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First off, let me apologize to any new members who had to wait for their posts to be released from the moderation queue...LJ failed to alert me that they were featuring this community in the Spotlight, so I was unprepared for the influx! The queue is clear now, so anyone who posted who wasn't seeing their post, should see it now.

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Happy reading!
You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

I found this book to be a joyful delight, well worth the buzz it has received in recent years. It's a literary fiction novel about a romance between a 67-year-old retired British Major and a 57-year-old Pakistani shopkeeper, and it thoughtfully analyzes issues of race, culture, and privilege in a small British village. My one big complaint is that so many of the characters are selfish and unlikable (especially at the beginning) that it seemed too inevitable that the Major and Jasmina would come together, as they were the only decent people around! However, many characters gain more complexity as the book goes on. I appreciated Simonson's balanced look at various aspects of British society, from the old country stock to the modern up-and-comings to Muslim immigrants. This seems destined to be a Masterpiece Theatre piece.
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule--but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her--even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

I read this as part of the Norton finalist packet.

What an extraordinary book! It felt a bit odd to start, with its various viewpoints, but it builds up to a coming-of-age tale that's extraordinary and fresh. This is one of those middle grade books that can be readily loved and enjoyed by anyone who loves magic, tiny dragons with big hearts, and wants a book where most people are genuinely good though with different motivations. Like real people.

Books #11-12

Book #11 was "Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga" by Pamela Newkirk. Many people, like me, vaguely know that humans from exotic lands have been exhibited at World Fairs and even at zoos, but don't really know the details. This nonfiction book follows the story of Ota Benga, a Congolese man of small stature, called "pygmies" at that time, who was either kidnapped or convinced to come to America, where he was exhibited first at the World Fair and later in the monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo. A white minister and a group of black clergymen were outraged by it and petitioned for releasing him. Ota Benga bounced around from home to home in America but always pined to go back to his home. Pamela Newkirk does a magnificent job of researching the various claims about Benga (yes, he had sharpened teeth, but no, he wasn't a cannibal) and his history (did he come with explorer Samuel Verner willingly, or was he coerced?). She puts his exhibition in context by exploring the backgrounds of the men who put him on display and the tradition of bringing back sample humans from exotic lands to put on display in the U.S. She also debunks claims by apologists for the Bronx Zoo that he wasn't really "on display" but was there to care for the monkeys and orangutan. My only little quibble with her writing is that she frequently says "Verner preposterously claimed" or "Vernor made the unlikely claim that..." instead of trusting the reader will figure out what a disreputable character he is and how little his (often contradictory) claims should be trusted. Overall, a great, if sad, read.

Book #12 was "Between the World and Me" by Ta-nehisi Coates, a National Book Award winner. My husband read this as a paper book and recommended it to me. I listened to it as an audiobook as read by the author and was blown away by it consistently. It is a very brief (only 3 discs on audibook) book written in the form of a letter to Coates' teenage son, looking back on what it means to be black in America and talking about his hopes and fears for his son. This is so powerful. Just read it.

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

Book 30

White Fire (Pendergast, #13)White Fire by Douglas Preston

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this one and up until the end it was a 4 star read so I put it at 3.5 stars. I usually love the Pendergast novels but this one had some issues, at least for me. Partly because Pendergast was a secondary character in his own series, which I would have been okay with IF the major character had been interesting. Corrie should have been interesting. She’s one of Pendergast’s broken wing rescues, going to John Jay and looking to win a coveted (and expensive) award for an original thesis. Corrie came from a broken home with an alcoholic parent so your typical underdog and a in theory, a strong female character.

Too bad it’s only in theory. Corrie is paranoid about Pendergast being given credit for her thesis – the grizzly bear related death of miners back in the 1800s in Colorado at what has become a ski resort playground for the uber-wealthy. She resents him spending money to help her (which I guess we’re to assume she’s finding it condescending and/or misogynistic but Corrie’s not deep enough for that sort of exploration). And she does stupid thing after stupid thing (even acknowledging it’s stupid when she does it). I’m not sure if I’m supposed to wave it off because she’s young (and admittedly the young do stupid things) but seriously it was hard to take her seriously as a cop/FBI wanna be or as a strong woman when she does one moronic thing after another (even if she was doing it to spit an overbearing male figure, then maybe that should have been clearer it was her motive) especially when she breaks the law a number of times, including landing in jail. She's whiney and like a cheese grater to the skin, definitely not one of the better or more interesting female characters these two authors have given us.

Once Corrie arrives and begins digging into it, she learns there is something darker than a grizzly bear killing and eating these miners (it isn’t hard to figure out what) and it a secret the town’s prominent family is willing to kill for.

What was cool about Corrie’s story was that it was linked to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde and in fact that’s half of Pendergast’s storyline in this. He’s investigating the lost Holmes story which was spawned by a conversation Doyle and Wilde had after Wilde had been in the mining town. His other storyline concerned the serial arsonist that’s burning down the wealthiest homes in town with their owners in them.

Honestly it was very readable. My problem with the ending is that it’s so manipulative and Corrie has to be so foolish to make it work, you have to do mental back bends to make it work given how we’re supposed to perceive this character. I wish I had liked this one better but still, this is one of my favorite series. I love Pendergast as a character (and having hints of Holmes in with him really made me happy).

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#30: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy—a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father's possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father's murder—or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself. Frances Hardinge is the author of many acclaimed novels, including Cuckoo Song, which earned five starred reviews.

I read this as part of the Norton finalist packet.

Hardinge writes excellent gothic fantasies featuring teenage girls. I think I enjoyed The Lie Tree even more than her previous Norton nominee, Cuckoo Song. It's a dark murder mystery set on a remote island, as Faith manipulates islanders to create a harvest on her father's Lie Tree as she tries to solve his murder.

Books 1 - 10.

1. Charnas - Work Clean: The Life-Changing Power of Mise-En-Place To Organize Your Life, Work & Mind
Based on the arranging system of the cooking world, this books shows how to apply it to the non-cookery world, with good stories in between.

