Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History

The same friend who lent me Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die lent me Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History.  And oh boy is this a ridiculous ride.  After the end of the last book, the Cosmic Ghost Rider got stuck in the past.  So he decides to mess with time a bit while he waits to save his family.  The day before they're supposed to die, he shows up at their house as Uncle Freddo.  He quickly endears himself to his wife and son by telling stories of his adventures with the other superheroes, but he has a harder time winning over his daughter and younger self. 

The majority of this story is Frank Castle telling his stories to his family.  He's definitely an unreliable narrator as the story he tells often doesn't quite match up with the panels we see.  But that makes up a lot of the fun, especially as the story goes on and we get to see all the crazy places and things Frank has done within the Marvel timeline.  The end of the book gives a rundown of all the stories Paul Scheer and Nick Giovannetti used for this, which was really fun to read too (hilariously, a clone story that popped up in Spider-Man: Life Story popped up here too!)  All and all, this was a really fun read as it unfolded (I especially liked the ridiculous candy story he told to tone down the violence for his kids).

Monday, December 30, 2019

Spider-Man: Life Story

A friend recommended Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley to me a few months ago.  I didn't think the graphic novel was due out for awhile, but ended up pleasantly surprised when I found it at the library.  I don't think I've ever read a Spider-Man story before, so I wasn't remotely sure what to expect.

Spider-Man: Life Story follows the life of Peter Parker starting as a teenager trying to find his way in the 1960s all the way through until 2019.  Each issue (or chapter in the graphic novel) tells a story from a different decade of Peter's life.  Peter grapples with whether or not he should enlist in the Vietnam War, trying to balance work (both as Spider-Man and as a scientist and later businessman) and friends/family life (he has two children)through the decades, being pulled thinner and thinner as more and more things start demanding his time.  I wasn't really sure how I felt about the story at the beginning, but by the end I quite liked the story that Zdarsky and Bagley told (and the alternate world history that evolved from the presence of superheroes)..

Quit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required

I saw Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung's Quit Like a Millionaire at the library a few weeks ago in the new nonfiction section.  I wasn't sure if I should read it, as I've read a lot of basic books on personal finance already.  But I figured why not? (Especially since there's a foreword by JL Collins, the author of The Simple Path to Wealth, which is the book that got me started on this whole thing). 

Shen grew up very poor in rural China.  She ended up retiring as a millionaire with her husband (Leung) at the age of 31.  In Quit Like a Millionaire, she shares her story of how growing up in poverty set her up to save and ultimately join the wealthy.  The pair have been retired for three years now, travelling across the world while still maintaining their wealth.

The book starts off by talking about Shen's childhood (including how she went through medical waste trying to make toys for herself) and how her family lived on $0.44 a day.  This upbringing left her with a scarcity mindset (when you don't have enough of one of the basic necessities, like food, your brain will ignore almost everything else except that one thing), particularly aimed at money.  But after she moved to Canada, graduated with an engineering degree, and joined the middle class, her scarcity mindset, which can't be turned off, changed into a hoarding mindset (rather than changing life-energy for survival, the hoarding mindset trades for nothing).  In an attempt to get out of this mindset, especially in the wake of seeing the health of her coworkers deteriorate, Shen discovered the freedom mindset, which is all about getting your time back.  And this set her on the path to financial independence and retiring at the age of 31.

The rest of the book explains what Shen and Leung did to build their investment portfolio.  And because Shen is extremely risk-adverse, and neither wanted to risk running out of money in the future, they created their own tools to help see them through any potential market crashes within the first five years of retirement (these crucial years, which can make or break your retirement, depend on luck with the market).  The book also talks about some potential obstacles to early retirement (like needing health insurance, or retiring early with kids), and finishes off with a few appendices that show her math and spreadsheets, as well as the actual numbers Shen and Leung dealt with through their journey to a million dollars.

Quit Like a Millionaire was a very good and easy read.  Shen writes with a very personal tone, making it easy to follow along with her story and points.  As far as personal finance books go, I thought this one was a very good read, showing you how anyone can become a millionaire.  I liked that despite being American-centric, it still had lots of information specifically for Canadians, too.  I'm very glad I picked this book up (and I'm hoping to get myself a copy for reference, too!)

Oh, I'd also like to note, Shen goes through the arguments of why you might be better off renting rather than buying much more succinctly than The Wealthy Renter did.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Stress Less, Accomplish More

Whoops, I actually finished this book like a week ago but forgot to post about it here.  I came across Emily Fletcher's Stress Less, Accomplish More last summer thanks to Betty Rocker (I don't think this was the actual post where I first heard about it, but this gives the just of what I read).  Since the library didn't have a copy, I bought it on my Kindle.  I planned on reading it sooner, but didn't actually get to it until the flight home from my vacation earlier this month.  I read most of the book then, but didn't actually finish it until a few days later (I actually should have finished it a day before I did - I stopped reading that night because I thought there was still like 80% of the book to go, but that turned out to be mostly notes and the index!)

So Stress Less, Accomplish More explains Fletcher's method of meditation (or at least the lite version of her Ziva Method).  She grounds the book in science, showing how meditating just twice a day for 15 minutes can be so good for you, helping you finally beat stress and start accomplishing all that you want to in life.  Many celebrities and successful business people (many of whom share their stories in the book) have used the Ziva method (or other forms of meditation) to do just that.

Now I'm not going to lie: the book gets a bit repetitive.  It takes until chapter 8 before it finally tells you the Ziva method (the other like 7 chapters just keep going on about all the health benefits; while this was good to read, it definitely hit the point where she could have just listed the rest and gotten to the point, rather than going into so much detail).  That being said though, the book is easy to read, even while being so heavily grounded in science (neuroscience in particular). 

I was personally interested in reading Stress Less, Accomplish More because I had started meditating after reading You Have Four Minutes to Change Your Life, but have since fallen out of the habit.  I was hoping that reading this book would help me get back into the habit.  I was a bit daunted at the thought of trying to fit in two fifteen minute sessions of meditation per day (

Friday, December 20, 2019

Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages

Note: this review was originally written in a notebook on Dec 11/19 while I was on vacation last week.  I've made some minor edits to it while transcribing it.

"Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages" is another story I've had on my Kindle for quite some time.   A friend of mine recommended it to me (or at least I think he did - he may have recommended a different Dean Koontz and I got this one accidentally).  I've never actually read any Koontz before and wasn't really sure what to expect.  When I first started reading "Oddkins," I didn't know what to make of it, but once I got into it I liked it quite a bit.

After a magical toy maker passes away, it's up to his creations to find his replacement.  But the forces of evil want to claim the toy factory for themselves; a group of evil toys from the hidden sub-basement awaken and seek to stop the Oddkins, while an evil toy maker arrives to buy the factory.

The Oddkins were a fun group: they were all unique, yet very loyal and good.  I loved how they got through their various encounters (like how Butterscotch talked down the mongrel, or Patch stood up to the alley cats), and how each of them had dreams beyond their initial purpose of helping their special children.

The squad of bad toys were really well done too.  Rex and the others were all rather terrifying in their own ways, especially for the Oddkins (but I felt it too).  I also liked how besides being malevolent, their lack of empathy meant they didn't really work together because in a way they couldn't.  That was a really nice touch.

I have to admit, I'm now quite curious about what happens to Viktor, the adult who saw the toys and had his world unexpectedly awakened as a result.  What does he go on to do now?

My one major complaint was that I found the story a bit heavy-handed at times, particularly at the end.  But overall, I thought this was a well-written good vs evil showdown, which I do recommend.  Just not necessarily to all ages - it's a bit dark for children in my opinion.

The Mooncalfe

Note: this review was originally written in a notebook on Dec 10/19 while I was on vacation last week.  I've made some minor edits to it while transcribing it.

After finishing End Times in Dragon City,  I wasn't really sure what to read next.  But as I browsed through the 13 pages of things I have on my Kindle, I came across a David Farland story called "The Mooncalfe" and decided to go with that.

"The Mooncalfe" is a tale of King Arthur (or more accurately, Merlin).  A fey girl is conceived by the horned moon.  Her mother. who is ashamed of having been seduced, raises her daughter in secret, always warning her of what men will do when they see her (aka ravish her, particularly because she is beautiful)  After her mother dies, the girl seeks out a favour from the Lady, wanting to be made fully human.  Finding the Lady's fount, she encounters her father, Merlin, who seduced her mother because the portents seemed fair.  Upon discovering this, the daughter curses him, leaving him alone in his misery.

"The Mooncalfe" is a very well written little story.  I read it in no time and loved every minute. :)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

End Times in Dragon City

Note: this book review was originally written in a notebook on Dec 10/19 while I was on vacation last week.  I've made some minor edits to it while transcribing it.

Well, here we are: End Times in Dragon City - finished!

This book wasn't as good as Bad Times in Dragon City, although I still enjoyed it.  The problem is that the main character, Max, was stuck in prison for the first while.  And since the book is written from his perspective, nothing really happens until his friends break him out.

Let's back up a bit.  After Max killed the dragon at the end of Bad Times in Dragon City, Max was thrown into the highest level of the Garret so he could see the damage he had wrought to the City.  Freed from the dragon, the Ruler of the Dead immediately sent her armies to take out the city; her zombies are overwhelming the wall.  It's only a matter of time before she breaks through.

Eventually, Max's friends break him out of prison.  After catching him up on what's happening, Max decides they need to bolster the Imperial Guard and save the city.  But after the Guard blow up Goblintown, no one is interested in putting aside their differences in order to band together.  There's also one more problem: the dragon's corpse is decomposing in the middle of the city, a tempting target for the Ruler of the Dead.  If she gains control of it, Dragon City will be lost.

While I didn't think it was as good as the previous book, I still really enjoyed End Times in Dragon City, and thought it was a very fitting end for the trilogy.  I hope one day we'll get more of Max's adventures! 

I'd also love to know more about this setting!  How did the Ruler of the Dead first come into being?  If she's been stuck on this continent, what is the rest of the world like? And what happens next for Dragon City? 

Bad Times in Dragon City

Note: this book review was originally written in a notebook on Dec 9/19 while I was on vacation last week.  I've made some minor edits to it while transcribing it.

Wow. So I wasn't super sure how I felt overall about the first book in this series (although I did enjoy it).  But the second book was absolutely fantastic!

Bad Times in Dragon City takes place about two weeks after End Times in Dragon City.  Belle calls Max to her home to tell him that her sister's body has disappeared.  For most people this isn't a big deal, but for elves it's huge: an elf family has to produce the body within a few weeks or else a living elf must takes the deceased's place.  And because elves consider their elders treasures due to their knowledge and long histories, elf families typically send younger elves to stand in the deceased's place.  So that means Belle will go if Fiera's body isn't found soon!

I loved that detail within the worldbuilding.  And I loved how it was dealt with: Max assumed an elder would go because that's how humans deal with it - elders are near death, so let the young live.

Fiera's body disappeared the night after she died, and the family's manservant, Ford, was found killed around where it should have been.  So Max is determined to save Belle by finding it.  But all the while he's being called across the city to meet with powerful dwarves and the Wizard's Council due to the dragonet (the dragon's heir) hatching and imprinting on him.

I didn't quite catch Max's leap in logic of how he realized Belle and Fiera's parents knew what had happened to Fiera's body, but their father had indeed seen it walk off.  So Max assembles the gang to go and find it.  Rather than simply being possessed by the Ruler of the Dead, Fiera had been in league with her for months.  And as everyone is facing off under the City, the enraged dragon tears through the ground, trying to kill them all.  This ends with Max killing the dragon instead, much to the delight of the Ruler of the Dead - the dragon was the only one keeping her at bay.  And so we'll see how the story ends in the next book!

There was some very neat worldbuilding in this book.  The dragon lives on magic, which is why he wants elf bodies - he devours the built up magic within them.  The other long-lived peoples would likewise have lots of magic for him, while shorter-lived races like humans do not.  I loved this detail.

But I did start questioning Max's tie to the dragonet vs. the dragon's tie to the elf (the Voice of the Dragon).  The latter pair seemed super tied, to the point that the elf seemed to suffer any injuries the dragon received (although I may have misread that and the elf may have simply been caught in the crossfire?  I'm not really sure).  If they are tied like that though, will the dragonet live a shorter life because he or she is tied to a human?  I'm also wondering if Max's personality rubbed off on the dragonet because they seem to be psychically linked?  Hopefully I'll get the answers to these questions in End Times in Dragon City!

