November 29, 2015

Brand New Look!

I spent far too much time today, trying to find a template that I loved.  And I found several at Nymphont.  It was hard to decide, but I went with this one.  It was easy to install and with a few minor adjustments, I'm just loving my blog!

November 27, 2015

Challenges for 2016

I think this'll do it for 2016, unless (of course) I come across something else I can't live without.  I am waiting for Literary Escapism to post their New Authors Challenge because I've done it 4 times now and love it......but I'm still not sure I'll do it again this year.  I promised myself not to buy any new books and I'm getting a tad low on new authors now.  We'll see.

The Worm Hole What's In a Name Challenge
One of my favorite challenges!  This will make the third year I've signed up for this challenge.  I'm excited!

My Reader's Block Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2016
I've decided to go with the level:  Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR pile

My Reader's Block Color Coded Challenge 2016
Oh, this one sounds like fun!

Cornerfold's Dystopia Reading Challenge 2016
Simply cannot wait, sounds like a blast!

Socrates' Book Reviews What An Animal IX Reading Challenge 2016
I've decided to go with Level 4 - Read 21 or more!

Literary Loner's Reading Challenge 2016
I'm just finding too many good challenges this year!

Cornerfold's Horror Reading Challenge 2016
How can I resist?

Conspirator by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Conspirator
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  370
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW Books, 2009

Synopsis:  The paidhi-aiji interpreter between the native Atevi and the stranded humans, Bren Cameron remains worried though the Atevi civil war has ended at least for now and his side victorious. He fears human technological and other intervention assimilating and ultimately destroying the Atevi lifestyle. At the same time, there are still supporters of the vanquished usurper Murini and those loyal to the current regime claiming that Cajeiri, the heir to the Western Association leader, has spent too much time living with humans in their environs and is therefore no longer pure Atevi.

Ironically the young heir fears what mankind offers as he knows how easily this could be adapted and ultimately would supersede their culture especially with its potential intrusiveness into the Atevi communication system. Cameron agrees with Cajeiri, but as he eludes assassins from both species, he struggles to keep his young obstinate friend from overreacting at the wrong time increasing hostilities.

Review:  I last visited with Bren, Jago, and Banichi back in 2010.  It took a while to get the next book in the series and since this series is grouped in trilogies, even longer to get the two that go with it.  This is the 10th of the Foreigner series and I've already started number 11.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy these books.  If I had known how long it would be before I got the next set of three, I possibly would have kept the first 9.  I had to read the synopsis for the previous books so I could remember what I'd read before.

Either way, these books are so good.  I love the Atevi.  They are so unlike humans in some ways, but very like us in others.  I'm pleased I decided to read this book and will be sorry when, once again, I'm waiting on three more.

There was plenty of excitement, with assassination attempts and missing children.  But the best part is the interaction between the characters - it is so well written and humorous and realistic.

Rating:  9 / 10

November 22, 2015

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Title:  Handle With Care
Author:  Jodi Picoult
Pages:  477
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Atria Books, 2009

Synopsis:  When Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe's daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated -- she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow's medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she'd known about the disability in advance -- words that her husband can't abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she's suing isn't just her physician - it's her best friend.

Handle With Care explores the knotty tangle of medical ethics and personal morality. When faced with the reality of a fetus who will be disabled, at which point should an OB counsel termination? Should a parent have the right to make that choice? How disabled is TOO disabled? And as a parent, how far would you go to take care of someone you love? Would you alienate the rest of your family? Would you be willing to lie to your friends, to your spouse, to a court? And perhaps most difficult of all -- would you admit to yourself that you might not actually be lying?

Review:  Well, I love this author but this is not one of her better stories.  There weren't really any characters I liked except Willow.

The family was so dysfunctional it's amazing they are still a family.  The mother, Charlotte, is not very likable.  She comes across as one of those controlling mothers, with a martyr complex to boot.  The father, Sean, is only slightly better and is actually in a few scenes worse.  The elder daughter Amelia is your average teen, self-centered and difficult.  The fact that she suffered from bulimia and liked to cut herself didn't really make me feel all that sorry for her.  It just made me angrier at her parents for rarely noticing she exists.

