Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fortnightly Update #46: Flowers, Flowers Everywhere (But No Brandon To Be Found)



Since May 16th, I have been preoccupied with helping my mom around the house. She had a successful knee replacement surgery and only spent one night in the hospital. I am so grateful I didn't have to use my power of attorney privileges to decide anything serious and it seems she is well on her way to having full mobility again. I've also retained the full use of my legs, so I'm a relatively happy camper these days.

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

the-pile Additions:


The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
Expected publication: October 2nd, 2018
This is from a giveaway I came across in the Shelf Awareness Pro newsletter- and my second historical fiction involving one of the Kennedys this year. There must be some nostalgia for political dynasties going around because I really don't remember this much historical fiction being penned about the Kennedys in previous years (or maybe these are just better promoted?). This book revolves around Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy's life in London in 1938.


the-invisible-pile Additions:


As I am a fan of medical memoirs, I figured it was prudent to add this to my list of them. The extra layer here is that the patient was a doctor first and noticed the difference in perspective (as far as matters of life and death) from doctor to patient.


Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix
I recall this book being all the rage when I was in middle school, so I may as well do some remedial reading now and see if I would've liked it.


Many bloggers are fans of this book, so I may as well catch up with the fad on the interwebs too. Also, sci-fi is usually a win with me as long as there's some form of alternative thinking.


This one has been on my wishlist on Amazon forever and it is finally on sale (at least, the US Kindle version is). I can't recall who recommended this one to me, but I am a fan of the author's tweets, so that's something.

Currently Reading:


The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
I am on the first few pages so no "true" impression yet, other than that I love the cover.


The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
Since this is a short sci-fi book, I decided to start this one too. So far I am enjoying it.

Finished These Books:


The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable
Expected Publication: May 29th, 2018
With some luck, I may have a review up for this one on the 29th. Although I thought I would enjoy it more, it turned out to be less of a political historical fiction and more of a celebrity historical fiction that erred on the side of romance. It is still a solid read, but manage your expectations if you think it will be more about JFK and less about Alicia Corning Clark.


Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Expected Publication: July 17th, 2018
Normally, I would never request a thriller, as they aren't my usual genre and they tend to disappoint me. However, Baby Teeth kept me on the edge of my seat and bordered on horror, so it was a win. If you're a thriller fan, consider requesting it if you still can.


This was a historical romance that I picked up last year. Someone mentioned on Twitter that the hero had ADHD and I was intrigued by that, so I finished reading it. Although it was interesting and I liked it, I wouldn't consider it among my favorites. I did enjoy one of the secondary characters, Phoebe, more than the main heroine, so maybe that was my issue with it.


In My Life:

Flowers, flowers everywhere, and lots of pollen to boot.

Ah-choo, my garden and some of my minion army (see upper and lower right)
This year has been easier on the garden-front for me- although I did raise most of my annual flowers from seeds, many of the perennials we've planted require little to no care. The exception to that were the rosebushes (I believe we have 16 now) which I had to prune back and fertilize back in April. I guess I've become so accustomed to growing things and caring for them now that if I didn't have plant seedlings every year, I would need to find a more intensive hobby. Gardening is not for the faint of yard.


Which hobbies are you excited to partake in this summer? Are any of my reads on your TBR list?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fortnightly Update #45: Mother's Day


Things have been quiet in my life lately, though I am managing to maintain my progress as far as walking goes. In the coming days I will be relegated to the caregiver role again, as my mom is having knee replacement surgery, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to read or blog. Still, the blog will go on (and hopefully I'll be back to replying to comments soon!).

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


None!

Currently Reading:


The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable
I'm not sure why I thought this would be more historical fiction than historical romance (maybe because it's based on real people?) but I am at 30% and it seems more historically romantic than I had anticipated. I do like it, it's just a different kind of book than I expected it to be.

Finished These Books:

Most of the books I've read were covered in my short adventure with Kindle Unlimited post. I caught up on many of the Irin Chronicles books, and also did some YA reading to polish off my subscription.

In My Life:


It's a quiet Mother's Day here. I made my mom an Italian Cream Cake and dyed the cake pink and the frosting violet-ish. It looks like it's supposed to be strawberry cake or something, but I just was tired of making the same cake over and over again (it's my mom's favorite).


