Thursday, October 31, 2013


Happy Halloween everyone. Hope you're having as much fun as I did carving pumpkins yesterday and today - now we're roasting pumpkin seeds too.

Even the cats are getting in on the fun and games - somehow they opened the door to the bedroom (where we've put them for the night to lower the risk of their escape) and racing around the house before we could recapture them.

Now if only there were a few more trick-or-treaters...

15 Days Book Blogging Challenge - Describe How You Shop For Books

If you've been following my blog for the past few days, you know by now that I'm participating in the 15 Days Book Blogging Challenge hosted at Good Books and Good Wine. My introductory post for the challenge is here, and I've been looking forward to today's topic: Describe how you shop for books.

It used to be a combination of "hey, here's a new book by (insert author's name)!" and "this looks interesting, I think I'll give it a try", leading to massive book buying. Once or twice it was even "I love the cover to this one - hey, the subject matter/story seems up my alley too". Sometimes that works, sometimes it backfires massively. Last time it worked was with Jo Graham's Hand of Isis.

Of late though, it's been pared down a lot (unless I'm at specific used book-stores where I run an exchange credit consistently). Now, except for Mercedes Lackey - and that's down to the Valdemar books, and Elizabeth Moon's Paladin's Legacy series, I'm not buying too much any more. There are times though, when enough people will recommend a book to me and I'll give it a try.

At the used book-store though, all bets are off. I start in the history section looking for anything interesting (and preferably recent) on ancient and medieval history, and then go to the fiction, science fiction and fantasy sections with a mental list of specific authors to check for.

Either way, I'm finding that I don't really try a lot of new authors any more, and there are times I feel guilty about that. I especially don't tend to try new authors with e-books unless I can get a free sample. The last one of those that I loved, was the books by Michael R. Hicks, which I've reviewed a couple of times here. I've just been burned once too often with a book that it turns out that I really don't like, and I can't give it away or do anything for any return with an e-book, unlike a paper book that I can take to the used bookstore or give away to someone else.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

15 Days Book Blogging Challenge: Recommend a Tear Jerker

If you've been following my blog for the past few days, you know by now that I'm participating in the 15 Days Book Blogging Challenge hosted at Good Books and Good Wine. My introductory post for the challenge is here, and I've been looking forward to today's topic: Recommend a Tear-Jerker. Of which I know several. My choice though is going to be:

Magic's Price
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1990

The cover blurb:
Valdemar- the once-peaceful kingdom protected by the magic of its Herald Mages- is now besieged on all fronts. The king lies near death, the neighboring land of Karse wages a relentless war against Valdemar, and the forces led by a master of dark forbidden magic are massing to stroke the final devastating blow against the kingdom.
And Vanyel, the most powerful Herald-Mage Valdemar has ever known, has become the primary target of the evil which is reaching out to poison all the land. With all his fellow mages slain, Vanyel alone remains to defend his people against the dark master's army. Yet a dream vision has revealed to Vanyel the fate which awaits should he and his Companion Yfandes take up the dark master's challenge. And if either Vanyel or Yfandes falters, the dream will become a horrifying reality in which both Valdemar and its last Herald-Mage must pay the ultimate price....

One of  my favorite books by Mercedes Lackey. I should note before I start raving too much that this is the third book in her Last Herald-Mage series, following on Magic's Pawn and Magic's Promise.

I don't often end up in tears during or after reading a book, but Magic's Price is definitely an exception to that rule. There have been several times I've had tears running down my face at the ending of this one. Of course, at other points in this series, Mercedes Lackey's had me almost rolling on the floor in laughter too, so I guess it balances out. Especially as some of her other books have had the same effect on me - particularly Brightly Burning.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

15 Days Book Blogging Challenge: Books You've Thrown Across The Room

The 15 Days Book Blogging Challenge is a challenge to write for fifteen days on a set of book and book blog related topics hosted at Good Books and Good Wine. One neat thing with this challenge is that there's no time limits to participate. My originating post is here.

Today's topic, Books You've Thrown Across The Room is one that's an interesting one. As far as I can remember, I don't think I've ever physically thrown a book across the room. I just can't bring myself to risk causing any damage to a book, regardless of how much I dislike it.