As to the rest of the cast, there really aren't any winners.  The best friend and obstetrician, Piper, who Charlotte winds up suing, comes across as weak and ineffectual.  Charlotte's lawyer, Marin, spends far too much of the story whining to herself about the birth mother she's never met -- and then winds up regretting ever meeting her.  Most of the the secondary characters, from teachers, to lawyers, to doctors seem inconsiderate and lacking in compassion.

Willow, though.  She was impossibly brave and smart and funny and beautiful.  But even that ended up badly.  Because she hadn't been through enough in the first 475 pages, the author found it necessary to kill her off at the very end.  I don't understand why.  It did nothing to help the story or the characters.  Well, it did allow Charlotte to finally do something with the money she won in the lawsuit; she buried the check with Willow.  What a complete waste.  I'd have been quite a bit happier with a happy ending, or as happy of an ending as there could have been.

This was a quick read, as all Ms. Picoult's books are, but it wasn't a very enjoyable read.  It felt like I was being beaten up and broken just reading it.  Between the osteogenesis imperfecta, the bulimia, the festering questions of abortion and adoption, and the painful legal term Wrongful Birth, there was so little light it was like reading a nightmare.  Maybe that was how it was supposed to feel, but it didn't make me like it any better.

Rating:  5.5 / 10

November 17, 2015

Sliding Scales by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Sliding Scales
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  257
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2004
"There.  I have marked you.  It iss all I would ever have been able to do, anyway -- but it iss something.  It iss all I can leave with you -- artist.  When you create, think of me.  Our sskinnss are sscaled and tough, our eyes vertical instead of round, and our backssidess not flat -- but we are not monssterss, Flinx."
Synopsis:  From New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster comes a fantastic new Pip and Flinx adventure starring a certain twenty-four-year-old redhead with emerald eyes and uncanny abilities and his devoted mini-dragon protector. Time and again, the daring pair have braved countless dangers to emerge victorious. But now Flinx attempts something that may be impossible for the heretofore undefeated hero. His mission: to take a vacation.

Never have the cares of the universe lain so heavily on Flinx's shoulders, nor the forces arrayed against him seemed so invincible. Pursued by a newly revealed sect of doomsday fanatics, hunted by factions inside and outside the Commonwealth for transgressions real and imagined, expected to single-handedly avert a looming galactic crisis (or bear responsibility for the consequences), Flinx can be forgiven for feeling a slight touch of melancholy.

There's only one solution for what ails Flinx, according to his ship's AI. But taking time off is tricky business. With an increasing number of enemies chasing him with ever-greater enthusiasm, Flinx must find a getaway shrouded in obscurity. Jast, a planet smack in the middle of nowhere, is the perfect locale.

Yet even in a place where hardly anyone's ever seen a human, Flinx and trouble can't stay separated for long. Unfortunately, Flinx hasn't a clue that his vacation paradise is in reality a danger zone of the highest magnitude. And by the time he learns the truth, it may be too late.

Review:  This book shows me that no matter how little I like a species, a good author can make me actually kind of love them.  Chraluuc, an AAnn, takes Flinx in and formally adopts him.  Flinx has lost his memory and cannot even remember his ship exists.  But a group of AAnn, all artists by trade, accept him into the fold and allow him to become part of their group, their Tier.

In the end, Chraluuc, who seemed to be very close to in love with Flinx, gives up her life for his.  This book seems so appropriate now, when so many people are hating an entire religion for the actions of a few.  Unfortunately, the stories are somewhat reliable in that Flinx beats unbeatable odds to defy death.  I want to know how the end works out, but I need something new now.

I'd hoped to finish this series this year, but I'm already feeling a little like I need a break, good as this story was.  I imagine this series will take me a bit more time since there are 8 more books yet to read.

Rating:  8 / 10

November 11, 2015

Collectorz Book Collector Software

If anyone is looking for a software to keep track of the books they own, the books they've read, and the books they want to read, this is the place to go.

I've had this software for years.  I have it on my computer, my Android phone and my iPad.  It synchs flawlessly.  No matter where I am, I know what I have and what I want.....and what I already read.  Priceless.

