Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Thoughts: Indigo


by Beverly Jenkins

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

As a child Hester Wyatt escaped slavery, but now the dark skinned beauty is a dedicated member of Michigan's Underground railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love.  When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn't hesitate even after she is told about the price on his head.  The man in question is the great conductor known as the "Black Daniel" a vital member of the North's Underground railroad network, but Hester finds him so rude and arrogant, she begins to question her vow to hide him.

When the injured and beaten Galen Vachon, aka, the Black Daniel awakens in Hester's cellar, he is unprepared for the feisty young conductor providing his care.  As a member of one of the wealthiest free Black families in New Orleans, Galen has turned his back on the lavish living he is accustomed to in order to provide freedom to those enslaved in the south.  However, as he heals he cannot turn his back on Hester Wyatt.  Her innocence fills him like a breath of fresh air and he is determined to make her his, but traitors have to be found, slave catchers have to be routed and Hester's refusal to trust her own heart have to be overcome before she and Galen can find the freedom only love can bring.

I'm finding that I'm kind of an outlier in my reaction to this book, not quite as enamored with it as everyone else.  And for that, I'm feeling a bit conflicted.  Because, on the one hand, Indigo was written well, with a wonderful premise and an amazingly created heroine.  Even some of the side characters were brought to life, and I feel like Ms. Bev did a great job showing us the times and reality of slavery during this era in American history.  She doesn't sugar coat anything, and gives depth to how terribly cruel slavery truly was--not that we didn't already know, but it's great that she simply lays it all out there.

Hester's history is a heavy one, and I found her little flashback of the moment in which she and her childhood friend Ella learned the harsh truth of their reality to be quite heartbreaking.  This is a heroine you love to root for, because she's level-headed, resourceful, and has no trouble standing up for herself.  I loved her sarcastic returns to Galen in the beginning while he was still healing and being super surly about his situation.  I rooted for her big time when she faced down the nasty Ezra Shoe and his men with nothing but a rifle and her own gumption.

I wished she'd have given Foster more of a verbal thrashing after the way he treated her throughout the book.  But nonetheless, she wasn't too meek to throw him off her property when he got to be a general jackass.

My only quibble with Hester was that she might have been too created to be too innocent and too perfect, which is quite typical of a lot of romance novel heroines, so I didn't dwell on that for too long.

Meanwhile, in the same turn, I'm not sure that the romance between Hester and Galen really worked all that well for me--specifically the courting phase of the relationship.  The married phase of their romance was a bit more fun, in terms of flirty barbs and witty banter, but otherwise, I felt that the romance itself was rather too cookie cutter for my liking.  And I never really warmed to Galen, having not been able to get past the scene wherein he sneaks into Hester's bedroom at night while she's sleeping and watches her without her knowledge--this kind of behavior is a hundred percent NOT OKAY in my book.  And his advances come on rather too strong, and I'm not sure how I felt about the whole lavish gifts scenario that came across like a typical Cinderella story after we find out how wealthy Galen is and how he can afford pretty much everything in the world.  I'm afraid it made it hard for me to appreciate all of his other, more charming behaviors and attributes in the latter parts of the book.

Truth be told, the story starts out very strong, with the hiding of the Black Daniel, and the anxiousness you felt for Hester as slave catchers entered into the picture, searching her home, and lobbing threats and insults at her.  The talk of a traitor amidst the Conductors in Whittaker was a great way to start off the book, and I found it kept me intrigued, just wanting to know what Galen and Hester would end up finding out.

But after Galen heals up and leaves Hester's care, I feel like the story kind of plateaus from there, becoming more romance... which this book is, first and foremost anyway, so I don't know why I'm complaining.  Probably because, as a romance, it doesn't really stand out much, nor satisfy my own expectations.  I guess I just wished there'd been more about the Underground, and Hester's part in it.  And even the investigation of the traitor kind of gets set aside for a while.  The ending picks up a bit in terms of action and the final reveal to the traitor--which I found rather more complex than I'd predicted, but in a good way.

In the end, I found that I was much more interested in all the little history lessons that Ms. Bev peppers into the story throughout than I was in the outcome of Hester's and Galen's romancing.  The little news snippets about different activities and movements of the abolitionists, as well as prominent figures of the Road were quite educational, being the parts that I enjoyed the most out of this book.  Although, I will admit that the ending info dumps about John Brown and Harper's Ferry felt a bit awkward in terms of narrative.

