Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Random Update

First of all, a big, big Thank You to Moonlight and Obsidian for hosting this very fine reading game!  Nothing like Halloween Bingo to bring one out of a chronic reading slump this year!

I'm way too lazy right now--as well as pressing on time a little bit--to post a full official update (like my super organized ones from previous.  But it's Halloween, and I've been avoiding the blogosphere for as much as I could these past few days, if only to try to finish those last Halloween Bingo books I have lined up.

Unfortunately, times have been busy, and as much as I'd hoped and planned, I'm certain I won't be getting a black-out.

I DID recently finish Spinning Silver and Small Town Spin, which got me a couple more Bingos.  And knowing that that last square called would add a couple more Bingos, I wasn't too concerned about waiting for the last Bingo square call.  I've even stopped counting Bingos anyway, feeling much more impressed with how many books I've managed to read this month than anything else, really...  hehe

Meanwhile, I'm going to try to at least finish reading The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins tonight, in the spirit of Halloween, which leaves my final and last read, Midnight Blue-Light Special possibly hanging.  I certain I won't finish it before the end of the day, so either I'll stick to my guns and just finish it after the game is over without a Black-out, or I'll try to insert a short Edgar Allan Poe from the massive volume of short story collection I have sitting on my shelf and complete the game with a Blackout.

We'll see... especially since I'm not certain I'll finish The Haunted Hotel before the end of the night either.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Quick Thoughts: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver

by Naomi Novik

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one.  Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in.  Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task.  When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

I read my first Naomi Novik book a few years back--Uprooted--and absolutely loved it.  So I was super ecstatic about Spinning Silver.

Unfortunately, while Spinning Silver has that same, magical telling, a wonderfully crafted world, with a lot of interesting characters and lore, it didn't feel as well-outlined as Uprooted had been.  I DID get drawn into it readily at the beginning and had really high hopes that things would continue on wonderfully even as I was wary of the switching first person POVs.

As a retelling of Rumplestiltskin, it took only a few traits from the original fairy tale and sprinkled it around several of the characters, in each of the three or four ongoing tangential story lines.

But I think that might have been it's disadvantage.  There were entirely too many stories and too many point of views being narrated throughout this book.  And all of the book's narrations were done in first person.  I'm already not a big fan of first person, but I've learned to live with it, as well as love it in certain forms or even certain specific books.  While I learned to figure out which narration belonged to which character based on how someone was addressed and how the voiced came across, it still managed to get a little confusing, as well as pretty tiresome.

Again, there was just too much going on.  Which is a shame, because I loved the underlying main conflict and the main story dealing with Miryem and the Staryk king.  I became interested in the story following Irina and the demon-possessed young tsar, Mirnatius.  And I probably would have enjoyed Wanda's telling as well if her story hadn't tapered off into the background as just filler for when neither Irina nor Miryem were the narrators.

Then you start to include a dozen other POVs as well--Stepon, Magreta, even Mirnatius, himself--and things start getting complicated, and unfortunately, dragged out.  I feel like we didn't need to see every single scene or action from every single possible angle.  But nearing the end of the book, that's what it felt like and I was impatient to have the story get on with the main conflict dealing with the Staryk king and the fire demon's fates.

Anyway... this book could have been so, so much better.  Instead, it was enjoyable to an extent, and really just fades in comparison to Uprooted.  Or, well, to whatever retelling I'd been excitedly anticipating from Naomi Novik.

Not to say it wasn't enjoyable, because minus some of the unnecessarily dragged out scenes, I think it could have been great.  The descriptions were beautiful, the bursting of culture was decadent, and the characters were so fleshed out that you could imagine all of them having a tale of their own... just not packed so tightly into this book where there was already a lot going on.

I love Naomi Novik's writing style, both in Uprooted and in this book.  So I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more of her work, as well as move her Temeraire series up on that ever-changing TBR I have going!

Halloween Bingo 2018
(any fairy tale or retelling of fairy tales, folklore, legends, etc.)

