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First off, let me apologize to any new members who had to wait for their posts to be released from the moderation queue...LJ failed to alert me that they were featuring this community in the Spotlight, so I was unprepared for the influx! The queue is clear now, so anyone who posted who wasn't seeing their post, should see it now.

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Happy reading!

Books 15 and 16

15. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter. This was for the category of a book that has been banned or challenged. It was ranked by Time magazine as one of the top 10 challenged books in 2015. I can- and can't- understand why. Dr. Suess and Mo Willems this is not. Most children's books have a sweet, sunny and upbeat feel. This is somber reading for a young child, and I would recommend an adult read this with children in grade 2 or younger, depending on the maturity level of the child. The book is based on a true story. Nasreen's parents both disappear, and the little girl falls silent, worrying her grandmother. Grandmother sneaks Nasreen to a secret school for girls, defying the Taliban. There, slowly Nasreen finds her voice and her hope.

16. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia (Author), Margaret Stohl (Author), and Cassandra Jean (Visual Art). I read this for the fantasy category in the Read Harder challenge. Actually, I think I read the novel already because by Chapter 4 I began to remember how the ending went. Weird I didn't record it but ah well, it was worth the reread in the manga version. This is a good story, and the illustrations are wonderful. My one complaint is sometimes the order of the dialogue is hard to follow. Other than that, I enjoyed it. In the story, Ethan, who has grown up in a small town, has his world changed with the appearance of Lena, the niece of the town eccentric (I love how the dog is named Boo). Ethan finds himself finding out about a world of magic and history he never knew existed as he helps Lena, who is approaching her 16th birthday. On her birthday, she will be bound to either the black magic or white. This is a good read for preteens and older.

Currently reading: Glow Kids, by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras and Journalism Next, by Mark Briggs.
And I somehow managed to miss commenting on another read from last week...embarrassing. Anyway, it was Osprey Vanguard #31: US Half-Tracks of World War II, a book that I found fascinating. I've always been intrigued by half-tracks since before I knew anything at all about history; I think I had a toy half-track before I had a toy truck as a kid. This was a good work on the US version with all its good and bad points.
I hit the goal of the 50 Book Challenge for 2017 last week, but that doesn't stop me from continuing to read.

The first book that I finished for the previous week was Osprey New Vanguard #32: The Long Range Desert Group 1940 – 1945 which discusses the equipment of this raiding group that got its start in North Africa messing about with the supply lines and airfields in the rear of the Afrika Korps. I've read other books going all the way back to junior high school on this organization, so this detail about their gear was moderately interesting. What amused me even more was that I then read Osprey Raid #49: Stirling's Desert Triumph: The SAS Egyptian Airfield Raids 1942 which though it does give some background on the start of the SAS in North Africa, the book is mostly about the attacks on German air bases and little about the more boring of their duties. Not bad for topical consistency.

The following book was then You Suck by Christopher Moore. He continues the stories of vampires in San Francisco with several recurring characters from previous works and he makes it a pretty amusing read. I gather there's more to come in this vein (as it were). The next book of his that I'll get around to reading is The Fool though.

Then I read last night The Bill the Cat Story: A Bloom County Epic for Ages 4 – 33 and 36 – 89. If you ever read Bloom County, you'll know Bill the Cat; honestly this isn't all that much of an origin story but it was good for a chuckle or two.

I was asked by an acquaintance to read a manuscript by him and critique it, and I think that's going to tie me up reading-wise for at least a week so I don't expect to discuss much next week. I hope to find it a good read...

Book 12 - 2016

Book 12: Wrath of Aphrodite by Bess T. Chappas – 207 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
A love-struck and vengeful marble statue of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, becomes the third party in a love triangle in hot and sultry Savannah, GA in the 1970s. Michael Andrews, a gorgeous but troubled young Greek man, is on the run, fleeing Las Vegas pursued by a violent mobster. He seeks refuge with his godfather, Pinkie Masters - modeled on a real-life almost legendary Savannah figure. From there, Michael's southern sojourn includes an encounter with a powerful politician, who has unusual marriage plans for his beautiful daughter, Stephanie, and a mysterious sexual experience with a dangerous sculpture in the senator's garden. Maggie, the senator's housekeeper and granddaughter of a Gullah medicine woman, believes the statue is evil and becomes Michael's unlikely ally. Michael searches for history of the statue he admires and fears, and is led to an old Gullah settlement in the South Carolina low country, and to St. Augustine, FL, for a possible connection to a little known group of European settlers near New Smyrna established in 1767. Can he find a way to destroy the statue before he loses Stephanie's love and the surprisingly happy life he has discovered in Savannah?

