Thursday, May 29, 2014

66:120 Not Wisely But Too Well by Stefon Mears

Jeff can't understand what is happening to him.  He was having a great summer and now, ever since the accident, everyone has been ignoring him.  He starts thinking about what happened leading up to that time to try and figure out what has happened...

A very short story about a child reliving his carefree summer, the kind that most of us grew up with... up to a point.

Page count: 15p/16,226p ytd/197,264p lifetime

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

65:120 Not That Kind of Wizard by Stefon Mears

Harkin was sure he was in trouble following his previous military assignment but instead, the King rewards him with his own command of a small troop of soldiers and orders to take a single, elderly man across the border on foot into enemy territory.  Harkin is sure that this man must be a wizard of some sort to warrant this kind of order but every time he asks him for a simple spell to make the trek easier, the man simply shakes his head and says "I'm not that kind of wizard".  Who is this person and why is it so important that they get him across the border then?  Harkin is about to find out that some questions you don't really want to know the answer to.

A nice short story that definitely serves as a cautionary tale for those dealing with unknown situations.

Page count: 19p/16,211p ytd/197,249p lifetime

Monday, May 26, 2014

64:120 A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

The 5th book in the Song of Fire and Ice series.  Part of this is set at the time as A Feast For Crows but deals with what is going on with Arya, Deanerys, Tyrion, Jon Snow, Davros Seaworth, Stannis, Melisandre, and some new characters to the books like Reek and Quentyn Martell.  Towards the end it merges again and we find out what is going on in King's Landing and with Cersei although not much about Tommen.  The main focus on this book is with Jon Snow and King Stannis and what is going on in the North and at the Wall and also what is going on in Meereen with Deanerys and her dragons.  That is probably the most compelling storyline right now as her dragons are becoming wilder as they grow larger which is causing her grief enough but then her personal mission to free all the slaves and keep them free which is keeping her in Meereen rather than heading back to Westeros is fascinating.  How to balance out what she feels to be right and just when so much of the world is against you.  I admire her for her passion and really hope she gets a better ending than so many of the people in these books.  Otherwise, lots going on and it leaves off with a couple of cliffhangers (go figure).

I'm really glad I didn't have to wait between books four and five as the wait now is going to be torture enough.  I'm also really glad I finally read this one as there were things going on in the TV show that while it's supposed to be covering book 3 right now are actually not really talked about until this book (Reek is a great example of that).  I understand why they changed things and don't object at all as it makes sense but I'm glad I've now caught up with the reading so I don't get so confused.  Now I'm in the same place as everyone else who has been reading these books, waiting, waiting, waiting, for the next one to come out.  *sigh*

Page count: 1,016p/16,192p ytd/197,230p lifetime

63:120 Uncle Stone Teeth and Other Macabre Poems by Stefon Mears

A short collection of macabre poetry.  Uncle Stone Teeth appears to those who have a deep hatred and desire to see someone suffer as a result, and the results are not pretty.  There are poems of zombies and witches and horror-movie slashers, some written in observed forms like sestina and others simply free-form.

I will admit to giggling at several of these and then grabbing my teenage sons' phones to download them to their kindle apps to share but I also understand I am not "normal".   Several just tickled my idea of the perverse, especially 'Bang'.  Then again, I just helped my 15-year-old write zombie/cannibalistic/nuclear winter haikus as well as helping him with how to research and write a short story based on a pair of hired assassins with great detail including answering questions about what tool I would use for dismemberment.  I'm actually hoping I can use these poems to help teach that same child about poetry since more classical poetry tends to put him to sleep.

Page count: 30p/15,176p ytd/196,214p lifetime

62:120 Who Was King Tut? by Robert Edwards and True Kelley

A simple, non-fiction account of what we know of King Tut's life and death, the burial process, and the discovery of his tomb and what that meant.  There are a lot of illustrations and several chapters have extended pieces to go more in-depth on side notes like religion or Lord Carnovon.  It focuses more on discovery than the actual treasures and includes a floor plan of the tomb, why it was so hard to find, and why he was buried where he was.

An interesting read that managed to keep my 8-year-old's attention as we read it and went more in-depth into the finding and excavation of the tomb than the other books on ancient Egypt we had read.

