I’m so excited… and I just can’t hide it!

Thank you so much to HarperCollins Canada and Raymond E. Feist for the eArc of King of Ashes. I’m SOOOOO excited to read this.

I credit Mr. Feist with reawakening my love of reading; after studying literature at university I couldn’t stand to read anything more involved than a Cosmo magazine. Then a friend put a copy of Shadow of a Dark Queen into my hands and I’ve not stopped reading since.  He is a master storyteller.  It’s always “have to read one more page, one more chapter.” then before you know it, it’s 6am and you have to get ready to go to work…

The Riftwar Saga was also the first books I migrated to ebook format when I got my very first Kindle, so you can understand the place Mr. Feist holds in my heart.  You can certainly expect a review of King of Ashes once I have finished it.

Doctor Who – Ranking the Regenerations

Hello, as a Doctor Who fan who has just watched the Twelfth Doctor regenerate into the character’s first female incarnation, I thought it would be a good time to rank them in my estimation.  My rankings are purely personal, and are based on a mixture of the storylines, the performances and the whole caboodle.

14 Sixth Doctor to Seventh Doctor, Time and the Rani 1987 (Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy)
Cause of regeneration: fatally injured in a TARDIS crash caused by the Rani

Coming in at the bottom spot, we have the regeneration from Six to Seven.  This really is pretty bad as a regeneration story.  Due to conflict between Baker and the BBC, he did not come back to film his regeneration scene or even tie up his era.  Instead we were given McCoy in a blond wig.  Awful  In addition, because of this, the regeneration story was very underwhelming.  No build up, no farewell to the outgoing Doctor.  A poor showing all round.

13 Third Doctor to Fourth Doctor, Planet of the Spiders 1974 (Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker)
Cause of regeneration: fatally poisoned by radiation

I have no strong feelings on this particular storyline.  

12 Fourth Doctor to Fifth Doctor, Logopolis 1981 (Tom Baker to Peter Davison)
Cause of regeneration: fall from the lighthouse

Again I have little to say about this regeneration.  It’s most notable for the Fourth Doctor’s final words “It is the end; but the moment has been prepared for.”

11 Fifth Doctor to Sixth Doctor, The Caves of Androzani 1984 (Peter Davison to Colin Baker)

Cause of regeneration: spectrox poisoning

The Caves of Androzani is widely considered to be one of Davison’s best performances and I agree.  This regeneration is notable for the distinctly uncomfortable feeling of the Sixth Doctor’s first words about change and not being a moment too soon.  This is clearly a new Doctor to be wary of.

10 Second Doctor to Third Doctor, The War Games 1969 (Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee)
Cause of regeneration: forced regeneration by the Time Lords due to breaking time lord protocol

This is an unusual regeneration storyline in that the incoming Doctor was not introduced in the regeneration episode.  I’ll be honest and say I’m not so familiar with this regeneration storyline, having only seen the minutes of the regeneration.  I don’t have much to say about it really.

9 Eleventh Doctor to Twelfth Doctor, The Time of the Doctor 2013 (Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi)
Cause of regeneration: old age

Of the reboot regenerations, this is definitely the weakest, which is a shame as I really liked Matt Smith’s Doctor.  The two big issues I found were; 1) they had a powerful storyline here with Eleven believing he was at the end of his regeneration cycle and would die for reals this time around.  They diluted that strong storyline with a whole bunch of crap.  Secondly, having Matt’s Doctor age to become an old man meant that Smith had to wear a lot of prosthetics and makeup which impacted his performance.  Still, on the positive side, his final monologue was beautiful.

8 Seventh Doctor to Eighth Doctor, Doctor Who, the Movie 1996 (Sylvester McCoy to Paul McGann)

Cause of regeneration: shot by a street gang and died due to the human doctor not understanding his Gallifreyan physiology

I’m happy Sylvester McCoy got the opportunity to say goodbye to his Doctor and I’m sad that McGann only got to play the role on screen in this movie and the webisode.  Nothing much to add.

7 Tenth Doctor to Tenth Doctor, The Stolen Earth 2008 (David Tennant)

Cause of regeneration: shot by a Dalek

This was a lovely fake-out regeneration, although it is still officially a new regeneration.  In essence the Doctor was shot by a Dalek, and started to regenerate, which was the cliffhanger at the end of part one of a two-part story.  Of course people were pretty shocked – normally when a Doctor leaves it’s announced well in advance.

6 War Doctor to Ninth Doctor, Day of the Doctor 2013 (John Hurt to Christopher Eccleston)
Cause of regeneration: similar to First Doctor, body growing old after the trials of the Time War

I liked this regeneration because it filled in the missing gap.  As Ecclestone was involved in the series reboot where his Doctor was already in place we never got to see his regeneration until eight years later.  I would have liked to have seen more of the Ninth Doctor’s first moments, but this is what we got.

