Thursday, March 31, 2016

31:120 The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson

The first in The Familiars series following the adventures of Aldwyn the cat, Skylar the bird, and Gilbert the frog who are the familiars of three student wizards.  Aldwyn has just been taken in as Jack's familiar when the three young wizards are kidnapped to keep them from fulfilling a prophecy to stop the new evil that has entered Vestria.  It's up to Aldwyn and his friends to try and find their Loyals and save the country.

This was an interesting take on the traditional wizard/familiar dynamic with putting the emphasis of the story on following the animal familiars and it being their job to save the day.  Unfortunately, the fresh imagining could not overcome the simplistic writing style, repetitive inner monologues, and plodding pacing.  However, it wasn't written for me but for children like my 10yr old son who loved and read the entire series. I think he's really at the top of the age range that this book series is for but if you have kids in the 7-8yr old range who like fantasy, they may really enjoy it.

Page count: 360p/8,750p ytd/258,797p lifetime

Monday, March 28, 2016

30:120 Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

The first in the Peter Grant (aka Rivers of London) series.  Peter dreams of being a detective in London but when his training period is up it's looking more likely that he'll be in a desk job doing data entry rather than being out in the field.  That's the plan for him until he is doing sentry duty for horrific murder and he sees a ghost.  Now he has been taken under the wing of Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale who investigates crimes that seem to involve magic.  This murder is just the start of something much, much bigger and not even Nightingale is sure what they are up against.  Peter has the gift and Nightingale will help him navigate that world which is so much bigger, stranger, and more dangerous than anything Peter had ever imagined, if they survive this case.

Read for book club and I really enjoyed it.  Peter Grant is snarky and reminds me of an English Dresden where Dresden had no idea what he was until later in life and was fumbling his way through it.  The mystery was well done with the end being a little surprising but when you thought back you realized it had been laid out but very subtly throughout the book.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Page count: 310p/8,390p ytd/258,437p lifetime

Thursday, March 24, 2016

29:120 To Kill a Mockingbirg by Harper Lee

From my first time reading it:

"The Timeless Classic of Growing Up and the Human Dignity That Unites Us All" is what it states on the cover of my addition and truly that is a great summarization.   Jem and Scout are growing up in a sleepy Southern town with their father, Atticus, who is the town's lead defense attorney.  Most days it's all playing outside, making up games, and coming up with stupid dares for each other like going to see if you can touch the house of Boo Radley, a hermit who hasn't been seen in 20yrs.  School starts for Scout who is a few years younger than Jem and she starts having to learn about new ideas and other ways of thinking and it's a complete shock to her.  Then one of the blacks living in the outlying area has been accused of raping one of the poor white girls and Atticus steps up to defend him.  Now Jem and Scout are having to learn more about how the rest of the world operates and how bigotry and intolerance hurt more than anything else but that while those things hurt, there is wonder and love in equal measure to be found.

Page count: 385p/8,080p ytd/258,127p lifetime

28:120 The Book of Merlyn by T.H. White

What was supposed to be the true final book for the Once and Future King but due to mishaps in publishing and editing was never included in the final compilation, Arthur and Merlyn are reunited on the eve of his final battle with Mordred.  Merlyn brings the despondent Arthur to a council of animals as they are trying to figure out man's role in the universe.  Part of this ends up being longer sequences of Arthur's time as an ant and a goose but there is much going on about the evils of war and how to try and put a permanent stop to it.  In this, the author's viewpoints are very much in evidence as different sides are argued but ultimately it's decided that war is awful and needs to be abolished somehow although it's never fully figured out how that would be accomplished.

I don't think the Once and Future King truly needed this book in order to feel complete but it does do a nice job of bringing together all the lessons of Arthur's life in a tidier order.

Page Count: 137p/7,695p ytd/257,742p lifetime

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

27:120 Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Written when I read this 5 years ago and still true:

This book tells the story of a year in her husband's childhood.  It was a wonderful insight into a boys' life in a different part of the country and the attitudes of the time.  I'm enjoying reading about the earlier times in our country's past and I really enjoyed sharing it with my 10yr old. 