Page count: 112p/15,146p ytd/196,184p lifetime

61:120 Hunt for a New Life by Stefon Mears

The Count's second son has always shown a talent for magic, but his is a gentle magic made for calling wild beasts than the flashier fire magic that the mages want to see so he is turned away as an apprentice and is now heading how to face the choice of being a soldier or becoming a priest when he spies the golden rabbit of legend.  His hopes soar for a third option, that of presenting this most prized rabbit as a token to his lady and escaping the fate that seems to be in store for him.  There is a different destiny laid upon him however, as he is about to find out.

A nice little short story about how even when our choices seem set, fate may have something else up it's sleeve for us.

Page count: 15p/15,034p ytd/196,072p lifetime

Sunday, May 25, 2014

60:120 Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

Carmen Cole has dedicated the last several years of her life to unmasking the superheros and ubervillians that have cropped up all over the country when at last, she is hired by one of Bigtime's major newspaper to do the same for their superhero team, Fearless Five.  After unmasking the first of the FF, Tornado, who then goes on to commit suicide Carmen loses her passion for her task and is relegated to the society fashion pages until the night that she is kidnapped by the ubervillians of the town and threatened with dire things if she doesn't unmask Striker, the leader of the Fearless Five, within 30 days.  Now she must try to unmask those that hate her above all others which becomes extremely ironic when Striker starts following her around and protecting her.  What other choice does she have if she wants to survive?

This story is cheese central with the majority of secret identities screamed at you from miles away and no real major plot twists.  This is a bubblegum book, no two ways about it, but it's a fun campy read perfect for when you just want to stop dealing with everything else getting thrown at you and escape.  The one surprising thing for me is that while there is some inner-monologing it is not nearly as repetitive as what we get in the Elemental Assassin series which says this author can write with less of that.  Oh, how I wish she would figure that out soon because that is my biggest beef with that series.

Page count: 360p/15,019p ytd/196,057p lifetime

59:120 The Ancient American World by William L. Fash & Mary Lyons

Middle-School Ancient History.  Here's my review from a few years ago:

This covers the MesoAmerican, Incan, Maya, and other cultures of South and Middle America from 5000BCE to the Spanish conquistadors of the 1400 & 1500s.  There were chapters on several cultures I don't remember having learned of before and it was amazing to see the incredible art and ways they came up with to not only survive but thrive and what rich cultures came and went during that time.  As always, the more I read this series of history books the more impressed I am with them.  Much more detail in these than even my high schoolers World History text.<br/>

This time had the added bonus in that a few years ago, my family and I took a trip were we got to see some of the ancient Maya ruins and speak with some of their descendants so that part of the book definitely had a deeper resonance with me this time around in a very wonderful way.

Page count: 176p/14,659p ytd/195,697p lifetime

Saturday, May 24, 2014

58:120 Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

A prequel short story to Mr. Penumbra's 24-hr Bookstore.  We meet Mr. Penumbra, Ajax, at the start of his collegiate career when he and his roommate are put together via a new and sophisticated computer program.  He is confused by this but as they start unpacking and all the books come out, he starts to realize that the computer may have been on to something.  His roommate is heavily into computers and pursues that as his major while Ajax ends up in the literary department, eventually getting a job with them which leads him to becoming a Jr. procurer of a rare book that has been presumed lost for over a century.  His search leads him to San Francisco where he stumbles into a 24-hr bookstore.  There he finds people who truly understand his passions and a life he had never before dreamed of.  The rest, as they say, is history.

A nice little add-on story as we learn how Ajax and Marcus first met and how Ajax became involved in the society and its mission.  If you've read and enjoyed Mr. Penumbra's 24-hr bookstore, you'll appreciate this bit of backstory.

Page count: 61p/14,483p ytd/195,521p lifetime

57:120 Glencoe World History: Student Edition by Glencoe Publishing 2005

High School History from beginning of man through 2004 all crammed into one year of study, a-g university approved textbook.  My opinion, this is exactly why the majority of kids hate history and a good deal of what is wrong with our educational model.  We spend an entire year on the 350 years of "US History" but the exact same amount of time covering the entire world's history and even then, the second half of the book covers from WWI through present with a lot of US History in it (and there's a lot in the first section too).  I am doing Ancient World History with my middle-schooler as well and we took an entire year to get from beginning of planet through about 400CE.  That was lovely, interesting, informative, and thought-provoking.  This couldn't even be bothered to tell you that Henry the VIII had 6 wives and that it was his wanting a divorce from his first that led to the split with the church and the founding of the Church of England which is kind of a big deal for that country.  That is just one of the hundreds of issues I had with this book.  There was very little cause and effect going on and even less cultural appreciation or understanding.  It was names and dates with some dry, boring facts.  We can get that from the internet.  What we need is to teach our children the hows and whys and make it interesting for goodness sake!  I have a mild interest in history and this bored me to tears.  I homeschool and wish we had better options of high school history.  Why should the middle school grades get wonderful texts and the high school years be filled with things that suck the life and fun out of learning?

