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Happy reading!

Books by Sarah Dessen or Gayle Forman?

Hi all!

Happy Valentines Day, even if you are single, its still a day to remember all loved ones, right? haha, I know my valentine is my cat!

Anyhow, thought I would ask about these authors and whether any of you have read books by them. I know the popular one by Gayle is a movie now...If I Stay.

I think most of their stories are light romances, or maybe more serious lol, not sure! Would love to know your thoughts. Thanks guys and happy reading!

Book 19

Goblin Secrets (Zombay, #1)Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my reading challenges was to read a National Book Award winner and I cringed. Usually they're always contemporary fiction that I don't normally enjoy but then I saw it had a YA award and saw this steampunk fantasy was a winner. Usually I end up thinking 'how in the heck did this win an award.' I still have that feeling but not so much. This isn't a bad book. I enjoyed it, maybe a 3.5 read but I still have no idea how this was the best thing written in YA in 2012.

Rownie is an endearing character though. He's an orphan, orphaned at such a young age that he has no real name of his own. Rownie is just the 'little' version of his elder brother Rowan's name. Rowan is missing. Both boys lived with Graba who is basically Baba Yaga crossed with Fagin. She has a hoard of orphans doing her bidding and as a witch she can 'ride' them (taking over their minds) all except for Rownie.

On one mission for her, and hoping to find his brother who was fascinated by the forbidden art of theater and mask wearing. It's forbidden in the town of Zombay, a river town always in danger of flooding. The world building is what feels underwhelming in this. We have a ton of steampunk things like the goblin theater troupe's automaton mule but there's also magic, like changing into a Goblin (which we're never sure of how/why this happens). I have no problem with these two elements together. Heck I love that idea, but here it feels somehow half formed and wanting more like how is 'coal' created by taking out the hearts of the living and who would ever do that and why?

Anyhow Rownie ends up part of the Goblin show, however briefly and fate brings him back to their traveling show as he finally runs off on Graba. The Goblins gladly take him in. They knew his brother and are searching for him. We slowly learn that the Goblins are trying to save the city from flooding and the brothers are key to that.

I did like the story and if not for the fact that I felt like the world was never clearly shown, I might have rated it higher. That said, it's worth the read.

View all my reviews

#14, 15

Earlier this week, while my computer was updating (for more than a DAY!!!!), I finished reading two books.

First was Medusa's Web by Tim Powers. Powers' books are often rather eerie and well-written, and this one is no exception. The setting is an old mansion in the Hollywood Hills, very near the venue where we put on Dungeonmaster for a number of years, so I have no problem visualizing the landmarks he mentions in the text. Much of the action takes place now, but in a strange vision/time travel/multi-dimension way, some of the action pops back to the 1920s, give or take, and involves silent screen movie actors. Very cool. I liked this one very much.

Next was Osprey Elite #5: Soviet Bloc Elite Forces, a book which is clearly somewhat out-of-date. Historicity-speaking, not bad. Some photos, some plates, some text. A fair read.

Book 11

Title: The Goblin Emperor
Author: Katherine Addison
Pages: 502
Summary: A half-goblin, the youngest son of the emperor has lived his entire life in exile, far from the Imperial Court and the intrigue that surounds it. But then his father and three half brothers - who are the heirs to the throne ahead of him - die together in an airship crash. Maia is summoned to take his father's throne.

For Maia, life in the captial is a bewildering and exhausting daily test of his mettle. And before long he discovers his father and half brothers' deaths were no accident. The airship was tampered with. The crash was murder.

With no friends, no advisers, and no schooling in the art of court politics, the only thing Maia knows for certain is that whoever was behind the assassinations must still be plotting an attempt on his life.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )
28 Days, by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans
A poem and illustration about each of 28 different African-Americans of historical note, in honor of Black History Month. Mostly I liked the illustrations (great!) better than the poems (reasonably good!), but some of the poems were AMAZING.

The Book Itch, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
I was hesitant to read this picture book because I'd already read the author's (excellent) middle grade book about the Mich(e)aux family and I was wary of boredom setting in. But I'm so glad I read it! It is GLORIOUS, all the things I liked about the middle grade book and some new things too. Most of all, the illustrator is a FREAKING GENIUS who brought the story of Lewis Michaux and his African National Memorial Bookstore to gleeful, vibrant, powerful life in a way that the text alone couldn't have managed. Such a gem!

Sail Away, by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan
Sadly, most of the illustrations in this compilation of Hughes' poems about the sea didn't really work for me. Also, while I loved some of the poems (I reread one of them 8 times), I also found myself thinking "Who is the audience for this?? The pictures are for young kids and the poems talk about sex and death!?!?" That said, there were a couple of pages where everything pulled together and there was magic happening. Just wish that could've been the case throughout.

Love Is My Favorite Thing, by Emma Chichester Clark
Sweet picture book about a misbehaving dog, told from her perspective. Didn't totally work for me, but I was charmed enough that I requested the collection of illustrated blog posts about the same dog through interlibrary loan.

The Penguin Lessons, by Tom Michell
This was actually one of the first books I read this year (just forgot to log it right away), and I absolutely loved it. Michell writes in exactly the way I like about his relationship with a FREAKING RESCUED PENGUIN, and then to top that, it is ALSO a story about a British expat living in South America, and it is ALSO a boarding school book, and it is ALSO full of frankly acknowedged ambiguities. Another one of those books where I feel like the author was playing "things that will delight Maribou bingo," and won on 5 or 6 sheets at once.

How to Be A Person, by Lindy West et al
Ennnnnnh to this supposed guide for teenagers about to head off to college. Lindy West shows signs of being a writer I will frequently enjoy, and so I wanted to delve into her back catalog. Except this isn't just by her, it's by a ton of people who were writing for the Stranger at the time. And it isn't (mostly) earnest a la Incomplete Education, it's mostly tongue in cheek and snarky and mean and people thinking they are funny when I very much think they are not. That said, there were some excellent chapters, just not enough of them.

Let it Snow, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
Perfect anotidote for the previous book - teen romance novellas, Christmas, a blizzard, connected plots / overlapping characters, and I was reminded (yet again) that I really dig Maureen Johnson and should provide my inner teenager with more of her books. (I already knew how much said teenager loves John Green, and Lauren Myracle was ... out of her league compared to the other two, but perfectly acceptable.)

Lola Levine Is Not Mean!, by Monica Brown
Early reader chapter book with spark and verve enough that I'll be reading the sequel. Lola is no Clementine or Ramona (at least not yet), but who is?

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection, by David A. Hanks et al
Sooooooooooooooo many pretties. Got interested the Driehaus Collection after some friends visited the mansion/museum where it is housed. Excellent, creative photography of the collection (which is more lamps and vases - including some vases I'd never seen anything like before - and not so many windows), and satisfying accompanying text.

The Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Cute picture book for slightly older kids. The author's love of Paris and the illustrator's love of the tale the author is telling both shine through. High marks for fun.

