Friday Reads ~ The Spiritglass Charade

The Spiritglass Charade: Stoker & Holmes #2
by Colleen Gleason
narrated by Jayne Entwhistle
(steampunk, historical fantasy, vampires)

(First of all, can I just say that “Entwhistle” is an awesome last name? Makes me think of Tolkien every time I read or hear it.)

This is the second book in the Stoker & Holmes series, and is nearly as much fun as the first book in the series. Part of the joy of that first book was discovering the world for the first time, and that will never be duplicated no matter how good subsequent novels are. That’s not my sole complaint with this second book, however. There are – as you might have guessed from the name “Stoker” – vampires in this novel. (There was only a small mention of them in the first one.) And while I did enjoy the plot and I think that vampires would have needed to show up in the series eventually, I got a bit tired of “vampires” being Miss Stoker’s answer to just about everything. I mean, yes. Hunting vampires is her reason for being, essentially. But she had no interest in the investigation the pair was hired to look into, and was only interested in sneaking away to search for the undead. It made me favor Miss Holmes of the two heroines in this book. (It was essentially even in the first book.)

Don’t get me wrong – there was plenty to like in this book as well. Since this was the audio version, I’ll start there. I really enjoyed the narration. I found it easy to tell the two main characters apart, and most of the secondary characters had distinct voices, too. Ms. Entwhisle did a great job of sounding like she fit the era, as well. Very well done.

And while I felt that the vampires were maybe too much a focus, I did enjoy the plot – and they were necessary to said plot. It just felt like there were two plots: Miss Stoker’s and Miss Holmes’, which were then merged at the end. A few more connections between the two early on would have been helpful.

I also enjoyed the interactions between our heroines and the rest of the cast of this book. Most of them were new characters, and it was fun to see how they behaved among young people about their age and social standing. (In the first book, when they were among other young people, they were mostly sneaking around and not truly interacting with them.)

I’m assuming there will be more of these books, since there are still plenty of loose series threads. And – at least for now – as long as they keep getting published, I will keep reading (rather, listening to – these are worth the audio version) them.

Happy Wednesday!

Happy Hump Day!

Things have been crazy here in my personal life for lots of good reasons, but since all of these good reasons are non-Internet-security-friendly, suffice to say that I’ve been in a good mood for a while and have high hopes for continued good moods.

One of the things that has been making me happy lately and IS sharable is the Eurovision Song Contest. (If you don’t know what it is, you are probably not from Europe or Australia. And you should really look it up, because it can be highly amusing.) Anyway, the first semi-final was last night, and Mr. Wyrm and I had fun watching it. My favorite two contestants of the night advanced to Saturday’s Grand Final, so I’m happy about that, as well as just the fun of the contest.

But, as much fun as Eurovision is, that’s not why you come to my blog on a Wednesday. You come here for the knitting.

I have been doing a lot of it lately, and even have some photos to share. Here is a quick FO picture just as an update – I’ll get the FO blog posts for this project (and the other two I’ve done lately but don’t have pictures of yet) finished up as quickly as I can, but they’re sadly low on the list of “to do” items.  

That’s Scylla, knit from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Silkie, colorway “Puck’s Mischief”. It was my plane knitting at the beginning of this spring, and has already been worn. May in California has been colder than we’re used to! Break out the handknits!

But anyway, one reason for finishing these socks was so I could start a new pair. I am one of the many people who say the Yarn Harlot talk about Dark Side Of The Moon yarn and had to buy it. (I’m not a huge Pink Floyd fan, but Mr. Wyrm likes that album, and I do love astronomy and the colorway, so… And besides, the dyer knows how knitters can be about socks. This yarn comes in one skein split into two evenly matched halves, so that you can wind up two balls of yarn and know that the stripes will match. Hooray! OCD socks without the work/hassle/stress!)  

I’m enjoying knitting these. There’s something about a plain vanilla sock which is so relaxing, more so than anything else. Of course, I’m not doing a completely vanilla sock for these. I’m using the Double Gusset on Bottom Toe Up Sock pattern by Carrie Ramirez, adapted from TurtleGirl’s top-down version. I love the way the top-down version fits, so I’m hoping that this version is just as comfy.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of your week!

Ten On Tuesday ~ Congratulations, Graduate!

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Hi Everyone!

The Ten on Tuesday topic for 5/19/2015 is 10 Things You Would Say If You Gave A Commencement Address.

