Wednesday, December 31, 2014

122:120 The Asian World 600-1500CE by Roger V. DesForges & John S. Major

First read and reviewed in May 2011.  Here's my review from then:

Middle School History covering China, Korea, India, and Japan from 600AD-1500AD.  I really enjoyed the presentation and learning more about this period of time in Asia.  Interesting to see how religion spread through the different areas and how it would change in accordance to the needs of the people of that region.  I found it fascinating to learn that the Korea had a movable metal-type printing machine 50yrs before Gutenberg made his movable type press.  There were lots of little tidbits like that which makes the history much more fun and accessible to the middle schooler and even to those adults (like me) who tend to find history dry and boring.

Page count: 173p/33,896p ytd/214,934p lifetime

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

121:120 Who Were The Beatles? by Geoff Edgers

A short children's biography on who The Beatles were (mostly I suspect for parents who loved the Fab Four to buy for the children to get them to appreciate the band more LOL).  It is a basic overview of their childhoods, how the band was formed, their part in history, briefly covers the break-up, and the direction their lives took after that up through 2001. It is simplistic, being written for Grades 3-5 but I bought it for my second son when he was about that age because he loved the band (and still does) and now my younger boys also enjoy them and have enjoyed reading the book.  I will admit to eye-rolling them when I was younger since that was music from my mother's teenage years and she loved them so I had to rebel and go in for heavy metal so while I was always aware of them, I didn't know much of their background story but I figured I could at least read this to get some idea.  I enjoy their music (good thing since the 16yr old plays so much of it on CD, his guitar, and the piano) but I feel no need at this point in my life to dive much deeper into their history so this was a nice compromise for me.

Page count: 106p/33,723p ytd/214,761p lifetime

Monday, December 29, 2014

120:120 Torchwood: Another Life by Peter Anghelides

The first book in the books for the Torchwood TV series.  The Torchwood team is trying to track down a killer that is gnawing out the back of vagrants heads.  What they don't realize until they find the person they think is behind it is that he is just a pawn being controlled by another, almost definitely alien intelligence.  In the midst of their investigation, a storm the likes of which has never been seen around Cardiff is underway and the entire city is flooding and some nuclear rods have gone missing and while doing the autopsy on their first suspect, Owen has come down with a bad case of radiation poisoning which puts him out of the action and left to his own devices.  As anyone familiar with the series knows, that is never a good thing.

I've seen all of Torchwood (even Children of Earth and Miracle Day which were awful) and I felt the writing was a bit stiff in this one at times which made it harder to get into.  Also the plot was really hard to get into until over half way when things finally started coming together which again, just made it hard to get into.  Overall it wasn't bad but it just wasn't great either and I was hoping for better.

Page count: 253p/33,617p ytd/214,655p lifetime

Sunday, December 28, 2014

119:120 Doctor Who: Made of Steel by Terrance Dicks

Quick Reads with David Tennant as the Doctor and Freema Agyeman as his companion, Martha Jones.  Cybermen are attacking in England but only a few are ever seen.  When Martha and the Doctor end up at her hospital for a visit, the Doctor is drawn into the investigation and Martha is taken captive by the Cybermen who want the Doctor's help in releasing the rest of their army from the Void.

As it says on the cover, it's a quick read which means it is assumed you know who all the characters are and previous events that are referred to in passing.  There is no character development of any sort but it's a fun little read if you know the universe and is great for the younger kids who get daunted by the longer books (or who this book was originally bought for).  I felt Martha's portrayal was a bit weak but the 10th Doctor was decent enough although nothing spectacular.

Page count: 99p/33,364p ytd/214,402p lifetime

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

118:120 The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The first book in the Mary Russell series.  Mary's parents have died in an accident and she is now living in a small town in England.  She is wandering one day when she stumbles across the famous Sherlock Holmes.  He lives in the town now after having retired some years earlier.  She has a keen mind and they strike up a friendship and he begins training her after his own methodology.  In between her time at Oxford, she ends up taking on some cases with him and their relationship is cemented when someone starts trying to kill them both.

I've had a lot of friends raving about this series so I picked up a few as I could at the local used bookstore and grabbed the first one on Kindle so I could start the series sooner.  I really, really enjoyed it.  I've read several of the original Holmes stories, some of the anthologies with stories written by other people, and can't get enough of the BBC Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and I felt that this captured the spirit of Holmes wonderfully and it was nice to see a strong female character actually in the lead.  Mary is, of course, a bit daunted by Sherlock when they first meet but not intimidated by him and not afraid to speak her mind.  I can't wait to get the rest of the series and find the time to read them all.  I've heard they are all just as good as this one.

Page count: 384p/33,265p ytd/214,303p lifetime

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 1st Quarter 2015

My usual disclaimer:
Let me state, this is really based on authors or series that I'm already reading since those are the things I follow.  I'm not paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliations with any publishers so I don't receive free books or advance notice of things except what I glean off Facebook from people who do have those contacts or what I research on my own (which again, leads back to authors that I'm already reading).  Maybe someday I'll be one of those who has the contacts and gets ARCs but it's not today.

I am so far behind my reading from the last two quarters that I'm going quite crazy looking at all these beautiful books on my bookshelf but right now I'm frantically reading new authors as I managed to get behind on that and I'm soooo close to making my goal for the year in new authors that I want to get that done first.  Maybe with the kids being on break, I can manage to not only do that but start getting caught up on my other reading as well.  Hey, a girl can hope!

Tales from the Nightside by Simon Green kicks off the new releases for 2015.  It's been a while since we got to delve into the world of John Taylor and his "friends".  This is a collection of 10 short stories where we get to find out some of the backstories of the characters that he has worked with and with any luck, we'll get some John and Shotgun Suzy as well.

Release date: Jan 6

At the end of the month, we have the next installment in the Sisters of the Otherworld series told from Delilah's point of view, Panther Prowling by Yasmine Galenorn. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the main storyline with Shadow Wing is getting moved ahead in this story either and that kind of bums me out.  I love the sisters but it seems like the main story has taken a backseat for the most part and it's being stretched out.  I will, of course, be reading this one because I can't not read it but I hope that things will get back on track with the main plot soon.

Release date: Jan 27

With no releases in February that I'm tracking, I get two new books to choose from at the beginning of March.  Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs gets back to seeing how things are going with Anna & Charles.  They are taking a trip to Phoenix for personal reasons but nothing is ever so simple and while they are there, they find that the Fae are stealing human children and replacing them.  Looks like a war with the Fae may be starting up and they are in the line of fire.

Relesae date: Mar 3

Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire is the other one coming out at the beginning of March and we get to hear more from Alex Price and his girlfriend, Shelby.  Apparently things are not going well back in Australia according to Shelby's family so the two of them head to the Land Down Under to deal with some werewolves.  I have a feeling this will prove to be an 'interesting' trip.

Release date: Mar 3

To finish off the first quarter, we get the first in a new series with Prudence by Gail Carriger.   Alexia's daughter is leading off this series and I can't wait to be back in that world and in India to boot!  I'm sure that any daughter of Alexia and Sir Maccon will be a serious handful and delightful to adventure with.

Release date: Mar 17

So definitely a small number of books in the first quarter but there are enough books on my shelves that I won't be lacking for anything to read.

Happy Reading!

117:120 Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly

Joseph and his family have fled their home in the Ukraine and headed to Krakow after the Tartars have laid waste to their home.  They are being hunted even in Krakow as Joseph's father is hiding the Great Tarnov Crystal, a jewel that is said to possess great powers and one that is worth killing for.  Pan Andrew, Joseph's father, has fulfilled his family's ancient oath to protect it for as long as they could but now that the secret is out, he must give it to the King of Poland but first he must survive and keep it safe long enough to be granted that audience.  To keep his identity secret, he takes on the job of the night trumpeter who sounds the Heynal with the broken note in each direction on the hour.  His family has found sanctuary in the house with an alchemist and his niece but there are others nearby with less pure motives that would steal the crystal if they knew it's whereabouts.

Beautifully researched and simply told, it's easy to see why this was awarded the John Newberry Medal.  This book was chosen years ago for my 2nd son's book club and he asked me to read it but between one thing and another I just now got around to it.  It was a nice little read with some historical significance.

Page count: 208p/32,881p ytd/213,919p lifetime

Friday, December 19, 2014

116:120 Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

The 4th book in the Starcatchers series.  This one takes place about 20 years after the adventures in Peter and the Secret of Rundoon.  George and Molly have gotten married, had 3 children, and settled into more mundane life.  The Starcatchers seem to have disbanded as the need for them appears to be over but now there are strange disappearances in the tunnels of the London Underground and a strange adviser to Crown Prince Edward.  James, Peter's friend from the island that returned with the Asters after Rundoon, is now an Inspector and very suspicious of what he is seeing so he goes to visit Molly and tell her of his worries.  Right afterward, he disappears and Molly goes in search of him.  After she also disappears her daughter, Wendy, takes it upon herself to find this mysterious Mollusk Island and her mother's friend Peter as the only one who may be able to help save her mother.  Peter can not refuse and returns to London to find that not only is Molly missing but there is a frightening new foe called The Skeleton and Ombra is back disguised as the soon-to-be king's adviser, von Schatten.  Peter must find enough allies and enough courage to stop Ombra and the Skeleton once again or the world will pay the price.