There are though, a number of books I've given up on in disgust or ranted about after finishing them. Two that came to mind immediately are:

Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Braldley, set me off years ago and I ended up ranting about it here back then. I won't duplicate the rant, just say that my opinions haven't changed since. There's also too many unanswered questions left by the book, but my biggest issues with Darkover Landfall come down to the characters' attitudes.

If you like the Darkover world, I think this is a book you're going to end up reading, but by far my preferences run to some of the later books such as Exile's Song, or even The Bloody Sun, which was also one of the earlier books in the series.

The other book is one I tried reading last year, Norman F. Cantor's biography of Alexander the Great. Honestly, I don't think I got even twenty pages into the book before I put it down permanently. I found the author's point of view to be judgmental, biased and irritating on several aspects of ancient Greek culture.  I don't read a book like this for the author's biases, I read to learn about the subject in question. Give me the information and let me make up my own mind on how I feel about how they lived.

Not only that, but if my memory's not playing tricks on me, the map in the front has some errors in it too, namely the location of Alexandria. That's just sloppiness, though that might be more the fault of the publisher, and didn't give me the best feeling either. Based on this book, I don't even want to try any of his other works, and Norman Cantor is supposed to be quite a well respected writer on history.

There are definitely some better books on Alexander out there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

15 Days Book Blog Challenge: Blogging BFF

The 15 Days Book Blog Challenge is a challenge to post on a specific topic each day for fifteen days, hosted at Good Books and Good Wine. All of the topics are centered on book blogging or reading books. My day to day round-up post is here.

Today's topic is one I actually don't feel as though I can comment on at all. I've been pretty much solitary when it comes to blogging about the books I read. I've even gotten really bad with not even commenting on other book blogs over the past couple of years to be honest.

The latter though, is something I'm working on changing slowly, getting back in the habit of reading other book blogs as best I can, and starting to find things to comment on.

However, in terms of actually answering the asked question, I don't have any blogging BFF's. It's not something I ever really thought about before either.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

15 Days Book Blog Challenge: Nighttime Reading Routines

15 Days Book Blog Challenge is an interesting challenge over fifteen days to write on fifteen specified topics about books and book blogging. The challenge is hosted at Good Books and Good Wine. My link round-up post is here.

Day 2's topic is nighttime reading routines. I used to have one - read at least a chapter a night, which would often end up going until all hours because I couldn't put the book down. Not any more though.

I still try to read at least a few pages from whatever book I've got on the go each night, but don't always succeed.

I miss the earlier routine, which I generally found relaxing - on occasion it would end up being the opposite if I picked the wrong book, but that rarely happened. The worst occasion though was with Tanya Huff's novel Smoke and Mirrors. That book creeped me out really badly - almost couldn't turn the lights out that night. Thing was, based on her previous books, I'd been expecting something on the lighter and funnier side. Not the vivid and creepy imagery I got. If I'd known, I probably wouldn't have kept reading it late into the night.

I've written a bit about night-time reading before in one of my Friday Favorites posts, Your Favorite Time To Read.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

15 Days Book Blog Challenge: 15 Book Related Confessions

This is Day 1's post for the 15 Day Book Blog challenge being hosted by April of Good Books and Good Wine. The theme of today's post is 15 Book Related Confessions. My post introducing the challenge on my blog is here.

