Friday, April 01, 2016

Star Trek / Green Lantern: The Spectrum War

Star Trek / Green Lantern: The Spectrum War is a graphic novel which is exactly what the title says, an improbable crossover between the rebooted Star Trek and the Green Lantern universe.  Go ahead and snicker.  It was fun.

In a future/alternate GL timeline, Nekron, the creator of the Black Rings, somehow manages to kill most of the members of the various Lanterns Corps.  Ganthet pulls off a trick to use his death's energy to send the various rings into another universe, specifically the one populated by our rebooted Enterprise crew.  The Enterprise crew find his body about the same time Hal Jordan finds them (the green ring was curiously missing from Ganthet's collection).  The rings get activated and three Enterprise crew members get chosen while the yellow, red, and orange rings fly off to find appropriate Star Trek universe counterparts.

The yellow ring chooses one of my favorite Klingons, General Chang, who is sadly underused in this book.  The red and orange rings choose some random characters they created for this book.  Don't bother getting invested in them.  Grumpy McCoy gets indigo (I love his reaction to  the ring picking him.), while Uhura becomes a Star Sapphire, of course.  *sigh*  My favorite choice is Chekhov.  He gets chosen by the blue ring.  "I can do zat!"  He does embody hope.

Anyway, Nekron pops up again and the new Lanterns have to join up with the old Lanterns that actually managed to survive and get pulled from their universe to ours.  Yes, I consider Trek to be my universe.  I can hope, can't I?  Each of the Corps has at least one that survived.  They each find their counterparts and things go from there.  Oh, did I mention that Nekron has found the perfect place to rouse an army?  It's the asteroid cluster formerly known as Vulcan.

This was only a six part series, so it wasn't really long or in depth.  It was fun, though.  Kirk and Jordan are too much alike to actually get along well at first, but when faced with impending doom our heroes manage to rub along well enough.  Kirk figures out the way to beat Nekron, in an interesting twist.  Don't take this book seriously.  It's fluff and wish fulfillment, just like the Star Trek / Doctor Who crossover.

Different Seasons by Stephen King

This is really just a review of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.  I put Stephen King on my list of authors to read for my 2016 challenge, but knew I'd have to read a non-horror story.  Sorry, but King does his job too well and what he doesn't, my over-active imagination happily fills in for him when I'm trying to go to bed.  Not happening.  Since The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies, I figured I'd pick that one up.  Of course it had to be in an anthology.

Anyway, to those who don't know (living under a rock, are we?) the basic premise of the novella and movie is that an innocent man, Andy Dufresne, is sent to prison for murdering his wife.  The novella encompasses his entire term in prison as observed by a fellow inmate named Red.  Andy is a smart man, he was a banker on the outside, who uses his brains to make a bad situation just a little bit more tolerable.  And he has a plan.

I really liked it.  King didn't flinch from the awful stuff that happens in prisons, but he didn't overuse it either.  For a short read, you got invested in both Andy and Red and couldn't help but hope for both of them.

As for the three other stories in the book, I started reading An Apt Pupil after I finished Shawshank but had to stop.  The characters made me feel dirty from the get-go, which is apparently King's intention for them.  Hehehe.  I did get far enough in to get the reference to Andy Dufresne and had a bit of a chuckle at it, but I just couldn't read further.

The Body is the story Stand By Me, another old favorite movie, is based upon.  I started it, but haven't finished it.  I probably will before I give the book away, but it's not a priority.

The last story is The Breathing Method, which is tagged as a horror on the dust jacket, so I may not read that one.

Meg Brown: The Short Man by Joshua Cejka

The Short Man (Meg Brown Mysteries #1), by Joshua Cejka, was a quick read, as it's a short story.  It was fun,  Meg is of the uber-observant school of detectives and is sent with her partner to solve the mystery of a murdered parking enforcement officer.  There was a good amount of humor packed into this little gem as well as enough back story filtered in to make us interested in the character.  I'll be picking up the others in this series.

Alpha Bear by Bianca d'Arc

I'm really liking this series.  In Alpha Bear d'Arc is introducing what sounds like a really cool Big Bad, while still making the immediate Baddie dangerous locally.  This time, John, the Alpha of the community of Grizzly Cove, is up for the mating chopping block.  Of course, the job of the author is to throw obstacles at this and decides to pair him up with a strega, or hereditary witch of Italian origin, Ursula.  Apparently shifters and witches don't tend to make the best of couples.

Well, Ursula and her sister have been hiding their magic so they don't get bounced out of the nearly-all shifter community.  The sister outs them by accident and things start moving pretty quickly after that.  It is a quick read and has some fun bits.  I really hope Ursula's grandmother makes a visit to Grizzly Cove at some point.  She sounds like a real trip.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts

I definitely like this series.  I read the second, Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon, by Richard Roberts, right after I posted the review for the first.  I stayed up pretty late reading it, so I shouldn't have woken up as early as I did.

