Friday, June 30, 2017

Newfangled 52 - June Edition

I was absolutely swamped this month. Adam was in a motorcycle accident (don't worry, he's okay for the most part) and I spent the month taking care of him as he healed. This left me with little time to read as I was either too busy or too tired to do so. Surprisingly I still managed to finish off a bunch of books that I had started and just hadn't gotten around to finishing.

Here's what I managed to read this month: 

by José Saramago

307 Pages

On election day in the capital, it is raining so hard that no one has bothered to come out to vote. The politicians are growing jittery. Should they reschedule the elections for another day? Around three o' clock, the rain finally stops. Promptly at four, voters rush to the polling stations, as if they had been ordered to appear.
But when the ballots are counted, more than 70 percent are blank. The citizens are rebellious. A state of emergency is declared. But are the authorities acting too precipitously? Or even blindly? The word evokes terrible memories of the plague of blindness that hit the city four years before, and of the one woman who kept her sight. Could she be behind the blank ballots? A police superintendent is put on the case.
What begins as a satire on governments and the sometimes dubious efficacy of the democratic system turns into something far more sinister. A singular novel from the author of Blindness.

Years ago I read the book Blindness and it was spellbinding! It was dark and gritty and really gave you and understanding of the evils of society. I've been looking for the sequel to it for years, but could never find it. My Mom came across it at a book sale and picked it up and I was thrilled.
But this book isn't like Blindness, not at all. In fact, they have so little in common, it's hard to understand why this sequel was written at all.
And like all Saramago books, it's incredibly difficult to read. As I wrote in my last review of his  book Death With Interruptions : There are a few reasons for this. It's translated from Portuguese and sometimes looses a bit in translation. The writing structure is super confusing, but I'm pretty sure that is just how the writer writes. An entire conversation will take place in one long, run-on, sentence. The only way you can tell that the speakers have changed are with commas and a Capital letter. Unless you are paying close attention, it's really hard to follow what's going on. This is especially true in the first half of the book, where there is no main character. - 
The second half of the book again focuses in on characters, the Police Inspector and the Doctor's Wife. That's it, that's their names... as if it wasn't confusing enough.
This is very much a political satire and even though it was written back in 2004, it is especially significant in light of the current political clime. It's worth reading just for that, but I would still recommend Blindness as an introduction to his work

by Gary Poole

416 Pages

RESIST THE ZOMBIE PLAGUE! Top authors bring new perspectives to John Ringo's Black Tide Rising universe, in which humanity fights back against the hordes of infected.
The news that humanity had been dreading for ages had come true. Zombies are real. Worst of all, we created them. The apocalypse was upon us, and every man, woman and child had to answer a simple question of themselves: “What do we do now?” For a group of neighbors in the Chicago suburbs of Northern Indiana, it was “work together or die”...and figure out how to live on top of oil storage tanks to keep the zombies at bay. For the Biological Emergency Response Teams in New York City, it was “how long can we fight off the infected before it's too late” . . .as well as having to fight other groups all out to claim a dwindling stock of supplies and safety. And for a group of cheerleaders, it was about the end of their world. And about what happens when you get a group of physically fit young women with guns really, really angry.
Featuring original stories from some of the brightest stars in the science fiction universe: John Ringo; Eric Flint, John Scalzi & Dave Klecha, Sarah A. Hoyt, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael Z. Williamson, Kacey Ezell, and more.

I picked this book up because I was looking for something junk foody (terrible, tasty and easy) after reading Seeing. Apocalypses cheerleaders seemed just the thing. Sadly I didn't realize that it was a book of short stories. I've never been a big fan of anthologies as I never really feel like I get enough out of short stories. I'm always left wanting more (or less, depending on the author)
Some of these were fun and zany, as you would expect from this genre and others took it in weird directions. I was happy with the amount of women main characters (and tried to ignore the few badly written ones)
There was an apocalypse cheer-leading story, it wasn't about kick-ass cheerleaders doing back flips with Uzis, but about an ex-military woman turned cheer coach trying to protect a squad of cheerleaders. Although not what I wanted, it was still a pretty good story and ranks up there as one of my favorites. Maybe I'll just have to write my own kick-ass cheer squad book, or maybe I'll just go re watch Sucker Punch

694 Pages (26:16 Hours)

Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo are thrust into the middle of an impending civil war - and discover the shocking truth behind the rumored resurrection of the dead Admiral Thrawn. For a beleaguered Empire, desperate times call for desperate measures. Sowing discord among the fragile coalition of The New Republic, remnants of the once powerful Empire make one last play for victory. Having implicated the Bothans in the genocide of the Caamasi, they now plan an attack on Han and Leia that is also to be blamed on the Bothans. If they are successful, the New Republic will be torn asunder. To prevent inevitable disaster, Luke, Leia, Han, and their friends must prove the Bothans innocent and reveal the Empire's treachery. But time is running out.