Flinx's Folly by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Flinx's Folly
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  268
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine Books, 2003

Synopsis:  New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster delivers the eagerly awaited new Pip and Flinx novel featuring a certain twenty-four-year-old with red hair, growing powers, and a loyal sidekick who just happens to be a flying mini-dragon. Sure to delight longtime fans and win new ones, Flinx's Folly follows Flinx on a thrilling quest to unravel the mysteries of his mind and body. It is a quest that forces him to confront a horror almost beyond human comprehension concealed somewhere in the universe . . . and coming closer.

It's a good thing Flinx is no stranger to trouble, because he's swimming in it. Even before the latest murderous attack by a new gang of assailants, there seems no end to people determined to arrest, examine, or kill him. To add insult to all that injury, Flinx has been spirited away and enlisted in a battle against a monstrous extra-galactic threat. Hidden behind the Great Emptiness, in a place where it seems matter and energy have never been, there is only evil. Pure evil that is approaching him, accelerating.

Against such a quintessence of colossal evil what can one puny human and a formidable mini-drag protector do?  Flinx must tell someone or go out of his already addled mind. Choosing a confidant is easy: Clarity Held, a crush he hasn't seen in six years. She is a young woman who has clearly gone on with her life in ways that (he soon learns) don't necessarily include Flinx.

Whatever happens, Flinx makes up his mind to act quickly. His decision is the beginning of a terrifying, high-stakes adventure through perilous new realms that will rocket him into the very heart of danger and into the arms of the only woman he's ever loved. As he and Pip bravely travel to a place where no man or mini-drag has gone before, Flinx discovers he has a few more friends than he thought and far more enemies than he ever imagined.

Review:  I last visited with Pip and Flinx in 2013.  This is the 19th book in what has turned out to be a very engaging and fun series of Science Fiction.  I only broke off from the series because I was afraid I was getting overdosed.  Now that I've finished most of my challenges for the year, I decided it was time to revisit these old friends.

Alan Dean Foster has never disappointed me.  This book is no exception.  While I perhaps liked other books in the series more, this was a refreshing, quick read and I've already selected the next book in the series to read.

The author hasn't written any new books in this series in a while.  So, I'm hopeful that I can complete this series this year.  I'd really like to find out how it all turns out.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

November 10, 2015

Looking Forward to 2016

I can tell you now, I am already on the look out for new challenges for next year.  I will not be joining any new challenges from Bookish.  The link ups are only every other month and yet consistently, they do not have the post up to put your reviews for the previous two months.  Very disappointing.  I've found several really great blogs that I will go to for my challenges next year.  Meanwhile, I'm taking the links down that go to the challenges I'm done with and also to the Bookish TBR Pile Challenge --- I'll finish that one on my own (if I can!).

November 8, 2015

A New Reality

I gave my blog a make-over this weekend. I like the new, calm colors. I changed the name.  And I put back my name, instead of just my first initial.  After all this time, I think it's time to stop hiding from my ex-husband.

I realize how lucky I've been this year. I'm so close to finishing all my challenges for the first time since 2011. What a difference just over 4 years can make, if you just give it time.

I was re-reading some of my posts from back then and feel blessed today. My post from February 1, 2012 very nearly broke my heart. I'd almost forgotten how rough things were back then.  It's taken until this year to finally be myself again.

This year has made all the difference in so many ways.

November 7, 2015

Resurrection Dreams by Richard Laymon

Title:  Resurrection Dreams
Author:  Richard Laymon
Pages:  370
Genre:  Romantic Horror
Publisher:  Leisure Books, 2005

Synopsis:  Melvin was definitely the biggest creep in Ellsworth High, and the other kids mercilessly taunted him for his odd looks and weird behaviours. Vicki was the only one to stand up for him but even she had to admit he'd gone too far when he dug up a body and attempted to bring it back to life with the aid of a car battery. — Years later Vicki still has nightmares about Melvin's "joke" and now that she's back in Ellsworth, she knows she'll have to see him again. Recently released from a mental institution, Melvin is acting stranger than ever. His experiments with the dead have progressed and as soon as he can get Vicki - or rather her body - where he wants her, he can realize his most chilling dream of all..

Review:  Well, the idea behind the book is a good one.  Strange, outcast Melvin has been searching for a way to reanimate the dead.  He kills a pretty girl and then tries to bring her back to life.  And, one day he succeeds.  Now he can finally kill and bring back the girl of his dreams, Vicki.

