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Gin Tama, Volume 1 by Hideaki Sorachi

book 31:  Gin Tama, Volume 1 by Hideaki Sorachi

I loved this anime.  I've heard that it has come back from hiatus and need to start watching it again.  This is the first time for me to read the manga that the anime was based on.  Let's see...it's a sci-fi, samurai, comedic parody...or something like that...  Basically, it's set in an alternative history during the Edo period, with samurai, the shinsengumi, and the shogunate; however, aliens, collectively refered to as amanto, have come to earth bringing their various technologies but also subjugating the samurai and requiring a sword ban, following a short war during which the samurai tried to drive out the amanto per Japan's isolationist preferences.  The main story line follows Gintoki Sakata, one of the few samurai that has kept his "samurai spirit", in spite of being lazy, almost diabetic, and fairly good-for-nothing in most people's opinions; Shinpachi Shimura, an orphen who with his sister are trying to maintain their father's dojo in spite of the sword ban and lack of clients and who is trying to discover the "samurai spirit" that he occasionally glimpses inside Gintoki but is usually disappointed; and Kagura, an amanto girl from the Yato Clan, the most powerful warriors in the universe.  Gintoki has more-or-less adopted Shinpachi and Kagura because he really does have a good heart full of "samurai spirit", regardless of how much of a loser he seems most of the time.  The three run a yorozuka, or in other words, do odd jobs...sometimes very odd.  They also interact with some pretty odd regularly occuring cast members, in this volume including:  Otae, Shinpachi's beautiful but violent sister; Hasegawa, a former (as of this volume) government official who becomes, well, basically a bum (or "dork...dumb, old something kook" per Kagura, or madeo per the original japanese, which I assume means about the same thing); Prince Hata, a wealthy amanto with a dangly thing on his forehead who collects exotic (often large and violent and alien) animals for fun; Otose-san, the crotchety owner of the bar below the yorozuka (and the yorozuka office/home itself truth be known) who has a heart of gold and takes in all sorts of strays (including Gintoki); Catherine, another stray of Otose's who is a part feline amanto and all former "cat" burglar; Kotaro "Zura" (no!  not zura!!) Katsura, who was a former compatriot of Gintoki's during the war and now continues his efforts as the leader of a guerrilla, terrorist organization trying to drive the amanto out of Edo; and a few eccentric Shinsengumi...Hijikata, the vice captain, who is a rival for Gintoki in swordmanship; Okita, whose boyish looks hide a sadistic heart and who covets Hijikata's position; and Yamazaki, who can be found off playing badmitton if he isn't doing what he's supposed to be doing.  This volume has a lot going on, but it's mostly introducing the main characters.  It's a strange mix of comedy or parody, action, and surprising occasional deep or compassionate insights.  In spite of some of Gintoki's gross habits, he is definitely one of my anime/manga crushes.  I definitely see his "samurai spirit" or maybe just his heart inside the careless exterior.  To give you an idea of the author's tongue-in-cheek style, the title in the original Japanese can be translated as either "Silver Spirit" (Gitoki's hair is silver.) or "Golden Balls" (meaning testicles).

Summary:
When penniless businessman Mr Bedford retreats to the Kent coast to write a play, he meets by chance the brilliant Dr Cavor, an absent-minded scientist on the brink of developing a material that blocks gravity. Cavor soon succeeds in his experiments, only to tell a stunned Bedford the invention makes possible one of the oldest dreams of humanity: a journey to the moon. With Bedford motivated by money, and Cavor by the desire for knowledge, the two embark on the expedition. But neither are prepared for what they find - a world of freezing nights, boiling days and sinister alien life, on which they may be trapped forever.

I don't believe I have ever read H.G. Wells work before, though I grew up with the original War of the Worlds movie on heavy replay. I think this is a case where I can say I read a classic work and I am grateful that it was a quick read. I found it curious how Wells got some details right, like the lack of gravity in space, even as his moon is populated by verdant flora during the daytime and subterranean bug-like aliens. The colonialism aspect of it all made me cringe but the ending was not unsatisfying in this regard.

Book 43

Valiant (Modern Faerie Tales, #2)Valiant by Holly Black

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


How to know you have a Holly Black faerie story? Teens being the worse teens can be, check. Teens doing hard core drugs, check. Teens having ugly, loveless sex because bored/revenge/other skeevy reason, check. I'm not sure how this series keeps getting props but it leaves you feeling like you need to shower with bleach. Honestly I didn't realize this was the sequel (kind of, sort of) of Tither which I couldn't make it through or I would have left it in the library. But I needed a V for a challenge and it was the only audiobook there with a V (I had to drive all over the state this weekend).

I almost turned it off and listened to strange radio that's how uninteresting and gross this book was in the beginning. Val is the titular character and she suffers a betrayal by her boyfriend and a worse one by her mother right after defending her lesbian best friend, Ruth and getting kicked off the lacrosse team. Not only that Ruth knew about the betrayal and didn't tell her. So Val runs off into NYC.

While it is believable a teen put through that much stress would run off, what comes next is much less so. Val finds two street kids, "Sketchy" Dave and Lolli(pop) and takes up with them, even after Lolli starts talking about Luis, Dave's older brother, seeing Faeries. She goes with them into the abandoned subway tunnels much to Luis's displeasure. He is not happy to see her, a prickly character with a face full of iron pierces and a faerie-blinded eye. Unsurprising Lolli wants Luis while Dave wants Lolli.

I could even buy her staying with them. Val admits it's a ruinous choice but it makes her feel in control. But within a couple days she's already shooting up faerie drugs. Eye rolls. Val makes one idiot choice after another and honestly it's hard to like any of these characters. You do feel some sympathy for Val and what she went through and maybe even more so for Luis and Dave. Their dad could also see faeries and went crazy from it. Without spoiling much, there is a tragic back story here but it also felt half baked. It felt like half of their story ended up erased by an editor along the line and the story is poorer for it.

Luis makes deliveries for a troll named, Ravus who had saved Dave. Dave is also making deliveries of something they call Nevermore, a drug that keeps the faeries safer from iron poisoning but if humans take it they can do magic and mind control and this is where Dave, Val and Lolli become unsympathetic pathetic asses, willfully stealing and hurting people (I suppose I wouldn't have minded them stealing so much as I did making people eat dangerous things for laughs).

