Sunday, March 25, 2018

Book Review - Scythe

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, Book 1)
by Neal Shusterman
2016
435 pages

'A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.
'

*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

I don't often read dystopian/utopian books because I'm just not usually into that type of thing.  I received this book as a Christmas present and when I looked it over I was like, 'Ugh.'  Well, imagine my surprise when I was hooked pretty much from page one, and continued loving it all the way through?!  Maybe *because* I don't often read this genre or watch these types of movies, maybe that's why so many of the ideas in this story stuck in my head, kept giving me things to think about even when I wasn't reading.

I can see how this book might not sit well with some people.  It is about a dark subject, killing and death.  And it's treated with everything from gentle passing on to brutal slaughters.  Luckily there isn't too much gory detail and I think that's part of the reason it worked for me.  We don't need every little thing described or shown to us.  Let our minds build that picture for ourselves!

While death is a huge part of the story, there was so much more that kept my brain going.  Well, let me explain a bit first.  In this future perfect world where they've conquered disease and death and just about everything, they have Scythes who 'glean' (kill) people to keep the population in check.  Scythes are the only ones who can permanently kill anyone, and they can also grant immunity.  People can become 'deadish' if they, for instance, get hit by a bus, but they are taken to a revival center where they will be completely healed in a matter of days.  Scythes are feared and worshipped, and they work outside the laws of the general population.  They are a self-governing body.  Scythes take on apprentices, which what this book is about, and every Scythe is required to make daily journal entries.  It's one of these journal entries, very early in the book that just blew me away.  It talked about the year that mankind finally learned everything there is to learn.  What?  Think about that!  It goes on to talk about how there was eventually no need to keep track of years by number because there was nothing to keep track of anymore.  Other bits throughout the book talk about how there is no need for school or college anymore, that people just do it for something to do now.  Handwriting and reading actual paper books are quaint little hobbies from days gone by.  So much information had been uploaded to the Cloud overtime that the Cloud began to 'think' for itself and grew into this massive A.I. called the Thunderhead, which eventually and effectively removed the need for any world leaders or governments.  There is no war, no poverty, nothing.  But the Thunderhead does not control or get involved with the Scythedom.

As the book talks about the Thunderhead, and has scattered mentions of the old gods that mankind set aside, it's kind of like they've accepted this new god (Thunderhead) without realizing they're still religious.  And as the book reveals the growing corruption within Scythedom, with older Scythes trying to hang on to more traditional Age of Mortality ways, and newer Scythes letting their power and glory go to their heads, you see they're actually moving backwards as a society now.  It's like that child's toy with the rubber ball on a string connected to the paddle.  This perfect world reached it's peak of perfection when the ball hit the farthest point that string would allow it to go, and now corruption is dragging them back just like that little ball is speeding back towards that paddle for a big ol' splat.  It's all very verrrrrry interest to think about!

In this particular story, Citra and Rowan are two teens with very different lives.  They are chosen by honorable old school Scythe Faraday as apprentices and neither one is thrilled with it but they don't have much say in the matter.  The two become friends and are starting to develop feelings for each other when a dramatic turn of events finds them being split up and taken on by new mentors.  Citra is now with Faraday's friend, another very honorable and old school Scythe, while Rowan finds himself with a much younger Scythe mentor, one who feels it's time to move Scythedom forward.  This is where and how they start to discover that all is not quite perfect in the world afterall, and they see more and more how corrupt Scythedom really is.  What can two kids do?  What are two kids *willing* to do??  And will their friendship survive as they're now groomed in very different ways???

Not only was this whole story fascinating to me, it was extremely well written.  I love that!  It's rare to find such a well put together story!  Everything fit, the plot kept moving at a nice pace, and information was fed to us as needed without bogging down in tons of side story fluff.  There was only one inconsistency that I found and even that was minor and nitpicky in passing, and that was if one main Scythe's style of gleaning was to choose their target randomly how did they know whether or not that person had been granted immunity?  But in the overall story, it was a minor blip on the radar.

I'm looking forward to diving right into the second book in this series!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mar. 20


HAPPY SPRING!!!!!
How is the weather where you are?  Is it springlike?  We've slipped backwards a bit, only in the upper 20s today after several days in the upper40s/low50s.  Oh well, this too shall pass.

And wow, my blog has had more activity in it's current dead state than when I'm actively keeping it going.  That's really sending me mixed signals.  LOL

But anyway, wanted to decorate for Easter here and needed a new post without the shamrocks of St. Patrick's Day.

Hope all if well for you!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mar. 15

Hello!  I have zero interest in blogging these days but I didn't want that harsh book review to be the last thing anyone sees here.  As mentioned in a previous nattering post, I just don't have any blog-worthy things happening in my life at the moment.  I'm not saying I'm giving up blogging for good, but I am finding myself quite content in not doing it lately.

The weather has been warming up enough that hubby and his friend have started puttering around in the barn again.  Hubby spent most of last weekend working out there.  He made several bird feeders and now we'll work on tweaking the designs.  Like blogging, I have zero interest in card making these days but I am getting excited about being the painter of bird feeders and bird houses.  I'm also going to dabble in making suet bars and seed cakes again.  I made them for a short time years ago, when I was making soap.  So yes, Achy Joints Creations is beginning to stir from it's hibernation and I'm getting a little excited about it all again.  Not sure if I'll revive the AJC Facebook page yet, or wait till we actually have things to sell.  Also not sure if hubby and his friend will be trying some craft fairs and farmers markets this year or if that's more of a goal for next year.

I'm still playing Wizard101.  It's still frustrating now that I'm over level 50, still feels like the game changes once you hit that milestone.  I'm level 56 now but so much of that has required finding a group to help me do things.  Hubby has helped me here and there.  Yesterday I was actually playing on two computers, playing my character and his character in boss battles.  It was confusing but I got it done.  I'm still frustrated though because if I can't keep playing solo I don't know how long I want to keep playing.

That's about it for now.

How are you doing these days?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review - Shiver

Shiver
by Maggie Stiefvater
2009
390 pages

'For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
'

*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

I've been wanting to read this trilogy for a long time.  I think it came out at the tail end of the Twilight series, or shortly after, while Twilight was still a big thing in movie form.  I remember seeing this in the stores and thinking 'Ah, taking the wolf side of things since vampires have been done to death.'  For whatever reason though, I always put the book(s) back and bought something else.  I received this first book of the trilogy last year as a birthday/Christmas gift and was pretty excited to finally be able to give it a chance.

I made it about 90 pages in and then gave up in a huff of disappointment.  And getting even that far was an accomplishment because I kept giving it another chance, hoping it would get better.  Nope.  It just kept getting cheesier.

I absolutely hate how the main girl character, Grace, is written.  I thought the main boy, Sam, was a bit better but then he quickly went downhill as well.  Okay, so when Grace was younger she was dragged into the woods behind her house by a pack of wolves.  For some reason, one of the wolves in the pack stopped them from killing her.  The memory of his eyes is locked into Grace's brain and for the next six years she becomes obsessed with wolves, with the wolves in the woods behind her house, and with one yellow eyed wolf in particular.  She knows that's the one who saved her.  She knows that he recognizes and remembers her too.  Then one day there is a tragedy and she ends up face to face with her yellow eyed wolf, only now he's in human form.

Ooooh, he's cute!  And he's bleeding!  I'll just put him in my dad's car and take him to hospital where they will do surgery and save him, no questions asked.  Wheee!  He's so cute, and I can't believe my wolf is a boy now!  Wheee!  I'm now going to break him out of the hospital and take him back to my house where he'll spend the night in my bed and the next morning he'll make breakfast for me and I'll skip school so we can make out in the kitchen!  Wheeee!

What the . . . ?!

Okay, these two have spent the past six years observing and obsessing over each other.  You could say they kinda know each other.  Except he's only ever been in wolf form to her.  I'd think there would still be some sort of hesitancy involved once he revealed himself as human.  Even if she did make the connection that this yellow eyed boy was her yellow eyed wolf, I'd think there would be some emotional confusion, and again, some hesitancy.  Even though they've 'known' each other for six years, they really don't know each other in these new circumstances at all.  And when the girl who had no interest in boys is suddenly an expert lover, it was just beyond repair at that point for me.

Gawd.

I was curious enough about the story to look up a summary online though.  Bits of it sound interesting but too much of it sounds hokey to me, and knowing how cringe-worthy it already is at 90 pages, ugh, no thanks.

Book Review - Moth and Spark

Moth and Spark
by Anne Leonard
2014
368 pages

'A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed--at any cost.

Filled with the potent mix of the supernatural and romance that made A Discovery of Witches a runaway success, Moth and Spark introduces readers to a vibrant world--and a love story they won't soon forget.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren't big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire's control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it's not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn't allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. Torn between Corin's quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off
.'

