Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I finished my 100 books for 2012 in the Goodreads challenge. So, that is good. I have not quite finished my Female Sci-fi/Fantasy authors books yet. I hope to finish those by the end of January. Along with my Sci-fi/Fantasy project, I have a Christmas scarf yet unfinished, a shawl, and a whole host of knitting projects in my queue ready to work on for 2013.

My reading goals for 2013 are to finish the Female Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors' books:
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Shikasta by Doris Lessing

I want to include at least one non-fiction book per month in my reading in 2013. I am also interested in reading more award winning young-adult fiction this year. I read A Wrinkle in Time and The Graveyard Book in 2012, and both were some of the better books I read this year.

Of course, like everyone, I set the usual New Year's goals. One of the more important ones I think is to cut down on our family's screen time. I discussed it with the kids before Christmas, and told them we would start after New Year's. I'm hoping cutting down on TV/computer/video game time will help us to branch out our interests and hobbies and spend more actual quality time together.

Good wishes and good luck to everyone on their goals for the upcoming new year!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Supernatural Born Killers by Casey Daniels

Supernatural Born Killers is the latest entry in the Pepper Martin mystery series. Pepper is a tour guide at a large Cleveland, OH, cemetery. After a fall that included a big bump on the head, Pepper discovered she could see and speak to ghosts. Pepper has spent her book series solving mysteries and taking up ghosts unfinished business. It frequently puts her in harms way, much to the exasperation of her on-again-off-again police detective boyfriend.

Anyway, the books are funny, fast moving, and Pepper has matured a lot as a person since the first book. She still loves expensive shoes and clothes, but she is definitely more grown up than when the series started.

The main mystery in this book didn't seem all that mysterious to me, but it was a fun ride and a lot of stuff in Pepper's personal life got stirred up. I think overall that when the dust settles from this one, most of the changes will be good for Pepper.

I believe Ms. Daniels has plans to write more Pepper Martin books, but if not, this one definitely left at a point that you could infer an ending, or at least how Pepper's life would go on after this story.

I really like this series, and I think it is well worth the read if you like paranormal mysteries. This one has adventure, a little romance, and ghosts without being scary.

I think my favorite part of this book was Pepper's acquiring a "staff" to go along with her promotion at the cemetery.

I'm going to give Supernatural Born Killers by Casey Daniels, 4 stars.
It wasn't my favorite in the series, but it was a fun read.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I loved Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. It is the second book in her All Souls Trilogy. This picks up where A Discovery of Witches left off. Matthew and Diana have traveled back to Elizabeth I's England to avoid the Congregation, and to find a witch to teach Diana.

I haven't read very many time travel books: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, and maybe The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. There are a lot of similarities between Shadow of Night, Outlander, and Doomsday Book. I would say the big difference in Shadow of Night was that the historical setting was almost a chance for the author to "meet" some of her heroes of the era.

 Where Outlander is mostly about how a post-WWII British nurse is able to survive in late 1700s Scotland, and eventually America. The historical detail is amazing and really puts the reader in the 1700s. There are some real historical figures who appear in the Outlander series, but the story mostly revolves around a couple who are on the fringes of history, just trying to live their life.

Doomsday Book also allows the reader to feel what it would be like to travel to England in the 1300s. It took a much smaller view, limited to one small village, with much detail. The main drive of the story in Doomsday Book is the juxtaposition of a medieval epidemic with a modern epidemic.

Shadow of Night seems to rely mostly on the use of historical figures to put the reader in the correct time period. There are a few instances where Harkness mentions that 1500s England is different than our historian Diana had expected. The main point of Shadow of Night is to give our heroes a little breathing room to sort out some of their demons and learn about the manuscript that has been the driving force behind the story.

I enjoyed the book, it was hard to put down, which is always a problem when the book is long. I had two nights of turning in at 4AM while trying to finish this one. I like Matthew and Diana, and while there were a few parts that had me wanting to smack one or both of them, overall they are fantastic characters. I enjoyed the little exchange about vampires in modern fiction and their appeal to teenagers and housewives.

I'm going to give Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, 5 stars.

