Sunday, December 31, 2017

120:120 Wings of Fire: Talons of Power by Tui T. Sutherland

Book 9 of the Wings of Fire series.  Only a few dragons know that Turtle is an animus and thankfully, the big scary dragon, Darkstalker, that his friends just woke up is not one of them.  Darkstalker is definitely up to something but Turtle is having the hardest time figuring out what since every time someone meets Darkstalker, they take an instant liking to him.  Turtle finally figures out the magic Darkstalker is using but every time he uses his own magic, he risks Darkstalker figuring out there is another animus around so he must be careful, more careful and more brave than he has ever been before in his life.  He has never wanted this power, has really just always wanted to be part of the background scenery, but he no longer has that choice as Moon's prophecy points towards very dire things coming if they can't stop it.

This one was really repetitive with Turtle's thoughts and while the plot was ok, I still slogged through it for that reason.  Not the best installment.

Page count: 336p/22,618p ytd/293,021p lifetime

Friday, December 29, 2017

119:120 Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irma Carmon & Shana Knizhnick

I've always had a fascination with strong females in my history although I tended to hyperfocus on a few (*cough* Eleanor of Aquitaine *cough*) but again with my working to learn more and spread myself out, I've been picking up biographies of others and as I had been learning more about Justice Ginsburg through these memes, I saw the book and knew I needed to read it. 

It did not disappoint and neither does she.

Her tenacity and commitment are something amazing to behold as are the obstacles to equal rights  that she has helped break down.  The book is well written with lots of information, including excerpts from her briefs, opinions, and dissents, tons of pictures, and interviews with friends, family, co-workers, clerks, and the lady herself. The author does a phenomenal job of keeping it fast-paced and easy to read.  I think my only objection is the timeline where the author chooses to use a grouping method rather than a straight timeline so I'd be reading something and then realize that it took place before something I had read in a previous chapter but she did do a good job of trying to make sure relevant pieces were together.  Definitely recommended.

Page count: 240p/22,282p ytd/292,685p lifetime

118:120 Tiger Tails by Yasmine Galenorn

Sandy and Maddie have been friends for centuries but it's just her luck that when she really needs help, Maddie is out of town and in her own trouble. Sandy is looking after a friend's daughter who is at the local supe boarding school and they have gone on a hiking field trip when she gets the call that would stop any parent's heart, her ward is missing up in the woods, it's almost dark and a strong snowstorm is blowing in with possible supernatural forces in play.  Sandy is no slouch and she will do whatever it takes to get her ward back safely but she is not alone when she takes the call and when Max, the weretiger, hears that there is a child in trouble he is not about to sit on the sidelines.  It gives them both a much better look at what the other is made of and it is more than respect that grows out in the cold.

I was curious where Max had come from when I read Maudlin's Mayhem.  The list I had looked at said to read Blood Vengeance and this one after but really it makes a lot more sense if you read them before.  I still want to know so much more about Sandy and this was a nice way to see a bit of what she is like away from Maddie.  I hope we get more stories about her.

Page count: 52p/22,042p ytd/292,445p lifetime

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

117:120 Blood Vengeance by Yasmine Galenorn

Aegis and his band have been invited to play at a mountain chalet and Maddy comes along so they can have a mini-vacation after the craziness of opening the Bedlam B&B. However, it's not long before strange things start happening. First, a message arrives asking Aegis to meet someone downstairs. Then an avalanche buries much of the resort and Aegis is still missing. Once they can find him, maybe they can start figuring out who is behind all this but they definitely won't like the answers as both Maddy and Aegis have made many enemies in their long lives.

Some interesting back story to both of our main characters as well as setting things up for what seems like it is likely to be a long story arc. 

Page count: 51p/21,990p ytd/292,393p lifetime

Thursday, December 21, 2017

116:120 A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade by John Chu

The Turbulence is always out there, trying to breach the walls to destroy minds and bodies and machines alike. There is a sentience to it as it probes first one spot and then another looking for weakness.  There are men with incredible minds who can see where the walls need to be fixed and can make it happen through sheer force of will until other men can come along and build their design into reality to keep the Turbulence out.  Ritter's father is one of the best Engineers there is, maybe The Best, and Ritter has only ever wanted to please his father so followed in his footsteps.  He has the talent but more so, he has the talent to actually be able to rebuild minds. But with that talent comes a lessening of focus for the walls and now he must choose to be a Librarian as his talent shows him he should be or follow in father's footsteps to become an Engineer and lose a part of himself forever.

The worlds that Mr. Chu manages to create in such short stories are truly incredible and this one was no exception. The characters and their struggle manage to touch and engage so easily because they speak to universal dilemmas. This story yet again demonstrates Mr. Chu's amazing talent for the short story.

Page count: 24p/20,939p ytd/292,342p lifetime

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 1st Quarter 2018

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.

Considering how much my To Read pile has grown this year, I think I might be glad that the year starts off with just a couple of books so maybe, just maybe, I can start making a dent in said pile. Of course, with going back to work, I'm not actually sure that will happen but hey, a girl can dream.

So the first quarter starts off with the new Wayward Children book, Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire.   This is billed as another stand alone although I'm guessing it probably will help if you've read the other books.  Rini lands one day with a splash at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children determined to save the world only to find out that she was born years after her mother, Sumi, died.  Now Rini has to figure out how to save not only the world but herself as well before Reality catches up to her.

Release Date: January 9

Nothing that I'm super excited about in February but then two come out on the same day and I will have to flip a coin to figure out which I'm going to read first. Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs is the first Alpha & Omega book in a few years and while I prefer Mercy's stories, I do like Charles and Anna and look forward to popping in on them again.  This time, the damaged werewolves who live near the Marrok's pack are in trouble and it will take both Charles's fighting skills and Anna's gift as a peacemaker to try and save them.

Release Date: March 6

Also coming out that day is Tricks for Free by Seanan McGuire, the latest in the Incryptid series.  When we last left Annie, she as on the run from the Covenant with no way to get back to her family without endangering them further. To fully escape, she can't even have her beloved Mice with her so if something happens to her, she has no way to get the word out. For a Price to be out there in the world without any backup at all, that is a truly scary thing and we can only hope Annie survives this.

Release Date: March 6

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

115:120 The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The diary of a 14yr old Jewish girl who lived in Holland and went into hiding with her family, another family, and a friend of the family in order to try and escape the Holocaust after the Germans occupied the country. They lived together for 3 years before they were caught and sent to the concentration camps. This is not a novel but rather the thoughts and feelings of a teenage girl growing up under the shadow of death but yet her writing is powerful and raw and you can see the underlying steel and passion within her.

One interesting tidbit that I learned is that this version of the Diary is not what she actually wrote but a compilation of what she originally wrote combined with a version she had started working on for publication after the war with her father's edits (particularly of her relationship with her mother to tone that down and also apparently of her thoughts that were of a more *ahem* adult nature).  There has been another version released that contains more of this and I really want to find time to read that one to see how it differs.

Page count: 283p/20,915p ytd/292,318p lifetime

Friday, December 15, 2017

114:120 Shockaholic by Carrie Fiscer

Carrie Fiscer's 2nd memoir (apparently I'm reading these in reverse order) opens with her frank discussion of her mental illness and the history of and her views on electroshock therapy which she has used and has helped her tremendously.  She then goes into how that treatment can cause memory loss and why that is a reason for her to write down what she remembers while she still does. This leads into the rest of the book which has stories about her relationships with her father, Michael Jackson, Senator Edward Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others through the years. The stories are told in her usual irreverent fashion and it's very easy to hear her voice in your head as you read.  They aren't dolled up or candy coated, they are just her stories as she remembers them which helps keep it real.  I truly enjoyed it.

Page count: 162p/20,632p ytd/292,035p lifetime

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

113:120 Maudlin's Mayhem by Yasmine Galenorn

The 2nd book in the Bewitching Bedlam series.

Strange things keep happening around Maddy lately. First, she has been clumsy and getting hurt in ways that are just not normal for her including bumping into a strange woman who ends up needing a place to stay for herself and her friends. It's not until Snow White and her 7 Dwarfs show up at the B&B that Maddy realizes who she has opened her Inn to. Then Bubba, her cjinn, turns up in a human form and Aegis is turned into his bat form and unable to change back. Maddy is now convinced that this is more than just strange occurrences and something really is up and it comes as no surprise to find out that she has been hexed.  Now she must figure out who has put the hex on her and how to get it off before anything worse happens.

I'm enjoying this series and I like the fact that there are generally red herrings and lots of twists and turns in the stories but that the real solution was visible and not just something thrown in at the last second that was never shown before (hate that!). Now to read the two tie-in short stories which I'm hoping will answer some of the questions I had reading this about what happened during their vacation. I read the order guide and it said to read them after this one but I definitely felt like I was missing some crucial information so maybe reading Blood Vengeance before this would have been better.

