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review 2019-08-29 04:06
Thoughts: Storm Front
Storm Front - Jim Butcher,James Marsters

Storm Front

by Jim Butcher
audio book narrated by James Marsters
Book 1 of The Dresden Files



Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.  Consulting. Advice.  Reasonable Rates.  No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does.  Well, technically, he's the only at what he does.  So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers.  For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don't play well with humans.  That's where Harry comes in.  Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever.  There's just one problem.  Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs.  But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it.  And now that mage knows Harry's name.  And that's when things start to get interesting.

Magic - it can get a guy killed.

So well, apparently I'm one of few who wasn't immediately enamored of this book/series.  And strangely, I'm not sure if it was the book itself or my own personal habit of not getting along with urban fantasies.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book enough--it was easy to listen to on audio, and there were some parts that were interesting to an extent.  And it's not like I purposefully go into any book, ever, planning not to like it.  In fact, I was excited about listening to this book because I'd seen so many great reviews about the series.

Unfortunately, history has shown that I somehow just don't really get into urban fantasy very well.  I try, because I've always been interested in urban fantasy, and all of the series sound like something that I would love to follow... but so far, there's only really been one or two series I've found that I like.

Ultimately, there was more about this book that didn't really hook me in the way I'd been expecting to be hooked, based on all the squee and high star ratings I'd been seeing all over the place.  Of course, I know better by now that I don't always have to like what everyone else does, so no big deal.  It's entirely possible I'd over-hyped myself.  And maybe things get better as the series progresses.

As far as the story goes, the mystery itself was intriguing, and the entire concept of a wizard private investigator had loads of potential.  Harry Dresden had his appeal, but I think that he maybe sometimes went a bit overboard with the snark... and that maybe he's a bit of a doormat compared to pretty much EVERYONE in this whole book.

I had a hard time seeing the close friendship between Harry and his Chicago P.D. connection, Karrin Murphy.  In fact, the two of them seemed like master and slave, going by the way they interacted with one another.  I understand that Harry wanted to remain on good terms with Murphy so he could continue to consult with the police through her, but there comes a time in life when one can only let another harass, insult, and bully him so much before maybe drawing a line somewhere. 

As friends, Murphy seems to readily beat and threaten Harry without a care for him when he tells her that he can't help her with the murder investigation they way she wants him to help.  I mean, would it kill her to just listen to Harry's reasons as to why he probably shouldn't go and research how to use magic to explode someone's heart?

As business associates, Murphy seems to have little respect for the help that she requests from Harry.  He'd give her a bit of information, and all she tells him is, "That's not good enough, Harry."  And when he requests some information that could potentially help him figure out what he's dealing with, she refuses to tell him anything.  Ya'know, cause that's reasonable somehow.

Of course, it probably also doesn't help that Harry keeps his secrets as well.  As much as I'd like to argue that Harry needs to be allowed to explain to Karrin why he can't do certain things... well, he doesn't exactly try very hard.  It's kind of martyr-ish, in a way.  And the annoying kind at that.

I keep listening to him get abused and insulted and bowled over by everyone in the book.  I keep seeing him get angry, outraged, even... and then he just moves on without setting people right about mistaken ideas or whatnot.  He mopes about how alone he feels and how no one understands the difficulties of his position... but doesn't bother telling anyone why.  And even dismisses all of their behaviors as just not really knowing or understanding.  Kind of a, "It's not their fault they didn't know this about me..." type of ordeal.

Well, Harry... TALK TO THEM!

The rest of the book was kind of a play on cliches, as Harry's life (and this book) is surrounded by sexy women who are attracted to him despite his social awkwardness, and self-proclaimed "terrible luck with women".  There is not ONE character in this whole book, except maybe Bob the magic skull, whom I actually really liked--everyone is either rude or just plain mean.  Even the EMTs who make a brief appearance are assholes.  Seems like Harry, flaws and all, is the only person in this book who acts rational... until he doesn't.

Are there no good, nice people in the "Harry Dresden" world?  Is it a given that all people in urban fantasies have to act like jackasses?  Because I seem to keep coming across this kind of thing.