Other possible squares include: New Release; Spellbound; Relics and Curiosities (?); Supernatural; Terrifying Women

Thoughts: Splintered


by A.G. Howard
Book 1 of Splintered

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

**This book is based on Alice in Wonderland.
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before.  This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together.  For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality.  The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on.  There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family.  She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

This book was highly enjoyable.

I had no problem relating with Alyssa throughout her adventure--a fairly good Alice in Wonderland retelling with it’s own twists and a nice new Gothic feel to it.  For certain, Splintered does make the original Alice in Wonderland feel even more trippier than I had originally thought.

Alyssa is readily likable as a character, with a strength and a uniqueness to her that I don’t mind continuing to follow.  The rest of the characters were okay as well.  I liked Jeb… to an extent--I think YA guys really DO spend too much time being broody and Jeb is no exception.

Now Morpheus (the other point in those pesky love triangles) was a bit conflicting on my scale of “I-like-you-No-I-don’t-like-you”.  I had a problem flipping back and forth of my opinion about him, because he would be an arrogant asshat one moment, then he’d become sweet and noble and reliable and you’d be glad that he’s on your side, then he’d become that same arrogant asshat once again, then he’d go all “I’m the best ally you’ll ever have” again… and it just kept going in circles from there.

I mostly hated that he always seemed to be right about everything he told Alyssa--no one likes a know-it-all.  And if it’s one thing I usually can’t stand it’s the standard Perfect Man™ who is also an arrogant asshat whenever he feels like being an arrogant asshat.  I’m not saying he should be perfect and Ghandi, but there should be some middle ground we can all agree on because most men in real life aren’t always just one extreme or another.  No, only in fiction.


For the two days I spent reading this book, romance-wise, I had a very conflicting love-hate relationship with Morpheus.  It was irritating, because I wanted to like him, but then again, I was also rooting for Jeb at moments, because obviously Jeb and Alyssa were going to be Splintered’s OTP.  Other moments, I just wanted him to quit getting in the way because Alyssa had a mission to accomplish and he just didn't seem to get it.  Between Jeb and Morpheus, I just didn't really have a preference for one guy or the other to win Alyssa's heart.

And so, not for the first time, this hopeless romantic actually didn't care if Alyssa ended up attached to someone in the end.  I almost wanted the romance angle to get dashed.  I mean, I really liked Alyssa--she's spunky, she’s stubborn, she's resourceful, she’s strong, she’s determined... I like that she didn't just sit back and wait for people to come save her.  This book was all around about how one girl could overcome anything thrown at her with enough willpower and heart.  I enjoyed the adventure she took on, and she proves more than anything that she is capable of taking on the world by herself.  But for once while reading a young adult novel, I could have cared less about the romance angle.  And I'm not quite sure why.

This book was written really well with a lot of great creations--even for a story trying to re-hash all the crazy Alice in Wonderland elements that drove me up a wall just reading the original.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  However, I couldn't help but to feel a little disappointed that there was just something this story wasn't doing for me--and I can't even quite put my finger on it.  There were so many things that I really loved about this book... but something always seemed to fall short.

In a way, I kind of want to bump this rating up to a 4.5 rather than just a dinky little 4 by itself.  Because at the very least, I was hooked and I'm looking forward to what the author could possibly come up with for the next book.  I mean, as far as the story goes in Splintered, this book wrapped up rather conclusively that it could stand on its own without any further additions to it.

This is a book I WOULD recommend though.  It was definitely a great read.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads in March 2013.

Ramblings: Cracked


by Eliza Crewe
Book 1 of Soul Eaters

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Meet Meda.  She eats people.

Well, technically, she eats their soul.  But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it.  She’s special.  It’s not her fault she enjoys it.  She can’t help being a bad guy.  Besides, what else can she do?  Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different.  That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do.  They’re like her.  Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is.  The problem?  They kind of want to kill her.  Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind.  This is her chance!  Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for.  Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough.  But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets.  And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.