I've been trying to read this book since last year and just couldn't do it. It was actually on my TBR list from last year and the only book I didn't finish. I finally gave in and bought it as an audiobook. Best choice I'm made in awhile. It actually turned out to be rather entertaining as an audiobook.  SWU doesn't do anything half-assed. This book has sound effects and a narrator that can manage pretty solid impression of most of the characters (except for the women, they all sound the exact same)
It sounded much more like a radio drama than your typical audio reading.
The story itself wasn't great, but then again, no SW story ever is, but Zahn does tend to be better than the rest. It really didn't need to be a 2 part book.
And one more spoilery thing; did anyone else think the marriage proposal from Luck to Mara Jade was a little abrupt? I mean you literally just realized that you liked each other, maybe try dating first? Oh well, it's not like it's cannon anyone anyway.

by Jules Verne

396 Pages

French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo's mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient.

So I finally managed to get through this. Growing up you here about this book and the movie and the ride at Disney World and you think that it must be something extraordinary. I mean, how exciting it must be to travel down that deep into the sea....
Well it took me most of the book, but I finally realized that 20000 leagues doesn't apply to depth in this book, but length. Yes, they travel 20000 leagues across the sea. Saddening.
Also this book is written from a scientific perspective. He spends chapters explaining the sea life in such a text book fashion that it makes these fascinating creatures positively boring. Even the epic battle with the giant squid wasn't all that interesting. 
When I first realized that this was just one book in a huge series of Extraordinary Voyages, I thought that I might just try and read all of them, but after trudging through this, I think I've had enough excitement from Jules Verne

by Jim Butcher

352 Pages

Harry Dresden -- Wizard
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 of them 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.

I've been hearing about this series for a long time. It always seems to be recommended based on the other books that I read, so for $3 I decided to give it a chance.
I'm going to assume that since this is the first book in the series and there are like a bazillion of them, that he just hasn't hit his stride yet. That said, it wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't great and I couldn't really put my finger on why. Perhaps his use of female characters? I don't know. Will I give his other books a try? Maybe if I find them cheap or am out of other things to read.
I guess that's the problem with having high expectation for a book.... it's easy to get let down

by Sarah J. Maas

699 Pages (25:08 Hours)

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the number-one New York Times best-selling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so, she must play a deadly game of deceit - and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust among the dazzling and lethal High Lords - and hunt for allies in unexpected places.
In this thrilling third book in the number-one New York Times best-selling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

I've been looking forward to the next edition of this great series and I was not disappointed. 
It continues to deal with all the issues of PTSD and how they affect everyone differently. It's one of those things that I'm very grateful for. So few books actually deal with the aftermath of traumatic events.
I'm actually surprised that this wasn't the last book in the series, since it ended on such a closing note. Not that I'm complaining, I'm actually really excited that she plans on taking the series further. She's quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. And I'm satisfied with where it left off. It'll make it much easier to wait for the next installment, which doesn't even have a name yet.

The Undying Legion (Crown & Key #2)
by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith

316 Pages

With a flood of dark magic about to engulf Victorian London, can a handful of heroes vanquish a legion of the undead?
When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.
But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

Time for more junk food. I enjoyed the first book in this series enough that I decided to pick up the second and give it a go. It was much better than the first one. It fixed a lot of the problems that the first one had and characters were written better. I appreciate when that happens. I really like Imogen's character development in it and was happy that they actually did something with her instead of just writing her off.

Books that I am currently reading

by Anthony Ryan
425 of 602 Pages (24:39 Hours)

by Rohinton Mistry
30 of 603 Pages

Ascent of Women
by Sally Armstrong
32 of 320 Pages

The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
90 of 228 Pages

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