Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden - My Backyard looks like an Evil Lair


This week was a downright weird one for January confusing and delighting both human and beast it seemed.  There was one day where it got up to 50 degrees fahrenheit - Insane!  One morning, arriving at work, there was a chickadee singing it's little heart out.  I've always thought that what prompts most birds to begin their breeding rituals is photo-period or day length but it seems temperature must also play a small role.  Or perhaps he was just so dang happy he couldn't help being hopeful.  Poor deluded little bird.
Credit: WI DNR/Lisa Hodge-Richardson
One thing I've been worrying on this week is my backyard.  With the warmer weather, the snow melted making everything soggy and revealing the wreck that is the lawn portion of my backyard.  It's small and shady, and in the 5-6 years I've live here my ginormous and rambunctious dogs have done their best to completely destroy it. Area by area they've systematically killed all the grass until it is one gigantic mud pit.  It stresses me out - It's no fun to hang out in for me or the dogs really, whenever it's wet they track in mud like it's going out of style and I worry about how I will make it presentable when it's time to sell the house in 3-5 years.  This is really me whining because there are things I could do to fix it but they all take work, money, time or all of the above.  I have found a few articles online about dog-friendly landscaping and while they provide a few good ideas, they seem to require a larger space and more money than I have.  Anyway, if anyone has any thrifty and nifty ideas, I'd be interested in hearing them!  I love my dogs and would choose them over a pretty backyard any day but I do wish my backyard could be a little less frightful. 
And in case you are still not disappointed in them they also tore two books to pieces this week. Could have been seen as a bad review but I don't think so...
I got my first seed packet in the mail!  Juliet tomatoes will be my high producing paste tomatoes for canning diced tomatoes and sauce.

After starting off nice and calm at the start of the year, work went haywire over the last couple weeks and will just continue to ramp up from here on out until, well, fall.  It's overwhelming and stressful to think about and this is when it will be most useful to hold onto perspective.  None of the oh-so-important and urgent parts of my job are terribly momentous in the grand scheme of life, the world, and the universe.  As one of my colleagues reminded me this week - I am insignificant.  He meant it in a kind, comforting way which is how I took it because while it is perhaps a little melancholy it is also very freeing.  It frees you up to pursue happiness instead of boring old excellence and means that it's not so bad when you screw up.  So embrace your insignificance and revel in it:0)!  Don't worry - I don't plan to write any self-help books anytime soon.

His other advice was "If you're not getting in trouble from time to time you're not doing your job." Not untrue in my particular line of work but also easier for him to say, Mr. Two Years from Retirement.  Oh to be independently wealthy and really be able to wreak some havoc:0)!


I've been in a bit of a reading and watching slump the last few days of the I-just-finished-something-amazing-that-I-loved-and-can't-get-excited-about-anything-else variety.  The book was Jackaby by William Ritter which felt like it was written just for me, I loved it so much.

The TV show was a re-watch of Avatar: The Last Airbender which I started watching in prep of starting The Legend of Korra.  But then I read somewhere that Katara is Korra's waterbending master which means that Aang dies pretty young and leaves Katara to live on for at least a decade and a half more which makes me unspeakably sad for some reason.  I don't like thinking of a dead Aang especially if all his friends are still around.  I would have preferred for this to take place well in the future.  I'll get over it eventually of course and move on to Korra which there has been a lot of happy buzz about. 

I did watch the first half of a newish British crime series starring David Tennant as the inevitable troubled detective.  It's called Broadchurch and this first series is about the investigation into the murder of a child in a small seaside community.  It's pretty troperiffic but I'm enjoying it.  The second season looks like it focuses on the trial. 

What I've been trying to read is an ARC of Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton which is okay but isn't really pulling me in - it's pretty dark but not in an interesting way (to me).  I am listening to Lirael by Garth Nix in the car and actually I am enjoying it very much but I can't just sit in the car all the time. I also started Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, the second in the Peter Grant series, and I'm liking it but it's also not exactly what I'm wanting.  I started listening to it on my iPod after finishing Snow Flower and the Secret Fan earlier this week which was good but sad and caused a I-am-trying-my-hardest-not-to-blubber-like-a-baby-in-public moment.  Finally I've been working my way through Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck which so far has terrified me because I hardly ever eat fish anymore since I moved to the midwest 9 years ago - I don't trust seafood out here. Apparently, however, fish is the only food with DHA which is critical for brain function.  So THAT'S why I feel like I am getting dumber.  Couldn't be getting older. Nope.

