TTT – Settings I’d Like to See More Of

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Settings I’d Like to See More Of (Or At All).

tigers daughterWell, first, because my husband has been talking about it, more set in Mongolia during the era of the Huns. There were a lot of fascinating things happening there, and at least here in the US we don’t see much fiction set during that time. It’s possible it exists but hasn’t been translated. One notable exception is the trilogy beginning with The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera, which my husband just finished and has been poking me to read!

I’d like to see more post-climate-apocalypse fiction about surviving the world as the climate changes. I don’t like zombies, so a lot of the standard apocalypse fiction is not to my taste. Disease-based apocalypse just aren’t that interesting to me, though they don’t give me nightmares like zombies do. (I’m not someone who jumps at shadows, but zombies trigger something in my subconscious that flips out while I’m sleeping!)

clock dance book clubI always enjoy finding books set in Baltimore, or the wider Maryland area. I love reading books in which I can personally recognize some of the landmarks. That’s about the only thing that got me through Clock Dance, which is absolutely not my normal kind of read. (It was a Barnes & Noble Book Club pick, back when I didn’t have a D&D game on Tuesdays!)

Similarly, anything set in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon specifically, since that’s where I grew up. Every time I run across Eugene mentioned in a book (which is always unexpected, and happens far more than you’d think!) it makes me grin.

I want to see more dragons coming back to present-day. There’s plenty of dragon-shifter romances, but I mean like Smoke Eaters and The Great Zoo of China, where the dragons suddenly come back and modern society has to deal with them. I wouldn’t mind seeing intelligent, non-animalistic dragons come back, that could be interesting.

I don’t read a lot of hard sci-fi, but one setting that always intrigues me is Generation Ships, or spaceships that are huge enough to be worlds unto themselves. The Diabolic and Dust are both examples of this, and so, apparently, is A Memory Called Empire, which I have yet to read but really want to. Bonus, the author is local! Tor has a roundup of this particular setting, so I now have more books to read!

More underwater settings. Whether that’s mermaid kingdoms, cities built in domes underwater like Bioshock, humans genetically modified to breathe underwater, I don’t care. Just get us in the oceans!

Honestly, just things set in countries we don’t typically see things set in. Often this means written by people from those countries and translated, which is even better. The Hangman’s Daughter, (and its sequels) set in Germany in the 1600s, is a great example of this, but more far-flung would be even better. Madagascar? Taiwan? Nigeria? Guatemala? Peru? Finland? I don’t read much contemporary, so historical (or fantasy!) written in those settings would be my preference.

red white & royal blueSo here’s one I have seen very little of, but watching Legally Blonde 2, and reading Red, White, and Royal Blue recently made me think of: I want to see more fiction set in the halls of Congress. Give me characters who live and work in the White House and the Senate. It doesn’t have to be political intrigue – I don’t want Bourne-style John Grisham stuff. I want politicians living their lives.

I could only come up with nine this week – this was a really difficult topic! I have such wide-ranging tastes in books that I don’t have too many settings I’m really committed to. I can’t wait to see what other people came up with this week!

 

 

 

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Book Review: Dark Lycan

dark lycanDark Lycan
by Christine Feehan
Paranormal Romance
384 pages
Published 2013

Oof. It has been a weekend, folks. The husband woke up with severe vertigo Saturday morning, and we wound up in the ER most of Sunday for it. Verdict is an inner ear problem (go see a specialist!) and slight dehydration. That took seven hours? So after a full day of worrying about him Saturday, and seven hours ferrying him around a hospital Sunday, I am EXHAUSTED. So this is going to be a quick one.

Dark Lycan is the twenty-first (!!!) book in the Dark series, Christine Feehan’s epic world of Carpathians and vampires. And yes, they’re different. I don’t think that number counts her “Wild” books, on leopard shifters, even though they exist in the same world. Dark Lycan introduces (I think, it’s possible they were mentioned in an earlier book, but I don’t recall them) a new species, the Lycans. Lycans are to werewolves as Carpathians are to vampires.

I suppose I should explain that.

Vampires are Carpathians that have given up their souls. They are almost invariably men, because male Carpathians eventually lose the ability to feel emotions and see colors (the better to be hunters of vampires, often their former friends and family) unless they find their lifemate. This is where the paranormal romance comes in. Each book is a story of a Carpathian finding his lifemate and “claiming” her. It’s an ancient ritual that binds their souls together, giving them a telepathic and empathic connection and involves a lot of sex and exchanging blood and yadda yadda yadda basic vampire erotica.