Page count: 307p/20,470p ytd/291,873p lifetime

Sunday, December 10, 2017

112:120 Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

So here's the review I wrote back in 2008 (which I admitted to being in a crappy mood when I wrote it):

So my impressions of Prince Caspain (made before getting in such a horrid mood). Decent book but way too much emphasis on descriptive scenery with a decent nod to a plot and almost no character development. In all honesty, this would have been much better cut down and used to start an adventure book rather then being the entire thing. Just not enough meat on the bones of this one. On to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

And from 2013:
After re-reading it again and in a better mood, well, I can't say I was far off the mark.  It was a cute little story but yeah, not really much in the way of any kind of character development or much point other than crowning Caspian king.  It still feels like it could have been a few chapters in the start of a bigger adventure and just not enough happened to have it be its own story.

And from 2017:
Yeah, still think this could have easily been condensed and put into a different story. I'm glad that now that I've done this one with the youngest child, I don't actually ever have to read this again.

Page count: 223p/20,163p ytd/291,566p lifetime

Friday, December 8, 2017

111:120 Under the Mistletoe by Faye Larson

The only thing Brice really misses about having given up his office job to become a stay-at-home webcomic writer are the holiday parties. He loves everything about them so when his friend, Nathen, invites him to be his +1, Brice jumps at the opportunity. When he overhears some of Nathen's coworkers thinking that they are actually a couple, he laughs about it and shares the joke with Nathen when he looks up and realizes they are under the mistletoe and the joke is suddenly a lot less funny and much more wishful.

Fairly typical short story romance. I'm grateful that at least Ms. Larson's stories generally start with the people already being friends.  I really hate the whole "I just saw you and now we are meant to be together forever because it's Love at First Sight!".  I think having people who were already friends figure out that they might just be attracted to each other is so much sweeter.  My usual disclaimer, I know the author and was given a copy of this story with no expectations.

Page count: 26p/19,940p ytd/291,343p lifetime

Friday, December 1, 2017

110:120 Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Jenna died too soon and every soul, living or dead is promised a certain amount of time. Jenna is unwilling to just steal time from the living so she can move on so she lives the half-life of a ghost and works at a suicide crisis hotline. For every minute she helps someone to hang on, she allows herself to take a few minutes from someone.  Now though, ghosts are disappearing all over NY, being caught and bound in mirrors to serve someone. Jenna is one of the few ghosts left and if she doesn't find out who is doing this, she may end up in a mirror herself, never able to move on and see her sister Patty in whatever afterlife there is.  Now Jenna must team up with a corn witch and see just what a ghost can do to save herself and her friends.

A stand-alone take on a ghost story where ghosts are not evil but just trying to get by like the rest of us. Ms. McGuire does a fabulous job putting her own unique spin on ghosts in yet a different way from her other ghost stories and creates something hauntingly beautiful.

Page count: 192p/19,914p ytd/291,317p lifetime

Thursday, November 30, 2017

109:120 How to Piss Off a Failed Super-Soldier by John Chu

Aitch was created to be a super soldier. From birth, he was treated more as an experiment than a person, tested on endlessly and trained to be the best.  When Aitch finally escapes, the government wants to cover up what they were doing so the attempts on his life never stop.  Now his brother, Jay, tells him there is a cure and he wants so much to believe but can he trust anyone, even Jay?

Mr. Chu is a master at creating intriguing characters in well-crafted worlds in such a short period of time. It's truly a treat to read his work. 

Page count: 35p/19,722p ytd/291,125p lifetime

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

108:120 Bright Thrones by Kate Elliot

The story of Bettany and what happened to her after her family's fall from grace and then after she runs into her twin, Jessamy.  Bettany was taken to the mines but managed to show that she could be more useful to Lord Agular as a scribe and assistant but she also realizes that he is not exactly what he appears to be either and that maybe they can help each other.

It was interesting to see more of what happened with Bettany since she was the only sister who was separated from the group and basically remained so for most of the trilogy. I wanted to like this and there were parts that I did but at the same time I was disappointed with the what felt like a forced romance.  Her falling for Lord Agular given her contempt and disgust with the upper classes made no sense at all and fell flat which then made much of what she did later in the story just not work for me either.  I just wish she had stayed more true to who she thought she was.

Page count: 98p/19,687p ytd/291,090p lifetime

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

107:120 Doctor Who: Revenge of the Judoon by Terrance Dicks

It's 1902 and the Doctor and Martha run into Captain Carruthers, a friend of King Edward VII, who invites them back to Balmoral Castle to meet him but when they arrive where the castle should be, it's not there.  The Doctor soon figures out that this is the work of the Judoon and he goes off in the TARDIS to try and find the King and castle while Martha heads to London with Captain Carruthers to try and figure out who is behind the disappearance. While in London, she is introduced to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a mysterious society he is part of, a society that gave him a present for the King which he dutifully delivered not that long ago.  Meanwhile, the Doctor has found the castle in the desert surrounded by Judoon. Now he must try and figure out who is ordering them and why such a normally honorable and rule-bound race would be interfering with the human race in this manner.  Then he just needs to figure out how to fix it all and put things back the way he knows they should be.

I always like the 10th Doctor and Martha and this story definitely seemed to get their voices right. It's a QuickReads so there isn't a lot of depth or description, basically a bare bones story but it worked nicely. 

Page count: 102p/19,589p ytd/290,992p lifetime

106:120 White Trash Zombie Unchained by Diana Rowland

White Trash Zombie #6

Angel is finally back in one piece and it's not a moment too soon. Now she just wants to try and get the rest of her life back together as much as she can but things are just never that simple for her. The zombie shambler she made by accident before her dismemberment seems to have made friends and it's spreading by some vector that isn't just being bitten by other shamblers. Angel and the rest of the real zombie crew need to figure out what is going on and how they can not only stop it but if possible, reverse it's course on those who they have tied down and still 'alive'. For Angel, this is an absolute necessity now that Nick has been affected as well. 

I continue to really enjoy this series. Angel is easy to relate to in her earnestness and desires and how she beats herself up but then picks herself up and works hard to make amends. She continues to grow and learn and make mistakes and try again. My only wish is that it wasn't so long between books!

Page count: 354p/19,487p ytd/290,890p lifetime

Saturday, November 25, 2017

105:120 Target Practice by Seanan McGuire

Alice has snuck out again and gone into the Woods. This time she managed to find a dire boar and only barely managed to run fast enough to end up at Thomas Price's back porch where he was able to wound it enough to scare it off. Unfortunately, her father was yet again not of a mind to listen to her when she got home from her latest adventures. Jonathan wants so much for his daughter to have a 'normal' childhood that he is blinded to who she really is, her mother's daughter above all else. Normal was never going to happen.  Now his parents must intervene if Alice is going to have a chance of surviving to adulthood.

I've really been enjoying these backstory pieces Ms. McGuire posts on her website for her fans. It's a generous thing that she does and it's fascinating seeing where the current crop of Price-Healy kids come from because these apples definitely didn't fall far from the tree.

Page count: 17p/19,133p ytd/290,536p lifetime

Friday, November 24, 2017

104:120 Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Mom has left to go to a conference and let everything all ready for the family except for one thing, she told dad on her way out that he needed to get milk before breakfast the next morning.

Dad forgot.

So now there is no milk for cereal and the kids are complaining so Dad goes to the store but geez he's gone for a loooooooong time. And when he finally does make it back home, with the milk, he has quite the story to tell of why it took him so long which includes a time-traveling stegosaurus, a volcano god, and pirates.

A fun tale about what happens when you run to the store for milk.  I totally believe every word of it because I've had similar things happen to me.  Just ask my kids.

Page count: 113p/19,116p ytd/290,519p lifetime

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

103:120 Face Your Fears by Stefon Mears

Harold has always been scared of the dark but it got worse after a camping trip with his parents to Crater Lake. Now he is a grown man and this fear still haunts him but tonight, after attending a seminar on success and being told to face his fears, he has decided to go for a walk at night. He sets his timer and sets off. It goes well until it's almost time to turn back and then the regular night noises stop and Harold really does have to face down his fears...

A delightful horror short story. I was reading it just before bed and decided that when Harold was going to go for a walk, it might just be better for my getting sleep that night to put it down until the morning. Now that I've read it, I'm not 100% sure that wasn't such a bad idea.  Definitely spooky and very riveting.

Page count: 23p/19,003p ytd/290,406p lifetime

Monday, November 20, 2017

102:120 Murder, She Meowed by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown

It's the day of the annual steeplechase and Mary 'Harry' Haristeen is enjoying helping down at the track with her dog, Tucker. It's a day that the entire town looks forward to and the races this day are good, except for an altercation between two of the jockeys during one race where Linda whips at Nigel and he retaliates.  Harry dutifully reports it but no one thinks anything further about it, until Nigel is found dead later that night, stabbed through the heart with the Queen of Clubs stuck to him.  Unfortunately, within a few days he is joined by another jockey, this time with the Queen of Spades pinned to him. Now Harry's cat, Mrs. Murphy, puts her nose to the case but even once they find several clues, it's so hard to get the dang humans to pay attention to them.  Can the animals point them in the right direction before it's too late to save another one?

This is the 5th book in the series but the first one I read because this is the one my friend loaned me and my 11yr old is really getting into mysteries so I'm checking things out for him. Even though I hadn't read the previous books, I didn't feel like I was really missing anything in terms of backstory or understanding the characters relationships.  This was cute, if fairly predictable but I doubt I'll read any more. I've read enough of this type to know that they tend to be pretty formulaic and get tedious after a while and there are just too many other more interesting books out there to read.

