Book with cat 2

Book #11 of 2021: A Wizard's Guide To Defensive Baking

A Wizard's Guide To Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)

In her author's note at the end of the book, Vernon wrote that multiple publishers bought and then dropped this book, that editor after editor looked at it but had no idea what to do with it. Some said make it darker, some said it was too dark. Some said age up the main character, some said down. I felt basically the same way as all of them: This wasn't a bad book at all, but it wasn't right.

I loved the world building and the magic system, LOVED LOVED LOVED it. A few people were randomly born with magic talent, but the talent was only in one very narrow field, and most of them were useless or of very limited use. Like someone could magic nails out of a board, one woman could make dead horses stand up and walk (no other dead animals, just horses). The main character has a magic talent for dough and bread items.

As much as I loved the magic system, the rest of the story was pretty flat for me. The humor in it was a complete miss. Like many of Vernon's stories, the main character sometimes speaks to the reader; in other books, that worked for me, but in this one it didn't.

I liked the main character, but I felt nothing for her. I really only cared about one minor character. I also had a hard time believing the story's ending (basically MC saves the city with the power of baking).

Even with all those issues I had with it, I mostly enjoyed reading it. I never wanted to abandon it, but I was never itching to read it either. It good enough, but not really good.

I love her other books, but sadly this one just wasn't a hit for me.
Book with cat 2

Book #10 of 2021: Traveler, DNF: Power Play: Resistance, A Gray Life

(No idea why the images are different sizes... should be all the same.)

Traveler by Greg Weisman. I spent five or six years playing a lot of World of Warcraft. While I've long since moved on to other MMOs, I don't have any hard feelings for that game (nor any overly fond feelings).

Most books set in WoW are bad. They don't need to be well written -- a large portion of the playerbase will buy anything WoW. I heard Traveler was different: Not just good, but also a YA book. So I gave it a try.

While not perfect, it was quiet enjoyable. If you don't know WoW, I think it would work fine as just a generic fantasy book. If you do know WoW, it seems very true to the game (as much as I can remember eight years later).

The main character is brought to sea by the father who abandoned him and his family. The first third of the book is about the boy resenting his father and acting out (realistic for a young teen boy). Lots of battles happen, and the boy ends up shipwrecked with a girl from the ship. The two hated each other on board, and it takes a while for those feelings to change.

The story is one big adventure through the world WoW is set in. I think young readers would like it a lot. It's not the best thing an adult, non-WoW player might read, but it's really not bad at all.

I disliked how now and then the POV would jump into another character's head in the middle of a paragraph, but that wasn't too common. The illustrations in the book were wonderful -- so perfectly WoW's style and really skillfully draw. They added a lot to the story.

This is the first book of a trilogy, and the other two books are out now, but I'm not going to continue with the series -- I have too many other books to read to continue with something I didn't love.


Power Play: Resistance by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant. Many years ago, I think before I stared officially reviewing books, I was in love with a book series by these two authors. M/M stuff, RL sexual slavery fiction. I must have gotten this book soon after finishing the series. It sat on my Kindle for years, and finally I picked a random book to read and ended up starting it. If you're interested in M/M erotica, you might enjoy this book. I've long since grown beyond that though. No characterization = I have no interest in the story. DNF 10%

A Gray Life by Red Harvey. Another reviewer wrote "What a depressing novel. Pages after pages of dark, disturbing society which has apparently gone to hell in a hand basket. It felt like a train wreck." Six or seven years ago, I got a bunch of books like this. World ended, things fall apart, everyone is awful. Maybe I wanted to read that then, but I'm not into "everything is awful" now. DNF 6%

Partial book credits:
Point reached in DNF books: 10 + 6 = 16%
Previous abandoned book total: 118%
New total: 134% (one book)
Book with cat 2

Book #9 of 2021: Of Dragon Warrens and Other Traps (Taryn's Journey Book 2)

Of Dragon Warrens and Other Traps (Taryn's Journey Book 2) by Shannon McGee.

I reviewed the first book in this series, Of Gryphons and Other Monsters, in my last post. I loved it to pieces. This one was less good, but still enjoyable... up until the end.

The story didn't end on a cliffhanger -- worse. It ended right in the middle of a scene. It's as if the author had been writing the last three books' worth of story, and just split it to three equal parts wherever that split fell.

While this book had a number of issues (it was a lot less well edited than the first one, and I didn't believe the last 10% or so of the plot), I still would have recommended it if not for that ending. I hate that kind of thing enough that I don't think I'll read the third book when it comes out.
Book with cat 1

Book 8 of 2021: Of Gryphons and Other Monsters | 5 DNF

More than a month since my last book review post, ugh! I've been in New Mexico three weeks now, and been in the hospital three times. I do not like that ratio! Kidney stone is finally coming out on Wednesday, then hopefully life will settle down soon after.

