Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Geek and Sundry Romance Books

Vaginal Fantasy HangoutAlthough I don't get television (no cable, no antennae), I do watch a few channels on my computer. I stumbled into Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy bookclub, which she then rolled into your Geek & Sundry channel (home of Table Top and other fine programming). Each month she and her three friends drink booze and discuss a book or two, with the books involving a female protagonist, usually some romance, and usually a fantasy or other genre classification. There's a goodreads group associated with it, and also local meetups around the world, although I haven't made it to any of those yet.

A Kiss at MidnightThis month they are reading Daughter of the Forest (main selection) and Deerskin (alt book). Deerskin by Robin McKinley is a powerful and haunting book that I've read several times already, and Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier was my real life book club's selection about a year ago, and I didn't feel like rereading either of those this month. But then they tossed in an alt-alt-selection for people who didn't want to deal with the serious themes of the first two choices, and I was in for A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James. (The theme this month was fairy tale retellings.)

I had a lot of fun with this retelling of Cinderella -- I liked the sly humor of the main character, I liked her contempt for but gentle treatment of the annoying lap dogs she gets stuck with, I liked her banter with the Prince character. The plot was silly, but since it was based on the fairy tale there was no real hope for any surprises there. The sex scenes were also fairly silly, although most of the time even the characters themselves were aware of that. (The final one, where they Reveal All, worked amazingly well for its plot advancement.) But for a light read it was just what I wanted, and definitely more fitting to my moods this month that the more emotionally real and powerful but depressing actual books for the club.


Busy Busy Busy

I zipped off to Houston for an unexpected Spring Break, where I managed not to do any blogging. Oops. So this is my catch-up post as to what I've been reading for the past few weeks, and it's not tax books!
  • Long May She Reign, Ellen Emerson White
  • A Kiss at Midnight, Eloise James
  • Horde, Ann Aguirre
  • The Water Castle, Megan Frazer Blackmore
  • Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Floating Circus, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
  • Balanced on the Blade's Edge, Lindsay Buroker
  • Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station, Dorothy Gilman
  • Night Broken, Patricia Briggs
  • One Week Girlfriend, Monica Murphy
  • War for the Oaks, Emma Bull
  • Final Sail, Elaine Viets
Also some picture books:
  • The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt. I had the best reading experience for this -- it was read to me by a preschooler who had learned every word.
  • Disney Frozen Magical Story. With the same preschooler. Now I can see the movie!
What am I currently reading?
  • Poems to Learn By Heart, Caroline Kennedy (ed.). This is a Cybils poetry book. I already had some of these memorized, so that's a good sign.
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman. AUDIO. Poor kids went nowhere in my car last week, so they are languishing.
  • The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau. AUDIO. This is the March Sword and Laser Kids book. Xan and I listen to it so we don't get ahead of Paulos with Mrs Pollifax.
  • Carter's Big Break, Brent Crawford. AUDIO for me to listen to when I'm alone. It's from the 2013 Best of the Best for teens list.
  • The Golden Leopard, Lynn Kerstan. A book that's been waiting on my NOOK. Not much romance yet, but it looks promising.
  • Heart of Steel, Meljean Brooks. I started this on the plane, but the main character's drug use is off-putting.
  • Rose, Holly Webb. NOOK. A Cybils SF pick. 
  • Perdition, Ann Aguirre. I like her.
  • We Are Not Eaten By Yaks, C. Alexander London. My kids both already read this! Humph.
  • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. I think I will be glad when I have read this, although it's not really my cup of tea.
  • When Molly Was a Harvey Girl, Frances Wood. RML book that is due tomorrow. I put it down somewhere last night.
  • 100 Cupboards, Nathan Wilson. Another RML book due tomorrow -- I started it when Molly went AWOL. I don't have time for my foolish ways!
Reading intermittently, and deliberately slowly. These never change much:
  • Radio Fifth Grade, Gordon Korman. 
  • Out to Canaan, Jan Karon. 
  • A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis. 
  • The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. 
  • How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card. 
2014 Challenge Progress:
  1. TBR Triple Dog Dare: 22 +3. Success! I made it! Hooray!
  2. Cybils: 40/77.  Got the last picture book from the library, read some poetry, and finished one SF while starting another.
  3. Where Am I Reading? 22/51. Ohio and Florida are there, and I'm currently reading a Kansas and a New Mexico.
  4. Alphabetically Inclined: 15/26. Got the O.
  5. What's In a Name?: 5/7. Edge is a shape, right?
  6. Book Bingo: 22 Squares. Got the mystery. Need 7 more new releases and a few TBR.
  7. Gentle Spectrum Challenge: 5/10, 9/10. I'm rocking the category section.
  8. Small Fry Safari: 5/8. No change. Still need furniture, pairs, and something precious.
  9. PoC Speculative Fiction 3/5: Both Broken Homes and Water Castle qualify!
  10. Best of the Best 2012: 51/25.  No change. I'm inching through Carter's Big Break on audio and not enjoying The Night Circus much in print.
  11. Reading My Library:  Finished one more, currently reading two more. All are due back on Thursday.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fun On a Rainy Day