Page count: 302p/18,980p ytd/290,383p lifetime

Sunday, November 19, 2017

101:120 Bound by Word by Faye Larson

Morgan's allies have turned on him and he can't use his magic to escape since it would simply send-up a big sign pointing out his exact location to his enemies so finding passage on a boat is the best he can do. However, due to his swift departure he is very short on funds. No surprise when the captain is not super tempted by the promise of payment on the other side of the voyage so he makes a different proposition for Morgan to earn his keep onboard, in the captain's bed.

There is some interesting back story and world building going on that would have been interesting to explore but the main point of this was the romance and that happens but for no reason other than Morgan's need. I much prefer the stories where the characters either have a previous relationship that turns deeper or are spending time to get to know each other. This one was more about exploitation than romance and that is not for me.  For the record, I know the author and was given a copy of this with no expectations.

Page count: 25p/18,678p ytd/290,081p lifetime

Saturday, November 18, 2017

100:120 Hold-Time Violations by John Chu

Ellie lives in a world where she is what is known as a builder, one who can work within the skunkworks that create all the known universes. There are pipes and machines underneath that control the physics of each universe but sometimes things go out of whack and a builder is sent in to fix things. Today Ellie is just going to visit her mom until her sister sends her to fix the physics of the skunkworks instead (and instead of sending someone to kill her which is actually much more normal for their relationship). Now Ellie is trying to find the problem before the Isolationists show up, a group who thinks that whatever happens was meant to be and the skunkworks should be left alone. The only problem is that when Ellie discovers the problem, it's much more than just a simple fix.

This is the second short story that I've read by this author and I'm amazed again at his world building skills. This one was a bit harder to get into and I had to really slow down to fully get all the relationships and how the world worked but it was well worth it. 

Page count: 22p/18,653p ytd/290,056p lifetime

Thursday, November 16, 2017

99:120 Choke by Lisa Towles

Kerry is trying to get her life back on track after her divorce. She is doing her training as a CNA when a patient's chart goes missing and she is being blamed. When she gets home from that day at work, her apartment looks like someone has been there and when in the bath she hears a key in the lock. Thus begins her finding out that everything she thinks she knows about her life has been a lie. Now she is being chased by a group of people that want something from her past, something that she doesn't remember, and they are willing to kill to get it.

Adrian (on the other side of the country) has discovered a way to make a cigarette that actually cures lung cancer. Word has gotten out and big pharma will stop at nothing to get it.

There were 2 main story arcs going on in this book and either one could have been interesting but they didn't really have anything to do with each other except where they were obviously forced together to try and make a coherent plot. It failed spectacularly. It was heavy handed and easy to see coming from very early on in the story. The constant shifting of perspectives was disjointed and annoying. Maybe if this had been two different books, one for each story arc, it would have been better but as written it was just a boring, predictable, mishmash of ideas.  It's only saving grace was that the word choice was simplistic so it was a fast read.

Page count: 262p/18,631p ytd/290,034p lifetime

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

98:120 Last Call at the Last Chance by Seanan McGuire

Emma has been dead and running the Last Dance Diner for a long time. She generally keeps her cool and helps those who are ready to move on their way but tonight there is a customer who deserves no hospitality. Bobby Cross kidnapped her the last time she saw him and she is not the forgiving type. Tonight Bobby swears he won't do anything like that but when he pulls a gun out to make her and some of her guests play cards with him, the stakes are there anyway.

I think Ms. McGuire's ghost universe is so well done with the different types of ghosts and I look forward to reading more about them.

Page count: 17p/18,369p ytd/289,722p lifetime

97:120 Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

David Balfour had led a fairly sheltered life so it was surprising to him when his parents died that his uncle instead of taking him in as family should rightfully do instead sold him off to a ship bound for another land. When the ship takes on another passenger, Alan, and David hears of plans to kill that passenger for his money, he decides to take a stand with Alan and together they are able to defeat the leaders but then end up shipwrecked on the rocks in a part of Scotland that David is unfamiliar with and where Alan is a wanted man. David must follow the clues to find Alan and a way home through Scotland with his head still intact. Much easier said than done.

Read this for a high school English class with my 16yr old as part of his Hero's Journey studies. The story was fairly simple but I will admit that a bit more knowledge of the revolution that was going on in Scotland and England at the time would have helped me understand more of the characters interactions better I think.  Reading the Scottish brogue was not my son's favorite part and I'm thankful to have enough of an acquaintance with it that I didn't find it distracting from the story. 

Page count: 217p/18,352p ytd/289,705p lifetime

Saturday, November 11, 2017

96:120 Practically Married by Faye Larson

Many single people put their best friends down as their emergency contacts so Martin thought nothing of having Sawyer down as his. What he didn't expect was to wake up in the hospital with Sawyer in the room talking to the nurse about the fact that Martin was now missing his appendix and they are engaged. Apparently that was easier for the hospital to understand when Sawyer showed up after being called so now Martin is living at Sawyer's home while he mends and is trying to figure out how he is going to pay off this new medical bill. What he didn't expect was just how nice it would be and how much he didn't actually know about his best friend.

A cute little tale about how we don't always see what's right in front of our faces. Character development is pretty much on par with what you would expect for a short story and there is a little much reliance on repetitious internal dialog for my taste but overall, it was enjoyable way to spend 30min.  My usual disclaimer, I know the author and was given a copy of this book for free with no expectations

Page count: 89p/18,135p ytd/289,488p lifetime

Thursday, November 9, 2017

95:120 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expurey

A pilot is stranded in the desert when he wakes one morning to find this strange little fellow who asks the most extraordinary questions and has the most amazing tale to tell of his little planet with it's three volcanoes (although one is extinct) where he can see the sun set so many times in one day and he has one perfect little flower with four thorns. He asks the pilot to draw him a sheep even though the pilot says he can only draw boa constrictors digesting an elephant. But the little fellow thinks the drawing is perfect and then starts telling all about his journey to Earth and all the other planets he visited and how they all had adults doing adult things who didn't listen or understand. Slowly, understanding dawns on the pilot and he starts realizing there is more to this little fellow (and life) than he originally thought.

I don't know quite why I never read this book when I was younger but this was my first time reading it and it was just lovely.  A simple tale that isn't really simple at all when you come back to reality after reading it, realizing that it has changed you as well as the pilot who told it.

Page count: 85p/18,046p ytd/289,399p lifetime

Sunday, November 5, 2017

94:120 All the Pretty Little Horses by Mira Grant

Set in the time before Feed, the zombie outbreak is finally being contained and areas are being reclaimed. Stacy and Michael Mason are known as the heroes who kept on the blogs and the airwaves, giving survival guidance and letting people know they were not alone. Now, however, Stacy is diving deep into depression with the knowledge that she shot her only child during the outbreak and that while the courts have declared her innocent, she has judged herself much more harshly and branded herself a murderer.  Michael can only watch in despair as the woman he loves sinks further and further away from him. Then one day he comes up with the idea to start documenting the recovery efforts. He pulls every string he has to get them permission to tagalong with an army group in Santa Cruz and everything changes when Stacy gets a camera in her hand. She comes alive but never more than when they find the group of children who have been hiding out all this time. Maybe Michael has found a way to bring his wife all the way back to him.

I absolutely love this universe and the heartache that went into telling Stacy's story was so real. I cannot imagine having to make the decision she did or how I would climb back out of a very dark place if I did but it feels like a very real situation someone could find themselves in. That realness to her writing is what makes these books so very powerful and this did not disappoint.

Page count: 84p/17,961p ytd/289,314p lifetime

93:120 History of US vol 8: An Age of Extremes by Joy Hakim

Review from 2013:
Middle-School History covering 1880-1917.   This book focused first on the power houses of their day: Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan.  It also talked about the inventions and innovations of the Gilded Age but also focused a lot on the extremes between the rich and poor and the politics behind it like the city bosses but also how the progressives came into being trying to deal with the injustices they saw all around and the reforms that came about such as the child labor laws, juvenile courts, the 40hr work week, and unions.  The book leaves off at the start of WWI during Woodrow Wilson's presidency.

I liked this one probably the best of all so far.  Things seemed to flow better from one chapter to the next and I didn't feel like we were bopping around all over the place completely out of order.

Page count: 215p/17,877p ytd/289,230 lifetime

Friday, November 3, 2017

92:120 The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

My review from 2012:
An enjoyable romp through other areas in the Narnia universe that eventually lead into Narnia itself, but only briefly.  King Edmund, Queen Lucy, and Queen Susan make small appearances but are not integral to the story rather it's an adventure tale of two children running away from Tashbaan towards Narnia with two talking horses but who find out about a plot to destroy Narnia and must do the near impossible to get the news into the right hands.  You can definitely see the Aslan/God connection very heavily in this one as he orchestrates things for the greater good of the land he loves.

Page count: 224p/17,662p ytd/289,015p lifetime

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

91:120 The Pumpkin Pact by Faye Larson

It's been 8mos of wedded bliss for Keith and Preston. Or, well, mostly. Preston is still haunted by his previous relationship and there are days when he can barely stand to be touch but Keith is supportive and tender during these times, never pushing him. Now it's October, the month of pumpkin everything, and Keith is shocked to learn that Preston has never been to a pumpkin patch. This is a treasured memory for Keith, going every year to the patch with his parents and sister, and he is determined to bring Preston into this tradition. For a work-aholic like Keith to volunteer to take a day off tells Preston just how special this is to him. Now if only work would be so accommodating to Keith's plans.

