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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!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

book 56:  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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

Book 79 & 80

The Irish PrincessThe Irish Princess by Karen Harper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


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

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

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

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

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





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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


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

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

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



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More books read. Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the next book!

Book 36

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

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

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

My thoughts:
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Book 78

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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

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

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



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Number of pages: 481

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next book: The House of Silk (Anthony Horowitz)

Books #43-44

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

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

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Summary:
The author details the events of the turn-of-the-century revolution that abrogated the monarchy and ended the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands. Russ focuses on the days of the revolution and the reaction to the news in the United States.

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

SELF-MADE PURGATORIES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books #41-42

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

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

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Book 35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

book 77

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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

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

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

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

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



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Number of pages: 215

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

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

Next book: The Night Manager (John Le Carre)

#69: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cruel and Unusual by Patrica D. Cornwell

book 55:  Cruel and Unusual by Patrica D. Cornwell

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

book 76

Livingstone 2Livingstone 2 by Jinsei Kataoka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Book 75

Kill the MessengerKill the Messenger by Tami Hoag

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


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

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

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

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



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Book #29: Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome



Number of pages: 448

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

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

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

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

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

Books #39-40

Book #39 was "Babyji" by Abha Dawesar. I put this on my "to read" list for a couple reasons: I saw this listed on a "best LGBT novels" list, and I had read "City of Devi," a novel about gay male life in India, last year, and thought finding out about lesbians in Indian culture would also be interesting. This won a few literary awards, and it is a fun read, though I felt it was flawed in a few ways. It's told from the viewpoint of Anamika, a precocious teenager living in Delhi who finds herself involved with two adult women and a teenage girl she goes to school with. While she juggles this complicated love life, she also is dealing with a new awareness of the limitations her society puts on her as a girl and as someone of the Brahmin class. The book is a sexy romp, but it's also a story of self-discovery, as Anamika tries to discover for herself how you can know what the right thing to do is. There were a lot of things to like about the book, but one thing I didn't love was that the story just stopped, rather than having a satisfying conclusion. I'm glad I read it and I think she's an interesting writer, though.

Book #40 was "Motherless Brooklyn" by Jonathan Lethem. This hard-boiled detective novel's main character is Lionel Essrog, an orphan with Tourette's Syndrome. He is chosen, along with 3 other orphans, from a boys' home, to run errands for small-time mobster, Frank Minna. When Minna ends up dead, Lionel isn't sure who to trust while he tries to solve the mystery of who done it. Lionel's way of taking words and phrases and compulsively doing wordplay with them makes him an unforgettable character and adds a lot of humor to the book, which could have otherwise been pretty grim and sad. I really loved it and think this is a special book.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
Summary:
Theodore Roosevelt: president, naturalist, explorer, author, cowboy, police commissioner, deputy marshal, soldier, taxidermist, ornithologist, and boxer. Everyone knows about that.
But how about vampire hunter?
Or African king?
Or Jack the Ripper's nemesis?
Or World War I doughboy?
Mike Resnick (the most-awarded short story writer in science fiction history, according to Locus) has been the biographer of these other Teddy Roosevelts for almost two decades. Here you will find a familiar Roosevelt, but in unfamiliar surroundings stalking a vampire through the streets of New York, or a crazed killer down the back alleys of Whitechapel, coming face-to-face with the devastation of 20th Century warfare, waging an early battle for women's suffrage, applying all his skills to bring American democracy to the untamed African wilderness, or coming face-to-face with one of H. G. Wells' Martian invaders in the swamps of Cuba.
And, as Winston Churchill said of the Arthurian legends, if these stories aren't true, then they should have been.
Enjoy.


I use Teddy Roosevelt as a character in my own forthcoming series, so I had several friends advise me to read Resnick's collection of alternate history Teddy Roosevelt stories. The book was a shorter read than I expected at about 200 pages, but the stories were thoroughly enjoyable.

