Wednesday, February 20, 2019

BookLikes Snakes and Ladders | Let's Do This!

I'm totally joining in, if only because this looks like a bit of simple fun pre-BL-opoly anticipation!  And the reading tasks are broad enough.  Going to be using Dino Baby as my marker (see tiny image on square one below).

For the first square I'm going to just continue with my reading plans and read Pamela Clare's Sweet Release, so I'm already set.  Meanwhile, I'm contemplating creating a table for a more organized view of my game play tracking--work in progress.

BookLikes Snakes and Ladders

1. Author is a woman -- Sweet Release by Pamela Clare (currently reading)
2. Genre: mystery
3. Set in the twentieth century
4. Published in 2019
5. Published in 2018
6. Title has a color word in it
7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D.
8. Author's last name begins with the letters E, F, G, or H.
9. Author's last name begins with the letters H, I, J, or K
10. Author's last name begins with the letters L, M, N or O
11. Author's last name begins with the letters P, Q, R, or S
12. Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z
13. Author is a man
14. Author is dead
15. Genre: romance
16. Genre: fantasy
17. Genre: horror
18. Set in a school
19. Set in the UK
20. Set in a country that is not your country of residence
21. Set in Europe
22. Set in Asia
23. Set in Australia/Oceania
24. Set in Africa
25. Snake - go back to 5
26. Part of a series that is more than 5 books long
27. Set during WWI or WWII
28. Written between 1900 and 1999
29. Someone travels by plane
30. Someone travels by train
31. Road trip
32. Genre: thriller
33. Set in North America
34. Snake - go back to 1
35. Has been adapted as a movie
36. Set in Central or South America
37. Has won an award
38. Newest release by a favorite author
39. A reread
40. Characters involved in the entertainment industry
41. Characters involved in politics
42. Characters involved in sports/sports industry
43. Characters involved in the law
44. Characters involved in cooking/baking
43. Characters involved in medicine
44. Characters involved in science/technology
45. A book that has been on your tbr for more than one year
46. A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years
47. Snake - go back to 19
48. A book you acquired in February, 2019.
49. Recommended by a friend
50. Has a domestic animal on the cover
51. Has a wild animal on the cover
52. Has a tree or flower on the cover
53. Has something that can be used as a weapon on the cover
54. Is more than 400 pages long
55. Is more than 500 pages long
56. Was published more than 100 years ago
57. Was published more than 50 years ago
58. Was published more than 25 years ago
59. Was published more than 10 years ago
60. Was published last year
61. Cover is more than 50% red
62. Cover is more than 50% green
63. Cover is more than 50% blue
64. Cover is more than 50% yellow
65. Snake - go back to 52
66. Part of a series that is more than 10 books long
67. Set in a city with a population of greater than 5 million people (link)
68. Something related to weddings on the cover
69. Something related to travel on the cover
70. Something related to fall/autumn on the cover
71. Involves the beach/ocean/lake
72. Involves the mountains/forests
73. Categorized as YA
74. Categorized as Middle Grade
75. Set in a fantasy world
76. Set in a world with magic
77. Has a "food" word in the title
78. Set in a small town (fictional or real)
79. Main character is a woman
80. Main character is a man
81. Ghost story
82. Genre: urban fantasy
83. Genre: cozy mystery
84. Genre: police procedural
85. Written by an author who has published more than 10 books
86. Author's debut book
87. Snake - go back to 57
88. Comic/graphic novel
89. Published between 2000 and 2017
90. A new-to-you author
91. Snake - go back to 61
92. Reread of a childhood favorite
93. Author's first/last initial same as yours (real or BL handle)
94. Non-fiction
95. Memoir
96. From your favorite genre
97. Title starts with any of the letters in SNAKE
98. Title starts with any of the letters in LADDERS
99. Snake - go back to 69
100. Let BL pick it for you: post 4 choices and read the one that gets the most votes!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Brief Thoughts: The Ebony Swan

The Ebony Swan

by Phyllis A. Whitney

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Susan Prentice is a woman alone.  In the past six months her father has died, she has called off her engagement to a cynical young doctor she no longer loves, and she has begun to question the ethics of the medical profession of which she is a member.