It was nice revisiting these two and seeing how their relationship has been progressing. Being married to someone who isn't a work-aholic but whose job can never seem to manage without him, I completely felt for Preston (and for Keith as well who kept trying to get away). Unfortunately this situation was all too common in Silicon Valley. I hope Ms. Larson continues to do stories about this couples and we get to see Preston through his healing process.  Usual disclaimer, I know the author and was given a free copy with no expectations.

Page count: 47p/17,662p ytd/288,791p lifetime

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

90:120 Tricks and Treats by Faye Larson

Will has been in a funk since breaking off his engagement when his best friend, Karloff, decides it's time to bring Will back into the land of the living with a pumpkin-spiced latte and the reminder that it's Will's favorite time of year, October.  Will and Karloff have been through so much together and people have long wondered about their relationship but tonight, Will is beginning to wonder himself. Karloff keeps looking at him in a strange way, well, really at his neck and their seems to be an off gleam in his eye.  Is it just Will's imagination or something else?

Not one of Ms. Larson's better offerings. The internal monologue was repetitive and overdone and didn't really add anything to the story and there really was nothing notable to either of the characters.  Usual disclaimer, I know the author and was given a copy of the story with no expectations.

Page count: 40p/17,615p ytd/288,744p lifetime

89:120 Heart of Straw by Seanan McGuire

The children are out in the costumes on a Halloween night, ready for the treats that have been promised but these three are full of doubts at the more grown-up choices they are having to make and wondering what to do when they find another child with his babysitter who comes along with them. Choices have consequences my dear children.

Delightfully spooky and eerie and nightmare fuel for all parents.

Page count: 8p/17,575p ytd/288,704p lifetime

Monday, October 30, 2017

88:120 From A to Z in the Book of Changes by Seanan McGuire

Ms. McGuire asked her Patreons for prompts for her Patreon stories. She decided she simply couldn't pick just one so picked one for each letter of the alphabet and came up with a paragraph or two (sometimes even more) of a little tale to go with that prompt.  It was cute and scary which seems just perfect for something coming from her.

Page count: 12p/17,567p ytd/288,699p lifetime

Sunday, October 29, 2017

87:120 The Wedding Pact by Faye Larson

Keith and Preston had made the pact back in high school as one of those stupid things kids do but neither of them really thought it would come to pass that they would both still be single at 40. The fact that Keith is straight and Preston gay is not an issue. The whole point is tax write-offs and platonic companionship. Someone to make dinner if Keith is running late (or at least order the delivery if Preston is super involved in his writing that day). Someone to ask how the other's day was. Stuff like that.  Keith's last break-up confirmed that his work is just too demanding and Preston's last break-up left him feeling shy and vulnerable about getting close to anyone ever again so it seems like a perfect situation...until that first kiss.

A fairly typical romance with Preston's ex being an interesting twist thrown in. On the whole, sweetly romantic with plenty of humor and with more depth to Preston than I anticipated (although Keith is pretty much just perfect boyfriend and nothing else). Usual disclaimer, I know the author and was given a copy of the story with no expectations.

Page count: 84p/17,555p ytd/288,687p lifetime

Friday, October 27, 2017

86:120 With Honest Trifles by Seanan McGuire

Another short story set in the past of the October Daye universe focusing on Tybalt's backstory.  Tybalt has discovered why his niece, Cailin, can not change to her cat form and the discovery has shaken him as he understands just how much danger it can mean for her if she is not fully trained to use this power that she has. Unfortunately, he knows of only person he can trust who could teach her and September, the sister of Simon and Sylvester, likely won't be pleased to see him but for his niece he will brave anything.

While I generally recommend reading these Patreon only stories in order because they really are telling Tybalt's story in chronological order, you really need to have read Instruments of Darkness for this one to make sense.  It was definitely interesting seeing other names from October's world making actual appearances.  I wonder if we will learn more about Simon and Sylvester in future stories.

Page count: 20p/17,471p ytd/288,603p lifetime

Thursday, October 26, 2017

85:120 ...But I'm Not Racist! Tools for Well-Meaning Whites by Kathy Obear

Dr. Obear has been working to be an agent for racial justice so it was quite the surprise when a person of color came up to her at a workshop and told her that something she said was racist. It hit home in a very personal way and she holed up, afraid to misspeak and be called out again. What happened then was a transformation in the way she approached her calling. Here, she teaches through personal examples how to open your heart and mind to being an agent for racial justice and how to approach it with more mindfulness. 

I admit, I have always been open about wanting racial justice but until the last couple of years I hadn't really thought about what that meant or how to go about affecting any change. Heck, it was only maybe two years ago that I did anything more than say I was color blind and raising my children that way.  I started waking up about that time to the suffering around me and the privilege to which I had and realized that I needed to do better, both as a person but also as a parent to educate my children to their own privilege and how we need to work to bring equality to all.  I'm still learning and I have so very much to learn but this was a helpful book and I appreciated it.  Much of it was geared towards how to facilitate racial justice in group environments which at the moment is not super relevant to me but is good to know.  A lot of it is techniques for how to engage, meaningfully and purposefully with those that are using racist language in the hopes of opening a dialogue for them to see the hurt they are causing. I found those things very helpful and plan to keep rereading some of those passages so I can learn to not be silent when it comes up.  I need to work harder to find my voice to say that these things are not right and I hope that the tools she has given here will help me to do so.

Page count: 118p/17,451p ytd/288,583p lifetime

Monday, October 23, 2017

84:120 Instruments of Darkness by Seanan McGuire

The year is 1711 and it's been two years since we checked in on Tybalt and his court. It hasn't grown much, which is fine by him, but his niece has still proven incapable of changing her shape to that of a cat which should be her birthright. It is time to get to the bottom of this and fix it once and for all and Tybalt is determined to do just that. Unfortunately, the answer is not the one that he seeks.

I love the Tybalt backstory we've been getting through the Patreon stories and this one may just be my favorite one yet. His caring and compassion are lovely especially when Cailin is trying to figure out why the other half of her family wants nothing to do with her and the hurt that causes her. 

Page count: 20p/17,333p ytd/288,465p lifetime

Sunday, October 22, 2017

83:120 Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher

Summer has spent all of her 11yrs of life under the thumb of her mother's love. It's not easy being so loved and she tries not to be resentful of it but some days she just wants to break out and do something just a teeny bit dangerous just to prove that she won't die from it. Then one day a strange house walks into the neighborhood on chicken legs and she meets Baba Yaga who, in a generous mood that day, promises to grant her heart's desire. Having been so sheltered, Summer has no idea what that might be so Baba Yaga sends her through a door that leads to another world called Orcus, a world that has a darkness lying at its heart. Here Summer finds a tree that should produce frogs but can't, a talking bird that is a dandy but has a good heart, a wolf that turns into a house when the sun goes down, a Forester with the heart of a dragon, and so many others.  Some help, some trick, some try to stop her but still she does not know her heart's desire so keeps looking for her way which may just lead her to Queen in Chains whose darkness is corrupting Orcus.

A lovely version of a fairy tale that has all the elements of whimsy you could wish for with fun surprises scattered throughout. It's a tale of growing up but also of learning and most of all, how important it is to just stop and listen.  I hadn't heard of T. Kingfisher before but apparently one of my book club ladies loves her and based on that, Seanan McGuire's Wayward children series was recommended.  After reading this, I can absolutely see why and I look forward to reading more by her in the future.

Page count: 268p/17,313p ytd/288,445p lifetime

Thursday, October 19, 2017

82:120 Bewitching Bedlam by Yasmine Galenorn

The first full novel in the Bewitching Bedlam series.  Maddie is working hard to get her B&B ready to open for business as she is also getting accustomed to her new life in Bedlam and her hot new vampire boyfriend, Aegis.  Unfortunately there are those that aren't so keen to see her succeed, the worst of which is Aegis's ex-girlfriend who can't stand the fact that he left her and moved on with his life. Then there is the owner of the other major B&B in town, Ralph Greyhoof.  The question is, who is behind the dead body found in her yard?

I have enjoyed all of Ms. Galenorn's work and this was no exception.  Her characters are lively and entertaining and believable. They have personal history, make mistakes, and sometimes have to learn the hardway.  I'm really looking forward to reading more in this series. I definitely think that going independent has been a very freeing move for Ms. Galenorn and while there are series I will miss her not being able to add to for a while, her new series seem like they will be very fun to follow.

Page count: 324p/17,045p ytd/288,177p lifetime

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

81:120 Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

Life was simple for Jay Berry growing up in rural Oklahoma back around the turn of the century. He helped with the farm and when he wasn't needed, he went exploring in the wilderness.  Some days he would go to the store his grandparents own in town. Those are special times between a boy and his grandpa and there are usually treats to bring home to share with his sister. One early summer day though as he is wondering around in the bottoms he finds an animal that he has never seen before and one that doesn't seem to belong in the area.  As he recounts the details to his grandfather later that day, he finds out that it is indeed a monkey as he had suspected. A troupe had escaped when the circus train had derailed and now there is a reward for their capture. $2/ea for the little monkeys like what Jay Berry had seen but $100 for the special one.  Jay Berry has had his heart set on a rifle and a pony and this seems like the answer to his dream. But capturing monkeys is so much harder than Jay Berry had ever imagined and his dream could fall away before it's ever realized.

