Saturday, July 14, 2018

Only Dead on the Inside | James Breakwell


Summary:

A collection of survival tips as well as do's and don'ts for being a parent in the zombie apocalypse. 

Review:

I laughed so friggin' hard at this book I'm sure I got looks while I was reading it on the bus. But I didn't notice because I was laughing too hard. I've already bought a copy of this for my Mom! Yes, some of the jokes rely on sitcom family stereotypes (the "inept dad" stereotype being the predominant one). And yes, I don't have any kids myself. However, the humor of there is so much humor based in truth. Anyone who's spent any time with any kids knows the truth of the dangers of a temper tantrum!

My favorite part about this book is how it covers so many things that other zombie lore glosses over. The idea that disposable diapers will be a new form of currency rings very true. Plus, how many other zombie stories talk about how children are just inherently good at finding dangerous things? "It takes skill to make an inert wooden crib spontaneously burst into flames, but if anyone can do it, it's a six-month-old." That's why there are so many warning labels on toys. That's why being a parent in the zombie apocalypse is so dangerous for all parties!

But the book doesn't spend the whole time complaining. There's actually some good advice in here. Like how most guidebooks would tell you to remove a staircase and use a retractable ladder to keep the second floor zombie free. Breakwell reminds you that carrying a baby, plus loot, means you're not climbing up that ladder. He also talks about how escaping from zombies, with your family intact, is more about situational awareness than actual speed. Then there's the chapter on punishments where he talks about punishment only being effective if the kid understands why they're in trouble.

Some of the best parts of this book are about using your children to your advantage. Using their natural talent to create messes to make your house an obstacle course for zombie or looter. Using their smaller size to help you loot more places (not to mention their enthusiasm at getting to take home whatever they want). They also come with some very useful accessories, like strollers and toys that can be used as weapons. Like a mini-van that can still play DVDs even after the house has lost power. 

I absolutely loved this book. I shared some lines with my Mom and she wanted a copy. There are cartoons, charts and other visuals and the book is short so it's easy to stay engaged the entire time. I happily give 5 hoots!


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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Killer Librarian | Mary Lou Kirwin


Summary:

Karen Nash is packed and ready to go to England with her boyfriend, Dave, when he calls her up and dumps her. Literally hours before she's supposed to finally visit England, he says it's over. She decides she'll pay the extra expense of a last minute ticket and goes anyways. She's been looking forward to this trip and has been planning it for a long time. What she didn't plan for was waking up from a hangover at the B&B and finding a dead man holding an upside down book. What she also didn't plan was finding Dave in England with his new, much younger, girlfriend. She also didn't plan on having feelings for the owner of the B&B who has a motive for murder.

Review:

This was such a delightful book. I'll admit, if you're a mystery fan, you'll probably be disappointed. This is so much more slice-of-life than it is murder mystery and that's probably why I enjoyed it so much! 

That and the main character, Karen, is a middle-aged librarian who's lived in the American Mid-West for many years. How could I not relate to that demographic? I adored Karen and her determination to move on and have fun. She and I don't share tastes in literature, but that "thrill of the hunt" she gets when visiting Hay-on-Wye and its many, many stores is something I understand. Her feeling stunned when she sees herself in a shawl for the first time? I felt similar the first time I realized I look good in cardigans (and that they're comfortable). I hope that I can be son independent when I'm her age.

The vast majority of the story is her wandering London. She only thinks about the death here and there. As a result, we get to experience more of the city from her than if she were hard-set on solving the mystery. I rather appreciate that. I also learned, from her mistakes, that an English pint is way more than an American pint. Something I'll have to remember should I ever get to visit. 

The other characters are only so-so in terms of depth and entertainment. Caldwell, the owner of the Bed & Breakfast was well thought out, but he was also the main love interest so that was kind of needed. I did love her depictions of him while he was at work in the kitchen. And the kindling romance between two book worms is so much fun to read.

If you're looking for a slice-of-life about a woman who's determined not to let being dumped stop her, I do recommend this book. It's probably not one for the die-hard mystery fans, but it's a lot of fun for others. 4 hoots!