Val horns in on one of Dave's deliveries in spite of being told to stay clear (like I said, she's an idiot through this whole thing) and she sees the faeries and then makes Lolli take her to the troll who controls Luis. Naturally they get caught and Val finds herself in Ravus's thrall.

As she works for him, she begins to like and respect him. She even begins to love him as she does deliveries for him. However someone is murdering the seelie faeries who use his medicine (the one honestly interesting part of this whole story) and blaming him. Val wants to learn who it is to clear Ravus's name. She suspects Luis because of the bad things the fey have done to him.

In the last third of the book the things take an even darker tone. Dave, who had been mildly sympathetic suddenly wants sex with Val (glamored to look like Lolli) to make Lolli jealous. the message here (and I hate saying that because I'm not sure books are meant to send 'messages" is if a boy whines and wheedles to have sex with you, do it just to shut him up. And Val slips even further in my estimation. Her relationship to Ravus is the only good thing in this mess.

then the drug use gets insanely out of hand right about the time Ruth shows up looking for Val. Bad crap happens and there is something of a happy ending for Val at any rate. Luis and Dave's ending was a bit too open for my tastes but I didn't know at the time this was a series so who knows? Maybe we'll learn more in the next one (well not me, I'm done with this)

Ravus and Luis are interesting layered characters who aren't making one idiot choice after another like Val, Dave and Lolli. I liked them at least but that's the best I can say for this.



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Books 12 and 13

Both of these books have long titles and/or long goodreads summaries.

12. Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezado
In the fall of 2003, Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad. Over the next six years, while living in Baghdad and Beirut, she broke bread with Shiites and Sunnis, warlords and refugees, matriarchs and mullahs. Day of Honey is her memoir of the hunger for food and friendship—a communion that feeds the soul as much as the body in times of war. Reporting from occupied Baghdad, Ciezadlo longs for normal married life. She finds it in Beirut, her husband’s hometown, a city slowly recovering from years of civil war. But just as the young couple settles into a new home, the bloodshed they escaped in Iraq spreads to Lebanon and reawakens the terrible specter of sectarian violence. In lucid, fiercely intelligent prose, Ciezadlo uses food and the rituals of eating to illuminate a vibrant Middle East that most Americans never see. We get to know people like Roaa, a determined young Kurdish woman who dreams of exploring the world, only to see her life under occupation become confined to the kitchen; Abu Rifaat, a Baghdad book lover who spends his days eavesdropping in the ancient city’s legendary cafés; Salama al-Khafaji, a soft-spoken dentist who eludes assassins to become Iraq’s most popular female politician; and Umm Hassane, Ciezadlo’s sardonic Lebanese mother-in-law, who teaches her to cook rare family recipes—which are included in a mouthwatering appendix of Middle Eastern comfort food. As bombs destroy her new family’s ancestral home and militias invade her Beirut neighborhood, Ciezadlo illuminates the human cost of war with an extraordinary ability to anchor the rhythms of daily life in a larger political and historical context. From forbidden Baghdad book clubs to the oldest recipes in the world, Ciezadlo takes us inside the Middle East at a historic moment when hope and fear collide.
MY THOUGHTS: I don't have much to add to the description above except to say ... don't read this book when you're hungry! Growling tummy aside, I enjoyed this book. It also fulfills two RHC tasks: #13, a book set in the Middle East; and #22, a food memoir.

13. What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most by Elizabeth Benedict
Women look at the relationships between mothers and daughters through a new lens: a daughter's story of a gift from her mother that has touched her to the bone and served as a model, a metaphor, or a touchstone in her own life. The contributors of these thirty-one original pieces all written specifically for this book include Pulitzer Prize winners, perennial bestselling novelists, and well-known NPR commentators. Joyce Carol Oates writes about quilts her mother sewed that were a comfort when her husband died; Rita Dove remembers a box of nail polish that taught her to paint her nails in stripes and polka dots; Lisa See, daughter of writer Carolyn See, writes about the gift of writing; Cecilia Munoz remembers the wok her mother gave her and a lifetime of home-cooked family meals; Judith Hillman Paterson revisits the year of sobriety her mother bequeathed to her when Judith was nine years old, the year before her mother died of alcoholism. Collectively, the pieces have a force that feels as elemental as the tides: outpourings of lightness and darkness; simple joy and devastating grief; mother love and daughter love; mother love and daughter rage. In these stirring words we find that every gift, no matter how modest, tells the story of a powerful bond.
MY THOUGHTS: The month of May in the United States includes the holiday of Mother's Day, and this book provides a range of mother-daughter experiences in a way that's not sappy but authentic and touching. I especially liked Lisa See's essay that's described above, as well as entries from Caroline Leavitt about a family photograph and Reverend Lillian Daniel about a very special vase. Only one piece fell flat for me, and that was from Sheila Kohler who told a whining and winding story about a half-brother she never met. Some of the contributors were familiar to me, and others will get a second look from me now based on their inclusion in this book. It's our book club selection this month and also fulfills RHC task #3, a collection of essays. In light of the subject matter, I can't help but think of the gifts that my mother has given me, one of which is not just a love of reading but a spirit of adventure about reading outside my "comfort zone."
Another day another book.

Osprey New Vanguard #6: T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974 – 93. A lot of technical detail. A little history. Not as interesting as I might have hoped for.

On to the next.
Summary:
What if an empire of Jewish warriors that really existed in the Middle Ages had never fallen—and was the only thing standing between Hitler and his conquest of Russia?

Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania's disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith. This novel—simultaneously a steampunk Joan of Arc and a genre-bending tale of a counterfactual Jewish state by a writer who invents worlds “out of Calvino or Borges” (The New Yorker)—is a stunning achievement. Reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, The Book of Esther reaffirms Barton’s place as one of her generation’s most gifted storytellers.


I received this book through the publisher via Netgalley.

This is one of those reviews where I am left with such mixed feelings that I am not sure where to start. First of all, the world. Barton has created an immersive, rich alternate history with her Jewish state that is caught in the drama of World War II. The first chapter of this might be quite daunting for some readers, as it involves a lot of info dumping and many, many Jewish words that are not defined. As for me, I was enthralled (albeit confused at times). I am a total geek for that kind of detail, and I am in awe of the research that Barton went through to create this world.

