Fire Touched – 2016 Reading Challenge Review

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs was another eBook from my library that I’ve been waiting for since March. The latest book in her Mercy Thompson series, I jumped on the waiting list shortly after it released.

While I waited for my turn at Fire Touched, I discovered that eAudiobooks were available to download through the library, with the same rules as the eBooks. Since it had been a while since I’d read earlier books in the Mercy Thompson series, I decided to listen to the eAudiobook versions of the series.

I have discovered a new love in eAudiobooks. They’ve been very handy to listen to while doing housework, or driving back and forth to pick up my 6-year-old from school, or to just lay in bed and listen to before falling asleep (and then having to rewind slightly because I dozed off during the book and missed a chapter or two).

I got almost entirely through the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series before Fire Touched became available. Missed out on Night Broken, since there wasn’t yet an eAudiobook available for that one and I didn’t have time to grab my copy off the shelf.

So, Fire Touched takes place after the events of Night Broken and Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4). Mercy and her husband’s werewolf pack are dealing with backlash of events that have taken place over the course of both series, mostly involving the fae. A troll is sent by the fae into the Colombia River Basin Pack’s territory and Mercy and the pack must stop it before it kills too many innocent humans. In the process, they meet a boy who the fae want very badly, a boy who’s lived in the lost fae realm of Underhill. Mercy’s decision to offer the pack’s protection to the boy sends ripples through the supernatural community and through her own circle of friends.

I’m not generally a big fan of the hyped up werewolf and vampire books, but Patricia Briggs’ series have captured my imagination and made me laugh and cry. I love the pop culture references that she weaves in there (Doctor Who references FTW!). If you’re going to read Fire Touched, you’d best get through the rest of the series first, plus Alpha & Omega, plus the book of short stories, Shifting Shadows, because all of these play into Fire Touched.

Given the amount of blue on the cover of Fire Touched, I decided it would qualify as “A book with a blue cover” from the 2016 Reading Challenge list.

I should mention that Patricia Briggs is one of the few of my favorite authors that I’ve had the privilege of meeting. She did a book signing at Hastings two years ago, which I attended while wearing my Doctor Who “I’m either having twins or a Time Lord” t-shirt over my pregnant belly. She was very kind to me, laughed at my shirt, and talked with me for bit (which I mentioned in another post a while back). I got great advice and tips for when I do my own book signings someday. After having a less-than-positive experience with a very arrogant local author many years ago, her visit was great.



Mitosis – 2016 Reading Challenge Review

I guess there’s one good thing about being stuck at home sick. I’ve got a good reason to lounge back and catch up on the reviews and reading on which I’ve woefully fallen behind.

By the way, I’m normally a pretty hardy individual. I don’t get sick very often, usually because I’m pretty good about taking my vitamins. That seems to cut most illness short with me, but given recent stresses in my life, plus being lazy about the vitamins, well… Let’s just say that my normal voice would be equivalent to one of the Badger Marms from Redwall. Right now, my sickly self is managing elderly squirrel volume. No voice Elise, that’s me…

Continuing on…

I’ve been waiting literally months for the eBook edition of Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson to be available through my library. For a short story, it really¬†took a long time for everyone else to get through it, though that was probably more because people weren’t returning the book when they finished, so each person kept it for the full 14 days.

Anyway, I breezed through Mitosis, and returned my digital copy promptly, then realized that I forgot to hang onto it for review references and to take a screenshot. So, no picture. Sorry.

Given the small size of Mitosis, I’m checking “A book that’s under 150 pages” off the list.

Mitosis is a short story in The Reckoners series, set between the books Steelheart and Firefight, which would make it Reckoners Book 1.5. The book just captures a small adventure of David and his Reckoner friends when a new Epic (i.e. evil superhero) comes to town after their victory over Steelheart. Mitosis, with the ability to multiply himself indefinitely, has targeted David. With Mitosis hot on his heels, David has to figure out a weakness for the Epic, or die.

