Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cold Days (The Dresden Files #14), by Jim Butcher

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date Published: November 2012
Publisher: Penguin
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 515 pages/18 hours 50 minutes

Goodreads | Audible



After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…

His soul.

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being better on the re-read

My Thoughts:

First, I should mention that the only two things I remembered from the last time I read this was that Harry Dresden meets Santa Claus in the beginning, and that the final fight resulted in a bit of a surprise.

With that being said, I think I enjoyed this book more the second time around. I laughed louder, I paid attention more, and I found some of my questions getting answered. Granted, I now have new questions, but something tells me that I'll learn more in Skin Game.

I can't talk about this book without talking about the series as a whole. This ongoing series has a lot going for it. It's got comedy, action, mystery, fantasy....it's reasonably well-written (no one can top Tolkien, but still) and you end up feeling for the characters and hoping that none of them will die.

Seriously, if you like urban fantasy, get started on this series!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Monday! My Weekly Recap Of The Lawn Mower Nightmare

Happy Monday folks!

It's been a busy week for sure.  I spent days raking the back yard and clearing out 2 years worth of debris.  I still have to work on the front yard and the flower beds, but at least the back yard is done!

We've also had a nightmare of a time with new lawn mowers. . . . .

The Story Of The Lawn Mower Nightmare

So we needed a lawn mower last Sunday.  My dad was around and he offered to help Dave pick out a good lawn mower.  They went to Lowe's and found a nice Troy Bilt with a Honda engine.  Sounds good right?  Everyone says a Honda engine is a great engine.  Cool.

My dad and Dave follow the instructions and assembled the lawn mower.  They put in gas and oil and my dad pulled the starter cord.  After an initial burp of power, the engine stalls.  Dad pulls the cord again. . . .Nothing.  And again. . . . Nothing.

After half an hour of trying to start it, my dad called it quits and said he might have flooded it.  So we store it overnight and planned on trying again in the morning.

The next morning, zip. Nada.  The lawn mower stubbornly refuses to start.  After calling the service people, the recommended option was to go exchange it.  So we go back to Lowe's and exchanged for the exact same model.  We bring it home, we assemble it, we gas it up, and Dave pulls the start cord.

It starts up! We are joyous!  Dave makes a pass through the back yard.....but wait, it doesn't sound right.  It keeps on sounding like the engine is revving.  We stop it and smoke comes billowing out of the engine.  Ooookaaaay.  After backing away and waiting to see if the engine was going to burst into flames, we decide we're not going to die and we try to start it again.  Nothing.  Tried again.  Still nothing.  Dave and I sigh deeply and let the mower sit overnight.

The next morning lawn mower #2 still won't start, so we go back to Lowe's to either exchange it or get someone else to start it.  Friendly Lowe's employee checks it out.  He says we overfilled it with oil.  Huh. Weird.  He tries starting it.  It won't start for him either.  He says there's something wrong with the carburetor.  Ah. We see.  So we exchange for yet another Troy Bilt with a Honda engine.  Friendly Lowe's employee tries starting what will be lawn mower #3.  It starts!  Yay!  We go home with the new lawn mower and some cash back from Lowe's because we had so much trouble.  What friendly people!

The next day, we re-assemble our third lawn mower (we're getting good at this).  We're careful with applying the oil this time, just in case, and Dave pulls the cord.  Yay!  It's working! We jump for joy like Rocky.  Dave gets to work mowing the lawn.  After a couple of passes, he stops the engine so he can raise the blades a little higher; the grass was getting cut a little too short.  He starts it up again. . . 

Huh.  It's only running at what sounds like half-power.  Dave gets it moving to give it more juice.  5 seconds later it stalls. Gah!  We try again.  It's barely running and then it stalls again.  I'm now holding down the drive bar, while Dave pulls the starter cord with the strength of Thor.  I'm yelling to the sky "Life! Give my creation liiiiffe!". . . . . 

. . . . Lawn mower #3 is dead.  We curse the air and stomp the ground like crazy people.