I am on Season 6 of my Psych watch-a-thon, and I must say I love this show more with every episode. Although I was a frequent watcher of it for a while, I lost track of the characters and stopped watching somewhere past the sixth season (in other words, please no spoilers!). I think the best part about it is the mix of zany sit-com and detective show... but also the fact that Cary Elwes (of Princess Bride fame) has a recurring guest role on it.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Short Adventure in Kindle Unlimited


As you may know, I decided to try out Kindle Unlimited when I was feeling kind of meh back in March. I read a grand total of 4 books with my two month subscription, one of them with an audiobook.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is the book I read with narration added- it really helped keep my mind on track and immersed in the book. In case you missed my review, I loved this book (and I was surprised that I did!).


I've been waiting to read this one since it came out, so it didn't take me long to read it when I realized my Kindle Unlimited subscription was waning. It was a bit of a different read for paranormal romance- a love story in short vignettes, which worked in some ways. The disappointing aspect was you sort of knew some of this story from a previous book in the series, but it couldn't be helped.


The Silent (Irin Chronicles #5) by Elizabeth Hunter
I enjoyed this book in the Irin Chronicles a bit more, as I had admired Kyra in previous books and wanted to read about her happily ever after. Since this wasn't in vignettes, I felt it flowed much better than the previous book, but this story was also much simpler.


I wrote a mini-review on Goodreads for this one, and the gist of it is this is a fun, light read for pre-royal wedding days. Of course, I am not a YA fan usually, so this isn't one of my faves, but I read it in about a day even with my reading slump.

Kindle Unlimited



Pros:


  • There is a good selection of books to choose from now!
  • Really, lots of books!
  • You feel like you want to read twenty after you see all the books they have available!


Look at all these books I don't have time to read!

Cons:


  • The subscription rate is rather pricey at $9.99 per month- you could buy quite a few ebooks on sale for that price.
  • Although your notes in the ebook are saved, you can't access them.
  • Do you really need access to that many books? Do you not have a massive TBR?


Have you tried Kindle Unlimited, or do you want to try it? What were the best and worst things about it for you?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Fortnightly Update #44: Let's Do This Midweek


Spring has sprung in my neck of the woods, and with it, high pollen counts have arrived. My neighbor and I are guilty of contributing to this problem with a vast amount of perennial blooms, but it is nice to look at our yards, even if the pollen is beginning to give me headaches. I have actually read quite a bit since the last update, so perhaps some reviews will be in my blog's future.

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

the-pile Additions:

None!

the-invisible-pile Additions:

None!


NetGalley:


The Rain Watcher: A Novel by Tatiana de Rosnay
Expected Publication: October 23rd 2018
I was offered one of those "read now" links for this via an email and I couldn't help myself- historical fiction is part of my reading addiction, and anything set in Paris is of interest to me.

Currently Reading:


Future Shock (Future Shock #1) by Elizabeth Briggs
So far I'm liking this one- the heroine is Mexican American, sports ink, and also is aging out of the foster care system when she's approached by someone who knows about her perfect recall and offers her a job. 


The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable
Expected publication: May 29th 2018
This is historical fiction about JFK and Alicia Clark's relationship- I haven't gotten far yet, but since it is a long-ish book (and I'm not reading as fast as I normally do) I figured it would be prudent to start reading now.

Finished These Books:


Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
A unique take on vampires that kept me reading and wondering- it isn't Butler's best book, in my opinion, but still worth your time if you like vampire fiction and non-traditional relationships.


The first half took me a while to get through, but the second half? It took me no time at all to read the end. If you're a fan of steampunk-ish books or alternate history, this is a must read.


I would describe the main character of this book as more of an antiheroine than I'm used to. The ending had me on the edge of my seat, though, so it may be worth a read if you like urban fantasy and new adult themes.


I don't think I liked this one as well as I liked the first book in the series, but it's still a solid fantasy romance read if you're in the market for one.

In My Life:

I decided to finally replace my 6+ year old memory foam mattress with a larger version, so I am currently waiting for the larger replacement to stop "off-gassing" and smelling so gross. Although I made a pledge to myself not to lift heavy objects, I did manage to get everything upstairs by my lonesome, as my mother is about a month away from another joint replacement surgery.

