31 December 2014

Yet Another Best of the Year Post

I am a little shocked that we've gotten to "end of the year post" time already.  I know everybody says this but this year really has passed quickly it seems, at least the fall has.  

As always, these are things that were new to ME this year, not necessarily published or released this year.  And not just 10 of things!

Books: 
  • The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
  • Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
  • The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
  • My Real Children by Jo Walton
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • The Lucifer Box series by Mark Gatiss
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  • Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • Night Film by Marissa Pessi
  • Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Graphic Novels:
  • March, Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
  • Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Movies/TV:
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • In a World
  • Dallas Buyer's Club
  • Fargo, the TV show
  • Broadchurch (UK version)
  • True Detective
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Sherlock Season 3 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Only Lovers Left Alive

And Life/Events:
  • Spending several days with B and my family in Orlando, hanging out and doing Disney.
  • Meeting my nephew X.
  • Passing my comps and getting my master's Degree!   
  • Finally finding a library job.
  • playing several video games (including Tomb Raider and Bioshock 3) through to the end.  I guess I can thank unemployment for that :)
  • Going with friends to an amazing Halloween Party dressed as Death from Sandman
  • Seeing Ok GO live in a packed venue
  • Going to SPAIN!  My first use of the passport I got when we got married in 2012
  • Learned to make decent bread, both French and regular
  • Watching Arsenal win the FA Cup!

There's one other thing that really made 2014 amazing that I'll probably blog about next week.  Consider my vagueness a teaser trailer!  

I'm rather annoyed at myself.  In writing this post, I scrolled back through my facebook feed to remember events and other things I raved about.  Came across at least 4 books that I read but never blogged about.  It was, in part, a side-effect of reading so much; i would finish one book and almost immediately start another and completely forget to make a blog note about it.  I have to be a little better at that next year. 

What was your best book, movie, event or happening in 2014? 

30 December 2014

Total numbers!

I had a pretty good reading year!  I read a LOT of library books and many Kindle books too, especially in these last few months.  

Books Read Total: 112

Library books: 93
YA/Children's Lit: 30
Non-fiction: 10
Graphic Novels: 20
Audio books: 5
Kindle: 40

These numbers include 4 more non-fiction books that I'm not quite ready to discuss yet.  I feel like I did pretty well this year.  Studying for comps and doing an internship last spring had my numbers pretty low, but then being unemployed for 5 months, and half-time employed at a school since then, gave me a LOT of time to read.  I suppose it balanced out. Here's to great reading in 2015!

23 December 2014

What I read on my Vacation

I got through 2 books on my vacation.  We met up with some of my family in Orlando for a few days and went to Disneyworld and Universal Studios with them.  

Jackaby by William Ritter:  This is a YA novel, which I didn't realize when I picked it up.  It is a sort-of mashup of Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes.  It takes place in the late 19th century in a fictional New England town.  The narrator is a girl, Abby Rook, who is about 20. She arrives after running away from university to find adventure.  She meets and becomes the assistant to Jackaby, a man who uses Holmes' methods to deal with fantastical creatures and supernatural beings.  It was a cool setup and a well-written world.  I figured out the mystery plot pretty quickly but it is written for middle schoolers.  I'd say I would have loved it at that age and I will read any sequels. a 6.

The Art of English Murder by Lucy Worsley: This book is a non-fiction look at murder and crime in British literature from the early 1800's through WW2.  It also shows how some of the literature referred back to real crimes and discusses how authors translated those crimes and criminals into fiction.  I'd read about plenty of the cases before but it was super interesting to see how they affected what people wrote about.  I did feel really weird reading this book at the airport though! a 6.

19 December 2014

Foreign books

I'm catching up on reviews!  I've read two very different books in translation recently. 

From Japan, I read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgimage by Haruki Murakami.  It is about Tsukuru Tazaki, a man in his mid-30's who designs train stations (it's a better job in Japan than here I suppose) who's neither happy nor unhappy with his life.  He had intense friendships with 4 friends in high school but, during his first year of college, all 4 cut him off completely and will not tell him what happened.  He lets them go until a girlfriend tells him he needs to find out what happened to move on with his life.  He goes on a journey to contact them and discovers why things changed.  I liked it but Murakami tends to give us half-endings. He always leaves you wanting 1 more chapter of info.  This one ended up a 5 for me. 

From Sweden, I read Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist.  It is a horror novel. It also has some big unanswered questions, which, strangely, a ton of the books i've read this year seem to have.  It was a pretty horrific, and bloody, girl-power book.  Half the time I was rooting for the girls, half the time I wanted them stopped, at least until the end.  Also a 5.

17 December 2014

Sherlock Holmes books

So I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.  I first read all the stories back one summer in high school.  I got a giant book with super thin pages of all the stories from the library and read it over the course of a month.  Since then, I've reread all the stories at least twice as well as various stories in singles again.  I've seen lots of adaptations too.  I recently read two non-fiction books about Holmes and the stories.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett: well, I say this one is non-fiction but the premise is that it is a biography of Holmes (and Watson) as if they were real people.  It was really interesting and did include some info about the Baker Street Irregulars, the superfan club that still exists.  Definitely one to read if you're willing to play The Great Game.  a 5.

The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics by James O'Brien:  This book was something like an encyclopedia; it took a topic, like chemistry or fingerprints, and explains how Holmes used it and in which stories.  The author explains when Holmes gets things right or wrong scientifically as well as whether the technique is still in use. It was really informative but rather dry in places.  also a 5. 

16 December 2014

Women's Books

Three books dealing with, and by, women's lives.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: so, I was under the impression that this book was similar to We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.  It really, really isn't.  It was ok but since it was so far from what I expected I was disappointed.  also, the sisters annoyed me.  a 4.