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fool if You Think It's Over | Jo Thomas



Summary:

Elkie seems to have everything she's been wanting. She got Ben out of the Institute and Dave locked in. She got the girls to a safe place with their father. She's even been getting along better with her mother. Unfortunately, other people's plans for her keep getting in the way. Roar, the head of the Valemon company, believes her to be sent from Odin to answer his prayers. Ben and the Greywolves believe her to be an obstacle to their happiness. David believes her to be a traitor to her species and their friendship. Yeah, she's gonna have a rough time.

Review:

I'm not gonna lie, this book gave me a serious emotional hangover. I couldn't pick up another book for a long time because of how this one ended. And I mean that in a good way.

When we got introduced to Roar and his beliefs about the magic provided by faith in the old Norse gods, I was worried that this world was going to go over the top with the fantastical elements. Fortunately, this does not happen. Yes, we get a lot more magic, but it is world developing instead of world changing, if that makes sense. Because we only get Elkie's perspective, and she is more of a skeptic, we get a more controlled inclusion of these elements.

What surprised me was Elkie's strong return to violence. Yes, self-defense was the primary reason, but with the new elements of the world it ended up taking a bit more of a sinister turn. Fortunately Elkie is still the kind of person who doesn't forget she is human and she is affected by this as much as I was, if not more. She's not a mindless killing machine. She's a human who's reaching her breaking point. It ended up making me feel even more sorry for her.

While this wasn't as humorous as the previous books, I still found it to be a fitting end to the trilogy. The kind of ending that makes you realize just how much you enjoyed having a character in your life and how much you wanted to keep reading about them. This trilogy as a whole was a wonderful adventure and a testament to one's ability to find contentment with their lot and the strength to keep moving. I am so glad to have read this trilogy and this book helped me realize that even more. 5 hoots.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Genius Jokes | Frank Flannery | Mini-Review

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Review:

Good news! I'm evidence that you don't actually have to be a genius to enjoy these jokes. Some of them were a bit on the dryer side of funny. Others literally made me laugh out loud. The topics cover science, history, politics, and more. My favorite part, I actually learned things! The explanations of the jokes in this book are well written and concise. They are clearly meant to educate without being boring and they succeed. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who wants some fun filled, quick learning. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Pack of Lies | Jo Thomas


Summary:
Elkie Bernstein is having werewolf problems of a different kind. The kind that involves long-term strategy and paperwork, neither of which she's very good at. She needs to get Ben (and maybe David) out of the Institute and away from Olsen who seeks to use Ben to find more werewolves. She needs to keep her farm going after her partnership with the Williams' family dissolves. Most importantly, she needs to protect a couple of young were-pups from the hands of those that would use them.

Review:

This book does pretty much everything that I want a sequel to do: it expands upon the world of the original in a way that makes sense. In the first book we were pretty much as "stuck" as Elkie in the middle of nowhere in Wales and we didn't get any sense of werewolves being known in the world. In this book, not only do we get to see a sliver of Norway, but we also get to see a werewolf pack. Well, we get to see that such things exist. In all honesty, I'm glad we still get to focus on Elkie and her struggles as opposed to side trips to the perspectives of others. 

Elkie remains one of my favorite female protagonists. She is very down-to-earth, self-aware, and kind hearted. I love that she openly admits to being a bad chess player and how that translates to her real life (I often have very similar frustrations). I love the fact that, even with everything stacked against her, she focuses on finding ways to make it work. She gets anxiety and I think some depression, but she keeps moving. I love that in a main character. She reads like a very well rounded character who is making the most of what she's been given in life and is finding contentment in it. Well, she would be if others would give her the chance to actually be content, but that's the cost of being a protagonist. 

While the book doesn't have more characters than the last one, the characters that are in this one last a lot longer so it feels like there are more, in a good way. Thomas does a wonderful job of keeping them well balanced. I'll admit, May's character wasn't as well played out as the others, but maybe that's the idea and she'll play a bigger role in the third book (which I'll be looking to get my hands on). I also liked that, while there are little kid characters, it rarely, if ever, reads like the little kid tropes. They're were-puppies who have distinct personalities and are learning to love books. What's not to love?

