Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Thoughts: Storm Front

Storm Front

by Jim Butcher
audio book narrated by James Marsters
Book 1 of The Dresden Files

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.  Consulting. Advice.  Reasonable Rates.  No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does.  Well, technically, he's the only at what he does.  So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers.  For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don't play well with humans.  That's where Harry comes in.  Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever.  There's just one problem.  Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs.  But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it.  And now that mage knows Harry's name.  And that's when things start to get interesting.

Magic - it can get a guy killed.

So well, apparently I'm one of few who wasn't immediately enamored of this book/series.  And strangely, I'm not sure if it was the book itself or my own personal habit of not getting along with urban fantasies.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book enough--it was easy to listen to on audio, and there were some parts that were interesting to an extent.  And it's not like I purposefully go into any book, ever, planning not to like it.  In fact, I was excited about listening to this book because I'd seen so many great reviews about the series.

Unfortunately, history has shown that I somehow just don't really get into urban fantasy very well.  I try, because I've always been interested in urban fantasy, and all of the series sound like something that I would love to follow... but so far, there's only really been one or two series I've found that I like.

Ultimately, there was more about this book that didn't really hook me in the way I'd been expecting to be hooked, based on all the squee and high star ratings I'd been seeing all over the place.  Of course, I know better by now that I don't always have to like what everyone else does, so no big deal.  It's entirely possible I'd over-hyped myself.  And maybe things get better as the series progresses.

As far as the story goes, the mystery itself was intriguing, and the entire concept of a wizard private investigator had loads of potential.  Harry Dresden had his appeal, but I think that he maybe sometimes went a bit overboard with the snark... and that maybe he's a bit of a doormat compared to pretty much EVERYONE in this whole book.

I had a hard time seeing the close friendship between Harry and his Chicago P.D. connection, Karrin Murphy.  In fact, the two of them seemed like master and slave, going by the way they interacted with one another.  I understand that Harry wanted to remain on good terms with Murphy so he could continue to consult with the police through her, but there comes a time in life when one can only let another harass, insult, and bully him so much before maybe drawing a line somewhere.

As friends, Murphy seems to readily beat and threaten Harry without a care for him when he tells her that he can't help her with the murder investigation they way she wants him to help.  I mean, would it kill her to just listen to Harry's reasons as to why he probably shouldn't go and research how to use magic to explode someone's heart?

As business associates, Murphy seems to have little respect for the help that she requests from Harry.  He'd give her a bit of information, and all she tells him is, "That's not good enough, Harry."  And when he requests some information that could potentially help him figure out what he's dealing with, she refuses to tell him anything.  Ya'know, cause that's reasonable somehow.

Of course, it probably also doesn't help that Harry keeps his secrets as well.  As much as I'd like to argue that Harry needs to be allowed to explain to Karrin why he can't do certain things... well, he doesn't exactly try very hard.  It's kind of martyr-ish, in a way.  And the annoying kind at that.

I keep listening to him get abused and insulted and bowled over by everyone in the book.  I keep seeing him get angry, outraged, even... and then he just moves on without setting people right about mistaken ideas or whatnot.  He mopes about how alone he feels and how no one understands the difficulties of his position... but doesn't bother telling anyone why.  And even dismisses all of their behaviors as just not really knowing or understanding.  Kind of a, "It's not their fault they didn't know this about me..." type of ordeal.

Well, Harry... TALK TO THEM!

The rest of the book was kind of a play on cliches, as Harry's life (and this book) is surrounded by sexy women who are attracted to him despite his social awkwardness, and self-proclaimed "terrible luck with women".  There is not ONE character in this whole book, except maybe Bob the magic skull, whom I actually really liked--everyone is either rude or just plain mean.  Even the EMTs who make a brief appearance are assholes.  Seems like Harry, flaws and all, is the only person in this book who acts rational... until he doesn't.

Are there no good, nice people in the "Harry Dresden" world?  Is it a given that all people in urban fantasies have to act like jackasses?  Because I seem to keep coming across this kind of thing.

Maybe I just don't read the right urban fantasies--though, as I'd stated earlier, there IS one particular series I'm hooked to.  But others seem to only appeal to me long enough to read just the first book.  This is probably my own problem.

Anyway...  I'm considering hopping into the next book anyway, just to see if the rest of the series will hook me enough to keep me going.  I'm not out to flambe a series I don't like.  I'm genuinely hoping I'll get hooked.  So... we'll see, I guess.

On a side note, the audio narrated by James Masters was quite good.  He's not the best narrator in the world--there was a LOT of huge breaths being taken and a LOT of sighing going on that kind got a bit irritating after awhile.  But Marsters seems to give Harry that snarky, dry sarcasm that's scattered all over the book.  He doesn't exactly manage the rest of the characters all that well, but the audio book made it easy to follow the story.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Halloween Bingo 2019 | This Week's Early Start!

Halloween Bingo 2019

IMoonlight has kicked off Halloween bingo with an early start week rather than just on August 31!.  We can start reading one book this week, and as long as doesn't get finished until September 1, it'll count towards Halloween Bingo!

After a brief consideration, I decided that I would start with The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle for the Locked Room Mystery square.  It is a three hour audio book, but I tend to take a long time with audio books, and if I only listen to it during my drive to and from work, the chances of finishing it before September 1 rolls around will be less than if I started reading one of my other books.

I had briefly considered starting one of my hard cover or paperback books, but just went for the audio book.  Decision made.

I already started listening to The Sign of the Four from The Complete Sherlock Holmes audio book collection from Brilliance Audio, narrated by Simon Vance.  It's been a long time since I've listened to a Simon Vance narration!  =D  I'm very much enjoying his portrayal of Sherlock--a nice touch of arrogance for the famous detective tells you exactly who's speaking without it being said.

