Thursday, December 22, 2016

109:120 Nice Guys Bite by Jennifer Estep

A novella set in the Elemental Assassin universe.  Silvio takes his job as Gin's assistant much more seriously than his boss does but even he is finally starting to see the light in trying to start up a new relationship so on the day of Gin's holiday party, he decides to take the plunge and go out for coffee with the handsome man that has been hanging around the Pork Pit.  However, while they are out he realizes that there are giants lurking around almost every corner and since he works for the Underworld's boss, he can only assume they are after him.  Now to find a way out of the trouble without ruining his date...

Nice to see a bit more about Silvio and I'm enjoying the side stories with the male members of the group.

Page count: 100p/26,318p ytd/275,475p lifetime

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

108:120 Blood Magic by Yasmine Galenorn

The set-up to a new series by Yasmine Galenorn.  Maddy has been in a funk since the divorce (before that even) but now her friend Sandy has convinced her to buy a mansion in Bedlam and start a new life.  However, after moving she goes exploring in the house and finds a vampire has a lair in the basement.  This is no ordinary vampire though and she is no ordinary witch so maybe the two of them can have something more special than anyone can imagine.

An interesting set-up to a new series.  Looks interesting and the first book is apparently due out in January so I'll be giving it a go.  Ms. Galenorn's work generally keeps me interested and entertained nicely and with two new series starting up next year, I'm hoping to have lots of things to smile about in the publishing world.

Page count: 53p/26,218p ytd/275,375p lifetime

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 1st Quarter 2017

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.

So I'm trying desperately to find time to read and finish up at least one of my reading goals for the year.  I'm really not sure what has happened to all my time this year but apparently it wasn't spent reading and even though this past quarter had less new books in it, and this year seemed down a bit from previous years, I'm pretty sure I've managed to add more books to my to-read pile than I've read.  The first quarter of 2017 looks to be pretty typical in terms of quantity and pretty awesome in terms of content.

The kicks off with a new standalone novella, Dusk or Dawn or Dark or Day by Seanan McGuire.  Jenna is dead and as a ghost, she must make amends for the time debt so she does this by volunteering at a suicide prevention hotline but now there is something that coming for the ghosts of New York City and now Jenna must make a stand.

Release date: Jan 10

The Turn by Kim Harrison takes us into the past of the Hollows series with Rachel Morgan, the kick-ass witch, and shows us how that world came to be.  This promises to be fabulous!

Release date: Feb 7

After two months of single releases, March packs three into one day.  Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire is the 6th book in the Incryptid series and the first time for Antimony to be the lead.  Now that Verity has declared war on the Covenant of St. George the Price family needs to know what they are up against and since Annie doesn't carry the family resemblance she is being packed off to London as their spy.  Good luck kiddo!

Release date: March 7

We also get the new Mercy Thompson book, Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs.  Mercy has been kidnapped (again?!) by the most powerful vampire to serve as a message to Adam and the werewolves.  Being able to change into a coyote lets her escape but now she is trapped in Prague and unable to contact Adam or her friends so she must find her own way home.

Release date: March 7

Lastly is the first book in the new Lily Bound series by Yasmine Galenorn, Souljacker.  A succubus who runs an elite sex salon, a souljacker who wants his artwork (re: tattoos) back of which she has one, and a chaos-demon PI all come together in this new work.  Looks like it could be interesting.

Release date: March 7

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

107:120 Shadowed Souls by Various Authors

A short story anthology.  I bought it because it had new works by Seanan McGuire and a new Dresden Files story and things by other authors that had been recommended to me.  The Dresden File story was about Molly now that she is the Winter Lady and her discovering more about her powers and makes me wish that Mr. Butcher would continue exploring that path.  The Seanan McGuire story was set in the Incryptid universe but focused on Ellie, the cousin of the Price family from the books, who is kidnapped in an effort to save a little girl from a group of ghouls. Both stories were very enjoyable and made the purchase worthwhile.  As with any anthology, there were stories in there that I really enjoyed and some that were ok but overall, I think it was well balanced with good stories and I will definitely be checking out some of these authors' other works.

Page count: 338p/26,165p ytd/275,322p lifetime

106:120 Sunken Treasure: Wil Wheaton's Hot Cocoa Box Sampler by Wil Wheaton

Being the geek that I am, of course I have known who Wil Wheaton was from a young age.  I didn't see most of his dramatic pieces but I've seen every episode of ST:TNG more times than I care to think about (it's actually on my tv as I type this, thank you BBCA).  As a child, I was thrilled to see someone not much older than myself be part of the crew of the new Enterprise but even I got annoyed at how often he seemed to save the day.  As time passed, he fell off my radar but then social media came about and I found that several of my friends were talking about him and his writing and I became intrigued.  A friend had this book and loaned it to me so I was able to get a taste of his writing style through the many excerpts in it and I will definitely be looking to read more.  His style is very relateable and easy to read.  This book was all more personal stories but it definitely makes me curious to read some of his other works as well to see if that style holds up.

Page count: 90p/25,827p ytd/274,984p lifetime

Monday, December 12, 2016

105:120 Fall Like Snow by Seanan McGuire

Zephyr has never been outside.  Her mother keeps her safe in their house all of her days because outside the snow and cold will freeze her but it's tricky because the snow wants Zephyr to come outside so in the spring it looks warms and pink, the summer is blue and green, and the fall snow is the most dangerous with it's firey snow.  Mother goes out to get supplies from time to time and Zephyr knows she is lucky her mother is so brave to do this.  But now Mother is getting old and there is no food and Zephyr has no idea what to do...

A short story for Seanan's patreon supporters, not set in a previous world.  It's not a comforting story by any means, more bittersweet than anything but lovely in its way.

Page count: 20p/25,737p ytd/274,894p lifetime

Saturday, December 10, 2016

104:120 The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas is about to turn 12yrs old and find out what career has been chosen to be his life's path.  In a village where everything is concerned with Sameness and society's rules are rigid to enforce this, it comes as a big surprise when Jonas is chosen to become the new Giver, the keeper of memories, for the village.  His instructions are very different than anything he has ever seen in that he is told he can ask any question of anyone and he is given permission to lie.  He doesn't know what to think!  But once his training starts, he starts learning just how much he doesn't know about so many things like love, family, pain, and death.  How can he continue to live in the village knowing what he does and how much everyone else doesn't?

I had heard so much about this book for so long and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.  Reading it as part of my 10yr old's literature studies was even better because we read it together (he loved it!) and were able to discuss it together.  I think it's an interesting study in that the village seems like a utopia at the beginning but as you learn more, you realize that it's more dystopian than utopian but since no one knows this it's quite the quandry.  They are happy as they are and don't know how bland their lives are and what they have given up to achieve this.  Only the Giver ever knows and he is only called upon for advise when something knew comes up...until Jonas comes along.

Page count: 179p/25,717p ytd/274,874p lifetime

103:120 The Devil's Diadem by Sara Douglass

It's mid-12th century England and Mistress Maeb Longforte's father, having recently returned from Jerusalem is dead and has left her with nothing but her name and nothing else for a dowry so she enters the household of the Earl of Pengraic to serve as a lady's maid to Lady Adelie.  At 16yr, she is young and so far, untutored in the ways of the court but shortly after arriving a plague breaks out in southern England and while the Earl is helping the King to keep order, the rest of the family tries to move ahead of the plague to Pengraic, a castle in the mountains near Wales.  The plague follows and Maeb soon finds herself embroiled in more politics than she could ever have imagined, especially after the Earl announces that he will take her to wife now that his wife and all his children dead.  However, strange things continue to hound her including the devil's imps and dreams of a golden knight and wolves.  She must figure out what all these things mean if she is to survive.

This book was recommended to me by my favorite local bookstore several years ago and I'm so glad I picked it up.  This is the author's last book as she was writing it while dying but I'm definitely going to go look up some of her other work to read in the future as many reviews say that while this was good, because the other books tended towards series they were much deeper.  I liked the character growth that I saw in this book and the twist at the end was well done and not something that I had in anyway foreseen.  Maeb had more spirit than you would normally think to see in one so young and in such a position and it's interesting to see how she learns but again, how she doesn't.  It made for a more believable character.  There were a few "come on, really" moments but in some ways they do as you find out more through the story.  In all, I really liked it.

Page count: 522p/25,538p ytd/274,695p lifetime

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

102:120 Stage of Fools by Seanan McGuire

Set before October in a time centuries ago, we find Tybalt newly a King of Cats in a court with no subjects as he has chased them off to make sure they avoid the plague that is in London.  Now he's out enjoying the merrymaking when his sister finds him and she is on the run from the nobles of the High Court after being accused of murdering their heir.  The only thing is, she didn't and she has their shared baby as proof.  Now Tybalt must find a way to get the Fae Court to back off his sister and keep her and her baby safe and to do that, he must figure out who would have wished the High Prince dead.