Thoughts:
While in Savannah, Georgia in late 2015, I stumbled across a very neat little store. I liked this store for a number of reasons. For starters, the woman working there was also named Tara, though she pronounced her’s the American way – Ta-ra, as opposed to the traditional Tar-ra. The store was also one of those neat places that basically houses lots of little stores within it – neat opportunities for small business owners and hobbyists to sell their wares. I really like these types of stores, mostly because I have a real thing about collecting unusual items, particularly earrings (of which I did purchase a pair at said store – made out of beer cans!). Finally, while I was there, I came across a number of books for sale, written by local authors and autographed. I ended up picking up this one out of the options available, mostly because it made reference to the Goddess Aphrodite (I’m a big Greek mythology fan). Overall, the story is not exactly fabulously written (the characters are pretty one-dimensional) and the story isn’t compelling, but its no less worthy of publication than something like Twilight. I also really enjoyed reading about the beautiful town of Savannah (it really is beautiful, I would definitely like to go back one day), and some of the local history and folklore. The author’s love for her town is evident, actually quite seamlessly threaded into the story. It’s not a work of literature by any means, but it’s an enjoyable enough story, a quick read, and provides lovely insight into the American South.


12 / 50 books. 24% done!


2729 / 15000 pages. 18% done!

Currently reading:
-        My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages
-        Griffith Review 51: Fixing the System edited by Julianne Schultz and Anne Tiernan – 326 pages
-        Theories of International Relations: Fifth Edition edited by Scott Burchill and Andrew Linklater – 357 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne – 330 pages

book 40

How to Talk to Girls at PartiesHow to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This graphic novel is an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story (which I haven't read) and may be a tad closer to 2.5 stars than 3 really but it was a decent enough quick read. Unlike a lot of other reviewers I was less thrilled with the brothers' art. Some of it is quiet lovely. On the other hand I never once thought these were 15 year old boys just by looking at them.

The point of view character is one of the boys, the less good looking, less confident of the pair. His better looking friend is much more confident with the ladies (or at least he pretends to be). It's the 70s and he's dragging them to a party but he forgot where it is so they're listening to the kicking music and find it.

It's a party filled with ladies and our protagonist is given one command from his friend, 'talk to them.' He tries three times before getting it right but it's also rather obvious these women aren't human. They are something else, something alien and possibly not entirely benign.

I liked it well enough but where it failed for me is that we're really in the young man's head going to and leaving the party but nothing when these women are spouting what had to seem like utter nonsense to him. They're talking about swimming in the sun and there's not a single thought from the narrator. I found that disappointing. It kept the story too superficial. It was worth reading but it the end it's not very memorable.



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Book #19: The Big Six by Arthur Ransome



Number of pages: 367

This is effectively a sequel to the fifth Swallows and Amazons book, "Coot Club", which - like this one - was set in Norfolk and did not feature the Swallows or the Amazons. In fact, inn this title, they don't get mentioned once.

The story starts out with Tom Dudgeon, introduced in "Coot Club", and his friends being accused of unmooring several boats, based on the fact that it all started when they arrived in the area. As you can probably guess, they have nothing to do with any of this, but things get worse when a pair of stolen shackles get planted to make them look like the culprits.

Eventually, Dick and Dorothea Callum, who featured in three of the previous books in the series, show up and the six main characters (the "Big Six" of the title) start a little detective work to find out who was responsible.

While I didn't enjoy this as much as previous titles - characters like Roger and Nancy, who are not in this book, are better written than Dick, Dorothea or Tom, and the plot was less exciting than the last few books in the series - I did like the fact that this book did not feel like any of the previous titles in the series, and so felt like Arthur Ransome was trying something completely original. Most of the second half of the book was about the attempts to catch the elusive culprit, and while their identity wasn't that surprising, it still made for an enjoyable read.

Next book: Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)

Book 39

The Secret Loves of Geek GirlsThe Secret Loves of Geek Girls by Hope Nicholson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have to be honest, I picked this up from the library thinking it was a graphic novel because I recognized the cover artist. I was excited because it’s been a long time since they’ve had new ones. Got home and joy tumbled into disappointment. This isn’t a graphic novel. It’s nonfiction, biographical essay by a ton of graphic novel artists and authors (and some from SF/fantasy fiction too). I can’t imagine anything I wanted to read less. I dislike biographies. However, one of my reading challenges was to read something ‘not for me,’ and it was about geek girls so I read it. The rating I gave this was based more on the presentation and the sheer depth of the authors/artists represented than my actual enjoyment. I didn’t feel it fair to penalize it because it’s not my thing.

