Monday, February 29, 2016

Brand New 52 - February Edition

With February being the month of love, it seemed fitting to talk about how much I love books. What would life be without them? Dull and boring, that's for sure.
Some of the best dates I've ever had have taken place in bookstores and it wasn't just my Man's good looks that drew me to him in the first place, but also his bookshelf.

It's true, I love a man with lots of books

Anyhoo, here's what I read for the challenge this month:

by Robert Jordan

704 Pages (26:04 Hours)

In the tenth book of The Wheel of Time from the New York Times #1 bestselling author Robert Jordan, the world and the characters stand at a crossroads, and the world approaches twilight, when the power of the Shadow grows stronger.
Fleeing from Ebou Dar with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, whom he is fated to marry, Mat Cauthon learns that he can neither keep her nor let her go, not in safety for either of them, for both the Shadow and the might of the Seanchan Empire are in deadly pursuit.
Perrin Aybara seeks to free his wife, Faile, a captive of the Shaido, but his only hope may be an alliance with the enemy. Can he remain true to his friend Rand and to himself? For his love of Faile, Perrin is willing to sell his soul.
At Tar Valon, Egwene al'Vere, the young Amyrlin of the rebel Aes Sedai, lays siege to the heart of Aes Sedai power, but she must win quickly, with as little bloodshed as possible, for unless the Aes Sedai are reunited, only the male Asha'man will remain to defend the world against the Dark One, and nothing can hold the Asha'man themselves back from total power except the Aes Sedai and a unified White Tower.
In Andor, Elayne Trakland fights for the Lion Throne that is hers by right, but enemies and Darkfriends surround her, plotting her destruction. If she fails, Andor may fall to the Shadow, and the Dragon Reborn with it.
Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn himself, has cleansed the Dark One's taint from the male half of the True Source, and everything has changed. Yet nothing has, for only men who can channel believe that saidin is clean again, and a man who can channel is still hated and feared-even one prophesied to save the world. Now, Rand must gamble again, with himself at stake, and he cannot be sure which of his allies are really enemies.

This book is an odd one. I had to wait years for this book to come out in hardcover and it was not what I was anticipating at all. The whole book takes place around one event; the ending of book 10 when Rand clears the Source. Pretty much every other character is feeling or seeing the event from afar and it effects what everyone is doing. They all interpret the event differently and no one has any idea what's actually going on. Reading it in sequence and not having to wait for it makes a lot of difference in how I feel about it. It's much better as part of the story than a stand along for many years.  It's certainly not the best book in the series, but it's still pretty good. 
Sadly, this was when Robert Jordan was diagnosed and it was harder for him to write. 
I was happy to realize that this book has an interseting representation of being born into the opposite body (); as Aran'gar is reborn into a female body, although can still channel saidin as if still a man.  As time passes, she starts to forget her life before as Balthamel. She finds her sexual attraction hasn't changed from before, but has widened to include both sexes.

by Rowena Cory Daniells

559 Pages

The mystic Wyrds have been banished by King Charald, whose descent into madness grows ever steeper. Exiled and forced to set sail on the first day of winter, Imoshen’s people are packed onto seven crowded ships. Tensions flare under the pressure and the all-fathers and all-mothers are put to the test controlling their hardened warriors. Ronnyn and his sister Aravelle have been separated, just as they feared, and look to an uncertain future. Sorne is betrayed and captured on the seas. Tobazim faces a confrontation with the bloodthirsty All-father Kyredeon and his notorious assassin, Graelen. And, while Imoshen has promised the T’Enatuath a home with the Sagoras, the enigmatic scholars have not yet replied to her plea for sanctuary. This is the thrilling climax to The Outcast Chronicles.