Next up: Supernatural Born Killers by Casey Daniels
and The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins #7) by Phil Rickman

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Master of Crows and Poison Study

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder was the main pick for the Vaginal Fantasy group on Goodreads. Master of Crows by Grace Draven was the alternate pick. I read both, and I liked them both. I liked Master of Crows the best of the two. However, they were both fun reads.

Poison Study is the story of Yelena, an accused murderer awaiting execution. She was given a second chance at life by accepting a job as a food taster for the Commander, the head of the military state Yelena lives in. Yelena is trained by Valek to taste poison.

There is quite a bit of adventure to the story, a little bit of romance, and some good characters.

I liked the book and am interested in reading more in the series. The series has been carried as both an adult and a young adult series.

Master of Crows is definitely an adult book. Martise of Asher, a slave trained in magic theory whose gift has not yet manifested, travels to Neith to apprentice to Silhara, a dark sorcerer. Silhara is being plagued by an old god, and if he gives in, it will be bad for the world at large. Martise has the skill to translate old texts to find a way to get rid of the old god.

This book also has a good dose of adventure, good characters and some serious romance.

I'm going to give Master of Crows by Grace Draven, 4 stars; and Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, also gets 4 stars.

Next up: Supernatural  Born Killers by Casey Daniels, the most recent Pepper Martin mystery.
Then: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

I love Christopher Moore. I had read all of his vampire books. I enjoy his humor and his irreverent take on his subject. Sacre Bleu is no exception.

The book starts with the death of Vincent Van Gogh, and proceeds to introduce us to many painters from the impressionist school in Paris in the late 1800s. My favorite things about this book were how Moore weaves reality with his fictional twist in a way that makes sense, and the paintings included in the book.

When I flipped though this at the book store, I realized this one was definitely better read as a paper book, or at least with some kind of a color e-reader. I chose the hard back. I believe it is now out in paperback.

I don't want to give away much of the plot, it does start a little bit slow, but the payoff is worth hanging in there. I can't wait to read more of Christopher Moore's books!

I'm going to give Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore, 4 stars.

Next up: Reviews of the Vaginal Fantasy reads for October, Master of Crows and Poison Study.
Also, Supernatural Born Killers by Casey Daniels, the latest in the Pepper Martin series.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson

I just finished The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson. I had beed a Kickstarter supporter for this book. It is a young adult novel about two girls, two sides of a coin, who come to discover they are more than other people. They run faster, they are stronger, they can heal grievous wounds quickly and completely.

One girl is drawn to help others, the other wants to get rid of anyone viewed as competition or anyone who has wronged her. One girl was raised in an orphanage from age six, one raised by a disinterested mother on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada.

I found this book hard to put down. I always found myself wanting to read just one more narrative section. The book is in first person and the story is split between the two main characters, Bonnie and Lola.

There is alcohol use and sexual situations in the book, but nothing too graphic.
Fans of urban fantasy or the superhero genres will like this book.
I hope she is able to write and publish another book, I would definitely read more by Kelly Thompson.

I'm going to give The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson, 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I just finished The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling's new adult novel. It is nothing like Harry Potter (in spite of the Hagrid Night's joke I saw on SNL last Thursday Night). Overall, I liked the book. It was slow to build, but once it got going, I wanted to find out where it ended up.

It introduces a lot of characters, but eventually they become fairly easy to sort out. The story is very British drama. It reminds me of Downton Abbey, minus the time period. It takes place in present time, in a small English village.

I did not know anything at all about the book before I purchased it and started reading. I avoided any advance press. The book started strong, I found the first chapter very compelling. It slowed down a little as Rowling started to introduce all of the characters and began hinting at some of the secrets that might be unearthed in the course of the book.

It is told from an omniscient point of view, so we get to know what many of the characters are thinking, and many of their underlying motivations. It is the story of a small village, trying to resist change and trying to hold its skeletons close.

I'm not sure what else to say without giving anything away. I liked the book. It's not like Harry Potter, but I think it is also appropriate for an older teen audience, as well as adults. There are a number of teenage characters in the book. I think that overall the teenagers were better written than most of the adults in the book.