My plant army is quite impressive now and I've put most of the seedlings outside to harden them off. The weather has been so decent lately that coats have been optional, which hasn't been the case since last fall. Spring is here!

Which books are you excited to read this summer?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"The Philosopher's Flight" by Tom Miller

Disclaimer: I was given a free advance ecopy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher, Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

If you've ever dreamed of flying, have I got the book for you! The Philosopher's Flight is set in the early 1900s in a bit of a different world from our own. Society is matriarchal instead of patriarchal (i.e. women go to work and war, have the most influence, and generally rule the roost, while men stay home [for the most part], take care of the kids, and get catcalled on the streets). It's refreshing to read a fantasy book that doesn't have a patriarchal society, especially when it's alternate history. I find some books with your typical Tolkien-style worlds so true-to-history as far as misogyny goes that they're difficult to read (I'm looking at you, George R.R. Martin).

The first half of this novel is the most difficult to get through due to a complex magic system that involves science, therefore making this a bit of a sci-fi book. I had issues initially imagining it, but as the book went on the magic system made a lot more sense and I really began to enjoy it. Philosophers in this book are a bit like scientific magicians: to them, it's simple science to be able to fly, heal people, and transport things and people across vast expanses, but to those who don't understand the science it seems a lot like magic.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art. 
'Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.
'When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women. 
'Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.
'In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness, Tom Miller writes with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and humor. The Philosopher’s Flight is both a fantastical reimagining of American history and a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.'

As someone born and raised in Montana, I expected this book to fail miserably on that end of things, but the setting where Robert Weekes grew up was spot-on for the area (though I did feel like the inclusion of Parmly Library would've amped the setting up a notch). Of course, due to this being alternate history, would the buildings have been the same? I am beginning to doubt that.

The central theme in this book is overcoming obstacles and adversity, along with how diversity should be considered a strength rather than a weakness. Although this book is a lot of fun to read, it does delve deeply into philosophical topics that don't involve magic. The last half of the book I read so speedily I worried I may have missed some of that depth, but when you love a character and their life is in danger, you kind of need to know if they survive that paragraph.

The Philosopher's Flight has the perfect fun to worldbuilding ratio of any book I've read in the past six months. The characters fly off the page at you and you find yourself a bit too invested in their well-being for them to be fictional. I am surprised that this is a debut, because it seems like someone who writes this well has had at least one book under their belt, but stranger things have happened. If you want an immersive fantasy experience that combines all of my favorite genres, The Philosopher's Flight may be the book for you. 

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for an exceptionally exquisite alternate history debut!


Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for sexual content, swearing, racial epithets, and philosophical catastrophes!


Page Count: 432 pages

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fortnightly Update #43: Time Flies


I hate to write the same ol' generic post again, but it seems time has escaped me once more! My procrastination gene appears to be fully functional, because I've been meaning to write up a few posts... and then neglected to execute the task. However, I do have a clean-ish house, so there's that.

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

the-pile Additions:

None!



the-invisible-pile Additions:



I love books on history, and I love books about history involving women, so I snatched this one up as a Daily Deal.


The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
I have yet to read anything by Le Guin, but this book of hers (along with the next), seemed interesting. 


I've been thinking a lot about death lately (you know, sometimes spontaneous choking on your favorite foods causes that reaction) and what I intend to accomplish before I go. I think this book will help clarify a few more of my aims, because lately they've become a bit more intangible rather than solid.

Currently Reading:


I am really enjoying this. The heroine, Teddy, is a bit of an antiheroine, which I also like. I just hope it ends well.

Finished These Books:


I am halfway through the review for this, but needless to say I enjoyed it. I think anyone who loves fantasy and historical romance will fall hard for any book in the Embraced series.

In My Life:

I am out and about without my trusted companion, Handsome (that is, my cane) because my knees have stopped buckling so often. It feels strange, because a few months ago I felt like I was ready to procure a wheelchair due to my legs being so weak at times. As I discussed in my four year blogiversary post, I really don't know what changed to make me "better" but I am blaming my insistence on trying all the things they suggested in my Facebook syrinx groups for the improvement. If you have a chronic illness, it doesn't hurt to network (although some days, it does, but most days, it's nice to know that you're never alone).