5 Ninth Doctor to Tenth Doctor, The Parting of the Ways 2005 (Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant)
Cause of regeneration: absorption of the Time Vortex

This is of course the first regeneration of the new reboot.  They did some nice effects for the regeneration which continued into the other regeneration scenes in the show.  I enjoyed the storyline which is a typical Doctor sacrifices himself to save his Companion.  Nothing much else to add.

4 Tenth Doctor to Eleventh Doctor, The End of Time 2009 (David Tennant to Matt Smith)
Cause of regeneration: radiation absorption

David Tennant was one of the most popular Doctors of the modern era, and they made a big deal out of his departure.  Tennant’s last series was a collection of specials and his departure storyline was threaded through all of them.  I did feel though that they did milk the departure a little too much with a rerun of Ten’s greatest hits so to speak.  It was a regeneration specifically crafted to tug at the heartstrings.  It did have a beautiful score by Murray Gold – I adore Vale Decem.

3 Twelfth Doctor to Thirteenth Doctor, Twice Upon a Time 2017 (Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker)

Cause of regeneration: electrocuted by a Mondasian Cyberman

Coming in at number 3 we have Twice Upon a Time, the most recent regeneration story.  Of the modern era (post 2005) this is my favourite, perhaps because I saw it so recently.  I loved the interaction between the First Doctor and Twelve and their common theme of rejecting regeneration.  I would have liked to have seen that given a bit more emphasis rather than the Testimony, but whatever.  Capaldi’s last monologue as Twelve was beautiful – moving, appropriate and the delivery was perfect.  “Laugh hard.  Run fast.  Be kind.  Doctor, I let you go.  “  A fitting end to Capaldi’s time on the show.

2 Eighth Doctor to War Doctor, Night of the Doctor webisode 2013 (Paul McGann to John Hurt)

Cause of regeneration:  assisted regeneration after a starship crash.

Eight’s regeneration into the War Doctor comes in at my number 2 spot.  McGann’s inclusion in the fiftieth anniversary celebrations in the webisode The Night of the Doctor was unexpected and wonderful.  I loved this regeneration story for several reasons.  First, we got to fill in a gap in Doctor Who lore; seeing Eight’s regeneration.  Secondly, in Eight’s salute to his companions from the Big Finish audiobooks confirms his stories as canon which is excellent.Thirdly, I loved the concept of assisted regeneration and the fact that the Doctor got some say in his next incarnation.  

Mostly though, I loved it because of seeing the growth in Eight’s character.  When we last saw him on screen seven years previously in the Doctor Who movie, the Eighth Doctor was a lighthearted alien who danced with joy because his shoes fitted so perfectly.  Here in the webisode we see a time lord beaten down by the struggles of the Time War, who still clung to peace and wanted to do his best for everyone, even those who hated him.  This really intrigued me and I was very motivated to learn more about this character and what brought him to this place.  This was the point at which I started listening to the Big Finish audio productions.  If you aren’t familiar with them, check them out.

1 First Doctor to Second Doctor, The Tenth Planet 1966 (William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton)
Cause of regeneration: Original body getting old

At first glance, this isn’t a particularly exciting regeneration story.  The Doctor has been in his original incarnation for a while and his body is wearing a bit thin.  There is no dramatic conflict imperilling his life.  1960s special effects mean that the regeneration scene itself is pretty basic.  In actual fact, we only have a few moments of it as the episode was lost due to the BBC purge of videotapes.  

The reason this is my number one pick is because of what it started.  Without this story and concept, Doctor Who would never have survived to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The concept of regeneration to replace a lead actor with someone who looks and acts in a completely different manner is nothing short of brilliant.  And in a time without the internet and spoilers, can you imagine the shock value?  This gives the show a fresh perspective every few years and I believe that has contributed to the show’s longevity.  1960s showrunners, I salute you.

There you have it, my ranking of the Doctor’s regenerations.  How would you order them?  Let me know in the comments.

End of year survey for 2017

Yes, I know, it’s been quite some time since I posted.  Life has got away with me.  2017 wasn’t the greatest reading year for me; I really struggled to meet my GoodReads reading challenge of 80 books, and just squeezed in by the skin of my teeth. This post is based on a survey that Jamie of the Perpetual Page Turner came up with last year.  there are some great questions here to review my reading year, so I’ll give it a go again this year.

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 81 books
Number of Re-Reads:   Six I guess?
Genre You Read The Most From: YA fantasy

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?
This would be The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland.  This book’s concept combines time travel, witches, history and shadowy government organisations into an incredible story.  It’s rather hard to describe.  I loved everything about it.  The premise, the writing, the strong and fascinating characters, everything.  This is one I would recommend listening to in audiobook format.  It is narrated by a full voice cast who really brings the story to life.  I certainly recommend this book, expecially the audiobook format. 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Invictus by Claudia Gray.  I’ve loved most of Gray’s books, so I was somewhat disappointed that this book just didn’t grab me for some reason.  Pity. 

