Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sunday Post #51

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This week has been interesting and busy. I was pretty much absent from the blogosphere all week, but this week should be better. I've had a few things going on, lots of traveling. My daughter went to strings camp and loved it. We had a wedding last night and had a great time- the rest of the weekend is wide open so that's kinda nice.

I did get some World Cup viewing in this week. France and the U.S. both advanced, the U.S. getting in by goal differential but... we'll take it. Next up is Belgium, and by all accounts a pretty good team. For all the marbles now... I hope everyone who's into the Cup is enjoying the tournament. I think it's been fabulous so far. 

I have my first COYER review this week, and a few more in the works.   


Review: Emilie and the Sky World
Teaser Tuesday #27
Sunday Post #50  


Review: All- New X-Men Vol. 1
Review: All- New X-Men Vol. 2 Here To Stay
Discussion Post: Game of Thrones
Teaser Tuesday #28 
Review: Perry's Killer Playlist


Perry's Killer Playlist (Perry & Gobi, #2)


  Legacy of the Clockwork Key (The Secret Order, #1) The Originals 


Finley Jayne is revamping her reading system, and you can read about it here

Has anyone else noticed that the U.S. seems a lot more into the World Cup this year? I sure have... this essay takes a look at that and is a good read. The Day America Fell in Love With The World Cup. 


George RR Martin talked this week about the next Ice and Fire book. It's mostly stuff we already know, but there's a couple tidbits. But when is the book coming out? And has it really been three years since A Dance with Dragons? 

Check out Melanie's Muse and her Game of Thrones readalong- she is reading a Feast for crows and A Dance with Dragons and posting her thoughts as she goes. Great first post! 

Anya over At Starships and Dragonwings has a cool linky for fantasy/ SF reviews, giveaways and discussion posts. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Emilie and the Sky World

Emilie and the Sky World (Emilie, #2)

Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells is the sequel to Emilie and the Hollow World, a book which I read and enjoyed last year. That one told the story of Emilie, a runaway who left home to stay with her cousin but got swept into an otherwordly adventure. This book picks up right where that one left off. Emilie is back in town with her new love interest Daniel but it's not long before they get pulled into another adventure.

Emilie ran away from her domineering uncle Yeric in the last book, and here he shows up looking for her, along with her brother Efrain. The reunion is not a pleasant one, but when the Marlende's are made aware of an atmospheric disturbance, they mount an emergency expedition to investigate. Emilie once again accompanies them- and so does her brother, who stows away onboard their airship. Now Emilie must deal not only with the dangers of the sky world, but with her brother as well. The expedition soon find that the cause of the disturbance is another airship - an immense one and of strange design. It's obviously from another world- but is it friend or foe? Before long the members of the expedition are separated and hurled into another world- a world unlike anything they have encountered before. 

This story started off good- I liked the beginning and Emilie's newfound confidence was nice. I got a little bored though through the first third of the book- maybe the Hollow World with its merpeople and deserted islands was more appealing to me- but I had a hard time getting into the story for a while. The action picks up though and Emilie soon asserted herself as the resourceful heroine I remembered from the first book. The cast of the first book are all here but the story really missed Rani and Kenar, the nonhuman supporting characters from the first book.

Once the action picks up it's a pretty breakneck pace for the last third of the book, as the expedition careens from one crisis to the next- just like in the first. There seems to be a formula being set down here- a set up, then an obligatory nonhuman companion appears, then all out action. It's not a bad formula- it's actually fun even if not a lot of thinking is required. I liked the ending too and I would enjoy reading more of her adventures. I didn't like this one as much as the first one, but I will follow the series if it continues. My recommendation is to read the first one, and if you like then continue the ride with this one. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Teaser Tuesday #27

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

"You are ready?"
It was just after dawn.We were somewhere in France, gassing up the Peugeot at a BP station, steam rising off the cups of espresso that Gobi had brought out a few minutes earlier along with a loaf of bread. " 

Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber 

Perry's Killer Playlist (Perry & Gobi, #2)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sunday Post #50

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This week was a pretty good week, summer is officially here and I even got to read once or twice. The World Cup is in full swing and our teams are doing well so far- the U.S. got off to a good start and France had a good day yesterday. My youngest daughter has decided she's rooting for France so now we're following them as well. Viva la France! :) 

COYER starts today and should be a lot of fun! Check out Michelle's starter post here for details, as well as info about the readathons and Twitter fun and giveaways. Big shout out to Michelle at Because Reading Is Better Than Real Life and Berls at Fantasy Is More Fun

Thanks to everyone who stopped by last week and commented on my re-posts. It's been fun and I still have a few older reviews to share, so I'm going to post a few every once in a while. Someone suggested that I do that semi- regularly and I liked that idea! I'll post a couple this week along with everything else going on. 