One last somewhat unrelated note: as I was reading both this book and Hard Times in Dragon City, I kept reading "glowglobes" as "snowglobes," which are totally not the same thing!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Hard Times in Dragon City

Note: this book review was originally written in a notebook on Dec 8/19 while I was on vacation last week.  I've made some minor edits to it while transcribing it.

Well here we are: over 7 years later, I finally read the first book of Matt Forbeck's second 12 for 12 series, Hard Times in Dragon City.  This trilogy is set in his Shotguns & Sorcery world.  I started reading it on my flight to Toronto last week (when I couldn't sleep on the plane); I ended up finishing it on the flight to Florida that day (with another hour of the flight remaining - Hard Times in Dragon City was a pretty fast read!)

Hard Times in Dragon City is another story about Matt Gibson, Forbeck's hero from "Goblintown Justice" and "Friends Like These" (although I admit I don't really remember much about him because it's been quite awhile since I read those stories).  The story begins with Max getting awakened from his bed by the elven guard captain, Yabair.  Some of Max's good friends have been murdered and he needs to identify the bodies.  From there, Max takes it upon himself to find whoever did this and bring them to justice, especially since he knows that the wrong man has been apprehended.  His journey takes him across Dragon City and beyond, visiting old friends and dodging assassins along the way.

I wasn't sure about Max at first, but by the end I quite liked him.  He's the kind of guy who has your back, and reminded me of the type of character I lik to play in RPGs: well-rounded in abilities (this comparison is quite apt as Shotguns & Sorcery was originally designed as a tabletop RPG).

The world is super fun too.  Max literally uses both a magic wand and a shotgun.  He even has to make snap decisions about which to use - can he pull off casting a spell fast enough? Can he pull out his shotgun before the enemy casts their spell?  The city itself is also a lot of fun, split into various sections for elves, halflings, dwarves, etc, and surrounded by a wall that keeps the undead out.  I hope a later book deals with the leader of the undead because she sounded quite interesting, too!

I also really liked how the story ended. Can't wait for more!

One thing to note though: Hard Times in Dragon City was written hurriedly as part of the 12 for 12 and it showed at times.  There were some minor mistakes all over the book (I even caught one spot where the book was originally written in third person rather than first, which makes me think an earlier draft must have been in third person). 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Die Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker

I discovered Die on the same day as We Stand On Guard.  Like that other book, I'd never heard of Die before.  Die was by Kieron Gillen, so I was definitely willing to give it a shot.  It also had a really interesting premise: "In the nineties, six teenagers disappeared into a fantasy role-playing game. Only five returned. Nearly thirty years later, these broken adults are dragged back to discover the game isn't finished with them yet..." (that's from the back of the book).  I'm sold!

And wow did Die deliver!  The art is gorgeous, and the story was fantastic.  The idea of 40-50 year olds being pulled back into the game from their teens that messed them up...and them now bringing the emotional baggage that they have gathered with them over their lives was fascinating.  The world itself was fantastic - it was a a familiar enough setting for a fantasy rpg, while also being uniquely different - I was super glad Gillen's essays on worldbuilding this comic were included!  I also loved the character classes - again similar enough to things you might know from D&D while being unique.  I loved the whole thing and can't wait for volume 2 (which is currently expected in about three months).

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

We Stand On Guard

The library just got this book in today.  It sounded interesting enough, (Canada and the United States are at war in the future) but what sold me was that Brian K. Vaughan, author of Saga, is the writer.

We Stand On Guard is the story of Amber, a girl who was separated from her brother and ends up joining a group of civilians-turned-rebels called Two-Four.  Two-Four is hiding out in the Canadian North, attacking unmanned fighters the United States has sent against Canada as they have annexed more and more of the North.  

Unfortunately I don't really have a lot to say about it.  I didn't really have a sense of any of the characters as people - I didn't sympathize with any of them, or even really care about any of them when it came right down to it.  To make matters worse, when I finished reading the book, I immediately went looking to see if there was any more because the story didn't feel over (it actually kind of felt like not much had happened, even though the story of these particular characters was pretty much over; yet the overall story of the war was not). 

So while We Stand On Guard had an interesting premise, it wasn't really worth the read. :(

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying

So awhile ago, I found a couple more David Bach books that I wanted to read at the library.  Today I wasn't feeling once I decided I needed to stay up rather than keep sleeping, I decided to read Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying instead of mindlessly wasting what was left of the day watching Youtube.  Bach claimed this would be another fast read (two hours), which also appealed to me; I didn't want something that would take a lot of concentration while I'm not feeling 100%.  I do think it took a bit longer than he said, but I still finished it in less than a day. 

So Go Green, Live Rich was written over a decade ago, when the climate crisis was just coming to mainstream attention (about two years after Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth came out, just to give it a bit more context). The book is made up of 50 tips to help you save the planet (while also purportedly making you rich in the process).  It's broken up into several smaller sections with tips for greening your transportation, family, work, travel, etc.  The last two sections detail how to make some money (mainly investing in green businesses), and gifting green (basically tithing to green causes - tithing has come up in both of Bach's other books that I've read so far, so I wasn't surprised to find it here as well). 

I'm not going to lie...most of the tips are kind of obvious.  Bach breaks down some common-sense things that you can do to both help the environment and save some money.  I actually felt like I was reading 397 Ways to Save Money again because there was a lot of overlap (although obviously 397 Ways to Save Money has way more tips), such as swapping out old light bulbs for energy efficient ones, getting newer and more energy efficient appliances when your old ones break down, etc.  When Bach got to the family stuff, he also started to remind me of the tips I read in Plastic Purge.  So I guess Go Green, Live Rich is kind a combination of Taylor's and SanClements' books.

I did like the breakdowns Bach included though of not only roughly how much money you would save in using his tips but also the impact it would have on the environment (most often in tons of CO2 avoided, but also things like trees saved and stuff like that).  But he also included a lot of websites; while I didn't check them all, I'm sure some of the sources are quite out of date since the book is over a decade old (but to be fair, I was able to find the couple that I went looking for, so not all of them are out of date!)  Hilariously, the one link I looked for that was obsolete was Bach's own website (, which now just redirects to - I discovered that when I went looking for his reading list of green books (which I have been completely unable to find).

