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text 2020-05-07 16:25
Reading progress update: I've read 120 out of 801 pages.
Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens,Richard Gaughan

I'm a chapter past "Mr Wegg looks after himself", and damn if now that I look back at that chapter title I don't giggle at how doubly appropriate it is. And on it's own is quite the short tale of the absurd.

So far I find the Boffins a bit naive but lovely, as is Lizzie (on that note, I want a whole volume of episodes starring Miss Abbey, the taproom owner), Bella somewhat shallow and YOUNG, but also (from a cynic point of view) right, and the whole things around the Veneerings as Dickens at his best (name and all).

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review 2020-04-20 12:30
Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter
Junkyard Cats - Faith Hunter,Khristine Hvam

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really enjoyed this book. I picked this one up as a freebie on Audible and decided to listen to it right away. Unfortunately by the time I got around to writing my review, I didn't remember enough of the details to put together any kind of halfway decent collection of thoughts. It is a rather short book at just 5 hours of listening time so I decided I would just give it another listen, which is what I did.

While I read and listen to a little bit of just about every genre, I don't tend to read a lot of science fiction. I did appreciate the futuristic world that this story was set in. I liked the technology that was worked into the story. Even the cats in this story were not the normal cats like I have come across in my life. These cats work as a team and treat Shining as their leader. I liked the way that the world-building gradually built over the course of the story with each piece of information adding to the overall world.

I thought that this book was exciting. There was a lot going on and it is obvious from the very beginning that things are looking bad for Shining and the gang. As the story progressed, I realized just how much danger they were really in. I liked the way that the past that brought the characters to this point in their life was worked into the story and I thought that it really helped me get to know and like the characters better.

Khristine Hvam did a fabulous job with the narration. I thought that she did a great job with all of the character voices and was able to add a lot of excitement to the story. She read the story with a very pleasant voice and read at a perfect pace. I think that her performance added to my overall enjoyment of the story.

I would recommend this book to others. I found this to be a great story filled with great characters and just the right amount of action. This is the first book in the Junkyard Cats series and I look forward to reading future installments.

Initial Thoughts
This was really well done. I have had Faith Hunter's books on my tbr for years but haven't picked one up before starting this audiobook yesterday. I ended up having a fantastic time with this story. I thought that the premise of the story was very unique and I thought that the world-building was very well done. I thought that the characters were great and I wanted to see Shining Smith come out of the situation she found herself okay. I thought that the narrator really brought the story to life which added to my enjoyment.

Book source: Audible freebie

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review 2020-03-18 11:32
An Act of Faith
An Act of Faith - C.A. Oliver

by C.A. Oliver


This is a High Fantasy with an interesting concept. The characters are mostly elves of the Tolkienesque sort and apart from perhaps too many 'exotic' names to keep straight, I found the characters mostly distinctive and likeable. After all, who doesn't like elves?


The writing, while technically fine, felt a little forced, like someone trying too hard to become the next Tolkien. There was a fair bit of 'telling' in the first chapter and to my horror, footnotes to explain elements of the world building. This really killed it for me.


The plot varied in pace, but was overall typical of a quest story. Fantasy fans will know what I mean. Apparently there are to be twelve books, which I think might be overly ambitious. Definitely targeted to a Fantasy audience with the patience to unfold the greater story arc.

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review 2020-03-06 04:44
Catch-Up Quick Takes: The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin; Bloody Acquisitions (Audiobook) by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne; Dark Harvest Magic (Audiobook) by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon
Dark Harvest Magic - Jayne Faith,Amy Landon
The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues - Ellen Raskin
Bloody Acquisitions: Fred, the Vampire Accountant, Book 3 - Tantor Audio,Drew Hayes,Kirby Heyborne

The point of these quick takes posts is to catch up on my "To Write About" stack—emphasizing pithiness, not thoroughness.

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

by Ellen Raskin
Paperback, 170 pg.
Puffin Books, 1975
Read: January 7-8, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

I've never claimed to have an exhaustive knowledge of Ellen Raskin novels, yet I was surprised to find a passing reference to this one last fall. So I grabbed it up and jumped into it with relish. It's been since I was in MG that I've read other works by her that aren't The Westing Game, so I can't say for certain if this is her usual kind of thing or not (I think this is closer to her norm than Westing, though). There's an over-reliance on funny names (frequently some sort of wordplay involving food) and outlandish eccentricities as a source of humor, but that's a minor thing.


This is really 3-4 short stories linked together with an overarching narrative to make a novel—which actually works pretty well. The pair have a few smaller mysteries to solve while a bigger one builds. This reads like a collaboration of Donald J. Sobol and Daniel M. Pinkwater—which absolutely would've been up my alley when I was the right age, and is still amusing enough right now for me to enjoy the quick read.


Is it my favorite thing ever? No. But it's a clever read that's entertaining enough.


This is a little more mature than usual for MG books (especially given its publish date, I'd think), but it's not mature enough for YA. Not that it matters, that's just me trying to categorize it. I think it's probably appropriate for MG readers, though (there's one scene that might push it over the edge, but...I'd risk it).

(the official blurb)
3-4 paragraphs
3.5 Stars



Bloody Acquisitions

Bloody Acquisitions

by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
Series: Fred, The Vampire Accountant, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 52 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2016
Read: January 31-February 4, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I continue to enjoy these lighter UF books about the world's dullest Vampire and his supernatural friends. Of course, the joke is that he's not really that boring at all, Fred just thinks of himself that way.


The core of this novel is Fred dealing with a group of vampires coming to town to set up shop. The big question is: can they share the city with him? Typically, the answer is no, and he'll either have to join with them or leave. The last thing that Fred wants to do is to leave his home and business==he'll just have to figure out a way.


