Random (but not really)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

To Whom It May Concern at Avon:

I read the new Ilona Andrews book (first in a new series) Burn for Me.

I had a couple problems with the story, but overall, I found it quite enjoyable.

What I did not enjoy was the cover.

Here is the cover of the book.

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I don’t like it. I just don’t. The female character is weak, and looks needy and defenseless, and I JUST CAN’T EVEN with men wearing their shirts like that.

But, you know, bad book covers happen to good people.

Then I discovered they had another cover, that was rejected.

THIS cover:

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I. LOVE. THAT. COVER.

It is AWESOME. She is powerful and taking action. In fact, he’s the one standing there clutching her hand and looking handsome while she is taking action.

THAT IS AWESOME.

But instead, someone decided they had to go with the bare chested man, with the woman all but swooning in the man’s arms cover.

WHAT THE HELL?

And even though the female character didn’t actually hold balled lightening when fighting, she was smart and able to care for herself and others. She had no need to clutch needily at a man. A man who doesn’t even know how to wear a shirt for gods’ sake.

The woman on the cover that went to print is NOT the woman I read about in the book.

WHY did they need to show her as weak? WHY?!

Let me be clear: Avon? You SUCK at covers.

ADDENDUM the First:
Another salient point. I purchased the book solely because it was written by Ilona Andrews. If I was browsing, I would have immediately skipped right over that as a book of no interest to me. And in fact Despite the fact I had pre-ordered the book, I put off reading it because I found the cover so unappealing, I presumed it wasn’t the kind of book I typically enjoy.

But I did get around to reading it, because I love Ilona Andrews and the books they write. But if I was a reading, looking for a new author? No way in hell would I have picked that up.

Written by Michelle at 6:55 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Books of November

And now…. the books of November!

Again, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s reading of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series was again spot-on perfect, with Whispers Under Ground. I adore listening to this series so very much.

Also very good was Henning Mankell’s The Troubled Man, the 10th Kurt Wallander book. Be aware this is as much about Kurt Wallander as it is a mystery, but those parts are what were so very good.

I also really like Tracy Grant’s Charles & Melanie Frasier series, which is also the Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch series (I believe it had to do with publishers), and the books are not written/published in chronological order. But they are chock full of intrigue.

Mystery

The Troubled Man (2009/2011) Henning Mankell translated by Laurie Thompson (9/10)

Outrage (2008/2011) Arnaldur Indridason translated by Anna Yates (8.5/10)

Mystery, Historical

Beneath a Silent Moon (2003) Tracy Grant (8.5/10)

The Mask of Night (2011) Tracy Grant (8.5/10)

Fantasy, Supernatural

Fair Game (2012) Patricia Briggs (9/10)

Eternal: Shadow Falls: After Dark (2014) C.C. Hunter (8.5/10)

Night Shift (2014) Nalini Singh; Ilona Andrews; Lisa Shearin; Milla Vane (8/10)

Broken Soul (2014) Faith Hunter (7/10)

Graphic Novels

Fables Vol. 20: Camelot (2014) Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Russ Braun, Barry Kitson (8/10)

Fairest Vol. 4: Cinderella:  Of Men and Mice (2014) Mark Andreyko, Shawn McManus (7/10)

Romance, Historical

A Study in Seduction (2012) Nina Rowan (7/10)

Audio Books

Whispers Under Ground, Audible Version (2012/2012) Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (10/10)

Blood Cross, Audible Version (2010/2010) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam (8.5/10)

I read 13 books this year, so that’s 155 so far for the year. Probably break last year’s total, but that is still quite a number of books.

Paperback 1
Trade Paperback 2
eBook 8
Audio 2
Multiple Formats 2
Re-read 3

As always, ebooks are far and away beating paper books.

Fantasy and mystery were pretty evenly split this month, but I did get in two comics.

Fantasy 6
Mystery 5
Romance 3
Comic 2

And female authors are continuing to lead male authors. Hooray!