But now, BOOKS!

Of Gryphons and Other Monsters by Shannon McGee.

Such a unicorn of a book! Self-published and her first novel, but it was so good! Set in a fantasy world, Taryn and her twin brother are shepherds for their family's small flock of sheep. She's happy with her life, but her brother wants more... and seeks it in the worst place possible.

While the world was really interesting (tending sheep is even more challenging in a world with gryphons!), it was the characters and the relationships that really won me over. In a world where same-sex relationships are accepted, Taryn's "wait, am I a lesbian?" was still really cute.

I liked this book enough that I bought the second one and started it already. It's going to be a four-book series, but only the second one is out so far. Boo!

Abandoned Books

All of these I tried to read over a month ago, so I'm fuzzy on why I gave up on them. Recording them here just for my recordkeeping.

Thimble Summer: I loved this as a kid, but as an adult it didn't hold up. Not so much one story so much as it was a collection of unrelated short tales. DNF 22%

Wolfen: DNF 3%
ExPacifist: DNF 2%
Citizenchip: DNF 23%
Sweet Home Alaska: DNF 7%

Partial book credits:
Point reached in DNF books: 22 + 3 + 2 + 23 = 50%
Previous abandoned book total: 68%
New total: 118% (one book)
Cat with bandaid

New Mexico / MIA Book Reviews / State of the Thistle

In the past week I've:

- Moved from California to New Mexico
- Been diagnosed with a giant kidney stone

Unfortunately the second came directly before the first and so, a week later, it's still kicking my ass kidney.

Move date: Tuesday February 23.
On Saturday the 20th, I had serious pain in my flank (I was pretty sure it was kidney stone pain, I used to get them a lot). Went to urgent care. Asked doctor what they could do since I was flying on the 23rd. He said cancel my move until it was taken care of, that it wouldn't be safe to fly.

In a panic, I left. But it was too late to do any calling to cancel anything, so I just went to bed. Next morning pain was so bad, I went to the ER. I was hoping the on call urologist would do the procedure to blast it to bits, then I could get the follow up care done in NM. Nope. Urologist said I either stay and get it done (10 days or so with a stent in me, then get it removed, THEN I could move) or I could move and get the procedure done in NM. He said it would be safe to fly, and since he was the specialist, I went with his opinion. (In addition to my furniture being moved, my car was being shipped, my cat was flying with me, and I had already given up my apartment. Too much to cancel at the last minute.)

The CA urologist said that once I landed in NM I should go to an ER and they could do the procedure that same day. Unfortunately that turned out into a complicated mess. I picked the wrong hospital (the only one out of four that has no urologist on call). The NM ER doctor looked at me in the eye and asked "Why are you here? For a referral?". Ugh.

But what could I do? I took the referral... and then that office (another hospital) canceled it. The state of NM has no 14 day quarantine, but the hospitals do. Sigh. So they made me an appointment two weeks out, but if the pain gets too bad, I can go to their ER.

The move itself was stressful. While the flight was only three and a half hours long, there was a layover in the middle of it, and I was flying with my cat.

Things learned the hard way about New Mexico:
- Uber/Lyft has zero cars available after 9 PM. I spent an hour and a half in the airport trying to get a ride to the hotel, my cat having been in the carrying case for eight hours at that point.
- The difference in altitude will kick your ass. I get winded walking down a short hallway (I used to walk every day for almost an hour). I get so out of breath going up a single flight of stairs (and I live on the second floor).

Lifesaving things:
- Siri. Before smart phones existed, how did anyone get around in a new city? Paper maps? Reading them while driving? All I do is follow her directions and I can get where I'm going.

New Mexico:
- I picked this state because it's so much cheaper to live in than California, but I hadn't realized what that really meant. I had (stupidly) thought that it would be just a much cheaper California -- that it would look the same, the people would be the same, the services would be the same. But I was so very wrong.
- Smoking. OMG. In California, I saw someone smoking maybe once a year. Here every single person I see is either smoking or holding a pack. These apartments are supposed to be nonsmoking, but everyone just stands on their balcony and smoke. I can smell it in my apartment all the time.
- The mountains are great! So pretty!

I'm looking forward to seeing more of the area once I'm feeling better and the virus is more under control. I was looking forward to trying more new places to eat, but I'm sorry to say most of the food I've eaten so far has been from chains. (I'm usually too hurting or tired to venture.)

