Saturday, May 30, 2015

63:120 Broken Paper Hearts by Seanan McGuire

Jonathan has never worried about Fran going hunting in the woods at night as he knows what just how capable she is but one night, she fails to come home and the family is never the same again.

This one was short but heartbreaking.  RIP Frances Healy.

Page count: 14p/15,937p ytd/230,871p lifetime

62:120 Snakes & Ladders by Seanan McGuire

Little Alice Healy has finally figured out what Halloween is all about and has managed to convince her mother, Fran, to take her out trick-or-treating.  As far as she is concerned, this is the best thing made even better by the fact that she is getting to be a cowgirl with guns to protect her from the monsters she knows could be out there.  Neither she nor Fran were actually expecting any trouble but when Fran takes her eyes off Alice for a second when she approaches the door with a pack of kids, she is kidnapped by a snake cult.  Now Fran is desperate to find her daughter and save her, no matter what.

A cute little story of a little girl's perfect trust in her mother and how things are not always as they seem.

Page count: 43p/15,923p ytd/230,857p lifetime

Friday, May 29, 2015

61:120 The Bet and Other Stories by Anton Chekov

A collection of short stories by Anton Chekov.  The Bet takes place between a banker and a lawyer who are debating whether imprisonment is a true punishment or not and the lawyer agrees to be imprisoned by the banker for 15 years.  The other stories deal deal with daily life and trials or more modest means.  In all the stories were interesting, although seemed very typical of morality at the time although there was much immorality that could be debated in them as well.

Page count: 152p/15,880p ytd/230,814p lifetime

60:120 Men of the Otherworld: Collection 2 by Yasmine Galenorn

Short stories from Yasmine Galenorn's Otherworld series that are either background tales or simply don't fit in well within the novels themselves.

Fae-ted to Love ~ In Panther Prowling, Delilah stumbles upon a secret tryst between Vanzir and Aveal, one of the Fae Queens.  In this story, Vanzir has been called out to her realm and we see more of their relationship with a bit of how it happened and an even bigger look into where it may be going.

Smoke and Mirrors ~ We get a glimpse at Smokey when he was young and see his first experience with a human woman.

Luck Be a Leprechaun ~ Bruce is sent to a meet of the Leprechaun high families out in the middle of nowhere.  It's really our first good glimpse at Bruce outside of just being Iris's husband as we see him get lost in the woods and then get captured by hillbillies.

Family Ties ~ Morio has been lying to Camille since they met about his family's acceptance of their marriage.  Like Trillian, his family has strict ideas of honor and what constitutes an acceptable match and Camille definitely does not fit into their plans for their family.  Morio's cousin has come to their house to set things straight and the lies are all coming out now...

It was nice a collection of stories and I hope we get more of them, especially some stuff about Bruce and his background.  I'm curious about leprechauns of her mythology but so far very little has been said.  I have a feeling we will see more about Vanzir and Aveal in future books and that should be interesting.

Page count: 71p/15,728p ytd/230,662p lifetime

59:120 Hollow Earth: The Book of Beasts by John & Carole E. Barrowman

The conclusion to the Hollow Earth trilogy by John & Carole E. Barrowman.  Matt is stuck in the past with his father, Malcolm, who has gone insane during his time being bound and will stop at nothing to open Hollow Earth and let out all of the monsters confined there.  He has seen his sister and mother burned to death by his father and has no way back to his own time and any form of help until he stumbles onto Solon, an animare from that time's Abbey, and Carik, a girl left there by the Vikings who attacked a few days ago.  Somehow, they must try to stop his father or the entire history of the Earth will be changed and not for the better.

Meantime, back in present day, Emily and her mother are fine having actually escaped Malcolm and are trying to figure out a way to help Matt without endangering everyone and everything.  Jeannie goes back in time to do what she can as a descendant of Albion but no one is convinced it will be enough, especially not Emily once she has been contacted by Albion's ghost and given visions to draw.  Things get even more interesting when Malcolm's mother shows up and she will do whatever it takes to make sure her son is successful.

