Friday, January 31, 2014

18:120 D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire

A lovely collection of Norse myths, beautifully illustrated in the D'Aulaires' distinctive style. There are some of the myths that I knew but also enough that were new to me to be fun. While written for children, it is not dumbed down for them. I read it with my 7yr old during our Viking studies course and we both enjoyed our special reading time with this book. It is not the first book we have enjoyed this way and our next will be Lucky Lief by them which is a story about Lief Erikson. If you have never read any of their books, go change that immediately!

Page count: 154p/3,564p ytd/184,557p lifetime

Thursday, January 30, 2014

17:120 We Both Go Down Together by Seanan McGuire

A prequel to the Incryptid series following Jonathan and Frances Healy.  Fran is 8mos pregnant but the family has received a note from a colony of mermaids that they need help.  Jonathan is on his way but there is no way Fran is letting him go alone.  When they get there, they find out that the babies are being stolen and they need Jonathan and Frances to help them find out what is happening to them but when Frances goes into labor and delivers their daughter, Alice, they find out that the merbabies aren't the only ones in danger.

I really liked this one and yes, if something like that happened to my baby, I'd have responded the same way Frances did.  Mermaids may not be very maternal once they return to the sea but don't mess with the Mama Bears!

Page count: 30p/3,410p ytd/194,403p lifetime

16:120 Loch and Key by Seanan McGuire

A prequel to the Incryptid series following Jonathan and Frances Healy.  Jonathan and Frances are healing after the death of their son, Daniel, and Enid and Alex are taking them on a family fishing trip.  Being the Healys, they aren't going to any typical spot but a backwoods lake where a small group of plesiosours still survive.  However, when they go to pay their respects to the owners of the land, they find that things aren't quite right and the Incryptids are in danger and well, that just won't be tolerated.

I really love these short stories that we get as insights to the dedication of this family to the Incryptids as well as each other and I'm very thankful to Seanan for doing them.

Page count: 27p/3,380p ytd/184,400p lifetime

15:120 The First Fall by Seanan McGuire

A prequel to the Incryptid series following the adventures of Jonathan and Frances Healy.  In the last one, we saw their honeymoon taken a few months after the birth of their son, Daniel.  In this one, we watch as they bury Daniel who was killed at only 3 years old and see if Jonathan and Frances can figure out how to make it through this together.

This was a hard read, especially as I've lost a brother recently and have my own children.  It is not done gruesomely but if you are sensitive to such things, you can skip this one.  I sort of wish I had although I love these stories as I'm just too raw right now.

Page count: 23p/3,353p ytd/184,373p lifetime

Monday, January 27, 2014

14:120 Brazen by Kelley Armstrong

Side story in the Otherworld series taking place after book 13.  Elena and Clay want Malcolm Danvers found and have hired a supernatural detective agency to help them.  Nick has been put in charge as their contact and they have been told to simply find Malcolm, let Nick confirm his identity, and then Elena and Clay will take it from there.   Of course, that was the plan but nothing ever goes according to plan.  Instead, one of the operatives tries to get too close to Malcolm and is discovered and then the game is on.  Her handler, Vanessa, is smart enough not to jump in on her own but when Nick goes to try and confirm what is going on she is definitely going along with him.  Malcolm has his own opinions of all of this and has no intentions of going quietly.

I am so glad we continue to get these side stories even tho the main story is done as I just love these characters.  Even this one which is told mostly from Nick's POV and occasionally that of Vanessa, it's still the Pack and the characters that we grew to love.  And hey, it's nice to see that Nick has actually grown up.

Page count: 213p/3,330p ytd/184,350p lifetime

Saturday, January 25, 2014

13:120 Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

The follow-up to After the Golden Age focuses on Celia and Dr. Mentis's children and the children of the other supers who are now past their prime.  Celia West, daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, has no superpowers of her own besides getting kidnapped but now that she's the mother of two teens and CEO of West Enterprises, she has done a remarkable job of finding the children of the city's supers and placing them all in school together so they would have each other to turn to should they have powers of their own.  After watching her own children like a hawk and figuring out that so far neither of them had powers, she was relieved and waiting to see what happened with the others.  What she never dreamed was that her oldest was actually a living compass and had already found a team of other super teens and they were practicing covertly to become the city's new superhero crime-fighting force.  What will happen when something bigger than just common thugs comes in and tries to start messing with Celia though?

