Book splurge!

I’ve been so down this week that I decided to cheer myself up by buying some stuff off my wish list. Most of them are books I’ve been wanting for a while, so there’s nothing very recent on here, but I thought I would share a couple all the same.

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The Red Rope of Fate by KM Shea. Here’s the book description:

“In a land where humans and elves find it difficult to communicate, Tari—an elf—is bound to Captain Arion—a human military officer—in a ceremony designed to promote friendship between the two races. When the ceremony is over the pair discover that the impossible has happened: they can understand each other in spite of the language barrier.

Thrown into a storm of politics, Tari and Arion are put in danger by those who want humans and elves to remain separate.

To make matters worse, Tari realizes she has fallen in love with Arion, who has the emotional capabilities of a rock. As both societies dictate that an elf and a human can never be together, Tari must conceal her feelings. Unfortunately the taciturn Arion is watchful and attentive to Tari’s well being, constantly pushing her to her limits with his loyalty, friendship, and dreadfully informal habit of touching her.

If Tari and Arion survive, their tumultuous relationship will either strengthen their countries’ alliance, or cripple the human courts of nobility. The deciding factor will be Arion, and his indecipherable feelings for Tari.”

OK, this one was actually free, but I like this author’s fairy tale books a lot so I thought I would try a fantasy and see if it’s just as good. I’ll let you know!

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The Body Politic by Catherine Aird. Book description here:

“What’s the value of one British engineer when stacked against the exclusive mining rights to a rare, strategically important, and extremely valuable mineral?

The British-based Anglo-Lassertan Mineral Company finds itself in hot water when one of its engineers, Alan Ottershaw, hits and kills a pedestrian while driving in a foreign country—a nation that happens to be “on the sunny side of the Iron Curtain,” with thick veins of the strategically important mineral querremitte. This particular country has draconian laws about killings, so Ottershaw is relieved when he’s whisked back to Calleshire before the foreign police can throw him in jail. But now that the Lassertan government is threatening to strip the mining company of its most valuable contract, poor Mr. Ottershaw begins to worry about his safety—and when he dies suddenly in a war reenactment, it looks like a very convenient solution to everyone’s problem.

A little too convenient, if you ask Calleshire detective C. D. Sloan, who, along with his bumbling sidekick, Constable Crosby, must investigate the death. It seems that nearly everyone in town would prefer to forget that the Lassertan debacle ever happened—but why has a man been following around the Calleshire MP dressed as the Grim Reaper? Who has been sending death threats and live scorpions via post? Detective Sloan is on the case.”

This one I bought because I love this police mystery series and I have had a lot of trouble finding a copy of this one in print. It’s finally on Kindle so I decided now was the time to get it.

What books have you brought home lately? Tell me in the comments!

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Mini Reviews!

I’ve been reading a lot lately but I haven’t been able to keep up the reviews on here. I thought I would do some short reviews and bundle a bunch of them together so you can see what I’ve been up to.

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Murder among friends

The Accident by Linwood Barclay centers around a man whose wife dies in a drunk driving accident. He can’t believe that she would have gotten behind the wheel in that state, but her death starts him asking questions that trigger a rash of violence all around him. I really like this writer – what a page turner!

Short stories

I found The Man Who Would Be King at the thrift store for a dollar. I love Rudyard Kipling, so this little collection of 5 of his best stories was just what I needed. If you can find such a collection (and I think some of them are free on Kindle) this is a great place to start. I loved Kim and Jungle Stories too.

Nonfiction Audio

After finishing my book for book club, I was looking for another good book to listen to from my library. I decided on Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. It’s the first book I’ve read by her and I enjoyed it. This one is about the history of Hawaii, a state with such a rich and interesting heritage that I feel she barely scratched the surface. She has a rather annoying voice though, so I think I’d read it instead of listen.

Other News

We did have to say goodbye to Tina and it was just as heartbreaking as we thought it would be. She was feisty right up to the last, but went right off to sleep in the end. It sort of broke my heart today to come home to all the signs she left around the house, to be cooking dinner and not have her under foot demanding her fair share. We still have Rosie, but to go from 3 cats to one in just eight months is such a shock. We had Tina for 15 years and Spooky for 12. It’s not easy to say goodbye.