Ani's Side Note 10/28/18:  I read this book back in 2014 during the time that I was all about YA.  It was an excellent book, as I recall, and I loved it a lot.  But I never really got around to publishing my review, for one reason or another, and as time dragged on, the written review simply got... well, set aside.  As I was going through my posts at Booklikes and Goodreads to figure out which reviews I needed to transfer to Blogspot, I happened to come across this review, still in unpublished draft form, just waiting to be posted.

So, what the heck?  Here it is!  As I read through it again, I like what I had written, and the chances of me rereading the book to get a second opinion aren't entirely high, since I rarely do rereads.

Happy Reading!  And thanks for dropping by.

How do I start this one?

This book was pretty much lots of awesome.  The plot was interesting enough, though I might argue that it was fairly predictable in terms of peripheral characters, big secret reveals and the like.  But it featured a unique and different voice with Meda Melange as a half-human, half-demon main heroine, who eats people's souls in order to survive.

Yeah.  Say good-bye to the sunny girl-next-door, or even the justice-seeking heroine with a heart of gold.

Meda Melange is that main female character you wished that all the other YA heroines could learn a thing or two from about life.  In fact, she should be their fairy (or demon) guide and tell them how to live out their situations.

For instance, Meda doesn't get herself stuck in angsty romances as the girl who mopes about whether or not the hot guy really likes her.  Instead, Meda is the one who snaps at the fawning couple to just get over themselves and kiss already.  Either that or she steals her first kiss from the hot guy just to piss off his potential love interest -- no shame there.

The issue hasn't been addressed yet, but I doubt she'd get stuck in any unnecessary triangles, rectangles, or multi-cornered polygonal undeveloped relationships either with the wondering whether or not the four (or five, or six or seven) hot guys like her and why.  I have a feeling that if more than one guy fell for her, it would be on her terms anyway -- or she'd just make them duke it out to the death in her name just for the fun of it (even if she doesn't intend to choose either guy).

She's also not one for martyrdom, not like most of the righteous, heart-of-gold heroines who are typically known for rushing blindly into danger to try to save the world despite knowing that death is what awaits them.  No, Meda would rather be the one who points out the insanity of being willing to die for a cause when there is always the option of backing away and coming back to fight another day.

You will never hear her say the words, "I would die before I let evil win!" or something like that.

Meda is that little voice that we have in our heads (at least in my head) pointing out all the logic fails and the crazy actions that our heroes and heroines are always getting themselves into for the sake of... well, whatever it is they have reasons for.  It's a little crazy that all the things that Meda snarks at her Templar friends for doing, I always had the same exact thoughts.  Why are we proclaiming death in the name of a sacred cause?  You guys are teenagers!  Why are we angst-ing about lost friendships?  You guys are still young!  Life goes on!

Why are we throwing our lives away, dying for a war?  There's a quote I remember from a recent anime series I just finished watching that goes a little something like: "Don't fight for the glory of dying for a cause.  Fight to live.  Fight to survive."  Because if your main objective is to "die trying", then honestly, you've already let the other side win; they have one less enemy warrior to deal with.

Serious random anecdote aside...

Remembering back to my own adolescent, teenage years... events and circumstances always DID feel like they were ten times more dramatic than they needed to be, right?  When I was a teenager, I had been told by some random adult that kids are always using extreme descriptions like the words: "never", "always", and "forever" to describe situations.  Drama was pretty commonplace.

And so Meda is a main character I enjoyed following a lot.  While Cracked may not have had the best story line, Meda as well as her interactions with all the other characters around her made the story an extremely entertaining experience.

Granted, even though I may file her Templar friends -- Chi, Jo, Uriel, etc... -- into that TSTL category, I have to admit that I also enjoyed their presence quite a bit.  The TSTL thing was kind of expected considering their roles in the story.  I mean, these Templars made a life out of fighting demons, training the children to fight in the name of God, and then ostracized anyone in the family who chose to live a normal life away from all the fighting and the blood.  The whole "fighting to the death" thing wasn't surprising.  I don't know how well I would have liked them individually without Meda to bring out their own sarcastic quips and snarks, but I certainly did not dislike them.