From there, it goes downhill.  Just about every male character is a violent, sex-crazed male chauvinist pig.  Vicki is weak-willed and still pining over the one boy who she loved and lost in High School.  Her best friend, Ace, is funny, loud-mouthed and strong, but even she spends an awful lot of time trying to find Mr. Right.  Melvin is a fantastic bad guy.  Twitchy, twisted and ugly, he's the perfect strange, creepy guy.  The fact that he's also a serial killer is believable in the extreme.

There were plenty of gruesome and scary parts to this book.  Unfortunately, between all the sex, innuendo, and the general whiny-ness of the main character, the story was diluted and became more of a really bloody romance novel.  It was a quick read though and not horrible.  I have another of this author's books on my shelf.  I'm still deciding whether I'll give it a try later on or not.

Rating:  4 / 10

November 5, 2015

September / October 2015 TBR Challenge Wrap Up

Goal:  50
Completed:  42

The date the book was added to my TBR is in parenthesis.

30. Fistandantilus Reborn by Douglas Niles  (7/28/2009)
31. Tymora's Luck by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb  (3/14/2009)
32. Eight Days to Live by Iris Johansen  (7/23/2010)
33. The Ruins of Isis by Marion Zimmer Bradley  (2/12/2009)
34. The Innocent Man by John Grisham  (5/10/2008)
35. The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint  (11/30/2009)
36. From a Whisper to a Scream by Samuel M. Key  (7/16/2011)
37. I'll Be Watching You by Samuel M. Key  (2/23/2010)
38. Mystic Warrior by Tracy & Laura Hickman  (9/18/2008)
39. Mystic Quest by Tracy & Laura Hickman  (9/18/2008)
40. Mystic Empire by Tracy & Laura Hickman  (9/12/2008)
41. Memory & Dream by Charles de Lint  (1/17/2010)
42. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez  (7/18/2011)

From a Whisper to a Scream by Charles de Lint was a sure winner.  Until I read Gil's All Fright Diner.  I am a sucker for a new author who really surprises me and writes a great read.  My favorite by a good margin.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston

Title:  The Monster of Florence
Author:  Douglas Preston
Pages:  315
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Publisher:  Grand Central, 2008
Spezi didn't immediately understand.  "He took her vagina away?  Where?"  As soon as the question was out he realized how stupid it sounded.

"It's simply not there anymore.  He took it away with him."
Synopsis:  In the nonfiction tradition of John Berendt ("Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil") and Erik Larson ("The Devil in the White City"), New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston presents a gripping account of crime and punishment in the lush hills surrounding Florence, Italy. — In 2000, Douglas Preston fulfilled a dream to move his family to Italy.

Then he discovered that the olive grove in front of their 14th century farmhouse had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known as the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, meets Italian investigative journalist Mario Spezi to learn more. This is the true story of their search for--and identification of--the man they believe committed the crimes, and their chilling interview with him. And then, in a strange twist of fate, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of the police investigation. Preston has his phone tapped, is interrogated, and told to leave the country. Spezi fares worse: he is thrown into Italy's grim Capanne prison, accused of being the Monster of Florence himself. Like one of Preston's thrillers, The Monster Of Florence, tells a remarkable and harrowing story involving murder, mutilation, and suicide-and at the center of it, Preston and Spezi, caught in a bizarre prosecutorial vendetta.

Review:  This is a chilling True Crime novel, told by two men, one who lived through the crimes and one who happened upon them later.  Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi spent innumerable hours trying to find the facts behind the killings by the Monster of Florence.

I found their suspect to be completely believable and quite probably the guilty party.  But the government, from the police, to the judges, to the mayor didn't believe.  The man who killed all of these couples is still walking free while several men have served time for crimes they didn't commit.

Beyond the obvious murders, there is an entire dark tale of political figures using a horrible crime to better their positions.  It's scary and makes me glad I live in America and not Italy....and, then again, makes me wonder if it would have really turned out any differently either way.  Blind greed and the need to be right are assuredly not just Italian traits.

At the end, this book forces you to question your ideas of justice in a whole new light....and to realize, in the end justice isn't always served even by those sworn to uphold it.

Rating:  7.5 / 10
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