I'm going to give The Casual Vacancy, 4 Stars.
It's worth a read, especially if you like kind of soapy dramas, with a lot of British feel.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I finally made it through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. she was on my Sci-fi/Fantasy female authors list. I have to say, out of all the books I have read off of the list so far, this has been my least favorite. I've been having a hard time putting my finger on why I found reading this book almost a chore rather than a pleasure.

I normally like the alternate history this book contains, so that isn't the problem. I like books about magic and faeries. The nearest I can figure out, it is just the round about way the author goes about telling the story.

In some ways it feels like short stories crammed together for a book, which makes me think I might very well enjoy her short story collection more than her novel. The book was long, but that in itself isn't a reason for me to dislike it. I have devoured books by Diana Gabaldon that are longer, and just as full of history.

Maybe part of the problem is that Mr. Norrell is such an unlikable person, and a lot of the first part of the book is spent on him. I don't know why anyone put up with him. Once Jonathan Strange came into the story things picked up a bit. He was a much more likable fellow.

The enjoyed the battles with Napoleon's French troops. I think another thing that aggravated me about the book was that it was fairly clear early on where some of the story threads were headed. It seemed to take so long to get to the resolution of those threads though.

I am not known for my patience, I used to be terrible about skipping ahead and skimming further along in a book. That is harder to do in ebook form, so I don't do that much anymore.

Overall, the writing was well done, and the story was interesting. However, taken as a whole, this book didn't really do much for me.

I'm going to give Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, 2 Stars.

Next up, J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cloaked in Malice by Annette Blair

Cloaked in Malice is the fifth book in Annette Blair's Vintage Magic Mystery series. The series follows Madeira Cutler, a psychometric who can "read" vintage clothing when she touches it. The psychometric thing had been introduced in some of Blair's earlier Witchy books, with different characters.

I thought Cloaked in Malice was fantastic. She did a great job of stringing me along with the mystery, and this book gave me the willies in more than a few places. 

I think Blair has created some great characters for this series with Maddie, her friend Eve, on and off again boyfriend Nick, and her family and other close friends. We also can't forget the resident ghost in her vintage clothing shop.

I like that the overall story progresses. Some characters get stuck in such a limbo, but Mad is going places, her character changes and grows over the course of the series. 

I will admit that my eyes glaze over a little bit at some of the fashion lingo, I don't know enough about different types of fabric and pieces of clothing to get a clear picture in my head. But, if you are knowledgable about such things, I'm sure you can picture the details of every outfit. The fashion lingo doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the story and the characters. 

I will definitely continue to read books by Annette Blair, I have read many, and they are always entertaining. Her romances get pretty steamy, but this falls pretty firmly into the cozy mystery wheelhouse, with more tease than action.

I'm going to give Cloaked in Malice by Annette Blair,  5 Stars.
It was a fun, quick read, with a good mystery.

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time

My latest book from my female sci-fi/fantasy author's list is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.
It is a book I had read when I was younger, elementary school or junior high. I didn't remember much about it, I remembered there was another book of hers I had liked better, but it doesn't fit the sci-fi/fantasy genre. (Anyone who is curious, the title is And Both Were Young).

A Wrinkle in Time is a Newberry Award winner, and was published in 1962. It is celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year. I'm assuming most people have read the book, but I'll try to steer clear of spoilers, just in case.

The main characters of the story are Meg and Charles Wallace Murray, and their new friend Calvin. The young people are led off on a mission to rescue Meg's father by Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs What. This is a great adventure story and a great coming of age story. Meg is just hopeless at fitting in at school, she looks awkward and is good at math, but doesn't even try when it comes to other subjects. Calvin is odd in his own way, but he manages to appear normal enough to fit in at school. Charles Wallace, well he is a truly precocious four year old.

A Wrinkle in Time was a jumping off point for a whole series of adventures, and I plan to read the rest of them. Although, I am pretty sure I read many of them when I was younger, that was many years, and many books ago.

The Kindle copy of the book that I read had a Q & A with Ms. L'Engle after the story. One thing that struck me from the Q & A was her mention of reading and loving the books of L.M. Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables. Based on the kinship chart in the back of A Wrinkle in Time, I would guess that L'Engle was influenced by the way Montgomery's Anne books follow Anne and then go on to follow her children.