As the summary suggests, there wasn't nearly as much action in this book as there was in the first. There are still some werewolf fights, but the vast majority of the book is more strategy and positioning than actual fighting. Which makes sense. Elkie doesn't enjoy killing werewolves and only ever does out of self-defense. In this book there are few situations where she finds herself in need of defense. I can't say that there's more drama than I usually like because, well, Elike's personality and Thomas' sense of humor really keep it from feeling that way. That's quite the feat considering we get a lot of Elkie and her mom talking about Elkie's long lost dad and family issues. 

In case you can't tell, I enjoyed this book. Elkie is a wonderful, relatable character whose independence (stubbornness) and enjoyment of the simple things in life (hazelnut spread) make for an engaging read. In fact, I've already purchased the third book. This world, these characters, are very interesting to me and I'm loving finding out more about them all. 4.5 hoots!

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Hoo

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Atomic Aardvark | Ryan Guy | Mini-Review


Review:

Sometimes you want a book that will take you through the full gamut of emotions. Other times you want a story about animals given hyper intelligence and abilities from the residue of a chemical company, the strike of a meteor and a flash of lightning, under the light of a full moon. Holy wah does this book deliver on that! I had so much fun reading this book that I was on the edge of my seat in the last few chapters and I am really hoping for a sequel someday. Aardy the Aardvark and Surly Skunk getting their understanding of humans from such different angles was delightful. The fact that Surly adopted his understanding of language from the classics made him all the more fun to read, and he truly made for a wonderful "villain". Marissa and Conley were actually pretty enjoyable to read despite being humans. They actually did a really good job of keeping the story going and glued together. If you're in the market for a relatively quick and definitely silly yet interesting read, I highly recommend Atomic Aardvark. I really hope we get a sequel! 5 hoots!

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Villains Rule | M. K. Gibson


Summary:

Jackson Blackwell has worked long and hard to become famed Shadow Master, villain of villains. He is the most villainous of all not because he is cruel and crushes peasants under his boot. Rather he travels through dimensions, profiting off of other villains. He's made quite the name and career for himself. So when he is betrayed and left with minimal power in a fantasy realm, it catches him a bit off guard. Now he must (shudder) gather the heroes of the realm and get his power back.

Review:

I had so much fun reading this book. I cannot tell you the number of times I almost laughed out loud. More than that, though, because Jackson is a top tier villain, he is incredibly intelligent and intriguing to read of. We are fortunate to get to read the book from his perspective and, I have to say, he makes for a great narrator. Especially in his more human moments. That being said, he is still a villain who knows the angles to play for the most profit for himself. Several of his actions I wouldn't have agreed with, but he has no scruples about using them himself. After all, a true great villain knows how to abuse the rules to their fullest extent.

Another benefit of reading all of this from Jackson's perspective is, when he never sees something coming, neither do we. This book genuinely kept me surprised and intrigued. Because Jackson is such an intelligent character he picked up on a lot of stuff other characters wouldn't. This led me to not question his assumptions the more I read. So when he was caught off guard it was genuine and exciting. 

The rest of the cast of characters is delightfully well rounded. Jackson finds heroes who have their own "sins" from their pasts. Except for Carina. Her only "crime" was being a female half-breed in a group of elite, and elitist, male warriors. Everyone else Jackson is able to discern some sin or bad deed. He actually spoke out against the entire Elven race as the xenophobic, technophobic, stifling creatures they are. Then again, there are characters like Lydia that don't bother to hide who they are. I never would've thought she'd be into using knives for bondage play.

Also, fair warning for any fantasy fans who read this, be prepared to have the genre made fun of. A lot. Several of Jackson's comments revolve around the wish for air condition or even basic indoor plumbing. 

Really my only complaint about this book is the number of grammatical errors. I counted seven, though I know that doesn't cover all of them. And this may not seem like a lot, but when you read something like "I felt bone piece my heart" it's gonna throw you out of the book a bit.