There is a steampunk element to the book, and a more... primitive aspect as well. This is a country that uses mechanical horses, not cars, for transportation, and heavily relies on pigeons for communication. There is also a heavy mystical element as Kabbalists and golems also play a vital role. These elements didn't quite meld together for me with World War II lurking in the background.

Esther is a teenage rebel in a culture where girls have very clear and defined roles. She is set to be married in a few months. She has lived a very privileged life as the daughter of a rabbi with a major government position. She resolves to fight against Hitler's encroaching forces, but instead of binding her breasts and joining the army, she sets off with her family's beloved slave to find Kabbalists so that she can be transformed into a boy.

Yes, there are some leaps of logic there. I found these forgivable at the start, but as the book continued, I began to question more and more. Esther's quest has a very divine feel to it, and throughout most of the book, things are easy for her. Too easy. She is able to convince everyone of her good intent and I just couldn't believe in her raising an army or being useful at all in a commanding role. A love triangle also emerges that grated on me in a major way. The end of the book is a major cliffhanger. Things are not resolved at all. I think that final sour note is what really changed my mind about the book, and it frustrates me to say that because I was utterly enthralled at the start.

Books #17-18

Book #17 was "Burnt Mountain" by Anne Rivers Siddons. The book revolves around events on Burnt Mountain. When our main character, Thayer, was a girl, she found the camp on the mountain magical and met her first love there. But the mountain also has painful memories. Thayer looks back on past events, tries to understand why her first love did what he did, why her mother did the cruel things she did, and looks forward to where things are going with her Celtic mythology professor husband, Aengus, are going. Thayer's life begins to spin out of control as the past comes back and her husband starts to become obsessed with teaching his mythology to the camp full of boys. While this novel was beautifully written, it's always a risk to have someone who is mostly a passive observer as the main character, and Thayer tends to have things happen to her, rather than being the one who initiates things. Her husband goes off the deep end by the end of the novel, and I actually found him to be a more interesting character than Thayer. I'd love to see a short story from HIS perspective! Overall, I liked the writing enough to maybe read more by this author in the future, but I think this book was somewhat flawed.

Book #18 was "Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia" by David Greene. My sister-in-law is Ukrainian by birth and mentioned that she had read and enjoyed this book, so both my husband and I read it to have something in common to talk about with her. I've seen some criticisms of the book on GoodReads and elsewhere that I find bizarre, mostly commonly "This was supposed to be a travelogue, and it really wasn't!" and "Greene's assumptions about what Russia and Russians are like are naive and offensive!" I think they're both silly, as he makes it pretty clear early on that while it is a story about traveling the Transsiberian railway, it's mainly about the people he meets and what they think about modern-day Russia. I also think it's silly to penalize Greene for being honest about what his preconceptions and stereotypes are -- that's just being honest with the reader, and he *does* evolve his understanding of Russia and Russians over the course of the book. My only complaints were a) that the book felt somewhat slight - he could have gotten more information about the cities they visit in there considering he spent 5 weeks on the train and talked to a lot of people, and b) that he repeats himself a few times too many on the subject of his expectations about the country and its citizens vs. what they were really like. Overall, though, it's a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of everyday people in modern-day Russia.

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

Book 42

Mayhem at the Orient Express (League of Literary Ladies, #1)Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I met Ms. Logan at the Ohioana Book Festival and got this series debut for Mom for Mother's Day (don't worry, she assumes I read the books before I give them away because I can't help myself!). I'm always a bit iffy on cozies because mostly I only like the ones where the amateur sleuth is on the good side of the cops and this is sort of that.

I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first because the protagonist, Bea, is rather prickly but since it opens in a courtroom where she's in a fight with two neighbors I guess that's to be expected. Bea is angry with the woman next door, Chandra, the hippie Earth Mother type, because her cat Jerry Garcia keeps peeing in the flower beds of Bea's new B&B named Bea & Bees (apparently she wants to get into bee keeping). Chandra and Kate, who owns a winery, are on the outs because of Chandra's loud rituals and stinky herbal cures and Kate playing opera loudly. Kate and Bea don't get along because Kate tried to stop the B&B because of the traffic (which seems rather weak because Put-In-Bay is an island that is depends on tourism and seriously how much traffic can one B&B generate, which I think is actually Bea's point). Anyhow the judge finds a way to deal with them and help his wife at the same time: she's the librarian about to lose a grant because they no longer have a book group in the library. They're sentenced to be the book group and learn to get along.

It's an unlikely beginning and seems doomed to failure even with the addition of Luella who actually wants to be in a book group. They're reading, in theory, Christie's Murder on the Orient Express but most of them aren't doing the reading. They aren't getting along. In fact they only agree on one thing: The Orient express Chinese restaurant makes fantastic orange/peanut chicken. They head there in a surprise spring snow storm and find Peter dead.

They all end up at Bea's B&B afterwards and the snow really starts. The Ferry is down so the killer is stuck on the island. And the power is out most places but Bea has fireplaces and a generator in her B&B which begins to fill up with tons of people (so many by the end you have to wonder just how enormous this place is). There's Amanda her one lone guest before the storm, Hank, the police chief (who has ties to one of the women), Ted who owns cottages and other properties, including Chan's place, Marisha a wealthy tourist, and the mother of the baker Bea plans to use. More show up as they go and of course, they're all suspects (except the baker and Hank).

There were nice twists and turns and the ladies are all interesting. Even Bea is a bit of mystery as to why she left NYC for Put-In-Bay and how she could afford such a big old Victorian and have the money to renovate it and why she seems to have a real literary bent (some are revealed others might be revealed in the sequels, I suppose). It helped knowing some of that since Bea seems rather unprepared for the realities of owning a B&B, like actually cooking anything.

I'm curious to see where this series leads. It was fun.





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Book 41

Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham AcademyGotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I thought this was a fun quick read and very obviously an attempt to balance out the male-heavy comic book world (and with the main characters being so young we're not subjected to balloon breasts of doom and twizzler spines that so many of the heroines usually are drawn with).