This one is truly a coming of age story even if the teens in question have super powers.  It also strikes a nice balance as we see the parents side of it as well as they try to find a balance between letting their kids discover themselves and protecting them against what they know is out there.  A quick read that hearkens back to the old super hero tropes with plenty of cliches but nicely throwing in a twist here or there to keep it from being stereotypical.  In all, a fun read.

Page count: 318p/3,099p/184,137p

Friday, January 24, 2014

12:120 The Miracle Worker by William Gibson

The play based on the meeting of Annie Sullivan and the wild child, Helen Keller.  I read books about Helen Keller when I was younger and knew the basic story but reading the play was a treat and I plan on watching the movie once the teenager reads it for his book club as well so we can enjoy it together.  Simply but powerfully done from the stubbornness of Annie who is determined that this girl should learn and use the mind she clearly has to the desperation of Helen's parents who love her and don't want to cause what they perceive as further pain and torment on a child that is so helpless in their eyes.

Page count: 130p/2,781p ytd/183,819p lifetime

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

11:120 Forbid the Sea by Seanan McGuire

A story of Tybalt set about 10yrs after Rat-Catcher and many years before the events of the Toby Daye series.  Tybalt is bored now that the cats have all moved away for the time being to stay safe but as king, he has remained behind to keep the Court open and ready when his subjects return.  Being bored is not so good for a cat however so he decides to head off for a journey down the river as a change of pace.  While he is gone, he finds Dylan, a selkie, and the loneliness they share creates a bond neither expected.  But as Tybalt did not tell Dylan that he was the King of Cats, Dylan is also harboring his own secrets that will tear them apart.

A sweetly poignant story from Tybalt's past.  I'm really enjoying these insights into him as he is one of my favorite characters in the Toby Daye series.  

Page count: 20p/2,651p ytd/183,689p lifetime

Sunday, January 19, 2014

10:120 Black Arts by Faith Hunter

The 7th book in the Jane Yellowrock series.  Evan Trueheart has just shown up outside Jane's house, furious and looking for his wife who left them a few days ago with no notice.  Jane has no idea where Molly is but she will do anything to find her friend.  At the same time, two of Katie's girls have also disappeared while on a side job and Leo is having a gather to bring welcome some new vampires into his territory and get ready for the European contingent that is getting ready to pay a visit.   Jane keeps getting bits and pieces that tells her that all of these things are related but she can't figure out how they all fit together but she better hurry if she hopes to find Molly before it's too late.

There was a lot going on in this book with a lot of different threads all being interwoven beautifully until you finally get a whole picture right at the end.  Such a shame that we have to wait for the next installment as while this one did wrap up there are definitely some hanging threads that I want to see how they resolve.

Page count: 325p/2,631p ytd/183,669p lifetime

9:120 Undead and Unwelcome by MaryJanice Davidson

The 8th book in the Queen Betsy series.  It's time for Queen Betsy to face the music and take Antonia's dead body back to her pack and explain what happened.  Amazing how the pack that had made her so unwelcome in life, is furious that she died protecting a vampire and they are taking out their displeasure on Betsy and Sinclair.  That's not too strange but their reaction to BabyJon are absolutely crazy which leads to concern by Betsy.  Then there is the fact that their cell phones suddenly stop working while they are with the werewolves, Tina is not responding to any communications, and Marc is sending a ton of cryptic messages about Laura.  Just what is going on back home while they are dealing with pissed off werewolves?

A bit more of a real plot and Betsy does seem to be becoming a bit less of a ditz which is nice and things are definitely setting up for something big with Laura.  Looks like the devil's daughter may be growing into her genetic make-up.  The book is still plenty fluffy tho and a nice light read.  I'll definitely be looking to pick up the next one as I want to see what happens with Laura.

Page count: 282p/2,306p ytd/183,344p lifetime

8:120 The Ancient Egyptian World by Eric H. Cline and Jill Rubacabla

Middle-school ancient history covering from the earliest records of ancient Egypt through the 3rd Intermediate Age with a brief synopsis covering the Ptolemys through Cleopatra and Rome.  This looks at not just the lives of the Pharaohs and the gods of Egypt but also how the common man lived, the advancements they made throughout the ages, their art and literature, and the discoveries that have led to our current understanding of their culture.  