Male 3
Female 7
Anthology 3

Written by Michelle at 9:04 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hiking WV: Harpers Ferry

Last Saturday (because this Saturday was rainy) we went to Harpers Ferry to try and catch some of the last leaf change in the state.

We’d considering walking on that part of the Appalachian Trail, but instead ended up taking the Maryland Heights Trail which had a gorgeous overview of the Shenandoah River, Potomac River, and Harpers Ferry.

There were a TON of people all over the place, including at least two families attempting to take strollers up the Maryland Heights Trail. (This was a terrible idea.)

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See that rockline? That’s where we hiked to, and where the above pictures were taken.

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Gorgeous day.

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Our whole walk was about 6.5 miles, and our elevation gain was 1579 feet. And the Maryland Heights Trail was quite steep in places.

Written by Michelle at 10:36 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Books of October

This would have been a slow reading month, except that we went on vacation, and the train ride (which was lovely) provided lots of relaxing reading time. So I ended up reading quite a bit, including several new releases I’d been saving up for such an occasion. But I also was re-reading some Patricia Briggs, who I always like. (I just realized I forgot to review the latest volume of Fables. That’ll have to go onto next month.)

The best books of the month were Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater and Downfall by Rob Thurman, both of which were new releases. (I’m not counting the Miss Marple collection, because I am always going to love Miss Marple.) If you haven’t picked up Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys, you really need to rectify that right now.

Fantasy, YA

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (2014) Maggie Stiefvater (8.5/10)

Fantasy, Supernatural
Cal & Niko
Downfall  (2014) Rob Thurman  (8.5/10)
Toby Daye
The Winter Long  (2014) Seanan McGuire  (7/10)
Jane Yellorock
Black Water  (2014) Faith Hunter  (7/10)
Mercy Thompson
Frost Burned
(2013) Patricia Briggs  (8/10)
River Marked (2011) Patricia Briggs
Silver Borne (2010) Patricia Briggs
Alpha & Omega
Hunting Ground  (2009) Patricia Briggs

Mystery
Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories  (2013) Agatha Christie  (10/10)
Hypothermia  (2007/2009) Arnaldur Indridson translated by Victoria Cribb  (7/10)

Mystery, Historical
The Paris Plot  (2014) Teresa Grant (7/10)

Now for the numbers!

I read eleven books this month, bringing my total for the year to 142, slightly down from this point last year, but still, quite a few books.

Because I was doing a lot of re-reading, and haven’t yet found all my favorite books on sale as ebook, I actually read 3 paperbacks.
Paperback 3
eBook 8
Multiple Formats 1
Re-read 5

I read mostly supernatural fantasy this month, but I did read two straight up mysteries.
Fantasy 8
Mystery 2
Romance 2
YA 1
I never seem to rate any of Arnaldur Indridson’s Inspector Erlendur books much higher than a seven, yet I keep coming back to the series, wanting to learn more about Erlendur. So even though I haven’t raved about that series, you might want to look into it, because it really is fascinating. (Just keep in mind that it is often hard to like Erlendur.)

For this month’s gender break-down, female authors are continuing to trounce male authors, with Arnaldur Indridson the only male author I read in October.
Male 1
Female 9
Male Pseudonym 1
Right now female authors have a strong lead, 49%:32%. But if add in female authors writing under initials or male pseudonyms, it’s 58%:32%.

So that’s October in books. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got the latest Faith Hunter I really need to finish…

Written by Michelle at 9:34 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vacation: Cabrillo National Monument

While we were staying with Mechanicky Gal, we went to Cabrillo National Monument to visit the tide pools. We also got to go into the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Most of the rooms were closed off to the public, so you could look in and see what it would have looked like when it was in use.

The tide pools were gorgeous, and I loved walking along them.

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Oh, well yes, there were a lot of rocks. So I took lots of pictures of rocks. Because I like rocks.

