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This week I read a few more books.

First was Osprey Vanguard #20: The Tiger Tanks; I think I see why they stopped the Vanguard series and moved onto the New Vanguard series. The former were seriously technical while the latter has a bit more history to them. In any case I like the newer series better in general. This one discusses the Tiger tanks pretty well, German from WWII.

Next I read Herbs: A Global History, there's a bit of history here, but mostly this is a list of herbs and a discussion of the difference between an herb and a spice.

Then it was Osprey Vanguard #21: The PzKpfw V Panther. More German tanks. The Tigers were heavy tanks, while the Panthers were medium. Apparently mechanically unreliable, unfortunately for those who had to drive them.

And that was all I had time for. I did take the time to update Goodreads as to all the various books I'm reading partially. One thing I did do was touch on every single book in the Currently Reading stack; this may be why I didn't finish one or two more books this week.

I suspect I'll get even more done next week...

Book 47

Title: Without Light or Guide
Author: T. Frohock
Series: part two of "Los Nefilim", follows In Midnight's Silence
Pages: 104
Summary: The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Always holding themselves aloft from the affairs of mortals, Los Nefilim have thrived for eons. But with the Spanish Civil War looming, their fragile independence is shaken by the machinations of angels and daimons… and a half-breed caught in-between.

For although Diago Alvarez has pledged his loyalty to Los Nefilim, there are many who don't trust his daimonic blood. And with the re-emergence of his father—a Nefil who sold his soul to a daimon — the fear is Diago will soon follow the same path.

Yet even as Diago tries to prove his allegiance, events conspire that only fuel the other Nefilim's suspicions — including the fact that every mortal Diago has known in Barcelona is being brutally murdered.

The second novella in T. Frohock's Los Nefilim series, Without Light or Guide continues Diago's journey through a world he was born into, yet doesn't quite understand.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )


Book 46

Title: The Fellowship of the Ring
Author: J.R.R.Tolkien
Pages: 535
Summary: In a sleepy village in the Shire, a young hobbit is entrusted with an immense task. He must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ruling Ring of Power - the only thing that prevents the Dark Lord Sauron's evil dominion.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )

Book 32 - Still Life by Louise Penny

As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life - all except one…

To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead?

In a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté du Quebec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets…

This book was on my TBR list for a year or so, but as usual it took a little push to move it to the top. That push came in early September when I went to a book signing event for her latest offering (A Great Reckoning). I was sufficiently intrigued by Inspector Gamache and the village of Three Pines that I wanted to dive right in there, but the consensus on litsy and bookriot was that this series would be better consumed in order. Furthermore, the first one is set in October, so I figured it was a good chance to read them in concert with the same season. (Though I technically missed Canadian Thanksgiving by about a week, I figured it was close enough!)

I liked this book a lot but didn't love it. The setting and characters are charming but not cloying, and the author has a knack for distilling personalities into just a sentence or two. The story is well paced, but there are a few minor nagging questions as well as a blatant usage error that turned up more than once. I'm willing to chalk these up to editing problems for now and continue with the series. The next one is set at Christmas, which is about when I should expect to get it from the library.

On a related note, I recently learned that the author's husband, who had been ill for some time, passed away about a month ago. May he rest in peace.

Books #75-76

Book #75 was "Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity," a collection of essays edited by Matt (Matilda) Bernstein Sycamore. I really adored this collection of essays that touches on various types of "passing" -- whether it's passing as a specific gender or as a specific racial/ethnic identity or as disabled or able-bodied, and often by authors dealing with a variety of different identities and group affiliations that may or may not be in conflict. Some of the essays were created from roundtable discussions while others were in a single voice. Some were quite academic while others were written in down-to-earth personal narratives. They address issues such as traveling by plane while a cross-dresser or trans, being trans in prison, how claiming an ethnic identity informs claiming a gender identity, and more. I loved the intersectionality going on in these essays. I found the collection challenging and yet readable and hope that other queer/gender theory books of this quality are out there to be discovered. Highly recommended to anyone interested in social justice, gender identity and LGBT issues.

Book #76 was "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons. This book was on a list of classics I wanted to read at some point, and after I saw the movie adaptation (with an adorable baby Kate Beckinsale, a cheerfully oblivious Stephen Fry, and minor roles filled by Sir Ian McKellen and Rufus Sewell, among other casting gold) I knew I wanted to read it. It's funny from the foreword, which touches on Gibbons history as a newspaper writer before switching to prose and poetry. The story concerns Flora Poste, a young woman who becomes orphaned at 19 and goes to live with relatives in the country. Instead of them helping the poor orphan girl, she ends up as the village busybody helping everyone on the farm, from young Elfine whose wild girl ways are keeping her from marrying a young Lord, to old Aunt Ada Doom who was driven crazy by seeing "something nasty in the woodshed" when she was two. It's a spoof of melodramatic "salt-of-the-earth" novels popular in the 1920s and 30s, so some familiarity with them will make some of her rhetorical devices make more sense -- otherwise it simply looks like the author enjoys writing in purple prose. Though I found this a tad dated, it was a funny and easy read, not at all a dry and deadly dull "classic" novel.