Happy first day of summer! 


 Legacy of the Clockwork Key (The Secret Order, #1) Perry's Killer Playlist (Perry & Gobi, #2)


Michelle at In Libris Veritas is celebrating her blogoversary with some fun stuff- go check out her Summer Solstice celebration. She's got giveaways and lots of author features as well. 

George RR Martin was at ConCarolinas and read from the upcoming World of Ice and Fire book. The excerpt he read is a history of the Westerlands. Quite interesting. 

Also quite good- a GRRM Q&A from ConCarolinas over at Stacey Simms blog. Check it out! The big takeaway for me- Martin says there will be more flashbacks to Robert's Rebellion in the next two books, and by the end of the series we'll know everything that happened there. That could be interesting... And here's an interview with Martin where he discusses the Season 4 finale... 

World Cup time! The U.S. had a big win last week and here are U.S. fans going crazy at Copacabana beach in Brazil.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World (Emilie, #1)

This is a blogoversary repost, the original review was posted on June 28, 2013. 

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells is the story of a girl running away from home who has the adventure of a lifetime. She doesn’t get along with her aunt and uncle who have been raising her since her mother left to be an actress. They don’t expect her to amount to much and she finally decides to leave and live with her cousin in the city. To get there she has to stow away on a steamer… and that’s where the fun begins. 

The action starts on the docks on a misty night and almost immediately Emilie is swept up in events beyond her control. Emilie plans to stow away on a steamer as she doesn’t have the funds for passage, but when she is mistaken for a thief she is forced to flee and ends up on the wrong ship. This ship is more than it seems however… as it soon leaves port bound for the Hollow World.

Emilie makes the acquaintance of Miss Marlende, who is searching for her lost father… last seen in the Hollow World. She has enlisted the help of Lord Engal, a noble and explorer who wants to be the first to travel to the world within a world. Things don’t go entirely as planned however, and soon they are in the Hollow World… but their engines are damaged and there is no way to get home. Their only hope…find the missing Dr. Marlende, who is an expert on aetheric engines.

Along the way they make new friends and allies, explore deserted islands and discover an ancient race of merpeople. The merpeople and their city were fascinating, and I thought to myself I want to go there! There is action, narrow escapes, treachery and a few surprises.

The Hollow World hearkens back to the pulp tales, to Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and the Pellucidar tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. However the concept and execution are strictly modern. This is more steampunk than Burroughs. I loved those older tales as a kid, but the Burroughs tales in particular have not aged well for me. This book takes the hollow earth concept, adds a modern sensibility and a plucky heroine, and runs with it. The result is superb. The steampunk elements make the story unique, with airships, Victorian dress and aether currents.

Emilie starts off a determined girl trying to start a new life, but is forced to make tough choices and save the day. She’s tough and brave and doesn’t take any guff- she’s just a fun heroine all the way around. The supporting cast is great also, from the gruff but loyal Lord Engal to Kenar and Rani, two non- human allies of Emilie. I really cared about these characters at the end.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: A Dance With Dragons

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

This is a blogoversary post. The original review was posted on August 31, 2013. 

A Dance with Dragons is the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, and to say it was long awaited would be an understatement. Released in 2011, this book resumes the storylines of characters left idle since A Storm of Swords in 2000- namely Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. They are the big three in terms of POV chapters, and between them they are the bulk of the book. So we’re talking over 10 years of waiting to resume these storylines! Was the wait worth it? In a word- yes. 

Please note this review WILL contain spoilers for the book, so if you don’t want to be spoiled please stop reading. You can check out my non- spoilery review here.

The storylines of the main characters were fun to read, although in some cases a little unsatisfying. Tyrion travels half the world to meet Daenerys, and is very close at the end, but after a thousand pages it was a little frustrating that he’s just getting there. Martin seems to be showing us as much of his world as he can, and while it’s enthralling and fun it is also slowing the plot waaay down. I thought it a little implausible that he just happens to run into Jorah Mormont- I mean what are the odds? Tyrion as always is great, and has some great lines, but his arc is indicative of the whole book- the storyline is still expanding, not winding down.  

I enjoyed Jon’s storyline although I thought he made some bad decisions. Jon has to balance the needs of the Nights Watch against the demands Stannis is placing upon him. He could have explained himself a lot better to his men, for one thing. The things he does, while perhaps necessary, are so counter to the Nights Watch that he was bound to make enemies. He should have known that and taken precautions. Melisandre warns him numerous times. Still the ending was shocking! It’s a good thing Melisandre is at the Wall- I think he’s going to need her help at this point.