steampunk romance coverToday has been stressful in a lot of ways, so I was glad to have the chance to relax into Lindsay Buroker's new book, Balanced on a Blade's Edge. I'm still working my way through Buroker's backlist after my book club read The Emperor's Edge last year as part of our ebook experiment (hey, go try it, that one's free). She writes fun steampunk books with romance in the background -- they aren't really romances although that's clearly an important part of the characters' lives.

This new book was a bit of an experiment; Buroker apparently had a fun idea when she was surprised by a few weeks of free time, so she converted her ideas into a book at full speed. So this one is fairly short -- about 200 pages, and also fairly direct -- we have the two strands of the main character and don't bother to dive into long flashbacks or twists along the way. But it also has Buroker's strengths -- fun dialogue, both internal and external, interesting, slightly flawed characters that I enjoy cheering on, and a vibrant setting that never overwhelms the story. Oh, and characters with a good bit of common sense, a characteristic that I may add as one of my favorite story element. Especially as I like a lot of genre stuff, where authors sometimes feel like throwing out common sense really liberates the story.

Anyway, this book has flying machines, different flying machines, magical owls, a snarky magic sword, a few call backs to Bujold (I don't know if the author meant them, but when you exile an intelligent military guy in an frozen outpost, I go there), powerful light bulbs, and a perfect book for an airplane ride. Too bad I liked it so much I finished it the day before my trip.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Final Day Before Book Buying Spree!

2a
Last day of theNo-New-Books Triple Dog Dare. So close! And yet it still seems pretty far.

Luckily, my entire family can't pick a basketball winner to save our lives, so our March Madness Pool is over and I can run to the bookstore with my meager winnings tomorrow! (Well, we'll probably make a ceremonial trip next weekend, but the pleasure is still there.) The adults chip into a pool, we indulge our math geekery by squabbling over how to count points, and then we award Barnes & Noble Gift Cards to everyone.