Maybe I just don't read the right urban fantasies--though, as I'd stated earlier, there IS one particular series I'm hooked to.  But others seem to only appeal to me long enough to read just the first book.  This is probably my own problem.

Anyway...  I'm considering hopping into the next book anyway, just to see if the rest of the series will hook me enough to keep me going.  I'm not out to flambe a series I don't like.  I'm genuinely hoping I'll get hooked.  So... we'll see, I guess.

On a side note, the audio narrated by James Masters was quite good.  He's not the best narrator in the world--there was a LOT of huge breaths being taken and a LOT of sighing going on that kind got a bit irritating after awhile.  But Marsters seems to give Harry that snarky, dry sarcasm that's scattered all over the book.  He doesn't exactly manage the rest of the characters all that well, but the audio book made it easy to follow the story.



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/08/thoughts-storm-front.html
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text 2019-08-28 04:30
Halloween Bingo 2019 | This Week's Early Start!


Halloween Bingo 2019

IMoonlight has kicked off Halloween bingo with an early start week rather than just on August 31!.  We can start reading one book this week, and as long as doesn't get finished until September 1, it'll count towards Halloween Bingo!

After a brief consideration, I decided that I would start with The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle for the Locked Room Mystery square.  It is a three hour audio book, but I tend to take a long time with audio books, and if I only listen to it during my drive to and from work, the chances of finishing it before September 1 rolls around will be less than if I started reading one of my other books.

I had briefly considered starting one of my hard cover or paperback books, but just went for the audio book.  Decision made.


I already started listening to The Sign of the Four from The Complete Sherlock Holmes audio book collection from Brilliance Audio, narrated by Simon Vance.  It's been a long time since I've listened to a Simon Vance narration!  =D  I'm very much enjoying his portrayal of Sherlock--a nice touch of arrogance for the famous detective tells you exactly who's speaking without it being said.

Following are the books I'm considering next.

The plan is to try and read all the books I need to pick up from the library first, since those will be the least accessible to me, especially if they're not quite available for borrow yet.


I will more than likely start off with Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire on September 1--I do miss me some Aeslin mice.  And then from there, it'll be a guessing game... although the chances that I'll roll into The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is pretty big.  I'd like to read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson for the Baker Street Irregulars square or the Sleepy Hollow square; unfortunately, it's a wait list for now, so I'll see if it becomes available soon.  If not, I DO have a backup.


Meanwhile, a couple books that I'd like to add into the mix are Firelight by Kristen Callihan and A Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber.  I own both of these books and can read them whenever, but if I get into the mood, I'll just go for it.



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/08/halloween-bingo-2019-this-weeks-early.html
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text 2019-08-26 22:23
Bout of Books 26 Wrap Up
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, Aug 19th and runs through Sunday, Aug 25th in whatever time zone you are in.  Bout of Books is low-pressure.   There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional.

For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.  - From the Bout of Books team

I have been frightfully lazy in the bookish world lately.  Of course, being frightfully lazy still managed to finish me two books for the week of Bout of Books 26.  Except that I'd started both of those books way before the readathon even started.

So I took lazy and laid back to another level.  After finishing my Storm Front audio book, I took my sweet time, reading a chapter or two of Death in the Stocks a day until I finished it.

It was... actually kind of nice to not think about blogging or reviewing for a while.

With Halloween Bingo coming up in less than a week, I know I'll be doing a lot of updates and trying to keep up with my reading.  As much as I want to take it easy and not stress myself over my Halloween Bingo reading list, I have an obsessive streak that won't let me just take it one book at a time.  I've already made plans and have an idea what direction I'll be going with my books.

In the meantime, I've been spending more time than anything watching YouTube videos about bullet journaling.  I came across an interesting post about habit trackers, and then spiraled into bullet journal layouts, ideas, and more and more articles and videos.

For anyone unfamiliar with this, there are some nice YouTube tutorials for how to manage your daily tasks and future tasks, and just about anything using a bullet journal format.  The ones I've been watching are the ones by YouTuber AmandaRachLee, and here's her bullet journal playlist.