Apparently the series was basically over after the last book but with children clamoring for more, this book was brought to life.  I read it aloud to my younger two and they loved it.  I found it a nice simple story that did a good job of bridging the Starcatchers series over to where we first met Peter Pan in the original book by Mr. Barrie.

Page count: 515p/32,673p ytd/213,711p lifetime

Saturday, December 13, 2014

115:120 Doctor Who: Judgement of the Judoon by Colin Brake

With the Doctor as played by David Tennant.  The Doctor is traveling on his own, between companions when he discovers a distress call from a ship that has been boarded and left in horrible shape by a squadron of Judoon.  After helping the ship, he decides to go after the Judoon and see how he can help them and halt the destruction that they seem to leave in their wake.  The trail takes him to the Elvis the King Spaceport, Terminal 13, in New Memphis.  The Terminal has just barely opened and has been experiencing nothing but problems in the weeks that have followed.  The Judoon have followed the trail of the Invisible Assassin there and the Doctor has followed the Judoon.  Now the Doctor has convinced the head Judoon to work with him in a more subdued fashion to try and find this assassin and bring him/her to justice without using typical Judoon methods.  Along the way, they meet a young girl, Nikki, who is a private eye and whose case seems to be meshing up with theirs in unusual ways as she is trying to track down a pickpocket.  Between the three of them, maybe they can figure out what is going on or maybe they will just be drawn into the feud between the mob factions of Uncle and the Widow.

It was a fun book and it wasn't too hard to hear David Tennant's voice saying the Doctor's lines in my head which is always a good sign that they've captured the spirit of that incarnation.

Page count: 247p/32,158p ytd/213,196 lifetime

Friday, December 12, 2014

114:120 In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

"Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants."  

There you go, the secret of this book and he lays it out right in the first chapter.  So why read on?  Because what Mr. Pollan goes to do is lay out the problem with the Western Diet and how it's killing us.  We have become a slave to Nutritionism and not food.  Science keeps telling us to eat more of this miracle nutrient and less of this one over here and we will be healthy and all will be good.  But it doesn't work and then next week or year or decade, they realize that what they first told us was absolutely wrong and they reverse it.  The Low-Fat Diet is a beautiful example of this.  We were told to eat less fat because consuming fat was making us fat and leading to heart disease.  So industry came to the rescue and took the fat out of everything replacing it with sugar and sodium and things we can't pronounce.  And that made us fatter than ever. Heart disease didn't go down and now we are told that carbs are the problem.  Eat more fish! Omega 3s! Paleo! Atkins!  The list goes on and all it does is leave those who need to eat more confused then ever.  There are now organic toaster pastries with Omega 3s.  Are those healthy?  The obvious answer is no but since Fritos can now put on their packages that they are a "heart healthy" food, who knows any more, right?!  

This is the point of Mr. Pollan's book, helping to decipher what we have been being told for the past 40+ years (longer than my lifetime). He breaks down the studies and tries to help the typical person understand what is being studied and how and what the results most likely mean.  How studies are flawed and how that tweaks the results.  He has his own rules for eating that he lays out in the last section but really, what it boils down to is the words at the top.  I had already started doing this after some less than stellar lab work at the doctor's and while it will be a few months before I know conclusively if it is helping in that department, my body is already showing positive changes to the new way of eating.  I highly recommend this book and I'm so glad that my son's high school health course uses it.

Page count: 244p/31,991p ytd/212,949p lifetime

113:120 Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Set in the early 19th century in Mexico we follow the story of Tita, the third and youngest daughter born to a well-off family who cried so much while in the womb as her mother chopped onions that she was born early right there in the kitchen.  As the youngest, it is her lot to never marry and instead spend her life taking care of her mother.  When she falls in love as a young teenager, her mother in a fit of spite marries the oldest daughter off to Tita's love in stead and forces Tita to make the wedding cake.  Tita makes a beautiful cake, infused with her tears which when eaten at the wedding causes all the guests to turn to melancholy thoughts of old loves and sends everyone out of the hall in tears.  As Tita's life continues, she continues to perfect her cooking and the cake is not the last meal she serves that imparts her emotions to those that partake of it.  She spends many years pining after that which she can't have and any happiness she finds stripped away from her by her mother but in the end, she can finally say that she has found what she always longed for.

I think I picked this one up from a Freecycle book lot or something because it is not something that I would normally have just bought.  The story itself borders on tragic almost the whole way through with only brief pauses as Tita finds happiness briefly before it is lost again.  Her mother seems to be a sadistic and cruel person who delights in making Tita's life as miserable as possible and you can't help but hate her completely.  Each month/chapter starts with a recipe which look interesting although I doubt I would ever make any of them but it was a nice twist to include since food and cooking is such a huge part of Tita's life.  I want to say that I enjoyed this book but I can't, it was just too depressing to actually enjoy.  It was good, simple but well written, but definitely not something uplifting or joyful.  Think more along the lines of Romeo and Juliet.

Page count: 246p/31,667p ytd/212,705p lifetime

Monday, December 8, 2014

112:120 Hinges of Destiny by Goranson

This book is not yet out in publication.  I was paid to read it and fill out a survey with my thoughts on it.  Therefore, this will be very brief since I have no idea how much, if any, the book will change before being published (if it ever is).

Elizabeth Stewart has been terrified of flying ever since her husband and son were killed in a crash 6 years ago.  She wouldn't be in the airport now if the meeting with this client (and thus her possible promotion) depend on it.  Unfortunately, she got there early enough to scrutinize everything.  Why were those suits looking at something on the wing?  Are the service crew taking longer repairing something?  Why is the pilot coming off the plane looking so distraught?  The last one is something she could follow up on and so she did and what she heard did nothing to reassure her and in fact disturbed her even further.  She sat in the waiting area pondering what to do all through the time when the plane left and then she went to see if she could get on another flight only to learn that shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed.  Was it due to the pilot?  Should she have said something to someone?

Now she is the only person from the flight who might have answers but she also has her own inner battles to fight as well.

So this book is not in my usual genre so I'm not sure who typical it was of it's genre.  I found it hard to relate to the main character who kept weighing her options and always picked what seemed like the stupidest thing to do in any given situation to make her own situation worse.  There were several awkward transitions and many of the "plot twists" were predictable and/or very contrived.

Page count: 383p/31,421p ytd/212,459p lifetime

Sunday, November 30, 2014

111:120 The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The 2nd book in His Dark Materials trilogy.  Lyra has found her way into another world as she tries to follow her father and stop whatever it is he is planning on doing.  Will, a child from our world, has also found a way into this between world.  Now the two of them are being forced together by outside forces that they can't understand to try and save the worlds.  Along their journey, Will and Lyra find the wielder of the Subtle Knife, a knife that can cut doorways between the worlds when wielded by it's chosen person.  Now Will, is the wielder of the Subtle Knife and Lyra has been told by her alethiometer that she must help Will find his father.  Their journey sees them teamed up with the Witches that have come through following their calling to help Lyra on her quest and they are headed North to find their fate.

It was an okay installment but I found that it went slowly and it took a while to come together and feel truly cohesive.

Page count: 288p/31,038p ytd/212,076p lifetime

Monday, November 24, 2014

110:120 The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Set in Turkey in 2027, just before the 5th Anniversary of the day Turkey joined the European Union.  The day started out like any other.  People trying to find jobs, working, living their lives.  Then the bomb explodes and several of those lives are thrown for a loop.  In this story we follow the lives of the boy who has a heart condition that could kill him if he is startled, an old man who was once part of the political background being brought out of retirement, the antiques dealer who has had an enticing mystery dangled in front her, the commodities trader that has a plan to strike it big, the boy on the bus who has started seeing visions since the experience, and the girl who was on her way to a job interview and made impossibly late by the explosion and is now trying to get by.  All at once their lives are intertwined in ways they are not even aware of but ways that will have longer reaching consequences then they could ever imagine.

This was a book club book and not one that I'd ever heard of or had anywhere on my radar.  The premise sounded interesting enough so I plunged in.  It took me a while to get into the story.  I found it frustrating that just as I was finally immersed in a character's story and getting used to their 'voice' we would change characters to follow and I'd be thrown for a loop again.  I think it took me almost half-way through the book before I was able to hear each character's 'voice' clearly enough in my head to be able to transition fairly smoothly although it always seemed too short a period with each character for me.  However, once I was able to find the time to really sit down with it I found it hard to put it down.  The world was so rich and complex and the characters so intriguing I wanted to know where it was all leading.  I have to say that I would be very happy to read more by Mr. McDonald if they are of the same caliber as this.

