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.