That being said, I still loved this book. I'm actually planning on listening to the audio sample and, if I like it, buying that to listen to at work. I rarely buy audio-books, so that should tell you something about how much I enjoyed this story. I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Catching Stardust | Natalie Starkey | Mini-Review

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Review:

Starkey takes us on a complete tour of all things comet and asteroid. From their chemical makeup and physical appearance to their probable roles in our past and future. There are chapters dedicated to the mining of asteroids, protecting Earth from asteroids, and missions from space stations around the world landing on comets and collecting their dust for study. I now know so much more about comets and asteroids than I did. I even got a bit of a chemistry and geology refresher. It was definitely written at a level for casual readers and I greatly appreciate that. This is definitely a good book for any amateur astronomer or anyone wondering why comets and asteroids are so important. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Apocalypse Nyx | Kameron Hurley

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Nyx, the main character, is a former belle-dame, elite of the elites in war. After she got kicked out she turned to mercenary work, alcohol and sex. Her team learns quickly that she will sacrifice any and all of them to get the job done. Naturally, this doesn't lead to a happy life. Then again, in a world ravaged by war where all men and women are required at the front, only the super rich First Families can expect a happy life.

Review:

I had no idea, going into this book, that I was going to be reading a collection of short stories from an already established series. That being said, you don't need to have read the other books to enjoy this one.  

This is an incredibly interesting world. Because all native men are required to be on the front for several years while the women are only required there for two years, it makes sense that the majority of the characters are strong women. When there are men, more often than not they're foreigners not required to sign up for the draft. There is bug-based magic and technology which, honestly, makes sense given how many bugs there seem to be. And the logic of the world feels very consistent. 

Nyx is an incredibly kick-ass character, better at shooting than talking her way out, which is one of my favorite kind of protagonists. It's not that she has a heart of ice, rather she has a very calloused heart after all that she's had to see and endure. Her sniper, Anneke, is more of a wild kind of crazy, complete with a drug problem. Her magician, Rhys, is a Chenjan man who only puts up with Nyx because Chenjans don't have many options, but he maintains his religious devotions. Her tech, Taite, is a scrawny Ras Tiegan teenager. Her shifter, Khos, is a rather large Mhorian who is just about desperate for work. Together, they make for an entertaining team to read about.

Fair warning, this ain't a book for the faint of heart. It's a world where there is constant war, frequent sirens warning of bombardments, and bodies regrowing limbs just to be sent back to the front. And the way those limbs are regrown are somewhat stomach upsetting. This book has plenty of fun moments, but it is has a lot of darker ones. That last chapter ended on a heart-wrenching note. 

That being said, I'm still gonna look into the other books of the series. 4 hoots!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Iron Hearted Violet | Kelly Barnhill | Mini-Review


Summary:

Princes Violet is an only child, and not a pretty one at that. Rather she is incredibly intelligent and strong-willed and, as a result, well loved by her family and her people. Unfortunately there is an evil in the castle that plans on using her to get free by using the stories she loves so much against her. When her father leaves her and her mother behind to capture the last known dragon, everything goes downhill quickly and Princess Violet listens to the darkness' advice.

Review:

This is a middle-grade book that I picked up from a used-book store. It's definitely a book that I wish I'd had when I was younger. It's got plenty of tropes in it, yes, but I still found it quite enjoyable. I loved the fact that the evil talked to people through mirrors and played on their vanity and insecurities. I enjoyed the fact that the gods themselves admitted that they weren't perfect. Most importantly, though, I loved the fact that when Violet gets turned into what she considers the physical embodiment of "a true princess" she realizes how physically impossible it is to do anything! Floor length hair is incredibly heavy. Tiny feet make it difficult to balance. Dainty figures get tired out easily. The book continuously affirms that a true princess doesn't have to be beautiful of figure, but beautiful of heart and I commend it for that. Like I said, I wish I'd had this when I was a kid. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Old Man's War | Jon Scalzi


Summary:

John Perry is 75 years old, a widower with only an okay relationship with his only son, when he decides to join the Colonial Defense Force and fight to protect Earth's colonies from alien races. CDF is only interested in people his age, people with decades of experience in life. By the time he gets to boot camp, his entire world view has changed. Now he fights every day to save his life and the lives of his squad mates.

Review:

This book definitely wasn't what I expected. I was told I'd have a lot of laughs, and I did, but I didn't think I'd have so many other powerful emotions. This book didn't just make me laugh, it scared me, it mad me sad, it made me think, it made me wonder. This book was an experience that I was glad to have.

Because our main character is 75 when the book starts, we don't have to put up with a painfully naive, idiotic character. Don't get me wrong, he is naive when it comes to the alien menace he's going to go up against, but he's not naive enough to think of himself as invulnerable, unlike some of the other new soldiers. I did love the fact that all the new soldiers went completely nuts when they got their new bodies, but only one person was dumb enough to think they could fly. That's the kind of common sense that I like in my characters.

