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Book 162: Who Goes There?.
Author: John F. Campbell, 1948.
Genre: Science Fiction. Horror. Short Stories.
Other Details: Paperback. 256 pages.

When a group of scientific researchers, isolated in Antarctica, stumble across an alien spaceship buried in the ice it seems like an incredible opportunity. The alien pilot can just be seen - a shadowy figure frozen just a short depth into the ice. It looks as though he survived the crash only to be flash-frozen on the Antarctic plateau. The team fight the frozen conditions to free the ship from the ice - with disastrous consequences - and rescue the alien. As they transport the corpse, one of their greatest finds, out on the ice back to their camp, several scientists begin to experience extraordinary, vivid and unsettling dreams. They're dismissed as the product of stress and the harsh conditions . . . but the nightmare is only beginning. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I borrowed this from the library specifically to read the novella 'Who Goes There?' because I realised that I'd never read it despite it being a classic work of horror/SF and it is one that is hard to find.

Who Goes There? was a genuinely creepy story and I realised that John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing was much more faithful to the source text than Howard Hawks 1951 'The Thing from Outer Space'.

The six short stories that were also included in the collection were fine but not that amazing or memorable. Some of the science was also a bit dodgy and I had to remind myself that these stories were written long ago and thus made allowances. One story, 'Frictional Losses', was more impressive and could have been a template for the TV series 'Falling Skies' with its alien invasion reducing the human race to a small resistance force and the skitter-like aliens.

Still am glad I read this for Who Goes There?.
Book 161: Sisters of Treason.
Author: Elizabeth Freemantle, 2014.
Genre: Historical Fiction. England 16th Century.
Other Details: Hardback. 496 pages.

Mary Tudor clings fearfully to the English throne. Seeing the threat posed by her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, the Queen orders her execution. But what of Lady Jane's young sisters - Katherine and Mary? Cursed with royal blood, they must endure the perils of a Tudor court, closely observed by its paranoid Queen. Entranced by the drama, intrigue and romance of court life, young Lady Katherine's desire for love leads her to make ill-advised and dangerous liaisons. Burdened with a crooked back, her younger sister, Lady Mary - the 'mouse' - is seen as no threat and becomes privy to the Queen's most intimate secrets. Yet Mary, who yearns to escape court dramas, knows her closeness to the Queen could be her undoing. For the Queen is childless and in ill-health. If she should die, her fearsome sister Elizabeth will inherit the crown. Then Katherine and Mary will find court a maze of treachery and danger - where possessing royal blood is the gravest crime of all . . . - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

After a couple of disappointing historical novels it was so good to read this, which was so well written and obviously well-researched covering the reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I.

The story is narrated by Katherine and Mary Grey with a third perspective in third person focusing on Levina Teerkinc, a Flemish painter who served in the courts of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. I had not known anything about Levina as she was not mentioned in my art history courses even though the tutors were seeking to include women artists that had been largely forgotten. So learning about her was a revelation and I was fascinated by her role in popularising miniatures and certainly will be seeking out more information on her as recommended by Freemantle in the work of art historian Susan E. James.

The tragic story of the Grey sisters was deeply moving and I felt that Freemantle was able to express the complexities of the Tudor courts with great skill.

Sep. 2nd, 2014

There we were, on a warm summer day, chilled late harvest sauvignon blanc in glasses in reach, and I finished the bottle and two books, yesterday:

First was Osprey Warrior #151: Samurai Women 1184 – 1877; fairly interesting, it gives a fair picture of what life was like for the non-male members of a samurai family.

Then, Osprey Men-At-Arms #387: The Italian Army of World War I. It's a useful reminder that as a nation, Italy had only existed about fifty years, and hadn't aggressively built a modern infrastructure to support an army of the size of the other combatants in the Great War. Moderately interesting...

Sep. 1st, 2014

I said that there'd be more to come, and there was:

Finished Osprey Warrior #167: Early Aegean Warrior 5000 – 1450 BC, which I found to be a very good description of the archaeological data on these obscure peoples. It's interesting, especially as they were the ancestors of the Greeks, and the enemies of the Ancient Egyptians. Good piece of work.

August 2014 reading

August 2014 reading:

27. Winter Moon, by Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee, and C.E. Murphy (400 pages)
I read this for the C.E. Murphy novella, but I wound up really enjoying all of them. The Tanith Lee story was very heart-wrenching in a lot of ways. Definitely a worthwhile anthology.

28. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (352 pages)
A sort of fantastical bildungsroman, this follows young Jacob as he grows up to his grandfather's fantastic stories of monsters and children with strange abilities, and comes to disbelieve them. But that was Before, and now he is After, and he must enter the world his grandfather spoke of. I enjoyed the interspersed pictures.

29. Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White (335 pages)
The premise is interesting and reminded me somewhat of Holzner's Deadtown series and Harrison's Hollows series. This was definitely a YA, in that the main character is very obviously a 16-year-old girl with all the maturity and insight that comes with that age. Interesting world-building, but a little on the skeletal side of development.