How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ: a non-fiction book about, well, women's writing.  Highly recommended.  a 7.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters: a book about Victorian lesbians.  really liked this one too!  a 7.

12 December 2014

Movies October and November

Just a quick list

Interstellar: Fabulous!  amazing effects.  a 7.

Edge of Tomorrow: also amazing.  Really surprised me as to how good it was. a 7.

The Lego Movie: Better than I was expecting. a 6.

Snowpiercer: good, but weird.  a 5.

Hunger Games Mockingjay pt 1: Fine, but is just too much part 1 of 2.  a 5.

I really like Octavia Butler

So much that in the past several weeks I've read 4 of her books!

The first of these books is Parable of the Talents, which is a sequel to Parable of the Sower.  In this one, we get 2 points-of-view: that of Lauren and Bankole's daughter who narrates what her life was like after she was taken from her parents as a baby, and Lauren's perspective in the form of her diaries that the daughter is editing. I liked this one but really wished there was more from Lauren's perspective.  a 5.

The other books I read were a series: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. This series is about the world being saved by aliens.  Before the first book starts there is a major nuclear exchange in the northern Hemisphere.  Aliens show up after that and rescue all of the humans they can find.  They put the humans in suspended animation for long stretches of time while they learn about humanity.  The aliens reproduce by exchanging genetic material with other races and require groups of 5.  On Earth, this becomes a human male and female with the 3 aliens.  The first book is from the perspective of a human woman, Lillith, while the second and third are about her various children.  The series is very concerned with what makes us human.  It's pretty good, a 6.

Butler does seem to jump characters in her series.  I've yet to read one where the second book is from the same point-of-view as the first one.  Frequently, she switches to the child or children of the first book's protagonist.  It does keep things fresh but sometimes you really want to go back to that first person!  

Unfortunately, I've almost read her whole catalog at this point.  

10 December 2014

Comics!

I read Criminal: Coward and Criminal: Lawless by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips which together collect the first 10 issues of the comic Criminal.  It is a really fabulous series.  Very noir, more of a straightforward, less splashy Sin City.  Very good, a 6.

I also read Fatale: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  This one was also noir but it also was a little...weird.  Without giving anything away, I'd say there were some horror elements that I hadn't expected that sent the story off in a different direction.  Fine but I don't think I'll continue.  a 4.

I also caught up on American Vampire by reading volumes 4 and 5 by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.  We get a LOT of Skinner Sweet and learn about Dracula, who is like the worst of the worst and incredibly powerful.  I liked volume 4 better than 5 I think and I've got 6 on the way to me at the library.  a 5 for each. 

I've found I REALLY enjoy comic series that have the same author/illustrator throughout.  The stories often seem more coherent.  You don't have to figure out which character is which when the artist changes.   

09 December 2014

Wow. I haven't updated in FOREVER!


There are various reasons I haven't updated in about 6 weeks.  I got a job (finally!) and started at the end of October so that's taking up lots of time.  I've also been sick the last 3 weeks so I haven't felt like doing much.  I've also got a personal thing going on that I'll probably feel like talking about in a few weeks. Overall, I've been super busy and, while I've been reading a bit, I haven't felt like writing anything.  I need to start getting caught up on my reviews so I can write proper year end wrap ups!


All that to say I need to write this RIP Wrap-UP post!  I ended up reading 7 mystery novels, most of them involving a murder.

A Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie: these were rereads.  I've read Styles probably 5 times and Vicarage at least once.  Styles is a really good story; it's the first Poirot book and has a pretty intricate story.  Vicarage is ok but I've never really taken to Ms. Marple.

A Taste for Death by P.D. James: I read a couple P.D. James books last Christmas at B's parents. I wanted to read another and this one, the seventh, was the only one available at my library for Kindle.  It's a good murder mystery that takes place in the 80's so it's newer than most Agatha Christie. 

And I read 4 by Martin Walker: Black Diamond, The Dark Vineyard, The Crowded Grave, and The Devil's Cave.  All of these mysteries are take place in France and star Bruno, the police chief and sole full time officer in the little town.  A lot ends up happening there and Bruno has to navigate both local and national politics to solve the crimes and put his town back together.  I really love these books and highly recommend them to fans of "cozy" mysteries. 

 Overall, these all get 6's! 

19 October 2014

Readathon Wrap Up

Didn't get as much reading done as I wanted to.  B, pesky man that he is, put on Gremlins when he got home from work so I ended up watching most of that! I did end up finishing The Devil's Cave by Martin Walker but didn't get to work on any of the graphic novels like had hoped.  My final stats:


  • Total minutes read:  5 hours, 50 minutes
  • Total pages read: 487
  • Books finished: The Hobbit, The Devil's Cave
I wonder if reading on my Kindle affected me? All day i felt a bit unfocused.  It wasn't that I didn't feel like reading or that the books weren't grabbing me; I just kept drifting away from what I was reading (even before B came home).  Perhaps next time I'll try an experiment where I read for X amount of time on Kindle and paper each and compare.  

Hope the readathon went well for everyone else!  

18 October 2014

First Readathon Update.

I got started pretty late today.  We went to an Ok Go concert last night which was amazing; I highly recommend seeing them if you have chance.  Even though we were home by midnight, I ended up sleeping late since the power blinked sometime during the night.  After having breakfast and watching some soccer, I started reading about 12:30.  Here are my stats so far:
  • Total minutes read:  3 hours, 10 minutes
  • Total pages read: 228
  • Books finished: The Hobbit
  • Currently reading: The Devil's Cave
I'm jumping in to a contest!  I have a pig roast I'm going to tomorrow and I am bringing Pumpking Pasties (from Harry Potter)! So for the next hour or so I'll be working on this recipe from Chew Out Loud.   