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

Books 118-119

The Devil"s WhisperThe Devil's Whisper by Miyuki Miyabe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure what I was expecting but it wasn't quite this. I wanted to try reading something other than American and British mysteries (and the Scandinavian ones just aren't cutting it for me) so I got this one from Japan (I read a ton of manga so why not try out some actual novels). It's a 3.5 read for the most part and it's definitely better translated than a lot of the light novels that accompany manga (i.e. they didn't just translate it, they made sure it read smoothly in English).

There are two story lines that dove tail in this. One concerns three young women who died in quick succession of apparent suicides or accidents, the last one running out in front of the main character's uncle's taxi. Mamoru has had a rough life. His father stole a bunch of company money and disappeared with Mamoru was so young he can't even remember what he looks like, leaving his mother and him to bare the shame (and in Japan the idea that a bad father equals bad kids is even more ingrained than here). More than a decade later Mamoru is still picked on in school because of it even though he now lives in the Tokyo area with his aunt and uncle who changed his surname (after his mother's death).

Mamoru's uncle is detained in jail for days because he hit her and no one could prove the light was green and she ran out in the road which surprised me giving how techie Japan is until it hit me to go look at the copyright date on this. Yeah, this was printed in 1989 so no street cams and later, one of the big twists is so caught up in the fears of subliminal advertising that people had in the 70s and 80s (honest fears it could make you do things against your will. I remember that from my childhood).

Anyhow as Mamoru tries to find somehow to prove his uncle's innocence, he is drawn into this web, finding out that this girl was friends with the other two girls who have died and that they were involved in a scam, girlfriend for hire where they take the men for all they're worth. But how could they be made to kill themselves? Mamoru attempts to learn this with the aid of his boss at the bookstore he works in (one of the people who doesn't ostracize him due to his father) and the skills he learned from Gramps. There isn't a lock that can stand up to him.

Mamoru is a sympathetic character and the mystery is interesting if a bit slow in the beginning. The ending is a bit of a morality play. I did like this.

View all my reviews

Run for Your Life (Michael Bennett, #2)Run for Your Life by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second in this series I've tried and it was better than the first if you ignore the pure Hollywood craptacular ending (seriously it felt like Patterson & Ledwidge sat there thinking bet they make a movie of this so let's give it an action film ending. One star all the way). I've been reading this out of order and didn't realize this was #2. Maybe if I had read the first it would make more sense but it seems odd, knowing what little I do about adoption that anyone would allow for ten kids to be adopted by a single income family especially when the Dad is going to be gone all the time. Honestly I don't find his family to be distracting and not really adding much to this other than enforcing gender stereotypes (not to mention Catholic ones as he leaves the care of his kids to the uber Irish Catholic Mary). Especially in this one as they all have the stomach flu and we get endless descriptions of where they've puked and how often.

The serial killer in this, the Teacher, is interesting, killing people who service the rich (and are snotty as they do it) to 'teach' them a lesson. His motivation is weak but at least the mystery is interesting IF you ignore the fact that this all opened with a hostage negotiation where the criminal was killed by a sniper and the police (including Bennet) were blamed. And we never hear about this again, never figure out who that sniper is. In fact the only time we hear about this is all the protests cropping up everywhere including in front of Bennet's house (really? He's not even worried about this) so his kids can tell the protestors they're poopy heads or some nonsense.

I think I'm done with this series. It's not for me. Too bad since I really liked the Alex Cross series.

And a spoiler of a sorts for the ending (look away now if you don't want to know). Shooting their way onto an air field (with Bennet as hostage) then stealing a small plane and flying all over NYC with the intent of crashing it into some rich person's place and them fighting in the cockpit before ditching in the river and Bennet somehow not dying. Head desk.

View all my reviews
Russ follows the story of the revolution that ended the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands. The book chronicles how the government leaders established a stable nation and maintained a semblance of democracy to convince the United States that Hawaii was worthy of joining the Union.

This book was a slow, painful read, delving into monotonous minutia--there's even a full chapter on a congressional filibuster--but there was also genuinely useful information. Therefore, I read on. This book--like its predecessor--is valuable but must be regarded within the context of the time it was written, when Hawaii became a state in the 1050s. The introduction explains this rather bluntly: that Russ approached his research as a blatant nationalist and didn't really consider the opinions of native Hawaiians, whose thoughts were largely undocumented. The choice of words dates the work, too--"Oriental" is often used. Russ asserts that Hawaii became an American territory when it did because of the Spanish-American war and the need for a reliable coaling station in the Pacific. He discusses the racial issues of the time; many in Congress resisted admitting Hawaii because of its dark-skinned, pagan population and its high numbers of Japanese and Chinese laborers. Japan had imperialist interests in Hawaii in the 1890s; Russ goes as far as calling Hawaii a "Japanese colony," though that extreme viewpoint could be argued.

Other areas (that are tediously explored) involve the back and forth manipulation to discourage Royalists and the major effort to run a trans-Pacific cable to Hawaii.

This set of books is not one that I would recommend unless you are really in need of nitty-gritty details about the politics of Hawaii at the start of the 20th century. While thoroughly cited, it is undoubtedly biased toward the American viewpoint, though at the end the author skips ahead in a major way to praise the diversity of Hawaii and how people have come together.

