Sunday, December 6, 2015

Book Haul #11

Previously known as Showcase Sunday, this is my (ir)regular post showing off my new books!

It hasn't been so long and BOY have I got a haul for you!

I've been discussing a lot of personal philosophy with my caduceus set and was recommended this:


Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
A great collection of essays the ceasar wrote to himself. They can be a bit dense, and repetitive (one really gets the sense that M.A. was struggling with certain things) but are overall fabulous, thought-provoking and inspiring.
Take them with a grain of salt as they do contain a strong aversion to sex and females.

My set also decided to do an impromptu book club:



The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I will admit I'm still only three chapters in. Not because it's boring! I am a little confused about the nature of these ravens though...



You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
A must have.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I didn't know what this book was about for a long time. I remember when it came out, then the buzz for the movie, but only recently, when it was recommended on Powell's did I get what it was actually about.
A Game of Thrones by G. R. R. Martin
I'm watching the first season (s l o w l y) but want to have it on hand when I finish ep 10.



The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Art of Songwriting
I have a character who wants to be a songwriter. 9/10 not bad so far.
Edge of the Empire
Nerd, here.



Star Trek Novels...
Just filling out my collection.



アンドロイドは電気羊の夢を見るか? [Andoroido wa denkihitsuji no yume o miruka?]
I'm honestly a big fan of the fact that Japanese books have dust covers for the dustcovers, and books aren't very expensive over there...



Lonely Planet Korean Phrasebook and Dictionary
Recommended!
6000 Korean Essential Vocabulary
Essential!
Become a Hangeul Master
MASTERFUL!
A Writing Guide for Lerners of German
Accidental acquisition: jury is still out.
English Grammar for Students of German
Does what it says on the cover. Less exciting than my Korean books.



Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
There's a popular concept that you are become a master by doing something for 10,000 hours. That concept became well known here.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Recommended to me by my 11th grade Physics teacher. About getting into the flow of things.
Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
You can do anything, all you need is to get into the right mindset.
A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
To expand upon and accompany her course: Learning How to Learn.
Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner
POSSIBLY THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER PURCHASED???!!??!?!

That's enough for now... Christmas is coming.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: The Biggest Scoop - Gillian St. Kevern

From Goodreads
"I call bull."

"Logan," Mr. Perry said mildly. "This is English class. If you call bull, you have to provide at least three citations--"

Actually, this isn't a review. Not really. Because this is the story that Gillian wrote for me for the M/M Romance Group's 2015 Don't Read in the Closet event. So, spoilers, I really like it.

Taylor is the new kid and Milo is going to write the biggest scoop on him. Hijinks ensue. Sorry, that's all your getting. It's free! Go read it! (While this story is appropriate for readers of all ages, other things at this link may not be safe for work or underage readers.)

I really like sweet romance stories. I don't think you have to get naked to get a story taut with tension, and while I left room in my request for a college age romance (and thus old enough) Gillian went the way I was hoping, with a high school romance. There was a hint of mystery I wasn't expecting, and just a glimmer of dangerous intrigue. A few readers (as you'll see in the reviews) were not happy with the amount of High School politics and just how young the main characters were, but I quite enjoyed it.

Gillian as well is a native of New Zealand. There is one word that should have been caught by an American, but the only other contention I have with the story is purely from living so close to the town she has set her story in. Tarrytown! Haha, oh man, I just loved that. More stories should be set in the Hudson Valley.

The dialogue is snappy, the characters crackle, especially with one another, the teachers and adults are fully-realized! Almost everyone is more than they seem and the end is a satisfying happy end for our heroes and heroines. I highly recommend this if you are looking for a lightly sweet story to make you smile and laugh a lot.

196pp. MMRomanceGroup.com. 17 Sept. 2015. 

Review: Kiss Him, Not Me! #1 - Junko

From Amazon
"This reality is unbelievable!"

