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The Best of Baby Updates!

Jackson is here! He was born not long after midnight on July 25th, tiny and perfect. I had to take this picture quite close in order to make him look bigger. He’s seriously a little bitty peanut.

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Anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows this. It wasn’t exactly live updating (labour was short but INTENSE) but 140 characters and a photo is easier than actually remembering my laptop so I could write a blog post. As much as I considered early baby, and I tried my best to prepare everything beforehand, it still took me totally be surprise. ^^; I forgot my toothbrush, shampoo, laptop, and shoes.

Recovery is going to take awhile. My arthritis has flared up drastically, and this is my first time not relying on formula. So any time my underweight baby wants to eat, I’m the only one who can feed him. Underweight means that he eats basically all the time. But we’re lucky that there’s nothing wrong beyond his needing to eat more. I guess I just have tiny pixie babies.

I had originally intended to put up some kind of notice when I went into the hospital, but that didn’t happen. S’pose I shall have to settle for taking the week off and then resuming. I read a couple of books that had been on my list for some time. I also have SO MANY THOUGHTS about a lukewarm romance. Reviews are coming.

Also, with the arrival of baby Jackson, we’re overhauling our living space. Since I can barely walk (yay post delivery pain) I can happily focus on all of the good of this situation. Like getting a mini fridge! Seeing all the weird use of space and moving boxes! Sorting baby clothes! But the best part is a project that I have been wanting to get to for months: sorting the BOOKS. I’ve found myself missing books that I bought and had to put in storage when we moved ages ago. I’ve also read things I do not want to keep (Oh Seduced by Mr Right, how could I have known you would go so wrong?) and books that I will totally read someday but wouldn’t mind swapping storage status with something I want to read sooner.

There may be pictures if I can find some particular gems. I will certainly stop mid-work to read. In particular, I know I won’t make it past the first A Lee Martinez book I find. And Fly By Night needs to be found so I can reread it again and then put it next to Fly Trap. I may also have a second copy of the former with the original title.

It’s nice to be back. I’ll still be running on very little sleep. But I’m back. :D

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Review – The Crimson Skew

The Crimson Skew, Historical Fantasy by SE Grove

Series: The Mapmaker’s Trilogy #3

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

After I first finished reading, I wrote several paragraphs about maybe two things: how much I enjoy SE Grove’s prose for its own sake, and that this particular book left only a faint impression on my memory if any.

The Mapmakers Trilogy is ambitious. Multiple plot lines, histories voiced by both viewpoint and nonperspective characters, literal world exploration… Even the titles require some thought to get. Everything from the language to some of the structure of the overarching plot relies on readers being patient and intelligent. What a compliment from author to reader! Particularly in Middle Grade, where so many books are content to make fart jokes and tired puns. Grove’s writing is absolutely lovely, and the story is complex. Introducing Sophie’s missing parents in the first book and tying it up in the third is not unexpected, but the political intrigue took me by surprise. It holds up throughout the series and explodes into one of the most major parts of the third book’s plot.

Broadgirdle is still a scary villain, particularly when compared to real life counterparts. But he could feel a bit toned down due to everything going on with Sophia, Goldenrod, Errol, and the pirate siblings, as they follow Sophia’s Ausentinian map. Divinity, prophecy, and the like ballooned into major themes. …it could also be that Shadrack took the fore to deal with Broadgirdle, which is appropriate, but Shadrack never quite got past being a damsel in distress adult to me.

I was never a fan of the three fates as a deity idea, even after Sophia had her crisis of faith. It went somewhere I rather liked in this book, but it still has so little basis. This whole world makes no sense to me, particularly when held up against the originally promised premise. That was my complaint in each book–though sufficiently ameliorated in the second–and although I thought it would get better, just starting the third book sort of disappointed me as I realised I was still not over it.

Which is a shame, because SE Grove is such an exceptional writer! The prose is smooth, fun to read and quotable. The characters are even nicely diverse, which is something a LOT of authors fall face-down on when writing historical fiction of any kind. I listened to the audiobook for some of my reading experience, and the narrator actually gave relevant accents to all of the characters. That’s rather a big deal. I mean, Kathryne Kennedy wrote Regency Romance with sorcery in it and I don’t think she took the opportunity to insert characters of colour. (maybe I’m wrong, my memory is so cursed at present, ugh…still.)

