Monday, January 21, 2019

It's Monday! What are you reading? | 1/21/2019

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 haven't done an official 'It's Monday!' post in a long time and just felt like throwing one out there!

Meanwhile, as I'd mentioned in my 24in48 announcement update, I decided to employ a handy book draw method using my lovely monkey post-its once more!  But this time I made it simpler--all I did was write down the titles of five different historical novels, fold the post-its up, then gathered them in my hands, did a bit of a shaking mix up, tossed them on my desk, turned my head to the side, and randomly selected one.  (Sorry, no photos this time 'cause I got super lazy.)

This method typically does not work all that well, because I rarely feel in the mood to read the first selection I get... probably because there was already a particular book I sorta, kinda, wanted to read, but I somehow convinced myself to let the odds of random book draw decide for me amidst a few other books I also want to read.  So then I always end up drawing again.  -_-  And again...

HOWEVER, apparently my mind and the fates have aligned on this occasion.  I ended up choosing Mr. Ridley by Delilah Marvelle from a selection of five, with only one other book being one I actually wanted to read at this time besides Mr. Ridley.  So I'm quite content.

Truth is, it was really a choice between the anthology Rogues Rush In and Mr. Ridley, so maybe I should have just flipped a coin or something...

Anyway, moving along to my week in reading...

What I Read Last Week

What I'm Currently Reading

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Other Plans On the Blog

With 24in48 coming up, as well as my sluggish reading as of late, I'm really only seeing that I'll be more active over the readathon weekend.  Unless I finish another book between now and then, there probably won't be another review coming out.  There may or may not be an update for The Disappearing Spoon, just as a general "How are things going?" for The Flat Book Society... or maybe even an update if I stumble upon interesting quotes for either of the other two books.

The only reason I haven't started reading Mr. Ridley yet is mainly because I wanted to focus on The Disappearing Spoon and Lethal White over the weekend.  Now that I've made more progress with them, at least with The Disappearing Spoon, I might go ahead and jump into Mr. Ridley.  As for The Neverending Story... that one's kind of slow going, but I'll take some time at some point to do some mind-numbing activity as I listen to it.

Otherwise, I'm foreseeing a rather quiet blogging week, really.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Read-a-thon: 24 in 48! January 2019 | Ani's Plans!

So here is the basic gist of this read-a-thon as copied from the 24 in 48 Readathon site:

Beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, readers read for 24 hours out of that 48 hour period.  You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six 4 hour sessions with 4 hour breaks in between; whatever you’d like.

Ahh...  Fancy new logo!

The readathon weekend for January 2019's 24in48 will be the 26th and 27!  I'm super ready for it... I think.  I know it's going to be a weekend off for me, so at least I can try to make plans.  But as life will have it, I will usually end up getting distracted.

I don't really have much of a reading list for January, so we're really just going to play things by mood.

As of current, I'm reading three books which I have a feeling may still be ongoing by the time the readathon rolls around.

Meanwhile, I have, of course, many, many, many books I'd love to get around to... though as I have mentioned, I don't have much of a reading list for January, so playing by mood is all I can manage.  And so, for the first time for a readathon since I don't know when, I won't be listing a list of tentative hopefuls.  After all, I will probably just end up polishing off either Lethal White or The Disappearing Spoon... or neither at all.

I have one more historical book to read for my Reading Assignment Challenge, but after the eye-rolling experience that was The Bride, I'm giving it a rest before moving onto the second book in that series.  This completely throws off my reading intentions for this month, so I need to find a different historical book to read for January.  I haven't decided what I will read yet, but I may employ that handy book draw method with my monkey post-its... more on that at a later time.

Until the readathon, I DO want to concentrate on the books above, and maybe by next weekend, I'll be reading different books!

Happy reading everyone!

Ani's 2019 Personal Series Challenge Goals

This post is about a week late in coming, as I've had it written and ready to publish for some time.  But matter!  Here it is now, with all my edits and finalized decisions and NO MORE CHANGES.  Well, at least no more changes as far as this particular post is concerned.


I'm continuing my pet project, the Personal Series Challenge, rolling into 2019.  This is becoming more of a project for me than an actual challenge, and it has seemed to be quite helpful in making me finish series I've started.

