Tuesday Tea: The Garden of Last Days with a Sprinkle of Bloodlust

What I’m Drinking: A personal blend of blood orange, ceylon sonata, and pomegranate for a tangy, tarty taste that I’ve named Bloodlust.

What I’m Listening To: I Belong To You / Mon Cœur S’ouvre à Ta Voix by Muse

What I’m Reading: The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III

Quote: “But he has wasted time. And money. So much of it. It is this alcohol. He has become too fond of it. The feeling of freedom it gives to him, of floating above all that is here he cannot control. And it makes him more brave to talk to an uncovered kafir woman in a place of evil that holds him. When he approached her in the shadows, her body so close to his own, his heart was speeding and it was difficult to look at her face and into her eyes and request time alone with her. It was something he could not have done if he had not been drunk. Again the wisdom of the Provider and the Sustainer as taught by imams he had ignored. They know these vodkas and beer and cognacs and champagnes, they are the colors of water and earth but they have been made in the fires of Jahannam. They only cloud men’s minds and weaken their discipline and turn their hearts to caring only for the flesh that does not last.”

Note: Tea drinking, listening to music, and reading are some of my favorite past times, and I usually do them all at the same time. I’ve recently gotten serious about blending and brewing my own tea more often, so I’ll post these occasionally on Tuesday.

Graphic Novel Review: Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

Full disclosure. I stopped reading the New 52 after four
comics. I read Mister
Terrific #1
, Justice
League #1
, Detective
Comics #1
, and Swamp
Thing #1

Out of those four comics, I was only impressed with Detective Comics and Swamp Thing. Justice League was only “meh” and didn’t feel like it was worth the trouble of continuing at that point, and Mister
was terrible when it had so much potential to be great. Even
though I did enjoy Detective Comics and Swamp Thing, I still put them on the back burner in favor of other comics that I wanted to catch up on. Admittedly, I was one of those people who wasn’t that excited to see Barbara assume the Batgirl mantle again. I love Barbara. I really do, but I always felt that she was a more formidable hero as Oracle than as Batgirl. That’s neither here nor there now, and there’s no point in rehashing old thoughts. Moving on…

I decided to try Batgirl for two reasons. I wanted to try another comic from the New 52 to see how I would enjoy it, and I wanted to read more Gail Simone after sort of shying away from her writing because of a volume of The Atom I read that made me want to run away screaming. Friends and fans of Gail assured me that I would enjoy either Birds of Prey or Batgirl much more than I enjoyed The Atom. After some resistance, I finally decided it was time to close my eyes and step off this cliff again.
The Darkest Reflection follows Barbara Gordon who has made her return as Batgirl after an experimental—or at least it sounded experimental—medical procedure returns her ability to use
her legs. For those of you not quite familiar with what happened or only have a vague idea of what happened to her, refer to The Killing Joke pre-DCnU. After some downtime rehabbing while living in her father’s home, Barbara decides that it’s time to spread her wings, move out of her father’s house, and take up the mantle of the bat again. What Barbara didn’t count on was her survivor’s guilt and PTSD (which is triggered when she’s faced with guns) making her return to crime fighting more difficult than she’d expected.
I enjoyed this much, much, much more than I did The Atom. At first, I was a little afraid that I might have to put this book down because it started a bit campier that I like. Actually, no, I should explain that better. I love when writers use campy writing to their advantage, but sometimes, I feel like writer’s try too hard with it. In turn, that turns me off because it comes off feeling so artificial and forced and makes it hard for me to enjoy the story.  This was one of the main problems that I had with The Atom. There were points in the beginning of this story where I worried I might be traveling down that road again, but after a while, the story found its footing and turned into an enjoyable read.
Barbara is a survivor struggling with the thought of having her
legs back. She struggles with conflicting feelings that make her feel blessed for this miracle, but questions why did she, out of all the people in the in the world, deserve such a miracle. After thwarting a murder attempt on a family, Barbara’s next foe challenges her miracle as well and brings out deeper psychological fears.


I really enjoyed the portrayal of Barbara’s struggle. She’s of two minds for most of this comic. She’s a superwoman and a frail all in the same breath. One minute she’s praising herself for her strength and smarts, and the next minute, she doubts herself and if she’s even doing the right thing. She wonders if she’s squandering her miracle by pushing herself too hard, but then she feels that this miracle wasn’t given to her for her to sit by idly. A brief confrontation with Nightwing shows the feelings she stills hold for him  while punctuating that she doesn’t want the others to believe that she’s not capable–to the point that she lashes out at him in order to show that she isn’t helpless. She doesn’t want their help. She wants to prove herself, her strength and ability to overcome, to the bat family.

