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Happy reading!
Not quite as many books read this week.

First was Osprey Raid #25: Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863, which details some vicious American Civil War history. I continue to cringe at some of the things that were done in that war...

Next was Beef: A Global History. The books of this series are mildly interesting, usually best when they deal with foodstuffs that I don't know much about but enjoy. This one was a bit less so.

Then Osprey Raid #40: Kill Hitler: Operation Valkyrie 1944, the failed attempt in July 1944 to assassinate Hitler after the Allied landing in Normandy. Reading about what happened makes it all seem so amateurish, even though it was put on by members of the German General Staff.

Book 18 - Broken Harbor by Tana French

In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder Squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .


This is the fourth installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series, and again a secondary character in the previous installment is the main detective in the current story. That case is mentioned a few times in vague terms, but it's not necessary to have read the earlier books. This story continues to paint a picture of a murder squad with (mostly) hard-working and very competitive detectives investigating cases and constantly giving each other crap. The murders in this case are particularly sad and troubling, and Kennedy wrestles with various consequences and complications both for the victims' friends and family as well as in his personal life.

Though his mentally ill sister is not technically a main character, she is definitely a large presence in the story. In fact, I could probably consider that this book fulfills the Read Harder Challenge task of reading a book with a main character who has a mental illness. In a way, the idea of mental illness itself is a palpable character in the book, but to say more than that would be a spoiler. THIS IS A DARK BOOK ... but very good.
Summary:
Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it—and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

The Purloined Poodle is another exciting novella entry in Kevin Hearne’s New York Times best-selling Iron Druid series.


I received this ebook through the publisher via Netgalley.

Oberon the Irish Wolfhound is a source of great amusement in the Iron Druid novels, and this novella gives him a chance to stand on all four paws to carry the plot. He does so quite well, with necessary breaks to sniff other dogs' hind ends and indulge in some sausage. There is a mystery to solve: championship dogs have gone missing throughout the Pacific Northwest! Hearne creates a good balance between Oberon's doggy logic and Atticus's timey-wimey magic and human know-how. Oberon's voice might grate on some people over a long stretch, but I found the length of this (just over 100 pages) to be perfect. I hope Oberon sets out to solve more mysteries!


Number of pages: 297

This is the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by Anthony Horowitz, and opens with Holmes being approached by Edmund Carstairs, who believes that he is being stalked by Keelan O'Donoghue, the leader of the notorious "flat cap gang", who he helped to get arrested. The plot soon develops, as it becomes apparent that O'Donoghue has now been murdered.

A number of unexpected murders lead Holmes to make a connection with the "House of Silk", although the precise nature of that this is is not exactly clear.

My previous experience with Anthony Horowitz's work was with his second Sherlock Holmes-related novel, Moriarty, and his short-lived television show, Crime Traveller from the 1990s, which was a relatively light-hearted science fiction show. As I understand it, he is also well known for a series of children's novels.

This book, however, proved to be very dark and increasingly mature in tone, so much that I was taken by surprise. As well as having some very shocking deaths, the story brings Holmes and Watson to an opium den. Later on, the plot becomes even more adult in tone, but I will not give any details here, save to say that the true nature of the House of Silk proves to be the book's most shocking moment; it felt like a book that would maybe have been banned back at the time when Arthur Conan Doyle was writing his Sherlock Holmes stories. It's certainly much darker than any of the original stories.

I loved the way that this book kept up the usual tradition of having Doctor Watson as the story's narrator, as he tells the reader a lot about his admiration for, and feelings about, Sherlock Holmes. I also find Horowitz's novels very easy to read, without any overly-complex language. I also liked the references to classic Holmes stories throughout the book. Overall, this was a compelling story, with a surprisingly vast number of plot twists that I did not see coming. Definitely a recommended book, just not for the faint-hearted.

Next book: The Sercret Agent (Joseph Conrad)
Summary:
An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.


A received an ARC of this book from the publisher.

Queen of Blood is one of my favorite reads for the year. It features powerful, diverse women, an innovative new approach to fae spirits, and TREES. Beautiful, massive trees that people live in. Hey, I live near Phoenix, Arizona. I thirst for greenery. If I could set a vacation in Renthia (when things weren't bound to kill me), I'd go in an instant. Plus, characters travel at top speed across long distances by zip-lining.

Daleina is a relatable heroine who survives by grit and determination. She is not magically gifted. She is academically mediocre. As she attends a Hogwarts-esque school (that I would prefer to Hogwarts), she is repeatedly and gently told she would be better off settling as a hedge witch in some small village because she is simply not good enough to be a candidate for Queen. Yet she persists, because the Queen is the one who controls the spirits. Spirits like the ones who destroyed Daleina's village and almost killed her family when she was young. Daleina wants to save people, and her relentless drive to do so is beautiful and affirming.

This book gripped me from page 1. I found every excuse I could to stop and read, because the tension just drove me crazy. And the ending...! I feel like I want the next book NOW, but it's probably best that I have to wait, because I might need therapy first. Egad.

Queen of Blood is out September 20th. It should probably win some awards for one of the best covers of the year, too.
Summary:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion comes the riveting true story of the valiant rescue of priceless pedigree horses in the last days of World War II. As the Russians closed in on Hitler from the east and the Allies attacked from the west, American soldiers discovered a secret Nazi effort to engineer a master race of the finest purebred horses. With the support of U.S. general George S. Patton, a passionate equestrian, the Americans planned an audacious mission to kidnap these beautiful animals and smuggle them into safe territory—assisted by a daring Austrian colonel who was both a former Olympian and a trainer of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.

I received this early copy through the publisher via NetGalley.

I was horse-obsessed as a kid. I was able to see Lipizzaners on tour once when I was 11, and it was incredible. Of course, I had read a great deal about the horses and their airs above the ground. Years and years ago, I saw the old Disney movie "Miracle of the White Stallions" about how the Lipizzaners were saved from Austria during World War II. Well, this is the real story behind that, and it's an engaging, fascinating read.

It begins long before the war. Even as militaries worldwide began to shift to mechanized forces, the horse carried an important role; Olympic equestrian teams came out of national military units. This is where many of the human players in this story grew up and spent their formative years. Patton is the most famous example. Germany still utilized horses in World War II, but even more, they wanted to create the perfect horse. Yes, Aryan-style eugenics with horses. Germany collected the best horses from their expanding territory and established breeding farms for Lipizzaners, Arabians, and other highly-esteemed breeds.

As the war continued, the horses were shuffled for safekeeping, but food and communication became increasing issues as Germany's collapse grew imminent. Even more, the Russians approached from the east, and they esteemed horses as only food. Therefore, the desperate horse-lovers betrayed 3rd Reich ideals and looked for help from their invaders from the west: the Americans. Enemies were united through their love of horses.

The book goes into the aftermath of the war as well, and how some horses made it to the US for so-called safekeeping. It also follows the glorious rebirth of the Spanish Riding School.

I loved it. I knew only bits and pieces of the real story, and Letts' storytelling really brings everything to life. I highly recommend this to history buffs and horse lovers.

Gin Tama, Volumes 14-19 by Hideaki Sorachi

book 59:  Gin Tama, Volume 14 by Hideaki Sorachi

Continuation of a samurai/alien/alternate history/ parody manga...In this volume, the battle with the sword expert Yagyu clan for Otae continues.  After some epic (and humorous) battles only Gin, Shinpachi, Kyube, and and Binbokusai are left in the competition.

book 60:  Gin Tama, Volume 15 by Hideaki Sorachi

The battle with the Yagyu clan concludes, Otae repays her debt to Kondo by saving him from a gorilla wedding, Zenzo the shinobi bonds with a girl who can see the future, Katsura tries to get a driver's license, Sadaharu finds doggie love, the girls (faux and real) "entertain" the shogun, and Okita's sister (and Hijikata's unrealized love) arrives.

book 61:  Gin Tama, Volume 16 by Hideaki Sorachi

Hijikata takes down Okita's sister's criminal fiance (with some help), and they say (in their own ways) goodbye to her as she succumbs to her illness (actually touching for such tough characters).  A virus causing unibrows turns everyone into zombies (or zombrows, thank you, Katsura!).  Gin and crew assist (and get annoyed by) a "hard boiled" cop while he tries to take down/ vindicate his long time criminal rival.  The gang hosts a match-making party to convince Kyube of her femininity and prevent her from "building a tower of babel" (getting a sex change).  Gin was actually surprisingly charming at times. :)

book 62:  Gin Tama, Volume 17 by Hideaki Sorachi

Gin finds a disembodied head in the trash and ends up involved in a robot conspiracy.  The gang tries to get the new video gaming system the Owee and ends up in an eccentric video gaming competition for the prize.

book 63:  Gin Tama, Volume 18 by Hideaki Sorachi

The video game competition ends.  The soul of Gin's wooden sword visits him and tries to give him greater powers.  It's Valentine's day, and the gang witnesses intergalactic...love(?).  Gin accidentally twarts an assassin and purposefully defends Hasegawa against lewd behavior charges.  The girls all get fat and compete to loss weight at a "fasting dojo".

book 64:  Gin Tama, Volume 19 by Hideaki Sorachi

A conspiracy to destroy the Shinsengumi involving Takasugi finds the return of a colleage, Hijikata becoming cursed and turning into a "loser otaku", betrayal within Shinsengumi ranks, and some pretty epic fight sequences involving Gin and some of the Shinsengumi members.  Some nice scenes both in fight sequences and in character depth building in this arc.

Seven Hundred Kisses by Lily Pond

book 58:  Seven Hundred Kisses by Lily Pond

This is an anthology of erotic literature (short stories and poetry) put out by the editor of Yellow Silk, which is evidently a magazine that caters to promoting erotic literature.  It has some major authors in it, like Tobias Wolff, Jane Smiley, Dorothy Allison, and Walter Mosley, but for the most part I was unimpressed.  It's not meant to be titilating, like pulp erotica.  The works have more weight and have more variety of purpose than just causing arousal.  At the same time, I guess I'm not into reading things that are primarily about sexual love without 1) purposefully looking to get off (although even then reading stuff rarely does it for me) or, more importantly, 2) having a primary story that is not focused on the sex.  Don't get me wrong.  I can enjoy a good sex or romantic love scene in a novel, but I really need something more as a background to support the act, if you understand what I mean.  Some of these do have other themes:  loss, freedom, understanding, but for the most part they didn't really capture my imagination well.  Well, live and learn.  I now know that I'm not really into erotica, even if they try to dress it up in literary words.  If I have to pick a few that I thought were worthwhile:  the poem Coyote and the Shadow People by E. Beth Thomas (about loss through death and undeniable longing), the poem July Lover by D. Nurkse (has a nice subtle insistency), and Pushing Me into the Past by Richard Zimler (found this fairly erotic, I always wonder why gay erotica is so appealing to some heterosexual women, like myself).

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

book 57:  Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

For some reason, Cold Comfort Farm makes me think of Emma by Jane Austen, although I have not read Emma and have only seen the movie. I'm guessing because this is a light historical British comedy in which the heroine tries to "fix" everyone around her, and in the process grows a little herself, although Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm is more static in her evolution than Emma. Cold Comfort Farm also seems to be a parody of those earlier romantic novels, as well, focusing quite a bit on the absurdities of the culture and its eccentric characters.  It was an enjoyable enough read and had a happy ending, but at the same time I don't feel like I HAVE TO go pick up the sequel.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

book 56:  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is the story of a woman who dreams of the life she reads about in romantic novels and cannot find satisfaction with her reality. This leads her into adulterous affairs and finally self destruction. My volume also contained a biographical sketch of the author, letters written by the author during the ten years he wrote Madame Bovary, and both contemporary and modern critical essays about the book. The novel evidently had an important role in moving from the romantic to the realist period in literature, but I am in no way a literature major and cannot explain this in detail. I know from reading the essays and letters that Flaubert was trying to create a novel that was not dependent on the story, that was basically the prose form of poetry, art created within writing, and he would spend days rewriting a couple of pages. I found the characters rather despicable, but the descriptions very beautiful. I think this is what moving from romantic to realist and with the effort on making perfect prose means, at least on a level I can understand it.  Would I recommend it?  Possibly. It is without a doubt beautifully written. It's not something "just for fun", though. The characters are not very likeable, and while the novel is beautifully written like a painting, it is tragic.

Book 79 & 80

The Irish PrincessThe Irish Princess by Karen Harper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While I read a lot of historical mysteries, it's rare I read plain historical fiction. I read it even less when it's about real people. However, I received this as part of a gift I won from my local library so I felt like I should read it. It was pretty entertaining and if you like fictionalized British history, you'll probably really enjoy this.

It follows (first person point of view) the life of Elizabeth "Gera" Fitzgerald (and yes she is real and at least some of this really happened) from her teen years on. Gera and her siblings should have been the rulers of Ireland but of course Henry Tudor (Henry VIII) has something to say about that. And when her father ends up in the Tower of London and her elder brother, Thomas rebels, the whole family almost ends up dead. Gera and her younger sisters survive and her young brother, Gerald escapes to the continent).

Gera ends up being bartered to the English court and is taken to London by a young naval officer who is an up and comer in Henry's court, Edward Clinton. Gera learns that the only thing worse than being a penniless peasant in this time period is to be rich and in court where the king watches your every move and one wrong word gets you beheaded.

Gera plots murdering the king even as she observes his queen and her other royal cousins. Eventually she befriends the girl who will grow up to be Lady Jane Grey along with his bastardized daughters, Elizabeth and Mary (the former more so than the latter). As she grows up during this turbulent time, she takes the only protection she can as she works to getting the attainment removed from the family name: marriage to an older man even though she is sure she loves Clinton.

There is some weird pacing in this. It could have ended with Henry's death and the resolution with Clinton but she hammered in the bloody conflict between Elizabeth/Mary/Dudleys and it felt very rushed. In the author notes Harper did say to include all the details would have made this 1000 pages long and I believe that. Gera is an interesting person, someone I haven't heard much about (this is not really my favored piece of history). If you like Tudor history, you'll probably enjoy this.





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Time Trial #1 (The CHRONOS Files)Time Trial #1 by Rysa Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5 stars Thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy I had to review but I'm not entirely sure it downloaded correctly on my device. Mine had no words at all and nowhere did it mention the story would be told by art only. The blurb at least held all the clues for me to enjoy it.

Nineteen year old Clio wants to follow in her time traveling parents' footsteps and steps out on her own. She ends up watching the trial of Al Capone as she works on her skills as an artist (drawing court room scenes) but someone is after her and Clio has to protect herself and the timeline.

The art was lovely and the idea is a lot of fun. Clio is an interesting character.



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More books read. Wow!

First was a graphic novel by Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo Book 30: Thieves and Spies. I've been following this series for years now. I don't get the comic books, but I wait for the collections to come out and the latest once again is pretty fun. Sakai's Japan is populated by humanoid animals and the protagonist/ronin is a rabbit. If you like comics at all I would urge you to read this series, they are great!

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #16: Frederick the Great's Army, an old one of this series, the plates aren't much to speak of, the sketches don't really give good views, and the text is meh. Not the best.

Then, Osprey New Vanguard #13: Scorpion Reconnaissance Vehicle 1972 – 1994, a workhorse. Not a vehicle of legend.

Next it was Questions for a Soldier, a short piece set in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series which did a fine job of giving a picture of what it's like serving in an interstellar military. Not bad if you're reading the series.

Then, Osprey New Vanguard #14: Crusader: Cruiser Tank 1939 – 1945, another British military vehicle, less modern than the previous one. What can I say?

Finally, I finished a book by Jeremy Clarkson, the former star of the British Top Gear show, called I Know You Got Soul: Machines with that Certain Something. In this book each chapter deals with one specific technological item (such as zeppelins, space shuttle, Spitfires, etc). He then explains why each of them were what he'd describe as soulful. A pretty good read, all-in-all.

On to the next book!

Book 36

Title: Dernyi Checkmate
Author: Katherine Kurtz
Series: part two of "The Chronicles of the Deryni", follows Deryni Rising
Pages: 324
Summary: In order to claim the throne of Gwynedd, young Kelson Haldane had to reveal his magical Deryni powers, putting him at odds with the most powerful clerics in the land, who view the Deryni as agents of evil.

Archbishop Loris has dedicated himself to the eradication of the Deryni. In a ruthless campaign of persecution against them, he targets Kelson's most trusted friend and advisor, Duke Alaric Morgan.

While Morgan fights for his reputation - and his very life - a rogue Deryni is honing his powers to use as a weapon against hmanity, putting all of the Deryni at risk. And as the different factions of Gwynedd battle one another, the young Kelson must find within himself the strength to keep his kindgom from falling apart...

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )

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Book 78

The Ancient Magus" Bride, Vol. 4The Ancient Magus' Bride, Vol. 4 by Kore Yamazaki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The first third of this is Chise visiting Lindel, the mage and learning all about Elias's origins. It is very interesting and Elias is even less human than Chise thought. Also in this time, Lindel helps her make her first magical wand which goes better than she could have hoped.

The rest is more episodic again with Chise reintergrating into the household and dealing with all the strange creatures that visit Elias. It's interesting watching her learn to let people in (we learn more of her history too and her abandonment issues) while she teaches Elias about human emotions. We see things like insects that need shearing for self-warming wool, dragons and a host of other creatures.

If you like tons of action, this is probably not your jam. This is a slow deep pool. I like the characters and the art is lovely.



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Number of pages: 481

Thriller about the character Jonathan Pine, who has to go undercover working to pass on information to authorities about illegal arms dealer Richard Roper. Near the start we learn of how Sophie, a woman who Jonathan tried to protect and was in love with, was killed, and he seems to be haunted by her memory throughout most of the book.

I noticed that it took almost half the book before Pine and Roper first met. Pine gains Roper's trust by rescuing his son from a staged kidnapping. I found the book to be quite difficult, almost cryptic in places, mostly because of the number of flashbacks, and it wasn't always obvious immediately that they were flashbacks. I noticed that the narrative flashed between past and present tense a lot, although the present tense was usually used during the flashback sequences.

I did quite enjoy this, though, and found it quite compelling, mostly because of the way the characters were written, although the scenes with Pine and Roper were easily the most enjoyable.

I mainly read this book because I saw the BBC adaptation starring Tom Hiddlestone and Hugh Laurie, which vastly changed the ending, so I was taken by surprise a little with this book.

[Spoiler (click to open)]The TV adaptation ended with Roper being kidnapped by his angry clients, while the book ended with Pine barely escaping from torturers and Roper escaping.

The ending does leave the reader wanting a sequel, and there are rumours of one, as well as a further TV series.

Next book: The House of Silk (Anthony Horowitz)

Books #43-44

Book #43 was "The Undead Pool" by Kim Harrison, the 12th of 13 in the author's "The Hollows" series, as an audiobook. This was another enjoyable installment in the series, though it did feel like a set-up for the final book. Our heroine, witch-demon Rachel Morgan, has grown a lot over the series, as have her friends and co-workers, and a former enemy has become someone dear to her. In this penultimate book in the series, waves of energy are causing magical "misfires" all over Cincinnati, and the undead have fallen asleep, leaving a group of "free vampires" to terrorize the city with their own agenda. Rachel of course gets mixed up in it all and has to save the world once again. I did like this though felt the ending was a little shmaltzy. As per usual, Harrison's prose is utilitarian and not beautiful. She repeats too many phrases ("My face went cold" and "fear sifted through me" and "my heart gave a thump") for this to be truly quality writing, but she's middling good at character development and great at plotting and suspense, which is what keeps me reading.

Book #44 was "On Such a Full Sea" by Chang-Rae Lee. I saw this in a Best Books of 2014 list and have had it on my "to read" list for a while. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. First, I will say that some critics were less enthusiastic about it. One criticism is for the storytelling style - we don't get to hear from our main character, Fan, directly. Instead, her tale is told by the collective voice of "B-Mor," the work settlement where Fan works taking care of fishes to feed the "charters" - upscale neighborhoods ringing the working class settlement. When Fan's boyfriend, Reg, goes missing, she leaves the relative safety and comfort of B-Mor to find him, and discovers how rough life outside the settlements (in the "open counties") is and how twisted life can become in the the comfortable "Charters." Another criticism I read was that the plot twists were obvious or "too convenient." But I think both the storytelling style and the plotting give it a legendary/fable-like quality, which is what Fan's story has become to the people she left behind. While I did see a few plot twists coming, many more surprised me, and I found the author's creations to be twisted and weird and wonderful. I really enjoyed this and recommend it.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
Summary:
The author details the events of the turn-of-the-century revolution that abrogated the monarchy and ended the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands. Russ focuses on the days of the revolution and the reaction to the news in the United States.

Ah, an old-fashioned non-fiction book. Academic in nature and dry as dry can be. This was not an enjoyable read, due to style and content--the underhanded methods by which rich Americans abrogated the Hawaiian monarchy--but it was still relevant to my research at a few points. The footnotes were sometimes the more interesting part, and at times they dominated 2/3 of a page! Most of the book, however described in exhaustive detail how the Annexations did this, and the Royalists did that, and the Americans on the mainland squabbled over their role in it all. I will be keeping this book, as I did make several notes I may need to reference later. I also have a sequel book, The Hawaiian Republic, to stare down at some point soon.

SELF-MADE PURGATORIES.

I had made reference previously to Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber's The Slow Professor, which appears to suggest that faculty work more deliberately and mindfully, to use a buzzword in a different context.  At the recommendation of a colleague, I read the work.  The subtitle is Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, and the authors suggest that this culture of speed is an alien intrusion, introduced from elsewhere by the Babbitts who have hijacked the administration.

The book jacket opens, "If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia.  Yet the corporatization of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency regardless of the consequences of for education and scholarship.  The authors expand in their preface.  "We have been influenced by the literature on the corporatization of higher education, empirical studies which document the harmful effects of stress and loneliness on physiological and psychological health, popular self-help discourse which emphasizes the importance of work-life balance, and, of course, the key texts of the Slow movement."

I'm tempted to let it all go with a suggestion that some literature students buy their advisor a train set.  Yes, even -- especially -- if the advisors are female!  The gender bending!  The subversion of the dominant paradigm!  Or to suggest that stressed or slow professors alike are underemployed compared to their forebears.

But let me devote Book Review No. 17, at least briefly, to explaining my choice of a title.
Read more...Collapse )That brings us to the breakdown of "Collegiality and Community."  In which, I suggest, there's still nothing new, as a quick reading of any of the academic novels will suggest (why, dear reader, are the psychos always in the English Department?)

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Dr. Georgia Young's wonderful life--great friends, family, and successful career--aren't enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, quitting her job as an optometrist, and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love.

This book came to my attention by way of a random email from goodreads, since I'd "shelved" some of her earlier works. It was published in June of this year, and I was able to read it soon thereafter thanks to this early warning and some quick library hold action. (Coincidentally, I finished it the day before my annual eye exam!) Dr. Young is occasionally brittle and jaded but mostly smart and sassy, and I would love to sit down and have a glass of wine with her (maybe two or three glasses, and then crash in the guest room of her funky home in Northern California). Perhaps because I recently passed a similar milestone to the main character, I really enjoyed reading this book. While the ultimate ending is not a huge shock, the fun is in the journey, complete with wrong turns and misunderstandings along the way.

Books #41-42

Book #41 was "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" by Jeanette Winterson, as an audiobook read by the author. I've read several of Winterson's novels, including "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" in a gay and lesbian lit class in college. This is a memoir of growing up lesbian, working class and adopted in England. It covers childhood and adolescence up until she gets into Oxford, and leaps over some middle years to hear late 40s, when she finally gets around to looking for her birth mother. Her home life is grim, but she has great compassion for even the most damaged people in her life, including her mother who burns her books and throws her out at age 16 when she finds out her daughter is a lesbian. I love that the book is read by the author. It was moving and funny and well worth a read.

Book #42 was "Unbound," the third in the "Magic Ex Libris" series by Jim Hines. I love that this series is largely set in Michigan - it's fun to hear him namecheck places I've been to. In this third in a series of books about "libriomancy," the ability to magically pull items out of books, former librarian and ex-Porter Isaac Vainio has to save his student, Jeneta, from an ancient and deranged being, Meridiana, who has taken over Jeneta's body and is using Jeneta's special libriomancy skills to wreak havoc around the globe. Isaac goes around the globe and into other dimensions and puts himself in mortal danger to defeat Meridiana and her ghost army, while the Porter organization is torn by factional strife. I really enjoy this series and have been reading it out loud with my husband. I'm looking forward to the final book, "Revisionary."

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )

Book 35

Title: The Island Stallion
Author: Walter Farley
Series: part 4 of the "The Black Stallion" series
Pages: 213
Summary: On a remote Caribbean island, young Steve Duncan comes face to face with a fiery red stallion. Steve names the horse Flame and works to gain the untamed giant's trust. But fearsome obstacles arise that test Steve's strength and determination ... and put Flame's life in grave danger.

My thoughts:
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The last week had its share of busy-ness, but I did manage to finish a few books.

First was one by Christopher Moore, called Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, a wild fun read sort of about whales.

Then I followed that with a graphic novel called White Sand which is based on a fantasy novelists worlds (Sanderson? I forget), but it just never gelled with me so I won't be following it further.

Next was Osprey Elite #25: Soldiers of the English Civil War 1 Infantry after reading which I was unconvinced that these fellows deserved to be called elite. Maybe it's just me.

Then, Osprey Fortress #30: Fort Eben Emael: The Key to Hitler's Victory in the West...there's a Raid book about the same topic, for the most part, and they give a lot of importance to a fort. Although a solid piece of work on the topic, I wasn't convinced that this place was a linchpin in the defenses of the West. Maybe I'm silly.

Finally, a rather stupid graphic novel, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade which is supposed to be, but isn't funny.

So, this week had an occasional bright spot, but really wasn't one of the better weeks for reading for me.

book 77

ノラガミ 7 [Noragami 7] (Noragami: Stray God, #7)ノラガミ 7 [Noragami 7] by Adachitoka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I almost loved this (and if not for one chapter it would have been a five star volume). There is tons of emotion in this one.

It opens with a peace offering picnic between Yato/Yukine/Hiyori and Bishamonten's crew. It's mostly silly with two drunk gods and a panel of 1980s styled Yato but Kofuku adds a dimension of angst and fear to it by explaining to Hiyori (who has been coached to break ties with Yato for her own sake) that gods only exist so long as someone believes in them and Yato has no real believers.

Then came the chapter I disliked. Yato possesses Hiyori for her high school debut as an ad campaign for himself. that wasn't the problem, it's what he did as Hiyori that was. He acts like a slut even with teachers, does crazy things etc and otherwise ruins her reputation. I think it was meant to be funny but to me, it fell far short.

The rest of the manga was extremely touching. Yukine has Kazuma train him to be a better guide for Yato. Another more popular god tries to buy Yukine and they're both tempted by the offer, especially since Yato wants to build himself a shrine. We learn a bit about who has been making the evil 'masks' and most importantly Yato gets something he wanted all his life.

Looking forward to more as the next volume seems to promise we learn more about his past.



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Number of pages: 215

This is a book I read and reviewed a few years ago (see http://gavluvsga.livejournal.com/2014/01/26/); I enjoyed reading it again, and being reminded of the importance of spreading the Gospel and it gave some useful advice on how to engage others, including the "Two Ways to Live" model, which I've tried on others, probably not as confidently as I should have.

I mainly read this book again because someone at church thrust a copy at me, and I didn't have the heart to say I'd read it before. I really enjoy books by the late John Chapman though, so I put it on my reading list.

Next book: The Night Manager (John Le Carre)

#69: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka

Summary:
After a breakdown at college landed Emmeline Kalberg in a mental hospital, she’s struggling to get her life on track. She’s back in her hometown and everyone knows she’s crazy, but the twelve pills she takes every day keep her anxiety and paranoia in check. So when a voice that calls itself Escodex begins talking to Em from a box of frozen chicken nuggets, she’s sure that it’s real and not another hallucination. Well … pretty sure.

An evil entity is taking over the employees of Savertown USA, sucking out their energy so it can break into Escodex’s dimension. When her coworkers start dying, Em realizes that she may be the only one who can stop things from getting worse. Now she must convince her therapist she’s not having a relapse and keep her boss from firing her. All while getting her coworker Roger to help enact the plans Escodex conveys to her though the RFID chips in the Savertown USA products. It’s enough to make anyone Stay Crazy.


I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. Stay Crazy will be released on August 16th.

Satifka's debut novel straddles genre lines like many of the complicated, dark stories that publisher Apex publishes in its magazine. The book's description makes it sound weird and perhaps fluffy, and while it is weird in many ways, there's also a thorough and often raw exploration of mental illness.

In a way, it's a dystopia novel set in modern small town America; the place is blighted, and its one shining beacon of commerce is the Walmart-esque Savertown. Em is fresh out of the mental hospital when she begins work at Savertown. Everything in her life seems brittle: her life with her mother and sister is miserable, her father--who she is supposed to resemble in most ways--vanished when she was a child, her therapist goes through the motions, her relationships with her co-workers are strained, often due to Em's constant snark. Em is not always a likeable protagonist. She's hopeless, tactless, and angry, but also someone I deeply sympathized with. I know depression and isolation. Satifka captured those feelings in a way that disturbed me at times, causing me to set the book down so that I could separate the book from my own emotions.

Also, I want to note this without giving away spoilers: this isn't a book that tries to equate mental illness with supernatural powers. Em's mental state is much more complicated than that.

There's another element that she captured well, too: retail life. I did time as a Walmart night stocker. Satifka NAILED the fine details there, everything from calling the general merchandise side "GM," to the rivalry between GM and the grocery side, to the forced singing of company propaganda sings to start the shift.

Stay Crazy is dark and intense sci-fi with a twist, in turns disturbing, amusing, and enlightening. It's not a book that fits into tidy genre boxes, so kudos to Apex for publishing a book that is that complicated--and good.

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Cruel and Unusual by Patrica D. Cornwell

book 55:  Cruel and Unusual by Patrica D. Cornwell

This is the fourth Kay Scarpetta medical examiner mystery by Cornwell.  It concerns the fingerprint of an executed murderer ending up at a fresh crime scene after his death and a cover-up involving Dr. Scarpetta's own staff, as well as the prison system and members of local government and law enforcement.  And, in addition to continued brutal murders with unsettling things in common, someone is trying to lay blame at Dr. Scarpetta's doorstep, even forcing her to go before a grand jury to defend her job and maybe her freedom.  This one won a CWA Gold Dagger Award, if that means something to you. ;)

book 76

Livingstone 2Livingstone 2 by Jinsei Kataoka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Due to the episodic nature of this manga the star rating wavers a bit but it's a solid 3.5 stars. Sakurai and Amano are a team that collect/clean bits of soul and if they see a life off track they try to get it back on track, well Sakurai does. Amano is all for ending their life so their next life can start. Theirs is an uneasy partnership and relatively new.

In the episodes tehre's one of young lovers that might end up in a suicide pact and another where they help a police detective (something they apparently do often). There had apparently been a break in the series of a couple of years and the stories that came after are even more interesting. One deals with the possession of a little girl by the spirit of a courtesan who loved her job, a terribly sad one about a crow and a young boy and the most fascinating one which was a two parter.

Sakurai and Amano meet up with a team of psycholith collectors (souls) who are working at a higher level of collection, a team of sisters. In this it hints that Amano (and one of the sisters) aren't human and Sakurai's attempts to help Amano grow a conscience will spell trouble for Amano.

I'm reading a lot of episodic manga right now and this is one of the better ones. the art is very nice as well.



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This volume compiles the last few stories in the X-Files Season 11 comic books series, and presumably the end of the series (presumably because of the TV show's renewal).

The story continues the arc that started with "Elders", starting off with "Xmas", which opens with Frohike and Langly being abducted by aliens. The scenes with them on board the alien spaceship are surprisingly comical, including some juvenile humour involving a rectal probe. While this happens, Mulder and Scullys' individual plotlines continue from the previous story, with Scully teaming up with Byers.

The story continues the themes of telepathic communication and the faceless alien rebels, and leads almost directly into the concluding three-part story, "Endgames", which opens with a post-apocalyptic scene that appears to be a flash-forward (or possibly a dream sequence?), and features a bearded Mulder. The story feels particularly ominous, as it becomes apparent that an invasion is already in progress, and also involves a mining expedition to get magnetite (the only material that can kill the Super Soliders, seen in the TV show's 8th and 9th seasons.

I didn't think the 11th Season of the comic books series was quite as good as the 10th, as it concentrated more on an ongoing story, rather than a number of stand-alone plots, and didn't seem to allow Mulder and Scully enough time together. The ending seemed more low-key than I had expected, and it felt like the story needed to be continued (there seemed to be a few loose plot threads), at least to see how the plot was going to reach the apocalyptic moments seen in the flash-forwards. There was also a bit too much complicated tech-speech at times. The good thing about this was that the artwork was as always brilliant, with a few accurate recreations of scenes from the TV show.

Next book: Know and Tell the Gospel (John Chapman)

Book 75

Kill the MessengerKill the Messenger by Tami Hoag

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I usually like Tami Hoag's works but this one did nothing for me. Mostly it had to do with one of the main characters. I didn't really connect with any of the characters but the titular messenger really didn't work for me.

Jace Damon, bike messenger and sole supporter of his younger brother (they're orphans) picks up a package from a lawyer. Before he can deliver it someone in a car tries several times to run him down before Jace can get away. The lawyer is murdered soon after the pick up. Somehow Jace assumes he'll be blamed. It's his narrow minded paranoia about cops is what drove me insane. For some reason his mother (now gone and never seeming to be that great in the first place) instilled an overwhelming fear of cops in Jace, even though there's no real reason for it. So much so even though he knows he has something (the package) that the cops need to know about, something that nearly got him killed and did get the lawyer killed he won't go. even after his friend and ersatz mother figure is murdered and all his bike messenger friends want him to go to the cops he won't.

In fact none of this story works if Jace isn't a complete paranoid idiot. Any normal person would go to the cops especially when a friend who died because of this but not Jace and so it just didn't work for me. The two detectives, Parker and his snippy trainee partner, Ruiz don't really grab me either but at least Parker isn't foolish.

There are far better Hoag novels than this which is nearly 500 pages.



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Book #29: Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome



Number of pages: 448

This is the second book in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series, bringing back all of the main characters from the original book. This is similar to its predecessor, but starts with two significant events:
1) The discovery of the titular Swallowdale, a "secret" valley on the main island where the story takes place.
2) The boat "Swallow" crashes, and spends most of the book being repaired, leaving its crew to spend most of the book acting like they have been shipwrecked.

This book also introduces the family of the Amazons (Nancy and Peggy), including their domineering Great Aunt, who grounds them for being late and makes them wear dresses, which they hate. I quite liked this angle of the story, as we didn't know so much about them in the original book.

The second half of the book involves the children exploring the island further, and culminates in the aftermath of a mountaineering expedition.

Like in the original book, the characterisation of the main characters is really good; in this case, especially Roger and Titty, who get some really enjoyable moments towards the end. I didn't think it was quite as good as the first book, but I still loved getting to read more about these characters and hope to keep reading; I already have a copy of the third book, Peter Duck.

Next book: The X-Files, Season 11: Volume 2 (Joe Harris)

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