Now I'll sign in at Book Journey and Teach Mentor Texts since I want to see what everyone else is reading this month while I show off my recent reading path.
  • The Lost Boy, Greg Ruth. Cybils Graphic Novel -- very dark and spooky.
  • Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon & Little Hits, Matt Fraction. Comic books, because I am hip and with it. Clint seems to be making some poor life choices, though.
  • The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater. NOOK. Very good, although I expected more stuff to be solved in this book rather than the sequel, which is waiting at the library for my son.
  • Squish #5: Game On!, Jennifer L. Holm. Cybils Graphic Novel. As unlike Lost Boy as I can possibly imagine.
  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place III: The Unseen Guest, Maryrose Wood. For my Reading My Library Quest -- a bit too cute for me.
  • Hawkes Harbor, S.E. Hinton. A good read, although a bit incoherent. 
  • Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton, Matt Phelan. A soothing, gentle Cybils Graphic Novel that amused my son.
Also some picture books:
  • The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses, Lisa Wheeler. Cybils poetry book. Sad.
  • Limelight Larry, Leigh Hodgkinson. Snarky and vibrant, for sophisticated kids and their parents.
  • Jazzy in the Jungle, Lucy Cousins. Bright colors, turnable pages, not much for adults.
What am I currently reading? I finished a few books, and I ALMOST finished a handful more. I've now got 3 audio books going in my car to accommodate various configurations of passengers -- this is exhausting! I'm hoping to finish two more of my books by the end of today, and then I can relax for a while.
  • Poems to Learn By Heart, Caroline Kennedy (ed.). This is a Cybils poetry book. I've marked several poems as ones I might want to add to my mental collection.
  • One Week Girlfriend, Monica Murphy. I'll probably finish this today -- the youth of today are exhausting.
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman. AUDIO. As soon as we are all in the car this goes on.
  • The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau. AUDIO. This is the March Sword and Laser Kids book. Xan and I listen to it so we don't get ahead of Paulos with Mrs Pollifax.
  • War For the Oaks, Emma Bull. I'll probably finish this today -- I'm enjoying the romantic subplots and the adult way the protagonists handles her career, her fairy commitments, and her men.
  • Long May She Reign, Ellen Emerson White. I hope my kids meet people like Meg when they go to college. I hope they are better behaved than Jack, though.
  • Carter's Big Break, Brent Crawford. AUDIO for me to listen to when I'm alone. It's from the 2013 Best of the Best for teens list.
  • The Golden Leopard, Lynn Kerstan. A book that's been waiting on my NOOK. I'm hoping for a fun romance.
  • The Water Castle, Megan Frazer Blackmore. A Cybils pick with an interesting sibling dynamic.
  • Final Sail, Elaine Viets. I got this last year as another North America book (it takes place in the Caribbean), but I'm not connecting much to the characters.
Reading intermittently, and deliberately slowly. These never change much:
  • Radio Fifth Grade, Gordon Korman. Transmission shenanigans with a powerful hair dryer.
  • Out to Canaan, Jan Karon. The good mayor is back in the lead.
  • A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis. How therapy and drugs can work together.
  • The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. Pickwick in prison -- still dull.
  • How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card. A good discussion of how to give background info, with Octavia Butler as a great example.
What's up next? We Are Not Eaten By Yaks is STILL up on top of my nightstand, with the library book The Night Circus now lurking hopefully in my bag. I need to start concentrating on my Reading My Library Quest books as they are due back soon. I've got some book club picks on my NOOK waiting for me.

2014 Challenge Progress:
  1. TBR Triple Dog Dare: 22 +3. I will probably get to 24 before tomorrow.
  2. Cybils: 38/77. Finished the Elementary Graphic Novels, working on poetry, and Elementary Speculative Fiction.
  3. Where Am I Reading? 20/51. Checked off California, Delaware, and Virginia. My current reads are duplicates, though.
  4. Alphabetically Inclined: 14/26. No change.
  5. What's In a Name?: 4/7. Still need weather, school subject, and shape. I saw some library books that would plug these holes, but the Triple Dog Dare kept my hands off of them.
  6. Book Bingo: 20 Squares. Still need a mystery, a lot of  New Releases, and a few more TBR.
  7. Gentle Spectrum Challenge: 5/10, 7/10. The Harbor scored me a point.
  8. Small Fry Safari: 4/8. No change. Still need furniture, time, pairs, and something precious.
  9. PoC Speculative Fiction 1/5: No change.
  10. Best of the Best 2012: 51/25.  I've started listening to the next audio, and the next book is in my reading bag.
  11. Reading My Library:  Finished Maryrose Wood's book.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Final Stretch! Book On the Horizon!

Image of Renton
badge-4There are less than 60 hours left in the Triple Dog Dare -- a Dare that I avoid acquiring books just because they look tasty. And I'm still standing.