Page count: 357p/7,558p ytd/257,605p lifetime

26:120 Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

The Just 'So Stories tell a fantastical imagining of how things came to be the way they are, told in a delightful and whimsical way.  Frequently telling you to remember "O Best Beloved" we are told how the whale got his throat, how the camel got his hump, how the rhinoceros got his skin, and many more with the Elephant's Chile (or how the elephant got his trunk) perhaps being one of the most well known since it was because of his 'satiable curiosity.  A true delight for young and old.

Page count: 131p/7,201p ytd/257,248p lifetime

Thursday, March 17, 2016

25:120 Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire

Verity and Dominic are settling in back at Verity's parents' home when Valerie, Verity's dancing alter-ego, gets invited to a reunion series of the dancing show she was on a few years prior.  Verity had finally started giving up on her dancing dream but now it's come flooding back and she figures this is the way to solve the question once and for all of what direction she wants from life.  She goes with Dominic posing as her boyfriend and things seem to be going quite well until she and a few of the cryptid dancers find week 2's losers dead in an unused part of the studio covered with strange symbols.  Once Verity starts poking around, it's obvious that there is something big and dangerous going on and she needs more back-up, the family sends her Grandma Alice, one of the most dangerous people around.  Hopefully between the three of them and the cryptids in the show, they can figure out what is going on and put a stop to it before anything worse happens.

I really enjoy Ms. McGuire's worlds and this one is just so much fun.  To have the setting be a television dance show with basically a murder mystery involving non-human life is just awesome!

Page count: 356p/7,070p ytd/257,117p lifetime

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

New Release I'm Looking Forward To: 2nd 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 far this year has been going ok although not stellar in the reading department.  Heavy classics for English 12  plus all the other school reading has definitely been slowing down my personal reading time but I feel like I'm basically keeping up with it.  This quarter isn't too heavy on new releases which is good because it's super crazy with family stuff which is definitely going to be cutting into my reading time.

First up is Waylaid by Kim Harrison.  This is a kindle only book but is the first crossover between Ms. Harrison's wildly popular Hollows series heroine, Rachel Morgan, and her new Drafter, Peri Reed.  It looks promising.

Release date: April 4

The very next day sees two new books out. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire which looks to be a stand alone where children slip through shadows into magical lands that only sometimes spit them out again.  Nancy was one but now she has found her way back and the darkness is not far behind.

Release date: April 5

So a new one from Seanan McGuire and then the newest installment in the Jane Yellowrock series, Shadow Rites by Faith Hunter.  Jane is working hard to keep the precarious peace between the city's vampires and witches but then her house is magically attacked and finding the culprits leads to something that could tip everything over.

Release date: April 5

Then there is a nice long break before Earthbound by Yasmine Galenorn comes out.  This is a novella in her Otherworld series that tells of when the sisters first came Earthside.  No pre-order link currently up but this came from her blog.

Release date: May 24

The next one is also by Yasmine Galenorn and is the start of a new self-published series that she plans to put out in ebook and limited trade paperback called Fury Rising.  It follows Kaeleen Donovon who is a bounty hunter for the Furies and oath bound to help balance things when called for.

Release date: June 14

The quarter ends with Rise by Mira Grant, a collection of all 8 previously published short stories and novellas in the Newsflesh universe along with 2 never before published works.  Seriously?!  I can't wait!

Release date: June 21

So during a very chaotic time in the school year there won't be too many new books coming out to tempt me away from what I should be doing which means maybe I can make some headway in the to-read pile before it grows again.

24:120 Winglets of Fire: Prisoners by Tui T. Sutherland

The first of a set of short stories set in the Wings of Fire series.  Here we get to hear Fierceteeth's side of the story which consisted of how she was such a better dragon and choice for the prophecy than her brother, Nightflight.  We get a bit of her history and more of how she and Strongwings became an item.  She is writing this down as letters to a guard she is hoping to convince to let her out.  We don't get much on the guard in this one but it does appear at the end that she has convinced him to her way of thinking.