Gotham Academy, unsurprisingly, is endowed by Bruce Wayne and I'm not sure if it's meant to be a school for super heroes though it doesn't seem like it. It's more like an elite boarding school complete with uniforms. Olive Silverlock and Mia "Maps" Mizoguchi are the main characters. Olive is slightly older and is to mentor Maps which is a bit awkward for her. Olive is in a bit of a depression after last summer (which we're not quite sure if she's unable or unwilling to remember it but it left her with an outright fear and hatred of bats, including Batman(which is explained by the end).

As for Maps, she's very enthusiastic about everything, especially a Dungeons and Dragon's like game to the point we're not even sure she's entirely in touch with reality. But that's not what makes it awkward to be her mentor. No, Maps is the younger sister of Kyle, Olive's boyfriend who she's trying to break up with mostly because of that summer and what happened with her mother (which is only hinted at until the end of the book but that's a spoiler so let's leave it there)

Maps wants to see the forbidden North Hall (to map it of course) and Olive is willing to take her there. In the meantime rumors of the ghost of Millie Jane Cobblepot haunting the dorms and the slightly stuck up Pomeline is trying to call her forth (she and Olive have been assigned a research project together as it turns out).

By the end most of them are working together with Heathcliff, Pomeline's boyfriend, Colton (the resident bad boy) and even Eric, the strange loner kid. In the mix is a strange new boy, Tristan who looks like he's here to be a love triangle point along with Olive and Kyle (though frankly Kyle's so bland it's not much of a competition). They're off to capture Millie Jane Cobblepot's ghost and if that's not actually real what is causing the disturbances?

It was a fun read and Olive and Maps are very likeable. I will say that this is definitely aimed at the tween girls because really only the female characters have any real definition to them and the boys are there as extensions of the girls, someone they can interact with. To distinguish them from one another Heathcliff has his music, Eric his art, Colton, his firecrackers and lock picking skills and Kyle plays tennis almost non-stop (he was seriously uninteresting in this so his character really needs punching up). Only Tristan has any real depth to him and just barely.

I'll be looking forward to seeing more. The art was very good in this, coloring too.



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Bouts of being very busy interspersed with very slow times allowed me to finish several books recently.

First was Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli, not the first book I've read on this subject, but this one was more about the history of this type of restaurant, rather than the present status. I enjoyed it.

Next, Osprey Elite #16: NATO Armies Today, a misnomer since it was written in the 1980s sometime, and since the 90s several more nations have joined NATO. Mildly interesting given that it's so out-of-date.

Then, The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff, the second book of SF military work in this series. Very engaging writing. A team of recon Marines is gathered to explore a huge alien ship found accidentally by a salvage operator adrift in space, and the adventures thereof. A good follow-on to the previous novel. I will be forging ahead with this series and probably others by the author.

Next, Osprey Fortress #9: English Civil War Fortifications 1642 – 51 which was not quite as interesting as I'd hoped, though I found one tidbit amusing: commanders reporting spoils of war would announce that they'd taken shovels, pickaxes, and wheelbarrows because of their uses in building fortifications and in siege warfare. Cool!

Then, Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the 'Verse. I admit it, I didn't read this one word for word, but I did read thoroughly several parts, including the translations of the Chinese that they used in the show. One interesting detail is that they'd originally intended to use Cantonese, but ended up with Mandarin...

And next and last, Osprey Men-At-Arms #6: The Austro-Hungarian Army of the Seven Years War, a bit boring; the plates aren't the high quality that appeared years later, but they are somewhat interesting as the style is very much that of painters of the period.

I also dumped a couple books, but those I don't count for much of anything...
16. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre. This one fulfills the challenge for the book published in the decade I was born. I misread it, thinking it had to be a book published in the YEAR I was born. There were plenty to choose from, even with that mistake. Still, I have to say, I was only meh about this book. Not my cup of tea. I found it rather boring and confusing. Too many characters, too many points that dragged and too many unexpected leaps back and forth in time. George Smiley was an interesting character- a man who seems plain and unassuming but who has more to him than you'd think. Also, a lot of the dialogue was really good. But it was too slow overall. My brain had already checked out of the story by the time the culprit was revealed.

Currently reading: Life Expectancy, by Dean Koontz, and City of Veils, by Zoe Ferraris

Book 40

Ferals (Ferals #1)Ferals by Jacob Grey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This one is on the middle-grade side of the Ya book spectrum and a solid 3.5 read. I upgraded it somewhat for daring to give us a YA book without a love triangle and a dystopic setting where women have been reduced to brood stock. It's a fun read with a simple plot. Granted there is a bit of stretching your suspension of disbelief for this though.

Caw is a thirteen year old homeless boy and has been since he was five. He was in fact raised by crows in a park of Blackstone, the city he lives in (yeah right there is that suspension of disbelief taking a beating. Yes, later it becomes slightly more believable that a five year old could be raised by crows but still, it's a bit of a stretch.

Anyhow Caw can actually speak to his companion crows, Glum, Screech and Milky, the white, maybe-blind crow that almost never speaks. It opens with Caw scrounging for food in trash bins and nearly getting the crap kicked out of him by some older street toughs (which is where I have issues with the whole five year old part. Even with the help of the crows how does a five year old survive?). In the process he's saved by Crumb and Pip but Caw doesn't stick around long to thank them.

His home is a tree house 'nest' that he built in the park high up in the trees. He tends to venture out in the cover of night and shortly after being saved by Crumb, Caw goes back out and witnesses a jail break and along with his crows, manages to keep Jawbone, Scuttle and Mamba from kidnapping the warden's daughter, Lydia.

Lydia befriends Caw and tries to help him learn things like reading but she pushes too far too fast and of course her dad suspects Caw is involved with the escaped prisoners. He doesn't know it yet, but he actually is.

When he and Lydia are attacked again, Caw is confronted by Crumb again and learns that he is different. He's one of the titular ferals: humans who can talk to animals. And there's a bit of dark world building here. You only get this power once your parent, who was the animal talker before you dies. It explains Caw's reoccurring dream where his parents throw him out the window and crows fly off with him (and raise him).