Number of pages: 264

Charles Grant's second X-Files novelisation opens with the discovery of skinned corpses in the New Mexico desert, setting up what appears to be a standard serial killer novel. It would also appear that the killer is the sinister Leon Ciola, who shows up quite early in the book.

But, this being The X-Files, the story lurches into Stephen King-esque supernatural territory, with the only major fault in the novel being that its title will probably give you a big hint as to what the actual cause is, as well as this quote from the plot synopsis:

They were victims of a natural disaster. One of the most unnatural natural disasters imaginable, leading to a most painful, most certain, and most hideous death....

This isn't a perfect book, and I never enjoyed Charles Grant's fan novels as much as the later ones by Kevin J. Anderson, but Mulder and Scully do at least get some good lines in, with one of my favourites being the banter about the amount of clothes that Scully packs when travelling.

I liked that fact that Charles Grant managed once again to think of a concept that had not been used in the show (there isn't really anything similar to this in the whole series), and it does built up to a decent finale, although the resolution is a bit vague and open to interpretation.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

When a storm nearly kills Mulder and Scully, their life is saved by Mulder shooting a mysterious bag, the contents of which are never revealed, but which is presumably some sort of mystical charm.

Indeed, Mulder and Scully themselves seem to be still a bit baffled for the reasons for the murders, although the final chapter has some moments that are wonderfully sinister, and almost surreal. It does at least fit in with the show's penchant for including mysteries that remain completely unsolved.

Next book: Holy Cow (David Duchovny)
Saga, vol. 5, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I think this is my favorite Saga yet. The Lying Cat is also my favorite animal companion at the moment. <3.

Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link
Sometimes I say, "Ugh, I don't really like short stories.." and then I follow it up immediately with a list of except fors. Kelly Link is almost always at the top of my except for list. I particularly appreciated that many of these stories were quite long, which made me like them even more. Kelly Link, man. *resists the temptation to stop writing this post, go find ALL the Kelly Link stories, read or unread, and then do nothing but read them until they are all gone*

Never After, by Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie M. Liu, and Sharon Shinn
Four relatively fluffy non-traditional fairy tales. I particularly liked the one by Marjorie M. Liu (which is good, 'cause that one was why I picked up the book). Not a huge fan of the Galenorn story, too awkwardly I Am A Paranormal Romance for me. The other two were excellent.

The Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales, by Theresa Breslin, illustrated by Kate Leiper
What an absolutely wonderful book. The illustrations glow with life, the stories fall trippingly off the tongue. So glad I own another book by this pair; I'm saving it for a day when I can curl up with it and forget the rest of the world exists.

Stella, Fairy of the Forest and Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth!, by Marie-Louise Gay
The Stella book was charming, funny, and full of love in the same way as Any Questions was, hurrah! Roslyn had adorable illustrations and was fun, but would not have jumped out at me as a "more of this author please"... so I'm glad I didn't read it first!
(45, 46)

The Amazing Hamweenie Escapes!, by Patty Bowman
Meh. Turns out that some wonderful books do not need a sequel after all. And this was one of them. Funny awkward pictures, droll text - but just didn't have the spirit and frankness of the first book.

Finding Monkey Moon, by Elizabeth Pulford
A delicate, warm story about searching for that one stuffed animal most kids have that they cannot do without, after it goes missing. Made me want to figure out which box my Lambie was in and rescue him. The night time pictures are cosy inside and mysterious outside.

MARTians, by Blythe Woolston
Dystopia that's more about imagining experiences than world-building. Notably fond of Bradbury. Pulled me in and kept me there. Wry and oddly kind.

Tower of Thorns, by Juliet Marillier
Oh ho! The Blackthorn and Grim series has hit its stride now that there isn't so much need for exposition. Really hope she has another one out soon. (Also, nearly every time I read a Juliet Marillier, or even read a review of one of her books, I go make a little note in my books-to-read file that says READ SOME MORE JULIET MARILLIER. I shudder to think how many of those notes are in the file by now...)

Ms. Marvel, vol. 3: Crushed, by G. Willow Wilson et al
A lot of the Marvel Universe stuff in this one, which I don't really read enough of the other titles to fully appreciate (she's bonding with who to the what now?) - but there were some really poignant moments, some really kick-butt moments, and a decent amount of jokes. Makes me feel like an 11-year-old to read this series, in a good way.
Book 10: The Mouse That Roared (The Duchy of Grand Fenwick #1).
Author: Leonard Wibberley, 1955.
Genre: Comedy. Political Satire.
Other Details: ebook. 283 pages.

In Leonard Wibberley's classic political satire, a tiny backwards country decides the only way to survive a sudden economic downturn is to declare war on the United States and lose to get foreign aid – but things don’t go according to plan. - synopsis from Goodreads.

I had read this classic Cold War satire when I was a teenager while the Cold War was still ongoing. At the time it provided light relief to what were real fears of nuclear war. So it was fun to revisit when it was chosen as the February selection for our reading group.

We all enjoyed it and discussed the issues the story highlighted and the historical background. While written sixty years ago it still worked well and provided plenty of comedy though in the time since the United States had certainly abandoned its policy of not invading small countries/ It is good to hear that many of the author's works are now being made available in ebook format to be discovered by new readers.

#13: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

For fans of The Maze Runner and The Fifth Wave, this debut YA novel from Hugo Award winner Will McIntosh pits four underprivileged teens against an evil billionaire in the race of a lifetime.

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent. No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

I received a copy of the book through the publisher via NetGalley.

The back cover summary for the book mentions The Maze Runner and The Fifth Wave, but to me, Burning Midnight reads like a really gripping video game. Maybe that's because the central concept feels so video game-like to me, like materia gone real: colorful orbs have appeared all over the world. Different color orbs grant different skills, like singing ability or faster healing or improved eyesight. Some orbs are rare. Sully is a teenage kid who found a rare orb and was ripped off by a billionaire orb-peddler. Years later, his mom has lost her job, and Sully is still trying to hunt down orbs around New York City so he can help them survive. When he teams up with a girl named Hunter, who has a knack and a strategy for finding orbs in a rapidly-depleted world, he starts finding new rare orbs--and catches the eye of that horrible billionaire again.

The orbs do so many cool things, but there are still many unknowns: Where did they come from? What are the long-term effects on people? This certainly plays out in an interesting way in the end.

Burning Midnight is a fast read. Really. Tension really kicks in about a quarter of the way in, and after that, ZOOM. The characters are nuanced and realistic. Sully and Hunter form a great team, and I love the perspectives that their friends Dom and Mandy bring into the book. It's a darn good read for young adults on up.
Some Things I've Lost, by Cybele Young
So utterly beautiful that I neither remember if there was a story nor care. Really gorgeous papercrafting work.

Daily Rituals, by Mason Curry
Short bloggish pieces (it used to be a blog) about various writers' daily rituals. You'd think it would get monotonous, but as a pick-up-put-down book? It totally didn't.