Page count: 480p/30,750p ytd/211,788p lifetime

Friday, November 21, 2014

109:120 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Reading this as part of school with my 8 year old.  It's still such an amazing story and I love how even my boys have all been enthralled with the series.  Here's what I said about it 6 years ago when I read it for the first time:

It was sort of a weird read. I kept thinking back to watching the show (I know, always a bad idea when actually reading the book) and it was so wrongly different, especially the part where they spent a year there and then had to move on. I mean, really, that show lasted how many years???

I have to say that I did find it fascinating hearing her description of how Pa built their house by hand (a house just about the size of our master bedroom) and got everything started for a farm before they were forced to move on. One man with just a bit of help from his neighbors (who weren't within shouting distance even) with a wife and 3 small daughters. Wow is all I have to say to that! I think it shows a lot, both about the human spirit and about how far we've come from there and not necessarily in a good way much of the time.

I can't really add much to this.  I am still amazed at everything this family went through and how they worked together and with such grace through such hardship.

Page count: 309p/30,270p ytd/211,308p lifetime

Thursday, November 13, 2014

108:120 Priestess Dreaming by Yasmine Galenorn

The 16th book in the Otherworld series by Yasmine Galenorn.  Camille has been ordered to go on a mission to wake up The Merlin in order to ask for his help in taking down the older forces that have been sleeping for ages and for which the world is not ready to deal with.  Camille has no choice but to obey her Coven Leader but when she is told she must take Morgaine and Bran, allies that she has no reason to actually trust, things get far trickier.  They must be able to work together or their mission will fail and in the elemental realm they are traveling to, that could spell the death of all of them.

It was nice seeing some of the Arthurian legends work their way into this book but with their own special take.  It certainly makes one look at Morgaine in a different light, at least within the context of this universe, and sort of makes me want to go back and reread them with this new information (not that I have time but still).  For some reason, this book just felt short to me, probably because I couldn't put it down so read it in less than two days but I was a bit disappointed in the ending battle which just seemed rushed.  In all though, a fine addition to the series.

Page count: 318p/29,961p/210,999p

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

107:120 The African & Middle Eastern World by Randall L. Pouwels

Here's what I said about it back in 2011:

A look at the history of Africa and the Middle East from 600-1500AD.  Covers the rise and spread of Islam and the Islamic Empire and the influence it has had on Western Civilization.  Honestly, I don't remember learning much of anything about this area during my school years.  All I remember is European history and nothing else being covered so I found this incredibly fascinating to read.  My only wish is that there was more information on what was going on in Africa but so much of that history seems to have been lost because of a lack of written language.

Pretty much sums it up still.

Page count: 175p/29,643p ytd/210,681p lifetime

Sunday, November 9, 2014

106:120 Hollow Earth by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman

The first book in the Hollow Earth series.  Emily and Matthew are not your ordinary, every day twins.  They aren't even your ordinary, run of the mill Animare (people who can control and animate what they draw and their imaginations) because not only was their mother an Animare but their father was the Guardian assigned to her which gives the twins Guardian powers as well to be more attuned to the feelings of those around them as well as other powers that they may not yet be aware of.  Unfortunately for them, their powers are developing sooner than anticipated and now those that control the Animares and Guardians are thinking it would be better for everyone if their powers were bound.  Not only that, but a secret society called "Hollow Earth" is looking to find them as well in the hopes that they can help unbind one of their leaders and help them find and unleash the monsters of the Hollow Earth.  Sandie, their mom, flees to their grandfather's estate where they should be safe while they are more properly trained but shortly after their arrival, the house is attacked and now grandfather is in the hospital and their mom is missing and there are people nosing around that don't seem to be what they appear.

So I admit, I was at first intrigued by this book because John Barrowman's name was on the cover as one of the authors (the other is his older sister) and I LOVED him as Captain Jack Harkness.  I bought it as a present for my then 12yr old (he's 13 now) and looking at the description, it looked like a good fit for him.  He read it over the summer and LOVED it so I made it a point to grab it to read as well.  The plot isn't anything new but it's well done and I loved the way it was the children's imagination powering things which shows just what a wonderful thing a powerful imagination can be which is something that I feel gets lost so often in today's society.  Yes, I'm aware of how often the word 'loved' came into play in this one paragraph but honestly, this was a lovely book with a great theme and well drawn characters.  I'm looking forward to reading the second and can't wait for the third to finally be released in the states.

Page count: 382p/29,468p ytd/210,506p lifetime

Saturday, November 1, 2014

105:120 The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

The 8th book in the October Day series by Seanan McGuire.  This is a really hard book to summarize without giving away spoilers because almost the entire thing is spoilers so I will try really, really hard.  There are many things in Toby's life that she has taken at face value.  She really should have known when she found out that she was Dochas Sidhe, not Daoine Sidhe, that there was more going on in her life than she had been told and asked more questions but even if she had, not a single question she would have thought to ask would have prepared her for what happens in this book.  People are not always who you believe them to be and even death isn't as permanent as you think (as Toby should know).

This was such an intense book that it's easy to see why the author was telling everyone "This is where everything changes."  It certainly was a game changing book and it was definitely difficult coming back to reality after reading it.  Absolutely amazing and I'm now wanting to go back and re-read the entire series from start to finish to watch things play out with the knowledge I have now.  It won't happen this year but maybe next year...

Page count: 358p/29,086p ytd/210,124p lifetime

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

104:120 Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

A group of hobbits, a wizard, a rouge, an elf, a dwarf, and a human go walking into the woods....

Yeah, I know, you've heard this one before.  This is my third time reading this book since 2008 and at this point, with the movies having been out for so long and the new Hobbit trilogy currently going strong I really kind of figure that everyone knows the plot of these books and if they don't, it's because they really don't care in the slightest.  

Once again, I'm reading these for my 8th graders literature course and once again, they are managing to draw me with the language.  He is having a bit harder time with it but I'll bet anything that his interest will pick up more as we hit Two Towers and things really get moving.  That seems to the be way of it with the 13yr old boys of my house (and hey, I wasn't all that enamored of them when I was a teen either).  

Here's a previous review of them I did when I first reread this in 2008 with my oldest:

I last read these books back in 1991-1992, something like that.  I remember enjoying them but also being put-off by the intense descriptive scenes which didn't seem to move the plot along (please, no flames on this, I was like 16 at the time, teenagers are stupid).  I've moved them several times and always meant to give them another chance, especially after the movies, but there always seemed to be something new to read or worlds where I didn't remember being so bored so I kept putting it off. 

Until that is, I found the LOTR curriculum and went "Wow! This is way cool! I gotta do this with Christopher!"  And I'm of the mind that if my kids are reading something for school, well, since I'm their teacher I should read it too.  So we are reading it together.  I stay about a chapter ahead of him and then stop (which surprisingly is starting to annoy me LOL).   Now that I'm enjoying it with him and reading it with better appreciation for literature, I'm thoroughly enjoying it.  I can't add much to what has already been said about it by so many thousands of other people in the world except that if you tried it years ago and found it dry, try it again.  Don't give up on it.  It's truly worth the read.  And even better, read it with someone you love and enjoy discussing it together.  It just adds to the experience.

Honestly, this still holds true.  I'm glad I have an excuse to read them again every couple of years with a fresh pair of eyes to discuss them with.  It just adds something to the entire experience.

Page count: 527p/28,728p ytd/209,766p lifetime

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

103:120 To Be A Slave by Julius Lester

In this small book are tales of slavery told by the slaves themselves.  Tales of heartache and pain and subjugation that I never read in any of my history books.  Slavery is awful and that is something that I've always felt in my bones but reading what they went through, in their own words with just the narrative of Julius Lester to weave the tales together is gutwrenching.  Families broken apart we knew but infants torn from their mother's breast to later be drowned.  The absolute lack of any type of  compassion for another living thing, much less another human being.  How the horses were cared for better than the people.  To hear of the beatings in their own words.  Even after reading this I can't imagine how so many endured it for so long and my heart breaks for what they went through and for those around the world today that are still not free.  While this is written as a children's book, I do find the subject matter to be very heavy and am glad that our curriculum did not include this until high school but I definitely feel that it is a book that everyone should read to better understand the history of our nation from the side that wasn't in charge.

Page count: 160p/28,201p ytd/209,239p lifetime

Monday, October 27, 2014

102:120 Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

It's somewhere in the 21st century and nations have broken down and enclaves of communities have become the thing.  There are those who group together by ethnicity but more often it's by values or other common belief structures.  So it is with the Victorian clave but one man in the higher ups, is recognizing that what they fought so hard for when they founded their clave is being lost on the children growing up in it.  So in a world of nanotechnology and ractives, he commissions a very special book for his granddaughter, a book like no other to create a story that forces her to think for herself.  What he didn't count on was another copy of the book being made and falling into the hands of a child in the Leased Territories (aka slums).  What that book became to Nell was more than Lord Finkle-McGraw could have ever expected.  It became her one companion and grew in her seeds far beyond imagining.

