Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fortnightly Update #37: In the Heat of the Summer

Last week, I attempted to make this post happen, but unfortunately it was just too sweltering upstairs (even at night) for me to write it up. I have a plain ol' desktop computer which has served me well for the past 6 years, but when it's in the 90s (F) consistently for a week, the upstairs is pretty well uninhabitable, even with fans and A/C blasting. I considered writing the post up by hand first, but most of this post involves linking to Goodreads and uploading book images, which takes a while sometimes. A while during which I could melt from the heat!

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

Technically not for the pile, but I think I will be rereading it in the future:

Thorn by Intisar Khanani
I read this last year, followed shortly after by Sunbolt, which isn't a standalone like Thorn is. I won one of Intisar's giveaways and I'm so grateful to have a lovely signed copy of this, as it's a beautiful book. If you like fairytale retellings, you should definitely check it out.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

Camber of Culdi (The Legends of Camber of Culdi #1) by Katherine Kurtz
I actually bought the whole trilogy for what I usually spend on one book, but this is the first book. I'm always up for fantasy, especially if it involves more than one race of beings.

The Prisoner by Omar Shahid Hamid
Normally, thrillers are the last book I'd ever buy because I've been burned by too many of them. However, given this author is writing from experience (he served with the Karachi police of Pakistan for 12 years) I was interested enough to click the buy button. And plus, I don't think I've ever read (or even have) a book set in Pakistan yet.

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
This is a magical realism book (or at least it sounds like it) written by an indigenous author from Kitamaat, British Columbia. From the reviews on Goodreads, it sounds like my kind of book.

The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser
This sounds like a delightfully female-centric time travel book (with possible Gothic influence, from the sound of it). The premise is similar to Freaky Friday, but with time travel, which makes it freakier.

Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie
I'm not exactly sure why I bought this hyped YA fantasy right after reading and reviewing a hyped YA fantasy that disappointed me, but I guess it must've been too cheap to pass on. It will be interesting to read, as I know Joe Abercrombie's adult fantasy books are on the darker shade of morality.

Nova by Samuel R. Delany
This one is a space opera that was more highly rated than other books by Samuel R. Delany, and also a lot shorter than some others. It's been only recently that I've realized the value of a shorter book.

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
There is a reason I put these two covers for this book- a lot of old sci-fi covers have women in positions that are... rather sexist? These two, though, even with the woman on the right in her space bikini, have women in positions that aren't so vulnerable. I was surprised that I liked the space bikini one, but she's actually a realistically sized woman, which is hard to find on many covers, at least now. If she'd had her hand on her hip, she would be even more my favorite. Of course, I don't think I've ever seen a vintage sci-fi cover with a man in a space bikini, but I guess maybe that wouldn't be as popular with the nerd set.

Babel-17 seems to be a sci-fi about language more than anything else- and since I do respect the power of words, I picked it up.


The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic 0.5) by Alice Hoffman
Expected publication: October 10th 2017
La La and I had a bit of an adventure trying to procure the digital ARCs for this book- basically, we requested it on NetGalley, the publisher pulled the listing (which gives an auto-denial to anyone who requested) and then they re-listed it, but it was un-requestable for those who'd been "denied". La La applied for it on Edelweiss, which I don't use so I didn't apply for it, though I was entering every giveaway for the ARC that I saw. Then the publisher sent emails to those who'd requested/read Faithful on NetGalley (which included La La and I), offering one of those approval links which lets you read the book. Thus, we now both have it, which is great because I really, really want to read this one as a Hoffman fan who reads almost everything she writes.

Currently Reading:

I haven't made much progress on this, since I was doing a buddy read for Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Sower will give you nightmares about the future (fair warning). But I plan on finishing this soon so I can review it on its release day (July 25th) or sooner.

Finished These Books:

I had read another historical romance by Christy Carlyle before and I'd been disappointed by it, but this one was more interesting to me, I guess- the heroine, Sophia, is a mystery writer who gets pulled into her brother's best friend's own mystery. Despite the setup being rather far-fetched, it worked- I am rather severe in rating romance novels (4 stars are a rarity in that genre) but this had enough action and enough backstory to keep me interested and not whining about heroines who have too much angst/drama in their romance.