Now at a crossroads in her life, Susan decides to make contact with her maternal grandmother whom her father had forbidden her to see since Susan's mother's death from a tragic fall almost twenty-five years earlier.

There are so many questions she wants to ask--about her mother and her own dimly remembered childhood on Virginia's eastern shore.  Susan is also determined to get acquainted with her grandmother, a reputedly difficult woman, on her own terms.

Traveling across the country to the lush Southern land of her birth, Susan has no way of knowing that her entire life is about to change irrevocably.  Once there she discovers that her mother's death may not have been an accident and that her return has caused anxiety among people who fear what may lie dormant in Susan's memory.

Just as fellow BL-er, Murder by Death noted, this story is a slow trudge, with parts that dragged throughout.  There were moments when I just wanted the plot to get on with it.  However, the mystery itself is quite intriguing and the writing is excellent.  The characters are pretty one-dimensional, and I found I didn't really care for them one way or another--didn't like them, didn't hate them.

There were some thought-provoking anecdotes, even if the whole "white swan, black swan" thing felt a bit trite.  In the end, the book DID end up grabbing my attention and keeping it without me making too much of a fuss over any frustrations.  Truly, the only complaint I have is the slow pacing of the story's unfolding, but otherwise, this was enjoyable and entertaining enough to please me.

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's Monday! What are you reading? | 2/18/2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself.  It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!  So welcome in everyone.  This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey.  Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.  And here we are!

I think this was a good week for reading, and I'm happy that I managed to finish The Ebony Swan.  Meanwhile, I managed to get some other things done in real life as well, but that's not important.  Otherwise, it's been a pretty slow week for anything else.

In other news, the pup and the not-quite-pup look like they're pretty tuckered out.  Playing hard and sleeping hard and eating all the time.  It's tough being a dog.

What I Read Last Week

What I'm Currently Reading

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Other Plans On the Blog

I'm trying to stick to my reading schedule for the sake of reading challenges, but I'm at a point where I'm kind of feeling the need to read a romantic suspense involving guns and explosions.  I know, that sounds weird, but I had that thought sometime during the moment right before waking up and after coming out of a strange dream about a romantic suspense.

I don't claim to understand my own moods.

So at some point this month, I might spontaneously insert a random romantic suspense into my schedule.  The problem is that I haven't quite decided which book I want to read for a random romantic suspense... despite the fact that Amanda Quick books are also considered romantic suspense, if you really think about it.  And technically, Phyllis A. Whitney and Mary Stewart are romantic suspense, too.  But as I'd mentioned, I'm kind of wanting guns and explosions, so I need something military or crime thriller or something...

I'm weird like that.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Some Ramblings: King of Scars

King of Scars

by Leigh Bardugo
Book 1 of Nikolai Duology

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible.  No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way.  Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built.  With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him.  He will risk everything to save his country and himself.  But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

It feels like it's been ages since I read the Grisha trilogy, and, as others might have pointed out, a reread of Bardugo's debut trilogy might have been beneficial.  I remember some details, but not others, and it might have been the reliance of back story knowledge that had me feeling like this book was a bit hard to get into in the beginning.  It probably also didn't help that there were a lot of POVs, even though we really just switched between three main ones--Nina, Nikolai, and Zoya.

And in truth, I feel like Bardugo handled the multiple POVs and the multiple story lines A LOT better in the Six of Crows duology (which had been known as The Dregs duology at some point, and is now going to get a third book apparently which has caused me to feel completely flustered, because that's all I can think of now, so the rest of this review is sort of a blur.)  The truth is, because of the connection between these two series, it was hard NOT to make those comparisons, which might have been a bit unfair to this book.  I found myself wondering if any of the other Dregs would make an appearance, and whenever Nina's POVs swung around, I wondered if she'd run into Inej or Kaz, or whether they'd suddenly pop up to help her with her missions... as awkwardly dropped as those instances would have been.

But enough of the Six of Crows versus Nikolai comparisons, because this book is quite obviously a sequel series to the Grisha trilogy.  So, to start, I DO highly recommend reading that trilogy before jumping into this one.  I even highly recommend reading the Six of Crows duology first as well.