Hopefully they will turn out ok; I've never made them before.  

Happy Reading!

UPDATE ON RECIPE:  you're going to want to double the stuff to make the filling, I ran out about halfway through.  also, you'll want to half (at least) the milk in the frosting because it is too runny otherwise.  These taste fabulous though!  

16 October 2014

The Readathon!

Crap!  I just now realized Dewey's Readathon is this weekend!  This may be the first October one that doesn't coincide with the Southern Festival of Books (which was a bust for me this year; i didn't even go) so that is great!  B and I are going to the OK GO concert here on Friday night so I know I won't be starting on time.  I'm still off coffee/caffeinated beverages so that's a bit of a handicap as well.  I am a bit excited to put some real time in reading.

I plan on doing some Kindle reading this time!  I've got The Hobbit (though I might finish that before Saturday), Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, Dawn by Octavia Butler and The Devil's Cave by Martin Walker loaded and ready to go. 

For physical books, I've got The Unwritten 8 and 9, S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, The Infinity Gauntlet gigantic graphic novel and Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell (a Doctor Who book).  Overall I've got a lot of choices.  Of course, I always reserve the right to go digging in a box for a book if I feel like reading it.  

Best of luck to everyone!
 

06 October 2014

I read some Octavia Butler

I've had a mixed experience with Octavia Butler.  I read Wild Seed years ago and really didn't like it, mainly because of the female character's passivity.  After meeting B, he had me read Fledgling and I loved it.  So when my sci-fi reading group picked Parable of the Sower I wasn't sure what to expect.  Sower is about a teenage girl named Lauren living in California in a not-quite-apocalyptic future.  She and her family live in a walled subdivision.  Her father and a few others leave the compound to work but most people stay within the walls.  They have to grow most of their food and while there is a government, it does little to help people or stop the hordes of homeless from preying on those with a home.  Lauren feels the future of humanity is in the stars and begins writing the scriptures of her new religion, Earthseed. When the community is attacked, Lauren and a few others escape and begin making their way north to find work or a place to settle.

I both liked and didn't connect with this book.  Strictly plot- and setting-wise I found the book to be scary and believable.  The time Lauren spends on the roads is harrowing but you can see how she becomes the leader of their band.  While I liked Lauren, I didn't understand the motivation behind the Earthseed scripture.  As a strong atheist who was never a believer, I find it hard to connect with characters who feel a strong desire for religion and spirituality.  It is a need I just cannot fathom.  Overall though, this book is well worth reading.  a 6. 


I went on to read Kindred, which is Butler's most popular book. I really liked it.  The main character, Dana, is an African-American 20-something married to a white man in 1976. She suddenly gets thrown back in time to save a young boy.  By the third time it happens, Dana understands she's going back and saving her white ancestor. It explores race and how people lived during slavery, but also feminism and marriage and ties that bind us, for good or ill, to other people.  I can't stop thinking about it!  a 7.

05 October 2014

I can't believe I forgot about RIP!


So it suddenly struck me that it is October and that I hadn't signed up for the RIP challenge! I've been doing this challenge pretty much since I started blogging and it is in it's ninth year.  Carl does an amazing job of running this great challenge. We all get together to ready mysteries, horror stories, gothic tales, thrillers, and spooky ghost stories to celebrate fall, Halloween, and great stories! 




So, since I'm starting so late, I think I'll try to just read 2 books.  I've got several on my Kindle and shelves that will qualify.  I'm sure I'll manage to catch a few movies and spooky shows as well.  Guess I could have saved that Twin Peaks rewatch for this month!  Also, have you seen this October Horror Movie Challenge? While I could probably manage it, even starting late (a benefit of unemployment is all the tv you want) I don't know if my mental state could handle it.  Still, it's a good place to get some ideas for movies.  

Best of luck to everyone! 

04 October 2014

Circus of the Damned

I am reviewing another Netgalley book. Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey is about a young man named Gilbert Blake in a quasi-Victorian city.  Blake is a con-man who uses real magic to fleece his victims.  When running for his life from some thugs, he comes across the Circus of the Damned led by Jesse, the hot redheaded ringmaster.  Desperate for help, Blake agrees to join the circus.  However, he finds out he can't ever leave the circus; he's joined up for life (and the afterlife).  Thinking to bide his time to figure out a loophole, Blake becomes a magician for the circus and begins a relationship with Jesse. When the circus gets into trouble and Blake's past catches up with him, they have to work together to survive. 

What I liked: 1) the gay romance! it was pretty well done and didn't shy away from sex scenes  2) the circus family atmosphere 3) how the circus "kept" its performers from leaving permanently 4) the ending was great

What I didn't like: 1) There wasn't enough world building.  Where does the magic come from?  Why does Blake have a seemingly sentient mouse as a pet?  What sort of religion is there?  What's the deal with some of the performers in the circus who seem to be intelligent creatures or AI automatons? 
2) There were a few really bad lines that stuck out terribly to me.  Just phrasing and images that were just wrong.  Like saying a room was pitch black, except for the light coming through the cracks in the ceiling.  Now, I was reading this off Netgalley so it could be that some of this would be corrected in a final edit.  

It wasn't a bad book.  I'm glad I read it and I can imagine the author getting a lot better quickly.  I give it a 5/7. 

01 October 2014

September Movies

Carrie (the remake): pretty good.  It's been so long since I saw the original that I can't remember what was changed.  Julianne Moore made an awesome crazy mom.  a 5

The Lone Ranger: not as bad as the reviews led me to believe.  Had plenty of plot holes but lots of cartoony action.  a 5. 