Have fun!

Um… this is honestly something I’ve never thought of before. Let’s see what I come up with, hmmm? And then please tell me what you would add. I’m sure I’ll miss tons, and I’m curious as to what, exactly, I’ll leave out…

  1. Congratulations. It is a lot of work the students will have put in to get where they are, after all.
  2. Have fun. I don’t know if this is ever said. But if it isn’t it should be. This is probably the lesson I value the most – because if you’re not having fun, then why did you bother to do all that hard work in the first place?
  3. Take pride in what you do. The job doesn’t matter nearly so much as how you do it.
  4. Your degree may have absolutely no bearing on your next job. It might, but it might not. The percentage of people I’ve met at work who said that they studied something completely different than what they’re currently doing is really high.
  5. How well you do your job is important, but you also need to be an advocate for yourself. The squeaky wheel, and all that. Sometimes the only way to get a raise or a promotion is to ask for one.
  6. Keep it professional at the office. Fun is great, even at work, but keep work fun professional. This shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ve seen enough to know that it really does.
  7. When you find something you love to do, find a way to make it your profession. Granted, finding that thing you love may take a while.
  8. Remember to stay in touch with your friends. Yes, you will lose touch with many/most of your school friends. But keep some of them. And make new friends who aren’t co-workers.
  9. Take your vacation time. I know too many people at work who never take vacation. They consider it a matter of pride. I consider it a health risk (physical and mental) and a great way to let your productivity drop off, since you never get a new perspective by being away from the office for a while.
  10. TAKE YOUR SICK TIME. You will get healthier sooner, and your co-workers will thank you for not spreading your germs around.

Friday Reads: Discount Armageddon

  Discount Armageddon (InCryptid #1)
by Seanan McGuire
(urban fantasy, paranormal)

I picked up this book because I happened to be in Barnes & Noble and had just finished McGuire’s INDEXING. So I was curious about her other work (though I own ROSEMARY & RUE and haven’t read it yet) and I looked at the shelf to see what else they had. Well, I found this one, the first book in a series that I didn’t own, and it sounded like a fun read. I picked it up, and started it when I got home, and thoroughly enjoyed the read.

The basic premise has been done before and will be done again. There are paranormal critters alive and well, and some group of people is out there protecting us from them (and them from us). That’s fine, I can deal with reading a new take on an idea I’ve seen before. And this was a fun take! For one, the two main characters in the book are human, instead of paranormal. They have been trained to deal with the paranormal, sure, but they are human. (Many times when this is done, at least one of the main characters is a paranormal race of one kind or another.)

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed McGuire’s take on the interactions between the human and cryptid (aka paranormal) worlds. I liked that the two main characters managed to work together on a common goal at times even though their main goals were the exact opposite. I liked the characters, period. Large and small, they all seemed well developed. (And the smallest were some of the most fun: I LOVE the mice. I suspect you will too. Yes, you. All of my readers.)

The plot also fit well within the world. It was believable within the world that McGuire built. All told, this was an excellent book, and I plan to continue with the series. I think I just may have found a new favorite author.

Ten On Tuesday ~ I’ll Do It Tomorrow…

The Ten on Tuesday topic for 5/12/2015 is 10 Things You Need to Do and Stop Procrastinating.
Have fun!

Heh… right. Only 10?

  1. This blog post. But it appears I’m working on this one…
  2. Writing. Or world building. Or both.
  3. Block my finished knitting. I can’t (personally) consider them truly finished until they’re washed and blocked.
  4. Get the rest of the scrapbook stuff I won’t be using either up on eBay it donated.
  5. Buy new work shoes.
  6. Clean the dining room table. It’s currently been taken over by a sewing project which I can show you after it’s been given away.
  7. Write a WIP Weds post. It has been a while since I’ve posted an update.
  8. Get more sleep. A constant battle, this.
  9. Host a proper Eurovision party. It doesn’t help that in the States, very few people know what Eurovision is, much less why they should come watch it.
  10. Do a combination of losing weight and clothes shopping which results in me liking the way my clothes fit again.

That’s 10, anyway. What about you? Anything major you should stop procrastinating?