Mitosis was a quick, fun read that just added one more layer of color to an already brilliant world created by Brandon Sanderson. If you’re a fan of Sanderson, check it out! If you’re not yet a Sanderson fan, go pick up Steelheart first, and then read Mitosis.

Read anything good lately? Are you working through the 2016 Reading Challenge, too? Ever tried to check out eBooks or eAudiobooks via your library? Let me know in the comments!

Calamity – 2016 Reading Challenge

Memo to self: Do not try to read a self improvement book which gives you all sorts of exercises to analyze your life when you’re working through a revision course that is also giving you exercises to analyze a fictional life that you’ve written…

WAY too much left brain work for this girl, thank you very much…

So, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is going on a “To read later” list when I’m not eyeball deep in a revision course that’s left me mentally numb at the end of some weeks.

Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. Progress has been made, but… oi…

A little alert in my email inbox gave me a welcome distraction, which is bringing us to the point of this. My library told me that my reserved copy of the ebook version of Calamity by Brandon Sanderson was available, so I downloaded it to my iPod’s Kindle app.

Since Calamity came out recently, this is checking off the category of “A book published in 2016.”

Once again, the story follows David, a member of the Reckoners, who’s job it is to take out the Epics who are basically all supervillains. No superheros in this worlds. Only ordinary people and big, evil baddies.

Except it’s never that black and white, is it?

In Ildithia (formerly known as Atlanta), David and his team are on the hunt of a former ally gone bad, and David himself is experiencing some bad side effects from an event that happened in Firefight. Once again, we’re subjected to David’s terrible analogies (i.e. The sun peeked over the horizon like the head of a giant radioactive manatee.), Cody’s lies about his Scottish heritage, guns, and of course, the typical Sanderson twists. I caught one of his twists early this time… and got steamrolled by another that I never saw coming.

I’m trying to figure out how much to say about this book without giving away events in Steelheart and Firefight. So much of what happened in those first two books plays into Calamity. All in all, another fun series by Sanderson in a world both familiar and alien, with characters who are real and varied.

I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next for the challenge. Not self improvement, I can promise that much. I’m just about to head into the final phase of HTRYN, which involves actually making changes to the manuscript I’ve spent the last 16 weeks ripping to shreds on worksheets. So whatever I read will have to be something I can enjoy.

What are you reading?

The Scarlet Letter — 2016 Reading Challenge

For the challenge of “A book at least 100 years older than you,” I had to find a book written prior to 1884.

After arguing with Siri over the fact that “Books written before 1884” did not mean give me all options for the Orwell’s 1984 (Yes, I did actually argue with my iPod’s voice activated functions… Siri eventually apologized… no joke…), I eventually got my search terms to a point where I found results.

I chose The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I knew the very basis of the story, that the main character had to wear a scarlet letter because she had a child out of wedlock. Knew nothing else other than that.

The Scarlet Letter follows Hester Prynne, a young woman in a very strict Puritan community. Hester is accused by the community of committing adultery against a husband long absent (and presumed dead). Part of her punishment, then, is to wear a red letter “A” (for “Adultery”) on her dress for the rest of her life.

Hester refuses to name a man to share the guilt and so sets out to raise her daughter, named Pearl, alone. She is a tough woman, to withstand the treatment of those in the community without breaking completely, though it definitely takes its toll on her.

Pearl, who goes from infant to 7-year-old over the course of the book, reminded me of a few children I have known in my life, so at least she came across as realistic.

The Scarlet Letter gives a good insight to how guilt can weigh on a person, as both Hester and her lover suffer differently for their sin. Though the story itself was interesting in regards to the characters, the situation, and the customs of the time, on occasion the descriptions and expositions got a little long winded and I found myself with eyes glazing over.

My next category will be “A self-improvement book”. I’ve chosen The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, which my husband is also supposedly going to be reading.

What are you reading? Got any good recommendations for future reading?