One blog note, if I have time I might play around with installing a new template etc... on my blog this weekend.  I'm expecting this not to go well AT ALL, so if the blog mysteriously disappears that's why.

LAST Week on the Blog:
SUNDAY: My Introduction to K Dramas - Coffee Prince.  Korean television is deliciously addictive!
TUESDAY: Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Want to Discuss - these are books I think would be fun to talk about in a book club, if I had a book club.
WEDNESDAY: Review of Legion 1 and 2 by Brandon Sanderson.  They were all right.
THURSDAY: Tough Traveling - Law Enforcement.  A contemplation of law enforcement in fantasy literature.

NEXT Week on the Blog (if it hasn't blown up):

SUNDAY: Review of The Eterna Files by Leanne Renee Hieber
MONDAY: Perhaps a post about book series that are dropped in the middle and never finished:(.
TUESDAY: Top Ten Tuesday - The topic this week is Books in X genre you can't believe you haven't read.  I'll be listing some canon, classic list I embarrassingly haven't read.
WEDNESDAY: Review of Gulp by Mary Roach
THURSDAY:  Tough Traveling if I can think of a list of Evil Lairs - right now I've only got one and it's pretty obvious so no fun.  Otherwise I'll post a selection of mini-reviews for an odd trio of books. 

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tough Traveling - Law Enforcement

Tough Traveling is a fun meme that aims to tour all the tropes big and small, abhorred and loved that are littered across the fantasy (and science fiction) landscape. It was conceived of and is hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and here's how it's explained on the blog: 

Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This Week's Topic is Law Enforcement:
Seems odd to think that in fantasy cities in which entire economies revolve around crime there is room for the men in blue (or crimson, or whatever). But the law does the best it can, even when faced with magic, mystical creatures, or rogue deities.
Once I got going these just started to flow and I'm sure I missed TONS.  I bet there will be some on everybody's lists but there are enough books with this trope that I'm guessing there will also be variety.

1) The City and The City by China Mieville

So there's two cities that share the same space and the denizens of each must "unsee" everything in the other city.  But when a murder victim from one city is dumped in the other city, law enforcement on both sides get involved.  It's a wacko book in the best sort of way. 

2) Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter is a London copper that has the strange ability to see and speak to ghosts so he is recruited into a very special branch of the London constabulary.

3) The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

The Chequy is more spy agency than law enforcement really  - the paranormal equivalent of MI6 or the CIA but I'm counting it because I like it and I want to.

4) The Lovegrove Legacy series by Alyxandra Harvey

The Order are meant to police the hidden magical community in Regency Era England but they are kind of big jerkwads.  This is a YA series that I ADORE and that hasn't had nearly enough interest.  Debutante witches in Regency England topped with a murder mystery.  AND a magical boarding school.  What more can you want?  Please go out and buy 50 copies of both books in this series because I'm really afraid the publisher is going to drop it before it's finished, okay?  Thanks!

5) The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

Another fun YA series that like the Peter Grant series includes a special branch of the London police meant to investigate supernatural stuff.  In the first book its a spirit re-enacting the Jack the Ripper murders.

6) Fables series by Bill Willingham

Bigby Wolf and the Beast serve as the Sheriff of Fabletown at different points during this awesome Graphic Novel series' run.  

7) The White Council in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Here's another "sketchy-group-meant-to-police-wizards" which seems to be a pretty common trope all on its own.  Even though Dresden is a good guy, the White Council do NOT like him.

8) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Meyer Landsman is the main character and a homicide detective in a Jewish State established in Alaska in this alternative history novel.  

9) Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next Series.