There’s a big courtroom scene for Broadgirdle to have his day in, and I remember the drama of the moment, but I feel like it didn’t go far enough. Again, I admit to forgetting most of the book right after reading, but I swear I went back and reread this scene. It seems an important bone to the skeletal structure of the ending, and I just wasn’t… what’s the word? Impressed? Satisfied? There’s definitely a cheery tone to the rest of the ending that is more optimistic than I expected, but that fits the main character and while I didn’t expect it, I can’t say it surprised me. Whenever war is part of the narrative for a younger audience, optimism reigns. In a weird way.

But aside from that moment with the bad guy, I think everything came together to make for a great wrap-up.

I’d go into more details, but whether it’s pregnancy brain, reading over too many days, or just sort of falling out of interest, no amount of trying and typing my thoughts is helping me recall much more than: Good Ending. Would recommend to anyone who enjoys artistry of language, adventure, exploration, and intrepid heroines.

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Hurry Up, Kid

Baby update: still not born. I’m not even in the hospital yet. On Sunday, I was having these crazy contractions and I was super sure we’d have to interrupt laundry day to go to the hospital. But no. I timed them, and they were irregular. Just Braxton Hicks. Coincidentally, I’m reading The Eyre Affair right now, and there is a character named Braxton Hicks in it. I kept waiting for there to be more of a joke to his name, actually.

I am on track, at least. I don’t think I’m going to go ridiculously past my due date, and I still have this sort of early feeling. But that might just be that I’ve gotten used to expecting to be early. Who knows. There’s a thunderstorm warning out today, which of course puts me in mind of how my first baby was born. Without warning! During a storm! Because of the storm!

He still is a storm, my goodness.

I’ve slowed down a lot. Tonnes of arthritis flare-ups and one of my knees is twice the size it ought to be whether I’m flaring or not. Jackson has dropped fairly low, so my belly is lower and crazy unwieldy. I drop things all the time. Klutziness abounds. Sometimes I can’t even read because I either cannot get comfortable, or because I pass out due to fatigue. Nothing so bad as when I was pregnant with Owen and I couldn’t get through Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. That remains my record for times fallen asleep reading.

Hospital bag is packed, Owen still needs an overnight bag, and I should really get through all of my library books…

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To DNF or to Power Through?

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I’m used to having unpopular opinions. It can bother me when it feels like the thing I love is being misunderstood, or on the flip side when I feel the thing is VILE and it is instead much-beloved.

Movies and most particularly video games are easy to stop if I hate them. But books feel different. I’ve always liked books best, for one thing, so they deserve more consideration on the whole. I seem to go through stages, where DNFing a book is easy and I employ the surrender option often so that I can try new things with less stress or get through a tall stack more quickly and with less pain.

But when it comes to things I have to review or rec to someone, I feel like I need to get as much information as possible. In the case of NetGalley ARCs in particular, I’m new enough to feel like I should try to like everything, and still feeling my diligence when it comes to finishing. I have heard of other people who DNF as they need, as well as those who abuse the privilege and backlog 50 or 60 ARCs as if they’re just free candy.

There is one ARC I have that I thought I would like and it’s a Request Now title. But… to say I become quickly disenchanted with it would be putting it mildly. Rather like one saying that one does not wish to eat fetid entrails from the fresh corpse of a diseased sheep. But my opinion seems to fly in the face of a cheering fanbase, five-starring all over the place.

I suppose my opinion is unimportant when the dilemma is “Do I finish this so that I can feel less guilty about the one-star review I know it’s going to be” or “Do I cut my losses and write a brief review?”

DNFing is not an easy choice in any case. Some readers never DNF as a matter of principle, which is fine as long as they don’t use that to project and judge other readers. Others DNF without stress. I don’t really know where I fall on the spectrum.

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Review – The Twistrose Key

The Twistrose Key, Middle Grade Fantasy by Tone Almhjell

Series: The Twistrose Key #1

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My rating: ⭐️⭐️

Lin Rosenquist is in the doldrums. She’s stuck away from her home, friends, and their awesome games of being troll hunters thanks to her mother’s job. Lin is also still mourning her beloved pet vole Rufus. Then she finds a strange package with the word “Twistrose” scratched into it. Inside, she finds a key, which she uses to unlock a door in the rental house that leads to Sylveros. Sylveros is a snowy magical land where beloved passed-on pets live a rather chill second life as enlarged semi-anthropomorphic talking animals.

Twistrose is at first a troll hunter code name that Lin thinks she made up, but it turns out to be the title of a special child who is called to save Sylveros in its hour of need. They get to team up with their pet–called a Petling–and basically have a land-saving adventure. After which, they get a statue and go home through the Wandergate.