*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

I was not at all familiar with this book when I received it as a gift last Christmas.  But hey!  Dragons?  Princes?  Wizards?  Heck yeah!  The story hooked me immediately.  Unfortunately, it fizzled by the end.

As the description says, Prince Corin must free the dragons.  He doesn't know how though.  Plus, he's quite distracted by the war that's brewing and by falling in love with this strong and sassy commoner named Tam.  These things are all fine, but looking back over the story, I wonder if it would have been better to split these three things up.  This is a stand alone novel.  Could it have been better as a trilogy?  My biggest problem with this story was that it was unclear.  Well, at least it was to me.  Maybe part of that is because it took me so long to read the book.

I was okay with the love story.  That was probably me favorite part of the whole book.  Prince Corin was a known ladies man.  There was talk in the kingdom that he'd never get married.  Tam was not raised there, was not familiar with the royal court or its ways.  She was strong and smart, well educated for a woman, and not one to just wear pretty dresses and giggle and go to balls.  She's a nicely written character, strong and sensible without being arrogant and cocky, but there were still times when she came across a bit too perfect for every situation type thing.  Corin was nicely written too.  He's also strong and sensible but has his moments of weakness.  He *almost* falls into that weird secret category of darkly powerful characters that I have created in my mind, that sort of dangerous power that I love, that group that includes characters like Snape, Edward Cullen, Phoenix (from Embrace), and others.  Anyway, I like Tam and Corin together, and I really liked their story.

The war is where it starts to get complicated for me.  There were too many sides, too many angry leaders, too many factions.  I could never keep straight who was from where and who they were fighting against and why.  Someone had angry sons who were likely plotting to overthrow their evil father.  Someone had control of the dragons.  Someone was using an elite army.  Prince Corin's land, from what I got out of it, was sort of just caught in the crossfire of it all?  I don't know.  I couldn't even keep it straight on which names were cities and which were lands.  And then it was frustrating once the war actually did start, all the characters we'd spent time getting to know early on were just gone.  True, in times of war in the old days, you didn't have good communication and couldn't always get news, but it was frustrating to just have the king and everyone else pretty much drop out of the story once Tam and Corin had to flee.

The dragon story was complicated too, and disappointing.  Apparently at some point in history they'd been enslaved by . . . someone.  Was it a few years ago?  A few generations ago?  A few hundred years ago?  I know (I think?!) it was by some power hungry dude who felt controlling the dragons would give him the ultimate army but the explanation of how was very vague to me.  And of course nothing is easy about Corin's quest to learn how to free them because, well, dragons don't have history, they just live in the now.  Time doesn't move the same for dragons.  All sorts of vague things in relations to dragons, probably meant to add mystery and intrigue to the story but to me came across as weak writing and avoiding things.  Corin was picked to free the dragons but given absolutely no information to help him in this quest.  In the end it was Tam's equally vague powers that cracked the case and saved the day.  So what was Corin needed for?  And just what the heck did any of that big climactic dragon scene mean?!  Some fire, some blood, and some memories?  I thought dragons didn't have history?  Bleah, just a huge confusing letdown there.

Things were back to the nice love story at the end of the book but by then there was just a bitter taste of confused disappointment in my mind.

I did not hate this book, not at all.  Maybe someday I'll read it again in hopes that it makes more sense to me.  But for now, I'll call it a bummer.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Mar. 2

Alright, let me just rant a bit about something that really pisses me off.  If you're driving and you're in such a freakin' hurry that you have to pass other cars, you better continue to be going fast once you get by.  I can't tell you how annoying it is to have someone ride my ass only to finally pass AND THEN SLOW DOWN!  Seriously, people?!  Whyyyyyyy did you even need to pass then?!  Or, some dumbass will be right up on you and all impatient, then pass and turn off onto some other road very soon after.  Again!  WHY?!  If you were that close to your turn, why did you bother passing?!

Okay, rant over.

It's a gorgeous day here, sunny and temps near mid-40s.  It just totally feels like spring is here.  I'm seeing different birds showing up at the feeders again.  I even took a walk around the house to see if there is anything growing early in the flowerbeds yet.  (There isn't.)  I'll be so sad if we do get a late snowstorm.

