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book 20: One Thousand and One Nights, Volume 9 by Jeon JinSeok

Continuation of adventure/ romance/ boys love graphic novel based loosely on Arabian Nights.  Shahryar discovers his conversation with Fatima in the desert was an illusion.  Fatima did in fact die when Shahryar banished her.  Shazaman went mad with grief and is keeping her corpse in his chambers.  Not knowing the latter, Shahryar is confronted by Shazaman in the desert.  He said that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions and step aside for Shazaman to rule Bagdhad, but when he asks for forgiveness, Shazaman stabs him and leaves him for dead.  Meanwhile, Sehara tells a story from The Romance of Three Kingdoms to his crusader captor, probably to give analogy to why he doesn't want to switch masters and go to England with him, leaving sultan Shahryar behind.

book 10

The Quick and the Thread (An Embroidery Mystery, #1)The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I mostly picked up this cozy because of the title and I thought an embroidery store setting could be fun. This hovered between ‘it’s okay’ and ‘it’s good’ for me. Some parts were good and others less so. Marcy Singer, daughter of a famous Hollywood costumer, has been working in California as an accountant and feeling a bit dull at work and her love life (we later learn her serious boyfriend and her had broken up a while back). Her friend Sadie, who owns a coffee shop in Tallulah Falls, OR calls up and says hey the shop next door is up for rent why don’t you rent it and open that embroidery store you talked about in college (which is at least a decade ago).

So right off the bat, I’m struggling to buy into the story (and it doesn’t help that Marcy spends the first couple chapters telling the reader this. Frankly it would have been better so do this in dialogue with the new people she meets in town). Without researching anything, leaving it all in Sadie’s hands, including finding a realtor, Marcy does it. Either Mom is richer than I think or she made more as an account but where does all this money come from? Rent, buying stock, moving fees etc etc. The only sign of any struggle in this is leaving Mom in CA. I didn’t find that particularly believable. Nor did I find how packed her store was on the grand opening that believable but okay, whatever.

During this packed opening, Mr. Enright, the previous owner, a hardware store (so seriously how big is this embroidery store or how small was his hardware store?), shows up, very drunk and has to tell her something. Somehow he ends up dead in her storeroom which of course gets her involved in the case. Marcy plays the victim far too much for me. Her whole impetus is she was upset that the detective, Ted, was asking the hard questions. Anytime anyone questions her or says something she doesn’t like/agree with, we get the poor pitiful me act from her. And the fact she seems to get more done than Ted is a little disturbing in one respect, because later he becomes a love interest so she’s in a love triangle with him and Todd, who Sadie set her up with (and frankly looks the guiltiest of any of the suspects).

Marcy and Sadie make progress along with the Indian librarian whose name is escaping me at the moment but has no real reason for the instant friendship other than Marcy liked her Indian style of embroidery. I don’t object to the friendship but it was very very quick. At one point or another everyone of her friends and her landlord and banker as suspects. I have a big problem with the ending which I’ll put under a spoiler warning in a moment. Overall, it was all right. I might read another if the library had it but I wouldn’t go out of my way to chase this series down. I liked her Irish Wolfhound, Angus.


Spoiler warning.

Spoilers for the end.



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#8: On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Summary:
January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.

Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?


I received an advance copy of the book through the publisher via NetGalley.

THIS BOOK. Gah. I'm morbid and enjoy a good apocalyptic story. This blew me away. Denise is an autistic teenager who loves working with cats at a shelter in Amsterdam. Her mom is a drug addict. A comet is about to strike Earth. Everything changes, but some things do not--her mom makes them late to reach their assigned shelter during the blast, and they end up taking refuge on a generation ship stuck on earth. The ship doesn't want them aboard--how can Denise fit in, much less her mom? As Earth rattles with repercussions from the impact, all Denise wants is to find her beloved trans sister and somehow stay alive amid increasingly horrible circumstances.

The drama feels real. The science comes across as sound. The interpersonal drama is likewise intense: a teenager who struggles to interact with the world on a normal day, suddenly coping with a cataclysm, even as her mother is zoned out on drugs. The whole cast is fantastic. It's January and I already know this book will top my Norton Award shortlist for next year.
January book club selection

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.


This was an interesting story from a "simpler time" that wasn't really quite as simple as it appeared. It was told from Frank's point of view as an adult looking back on a pivotal summer in his youth. It was a credible voice of a 13-year-old boy who just wants to hang out with his friends and his brother but is inevitably pulled into a string of unfortunate events that change his town and his family irrevocably. The writing is straightforward but descriptive, and the reader can feel the summertime heat even in the middle of winter. There are some twists in the plot that the author foreshadows with a light touch.

We had an interesting book club discussion, including the question of the many meanings of the title. Book #3 is next month's selection, so I'll wait to post about it until we've had that meeting.

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR.

Now that 2016 is here, Thom Hartmann's The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America -- and What We Can Do to Stop It strikes me as a logical Book Review No. 3.

Mr Hartmann has been active in left politics since the days of the Students for a Democratic Society, and his radio show regularly features Vermont's Senator Sanders helping take telephone calls.  Thus, the left perspective, with the sainted Franklin D. Roosevelt and the nasty Republicans plotting to hamstring Our President don't come as a surprise.