The world-building is mostly made up of details and some stories told by some of the wiser characters. The stories aren’t too intrusive or info-dumpy, and the world is a decent fantasy land of what I might call the pocket size variety. A lot of people will think of Narnia, but I thought it was more like Darkbeast. It’s just not complex enough to compare to Narnia. And no bad thing. I quite loved Darkbeast.

For at least the first half, the book meanders while accomplishing next to nothing. The world-building is the only entertaining thing going on. Rufus is a bland character for that first half, if not the entire book, so I wasn’t terribly invested in Lin’s reunion or relationship with him. The task that Lin is given isn’t all that interesting, and it’s not that easy to see why it’s so important.

She’s told that she has to save another Sylveros type of creature that is not a Petling, Isvan the last of the Wynterfyrsts, who is basically a human made of ice magic. Despite the fact that Isvan is mostly characterised by other secondhand accounts and speculation, I found him to be nicely sympathetic. When the plot actually kicks in and they’re doing more active searching for him and less investigation, the pacing picks up and there seems to be more confidence overall.

Then as it ramps into the second half or last third, it all sort of… gets tired and collapses like candy floss giving up in a strong wind. The action jerks to a halt, and then a lot of revelations are dumped out without sufficient foreshadowing beforehand. There’s a character death that infuriated me because it happened very quickly and for the dumbest reason that could have possibly explained anything. Everything basically works out in the end, and I came out with any respect for the narrative structure of the story, but it’s hard to get over a move of such pococurante stupidity.

Overall, I was left with an impression of a decent idea set in a fairly rich world but without a great deal of substance. Usually when I read a Middle Grade book that doesn’t wow me, I first consider if it’s the fact that I’ve long since left the age of the target audience. Sometimes it is, but I don’t think this is one of those times. If I were younger, I might have overlooked some things, like Rufus’s disappointing lack of depth or the unusual smallness of the magical world. But I wouldn’t have missed pointless asides or departures from the plot.

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Review – The Raven God

Middle Grade Fantasy by Alane Adams

Series: The Legends of Orkney #3

Amazon | Goodreads

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

In this conclusion to Alane Adams’s Legends of Orkney trilogy, Sam is given the opportunity to make up for killing Odin. Unfortunately, the method of his redemption results in his freeing Fenrir and Jormungand. Loki is also free, and seeks his revenge by setting Surt on Valhalla.

There are a lot of factions and characters, and they all have a lot to do. Nothing really falls through the cracks, which is impressive. It’s rare to find good Middle Grade fantasy that has a plot this complex with a sense of urgency and lots of branches. This is definitely gateway High Fantasy for younger readers who wonder if they’ll be into stuff like Lord of the Rings.

In a similar vein, the language is also part of that gateway. There’s a rather good mix of easy, even casual language and more difficult vocabulary. The gods in particular lean more towards formality and less common turns of phrase. That makes this a good pick for more precocious readers who get tired of simple language in their books.

The pacing is lightning fast, which can be both good and bad. On the good side, there is always something happening. Exciting action is always on hand. But on the bad side, that means there isn’t much in the way of downtime. A better sense of rhythm would have been nice, with downs as well as ups, slow as well as swift.

The only problem, and for me as a reader it was an inescapable one, is that one of the billed selling points, the Norse mythology, was not well done. Perhaps the intention was to use only the most basic elements of Norse mythology to then spin off into something new. But without that kind of caveat given upfront, I just felt twitchy every time something didn’t scan with my own knowledge. Blame years of studying both Snorri and Saxo. It was weird to see Angrboda called Loki’s wife (what about Sigyn?), and for Loki to be portrayed as a very straightforwardly evil villain. Anyone familiar with Norse mythology who is also picky should probably stick to things like Runemarks.

Obviously, that won’t be a dealbreaker for everyone. Other readers have taken the changed mythology in this series as creative spins. Sam and his friends have their own story and their own difficult choices to make. This story is entirely theirs, and it’s fantastic.

(I received an ARC through NetGalley in return for an honest review.)

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Wednesdays are baby doctor days

I am too fatigued to function. I saw a different doctor today, because mine is out of town. He suggested iron supplements, but they apparently wouldn’t work for a week. So I’m going to carry on exhausted for a while longer.

It seems like I don’t have any time until midnight approaches. I remember way back when I could do daily posts, but I may have to change it. Not just to accommodate the way things are right now, with fatigue and the happy fun sarcastic times of being less than a month away from my due date, but also to make scheduling some posts for while I’m gone more do-able.

For now, let’s say Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and alternating between Saturday and Sunday.