Book Review: Prison of Sleep (Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2) by Tim Pratt

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: April 26th, 2022
Pages: 400, paperback
Source: NetGalley

After escaping the ruthless Lector, Zax Delatree has a new enemy to fight in the sequel to Doors of Sleep.

Every time Zaxony Delatree falls asleep he wakes up on a new world. His life has turned into an endless series of brief encounters. But at least he and Minna, the one companion who has found a way of travelling with him, are no longer pursued by the psychotic and vengeful Lector.

But now Zax has been joined once again by Ana, a companion he thought left behind long ago. Ana is one of the Sleepers, a group of fellow travellers between worlds. Ana tells Zax that he is unknowingly host to a parasitic alien that exists partly in his blood and partly between dimensions. The chemical that the alien secretes is what allows Zax to travel. Every time he does, however, the parasite grows, damaging the fabric of the Universes. Anas is desperate to recruit Zax to her cause and stop the alien.

But there are others who are using the parasite, such as the cult who serve the Prisoner – an entity trapped in the dimension between universes. Every world is like a bar in its prison. The cult want to collapse all the bars of the worlds and free their god. Can Zax, Minna, Ana and the other Sleepers band together and stop them?

Prison of Sleep continues Zax’s journey through multiple worlds as he tries to stop the Sleeper cult from propagating and destroying space-time. Told from the points-of-view of Zax, and his former traveling partner and lover, Ana, we get insights (and, admittedly, info-dumps) about the cult and the people from various worlds who are working to defeat it. But, can a god who can traverse anywhere be killed?

Tim Pratt is a writer who’s work is always a joy for me. I became a fan with his Marla Mason series, and have liked everything since. I read The Twilight Empire at the same time I was reading Prison of Sleep, and was intrigued by how effortlessly he builds worlds and characters.

Zax has traveled over 1000 worlds, and he has lost several companions along the way. The cult are looking for him, either to convert or to kill him, and it’s becoming harder to stay ahead of them.

Ana has also become a traveler, after surviving near-madness due to exposure of the space between the worlds. She’s a bit more pessimistic than Zax, but also less idealistic. They balance each other well, and readers will hope for their eventual reunion.

We also meet back up with some characters I thought might be lost for good after the first book. No spoilers, but they’ve joined the fight as well, and are working their way to Zax.

Despite the large blocks of info, the plot moves well and makes sense. I think possibly it could have been improved by having two parts Zax to one part Ana in the chapters, but then too, Ana’s sections give us lots of the backstory of the cult and the group working against them.

This is a good, solid sci-fi series that will appeal to readers who like to imagine alternate times and places.

Book Review: Knit or Dye Trying (A Riverbank Knitting Mystery #2) by Allie Pleiter

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 304, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Business is booming for Libby Beckett and her fabulous Maryland shop, aptly named Y.A.R.N., but when a town festival brings a fatality with it, Libby gets all tangled up in murder.

As spring comes to Collinstown, the village launches a food festival to draw a new group of tourists. Libby, proud owner of Y.A.R.N., has planned a yarn event to provide an alternative option to a foodie weekend. Artisan fiber dyer Julie Wilson–known for her work with animal-friendly, plant-based knitting fibers such as bamboo and hemp as well as her brilliant use of color–will hopefully draw a crowd with a special dyeing workshop.

The festival begins, but it draws more than crowds. First a flock of sheep parades down the street, herded by farmers protesting Julie’s antiwool stance. Then Julie’s celebrity chef sister appears, and the siblings resume a long-standing rivalry. Despite all this, Julie’s workshop has sold out. Libby is thrilled, and they’re preparing for a full house. But the night before the event, Julie is found alone in the warehouse event space–dead. The witty “Watch Julie Wilson Dye” workshop title now has a terrible new meaning–and it’s up to Libby to catch a crafty killer.