When I started reading it I was hoping the ‘secret loves of geek girls’ had to do with what drew them to all things geek, why they liked comics, SF/Fantasy, anime etc. Nope, it’s about their love lives. Wow, I couldn’t care less. Here’s the thing. I’m entirely the wrong audience for this. I’m a geek girl but I’m a couple months shy of being fifty. Do these stories resemble my life growing up as a geek girl? Honestly Yes! Very much so. Does that make me want to read about it? Not hardly. I don’t feel better knowing other people had similar experiences. I’m not that kind of person.

That said, I think there IS value in these stories. It might really help a young geek girl to know she’s not alone. On the other hand, things are a bit different these days, more accepting of the geek than it was when I (and many of the authors in this book) were young. Still, a lot of people don’t think girls belong in geekdom so it is good that there is this representation. Just because I’m not the type to benefit from knowing there is a sisterhood of geeks out there, doesn’t mean there aren’t others (and obviously there are as this was a successful kickstarter) who will benefit. Points to the sad puppies, to gamergate hell even to The Big Bang Theory which I love but continues for a decade now to insist there aren’t girl geeks (getting downright mean about in later years).

So yes, this might be a good thing for a lot of women. Some of it was very nice. It was fun seeing Margaret Atwood doing artwork. I did like Diane McCallum’s 4 fictional happy endings which was what I was hoping this was about (talking more about things geek than what happens between the sheets). I did like that it wasn’t just het relationships showcased here. In fact there are apparently a whole lot of bisexuals and lesbians in this field and it was good to see them not relegated to the shadows.

If you’re a geek who likes biographies you might really enjoy this. If you’re like me who really doesn’t feel the need to know about the details of other people’s lives you might want to give it a pass.



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Books #15-16

Book #15 was "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern as an audibook. I loved, loved this book! I've read some reviews who say they feel like individual scenes and descriptions are beautiful but that the characters are "cookie cutter" and that the plot is nothing special. I can't say that the plotting was amazing, but it was intricate enough to keep me reading. The atmosphere of the book is what drew me in and dazzled me, though. In a magical Victorian London and U.S., two old sorcerers are pitting their best students against one another in a magical contest. The unusual Night Circus is the venue for their magical duel. You meet many of the unusual characters in and around the circus and get to see how the competition between Celia and Marco plays out, turning out to be more of a collaboration than a competition over time. The book has been compared to both "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," but it stands on its own two feet as a lovely and magical novel. I adored it.

Book #16 was "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Bronte. I've read "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" by Anne's sisters both two times, and I also read a group biography of the Bronte family a few years ago, but I've just now gotten around to reading this book by one of the lesser-known Bronte sisters. I thought it was remarkable in every way. The book concerns a woman with a young son who begins living in the decrepit Wildfell Hall and the young man, Gilbert Markham, who becomes intrigued with her. Rumors start swirling around the woman, Helen, and Gilbert tries to defend her from the gossip but begins to believe it might be true when he witnesses her talking to a man he believes is her secret lover. The middle part of the book is Helen's diary, explaining who she is and how she came to be living under an assumed name in the country. I love Anne Bronte's descriptions of people and of nature, and her observations about family life. For instance, early on, there's a scene where Gilbert's family is in church and he is gawking at the new woman in town. Gilbert's brother elbows him in the ribs, and in return, he steps on his brother's foot. This is obviously a book written by someone who comes from a family of many siblings. The plot wasn't super suspenseful for me since I figured a few key things out very early on, but the book is wonderfully written and doesn't shrink away from describing domestic abuse, alcoholism and other subjects very taboo in the Brontes' society. It's marvelous, and I recommend it highly if you have enjoyed novels by the other Bronte sisters.

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

Book 38

Blood DivineBlood Divine by Greg Howard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Thanks to Netgalley for making it possible for me to read this novel. Receiving an ARC had no influence on my review. Honestly the book hovered between a 3.5 & 4 star review for me but at the end of the day I thought it was a lot of fun so I kicked it up to the four. I’ll also say if you read m/m books only for the romance and sex, this probably isn’t going to be for you. There’s a romantic subplot sure but this is much more full on urban fantasy/horror and I was very happy for that (I’m more UF than romance, what can I say?)

Cooper Causey experienced some trauma in his childhood home in South Carolina and hasn’t been back in some time, even though he is very fond of his grandmother. Cooper’s been living a rather hollow life made up of endless one-night stands (having a large reputation for it) and hiding the strangeness of his life. But when he’s lured back to his childhood home, only to find his grandmother missing, Cooper’s world is turned upside down in so many ways.

