Random (but not really)

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 – My Year in Reading

Aside from what I may read today, my total books read for 2012 is 160. That’s the second greatest number read after 2006, when I read 164.

2012 Totals - Yearly by Month

November (22) and February (19) were the months I read the most–wonder if that relates to how dreary those months can be, since I also read less than average in March (7) and April (10). (July we were on vacation, so that doesn’t count.)

The total for genre comes out to be more than 160, because many of the books I read fell into multiple categories.

Genre 2012

As always, I read primarily fantasies (104) but those were predominantly supernatural fantasy rather than epic or sword & sorcery. That’s because I’m still not in the mood to commit to authors like Robert Jordan or George RR Martin who write huge books in series that never seem to end.

I still want primarily single book story arcs, and it’s hard to find good S&S that does that.

The number of romances (33) I read (this is almost always a secondary category) went up, but the number of YA books (35) I read doubled. There are a LOT of good YA books out there, and an eReader means I don’t have to lurk the YA section of the book store to find them. (I know there’s nothing wrong with it, but hanging out there made me feel weird.)

I also read several blogs that review a lot of YA, so I’ve discovered plenty more to read–as if my TBR pile wasn’t already huge.

As far as the types of books I’ve read, eBooks has blown away every other category, almost doubling since last year.

Books by Type

The slight increase in hardback books is due almost entirely to the number of cookbooks I read (6). But mostly you can see that eBooks (97) have mostly replaced mass market paperback books (22). I don’t think the number trade paperback books (30) will change, because that category contains comics and graphic novels (15) and I won’t read those in any other format.

And in case you missed them, here are my favorites from 2012.

My Favorite Books of 2012:
YA and Fantasy
Romance and Mystery
Non-Fiction and Comics

Good Covers of 2012:
YA, Romance, and Mystery
Fantasy

And my book blog still lives at Random Reading, and updates to that appear in the sidebar to the right.

So, with all that, any recommendations for me for 2013?

Written by Michelle at 11:21 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Makes You Happy?

I have to go to a funeral this afternoon; my wish for the new year is not to have to go to any funerals for the whole year. Especially closed casket funerals for people who are younger than I am.

So, cheer me (and everyone else) up. What makes you happy?

Written by Michelle at 7:50 am      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Family  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today’s Happy

Today Jules came over and we made and decorated sugar cookies!

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Tried something new this year, edible tempera paint:

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But we still iced cookies the regular way as well.

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Written by Michelle at 8:26 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Family,Food  

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Year in Books: My Favorite Books: YA and Fantasy

I have always read a lot of fantasy, but in recent years, I’ve discovered some of the best fantasy is in the YA section. Luckily for me, the internet makes perusing the YA section less uncomfortable. I’m still not reading much epic / sword & sorcery fantasy and a lot of urban fantasy / paranormal fantasy, but that’s okay, because I like what I like, and there’s nothing wring with that.

The YA I read is almost all fantasy, but I’ve been following a lot of book blogs that recommend YA, so I’ve picked up a few non-fantasy YA books to read. We’ll see if that trend continues next year.

Unless otherwise stated, these were published in 2012.
(Click on a book title to read my full review, click on the author’s name to see more books by that author.)

Fantasy

Death’s Rival, Raven Cursed, and Have Stakes Will Travel (Jane Yellowrock) Faith Hunter

I really like Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. Jane is a licensed vampire hunter who has managed to get hired by the vampire master of New Orleans. Jane is also a skin walker, which is something she works to keep secret from everyone, because to the best of her knowledge, there are no other skin walkers anymore.

Although Jane has some powers from being a shifter, she primarily succeeds through her wits and intimidation. She also suffers the consequences of her actions–and since she has a violent occupations, there are almost always consequences.

Have Stakes Will Travel is a collection of Jane short stories, covering her entire career. The other two are the latest Jane Yellowrock books.
 
 
Permeable Borders by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

I love Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing–I’ll pick up pretty much any fantasy book she’s written.