Because while this book COULD stand on its own in some ways, I feel like there were too many references to previous books that could cause fleeting moments of "I wonder what that was about?"

Back to this book...

As I had already mentioned, I had found the beginning a bit slow to get into--dragged a little bit, even.  And despite the fact that every tangent seems to have its significance, the book still feels like it tried to cram too much material into one book... and yet there were a lot of moments where I just wanted to get on with the story.

It's conflicting, because it's not like I didn't like this book.  In fact, I very much enjoyed it, because aside from the story's outline and presentation itself, Bardugo has a way with words and creation that really just draws you right in.  Bardugo's Grishaverse is a wonderfully crafted place, and I've always loved how intricate all the details of her world are presented, how you can pluck any character out of the world and there can be a whole story to tell.  Even background characters have their significance and aren't just there for filler.

King of Scars is a book I've been looking forward to ever since it's announcement because it boasts two characters I came to love from previous series.  While I was never in the Nikolai/Alina camp, I always found Nikolai charming and fun to follow as a side character to Alina's journey.  And while I had started off Six of Crows not quite feeling Nina as a character, I slowly grew to love her as the books progressed.  Finally, as mentioned already, I just love Bardugo's Grishaverse!

King of Scars ended up being enjoyable and entertaining, but maybe I was over-hyping myself, or I was just expecting so much more, but I couldn't seem to relate with any of the characters, or find myself caring a whole lot.  Nikolai doesn't come off as charming as I remember, even though an inkling of that charm kind of hung in the background.  Nina's story was a bit rocky to begin with, got a little bit better, but then I feel like it sort of lost direction at some point.

In contrast, I found that I DID really like Zoya and really appreciate the glimpse into her history.  I honestly don't remember much about Zoya from the Grisha trilogy, except as maybe the "mean girl" Alina had to steer clear of.  The focus on her as a main character made her so much more fleshed out; and maybe because I didn't have any strong feelings for or against her previously, it was easy to kind of accept her as a new character altogether.  But that doesn't mean that I really felt any strong feelings for or against her in this book either.  I liked her, but not in that "I've got a new favorite character" type of giddiness.

Anyway, in the end, the book DID suck me right in as all the conflicts started coming to a head.  I really like the new twist to Grisha powers and hope to see it expounded on in the next book.  I never really expected this book to be a romance, and just as well, the whispers of the romances were a bit lacking in chemistry, as well as in credibility--this is something else that I'm hoping will be developed a bit more if we're going to pursue this line.

Also... are we going to see any other old favorites in the next book?  Inej?  Kaz?  Jesper?  Yes, please?  =P

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Brief Rambling: Equal Rites

Equal Rites

by Terry Pratchett
Book 3 of Discworld | Book 1 of Witches

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born.  The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late.  The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard's mistake.  But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University--and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!

This is the weirdest book ever, even if not the weirdest book I've ever read (that award goes to Alice in Wonderland).  The book itself took a little time to get into, but the characters start to readily grow on you.  And I've found a nice appreciation for Sir Terry's odd, meandering descriptors for almost everything that is written about.  (I believe I've seen people call them Pratchett-isms?)

Meanwhile, the second half of the book was much more interesting than the first half, even if I still don't have quite the idea what the story was actually about.  There were a lot of clever play on words and some rather thought-provoking instances that probably only really make sense in the context or philosophy of Discworld, though could be applied to the real world if you really think about it.  (More Pratchett-isms?)

Meanwhile, I found Granny Weatherwax rather charming and fun, in spite of her gruff ways.  And the librarian is surprisingly amusing, and now I'm wondering if he gets his own book at any point.  I've grown rather fond of the wizard turned orangutan, who somehow manages to infuse a whole bunch of meaning into a simple, "Ook."