Of course, as I'd told my BFF the other day, I don't have the patience to sit there and hand draw out calendars, journal layouts for different weekly spreads, shopping list set ups, etc...  As pretty as a lot of those spreads look, and as much as I love to doodle, I'm not really that artistic... and also, I'd probably give up bullet journaling pretty soon, getting super tired of redrawing layouts each month.

On the other hand, I'm more of a spreadsheet person.  I use spreadsheets a lot to track a lot of things.  In fact, I'm more willing to spend hours stuck in detailing and formatting a spreadsheet form for my planners.  Because I can make subtle changes to the forms without starting completely over, and if I mess up, I can use the handy 'undo' button.  I can copy and paste these forms for future use for other things.  It just seems easier.  And also, I'd get straighter lines using a spreadsheet than trying to draw them on my own, really...

So rather than getting into bullet journaling, I decided to take some ideas and incorporate them into some of the weekly planner layouts and monthly calendars I'd already been using regularly.

And then, going a step further, I decided to take the Habit Tracker idea to help make myself accountable for things I'd like to get used to doing routinely.


The photo's lighting is a bit dark, but the gist of it is that I've got a lot of activities on the left that I'm wanting to do on a daily (or at least a routine) basis, and the days of the month are along the top.  I have the form spread split into three specific sections, 'A.M.', 'P.M.' and 'Exercise.'  Exercise is the biggest habit I'd like to make myself get into more routinely.

Each day, when I do the activity, I color in a box.  Or in the case of the bottom 'Exercise' section, I'm simply writing in numbers, such as how much time I'm spending on the elliptical, or how many reps and sets of a certain exercise I did.

Since I didn't start the tracker until a few days ago, I decided to mark off the entire first part of August... and while at first I was just going to put a big 'X' through all that space... I just started doodling lines and the next thing I new, I had diamond patterns going on.

The entire form was created on my computer with Google Sheets, so as you can see there's a whole block where I merged a bunch of boxes so I could add a message for the weekend pertaining to the exercise activities... basically that I wasn't going to start the exercise stuff while working twelve hour shifts this weekend.  I figured that was reasonable enough.


And this is my Habit Tracker I went ahead and set up for September and printed out.  I didn't think I was going to do a lot of decorating aside from drawing in a header... but I was thinking about trees and leaves, then looked up some tree doodles, intending on just adding two trees in the bottom corners... and then ended up filling the entirety of the bottom of the sheet with tree doodles...

And yes, I realize now as I'm typing this that the bottom of the sheet got cut off on the photo.  But I'm too lazy to go back and re-upload a new picture, so everyone will just have to use their imaginations.


Finally, here's my typical layout for a monthly calendar.  It's a blurred picture, but the green boxes I have pre-inserted in Google Sheets and have my work schedule.  There are about five lines for each day for tasks and other planning activities.  Then there's a side bar for weekly to-dos that I don't have specific dates for.

To spiffy things up, I decided to draw some leaves around the 'September', which doesn't show very well.  And then added some grass and a tree.  That was about when I hit the extent of my artistic abilities and called it a night.

This is what I'd been up to for the past few days when I probably could have read another book.  But, hey, this was a pretty fun and relaxing activity.


Enough about my side activities (soon I'll probably end up pulling out some old Mandala books and spend hours coloring).

As far as bookish stuff goes, as I'd stated earlier, I finished two books for Bout of Books 26, both of which were already about half read when I started the week.  In total, I read 189 pages of Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer, and finished listening to the last 265 minutes of  Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

This wasn't the progress I'd hoped for, but it was what I'd expected.

Oh, and while I'm at it, guys...


Bear's back!  It's hard to tell if Baby's all that happy with that...



Books Finished During Bout of Books




What's Hopefully Up Next

I don't really know what I'll be reading next in this week before Halloween Bingo starts.  I might rush through a romantic suspense if I feel like it... or I might just keep watching bullet journaling videos.  Who knows?

So I don't really want to list any tentative reads at this point since I'm not really in that mind set.