This book finds Penny and her friends, The Inscrutable Machine (an awesome name for a villain team) end up going to Jupiter and its moons to figure out the source of a signal picked up by one of the villains they meet in the first book.  There they meet an interesting cast of characters.  Somehow, a group of humans ended up being brought out to colonize some of the moons of Jupiter.  The new humans in the story are joined by a group of Automoton, who control the humans' lives, and also by a species of alien that takes over the humans by infecting them like parasites.  Penny still wants to become a hero, rather than a villain, but it seems everything she does works in such a way that she still appears to be a villain.

As I said, I really am getting a kick out of this series.  The main character the friends interact with in this book is a nicely flawed, fellow mad scientist.  Remmy has two brothers with differing ideas of how to save the other Jovian colonists from the robots and the parasites.  They're both older brothers who think of Remmy as a pesky younger sibling.  Remmy has a story arc I hope Roberts revisits in later books.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain by Richard Roberts

I ended up reading Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts because I got the third one in the series as a free read for review from Netgalley and the third refers to enough things that happen in this one and the second that I want to read them first.  I really liked it.  I'm going to be buying this series in paper.

Penny is the daughter of two superheroes.  She has always hoped she'll get her own powers.  Well, she does.  Slight hiccup being that her powers seem to lend themselves better to being a supervillain than a hero.  This first book finds her and her two best friends sort of falling into the villain thing by accident.  Basically, one of her friends loses his temper and pulls a "Hulk-Smash" which is actually a trap by a superhero's sidekick.  To get him out of trouble, she has to fight the sidekick and gets branded a villain.  Things go south from there.

The characters are nicely fleshed out, including the parents, amazingly enough.  Most parents in YA novels are there for decoration and the occasional grounding.  Penny truly loves her parents and doesn't pull the "oh woe is me, my parents don't understand me" bullshit.  It's nice seeing a YA family that actually has that love all around.

The descriptions of the inventions she makes and the world she lives in are a lot of fun.  There are enough superhero tropes being used well and in a fresh manner and enough to remind you that these are, indeed, kids learning how to run in an adult world that it makes the book very interesting.  For example, when meeting the strongest supervillain alive, even if he's retired, Claire wants his autograph.  This is a world that celebrates the superhero genre and enjoys its place in it.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Genealogy Fun and Frustration

I've been doing a lot of genealogy research recently.  I signed up for Ancestry again after finally getting a computer that can actually handle research again.  I've been rebuilding the trees I had.  Unfortunately, the gedcoms didn't survive the virus that hit the last computer and I guess the back-ups I did must have saved the corrupted files.

Amazingly, I've found the birthplace in England of the ancestress who came here only a year after she was born.  We knew she had been born in England, but I wasn't expecting to find her maternal grandparents in the same place.  Even better, her grandfather was listed in the 1851 census as a blind pauper.  I wonder how they survived?  Did my ancestress' father have to support five people; his wife and daughter, plus his wife's elderly parents, for they were in their 60s when the census was taken?  Is that why he packed up and left England?  He and the others had already left Ireland, presumably to find work.  What happened to his in-laws?  Did they come with their daughter, her husband, and granddaughter?  I haven't found any of their ship records yet.  Wading through all the common Irish names is a pure pain in the ass.  But I refuse to give up.  I will find those stubborn Irish yet.

I found a page that people have listed their genealogy frustrations.  It's fun to read.

Return of the Grr by Alannah Blacke

This was a shape-shifter romance anthology by Alannah Blacke.  Four stories pleased me.  The others ran the gamut from meh to ugh.

Pride is a story about a lion shifter who goes to Africa to get away from his stresses for a while, finding love while he does.

Alpha Black is about a bear shifter called upon to protect a non-shifter from an old girlfriend of his.

Mine to Bear is another bear shifter story.  This one features a character from an earlier story falling in love with a woman who had been kidnapped and held as a sex slave by a den of werewolves.

The last story I liked was a leopard shifter story contained in the three stories: Look Before You Leopard, Better Late Than Leopard, and A Leopard is Forever.

Honestly, I really didn't like the others that much.  Actually, I really disliked the MMCs in Bear In Mind and Bear Down.  They were quite despicable.  Maybe if the stories had been longer, they could have been redeemable.  As it was, there wasn't enough story for the character development needed for them to become lovable characters.

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso by Kali Nicole Gross

This was an interesting book by Kali Nicole Gross, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.  It seemed like it would be a juicy, gory depiction of a gruesome murder, but it really ended up being a dissection of race and politics at the turn of the century in Philadelphia.  The author brings up interesting points about our assumptions of black womanhood and how those assumptions have been shaped by slavery, and Emancipation.  Those attitudes still remain if you really think about it.  That's not to say the author touched on this, instead, her focus was on Tabbs and her ability to manipulate the system and society she found herself in.

