Monday, November 7, 2016

Deep Breath, Then Exhale

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Team Tapirs has finished our reading contest in 8th place, which is in the top third of contenders. And we've made friends and had a great time.

I certainly hope I ease off on the reading, because the rest of my life is feeling the strain. Of course, I've got a few graphic novels waiting, because they didn't count for my team so I've been putting them off.

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called It's Monday! What Are You Reading and I'm going to sign up. There's also a version that is kidlit focussed, and as I read a few of those (surprisingly few, actually), I check in with either Teach Mentor Text or UnLeashing Readers for their version.

My pile of books for this week:
The Viscount Needs a Wife (Company of Rogues #17)Memory Man (Amos Decker, #1)Home Improvement: Undead EditionOnce a Rancher (The Carsons of Mustang Creek, #1)A Gentleman's Position (Society of Gentlemen, #3)
The Ruins of Karzelek (Mandrake Company, #4)A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentlemen, #2)Mistletoe and Murder (Daisy Dalrymple, #11)Bayou MagicOut of the Cold (Robyn Hunter, #4)
Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompso...Superfluous Women (Daisy Dalrymple, #22)Jinian Star-Eye (The End of the Game, #3)Penric’s MissionBlack Ship (Daisy Dalrymple, #17)

The Viscount Needs a Wife, Jo Beverley. I grabbed this from the library when I saw it days after I heard of her death. I think it's her second-to-last book, given publishing schedules. The unusual situation and HEA were standard for the author, although I was annoyed by how many coincidences worked to make all their wishes come true. I liked the parts where the characters worked for their resolutions better.

Memory Man
, David Baldacci. My second attempt at a book from this library shelf as part of my Reading My Library Quest. Once I accepted that Our Hero Amos will figure out all the things, leaving his partner and the FBI agents to look on either admiringly or suspiciously, I could relax and enjoy the twists and turns. The final solution was unbelievable, but that's not really a problem in this genre. I think there's a sequel so I might visit Amos again; I made a failed attempt at getting my Tuesday book club to read it but was foiled by a poorly stocked New England library.

Home Improvement: Undead Edition, ed. Charlaine Harris. The Tuesday night group wanted an urban fantasy story but we had trouble finding something available to everyone, so we finally went with this collection. It also might gives us some ideas for future authors, and it meant it didn't matter if we missed some weeks since there was no through plot. Most of the stories were fun, none were that long, and I'll continue to appreciate Harris's collections. Also it gives us lots of scope for movie selection.

Once a Rancher, Linda Miller. The next audio book for my Reading My Library Quest pleased me by keeping the setting definitively in Wyoming, but the romance left me cold. I didn't think the couple were at all suited for each other; both seemed to need a lot of individual maturing time before they were ready for a commitment. The children were disturbingly alien as well. The main problems before them were Grace's fear of rushing a relationship after her recent divorce (she gets pushed into an almost instant marriage) and her concerns with raising children with a man whose career demands his constant absence. This is ignored, but he has brothers so his actual presence is apparently unnecessary. I hate when I'm not rooting for the couple to get together, not the least because it's a sure thing in a romance, but at least they can pretend to address the conflict keeping the story moving.

* A Gentleman's Position, K.J. Charles. This is an author whose backlist I am plowing through, but I skipped a book because I wanted to be on the other side of that conflict. I'm glad I did; the third book in this series actually starts at the same point as the first (actually all three run over the same time, but seen from different viewpoints, which is always fun), and deals with the very real problem of having a relationship not just across class lines, but one where one man hold power over the other. I thought it was a very well done examination of that problem, along with the characterization of both men, and this made for an interesting historical romance, where the history is not as imaginary as usual.

* The Ruins of Karzelek, Ruby Lionsdrake (Lindsay Buroker). I skipped to #4 of this series because the Tapirs needed a 4rth in a series, and it worked because the main viewpoint character was someone outside the main grouping. The science fiction is light on the science, but that just gives more room for space battles and ancient alien traps and raunchy banter between the nerdy science officer and his tense employer.

* A Seditious Affair, K.J. Charles. And I went back to the second book of the series, comfortable now that I had seen most of the outlines of the plot from the other character's eyes. This one had several characters passionate about the politics of the times, so the history parts of the history came in naturally. I liked seeing how the friend's of the main couple never grew comfortable with each other; crossing class lines is difficult and only done under great need, which mutual acquantences don't have.

"A Feast of Stephen," K.J. Charles. A small story for fans of the Magpie series showing how the couples are settling down together.