Set after Forbid the Sea (and should have been read before Voice of Lions...whoops), it's another chapter in filling in Tybalt's past which is something I've been thrilled that we are getting.  I think I love Tybalt even more than October so any time I can get more about him, I'm a happy camper.

Page count: 18p/25,016p ytd/274,173p lifetime

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

101:120 The Levee was Dry by Seanan McGuire

We are in a world where a virus has changed our brain chemistry so that the precise second you turn 35, you can no longer hear recorded music that you haven't heard before.  It all becomes static.  It has become a tradition that just before your 35th birthday, you start binge listening to get as much as possible before the static starts and then you are thankful that live music isn't affected by this.  The big question still being asked though, is how did this happen and can it be reversed someday?

A Patreon short story in its own world.  Wasn't as big a fan of this one, I love music but the whole concept just didn't make sense to me especially since live music was still available.  The whole thing just didn't gel right for me.

Page count: 30p/24,998p ytd/274,155p lifetime

Friday, December 2, 2016

100:120 Wake Up in Vegas by Seanan McGuire

There is one more thing that Dominic must do in order to stay with Verity, he must become a new person so the Covenant can continue to believe that he is dead.  It means giving up his name and identity and there is no one better in the business than Verity's Uncle Al so they are heading to Vegas to get him all setup so maybe they can get married before anything else goes awry.

A fun little tale that seems to wrap up their roadtrip pretty darn nicely.  Those Price girls certainly do seem to have a thing for those Covenant boys but it sure seems to work out okay for them.

Page Count: 21p/24,968p ytd/274,125p lifetime

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

99:120 Swamp Bromeliad by Seanan McGuire

Verity has finally brought Dominic to Buckley Township where Thomas Price met Alice Healy, Verity's grandparents.  She has shown him the old homestead but since that is rented out, they are staying in the house the Covenant bought for Thomas Price when they sent him to spy on the Healys.  While there, they meet Alice's old babysitter, the ghost Aunt Mary, and then some boys come to the house and claim that plants ate their brother.  Verity listens and determines that it is likely a swamp bromeliad and if they don't act quickly, the boy will die if he hasn't already been ingested so she and Dominic head out to see what they can do.

Since escaping the swamp bromeliad is what brought Alice onto Thomas's front porch in the first place, it was a lovely bit of symmetry.

Page count: 40p/24,947p ytd/274,104p lifetime

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

98:120 Snake in the Glass by Seanan McGuire

Verity has been criss-crossing all over the country trying to get Dominic more acquainted with the way her world works and now, what better way than to go to Chicago and stay at the Carmichael, a hotel for incryptids run by a family of gorgons.  She'll also get to introduce him to Uncle Mike and Aunt Lea.

It was nice going back to the Carmichael and seeing Dominic's reaction to things there.

Page count: 40p/24,907p ytd/274,057p lifetime

97:120 Voice of Lions by Seanan McGuire

Tybalt, still known by his old name Rand, is a King of Cats with a court of just two subjects, his sister Colleen and her daughter Cailin.  Now Cailin has been stolen away and he will not let this stand so the two of them travel to the to Summerlands to have her back or die in the attempt.

Ok, I absolutely love Tybalt and have since the first book so I'm loving getting some of his backstory.  This story was no exception and I can only hope that there are many more to come.

Page count: 30p ?/24,867p ytd/274,017p lifetime

Monday, November 28, 2016

96:120 Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

A collection of mini-biographies of princesses through history that did not behave in what one might call "typical princess" fashion.  The book is divided into sections based on how the princesses deviated from the standard we think of and then each had a handful of biographies that fit into that heading.

I wanted to like this more than I did and in the beginning, I was really enjoying it.  I liked hearing about the Warrior Princesses who would not marry a man unless they could best them or charging into battle or running away from marriage to become a pirate.  Those seemed well-researched and if short, offered what felt like a good overall mini-biography.  As the book progressed through, it started feeling much more like a gossip magazine with just pulling out the juicy bits as much as possible, maybe with a few possible explanations thrown in but not expounded upon, and then giving entries with 1-2 paragraphs on other notable women that could go under the section titles.  The tone seemed to change a bit as well with the earlier princesses getting a more matter of fact tone and then it switching to a more "you know what I mean, wink wink" kind of tone as things progressed into the "scandalous" sections.  It felt like a juvenile way of handling the material.  In all, I just wasn't impressed and won't be looking further into this author.

Page count: 288p/24,837p ytd/273,987p lifetime

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

95:120 In Little Stars by Seanan McGuire

A short story about Gilad's youth as his parents founded the Kingdom of the Mists and he has to start learning how to actually be a prince in more than just name.  A sweet little story.

Page count: 36p/24,549p ytd/273,699p lifetime

94:120 Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Grey

Adam is so excited to finally be on the road with his father, Roger, living the minstrel life.  It was what he had always imagined and he couldn't have been happier until his dog, Nick, was stolen by another minstrel.  Now Adam is chasing the thief while his father is chasing him.  Unfortunately, as people get seperated from each other, Adam learns that not all minstrels are as wonderful and well-received as his father.  He learns many lessons about life on the road and the people around him.

 My 2nd son actually read this for his bookclub years ago and wanted me to read it and I finally got around to it.  Set in 13th century England, it reads easily with enough odd language thrown in to remind that it's another time but not so much that it takes you out of the story.  It managed to be realistic rather than fantastical in it's depiction and I think gave a fun impression of what life could have been like for a minstrel boy in that time in a way that children of today could understand and maybe even relate to a bit.

Page count: 317p/24,513p ytd/273,663p lifetime

Sunday, November 20, 2016

93:120 Heaps of Pearl by Seanan McGuire

King Gilad is holding a ball in honor of the new Duchess-in-Waiting of Saltmist and all nobles in the Kingdom of the Mists are expected to attend.  Baron Patrick Twycross grumbles but figures he will do as he usually does and make sure his face is seen before finding a place to retreat to safely until he can leave without causing offense.  What he didn't plan on was finding a woman he had never seen before threatening to throw chairs at people if she didn't get some real food immediately.  Since the kitchens are one of Patrick's favorite haunts, he gallantly offers to help her procur a real meal.  Patrick certainly had no idea that he was feeding the Duchess-in-Waiting...

Having already met Dianda and Patrick in the Toby universe, it was fun to see how they first met and began the relationship that we already have seen established.

Page count: 24p/24,196p ytd/273,346p lifetime

Friday, November 18, 2016

92:120 No Sooner Met by Seanan McGuire

The first date between Tybalt and Toby of course it can't go smoothly or easily.  When one is the King of Cats for the local clan and the other a changling Knight, there is always bound to be someone trying to kill at least one of them.

Honestly, I so love Tybalt and Toby together that I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Page count: 25p/24,172p ytd/273,322p lifetime

Thursday, November 17, 2016

91:120 Becoming by Kelley Armstrong

A comic telling the story of Elena's transformation and her 'adjustment' to her new life from Jeremy.  As Ms. Armstrong stated, she has been beseached by fans for this story for a long time but felt that it was so dark that it couldn't be told until the comic idea came where it could be illustrated.  I agree, it was dark but it was good to see the pain that she went through on her way to becoming the character we meet in Bitten, to more fully understand were she came from.

Besides that story, there is also some history from the Pack in the back regarding the dissolution of taking mates and female werewolves.  Nice tidbit for long time fans.

Page count: 92p/24,147p ytd/273,297p lifetime

90:120 Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire

When Toby was sent to the Kingdom of Silences to try and prevent war, no one suspected that she would return with a cure for elf shot, the magical substance that induces a 100-year coma in full-bloods rather than killing them which would violate Oberon's law but is also deadly to changelings.  The cure was used to wake up the sleepers in Silences but now it must go through the political process with the High King and Queen to determine if it will be made widely available.  Arden is all for using it, of course, since her brother has been asleep for 80 years now but there are many who don't want to see the cure distributed.  By the end of the first day of the conclave, someone is dead and now Toby must find out who killed him if peace is to be maintained.  When Dianda is shot with elf shot, Toby needs to figure out if it's the same person or if she is dealing with two different factions.  As she gets closer, the danger to not only herself but her friends increase and time is running out for them all.

I was bummed that all the school reading for my kiddos had kept me from this book for so long so as soon as I had my head above water, I reached for it.  I needed something to let me escape and this did not disappoint.  I love these characters so much and I admit to almost throwing the book at one point because I needed a feel-good story and what happened did not look like that was going to happen.  I actually had to take a break for a few minutes to compose myself and then had to finish the book to make sure it ended up all right.  I'm not sure how I would have held up if the results had been much different.