This is the darkest book I recall reading by Miss Butler, who takes dystopia to the max and presents a heroine (Lauren) who may have an idea to change the world, or at least some parts of it. Although Lauren is a young adult, I would say this is definitely an adult book because of its grim and (at times) graphic content. 

In My Life:

I forget the name of this area, but it was near one of my mom's garage sale haunts
U of Utah finally got back to me and said since my SSEP results were normal, they didn't know what to do with me other than send me back to my primary care doctor and suggest physical therapy. Although I have been helped by some physical therapy (I have occipital neuralgia, and my PT basically taught me how to hold my head up straight to help it from flaring), I don't have that high of confidence that it will help with my knees/ankles/hips giving out, as I have been walking lots in addition to using a stationary bike in hopes that my legs will suddenly go back to where they were about a year ago.

I had PT for fibromyalgia, and it ended up giving me more arm pain (in the left arm, which seems to be a troublemaker). I'm hopeful that someday my symptoms may lapse, but at the same time, doubtful due to my past experience. The weirdest thing about my legs is I had began to have trouble with them buckling last June, but I just stopped walking so much and traded it for using the stationary bike, since I usually took Torrie for walks.

I frankly don't know what's causing my symptoms, but I do know my syrinx, which was tiny when I was 16 (and only in my cervical spinal cord), is now a big fat worm in my spine (C3-T12-ish now) that I'd rather not have. Given that the only treatment for syrinxes seems to be shunting them surgically (shunts which may move and/or cause more damage than they prevent), I don't really even want to find a doctor willing to "treat" my syrinx, unless it starts growing again on my MRIs. I'm at a medical impasse, but I'm still able to do some of the things I like, like reading, writing, and complaining about contemporary books having endings that seem too resolved.

Meanwhile, George has been ordered to be put on diet cat food by his doctor. He apparently gained one pound over the course of a year, which is just too heavy and not "stocky" any longer. George is less than thrilled about this, but hopefully with the new food and Leia chasing him, he'll lose his extra pound.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New Release Review: "Hello, Sunshine" by Laura Dave

I wasn't too sure about the beginning of this book or the premise of most internet "celebrities" being inauthentic, but I was willing to look past my misgivings and delve into the meat of this book. Sunshine is a woman whose past is catching up with her in a very public way- everything goes to crap when a hacker puts sensitive information about her online. Although she makes attempts to salvage what she can, she ends up in her hometown meeting with her sister who she hasn't been in contact with for a very long time.

Initially, I was turned off by Sunshine's character- she was so busy keeping up on her work that her "real" life seemed to fall by the wayside. The other characters that cropped up in Hello, Sunshine proved to be more entertaining for me- particularly her rival, Amber of The Toast of the Town (quite frankly, I'd hope a show that insipid [cooking simply toast with toppings] would never work, but you never know). I appreciated that Sunshine wasn't one to linger in the self-pity stage, but I found it a bit cliche that she went back to her roots to try to rebuild from there.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'From Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly), “winning” (Publishers Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—comes a new novel about the secrets we keep…even from ourselves.
'Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.
'Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.
'And then she gets hacked.
'When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.
'In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.'

This book has wonderful pacing that helps it go quickly. I wish I had more to say about the writing, but I just didn't find sections that appealed to me. What this book does have is a heavier-than-average plot for your beach read and one that doesn't end on a sour note. I must confess that the ending didn't appeal to me particularly, which is why I didn't rate it higher despite it's brisk pace. I feel like some endings are better left more abstract than defined.

Hello, Sunshine had me reading enthusiastically until the end, where most of the good feelings I had about the book abruptly imploded. I have a feeling more people will like this book than not, because although I did feel disappointed with it, the flow of the writing kept me reading and satisfied when I'm not usually content with reading contemporary fiction. If you like your novels with more than a dash of drama, this book might be for you. For me, it was a touch too neatly packaged for my enjoyment.

