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Books #79-80

Book #79 was "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. I get the feeling this is a love it or hate it kind of book, since when I was googling it, I found an essay called "Ten reasons we loved 'The Secret History'" and another that was titled "Why I hated 'The Secret History'". At first, I wasn't sure what to make of it. It's shelved as a mystery at my library, but it's not a "Whodunnit" -- you know who died, roughly who did it and roughly how it happened in the first few pages. The suspense comes from finding out what series of events lead to the murder and what would happen to the protagonist, Richard, and his friends, after the murder. I don't want to say too much about the plot and spoil it, because once I got sucked into the book, I really enjoyed it. The book is ostensibly about murder, but it's really about the masks we put on and the social lies that we tell, and what happens to someone who isn't good at masks and social lies when the stakes are high. I really liked it and would like to read more by Tartt.

Book #80 was "Mississippi Sissy," a memoir by Kevin Sessums. Growing up in the south in the 60s as a young sissy boy is tough, tougher still when your father is a retired pro athlete and a coach at the local high school. Sessume loses both his parents in one year and grows up parented by his grandparents. He later goes on to be a celebrity and entertainment journalist, but the book mainly covers his childhood and young adulthood up to about age 19, when he is out as gay and ready to get out of the South. In between, he's the target of predatory older men who sense he's a young gay man on the brink of discovering his sexuality. Luckily, he also has some wonderful mentors along the way, including Frank Hains, a journalist, and Hains' friend, southern novelist Eudora Welty. I found the explicit description of his sexual abuse to be pretty squicky, but overall really enjoyed this book a great deal. I found myself chuckling through a lot of it and empathizing at others. This won a Lambda award for best memoir by a gay man, and it is richly deserving.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
More days, more books.

I rattled through several books, dumping a few, but finishing more.

The first book that I read this week was Osprey Men-At-Arms #29: The Soviet Army, an older Osprey series book with poorer quality plates. The history contained within included the period from WWI until the early Cold War, considering that when it was published, the fall of the Soviet system was still about two decades away. Not bad, for the series.

Then I finished Osprey New Vanguard #20: T-34-85 Medium Tank 1944 - 94, a discussion about the upgrade of the original T-34 tank that took place during WWII. Moderately interesting.

Next was Oranges and Lemons, a rather quick read about a rhyme about London and its church bells. Considering how I'd been pondering that very thought recently, I thought it appropriate to pull this out and look it over. It discusses the various spots geographically as mentioned in the rhyme, which was enlightening.

Then the next book was Osprey Raid #33: U-47 in Scapa Flow: The Sinking of the HMS Royal Oak in 1939 which fills in details of a raid that I'd read about years ago. Once again, moderately interesting.

The next item was Sandwich: A Global History, and it gives a pretty good history of the specific food item, including the fact that such things were eaten long before the Earl of Sandwich gave his name to it. Quick read.

Then, Osprey Vanguard #23: British Tanks in N. Africa 1940 – 42, an overall view of the subject with a few lesser quality plates to support the photographs. Not a great piece of work, and I think it's out of print.

Next was Osprey Warrior #23: US Marine Rifleman in Vietnam 1965 - 73; the book admits that this war was a place that was central to the Marine Corps during that period. They describe how Marines were either in Vietnam, just back from Vietnam, or training for Vietnam through the war. Pretty solid read.

Then, back to foodstuffs with Sausage: A Global History and finally Soup: A Global History. The former is a topic that I dabble in only lightly; I love Merguez sausage made with lamb, and kosher beef hot dogs are arguably sausages, but I leave the vast majority of sausages alone due to the presence of pork. In the latter book, soup is one of my favorite dishes, and I often order a tempting bowl when available. I found both of these better than the average for this series of books, so, well done!

And on to another week and a few more books!
Summary:
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS... FOR THE LAST TIME.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.
It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.


There are valid reasons why this booked earned Jemisin a best novel Hugo and nominations for a Nebula and a Locus Award. The world-building is extraordinary. She creates a dark, gritty world that has endured such an endless string of tectonic apocalypses that they are simply dubbed "Fifth Seasons." In this world, those rare people who wield earth magic are reviled and enslaved, even as mundane people rely on them for salvation. It makes for a complex, original mix of science fiction and fantasy, and wow is this a fast read. Since my own recent series is about geomancy, I was utterly fascinated by Jemisin's totally different take.

The book follows the viewpoints of three women; it was quite a surprise to see 2nd person utilized throughout. I found each of these voices engaging, but I was confused throughout by when their lives were taking place. Gradually the hints emerge that no, these women's experiences do not overlap, and when the explanation finally came, I was perturbed. The points-of-view were set up in an experimental way but to me it felt... manipulative? Which seems odd, since authors actively intend to manipulate the readers' experience (I sure do), but here the big secret around the POVs just rubbed me the wrong way.

That's my one quibble, though. The Fifth Season is a masterful work with its strong world-building and diverse cast, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that this will be regarded as a classic from here on.

Book 124

Karneval Omnibus (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1: Includes Vols. 1 & 2 (Karneval Omnibus, #1)Karneval Omnibus (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1: Includes Vols. 1 & 2 by Touya Mikanagi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I picked up this omnibus because the cover art was very pretty and it sounded interesting. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Nai is a very naive young man looking for his friend, Karoku. His only lead is a bloody bracelet that belongs to a Circus member. Nai is nearly killed almost immediately and is rescued by a young thief, Gareki. Nai instantly bonds to Gareki but for Gareki’s part he’s more interested in selling that bracelet, knowing it will bring a lot of cash.