They say thrilling climax, and the book is thrilling, but I found the ending left much to be desired, or at least, much unanswered. I really enjoyed this series and I found it left me on the edge of my seat for most of it, but when I finished it, the first thing I did was to check to see if there was another book in the series. I even checked the author's website, but all she says is that she might one day revisit the characters. What?! But I need answers now....
I still will recommend this series to people, but with a warning about the end. 
The representation is amazing () and the conflicts strike a cord with me, as they are based out of fear and I can easily see these types of prejudices reflected in our own society. 

by Brian D. Anderson

308 Pages (10:43 Hours)

Carentan, France 1944 - Ethan Martin, a soldier in the 101st Airborne, is fighting for his life. But soon he will learn what peril truly is when he is ripped from his world and transported to a land of magic, swords, and dragons. And though the Nazis are now far, far away, danger is closer than ever. 
The Eternal Emperor, Shinzan has destroyed the mages and only a few dragons remain in exile. And now that Ethan, son of Praxis Dragonvein, has returned he must destroy him as well. Faced with unimaginable power, Ethan has only one hope - to reach the dwarf kingdom of Elyfoss before Shinzan can find him. 

This book was on sale for $3 on Audible and I figured for that price, I couldn't really go wrong. Well, maybe not wrong, but not really right either. This seemed like a very typical fantasy novel, where everything happens just at the right time. The right people always show up or show their true nature just when you need them to. The character's didn't have much depths and I found that I didn't really care about most of them one way or another. I did quite like Kat until she inevitably fell in love with the main character only to be rejected by him for being too young. After that, she becomes lovelorn and jealous and stops being interesting. Way to ruin a spunky, street-wise princess? kid. I hope she gets better in the other books, but to be honest, unless I also find them for $3 or less, I probably won't read them. But then again, this book has dragons, kinda (^..^) and that might be worth reading more about

by Mercedes Lackey

362 Pages

Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen. (^..^)
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

Why is this series still going?  Yes, I realize that it says #1 up above, but really, this is just a continuation of an already too long and not all that good of a series. What's worse, is that Mags & Co. don't really need to be in it at all. If anything, they are all secondary characters in their own book. The main plot revolves around a really terrible Romeo & Juliet plot line that would have worked much better for one of her Elemental Masters series that take after fairy-tales and stories. 
Or if she really wanted it in this World, she could have easily replaced Mags & Co. with new Heralds that were more interesting. Also, as a new series, it relies a lot on you having read the other series, especially the last book where Mag's cousin mind-melds with him to upload new skills and information that would've taken too much story to actually teach him. 
 Every time I pick up one of these books, I tell myself that this one is going to be different. It's Mercedes Lackey, she won't let me down again, and every time I am disappointed.

by Seanan McGuire

404 Pages (12:05 Hours)

“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”
Good advice...especially when a story can kill you.
For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.
That's where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you're dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn't matter if you're Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

I'm finding that I'm really enjoying books that take fairy tales and giving them their own twist. I've read a lot of great fantasy and urban fantasy with these twists, but this one was one of the bests. Not only was the story great, but the performer who read it, did a really great job.
The characters, despite having their personalities aligned with their stories, are pretty well rounded. Sure they all fall into their tropes, but it's nice to see them fighting against it to have their own lives.
This is another great book for representation () Henry and her twin were born into a Snow-White/Rose-Red senario, but when Gerry transitions (FTM) the Story frees him and forces Henry into a regular Snow White. I really appreciated that the Story respects this transition, as do Henry and all of her friends. Sloane even dated him for awhile and they have very sweet interactions. It's nice to see this done right.  

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3)
by Patricia Briggs

287 Pages

I could smell her fear, and it satisfied something deep inside me that had been writhing under her cool, superior gaze. I curled my upper lip so she could get a good look at my sharp teeth. I might only weigh thirty or so pounds in my coyote shape, but I was a predator...
Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape - but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not.
Mercy's loyalty is under pressure from other directions, too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can't decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her...