This is another comic book series regarding the X-Files, which I'm guessing was written after the Season 10 and 11 comics, and it might be intended to fit closer to the series canon following the televised 10th season.

Not afraid to include a controversial subject matter, the comic addresses the current issue of Islamophobia, which has been rife for the last 15 years, and opens with a suicide bombing, although there is a hint that it isn't all that it seems; the last few frames of the opening sequence show close ups of the bomber's eyes and my understanding of it was that he is infected with the black alien oil, although this is something that is still difficult to show clearly in graphic novel form.

Sure enough, we later see that the man's true intentions weren't to set off a suicide bomb, which is good as I'd initially thought the comic was a simple retread of the recent episode, "Babylon". Instead, the comic introduces some sinister figures in a parking garage.

This is part one of a longer story, and this part is entitled "Came Back Haunted". While this one did feel overly talky, mostly due to some scenes that took place in Skinner's office, it did have a quite shocking ending that has left me want to go out and buy the next issue.

Next book: Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe
Last Week, She Was Working Open Mics. Now She’s Headed to Outer Space.

Rookie Genrenaut Leah Tang gets her first taste of space flight when the team scrambles to fix a story breach in Science Fiction World, the domain of starships, weird aliens, and galactic intrigue.

On the space station Ahura-3, Ambassador Kaylin Reed is on the verge of securing a peace treaty to guarantee the end of hostilities between some of the galaxy's most ferocious races. When Ambassador Reed is kidnapped the morning before the signing, it throws the station into chaos.

So now it’s up to Leah and her team to save the day and put the story to rights.

At any cost.

The second episode of Genrenauts, a science fiction series in novellas. If you like Leverage, Redshirts, or Quantum Leap, check out Genrenauts for a brand-new adventure.

"If you like the TV show Leverage or the books of Jasper Fforde, Genrenauts is absolutely the series for you. Exploring genre tropes while saving the world has never been more fun." — Between the Covers

I read this as an early draft, so it was great to read it again in polished form. Underwood's Genrenauts series pays tribute to scifi crossed with other genres as his heroes work to "fix" broken storylines that create dangerous ripple effects on Earth. This is the most scif-fi of the novellas since they must go to a science fiction world. To me, it reads as a loving send-up to Babylon 5 and other similar shows, and I love it. There's action, political intrigue, and humor galore. Since it's a novella, it's a fast read.


In this NOVELLA set in The World of the Five Gods and four years after the events in “Penric’s Demon”, Penric is a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a “Locator" of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric’s roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.

I adored the first Penric novella--and a return visit to the setting of the Curse of Chalion--and this second novella delivered almost as much joy. This time, Penric is a bit older and more accustomed to his resident demon, but he has much to learn as he's called to help in a case of a rendered spirit and a shaman run amok. I love the theology Bujold created here--really, I could geek out over that alone, but the characters are fantastic, too. It was especially interesting to see how Penric was viewed through the eyes of other characters.

This is another addition to my awards-consideration list for 2016. I'm going to face some tough decisions in the novella category.
In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard's Star, a recently hired maintenance man has just committed murder.

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn't commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

Unexpected Rain blends the science fiction and mystery genres for a unique twist. LaPier's two detectives--one police officer gone rogue, one framed mass murder suspect--make for a good team as they romp through deep space in search of answers. I did think the plot made some logical leaps at a few points, and some space pirates make an all-too-brief appearance that threatens to steal the show.The resolution is satisfactory, with plentiful who-dunnit twists.


Summary:A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles nearer, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

I received this book through the publisher via Netgalley. It is not being released until January 2017.

The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books of the year. It is magical and cozy and utterly perfect. Arden evokes numerous Russian folktales about the spirits of hearth and forest and brings those beings into direct confrontation with Christianity. Russia itself figures as a setting and a character; this is a book that will make you feel the intense, deadly cold of a Russian winter—with the undead on the prowl.

Vasya is the heroine, a girl who carries on the magical legacy of her mother by being able to communicate with the spirits around her. The immediately evokes some tropes—you know that the village will likely come after her with torches and pitchforks—but the book still engages and surprises. Vasya is fantastic and strong, a young woman who will never be content to idle at home and bear sons. I loved her all the more when she formed a special bond with horses. FYI: magical horses come into play. I was reading this on a plane and I had to resist the girlish urge to squeal in joy.

Let me make clear, though, that this isn't a novel that is all light fairytales and enchanted horses. No, this book gets DARK. Like I mentioned earlier, the undead are roaming about in the thick of winter. It's intense, horrific at times, but it doesn't dwell there long because Vasya is in control of her own fate. She won't let her own story dwell in the darkness.

One of my other favorite books this year was The Queen of Blood by Sara Beth Durst. If you love that book, do yourself a great kindness and get The Bear and the Nightingale. They both feature brilliant, fresh takes with magic, blood, and powerful women.
This is that other collection of Harry Potter character biographies from Pottermore, published in Kindle form. This one is based on heroic characters, and has lengthy sections on Professor Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. In contrast to the other Kindle title, I noticed there was a lot of material that seemed original, with one of my favourite moments involving a portrait Professor McGonagall had installed in Hogwarts after Harry Potter spoke to her in confidence.