At first, that’s his plan but Gareki does quickly become fond of Nai as he tries to help him look for Karoku (for which he’ll be rewarded with the bracelet). However, the strange being that nearly killed Nai is part of a group of strange people altered by ‘evolution,’ and now they’re after Nai and Gareki. This brings them to Circus’s attention. Circus appears to be police officers with special (perhaps superhuman) abilities. Circus saves Nai (who keeps running off and getting into trouble that Gareki has to get him out of) from being framed for murder and they begin to examine the young men, revealing something unexpected about Nai (well I assumed Nai was some form of experiment or other because no one could be this naive.

We also get some of Gareki’s background (I liked him before I learned his background, but yes he’s the abused orphan). The Circus people are very interesting, bizarre and we don’t know too much about them. I am curious that the second in commands in the two airships we see are tiny women (There aren’t too many women in this unfortunately) and that the warriors on both ships spout overly dramatic nonsense before fighting.

I really enjoyed the storyline with its steampunk elements. The characters were interesting, well Gareki and Nai as the others aren’t developed much yet. I wasn’t too fond of Nai at first because he’s not really naive, he’s too stupid to live. However, as we go we learn he has reasons to be TSTL. He hasn’t had a moment of education and for that matter we’re not sure he is as old as he looks (12 maybe), most likely not.

The art is lovely and lush. It helps make up for some of the plot weaknesses, like Nai’s inability to learn not to run off every five minutes (or the rather obvious plot point that Karoku isn’t what Nai thinks he is). I’m looking forward to the next omnibus.



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Book #57: On Beauty by Zadie Smith



Number of pages: 446

Despite my enjoyment of Zadie Smith's other books, and the fact that this seems to be regarded as her magnum opus, I was initially reluctant to read this book, as the title didn't interest me. When I read the plot, I got more intrigued and was lucky to find this book selling cheaply in a secondhand bookshop.

The story revolves around the fortunes of two families - the Belseys and the Kipps', both living in New England. One of the central characters, Howard Belsey, is a professor at local university, and it becomes clear quite early on that Howard has had an affair with one of his colleagues, but his wife Kiki does not kick him out, determined to allow their marriage to endure despite his infidelity.

There are several other plot strands in the story, including a student named Carl who, despite clearly being gifted, has no educational qualifications, and the struggle by Howard's daughter to allow Carl to stay on the university course he is attending, while others want him to be thrown out. I wasn't surprised to see that there was a lot of social commentary based around both politics and race.

I really enjoyed this book, and certainly think it's the best Zadie Smith novel I've read, possibly because I found it easier to read than some of her other novels. Howard was definitely the most interesting character for me, as he seemed to be constantly responsible for sabotaging his own personal life. Towards the end, it felt like there might be no happy ending at all, although the final pages did provide some hope at least for one character. The book's ending seemed very open to interpretation, and rather than having a neat conclusion, the book went for something more unconventional, and it seemed that it was up to the reader to choose what happened to the characters afterwards.

I certainly found this very thought provoking, particularly the issue of allowing an intelligent student to stay at university despite not having qualifications, and I also wondered if the beauty of the title referred to inner, rather than outward beauty.

This definitely deserved to read the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Next book: Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay
Summary
The need for a book about the Japanese experience in Hawai'i brought together the co-authors, who are themselves Hawaiian Nisei mothers and teachers, to collaborate on this book. In the process, they became increasingly aware of the abiding sense of appreciation that the Japanese have for the past and its effect on the present. Okage same de, a commonly used expression of gratitude, captures this attitude that has enabled the Japanese in Hawaii to emerge from their early uncertainties, struggles, and even trauma with little bitterness. It has helped them to become a part of the local culture and to cultivate a deep appreciation for and love of Hawai'i, their homeland. Facing injustices and hardships upon arriving in Hawaii, Japanese contract immigrants demonstrated determination and perseverance in their struggle to gain acceptance. Later, as members of the legendary 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, as well as unsung heroes of the Interpreters' group, these same virtues helped them emerge among the leaders during the postwar years to shape the new Hawaii. The Japanese in Hawaii: Okage Sama De is a chronological account of these immigrants. Enhanced by oral history excerpts and brief biographical sketches, it includes numerous photographs, many from treasured family albums, adding a personal dimension to the history. Previously published in 1986, this new publication has been updated for 2008.

This is an interesting read for those interested in the full Japanese experience in Hawaii, from the early arrivals of sugar plantation workers to modern sports figures and politicians. I specifically read it for research reasons, wanting more perspective on the Japanese immigrants' experience in Hawaii around 1900. This did introduce new information for me--nicely supplementing another book, Pau Hana by Ronald Takaki--and I especially appreciated excerpts of immigrants speaking in their own voices. Photographs are throughout, offering me a g view of everything from clothing to a screened seifu to keep bugs from food. I found it to be a fast read thanks to the copious photographs and conversational tone.

Book 50

Title: Gyrfalcon
Author: Anna Butler
Pages: 364
Summary: Earth's last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn't need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father - and with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside - down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn't expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.

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Another week, another few books.

First one that I finished reading for the week was Osprey Campaign #23: Khartoum 1885: General Gordon's Last Stand, and my feeling after reading it was "He had it coming". Perhaps unfair of me.

Next, I read Mushroom: A Global History. The author divides the world into lovers and haters of this fungal food and it goes from there. Moderately good read if you have interest in the subject.

Then it was The Dungeoneers by Jeffery Russell (I have another book with the same name by a different author; that's a fair detail...); it sets up what seems like it was a Dungeons & Dragons adventure but writes it up in a really interesting way which reads well. The author has another book set in the same milieu out now, so I have to stalk that book.