This was my first time reading Neal Stephenson even though he is an author that my husband truly enjoys but it took this book being picked for book club to actually get me to read him.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  I found it a fairly fast read although it took me a little bit to understand who all the characters where and how they intertwine (since they all do eventually intertwine).  I found the subversive underplots interesting but as so many before me have said, the ending was very abrupt and left me wholly unsatisfied.  I get that it's supposed to leave things to the imagination but there were just several questions that I felt needed at least a bit more resolution than the none that we got.  I've read reviews of his other books online and this seems to be a fairly common thing for him, at least in his first works and it honestly makes me hesitant to read more of his because it was very jarring to my system to be reading and fully immersed and then have ice water dumped on me to bring me back me to reality because it was over with no explanations.

Page count: 499p/28,041p ytd/209,079p lifetime

Friday, October 24, 2014

101:120 Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry & Ridley Peterson

The 3rd book in the Starcatchers series.  The reports of starstuff falls are no longer being reported to the Starcatchers and Lord Aster is heading to France to discuss the matter with the other Starcatchers.  Molly, curious as always, ends up sneaking away and doing some research to find out that the mysterious reports came from a Mr. Pan who disappeared 12 years ago, about the same time an infant named Peter was deposited at St. Norbert's as an orphan.  Through some further investigation with her friend George Darling at her side, they discover that Mr. Pan had an affinity for knowing when the starstuff would fall and that his son, and their friend, Peter may also have talents where starstuff is concerned.  After giving her father this information, it's decided that Peter must come back to London with them so they can protect him but when they get to Mollusk Island, they discover that they are already too late as the island is overrun with a vicious clan called the Scorpions and Peter and his friends were just captured by a strange ship which is now heading with super speed to Rundoon, the kingdom of King Zarboff the Third, which is where the boys had been headed in the first book of the series.

And that's just where things start.  Now Leonard, with Molly and George in tow, must figure out how to find and save Peter from the Others and not only Peter but the existence of the entire world may hang in the balance.

My younger boys are really enjoying this series and with over a hundred pages left in this one were begging me to finish it right then (sorry guys but mommy's voice can't do quite that much in one sitting) and it's easy to understand why as things start out a little slow but then everything is happening all at once and while we all know it will turn out alright in the end, you just have to  find out HOW and RIGHT NOW!  Definitely a fun series.

Page count: 482p/27,542p ytd/208,580p lifetime

Friday, October 10, 2014

100:120 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I read this one as my second ever read on my first kindle (first was 1984) and it was completely memorable.  Here is what I said back in 2009:

A very different look from what is offered in George Orwell's 1984 but with very much the same premise, just different ways the "government" went about achieving it.  I'm glad I read them in close proximity to each other so the comparisons were very vivid.  I think of the scenarios offered between the two books, this one is the more likely outcome and definitely something to be guarded against.  I definitely found myself routing for the savage and agreed with him that "civilization" was hardly something to be applauded.  I found the end somewhat unsatisfying but I think that fit well with the whole book and it's definitely one I'll remember for a long time to come.

I was right although there were definitely details that had gotten lost in the last 5 years so it was a pleasure to read again.  Unfortunately, it's very easy to see how this is even closer now than it was back then which is truly terrifying.

Page count: 196p/27,060p ytd/208,098p lifetime

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Releases I'm looking Forward To: 4th Quarter 2014

My usual disclaimer:
Let me state, this is really based on authors or series that I'm already reading since those are the things I follow.  I'm not paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliations with any publishers so I don't receive free books or advance notice of things except what I glean off Facebook from people who do have those contacts or what I research on my own (which again, leads back to authors that I'm already reading).  Maybe someday I'll be one of those who has the contacts and gets ARCs but it's not today.

I am so far behind my reading from last quarter that I'm going quite crazy looking at all these beautiful books on my bookshelf!  I really need to just hole myself up for a few weeks with them and tell the world to take care of itself so I can get caught up.  Unfortunately, the last time I tried that, the kids found me within 15min and ruined that plan.  I don't foresee it going any better any time soon so I will just have to try and figure something else out.

First up is Broken Soul by Faith Hunter, the newest book in the Jane Yellowrock series.  The European Delegation is coming and Leo knows that they want his territory so he is hiring Jane to deal with the security but there is more going on than she can guess and a vicious creature stalking the streets that she must also contend with.  This is such a great series and Jane is such a kick-ass character!

Release Date: October 7

Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey is the third book in the Agents of Hel series.  I wish I could say more about this book but I haven't even read the first book in the series yet.  I loved her Kushiel and Namaah series and have heard that this series is fantastic as well but I'm still trying to find time to work it in.

Release Date: October 7

Ilona Andrews has a new series starting up with Burn for Me. A detective is being sent on a suicide mission to bring in a top-level magic user but she is not the only one who is searching for him and the other person is just as dangerous but in a much different way...

Release Date: October 28

Otherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong sees many of the more obscure and hard to find short stories gathered in one collection.  I know I likely have several of them but there were a few I wasn't able to get so I'm happy to have the chance to read them.  I miss this world and am always happy to have any chance to dip into it with something new.

Release Date: October 28

The Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance is always fun and I'm happy to see that Reap the Wind is going to center more on Pritkin than Mircea and the relationship with his father as Cassie drags him along on a search through time to find his son's soul.

Release Date: November 4

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger is the third in her Finishing School steampunk series.  Unfortunately this is another series that I'm desperately trying to find time to read but haven't had a chance to yet.  Really want to get it read before she starts her new series next year.

Release Date: November 4

Gin thought that life would get easier after she killed Mab Monroe, but as she finds out in Black Widow by Jennifer Estep Mab's daughter is so much worse than her mother.  M.M. Monroe doesn't go for the direct attacks like Mab but is instead working to wrap Gin and her friends in a tangled web that will destroy all that she cares about.

Release Date: November 25

What was originally a duology by Mira Grant has become a trilogy and Symbiont is the second book.  The first one was incredible blend of possible science with a cautionary tale of what can happen when humans take things too far without fully understanding the consequences of their actions.  I can't wait to see what happens in this one now that the consequences are coming home to roost.

Release Date: November 25

The Dark Angels series by Keri Arthur concludes with Darkness Falls.  This series has been a bit slow going so I'm a bit pleased that hopefully with several things to tie up that this one will actually move a bit better.  Risa just needs to find the third and final key to the gates of Hell and keep Director Hunter from getting a hold of them and putting an end to life as we know it.

Release Date: December 2

Carrie Vaughn is finally doing a spin-off of her popular Kitty series with Low Midnight which follows Cormac on a quest to solve the mystery of a coded diary that could spell serious trouble for Kitty.  We will apparently learn more about Cormac's past which will be nice since he's always been the "mystery man" in the series.

Release Date: December 30

So yeah, 10 new books coming out for the 4th Quarter and I've still got 8 from last quarter still sitting in my to-read pile a few of those as well as a few of these have other books I need to read before them because I'm behind in the series (or just haven't even started it).  So yeah, needing a lot more reading time here!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

99:120 The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison

The 13th and final book in the Hollows series.  Cormel is continuing to hound Rachel and threaten Ivy to get Rachel to find the souls of the undead vampires and reunite them with their bodies.  Rachel has been trying, for Ivy's sake, to do just that but Cormel feels like Rachel needs more "persuasion" to hurry up.  When Rachel ends up in the middle of a fight between vampire factions, with an injured Ivy, she makes the only choice she can think of and transports over to the Ever After with Ivy, Trent, Nina, Bis, and Jenks.  While there, Felix starts his crap up with taking over Nina which has the unexpected consequence of having one of the surface demons chasing off all the others as Felix recognizes his soul.  Now Rachel knows where the souls of the undead vampires go, to the Ever After as surface demons, but now she has to figure out how to bring the souls back to Reality and reattach them to their owners.

The problem is, Rachel isn't sure how to capture and reattach souls so Trent asks Landon for help.  While Rachel doesn't trust him, she doesn't see that she has a choice if she wants to save Ivy and get Cormel off their backs.  Unfortunately, Rachel was right not to trust Landon as he now sees a way of getting what he's always wanted, Elven supremacy with the vampires and demons taken out.  He sees that if he can destroy the ley lines, all magic will fall and the other magic dependent species will fall with it while they will have the Goddess to keep their magic strong.  Can Rachel stop Landon and keep the demons and vampires safe from his mad schemes?  And what will it mean for her HEA?

Ms. Harrison promised us that Rachel would get her Happily Ever After with the end of the series and she did not disappoint even if Rachel had to go through hell and save the world once again although would it be a Hollows book if that weren't the case?  I could have done with a little less of Rachel's constant guilt over Trent's situation among the dewar but otherwise, an excellent end to a fabulous series.  I'll miss Rachel, Trent, Al, Ivy, and Jenks.