Which books are you reading this spring?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Four Years...


...of writing this book blog/weirdly personal symptom diary.


I can't say it's all been rosy, but I think my little blog has given me plenty of reasons to persist in my endeavors, even when everything looks hopeless. After all, publishers love giving "established" blogs free books, and four years worth of book blogging (and God only knows how many reviews[!]) makes my book critiques an easy sell.

On the weirdly personal side of things: it's a book blog. There is no impartial reviewer. Of course things get weirdly personal here. The things I never expected to share, though, were my medical abnormalities: from fibromyalgia to syringomyelia, I have a lot of strange things happening with my body (and let's not even start on my mind). My life is complex without a book blog, but with it, I am more organized, more empathetic, and more connected to the world in ways I never dreamt possible.

Bad News:


For a variety of reasons, I don't feel like doing a giveaway this year. But know that I will try my best to comment spree any blogger who comments on this post (and though I try to do comment-for-comment, I have no expectation of that in return). Sometimes comment sprees can be one of the funnest parts of book blogging, and blogging in general.

If you're in the mood for book giveaways, you should probably sign up for the Shelf Awareness Pro newsletter- that's the one place I've been having luck with getting books.

Good News:


I have had some improvements in my health recently that I feel prudent to share: my legs have regained most of the feeling that was lost for so long. My left leg almost feels "painful" because I'm so used to not feeling any vibration/slap of foot against the floor- my left knee feels almost painful because I'm not sure I've been using it right for the past year and three quarters. I barely use my cane in the house, because we have plenty of walls and doorjambs for me to lean against if my leg buckles again.

What have I done for such a marked improvement?


I wish I could say definitively it was x, y, or z, but I believe it was a combination of any of these factors:

-Thoracic (AKA the part of the spine involving the rib cage) stretching and yoga was suggested to me by someone with a thoracic syrinx, EDS, and disc issues. I have a syrinx from my cervical spine (neck) to the end of my thoracic spine, and an extruded disc in my thoracic region. I seemed to worsen when I went to Physical Therapy and they began making me lift weights to improve my muscle tone, but prior to that I was briefed on basic thoracic stretches, so I knew how to do those exercises correctly and safely at home. I began trying this in February (or at least I think it was?). I never, ever skip stretching my legs and back at least once per day.

-Due to multiple factors, I've lost about 30 pounds. I'm nauseous from my (much needed) high dose of antidepressants, I have issues with swallowing (which is suspected to be something to do with the syrinx), and I just don't find most foods I used to love appealing because they're too hard to swallow. Therefore, I have been on a high protein diet with absolutely no carbonated beverages (which I choke on, now). I've been drinking green and herbal tea instead of Diet Dr. Pepper, which would make my 2016 self grimace.

-We had a water filtration system installed. Our house was built in 1903. Could it have something funky in the water that my blood tests didn't pick up? It's possible.

-My Savella was doubled, my propranolol was upped. It was suggested on the syrinx group page that people with POTS (something I am strongly suspected of having, but for various, misogynistic reasons, I was never tested for) have issues walking because of disorientation. Propranolol, though intended for my PTSD/anxiety, is also a treatment for POTS. Propranolol is one of the few drugs I've never had any *true* side effects for, so if your doctor suggests it, I would consider it more than others.

-I currently take a daily walk in the daylight hours (even if it is just a block). After, I usually do more stretching. I'm not sure it's helpful or not- sometimes, the walking makes my legs temporarily numb again, but it's better to use what I still have than sit around and mope about it.

Although it's possible that I will get worse again in the future and be more reliant on my cane again (currently, it's only being used for long distances and outside time), I am hopeful that this turn of good fortune with my health will last if I stick with my unofficial, un-medically supervised program. Of course, I'll be seeing my primary care doctor again soon to puzzle out my swallowing issues, but until then, I am satisfied with my results.

Thanks for sticking around, and if you have an opinion, please vote on my Disqus commenting avatar for guests:



Happy Reading!



Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fortnightly Update #42: Life, The Universe, and Everything


It has been a good two weeks. I have yet to enact my plans for world domination, but those things take all sorts of time, and so far I haven't lost any of mine. My plant minion army is progressing steadily, although I have thrown it a few wrenches by clumsily dumping over one of my units of tomato seedlings. It's been raining here, and I must admit the earthworm per square foot ratio is grossly abundant.  