Next book I gobbled up was Osprey Elite #37: Panama 1989 – 90. I remember that time pretty well; the Panamanian government announced that there was a state of war between our two countries and pretty much right away we invaded and that was that. This book sets up why it happened and what forces were deployed on both sides. Interesting.

Last book for the week was Osprey Fortress #38: American Cival War Fortifications (2): Land and Field Fortifications. As I've mentioned before occasionally, I have some trouble studying the US Civil War because it's hard for me to imagine such in-fighting in my country...until I look at our present political situation and realize that the slavery issue did similar, though worse, things to our political discourse...
Summary:
'It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

I was happy to grab this ebook on a good sale. I watched the first season of the series on Amazon Prime a few months ago, and I was curious about how the two mediums compared. The contrast is quite stark. The series uses the basic setting--one where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II and have effectively divided America--and character names and some of their back stories. The series goes much deeper into the changes to American culture and takes the plot in entirely new directions, though there are a few particular scenes that are directly from the book. The book is much darker, really. The Nazis have committed genocide against Africa, slaughtering everyone, and blacks in America are slaves. Occasional hints about events in Russia and eastern Europe show they have it little better. The Nazis are also traveling to the moon, Mars, and beyond--and they have a war eye on Japan here on Earth.

I won't go into details about how the characters differ, as I don't want to spoil that for readers or viewers, though I will say that Mr. Tagomi remains my favorite character in both versions of the story. He is a man of peace amid very difficult circumstances.

In all, I enjoyed the book in its differences. It's a short, fast read, carried along by sly tension. It doesn't need big, grand explosions--it's about little explosions in short conversations. Most of all, it's a book that makes you think--and I believe the series is doing that, too, even as it takes the basic story in an entirely different direction.

Book 123

Welcome to Night ValeWelcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


First off, if you're not listening to Welcome to Night Vale, go listen. It's free here www.welcometonightvale.com . Otherwise we get inane reviews stating 'well I didn't listen to the podcast and now I never will.' If the podcast isn't your thing, this book won't be either. It's a lot like The X-Files meets Douglas Adams or Terry Prachett. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. It is, however, mine. That said, I didn't feel like the book lived up to its hype or to the podcast that inspired it (even though it is written by the same creative team).

It's not bad but it's not particularly memorable either I'm sad to say. I wanted to love this. They made an interesting choice of point of view characters, Jackie who has been nineteen for decades and runs the pawn shop and Diane, a mother whose son, Josh, is constantly shape shifting from lamp shades to winged, hooved creatures and a thousand things in between. Diane is also the only person who remembers the Man with the Tan Suit at work now that he's gone. (He's one of the running characters from the show).

Here's the thing, they're not really characters from the podcast that anyone really cares much about (I'm not even sure Diane was one because I've heard them all and if she was, she was just that memorable). Cecil (the radio personality, main character of the podcast) and his boyfriend the very handsome scientist, Carlos (along with Dana, former intern and now mayor, Tamika Flynn, Old Woman Josie and the Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your House) are the usual suspects people tune in for. They are relagated to minor roles in this book. That's a risky thing. It sometimes works. Witness Blink on Dr. Who where the Doctor is only seen briefly and we follow a character no one has seen before and it was briiliant.

In spite of the well known fantasty authors and SF personalities proclaiming this book to the heavens, it's not brilliant. I never did care much for Diane or Jackie until maybe the last fifty pages of the book. They just weren't particularly engaging. Jackie and Diane's son both were given a piece of paper by the Man in the Tan Suit saying only King City, a piece of paper they can't put aside which sends them on a huge adventure.

An adventure that takes too long at 400 pages, this felt like at least 100 pages too long. Carlos at least had one or two scenes. Cecil didn't. His entire apperance was in the form of short radio shows (more bizarre than even his usual) and one where he's talking on the air with one of the women and Carlos.

So, I'm glad I read it. I would read another and hope they'd go with Cecil and Carlos or maybe Tamika. I'd be interested in that. That said I wouldn't be running out to buy it. Thank heavens our libraries are safer than those in Night Vale.



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Books #77-78

Book #77 was "The Raven King" by Maggie Stiefvater, the last of the 4-book Raven Cycle. I adored this series and was equally keen to race to the finish and tempted to procrastinate because I loved this series so much I didn't want it to end. It's read by Will Patton, and I ADORE him as a reader for this series. The final book wraps up many, though not all, the loose threads from the first three books. Each of our main characters finds something important out about themselves and each is put to the test as it seems Gansey's quest to find a magical dead king is almost at an end. But in the meantime, a demon is "unmaking" Cabeswater, the magical forest that has a special tie to Ronan Lynch,[Spoiler (click to open)]the boy who can pull objects out of his dreams. I loved, loved this book. I felt the theme of "Who is a brother/what does it mean to be a brother?" was very strong in the second book, "The Dream Thieves." In this last novel, I feel the theme is about what it means to be a "king," but really any kind of real, leader, what it means to take charge of your own life. There were moments where I could have felt let down that things didn't play out as a reader might expect, but other moments that surprised me, and ultimately, I did find this a satisfying and fitting end to the series.  It doesn't surprise me that, in an interview I read with the author, she mentions being influenced by Susan Cooper's Welsh-inspired YA novels (The Dark is Rising sequence), which I loved as a kid. Stiefvater has caught magic on the pages of these books, and I feel I will be blathering on about them to anyone who will listen for a long time.