I think I did quite well last year despite all the new series being started, and despite feeling a bit overwhelmed when half the year was over and I'd fallen into a very, very pathetic reading slump.

But a new year is a new year, and I'm here to continue the goals I've set for myself.  With my penchant to begin a lot of new series and never get around to them, I have chosen to commit to finishing a number of series each year.  Starting this official challenge since 2017, I'm determined to continue on.

My rules are the same as last year, with three specific Goals, following in the sections below.

Once again, I'll be listing some tentative series below that I hope to finish/catch up with/read.

I'm also playing with a new way to track my progress, so my main summary post is sort of still in the works.  Now that I've had a taste of tables in html blogging... I've been experimenting.  We'll see how much better I like it than the simple bullet list I used to do.

See Also:  Ani's 2019 Personal Series Challenge Page

Goal #1:
Finish/Catch Up With 10 Series, already started

  1. Heartbreaker Bay by Jill Shalvis | 3 read / 8 total // 5 left
  2. Nichelle Clarke by LynDee Walker | 3 read / 6 total // 3 left
  3. InCryptid by Seanan McGuire | 2 read / 8 total // 6 left
  4. Burning Cove by Amanda Quick | 2 read / 3 total // 1 left
  5. Cutler, Sutter, & Salinas by Jayne Ann Krentz | 2 read / 3 total // 1 left
  6. Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa | 7 read / 10 total // 3 left

It's been a while since I've touched a Jill Shalvis book, so I think it's time to get caught up with her Heartbreaker Bay series.  The series is up to eight books now, so it looks like it'll be a game of playing catch up, as I'm not sure how long Shalvis will continue to write for this series.  But the eighth book looks like it'll be released in September of 2019, so I may be able to catch all the way up... in audio book form!  Following my plans for some other challenges, I may start back into Jill Shalvis sometime around the summer, or right before then... depending on whether or not I've got another audio book lined up these first few months.  As I recall, reading too many Jill Shalvis books in a row, all at the same time, never bodes well for me... I figure if I stick to one a month, I may be successful...  Maybe...

Meanwhile, Burning Cove and Cutler, Sutter, & Salinas both only have one book left to completion, and I look forward to reading the last books of each trilogy.  Nichelle Clarke and InCryptid are newer series I started reading in 2018 and determined to catch up with.  These two series, especially with all the little novellas and short stories in InCryptid will be keeping me pretty busy this year.

Haruhi Suzumiya...  I've dragged this series out long enough.  I think I read the first book back in 2011 or 2012, and very, VERY slowly made my way through each book in the series.  I think it's time to get it finished.  There are only three books left, and I've made a decision to use these books as part of my Reading Assignment Challenge as well, so I will probably also be getting the last three books read sometime in the summer.

Of course, there are many other series I need to work on, and I've only listed six here for now.  I'm sure I'll get to some other ones, especially if some ongoing series end up releasing a new book in 2019, then those will be easily dealt with.  =D

As of the posting of this announcement, I've started reading the fourth installment of Cormoran Strike, which I did not list above, because it wasn't one of the series I'd originally thought to include (also because I had forgotten I was waiting on a library hold).  If I can slide through the book within the next three weeks, it'll be the first series I catch up with under Goal #1!

Goal #2:
Read/Catch Up With 10 Series, new to me

  1. Turner series by Courtney Milan
  2. Blackthorn & Grim by Juliet Marillier
  3. Lairds' Fiancées by Julie Garwood
  4. Vanza by Amanda Quick
  5. Blakewell/Kenleigh Family by Pamela Clare
  6. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
So far I'm rolling two series over from 2018's tentative list, Courtney Milan's Turner series, and Juliet Marillier's Blackthorn & Grim series--not because I didn't feel in the mood to read them or anything, but just because I never got around to them--you know, reading slump and all.