A lot happens in Jon’s chapters, but at the same time he’s still at the Wall and I can’t help but think how in the first three books he came to the Watch, went beyond the Wall, rode with the wildlings, came back and became Lord Commander. Again, a sense that the plot has slowed down.

Daenerys is even more frustrating for me than Jon. I’ve never been a huge fan of Dany, mainly because I just don’t like her decisions. Settling in Meereen was baffling to me, and she’s still in the vicinity at the end of book five. I know she wants to learn to be a good ruler, but in my view she should have went to Westeros a long time ago. Or at the very least by now she should be making preparations for Westeros, but she’s still bogged down in the east. That may change soon, however.  

Dany’s story seems to be at a critical point, the battle for Meereen is looming and the dragons are making their presence known. If Martin resolves this early in the next book and she sets out for Westeros, that could jumpstart this series. Still, again I couldn’t help thinking that after a thousand pages we’re still not done with Meereen.

Having said all that, I got more mileage out of the secondary characters. Davos’ storyline takes him in an unexpected direction. Davos has always been a favorite of mine- he’s been raised to lordship but he is a common man by birth, with a common sense perspective. I loved the chapter where he meets with Manderly. Yeah- that’s all I can say about that. The north remembers.

We revisit Jaime briefly, we get to see Arya in Braavos and Bran finds the three eyed crow. We get a glimpse of Melisandre through a chapter of her own, which shows her to be utterly committed to her cause but raises as many questions as it answers. The most interesting storyline for me in this book may have been the Jon Connington chapters. I thought Connington’s perspective was fascinating.

Is Young Griff really Aegon Targaryen, thought dead all these years? I didn’t see this coming. And I really enjoyed seeing the Golden Company. They launch a lightning attack on Westeros while Daenerys struggles in Meereen. It feels like a game changer. And one cannot help but think how words have consequences. After all Tyrion broaches the idea of Aegon sailing west, rather than east, and that’s exactly what he does after binding the Golden Company to his cause. I can’t wait to see Dany’s reaction when she finds out her brother’s son is alive and invading Westeros to claim the throne!

The last third of the book is where things start happening at a breakneck pace- each chapter has a cliffhanger. These are probably the biggest cliffhangers of the whole series, and the most frustrating. I mean, we have two pivotal battles that are imminent, a HUGE development at the Wall- and we have to wait. The epilogue is a reminder that anything can happen in this series and the next book should start off with a bang- except that it’s probably a ways off yet. That’s what is truly frustrating. In an interview Martin’s editor noted that some material was held back for the next book. With the wait between books being what it is, I really feel Martin or his editor should have given us resolution of at least one of these cliffhangers.

Nevertheless this is such an absorbing, fun, immersive book that I highly recommend it. It’s a breath of fresh air after the disappointing A Feast for Crows. The first Tyrion chapter has him sailing across the narrow sea, picking up his storyline from  eleven years ago, which just felt weird! We then revisit Daenerys and Jon and from there the book just picks up steam. There are shocks and surprises galore, revelations and secrets- it’s not always a series for the faint of heart, but the rewards are tremendous for those who have been anxiously waiting for more from these characters.

Bottom line- this is a fantastic book, with a ton of subplots and details and secrets. It’s fun if you like this world at all, and I could keep reading these storylines forever. In terms of the overall plot though, it has slowed down so much that it’s hard to see the Winds of Winter being much different- we’ll get more forward movement but if the pace continues at this rate, can Martin finish in two books? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: The Treasure of Tranicos

Conan: The Usurper

The Treasure of Tranicos is a short story by Robert E. Howard starring Conan the Cimmerian. This story has been published in various forms over the years- I'm reviewing the version found in Conan the Usurper. This is a rollicking, fast paced story of pirates, hidden treasure and sorcery. The story starts off with Conan on the run, being hunted through the wilderness by relentless Picts. They have been hunting him for over a hundred miles, and even his wolfish vitality cannot last forever. He is amazed when he smells the salt tang in the air, he had not realized he was so close to the sea- but the end is near and he is looking for a place to make a final stand. He finds more than he bargained for, however. A cave full of treasure and the remains of a notorious pirate captain- a cave the Picts won't go near. What dark secret lurks within the cave? 

We then switch scenes to the coast not far away, and meet Belesa and Tina. Belesa is the niece of Count Valenso Korzetta, who has fled his native Zingara for reasons unknown to start a new life on this barren coast. Tina is her handmaid. Together they while away the days in exile- but everything changes in an instant when they spy sails coming around the headland. Strom the pirate comes calling and demands that Valenso turn over loot that he assumes Valenso has found. Valenso denies this, and when talks break down Strom promptly lays siege to the palisade, only to flee when another ship sails into the bay hoisting the colors of Zingara. This turns out to be no rescue however, rather the Zingaran buccaneer Zarono who has his own reasons for sailing into the bay. He might be even more dastardly than Strom.