2. Nouwen - A Letter Of Consolation
On loss of a beloved person, with hope and support given.

3. Kaufman & Kristoff - Illuminae
4. Kaufman & Kristoff - Gemina
Action-packed, fun, stories connected with each other. Good YA scifi appealing even to older people. Third part coming later this year.

5. Griswold (transl.) - I Am The Beggar Of The World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan
Women's poetry being created under constant threat against it, with nice photographs and explaining notes included.

6. Basho - The Complete Haiku
To be read slowly to avoid numbness *lol* Thorough work with explanations and other stuff after. Over 1000 haikus.

7. Nixon - Everyday Happy Herbivore (Finnish translation)
Simple yet tasteful recipes.

8. Corey - Leviathan Wakes
A very good start of the series, with a good flow to it.

9. Venning - The Sinfulness Of Sin
If you're used to the Puritan style of writing, this delivers well and is not all doom and gloom, to be honest :)

10. MacPherson - The Black Box: Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-Flight Accidents
For those not too scared of flying. Not all the cases end with death. There's so many ways for things to go wrong, and not always found until the inevitable happens. Luckily we can learn to make things safer, learning from the crashes.

Book 29

A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak, #1)A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first Kate Shugak mystery but not the first I’ve read which in a way is a good thing. I know this won an Edgar award but it wasn’t all that interesting. I bought this from the author years ago when she was at a library talk then moved and found it in a box only recently so I’ve read many of Ms. Stabenow’s works since buying this (so if you didn’t find this one to your taste, try another). I had the feeling in this (having forgotten this was #1 and didn’t realize it until I logged in to do this review) that I dropped into the series mid-way. In a way that’s true because we’re seeing Kate at the end of her first career working with the police and before she starts as a consultant.

Kate, an Aleut, had left Anchorage after a domestic violence job had gone wrong, leaving her with a cut throat, ruining her voice. Her off and on lover, Jack (a Fed and a Caucasian) asks for a huge favor, to find two missing men in the wilderness around which she grew up. One is a young park ranger, very gung-ho and possessed of a wealthy statesman father, and the FBI agent sent to find him.

Kate doesn’t agree right away but as she digs into this, she comes into conflict with her grandmother, a powerful elder of the tribe, with her young cousin who wants Kate to help her escape life with their people so she can go to the greener, better educated pastures Anchorage represents to her, with the White miners that want to abuse the park and well just about everyone, including a family member who might be behind the disappearances.

As always with a mystery with Native characters, there is an unrelenting hot light shone on the conflicts between the Native peoples and the non-Native outsiders used usually as a reason for the crime (or at least a red herring) and/or the mistrust with law enforcement for the obvious reasons and there is definitely that here.

There is quite a bit of narrative distance between the reader and Kate in this. She comes across as very cold and not really someone I wanted to know better. I wasn’t particularly happy with how this one wrapped up either. It’s a short, decent mystery but definitely not the best in the Kate Shugak series.

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Book 11- A Shoot in Cleveland

11. A Shoot in Cleveland, by Les Roberts. I thought I had read all of the Milan Jakovich novels to date, but I recently discovered I missed a couple. Finishing this one starts my remedy of that. The fact that I can include it for my Book Riot challenge- for a novel set within 100 miles of where I live- is icing on the cake.This book follows The Cleveland Local, which has an ending that was life-altering for Milan. Milan is still trying to find his bearings when he is asked to take on what looks to be a fairly easy job: make sure a young star doesn't get into too much trouble when the movie he is headlining in works at various locations in the Cleveland area. Naturally this winds up being harder than Milan bargains for, and the young star, Darren Anderson, winds up dead. The dialogue, as always, is fantastic. It's comical watching Milan, who does not suffer fools and is not easily intimidated, try to put up with the Hollywood glitterati. Another thing about this novel (this series has a lot of continuity; I strongly suggest reading them in order) is that the reader really sees Milan's typically black and white view of things get shaken, particularly where Victor Gaimari, the nephew and heir apparent of the local mob, is concerned. I see in this installment a lot of the beginnings of Milan's subtle changes later on.

Currently reading: Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.


Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.

Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father's deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family's circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.

I read this as part of the Norton finalist packet.

What a fantastic read! Levine's book combines Victorian sensibilities with space-faring airships, all seen through the viewpoint of the courageous and smart Arabella who masquerades as a cabin boy to get a freighter ride back home to Mars before her cousin can commit dastardly acts. Levine utilizes many tropes of steampunk and 19th century literature, such as a mutiny aboard ship and the inevitable exposure of Arabella's true gender, but twists everything in surprising, satisfying ways. I'd love to read onward in this series.

Book 28

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson, #11)Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won a copy of the audio book from a Goodreads giveaway but that in no way influenced my review. I wavered between a 3 and 4 star rating through the book but went with 3 because of the absolutely horrible ending. There is a problem I’ve had with this series from the beginning (other than Charley on more than one occasion is downright dumb, even points it out herself), is Ms Jones doesn’t seem to have heard of the adage ‘less is more.’ Charley’s snark is literally non-stop so it encroaches on buffoonery and wears you out. We’re treated to how drop dead gorgeous Reyes is so many times in such purple prose I actually checked to see if she wrote romances too. I was going to start a drinking again every time she told us how hot Reyes is but I’d probably have to have my stomach pumped. Not to mention one or two sex scenes is hot, as many as this had is just story-stopping boredom. So yeah if any one or two of these things had been lightened up this would have been more enjoyable. I’ll stretch that to include how many times we go over how she doesn’t get her new powers, how she threatened Jehovah about taking over the world, about how important Osh is to Beep and how bad ass Eidolon is. We get it. Seriously.

The main thrust of this story is Charley has been approached by the Foster’s adoptive son (the same Fosters who had kidnapped Reyes and gave him over to a monster to raise him when he was a baby). This son is a Nephilim and wants a) to know his family and b) to stop the Fosters because not only are they kidnapping special kids for their strange religious cult, they are killing them. Reyes wants Charley to have nothing to do with this case, refusing to explain his request and for that matter Ubie, her police detective uncle, also wants her to stay home but won’t tell her why (so yeah both are doing this in the most infuriating misogynistic patronizing way possible, including leaving Charley trapped in the ceiling beams by taking away her ladder).