But the Plot is as much about the failure of people to learn from history and about the fading of previous catastrophic events from public consciousness as the people with living memories of the events pass.  Standard Fourth Turning stuff, and Mr Hartmann notes as much.

In his case, though, the plotters are the "economic royalists" and the forgotten history is that of the financial sector taking on ever more risk and trading on ever more irrational exuberance until ... pop goes the bubble.  Thus goeth the robust middle class with a lucky few getting richer and many being reduced to paupers.

Perhaps there's something to that history.  Capital formation through the expansion of credit with fractional reserve banking makes for more investment, meaning more machinery for workers to work with, although it's at the risk that if enough loans go bad, the banks run out of money.  Crash.  Afterward, people with memories of a bad crash tend to be more careful with their money, and in their dealings with financial institutions, than those who do not.  Thus it takes a few generations until financial instruments that increase the credit expansion multiplier return as people with no memories of the crash see the returns but not necessarily the risk.  Because a credit expansion multiplier can tend to infinity if there are ways for lenders to lend all the cash without holding reserves, which is what derivative securities enable, there's the potential for serious troubles when some of those investments go bad.

But Mr Hartmann cherry-picks his history to make his case.  The lost America that Worked(TM) of one-income blue-collar homeowners owed itself more to the destruction of industrial capacity in the rest of the world during World War II (an "unproductive" government expenditure in Mr Hartmann's thinking) and to a rough bourgeois discipline instilled by Uncle Sam in all those young working men who survived the war than to the New Deal and strong unions and the Welfare State.  As the rest of the world rebuilt, the comparative advantage in routine manufacturing would have left the United States, tariffs and industrial policy or not, and the counterculture took care of the discipline.  (In the Rust Belt, there's also a willful anti-intellectualism at work making those states less receptive to state-of-the-art industry and labor relations.)

In Mr Hartmann's political economy, globalization is not a Marshallian improvement that moves three or four people in India or China or Brazil or Poland into the middle class for each Midwesterner rendered redundant as an undesirable exchange.  Thus, he's no fan of removing restrictions on trade.

The corker, though, is when he, after making the case for protective tariffs for traditional manufacturing, turns to environmental degradation (did you know the banksters brought you that hundred dollar barrel of oil?  Why aren't they using those powers today?  I'm also looking at you, Senator Sanders.) He complains that protective tariffs keep Brazilian biofuels out of the United States.  Iowa corn farmers and ethanol blenders wouldn't have it any other way.  Never let consistency get in the way of a good polemic.

I used the "be careful" warning in the title because among Mr Hartmann's policy reforms is a revision of the United States Constitution to clarify language in the First and Fourteenth Amendments to make clear that legal persons are something other than biological persons, and biological persons alone enjoy citizenship and free speech rights.  He's also candid about the usurpation of powers by the Supreme Court beginning with Marbury v. Madison.  There are plenty of Tea Party libertarians who would agree, but for different reasons.  Would make for an interesting constitutional convention if the libertarians and the non-vanguardist leftists showed up in force.

And, as there will again emerge a generation that knows not financial excess first hand, it will start again in eighty years.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #4: Shardik by Richard Adams



Number of pages: 526

This book is set in the fictional Beklan Empire, where the people (including the hero, Kelderek) believe that God will come to earth in the form of "Lord Shardik".

When an injured bear shows up, the people believe the bear to be Lord Shardik, and effectively capture the bear, using it almost like a lucky mascot during a battle, believing that having the bear on their side will help them win, which they do.

The book felt daunting at first, mostly because of the small print on the copy I was reading, but I found it very accessible and got into it easily. Some sections of the book made me think of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, mostly because of the politics that occasionally featured and some of the more shocking chapters (particularly one that featured a character who sold children as slaves).

The book does feel a bit long-winded at first, but I loved the opening description of the bear's journey along the river, and I found myself really caring for the characters (the humans and the bear). It felt a bit like a Biblical allegory, although I wasn't certain whether this was deliberate. I also enjoyed imagining just how the Belkan empire might look.

This was a book that I heard about when I was young, but thought it would be too difficult to try and read; I'm glad I finally read it as an adult, and want to read its sequel, Maia.

Next book: Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)
book 19:  One Thousand and One Nights, Volume 8 by Jeon JinSeok

Sehara has left Shahryar behind to travel to Jerusalem with the Crusaders in exchange for the lives of his loved ones.  Ali forgives Shahryar for murdering his beloved after realizing that he did nothing to protect her from her fate, and he urges Shahryar to pursue Sehara if he values him.  Shahryar sets out to retake Jerusalem and free Sehara, but somehow ends up stranded and weakened in the desert alone where his adulterous wife Fatima finds him, intending to gloat over his looming death.  Shahryar asks her to tell him her story, and he learns of her family's destruction at the hands of the sultan's forces and her subsequent sale into slavery and prostitution at a young age.  Once purchased by Shahryar's father, she met Shazaman, Shahryar's younger brother, who taught her how to manipulate the sultan and murder him, wanting revenge for Fatima and for himself because he felt slighted by his father's preference for Shahryar and blamed them both for his mother's murder.  Fatima claims Shazaman is the only man she has ever loved and would do anything for him, including enduring further abuses so she can kill Shahryar and make way for Shazaman to become sultan.

