Seanan McGuire: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

•June 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

DownAmongSticksBones_McGuireDown Among the Sticks and Bones: Wayward Children #2
by Seanan McGuire
(fantasy)

I loved the first book in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, so when this one was announced I knew I would buy it as soon as it was released. I did. And I immediately devoured it. I enjoyed this one nearly as much as I did the first one. (It’s always hard for a sequel to be quite as good as the first, for me, because the first book has the benefit of introducing you to the world.)

For those who have read the first book in this series, you will already know the (approximate) ending of this story. This story goes backward in time and tells the story of Jack and Jill and how they found their door into the Moors when they were young. (Twelve, I think.) (The first book happens after they have returned to our world, and are 17 or 18 or somewhere in there.) For me, though, knowing the ending of this story didn’t make it any less enjoyable. After finishing EHAD, I wanted to know more about these two characters, so I’m very glad to get to delve into their backstory. I’d be curious to read about what happens to them AFTER EHAD too, but this is not that story.

Talking too much about the plot here will give spoilers for one or both of the books in the series. However, I can say that it’s both a dark story and a happy one, and a combination of gothic horror and fairy tale. (It’s light on the horror aspect, but it is there. It’s more implied than written.) I really enjoyed this book, and I’ll be getting the third one as soon as it’s released, too.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

•June 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

51kyOGIHeIL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
(non-fiction, science)

I used to listen to the StarTalk Radio podcast regularly. Even though I haven’t done so for a while now, I still love hearing Neil deGrasse Tyson explain sciencey things to me. So when I heard that he had narrated his Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I had to buy it.

I’m glad I did. Some of the things covered in the book are things I’ve heard Mr. Tyson talk about before, but he usually goes into slightly more depth in this book then he had time to on the podcast. He also covers a wide spread of subjects within his larger topic, and it was interesting to see where he would go from one topic to the next. Plus, his brand of humor is always worth listening to. It makes science more approachable while still being science.

I think this book is a great addition to any library. I plan on also buying a hard copy of this book to use as an easier reference book. Also, I’ll re-read the hard copy at some point, since I get different things out of audio books and paper books.

Drew Hayes: NPCs

•June 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

61tWmaHim7L._AA300_NPCs: Spells, Swords, & Stealth #1
by Drew Hayes
narrated by Roger Wayne
(fantasy, some role playing humor)

Let me just say this right off: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I also really enjoyed the narration also, though I suspect I would have loved the book equally if I had read it instead of listened to the audio version.

I said in my Goodreads review that this is required reading for any D&D player, especially DMs. However, I realize that there are some D&D players or DMs who won’t enjoy it, and plenty of non D&D-ers who will also love it. (A lot of the D&D references also apply at least a little to RPG video games, for example.) In any case, it is a very fun book with great humor and lots of references to the real world which manage to be written completely in the character of the book. At no time was I thrown out of the story because the in-jokes became too meta or too obvious.

There were a few twists which I saw coming. (Nothing major, just little things.) This didn’t alter my enjoyment of the story, but it also didn’t feel like I’d made a major coup the way it can when you figure out whodunnit in a mystery before the big reveal. There were plenty of things left unexplained as well, which works fine because I know of at least two more books in the series. The book itself didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but instead the reader was shown which parts of the plot were novel-arc, and which were series-arc.

All in all, I think this book is one that would appeal to a large group of readers, though you have to have at least some enjoyment of fantasy novels. There is humor, but not too much; violence, but not too descriptive; and religion, but the kind which comes with most fantasy worlds instead of trying to mimic our society’s religions. Should you read it? Well, if the rest of this paragraph appeals to you, then yes. Definitely. I will certainly be picking up the next book in the series as well as gifting this book to at least one family member this holiday season, and that’s the best praise I can give to a book.

Lilian Jackson Braun: The Cat Who Saw Red

•June 26, 2017 • 2 Comments

catwhosawredThe Cat Who Saw Red: Cat Who #4
by Lilian Jackson Braun
(cozy cat mystery)

I have been enjoying these books, though I enjoyed this one more than the first two in the series. (My used book store didn’t have #3, so I skipped that one.) I think a large part of the difference in my enjoyment was due to the gap in writing dates, when there were some societal changes that made this 4th book closer to my modern sensibilities. (The first two books, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards and The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, were published in 1966 and 1967, respectively. This fourth novel was published in 1986.)

Whatever the case about my enjoyment of the novel, this also is a rather different murder mystery, since the murder isn’t fully acknowledged until the book’s wrap-up. It’s all suspicion and who believes what until that point. Very different from the usual murder mystery with its corpse(e) littering the floor. I enjoyed that aspect of it, but I’m glad the other books in the series which I’ve read followed the usual “it’s a murder because we found a body” development. This one was fun, but if done too often it would (at least with Braun’s style for this series) get really old.