On book reviews: I haven't read a single page in a week or so. Kidney stone = being in bed hurts, and I do most of my reading in bed. Plus I kind of misplaced my Kindle (I'm nearly sure I saw it in my apartment somewhere, so it's not lost-lost).
Book with cat: Scared

Books 6 and 7 of 2021: We Are Wolves and The Pack

AKA: Two books that are not my usual type at all. Also, unintentionally, two wolf-themed books.

We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad. I feel like this book bait-and-switched me, but in the end I enjoyed it anyway. From the summary "But sometimes, to survive, you have to do bad things. Dangerous things. Wild things. Sometimes to survive, you must become a wolf." I was kind of expecting a werewolf story or something involving actual wolves.

Set in World War Two, this book told the story of a German town living in East Prussia, and what happened to them as the Germans were losing the war and the Russians came marching in. The story was pretty bleak (you're all permitted to say "DUH!" here). The kids nearly starved to death multiple times, they slept outdoors in the cold German/Russian winters, they were hunted and shot at, and at one point kept as slaves/unpaid help. Lots of kids were.

I feel like I gained a new perspective on that time, and for that I'm thankful. I won't say this was an enjoyable story, but it certainly was hard to put down.

The Pack by Kristin Coley. This book. This book. I don't even know what to say about it. I laughed out loud at how stupid it was *multiple* times. The author did this ANNOYING thing where main character girl would do just some normal task, and the author wrote the other characters looking at the MC in awe and amazement at how wonderful she is. There was so much unbelievable and offensive things in it (in a world of werewolves, almost all of the werewolves able to shift were men. Women were nothing or "breeder females" -- able to have shifter babies if they have sex with a werewolf).

This was a shifter romance book. Plot was basically the same as Twilight: Girl moves into a small town, supernatural hunk of a man falls in love with her and must have her. (Thankfully there was no love triangle though.)

All that being said... somehow I sort of enjoyed it. I cannot explain it. I literally laughed at how stupid some parts of it were. There were so many things in it that made no sense... and yet I happily finished it. I won't read the rest of the books in the series, but somehow I enjoyed this one. Perhaps I fell down and hit my head without remembering it.
Book with cat 5

Books 4 and 5 of 2021: The Accidental Apprentice, Warcross


The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody. It's been years since I accepted a book for review, but I really liked how this one sounded and the cover was cool, so I made an exception and took it. Because of that, I felt obligated to finish it. If I had read it on my own, I would have given up on it a few pages in.

Set in a (dull, dull, uncreative) fantasy world, an orphaned boy ends up being chosen by a magical beast (because, no matter that he lived in a dull, dull town creatively named Dullshire, he was special). He went off into the wild woods to Hogwarts the magical town there where things followed the same plot seen in 48327432740 other YA/MG books.

This book was an unoriginal mix of Pokemon, Harry Potter, and one of those books where someone bonds with a magical beast and it spends time as a moving tattoo on that person's body. It followed the same plot I've already read dozens of times.

While you can't blame a YA or MG book for not being enjoyable for adult readers, I was really grumpy about how unenjoyable, unoriginal, black/white characters this one was. Young kid readers (target audience is age 8-12) would like it, I guess. Adults should skip it.

Warcross by Marie Lu. Set in the near-ish future, the world had embraced augmented reality. Everyone wore special glasses so they could see VR laid over the real world (like Pokemon Go x1000000). The world was so so so so cool and I wanted to live there so badly.

The creator of those VR glasses also made a "video" (VR) game that was shipped with them, one free to play. So the entire world played, and it became the biggest event worldwide. A young, poor hacker girl got herself involved in the game, and through it met the creator of the game/VR glasses. A most wonderful relationship slowly, slowly, so wonderfully slowly grew through the book.

I LOVED the worldbuilding and the relationship, but much of the rest of the plot did nothing for me. Half whodunit, half hacker story. I wish the book had just focused on the relationship (an odd opinion for me to have!).

There's a second book in the series, but I'm not going to read it. The non-relationship plot was just not enjoyable enough for me to spend time reading the next book.
Book with cat: Litterbox

2021 books: First Dog on Earth, The Wild Lands, Shiftless -- Book rants ahoy!


First Dog on Earth: How It All Began by Irv Weinberg. I was an archaeology minor in college (or this close, just a couple credits short) and one of my favorite papers I wrote was titled "How Dog Began". So when I saw this book, about when wolves started to befriend man, I got so excited!

Unfortunately, every single aspect of it was horrible, and the facts were so so so wrong.