Book 6: Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey

Book 6: Steadfast (Elemental Masters #9).
Author: Mercedes Lackey, 2013.
Genre: Historical Fantasy. Re-told Fairy Tale.
Other Details: ebook. 298 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (11 hrs, 37 mins). Read by Carmela Corbett.

Lionel Hawkins is a magician whose act is only partially sleight of hand. The rest is real magic. He’s an Elemental Magician with the power to persuade the Elementals of Air to help him create amazing illusions. It doesn’t take long before his assistant, acrobat Katie Langford, notices that he’s no ordinary magician—and for Lionel to discover that she’s no ordinary acrobat, but rather an untrained and unawakened Fire Magician. She’s also on the run from her murderous and vengeful brute of a husband. But can she harness her magic in time to stop her husband from achieving his deadly goal? - synopsis from author's website.

I found this to be one of the weaker instalments of the series. Perhaps it was just too similar in setting to Reserved for the Cat, with a music hall and a faux ballerina. The plot seemed rather predictable as well.

While reading I was not aware of a corresponding fairy tale though on reading the author's website it turned out to be loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier. The soldier was another main character named Jack, who now invalided from the army works as a doorman at the theatre and was also a Fire Mage and friend of Lionel.

I decided to take a break from the series as my audiobook-on-the-go.

Books # 4 & 5

John Thorndyke's Cases by R. Austin Freeman

This is the second book in the Dr Thorndyke series, which is actually a collection of short stories/novellas, and while the characters are not as strongly developed as they were in the first book, it still made for an enjoyable read. The mysteries are not overly puzzling, but Thorndyke and Jervis are excellent characters, and the scientifically crafted revelations are built on a solid foundation of logic. I am very impressed.


Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

After fifteen books in the Agent Pendergast series, one might think these books would be getting stale already, but aside from a few minor issues such as the first few chapters reading more like a rough draft, this was really a phenomenal entry! Set in historic Massachusetts, it could not be a juicer mystery - a centuries old shipwreck which relates somehow to a recent theft, a coven of witches, a demonic force - and Agent Pendergast getting back into his usual idiosyncratic form.

Book #3: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

I just finished Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. My reading goal this year is to a read a book set in each US state. This book is primarily set in Missouri.


Well . . . that was interesting. And when I say that, I really mean, this book is going to stick with me for awhile.

This book is about Hannibal Lecter (think Silence of the Lambs), Will Graham, and a serial killer known by the police as the Tooth Fairy. Will Graham was an FBI profiler who helped catch Lecter. He has retired since due to his experiences with Lecter, but comes back to the force to help catch this new deranged murderer.

Super creepy! Very well written!

#7: United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

Summary:
Decades ago, Japan won the Second World War. Americans worship their infallible Emperor, and nobody believes that Japan’s conduct in the war was anything but exemplary. Nobody, that is, except the George Washingtons — a group of rebels fighting for freedom. Their latest terrorist tactic is to distribute an illegal video game that asks players to imagine what the world might be like if the United States had won the war instead.

Captain Beniko Ishimura’s job is to censor video games, and he’s tasked with getting to the bottom of this disturbing new development. But Ishimura’s hiding something…kind of. He’s slowly been discovering that the case of the George Washingtons is more complicated than it seems, and the subversive videogame’s origins are even more controversial and dangerous than the censors originally suspected.

File Under: Science Fiction


I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Tieryas draws inspiration from Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle in this new release from Angry Robot (which has one of the coolest covers I've seen in recent months). This alternate history largely takes place in a 1988 California where Japan rules and Nazis possess the eastern seaboard. Beniko Ishimura is given top billing in the cover copy and at the start of the book, but he shares the book with Akiko Tsukino, a female agent of the secret police and antagonist. The two form an unlikely alliance as they delve into the truth behind a an illegal video game that portrays a United States victory in World War II.

It's a tense and intriguing read, a blend of alt history and cyberpunk and thriller. I confess, the style wasn't to my preference since it was fairly dry in the way of a golden age scifi novel, with heavy reliance on dialogue and minimal description. I was left wanting more insight at times. That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. I mean, 1988 California where San Diego is a razed landscape home to American rebels, and Japanese mechas patrol the coast? Heck yes!

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And yet, not all markets operate competitively.  The purist can suggest that, as real firms are not infinitesimal, and no agent is fully informed, there are no competitive markets.  The pragmatist can note that economies of large scale relative to demand and irreversibilities lead to markets served by relatively few firms that can conspire to take advantage of consumers, or to a monopolist that can do so without any messy conspiracies.

Allocative efficiency, however, is a useful starting point for the study of economics, in that it provides a basis for evaluating observed outcomes.  We thus contrast situations in which there are no mutually beneficial rearrangements of resources (allocative efficiency) with situations in which such rearrangements remain (allocative inefficiency) as a prelude to thinking about how the rearrangements might be realized.  In the vulgar version of the Welfare Economics Paradigm, these are the market failures that warrant government intervention.