A simple story about a more innocent time (cliche but true), a boy and his dream but also about his growing up and maturing a little bit as well.  Well written, humorous to keep it from being too heavy handed (although as an adult it was pretty easy to see how it was going to turn out) and poignant too. I will admit, I bought it for my now 16yr old who loved monkeys because I had seen it on many children's classics lists but really had no idea what it was all about but thought he would enjoy it.  He never read it and I don't think he would have really enjoyed it if he had because it was definitely not the book I thought it would have been, especially with the cover our copy has. 

Page count: 280p/16,721p ytd/287,853p lifetime

Saturday, October 7, 2017

80:120 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

From when I read it five years ago with the now 16yr old:
Haven't read this one in a few years and am enjoying it as much as I always do.  I remember as a little girl wishing that I could find a magic wardrobe and be transported to a magical land and have those adventures.  What makes things special this time tho is again, sharing these stories with my 11yr old.  He has watched the movies but it's his first time reading the books and he's loving them as much as I do.  Definitely one of those books in one of those series where if you haven't read it....WHY NOT????  Stop looking at reviews and go read it already.  And if you have children, go read it to them as well.

Now I'm reading these again my new current 11yr old (and one of his friends) and it's still magical. They are fast, sweet reads but I pick up new little nuances each time and the current child points out different things and leads us into different discussions which makes each reading unique and special.  I still say if you haven't read them, you should, and if if you have kids you should definitely read it to them as well.

Page count: 189p/16,441p ytd/287,573p lifetime

79:120 Eight and a Half Lives by Faye Larson

Five years ago, Owen's fiance told him that it was ridiculous to get chemo for a cat. Today, Owen still has Gatsby and the fiance is history.  Owen has never regretted his decision. His days are filled with writing, petting Gatsby, zombie movie marathons (with Gatsby), eating (and feeding Gatsby).  He's feeling it's pretty perfect until the day when Gatsby gets out the window and causes Owen to meet his new neighbor, Jay. Jay and his fiance broke up when she got a job that required her to move to France. No hard feelings, just not the life that Jay wanted.  As they talk, it comes out that Jay loves zombie movies as well and now the zombie marathons are even more fun as Jay and Owen (with Gatsby's help) start going through all the zombie movies they can find and even start their own rating system for them.  Jay is smart, fun, loves Owen's books.  He is absolutely the perfect man, except he's straight.  Poor Owen.

This was a fun and cute tale of a growing friendship and how you never know what's around the corner (or who is moving next door to you).  Usual disclaimer, I know the author and was given a free copy of the book with no expectations.

Page count: 78p/16,252p ytd/287,384p lifetime

Friday, October 6, 2017

78:120 Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

The conclusion to the Court of Fives trilogy.  Jes and Kal are now fighting for their lives and the path that Effea will take going forward.  Jes still believes in Kal and her father but even if they can win and put Kal on the throne, what will that mean for Effeans going forward? Back to the way things have been, Commoners and Patrons?  It's looking more and more like Effea is ready to rise and if you are not with her, you are against her and there will be no mercy.

This was a fabulous conclusion to this tale although it did feel a bit too HEA with the ending but I am going to gloss over that.  I'm not a huge fan of tying everything up with a pretty bow at the end so it all works out for your main characters but at the same time, I'm also kind of in the mood for that at the moment.  The book was fast paced, the twists and turns fun and not always predictable, the characters relateable. In all, I definitely recommend the series.

Page count: 481p/16,174p ytd/287,306p lifetime

Sunday, October 1, 2017

77:120 The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time by Brooke Gladstone

Brooke Gladstone, an award winning journalist, runs a weekly show on NPR called On the Media which highlights how the media shapes our perceptions on reality.  There was an interesting point made early on that facts are facts but everyone's reality is different because it is based on your perceptions, what facts you have accepted (and what you have not), your personal history, and so much more that makes each of us unique.  We can all observe the exact same thing but it will be incorporated into our unique realities differently. And our reality does not like to change, it does not like to accept new facts that show that something else we believe to be real is actually false.  And this is where the trouble with our current reality in our country comes from.  Now is a time when we must try to find the ties that bring us closer together, have dialogues, and learn how to reach out of our own reality bubble, to break through it, and figure out how our reality coincides with that of others to form a reality formed in facts that we can agree to.  In the past, the basic facts and reality were not seriously in question and now everything seems to be.  Until we can agree on basic facts, we cannot come together as a nation or a world.  She talks about how easy it has been to manipulate people and compares much of what we have been going through using the lens of many different authors (I cringed a lot at her thoughts on Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World since my thoughts mirrored hers in many ways when I first read those books several years ago).  This was a tract and not a full book so it took less than 2hrs to read although I think I may go back and read it again in a few months to keep some of these thoughts more fresh in my head. 

Page count: 97p/15,693p ytd/286,825p lifetime

Friday, September 29, 2017

76:120 Snared by Jennifer Estep

The 16th book in the Elemental Assassin series.  Gin has finally found a member of the Circle from whom she might be able to get some information on the elusive group and it's leader but it hasn't been easy.  It's been preying on her mind but when Jade comes to her for a favor, she also can't say no.  She owes Jade and a missing girl in this town will probably not end well as they both know but Gin also knows how to deal out her own brand of justice. Following the trail of Jade's sister though, proves to be more elusive than The Spider anticipated and much more deadly as it appears she may be the latest victim of a new serial killer, one who now seems to have his sights set on Gin.

The constant inner monologue has gotten better but it's now been replaced with memory flashbacks that tie directly into whatever it is Gin needs to make the leap to solve the latest crisis which I feel is a lazy way of dealing with things rather than setting things up enough in advance that you know it was all well thought out and planned.  I still enjoy the world even if its fairly shallow because the characters are entertaining and I like their interactions with each other and there are books where there is less reliance on tired tropes. This just wasn't one of them.

Page count: 371p/15,596p ytd/286,728p lifetime

Sunday, September 24, 2017

75:120 The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire

The 11th book in the October Daye series.  Things are going so well for October right now. The biggest worry she has right now is that someone will want her to join in the karaoke at her bachelorette party and drinking enough to stay mildly drunk with her metabolism so she doesn't go crazy.  Yeah, life is actually pretty great until she gets home and there is a knock on her door and when opened, it reveals the one person she really didn't want to see...her mother.  Amandine is not here to wish her daughter well on her upcoming matrimony though. Amandine wants to hire October to find her other daughter, August, who has been missing for 100 years.  To ensure her 'cooperation', Amandine captures Tybalt and Jazz and then forces them into their animal forms and into rose thorn cages.  To save them, October had not only better find August but she must do it before there is nothing left of their minds to save.

The biggest problem is that the trail is 100 years old, older than October, and she doesn't have the faintest idea where to start so she goes to Sylvester to ask the biggest favor of her life, for him to wake up his brother, Amandine's husband and August's father (and the one who turned October herself into a fish for 14yrs), Simon.  Now they are on the trail together to search out August who went looking for Oberon himself but she is on a path the Luidaeg set her, one that she sold her way home to get but which means she can't come home until she finds him and he does not want to be found which means even if October can find her, bringing her back to Amandine will be a much bigger problem than she can imagine.

This was a heartbreaking, gut wrenching story but so amazingly well done.  There were so many twists and turns along the way that while I was sure October would eventually succeed, I had no idea what the cost would be although I was sure there would be one.  What I most appreciate is that even through all the anguish, there are some light-hearted moments to keep you from sinking down too far.  My favorite happened during the opening bachelorette party where the Luidaeg performs "Poor Unfortunate Souls" during karaoke party. I literally snorted my tea over that one.

Now I have to wait for another year for the next one to see how people recover from this ordeal.  It will seem like an eternity!

Page count: 354p/15,225p ytd/286,357p lifetime

Friday, September 22, 2017

74:120 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Salamanca Tree Hiddle does not understand why her mother left her and her dad, only that something has happened and she isn't coming back and now her father has moved them away from the farm and the only life she has ever known and that she loves to the suburbs where her entire life has been turned upside down.  The first person her dad introduces her to is Mrs. Cadaver who Sal finds strange and does not understand why her dad wants to spend so much time with her. Then she meets Phoebe who lives on her block and is in her classes at the new school.  Phoebe's family seems like the perfect middle class family...until her mom disappears one day. It brings everything Sal has gone through flooding back.  Now she is on a roadtrip with her grandparents, following the path her mother took to Idaho and with so many miles ahead of them, she starts telling them Phoebe's story not realizing that she is telling her own story at the same time.

A poignant story about a girl trying to come to term's with the loss of her mother and upheaval of her entire life.  There is love and loss, friendship and family, basically life.  One of my older kids had read it years ago so it was hanging around and I've been trying to read new authors so figured I'd give it a try.  It was ok. The plot and writing were simple and straightforward with no major surprises.