30. Touch, by Alexi Zentner (272 pages)
This novel reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude in terms of the sort of mythos built and this beautiful feel of magical realism. Spanning decades, the narrator speaks of the present, his childhood, and the stories his grandfather told him of the early generation of Sawgamet, the north-woods boomtown which his grandfather founded. Filled with elements of the supernatural--mahahas, wendigo, qallupilluit, and others--the mixture that made this into a sort of north-woods magical realism was well-woven. Very enjoyable. This is not a Western-traditional tale with a rising action, climax, falling action, but rather a story that seems to deal with infinity circles.

31. East Coast Literary Review: Summer 2014 Edition, edited by Heather Lenoir (138 pages)
Lots of really good poetry and some good fiction pieces in here. Got a copy because one of my poems is in here.

August pages: 1,497

Pages to date: 10,931

Progress: 31/52

August 2014 comics/manga reading:

335. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Volume 3, by Hayao Miyazaki (156 pages)
336. Berlin 2: City of Smoke, by Jason Lutes (210 pages)
337. Star Trek Ongoing: Volume 1, by Mike Johnson (104 pages)
338. Kekkaishi: Volume 26, by Yellow Tanabe (192 pages)
339. Kekkaishi: Volume 27, by Yellow Tanabe (192 pages)
340. Freakangels: Volume 2, by Warren Ellis (144 pages)
341. Scalped High Lonesome: Volume 5, by Jason Aaron (128 pages)
342. Claymore: Volume 5, by Norihiro Yagi (200 pages)
343. Bleach: Volume 33, by Tite Kubo (200 pages)
344. 100 Bullets: Volume 4, A Foregone Tomorrow, by Brian Azzarello (264 pages)
345. Absolute Boyfriend: Volume 4, by Yuu Watase (200 pages)
346. Time Stranger Kyoko: Volume 2, by Arina Tanemura (210 pages)
347. Rosario Vampire Season II: Volume 10, by Akihisa Ikeda (218 pages)
348. Puella Magi Kazumi Magica The Innocent Malice: Volume 5, by Magica Quartet (144 pages)
349. Case Closed: Volume 38, by Gosho Aoyama (200 pages)
350. Case Closed: Volume 39, by Gosho Aoyama (200 pages)
351. Millennium Snow: Volume 3, by Bisco Hatori (200 pages)

August pages: 3,162

Pages to date: 69,645

Progress: 351/365

Book 74

Cursed in the ActCursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a love-hate relationship with mysteries using real people as their sleuths. I usually don't like them but I can't seem to stay away from them either. This one was better than most in that genre, a 3.5. It's centered on the Lyceum Theater and Bram Stoker as the theater manager. However, Mr. Stoker isn't the pov character. It's told first person by Harry Rivers, Stoker's stage manager and right hand man.

One of their competitors is trying to shut the Lyceum down, first by poisoning their lead actor (not fatally) and any host of other dirty tricks. In the middle of this, the lead's stand in actor is killed in a hit and run accident and later he's removed from his grave and his head appearing in the Lyceum.

As Harry looks into this, because they can't afford to have the theater close, he learns that the brother of the other theater's owner, might be behind it all and he has help from a very strange source, a voudoun priest he met in his travels.

While the ending wasn't too hard to predict, I still enjoyed the journey. It occurred to me I don't really know much about Stoker other than his famous novel so I have no idea how true to him this feels. I'll probably look up the next in the series.

View all my reviews

Books #23-24

23. Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 375 pages, Mystery, 2011 (In Death, Book 32).

Fresh off her first stint as primary on a case, Peabody goes from elated to terrified when she overhears dirty cops discussing their operation and the murder of someone who crossed them. Dallas starts the investigation into a squad in illegals (narcotics) led by the daughter of a retired police legend, a paragon of honor and duty. It’s intense, with the plans within plans, and more than a few physical encounters. I read this in a day; the In Death series has become a comfort series, easy to read with a family of characters that fascinate me.

24. New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 402 pages, Mystery, 2011 (In Death, Book 33).

As Detective Peabody and Lieutenant Dallas are preparing for an awards ceremony, in recognition of their efforts in the prior book, Eve receives a message from one of her first arrests. The pedophile she stumbled upon as a rookie, a man who would kidnap, torture, and kill young girls, has escaped from prison. And while he was in New York to announce himself, Eve is going to have to go to Dallas, the city she was found in as a child, the city she remembers in her nightmares, in order to save some other girl from those nightmares. Intense read, and a great glimpse into the back story of Eve Dallas and what brought her to the attention of Feeney, who trained her as a murder cop.


Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue
This is a charming go-to-sleep tale, distinguished from its peers both by the absolutely beautiful illustrations and by the sense that the storyteller is thinking about the kid more than the parents. I'll be giving it to a kid I know.

Existential Time-Limited Therapy, by Freddie and Alison Strasser
There were some neat ideas and some compelling case studies in here, but there was also a lot of heavy jargon and unnecessarily stuffy writing. Very self-consciously academic.

A Shiver of Light, by Laurell K. Hamilton
I'm not sure if the ending to this latest Merry Gentry magic, mayhem, and sex tale was abrupt and kind of a disappointment, or if it was just that I was like 50 pages from the end when the copy I was reading got trashed, so I didn't read the last part until about a week after I read the rest of the book. I find I enjoy Hamilton most if I swig her down all in one big gulp.