Following are the books I'm considering next.

The plan is to try and read all the books I need to pick up from the library first, since those will be the least accessible to me, especially if they're not quite available for borrow yet.

I will more than likely start off with Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire on September 1--I do miss me some Aeslin mice.  And then from there, it'll be a guessing game... although the chances that I'll roll into The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is pretty big.  I'd like to read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson for the Baker Street Irregulars square or the Sleepy Hollow square; unfortunately, it's a wait list for now, so I'll see if it becomes available soon.  If not, I DO have a backup.

Meanwhile, a couple books that I'd like to add into the mix are Firelight by Kristen Callihan and A Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber.  I own both of these books and can read them whenever, but if I get into the mood, I'll just go for it.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Bout of Books 26 Wrap Up

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, Aug 19th and runs through Sunday, Aug 25th in whatever time zone you are in.  Bout of Books is low-pressure.   There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional.

For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.  - From the Bout of Books team

I have been frightfully lazy in the bookish world lately.  Of course, being frightfully lazy still managed to finish me two books for the week of Bout of Books 26.  Except that I'd started both of those books way before the readathon even started.

So I took lazy and laid back to another level.  After finishing my Storm Front audio book, I took my sweet time, reading a chapter or two of Death in the Stocks a day until I finished it.

It was... actually kind of nice to not think about blogging or reviewing for a while.

With Halloween Bingo coming up in less than a week, I know I'll be doing a lot of updates and trying to keep up with my reading.  As much as I want to take it easy and not stress myself over my Halloween Bingo reading list, I have an obsessive streak that won't let me just take it one book at a time.  I've already made plans and have an idea what direction I'll be going with my books.

In the meantime, I've been spending more time than anything watching YouTube videos about bullet journaling.  I came across an interesting post about habit trackers, and then spiraled into bullet journal layouts, ideas, and more and more articles and videos.

For anyone unfamiliar with this, there are some nice YouTube tutorials for how to manage your daily tasks and future tasks, and just about anything using a bullet journal format.  The ones I've been watching are the ones by YouTuber AmandaRachLee, and here's her bullet journal playlist.

Of course, as I'd told my BFF the other day, I don't have the patience to sit there and hand draw out calendars, journal layouts for different weekly spreads, shopping list set ups, etc...  As pretty as a lot of those spreads look, and as much as I love to doodle, I'm not really that artistic... and also, I'd probably give up bullet journaling pretty soon, getting super tired of redrawing layouts each month.

On the other hand, I'm more of a spreadsheet person.  I use spreadsheets a lot to track a lot of things.  In fact, I'm more willing to spend hours stuck in detailing and formatting a spreadsheet form for my planners.  Because I can make subtle changes to the forms without starting completely over, and if I mess up, I can use the handy 'undo' button.  I can copy and paste these forms for future use for other things.  It just seems easier.  And also, I'd get straighter lines using a spreadsheet than trying to draw them on my own, really...

So rather than getting into bullet journaling, I decided to take some ideas and incorporate them into some of the weekly planner layouts and monthly calendars I'd already been using regularly.

And then, going a step further, I decided to take the Habit Tracker idea to help make myself accountable for things I'd like to get used to doing routinely.

The photo's lighting is a bit dark, but the gist of it is that I've got a lot of activities on the left that I'm wanting to do on a daily (or at least a routine) basis, and the days of the month are along the top.  I have the form spread split into three specific sections, 'A.M.', 'P.M.' and 'Exercise.'  Exercise is the biggest habit I'd like to make myself get into more routinely.

Each day, when I do the activity, I color in a box.  Or in the case of the bottom 'Exercise' section, I'm simply writing in numbers, such as how much time I'm spending on the elliptical, or how many reps and sets of a certain exercise I did.

Since I didn't start the tracker until a few days ago, I decided to mark off the entire first part of August... and while at first I was just going to put a big 'X' through all that space... I just started doodling lines and the next thing I new, I had diamond patterns going on.

The entire form was created on my computer with Google Sheets, so as you can see there's a whole block where I merged a bunch of boxes so I could add a message for the weekend pertaining to the exercise activities... basically that I wasn't going to start the exercise stuff while working twelve hour shifts this weekend.  I figured that was reasonable enough.

And this is my Habit Tracker I went ahead and set up for September and printed out.  I didn't think I was going to do a lot of decorating aside from drawing in a header... but I was thinking about trees and leaves, then looked up some tree doodles, intending on just adding two trees in the bottom corners... and then ended up filling the entirety of the bottom of the sheet with tree doodles...

And yes, I realize now as I'm typing this that the bottom of the sheet got cut off on the photo.  But I'm too lazy to go back and re-upload a new picture, so everyone will just have to use their imaginations.

Finally, here's my typical layout for a monthly calendar.  It's a blurred picture, but the green boxes I have pre-inserted in Google Sheets and have my work schedule.  There are about five lines for each day for tasks and other planning activities.  Then there's a side bar for weekly to-dos that I don't have specific dates for.

To spiffy things up, I decided to draw some leaves around the 'September', which doesn't show very well.  And then added some grass and a tree.  That was about when I hit the extent of my artistic abilities and called it a night.

This is what I'd been up to for the past few days when I probably could have read another book.  But, hey, this was a pretty fun and relaxing activity.


Enough about my side activities (soon I'll probably end up pulling out some old Mandala books and spend hours coloring).

As far as bookish stuff goes, as I'd stated earlier, I finished two books for Bout of Books 26, both of which were already about half read when I started the week.  In total, I read 189 pages of Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer, and finished listening to the last 265 minutes of  Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

This wasn't the progress I'd hoped for, but it was what I'd expected.

Oh, and while I'm at it, guys...

Bear's back!  It's hard to tell if Baby's all that happy with that...

