The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Heya Everyone! I was recently tagged by The Audiobookworm in this fun book tag. Feel free to comment on my book choices or to add your own for each category in the comments. I’m going to tag a few people at the end, but if you want to throw up a post with your answers, leave me your link in the comments so I can swing by.

1. “Tale As Old As Time” – A popular theme, trope or setting you will never get bored of reading.

Theme – Underdog

BrownRedRisingThe Red Rising series by Pierce Brown was excellent. Can’t wait to see more from this author. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a mash up of Roman mythology/military command structure with terraforming of Mars and beyond. Be proud of your scars. You’ve earned them!

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainD-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer – which is just a lot of damn fun! Mostly, the supervillains in this series are just anti-organization. The various super-characters are imaginative and there’s plenty of humor.

Trope – Artificial Intelligence

DircksTheWrongUnitI recently read a whole bunch of AI stuff. The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks was a delight. It had that right mix of humor and serious bits. The AI units are programmed to learn to care for their humans, so the anthropomorphizing of the AI units is realistically built into the story.

PerreaultProgenyRay Jay Perreault has written several stories that feature AI and I have been enjoying making my way through his audiobooks. Progeny is one of my favorite AI stories, though his AIs run the gamut of cold, calculating evil to human-like societal beings.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Serengeti by JB Rockwell was super intense in several ways. The story starts off with a space battle and the AIs are the ships, though they all have human crews. This space battle takes perhaps as much as half the book. Then the second half is the story of this one ship trying to limp home. The humans have to go into stasis, so that just leaves the ship’s AI and her little AI minion bots. The struggle to reach their goal, to stay sane over the lengthy years, to keep functioning just enough to keep the human crew alive – just an excellent tale.

Setting – Ancient Times

There’s plenty of stuff that happened in ancient times. Most of it is interesting, gritty, and dramatic. Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve read so far and have really enjoyed.

SmithRiseOfZenobiaConn Iggulden’s Emperor series – This series focuses on Julius Caesar, starting with his boyhood years and going all the way through his life to the dramatic, bitter end.

The Rise of Zenobia by JD Smith – set during the Roman empire in the Syrian city of Palmyra. I learned from this book and that always is a plus.

John Maddox Roberts’s SPQR murder mystery series – Set in 1st century ancient Rome during the time of Crassus and Pompey. Who could resist murder mystery and ancient Rome? Not me!

Patrick Bowman’s retelling of The Odyssey for young adults – The Odyssey of the Slave series. In this series, the focus is on a young lad who is taken as a slave when the famous city of Troy falls.

Colossus by Colin Falconer – This is a tale of Alexander the Great. Technically, it’s an alternate history, but if you don’t know much abut Alexander and the arc of his life, you wouldn’t know it. I really enjoyed this tale – elephants!

The Sekhmet Bed by LM Ironside – set in ancient Egypt. Ahmose was raised up to Great Royal Wife status. Political intrigue plays a big role in this story.

RobertsClaimedByTheEnemyRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky – set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first book in a series about David and his rise to power told from a secular point of view.

Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts – despite the title and the cover art, this book is pretty darn good. Set in ancient Mesopotamia during the time of King Sargon, the book focuses on two young individuals who were placed in difficult positions.

2. Belle – A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too

KayUnderHeavenGuy Gavriel Kay never fails to provide a beautiful story and his covers are always so well done. Recently, I read Children of Earth and Sky, and the cover is indeed just as beautiful as the tale inside. If you said I had to pick my favorite GGK novel, I would be hard-pressed to say which it was. His Sarantium duology is about the fall of an empire, so plenty of vast ideas going on there but with excellent pinpoint characters that do a great job of showing the human side. I also loved The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is based on Moorish Spain. There’s plenty of areas of conflict but also plenty of areas for commonality. I could go on and on, but you should just go pick up some GGK for yourself.

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The cover did a great job of capturing the Wild West and Steampunk mix of the story. Karen was also a wonderful character, not being a stereotypical kick ass heroine that are so abundant lately. She does kick ass, she’s just also a real person who happens to be brave when backed into a corner.

3. Beast – A book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you.

AllendeZorroZorro by Isabel Allende was a pleasant surprise. In essence, it was an origin story for Zorro. I loved watching the black & white TV show was a kid so it was pretty cool to read this book and get Allende’s take on how Zorro came to be. There was a lot more depth to this character than I expected, which, in retrospect, was silly of me. Zorro lived during a time of Spanish colonialism in the New World – there were plenty of cultures and conflicts. Allende did a great job of pulling those elements into this tale.