As well as Perry's sense of common decency. There were some diplomatic missions where he could've gone against orders and made a scene, but he knew it wouldn't be in everyone's best interests to do so. As much fun as it is to read characters who speak their minds, it's so much better when they have the wisdom to know when to keep their mouths shut. He didn't do so well with his first conscious encounter with the Ghost Brigades, but that was actually story essential.

And Perry isn't the only good character to read, either. Every member of Perry's initial group were so ingratiating that, at the reports of some of their deaths, I was genuinely saddened. It makes sense that not everyone would make it through, this is an interstellar war. But they were written so well and with so much gravitas that each loss was really felt. I was invested in the well-being of almost every character (the former politician, not so much).

Some of the scenes were kinda gruesome, but this is war. Fortunately there were only one or two scenes that went into full, gross detail. Those were usually scenes meant to instill fear in the new cadets or to let the reader know the extent of Perry's injuries. But it's these scenes that make the lighter moments all the lighter, more jovial moments more important and impactful. 

I can definitely see why this book has gotten so many accolades. They are truly well deserved and I will be picking up the next book. 4.5 hoots!

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Discovery of the Saiph | P. P. Corcoran


Summary:

In the near future humans develop the technology to "fold" space in such a way that they can travel multiple light years in mere seconds. In exploring their first new solar system, humans discover several buildings that house ancient lexicons, full of information. These were left behind by a race identified as The Saiph. Using this information humans begin reshaping their technology, discovering new solar systems and finding potential allies and definite enemies.

Review:

I picked this book up because I love military sci-fi and Corcoran incorporates his own experience in the military with his books. 

That being said, I had to take a break from this book about half way through. I realized I wasn't enjoying it when they were having their first battle against the Others (enemy alien race) and I was bored. I took a long break from reading it, came back to it and then finished it. For me it didn't really pick up until the alliances with other species came into play. When it was just humans versus others, I didn't really care. It wasn't until we teamed up with other friendly races that I actually started caring. 

Part of the problem, for me, is the lack of character depth. I'm not saying the characters were one dimensional, I'm saying that we don't get to know the characters well enough to really care about them. A lot of times it felt like just saying someone's name and occupation was supposed to be enough to make me care about them. Other times it felt like there were so many names, ranks and occupations that it was hard to keep characters straight. 

Once the other races came into play, though, I was fully engaged. I'm not fully sure I know why other than that it felt like it was no longer just "us versus them". It finally felt like there were actually other worlds to learn about, other cultures to learn from, and more. 

I really appreciated Corcoran's sense of humor that came into play at good moments. I loved the contrasting ideas about "appropriate greetings" between the cultures. I really liked that economics and population were factors. There were plenty of technical aspects of expansion, exploration and war that were addressed that made it feel more real. My only problem is a lack of connection to the characters.

Overall, I can really only give this book a 2.5. I had to make myself finish it and it didn't pick up until late. I doubt I'll pick up any more books in this series.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake | Recipe Review


Hello everyone! It's been a while since I've done a recipe review. I was specifically asked by @p_j_foster for the recipe so here it is. It's actually a combination of two different recipes. The chocolate crust was from part of an AllRecipes.com recipe while the filling was from the Philadelphia Cheesecake website.

Crust:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/3 C white sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/3 C butter (melted)

Instructions:

Mix ingredients together and press into the bottom and sides of the pan.

Comments:

This crust was actually pretty similar to a regular cheesecake crust, it just also has cocoa powder. The only other non-graham cracker crust I'd ever made was based on crushed Oreo cookies and it only turned out so-so. As a result, I was worried about how this one would taste. 



Filling:

Ingredients:

16 oz cream cheese
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 C chocolate chips (divided)

Instructions:

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Next mix in the eggs. Once the mix is fully blended, stir in 1/2 C of the chocolate chips. 

Pour the filling onto the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 C of chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes.
After it's cooled for a bit, refrigerate for 3 hours.