Rating: 2 of 5 Stars for an ending that soured my contemporary fiction appetite.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for marriage woes, sexual content, and family feuds.

Page Count: 256 pages

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Month in Review for June 2017

Leia pretending to be cute and innocent in an Independence Day dress
June wasn't that great thanks to a sudden absence of a medication I've been on for years, but I still managed to get some reading done while dealing with my increase in pain. I hope to review more than a few of them, especially Hello, Sunshine, which will be out in a week or so.

 Total Posts: 6
  Total Critiques: 2
    Fantasy: 2
    Part of a Series: 1

Most Popular Posts of the Past Month:
Fortnightly Update #35: George's Obsession
"The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson

Flashback Post (From a Previous Year):
"Corelli's Mandolin" by Louis de Bernières

Pageviews for the Month: 1323
Comments: 6

Reading Challenges Updates:

My Goal: 6 Books
What I've Read So Far:
Firstborn & Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson (Sci-fi Short Stories, 160 pages)

Reading Stats:

Books read this Month: 10

Book Stats:
Has a Diverse Main Character: 3
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 7
Female Main Character: 7
Male Main Character: 3
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 0
 Contemporary Fiction: 1
 Sci-fi: 1
 Fantasy: 1
 Historical Romance: 2
 Historical Magical Realism: 1
 Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: 1
 Urban Fantasy: 1
 Superhero Graphic Novel: 2
Published in 2017: 4
Published in 2000-2016: 5
Published in 1990s: 1
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 1
Traditionally Published: 9
Series Books: 5
Standalones: 5
Ebook Version: 10
Paper Version: 0
Favorite of the Month: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, which was so refreshingly magical to read.
Least Favorite of the Month: Unfortunately it was my review request book, Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave. I generally don't like contemporary fiction, or at least the endings of contemporary fiction books. I'm sure others would find this book more to their taste.
Most Interesting of the Month (or Book I Learned the Most From): The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo again, because everything about it I found interesting.
From the-pile: 0
From the-invisible-pile: 5
Recently acquired: 5
Added to the-invisible-pile: 11
Books bought: 1
Pages Read in 2017 Thus Far (according to Goodreads): 11,833 pages

5 Stars: 1!
4-4.5 Stars: 3
3-3.5 Stars: 5
2-2.5 Stars: 1

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 2
Female: 7
Male/Female Team: 1
Diverse: 1
Not-so-Diverse: 9
Living: 10
Deceased: 0

Planning to Read This Month:

I'm reading both Age of Swords (The Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan (to be published July 25th) and Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler- and that's all I'm sure I will finish this month.

Happy Reading and Have a Happy and Safe (U.S.) Independence Day!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Fortnightly Update #36: Pain is Not a Gain

I haven't been that productive with blogging since my last update, but I guess that's what happens when your insurance stops covering a medication that you've been on for roughly 3 years. I had a massive pain flare due to the sudden absence of the one med that helps with my fibromyalgia pain, and I could barely even read books because it hurt to hold anything (even my cane) in my hands. My hands still hurt, but the worst of it was from going off of the medication and enduring storm systems moving through my area without it. Now that I've been acclimatized to some of the pain I'm used to having reduced, I just hope that once my insurance goes through its game of chicken with my doctors that once I have my medication again, it won't be suddenly cut off again.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:


the-invisible-pile Additions:

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera #1) by Jim Butcher
Since I've read and liked 6 of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, I would assume I might enjoy his foray into fantasy.

Woodwalker (Woodwalker #1) by Emily B. Martin
The Kindle edition of this one seems to still be on sale for $0.99 (Amazon US)- I bought it because I'm a sucker for deals, fantasy, and books with intriguing covers.

Currently Reading:

Firstborn & Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson
To be honest, it's a bit boring so far (especially for Sanderson). I have read that the second story is much better, but I'll have to see for myself.

I was trying to finish the previous book first (to get started on my Sci-fi Summer Reading Challenge) but I would like to read this and have it reviewed before I embark on a buddy read I've planned in July. This is one of the few 2017 books I was excited to read.