This book has the classic opening line:
"It was a dark and stormy night."

But, the description of the storm that followed was what really hit home to me how talented L'Engle was. 

"...watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. every few moments the moon ripped through them creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground."

The part of the book that I loved the most, was her included Newberry acceptance speech. I'll provide a link here. The quote I loved was this:

"Because of the very nature of the world as it is today, our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subject, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure that they must be guided into creativity."

She goes on to comment about standardization, and this speech was given in 1963, but I think it is especially relevant today.

I am a mother to two young boys, both reluctant readers. But, I have always felt it is very important to help them find things to read for pleasure. It is a challenge, but one that I feel is worth the effort. 

To wrap this up then, I'm going to give A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, 5 Stars.
The story is engaging, and I think important, as is the author herself. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I got sidetracked from reading female sci-fi/fantasy writers. The Life of Pi is being made into a movie by Ang Lee, and the trailer looks amazing. I had been intrigued by the book since it came out, but had never read it. Most of what I want to say would be spoilery, so look for it after the rating.

I liked the book and am glad I read it. It is worth reading, but not so compelling that I couldn't put it down. At least, not until I got near the end.

I'm going to give Life of Pi by Yann Martel, 3 Stars.  
I would read another book by the author, but maybe not just because it was written by Yann Martel.

Spoilers ahead!!

Upon finishing the book, my first reaction was feeling like I had been tricked. This whole elaborate story was a complete fiction. As I thought about it, while listening to our middle of the night thunderstorm, I understood why Pi would need that construction to survive what happened to him.
His telling of the real story to the Japanese representatives of the shipping company was more terrible than his story of the Richard Parker (the tiger).

The only part I couldn't correspond between the Richard Parker story, and his true story, was the carnivorous island.

I had been upset by the animal on animal violence in this book and it made me decide I should see the movie before the kids see it. However, that violence becomes even more terrible when you realize it was really person on person violence.

Anyway, upon reflection, I liked the book and am glad I read it. It will definitely give me stuff to think about for some time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Connie Willis' Doomsday Book

I just finished Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I absolutely loved it! It's one of those books that must have been hard to shelve, it definitely does some genre crossing. It was published in 1992. It won a Hugo award and a Nebula award, both given for Science Fiction novels. After reading it I can definitely see why.

This book is part historical fiction, part science fiction, and part medical mystery. Kivrin is excited to go to the year 1320. In 2054, time travel has become another way to study as an historian. Dunworthy, her mentor is not excited about her trip. He is helping her to prepare the best he can, but he would still rather she not go at all. Kivrin gets her way, and she does go. Immediately after she leaves, there are signs of trouble, on both sides of the net.

This book was so hard to put down, which is a problem when the book is 592 pages, and can't be read in a couple hours. I had a couple of very late nights. This was also one of those rare books that when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, or talking my husband's ear off about it.

I am definitely going to read more of Connie Willis' work.

I'm going to give Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, 5 Stars.

Error correction: I was misled somewhere, Connie Willis won a Nebula award in 2010 for her novel: Blackout/All Clear, not for Doomsday Book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some Like it Hawk and Ill Wind

I've been reading and knitting a lot lately. I read the newest Donna Andrews book, Some Like it Hawk, the latest in her Meg Langslow series. This series follows the adventures of amateur sleuth, control freak, and decorative blacksmith, Meg and her quirky family. I know it makes it seem like Caerphilly VA is a dangerous town to visit, or to live in. This one centers around the towns legal troubles following the takeover of all city buildings by the "evil lender," who had foreclosed on defaulted loans. The loans defaulted because the former mayor took off with the town's money. One citizen, the person in charge of the archives, has barricaded himself in the basement of the county courthouse and the lender is ready to get him out. The machinations result in a murder investigation, and a little amateur sleuthing by Meg and company to prove the hermit in the basement is innocent.

I really like this series, and this may not have been my favorite book in the series, but I did enjoy it and look forward to more of Meg's adventures!