The only thing I didn't like was that the book wasn't able to follow Tabbs and Wilson further in their lives, both before and after the trial, but that is due to the limitations of the historical records available.  That limitation actually seems to prove the author's thesis, that Tabbs' place in history rests in her interactions with the white press and legal authorities, not her own agency.  We are also so used to the paper trails and random information that we leave behind in our daily lives that it seems almost impossible that we wouldn't know more about someone accused of murders nowadays.  In a way this makes the book even more intriguing for that fact that there are so many unknowns remaining.  We are, frankly, spoiled when it comes to biographies and histories in that the subjects tend to be those with a wealth of information and resources behind them.  I'm glad there are authors who try to find obscure history topics and breathe new life into them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Runaway Vampire by Lynsay Sands

Yay!  She's back on track.  The last Argeneau book was a disappointment, but this one, Runaway Vampire, I liked.  She really focused on the heroine in this story.  Dante didn't get as much to work with, but at least the fmc, Mary, felt real.  She's a 62 year old widow faced with a hunk who she runs over with her RV.  Said hunk is being chased by kidnappers and needs her help getting away.

As I said, Dante doesn't really get fleshed out, but Mary does and I like the fact that she has a history and has a healthy attitude toward relationships and that they aren't all hearts and flowers.  The exposition to explain the Immortals to the newbie doesn't feel forced.  The ending leads into what should be Tomasso's book but it wraps up Mary and Dante's story nicely.  The book is also filled with Sands' trademark humor.  Just wait until you get to the condom scene.

I was quite disappointed in what happens to Mary between pages 338 and 341, but I guess it was necessary.  Not telling what it is.  All in all, a very good outing in the series.

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe tackles racism and colonialism by comparing Jews, Native Americans, Indigenous Australians, and the descendants of African slaves.  This book is pretty darned amazing and engaging.  Wolfe posits that the experiences of the two indigenous groups were quite a bit different from the experiences of the Jews and Blacks, even if they all experienced discrimination and racism.  He makes his case well.  He even brings up the differing experiences of the two major areas in the Americas that Blacks have faced incredible discrimination: the United States, and Brazil.  Again, my highest praise for a history book, I'll be looking further into this.

I had read of some of the history he went into about the Australian Aboriginal struggles, and knew a lot of them mirrored things the Native Americans experienced, such as the kids being taken from their families so they could have the Native taught out of them.  It boggles the mind that this was still happening up until the 1960s, though. 

One thing he mentions in a footnote has my inner genealogist going "Hmm".  On page 115 he states that there were only 400,000 Africans brought to the United States, but by 1860 there were over 4,000,000 slaves.  Even with enforced breeding by slave owners, not every one could have given birth or sired children, so I have to wonder how closely related the Black population is to each other.  How many distant cousins are out there that don't even know it?  Obviously, that wasn't the point of the book.

Just Another Southern Town by Joan Quigley

I've read about the sit-ins and boycotts of the civil rights movement, but never heard about the case or the person at the heart of this book, Just Another Southern Town.  Mary Church Terrell was a woman born the same year of the Emancipation Proclamation and lived long enough to help make civil rights history when she was 90 years old. 

The book talks about her and the others, including the Supreme Court justices who made that history in a way that brings them to life in the story leading up to the Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co. Inc.  None of them are perfect and Ms. Quigley doesn't present them as saints or sinners.  The book tells the history of the Thompson case in an engaging manner that throws a lot of facts at you, but in such a way that it doesn't overwhelm or bore.  

As I said, I had never heard of the case before and had assumed that desegregation of lunch counters was pretty much an all or nothing thing that had begun with Greensboro in 1960.  I love finding out that I was wrong.  My highest recommendation for any history book if that it has me more interested in a topic I didn't realize I need to know more about and want to investigate more.  This book certainly has done that.

Stars In Your Eyes by Lynn Kurland

Stars In Your Eyes is the newest Lynn Kurland time-travel romance.  These are an automatic buy for me.  This one didn't change my mind but, for some reason, it wasn't quite as satisfying as some of the others.  Not sure why.  Actually, I think I do know why.  Even with all of the odd goings-on around Artane that Phillip as been studiously ignoring, he adjusted too quickly to his very brief period in modern times.  I like when the hero does things like pull his sword on the microwave and such.  Phillip just adjusted without any real culture shock.

Basically, it was good until they came back to the modern times.  Phillip adjusting quickly and one other thing kind of threw it off the rails.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the book, but it just didn't please me as much as some of the others.

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne is an interesting book.  The writing style took a bit to get used to.  It is definitely written with kids in mind.  The author uses a lot of onomatopoeia to help flesh out the world.  It's written from the perspective of a nine year old girl, after all.  The world itself is appropriately named Candi-land.  As I read the book I kept imagining the whole thing as a game of Candyland gone amuck.