Finished These Books:

The Fire's Stone by Tanya Huff
I thought this would be a really good book, as I love most things that Tanya Huff writes. But the ending felt like the author was compromising (in a major way) that didn't work, especially given I went into this book knowing it was supposed to have a gay romance. If the ending were different, I'd rate this much higher, because all of the characters felt very realistic. I think if this had been written in 2017 instead of 1990, it would have a very different ending.

This didn't quite garner the higher ratings of the previous books in the series, but it was enjoyable. Again, with this book, I felt the ending was missing a certain something, but I did love the characters.

I ordered this and the next book (Wildfire) in paperback, but since I was using my own account, I have to wait until Wildfire comes out to have them. Of course, I saw a promotion on Google Play that let you have a choice of digital books for a steep discount, so I bought it there and read it online. It did not disappoint, which was a big relief for me- it feels like I'm less likely to like things this year that I usually like.

In My Life:

I haven't been doing much because of the pain and a seeming increase in my legs falling out from under me and my hands dropping things. However, my mom wants to take me on several trips this summer, so I may not be on the blog too much. My University of Utah doctor was on vacation, so I may hear the results of my test soon (and her interpretation). The tech seemed to think there was nothing amiss, but again, he was the one shocking himself by not listening to my advice on not touching the active electrodes.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fortnightly Update #35: George's Obsession

I've had a fairly productive reading streak in the past two weeks, but apparently my book buying streak was more impressive because that took me much longer to put together. I usually don't feel compelled to buy books (and I'm usually very picky about what I buy), but there were some on sale that I simply couldn't resist.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

Marked in Flesh (The Others #4) by Anne Bishop
I ordered this because I noticed it was relatively low priced in paperback and I'm really excited to continue this series. My favorite of the Others series continues to be the first one, Written in Red, though.

The Innkeeper Chronicles, Volume One (Innkeeper Chronicles #1-3) by Ilona Andrews, Doris Mantair (Illustrator)
Earlier this year Ilona Andrews made pre-orders available for a special edition of The Innkeeper Chronicles that was signed and numbered and had exclusive illustrations in it. Since I've begun to collect special edition or signed copies by my favorite authors, I couldn't pass it up- I called it my third blogiversary gift to myself (I honestly still can't believe I've been blogging for that long!).

the-invisible-pile Additions:

Beauty (Folktales) by Robin McKinley
I think I've read this before, but I'm not completely sure- Robin McKinley wrote another Beauty and the Beast inspired tale that I read long ago, and my book memory pre-blog is a bit foggy. Anyway, I decided it would be nice to have it to read again.

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
I read one of Amanda Quick's historical romances before, and I enjoyed it, so hopefully I'll like this one just as much.

The Alabaster Hip (The Regency Romp Trilogy #3) by Maggie Fenton
I am a big fan of this trilogy (and I haven't even finished it yet!). This author started out self-publishing The Duke's Holiday, which got high marks from me early in my blogging career (and I do think I've reread it at least once). The trilogy was later picked up by a publisher. So far, my favorite is the first book, but this one could change that.

The Drowning Season by Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman is pretty much an auto-buy author for me (as long as it's cheap enough and I still have book money). This sounds similar to many of her other books- a family drama. But of course, you can't judge a book by its blurb.

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure by Rachel Friedman
This sounded too much like a great summer book for me to pass on it- I can't recall reading any travel memoirs, so this one will be my first.

Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd
Of course, though I've not read a 500+ page book this year, I had to buy another one- this is historical fiction. I hope it lives up to its ratings!