* Mistletoe and Murder, Carola Dunn. (Daisy #11). I'm really enjoying seeing the small twists and changes Dunn makes with her standard formula. Daisy doesn't change much, although her life does, and this episode brings together her mom and her family, with the pleasant addition of a nephew, at a house party of near strangers for Christmas. Although the ending is a bit grim, the important people have a good path forward, and the kids had a good Christmas, which is the important thing, right? I like to relax in these knowing that the good people will be all right, and the bad people will either get offed or be deservedly sent to gaol.

* Bayou Magic, Jewell Parker Rhodes. Finally another Cybils Finalist! This Middle Grade SF book had an endearing protagonist who spends a fun magic summer learning from her gifted grandmother and the rural Louisiana community that she pillars, but I found the realistic environmental message (the book takes place before and during the Gulf of Mexico giant oil spill) and the magic at cross-purposes rather than reinforcing each other.

* Out of the Cold, Norah McClintock.  I found Norah McClintock through her Dooley books, and ever since I've been grabbing up her teen mysteries. I like the respect they pay their characters and the realistic, rarely over-the-top way the kids investigate the problems. Robyn in this book was a bit too eager to take blame, and I didn't like her new beau as much as she seems to, but the tinge of exoticism that the Canadian setting gives eased me over that disagreement. I look forward to more of this series.

* Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs. This is more of a recovery book, although the recovery gets complicated by a vampire attack, complicated betrayals from friends and their allies, and an engagement. I like how Ben comes into his own, and the small steps forward in the development of Jesse. And I have little memory of the next book, so that should be fun to read.

* Superfluous Women, Carola Dunn. (Daisy #22). This is the latest (but I hope not the last) installment of Daisy, with an examination of the effects of the lack of bachelors on the women of her generation. And with her and Alec solving a murder, of course. I liked how Daisy both enthusiastically matchmakes and respects the careers of single women. I also appreciated the ease of parenting with the aid of several full time servants.

* Jinian Star-Eye, Sheri Tepper. This is the last of the Mavis Many-Shaped books, which I started collecting decades ago but didn't read because I was hoping to find the full set. Since then I've grown a bit out of Tepper, but her early works are still mostly action, and the Tapirs needed a book starting with the letter J. I liked the different Gifts, the source of these powers, and the cost of saving the world.

* "Penric's Mission," Lois McMaster Bujold. The next installment of Penric's adventures with demon possession, this one includes a bonus romance for him. I like how Bujold is getting romantic as time goes on. I also liked how the rescued guy is kind of a jerk. This was a bit of a cheat, as I'm not supposed to be buying new books, but the novella was the perfect length -- long enough to count for the Tapirs, short enough to finish in time for one more boss fight.

* Black Ship, Carola Dunn. (Daisy # 17). The family inherits a new home and some money, and move to a new neighborhood, where they of course find a body. I was worried about them squeezing into the old place, what with Daisy, Alec, Belinda, the twins, the nanny, although I'm pretty sure the parlor maid, cook, and cleaning person are only there during the day. And of course, Lambert shows up and needs refuge for a great deal of this book. I felt clever for spotting the murderer, but of course it's not really that hard in these books even if you ignore all the clues. And this was my last book for the Tapirs!

(* Books I started this week.)

And last week, because I didn't pause to reflect:

Dark Witch (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, #1)Here Lies the LibrarianRachael Ray's Big Orange Book: Her Biggest Ever Collection of All-New 30-Minute Meals Plus Kosher Meals, Meals for One, Veggie Dinners, Holiday Favorites, and Much More!Comrade Don Camillo
But Can the Phoenix Sing?Dragonsinger (Pern: Harper Hall, #2)Day Shift (Midnight, Texas,...The War that Saved My Life
Branded by the Pink TriangleNine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber #1)Anthem for Doomed Youth (Daisy Dalrymple, #19)Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)

Dark Witch, Nora Roberts. I'm finally making progress on this old Vaginal Fantasy alt pick.

* Here Lies the Librarian, Richard Peck. An unexpected delight, which I picked up because the Tapirs needed a book with a cross on the cover. I expected routine high jinks in an old time small town, and got women's history, auto history, and business skullduggery (to my intense pleasure). And it took place in Indiana! For some reason I never expect to enjoy Richard Peck's books, although I always do.

* Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book, Rachael Ray. Another Tapir read, although I picked it because I like Rachael Ray. I used to watch her 30 minute meal show, and I still have many of her suggestions in my rotation. I think I'll add a few more from this book, and I liked seeing into her world of someone who actually enjoys cooking. I find that very heartening, since I detest it.