We Forgot Brock!, by Carter Goodrich
Goofy but fun kid's picture book about a kid and his imaginary friend. Satisfying ending.

The Big Snow, by Jonathan Bean
Sweet, plausible story about a kid's excitement waiting for a big snowstorm to start. Adorable pictures, too.

Mother Bruce and Wilfred, by Ryan T. Higgins
Mother Bruce is one of my favorite picture books EVER. Maybe even better than some of my favorites as a little kid, she whispered cautiously. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I even snorted a couple of times, and lost it completely once. Wilfred, an earlier book of his, was good too - not nearly as good as Mother Bruce, but that just means Higgins is at the top of his game right now. I can't wait to read his next book! (And I'll probably read another of his old ones.)
(35, 48)

Fire Engine No. 9, by Mike Austin
Picture book for very young kids, full of delicious onamatopeia and lots of bright colors.

Open Very Carefully, by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne
Kind of silly meta book about a crocodile on a rampage within the very! book! you! are! reading! right! now! I am the world's hugest sucker for kid's meta books (imprinted early on The Monster at the End of This Book), so I quite enjoyed it. Not particularly transcendant of its genre.

Take Away the A, by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
My brain has a big hole where the memory of this book should go. How odd. I know I very much liked it and I remember marveling at the process of translating a book of wordplay from French to English... but that's all I got. Sorry! Even without remembering it, I do feel confident that if you like kids' alphabet books that are weird, and/or if you like wordplay, you will enjoy this too.

Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible, by Stan Lee et al
Graphic memoir by Stan Lee (with help). It was a) highly entertaining and also b) complete self-hagiography. Sometimes unintentionally a, due to b, but often intentionally a - Stan Lee can certainly tell a good story. I imagine you either saw "graphic memoir by Stan Lee" and are going to read it no matter what anyone says, OR would only read it if it was actually amazing, fantastic, and incredible. It is not those things. But it was fun.

Counting Lions, by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Stephen Walton
Lovely lovely black and white animal photography that also serves as a pretty decent counting book for kids. I can't imagine that the kids who are the right age for needing said counting book will have ANY interest in the conservation message, which is aimed more at like 10 year olds? (or maybe at parents, I guess) But whatever was needed to get these beautiful pictures on the shelves, I will accept.
Any Questions?, by Marie-Louise Gay
A completely delightful picture book FAQ by a widely beloved Quebecois writer. Lots of anecdote and side funny bits and even a complete example story that is a very fine story all on its own merits. I was surprised by how great this book is!

The Wonder Garden, by Jenny Broom, illlustrated by Kristjana S. Williams
Now this one is gilt-laden and ENORMOUS (width/height, not thickness), so it was no surprise at all that it was lovely and well made. The illustrations, which predominate, weirdly manage to be both Victorian AND hypermodern at once, which continues to puzzle and fascinate me, and the accompanying text is very factual without being dry. 9 year old me would've been attached at the hip to this book.

The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 1: The Faust Act and vol. 2: Fandemonium, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie et al
The only thing better than falling madly in love with a new comic book series, is doing so and then finding out that you like the second volume even better than the first. Has entered the pantheon of Maribou-approved comics. (It's a very small pantheon that doesn't include many of the titles I am currently enjoying - it may eventuallly, but then again it may not - so this is a Big Deal.) MORE PLEASE.
(23, 73)

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, edited by Kij Johnson
I wanted to start getting back into these with the volume edited by Kij Johnson, because I was quite sure that her additional selections would be very readable and interesting. And they were! Hurrah. Backstory: when I lived in a small place growing up, our unusually large-for-its-population-base library had just about EVERY volume of Nebula, Hugo, etc., award winners. And I read just about EVERY volume they had. Realized during last year's Hugo business that I missed reading those, as well as the Year's Bests that I started reading mostly in college. (Think I read some *really old* Year's Bests as a kid, but nothing contemporary.) Such anthologies used to be the 2nd most common way I had of finding new non-YA authors to devour. (The first way was randomly pulling things off the SF paperback rack without paying attention to series order, cover art, or blurbs, then reading the first few pages and a middle page to see if I felt interested. It worked better than you might think.)

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide, by Toni Bernhard
No such book is ever going to be perfectly pitched to teach me only the things I need to know (or need reminding of) without talking about other stuff that I either already knew or feel decidedly skeptical about. That said! This had a positive, gentle, helpful and non-saccharine tone that I really appreciate. It was frank about the author's own struggles. And I learned stuff. Actually, sometimes now when I get stressed out about medical things , I hear my own version of stuff the author said, pointing out a different perspective on them. Which is so far more pleasant than annoying, if only just. So I think some other people might also find it helpful? I'm always so hesitant to recommend this sort of book because I so dread other people forcing self-help books on me. But I'm glad I read it. If nothing else, hearing that lots of the things I've figured out on my own are ALSO the opinion of someone who sells books on the subject? Allows me to feel smug;).
(25, O2)

A Very Southern Christmas, edited by Charline R. McCord and Judy H. Tucker
These were friendly, warmhearted stories and I at least mildly enjoyed all of them. A few were downright excellent. However, I never really stopped being annoyed that when they say "Holiday Stories from the South's Best Writers" in the subtitle, what they MEAN is "the South's Best White Writers." I think it was probably a bad marketing decision, but regardless, the hyperbole inadvertantly underlined the samey-ness of the stories and left a bad taste in my mouth about how sometimes racism can be as simple as ignoring what should stare you in the face. Too bad. As I said, the stories were good to excellent. (And I do realize that if I go back and reread a bunch of old SF best of anthologies, similar sorts of sameyness will rear their heads from time to time. But I'll be *ready* for those...)

Poems in the Attic, by Nikki Grimes
A charming story, well-illustrated, that is probably my least favorite set of Nikki Grimes poems ever. Whenever I'm unimpressed by a book from an author I like, I feel like the fault must be in me, not them.

In the House of the Wicked, by Thomas E. Sniegoski
*sings the tasty tasty theological urban fantasy song* The stakes are really ramping up here, and this was one of the best books in the series. Really looking forward to the rest.

Santa's Favorite Story, by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantchev
This was some illustrator's favorite Christmas story, and the illustrations are impressively magical. (I'll probably go on a Gantchev binge at some point.) The story is fine, but did not catch my heart.

Rabbit Ears, by Amber Stewart, illustrated by Laura Rankin
This OUGHT to be the sort of didactic story I don't care for, given that the entire point of the book is to get kids to be less avoidy about bathtime, which isn't even the sort of goal that I care about. So that's TWO strikes (one for being didactic and one for not being didactic about something that matters to me personally). However, the book is so darn cute (both illustrations and words), and the emotional give and take so realistic (I mean, for human kids, not for bunnies :D), and the solution to the dilemma so plausible - that I loved it! I'm always extra pleased when that happens. I'm not sure it would actually convince any little kids to do what the author wants them to do, but I think they might enjoy the story and then be sneakily tricked into lowering their defenses on the topic of washing, generally. Unless they were rotten little cynics like I was at that age, in which case they would probably deconstruct the rhetorical traps used by the story and drive their mothers up a wall! But grown up me is nonetheless all aswoon over TEH CUTE.