The book is an adventure set upon by a group of nine year old girls through multiple countries to retrieve special ingredients for a magic potion to overthrow a despotic ruler poised to take over all of their lands.  Each girl has a special ability they can access through eating a special candy.  Lydia is the one we enter the book through so she is the best fleshed out of the girls.  Each of the others does get fleshed out more as the story progresses, though.

The action is just scary enough and life-threatening enough that it will thrill younger readers.  I got worried a few times myself.  All in all, it was a pretty good book that left me with a definite hankering for sweets after I finished it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Crochet Stories: Grimms' Fairy Tales and The Nutcracker

Dover is putting out a series of amigurumi pattern books that are absolutely adorable.  I've been able to review Grimms' Fairy Tales and The Nutcracker thanks to NetGalley.  I honestly can't decide which is my favorite of the two.  I'll be quite happy to make dolls from both.

The Grimm book by Vanessa Putt includes presents each story before giving a couple of patterns for your amusement.  The designer of the Grimm book favors a chain method of starting amis and describes how to do it, but if you're like me, you can just omit the chain and start with a magic ring on the first round.  I really need to make the hedgehogs, and the witch from Hansel and Gretel.  She also gives designs for Jack's beanstalk, and Rapuzel's tower.  I thought those were pretty cool.  They can be used for an infinite number of stories by kids (and adult kids), especially since she gives a basic doll pattern that you can modify as you need.

The Nutcracker book by Lindsay Smith also presents the story as it goes and then gives you the characters.  This designer starts with a magic ring, but if you're a fan of the chain start, you can always replace it with that.  This book has a couple of pages at the end that discuss special techniques and she uses more elaborate hairstyles than the Grimm book.  She walks you through each of them.  If I had to pick a favorite ami it would be between Godpapa Drosselmeier and the Mouse King.  There are also a couple of smaller patterns that can be used as tree ornaments if you so desire.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Boston Tea Party Debate

Oh, my history geek flag is definitely flying today.  I'm watching a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party debate that was taped by CSPAN3 on the anniversary of the Tea Party.  This is just friggin' awesome.  They wrote down bits for the audience to recite in the debate.  Listening to the kids speaking the parts of adult weavers and such is just great.  This is just the kind of thing to get people interested in history.  I really wish interactive history would be the norm rather than the exception.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb

Okay, so the In Death books are instant buys for me, and in hardback no less.  This one, Brotherhood in Death, by JD Robb (a pseudonym for Nora Roberts) didn't disappoint.  It was another where you kind of figured out the whodunit part early on and the trick was finding the proof.  I don't mind those.  I know some people do.  

The basic set-up is that Dennis Mira, the husband of the profiler Eve works with, is attacked while trying to meet up with his cousin about selling a house left to them by their grandfather.  The cousin disappears and, since Eve is a homicide cop, is later found dead.  Eve has to figure out who killed him and why.  Simple enough set-up.  The whole thing ends up not so simple or black and white in the end.

There is family drama and growth between Eve and Roarke, which did feel a teeny bit shoehorned, but it did work out in the end.  We got to see more of Dennis Mira, whom most of us fans are just a little bit in love with.  Seriously, forget Roarke, I'd take Dennis any day.  Oh, and Trueheart gets a nice scene between him and Eve.

Overall, this book was pretty good.  My only quibble was with the drama between Eve and Roarke feeling a tad unnecessary.  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stitching versus Reading Time

Well, it's happened already this year.  Two stitching projects need to be done ASAP and I want to read.  I also decided to take on the Temperature Scarf, which will take me until next January to finish.  I figured a scarf would be better since I'm using the high and the low of each day, not just the temperature at a certain time.  Also, stitching a five foot row of single stitches is not my idea of fun.  I just need to buy one more skein of yarn, a medium green for temperatures from 51 to 60 degrees.  Add to that my renewed membership on Ancestry (made some real connections with the obscure family members, Wahoo!) and I've started tapering off in my reading time.

I have been trying to listen to Emma, by Jane Austen, as an audiobook as I stitch, but I don't think I'm really getting all of it.  One of the ways my ADD works for me is that if I'm listening to something while at my handiwork, my focus is on the work and I process the audio in the background.  That's why I'll tend to do that with movies I've memorized or just plain music.  I don't miss anything then and I do think I've been missing some of Emma.  I kind of hope I have anyway, because she's not a very likable character thus far.

Between writing, stitching, genealogy, and the reading I feel like I'm too busy to sleep, but I shall do my level best to regain my high status as lazy slugabed.  Starting with right now.  I have work at 4 AM and I need at least five hours sleep.  Good night.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Ultimate Reading Challenge

I finally uploaded my Ultimate Reading Challenge.  I tabbed it as a page in the bar above.  I have saved it as a pdf file, so if someone wants me to email it, leave me a comment on this post or the page.