There are more subtle ways to think about inefficiency, and there is no shortage of efforts by scholars and polemicists to provide a framework within which people might study economics without being led into fantasylands.  But to do so well takes a lot of work, and perhaps the vulgar version of the Welfare Economics Paradigm exists to alert the intelligent layman to the possibility that not everything is easy.

On the other hand, to propose to dispose of the logic of competition completely can lead to errors of a different kind.  That's the message of Book Review No. 2, featuring Michael Perelman's Railroading Economics:  The Creation of the Free Market Mythology.  Professor Perelman is a disaffected economist.  He opens by explaining that "railroading" functions both as a noun (a metaphor for a low-marginal-cost business with large and long-lived sunk costs and economies of large scale relative to total demand) and as a verb, "the ideological straitjacket of modern economics, which teaches that the market is the solution for all social and economic problems."

But the reader will learn little about cartel problems or empty cores or the wide variety of situations in which economies of scale are achieved at levels of output small relative to total demand, which is to say either about the very careful analysis generations of economists, working under the rubric of industrial organization, have brought to bear on the major departures from competition, or about the practical reason that teaching competition is useful both as positive economics and as intellectual ammunition in debating normative positions when the student, professor, or policymaker ventures into political economy.

Perhaps that is Professor Perlman's intent.  Here's his conclusion.

I do not pretend to have a road map that can guide you to the future.  I can say that our present economy is inadequate and that changes are afoot that will make it more so.  I do know that our present economic thinking precludes us from commencing on the hard and joyous work of building a better world in which the economy will not continue to produce for the narrow interests of those who control capital.  In that spirit, I call for the end of economics and the beginning of something better.

I'll give Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux the final word. "What is required of anyone wishing to cast doubt on the efficacy of private-property markets guided by real-world market prices is a believable explanation of how the economy might be operated better by an alternative system."

Critique is simple.  Praxis is hard.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book 6

Title: Side Jobs
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: set before "Ghost Story"
Pages: 403
Summary: Harry Dresden is the best at what he does, despite tending to stumble from crisis to drama in his dealings with the supernatural world. Somehow he unfailingly manages to get on the wrong side of werewolf, fae and vampire alike. But that's where his own rather special powers come into play.

As well as ten short stories, this collection includes an all-new Dresden Files novella. These bite-sized tales are tremendously entertaining an will infect you with the need to explore more of Harry Dresden's world.

My thoughts:
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#10

This morning I finished reading Osprey Warrior #172: Apache Warrior 1860 - 86. I particularly liked the amount of time they spent describing the tribal warrior culture. A very nice read for anyone interested in the history of American expansion into the West.
Summary:
The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed author of the Aeon's Gate series.

A long-exiled living god arises.
A city begins to break apart at the seams.

Lenk and his battle-scarred companions have come to Cier'Djaal in search of Miron Evanhands, a wealthy priest who contracted them to eradicate demons --- and then vanished before paying for the job.

But hunting Miron down might be tougher than even these weary adventurers can handle as two unstoppable religious armies move towards all-out war, tensions rise within the capital's cultural melting pot, and demons begin to pour from the shadows...

And Khoth Kapira, the long-banished living god, has seen his chance to return and regain dominion over the world.

Now all that prevents the city from tearing itself apart in carnage are Lenk, Kataria, a savage human-hating warrior, Denaos, a dangerous rogue, Asper, a healer priestess, Dreadaeleon, a young wizard, and Gariath, one of the last of the dragonmen.


Add this to the list of epic fantasy that is much better than Song of Ice and Fire. City Stained Red takes the basic genre troops of the assorted fantasy party of humans and 'oids, twists everything around, and adds a major dose of wit and humor. Make no mistake--it's an intense and dark read, where human suffering is front and center, but Sykes balances that with funny commentary that feels real even when absurd.

Books 8 & 9

The Rakam (The Shattered Islands, #1)The Rakam by Karpov Kinrade

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In full disclosure, I won this in a Goodreads giveaway but that had no influence on my review. I’m terrible at paying attention to the word counts on these giveaway and missed this was an eighty-six page novella but that’s fine. It was a very good study in world building.

And that’s what shines in this novella, even more so than the characters, the world building. The setting is the best drawn “character” in the novella. Sev, the point of view character, has come onboard a ship and is not quite what the crew thinks he is. They know he might be from a wealthy clan, doesn’t quite fit in with the rough and tumble crew. They’re not sure what he’s seeking passage for and neither does the reader until the end which I’ll leave unspoiled.

Sev does have a goal in mind. He’s obviously more than he appears and through him world building tidbits are peppered into the story, such as these stones of power that leave their mark on their users (if I’m reading it right, their eyes, hair etc. get more and more blue the more they use the magic).

But as I said above, it’s the setting that shines. They travel on ‘ships’ that are giant shells bound down to the backs of kiasheen, whale-like sea creatures capable of flight if need be. Kelp tie downs, hammocks, clothing etc. further the description of the sea-based civilization of the titular Shattered Islands. It’s a world where the women seem to hold the power and the men have to make their way in this world. It’s a world where clans matter both a source of comfort and yet a cage in many instances where two clans don’t get along.