In the back of this edition is the novella, Dreams and Slumbers.  Since I don't want to post spoilers for the book, I will just say that this is told from Arden's point of view and deals with her thoughts on her sleeping brother.  I found her to be a bit whiny in her internal monologue which was kind of a turn-off but I think this could be setting up some interesting things for the future of the series.

Page count: 420p/24,055p ytd/273,205p lifetime

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

89:120 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The tale of Huck Finn after he runs away from his pa and chooses to travel down the river with the runaway slave, Jim.  It details their adventures which are many and don't generally show Huck in a good light but he always gets away with it and seems to have his head screwed on a bit better by the end of the story.

I'm of so many minds about this book.  I know intellectually that the treatment of Jim throughout the book is tame considering our history but I still hate it (although that makes it a good reason to read the book).  The dialects do add a lot of flavor to it but sometimes make for harder reading for my high school student.  I found myself shaking my head over the many times that Huck thinks about doing the right thing but then shrugs it off and then there is Tom's plan for rescuing Jim which just Ugh!  That part was just painful to read through.  I think historically it continues to be a must read book for high school but it will never be one of my favorites.

Page count: 225p/23,635p ytd/272,785p lifetime

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

88:120 History of US: Making Thirteen Colonies by Joy Hakim

My third time reading these books.  Here is my previous review:
The 2nd book in the History of US series (5th-8th US History text).  Well, Jon likes them as much as he likes history at all (which is to say not much) but I will say that I think I was spoiled by the Oxford Ancient Times series.  This one just hasn't gripped me, the writing is repetitive in it's simplistic language, and I'm basically just ungripped.  I'm sure there are better books out there but the small chapters and easy reading is exactly what Jon needs so I think I'm stuck with it.  *sigh*  Only 8 more volumes left. 

Ok, now that I've had over a year away from the Oxford series and am reading these with a child who is enjoying them, I'm much less cranky with them.  I still find the jumping around annoying but that seems to be fairly common with many history books as they try to focus on whatever thing they are currently talking about although I feel that without the context of everything else that was happening at the time there is a lot that gets lost even if you swing back around and try to pick that other stuff up while following a different thread.  But maybe that's just me.  I am definitely willing to concede that.  I will say, these do hold up better next to the high school world history that I am also currently reading.  

Page count: 192p/23,410p ytd/272,560p lifetime

Monday, November 7, 2016

87:120 The Way Home by Seanan McGuire

Jonathan has become incredibly overprotective of Alice since Fran's death.  Alice, now being 16 and most definitely her mother's daughter, is not really having it so it's not a huge surprise when she goes off into the woods to do some investigation.

Thomas Price has been falsifying reports to the Covenant for a while now about remote areas and the creatures that inhabit them so it wasn't a surprise to him when he was sent into what basically amounted to exile watching over the Healy's.  What did surprise him was when this 16 year old girl ended up on his front porch almost as soon as he arrived at his new house and now her family knows he's in town.

It was nice seeing the first meeting between Thomas and Alice.  I really hope we get to see more of them as their relationship progresses.

Page count: 34p/23,218p ytd/272,368p lifetime

Thursday, November 3, 2016

86:120 So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Public shaming is not a new phenomenon but was actually used frequently and effectively in for centuries leading up to the 1900s when it started declining because it was deemed cruel.  Now, in our online forums it has made a staggering comeback but instead of it being something that is used as a punishment being meted out by the village where your transgression took place by people who generally knew you and understood the circumstances, it is now being carried out almost instantaneously by people who had never heard of you until they saw the dog pile going on and decide to jump into the fray.  This book goes into several different ways that public shaming has taken place recently, the after effects of each case, and looks more deeply into the mindset behind it and when public shaming can be appropriate and when it just goes overboard.

So this book was assigned to my 18yr old for his English 100 class.  When I saw it come in, I was already intrigued and said as much to him.  We decided we would try to read it together when it was assigned so we could discuss it.  His entire class has lead to many interesting discussions as his teacher seeks to bring awareness to many different social issues which I'm definitely a proponent of.  This book was no different.  I have signed many petitions and been outspoken in my views of many things but I have tried to stay away from the social shaming although I admit to sometimes being happy to see some of it being done (pretty much any shaming someone like Brock Turner or someone like him gets I'm not going to be shedding a tear over) but I've seen many other instances like the case of Justine Sacco where I believe that what was done and the consequences to her life far outweighed the judgment lapse and the lack of any meaningful discussion behind said lapse.  Pointing out that people have done something wrong is one thing.  Condemning them without ever really listening to their side of the story and playing judge, jury, and executioner as a mob is not something I am in favor of towards an individual.  Can this mentality be used to shame companies into better behavior?  Yes and I actually believe that to be a fairly ethical use of this power so long as it sticks to the facts of the complaint against them and does not get personal with the employees outside of the "this is what was said".  I admit to having to do things like post on a company's FB page in order to get my complaints resolved before but I never attacked, called for rape of anyone, or threatened any violence of any kind.  This kind of behavior is, in my opinion (and seems to be in the opinion of the author), completely uncalled for at any time.  I see the rise in public shaming of individuals who do something dumb or have an opinion different from someone else's as a symptom of the general lack of compassion and civility that is going around.  We are so much more connected to the world these days but this online presence makes it easy to forget that there is a real person on the other side of the screen who has hopes and dreams and feelings just like you do while you can be an anonymous voice from cyberspace.  I think this book was a good reminder of how we need to start looking in the mirror and more carefully consider our actions using compassion and civility before we start typing.

Page count: 318p/23,184p ytd/272,334p lifetime

85:120 The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Old Mombi is out when her ward, Tip, decides to make a pumpkinhead man to scare her upon her return but the joke is on Tip when Old Mombi uses the pumpkinhead to test a new spell she has gotten the component to and brings him to life.  Now Tip is on the run with Jack Pumpkinhead and their new mount, the Sawhorse, to the Emerald City to escape Old Mombi's wrath.  Unfortunately, when they get there they find that the city is under seige by a rebel army of women under the leadership of General JinJur.  Now Tip and his friends must aid the Scarecrow to escape and get help to bring order back to the city.  Their best hope will be to find Princess Ozma, the daughter of the ruler that the Wizard deposed, but she has been missing for many years now.

I actually preferred this one to the first in that the characters were a bit more complex and the actual quest moved better and the Tin Woodman was a bit more cautious with his ax.

Page count: 288p/22,866p ytd/272,016p lifetime

Monday, October 31, 2016

84:120 The Star of New Mexico by Seanan McGuire

Fran is gone and now comes the task left to the living of saying good-bye to the Flower of Arizona, the Star of New Mexico.  Jonathan is not handling it at all well and it's hard to see how it will effect Alice in the long run but so many loved Fran and will do all they can to help each other and those who loved her most learn to let go.

Such a tragic tale, beautifully and lovingly told.

Page count: 13p/22,578p ytd/271,728p lifetime

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

83:120 Fearless by Elliott James

The third book in the Pax Arcana series.  Ted Cahill is now sheriff in a small college town when strange things start happening so he puts a call in to Sig and the team comes.  As they start investigating, all signs start pointing to someone using magic against a student, Kevin Kachida, and doesn't care about innocent bystanders.  To protect Kevin and stop this person, John and the team are going to have to go deep into the supernatural underground and deal with bigger forces than they ever have before.

I found this one a bit less fun than the previous ones.  They are focusing on an outside threat to someone they didn't know before and for no reason other than to stop casualties.  It meant that the team basically split up for the entire book which meant very little character or team growth.  It was much more of a basic action/adventure story and the characters really could have been any one.  I have the next one in the series but I'm taking a break after this one.

Page count: 437p/22,565p ytd/271,715p lifetime

Monday, October 24, 2016

82:120 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

Mr. Murray has been gone for over a year and the letters have not been coming for the past several months.  This has been hard on his family but even more so on Meg, his only daughter.  Then one very stormy night, there is a banging outside and Charles Wallce, the youngest Murray, introduces Meg and their mother to Mrs. Whatsit.  As the days go by, Meg is introduced to the others, Mrs. Who & Mrs. Which and they tell her that they know where her father is and that she and Charles Wallace must be prepared to rescue him when the time comes.  As the story spins out, Mr. Murray is trapped on another planet, Camozotz, where the Darkness has taken hold and Meg, Charles Wallace, and a neighbor boy, Calvin, must find a way to get Mr. Murray out of the hands of IT who is trying to take over his mind.  A big task for three children.