On top of all of this Charley is dealing with not having her baby with her and with her new-found status as a god. In fact, this part overshadows the mystery of the Fosters. And oh, Ms. Jones also shoehorn a completely different plot line for Charley’s niece about mid-way through, grinding all the other plot lines to a halt. The balance in this book is off and that above mentioned less is more could have really helped. I didn’t need to hear for the thousandth time about her godhood. This could have been trimmed down to keep all the plot lines cleaner.

I know this sounds like I didn’t enjoy this that much but that isn’t true. I did enjoy it for the most part but it could have been better, a lot better, with just a but of trimming. I was so bore with the sex scenes because there were so many of them and I have to say hearing them as an audiobook was far more annoying than reading them. I would have just skipped them if I had been reading. I usually only have time to listen to audiobooks in the car (not something I like to do as I find it distracting) so I didn’t want to try to skip them there.

Now the ending. It’s a cliffhanger. I loathe them but that’s not why the ending cost my rating a star. It’s just how freaking stupid both Charley and Reyes are in it. I hate it when the heroes have to do something moronic in order to advance the plot, especially when you’re trying to portray them as competent bad-asses. They have this god-glass which is a portal to a hell dimension that a medieval priest trapped dozens of souls back in the 1400s. So think about that for a moment. For over 600 years those people are trapped in that thing and instead of doing research or doing anything intelligent like that, those two decide they have to fix it now with predictable stupid results. It was so eye rolling bad I’m not sure I’ll bother looking at the next book to find out what happens.

I will admit I have never been in love with this series and I’m sure people who are will love this book too. It’s entertaining. I would love to see a side story with Osh. Also, the narrator was excellent so if you like audiobooks, this one is very well done (though I will admit the 40$ price tag on the box of the one I was sent shocked me. I didn’t realize they were that much more than the book. Yes, I do realize that there are people to pay for producing it but man, that took me by surprise).

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Just Wondering

Has there been a time when you were pleased you have been sacked from something? If so, what and why?

What's your favourite way to wind down at the end of a stressful day (or even just a regular day)? Why is this activity relaxing for you?

#39, 40, 41

A few more days, a few more books...

The first one that I finished this last week was Osprey Raid #47: Behind Soviet Lines: Hitler's Brandenburgers Capture the Maikop Oilfields 1942, a military adventure that smacks of Hollywood. Not that they held it long...

Next was then Osprey Raid #48: Storming Monte La Difensa: The First Special Service Force at the Winter Line, Italy 1943 in which a combined US and Canadian force is used to bull their way through German defenses rather than being used behind German lines to disrupt their communications. Brave men whose work and training led to the many special service forces that world powers use now.

Finally, Osprey Vanguard #26: The Sherman Tank in US and Allied Service, not the best tank of WWII, nor the most numerous, but it was the mainstay of US armor of the war. This was a fairly well-written book on the subject.

Book 27

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought this was a reread for me from way back when in my late h.s./early college days. After reading it, I either entirely forgot it (and trust me this is a very forgettable book) or this is one of the things I skimmed so I would have something to talk about with the rest of the geeks. Looking at other GR reviews, they say the rest of the Dark Tower series gets better and to power on past book one.

I’d say it would have to get better because this is one of the most boring Stephen King books I have ever read. It was actually a handful of novellas with characters that don’t pick up a hint of nuance until half way in. It also made me wonder what was going on in King’s life back in the late 60s and 70s (since he mentioned it took twelve years to get this published and it was done in 78) because this is one of the most misogynistic thing I’ve ever read by him. There aren’t many women in it and the three predominate ones are all sexually aggressive, manipulative betrayers. Seriously they exist only to trade sex for information (two of them) and to be the catalyst of betrayal of the titular Gunslinger (his mother).

The first two novellas have the gunslinger chasing the man in black across an unrelenting desert which seems otherworldly but has aspects of Earth (especially religion and music) in it. We’re not sure why the gunslinger is chasing the man in black other than he wants to kill him (we’re not sure why). Then the man in black (somewhat magical) puts a young boy (who is from another dimension) in the gunslinger’s path, hoping to tug on what remains of the gunslinger’s heart strings.

As the man in black runs and the gunslinger (and Jake) follow, we do learn more about the gunslinger’s life and what brought him to this point and of the mysterious Dark tower their path is taking them toward.

But honestly, I didn’t care. It wasn’t that interesting to me at all. I didn’t like the characters, the world or their goals. That made me a bit sad as I know how important the Dark Tower series is in King’s oeuvre and I wanted to like it. I didn’t and it certainly didn’t make me want to read on.

View all my reviews


Books #9-10

Book #9 was "Foulsham," the 2nd book in the Iremonger trilogy by Edward Carey. The series is set in an alternate Victorian-era London, where the Iremongers are a family that lives in "The Heaps," a walled off part of the city that is home to London's trash, and all have "birth objects" that come from the heaps. In the first book, an Iremonger named Clod has the special power of hearing objects speak. With the help of servant girl Lucy Pennant, they find out that things are not what they seem and the Iremonger family has been up to no good. In the second book, Clod and Lucy have been transformed into objects and ejected from Heap House into Foulsham, the city in the Heaps that Heap House recruits servants and other workers from. Their quest in the second book is to to transform back into humans and help protect the community from being overwhelmed by the Heaps that are threatening to break through the walls. Clod also knows he needs to be brave and stop his family from turning the poor people of the Heaps into objects that can easily be disposed of. This one ends on a cliff-hanger just like the first book. They're quirky and fun, and Carey's black and white illustrations really add to the creepy but fun atmosphere of the books. I'm looking foward to reading the conclusion soon.

Book #10 was "The Secret Place" by Tana French, as an audiobook. I love this series by French, The Dublin Murder Squad novels. The first book starts with Rob Ryan as the protagonist, and in each book afterward, a minor character in the previous book becomes the main character in the present book. She breaks the chain somewhat by bringing back two characters from an earlier book in Dublin Murder Squad #5. She also breaks with her tradition of having one first-person narrator. The chapters in "The Secret Place" alternate between a first-person narrative from Stephen Moran with a series of third-person flashbacks told from the viewpoint of the girls at an all-girls boarding school who are under suspicion of knowing more than they're telling about the death of a boy named Chris Harper from a nearby all-boys school. Stephen Moran is in Cold Cases but wants to break into the murder squad. He knows that when Holly Mackey brings him a postcard saying "I know who killed Chris Harper" that this is his chance to get a foot in the door with the Murder Squad. He approaches Antoinette Conway about partnering on the investigation. Most of the story takes place during one very long day of interviewing subjects at the school. I thought this was another really masterfully-told tale by Tana French. For instance, there's a betrayal that takes place both in the present and in the flashback scenes, and they happen back-to-back. It's a brilliant bit of plotting. One thing I didn't necessarily care for was that she introduced some possibly paranormal elements into the story, though it's never proved one way or the other whether there's a logical explanation for the phenomenon. It didn't bother me too much, because I saw it as a metaphor rather than taking it literally. I am looking forward to getting a hold of the next book in the series.

The other books I've read so far this year:Collapse )
It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long—at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right—and wrong—in the present.

I found the concept of this to be incredibly cool--teens in 1996 install AOL and suddenly have access to their future Facebooks! It's a fast read, too, which was a good thing. If this had happened to geeks in 1996, it would have been a much deeper story--how did this peek of the future happen? Why? How can we use this information? Instead, it happened to two popular kids who own/have access to cars, have actively dated numerous people, go to parties, etc, so the novel focuses on teenage angst and doesn't go beyond their selfish viewpoints. When they do cause major future ramifications including BLOTTING OUT THE EXISTENCE OF FUTURE CHILDREN, it's barely dwelt on at all. I found the whole book frustrating... probably because these are kids I wouldn't have related to at all in 1996, when I was 16, and at 37 I still am exasperated by their limited viewpoints.
10. Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess Book 1: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew
by Jeremy Whitley, author, and Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt, illustrations. I'm going to count this one as my all-ages comic for the Book Riot challenge; in a pinch, it could be used for a superhero story with a female lead (although we'd really be stretching the definition of superhero here). I get the impression from my background reading that this is a followup series to another graphic novel series, but ah well, this first installment stands well on its own. The story centers on Raven, whose father, the Pirate King, has been grooming her to one day take over the family business. However, due to the scheming of her two brothers, Raven gets cut out of the family business. She escapes captivity and sets about finding a pirate crew to staff her ship so she can seek vengeance on her conniving brothers. Raven winds up finding an eager crew of smart, tough and brave young women. I like this first installment. The story and the characters are a lot of fun. What's more, there aren't a lot of stories where all the main characters are female, particularly a story like this which has a more adult, sophisticated tone (there's nothing objectionable for younger readers, though, save for some blood). The dialogue is sharp and often quite funny. It was a bit jarring to have a sort of Pirates of the Caribbean-type world setting, with dashes of modern references (friend-zoned for example), and the bulk of the women are involved in a role-playing type game that feels like something you would see today. Still, since this is purely fantasy, it doesn't bother me too much. What's more important is the story, and how the author and illustrators have crafted the narrative and their characters. I love how each character has such a different background, ethnicity, race and skill set. This series has promise, might have to check out the rest of it.

Currently reading: A Shoot in Cleveland, by Les Roberts
(I thought I'd read all the Milan Jacovich stories but upon review I realized I somehow missed a couple)
In a hilarious tale reminiscent of T. H. White, a lost boy finds himself an unlikely apprentice to the very old, vaguely evil, mostly just grumpy Wizard Smallbone.

When twelve-year-old Nick runs away from his uncle’s in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles onto a very opinionated bookstore. He also meets its guardian, the self-proclaimed Evil Wizard Smallbone, who calls Nick his apprentice and won’t let him leave, but won’t teach him magic, either. It’s a good thing the bookstore takes Nick’s magical education in hand, because Smallbone’s nemesis—the Evil Wizard Fidelou—and his pack of shape-shifting bikers are howling at the borders. Smallbone might call himself evil, but compared to Fidelou, he’s practically a puppy. And he can’t handle Fidelou alone. Wildly funny and cozily heartfelt, Delia Sherman’s latest is an eccentric fantasy adventure featuring dueling wizards, enchanted animals, and one stray boy with a surprising knack for magic.

I read this as part of the Norton finalist packet.

This clever middle grade books begins with a jerk of a kid, Nick, fleeing from his abusive uncle and cousin. He ends up stumbling upon the abode of an evil wizard, who immediately takes him in as an apprentice—but really, as more as an indentured servant. Nick grows as a sympathetic character as he endures the wizard's bizarre behavior, befriends a sentient bookstore, and discovers the wizard's personal town and its captive citizens. Meanwhile, danger lurks just beyond the town as a French werewolf plans to make his move to vanquish his old foe, Smallbone. It's a fun adventure romp/coming-of-age story, one I would have enjoyed as a kid and still found immense joy in as an adult.

#36, 37, 38

A few more books this week:

First was Osprey Fortress #54: Forts of the American Frontier 1820 – 91: The Southern Plains and Southwest, what amounts to the fort of the old Westerns. Interesting.

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #59: The Sudan Campaigns 1881 – 1898, an older book with lesser quality plates, it goes into the history of what happened at the end of the 19th Century in the Sudan.

Then the last book of the week was Osprey New Vanguard #28: Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936 - 45, a book that details what a friend describes as the best German tank of the war.

On to the next week.
9. Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas. This book, an autobiography, fulfills the category for reading a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. Arenas grew up in Cuba, but was (barely) able to immigrate to the United States in 1980 as part of the Mariel Boatlift. Arenas lived in Miami for a short time before moving to New York.
He was an early supporter of Fidel Castro's revolution, but quickly became disenchanted with the Communist movement. It was heartbreaking to read about how he believed that one day Fidel Castro would be overthrown (Arenas died in 1990 at age 47 of an intentional overdose, three years after being diagnosed with AIDS.) Arenas describes, with raw honesty, his joining the Revolution, his growing realizations of how much worse things were becoming, his time in jail and his constant surveillance even after being released. He relates the grinding poverty, the hunger and the constant fear and persecution he and those around him experienced. It's astounding he was able to leave the country at all. He probably would have died in prison had it not been for the friendships he made with people in other countries, and the fact that his books had been published in France. It was fascinating to read how he was able to keep his writings hidden, and how he was able to smuggle a good deal of his work out of the country. It's an eye-opening account of life in Cuba under Castro's regime, and the stories Arenas tells are chilling.
One warning about this book: It's explicit. I mean, really explicit. Even at a young age (we're talking single digits here), Arenas had sexual exploits. To say Arenas was promiscuous would be an understatement. It's what he grew up with; the activities he engaged in at what most would consider an appallingly young age (not to mention just plain appalling) were the norm where he grew up. This realization was the only thing that kept me reading the book, otherwise I would have stopped early on. As it was, this one was a struggle to get through at times; it's borderline pornographic. At one point, Arenas said he probably had more than a thousand lovers, and I have no trouble believing that. I get the impression he didn't know the names of all of them, either. Yikes. I admit I would have trouble recommending this book due to this; it's a good read for those wanting to find out more about Cuba, from someone who saw and experienced the worst of what the Castro regime had to offer. But it's definitely not for the easily offended, and I think even those who consider themselves open-minded are going to struggle with some aspects of the explicit content.
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

This is a finalist for the Norton Award.

First of all, the basic premise of the story is predictable and follows the mold of many other fairy tales ("East of the Sun, West of the Moon" in particular) with a build towards a happy ending. That said, this book is BEAUTIFUL. The prose is eloquent and visceral--this would be a stunning book to hear read aloud. The romantic element is fantastic, with genuine chemistry. I absolutely adored the way Chokshi wove in Indian lore and culture. It gave the book a wonderful, fresh feeling. The heroine is relatable and someone to cheer for, but the book is absolutely stolen by a demonic horse in the latter chapters; I'd read a whole book about that horse. In all, a wonderful book, and one that fully deserves to be on the ballot.

Book 9 - 2016

Book 9: The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

On New Years’ Day 2016, I flew from New York to San Francisco for the last leg of my most recent trip to the US (less than a 100 days to the next one). On the inflight entertainment was a movie I had wanted to see at the cinemas but had never got to – ‘The Martian’. I was travelling with my Mum, Dad and sister and we all got off the plane and went ‘Oh my God, how good was that movie?’. So needless to say, I went home and immediately ordered the book. I find film adaptations are either nowhere near as good as the book, or great but not necessarily true to the book. This book managed to be the rare combination of both a great film and try to the book. The film follows the story quite closely except for where it would have unnecessarily extended the film. Both versions capture the really beautiful humanity of the story – the idea that, if necessary, humanity, all of humanity irrespective of nationality etc, would work together to save one man because it was the right thing to do. Weir keeps the science mostly understandable, and he never makes Watney’s sarcasm and almost infallible optimism feel fake or forced. The story is an intriguing one, and the supporting cast are very real, their dialogue, interactions and personalities. Weir is one of the few writers who in reading I could hear similarities to my own style and I think that endeared me to the story even more. Overall, a great read, a great story, and I look forward to Weir’s future material.

9 / 50 books. 18% done!

2123 / 15000 pages. 14% done!

Currently reading:
-        Wrath of Aphrodite by Bess T. Chappas – 207 pages
-        My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages
-        Reengineering the University: How to be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious by William F. Massy – 280 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Griffith Review 51: Fixing the System edited by Julianne Schultz and Anne Tiernan – 326 pages

Book 24

The Gilded ScarabThe Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m always on the prowl for good steampunk (having read plenty of stuff that just didn’t capture me) and The Gilded Scarab really fit the bill. I almost stopped reading early on, not because it was bad, far from it. I had become too close to the main pov character, aeronaught Rafe Lancester who has just been forced to muster our of the military because of a job-ending injury and man, I’ve been there (It’s how I lost my surgical career) and I have trouble reading books with that plot. I had no trouble picking up on Rafe’s sense of loss, of anger of what the hell do I do with my life now. Butler does a great job with this.

What Rafe doesn’t want is to be tied to tightly to his House. There is an oligarchy going on here with the Houses with a great deal of Machiavellian twists and turns. Rafe just wants clear and clean of them but realizes that might be impossible given the size of his pension. He’s interested in pursuing his civilian pilot’s license once he fully heals.

Rafe eases back into life hanging out at a coffee shop with an old man he takes a shine to and attending a high end molly house where he meets Ned on his first night there. Brief but intense, they have the one night and soon afterward Rafe hooks up with Daniel, Aegyptologist, who turns out to be clingy and jealous. But Ned returns with secret of his own, dangerous secrets.

I loved all the characters. Rafe and Ned are wonderful as is the host of secondary characters. Will and his wife are great as are Hawkins and Mr. Pearse, the coffee shop owner. You’ll probably want to punch Rafe’s family in their collective faces. The one thing that surprised me a bit, bemused really, was what Rafe settled on for his new career. It felt slightly out of step with the beginning (or maybe my expectations were skewed especially since it’s in the blurb….which I apparently had forgotten by the time I read this). But he did take to it well and it worked. The world building is excellent. It’s a fun alternative universe. Rafe’s voice is great, funny and snarky without being unduly mean. I know there is more of this coming so I’m excited to read that too!

Number of pages: 360

This book certainly felt very experimental for one good reason.

It is written from the point of view of inanimate objects; each chapter is told by a different object that features in the scene, as though it were a sentient being, telling the story in the first person, and sometimes in the second person, addressing the character in the story directly. So, one chapter will be told by a bag of fertiliser, and another will be told by a mirror.

Sometimes the novels spells out what object is narrating, and in others you have figure out from the verbal clues given in the narrative.

This sounds like, and is, a bizarre premise, although the overall plot is much more simple. The story is set during the conflict in the Middle East, with a few separate storylines running through the novel, that don't really touch upon each other.

First off, there is the story of a soldier named Tom (as we learn about a third of the way through the book) who has been injured in battle, and who ends up with both his legs being amputated. The story tells mainly of how Tom copes with the drastic change in his life and the effect being disabled has on him.

There is another story involving two friends who grew up in the war zone; one of the friends has a father who is aiding the British troops, while the other friend is a jihadi. This plot has quite a shocking twist towards the end, which I won't give away here.

Overall, this is quite a straightforward story, with a plot that moves forward quite slowly; I enjoyed reading about the characters, although there were only a few named ones, and many nameless ones who it wasn't easy to care about much, although that might have been the intention. I noticed that most of the characters were referred to by squadron numbers rather than names by the objects telling the stories.

I thought this book was reasonably enjoyable, though I didn't really get the gimmick of telling it through the eyes of inanimate objects; maybe there was some point, but if there was, I missed it.

Next book: Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

February 2017 reading

February 2017 reading:

3. Mercy Blade, by Faith Hunter (305 pages)
When a tribe of African Were-cats comes out to the world, it seems to change overnight. Leo decided to parlay with them, but there are complications--he hates werewolves, the feeling is mutual, and they're gunning for the vamps. And Jane has unwillingly found herself in the middle of it, with a new player who calls himself Girrard but is a supernatural of a variety Jane had never encountered, and one who calls her "goddess-born." She's also trepidatious about meeting the were-cats--how will they react to her. Really interesting and seems to end with hints at the next book.

4. Unknown, by Rachel Caine (305 pages)
Cass has become aware that the nuclear option of wiping out humanity might become the only option to stop Pearl from destroying everything, and it horrifies her. She and Luis struggle to find children with Warden powers who have gone missing and realize Pearl is raising an army, and that it's a distraction. Through it all, Cass questions her identity as djinn and fears the djinn persona locked deep in her person. She's been cut off by the djinn, even for help, and the Wardens are in bad shape. Can this be won? Will she have to destroy herself in the process? Really action-packed.

5. The Bone Collection: Four Novellas, by Kathy Reichs (388 pages)
Looks like Brennan had bad common sense back in the day, given "First Bones." I've lost count of how many times she's put herself in dangerous situations; how many books/stories are there? In any case, I liked the decision to have "First Bones" in present tense. I think that was an interesting literary decision given the past tense of the other pieces.

6. Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs (308 pages)
Charles' role as the Marrok's enforcer has left him close to breaking, leaving Anna a bit frantic. It takes a lot to convince Bran, but eventually Adam calls with an idea: Anna can serve as a liaison to the FBI on a serial killer case, one which has left three weres dead, and Charles will accompany her as protection. Little do they realize, this is more than just missing wolves--it's a serial killer who has spent decades hunting fae as well.

7. Home Improvement: Undead Edition, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (340 pages)
An interesting set of urban fantasy short stories involving home improvement projects. I was familiar with three of the writers and was generally impressed with most of the others.

8. Westward Weird, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie L. Hughes (320 pages)
Great selection of urban fantasy stories in a Wild West sort of setting. I need to look into some of these writers.

9. Raven Cursed, by Faith Hunter (353 pages)
Jane has been sent to provide security for a vampire parley, but it seems there's more to it than she thought, and it all comes back to a plot for revenge and the Blood Stone. Really good.

10. Dead Heat, by Patricia Briggs (324 pages)
Charles decides to buy Anna a horse, something that takes them to Arizona. When a fae attack against the werewolf family they're staying with requires Charles initiate a Change, it soon becomes clear that there is ugliness afoot--one that involves a fae who likes to steal children.

February pages: 2,643

Pages to date: 3,096

Progress: 10/52

February 2017 comics/manga reading:

1. Library Wars, Love and War: Volume 5, by Kiiro Yumi (200 pages)
2. Lumberjanes: Volume 1, by Noelle Stevenson et al (128 pages)
3. What Did You Eat Yesterday?: Volume 6, by Fumi Yoshinaga (172 pages)
4. Case Closed: Volume 62, by Gosho Aoyama (192 pages)
5. Lady Killer: Volume 1, by Joelle Jones (138 pages)

February pages: 830

Pages to date: 830

Progress: 5/150

Book 23

Misery Loves Maggody (Arly Hanks, #11)Misery Loves Maggody by Joan Hess

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think that when your see a tons of reviews on the cover saying how funny something is it sets you up, maybe unfairly. This was literally the most unfunny thing I’ve ever read that was meant to BE funny. At best, Arly Hanks, chief of Maggody, is mean spirited bordering on cruel. Granted I haven’t read much of this series so maybe it would have helped if I knew the characters better but as it was, there isn’t a jack one of them I want to know better. I found them all dim witted and misogynistic except maybe Arly herself.

Arly’s mother Ruby Bee and her friend, Estelle (not that you could tell they were friends in this, that’s how mean they were to each other), go on a cut-rate tour following Elvis’s footsteps. While they’re gone, Arly is busy with a fundamentalist Christian preacher who thinks Satanists are breaking in and using his church (and wants nothing to do with a woman who dares to have a job) and is called on to run interference between two Buchanons as the new mom seems to have postpartum depression. By the way neither of these two things have a damn thing to do with the main crime. Again maybe I would have cared if I knew the players better but as it was, it was a major distraction from the main plot.

Speaking of which, the main plot resolves around Ruby Bee and Estelle on the world’s worst Elvis tour and takes nearly 100 pages to show up. One of the people on their tour seems to suicide off a hotel balcony but the local sheriff, Sanderson, believes it was murder and he thinks it was Jim Bob, Maggody’s mayor who was at the hotel-casino to meet his mistress who was on the tour. In the mean time, Ruby Bee falls seriously ill and is hospitalized bringing Arly into the picture. As much as she doesn’t like Jim Bob, Arly doesn’t believe he could be a murderer and even when she’s attacked for something in her mother’s room, Japonica, the deputy, won’t even believe her in spite knowing Arly’s a police officer.