Thursday Next is everybody's favorite Literary Detective in The Department of Jurisfiction, tracking down a kidnapped Jane Eyre and generally keeping order in an England where fiction is as real as... well...real life. 

Obviously my mind got pretty stuck in Urban Fantasy.  It will be interesting to see where others' come up with!  There are more lists and links at the Fantasy Review Barn!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

REVIEW: Legion 1 and 2 by Brandon Sanderson
Legion and Legion:Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson
Original Publication Year: 2012/2014
Genre(s): Mystery, Science Fiction
Series: Legion books 1 and 2
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrated by: Oliver Wyman

Stephen Leeds is a celebrity detective or problem solver.  His success and celebrity are due to his unusual mental and sometimes even physical abilities. The blurb explains him thusly (from 

Stephen Leeds, AKA 'Legion,' is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills.

He must live in a house large enough to accommodate all his hallucinations or “aspects” and he must employ staff that don’t mind delivering lemonades to his imaginary friends.  Besides this, he is actually fairly sane and functional.  It’s almost as if his intellect is so vast that he must file pieces of it in separate hallucinatory personalities.  There are strict “rules” about what his aspects can and can’t do and how he interacts with him.  We meet him when he is a well-established oddity and world renowned Private Investigator of sorts with lots of back story.  Psychologists drool over him and journalists want a piece of him so he’s somewhat reclusive and very picky about what cases he will take on. 

The first book, Legion, is a novella at only 88 pages in length.  It feels a little bit like Sanderson just taking an idea for a spin.  Stephen is called in to investigate the disappearance of a scientist and his camera that can take pictures of the past.  The scientist is hoping to use the camera to somehow prove once and for all whether Jesus died and then rose again therefore proving (or disproving) the validity of Christianity. Controversial stuff.  And the company he works for wants him and the camera back.  Both books in fact deal with Corporations, technology, ethics and intellectual property issues which is …interesting.

Skin Deep is still short but is a full novel length at 208 pages. In this book Stephen is hired by an old friend, a flashy Korean businessman, to find the corpse of one the employees of a high tech company in which he is a large shareholder. The company is investigating how to use the human body – its cells and tissue – to store data.  The missing body of the employee was potentially storing important and secret company information.

The most interesting thing about both books is really how Stephen’s mental condition works and how he interacts with his aspects.  The mystery plots are complex with a good bit of action and satisfying conclusions.  However the real mystery is the question of why Stephen is the way he is and is his condition more than just a mental aberration?  There is an underlying through line in both books about his aspects doing new and troubling things – does this represent a change in his mental state or is there something else entirely going on?  That is what really engaged me and why I will be picking up the next book in the series.

That being said, these were just so-so reads for me.  For some reason Sanderson and I just don’t click.  His characters ring a little false to me and the humor is dull and obvious.  I am pretty much the only person on the planet that feels this way and I wonder if part of the problem is the narrator.  I listened to both of these (as well as one of his other books Mistborn) and the narrator for each had this very hearty superhero voice.  I will try any future books in print and hope I can develop a better relationship with Sanderson since he has quite the backlist!

FINAL VERDICT:  Interesting concept that makes the books verge on a one trick wonder but the mystery storylines, and the concept are interesting and complex enough to make them worthwhile reads.  3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Want to Discuss

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists.  It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Topic for this week is books you'd like to read with a book club (if you have a book club).  I don't participate in a book club but I do like to discuss books (I just don't like reading assignments).  Here goes.

1) Lydia Netzer's books

I've recently read both of Netzer's novels and they are both interesting with hidden depths that would be fun to plumb.  Also I think they may have a little of the love 'em or hate 'em vibe about them (her style is somewhat unique) and that can be stimulating to conversation.

2) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I think Science Fiction, especially when it explores a world not too far shifted from our own, sparks all kinds of questions and food for thought.  A science fiction book club!

3) Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

This would be a book I would want to read in my science fiction book club.  A future where resurrection is possible and it is being used to cryogenically preserve mortally injured women and then selling them to rich men who can afford to resurrect them.  McIntosh also imagines a world where social media has taken over the world in an eerily plausible manner.  Despite all this heavy matter the book is a great read and doesn't get too weighed down.

4) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This book has actually had a pretty significant impact on my life since reading it a couple years ago.  Would be interesting to read in an Introvert/Extrovert mixed crowd.

5) Defending Jacob by William Landay

This is a well done legal thriller that folks would enjoy reading and there are also some family dynamics and twists that would be interesting to discuss.

6) In the Woods by Tana French

If you've read this psychological crime thriller than you know there is SO much to talk about!  It also has a bit of a love it or hate it thing going on.

7) The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Lily Bart would be an interesting character to dissect with a group not to mention all the social commentary about society at the turn of the century.

8) Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

Just recently a blogger reviewed this book and had a completely different opinion and take on the main character.  I think the differences in how different people respond to the same character is really fascinating.

9) The Lymond Series by Dorothy Dunnett

Oh how I'd love to have a Dorothy Dunnett book club.  The six books in this series could keep a club busy for a while.

10) Shakespeare's Plays

This would be less a chatty wine and cheese book club and more a scholarly discussion group picking apart all of Shakespeare's plays.  I took a Shakespeare class or two and I adore studying him.  If everybody in the group was wealthy we could read three or four a year matched up with whatever the Royal Shakespeare company is putting on and then culminate our reading and dissecting with a trip to England to watch the plays..... Dreamland is so nice...
I realized after I put my list together that besides a few of Shakespeare's plays I've read all the books above which is not generally how a book club works.  But whatever.  It's my list and I'll be ridiculous if I like.

What books would you like to read with a group?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

ON TV - The "Prince" of K Dramas? Coffee Prince


17 episodes aired in 2007

Synopsis:  A young man from a well-to-do family returns to his home in Seoul after several years working and living in America.  His family pressure him into making something of himself by getting married and/or joining the family business.  In order to prove himself he is challenged to make a success of a run down coffee house.  He re-styles it as Coffee Prince with the gimmick being an all male staff.  One of these staff is a poor boy who the young man has had several run ins with and of whom he's become reluctantly fond.  Unbeknownst to him this boy is actually a young woman with androgynous looks who is mostly focused on supporting her mother and sister, so she keeps her gender a secret in order to stay at her job.  Sparks fly between these two and the question is will they be able to find a happily ever after?

The Players
This show has a pretty big "ensemble" cast and it attempts to give everyone some little bit of storyline but Eun Chan and Han Kyul are the primary players.
Eun Chan:  An androgynous and rather naive young woman who works hard to support her poor family.  At one point she has a crush on both Choi cousins but her feelings for her boss Han Kyul quickly deepen.
Choi Han Kyul:  A 29 year old handsome playboy from a well-to-do business family.  He just wants to have fun and design "legos" in America but his family doesn't approve and they demand that he prove he is a responsible adult.  Starting out with a crush on his cousin's girlfriend, he is taken aback by his developing affection for his young male employee.
Choi Han Sung: Han Kyul's cousin who works in the music business.  He befriends Eun Chan when she delivers his milk and plays with his dog (Terry aka Sweeper - what kind of name is Terry!)  He is in an on again/off again relationship with the stunning Yoo Joo.
Yoo Joo:  An artist who is also just returning to Seoul after time in America.  She is in love with Han Sung but is confused and afraid of commitment.  She is also friends with and the object of affection for Han Kyul, at least initially.
Han Sung and Yoo Joo
The Other Princes - Ha Rim, Sun-Ki, Min Yeop:  These guys mostly add comic relief and additional side dramas.  Ha Rim is a "player" who learns to commit, Min Yeop is a door mat in love with Eun Chan's sister, and Sun Ki is possibly Japanese and is in Seoul searching for the woman he loves who ran away from him.
Sun Ki, Ha Rim and Min Yeop   
Eun Chan's Family - Eun Sae and Her Mother:  Eun Sae is a teenager and still in school.  She's rather stuck up and bratty but she loves her sister and has a good heart.  Eun Chan's mother initially seems quite useless and selfish but as the show goes on she becomes more responsible.  She is being pursued by the neighborhood butcher who adores her.
Han Kyul's Family - Grandmother, Mother and Father:  Han Kyul's grandmother is the ruler of the roost  - she adores her charming grandson but also thinks he needs some direction.  She is strong willed and runs the family business and she is also suffering from cancer.  Han Kyul's mother is more conventional and sweet and Han Kyul adores her.  Han Kyul has a difficult relationship with his father which is explained during the show's run.