There are even myths that will play a big role such as one of two lovers from rival clans and their legendary fate. It’s a myth that feels familiar and comfortable because almost every culture has one. In this wet world, the dark sea holds a fierce apex predator, the rakam, fully capable of pack hunting a kiasheen to death and all the people aboard one as well.

While obviously short, the story accomplishes what it sets out to do, we learn Sev’s objective and it sets us up for the next tale in the series. The characters could have been a bit more fleshed out but still, Sev is interesting and I’d like to see what happens next.




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Deadroads: A Novel of Supernatural SuspenseDeadroads: A Novel of Supernatural Suspense by Robin Riopelle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this paranormal/urban fantasy. It opens in Cajun country in Louisiana with siblings, Luetta “Lutie” and Basile “Baz” Sarrazin. Lutie wants to capture a ghost, like her mother Mirielle has. Her father, Aurie, and older brother, Beausoliel ‘Sol’, are le traiteurs, faith healers that can see and send ghosts along the deadroads to wherever it is ghosts go. (Well at this point, Sol is still just a young man so he’s not really doing it yet). Lutie can see ghosts too, but middle child, Baz cannot. However, when Baz sings, ghosts come from all over to hear him sing. Lutie tries to use this help catch a ghost, failing spectacularly. It seems to be the final straw, forever changing the family. Mirielle shuts Baz up in his room, even though Dad and Sol are gone with no e.t.a. for returning and she takes Lutie and flees.

The story fast forwards to Sol’s adulthood. (The story will use all three siblings’ povs but the first few chapters are all Sol and Baz, mostly Sol). After his mother abandoned them, their father burned down their house and they traveled the country, doing what they could to help send ghosts across. There was an ill-fated attempt to free a bound ghost. Fortunetellers, real ones, bind a ghost to use it for information and Aurie accidentally caused the woman’s death freeing the ghost. He went to jail, leaving teenaged Sol to raise his younger brother, and forbade Sol from ever trying to do that (which of course adult Sol isn’t going to listen to). He also forbade Baz from singing unless in a car (where ghosts couldn’t keep up). Sol knows that there is more to his father’s fears for Baz when he sings but doesn’t know what (It’s actually really cool but I won’t spoil that).

Sol is now a paramedic and in a crumbling relationship because he keeps going out to help the ghosts and isn’t good at keeping in touch with his girlfriend, Robbie. He’s excellent at his job, even using his traiteur powers to hold souls in until a patient can be stabilized and saved if possible. This world comes apart when he investigates a series of bludgeoning deaths on a rail line and finds his father’s corpse. Aurie’s ghost warns him away from this. It wasn’t just a ghost who killed him but a devil. Sol, of course, will not let this go.

He informs Baz about their father’s death. Unlike Sol who is intelligent and closed off, Baz is all openness and charm. He was never great in school but he lives for music. He is a professional musician floating from band to band to session work as a fiddler. He couch surfs with friends and lovers so not much on the stable home life. However, learning his father is dead, Baz tries to find their long lost sister in a way he knows Sol wouldn’t approve of (later we learn what he did and I’m with Sol on that one). He finds Lutie in Canada with an adoptive family. Their mother had suicided years before.

Baz finds Lutie to be hard and wary. She’s not ready to reconnect with her brothers but her family gives her a gentle push. Lutie agrees to drive Baz back to the Denver area where Sol is before going back to college. Lutie has ulterior motives. She still wants Baz’s help to catch a ghost. Soon all three of them are enmeshed in trying to avenge their father and stop the killer ghost and the devil controlling it.

The story slowly unfolds. I wish I could think of a better word than slow since it implies it was boring or plodding and it’s neither. This is more about dysfunctional family ties than anything else. All three siblings are interesting, faceted and flawed. I liked Baz the best but it’s easy to like the charming ones. I will say that there are a lot of French phrases in this (as Cajuns do speak French mixed with English and vice versa) and many of those phrases are not translated. That might bother some people (not me).

The ending is good. The twists in this were also good. I didn’t see them coming a mile away which often happens. The ending is also rather bittersweet. It wraps up the novel yet could lead to another story with the siblings. I did check and so far this is the author’s only book. I do hope she writes more.




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Jan. 23rd, 2016

Time to mention the next book.

This was Osprey Vanguard #13: The Churchill Tank. Something about British tank production of that time was that they'd decided that they needed tanks that were heavily armored and armed with weaponry that were primarily intended to take out fortifications, not fight other tanks, so they were slow and tough. Thus, the Churchill. The book deals with a number of the variants. Not bad.

12: Ship of Magic (2015 reviews)

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 12: Ship of Magic
12 SHIP OF MAGIC Robin Hobb (US, 1998)

This is the first volume in The Liveship Traders Trilogy.



The Vestrits are a family of traders whose fate is tied to a liveship: a magic ship with thoughts and its own personality.