Page count: 280p/14,871p ytd/286,003p lifetime

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

73:120 House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Set in a future where Mexico has given over a stretch of land that separates them from the US to the drug dealers, a land now called Opium and ruled mostly by the House of the Scorpion, the house of El Patron.  Matteo has led a sheltered life in the little house in the poppy fields with his caregiver Celia. She has told him that he must always stay in the house when she is not home and not let anyone see him but one day when he was 6, heard the voices of children outside and couldn't stand it any longer so he showed himself to them. Next thing he knows, he is taken to the main house and everything changes.  He finds out that he is a clone of El Patron, the head of the family, but that clones have no status and are generally despised. He is luckier than most in that he has the special favor of El Patron who eventually comes to his rescue and demands that he be given an education and treated at least civilly. It doesn't completely matter as the household, except Celia and his bodyguard Tam Lin, decide that ignoring him will do well enough although there is one son, Tom, who torments Matt as he torments everyone else and there is a cousin, Maria, who does actually want to be his friend but thinks of him as more of a pet than a person.  What makes matters worse is when he learns that most clones are lobotomized upon birth as their only function is to serve as a source of organ donation for their original.  That was to be Matt's fate but that was before Ceclia and Tam Lin came up with another plan for him.

While Matt is definitely the "hero", there are times as he is growing that you can see the person El Patron is now trying to take root in Matt but you can see the struggle that Celia and Tam Lin are going through to try and mold Matt into a different person than the horrible head of the family.  This is his journey, to choose what kind of person he wants to be, the DNA does not have to dictate who he will be.

I hadn't even heard of this book prior to seeing this in my 11th graders English class where we are studying the Hero's journey.  I really enjoyed the story and can see why it has won and been nominated for so many awards. It is well written, the world and characters are rich and complex, and the plot gripping.

Page count: 400p/14,591p ytd/285,723p lifetime

72:120 Shadow Memory by F Larson

Brandon has had periods where he couldn't stand his father but those are over now. Unfortunately, the timing could have (should have) been better. His father has dementia and is slowly slipping away.  Brandon has been trying to get together and have lunch with him but it's hard when his father doesn't remember how old he is or what has been going on in his life half the time.  As hard as it's been to watch his father deteriorating in front of him, it's even harder to consider that this could happen to him.  His thoughts keep turning back to his stepmother and how she has held up and how this could be his Terry.

This is one of the best pieces I've read by this author.  While a short story, it was poignant, heart felt, and emotionally charged. It was so easy to feel for Brandon since any one of us could find ourselves in that position so easily.  I'm a bit bummed that the author chose to take this down for now as it didn't mesh well with her other work. It's understandable but I hope that she chooses to release it again at some point.  For the record, I know the author but my review was based solely on my opinions of the work in question.

Page count: 28p/14,191p ytd/285,323p lifetime

Monday, September 18, 2017

71:120 History of US Vol.8: Reconstructing America 1865-1890 by Joy Hakim

Last read 4 years ago.  Here's my review from that time:

Middle-School US History.  Deals with the time following the Civil War but not just the Reconstruction of the South but also what was happening in the west, the strides in innovation and inventions, woman's rights, the start of the temperance movement, the rising racism against the Chinese as well as the blacks.  It was nice to hear more about the country during that time than just what was going on in the South which seems to be the more typical way of presenting that time period.

I have to say that so much more of it resonates with me now than it did then as we are seeing white supremacy on the rise and I'm learning so much more about white privilege. I do think that we will continue to get closer to a more equal and just society but we need to take note of our past and learn from it as we strive for that society.

Page count: 199p/14,191p ytd/285,295p lifetime

Thursday, September 14, 2017

70:120 Batman: City of Owls Vol. 2 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, James Tynion IV, Rafael Albuquerque, and Jason Fabok

The conclusion of the City of Owls storyline. Batman must try to figure out what links the Court of Owls, Andrew Lincoln, and his family's past have if he wants to survive this most deadly game.

Also included are some other stories featuring the secrets that the Pennyworth family keeps for the Waynes and more about Dr. Freeze and his past with the Wayne family.

In all, the stories were good and engaging but pretty standard comic book fare, no real surprises.

Page count: 208p/13,992p ytd/285,096p lifetime

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Releases I'm Looking Forward to: 4th 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.

Well, summer did not allow me the time I was hoping for to get caught up but thankfully September seems to be kicking it off right, in my reading at least.  Still not sure I'm going to hit 120 books this year but I'm not throwing in the towel yet.  It might happen. Of course, I'm pretty sure Goodeads will not be agreeing with my totals. I found out that some of the short stories (don't judge, it's been a crazy year and since the rules for this game are my own, they get to count) that were listed in their database have since been removed so they currently show me down 4 from my own count. If I make it by my own list, I'm counting it as a win.

So now on to what I'm looking forward to as the year comes to a close.  There really isn't much so again, I'm hoping that means maybe I can do a little catching up on the large backlog I've got.  A girl can hope, right?!

Artemis by Andy Weir is the author's second book after his incredibly popular The Martian (which was well loved by everyone in my family!)  This one looks to be much, much different as we follow a smuggler who ends up in over her head as she gets caught in a conspiracy for control of Artemis, the colony on the Moon.

Release Date: November 14

Atargatis went to make a mockumentory of mermaids in the Marina Trench 7 years ago but all hands were lost and what happened to them is still a mystery.  Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant follows the new expedition of the ship that want to try and figure out what happened, especially Victoria Stewart who lost her sister that day.

Release Date: November 14

Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter is the third book in the Soulwood series which is set in the same world as Jane Yellowrock and in fact, we meet Nell in Jane's stories and Nell works with Rick now.  Unfortunately I'm behind in the Jane Yellowrock series and haven't even started this one so while I'm excited enough to put it on my list, I'm trying to avoid any type of knowing what's going on with it until I've read the others since I'm so far behind.

Release Date: December 5

So yeah, like I said, not much coming out for me this quarter which is just fine since I'm so far behind.  Maybe I can actually get caught up on a few other series before the year is out.

69:120 The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards

It was a strange day at the zoo when Lindy, Tom, and Ben met Professor Savant.  They thought he was strange when he told them about Whangdoodles but figured he was harmless and they'd never see him again. Until Halloween when Lindy said she would knock at the spookiest house on the block and who should it belong to but Professor Savant. The children had been noodling over what he said and he invites them to come learn with him how to get to Whangdoodleland to try and meet the very Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. They will need to use every bit of imagination they possess and learn how to harness it properly to make the trip and it will take several trips to try and get to his palace especially since the Prime Minister, Oily Prock, does not want them to disturb the Whangdoodle and will do everything in his power to stop them making it to the castle.

A sweet tale of never giving up and remembering how powerful your imagination can be. I've seen several reviews compare it to Oz and Narnia and it's very easy to see why but at the same time, it's a much gentler story than those so even children who are sensitive would likely enjoy it.  Dame Edwards does not disappoint as this is just the kind of story you could see her Mary Poppins telling to children in her keeping.

Note, I see that some people have expressed concern about the children entering into secret packs with a stranger. First, the Professor is known the parents although the exact nature of the relationship with the children is not but he does make it a point to contact their parents and tell them he is giving them lessons.  As a parent, I think this can be used as a teaching moment about good secrets vs. bad secrets and to have a frank discussion with your child about how this is lovely in literature but not something you would want them to be keeping from you in real life.  If you are concerned about that content, maybe read it yourself and decide if it's the right thing for your family or not.  Not every book is right for everyone and you know your situation best.

Page count: 277p/13,784p ytd/284,888p lifetime

Monday, September 11, 2017

68:120 Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Jacqueline and Jillian were born to parents who had children because that seemed to be the way for them to climb the social ladder. Having twin girls, while not as perfect as having boy/girl twins, seemed a way for both parents to get what they wanted. Jacqueline was turned into the perfect little girl, never dirty, perfect manners, always dressed like a princess...just as her mother had decided was the perfect daughter. Jillian was turned into a tomboy, given a short haircut, put into all the sports, encouraged to go adventuring...the best her father could get since he didn't have an actual son.

They were 12 years old when they found the stairway in the trunk in their closet that led them to the Moors, a land of death and choices, mad scientists and vampires.  The girls made their choices and Jacqueline went with the mad scientist to get dirty and delve into scientific mysteries and shortened her name to Jack and wore pants and vests and boots.  Jillian stayed with the vampire who was the first "person" they met when they arrived and had all the beautiful dresses she could wish for with servants to wait upon her and grant her every whim and shortened her name to Jill.

Now Jack and Jill barely know each other but when Jill makes an ill-conceived choice, it costs them both everything they have ever wanted and forces them to return to the land at the top of the staircase in the trunk, 5 years after they left and very much changed.

This is the second book in the Wayward Children series. We met Jack and Jill in the first book but this is really a prequel to that, telling the story of Jack and Jill before they went to the Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children.  It was definitely a very interesting twist on the old nursery rhyme and I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.