Riddick: Wish it didn't have the "female character portrayed as lesbian who appears to fall for the male hero" aspect.  Not as good as Pitch Black.  Everything you saw in the previews takes place in the last 2/3 of the movie so it feels as if it takes a while to start.  a 4. 

The Monuments Men:  Good war movie about a somewhat unknown aspect of WWII.  George Clooney gets a crew together to find all the art the Nazis have stolen.  Funny and touching and worth a watch!  a 6.

17 September 2014

August Movies which I am super late on

Guardians of the Galaxy: this movie hit all of my sweet spots. Goofy family of choice? Check.  Females with their own character arcs and motivations? check.  Big guys with heart? check.  Scoundrel with a heart of gold? check and double check.  Great music, great effects, just a wonderful movie.  a 7. 

Inside Llewyn Davis: kinda depressing.  great music.  B liked it more than i did i think.  a 5.

Captain Phillips: again, kinda depressing.  The "bad guys" aren't particularly bad guys.  very suspenseful for a movie where you know the hero lives.  Not necessarily one I'd want to watch again but worth seeing.  a 5.

Only Lovers Left Alive:  loved it! I put this in our Netflix queue and bumped it to the top.  B asked what it was and I replied "a vampire movie with Loki in it".  We started watching it and about 20 minutes in B stopped the movie and said "I'm really liking this.  I thought it was going to be some Twilight crap but it's really good!".  :)  It is a dark movie, both in tone and in color.  Adam is a vampire living in Detroit who spends his time making music and keeping up his off-the-grid house.  Eve lives in Tangier and comes to visit when she realizes Adam is very depressed.  It's a very moody film but wonderful.  you should so see it.  a 7.

16 September 2014

Another Doctor Who book!

I got Doctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann off Netgalley and really enjoyed it.  This book is about the War Doctor and the events leading up to the beginning of the 50th anniversary special.  We see many of the events from the view of Cinder, a young woman who survives on a planet overrun by Daleks.  The Doctor crashes into her ambush, thereby saving her life, and she agrees to help the Doctor understand what the Daleks are doing on her planet in exchange for him taking her to some safe planet afterwards.  Of course, things don't go particularly straightforwardly.  After determining the Daleks' plan, the Doctor and Cinder head to Gallifrey to tell the Time Lords, who aren't very keen on following the Doctor's advice in dealing with it.  And there are some evil Time Lord schenanigans going on which the Doctor has to foil. 

One little thing I loved was a little throwaway line.  At one point, Cinder is remembering the happy moments in her life and remembers her first kiss, which was with another girl.  No big deal is made of it, and if you're not paying attention you might not notice it, but I love writing that normalizes LGBT experiences.  

I enjoyed this second, long look at the War Doctor.  It has lots of action, suspense, a great companion in Cinder, and a further look into the psychology of the War Doctor.  This book is definitely worth a read for Doctor Who fans.  6/7 for me!

28 August 2014

My stats so far this year

Since I have finally caught up on my book tracking, I figured I should capture my totals up to this point.  I'm pretty surprised on the audio books front; I was certain I'd listened to a few more.  I also didn't realize how few non-fiction books I've read this year.  It is interesting that about a quarter of my reading is now on my Kindle.  I know that number has been skewed by all the summer reading I've been doing; I've been reading a lot by the pool and the Kindle works well for that.  I'm also excited that at this rate I should be over 100 for the year for the first time in several years!  I know it's silly but now I WANT triple digits! 


Books Read Total: 80

Library books: 63
YA/Children's Lit: 29
Non-fiction: 6
Graphic Novels: 15
Audio books: 5
Kindle: 17

That's it so far.  off to read!

19 August 2014

A post where I list all the books I've been reading just so I can start fresh.

I don't want to do this.  Really.  Several of these books deserve long, thoughtful posts about how amazing they are.  But I am so behind on my blogging!  I'm having two problems: I have had a ridiculous amount of time to read because I'm unemployed right now and I haven't really felt like blogging.  So I've got this long backlog of titles that I've read and written down.  Whenever I do feel like blogging, I realize that i've got at least a half-dozen posts to do; I work through one or two then quit.  I'll never get caught up at this rate so I am just going to list all these books here with a line to remind myself what it is and what I rated them.
Days of Future Past: Giant X-men Graphic novel that included Days of Future Past, Days of Future Present (both of which I'd read, hell I've got Future Present in comic form in my basement) and a Wolverine Prequel to Days of Future Past.   a 7.

Young Avengers Vol 1 and 2: These were ok, the Hawkeye series is better.  a 5.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin: trials of an intersex British teen boy who's family's been keeping it a secret.  a 5.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:(edit): very dreamy book about over privileged teens who spend whole summers on their family's private island.  I didn't like the characters at all, which made it hard for me to like the book.  a 4. 

The Reading Zone by Nancy Atwell: non-fiction book about getting kids to read, for/by reading teachers.  a 5.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller: another non-fiction book about getting kids to read.  a 5.  

Doctor Who: Mystery of the Haunted Cottage by Derek Landy: novella, 10 and Martha get trapped in a world from a story.  Ok.  a 5.

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber: Dense novel set in Victorian England, about a prostitute and the man who's mistress she becomes. weird.  5.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: good, but not as good as The Shining.  a 6.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: first in a series, won the Hugo, AI.  a 6 for making me think so much.

  A Study in Sherlock edited by Laurie King and Leslie Klinger: Short stories about Holmes.  some were cases, some not.  picked it up for the Gaiman story "The Case of Death and Honey".  a 6. 

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov: Amazing novel.  Not sure I understood it.  a 7.

Hard boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami: another great book that I'm not sure I understood.  I always end up talking to B about Murakami when I read him.  a 7.