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 
Here I’ll say Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare.  Given my (few) gripes about her ending to The Mortal Instruments, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she went the way she did.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)
This would be Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane.  No, that is not a typo.  Philosopher’s Stane is the Scots language version of Harry’s story.  Translated by Matthew Fitt, this was a real walk down memory lane.  The translation is truly inspired.  Diagon Alley becomes the Squinty Gate and the Sorting Hat becomes the Bletherin Bunnet.  Brilliant.  Of course, if you don’t speak Scots, this may not be for you…

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?
Series starter: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.  I received an eArc of this book, and will almost certainly do a review.  It’s definitely worth reading.
Sequel: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare.  Honestly, Clare can’t put a foot wrong.  I love these books
Series Ender.  Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb.  Sniff.  Hurts too much to say any more 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
Nicola Yoon.  I read both Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star and loved both of these.  Wonderful characters and writing. 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen.  Since I moved to a new role last year, I’ve been trying to become more productive and Allen’s GTD system is deceptively simple.  I’ve really enjoyed learning more about it. 

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
I’ll be honest here, given the poor reading year I’ve had there have been very few books that had me running to grab them every spare moment.  The closest I came to this was probably Kevin Hearne’s A Plague of Giants (awesome read) or Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer whose 1242 pages went surprisingly fast.

9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Possibly Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale before series 2 is aired.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017? 
Strange the Dreamer.  Gorgeous 

11. Most memorable character of 2017?
Nona Gray of Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister.  I’m really intrigued by her and look forward to reading more about her.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb.  Of course, I’m now so invested in these characters by now that anything Hobb wrote would be layered with so much meaning. 

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?
Here I’ll go with Getting Things Done by David Allen.  It really made me think about my productivity and my efficiency.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 
Pass 

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?
That final scene in the quarry of Assassin’s Fate.  Sob.
Honorable mention:  The Twelfth Doctor “Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind. Doctor – I let you go”  Sob. Capaldi’s delivery was perfect.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?
Shortest book: Christmas Present by Jodi Taylor at just 41 pages
Longest book: Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer at a whopping 1242 pages or 55 hours of audiobook.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling.  I did NOT expect that ending.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Fitz and the Fool.  Always

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
For this one I’m going to go to television: Twelfth Doctor and Bill. Wonderful partnership.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?
Bayek from Assassin’s Creed Desert Oath.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?
Mmmmm I don’t think I read any debuts this year.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Artemis by Andy Weir.  Made me want to visit the Moon.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Another audiobook recommendation.  Rowling’s humour and magic really comes across in this book and Redmayne’s delivery is perfect.  So often when listening to this book I found myself giggling out loud.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?
Assassin’s Fate, but I knew that going in.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.  I hope more people discover it.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Assassin’s Fate.  Again I knew that going in.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.  I am not aware of any other book that combines time travel, witches, history and shadowy government organisations!

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
The Core by Peter V. Brett.  I’d been looking forward to this so much and the pacing was so slow and the ending so rushed.  

Your Blogging Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?
Pass

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?
My review of Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Fate

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
We have a new Doctor!! My discussion of the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
None 🙁

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017? 
I received an eARC of Assassin’s Fate.  I literally screamed out loud when I read the email! 

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
Last year I moved to a new role at work, one which takes a lot of time and energy.  It has left me with much less time and energy for reading which is a real shame.  My blogging has been very sporadic of late due to this.  Also, I’ve not been able to take as much pleasure in it as I would like.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I’m happy if people read any of my ramblings!

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Amazon Echo’s Alexa and her Audible integration into my life.  It is so nice to be able to control my audiobook playback by voice.  

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes.  By the skin of my teeth I completed my GoodReads challenge of reading 80 books in 2017.

Looking ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?
I am planning on completing three series:  Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?
Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare.

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Pass

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?
Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. 

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?
I will probably take a bit of a break from blogging in 2018.  I’m finding the pressure to write regular blog posts is robbing the activity of much of its fun.  I will probably only write when I feel I have something I wish to write about. 

6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone: 
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.  Enjoy. 

Thanks for reading – let me know in the comments what your favourite books of 2017 were and which ones you’re most anticipating for 2018.

Upcoming book releases Autumn 2017

Hello, now that summer is drawing to a close, we’re coming into prime book release time.  As usual, I have a metric tonne of books about whose release I am super excited.  Some of these are continuations of series in which I am already invested, some are new series from authors I love and some are reissues of old favourites.  So, let’s get into it, shall we?

To kick off, I was really excited by the recent news that Raymond E.Feist has managed to resolve the ebook rights issue for North America.  While most of his newer works have been released in ebook, his earlier novels have so far been unavailable in my preferred format.  This will all change on August 22nd when his Riftwar saga as well as his Empire trilogy with Janny Wurts will be released as ebooks.  I understand audiobook format will follow later this year.  Although I have read all of these, I am very happy to add them to my collection.  I consider Feist a true master storyteller and if you are not familiar with his work, this is a great opportunity to get started.  Be aware, though,that the series does have a somewhat slow start.  It just gets better and better.  Silverthorn remains one of my favourite books by this author.