 

Encore review: After the Prophet

Title: After the Prophet: The epic story of the Shia/Sunni split in Islam

Author: Lesley Hazelton

Puzzled by some of the anger and infighting in the Middle East? Have a hard time keeping groups straight? Wonder why they can’t all just work things out? Turns out the seeds of that anger go way back. all the way back to the 7th century AD.

This remarkably written book traces the conflict between the Sunni and the Shi’a Muslims, how it began, and what the consequences are for today. While her focus is on the history, the implications for today are clear. With every development, she draws the modern parallels and explains how it would shape the future.

I really recommend this one. I admit to being one who just skims through the developments in the Middle East, tired of the fighting and the violence, and resigned to the fact that I don’t understand it at all. Well, this was a good place to start. I’m still confused about a lot of the current figures, but this gives the reader a solid underpinning on the motives behind it all.

Poor Tina

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I’m taking our senior kitty 🐱 to the vet today. Some of you may remember that we lost our make cat last year to cancer. I’m afraid that Tina is nearing the end as well. She has impaired kidney function and now thyroid trouble as well. It’s hard to give her the medicine as regularly as we should and she keeps losing weight. I put off the appointment until after Christmas, but she can’t wait any longer. I’m really dreading this. Prayers and kind thoughts would be much appreciated.

Bingo Dog 🐕 Challenge

Over at LibraryThing.com we have a reading challenge for the new year.  This is the first time I’ve taken part but it looks like fun. Here’s the list:

Bingo DOG categories: 6/25

1. Title contains a person’s rank, real or fictional – The Way of Kings
2. Story involves travel
3. A long-time TBR/TBR the longest
4. Poetry or plays
5. New-to-you author
6. Autobiography/memoir
7. Book with a beautiful cover (in your opinion) The Shape Changer’s Wife
8. Book that fits at least 2 KIT’s/CAT’s
9. Related to the Pacific Ocean
10. Title contains something you would see in the sky
11. Book bought in 2017 that hasn’t been read yet
12. Number in the title
13. Book that is humorous Food: A Love Story
14. Book on the 1001 list
15. LGBT central character Magpie Murders
16. Book set during a holiday
17. Fat book – 500 plus pages – Words of Radiance
18. X somewhere in the title
19. Money in the title – any form of currency, type of payment, etc…
20. Book published in 2018
21. Relative name in the title (aunt, niece, etc…)
22. Originally in a different language
23. Published more than 100 years ago North and South
24. Title contains name of a famous person, real or fictional
25. Read a CAT (middle square)

 

The KITS and CATS are for category or smaller monthly challenges. There’s an Alphabet challenge, a SFF challenge, etc. I don’t know if I’ll get black out, but I’m going to try.

Review: The Raphael Affair

Title: The Raphael Affair

Author: Iain Pears

Setting: Mostly Rome, Italy 1990s

Source: Off the shelf

“English art scholar Jonathan Argyll was amazed to find himself arrested for vagrancy-while searching for a long-lost Raphael in a tiny Roman church. Although General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad has little confidence in Jonathan’s theories, Bottando’s lovely assistant, Flavia di Stefano, is intrigued by the idea of a lost classic, and by Jonathan himself. But in the midst of the painting’s discovery and the resultant worldwide publicity, a new chain of events is set into action. First vandalism, then murder, surround the painting. And as new facts about its true nature emerge, Bottando sends Flavia and Jonathan to investigate–little knowing that the pair will be on the run for the truth… and for their very lives.”

Review

I have read other books 📚 by this author and really enjoyed them (An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Portrait) so I had high hopes for this one. Sadly, it was a little bit of a mess. So many characters to keep straight , 3 POV and no visual way to tell them apart and some sense description that could have been incorporated into the story much better. I didn’t really like it dislike the characters either. I did enjoy the setting though. I don’t know much about art, but I like reading about it. I can’t decide if I’m going to try another book on this series or not. Maybe if I find one I will, but I don’t think I’ll look for them. Darn.

Review: The Shape-Changer’s Wife

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Title: The Shape-Changer’s Wife

Author: Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy

How I got this book: Found it in a thrift store

“From the national bestselling author of The Samaria Trilogy…this is the novel that launched Sharon Shinn’s career and inspired Peter S. Beagle to call her “the most original writer of fantasy since Robin McKinley.”

