We’ve Made It To July! And Cleaning Out My Bookcases: A Tale of Powering Through an Overwhelming Task

June came and went like so quickly I’m still thinking it’s just mid-June. I had to keep reminding myself today was July 1st. Wow. Pandemic has taken away my sense of time, seasons, and I usually can’t remember what day it is on any given day. Every day feels like rinse and repeat. 

I spent a few days in June cleaning out my three bookcases and my stacks of books that took up space in my living room, my bedroom, my spare room, and my dining room. I just had to do it. Of course I made a bigger mess and at one point was tempted to just lock my door and drive away to escape, but I stuck it out and after a few days I had pulled through the project. I gave so many bags of books to family–I gave my whole collection of true ghost story books to my niece and my sister; a boxed set of Harry Potter books–the whole series in hardcover (still wrapped in shrink wrap!) to my niece (she is one of the biggest HP fans I know), and lots of books to other family members. Goodwill was sick of seeing me come with a trunk full of books to donate. I’ve still got a few bags of books to send out into the world, but when all was said and done, I feel good about it. 

I’ll confess, I had a mini-meltdown as we pulled away from Goodwill. Luckily I wasn’t driving, and I told my boyfriend I just needed a few minutes to grieve and then I’d be okay. And I was. 

The great thing about cleaning out my bookcases is that I discovered some books I really want to read! They were hidden, and now I see them–I guess they just had to be patient for me to find them again. Today I stopped at B&N and bought a book. It felt weird to only buy one book. I usually have 3-4 in my hands. But I wasn’t tempted with more than the one I bought. So…as I read the books on my shelves, I will continue to weed my collection. Only books or series that I really cherish get to stay. 

Anyhow, I’m still working on a lot of the books I talked about in my summer reading video on my FB page @bookaliciousbabe. But I’ve also picked out a few more from the shelves that I am lining up for July:

I’ve had this on my bookshelves for a few years. A look at race and the history of cooking in the Old South. I’ve always been fascinated by culinary historians and expect this book to be one of my favorites this year. 

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Another book I bought last year and lost it on my overstuffed bookcase. A woman struggles to come to terms with her mother’s colorful past in a small town. Jojo Moyes’ historical fiction is just as good as her contemporary novels. 

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I’m reading this one now, and let me tell you–it.is.weird. So weird! Gothic with a capital G! 1950’s Mexico, a rundown estate, and some really odd people. 

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True story: my boyfriend, who does not read at all actually told me about this book. He heard the author talking on the radio yesterday and gave me enough information that I could find the book. And heck, the book was just released on Tuesday, and I ran to B&N after work today to purchase it. It’s about an amusement park in New Jersey and, as the back cover says “In the 1980’s, people didn’t just visit Action park. They survived it.” Written by the park owner’s son, this wild tale of the amusement park with the nickname “Traction Park” is sure to be a wild and crazy ride. I can’t wait to read it! 

I’ve got a few other books I’m working on from June. Trying to ride the wave of actually getting through my stacks and not giving in to my need to play solitaire on my phone for hours at a time (I may have done this last night). 

Happy July reading everyone! 

The Bookalicious Babe

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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