Sweet otaku Serinuma Kae is just your average fangirl who is also overweight. She's really nice, pretty smart and, of course, has a very active fantasy life as a fujoshi. While daydreaming about her classmates Igarashi and Nanashima with her friend Ah, one of the boys falls on top of her, letting us see her interactions with them as well as the other two boys in this story, Mutsumi, an older student and fellow History club member and Shinomiyo, a younger and very cold student.

From tumblr (unknown)
After the latest episode of her favorite anime airs, her favorite character (who happens to look a lot like Nanashima) dies in a sword fight (I think???) and she falls into a depression so deep she doesn't eat for a week, arising on the eighth day looking like a model. Of course, the boys fall over themselves to date her (except Mutsumi who is cool, knew it was her immediately and maybe just wants to study???).

"Can she do it? A real life Otome game"

Hijinks ensue.

Kae is typical to many manga leads, except she isn't exactly pining to go out with any of the boys who want to go out with her. As the title suggests, she'd rather they dated each other. Of course, when flirted with, she blushes and when showered with attention, her heart races, but I know plenty who still act that way*.

From tumblr
Of course, an unreal fantasy wouldn't be complete without our heroine being fully accepted for her socially stigmatized ways. Is it impossible, no, especially considering the treatment these boys gave her before her transformation.

"Can she get along with the ball?"

I'm actually looking forward to seeing the friendship of these five develop (and forgive my fujoshi heart, but I'm really hoping that a relationship between two of the boys actually does develop) as the series goes on. I've already pre-ordered the next two books.

I'm already kind of rooting for Mutsumi because he recognized her kindness, knows her more than the others, as they are in history club together. I've never been one for the whole senpai-madness, but I, as perhaps is typical, enjoy the idea of an older student with a younger student. He helps her study, is mature and sweet... The realist in me really can't tell yet who she will end up with (and with five volumes already out, maybe Junko doesn't know yet?) but am getting vibes from Igarashi as a potential front-runner. Though in this chapter (the sports chapter) we see growth in one character, perhaps as the series goes on, we will see the more positive things about each character. Though I wonder if I can get any more positive about Mutsumi!

From tumblr
"The strange room and the four high-school boys"

My biggest qualm was that the characters of Kae's mother and brother were so two-dimensional (her mother, literally) only really reacting to a specific aspect of Kae, her physical beauty, previously her being overweight. Her brother is so fashionable, he's either just a caricature I don't completely grasp, or he's destined to confuse Kae's fantasies by being the object of desire for one of her admirers... I honestly have no idea where this will go.

Though sometimes questionable, I find this first volume very enjoyable. I definitely laughed out loud a couple of times. I went ahead and preordered the series.

*Me, I mean me.

160pp. Kodansha Comics. 13 Oct. 2015.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Showcase Sunday #10

Showcase Sunday is a feature on Vicki's blog, Books, Biscuits and Tea, which shows off the books which one has acquired in the past week, from any and all sources. Whether purchased online as an ebook or in hardback from a brick and mortar store, received for review or as a gift, it's just another way to make all your blogging acquaintances jelly.

I've gotten quite a few books over the last couple months, but had a temporary job in the meantime. These are the books I bought while on that job.

I apologize in advance for surprisingly blurry photos. I wanted to shoot them in my room, but it's such a mess in here, and part of the problem is all the books lying around.

A Question of Honor by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud
A history of the most revered, decorated and successful fighter pilots of the Battle for Britain. Snubbed by the Allies and often forgotten by historians. The fighter pilots who came to England after the blitz of 1939 are an inspiring group.
Heart of Europe by Norman Davies
The first edition was billed as a 'short history of Poland' which I ordered from the library without checking the page count. It was about 500 pages long. It was updated in 2001 and is titled 'The Past in Poland's Present'.
A Nervous Splendor by Frederic Morton
The year of this history, Vienna 1888-1889, is the year that Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress died. It follows Klimt and Freud through the cobbled streets...