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

the-pile Additions:
Won/Bookmail:


Future Shock (Future Shock #1) by Elizabeth Briggs
Future Threat (Future Shock #2) by Elizabeth Briggs 
I think I signed up for these from one of Shelf Awareness's newsletters, but I'm not sure- but they arrived quickly and I hadn't expected them. These are both YA, but futuristic YA with time travel elements, and I hope I'll enjoy them as much as I like the covers. The third book in this series is being published April 1st of this year.

Leia inspecting the book mail- it met with her eventual approval

the-invisible-pile Additions:

None!

Currently Reading:


Expected publication: March 27th 2018
I'm hoping to read and review this before its publication, but who knows if I'll make it!

Finished These Books:



The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I'm feeling much more book-blogger-ish now that I've finally started reviewing books again, starting with this one, which was my second five star read of 2018 (and I've only read three books so far, so...).

In My Life:

Let's address the black hole in the room: Stephen Hawking. 

Stolen from Barnes & Noble's FB
When I first started having trouble walking (and as I began to mentally adjust to it) I looked for examples of people who kept going and loving life with their disabilities to model myself after. Stephen Hawking was one of those people- and as much as I hate to inspiration-ize him- looking at his life and how he kept pursuing his passions with significant disabilities? It helped me a lot, especially when his disabilities (physically, at least) were more limiting than my own. I will miss him.

In addition to Stephen Hawking's death, lately I've acquired another issue: eating.

My brain-shaped Irish Soda Bread
If you know very much about me, you'll know I'm a fan of food- specifically baked goods like bread and cake. For St. Patrick's Day I made myself a loaf of Irish Soda Bread and fully expected to enjoy it. Although it tasted good (really good, actually), I could barely swallow the small pieces that I was able to eat. Once my mom got home, I asked her if it was difficult for her to swallow. It wasn't.

I've actually had this problem for a while now (a while being since July, at least), but I've been putting off going to the doctor over it, because, well.... doctors and I have issues, for one. Secondly, even if I have had issues swallowing, it didn't seem to affect my weight (which I knew would be thrown in my face to discredit me). I've actually lost approximately 30+ pounds since October, so I suppose that theory is also out the window. 

I've finally decided it's to the point I need to re-see my doctor (which I hate doing) because people in my syrinx group have told me that there are no real home remedies for this sort of thing other than avoiding sticky/dry/dense foods, and it can get dangerous (you can get aspiration pneumonia). My least favorite pastime is visiting with my doctors or being tested for things by them because I also have lovely memories of spending most of my teen years waiting for a cure that never came. But still, as I regret to inform myself every time my symptoms worsen- doctors are my only hope for a semi-normal life, so I must see them sometime.


In other news, my new Kindle Fire cover matches my bathroom decor. I only found that out when I brought it in there for the first time. Ah, mint green, violet, and white make for a relaxing retreat.



Also, this pup:


...is ten human years old. She acts more like she's six human years old. For her birthday, she received a nice stuffed log with three little chipmunks. Leia promptly commandeered every chipmunk, and left her with the log. Luckily, Torrie is not one to complain, though she did begin dismantling the log.


If you were wondering what picture guest comments on my blog end up with, it's this one- Gustave DorĂ©'s Depiction of Satan from John Milton's Paradise Lost c. 1866. That's not because I think my commenters are evil, but rather because this is the only Victorian-esque public domain image I had on my hands when I set up my Disqus. I am taking suggestions for any public domain image to use as a "guest commenter" image, and I will host a poll during my blogiversary month to see which one is favored. Since my blogiversary is in April, if you have a suggestion, please comment it below (public domain images only)!

Here are some more illustrations that I favor:


"The Raven" by John Tenniel, from "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, in which I am the man standing at the window, and the commenter is the raven, disturbing my reverie.


"Geraint and Enid Ride Away" by Gustave DorĂ© from Idylls of the King by Tennyson, in which I am the Ent-ish tree in the background, clinging to the hill while the commenter rides away with their true love on a feisty-looking mount.

Have you gotten any book mail lately? Which images do you suggest for the guest commenter avatar?

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