I love this series so much and it really makes the high school world history I'm having to read just look awful in comparison as we learn so much about each culture, not just what they did but what we believe are the reasons behind what they did and how we came to those conclusions.  It's not just boring and dry names and dates with little else behind it but works hard to bring it more alive.

Page count: 172p/2,024p ytd/183,062p lifetime

7:120 Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats's family has always been unlucky because of a curse placed on them by Madame Zeroni generations back.  Now the curse has struck him as he was arrested after some shoes fell out of the sky and landed on his head as he was walking home from school and it just so happens that they were the shoes of a famous baseball player who had donated them to a charity auction.  Now Stanley is sentenced to Camp Green Lake where all the kids are forced to dig huge holes every day since "it's good for their character".  Obviously the warden is looking for something but no one has any idea what.  While at the camp, Stanley meets Zero and they start to become friends but Zero may just hold the key to removing the curse from Stanley's family.

A cute book and I love the weaving of all the different parts of the tale and then how it all comes together neatly at the end.

Page count: 233p/1,852p ytd/182,890p lifetime

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

6:120 Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

Set just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in a small town in CO where a Japanese Internment camp, Tallgrass, has just been erected, the story focuses on the town's racial issues in light of a hideous murder.  The story is narrated by Rennie, a 13yr old girl, whose family is unusual in their willingness to accept the Japanese and try to do what they feel is right even when late one night a few months after the camp is opened, one of Rennie's friends is found dead in a hay pile outside her house after being brutalized by her killer.  The town is up in arms and the fear of the Japanese is heightened and turned to hate as almost everyone blames them for the girl's murder.

Simply but well told but there are definitely shades of To Kill a Mockingbird running throughout the story. The killer is eventually revealed and was not anyone I had expected so that was a pleasant surprise although it was odd to have all the stories ends completely wrapped up in a neat bow (maybe I've been reading too many series).  My biggest complaint is that I was reading the kindle version and the number of typos was ridiculous.

Page count: 340p/1,619p ytd/182,657p lifetime

Friday, January 10, 2014

5:120 Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Here's the review I wrote 4 years ago when I first read it to some of the older boys.  I think it continues to hold fairly true now as well.

Written many years after the release of Peter Pan, Barry & Pearson decide to bring back the magic in this prequel to the original.  Here we meet Peter before Neverland, before he could fly, when he was just an ordinary boy, an orphan, being shipped off to slavery in a faraway country.  What happens on that journey is both magical and fantastical.  We get to learn the story of how Peter became the boy we meet in Peter Pan, how he learned to fly, the history between him and Captain Hook, Tinkerbell's origins, and how they all ended upon Neverland.

It's non-stop action as the story bounces around between Peter and Molly, the pirates, and the crew of the ships.  It's a fast read and the language is pretty simplistic, but it's fun and flows well for the most part.  There are a few scary parts in it and we do see the battle between Hook (Stache) and Peter that costs Hook his hand.  It's not overly descriptive but it's there so be aware of it when reading to younger children.  It's not any more violent or scary than the original, imo.  I enjoyed sharing it with my boys and look forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

Page count: 451p/1,279p ytd/182,317p lifetime

4:120 Undead and Unworthy by MaryJanice Davidson

The 7th book in the Queen Betsy series.  The honeymoon is over and Betsy is trying to settle down to a typical life: raising BabyJon, writing Thank You notes, finding the latest trendy shoes.  You know that kind of stuff but we also know that Betsy's life is just not that easy.  Enter the Fiends whom apparently Garrett has been feeding his blood to and are now self-aware and PISSED!  And since that's too easy, there is also some weird serial killer thing going on that Detective Nick needs her help with and because it wouldn't be complete without a haunting, her step-mother has decided that she is not done tormenting her even tho she is now dead.

While a little deeper than previous installments and with more substantial plot and even a bit of character development, it's still a fairly light and fluffy read but fun nonetheless.

Page count: 264p/828p ytd/181,866p lifetime

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

3:120 Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Read for high schooler's book club.  Ethan Frome is a well known person around the town of Starkfield but no one is close to him although all feel sorry for him to some extant, especially since "the accident" which has cost him the full use of the left side of his body.  Over time our narrator, an outsider new to the town, manages to piece together what happened to Ethan and shares the story with us.  We see Ethan go from a man of little means but one who manages to find joy and hope in the company of his wife's cousin, Mattie, to a man who is lost and pitiable.