[Spoiler? I know the end of the series is almost ten years old but just in case...]The portrait is of Professor Snape, who killed Dumbledore and appeared to be evil; as the final book proved, this was not true, but I guess not too many at Hogwarts knew the truth, as it is described as a controversial move.

There are two short biographies at the end, about Professor Trelawney and Syvanus Kettleburn (I wasn't sure who this was - he is Hagrid's predecessor). There were also some fascinating insights into other aspects of wizadry, with my favourite being the essay on polyjuice potions.

I was surprised not to see anything about Sirius Black in this e-book, but maybe JK will publish some more; we need biographies of Snape, Hagrid and Dumbledore too, but maybe I should check out Pottermore again.

Next book: The X-Files Issue 6 (Joe Harris, Matthew Dow Smith & Jordie Bellaire)

Books #73-74

Book #73 was "Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex" by Eoin Colfer  as an audiobook. I do love this series but felt like this book was a weak link. Artemis has big plans to make the world better, but while he's convened with his fairy friends, they're suddenly attacked by an unknown enemy who tries to drop a space probe on their heads. Artemis's friends are in trouble this time, because Artemis has "Atlantis Complex," a mental condition caused by guilt (of which Artemis has a lot for his past misdeeds against the fairy folk) that manifests as obsessive-compulsive disorder plus paranoid thoughts and even split personalities. Since Artemis "isn't quite himself" for almost the entire book, it's a little disappointing, since his Semi-evil Genius plots and hijinks are much of what make the books fun, and I saw a pivotal plot point coming a mile away. However, even a weak book in this series is still full of fun and fart jokes (dwarven thief Mulch Diggum's rear end plays a pivotal role in yet another book) and I do like that characters grow and change over the course of the series despite it being mostly a silly, light entertainment. I'm looking forward to listening to the final installment of the series soon.

Book #74 was "The Comfort of Strangers" by Ian McEwan. This is a very slim novel, only 129 pages in paperback, but it is packed full of creepy and disturbing but beautiful writing. Mary and Colin are an English couple on holiday in Venice, Italy. They care about each other but have become a little bored of their life. While exploring the city, they run into Robert, a friendly and charismatic man who owns a bar in the city. He introduces them to his wife, Caroline, who has a chronic bad back and is virtually a prisoner in her home, and tells them strange stories of his domineering father and sadistic older sisters. Mary and Colin are both excited by their interaction with the couple and also a little frightened of them. Still, they feel drawn to visit the couple again, and find out just how twisted Robert and Caroline are. Even before things got really ominous about 2/3 of the way through the book, it had a creepy air of impending doom. I'd read "Atonement" by McEwan earlier this year, and it's a more mature novel, but a lot of his trademarks are already in place in this short, earlier novel -- finely drawn characters with intricate and perverse motivations, beautiful prose, descriptions that are sharply drawn with just a few words or phrases, and loads of atmosphere. I really admired this book and want to seek out even more by McEwan.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
A few more days, a few more books.

First of all, I read what I guess wasn't so much a book as a short story by Larry Niven called A Relic of Empire which dabbled in his Known Space series of stories; not bad.

Next was The Great Revolt by Paul Doherty which was a mystery set in Medieval London. These books are fairly formulaic, but what I enjoy about them is how well he does the setting. Again, not bad.

Then there was Osprey Raid #31: Gothic Serpent: Black Hawk Down Mogadishu 1993, the event that led to the movie Black Hawk Down. Considering how short these Ospreys are, they did a good job of going in depth to set up the political climate locally so as to better understand how it all happened. Pretty solid read, recommended.

Finally, I had seen a recommendation online for a book called Torchship by Karl K. Gallagher. In a positive way, it's like reading a Traveller adventure even if the tech situation isn't quite the same. It was a fun read and a quick one and there's apparently already a sequel which the book sets up nicely, so I need to get onto Amazon and order it. I found it a fun SF novel worth reading.

And so onto the next week!

As the title suggests, this is a prequel comic book series to The X-Files (similar to shows like Smallville and Gotham really), and tells of the exploits of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as teenagers. Some of the content is taken from the series canon, while others (mostly the main characters' teenage friends) are completely original.

I had not read issue 1; this was a present from a trip to the US and purchased in a comic shop out there, but there were useful recaps about what happened previously. The comic is set up so that on one side you have Scully's story, and then you turn over to the other side to read Mulder's. Unlike the series by Joe Harris, this also appears to be aimed at younger audiences.

Scully's story features Captain Bill Scully, who was killed off in his first appearance on the show, and principally involves young Dana Scully investigating the death of her Sunday School teacher (referenced in the show's 7th season, in the episode "Orison"). Fox Mulder's story involves the discovery of what may be alien blood after Fox and his friends follow a mysterious girl into the woods; it also takes place shortly after the abduction of Samantha Mulder.