Also in August, I will get to experience the mashup of one of my favourite authors with one of my favourite characters with the release of Leigh Bardugo’s take on Wonder Woman.  I’ve always adored this superhero and I can’t wait to read Bardugo’s take on her.  Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a coming-of-age story set before Diana of Themiscyra becomes Wonder Woman.  Sounds awesome.  Wonder Woman: Warbringer is released on August 29th.

On September 5th we have the release of Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas, the next instalment in the Throne of Glass series.  I think I’m unusual amongst Maas fans in that I’m more invested in the Throne of Glass series than her Court of Thorns and Roses series.  In fact, I’ve not yet read the third book in the latter series.   Tower of Dawn focusses on Chaol Westfall.  I look forward to reading about the continuation of this story.

Moving onto October, and this is going to be a really painful month for my bank balance.  

At some point in October, date not yet specified, we have the release of Harry Potter in his 80th translation – Scots.  The title is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane.  Note this is isn’t Gaelic, but the lowland Scots dialect that I grew up hearing.  This will be a fascinating read, I’m sure. 

First off on October 3rd we have the release of the culmination of Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle, The Core.  I really love the wordbuidling in this series and am engaged in the stories of our protagonists  It takes a great deal of skill to write two characters who are both equally honourable, equally justified in their opposing beliefs and who both want the best for their world – and who are in direct conflict.  The previous instalment finished on a real cliffhanger, so I can’t wait to read the conclusion.

Ian Doescher will publish the next installment in his William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga with The Force Doth Awaken on October 3rd.  In this series he reworks the Star Wars screenplays as if they were written by Shakeapeare complete with iambic pentameter.  This time I was overjoyed to see that Random House Audio is once again producing a full cast audiobook production.  Do yourselves a favour and pick up the audiobook – Shakespeare (and Star Wars) are not meant to be read but to be experienced through performance, and if previous instalments are any guide, this will knock it out of the park.  These audiobooks are presented like a radio production and the production values are incredible.  I can’t recommend them highly enough and can’t wait to listen to this one.

Robert Langdon returns on October 3rd in Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin.  While I wouldn’t call Brown’s writing great literature, they are very entertaining reads and I’m looking forward to this one.

Also on October 3rd we have the release of Ringer by Lauren Oliver.  This is the sequel to Replica.  While I didn’t find the characters or plot of Replica anything special, I was intrigued by the format;  the book can be read in multiple ways.  Either you can read Gemma’s story through first, or Lyra’s – or read them chapter by chapter.  This is enough to make make me want to read the second book.  

October 10th is the book birthday of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black’s The Silver Mask. This is the fourth in the Harry Potteresque Magisterium series.  The synopsis for this book is very vague about the magic and the mystery intesifying.  I have really enjoyed this series so far, and am looking forward to the continuation.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater is another book I’m anticipating.  This is a new series from the creator of the The Raven Cycle., which gave me such a book hangover.  I don’t know much about the new series, except that it’s set in Colorado.  Stiefvater’s name is enough for me to autobuy.  All the Crooked Saints is released on October 10th.

Kevin Hearne, author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, has a new seriesstarting off entitled A Plague of Giants.  Unlike in the Iron Chronicles Hearne has created a completely new world for this series in addition to a new mythology.  The synopsis indicates that one of the main characters is a kickass warrior and mother.  I’m interested to see how Hearne handles a female protagonist.  A Plague of Giants is also released on October 10th.

After a break of nearly 17 years, Philip Pullman is returning to his Dark Materials world with a new trilogy entitled the La Belle Sauvage. He describes it as an “equel” rather than sequel or prequel.  It will return to Lyra’ story both before she came to Oxford and as a young woman in her twenties.  I note that Michael Sheen is narrating the audiobook.  I’m a little surprised we don’t have a female narrator, but I’m sure it’ll be great anyway.  The first book in the trilogy, The Book of Dust will be published on October 19.

Moving onto November we have the release of Renegades by Marissa Meyer.  This is a new superhero series from the writer of the Lunar Chronicles.  Again an auto buy for me.  Renegades will be published on November 7th.

Next up we have Oathbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. This is the third book in Sanderson’s epic fantasy The Stormlight Archive.  This is another bookstopper at 1200+ pages or 49 hours of listening.  I might consider listening to the Graphic Audio adaptations of the earlier books to get caught up.  Still, it’s another auto buy for me, despite the fact that I’m not reading much epic fantasy these days.  Oathbringer is released on November 14th.