#12: The Just City by Jo Walton


"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent."

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future--all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome--and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo--stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does--has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives--the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself--to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

I received a free copy of this hardcover book at World Fantasy 2014 or Locus Weekend 2015.

My feelings on the book are mixed. The fantasy and science fiction elements are light, though this book is indeed about the machinations of the gods: Athene founding an experimental version of Plato's Just City populated by people and children from across time. It also heavily features Apollo, who casts aside his divinity to full experience human life as one of the child arrivals in the city.

Not a lot happens. Really, the book is about philosophy; it's very interesting at times, and it's exciting when the actual Sokrates shows up, but it also feels like it drags on far too long. I also didn't expect so much subject matter to dwell on rape. That said, Walton handles the subject with the respect and never glorifies it, and I like how she develops Apollo's consciousness about it... but still, there is a lot of talk about it and other enforced sexual matters (breeding festivals and child abuse) that deserve a trigger warning.

I found it to be a thoughtful, if sometimes uncomfortable, book. I certainly know a lot more about Plato, and I enjoyed getting to know her version of Sokrates.

Number of pages: 495

The second part of the latest Song of Ice and Fire novel continues all of the storylines from the first. It starts off strangely having very little to do with dragons until towards the end, and the primary focus of this title seemed to be on Danaerys Targaryen and the city of Meereen, which she took over previously after sacking its rulers. The Meereen storyline ends up being told from the point of view of several of the side characters, with one of the best parts involving an encounter with two of the dragons that does not end well. The main reason for the different viewpoints though is that...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

In the middle of the book, Danaerys flies off on Drogon (her renegade dragon) and does not return, resulting in much speculation that she is dead. It should come as no surprise that she isn't and she does return very close to the end, which provides a great cliffhanger.

The story also features several chapters about Tyrion and Jon snow that are significant, but seem slightly overshadowed by Danaerys' story. Reading the book, I noticed more and more that Tyrion's storyline was significantly changed on the TV show, mostly that it did not include the character of Penny, who also features.

This second part also takes place in the aftermath of the fourth book, A Feast for Crows (hence the subtitle), so it resolves some of the plot threads from that title, albeit briefly. Only two chapters each are told from the points of view of Arya and Cersei; Jaime and Brienne appear only briefly.

At times I felt like the book was being a bit overly-ambitious with the number of plot threads and different characters, but ultimately I was satisfied. I could see how the TV show is now "breaking away" from the books because of it getting to the point where the writers had run out of source material. For example, the series has not included the Jaime plotline from the show's fifth season and I don't know if this is something George R. R. Martin is planning to write into his next book, The Winds of Winter (I suspect probably not).

I noticed this volume was shorter than all the previous titles in the series, so I was able to get through it quite fast. I'm looking forward to reading the next book, which does seem to be taking a very long time to come. Hopefully the wait will be worth it.

Next book: The X-Files: Whirlwind (Charles Grant)
Hilo, vol. 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, by Judd Winick
Frenetic, joyful comic about a kid, his friend, the alien that just shows up one day looking like a kid their age, and the BADGUYS they have to fight. The only way I could've liked this more was to magically become 7 long enough to read it.

Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
YA novel about family stuff (eg divorce). I liked it - charm and humor and an interesting protagonist - but found it too earnest / pointed. Found out it is heavily autobiographical (the authors are siblings) so maybe that was the issue. Will try at least one more by either of them before drawing a firm conclusion.

Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey, by Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
A wonderful wonderful picture book biography of an amazing, creative, gifted eccentric who built an entire bottle village. I read it three times in a row. I wish it was back in print or at lest not SO darn expensive. I'd already heard about Grandma Prisbey because we have bottle houses where I grew up (on the opposite coast from her), but I really enjoyed learning more about her and her work, and the illustrations were absolutely exquisite. Julie Paschkis is a gem.

Sad, the Dog, by Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Tul Suwannakit
A perfect book. Predictable story that is so marvelously done, in terms of art, words, and seeing things from the dog's perspective, that it didn't matter at all that it was predictable. (Predictable can actually be very good for picture books, cf the very-different-in-tone Monster at the End of This Book.) I enjoyed it so much that just thinking about it makes me want to read it again!

The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt
An improvement over the first one (which was just fine). Funny, endearing, and more complexity. Nice to read a picture book sequel that I like better than the original - it's so often the other way around.

The Turnip, by Jan Brett
Solid retelling of an old fairy tale that is elevated to delightfulness by the gorgeous art (and buttressed by a sense of humor in both art and text). I especially appreciate how intricate her paintings are.

The Snail and The Whale, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The third-best thing about this book are the wonderful, lively, warm pictures. The second-best thing about this book is how it manages to be playful and fantastic without straying so far from how biology actually works as to be nonsensical (unlike SO MANY other picture books that don't know they're messing the biology up). The first-best thing about this book is the effect of the rhyme and rhythm of the words, which work together as a read-aloud to make it darn near hypnotic in an entraining rather than a soothing way. SO FUN TO READ.
(17, O1)

The Little Mouse Santi, by David Eugene Ray
Slightly plotted picture book which is vastly enhanced by the ability of the author/illustrator to make each moment work perfectly as a moment, with liveliness and depth.

Little Tree, by Loren Long
THIS FABLE MAKES NO SENSE AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. It's not that it should be biologically accurate, but I want such things to be in HARMONY with biology, not chaotic-izing it. Which I found frustrating. The pictures are beeeooootiful, though, and fraught with meaning. Would have rather it was a wordless book so I could make up a story that resonated better.

The Tale of Rescue, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows
Straightforward story of a cattle dog rescuing a family from a snowstorm. Told in a distanced enough way that the sentimental plot bits made me cry. (If the text is mawkish I can resist it - if it's flat-affect-pragmatic I will tear up every time...) Lovely illustrations. Reminded me of Jim Kjelgaard's books, or at least what I remember of them from the 3-4 years I was obsessed with them as a kid. (note to self: reread a Jim Kjelgaard book. Also my Marguerite Henrys!)


book 22:  One Thousand and One Nights, Volume 10 by Jeon JinSeok

Sehara completes the telling a story from the Romance of Three Kingdoms to his captive, the king of England, letting the king know that in spite of mutual respect between them, he cannot give up his loyalty to Shahryar.  Sehara escapes Jerusalem, returning to Bagdhad to find Jafar as sultan and Shahryar presumed dead.  Heart broken, Sehara leaves Bagdhad without telling anyone where he is going, ending up with an old trade acquaintance in China.  Meanwhile former sultan Shahryar is discovered, half-dead, in the desert by a band of muslim gypsies.  He can only think of continuing his journey to rescue Sehara, arriving in Jerusalem and confronting the king only to find he is too late.  After returning to Bagdhad and also learning of Sehara's abrupt departure, Shahryar takes up the book trade, believing that in trading in stories, he must cross Sehara's path again some day.

book 23:  One Thousand and One Nights, Volume 11 (final) by Jeon JinSeok

After extensive searching, Shahryar finally locates Sehara.  Shahryar tells Sehara a story set in the future about gods born as humans on earth but having unbreakable bonds.  They travel off into the sunset beginning a new set of stories to pass on to the future.

