Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Local Habitation

So I seem to be on an urban fantasy kick lately.  I recently ordered some stuff for my cat from Amazon.  To get the free shipping, I decided to get myself the second October Daye book, A Local Habitation.  I was going to read it over the weekend, but decided to get through Hunting Ground first.  Once that was done, I jumped into the second Toby Daye adventure.

This time around, Toby is asked by her liege, Sylvester, to investigate his niece's County.  His niece, January, stopped calling him a few weeks ago.  For faerie political reasons, he cannot go himself.  So he sends Toby and Quentin, a pureblood who is fostering at his court, to investigate.

Toby and Quentin arrive to discover there have been several murders in the County, and January insists that she has been leaving Sylvester messages but HE hasn't been returning her calls.  When another person from the County is murdered, Toby and Quentin realize they may be in over their heads.  The murders are odd for many reasons - there are distinctive markings on the victims, their blood is dead (there is no memory left when Toby and Quentin both try to use the blood magic that is inherent to their bloodline), and the night haunts haven't been taking the bodies (usually these fae creatures take the bodies and leave a sort of mannequin that looks human behind, so normally the fae can call in mortals to investigate the death without fear of the bodies giving them away.  Not so in this case). Then when Toby tries to get Quentin out of there, his escort arrives without a car, right after Toby's car is totaled. The County is also a strange place - there is a dryad living in the tech tree, and no one seems to be telling Toby and Quentin everything they know, making it really hard for them to do their job.  

A Local Habitation was a bit of a mess.  The characters seemed to go out of their way to get murdered.  Toby repeatedly told the people of the County not to go off alone, then pretty much EVERYONE did.  Spoiler: most of them got killed for their troubles.

There were also two characters, brother and sister pair Alex and Terrie, who seemed obviously to be two people in one body.  Alex was only around during the day, and Terrie during night.  You never, ever saw the pair together.  But Toby never remotely figured this out - she had to be shown it near the end of the book.  They also seemed to be some sort of succubus/incubus thing, inspiring the opposite sex to love them; Toby sort of clued into that part way through the book, but still couldn't figure out what they were.  It was lame.

Overall, A Local Habitation was just okay.  I enjoyed it well enough, but wouldn't recommend it to anyone because it isn't great.  I've seen in other reviews on Goodreads that that seems to be the consensus - A Local Habitation is everyone's least favourite book in the series.  But book three is supposed to be phenomenal, so I'll be looking for that in the future.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bloggers Boot Camp

I've had multiple blogs (including this one), but lately I've considered starting a *serious* blog (by that I mean a blog that I update more frequently and will hopefully make me a bit of money on the side). So when I saw Bloggers Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog by Charlie White and John Biggs go by at work, I thought it would be a good idea to give it a read. It was a bit of a funny feeling because I feel like a total beginner in blogging, even though I know I'm not (since I've dabbled multiple times with different blogs).  I'm a little worried about the time commitment and whether or not I will have enough to say to sustain the blog long term.  So when I started reading Bloggers Boot Camp, I almost had a panic attack because White and Biggs recommend you post multiple times A DAY.  That's a lot more than I was thinking (I was thinking of a few times a week! I'm going to have to reassess that I guess).

Biggs and White have been blogging for over a decade each.  They wrote Bloggers Boot Camp to share their blogging wisdom with people wanting to learn more about blogging.  They have some fantastic tips to share and gave me a whole lot to think about. 

Most of their blogging has been for tech news sites, so Blogging Boot Camp is geared 100% towards creating a news magazine.  Biggs and White believe that all bloggers are journalists (just without the large newspapers/companies to support them).  So they give you tools to help you succeed as such.

One major problem with this book is that it is a bit out of date.  That's not surprising since the world of the internet changes so quickly.  Their advice is still sound, but some of the sites they mention may have changed or become nonexistent in the last four years.  So be aware of that if you give Bloggers Boot Camp a read.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ready Player One

Oh geeze.  I forgot to write about reading Ready Player One

I've had Ready Player One for at least a few years on my Kindle.  Once I knew the movie was coming out, I knew I really had to get reading (because let's be honest - once I watch the movie, I probably won't care enough to go back and read the book).  I've had a few friends read it recently, and they both liked it.  So I was excited and finally got my ass in gear to read it.

Ready Player One takes place in the near future, where everyone hangs out in virtual reality (it's called the OASIS) because real life sucks.  The man who programmed and owns the OASIS, James Halliday, has passed away.  He left an Easter Egg hidden within the OASIS.  Whoever finds it will inherit his fortune and controlling shares of his company; whoever finds the Easter Egg will basically own the OASIS.

Wade Watts (aka Parzival) has devoted his life towards hunting for the Egg.  He has immersed himself in 80's trivia because that's what Halliday loved.  He's one of the few true egg hunters ("gunters") left because it's been 5 years and no one has found the first of the three keys needed to find the Egg.  But then Parzival finds the first one, which begins a race against time with a few other gunters (Aech, Parzival's best and only friend, Art3mis, a blogger who Parzival has a crush on, and Daito and Shoto, who are brothers only within the OASIS) and workers from Innovative Online Industires (IOI) who want to own the OASIS so they can monetize the crap out of it (Halliday made accounts free for everyone).  IOI is ruthless, willing to cheat and even kill people in the real world to obtain the Egg.  They ask Parzival for help, and when he refuses, they blow up his home; he happened to not be there at the time, otherwise he wouldn't have survived.  They also kill Daito in the real world, making it out to be a suicide.