This is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse

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You could walk up to almost the top of the tower, but you couldn’t go outside, or climb the ladder to the light.

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I took this picture to remind me to look up when and why lighthouses would use different colored lights.

Short answer (according to the internet): it depended upon the light house. The rate of rotation (sometimes in combination with colors) could designate a specific lighthouse. The color could designate the location of the lighthouse in relation to the bay.

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Also: This guy again.

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Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: California,National Park/Forest,Photos,Travel  

Vacation: Sea Creatures and Shore Creatures and Plants

Gorgeous pine in the entrance circle. (Not sure what species. I didn’t get a close-up pictures of the leaves, and Michael and I can’t decide.)

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Shaw agave (Agave shawii)

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Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea)

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Coyote Bush/Brush (Baccharis pilularis) has incredibly soft flowers.

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(Thanks Mary!)

Not that you can tell from this picture, but we saw a seal!

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And the next day we saw dolphins!

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Yeah, for both of those you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: California,Flowers,Photos,Travel  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vacation: LA BREA TAR PITS!!!!!!

After we met up with Mechanicky Gal and Carol Elaine, we got to go to THE LA BREA TAR PITS!

Where we saw… FOSSILS!

BISON!

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Why hello there!

American Lion!

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SABER-TOOTH!

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MAMMOTH!

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Ground. Sloth.

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DIRE WOLF!

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OK. Maybe dire wolves weren’t so smart.

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Coyote! Raptor! And some sort of prey!

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MAMMOTH TOE!

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SO ADORABLE! (Well, perhaps not adorable.)

It was MARVELOUS! And I was VERY EXCITED TO SEE IT!

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: California,Photos,Science, Health & Nature,Travel  

Vacation: JPL!

Carol Elaine generously offered to give us a tour of JPL. (Sadly, it was a holiday of some sort, so I was unable to purchase post cards. You can’t imagine how much pain this caused me.)

I only had my cell phone, so most of my pictures were shit, but here are a few nice ones.

Here’s my favorite thing!

This was a light show that showed you the communication between different satellites and ground control. It was a brilliant way to show the flow of information.

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The lights going down the strand represent data coming from a satellite. The lights going up the strands represent data going to the satellite.

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Some satellites have very little data transmission right now.

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It was a genius learning tool, but also very pretty to watch.

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The text that’s hard to read says:
The Habitable Zone: 00001
Confirmed: 01743
Candidates: 03276

HI!

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This absolutely delighted me, though I have fears it was a set up, and not just the result of some random argument.

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Take THAT Neil deGrasse Tyson!

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Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: California,Photos,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Vacation: Joshua Tree Wildlife

I still have lots of pictures to go through, but have been trying to get caught back up on, well, everything, so here’s a quick look at some of the wildlife we saw.

Here’s an antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus I think), which I’d assumed was a chipmunk.

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I’m hoping this is a coyote (Canis latrans) because I’ve never seen one in the wild, and was excited to see it.

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(there are two other pictures if you click through to Flickr.)

I believe this is a Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

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(I got another picture of a different scrub jay in a tree.)

I may also have seen a Pinyon Jay, but I couldn’t get a clear picture to check.

LIZARD! Most likely a Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana) but I’m pretty reptile illiterate.

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We also saw lots of ravens, but I didn’t take any pictures of ‘em. Mostly because I was too busy taking pictures of rocks.

Written by Michelle at 8:05 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: California,Photos,Travel  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vacation: Joshua Tree National Park

Since we were only a few hours away (and in California) we made a point to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

Since I always buy books of the places we visit, I decided this time to purchase the books BEFORE we left. One of the books I got was Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide. This was completely helpful, since it divided the trails into types, as well as distance and time.

Also helpful was the Joshua Tree National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map).

We combined the two, to give us an idea of what we’d be able to manage in a day, and plan the drive to see as much of the area as we possibly could.