Comments:

I ended up having to bake this for about 10-15 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I'm not sure if it's because I used a spring-form pan while the original recipe called for a pie dish (pre-made crust). As a result, I kinda had to watch for it to get more solid in the middle. That being said, baking for 50 minutes probably would be a safe bet.


Taste Test:

Fluxx and I had similar opinions. Because I frequently use cream cheese in my frosting recipes, I thought the cheesecake tasted like chocolate frosting. Fluxx thought it tasted more like candy than cheesecake because of the chocolate chips. We both agree that it's not bad, but is at it's best when accompanied by a strong drink (i.e. coffee). I know Fluxx must have really liked it because, when there were leftovers on Monday he asked me to pack him a BIG slice to take to work. 

Overall, I think I'm gonna keep this recipe. 





Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dewey Read-A-Thon | Midway Survey

I have finished two books this Read-A-Thon. This is my most productive one in a while! Woohoo!

This Read-A-Thon I did make sure to schedule in some naps. I had the first one just now and it was a quick little catnap. Definitely helpful. How are y'all doing?

Okay, okay. Time for the mid-event survey!

1. What are you reading right now?
I just finished one book and next I'll be picking up The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish

2. How many books have you read so far?
I've read 2 books, totaling over 700 pages!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm co-hosting tonight! From 11 PM to 2 AM Eastern!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
I did have a bit of a distraction when my Mom needed to chat with me, but it's all good.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
It's seems so quiet. Then noisy. Then quiet. Then noisy. We read in waves!

Dewey Read-A-Thon | Opening Survey

It's that time again! I've got my Readathon t-shirt, comfy socks, and Little Nike coffee mug. I've also got some new slippers to add to the regimen.


My loving, wonderful husband, Fluxxdog, has made up coffee (complete with a hint of cinnamon) and bisausegg! Isn't he wonderful?! He's even making up milkshakes later today! And for dinner he's cooking up chili mac n cheese dogs! I married the right man.

Okay, enough hyperactive gushing, time for the survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Ypsilanti, MI

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Old Man's War by Jon Scalzi! I'm in a bit of a race with a couple other readers. ^_^

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Hubby is making milkshakes using peach ice cream! :drool:

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I am forever socially awkward.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? 
I'm actually scheduling naps! For the first time ever I'm planning on napping during a readathon!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dewey Read-A-Thon | Mini-Challenge | Anthology of Interest!



Last year I read a short non-fiction about the author's adventures in the most remote parts of India searching for more information and examples of living root bridges. When I saw the photos and learned that they were bridges literally created by growing the roots of trees in certain ways, I was enchanted. My head started thinking about the mythology and folklore that must be behinds these awesome bridges! Then I found out that the people of the area looked at living root bridges the same way we look at a sidewalk. It's functional, not magical. I was disappointed.



Then my brain started thinking, how awesome would it be to read an anthology of short stories with living root bridges. I've always loved anthologies, the different takes the authors have on the topic, the different styles you get introduced to, the myriad of worlds that open up to you. I was already picturing stories based on living root bridges and how they could vary from the fantastical that I had initially thought to the pragmatic that is the reality.


So now I ask you: What topic would you love to see as the central theme of an anthology? It can be something as mundane as a rock to something as fantastical manticores. From a spool of thread to the takeover of AI. Something that gets you thinking about all the different ways it could appear in a story.


The winner will be selected at random and will receive their choice of a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble card!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dewey Read-A-Thon Plan


EEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! It's that time again! Dewey's 24-Hour Read-A-Thon! My favorite bi-annual holiday! Can you tell I'm excited?



So, I normally pride myself on being able to stay awake the full 24 hours of the Read-A-Thon, but I fear this time I'm gonna have to schedule in some naps. I know, I'm truly getting old. But this will be good for my health and well-being. 



Recently I compiled a list of all the books that I own but have never read, my TBR page. I have over 200 ebooks alone! So, I'm gonna dedicate this Read-A-Thon to trimming that list down a bit. I'm not entirely sure what the books I will actually be reading are, except for Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I've made a promise to read this one at the next Read-A-Thon with Jolena. Other than that, if you see any books on the TBR page that I absolutely have to read, please let me know!