Did my shopping this morning.  Didn't buy anything fun or extra because, ya know, we're trying to be responsible with our money, yadda yadda.  We're going to cheat and have Friday night fish dinners from a local place though.  It's been a while, so we're allowing it.  Other than that, I've just been puttering around the house getting things done, like laundry and last night's dishes.  Watched a bit of TV, got caught up on watching Lucifer.  I went back to playing Wizard101 a bit earlier today, and will play more after I post this.  I got discouraged recently because things just seem so much harder and different now where I'm at in the game.  Most of the extra quests in lands I'd thought I'd completed seem ridiculously hard.  I know I don't have to complete every one to keep progressing but I like to be thorough on such things.  I really wish there was a way to drop quests after accepting them, so they don't even show up in your quest log.  But anyway, today I've been playing around with different deck configurations to see if it helps.  I'm going to try the minimal style.  I was inspired by a lower level character than me who was kicking major butt while I looked like a total bumbling noob.

I still did not finish reading that book I mentioned yesterday.  I *should* be able to finish it tonight though!  But since I work this weekend, there won't be a review posted until probably Tuesday at the earliest.  Let's just see if I finish it first.  lol

And that's about it for now.
I'm tired (told you I would not nap) and hungry and am going to play my game till hubby gets home.

How about you?
Any fun weekend plans?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mar. 1

Hello!  Happy March!  I got the blog all dressed up in green for St. Patrick's Day.  At times I love my Irish roots and lean that way, and other times I adore my German roots more.  Sorry, Ludwig, but we're swinging back to Ireland for a while.  Julie inadvertently helped this by mentioning Old Blind Dogs on her blog, which of course made me think of Gaelic Storm, which then sent me down memory lane to my crazy Titanic days and all that came with it.  I've had my Gaelic Storm cds playing most of the day today and yes, my blood is flowing green for now!

This is Mary and George, my Irish kinfolk.  I'm pretty sure it was George's parents who came to the US from Ireland back in the early 1800s, with scandal and drama attached, no less!

But anyway, what's been happening in my present day life?  Not much, which is why I haven't been blogging very often.  There just really isn't much to talk about lately.  I work and I try to relax and recover on my days off.  I'm not making cards, not buying things, not going places or watching anything exciting.  I'm slow in my reading, although I *might* finally have a new book review tomorrow if I manage to finish my current book tonight.  So yeah, nothing really noteworthy here.

The weather continues to be up and down.  We kept having warm days and rain, and then temps would drop and it would all freeze over.  Things are pretty mushy around here but I'm surprised it's not more flooded than it is.  Even when the temps drop back down, there is a definite feel of spring in the air.  Could we be lucky and have those late season snowstorms skip us this year??

I went to Ty's for a while earlier today.  We were trying to figure out his taxes because it looks like he'll owe this year.  After working on that we just sat around chitchatting.  I so rarely go to Ty's place that it was weird to be hanging out and talking to him instead of being at Casey's.

Okay, wait.  I just glanced out the window and it's snowing.
Well, isn't that lovely?  Hopefully none of it stays.

Anyway, hubby's working overtime this week and it comes at a good time.  We got the bill for our part of his shoulder therapy and it was way more than we were expecting.  I had a bit of a meltdown about it because it's like we just can't get ahead.  As the blog title indicates, "It's always something!"  We WERE ahead at this point last year, but then we bought that stupid tractor, and then the barn project started a couple months later.  I guess I should clarify, we're not struggling or slipping farther behind with these things.  It's just that every dollar we can spare is trying to get these things paid off as soon as we can, so it *seems* like we have no money for the extra things we're used to just buying or doing.  But along with putting all the extra money onto these two things, it seems something else is always popping up.  Like this doctor bill, or the tree that we need to get cut down, or refilling the fuel tank for the furnace.  So this bit of overtime that he's getting is much appreciated!

I received a very lovely package from Jessica (The Meltdown blog) recently, crammed full of wax from a variety of vendors for me to try.  I'd never even heard of some of them, like Back Forty, or Pixie and Toad.  I'm not really doing Melted posts on them because I'm still enjoying being a casual melter for now, and also because part of me feels weird about reviewing wax I didn't pay for, especially if it's not a great review.  I know, I've done it in the past, but I was also much more into wax blogging then.  I don't know, what do you guys think?  Should I?

Jessica also sent a fun little crafting envelope project thingie.  There are a couple of coloring pages that she started but left plenty blank so I can color some and send it back to her.  There were a couple other fun little things in there too, but all are small and flat so this little game will always fit in a regular envelope and only ever cost the price of a regular stamp.  Kinda neat!  Now I gotta get in gear and get it sent back to her.

Alrighty, I've nattered enough so I'm going to go grab something to eat and maybe watch some Snapped.  I'd love to take a nap but, well, we all know I fight against those like an over-tired toddler.

What's up with you these days?
Do you have Irish roots?