Let me talk briefly about the ending of this comic. No real
spoilers, but just some thoughts. When I realized that Barbara’s threat was eliminated in the fourth issues but there were still two issues left in this arc, I was thinking, “Okay?” It ended perfectly, and I was thinking that things were about to get odd since what could you possibly accomplish in two more issues? I was pleasantly surprised. You can say the next two issues in the arc were a mini-story, but still tied into the “reflection” theme showing Barbara what she
could’ve been if she hadn’t had family and support.
The first part dealt with accepting that miracles happened
to people whether they deserved them or not and that there’s no one who can decide that someone is undeserving of such a miracle, even if it’s a personal miracle. The second part dealt more personally with the idea that not everyone may see his or her miracle as a miracle. It showed how fragile the line between miracle and damnation is in some people’s mind, and it showed a thing about compassion and understanding, as well.
Overall, this was entertaining. There were some hiccups for
me, and I’m back to questioning why it’s so easy for some people to find out who the bat family is over other more intelligent criminals. That’s a general annoyance of mine with Batman and the bat family, not something that’s limited to Gail herself. However, I still
enjoyed the story and appreciated it for showing Barbara’s return as a struggle that she’s working to overcome for physical and psychological reasons. I’ll definitely read more of the Batgirl

Graphic Novel Review: Saga vol.2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

Giant troll scrotum aside, this was an incredibly heartwarming and heartbreaking read.

If you’ve made it this far in the series, nothing should shock you. If you haven’t read Saga yet, then you may have heard about the crazy and even the controversy surrounding issue #12. Let’s just say that when my husband picked up the copy of volume one that I had lying on my bed, he flipped through a few pages, said “Uh.. I found the robot sex…,” then he put it down and backed away slowly.

It’s difficult to describe Saga without commenting on the uninhibited (but purely contextual!) fantasy space sex and nudity, but underneath the shock value is a fantastic story. Honest! So put just your prude down for a few minutes and pick up this series.

The last volume set up the science fiction falls in love with fantasy and makes a baby story of two enemy soldiers who will do anything to protect their new little family from the various parties who want to see them thoroughly dead. A classic Romeo and Juliet tale, but with way more kinky and weird and a lot more heart.

At the end of volume one, Markos’ parents have appeared aboard the rocketship carrying the little family to the planet Quietus to meet the author of Alana’s favourite book. The bounty hunter known as The Will is intent on rescuing a six-year old girl from the slave trade. Prince Robot IV has figured out where the fugitives are headed and is determined to finish his job in order to get back to his pending fatherhood. And baby Hazel’s incorporeal babysitter, Izabel, has been zapped.

Volume two jumps right in with the absolute best disapproving-but-utterly-loving-mother versus headstrong son and understanding father versus headstrong new daughter-in-law interactions I’ve ever read. I can’t speak more directly on why I loved these interactions so much without spoiling the moments of pride, amusement, joy and tears that I felt as everything progressed.

Meanwhile, The Will, still mourning The Stalk, gets an unexpected partner, whom he convinces to help in his effort to save the slave girl. And Prince Robot IV continues his read through of Alana’s book – which I now desperately want to read myself. I love how important this book is to the story, initially as a clue to the fugitive’s whereabouts, but in volume two, we learn how it brought the lovers together.

Baby Hazel’s narrative interruptions are more common in this volume, serving as a constant reminder that she survives this ordeal. That means the story will eventually have a happy ending, right? I’d like to hope so, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to get a lot of heartbreak and loss on the way there. I am most definitely in this for the bittersweet long haul.


Wendy: Favorite Series

I’m not necessarily a fan of historical fiction, or of the Arthurian legend, but a friend recommended this to me and I ended up loving the book so much that I bought the entire series and have read it twice.

The Warlord Chronicles is the story of King Arthur, as told in the first person by his friend Derfel. It includes the regular cast of characters and the expected monumental moments, but Cornwell skillfully twists them in a realistic way. What we think we know as Arthurian “truths” are, according to this book, the result of history being twisted by memory or by bards paid to sing different songs…

In keeping with making it more historical fiction than fantasy, much of the magic is toned down, though the belief in magic and ritual remains.

I love that Arthur is not the main character in this story about Arthur. he plays a major part, obviously, but this is Derfel’s story and I love the humility of a main character who never really realizes how great a man he is and how great a friend he has been to a king.

The trilogy consists of The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur.

Tiara: Favorite Book Turned Into a Movie


“I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

– Tyler Durden, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Mogsy: A Book That I’ve Read More Than Three Times

Okay, I’m going to cheat a little for this question. The thing is, I don’t typically reread books. If I were to read a book again, it would be a book that I love, and generally books that I love, I remember very, very well, and that’s why rereading isn’t something I do a lot. Unfortunately, life’s just too short (or more accurately, my TBR list is just too long) for it, so you can see why it would be kind of a challenge to come up with a book I’ve read more than once, let alone more than three times!

