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Vader's Little Princess

Vader's Little Princess - Jeffrey Brown Another adorable entry in the series

The Giver

The Giver  - Lois Lowry I loved it up until the WTF ending.

The Unwritten Volume 2: Inside Man

The Unwritten Volume 2: Inside Man - Peter Gross, Mike Carey This second volume improves vastly on the first, enough to keep me reading. Things are still mysterious but we start getting a better sense of what's going on, and also some interesting new characters.

Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited

Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited - Aldous Huxley, Christopher Hitchens Skipped the essay collection because I honestly was not that interested.

The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity - Yuko Shimizu, Peter Gross, Mike Carey, Bill Willingham Interesting enough that I'd keep reading to see where it goes. The best part for me was the extra chapter about Kipling, Wilde & Clemens though.

The Silver Metal Lover

The Silver Metal Lover - Tanith Lee This is one of those books that I read and enjoy as an adult but wish I had discovered as a teen. This would have had a tremendous impact on my teenaged self.

Almost as much as a romance, this is a story about Jane crafting an identity for herself. As a heroine, Jane is almost ridiculously passive in the beginning of the story. Her mother is overbearing and domineering. "She has a lot of opinions, which is restful, as that way I don't have to have many of my own." Her friends are all implied to be much stronger personalities than Jane, even the oft-mentioned but never-seen Chloe and Davideed. She is content to go with the flow, happy to let others take the lead.

That's what makes her sudden actions in the middle of the book so powerful, first going to the EM headquarters, and then selling her possessions to try and buy Silver back from Egyptia and Clovis. And oh, Clovis. First I hated him, but I grew to love him too, by the end of the book.

I almost cried reading the last chapter at work. Beautiful, not only what happens with the ouija board, but just... Jane has grown so much as a character from the beginning. She has a backbone now. I'm almost sad that we don't get to see what Demeta makes of the new Jane. Jain.

Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food

Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food - Susan Albers, Lilian Cheung Not just another diet book; more like the anti-diet book. In fact, this book would not approve of depriving yourself of the foods you love, because that can lead to binge-eating when your body and brain feel like they're not getting what they want. Instead, this book encourages you to listen to your body's cues. Enjoy your treats in smaller portions, using all five senses. Instead of cramming food into your mouth in a trance, stop to think about how it feels in your fingers, how it looks on the plate, how it smells, the sound your fork makes when you pierce it, and stop to savor the taste. That's what mindful eating is described as: existing in the moment when you are eating and being aware of your food.

This book has its roots in Buddhist teachings, mostly in the methods of observing your own reactions and thinking about yourself and how you are feeling. Dr. Albers first describes what mindfulness is, and outlines four pillars of mindfulness: mind, body, feelings, and thoughts. She then moves on to tips and exercises to help you to treat food in a more mindful manner. The tip chapters are small (bite-size, if you'll pardon a bad pun) and usually include some inspirational quotes, plausible real-life examples of behaviors she is discussing, plus one or two exercises. Exercises run the gamut from internalized mental activities to keeping a physical or digital food journal. At the end of the book are collections of tips and inspirational quotes. I felt like the book was skewed a little toward a female audience -- most of the examples involved women, and the tremendous body image issues that many women face are addressed -- but I could also see men finding some useful things here.

I found this book really eye-opening. It made me stop and think about how much and why I eat. I have a tendency to eat while doing other things and not focus on my meals. Or I will sit down in front of my computer with a bag of snacks intending to eat a handful while I play a game, then the next thing I know I will look down and find the bag empty. I often eat when I am bored, or just to have something to do. I never really had a name for my behavior before, but I am what would be categorized as a 'mindless overeater'. Just the act of naming the behavior has made me much more conscious of when I am doing it. I definitely think the techniques in the book to encourage more mindful behaviors are something I can put into everyday practice.

How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire

How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire - Kerrelyn Sparks So bad it's hard to stop reading just to see where the train wreck will take you. The plot was ridiculous, the hero overly angsty, and the heroine was dumb as a stack of bricks. It gets one extra star because I liked some of the side characters, but not enough to read on in the series for their individual books.

Darth Vader and Son

Darth Vader and Son - Jeffrey Brown This was absolutely adorable.

Kekkaishi, Vol. 35

Kekkaishi, Vol. 35 - Yellow Tanabe Last volume. :-(

Cold Days

Cold Days - Jim Butcher Oh. Em. Gee.

(More soon.)

Girl of Nightmares

Girl of Nightmares - Kendare Blake What's really frustrating to me is that I think this author and even this story had so much potential. In this book, like in [b:Anna Dressed in Blood|9378297|Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)|Kendare Blake|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317793801s/9378297.jpg|14261925], Blake has a few moments of shining prose and some truly creepy scenes, such as the entire bit with Aunt Riika, and the Suicide Forest scene which was particularly creepy. But all in all, both books read to me like some kind of AU lovechild of Buffy and Supernatural. If this series had just been Cas and friends cruising around hunting ghosts while trying to find his dad's killer, I think that would have been much more enjoyable and I might have been more forgiving of the fanfic feel. (As I mentioned in my review for book 1, the cover blurbs from Cassandra Clare should have been a dead giveaway.) But the plot elements that Blake introduces aren't nearly as fun, and the book bogs down whenever we get away from the ghost-hunting action.

Girl of Nightmares picks up a few months after the end of the first novel to continue the adventures of Theseus Cassio in the land of unusual names (seriously, the randomness of names in this book make me chuckle), but there's honestly not much new here. Similar to book one, the first half of book two is also pretty slow, and consists mainly of Cas whining about how he needs to rescue Anna, and everyone around him telling him no.

