Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

Confession: I Don't Feel Like Reading Your Blog

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It just hit me today that school starts in three weeks. Count 'em: one, two, three. O.O So here's the thing: I don't usually do stress in big, obvious ways like chugging a pint of Ben & Jerry's. I do stress in little, sneaky ways that I don't always realize are stress-related until I really stop and think about it. But I'm thinking about it now, and the best way I've found to deal with stress--besides praying like my sanity depends on it (because it does)--is to be honest. To objectively evaluate why I'm doing (or avoiding) stuff and what I want to change.

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I feel like a traitor as a blogger saying this, but I don't feel much like reading other blogs right now. It's seriously, completely me, not you. See, it's not that I don't want to read your posts. I do. I am still interested and want to read lots of blog posts. But I don't feel like doing it. Right now, blog reading feels like work. Sad, but true. Partly because I feel like I should read in detail so I can leave a thoughtful comment. It doesn't take long to do that once or twice, but I procrastinate, and I'm busy with other stuff; and once it builds up into a backlog of 50, I procrastinate even more and just don't want to deal with it.

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Beastly Bones by William Ritter ARC (3 stars)

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William Ritter's debut novel, Jackaby, was a pleasant surprise earlier this year, blending historical and supernatural in an entertaining, suspenseful mix. Beastly Bones has all the silliness, severity and magic of its predecessor. Plus dragons. :)


This ARC was provided by the publisher for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Beastly Bones by William Ritter
Series: Jackaby #2
Genres: YA, Paranormal, Historical
Published on September 22, 2015
Published by Algonquin Young Readers
Final Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis:
“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

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Updates: Shiny and Savory

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This past week, I ran up to Philly one night to catch up with some old high school friends. One of them picked a noodle shop run by an immigrant from Japan who made some delicious ramen. Cup Noodle this is not. Although, I could have gone for the extra spicy version of Gates of Hell. What I had was delicious and had a nice undercurrent, but I love trying the super spicy stuff. ;)

And, in case you didn't catch it on this week's discussion post (about Apple's late Back to School sale and how Macs and Windows are sharing a number of similarities these days), I finally picked up my shiny new computer that, God willing, will last me all through law school and beyond with zero problems. (Who are we kidding? Mac or not, this is technology. There's no such thing as a problem-free existence. Although, if I stay away from the video editing for a while, I might stand a chance of not crashing this one regularly. I may or may not have been responsible for several unscheduled restarts in my college computer lab back in the day. >.>)

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Top 10 Bookworm Characters

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We're readers, so we love finding kindred spirits in our reading--that is, bookworms. ;)



Beauty - Beauty - How do you survive longterm imprisonment in a magical Beast's castle? Ride your horse and read.

The Dragon - Uprooted - How do you stay sane when caught between an evil forest and a chaotic mess of an apprentice? Read your books and follow the directions exactly so.

Verity Newton - Rebel Mechanics - How do you prepare for an independent life as a governess to the rich and magical? Read.

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Discussion: Relearning Mac...or is it Windows?

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I bought my first ever Mac computer this summer for law school. (Much as I love my little netbook, it's too slow, the battery is too old, and the screen is too small for all the legal reading I'll be doing.) I picked up my Macbook Pro yesterday, which actually took a long time... You know how Apple didn't announce a back to school special at the beginning of July like they usually do? Apparently, there is one (buy a computer for school, get a free pair of expensive Bose headphones), but right now it's in-store only. It hits the webstore on August 6th. Long story short, I got my computer and headphones, but the store network wasn't cooperative about the process needed to do so. :P

I used to work on Macs all the time during college. My summer job involved video editing/DVD making on some awesome Mac Pros, and I frequently used the iMacs in the school computer labs, so I was pretty familiar with the operating system. Of course, I haven't used them at all since college (three years ago), and a lot has changed. I saw it beginning when I briefly worked with OS X Lion, but I had to chuckle upon opening my new laptop; just as I've seen newer Windows operating systems incorporating more "Mac-like" elements, I recognized a number of Windows standards on my new system.

As my cousin said, "They are slowly merging, and soon there shall be but one Google overlord." Or Disney. ;)

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Court of Fives by Kate Elliott ARC (3 stars)

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Court of Fives features a high fantasy world brewing with instability and discord between the ruling Patrons and subjugated Commoners. There are some slow moments, but overall it's a tense, suspenseful ride.


This ARC was provided by the publisher for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on August 18, 2015
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Final Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis:
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Review:
Court of Fives is a high fantasy game of intrigue and suspense with lives at stake. The Patron/Commoner dichotomy has a dash of Roman Empire flavoring, and our protagonist, Jessamy, is half of each and must fight to protect those she loves as her family is caught in the middle of a powerful man's machinations.