Everyone seems very incompetent from the villains to the police. In fact, they’re at the level of bad at their job I expect in a cozy where the amateur has to step in and take over because of the incompetence. Between the alternating points of view (Arly’s in first, everyone else in third) dealing with aspects of the story not relating to the crime, characters I don’t care about and a wisp thin plot, I only gave this a second star in deference to it’s a long running series with people who found some merit in it. I did not.

View all my reviews


A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she's sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she'll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble's disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

I read a lot of urban fantasy, but I found this to be an incredibly inventive take on the genre with a borderline/amputee heroine mixed up with fey politics and Hollywood back-set machinations.
Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism--or when your sibling is struggling with the condition--life can be a topsy-turvy ride. What happens when you come face-to-face with dating, parties, sports, body changes, school, and kids who just don’t get you? Where do you turn when your sibling with autism is the butt of jokes, the victim of misunderstood social cues, and the one everyone thinks is weird?

Through alternating narratives based on their own lives, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, RJ, who has autism, bravely and honestly reveal what it means to be a teen living with the disorder.

With insight and humor, Same But Different explores the many aspects of teen autism, while daring to address issues and feelings nobody talks about. This powerfully rendered, timely book is the only one of its kind. It paints an important story of hope for teens and families living with autism—and lets us see that everybody’s unique rhythm is worth dancing to.

I bought this for my son, who is autistic and about to turn 12. I don't think I'll give him to it yet--maybe this Christmas--but I found it to be a very thoughtful, honest book. It's mostly told through the alternating viewpoints of teenage twins Callie and Charlie, the literary counterparts of authors Ryan and RJ. Callie is accustomed to being the guardian of her autistic brother, but after he's kept behind a grade, she tries to step back and let him be his own person... which is hard when she sees him bullied and taken advantage of by so-called friends. Charlie is frustrated by a world that overwhelms him, mourns the loss of his dog, and tries to figure out the social rituals around asking out a girl.

Charlie had several traits in common with my son, and that made the book feel very personal to me right from the start. I really like how their mother helped with the book but also stepped back to let it be told through their voices. One chapter even addressed the semantics of "having autism" and "being autistic," which I thought was very important as a matter of identity. The back of the book included numerous resources for autistic teens and parents.

I highly recommend this for classrooms, school libraries, and families with autistic teens.
Argumentative Essay - Braden Watt
“Draw me a painting,” said the student, but the teacher was unable to draw. “Teach me a song,” but the teacher could not sing. “Teach me how to fly and follow my dreams,” but the teacher was unable to show the student something which he was unable to accomplish in the first place. The art of drawing comes through the system of fine art classes which is taught in a very distinct way. The same thing is true with English the focus of the course being a traditional novel. The traditional novel only improves the creativity and opens the doors for a love of learning in some students when a graphic novel is another way to open the future in a child’s mind. This is a dream that will be enforced in classrooms that graphic novels become an important part of the English course as well as the traditional novel.
English novels bring forth a beauty which cannot be achieved in other acts of writing and poems convey a message distinct and very personal which not be underestimated with another use of writing such as graphic novels. Graphic novels will just bring and enforce the basics taught already in the school education system today: such as the power of imagery, word choice, and character development. “Graphic novels usually referred to as comic books are stated in reading with pictures when it says schools have become increasingly more aware of the need to address the varying learning styles of students.”(Howard Gordan). This sentence said from “Howard Gordon” is showing that different people learn differently which emphasizes the point of using different texts including graphic novels. Already basic knowledge will be enforced not weakened when we introduce graphic novels. “According to read-aloud specialist Jim Trelease (2001), to become proficient readers, people need to master a set of about 5,000 ‘rare words’ that appear infrequently in conversation. In the average adult novel, these words appear 52 times per 1,000 words of text. In comic books, they appear 53 times per 1,000 (Hayes & Athens, 1988).” The vocabulary and the language all comes with graphic novels and just because some graphic novels are stated as low-level reading, others can really add foundational vocabulary which can be interpreted by using the imagery. Imagery and words can tie together in the beauty that which can help readers and students alike learn basic English but also have an enjoyable time learning.
Through graphic novels in English, a new sense of enjoyment would come which is lacking therein. ”Two out of three high-school students in a large survey say they are bored in class every single day.”(Jeanna Bryner). Lots of students are interested in graphic novels. Although, some teachers discourage the student to read graphic novels, which in turn discourages the student to have fun reading. Exclusion of one specific genre of writing is limiting the ability of certain students to learn. As stated in The Mirador,”Not only would this diminish student-teacher resentment, but it could also give students a new perspective on English and cements their interest in the subject as a whole.”(A. Spiegelman). Teachers can use this variety of writing to encourage students to enjoy learning and not just be bored. In the mean well also get students interested in learning at a young age. This and the new introduction of new topics and cultures displayed in graphic novels immerse the students of teachers.
To prove my point graphic novels are written around the world which immerses students in new cultures and points of life. “From North America to Europe to Japan, from superheroes to autobiography to pure poetry, from horror to comedy to drama, this medium is as varied and vital as anything else on Earth” This is from the “Thrills Media Group” and it shows the grand scope of graphic novels which are written in different countries around the world. A myopic view of the impact of what makes our culture is all included in what we include in our children's education. Children are one hundred percent of our future which is key when we observe the educational system and what changes must be made to make maximum results in our future population. This is observed in graphic novels which are not only a use of supernatural stories as observed in the article; The Mirador by Zakk Bluford it says, “Comics often depict realistic human life; Harvey Pekar’s series American Splendor follows the seemingly mundane life of its writer, a Cleveland resident who can’t find a way out of financial instability. Pekar manages to transplant poignant moments and life lessons into what seems like the worst possible idea for a storyline.” Real life and shows poignant moments that are life lessons could not hurt students but in the long term, there is still controversy over the use of graphic novels.
Controversy over graphic novels comes mainly because people would get stuck reading these graphic novels and never become interested in other novels which are actually required in the school education system. As said by Jonathan Liu,” The act of reading comics is different than that of reading prose–just as watching a movie isn’t the same thing as reading the book it’s based on. They exercise different parts of the brain, and my daughter hasn’t been flexing her prose comprehension muscle very much.” This point really hits key points that the school education requires prose our traditional novels and how it is said in the article that the daughter had struggles reading and continuing to read prose novels when before she went through them very quick because of the introduction of reading graphic novels.
To refute this claim I would have to say that to make my point clear the introduction of the graphic novels wouldn’t stop prose novels all the way and I’m not hating on this story which is so well told. Teaching through different genre uses a different part of the brain. Backing up it with this, “ Each year, educators try to find new strategies to increase reading scores. What’s surprising is how many strategies ignore an essential component to improving reading — consistent, willing practice.” This practice as stated comes out of reading graphic novels and as becoming mixed in with the English culture but it also comes out of every genre even the smallest ones.
Every dream starts with a creator and this education could improve with the introduction of graphic novels which would bring a new sense of enjoyment to want to learn it would develop the student's basics already learned in schools. It would also introduce people to a new genre and new points of view of the world because these books are written in almost every country. Isn’t it enough to have a student read instead of forcing them to read what you want them to read? That is a question that should be thought out in the mind, to fulfill a dream to paint the picture and to teach the kid how to fly.