It turns out Strom and Zarono have been hunting a treasure map for years. Each thought the other had it and they were watching each other. When Strom came north, figuring Valenso had acquired the map, Zarono followed. Valenso, however, has an entirely different, and more sinister, reason for uprooting his household and fleeing to this desolate coast.

After a freak storm dashes Zarono’s ship to bits, the buccaneer is stranded along with Valenso and his people. Strom then reappears and demands a parley. Strom thinks Zarono has the map and wants to form an alliance- he has the ship that can sail them away, Zarono has the map and Valenso has a base of operations. Except that Zarono doesn’t have the map. Conan does… and when he arrives at the parley everything changes.

"Zarono did not reply, his mind wholly absorbed in the problem of getting possession of Strom's ship; of continuing the parley without betraying the fact that he did not have the map. He wondered who in Mitra's name did have the map."

The parley is my favorite part of the story, and just a wonderful piece of writing. None of the men present trusts the others a whit, and there is back and forth between bluff Strom, devious Zarono, desperate Valenso and Conan- who has the trump card (the treasure). Can they work together long enough to secure the treasure and sail away before the Picts come down on them? Or will Valenso's dark secret doom them all?

"I have had one glimpse of that map. Strom and Zingelito were with me, and a Nemedian who sailed with the Barachans. We looked upon it in a hovel in a certain Zingaran sea-port town, where we were skulking in disguise. Somebody knocked over the lamp, and somebody howled in the dark, and when we got the light on again, the old miser who owned the map was dead with a dirk in his heart, and the map was gone, and the night-watch was clattering down the street with their pikes to investigate the clamor. We scattered, and each went his own way."

This is a great treasure hunt/ adventure story as well as a classic sword and sorcery tale. It's a fantastic pirate story as well. The story is not without its flaws- although Belesa does threaten to knife Valenso at one point, her and Tina are mostly here to be rescued. It has a lot of atmosphere though and is a great way to spend an hour if you want a good escapist read.  The unedited, and therefore definitive, version of the story can be found here.

Game of Thrones season finale

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

Season 4 of the Game of Thrones show is in the books, and the long wait begins...for next season. I have not been doing episode recaps but thought I would take a look at this episode and maybe comment a bit on the season overall- but mostly I want to hear your thoughts, cause let's face it discussing this show and the books is a blast!

I'll try to avoid book spoilers as I know not everyone who loves the show has read the books. There will be a few though and I'll mark them out.

The biggest thing for me, as a book reader, is that the series really deviated this season- and that NEXT season is almost certain to have spoilers for the next book The Winds of Winter. That will present an interesting dilemma for readers- do you watch and get spoiled, or avoid the show? From what I've seen of the discussions on Goodreads and elsewhere, people fall into both camps. For me I'll probably watch, although I've said before I would much rather read the next book before they start spoiling things- but that may not happen.

Some observations after watching the finale-

They did a good job with Tyrion, but by excluding the Tysha storyline the viewer perhaps doesn't really get all the backstory as to why Tyrion hates Tywin the way he does at the end. Still it seemed to work so whatever. Charles Dance as Tywin was fantastic- his presence will be missed. Also the scene with Jaime- in the books they had a bitter split, and I wish they would have stuck with that because as pointed out, Tyrion has no one at the end of A Storm of Swords- it really made his split with Jaime all the more alarming. And informs everything Tyrion does and says in book five to a large extent.

Speaking of Jaime- one of the biggest disappointments for me was how they handled Jaime. His story arc in a Storm of Swords is one of my favorites and he is really trying to redeem himself even as he rejects other peoples judgments of him- the scene in the book where he refuses to have sex with Cersei in White Sword Tower is a big moment (he says something to the effect that he won't besmirch his honor in that place), yet in the show they throw all that out. Very disappointing and an important character moment lost. They don't seem to get Jaime very well.

Bran is at the three eyed crow, which doesn't happen in the books until book five- so anything with Bran next season is potentially spoiler material for the next book. Yikes. Jojen's death makes me wonder if Jojen really is done as far as the story goes- readers of ADwD know that there was ambiguity as to whether Jojen died or not (different circumstances), and this seems to confirm that he's done. Of course some characters live on in the books even though the show kills them off- but that doesn't seem likely here. It's kinda creepy how it happens in the book, so that's a little... disturbing.

The children of the forest are here!