Book #78 was also a gorgeous novel, though in a different vein, "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel. It's a beautiful, lyrical near-future novel, going back and forth from approximately the present to about 20 years past a flu pandemic that kills off 90 percent of the population and consequently wreaks havoc on civilization. It opens with the death of Arthur Leander onstage the night people first realize how serious the pandemic is, and then follows all the people who touched his life who survive into the post-disaster world, including a traveling symphony and acting troupe that tours around Michigan, performing Shakespeare and classical music. They run into a Prophet who threatens to disrupt and possibly ruin forever the tentative peaceful routine the traveling symphony has managed to create in the two decades after the flu pandemic. The book asks the questions: If civization as you know it ended, what would you miss, and what would you do to preserve what you love? This has gotten lots of raves and nominations for prizes, but it is not over-hyped. My husband and I have a little two-person book club (The Infidels' Book Club) where we pick a book to read out loud to each other, and this was our most recent read. I loved it and recommend it.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
Summary:
The finest guidebook ever written for the Big Island. Now you can plan your best vacation--ever. This all new sixth edition is a candid, humorous guide to everything there is to see and do on the Big Island. Best-selling author and longtime Hawai'i resident, Andrew Doughty, unlocks the secrets of an island so vast and diverse that many visitors never realize all that it has to offer. Explore with him as he reveals breathtaking trails, secluded beaches, pristine reefs, delicious places to dine, relaxing resorts, an active volcano and so much more. Every restaurant, activity provider, business and resort is reviewed personally and anonymously. This book and a rental car are all you need to discover what makes the Big Island so exciting.
-The most up-to-date and accurate information available anyplace with up-to-the-minute changes posted to our website
- Frank, brutally honest reviews of restaurants, hotels and activities show you which companies really are the best...and which to avoid--no advertisements
-Driving tours let you structure your trip your way, point out sights not to be missed along the way and are complemented by 120 spectacular color photographs
-38 specially-created maps in an easy-to-follow format with mile markers--so you'll always know where you are on the island
-Clear, concise directions to those hard-to-find places such as deserted black sand beaches, tropical rain forests, hidden waterfalls, the most dramatic part of the erupting volcano, freshwater lava pools (some volcanically heated) and scores of other hidden gems listed nowhere else
-28 pages on Big Island's beaches with detailed descriptions including ocean safety
-Over 65 pages of exciting adventures and activities
-Fascinating sections on Hawai'i's history, culture, language and legends
-Companion website with links to every business, events calendar, over 90 resort reviews complete with aerial photos--so you'll know if oceanfront really means oceanfront


Travel books can sometimes be a tedious read, but there is a reason why this book is the top-rated book on the Big Island on Amazon. Reading this feels like talking with a friend. The tone is personable, with jokes and asides, plus lots of practical knowledge you don't see elsewhere--like when the winds pick up, what side of the plane to sit on when flying into Kona and Hilo, where to eat, how to access remote black beaches, etc. As an author, I need these kinds of details for the novel outline I'm working on--and for the research trip I'm planning as well. Plus, their website offers a wealth of supplemental material. I'll be buying their book on Oahu next!

October 2016 reading

October 2016 reading:

47. Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus (112 pages)
I saw this in the library and had to read it because The Great Mouse Detective was a favorite growing up. Though there are some converging details the overall story is different, though apparently this is one of a series and the movie may have drawn from multiple books.

48. The Dark Hills Divide, by Patrick Carman (272 pages)
Alexa has grown up within the walls that shield four towns and the roads between them from the wilds, and has longed to see the outside. Little does she knew, she is about to go on an adventure that will change her world forever. Started a bit slowly.

49. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, by L. Frank Baum (262 pages)
Dorothy is traveling with her pet cat, Eureka, to a farm in California. She's on the last leg of the journey in a wagon with young Zeb, pulled by the old horse Jim, when an earthquake strikes, and the ground opens around them and pulls them into the earth. As it turns out, Dorothy's old friend Oz is also swallowed by the earth, and so he joins them as they try to make it back to where they belong, on yet another adventure.

50. Earth Girl, by Janet Edwards (358 pages)
Jarra has grown up on earth in an era where most of humanity has taken to the Stars, traveling quickly between worlds via portal. She, however, is Handicapped. She cannot live anywhere but earth, and those like her are considered throwbacks, apes. Jarra is determined to prove herself.

51. Night Broken, by Patricia Briggs (341 pages)
Adam's ex-wife calls in a panic when a stalker targets her, and it's clear she's hoping to rekindle a relationship. At the same time, a Gray Lord approaches Mercy for the walking stick, meaning she has to contact Coyote and try to get it back. Little do they know, the stalker is far beyond human, and beyond what they might be able to defeat.

52. Earth Star, by Janet Edwards (374 pages)
Jarra and Fian are ready to get back to their studies, but they're suddenly contacted by the Military and ordered to report for duty. They've been drafted into service because an alien craft has appeared headed for Earth. While there had been hope of first contact, it had been expected to happen in other sectors. For it to happen at Earth... we'll, no one knows what to expect, and Jarra and Fian find themselves heading a history team while in the midst of an amazing historical event.

53. Swamp Bones, by Kathy Reichs (98 pages)
Brennan thought she was going on vacation to visit an ornithologist friend. It's really not her fault that she finds human remains in the contents of a python kill when picking up the keys, is it? She shortly finds herself deputized and on the track of a killer. Still making stupid decisions.

54. Bones Never Lie, by Kathy Reichs (336 pages)
Brennan comes face to face with the case that got away through a cold file from Vermont, leading to DNA evidence that Anique Pomerleau is back in the game after years of silence. And with Ryan in the wind, she must track him down first if she has any hope of solving what is quickly becoming a serial case of child murders. Found this one more enjoyable than many of them. Brennan managed for the most part not to do anything dangerously stupid.

