Book with cat 1

Book #16 of 202: Threads of Blue | Book: Pears and Perils

Threads of Blue by Suzanne LaFleur
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

A sequel to Beautiful Blue World (reviewed in previous post), this wonderful little book continued the so very realistic look at war and the effects of it. Knowing it was written for readers age 8-12 made this book even better. How skilled the author was to make it both safe for kids and a wonderful read for adults, too. So much was unsaid, yet it was an honest look at the effect war has on families and children.

Beautiful Blue World was about the war itself, and Threads of Blue was about its aftermaths. The main character, a 12 year old girl, was sent on a solo mission and then given leave to try to find her family in her war-torn country.

I LOVED the ending. LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Especially knowing it was meant for young readers, I really appreciated how realistic it was.

The only small criticism I have of both of these books was that sadly they were too short. It took me only two hours to read each one. I wish they had been ten hours long instead.

I'd really like to read something else by this author, but none of her other books are stuff I'm usually interested in (kids in the modern world, going to school, bullying issues).

Pears and Perils by Drew Hayes
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Set in the modern world, the main character is a professional "fall guy". When a tech company needs an employee to blame, they hire him just so they can make a show of firing him.

The only reason I picked up this book at all was because I really liked a different series by the author. As this was a different genre, and the editing done seemingly a lot more casually, it was a pretty big miss for me. Stopped reading at 8%.

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this book: 8%
Previous abandoned book total: 400%
New total: 408% (four books)
Book with cat: On stack

Book #15: Beautiful Blue World, 2020 book: Exiled: Clan of the Claw

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I had thought this was an adult book written in an extremely minimalist style, but it turns out it's meant for readers aged 8-12 years old, which explains why so much was left unsaid.

Though set on some alternate world, there is NO worldbuilding at all. None. I had no idea even where or when the book was set for the first part of the book. It felt like Earth during one of the World Wars.

The main character, Mathilde, lived in a town being air bombed at night by whatever country they were at war with. Apparently the war had been going on a while. Food was scarce, resources were hard to get. Most men were sent off to "the front", with only the old men left to form a local street-level defense force.

The (whatever) country government, the one Mathilde lived in, held a national test to find kids talented enough to help in the war.

At that point I worried things were going downhill, Hunger Games direction. But nope! They were looking for both smart and special kids. Kids gifted in math and other stuff. Ones to work on decoding messages and working out patterns of attacks and such. The families of those kids would get money, which might make the difference on them surviving, so Mathilde took the test.

She was picked, and whisked off across (whatever country) to an old house used as a training center.

It was at this point that one of the characters mentioned in dialogue the name of the country and who they were fighting, and it was only at that point I knew it wasn't set on Earth.

In the old house where all the kids work out of, Mathilde was confused. She wasn't the best student, she wasn't talented in any way, so why did they pick her? Turned out she did have a special skill: [Cut off here]Empathy. They brought her in to befriend a teenage boy, a prisoner of war, and to get information out of him. End spoiler.

Even before I knew how young the intended audience was, I was really impressed with this book. So much was unsaid about the horrors of war, but I could fill it in myself.

I already started the sequel.

Exiled: Clan of the Claw by S. M. Stirling, Harry Turtledove, John Ringo, and Jody Lynn Nye
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Check out the cover of this one, it's like some classic scifi from the 70s.

Set on Earth, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs never hit, so reptiles evolved into the dominant species. During an ice age, there was a window that let a mammal species evolve, but this time it was feline instead of ape.

The book contained four novellas set in this world. The first two were so good! The two species were handled so well. Both felt so realistic, their views (and hatred) of the other were so believable.

The Merm (cat people) were exactly what you would expect of some large cat species that evolved to walk on two legs and be able to think. Perfectly cat-like. The Lishash (lizard people) were just as realistic and believable.