We walked/hiked the following trails:
Cholla Cactus Garden
Arch Rock Nature Trail
Barker Dam Trail
Hidden Valley Trail
Cap Rock
Black Rock Trail

We drove up to Keys View

We entered the park from the south, Cottonwood Springs entrance. All of the Cottonwood Springs trails are closed, because multiple floods have exposed toxic mine tailings, so no hiking. This took us through the Colorado Sonoran dessert, which was full of Cholla cactus, Creosote bushes, Ocotillo trees, and Smoke trees.

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But what I liked best were the rock formations.

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We drove north, and move into the Mojave desert, which really did look quite different from the Sonoran.

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Joshua Tree and the desert were interesting places to visit, but I would definitely not want to live there.

Written by Michelle at 8:40 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: California,National Park/Forest,Photos,Travel  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vacation! Huntington Beach

So Michael’s conference was at Huntington Beach in some really expensive resort hotel.

Really expensive resort/hotel. But I was lucky enough this trip that the hotel was NOT in the middle of nowhere, so I was able to walk to find other (more reasonably priced) places to eat.

If you know me, you are probably aware that I do not much care for the sun. So I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the beach far more than I would have expected, mostly because I found watching to surfers to be fascinating and somewhat mesmerizing.

And there were a LOT of surfers.

Huntington Beach Surfers

I was on the pier at 5:30 AM and noon and sunset, and the water was always full of surfers.

I also noticed that not only did males predominate, but when there were female surfers, it was first thing in the morning, or late afternoon (say, before work and after work), which I found quite interesting. Mind you, it was a very small sample size.

And I also liked walking along the beach at sunrise and sunset. Water is very relaxing, and walking along the water without the sun beating down on me or massive crowds was quite pleasant.

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And the birds!

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I kept watching the Sandlings and giggling with delight as they’d walk down to the water line, and then scurry back from the tide.

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Plus, a pelican that had almost no fear of humans.

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And I did get to spend some time with this guy:

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Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: California,Photos,Travel  

Friday, October 24, 2014

VACATION! Taking the Train

Where have I been? GLAD YOU ASKED! I have been on VACATION!

Michael’s conference this year was in California, so we made a vacation out of it! We took the train to California, went to his conference, then went to Joshua Tree National Park, then headed back to the coast and spent time with friends. We, of course, took the train back, so it was a very relaxing two weeks. (I’ve got a ton of book reviews I finished writing and posted need to post, because the train is perfect for reading, when you’re not staring out the windows at the passing scenery (which I did quite frequently).

Despite most of our trains being delayed at some point (including spending the night in Toledo) I still greatly prefer taking the train to flying. And with a roomette, we had a place to lie down and included meals, so WAY better than flying.

Because everyone has asked, here are the sordid details:

Capital Limited: Pittsburgh (11:59 PM) to Chicago Union Station (8:45 AM) – This leg is always delayed and running late. Plan for it. Also, I think next time I want to leave from Cumberland, because the Pittsburgh Amtrak station is AWFUL. Plus, we’d leave earlier and get back later. This will be our plan next time we take the train.
Southwest Chief: Chicago Union Station (3:00 PM Fri) to LA Union Station (8:15 Sun) – This was two nights on the train, with meals included. It went through: Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado (south-east corner), New Mexico, Arizona, and California. We went through a LOT of desert, which I found fascinating to see.

Coming back we took:
Pacific Surfliner: San Diego to LA Union Station – This had long stretches of views of the ocean, which I really enjoyed. We got this last minute, so our marvelous hostess didn’t have to drive from San Diego to LA.
Southwest Chief: LA Union Station (6:15 PM Mon) to Chicago Union Station (3:15 PM Wed)
Capital Limited: Chicago Union Station (6:40 PM) to Pittsburgh (5:05 AM)

The total cost for both of us was ~$2,000, and (with the exception of the Surfliner) included the roomette with breakfast, lunch, and dinner (as applicable to that part of the journey). And the roomette was a single fee, not a per person fee. Plus, our luggage was free.