So, some parts of this manhwa were interesting.  The author did a lot of research into the tales that he retold, which were from around the world, not just arabic.  I didn't understand the point of some of the stories.  I don't know if it was a cultural boundary or if it was just not very clear.  The boys love aspect was pushed a bit hard sometimes, but I guess that's what a lot of people who specifically read boys love manga and manhwa are looking for.  It wasn't a horrible series, but I'm not sure yet if I want to keep it to read it again.

book 24:  Uzumaki, Volume 1 by Junji Ito

This is a short manga horror series.  The premise is that the Japanese town of Kurozu-cho is cursed, with the sinister element being represented by the shape of a spiral, aka uzumaki.  Considering spirals are found prevalently in both human and natural design, there is a lot of fodder for the episodes of horror to follow.  The narrator is a teenage girl, Kirie Goshima, who is from and cannot seem to leave the town, as her haunted and sprial aware boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, strongly suggests.  This first volume includes people folding themselves into spirals, plunging scissors into their ears to destroy the body's most perfect spiral, the cochlea, hair curling up and manipulating others like medusa's tresses, and spiraling creamatorium ashes being turned into clay for diabolical pottery.  I looked down with amusement after reading this to note that the caftan I was wearing had a spiral pattern as the base fabric under the floral pattern. :)

book 25:  Uzumaki, Volume 2 by Junji Ito

In this volume, spiral mayhem continues.  A boy becomes a human, undead Jack-in-the-box.  Students and teachers evolve into human snails.  People are incinerated by a spiraloid beam from a possessed, defunct lighthouse.  Spiraling swarms of mosquitos give rise to blood-sucking mothers bearing precoscious infants who are determined one way or other to return to the womb.  And, monsoon season begins with the eye of a very localized storm focusing on Kirie.

Books 8, 9, 10

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant
336 pages/ Nov 2005
Read: Jan 17- Jan 19

I really really loved this book. It was not an in-your-face biblical fairy tale. And I think that even atheists and agnostics could appreciate this novel.

A predominant theme is the bond of sisterhood among women, whether or not they are of blood relation. Dinah finds many mothers in her life, her own, her aunts, Inna and Meryt, and all of them love her as though she were their own. But we also the see the strength in these women within their daily lives. The hardships that some of them endure are inconceivable, and yet they find the strength to continue, and often with the help of the women around them. We also see the strength of their bonds within the cloth walls of the red tent, where they share stories, laugh, cry, love one another, and celebrate each moon and their own ability to give life through cycle and blood.

What is quite striking is the contrast between males and females. The men are lauded and recorded in books and tales, and given all of the household decisions and absolute power, while the females must submit entirely, even if that means being abused everyday. Their stories are kept alive through one another and their daughters, or forgotten entirely.
And so the theme of immortality surfaces throughout the book as well. It is first hinted at with the stories of Dinah's mothers (made immortal by them having Dinah as a vessel to listen), and then with Jacob and his male lineage. The last words from his mouth are "remember me!". And yes, we did, and do. We remember, and the most read book on the planet remembers... It is an interesting theme to follow, because as readers of the 21st century, we already know that these characters achieved that immortality they sought. There was something pleasing to that bit of knowledge as I read on...as if I was part of some inside joke.

And lastly, I loved all the beautiful rituals that the women performed with the earth around them. They truly appreciated the earth, it's soil, the seasons, the sun and moon. It made me envious of a simpler time when one could be immersed and in sync with the earth and with each other.. of course I was not envious of any other aspect of life in this period and acknowledging this fact made me love the book all the more. The women of Canaan and Egypt must bear their forced roles in life, their futures are decided by whether or not they would be lucky enough to marry man who will not torture or abuse them. And then there is me over here centuries away gripping onto the kind of freedom that women over each passing century could not even fathom.

So this is a lovely book, for the emotion it stirs, the perspective it creates, and the characters that you find yourself unable to part with by the last page.

The Kitchen Daughter
by Jael McHenry
272 pages/ April 2001
Read: Jan 22- Jan 23

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the themes of food, and recipes and what it means to be "normal". The story centers around Ginny, who is in her 20s and has undiagnosed Asperger. Her parents had always sheltered her and took care of her, until she is suddenly forced to take care of herself, and face functioning in society independently. Food calms her, and following recipes is her passion, and some of the most enjoyable parts of the book take place with Ginny in the kitchen. There is also a slight mystery throughout the book that kept me quickly turning pages to try to find the resolution. It was an enjoyable and fast read, and felt original to me, since I had not yet read any novels pertaining to what it means or feels like to have Asperger disease. 4 stars for this one.

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity
by David Lynch
Audible Version/ Dec 2006
Read(listened) Jan 24- Jan 26

I'd written a couple papers on Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Lost Highway for my film studies class, and grew to fall in love with his work. There is something about a Lynch film, the ambiance, the lighting, the soundtrack, the mystery! I love it all, and I loved unwrapping it and breaking it all down in writing.

I open with this, because I clearly have a bias towards David Lynch, so this rating may be a bit skewed. I am also fascinated with meditation and happen to be on my own little journey in learning to meditate well. So for me this book was just perfect. I loved his insight on mediating, what it means to him, how he does it, why it is important in life. I also loved all the little tidbits about his process in making some of his films. I always thought everything in each film had an exact purpose. It was surprising to find out, many key parts in the movies were unplanned, added at the last minute, or took place because of a vague idea he had that he wanted to see come to life. It was all so fascinating! I don't think there was a single part of this book I found to be boring.

Also, I read this via audible and listened to it twice, and I see a third listen in the near future as well! I loved his pacing while reading and also that Lynchian noise during some of the breaks/chapters. That added sound effect really added gravity to the audio.

My only criticism is that there were many parts throughout the book I wish would have had more detail. He skims over a lot of stuff a bit too quickly... Were it not for this, I would have given this rating 5 stars.

"Cinema is it's own language, and with it you can say so many things because you've got time and sequences, you've got dialogue, you've got music, you've got sound effects, you have so many tools. And so you can express a feeling and a thought that can't be expressed any other way. It's a magical medium."

Book 18

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6)The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was afraid more than once this entry into the Mistborn world was going to rip my heart out. We're definitely at a turning point with huge ramifications for Waxillium's world, all of which I will try to review without spoiling anything. It has everything you come to expect of the Era 2 Mistborn books, intrigue, non-stop action, snarky banter, dangerous threats and it has something unexpected too: Steris.