I read the Farseer and the Tawny Man trilogies about 10 years ago, when I was still a teen in High School. Beyond the fact that Fantasy produces more crap than most genres, Robin Hobb has in many ways ruined the genre for me. Her books are so elegantly written, imaginative, and emotionally intense, that it has been difficult for me to appreciate the dreadful non-Robin Hobb realm of fantasy, where only George R.R. Martin seems to shine.

Ship of Magic is the perfect installment to a great Fantasy trilogy. It takes its time introducing complex characters, and fills the reader with wonder. The rest of the story gets even better.

4/5

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book 18:  101 Great American Poems by The American Poetry & Literacy Project

This is a collection of American poetry published as an outreach project to promote poetry reading.  Most of the poems and authors selected are famous, but some I think are more for historical context.  (At least I had never heard of them before.)

Five Favorites:
"Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant
"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
"Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
"Dream Deferred (Harlem)" by Langston Hughes
among others...

Discovered I did not care for (mostly):
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, and maybe a couple other one-shots

It covers American authors that were alive some time between 1612 to 1982, so no really modern stuff and, of course, no foreign authors.

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

book 17:  Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

This is the first Alex Cross mystery.  It has a megalomaniac, serial killer/ mass murderer trying to commit the crime of the century, with inspiration coming from the unsolved Charles Lindberg kidnapping/ murder case.  There is also a lot of subterfuge and plots within plots, but I won't go into details for fear of spoiling some of the twists.  They made a movie out of this book, which I saw first, but they really gutted it.  There is much more intricacy to the plots in the text, and the character of Alex Cross as well as his adversaries have many more facets and much more depth.  Patterson is a popular author, so hopefully his next book Kiss the Girls is as well crafted.  At least I did like the movie for Kiss the Girls, so the book has more to live up to.  Now I just have to find a used copy somewhere... 

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books 15-16:  One Thousand and One Nights, Volumes 6-7 by Jeon JinSeok

Sehara completes the story of Socrates and Alcibiades.  Shahryar is lured into a confrontation with his brother Shazaman by proof that Shazaman is harboring and has been having an affair with Shahryar's estranged wife.  While Shahryar is away from the palace, the Crusaders, who secretly have a deal with Shazaman in which he gets free trade routes and they get Jerusalem without a struggle, attack and take over, including taking custody of Sehara.  Shahryar tries to rush back to save Sehara and his people but is hijacked by Ali, who is still out for revenge against the sultan for killing his beloved.  Shahryar convinces Ali to postpone his revenge until Baghdad can be liberated, with which Ali agrees to assist.  Meanwhile, Sehara tells a story of 21st century war to the invading king, bringing in concepts of the Tower of Babel and subsequent misunderstandings among different peoples and the power of compassion.

My Own Book of Prayers by Mary Batchelor

book 14:  My Own Book of Prayers by Mary Batchelor

Book of prayers organized by subject for children.  Nice idea, I guess, if you are trying to raise religious children.  Some of the poetry in some of the prayers was forced and pretty crappy.  Other poems I recognized and am pretty sure were not the editor's, so I wasn't very impressed with her giving credit. 

Last Umbrella Letter; Book Swallow Wire

The Umbrella, by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert
The dog protagonist of this picture book was extremely winsome. The rest of it was pretty but ultimately forgettable.
(460)

A Letter for Leo, by Sergio Ruzzier
Ruzzier's first book and it kinda shows. The text and plot don't meet the high standard set by the illustrations.
(461)

The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
A novel in chunks (originally serialized) that covers some very very dark stuff. Pretty much any button you might have around sexual betrayal (including child abuse) WILL be pushed. That said, as hard as it was to read, I also had trouble putting it down. Atwood's still got it.
(462)

How to Swallow a Pig, by Steve Jenkins
Neat info, excellent illustrations. It was a lot more factual and less playful than I'd been hoping for based on the title, though.
(463)

Book, by David W. Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes
I swooned over the illustrations from the beginning and was hopeful about the story. Then he started in with the litany of "praises" of books that are really bitching about e-readers and other devices, and I was tempted to throw the book across the room. So tired of those. But the illustrations stayed just as amazing all the way through. I hope Hoopes finds lots more illustrating work.
(464)

Out on the Wire, by Jessica Abel
This was wicked! Graphic non-fiction book about how public radio (mostly) podcasters put together their stories, with info about the technical aspects but focusing on the story aspects. Easy to read, engaging, and full of points. Also sometimes funny or touching. Also also I found like 3 new podcasts to listen to.
(465)

And that is my last book of 2015! Phew. Stay tuned for more this week, as I get caught up on the nearly 50 books I've already read in 2016 :D.
The Little Reindeer, by Michael Foreman
I didn't have any particular expectations for this book, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was adorable. And, if such a thing can be said of a picture book about one of Santa's reindeer, realistic :D.
(449)

The Question of the Missing Head, by E. J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen
Loved this mystery whose detective runs his own business called Questions Answered. Also he has Asperger's. Also the two authors are actually the same guy. The romantic subplot was a bit awkward, but so far it is endearingly rather than gratingly awkward. Super looking forward to the next in the series, which is currently languishing on my bedroom floor. (To write book commentary, or to read books - reading books usually wins... which is how I got this far behind in the first place!)
(450)

Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
Man, the pictures were cool (from the LGB archives) but the text was saccharine and dull as ... as.. as... a very saccharine and dull thing! I was bummed.
(451)

Living with Ghosts, by Kari Sperring
I had put this on my must-read list based on a recommendation a few years ago, but had completely forgotten what it was about. So I was expecting contemporary urban fantasy, but instead I got dark secondary world fantasy set in a faux-Paris of the faux-Renaissance. Luckily there was nothing at all faux about the story, especially the characterizations. Well worth the read!
(452)

Jane on Her Own, by Ursula K. Le Guin
I thought I had read all these! But I had not. This was a Christmas gift, and I loved it. Just enough whimsy, just enough adventure, and a happy ending. What more does one need from a middle grade illustrated chapter book? Oh, right, it could be written by Le Guin so every word is the exact right word! That was nice too.
(453, O80)

Lion and Bird, by Marianne Dubuc
More sweet and less busy than her other book that I've read, which sadly made me like it less (the other one had the Richard Scarry thing going on). C'est la vie.
(454)

Eloise at Christmastime, by Kay Thompson
Oh man. I had never read an Eloise book (or at least not since I was very very young, because I don't remember them at all) and I had underestimated how chaotic and playful they are. Or at least how chaotic and playful this one was! Really deserves its classic status, and I will be investigating to see if the others are equally delightful.
(455)

The Old Man and the Cat, by Nils Uddenberg
A funny and heartfelt little story about coming back to being a cat person late in life. The people and the cat are all charming. The illustrations (also by the author) show all the love and emotion the cat has, that the author doubts she has in the text, so they're a good complement.
(456)

Fixing Up the Farmhouse, by Dianne Hicks Morrow
I absolutely loved this memoir-in-essays-and-a-few-poems about an old country house and the people who've lived in it over the last 40 years - but since I had more than a few playdates in said house, I may be biased. (But even if I wasn't biased, I'd probably love it, she said stubbornly.)
(457, O81)

Manners and Mutiny, by Gail Carriger
On the one hand, I DEVOURED this book, giggling, gasping, and smirking as appropriate. On the other hand, my coworker said, "So what did you think of it as an ending for the series?" and I said, "WHAT? It's THE ENDING OF THE SERIES?!?!?!?!" So, you know. NOFAIRWANTMORE. (And also, maybe it didn't have the right ending tone? But maybe I was just in denial.) I'm really hoping for a sequel series at some point. Or at least for the characters to recur.
(458)
The Point of Vanishing, by Howard Axelrod
A haunting and lyrical book about coming of age as a hermit in Vermont after a college basketball accident that left the author blind in one eye. Very internal, but worth it.
(441)

P. Zonka Lays an Egg, by Julie Paschkis
Such an incredibly vibrant picture book about a very special chicken. Turned out to be an Easter book. Good times.
(442)

Tangled Threads, by Jennifer Estep
Glad to be back into this series. For all its flawed popcorn aspects, it also has some very strong themes of family and loyalty. I like those parts a lot.
(443)

The Weapon of a Jedi, by Jason Fry
Luke Skywalker adventuring on a planet, in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Pretty predictable and workaday, but still fun. Gave it to my nephew, who was thrilled.
(444, O79)

Madeline's Christmas, by Ludwig Bemelmans (reread)
I loved the Madeline books when I was a kid, so I thought I would reread this one. It was more chaotic and less appealing than I remembered... still good though.
(445)

Only Child, edited by Deborah Siegel and Daphne Uviller
A wide assortment of well-written essays on the topic of being an only child. Good range of subjects and tones. As the oldest of four siblings, I've always had a fascination with what being an only child is like.
(446)

Emily's Balloon, by Komako Sakai
Sweet, wistful (albeit with a happy ending). The titular kid has a different name than in the Japanese version, which I thought was a puzzling translation choice.
(447)

Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver
SO fun. Quite nonsensical story about a yak and a gnu boating around and meeting up with various other animals. What made it remarkable was the perfect rhyme and meter - playful, predictable, and exciting. Like Edward Lear. Brilliant!
(448)

#7, 8

Over the last couple of days, a couple more books finished.

First was Osprey Elite #136: World War II Airborne Warfare Tactics which I found especially interesting as it discussed not only the concept generally, but the specific differences between the forces of several nations including Italy and Japan who weren't exactly known for the use of paratroopers.