Caw soon learns the truth about his parents and the Dark Summer when he was just a kid. The Spinning Man, a spider feral (because of course it is. Shudders) nearly killed all the ferals then and his followers, the escaped prisoners) are out to return him to power. Is Caw and Lydia there to stop them or unwittingly help them?

I really liked all the characters in this and for those with younger readers, this is on par with the earlier Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books in terms of being a 'clean read.' There's violence, yes, but not terribly graphic (though there is minor character death). I'm looking forward to where the series goes.



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Book 39

Billionaire BlendBillionaire Blend by Cleo Coyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


There is a downside to the book club I use, they never bother to tell you where in the series a book is. (I have begun checking online now) so this is #13 in the series but the first I've read. I didn't have that much trouble following it but I have to saw I was rather annoyed by both of the men in Clare's life. Her ex Matt is an arrogant, controlling alpha male and ditto her current love, the cop turned FBI man, Mike. Mike's now in D.C most of the time apparently and was a true distraction from the story. About the only thing he was there for was a MacGuffin to introduce her to the head of the bomb squad.

Clare runs an upscale coffee shop in NYC and she is good at her job, she knows her drinks, her beans and how to roast them. Matt is the bean buyer and his mom owns the shop and Clare seems to be on good terms with both of them more or less. The only hiccups in her life is her daughter Joy in Paris and Mike being in DC and some quiz master drilling her staff daily.

Today Clare intercepts him just in time to nearly get killed in a car bomb blast that seems to be for him and possibly his server farm. Quiz Master turns out to be a computer/app wunderkind, Eric Thorne who had already been scoping Clare out. He wants her to create the titular billionaire's blend (and Joy to create the menu to a complimentary meal for the coffee) as a lead in to the billionaire's potluck.

He wines and dines her and seems to have a crush on her. He gives her gifts (and frankly seems like a much nicer man than either Matt or Mike. Age gap aside I might have been tempted to dump them for him if I were her). But the blast killed Eric's driver and the death toll rises. She has suspects, Gray, Eric's fellow billionaire and direct competition, someone who thinks Eric was responsible for his fiance's death, an environmental group.

There is a bit much of the globetrotting in this but it was a minor distraction. I might have rated it higher except for the ending. The way Clare and Matt decide to play matchmaker between Eric and the girl-designer who has loved him since college is ludicrous and creepy and really dirty pool in a way. Hated that part.

Overall I did enjoy the story and wouldn't mind looking up more of the series.



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Summary:
Edith Kermit Carow grew up in New York City in the same circles as did Theodore Roosevelt. But only after TR's first wife died at age twenty-two did the childhood friends forge one of the most successful romantic and political partnerships in American history. Sylvia Jukes Morris's access to previously unpublished letters and diaries brings to full life her portrait of the Roosevelts and their times. During her years as First Lady (1901-09), Edith Kermit Roosevelt dazzled social and political Washington as hostess, confidante, and mother of six, leading her husband to remark, "Mrs. Roosevelt comes a good deal nearer my ideal than I do myself."

I have read extensively about Theodore Roosevelt the past while as part of novel research. While this book on his wife, Edith, didn't add more to my notes, it was still a fascinating, well-done work. It was also incredibly long--just over 500-pages of fine print text, followed by almost 100 pages of footnotes and the like. Edith is certainly a complicated, private figure to analyze. On one hand, I respect that privacy, but as a historian, I'm horrified that she destroyed the bulk of her private papers and correspondence. Still, a lot of the Roosevelt's papers survived (in part because both Theodore and Edith were prolific writers) and Morris's work reflects intense research that brings Edith to life.

#49, 50

Here we are, at goal (not that I will stop reading anytime soon...).

Lately, I finished reading The PMS Outlaws by Sharyn McCrumb; several small mysteries all in one package, as a protagonist from one of her series deals with the death of her husband. I've liked this series, written primarily about a forensic anthropologist, but this is a lesser book.

Then yesterday I finished Osprey Command #18: Dwight Eisenhower which is succinct in detailing primarily his time in command in WWII, with a bit about his earlier and later life. Pretty good information about WWII, certainly.

And now the work week.
Book 30: Childhood's End.
Author: Arthur C. Clarke, 1953, 1990. Introduction Adam Roberts, 2009.
Genre: Science Fiction. Future.
Other Details: ebook. 226 pages.

When the silent spacecraft arrived and took the light from the world, no one knew what to expect. But, although the Overlords kept themselves hidden from man, they had come to unite a warring world and to offer an end to poverty and crime. When they finally showed themselves it was a shock, but one that humankind could now cope with, and an era of peace, prosperity and endless leisure began. But ..... - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

The official synopsis gives major spoilers so will omit for those who are not aware of the Overlords' actual mission.

With the recent TV mini-series I decided to read this classic work of science fiction. It is a interesting novel though quite pessimistic in terms of humanity's evolution and a different take on the alien invasion theme.

While elements in terms of technical and other advances seem predictive this perhaps were less so given thatthe opening chapters were revised in 1990. It was also interesting to compare the original with the adaptation, which was fairly faithful though had a more dramatic ending.

Book 38

The Yard (Scotland Yard"s Murder Squad, #1)The Yard by Alex Grecian

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I expected to love The Yard as I love historical mysteries and sadly I just didn't. I liked it but not loved it. I think it tried to do a little too much as a first novel in a series. You're bombarded with characters and while I had no trouble following all the different characters and different points of view, I also felt I didn't get to know anyone well. The three characters we're obviously suppose to bond with are Dr. Kingsley, the doctor who appointed himself (free of charge) as the forensic examiner for the titular yard. He is the most progressive of the group, up on all the forensics that would have been available in the 1880s (i.e. not much but he does push for fingerprint analysis even though some detectives like Blacker, don't believe it can be real or useful); Detective Day who is brand new to the force and just happened to be the first man on scene for a murder that turns out much bigger than expected and not everyone is okay with him being the detective in charge. He's even new to London, coming from Devon; and Hammersmith a Welshman who fled the coalmines and is a London Constable.

Honestly I might have been even more interested in this story if it had been in Wales or Devon since Victorian London is so over done but to be fair, London is so interesting its practically another character.