I didn't read this book as a child even though I know I had a copy.  I read the whole quintet a few years ago so this is my second time reading this book.  I'm reading it as part of my 10yr old's literature study this year.  I find it a bit simplistic and while the fantasy is fun, the storyline is a basic good v. evil with no depth to the evil other than this is what evil does.  I think it holds up ok but I probably would have enjoyed it more had I read it as a child.

Page count: 480p/21,883p ytd/271,033p lifetime

Thursday, October 20, 2016

81:120 Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliot

Jes has been singled out to move quickly up the ranks of the Fives Court but while she trains hard, always in the back of her mind is her family and their safety and how to protect them from Lord Gargaron.  With Kal and her father off to the frontlines, she needs to rely on others who are not as watched as she is but trust is hard for her, especially with so much at stake.  Then she starts overhearing things, plots within plots at the highest levels of the palace but she has no one she can trust with this information and certainly no one who would believe her.  When she is taken on a traveling party to inspect the gold mines, she finds her twin sister and thinks things might finally be coming together but then her party is attacked and plots start unfolding faster than the rings turn in the Fives Court.  Jes who can see how those rings move so clearly on the Court is having a much harder time figuring things out when she is in the middle of so many different plots pushing her in so many different directions but who can she turn to for help.

A good follow-up to the first book.  Jes is growing as a character even if sometimes it's painfully slow and that is something that I really want to see in books.  Some of the twists and turns were beautifully orchestrated and a few I wasn't expecting at all which is always a bonus.  I'm now bummed that I have to wait almost a year for the end of this trilogy.

Page count: 480p/21,883p ytd/271,033p lifetime

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

80:120 Fairy Deby by Gail Carriger

Cups is a young fairy with a big problem.  Her mother was saved by the local human king and so she owed him a death debt.  When she died with it unfullfilled, it passed on to Cups and no fairy can grow their wings with such a debt hanging on to them.  Now she has traveled to the King's court to become the Lesser Jester to the princess to try and work off this debt but somehow, teaching the princess to tumble doesn't seem like it will do the trick.

A fun little tale with fairies and a princess and even a dragon to read when you standing in line at the grocery store or otherwise have a few minutes to spare and just want the world to stop for a bit.

Page count: 21p/21,403p ytd/270,553p lifetime

79:120 Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

The second book in the Innkeeper Chronicles.  Dina is the Innkeeper of Gertrude Hunt Inn.  An Inn is in need of guests for the energy to sustain itself and Dina is in need of guests for money to pay the bills.  Unfortunately, she has only one full time guest, Caledonia, who is a sadistic tyrant in hiding from the galaxy.  When the Arbiter shows up at her doorsteps asking if she is willing to host a peace conference made up of three species who want nothing more than to kill each other, Dina has to think long and hard about accepting but ultimately the health of the Inn makes her decision easy.  Unfortunately, while all three factions have lost dearly enough in the war to come to the table, getting them to put their pride on the back burner to make the deal is another thing altogether and the Arbiter has many strings to pull to try and bring the peace about and is not afraid to pull every last one out.

My thoughts on this book are all over the map.  I really enjoyed the first one and was thrilled to get the second one as I'm just horrible about reading things on a blog on a weekly basis so don't bother.  I enjoyed the world building and OMG, Orro the chef is fabulous!  But at the same time, I had issues with it.  It was definitely darker in tone which I don't mind but wasn't quite what I was expecting.  The constant "I'm exhausted", "I'm the Innkeeper, it's my job to ...", and "I wonder what Sean is up to right now" inner monologue by Dina got old less than half way through and never let up.  Maybe that worked in a more serial type of format but reading it straight through was annoying.  Many of the other characters were simply drawn with very little in the way of depth to them.  I love how rich the characters are in the Kate Daniels series so I'm not sure why these got so little.  I still enjoy the world and hope to see more books in it but I also hope they are a bit more polished.

Page count: 237p/21,382p ytd/270,532p lifetime

Sunday, October 2, 2016

78:120 Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

The 9th book in the Kate Daniels series.  Kate is finally ready to tie the knot with Curran but when they ask Roman to officiate, she starts realizing just how big a deal her wedding is going to be.  Then the Witch Oracles send for her to show her that if she marries Curran, he will die by her father's hand but if she doesn't, their son will die by her father's hand as a baby.  Either way, she cannot win. Then Roland, her father, kidnaps Siaman and she is forced to try and get him back.  The future is not set in stone but right now, no path is looking good for Kate and those she loves.  Being Kate, she finds some completely insane and reckless plan in a last ditch effort to save her family and her city. Only time will tell if she has done the impossible.

So much is going on in this book as it seems like the final confrontation with Roland is getting closer.  Kate is her usual, impetuous self but there is definitely something darker growing within her.  She can feel it and she is doing everything she can to not turn into the monster her father is.  With Curran's love and the help of her family and friends, I'm definitely hoping it will be okay.  I am now unhappy though because I read this book in just a couple of days and I now have to wait like a year for the next one to come out.  I want more and I want it NOW!

Page count: 328p/21,145p ytd/270,295p lifetime

Friday, September 30, 2016

77:120 Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

Lady Preshea Villentia is a highly trained spy and assassin and also a widow 4 times over which has earned her the nickname "The Mourning Star".  She is now set up to live her life as she pleases, being no longer under any obligation to anyone but when Lord Akledama invites her to a secret meeting, she realizes she is bored and the task of keeping a Duke safe while under the guise of working for him to break up the relationship between his daughter and an unsuitable suitor seems like just the thing.  She wasn't counting on a Scottish soldier to truly enliven things for her.

Set in the world of Ms. Carriger's Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series, Preshea is a character from the Finishing School who always said that she was more interested in murdering her husbands than cohabiting nicely with them.  It seems that what she really needed was someone who knew her worth and was content with any affection she choose to show him.  The courtship was sweet and the book a fun, fluffy read.

Page count: 150p/20,817p ytd/269,967p lifetime

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

76:120 A History of US: The First Americans by Joy Hakim

This is now my third time reading this history book.  Here's my previous review:

Book 1 in the History of Us series which we are using for 5th & 8th grade US History.  It's a two year course so I'll be working on these for a while.  Honestly, I'm not overly thrilled with the series.  It's very jumpy in it's telling and the language isn't as engaging as I was hoping for.  8th grader loved it in 5th grade but hates it now.  I can see why.  It's working well for the 5th grader tho with the super short chapters.  So long as it's working, we'll stick with it but I was so hoping for something more engaging like the Oxford series we did for middle school Ancient History.

Well, having a year break from the lovely Oxford series and trying to read high school history while reading this along with a having a child who is enjoying it makes it seem better than this.  I think it is a decent history curriculum for the 5-6th graders, short chapters and a bit of engaging "let's pretend" thing going on, but it definitely will suffer in comparison to other, stronger texts.  Still better than high school history courses in general though since it dives deeper.

Page count: 183p/20,667p ytd/269,817p lifetime

Thursday, September 22, 2016

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 4th Quarter 2016

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.

So I'm not entirely sure where the heck July and August went but they certainly did not contain much in the way of reading and so I'm staring down the fourth quarter of the year over 10 books behind pace to make my goal, 5 books behind my new author goal, and about 10,000 pages behind that goal.  So yeah, I seriously need to get reading done in the next few months.  At least I shouldn't be seeing my To Read pile growing crazily as there are only a few books coming out this quarter that I will definitely be picking up.

The first is Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong.  This is the last of the promised trilogy of short stories and novellas that was promised in her Otherworld series.  Apparently this one wraps up several of the story lines that were not fully resolved.  I can only hope she will continue to play in this world moving forward as while I enjoy her other work, I really really enjoy this universe and the characters in it.

Release Date: October 4

Shadowed Souls is an anthology of stories where things are not always as black and white as they appear.  It contains stories from Seanan McGuire, Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson, Tanya Huff, and several others I'm not as familiar with but looks to be a fun read.

Release Date: November 1

Also being released that day is Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter.  This is the second of the Soulwood books that are set in the Jane Yellowrock series but follow Nell and the PsyLED team.  This takes place after Nell has completed her training.  She returns home only to find that the land itself is sick and evil is spreading.  I am a book behind in the Jane Yellowrock series and haven't gotten to the first book in this series but considering how much I like her work in this universe, I will definitely be picking it up.

Release Date: November 1

I haven't fully made up my mind about The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.  The first book was ok but not spectacular and had many issues.  My book club read it (my pick) and several people had more issues with it than I did but several others seemed to enjoy it but also expressed issues with the writing and such that I did.  Two people went on to read the second book, one was enjoying it and the other actually gave up half way through.  Based on this, I think I'm going to read the second book before deciding whether or not to buy this one.  It does sound from the description that things will get wrapped up which is not surprising since it's a planned trilogy which is one good thing and I do like to see things finished but it really depends on if the writing gets better in the second.