The third novella was different though. It didn't seem to match the first two at all. Everything was too modern. The ... Hm. Okay. Reading the reviews, apparently each story was supposed to be a take on the theme, not all set in the same world. That explains why novellas 3 and 4 felt so different. I guess that's sort of an interesting way to handle it.

I made myself finish 3, but couldn't finish 4. DNF the book at 85%.

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this book: 85%
Previous abandoned book total: 315%
New total: 400% (four books)
Book with cat: On stack

Book #13 and #14: Going Rogue and Siege Tactics

I've never been so far behind on book reviews... Two finished ones and four not-finished ones.

Going Rogue by Drew Hayes
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Liked(Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Siege Tactics by Drew Hayes
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Liked(Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Books #3 and #4 in a series, these two follow so many characters through the real world and a fictional (tabletop fantasy) world. In the real world, a "Spells, Swords, & Stealth" group (Dungeons and Dragons group) runs into real life magic, sometimes pulling them into the fantasy world.

In the fictional world, there's a number of groups the plot follows. The characters played by those real world people, another party made up of NPCs, and others.

I LOVED the first book of this series (a party of PCs dies in an encounter and a party of NPCs steps in to take over the mission). By book four, it's got so beyond that simple, fun plot. Now there are magic artifacts that bridge the two worlds, and other stuff. It's not bad, it's just that I liked the first book better.

There was a whole lot I liked about these two books. The main characters were great (the ones in the fantasy world), and I really enjoyed seeing them learning and growing. They're all such great, flawed characters. The worldbuilding (especially how the gods worked) was really nice, too.

All in all, both of these were really fun reads. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Before those two, I had two unfinished ones.

Full Moon City (26%) -- Abandoned it two months ago. I no longer remember what it was about or why. Bad me!
The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men (4%) -- Abandoned it two months ago. I believe it was an anthology, but not formatted for ebook reading, so the only way to skip a story and move to the next one was page by page flipping. First story didn't work for me, and not worth the effort to get to the next one.

After Going Rogue and Siege Tactics, I had two more I abandoned.

The Spaceship Took Us To Octavia (6%) -- Wasn't awful, but the voice of the writing didn't work for me. I think it was British maybe? The writing was so dry:

Bob said, "Let's go play."
Mark said, "Okay."
They ran to the park to play.
Mark said, "Isn't this fun?"
Bob said, "Yes, it is fun!"

Primal Instincts (18%) -- Ugh. In this one, parents have their babies experimented on to make them into animal shapeshifters. Why? So the kids can take part in deathsports on TV. Sigh. I'm so sick of Hunger Games plots. Enough of adults making kids fight to the death for their entertainment! On top of the tired plot, the writing was poor and full of errors.

Partial book credits:
Point reached in these book: 26% + 4% + 6% + 18% = 54%
Previous abandoned book total: 315%
New total: 369% (three books)
Book with cat: Scared

Book #12 of 2020: Feral | 2020 book: One Man

Feral by Nicole Luiken
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Good YA books are enjoyable to adult readers too, but I guess you can't ding a YA book for being enjoyable only to young readers?

Set in the modern world with the addition of a few supernatural elements, the plot is about the daughter of two werewolves couldn't shift, so she was considered a "dud". The story follows her progress towards learning to shift, and then her meeting (and falling in love with) a werewolf stuck in wolf form.

I love werewolf stories. Werewolves are really the only supernatural thing I like, and I like them a whole lot. That is the one and only thing that saved this book for me: I really liked how the author's werewolves interacted.

Not just once, but twice major plot points could have been easily solved if the main character had just talked to her parents. She had a good relationship with them, she loved and respected them (and they her), there was no reason why she couldn't just talk to them.

As much as I liked the werewolves, I hated the other supernatural elements of the book. If you're going to have a witch, fine, but why did it have to be a known one from folklore? I would rather the author had used an original one instead of Baba Yaga.

The setting was nothing original, the characters were dull and flat, the plot was seriously meh. Even the title didn't even fit (there was a feral werewolf in the story, but he was not the main character). Unless you like werewolves as much as I do, you'll want to skip this one.