The Dark series is a bit formulaic – dominant powerful hero, sassy heroine that doesn’t know what he’s capable of, outside danger to them both, instant love because she brings color back to his world and he has a primal need to bind her and have sex with her and yeah. I’d stopped reading several years back (and I had a TON of these books!) because I was a bit tired of the near-chauvinism and almost-forced sex storylines. But I wanted some mindless guilty pleasure and the Dragonseeker bloodline (a specific family line of Carpathians had always intrigued me. So I picked this up and was pleasantly surprised. Fenris didn’t force Tatijana – on the contrary, he didn’t want to bind them. (Maybe Feehan’s modernizing slightly?)

Feehan’s strength, I think, is in introducing characters whose love stories you want to read. In this book we see a bit more of Fenris’ brother and his lifemate, who is also not yet bound, and they’ve been a slow-burn through several books because I remember them from when I stopped reading, a couple books before this one! This book also introduces Tatijana’s sister, and the man who will be her lifemate – but he’s a Lycan, so that’s…strange. The normal formula is that the man is always a Carpathian, but the woman isn’t always. She can be converted (because they do work off standard vampire mythos) so I assume that’s what they’ll do to her lifemate? Anyway, I’ve learned those two couples are the next two books, so I’ve put holds on those at the library because now I’m hooked again!

Side note: I thought this was going to be a quick paragraph or two fired off, but then I started talking about the background and – well I used to really love these books. Apparently.

So. In Dark Lycan we introduce the Lycans, have a new, real partnership between equals, and actually have a bit LESS explicit sex than I’m used to seeing in the Dark books. Cool. The pacing was a little weird, but the combat with vampires is never really the point of the books, it’s the romance and the feelings and the sex, so whatever. These aren’t great literature. They’re hot fluff when you need to turn your brain off for a while (and maybe turn other things on).

If you like Paranormal Romance, and don’t mind your heroes very dominant and rather forceful, you’d probably enjoy this series. I’d recommend starting at the beginning, though, because all the characters and background history would be VERY confusing to someone that hasn’t learned it through the books. Goodreads has them listed in order.

From the cover of Dark Lycan:

Tatijana of the Dragonseekers spent centuries encased in ice with her sister, trapped in limbo between life and death, never speaking to a soul other than those who tormented her. Now, she has been freed from her frozen prison by an unknown descendant. Awakened in human form, Tatijana yearns to explore the modern world in which she now lives – a world with more mysteries than she is prepared for.

Fenris Dalka has returned to the Carpathian Mountains after a long absence to be with his brother. He is scarred by centuries of battle, and every hard-won victory has been stamped into his bones. But the real reason for his return home could prove deadly if discovered by the wrong man – or woman. Upon his arrival, he is compelled by a beautiful and enigmatic stranger who carries the scent of fresh earth, of forest, of the night itself.

In time Tatijana and Fenris will discover all that unites them – their secrets and pasts, their predators, and the hot flash of passion that stirs their souls. Yet just as surely, seduced into the silvery darkness of a full-moon night, they’ll also discover everything ancient and evil that exists to destroy them.

Amazon and Goodreads Alternatives

This last week was Prime Day at Amazon, which means we also had the (what seems like) annual Amazon Strike. I am all for Amazon workers getting better working conditions. Their workplace sounds like hell. I had no problem avoiding Amazon for two days. You know what was more difficult? Avoiding Goodreads.

Because yes, Goodreads is owned by Amazon. In the interests of disconnecting from Amazon for more than a couple of days, I started looking for Amazon and Goodreads alternatives.

The first one that many people think of is Library Thing, and since they bought out Litsy, which was one of my favorite social networks, they were my first thought too.

Unfortunately, Amazon has a 40% stake in Library Thing. Which also now covers Litsy. Tim Spalding has controlling interest, at 60%, and he’s honestly pretty awesome (the things he’s done for Litsy are fabulous) but it’s still all profiting Amazon.

So what can I use for cataloging books? I need something with a robust database, where I can organize my Read and To-Read shelves, along with multiple other lists of books. I don’t need a social media aspect to it, though that can be fun.

So I’ve started doing some research on alternatives to Amazon and Goodreads.