The scene with Dany and the dragons was done well. The dragons look awesome this season, and again we're getting into book five territory here so next season should be great. I haven't been super impressed with how they handled Dany this season, but I thought this was a great way to end her story for the moment.

Brienne fighting Sandor. Martin took a lot of heat for Brienne's somewhat meandering story arc so avoiding all that and dovetailing her with Sandor and Arya was an interesting choice. Effective and got the job done- Arya leaves Sandor and heads for Braavos. Arya and Sandor were the best part of this season.

Nice to see Jon and Stannis taking each others measure. I like Stannis in the books even given what he does... and his prickly relationship with Jon at the Wall will be fascinating to watch on the show. Mance Rayder was a big disappointment, they've done very little with him and in the books he is a more dashing, tragic figure. Seems like a dropped ball frankly... but we'll see what develops next season. Given where things go in ADwD, this could be VERY interesting.

So those are some of my thoughts. I have a few spoilery thoughts below, mainly about things that they didn't include, so you may want to avoid those if you haven't read the books.

SPOILER A big surprise for me was the absence of Lady Stoneheart. I was sure, along with Tyrion killing Tywin, that that would be the clincher for the season. The fact that they omitted that is a little baffling to me, but again with only a few seasons left maybe they're curtailing that storyline- or maybe it will just show up early next season. It seems pretty crucial, but then again with Brienne showing upin the Vale and fighting Sandor, they're obviously not following Brienne's arc at all so maybe it's less essential to have Stoneheart. I guess we'll see...

Also SPOILER- we still have not seen much in the way of flashbacks regarding Rhaegar or Lyanna. As the books progress we get more and more of a sense that Rhaegar was a good guy, even if his father the mad king was nuts, and where in the first book or two Robert's Rebellion seems pretty cut and dried, as time goes on we start to see that maybe it was tragic that Rhaegar was killed. It's too bad the showrunners can't incorporate some of this into their story, because in the books it plays a role in everything from Jaime's actions to Jon's possible parentage. It's such a huge, if behind the scenes, part of the story that it seems kinda crazy they have not addressed it at all.

So what did you think of the finale?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

Then someone called out, "There he is!"
Emilie stopped. He? The footsteps all sounded as if they were running away from her now. Oh, he didn't! A shot went off and Emilie flinched. It echoed against the stone and her skin went cold. 

Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells.  

Emilie and the Sky World (Emilie, #2)

Review: Shattered


Shattered by Teri Terry is the conclusion of the Slated trilogy, and a book I've been looking forward to for a while. I'm a big fan of the first two books, so my expectations were high for this one. The premise here is that Kyla has been mindwiped- Slated- all her memories are gone and she has been given to a new family to start over. Seeking out any details of her previous life is strictly forbidden. The problem is, unlike most Slated's, Kyla begins to have flashbacks- memories- and soon discovers that she was trained as an anti- government terrorist before she was Slated. As the first two books progress we soon learn that there is more to the story though- Kyla may have been trained to kill, but she is no killer. She slowly begins to learn who she is- but for everything she learns or thinks she knows, a new layer of deception emerges.

This book picks up right where the last one, Fractured, left off.  Kyla is believed dead after an explosion at her adoptive family's home, and she is on the run- trying to stay out of sight and also find her real mother. She soon does so, with the help of MIA (the resistance group that reunites Slated's with their real families). However Kyla soon discovers that her mother has secrets of her own- secrets that could kill. Forced to run again, Kyla must make decisions that will affect not only herself, but those around her- and she will come face to face with someone she thought was lost forever.

Shattered is a great wrap up to this series, and as I was reading it I felt like I was slipping back into a comfortable groove, just like with the first two books. Kyla is awesome as always, capable and brave but vulnerable too, and the author knows how to keep you turning pages. I liked the remoteness of the setting- the books are set in England in the future and Kyla gets out into the country in this one as she tries to lay low and find her mother. The author also has a knack for creating characters that you care about- Madison and Finley in this one both fit that bill. Finley especially is likable almost off the bat, and while his role is fairly small he is a nice addition to the cast. Of course, people around Kyla have a habit of disappearing, and this book is no exception. The scene where Kyla discovers an orphanage with a chilling secret was well done and very much sets the stage for the conclusion, with the stakes being higher than ever and Ky;a's own future very much in doubt.

Having said that, this is probably my least favorite of the series. It's not bad by any means, the writing is good and Kyla's narrative voice is the same- it's just that the story was a tad disappoiting to me. More secrets are revealed and there are some nasty surprises, but I thought the ending seemed a little too convenient. Even so there is a surprising twist that shakes things up a bit. And just like the first two books, I was reading this every chance I got. So while this may not have been my favorite of the series, it's still a page turner and a fine conclusion to an awesome series.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sunday Post #49

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This was a good week, although a little hectic, but we are settling into a summer routine of sorts. A lot of things happening in June- hopefully July will be quieter. I  finished Shattered, the conclusion of the Slated trilogy. It was good to finish that series, my review will be up on Tuesday. 