The book starts a little slow when Jes' father unexpectedly returns home early and postpones the excitement of the Fives, but once we get there, things get interesting fast. I was engaged so long as things kept going wrong until the story plateaued and the pacing and tension dropped. Luckily, it wasn't long before matters got even worse and required immediate daring missions and escapes with a little mystery and magic thrown in for good measure.

I never connected to Jessamy as well as I hoped, and I thought her romance (really all romances, considering the circumstances) was a little forced and given undue attention. I admire Jes' athletic abilities and strategic mind, but, especially having read from her first-person perspective, I was more curious about the other members of her family--particularly her mother and her little seen, but fiercely independent, opinionated (almost scary), twin Bettany.

I enjoyed Court of Fives well enough, but I'm not sure whether I'll continue with the series. There's a lot about the conquered Efean people that Jes doesn't know and many Efean and Patron power struggles that could feature in future installments, as well as some mysterious magic that could come into play. I'm curious, but not necessarily invested enough in Jes at this point. I almost hope the next book is from another character's point of view.

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Updates: Bugs & Law

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Friday after work, I found ants swarming the pantry. :( Saturday, I went to a local Obon festival with some friends to watch the dancing and taiko performances. The first hour or two was basically just eating and chatting while watching demonstrations and a middle school choir, which gave us time to catch up, but next year I might go late and arrive just as the dancing starts. Less time in the heat. :)


This morning, I spilled half my oatmeal on its way to the microwave. It was extremely graceful and obviously a Wednesday. ;)

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10 Books That Celebrate Diversity

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Diversity is all about variety, and there's plenty of variety to be had. However, in the interest of not running afoul of any State or Federal statutes, I will be making my selections based on neither race nor religion nor sexual orientation nor disability. ;) Just people.



Beastly Bones - Abigail Rook - British detective's assistant with background in archaeology
The Widow of Larkspur Inn - Abigail - widow running her own business and raising three children
Six of Crows - Inej - a former tightrope walker, former enslaved prostitute, and current high climbing thief
A Darker Shade of Magic - Kell - a powerful magician raised by royals who travels between parallel Londons

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Random Amusement: The Cute Edition

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Cutesy merchandise is nothing new. Vendors have been selling dollies and teddy bears and other items with visual appeal (and sometimes severely distorted proportions) for forever. Does anyone remember the good old days of Beanie Babies, Furby and trolls? And today, it's even kind of cool for adults to collect this stuff! (Okay, not exactly, but close enough...as long as you don't have a whole basement full of it.)

So, here's a quick roundup of some of the latest "cute" sensations that caught my eye!
(Disclaimer: I don't own, "endorse" or recommend any of these products. I just thought they looked cool. All photos link to product pages.)

Funko POP!:


I think I first saw these guys in B&N and, while I don't love most of the "people" figures, they make some cute small creatures. And apparently Funko recently started up a new line called "Dorbz," which are rounder, cuter, and have everyone smiling.

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Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne eARC (2 stars)

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On the bright side: my evil plan worked and I read this duology in less than two weeks. On the dark side, they were both squarely in the 2-star zone. I didn't hate them, but I didn't particularly like them either. If you haven't read the first book, there may be spoilers in the synopsis and review below. Feel free to check out my review of Midnight Thief instead. :)

This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne
Series: Midnight Thief #2
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on August 4, 2015
Published by Disney Hyperion
Final Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis:
After learning the truth about her bloodlines, Kyra can’t help but feel like a monster.

Though she’s formed a tentative alliance with the Palace, Kyra must keep her identity a secret or risk being hunted like the rest of her Demon Rider kin. Tristam and the imprisoned assassin James are among the few who know about her heritage, but when Tristam reveals a heartbreaking secret of his own, Kyra’s not sure she can trust him. And with James’s fate in the hands of the palace, Kyra fears that he will give her away to save himself.

As tensions rise within Forge's Council, and vicious Demon Rider attacks continue in surrounding villages, Kyra knows she must do something to save her city. But she walks a dangerous line between opposing armies: will she be able to use her link to the Demon Riders for good, or will her Makvani blood prove to be deadly?

In this spellbinding sequel to Midnight Thief, Kyra and Tristam face their biggest battle yet as they grapple with changing allegiances, shocking deceit, and vengeful opponents.

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Updates: DIY and Batman

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I had a nice mix of productivity and laziness this week. I did a bit of reading, went to one of Home Depot's free workshops, and vegged out to classic cartoons. The Home Depot workshop was more of an informal information session (a.k.a., no hands on), but it did have a small demo on drywall repair and it's not a bad idea to get some basic ideas and have a staff person handy to answer all your questions.

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Netflix and Amazon enable my cartoon superhero moods. Netflix has all the old Justice League (Unlimited) stuff plus newer takes on X-Men and the Avengers; and Amazon Prime has--wait for it--Batman and Superman. As in, the amazing animated series of the 90's. Nostalgia ahoy!