A flock of protest sheep welcome Libby’s most recent celebrity guest, a well-known, and much-disliked yarn dyer, in Knit or Dye Trying, the second in Allie Pleiter’s knitting mystery series. Libby owns Y.A.R.N, and is having an event to go along with the local seafood festival. Julie Wilson is her expert guest, and Libby gives Julie access to a local warehouse so that Julie can create her special, highly sought-after, colors. Julie gets trapped in the warehouse, and is overcome by fumes. Libby feels responsible, and decides to investigate.

This second outing for Libby is every bit as enjoyable as the first. Although she hasn’t been back in town long, she’s folded herself seamlessly into the life of her town, even running for local office against her blowhard fellow business owner George. One of the strengths of the series is the relationships Libby has forged and the growth we’ve seen from the first book. Libby is likeable and is a very relatable character, as are her almost-boyfriend Gavin, Gavin’s daughter, and Libby’s mom. They feel like real people whom you’d like to know.

Libby is a great cozy heroine. She’s thoughtful, and doesn’t jump to conclusions. She looks at the people involved in the case, and makes logical deductions. Maybe it’s a knitting thing? I can knit a decent scarf, and I admire people who can work large, complex patterns. Libby is amazing at unravelling (pun intended) the knotty skeins of the crimes which have come her way.

The crimes make sense, too, and there are enough clues scattered along the way to keep the reader engaged without letting them guess the solution too soon.

It’s a wonderful series, filled with life and love. I hope there are many more to come.

Miranda’s March Reading Wrap-Up

( A little late, but hey!)

March has come and gone, so it’s time to share my monthly spread from my reading journal. For March, I went with a Mardi Gras theme, because Easter isn’t really that big a deal for me. I definitely put all the work into the drawing and, when I got to the actual stats spread, I was like “idk just throw whatever on there.” So, a little lazy on my part, but oh well!

I don’t think it comes through on the picture, but I used Archer & Olive’s Arcylograph metallic markers for the beads, then a mix of Tombow and Copic for the rest of the outfit and lady. I had some foil cardstock that I cut up into random triangles just to give it more metallic sheen.

Now for the stats! I read 21 books in March, a big step up from my awful February stat of 7 books, totaling 3,161 pages. I DNF’d one book, and my average rating was 3.0. Unfortunately at the end of March I started listening to a bunch of audiobooks but I didn’t really have anywhere to put that statistic on this spread, but I listened to 2,725 minutes of audiobooks in March.

All in all, not a bad reading month.

I decided not to do a spread for my best book of the month, and going forward, I’m only going to do them if I have a solid idea of what I want. I don’t really see the point in making a spread about a book unless I can put stuff on it that actually relates to the book, instead of just whatever I have lying around. Maybe it’s a weird way to think about it, I dunno.

Unfortunately I missed two days in March for my Read Every Day challenge, but I had good excuses! On the 21st I had a migraine, and the 26th, I just… didn’t read. Oh well. I think I’m still doing pretty well.

I also have a new sticker page!

All of these except for the Belle sticker were purchased from RedBubble:

I Heart Books” by renduh
Books sticker” by deepfuze
flowers growing from book” by andilynnf
Pink and Blue Floral Bookstack” by Emma Mildred Riggle
Cat Tarot stickers by Thiago Corrêa
Forest moon” by Laorel

And that’s it for my March reading journal spreads! What does your reading journal look like for March?

Book Review: The Ex Hex (The Ex Hex #1) by Erin Sterling

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 28th, 2021
Length: 7 hrs 23mins
Source: Library

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

Sir Percival the cat was the best part of this, especially when he called Gwyn “mama”. Otherwise I rolled my eyes at a lot of this, especially the heavy focus on sex when frankly there were much more important things going on. Mayhaps I am simply a Clueless Ace, but do allosexual adults really spend this much time thinking/talking/joking about sex and getting turned on at the drop of a hat? Sounds exhausting. Couldn’t be me.