There should be something there for just about everyone.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power

I'm conflicted about this book.  I received a free copy of The Dragon Round, by Stephen S. Power, via Netgalley for a fair review.  I'm a sucker for dragons, even though I'm not a big fan of revenge plots and I knew from the start the plot line revolved around a captain seeking revenge on the crew that had mutinied against, and marooned, him and another character.  These two end up on a not-so-deserted island, complete with over-sized crabs, and a baby dragon, which they decide to train to help them get off the island and get justice for their abandonment.

I'm conflicted because I don't think the characters grew as much as they could have, but they had so much potential.  The book also jumped around from character to character too quickly, with too many of them being thrown at me all at once.  There is a list of characters in the front of the book for a reason.

This being said, the story was interesting, and the politics of the world were also interesting.  The author definitely knows his stuff when it comes to sailing.  There were a few minor characters that interested me more than the mmc.  The mfc definitely interested me more, and I would have liked to have seen more of her character.

So, I'm going to give this a cautious "I liked it", but not enough to pick up the sequel when it comes out.  I hope the author can figure out how to create a sweeping world in his next book without short-shifting the characters he writes, maybe if he concentrates more on just a few and leaves the others and their activities to exposition, that would be better.  I'm also sure some people will love this book, and I hope they do, because I can see the potential.

Hmm.  I just went to the author's site to get his link address and he even mentions exactly what I was thinking as I was reading the book: "The Count of Monte Cristo with dragons".

Friday, January 22, 2016

Grizzly Cove series, Bianca D'Arc

Bianca D'Arc is one of my go-to authors.  She writes Paranormal Romances that tend to the erotica side.  Her Dragon Knights series is on my automatic buy list.  This review is actually for three separate books/novellas that I read the other day.  They are the first three in her new series, Grizzly Cove, which is about a relatively newly established town that is a haven for bear shifters.  This series is set in her larger world, but stands on its own.  The first three books deal with a trio of fully human sisters who move to Grizzly Cove and are unaware, at first, that they have opened up a bakery in a town full of people who turn into various species of bears.

All About the Bear (Grizzly Cove #1) deals with the oldest sister, Nell, and the town sheriff's romance.  It's short and sweet.  Brody has been wanting to pursue her for a while, but unless she knows about the bears, he can't.  Thanks to a drunken Australian Koala Bear shifter, he gets his chance.  It was a cute story.  The only thing I didn't like was that there wasn't as much character development as I would have liked.  There was the soulmate thing, which she actually does well.  The whole story was very encapsulated with not much more to the plot or any major stumbling blocks to their romance.  I did like it, though.

Mating Dance (grizzly Cove #2) deals with the middle sister, Ashley, and her romance with the town lawyer, Tom.  We have a bit more drama in her story than the first in the form of a reminder of her past.  Again, it's short and sweet, and I did like it.  I had the same issue I had with the first, though; I would have liked more character development.

Night Shift (Grizzly Cove #3) is the strongest of the three novellas.  Tina is the youngest Baker sister and her romance with Zak, the deputy.  There is character development and real relationship development rather than instant love.  Yay!  There is also more to the plot than their relationship.  It introduces some conflict that is going to be dealt with in the next book, which is a full novel.  Their relationship felt more organic than those of the other two couples.

Dragon Tales by Eileen Mueller

This was a collection of short stories by an author from New Zealand, Eileen Mueller.  She writes YA fantasy, and these stories are collected from other publications in the volume, Dragon Tales.  I'll write my impressions out of order.

My favorite story is actually one of the shortest, Dad's Wisdom, which was adapted for children from an adult anthology.  It is hilarious.  I love stories with twists and this one had a doozy.

Golden Days is one of the longest stories and my next favorite.  It is completely opposite Dad's Wisdom and something of a weeper, but beautifully written.  It deals with childhood illnesses so it's a bit heavier than the other stories.

Math Dragon was the first story, and it was fun.  I really wish I had net up with a math dragon when I was in algebra class, even though I got into enough trouble on my own.

Wingspan and Fluffy's Dragon are related stories and really cute, about two young dragons trying to figure out their futures.

I wonder if I would have reacted with the same equanimity as the main character in Suds and Scales to meeting a dragon the way he did.  I don't think I would have, even though I still would have loved meeting one.

Rumbled has two brothers wanting the same dragon.  Which one gets it?  I know which one I'm rooting for.

It's not a long read, only 70 pages, but it's a fun read, and probably one that would be a fun family read.  The only story I'd say you might want to keep in mind the age of the audience is Golden Days.  As I said, that story is a bit heavy, but still written with young enough language that kids should be able to handle it.