Books Finished During Bout of Books

What's Hopefully Up Next

I don't really know what I'll be reading next in this week before Halloween Bingo starts.  I might rush through a romantic suspense if I feel like it... or I might just keep watching bullet journaling videos.  Who knows?

So I don't really want to list any tentative reads at this point since I'm not really in that mind set.

So this was probably the most un-readathon related update post I've ever written.  But oh well.  It's my blog and I'll talk about what I want to, right?  =D

Sunday, August 25, 2019

More Squee! and Somewhat of a Review: The Bitter Kingdom

The Bitter Kingdom

by Rae Carson
Book 3 (final) of Fire and Thorns

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

The champion must not waver.
The champion must not fear.
The gate of darkness closes.

Elisa is a fugitive.

Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness.  Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa né Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy's kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne.  Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.

But that is not all.  She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.

Even of those who hate her most.

I'm really stuck on what to say about this book (this entire series, novellas included).  I really would like to just throw a bunch of squeals out there, call it "AWESOME!!!" many times over and just leave it at that, but then I'll feel like I didn't do this series any justice.  Then again, that's the only thing I can convey properly right now.

The adventure continues in The Bitter Kingdom where we left off from The Crown of Embers.  Hector has been captured in order to force Elisa to willingly travel to Invierne and sacrifice herself to save him.  During this time, Elisa's growth is almost exponential from her growth since the previous two books and she pretty much becomes "super queen extreme".  And along the way, we get more court intrigue, historical secrets revealed, war, and adventures, adventures, adventures.

And I love me some adventure!

There was plenty of adventuring from the first two books as well:

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns we spend a lot of time traveling the desert, though a lot of time was also spent at the palace.

In The Crown of Embers we spend a lot of time on the vast open waters in the south.  But of course, a little too much time had been spent with court intrigue and assassination attempts in the palace.

This time, in The Bitter Kingdom we jump into the adventure almost immediately, traveling east to Invierne and back to Basajuan with constant movement (which was pretty exciting).  Elisa and her small crew leave her country of Joya d'Arena and travel through the dangerous Free Cities, enter the wintry mountain passes to arrive at Invierne.  And then they turn back around to face the harsh snowy weather of the mountains and end up in even more dangerous mines.

There was just so much more ground covered (literally) than I would have expected.  Just the same, the story itself covered so much material that sometimes it was a little hard to keep up with.  I'm almost thinking it would have been a good idea to split the book up into two in order to touch base with everything new introduced as well as everything old that needed a proper conclusion.

Nonetheless, I loved this book and this series like a whole new obsession.

It helps a lot that I loved and admired all the characters, even the sometimes annoying (yet also amusing) Red Sparkle Stone--though I must say, she was a fairly unbelievable character who DID act a bit older than her own age and was a pretty convenient problem solving plot device.  Otherwise, I liked all the characters, especially of Elisa's group: Belén, Mara, Storm, Hector.  Little adventures like these with little groups bring about the most heart-warming camaraderie scenarios, even if they tended to get on each other's nerves, and even if Elisa was still their queen and they always had to defer to her.  They were always, first and foremost, close friends who relied on each other to survive impossible missions.

Hector and Elisa were a pretty powerful couple and I'm glad there was never any indication of a love triangle between any other character to speak of.  It was Hector and Elisa the entire time, though I'm wondering if the kingdom of Joya d'Arena may not have been that ominous third wheel in their relationship.  No insta-love and no angsty love triangles to complicate an already complicated story line--there was enough going on in Fire and Thorns already to keep Elisa busy.

Of course, romance wasn't the most forefront priority for our heroine.  Despite the fact that she's in love with Hector and would probably do anything to save him, it shows that Elisa still kept her head about her and managed to have a bigger plan to save her kingdom while rescuing her man at the same time.  Who says she couldn't do both?  It's also telling that the two of them always had the same line of thought--worried for each other's safety, but at the same time seeing the bigger picture for Joya d'Arena.

With some flaws here and there, this book isn't entirely perfect, but it's close enough.  I'm at the point where I don't even care if there were a few things that bugged me because I was utterly charmed by the characters, the world, and the story itself!  You know that hollow feeling you get after finishing a really good series with the wish that there will be more to come, but knowing that it's all over?  Yeah.  That's how I'm still feeling, hours after finishing the last book.

I want more.  More Elisa, more Hector, more Rosario, more Belén and Mara, some more of Storm, Conde Tristán, Cosmé...  I just can't get enough of these characters.  And mostly, I kind of hope another series could take place in this same world as well.

Just a small hope, hopefully.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in August 2014.

More of a Fangirl Squee! than a Review: The Crown of Embers

The Crown of Embers

by Rae Carson
Book 2 of Fire and Thorns

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army.  Her place as the country's ruler should be secure.  But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court.  And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey.  But there will be a cost.

I haven't been this excited in a long time!

I'm not saying that this one is so much better than the first book, because they're both equally great.  And the first half of this book that had to do with politics and such got a bit tedious even if it was necessary.  And it took a while for the adventure and the story to progress.

But I loved this book so much more that I am officially so hooked it's not even funny!  The first book was good (excellent, even), but it just didn't seem to hit that "OMG! This is awesome stuff!" level.  Don't get me wrong.  I still loved it.  But after finishing this second book, just...  Let the excitement begin!

Of course, this second book wasn't all great.  The beginning was a little haphazard and I found myself wondering when the official story would finally start.  Just a bunch of attempted assassinations and greedy lords trying to get rid of the child queen for their own gain of power and greed.  A bunch of typical court conspiracies and issues--nothing to write home about.

The latter half of the book, however, made up for everything that seemed to drag from the beginning of the book!