Day finds himself facing opposition from other detectives when he's officially assigned to the man in the trunk case, especially considering the fact that the victim is another “bluebottle” Detective Little. He's backed by the brand new chief and a detective Blacker who has a sense of humor (unlike the old fashioned and self important Detective Tiffany). Little has been stabbed many times and of course the specter of “Saucy Jack” (the Ripper) looms over the crime especially since much of London has lost faith in their police. There are two other cases of murder where men have been shaved and their throats cut that Blacker thinks is connected to this but Day isn't sure.

As for Hammersmith, he's led to another crime by a burglar and finds a young boy dead, jammed in a chimney. He's told to ignore it by Tiffany as the climbers employed by chimney sweeps are often found dead like this and no one knows who the kids even belong to, if they belonged to anyone.

Layered over this is, is the point of view of the murderer who actually is killing to keep his secret, that he's stealing boys to replace his son (this isn't a spoiler, you pretty much know who the killer is early on and the tension comes from the fact he's connected to the police department tangentially and they are totally unaware). Also there is the point of view of Day's wife, Hammersmith's roommate, constable Pringle and two prostitutes, one of whom was an escaped victim of Jack's (plus a few more minor points of view).

So yes, it is very convoluted and occasionally overly long. The reason I assumed Day, Kingsley and Hammersmith are the go-to characters is they have the lion's share of pages and each had an 'interlude' showing how their past brought them to where they are now.

I did like it and I'd probably read more but in the end I didn't feel like I really got to know any of them particularly well yet.



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ALL THE BOOKS! PODCAST, EPISODE #37: NEW RELEASES FOR JAN. 19, 2016

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.


It's a little "Field of Dreams," about books instead of baseball, and a little "Northern Exposure," set in Iowa instead of Alaska. The plot is occasionally corny and predictable, but it's more often quirky and heart-warming, as well as an ode to books and readers. The characters are quirky but credible, and the rivalry between neighboring small towns is a notable element. Sara clearly loves books and enjoys her role as the town's de facto librarian and unofficial bibliotherapist. It's mostly short chapters interspersed with correspondence between Amy and Sara. There is a helpful appendix of books mentioned, as well as Sara's rather idiosyncratic shelving categories.

I recommended this as a future book club selection, so we'll probably discuss it at some point in the fall, but I needed to "put this to bed" as I'm in the middle of several other books at the moment. I'll be on a solo business trip next week and hope to get caught up with the pace for my reading goal.

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Books 36-37

Bloody Mary, Vol. 1Bloody Mary, Vol. 1 by Akaza Samamiya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I bought this one on a whim in the bookstore and I enjoyed it more than I should. I do really enjoy vampire stories and this one has an interesting set up IF you can do a lot of suspension of disbelief (and also look past the stupid names) Bloody Mary is not your typical vampire. He wants to die but nothing seems to work. He can handle sunlight, crosses etc and he's redhaired (which in this universe is rare for vampires so it deviates from actual myth quite a bit there). He wants Isaac di Maria, a priest to exorcise him so he can die.

Only the Isaac he wanted lived centuries ago. This one is a teenager, Ichiro, (I have no idea why there are so many high schooler priests in manga but they are so off...). Ichiro goes out walking every night, almost as if to taunt the vampires who try to feed on him. He and Mary make a deal, he'll learn about this exorcism deal (he has no idea about it and I don't want to say too much about that because his ignorance is one of the twists).

It's an interesting relationship with hints of shonen-ai (though it is put out by shojo beat). There's plenty of action and mysticism. I liked the characters enough to try the next volume.



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Bloody Cross, Vol. 1Bloody Cross, Vol. 1 by Shiwo Komeyama

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I have a penchant for vampire stories and this was a 2.5 read for me because honestly none of the characters are particularly likeable and the world building is very chaotic. Tsukimiya is half angel and half demon and like all her kind she is cursed. She has to drink pure demon blood in order to stave off the curse that will kill her. She is tracking down powerful objects and demons trying to stay alive. She comes across an angel, Hinata who also is hunting the same demon. In the end she tries to feed from him and they end up sharing the curse.

In this universe, I'm not exactly sure how the half breeds happen since Angels seem to disdain the vampires and definitely the half breeds. I suppose that doesn't matter much. The rest that follows is Tsukimiya and Hinata partly working together, partly trying to outdo the other while full blooded angels manipulate them.

It ends on a cliffhanger but I don't see myself looking for more. I didn't like either character and I didn't like that of course Tuskimiya's curse mark is on her breast and we're always finding reason to rip her shirt open (meanwhile Hinata's mark is on his hand). I'm getting a little old for that sort of nonsense and the story wasn't interesting enough for me to look past it. Yen has many better offerings.



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Book 29: Blood Defense by Marcia Clark

Book 29: Blood Defense (Samantha Brinkman #1).
Author: Marcia Clark, 2016.
Genre: Legal Thriller.
Other Details: ebook. 400 pages.

Samantha Brinkman, an ambitious, hard-charging Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, is struggling to make a name for herself and to drag her fledgling practice into the big leagues. Sam lands a high-profile double-murder case in which one of the victims is a beloved TV star—and the defendant is a decorated veteran LAPD detective. It promises to be exactly the kind of media sensation that would establish her as a heavy hitter in the world of criminal law. Though Sam has doubts about his innocence, she and her two associates (her closest childhood friend and a brilliant ex-con) take the case.

Notorious for living by her own rules—and fearlessly breaking everyone else’s—Samantha pulls out all the stops in her quest to uncover evidence that will clear the detective. But when a shocking secret at the core of the case shatters her personal world, Sam realizes that not only has her client been playing her, he might be one of the most dangerous sociopaths she’s ever encountered.
- synopsis from author's website.

Looking over April's offerings on Kindle First I focused on this first because I enjoy crime thrillers and then realised the author's background as I have been watching The People vs O J Simpson, which sold it further as she clearly had extensive experience of the USA legal system.

The story certainly held my attention and while there were a few WtF! moments it held together well and kept me guessing until the final reveal. There were a few elements that felt unresolved in terms of characters but spotted that this is the first in a series and these aspects left me curious for more so will be keeping an eye out for the follow-up.