Last week I had a a lot of fun re- posting old reviews for my blogoversary. So much fun, in fact, that I'm going to do it again this week. I know, the blogoversary that never ends. :) Seriously though, there are some books from early on in my blogging that I enjoy talking about, so this week I'll be posting some older reviews again. I think I have an eclectic mix lined up, so stop by and share your thoughts if you get a chance.   Thanks to everyone who came by last week...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Tides


This is a blogoversary post, the review was originally posted on June 22, 2013. 

Tides by Betsy Cornwell is the story of Noah Gallagher and his sister Lo who are coming to the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, to stay with their grandmother for the summer. Noah has taken an internship at the local marine research center, and Lo has been struggling with bulimia and is basically coming for a change of scenery and hopefully a new start. Their grandmother lives alone on the island although it quickly becomes apparent she has a relationship with another woman. That relationship is in many ways central to the story as the past and present come together.

This is really the story of Noah and Mara however. Mara is a selkie a seal who can take human form. Mara  seems more drawn to the land than many of her kind, and she likes to watch people from afar, like the guests on the lawn at the island hotel. She and Noah meet by accident, he is running one day and sees a girl who he thinks is drowning. He rescues her- or tries too, but quickly realizes she doesn’t need rescuing at all. Their relationship starts off a little rocky, but they soon discover a mutual attraction… and some surprising family links.

Mara feels early on that she can trust Noah, and doesn't really understand why. Their relationship is complicated by a lot of things, not least of which is the natural distrust the selkies feel towards humans. We learn more about the selkies and their ways, and also the complex relationship Noah's grandmother has with these ancient beings.

It was refreshing to read a story where the characters actually communicate with each other. So often in stories like this secrets are kept and the characters don’t know what’s going on for half the book, but here  people talk to each other. This book is instead about exploring the feelings bubbling under the surface, and I appreciated that. There’s a moment towards the end where Noah is in trouble and Mara is coming to help. She thinks "I’m coming” and it was a powerful moment. I loved it.

I was really taken with the love story  between Noah and Mara, it was sweet and virtuous and real. It didn’t feel cheap or rushed… their relationship evolved naturally. I also liked the sibling relationship between Noah and Lo- you could really feel her pain at times, and the way her feelings towards Noah changed. They grew closer through their shared experiences, and that felt natural too.

The only thing I didn’t like was the plotline regarding Aine. Early on we learn about Mara’s sister Aine and her disappearance but there is no indication that this will play an immediate role in the story- however it becomes clear that the disappearance is relevant when tragedy strikes again, and Noah and Mara must take action. The truth about Aine’s disappearance is somewhat horrific and provides the only action sequence in the book, but I thought it was too closely linked to Noah and his reason for being on the island in the first place. It just seemed a little too convenient for me.

The ending is bittersweet and pulled at the heartstrings a bit. It is however the only realistic ending- and it left me wanting a sequel. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye: A Novel

This is a blogoversary re- post- this review was originally posted on July 23rd, 2013 and can be found here. Also see my interview with Jessica Brockmole here

Letters from Skye is a love story told in letters. It’s told from the alternating viewpoints of Elspeth Dunn, a published poet living on the Isle of Skye during World War I, and her daughter Margaret in the early days of World War II. Elspeth receives a fan letter from an American in 1912, and this leads to a correspondence that changes their lives forever. Through the seasons and the storm clouds of war Elspeth and "her American" get to know each other, and share their favorite books, their dreams, their hopes and desires.  

Margaret is in love with a gallant young RAF pilot in the early days of World War II. He proposes marriage, and Margaret isn’t sure what to do. She lives in Edinburgh with her mother, who counsels her to make no rash decisions in wartime. Then one day a bomb hits nearby, a wall collapses… and Margaret discovers the letters. The letters from twenty years ago, a lifetime ago. Letters to her mother from an American. The love stories of Elspeth and David, Margaret and Paul intertwine as events change their lives and make them question who they are, and what they care about most. 

This love story felt so real from the very beginning, from the tentative way David starts their correspondence to the increasing confidence the two of them feel as the months and years slip by, to the realization that they are, truly, in love. I’m sure most people can relate to that moment. Here we get a feel for that, as these characters admit to each other what they’ve known, deep down, for some time. It’s very well done.

