Tuesday, May 30, 2017

40:120 The Orange Cat and Other Cainsville Tales by Kelley Armstrong

Free collection if you pre-ordered the 4th book in the Cainsville series, Betrayals, and features three stories from that universe.

The Orange Cat - Gabriel has never had a client quite like this man.  He has come in and told Gabriel that he has tried to get rid of his cat many times and it always comes back. He is sure the last time, he lost his temper and broke the cat's neck but the next day it was back.  Now Gabriel grew up with time in Cainsville so he knows weird things can happen but this one may just be the one that stumps him.

Bad Publicity - Patrick has always made it a point in his writing career to make sure his contracts keep him from having to go out and do any kind of publicity since that is the last thing he wants. Unfortunately, he is ambushed by his new "publicist" who manages to find a loophole and that's when things take a turn from the mundane.

Lady of the Lake - Ricky and Liv decided to go on a vacation at the end of book 3 and this takes place during their motorcycle trip. They are up in Canada and find a lovely little lake to stop and refresh themselves. Of course they manage to find a portal and a water fae there. They escape and promise not to go back until they are begged by a young woman in the town where they are staying to help look for her missing baby and they realize they may just know where to find her.

A lovely collection of stories that help fill in and enrich the characters we know and enjoy but aren't necessarily needed for the main story but fulfill that desire to know more.

Page count: 164p/8,451p ytd/282,854p lifetime

Monday, May 29, 2017

39:120 All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Tom Barren's 2016 is nothing like the one we currently live in. There, an unlimited supply of energy was created in the 1950s and led to a society where basic needs are always met and the only thing worth pursuing is entertainment. Now his father has created the ultimate entertainment device, a time machine but he didn't foresee all the problems that would arise when his disappointment of a son goes and mucks it all up.

But did he? Sure, he went back in time and kept the unlimited energy thing from ever happening but he is so much happier in this 2016. He has a better relationship with both his parents, a sister that did not exist in his 2016, and may have even found his soulmate.  Does he try to change things back to the way they were, the way he thinks they should be? Or does he enjoy what he has in this timeline?

That description of the book actually makes it sound interesting and so does every other description of it that I've read.  Too bad reality doesn't align with those. It read like three different books with the first book being dull and plodding and why would you even care about any of these characters? The second book got interesting. There was plot, there were interesting psychological questions being posed, the characters were more engaged (seriously, I want a book from his sister's pov after all the sh*t went down), and this is the book that I wanted to read.  The third book was just a rushed mishmash of gobbledegook that just did not work and made me want to throw things. There was no reason behind much of it in terms of the story I had been reading and enjoying and it just made me angry to have to leave that story for this one.  Honestly, save your time and money and avoid this.

Page count: 384p/8,251p ytd/282,690p lifetime

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

38:120 Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

The previously untold stories of the African-American female computers at NASA who helped to make space flight a reality during the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws.  It follows several women through the different paths their lives took to get to NASA and their experiences there including touching upon the discrimination they faced not only in work but in their every day lives and how they handled it.

This is a story that I wish I had read growing up because it is so inspiring!  There are times when it is a bit dry and there is a LOT of information on all sorts of things packed into it but really, so much more interesting than many of the history textbooks and a story that I'm so glad has finally been told!  I only first learned about it from hearing about the movie which I knew I had to see in theaters and take my whole family to.  The movie did speed things up a bit especially since it kept the focus more narrowed on just three women. There were liberties taken with the movie, mostly to show more of the prejudice of the time without moving away from the main story but for the most part, the movie did a good job but the book goes really indepth on so many things that it is well worth reading.

Page count: 373p/7,831p ytd/282,306p lifetime

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

37:120 Wings of Fire Legends: Darkstalker by Tui T. Sutherland

Taking place 2000 years before the War of the Sand Queens, we get the tale of Darkstalker and how he became the most feared dragon on Pyrrhia.  We see his parents meet and the obstacles they had to overcome to be together. We see him born under the light of a triple full-moon.  We see his love Clearsight always trying to find a better path for all of them and his friendship with the Seawing, Fathom, who is always trying to dissuade him from using his powers.  So what goes wrong with all these people who love and care about him in his life?  It's the sort of tale that has perplexed so many people throughout history looking back at those who have done monstrous acts so it's interesting to see such a deep issue dealt with in a children's fantasy novel.  I commend Ms. Sutherland for handling such a weighty and nuanced issue so well in such a setting and I'm interested to see how my son will react in a year or so when we study someone like Hitler in history if he will draw any parallels.