Works Cited
"Are Graphic Novels Appropriate for the Classroom?" Concordia University-Portland Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Bluford, Zakk. "Graphic Novels Should Be Taught More in English Classes." The Mirador. N.p., 05 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Bryner, Jeanna. "Most Students Bored at School." LiveScience. Porch, 28 Feb. 2007. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Collins, Sean T. "The 33 Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time." Thrillist. Thrillist, 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Haines, Jennifer. "Why Teach with Comics?" Reading with Pictures. Diamond Bookshelf, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Liu, Jonathan H. "Why My Daughter Isn't Allowed to Read Comics." GeekDad. N.p., 19 Apr. 2015. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Miller, Tyler, Kyle Redford, Noodle Staff, and Written By Tyler Miller Tyler Miller Is a Freelance Writer and Certified Educator in the State of. "Kaplow! Should You Let Your Kids Read Comics and Graphic Novels?" Noodle. N.p., 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

book 22

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was very conflicted about what to rate this. There were parts I liked. Parts that drove me crazy and at the end of the day, this was a lot of people talking, not a lot of action for nearly seven hundred pages. The story has a definite frame. We have Cort, a bartender, newish in town and Bast, his apprentice of sorts. The story starts slowly inside the Waystone Inn that he owns, mostly the townspeople in drinking and telling stories when a demon-like thing attacks one of them. Cort seems to know more but we don’t know it until a storyteller arrives who guesses who Cort is, Kvothe a man of legend.

And he wants Kvothe’s story. He gets it, albeit reluctantly. It takes a while to realize that the blurb on the back of the book is the legend and the truth, the story Kvothe is telling is vastly different. All of these hundreds of pages is about his life from early childhood until he’s about sixteen.

Kvothe is a child prodigy excelling in Sympathy (their version of magic) and music among other things. He lucks into a teacher at a young age but life in the traveling actors guild he’s part of takes a very bad bounce, leaving him in harsh circumstances. Eventually he gets to the university which he wanted to attend but life there is even harder and stupider.

It’s impossible to sum up in a review a book this long and without spoiling it. I can say that if you’re looking for females, you’re not going to find any until about half way through and I’m still not sure how I feel about Denna other than she does illustrate how hard it is for women in a society equivalent to pretty much any European one prior to the 20th century, i.e. beholden to a man for nearly everything. There are a few women at the university though.

I did like Kvothe even if things do come a little too easy for him in so many things. He is smart and determined and he does good and loyal things to his friends. He has the tragic back story I’m a sucker for. And he’s not perfect (I’ve seen some reviewers calling him a Mary Sue but I disagree, he screwed up a lot and things definitely don’t always go his way. Being highly intelligent does not make you a Sue). On the other hand I didn’t like a lot of things about the university. Without spoiling too much let me say whipping people with a cat o’nine tails is a thing in this and the university never bothers to tell its students anything.

Kvothe runs afoul of university rules literally on day one and is punished severely more than once. It seems counterproductive and outrightly asinine to inflict potentially fatal wounds (keeping in mind antibiotics are not a thing here) on students without explaining ANY of the rules. They just let the students go with no orientation and if you break a rule you don’t know well you should have some how knew and report to the whipping post. Idiotic. If I didn’t need a story within a story book and if I didn’t like Kvothe, I would have stopped right here. It feels like lazy world building which isn’t in evidence elsewhere. Rothfuss’s world building is very good otherwise.

The other thing that annoyed me was that the ending just rambled off with a ‘well day one of my three day story is over.’ I hate that sort of thing. I knew I should have guessed that because it did say ‘day one’ in the beginning (but I didn’t see that for some reason until much later).

I don’t think this story is for everyone. I don’t think it’s as great as many movers and shakers in Fantasy seem to think it is. I did, however, like it and would have given it a 3.5 if you could do half stars. Will I read the next two in the series? Yes I’ll at least read book 2 but it will take me some time to get into it. I need a bit of a break (one huge book in a 6 month period is enough).

View all my reviews


A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will

The introduction by Pastor Joshua Harris alone was enough to grab my attention:

"It is God's will that you read this book".

Harris almost immediately admits that this was a joke, but it sets up the generally humourous tone of this Christian book, which disspells many of the myths around knowing what God wants of you and how He is the one who guides all of your steps.

I liked the way that this book shows that we don't have to look to see what God's will is in every situation in life, just anything where we don't know what to do when faced with a big decision. Although this felt like it was aimed more at younger readers, I still found it useful, and I liked the final message that the most important things are obeying the Gospel and then doing what seems right to us.

Next book: Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker



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