ClinesTheFoldThe Fold by Peter Clines was one of the best SF Thriller novels I have read. It was fun. It was intense. It had SF themes that I could get into. The characters were also interesting, especially the lead guy who has a true eidetic memory. This was both a help and a hindrance to him.

King11226311-22-63 by Stephen King is the first King novel I have read. It won’t be the last. King did a really great job with the characters in this book. I know some folks have labeled him as a horror novelist, and nothing more. However, this book shows that he has a lot more going on. It’s obvious he put quite a bit of research in to the time and location (1963, Texas) of the bulk of the book. While I do expect that as I explore King’s works, this novel won’t be my favorite but it certainly delivered more than I expected.

4. Gaston – A book everyone loves that you don’t.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel – I was on the fence about this one. I liked that it was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that wasn’t full of angst. However, I didn’t really care for the character Arthur Leander, who all the other characters are somehow connected with. He was boring and I wanted to know more about these other characters but the story kept coming back to him.

CoehloAlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – it’s a young man’s adventure quest and it’s been done so many times before. All the ladies are in some subservient role, which is also a standard (unfortunately) in such adventure tales. Most of the men have a Personal Legend to find or to fullfill. Meanwhile, the 3 female characters lack any such ambition.

Grahame-SmithAbrahamLincolnVampireHunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – The most exciting parts of this book were the dream sequences and even those were mean tricks. The reader enters each of the dream sequences as if they are the next part of the story and only at the end of the scene do you realize it’s a dream. I really liked Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and his Unholy Nights was pretty entertaining as well, so I was sad to say that I found this book to be a snoozer.

5. Lefou – A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counter part.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraJean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – This series is full of creative cursing, thievery, camaraderie, magic, death, romance, pirates, evil people getting their due, the good guys getting the crap beaten out of them, and more creative cursing.

PriestBloodshotHeldigAdrian from the Cheshire Red Reports by Cherie Priest – Adrian is still a bit of a mystery, since I have only read the first 2 books in this series (I hope there will be more in the series!). He’s ex-military on a search for his missing kid sister. He’s also a dragqueen, and his parents have disowned him because of this. He makes a great sidekick for Raylene, the vampire thief.

6. Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumier & Cogsworth – A book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable.

For over a year now, I have been going through this medical thing. I’ve basically been on bed rest for a year now and I was finally diagnosed in May with CTEPH – which is basically blood clots that have hardened in my pulmonary arteries, which has caused pulmonary hypertension to a moderately high degree, which will be fatal…. in perhaps 6-10 years, unless I have this big, kinda cool in a SF way, kinda scary in a mortality rate way, surgery. That’s scheduled for early February. So, these books have helped me cope with this lengthy process.

Good cat, good book, what else does one need?

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford – this is a coloring book for adults and it’s the first one I ever bought. It’s remarkably detailed and it’s pretty amazing how coloring really takes me out of my current situation. Also, it’s something I  can do while listening to audiobooks.

CareyKushiel'sDartTerre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey – This series has been awesome and I have been part of a group read along with several wonderful ladies on the blogosphere. I’ve read Book 1, Kushiel’s Dart, so many times but it was quite something to share it with others in this in-depth discussion of the book. We started the read along back in May 2015, and now we’re on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss. We’ll have to finish the last two books after my surgery – so that gives me something to look forward to. If you haven’t checked this series out, then I highly recommend it for alternate history and epic fantasy fans. I know sometimes it gets panned because there is plenty of sex in it, but the amount sex doesn’t outweigh all the awesomeness – the political intrigue, the sword fights, the desperate straights of the heroes, the saving of the realm! Honestly, the sex enhances the characters instead of just being padding to up the page count.

7. “Something There” – A book or a series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end.

JordanPathOfDaggersThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – It took me about 4 books to really get into this series, but I’m very glad I read it as it is a touchstone for epic fantasy fans. The first book really took a lot from Tolkien’s works and I was bit insulted the first and second time I read it. However, I was encouraged by a great group of book bloggers, who were part of this big 2+ years-long read along of the series, to keep going. Also, in an interview, Jordan spoke about how he wanted to model Book 1 on Tolkien’s works to give readers something familiar. Eventually, starting at Book 4, Jordan’s genius really starts to show through. I am very much hoping they do make this series in to a quality TV series or a quality series of movies.