Cracked was an interesting new take on a main lead as well as the whole Supernatural-esque, fighting demons as God's warriors type of story.  And with this book/series, I'm starting to think my own hopeless romantic side is fading -- after all, lately I've been loving the books that are much lighter on the romances than others... with some exceptions.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Can You Read a Series In A Month? November 2018 Challenge

I feel like I'm a little late to this party, but since the challenge doesn't start yet, I'm going to hop right in.  I almost forgot about this reading challenge, and it's entirely possible I missed one of them this year already.  I'm not sure.  Indeed, I've just recently climbed my way out of a massive reading slump that lasted about four months, so it's not like I was really paying much attention to the reading/blogging world.

Anyway, I really do like these mini challenges that only last a month or two, and that aren't exactly hardcore.  Reading a series in a month, with only three books being the minimum requirement is something I'm sure I'll be able to do.

And fortunately for me, there's a particular series I've been telling myself I've been needing to read anyway, and had planned to read since the beginning of September.  In fact, all the books in this series had been an initial selection for another reading game (Halloween Bingo 2018), but due to an ever-changing reading mood, it got pushed back.

But at this point, I'm very willing to make a commitment to make sure I finally get to this series.

With Halloween Bingo coming to a close, I'm feeling a little freer in my book selections, so that helps, too!

The rules are pretty simple:  Read or finish one series in one month.  It can be a series you've already started, but there must be at least 3 published books that you have not yet read.  So if you want to read a trilogy and you haven't started, it'll count.  If you want to read a four book series and you've already read the first book, it'll count, too.

For more information and more answers to questions about the rules, refer to the sign up post link above.

My Series Pick

Midnight by Melinda Leigh

Completed Reviews: (links will be updated as each book is read)
1.  Midnight Exposure
2.  Midnight Sacrifice
3.  Midnight Betrayal
4.  Midnight Obsession

*Click on series title for GR series page. // Click on book title for my review.

My Backup Series

Blackthorn & Grim by Juliet Marillier


I don't know if the Midnight series is complete yet, but no new book has been published that I know of.  Hopefully a new book won't suddenly pop up in the middle of November and I can happily breeze through this romantic suspense series without rearranging any of my reading plans.  I'm in the mood for a crime thriller / romantic suspense, so I'm hoping that these books will help.

Meanwhile, I'd also been considering getting Juliet Marillier's Blackthorn & Grim series read, and I've been seeing a lot of good things about this trilogy.  I've had the first two books sitting on my Kindle for some time and was happy when the last book was finally published... then just let all three books sit there for another two years.  So it's time to get to them.  If I have time, I will try to squeeze this one in.  Or, in the worst case scenario, if I end up not really liking Midnight, at least I can fall back on a tried and true author!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #6 - That Elusive First Bingo!

I wasn't really going to put up another update yet, at least not until either Sunday or Monday.  The household has been pretty busy these past few days--just a lot of family stuff going on.  I'm surprised I've even been able to make time to read anything.  But I had a little extra time this morning and decided to start this post.

Five more days until the end of Halloween Bingo 2018!  Honestly, aside from the fact that I'm not sure I'll actually get a Blackout this year, I'm actually much more impressed with how quickly I combed through books this month just for Bingo.  The comparison is crazy--I read a total of eight books in September, with only six of them actually being for Halloween Bingo.  This month, I decided to focus solely on Bingo books, and somehow managed to make it pretty far.  I've pretty much doubled my number from last month, with hopefully more to be finished.

I have four books left to finish reading, two that I'm currently reading and two I have yet to start.  I had had a notion to just start all four of them and see which one gets finished first... but I decided to pace myself and simply try to read one at a time.