The Muppets Character Encyclopedia, by Craig Shemin\
It was deliciously nostalgic to be reminded of Muppets I haven't thought of since before I hit puberty. Not quite amazing (I admit I'd been expecting something even more detailed and geeky, given that it's published by DK), but still really fun to read through.

Maxine Banks is Getting Married, by Lori Aurelia Williams
Banks is a splendid conveyer of personality and relationship, so I deeply enjoyed this book even though the plot was well outside my experience / interest zone. I hope she writes more.

The Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta
The worldbuilding and plot of this post-climate-change dystopia got me to stick with it, even though the main character's quiet and distanced perspective made it hard to connect with her until several chapters in. By the end of the book, it had my mind and my heart.

Garlands of Moonlight, by Jai Sen and Rizky Wasisto Edi
A bizarre little horror comic based on a Malaysian legend that I thought had a terrible ending until I realized there was a sequel... also, while it's mostly black and white, the artist used a silver wash for highlights, which upped the illustrations from good to stunning.

Beach Reading, by Lorne Elliott
This was kind of hard for me to read for personal reasons that I don't feel like going into, but I'm glad I stayed the course. A warm, wry, charming, and homesickness-inducing coming-of-age novel.

The Year of Reading Dangerously, by Andy Miller
One of the most readable books about books I've ever read (and I've read many). Sometimes thigh-slappingly funny, sometimes awkward and gangly, most often feeling like you're having a beer with the guy while he tells you about his reading life and you laugh and ask questions and make suggestions and tell stories of your own. I liked this even more than I liked Nick Hornby's collections of book reviews (which was a lot).

#84: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts. . . .

His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

Zafron excels at numerous elements within this book: the viewpoint of an awkward teenage boy in love for the first time, painting the setting of Barcelona as a decaying character itself, and creating a downright creepy mystery. Really, this could be described as young adult horror. It's a fast read. The creepy elements were a bit too creepy for my liking and the first person narrator Oscar came across as rather empty to me.

Books 138-149 for 2014

138. Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina. 168 pages.

Another American author who writes books set in England apparently without bothering to do any research…. Hint : Victorian English ladies would not be talking about “cookie batter” nor do English schools have graduation ceremonies - universities yes, schools, no.

The story and characters were quite fun though.

139. The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare by Lilian Jackson Braun. 150 pages.
140. The Cat Who Sniffed Glue by Lilian Jackson Braun. 161 pages.

Two more outings for Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats.

141. The Little Grey Men by “B.B.”. 178 pages.

The last gnomes in England set out upstream to find their missing brother…

I seem to have missed this children’s classic when I was a small person, which is rather a shame, because I think twelve-year-old me would have enjoyed it even more than fifty-one-year-old me did, which was quite a lot.

The writing is excellent - the language used is often poetic but without being overblown or pompous. The author’s evident approval of fox hunting would be more controversial today than in 1942 when the book was written, but otherwise it's very charming.

142. The Cat Who Went Underground by Lilian Jackson Braun. 183 pages.

Another murder mystery for Jim and the cats.

143. Skinwalker by Faith Hunter. 321 pages.

And on to a rather different cat… Jane Yellowrock is a vampire hunter, but she’s also a skinwalker, someone who can take the shape of various different animals - for a price. Jane’s in New Orleans to hunt a rogue vampire who’s killing not only humans but other vampires too. Staying alive, earning her fee and keeping her true nature a secret make life pretty complicated….

This was a lucky find in a charity shop and I enjoyed it very much - will definitely be looking for more of the series.

144. Swan For the Money by Donna Andrews. 246 pages.

Another visit to the town of Caerphilly where this time Meg Langslow has been landed with organising the local rose show. Of course, this being Meg’s life, things are far from simple and it’s not long before complications abound and a corpse is in evidence.

As ever, utterly implausible but huge fun.

145. The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian Jackson Braun. 191 pages.

Jim Qwilleran and his cats solve another mystery or two.

146. The Orphaned Worlds by Michael Cobley. 147 pages.

Book two of the Humanity’s Fire trilogy. A bit slow and moving-people-into-place, as book2 of trilogies tend to be….

Still interesting though and makes me want to know what happens to the characters.

147. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. 204 pages.

Kate Daniels is a mercenary in a world where there are “waves” of magic and technology working.

She’s been trying to keep a low profile, but when her guardian is murdered, she has to find the culprit…

I enjoyed this one a great deal. interesting world building and characters and a lot of questions still unanswered make me want to read more books in this series.

148. Killer Keepsakes by Jane K. Cleland. 263 pages.

Another mystery for antiques dealer Josie Prescott. This time her assistant, Gretchen has gone missing - is she victim or villain?

Workmanlike whodunnit, although Josie’s relationship with the press is a touch implausible.