Other than the addition of Malcolm's mother, I felt like this did a great job of wrapping up the series in a fulfilling way with all the basic questions being answered and no gaping holes screaming out to be filled.  Malcolm's mother being added in this late in the game bothered me.  I felt like she didn't add much to the story besides a brief explanation into Malcolm's obsession with Hollow Earth and her scenes didn't really move things along but were more like filler.  I think if she had at least been in the background throughout the series it might have worked better but she felt shoehorned in and not for any particularly good reason plot wise.  In all, I found the series nicely imaginative and I hope John and Carole do more collaborations together in the future.

Page count: 321p/15,657p ytd/230,591p lifetime

Monday, May 25, 2015

58:120 The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August by Claire Touch

Henry August is what is known as a kalachka or oroborean, a person who when they die are born again at the beginning of their own life and get to relive it over and over again.  Harry is unusual among them as he can remember absolutely everything about every previous life as well.  During his third time around, he is introduced to the Cronus Club, a club whose members are all like him in living their lives multiple times.  They help him each lifetime by taking him out his parent's house when he is young and letting him be who he really is without pretense as he grows.  Now at the end of his 11th life, a small child appears at his bedside to tell him that the future world is ending faster than ever and things have gone horrible wrong.  The future kalachkas are sending messages back in time, from children to the elderly to try and figure out what has happened and how to stop it.  Henry realizes that he has had a hand in causing the problem but figuring out how to stop it is going to take a few more lifetimes...

Interesting premise but poorly executed.  I never cared about Henry or any of the other characters which made it difficult to really care about anything else that was happening in the book.  Henry lacked depth and emotional connectedness and maybe that was on purpose as he does show several times in the book that he remembers certain deeds from his past with regret but that really seemed to be about the entire depth of character for him.  He never really displayed much in the way of passion or interest in anything, even himself.  I wanted so much to like this book as I do find the concept of reliving your life over and over again to be fascinating but in the end, it was just meh.

Page count: 400p/15,336p ytd/230,270p lifetime

Sunday, May 24, 2015

57:120 Hollow Earth: Bone Quill by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman

The second book in the Hollow Earth trilogy by John & Carole E. Barrowman.  Matt and Em are just learning more and more about their powers, their family history, their father, and Book of Beasts that was created to keep the most dangerous creatures of myth and legend away from the rest of the world.  At the same time, they are worried sick and trying to find any trace of where there mother has disappeared to.  Clues start to point that she has ended up in the past and by accident, the twins end up there as well.  The reunion ends with their realizing that there are things even further in the past that need to be settled to keep the world safe but in a misguided effort to make things right, Matt manages to unbind his father from the painting his mother and grandmother put him into when the twins were young.  Unfortunately, Matt does not understand just how dangerous and psychotic his father is until he is released from the painting in the past and starts doing absolutely anything to be able to open Hollow Earth....

Usually the second book takes a bit of a nosedive in a trilogy but this one kept up the same pace and moved the story along very nicely.  I'm really glad I already had the last book in the series in the wings waiting.

Page count: 287p/14,936p ytd/229,870p lifetime

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

56:120 Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

The first in the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews.  The world invented a serum to stimulate latent magical abilities years ago and now humans are divided by magical strength and ability.  In that scale, Nevada Baylor has listed herself as a null to hide the truth that she is actually a human lie-detector, a rare ability, and a fairly powerful one at that.  She has a small detective business that supports her family since her father's death but the crippling medical bills meant that she had to mortgage the business to a powerful family who is now calling her in to track down a Prime, the highest level of magic user, who is capable of setting anyone and anything on fire.

In her quest to try and gently bring in her quarry, she attracts the attention of "Mad" Rogan, another powerful Prime, who is searching for an accomplice of her target and will stop at nothing to find him.  He gives her no choice but to work with him but the plan backfires as she manages to find vulnerabilities he didn't even know he had anymore.  Now not only is he dealing with this case and trying to save the world, he is trying to figure out the way into her heart as well.  As for Nevada, she is trying to decide whether to run from her attraction or give in.  Neither seems like a safe choice.

So this is published by Avon Romance as a paranormal romance, something I don't tend to seek out but since I love Ilona Andrews and actually enjoyed her last foray into the genre with the Edge series of course I grabbed this one.  I was not disappointed.  The world is well constructed, the characters engaging (although I could have done with a little less of Nevada's constant self-doubting internal monologue), and the plot, while being fairly a fairly typical and straight-forward one, managed to keep my interest due to the characters and world although I will admit, the cover makes me cringe in a big way.  I'm interested to see where they go with this in the next one.  I know it's been postponed but when it comes out, I'll definitely be picking up my copy.