Overall, I think this is a good starting point if you're looking for ways to green your life.  It has a lot of the same tips and ideas that are in 397 Ways to Save Money, but it's a faster and easier read.  But if you're already on board with living more sustainably, you should probably give this book a pass; it's full of tips you've probably already considered.  On the personal finance front, it's also not nearly as in depth as his other books (like The Automatic Millionaire), so you'd be better off reading one of those if that's your interest.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich

I have a list of financial planning books that I'd like to read one day on my phone.  Somewhere along the lines, I added Alex Avery's The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich to that list and promptly forgot about it. When I rediscovered it, I got pretty excited to read it.  As a renter, and having read two of David Bach's Automatic Millionaire books that sung the benefits of home-ownership (as well as the beginning of another book that said statistically renters are a lot less wealthy than homeowners), I was quite excited to find a book that says the opposite.  I was so excited in fact that I ran out to Chapters to buy it last weekend.

The first chapter of The Wealthy Renter was also quite promising. Avery says:
You might be thinking this book is about how evil the world of housing is and why no one should ever buy a house.
It's not.
What this book is, actually, is a celebration of the virtues of renting (13).
 Oh good, I thought.  With everyone so down on renting nowadays, I'm excited to read a book that not only sings the praises of renting, but isn't going to be unduly down on home-ownership.  Hopefully this is going to have great advice for investing while renting!

Unfortunately, I felt like that passage was a blatant lie.  Besides a few mentions of purchasing stocks and bonds, or showing how the stock market outperformed homeownership, the majority of the book just looked down on homeownership.  I wouldn't even really call it a "celebration of the virtues of renting" - it basically was just saying "here's all the reasons why buying a home (esp as an investment) is a bad idea."  It took until page 164 (out of 189 pages not including the index) before actually talking about the "secrets of the wealthy renter."  And the secrets were so underwhelming I was super disappointed (spoiler: some form of forced savings, like automatic payroll deduction - it's the essence of the whole "pay yourself first" - the number one rule of like EVERY personal finance book). 

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to find out The Wealthy Renter was Canadian, so getting facts and figures for Canadian cities and whatnot was quite interesting.  And the book still had some very interesting tidbits in it.

I think that if you're someone very firmly in the "renting is throwing your money away" camp, The Wealthy Renter is worth reading to get a secondary viewpoint.  It's also worth reading for someone who may feel "stuck" renting due to the high cost of houses - this book does share the benefits of renting, showing that you're not necessarily throwing your money away the way many people believe.  Oh, and anyone just interested in a rundown of the costs of owning a home may find the book interesting. 

So sadly, while I did get some interesting little tidbits out of it, I was disappointed with The Wealthy Renter. :(

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Electric State

I don't remember why, but I ordered The Electric State by Simon Stalenhag for myself through interlibrary loan at the library.  The Electric State is a graphic novel in every sense of the word: it's a short novel that is set to beautiful (yet creepy) pictures, and together they tell the whole story.  The plot is about a young woman, Michelle, making her way across the United States with a small robot.  The year is 1997, and the world is falling apart after the world; almost everyone is plugged into virtual reality and joined some sort of hive mind as society crumbles around them.  As I already said, the pictures are beautiful, but also creepy with their dead drone robots and warships littering the countryside, and giant virtual reality towers literally towering over the environment, no matter where Michelle and her robot go. 

I'm not going to lie, I feel like I missed something while reading The Electric State.  I'm not quite sure what it was, but I wasn't blown away by the story the way other people were.  I did bump the book up to 4 stars on Goodreads though due to the art.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Into the Drowning Deep

I've been hearing good things about Mira Grant's (Seanan McGuire's) Into the Drowning Deep. So I got it from the library and started reading it on Sunday when I went out to camp for the last time this summer.

Into the Drowning Deep starts out with an entertainment company, Imagine, sending a boat, the Atargatis, out to the Mariana Trench to film a mocumentary about finding mermaids. Unfortunately they actually discovered mermaids, who devoured the entire cast and crew, leaving only the ship behind. Their footage was leaked, and the world was left to grapple with whether or not the mermaids were real. Now, seven years later, Imagine is sending a second ship, the Melusine, to definitively prove the existence of mermaids to the world. They've contracted the world's leading oceanographers, and designed the Melusine to be both research vessel and floating fortress so as not to have a repeat of the Atargatis disaster. Unfortunately, unknown to the scientists who are on the vessel, some of the security features of the Melusine aren't quite working....

Among the scientists on board the Melusine are Victoria Stewart, a grad student who specializes in sonar and who wants revenge however she can get it because her sister was on the Atargatis, and Dr. Jillian Toth, the world's expert on mermaids (even though many people think she's a quack, she pointed the Atargatis towards the Mariana Trench seven years ago, and feels guilty because she sent those people to die). Dr. Toth finds her estranged husband, Theo Blackwell, accompanying the vessel as well. Theo is the right hand man of Imagine's CEO, and realistically shouldn't be on the vessel (he had an accident years ago), but he is there all the same as the head of the vessel in everything except security (that's the Captain's job).

I loved how the mermaids (or more realistically "sirens") felt plausible through the whole story (even though they went from the deeps to the surface without any issue - I wasn't sure how she was going to make that sound plausible, but she did!) You could tell that McGuire really did her research on them (and she acknowledges "all the aquarium employees who were willing to talk about mermaids with me" at the end of the book). 

I also really liked the characters of the book. The deaf twins who resented the world that wasn't willing to even attempt to communicate with them (by learning simple signs). Their sister who grew up signing and started to find a way to communicate with the mermaids. Imagine's employee who has some form of autism. And how okay a lot of the characters were with theirs (and others') sexuality. It was a diverse cast who never felt forced - they were just people being people.

The one thing I wasn't a fan of was the ending. It felt super abrupt. All of this stuff was happening and then it wasn't anymore.  And when the large female was surfacing and Tory saw it but wasn't really saying anything in narrative I was a bit annoyed.  That was the author specifically leaving details out to artificially build suspense.  Not great.

The beginning is also a bit slow.  I didn't find it bad, but it felt like it took a lot to get the story really going.  I realize that some of the backstory (especially about the Atargatis and how it related to certain characters) was necessary.  But I felt like the story doesn't *really* start until about 100 or so pages in.

That being said though, I still did enjoy reading it.  The book falls a bit more into the horror side of speculative writing than I normally read, but that was okay too.

Friday, September 6, 2019

New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living

I saw New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living at the library last night and decided to read it on a whim. I started reading it last night and finished it a few minutes ago.