Release Date: November 29

So just four books and one of those is a maybe.  Hopefully this means I can get some of the other reading caught up but the way the school reading is going this year, that may just be a pretty dream.  We shall see.

75:120 The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Book 1 of the Queen of the Tearling trilogy.  Kelsea has spent the first 19 years of her life in the care of a married couple whose job was to raise her to take the throne upon her coming of age.  Her mother died when Kelsea was young and her uncle has been the Regent ever since.  The country has been in despair almost her entire life as the Regent cares more about his comfort than the people and they are basically enslaved by a treaty to their neighbor, Mortmense, ruled by the Red Queen for the past 100 years. Now that Kelsea has reached her majority, the Queen's Guard has come to take her to be the Queen.  However, her uncle has been searching for her to kill her for her entire life and the odds are not in her favor of ever getting her crown, much less living long enough to do anything with it.  In spite of those odds, the Guards execute a plan and get her to the castle and a crown placed upon  her head. Her first act was to stop the tribute of thousands of people being sent to Mortmense as slaves every month and now she must try to prepare her country for an invasion from an insurmountable enemy that she has just kicked in the face.  To top it all off, she has enemies in her own country that would prefer things to go back to the way they were.

So where to start on my opinions of this book.  Hearing that Emma Watson had been cast as Kelsea and all the praise and good reviews as well as being a lover of fantasy in general made me extremely hopeful for the book.  Unfortunately, it did not live up to expectations.

First the bad.  Kelsea didn't read as fully believable.  She was isolated for 19 yrs but somehow knew how to read people completely but yet seemed to have no concept of decorum, palace management, diplomacy, history of her people, or a number of other things potential rulers are generally schooled in.  She goes back and forth between knowing and understanding tons of things seemingly instinctively and then having no clue about similar things.  She constantly bemoans the fact that she isn't pretty enough.  Her thoughts and moods swing wildly but yet manage to be somehow monotonous. Some of the other characters are a bit more balanced but none have much in the way of depth and there is definitely character growth lacking.  The villain is suitably mysterious but other than being incredibly cruel doesn't really seem to even know why she cares about taking over Kelsea's country.  When after almost 20 years she hasn't been able to find and kill Kelsea, she finally reveals that she has some sort of demon that is in charge of her and he doesn't want Kelsea harmed.  No reason given.  So why has this been a thing then?

The fact that this story is apparently set on Earth in the future but with a medieval feel with hints at some great catastrophe that has reduced technology backwards hundreds of years could be a set-up for something really interesting.  It's an interesting way of world building but I still found it jarring to hear references from nowhere to modern things.  It kind of brought me out of the world and the story that was being told.

For all that, I think there were some interesting things being hinted at and I hope that they start to come to light in the next book.  I think a better editor could have pulled this book together better and made it more cohesive.  It's a first book and I think it really shows in places.  Potential is there but execution lacks.  I have the second book in the series here so I'm going to give it a try and then decide if I care enough to finish the trilogy.

Page count: 434p/20,484p ytd/269,634p lifetime

Sunday, September 18, 2016

74:120 Once Upon a Curse: 17 Dark Fairy Tales by various authors

17 Fairy Tales that take a much darker tone, more in keeping with the original cautionary tales that Fairy Tales once were than the Disneyfied versions we tend to be more familiar with.  Tales include Alice in Wonderland as a lonely princess with psychological problems, an even darker Snow Queen, the Devil falling in love after a bargain is stuck, and many more.  As in any collection of stories by different authors, I enjoyed some more than others and one or two just fell flat for me.

Page count: 360p/20,050p ytd/269,200p lifetime

Friday, September 16, 2016

73:120 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

The 2nd book in the Dark is Rising sequence (but apparently the first one is more of a prequel so...)

Will Stanton's 11th birthday is approaching and strange things are happening all around him.  He is given strange gifts and is starting to see things that others are not.   Finally, on Midwinter Day and his actual birthday day, he discovers that he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals who are dedicated to keeping the Dark at bay.  Not only is he to be the last one born but he is The Seeker, the one who will find and unite the Signs that will help to drive the Darkness back in the final battle between Dark and Light.

Interesting take on the standard good vs evil troupe and well done.  I like that the Light is more nuanced than the typical "good" side and will do things that they know will hurt others and have longer reaching consequences because it's the only way they can see to get the outcome in the end but even so, one thing they believe strongly in is free will and individual choice.  That does seem to be something that is more shadowed rather than stated outloud in the genre and I like that even when it came down to someone's death, they honored that person's decision to embrace death.  A powerful message for children of how important choice can be.

Page count: 244p/19,690p ytd/268,840 lifetime

Thursday, September 15, 2016

72:120 The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Ok, I'm going with the assumption that if you haven't been shut in a closet your entire life that you know the basic premise of this story.  Young girl gets flown to a magical land called Oz via a tornado and spends the rest of the book trying to get back home.  On the way she makes new friends: Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.  The Wizard of Oz promises to help her if she brings back the silver cap of the Wicked Witch of the East.  She does, he doesn't, she finds out she has had the power to go home the whole time.

So it's a fairly simple tale but the magic is in the world building.  The characters aren't particularly deep or complex and you don't see an extraordinary amount of character growth or development.  Dorothy is a sweet, simple girl and just happens to have an incredible amount of luck on her side to survive everything that happens to her.  The other characters are similarly simple with the only exception being the total contradictory nature of the Tin Woodman who is terrified of stepping on an ant but has no problem using his ax to chop down beasts that he feels may be dangerous before finding out if they actually are.  I was reading this to my 10yr old and this hypocritical actions really mad an impact on him.  Every time it came up, he commented on it and was upset.  Not because of the violence of it but because it wasn't f-a-i-r!  It led to some good discussions and he enjoyed the world enough that we have started book 2 so we shall see where this goes.

Page count: 267p/19,446p ytd/268,596p lifetime

Sunday, September 11, 2016

71:120 Full of Briars by Seanan McGuire

A novella told by Toby's squire, Quentin, between Chimes at Midnight and The Winter Long.

Quentin's parents, the High King and Queen of the Westlands, are coming to the Kingdom of the Mists for a visit.  Ostensibly it is for the coronation of the new Queen but both Toby and Quentin realize that they are really coming because Quentin has outed himself as their son and invalidated his blind fosterage.  What neither of them know is what this will mean.  They are within their rights to recall their son home but Quentin doesn't want to leave.  San Francisco and the people there have become his home.  Now how can he convince them to let him stay..

It has been nice watching Quentin grow through the series and watching him with his parents was wonderful.

Page count: 44p/19,179p ytd/268,329p lifetime

Thursday, September 8, 2016

70:120 Unwanted by Jennifer Estep

Novella set in the Elemental Assassin world from Finn's POV right after Bitter Bite.

Finn screwed up royally and a lot of people, good people, are dead now because of it.  He wanted to badly to believe that his mother was a good and wonderful person that he was blinded to what she really was and refused to listen to Gin or his other friends as they tried to warn him. Now he is having to live with the guilt and the desire to make amends to people who want nothing to do with him.  One of them is the widow of one of the guards his mother killed.  His boss is making him attend all the funerals and in the course of things, Finn finds out that that the widow's BIL owes money to a very bad man who will not hesitate to take it out on her and her son.  Now that at least is a problem that Finn is capable of dealing with.

It was nice to get a story from Finn as he deals with the aftermath of the last book.  Going straight back to another Gin story without dealing with Finn's emotional state would have been a disservice to that character.  I will even go so far as to give a slight pass on the constant repetitive inner dialog but only a slight one.  I felt like it was more in keeping with what he was going through but even with that, I would have to say that probably 20% of the novella is him rehashing the same thing over and over again and the wording on it is barely changed.  I would probably not have been bothered by it at all if it weren't for the fact that this is a consistent problem with Ms. Estep's writing and generally to the detriment of the story's pacing.  I gave up one of her series because of it and refuse to try any of her others at this point because of it and only stick with this series because the world is quite intriguing.

Page count: 100p/19,135p ytd/268,285p lifetime

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

69:120 Lawful Interception by Cory Doctorow

A short story that serves as a follow-up to Little Brother and Homeland.  Marcus and Ange are in Oakland when a huge earthquake hits and devastation follows.  They help out and end up falling in with the Occupy Senaca group to help those who are being lost in the system.  Of course, powers that be don't like the Occupy group and work with the city government to shut it down.  Marcus and his friends are not about to let this happen and get in on the demonstrations and with the help of some new technology he comes up, are able to find a way to outsmart them

In all, this was a good follow-up story that does work as a standalone if needed. It was pretty basic and kept to the same plotlines of the books.  I found the description of democracies interesting and the idea of fluid democracy intriguing.

