous). I liked many of Marguerite Henry's books, but this one was my favorite.

Which picture books did you like best as a kid?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fortnightly Update #32: Feline Junk Food and a Rereading Spree

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

the-pile Additions:

La La in the Library mentioned Dollar Tree book finds in one of her Monthly Mash posts. I often looked through the books at the Dollar Tree but never found any books I'd want to read, but I checked again after her post and found these two:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Although I'm not technically doing Travel the World in Books this year (I've decided to forego all challenges until my health stops challenging me *hard stare at health*), I was intrigued when I learned it was set in Iceland and involved a murder mystery.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
This is a fictional account of the life of Anne Morrow, the wife of Charles Lindbergh. Given the turmoil involved with being a public figure in those days and the notorious kidnapping of their baby, I figured it would be a good book to pick up.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

There is a Brandon Sanderson Humble Bundle happening right now that has some novellas of his as well as audiobooks (which are cut up into parts of books- you have to buy the complete bundle to get a complete set of some of the books). I bought the $1+ one and got these novellas and short stories:

Legion (Legion #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson
The Emperor's Soul (Elantris) by Brandon Sanderson
Firstborn & Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson

Currently Reading:

Nothing- I'm trying to choose between starting a new book or finishing off the Night Prince series.

Finished These Books:

"Way Station"* by Clifford D. Simak
I just reviewed this book yesterday, but basically it's vintage sci-fi that's ahead of its time and somewhat solemn in tone.

Asterisks indicate a review, however- my review of Once Burned is the same, but I'd up the rating to 4 stars since I know now where Jeaniene Frost was going with her characterization of Vlad the Impaler (you read that right). When I read the first book for the first time, I thought the author may disappoint me as she had done in the past by having a hero who was violent/liked to play head-games with the heroine. That kind of hero I can really do without, which is why I never really finished the Night Huntress series even though I actually really liked At Grave's End (Night Huntress #3). I didn't find myself too drawn to that series, but when I saw this one I was willing to gamble that I'd like it because the main character is Vlad the Impaler.

I reread all these because I recently bought the final book in the series, Into the Fire (Night Prince #4) but I don't know if I can bring myself to read it just yet. Leila and Vlad have become one of my favorite paranormal romance pairings.

In My Life:

I have pretty much no health news, but I'm ready for my next appointment in early May.

George being a panda bear slash lethal tiger in repose

George, on the other hand, has become obsessed with the feline junk food known as Feline Greenies:

We've always had different kinds of cat treats you can buy at the grocery store for George, but after I bought Torrie and Leia some Greenies, I decided to even the score and get George a big box. George usually didn't care if we gave him treats with his food or not, but now he has become very demanding if he just gets cat food- he wants the Greenies too. I'm not sure if they actually clean a cat's teeth or not, but I know if I run out I'll be buying more- George has never liked a cat treat as much as these.

Since it's that day of the year, I'm recycling this from a previous year:

If you're wondering, that is a picture of a bunny bun (a family tradition- basically rolls with bunny faces made with raisins and expert use of the fork) on a white chocolate rabbit body. It isn't usually served like that, but I thought it was rather funny at the time.

Happy Easter! Do you have any tasty family traditions?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Way Station" by Clifford D. Simak

We often talk about older people in terms of all the technological advances they've seen come and go, and in that respect, Enoch is an example of that but through a more alien process than aging. Enoch is also enduring a semi-forced isolation, so although he does have a bit of human contact, his life is likely more lonely than most people's. Enoch runs a way station, which is basically a pitstop for aliens on their way to different galaxies. For a variety of reasons, these aliens often don't fulfill his hunger for social contact.

Though I put this book in my Action/Adventure category, much of this book is static rather than dynamic. It takes a while to figure out the what and whys of Enoch's situation, but Mr. Simak does an excellent job to keep you in suspense with his use of multiple perspectives. This book was published in 1963, and though there were a few aspects that didn't age well this felt relatively fresh in terms of concept and execution.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Enoch Wallace is an ageless hermit, striding across his untended farm as he has done for over a century, still carrying the gun with which he had served in the Civil War. But what his neighbors must never know is that, inside his unchanging house, he meets with a host of unimaginable friends from the farthest stars.
'More than a hundred years before, an alien named Ulysses had recruited Enoch as the keeper of Earth's only galactic transfer station. Now, as Enoch studies the progress of Earth and tends the tanks where the aliens appear, the charts he made indicate his world is doomed to destruction. His alien friends can only offer help that seems worse than the dreaded disaster. Then he discovers the horror that lies across the galaxy...'