With some political court intrigue going on, a blooming angsty romance, old friends and new friends coming around, people vying for her throne, and a war with Invierne on the brink, I love that Elisa doesn't lose her head too much.  Sure, she strikes out on a journey with only God and faith as her back-up, but Elisa comes out of this entire journey with ten-fold development and growth, and so much more kickass than she had been before (and she was pretty kickass to begin with)!  And at the risk of giving away too much about this book, I really just LOVE the new and improved kickass Elisa who comes out of this chaotic mess of a journey!

Did I also mention that I love how Elisa's first priority isn't romance or boys?  I think I mentioned that in my review of the first book.  And food is still mentioned in much detail because it is a VERY important part of life!

Also...  little Prince Rosario!  Hugs all around!

I'm already starting the next book. I want to know where the rest of the story leads.

And yes, this review is kind of short and rough, because, really, the first half of the book DID drag quite a bit, even if it was still enjoyable, so there isn't much to say about it.  While the build-up might have been necessary, I found that I didn't care for it and was hoping to see Elisa and her entourage off on a journey soon.  And when the journey started, I got excited and the rest just rolled on from there.

So yes, I do forgive this book's monotonous beginning because of the ending's appeal.

And now, onto the next book!

I... may or may not return and refine my review a little bit, but more than likely, I'll just put in all of my opinions at the end of the series.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in August 2014.

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Rae Carson
Book 1 of Fire and Thorns

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable.  She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil.  A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her.  Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her.  A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior.  And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before.  Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most.  If the prophecy is fulfilled.  If she finds the power deep within herself.  If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

This book turned out to be highly enjoyable, and a page-turner I hadn't been expecting, but had been hopeful for nonetheless.  Sometimes there's a lot going on that is hard to keep up with, but overall, the adventure, the conflicts, and Elisa's growth is excellent.

It's great to read a YA where romance is not the forefront conflict of our heroine when a war is on the brink--she certainly has her priorities in proper line.  And it was wonderful watching her grow from feeling like a useless, ignorant princess into a real hero who has suffered the consequences of war and death.

Princess Lucera-Elisa is the chosen bearer of the Godstone, something that only happens once a century.  Except, she starts off as a useless second princess who has no interest in politics, government, or war.  Her interest seems to lie in the devout, the library, and minor useless knowledge that has the potential to become useful.

The book starts with Elisa's marriage to King Alejandro of the neighboring kingdom, and the story begins to unfold quite quickly from there.  There is danger to the Godstone bearer, there is war on the horizon, and the chosen is the one everyone believes will save the world.  But how, Elisa has yet to even fathom.

The real adventure starts when Elisa is kidnapped by a group of desperate commoners who hope she is able to bring salvation to their lives against the invading enemy; especially when they are a hill folk living a great distance from their kingdom and the king seems to have chosen to abandon them.

This story incorporates a fairly well-built religious system and world that I'm excited to learn more about.  I'm not a religious person myself, but this book (though not quite a religious one as a story), makes good use of religion as part of the world-building and culture of Joya D'Arena, Orovalle, Invierne... etc.

I love the friendships and the characters Elisa meets and makes along her journey.  However, I also wish there had been some better character interactions between Elisa and her new friends and even her old friends.  Sure, the love and the respect is there, and sometimes you can feel it.  But other times, a lot of the character interaction is kind of bland.

Also, no insta-love, even if Elisa does spend a short amount of time pining after a king who doesn't love her.  Then again, she DID have to marry him, and it would only be reasonable for her to hope that the two of them would eventually learn to love each other.  But I'm still glad that she got over her initial dreamy ideals that Alejandro would care about her romantically--I honestly didn't really care about Alejandro as a person even though you see very little of him in the story.

I even thought that Hector would become the immediate love interest up until Humberto made his appearance.  In a way, I'm kind of glad that the main romance is being stalled for later on after Elisa and Hector have more time to spend in each other's company.  And I'm glad that romance wasn't even really Elisa's main concern.

I'm a little hesitant to accept how quickly she goes from "useless princess" to "leader of a mysterious fighting faction".  Of course, I DO appreciate that, despite the fact that she sees herself as a "useless princess", her knowledge and her thought processes are anything but that of an ignorant, spoiled girl.  She is quick to admit her lack of knowledge, and quick to strike out in obtaining the knowledge she requires to make decisions.  She doesn't presume to know everything, but she also doesn't act like an ignorant fool either.  She also doesn't dilly-dally in making decisions that need immediate action.

I'm not sure how I feel about her physical changes along with her growth and development.  I like that she DOES go through a lot of change during her time away from luxury and in the face of war devastated lands and poverty in harsh environments.  And I guess it would only make sense that she loses a lot of weight during her journey across the desert with nothing but heat and simple rations of broth and LOTS and LOTS of walking.

I was just hoping the physical beauty wouldn't play such a big role in her life, whether or not she's going to be a queen.  And whether or not she's going to be a significant hero.

But I'm going to overlook that as simply a transition in the story and not let it bother me.  After all, she at least didn't become dainty and fragile and anorexic looking.  I'm going to assume she just lost enough weight to be of an average, healthy size.  And I'm going to envy the fact that she managed to keep her big boobs and shapely butt, because I know those are usually the first things to go when women are dieting...

Not that it should be an issue in a YA.  Nuh-uh.

However, I love that she still remains a heroine who loves food A LOT and doesn't care to hide it.  And she is constantly eating and thinking about food.  And she's all:  "Parties and celebrations and fashions and silk gowns?  Don't you people know there's a war coming?  Now pass me that chicken dish and let's get this war council started!"

Surely, a woman after my own heart!

The politics are scarce (not really a complaint) and things seem to fall into place too easily.  There's a lot going on that relies extremely heavily on "destiny" and "God's Will" and such stuff of higher beings, uncontrollable by a mere human.  But I'm glad that there was mention of the fact that it took Elisa's own faith in herself and her willingness to act on her own will rather than sitting around and waiting for "God's Will" to intervene, in order to make things happen.