Second was Osprey New Vanguard #8: Matilda Infantry Tank 1938 – 45. I recall having had a model of this vehicle in my youth; reading about it now, underpowered and undergunned, was something of a revelation. Fair read, moderately technical.
Wild Ideas, by Elin Kelsey
I didn't care for the text at all (non-fiction about how to be creative using animal examples that were rather tenuous), but the pictures are very lovely.
(431)

Wait, by Antoinette Portis
A sweet and familiar story, well-illustrated, with an ending that little kids would love. I was pretty happy with it too.
(432)

The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, by Robin Newman
Goofy PI-style mystery novel for 3rd-5th grade or so. Pretty funny, good pictures. I would read more.
(433)

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball, by Vicki Churchill
A delightful book about all the things a young wombat likes to do. Brought the board book over to a friend's eighteen-month-old and almost lost it laughing because it was so funny how excited the little guy got about this one.
(435)

Mousetropolis, by R. Gregory Christie
I think this is my favorite of all the many versions of "Town Mouse and Country Mouse" that I've read. The illustrations are particularly vivid and it does a great job of balancing the appeals and downsides of both locales.
(436)

Beyond the Pond, by Joseph Kuefler
This picture book didn't have much of a plot, but I really enjoyed the creativity and beauty of the illustrations.
(437)

Blizzard, by John Rocco
This was a really fun, convincing story about kids in a Serious Blizzard, with great illustrations. It's semi-autobiographical and it shows (in the good way).
(438)

The Amazing Hamweenie, by Patty Bowman
A picture book about a cat escape artist. I thought it was hilarious. My husband (who also loves cats) thought it was dumb. Apparently HE is dumb when it comes to books about cat escape artists.
(439)

Body of Art, which is one of those Phaidon-edited-and-published thingers
Oooooooooooh, ahhhhhhhh. A thematic (rather than chronological) assortment of art that focuses on (or in some way relates to) the human body. Really lovely lovely stuff, beautifully printed, and I liked how the thematic arrangement juxtaposed artists I'd never thought of in concert before. Also, it is HUGEMONGOUS.
(440)

BOOK 7

The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Vol. 3The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Vol. 3 by Hiromu Arakawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is getting a little better. I am not as immersed in this as I have been with other Arakawa projects but to be fair, she's only illustrating this (well she might be doing more but the story is someone else's).

It opens with Gieve seeing some of the atrocities the invaders are doing and he spots a kick-ass fighter that he wants to know better (it doesn't hurt that's she's wearing a ridiculous mid-drift bearing, thigh exposing, boob popping outfit that belongs on a Marvel or D.C. heroine). Farangis is a priestess who wants to dedicate herself and her fighting skills to keeping Arslan safe.

Soon they have joined with Narsus, Arslan Daryun and Elam and really what this small team does to the soldiers is pretty outstanding (especially if you like fight scenes). They get back to a city where the invaders are busy torturing people, burning non-believers in their faith, betraying the slaves that they promised to help etc. Daryun exposes something about the masked man helping the invaders.

The story is beginning to gel but it is not an easy story. No story about war ever should be. The villains, for the most part, believe they are doing right, killing infidels etc. We can see echoes of this in the world today. I'm not entirely sure I love this story but I am interested enough to go forward. I do hate Farangis's outfit. Arakawa has always avoided this sort of exploitative costuming so I wonder if this was something she was told to do rather than her choice. Ah well.



View all my reviews

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The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee
As you all may have gathered, I have become a fan of this illustrator. This wordless story carries many of the best qualities of her work, so I loved it even though I might not even have liked it in the hands of someone less gifted. It convinced me to love it, you know?
(421)

Pepper and Poe, by Frann Preston-Gannon
It makes me so happy when a picture book author/illustrator can *greatly* simplify complicated topics (like animals getting used to each other) without ever fudging or fibbing. Plus the illustrations and story are just so full of warm and fuzzy that my heart is still a bit melty around the edges.
(422)

Snow Day, by Lynn Plourde
Fun, enthusiastic story about the titular snow day. Pictures and text matched each other well. This is another story where there's an entire genre of these, I've been reading a lot of them, and just because this one isn't one of my most favorites doesn't mean it isn't pretty darn good. It is.
(423)

Oddrey, by Dave Whamond
Cute, goofy, earnest story about a kid who is different, learning that she doesn't have to become "normal" to be liked. Tried a bit too hard for my taste, but it was still really well-done.
(424)

Two Mice, by Sergio Ruzzier
Such a perfect counting book. Funny, sweet, unusual. Really great.
(425)

Super Fly, by Todd H. Doodler
Heavily illustrated middle grade book a la Wimpy Kid, except about a fly instead of a person. It was pretty funny, as these things go. (Ie, if you hate gross-out humor, I wouldn't recommend it.)
(426)

Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers
One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was how much you could tell the author loves kids by how he drew the "child" illustrations that were part of it. Turns out it's inspired by his own daughter. I was not surprised. I liked the whole book a lot, not just the kid-like parts.
(427)

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke
I may need to re-read this near-wordless comic book sometime, because I thought that I liked it really well but wasn't AMAZED by it .... except now it's been almost a month and I keep thinking about it. Hm. Amazement stealth attack?
(428)

Black Cat, White Cat, by Silvia Borando
A charming story, but not what the reviewers had hyped it up to be. Sometimes I think I should just quit reading picture book reviews, but then I realize how many truly stellar books I would never see if it weren't for the review that pointed me at them...
(429)

In a Village by the Sea, by Muon Van
This was a truly stellar picture book! Great structure, AMAZING illustrative work, and a touch of the fantastic to boot. There are a lot of different rhythms an excellent picture book can take, but it's still a huge relief when I can tell the author has found one of them, and the book won't be full of that jostly unintentionally-arhythmic business.
(430)

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