The other book I read was Rachel Caine's Ill Wind, the first book in the Weather Warden series. I read this one as part of the Vaginal Fantasy book group that I learned about from following Felicia Day. The theme of this group for August was djinn, and this book definitely has them! Joanne, the main character is a weather warden. Basically a human with power over the elements, Jo has control over wind and water. In this universe, left to it's own devices the earth would wipe humans, and possibly all life from the face of the planet. The wardens hold fires, earthquakes and weather phenomena at bay and allow mundane humans to go about their lives. Mundane's aren't aware of the existence of the wardens, or the djinn that they keep as a kind of familiar to help augment their powers. The story in Ill Wind is told a lot through flashbacks. Jo is on the run, and as the book progresses the reader learns why she is on the run, and what she hopes to do about it.

Ill Wind was really hard for me to put down once I got about halfway through. I look forward to reading more of this series, and maybe more by Rachel Caine.

I am still working on a second sock to a pair that I've been knitting since April. But, in the meantime I took a class on fair isle knitting and finished the hat that I started. I really like fair isle!

So my ratings for the books:
Some Like it Hawk  by Donna Andrews, 3 Stars.
Ill Wind by Rachel Caine 5 Stars.

Up next in my TBR list is The Doomsday Book by Conne Willis, part of my female Sci-fi/Fantasy author list.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Carsland at California Adventure

I don't have a new book to post about yet, so instead I thought I would do a quick write up of our trip to Disneyland, and especially California Adventure's new Carsland.

We spent four days at the park. Normally I wouldn't think we would need to spend that long at Disneyland, but this time it did take us those days to get through everything we wanted to do.

Carsland is amazing! It feels like you're walking into the movie. It only opened in June 2012, so it had only been opened about a month and a half when we went. The lines for the rides were long, but that was to be expected.

We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel so we could get in an hour early to improve our chances of going on Radiator Springs Racers without a 2 hour + wait. It worked, we only waited about 90 minutes. The ride was really amazing though. It takes you through several scenes featuring characters from the movie. I think there is a split where you either go to Luigi's Tires or Ramone's paint shop. We went to Luigi's tires, it was really cute. Then you do a race with another car on the outside part of the track. It goes fast enough to feel like you're racing, but my boys, who aren't the biggest fans of roller coasters still really liked it.

I didn't ride Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, but my husband and youngest son said it was fun. Xander said it was better than the teacups, which is high praise from him.

I did ride Luigi's Flying Tires. I was probably the most excited about that ride. I have been going to Disneyland for 20 years, but my first trip was long after the Flying Saucers were removed. I have always wished I could have ridden that hover car ride. Now I was able to! Luigi's tires are each a little hover car that can seat two or three people (maybe four if three of them are small). You steer just by leaning in the direction you want to go. The more larger kids or adults you have in the car, the more difficult it is to steer effectively. They have giant beach balls out on the field with you, although I have to wonder how long they'll keep those. We had a good time throwing beach balls at each other and then trying in vain to catch another one.

One of the best and the worst things about Carsland is the lines. The length of the lines and wait times was the worst, but to be expected for a new part of the park and new rides in the middle of the summer. But, the queues themselves were some of the best parts. Luigi's Tires was probably my favorite, walking through the showroom, and then back where you can peek into Luigi's office. The Radiator Springs Racers line was also fun, you get to see the Radiator Spring that Stanley discovered and built the town around, and you walk through some old buildings that have a lot of things on the walls to look at. The lines were long, but they move pretty well. Luigi's is a little slower since they have a fixed number of cars, and then the line has to basically wait while the ride runs. Kind of like Dumbo. In fact, they apply a similar system of handing out boarding passes to the on deck group to make sure they don't have more people than vehicles.

Let's see, there were 3 shops and 3 food service places in Carsland.

The shops are Sarge's Surplus hut, Ramone's and Lizzie's curiosity shop. Sarge's has the Cars toys and other Carsland themed stuff, a lot of stuff for kids. Lizzie's has vinylmations and pins and other gifty items like mugs, keychains, and Route 66 themed shirts. Ramone's has a lot of clothing, a lot for adults. Ramone's was also the only place that I saw the Carsland soundtrack.