The final book I have on my upcoming releases list is Artemis by Andy Weir, the writer of the Martian.  I LOVED the blend of science and character development in the Martian and I”m hoping for more from Artemis.  Artemis is also released on November 14th.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin – Review

Invictus by Ryan Graudin – ReviewInvictus by Ryan Graudin
Format: ARC
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced Netgalley copy of Invictus by Ryan Graudin – thanks so much to Hachette for giving me a copy.  I ADORED Graudin’s earlier series Wolf by Wolf so I was very excited to read Invictus.Invictus is described as young adult time-travel adventure with a dash of Doctor Who (guys, you already had me at “Ryan Graudin,” no need for overkill) and Firefly.  So without further ado, here’s my review.

What I liked

Characters

From my enjoyment of her previous books, character development is one of Graudin’s strengths as a writer and this is borne out by those we meet in Invictus.  I really enjoyed them all and was very much invested in their journeys, romances and challenges.  Each person was nicely developed with his or her quirks, wishes and weaknesses.  The interrelationships between them all were very well done and I really enjoyed seeing how they developed.  Certain characters start out as quasi antagonists, but by the end, I came to care for them as much as for our heroes.

Plot

Without saying too much – spoilers!- I did like where Graudin went with the storyline.  There are some really nicely done twists.  Enjoy.

What I didn’t like

Worldbuilding 

Don’t get me wrong; I loved what we got in terms of worldbuilding. The world and story did fit together well.  However, I would have liked a lot more.  There was so much we didn’t know about the world Graudin has created and the book was the poorer for it.  For example, time travel; awesome!  But what are the rules in this world?  What are the consequences of breaking those rules?  What are the limitations?  As I’ve said often before, you can learn as much about a system by what you can’t do as what you can do.  To return to that old chestnut, can you go back and kill Hitler in Far’s world?  These are all questions I had which weren’t answered in the book.  I think I see where Graudin was going, but I would have liked a fuller explanation.

In a similar vein, I would have loved to have seen some of Far’s and his friends’ adventures prior to the attempted heist that started this particular story.  I would have enjoyed seeing his crew handle a couple of successful missions.  It would also have added to the character development.

I would have liked to have seen this as a duology, with expanded worldbuilding and more shenanigans developed.  There is a natural breaking point halfway through the book which would have been an excellent point to make the reader wait to build excitement for the second part.   

All in all, I really enjoyed Invictus and gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars

Update on the Amazon Echo and Home Automation

Hello, I thought I’d give you an update into my adventures in the Amazon Echo and home automation.  I’m still really enjoying my virtual assistant.  Since my last post I’ve added a few more items to my home automation setup.  My home now includes two Philips Hue Bloom lights, a Philips Hue Go (thank you, employer, for your rewards program 😀 ) a Harmony hub and a second Amazon Echo Dot for our bedroom.  My husband prefers more tried and true methods of controlling our home, but even he has occasionally tried having Alexa control stuff.  It certainly amuses him when Alexa doesn’t quite… perform as expected shall we say.

The part of my home automation setup I love the most is my Philips Hue lights.  Being able to play around with them is awesome and they can make such a difference to my room.  I think I’ve just about resolved my issue with being able to set scenes with Alexa – you do need to be quite particular with the syntax you use unfortunately.  Once I got that down it was much easier.  The addition of the Harmony hub made combining routines much easier.  Now I can say Alexa, set bedtime and she will turn off the living room lights, turn on a nightlight in the bathroom and turn on the bedroom lights to a gentle glow for me.  

I also tried to configure geolocation as well so that our hall lights will turn on as soon as I (or to be more specific, my iPhone) gets near home.  I only set it up a couple of days ago and so far I’ve not been out after dark to test it.  We lead a quiet life!

My impression of the Harmony hub is somewhat mixed.  I’ve not had the time to really configure it yet.  I’ve set it up to do some basic things like turn on and off my TV and dim the lights, but configuration of it to work perfectly will take a bit of time.  I’ll continue to work on it though.  I do like how it combines managing my entertainment systems and my Philips Hue lights together, so that one command will turn on the TV and Apple TV, switch to Netflix and dim the lights.  It’s neat.

I really wish Amazon would provide support for the Echo in Canada.  There’s a lot you can do, but also a lot that is missing, specifically location based information.  It would be lovely not to have to add “in Montreal” when asking for the weather or to be able to ask when the local Home Depot is open.  My Alexa goal is to be able to ask her when the next number 57 bus to town will leave!

Let me know of your experiences with home automation in the comments.

Reading roundup – July 29th 2017

Hello and here I am with another reading roundup.  I must admit I’ve not been doing very well with my reading.  I’m actually three books behind on my GoodReads 2017 reading challenge; 42 books out of 50.  This is due to a couple of things.  I’ve recently become obsessed with playing Assassin’s Creed on my Playstation and watching gameplay YouTube videos.  Sigh.  Honestly, I’m not so violent in real life.  Additionally, I’ve listened to more audiobooks that I have read ebooks, which always takes longer.  That’s my excuse anyway!  So, onto the roundup.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

I absolutely ADORED this book.  I wish I had more stars than 5 to give it.  I would strongly recommend experiencing this in the audiobook version; it’s narrated by a full cast who really brings an extra je ne sais quoi to the story.  Forgive me if I misspell some of the names since I only listened to it.  In in a similar vein to the Illuminae files the story is told both through standard narration and letters, office memos, briefing files etc.  