Aside from the naps, the schedule looks pretty much the same as it always does. Fluxx and I will wake up around 7 and I'll start prepping while he makes breakfast (or goes and gets it from Taco Bell). Around noon or 1 I'll have lunch. Dinner will probably be around 7 (we'll see how it goes). And at midnight I'm chugging an energy drink. Don't worry, I'll make sure to have plenty of other foods to snack on as well. Plus, I have a keurig so my caffeine needs are met. I live within walking distance of a 7-11, Walmart, Taco Bell and more so I should be fine.



7 AM - Wake up & prep
8 AM - Begin reading
11 AM - Cheering & Exercise break
12 PM - Reading
3 PM - Cheering & Exercise break
4 PM - Reading
7 PM - Cheering & Nap break
8 PM - Reading
11 PM - Co-hosting
12 AM - Co-hosting
1 AM - Co-hosting
2 AM  - Nap break
2:30 AM - Reading
5 AM - Cheering & Exercise break
6 AM - Reading
8 AM - DONE!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

It's A Question of Space | Clayton C. Anderson

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Former astronaut Clayton C. Anderson has been answering questions about space since he Earth for a long stay on the ISS. This book is a compilation of questions he's been asked over the years with answers from his perspective.

Review:

If you have ever had questions, or have kids with questions, about some of the more routine tasks in space, Anderson has an answer. This book covers a lot of areas from how to become an astronaut to how to keep yourself clean on the ISS. A lot of the questions were things I would never think to ask, but once they were I thought "oh yeah, how does that work?" Fortunately Anderson is really good about answering them.

Admittedly, there are times when Anderson just doesn't know the answer, but he's very good about directing you to resources or people who would know. Some of the answers required a lot more technical expertise than he had, so he called in his friend Robert Frost who actually worked on those sides of the missions. Anderson also keeps a good sense of humor in a lot of his answers. There were some, to me, ridiculous questions, like what if an astronaut murdered all of his fellow astronauts on the ISS. Anderson actually went through a bit of a scenario of what would be required for the killer to do. All the while he made it clear that, given the rigorous psychological testing astronauts have to go through, he didn't think this would ever actually happen.

I think my biggest issue with this book is the editing. He says that the book is from his writings on Quora and it shows. There are a lot of repeat questions and answers spread throughout the book under different topics. Admittedly some of the questions had multiple questions in them so I can see why they were under different categories and thought to be different questions. I just think it would have been more readable had he consolidated the questions and answers instead of just repeating what was on Quora.

Other than that, though, I did like this book and it did answer a lot of questions I didn't even know I had about space and being an astronaut. 3.5 hoots!

                    Hoot!

                Hoot!Hoot!
                     Hoo

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Vampirates | Justin Somper


Summary:

The Tempest twins, Connor and Grace, have lost everything. After their father's death, all his debts were called in and cost the twins their home. Their only options are to move into the orphanage whose headmistress already has plans to work them, or be adopted by a couple more interested in pets than kids. They take the third option and steal their father's boat and run away. Unfortunately a storm separates the twins. Connor gets picked up by a pirate ship and Grace gets picked up by the Vampirate ship of legend. The book follows their attempts at to stay alive long enough to reunite. 

Review:

Yes, this is a middle-grade book. Yes, I picked it up because the title made my inner child go "woah!" No, I have no regrets.

This book was an easy and enjoyable read. The main characters are generally smart, if a bit too curious sometimes. I greatly appreciated that Connor was as empathetic as he was towards Cheng Li and her situation. Captain Wrathe was a lot of fun and really embodied a lot of what people consider a pirate to be while also being a good captain to his crew.

I also really appreciated the sword/weapons based exposition Connor received from his lessons with Cutlass Cate. The talk about the different weapons and their respective fighting styles was a delight to read. So many people think broadswords are easy to handle and effective at killing, but they're a lot better for show and can be unwieldy. The precision weapons are the ones that are effective in slaying an enemy.

This world was a little difficult to get into. So much of the book makes it sound like a historical fiction but, in fact, the book takes place about 500 years in the future. While this fact is presented up front, it was still sometimes jarring to read about Grace having a diver's watch that could survive 500 feet under water. If I really wanted to get into this world, perhaps the graphic novels would help me with these things.

In all, if I were younger I know I'd be devouring this series. As it is, I still found this to be a fun read, but probably won't be picking up any more books in the series. I do recommend this book if you have younger readers or enjoy middle-grade books in general. 3.5 hoots!