The food service places are Flo's V8 cafe, Cozy Cone, and Filmore's. Flo's is an order at the counter and then take your food to the table kind of place. They serve breakfast (Cars waffles!), lunch and dinner. There is some indoor and outdoor seating. They have tables out by the antique gas pumps and some nice inside seating with great views of Radiator Springs Racers. Cozy Cone has four different food offerings, I think. I know they had pop cone, ice cream cones, and some special cone sandwiches, and churros. They had the special Cozy Cone cups from the picture. Filmore's looked really cool, especially at night, and had fresh fruit and bottled drinks.

Carsland at night, is awesome. As cool as it is during the day, it's even better at night.

Oh, Mater and Lightning McQueen take turns doing photo ops at the Cozy Cone. The best part is when they switch, they actually drive down the street. Red the Firetruck also does some meet and greets. Then there's DJ, who plays music and does a little street performing, and he looks especially great at night too.

I guess the bottom line is, don't miss Carsland! I would try to go when school's in or something so the lines aren't so long, but definitely go.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood Trilogy

For author Octavia Butler, I chose to read her Lilith's Brood trilogy. It is composed of three books: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. This trilogy is also known as the Xenogenesis series.

The Earth has been destroyed by nuclear war. Lilith Iyapo is awoken 250 years after this destruction. The earth is able to support life again, and the Oankali have preserved and learned about humans in preparation for this day. Some humans have been awake on the Oankali's ship, but Lilith is supposed to help prepare other humans to return to Earth.

Of course, there is a catch. The Oankali are all about trade. They didn't just preserve human life out of the goodness of their (two!) hearts. Humans will no longer be able to reproduce without being part of an Oankali family. The Oankali's technology is all organic, which makes for a large learning curve for the humans. They also believe that humans have a fatal flaw that would never allow them to live without destroying each other.

Dawn, the first book, mostly covers humans learning to accept the Oankali's existence and their expectations for humans.

Adulthood Rites covers more of the political-type implications of this new partnership between Oankali and humans. It focuses a lot on humans who, once returned to Earth refuse to live in Oankali societies, even if it means not having children.

Imago is further in the future and deals with the maturing Oankali/human society and the hybrids it produces.

I really loved these books, and I look forward to reading more of Octavia Butler's work.
Even if books with aliens are normally your thing, I would recommend these, because they're ultimately about being human.

I'm going to give Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler, 5 Stars.

Next up: Some Like it Hawk by Donna Andrews, the latest in the Meg Langslow series
Next Sci-fi/Fantasy author: Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Mists of Avalon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In A Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell

Before I launch into my short review of In A Witch's Wardrobe, I just wanted to mention the recent interview that WIRED magazine did with Ursula K. Le Guin. It was a really nice interview and it was interesting to read since I just finished my first book of Le Guin's, A Wizard of Earthsea.

Ok, on to In A Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell.This is the fourth book in the Witchcraft Mystery series. Lily gets a nice night out on the town, at a 1920s and 30s themed gala. At least it starts out nice, until a young single mother winds up in a coma, and Lily thinks she spies a curse mixed in with the woman's corsage.

Lily is running around the Bay Area meeting other practitioners and trying to save the young mother, Miriam. The usual suspects are around to help, or hinder Lily's progress.

I love reading about the vintage clothing and the San Francisco bay area. This book finished with a nice set up for the next book, and I can't wait!

I'm going to give In A Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell, 4 Stars.

Don't forget to check out the Ursula K. Le Guin interview.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea

I just finished the next book from my list of Female Sci-fi/Fantasy authors. Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea is the first book from her Earthsea series. It tells the story of Ged, a young man learning to become a wizard. The plot may sound familiar, but this isn't much like Harry Potter. Earthsea is an archipelago, there are many islands and many people never leave the island they were born on.

Ged is discovered to have magic, and apprentices with a wizard on his home island of Gont, before going to the island of Roke to attend wizard school. Ged is fourteen when he goes away to school, and is in the middle of the teenage pride and sullenness. This means that Ged has to learn his lesson the hard way.

The book was well written and the world was well-developed. I am not normally a fan of Fantasy that takes place in an author-built world. I have a hard time connecting with those stories usually. I didn't have trouble with this one though. Ged was a well-developed character and his adventure was fascinating.