Overall, still a great read and I'm looking forward to the next book.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in August 2014.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bout of Books 26 - Starting Post

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, Aug 19th and runs through Sunday, Aug 25th in whatever time zone you are in.  Bout of Books is low-pressure.   There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional.

For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.  - From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books 26 started today, but I didn't really get much of a chance to read, so not much of an update.  While I wanted to update everyday, I'm not sure that's actually going to happen, so I'm changing one of my initial goals to just updating whenever I finish a book... maybe.

I'm fairly certain that, at the pace I've been going, I'm not really going to make my reading goals of wanting to read 3 books this week.  But we'll see how it goes.  If I manage, then I'll be quite satisfied.  I'm hoping to jump into some books I've been meaning to read, that are already on my shelves.  Hopefully, I'll get to them and get some good read in this week.

Happy Reading Week to everyone!

Main Goals

I only have three simple goals for this August 2019 Bout of Books Readathon

1) Post regular updates, daily... or every other day, maybe.  Update with each finished book.
2) Read at least 3 books.
3) Read books already owned.  (After finishing the Georgette Heyer book).

Books I'm Currently Reading

Read-a-thon Hopefuls

I'm going to try to have as much fun as I can.  If anyone else is interested in joining the read-a-thon, the badge at the top of this post will take you to the Bout of Books official website.  The link under the picture takes you directly to the sign-up post.

Let's all have some fun for this week of a read-a-thon!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Brief Thoughts: Ember


by Kristen Callihan
Darkest London #0.5 (novella)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Prequel to Firelight.

After a fire consumes the Ellis family fortune, the beautiful and resourceful Miranda finds herself faced with an impossible dilemma: enter a life of petty crime or watch her family succumb to poverty.  But once her fiancé learns of her descent into danger—and of the strange, new powers she's discovered—saving her family may come at the high price of her heart.

When Lord Benjamin Archer's one chance for redemption is destroyed by corrupt London antiquarian Hector Ellis, he vows to take what Ellis values most—his daughter Miranda.  Forced to hide his face behind masks, Archer travels the world hoping to escape the curse that plagues him so that he can finally claim his prize.

But once Archer returns home to London, will it be revenge he seeks?  Or will the flame-haired beauty ignite new, undeniable desires?

In preparation for Halloween Bingo 2019, I'm reading a few books and novellas that are either the first book or, in this case, a prequel to a book I want to read for the game.  I figured, what better book to read for the Darkest London square than a book from a series titled Darkest London, which follows a girl with a supernatural gift for creating fire?  Apparently, there's also a mystery involved in said book so I'm super excited to read it.

And so, I decided to go ahead and read Ember, which is the prequel novella to Firelight (the first book in the series), and found it intriguing enough to keep me hooked, even if the outline of the novella itself was a bit chaotic.  I'm also not sure that the novella did much for me as a story if it weren't attached to a book I'm interested in reading, and which has gotten enough positive critique for me to want to keep moving forward.

For a little while, I was having trouble following the novella's story's events, especially with the hopping timelines that didn't seem to have any reasoning behind them.  The brief tangents following Archer were pretty confusing, and didn't feel like they contributed much to the story.  I DID find that I liked Miranda, but that was the extent of how I felt about all the characters.  I didn't much care for Miranda's at-present lover nor her father.  And I'm not certain I saw how Miranda's and Archer's tangents fit together.

Maybe it'll all make sense in Firelight, since the novella is supposed to give more of an insight into the first book of the series, according to a lot of reviews I'd skimmed out of curiosity.  So I decided to get it read.  So rather than being a historical romance with a paranormal twist, the conclusion of Ember was rather open-ended and bittersweet.  There's so much unresolved conflict going on in Miranda's life that I'm tempted to just hop right into the book to get at a possible Happily Ever After... or at least a more satisfying resolution for her.

After all, there are still more books in this series I can read for the Darkest London square, right?  The series is seven books long, and any of them would fit the square... and then some!

Quick Thoughts: Lethal Lifestyles

Lethal Lifestyles

by LynDee Walker
Book 6 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

The groom is the prime suspect in a murder at his own rehearsal dinner.  Crime reporter Nichelle Clarke doesn't believe he's the killer—but now it's up to her to find out who is.

When Nichelle Clarke is invited to be the maid of honor in her friends' Virginia vineyard wedding, she looks forward to the celebration.  The storybook ceremony has been planned to the tiniest detail, and the rehearsal dinner is going off without a hitch.

Until a dead body is found in a barrel of award-winning Riesling.

But when the dust settles, the corpse is no longer Nichelle's biggest worry.  There is a growing list of evidence pointing to her friend the groom as the killer.  Nichelle doesn't buy it, but finds herself the lone skeptic.

Wading through skeletons of past love and loss, Nichelle sets out to prove the groom's innocence.  But the journey forces her to face hard truths about how well she really knows her closest friends.

Can Nichelle track down the truth in time to save her friend from life in prison--or worse?  Assuming he is innocent, who is the real killer?  And more importantly, will they strike again?

I'm having a hard time deciding how to feel about this book.  On the one hand, this was an exciting, fast-paced read where the action just keeps the story moving forward.  On the other hand, you once again get Nichelle spending a lot of her time racing against the clock, the upper administration, her rivals, and now other mysterious higher powers, to find the truth in a murder mystery.  And once again, law enforcement is conveniently absent with no power to do any true investigating.

While I love that Nichelle is such a strong, resourceful heroine, I'm also exhausted after reading this book (and not only because I kept at it when I probably should have been sleeping).  There was SO MUCH going on in this book, and so much going on in Nichelle's life already, that I'm frankly kind of getting tired of the constant upward battle that she's facing off with with her weasel-y publisher.  And while I understand that the rivalries are fierce and probably necessary between her and other ambitious reporters, sometimes the battles get a little too catty for my liking... and maybe too repetitive.

BUT, on the other hand, I really DID enjoy the mystery in this book; sans all the office drama, I think I would have really loved all the action, the investigation, and all the strange twists that were thrown in.  I also loved that Nichelle and Kyle could team up and investigate the case together without romance or hurt feelings getting in the way--they DO make a pretty good team.

Unfortunately, speaking of the romance, I'm STILL not feeling Joey, the mysterious mafia love interest, now serious significant other.  I just don't see enough of him and don't know enough of him to care about this love story.  It's been six books into the series, and Joey is really taking the tall, dark, mysterious, and handsome love interest trope to a new level.  At some point, I feel like we need to start getting to know Joey more if I'm to believe that Nichelle and Joey are having a serious relationship outside of physical attraction.  And because of that, I'm actually warming up to Kyle a little bit more... even if I still like Nichelle's co-worker Grant Parker more.

At least we get to see Kyle on a more personal level and we're getting to know him better with each book.  His cockiness is also starting to grow on me, even if his over-protective streak is a bit tiring.

Apparently I'm hard to please.

As far as the series itself goes, I'm still very much enjoying it, so I'll definitely continue reading, even if I'm not planning on jumping into the very next book right away.


Booklikes-opoly 2019

Roll #20:
Square: The Stay-cation 6 | Read a book set in your home town, state, or country, or that you checked out of your local library, or that has been on your (physical) bookshelves since last summer.

How it fits:  This book takes place in my home country (U.S.A.)
Page Count: 372
Cash: $3

Brief Thoughts: Madam, Will You Talk?

Madam, Will You Talk?

by Mary Stewart

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Widowed Charity Selborne had been greatly looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her old friend Louise - long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the parched Provencal landscape.  But when Charity arrived at their hotel in the picturesque French town of Avignon, she had no way of knowing that she was to become the principal player in the last act of a strange and brutal tragedy.  Most of it had already been played.  There had been love--and lust--and revenge and fear and murder.

Very soon her dreams turn into a nightmare, when by befriending a terrified boy and catching the attention of his enigmatic, possibly murderous father, Charity has inadvertently placed herself center stage. She becomes enmeshed in the schemes of a gang of murderers.  And now the killer, with blood enough on his hands, is waiting in the wings.

Well, this isn't my favorite of the Mary Stewart books I've read so far, but I'll give a kudos for the strong start it had, although the book was punctuated by a lot of banal moments, some of which were quite idyllic, but others of which were just a little draggy.

The truth is, I really liked Charity a lot, because she comes off strong and flawed, all at the same time, which is what makes her an interesting character.  More so, I was really, really getting into the book as the danger and the conflict began to pick up.  And even as I started to find the rest of the mystery quite predictable, I still got drawn into the story and the atmosphere.

But then the instalove happened, and I found myself a bit jarred out of the book.  I guess after following Charity's high speed chases, her escaping from Richard, the man she believed to be an evil murderer... I hadn't really expected the sudden turn of events that happened mid-book.  The insta-attraction might have been believable to an extent, but the sudden declarations of love kind of threw me.

The second half of the book then proceeded to spin further out of control, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about the chaotic conclusion to the mystery and the thriller itself.  Everything kind of all happens at once to bring all the tangents to a head, and yet I kind of felt like the ending was a bit unsatisfying.

Nonetheless, this was exciting enough to keep me hooked until the end.

On a side note, was it just me, or was there an extremely unhealthy and unbelievable amount of smoking throughout this book?  Or was it just the time period?


Booklikes-opoly 2019

Roll #18:
Square: Robot Card | Create a number list of ten books, and let a random number generator pick for you.

Note:  Used in place of Beach Week 13.  See post for the numbered list.
Page Count:  372
Cash:  $3

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Halloween Bingo 2019 | Ani's Tentative Reading List!

Halloween Bingo 2019

I'm super happy and have been anticipating my card for weeks ever since the first stirrings of Halloween Bingo 2019 news started presenting.  And lookie!  Not a lick of horror to be found!  =D  And I know this is Halloween Bingo, and I should maybe step outside of my comfort zone a little bit, but the truth is, I'm not feeling the desire to step too far outside of my comfort zone these days, so this is perfect!

I wasn't really going to create a tentative reading list, if only because I didn't want to lock myself down into any particular books.  But on the other hand, I DID want to give myself a little bit of direction, specifically as to what to start reading when the game starts.  So I started making a list of books I wanted to read that would fit my card, and the next thing I know, I've already picked books for some of my squares.

On the other hand, most of my squares are fairly broad, which gives me a lot of wiggle room to work with, such as Romantic Suspense, Genre: Suspense, Genre: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth...  I've got tons of book options that will fit these squares.

Some other squares, I've got an idea of what I'd like to read for already, which I'll list below.  But a few of the squares will require some thought such as Country House Mystery, Locked Room Mystery, and the more specific It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, In the Dark Dark Woods, Full Moon, or Sleepy Hollow.  Looks like I'll be combing some lists... although I'm not above using those freebie Transfiguration Cards we're being given.

In terms of books I'd like to read, I'm quite determined to catch up with the Lady Darby Mystery series, which I've already read up to book three of.

Lady Darby Mystery series by Anna Lee Huber --
As a historical mystery series, these books fit a few of the squares on my card such as Genre: Mystery or Amateur SleuthA Study in Death will fit Paint It Black... though unfortunately I don't think any of these books take place in London for Darkest London... drat.  I might be able to make a bid for Romantic Suspense and/or Genre: Suspense.  Otherwise, we have the  broadest squares to play with--Read By Flashlight or Candlelight and Poe Raven Free Space.

Anyway, I'm kind of stealing a bit of Themis-Athena's format in creating my tentative reading list.  So let's move forward.

The Squares on Ani's Card:

Paint It Black:
-- There are a lot of possibilities for this square, but some of the covers I'd considered I'm not sure if they really qualify as black--they're dark, but not quite black.  But no matter, I have one specific book that will definitely fit.  Mostly, I was looking at books that I already own, though of course, other books I don't actually own got slipped in...

Most Likely
A Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber
The Black Opal by Victoria Holt

Other Possible Books
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
India Black by Carol Carr
Broken by Cynthia Eden
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

-- This square was a little harder for me to find a book for.  I had considered using a Transfiguration spell for this, but found at least one book I can read.  And I'm actually kind of excited for it.

Most Likely
A Night in Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

Other Possible Books

In the Dark, Dark Woods:
-- I didn't really do much of a search for books to read for this square, but I have a few possibilities, as well as one particular book I will most likely read after asking about it in the FAQ and getting the go ahead.

Most Likely
Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

Other Possible Books
In the Woods by Tana French
Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts

-- Obviously, there are a lot of books I can think of that will work really well for this square, with a few cozy mysteries about witches that came to mind.  But then I remembered that I'm a tad behind in my Discworld reading, and so decided that the best book would be one about wizards... or in this case, a sourcerer!

Most Likely
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Other Possible Books
It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake
Mercy Strange by Alisa Woods
Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson

International Woman of Mystery:
-- After a bit of clarification, I decided that I had a lot more possibilities than I had considered previously.  I'm not really going to make any sticking decisions on books, so I'm leaving this square blank for the time being.  I will be reading books written by authors not from or currently residing in the U.S.

Mostly Likely

All Possible Authors
Tana French
Emmuska Orczy
Agatha Christie
Mary Stewart
Georgette Heyer
Zen Cho
Rin Chupeco
Juliet Marillier

Read by Flashlight or Candlelight:
-- Like the previous square, I'm not going to lock in any particular book and just mood read for this one.  But I'm definitely going to read either a hard cover or paperback for this square.  It would feel a bit... pointless to read one of my e-books, on my back-lit Paperwhite, by candlelight.  But there are some books I'm considering based on the kind of book and the kind of mood that reading by candlelight will set.

Most Likely

Possible Books
The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
I'll Be Watching You by Andrea Kane
The Black Opal by Victoria Holt
Kill and Tell by Linda Howard
Shadow Woman by Linda Howard
The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens

Sleepy Hollow:
-- This took some research, but I managed to find some possible books.  I'm not going to make a decision yet, because only one of the books I'm considering is one that I already own.  The others, I'll need to acquire somehow, more than likely from the library, and just hope that the book is available when the game starts.

Most Likely

Possible Books
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Vermont)
It Takes a Witch by Heather Black (Massachusetts)
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Connecticut)
The Cabin by Carla Neggers (Massachusetts)
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (Vermont)
The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson (Massachusetts)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night:
-- Honestly, I've got nothing for this square.  I've gone through the linked book list and nothing really stands out to me, but I'll probably comb the list again in a couple weeks and see if anything looks good at that time.  It's entirely possible that I'll just use a Transfiguration spell.  There is one particular book I'm considering if I can get access to it from the library when the time comes.

Possible Books
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Country House Mystery:
-- There are so many possibilities for this square, but the book I'm most interested in happens to be part of a series, and the second book in a series, at that.  So at present, I'm reading the first book of said series so that I can read that book for this square.

Most Likely
Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer

Other Possible Books
Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer
Dead Man's Island by Caryolyn G. Hart
Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Modern Noir:
-- I read The Big Over Easy for this square last year, so I'm considering reading the second book in that series.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I'm feeling in the mood for Noir at all, and so it's possible I'll use a Transfiguration spell on this square.  But we'll see.  I've only got three spells to use, so I need to consider carefully.

Possible Books
The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
The Bat by Jo Nesbo
In the Woods by Tana French
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

-- This is another broad category that I've got a lot of possibilities for.  For certain, I'd like to read something by Barbara Michaels or Mary Stewart.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what I want to read, as I have a lot of Mary Stewart books on my owned book shelves, but I'd have to acquire a Barbara Michaels book.  I've also got one more Victoria Holt book on my owned shelves that needs to be read... and then there are some other authors with loads of possibilities...

Possible Books
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
Witch by Barbara Michaels
Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
The Sea King's Daughter by Barbara Michaels
Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels
Secrets on the Mist by Anna Lee Huber

Grave or Graveyard:
-- The last time we had this square, I read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman... and it'll be quite hard to top that book, truth be told.  And really, I don't have a lot of possibilities.

Possible Books
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

Poe Raven Free Space:
-- This square is my "I want to read this book, but I don't know where to put it" free space.  It'll probably get filled last unless I manage to make some concrete decisions on the rest of the squares.  More than likely, I'll slide a romantic suspense in here... or one of the Lady Darby Mystery books.  Or maybe one of the InCryptids books...  I just really don't know why I'm even including this square in this post...

Baker Street Irregulars:
-- I read The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson for this square last year.  I'm considering reading the next book in the series... although I've also got another possible pick in Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, which I believe to be a mystery, but I could be wrong.  I don't read a whole lot of YA books these days, but I'll be damned if I use the Transfiguration spell on this square without at least trying to find something I'd like to read.

Possible Books
The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Genre: Suspense:
-- Another freebie space for me.  I'll throw in whatever I can't fit anywhere else.  I'm most interested in getting a romantic suspense read, so that's probably what's going to happen.  There's a slew of these in my Kindle library as well as my physical shelves that I'll probably choose from.  Although I'm also interested in reading something by Nora Roberts or Jayne Ann Krentz.

All the Possible Books!!
Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts
Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts
Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
Hidden Talents by Jayne Ann Krentz
Silver Linings by Jayne Ann Krentz
Eye of the Beholder by Jayne Ann Krentz
Shadow Woman by Linda Howard
Ice by Linda Howard
Close Up and Dangerous by Linda Howard
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
I'll Be Watching You by Andrea Kane
Broken by Cynthia Eden
Ricochet by Jessica Andersen

Darkest London:
-- I'm mostly looking at either Amanda Quick or Sherry Thomas, although not all of their books take place in London.  There are other books I'm interested in, so I'm not locking in any particular book.

Possible Books
A Study in Scarlet by Sherry Thomas
A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
Affair by Amanda Quick
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

-- I've been meaning to read the rest of the InCryptids series and any of those books will fit into this spot.  I've already made a decision, if you want to know the truth, so if this book ends up unavailable... well, I may cry.  I'll think about some back-ups.

Most Likely
Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

Other Possible Books
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)
Bodyguard Bear by Zoe Chant
Wildfire Griffin by Zoe Chant
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier

Ghost Stories:
--  Probably something by Simone St. James.  I've got two books left of hers to read, but only one of them, I think, is actually a ghost story.  So I'm hoping to get a hold of it and get started when September rolls around.  Otherwise, I think I have a few other possibilities.

Most Likely
Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Other Possible Books
Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
Haunted by Heather Graham
Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
Witch by Barbara Michaels
The Crying Child by Barbara Michaels

Locked Room Mystery:
-- I think Halloween Bingo is a great time to read certain books that aren't part of my usual repertoire of reading.  And I think I've had my set of Sherlock Holmes books on audible, narrated by the awesome Simon Vance, for much too long without having touched them.  It's time...

Most Likely
The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Other Possible Books
Cover Her Face by P.D. James
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Amateur Sleuth:
-- Since I'm on a mission to catch up with the Lady Darby Mystery series, I might just read one of those books for this square.  As neither Kiera Darby nor her love interest are considered law enforcement, this will work.  But if I'm not in the mood, there are plenty of other books I can read.  Since I'll be reading A Study in Death (yes I'd already decided) for the Paint It Black square, then I'll reserve the next book for this square.

Most Likely
As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber

Other Possible Books
A Brush With Shadows by Anna Lee Huber
An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber
Deadly Politics by LynDee Walker
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
Broken by Cynthia Eden
The Daydreamer Detective by S.J. Pajonas

Diverse Voices:
-- After a bit of a search, I actually ended up finding one particular book that I'm pretty excited to read amidst a list of some other books I added to my TBR.  And while it's a young adult book, the summary caught me and I'm super interested in the modern day tale involving the legendary Monkey King of Chinese mythological fame!  And then something about battling demons and stuff...

Most Likely
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Other Possible Books
Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Romantic Suspense:
-- Because this square is like free cake for me.  This list could go on forever, so I'm just going to give myself a few top pick possibilities.  Although I DO have a desire to stick to more crime thrillers and murder mysteries... in other words, no survival, on the run stuff, or military romances... unless there's a murder mystery involved.

Possible Books:  See book list for Genre: Suspense above.

Magical Realism:
-- I'm thinking something by Sarah Addison Allen or Neil Gaiman.  I think there might even be a Maggie Stiefvater book that will work in here if she's published anything new lately...  But this is another square I'm not feeling, so a Transfiguration spell will more than likely get used.

Possible Books
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Genre: Mystery:
-- This is another freebie space for me since I've been really into crime thrillers since forever.  I've also been dabbling in classic mysteries and historical mysteries.  And a lot of the romantic suspense I read are also crime thrillers and murder mysteries.  Then there are the cozy mysteries I could also choose from.  For the most part, I'll probably try to stick to the Lady Darby Mystery books just to catch up with the series.  Since I've already set two other Lady Darby books for two other squares, then I'll temporarily set the next book in the series for this square.

Most Likely
A Brush With Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

Other Possible Books
An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien
Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts
Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts
I'll Be Watching You by Andrea Kane
Shadow Woman by Linda Howard
The First Victim by J.B. Lynn
Cold Dark Places by Kylie Brant
Deadly Politics by LynDee Walker

Full Moon:
-- I did a bit of research for this square and even started listening to the audio book of Storm Front by Jim Butcher just to prep for the next book, Fool Moon when the game officially starts.  Which pretty much means that I've listed a lot of books, but I'm already set on one particular book.

Most Likely
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Other Possible Books
Feather on the Moon by Phyllis Whitney
Omens by Kelly Armstrong
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Transfiguration Spell

The card speaks for itself, but I'm so glad we have this option this year.  But I'm not going to make any sticking decisions yet on what cards I want to transfigure, because as the month wears on, my reading mood might change, and I will either want to transfigure a different square, or end up finding a book for a square I can't find a book for at present.

But at this point in time, the squares I'm most likely to use my Transfiguration Spells on are the following three:

And then the squares I would end up choosing as replacements:

I'm of the mind to go ahead and transfigure one of my squares to Cryptozoologist just so I can include another InCriptids book into the game.  And the Murder Most Foul and Serial/Spree Killer, and Supernatural squares are broad enough in definition that I'd have tons of books I can use for them if it comes to that.  Dark Academia and Truly Terrifying are my favorite of the new squares added this year, so I'm considering finding a book for them and adding them to the game.

So many decisions to make, but with only three Transfiguration Spells, I don't want to make too many changes at the moment.  So this post is super huge with lists of books and possibilities.  Although at least I've got a little bit of direction so that I have a sort of idea what book I'll be starting two weeks from now.