Resnick twists history at various points in TR's life, such as enabling his first wife, Alice, to survive; or adding a vampire as a complication to TR's time as a New York City police commissioner; or attempting to democratize central Africa while on his famous post-presidency safari. Across the stories, I really appreciated how Resnick showed the contradictory nature of TR. I say that, having read thousands of pages of research on the man. Roosevelt worked to create an American empire abroad, and believed in the holiness of that action; he was also a progressive who offended wide swaths of the Republican party because of his fervent beliefs in equality for black and native peoples and for women to have the vote. He was a brilliant, arrogant, and very complicated man, and Resnick really does justice to a historical figure of incredible charismatic and political power.

Book 74

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 1 (manga)A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 1 by Kazuma Kamachi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have mixed feelings about this one. I know it's the manga adaptation of a very popular light novel series and adaptations can be tricky. This one has a strange pace to it, trying too hard to explain the world building. I also have fears that this could quickly become another shonen style manga that is little more than a few lines of plot and the rest is 'must train to get stronger' ala Bleach and Naruto. That's not necessarily a bad thing but I'm bored with that.

Touma is a young man, a remedial student in Academy City where they train, in fact force, superhuman powers on them. Touma has almost no abilities other than bad luck. The whole first chapter was him fighting bullies and the girl he saved from the bullies (she reappears later to challenge him again hence my fear this is going to be a fight, fight, fight manga). the story picks up when he finds a girl, a nun, draped over his balcony. Her name is Index and it turns she has magic, something he doesn't believe in (which seems to be exactly the same thing as the super hero powers only it does sometimes require chants/spells)

Index has an eidetic memory and has been forced to memorize thousands of magical grimoires which could be terrible in the hands of the villains. Touma finds himself drawn into helping her after she's gravely injured (revealing some of her secrets). He is actually well suited to it because one of his hands can disrupt any ability. However, it's just the one hand. Hit Touma anywhere else, he's going to get hurt.

It's an interesting idea and I'll get the next one just to see how it shakes out. However, the story was choppy and the art, while good, isn't anything special either. Both have a lot of potential. However at the cost of these manga, I'm not sure I will keep buying it. It might be good to see if the library has it.



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May book club selection

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.


I enjoyed this book. It's a cute and charming story about two very different people who come together to form a relationship, and in the process they discover that maybe they're not quite as different as they think. Don is presented as a rather inflexible guy (possibly autistic?), while Rosie is the quintessential free spirit; however, Don makes a concerted effort to loosen up and step out of his comfort zone, and Rosie has several preconceived notions of her own that prevent her from moving forward in her life. While a "happy ending" is a bit of a foregone conclusion in light of the sequel, this was an enjoyable and interesting story that still provided plenty of topics for discussion for the book club.

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Book 73

Dance of Death (Pendergast, #6; Diogenes, #2)Dance of Death by Douglas Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I sadly have read this all out of order. In spite of the author's note saying you can read them in any order they're right, this isn't one of them. I think I've read the third Diogenes book before this (years ago). And I definitely read book one so long ago I barely remember it.

In spite of all that, I really enjoyed this. Even though it's five hundred plus pages, it goes quickly. It opens with D'Agosta melancholic because he believes Pendergast is dead and he and Pendergast's ward, Constance, are trying to get ahead of a puzzle before something terrible happens.

There are several other plot lines, the biggest of which is Nora and Margo (other recurring characters) going toe to toe over a museum display of Native American masks.

Soon, D'Agosta learns Pendergast is alive and all of Pendergast's friends are being murdered. Laura (D'Agosta's police detective girlfriend) believes as does the FBI, that Pendergast is murdering his friends. In fact it's his psychopathic brother, Diogenes, who was supposed to be dead for decades.

It's an exciting cat and mouse and the writing duo knows how to hook you at chapter ends to keep you reading. Pendergast is a great character.



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It didn't feel like I read a lot this week, and yet here's six more:

First was Preacher: Book Six which completes the graphic novels of this series. Now I have fair warning about a lot of the storylines that the TV series is likely to have.