The story is rather difficult to summarise into a few words; secret government organisations, time travel, Schroedinger’s cat, magic, witches.  I loved, loved, loved it.  Fair warning, you do need to concentrate to keep the various plots and timelines clear in your head.  The whole time travel/magic concept was very well written and I very much appreciated that it had built in limitations.  

The characters, too, are wonderfully engaging.  Each of them is well developed and the motivations for their actions are believable and logical, even for those who end up as antagonists, purely because they are opposed to our protagonists.  I loved Erszebet.  She’s fun an plucky, but her story is very sad when you think about it.  

There is also quite a bit of humour – especially in the memos from the office manager as D.O.D.O. is on the rise and red tape starts to take hold.  Many times I found myself giggling out loud.  The voice actress portraying said office manager did an awesome job at portraying her suppressed frustration that D.O.D.O. doesn’t quite fit the mould of her usual employer.  

I gave The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. five stars out of five, not surprisingly.  Go check this out immediately.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet by the BBC

Those Whovians among you will know that the BBC erased many of the earlier episodes of Doctor Who because they needed the tapes and didn’t think the episodes were worth saving.  The First Doctor’s last serial, The Tenth Planet is one of the victims of this purging.  Only the last few minutes of his regeneration exist.  

However, the audio files still remain, and the BBC has released these as an audiobook with additional narration by former Companion Anneke Wills to fill in the blanks.  It works reasonably well.  The reason I picked this up is in preparation for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special which sees current Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, join forces with the First Doctor, played by David Bradley.  Regeneration will be a major theme for this episode given that both Doctors are about to regenerate imminently.

In December there will be a novelisation released of the story which I shall also pick up.

I gave Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet three and a half stars out of five.

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

I must admit I’m rather struggling with this one.  Still not finished it.

The Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell

Recently I was lucky enough to receive a couple of books from the publisher to review.  I received a copy of Tyrant’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell, the fourth book in his Greatcoats series.  As I amn’t familiar with the series, I picked up the first book, Traitor’s Blade to see what it was all about.  This series is described as kind of Three Musketeers with added magic.  I’ve only read the first one so far, but that seems a very good description.  Now, Dumas is one of my favourite authors.  I love the swashbuckling yarn, political intrigue and camaraderie and de Castell seems to have captured that very well.  Despite a few modernisms which jarred on me, I loved the narrative and banter.  I certainly intend to read the rest of the series.

I gave Traitor’s Blade five stars out of five.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

I only received a Netgalley of this one today and I’m very much looking forward to getting into it.  Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf series has been one of my highlights of he last few years and I’m very grateful to Hachette Canada for the galley.

I don’t know much about Invictus except that it involves time travel with a nod to Doctor Who.  If I wasn’t already sold on the author, that would certainly have been enough to convince me!  Expect a review when I have finished it.

Anyway, that’s all I have today.  What are you reading this weekend?  Let me know in the comments.

We have a female Doctor Who!!!!!

Congratulations Jodie Whittaker, our 13th Doctor.  Here’s the video of the announcement.  As a Brit, Doctor Who is part of my cultural DNA, and the casting of a new Doctor is a national event.

I am so, so excited about this.  I was so happy when I saw the hand taking the TARDIS key and knew we had a woman! 

First, I’m just really happy it’s not Kris Marshall.  No disrespect to Kris – I’m sure he’s a very fine and talented comedic actor, but I don’t think he was at all the right person to fill Capaldi’s shoes.

Now I’m even more excited for the Christmas special with the First Doctor.  Regeneration is bound to be a major theme given that both Doctors are within hours of their respective regenerations.   As an older gentleman product of the Sixties, the First Doctor is very patriarchal.  I really hope we get to see his horror at the prospect of turning into a woman!

I’m not familiar with Jodie Whittaker’s work personally, but I understand she’s handled some really tough storylines on Broadchurch so I’m satisfied.  I don’t think Who has ever miscast the Doctor.  Even poor Colin Baker only played the Time Lord as he was written.

I’m a little concerned at Chibnall’s comment that “13 was always going to be a woman.”  I’m hoping that means he has some ideas for interesting ways in which the gender swap will come into play, not just because he wanted to make his mark on Who by making the Doctor a woman purely for shock factor.  Clearly, Moffat was asked to prepare this.  The Master becoming Missy; the other Time Lord regenerating into a Time Lady; the Master’s snarky comment about the women taking over.