I think this works better as a novel than the previous two installments and is overall just a touch more entertaining. I'm not sure that I have much else to say—these are fun reads/listens.

3 Stars


Dark Harvest Magic

Dark Harvest Magic

by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator)
Series: Ella Grey, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 32 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2017
Read: February 22-25, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I have even less to say about this one. I didn't enjoy it as much as I did the previous one, maybe because just about all of it felt like Faith was setting things up for the next book or two in the series more than telling a story now. This does mean that the next book or two should be really good, because I liked most of what she was setting up.


Aside from that, Dark Harvest Magic really feels a lot like it could be the next several chapters in Stone Cold Magic. Which means that pretty much everything I said about it applies here. An entertaining read/listen, I still like the characters and really want to see where Faith is taking this all, even if I wasn't gaga over this sequel.

3 Stars

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/03/05/catch-up-quick-takes-the-tattooed-potato-and-other-clues-by-ellen-raskin-bloody-acquisitions-audiobook-by-drew-hayes-kirby-heyborne-dark-harvest-magic-audiobook-by-jayne-faith-amy-landon
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review 2020-01-31 02:30
Meet The City of Trees' Resident Demon Hunter
Stone Cold Magic (Ella Grey Series Book 1) - Jayne Faith

(this post is about the audiobook edition that I'm too lazy to add to booklikes)


In 2001, a dimensional rift opens up in New York City, and all sorts of strange things come from out of it—demons, a virus that turns people into vampires, a zombie virus, and other assorted supernatural strangeness.


Thirty years later, Ella Gray is a Demon Patrol officer with modest magical ability. Her role is to keep her patrol area clean of minor demons that are little more than annoyances—there are more powerful officers in charge of taking down bigger threats. One day she and her partner try to take out some small demons only to find out there's a much bigger and more powerful demon in the building, too. In the following fracas, Ella and her partner are mortally wounded. Her partner dies, and Ella does, too. But her death doesn't stick and she wakes up in the morgue.


A few weeks later, she's back to work—she's having strange visions, has a new partner (with a mysterious past and more magical power than she's ever seen), a supervisor that seems pretty antagonistic to her and, well...life has become stranger than she thought possible. She finds herself investigating what seems to be a gargoyle possessed by a demon and somehow the gargoyle has imprisoned a human inside it, too. (don't worry if you can understand it, no one in the book can at first, either).


Ella enlists help from a very human PI with all sorts of nifty gadgets that can help on the supernatural front; a political activist always in search of a new cause to take up; her best friend, a pretty powerful mage; and a supernaturally-inclined mutt. No, really. The dog is a lot like Walt Longmire's Dog, just with freaky eyes and an apparent talent for protecting Ella from magical attacks. (some anyway). Such things ought to be encouraged whenever they're encountered, and I hope this will work in the dog's favor.


The novel's focus is setting up the world and looking at the tensions between various aspects of Ella's life and the characters around her. Although Faith tells a pretty good story along the way, I just can't help but think that it comes in second to setting up the overarching series stories.


I really enjoyed Faith's take on vampirism and zombies. It's a nice blend of vaguely-science-y with the supernatural. I have many questions (that I assume will be answered in the ensuing books) about the demons and magic—and just about everything that goes bump in the night, I guess—in this particular world, but initially I'm buying in.


I'm not saying that Faith borrowed (intentionally, anyway) from other UF series, but I had an impulse throughout to say "Oh, she got X from Kim Harrison," "And that bit is from Sarah Kuhn," "Is that Butcher or Strout there?" and so on. If she did, more power to her—she picked some good influences—and she took those elements, shuffled them up and put her spin on them. If she didn't, all the better—fans of the things I think were influences will find plenty to like here. My gut instinct is to say that Faith is a student of Urban Fantasy and has read widely within it so she can produce something that draws from the best. Ignore the voice of the cynic and enjoy this book.


To be honest, I wasn't looking for a new UF series (I'm always open to one, however), but a friend at work emailed me, wondering if I was familiar with this Urban Fantasy series that appears to be set in Boise of all places. This piqued my interest, and as I'd just finished an audiobook, I figured I'd take this one out for a spin. Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but Boise (and the general area) isn't exactly a popular setting for fiction. I can think of a tiny handful of books that have a character stepping foot in the town, but only two (this and Kolokowski's Boise Longpig Hunting Club) that actually portray the city in a recognizable fashion. Faith clearly knows Boise—her use of local names and locations testifies to that, and for those familiar with the city, we can easily see the action and movement of characters in it. Which is an added bit of fun, if only for the novelty. This isn't to say that people who don't know Boise will be lost or won't be able to enjoy it—it's like any other novel set in a city that's not commonly used. Who doesn't like getting to see a novel set somewhere that's not NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc? Briggs' use of the Tri-Cities in Washington, Vaughn's Denver, Carey's Pemkowet, Michigan; Hearne's (all-too-brief) use of Tempe, AZ, and, now, Faith's use of Boise.


(If—and this is a big if—Jayne Faith happens to be reading this, I'd love the opportunity to ask you a few questions about your choice of—and use of—Boise. Feel free to drop me a line!)


Landon does a fine job with the narration. I can't really think of much more to say—I didn't hear anything remarkably good (nor, remarkably bad) Simply a strong, capable narration to help listeners to get invested into the characters and story.


I really enjoyed this introduction to the Ella and the rest, the magic and the world Faith has put them in. I have a pretty good idea where some of the stories she's set up are going, and am looking forward to watching them develop. At the same time, I also look forward to Faith showing me that she has a better idea for them than I assume. It's a solid Urban Fantasy story with an unconventional setting. You should give it a shot.

2020 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/01/30/stone-cold-magic-by-jayne-faith-amy-landon-narrator-meet-the-city-of-trees-resident-demon-hunter
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