Here are mine:
  1. I hate it when they change cover designs/styles midway through a series. Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series is a prime example of this. I think they're on cover style 3 now, but only for the later books in the series. It drives me nuts. I think I like my books to match on the shelf more. The same thing holds true for book sizes. I've seen some publishers trying a slightly taller mass-market paperback size, and that's great - unless it's book four and five of a series that they're trying it on.
  2. I am a bit of a sucker for paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels. Give it a couple of good reviews, interesting cover copy or a couple of direct recommendations and I'll at least give it a second look.
  3. I sometimes feel like I should be reading books from my Unread Books List rather than buying new books or rereading my old books.
  4. If not reading books from my yearly Unread Books List, then at least I should be finding new authors and titles to read rather than the same five or six authors.
  5. I prefer hardcover books to trade or mass-market paperbacks - except for travel and beach reading where they're just too bulky.
  6. I usually have at least two books on the go at any one time. Although, the number of books I'm reading at any one time has been as high as four books. Right now though, it's only one book.
  7. I prefer physical books to e-books quite strongly. The latter are useful for travel - until the battery on the reader goes or it malfunctions (as a fast reader I appreciate the reduction in weight that comes from needing to only take one book with me plus the reader). I also have to admit that I've discovered a couple of great authors through e-books, but there's nothing like an actual book in my hands.
  8. I have been known to buy a book almost solely on the merits of the cover.
  9. Lately books have been taking a back seat to some of my other hobbies like crochet or cross-stitch.
  10. I don't see the point of graphic novel adaptations of existing novels.
  11. The same thing is true for the ever-growing number of zombie novels being published
  12. I wish I read more non-fiction. I keep buying the books and intending to read them, but somehow I never get around to it.
  13. I love poking through my friends' bookshelves.
  14. I wish I could convince myself to use the library more, but nearly always when I borrow books they go back unread - even though I had the best of intentions when I borrowed the books.
  15. If I like a book, I'm probably going to re-read it at least once more, and probably multiple times. Which habit is reflected on my blog with some books having two and even three reviews at times.
It was actually surprisingly difficult to come up with fifteen different confessions. I thought this might be one of the easier posts to write too. Guess I was wrong.

15 Day Book Blog Challenge

I just found this (late as usual these days) over at Good Books Good Wine, the 15 Day Book Blog Challenge and thought it looks interesting to try.

Like April, I've been having trouble with keeping my energy up concerning my book blog over the past year, and I'm hoping this might bring back some of that. Although, for me, I don't think it's just the blog where I'm struggling. I've been having a lot of days where I just don't have the enthusiasm or energy to read. I do have to admit though to finding it a struggle to review the books I've finished. That, though I hope will become easier again next month, when I can go back to using my old computer for book reviewing. For the past few months I've been doing it all from my laptop, which is a faster computer, but the touchpad is so sensitive I have to turn it off to type anything. Hassle #2 for reviewing is having to make sure that the external drive is plugged in to the laptop for image saving. Otherwise, I can see myself with some stuff here, some stuff there, and yet more stuff in that folder over there. It's just easier sometimes to go "I'll write that up later" except that "Later" never becomes "Now".

All those issues will go away when I can go back to using my old (slow) tower computer with two monitors for a lot of my blogging, I hope (in regards to posting, not using the computer).

I'm hoping though, that this challenge will successfully fire me up again for a while.

What I'm going to be doing is writing all the posts ahead and setting them to go live one per day and linking them from this post. That way, I won't end up dropping this challenge part-way through like I have all the others I've tried over the last couple of years.

The challenge:
  1. Make 15 book related confessions
  2. What's your bedtime reading ritual
  3. Who are your blogging BFF's
  4. What's the last book you flung across the room
  5. Recommend a tear-jearker.
  6. Describe how you shop for books
  7. Talk about your blogging quirks
  8. Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs
  9. Why do you blog about books?
  10. How do you choose what book to read next?
  11. Show off! 5 of your best blog posts
  12. How do you fight blogger fatigue
  13. Describe one underappreciated book everyone should read
  14. Tell us your deal-breakers
  15. Who are your book blogging mentors

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goldberry CAL Day 28 (I think)

I think it's day 28, anyway. To be honest, I'm slowing down a bit with the crocheting. Two reasons. The first is that I've been incredibly busy and trying to squeeze in both reading and crochet is a fun challenge. One or two pages here, ten stitches there. It took me several days to get through row 33, although only one day for row 34.

The second reason is that the rows themselves are getting longer. Row 34 is up to 245 stitches. By the end of the shawl, the number of stitches per row will be over 500.

I'm still liking the way the color changes are working out, although I kind of wish the intermediate grey runs were a bit longer to make the changes a bit more gradual. As the shawl rows get longer, the changes between the rows are more abrupt and noticeable.

The rows are a bit easier, despite being longer, simply because I'm into repeats so I'm starting to recognize that "oh this is the row that does 'that'" so I'm not having to check the pattern quite as much, although I'm definitely relying on the diagrams and charts almost more than the written pattern. Even so, there's the odd mistake/mis-count that I'm having to fudge around. So far, that has simply consisted of reducing skipped stitches by one, or slipping an extra stitch into the final stitches of the previous row.