Page count: 462p/26,864p ytd/207,902p lifetime

Saturday, September 27, 2014

98:120 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The 1st book in His Dark Materials trilogy.  In a world where no one is ever alone because they all have their daemon familiars, something strange is happening.  Lyra takes little notice of the stories about the Gobblers who steal children except to use them in games of pretend until her friend is taken one night on the eve of her leaving Jordan College to go with the fascinating Ms. Coulter to the city.  Once in the city however, she starts learning disturbing things about Ms. Coulter and the Gobblers and something they call Dust.  She runs, frightened of what she hears and goes to the gyptians who have been hardest hit by the Gobblers with several of their children missing.  Now that Lyra is able to tell them the direction they have been taken, they are ready to take action and get their children back.  Lyra refuses to be left behind, which is all part of her fulfilling a destiny that she knows nothing of but must fulfill for the sake of everyone.  On her way, she will make some amazing friends including Iorek the Battle Bear.  Unfortunately, her destiny lies in a world far from her own and her friends may not be able to join her.

Yeah, I'm a few years behind on this one but I tend to not want to read things right as everyone else is.  I actually am not sure after the hubbub that I would have picked it up (I find that things rarely live up to their hype) but a friend sent me the series so it's been sitting on my shelf since it looked like something I might enjoy but I just hadn't gotten around to it.  I'm falling a bit behind on my new authors for the year so I figured I'd grab these to read and preview for my kids.  On the whole, it's an interesting new world but I found the characters shallow and the plot nothing new or spectacular.  The world kept me just interested enough that I will read the next one to see where things go but just barely.

Page count: 351p/26,402p ytd/207,440p lifetime

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

97:120 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

1st book in the Little House on the Prairie series.  Laura is about 5 years old during this book which covers approximately a one year span of time with her and her family living in a log cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. We get to see how she played and learn about life during that time from the eyes of a child which is always an interesting way to learn history.  It's a sweet, simple tale filled with the joy and innocence of childhood and love of life and family.

This is my second time reading this and doing it with one of my children as part of our curriculum.  The Prairie Primer curriculum incorporates so much by using these books.  We made butter, cheese, molasses on snow candy, and hasty pudding.  We learned about whittling, line dancing, harvesting maple syrup, and how honey is made and collected.  We studied Louis Pasteur and the California Gold Rush.  It's amazing how this book can be a jumping off point for so much.

Page count: 238p/26,051p ytd/207,089p lifetime

Monday, September 22, 2014

96:120 The European World 400-1450CE by Barbara A. Hanawalt

Here's my review from 3 years ago:

Middle school history. This covers the basics of what was happening in Europe between 400-1450CE. While there were a few interesting tidbits of political and religious points that affected things that I learned, the rest was a decent covering of the era without any new major insight although I think that is due in part because it's an era of history I actually enjoy studying. Thankfully my 7th grader enjoyed it and learned lots and that is what really matters.

Can't really add much to it.  It does it's job decently enough.

Page count: 189p/25,813p ytd/206,851p lifetime

Thursday, September 18, 2014

95:120 Shiver in Light by Laurell K. Hamilton

The 9th book in the Meredith Gentry series.  The babies have finally arrived, triplets rather than twins, and now it's time for Merry and her men to find their new normal as they try to figure out who the fathers of all the babies are and just how much magic they will have.  Not only that but Taranis is coming back into some of his powers and is convinced that Merry should be his and that at least one of the babies is also his and will stop at nothing to have them both.  Andais is finally coming out of the madness that claimed her after Cel's murder and Merry is showing her that she will have to play nice if she wants to know her great-nieces and nephew.  Merry is also trying to figure out what her play will be as her time is running out in her alliance with the goblin king, not that he may be king for much longer.

I've got 4 kids and I understand that post-partum is a thing but oh, man, a whole entire book devoted to her weeping and whining?!  I liked the little bits of political intrigue that went on between the crying jags but the petty bickering I could definitely have done without especially since it did not seem to move the story or overall plot along at all.  Considering it was years since the last one, this seemed like a very poor return to the world.

Page count: 372p/25,624p ytd/206,662p lifetime

Thursday, September 11, 2014

94:120 How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back by Diana Rowland

The 4th book in the White Trash Zombie series.  Angel finally seems to have her life on track.  She has a job she enjoys not only at the funeral home but also helping out a little in the zombie labs.  She's passed her GED and is now contemplating taking some college courses.  Things are a bit rocky with Marcus but she is sure enough in herself to speak up about what she wants.  Yep, things are going pretty well until Pietro and several other high ranking people in the Zombie Mafia are kidnapped and it looks like Sabertron is behind it.  Now it's her, her zombie baby, the defector, and a guard to try and get them back from inside Sabertron's HQ.  While there is definitely an element of the kind of trouble that Angel excels at, there is also a lot that sees her completely out of her depth and being forced to grow in unexpected ways.

I continue to really enjoy this series and this one was no exception.  My only disappointment was with the ending.  We saw Angel who is starting to earn positions of trust and power backslide towards her previous life and it really saddened me.  I'm hoping this is not a preview of things to come.

Page count: 328p/25,252p ytd/206,290p lifetime

Saturday, September 6, 2014

93:120 Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Set during the Civil War, we follow the Youth (Henry) as he deals with the reality of modern war compared to his expectations based on the stories of wars set in ancient Greece and Rome.  He has to master his disappointment as his troop just continues to sit around and then deal with all of his thoughts of wondering how he will perform when they are finally called to action.  When the call does finally come down, he gets his answer when he runs from his first battle.  We then watch as he goes from berating himself for cowardice to turning his actions around that they are what any sane person would have done and the others in his regiment were fools if they didn't run as he did.  This turns around again when he happens upon a member of his regiment who has been mortally injured but found that the regiment won their battle.  Now he is with a group of wounded and he is moaning about his lack of a "red badge of courage" and is wondering how he will explain his actions to his regiment upon his return and how he can return without a proper explanation since he is doubting now that they will see the wisdom in his actions as he did.  We continue to watch his ability to move in and out of situations and think his way around what his actions show to put a positive light on them.

The language and descriptions throughout the book were incredibly powerful but I definitely found it hard to like the main character even though I felt he was drawn very true to life.  Overall I can see why it's a classic and I'm glad to have finally read it.

Page count:224p/24,924p ytd/205,962p lifetime

Friday, September 5, 2014

92:120 Flight From Hell by Yasmine Galenorn

A novella set in the Otherworld series, narrated by Menolly setting up the new Fly By Night series that will take place alongside the Otherworld series but focus on the PI Firm with a vampire at the helm and an exiled blue dragon.

Menolly is called in by Ronan to discuss the increasing number of baby vampires in the area and how many of them have had to be staked due to abandonment by their makers.  Menolly makes a note of it but doesn't consider it her main priority considering the demon war going on until she and her sisters are searching for information and their friend and powerful ally, Carter, expresses concern about his friend, an exiled dragon named Shimmer.  This leads the sisters to the Fly By Night Detective Agency where they meet the owner, a vampire rogue named Alex, who seems to know more about what is going on with the baby vampires in the park and how it all ties in with Shimmer and his own past.  Now it's time to go in and kick some butt...

It was a great introduction to the new series and has definitely wet my appetite for it.  Too bad we have to wait until next year to get the first full length novel.

Page count: 126p/24,700p ytd/205,738p lifetime

Sunday, August 31, 2014

91:120 Visions by Kelley Armstrong

The 2nd book in the Cainsville series.  Olivia was hoping that now that there has been a break-through in her parents' case that they might get a bit of a lull in things but when Gabriel drops her off at her old house to pick up her stuff and her car, she gets her illusions shattered by the dead body left in her car wearing her clothes.  Now they have to figure out who the person in the car was, and when DNA comes back that it's not who it appears, the mysteries just keep deepening.  Olivia is becoming more and more aware that things are not quite what they appear in Cainsville but now the Omens have been coming stronger leading her places not quite of this world.  On top of that, the different sides are starting to make their presence known to her, demanding that she take a side and then all the answers will be there for her.  Olivia is not willing to make that decision yet since no side is willing to tell her anything until she agrees to more than she thinks wise but those that are trying to control her will stop at nothing including murder and manipulation of people in her life including her ex-fiance, James.

Sh*t just got real in this one and it's only the second book.  I could not put it down and now I'm chomping at the bit waiting for the next one which apparently doesn't come out for another year.  What the heck!??!  I want to know what the heck is going on NOW!!!!!

Page count: 448p/24,574p ytd/205,612p lifetime

Saturday, August 30, 2014

90:120 Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

The 2nd book in the Starcatchers series.  The Others are searching for the starstuff that caused all the problems aboard the Neverland and Slank is working with a new group under the leadership of a shadowy figure, Lord Ombra.  He takes them back to Mollusk Island not knowing that the starstuff was moved by Leonard Aster back to London but he's okay with that if he could get his hands on the flying boy.  Lord Ombra orders the boy left there as they return to London to search for the Asters but Peter has overheard their plans and stowsaway to warn Molly.  In his hurry to rescue Molly, however, he forgot the small detail of having no idea where she lives in London and London is a very big city.  His problems will not be over, even once he finds Molly because Ombra is searching for her and her family and will stop at nothing to find them in order to find the starstuff before the Return.