Page count: 1058p/14,422p ytd/195,460p lifetime

56:120 Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Clay is looking for a job, any job, when he walks into Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore.  Before he knows it, he has a job there but it is the strangest job he could imagine.  He rarely sells any books but there are some regulars who come in to check out the books from the back section of books which are never to be sold.  He is to write down complete descriptions of all transactions including the weather, what the person was wearing, what their state of mind seemed to be, etc.  He is told never to go reading the back section but of course, it isn't long before he's breaking the rules and finding that the books are written in some kind of code.  He starts trying to decipher a pattern in the books borrowed and then brings his friends in and sees just how much faster it can go when you get Google involved with the project.  It turns out the books are part of something much bigger than he ever could have imagined, a secret group who is certain that within the codes of the books contains the secret to immortality.  Now he and his friends along with Mr. Penumbra are trying to bring the power of Google and the whole of computing to bear on this problem to find the answer.   Will they find the answers they seek or does that way lead to disappointment?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I thought the characters didn't have a lot of depth to them and were simply there to move the story which was about the book and the society but since the whole thing was based where I live and grew up, I also know those people in terms of the stereo-types they represented so it didn't make a huge difference to me.  I loved the adventure of it, the fantastical quality, the mystery.  Just a fast, fun read.

Page count: 304p/13,364p ytd/194,402p lifetime

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

55:120 Yes Mommy: The Madness and Mayhem of Not Saying No by Amy Sprenger

When my friend Amy told a group of us that she was going to do an experiment for a month by not telling her three children (ages 7, 5, 3) no or stop for a whole month, we were supportive but skeptical.  Would anyone still be alive at the end of it?  As a homeschooling mother of 4 myself, I do practice the art of saying yes as much as possible but I have my limits.  If I never said no, schoolwork would never be done and my kids would do nothing but play Minecraft all day...when they weren't actively trying to kill each other.  Like so many have said to me about homeschooling, I swore I couldn't do it and wished her all the luck.  She only gave us little bits here and there mostly to let us know that she was still alive and so were they since this was all designed to become her next book and now here it is.

Yes Mommy is written in her usual snarky style (seriously, her blog is called snarkymommy so if you were expecting something else this is not the place to look for it).  Her kids managed to not ask for anything hugely outrageous (no ponies) and I'm betting the older two will have some wonderful memories out of it and Amy seems to have learned somethings about herself and her kids at the same time.  There are parts that made me laugh, some that made me wince, but all of it was obviously written from a place where I think almost every mother has been at some point in their life.

If you are looking for a fun, light read this summer pick it up and enjoy.

Page count: 153p/13,060p ytd/194,098p lifetime

54:120 Masks by Karen Chance

Part of the Cassie Palmer/Dorina Basarab series.  Mircea has only been a vampire for 2 years after being cursed.  He never had a master so his understanding of his powers and the rules that govern vampire society are almost non-existent.  He has come to Venice because he has heard that it's a free port for his kind and he's tired of being chased from one area to the next by the jealous masters.  Unfortunately, he has now run afoul of the local vampire constabulary and is being sold to a vampire brothel who is preparing for the Council's coming to town when more "entertainment" will be needed.  Mircea is seen as being just the right thing for one of the Senators.  With patronage, it could be very good for him indeed but that whole 'not understanding the rules' thing he has going on is not just about vampires.  Maybe this will work for him and maybe it won't.

Originally supposed to be a free short story, it ballooned much bigger than Ms. Chance realized and ended up becoming an e-book instead so took a few more months to come out as contracts were being dealt with.  I had been looking forward to learning more about Mircea although I tend to be more of  Pritkin fan but I felt like this didn't really do much for that.  It only covered a few days in his life and really is how he met the Senator who is the Council in Cassie's time.  We get a few insights into his thought process but not much and frankly, it's so long because it is highly detailed in terms of the clothes and surroundings which don't add a lot to the overall plot which was definitely a short-story plot, not one to carry a novel.  Not a bad short-story, it plods a bit for a full-length novel but fans of the series will probably enjoy the read and at a reasonable e-book price it's almost worth it.