My Jenny-cat definitely approves of this shawl though.
I turned my back for a couple of minutes while I was taking photographs and this was the result.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goldberry CAL Day 19 & 20

This is yesterday's post and photo to be honest, where I'd gotten to the end of Row 26. As of today, I've made it to the Bonfire Glade (the end of row 28) and we're really into the repeating rows now. This is where the print-out of the pattern starts to get fun though.

Depending on where you're doing the crochet, the fun levels grow and decrease dramatically. Because of the repeats, I'm having to flip from one page to the next and yet again to a third. Page 10 has the actual row I'm on right now, but the row instructions are on a different page because of the repeats, and for one or two rows, the chart/visuals are on a third page entirely. When I'm at home, that doesn't matter at all. I can sit on the sofa and spread the pages out beside me. Sitting on the ferry or in a vehicle is a different story though. Either way, I'm making progress.

The thing that really amazes me with this CAL is the way so many of you are already finished the shawl, often the full, long version too and are onto the next version of the project. How do you manage that?

Maybe some of my slowness is due to the number of times I've frogged rows to do them again. These last couple of rows, I've managed to fudge through mistakes rather than redo two complete rows again.

I have to admit to being distracted by other things at times as well, such as reading a good book. I spent most of today finishing the newest novel by Mercedes Lackey, Bastion, the fifth book in the Collegium Chronicles series. Also, I'm still working on the mate to the one sock I've finished with the Triumph Crocheted Sock pattern, having now gotten into the lacy part of the foot. This is my current travel project, just because it's compact, and I don't have to refer to the pattern every single row. The project I'm focussing on of course though is the Goldberry Shawl, and I'm already dreaming about possibilities for a second one. Although, I'd like to try out an Entwife or Down The Garden Path (already have yarn picked out for this one. Anyone have any tips for doing this is a fairly fine yarn weight?)

Bastion - Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Copyright: October 1, 2013

The product description:
Mags returns to the Collegium, but there are mixed feelings--his included--about him actually remaining there. No one doubts that he is and should be a Herald, but he is afraid that his mere presence is going to incite more danger right in the heart of Valdemar. The heads of the Collegia are afraid that coming back to his known haunt is going to give him less protection than if he went into hiding. Everyone decides that going elsewhere is the solution for now. So since he is going elsewhere--why not return to the place he was found in the first place and look for clues? And those who are closest to him, and might provide secondary targets, are going along. With Herald Jadrek, Herald Kylan (the Weaponsmaster's chosen successor), and his friends Bear, Lena, and Amily, they head for the Bastion, the hidden spot in the hills that had once been the headquarters of a powerful band of raiders that had held him and his parents prisoner. But what they find is not what anyone expected.
Bastion is the fifth book in the Collegium Chronicles series about Mags, following on Redoubt. This is also the newest of the Valdemar series, only having been released on the first of the month. I have to say I was really looking forward to reading this, and I wasn't disappointed.

I started the read yesterday evening, and just finished it a couple of hours ago on the ferry. This was one of those books I couldn't put down easily for the most part. When I wasn't reading it over yesterday and today, I was working on the Goldberry Shawl CAL project, but most of the time, I was reading - even reading in the car, something I don't find I can do very easily any more.

The big thing that surprised me with Bastion was just how much it relies on the previous books in the series. Honestly, within pages of starting the read, I was feeling like I needed to go back and re-read Redoubt and the previous books. It was a near constant stream of "wait a minute, when did this happen again?" and "I know what this reference is to from the Last Herald Mage books or from the Mage Winds trilogy, but how did it tie into the Collegium Chronicles books?". Even so, I really enjoyed the read, though I think I know what my next read is going to be.

I don't know if Bastion is the final book in this series or not - I kind of hope not, but at the same time, it seems like the biggest events in Mags' story may have been tied up. I hope not, as the more I read the series, the more I find the characters growing on me.