I love how the story was told entirely in letters. I even found myself flipping back to see how many days had gone by between letters! Talk about being sucked into the story. 

I also enjoyed the humor in this story. David’s college pranks and Elspeth’s dry wit were a fun combination in the early going, and as the story progressed and got more serious, they kept their sense of humor and wit. There are twists and turns and a few surprises, but throughout it all these characters stay true to themselves. In this modern age, it was fascinating to see these lives and relationships develop through letters- subject to the vagaries of circumstance. A simple letter- so important to these people.

This book touches on many different themes, from longing and hope to regret and loss. One of the things that got me thinking was the relationship between Elspeth and Margaret. Parents and children can know each other so well, and yet at the same time know so little about each other. Parents have years of history before their kids come along, and the memories they take for granted- youth, high school, romances- their kids know nothing of. Brockmole touches on this. We learn so much about Elspeth, her loves and regrets, then we switch to Margaret and it’s amazing how little she knows of her mothers past.

Teaser Tuesday #25

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

"Emilie was a little startled by his ready agreement, but he had already started down the hill. She caught up with him in a couple of steps and they walked together, the grass swishing at their pants legs."  

Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells 

Emilie and the Sky World (Emilie, #2)

This is the sequel to Emilie and the Hollow World, which I enjoyed last year. I'm looking forward to this one a lot. This will probably be my next read... 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

I finally saw X-Men: Days of Future Past and thought it was okay- I think I liked First Class better, but it has its moments. The movie is based (very loosely) on the comic storyline of the same name. I liked the beginning a lot, we're shown a very grim, dystopian future and I thought it looked good on screen. Right off the bat we have X- Men fighting Sentinels- we finally get to see Colossus in action, we have Kitty phasing through things, and Blink's power was very cool- so I was liking the beginning a lot. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie didn't live up to the promising start.

The basic plot is the X-Men have to send someone's consciousness back in time to their earlier body, to avert an assassination that causes a grim future. In the comics they send Kitty Pryde back, but in the movie they send Wolverine back instead- some nonsense about only he could survive it. Blah blah. That's where the problems started for me. Wolverine feels overused and I think they should have stuck to the original story more. They should have sent Kitty back- maybe with Wolverine- hey a buddy flick! That would have been cool, and there is precedent in the comics for Wolvie to be sort of a mentor figure to Kitty.

As it is, Wolverine goes back to the 1970's to convince a younger Xavier and Magneto to stop Mystique from murdering the creator of the Sentinels. I have to say the whole 70's vibe worked for me- the hair, the shades, the whole thing- I enjoyed that a lot. It was fun. And let's talk about Mystique for a moment. Mystique has always been a favorite character of mine. A shapeshifting mutant with blue skin, she led the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants against the X-Men in the original story. I just don't like how they do her in the movies, though. Jennifer Lawrence is great, but the whole body paint thing- it's just not working for me. And I couldn't help thinking how cool it would be to have the X-Men against the Brotherhood, led by Mystique, on the big screen. A missed opportunity that could have maybe even topped Avengers!

There are other missed opportunities as well. The movie is way too talky, not enough action. We have Colossus and Kitty and they do almost nothing. Kitty's power is phasing but now she can apparently also send  someone back in time, so she spends the whole movie sitting by Wolverine as his consciousness is back in the 70's. Lame. They should have used Kitty and Colossus a lot more, and in the present too. The filmmakers of course claimed they couldn't send Kitty back because she wasn't born yet in the 70's- but this is a comic book movie, you can do whatever you want! Or set it in the 80's like the original story was. Whatever. They've done so many idiotic things in these movies that playing fast and loose with her age would hardly have been any worse.

Another missed opportunity- Rogue! She shows up at the end for about 3 seconds and that's it (apparently more of her will be on the DVD release). WTF? Rogue is awesome in the comics, and works well with Wolverine- and she even had a relationship with Magneto at one point- why not use her in the movie? Anna Paquin (Sooky!) was fabulous as Rogue in the earlier movies- and in the comics she has a complicated relationship with Mystique as well. See where this is going? Kitty, Wolverine and Rogue leading the way against Mystique and the evil mutants- that's the movie I would like to see! This is probably the biggest issue for me, and a complete waste of potential. It boggles my mind why they wouldn't use her a LOT in this movie.

Instead of Kitty, Rogue, Colossus, Nightcrawler (where was he?) we get... Beast. Totally lame. A guy who can turn into a blue, furry beast and... growl a lot. And jump around and be basically useless. I don't know why they even have the Beast in these movies, he doesn't do anything. And really, Wolverine doesn't do much in the movie either. He talks a lot, but not much else. Hugh Jackman is a great Wolverine, but they don't give him much to do. Another waste.