8. “Be Our Guest” – A fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner.

ButcherDeadBeatHarry Dresden & Bob the Skull from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files – This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. The first few can be read in any order, but I think the series is best read in order since the larger story arc starts really building on itself around Book 4 or 5, though there are small things even in Book 1 that are tied into again later in the series. Bob would be a hoot at any dinner party. He doesn’t get much socializing, so he lacks all those hindrances that make most dinner conversations so dull.

HearneShatteredAtticus & Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles – this is yet another favorite urban fantasy series. Oberon would bring the appetite and the humor with his simple doggy demands. Atticus, being the 2000+ year old druid that he is, would be able to chat about several entertaining subjects.

Tagging Others

So now I would like to tag some other bookish folks, though please don’t feel obligated if this isn’t your cup of tea. Also, if I don’t tag you but you want to play along, please do! And leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can visit.

Lynn from Books and Travelling

Andrea from Little Red Reviewer

Julie from Oh, Julie!

Austine from Novel Knight

Book Wins from Novel Knight
Book Wins from Novel Knight

And I would like to smash into this long post a big thank you to Austine! I won a very fun book package from her recently. It was full of books and bookish things and fake tattoos and a red mask and nail art. And then she wrapped everything in gold paper! This box of goodies was such an upper, especially since I have been sick. I loved unwrapping everything and modeling the mask, tattoos, and nail art for my man. Thank you Austine!

Bloggity Award and Other Stuff

Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn blog recently nominated me for the Real Neat Blog award. I tend to enjoy blog awards because it forces me to be a little more personable and chatty. Plus, we all get to talk about books.

The Rules:

    • Thank and link the blogger that nominated you.
    • Answer the 7 questions that the nomination has provided you.
    • Create 7 questions for your nominees.
    • Nominate 7 other bloggers.
    • Bend said rules

1. If you could meet any author, from any time (past and present), who would that be and what would be your most pressing question?

That’s a tough one. Andre Norton (Forerunner Foray, Timetraders, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (for his Pip & Flynx series), Isaac Asimov (for his Lucky Starr series), and Anne McCaffrey (for her Dragonriders of Pern series) all an impact on me as a kid and it would be cool to get a drink with them and find out what books, authors, or artists had an impact on them.

2. Who is your absolute favorite character, ever. I know you’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes but there must be one character that springs to mind immediately – probably followed by a host of others – but, I want that first knee jerk reaction please and why!

I find that if you ask me this today, you’ll get one answer and if you ask 6 months from now, you’ll get another. I’m easily swayed by whatever I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Let’s go with Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard PI. I like how he can think out side of the box and come up with crazy polka powered T-rex zombie type solutions to messed up situations.

3. What is your favorite series out of all the books you’ve read?  The series you would recommend without hesitation.

I will always adore Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange Cycle. The epic fantasy, the alternate history, breaking so many standard tropes! However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone because of the sex. I love the sex, and that’s part of what breaks so many dated, sexist standards in fantasy fiction, but is everyone ready for it? Personally, 9/10 people I recommend this series to, has enjoyed it.

4. What’s your preferred reading format, book or e-reader?

These days I do a lot of audiobooks. I dabble in other formats, but find that my deep fatigue from illness makes concentration an issue. Audiobooks are great for me because I don’t get hung up on typos, grammatical errors, large words that I once knew but now find difficult to connect meanings to, etc. The story continues with an audiobook no matter what issues the book may or may not have.

5. The book you were most looking forward to but ended up being really disappointed with?

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! This book was a bit of a snoozer for me. The main character that ties it all together, that everyone knows or is tied to in some manner, is pretty darn boring. I kept on with it to the end hoping it would get better. There’s plenty of interesting side characters and I liked the slower pacing than usual for the fall of modern society story. But instead the book really is about this one guy who is pretty bland.

6. Blogging – what do you love/not love – any embarrassing moments?

I love that I don’t have a schedule. I blog when I feel like it (or when I feel up to it) and can take a break from it when I don’t. I like that I have kept it small and just blog what I want to blog about and don’t try to force myself into being glitzy, trendy, or the first to post a review on the latest hot ARC. There’s plenty of blogs that do focus on those things, and I’m glad they’re out there because I read them.