Page count: 176p/13,507p ytd/284,611p lifetime

Friday, September 8, 2017

67:120 When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi & Dennis Schatz

A book from the National Science Teachers Association explaining the science of eclipses in a concise and easy to understand way for middle school children. After seeing a partial eclipse, my 11yr old really enjoyed reading it and getting a better idea of the hows and whys of solar eclipses.  I read it so I could know what he knew and what else we could discuss about them,

Page count: 36p/13,331p ytd/284,435p lifetime

Thursday, September 7, 2017

66:120 Carboard by Doug TenNapel

Mike is down on his luck, can't find any work, and it's his son's birthday when a street vendor approaches him with a special gift of what looks to be ordinary cardboard. The cardboard has a few rules which quickly get forgotten when the boxer Mike and his son, Cam, made comes alive. Unfortunately, the neighborhood bully finds out about it and steals the scraps and is able to start his own monster factory, which as you can imagine goes horribly wrong.

Not a fan of the artistic style of the story (I tend to be really picky about my comic art after growing up with Elfquest to compare everything else to) but the story was cute if a bit predictable but not a bad way to spend an hour or two.

Page count: 288p/13,295p ytd/284,399p lifetime

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

65:120 illegible address by Denver Butson

Contemporary poetry focusing on love, loss, the daily lives and thoughts of every day people. As with any book of poetry, there were poems that really spoke to me and I focused on and read a couple of times over and there were some (like the drowning ghazal ones) that I read and immediately moved past because they really didn't do anything for me.  This is a poet that I'm not sure I'd actively seek out again but if someone handed me one of his books to read, I would probably sit down and enjoy most of it.

Page count: 67p/13,007p ytd/284,111p lifetime

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

64:120 Midnight Release Party by Faye Larson

Riley has never attended a book release party before but he has become obsessed with the Van Helsing series and can't wait to find out what will happen between Stephen and Dimitri.  While he is sitting there drinking his blood mocha, dressed as Stephen, there is a Vlad outside trying to get him to come out and play while his friend, Lindsey, is encouraging him to go out. Instead, he turns around to find a handsome man dressed as a Renfield behind him and strikes up a conversation.

A short story that appears to be setting things up for further installments. Riley seems likable and we got a bit of his backstory and basic plot lines for the Van Helsing series itself but it was fairly basic so I'm hoping things get a bit more fleshed out as the series progresses.  For the record, I know the author.

Page count: 39p/12,940 ytdp/284,044p lifetime

Saturday, September 2, 2017

63:120 Magical Girls by Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn, and Seanan McGuire

A story of how fandoms can bring people together to create lasting bonds of friendship that otherwise would likely never have existed.  Three women who meet each other through a fanfic board about their favorite show become best friends despite never having met and then we get to be witness to their actual in-person meeting, the insecurities of doing so, and a successful integration between cyberfriendship and meatspace friendship.

I've been there. I made some incredible friendships through parenting boards and 17 years later, I'm still friends with many of those ladies. I've met several in person and yes, it was a bit nervewracking each time but it always ended up being an amazing experience and I'm thrilled to have them in my life.  I've met people through fandoms that way as well and I'm happy to see a story being written about those bonds.

Page count: 55p/12,901p ytd/284,005p lifetime

Friday, September 1, 2017

62:120 The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Review from the last time I read it in 2012:

Read this last in 2008 when I decided to read the whole series because I never had. It was as lovely and enchanting this time as it was last time. It might have even be a bit better this time because I've had the pleasure to share it with my 11yr old. I found a lovely curriculum and we are going to go through the entire series together this year. I'm so looking forward to it.
Well, I enjoyed doing the curriculum with that kid so now I'm doing it with the next one and have talked another friend into doing it as well with us which of course, makes everything better.  I still think that this one may still be my favorite of the entire series but I'll see if I change my mind by the end this time.

Page count: 202p/12,846p ytd/283,950p lifetime

Thursday, August 31, 2017

61:120 Wit and Wisdom of Disney edited by Emily Osborn

A small collection of quotes from Walt Disney but many more from Disney movies, many of which were done after Walt's death.  It's a sweet little collection.

Page count: 71p/12,644p ytd/283,748p lifetime

60:120 Doctor Who: Snowglobe 7 by Mike Tucker

Written with 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and companion Martha (Freema Agyeman).  The Doctor has promised Martha a nice relaxing vacation on a warm beach somewhere but instead they end up inside a snowglobe on Earth, somewhere in the Middle East.  This is an attempt by humans to preserve this type of habitat from global warming but has turned instead into more of a series of posh ski resorts for the wealthy.  That is, until a creature from another world who was living in the ice that they saved out of the Arctic wakes up and decides that it's time for it to remake the world for itself and it's offspring. Now Martha and the Doctor will need every trick they can muster to save the humans on the planet from extinction.

I liked the story a lot. I thought it was well executed and the voice of the Doctor was definitely captured.  There were twists and turns and I could definitely see this as an actual episode so hats off for that. Unfortunately, I felt that Martha was the weak link. I really enjoyed her character and I could not hear her voice in my head at all. It seemed like this could have been any random person the Doctor had picked up and there would have been no difference at all in the relationship or the dialog from her character.

Page count: 255p/12,573p ytd/283,677p lifetime

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

59:120 Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth & Maria J. Stephan

An in-depth study and analysis of how successful nonviolent and violent campaigns are historically.  The thesis is that non-violent campaigns are more successful at achieving their results long-term and since they were looking mostly at regime changes, ending up in a more democratic government as well.  They reviewed campaigns going back to 1900 and wrote about 4 specific case studies in the book to illustrate specific points (Iran, Philippines, Burma, and Israel/Palestine).  Their conclusion is that non-violent campaigns are more successful for a variety of reasons (which they do go into fairly deeply) than violent ones and have a better outcome over 5-10 years after.

I read this for book club but admit to this being something I'm interested in for a variety of reasons.  Most of which have to do with learning more history about other countries around the world and how different types of governments work and don't work and how the people react to them when they don't work for the people.  That being said, this is definitely a text book and reads like I would imagine a doctoral thesis paper would, especially the first several chapters. It was dry and very difficult for a layperson like myself to get through. Once we got to the case studies, it was much more approachable and I really enjoyed seeing how these events unfolded especially since they either happened before I was born or when I was young enough to not really be paying attention to the  world outside my neighborhood. I vaguely remember something happening in the Philippines and the talk about Imelda Marcos's shoes but that's really it. I know a little about what is going on in Israel and Palestine and I have a very basic understanding of the root issues and while this didn't go much into all that, it was interesting to see some of what has happened there over the years.

Page count: 320p/12,318p ytd/283,322p lifetime

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

58:120 House of Light by Mary Oliver

A book of poems which my high school junior will be reading a handful of for his English class this year, so of course I read the whole thing.

The poems were very nature oriented with a feeling of reverence surrounding it. I generally felt at peace reading many of them, as it seemed to be a free-flowing stream of conscience noticing the world around oneself.  I have a feeling that I will end up reading this book again for deeper and deeper meanings.

Page count: 80p/11,998p ytd/283,002p lifetime

Sunday, August 13, 2017

57:120 Wreck the Halls by Faye Larson

Keiran has had it with the holidays. He's single and now out of work so he does what anyone would do and heads to the corner market for some eggnog to make himself feel better and try to get some semblance of the holiday spirit.  Instead, he thwarts some sort of sick weirdo but now he's in his own trouble when Santa (well, not the real Santa but some guy in a red suit) comes and between the two of them, they manage to turn the situation around, and then some.

Cute little hook-up story with a sweet ending. For the record, I know the author and was given a copy with no expectation of review or payment.

Page count: 20p/11,918p ytd/282,922p lifetime

Friday, August 11, 2017

56:120 Wings of Fire: Winglets #4 Runaway by Tui T. Sutherland

Another short story in the Wings of Fire series. This one tells the story of how Darkstalker's parents met.  Prince Arctic of the Icewings was not enjoying being a prince or an animus. He couldn't stand the dragon that had been chosen as his fiance or his mother telling him what the big thing he will make for the tribe with his animus powers will be.  He wants to make his own choices and he is fuming about this when he runs into one of the Nightwing representatives, Foeslayer. All of a sudden, here is a dragon who doesn't care that he is a Prince or how he is supposed to behave or the ranking boards or anything else he has been told is all that should matter. How can he not fall in love?

A basic star-crossed lovers story although in this case, we know the lovers end up together with children in the future but it does provide some interesting history for Darkstalker.

Page count: 52p/11,898p ytd/285,902p lifetime

Thursday, August 10, 2017

55:120 Cabbages and Kings by Seanan McGuire

A series of letters between two lovers who seem to be Fae royalty who have been promised to others and who are prepared to turn the world upside down to be with each other.

Suggestion, don't mess with Fae royalty.

A patreon story by Seanan McGuire. This one doesn't seem to necessarily be set in any particular world (maybe Toby but maybe not) but was definitely enjoyable.

Page count: 15p/11,846p ytd/285,850p lifetime

54:120 Written in Blood by Faye Larson

It's Victorian London and there are certain vices one simply doesn't talk about, even when in a brothel. Thierry has managed to yet again escape out the back after his friends drag him to one because the ladies there simply don't light a fire in him but the handsome stranger who catches a cab with him? That's an entirely different matter. Thierry does end up joining the stranger for an interlude that leads to much more than he could have ever dreamed.