149. The Cat Who Lived High by Lilian Jackson Braun. 186 pages.

Jim Qwilleran and his cats go to Chicago to spend the winter and investigate the possibility of refurbishing a grand old building. But skullduggery is afoot…

A reasonable entry in this series, except for the annoying “two weeks earlier” style beginning and really objectionable scene where Qwilleran, aware that one of his fellow tenants, a harmless elderly lady, is nervous of strange men, deliberately behaves in such a way as to intimidate her - breathing heavily, stomping down the stairs behind her and so on. Way to be a creep, Qwilleran…

This isn’t usual behaviour for him, so perhaps it’s meant to show he’s under stress living in the city, but it just made me want to yell at him.
Book 160: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair .
Author: Joel Dicker, 2012. Translated from the French by Sam Taylor, 2014.
Genre: Period/Contemporary Fiction. Mystery. Metafiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 624 pages.

August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods, never to be heard from again; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.

Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of the country’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a book to save someone’s life?
- synopsis from author's website.

I found this quite simply a magnificent novel, intelligent, intricately constructed and multi-layered. Aside from the compelling central mystery of 'Who Killed Nora Kellergan', with its echoes of Twin Peaks 'Who killed Laura Palmer?', the novel also takes a dark comic swipe at the publishing business that reminded me of The Silkworm.

Despite the history of a love affair between Nola and Quebert, Harry is no Humbert Humbert. He had been shocked by his attraction to Nola and initially endeavoured to keep her at a distance. Even thirty-three years later he does not deny to Marcus that Nora was under-age and accepts the censure that is aimed at him while protesting his innocence of her murder.

Although written by a Swiss writer in French it has many hallmarks of the 'Great American Novel' in its style and atmosphere including capturing the ambiance of small town America as well as the heady heights of New York. It is also meta-fiction using the style of a novel that contains within it a true crime account along with snippets of other novels and writing. There is a great deal of ambivalence within the novel about events and characters. It keeps the reader on their toes.

I initially borrowed the book from the library but once I started and realised that I loved it bought my own hardback copy. It is certainly a novel that I will be recommending widely.
35. History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir. This is an entertaining read for history buffs (and perhaps for reluctant readers). Weir goes into several oft-repeated historic tales and exposes the lies- then tells the truth (or, in a couple cases, as close to the truth as we can know). For example, that story about Nero fiddling while Rome burned? Didn't happen (for starters, the fiddle didn't come into existence until more than a thousand years after Nero's death). Indeed, while Nero was no great emperor (in fact, he was probably the worst one, after Calligula, in my opinion), his actions during the fire that destroyed a large part of Rome were probably his most noble. According to Weir, Nero risked his life several times to save others.

The most intriguing story was about the death of John Dillenger. The official story is that Dillenger was fatally shot by FBI agents outside a Chicago theater in July 1934. However, forensics evidence (and the lack of it) and conflicting stories casts doubt on this. Throw in that J. Edgar Hoover needed Dillenger's death to retain his own job after a previous capture attempt went horribly wrong, it's not hard to believe that there could have been a cover-up.

The most disturbing was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Semitic propoganda crafted during Tsar Nicholas II's regime by his cohorts to deflect attention from the tsar's ineffectual leadership. In case you have never heard of this (I had not), the Protocols were supposed to be an outline of a Jewish plan to take overthe world. Nicholas II, having some honor, actually rejected using it once he realized upon investigation that the so-called documents were a forgery but the Protocols still managed to spread. The Protocols are partially responsible for one of the greatest atrocities in modern history, the Holocaust. There are still segments of the world's population that still believe it. Sickening.

There's a lengthy bibliography and notes. The book is chock full of illustrations and sidebars, and the histories are told in an easy to follow, engaging style. Those who like history should enjoy this, and I can see even those who may not like reading liking this book's easy-to-follow format.

Currently reading: Cleopatra, by Zahi Hawass and Franck Goddio (back to this one), and Wards of Faerie, by Terry Brooks. Also ordered four more books from the library: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield; The Devil's Teeth, by Susan Casey; The Family That Couldn't Sleep, by D.T. Max; and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman.

Aug. 31st, 2014

So we went to the gaming convention, and I wandered the dealers' room, like you do, and picked up a few Osprey books, as is my habit. I have to admit that I found myself irritated, because their stock wasn't in numeric order, the way they've always had it in the past, but I managed to dig up some books, anyway.

In any case, while I manned our own booth for the show, I got through a couple of the books I'd purchased.

First was Osprey Elite #201: The Carthaginians 6th - 2nd Century BC; it's not an era or force that I knew much about previously, since they were beaten and overshadowed by the Romans, but this book has some pretty solid information as well as the plates.

Then, Osprey Men-At-Arms #465: Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II: I'd played the Avalon Hill board wargame called Anzio, and one of the Allied units was a Brazilian division, so I knew that the South American country had been an active participant in European combat, but I'd never seen anything written about their exploits before, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. Very cool.

I've another that I'll start later today, but that'll be for a future post.

Aug. 30th, 2014

Yesterday afternoon, I caught up with Harry Turtledove's Crosstime series by finishing The Valley-Westside War. The book deals with an alternate reality in which there'd been a nuclear exchange, and some generations later the kingdom of the San Fernando Valley (ruled by King Zev) goes to war with the Kingdom of the Westside (ruled by Cal, supported by his dog, Pots). The team from the home timeline is trying to figure out what happened that lead to the nuclear war; once again, their secret is discovered and they have to escape...