The Fever by Megan Abbott:  beautiful teen girl is the first of several to have a sudden, strange illness.  Make me incredibly glad I am not a teen today and wasn't like these girls when I was that age. a 5.

going forward, I'm making a resolution to make sure I don't get this far behind again!  

16 August 2014

Rogues and Scoundrels and Scalliwags

I finished a gigantic book of short stories called Rogues, edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois. It was over 800 pages but worth the time!  Does anyone else find they read short stories more slowly than a regular novel?


The George RR Martin story, "The Rogue Prince, or, A King's Brother" was ok.  It was less a story and more a history of events in Westeros during the reign of Viserys the First.  Honestly, when things started to get really interesting the story ended!  I went online to A Wiki of Ice and Fire to determine how far before the novels all this happens and the events that follow the story.

"How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" by Neil Gaiman was fabulous and the reason I requested the book from the library in the first place.  In the novel Neverwhere, the best character is the Marquis de Carabas; in the course of the novel he loses his awesome coat.  This little story shows, well, how he got it back.  It was great to return to London Below. Sequel please?

"A Year and a Day in Old Teradane" by Scott Lynch was also amazing and made me want to read the sequel to Locke Lamora.  A group of thieves, mostly female, have a year and a day to steal a city street!  What they try and how it works out is a great tale. 

"The Lightning Tree" by Patrick Rothfuss was also very good.  I've not read his Kingkiller books but after reading this one I'm definitely going to! The writing was great and the various cons and tricks mostly fun.  There were a couple of problematic scenes, for me, that involved Bast tricking women into having sex with him (not so good on the consent front) that felt a bit jarring. Overall though, I liked the story. 

Though my favorites were fantasy, many of the stories were not.  There were more straightforward mysteries by Gillian Flynn, Bradley Denton and Walter Jon Williams.  My favorite of the non-fantasy ones was "Bent Twig" by Joe R. Lansdale.  It was a really hard-boiled detective type story and I liked the characters and the resolution.  I'll be looking him up.

I guess the best test for an anthology is if you liked it and if you'll be looking up the authors featured to read other things by them.  This books gets a yes to both. a 6. 

09 August 2014

Mystery Post!

European mystery roundup! Not sure why all the mysteries I'm reading take place over there but I'm really enjoying my virtual trip. 

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith: I was so excited when I found out this one was coming out.  I actually liked it a bit better than the first book!  This one involves the book business and all the crazy behind the scenes stuff.  We learn more about the secretary Robin (but still not enough!) and spend a lot of time running about with Cormoran Strike.  I give this one a 7 and can't wait for the next book!





















The Vesuvius Club and The Devil in Amber by Mark Gatiss: Both of these books were great fun.  Mark Gatiss writes for Sherlock and also plays Mycroft Holmes on the show.  These books are about a turn-of-the-century James Bond-type character named Lucifer Box.  Lucifer's cover is that he is an artist, a painter.  He's also bisexual and gets up to various bedroom antics in the novels. I really enjoyed the feel of these books; Gatiss is a good writer, funny and clever.  I wish there was a bit more info about the organization Box works for but otherwise I have no complaints.  a 6 for each book.

Burned by Thomas Enger: definitely the first in a series.  This book takes place in Norway.  In this one, our sleuth is a reporter for an online news generator.  He is coming back to work after a couple years off recovering from bad burns suffered in a fire that also killed his young son.  The first thing he has to report on is a murder of a young woman that has Muslim implications.  I liked the setting and the main character, Henning Juul.  I do want to know more about his past.  The mystery was fine, with a couple of really interesting subplots, but I didn't really like how the murder wrapped up.  pretty good overall and a nice read for Dragon Tattoo fans.  a 5.




Bruno, Chief of Police and The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker: so these mystery novels take place here:


so of course after reading these I want to go and drink wine and eat yummy food. Bruno is the chief of police in a small French town.  The main case in the first book is an anti-immigrant murder while the second book starts with a field fire which destroys some illegal GMO crops.  Mainly, though, the crimes are the background for a very detailed look at small town French life.  Everyone is so interconnected.  Bruno is something of an outsider (he became chief about 10 years before the first book starts, after serving in Kosovo during the UN peacekeeping missions) but has made great strides to become part of the town by teaching tennis to children, helping local small farmers, and being part of the rugby team.  So he's this interesting character who knows everyone and belongs there but can also step back to see some of the darker sides.  Both books were quick reads that I really enjoyed.  a 6 for each. 


31 July 2014

July Movies

Nebraska: B and I both liked this one. Kinda sad story about aging and life and loss of expectation.  a 6.

Nothing Lasts Forever: have you heard about the "lost" Bill Murray movie from the '80's?  this is it.  I watched it so you don't have to!   it was pretty bad. Bill Murray as a flight attendant on a flight to the moon was the best thing in it.  Dan Akroyd as an armed tunnel worker was the second best thing.  The story was nonsensical.  a 2.

Room 237:  a documentary about all the theories people have about what The Shining was really about.  It was fascinating.  The filmmaker never showed the various people but only had their audio playing over Kubrick films, The Shining and others.  Every theorist was so sure their theory was correct and never questioned that the fact that they believed it.  But each person saw their theory from their own background.  The guy who was a WW2 history scholar saw the movie as a Holocaust film.  The guy who grew up in the western US saw it as an indictment of America's treatment of Native Americans.  Really interesting.  a 5. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wonderful Wes Anderson movie.  While this movie had a pretty tight focus on the two main characters, it still explored Anderson's theme of families of choice.  It was beautifully acted and had amazing sets.  a 7.

White House Down:  Ok action movie, liked it better than Olympus Has Fallen even though Channing Tatum can't act.  a 4. 