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#44

It's been a bit over a year since the death of one of my favorite authors, known on the Internet as PTerry, and in the British Empire as Sir Terrence, and I knew that there was still one of his books that I'd yet to read. I had been waiting for it to be released in the US, and apparently it never has been. I've never seen it for sale at conventions, either, so finally I caved in an ordered a copy from Amazon. Yesterday I finished reading Terry Pratchett Presents Dodger's Guide to London; it's not fiction, though Dodger is a fictional character that Pratchett had used as a protagonist in a book of that name. It appears to me that the author kept a notebook with odd little facts about London in the Victorian era and put it all together in a small book. As with many books of the sort, it can be quite amusing, and Terry Pratchett's turn of phrase adds enjoyment to it, but this isn't his Discworld, and unless you have an interest in the period in London (say, if you're into Sherlock Holmes, say, or the Flashman novels, maybe) this probably wouldn't be a book worth pursuing. That said, I did enjoy it; so there!

Books 14 and 16

14. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. This one fits the middle school novel requirement for the Book Riot challenge. This is essentially Woodson's autobiography, told in free verse. It's beautifully written. Woodson (After Tupac and D Foster, and many other books) covers her life from a toddler in Ohio and a young child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and later in her years split between Greenville and Brooklyn, the latter city which would eventually become her home. She captures a childlike innocence with a story set in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. She shows the difficulties growing up in two areas, both of which present difficulties, but she doesn't dwell on the hardships. Instead, you see the closeness of her family, especially to her grandparents. You see her relationship with her mother, two older siblings and her younger brother. You see her curiosity as she seeks to find her way and find where she fits, and her thrill as her ability to tell stories and, later, write them come to fruition. This is an excellent book for preteen and younger teens- or any age.

15. Trashed, by Derf Backderf. This fulfills the graphic novel requirement for the Book Riot challenge. Backderf, best known for his graphic novel My Friend Dahmer. Here, Backderf tells a fictionalized story of his time serving as a garbageman. As expected, this story has a generous serving of Backderf's irreverent humor. However, there's also a good deal of compassion, such as when the garbage crew comes to a house that has obviously been foreclosed on. Throughout the story, Trashed gives information on how much garbage is generated in the United States, how it is stored, the anatomy of a landfill and even some history on garbage trucks. While the story is listed as a fictionalized story of Backderf's life behind a sanitation truck, I suspect there's more truth than fiction in many of the stories, which not only go over the perils and hardship of picking up garbage, but exposes the garbage in politics and even within people. There are a few four-letter words, but teachers in the higher grades shouldn't feel they need to hesitate to use this book as a teaching tool, and not just for ecology, either.

16. Big Girls Do Cry, by April Kirkwood. This was an interesting autobiography of a Youngstown woman who had a periodic affair with legendary singer Frankie Valli. She recalls her days as a child, going with her mother to Four Seasons concerts and meeting Valli afterwards. When she was older, she'd go back with him to his hotel room. Her infatuation and dreams of becoming the next Mrs. Frankie Valli would color her relationships with other men, none of which ended well. She reflects on her weaknesses and on imprinting, which she says can ruin any relationship. Kirkwood also goes into her background, growing up in blue-collar Youngstown, her up and down relationship with her troubled mother, and the more stable support of her aunt and grandmother. This is a quick read, about a colorful and fascinating life. Today, she works as a counselor and as a speaker on relationships.

Currently reading: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre.
Book 28: The Golden One (Amelia Peabody #14).
Author: Elizabeth Peters, 2002.
Genre: Adventure. Historical Mystery. Egyptology.
Other Details: ebook. 641 pages. Unabridged Audio (17 hrs, 51 mins). Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.

Risking winter storms and German torpedoes, the Emersons are heading for Egypt once again: Amelia, Emerson, their son Ramses and his wife Nefret. Emerson is counting on a long season of excavation without distractions but this proves to be a forlorn hope. Yet again they unearth a dead body in a looted tomb - not a mummified one though, this one is only too fresh, and it leads the clan on a search for the man who has threatened them with death if they pursue the excavations. If that wasn't distraction enough, Nefret reveals a secret she has kept hidden: there is reason to believe that Sethos, master criminal and spy may be helping the enemy. It's up to the Emersons to find out, and either prove his innocence or prevent him from betraying Britain's plans to take Jerusalem and win the war in the Middle East. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

After a slight slump with the last novel here the story and characters picked up the pace again. Multiple plot lines including more about the Great War in the Middle East were woven together and came to a satisfying conclusion.

I have been listening to this series while driving but early into this one I received the news that due to increasing eye problems I am no longer permitted to drive until the issue is corrected. As a result I elected to transfer this to my MP3 player and listen to it while waiting for buses and at odd moments during the day. I expect to continue and complete the series this way as well as to access the Kindle edition..

Books #15-16

Book #15 was "Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie. I'd heard good things about this book and it has won awards, so it was on my "to read" list. Then I found out Leckie is guest of honor at an upcoming con, so I I bumped it up the list, and I'm so glad I read it! This story takes place in the future where the Radch have taken over huge swaths of the universe, trying their best (in their own minds, anyway) to be humane and fair with the people they conquer, turning the cooperative ones into full citizens. The book follows the story of an AI that used to inahbit a whole ship plus had its consciousness spread out among the bodies of formerly dead and frozen conquered people, called "ancillaries." The AI has been mostly destroyed and only inhabits one human body. She has parts of her memory erased, but the parts she remember are disturbing, and she's looking for answers and revenge. The book is space opera, but because the first-person narrative by Breq is so engaging, it really pulls you in. I loved it and can't wait to read the next two in the series and to (I hope) meet the author soon.

Book #16 was "Beauty Queens" by Libba Bray, as an audibook. I can't even remember how I came to get this from the library - I might have just been looking at YA audiobooks and found the premise amusing: a plane full of beauty queens goes down on a deserted island. What happens next? What happens next is a hilarious satire of the beauty industry and consumer culture, as well as a deconstruction of societal notions about gender. Bray walked the line of making it so ridiculous that it borders on camp, but she does end up fleshing out the characters with back stories, hopes and dreams, so they are more than just stereotypes. I had a few criticisms of how she handled point of view in the book, but I really had fun with it and recommend it, especially as an audiobook read by the author, with a short Q&A with Bray at the end.
The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )

#36: O Pioneers by Willa Cather

Summary:
O Pioneers! is a 1913 novel by American author Willa Cather. It was written in part when Cather was living in Cherry Valley, New York, with Isabelle McClung and was completed at the McClungs' home in Pittsburgh. The book is number 83 on the American Library Association's list of most frequently banned or challenged books.