Once again, a pretty good book, something of a YA flavor to it, though.
Book 158: The Treatment (Jack Caffrey #2).
Author: Mo Hayder, 2001.
Genre: Police Procedural. Crime Fiction. Disturbing Themes.
Other Details: Hardback. 410 pages.

A quiet residential street in south London. A husband and wife are discovered, imprisoned in their own home. Badly dehydrated, they've been bound and beaten. He is close to death. But worse is to come: their young son is missing. When Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is called in to investigate, the similarities with events in his own past make it impossible for him to view this new crime dispassionately. And as he digs deeper - as he attempts to hold his own life together in the face of ever more disturbing revelations about both his past and his present - the real nightmare begins ... - synopsis from author's website.

A crime novel dealing with he subject of child abduction, sexual assault and murder was never going to be comfortable reading and here the feeling was that Hayder had picked up a rock to expose something very nasty indeed lurking in South London.

Jack Caffrey is himself consumed by the disappearance of his brother Ewan some 25 years ago and that drives him in his determination to solve the case but is also his weakness. Here there is a horrific irony as he manages to find a clue realting to Ewan and contacts a member of a paedophile gang who claims to know more about Ewan's fate. Just heart-breaking in places.

Book 159: The Ritual (Jack Caffrey #3).
Author: Mo Hayder, 2008.
Genre: Police Procedural. Crime Fiction. Drugs.
Other Details: Paperback. 560 pages.

Just after lunch on a Tuesday in April, nine feet under water, police diver Flea Marley closes her gloved fingers around a human hand. The fact that there's no body attached is disturbing enough. Yet more disturbing is the discovery, a day later, of the matching hand. Both have been recently amputated, and the indications are that the victim was still alive when they were removed.

DI Jack Caffery has been newly seconded to the Major Crime Investigation Unit in Bristol. He and Flea soon establish that the hands belong to a boy who has recently disappeared. Their search for him - and for his abductor - lead them into the darkest recesses of Bristol's underworld, where drug addiction is rife, where street-kids sell themselves for a hit, and where an ancient evil lurks; an evil that feeds off the blood - and flesh - of others ...
- synopsis from author's website.

I had wondered about the long gap between The Treatment and this third novel and according to the end notes Mo Hayder decided to drop Jack Caffrey as a character but then when she came to write The Ritual, which she thought was going to be the first of a new series starring police diver Flea Marley, when Jack popped into her consciousness and she elected to reintroduce him here away from London.

From the opening pages I adored Flea and was also glad of the move to the West Country as well as seeing Jack again. The Ritual was a less graphic crime thriller than her first two books in this series though still had its uncomfortable moments and was a thrilling read from start to finish.

Book 73

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic AvengersGuardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This slim graphic novel was released for the movie (naturally) and collects the comic reboot (again) of Guardians from 2013 (#0.1-#3) then a series of individual character studies encompassed as 'Tomorrow's Avengers.' Let me deal with them separately since they feel like it.

The 2013 0.1-3 is well worth it. The storyline is solid and relatively simple. The Guardians are back together after the Thanos thing in 2006 (which I'd be lying if I said I remembered much about that). They're talking with Tony Stark to help keep Earth safe. After all, Star Lord is part human and he grew up there. There is a bit of non-linear story telling here but nothing too hard to keep up with. Peter Quill tells Tony his life story, or more precisely his mother's story (which doesn't jive with the movie at all but does with the early series).

Peter's father is a galactic king and has ordered everyone, including Peter, away from Earth (There are reasons and it gives the All-Mother a bit of a moment to shine). Peter sees this as painting a target on earth, especially for aliens like the Badoon which naturally happens just as Peter fears. Naturally neither the Guardians nor Iron Man is going to stand around letting this happen. Let's just say Peter's father J'Son is none too thrilled with this defiance.

The good - the storyline and the art. No lie, Steven McNiven and Sara Pichelli's art is beautiful. If all comic art still looked this good, I'd be collecting more avidly. I would hang some of this on my wall, especially the Peter pissed off ones.

The Bad - there isn't much. I wasn't too fond of how they rendered Iron Man's armor or Rocket's legs but the thing that gets me is typical comic book sexism. I know it's not going to end but seriously why would Gamora be the only one in a black bathing suit under her armor? At one point they're all stripped of their battle suits and everyone is in black skin tight undersuits except her. She's in a French cut bathing suit because that's what all assassin wear (eye rolls). There is one cover variant with Gamora that is a gorgeous piece of art on one hand and on the other she's in something that is little more than three thin strips of cloth that would require her to go Brazilian to wear (assuming of course that her secondary sexual characteristics are human). I just don't see Gamora going for a wax.

Now for the final third of the book, the individual stories has an underlying theme of Peter going to round up his friends again. It really should be the first thing since it predates the other two-thirds of the book but it's just as well it's in the back. None of the stories are strong (Gamora's and Drax's stories are just battle scenes). Rocket's seems like something that might be continued down the road and Groot's had a bit of heart to it. The art is also very variable in this (some of it not particularly good, reminding me of why I don't collect like I did.

Overall, this is a very good graphic novel. Though it is a bit darker than the movie for those who only know that aspect, much fewer jokes.

View all my reviews
Book 157: The House of Dolls (Pieter Vos #1).
Author: David Hewson, 2014.
Genre: Police Procedural. Crime Fiction. Political Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback. 430 pages.

Anneliese Vos, sixteen-year-old daughter of Amsterdam detective, Pieter Vos, disappeared three years ago in mysterious circumstances. Her distraught father's desperate search reveals nothing and results in his departure from the police force. Pieter now lives in a broken down houseboat in the colourful Amsterdam neighbourhood of the Jordaan. One day, while Vos is wasting time at the Rijksmuseum staring at a doll's house that seems to be connected in some way to the case, Laura Bakker, a misfit trainee detective from the provinces, visits him. She's come to tell him that Katja Prins, daughter of an important local politician, has gone missing in circumstances similar to Anneliese. In the company of the intriguing and awkward Bakker Vos finds himself drawn back into the life of a detective. A life which he thought he had left behind. Hoping against hope that somewhere will lay a clue to the fate of Anneliese, the daughter he blames himself for losing . . . - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

Hewson uses the tried and tested formula of teaming a crusty battered-by-life police detective, in this case retired due to personal tragedy, with a misfit newcomer and alongside the case also explores the dynamics of the professional relationship between them.

This proved another highly engaging thriller from David Hewson. While it worked well as a stand alone I was pleased to read that it is the start of a new series. The storyline mixed politics with organised crime as well as the cold case involving Vos' daughter who had disappeared three years previously. Vos proved a likeable character as did Laura Bakker, and I look forward to more of their cases.

#83: Renegade Champion by Richard Rust

"If you buy that horse, you're buying your daughter's death warrant," Jane Pohl's father was warned at the army barracks in the spring of 1941. But the potential that his teenage daughter Jane saw in the small, temperamental Thoroughbred was enough to convince him otherwise.Earlier that year, when Fitzrada arrived at the army base where Jane's family lived, the horse was stubborn, unpredictable, and dangerous. Any man who dared addle him up soon found himself face down in the dirt. Jane, excited to ride any horse and up for the challenge, had the most success with Fitz. She was patient and consistent, and the horse responded well at last, showing a great affinity for jumping. Then, inexplicably, a terrible riding accident resulted in serious injuries for both Jane and Fitz, and the army decide that it was time to destroy the horse. Heartbroken, Jane pleaded with her reluctant father: the only way to save Fitz was to buy him from the army.

Jane Pohl's foresight proved to be correct. Jane and Fitz went on to take the Virginia show-jumping circuit by storm, winning 37 jumper and 6 hinter championships. At a time when women were rarely seen in jumping classes at horse shows and were not taken seriously by male competitors, Jane and Fitz helped to break down barriers against women riders competing in the Olympics. In 1946, Jane and Fitz found themselves at the Jumper Championship at the prestigious National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden--the highest jumping title in North America. The road there for horse and rider was a five-year test of faith, patience, and understanding friendship.

The tale of Jane Pohl and Fitzrada is one of true sportsmanship, of a woman proving herself as strong and capable in a man's sport, and of a horse so intelligent and obstinate that it was almost his undoing. Fitz had nearly been ruined through rough handling and developed an intense fear of men and most people; it took Jane over four years of constant effort to win Fitz's trust. The book excels at describing the culture of jumping and foxhunting through the 1940s into the 1950s. Horse shows are evoked through vivid, visceral detail. Jane is a complex character herself. The author is her son, and he does a fairly good job of keeping his distant to tell the story with both the positive and the negative. Family dynamics and pressures of the time period (i.e. proper things a woman should do) constrained Jane and her career.

At times, though, Rust is too close to the story and the details are excessive. This especially bogged down the end of the book--it lost focus after Fitzrada's passing. In particular, I really didn't want to know about Jane's deathbed request regarding her beloved dog and it made the book end on a very sour note for me.

That said, it's worth reading if you love horses and history. It's fascinating to find out how the military's horsemen participated in the Olympics up through World War II, after which the equine divisions were dissolved. At some point I'd love to use the horse show details as a backdrop for a story of my own.

21: A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 21: A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs


The second installment in Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" focuses on the author's first love stories and his obsession with female beauty.

I enjoyed this second installment even more than the already impressive first one.
Proust is the ultimate narcissistic writer, and his lyrical daydreams are filled with delightful insights on human nature. His detailed depiction of early twentieth-century society is also particularly valuable because he both adores and loathes it. This contradiction is what makes him the ideal witness of his time; one who is willing to be an active and enthusiastic member of society, while remaining detached enough to fully understand the mechanics of it.



20: Irish Freedom

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 20: Irish Freedom


The ironically named Richard English's aim is dual; to provide his readers with a concise history of Irish nationalism and its evolution throughout the years, as well as to more broadly define the practically universal concept of nationalism.

While I would not recommend this book to those who aren't at all familiar with Irish history, my beginner's knowledge was enough to help me follow English's arguments.
Let me tell you, it's easy to sense that the author isn't a big fan of nationalism, but his personal views do not prevent him from delivering a fairly objective commentary.
I believe all of us should at some point stop and think about nationalism as a defining societal force, and this book certainly asks the right questions; has nationalism in some form always existed?, is it necessary?, what human needs does it fulfill?...