Page Count: 382p/14,649p ytd/229,583p lifetime

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

55:120 Return of the King by JRR Tolkein

Original review:
The end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.   Everyone who has read it always remembers Frodo's trials, Sam's devotion, Gollum's part in the destruction of it.  What I always forget until I read the book again is the aftermath, especially in the Shire.  The movies always leave that out, it's always forgotten.  It's always the HEA once the ring is gone.  Aragorn gets married, Eowyn is engaged, and yes it's sad that Frodo and Bilbo sail off with the elves but that's ok after what they've been through but it's all still HEA resolutions.  I think it's incredibly telling that Tolkien doesn't actually leave it there but takes it to a more realistic ending where the Hobbits come back to find the Shire besieged by Sarauman.  Their homes weren't just safely waiting for them to come home and they had to fight to get the evil out there as well.  War doesn't pass over your home because you are on the frontlines and this made sure to point that out.  Yes, in the end there is the HEA but it took longer than just riding off into the sunset to achieve and I respect the heck out of Tolkien for that.

At some point now, I really need to read some of the other books set in that world as I do enjoy it but always forget how much until I end up rereading it again.

Yeah, really do need to find the time to read some of the other ones.  I finally bought the Silmarillion for the Kindle so maybe that will be more incentive?

Page count: 544p/14,267p ytd/229,201p lifetime

Monday, May 18, 2015

54:120 An Age of Science and Revolutions by Toby E. Huff

Review from the last time I read it, 4 years ago:

Middle School History covering 1600-1800AD.  The Age of Reason, Scientific Discovery , and Enlightenment. I learned a lot reading this one and it's probably one of my favorite of the series.  Some truly remarkable thinkers which I wish were more listened to today.  I also find it fascinating to see the steps in how people built upon the knowledge that had gone before or the realizations they came up with by asking the right questions at the right time.  Just goes to show that asking questions is always a good idea.

Yeah, I'll go with that. *grin*

Page Count: 173p/13,723p ytd/228,657p lifetime

Thursday, May 14, 2015

53:120 American Vision by Glencoe/McGraw/Hill

High School History Text Book.  A look at American history starting with a brief overview of how people came to the Americas and Native American culture (seriously, 16 pages on all of this), and then n it starts in on the colonization by the Spanish and moves on from there.  It does do a better job than my high school history books in that it looks at more than colonization, the Civil War, and WWII but it still tends to be glossed over certain areas and the writing is drab and not very engaging.  This one only goes through 2003 with a special 2004 election update so it will be the last time I use this edition and I'm curious how the Iraq war and Bush's presidency will be portrayed in the next edition I get.

Page count: 1,138p/13,550p ytd/228,484p lifetime

Friday, May 8, 2015

52:120 Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

The fourth book in the Incryptid series, second from Alex Price's point of view.  Alex's girlfriend , Shelby, has come into his office to pick his brain about werewolves and how he would feel about a trip to her native country, Australia.  It turns out that there have been some attacks in her parents territory and it sure sounds like werewolves.  Werewolves in this universe are not cute and cuddly things with human brains steering them.  They are vicious predators that want only to spread their virus to others and which usually ends up killing the host after a while when the constant changes prove too much for the internal organs.  They are deadly and devastating to an enclosed ecosystem like Australia so despite his abject terror of them, Alex agrees to go along and advise as best he can.

That's when the fun starts.  Shelby's family is less than tolerant of Alex and that just sets things up to go from bad to worse.  This book is filled with plot twists and turns, many of which were not unexpected looking back but were well done and not immediately screaming out "Look at this turn I'm about to do!" which always makes me happy.  This may actually be my favorite in the series this far and I think Alex has finally found his voice.