Plot was basic but well executed even if it was fairly predictable with no real surprises. The interplay between the characters kept it fresh and interesting anyway and allowed it to be an enjoyable getaway from the real world for a bit.  For the record, I know the author and was given a copy with no expectation of review or payment.

Page count: 133p/11,831p ytd/285,850p lifetime

Sunday, August 6, 2017

53:120 Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

The 10th book in the Mercy Thompson series. Mercy has been taken by one of the meanest vampires ever from her home town and brought half-way across the world. However, like many before him, he underestimated her and she escaped but now she is wondering through Europe with no clothes, no money, no friends, and no way to contact Adam and the pack. Now she must find a way to satisfy at least a few of those and when she gets a hold of a pack member, she finds out that Adam is now in Sicily negotiating with the scary vampire and she is being directed to try and get protection from a werewolf pack whose Alpha hates Bran. Not a good place for a Coyote to be in but unfortunately not entirely unsurprising for Mercy either.

What can I say except I love these books and this may be the best one yet. The switching back and forth between Adam and Mercy to piece everything together worked beautifully. Mercy was resourceful and while things worked out for her in the long run, she had to work for a lot of it which made it more believable. There was some back story of other characters in this which was a nice touch to tie things together.  Now to wait impatiently for the next book in the series which I don't even think there is a release date for yet.  *pout*

Page count: 371p/11,698p ytd/285,717p lifetime

Friday, July 28, 2017

52:120 Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka lives in a small town on the edge of the Woods, a malevolent forest that separates two kingdoms encroaching on both a little at a time. On Agnieska's side, it is held in check by the Dragon, a wizard up in how tower that her town is beholden to. Every 10 years, they pay the price of giving up a daughter from one of the town's that survive by his protection and this year Agnieszka is chosen even over Kaisa. She is confused until after a few days it becomes apparent that he is trying to train her. She has power although it's a kind that he is not familiar with but maybe it's the power that the kingdom needs if it is to survive what the Woods has been in store for it.

A rich world built with a tremendous amount of depth and attention to details. The characters were equally deep and complex as are their relationships.  I thought the story dragged a little in the beginning as things were getting set-up and there was a lot of me wanting to reach into the book and smack Agnieszka...a LOT of times. There were a few times later in the book but I think I was so engrossed with what has happening to notice them. This was my first time reading this author and I will definitely be looking into her other works as it was fabulous.

Page count: 465p/11,327p ytd/285,346p lifetime

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

51:120 Works of Thy Hands by Gyla Beth Seal & January Taylor

Cyrus knew that he and his siblings were genetically superior to others but he always attributed that to the genetics of his parents.  That is until the day he found out that he was genetically engineered and instead of a birth certificate, he has been patented. This comes on the heels of finding out that he has managed to impregnate to girlfriend and now their baby could be taken away and that is something that Cyrus just can't allow so they all the way to Mars but once they are found, the legal battle to determine just what Cyrus is will be epic.

My friend recommended this book to me and it was an interesting read.  As technology is getting closer and closer to this, I find the subject fascinating and there were definitely times when I was reminded of the ST:TNG episode where Picard and Riker were arguing over Data's status as an android, whether he was the property of Star Fleet or a sentient being capable of making his own choices. I believe this to the first book by these authors and it looks like they haven't done much else which is shame as I think this showed promise.

Page count: 186p/10,862p ytd/284,881p lifetime

50:120 Shadow Silence by Yasmine Galenorn

The 2nd book in the Whisper Hollow series.  Kerris is starting to settle into her life as the spirit shaman to Whisper Hollow and learning who all the players are in the fight between the Morrigan's forces and those of the Cu Chulainn.  In all that though, there is always the Lady in the Lake who is on no ones side but her own and they can do nothing but pick up the pieces of the lives she shatters with her hunger, until she tries to claim Kerris's best friend, Peggin.  Now Kerris and the elders are trying to figure out how to break Peggin free of the Lady's hex while dealing with the whispers they are getting of strange things in the forest that shouldn't be there.

I really enjoy this series.  I've always been a fan of Celtic mythology so it's interesting to see her bringing it more present day. The characters are believable and I love how they interact with each other. Watching Kerris struggle to not respect Peggin's wishes even when she wants so desperately to keep her from buying the house so close to the lake and the Lady's influence is heartbreaking but you still know that it's necessary for their friendship. Those kinds of character relationships are what make Ms. Galenorn's books so wonderful.  I'm just really saddened that the series has not been picked up by the publisher for further installments and we won't see anything else until the rights to the characters revert back to Ms. Galenorn at some point in the future.

Page count: 298p/10,676p ytd/284,695p lifetime

Saturday, July 8, 2017

49:120 Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

An interesting concept where 20 urban fantasy writers were paired up and wrote stories with their partner utilizing a main character from their own series.  Rather than going into detail about each story, I'm going to focus more on how well I think the concept worked for that pair.

Jaye Welles & Caitlyn Kittridge - I've only read the Prospero Wars books by Jaye Wells and nothing by Caitlyn Kittridge so I had no idea about the characters in this story but it didn't matter.  One set was sent on a wild goose chase to hopefully take out the other set but the fur flies and it gets figured out so they team up to find the person who betrayed them both. The story swings back and forth between Sabina and Ava and it mostly works. Even without knowing anything about any of the characters, enough was given so I had a clue (and I'm now very interested in the Sabina books and might check out the Ava books as well) and didn't feel lost but I don't think it was so much that it would annoy someone who was already familiar with those worlds.

Seanan McGuire & Kelley Armstrong - This story right here was the thing that pushed me over the edge into buying this book.  I LOVE both of these authors and their worlds and the thought of them being combined might have made me squeee. Unfortunately, the story did anything but.  They "paired" up Verity from Seanan's Incryptid series with Elena from Kelley's Otherworld series but only sort of.  They were both in the same NY forest and stumbled upon the same poacher but their entire interaction was a brief moment when Elena was kicking the guy's ass and Verity says 'Hi'.  Really?!  I know both characters are cagey by nature but this story could easily have not had the other character and it would not have changed anything so in terms of being a collaborative effort and putting the characters really together it fell enormously flat and was very disappointing.

Steven Savile & Craig Schaefer - This is the first story that has more of what I was expecting in terms of a collaborative effort.  It does swing from what I'm assuming is one author's characters to the others but in a way that was naturally flowing and then flowed back to a cooperative narrative. It blended all the characters well and if I did not know this was a joint effort with characters from two different universes, I would not have guessed it to be the case.

Joseph Nassie & Sam Witt - I knew nothing of either of these writers or their universes before this story.  There was enough backstory in there that I didn't feel totally lost although there were definitely pieces of backstory that were hinted at but not explained which for a short story I think is actually good as it works as a hook to get people to go check out their other books which I totally get.  The story and characters worked well together on the whole.

Diana Rowland & Carrie Vaughn - Ok, I have to admit that the White Trash Zombie and Kitty Norville books are both ones that I really enjoy so I was pretty happy to see these characters mashed up together.  Unfortunately, this one didn't have a whole lot of backstory so I can easily see people not familiar with the worlds not really getting the characters.  They felt a bit flat and the story was predictable with little detail in any sense.  Why do the ones I'm so looking forward to in this book end up being the more disappointing ones?!

Weston Ochse & David Wellington - I really enjoyed this tale and had I not known it was a collaboration, I never would have guessed it to be one.  It flowed very well between the two characters who both seemed at home in the universe.  There was enough background for me to not feel completely disorientated but definitely left me knowing there was a lot more and what was it?! I might be looking into these authors a bit more.

Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden - I didn't know either of these characters although I did recognize the name Niall from the Sookie books so that's the only way I was able to tell whose character was whose.  They did a nice job of melding the characters together in a world that neither was wholly familiar with which put them on more even footing and allowed a bit more exposition to sound natural as they are figuring everything out.  Well done mashup in my opinion.

C.E. Murphy & Kat Richardson - I've heard of C.E. Murphy but hadn't even added anything to my wishlist. I think it was more a "If you like xxx" kind of thing.  I've read most of Kat Richardson's Greywalker series so I knew one of the characters in this.  I have to say this was the most interesting way of combining two characters from different universes.  Instead of just throwing them in together and calling it the same universe, they end up in a pocket dimension that is bridging the two and Jo Walker and Harper Blaine end up there from their respective sides. The mystery is resolved only when each person takes a spirit into themselves that harnesses the power of the other so Jo and Harper both get to experience the magic of the other.  Quite interesting and well done.

Jeff Somers & Stephen Blackmoor - I'd never heard of either of these authors going into. It was pretty easy to differentiate between them (although I couldn't tell you who went with which character) but I felt like Lem's story gave a bit more back story to that world and fleshed things out more which definitely made it more interesting to someone with no idea about the characters or worlds.

Larry Correia & Jonathan Mayberry - I've heard of Jonathan Mayberry (one of my kids reads his zombie books) but otherwise, I came into this cold.  There was precious little exposition so I really only figured out that we were dealing with two military people who deal with different types of supernatural. I didn't get a good feel for either of the characters, the story was pretty simple and typical of the other types of stories in the book but it wasn't anything that made me want to go pick up anything else by these authors.

Page count: 410p/10,378p ytd/284,397p lifetime