Overall, this was still a very enjoyable read, and I will definitely be looking into more works by Beverly Jenkins.

Monday, April 29, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? | 4/29/2019

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!

So this last week was much better in terms of finished books, and also, I made my next Snakes and Ladders move after a few weeks.  Yay!  With library due dates looming, I kind of scrambled to get a couple books read, but considering the caliber of said books, I didn't really have to force myself to binge-read anything.  Everything I've finished so far these past couple weeks has either been delightful, or good enough to keep me hooked!  Always yay for that!

In other news, I've got some fun bookish stuff to share!

My brother and his wife recently went on a vacation to Los Angeles, and came home bearing souvenirs.  Mine, of course, was of the bookish variety (they know me so well!  =D).  They had gone to Harry Potter World, and asked me which House I was:

I got a scarf and a leather bookmark.  Excellent choice for a bookworm like me, right?

Meanwhile, I had my own bookish excursion at the local library sale.  They do these every few months, and you get to bring home a large bag of books for only $5.  I couldn't resist this time, and also came home with a brand new library tote for an extra $2.

My haul this time around wasn't as great as it's been in recent years, but my BFF and I combined our findings and shared one bag--and I got to keep the tote, cause you can never have too many totes--so we still came away with a great deal.  The above are some romance novels and a few other interesting looking books I found.

The photo is a little too bright, so you can't really see most of the titles, but the books front and center include The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran, Girl in Blue Hyacinth by Susan Vreeland, a short story volume by Ellery Queen, A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  The rest of the books were random romances by authors like Jayne Ann Krentz, Laura Kinsale, Linda Howard, Cassie Miles, and others that I'm interested in.

You know, because I need more books on top of all the books I still haven't read yet that are on my shelf...

What I Read Last Week

What I'm Currently Reading

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Other Plans On the Blog

I haven't made a lot of permanent decisions, but the above books are the following line-up for after I finish up my current reads.  Although four of those books are really for May, which is two days away, so not long before I start into them.  An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James also doubles for two reading challenges, Snakes and Ladders as a book with a ghost story, and the Reading Assignment Challenge for the historical genre.

I'm hoping to get a hold of Amanda Quick's newest release, Tightrope, due out the beginning of May, so I'm crossing my fingers that my library picks up the e-book, and that I'm the first person in line to check it out.  Otherwise, I'll probably just have to choose another Amanda Quick book to fulfill my Reading Assignment requirements.

Meanwhile, it's actually quite unusual that I haven't started the newest Pamela Clare book yet, even though it's sitting hot on my Kindle right now.  I've just been trying to finish other reads first, and you know how I am when it comes to reading schedules and such.  I take them too seriously, which, in a strange sort of way, is still part of the fun.

I usually average about one audio book within the time span of a month or two, so I'm hoping to finish Goliath soon enough to start The Sittaford Mystery, before the end of May, as The Sittaford Mystery was a pre-chosen book for May.  I'm almost done with Behemoth, and am planning on jumping right into Goliath, mainly because the Leviathan series is starting to get interesting enough that I don't want to push the last book too far back.  According to my calculations, even if I only listen to about fifty minutes of it each day on my way to and from work, it should take about thirteen days to finish, which will still give me time to start The Sittaford Mystery, which is much shorter than Goliath's ten hour length at six hours, which will spread out into eight days of listening during my drive to and from work.

This doesn't factor in those times I decide to listen to the books outside of driving, or during other times of driving outside of work commute.

Nonetheless, with the completion of more books, I've got more reviews pending, and hopefully after the beginning of the next month, I can add An Inquiry into Love and Death to my Snakes and Ladders count and roll another set of dice!  Until then, I'm going to try to finish up the books currently on my plate so I can start fresh in May!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Final Thoughts: Furry Logic

Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life

by Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

The principles of physics lie behind many of the ways animals go about their daily lives.  Scientists have discovered that the way cats and dogs lap up liquids can be explained by the laws of surface tension, how ants navigate is due to polarized light, and why pistol shrimps can generate enough force to destroy aquarium glass using their "elbows!"