Page count: 400p/7,458p ytd/281,933p lifetime

Sunday, May 14, 2017

36:120 A History of US, Vol 6: War, Terrible War by Joy Hakim

Review from 2013:

Middle-school history focusing on the Civil War.  I still find her way of jumping around a bit disjointing but I think the presentation of the material worked better for this one than previous ones.  It allowed the horror of the war to be told but she broke it up with other information to keep it from being overwhelming for the intended age group.  There was a lot more information on the Generals and who they were both before and during the war which I think is good to show that none of these people were evil although the things that happen during a war certainly are but that they each thought they were trying to do the right thing for their side.  I found it to be fairly balanced over all with lots of good information.

Page count: 167p/7,058p ytd/281,533p lifetime

Saturday, May 13, 2017

35:120 Moon Shimmers by Yasmine Galenorn

Otherworld book 19 told by Camille.  Times they are changing. The summer solstice is almost upon them and that is when Camille will be leaving the home she has shared with her sisters since they came Earthside to become the Faerie Queen of Dusk and Twilight but before she can do that, she must find the Keraastar Diamond and fulfill her destiny to take control of the Keraastar Knights who will guard the Seals. However, the Diamond is well hidden and guarded in Otherworld so she will need her friends and loved ones to help her on this great task.  Having them with her means more than ever this time as she struggles internally against her fate knowing that she will do it but dreading the massive changes about to take place.

So there are only two more books left in the series at this point according to the author and it's easy to see that things are on the fast track to wrapping up now. Whereas earlier books would spend the entire book on one minor plot point that sometimes didn't even really figure much into the larger story arc, this one had several wrapping up in the space of less than 400 pages.  It was super fast paced although compared to earlier battles and adventures, these almost seemed over too quickly and super easy for the characters to get through which doesn't make a lot of sense if we are seeing end-game coming.  I like the fast pace and I love the world building but it just seemed at odds with previous books and so stuck out to me.  I'm thankful that the world of self-publishing is allowing Ms. Galenorn to complete the series since the publisher decided not to. It would have been a horrendous shame not to see this massive undertaking through to the end.  I'm now saddened that I have to wait another year for the next installment since she has a few other series she is kicking off right now but oh well, I guess I'll just have to check out all those series. :)

Page count: 342p/6,891p ytd/281,366p lifetime

Friday, May 12, 2017

34:120 Glencoe World History edited by Spielvogel

My review from 2014:

High School History from beginning of man through 2004 all crammed into one year of study, a-g university approved textbook.  My opinion, this is exactly why the majority of kids hate history and a good deal of what is wrong with our educational model.  We spend an entire year on the 350 years of "US History" but the exact same amount of time covering the entire world's history and even then, the second half of the book covers from WWI through present with a lot of US History in it (and there's a lot in the first section too).  I am doing Ancient World History with my middle-schooler as well and we took an entire year to get from beginning of planet through about 400CE.  That was lovely, interesting, informative, and thought-provoking.  This couldn't even be bothered to tell you that Henry the VIII had 6 wives and that it was his wanting a divorce from his first that led to the split with the church and the founding of the Church of England which is kind of a big deal for that country.  That is just one of the hundreds of issues I had with this book.  There was very little cause and effect going on and even less cultural appreciation or understanding.  It was names and dates with some dry, boring facts.  We can get that from the internet.  What we need is to teach our children the hows and whys and make it interesting for goodness sake!  I have a mild interest in history and this bored me to tears.  I homeschool and wish we had better options of high school history.  Why should the middle school grades get wonderful texts and the high school years be filled with things that suck the life and fun out of learning?

Yep, this book continued to suck all the fun and interesting bits out of history for me.  Blech!