Friday Reads: I Am Number Four

 I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies #1)
by Pittacus Lore
narrated by Neil Kaplan
(YA, contemporary fantasy)

Before I get into this review, a disclaimer: I am not the target age for this book. I came to this conclusion after the main character’s second kiss. (Or so.) Many, MANY of the kisses between the MC and his girlfriend in this book are described as “lingering”. Drove. Me. Crazy. But then I stopped to think about it. The MC is a 15-year-old boy. I am not. I have had lots of kisses in my life. A 15-year-old (presumably) would not have. I was about half-way through listening to this book when I got annoyed enough about the sometimes juvenile descriptions to consider not finishing the book. And then I remembered that it was written with a juvenile MC. Fifteen is younger than most YAs I read. This is almost not even a YA book. And it shows. But, having realized that, I was better able to ignore my annoyances with repetition, and just enjoy the plot.

Well… at least mostly enjoy the plot. I have to admit that it was very predictable for me. There were only a few things that I didn’t see coming. And there were things I anticipated which sadly didn’t happen. But… the things I was hoping for wouldn’t have made as good a young-YA book, I think. They’d be better in an older-YA or an adult novel. To explain without spoilers: all books need conflict. But if you put in a big, let’s say fatal, conflict mid-way through the book, you will need a bigger conflict for the climax of the novel. And yet, perhaps in this age level book you don’t want the conflicts to be as big as some readers (say, me) expect. I mean, I have to remember that even Harry Potter didn’t have any on-screen non-villain deaths until book 4.

Okay. So far I’ve only really talked about things that annoyed me. What did I like about the book? Well, the two main characters seemed pretty believable. I did enjoy their interactions. I also liked the way the powers manifested. That was cool. Some of the secondary characters were fun, though they all only seemed mostly believable. Then again, it’s been a while since I was in high school, so I guess things could have changed. But still… maybe not quite that much. One thing that was really believable was the temper tantrum that the MC threw at one point when he thought he would have to leave. That probably felt the most real of the entire book.

I listened to the audiobook for this one, which is probably one reason why I “read” the book straight through instead of skimming. The narration was perfectly satisfactory. I know that sounds bad, but it’s not meant to be. It wasn’t spectacular narration, but it wasn’t so bad I returned the book after 20 minutes. (Yes, I have done that when warranted.) I found the writing style and quality satisfactory, and the narration perfectly matched that. I’m not going to go explicitly search out more of Mr. Kaplan’s narrations, but neither will I avoid them.

So as a wrap-up… would I recommend this book? Maybe. If you are the target age and like fantasy and/or aliens, probably. If you are an adult, I can only recommend it if you are able to remember who it was written for – fifteen-year-old boys – while you read it. I will not be continuing the series, even though from the teaser chapter at the end of the audiobook one (or more?) of the girls shares narration with Number Four in the following books. I enjoyed the premise well enough for one book, but I am not willing to read the next books with the mindset I would need in order to enjoy them. There are so many books out there written for older audiences (even just older teens!) with writing styles I know I enjoy for me to read more of a series that isn’t in a style I enjoy. It’s a good premise, though, so I hope that anyone who thinks it might fit their (or a family member’s) reading preferences will give it a try.

Ten on Tuesday ~ Feliz Cinco De Mayo!

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Hi everyone!

The Ten On Tuesday topic for 5/5/2015 in honor of Cinco De Mayo, is 10 Favorite Mexican Foods. Enjoy!

(First of all, yes I realize that Americans and Mexicans have a different view of how important Cinco De Mayo is. But I am all for any excuse to party!)

Here are my ten (current) favorite Mexican foods:

  1. Margaritas. Drinks count as food, right?
  2. Arroz con pollo. Our local favorite Mexican place has the most amazing, moist, flavorful chicken as a part of this dish.
  3. Burritos. Especially with steak and guacamole inside.
  4. And speaking of… Guacamole! I don’t like avocados, but I love guacamole. Makes sense, right?
  5. Chimichangas. Fried burritos. Yum.
  6. Taco salad. I’m not sure how authentic this is (or really any of these items are) but I enjoy eating them all the same.
  7. Champurrado. My supervisor (who is Mexican) introduced me to this a few years ago. Sometimes I wish she hadn’t, because I love the stuff too much now.
  8. Churros. Especially Disneyland churros. Yum.
  9. Nachos. Love nachos. So yum.
  10. Chips & salsa. Is this cheating? I don’t know. But it’s one of the things I love about going out to Mexican restaurants.

Happy Excuse For A Margarita Day!