Oh, and for record-keeping sake, I was going to stick this in the Seven Continent spot of my reading challenge, but upon researching which continent New Zealand actually belongs to, I found that there seems to be some controversy about that.  I could include it in Australia, but it seems that New Zealand is tectonically not actually on any continent.  Apparently many of the Pacific Ocean islands don't belong to either Asia or Australia.  So, I'm thinking I need to add a continent, Oceania, and that's where I'm plugging this book.

Severus' Dreams by Paganaidd

This is a different one.  Last night while I was feeling like crap I read the completed fanfic, Severus' Dreams, by Paganaidd.  I've read the whole series and it's one of my favorites.  The series starts with Dudley's Memories, continues with Snape's Memories, and concludes with Severus' Dreams.  If you want to read the stories, I'd read them in just that order.

The gist of the series is that Dudley has become a social worker and deals with abused children.  When he comes across a child with obvious magic, he ends up calling on Harry to help a young boy named Tim.  By the events in Severus' Dreams, Tim has been adopted by the Potters and is in his first year at Hogwarts.  (Completely non-canon, which is usually a deal-breaker for me, but it's done so well, I love it.)  In the last story, which is what I'll talk about right now, the story opens at Christmas 1997.  The Golden Trio is on the run from Death Eaters and Snape is the Headmaster at Hogwarts.  All of the teachers are shunning him and he's feeling quite depressed and lonely.  Madam Pomfrey sees this (she has reasons for thinking there's more going on than just Snape being a Death Eater) and gives him a gift that sends him forward in time as a sort-of spirit in Tim's body.  Obviously, there's more going on and Snape has to find his way back to his time.

The author deals with issues such as child and sexual abuse, traumatic brain injury, and psychological disorders in the series, so it's fittingly tagged as an "angst" story (another deal-breaker, but, again, she did it extremely well).  This is not a fluffy story.  It is a damned good story, especially when you take the whole series into account.  Obviously, I don't want to give too much away, but she also doesn't bludgeon the reader to death with those issues.  As Alka-Seltzer made famous, "Try it, you'll like it!"

Paganaidd has a wordpress page where she's writing original fiction.  I haven't read the novel yet, but it sounds interesting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The International Bill of Human Rights, Entwistle Books

This is less a review of The International Bill of Human Rights, by Paul D. Williams, and more a bit about my feelings on the matter of Human rights, I guess.  After all, what is there to review in a document that, while it possesses beautiful language in some areas, is mostly a legal document about one of the most important issues throughout human history.    The Bill is actually a series of documents written by various U.N. committees to spell out what the universally accepted human rights are, their legal recourse, and how to achieve that legal recourse within the framework the U.N. Charters will allow.  It was split into many documents partly as a way to ensure the thing actually got written over the objections of people with varying governments and political philosophies.  As of this moment, the United States hasn't ratified all of it.  We have ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but not the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, mostly because people think it will interfere with our capitalist system and make us think of the needs of the have-nots as well as the needs of the haves.

As I was reading the book, I was struck by some of the things written down.  I think I feel as though it's almost an insult for them to have to have been written down, vetted, argued, and agreed upon.  So much of what was listed is just simple stuff that I was raised to believe in.  I guess my family did a good job making sure I grew up with the healthy respect for (most) people that seems to be embodied in the Declaration of Human Rights.  A more eloquent person could wax poetical about it, I'm sure, but I'm not that poet.  I'll simply say I'm glad the book was on the table with other free books for me to take.  I wish I had read it sooner.  Also, I'll be looking into other provisions on human rights that the U.N. has taken.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Heart Legacy by Robin D. Owens

One more down.  I know it's only been two weeks, but I'm thrilled that I've been able to keep up with both my reading and reviewing all the books thus far.  I have three nonfictions that I'm reading in between the brain candy.

As for the latest brain candy, Heart Legacy by Robin D. Owens, I'm somewhere in the middle with this one.  Usually Owens' Celta books are instant hits.  There have been a few I haven't reread.  This one might be one of them.  The story is definitely not a good standalone novel.  There are a few bits of exposition in the beginning that might catch a new reader up, and I liked the way they were done.

The basic premise is that Lori Yew is the putative leader of her family, but they refuse to allow her to lead.  She has been sat on, physically, and emotionally abused by her family and the intelligent Residence until her only recourse is to take her animals and leave the estate and her position.  I liked the fact that she had managed to be a strong enough person to take control of the direction of her life.  Add the romantic lead, Draeg, who has been sent in by other noble families to figure out if Lori's is behind a series of attacks on children of commoner/noble marriages.  Draeg is a bit adrift in his life at the moment and takes the role of spy with reluctance, especially when he starts falling for Lori.

My concerns with the book are that it felt as if no matter what, Lori just couldn't get a break.  Yes, she got her HEA (in the making, since it was going to take a LOT of work for it to happen), but it came at a cost.  Draeg ended up pushing the nobles' agenda on her, rather than going through with what I thought she needed.  The end felt rushed.  I would have liked to see more of how Lori built her new life.