This book shares two problems I had with another witchy romance book, Payback’s a Witch. Both of them feature settings consisting of a town in America that was founded a few hundred years previously by an ancestor of one of the main characters. Just like in the aforementioned book, nothing is said about what happened to the Native Americans who owned the land before it was colonized. Really gotta wonder about that! Also, this book takes place in Georgia. So, uh… did any of the ancestors, you know, enslave Black people? It’s stated that the town was founded at least 300 years ago, so.

Maybe I’m ruining the witchy rom-com vibe the book was going for by trying to pry deeper into the worldbuilding and wanting answers to these serious questions, but if you introduce this kind of world, a bitch is gonna wonder about a few things.

There’s also a couple of snide remarks about how “fake” witchcraft has become very popular (“Everyone’s a witch these days.”) and this was a thing in Payback’s a Witch as well. Kind of tired of it, to be honest. Just because a lot of people are experimenting with witchcraft doesn’t make them fakers or posers. It’s just a sense of condescension that rubs me the wrong way.

Otherwise, I wasn’t moved much by the main couple. Like I said, the main focus on sex dampened by ability to really get into them or root for them as a couple. I also just found Vivienne annoying as hell. This comes down to a personality issue for me; I don’t see why characters, especially female ones, have to still be torn up and hurt by a dude even nine years after he did something to them, or be frankly huge bitches when the dudes show back up. I try to cut some slack since I know this is me being judgmental, and I guess it’s fine if it still hurts a bit, but come on. You’re twenty-eight. Let’s act like the adult we are instead of the 19-year-old who got her heart broken.

Reading Journal: February Spread

Playing a bit of catch up here by posting both of my monthly spreads for January and February this week.

I was a bit stuck on what to do as a theme for February. I didn’t want to do a Valentine’s Day theme, because… eh. So I racked my brain for a bit, and then I saw something on twitter called “Funguary.” People were drawing mushroom girls for something called Funguary, and I thought, “Yes. That. I want to do that.”

I only dabble in drawing, and my poor little fungus baby has a few mistakes. But I still think she’s cute.

I didn’t feel like drawing a whole bunch more, so I threw some mushrooms on there, then colored in the stats page with the colors from the theme. Then I used washi tape. A whole lot of washi tape. So much washi tape.

(Yes, I forgot to give my fungus baby some toes. I could go back and add some in, but… I could also not do that.)

Again, I’ve left space for when I add in the covers. I’ll get to it eventually! Promise!

(Narrator: She probably won’t.)

As for my favorite book of the month, The School for Good Mothers, I struggled a bit with making a spread for it. I used construction paper again and used a quote from the novel, because I liked it a lot. It was a sort of literary dystopian, light sci-fi novel. I don’t usually go for literary, but I really loved the world that was painted in this novel, as terrifying as it was. I’m still not 100% pleased with this, and I might play around with it some more.

And lastly, I have so many stickers I had to put in a new sticker spread. I think this is something I’ll keep doing, too, so I can use my stickers and keep them in a place where they won’t get damaged. A lot of these were bought off RedBubble. Since this is a spread kind of representing me, I have a few of my favorite things: Books, Alphonse Mucha art, Belle, a Tarot card, some cats, the moon, and a small golden key for my devotion to Sigyn, the Norse Goddess of Constancy and Compassion.

Have any bujo spreads for February? Lemme see!

Reading Journal: January Spread

Yesterday I posted about setting up my 2022 reading journal. Today, I’m going to share the first monthly spread I did!

A lot of people who bujo do a different theme for each month, and put stat sheets in individual months as well (so, say, they may do a “Daily Pages Read” sheet for each month). That was a little too fussy for me, so to start out, I imagined doing just four pages for each month: A monthly stat spread, and a spread for my favorite book of the month.

With that in mind, here’s my January spread!