Speaking of gender swap, I hope they don’t drag the issues on too long.  The Doctor is a woman; get over it.  Let’s find out what kind of Doctor she will be.

The gender swap is more impactful than a racial swap.  It’s been shown time and time again that race has no meaning in the Whoniverse.

I wonder if that’s why Bill had to go?  Whittaker is a similar physical type to Heather, Bill’s love interest.  Maybe a Sapphic vibe between the Doctor and her companion was a step too far for Auntie Beeb?   Now I’m wondering about Companions!  Male, female?  How many?

Oh, please let us have River meet 13!  I think she’d be totally down with being married to a woman!

Reading roundup – June 17th 2017

Hello, and here I am with another reading roundup.  It’s been a while since I gave a reading update and I have been on vacation so I have a lot to catch up on.

Rick Riordan

During my vacation I read two Rick Riordan books – The Dark Prophecy and Camp Blood Confidential.  Both of these are pretty much what you would expect from Riordan; a fun middle grade read, based on Greek/Roman mythology with a good dose of humour.  While I enjoyed them – they were both light, fun reads – they were what I was expecting, nothing more, nothing less.  If you’ve read one Rick Riordan book, you know what to expect.  They are hardly world altering, so I gave both books three and a half stars out of five.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

One of my most anticipated reads of the summer was Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare, the second in the Dark Artifices series set in her Shadowhunters world.  I absolutely LOVED this one.  Although Emma and Julian are the ostensible protagonists, I found myself less interested in their journeys than those of their supporting characters.  The growing bond between Ty, Kit and Livvy was so wonderfully done   The way Kit just got Ty, who is on the autism spectrum, was so, so beautiful.  I am really excited to see how their bond grows, especially after the events of the book’s ending.  It was also really great to see that in some respects, mundanes understand more than Shadowhunters and that their reliance on runes for healing can blind them to some things.  Diana’s story, too was really nicely told.  I also look forward to seeing how her tale continues.

Additionally, I loved how topical the book was.  Although it is a fantasy book, its themes of a right wing faction in the government looking to restrict freedoms of those whom it doesn’t understand were very well written and highly relevant.  Ever since Lady Midnight I have long suspected that the real enemy in The Dark Artifices will be the Clave.

Naturally, I gave Lord of Shadows five stars out of five.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a modern retelling of the Cinderella fairystory, with  a bit of geekdom thrown in.  The book is told from two points of view; that of Ella, a young teen, living with her stepmother and stepsisters who is obsessed with the reboot of cult series Starfield.  Her story follows Cinderella’s beat for beat as she competes to win first prize at the cosplay ball to mark Starfield’s revival.

The second PoV is that of Darien, a young actor cast in the lead role of Prince Carmindor in the reboot.  I really enjoyed his character arc and his growing in confidence in his ability to manage his relationships with friends and family and to handle the role of Carmindor.  His storyline lifted the book from a straight retelling/adaptation of Cinderella to something more.  

For fairytale retellings though, it has nothing on Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.  I gave Geekerella four stars out of five.

Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer is very much a poor man’s Outlander.  It follows Beatrice Trovato, a modern day neurosurgeon who finds herself unexpectedly transported into the past and who must find a way to return home or make a life for herself there.  While the history is fascinating, and it’s a fun read it’s no Outlander.  Beatrice and Gabriele are no Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser and the antagonist is no Black Jack Randall.

The biggest misstep here was not setting up conflict.  In Outlander much of the first book is driven by Claire’s conflicting desires between returning to the present, to her husband, Frank, and remaining in the past with Jamie, the man she has grown to love.  Beatrice doesn’t seem to care either about returning or remaining.

Despite that, The Scribe of Siena was an enjoyable read and I gave it four stars out of five.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig is not a book I’d planned on reading, but after I picked it up, I couldn’t stop reading,  I devoured it in one afternoon/evening.  It tells the story of Ginny Moon, a young teen with autism struggling to adapt to her new adoptive family as well as the reappearance of her birth mother in her life.  The book is written from Ginny’s perspective and it Ludwig has done a fantastic job of showing how her mind works differently due to her autism, but at the same time indicating how those around her perceive her actions.

I gave Ginny Moon five stars out of five

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen is the tenth book in Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and it took me quite a while to get round to reading it. I loved the first few Mercy books, but the last two or three I have found to be rather derivative and added nothing new to Mercy’s story.  Silence Fallen is definitely one of the better stories in the later part of the series.  Briggs’ decision to have Mercy be stranded in Europe and forced to rely on her own resources in an alien culture was a very good move.  I also enjoyed the discussion about what is power and whether Mercy is powerful in her own right or only through her connections to powerful people – it is an interesting discussion and Briggs doesn’t quite give a definitive answer.

I also appreciated that events that took place in book three are still having an effect on Mercy – that is excellent character development.  And of course, the whole Matt Smith/Doctor Who setup was a lot of fun and I fell for it.  Nicely done, Briggs!