The positives are that I really do love this world she's building and maybe having a story where everything wasn't all candy and roses in the end is a good thing.  It gives the world more depth.  Also, the "Yew as villains" story line seems to finally have finished, and in a way that gives the family a place to build from, rather than just be the horrible characters they have from the beginning.  I liked that the story was relatively self-contained, with few peripheral characters.  I also liked the way Owens explored the differences in personality of the Residences.  These are entities that are, for the most part, hundreds of years old, and will long outlive the people who live in their houses.  It makes sense that they can have some measure of control over their people's lives and I like that we saw that.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Wilhelm Screams Forever

I have to say, there's just something fun or comforting about listening for Wilhelm in the action movies I watch.  Today's entry into the competition is Captain America: The First Avenger.  There is a website that lists the films the Wilhelm Scream is heard in, but it's not complete.

Here's an article about its origin and use and a plea to stop using it.  Honestly, it makes me grin.  It doesn't take me out of the movie at all.  I love hearing it.  My friends and I look forward to it in the types of movies it ends up being used.  Apparently its usage is waning due to overuse.  One day I may never be able to hear Wilhelm in my movies again because some people have no sense of humor.  By then, those professed "film buffs" will have found another fun thing to have conniptions about.  So I guess I will enjoy Wilhelm while I can.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean

I have a weakness for Regency Romance.  I don't know why.  Sarah MacLean is one of the authors that rarely disappoints. Sometimes they're very dramatic and sometimes they're very humorous.  The Rogue Not Taken straddles both.

The heroine, Sophie, is the youngest and "least interesting" of a set of siblings that are one generation and only ten years ennobled.  Their father was a coal mine owner.  While her sisters seem to relish causing scandal and mayhem, Sophie tries to stay out of the limelight as much as possible.  Unfortunately she also loves her sister very much and when she catches her husband in flagrante delicto with a woman, not said sister, she reacts badly and shoves the bastard into a fishpond.  Of course, doing this to a duke in full view of all of the guests at a party is frowned upon so she decides to just go home, smuggling her way onto the coach of the Marquess of Eversley, nicknamed King.  The problem with that is King's coach isn't going to Mayfair, it's headed out of the city altogether.

Mischief and mayhem ensue.  The two fall in love (of course), but there is the typical "I can't marry you because of childhood trauma and I want to leave no children behind" bs from King.  Sophie, on the other hand, doesn't want to trap King into marriage as her oldest sister did with her fishpond-bound groom.  

I liked the pacing of the book.  The falling in love happened over a week or two.  Thankfully we didn't get the love at first sight thing.  Honestly, it was more like loathing at first sight.  Close quarters created the opportunity for them to get to know each other and realize there was more to each other than they originally thought.

There was a wedding.  And I can honestly say that if I got married that way, I'd run my husband over with my carriage and be a wealthy widow instantaneously.  Thankfully for the story, Sophie is more forgiving than I.  To be honest, I'm giving this a YMMV review.  I didn't love it, nor did I hate it.  The hero was a shithead most of the time that I wanted to clobber.  There were times when he was nice, but when he was cruel, he was really cruel.  Sophie mostly stood up for herself, which I really enjoyed.  She wasn't perfect either, and did some phenomenally stupid things.  I think I'll put this review as I may read it again.  I may not.  I'm not sure.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Henchgirl by Rita Stradling

Well, my second read for the year is down.  It's a YA Urban Fantasy, Henchgirl by Rita Stradling.  I liked it but there were a few things I wasn't fond of.  It was definitely a compelling read.  I really like the world Stradling is building.  Basically, Dakota Kekoa is one-eighth Dragon.  In the culture of the world she inhabits that would usually mean she is raised and trained to become a bride and child-bearer of another Dracon (part-dragon/part-human).  This is not the path she wants to follow.  Her Dracon grandfather, instead, uses her as a sort of enforcer in his business dealings and also as an undercover agent in a humans-only school.

One of Dakota's friends is kidnapped and to find her she ends up stuck in the company of Wyvern, the brother of the kidnapped friend.  Wyvern is a powerful, and famous Dracon.  He is also the third piece of a vague love triangle comprised of Dakota, Wyvern, and a boy at her school named Keanu Hale, who is, conveniently enough, the very person her grandfather wants her to get close to in her undercover assignment.

As I said, I really enjoyed the world she's building.  I want to read more about it.  It amused me and kept my attention.  The plotline was interesting,  Dakota isn't a passive character.  She has strengths as well as weaknesses.    