55.Earth Flight, by Janet Edwards (390 pages)
Jarra doesn't expect fallout when her Betan family clan decides to officially recognize her and adopt Fian, but it turns out that's an intense political statement. And it makes her a target. At the same time, the message from the aliens is being interpreted to discover a map to their homeworld, leading to Isolationist protests and further attempts at harming Jarra and Fian. When Fian's father interferes with their betrothal at her clan's ceremony, the act has far-reaching legal consequences across all the sectors. Whether she intended to or not, Jarra has started a sociopolitical movement. Really good.

56. Fire Touched, by Patricia Briggs (342 pages)
Mercy gets a frantic call from her police friend Tony because there's a creature on a bridge throwing cars and attacking people. Turns out to be a troll, and upon defeating it with the help of Tad and the Pack, a fire-touched boy who escaped from the Fae with Zee and Tad stops Joel from rampaging. In response to the release of the troll and the boy's request for sanctuary Mercy officially stakes the Pack's territory using the Walking Stick to draw a line in the sand against the fae. Great book.

October pages: 2,885

Pages to date: 16,974

Progress: 56/52


October 2016 comics/manga reading:

174. Library Wars: Volume 3, by Kiiro Yumi (200 pages)
175. What Did You Eat Yesterday?: Volume 4, by Fumi Yoshinaga (152 pages)
176. Star Trek: Volume 12, by Mike Johnson (124 pages)
177. Bleach: Volume 67, by Tite Kubo (192 pages)
178. Ms. Marvel: Volume 2, by G. Willow Wilson (112 pages)
179. Gotham City Sirens: Volume 4, by Peter Calloway (160 pages)
180. Rat Queens: Volume 2, by Kurtis J. Wiebe (128 pages)
181. Mercy Thompson: Homecoming, by Patricia Briggs (112 pages)
182. Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly, by Patricia Briggs (168 pages)
183. After School Nightmare: Volume 1, by Setona Mizushiro (191 pages)
184. Rat Queens: Volume 3, by Kurtis J. Weibe (160 pages)
185. After School Nightmare: Volume 2, by Setona Mizushiro (181 pages)

October pages: 1,880

Pages to date: 30,268

Progress: 185/200

Book 49

Title: Aurora
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Pages: 466
Summary: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.
Now, we approach our destination.
A new home.
Aurora.

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Book 48

Title: Feindkontakt
Author: Karen Traviss
Pages: 331
Summary: Wo reguläre Truppen überfordet sind und Jedi-Ritter nicht in Frage kommen, werden die härtesten und besten Exemplare der republikanischen Klonarmee eingesetzt: die Republic Commandos. Speziell geschult für den Einsatz weit hinter den feindlichen Linien, führen sie einen erbarmungslosen Krieg gegen die Widersache der Republik. Eine Gruppe von vier Troopern wird von ihrer Einheit getrennt und ist ab sofort auf sich alleine gestellt. Mit Hilfe einer gestrandeten Jedi bahnen sie sich ihren Weg durch Feidnesland, in dem das Verderben hinter jeder Ecke lauert! Die Repbulic Commandos müssen einmal mehr unter Beweis stellen, aus welchem Holz sie geschnitzt sind...

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Book #56: Fobbit by David Abrams



A "fobbit" is Army slang for a soldier who never or rarely leaves the Foward Operating Base FOB), and this book revolves around troops stationed in Iraq and opens with the main characters attempting to stop a suicide bomber.

This doesn't sound like a funny subject matter for a book, but this novel takes a very flippant and satirical tone, providing a large amount of humour, mostly from the cynicism of the soldiers that the story is about.

The one thing I noticed was that David Abrams' writing was clearly influenced by Joseph Heller and his novel, Catch-22, mostly through the tone that it is written in and the obvious digs at bureaucratic pencil-pushers. Catch-22 is itself referenced a couple of times in the text, and Abrams acknowledges Heller as one of his influences at the end of the book. A lot of the satire involves characters trying to ensure that the military has a good public image, mostly by restricting what they can tell the press, and there is one chapter that is all about a debate over whether they can use the term, "terrorist", which starts off with them attempting to use a different term, before settling on "terrorist" again. The most obvious satire involving bureaucracy comes later in the book, following a shocking incident that I will not spoil here.

The narrative style felt a bit like George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire titles, mostly because of all the chapters being told from a different point of view, and each character comes across as sympathetic and likeable. Although told mainly in the third person, it does cut sometimes to first-person narrative, usually in the form of e-mails sent from the characters to their families.

I didn't really know what to expect from this book, aside from that it was set during the Iraq conflict; however, I was glad I read it, mostly for a few unexpected plot developments; the narrative was mostly slow-moving, so wasn't too difficult to follow.

Next book: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Books 27-31

27. Best of One Tank Trips, by Neil Zurcher. This was a fun book. Zurcher, who recently retired, is known in this area for his One Tank Trips feature, a segment where he would find fascinating and unusual destinations that could be done in a day. Most of his trips are in Ohio, but a few go out of state. Anyone looking for a good day trip that’s not too far from home should get this book, but even if someone doesn’t like to travel, Zurcher gives you a written tour of the many places listed. Some highlights include a ride-through wildlife park, a place where you can legally drag-race in the family car; an Amish hardware story that only sells non-electric tools, appliances and toys; and the only World War II submarine still in original condition. In addition, this travel veteran shares tips on what to do before venturing out, and gives some of his own anecdotes on his adventures (and even a couple misadventures; one of his final stories had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down for a moment).

28. True Tales from the Buckeye State, by Linda Lehmann Masek. Another book readers may want to consider if they are looking for interesting trips, or even just interesting facts, about Ohio. Masek shares stories about some of the fascinating attractions around Ohio, as well as her own experiences in the buckeye state. Masek goes into the stories of the traffic light, the sea serpent of Lake Erie and the Cat Museum in Alliance. In addition, she also includes a collection of her own poetry, plus information on other interesting historic tidbits not connected to Ohio. These last inclusions were a bit puzzling given the title of the book but were informative.

29. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. This was disappointing. Three-quarters of it was… OK. A bit rough around the edges, especially the beginning, but I did note that the book was branded as a rehearsal copy, which means that it probably wasn’t the final, polished draft. Also, I realize that you can only get so much reading a script. A play was meant to be seen, not just read. So, for the first three-quarters I was willing to give this script some leeway. I noticed a couple minor inconsistencies, but for most of the book I was enjoying the trip back to the Harry Potter universe. The action concerns Harry Potter’s son, Albus Severus, who tries to set right a terrible event from Harry’s past, but unwittingly creates far more problems. The premise is good, for the most part. Not sure I like Ron’s portrayal as a bit of a dolt- he could be smart in canon. But otherwise, it felt like a good, working draft, something with potential. Then- we get to the final one-quarter, where a revelation about a character takes this work from “needs polish but generally pretty good” to REALLY bad fanfic territory. I just lost all enjoyment after this reveal. Not sure I could stomach even watching it on stage now. A pity, because it had such potential.

30. Get Smart, by Christopher Sergel. This is a stage adaptation based on the series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and was the show I was supposed to be in. For those not familiar with the television series, the story lines revolve around secret agent Maxwell Smart, who tends to be more lucky than smart. Smart and Agent 99 work for Control, which always has to attempt to thwart the evil of KAOS. Those familiar with the series will see a lot of the classic lines and moments in this stage adaptation, and the script does an excellent job capturing the spirit of this hilarious series.

31. The Hudson Library and Historical Society. This was a photo book of the Hudson Library and Historical Society. My feelings were mixed. On one hand, the photos are lovely, and capture the beauty of what is considered to be a gem in this area. But I also felt there were missed opportunities as well. There was no cutline information to go with the photos, and no statistics or information about the library as it was depicted in this relatively recent publication. 50 years from now, few if anyone will remember who was pictured, and what the context was.

Currently reading: The Midwife’s Tale, by Sam Thomas, and The Agency: A Spy in the House, by Y.S. Lee.

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Summary:
Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who's determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for - and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers' beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.


Becky Chambers has done it again. She's written another cozy yet deep scifi novel that isn't about people saving the galaxy or taking on some big bad guy. No, her books are about people being people, even if they happen to be AIs. Despite the lack of major stakes, these books are not boring in the slightest--they are tense, gripping, and emotional.

A Closed and Common Orbit would work as a complete stand-alone book. It follows an AI, Lovelace, as she learns to navigate a not-so-legal humanoid body. It also delves into the back story of Pepper, a minor character from the first book. Much of Pepper's story takes place in the past, but it's still horribly intense because you want her to be okay. You want to find out how she ended up where she is. And the end... it's beautiful. I had tears in my eyes. I'm getting teary again just thinking about it. The book creates a surprising love letter to fandom and its transformative power in people's lives--indeed, how it can keep us alive.

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Second try at posting this; the first failed when Firefox crashed. Grr.

Last week's readings will seem pretty extensive, but some of the finished books I've been reading a bit here and there for a long time. In any case, here's what's what:

First, I finished reading Osprey Warrior #26: US Paratrooper 1941 - 45. It discusses the training, equipment, and tactics of this subset of American soldiers of the WWII period. Moderately interesting.

Then I read Osprey Warrior #36: Grey Wolf: U-Boat Crewman of World War II, a similar discussion of a type of soldier that had a extremely high death rate during the war. There's some good material in this one.

Next was Adolph Hitler: My Part in his Downfall by Spike Milligan, the British comedian formerly of The Goons. In it he describes in a jocular fashion how he ended up in the field artillery during WWII. This is the first of seven short autobiographies that he wrote about his experiences of the war. I had read one of the ones in the middle during college (IIRC) but until the arrival of Amazon.com I had never seen any of the other books in the series, so when I get to it, I will be re-reading the one I'd done previously just to put it all in context. In this one, he is recruited, trained, and finally shipped out to Algeria. Funny, in true Goons style. A very different look at WWII history.

Then, Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park was recommended to me at Dorsai Thing this year along with a few other books that deal with troubles in National Parks. This book goes into some detail in just about every way people have died in, and occasionally near the Park. This includes falling into thermal pools, bear attacks, rockfalls, murders, and suicides. I think it was primarily written to remind folks that the National Parks aren't Disneyland, beautiful as they may be. If you can deal with repeated horrible detail it's worth a look-see.

Next was Focal Point: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions, another in my recent reads in which I intend to get back into running RPG games. Soon. Really.

Then, Osprey Warrior #37: German Seaman 1939 - 45 deals with the sailors who fought with battleships and E-boats instead of submarines. I found it interesting that the personalities of these warriors is described so differently from others who fought for the Third Reich, especially in the view that naval personnel on the British side didn't so much view them as enemies, but instead as opponents, and that the real enemy was the ocean. Interesting read.

Next I finished Lobster: A Global History which goes into how this foodstuff changed from a garbage food that the aristocrats would feed to their servants to what is now considered a gourmet food. Fairly well-written.

Finally, Osprey Warrior #38: Fallschirmjager: German Paratrooper 1935 – 45, another subset of the fighting men of a specialized nature that had important history during the Second World War. Again, training, equipping, and tactics thereby. Not bad.

More next week!

Book 33 - Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.