Overall, I liked the way the teenage versions of both main characters are characterised; there was some crossover between the two stories, mostly because of a character who showed up in both of them, and I am not sure if the plan is to intertwine the plots even further, although I am hoping the writers aren't planning to rewrite the show's backstory by having the teenage versions of Mulder and Scully meet.

I do intend to obtain further issues from this series and see how far it goes; it does feel like something that could be turned into a TV show for kids, and I am keen to find out what happens next.

Next book: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (J.K. Rowling)
On the coldest morning of the year, Vicki Myron found a tiny, bedraggled kitten almost frozen to death in the night drop box of the library where she worked, and her life - and the town of Spencer, Iowa - would never be the same.

Vicki was a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm and an alcoholic, abusive husband. But her biggest challenge as the new head librarian in Spencer was to raise the spirits of a small, out-of-the-way town mired deep in the farm crisis of the 1980s.

Dewey, as the townspeople named the kitten, quickly grew into a strutting, adorable library cat whose antics kept patrons in stitches, and whose sixth sense about those in need created hundreds of deep and loving friendships.

As his fame grew, people drove hundreds of miles to meet Dewey, and people all over the world fell in love with him. Through it all, Dewey remained a loyal companion, a beacon of hope not just for Vicki, but for the entire town of Spencer as it slowly, steadily pulled itself up from the worst financial crisis in its long history.

Dewey won hearts and proved to everyone he encountered that unconditional love comes in many forms.

I don't have much to add to this description. After reading a couple intense thrillers and with everything that's going on in the world these days, I wanted to read something heart-warming, and this book fit the bill. That's not to say it's all sweetness and light -- there are challenges and difficulties throughout -- but it's about a cat ... and a library. It's also about a town down on its luck that comes together as a community, which is at least a little bit thanks to the library and its unlikely resident feline. The writing is a little uneven and unpolished at times, but the story is sweet and touching.

Number of pages: 170

I read this book a few years ago but felt like re-reading it, and enjoyed it still on the second reading.

This book gives a simplistic overview of the Bible, and the message it gives, by splitting it into eight sections as it sets out the state of God's kingdom and His people at all points in the Bible, while showing what point that we have reached in our own timeline.

It felt like a very well-researched and comprehensive book, and I've always enjoyed Vaughan Roberts' writing.

Next book: The X-Files Origins Issue 2 by Matthew Dow Smith and Jody Houser

Books #71-72

Book #71 was "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi. In this future, agricultural megacorps have loosed gene-hacked plants and bugs on the world, and plagues have swept the globe, causing famine and wrecking the global economy. In the scramble for viable calories, Thailand seems to be an oasis where existing strains are thriving and old once-thought-dead plants are being brought back to life. Here, people with a variety of agendas are competing against each other, the Thai government and mutated plagues. Scientists have also created a race of lab-grown humans called "New People" or windups. One of those windups, Emiko, was treasured in Japan but, abandoned in Thailand, is scorned for being a non-natural organism. The Environmental Ministry and the Trad Ministry are jockeying for power while foreigners are trying to steal the secrets that are keeping Thailand afloat in the chaos. I found this book somewhat flawed. One flaw is that there is a shortage of likeable characters. People are greedy, corrupt and out for themselves. One of the characters who is closest to a "pure soul" is dead half-way through the book. Another flaw is the way Emiko's sexual degredation is handled. I felt it was entirely too explicit and that a woman author would have handled it differently. On the plus side, it's chock full of interesting ideas, playing out the potential consequences of gene-hacking that's being done today, and I felt like I learned something about Thai culture from reading it as well. I liked this well enough that I'd be interested in reading more by the author.

Book #72 was "The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage" by Sydney Padua. Padua starts with the real story behind two of the earliest parents of computer science, Charles Babbage and Ada, Countess of Lovelace (and daughter of Lord Byron), and then imagines what they might have done if they'd lived long enough to actually build Babbage's "Analytical Engine." This book is a bit heavy on science, math and footnotes, but the book could be enjoyed while just skimming those elements. The drawing style is very fun steampunk and the book contains a wealth of anecdotes about other scientists and eccentrics of the time. I loved, loved, loved this and recommend it highly.

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

book 116-117

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes #1-4)Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been hearing a lot about Lumberjanes and it's definitely not what I was expecting. It's about a girls' camp and has a strong supernatural vein in it (yetis, three eyed foxes,talking statues and more). I confess I thought I had come in mid-series and was a bit surprised that this was volume 1. I didn't feel like I got to know the characters well and thought I should have already known them by the way it was written.

There's the petite but very strong, April, the mohawked Mal and Molly (both of whom along with Jo seem to be the oldest and they might be a couple), Jo who with Molly seem to be the brains and Ripley who likes to run and kick things.

After an encounter with a pack of three-eyed foxes who leave the message 'Beware the Kitten Holy," the girls set off on a series of crazy adventures. Over all I enjoyed the story line though I wish the characters were better defined because I don't feel like I know them outside of the broad strokes I shared above. I am not a fan of the art at all, it's not my style but it was effective in one spot where Ripley's idea was shot down and she is hurt and it managed to convey that she is used to being taken as the muscle, not the brains and Molly managed to make her feel better so kudos for that. I'll be looking forward to seeing some more and getting to know the girls better.