Each of Furry Logic's six chapters tackles a separate branch of physics and, through more than 30 animal case studies, examines each creature's key features before describing the ways physics is at play in its life, how the connection between physics and animal behavior was discovered, and what remains to be found out.  Science journalists Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher make the incredible interdisciplinary world of animals accessible to all, in an enthralling and entertaining read.

I skipped update posts for Chapters 5 and 6 for my own reasons, as I was more determined to finish what was left of the book than I was in making updates.  This book took a bit longer for me to complete than I'd expected, but life has been quite busy, and there were other books I was wanting to read.  But I've been enjoying Furry Logic, and so I was quite determined to get it read, rather than delegating it to the 'DROPPED' or 'ON HOLD' pile.  The only thing that had been keeping me were other obligations, really, and nothing to do with the book itself.

The truth is, Furry Logic was a formidable read, not exactly a hundred percent enticing, but at the very least, it was presented in a way that I found enjoyable and tolerable.  It doesn't escape my notice that I HAD found parts of this book a little bit boring (which would explain why it was so easy to set it aside for a couple weeks without touching it), and that while the chattiness of the writing style would have bugged me in other books (certain previous Flat Book Society reads), it actually ended up growing on me in this book.

I think the main appeal is that the authors stuck with the subject they promised to present: "The Physics of Animal Life."  There were no random tangents into random historical moments that had nothing to do with the subject, and there were no prolonged, unnecessary ramblings about key people who contributed to the science of certain studies of discoveries.  The authors stuck to their animals, presenting each topic of physics with several examples... and to be honest, that was interesting enough for me.

As much as I hate to compare and contrast certain books, it's hard not to do so.  While certain previous books tended towards mocking or condescending tones, I found this book rather sincere in its presentation.  The authors are immensely fascinated with their subjects, with the animals in this world, and with the way in which physics and biology work together to explain how and why animals do the things they do.  They bring up key names and players in all of the studies presented, and keep to the facts, with maybe a few odd one-liner quips that in no way insult said key people nor their studies.  And in that presentation, I found myself fascinated by the world that this book was presenting to me... enough that I really DID start doing my own searches for pictures, videos, and other information about the gecko, or the pond-skater, or the mantis shrimp.

If I were honest, this book wasn't the best in the world, as I'd mentioned earlier, it DID end up getting a little boring in certain places.  And in fact, between those last two chapters, I found that I'd sort of forgotten what Chapter 5 was about, having to go back to confirm that there was something to do with turtles and magnets and electricity or something.

Chapter 6 was a bit more interesting with the archerfish and how it spits at prey above the surface of the water to obtain food.  I found some of the light scatter analogies a bit tacky (Zombies crossing a line?  Really?), but overall, it was an enjoyable chapter that had me finishing the book a lot earlier than I'd thought I would (I was under the assumption that it would probably be another week or so before I finally finished this book).

Overall, while this book DID provide a lot of science about the animals and the physics presented, it also feels like a rather "skim the surface" type of "facts list" book, where the subject is interesting enough to keep your attention, but not quite enough to satisfy your curiosity.

I will give a kudos to the photo plates that present at the end of my Kindle edition.  Those were neat to look at, and also gives a nice recap summary of the highlights of this book.

Here are a couple of my favorites, including the archerfish photo plate above:

I like how they were able to capture the trajectory and movement of the water while the dog is shaking.  And also, doggy is just cute.  And also, poor doggy in the background is probably getting drenched.  O.O

This particular photo plate, I just found fascinating, as I had trouble picturing the mosquito expelling that drop of blood while feeding.  It's not the prettiest picture in the world, but it still comes off rather artistic... in a physics kind of way.  If that makes any sense.

BookLikes Snakes and Ladders | Dice Roll #14, #15, and #16!

I've finished reading about five books since the last time I rolled.  So while I could have finished reading The Scarlet Pimpernel a long time ago, it ended up taking me all month to finish the book and roll again...  Between chaotic family social functions and library book due dates, I ended up putting off The Scarlet Pimpernel again and again...  Of course, within the past week I managed to finish a bunch of books and still have a chance to get back to my Snakes and Ladders book, finish THAT and finally be able to move on.