The Bourne Legacy:  Better action movie. Jeremy Renner can act!  a 5.

Captain Phillips:  a movie that B said "was disturbing".  It is disturbing, though I can't quite put my finger on why.  You feel bad for everybody involved and I'm not sure you're supposed to?  a 6. 

Fargo: Not the movie but the TV show.  I tore through it over a weekend.  I absolutely loved it.  I loved the good guys, the bad guys, and even the idiots in between.  I enjoyed how my sympathies changed over the course of the series.  a 7.

19 July 2014

Middle Grade Batch

Quickies! 

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman- of course this one was awesome.  really funny story about a dad's adventures when he goes out for milk for the kids' breakfast.  a 6. 

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen- A perfect "boy" book.  Teen boy is the only survivor of a light plane crash.  He has to survive in the woods of Canada alone, with a hatchet as his only tool.  I thought the ending was a little too deus ex machina but on the whole it was not bad.  a 5.

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis: book about an African American girl, Deza Malone, growing up during the Depression.  This wasn't a book for me.  The girl is our first person narrator but never really does anything, just speaks about all the things that happen around her.  She's very naive. Also, she kept saying "geologically" when she meant "geographically" and it really got on my nerves.  a 4.

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell: trying to review this now I can't remember most of the plot.  Emmy is a girl who's been more or less abandoned by her rich parents.  She has an evil nanny taking care of her.  The class rat begins talking to her and Emmy sets him free, which starts all the adventure of the book. I guess since I can't remember what happened besides the very basic facts, I must not have liked it that much.  a 4. 




15 July 2014

Two novels, Intertwined by Theme

I read two books recently that I felt were a wonderful pair to read at the same time.  Both take place in England and cover portions of the 20th Century.  Both concentrate on women's rights, roles, and expectations during this time.  Both were fantasy/sci-fi novels that deal with multiple lifetimes. 



 My Real Children by Jo Walton is the shorter book.  Patricia was born in 1926 and it is now 2015.  She now has dementia and lives in a nursing home.  She's remembering back over her life but remembers two separate lives.  In one, she got married young, left her work behind, had a miserable marriage and four children.  In the other, she didn't get married, entered a long-term relationship with a woman, was incredibly happy, and had three children.  It isn't just her personal history that is different.  In the married timeline, things for the world are better: the Cold War ended earlier, people were more accepting (gay marriage became legal) and there are moon colonies.  In the unmarried timeline, things were definitely worse: there was a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, the moon has missiles on it. 


Life after Life by Kate Atkinson is more intricate.  It takes place a little earlier; Ursula was born in 1910.  She keeps dying though and restarting her life, sometimes living longer, sometimes dying earlier. Like in a video game, if you had to start at the very beginning whenever you died. She has a few childhood problems (the Spanish flu throws her for a loop) but it is really World War 2 that much of the book takes place.  She lives it on both sides, German and British. 

I guess what struck me were the severe limits placed on women's lives and how hard things were for them.  I mean, I know, logically, that things were very different back then, but just seeing how awfully Patricia and Ursula are treated in parts of their various timelines was kinda shocking.  It makes me just want to go around and hug women over 60.  

I really enjoyed both books.  I really recommend both!  Each gets a 7!

30 June 2014

June Movies

Philomena: a sweet, movie though a bit sad.  I didn't expect it to go the way it did, which I guess is good?  a 6.  

Trollhunter: a foreign movie shot Blair Witch-style about a guy who hunts trolls.  It was weird. a 3.

Shutter Island: somehow I missed this one.  I kept wanting to see it; i even had the Netflix disc for about 3 weeks once.  Just never got around to it.  B sat me down and made me watch it one night.  It was fabulous! Twisty but never felt contrived. a 6.

Her: another bittersweet one.  The Joaquin Phoenix character was a bit of a weird guy but who wouldn't fall in love with Scarlett Johansson's voice? a 6.

29 June 2014

Five Days at Memorial

Want to read something shocking and though-provoking?  Something that will make you by turns angry and sad?  I finished Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and it hits all those feelings. It is a book about Katrina and the people who died and survived at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans.  It is, at times, hard to read.  Fink does a great job of portraying the horrible conditions after the hurricane.  I can hardly imagine it.  If there is a clear-cut villain, it's the parent company of Memorial.  While I know I wouldn't have made the same decisions as some of the medical staff purportedly did, the doctors and nurses should have never gotten to the point where those decisions were even considered. 

Also, I know I don't normally talk about art or covers on this blog but I have to say I really love this cover.  It is so simple but so striking.  Everybody knows what water damaged paper looks like and the book really looks like it's been sitting in 3 inches of water.  That being said, I would have loved some pictures inside the book!  I can understand that the author may have been unable to get pictures of the various people involved, on both sides, and even why patient families might not want to allow their relatives to be shown, but I can't believe location shots were also out of bounds.  I know a bit about getting around in New Orleans and was able to follow the locations but someone who hadn't been down there a good bit might have issues.  

Overall though, this book is very good and feels really important.  Highly recommended, a 7. 

22 June 2014

Harry Potter Relisten 3 and 4

The Relisten continues! 

Prisoner of Azkaban is always one of my favorite Potter books.  The introduction of Remus and Sirius, Hagrid's disastrous classes, Hermione's schedule, winning the Quidditch Cup, these are some of my favorite things.  There is also the feeling you get on a reread that this book is really the last one about Harry and the gang as children. I got pretty teary eyed in parts as I was remember what is going to happen in books 5 and 7. 

I really love Goblet of Fire! It's the first big book and so many things happen, for the story and as setup for later parts, that you just rocket from event to event.  All the relationship stuff, the Harry-growing-up stuff, and of course Cedric, and the interactions with Sirius (which got me teary again).  It's all so good.

