Monday, July 16, 2018

ARC Review: Competence by Gail Carriger

Competence by Gail Carriger
Competence (The Custard Protocol #3)
By Gail Carriger
Publisher:
Orbit
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Publication Date: July 17, 2018

To Sum It Up: The Spotted Custard is off on another adventure, this time in search of vampires in Peru. The airship’s crew must first, however, solve the rather pesky problem of a helium leak. It’s up to the Spotted Custard’s always dependable purser Primrose Tunstell to help find a way to save the day. Meanwhile, back on board the airship, Prim’s twin Percy just wants to be left alone with his books instead of dealing with the mayhem that typically follows wherever the Spotted Custard goes.

Review: It’s been a while since we last checked in with the motley crew of the Spotted Custard, but the newest installment in Gail Carriger’s The Custard Protocol series was absolutely worth the wait! I didn’t realize how much I missed this group of adorably quirky characters until I started reading Competence.

The title is very fitting here, as the novel focuses on Primrose Tunstell, probably the most reliable member of Captain Prudence Akeldama’s crew. Prim is practical where Rue is whimsical, and so the two best friends balance each other out very well. Prim is also like a mother to practically everyone on the airship, and you truly get the sense that the crew is one big family. It wouldn’t be a family without some dysfunction, of course, but even with so many different personalities on board that are often at odds with one another, they’re at odds in an endearing way.

Competence also puts Prim’s brother, Percy, in the spotlight. The Tunstell twins could not be any less identical, with Prim the epitome of etiquette and Percy happiest in the company of his books. I have to say, I found Percy’s pedantry and aversion to human interaction quite amusing. There were many laugh out loud moments involving just about everybody aboard the Spotted Custard, and the riotous humor is one of the reasons why I love Gail Carriger’s books so much. She has such a knack for writing witty phrases. The banter between the characters is especially scintillating.

While there is a story line centered around a hive of endangered vampires in the Andes, the novel belongs to Prim as she tries to sort out where her heart seems to be leading her versus what society expects of her regarding marriage and family. Fortunately for Prim, she’s surrounded by a family that loves her for whoever she is and will always welcome her home on board the Spotted Custard.

I can’t rave enough about how brilliantly the characters in this series have grown. They’re the backbone of the books, and Competence was another delightful escapade with this lovable bunch.

All in All: Competence was such a fun read! Prim’s character development is the standout here. The view from Percy’s perspective is also a blast. The ending sets up the final Custard Protocol book perfectly, and I eagerly await its release!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Loot (32)

Even though I've been barely reading, as painfully chronicled in my mid-year rewind post, lol, I've somehow managed to accumulate new books. I went a little 1-click happy with some eBook deals, and I also had some Amazon rewards points to use.

I read a sample of My Plain Jane through the Epic Reads newsletter and HAD to get it, even though I still have to read The Lady Janies' previous collaboration, My Lady Jane.

In a rare venture outside of fiction, I've recently added not one but TWO nonfiction titles to my shelves. I'm a Simpsons fangirl, so Springfield Confidential is a must-read. Having grown up reading the Little House books and watching the TV show, I'm very eager to read Caroline Fraser's Prairie Fires, which I'd seen some rave reviews for.

For Review:

Competence by Gail Carriger
Many thanks to Gail Carriger!

Won:

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
I absolutely LOVE the cover for this!



Bought:

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton
Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss with Matthew Klickstein
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Monday, July 9, 2018

2018 Mid-Year Rewind

At very long last, I've gotten around to writing my mid-year rewind post! Not that there's much to look back on—eek!

So far, 2018 has been a year of lots of intent to read/blog but almost no actual reading/blogging. I can barely stand to look at my Goodreads reading challenge progress because there's barely been any progress.

A few months ago, what I thought was a really bad reading/blogging slump was starting to turn into an overall life slump. Not only did I have zero motivation to pick up a book or write a blog post, but I had zero or almost no motivation to do any things that I once enjoyed. That raised a pretty big red flag, and it was time to seek some help.

Going to the doctor gives me extreme anxiety, but I was more frustrated with how I felt and how I was living—or not really living—than I was fearful of the doctor's visit. I ended up being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, of which one of the symptoms is depression. Another is feeling tired, which I absolutely was almost all of the time. Most nights I was falling asleep on the couch the minute I sat down, so forget about trying to read a few pages. Being exhausted didn't strike me as odd, though. I figured it was just part of getting older, allergy-related, etc.

I've been taking medication for about a month now, and while I've been slowly finding enjoyment in reading again, I haven't yet noticed a significant improvement in my energy level. From what I've researched, it can take some time 1) for the medication to take full effect and 2) to find the optimal dosage. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very patient with . . . being a patient, lol, and remaining calm in the face of being at the mercy of how I feel day-to-day has been a huge challenge.

