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Books #20-29

20) Swine Not? by Jimmy Buffett (General Fiction, 233 pages)
This was a book on the clearance rack at Borders. I haven't read any others by Jimmy Buffet, though I want to. This one sounded like it would be funny and quirky. I mean, a pig in a upscale NYC hotel? Well, it didn't really live up to expectations. I'm not quite sure why I didn't like it more - maybe it was too superficial. Maybe it felt a little like “and the kitchen sink” plotting after a while. Maybe I just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough (which is a big problem for a book, since I read a lot of science fiction). At least I didn't pay cover price. 2/5

21) Enna Burning by Shannon Hale (Young Adult Fantasy, 317 pages)
This wasn't as good as The Goose Girl, but was still a very good read. There's war! Intrigue! Fire magic! New and strange lands! Enna Burning explores the darker side of the nature gifts, including Isi's wind power. There is a prevalent theme of control - both over powers and over yourself - while the story is set in a situation where the characters have no control. A neighboring kingdom has invaded Bayern and declared war. In this setting, the characters we first met in The Goose Girl have a harsh coming of age, and trial by sword and fire to deal with. 4/5

22) River Secrets by Shannon Hale (Young Adult Fantasy, 290 pages)
Following on the heels of Enna Burning, Bayern sends an ambassador to Tira to try and cement the uneasy peace. Razo, Enna, and Conrad are part of the expedition, and quickly discover someone is trying to frame the Bayerns on a series of murders and restart the war. I really liked this one, but then I always love seeing the worldbuilding behind a new land. 4/5

23) The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession by David Grann (Essays/Investigative Journalism, 304 pages)
This is a collection of essays that Grann had previously published, the majority of them with a true crime bent. Despite the subtitle, not all of Grann's essays deal with murder or madness, but they all touch on obsession to some degree, whether it's a famed Sherlock Holmes scholar, a giant squid hunter, or con man who wants to belong, or a detective bent on finding a murderer. The more light-hearted essays are a bit jarring in a book that is mostly dark. They also left me frustrated as they didn't have a plotline with an ending. 3.5/5

24) Forest Born by Shannon Hale (Young Adult Fantasy, 389 pages)
The fourth book in the Bayern series. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I did stay up past 1 AM on a Sunday night to finish reading this. On the other, I never jived with Rin that way I did with the other, previously introduced, characters. Also there was a plot twist that just seemed very contrived and a shoe-horned in plot element. 3.5/5

25) The Frog Prince's Daughters by Wendy Palmer (Fantasy, 184)
In a world in which fairy tales were an accepted way of life, one princess finds out she's not getting her happily ever after. Her cousin, Rana, leads an expedition to find the Three (maiden, mother, crone) to learn how to save Anura's life. I really liked this story. It was fresh, well-written, and kept me guessing throughout. It was a really fast read - it was both short and engrossing, and I was cheering for Rana throughout. 4/5

26) Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (Young Adult Fantasy, 320 pages)
I really liked this. The story is told via journal entries of Dashti, a lady's maid who is imprisoned with her mistress in a tower for seven years by the lord of the land. But before those seven years are up, they run out of food. Dashti breaks them free to discover that the world has changed and their survival is up to her. Hale retells the fairytale Maid Maleen, set in medieval Mongolia. Dashti is likeable in her Pollyanna way, though too passive in my opinion, despite all her intelligence and perseverance. I'm glad that I read this. It was a quick, and very enjoyable read that introduced me to a new fairytale, and a new culture I'd never learned much of before. 4/5

27) Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (Juvenile Fiction, 188 pages)
I remember reading this as a kid and really liking it, and it is rather remarkable how well I remembered the story and how much I still enjoyed the book. The story is relatively simplistic: an orphaned girl is sponsored by a nameless benefactor to attend college, with the stipulation that she write to the nameless benefactor, whom she dubs “Daddy-Long-Legs” regularly. Following the initial set-up, the story is told entirely in the letters Judy writes to DLL. As an adult, I am slightly put off by DLL's manipulation of Judy's life, but only slightly. I still found the book utterly charming. And now I discover there is a sequel! Or frappulous joy! 4/5

28) Every Living Being: Representations of Nonhuman Animals in the Exploration of Human Well-Being by Marie-France Boissonneault (Sociology/Psychology, 326 pages)
Very long, critical review at Goodreads. 2.5/5

29) City of Masks by Mike Reeves McMillan (Fantasy, 128 pages)
I love epistolary stories, and I love political intrigue, and I love masks. This book was all three wrapped into one delicious package. Reeves-McMillan has created a fascinating society with Bonvidaeo where all the citizenry wear masks and take on the persona of the character - and are legally their mask. Bass, by virtue of being the brother-in-law of Calaria's Undersecretary to the Foreign Minister, is assigned to be envoy to Bonvidaeo. Not only is he thrown into a confusing new culture but he soon stumbles into the middle of a serial murderer's killings and political machinations to disrupt the current political order. This was a fascinating story, and I only wish that there had be. Reeves-McMillan nicely captured the different voices of the characters, and did a great job telling the store through Bonvidaeo's journal entries. I loved the twist ending. Part of it I was expecting; the other parts, not at all. 4/5

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