Monday, February 11, 2019

Rambling Thoughts: Part Time Cowboy

Part Time Cowboy

by Maisey Yates
Book 1 of Copper Ridge

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

A one-time bad girl comes home to small-town Oregon in the first in a sexy, heartfelt new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Maisey Yates…

Sadie Miller isn't expecting any welcome-home parades on her return to Copper Ridge.  Least of all from part-time rancher, full-time lawman Eli Garrett.  The straight-laced, impossibly hot deputy sheriff glares at her like she's the same teenage hoodlum who fled town ten years ago.  But running from her demons has brought Sadie full circle, ready to make a commitment at last.  Not to a man, but to a B and B.  On Garrett land.  Okay, so her plan has a tiny flaw…

Eli works too hard to let a blonde ball of trouble mess up his town.  But keeping an eye on Sadie makes it tough to keep his hands off her.  And if she's so wrong for him, why does being with her feel so right?

Bear with me here, because this rambling is going to get very bipolar.  And before we start thinking that I completely despised this book after the next three paragraphs, the truth is, the book somehow managed to win me over.

I considered dropping this book after Eli was introduced.  Eli was introduced in the first chapter.  And I already didn't like him.

There's broody, and then there's douche-nozzle, and in my honest opinion at that time, Eli landed very clearly in the latter.  He wasn't just broody, and even calling him "straight-laced" or "no-nonsense" was probably way too nice (and misleading) a descriptor.  Eli was just a jack ass--an arrogant, judgmental jackass... who also plays at double standards.

Meanwhile, Sadie isn't the best heroine in the world either.  She had a penchant for being reckless and seemed to have trouble respecting boundaries.  However, Eli's reactions to her actions were overly intense and extreme.  If he didn't like what she was doing, he could have just said so without resorting to insulting her person, or referring back to her wild child days.  But the moment that Sadie set foot back in Copper Ridge, Eli was already bound and determined to judge her by the one incident of her trouble youthful shenanigans, immediately seeing the worst in all of her actions, certain that she was in town to cause trouble and, gasp, gasp, cost him his run for town sheriff!

But here's the kicker... Eli admits that he only wants to be town sheriff to satisfy his need to be a control freak and run things his way.  He's not in it for the people; he doesn't even seem to like the people, despite what he claims.  He wants everyone to stay off of his property and leave him alone and stop talking to him about community events...  Or so it seemed.

My first thoughts after reading about a third of the book was that this book had a lot of potential for a cute, contemporary romance.  It had the all-too-familiar and pretty well liked "Bickering Couples" trope--this is something that sometimes draws my attention.  You've got a straight-laced cowboy slash small town sheriff, versus a free-spirited, devil-may-care wanderer...  (Sawyer and Chloe?  Though not an exact replica, I'll give you.)  And that cover is super, super cute, and just oozes "Cute Contemporary Romance" to the max!

But the bickering between Sadie and Eli got pretty old, pretty fast, and started turning into a verbal display of juvenile hair-pulling between the two.  Their arguments were eye-roll inducing, and a lot of times I felt like the two were arguing like teenagers just for the sake of arguing like teenagers.  There was childish taunting, with the occasional extension of an olive branch by one side, only to be shot down when the other party just decides to be insulting about it.  And usually it was Eli being insulting in his judgmental, holier-than-thou way.

By this time, still only about a third of the way into the book, I was dead set on being annoyed with both story and characters.  I'd thought to drop it and the series, but I kept on with it if only because I wanted to see how this relationship imploded in on itself.  Whether or not Eli stopped being so arrogant and judgmental.  Whether Sadie stopped being so childish.  And also, I did find myself liking Connor and Kate, the other two Garrett siblings, in spite of their brother's character flaws.  Connor at least displayed a sense of humor, and Kate is just a nice, normal young woman who knows how to interact with people without being a jerk.

Incredible thing of all things...  This book somehow managed to win me over and I'm not even sure when or how it happened.  Like I said, I was set on being annoyed with it and was sitting firmly in a 2-Star rating.  The next thing I know, I'm plowing through the rest of the book, unable to put it down.

The "Bickering Couple" morphed into a more agreeable "Friends With Benefits."  And while their bickering still felt kind of juvenile, the banter was MUCH more akin to fun and flirty rather than childish taunting and pulling of hair.  You start learning more about both Sadie and Eli, and it was as if each of their characters made massive personality developments you didn't really see coming.  And yet, at the same time, that transition wasn't all that jarring.