Rest assured, my inability to finish reading The Scarlet Pimpernel had nothing to do with the book itself, but everything to do with how I've been trying to prioritize my time.  As I mentioned already, library book due dates took precedence, as there were two books I'd been waiting a very long time to get a hold of, and knew that I wouldn't be able to get back to them for months if I didn't take my chance.  So, seeing as how The Scarlet Pimpernel was a paperback in my own collection, I made my reading decisions accordingly.

Anyway, in the meantime, I had managed to collect five other books for use with other squares, and as we will come to see, they came in quite handy.

Meanwhile, allow me to point out that I've decided to add numbers to my board.  After hitting two snakes, the backtracking was getting a little confusing, so I decided that I needed a way to track where I've been.  And it looks like I've already landed on the same square twice, but hopefully we won't be seeing anymore of that.

BookLikes Snakes and Ladders

I'll try not to drag this out.  For this update, I managed to get pretty far by rolling three times.  My first roll got me a 9, which took me to Square 66: Part of a series that is more than 10 books long.  I've been here before, and ended up starting a whole new historical mystery because of it, but this time around, I happily inserted Mort by Terry Pratchett into it, having just finished reading this book about a week ago.  Discworld is a good 40+ books long, so this definitely fits.

My next roll brought another 9, which took me to Square 75: Set in a fantasy world.  Once again, my luck (and my book hoarding) held, because I have also recently finished reading a book that takes place in a fantasy world, even if it is a fantasy world based on the real world.  Yay for Wild Country by Anne Bishop!  And onto the next roll!

My final roll for this update was a 6, which took me to Square 81: Ghost story.  Okay... this one apparently could not be filled with a book I've recently finished reading.  And even if the talks of the ghost of a missing bride from years ago could count as a ghost story, I'm not sure that A Dangerous Collaboration actually fits the square.  I won't take too many liberties.  I've already gotten lucky and landed quite far up the board with one update.

And so after a bit of contemplation and searching, I decided that I would try to stick with my historical fiction theme.  And as it is getting close to the beginning of the next month, and I've already read all of the required historical fiction books for April, I will hold off for another three days before I start reading An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James so I can count it towards my May Reading Assignment books.  I'd thought I'd have to look for some sort of haunted mystery cozy or something, but I couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of Simone St. James in the first place, since I DID very much enjoy The Haunting of Maddy Clare when I first read it about two years ago.

At least I've managed to avoid certain other squares I'd rather not hit.  Onward and forward, and hopefully I will be rolling once more in the next week now that I've caught up with so much of my reading!  In the meantime, I actually DO have another required book to finish for my other challenge, so I'm going to work on that one and maybe hoard one more book for future use.

Currently Reading

Books Hoarded Read For Future Square Use

My Progress

Dates for each dice roll corresponds with respective update post.
Book titles link to reviews if written.
Completed books' covers (read and used for squares) following table.

Date Dice Roll Square/Prompt Book Title / Author Fits Square?
1.  Author is a woman Sweet Release by Pamela Clare Yes
02/22 (#1)
(2 + 4)
7.  Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D. Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare Yes
02/24 (#2)
(2 + 3)
12.  Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z. SEAL for Her Protection by Paige Tyler Yes
02/27 (#3)
(2 + 4)
18.  Set in a school Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger Yes
03/09 (#4)
(4 + 5)
27.  Set during WWI or WWII Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld Yes
03/12 (#5)
(5 + 6)
38.  Newest release by a favorite author Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz Yes
03/12 (#6) (3 + 5)
46.  A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick Yes
03/16 (#7)
(5 + 6)
57.  Was published more than 50 years ago Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart Yes
03/16 (#8)
(4 + 4)
65. Snake - go back to 52 n/a n/a
52.  Has a tree or flower on the cover The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin Yes
03/19 (#9)
(2 + 5)
59.  Was published more than 10 years ago Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare Yes
03/19 (#10)
(2 + 5)
66.  Part of a series that is more than 10 books long Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson Yes
03/24 (#11)
(1 + 2)
69.  Something related to travel on the cover A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Julana Gray Yes
03/30 (#12)
(4 + 6)
79.  Main character is a woman Don't Look Back by Amanda Quick Yes
03/31 (#13)
(3 + 5)
87.  Snake - go back to 57 n/a n/a
57.  Was published more than 50 years ago The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy Yes
4/28 (#14)
(3 + 6)
66.  Part of a series that is more than 10 books long Mort by Terry Pratchett Yes
4/28 (#15)
(4 + 5)
75.  Set in a fantasy world Wild Country by Anne Bishop Yes
4/28 (#16)
(3 + 3)
81.  Ghost story An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James Yes

Friday, April 26, 2019

Thoughts: Wild Country

Wild Country

by Anne Bishop
Book 7 of The Others
Book 2 of The World of the Others

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.