Biblio.com

Biblio

Biblio.com is a marketplace, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, with a key difference: they source from independent booksellers. Searching for a book will bring up a page of results, with each result being from a different seller. The sellers set their own shipping, and the marketplace is worldwide, so it’s important to note shipping costs and looking for sellers from your own country if possible. You appear to be able to filter by country, though. Prices are slightly more expensive than Amazon I think, from searching a couple of random books, but not more than a dollar or so, at least on the books I checked. (That’s for US pricing. May be different for other countries.) It’s at least worth looking at before you nab a book off Amazon.

It IS a Used & New marketplace, so if you’re trying to pre-order a book, I’m not sure that’s possible here. Interestingly, I tried searching for The Dragon Republic – due out in August – and found someone selling an “Uncorrected Proof” copy. For $70. I’m…not sure how legal that is. Curious.

(Edit: Biblio has informed me it’s not illegal, just often disallowed on specific platforms so it’s unusual to find.)

Biblio does do a lot of charitable work, building libraries, donating books, and offsetting their carbon footprint in various ways.

RiffleBooks.com

Riffle

RiffleBooks.com might actually be a good replacement for Goodreads. There’s a social feed, you can look up books and mark them read or to-read, and you can make lists – not unlike shelves in Goodreads. My only immediate quibble is that I can only add books to lists from the list; I can’t see a book I like, and add it to a list of my choice from the book page. There should be an “Add To List” button! I do like the lists, though; you have a choice of just displaying the books as a grid, or displaying them in a slideshow, with notes! I may work on moving my shelves over to Riffle. Riffle does NOT have the neat Reading Stats function that Goodreads has, which is unfortunate, but I could live without it if I needed to. Riffle also doesn’t have the widgets to plug into my blog like Goodreads does, or Reading Challenges, or Giveaways, but the Giveaways are really the only thing I care about there. I can maintain a To-Read list on Goodreads (so I get notified of giveaways from it) if I need to. It DOES have a Goodreads Import option, which is fantastic.

I’ve already imported all of my books, and you can find my profile here. I received an email when the import was done, and they noted that they could not find 510 books, but they don’t note which ones they couldn’t find, which is unfortunate. They DID, however, import all my ratings and reviews, which is handy. So I don’t have to go back through and input reviews from the blog’s history! I am quite intrigued to play with Riffle, especially the list feature, since I can add notes as to why I added a book to the list. On that subject, they did NOT import shelves other than my to-read, currently reading, and read shelves. So I had to sit down and re-do my Lists.

Things I wish Riffle did:
– Add To List button on book pages
– More detail on book pages – page count, publication date, ISBN.
– Collect things I have liked so I can find them later. (Especially other peoples’ Lists!)
– Let me fine-tune what shows up on my social feed. (Right now it’s all “Here’s a popular review of -book you’ve read-, what do you think?”)
– Have an “Add to to-read/read list” button on books on Lists.

– Have a mobile app, or a better working mobile site!
– Have an easy to find feedback function so I could tell them these things!

Libib.com

Libib

Libib.com is solely a cataloging app/site. There is an app for the phone, and a website interface. You can use it for free for up to 5,000 items, but for more than that you’ll have to subscribe for $9/month or $99/year. The subscription also appears to come with robust lending features – this might be actual small library software. (Up to 100,000 items with subscription.) I could see this being useful for cataloging the books I actually OWN, but for my to-read, read, and categorized lists? I’m currently sitting at 3500 items, so it wouldn’t last me for much longer! I scanned in several of my owned books, however, and it’s pretty nifty for that. (Just boot up the app on your phone and start scanning barcodes!) I’m a little annoyed that if the barcode doesn’t scan (some of my husband’s university textbooks have stickers over them) I have to enter the book via my desktop. Features are very different between phone and computer.

Libib would be very useful if you can’t remember if you own a book or not and need to decide while you’re away from your shelves. I’m not sure if I can add ebooks to this collection or not, but it would sure be helpful if I could. I’m constantly forgetting what I have on my Kindle! Regardless, I have started to scan my personal collection into the database, just for fun. It works pretty well for anything with an ISBN number, though it couldn’t find three of my Book of the Month books. I wrote down the ISBN numbers to take upstairs to my computer and input them, but not their titles, so I’m going to have to go back through my Book of the Month titles (they’re all together on a shelf) and figure out which three they were and add them by title. Next time I will write down both their ISBN and Title before heading upstairs to the desktop! I wish I could search by ISBN on the mobile app, but my options seem to be scan it in, or input it entirely manually without being able to search a database.