That doesn't mean the book was without flaws.  I wasn't completely fond of the Wyvern character.  He was interesting, but he was too controlling and just a touch too arrogant, which is partly explained by his place in Dracon society, but it was a bit overdone.  Also, the characters around Dakota would make decisions for her or about her without telling her or explaining their reasoning and get upset with her when she either stood up for herself or didn't fall in line with their plans.  Also, there were some basic editing issues, but I was reading an ARC, so I'm going to assume they were cleaned up in the final release.

All told, it was a good book.  There is a sequel coming up and I will read it when it comes out.  I also hope she writes more about a couple of the secondary characters.  Mele and Honua, in particular, I want to read more about.  Dakota's sisters and cousins also amused me.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for a fair review.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Prince and I by Karen Hawkins

My first finish of the year is an historical romance, The Prince and I, by Karen Hawkins.  I liked it.  I've always been a fan of the Robin Hood story and this book provided a nice take on it.  The book is technically the second in a series, but I haven't read the first yet.  It works out just fine as a standalone.

Max is a general and prince of a country somewhere near Russia called Oxenburg.  Don't question the geography or the fact that they have their own language.  Making up a random country is a common trope used in historical romances to not have to deal with pesky things such as historical reality about royal genealogies.  Someday, someone will make a map of all the made-up countries used by historical romance authors.  It should be quite interesting.  But I digress.  Max is escorting his grandmother (who reminds me of Tante Lulu from Sandra Hill's books) to an estate in Scotland so she can retrieve something she lost from the current owner of the estate, Louden.  These books are set during the Napoleonic wars, so Max is war-weary and discouraged from fighting and losing people.

Murian is the widow of the late owner of said estate, who was kicked out with all of the servants when the current owner took over.  She, and most of the people in the area are convinced the current owner murdered her husband.  To prove it, she's also trying to get something from the estate, her late husband's journal.  However, when she and the others were kicked out, they ended up living in an abandoned village in the woods.  For various reasons, she and her merry band hold up the coaches of the people visiting Louden.  So Maid Murian is actually Robin Hood.  I love the gender-bend.

The opening scene is wonderful, and introduces the characters well.  Murian and her crew hold up Max and Tata Natasha.  We also meet Max's men, who we get to know a little better in the story.  The story progresses at a good pace.  It doesn't really bog down all that much anywhere.  The fact that Murian is a widow means we don't have to deal with maidenly blushes, etc.  She is a strong character in her own right and does what she can to provide for her people.  Max has a hang-up, of course, in that he doesn't think soldiers should marry.  Luckily, he's not as angst-ridden or stupid about it as so many heroes I've read.  The falling in love felt organic, not rushed.  The attraction was instant, sure, but the rest wasn't.  

The supporting cast is fleshed out as much as needed, although there are a few characters I'd love to read more about.  As for the betrayal written about in the blurb, I really liked the reveal.  It was a good twist.  There really wasn't much about the book that surprised me, other than the reveal about the betrayer.  I've read so many of these books and read so many versions of Robin Hood that nothing surprised me.  I figured out at least one twist extremely early on and was just waiting to see how that would play out.  All in all, the book was an enjoyable, quick read.  I'm sure I'll read it again when I'm in the mood for a book with humor.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge

Well, I've decided on my 2016 Reading Challenge.  I will read and review at least one book a week.  I have a general list, but as long as I follow my ultimate goal of at least 52 reviews, then I'll be happy.  

Here's my general list:
A book by Isabel Allende
A book by Maya Angelou
A book by Margaret Atwood
A book by Jane Austen
A book by Enid BlytonA book by Octavia Butler
A play by William Shakespeare
A book by Mark Twain
A book written by an author with your initials
A book by an independently published author
A book by a local author
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
A book by someone that identifies as LGBTQ
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
A book by someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet

A book by Agatha Christie
A book by Roald Dahl
A book by Emily Dickinson
A book by Robert Frost
A book by Neil Gaiman
A book by Zane Grey
A book by Zora Neale Hurston
A book by Stephen King
book by James Joyce
A book by Ursula K. LeGuin
book by Haruki Murakami
book by Nabokov
A book by Plato, Aristotle, or Marcus Aurelius
A book by Brian Selznick
A book by Robert Service
A book by Mary Shelley
A book by Henry David Thoreau
book by Kurt Vonnegut
A book by David Foster Wallace
A book by Walt Whitman
A book or play by Oscar Wilde
A book by an author you LOATHE
A book written by someone with your first name
A book written by someone with your last name
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
Seven books - a book by aauthor from each different continent (If only penguins knew how to write.)
A popular author's first book
A book by an author you've never read before
A book by an author with “Q” in their name
A book by an author with “X” in their name
A book by an author with “Z” in their name

I have two new books that don't fall under any of these categories, but that's alright.  They're romances and won't take long to read.  I've also signed up at and will be reading books from there.  There are a lot of history books.  I just started one about the idea that World Wars I and II were actually European civil wars.  It's interesting thus far.