But…there is a book that comes close. In the fourth grade, I had a fantastic teacher called Mr. Smiley. And I am so not kidding, that was his real name. Mr. Smiley was a fun guy who was also Australian, so he had this really cool accent which made class story time even more amazing with his ability to do these great voices. One of the books he read to us was The Hobbit. And that, dear readers, was my very first exposure to this fantasy classic and the name J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved it.

Fast forward a couple years, in Grade 6, at another school in another country, my fellow students and I were assigned The Hobbit to read for English class. I’ll admit, reading the book for a school assignment was definitely not as fun as listening to Mr. Smiley do his Gollum voice, but eh, what can you do? I remember having a great time returning to Middle Earth, nonetheless. It was just as good the second time around.

I have, of course, read The Hobbit again since my school years. But even if you count that along with the first couple of times (which I do, even if it was read to me the first time around) that’s still just three times. But I included this book in my answers to the 30-Day Reading Challenge anyway, because as you can see the adventures of our beloved Bilbo Baggins played a big role in my childhood reading experiences which ultimately lead to my love for the fantasy genre in my adult years.

Eventually, I hope to be able to read The Hobbit to my own child, when she is a bit older. When I do, I suppose then it will be a book I have read more than three times, but too bad we’re not counting future reads! In any case, I can’t think of a better title to introduce my daughter to the world of fantasy books, and who knows, maybe it’ll be the one that leads her down the road to become a fantasy fiction fan, like it did for her mom. The thought warms my heart.

Mogsy: WOGF Update

As you know, last week I decided to jump aboard the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. Seeing as we’re already halfway through 2013, I figured I’d better get cracking.

Since my last update, I’ve already managed to finish a couple of books, so keep an eye out on this blog for their reviews over the next few weeks.


I’ve also started on two more since, which when I’m done reading should — at an average of one book per month — get me up to speed for this challenge.

Kind of weird how it worked out to me reading two books about dragons at the same time, but the way the creatures are portrayed are so different in each. Both books are quite good so far. I guess I’ve been lucky in making my choices for this challenge, because I haven’t yet come across a book or an author I couldn’t stand.

Speaking of which, I also wanted to mention that I made a last-minute change on my list of books and authors. I’d forgotten that I ordered a copy of Marie Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass a couple weeks ago up until the hardcover practically showed up on my doorstep. It was one of the 2012 Nebula Awards nominees and I really wanted to check it out, so when I saw that Kowal and her book fit the challenge requirements, I switched them in. I’ve updated my original post to reflect the change.

Audio Book Review: City of Lies by Lian Tanner

City of Lies by  Lian Tanner

Okay, let’s see if I can pull this review off without making it another gush-fest on my love for Claudia Black. As usual, her narration is fantastic, but for this second book of The Keepers Trilogy, I want to focus on the story because that’s what I think really shines.

After the events of The Museum of Thieves (my review here), Goldie Roth has been offered the chance to become a Keeper of the Museum of Dunt. But then her new friend Toadspit’s little sister Bonnie is stolen away, and so the two older children take off after the kidnappers. After a journey upon the seas, Toadspit ends up being captured too, and they all end up at the city of Spoke where the much-anticipated Festival of Lies is about to begin. Now Goldie has to save her friends while trying to survive in the middle of this bizarre place, made even stranger by the nature of the festival, where every day is “Opposite Day” and no one can be trusted.

This series is targeted at the middle-grade audience, so younger readers would probably appreciate it more, but I found this book to be quite enjoyable all the same. The story is a lot of fun — short, but very cute. I think children will like that characters have to speak and act in a way that is the opposite of what they mean during the Festival of Lies, but it isn’t done in such a juvenile manner that adults can’t find it all very entertaining as well.

There’s also an aspect of make-believe, role-play and “playing pretend” in this book that kids would probably enjoy, which also involves a very abstract magical idea that I’m still trying to wrap my head around (though I’m sure children would probably take for granted and wouldn’t question too much). There just seems to be a lot more going on in this sequel in terms of fantasy elements and ideas, some that are just more intriguing and appealing to all readers.

The focus is mostly on the adventures of Goldie and Toadspit this time around, with the other adult keepers back in the city of Jewel and given an obligatory side plot to keep them in the series. Quite honestly, I didn’t mind the story’s greater emphasis on the children because in my opinion they’re a lot more interesting to read about. The audiobook narration also does a good job of bringing them to life, along with the crazy city of Spoke.