ThriftBooks.com

Thriftbooks

ThriftBooks.com is another marketplace for books, but this one is unique because they have a warehouse just across the train tracks from my house! I’m curious, looking at the reviews on Google Maps, if that means I can just walk in and browse their stacks. I wouldn’t expect so, but some of the reviews make it seem that way. It might be worth a phone call! Thrift Books has warehouses in multiple states across the US. They started in Washington, and have spread to nine more states. They’re all used books, and shipping is free on purchases over $10. It’s only $1.99 each book on purchases less than $10, so still a pretty good rate. They do ship outside the US, but the shipping rates vary. Like Biblio, Thriftbooks is mindful of their impact on the environment, recycles what they can, and does a lot of donating and charity work with literacy and prison library programs.

I’m still looking into alternatives beyond these, but these were all I’ve had time to thoroughly poke at. I may do a Part 2 on this if I find more sites I want to play with!

Book Review: Internment

internmentInternment
by Samira Ahmed
Young Adult / Contemporary Fiction
384 pages
Published March 2019

This book should be required reading in schools. Especially now. It could be paired with Anne Frank. One history, one a possible future. Probable, even. Depending on how you look at it, an actual present. We DO have concentration camps on the border. (Which makes me shudder to write, what in the absolute FUCK.)

*breathes deeply*

Internment is a gut-punch of a book. I had to set it down two pages in and get control of myself, and again around page eleven. I took breaks throughout reading it to do HOUSEWORK, of all things, because I needed the mental and emotional reprieve. And I’m a white woman. I have the privilege of being pretty sure I will never be the target of these kinds of atrocities. Which means I have the responsibility to work against them. I’m also a physically weak, chronic-illness-having, unemployed white woman, (which does have the benefit of letting me keep on eye on my middle-eastern neighbors’ houses to watch for ICE showing up – I fully intend to go make myself a damned nuisance if they do) so I can’t go storm the camps or march for hours at protests. What I can do is boost books like this.

If you’re white, GO READ THIS BOOK. Suck it up and read it. I don’t have the same recommendation for my friends of color because they already live with this kind of fear and racism. They don’t need it illustrated to them. WE DO.

This book needs content warnings for violence, threats of rape, anxiety-inducing situations, racism, violent death – Samira Ahmed does NOT pull punches. Direct resistance is costly. It takes courage and sacrifice, and she does not shy away from showing that. It would be sugar-coating if she did.

Internment focuses on the idea of America forcing citizens into camps – but we are already forcing non-citizens into camps. The Red Cross visits the camp, not unlike our politicians visiting the immigrant concentration camps on our border now. They have a garden they can work on in the camp – not unlike a pair of photos I saw on Twitter:GardenCampTweet

Internment is stunning, heartbreaking, and inspiring, and if you’re emotionally capable of it, YOU SHOULD READ IT. This is happening, right now, on our southern border. It is infuriating that our politicians have not put a stop to it yet. My own Congressman (I just moved into this area, I haven’t had a chance to vote on him yet) just visited the camps, and his Twitter thread on them is SO CAREFUL to use absolutely neutral language when talking about them, and it pisses me off. This is NOT a neutral subject.

Internment did have a few downsides – the Director never gets a name (though the book is told from Layla’s viewpoint, and it would not surprise me if he never bothered to GIVE his name to the internees) and he’s almost cartoonishly evil. I would have liked to know more about the guard that helped Layla on occasion, but again, told as it was from her viewpoint, it can be excused by saying she simply didn’t know more about him. But this IS a Young Adult novel told from a seventeen-year-old’s viewpoint. We’re only going to get what she knows and feels. So these downsides don’t detract from the book for me.

To sum up – I recommend Internment at the highest level. You absolutely must read this book.

From the cover of Internment:

REBELLIONS ARE BUILT ON HOPE.

It’s been one year since the census landed seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her family on the registry. Five months since the attorney general argued that Korematsu v. United States established precedent for relocation of citizens during times of war. And one month since the president declared that “Muslims are a threat to America.”

And now, Layla and her parents are suddenly taken from their home and forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of new friends also trapped within the detention center, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, Internment is a heart-racing and emotional novel that challenges readers to fight the complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Friday 56 – Internment

internmentThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from Internment, a gut-punch of a read by Samira Ahmed, on the very timely topic of rounding up people of certain ethnicities and putting them in concentration camps. It is Young Adult fiction, but only just.

I feel like this quote needs a content warning, but I don’t know what to label it with besides EXTREMELY anxiety-inducing.