Now while the clock is very literally ticking once Parzival finds the first key, Parzival doesn't exactly care either.  He finds himself spending time with Art3mis, and is suddenly a celebrity with more money than he's ever had in his life.  So he sort of stops caring about the contest in the middle of the book for a while.  And I got really, really bored when this happened.

But then Art3mis cuts off ties with him and pulls ahead on the score board.  And then IOI figures out the whereabouts of the third key and sequesters it from everyone else with an impassible dome.  So Parzival does something really stupid (that somehow works): under an alias, he gets himself brought in to IOI as an indentured servant who has to work off his debt to the company (he faked owing them money).  From there he manages to hack into their system to figure out a way to shut the dome down.  He also finds information on his friends that leads him to break out early to warn them.

It all leads to an epic showdown outside of the dome with all the gunter clans fighting the IOI as our heroes struggle to reach the final door and unlock the egg.

So yeah.  Epic in plot.  Not so great in characters.  Like I said, I got bored in the middle.  I honestly didn't really connect with Parzival.  I never really related to him (or honestly cared about him).  I found myself repeatedly wishing the story had been written from either Aech or Art3mis's perspective (especially since Art3mis actually works on solving the second gate while Parzival doesn't do anything).  Aech's perspective would've been really interesting (once you find out what his story is near the end).  But alas, we're stuck with Parzival.

I will also admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the time frame either.  Months of doing nothing were passing in the book.  I get it.  It took time for everyone to figure out the clues.  But it made it feel like Parzival really wasn't doing anything for a good chunk of time (except buying a fancy new haptic rig to access the OASIS with).

So yeah.  A couple of my friends really liked it.  But I honestly wasn't a huge fan.

Hunting Ground

I've had a weird relationship with Hunting Ground, the second Alpha and Omega book.  I started it not long after finishing Cry Wolf.  But for some reason I got about 30 pages in and just stopped reading.  Part of it was that I'd taken out a bunch of nonfiction books from the library and wanted to read those.  But the other part was that I just wasn't into Hunting Ground.

So last night, when I inexplicably couldn't sleep, I decided to continue reading Hunting Ground.  I actually just started again from the beginning; I breezed through the first 30 pages again.  Before I knew it, it was 5am and I was halfway through the book (after taking several breaks to attempt to sleep). 

Hunting Ground takes place about a month after the first book.  Bran, the werewolf Marrok of North America, has decided it's time for the werewolves to come out to the rest of the world.  He has arranged to have a conference with members from the European packs, to listen to their concerns and try to offer them help once the North American werewolves go public.  Charles has a horrible premonition about his father going; Bran reluctantly agrees to let Charles and Anna go in his place.  Immediately after this is decided, Charles feels better about it (he has Native American ancestry from his mother's side; the spirits often talk to him in feelings as they were going in this case).

So Anna and Charles go to Seattle.  Anna is doing much better, but still feels uncomfortable around dominant werewolves.  So to solve that problem, Charles asks one of the werewolves, Tom, and his witch wife, Moira, to take Anna out shopping.  On their way back from their second trip, they are attacked by vampires, who try to kidnap Anna.  They (as everyone does) see Tom as much more of a threat than she is; everyone underestimates Moira though, who manages to destroy some of the vampires with sunlight (causing the other four to flee).  As the conference continues, the vampires strike again and again, seemingly with magic they should not have access to.  The human mate of one of the European werewolves is tortured to death.  Then one of the very scary European Alphas is killed in a spectacularly brutal crime scene after he was in a fight with Charles.  The werewolves all know Charles was innocent because there was proof he hadn't been there.  But his scent was all over the place. On top of everything, the fae, Dana Shea, who was hired by the Marrok to oversee the conference (with no bloodshed) came very close to having Charles killed over that fight (and several of the wolves, including Anna, notice that the fae seems to have broken her word...)  Something is very rotten at this conference, and it's up to Anna, Charles, and the Seattle werewolf pack to unravel it before more people are killed.

I enjoyed this book a bit more than Cry Wolf because Anna has had a chance to grow a little bit.  Yes, she's still got problems being around a ton of dominant wolves.  But she's refusing to be cowed anymore.  Moira was a pretty fun character too, although I wish she'd had a bigger part in the book.  And Sunny (the human mate who died to vampires) was a pretty fun character too - it was neat to see what an Omega human would be like within the world.

I think the plot was pretty fun in a murder mystery sort of way.  I kept trying to figure out who the culprit was (since it looked like one of the werewolves at the conference was at least in on the attacks).  I actually had a pretty good inkling of who it would be until something happened that led suspicion away from that character for a bit (although it turns out I was right - I just hadn't figured out the why) ;)

So yeah.  As usual, a fun romp by Patricia Briggs.  It was the perfect distraction while I was having trouble sleeping! :)