I went with basic wintry colors, plus a sticker from Happy Planner, and some washi tape. My cursive writing is about as bad as my normal writing, but I made an attempt at a fancy little banner. I used cardstock and construction paper for this. The blank space in the middle of page 2 will be where I paste the covers of the books I read, once I get my hands on a proper printer.
I did a small stats line up, as well as a genres read and average rating options. I may play around with this a bit–already in February I didn’t include a “Re-Reads” option because I didn’t re-read anything.

As for my spread, well, I did not make a spread for We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory. I sort of cheated and made a spread for Deathless instead, which I re-read in January and still love as much as the first time I read it.

I used black construction paper for this, as I find it stresses the binding of the journal less than the heavy duty cardstock. The white and red paper are also construction paper. I found some pictures on Pinterest and included them, and then I printed out a map of Stalingrad as it was in the 1940s, since a portion of the novel takes place there. I’m still very much pleased with how this turned out.

If you have a reading journal, too, share your spreads for January! I would love to see them.

Setting Up My 2022 Reading Journal

I’ve always liked the idea of bullet journaling in a sort of abstract way. I liked seeing what people came up with for their layouts and spreads and how creative they were. I toyed with the idea of starting one of my own, but, well, the problem was… I have no life. I have nothing to fill a bullet journal/planner. (And I’m perfectly content this way! If I could be a hermit, I would.)

So, I never really got into it. Until one day, when I was scrolling through my YouTube home page, and saw a video recommended for me about “reading journals”. Intrigued, I watched it.

And thus did I find a way to get in on the bullet journaling craze. (It’s still a craze, right? I know it’s been around for a few years, but…)

At the very end of December, I ran into B&N and got myself a little Leuchtturm1917 journal.

I watched a few more (a dozen more) videos on reading journals, figuring out what I wanted and didn’t need in mine, and then I started. I decorated my first two pages myself with some basic flowers and used some highlighters to color them in, which I rather like.

I didn’t have any washi tape or even any color markers to decorate my journal with at first. I ordered some, but while I waited for them to arrive, I set up the first half of my “GoodReads 200” spread, which was a basic log sheet. As you can see, I messed up a lot and found out that white-out doesn’t work great with fineliner pens. (I’m a perfectionist, so I’m rather proud of myself for not immediately giving up the whole project then and there.)

As I don’t have a color printer, I stuck to black and white images I could color in myself to decorate my journal with. I also used a postcard I got from a set from ALA. As you can see, once the stickers came in, I filled up the sticker spread with them as well.

Once that was done, I bought some pretty reasonably priced scrapbooking paper and made some backgrounds for my reading challenges I was taking part in through 2022.

My “read every day” challenge is going well! Instead of using just one color for the log, I alternate between two or three colors to track my progress. This gives it more visual interest, I think, and makes it prettier. Sometimes I use colors from whatever my monthly spread theme was, such as in January and March; other times I just used some stereotypical colors associated with that month, like February for Valentine’s, though my theme was not Valentine’s Day inspired.

The bingo card I’ve already completed, as you can see!

Now that I’ve finished my winter bingo card, I’m working on the 2022 PBN Reading Challenge, found here.
I did have to change out one challenge for another on the list, but that’s fine, it’s my journal and I can do what I like.

I won’t be starting the summer bingo until May, maybe June.

And look at that, I’ve already failed one of my personal goals! It’s fine, though. I’m making progress in other areas of my reading backlog, so I won’t beat myself up too much about this.

I did start in on the next challenge, then stopped, because I didn’t want to use the same books for multiple challenges. I may switch between this one and the PBN challenge going forward, depending on if what I read fits one of the challenges.

The A-Z Reading Challenge! Not doing too badly, so far.

Another sticker page, along with another colored in printout of sakura. Then my pages read log. Some people do a daily pages read sheet, but that seemed a little too fussy for me (and I don’t keep track of that anyway), so I’ve just done a monthly one. As you can see, I’m still figuring some things out. The most pages I’ve ever read in a month was 8,150, so I set that as my maximum. We’ll see if I can meet it!