The boys and I really enjoyed the first book but this one really dragged at the beginning so it took months for them to get into it so I could read it to them.  About half way through, it picked up and then they couldn't get enough of it.  Ombra is seriously creepy and the thing he does with taking people's shadows and thus turning them into his puppets is not for the faint of heart.  I gave the boys the option of doing something different now that we are done with this but they can't wait to start the 3rd book in the series so I guess after a slow start, this has definitely redeemed itself.

Page count: 556p/24,126p ytd/205,164p lifetime

Sunday, August 24, 2014

89:120 Big Egos by S.G. Browne

So many of us have wished we were someone else, usually some one famous, to leave our boring mundane life behind if only for a little while.  Now thanks to Big Egos, you can do just that.  For $10k, you can buy a vial of substance that will allow you to imitate anyone of numerous famous people or fictional characters for a few hours.  Live it up and enjoy stepping outside of your own life.  What can it hurt?

Our narrator works for Big Egos and is a major user of his product.  It's getting the point where he spends more time as someone else than he does as himself.  Now he has his best friend hooked on them but since he can't afford the real deal, Nat's been picking them up on the black market.  Now it appears that there is a problem with the black market egos that is causing dangerous side-effects and our narrator has been asked to find those who have been using them and give them an antidote on the sly to keep things out of the news.  Of course, that means going to more and more Ego parties and it's getting to the point where he's not always sure who he is any more.  Can you lose your mind while becoming several other people?  He may be on his way to finding out.

There was so much going on in this book that I don't even know where to start.  It's insightful in strange ways, satirical, macabre in it's own way, with enough humor to keep it from ever getting overwhelming but you find yourself thinking back to the themes it brings up.

Page count: 367p/23,570p ytd/204,608p lifetime

Friday, August 22, 2014

88:120 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson

Don Tillman is a genetics professor who is socially inept and awkward.  His entire life is completely scheduled at every moment to make sure he is using his time with maximum efficiency.  He has decided it's time to find a wife but that dating is a highly inefficient use of time so he has decided to embark on the Wife Project by putting together a questionnaire to reduce down the number of prospective partners to only those that he considers highly suitable and he has enlisted his few friends to help him weed through the responses.  After asking this, Rosie knocks on his door and Don is assuming that she is a candidate his friend had sent along and is shocked when she exhibits traits that are most definitely not what he is looking for like smoking and a possibly only average IQ.  He is prepared to let her down when she reveals that she is actually looking for her father and was hoping that he would be able to help her in this endeavor and thus begins the Father Project.  The Father Project begins simply enough, get DNA samples from some perspective fathers and have Don test them at the lab.  When those do not match however, it turns into a much bigger project than either of them anticipated and their time together leads to more than either of them bargained for.

I have major issues with this book.  First, Don presents very much as an Asperger's or high-functioning autistic in many ways, possibly with OCD as well.  The author states that he is not actually at one point very late in the book but then Don goes on to compare himself to them in his lack of emotions.  WTF?!?!?!  Obviously, the author did not do his research in the slightest as it has been proven that most of those on the PDD spectrum suffer from being too emotional and a surplus of empathy that they can not process which is why they shy away from social interactions.  Most interaction is too overwhelming for them but it is most certainly not a lack of emotion.  Second, Don has had an incredibly scheduled life but is able to completely change absolutely everything about his schedule and self in a matter of a few days when he decides to.  Um, No!  Sorry but it's clearly stated that he has psychological issues even though they are not fully understood or diagnosed and a lifetime of habits like that would clearly indicate that his schedules are not an arbitrary thing that he would be able to dismiss at the drop of a hat (or the wink of an eye by a woman).  Again, showing the complete lack of research or understanding of these types of disorders by the author.  I feel that the lack of understanding and use of horribly wrong stereo-types of people with these types of disorders to create a "romantic comedy" is sickening.   I think the author should be ashamed of himself for going for cheap laughs at the expense of those with psychological disorders.

Page count:  305p/23,203p ytd/204,241p lifetime

Friday, August 15, 2014

87:120 Omens by Kelley Armstrong

Olivia Taylor-Jones thought the biggest obstacles in her life were her fiances future political aspirations. Sure she had been groomed her whole life with that as a possibility since her father owned an incredibly successful department store but in one night, her life is turned upside down when it is leaked that she is not the daughter of the Taylor-Jones but really Eden Larsen, the daughter of some of the most infamous serial killers who are currently sitting behind bars.  Now she has walked away from her previous life and is trying to figure out where she fits in now as she also gets sucked into investigating her birth-mother's story that they were framed.  Her search leads her to the town of Cainsville where strange things are afoot but what, she can't say.  She is realizing that she is becoming obsessed with omens and portents and more than that, they really seem to be foreshadowing events in her near future.  Now with the help of some new friends, she is starting to uncover the truth but down that path lies more secrets than she can imagine.

I loved Ms. Armstrong's Otherworld series but was hesitant to pick this up but my book dealer pushed it at me telling me how fabulous it was and how he thought I would enjoy it so I grabbed it and then decided with the second book having just come out to just go ahead and read it to see if I wanted the second one.  I was not disappointed and this book totally sucked me despite that it's much more of a mystery than I usually go in for.

Page count: 486p/22,898p ytd/203,936p lifetime

Saturday, August 9, 2014

86:120 Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne

Nick Monday is a Private Investigator in San Francisco, or at least that's what he claims as his legitimate business.  In reality, Nick is a luck poacher.  He can steal your luck with a handshake and then sell that to whoever is willing to pay his price.  Unfortunately, his skills are catching up with him now as the head of the Chinese mafia demanding his services, someone claiming to be part of the US government wanting him to tag the mafia boss with bad luck, someone claiming to be a paying client for his PI services to find out who stole her father's luck (he did it) and someone else who is the real daughter wanting him to find the person impersonating her.  And that is just going down in one day.  Some days, it really doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Normally I love S.G. Browne's novels but as much as I thought the concept was interesting and well executed, I just did not like the voice of Nick. It really put me off the story since so much of it was focusing on his hormones and women's tits rather than all the other things happening.

Page count: 355p/22,412p ytd/203,450p lifetime

Thursday, August 7, 2014

85:120 Carniepunk by Various Authors

An anthology of 14 strange stories that take place around carnivals.  As with any anthology, some stand out more than others.  Here's a quick break down of the stories with my thoughts:

Painted Love by Rob Thurman - We follow some sort of entity that has hitched a ride with a carnie back to the traveling carnival but the carnie is a predator and murderer and has his sites on someone the entity has come to care about.  Not a safe place to be.  A bit slow but with a nice twist at the end that I hadn't seen coming.

The Three Lives of Lydia by Delilah S. Dawson - A young woman wakes up in a carnival with no memory of exactly who or where she is.  A vampire comes along and takes care of her but it turns around as she ends up bouncing to her other life and then back again.  No big surprises with this one but it seems to be set in an established world that I'm not familiar with so it may be that these characters have more going on that I am not aware of but this wasn't enough to make me want to go search it out either.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne - Atticus has brought his apprentice back to her home town for a quick visit on the condition that they don't run into anyone she knows.  While they are there, they end up at the carnival where they notice that something is very strange about the Haunted House.  It turns out there is much more going on there than anyone realized and they will be getting a lot more attention than they counted on.  This is an Iron Druid short story and while I have the books on my bookcase, I haven't read any of them yet but this story laid out the world nicely and quickly so I was able to get a decent sense of what was going on even without all the back story.  I found it engaging and the characters interesting and the series has now moved up on my to-read list.

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry  - A story about a pre-trans in a world after the zombie uprising who is trying to get the operation but has run out of goods to barter with so is sent off to find an elusive new drug to act as full payment.  What she finds is much different than what she could have possibly expected.  This one was more forgettable.  The characters didn't stand out to me and weren't particularly likable, the writing style was bland, and the ending predictable.

The Werewife by Jaye Wells - A husband and wife went to the carnival a year ago and a month afterward the wife is a werewolf.  Now that the carnival is back in town, the husband has convinced her to go back with him to see about getting the curse lifted.  Instead, they find out that she was specifically chosen for that curse and she isn't the only one.  Interesting take on several levels and quite enjoyable.  I finished it in one sitting as I didn't want to put it down.

The Cold Girl by Rachel Cain - A girl who has fallen for the worst type of guy goes with him to the carnival and when she gets her fortune told, it's nothing that she wanted to hear.  She is going to die and it's going to hurt and she will be visited by the Cold Girl and will have choices to make.  What happens to her after that will depend on those choices.  What will she choose?  This one was disturbing on several levels but so very well done that again, it was hard to put down.