Although many of her books have romantic elements, she writes fantasy along the lines of Charles de Lint, rather than paranormal fantasies, even though her stories contain magic.

Several of these stories appeared in anthologies, and many of those I’ve read, but others–those written upon a them mostly–I had not seen before. Of course, even the stories I’d read before, I still enjoyed.
 
 
Gunmetal Magic (The World of Kate Daniels) Ilona Andrews

Although Kate and Curran make appearances here, this book is about Andrea, Kate’s partner. I’ve read several short stories featuring Andrea, so was looking forward to an entire novel about her, and I was not disappointed.

Andrea has always been a very strong female character in Kate’s world, so she was easily able to inhabit a book on her own.
 
 
Ashes of Honor (October Daye) Seanan McGuire

There are more Toby Daye books to come (I checked) but this book ends in such a good place I’d be okay if the series ended here. Not that I don’t want to read more about Toby, it’s just that many of her problems have finally been resolved and she can actually get in on with her life now.
 
 
Garrett Investigates (Abby Irene) Elizabeth Bear

This is a collection of Abby Irene short stories/novellas.

These stories have elements of fantasy and steampunk, but I think first and foremost I’d label them as alternate history, with those other elements coming secondary, because the world in which Abby Irene lives is as important to the stories as the fantasy and steampunk elements.
 
 
The Very Best of Charles de Lint (2010) Charles de Lint

I absolutely adore Charles de Lint’s stories, so despite having many of these stories already, I couldn’t resist this collection for the stories I didn’t have.

It’s a strange thing–many of his stories deal with dark and depressing elements–sexual abuse, child abuse, loss–yet his stories leave me with a sense of hope.
 
 
Hex Appeal edited by P.N. Elrod

This is an anthology of stories about magic and boinking.

Okay, not all the stories have boinking, but most of them do. Despite that, there is some wonderful world-building and there are many fantastic stories here, which gave this anthology a very good rating despite having stories I didn’t finish.
 
 
Down These Strange Streets (2011) edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin

This was a fabulous collection–I don’t think there was a single story here I hated, and most of the stories I loved. It also introduced me to several authors I had not read or heard of, but went on to search out because I so enjoyed their tales here.

 
 

YA

The Far West (Frontier Magic) Patricia C. Wrede

This is the concluding story to her Frontier Magic series, and is marvelous. This is an alternate history where magic has shaped the founding of the US, and although there are many parallels between this world and our own history, there are also many significant differences.

Although the main character is a girl (a young woman by the time of this book) I believe that boys might enjoy it as well–especially the first book in the series.

To be honest, I enjoyed this world so much I am sad to see this series end.
 
 
Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

This is a fun series. Sam has discovered he is a powerful necromancer, so has to learn quickly how to deal with his powers.

There is an acknowledgement of teen’s sexuality in this book, though nothing descriptive.
 
 
Dark Frost (Mythos Academy) Jennifer Estep

This is another interesting series, though a little heavier on the romance than I might prefer. Gwen goes to a school for magical heroes of a sort, but her powers aren’t the sort that are good for bashing monsters, and she wasn’t told of the existence of others until she was in high school.

This is a modern setting, and there’s acknowledgement of boinking, but no details.

I’ve been enjoying this series, though I’m not quite sure I like where it’s heading.
 
 
A Conspiracy of Kings (2010) (Thief of Eddis) Megan Whalen Turner

Yeah, this is one of the books that made me bend the rules for books published in the past several years instead of just 2012. This series is so wonderful, I want to make sure everyone knows about it.
 
 
Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan

This is a very good anthology–a great combination of authors I’m already reading, and authors that are new to me. I wish I knew more people who loved anthologies as much as I do.

My favorite comics and non-fiction books and my favorite mysteries and romance of the past year.