The second half of the book gets a bit better. We learn a little bit more about the history of the athame that Cas uses, as well as Giles -er- Gideon and his occult past. A new character, Jestine, shows up in the second half who is basically a more fun female Cas, who introduces herself by jumping him and Thomas and pretty much mopping the floor with him. I kind of liked her.

Most of the book consists of Cas being whiny, selfish, and pretty unlikeable. His friends Thomas and Carmel haven't changed much, and remain the more likeable characters. The latter has some especially fierce moments in the second half of the book that made me cheer despite a predictable subplot in which she decides she's done with the dangerous ghost-hunting gig and breaks up with Thomas kind of brutally, only to show up later on, saying she was wrong and reuniting with him.

I am still not a fan of the romance between Cas and Anna, but I didn't find it as grating this time around, I think because, although it's the driving motivation of Cas in the book, Anna as a character was absent for most of the story. I was pleasantly surprised at the ending, where Anna finally rests in peace and remains dead. She doesn't suddenly come back to life so she could be with Cas, her One Twu Luv, like I was dreading.

All in all, I found this duo fairly forgettable. I will likely wait for trusted reviews before picking up anything else from this author, although I really do hope she grows into her potential.

The Palace Job

The Palace Job - Patrick Weekes (light spoilers, maybe, if you didn't read the book's synopsis)

I first found out about this novel when I heard that Patrick Weekes was publishing a novel through other fandom communities online. If you're a gamer or computer RPG fan, you may already know his name. Weekes was one of the writers on Bioware's Mass Effect sci-fi RPG series, and he was also a very vocal fan advocate during the kerfluffle over the ending of Mass Effect 3. I figured I would have to check the book out sometime just to support an awesome guy.

And then I read the synopsis of the book.

This book, basically, could have been written on commission for me.

At it's heart, The Palace Job is a heist story, with all the tropes that entails: a Robin Hood type hero (well, heroine in this case), planning a heist for great justice from an evil man in power. Our heroine, Loch, is a tough, dark-skinned woman who is thankfully not depicted as any less of a woman for being a warrior. The story includes themes of friendship, family, loyalty, betrayal, revenge, all with clever plot twists, a little bit of romance, and swashbuckling adventure in heaps.

Seriously, you guys. This is almost everything I love in fantasy fiction, and all in one package.

The setting is a fantastic world with elements of both traditional and 'steampunk' fantasy, including magical airships and an unusual magic system which feels more technological than magical. The world-building is subtle and doesn't hit you over the head with long passages of exposition, which I quite liked. You learn about the world by seeing it through the eyes of the characters.

Oh, and the characters! Ocean's Eleven-style, Loch assembles a motley crew to help her on her mission, including a unicorn, a death priestess with a talking war hammer, and a clueless farm boy who is, of course, destined for greatness. I found all the characters very enjoyable with fun quirks, and decently well-developed for a short novel. The writing style, including dialogue, was very modern and colloquial; occasionally I thought some of the dialogue felt a little too modern for the setting, but I figured it was my own fantasy preconceptions and it never really threw me out of the story. Weekes has no trouble balancing all the balls he throws into the air, and I never once felt lost amid the large cast of characters and intricate plotting.

The tone of the book is often humorous, but the book is satirical more than it is silly, and it doesn't make light of the very real dangers to our team of criminals. Weekes not only takes a satirical jab at racism through Loch and her companion Kail, who are both part of a maligned racial minority fighting for equal rights, he also takes a poke at politics, in particular U.S. politics.

The United States' two-party government system has an equivalent in the book's Republic, with the Learned party versus the Skilled party. And those race issues I mentioned are also all tied up in the party politics as well. I particular enjoyed that the people of the Republic are apparently kept up on politics by the use of puppet shows reminiscent of "Punch and Judy" -- in which a gryphon representing one of the parties and a manticore representing the other are kept in check by a 'neutral' dragon moderator, ending with the tag line "it's your Republic". Very clever, tongue-in-cheek, and an amusing commentary on political reporting in the U.S., I thought.

Was it perfect? No. As I said earlier, occasionally the modern dialogue would throw me off, and it is a fairly short novel which means Weekes has to cram a lot of character development and plot twists into 300-some-odd pages. However, I loved it a lot, and I would proudly shove this book into the hands of as many people will listen to me go on about it.

Dark and Stormy Knights

Dark and Stormy Knights - Carrie Vaughn, P.N. Elrod, Shannon K. Butcher, Lilith Saintcrow, Deidre Knight, Vicki Pettersson, Rachel Caine,  Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher Like most of these anthologies: read some, skimmed some, skipped some. Jim Butcher's story was good - nice to get something finally from the POV of occasional Dresden Files villain/ally John Marcone, who is probably one of the most complex and interesting characters in the series. The Carrie Vaughn story was also a standout for me, about a dragonslayer getting ready to retire and training her church-appointed replacement. The setup for Shannon Butcher's story had me interested, but the end fell a little flat for me. I also enjoyed the story by P.N. Elrod about a vampire PI in a noir style tale of gangsters and guns. Most of the rest I had either already red or couldn't really get into.

The Tea Rose

The Tea Rose  - Jennifer Donnelly Review coming later. When my brain recovers.

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron - Patricia A. McKillip, Tanith Lee, Garth Nix, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Ellen Kushner, Diana Peterfreund, Jonathan Strahan, Ellen Klages, Isobelle Carmody, Frances Hardinge, Margo Lanagan, Tim Pratt, M. Rickert, Neil Gaiman, Delia Sherman, Peter S. Beagle, Holly Black, J A collection of short stories about witches and magic. Originally picked this up for the Dresden Files story, the first in the "Bigfoot" trilogy of short stories, but I was surprised to find some other favorite authors in here, so I read most of the stories. Some didn't grab me so I skipped over them. Star rating based on the stories I read.