Page count: 51p/19,035p ytd/268,185p lifetime

68:120 A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Read for 10th grade English which means I get to read it a total of four times.  Here is my review from September 2009:

<i>A story of growing up in a boys school during WWII, we follow Gene and his struggles with his friendship with Finny.  We find in Finny, an intense character who seems to have little insight but is long on charisma and energy.  His perceptions of the world are shallow but at the end we see that it was only by making things fit in his perception that kept him from fearing the unknown.  Gene finds it impossible to have his own will when in the presence of Finny and much of the story is Gene's figuring out how to deal with his relationship with Finny, trying to categorize it and create reasons for Finny's behavior that are mostly only in his own head.  When at last he breaks free of Finny, albeit unconsciously, it is with dramatic consequences.

I liked the pace of the book in that it was neither too slow to be plodding nor too quick so that it lost it's believability.  An easy read on the surface with a lot of deeper undertones.</i>

Page count: 204p/18,984p ytd/268,134p lifetime

Monday, August 29, 2016

67:120 Lovecraft Country by Mark Ruff

Set in 1954, this is the story of a man and his family and how sometimes the past really should remain buried.  Atticus's father had always been proud of his family's history so the fact that his wife knew very little about her's had always bothered him so after her death, he started poking around only to find out that her great-grandmother had been a servant in the home of a wealthy and eccentric white man who was also a cult leader and had run away before the house had burned down.  Now Atticus is the only direct line heir of that madman and the current members of the cult would love to have him in their clutches for a ritual that does not bear contemplation.  Atticus escapes but Caleb, the last remaining member is playing a long game and it will involve many members of Atticus's family before it's over.

So this is supposed to be more like a series of short stories that also tell a full story.  One by one, we get stories of how the other family members are dragged into the nightmare.  All have some sort of supernatural element although not all are for horrific effect.  Honestly, the Lovecraftian influences in the book were the least scary things about it.  I found the cult members and what they could do scarier but by far the scariest things were watching how the white people were treating the main characters who were black.  The things they had to deal with and endure was heartbreaking and I frequently found myself hoping that the noise in the wood or whatever supernatural thing was going on would hurry up and eat those a$$hats.  Elder gods seem more merciful compared to the sheriff and other people.  An excellent book and highly recommended.

Page count: 432p/18,780p ytd/267,930p lifetime

Thursday, August 25, 2016

66:120 Daring by Elliot James

The 2nd book in the Pax Arcana series.  John is still being chased by the Knights and knows the only way to keep his friends safe, now that he has some, is to give himself up and try to make a deal with them.  However, his plan runs into problems when Sig contacts the new Werewolf pack in North America that has made itself well known to the Knights and not in a good way.  In exchange for their help, Sig has promised that John will undergo their initiation and give a good try at joining the pack.   The Knights love the idea of John being on the inside and John must decide where his loyalties actually lie.

John continues to stay basically true to his own moral code which is confusing but somehow fairly consistent even in the midst of some truly crazy stuff.  Of course, Sig comes back in the 3rd act after telling John she needed time to get her head on straight.  It's not but it was thoroughly predictable that she would be back.  On the whole, it was trying to do twists and turns but they were pretty well telegraphed and nothing really surprised me.  I do like the characters and it wasn't a bad story but I felt like it suffered from trying too hard with no success.

Page count: 400p/18,348p ytd/267,498p lifetime

Monday, August 22, 2016

65:120 Flight from Mayhem by Yasmine Galenorn

The 2nd book in the Fly by Night series by Yasmine Galenorn.  Shimmer and Alex are exploring their relationship but that is made more complicated by his ex, Glenda, stirring up trouble everywhere she can.  Then there is the haunted house across the street from her that is calling to her.  But what is really on everyone's mind is the murder of several elderly local fae.  With suspicions mounting that they are dealing with a doppleganger of some sort, Betty volunteers to put herself up as a bait and then everything goes wrong...

I felt that this book flowed better than the first and while the sex scenes felt less forced, I still rolled my eyes at some of the placements (in the office with a client waiting...really?!).  I get that it's paranormal romance but I also feel that it should enhance and serve the story and not be thrown in haphazardly and there were definitely a time or two that I felt that was the case.  In the good, there was more character growth and learning backstories which I always want more of.  I'm looking forward to the next book and hope to see more of that.

Page count: 321p/17,948p ytd/267,908p lifetime

Friday, August 5, 2016

64:120 Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body by Jo Marchant

Jo Marchant goes around the world exploring the concept of just how much influence over our body the mind actually has and the results are incredible.  It's long been established that stress and anxiety have a detrimental effect on our bodies but now research is finally catching up that healing thoughts, placebos, and most of all human connection can have incredibly beneficial results on not only our mental well being but our physical well being as well.  It may be that homeopathy doesn't work because of the memory of some chemical compound but rather that it's the fact that the practitioner takes the time to sit and talk with the patient, something that is lacking more and more in the Western medical culture where it's how many people can you get in and out with a pill.  Studies are even finding that placebos can have amazing affects on the mind and body even when the patient knows that they are taking a placebo but that simply the act of doing something can cause the brain to release it's own cures.  I found it interesting that as I was reading the book the neurological/immune system link that was talked about having to exist but not yet found was discovered.  The whole book was a fascinating read about what our minds are capable of.

Page count: 320p/17,627p ytd/267,587p lifetime

Thursday, August 4, 2016

63:120 Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

The fourth and final book in the Finishing School series.  The Picklemen plot is coming to a head and Sophronia must use all her training to try and figure out how to keep herself and her friends safe.  A dinner party at Lord Akeldama's with the Dewan may lead to some answers but what do they really know and how much will they share?

Sophronia is definitely growing up and having to figure out how to navigate men better than she has previously as Lord Mersey and Soap are both vying for her affection in much more obvious ways that even SHE can't miss.  She must always contemplate what her future will hold depending on which way she should chose to turn for she has many choices before her.

I found this to be a satisfying conclusion to the series.  Most things were tied up with a very pretty, if deadly, little bow and those that weren't have more to do with some of the side characters and may be answered in time.  In all, a fun series that was exactly what my overworked brain needed this summer.

Page count: 326p/17,307p ytd/267,267p lifetime

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

62:120 Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

The third book in the Finishing School series.  Sophronia will do just about anything to help a friend so when Sidheag says that she must return to her Pack in Scotland, Sophronia is not one to turn her back even when it means hijacking a seemingly empty train that happens to be heading in the right direction with the help of her best friend Dimtry, her favorite sootie Soap, and Lord Felix Mersey who refuses to be left behind.  However, what they find as they explore the train is none other than Miss Monique Pelouse, Sophronia's nemesis, and a vampire drone guarding a mechanical invention that has some of the prototypes in it.  When they spot a dirigible following them,they realize they've somehow stumbled upon something much bigger than they were prepared for but thankfully they are well trained in improvisation.

Really, these have been delightfully light and fun summer reading books. There is character growth which is a big thing for me and the plots are engaging just enough to make sure I'm not bored but not overtaxing my brain either.

Page count: 298p/16,981p/266,941p

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

61:120 The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint

Lillian lives with her aunt on a farm near a magical wood called the Tanglewood Forest.  She believes in fairies and the kind even if she has never seen any evidence of them.  She gives biscuits to the spirit of the tree and leaves extra milk out for the cats.  Then one day as she is wondering through the woods, she is bitten by a snake and the cats come to help her but all they can do is turn her into a kitten which saves her life but changes everything she knew about herself.  Now she is on a quest to become a girl again without either altering the events for a worse outcome or dying as soon as she transforms back.

This is a truly delightful fantasy tale of a little girl growing up and learning so much more about the world than she ever could have imagined.  I bought this book for my then 9yr old and he absolutely loved it and really enjoyed the follow-up as well.

Page count: 320p/16,683p ytd/266,643p lifetime

Monday, July 11, 2016

60:120 Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

The 2nd book in the Finishing School series.  After the winter holidays where Sophronia managed to secure the prototype and have a cheese pie thrown at her, she thought school would get back to what passes for normal there.  However, there is now a trip to London and with all of Sophronia's sneaking about the school she has learned that there is much more to the trip than they have been told and dangerous conspiracies lurk everywhere, even when your dance card is full.  What makes it even harder on a young intelligencer is when you score top-marks and your classmates are set against you either through jealousy or teacher's machinations and you can't be sure where your friends loyalties lie just when you need them most.

A lovely installment, great for a summer read when my brain is mush and I just want something light and fun without much in the way of complicated plots but enough character growth that it's not completely boring.