Malice and Valor — 2016 Reading Challenge

Okay, so I previously said that I was going to read Malice by John Gwynne for “A book that’s more than 600 pages.” I’ve changed my mind. Because before I actually got around to writing this review, I had finished reading the sequel, Valor. Since I doubt that I’d be able to do Malice justice with Valor so fresh in my mind, the category here is going to be “A book and its prequel”.

First off… wow!

Now, when I first sat down to read Malice, I had a hard time getting into it. It started with a 4 page prologue, followed by a 2 1/4 page excerpt, then followed by a chapter from the main character’s point of view, and then Chapter 2 being a second main character’s POV…

Four POV changes in 28 pages… Every chapter is from a different character’s POV, and said characters are often in completely different geographical areas.

For about the first 150 pages of the book, I honestly struggled with the rapid POV changes (some chapters are only a few pages long and at least one was only half a page!) and I had a very difficult time telling where we were and who we were following at any given chapter.

Then, suddenly, that changed. I don’t know if I just had a better handle on the characters, or if the pacing changed just enough, but I then found I couldn’t put the book down. The POV changes went from being annoying to adding to the tension building in the book.

It’s hard to nail down a solid main protagonist in Malice, at first. It kinda bounces evenly between Corban, Evnis, and Veradis, but Kastell and Cywen have a pretty decent chunk of POV for them, with a few other characters giving POV cameos. Eventually, you see that a lot of the story revolves around Corban, a teenage blacksmith’s son who dreams of being a warrior and Veradis, the youngest son of a baron who pledges his sword and his life to a prince. Even though the excerpt in the beginning gives you a hint of the major conflict of the book, a war between the creator and his fallen angel, that almost gets lost in Corban’s struggles with local bullies and Veradis protecting his prince and struggling with what is ‘the greater good’. As things progress, and giants attack and the brave begin to fall, you begin to see how it all plays together.

Personally, I think it was masterfully done.

Valor was much easier to get into and it kept the pacing well. The stakes were higher in the second book, and now the characters felt like old friends. The POV’s varied a bit, following other characters more regularly and some who never had a single POV in Malice suddenly found themselves vying for the main character spotlight.

The books have a bit of a Game of Thrones feel to them, without the language and sex (which greatly improved my opinion of them!). The characters are well built once you can keep track of who’s who. You cheer for the heroes and want to cry out for those who get tricked into the wrong side and don’t seem to realized what has happened.

I hope to pick up the third book in The Faithful And The Fallen series soon (and maybe take care of that 600 word category), but unfortunately, the library only appears to have the second book and not the first or third. The fourth book is due out sometime in 2016, so I may just have to bite the bullet and purchase the rest of the series.

It was good enough that I wouldn’t mind owning the whole thing anyway.

Unless I get Ruin by John Gwynne sometime in the next few days, I’ll be reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne as “A book at least 100 years older than you.”

What did you read this week? Let me know in the comments below.

Shadows of Self – 2016 Reading Challenge Review

Whoo! Time for another fun year of expanding my reading. I really enjoyed the challenge last year, so I’m trying out another one for 2016. If you wish to join me, check out the 2016 Reading Challenge. Comment below and let me know what you’re reading, or feel free to give me suggestions if you know of a great book that fits.

For the first book of the challenge, I decided to start at the very bottom of the list with “A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy.” Of course, that means a book by one of my all time favorite authors. I read Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson.

My matey Crue (from Redwall Survivor and also a personal friend of mine) loaned me the book at our NaNoWriMo TGIO Party.

Shadows of Self is the 5th book of the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. A sequel to Alloy of Law, it takes place around 300 years after the first three Mistborn books. This wild west-style fantasy follows lawman Waxillium Ladrian and his sidekick Wayne as they work to track down a murderer who’s determined to push the city into anarchy. Lots of mystery and clues lead Wax and Wayne throughout the city of Elendel as bits of the past rear their heads in the present world.