A Duet with Darkness by Allison Pang - An Abby Sinclair Short Story.  An extremely accomplished violinist is rebeling against expectations and traveling with a small band of Otherworlders playing various venues when they happen upon a faire of their own kind.  She finds another violinist and feels the need to prove that she is better than him and enters into a dual for more than just a new instrument.  Honestly, I felt like there was a lot more subtext going on that if I had read other pieces in that universe I would understand but instead I spent my time reading this confused as to how things worked in the universe and why I should care.

Recession of the Divine by Hillary Jacques - A goddess has decided to forsake her duties and take on human form.  In her current life, she is an insurance adjuster who is checking out a carnival and finding things that don't add up.  Will these mysteries be what finally push her away from her human life and back into the fold of her brethren?  I found this one okay but slow.

Parlor Tricks by Jennifer Estep - An Elemental Assassin Short Story.  Gin has agreed to accompany her sister, Bria, to the carnival to help in a missing child case.  She is generally unimpressed until they get to the knife throwing act but what is more impressive is the amount of elemental magic she is feeling from the ring.  They know when they are getting too close when Bria is kidnapped and Gin is caged.  Admittedly, I enjoy this series so I'm familiar with all the characters and universe and this story did not disappoint.

Freak House by Kelly Meding - A Strays Short Story.  A djinn has gone missing and his half-human child is searching for him.  She has finally gotten a lead but it's one that requires funds that a starving college student can't possibly come up with when she stumbles upon an unlikely group of other supernaturals also looking for missing people who seem to have ended up with her father.  They decide to join forces and apparently the rest is history.  Again, I have no previous knowledge of this universe but things were well enough explained that I was able to follow along and am intrigued to learn more about it.  A nice introduction.

The Inside Man by Nicole Peeler - A Jane True Short Story.  Capitola Jones and her companions have been hired by the biggest, meanest supernatural boss in Chicago to find out what happened to his sister who lives in outlaying small town where everyone seems to have gone even quieter.  As they start investigating, they find that there is a whole collection of towns that fall into this category so they map it out and find the next logical town on that route and start staking it out.  It seems fairly boring and straight-forward until the clown shows up and takes her companions along with the town's inhabitants.  Now Capitola has to try and figure out what is going on and how to retrieve their essence by herself.  Another short story in a universe I'm not familiar with but felt right at home.  Well set-up, the magic in the universe was sufficiently explained without bogging the story down, and what seems to be a fresh take on it as well.

A Chance in Hell by Jackie Kessler - A minor demon has managed to obtain a soul and escape from hell.  She still has her knowledge intact and is occasionally called to put down demons who are not following the rules but she is in over her head when her friend invites her to a carnival and she finds that it's run by a major demon who is just itching to get his hands on her soul.  There was some interesting stuff going on and while I wouldn't run away from something else by this author, I'm not searching them out at this point either.

Hell's Menagerie by Kelly Gay - A Charlie Madigan Short Story.  Charlie's mom has left her in the care of her supernatural guardian who was unable to successfully talk her out of her mission to go to hell and find the hellhound puppies and their mom that she had rescued.  He figures it would be better to go with her and try to keep her safe but he didn't count on just how stubborn she would be when she found the menagerie of exotic animals and sentient beings trapped in misery.  Another interesting new author for me, not 100% sure I'll searching it out but not sure I won't either.

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea by Seanan McGuire - The mermaid's daughter has been cautious her whole life to stay away from the water lest it claim her as it has her mother but now the traveling carnival she is with has come back to her mother's home town and her mother's adoptive parents have other ideas for her.  While this story is not actually set in any of Ms. McGuire's series, the mermaids are definitely like those we were introduced in one of the Incryptid short stories with Jonathan and Fran.  This story was another reason why I bought and read this anthology and it did not disappoint.

In all, a good anthology and I found a few new authors that I may look into checking out further.

Page count: 448p/22,057p ytd/203,095p lifetime

84:120 Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

The 7th book in the Kate Daniels series.  After her encounter with Hugh, she knows that Roland is going to find her sooner rather than later and she is frantic trying to prepare not only herself but also those she loves for the eventuality.  Now Curran is gone on a treaty mission and she is left alone when Hugh shows up in Atlanta and starts stirring up some serious sh*t between the Pack and the People and the Witches are telling her that Roland will be coming for Atlanta soon and she must do something to stop it.  She is now realizing that she is not strong enough, and likely never will be, to kill Roland but how is she to protect those that she loves and has sworn to defend?

This was a book that started off with a bang and didn't let up for a single moment.  Harsh situations and harsh truths abound in this one and there were many times when I had to put it down for a few minutes as I was going "WTF?!" but then I had to pick it up again almost immediately to see what was going to happen next.  There were several heart-stopping moments, especially towards the end but in the end it was amazingly satisfying with some interesting twists.  As the authors have said, this is the end of this chapter of the story arc but there is plenty still to come.  I just wish it was coming sooner!!!

Page count: 381p/21,609p ytd/202,647p lifetime

Friday, August 1, 2014

83:120 Night's End by Yasmine Galenorn

The series finale of the Indigo Court.  Myst has not gone away quietly but is instead unleashing her minions and ready to make a final stand. Cicely and Grieve have come too far to let this be the end of everything and everyone they hold dear.  Cicely has accessed the memories of her previous life as Myst's daughter to find their best hope of defeating her but it won't be easy and it will be even harder if Myst catches wind of their plans.  Even if they can defeat Myst, what will their lives be like after the war?

A good ending to a fabulous series.  I like that the end is something that was partially telegraphed in previous books and not just a "hey look, main character suddenly got tons of power to amazingly defeat main bad guy at the last minute" which I think is a total cop-out but one I've seen implemented too often by other writers.  This was war and people died and changed and not every relationship/friendship survived intact.  I wish Cicely and Grieve a long and prosperous life.

Page count: 304p/21,228p ytd/202,266p lifetime

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

82:120 Poison Promise by Jennifer Estep

The eleventh book in the Elemental Assassin series.  Gin keeps waiting for things to settle down but that has yet to happen.  This time however, it's not so much the would-be killers coming after her but that the drug dealers are messing with one of her staff and she happened to be a witness to it and of course, Gin was not going to let that stand.  Now she is going up against the King of Southtown, Beauregard Benson, who is not only a vampire but also an air elemental and dealing the newest drug, Burn.  But more than him, it seems like there is someone behind the scenes pulling the strings and that could be prove to be the most deadly of all.

A good installment of the story.  Lots of action, some actual character growth, a bit of backstory we hadn't heard to death and that actually showed a bit more of how her character came to be, and the best of all the constant internal monogloging was a bare fraction of it's usual which meant the book was mostly plot and not just filler!  It was such a wonderful change of pace and I hope it continues as I do like the world and the characters but that always bugged me.

Page count: 400p/20,924p ytd/201,962p lifetime

81:120 Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Set in 1327, Brother William of Baskerville and his novice, Adso, have arrived at an Italian abbey in order to be present for a meeting between the Franciscans and emissaries of the Pope.  William arrives early to find that there has been a mysterious death in the abbey and he is asked by the abbot to investigate.  As an early predecessor to Sherlock Holmes, he observes and deduces and uses logic but will it be enough?

I really enjoyed the movie with Sean Connery and Christian Slater so was excited to see what more the book would add to it but honestly, it took me forever to get through and surprisingly, I enjoy the movie more (this is a weird thing for me to say but there you have it).  Most of what was cut out was long passages of theological discussion or pages describing the abbey.  It was long winded and hard to get through because things would start happening with the mystery which interested me and then would get sidetracked over to stories about how the different Christian factions were hating on each other which interested me not at all.  Not a bad book, just not the book for me.

Page count: 536p/20,524p ytd/201,562p lifetime

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

80:120 The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

A golem, a being out of Jewish folklore made out of clay and brought to live by magic, is created for a man to be his wife when he moves to NY.  He wakes her on the way but dies almost immediately after leaving her as a newborn to find her way on her own.  In order to know what her master wants, she can feel desires and wants in others which leads to many problems as she arrives with no master or idea of what to do with herself.  Thankfully, she is found by a kind rabbi who works to help her grow into as fully realized a person as she can be.

Over in the Middle Eastern area of NY, a woman takes a flask to the local metalsmith to be repaired when to his surprise, a jinn emerges from it.  The jinn has been imprisoned for hundreds of years with no idea how he came to be in the flask or trapped in human form.  He chafes at the human rules he is forced to follow and starts sneaking out to explore the city.  On one of these excursions, he finds the golem, a creature that is not like himself but is not human but living in human society and a friendship of sorts is born.  Unfortunately, there is more connecting them than either of them can possibly know but those things will test them beyond anything they could imagine.

There weren't any major surprises for me in this story.  I got pretty much exactly the story I was expecting but despite the fact that it was fairly predictable, it was beautifully told and wonderfully executed.