O Pioneers! tells the story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish immigrants in the farm country near the fictional town of Hanover, Nebraska, at the turn of the 20th century. The main character, Alexandra Bergson, inherits the family farmland when her father dies, and she devotes her life to making the farm a viable enterprise at a time when other immigrant families are giving up and leaving the prairie. The novel is also concerned with two romantic relationships, one between Alexandra and family friend Carl Linstrum and another between Alexandra's brother Emil and the married Marie Shabata.


I have read excerpts of this book over the years, and it was wonderful to read the full book at last. It's a short read (my copy was a little over 200 pages) and it reads fast as well--much more so than many other novels of the period. Cather is a master of lyrical reason. For that alone, she should be studied and modeled by writers, but her story construction is likewise fascinating. Cather's characters are well-rounded and evocative and utterly relatable. She does follow some conventions of the time, such as tragic, transformative deaths of major characters, but O Pioneers! is actually more positive than other period books in this regard. This is in keeping with the nature of the book's heroine, Alexandra, who is a strong, assertive woman in a male-dominated world. I was bothered by some of Alexandra's actions at the end, but I'm also aware that her reactions were in keeping with a woman of faith in her time.

Book 21

Title: The Edge of Worlds
Author: Martha Wells
Series: part four of "The Books of the Raksura", follows Stories of the Raksura Volume Two
Pages: 388
Summary: An expedition of groundlings from the Empire of Kish have traveled through the Three Worlds to the Indigo Cloud court of the Raksura, shape-shifting creatures of flight that live in large family groups. The groundlings have found a sealed ancient city at the edge of the shallow seas, near the deeps of the impassable Ocean. They believe it to be the last home of their ancestors and ask for help getting inside. But the Raksura fear it was built by their own distant ancestors, the Forerunners, and the last sealed Forerunner city they encountered was a prison for an unstoppable evil.

Prior to the groundlings’ arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court’s mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura’s idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.

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#43

Tooling along slowly, I finished Osprey Campaign #4: Tet Offensive 1968: Turning Point in Vietnam this week. I was pretty young when this happened, and on this side of the Pacific, whatever was happening was poorly reported, so this quick discussion of the events and results is pretty solidly good. Worthwhile.

#42

A couple of days back, I finished reading Osprey Vanguard #4: Fallschirmpanzerdivision 'Hermann Goring', a unit history of a vanity unit of the German Luftwaffe, manned with ground crew that had to be retrained. They fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and the Russian Front. Moderately interesting as far as Osprey books go.

book 35

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1)The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a 3.5 star read for me (though I rated it 4 since I did enjoy it a lot but there were problems). Magnus is a homeless young man who is being hunted at the moment by his odd Uncle Randolph who his mother told him to avoid and his equally odd cousin Annabeth and her dad. (Yes, that Annabeth. This is in the Percy Jackson universe). Magnus is afraid of being found because he's afraid he'll be arrested for his mother's death in a house fire 2 years ago. There were wolves there and he's now afraid of wolves.

Randolph tells him 'they're coming for him' now that he's 16 and he has to find the Sword of Summer. It was his father's and is now his. Magnus has no idea what he's talking about but allows Randolph to take him to where Randolph himself lost his own wife and child in his search for the sword. Just as Magnus finds this old crappy sword, he's set upon by a fire giant named Surt. The two other homeless men looking out for him, Blitz and Hearth come to his rescue wielding a protest sign and a plastic bow and arrow.

And Magnus dies saving them all. Yeah. Dies. And is plucked from his watery grave by a valkyrie, Sam who happens to be a Muslim (with a magical hijab) and not well liked because she's a screw up. In fact bringing Magnus into this really irritates Gunnilla the head valkyrie who manages to get Sam kicked out but Sami is still there helping Magnus as is Blitz, a dwarf and Hearth, a deaf elf who were supposed to guard Magnus.

Now they have to get the Sword of Summer back and train Magnus to use it but is one of their number working for Loki, who claims he actually doesn't want Magnus to use the sword to cut the bonds of the world wolf, Loki's son. But who trusts Loki? The rest of the long novel is Magnus stumbling on his quest but is he here to stop Ragnarok or speed it along.

All the characters are very good and likeable. Blitz the fashion dwarf and Hearth with his tragic backstory because who's ever heard of in 'imperfect' elf (and make no bones about it, the elves in this universe see deaf elves as inferior). Magnus is likeable too and Sami pretty much so. The story moves a long in typical Riordan fashion.

I did however have issues. If you removed any references to Norse gods and Greek gods, you would not be able to tell Magnus's dialog from Percy's. They're pretty much the same smart assed character. Magnus has a slightly more tragic story than Percy is all.

And that also bothers me. murdered teenagers make me sad and I spent the first half the novel thinking about all the potential even if Magnus IS one of the honored dead now.

And the last thing that bugged me is the whole set up. Blitz and Hearth are supposed to be watching Magnus and yes they're not fighters but still, they are caught completely unprepared to save his life, yet are otherwise competent the rest of the novel, especially Hearth's magic. And Magnus himself doesn't seem too put out by the fact that Sam, Odin and his friends know someone is going to try and kill him and in fact Sam, being a valkyrie just waits for it. You'd think he'd be a tad more angry they just stepped back and let him be slaughtered. He's very blase about that.

Still, I'll definitely be seeing what comes next.



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All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell

book 30:  All That Remains by Patricia D. Cornwell

This is the third Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner, mystery.  It concerns a serial killer targeting couples and commiting murders with aspects that make the military/ CIA nearby suspect.  This story also looks at how politics and media can influence, manipulate, and interfere with cases for better or worse.  I continue to enjoy this series and the Kay Scarpetta character.  The ending on this one felt a little anti-climatic, but not overwhelmingly so, and it was more realistic.  Otherwise, Cornwell is still doing well in keeping up the suspense and giving multiple story lines to follow to trip you up with red herrings and keeping the story well paced.   

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