The other day I went out to run some errands and get some lunch, and halfway to my first stop I realized that I had no reading material with me (a rather rare occurrence). I adjusted my route to include a visit to the library and checked out this book, which I ended up reading at lunch and then finishing when I got home. The writing style is not terribly prosaic -- for example, the sex scene is about as romantic as an old accounting textbook -- but the story is strong and sweet.

I ended up using this to fulfill a task for the Read Harder Challenge: read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie and debate which was better. I both love and hate this task in principle. Books and movies are different media! But I digress. In this case I think I liked the movie better (gasp). It's a faithful rendering of the story arc, but it's more lyrical than the book. In fact, when the crisis occurred in the movie, I had a stronger reaction to it even though I knew it was coming from having read the book. (That wasn't the case, by contrast, in a certain franchise movie that had a vaguely similar situation.) I'm only sorry that the brothers were left out of the movie, but I understand the streamlining of other plot points as well as leaving out some of the main character's observations and internal musings that don't really seem to go anywhere.

Writing style aside, I did enjoy the book and would read more from this author in the future.

Book 122

Baba Yaga"s AssistantBaba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Masha has had some real blows young in life. She lost her mother young and was raised in tandem by her dad, who didn't quite understand her and by her beloved grandmother who told her stories about the Russian witch, Baba Yaga, including her own meeting and escape. Then she learns her father is remarrying and she's about to have a horrible young step sister. Maybe if he hadn't lied about where he was at the times he was pretending to be at work leaving her alone to eat with his new love, it wouldn't have been so bad. But Masha has had enough, especially now that her grandmother is also gone.

SHe goes into the woods looking to answer Baba Yaga's ad for an assistant. Masha proves to be an intelligent, resourceful young woman (a fairly decent role model for the younger audience this seems aimed at). But how she'll deal with Baba Yaga's sweet tooth for bad children will be her biggest test.

I thought it was a good story, though the ending might disappoint a few who like a book to tell a moral (and with the age target, they often do) as this seems to be more on the lines of if you don't like something, run off.

The art is interesting and Baba Yaga is appropriately crone-like. It's a one-off (as far as I can tell) and worth looking for.



View all my reviews


I read Edgar Allen Poe's book of short stories and novellas previously, and decided to try this again. Unfortunately, both times I found a lot of it quite hard because of the language Poe uses, but some stories were more enjoyable than others. I remember the first stories almost putting me off altogether, although the format of the second story, "The Balloon Hoax" felt way ahead of its time because of the unconventional format of being presented like a magazine article.

Most of the collection of horror, fantasy and thriller stories were enjoyable enough, with some of the ones I enjoyed more including "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "William Wilson", and the fact that I used a website online to explain more about what was going on in the stories did help a little.

This book is worth trying, but you have to read everything carefully, as it isn't something than can be read quickly, mostly because it is often very long-winded, and some of the stories seem to end very abruptly. Poe is definitely most entertaining when he is being macabre.

Next book: Fobbit by David Abrams

Book 120-121

ノラガミ 10 [Noragami 10] (Noragami: Stray God, #10)ノラガミ 10 [Noragami 10] by Adachitoka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What an action packed volume. Ebisu's fate is a twisted one. Bishamonten riding to Yato's rescue doesn't go as planned but the end of this arc is pretty amazing. Without spoiling anything, it's truly a not-miss because we learn so much about Yato's past and where his future might lie. He's finally honest about his own violent nature which is at odds with his desire to help people. About the only missed notes in this is Yukine and Hiyori's attempt at lightening the mood which is rather mean spirited. I don't think it's meant to be but that sort of humor seems cruel to me. I'm looking forward to what comes next.

The art remains gorgeous and the storyline is exciting.



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SACRED, volume 1SACRED, volume 1 by Lizabeth Jimenez

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I found this one (signed) at Half Price book store and the cover was intriguing so I picked it up. The storyline was a bit uneven as is the art but not bad (If you like your men on the feminine side, this art will satisfy you.)

Cecero is a 16 year old wizard (who looks like he's 12) and is something of a darling at his wizarding school. The girls all love and mob him. His mother is one of the most powerful sorceresses around and yes he is a bit of a Larry Stu in that respect. He rooms in the school dorm with his best friend, Sheko who is possessed by a demon and is obsessed with porn (just what you want in a room mate). Honestly Sheko doesn't seem all that bright and a simple over sight on his end leads to completely unsuspected consequences for Cecero including one heck of a battle.

In many ways the story is a bit slow as it tries to introduce this universe to the reader or that could just be me. I'm not a huge fan of drawn out fight scenes and the whole middle third of this is nothing but a fight scene. Probably the strongest part of this is the final third as it deals with the aftermath of the battle and the changes in Cecero.

It's not bad. I'd be curious to see what happens in the next volume.



View all my reviews

September 2016 reading

September 2016 reading:

42. Frost Burned, by Patricia Briggs (340 pages)
Mercy totals her Rabbit while out Black Friday shopping with Jesse, and when they call for help they can reach no Pack. It quickly becomes apparent that they've been captured, and through the Bonds Mercy learns what their captors want--for Adam to assassinate a politician. Little do they know, this has been financed by a bruiser in the supernatural community, someone who wants control, and they must fight to save their world.

43. Once Broken Faith, by Seanan McGuire (420 pages)
October should be used to everything going spectacularly wrong by now, but when a Pureblood is murdered and a dignitary elf-shot at a Conclave to decide what should be done with Walther's alchemical elf-shot cure, it's a bit more than she's dealt with before. Someone at the Conclave is a murderer, and she has to find them before they strike again. Bonus novelette from Arden's point of view. Good read.