I definitely plan to read more of the Earthsea series and other writing by Ursula K. Le Guin.

I'm going to give A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, 5 Stars.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane

Chasing Magic is the fifth book in Stacia Kane's Downside series, featuring Chess Putnam. I had heard a lot of good things about this series before I started reading it. I wasn't sure how much I would like the books because the main character is a drug addict, albeit a high-functioning one.

The world that Kane has created draws you in and Chess's faults make her human and relatable, even if a drug addict isn't normally someone you'd relate to. The latest book really tests Chess's relationships, and she really has to evaluate which relationships are really important to her and worth fighting for.

As usual, she ends up involved in things in Downside that aren't really in her official job description as a Churchwitch. Chess also works unofficially for her dealer, to help him keep a handle on magical trouble in his part of Downside, and that is what this book mostly revolves around. There is some big magical trouble in Downside. People are getting some bad speed and it seems to be turning them homicidal, with some help from some dark and ghost magic.

The mystery of this book was good, it had a lot of twists and turns and some heart-pounding action as well. It was hard to put it down!

The only thing that really jumped out at me in this book was Chess's negative self-talk was a little overwhelming. I understand where it comes from, and I think all of us have dealt with it ourselves. It just seemed like an excessive amount in Chasing Magic. I think Chess is on the verge of some big breakthroughs in her life, so I hope that is why there was so much inner dialog about how worthless Chess feels that she is. I would hope that we may start to see some of the breakthroughs in the next book and that Chess will start to see the value in herself. But, it's also possible that these are never going to be those kind of stories, she may never be a character that feels like she's redeemed herself.

All I know, is that I won't be missing the next installment in the Downside series!

I'm going to give Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane, 5 Stars.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen

Stranger Things Happen  is a short story collection by Kelly Link, one of the author's off of my list.
The stories in this book are all over the place. Many involve loss of a loved one. Some are sad, some are scary, and some are funny.

I hesitate to even describe what any of these stories are about. They all feel like a dream. There isn't necessarily a linear narrative to any of them. But, they all make sense. I feel like I really need to read them all again, and pick up all the pieces I missed on my initial reading.

My favorite stories were "Flying Lessons", "Travels with the Snow Queen", and "The Girl Detective." But there isn't one story in the volume that I wouldn't' read again.

"The Specialists Hat" was the creepiest story in the book, although "Survivors Ball , or, The Donner Party" was a close second.

I would recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Kelly Link's work.

I'm going to give Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link, 4 Stars.

As a final note, it has been a long time since I have read so many short stories. I find I really am enjoying them and I am fascinated how the authors are able to create such a complete picture in such a small package. If you haven't read a short story in awhile, pick up Stranger Things Happen, The Bloody Chamber, or Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (which I haven't read, but it's on my list and everything else I have read of his is brilliant).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tempest's Fury by Nicole Peeler

So this is book five of the Jane True series. Jane True is a half-selkie, she learned that and a lot more about herself over the books of this series so far.
This book was fun because Jane takes her show on the road. She travels to London with Anyan and Blondie. Unfortunately, it isn't a vacation. Jane learns more about how the supernatural world exists with the human world. She also learns there is big trouble on the horizon, and it's coming up quickly.

I love this series, and I enjoyed this book. It was fun to see how supes are different in Europe. However, I was not happy with the crazy cliffhanger ending!

Nicole Peeler kindly explains the reason for the cliffhanger on her website, without really giving away any details of the ending, but you still might want to wait to read it until you've finished Tempest's Fury.

I can't wait until book six, Tempest Reborn comes out!

I'm going to give Tempest's Fury by Nicole Peeler  4 Stars.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Two Titles by Angela Carter

Angela Carter is the first of the female Sci-fi/ Fantasy writers from the list in my previous post. I read two of her works, The Bloody Chamber and Shadow Dance.