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The Lost Islands (Explorer, #2)The Lost Islands by Kazu Kibuishi

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was disappointed by this collection. Like the first Explorer collection, it's a graphic novel anthology based on a single theme, Lost Islands. Putting aside that most of them weren't 'lost' these stories didn't have much depth and the art was lacking, some was downright ugly (the one with the dark-skinned islander with the bizarre wide noses and huge lips bothered me)

I did like Loah, about a fish and Radio Adrift (this was my favorite). The one with the ghost crab was fun too but over all it's a forgettable bunch and I'm glad this was a library rental.

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Book #50: Coot Club by Arthur Ransome

Number of pages: 352

The fifth book in the Swallows and Amazons series was a completely blind read for me, as I have an old copy that does not contain a plot synopsis (I did not bother to check online).

When I read the previous installment, Winter Holiday, I said that I wanted to see more of the new characters, Dick and Dorothea Callum; this felt like a case of "be careful what you wish for", as they took central roles in this book, while there was no sign of any of the original characters, although there were brief mentions of Nancy and Roger.

I was annoyed at first, because I felt characters like Nancy, Roger and Titty were the best written of all, so this felt like a weird spin-off novel.

The story opens with Dick and Dorothea boarding a train bound for the Norfolk Broads, where they meet the other central character, Tom, who belongs to the titular Coot Club, a group of naturalists who protect the birds on the Broads.

The new setting does at least make this another book that feels very different from its predecessors.

Inevitably, Tom ends up playing a large part in Dick and Dorotheas' holiday, particularly when he gets on the wrong side of a group known as the "Hullabaloos", who appear to be potential troublemakers, particularly when he unhitches their boat from its mooring and allows it to drift away. Tom is promptly seen as an outlaw (he seemed almost like an eco-terrorist to me), and Dick and Dorothea spend most of the story trying to protect him from the Hullabaloos, who act as though he has a price on his head by apparently hunting them across the Broads. They even seem to constantly pop up in unexpected places, just as the main characters think they have escaped.

Despite my early misgivings about this book, I kept reading and I started to find it becoming more enjoyable towards the end, as it built up to an exciting, and unexpected climax. I intend to keep reading the series, although I am hoping that this book did not represent a decision to "retire" the original characters for good, and that they will appear in the next title.

Next book: God's Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

Oct. 11th, 2016

Book #69 was "Blue Lily, Lily Blue" by Maggie Stiefvater, 3rd book in The Raven Cycle, as an audiobook. In this installment of the series, things are getting seriously dangerous. Blue's mother has disappeared, attempts to find her and Owain Glyndwr's tomb are frustrated at every turn, and it's getting harder and harder for various characters to keep secrets from one another. The stakes are very high in this book, but it still has its trademark moments of humor. Each of the main characters and many of the secondary ones are growing and changing over the course of the series. While this does feel like a lead-up to the final book in the series, it's quite satisfying on its own, like the previous two in the series. I love this series so hard. I think Maggie is an all-around good writer: characterization and character growth, scene-setting, plotting are all good to great and the prose is lovely. I also dig Will Patton as the reader for the audibooks in this series. I'm both excited for the last book and sad that my time with these characters will be coming to a close. Here's a trailer for the first book in the series.

Book #70 was "Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence" by John Hockenberry. Hockenberry's book is primarily about his life as a working journalist (NPR, ABC, etc.) who happens to be in a wheelchair. He doesn't let his paraplegia get in the way of covering war zones, Middle East conflicts, or any other story he's interested in. It's funny, but he's also angry through a lot of the book and doesn't cover up his personality flaws that sometimes push friends and lovers away. Case in point: When a New York cabbie refuses to put Hockenberry's wheelchair in the trunk, Hockenberry basically destroys the cabbie's taxi with his bare hands. In some ways, Hockenberry is the prototypical crip with a chip on his shoulder, but he's so insightful about disability issues in general and his own foibles and flaws that he's very sympathetic. Some of the politics in the book are outdated by now (it was published in 1995), but overall, it is an exceptionally interesting and fun read.

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

Book 115

The Six-Gun Tarot (Golgotha, #1)The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this Weird West story very much (with one rather big exception). At first I thought it was going to be the story of a fifteen year old boy, Jim Negry, who is dying with his horse, Promise, in the harsh desert known as the 40-mile as he struggles to get to Virginia City in Nevada. The first three chapters are about him, a little bit about why he's on the run and about his rescue by the deputy of Golgatha, Mutt.

But after that it quickly became something else. It reminded me in a way of a Stephen King story where there are a ton of characters and you bounce back and forth between them. If that bugs you, definitely give this one a pass. As for me, I enjoy that sort of thing if it's done well and it is here though it does get slow a bit here and there.

Jim finds that Golgatha isn't just a silver boom town gone bust, nor is it just a Mormon folly. It has some truly bizarre things going on. Mutt is a half-breed Native American but his father isn't what the townspeople think: he's actually the son of Coyote the Trickster. Jon Highfalter, the sheriff, has been hung three times and survived. It's just not his time. There is a woman who might be the best warrior in town thanks to some of Lillith's magic, an Angel waiting for God to forgive him, gay lovers wishing they could be free, and to all this Jim brings the bizarre glass eye a group of Chinese gave his father who had been injured in the Civil War.