This book was pretty typical for this series. It wasn't great, but wasn't too bad either. There are a lot of things that I like and dislike about this series. I really don't like how the werewolves treat women and I've not enjoyed the ongoing fight over Mercy since the first book. Thankfully that has finally been resolved. I like that there is representation of both LGBTQA+ characters () who are being excepted into the world and that they are open to dealing with mental illness, or at least PTSD (#)
The anti-fey groups strike a nerve with me, as it reflects too closely to the hate and fear that we see in real life. I imagine that's the point though. That very much seemed to be a theme this month with a lot of the books I read.

by Seanan McGuire 

325 Pages (12:18 Hours)

“For her to love me, she had to be willing to kill me. Anything else would show that her heart was untrue.”
The struggle against not-so-charming storybook narratives isn’t the only complicating factor in Henrietta “Henry” Marchen’s life. As part of the ATI Management Bureau team protecting the world from fairy tales gone awry, she’s juggling her unwanted new status as a Snow White, dealing with a potentially dangerous Pied Piper, and wrangling a most troublesome wicked stepsister—along with a budding relationship with Jeff, her teammate.
But when a twisted, vicious Cinderella breaks out of prison and wreaks havoc, things go from disenchanted to deadly. And once Henry realizes someone is trying to use her to destroy the world, her story becomes far from over—and this one might not have a happily ever after.

The first book was so good, I had to get the second one immediately so I could start listening to it right away. And had there been a third book I would've done the same. Actually, I'm kinda sad that there isn't a third or forth or fifth book. I totally would've read the whole thing. The whole crew is back () for another great book that takes you even deeper into the stories. Henry discovers the Whiteout Wood in her dreams where the Snow Whites of the past and present go once they've been poisoned. Each fairy tale has it's own version of the Woods and Henry must figure out how to navigate them when an Evil Snow White takes possession of her body, stranding her there.

Vision In Silver (The Others #3)
by Anne Bishop

493 Pages

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.
Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.
For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

This is another series that I love and can't wait for the next books to come out. Although I hate waiting for them, they are totally worth the wait.
Trouble is brewing amidst the humans, who have formed hate groups against the Others and although things are starting to look grim, the Others are still trying their hardest to make things work. With the help of Meg () they are trying to help the other cassandra sangue settle into normal lives after years of living in captivity (#) by creating a how-to guide. Despite the anger and aggression of the Others, there is also a sweet naivety to them that is quite wonderful. I really enjoy watching their human-clan grow and envelope more people who are understanding and care about the Others.

Books that I am currently reading

Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time #11)
by Robert Jordan
214 of 783 Pages (9:27 of 32:19 Hours)

A Treasury of Royal Scandals
by Michael Farquhar
177 of 324 Pages

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
94 of 846

Fudge Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen #5)
by Joanne Fluke
150 of 304

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentines Day!

Hope your Valentines Day is BAT-tastic!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Barbie Body For Everyone!

What's that? Barbie has a new body? And not just one, but THREE new bodies?

Barbie has always been the doll for me. I've always loved her as my muse. She could be anything, do anything! All I had to do was imagine. 

Sure, the Barbies from the '80s had some pretty intense curves to live up to, but that never bothered me the way it bothered other people. I understood that her body was shaped that way to accommodate the styles of the '80s which included big shoulder pads and hips, crazy big hair and weird fashion.

really '80s, what were we thinking?

But Barbie's body has always been adjusted to reflect the times, It's changed so much over the years to suit the needs of fashion. In the last 10 years alone, Barbie's body has gone from weird '80s proportions to a smaller, more fit look, to show a more realistic ideal. 

And now, Mattel has gone a step further and introduced 3 new body types; curvy, tall and petite (plus the original), 7 skin tones, 22 eye colours, and 24 hair styles!

 OMG I want them all! Especially the curvy, blue haired beauty!
They're also releasing clothes packs for each body type since traditional clothes won't fit most of them.

great cover by Time Magazine
People have been overly hard on Barbie over the years, and I do get it, really, but I think overly hard is still the case. Yes, we can focus on Barbie's body and talk about how it makes us feel bad about ourselves or we can focus on what really matters, teaching girls that they can be anything they want.
It's all about perspective.

I'm a firm believer that Barbie reflects who we really are and what we see in ourselves. For me, I see Barbie's potential for imaginative play, as being anything that I want to be. For the people who just focus on her body, they're only seeing skin deep. And I understand too, representation matters, and I hope that these new bodies are a great start for something new.
Like anything, we can enjoy a product and see it's benefits while still critiquing constructively. But lets try and keep it constructive. Let's teach our children the importance of seeing past Barbie's plastic coating and looking into a world of imagination and possibility.