So the trip was, essentially, 3 1/3 days each way, and we got to see parts of the country with which we were unfamiliar.

Currently, a non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to LA is ~$570 / person and takes 5 hours.
Flights with layovers are currently:
United, 6h 40m, $336
US Airways, 5h 45m, $360

That’s with no checked luggage and no sustenance included.

Here are some of the views I enjoyed: (Please note, all pictures were taken from a moving train, through a thick window, with a cell phone.)

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Because I turned on location services for most of them, you can click through to Flickr to see where most of the pictures were taken.

So, is it more expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? For me? Hell yes. Especially being able to actually see the landscape as we went by.

ADDENDUM the First:
Because it might be helpful, here are two pictures of the roomette, both taken by Michael (obviously).

train room 1   train room 2

Written by Michelle at 1:36 pm      Comments (7)  Permalink
Categories: California,Photos,Travel  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hiking West Virginia: Cranberry Glades & the Falls of Hills Creek

Well, it was more casual strolling than hiking, but both of these are places you shouldn’t miss. Although it was only the 4th of October, it was 42 degrees at Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, and there were a few snow flurries. So the weather there can be quite different from the weather elsewhere.

Which means I was wishing that I had worn much warmer pants.

Location: Falls of Hills Creek and Cranberry Glades Botanical Area
Trails: Cranberry Glades Botanical Area & the Falls of Hills Creek
Distance: Cranberry Glades Botanical Area: 0.6 mile; Falls of Hills Creek: 1.3 miles
Elevation: Falls of Hills Creek: 367 feet

Cranberry Glades Botanical Area

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The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is a flat boardwalk, so it is accessible to everyone. Although it is only a 0.6 mile loop, there is incredible biological diversity in that small area.

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Yup. Snow.

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Cranberry Wilderness Area

This area was in an area not in the boardwalk, but similar botanically, and the light was a lot better.

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The Falls of Hills Creek

The upper falls are accessibly by a gently sloping path. They were also kinda boring without much water going through the area.

The rest of the path was a lot of stairs. But utterly worth the hike.

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The Middle Falls

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The Lower Falls

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The stairs are quite steep in places.

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Cranberry Glades Botanical Area GPS map
Falls of Hills Creek GPS map

Written by Michelle at 10:12 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Books of September

September was a slow reading month. Temperatures finally cooled enough that I wanted to go hiking again, and the insanity of football games was more than enough incentive to push us out of town. Plus, I decided to take up canning this fall (if I get my act together, I’ll write about that sometime) so my free time has been limited.

In addition to less reading time than normal, we were busy enough (in a good way) that I was wanting to relax with favorite characters and books I knew I’d enjoy.

The best books of the month included two audio books. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith narrates Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, and he completely blew me away. I liked the book, but the narration was pretty much perfect. I can’t recommend these highly enough.
I also read Patricia Briggs’ anthology set in Mercy Thompson’s world. Very few of these stories are about Mercy, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I love well-written short stories, and these are all very good.

Fantasy, Supernatural

Alpha & Omega
Cry Wolf  (2008) Patricia Briggs
Mercy Thompson
Moon Called (2006) Patricia Briggs (8.5/10)
Blood Bound  (2007) Patricia Briggs (8/10)
Iron Kissed (2008) Patricia Briggs
Bone Crossed  (2009) Patricia Briggs
Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson (2014) Patricia Briggs (9/10)

Mystery, Historical

Flavia de Luce
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (2014) Alan Bradley (Not Rated)
Speaking from Among the Bones  (2013) Alan Bradley (7/10)

Audio Books

Moon Called: Audible Version (2006/2009) Patricia Briggs and read by Lorelei King (DNF)
Peter Grant
Midnight Riot: Audio Version  (2011/2012) Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (10/10)
Moon Over Soho: Audible Version  (2011/2012) Ben Aaronovitch and narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (10/10)

So, in a slow reading month I read eleven books, which I know is more than most people read, but still relatively low for me. (I read nine books in May, for many of the same reasons I read so little in September.) This also brings my total for the year to 131, which was more than I read some years when I was in grad school. So I’m on track to read more books this year than I have in any other year.