My Thoughts

This was my first experience with a "K Drama" and it was crazy addictive and great.  I learned about K Dramas from a great post by Elizabeth at So Long and Thanks for all the Fish called K Dramas 101.  Her number one recommendation was Coffee Prince and since I listen to everything she says I decided to see what all the K Drama FooFaRoo was about over Christmas break.  It's available to watch for free on Hulu but beware the subtitles are TERRIBLE.  Like really really terrible. 

So what's it all about?  Basically it's a 17 episode romantic comedy.  There is massive couple angst between Han Sung and Yoo Joo and slow developing feelings between Han Kyul and Eun Chan.  And then some more angst.  And then a whole huge barrel full of adorable.  It's a modern fairytale. It's also special with its own charm quite different than anything we get here in the states.  At the heart of this is I think how naturally the relationships are portrayed - the interactions feel almost unscripted at times.  Like the director just told the actors that they should just goof off with one another and then filmed it. 
There are some emotional set pieces and they really pack a wallop as well.  For some reason I can't put my finger on and despite a lot of fun ridiculousness, it all seems so very authentic.
Some other things I love.  The main character Eun Chan and actress who plays her.  You can tell during certain moments that the actress is likely a very attractive woman but most of the time you would not know it.  She 100% throws herself into the role of a girl who is easily mistaken for a boy and it completely works.  There are scenes of her scarfing down food that can't be described.  After the jig is up and she is revealed as a girl, she does nothing to feminize her appearance. She is who she is; exuberant, honest, friendly, in love with the world.  Even as Han Kyul pressures her to marry him before she is ready she stands firm because she wants to prove she can stand on her own two feet and she wants to learn and be her own person.  I also love that she wins Han Kyul's heart even though: 1) he thinks she's a guy (the show completely commits and its pretty awesome), 2)  he has seen her snarf down food in the most insanely disgusting manner possible, 3) he's seen her looking her absolute worst.  He falls in love with her spirit and character and the show never backs away from this. 

I also have to say a few things about the leading man Han Kyul.  His character makes a very believable redemptive arch from arrogant, selfish, playboy who is very impressed by appearances to a wiser, more responsible adult.  I don't know if it's just me, but the effectiveness of this arch for me was exemplified in how attractive I found him.  In the first several episodes, I thought he was good looking of course but not all that.  By episode 9 or 10 however, I was in full on crush mode and thought that he may be the hottest, most adorable actor of all time :0).  He is extremely expressive and in particular his slow smile is a knock out.  One of my favorite moments with him is when he is teasing Eun Chan on the phone by testing her affections for him.  He finally drives her to a point where she suddenly shouts out that she loves him.  His reaction is hilarious.
But he then recovers himself and yells back at her that the love she feels for him can't possible measure up to how he loves her and then hangs up immediately followed by one of those slow adorable smiles.
Any negatives?  Besides the subtitling awfulness there are a couple of missteps.  One involves the relationship between Han Sung and Eun Chan which to me mostly had a big brother-little sister vibe.  The last 2-3 episodes are a little slower and less exciting like they are dragging things out a bit more than was really warranted by the material but it's not awful


Hopefully this adequately conveys how much I really loved my first experience with K Dramas.  It was insanely addictive in a "It's one in the morning but I have to watch just one more episode" sort of way.  I had to get all strict with myself and spread it out over a few weekends or else I wouldn't have done anything else.  The show had many familiar fairy tale elements but it did manage to surprise me a few times and pulled off a number of extremely emotional moments as well as making me believe whole-heartedly in the rightness of Eun Chan and Han Kyul despite their many differences. 