I've even talked to people who have read the books that I wanted but couldn't get because of this dare. Of course, by "talk" I mean sat by them with my fingers in my ears chanting "LALALA." But I came home, fired up my NOOK, and then put it back down. At the library, I saw two book my my TBR list, and another book that I NEED for a challenge.  Exercising great will power (which, perhaps coincidentally, is the ONLY exercise I've done this week), I left them on the library shelves. The hold shelf kindly soothed my soul's irritation by handing me several Cybils books, but even there I'm restricting myself to post-bedtime Cybils time with them.

(The links for Cybils books go to the Cybils-Amazon page, rather than the library page, so you can support them if you want. And if I got the link right.)



The Lost Boy, Greg Ruth. The last of the Cybils young Graphic Novels.
RoseHolly Webb. I actually got this in both ebook & text form. Next Cybils young Speculative Fiction.
 The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson. Cybils Speculative Fiction.
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Kathi Appelt. More Speculative Fiction.
The Water Castle,  Megan Frazer Blakemore. I got the NOOK form of this SF.
The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses, Lisa Wheeler. The next poetry book. I'm alternating chapters of the anthology with these picture books.

And a book club book:

A Kiss at MidnightA Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James. NOOK. This is actually the alt-alt-pick for the Vaginal Fantasy April books. The other two books both include a rape scene (Deerskin and   Daughter of the Forest) so they gave another choice. I've already read both of those (I highly recommend Deerskin and I liked Daughter of the Forest), so I'll try the new one.

This means I now have 44 things out on my library cards, including ebooks. I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Book credits banked: Eleven (Usually I reward myself by buying a book if my library total is less than my age, but since I can't actually buy anything right now I'm counting up these credits.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Triple Dog Dare CrunchTime!

2a
Another week and I'm still on the No-New-Books Triple Dog Dare. The end of March is in sight. So close!

I've been busily reading Cybils books and encouraging my kids to read them as well. We also had our family book club meeting and discussed Margaret Lovett's The Great and Terrible Quest, which was a big hit. I also managed to start and finish Leonard Richardson's Constellation Games. He was the guest of honor at this year's Foolscap and I've been meaning to read his book since January, and after meeting him I was even more interested. Good stuff.

Now I'll sign in at Book Journey and Teach Mentor Texts since I want to see what everyone else is reading this month while I show off my recent reading path.
  • Constellation Games, Leonard Richardson. A book about first contact, responsibility, and trust.
  • Monster On the Hill, Rob Harrell. Cybils young graphic novel, popular with my boys.
  • March Book 1, John Lewis. Cybils young graphic novel, approved by high schooler.
  • Goddess of Spring, P.C. Cast. NOOK. Alt pick for Vaginal Fantasy. Fun.
  • Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite, Barry Deutsch.  Cybils young graphic novel.
  • The Darkest Kiss, Gena Showalter. Main pick for Vaginal Fantasy. I didn't like it.
  • The Great and Terrible Quest, Margaret Lovett. Family book club book. As good as I remembered.
  • The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems, Lauren Myracle. Cybils Early Chapter book. I didn't trust the realism.
Also some picture books:
  • Pug and Other Animal Poems, Valerie Worth. Cybils poetry book.
  • Extraordinary Jane, Hannah E. Harrison. Fun book about a dog with no special talent.
  • 123 versus ABC, Mike Boldt. Numbers face off with letters.
  • What Will Fat Cat Sit On, Jan Thomas. I loved this simple tale of a scary big cat while the other animals frantically dodge the bullet.
  • What If Everybody Did That, Ellen Javernick. I would have liked this one more if it had involved different people learning the lesson -- by the end of the book I wanted to turn the viewpoint boy over my knee.
What am I currently reading? I have finished nothing on this list this week! Instead I plowed through some Cybils light reading and the Vaginal Fantasy books about to expire from my NOOK. Then I got to work on the Foolscap GoH book I've had out since January but hadn't gotten around to reading yet, and which the library wants back pronto.
  • Hawke's Harbor, S.E. Hinton. I think I got this for the setting (Delaware) but then it turned out to be a duplicate, and now the library wants it back. Very different from Outsiders.
  • Poems to Learn By Heart, Caroline Kennedy (ed.). This is a Cybils poetry book, and I'm only reading a chapter or so at a time so I can decide if I want to learn any new poems by heart.
  • One Week Girlfriend, Monica Murphy. I got distracted by other books so haven't actually made any progress on this.
  • The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater (book & NOOK). There's a lot of foreshadowing of doom, which does not make me rush to finish the book.
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman. AUDIO. We are all enjoying this, especially the part where her prison companions are tortured.
  • The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau. AUDIO. This is the March Sword and Laser Kids book. Xan and I listen to it so we don't get ahead of Paulos with Mrs Pollifax.
  • War For the Oaks, Emma Bull. I'm liking this, but boy can I tell that I waited decades to read it -- it's practically historical!
  • The Unseen Guest (Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place), Maryrose Wood. I think this is a bit too twee for me, but I'm enjoying the ostrich. 
  • Long May She Reign, Ellen Emerson White. E.E. White is a great writer -- she really nails her characters.
Reading intermittently, and deliberately slowly. These never change much:
  • Radio Fifth Grade, Gordon Korman. They may have to start doing their own homework.
  • Out to Canaan, Jan Karon. The good mayor is back in the lead.
  • A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis. The importance of early training in emotional equilibrium.
  • The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. Pickwick in prison -- dull.
  • How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card. Reader expectations in SF and regular literature, aka the dangers of early metaphors.
What's up next? We Are Not Eaten By Yaks is STILL up on top of my nightstand, with the library book The Night Circus waits patiently next to it. I want to concentrate on my books, not library ones for this last week of the TBR challenge.