* Comrade Don Camillo, Giovannino Guareschi. I like the stories of the little Italian priest squaring off against the communists, although this later book is more bitter even as it has Don Camillo besting the Soviets throughout his tour of Russia while undercover as a party member. The afterward explains that it's the last stories published in the author's magazine before it went bust, which I guess explains the tone.

* But Can the Phoenix Sing, Christa Laird. A story about Polish Jewish resistance in World War II, framed by a modern story about a boy whose stepfather is the resistance fighter writing him the events of his life. I didn't feel the frame added anything to the story, especially the awkwardly inserted connected to fascist youth and the conveniently timed death of the biologic father, but I'm as interested in stories of WWII as I was as a kid. A good addition to that collection.

* Dragonsinger, Anne McCaffrey. Our friend's bookclub pick for the month, this still works as the perfect female coming of age story. Menolly battles sexism, her inexperience and shyness, snarky girls, and bitter old men as she proves herself a singer and composer and earns friends and a bit of fame. And she does it in a week!

* Day Shift, Charlaine Harris. I bought myself a paperback copy of the second book about universes colliding in Midnight, Texas. It's a small canvas of quirky individuals, quirky not because they are witches, psychics, vampires, or angels, but because they have their own paths and personalities that brought them to town. Sometimes the extra stuff matters, but usually it doesn't.

* The War That Saved My Life, Kimberley Brubaker Bradley. Another WWII kidlit book for me, this one about evacuated children who find real families. The original single mum is horrific, but mostly to the daughter with the club foot, which makes her younger brother more conflicted. The reluctant host learns about family by bonding with the kids, and major tragedies are averted, although not all minors ones.

* Branded By the Pink Triangle, Ken Setterington. This YA history of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals laid out in stark terms the dangers facing gay men in German controlled areas, a persecution made more shocking because of the liberal period between the wars that had given hope to LG couples. I say men because the Nazis apparently didn't really believe in lesbianism; those were women guilty of slacking on the childbearing front, not women with perverse natures. To add insult to injury, after the war most governments treated pink triangle inmates as criminals, not as victims, and denied them the pension or other relief given to other survivors. Individual stories highlighted each chapter, but there was no one storyline bringing everything together.

* Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny. An old SF classic that I've somehow never gotten around to came in handy when the Tapirs needed a book with an essential oil ingredient in the title. I was vaguely aware that it was a portal world series, but found the actual mechanics interesting. Corwin himself was a bit of a dud, and the gender stereotypes dated it severely. What kept tossing me out of the story the most however was the constant smoking -- a world without cartons of cigarettes was too strange to imagine back then, apparently.

* Anthem for Doomed Youth, (Daisy Dalrymple #19), Carola Dunn. Daisy goes off to step-daughter Belinda's school sports day, where she meets several nice teachers with various war-induced disabilities and a mean teacher who mocks them for it. In a gentle twist, the mean guy isn't the murderer; he's the victim. Meanwhile Alec is safely off chasing a serial killer in a different section of the county, and the only link is the disgruntled local cop who was kicked off the exciting murder case and vents his spleen on Daisy during his small teacher death one. The combination of fun, period-appropriate characters and a bit of history about the time continue to delight me in this cosy mystery series.

Iron Kissed, Patricia Briggs. I want to reread all the Briggs books by February, so here's to number 3! This is the one with a super gruesome boss battle, one with repercussions that echo strongly through the next several books. It's a tough one to reread, knowing what is coming, but also lets me know I can trust this author to keep her characters consistent to themselves.

* (Books I read within that week)

I started but didn't finish:
Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising, #4)A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea

Strands of Sorrow, John Ringo. We needed a book that was fourth in a series, but after the first chapter I noticed how long this one was and jumped to the Lionsdrake above. Also, "Sorrow" in the title imples that some characters aren't going to make it, and I didn't want to be slowed by unhappy reading.

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, Dina Nayeri. This is my next Reading My Library audio, and I suspect I will not like it because it's full of beautiful language and a child with misconceptions, both of which tend to annoy me. Oh well, the narrator has a soothing voice so I shall do my best. I hope no one else in the county wants to listen, as there are a lot of discs here so I'm hoping for several renewals.

Bookmarks moved in several books:

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Sea Without a Shore (Lt. Leary, #10)City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)Trial and Temptation (Mandrake Company, #2)

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu. My favorite parts so far are the flashbacks to the installation; I loved the bureaucratic discussion of how to communicate with theoretical aliens about the role of communism and capitalist oppression.