I will definitely be watching some more K Dramas in the future and will likely watch Coffee Prince again some time.  Thanks Elizabeth!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden - Gambling with Seeds and Books


Last weekend was super productive, garden-planning wise. First of all, I got most of the way done with cleaning my upstairs rooms and most importantly turning my guest room into seed starting central.



I still have a bunch of paper to sort through and file etc... but the important stuff is done.

I also sketched out my planting plan and made a seed buying list.  The last couple of years I have been cutting back on the variety of things I plant trying to get bigger harvests out of my small space.  This year I say Screw it!  I like trying new things.  I may only end up harvesting 3 peas but I'm sure they'll be delicious and fun to grow.  They'll also be expensive and I'll be lucky to recoup the cost in veggies but that's what hobbies are for.  Eating cash.

John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds
This is a slightly more expensive seed company but it also has some unique and gourmet seeds in particular my favorite green (bunching) onion variety - Fukagawa.

Fukagawa Onions
Asian Mesclun Mix Collection
Blue Flax Linum
Hero French Crested Marigold Mix
Brown Mustard

Seed Savers
This is my absolute, no contest favorite place to buy seeds.  It's a non-profit that sells only heirloom varieties and is dedicated to preserving seed diversity.  And they are based in Iowa! I'm glad there is one bright spot in the otherwise Industrial Ag nightmare found in most of the state.

Dragon Carrots
Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale
Seed Saver's Lettuce mix
Healthy Peppers
Sheepnose Pimento Peppers
Early Scarlet Globe Radish
Five-color Silver Beet Chard
Beam's Pear Tomatoes
Empress Green Beans
Golden Zucchini
Butterfly Milkweed
Calendula Mixture
Sensitive Plant
Globe Basil
St. John's Wort

Johnny's Selected Seed
This is a catalog with a large selection as well as offering good gardening supplies.  It's the source of a particular variety of heavy producing plum tomato that worked great last year.

Juliet Tomatoes

Burpee Seed
One of the best known seed companies that has a number of hybrid varieties you can't get anywhere else.

Super Sugar Snap Peas
Easy Peasy (good for containers)
Bush Champion Cucumbers (good for containers)


After an awesome 3 day weekend, the short work week was hectic, scatter shot and frustrating.   One of those weeks where you run around crazy busy all day but feel like you accomplished nothing.  I'm glad it's the weekend.  The End.

P.S. I did make up an interesting homemade pizza - roasted beets, goat cheese, spinach and onions.  I thought it was pretty tasty but then again I'm obssessed with beets- does it sound appealing to you?


First, I won a book! Bibliosanctum hosted the giveaway and I was super excited to win - I never win anything! I'm also excited because the book looks awesome - it's a new urban fantasy called Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish and it features an adventuring archeologist protagonist and a vampire sniffing (and fighting) cat.  Thanks to Bibliosanctum and Simon and Schuster for the giveaway!

I finished reading a couple of short stories and a couple of full length books this week.  A Tithe of Blood and Ashes by Alyxandra Harvey is a short story in her Drake Chronicles series.  I never get tired of spending time with hippie, feisty vampire-slaying-and-loving Lucy so it made me happy.  I also finally finished the last installment in the second Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel series called The Search.  I also never get tired of spending time with Aang, Zuko and the gang so it also made me happy.  I'm starting to wonder if I didn't pick them up to balance out the two books I was reading which were not making me quite as happy.  Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips was a contemporary romance I was reading for the Eclectic Reader Challenge and it was okay but contemporary romance isn't my thing.  I like my romance with a LARGE dose of ye olden times or fantasy. The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber is an ARC that just never got going  - a really interesting premise, lots of potential but I never got that interested.

I started reading three new books, Lirael by Garth Nix which started a little slow and I was worried but I'm now further in and LOVING it perhaps more than Sabriel.  I'm also listening to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See and with every new page getting more and more horrified at women's lives in Imperial China.  It's a great book but holy cow, foot binding is not for the faint of heart.  I started another ARC as well - Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton - a young adult fantasy that I'm on the fence about at 17%.