New Minimalism isn't remotely groundbreaking; I've heard a lot of the arguments in the book before. Declutter before buying storage. Declutter in this set order. etc, etc. I honestly almost stopped reading half way through because I was getting bored. Of course, if you've never read a book on decluttering (or sustainability), you won't have this problem. The authors were relatively engaging throughout the text.

I didn't really like how they handled their archetypes though. They defined four decluttering archetypes that people generally fall under (connected, practical, energetic and frugal - I'm most closely related to energetic and frugal based on the questionnaires), but then when they went through the decluttering process, they simply noted which archetypes will have trouble with different categories, rather than actually giving tips for each one (which is what I expected in a book that has defined categories like that). Plus the book was really heavy on the theory of decluttering (again, the archetypes), but overall really lean on actual decluttering tips.  The book finishes up with "12" design principles; some of the principles overlapped (like redefining your definition of full and using boundaries to indicate when a category is full), while others I would call suggestions, which are not going to be practical for everyone (like put your dresser in your closet - not really a principle,  plus that doesn't work if you have an older house with no closets, like mine).

But the one thing I really liked reading were the small snippets when they talked about things their clients struggled with. Those stories were interesting and I wish there had been more of them!

If you're new to decluttering, New Minimalism is a great place to get you started, especially since it's such a quick read. But if you've already read any books on decluttering, you'll probably want to give this one a pass.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner: A Powerful Plan to Finish Rich in Real Estate

As I was reading The Automatic Millionaire, I was struck by the fact that homeowners are, on average, much wealthier than renters. I went looking to why this was the case; in a nutshell, renters are funding someone else's wealth, while if you're a homeowner, every mortgage payment you make goes towards you (and building the equity in your home).  This completely changed my perspective (I've been looking at it as a case of throwing money on rent is the same as paying property taxes - neither of them really get you anything/go towards your assets), so I decided to give David Bach's book The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner a read, too.

In this quick read, Bach walks you through the process of buying a home, be it your first home or a new rental property.  He starts the book with arguments on why it's smarter to buy than rent, gives you some tips on how to get into the market when you don't think you have the money for a down payment. Once you are thoroughly convinced (and if not he recommends you reread some of the chapters), he then looks at the more practical aspects like researching mortgages, interviewing mortgage advisors and real estate agents, and how to pay off your mortgage a few years early, saving you thousands of dollars in the process. He ends the book with a chapter on weathering the inevitable market bust that happens every 20 years or so, and with a final chapter encouraging you to help others become homeowners (through charities like Habitat For Humanity).  I actually really like that both this book and The Automatic Millionaire end with chapters on donating time and money to charities; a lot of the financial books I've read are more about accumulating wealth so it was nice to be reminded about the positives of giving, too.

I really liked how thorough Bach was. He really dissected the whole path to home ownership and explained it all in easy-to-understand language. Of course, I was also a fan of the fact that this book is the Canadian edition, so it was more pertinent to me than the American edition would have been. Unfortunately, like The Automatic Millionaire, The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner was written over a decade ago, so some of the websites and other facts may be out of date.

I'd also like to add that this thinking of mortgage as building your assets flies in the face of JL Collins' advice in The Simple Path to Wealth; Collins advocated for not owning and instead investing your money in an index fund. He said that only once you are secure (and wealthy) should you consider buying a home as a luxury.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and FinishRich

So I found another personal finance book that I had to read: The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. I was happy to see that it was the Canadian Edition too.

Now there's a big caveat to this book: like The Wealthy Barber, The Automatic Millionaire is rather out of date.  It was published before tax free savings accounts were available for Canadians (and presumably before ETFs and index funds were around/talked about).  So he only talks about RRSPs and mutual funds.

But Bach's advice is still pretty solid. He recommends paying yourself first (at least 10% of your pay). Buying a house. Getting out of debt (especially credit card debt). And tithing (giving money or time to charity).  While some of this advice is pretty standard (you can't build wealth if you're saddled with debt), I found the house discussion particularly interesting. Here Bach was saying you can't get rich if you don't own your own house because if you're paying rent, that money is going towards making your landlord wealthy, not to your own net worth (whereas if you're paying down a mortgage, every payment is building equity within your house). This goes against the advice JL Collins gave in The Simple Path to Wealth, but is definitely worth considering.

I also liked the discussion on tithing. It's a short chapter at the back of the book that just talks about how giving attracts abundance (and how giving is very common for people who later became quite wealthy), and also how you should make sure your money is actually going to help the cause you're supporting (and not to administration fees). Again, something worth considering.

Overall, The Automatic Millionaire is another fairly basic book on personal finance. But I think it's still worth reading because now I have more to think about in terms of my own finances (which is always a good thing!)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart

When I first saw Summer Rayne Oakes' How to Make a Plant Love You, I was pretty intrigued. I love house plants and currently have about twenty in my space. But after recently losing a couple, I was thinking reading about better cultivating green space in my apartment might help me make sure my plants are happy.

How to Make a Plant Love You starts out by talking about the many benefits of plants for people, and how we are losing our connection to them (and nature in general) as we're migrating into cities. There is a lot of research that talks about how beneficial it is for us to be out in nature, or at the very least around plants. Oakes also talked about what cities like Singapore are doing to green the space in an attempt to make people healthier; I really want to go and see it now!

She also talks a bit about how plants function; this discussion reminded me of what was in The Soil Will Save Us (except that Kristin Ohlson's book goes into far more detail on the subject).

Unfortunately, the subtitle of How to Make a Plant Love You is a bit misleading; I found the book to be extremely light on the details of how to actually cultivate your own space and get plants to love you (beyond "do research to make sure the plant you like will actually like it in your place"). The few chapters on the subject really didn't have a lot to them; while giving a few very basic tips (consider light, soil, and water), Oakes talked more about what she has done in her own apartment and life. I'm sure you can adapt that to your own life if you'd like (and really, her main message is just to get started and bring a plant into your home). But if you already live with plants, this part of the book really brings nothing new.