The Bloody Chamber is a book of short stories, a retelling of fairytales, written by Angela Carter. The first story, the titular "The Bloody Chamber", is a retelling of "Bluebeard." " Bluebeard " is a story I was very little familiar with, and I didn’t make the connection with "The Bloody Chamber" until after I had read Carter’s version. 
Carter’s sentences are complex and very descriptive. I was marveling over the sentences themselves as much as the story. Carter is from a different generation of writers than those I normally read. She was born in 1940 and The Bloody Chamber was written in 1979.
“The train slowed, shuddered to a halt. Lights; clank of metal; a voice declaring the name of an unknown, never-to-be-visited station; silence of the night; the rhythm of his breathing, that I should sleep with, now, for the rest of my life.” (p. 11)
There are two "Beauty and the Beast" stories, “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon” and “The Tiger’s Bride.” Although the two stories take two different approaches to the story and what the appropriate ending is. 
“Puss-in Boots” was an interesting telling of the story. “The Erl-King” read almost like a poem. I had to read it twice to fully absorb the imagery and the story. 
“The Snow Child” was a short and disturbing version of Snow White. “The Lady of the House of Love” seemed a little like Sleeping Beauty meets a vampire story. 
“The Werewolf” was a twisted version of Red Riding Hood, as was “The Company of Wolves.” Then there was “Alice-Wolf.” Which I assumed would be Alice in Wonderland, but I didn’t see many of the similarities. There was a little talk of being through the looking glass, but there were few parallels that I could find.
I think my favorites in The Bloody Chamber were the title story and “The Lady of the House of Love.”
Shadow Dance is a novel by Angela Carter. It was her first novel. I think both the novel length and the fact that it was an earlier work made it a much different reading experience than The Bloody Chamber
Shadow Dance is the story of Morris, an average guy just getting by in life. He has a wife that he doesn’t necessarily love, and a business partner named Honeybuzzard that Morris is drawn to like a magnet. 
It seems the only time Morris is happy is when he and Honey are out going through abandoned houses to find items to sell in their secondhand store. Honey is able to just do all the things that Morris wishes he could do. Pick up and leave town at the drop of a hat, sleep with any woman that catches his eye. 
Honey also has a dark side that Morris doesn’t share. Morris suspects that Honey is responsible for slicing the face of a woman that Morris had slept with once. Morris feels guilty over the woman’s disfiguring injury, and Honeybuzzard has no patience for emotions like guilt.
I am not going to analyze the story too much, I don’t think I could do it justice. I feel like this story maybe needs another read and some more thought to really analyze. 
I will give The Bloody Chamber 4 Stars and Shadow Dance 3 Stars.
I would recommend reading The Bloody Chamber one or two stories at a time over time, I think that helps to really enjoy each one. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

I just finished The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers. The story was entertaining, the characters and creatures that populate Zamonia are interesting and quirky. But, the book felt like every one of its 703 pages.

It's possible that the book is long-winded because the narrator of the fictional autobiography is long-winded. I will have to read another book in the series to see if that is the case. It may also be long because it is the first book in a world-building series.

Bluebear was a very likable character and had many unbelievable adventures in the course of his 13 1/2 lives. I enjoyed the drawings of the characters and scenes from the story and the encyclopedia entries that sprinkle the narrative.

I  am going to give The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, 3 Stars. Although it did take longer than a week to finish!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reading Great Female Sci-fi/ Fantasy authors

The Greatest Female Sci-fi/Fantasy authors of all time

I came across this article, and it inspired me to read these authors, as they are almost all authors that I have never actually read. I have heard of most of them, but have for a long time steered clear of any Sci-fi or Fantasy books, especially world-building ones. The one author on the list I have read is Madeleine L'Engle, but it's been a long time, so she deserves to be read again.

However, as an adult I have read and enjoyed Tolkien, and really delved into Urban Fantasy. I have several contemporary authors that I really like, but most of the authors on this list are older and have been publishing since the 1950s and 1960s.

I personally thought one glaring omission from this list is Anne McCaffery. She is an author that my mom loves and I rebelled against, but I did enjoy the two series I read by her when I was younger.

So, here is the list I am planning to tackle, in no particular order:

Stranger Things Happen: Stories  by Kelly Link

Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories by Angela Carter

Shadowdance also by Angela Carter

and the following are books I will be reading in Kindle format:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Shikasta by Doris Lessing

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Of course, before I jump into this list, I have to finish the book I just started, the 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers.