Recent Reads: July 2016 (+ How I’m Doing With My 2016 Reading Plan)

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of the books I read. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Feel free to share your bookish happenings in the Comments section!

Last month I took a good look at my reading plan for 2016, which I shared back in January. While I’m doing well in some categories, others might have to roll over into 2017. But that’s OK. I’m just pleased with how many books I’ve read so far this year (36 in total). In fact, I’m on pace to read more books in 2016 than I did in 2015!

So, for this month’s Recent Reads, I’ll share my progress with this year’s reading plan. And of course, I’ve got book reviews! Let’s start with my pick for Read of the Month, which is…
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Top 10 Science Fiction & Fantasy Series I Want To Start

I don’t normally follow The Broke and The Bookish’s Top 10 Tuesday meme because I doubt I’d be able to keep up with it (thank you, busy writing schedule and offline life). But after reading Anya’s list at On Starships and Dragonwings, I knew I should do my own Top 10 list of science fiction and fantasy series I want to start reading. So, here we go!

NOTE: There may be a slight trend toward the fantasy side of the spectrum. 😉

1. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence (YA Dark / Contemporary Fantasy)

Dark Is Rising boxset

I like to catch up on the classics as well as more recent books. Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising was written in the 1960s and 70s, which puts it up there in age with Ursula Le Guin’s earliest Earthsea novels. The first book in the sequence, Over Sea Under Stone, has been sitting on my shelf unread for… at least a couple years *lol* This article is serving as my reminder to dive into The Dark Is Rising soon.  Continue reading

Stacking The Shelves Vol. 3: From the New England Mobile Book Fair


Welcome to the latest volume of Stacking the Shelves! This meme is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may those books be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and e-books.

A few days ago, I visited the New England Mobile Book Fair for the first time. Wow! Not even Barnes & Noble carries as many books or as wide a selection as this shop does! I ended up buying five books in total: three of them are birthday / Christmas gifts for friends, and two for myself. And those two novels are what I’ll feature for Volume 3 of Stacking The Shelves. Here they are!

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Mini-Review Monday: Legend – “Spirit”

Legend Spirit

Legend – Spirit

Rating: 3 / 5

I admit that Legend is a new name to me. However, these UK prog rockers have been around for a while. Keyboardist / band leader Steve Pain founded the band back in 1988, and Spirit is their fifth album. With that experience comes the layered, complex sound that Legend have honed during their career (except during their 13-year hiatus). Varied guitarwork, dynamic drumming, and a colorful palette of keyboards / synths swirl in winding, labyrinthine song structures. Singer Beck Sian swoops from bewitching lows to piercing highs as she sings. Quite often she’s accompanied by a massive-sounding (and non-classical) choir that amps up the bombast even more. Yes, you’re going to hear myriad sounds on Spirit: organs, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, sitars, ambient keys, cosmic blips and bleeps – and that’s just to start! Apparently the lyrics have a pagan slant, but apart from “Wood For The Trees” the themes are universal enough for all listeners to relate to.

All this sounds like a recipe for great prog music – but Spirit hasn’t really grown on me since I bought it. A huge reason is that there’s almost too going on in Legend’s music. They’re like a prog rock version of Blind Guardian: The melodies and musical elements compete against each other, making it hard for the listener to concentrate on a song without getting overwhelmed. Also, I prefer Beck’s low- / mid-range vocals to her high notes. Her lower register’s got a spellbinding quality that draws you in. But her higher register peaks so high, it makes me cringe. There are some lovely songs on Spirit, though. “Crossing Of The Ways” entrances with its mix of ethereal soundscapes and tribal percussion; and “A Tangled Skein” and “State Of Grace” have some cool moments (especially the Native American / doom-laced outro of the former, and Beck’s a capella harmonies on the latter). Unfortunately, that’s not enough to percolate my lukewarm feelings into stronger enthusiasm.

If you’re a fan of prog bands like Rush, Renaissance, and Marillion or female vocalists like Kate Bush and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel, you might like Legend’s Spirit. Just because I think it’s only OK doesn’t mean that other people won’t like it more.

Deciding whether to buy Spirit from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: Just a few hundred words away from 40,000 on my novel-in-progress! I hope to make enough progress to get a new “Chronicling The Craft” online in the next couple weeks.