In the vaguest way possible, Way Station did remind me of the Innkeeper Chronicles just due to a similar concept. However, beneath the surface they are very different beasts books. Way Station has much more of a somber tone to it, while you can read Clean Sweep without feeling fatalistic or very sad at all. The reason I bother to mention it was someone mentioning Way Station and Clean Sweep were similar is why I picked Way Station up in the first place.

The only things that really bugged me with this novel were the ways and words used to describe a disabled female character who doesn't talk or hear. In 1963, a lot of words we consider offensive now weren't thought of as such, but it bugged me enough to knock down my rating by half a star. The character, Lucy was portrayed as a bit of a child of the Earth/pixie dreamgirl rather than a fully fleshed character, so that was also on my mind as I finished this.

Way Station is a standalone that incorporates many aspects of science fiction into an easy to digest package. As I mentioned before, it isn't the cheeriest book, but it has a lot of moments where I stopped to think about some of the modern day connotations this book has, even with its age. If you like sci-fi that makes you think and doesn't take very long to read, Way Station may be a good choice for your next book.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent, but pensive sci-fi novel.

Age Advisory: Ages 16+ for domestic and other abuse.

Page Count: 236 pages

Friday, April 14, 2017

Month in Review for March 2017: Back Into Books Again

Month in Review For March 2017: Back Into Books Again
Now that it's mid-April, I can properly begin to review March, apparently. Since my last health update was a bit of a cliffhanger, they saw just my syrinx with the CT myelogram and my EMG was normal, so I get to see a neuromuscular specialist in May (the same who did my EMG). Basically because although the syrinx could be the cause of my issues, they don't want to do exploratory surgery on my spine unless they really have to (and I really don't like the idea of surgery unless it's a more or less sure thing in terms of improving my symptoms).

I read more books in March than I managed in February (which was all of 2) and also more posts, so I think I'm recovering a bit of my previous energy for bookish things. I blame it on less inclement weather and also, my internet is working well now.

 Total Posts: 5
  Total Critiques: 2
    Sci-fi: 1
    Historical Fiction: 1
    Part of a Series: 0!

Most Popular Posts of March:
Fortnightly Update #30: Renewing the Minion Army
Month in Review for February 2016: Looking Forward to Spring

Flashback Post (From March of a Previous Year):
Release Day Review: "Rebel Queen" by Michelle Moran

Pageviews for the Month: 871
Comments: 11!

Reading Stats:

Books Read: 6

Book Stats:
Has a Diverse Main Character: 1
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 5
Female Main Character: 5
Male Main Character: 1
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 0
 Sci-fi: 2
 Historical Romance: 2
 Historical Fiction: 1
 Paranormal Romance/UF: 1
Published in 2017: 0
Published in 2000-2016: 4
Published in 1980s: 1
Published in 1970s: 1
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 1
Traditionally Published: 5
Series Books: 4
Standalones: 2
Ebook Version: 5
Paper Version: 1
First Time Reading: 5
Reread: 1
Favorite of the Month: Tie between Windhaven by GRRM and Lisa Tuttle and The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul by Douglas Adams- the latter was hilarious and random in the way I needed it to be, and the first had me dreaming of having my own wings.
Least Favorite of the Month: Definitely The Earl's Defiant Wallflower (The Dukes of War #2) by Erica Ridley, which had me liking the beginning and furious at the glib ending.
Most Interesting of the Month (or Book I Learned the Most From): China Dolls by Lisa See- she has a knack for immersing the reader in history in a way they don't often think about.
From the-pile: 2
From the-invisible-pile: 3
Recently acquired: 1
Added to the-invisible-pile: 14
Books bought: 0
Pages Read in 2017 Thus Far (according to Goodreads): 4476 pages

5 Stars: 0
4-4.5 Stars: 3
3-3.5 Stars: 1
2-2.5 Stars: 2

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 1
Female: 3
Male/Female Team: 2
Diverse: 1
Not-so-Diverse: 5
Living: 5
Deceased: 1

Planning to Read in April:

So far, I've been rereading the Night Prince series (which is a spin off of Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series) because I finally got Into the Fire (Night Prince #4). Spoiler alert: all the covers for this and her other series are pretty much the same. Night Prince has Vlad posing shirtless, Night Huntress has Cat posing in some sort of ultra sexy outfit in an uncomfortable position in heels. I prefer the Night Prince series in terms of enjoyability- but these two series are pretty similar because they're set in the same universe.