I inch back farther, closer to the door at the other end of the vestibule, which will take me to my car, where I’ll be safe. Safe? I catch myself. Because there is no safe for me. Suddenly I’m acutely aware of how small this space is and how loud the train wheels sound against the tracks, and I wonder if people will hear me if I scream.

The door behind the guard slides open again. A tall, broad-shouldered Exclusion Guard steps into the vestibule. God, now there are two of them and I have literally nowhere to run. My hands shake. I can’t call for any help because the people who are enforcing the law on this train are the ones I’m afraid of. Every fiber in my body wants to scream and cry, and I want to pound my fists into the metal walls.

Book Review: The Home Edit

the home editThe Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals
by Clea Shearer & Joanna Teplin
Nonfiction / Homemaking
255 pages
Published March 2019

If you’ve been following the blog,  you know we recently bought a house. We haven’t finished unpacking yet; mostly the upstairs is what’s left, the spaces we don’t use multiple times a day. I’ve spoken about wanting to “Pinterest the hell out of this house” and absolutely wanting to reduce clutter. When we moved yearly in the military, we were pretty good at not having excess clutter. After living in the last house for four years, we’d definitely acquired a good bit. So the move actually helped a lot; we got rid of a lot of unnecessary items. But we won’t be moving again for a good long time, and I want to prevent that build up. So. Everything should have a place. I was hoping this book could help with some of my more problematic spaces. (I have a laundry closet with no room for ANY storage – the detergent and bleach live next door in the bathroom!) While the book did actually give me a possible solution for that SPECIFIC problem, I don’t feel that there was much in this book I couldn’t have gotten from Pinterest or watching more episodes of Marie Kondo on Netflix. (I love that show!)

The first chapter is spent on their philosophy; like Marie, they recommend you pull everything out of a space and look at it and keep only what you really like/need/use. Getting rid of excess stuff is always the first step. They stress getting containers to fit the space; they talk a lot about The Container Store. At the moment, that advice is a little useless, as I don’t have the surplus funds to just go buy a ton of containers!

After that chapter, the book is split up by rooms/spaces, with several photographs and explanations of different examples. So they start with the entryway, and have a few different entryways with tips for each. An entry that is really a mudroom, with benches and individual hooks/cubbies, then an entry that is just a table by the front door for mail and keys, then a coat closet. Same with laundry; a small laundry room, a laundry closet with a little bit of shelving, a large laundry room, and tips for each. I was disappointed they didn’t have my laundry setup; a closet with room for the stacked machines and NOTHING else. I feel like that’s common enough they should have included it! The solution I did find, somewhere in the book, was an over the door shelving unit. I -think- I can push the machines far enough back in the closet space that I’ll have the clearance for shallow shelves/cubbies on the back of the door for things like detergent, spot cleaner, bleach, tub cleaner, dryer balls, etc. I’ll have to stop buying my detergent at Costco, or decant it into a smaller bottle, but now that it’s just my husband and I, and no roommates, I don’t think I need the giant container of detergent anyway!

They don’t cover all the spaces in a house; it’s Entry, Laundry, Bathroom, Home Office, Play Spaces, Closets, Kitchens, and Pantries. No bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, or guest rooms. Just the problem areas, really, which makes sense.

It’s an alright book. It’s very pretty, and has some fantastically organized spaces, but I can find the same things on Pinterest, with the same how-tos and tips from Marie Kondo. So I’d give it a pass, really.

From the cover of The Home Edit:

Believe this: EVERY SINGLE SPACE IN YOUR HOUSE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO FUNCTION EFFICIENTLY AND LOOK GREAT.

The mishmash of summer and winter clothes in the closet? Yep. Even the dreaded junk drawer? Consider it done. And the best news: it’s not hard to do – in fact, it’s a lot of fun.

From Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, the Instagram-famous home organizers who made their orderly eye candy the method that everyone swears by, comes a signature approach to decluttering. The Home Edit walks you through paring down your belongings in every room, arranging them in a stunning and easy-to-find way (hello, labels!), and maintaining the system so you don’t need another do-over in six months. When you’re done, you’ll not only know exactly where to find things, but you’ll also love the way it looks. 

A master class and lookbook in one, The Home Edit is filled with  bright photographs and detailed tips, from placing plastic dishware in a drawer where little hands can reach to categorizing pantry items by color (there’s nothing like a little ROYGBIV to soothe the soul). Above all, it’s like having your best friends at your side to help you turn the chaos into calm.