One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country.  Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together.  A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff.  A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon.  And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.

But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit.  And the arrival of the Blackstone Clan, outlaws and gamblers all, will uncover secrets…or bury them.

The reviews for the books in The Others series are always hard for me to write because I've yet to figure out why I love them so much.  The writing often borders on juvenile, and each book seems to reiterate the same plot: details of mundane, everyday happenings, while some stupid group of humans try to cheat, swindle, or kill off a bunch of Others... not taking seriously the bigger threat looming in the wilderness in the form of the Elders.  As I'd made mention somewhere before, it never ceases to amuse me how the stupid group of humans in each book keep thinking they can pull a fast one on the Others and still live to tell about it.

While I really DID enjoy Wild Country, it didn't escape my notice that a whole lot of nothing happens, centered around a simple plot based on a group of bad humans wanting to con innocent towns out of their goods.  And the truth is that without all the mundane, everyday happenings, I'm not sure that plot would have amounted to much of a story.

But as previous books in The Others series has shown, you kind of just fall into the world and you end up enjoying and being entertained by the antics of the main characters.  I really DID enjoy following Virgil and Kane (mostly Virgil) as they learned to accept that there are some good humans out there, even as they have every reason to hate humans for killing their entire pack of Wolfgard.  But the slow build-up of friendship between Virgil and Jana was a delight.  I had almost thought that the two of them might strike up a romance or something, but as we know, these books aren't exactly in the romance genre.  Instead, I was extremely amused just watching Virgil slowly concede that maybe Jana had the makings for the strongest female in his police pack, even as a small human.

Outside of the Virgil-Jana friendship, however, I'm not sure I really cared much for the rest of the Others or the humans presented.  And in fact, I found myself a little bored, or at times even frustrated with there being so many other characters to follow, from Tolya Sanguinati, to Jesse Walker, to Tobias Walker, to Abigail Burch, to the bad human pack...  It might have gotten a bit overmuch in terms of POVs, even though everything is in third person.

And even in the end, I feel like there were still a bunch of loose ends, as well as a lot of build up to climaxes and conclusions that felt kind of unsatisfying.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book, got hooked into it, and am going to continue looking forward to the next installment, hopefully coming around next year.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Brief Thoughts: Mort


by Terry Pratchett
Book 4 of Discworld | Book 1 of Death

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Death comes to Mort with an offer he can't refuse especially since being, well, dead isn't compulsory.  As Death's apprentice, he'll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won't need time off for family funerals.  The position is everything Mort thought he'd ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.

It seems rather true that each Discworld book gets more interesting as the series progresses.  While this wasn't an entirely perfect read, and there were a few character quirks that kind of annoyed me, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the whole story, even as it took some time for me to actually figure out what the plot was in the first place.

Death picks up a new apprentice in Mort, and adventures and nonsensical conversations ensue.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of the whole apprenticeship story line was, but the rest of the book was quite amusingly entertaining, especially following Death around, as he tries to figure out the way of mortals.

My favorite quote from this book happened during the moments before one of Death's "jobs," as he and Mort mingle with aristocrats at a house party.  While Mort is having a little bit of an identity and existential crisis by himself while learning the ropes of Death's work, Death is complaining about drink garnishes and fancy canapes.  It was one of the most amusing, nonsense-laden, yet thought-provoking exchanges.  And that last piece of dialogue in that passage from Death was...


Death is quite philosophical without really trying.  Of course, I'm all about fun, fruity drink garnishes, and savory h'orderves... so Death and I will just have to agree to disagree.

Another very enjoyable installment in the Discworld series, and I'm looking forward to the next one now.