So far, I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. I know my typos and such have gone up this past year while I have been sick. But in the big scheme of things, that’s rather small.

7. Most anticipated book for the remainder of 2016?

Kevin Hearne is coming out with his first epic fantasy, I think. Hooray! I really enjoy his Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy). Scott Lynch may be releasing his next Gentleman Bastards book (hooray!). As far as I know, there’s no release date yet for Peace Talks by Jim Butcher. Henry Hertz & his two sons have at least 2 more kids books coming out this year – they’re always so well illustrated! Of course, the next A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I always look forward to something new from Jim Bernheimer. I’m hoping Domino Finn does another Sycamore Moon book. I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 Jonathan Shade urban fantasy books by Gary Jonas and I’m hoping he puts more of the series out as audiobooks. Joe Hempel does a great job narrating them.

Here’s my 7 questions:

If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be and what would you be doing?

What makes you cringe?

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Bonus Question: If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class about your favorite genre, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

While I will mention some favorite blogs below, I’m going to leave this open mic. If you find the questions (or my answers) amusing, feel free to chime in down in the comments or create your own blog post answering them – if you let me know you did so, I’ll swing by and check it out.

I like to visit author David Lee Summers blog for the steampunk – most definitely for the steampunk. Viviana, Enchanstress of Books is doing a lot of cool audiobook stuff this month. Broken Teepee has a fun mix of home gardening, book reviews, and info on home brewing kits and such. I’ve found Home Cooked Books by narrator Karen White to be a fun place with lots of interesting bits on what it’s like to make an audiobook. Violin in a Void is constantly expanding my world of books, and I like her focus on African authors and book blogs. Mike Powell is a photographer and he focuses on nature. I especially love his photos of herons. Evelyn Aster, who writes mostly contemporary romance (which, admittedly, is a bit outside my favorite genres), regularly posts pics of her fancy nails and her fancy drinks.

On a personal note, I haven’t been as involved as I normally am due to chronic illness. 2015 was one of the toughest years of my life and 2016 is shaping up to be as well. However, just last month I finally got a diagnosis! Hooray! Turns out I have many, many tiny blood clots throughout my lungs. Because the blood clots have been tiny, the condition didn’t present with the normal sharp pains to the chest, etc. Various scans and doctors missed it, and I was often misdiagnosed as having an asthma exacerbation. Now my doctors suspect the blood clots could have been going on as long as 2 years, with my lungs absorbing at least some of them. Because it went on so long, I have a moderately high case of pulmonary hypertension, which in turn has enlarged my heart. So, I have lots of work to do to get better and it will take many months. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since January and will be for at least a few more months, perhaps longer.

So, if you pinged me about something and I haven’t responded, feel free to ping me again. I’ve been hypoxic for probably about 12 months now and when your brain doesn’t have it’s regular stream of healthy oxygen, you get stupid, tired, and forgetful.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.
Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from library

Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publisher: Random House Audio (2014)

Length: 10 hours 41 minutes

Author’s Page

This story more or less revolves around the character Arthur Leander, a Canadian actor who died of a heart attack the day the Georgia Flu hit North America. Jumping back and forth in the timeline, the tale shows how things were before the pandemic and after, how certain characters were influenced, or not, by Arthur. Quite frankly, I wasn’t particularly interested in Arthur, but he served as an anchor point for the story.

First, let’s chat about that timeline. It’s not too confusing, but I did have to pay attention in order to figure out when I was on the timeline every time we switched characters. The story starts off in the here and now with Arthur Leander about to play King Lear on stage in Toronto. Once the flu disaster is off to a good start, we jump ahead 20 years to the Traveling Symphony, which hangs out by Lake Michigan. Throughout, the story will jump back to before the disaster and we learn more about Leander’s life. Also, there are a few times when the timeline jumps to 15 years after the disaster when Kirsten Raymonde is giving an interview to a newly risen newspaper. In general, I didn’t mind that it jumped around so much. If the story had been laid out chronologically, I would have lost interest with Leander’s life and given up on the book. However, with Arthur Leander’s life being chopped up in smaller bits, I was OK with it.

