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review 2017-08-21 02:08
Unquiet Land
Unquiet Land: An Elemental Blessings Novel - Sharon Shinn

In the kingdom of Welce, they believe that all people are affiliated with one of the five elemental groups Coru (water/blood), Elay (air/soul), Sweela (fire/mind), Torz (earth/flesh) or Hunti (wood/bone).  These affiliations come with personality inclinations embodied in the associated blessings.  Welce is headed by a king, but his rule is supported by the approval of the 5 Elemental Primes, one for each affiliation.

 

Troubled Waters, the excellent first book in the Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn, follows Zoe Ardelay on her journey from unknown refugee to Coru Prime. Along the way is much enthralling court intrigue and a slow burn romance that is long on the emotional and short on physical engagement (as I prefer my books to be).  

 

Zoe plays a supporting role in the second book in the series, Royal Airs, which follows Josetta, a princess of one of the Five Families.  Josetta is and trying to figure out her place in the world after the exciting finish to Troubled Waters causes a significant change in her circumstances.  Her Elay soul is drawn to building a shelter to aid the many poor in the slums of the capital city.   Shinn builds another, satisfying, slowly developing romance as Josetta tries to figure out why Rafe Adova, a career gambler in the slums, is seemingly devoid of elemental blessings.

 

The third book, Jeweled Fire, centers on Corene, another of the princesses.  This strong-willed and fiery Sweela young woman along with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, stow away on a ship bound for a neighboring kingdom Malinqua.  Once there, Corene is drawn into the intrigue surrounding the competition to marry one of the Queen’s nephews and so win a kingdom of her own.  She is assisted by Leah Frothen, spy for the Regent of Welce.  My critique of Jeweled Fire is embedded in a Readathon Update

 

The most recent book in the series, Unquiet Land, continues the story of Leah Frothen, who identifies as Torz.  Unquiet Land very much fit my mood and was quickly and enjoyably devoured.  While better than Jeweled Fire, Unquiet Land in no way lived up to the first book in the series. The romance aspect was more explicit, with a bit too much agonizing about whether she deserved to trust/love her man.  The evil deeds committed by the villains are a bit more explicit than I prefer.  In addition, I felt like Ms. Shinn recycled too many plot elements from previous books

How many times is the love interest going to turn out to be a long-lost prince or other person of courtly importance?

(spoiler show)

 

Goodreads doesn’t (yet) list a #5 in the series, and the only characters that comes to mind as having a Hunti affiliation are the Regent, Darien Serlast and his Aunt Mirti the Hunti Prime.  But I’m hoping that Ms. Shinn will find a Hunti young woman to feature so this series can continue for at least one more book and we can have a complete set of elements. 

 

As a sidenote, Sharon Shinn has made a set of blessing coins and once a week she posts the blessings she pulls to her Facebook page.

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review 2017-08-15 03:41
The Hanging Tree
The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch

I enjoyed spending time back in the skewed world of PC Grant and his "Falcon" cases. But at the same time, I was slightly disappointed by Installment #6 in The Rivers of London Series.  

 

Not sure how much of that disappointment is from The Hanging Tree being a weaker, mature series book, where it feels like all that gets advanced is the plot and the character's don't grow much.

We DO learn the name/identity of a key villain, but somehow that doesn't seem to change much of anything. 

(spoiler show)

 

 

Or how much of my disappointment is just general malaise and book hangover from the intensity of the last few weeks of Booklikes-opoly.

 

 

 

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review 2017-08-02 01:09
Dies the Fire
Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling

On March 17, 1998 there was a brilliant flash of light, and afterwards explosives (including gunpowder), internal combustion, and electricity no longer work.  Dies the Fire follows two small bands trying to stay alive during the first months immediately after The Change.  Clan MacKenzie, led by Ren Fair singer and Wiccan High Priestess Juniper MacKenzie, quickly bolts to her cabin in the foothills and settles into a communal kibbutz-like agrarian lifestyle in the Willamette Valley.  Clan Bear, led by ex-marine pilot Mike Havel with his deputies an African American horse trainer and a female live-steel sword fighting veterinarian, develop into a wandering militia as they wend their way from Idaho back to the Willamette.

 

Other reviewers appear to love Dies the Fire or hate it (Reviews are either 1 star or 4 stars).  I do agree that in many way’s Dies the Fire is an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and Renaissance Fair fan’s wet dream – folks who play Middle Ages have an advantage on the fighting and crafting skills to survive.  Similarly, the villain, the so-called Protector of Portland, is a lawful evil stereotype with medieval history background who tries to start a Feudal setup with him as kingpin and the local gangs as levies.

 

The writing is a bit more polished than that of S.M. Stirling’s earlier Nantucket Trilogy, but still descends into detailed inventory and infodump from time to time.  On this re-read, I’m also painfully aware of some of the odd tokenization of certain characters – Will Dutton, Mike Havel’s African American 2nd and his Mexican wife are the primary non-Caucasians except for the Nez Perce.  Is that because there just aren’t many people of color in that part of the world, or it is because Stirling is consciously trying to be diverse? He’s not quite succeeding at avoiding the magical Negro stereotype.  Juniper’s daughter, Eilir is congenitally deaf due to measles but preternaturally good at reading lips and unusually Juniper’s inner circle appear to all be fluent in sign and a potential best friend picks up signing effortlessly.  Is that because Stirling is indulging in building the world he wishes, or because he feels the need to include someone with disabilities and then doesn’t quite make it realistic? And despite these criticisms, of all the post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction I've read, Dies the Fire is the one that haunts me and that I dream about.  