One Man by Harry Connolly
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Connolly is the author of that trilogy I liked so much, so I tried the other series he wrote, but that hadn't worked for me, so I was hoping this stand-alone book would be better. Sadly nope. I didn't like the world it was set in much, the characters didn't interest me, and the plot didn't hook me. I gave it a couple nights of reading, more than I would have a book written by someone else, then gave up at the 5% point.

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this book: 5%
Previous abandoned book total: 310%
New total: 315% (three books)
Book with cat: On stack

2020 books: Child of Fire, Gateway to Fourline, Tooth and Claw, Wild Things: Four Tales

Child of Fire by Harry Connolly
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Connolly is the author who wrote the trilogy I just finished, the one I loved so much. I was hoping this series of books would work for me as well, but unfortunately not.

Urban fantasy (which I don't like at all) mixed with crime drama (which I like even less). The main character was released from prison to help a powerful magic user, but I didn't like either of their characters, and the situation didn't hook me at all.

Because of how much I liked the trilogy, I gave this a lot more chance than I usually would. I read for three nights, hitting the 9% mark, before I gave in and decided I just wasn't enjoying it at all. I wish I had liked it!


These three books I read weeks ago, before the long trilogy I just finished. Alas I can't tell you much about them, since it was so log ago. I'm listing them here for record keeping purposes.

Gateway to Fourline by Pam Brondos, self-published, disliked. 3%
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton, traditional, disliked. 4%
Wild Things: Four Tales by Douglas Clegg, traditional, disliked. 25%

Partial book credits:
Point reached in these books: 3% + 4% + 25% +9% = %41
Previous abandoned book total: 269%
New total: 310% (three books)
Book with cat: hugging book

Books 9, 10, 11 of 2020: The Great Way series

The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Loved! (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The Way Into Magic by Harry Connolly
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Loved! (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The Way Into Darkness by Harry Connolly
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Loved! (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I did exactly what I try not to do: After I read a book, I'm supposed to write up the review before I go on to the next one. But I loved this series so much, I couldn't stop. As soon as I finished one book, I immediately started the next.

Because of that, unfortunately I can't review each book individually, which is a crime. Each one deserves its own review, but the whole story is just one unit in my head now, not three books. So here goes the review for the whole series:

Set in some fantasy world populated by humans of about medieval technology level, once a generation a magical portal opens. Out from it come visitors. Aliens? Differently evolved humans? Creatures from another dimension? No one knows. These visitors (the Evening People) hate all fighting and violence, so for the week they stay, the humans of the city move all their weapons out into the countryside. They put on plays, tell stories, and sing songs to entertain their guests, but only about nonviolent things.

Why cater to them? Because if the Evening People are pleased, they give humanity one magic spell. One magic spell per generation. Things like 'create pure water', 'shape stone', 'create light', 'make object fly'. As you can imagine, this makes the people of that nation the Evening People visit much more powerful than any other nation in the world.

--- If you're intending to read these books, and I strongly recommend that you do, beware spoilers from this point forward. ---

The story opens as the city is getting ready for this generation's visit from the Evening People. All weapons have been stored off in the countryside. The whole city is ready for a week long festival. The portal opens... and out come monsters.

A flood of monsters. A sea of monsters. Purple-furred, larger than bears, faster than cats, armed with giant claws and teeth. Nightmares. The portal always stays open for one week, and the monsters surge out without end.

The city (which had unarmed for the visit) falls in hours. The king and queen are both killed in minutes. As the last of the city is destroyed, one doctor (what the world calls the few individuals able to use the gifted spells) closes the portal with a rogue spell. It's too late though, the damage is done. Thousands of these monsters have spilled out.

The monsters are basically impossible for humans to fight. A troop of soldiers were all killed by one. They're too strong, too fast... and it turns out their bite turns you into one of them.