And with my new reading challenge geared towards reading Historical Fiction (of any sub-genre type), I'm also including a few short historical romance series:  Julie Garwood's Lairds' Fiancées is a duology that I'm sure I can finish this year.  Amanda Quick has at least three other series (and many, many stand-alone novels) I will probably jump on since reading her books is one of my main goals in 2019, and I will be starting with Vanza.  I'm also going back in time, so to speak, and picking up books from Pamela Clare's backlist.  She has two historical romance trilogies I plan on reading this year; I will be starting with the Blakewell/Kenleigh Family series.

Finally, I'm super excited about jumping into Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy, as I've read and heard great things about it, and also... the audio books are narrated by Alan Cumming, whom I love!

As of the posting of this announcement, I've already read the first books of the Vanza series and the Lairds' Fiancées duology.  I will be, hopefully finishing up the rest of Vanza by February, but the second book in Lairds' Fiancées may have to wait... I don't know if I can handle another Julie Garwood Highlander Romance so soon after the... conflicting train wreck that was The Bride.  Check out my review of The Bride to see what I mean.  I DO, of course, mean to finish the duology, as it seems a bit of a shame not to, in light of my big series project here.

Goal #3:
Read 10 First-in-a-series books

  1. Irresistible Force by D.D. Ayres | K-9 Force series
  2. Behind Enemy Lines by Cindy Dees | Charlie Squad series
  3. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas | Lady Sherlock series
  4. Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan | Worth Saga series
  5. The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber | Lady Darby Mystery series
  6. Cold Dark Places by Kylie Brant | Cady Maddix series
  7. Part Time Cowboy by Maisey Yates | Copper Ridge series
And finally, the last part of this series challenge--the first-in-a-series stuff... because aside from reading a bunch of new series, I'm also probably going to start a bunch of new series.  I'm including The Anatomist's Wife in this particular goal because I'm not entirely sure if I'll finish the whole series within the year.  If I do, obviously I can move it into Goal #2, considering finding a first-in-a-series is easier than finishing a whole series, in comparison.

But I've once again rolled over a few books from the 2018 tentative list, as books I didn't get to last year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

First Impression: The Disappearing Spoon

The Disappearing Spoon

by Sam Kean

~ Goodreads ~

Progress:  31 of 346 pages (9%)

Admittedly, Chemistry was probably my worst subject in school (both high school and college).  So why I decided that I'd just casually join in on this month's Flat Book Society read is beyond me.  Maybe I just thought that, not being a required read for some class, I'd be able to enjoy it more... or at least not fret as much about what I'm understanding.

And really, the only thing that I've gotten out of this book so far is that the outlining is atrocious.  Don't get me wrong, the writing isn't terrible, and the subject matter has lots of potential--some of the information is actually pretty interesting.  And when I actually understand one of the paragraphs after deciphering all the chemistry jargon, I think I might have learned something new.

Not that that's helpful, because I promptly turn around and forget what I've just learned.  It probably doesn't help that the organization of the telling feels pretty scattered.  The author jumps from one thing to another, and then back so quickly that I'm at a point where I just quietly move on because I'm embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what he was trying to present.

There is SO MUCH jargon.  This does not feel like a science book for casual readers who enjoy fun science.  This feels like a lot of chemical name-dropping.

Meanwhile, I had fallen asleep twice reading just the introduction.  And we hadn't gotten to the elements yet.  Not really.  And I'm not sure who's fault that is--mine or the book's.  Maybe I just don't have the capacity to follow the content?

I'm probably going to give this book a few more chapters to see how well I fare.  I mean, I took chemistry classes and I work in a hospital lab.  Some of this stuff HAS to make sense at some point, right?  No matter that I really wasn't all that great at chemistry, mind you.

Rambling Thoughts: The Bride

The Bride

by Julie Garwood
Book 1 of Lairds' Fiancées

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. His choice was Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison...a feisty, violet-eyed beauty. Alec ached to touch her, to tame her, to possess her...forever. But Jamie vowed never to surrender to this highland barbarian.

He was everything her heart warned against—an arrogant scoundrel whose rough good looks spoke of savage pleasures. And thought Kincaid's scorching kisses fired her blood, she brazenly resisted him...until one rapturous moment quelled their clash of wills, and something far more dangerous than desire threatened to conquer her senses...