Page count: 1,058p/6,549p ytd/281,024p lifetime

Thursday, May 11, 2017

33:120 Carry On by Seanan McGuire

Mary had saved and budgeted carefully for this airplane flight. Flying was so expensive but she couldn't afford the time off to see her sister any other way so this may be her last chance ever to mend these bridges that separated them.  She dieted for the last 6mos to get her weight down to the amount she had entered when she booked the flight but she was worried that even now, it wouldn't be enough and how would she afford the extra fees if she was over what she paid for.  The man in front of her was over and arguing with the TSA agent.  He wouldn't win and she didn't want to be in that position either but could she escape it?

A terrifying glimpse at what our future could hold where your airline tickets are based on how much weight you are bringing on the plane between yourself and your luggage. How there are scales right there where they weigh everything and then charge you exorbitant fees if you are over.  It's a future I can too easily see us coming to with the way things seem to be heading in favor of the corporations over the people all the time.  I do think that if it were to happen like this that other methods of travel may become more popular (heck, my family rarely flies for a trip because there are 6 of us and it's too dang expensive without something like this so we drive) but there will always be times when its needed and no one should have to go through an experience like this.  I only hope that this fiction stays as fiction and does not become our reality.

Page count: 13p/5,491p ytd/279,966p lifetime

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

32:120 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

The Aleuts came to the island and killed the chief, Karana's father, when he demanded the payment they promised him for hunting the otters. When the rest of the tribe attacked, almost all of the hunters were also killed so the oldest among them was chosen to lead them and so he went to seek help and brought back a ship to take their crippled tribe to a new home but Karana's brother went back and was left so she dove overboard in order to be with him thinking the ship would return shortly for them.

It didn't.

Now she must figure out how to survive on her own, especially with the wild dogs on the island after they kill her brother.  There are many dangers to prepare for including the return of the Aleuts and always watching for the return of the promised ship to take her away.

Based on a true story of a woman found on this island but who spoke a language no one else could understand, Scott O'Dell recreated one possible story of her life.  It was a lovely tale, with evocative imagery and beautiful language.

Page count: 177p/5,478p ytd/279,953p lifetime

Monday, May 8, 2017

31:120 Shore to Shore by Seanan McGuire

Duchess Dianda has come to shore in order to get Patrick to keep his promise of introducing her to ice cream.  It is the last thing in the world Patrick ever expected and with spring just beginning, ice cream may be a bit hard to find but sometimes the search is what matters most.

A lovely little tale where we get to continue seeing the relationship between Dianda and Patrick emerge and considering how vicious she can be, it's truly a sweet thing to see.

Page count: 15p/5,301p ytd/279,776p lifetime

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

30:120 Her Heart Never Came Down Again by Seanan McGuire

She waited so patiently for hours and hours, waiting to hear that contact had been restored with Annie's spaceship. Instead, days later she was in the lawyer's office hearing the reading of the will and being explicitly given the ugly unicorn statue she hated so much in order to smash it. Now why would Annie want her to do that? Why couldn't Annie have just stayed on Earth with her?

A short story about love and despair and hope. Adventure and wanderlust that leads hearts wanting. And how in the world does Seanan McGuire manage to have tears in my eyes with a short story? That does not happen easily or often and I can't remember another short story that managed it so well done to her.

Page count: 12p/5,286p ytd/279,761p lifetime

Monday, May 1, 2017

29:120 Tonight by Faye Larson

Keith is celebrating being dumped for the 100th time.  Well, maybe not celebrating so much as reconsidering his life choices.  Maybe he should travel and get more ideas for his writing?  Or maybe there are other new experiences to try? He's thought that the whole girl thing hasn't worked out so well, so maybe a man? But how to even go about that when he's not sure? And that's when his friend Derek gets involved.

A short, fairly predictable tale. Basic romance with little character development or depth, short and sweet. For the record, I know the author and was given a copy with no expectation of review or payment.

Page count: 100p/5,274p ytd/279,749p lifetime

28:120 Strangers Among Us edited by Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law

Nineteen stories that explore mental illness in many different aspects, both in SciFi/Fantasy and things that you could see today.  I bought the series because it had a story by Kelley Armstrong and I had a different idea of what the stories would be about.  While the stories were not what I was expecting, I found the stories intriguing and extremely well done.  They depicted that even those will mental illness of all types are worthy of love and respect, some of them in the stories even got it and those were definitely my favorites.

Page count: 368p/5,174p ytd/279,649p lifetime