I read mostly eBooks again, but there were three audio books in there, and one lonely paperback. Of course nine of the books I read were re-reads, and eight of those I have in multiple formats. (Of course, this counts the Mercy Thompson Moon Called audio book that I didn’t finish.)

Mostly supernatural fantasy this month, with those books having a strong mystery element, and two straight-up mysteries.

I read four male authors and seven female authors, which brings me to 59 writing-as-female authors for the year and 43 male authors. With the nine books written under initials and two written under a male pseudonym, that gives me approximately 55% female authors to 34% male authors. (I’ve read a lot of anthologies this year.)

So not much new this month, but I really do recommend that you seek out the audio version of the Peter Grant books.

Written by Michelle at 6:35 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock State Forest: Raven Rock

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock State Forest: Raven Rock

The weather was too nice not to go hiking, so we went to Coopers Rock, which is the park I visited so many times as a child, but weirdly, rarely hiked. We’d wander beneath the overlook and climb rocks, but didn’t much hike any of the trails.

Raven Rock is a nice climb to look out down the mountain, however, there are a couple reasons it’s far less popular than the main overlook. 1) It’s a relatively steep walk up unpleasantly rocky terrain. 2) Power transmission lines. 3) To the north you can see power plant stacks and steam. The latter two are the bigger irritation to me, not that my ankle was well-pleased with the rocky terrain.

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Raven Rock Trail & McCollum Trail
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation: 743 feet

This is what the Raven Rock trail looks like pretty much the entire way.

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My ankle is displeased with me, because walking on ground like this is a lot more uncomfortable and difficult than you’d think–you have to watch the ground, and even so, smaller rocks slide out from under your feet.

All of which is why we took the McCollum trail back as soon as it branched off.

And the reason it looks like an old road, is because that’s what it is. This is how they got all the equipment for the power lines up the hill. So perhaps this is Mother Nature’s revenge.

Looking east, over the Cheat Canyon.

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Looking west:

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Looking North. You can see the overlook to the right, and in the background the Longview and Fort Martin power plants.

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The power lines and towers kinda ruin the view to the south. (Looking south west here.)

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Ferns are quite tenacious.

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We were trying to remember where this rock fell from. No place obvious.

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GPS Map of Raven Rock hike

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Flower Pr0n: The End of the Hydrangea

My hydrangea took a significant amount of damage last winter, so although it survived, I got no flowers. So I decided to snap a couple pictures of the last hurrah of this hydrangea outside the Purple Fiddle in Thomas.

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And just because I adore it so, my favorite building in Thomas.

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Written by Michelle at 8:28 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls State Park

After discovering the WV Dept of Forestry Fall Foliage Map, WV State Parks Fall Foliage Map, we decided that a trip to Blackwater Falls was in order.

I wanted to visit my favorite overlooks and falls, so we went to lots of different places. (This would have been more energy efficient if we’d had bicycles, however, we only had a couple hours, so we were in and out of the car instead.) The last time we hiked most of these trails, it was early spring and had also been raining for two weeks straight, so there was a LOT of water. This time we were able to hike along creeks that were flooded last time.

It was a gorgeous fall day, temperatures in the upper 60s to 70–perfect for hiking–and the skies were clear. It was a perfect day.