Because there's an almost ridiculously comedic vibe to Julie Garwood's writing style, I couldn't find it in me to give this book less than a very average rating of 2.5 Stars.  I remember coming across a review while perusing Historical Romance novels that described this book as rather shallow and really only good for the "lols", but not much else.  And I feel like it's pretty spot on.

Mind you, I went back and forth on my like and dislike of everything in this book, starting with the 'Angelic Mary Sue' character of Jamie Jamison, to the arrogant and always angry, yet has a heart of gold hero, Alec Kincaid.  The book also didn't lend itself any help when I came to the realization of what Medieval Romance and Highlander Romance entailed...  I mean, it wasn't like it totally slipped my mind just how terrible women were treated during that era in history, but I guess it sort of DID slip my mind, if that makes any sense.

The forced marriages, the forced consummation of the marriages, the fact that women were treated like property...  There were more than one reference implying that women were no better than sheep or horses, and one of the lairds even got more offended his horse had been abused by our heroine, screaming about how "It's one thing to insult the wife, but, oh no, you did NOT just slap my horse!"

I fully admit it--I needed to adjust my mindset.  I know history was never kind to women.  I've admitted this before when I was reading a Chinese historical by Jeannie Lin.  I get it.  But I don't have to like it.  Maybe that's why I tend to lean more towards historical fiction where the women (and sometimes the men) are maybe too modern for their era.  Maybe it's not as historically accurate, but it doesn't turn me all ragey.

Except that I'm of the impression that things can still be handled MUCH better.  Which, in a way, Julie Garwood kind of manages to do... sort of... maybe... I don't know.

Because, as I'd stated earlier, there's a strange comedic charm to Julie Garwood's writing style, which, when you set aside everything I didn't like about this book, kind of shines through rather well.  There were moments when I thought the book was definitely getting a little bit better.  There were moments when I did find it in myself to give a light chuckle.

But those moments are so random and so out-shined by the things I didn't like.

I would say that Jamie was the most cliched Mary Sue I've ever read about, but that wouldn't be true, because I've encountered worse.  But she's definitely a top ten contender.  I mean, basically Jamie is everything from self-sacrificing, to hard working, to beautiful, to kind, to forgiving, to knowing how to ride a horse bareback, being able to heal, having the ability to make everyone fall in love with her, and also manages to run around saving children from rampant wild boar.  She can also, apparently, shoot an arrow dead center at a target from miles away, as well as throw a dagger with super human accuracy.

Did I also mention that she's angelic and beautiful?  Even though SHE doesn't think she's beautiful... and deliberately fishes for compliments on at least two occasions.

The one and ONLY flaw that Garwood gives her is that she has a terrible sense of direction.

And in my personal opinion, I also find her extremely clueless and easily distracted.  The fact that her common sense and her comprehensive skills were drastically diminished after her first sexual intercourse encounter did not escape my notice.  And why is it that so many stories MUST turn so many women into idiots after they fall in love or have sex?  Those first two or three chapters had a rather agreeably sensible and intelligent Jamie, to be honest.  Then her thinking capacity dwindles as the book progresses.

And somehow her fragile emotions kept being brought up again and again.  So now, aside from being a Mary Sue, she's also a speshul snowflake with thin skin and easily disturbed emotions?  Or are the men just treating her like a baby, because it kind of seems more that way, really.  If it's one thing I've noted about Jamie, it's that she doesn't have as sensitive and easy to hurt feelings as every one of the men are making her out to have.  Men are strange...

I could probably go back through and count how many times someone states that he doesn't want her sensitive feelings to be hurt, and so doesn't bother telling her the truth about a lot of things.  Especially about the fact that her life is in danger and someone's trying to kill her.  THAT NEVER WORKS IN ANY PLOT!  If someone was trying to kill me, I would like to know so that I can take the proper precautions, ya know?  Rather than cluelessly stumbling into a freakin' bear cave 'cause no one wanted to scare me with the knowledge of it's being there.

Just sayin'.

Meanwhile, I only have one thing to say about Alec.  He's arrogant, annoying, violent, and has no sense of personal boundaries.  He's apparently super sensitive to Jamie's feelings and understands that when she says "no," she actually means "yes."  Oooh... Heaven help me from arrogant fools.  That stuff might have been fly during the 1100s in Scotland, but I'm kicking shins, calling 911, and running if I ever run into anyone like that in my lifetime.