2014 Challenge Progress:
  1. TBR Triple Dog Dare: 21 +3. The plus three are books I own but haven't read in years.
  2. Cybils: 35/77. Finished the Early Chapter Books, working on poetry, and starting on young graphic novels.
  3. Where Am I Reading? 17/51. Finished books from Italy (maybe) and Greece, and checked off Georgia as a state. Still reading the California and Virginia books.
  4. Alphabetically Inclined: 14/26. Into the back half.
  5. What's In a Name?: 4/7. Still need weather, school subject, and shape. Next month I can start scanning the Quick Pick display at the library for these.
  6. Book Bingo: 20 Squares. I need a mystery. And a handful of New Releases.
  7. Gentle Spectrum Challenge: 5/10, 6/10. Got a season and a family name.
  8. Small Fry Safari: 4/8. Still need furniture, time, pairs, and something else.
  9. PoC Speculative Fiction 1/5: Nothing. I read books by PoCs, and I read SF, but nothing combining the two.
  10. Best of the Best 2012: 51/25.  No change.
  11. Reading My Library:  Still working on Maryrose Wood's book.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Stay On Target...

Image of Renton
badge-4There are only 10 days left in the Triple Dog Dare -- a Dare that I avoid acquiring books just because they look tasty.

I have never come so close to making the dare. This is getting intense. I saw many books at the library that I want -- the Quick Pick shelves seemed to be stocked with me in mind. But I heroically drooled and then left. Of course, I left by the hold shelf, since I had several Cybils picks to gather up. Thank goodness for Challenge Exemptions.

(The links for Cybils books go to the Cybils-Amazon page, rather than the library page, so you can support them if you want. And if I got the link right.)

Cybils books -- 4 Middle Grade Graphic Novels:
SquishBlufftonMarchMonster on the Hill

Squish: Game On, Jennifer Holm
Bluffton, Matt Phelan
March, Book One, John Lewis
Monster On the Hill, Rob Harrell

One Poetry, and one Middle Grade Speculative Fiction:
Pug and Other Animal PoemsThe Screaming Staircase
Pug and Other Animal Poems, Valerie Worth
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase, Jonathan Stroud

This means I now have 43 things out on my library cards, including ebooks. I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Book credits banked: Ten (Usually I reward myself by buying a book if my library total is less than my age, but since I can't actually buy anything right now I'm counting up these credits.)