Another sticker page! I just really love stickers, okay? Then comes my “owned TBR” which is books I own. At first I was going to keep track of when I received them (the first “R” checkbox line) as well as a checkbox line for when I read that. I took that first option out so I could better fit more lines on the spread and have it take up less pages.

Next is my series tracker! This actually isn’t all the series I own or started and haven’t gotten around to finishing. These are just the ones I’m going to focus on getting to first, and then once/if I finish this, I’ll do another spread and choose more. I was a little daunted by how many series I’ve got going, actually…

Lastly, I’ve got a pretty late addition to my journal, as you can see I didn’t put it in until the very last day of February. I bought the spreads here.

I noticed that I had a bad depressive crash in February, and it walloped my reading as well. I was still reading every day, but not as much, and I wasn’t finishing books as quickly as usual. I decided I wanted to keep track of my mood to see if I could find any patterns. As you can see, March started off rough for me, but it’s been steadily improving. (I also, hilariously, did not write down what markers I used for which colors/moods, so I’m just using whatever one is closest in color. This is a mistake I intend to rectify in April’s mood spread.)

So that’s it for the start of my journal! Do you journal? If you do, what sort: life bullet journaling, reading journaling, or movie/TV journaling, or something else entirely? Let me know!

Book Review: Danger on the Atlantic (A Jane Wunderly Mystery #3) by Erica Ruth Neubauer

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 29th, 2022
Pages: 304, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

For young American widow Jane Wunderly, there are worse fates than adventuring aboard a transatlantic liner with the only man who could change her mind about romance. Unfortunately, her first-class itinerary has an unexpected—and deadly—addition waiting just below deck . . .

Atlantic Ocean, 1926: Voyaging from Southampton to New York, self-reliant Jane is determined to prove herself a worthy investigator on the stately ship—even awkwardly going undercover as the fashionable wife of her magnetic partner, Mr. Redvers. Few details are known about the rumored German spy the duo have been tasked with identifying among fellow passengers, but new troubles unfold once wealthy newlywed Vanessa FitzSimmons announces the sudden disappearance of her husband at sea . . .

Miles Van de Meter, the man Vanessa rushed to marry in Monte Carlo, has allegedly vanished into thin air along with his luggage. Redvers guesses the shifty heiress may be weaving tall tales for fun between flutes of champagne, yet Jane isn’t convinced—not after the stunning murder of a trusted acquaintance sends them into uncharted waters. Facing two dangerous mysteries and a boat load of suspects, Jane must navigate a claustrophobic quest for answers before the culprits can slip from her grasp on land . . . or, worse, ensure she and Redvers never reach their destination.

In Danger on the Atlantic, the third installment in Erica Ruth Neubauer’s Jane Wunderly series, there are rumblings of unrest in Europe. Jane and Redvers pose as a married couple traveling on an ocean liner to discover who among three suspects is a German spy. But a missing newlywed husband and a gaslit bride distract Jane from her primary mission, putting her in peril from multiple sides.

For the character development and the backstories of Jane and Redvers alone, this is a great read. While the story does have some uneven pacing, the plot generally ticks along and there are enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing for a long while.

There are a few more will they/won’t they moments between Jane and Redvers, but they also serve to deepen their connection. He is a bit dismissive of her thoughts on occasion, but in general, he treats her as a partner, which allows her to trust again after her disastrous abusive marriage.

If you haven’t read the others, the only thing you’re missing out on is Jane’s overbearing aunt, so reading the first two is not crucial to enjoying this one. If you enjoy Christie-type puzzles, you’ll like this book.

Book Review: Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments (Edinburgh Nights #2) by T.L. Huchu

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 368, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Some secrets are meant to stay buried

When Ropa Moyo discovered an occult underground library, she expected great things. She’s really into Edinburgh’s secret societies – but turns out they are less into her. So instead of getting paid to work magic, she’s had to accept a crummy unpaid internship. And her with bills to pay and a pet fox to feed.