20 June 2014

More Young Adult Books

Still trying to close some gaps in my Young Adult knowledge. 

Every Day by David Levithan: Not sure if this one counts as sci-fi or fantasy.  The main character, A, wakes up every day in someone else's body.  He has always done this, slowly getting older with each new body.  He's a boy, he's a girl, black, white, gay, straight, everything.  When he meets Rhiannon he falls for her and wants to stay near her.  Unfortunately, this desire makes A change how he acts in his temporary bodies, causing suspicion.  It's cooler than my blurb makes it sound!  a 6.

Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth: hmm.  After I read Divergent I wasn't too interested in continuing but when I saw the movie I wanted to know how things turned out.  Not sure I should have bothered. Tris is really annoying and all the kids are extremely naive and simplistic in their thinking.  a 4. 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: I saw the movie with B and really liked it.  The book is very similar.  It has great illustrations and big sections of the story are told in pictures a 6. 

I am J by Cris Beam: a book about a boy, J, who was born a girl, and his struggle to figure out why he is what he is and what he wants to be.  It isn't anything I've not read before in YA books, though the transgendered bit is new.  Things aren't too easy, or too hard for J; I think he makes things harder for himself than he really has to.  a 5 but a good thing for a high school library to have. 

I am still working on YA books but am going to try to read a few elementary/middle grade books too.  I always feel like I have a handle on that level then, when I try to come up with titles, blank out after Neil Gaiman and some classics.  Planning to hit the library this weekend with some lists!

18 June 2014

I have been a very bad blogger!

I have been reading a lot but not really blogging about it.   I've been doing a lot of other things.  I finally finished graduate school and received my Masters of Information Science!  I'm also unemployed now so I've been applying for ALL THE JOBS.  Kinda the last thing I want to do after writing cover letters and typing the same info over and over into forms is to blog.  Seems like many of the bloggers I follow are also in the middle of lulls so hopefully we'll all get through this together.  I've also been trying out Twitter and Tumblr, though I just read on Tumblr, not blog.  I'm watching tv (rewatching The X-files, World Cup soccer) and playing a lot of Skyrim and Tomb Raider and other video games.  I am so backlogged on blogging I feel a bit overwhelmed!  So, in an attempt to catch up, I am going to do a massive flyby review post.

The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doesher: Part two of Shakespeare does Star Wars.  It was fine but I had the feeling the author didn't think he'd get to do part 2 and used up the really good, famous speeches in part 1.  The Han/Leia relationship was great, very Benedick/Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing.  a 5.

Rurouni Kenshin Volume 2 by Nobuhiro Watsuki: Manga.  I liked the first volume better.  I'm still not used to reading backwards so I think that pulls me out of the story sometimes.  a 5.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone: I loved this book!  It is set in a really new, interesting fantasy world, great female characters, is a mystery with magic and some great twists.  Can't recommend more.  a 7.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope: A comic where a 13 year old Thor-like character is sent by his father to save a city from these monster things.  His superpower is that he had a collection of tee-shirts that give him the abilities of what is on each shirt.  Definitely the beginning of a series; much is introduced and little resolved.  a 5 but I want more!
 
Bleach 3-in-1 by Tite Kubo: More Manga.  I really just couldn't get into it.  I really think this would be better on TV so I may try out the cartoon. a 4.



Saga volume 3 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples: I love this series!  The art is gorgeous and the characters are just great.  I trust Vaughan to take me anywhere he wants to go with this story.  a 7.

Captain Marvel volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight, and Volume 2: Down: I read these and wrote the titles down but can hardly remember them.  Captain Marvel is a female pilot with superpowers and these books deal with some aspects of her powers and her life as an Avenger and as a woman.  I do remember kick-ass females, not just Captain Marvel but many women throughout the books.  I'm seeing a theme in my recent reading here. a 5.

Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky: Definitely a weird book that deserves a much better review than this. It's about 2 people who, when they have sex, stop time.  So they decide to rob banks to get money to save a library.  It has a lot more to say than my little blurb implies.  a 6. When's the next Hawkeye coming out?



The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell: another great one that deserves a better review.  Set in Scotland, Marnie and Nelly are sisters whose parents are both deadbeats and drug addicts.  They die at home at Christmas so the girls bury them in the yard.  Marnie is 15 but if they can hide everything for a year she will be legally able to take care of Nelly, 12.  Nelly loves old movies and literature and speaks as if she's from the 18th century while Marnie is a foul-mouthed smoking straight A student.  Both girls are smart, and damaged, and too old for their ages.  A neighbor, Lennie, realizes the girls are on their own but doesn't call the authorities, trying to take care of the girls as he can.  This one really reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.  I really liked this one, a 7.

I'll have another post up soon with the YA books I've been reading too.  

31 May 2014

May Movies

American Hustle: very good and the ending was not what I was expecting.  I am really glad i was only a very little child in the late 70's as those clothes would not have worked for me.  a 6

In A World: Really funny movie about women in the film industry, specifically the voice-over market.  See anything Lake Bell does, she's fabulous. a 7

Fast and Furious 6: I watched this one with my dad when I went on a trip to Louisiana.  As I have never seen any of the other ones, I really had very little sense of what was going on.   Anna Lucia came back from the dead and there were 'splosions.  a 4. 

X-Men: Days of Future Past: a really great story and very cool movie.  Wish they had mentioned why exactly Kitty Pryde's powers could send someone back in time.  Very good commentary on women's agency.  a 7.

Dallas Buyer's Club:  another really good movie.  not as sad as I was expecting.  a bit too promoting of pseudoscience but I liked it.  a 6.

