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:


the-invisible-pile Additions:



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:


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!

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