How to Make a Plant Love You is ultimately a quick read though that does have some interesting tidbits. If you're curious about the benefits of plants within your home, definitely consider giving this a read. But if you've lived with plants for awhile (and researched them at all), you might want to give this one a pass.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Unquiet Land

Well, here we are: Unquiet Land, the last book in Sharon Shinn's Elemental Blessings series. I brought it out to camp with me over the long weekend, starting it on Saturday night, bringing it out to the dock with me on Sunday, and finishing it Sunday night (or more accurately, Monday morning around 3am). I've been super excited to read it because overall I've really enjoyed Shinn's Elemental Blessings, but I was also a bit sad to be reading it because this is it.

Unquiet Land follows Leah, who was working in Malinqua as a spy for Darien Serlast; she helped Corene out a fair bit in that city. At the end of Jeweled Fire, she agreed to go home to Welce.  She decided that after five years of running, it's time she tries to be a mother to her daughter, Mally (who in Royal Airs was the decoy princess because she looked so much like Odelia, but now that Odelia was determined to be unfit to rule, Mally is free to be herself).

After arriving in Welce to restart her life, she is approached by Darien Serlast, who wants her to open a shop in the hopes of attracting some foreign visitors.  While in Malinqua, Leah had been working at a booth in the Great Market with Chandran, so she has some experience with this sort of thing (and determined that she actually has a talent, both for choosing wares to sell, and for selling to wealthy clients).  With his wife, Zoe Lalindar, and Zoe's best friend Annova, and some help from Chandran from afar, Leah puts the shop together in record time. She is also surprised by Chandran, who has followed her to Welce.  He shares a secret with her that leads her to keep him at arms length for a bit while she considers it, but over time (and through working with Annova at the shop), they become closer.

Leah also slowly grows closer to her daughter.  At five years old, Leah doesn't know quite how to tell Mally that they belong together.  But with the help of her friends, she spends more and more time with Mally and grows closer to her.  I actually really liked this aspect of the story; it would be very hard to grow closer to a child whom you've never met (and very hard to find the right moment to tell them that you are their mother).

The story took a couple of weird twists near the end.  Leah does manage to befriend one of the foreign people Darien wanted her to learn information about.  These foreigners are people of extremes: they will do works of great charity in order to do things of great sin. Their country was annexed some time ago by another one, so they are in Welce trying to gain an alliance.  Because Darien doesn't want an alliance with them, he has been holding them off, telling them he has to speak with the primes.  The prince believes that Darien is therefore weak, or else that he is not actually going to be crowned king instead of Odelia (Odelia is a blood heir of the last king, and therefore the only one who should wear the crown in his opinion).  Unfortunately, his people have encountered Mally, who still introduces herself as Odelia (as she had to as the decoy princess).  Believing they have found the true heir, they kidnap her in the hopes of securing the alliance they seek.

This was a weird turn in the story in my opinion.  I was expecting them to kidnap Celia, Darien and Zoe's daughter.  But whatever.

Darien and company go chasing after the kidnappers to head them off before they board ships and leave the country.  Their plan is to offer Chandran in exchange for Mally; Chandran believes they will accept this because he greatly wronged the prince's family in the past.  Leah is heartbroken because she wants both Mally and Chandran to be safe.  An unexpected twist sees Mally freed: Leah's friend among the foreigners realized Mally was Leah's daughter and stole her away from the others to give her back.  And when enemy soldiers try to stop them, Mally literally moves mountains to save them, revealing herself as the heir to the torz prime.  It was very climatic, but in a lot of ways not entirely fitting with the rest of the book.

Overall though, I did enjoy Unquiet Land.  As a story about a woman trying to navigate her way among family (and in many ways building her own family), it's wonderful.  I actually really loved how Mally's father explained things to Leah, too - he called them a family and she disagreed (she wants nothing to do with him because he broke her heart, but she has to see him because he is Mally's father).  He countered by saying that they're not a household, but they're still a family. That's such a great sentiment because it is so true: once you have a child together, you are connected, even if you're not living in the same house. 

I also liked how Lean and Chandran navigated the way through their relationship in the aftermath of Chandran sharing his great secret with her.  They kept trying to stay apart so Leah could consider things (especially whether or not she could trust Chandran around her daughter).  But slowly they grow closer while working in the shop together (plus one of the primes endorses Chandran to Leah, saying he's a good man).

Even though it is the first book not to deal specifically with the princesses (or Zoe who was supposed to marry the king), Unquiet Land is a good addition to the Elemental Blessings series. I just wish it wasn't the last one - I would love to read more about Shinn's fantastic characters and setting!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right & Enjoy Life

I read about Melissa Leong's Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right & Enjoy Life in the same article as You Are a Badass at Making Money.  I was attracted because Leong is Canadian, so her book is going to be a lot more relevant to me than most American financial planning books are.  I also liked how Leong wants you to rethink your relationship to money so that you can be happier in your life. 

I honestly almost stopped reading Happy Go Money part way through because it starts off very much like a self-help book (like You Are a Badass at Making Money was).  But after that point, it got into a lot more tangible financial stuff (such as explaining different options for your cash like mutual funds, ETFs, and GICs, or explaining different kinds of insurance and why you might need them).  By the end of the book, I was glad that I kept reading; Leong's writing was both practical and lighthearted as the TBPL Off the Shelf article promised.  I will offer the caveat though that Happy Go Money is very much for people who are new to the world of personal finance; if you've done some reading on the subject, you may want to give this book a pass because it is very basic. 

As a fun side note, I've actually read 2 of the 4 books she recommends in her resource list: Preet Banerjee's Stop Over-thinking Your Money! and Shannon Lee Simmons' Worry-Free Money, which were both excellent. And the other two, The Wealthy Barber Returns and Money Rules, are both already on my list of books to eventually read on the subject! :)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Jeweled Fire

As I already mentioned when I read Royal Airs, I got Jeweled Fire through interlibrary loan after unsuccessfully trying to buy it in paperback a few years ago. The book arrived and I only had a few weeks to get through it so it could go back to its home library out of town.  So I've been reading it over the last few days to make sure it was finished in time to go back.

Jeweled Fire picks up just a few days after Royal Airs ended. Princess Corene has joined Steff and his grandmother, the Empress Filomara of Malinqua, on their journey to bring Steff home. She left without her father's permission (her father being Darien Serlast, so that's kind of a big deal).  Because she ran away in the middle of the night, the only one to accompany her is her bodyguard, Foley (he was Josetta's bodyguard, but told her he was moving on to another assignment because Josetta now had Rafe to watch over her).