Interesting technique with most of the book being told as a flashback and I admit, that while I had guessed at most of what was to happen (lovely use of foreshadowing), I didn't guess it all.  It's a tragic tale but extremely well told and while I understand it's much different than Ms. Wharton's usual style and subject matter, I'm looking forward to reading more books by her.

Page count: 160p/564p ytd/181,622p lifetime

2:120 Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel by S.G. Browne

A collection of 10 short stories.  A decent collection up until the last story, Zombie Gigolo, which I found out after reading was written as an entry in a GrossOut contest (it took third and I don't even want to go near what beat it out...*retch*).  The other stories were fun with the short stories that eventually bloomed into three of his current novels and some others were he was playing around with concepts that may eventually turn into full length novels or were simply exercises in "Hey, this seems like a neat idea, let's explore that".  His writing style is rampant throughout so if you like it, it's a fun collection.  Even more fun are his thoughts about where the ideas for each story came from and how it developed as he was writing it.

Page count: 146p/404p ytd/181,462p lifetime

Thursday, January 2, 2014

1:120 Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ichiguro

The quiet reflections of a butler from 1930s England of his tenure at what he believed at the time to have been a great household.  You can watch as his recollections change and he begins to see how what he once wholeheartedly believed in the rightness of his master and all that he was doing, now that he is more removed from the situation he is realizing that maybe things weren't all he allowed himself to think.

I started this one last year as it was part of the teen's book club and was hoping to finish before the year turned but didn't and finally found some time today.   A slow, quiet read that reminded me of listening to my father in the way his memories and recollections kind of wander around but if you pay attention you can see how they all connect together and give you some extraordinary glimpses of the man that lies under everything else he shows to the world.

Page count: 258p/258p/181,316p

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: First 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.

Last quarter was pretty quiet in terms of new releases for me so I was working hard to get a few things knocked off my to-read list which pretty much failed miserably because well, I'm me and there are always more shiny books showing up around me for a variety of reasons.  This quarter starts off big in January and then doesn't have a lot showing up in February and March but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in much anticipated releases.  So let's look at 2014's early offerings:

So we start off 2014 quickly with two new releases on the first Tuesday.  Black Arts by Faith Hunter is the newest in the Jane Yellowrock series.  I was sad when Molly and Jane's friendship underwent some serious strife and now Molly has disappeared and her husband, Evan Trueheart, has come to Jane to try and find her.  There is no way that Jane would say no to this and I'm seriously hoping that Molly is found safe and sound and this paves the way to their resuming their friendship.  Oh, pretty please!!!

Release Date: January 7th

Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn is the second book released this first Tuesday and I think the first hardback release for Carrie Vaughn and the sequel to After the Golden Age.  I really enjoyed the first book and am thrilled that this has become a series rather than a one-off as I think the possibilities are fascinating in a world where superheroes can't be superheroes but then are needed as such.  Bring it!

Release Date: January 7th

Next up is the first time in print of Indexing by Seanan McGuire.  Originally released as a Kindle Serial where a new installment was given out every other week for 24wks, this isn't quite a new release but I feel it deserves the shout out.  I read it in the Serial format and it just about drove me absolutely bonkers with the cliffhangers but if she did it again, I would willingly follow along again as she is completely brilliant.  I'm really hoping that she plays more in this universe in the future.  Twisted modern fairy tales?  Yes Please!

Release Date: January 21 (but you can get the kindle edition now)

Crimson Veil by Yasmine Galenorn hits bookstores at the end of the month and I really wish it were sooner.  When we last left the D'Artigio sisters, the Elfin city had been demolished, the Elven Queen was dead and Chase's girlfriend taking over in that role, their father is missing and presumed dead, and war and chaos were breaking out everywhere.  I have to admit to feeling a bit of trepidation coming into this one as to how things are going to work out for all the characters we have grown to love and am hoping that we'll see more things to give us cause to hope that things are not as dire as they currently seem.

Release Date: January 28th

The only February new release is an outstanding one with Undead Pool by Kim Harrison.  The 12th book in the Hollows series which means there is only one more coming and things are not getting any easier for Rachel.  She managed to stop the demonic realms from shrinking in the last book but apparently, per usual for Rachel, things are backfiring and causing all kinds of problems in the real world.  Problems that she needs to help solve before all out war between Interlander and humans breaks out again.