I gave Silence Fallen four stars out of five

That’s all I have to share today.  Do you agree with my thoughts on these books?  Let me know in the comments!


First Impressions Amazon Echo Dot and Home Automation

Hello all.  For something a little different today, I thought I’d share with you my first impressions of the Amazon Echo Dot and its pairing with the Philips Hue lighting system.  

I’ve been thinking about a an intelligent speaker for a while.  I regularly use Apple’s Siri on my iPhone to set alarms, timers etc and I was interested in having an always-on assistant in the home.  At the time of writing, there are three contenders in this market; the Amazon Echo, Google Home and the new Apple HomePod.  I was anxiously watching the Apple Keynote to see what kind of product Apple would announce.  While the HomePod looks interesting, its price was beyond my budget and also the emphasis seems to be on the Bluetooth speaker rather than the smart assistant integration.  The ability to play my Apple Music would have been nice though.  The Google Home was also of interest, but the Amazon Echo’s ability to play Audible audiobooks as well as the low price point of the Echo Dot were the deciding factors for me.  Our apartment is pretty small, and I only play music with a headset, so I couldn’t justify the extra expense for the better speaker part of the full Echo.

The Amazon Echo Dot is not officially available in Canada (why not Amazon?) so I had to turn to eBay to purchase one.  My eBay experience was excellent and it arrived a couple of days after I placed the order.  It arrived the same day as my Philips Hue White starter pack to enable smart lighting in our home.  I chose the Philips Hue system as it works with both Alexa and Siri.

The setup for both the Echo and the Hue lighting system was incredibly easy.  Fair enough, I am quite tech savvy, but if you are able to follow on-screen instructions and press buttons when required, you should have no problem.  In total, it took me about 45 minutes to have the Echo and the smart lighting setup and working fine.

The Philips Hue white starter pack comes with the Hue bridge (the tech that translates between your smartphone or the Echo and the bulbs) and two bulbs.  I placed one in our living room and one in our entryway.  However, I forgot that the light switch controlling the entryway turns on two bulbs, so I had to purchase another for the smart functionality to work.  I also have a white ambiance bulb (this one changes the colour temperature of the white light) and a colour changing bulb on order.  The lighting system works brilliantly.  It was easy to setup and it’s wonderful to be able to say “Hey Alexa turn on the living room lights” and they go on.  Apart from the fun aspect, it’s lovely to be able to turn the laundry room light on by voice if you’re carrying a basket full of laundry.  There are a lot more things you could do with it that I have not yet explored, such as the ability to have the lights come on at a specific time or to have them come on when you (or your GPS enabled smartphone) near home.  I am having a few challenges changing the colour temperature of the white ambiance bulb with Alexa, but I’ll continue to work on it.

The Amazon Echo Dot, too, is a lot of fun.  As well as the usual timers, alarms and general questions, I’ve used it successfully to get weather reports, a flash news briefing and to add things to my shopping list and to-do lists.  My to-do list manager of choice is TodoIst, and Alexa integrates wonderfully with it.  I maintain a shopping list on Todoist and asking Alexa to add something to my shopping list immediately adds it.  Likewise if I ask her to add something to my to-do list it will go onto my Today list in Todoist.  Asking her what I have on my to-do list will have her read out what’s on my Today view in Todoist.  Awesome.

I was concerned that, with Alexa not being supported in Canada some of the functionality may be missing.  It’s true that a lot of the location specific information is unavailable.  For example, if you just ask for a weather forecast it won’t pick up your Canadian location.  You have to specify “what’s the weather like in Montreal, Quebec.”  If you do that though it works fine.  Also you can’t ask it to find you the nearest Starbucks.  Mine thinks I’m in Seattle, so a long way to go for a coffee!  I understand you also can’t place any orders.  I was concerned though that it wouldn’t pick up my Audible account as it didn’t show in the Alexa app.  However, worked perfectly.

Like the App Store, Alexa has what they call a skill store. There you can download mini applications to enhance Alexa’s functionality.  Most of them are just a bit of fun, but others are useful, such as the Hue skill to integrate the ability to manage your lights.  I installed the Allrecipes and one called Miauw Miauw.  This allows Alexa to mew like a cat.  I had to uninstall it though as my own cat, Lushka, was freaking out thinking there was another cat in the apartment!

Avid reader that I am, the real Echo killer app if you like for me is the Audible integration.  Quite often I’ll be doing some chores and think, gosh I could be listening to my audiobook about now, but not been in a position to look for my phone, open Audible and start my audiobook.  With Alexa I can just say read my Scribe of Siena audiobook and she fetches it from Audible and starts playing it.  Add to this the quick connection with my Phonak Bluetooth streamer and it’s a real winner.  I only wish Amazon would add the ability to listen to audiobook samples via the Echo.

All in all, I’m really happy with my Alexa and the Hue light integration.  They are well worth checking out.  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

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