The story started with a wolf giving birth. Somehow every puppy in the litter was different (all of them seemed like half-dog wolves, even though dogs did not exist yet). The mother wolf hid her litter from the pack, because male wolves kill all the pups in the pack to show how strong they are. Why in the world would you write about wolves when you do not research even basic facts about them! I saved the exact quote:

She would not let the old alpha male or any of the other males of the pack vying for leadership prove their virility with the blood of her pups.

Seriously, WTF!

Add onto that, if I need more to rant about in this book, the author's review/praise section included a review from an "Advertising Creative Director", a CEO of Habitat Verde, Former Mayor Malibu, CEO of Independence Lighting Corp, and a voice-over/on-camera actor. What on earth do any of those people have to do with a book? Why would the former mayor of Malibu's opinion on a book about wolves matter in the least? UGH! DNF 3%

The Wild Lands by Paul Greci. I'm so tired of "world ends, only evil people left alive" books. What I'd give for a "world ends, survivors come together to help each other" story! Blah blah blah, world ends, family left in Alaska trying to survive. Bad people come to try to rob them. More bad people come. They flee. More bad people hurt them. Blah blah only bad people blah blah. DNF 7%

Shiftless by Linton Bowers. As bad as the last two books were, this one was actually worse. So so so SO many typos and editing issues. Front matter? Typos. Title page? Typos. Seriously stupid errors, like "To learn more about this author, see his face book page at..."

In addition to the countless errors, ...I've been sitting here trying to figure out how to describe it without being insulting to the author. Let's just say that I do not think he had any ability at all to describe women. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say his inability to write a realistic female character was because of poor writing skills and not his personal opinion of them.

You can hold this book up as an example of all the bad things that come from self publishing. Just awful, horrible, waste of time. I'm sorry to anyone who paid money for this book. DNF 2%

Partial book credits:
Point reached in DNF books: 3 + 7 + 2 + = 12%
Previous abandoned book total: 56%
New total: 68% (zero books)
Book with cat 5

Book #3 of 2021: Teen Wolf Academy (and four abandoned books)

* **

* Book 1 of the series seems pulled off Amazon, but book 1 and 2 have basically the same cover.
** Print copy seems gone from Amazon, but the audio book is still there.

Teen Wolf Academy by Annalise Clark. Anyone who says you can't tell a book by the cover doesn't read many books. "Shifter" books books have a certain look to their covers. Some "sexy", half-dressed woman, usually with an animal, and always with the same color scheme. So when I saw this cover, combined with the completely unoriginal title, it was a hard pass for me.

But then I went back and looked at it again. "You'll hate it," I told myself. "You know exactly what this book is. Okay, go ahead and read the summary and see." Yep, teenager shifters in magical high school. A plot seen in hundreds of other shifter books. Yawn. Pass.

But then I went back and looked at it again. "No. You know you'll hate it. You know exactly what it is. Pass." But then I went back and looked at it again. And again. And again.

So I finally got it. And know what? I was exactly right. I knew what it was. I knew the exact plot even though I have never read a shifter book before. It had all the issues I knew it would have: Oh no, the sexy main character girl thinks she's ugly and no boy will ever want her, even though all the boys do. Oh no, the sexy main character girl has a unique, rare magical power but she doesn't want it.

But all that being said... somehow I still enjoyed it. I like werewolves, and the idea of sending them all to a private school together, even though far far far far from an original plot idea, worked for me. I rolled my eyes at all the issues it had, but somehow I still enjoyed it.

Paladins of the Storm Lord by Barbara Ann Wright. Not sure if this one was written poorly or if my mind was elsewhere. I had to keep rereading sentences to try to figure out what was happening. Eventually I gave up and read reviews to see if it was worth it to keep trying. Nope. DNF 4%

BetaLife by David M. Zahn. On one hand, there was nothing wrong with this book. Story was okay. Main character was okay. Writing was okay. Only real problem was it's litRPG (basically an MMORPG as a book). I've been burned by so many other litRPG books, I didn't want to continue with this one even though it was okay. DNF 31%

Wolves by D. J. Molles. In my last post I reviewed The Meek and wrote "End of the world story, but the only people left were the most evil people on Earth or victims for those evil people.". This felt like the same book. DNF 2%

Song in the Rain by Lydia Deyes. A songbird awakes one morning with no memory of its previous life, but odd, human-level knowledge. Also, strange magical things happen around it. The cover was nicer than the story, to me. Writing didn't really work for me and the characters weren't interesting. DNF 4%

Partial book credits:
Point reached in DNF books: 4 + 31 + 2 + 4 = 41%
Previous abandoned book total: 15%
New total: 56% (zero books)