Second was Osprey New Vanguard #12: BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle 1967 – 1994 which deals with the technical details of several armored vehicles of a Russian design. I found it mildly interesting.

Then, The Wedding Officiant's Guide: How to Write & Conduct a Perfect Ceremony. Oddly enough, I found this book just a few days after I officiated at a wedding. Why bother reading it after the fact? I wanted to see what I might have done wrong, but I was happy to see that for the most part without any prior training I did manage to do pretty much everything I was supposed to. A relief!

Next was Osprey Campaign #14: Zulu War 1879: Twilight of a Warrior Nation. The Zulus had the war forced on them. Although they had some initial success this book deals with all the things that went awry for them.

Then, The Truth About Cruise Ships: A Cruise Ship Officer Survives the Work, Adventure, Alcohol, and Sex of Ship Life written by an IT officer on Carnival cruise line. Not the best book I've ever read.

Finally there was Osprey Command #2: Erich von Manstein about one of the better surviving generals from the German side of WWII. Moderately interesting.

Book 72

Standing in the Shadows: Bigfoot Stories from Southeastern OhioStanding in the Shadows: Bigfoot Stories from Southeastern Ohio by Doug Waller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I met the author at one of his Bigfoot lectures. I admit it, I'm a little more than skeptical but I do find the idea of cryptozoology is fun. The book matches the title. It's a documentation of the author's first hand experiences with hunting Bigfoot from finding foot impressions (and in one memorable photo a 'butt impression' that looks a lot like a place where a deer had bedded down), the strange vocalizations they make, the odd twisted tree 'baskets' they supposedly make and their acrid, skunky scent (see also the skunk ape in Florida).

Not all of the stories are the author's experiences. Many are of other eye witnesses, plenty of sighting stories.

It was fun, written conversationally but honestly I'm not sure it convinces anyone that Salt Fork park (and other Ohio locales) has a Bigfoot lurking in it. Though I'm not sure it aims to do that. It relates the sightings and you draw your own conclusions. It does make me want to go poke around Salt Fork because I'm too curious for my own good.



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2015 Summary

Each year I get a little closer to posting my summary for the previous year near the end of said year (October last year, July this year!). Having said that, unfortunately 2015 was not a good year for reading. Starting my double Masters' degree and a new job took its toll, as did spending seven weeks in the United States at the end of the year. Nonetheless, the year passed, and all in all it was a good one. So, while the reading was slim, let us look at it nonetheless.

1. Westminister Abbey: Official Guide by Dean and Chapter of Westminister – 120 pages
2.  Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages
3.  The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss – 323 pages
4.  Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics by Paul Street – 272 pages
5.  A Series of Unfortunate Event: Book the Twelfth: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – 353 pages
6.  The XX Factor: How Working Women are Creating a New Society by Alison Wolf – 401 pages
7. The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East by Kishore Mahbubani – 293 pages
8.  Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs – 331 pages
9.  Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
10.        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Thirteenth: The End by Lemony Snicket – 324 pages
11.      Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter – 263 pages
12.        DB30Years: Special Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary Magazine by Michael LaBrie – 315 pages
13.        The Anatomy of Israel’s Survival by Hirsh Goodman – 253 pages
14.        The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter – 442 pages
15.        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages
16.        The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land by Daniel Gavron – 240 pages
17.        Dragon Ball Z: “It’s Over 9000!”: When Worldviews Collide by Derek Padula – 76 pages
18.      Jaco the Galactic Patrolman by Akira Toriyama – 247 pages
19.       The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages


19 / 50 books. 38% done!


5914 / 15000 pages. 39% done!

Comparison to last year


19 / 43 books. 44% done!


5914 / 14885 pages. 40% done!

Top 5 books (including re-reads):
5. Living Dolls
4. Jaco the Galactic Patrolman
3. The Fictional Woman
2. The XX Factor
1. The Rise of the Creative Class

Interesting Facts:
Improvement on last year: -24 (-8,971)
Library books: 10
Non-fiction: 13
Most read author: Lemony Snicket (2 books/677 pages)
Books with a sci-fi/fantasy element: 4
Re-reads: 0
Sequels/not the first in a series: 4

As you can see it was a terrible reading year, and so far 2016 isn't shaping up to be much better, but alas, sometimes there are other things in life. So continue on I will.