That was strike 3 for Troy Bilt lawn mowers with their stupid Honda engines, so we bring it back to Lowe's, expecting helpful friendly employees again.  Instead we get a condescending lady at the returns counter who misinterpreted the nice cash-back gesture from the other day and isn't giving us the full refund.  Dave is getting worked up (he rarely gets worked up--he's a clinician), the lady is thinking Dave is an idiot and responds with even more condescension, and I'm just sitting there waiting for the manager to get involved (I figure I'd just let my husband handle it--I'm such a feminist).  

After the manager gets involved and straightens everything out, we go pick out a different lawn mower to be our lawn mower #4, and choose a Husqvarna mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine.  We make the exchange with a considerably friendlier woman and go home with lawn mower #4.

We assemble it, following the instructions to the letter, and Dave pulls the starter cord with trepidation.....

.....And it works! It works beautifully!  It'll even start up again after being turned off!  We cry out in triumph, we dance in celebration, Dave finally gets to mow our overgrown lawn. . . 

. . . . and that is the end of the story of The Lawn Mower Nightmare.

Soooo, it's been a long week and I didn't get much reading done.  However, I'm going to a wedding in California this week, so I'm planning on catching up on my reading on the plane, and at the beach.

Here's the reading list for this week (click on the image for more):

Okay, I'm done writing.  I am ready to go outside and read!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Reviews: Changes (Dresden Files #12) and Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13), by Jim Butcher

Fell behind on my book review posts, so here are the last two:

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date Published: April 2010
Publisher: Roc
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 438 pages/15 hours 48 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover - until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.
Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it - against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...He's fighting to save his child.

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being dramatic and different from the norm.

My Thoughts:
"Changes" is certainly the right title for this book. Literally everything changes for Harry Dresden in this book. Everythikng. From beginning to end, something that was a constant for Harry gets taken away or changed into something else. I won't say more for fear of spoilers, but nothing will ever be the same for subsequent books.
There is a final twist in the end. One last unexpected change that, if you haven't read this series before, will catch you completely by surprise. I'm sure it was an immense shock when this book first came out.

Overall, this story is a whole lot more tragic than the previous novels, but it still made me laugh a number of times. Definitely a good read.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date Published: July 2011
Publisher: Roc
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 481 pages/17 hours 36 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: WARNING! SPOILERS FOR THE PREVIOUS BOOK When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has no body, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends—and his own soul—Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being a fun re-read

My Thoughts:
I liked this story. It's not everyday that the hero is able to come back after dying and help his friends once again. It was nice to see Harry help/witness everyone move on from his death and find closure.
There was a lot of depth in this novel, which was a good continuation of the intensity we saw in Changes.

Of course, the story is still funny at times, surprising at other times, and exciting the rest of the time (as usual). Also of course, this series isn't over! So far, there are two books left and I'm determined to finish!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Happy Tuesday! A Belated Post About My Reading Goals This Week

Happy Tuesday everyone!

I have a perfectly good excuse for not posting yesterday.  Well, excuses really.

First, Dave and I had to finish our tax return, which of course took longer than expected (we hate taxes with fiery passion.)

Second, I went outside to a gorgeous day to tackle lawn-cleaning.

I gotta admit, I was a little intimidated by our lawn and the amount of work that needs to be done.  Before we swooped in and bought it, our house had been completely empty for over a year, and whoever was in charge of ensuring that the yard wasn't overgrown only did a cursory mowing once every few weeks.  So the lawn is bare with overgrown grass, the flower beds are a mess, there's weird plant life trying to take over, and the previous tenants left behind all sorts of junk.  For someone who's been an apartment dweller for the past six years, you can only imagine how overwhelming the whole thing seems.

So I called my mom for help, and she gave me helpful advice on how to get started.  So now I have a step list to follow!

Step 1: Rake the lawn and pick up all the leaves and sticks.

Step 2: Mow the lawn!

Step 3: Clean out the junk behind the shed and create a pile that's going to the landfill.  Make that space the new compost corner

Step 4: Clean out the flower beds and loosen the soil in preparation for planting

Step 5: identify the plant life and remove what I don't want

Step 6: start landscaping and planting (start simple)

Not bad for the beginner home owner, right? (I hope so!)