I’m starting to be unsure how many of these books I will read. They’re amusing, but my main enjoyment of them is the cats. I don’t care nearly as much for the human characters. This is not to say that I dislike Qwill or the others. I just don’t like them as much as I like the cats. And as the humans feature more in the books than the cats do (and it’s a long series), I may only read the books whose plot summaries interest me most. We’ll see – though I do know I’m taking a break from the Cat Who books for a little while. I’ll visit KoKo and Yum-Yum more later.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

•June 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

51X8E6a4HJL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Choose Your Own Autobiography
by Neil Patrick Harris
(memoir)

This book is an amusing memoir for two main reasons: one, the subject matter; two, the style in which it was told. If you are a child of the 80’s, I’m guessing you will remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where you flipped pages at the end of each chapter based on what you wanted the characters to do. You know – “If you take the path to your left, turn to page 54. If you go up the stairs, turn to page 16.” I don’t know about you, but I LOVED those books. So, my childhood reading history made this memoir all that much more enjoyable.

As to the other reason I enjoyed this book, it was fun reading about NPH’s life. You hear the words “child star” and inevitably bad connotations spring to mind. In this case, though, it was quite different than expectations, and I was happy to hear that sometimes it works out well for all involved, too. I also appreciated reading about (well, a little about) how he became the star we know and love today, even if some of the story was blatant fiction. (It’s a true “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, complete with death scenes where salvation is just out of reach. Ah, how I remember those scenes.)

You don’t have to be a fan of Neil Patrick Harris to enjoy this book, though it most certainly helps. I think that anyone who wanted a fun glimpse into the life of a TV and Broadway star would get something out of this, as would anyone who is looking into unconventional ways to write a memoir. Since I am a fan of NPH, however, as well as someone who always enjoys at least hearing about unconventional writing ideas, I loved this book.

Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking

•June 20, 2017 • 2 Comments

41yXpXWrgeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Wishful Drinking
by Carrie Fisher
narrated by Carrie Fisher
(memoir)

Rating this book is hard, since it seems to be a written version of her stand-up show. It is very funny. If you imagine Carrie telling you these stories, it seems to work best. (This helps since I listened to her narrate the audio version.) If you try to read it as something with more substance than memoirs, you will be disappointed. Parts of the book do get deep, don’t get me wrong. But they’re deep in the memoir sense, not in a self-help or “high literature” kind of sense. (I make this note because of reviews I’ve seen where the readers seemed to think they were picking up a different kind of book than this is.)

Listening to Carrie narrate this book was also hard. There were a few moments (notably where she was talking about times when she had discussed her eventual death with younger friends) when I lost it. On the whole, though, it was a good tribute to a great person.

There was so much to Carrie’s life that I wasn’t aware of. This book did a great job of changing that for me. It’s going to be a while before I can listen to her narrate another book, though. I listened to The Princess Diarist a month after she passed (THAT one REALLY hurt), and I thought that enough time had elapsed now that this one would be okay. It still hurts. Though I will admit, it’s getting easier. And in this one, I did enjoy listening to her imitate her mother (Debbie Reynolds) as part of the narration.

She included a quote near the end of the book that she’d heard before: “Many of us only seem able to find Heaven by backing away from Hell.” That struck me as especially poignant, all things considered. RIP, Carrie.

Viola Carr: The Diabolical Miss Hyde

•June 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

514SaAGnc-L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Diabolical Miss Hyde: Electric Empire #1
by Viola Carr
(historical fantasy, steampunk)

This book is both steampunk and not. It is, because that’s the default genre where alternate history plus odd mechanical machines gets shoved. However, it’s not because things run on electricity and not steam. Also, there are a lot fewer descriptions of clockwork machines than would be expected based on the opening chapter.

Anyway, it is an enjoyable book. The premise is amusing, and I intentionally picked it up after reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson so that I was completely familiar with the original work. It sticks pretty closely to the original, with a few notable exceptions to allow for Jekyll to have a daughter with a similar affliction. It is a fun book, though not a new favorite. It’s well put-together, and enjoyable, and very similar to so many other books set in the same time and place. And while I like it, I like some of those others more.

Also, I admit, my interest lagged toward the middle of this book so I skimmed a bit to see if there was going to be a love triangle in it. (Hoping not. I generally hate love triangles.) As I skimmed, I ended up being much more interested in the last third of the book, so I stopped looking for a love triangle (didn’t find one, whew! – unless you count Eliza and Lizzie as two sides of a triangle, which maybe you should) and started getting interested in the murder mystery again. I did go back and read the bits I skimmed, but still.

Will I keep reading the series? Maybe. This one was well-written and amusing. (In that aspect I liked Lizzie a lot better than Eliza, though. Better humor.) It’s not likely to stay on my keeper shelf, though, so I’ll either get books in this series from the library or buy them and then gift, donate, or sell them when I’m done.