Book Review No. 8 is Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America.  Author Dianne Harris demonstrates that one need not test any hypotheses, let alone carefully frame any hypotheses, if the book's message reinforces the gatekeepers at the University of Minnesota Press in their prejudices.

Read more...Collapse )

Be careful what you deconstruct, what comes after may not be better.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


#53 Laini Taylor: Lips Touch
Three short stories, which I have really enjoyed.

#54 Kerry Greenwood: Death Before Wicket (audio, narrator: Stephanie Daniel)
Another elegant Phryne Fisher mystery. I like to get them in the audio format, so I can combine listening with a bit of knitting or cross-stitch. But why-oh-why cant the narrators check the unfamiliar words? This is not how you pronounce 'maori'. It took me awhile to realise what was meant.

#55 Philippa Gregory: The King's Curse
In a way, I have come full circle here. The first book I read by Philippa Gregory was 'The Constant Princess'about Queen Catherine. 'The King's Curse' starts with a wedding of Katherine of Aragon and prince Arthur, and goes from there. The narrator this time is Margaret Pole, daughter of the (in)famous Duke of Clarencem who was drowned in a barrell of malmsey. Unfortunately, I can't say I found her engaging or believable. She comes across as a person trying to stay away from any political intrigue, but still ends up in the Tower and is executed despite being innocent. Some would call it cowardice, but it is a very understandable one. However, Philippa Gregory, in her epilogue, explains that she believes, Margaret Pole did intrigue and participate in politics. Somehow, that did not come across. All in all, a somewhat unsatisfactory book.
Book 156: Murder and Mendelssohn (Phryne Fisher #20).
Author: Kerry Greenwood, 2013.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1920s Australia. Crime Fiction. Mystery. GLBT themes.
Other Details: ebook. 337 pages/ Unabridged Audio (11 hours, 22 mins). Read by Stephanie Daniel.

An orchestral conductor has been found dead and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson needs the delightfully incisive and sophisticated Miss Fisher’s assistance to enter a world in which he is truly lost. Hugh Tregennis, not much liked by anyone, has been murdered in a most flamboyant mode by a killer with a point to prove. But how many killers is Phryne really stalking? At the same time, the dark curls, disdainful air and the lavender eyes of mathematician and code-breaker Rupert Sheffield are taking Melbourne by storm. They’ve certainly taken the heart of Phryne’s old friend from the trenches of WWI, John Wilson. Phryne recognizes Sheffield as a man who attracts danger and is determined to protect John from harm. Even with the faithful Dot, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, and all in her household ready to pull their weight, Phryne’s task is complex. While Mendelssohn’s Elijah, memories of the Great War, and the science of deduction ring in her head, Phryne’s past must also play its part as MI6 become involved in the tangled web of murders. - synopsis from author's website.

Well I have finally reached the end of this series which has proved to be so enjoyable from the first book to the twentieth.

This was a delightful story with some homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his iconic creation Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in the form of a mathematician touring Australia with lectures on the Science of Deduction and his war-wounded companion. In addition, it is revealed that Phryne had a brief but dazzling career as a spy with the highly appropriate code name of 'Black Cat'.

Amazingly for once I actually figured out whodunit well before the final reveal. I shall miss the series though do hope for more Phryne Fisher Mysteries from Kerry Greenwood in the future.
The Reader's Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels, by Francisca Goldsmith; Cart's Top 200 Adult Books for Young Adult Readers, by Michael Cart; The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror, by Becky Siegel Spratford; The Readers' Advisory Guide to Mystery, by John Charles et al</b>
Soooooo many reader's advisory books. Goldsmith's was very analytical, Cart's mostly book reviews (as advertised), Spratford's highly readable (no surprise if you've read her blog), and the mystery one made me think. And of course I added a slew of books to my absurdist read this soon list.
(155, 160, 163, 165)

No Crystal Stair, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
A beautiful, poetic, copiously illustrated biography of Lewis Michaux, the once-famous Harlem bookseller. So delicious and interesting, and with the gritty parts left in.

Inside Therapy, edited by Ilana Rabinowitz
A collection of essays and excerpts about the titular topic - mostly fascinating with a few duds.

For the Love of Letters, by John O'Connell
This was light, but fun. Lots of the narrator's personal experiences/opinions, which I enjoyed.

Book 72

07-Ghost, Volume 0407-Ghost, Volume 04 by Yuki Amemiya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to reread volumes 1-3 because this was one of the victims of the publisher collapse a few years back. I didn't even realize someone else had picked it up. It had been a handful of years since I last read it. In recap, Teito runs from the imperial army, losing his best friend Mikage (now reborn as a little dragony thing), in the process. Teito hasn't many memories of the past and is the vessel for something known as the eye of Mikhal which could save or destroy the world. He wants revenge on Ayanami for killing Mikage and three bishops, Frau, Castor and Labrador are helping him (the three house three of the 7 ghosts, gods, while Ayanami seems to house the villain of the piece).