Now that I have a plan, I'm enthusiastically taking action.  But I'm now discovering that Step 1....is going to take forever!  I kid you not, I spent 3 hours on only one section of lawn and removed so much debris, and there's still a lot left to clean.  Raking our lawn is like combing through hair with excessive dandruff; no one has worked on this yard for so long that there are patches of leaves stuck deep in the grass.  It's going to take me all week to thoroughly clean the lawn, and I'm going to have a huge pile of compost afterwards.

I'm enjoying the task, though.  It's rewarding to see progress in all the hard work you're doing, and I can see our yard look gradually cleaner and neater.  I think I'm going to enjoy the whole landscaping process.

Plus, it's giving me a chance to go hardcore on listening to audiobooks! Thanks to the yard work, I finished a couple of books within a matter of days, and now I'm all caught up with my reading goal!  Yay!

So here's the reading plan for this week.  I'm planning on finish two audiobooks and one hard-copy book.

The two audiobooks are:

And the hard-copy book will be one of these:

Okay, enough talk.  I'm going to put on some sunscreen and a hat, and I'm going outside to rake some more!  Have a beautiful day everyone!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11), by Jim Butcher

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date Published: April 2009
Publisher: Roc
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 420 pages/14 hours 40 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: When it comes to the magical ruling body known as the White Council, Harry keeps his nose clean and his head down. For years, the Council has held a death mark over Harry's head. He's still thought of as a black sheep by some and as a sacrificial lamb by others. But none regard him with more suspicion and disdain than Morgan, a veteran Warden with a grudge against anyone who bends the rules.

Like Harry.

So when Morgan turns up asking for help, Harry isn't exactly eager to leap into action. Morgan has been accused of treason against the White Council, and there's only one final punishment for that crime. He's on the run, he wants his name cleared, and he needs someone with a knack for backing the underdog.

Like Harry.

Now Harry must uncover a traitor within the Council, keep a less than agreeable Morgan under wraps, and avoid coming under scrutiny himself. And a single mistake may cost someone his head.

Like Harry...

My Rating:
 ★★★★ 1/2
.....For being an excellent continuation of the series

Book Review: The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen

Genre: Fiction/Magical Realism
Date Published: 2011
Publisher: Bantum Books
# Of Pages 273 pages


Synopsis: It's the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam--built by Willa's great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water North Carolina--has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate--socialite Paxton Osgood--has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight in. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property's lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery. Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families--and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.

My Rating:
 ★★★ 1/2
.....For being sweet, simple, and short

Monday, April 3, 2017

Happy Monday and Happy April! My Reading Plans For This Month

Hey it's Monday everyone!

I have to admit, I'm feeling rather exhausted.  I went to bed at a reasonable hour, woke up late, and I'm still feeling wiped out.  Ugh.

On the other hand, I'm feeling optimistic about this month.  I'll be going to California for a week towards the end of April for a friend's wedding and I'm finally feeling financially secure (I used to have quite a bit of credit card debt, but that has finally been wittled down to almost nothing, and I have money set aside.  Yay!)

I also did something pretty cool yesterday morning: I walked my cat.  Yup, that's right, I put a harness and leash on Miesha and took her outside (she's an indoor cat).  It was surprising how much fun it was.  Miesha didn't seem to mind the harness at all, and she had a blast exploring our porch.  She was too timid to try exploring the yard, but she still enjoyed the walk.  I'm going to have to update her vaccine shots and flea/tick prevention, and I need to maybe buy a longer leash, but I can see this becoming a regular thing!

Anyway, I found myself reading a bunch this month, and I have great plans for this month.  I am on a reading roll!

Here's what I read this past month:

Whoohoo!  11 books!

So, this month my goal is to focus on book club reads.  I've been so busy the past several months that I had to give up my book clubs for a while (*cue sad violin music*).  But now, I'm settling comfortably into my new home so I have more time to sit down and read (*cue Rocky theme music*).

So here are my book club reads (click on the image to view their Goodreads page):

The first two are for online book clubs, the second two are for F2F book clubs.

Of course I have other books I plan to read so here they are (click on the image to find out more):

So, that's another 11 books this month.  That's about 3 books a week.  I better get busy!  Wish me luck!  I'm going to go walk my cat now.