Page Count: 348p/12,412p ytd/227,346p lifetime

Thursday, May 7, 2015

51:120 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Guy Montag is a fireman in a futuristic dystopian where firemen burn books and anything else that is deemed as "controversial".  Controversial meaning, in this case, anything that causes original thoughts and detracts from the pursuit of happiness in its most base form.  He is already growing discontent with his work and then going home to his wife, Mildred, who spends her entire time immersed in her television "family" to the point where he has already started to take home books from the homes where he is supposed to burn them but then his neighbor, Clarisse, starts talking to him in the evenings as he returns home from work about the past where books and speech and thoughts were more open and her dreams of seeing that return in the future.  Now his eyes are opened wider and he is truly seeing his life for what it is and can no longer return to what he was.  However, this leads to actions that put almost the whole of society against him and he must find those outcasts who will welcome him before the world comes tumbling down.

I can't remember if I read this back in high school or if I've just heard so much of it that I thought I'd read it before but I definitely hadn't read the essays and such that were in the back of this edition which were really interesting.  Obviously, there has been a lot of dystopian reading here for DS2's high school because that is what he likes to read so I'm trying to find classics in that style for him for free reading projects and this definitely fits the bill.  I can see how it was relevant back when it was written but seeing where our current society is going, I think it is unfortunately even more relevant especially when we hear modern musicians whom many youth look up talking with pride of how they have never read a book.  Seriously?!  These kinds of things scare the crap out of me and even more so looking at the banned book list (I swear, that should be my new reading list) and seeing some of the horrible objections to those books based on the fact that they are too "real" in their portrayal of the violence of the past.  After reading the essays at the back, I did not know that his inspiration for this was Darkness at Noon (everyone I've ever talked to has mentioned it's similarity to 1984) so I've grabbed that book to see what it's like.  I can only hope that my love of reading is inspiring my children (seems to be) and I will keep doing everything I can to spread that love far and wide.

Page Count: 249p/12,064p ytd/226,998p lifetime

50:120 The Bridge to Neverland by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

The 5th book in the Starcatchers series.  This takes place in modern times, 2010 or so, and we are following Sarah and Aiden who have found a map in an old desk their father has acquired just before they are heading to England on a family vacation.  Sarah insists that they follow it and by doing so, they find an old cache of starstuff the Starcatchers left behind.  Unfortunately, by opening the cache, they have alerted the remnants of Ombra that there is starstuff again and he is after it to try and bring himself back into his full power once more.  Sarah and Aiden are forced to run away from home and try to find a way to get it somewhere safe once again but that means trying to follow the clues to find the bridge to Neverland which is no longer a regular part of our world and may be the only place where they can leave it safely.

Bringing the story into modern times caused it to lose some of the whimsy that the first four had and Peter as someone who is now over 100 years old, trapped on the island with all his friends and enemies who also don't age and where basically nothing ever changes and he has become jaded and suspicious of anything different which makes him much less approachable than in previous books.  On the whole, it was neat to see things brought forward to modern time and Peter's reaction to it but I don't think it was definitely a step down from the previous books.

Page Count: 438p/,11,815p ytd/226,749p lifetime

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

49:120 Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, & Milla Vane

Four novellas about things that happen after dark.  I picked it up because it had a new Ilona Andrews story in it about Jim and Dali and since they were my first introduction to that world they hold a special place in my heart and I wanted to see where things were going with them.  I'd heard of Nalini Singh and have been told by many to go read her stuff so I figured I'd go ahead and grab this and see what I liked.

Secrets at Midnight by Nalini Singh (psy-changling 12.5) - Bastien is a wereleopard who has caught the scent of the one he knows to be his mate but it comes and goes and fades easily and is driving him to distraction knowing that she is out there but that he is unable to find her.  Of course, he does and they get together because PNR must have HEA.  As a first introduction to the world there were things that didn't make total sense but enough information was given that I didn't feel totally lost.  While the world seems like it could be interesting, I'm still not totally sold on it but will likely give it a chance.  Even though it was PNR, at least the woman had some brains and the man although immediately overprotective and doing the "mine" thing that drives me nuts was also all about giving her some space and working to make sure she was comfortable with who and what she was and trying to find out more about her likes and life instead of just turning her into "his mate".

Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels 6.5) - Dali and Jim's relationship is progressing slowly with Dali still unsure why Jim is even interested in her to begin with but then a woman in her community goes missing and it looks like magic has been involved so Dali is asked to look into it.  Jim tags along but this is much more about Dali and her magic than the usual shapeshifter politics. I wanted to like this one but Dali's incessant whining was a real problem.  I'm hoping that with the ending of it she will finally grow up and act more like the 20-something woman she is than the whiny 14yr old girl she does now.

Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin (SPI Files 0.5) - Makenna Frazier's first day at Supernatural Protection and Investigations is not exactly what she thought it would be like.  Rather than getting a chance to even figure out where the break room was or read the employee handbook, she is immediately thrust into the field to find the leprechaun prince and his friends who ditched their bodyguards while on a bachelor party.  Things just get more fun from there.  Another new world for me and there wasn't a lot of time spent on world building, just bits and pieces thrown in as relating to the story itself with just a few hints at an overarching story line to be developed later.  Writing was okay but not great enough to cause me to go immediately put things on my wishlist.

Beast of Blackmoor by Milla Vane - Wannabe fantasy porn, horribly written, nothing new, notable, or original.  Completely lacking in character development or even characters with any dimension whatsoever, I only finished it because I wanted to be able to just finish the book and I kept hoping it would get better.  It didn't.  Honestly, I would actively avoid anything else written by this author.

Page count: 378p/10,377p ytd/226,311p lifetime

Monday, May 4, 2015

48:120 Health: Making Life Choices by Frances Sizer Webb & Linda Kelly DeBruyne

Textbook for High School Health class.  Covers a broad range of mental and physical health topics including basic biology, nutrition, drugs, relationships, sexuality, and aging.  Does a decent job of keeping neutral and not pushing agendas other than taking care of oneself and getting help if you fall into any problematic area although there were some areas where it was all but pushing the reader to try and get people to stop smoking or doing other harmful behaviors.  Text is a bit outdated in terms of health insurance as it was written just as the ACA was being passed but otherwise, seemed factual and fairly up to date.

Page count: 800p/10,999p ytd/225,933p lifetime

Saturday, May 2, 2015

47:120 The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer gave a TED talk a few years ago and after just that short talk on asking and opening yourself up, she was asked to write this book.  Her first thought "My husband is the writer, I'm a musician" but she was convinced and this book was the result.  It's an open and honest look into her life and the lessons she has learned along the way.  It really boils down to one sentence:
"Take the Flower"

The whole book explains this lesson that seems so simple but is so hard for many of us.  It's about accepting kindness, accepting the gift that someone is offering you, being open to receiving the kindness of others, being able to ask when you are in need and receive what you are asking for but being ok when you don't get what you are asking for.  She gives many examples from her life of her asking but also of her giving and of times when she was unable to ask or to give.  She tells of the people and experiences that have helped her learn these lessons and at times when she was unable to hear them until after the moment was gone.

I'll be the first to admit that I only knew of Amanda Palmer because of her connection to Neil Gaiman.  I was lucky enough that a friend had an extra ticket to "An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer" and I was able to go even though I was really just there to see Neil.  I enjoyed Amanda's music when I was there but it wasn't a style that I would generally go out of my way to seek out to listen to (although my kids might and I should probably introduce them to it and see) but I was fascinated with her as a person so I started following her on FB and check in on her on a few other forums when I'm around so when I saw this book, I really wanted to read it.  What she writes resonated with me on such simple but powerful levels.  Asking is something I've always struggled with.  Not simple things like "can I have a cookie" but the bigger things, when I really need help or comfort or support.  Even more than my struggle with asking was my struggle with accepting when people would offer when I didn't ask.  I was supposed to be strong and capable and do everything myself and every time I had to accept help, I was angry with myself for needing it.  Having a premature child when I was 19 and both my husband and I were out of work really gave me hang-ups.  As things have progressed since then (I'm now 40, still married with 4 kids) and we are generally in a good spot in our lives I love helping others even if it's something simple like giving lifts to friends' kids and that's when it really started hitting me.  I enjoy helping others and I know many of my friends and family feel the same way.  Asking for help today is okay because tomorrow I will be helping someone else and we all benefit both from the receiving and the giving.  I still struggle with it but I do firmly believe that we all benefit as a society and community when we learn how to ask and let others help us.

Page count: 339p/10,199p ytd/225,133p lifetime (finally hit the 1/4 way mark on lifetime goal!!!!)