I also read Way Station by Clifford D. Simak- it was really good but not like I expected it to be. I hope to write a review for it soon, but we'll see. For vintage sci-fi it was far ahead of its time, but there were some things I did find problematic.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of the month!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

SFF: The 5 Things That Keep You Book Blogging

Sunday Fun Five #73:

A Countdown of

The 5 Things That Keep You Book Blogging

5. Pure Stubbornness
I'm actually a pretty stubborn person, and I can be slow to change my ways once I've decided on a pattern of how to do things, when to do them, etc. Stubbornness is an excellent trait to have as a book blogger, because you have to rely on yourself for inspiration and you will likely encounter many (many) people (and fellow book bloggers) who have a conflicting opinion about a book you love or hate. If you're of a stubborn bent it's also important to keep in mind that there is room in the blogosphere for differing opinions and to keep an open mind when someone points out a "flaw" in your favorite book... even if you think it's just a flaw in their thinking.

If only I had a cup that big...
4. Caffeine
I never wake up with much energy any more, so caffeine is what helps fuel my posting. I'm a fan of coffee, I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Diet Dr. Pepper (I just call her Melinda), and chocolate also has my endorsement, especially if it happens to be covering coffee beans.

Some of my most anticipated titles of 2017
3. All the New Releases
I love being able to enthuse with other readers about the latest and greatest titles to be published in a given year. I don't know many readers in real life, so it's nice to be able to converse with other literary minded folks.

My pile awhile back...
2. the-pile and the-invisible-pile
I have a lot of books I've acquired and want to read: the-pile is all the physical books, the-invisible-pile is all of the Kindle ebooks or their equivalent (thus the invisible). I always have books to read, even if I feel like I have "nothing" to read (funny how that works). My piles keep me blogging by keeping me supplied with old favorites, less known older books, and some more recent books too.

1. Fellow Book Bloggers
I likely wouldn't be around if there was no book blogging community. Although I have had blogs in the past I just wrote for myself as a kind of book journal, etc., it's nice to know I'm not alone in liking and reading certain books, even if they aren't quite mainstream.

What keeps you blogging?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Three Cheers for Three Years! (And a Giveaway!)

Three mugs of caffeine being my battery on most days

It's hard to believe it's been three years since Blogger says I started this old book blog. When I began blogging, I had a lot of time on my hands and although I had health problems, I didn't want really want to talk about them, being that I had invisible illnesses and a lot of people have those. Even though this blog is still about books, I frequently recount my medical misadventures as well, because it affects how I feel about books and blogging. I used to be able to post four times a week without breaking a sweat- I just can't do that anymore, but I've learned to post when I can (especially when my fingers are working well).

The thing about the future is you never know what to expect from it- I would've never expected to be walking with a cane at 24 years old, but I am now, and although it's not the future I'd been told to expect, I'm still very much myself. I love books and sharing about books through this blog, and I hope to continue blogging for a long while yet, even though it may take me twice as long to muster the creativity to write a review.

As per usual, I'll be having a Better World Books or Amazon US gift card giveaway, as that was a cinch for me to put together last year. There are three freebie entries, though two of them do require a typed answer. Better World Books has free worldwide shipping and an excellent selection of used books, so if you don't like the evil empire you can always opt for their gift card. There will be three different winners, so you should have a fairly good shot at winning.

P.S. I usually comment back, but with my fingers and eyes misbehaving it may take longer than usual. Thanks for your patience!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:
Giveaway ends May the 4th (be with you) 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT. This giveaway is only 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!**

Good luck with the giveaway, and thanks for sticking around!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fortnightly Update #31: A CT Myelogram and Back Again

First off, I'm alive. Secondly, when they tell you you might get a headache from a lumbar puncture, believe them. I'll expand more on that in the In My Life section, but it's safe to say a benign sounding miserable headache has kept me from doing what I normally like to do- blogging.

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

the-pile Additions:

None! (I seriously don't get out enough to get more for my pile.)

the-invisible-pile Additions:

Lots! (To make up for my pile's lack of additions, maybe?)

Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
My friend was obsessed with this poet in grade school, so I thought it might be interesting to know a bit more about her.

The Wild Irish: A Novel of Elizabeth I and the Pirate O'Malley by Robin Maxwell
Another nonfiction, but this one about a queen and a pirate- which, I hope is interesting enough to keep my attention.

To Honor You Call Us (Man of War #1) by H. Paul Honsinger
I bought both the Kindle and digital audio of this book because at the time they were under $4 (and my eyes have been having a lot of trouble, so audio may help me read a bit more). I like a good sci-fi and I loved the narrator.

Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1) by Max Gladstone
I bought the first five books in this series, because as a set they were $12. I tend to go on urban fantasy binges and I hate when I don't have the next book in a series and have to pay too much for it.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
I think someone, somewhere mentioned this book in connection to the Innkeeper Chronicles as having a similar storyline, so I got it once the price went down to $1. I like the Innkeeper Chronicles so I hope I'll love this one.

Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States by Zora Neale Hurston, Carla Kaplan, and John Edgar Wideman
La La @ La La in the Library mentioned this one was on sale to me, which was perfect timing, as I had just run out of Zora Neale Hurston books to read on my Kindle. So far I've read her autobiography and Their Eyes Were Watching God- the latter being my favorite.

Currently Reading:

I just finished a historical romance, which means I need a less fluffy book next. Luckily, I have a surplus of non-fluffy books to choose from.

Finished These Books:

This was seriously cute- I read it start to finish last night when I was having trouble sleeping. I have got to say, Tessa Dare's writing isn't always for me- most of her Spindle Cove series turned me off, but this one isn't like the others that I recall.

I forgot I read this until I looked at my Goodreads profile- that's how much of an impression this book made on me. The beginning was nice, but the ending was a hot mess of wishful thinking gone awry. The author didn't know how to solve the problems with the plot, so they basically just magically vanished. Don't do that, please. I could've liked this book, but again, the ending!!!

China Dolls by Lisa See
I liked this one, though not as much as some others of Lisa See's- it's a nice historical fiction about three girls trying to make it as entertainers/dancers. I was actually anxious to write a review about it because it was so interesting.

This book was perfect for my mood a while back- satire is perfect for when I start to feel blah, because it reminds me other people have felt blah too, but managed to write clever books.

In My Life: (CT Myelogram- An Unenviable Experience/Novel)

Before you get a CT Myelogram (which is basically a lumbar puncture, but with dye added back into your spine), doctors will warn you of the possibility of developing a headache after the procedure. You will scoff at the doctor ("You really don't think I've had a headache before, buddy boy?") and sign the consent form without a single qualm. You put on a patient gown made of a vintage tablecloth gone terribly wrong, get into a clean room with a weird machine that shows the doctor where exactly to needle you at, and lay down on your side. First, the anesthetic (which is mostly lidocaine, apparently) is injected where they plan on needling you in your lower spine. I kind of lost track of what the heck was happening after that, because I started going all weird-faint-y like I normally do with medical procedures, but I can tell you the lumbar puncture itself doesn't hurt (at least not for me).

Once they presumably took some of my CSF out and put the dye in its place, they tilted the table I was on a bit to distribute the dye, then helped me on a gurney to go to the CT scan room. CT scans are a cinch compared with an MRI because they don't take long at all (I was once stuck in an MRI for an unGodly amount of time because I moved once and I needed a full spine scan), but I suppose if you can't stay still they might be torturous. After I got scanned, I went back on the gurney and was put in a spare ultrasound room for an hour because they wanted to scan me again an hour later. I went into the CT machine again after the hour was up (CT machines are a bit like a giant donut you get slid into, in case you were wondering, but without the fun sprinkles and calories), and the nurses and/or radiology assistants said I'd pretty much be good to go after.

That didn't happen.

Basically me, stuck in the hospital, sans squirming

As it happens, you need a neuroradiologist's thumbs up before you get to go after your CT myelogram. My neuroradiologist was a bit busy in that clean room I mentioned, but with another patient. If you've seen medical shows, you know you can just go in and out of a clean room if you're a doctor and happen to be "scrubbed in". So instead of being free to go, I was stuck on the gurney. The poor overworked nurse I had had to squeeze me into a curtained-off equipment closet by the neuroradiology waiting room, leaving me to eavesdrop on everyone passing by. Even in my semi-out-of-it state (I'd been up for more than 24 hours because insomnia is my thing) I knew I'd been in that semi-private closet for a while when I heard the nurse talking to someone else. "The outpatient's been here for over an hour."

It took an extra hour for me to get out of the hospital because of logistical issues, but eventually they let me dress back in normal clothes and leave. I didn't have a headache, but I did have to endure a two hour car trip back home in a semi-reclined state before getting into my usual bed. The next day my back felt like crap, but again, my head felt okay, so I assumed I hadn't gotten the side effect. But late into the day, my head started throbbing. I've spent the last four days laying down because the headache gets really bad if you're even just sitting up. I'm so grateful I live with my mom because otherwise I likely wouldn't have even eaten, and George the cat would've had to pillage the cupboards like he sometimes does to feed the dogs.

Long story short/TL;DR: the CT myelogram procedure doesn't hurt, but you might hurt after. And by the headache side effect, they actually mean an invisible person pounding your head with a mallet every time you sit upright, not your run of the mill headache.

Tomorrow I get my EMG and nerve conduction, along with a follow up appointment to divulge all my test results in Salt Lake City. I'm excited, but also nervous because I have no clue what they'll end up doing with me (or if there's anything they can do to help me).

On another note, my blog is almost three years old and I have nothing planned yet. I guess that's what happens when bloggers' reach their tortuous threes (and discover the carpal tunnel syndrome they thought they had last year wasn't actually carpal tunnel syndrome).

Happy reading!

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