Graphic Novel/Comic Haul:

Marvel 1602 (Marvel 1602 #1-8) by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert (Illustrator), Richard Isanove (Digital Painter)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal (Ms. Marvel, Volume III & IV #1) by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Artist)
Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 (Black Panther, Volume III) by Christopher J. Priest
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 (Black Panther, Volume VII: A Nation Under Our Feet #1) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze (Artist), Laura Martin (Colourist), Joe Sabino (Letterer), Manny Mederos (Designer), Rian Hughes (Logo Designer), Jack Kirby (Writer, Artist)
I wanted to try out some superhero comics and I ended up buying 5 graphic novels (some of which I've already read). Apparently there was a special deal on Marvel comics, and I bought so many on Amazon that I qualified for a free one. For my freebie, I chose Black Panther by Christopher Priest- it sounds like the other Black Panther I bought (A Nation Under Our Feet) almost requires some Black Panther background reading, so hopefully that will get me more informed. In case you didn't know, there's a Black Panther movie coming out in 2018, and the trailer makes me want to see it in theatres:

Currently Reading:

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next, but I have The Fire's Stone on my Kindle's homepage and a book by Tanya Huff sounds like just what I need right now. 

Finished These Books:

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
Unfortunately, this one won't be getting high praise from me- although the plot kept me engaged and guessing, I felt like most other things were lacking, especially the ending. However, if you're a fan of contemporary fiction I wouldn't let my rating discourage you- I much prefer SFF and historical fiction to their modern day equivalent.

Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain (Mockingbird (2016-) (Single Issues) #1) by Chelsea Cain (Goodreads Author), Kate Niemczyk (Illustrations)
Mockingbird, Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda (Mockingbird (2016) #2) by Chelsea Cain (Goodreads Author) (Text), Kate Niemczyk (Illustrations), Joëlle Jones (Cover Artist)
I had a pretty big shock when I finished the second in this series, My Feminist Agenda, and rated it five stars- apparently, I've had no other books worthy of the rating this year. And no, I don't consider myself a huge fan of comic books, either. I feel a bit sad though- this series was cancelled, and when the second book came out initially, I recall the boy nerds throwing a tantrum because of the F word in its title. To be honest, the author presents the heroine (Bobbi) in the same manner many other of my favorite authors do- she's capable, she can take care of herself, and yes, she's human and makes mistakes. These two books showed me that yes, I can be a fan of comic books with superheroes in them.

Well, it seems like tradition that every summer I read a Dresden Files book, so I've already met my quota. I'm nearing the end of my stockpile, as I only have Dead Beat, the next in the series, on my Kindle, so I'm going to hold off on reading it until my Dresden Files stockpile is replenished. I always like to have an extra book by authors I like on hand just in case I want/need to read something by them.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
This one is an inch away from five stars- it was that amazing. However, I did feel like some elements of the story, particularly the interpersonal relationships, were handled somewhat lightly, so that was the only reason I couldn't quite click the fifth star on Goodreads. Given that the relationships in this book were almost half of the plot, that mattered. Still, this is an intensely magical book that I highly recommend. I hope to get around to reviewing it, but if not- it's about half historical fiction and half fantasy, which makes it a heady combo for someone who loves both genres (AKA me).

In My Life: (George's Obsession)

There were no moose lingering near the house in the past two weeks, but I have been busy doing things outside- my mom bought a raised bed for us to garden in because we're both tired of pulling weeds out of the rather clay-like soil. Most of the flowers/minion army I planted in March are now blooming or beginning to bloom. The schizanthus is probably the most exciting (for me) to see, as I've never planted it before, initially thought I killed it, but now they're rather gorgeous. Schizanthus like cool weather and partial shade and according to garden websites, Canadians like them (due to cold hardiness, perhaps?).

I think our "blood thirsty roses" are actually climbing roses, but they have nothing to climb at the moment except passersby. Hence the blood thirsty-ness.

George, meanwhile, has become obsessed with our visitor- my grandma is visiting our house for the first time, and George is enamored with her. George has always been a friendly cat- he likes visitors, but he usually greets them, then runs off to nap or starts biting their hand (because he's true to the inexplicable nature of cats). When he met my grandma, he jumped into her lap and started rubbing against her- he was love-"mauling" her so much I had to ask if she was wearing catnip perfume (she wasn't). If Leia, Torrie, my mom, and I didn't like George so much, I'm pretty sure we'd send him back with my grandma, who lives in assisted living (and they allow pets, thank goodness). Apparently, almost-91 year olds are George's people. Sadly, this almost-25 year old is going to keep him from his true love.

Happy (Almost Summer) Reading!

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