On a side note, I think I'm going to give it some time before coming back to the second book in this duology, The Wedding... if at all.  It was written a few years after this first book, so maybe there's been some... difference in ideals?  I get that The Bride is considered a classic romance of some sort, but it looks like I'm destined to be a dissenter on this one.  Oh well, you can't please everyone, I guess.

Some Thoughts: Lost Island

Lost Island

by Phyllis A. Whitney

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

Lacey, Elise, and Giles.  They grew up together on a mist-shrouded island off the Georgia coast.  Long ago, and without Giles's ever knowing it, Lacey gave birth to his son.  But Elise, the beautiful, domineering one, got Giles.  She got Lacey's child, too, to bring up as her own.

Lacey has tried hard to forget.  But in ten years she hasn't been able to.  So she's going back.  To see her son.  To confront Elise.  To exorcise the spell of the island - and of Giles.  Or perhaps to be trapped by them forever....

One star is the for the writing and the other star is for the atmosphere.  But otherwise, I can't bring myself to understand what was even going on in this entire tale of chaos.  It felt like a daytime soap, with birth secrets, dysfunctional family dynamics, and characters soaked in amorality.  The heroine was a clueless pushover who couldn't seem to figure out how to stand up for herself NOR fight for her life, and her antagonist really had way too much power, with everyone letting her get away with every misdeed.

The little boy seemed too old for his age, and none of the men really stood out aside from spending all of their time brooding and acting self-righteous.

I've been interested in Phyllis A. Whitney for some time now, after seeing her name surface in discussions of Gothic romance or romantic suspense.  I'm thinking that this book was probably NOT the best one to start with, but it happened to be one I came across at the library one day.

In all honesty, the fact that I DID get drawn into it in spite of the convoluted plot and dysfunctional character dynamics is a feat in itself.  So this isn't an entirely terrible book, and a younger Ani might have actually enjoyed it more a long time ago.

Here's a quote that I particularly liked, though, for whatever reason.  The writing, as I've mentioned, was probably one of the best things going for this book.

The smell of the ocean is something one never forgets.  I breathed it deeply as the wind came whipping into my face, tossing my hair.  The tide was part-way out and the sound of surf rushing in over the low shore summoned me to follow it.  I walked toward the sea wall.

And this particular paragraph managed to draw me into the book...

Monday, January 14, 2019

Random Bookish Update: The Disappearing Spoon and Penguins in the Library!

My library hold for the Flat Book Society read this month alerted me some time last week, but due to schedule constraints, I hadn't had time to pick up the book until today.  After browsing for a little while and not finding anything else I wanted to check out--which is probably a good thing since I've got what feels like a million books on my plate right now anyway--I headed out of the library....

... only to turn right back around when I spotted their display by the entrance.

Oh my, SO MANY PENGUINS!  Aren't they all so cute?!

Needless to say, I got super giddy and excited.  If we haven't already figured it out yet, I have an immense love for penguins.  I mean, I love animals, in particular (monkeys, pandas, mice, dogs...  Dino Baby! Rawr!).  I've used any number of these for many a blog post and reading games.

Heck, Peek-a-Boo Penni Penguin, alongside Magnetic Monkey, has sort of become my bookish/game mascot.

Meanwhile, back to the Flat Book Society pick, The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, the official book club read starts tomorrow, but I might go ahead and jump in if I get a chance, just to get a head start, as well as get an idea how I want to divide out parts for when to read.

Because I've finished a couple other books I've been reading, I'm at least not juggling too many current reads at the moment.  I'm listening to The Neverending Story on audio book, which is a pretty slow process right now as I'm really only listening to it during commutes, or if I need to multi-task.  I just started Amanda Quick's I Thee Wed, my second Reading Assignment book for Professor AuthorLuv's course.  I also started the fourth Cormoran Strike installment a couple days ago and am letting myself move through this one slowly, as has always been the case with previous Cormorant Strike novels.

Not too much to handle, right?