Up until now, Wax's fiancee has been a weak point of characterization, unusual for Sanderson. We don't know much about her really other than she's Marasi's boring older half sister whom Wax is marrying because he's a Lord and he's expected to marry a Lady. Steris is a good match for that but even she describes herself as boring. Finally she comes alive especially after the debacle that was supposed to be her wedding day.

Steris goes with Wax to one of the more distant towns outside of the great city of Elendel (along with Marasi, Wayne and MeLaan) after Suit, Wax's uncle Edwarn who has captured Telsin, Wax's estranged sister (she stayed with their Terris relatives rather than with the non-Terris side). Even worse, MeLaan and another Kandra tell them that Suit is after the legendary bands of Mourning, devices made by the Lord Ruler and hold immense power that would allow the user to have ALL the allomancer/feruchemical powers like the Lord Ruler once held. They can not let the 'evil' Set group have them. They even stole the spikes out of the Kandra, ReLuur who has lost his mind, and potentially his life without them.

Steris argues that she is safer with Wax than anywhere else and has the paperwork to prove it. That is Steris's super power, she is a planner. She can foresee many possible outcomes and plan for them all (like hiding metal vials on her body in case Wax runs out of his metals or a gun sewn into her clothing etc). Marasi is also good with seeing patterns but Steris is even better but she doesn't feel comfortable with people in a way. She can work a crowd at a party like no one's business but feels on the outside (she almost seems like she could have Asperger syndrome from the descriptions of how she interacts and feels). Steris is also a fantastic negotiator which aids Wax to no end. It's the start of him seeing her not as someone he has to be with but rather someone he wants to be with which is a big step for him since he's spent years hung up on Lessie and months mourning having to kill her.

This job, stopping his uncle and rescuing his sister, shakes Wax out of his depression. Marasi also comes even more into her own, putting her crush on Wax behind her. Even Wayne is moving on from Ranette (who as Marasi points out isn't into men) but who he moves onto is eyebrow raising and fun.

Naturally things do not go smoothly and Wax finds himself framed for something he didn't do which was thankfully only a tiny piece of this since it's a trope I hate. They follow Suit to an even more distant location rather than informing Elendel's ruling class that a civil war is brewing thanks to unfair taxation and poor work conditions (which I hope is not the focus of the next book in full). Once they chase Suit there, their world will be stood on its ear.

And I'll stop there because anything else would spoil the last third of the book which is really universe altering. I loved the new characters that came up in this book. I loved the newly fleshed out Steris and the newly confident Marasi (not to mention the snarky, inappropriate MeLaan). Wayne still remains one of my favorite characters. I also love that these guys aren't kids. YA is all well and good and I love the genre but it's nice to see mature characters in their 30s and 40s as the leads, with all the experience and maturity that brings to the story. I will say there is a scene in this that some people might consider a cheat but with the titular 'holy' object it wasn't too unexpected.

The next book is the last. I'm not ready for this to end. Now to hunt down the novella that holds even more Mistborn secrets. As much as I liked the original Mistborn trilogy, I love Era 2 that much more.

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Book #6 was based in Massachusetts. Here's my review of The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent:

This book had an incredibly slow start. It took me getting halfway through the book to actually feel like I was getting into the substance. There were many times where I nearly put it down, but since I had read past my 25 page limit (when I decided if I'm going to keep reading a book or toss it aside,) I kept at it. About halfway through the book does pick up pace and get into the real meat of the story.

The coolest thing about the book actually is the premise of the story and why Kent wrote it. Kathleen Kent's 9th great-grandma was an actual woman hung during the Salem Witch Trials, for the belief she was involved in witchcraft. Being an individual who is incredibly interested in my own family genealogy, the fact that she took hers and crafted it into a story is very inspiring.

The story is told from the view of Sarah, daughter of Martha Carrier, one of the first women to be prosecuted and hung during the trials. While I understand why the story was written through Sarah's point of view (because the book could continue after Martha's death,) I think the story could have been stronger had it been told from Martha's perspective. I don't believe it entirely realistic to think that 9-year-old Sarah could have been enough involved with the grown-up world in the 1690's to actually be a reliable narrator.

All in all, the book is written about a very ugly blemish on American history (despite it being before the true formation of America.) It was a true moral hysteria that we should learn from.
So I suppose if I ever want to get (and stay) caught up, I'd best get started on recording the year.

The Pleasure of Reading, edited by Antonia Fraser
A collection of essays by writers about their early reading, variously interpreted as before 10 or before 30 or somewhere in between, bespoke for Waterstone's 50th anniversary (in the 80s), with specially commissioned illustrations and everything. It was quite lovely, and more than occasionally splendid. I can't remember all of my favorites, but I know Catherine Cookson and Jeannette Winterson were among them.

Black Cool, edited by Rebecca Walker
Another collection of essays, this one about various aspects of cool in African-American culture. Learned a lot, fell in love with some writers. You know.

Love Imagined, by Sherry Quan Lee
Memoir of a multiracial woman who grew up in (and still lives in) the Twin Cities. I absolutely loved about 80 percent of this and didn't care for about 5 percent of it. It has the slight roughness of a small press, local history book, rather than the polish of a memoir put out by a larger publisher. (Which is a feature more than a bug as far as I'm concerned.)

The Last Horizon, by Ted Harrison
A collection of autobiographical essays, poems, illustrations, and paintings about Harrison's experiences in and love of the Canadian North. Mostly the part of the Yukon where he was a school teacher for a large portion of his life, but also bits and pieces elsewhere (he started teaching in Northern Alberta, for example). Harrison has been one of my favorite painters since so long ago I don't remember it (age 4? 7? somewhere in there), and this was a rare treat! The book showed its age uncomfortably in one or two spots, but for the most part it was utterly fabulous.

Flutter, Vol. 1: Hell Can Wait, by Jennie Wood
Comic with excellent protagonist, brilliant art, good story, AND a genderswitching protagonist? It's like you're in my head, Jennie Wood!

An Edwardian Christmas, by John Goodall
This is a very small, wordless book consisting of tableaus of purportedly Edwardian people doing Christmasy things. It's not especially good, but since I used to be obsessed with a different copy of it when I was a kid, it still made me happy.

Echo, by Pam Ryan Munoz
Hum. It was EXTREMELY readable - I finished it in two sittings - but also very predictable, not just in its plots but also in its characterizations. I pretty much knew exactly what to expect of everything well in advance, *especially* if it was going to be a twist. But as I said, very readable indeed, and while the characters were predictable, they were also winsome. And I very much enjoyed how the characters felt about music, that part was solid. I'm willing to try at least one more book by her, and I had fun telling a friend about it over dinner; she was THRILLED to hear about it so she could offer it to her reading-above-grade-level 4th grade students.

Cats on the Job, by Lisa Rogak
Pictures of cats doing their various jobs, some quite legit and others rather fanciful (but, actual cats who actually DO live in those contexts, just some of the jobs they hold are rather silly). So, cute cat pictures, fluffy magazine-style accompanying text. Sometimes funny. I am a cat nerd, so I enjoyed the heck out of it. YMMV.