I'm almost finished with Spinning Silver for A Grim Tale square.  Then I'll be hopping into Small Town Spin, which I already started randomly a couple days ago, but have only been reading a couple paragraphs here and there when I have a little extra time between working and socializing.  I've been spending my extra free time--and as in "free time" I mean those hours right before you go to bed when you really should be winding down and getting to sleep--reading Spinning Silver.

I'm hoping to start Midnight Blue-Light Special and The Haunted Hotel this weekend.  Since I loved Discount Armageddon so much, I'm hoping to gobble the second book in the InCryptids series right up.  I recently decided that Midnight Blue-Light Special will be my Creepy Raven Free Space book, mainly because I just really want to read this book.

Meanwhile, I DID manage to get my very first--and only--Bingo so far.  It is the second row down, and I drew a green line through it.  I realize that my Bingo card this year is a bit lacking compared to Penni and her laser eyes last year.  My goal when the new year starts will be to come up with a new Bingo card marking plan.  Yes, I am just nerdy enough to start planning this far in advance.

Anyway, when I finish Spinning Silver, hopefully before the night is over, I should have one more Bingo.  At this late point in the game, there is only one other square not on my card that hasn't been called yet, so my chances of getting more Bingos rolling in is pretty much a given.

Updated Marked Card:

So after much deliberation, I've decided to really personalize my card this year... and also because I just couldn't resist using this recent picture of our family dog.  I present to everyone the marker that will depict all of my Called Squares:

Dino Baby!  Rawr!

And that is the extent of my creativity this year... along with that tedious visual you see when you scroll down.  Because the markers for my Read Squares will simply by a book cover to set to the left  side of the square as Dino Baby roars at it from the right side of the square.

Currently Reading:


Squares/Books/Called Dates/Update Post Links:

Progress on my card:  22 squares called || 21 books read || 19 squares completed

Squares called that I do not have:
09/15/18 - Modern Masters of Horror
09/25/18 - Amateur Sleuth
09/29/18 - Supernatural
10/17/18 - Fear the Drowning Deep
10/21/18 - Country House Mystery

Halloween Bingo 2018: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Report Your Bingos!

October Group Read | Discussion Thread -- Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #1
It's Monday! Plus a Halloween Bingo Update, Just Because... | 09/17/2018
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #2
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Book Rambles at Mid-game
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #3
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #4
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #5

*And also, when I've posted them, the book covers will link to my reviews.

Called:  10/01/18
Read:  10/19/18
Called:  09/21/18
Read:  10/23/18
Called:  10/09/18
Called: 09/09/18
Read:  10/05/18
Called: 10/05/18
Read:  09/18/18
Called: 09/05/18
Read:  10/11/18
Called: 09/03/18
Read:  10/14/18
Called:  09/27/18
Read:  10/13/18
Called: 09/17/18
Read:  10/22/18
Called:  10/19/18
Read: 09/03/18
Called: 09/01/18
Called: 09/23/18
Read:  10/17/18
Called:  09/19/18
Read:  10/01/18
Read:  10/09/18
Called:  10/25/18
Read:  10/11/18
Read:  10/06/18
Called:  10/07/18
Read:  10/17/18
Called:  10/23/18
Read:  09/27/18
Called:  09/13/18
Called:  10/13/18
Read:  09/24/18
Called:  09/11/18
Read:  10/22/18
Called:  10/03/18
Read:  09/22/18
Read: 09/06/18
Called: 09/07/18
Read:  10/22/18
Halloween Bingo 2018
Ani's Book Abyss

Wild Card Author:

I haven't decided which author to use as my Wild Card yet, but I've been considering using Nora Roberts, as she is a writer of a lot of crime thrillers, romantic suspense, and supernatural, including the Circle trilogy I've chosen for this year's bingo.

Other authors I'm also considering are: Susanna Kearsley, who writes Gothic with a bit of supernatural; Elizabeth Peters, who has a lot of cozy mysteries; or another obvious option, Agatha Christie!