Sanderson is well known for pulling his amazing twists out of his pocket and Shadows of Self did not disappoint. I did manage to guess one big twist… and got totally sidelined by another. As always, there were plenty of fun bits (especially if they involved Wayne) that kept me laughing and occasionally cackling.

One thing I love about this series is that the first three Mistborn books are definitely a medieval fantasy, but the technology has changed in the 4th and 5th books so you’ve got guns, and the beginnings of electricity, and cars, and all sorts of other goodies. Yet the magic systems of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy are still very active and have to be accounted for in the world as well, not to mention that the events of the first three books have become history and legend and to see how the world has been shaped since then is amazing. Sanderson has a great grasp of world building and all its different aspects.

As usual, anything by Brandon Sanderson comes highly recommended.

My next challenge book was predetermined by my husband, who likes to select a random book for me as a Christmas present each year. He generally wanders the bookstore and pulls out books that catch his eye and he reads the first page or so until he finds a good one. Usually, this method has worked well for him (and me) in the past. That said, the next book will be Malice by John Gwynne for “A book that’s more than 600 pages.”

It’s not too late to jump in and join the challenge. Comment below and let me know what you’re reading!

The Martian and the 2016 Reading Challenge

I really fell off the 2015 Reading Challenge bandwagon there, but I figure since there’s still a couple weeks left, I could probably get another book or two read before the end of the year. I’m a little bummed that I only got 25 of the 50 books read, but a book a week is pretty ambitious when you have three young kids, are trying to get your writing career off the ground, and get caught up into a writing competition for half the year.

I have to admit, I was tempted to get an early start on the 2016 Reading Challenge, since 2015 is nearly over. However, it feels like cheating to read something off the 2016 list when it fits the 2015 list first.

So I’ve got at least one more review for the 2015 Reading Challenge. The Martian by Andy Weir fits as “A book set in the future.” I picked it up off the “Most Wanted” display at my library, which is a special place where they put up a copy or two of extremely popular books in high demand. You can’t reserve the copies that are “Most Wanted,” so sometimes you can get lucky and get books faster than waiting for them on reserve.

I know a movie came out a couple months ago based on the book and I heard a lot of good things about it, but I’m generally pretty strict when it comes to books being turned into a movie. I like to read the books first before seeing them on screen. Since the movie’s due out on DVD in about a month, it seemed like the perfect time to read the book.

I started reading The Martian the other night before bed and finally just had to force myself to close it so I could sleep. Picked it up during breakfast and found myself unable to put it down until I finished it around noon.

So you could probably tell that I loved The Martian. I’m not the biggest fan of sci-fi books (different story if we’re talking movies), but there are a few that catch my interest now and again. The Martian can easily be summed up as “Robinson Crusoe on Mars.” I loved Robinson Crusoe as a kid, and I generally like survival type stories of that nature.

In The Martian, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead in a freak accident as his crew mates have to abandon their 31 day mission on Mars’ surface. Trapped on the red planet in a temporary base that’s supposed to support six astronauts for only 31 days and with no way to communicate with NASA, Watney has to figure out how to survive until the next Mars mission arrives… about four years later.

Most of the book is narrated by Mark Watney in logs that he’s recording in the Hab. Every so often the POV changes to his departed crew mates or the folks back on Earth, plus a few other fun POV switches that really make you sit up and take notice.

Mark is a funny guy and the jokes he makes throughout his long stay on Mars keep the mood a little light even when it’s gotten serious. Just when you think the guy is catching a break, Mars throws another monkey wrench into things and keeps you turning page after page.

Not sure if I’ll manage another book before the end of the year. Once that calendar turns over to 2016, I’ll jump onto my new challenge.

So here’s my invitation to you. Check out the 2016 Reading Challenge and let me know if you’ll join me in it. With 10 books less than last year, this should be easier to achieve. Also, if you know of any great books that fit in any of the categories, drop me a comment. With 40 book categories to choose from, I’m sure some of you have great ideas on what I should read over the coming year.