Corene knows she is arriving in Malinqua as a potential suitor to one of the four potential heirs to Filomara's throne.  She is joined by Princess Melissande of Cozique, Princess Alette of Dhonsho, and Liramelli, the daughter of the prefect of Malinqua. Filomara has not yet chosen her successor, and Steff's arrival complicates the playing field, which otherwise consists of Filomara's nephews Garameno, Jiramondi, and Greggorio.  All three have a flaw: Garameno had a riding accident that has left him in a wheelchair; he is considered to be "half a man" by many people, and there is some question as to whether or not he can have heirs.  Jiramondi is, as Melissande says,  "sublime": he prefers the romantic company of men.  In Malinqua, that is considered a detriment.  And Greggorio, the youngest, looks the part, but is not terribly bright nor interested in running the kingdom (although people say perhaps advisors could make up for his severe lack when it comes to running the kingdom)?  The succession is further complicated because Filomara's daughters have both died, two of her brothers died, and the remaining two have been exiled from court because they are suspected of having something to do with the other brothers deaths.  As the bodies continue to pile up, it becomes increasingly clear that someone is trying to eliminate the competition.  And unfortunately Corene and her new friends are right in the middle of everything!

I absolutely loved Jeweled Fire.  I wasn't expecting to like Corene as much as I did.  But I loved the story of how she finally came to have friends she cared about.  She's no longer the spoiled and selfish princess that she fears she is (that her mother tried to make her into).  While she can still be quite sassy (and sometimes rude when she wants to be), she means well and is just a lot of fun.

I also really liked how she came to realize what she wanted out of life.  Corene had been raised to think she should be queen, so she came to Malinqua intending to secure her crown now that she has no place in Welce.  Her father is due to be crowned king, but she is being overlooked in favour of her half-sister to be his heir.  So Corene was left adrift, thinking that she was a burden on everyone, and I enjoyed reading about how she found her own place in life while also discovering that people do care about her for being herself, not for being a potential queen. 
And of course, I loved her interactions with Foley.  Foley is a torz man whose only blessing to ever be drawn is "loyalty."  He is the perfect, no-nonsense bodyguard.  So when Corene wanders up and starts asking him ridiculous questions, their interactions get pretty great (especially in how they try to outmaneuver each other).  As the book continued, it became increasingly obvious that these two were meant for each other, and I was so happy when it finally happened that I cried (it was also a fairly emotional scene: Corene had to jump from a burning tower and he promised that he would catch her.  She didn't want to jump because she was terrified that landing on him would kill him. And he wanted her to jump because he couldn't stand the thought of her dying).

I also really liked Corene's friends.  Steff is so practical and blind to court politics that you just have to love him.  The three other girls were such opposites that managed to compliment one another, and they really looked out for one another.  And the heirs were all so intriguing: Garameno was the oldest who already advises the queen - he was knowledgeable, gallant, and didn't let his accident stop him.  Jiramondi was fun, and fit in really well with the group.  And Greggorio was a good person: he watched out for people and was always there to help.

As I said, I really did love this book.  Jeweled Fire is, at its heart, a story I think we can all relate to: finding our place in the world (and our people).

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Rather than jump right into reading Jeweled Fire, I decided to take a very quick nonfiction break and read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning first.  This tiny book was given to me by a friend because she knew I liked this sort of thing. For my part, I've seen The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning around and figured I would give it a read, especially since it's only about 100 pages long. 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is all about clearing your clutter so your family doesn't have to deal with all your things when you pass away.  That is the primary focus of the book, but it's also fine if you're just wanting to downsize, perhaps because you are moving, or perhaps because you just know you have too much stuff.  Margareta Magnusson, a woman who is "between eighty and one hundred years old," has death cleaned for her parents and husband; she knows her time on this earth is limited now, so she wants to make her passing easier on her children by getting rid of her clutter. She looks at various facets of life and offers advice on how to deal with your various objects (the usual keep, give to friends and family, donate, or trash/paper shredder/recycle).  She also offers many fun anecdotes along the way (like how she once went skiing in a bikini).  The book also has some really cute drawings that accompany it (including one of skiing while wearing a bikini).

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is more of a coach than a real how-to manual.  If you're looking for a book that has lots of nitty-gritty ideas for clearing clutter, that is not this book.  Wha it is is a cheerful, gentle read to help you think about decluttering, especially when you know your time is almost up. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Royal Airs

Oh my gosh, has it really been almost FOUR YEARS since I read Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters??? 

I bought Royal Airs not long after loving Troubled Waters.  But the third book, Jeweled Fire, had just come out in hardback, so I decided to wait to read Royal Airs until I had the third one in paperback, too.  I waited.  And waited.  And saw the publication information change, saying the paperback version of Jeweled Fire wouldn't be coming out for like twenty years!  I pre-ordered it on Amazon in 2016; earlier in June (2019), Amazon cancelled my order because they found out the book wouldn't be released at all. :(

(Yesterday I discovered the reason why: the publisher decided that people will prefer ebooks to paperbacks). So much for my paperback collection of these books. :(

Thankfully, interlibrary loan started back up at the local library.  So I put in a request for Jeweled Fire.  In the meantime, I also found a copy of the fourth book, Unquiet Land (also hardback).  So once Jeweled Fire arrived from out of town, I knew I had to get reading Royal Airs!

Of course, this being four years later, I don't really remember all the details of Troubled Waters.  Thankfully, Royal Airs gives enough of the background information that I was able to piece together the important bits as I went along.

Royal Airs takes place about five years after the events of Troubled Waters.  Rafe Adova, a man who gambles at cards against people for a living, notices a well-dressed red-head slip into the bar he's in.  When some unsavoury sorts corner the red-head at the table, Rafe is quick to stop them.  He has lived on the streets for years now, and appreciated when strangers helped him.

Of course, he wasn't expecting that the wayward girl he was helping was Princess Corene.  And he most definitely wasn't prepared to meet her sister, Princess Josetta, who operates a shelter in the slums.  While in the area, Rafe is later jumped and almost killed because of the strange markings on his ear.  Josetta's guards find him and bring her back to the shelter, where their lives become unexpectedly intertwined because they find each other fascinating.  But when the truth about the attack comes to light (and to the attention of Darien Serlast, regent of the Welce throne and Corene's father) their lives get a whole lot more complicated!