A nice little story about a side character in the universe and it may end up foreshadowing what is to come.

Page count: 47p/6,714p ytd/256,761p lifetime

Monday, March 14, 2016

23:120 John F. Kennedy by Randy Schultz

A brief, basic biography of John F. Kennedy. Told in a straightforward simplistic style it does a decent job of covering the basics of his life from birth to death.  I found it to be adequate but not terribly exciting or gripping.

Page count: 48p/6,667p ytd/256,714p lifetime

Saturday, March 5, 2016

22:120 The Once and Future King by T.H.White

A 20th century telling of Arthur, Guenever, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table.  The book itself is split into four different books that were actually published separately when originally published.  The first, The Sword in the Stone, chronicles Arthur's childhood meeting with Merlyn and the subsequent tutoring of him by Merlyn and ends with his drawing the sword from the stone and becoming king.  The second, The Queen of Air and Darkness, goes more into the daughters of Igraine, the feud between them and Arthur due to his father's actions, and we see how that plays into Arthur's tale.  The Ill-Made Knight is really the story Lancelot and Guenever and their love and how it plays out over many years.  It ends with The Candle in the Wind where Mordred driven by jealousy and hatred of Arthur is bent on destroying him and taking the crown.  The book closes with Arthur knowing that he will be facing Mordred in the morning and will not likely live out the day and he is working to set things in order.

So I've grown up knowing the basics of the Camelot and King Arthur. I loved Disney's Sword in the Stone and later the 1980s Excalibur (pretty and shiny).  I had always meant to read some of the stories but as usual, it took a kid reading it for school that got it in my hands.  I found this an interesting rendering as it's got a much more modern feel to things and the language is modern and easy to understand.  You can tell the author definitely had a thing against war (not a bad position in my opinion) and it comes across as almost heavy-handed sometimes.  I also didn't feel like the author had much affection for women as they are almost entirely portrayed as either manipulative, cunning, creatures who will do whatever they need to do to get whatever they want or they are simply a set piece to move a character.  None are full-fleshed characters such as we see with the knights which while I get it was still disappointing to see that not even Guenever was generally anything more.  Otherwise, an interesting take on the old tales and had me getting many of those older tales for my Kindle so I can read those.

Page count: 692p/6,619p ytd/256,666p lifetime

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

21:120 Less Than Hero by S.G. Browne

What happens when your life doesn't end up going the way you expected and instead of being a highly successful businessman, you end up as a "professional" guinea-pig for the pharmaceutical companies?  What does taking that many experimental drugs for years do to a person, both physically and mentally?  Lloyd has been doing this for 5 years now and his life is just drifting along until he starts noticing that when he feels super tired and then let's out a big yawn, whoever was in the path of the yawn falls asleep and he feels instantly refreshed.  When he starts discussing this with his other guinea-pig friends, they mention similar strange occurrences with different effects such as vomiting, rashes, and incredibly rapid weight gain. They start experimenting and find that they can learn to control these powers and decide that they must use them for good.  The only problem is that they aren't the only ones who have been testing these drugs.

I enjoy S.G. Browne's generally sick sense of humor and satirical look at society and this did not disappoint. The commentary on society's use of pills to treat everything and then all the pills they have to take to counteract the side effects of the pills they are taking is brilliantly done.  

Page count: 351p/5,927p ytd/255,974p lifetime

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

20:120 Who Was Franklin Roosevelt? by Margaret Frith

A brief biography of Franklin Roosevelt. A good intro to this president and his time, including WWII.  I appreciated that they included a brief section on the Japanese Internment camps as I think it helps to show children how people can make horrible mistakes and it led to a good discussion with my son on what a horrible thing that was and how we must do everything in our power to make sure that it never happens in our country again.  Otherwise, I didn't learn as much from this book as I have from the others just because I think many of our history books focus so much on this time period and FDR.  Still, it was good for the 4th grader to start getting an idea about who this man was.

Page count: 105p/5,576p ytd/255,623p lifetime