Kirsten Raymonde was my favorite character. She briefly knew Arthur because she was one of the three little girls playing non-speaking roles in King Lear in Toronto. Mostly, the reader gets to know her as an adult living in Year 20 (20 years after the flu hit North America). She’s an actress and lives with the Traveling Symphony, which is the combination of a defunct military orchestra and an acting troupe. They have been traveling a circuit near Lake Michigan for years and it is usually a safe existence. She remembers very little from the time before the disaster and I think this is why she has held on tightly to three things from that time – anything she can find on Arthur Leander, her Doctor 11 comic books (limited prints), and a fanciful paperweight.

Everyone in the Traveling Symphony is armed in one way or another and everyone contributes in some way. Some folks track and hunt, others sew and cook. There are no traditional male and female roles in the troupe and I really liked this aspect. Most people cross train to some extent to be able to pick up the slack when necessary. I was very surprised by how organized the troupe was. The Conductor, who leads the Traveling Symphony, is ex-military and she has made sure that everyone can move quickly and quietly in an efficient manner when necessary. They have procedures in place for when someone becomes separated from the group. The long familiarity of the group with each other and these rules allowed me to focus on the characters and what life had become a generation after the pandemic. So much of the societal collapse subgenre deals with the immediate aftermath (and that’s all entertaining), but this book had a nice long breather between that madness of immediate government collapse and the story contained in this book.

The Doctor 11 comic books (there’s only two of them), play a bigger role than I initially thought. They are introduced pretty early on as Kirsten likes to read them often. The author is a bit of a mystery and Kirsten searches for further books in the series whenever she gets a chance. Right off, I wanted to know more about these comics and much later in the book, we do learn more about them. In fact, we get to meet the author before the collapse. Also, Kirsten isn’t the only one who has been influenced by them, but we don’t learn more about that until near the end. I really liked how this story of a future scientist built a living, breathing ship of sorts, kind of a small planet, and yet he grieves over the Earth he has lost.

Jeevan was my second favorite character. He’s there at the beginning. He’s had a lot of jobs over the years, trying to find his place in the world. Lately, he’s been a paparazzo and even more recently he has trained as an EMT. In fact, he’s in the audience when Arthur Leander collapses from a heart attack and his experience in trying to save him cements his ideas of becoming a licensed EMT. But then the Georgia Flu hits Toronto and he has to get supplies up to his brother’s 22nd floor apartment. Ha! That was amusing. Then Jeevan and Frank watch from on high as the world spins down. Jeevan doesn’t appear again in the story for some time and I was sad that we got so little of him after this initial appearance.

The plot, after the world pandemic in Year 20, involves the Traveling Symphony running into a prophet and his mostly reluctant followers as they return to a city to locate their once pregnant band member Charlie and her beau Jeremy. It quickly becomes apparent that they don’t want to hang out in this town for very long, so they put on a show and then quietly and quickly pack up and leave. They’ve had word that Charlie and Jeremy and their baby have headed south, possibly to the Museum of Civilization at the Severn City airport.

This plot line was way more interesting to me than Arthur Leander’s life and I wish the book had spent more time on it. The prophet has a lot of power, even if his people give it to him grudgingly. There’s a lot of psychology going on beneath it all, about authority figures, the young and easily influenced, and wrapping it up in a religious cloth. So I think more could have been done with this. Still, there’s plenty of mystery and tension and trying to quietly flee while also keeping hold of everyone in the Symphony. Then there is the additional mystery of the Museum of Civilization and what kind of people live there. That’s covered in another time leap backwards, again with people who knew Arthur Leander. That little bit was my second favorite little plot line of the book.

Over all, I am glad I gave it a read. It’s not your typical ‘world is ending’ story, being much calmer and less dramatic. This allowed for more character development, which I liked. While I didn’t care much for Arthur Leander, his character acted as this touchstone for the rest of the tale. I do wish he had been more interesting, but then I might have been sad that he died.

Narration: Kirsten Potter was a fine narrator for this story. She had distinct voices for each of the characters and her male voices were believable. I especially liked her somewhat melancholy voice for the character Kirsten Raymonde. She also did the few required accents quite well. Her voice for the prophet was sometimes chilling!

What I Liked: The world has collapsed and it’s 20 years later – life continues on; the Doctor 11 comic books; Kirsten Raymonde and her story; Jeevan and his story; the story of how the Museum of Civilization came to be; a satisfying end.

What I Disliked: Arthur Leander was a rather boring fellow; wished more time was spent on the Traveling Symphony and less on Leander’s life. 

What Others Think:

SF Gate

Dear Author

That’s What She Read