I've really, really missed hanging out in the book blogosphere and am trying to pop in whenever I can. I hope you've all been enjoying some great books this year and that you have a fantastic rest of 2018! ♥

Sunday, June 3, 2018

May 2018 Recap

Happy June, friends—ALREADY. I don't know about all of you, but 2018 is leaving me in the dust!

May was super busy with non-bookish stuff, which is what I feel I've said about every month for like the past 2 years, lol. I usually have 2 minutes before I need to get out of my car to walk into work, and I've been spending those 2 minutes reading. That's how desperate I am to squeeze in a page or two during the day.

At least May was a really good month for collectible popcorn tins going to the movies. I saw Avengers: Infinity War again and also saw Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

While I thought the first Deadpool film was OK, I absolutely loved the sequel! The theater we were in wasn't all that crowded, which was good because I howled with laughter throughout most of the movie.

I went into Solo kinda nervous because: it's Han Solo. Plus there were all of the headlines about the production woes, soooo . . . yeah. I didn't know what to expect from this film, but I tried to keep an open mind going in. I was a little worried when things started off slow, but I left the theater satisfied. I don't think any future Star Wars movie will ever touch the original trilogy because that's what I grew up with (and Harrison Ford will ALWAYS be my Han), but Solo was solid.

I also broke down at last in May and invested in a laptop to replace my 10-year-old desktop. I spent many hours working on this blog on that desktop, lol, but it was finally time, especially since I kept getting warning messages about Windows Vista (yes, Vista) not being supported for just about every app installed on the computer. XD

I hope everyone has a fantastic June—time to get out the summer reads!

Reviews Posted:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
The Smoke Thieves (The Smoke Thieves #1)
By Sally Green
Publisher:
Viking
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read

To Sum It Up: Catherine, Ambrose, Tash, Edyon, and March could not lead more different lives, but they are all about to be affected by the looming war that Catherine’s ruthless father, the King of Brigant, seems to be preparing to wage. In a kingdom where women have no power, Catherine is a political pawn, about to enter in to a marriage arranged by her father. Meanwhile, Ambrose, one of Catherine’s guards, has just witnessed the execution of one of his family members for treason and knows that he could be targeted next. Thief Edyon is wandering through a fairly aimless life until he suddenly becomes of great importance to some very interested parties, one of whom is royal servant March. All demon hunter Tash is concerned about is collecting very valuable—and illegal—demon smoke with her partner Gravell, but it appears that even Tash cannot avoid the turmoil that is about to sweep across multiple lands.

Review: Having enjoyed Sally Green’s Half Bad and Half Wild, I was excited to see that she was venturing into fantasy with her new novel, The Smoke Thieves. My curiosity was particularly piqued by the comparisons being made between The Smoke Thieves and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Like Martin’s ubiquitous tome, Green’s book is set in a medieval world with multiple POVs. There’s even a bastard!

I try especially hard NOT to keep a running side-by-side comparison in my head between AGoT and books billed as the next AGoT. Reading Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire (at least what’s been published so far, haha) has been one of those life-changing reading experiences for me. What I attempt to avoid is reading every subsequent fantasy through the lens of ASoIaF. So here goes with what I hope is an impartial-ish take on The Smoke Thieves.

The novel follows five characters: Princess Catherine of Brigant, her guard Sir Ambrose, thief Edyon, servant March, and demon hunter Tash. Green does a good job of keeping the storylines tidy and tying them together, but at the same time, the short chapters often seem . . . well, short. The frequent POV shifts give the pacing a choppy feel. I also think they inhibit character development; just when you’re on the brink of spending some quality time getting to know a character, bam—chapter over and it’s on to a different POV.

In general, I found the character development rather lacking. For example, while I love how Catherine tries to find any way she can to undermine a patriarchal society, overall her arc feels a bit too cliché. Along the same lines, Edyon plays the thief with a heart of gold a little too well. March was my least favorite of the MCs for not realizing how blatantly another character was manipulating him. Young Tash the demon hunter was the standout here, thanks to her mettle and sass.

The most disappointing aspect of The Smoke Thieves was how light it was on the fantasy. The titular smoke refers to the substance released by demons when they die. It’s usually inhaled as a drug, but our motley crew of protagonists discovers another effect that could endanger them all. That’s not until late in the book, though. In the meantime, the demon smoke (and the demons, for that matter) is just hanging around, waiting to come off the bench and step up to the plate as a major plot point. I was definitely expecting more of a role for the demons and the smoke, and I suppose that was my overall issue with the book: the need for more. More depth to the characters, more substance to the plot, more fantasy elements. This isn’t a bad story by any means, and Green is a solid storyteller. It just wasn’t my type of fantasy read.

All in All: I love reading fantasy for mythical creatures, complex and often morally ambiguous characters, and richly drawn worlds that completely immerse you. Unfortunately, The Smoke Thieves didn’t quite deliver on those things for me.

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