Release Date: February 25th

Wow, already to March and we get a pair of fantastic books coming out early in the month.  Half-Off Ragnorak by Seanan McGuire is the new Incryptid book but this time told from Alex's point of view which will be a very new voice as so far Seanan hasn't done anything from the first person male pov before.  I'm curious as to how it will go as we have only seen this world through Verity's eyes before and now it will be a whole new protagonist, setting, everything.  Kelley Armstrong did this brilliantly with her Otherworld series and I'm hoping that Seanan can do it just as fabulously.

Release Date: March 4th

The first quarter new releases ends (for me anyway) with Night Broken by Patricia Briggs.  I love that Mercy and Adam have had such a strong relationship but bringing in the ex-wife???  I'm glad to read that there is someone (something?) else behind her desire to try and make trouble for Mercy and Adam but seriously, who can mess with this couple???  They are incredible with their devotion to each other and we all know who will win in this case.  It's just a matter of what big bad is really knocking on their door this time and how they'll get through it, other than together of course.

Release Date: March 4th

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Recap and 2014 Goals

So I had high hopes coming into this year.  No moving.  Trying to cut down on activities.  Really just exhausted and wanted to spend as much time as possible curled up and vegging.  I figured after spending the previous two years remodeling my old house for sale, buying a new house, packing and unpacking, and all that crazy stuff, I was due for a relaxing year.  

It didn't happen.

Well, it sort of did.  I spent a lot of the beginning of the year still unpacking and then trying to catch up all the stuff that needed to be done for the kids schooling.  The summer ended up being spent with a lot of field trips (which were fabulous) but when not out, my brain kind of shut off.  Personal tragedy hit in September and that put me down in a hole for the rest of the year.  I also worked on reading the Game of Thrones series (yes, I know technically it's The Song of Fire and Ice but we also all know that thanks to the HBO series, it is now GoT) and that one slowed me down a bit.

Nevertheless, I hit many of my goals for 2013.  I read over 120 books (yes, I know there were a lot of short stories on there but there were still about 120 actual "books" and since average page count was over 200p and it's my game, I met this one).  I read 40 new authors without breaking a sweat (or having to read a bunch in the week leading up to the end of the year).  I failed to make the 40,000 page goal but I gave it a good shot with over 36,000 pages read this year and I also failed in the other goal I keep trying for which is to have less on my to-read list at the end of the year than at the beginning.  At the beginning of the year, I was at 1,285 on Goodreads and 1,290 on Shelfari.  I'm now at 1,331 on Goodreads and 1,332 on Shelfari.  So even after reading 140 books this year and going through a cleaning out a few things that I am not going to read, I'm still up over 40 books.  *sigh*  Yes, I'm a biblioholic and I admit it.  I don't see a particular problem with it so long as I can store them all which so far I'm managing to do just fine.  Just need more bookshelves.

Looking back over the year, there were a lot of really good books but I'm glad I finally convinced the youngest that I didn't need to read EVERYTHING he enjoyed.  Love you kiddo but mommy can only take so many books aimed at the 9-12yr old set.  Favorite new authors included GRRM, Hugh Howey, Ernest Callenbach, Stephen Chobosky, Ernst Cline, Michael "Tinker" Pearce, Stefon Mears, Diana Rowland, John Scalzi, Rebecca Skloot, D.E. Stevenson, Gillian Bradshaw, Christopher Moore, and Joanne Harris.

It was interesting being in a book club for myself for the first time ever as I got to read a lot of books that normally would not have been on my radar which is always a mixed blessing but I think long term it will be a net positive.  I also think at looking back over everything I read this year, overall I was happier with what I read.

So now the goals for this year.  I'm going to go with 120 books again knowing that there will be some short stories mixed in but I really have no idea how many and I'm hoping not to be reading so many of kids' books.  I'm also going to go with 40 new authors and am going to try again for 40,000 pages.  That last is kind of a tall order but one I think well worth-while (although yes, I know it's somewhat subjective since it depends on edition).  And here's a new take on my to-read list goal, this time I'm just hoping that it is within 25 books of the current number.  Lower would be great but yeah, that hasn't worked out so well for me so far so maybe if I could just keep it from exploding?

So what are your reading goals for this year?