My favorite Fantasy and YA covers of 2012.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Year in Books: My Favorite Books: Romance and Mystery

I’ve always loved mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Trixie Beldon to Sherlock Holmes as a kid, to Spenser, Sonchai Jitplecheep, and Inspector John Rebus as a grownup. Grandmom shared this love of mysteries, so after her death, I sort of drew back from reading as many mysteries, because it often made me sad when I’d think, “Grandmom would LOVE this!”

But, I’ve started back into reading mysteries again, and there were always a few series that I was keeping up with, regardless.

Romance is a new field for me, one I was drawn into through the amount of paranormal fantasy I was reading. I eventually decided that as long as I knew before hand I was reading a romance, it wasn’t that bad. However, most of the romances I’ve been reading are either part of a fantasy series I was already into, or much older books I’m just now discovering.

Unless otherwise stated, all books were published in 2012.

Romance

Steel’s Edge (The Edge) Ilona Andrews

This is the final book in The Edge series, so there was quite a bit to wrap up, but I think they did it admirably. Ilona Andrews has said they may write more about these characters in the future, but not as part of this series. So if you’re a completist, all four books are available now!

These books have boinking, but not a huge amount of boinking. Just so you know.
 
 
Scarlet A. C. Gaughen

This is a take on Robin Hood that I initially had a hard time getting into, but once I got to about two chapters in, I couldn’t put it down. Will Scarlet is actually a girl hiding from her past, and only three people know Scarlet is actually a girl, and none of those know her true identity.

I really enjoyed this, and was surprised not to see a sequel, because there easily could be one. Not much boinking here, though there is an open acknowledgement of sex.

My review of Scarlet.
 
 
Kilts & Kraken (Gaslight Chronicles) Cindy Spencer Pape

This series is more a bunch of serial novellas, so be aware the stories are relatively short.

There is also a LOT of boinking.

But the world building and the characters are so wonderful, I keep getting the books in this series because I enjoy them so much in spite of all the graphic sex.

There were actually two stories in this series published this year, but I didn’t find the second quite as good as this one (or the previous stories).

My review of Kilts & Kraken.

 
 

Mystery

The Custom of the Army (2012) Diana Gabaldon

I read my first Lord John story in the anthology Down these Strange Streets, and I almost immediately went looking for more stories about Lord John. The first book I found was good, but the next two I read, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade and Lord John and the Hand of Devils were excellent, and I was immediately pulled in.

The Custom of the Army is a novella featuring Lord John, a major in the British Army during the Seven Years War. The fact Lord John happens to be gay, at a time when that could lead to his hanging, makes his life even more dangerous.

The history in these stories is my second favorite thing after Lord John. She is meticulous in her research to make sure the details are historically correct. And some of those details are pretty amazing to modern eyes.

These aren’t your typical mysteries, but neither are the romances either, so I’ve mentally classified them as historical mysteries and moved on.

My review of The Custom of the Army.
 
 
Vulture Peak (Sonchai Jitpleecheep) John Burdett

I don’t remember anymore why I initially picked up Bangkok 8, but once I did, I was drawn into the story and the characters and the city and have eagerly awaited each additional book in this series.

This is NOT a series I recommended to Grandmom. Bangkok is not a place for the faint of heart or squeamish, and these books reflect that. That said, these books are also amazing, and it never fails to astound me the things that are ethical and immoral in Sonchai’s world.

My review of Vulture Peak.
 
 
Beastly Things (Commissario Guido Brunetti) Donna Leon

This is a series that Grandmom really enjoyed. Brunetti is an inspector in the Venice police, and Venice is as much a character in this series as Bangkok is in the Sonchai Jitplecheep series.

As are the meals Brunetti and his family eat. I have two Italian mystery series I am keeping up with, and in both the food is as much a part of the book as the place and the (inevitable) murder.

Although some books are better than others, all are good, and all are worth reading.

My review of Beastly Things.

My favorite romance and mystery covers of 2012.

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Women Writing Books

Two different articles today on women writing as men: the WSJ article, Why Women Writers Still Take Men’s Names which looks at fiction in general, and the iO9 piece that focuses specifically on SFF.