[This was the only time in three books, three long books, that I got frowny. I thought this was basically going to become a zombie story, but luckily I was wrong.]

Through a magic spell, one of the characters can briefly understand what the monsters say. It turns out they're not just animals: they speak. They call themselves The Blessing. To bite you is to pass on the blessing.

Through the series, The Blessing spread, making more and more of themselves. Cities have no defenses against them. Any damage they take can be regenerated by them. And with each person they bite, more and more of them are created.

The series has two main characters: An old soldier (badly near sighted -- how cool is that in a main character!) and a young woman who is learning magic (and held hostage by the royal family for crimes her parents committed). Holy cow, did I love them so! Even though the old soldier (Tejohn) was set in his ways, even though the girl (Cazia) hated the world (with good reason), they both grew and changed so much!

Most reviewers mention Cazia most, since she's probably one of the best written female characters ever in fiction. So very realistic, flawed, strong, she is amazing.

To me though, it was Tejohn who held my heart the strongest. A good man in this horrible situation, trying to save everyone, having to not be able to save his family because he was trying to save everyone else. Such a good, flawed man. Imperfect but trying his hardest to do the right thing. I loved his journey of change through the books.

If you've followed my reviews, you might remember that I generally LOVE the first book of a series, then my feelings about the later ones go down and down, because I love world building best of all. That did not happen with this series. There was as much worldbuilding in book three as book one! The characters themselves learned so much, and through them so did we. Even in the last pages of the story, we were still learning how the world/universe worked.

I really can't say enough about this world the author created. So many nations, all different from each other. So many different races of people and other creatures. So many details of the world! It was just so so so good.

My biggest (and only) disappointment was something unrelated to the story: There was 5% of the book left, over 30 minutes of reading per my Kindle, and the story ended. Why? Because the remaining 5% was a list of Kickstarter supporters. I was so jarred that the story ended (even though it was a great place to stop it) because there was so much of the book left. Sadly, it changed the feeling I ended the book with.

If you enjoy fantasy stories, worldbuilding, and realistic characters, you should check out this series! Now I'm off to find the other books he's written...

The Baby-Sitters Club (TV)

Nothing was holding my attention, I wasn't in the mood to watch anything, so I was picking shows pretty much at random to try out. That was, unsurprisingly, not working, so as a last ditch effort, I decided to pick the least likely thing I'd like: The Baby-Sitters Club.

I never read the books. All I knew about them was that it was about young girls babysitting, which is of little interest to me.

The first ep didn't hook me. The first minutes did.

A New York Times reviewer described it as:

It’s a richly character-based story about growing up, dealing with change, growing apart from and back together with friends. It’s sweet but not cloying, smart but not cynical, full-hearted and funny enough to please both grown readers of the original books and the young target audience of the new series — and even plenty of viewers (like me) who are neither.

The characters are all so sweet and likable. It's just so feel-good, the whole thing. I'm only two episodes in and I love the girls so much. Their families are realistic and (mostly) good adults. I love the older sister.

Before the virus, I'm not sure this show would have worked so well for me. But right now? This is exactly what I need. If you need something easy as hell to watch (each ep is under 30 minutes), don't let the title make you pass on it!
Foam Lion

Media: The Lion Guard

Thanks to Jeane asking about the show, I realized somehow I hadn't watched the second half of season three, the final season.

The Lion Guard is set within one of the Lion King movies (Simba's Pride), aired on the Disney channel, with preschoolers as the target audience. Right from the first episode, I liked it.

While it wasn't a 100% perfect match for adult viewer me, it was so very good. The stories and characters were enjoyable for adult viewers, and even most of the humor was good. (Alas one character was very big on fart humor, which didn't work for me, but I bet preschoolers endlessly giggled over it.)

This show did things that other animated shows didn't. For example, the characters aged. Physically aged up from one season to the next.