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (audiobook)
A mixed bag, I'm afraid. And for that reason, I would recommend it as a book to read rather than a book to listen to. I can't listen at anything other than normal speed, and there are several stories in here I would much rather have skimmed. That said, there were a few stories that had all three of: marvelous narrators AND a great deal to recommend them as stories AND a good connection to the canon. And several more that had 1-2 of those desirable traits. So I'm glad I read it. Just, you know, no more audio short story collections with multiple narrators if I can manage to remember to avoid them!

The Christmas Hat, by A. J. Wood
A sweet picture book with a good, albeit slight, story (and an adorable owl). What most recommends it, however, is the marvelous embossing! This might sound like damning with faint praise, but only if you don't know what a tactile person I am. The embossing lent both visual and tactile depth to the illustrations - very cleverly done and not something I'd ever come across before (at least, not this artful sort! may have seen and ignored it as a mere gimmick).

Book 17

The Zig Zag GirlThe Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this 1950s era mystery. It centers on two unlikely friends, DI Edgar Stephens and stage magician, Max Mephisto. Edgar has been assigned a strange case where an unknown woman has been cut in three, mimicking the sawed in half 'zig zag' woman Act that Max does. The torso was delivered directly to Edgar's office with his former military rank on it. He tracks down Max to ask about the trick to see if he can figure out why someone would do this and how. He finds Max with a new, temporary assistant, Ruby. Edgar really likes Ruby but she quickly disappears from their lives. Max, now forty-something, is beginning to wonder about his nomadic stage life as variety shows are starting to fade with the advent of TV and movies. He reluctantly agrees to help Edgar. All too soon, they realize that the victim was a former assistant of Max's.

The signs begin to point to their wartime adventures as part of the Magic Men. They were a group of illusionists who tried to trick the Germans into thinking there were more tanks, ships etc than there really were by using props (there were actual attempts at this in the war). The actual magicians were Max, Tony who like Max is a bit of a womanizer and more than a little egotistical, and the Great Diablo who is much older (at least seventy if not older in the present day part of the story). Edgar was there because of his quick intelligence and code breaking abilities and the Major, a military lifer, ran it under the control of a WAAF officer, Charis. Bill, the carpenter/props maker did most of the building.

As the story flips back and forth from past to present, we learn more and more about what happened in the war, especially to Charis whom Edgar loved and lost in a fiery attack. And the more likely it is the current murder has something to do with their past, especially when others die. Edgar and Max have to find a killer before anyone else dies.

I really liked both Edgar and Max. I will say that I would have liked it better if Edgar's men were more supportive of him and more efficient or if we at least knew why they seem to resent him. I half figured out the killer and why but there needed to be a bit more motive, in my opinion. So, more like a 4.5 read for me but I rounded up for the speed I read this at and how late it kept me up at night. I'm looking forward to the next one and would like to find the author's other series.

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Book 8: The Power of the Dog (Power of the Dog #1) .
Author: Don Winslow, 2005.
Genre: Period Fiction. Thriller. Drugs.
Other Details: ebook. 560 pages.

Art Keller is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and uncorruptable Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hitman. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federación. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it. - synopsis from author's website.

I recently borrowed his latest 'The Cartel' from the library and realised quickly that it was a sequel to this earlier novel, so slightly spoilt for a few aspects I went back to read this first.

An epic novel it opens in 1976 and ends in 1999 with a 2004 epilogue . It is a dark, brutal tale with most characters doing very dubious acts no matter if they are wearing white or black hats. As in a number of other period thrillers I have read recently the C.I.A. comes across as very sinister.

I loved it - finding it quite a ride from start to finish. Not a novel for the faint-hearted as there are many stomach-churning moments. Finishing it I moved straight on to The Cartel.

Book 9: The Cartel (Power of the Dog #2) .
Author: Don Winslow, 2015.
Genre: Thriller. Drugs.
Other Details: Hardback. 640 pages.

The official synopsis for this novel contains many spoilers for The Power of the Dog and so I will not reproduce. The events here follow on from those above in 2004. New characters are introduced as a few others bow out. It continues the high action, ultra-violence of 'The Power of the Dog'.

The violence was searing and as these novels are based on actual events even more disturbing. I wasn't quite sure about the ending though considering it over the days that followed there was probably no other way for it to conclude. While again not a novel for the faint-hearted it does underline the terrible cost that the so called war on drugs and the drug trade itself inflicted on the people of Mexico let alone the ruined lives of end users trapped in adduction.

Overall, a powerful duo of novels.

Book 10

Title: Rarely Pure & Never Simple
Author: Angel Martinez
Pages: 192
Summary: Damien just wants to be left alone. Too bad his variant talent as a locator makes him the go-to contractor for the government's missing person cases. He can refuse, but it's not so easy when the missing are variant kids.

Blaze Emerson is a sparker. People fear him as much for his ability to call fire as his obnoxious, violent temperament. He's good at what he does, though, and he's intrigued by the quiet man who can find people with his brain.

Conspiracies, treachery, and wild rumors are only the start. First Damien and Blaze have to survive each other.

My thoughts:
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Book 9

Title: Prey
Author: Andrea Speed
Pages: 376
Summary: In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.

My thoughts:
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Books #5-6

Book #5 was "Ever After," the 11th installment in "The Hollows" series by Kim Harrison, as an audiobook. This series is a guilty pleasure. I think Harrison's prose is clunky in some places, but she makes up for that with in-depth character development, intricate plotting and a breathless pace that keeps you reading on to find out what trouble Rachel has gotten herself into now. In this book, actions from a previous novel - creating a new ley line and battling but not killing a day-walkign demon - come back to haunt her. Rachel's ley line is leaking energy and causing the "Ever After" to shrink, which could mean the end of magic. If she doesn't fix it in three days, the demon collective will let their lab-made day-walking demon kill her. Rachel needs to form new alliances with former enemies to save the world. This book is one of the grimmer ones in the series - I don't remember so many deaths in any other book, and children are constantly in mortal physical danger throughout the book. I think Harrison does a fantastic job of pulling many threads together from previous entries in the series and changing relationships between established major and secondary characters. I'm really interested in reading the final two in this series to see how she wraps up the series overall.

Book #6 was "On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family" by Lisa See. See is the great-granddaughter of a Chinese merchant who married a white woman in California back when the transcontinental railroad was being built. Her family history - both from the caucasian and Asian sides - is laid out, along with context about racial relations and societal attitudes toward immigrants and interracial marriage. It's very informative, but it's also very personal, and See uses more novel-like narratives to make the past come alive. She doesn't shrink from family secrets, ranging from infidelity to alcoholism, discussing them very matter-of-factly. The book has three sections of photos from 5 generations in her family, both in American and living back in China. I had read two of her novels previously, and I can see where she mined her life and her relatives' life for some of the details. This book was fascinating and a joy to read. I'm curious to read a book or two by Lisa's mother, who is also a writer/novelist/journalist.