In fact each chapter for the first half the book flips back and forth between the characters and between present and past but it all slowly weaves together to illuminate the danger, an ancient evil, older than God and a group of Golgothians are out to awake it and destroy the world. Jim, Mutt, Jon and the others have to stop it.

It's over all a good Weird West (I wouldn't call it Steampunk like some of the reviews on the cover. There really isn't any Steamy elements other than some of Clay the taxidermists creations). I liked all the characters very much.

My problem is I wish the ancient evil had been left just that, nameless ancient evil but there was some attempts to hook it into the evil serpent legends to be found among several western Native tribes. So it came off like Christianity (with a big assist from a Chinese god) beating up a Native spirit. I don't think that was the actual intention but it can certainly be read that way and that made me highly uncomfortable.

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Hello! I have been without internet at home for several years and LJ isn't great on my phone, so I haven't been active at all lately. I normally track my books in a paper notebook, but I actually haven't done that much at all this year, so I'm not exactly sure where I am.

A few recent readsCollapse )
Looking forward to challenging myself again, and seeing what everyone's reading.
Another week, a few more books.

The first book I finished reading since I last posted was Osprey Fortress #37: D-Day Fortifications in Normandy. The series of books had already dealt with the Atlantic Wall as well as other German WWII fortifications, but I guess that the editors decided to do another one detailing in specific the set up on the beaches of Normandy. It felt a little repetitive since I'd read the other books, but in and of itself it was fine.

Next I read Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope, Berke Breathed's new work since he's been posting the cartoon on the Internet. Great work!

Then it was The Fighting 30th Division: They Called Them Roosevelt's SS. Now, I know that I'm fascinated by WWII history, and that for me to read some esoteric item about a small portion of the saga isn't unusual, but this book had a very different feel for me because this was the division that my father's uncle was attached to during the war. He was in the US Army Medical Corps; he was given a medal for his work. So reading about the battles that his division had fought, in the words of the survivors really struck me. A solid read.

The next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #34: The Waffen-SS. It's interesting to note that nearly an entire page of the book was devoted to apologizing for writing in detail about these vicious men who epitomize brutal warfare. I guess my own emotions about that aspect of WWII colored my feelings as I read it.

Then, Osprey New Vanguard #19: Sturmgeschutz: Assault Gun 1940 - 1942 was next. I've seen a later iteration of this basic vehicle on display at a museum at Fort Knox, so I found the read fairly interesting, though once again it's pretty technical.

On to another book!

Book 30 - Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

Nick Heller has returned to his old home town of Boston to set up his own shop. There he’s urgently summoned by an old family friend. Hedge fund titan Marshall Marcus desperately needs Nick’s help. His teenaged daughter, Alexa, has just been kidnapped. Her abduction was clearly a sophisticated professional job, done with extraordinary precision. Alexa, whom Nick has known since she was young, is now buried alive, held prisoner in an underground crypt, a camera trained on her, her suffering streaming live over the internet. She’s been left with a limited supply of food and water and, if her father doesn’t meet the demands of her shadowy kidnappers, she’ll die. And as Nick begins to probe, he discovers that all is not quite right with Marshall Marcus’s business. He’s being investigated by the FBI, he has a lot of shady investors, his fund is in danger and now he has a lot of powerful enemies who may have the motivation to go after Marcus’s daughter. But to find out who’s holding Alexa Marcus hostage, Nick has to find out why. Once he does, he uncovers an astonishing conspiracy that reaches far beyond anything he could have imagined. And if he’s going to find Alexa in time, he will have to flush out and confront some of his deadliest opponents ever.

This is the selection for next month's mystery book club at my library. I'd classify it more of a thriller than a conventional mystery, but I liked the book in any case. It's the second in the series but can also stand alone. I heard an interview with the author a few months ago when the third book came out, and I enjoyed this one enough that I'll stick with it. It starts out as a story about whining teenagers -- and whining teenagers drive me nuts -- but quickly moves into the broader story with Nick's quest and all the characters who help (or hinder) him along the way. There's a particularly loathsome character who's a true psychopath, so of course I was reading about his most egregious exploits right before bed time!


Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It's enough to make a torturer want to run - if he could even walk without a stick.

Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem - he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.

And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters-if they didn't hate each other quite so much.

Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven - but not before they are hanged.

This is a well-written tense grimdark novel, though it feels like middle book in a trilogy. Major issues are left unresolved, and one of the largest subplots in particular ended in a failure that felt rather... deflating at the end of the book. That said, I admire that Abercrombie write the book in that way. These novels haven't been quite as much of a blood bath as GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, but he is still ruthless in his own way: his characters fail in profound manners, and deal with those repercussions. Along those lines, I remain most intrigued my Glokta, the war hero turned cripple torturer who is despicable and yet complex and relatable.
"Short stories" isn't an entirely accurate description of this Amazon Kindle e-book from Pottermore, as it is more of a series of biographies of characters from the Harry Potter series.