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynnes Jones and Ursula Jones
The last book by DWJ, posthumously completed by her sister.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
An impulse purchase. Not the best writing I've written, but the wonderful cover plus and intriguing concept makes for a curious reader.
Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones
Before she passed away in 2011, she selected pieces, essays, articles, interviews and speeches from her life to be published. Neil Gaiman writes the forward.
After a bit of a crisis I decided to splurge on it. I've wanted it for a while now.

Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch
After hearing his TED talk, I knew I had to have this book.
Farewell Fables: Issue #150
It's a whopper. How else would you say goodbye to 10 years of a great series?

BONUS!
There's a new game store in town so I thought I'd give them a little business... 
and also I wanted this game.

Anything pique your interest?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Morning Reader Edition #6

I got up early to write this morning and am reminded that it really is the best time of day. Quiet, cool, easy on the eyes...

I sometimes wonder if I'm the only one who finds the escapades of the rhubarb on Goodreads amusing.

After so many months of being good about not buying books, I spent 100+ dollars and will be sharing those with you soon.

I'm going to fix up my writing blog, exmatria.blogspot.com, in the advent of my first published story. It's under a pseudonym though, so...

My favorite throw-away notebooks are MUJI A5 6mm Rule 30 sheets. My Bullet Journal is stereotypically in a Leuchtturm1917 A5 Squared. My idea notebook for going on 3 years has been an Ann Taylor LOFT leather notebook gifted to me in 2012.

Always shop at smile.amazon.com and make sure to select your local library as the beneficiary.

Have a nice day~

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Morning Reader Edition #5

It's been a long time. There will have to be some changes.
  • Firstly, this blog isn't much for an audience anyway (hello future readers) so I'm going to officially make note that this blog is for me, a way to track the books I've read, what I thought of them, what happened, and whether or not they are worth giving as gifts to various persons.
  • As such, not that I ever said I would, I'm saying that if you really want to read my posts subscribe, I'm not going to hold to a schedule. I may not post for months, but I may post a couple times in a week, or even a day.
  • Since I just posted two comic book reviews, you can see that I'm widening the field a little. I mean, I already did audiobooks.
  • There will be spoilers on this blog, but I will try to contain them to certain sections of each post, or at least to the post. I won't spoil Book 2 in a review of Book 1 for example.
  • I have a lot of catching up to do. 
    • The Nightrunner Series, which I love!
    • Many Teen Titans and Young Avengers comics.
    • Some history books. I started a couple and now...
  • Doesn't sound like a lot, but I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of things.
  • I also got some books which I have shared on the instagram (follow me @auroralector) but not here.
Toodles!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Superman #1: What Price Tomorrow?

Superman (2011) #1: What Price Tomorrow?

I'm only going to mention this once: despite being a popular way to be abstract about the costs of freedom, justice, honor, "tomorrow", I'm not fond of how the title rolls off the tongue. Moving on...

There's some kind of alien sending a signal out into space, and then an alien shows up at the Aerodrome? That's not a coincidence, although you always have to ask what they want there. Unless I'm missing some specific piece of backstory, an Astrodome is a stadium right? Or an aptly named super-planetarium. I know it's a favorite of DC stories to have things happen in stadiums, but I don't see anything immediately advantageous to aliens there.

Maybe they're setting up a bigger thing with that Alien in the Hindu Kush... or Himalayas. Somewhere in that neck of the world anyway.



D.B. Woodside
There's a lot being setting up in this comic series, including a new totally not evil! boss in a media buy-out. Seriously, the amount of time he spends calling himself a good guy makes me seriously doubt his creds. I mean, we just need D. B. Woodside to play him and we'll be golden.

Click to get the context
It almost felt like this was a direct continuation of Action Comics #1 in its reference of the bad guy Superman picked up in those first pages: Glenmorgan. But he's little more than a random reference. (In fact, he isn't even going to be the biggest baddie we'll see in the entire run of Action Comics, being only the tail-end of the before arc of Clark's origin.) As I read elsewhere though, since Superman is much stronger and experienced in this comic, his adversaries here must raise the bar as well, creating a challenge for him, consequently a more interesting story for us to watch. In terms of mystery, that was easily achieved here, we know very little about the motivations and history of any of our baddies.