I’ve long had a preference for female main characters in my SFF, but haven’t been very particular about mysteries, so I decided to see how my reading preferences have panned out for the past several years.

I didn’t categorize by genre–hey, I’m doing this all by hand as it is!–but did have five gender categories: male authors, female authors, women writing under initials or male pseudonyms, men writing under initials, and male-female partnerships.

The last category is pretty much Ilona Andrews and Phil & Kaja Foglio, and was not folded into any other category.

So what did I discover?

Over the period of 2009 to 2012, I read 556 books. When I divide those books by the (known) gender of the author, I get:

Male authors: 44.4%
Female authors: 53.1%

That’s actually a pretty even split, considering. From correlations, it’s also dependent upon what genre I’m reading: in 2010 I read a lot of mysteries, so I ended up reading more books by male authors (53.4%) than female authors (45.3%). This year I read primarily fantasy, so the authors I read were predominantly female (69%).

Genre Chart

What is interesting is how things look when I break down those categories further.

Male: 43.9%
Female: 46.4%
Male Initials: 0.5%
Female Initials/Pseudonyms: 6.7%
Team: 2.5%

(That 0.5% for male initials was exclusively T.A. Pratt‘s Marla Mason series.)

The percentages are much closer when we compare male names to female names.

And if I add female initials to the males instead of the females (which is what both articles are suggesting happens when female writers use their initials), I get a higher percentage of authors with male names:

Male Names: 50.54%
Female Names: 46.40%

(I’m leaving T.A. Pratt and the team writers out of this calculation.)

Now, I admit that (with the exception of Girl Genius) I classified comics and anthologies under the name of the writer or editor. So an anthology could have primarily female authors but been compiled by a male editor. And the issue of comics is even more of a gray area, but as this was done out of curiosity, not something I’ve compiled for publication that needs to pass scientific rigor, I don’t care if you don’t like my classification system. :P

So, even though I have a stated preference for books with female characters, which tend to be written by female authors, male names or pseudonyms still seem to come up on top.

It’s interesting, but also sad that women still have to pretend to be men to sell books.

Author Names Screen Capture

Compiled from my book blog: Random Reading

Written by Michelle at 6:38 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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The Year in Books: My Favorite Books: Non-Fiction & Comics

That was initially going to be a list at some of my favorites books that were published in 2012, but I decided that wasn’t quite fair, since there are some series that I’ve just become aware of, so instead I’ve limited the list to books that were published in 2010, 2011, or 2012. Additionally, I almost never buy hardback books, so I want to include books that just came out in paperback 2012.

And also, if I hadn’t, my non-fiction selection would have been one book.

First up: Non-fiction and comics.

I don’t get through a lot of non-fiction during the year, mostly because it tends to be my bedtime reading, so I usually get about a chapter a night read before I fall asleep.

As far as comics, I don’t follow a lot of comics, and the ones I do follow I generally really really like, so you’re seeing most of what I read this year. The other series that I’d been following are either completed or have stopped publishing (boo!). The exception to this is Hellboy, which I read erratically, because there are generally two different plots: the ongoing story, and short stories from the past. As I prefer the short stories, I tend to fall behind on the Hellboy series.

Hopefully I can find some new series to keep up with in the coming year.

Non-Fiction

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) (2012) Jenny Lawson

If you follow The Bloggess, then you know she put out a memoir this year.

And if you follow The Bloggess, you also know she is completely irreverent, frequently blasphemous, and possibly the funniest blogger around. She also suffers from medical issues, including depression and anxiety disorder, which makes her writing often even more poignant.

If you do not regularly read The Bloggess, I highly recommend her writing, assuming you are not offended by foul language, and irreverent (and perhaps blasphemous) writing.

Or taxidermy.

My review of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir).
 
 
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 (2011) edited by Mary Roach and Tim Folger

I like science. I like how Mary Roach writes. So when I saw she was editing an anthology of science writing, I said, “why not?”