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Last 10 Books that Came into My Possession

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This took a bit of thinking and actually went all the way back to BEA in May. Between all the review (or finished, but hopefully to be reviewed) books I picked up at BEA and my self-imposed book-buying ban, I haven't grabbed too many books since; but my list still managed to have a bit of variety.

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Art It Up! - Elsa (DA)

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Art It Up! is a weekly feature hosted by Tabitha @ Not Yet Read.

Forget an art series (because that's just not happening with my current art schedule (or lack thereof)), but I did a little fiddling around with some simple digital art the other day. It's basically taking a silhouette and splatter brushing it to death. :)


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Discussion: Re-imagining Libraries

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I love libraries. I loved perusing the shelves, searching for hidden story gems as a kid and an adult. Some libraries are fortunate enough to reside in literary communities full of like-minded readers. Others...not so fortunate.

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I wrote a little over a year ago about a somewhat depressing conversation I had with my local librarians. Cliff notes version: almost everyone's there for the computers and hardly anyone ventures beyond the new books shelves into "the archives." It's had me thinking...how do you increase the use of libraries in communities that don't use them?

As I understand it, the primary purpose of (public) libraries is to make information accessible to the public and, historically, to provide a place for the community to assemble and discuss ideas. That sounds a lot more like a school or university library these days. I raid the nonfiction section now and then, but I'm usually checking out fictional stories. And checking out books, I'm probably in the minority at my local library; the majority come for the computers alone. But that's just it: "making information accessible," in the form of books, isn't relevant to most of this library's patrons. Essentially, they just want (and use) a free internet cafe.

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Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne (2 stars)

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I won a beautiful hardcover of Midnight Thief almost a year ago and have felt guilty about not reading it ever since. I feel a little bad now that it only earned 2 stars, but I'm glad I finally read it. While it didn't wow me as hoped, it's not a bad story and I got through it quickly, so it did something right. :)


Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Series: Midnight Thief #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on July 8, 2014
Published by Disney Hyperion
Final Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:
Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life.

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Updates: A Floriday and a Reading Plan

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My Floriday (day in Florida) went off without a hitch. I made both my flights, survived them with minimal wear and tear, and got where I needed to go. It really was a short day, though. I got to hang out with my sister since she was my ride on the hour-long drive to and from the airport, but I feel like all but three hours of the day was traveling. (I know it was more than that, but it felt really quick.) Still, I got to see lots of family I haven't seen in a while (and heard many jokes about my pale, pale skin), got to celebrate the grandpa's 90th birthday and the grandparents' 66th anniversary, and got away without burning to a crisp in the hot Florida sun.

Me and my sister (you're starting to understand all the pale jokes, aren't you?)
I had a late flight back that night, and an hour's drive from the airport, so I got home around 1 a.m. Thus, I spent most of my 4th of July sleeping, Netflix-ing, walking the dog, and more sleeping.

What about you guys? Did you do anything fun over the holiday weekend?

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Top 10 Hyped Books I've Never Read

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Hype can sometimes scare me off books. Hype from the right reviewers has also gotten me to overlook my (usually accurate) gut feeling from the cover/synopsis. (Results on these reads are mixed.)

So, hype isn't a major contributing factor in most of my reading decisions (unless you count the fact that I might not have heard of some books had the company not been hyping them), but I have noticed that I haven't read a lot of hyped books. Cause and effect? Possibly, but doubtful. Correlation? Definitely. :)

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Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George eARC (2 stars)

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Silver in the Blood reminds me of the movie, "Hugo," in that you start thinking it's one kind of story, heading in a certain direction, and then it shifts and becomes something totally different midway through. Unfortunately, Silver in the Blood didn't pull of the transition between Victorian and paranormal as smoothly as I hoped, but I think readers who relate to the protagonists will be willing to overlook this and will enjoy the story as a whole.


This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
Series: Silver in the Blood #1
Genres: YA, Paranormal, Historical
Published on July 7, 2015
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's
Final Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:
Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate . . . or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

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Updates: Dogs, Crochet & Long Overdue Reading

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This weekend was super busy. I had dogsitting at two houses, it rained like crazy, and my church was doing service projects. At the one house, both dogs had...quirks--one never went where she was supposed to and had to be hauled; the other was pretty easygoing, but wanted to use your face as a pillow come bedtime. (Needless to say, that didn't happen. He had to content himself with the other half of the bed.)

For the church service projects, on Saturday I joined a group cutting, stringing and crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. The mastermind behind this endeavor is also experimenting with basket weaving the plastic "yarn." If she perfects that, it'll be slightly less fluffy, but easier to teach lots of people to do than crochet.

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