But also, there's also kinda-not-really a spoiler for Action Comics as well, Lois and Clark still aren't together, but that's a tale as old as time. It's a little jarring to see it in such a modern context, Clark knocks at her door and some attractive presenter looms from the bedroom in a towel. Clark Kent is keeping distance, but you know he's pining because that's what Clark Kent does. When we talk about slow burn and will-they-won't-they? Lois Lane and Clark Kent did it first.*


You know what else Clark Kent does? Get exclusive interviews with Superman. As I mentioned in the review of Action Comics #1, I fell in love with Metropolis and The Daily Planet in Superman: The Animated Series. Once of the greatest moments of that series was when Clark Kent tells Lois Lane he's Superman and that's why he get's all the exclusives. But she doesn't believe him. To see that here, in it's own way, with Clark Kent's article overlaid on Superman's actions as the adventure is happening, was a trip of itself. And maybe this shows me off as the n00b I am, but it was my favorite part of this.

(Well, maybe tied with mopey-Clark in Lois Lane's hallway. Get your act together dude! I know you're gonna be dating the Goddess of War in 3 years, but -- get your act together! We can fix it in an alternate timeline!)

Lois Lane:
     I'm confused, Kent. See, I've lived in Metropolis most of my life and I can't figure out how some yokel from Smallville is suddenly getting every hot story in town.
Clark Kent:
     Well, Lois, the truth is, I'm actually Superman in disguise and I only pretend to be a journalist in order to hear about disasters as they happen, and then squeeze you out of the byline.
Lois Lane:
     You're a sick man, Kent.
Clark Kent:
     You asked.
To see it in all its glory, click no further.

*Not not literally, calm down.
Next time...

Superman #2: Flying Blind


Bonus bad line: is Superman a worse writer than Clark Kent???
(At least it rhymes, I suppose.)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Action Comics #1: Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow

When I was younger we watched DVDs instead of tv. Somehow we got a disk of Superman: The Animated Series, and my brother and I fell in love. That show was funny and awesome. Superman has kind of been my favorite ever since (until we met the X-Men on screen, sorry) but I'd never read any of the comics. There was a digital comics sale and...

Action Comics #1: Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow

DC did a lot of slate-wiping with their New 52 launch. It's been lauded and criticized, but it makes for a good jumping in point, since Superman's comic: Action Comics, has kept its original numbering (and I assume it continuity) since the '30s... that's a lot.

That symbol on stereotypical-creeps tie probably means something. (Are we him Teetotal?)
I'm not going to rehash what I think of the relaunch. I will tell you that there are two superman comics going on, not to mention one about Supergirl, Superboy, the Justice League, a team-up with Batman, a team-up with Wonder Woman, and a trinity with all three. I'm just... it's a lot. What I also understand is that they aren't all happening concurrently (unlike a launch from the 80s?) so if I chose to only stick with one for the time being, it could be a lot worse. In fact, Action Comics takes place a year before Justice League.

Why do I feel that brand of energy drink belongs to you?
So, tonally different according to folks on the internet. Action Comics gives us Clark Kent/Kal-el in the 20s. He's not working for the Daily Prophet apparently (or maybe Lois Lane isn't?) we meet Lex Luthor standing around and smirking, shooting the breeze with a general who is Lois Lane's dad (???). The Superman title is... sometime in the future... I'll read and let you know.

OMG your glasses.
I really liked how he jumped down onto his roof where his laundry was drying, and since his 'costume' consists of jeans, was able to just throw a frumpy sweater on top of his tight super-t. We established his land-lady here, already met the police force that is really willing to shoot at Superman, a dude named Blake, and next meet Lois Lane sorta, through Clark Kent's "best friend for six months" Jimmy Olson.

Superman calls in his latest story (squeezing you out of the by-line, Lois) to Jimmy Olsen. So he's lying to Mrs. N, but anyway, standing next to Jimmy is Lois Lane. So, fine, they don't meet each other yet, she vaguely knows who he is anyway, but she's being her sassy-self and thinks he's trying to ruin a rival paper. Turns out they couldn't drop a good lead and he had to save them by stopping a speeding bullet... train. Hah.