This one revolves around the church where Teito and his new partner Haruken (new friend, close friend, very quickly. He's also from the Oak family which is all in politics and the military, very important and he's more or less disowned because he wants to join the church to fight the kor, sort of demons that possess and destroy people). Teito and Haruken are up for their bishop exams (which would allow Teito free, unchallenge travel so he can track his nemesis)

In the middle of this, Ayanami's crew attack and things go sideways for Teito and he suffers an important loss. He still has to move forward in spite of it.

I do like this manga but it is very convoluted sometimes too much so. I've had to reread a few spots to figure out what is going on. On the whole, I like the art but sometimes Teito's hair is left uncolored and that adds to the confusion.

View all my reviews


Book 34- The Grapes of Wrath

I'm surprised I hadn't read this one; I've loved Steinbeck even as a high schooler. The Pearl had always been my favorite, but now it's hard to choose between that and Grapes of Wrath. It starts out a bit slow but then picks up. Really, this should be required reading for everyone. High school. Those in public office. Those who think wealth accumulation is not a zero sum game, those who think the poor don't do enough to get out of poverty, and rock bottom wages one can't live off of are justifiable because only the nonskilled will make them, they really need to read this book. It may be set during the Depression, but there are some frightening parallels to today (including the droughts). The story follows the Joad family, who wind up forced from their farm after the bank seizes the property. They make the trek to California, where liberally-distributed handbills tantalizingly describe hundreds of jobs for the taking, green fields full of fruit trees, basically the land of milk and honey. It's no spoiler to say that the reality does not live up to the advertisement. Of course, the Joads often find themselves thwarted as they pursue their dream of regular work and a permanent home. What surprised me, though, were the many moments of charity, of heart, from the people the Joad family come across. There are so many great characters, particularly Tom Jr., a young man released from parole after killing a man in a fight, but who has not been embittered by his time in jail; Casy, a former preacher who is trying to find his spiritual footing; and Ma Joad, who is now one of my favorite fictional characters. Ma Joad is someone with an instinct for what people need, whether it's the soft, diplomatic touch, a stern warming or a healthy dose of fire. The reader will see liberal doses of all three.
Book 155: Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby.
Author: Sarah Churchwell, 2013.
Genre: Non-Fiction. True Crime. Social History. Biography. Literary Studies.
Other Details: Hardback. 438 pages.

A fascinating look at the autumn of 1922, when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda returned to New York and the seeds for 'The Great Gatsby'. Since its publication in 1925, 'The Great Gatsby' has become one of the world's best-loved books. 'Careless People' tells the true story behind F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, exploring in newly rich detail its relation to the extravagant, scandalous, and chaotic world in which the author lived. With wit and insight, Sarah Churchwell traces the genesis of a masterpiece, mapping where fiction comes from, and how it takes shape in the mind of a genius. 'Careless People' tells the extraordinary tale of how F. Scott Fitzgerald created a classic and in the process discovered modern America. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

Not long before he died F. Scott Fitzgerald scrawled a list of sources for each of Gatsby's nine chapters. Churchwell uses this list as a template for her own nine chapters. The book proved an interesting combination of a social history of the 1920s, true crime in the form of a sensational 1922 double murder that may have influenced Fitzgerald, a biography of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and finally a summary of the literary scholarship that examines the genesis and structure of The Great Gatsby. It is quite amazing to read that when he died Fitzgerald was mainly forgotten and yet now is heralded as one of the 20th Century's greatest writers and The Great Gatsby, a modern classic.

Overall, I found this an informative work of non-fiction. I felt that Churchwell struck a good balance between popular non-fiction in the vein of Kate Summerscale and a scholarly work. For those interested a comprehensive bibliography of sources and notes are included. Her picture of the Roaring 20s and the culture of excess that surrounded the Fitzgeralds was very vivid.

I loved the cover art for this book. It was based on a 1925 suggested book plate for F. Scott Fitzgerald made by Herb Roth and published in The New Yorker. Fitzgerald pasted a copy of the image into the front inside cover of the scrapbook he created for The Great Gatsby.

1925 BookplateCollapse )

Book 33- Stayin' Alive, by Jefferson Cowie

33. Stayin' Alive, by Jefferson Cowie. I have really mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it is very well researched, and covers a breadth of information about the high point and fall of American unions. The book includes unusual and interesting tie-ins with the union spirit of whatever year he is covering to the movie and music scene, as well as the political climate. The book has just about everything but the kitchen sink- and that might have been part of the problem. The official page count is 488 pages, but when you consider there's 8 pages of pictures and nearly 100 pages of index and bibliography, the actual literature part is roughly 370 pages. It took me about five weeks to slog through this book; it doesn't usually take me five weeks to get through a book of that length. Another book I'm reading now, Grapes of Wrath, is longer, but at less than two weeks of reading I'm already on page 324. This book wasn't poorly written per se and as I said, the information was interesting. But -- and I have yet to figure out precisely why-- it just didn't hold my attention. My mind kept wandering after a couple pages. I will admit, half the time my thoughts were along the line of "how can people be so stupid and short-sighted??" after reading something- that is hardly the author's fault (and probably his intent). But this was just a tough book to get through. Again, I can't pinpoint why, exactly. It was just not an easy read.

Currently reading: Grapes of Wrath, by John steinbeck, and History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir



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