Book 19 - 2015

Book 19: The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Initially published in 2002, The Rise of the Creative Class quickly achieved classic status for its identification of forces then only beginning to reshape our economy, geography, and workplace. Weaving story-telling with original research, Richard Florida identified a fundamental shift linking a host of seemingly unrelated changes in American society: the growing importance of creativity in people's work lives and the emergence of a class of people unified by their engagement in creative work. Millions of us were beginning to work and live much as creative types like artists and scientists always had, Florida observed, and this Creative Class was determining how the workplace was organized, what companies would prosper or go bankrupt, and even which cities would thrive. In The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, Florida further refines his occupational, demographic, psychological, and economic profile of the Creative Class, incorporates a decade of research, and adds five new chapters covering the global effects of the Creative Class and exploring the factors that shape "quality of place" in our changing cities and suburbs.

Thoughts:
I’ve always been interested in sociology and the study of demographics (hence why I have a degree in sociology), but since moving out of professional accounting and into the higher education sector (still in Finance), I’ve found myself increasingly interested in studying innovation – what drives it, what effects it has, who and where, how and why. This book, an updated edition of a book originally published in 2002 looks to answer these questions, and it is one of those rare books that I walked away from, quoting a lot, particularly when the topic of innovation came up time and time again in the recent election in my country. This book is long, and deep, but it really explained a lot of things to me that I’d thought about but not ever seen articulated properly. It’s a book for those who want to work their way up the business world. It’s a book that explained to me why I seek out different things in my job than my friends, why I want to not only move up the chain but broaden my skill set, why I was never going to be satisfied being a regular accountant (but rather one focused as much on how I can do things better as on the monthly results), why I love to travel, why I seek out experiences that broaden me, rather than being satisfied with the type of lives my friends seek out. I’ve often talked to my brother about wanting to move overseas, and it’s a running joke among my friends about how I’m never home (I travel overseas at least once a year, so my friends like to play ‘Where in the world is Tara?’). I’m the kind of person who never could just get married, have babies, work the same job for thirty years and then die; the thought raises a cold sweat in me. This book is the explanation for how the world is slowly being framed, at least in the big metropolises of the world, for that type of person. How the ‘creative class’ is wealthier, more agile, more about quality and outcome than rules and tradition. How the creative class is focused on working for interest and challenge, not just money (and how strangely enough, this very attribute means they often do end up earning more money than their non-creative counterparts). I read the second half of this book on a train journey from Boston to New York, and it felt very appropriate – Boston is the city I want to eventually move to, New York the mecca of all things new and shiny. I was on holidays, away from the new job I’d taken on, working on implementing new budgeting and forecasting practices at the university I work for, framing the conversation on how we can cost our courses – a new idea in the world of higher education. I love my job because I feel like I’m contributing something important to the world, working in higher education, and because I get to innovate and challenge and learn – I purposely choose to work in a role and a sector that is dynamic and changing, one with opportunities for me to fix problems rather than one with established practices and processes where I’d never get a chance to learn, develop, improve and own. This book is about all those things. It’s about the cities that get the mix right to attract the creative class. It’s about the benefits that class of people bestows on those cities. Ultimately it’s an analysis of our future, if only we are brave enough to reach out and grab it. I watch my own city, my own country, the few trying to fight the many who just want a laid back casual life that is simple and easy, fighting our changing world, fighting the dynamic place we could be, and I despair. Oh well, its always hard being ahead of the curve.
All in all, a truly fabulous read that resonates powerfully. The future is going to be amazing if we only embrace it!



19 / 50 books. 38% done!


5914 / 15000 pages. 39% done!


Currently reading:
-        Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages
-        Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 pages
-        The Meteor Crater Story by Dean Smith – 69 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
-        The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 pages

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