Page Count: 310p/16,363p ytd/266,323p lifetime

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

59:120 Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Ms. Sophrnia Temminick is a 14 year old trial to her mother.  She would rather climb and dismantle things than sit quietly and wait around as befits a girl so when she is invited to come to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality, her mother is happy to send Sophronia there with the hopes of getting a young lady back in a few years.  What her mother does not know, nor does Sophronia until she arrives, is that this Finishing School teaches not just how to be a proper lady but how to be one while poisoning, stabbing, and spying.  Now there is a missing prototype and even though Sophronia is only a first-year, she is in the right place at the right time to keep it out of thoroughly unfashionable hands.

Set in the world of the Parasol Protectorate, it was nice to be back on familiar ground.  As this was YA, it was written a bit more simplistic and the plot was not terribly engaging but it was a perfect summer read.  Light and silly so I didn't have to think hard but just let it take me where it was going.  Sophronia took a bit to really get interesting but in the end, she did get there.  Soap was a great offset to her and really, who can't love Bumbersnoot?!

Page count: 307p/16,053p ytd/266,013p lifetime

Thursday, June 30, 2016

58:120 Night Flower by Kate Elliot

A prequel to Court of Fives which shows the meeting of Jessamy's parents, Kiya and Esladas.  Kiya is a Commoner who has just arrived in the city of Saryenia under her uncle's care to see city life before returning to her village and taking her place as a full adult member there.  Esladas is the youngest son of a Patron with no prospects for inheritance and has made his way to the city to become a soldier and make his own way.  He has just barely arrived when he wanders into the Market and finds the most beautiful woman selling fruit.  He and Kiya do not speak a word of each other's language and following where their hearts are leading will mark them both as outsiders to their people but sometimes you have no choice.

I almost feel like reading this made their parting so much worse in Court of Fives but it was an incredible read and now I'm bummed that I have to wait for the next book in the series.

Page count: 60p/15,746p ytd/265,706p lifetime

57:120 Waylaid by Kim Harrison

Worlds collide when Rachel Morgan from The Hollows is pulled through to the super-technology driven, completely magic-free world of Peri Reed.  Now Rachel is stuck in a world she does not understand with no magic at her fingertips and no apparent way of getting back to her universe.  Her only choice is to rely on Peri who is completely bewildered by this woman showing up out of nowhere in her apartment and speaking English but talking of things she has no idea about.  Peri must try to figure out if she is to trust Rachel and help to get her home or stick with what her training is telling her to do.

Peri and Rachel are both characters I like in worlds that I enjoy but I never thought their worlds would ever really collide so this was a sweet treat.  Kim Harrison did a good job of using the science and magic in the respective worlds to weave together a story that fit well in both.

Page count: 87p/15,686p ytd/265,646p lifetime

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

56:120 Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong

A wonderful collection of short stories by Kelley Armstrong.  Some have been previously published and I had read before, some are new to this collection.  This was my first exposure to some of her other universes since I've pretty much stuck with Otherworld and Cainsville but I didn't feel like I was missing a ton by not being familiar with the characters or worlds.  There are 23 short stories in this collection, some are standalone and others are in universes her readers would be familiar with.  I can't honestly think of a single story that I didn't like and generally I had to wait to do something else until I had at least finished the story I was reading because putting them down was just hard to do.  I definitely recommend this collection to fans of Kelley Armstrong or even if you are just curious about her work but don't want to delve into a series to give her a try (although seriously, you should totally do just that because she's amazing!).

Page count: 425p/15,599p ytd/265,59p lifetime

Sunday, June 26, 2016

55:120 The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin is a brilliant but miserable teen who is still obsessed with the fantasy world of his childhood, Fillory and the magic of that world. Now he has been invited to become a student at an American school of magic and learn how it works in the real world.  He learns many lessons and is an incredible student but after graduation, he finds that life is still missing something and he is still miserable until the day a former student shows up with the way to actually travel to Fillory but once he and his friends get there, they find that it's not nearly as nice a place as the stories led them to believe.

I wanted to like this book.  It's definitely right up my ally genre wise but as much as I wanted to I just couldn't.  The characters were simply awful with no true redeeming features who never learned to be decent human beings at any point.  I'm completely surprised that C.S. Lewis's estate hasn't sued the author since Fillory screams out that it's Narnia in so many freaking ways it's not even funny only this is a darker version.  Add in a bit of lessons by changing students into animals a la Merlin and Arthur from Sword in the Stone and it seems like the author can hardly come up with an original idea.  Throw in labeling things autistic for no reason when describing actions of people who have not been stated to be autistic which is a huge issue for me and it all adds up to me not liking the book at all and refusing to read anything else in this series or even by this author if I have any say in the matter.

Page count: 428p/15,174p ytd/265,134p lifetime

Friday, June 24, 2016

54:120 A Fantasy Medley 3 by Carey, Hearne, Bickle, & De Bodard

Goddess at the Crossroads by Kevin Hearne - set in the Iron Druid series, Atticus recalls a night in the presence of Shakespeare when they came across a Hecate summoning which provided the Bard with the idea for the Witches in Macbeth.  This is the second short story I've read in the universe and I've enjoyed them both. I have the books in my to-read stack so I really need to move them up the list and read them already.

Ashes by Laura Bickle - Anya Kalinczyk is trying to track down the powerful Nain Rouge in Detroit before it causes any more damage.  She has her 5ft salamander familiar Sparky to aid her and then Hades' Charon turns up as well and what a team they make.  I found the premise and characters interesting enough to consider finding more by this author.

Death of Aiguillon  by Aliette De Bodard - The house Huyen has been working for has now been taken down by others and she is now trying to survive houseless in the slums of Paris with other houseless servants just like her.  She has however attracted the attention of some of the more powerful beings in the city and it may not be the hand up she was hoping for.  This one just didn't grip me. It felt like there was too much backstory going on that was not given which made it difficult to understand the nuances of all the personal interactions.

One Hundred Ablutions by Jacqueline Carey - Dala has been chosen by her people's overlords to serve as a handmaiden to their gods. However, there are other forces at work that want to see her people freed and they believe that she will be a major part of the revolution.  An interesting tale in a world that I don't think I've read about before but I'd love to read more about.

Page count: 151p/14,746p ytd/264,706p lifetime

Thursday, June 23, 2016

53:120 Earthbound by Yasmine Galenorn

A prequel to the Otherworld series that tells of the sisters reason for being basically exiled to Earth and the start of their acclimation to life here.  They are greeted by Chase and Iris is there to give them some basics and help Camille with the bookstore.  It was lovely seeing Henry again and see Camille's reaction to her first espresso drink.  Very nice seeing them back when they were still a bit innocent and naive of what was coming for them.

Page count: 84p/14,595p ytd/264,555p lifetime

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 3rd Quarter 2016

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.

So while the last couple of quarters were fairly light in the new releases department, I still haven't managed to get caught up and this quarter is chock-full of stuff that I want to read the second I have it in my hands.  Considering many come out on top of each other, I'm thinking that sleep is just overrated.

There are a lot more short stories starting to come out in many of my favorite series for ereaders which I think is wonderful.  It allows for more backstory, side stories, and general bits and pieces that don't fit well into the main books but are nice for long time readers of the series.  Unwanted by Jennifer Estep is one such side story which follows Finn after the events in Bitter Bite which have him feeling very much unwanted.

Release Date - July 18

Imprudence by Gail Carriger is the second book in the Custard Protocol series which follows Rue, the daughter of Alexis and Lord Maccon from the Parasol Protectorate series. I have not started this series yet since I'm so behind on things but I did just start the Finishing School series and will go into this one after so maybe I'll be ready to read it by the time it comes out.

Release Date - July 19

August is super filled with fabulous new releases and starts off with three right off the bat. Flight from Mayhem by Yasmine Galenorn is the second book in the Fly by Night series with Shimmer the blue dragon and Alex the vampire.  It is set in the world of her popular Otherworld series and this one sees Chase coming to the Fly by Night detectives to help solve the mystery of older fae being brutally murdered after having their bank accounts drained.

Release Date - August 2

We also get Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter is the start of a new series, Soulwood, which takes place in the Jane Yellowrock series but follows Nell after she is found by Jane who recommends her to PsyLED who sends Rick to talk to her.   Nell has been a pretty mysterious figure in the Yellowrock series and I'm really hoping we get to learn more about her and the relationships between her and all the team members.

Release Date - August 2

And the first release date ends with Full of Briars by Seanan McGuire which is a short story in the October Daye series but this time narrated by Quentin, her squire.  His parents have come to meet the new Queen of the Mists and take him home.  Unfortunately, he doesn't want to go and Toby doesn't want him to either.

Release Date- August 2

Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong comes out just a week later so no time to catch my breath.  Ricky is being fingered in a series of street children murders and now Olivia needs Gabriel's help to prove his innocence.  Doing this means that their futures are being even more intertwined but will it be in the relationship of their choosing or that of the forces trying to win a war that they are at the center of?