Location: Blackwater Falls State Park
Trails: Pendleton Trace Trail, Dobbin House Trail; Pase Point Trail; Lindy Point Trail
Falls: Elekata Falls (off Elekata Trail); Blackwater Falls
Distance: Pendleton Trace to Dobbins House to Pase Point and Back: 2.9 miles; Lindy Point: .8 mile
Total Distance (including going off trail): 4.9 miles
Elevation: Pendleton Trace to Dobbins House to Pase Point: 261 feet; Lindy Point: 66 feet
Total Elevation (including going off trail): 911 feet

Elekata Falls (here it was in the spring)

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Blackwater Falls (here it was in the spring)

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Oh look! A turkey vulture!

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This sighting was followed by a discussion of the difference between a vulture and a buzzard. Answer: in the US–the terms are interchangeable.

Pendleton Lake

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Wait… what’s that?

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A heron!

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Lindy Point. This is an easy hike for a spectacular view.

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Pendleton Point

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Pase Point

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The river below Dobbin House Trail (here’s how things looked in the spring)

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This area was completely inaccessible in the spring.

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On the Dobbin House Trail someone had set up a silent walk. About a quarter of the signs were botany and nature related, the others were exceedingly touchy-feel. (Look around at the colors. How do they make you feel?) But THIS sign made my day.

Uses of Hemlock

Will no one rid me of the troublesome philosopher?

I am easily amused.

Dobbins House Trail + Pase Point Trail GPS map (with bonus Pendleton overlook and going off trail)

Lindy Point Trail GPS map

Written by Michelle at 10:37 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hiking WV: Watoga State Park

Go ahead. Say it: WA-TOGA! WA-TOGA! WA-TOGA!

You’re welcome.

Location: Watoga State Park
Trails: Honeybee Trail, Buckhorn Trail, Dragon Draft Trail
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 920 feet

At Watoga there’s a lake:

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As you can see, the leaves are just starting to change:

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There’s also an arboretum:

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This is a tree (still alive) that has been attacked by some kind of insect, which was then rooted out by woodpeckers.

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We hiked the outside of the trail, then cut into the center, where the arboretum trail crosses back and forth across the creek:

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It’s fascinating, the amount of stone and rock in the creek bed, that has been uncovered over time, and shifted around every time there’s a hard rain.

There’s also access to the Greenbrier river:

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It was a lovely park, and as it’s the end of the season, it was quite empty and quiet (which I always enjoy).

GPS map of hike

Written by Michelle at 11:54 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

15 Question SFF Book Meme!

From SF Signal: A 15 Question Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Book Meme – SF/F/H Reading/Buying Habits

What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading?
Midnight Riot (audio version) by Ben Aaronovitch

What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading and why?
This is harder, as I read multiple books at once, and frequently start books that I never get back to, simply because there are too many other books to read one that doesn’t hold my interest.

What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you liked but most people didn’t?
I honestly I have no idea. I frequently re-read David Eddings Belgariad, but I don’t think that’s what the question is asking.

What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you disliked but most people did?
I abandoned the Sookie Stackouse series. I loved the initial books, but HATED it when it turned into a giant “everyone loves Sookie” fest. Bletch.

How long do your 1-sitting reading sessions usually last?
As long as I have time. I can spend an entire day reading–if I have an entire day.

What are you currently reading?
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
Bonk by Mary Roach
Downfall by Rob Thurman
Thieves’ Quarry by DB Jackson

Do you like it so far?
Of course.
I’m having a hard time getting into this one.
OMG yes.
I’ve put this down several times, because I fear it is going to be the last Cal book.
Wasn’t what I was in the mood for when I picked it up, but keep coming back to it.

How long ago did you buy the book you are currently reading (or the last book you read)?
Some of them in the past two weeks, some of them… months ago? I own the Sherlock Holmes in HB, so I re-bought the eBook.

What was the last physical sf/f/h book you bought?
Fables: Camelot by Bill Willingham et al (that one is ALSO waiting for me to pick it up)

What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you like the most and why?
I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy–like Charles de Lint–and supernatural mysteries–like Simon R Green. I love mysteries, and I adore mysteries with supernatural or fantastic elements. I also like them because they tend to be single books that I can read in a gulp, but am not left with a damned cliff-hanger.