Most of the writing is not as irreverent as what Mary Roach writes, but it is still very good, and well worth checking out if you like science writing.

My review of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011
 
 
Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference (2010) Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

For someone who is mostly agnostic (or perhaps just a monotheist) I read a lot of religious writing. Partially because I’m looking for answers I know I won’t find, but also because religion is so very important to so many people in my life, I want to learn as much as I can, so at least I can grasp it intellectually, even if I feel nothing emotionally or spiritually.

Desmond Tutu is friends with the Dalai Lama, whose writing is always setting by the bed to read, (I’m currently reading The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom) so after hearing an interview with him, I got this book.

It is thought-provoking, because this is a man who has seen and lived through horrors, yet he is still able to see love in good and his fellow men and women–something I find astounding.

If you’d like to have some of your faith in humanity restored, this is a good book for it.

My review of Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference.

 
 

Comics

Fairest Vol 1: Wide Awake (2012) Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Matthew Sturges, Shawn McManus

Fairest is a new Fables spin off. This issue was centered on Sleeping Beauty and the White Witch, although in this column, Ali Baba shared the spotlight. As much as I love Fables, I haven’t much liked any of the spin-offs, so there wasn’t a guarantee I’d like this one. I have so far.

My review of Fairest: Wide Awake
 
 
Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland (2012) Bill Willingham, Craig Hamilton, Jim Fern, Ray Snyder, Mark Farmer

Like 1001 Nights of Snowfall, this is a stand-alone story. Although there are plenty of references to events from the main story line, this might be a decent introduction if you are interested in checking out Fables.

My review of Werewolves of the Heartland.
 
 
Fables 17: Inherit the Wind (2012) Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Shawn McManus

This is the latest installment in he Fables series. After the death of Bigby’s father, it appears that one of his and Snow’s children will have to take over as the North Wind.

I do so love this series.

My review of Fables Vol 17: Inherit the Wind .

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Year in Books: Good Covers (Fantasy)

Yesterday was YA, Romance, and Mystery covers. Today is fantasy covers.

Romance gets some horrible, lurid covers, but I think fantasy in general, is worse. Especially the kinds of books I love, which have strong, independent, female lead characters.

If they aren’t in completely ridiculous outfits for what they are supposed to be doing, they’re in poses that are humanly impossible or simply in some rendition of what the artist thinks is “sexy.” Which means there are a lot of horrible—and even downright offensive—covers with female characters.

So I’m delighted when I find a series with covers that not only don’t suck, but are actually awesome.

First up is Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series: Death’s Rival, Raven Cursed, and Have Stakes Will Travel (2012)

Raven Cursed Deaths Rival Have Stakes Will Travel

I generally love the covers in this series, and there ended up being three different Jane Yellowrock books this year (two novels and an anthology).

First, the cover model looks like Jane (who is Native American).

Second, Jane actually looks like she could kick your ass, and (aside from the ridiculously tight pants and excess of boob) is dressed for combat.

I think my biggest complaint about the covers is that in the series is that it explicitly states (multiple times) that Jane wears her hair up in a style that cannot be grabbed when she’s fighting. So I find the depiction with long, unbound hair ridiculous, but in the grand scheme of book covers, that’s a minor quibble.

My reviews of Death’s Rival, Raven Cursed, and Have Stakes Will Travel

 
 

Doubletake (2012) Rob Thurman

Doubletake

This is the only series/book with a male protagonist that made the list; I can’t help myself, I just adore these covers.

I love they managed to capture the essential pissy bastard nature of Cal.

My review of Doubletake

 
 

Gunmetal Magic (2012) Ilona Andrews

Gunmetal Magic

As much as I love Ilona Andrews’ books, I generally tend to dislike the covers to the Kate Daniels series. Although Kate is typically competent looking, the depiction of Curran (always as a lion) just bugs me. So I was delighted by the cover of this book.

Andrea looks like she’s ready to kick your ass. The model looks pretty much like Andrea is described. And we have Atlanta burning in the background.