Some of the stories were so darned mature, too. In one episode, [Spoiler for a season three plot point]the main character had to learn that some things you cannot heal. Some injuries never get better. That sometimes there is no return to normal, that you have to just do the best you can with a long-term injury. After that ep, I was so moved I just sat there and thought about that. That's the kind of lesson we learn in only the best written adult TV shows, and it was in a cartoon meant for preschoolers.

In another episode, I actually teared up. [Spoiler for a season three plot point]There was a death of a minor character, and it was just handled so realistically, I was so moved by it.

Sadly it seems season three was the last season. It wasn't canceled, but the story is over and the animation department for it has been shut down. From wiki: "In Simba's Pride, there is a years-long time gap, The Lion Guard takes place during the years". Three year gap, three seasons.

I'm really sad it's over, though I am glad it had a conclusion and wasn't just canceled.

Exercise, TV, games... but no books

I finished a really good book, but writing a review seems beyond me at the moment, but hopefully soon.

Exercise: I walk almost a half hour almost every day of the week. I know some of you out there hike all weekend long, but that's the most I've ever walked at one time, so I'm pretty happy with myself. My goal is at least a half hour most every day of the week, so I'm close!

Exercise, part two: I bought the VR system just to use the Supernatural exercise system. Basically you bat at colored balls in all sorts of settings, supposedly "the most beautiful places on Earth". The problem is the graphics are video game level, which kinda kills the whole "most beautiful" thing. Seeing how Supernatural costs $19/month (which is nearly the price of a VR game you get to keep), I canceled in my free 30 days.

That Beat Saber game is basically the same idea as Supernatural, but in a video game-ish setting, so the video game-level graphics work much much better in it. I've played the demo level a couple times. I'd like to wait until it goes on sale to get it, but as it's the most popular VR game that has ever been released, it's never been on sale yet and likely never will be. So eventually I'll just splurge and pay the $30 to get it. (Since it's just for exercise, I feel more okay about spending the money.)

voidmagus recommended a VR game called Moss. It's an adventure/puzzle game that is highly cute. It's also, to non-gamer me, quite challenging. Supposedly it takes 3-4 hours to beat, but I'm well beyond that and I think I have a ways to go. I really suck at puzzles and jumping on things, but the game is so darned cute I like that it's taking me longer.

VR still sometimes gives me motion sickness and an upset stomach sometimes, but it's pretty rare. Today it's kind of bad, but I watched a few poor quality VR videos so that's probably why (seems like the worse quality stuff makes the side effects worse, which I guess makes sense).

TV: I re-watched (re-marathoned) The Boys. I loved it as much the second time as I did the first. A dark (realistic) look at superheroes, about how people with power can abuse those who have less power, but it was the smaller character stories I liked even more than the main plot. I'm still, after second viewing and days later, struggling with feeling bad for a character who repeatedly sexually assaulted women; in just eight eps, it's amazing how they turned the tables on him.

I'm sort of watching Snowpiercer, though if I had anything better to watch, I'd drop it. Set in the future, the Earth has gotten so cold that it killed off all life except the people on a train that never stops circling the globe. How does the train keep going? How do the tracks not get destroyed? Train tracks need to be cleared, how does this train function when it must take so long to circle the globe? Especially when the world is in an endless blizzard?

I wish I had something else to watch or marathon. I'm watching some broadcast TV shows (nothing really good), still slowly watching Community (good but I've seen it so many times, none of the eps are a surprise to me).

Oh I did start watching Last Week Tonight, which is like The Daily Show used to be during its best times. I should have been watching that since the beginning!

Edit: Speaking of live TV, an odd channel (H&I) shows a block of Star Trek each night. 8 PM is original, 9 TNG, 10 DS9, 11 Voyager. So I see TNG and usually half of DS9 each day. Man, TNG did not age well (or was it just always not good?). It's so... how to even describe it. Unrealistically innocent? Everyone is too perfect, too kind? It just sets my teeth on edge. DS9 is so much better of a match for me, I just wish it was on an hour earlier.