The PAST WEEK on the Blog:

SUNDAY: Review of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.  This is the first in a new mystery series inspired by the TV show Veronica Mars.  The second in the series was released on Tuesday...
MONDAY: Review of Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.  The second book in the Veronica Mars mystery series.  This series is shaping up to be a really great continuation of the TV show - YAY!
TUESDAY:  Top Ten Tuesday was a freebie topic this week and I did books I wished I had read as a child
WEDNESDAY:  In honor of the release of Mr. Kiss and Tell I reflect on the curious phenomenon of books inspired by TV or movies
THURSDAY: Tough Traveling - Pets!  A meme hosted by Fantasy Review Barn that highlights various tropes in fantasy fiction.

The NEXT WEEK on the Blog:

SUNDAY:  Coffee Prince - A great introduction to K Dramas.
TUESDAY:  Top Ten Tuesday this week is the ten books you'd like to read if you had a book club.
WEDNESDAY:  Review of Legion and Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson.
THURSDAY:  The Tough Traveling Topic for this week is Law Enforcement.  I had one book immediately come to mind, hopefully I can think of a few more.

I may sprinkle in a couple more reviews in the next week but that's the gist.  I hope you all had a great week  - Any great reads or watches?  Anybody else starting to plan their garden?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tough Traveling - Pets

Tough Traveling is a fun meme that aims to tour all the tropes big and small, abhorred and loved that are littered across the fantasy (and science fiction) landscape. It was conceived of and is hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and here's how it's explained on the blog: 

Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week's topic is pets.   I love me some pets - I practically swim in a sea of dog hair over here. In fact while I am trying to write this post, my cat and I had a disagreement about whether I could still type with her in my lap.  The answer was nope.

Anyhoo, regardless of my love for the furry things, I had a hard time with this one.  My memory is bad and I feel like I missed a ton but here goes:

First there are the cats that are more than just cats....

Alanna the Lioness - Source

1) Faithful (Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce)

I have only read the first two books in the Alanna series thus far but it is very clear that Faithful is not an ordinary cat.  Moonlight, Alanna's horse might fit in here too.

2) Mogget (The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix)

I've already mentioned Mogget in a previous Tough Traveling post as a Snarky sidekick.  If the pet can talk does it still count as a pet?  Hmmm....

Then there are a couple of regular cats I can think of....

3) Oncat  (Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo)

This is a tabby cat that latches onto Harshaw one of the Grisha in Alina's band and who somehow sticks with them through all sorts of unpleasantness.  Not terribly cat like.  I only remember this cat because I JUST finished the book.

4) Mister (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher)

This is Harry Dresden's cat.  That's all I have to say about him.  Somewhere down the line Dresden also ends up with a dog named Mouse.  I like their names.  And actually I'm glad Harry has them.  His life's pretty complicated - it's good for him to have a couple of unconditional friends.

And now we get to the good stuff - the dogs....

5) Oberon (The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne)

I have a complicated relationship with this series but I love dopey Oberon.


6) The Stark Wolves (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)

How cool would it be to have your very own Direwolf?!  Really, Really cool. Especially if they were sort of, kind of mystically connected to you.  When the things happen that aren't good it about broke my damn heart.  Why do I root for the Starks?  Because of their damn wolves. 

Speaking of A Song of Ice and Fire how about some other beasties....

7) Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)

So Daenarys hatched some dragons.  They're awfully useful for her to have around because they scare other people to death.  Since I have golden retrievers I don't know what this is like. 

So what are your favorite literary pets?  Head over to the Fantasy Review Barn to see links to other folks lists. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Movies/TV Adapted into Books

Books adapted into movies have been making a big splash of late.  Gone Girl and Wild were two of the movies taken from bestselling books that were huge events this year and in 2015 here's a list of 38 books being made into movies including The Martian by Andy Weir and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Oh and a couple of small books called Fifty Shades of Gray and Insurgent.  There's nothing new about this, movies and TV have always taken inspiration from books.  Lately though I have had  thinking about something a little different - books that have taken their inspiration from movies or TV.