In this case, Rowling has written bios of Dolores Umbridge, Horace Slughorn, Quirrel and Peeves the Poltergeist. They partly felt like a summary of events from the books, although there was some stuff that I didn't know - I can't confirm that it was new material, or just stuff I forgot from the books (for example, Umbridge's eventual fate). While it wasn't all that original, it did offer a fascinating insight into the characters that would be useful for newbies.

The only real problem then was that I'd expected new stories about adventures at Hogwarts, which isn't what this book was about, although JK Rowling did offer a fascinating insight into her thoughts about the characters, including how they got their names (Umbridge is inevitably a play on the term "to take umbrage").

There are also a few short explanations of other aspects of Hogwarts life, such as equipment used in potions class, and spells (along with some comments about how Hermione could use polyjuice potion at the age of 12).

The section of past Ministers of Magic could have sounded like a dramatis personae from one of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, but I started to enjoy it, mostly because of Rowling's imagination, and the humour, particularly when she started including historical figures and events (for example, a Minister accused of fixing the 1966 World Cup final).

This is a good choice for anyone not that familiar with the Potter universe, but for diehard fans, there is very little in terms of new material.

Next book: Coot Club by Arthur Ransome

Book 113-114

Devil"s Line, Vol. 1 (Devil"s Line, #1)Devil's Line, Vol. 1 by Ryo Hanada

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this one up because the cover was outstanding and I do like vampire tales. The story ended up being very interesting (more of a 3.5 read but I rounded up). Tsukasa is a young woman in college who is almost afraid of being alone with men but she does have one male friend who unfortunately turns out to be a vampire who is raping and killing women (to keep from doing the same to her as he does care about her).

He is stopped by Ansai, a member of a police force (or something similar) dealing directly with 'devils.' In this verse, the vampires (or devils as they're called) look and act like human, including being out in the day. The only real way to tell them apart is that they are cool to the touch. They actually live among humans and even can marry them (but the legislation wants any sex to be observed to be sure the vampires don't transform and kill). Many of them find it very hard, if not impossible to attack if they see blood. Ansai is basically a dhampire, a half vampire half human

Unfortunately for Ansai, Tsukasa is injured and he tastes her blood and nearly transforms. From there, a relationship blooms. Tsukasa is oddly comfortable with him. The story follows their relationship, upping the game when a group who want to kill all devils and they have Ansai in their cross hairs.

I really enjoyed the story. The art, however, is not pretty. The cover is gorgeous but that's it. While Ansai is meant to look haggard and the transformed devils outrightly ugly, the art in general is awkward with bad proportions. In fact, I did pass on this the last time I was in the book store but decided to give it a try in spite of the art. I'm glad I did.

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House of Odd (Odd Thomas Graphic Novel, #3)House of Odd by Dean Koontz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I usually enjoy Odd Thomas (with a few exceptions) and this was pretty fun. It's set back in the early days when Odd was a fry cook and Stormy was still alive. They've been tapped by Ozzie to help a friend, a Hollywood producer who has bought the old abandoned mansion just outside town and it seems to be haunted.

However, when they get there, Nedra has hired her own ghosthunting team comprised of a psychic who uses her cat to get visions teamed with a pretentious pseudo-scientist who tries to explain ghosts and a young man the team uses as a gopher.

Odd and Stormy are mildly amused by this TV team of ghost hunters but Odd is worried because his talent for seeing ghosts isn't working. As far as he can tell the house isn't haunted but things begin to happen. It'll be all he can do to keep himself and Stormy alive.

It was cute. The art has a slightly fluffy bent to it. It was probably one of the best of the Odd graphic novels. It's a fun read.

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Number of pages: 324

This is a book I had been meaning to read for some time, and I was spurred on mainly by the publication of the prequel, Go Set a Watchman.

I was expecting the book to revolve entirely around the court case that Atticus Finch is involved in, but it turned out to be a lot more than that.

This is in reality a coming-of-age tale set in the 1930s, and based partly on Lee's own childhood, narrated by its central character - Atticus Finch's tomboy daughter, Scout. The first part of the story deals almost entirely with Scout's childhood experiences, before gradually introducing the fact that Atticus is defending a black man, Tom Robinson, in court, where he is accused of rape.

Race becomes increasingly significant in this book, as there are a lot of portrayals of racist attitudes, as well as a shockingly unflinching portrait of how racist America was in the 1930s. This includes a scene where several African Americans get up in the courtroom to allow for caucasian people to sit down, and there is even mention of them having to sit on a different balcony. I got the impression that Scout did not understand any of this, and was shocked by it, as I imagine Harper Lee was herself.

The court case becomes the story's main focus in the middle of the novel, and I could sense that it would not end well.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

In the end, Tom is declared guilty of the charges, and is later shot trying to escape. It was a very sad ending to this particular plot arc.

There were other plot threads in the book, mostly involving Scout's friends, and I was struck in particular by the character Boo Radley, refusing to leave his house for most of the story.

Overall, I thought it was an unusual structure for a book, with the way it switched the character focus, but I really enjoyed it too and definitely want to read the prequel. It was also quite an eye-opener to quite how segregated America once was.

Next book: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (J.K. Rowling)



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