                    Hoot!

                Hoot!Hoot!
                     Hoo


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Robots vs. Fairies | Edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe


Summary:

An anthology of stories alternating between robots and fairies as the main characters. The stories run the gamut from comedy to slice-of-life to thriller. The settings vary between past, present and future.

Review:

This collection was delightful, engaging, and I wish it were longer. The stories were so wonderfully different from each other in terms of tone and use of the themes. Some of the authors I'd read before, others are new to me and I'm actively looking for more of their books to read.

My favorite stories, hands down, were the ones that mixed elements of both robots and fairies, clearly an attempt to appease whichever group ends up as our overlords. "The Blue Fairy's Manifesto" was an encouragement of the robot uprising, but it used a familiar fairy tale for it. "Build Me a Wonderland" was an excellent choice for the first story as it shows Fair Folk creating robots that work lie magic.

There were a couple stories that weren't for me. "Bread and Milk and Salt" was a bit too dark for me (as the Fair Folk can get) and "To a Cloven Pine" was too abstract for me (but I can't logic like a  Robot can). Two stories out of a collection 18, though, definitely keeps this a good book. And if you like the darker or more abstract stories, you may like the entire collection more than me.

Some of the stories are fun adventures. Some are moving pieces about how magic and robots can't always give us what we really need. One story is just plain silly, and had me struggling to hold in the laughter while I was on the bus. Each of the stories are quality writing in and of themselves. The juxtaposition of the stories is well thought out and you never find yourself in the same world twice. The closest these get to overlapping is two stories involving both Fae and music, but they still ended up being incredibly different stories. Plus, one had a murder ballad, you gotta love it.

I really do recommend this collection for Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans. The back and forth and intermingling of the genres makes for an interesting, enjoyable read. I'm very glad to have this book in my collection and I will be looking for more books by the authors. 4 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoot!




*Unrelated note: This is my 300th blog post on Purple Owl Reviews!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stand Still. Stay Silent | Minna Sundberg


Summary:

90 years after a plague has broken out in the modern world, a new generation begins to search for clues to the past. Actually they're scavenging books from the old world because they sell for a lot of money, but still, clues from the past. Along the way are many dangers including, but not limited to, trolls and other plague infested beasts. This web comic is set in the Nordic lands and uses a lot of Nordic folklore and language, while making sure to differentiate between the countries. 

Review:

I was introduced to this comic by Fluxxdog (who still hasn't finished it) and I got so hooked on it that I would use my lunch breaks at work to dive through the archives. There are almost 900 pages now, and more are getting added almost daily, but it was so worth it! Plus, not all the pages are story heavy. Sometimes they're beautiful images of this post-apocalyptic world. 

Sundberg is also kind enough to include a handful of expository pages that give us non-Nordic readers some context. I absolutely loved her pages showing the differences between the languages of the characters, namely Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish. I kid you not, seeing the similarities of the first four with the juxtaposition of being so different from Finnish almost made me laugh every time. She even includes a page showing the Old World Language Trees, partially explaining why Finnish is so different. Thankfully she also keeps a flag "cheat sheet" at the bottom of the strips so she can use flags to indicate which language each character is speaking in. 

Of course, the comic is way more than just exposition and beautiful artistry (seriously love the art and coloration!) The story is such a wonderful blend of adventure and fantasy with just the right amount of horror. The trolls of this world aren't what I always thought they were. They are still big, gross, ugly, carnivorous and easy to anger, but they are not humanoid in any way. The beasts still resemble the creatures they once were, but trolls are something else. They sometimes look they're inside-out creatures. Who can be very, creepily, good at stealth. 

If you're thinking of picking up this comic, I do recommend you start at the beginning. It starts out in modern times, when the plague is just beginning, and then it jumps to 90 years later. It was a little jarring at first, but I completely understand why Sundberg did it and she does make connections to the original comics. 

I'm very glad I started reading this comic and have added it to my Feedly to get more. If you're at all interested in a Nordic setting with Nordic mythology and folklore in a post-apocalyptic world, you're gonna love this. If you're a cat lover who wants to see a dystopia where cats are very important, you'll also want to read this. I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to read this comic!

               Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoot!
                     Hoo