What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you dislike the most and why?
I don’t read SF, because I just plain don’t enjoy it. I dislike dystopias for a similar reason–they make me feel miserable. I’ll feel terrible for hours after finishing a dystopia. Since my brain can do that all on its own, I avoid things that make me feel bad. I also don’t read horror because I don’t like to be scared. (Fantasy with elements of horror is generally find, as long as it’s not scary.)

What is your favorite electronic reading device?
I love my kindle paperwhite so very very very very much. It has a purple cover, and feels so much like reading a book, only it doesn’t hurt my hands to hold.

What was the last sf/f/h eBook you bought?
Three pre-orders arrived at the same time:
Seanan McGuire – Winterlong
Patricia Briggs – Shifting Shadows
Fables: Camelot by Bill Willinghame et al

Do you read books exclusively in 1 format (physical/electronic)?
No. But I am partial to fiction in eBook format, and to comics/graphic novels in Trade Paperback format.

Do you read eBooks exclusively on a single device (eBook reader/ smartphone / tablet)?
Nope. I read on whatever is at hand. If I have a few minutes to wait, I read on my phone. If it’s a cookbook, I read it on the Fire. My bedtime reading is often on my Kindle keyboard (it contains mostly non-fiction, which I prefer to read before bed). Most everything else I read on the paper white.

How about you?

Written by Michelle at 8:57 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Books of August

Lots of historicals this month, both romances (!) and mysteries. Just in the mood for something different I suppose.

Fifteen books in August, bringing me to a total of 120 for the year so far.

The best books of the month:
The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan was FABULOUS. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about this story. You should go read it now.
Kitty’s Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn I always seem to forget how good Carrie Vaughn is with short stories, until I read one, and then I want to read more.

Fantasy, Supernatural

Kitty’s Greatest Hits (2011) Carrie Vaughn (9/10)
Jane Yellowrock
Cat Tales: Four Stories from the World of Jane Yellowrock (2011) Faith Hunter (7/10)
Have Stakes Will Travel: Stories From the World of Jane Yellowrock (2012) Faith Hunter (8.5/10)
Jane Yellowrock World Companion (2013) Faith Hunter (7/10)
Black Arts (2014) Faith Hunter (8.5/10)

Mystery, Historical

Flavia deLuce
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (2011) Alan Bradley (7/10)
Lady Emily
A Poisoned Season (2007) Tasha Alexander (7/10)
A Fatal Waltz (2008) Tasha Alexander (7/10)
Lady Julia Grey
Silent on the Moor (2009) Deanna Raybourn (6.5/10)
Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch
The Paris Affair (2013) Teresa Grant (7/10)

Romance, Historical

Lord and Lady Spy (2011) Shana Galen (3/10)
The Brothers Sinister
The Duchess War (2012) Courtney Milan (7/10)
The Heiress Effect (2013) Courtney Milan (8/10)
The Countess Conspiracy (2013) Courtney Milan (9/10)

Audio Books

Skinwalker (Audio Version) (2009/2010) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam (8/10)

So, now my favorite part! The stats!

8 re-reads this month, three of which I have in multiple formats. So the publishing industry isn’t losing much, even though I try to pay no more than $3 for a book I already own in paper.

Paperback: 1
Trade Paperback: 1
eBook: 13
Audio: 1

Lots of romance this month, and lots of mysteries. Almost all of which were historicals. Sometimes, you just need to put your mind in a different time period.

Fantasy: 6
Mystery: 9
Romance: 8
Anthology: 1

And all those romance novels mean that I read a LOT of female authors this month.

Male: 1
Female: 14

For the year, the percentage of mail authors I’ve read is down to 35%. Of course, the first two books of September were both by male authors, so I’m still getting some variety in my diet.

But really, I can’t recommend The Countess Conspiracy enough. It’s all geeky and marvelous.

Written by Michelle at 6:55 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
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