Page count: 406p/12,907p ytd/193,945p lifetime

53:120 From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Claudia just doesn't feel appreciated at home and is tired of it so she decides to run away to NYC.  To pull this off, she plans carefully and methodically and decides to bring along her younger brother, Jamie, to help.  Her plan is to hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art until her parents have learned a lesson in "Claudia appreciation" but once she and Jamie get there, she discovers "Angel", a statue that is perplexing the experts as to who made it and when.  She decides that she must solve the riddle of the statue before she can go home but after a week of reading and researching, discovering some clues but having those discounted by authorities, she decides the only way to know for certain is to visit the owner who sold it to the museum, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  What she finds there is more than she ever dreamed.

I LOVED this book growing up and was excited when the opportunity came along to share it with my middle-schooler as a novel study unit.  I was able to read it again and we discussed it and he enjoyed it as well.  It is such a simple tale but one that manages to resonate even now, so many years later.  A wonderful work of children's literature.

Page count: 188p/12,501p ytd/193,539p lifetime

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 2nd & 3rd Quarters 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.

Yeah, this is kind of late for the second quarter so I figured I'd combo it with the 3rd and be early on that one.  2nd quarter is pretty slow in terms of the authors I put up on my calendar so it just sort of slipped my mind until now when I had a few minutes to sit down and update it so here goes:

With nothing on my book release calendar for April, May started off in a lovely way with Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire.  A new book that may be a standalone or may eventually be part of a series, we follow the tale of Rose, a 16-year-old girl killed in 1952 who has been searching for a way to be free of her haunting existence for 60 years.

Release Date: May 6

That it pairs up with Authority by Jeff Vandermeer makes for strange looks at the bookstore since honestly I'm not sure they could be that much different from each other.  Authority is the second in the Southern Reach trilogy and I'm hoping it answers at least some of the questions that Annihilation brought up because that was one incredibly freaky, disturbing, but amazing book but dang it, I want some answers!!!

Release Date: May 6

On a weird Wednesday release, my friend Amy Sprenger's new book came out.  Yes Mommy: The Mayhem and Madness of Not Saying No is her story of going an entire month without saying no to her three children (ages 7, 5, 3) and how everyone survived.

Release Date: May 7

Odin's Ravens is the second in a YA series by Armstrong and Marr.  I haven't read the first one yet but my third son completely loved it and bought this one with his own money so he could have it NOW!  I think that says something.  He is also insisting that I read both of them so that will be on my summer reading list but hey, any book where you combining Thor's hammer, modern day kids, and a whole lot of Valkyries to start the description sounds pretty awesome and with those authors I'm quite happy to accede to my kid's wishes.

Release Date:  May 13

Skin Game by Jim Butcher is one where I'm on the fence about it.  I mean, I know I'll buy it and read it but I still can't get over my disappointment that he brought Harry back completely from the dead.  I get that you can't have Dresden's Files without Harry Dresden but I get a little tired of books where they keep making the baddies bigger and bigger but you always know that the hero is going to win through some deus ex machina.  Butcher had the balls to kill off his main character and bring him back as a ghost for a whole book and Holy Cow that was BRILLIANT!!!  And then he ruined it all by bringing him back fully although in service to the Winter Fae Queen. There's only been one book since that happened so I'm reserving judgement on if this series has just become unreadable for me (as the Drizzt books did after Wulfgar was brought back) or if Mr. Butcher will find a way to keep my interest.

Release Date: May 27

June is quiet again but July opens HUGE with Night's End by Yasmine Galenorn which sees the end of the Indigo Court series.  Cicely and Rhiannon have been crowned and in charge but Myst is by no means willing to roll over and die.  She is gathering her power and her army and there will be more blood spilled before this war is over.

Release Date: July 1

And to pair up with that is How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back by Diana Rowland.  This series is just fun but it looks like sh*t's about to get real as it's zombie v. zombie when Saberton tries to take on the Zombie Maffia and Angel will end up in the middle, we can be sure.

Release Date: July 1

Deborah Harkness's All Souls trilogy will wrap up with the release of The Book of Life.  The last one was a little slow with a lot of time travel stuff going on but apparently this one is back in present day with a lot more action as Matthew and Diana have to find the missing pages of Ashmole 782 in order to protect not only the present but the future as well.