I definitely recommend the series, but strongly feel that you need to start with the first book, Foundation, just to get a real understanding of the characters and the structures of Valdemar as it is at the time of this story. There are definitely some significant differences between the Valdemar of Mags' time and the same country as it is in the time of Talia or Elspeth, or even of Lavan or of Vanyel.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Her Name: The Last War - Michael R Hicks

In Her Name: The Last War
Michael R. Hicks
Imperial Guard Publishing
Copyright: 2011

The product description:
THE LAST WAR is a trilogy collection of the complete text of the novels IN HER NAME: FIRST CONTACT, LEGEND OF THE SWORD, and DEAD SOUL.


Led by Commander Owen McClaren, the TNS Aurora is embarked on an extended survey mission, searching for new worlds that could support human life. Drawn to an uncharted star system by the discovery of potentially habitable planets, the crew of the Aurora discovers something entirely unexpected: the planets are already inhabited, but not by humans. Approached by gigantic alien starships, Aurora's crew makes ready for humanity’s very first contact with another sentient race.


Six months have passed since the destruction of the human colony on Keran by the alien Kreelan Empire. Earth and other human worlds band together to form the Confederation of Humanity to provide a mutual defense against the alien invaders.

Unfortunately, not all human worlds want to join the Confederation. Some, like Saint Petersburg, would rather see it destroyed. With a powerful navy built in secret and armed with nuclear weapons, Saint Petersburg is preparing their own offensive against the Confederation when the Kreelans attack.


Three years after the brutal first contact encounter with the alien Kreelan Empire, the human Confederation is desperate for a victory. With over a dozen worlds under siege by legions of Kreelan warriors, President McKenna orders the Confederation military to deliver a victory to give humanity hope.

Roland Mills, Valentina Sikorsky, Ichiro Sato and his wife Steph, along with the irrepressible General James Sparks are once again at the sharp end of the spear in a mission to take back the colony of Alger’s World from the alien invaders before it’s too late.
I've read and loved In Her Name: The Last War before, which made it the perfect book to read while moving house. It's long, being an omnibus edition of three books, absorbing and somewhat familiar, making it easier to follow with a ton of distractions around me (including two cats loose at times in the vehicle).

In my last read, I noted a preference for Steph and Ichiro's points of view. This time though, as much as I enjoyed their segments of the story, I found myself looking forward to Roland Mills' sections and Allisons'. I wish I could have found out more about them in fact.

To be honest, when I started reading In Her Name: The Last War, I'd intended to begin reading the first book in Michael Hicks newest trilogy, From Chaos Born. However, I decided I couldn't deal with the fact that it's only the first book in the trilogy right then and turned to more familiar ground.

Despite having read The Last War previously, I still found it hard to put down, which is always a good recommendation.

Definitely a book I'd suggest to fans of military science fiction, especially if you like books that show both sides of the conflict and do it with a sympathetic perspective.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Goldberry CAL Day 17 ?

Well, I think it's 17 days into the Goldberry Shawl CAL on Ravelry. I've lost track, to be honest. I also haven't had much progress to report over the last little while either. For a while it was going along very smoothly (up to row 20). Then, row 21, the "Samwise" row, started giving me trouble. At the same time, I got into the final week of preparing to move, plus the first week of unpacking. Bracketing that was about a week with no internet access (which facts explain the dead period on my blog as well).

Anyway, I got back into the shawl yesterday, I think and I ended up unravelling row 21 at least twice, once including row 20, during which the yarn snapped. I only hope my "join" holds the shawl as it's ended up just being the two pieces held together as I crocheted them in - a spit join that failed. On the up side, there's no ends to weave in there.

Tonight, I finally have progress to report: Row 21 is DONE! Samwise has stopped being stubborn and allowed the row to finish. I'm not counting the stitches either. I refuse to do that again, unless the pattern ends up with not enough or too many on a row - too many chances for me to miscount and drive myself crazy again. I half think that that was the problem here all along.

From now on, if the pattern seems to work, with the stitches lining up properly, I'm not counting.

The yarn is starting to change back to the lighter shades of grey on this row, and I like the way it's looking. Should be interesting to see how the colors space out as the shawl progresses too. So far, it's reminding me of the way the colors in the Bernat Mosaic yarn worked on the one shawl I did in that to date.

Hopefully the next rows will work out smoothly too. I really don't want to spend any more time unravelling. I'd been warned by some of the other participants that Patons' Lace yarn can be a challenge to unravel, and I see what they mean! I really don't want to have to undo more than a stitch or two at a time again!


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