Release Date - August 9

Then we have the sequel to Court of Fives, Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliot coming out.  I read Court of Fives for book club and while it's YA I found myself very invested in the characters and can't wait to see how things progress.  Jessamy is doing well as a Challenger which is good since her winnings are what is supporting her mother and sisters while they are in hiding.  Unfortunately, an attack on her traveling party looks to be putting her more squarely in the war that Lord Karkillios is in and now running the Fives may no longer be enough.

Release Date - August 16

The month wraps up with Unraveled by Jennifer Estep.  In the aftermath of Biter Bite, Gin is trying hard to find out who is behind the mysterious Circle and how to disrupt that organization that tore apart Finn's mother and who was likely behind Mab's killing of Gin's family as well.  Unfortunately the trail has gone cold so when Finn finds out about an inheritance, they figure they might as well all get out of town for a vacation but trouble is never far behind Gin.

Release Date - August 30

September has fewer books coming out but they are all ones I've been chomping at the bit to get my hands on. It starts with Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire.  Toby's diplomatic mission to the Court of Silences did not go nearly as planned however she did return with the cure for elfshot but also a whole lot of political headaches for everyone involved. Now there is a convocation of rulers hosted by her Queen of the Mists with the High Kind and Queen in attendance. Of course, nothing is ever simple in Toby's life so it's not long before a dead body hits the floor and Toby needs to find the killer to protect those she loves.

Release Date - September 6

I get a few weeks to catch up before the release of Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews.  Kate and Curran are finally planning the wedding but before they can say "I do", Roland has kidnapped Siamin and is draining him for his magic and the dire warnings are coming fast and furious from the witches.  I can't wait to see how Kate gets around all this because darn it, I want to see them get their HEA!

Release Date - September 20

Next up is Feedback by Mira Grant.  This is a parallel novel to Feed but we are following a different group of reporters trying to get their foot in the door.  Considering how much I love this universe, I'm really jazzed about this book and am just hoping that I can get behind these characters nearly as much as I ended up loving Shuan and Georgia.

Release Date - September 27

The quarter ends with Shadow Silence by Yasmine Galenorn, the sequel to Whisper Hollow.  Kellis's best Peggin has been cursed since escaping the watery embrace of the Lady of the Lake but curing her will reveal many secrets that certain people want to remain buried.

Release Date - September 27

Monday, June 20, 2016

52:120 Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

Jessamy is frustrated with her life. She is the daughter of a Patron father who is a soldier on the rise and she is expected to act as a proper Patron girl who is barely seen and whose only job is to make a suitable match which in her case is impossible because her mother is a Commoner which makes her a mule and unfit to be the wife of a Patron.  Add to this that she is restless and her only desire is to run the Fives, a series of intricate physical trials that is a pathway to glory, even for Commoners.  She has convinced her sisters to lie for her so she can run in a real Fives challenge even if she must lose at the end to avoid being unmasked and risking her father's wrath.  On the course, she meets Killiarkos, a noble Patron who is having family difficulties of his own and an unlikely friendship strikes up between them.  However the forces that are trying to control Killiarkos's life have now decided to meddle with Jessamy's family as well.  Now they must work together if either is to have any hope of controlling their lives.

An interesting world where you are dealing with racial tensions between a conquering and conquered peoples but we are seeing it mainly from the point of view of a young teenage girl who straddles both sides and thus is claimed by neither.  It works well especially as she is dealing with her own turbulent emotions inside and a world that is crumbling around her on the outside.  It was well paced with engaging, believable characters and my only issue with it was that as Jessamy has been being strong and brave for the entire book, along comes a scene where all of sudden for no really good reason she has to fall apart so Killiarkos can step in to rescue her.  I felt that it was out of character for her and was done just to have her rescued by the "prince" at the very end which seemed disingenuous.  I am looking forward to the second book coming out in a few months.

Page count: 438p/14,511p ytd/264,471p lifetime

Monday, June 13, 2016

51:120 United States Government: Democracy in Action by Richard C. Remy, Ph.D.

High School government text book.  Provides a good well-rounded grasp of our system of government and it's various influences, how bills become laws, how laws can be challenged up to the Supreme Court, how the system of checks and balances are supposed to work.  Includes details on how things work at the local level and how parties work. Unfortunately, it was written before our government got as completely broken as it currently is so offers no insight on our current state of affairs or how normal people can actually affect real change, not that I was expecting it to but that's definitely something I think people should be educated on as well.

Page count: 898p/14,073p ytd/264,033p lifetime

Saturday, June 11, 2016

50:120 Moon Swept: Otherworld Tales of First Love by Yasmine Galenorn

Three short stories detailing the first loves of Camille, Delilah, and Menolly.  We've seen that before Trillian, there was Camille's cousin Shamus but now we see why it really didn't work out and it wasn't just their family's disapproval.  Next we get to read more about the start of Delilah and Chase's relationship since that happened during one of Camille's turns at narration.  Lastly, we get a glimpse of what Menolly's life could have been like before she was turned into a vampire as she becomes friendly with the neighboring farmer.

It was nice to see what their relationships were before we saw them with their current, lasting partners.

Page count: 51p/13,175p ytd/263,135p lifetime

Thursday, June 9, 2016

49:120 Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd is an unusual sort for a Viking boy.  His father was killed while out on a raid and before his mother remarried he went out to provide for them and a tree fell and crushed one of his legs. Now the winter isn't ending as it should and everyone is getting crankier as a result.  Odd decides to escape his house (and his stepfather) and stay in his father's workshop to get away from all of it. While there, he is summoned by a fox to help a trapped bear. The fox is really Loki and the bear is Thor while the raven flying overhead is Odin. They have been trapped in these forms by a Frost Giant that has taken over Asgard and Odd may be just the one person in all the realms who can help them trick the giant and regain their forms.

A lovely tale and I love that it's Odd's cheerfulness and cleverness that wins the day rather than brute strength.

Page count: 117p/13,124p ytd/263,084p lifetime

Sunday, June 5, 2016

48:120 The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a gorilla living in a cage at a mall.  He barely remembers anything other than his current life of people watching him, the tv shows he is allowed to see, painting, and his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the dog.  His presence brought many people in to the mall for a long time but he's now old news and things are going downhill so the owner brings in Ruby, a baby elephant recently taken from her family.  Now Ivan is being forced to remember and see his life through new eyes and he is realizing it's time for a change, not so much for himself but for Ruby.  He even has a plan if he can just get enough paint and make the humans understand him.

An incredibly sweet book of unlikely friendship and devotion that also provides a look at the possible thoughts of the animals we share our planet with and how we might do a better job of looking at them with more understanding and compassion rather than trapping them to provide entertainment for ourselves.

Page count: 319p/13,007p ytd/263,084p lifetime

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

47:120 Wings of Fire: Winglets #3 Deserter by Tui T. Sutherland

The tale of Six-Claws, a happy and loyal Sandwing, and of three Sandwing princesses and the war that tore apart the Sandwing kingdom for many years. An interesting look into not just his past but the personalities of the Sandwing sisters and how events brought us to where the series starts.

Page Count: 48p/12,688p/262,765p lifetime

Monday, May 30, 2016

46:120 Secrets by Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Samantha (Sam) is a Natural, one who can read the hearts of mechanical devices and use the aether to change them to become closer to their ideal.  Unfortunately, most people look at Naturals with distaste even to the point of violence and Sam's sister, Lily, is too sick to be able to keep her hidden even with her husband's help.  They have heard of a settlement on the main continent of other Naturals where Sam would be safe and able to be true to herself but when the morning for her departure arrives, she ends up heading to the ship on her own and her nature takes over which causes her motorized carriage to careen out of control and her to crawl out of the wreckage scared and alone with no idea how to find the right ship or her brother-in-law's man for help.  Instead, she sneaks aboard a ship with no idea where it's going.

Meanwhile, Nathaniel is from a rich family but his interest in life outside has him serving aboard a ship as a cabin boy although he wants desperately to get into the engine room.  Unfortunately for him, the engineer is not disposed kindly to him and when Sam steals his food, Nat ends up taking the heat for it.  Now Nat is determined to clear his name while Sam must try to stay hidden from Nat and ignore the siren call of the ship's engine.

I understand that this was written for YA and I wanted to like it more than I did.  Unfortunately I found the writing to be repetitive (a huge peeve of mine) while the characters were basically one dimensional which left me not really caring much about their plights and the pacing was slow.  I thought the world had promise but ultimately there just wasn't enough to make me want to continue in the series.

Page count: 195p/12,640p ytd/262,717p lifetime