08 May 2014

I write up short reviews for the books I read during the Readathon!

Yeah, finally, I know.  Life has been pretty hectic around here. 

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore:  This book is a non-fiction work about Ben Franklin's sister, Jane, derived from many letters and other documents.  Ben was several years older but the two were very close.  She became a wife and mother before the age of 18, had a pretty pitiful husband, suffered the loss of multiple children/grandchildren, and lived through the Revolutionary war.  The letters show what life was like for a woman in the 18th century. Things like how important marrying a decent worker was, how unhealthy the atmosphere was, how hard it was for her to just read and write.  So much of her letters are lost and most of what was kept was because it was to her brother.  a 6.


Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye:  a sequel to The Gods of Gotham which I liked.  In this one, Timothy Wilde (who I picture as Shane West for some reason) and his brother Val, also a police officer, help people who are captured for being escaped slaves, though they are free blacks.  Lots of mystery, politics, murder and mayhem.  A good, fiction companion for 12 Years a Slave (the movie anyway).  I liked it!  a 6.

Serenity Volume 2: Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad, and Adam Hughes: This one is kinda all over the place in the art and story focus.  Nothing really brand new or revelatory (though the Wash issue is great) it was a pretty good set of stories for fans.  a 6. 


Rurouni Kenshin vol 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki: I am trying to read some Manga. I found this one on a list and gave it a go.  Between reading backwards, everything being black and white, and lots of close ups of action, I'm having a bit of trouble with it.  Maybe it's the combo of silly/serious, maybe it's that I lack the cultural background.  I think i liked it.  a 5.


March Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell: After seeing him many times on things like The Colbert Report, i got to hear him and the illustrator of this speak at the Southern Festival of Books.  This comic is about his childhood and how he became involved in the Civil Rights movement when he was in college here in Nashville.  A must read!  a 7.

01 May 2014

Relisten to Harry Potter 1 and 2!

While I should probably be listening to YA novels (or kidlit) that I have yet to read, in an attempt to catch up on some of the novels that are missing from my repertoire, I've fallen back into a Harry Potter reread.  Tor.com is hosting a reread and, though they are only doing a couple chapters a week, it is fun to follow that.  I have listened to Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets so far.  These books are just so easy to listen to; Jim Dale is an amazing narrator.

I've really enjoyed this reread.  I've been trying to keep the later books in mind while I am listening to these early ones.  I have heard parallel after parallel and bits of foreshadowing are everywhere.  For a first and second novel, these books are so well-crafted and Rowling clearly had the main narrative of the series in mind from the beginning.  It is strange that I always think of Chamber of Secrets as my least favorite book and then, when I reread it, I find I quite like it.  I think it is just the problem of having to rank them in some fashion, and they are all so great, CoS just comes last from a story perspective.  Sorcerer's Stone is the first book, Prisoner of Azkaban introduces Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.  Goblet of Fire is the first fat book, has dragons and glimpses of the wider magical world, and the war becomes serious at the end.  Order of the Phoenix has the best villian and the tragic conclusion to Sirius Black's plotline.  Half-Blood Prince gives us tons of info and Deathly Hallows is essentially an adult novel and the final book.  While Chamber of Secrets does introduce the Horcruxes (though we don't know what it is at that point), there isn't much else.  Gilderoy Lockhart is just annoying, as is Dobby at this point in the series.  Of course, now that we know how Dobby's story ends, the part where Harry frees Dobby actually brought me to tears.  Anyway, if you haven't read these since the last one came out, I recommend giving them another spin!

April Movies!

Divergent: a movie that was way better than the book!  In fact, I actually decided to give the second book a try because of it.  a 5.

12 Years a Slave: Hard to watch but not as hard as I was worried it would be.  I think it is important to watch.  a 7.

The Wolf of Wall Street:  I liked this better the first time around when it had more killing and Joe Pesci and was called Goodfellas.  It was at least 30 minutes too long and I didn't particularly care about what was going on.  a 4.

And squeaking in on April 30, Captain America: The Winter Soldier:  Loved the movie but the subtitle is a bit misleading.  Trying to decide on a different one but everything is either spoilery or already used.  I really thought this was a great movie.  I did wonder why Hawkeye wasn't even mentioned but I hope he was uncontactable on a mission somewhere.  More Black Widow info, more Captain development, this felt more like an Avengers sequel than either Iron Man 3 or Thor 2, though both of those did reference and grow out of the Avengers.  anyway, a 7.

27 April 2014

Readathon wrap up post!

I made it to 2:45 in the morning.  I was super tired and that's when B got in from work so I told him goodnight and went to sleep.  Even if I'd been able to drink caffeine I don't know that I would have stayed up any later. 


I am pretty pleased.  I finished 2 library books I'd already started, one of my own I'd started, 2 of my own graphic novels, and 226 pages of an American Gods reread.  I also had a lot of fun following the #readathon on Twitter.  I've got a bunch of stuff to do next weekend for school but maybe the following one I'll try to get in a solid 5 hours of straight reading!  I also want to thank #teamwordsworth for cheering me on.  Maybe next readathon I'll be a cheerleader for a bit. 

Final stats!


Books finished: Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore and Rorouni Kenshin Vol. 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye and March Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, and Serenity: Better Days by lots of people, though all but March and Serenity I had previously started

Pages read of regular books since last update: 168
Pages read of graphic novels since last update:  126

Running total of pages read: 893

Amount of time spent reading: 2 hours 55 minutes

Running total of time spent reading: 9 hours 25 minutes

Snacks: Breakfast was milk and cinnamon rolls, I've also had a cup of herbal tea (cinnamon spice!), food truck snacks and Pad Thai for dinner, chocolate cupcake and milk