Page count: 486p/19,988p ytd/201,026p lifetime

Sunday, July 20, 2014

79:120 Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

The second book in the Southern Reach trilogy.  We left the last book at the end of the 12th expedition to Area X with everyone but the biologist dead and she was heading north away from any form of civilization.  Authority starts off in the Southern Reach with Control (aka John Rodrigues) having just been put in charge of the operations there which deal with Area X since the previous director was part of the last expedition.  The assistant director is openly hostile while doing her job and making it clear that she feels he is there temporarily until the old director returns which she feels will happen any time since the other members of the expedition have already returned.  Control is feeling anything but in control as he works to try and get information out of the returned biologist and learn his way around Southern Reach, especially once he starts digging into the previous director's things: drawers filled with papers rotting under a live unpotted plant and a dead mouse, a closet with words written all over it that seem to have some significance but what he can't imagine, and a photograph of her as a child with the lighthouse keeper who was lost to Area X when it sprang up.  Now he is trying to piece together just what has gone wrong at Southern Reach and what it means in regards to Area X but the more he digs, the stranger things seem to get until he's not even about the agency he works for.

I didn't find this one quite as slow-reading as the last one but I was really hoping for answers to all the unanswered questions from the last book and I got a few and pieces of answers for a few more but in all, this seemed to raise even more questions.  It is a bit frustrating to wait and hope that the questions that I have will actually be answered, at least in enough of a fashion that I don't want to throw things, in the last book.  I'm enjoying the mystery for the most part although I wish the characters were easier to relate too.

Page count:   340p/19,502p ytd/200,540p lifetime

Friday, July 18, 2014

78:120 The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant

A novella set in the world of Newsflesh.  The Rising took place years ago but still we are struggling to find ways to keep ourselves, and most importantly, our children safe while still allowing for social interaction.  It's a fine line and one where it is all too easy to make mistakes.  In this case, a teacher is doing what she can when everything that is put in place to protect her and the children in her care goes absolutely wrong.

This was a hard one and I knew that going in.  I'm a parent and have a child only slightly older than the main ones in this book and it was so easy to see what was going to happen.  It's the only thing that kept me able to read it was reminding myself over and over again that a) zombie apocalypse has not happened yet and b) my kids are homeschooled anyway so they wouldn't be in that exact situation.  Honestly, if you are a parent of young children with a good imagination, don't read this one especially before bed.  It's heart-wrenching.  At the same time however, it also outlines and mirrors what is going on in our society with how we want our teachers to put their lives on the line to save our children in the event of emergency but we are also quick to condemn them in any situation where something went horribly wrong despite all the precautions being taken that could.

While the events in this take place before Feed, there are conversations between characters in the commentary that indicate it is being written after the events of Blackout so do not read this before that as there are spoilers in that commentary.

Page count: 112p/19,162p ytd/200,200p lifetime

Friday, July 4, 2014

77:120 Nightingale by Jennifer Estep

The 4th book in the Bigtime series.  Abby Appleby is the premier event planner in Bigtime and she prides herself on being prepared for any contingency during those events but what she wasn't prepared for was seeing Talon going head-to-head with Bandit in the alley on her way home from an event.  She manages to save Talon but his eyesight has been compromised and he was shot but since she can't take him to the hospital since it would endanger everyone there, she takes him home to nurse him back to health.  It's just the sort of thing she is perfectly capable of but she doesn't count on falling in love with the superhero while he's there.  She figures he is a millionaire and not someone who would ever be interested in a mere event planner like her so before he is fully healed, she drops him off where he'll be found but before he can figure out who she really is.  All he really knows when he wakes up is that he was nursed back to health by his "Nightingale" who sings with a beautiful voice and loves music and he desperately wants to find her but no one seems to have the faintest idea who she might be.  When Abby figures out who Talon really is and that he is looking for her, will she come clean?

Basic romance story but again we have a lot of repetitive, and many times destructive, inner monologuing.  I got the series cheaply so I finished it but I don't think I'll be racing to the bookstore to buy more in the series should they ever come out.  The world is interesting and fun but I'm not a fan of her way of dealing with the romances in this world.  I will say I did get a little chuckle out of the characters here ordering food all the way from "The Pork Pit in Ashland" which is a nod to her Elemental Assassin series.

Page count: 292p/19,050p ytd/200,088p lifetime

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

76:120 A Karma Girl Christmas by Jennifer Estep

As the newest superhero member of the Fearless Five, Karma Girl has been selected to guard the Christmas toys and gifts that will be given out on Christmas morning to the needy children of Bigtime.  Although an ubervillain has never before messed with these gifts, this year the Mintalator and Caveman Stan have decided they are tired of a being a D-list villains and are going to nab them and sell them on eBay to fund their retirement.  Can Karma Girl possibly defeat both of them by herself with only her psychic superpower to help her?

It was nice seeing how Karma Girl is actually fitting in as a superhero and member of the Fearless Five as she hasn't been a big character since the first book in the series.  I also liked how with it being a short story, there wasn't the repetitive inner-monologue which irritates me so.  Just a nice sweet story.

Page count: 91p/18,758p ytd/199,796p lifetime

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

75:120 Jinx by Jennifer Estep

The 3rd book in the Bigtime series.  Bella Belluci is staunchly anti-superhero/ubervillian despite having her own version of a superpower where she can influence 'luck' although unfortunately for her, it's usually bad luck finding it's way to her although it's never serious.  Having patched up her grandfather, father, and brother who has all moonlighted as Johnny Angel, waited up to make sure they returned home safely, and getting the phone call telling her of her father's demise after he messed with a couple of ubervillians, she is over all of them.  Of course, it just goes to figure that she ends up in the middle of a battle between Debonair and Hangman over the largest sapphire in town.  Next thing she knows, she is back at Debonair's Lair of Seduction and despite her most practical and reasoned self, she is falling for the masked man.  She knows it can never work, that she can't live with that kind of uncertainty in her life, but she every time she tries to break it off something, her 'luck' maybe, thrusts them back together again.  Can she overlook his extracurricular activities to have a happily ever after?

Again, these books are basically fluff and just a nice, easy way to pass some time while at the kids' activities and again, I have issues with the constant repetitive inner monologues and these were worse because all she does is berate herself about her figure/weight/eating.  Seriously?!  Because women don't do that crap to themselves enough, let's make sure that we can't escape it even in books that are full of fluff.  I'm glad she found someone who appreciated her the way she is but considering in the drawing on the cover, she is a size 4, maybe, that's not really any improvement.  She is also constantly berating her lack of artistic skill as 'just a hobby'.  Please, I get that it's common place for women to think like this but we need to think better of ourselves and I don't think making characters this way is healthy especially in something that it supposed to be light and fun.

Page count: 324p/18,667p ytd/199,705p lifetime

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

74:120 Skin Game by Jim Butcher

The 15th book in the Dresden Files series.  Things have been different since Harry's return as the Winter Knight.  Rather than policing Chicago, he has been hanging out at Demonreach trying to figure out what is going on with the thing growing in his head and how to get it out.  Mab has been content to let him be but now it's time for her Winter Knight to pay off one of her debts with his services.  Unfortunately for Harry, this means he is being loaned out to Nicodemus, someone who is most definitely on Harry's *hit list but equally unfortunate is Mab's displeasure should he fail to uphold her end of the bargain.  With that, Harry is thrust from one tight spot to another as he tries to play a very dangerous game and keep his head at the same time.  But really, what can go wrong when you are working with a psychopath who is trying to steal from Hades?

I admit, I still have issues with the fact that Dresden is alive and his life is not superchanged from before he died but as far as Dresden stories go, this was a fun one.  It was nice to see Murphy and Michael and Butters again although I'm very curious as to what is going on with Molly since she was hardly part of things in this one.  It also needed more Bob because seriously, Bob the skull is just awesome.

Page count: 454p/18,343p ytd/199,381p lifetime

Thursday, June 19, 2014

73:120 Pax Demonica by Julie Kenner

The 6th book in the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series.  Kate has decided to take Allie and go back to her roots in Rome to the society that took her in when she was orphaned now that her marriage to Stuart is on the rocks and he has taken their son and left.  Out of nowhere, as they are getting read to leave, Stuart returns and tells her that he and Timmy want to go with her and learn more about her previous life and be a family again.  Now Kate is trying to work on her relationship with Stuart and play tourist instead of just visiting Forza to show Allie around.  This is made all the more difficult because demons are coming out of the woodwork around her either looking for something they think she has or threatening her to take care of the "key" when she doesn't even know what it is.  As they delve further into this mysterious key, it looks like it's real end of the world kind of stuff and they need to figure it out fast if they want anyone to be able to see tomorrow.

It was nice going back into this world but it seemed like Kate's snarky mode was definitely turned down for this one which I missed.  I was also hoping to get more about her life before we met her in this series and there wasn't a whole lot of that in this which was a little disappointing but overall, a fun little bubblegum read.

Page count: 258p/17,889p ytd/198,927p lifetime