Once again, if you can get your hands on the audio version of this book, I highly recommend doing so. This series would not have made even made it onto my radar screen if it weren’t for Claudia Black’s name being attached to the project, since it’s not a regular habit of mine to pick up children’s books (but maybe I should make it one, since my toddler is growing up so fast). Black’s voice work is always top-notch, and so far these books have been great. I’ve already put my name on the waiting list for the final installment of this trilogy from my library.


Book Review: Playing Tyler by T.L. Costa

Playing Tyler by  T.L. Costa

Expected Date of Publication: July 2, 2013

Thank you to Netgalley and Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry for providing me with an e-ARC of Playing Tyler in exchange for an honest review. When I read the synopsis for this young adult novel, it was the video game angle that initially piqued my interest. Being an avid gamer myself, I was immediately drawn to the story.

It begins with just a typical day for 17-year-old Tyler MacCandless. Tyler has ADHD, but has long stopped taking his medication because his older brother Brandon kept stealing it before landing himself in rehab for drug abuse. School’s a struggle when none of the other students or his teachers understand what’s going on in his life. Tyler’s father is dead and his mother isn’t dealing too well with the problems at home, so the only person Tyler can turn to is Rick, his friend and mentor at the Civilian Air Patrol.

Tyler loves playing video games, so it was a dream come true one day when Rick asks him to beta test a new flight simulator, which may also be Tyler’s chance to get into flight school if he scores well enough. Even better, the designer behind the game is teen prodigy Ani Bagdorian AKA Slayergrrl, legendary International League Gaming champion. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to strike up a romantic relationship. However, just as Tyler think his life is finally on the right track, Brandon goes missing from rehab and it appears there is more to the simulator game than meets the eye.

Right away, I liked that this was a story about two teenagers who fall outside conventions when it comes to YA protagonists. Video gaming as a hobby is still often made a subject of ridicule in mainstream pop culture, with its enthusiasts portrayed as weirdos who don’t get out much, which is why I love how the hero and heroine of this novel are both hardcore gamers. When you try to picture someone who is good enough to win championships at international gaming competitions, you don’t typically think of a smart and beautiful 16-year-old female Yale student, which is why I think Ani is especially kick-ass.

Still, at first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into this book. It begins with Tyler’s perspective, whose ADHD made his narration a little confusing to follow, since the writing style is so abrupt to convey that his attention is all over the place. The positive side is that it’s also very effective, because it made me feel like I’m actually inside his head. Tyler’s sections do get a bit easier on the eyes after a while, once you start getting used to it. Ani’s point-of-view, which alternates with Tyler’s, also helped change things up a little and gave me the breaks I needed.

The story itself was a little predictable, perhaps, and yet still quite suspenseful, especially once you reach the final chapters. But one thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the romance. I’m aware that having the element of a love story is a big thing and a wise decision in YA fiction these days, but quite honestly, I felt Playing Tyler could have been much stronger and better as a straight-up thriller suspense story.

Even just the gradual build-up of the relationship between Tyler and Ani would have been sufficient, without the first third of the novel devoted to getting them together. I felt that bogged down the beginning of the story somewhat, and that’s really where I’m looking for a book to hook me and pick up momentum. Though, I do have to admit I found some of the awkward “first date” moments oddly enjoyable to read, especially with Tyler’s penchant to say the wrong things at the wrong time. It was sort of funny and cute in its own way.

I would say this book would be perfect for its intended audience, which includes readers who like YA fiction as well as older teens, since it does contain mature themes and some instances of strong language. There’s a good combination of thrills and intrigue, a very strong debut novel from a new author and an engaging read over all.


Mogsy: Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge

As always, I feel lucky and grateful to be writing for The BiblioSanctum along with my fellow blog contributors, because between them they are a boundless trove of book recommendations, new authors to discover, and interesting things to learn. Earlier this month, Wendy posted about the 2013 Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by the fan-fun community site Worlds Without End. So naturally, I’ve decided to join the fun.

So I realize the year’s already almost half over, but I figure at the rate I devour books, realistically this is something I can still manage to do. Not to mention I already have a couple books that are eligible for the challenge under my belt, so I wouldn’t be starting completely from behind.

The process of selecting the authors and books was easy; wouldn’t you believe it, but when I went over my Goodreads account for my list of books I’ve read this year so far, as well as books on my to-read list, there are EXACTLY 12 female authors who 1) I haven’t read prior to 2013, and 2) are also on the author list provided by WWEnd! Is this a sign or what?! As for the one random author pick, well, their random author picker was still under construction, and I figure most of the books I choose to read are pretty random anyway.

If anything, I’m with Wendy on this being a great way for me to polish off some titles from my TBR pile, some that have been on there for a while but I still really want to read. Here’s my progress so far:

  Completed Reviews:

And my plans for the rest!