You learn that Eli is quite aware of how controlling and judgmental he is, and that he has his reasons.  I'm not saying that his reasons give him a right to be insulting to random people, but it's more understandable from his perspective, why he's so uptight.  But because he's also a caring and good man, I'm guessing it was just easier to accept that his arrogant front was more of an exterior defense mechanism--a public persona as a part of his campaign running for town sheriff.  And what made it so much easier to start liking him was that he starts to curb his judgmental, holier-than-thou attitudes, and lessen his controlling tendencies.

And he admits that he was wrong for insulting Sadie's lifestyle without understanding the history behind her need to wander.

Meanwhile, Sadie also drops her childish taunting; though if I were to nitpick, her development was less prominent than Eli's, probably because I didn't really have much a problem with Sadie in the first place.

In the end, this couple just kind of worked.  They clicked and that chemistry just started sparking.

The romantic development was MUCH more credible as the two started getting to know each other.

I would have liked for some of the more serious issues to be addressed a bit more properly.  Both Sadie and Eli come from rather broken families, and their histories shape the type of person they started off the book as, as well as continues to influence their actions throughout the story.  I'm not sure if they were truly handled all that well, or if we just pulled a "Jill Shalvis" and cloaked the resolution under a "love cures all" machination.  The truth is, I got so caught up in those last few chapters and the resolution of the romance that I didn't really notice... aside from the whole Alison episode with her abusive husband and how that incident seemed to resolve itself way too easily for my liking.

But the kicker is that these issues are also left pretty open-ended, as if there were room for more exploration, off-the-page.  At least that's what it felt like to me.

So yeah...  This book totally screwed around with my review, because I couldn't think of the best way to talk about how annoyed I was by this book... and yet at the same time, how much I ended up enjoying it, without this whole post becoming a messy rambling.  In a way, I'm glad I stuck with it.  However, the first third of the book probably could have benefited from having a less intensely judgmental and arrogant hero, and better outlined bickering... and maybe not have the couple have sex against a wall while they still dislike each other?

Maybe it's my own lack of reference or experience, but if a guy is nothing but insulting, rude, and judgmental towards me within the first couple meetings, I don't really find that much of a turn on.  Insulting my lifestyle doesn't really add points either.  Although I DID find it amusing that the two of them decided to start learning to get along after setting up their Friends With Benefits plan...  I suppose if they're going to sleep with each other, it would help them to actually try to like each other.

Will I read the next book?  Yeah, probably.  I'm not going to rush out and get it immediately, but this is definitely a series I'm interested in following, and Maisey Yates' writing is pretty solid.

It's Monday! What are you reading? | 2/11/2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself.  It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!  So welcome in everyone.  This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey.  Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.  And here we are!

Hmm... I didn't finish all the books I'd been hoping to finish, but that's to be expected when you get distracted so easily.  But whatevs, I'm stumbling along quite nicely, in my honest opinion.  And I expect that I'll be finishing up King of Scars pretty soon, then I'll end up zooming through the rest of the books I have "on my schedule."

Meanwhile, here's another fur baby update to brighten everyone's day!

Baby's got himself a new housemate this month as my brother and his fiance have need of a dog-sitter for the coming weeks.  The two of them will be flying out of town, both respectively, for the work, and so we decided to host one of their fur babies at our home.

This is Yogi in the background, whom I don't know if everyone has had the chance to meet in the past.  He's only about two years old, but already quite mature for his age.  He has the tendency to crawl into people's laps to take his naps, though, something that Baby has never done before.  He's Bear's older brother--the latter of which will not be staying with us.  My brother's fiance left Bear with her sister for reasons.

So our spoiled little Baby is now learning to get over his jealousies of having another doggy around.  He's coming around, and he remembers Yogi from the last time we visited my brother, so it's been quite fine so far.  Except for the fact that they both keep trying to eat each other's food...

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

What I Read Last Week

What I'm Currently Reading

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Other Plans On the Blog

I'm actually not flying through King of Scars as quickly as I thought I would, but I'm thinking I'll have it finished this week, at the latest.  Meanwhile, I'm making my way slowly through The Ebony Swan.  And then, obviously, I'd like to get to the rest of my Reading Assignment books this month, so that will be my focus next.

I have a couple reviews prepped for the next couple days, but otherwise, I'm just going to focus on reading (as per usual).