The books are usually a little different case than book adapted movies.  Rather than being a direct interpretation of the material (aka novelisations), they build onto or further enhance the TV show or movie they are based on.  It's essentially like sanctioned or "official" fan fiction.  I don't have enough experience with it to really say this for certain but I feel like it varies as to how much oversight and involvement there is from the TV or Movie creators.  There's some excellent non-sanctioned fan fiction out there but I do think that the involvement of the original creators make these stories closer to canon and that's comforting to me especially when they are continuations of a show that's no longer with us. 

SHOWS/MOVIES that have been adapted into or continued with books that I have read:

 1) Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars was a supremely awesome but short-lived show that ran from 2004 to 2007.  If you don't believe me about the awesome believe Joss Whedon:
"Best. Show. Ever. Seriously, I've never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn't making, and maybe even more than those [...] These guys know what they're doing on a level that intimidates me. It's the Harry Potter of shows."  Joss Whedon
That's right.  He compared it to Harry Potter.  It's had a resurgence recently when it raised over $2 million dollars on Kickstarter in 10 hours to fund a movie which came out in the spring of 2014 and quickly following there have been two original mystery novels written by Rob Thomas (the show's creator) and Jennifer Graham.   The second book Mr. Kiss and Tell (my review) was released yesterday and both it and the first book The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (my review) are really great continuations of the TV series and movie!

2) Avatar: The Last Airbender

This show has been adapted into Graphic novels some of which are straight adaptations and some of which are continuations of the story.  I have only read the continuations and they've been very satisfying especially since I left the last season of Avatar a little disappointed about a few things.  The comics are written by award winning writer Gene Luen Yang in partnership with the TV series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko.  The artwork is pretty seamless with the shows animation.  The three stories in the series thus far are The Promise, The Search and The Rift.

3) Firefly
This very short-lived show by Joss Whedon may be my favorite of all time and it has been continued with a series of graphic novels written by the series creator in partnership with a few others.  I've read the first in the series, Those Left Behind, which is all that my library has but I am dying to get my hands on Book 3 The Shepherd's Tale which promises to elucidate one of the biggest mysteries that was left hanging by the show and movie - Who was Shepherd Book before he joined the Serenity crew?

4) Doctor Who

Who wouldn't want more Who?  Especially to revisit the Doctors and companions who are no longer with us, sniff, sniff.  I've read one or two of the books in the Doctor Who series and they were pretty good though they haven't really stuck with me in any meaningful way like some of the show episodes have.  I would definitely like to read more when I'm in the mood for some of Number 10's silliness and to hang with Rose again.

MOVIES/SHOWS that have book series which I have not read:

5) Star Wars

There are a HUGE number of books that have been written in this universe and by some pretty great authors too.  I recently noticed a new Star Wars series called the Empire and Rebellion Series that has some very interesting authors - James S.A. Corey and Kevin Hearne and it's made me sit up and take notice.  This series of books is so huge though it seems overwhelming and I'm not clear on how involved George Lucas is with any of these.

6) Star Trek

I know nothing about these but would be willing to give them a try. Maybe.  Here's a link to the complete list and it also looks vast and overwhelming.  The good thing is there are books based on all the different series so you can indulge in whatever your poison is.  I haven't heard a lot about the quality of any of these.  

 7. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Back to my dearly beloved Joss.  BtVS was also continued with a Graphic Novel series and I would very much like to dip into these.  First I want to do a complete rewatch of the series and then dive into the graphic novels. 

8. Angel

Again with Joss Whedon. Thank god he can't seem to say goodbye to his awesome characters.  Angel the show's ending was pretty perfect but also VERY up in the air.  It would be nice to see where things went if we'd gotten another season.  And before I go listing every Joss Whedon show ever made, there are also Dollhouse graphic novels.  

So I know I have just scratched the surface here and that this list is highly biased towards shows that I love.

Now I'd like to hear from you! I have many questions.  Are you addicted to any particular series of books based on live action entertainment? Any that you've heard are particularly good and would like to try? Any shows or movies that you wish would be continued in book form?  How do you think these creations compare with "unofficial" fan fiction?