44. Bones are Forever, by Kathy Reichs (283 pages)
When the bodies of infants are found bundled and hidden in an apartment, a manhunt starts for the mother, leading to other areas of Canada and a sad look into its underbelly. Surprised Brennan managed not to get killed here.

45. Spice & Wolf: Volume 10, by Isuna Hasekura (272 pages)
Lawrence, Col, and Holo travel via sea to find the wolf bones, only to find themselves in another situation that could lead to trouble. But they also feel obligated to help. Good book.

46. Bones of the Lost, by Kathy Reichs (324 pages)
The body of a young girl, a victim of a hit and run, is the most recent corpse to wind up on Brennan's table. With no identity and a clear indication the death was not accidental, it feels as though it might never be solved. At the same time, Brennan is worried about her daughter, who has been deployed to Afghanistan, and she jumps at the chance to go to her base when she's asked to consult on a case. This one tied up a bit too neatly, but was on an important issue.

September pages: 1,639

Pages to date: 14,089

Progress: 46/52


September 2016 comics/manga reading:

171. Swamp Thing: Volume 2, by Alan Moore (207 pages)
172. Case Closed: Volume 59, by Gosho Aoyama (192 pages)
173. Catwoman: Volume 5, by Ann Nocenti (232 pages)

September pages: 631

Pages to date: 28,388

Progress: 173/200
Summary:
The end is coming. Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him but it's going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there's only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. It's past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. His days with a sword are far behind him. It's a good thing blackmail, threats and torture still work well enough.

Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful, and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman he loves. But love can be painful too, and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.

While the King of the Union lies on his deathbead, the peasants revolt and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No one believes that the shadow of war is falling across the very heart of the Union. The First of the Magi has a plan to save the world, as he always does. But there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, after all, than to break the First Law...


So many mixed feelings on this book and I will try to address this without delving into spoilers. The writing is top-notch. The tension is intense throughout every plot--each character is at risk, and the stakes are high. That said, the end left me frustrated. Mind you, I know the genre is grimdark. I didn't expect happy endings. Even so, I wish the ending hadn't kept dragging on, because the longer it went, the less I liked it. It came back to a simple fact: most of the characters didn't change through the course of the trilogy (the major exceptions to this being Ardee and Jezal). There was no enlightenment, no growth. This contradicts how most books--heck, even 1000-word flash fiction stories--usually develop a character arc, and it left me without a sense of satisfaction at the end.

That said, I am still mightily impressed with Abercrombie, and I will look for more of this books. This trilogy was still a great read overall, even if the very end wasn't quite what I wanted.
This week I read a few more books.

First was Osprey Vanguard #20: The Tiger Tanks; I think I see why they stopped the Vanguard series and moved onto the New Vanguard series. The former were seriously technical while the latter has a bit more history to them. In any case I like the newer series better in general. This one discusses the Tiger tanks pretty well, German from WWII.

Next I read Herbs: A Global History, there's a bit of history here, but mostly this is a list of herbs and a discussion of the difference between an herb and a spice.

Then it was Osprey Vanguard #21: The PzKpfw V Panther. More German tanks. The Tigers were heavy tanks, while the Panthers were medium. Apparently mechanically unreliable, unfortunately for those who had to drive them.

And that was all I had time for. I did take the time to update Goodreads as to all the various books I'm reading partially. One thing I did do was touch on every single book in the Currently Reading stack; this may be why I didn't finish one or two more books this week.

I suspect I'll get even more done next week...

Book 47

Title: Without Light or Guide
Author: T. Frohock
Series: part two of "Los Nefilim", follows In Midnight's Silence
Pages: 104
Summary: The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Always holding themselves aloft from the affairs of mortals, Los Nefilim have thrived for eons. But with the Spanish Civil War looming, their fragile independence is shaken by the machinations of angels and daimons… and a half-breed caught in-between.

For although Diago Alvarez has pledged his loyalty to Los Nefilim, there are many who don't trust his daimonic blood. And with the re-emergence of his father—a Nefil who sold his soul to a daimon — the fear is Diago will soon follow the same path.

Yet even as Diago tries to prove his allegiance, events conspire that only fuel the other Nefilim's suspicions — including the fact that every mortal Diago has known in Barcelona is being brutally murdered.

The second novella in T. Frohock's Los Nefilim series, Without Light or Guide continues Diago's journey through a world he was born into, yet doesn't quite understand.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )

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Book 46

Title: The Fellowship of the Ring
Author: J.R.R.Tolkien
Pages: 535
Summary: In a sleepy village in the Shire, a young hobbit is entrusted with an immense task. He must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ruling Ring of Power - the only thing that prevents the Dark Lord Sauron's evil dominion.

My thoughts:
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Book 32 - Still Life by Louise Penny

As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life - all except one…

To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead?

In a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté du Quebec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets…


This book was on my TBR list for a year or so, but as usual it took a little push to move it to the top. That push came in early September when I went to a book signing event for her latest offering (A Great Reckoning). I was sufficiently intrigued by Inspector Gamache and the village of Three Pines that I wanted to dive right in there, but the consensus on litsy and bookriot was that this series would be better consumed in order. Furthermore, the first one is set in October, so I figured it was a good chance to read them in concert with the same season. (Though I technically missed Canadian Thanksgiving by about a week, I figured it was close enough!)

I liked this book a lot but didn't love it. The setting and characters are charming but not cloying, and the author has a knack for distilling personalities into just a sentence or two. The story is well paced, but there are a few minor nagging questions as well as a blatant usage error that turned up more than once. I'm willing to chalk these up to editing problems for now and continue with the series. The next one is set at Christmas, which is about when I should expect to get it from the library.

On a related note, I recently learned that the author's husband, who had been ill for some time, passed away about a month ago. May he rest in peace.

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