I also like that although part of the focus of the story was her working things out with Raphael, he doesn’t make an appearance on the cover. Which is good, because this story is about Andrea, not him.

Only quibble I have is (again), why is her hair down? How can you fight—or do much of anything—with your hair in your face?

My review of Gunmetal Magic

 
 

Ashes of Honor (2012) Seanan McGuire

Ashes of Honor

Seanan McGuire has also gotten some great covers for her Toby Daye series. They’re dark (possibly a little darker than the series itself, but that’s ok) and Toby isn’t shown doing anything ridiculous, nor is she in a submissive pose.

She is portrayed here is active and independent–who knows what she’s actually doing, but she is doing it–things are NOT being done to her.

Additionally, is it strange that I love the font they use? Because I do.

My review of Ashes of Honor

 
 

Permeable Borders (2012) Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Permeable Borders

I love this cover. I love the font, I love the water, I love the sky, I love everything.

No, it doesn’t tell you anything specific about the contents, but that’s good, because this is an anthology of her writing, and the stories don’t necessarily fit any one theme, besides being fantasy. So I just love that it’s so beautiful.

My review of Permeable Borders

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Year in Books: Good Covers (YA, Romance, and Mystery)

I complain a lot about bad book covers. Some covers are so terrible they make me glad for the advent of the eBook, so I can read whatever I want in public.

On the other hand, when book covers are good, they tend to be very good. I fully admit that I’ve been drawn to books solely by the cover art. So I want to point out some covers for books were published in 2012 that I really liked, because that seems only fair.

First up: YA, Romance, and Mystery covers. Next: Fantasy Covers

YA

Most of the YA covers weren’t bad—I can’t think of anything in particular I hated, but I thought these covers were especially good.

The Far West (2012) Patricia C. Wrede

The Far West

Interestingly, the first book in the series had a very different cover from the next two. I’ve liked all the covers in this series, and I think this one does a very good job of giving you a feel for the tone of the story without giving anything away.

There are strange monsters in the background you can’t quite make out. The dress of the main character is obviously not modern, but also very sensible for what she’s doing.

The first cover in the series didn’t have a picture of main character, I presume in an attempt to appeal to male and female readers.

My review of The Far West.

 
 

Croak (2012) Gina Damico

This is first off, a spot on depiction of the main character. I love that she’s in a hoodie and isn’t made to look the slightest bit sexy. I also like how you can’t immediately tell if she is male or female, which would, again, make it possible appeal to a male or female reader.

My review of Croak

 
 

Romance

Cindy Spencer Pape‘s Moonlight & Mechanicals (2012) and Kilts & Kraken (2012)

Moonlight and Mechhanicals Kilts and Kraken

Despite the fact these are novellas, she has gotten some really wonderful covers for this series. This is one of those cases where I picked up the book for the cover.

The books are steam punk and alternate history where magic exists, which I think the covers do a fabulous job of showing. There are ALSO kissing books, which isn’t (to me) obvious from the covers, but despite all the boinking, I’m really enjoying the series, and in fact, probably would never have read any of these books if they had the typical “romance” cover.

My reviews of Moonlight & Mechanicals and Kilts & Kraken

 
 

Mystery

When Maidens Mourn (2012) C.S. Harris

When Maidens Mourn

This is a well-established series that shifted quickly from mass-market paperback to hard-back for the initial release, so the odds of her getting a crappy cover were relatively low. That said, I haven’t loved all the covers in this series (I rather disliked the cover of What Remains of Heaven (http://klishis.com/reading/archives/1571) because it didn’t feel like it had much to do with the book) but for the most part she has gorgeous covers that portray the tone of the book marvelously.

These are mysteries set in Regency England, and the main character is a British noble who, after time in the Army during the Napoleonic wars, cares far less than his family likes for society and proper behavior, which is how he keeps getting embroiled in murders and their attending mysteries.

Although the covers are gorgeous, their tone also has a sense of mystery (or menace), often with people or objects coming out of the mist.

My review of When Maidens Mourn

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