Then her friend Priya offers her a job on the side. Priya works at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies, a very specialized hospital, where a new illness is resisting magical and medical remedies alike. The first patient was a teenage boy, Max Wu, and his healers are baffled. If Ropa can solve the case, she might earn as she learns – and impress her mentor, Sir Callander.

Her sleuthing will lead her to a lost fortune, an avenging spirit and a secret buried deep in Scotland’s past. But how are they connected? Lives are at stake and Ropa is running out of time.

Stop what you’re doing and go buy this series now. Seriously. Why are you still reading my review? Go!

If you love Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, you’ll be captivated by T. L. Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights. Ropa Moyo might finally have gotten a break after the disastrous events in the first book led to an unpaid internship and the loss of her primary ghostalking clientele. Her friend Priya offers her a job investigating the victim of a mysterious new magical illness. Ropa has to navigate post-catastrophe Edinburgh and, even worse, a high-society magical boarding school to get the answers. But what she uncovers is a threat hundreds of years old, and no one today may have the power to stop it.

Ropa is doing her best to stay under the radar of the various Edinburgh gangs, keep food on the table for her gran and her younger sister, and not get into any more trouble with the Library. She’s an amazing character, and you’ll root for her even as you marvel and the wonderful (and awful) world Huchu has created. While there are similarities to Aaronovitch’s series, Ropa is very much her own character and has had a much rougher time of it than Peter Grant. She meets every challenge head-on, and will undoubtedly change the magical society of Edinburgh before they change her.

Book Review: Crowbones (The Others #8) by Anne Bishop

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Pages: 384, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Crowbones will gitcha if you don’t watch out!

Deep in the territory controlled by the Others-shape-shifters, vampires, and even deadlier paranormal beings-Vicki DeVine has made a new life for herself running The Jumble, a rustic resort. When she decides to host a gathering of friends and guests for Trickster Night, at first everything is going well between the humans and the Others.

But then someone arrives dressed as Crowbones, the Crowgard bogeyman. When the impostor is killed along with a shape-shifting Crow, and the deaths are clearly connected, everyone fears that the real Crowbones may have come to The Jumble-and that could mean serious trouble.

To “encourage” humans to help them find some answers, the Elders and Elementals close all the roads, locking in suspects and victims alike. Now Vicki, human police chief Grimshaw, vampire lawyer Ilya Sanguinati, and the rest of their friends have to figure out who is manipulating events designed to pit humans against Others-and who may have put Vicki DeVine in the crosshairs of a powerful hunter.

It’s Trickster Night in Crowbones, the latest book in Anne Bishop’s The Others series. Vicki DeVine has introduced the non-human residents of Sproing to that world’s equivalent of Halloween. But the tricks turn to terror when a mutilated corpse is found and the Indigene block the roads so that no one can leave.

My recommendation is that you read the other books in this series before attempting this one. While there’s a reasonable amount of recap, the interpersonal relationships and the fear the residents feel will make a lot more sense with the backstory you’ll find in previous books.

I’m not a fan of Bishop’s other series, and this one felt a bit like some of her character quirks from those other novels made their way into this one. The human men are much better-defined and have less trauma than the human women. Overall, human women do not fare well in this series. They’ve typically survived all forms of abuse and violence, and can’t sustain healthy relationships.

However, the writing and worldbuilding is strong enough to compensate for a few flaws. There are many parallels with our world, but just enough differences to feel ‘alien.’ The idea that humans have somehow managed to coexist with stronger, faster, and quite frankly, usually smarter beings is fascinating. When contrasted against the Indigene, who are comprised of vampires, shifters, and other non-human species, you have to wonder how the humans managed to survive long enough to develop technology. But, humans being humans, they often find ways to alienate the Indigene, which leads to the deaths of those humans.

Come for the glimpse into a world where we aren’t top of the food chain and stay for the wonderful non-human characters.