 

The Emberverse, as this series is now known, is up to 13 volumes with the 14th, which follows the grandchildren of the original characters, expected out later in 2017. I read the first few books when they were originally released, but lost interest. I got back into the series because the audiobook is available on Hoopla from my library. Taking the time that an audiobook enforces, I’m more aware of the number of times that certain descriptions and concepts are repeated than I was the first time I read Dies the Fire.  I was talking to my husband about this and we came to the conclusion that S.M. Stirling, much like L.E. Modesitt, comes up with interesting premises and is a reasonable wordsmith but they both have favorite set pieces and conceits that they reach for just a bit too often – they can become their own cliché.

 

I wasn’t impressed with the Tantor Audiobook.  While Todd McLaren had a reasonably pleasant voice, the frequent mispronunciations were annoying and point to a lack of research and sloppy preparation.  (He mispronounces Chuchulian, Samhain, Lunasadh, Athame, céilidh, and ballista, among other things).

 

Audiobook started during #24in48.  Prorated portion of 431 of 1319* minutes or 187 of the 573 page paperback used as my last Free Friday selection for Booklikes-opoly. I finished it up while listening in the car on the way to camp to pick up my son and while sitting with Ozzie last night.

 

*I’d been calculating based on 1380 minutes since the downloaded file said 23 hours, but the book actually finished in 21 hours and 59 minutes

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text 2017-07-31 18:07
July 2017 Wrap Up
The Soldier's Dark Secret (Comrades in Arms) - Marguerite Kaye
The Doctor's Undoing (Love Inspired Historical) - Allie Pleiter
Persepolis I & II - Marjane Satrapi
A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson
Licensed for Trouble - Susan May Warren

Two things helped push the number of books I read this month higher than usual: 24in48 Read-a-thon and binge reading series via COYER. Since the start of COYER, I have managed to read through 4 series (1 was a duet, the others were longer). I will not be adding any more books to the list in August because I want to finish off the list. I am finding myself to be a definite mood reader (see binge reading a series) rather than a list follower.

 

Reading for the Pop Sugar challenge went better this month than last month's lonely 1 book. Again, thanks to that read-a-thon! I completed one challenge already - Library Love Challenge (hosted by Angel) "OverDrive Junkie" level (36+ books). I also earned all four badges within my library's summer reading program (adult level goal is to read 990 minutes; I am at 1200 and some change). My son earned all three badges and my daughter earned two at the kids level (goal of 660 minutes).

 

 DNFs: 2. The Rake's Redemption by Regina Scott was supposed to be read for RB Bingo but I couldn't stand either the hero or heroine - I don't think I made it to 25%. Whispered Promises by Nora Roberts was a 2-in-1 anthology of two 1980s category romance she wrote for Silhouette....1980s category romances DO. NOT. AGE. WELL. Just the sheer amount of smoking by both hero and heroine was enough to give me the dry heaves. I read a chapter from each story and then tossed it on the donation pile. And the descriptions of the clothes/hair/makeup/facial hair....NOPE.

 

Challenges

BL/GR: 117/150

Pop Sugar: 3; 40/52 prompts completed

COYER: 26/45 books

RB Bingo: 14/25

Library Love Challenge: 5; 40/36 for the year 

 

1. Rock Courtship: A Rock Kiss Novella by Nalini Singh (RB Bingo) (Library Love Challenge) - 1 star

 

2. Licensed for Trouble (PJ Sugar #3) by Susan May Warren (Library Love Challenge) 3.5 stars

 

3. Mayhem in High Heels (High Heels #5) by Gemma Halliday (COYER) - 3 stars

 

4. The Doctor's Undoing by Allie Pleiter (COYER) - 4.5 stars

 

5. The Soldier's Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye (COYER) - 4.5 stars

 

6. A Charming Potion: A Magical Cures Mystery Novella (#2.5) by Tonya Kappes (COYER)- 2 stars

 

7. A Charming Wish (A Magical Cures Mystery #3) by Tonya Kappes (COYER) - 2.5 stars

 

8. A Family for Christmas (Texas Grooms #3) by Winnie Griggs (COYER) - 2 stars

 

9. A Charming Spell (A Magical Cures Mystery #4) by Tonya Kappes (COYER) - 2 stars

 

10. A Charming Magic (A Magical Cures Mystery #5) by Tonya Kappes (COYER) - 2 stars

 

11. A Charming Christmas (A Magical Cures Mystery #6.5) by Tonya Kappes (COYER) -2 stars

 

12. Bearly Awake (Providence Paranormal College #1) by D. R. Perry - 2 stars

 

13. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Pop Sugar) (COYER) (Library Love Challenge) - 3.5 stars 

 

14. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pop Sugar) (COYER) (Library Love Challenge) - 5 stars

 

15. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti (Pop Sugar) (COYER) (Library Love Challenge) - 3 stars

 

16. Honeymoon in High Heels (High Heels #6.5) by Gemma Halliday (COYER) - 2 stars

 

17. Fearless in High Heels (High Heels #6) by Gemma Halliday (COYER) - 1.5 stars

 

18. A High Heels Haunting (High Heels #) by Gemma Halliday (COYER) - 1 star

 

19. The Greek Tycoon's Green Card Groom by Kate McMurray (COYER) - 2 stars

 

20. A Sultry Love Song by Kianna Alexander (COYER) - 3 stars

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text 2017-07-28 17:33
Last Free Friday Selection
Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling

Reading progress update: As of 12:01 am on Friday, July 28, 2017 I've listened to 888 out of 1380 minutes, or just under 2/3 of the audiobook of Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling 

 

The paperback clocks in at a whopping 573 pages, so I am declaring the last 1/3 (the equivalent of approximately 200 pages) as my last Free Friday selection.  

 

I doubt I'll have time to listen to 8+ hours of audiobook between now and Monday night, but do anticipate listening to it for much of my 3 hour trip to pick up elder son from camp on Sunday.  

 

Good reading all during the final sprint to the end.

 

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