Apparently Lex Luthor thought so too because this was all part of his plan, because if a regular bullet won't stop him...

OMG stop it, Lex!
I don't feel like we know much about Superman yet except he probably doesn't watch any of the tv shows we watch, is okay with wearing those glasses as Clark Kent and is besties with Jimmy. I hate to break it to you, kid, but there's quite a few things you probably don't know...

I liked it, in the end, but I knew I'd like him. He's not really relatable yet, because we know so little about him. This is a warmer superman, but somehow he's as accessible as Lex Luthor who is supposed to fit into the box of 'mystery man'. In contrast, we have a better picture of Lois by what she says about Clark Kent. Her character is much clearer. But maybe that's because we demand a more complete story of why a hero is saving people.

I like the angle of Superman being hunted by the police though. Even if Blake is, so far, lacking anything interesting to distinguish him. But this is only the first issue! Action wise, it really draws you in, here's hoping the story can carry through the next few issues. And the art is really good in some cases, showing how fragile this superman is.
21/36

I don't understand why Superman and several other characters throughout, the general at one point, a wrecking-ball survivor, also have crossed eyes. It must be some kind of error of the inker or the penciller.

So, Lex's plot has succeeded, with the help of other criminals he endangered a crap-load of people (gosh they're desperate aren't they) and caught superman.

Next up...

Action Comics #2: Superman in Chains

He's some bonus, Lois Lane channeling her inner Scarlet Witch. No mutants in this universe, lady!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review: Endless - Amanda Grey

Look at this cover!
Review copy provided by NetGalley.

This book was okay. The worst thing was that I thought things would be as good at the end as they were at the beginning. A case of 'idea sounds better than it was in execution.' A story about a dream-traveling girl with magic hands uncovering a secret cult in her home town, except, there was a romance that got in the way, and the villains were not so good. The bad guys were a poor version of Scientology meets Lemony Snicket's VFD. (Doesn't that sound appealing, though?) After the first chapter I was ready to get sucked in, but then once I'd read the thing, I felt like a great many of us felt after Twilight. In case you didn't read that, basically you've read 500 pages of stuff but feel like not that much happened. I don't mean that in an existential way - you just feel empty inside. Despite all the heart-pounding, all the voracious page-flipping, you wonder what happened aside from Bella staring at and thinking about Edward a lot. Here it is again. However, I can tell you the last chapters, while very Scooby-Doo, were jarring. The team gets together, bags the baddie, but it was such a departure from the thoughtful painting that Jenny does, the whirlwind descent into the Romanov family life of the past, and the creepy monks who seem to follow Jenny. It also reminded me a little of the Beautiful Creatures series, only in that the parents aren't all clueless, but the helpful ones are invariably dead. Jenny may save the gentleman in distress, and the end does tie things up enough while leading on for the next book, but it felt a little silly, is all. For that kind of beginning I was hoping for more than just a mystical romance. It's definitely readable, but I don't think I'll pick up the sequel.

"Tolerable, but not interesting enough to tempt me."

384pp. Month9Books. 10 Sept. 2013.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mini-Reviews: First Impressions, Rhythm of Three, Reward of Three

First Impressions by Josephine Myles

Sweet, short, silly in a good way. I like Josephine Myles, but I sometimes feel as though her characters are very detailed, life-like marionettes. In Hot Floor, which I loved, it was like watching an elaborate play, everything staged precisely. That isn’t to say that it was contrived, or that it was unbelievable, just that its not very organic. There are clear goals and the characters, like actors in an improv sketch or a dinner theater mystery, head there with a variety of movement, but the result is always clear. The combination of a tight-shirt-wearing publishing assistant and a dreadlocked artist is not unexpected, if slightly surprising at first, it’s just a little too clean. I know this is a short, but I do like to have things a little more complicated. I suppose that this is a cute little read and I should just avoid them in the future. I’m probably expecting too much of a simple ‘feel good’ read.