Some other quick observations. Quicksilver does steal every scene he's in, as some have said. He's a breath of fresh air in this movie, and that scene where he saves the day while a certain 70's song plays in the background might be one of the most inventive and quirky scenes I've seen in a superhero movie- but it works. I thought it was great. They needed to use him more- he disappears after that and is not used again.

I'm tired of Ian McKellen as Magneto- he's too old. And Michael Fassbender as the younger version is suitably intense- but he's almost too ruthless for me in this one. I think I'm just sick of Magneto- again, give me Mystique and the Brotherhood. Halle Berry as Storm continues to irritate- she's just never been Storm to me. One of the more powerful X-Men, I think she has one scene where she uses her lightning- such a waste. Storm should be kicking butt left and right- but it's Halle Berry, so I don't really care. Nothing against her- just don't like her as Storm.

Which brings us to the ending. Spoilers- as you know if you've seen the movie, or heard about it- Scott and Jean come back. The change to the timeline that happens in the movie is a convenient excuse to fix earlier mistakes. It was nice to see them back. Too bad they weren't in the whole movie- I think Wolverine plays best off of someone like Jean or Scott, a little friendly tension. So there's your reboot- we nix the ridiculous events of X-Men 2 and 3 and have Scott and Jean back. About time. Hopefully they'll do better by the characters in the future.

So this movie is a mixed bag for me. It has some great moments, but is way too talky and and could have been so much better. I think First Class was better, and this is no threat to Captain America: Winter Soldier or The Avengers as the best comic movies to date, in my opinion.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sunday Post #48

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This was a good week, got lots of reading done. I posted a couple reviews, and more on the way this week. I also hit the lakeshore for the first time, and had pizza at a favorite place on the water. It was a nice day, although it was nicer at home- it got cloudier near the lake. 

I mentioned a couple Sundays ago that my blogoversary was coming up- well, it's here. I started the blog in 2012 more or less, but really started posting regularly last June. I thought it would be fun to go back through some of my older reviews and see how they hold up. Some I kinda like,and others I just wince. So this week I'm going to re-post some of those older reviews- many of which have never been read I'm sure! :) Feel free to share your thoughts on them if you get a chance. I may also do a giveaway- haven't done one in a while. I'll have to look at the shelves and see what I've got... 




Perry's Killer Playlist (Perry & Gobi, #2)  Legacy of the Clockwork Key (The Secret Order, #1)

Review: Winter Soldier Black Widow Hunt

Winter Soldier, Vol. 3: Black Widow Hunt

Winter Soldier: Black Widow Hunt is the third Winter Soldier story I've reviewed on the blog. I'm enjoying these modern forays into the Marvel universe as I normally review older, "classic" stories. After seeing the Captain America: Winter Soldier movie I thought it would be fun to see what the character has been up to in the comics. This story picks up where the previous one, Broken Arrow, left off (my review here). Leo Novokov, a Soviet sleeper agent trained by Winter Soldier himself, has awakened from stasis and has a grudge against Bucky. He managed to capture and brainwash the Black Widow into thinking she is still a Russian agent- and Bucky is desperately trying to find her, with little luck.

This volume is a little more fun because there are guest stars all over the place. Captain America, Hawkeye and Wolverine all play major roles in the story. The narration occasionally shifts so we get the perspectives of Cap and Wolverine as we go. Bucky becomes increasingly more desperate as the search continues and the stakes get higher- Novokov wants to hurt Bucky and win Natasha's love in his own twisted way, and it seems like the heroes are always a step behind.  When Bucky finally closes in he has to make a choice- allow himself to be implanted with a mission of Novokov's, or risk losing Natasha forever. He takes the implant, which returns him to his Winter Soldier days- now the heroes have to face Winter Soldier again, along with finding Novokov. This was fun as we get to see Buckly in badass Winter Soldier mode again- and Cap, Hawkeye and Wolverine have to see if they can stop him when he's not holding back. Fans of Winter soldier in the movie may enjoy this- I did.

I liked Wolverine's internal monologue when he realizes Winter Soldier in full assassin mode is a tough fight, and Hawkeye's surprise when he tries to get the drop on Winter Soldier and fails. It's fun too when Cap, the big kahuna, shows up. The ending though I have mixed feelings about. The showdown with a brainwashed Black Widow is good- it's nice to see her kick some butt too.

The biggest problem for me with the story is the art. It's not very good. It's murky and the story and action are hard to follow at times due to that. This would have been a better story with better art, but it has its moments. I don't know where Winter Soldier goes from here, but this is a bitter ending to his time with Black Widow. Looks like Winter Soldier is on his own again.