So this was probably the most un-readathon related update post I've ever written.  But oh well.  It's my blog and I'll talk about what I want to, right?  =D



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/08/bout-of-books-26-wrap-up.html
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text 2019-08-20 02:41
Bout of Books 26 - Starting Post
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, Aug 19th and runs through Sunday, Aug 25th in whatever time zone you are in.  Bout of Books is low-pressure.   There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional.

For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.  - From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books 26 started today, but I didn't really get much of a chance to read, so not much of an update.  While I wanted to update everyday, I'm not sure that's actually going to happen, so I'm changing one of my initial goals to just updating whenever I finish a book... maybe.

I'm fairly certain that, at the pace I've been going, I'm not really going to make my reading goals of wanting to read 3 books this week.  But we'll see how it goes.  If I manage, then I'll be quite satisfied.  I'm hoping to jump into some books I've been meaning to read, that are already on my shelves.  Hopefully, I'll get to them and get some good read in this week.

Happy Reading Week to everyone!



Main Goals

I only have three simple goals for this August 2019 Bout of Books Readathon

1) Post regular updates, daily... or every other day, maybe.  Update with each finished book.
2) Read at least 3 books.
3) Read books already owned.  (After finishing the Georgette Heyer book).



Books I'm Currently Reading




Read-a-thon Hopefuls


I'm going to try to have as much fun as I can.  If anyone else is interested in joining the read-a-thon, the badge at the top of this post will take you to the Bout of Books official website.  The link under the picture takes you directly to the sign-up post.

Let's all have some fun for this week of a read-a-thon!



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/08/bout-of-books-26-starting-post.html
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review 2019-08-19 02:48
Brief Thoughts: Ember
Ember - Kristen Callihan


by Kristen Callihan
Darkest London #0.5 (novella)



Prequel to Firelight.

After a fire consumes the Ellis family fortune, the beautiful and resourceful Miranda finds herself faced with an impossible dilemma: enter a life of petty crime or watch her family succumb to poverty.  But once her fiancé learns of her descent into danger—and of the strange, new powers she's discovered—saving her family may come at the high price of her heart.

When Lord Benjamin Archer's one chance for redemption is destroyed by corrupt London antiquarian Hector Ellis, he vows to take what Ellis values most—his daughter Miranda.  Forced to hide his face behind masks, Archer travels the world hoping to escape the curse that plagues him so that he can finally claim his prize.

But once Archer returns home to London, will it be revenge he seeks?  Or will the flame-haired beauty ignite new, undeniable desires?

In preparation for Halloween Bingo 2019, I'm reading a few books and novellas that are either the first book or, in this case, a prequel to a book I want to read for the game.  I figured, what better book to read for the Darkest London square than a book from a series titled Darkest London, which follows a girl with a supernatural gift for creating fire?  Apparently, there's also a mystery involved in said book so I'm super excited to read it.

And so, I decided to go ahead and read Ember, which is the prequel novella to Firelight (the first book in the series), and found it intriguing enough to keep me hooked, even if the outline of the novella itself was a bit chaotic.  I'm also not sure that the novella did much for me as a story if it weren't attached to a book I'm interested in reading, and which has gotten enough positive critique for me to want to keep moving forward.

For a little while, I was having trouble following the novella's story's events, especially with the hopping timelines that didn't seem to have any reasoning behind them.  The brief tangents following Archer were pretty confusing, and didn't feel like they contributed much to the story.  I DID find that I liked Miranda, but that was the extent of how I felt about all the characters.  I didn't much care for Miranda's at-present lover nor her father.  And I'm not certain I saw how Miranda's and Archer's tangents fit together.

Maybe it'll all make sense in Firelight, since the novella is supposed to give more of an insight into the first book of the series, according to a lot of reviews I'd skimmed out of curiosity.  So I decided to get it read.  So rather than being a historical romance with a paranormal twist, the conclusion of Ember was rather open-ended and bittersweet.  There's so much unresolved conflict going on in Miranda's life that I'm tempted to just hop right into the book to get at a possible Happily Ever After... or at least a more satisfying resolution for her.

After all, there are still more books in this series I can read for the Darkest London square, right?  The series is seven books long, and any of them would fit the square... and then some!



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/08/brief-thoughts-ember.html
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