That being said, we should not lower our standards of what we are willing to read just because there is dearth of things that we want to read.

22pp. Torquere Press. 29 Jan. 2011.

Rhythm of Three by Kelly Jamieson 

It’s hard to talk about the much anticipated follow up to Rule of Three without drawing too many comparisons with that first book and, inevitably, making this one sound worse than it was. I’m not well-read in this sub-genre, but I loved Rule of Three. And although I’m pretty sure that Kelly was on the right track when she initially didn’t announce a sequel, I was glad she wrote it. Sometimes an author’s (or editor, or publishers) gut reaction to advance praise is to announce a series, and that isn’t always good. Sometimes the end is as far as it should go, even when we think we want more. (My brother and I both want a sequel to Will in Scarlet, dammit!) All in all, this book was many things I don’t like, and will only be for fans of the first novel, definitely for others picking up random romances to read. I don’t recommend this as a quickie, despite it’s length. For fans, I think if you wanted a little more, definitely read Rhythm of Three.

137pp. Samhain. 29 Oct. 2013.

Reward of Three by Kelly Jamieson

I went into this with only what the blurb told me, because, I read the other two, of course I'm going to finish this trilogy. Oh man! Angst and emotional people everywhere! But, like, in a good way. As I said with Rhythm of Three, which deals with buying a house, coming out to parents, and just... settling in, it's a continuation of Rule of Three. If you loved the first one, read these (and dare I say, the third one more so than the second one?) but if you were lukewarm and don't need 'marital' bliss than you can pass on these.

That being said, I'm a fan of angst and if you are, too, this is so worth it. The tension balances really well with the resolution. Kelly Jamieson is a star.

135pp. Samhain. 8 July 2014.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Showcase Sunday #9

Showcase Sunday is a feature on Vicki's blog, Books, Biscuits and Tea, which shows off the books which one has acquired in the past week, from any and all sources. Whether purchased online as an ebook or in hardback from a brick and mortar store, received for review or as a gift, it's just another way to make all your blogging acquaintances jelly.

It's been a while! (Over a year in fact, yeesh) Of course I continued to buy books (far too many, not enough, whatever) but I'll limit myself to December's and January's acquisitions.

A photo posted by Josephine (@auroralector) on


First of all, or latest, is the impulsive purchase of the first three books in the Nightrunner series. It's been in my sights for a while, so when I couldn't find it in my library's catalog, I felt justified in getting it from Powell's. They're kind of old school (90s) fantasy adventure, those thick mass market paperbacks I used to drool over at every yard sale I passed as a kid. The draw to this series specifically is that the main characters are more than just partners in crime.


Next, I got involved in LibraryThing's Secret Santa (finally!) called SantaThing. I went all out and paid 50 dollars into the system and asked for history about Northern Europe, powerful women, and maybe an epic space opera for when I get around to finishing Herbert's Dune series. I got these:

Women in Old Norse Society by Jenny Jochens
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia by Christopher Clark
(That last one is the one I'm most excited about. It's huge! Covers over 300 years!)

And for good measure, I enrolled my brother in this as well, because I certainly don't know what books to get him. I said he liked most of the classics he had to read for school and that he liked another book I got him last year, Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody. (In fact, I think it's currently making the rounds among his friends.) I didn't say he was 16, but they somehow managed to surmise he likes video games. That all his books feature male protagonists is a given, even though he doesn't strike me as that picky, many young male readers (and older too--sigh) seem to need that. He got:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Steelheart by Brandon Anderson
The Martian by Andy Weir
(I hear that a book I previously gave him, American Gods by Neil Gaiman was also considered.) He decided to read The Martian for his independent reading project in school and his friends are vying to steal it from him. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

Ah! I've neglected my dear friend's Birthday present:
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
She posits that I absolutely must read it, so she's made sure I have a copy so I can. Fair is fair, I gave her a copy of a book I think she absolutely has to read for Christmas. (A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass)

What do you think, have you read any of these?

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