Release Date: July 15

Poison Promise by Jennifer Estep comes out just a week later so I've got something light to read mid-summer.  Gin is always a great character (if she could just stop with the constant repetitive monologueing) and I continue to enjoy the series.  I'm really hoping that things are going to go somewhere with Owen as well because I loved them together.  While the write-up for this one is all about some new drug coming into Ashland I'm also hoping that there is more development in the mysterious villain that has been being hinted at for several books now.

Release Date: July 22

July ends with as big a bang it started with Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews.  The first time in hardback for this series and it looks to be amazing!  Kate's relationship with Roland is out in the open and that battle seems to be coming down the pipes fast, probably not in this book but my guess would be sooner rather than later.

Release Date: July 29

August is another big month and kicks off with Revenant by Kat Richardson.  I admit that I'm a few books behind in this series so again, that is a project for this summer so I can be ready to read this when it comes out because it looks to be intense with secret cults and bone yards and ghost armies.

Release Date: August 5

Cursed Moon by Jaye Wells is the sequel to Dirty Magic which came out earlier this year and was just fantastic.  A gritty world where magic is all around but there is both legal and illegal magic and now with a rare Blue Moon about to occur, magic will be unpredictable and it's up to Kate and her team to help the local law enforcement keep things from exploding....literally.

Release Date: August 12

Robin Hobb has a new trilogy starting up with Fool's Assassin which means I need to step it up and finish reading the Fool's trilogy this summer (hmmmm...there are apparently several series that need my time, darn you Game of Thrones!) as it looks like this series will take place after that one (and I seriously hope has nothing to do with the Dragon series she just finished up or I'm SERIOUSLY behind).  I loved the Farseer trilogy and the first book in the Fool's trilogy as Ms. Hobb has such a rich world and the characters are wonderfully flawed and believable.

Release Date: August 12

Visions by Kelley Armstrong also comes out and is another one where I'm behind in the series but in my defense, I wasn't sure I was going to start this series before my Book Pusher/Dealer at the local bookstore said the first one was wonderful and I would like it.  I'm hoping to have the first one read before this one comes out to see if the series is one I'm going to like.  It looks interesting enough and I've loved her other works that I've read so here's hoping.

Release Date: August 19

September starts with three great new releases and I'm going to have a hard time to figure out which to read first.  My guess is it will be The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire as it's been almost a year since I last got a Toby fix and I'm jonesing.  Not much in the way of details has been hinted at about this one except that Toby is going to have to learn the truth of her own past and considering what has been hinted at about that, oh boy!

Release Date: September 2

Next I'll curl up with Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs.  I just got a Mercy and Adam fix so I can hold off briefly but this short story collection looks to be wonderful and I hope that we get to learn more about other characters as long as I still get some Mercy and Adam (let's not get crazy and cut them out completely).

Release Date: September 2

Then I have to hope I can find the time for Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer as the Southern Reach trilogy is closed out.  Since I have just barely gotten the 2nd book in the trilogy and haven't had a chance to read it yet (darn end of school stuff getting in the way of my reading time!) I don't even know what to hope for with this one.  The Amazon write-up talks about a new expedition into Area X and the threat to the world being greater than they imagined so it sounds just dreamy.

Release Date: September 2

And as if those weren't enough, it's recently been revealed that the last of Kim Harrison's the Hollow's series will be coming out in September as well instead of torturing us all and making us wait until next year.  The Witch With No Name will finally see Rachel getting her happily ever after but we all know that it can't be simple with Rachel and really, what will that even end up meaning for her?  Settling down to play Suzie Homemaker doesn't seem quite her style.

Release Date: September 9

I get a few weeks off to try and catch-up with all those new releases before the release of Priestess Dreaming by Yasmine Galenorn comes out and I get my dose Camille and her sisters.  The war has been heating up big time and it looks like Aveal is sending Camille on a mission to wake up Merlin with Morgaine as a traveling companion.  Camille's not so sure if that is a good idea and I'm with her on that one since they have not exactly been buddies to this point.

Release Date: September 30

So you can easily see why the 2nd quarter round-up didn't happen since there were only a few books in May but good golly there is a lot of reading to be done in the 3rd quarter (and 4th too since I just looked at how that is shaping up) so I need to get cracking on catching up with some of these series in June when it's quiet and school is out if I'm to have any hope because I know me and I'll want to be reading every book on this list as soon as I get my hands on it!