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


A couple of days back I finished Osprey Campaign #1: Normandy 1944: Allied Landings and Breakout. This is, of course, a huge topic to cover in a short book, but they manage to touch on a number of issues in a way I hadn't seen discussed before. I found it an interesting and refreshing look at the campaign. Worth a peek.

Book 16

UndeadUndead by Kirsty McKay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I admit it, I picked this up because the cover looked like such a Buffy rip off. See what I mean
 photo Buffy_The_Vampire_Slayer_Movie_zpsntarilic.jpg

And wanted to see if it was a Buffy with zombies instead of vampires. No, it's not. It's not nearly as witty or as sarcastically funny. It wants to be (and the 'sound bites' on the cover say it is but it's really not). It doesn't help much that the main character is Bobby though she's not the cheerleader so who's that on the cover? Alice?

In fact the cover really makes zero sense but that's not really the author's fault so let me move onto the actual story. Bobby was born in England and moved to America when she was about ten then back to the UK. She's currently on a school ski trip in Scotland and it doesn't seem like she has a lot of friends being the new girl. She finds herself talking to Smitty, another outsider (by choice), sort of the bad boy of the school (naturally because this IS YA after all). They're at the ski resort's cafe where a man in a carrot costume is harassing people to try his carrot juice which neither of them do.

Almost immediately the action takes off and really never stops so that's the good part of this. Everyone in the cafeteria is dead. There's just Smitty and Bobby left alive and quickly they find two others, the nerdy (and oddly sociopathic) Pete and Alice, the head cheerleader popular girl stereotype (called Malice by just about all of them the entire book). Unfortunately their teacher and classmates don't stay dead. They become zombies of the slow shambling Night of the Living Dead type.

By sheer luck, the foursome manage to get the school bus to town only to find the zombies are already there and soon they're holed back up in the Cheery Chomper cafe where they at least have food and warmth as it's snowing. Not to mention that they've blown up the local gas station (where Pete gets a bad head wound that should have been better researched by author/editors because believable it is not). They try to parse out what is happening. Pete is sure that someone has purposely done this.

And he might be right but they are quickly forced from their safe hidey hole and out into the blizzard where they find more survivors and a Scottish castle. Here they might get some answers but they almost might get dead.

The story does wrap up the main thrust of this book, who/what/how the zombies are but it also ends in the middle of a potential action scene and I'm not sure I'll pick up the next to find out how this ends. Really this was a 2.5 read for me. I gave it three stars because well I'm just not into zombies and it's not as if it's badly written. It's just not really me. However, that said none of the characters really rise above their tropes. They embody those tropes full heartedly though. I liked that both Bobby and Alice are rather take charge kind of girls (the scream queen in this case being played by Pete) but I didn't really love either of them (or anyone for that matter). If you like zombie stories, you might like this. And oh, I put it under Sci-Fi rather than Urban fantasy because of the cause of the zombism.

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Good Luck Life is the first book to explain the meanings of Chinese rituals and to offer advice on when and how to plan for Chinese holidays and special occasions such as Chinese weddings, the Red Egg and Ginger party to welcome a new baby, significant birthdays, and the inevitable funeral. Packed with practical information, Good Luck Life contains an abundance of facts, legends, foods, old-village recipes, and quick planning guides for Chinese New Year, Clear Brightness, Dragon Boat, Mid-Autumn, and many other festivals.

Written with warmth and wit, Good Luck Life is beautifully designed as an easily accessible cultural guide that includes an explanation of the Lunar Calendar, tips on Chinese table etiquette for dining with confidence, and dos and don'ts from wise Auntie Lao, who recounts ancient Chinese beliefs and superstitions. This is your map for celebrating a good luck life.

I found this book to be a bright and pleasant introduction or refresher to those seeking insight into Chinese-American cultural celebrations. I could see this book being a fabulous gift for someone who is marrying into a Chinese family, or someone who is Chinese but hasn't been raised along strict traditions or had the rituals explained. Gong plainly states what food is served or not served, what food and flowers and numbers symbolize, the history and mythologies behind rituals, and includes incredibly useful timelines on how to plan and purchase items for a celebration. There are also numerous recipes; some of the ingredients might be a challenge to obtain unless you live near a Chinatown or a well-stocked international grocery, but it still makes for fascinating reading.
An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.

In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.

To break the Fant's control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers-that-be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend's son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.

Barsk is darn good scifi that explores issues of history, race, and existence through the plights of anthropomorphic elephants and a wide cast of other creatures. It touches on hard science fiction issues but never goes too far. Most importantly, it's a book with a heart. It gripped me right from the start with a Fant accepting his call to go where all his kind must go when they die, but on the way he is kidnapped and held captive. The poor guy just wants to go and die in peace.

All of the characters are fantastic. I adored the precocious young Pizlo and a particular sloth character who gave me all the feels. Jorl is a fantastic protagonist, a Fant who is called far beyond his comfort zone as he begins his hero's quest. This book will definitely be on my nomination lists for the Hugo and Nebula.


My library account online recommends books to me sometimes based on what I have read and what I might like.

I have not heard a whole lot about these 3 books but they seem to be best-sellers and widely read.

1. The Book of Unknown Americans

2. Brown Girl Dreaming

3. We Were Liars ( YA fiction I think

If you read any of these, did you like the story? If you don't mind briefly talking about the main theme or topic, I would so appreciate it, and don't worry I don't mind spoilers. I still read stories even if I already know how everything will turn out. :)

Book 5, 6 & 7

The Girl on the Train

325 pages/ Jan 2015
Read: Jan 14-16

Description: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

This is not the typical genre I go for when I grab a book. I'm not big on thrillers, and don't usually like them all that much. But this book was a thoroughly entertaining page turner. I just could not put it down! I would recommend it to anyone who wants a quick and engrossing read.

The Flood Girls


The rest contains spoilers, please DO not read if you plan on reading this bookCollapse )

Heartbreak House

by One of the distinguished comic dramatist's more somber plays, this entertaining allegory examines apathy, confusion and lack of purpose as causes of major world problems, with larger-than-life characters representing the evils of the modern world.
The house could arguably be a metaphorical reference to a ship which must be guided capably, not only by its crew, but also its passengers. Each character in the house represents some facet of British society, Mangan being the nouveau riche capitalist, Hesione the flighty Bohemian, Ellie a struggling member of the lower class and so on.

I have a particular soft spot for plays.  I think I love reading them even more than I love watching them, because I feel as if my mind gives so much more life to these characters then actors do (for me at least).  This play was no exception.  I loved the characters and their antics.  But Shaw made certain to make it clear (in his huge prolog) that this wasn't a play about the characters or even what was happening on the stage, it was a metaphor on the many things he saw wrong with the world when he wrote it.  These added details thrown in by the author, definitely change the reception and interpretation of scenes and lines, and I couldn't help but wonder how my interpretation would have changed without the lengthy added material ammended to the play.
At any rate, it was a good, read.  Not nearly my favorite play, but still an entertaining read.



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