Aubrey was a student of the fine art of wizardry. But the more knowledge he acquired, the more he wanted to learn. He traveled in search of the greatest master of all, the gifted shape-changer Glyrenden. From him, Aubrey expected to discover the secret of long-lost spells and the mysteries of arcane magic.

But there was one discovery he never expected, a mystery he risked every thing to solve. Her name was Lilith…”

Review:

I’m so glad I found this book! I’ve read some short stories by Sharon Shinn, so when I found this book at the thrift store, I picked it up. The premise really intrigued me.

This is one that I don’t want to spoil, but I found it completely captivating. Our young Aubrey is very talent at magic, but he has much to learn about people. He wants to learn the magic of transformation, and there’s no better wizard at that than Glyrenden. Aubrey is prepared to work hard and study, he’s even prepared for a few personality quirks on the wizard’s behalf. He’s not prepared for the strange household or the way the town people hate them.

This is the author’s first book, but it’s still in print and available on the Kindle. If you like fantasy, especially the work of Peter S. Beagle, I would definitely recommend this one. It’s a stand alone title and it’s not very long, but it’s just charming.

Firethorn Chronicles

I’ve been really lucky with the fairy tale retellings – most of them have been very good, a couple have been great. But luck doesn’t last forever. I just read a couple that were disappointing.

The Firethorn Chronicles by Lea Doue are set in a land with dragons and sorcery. Sounds promising, right? Here’s what the description says:

“The Firethorn Crown, a re-imagining of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” is the first in the Firethorn Chronicles, a series of stand-alone novels inspired by fairy tales and other stories. Follow the sisters on their adventures in a land where sorcery is feared, women can rule, and dragons fly.”

The dragons that I encountered in the two books I read ranged from the size of a bird to large stone dragons. Both cool, but not exactly impressive. That’s kind of where I am with these books. The first is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses. Princess Lily is the oldest and for some strange reason, her mom is intent on announcing her engagement as soon as the king goes out of town. That’s never really explained either. There’s several suitors, a bunch of sisters, and an evil-ish sorcery type guy who places a curse on Lily.

You can tell how much I liked it it, right? It just didn’t make as much sense as it should have, but I thought that maybe I had just been in the wrong mood and I should give the author another chance. I did like the dragons. So I tried the next book, The Midsummer Captives. This one was based loosely on A Midsummer’s Night Dream and brought back the same evil-ish sorcerer. This time it’s Princess Gwen who gets tangled up in events and is trapped by the stone dragons I mentioned earlier. But the plot is just as confusing and if the antagonist is better characterized, there’s not enough description of anyone else to make them stand out. I won’t be reading more by this author.

Review – A Man of Means

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Title: A Man of Means

Author: P G Wodehouse

Setting: Mostly New York, about 1920s or so

Synopsis: A collection of six short stories about hapless young Roland Bleke who finds that coming into money doesn’t solve all his troubles after all.

Review: I was looking for something light and fun after I finished The Words of Radiance – review to come – and found this story lurking on my Kindle. Wodehouse books are always light and generally quite fun, so I decided to read this next.

It’s a very old-fashioned story but one that is still funny. Roland is sort of a wimpy chap who accidentally gets engaged to his landlady’s daughter. Rather than straighten things out, he manages to postpone the wedding until he gets a larger salary. Then he comes into money, and the wedding back on. He has to find a way to break it off without causing drama.

Things get silly after this, but always a lot of fun. Roland just can’t stay out of trouble. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next, but it made me smile. Not his best book, but it was a good way to spend an hour or so. Recommended for those who like light humor, and it’s free on the Kindle.

 

Weekend Writing Prompt

Worldbuilding

Maybe this is because I’m deep into a Brandon Sanderson kick, but I thought I’d focus this time on worldbuilding instead of character.

Scope

What is the size of your world? Even if you’re not doing speculative fiction, It will help if you define the size and shape of your world. Draw it out, if it helps. What are the boundaries? Which parts of the world will your characters spend the most time in? Each POV will have its own world. Where do they overlap? You may find that you need an additional POV to move the story forward.

Happy writing!