Okay, I'll admit that's a pretty lame synopsis.  There's a lot more to Royal Airs than that, but also a lot less political maneuverings than were in Troubled Waters (I think? Maybe I'm wrong about that?  It's been four years?)  The two main characters, Josetta and Rafe, want to lead ordinary lives.  Josetta likes caring for the poor in her shelter in the slums (I loved how Zoe brought water to the building for her because of course the coru prime can do that!)  I also loved how Rafe had no elemental blessings for years (every time people pulled ghost coins, which are coins that are so old and worn that you can't tell what blessing was supposed to be on them) until Josetta pulled blessings from her shelter's temple, where none of the coins were old enough; only then did Rafe get actual blessings (but they were all extraordinary ones, not ones associated with particular elements). 

But then Royal Airs also has the technological aspects as well.  The elay (air) prime invented cars (elaymotives), and is working on creating flying machines as well (aeromotives).  Rafe was given a fortune for helping Corene, and at Josetta's suggestion he meets the elay prime to invest in an elaymotive factory.  But while there, he discovers the plans for the aeromotives, and gets recruited to be a pilot (which is a huge gamble because there have been seven fatalities already!)

The political maneuverings happen mostly around visits to the state.  First one foreign prince arrives to tour Welce in the hopes of making some trade negotiations.  Then the empress from a second nation arrives as well.  As one of the heirs to the throne, Josetta has to attend both.  And after Darien Serlast discovers Rafe (and Serlast knows exactly who Rafe's parents were, even though he keeps that information close to his chest), Rafe is drawn into the affairs of state as well.  There's also a huge question as to the heir of the country, because the named heir hasn't been seen at court for a year or two (only her decoy). 

All in all, I really enjoyed Royal Airs.  It was great to read more about the characters I liked from Troubled Waters, plus I really liked the new additions as well.  Once again, this book was full of superb worldbuilding, and I can't wait to start Jeweled Fire!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Harley Quinn Vol 1 and 2 + comics

I've really enjoyed reading about Harley Quinn's adventures. So when the local library stopped subscribing to Hoopla (which is how I was reading the graphic novels), I bought the next two graphic novels then asked my local comic shop to start putting them away monthly for me. I didn't get to them right away (Harley Quinn Vol 2: Harley Destroys the Universe, wasn't due out for a fee months); in the meantime I actually stopped getting comics. When I had trouble sleeping last night, I finally sat down to read my stash of Harley Quinn, starting with Harley Quinn Vol 1: Harley Vs. Apokolips. The numbering has restarted on the graphic novels because a new creative team took over the run (but the individual comics retain their current numbering).

In Harley Vs. Apokolips, Harley is on a much needed vacation, when Granny Goodness sends two of her Female Furies to bring Harley to her. Granny Goodness thinks Harley will be perfect for her plans. Harley is wowed by Apokolips (and the chance to be Hammer Harley rather than regular old Harley Quinn). Harley has fun on the world of chaos at first, but once she understands exactly what Granny Goodness is doing, Harley can't sit idly by while innocent people are sent to die.

I have to admit, I didn't enjoy Harley Vs. Apokolips as much as I have enjoyed previous volumes. For one thing, I often found the action (and even parts of the story like when the Female Furies succeed in kidnapping Harley from her vacation) hard to follow. There also seemed to be gaps in the story, where it seemed to jump ahead a bit. This was most clearly driven home when I discovered that issues 43 and 44, while included in the graphic novel, were put after the Harley Vs. Apokolips storyline (so I didn't get to see Harley going crazy and seeing things, and hence her need of a vacation, until afterwards).

Harley also didn't quite seem like herself. She seemed just crazy throughout this graphic novel; she was missing that bit of lovableness she normally has (this was driven home when she said to her beaver, Bernie "This is the price I pay for bein' the life of the party all the time. Ya want the good crazy? Well this is the ugly crazy that comes with it." This just didn't seem like her because she's pretty much always the good crazy - and that's what I want to read). You also don't get to see much of her friends in this volume, which was a shame since they're all super fun, too.

So I soldiered on with Harley Destroys the Universe....

And what a weird graphic novel that was! It started with issue 50, where Harley and Jonni DC, Continuity Cop chase after a comic book that is breaking DC continuity. That is followed by issues 51 and 52, where Harley is dealing with Captain Triumph, a golden age superhero who got caught in her continuity. Issues 53 and 54 then have Harley making online videos so she can pay for all the damage she and Captain Triumph caused (but a new super villain names Minor Disaster keeps ruining her videos in an attempt to impress her father, Major Disaster). And then the graphic novel skips issue 55 for some reason (a friend later told me it was most likely collected in a DC Christmas graphic novel because it was a Christmas story), going straight to issue 56, a weird story where Harley tries to give away cats (because she's suddenly allergic to them? I could have sworn she had cats and dogs in the past!) but a chain of men pet stores take exception to this because she's a woman. I don't even know where this story came was totally random and didn't really fit with the world of Harley Quinn while also being one of the most Harley Quinn stories out of the whole graphic novel.

Harley Destroys the Universe did briefly bring Eggy back, but otherwise once again mainly avoided Harley's friends from earlier in the series. I'm also not sure why her mom keeps showing up to hang out; earlier in the series it was a big deal that her parents were coming to visit.

While Harley Destroys the Universe was missing issue #55, I happened to have it (I remember reading that the graphic novel was only going to collect issues 50-54). So after finishing it, I read the remaining issues I had (so up to issue 61).
Issue 57 starts a big story line where Harley is given the chance to become the Galactic Angel of Retribution if she can make it through 6 soul-searching trials.  So 57 and 58 are her first trial (she was framed for murder and teams up with Batman to find the real culprit - the trial ends with her proving to herself that she is worthy of a second chance).  The second trial is in issue 59, where Harley wakes up to discover she is turning into a bug (she was cursed by witches, who magnified an ugliness inside of her).  Issue 60 is the third trial, where a vicious alien swarm has taken over a science lab that Harley just happens to be breaking into to find an experimental cure for her mother's cancer.  After passing her third trial, issue 61 sees her off on a girl's night out with Catwoman and Tina.  Harley and Tina are playing a board game some old lady gave to Harley for free; Harley didn't realize the lady was the Enchantress, who has ensorcelled Gotham City.  Only Harley remembers the way things used to be!
I'll admit that I enjoyed issue 61.  But overall, I really haven't been a fan of Sam Humphries' take on Harley Quinn.  :(