The Sea Without a Shore, David Drake. And there's a battle, and we get some fancy flying from Daniel, but Adele and the new ensign must fend for themselves in the big city.

City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett. We are back to solving the mystery, with the fear of aunts a constant drone in the background.

Trial and Temptation, Ruby Lionsdrake (Lindsay Buroker).  OK, the annoying guy is right about how unprofessional they are, but he doesn't know that he's not in a military space opera book, he's in a science fiction romance, so it's to be expected.

2016 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2015: 44 out of 82. Finished Bayou Magic for a quick Tapirs read.
  2. Reading My Library: Progress! Finished both Once a Rancher and Memory Man. Started the next audio, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea and have The Heart Goes Last on my bedside table.
  3. Where Am I Reading?: 41/51.  Finished Wyoming and also picked up Indiana. I still need the Dakotas, Utah, and Arkansas, among others.
  4. Full House Challenge:  25/25!
  5. Library Challenge: I'm at 227.  Thanks, library!
  6. Diversity Challenge 2016: 12/12. 11/12. Poetry is the tricky one. In October I'll looking at how many Native Americans appear in my books. 4 books with American Indians, with 3 books identifying the tribe. But a large percentage of this month's reading took place in historical England, so the low numbers aren't that surprising. In November I'm going to look at family structures.
  7. Shelf Love Challenge 2016:  57.  I really tried hard to looking first to my shelves to handle Tapir problems, and I think it paid off.
  8. Grown-Up Reading Challenge 2016: 19/20.  Still need a Pulitzer.
  9. Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016: 12/12!
  10. Surprise Me Challenge:  Almost picked up Positively again.
  11. Flash Bingo:  Summer still needs a book about books, and an Australian book. I'm setting up the Autumn books now, and I have several BINGOs on them.
  12. Literary Exploration Challenge: 12/12. Now I'll work on the 36 challenge -- 33/36

Monday, October 17, 2016

Reading Too Much

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
I like books. And I need to stop reading a book a day for my Team Tapirs, because things like laundry and volunteer emails are falling by the wayside.

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called It's Monday! What Are You Reading and I'm going to sign up. There's also a version that is kidlit focussed, and as that is a particular interest of mine, I check in with either Teach Mentor Text or UnLeashing Readers for their version.

My pile of books for this week:

Damsel in Distress (Daisy Dalrymple, #5)PegeenThe Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must DoThe Spirit Thief (The Legend of Eli Monpress, #1)
Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)The MarvelsBone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, #4)A Fashionable Indulgence (Society of Gentlemen, #1)H is for Hawk

Damsel in Distress, Carola Dunn. Daisy bring Alec down to meet her family, but the kidnapping of her old friend Philip's girl complicates the introductions. It's fun to see how he actually pops the question.

Pegeen, Hilda van Stockum. The happy ending did not come as a surprise, but how much I enjoyed the reconciliation between the big sister and the pesky girl did. I appreciated the chapter where little Peg works at being nice. I'll keep my eye out for more van Stockums; I like their clarity of vision and belief in the competency and importance of children.

The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater. The 4th (last?) book in the Raven Boys cycle. The book series works to its inevitable end, with death and rebirth inherent in all the foreshadowing. I like how different characters define kingship differently; some lose themselves in it while others gain themselves. My favorite characters is still The Grey Man.

* The Trouble With Boys, Peg Tyre. This was a hard book for me because I wanted to agree with many of her prescriptions but I had a fundamental problem with her basis. Tyre argues for schools that are more relevant to active children, that don't require kindergarteners to sit for reading lessons for hours without a recess, that accept more boisterous behavior and risk taking from higher level students. She seems to think that these are things that boys need, rather than things that many students, some of (most of?) whom happen to be male. Despite some lip service to the idea that differences between individuals are much vaster than differences between male and female students, she never looks back from the idea that boys need some things and girls need others. Even her example of having two sons so she knows about what boys need strikes me as supremely illogical. Wouldn't it make more sense to make unfounded generalizations if she had one active boy and one quiet girl? How does she know that her kids aren't showing a common family trait? Is her more active son more of a man then whichever one is quieter?

* The Spirit Thief, Rachel Aaron. Fun little story of a country that bans wizards, and then finds itself with a few too many. The magic system is innovative and gives a reason for our hero to be Special (TM) as well as for his companions to also be distinctive. No earthshattering emotional insights, but a quick and interesting read. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, although I expect things to deepen a bit.

* Iron Kissed, Patricia Briggs. I'm continueing my complete read of all things Briggs in preparation for seeing her at Foolscap in February. This is one of the squickier books in the series, because the magic the bad guys bring against her works on her consent rather than just being super strong and lethal. But Mercy's loyalty to her friends and lovers stays steadfast, and knowing that she survives makes it worthwhile.

* The Marvels, Brian Selznick. Another mix of gorgeous drawings and suspenseful text from the Calicott winning author was a great way to read a 600 page book for my Tapirs. I could not sink completely into the pages because I read it on my computer, which is not a great way to appreciate the pencil drawings, and because I was so indignant at the treatment of the main character by his parents, school, uncle and chance-met acquaintances that I was distracted from the stories within the story.

* Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs. Book 4 in the Mercy Thompson series gives a more convincing depiction of recovery from trauma than the last chapter of book 3 hinted at, which helps ground the story. I vaguely remember the next few books, so it was fun to pierce out the plotting of the vampire bosses even as Mercy had to suffer through the torture and problems they considered incidental to their plans. Mercy is a real hero, unwilling to let children come to harm or to let her friends sacrifice for her, although she is learning to accept help where she thinks it will do good.

* A Fashionable Indulgence, K.J. Charles. This is a non-magic series from this author, with men living in the political upheavals surrounding the time after the French revolutions. Our hero is plucked from poverty and groomed to inherit his father's wealth, but the old man is disgusted by his republican past and his father's politics. It takes a while to feel sympathy for Harry, since his immediate willingness to abandon his friends for a chance at money isn't the path of most romance heroes, but eventually he learns to balance his conscience with what he's willing to pay his grandfather.

* H Is for Hawk, Helen McDonald. This is a very interesting memoir, which tells the story of how the author reacted to her father's unexpected death by raising a goshawk and rereading T.H. White's book about doing the same thing, only badly. She mediates her grief by subsuming herself into the hawk's world, isolating herself from the too-painful world of humanity, but never able to escape completely because she's responsible for Mabel's (the hawk's) care. And meanwhile she compulsively rereads White's description of his time with a goshawk and she understands how he used that experience to deal with his problems, and eventually draws parallels to how Mabel is helping her handle her own. A gem of a book.

(* Books I started this week.)

Bookmarks moved in several books:

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Sea Without a Shore (Lt. Leary, #10)City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)Memory Man (Amos Decker, #1)Once a Rancher (The Carsons of Mustang Creek, #1)Trial and Temptation (Mandrake Company, #2)Dark Witch (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, #1)

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu. I really like who ibooks handles footnotes. It's even better than having bookmarks in a print copy and flipping around.

The Sea Without a Shore, David Drake. The political situation is laid out for us. Adele knows where to focus her information gathering.

City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett. Aunts may be almost as scary as living deities.

Memory Man, David Baldacci. My second attempt at a book from this library shelf as part of my Reading My Library Quest. I don't really expect a lot of characterization in this genre, but making the main character emotionally handicapped by a brain injury may be taking things too far.

Once a Rancher, Linda Lael Miller. I chose this next audio Reading My Library book based on its location -- Wyoming. Time for the characters to get it on -- it's the end of their second date, so it's not like they are rushing anything.

Trial and Temptation, Ruby Lionsdrake (Lindsay Buroker).  So far I really like the very different viewpoints of the hero and heroine, and I'm surprised by how sympathetic I find him.

Dark Witch, Nora Roberts. I'm finally making progress on this old Vaginal Fantasy alt pick.

2016 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2015: 43 out of 82. No change, although I have the last middle grade sitting on my bedside table.
  2. Reading My Library: Still working on Once a Rancher and Memory Man. 
  3. Where Am I Reading?: 39/51.  I'm working on Wyoming. I need the Dakotas, Utah, and Arkansas, among others.
  4. Full House Challenge:  25/25!
  5. Library Challenge: I'm at 212.  Thanks, library!
  6. Diversity Challenge 2016: 12/12. 11/12. Poetry is the tricky one. In October I'll looking at how many Native Americans appear in my books. Mercy Thompson is half Blackfoot, so that is upping my numbers: 4 books with American Indians, with 3 books identifying the tribe.
  7. Shelf Love Challenge 2016:  50.  Time to make my shelves my BFF. Looking first to my shelves to handle Tapir problems.
  8. Grown-Up Reading Challenge 2016: 19/20.  Still need a Pulitzer.
  9. Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016: 12/12!
  10. Surprise Me Challenge:  Read the September book: The Trouble With Boys.
  11. Flash Bingo:  Summer still needs a book about books, and an Australian book. I'm setting up the Autumn books now.
  12. Literary Exploration Challenge: 12/12. Now I'll work on the 36 challenge -- 33/36