The largest of which is that he meets the Anakim, a vampire like race from the Abrahamic traditions (though they, along with the Nephilim are giants rather than vampires in the lure) and learns there is something special about him that they want. This encounter brings him into contact with Betsy, who is also Anakim but working with a group of monster hunters, the members of Jericho, to help destroy her own kind. Cooper is rushed off his feet by the group, barely able to keep his wits about him as he learns all he is capable of doing. Into this mix we add Randy, local policeman and one of the first men Cooper ever fell in love with and could never be with.

It’s a lot of non-stop action and while Cooper learns to control his abilities a wee bit fast for my tastes, it does work. I wasn’t, however, overly fond of the ending and that’s about all I want to say so not to spoil it. I will say (mild spoiler at best) is that for once I’d like to see the love interest and/or friend actually stay out of the fight once they’re told they’ll be a huge liability because we all know what will happen. The bad guys will capture that person and sure enough the hero of the story is distracted. Because it happens every time in a story like this. The other thing that did bug me a bit was that the ‘darkness’ in Cooper came from an African ancestor who practiced voo doo. Yes, it’s pointed out that dark doesn’t mean evil but still, it felt a little lazy at best. Still, over all I enjoyed this and I’d go looking for more by this author.




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Books 10 & 11 - 2016

Book 10: The Presidents of the United States of America by Frank Freidel – 88 pages

Description from Goodreads:
Single-page biographies with portraits of the forty-six presidents of the United States.

Thoughts:
While at Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library I picked up this book and another about the First Ladies. It outlines every president up to Clinton, with a brief outline of their time as President, particularly the highlights or events they are known for. This was a great book for getting general trivia style knowledge about the long list of powerful men who have held the role of ‘Leader of the Free World’. A good introduction.


10 / 50 books. 20% done!


2211 / 15000 pages. 15% done!

Book 11: Four to Score by Janet Evanovich – 311 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Stephanie Plum, Trenton, New Jersey's favorite pistol-packing, condom-carrying bounty hunter, is back--and on the trail of a revenge-seeking waitress who's skipped bail. With then help of 73-year-old Grandma Mazur, ex-hooker Lula, a transvestite musician named Sally Sweet, and the all-too-hospitable, all-too-sexy Joe Morelli, Stephanie might just catch her woman. Then again, with more mishaps than there are exits on the Jersey Turnpike--including murders, firebombs, and Stephanie's arch-rival bounty hunter chasing after the same fugative--Stephanie better watch her back big-time if she wants to live to crack this case.

Thoughts:
Another Stephanie Plum novel. More Lula, more Morelli, more Ranger, more Grandma Mazur, more Stephanie being inept. Another forgettable mystery. I enjoy these books when I’m reading them, but I don’t really remember what was distinct about them afterwards – which is unlike me, as I usually remember the skeleton of every story’s plot. Based on a quick skim, I now remember that this one included a strange plot with a missing ex-girlfriend, and Stephanie doing some under the counter work for said woman’s ex. It’s a good enough story for the style of book that the Plum novels are, entertaining, appropriately paced, and sufficiently complex. The type of stories I would define as ‘airplane literature’. If that’s your scene, then its certainly worth a read.


11 / 50 books. 22% done!


2522 / 15000 pages. 17% done!

Currently reading:
-        My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages
-        Reengineering the University: How to be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious by William F. Massy – 280 pages
-        Griffith Review 51: Fixing the System edited by Julianne Schultz and Anne Tiernan – 326 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Theories of International Relations: Fifth Edition edited by Scott Burchill and Andrew Linklater – 357 pages

March 2017 reading

March 2017 reading:

11. The Hammer of Thor, by Rick Riordan (471 pages)
When Sam asks Magnus to meet her for coffee to speak to an informant, little does he know it has to do with Thor's missing hammer... and Sam's Loki-arranged wedding to the giant who stole it. To add to it, Heath has seen Blitz's potential death in his runes. Great read.

12. The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen, by Delia Sherman (290 pages)
Neef is thrilled when her fairy godparents tell her she's going to Miss Van Loon's School for Mortal Changelings. For less than a day. Then she's tossed into a new place with new rules and other mortals and classes. On the very first day she makes some friends--and an enemy. Little does she know, she'll need everything she has to complete a quest to protect Central Park.

13. Unseen, by Rachel Caine (304 pages)
Cass and Luis have rescued Ibby, but the Wardens have set up a "school" for the children effected by Pearl, one meant to help them heal from the destruction their prematurely-awakened powers have wrought on their young bodies. To convince Ibby to go there, Cass must become the bad guy, and her role is furthered when it becomes necessary to leave Ibby and Luis to pursue Pearl and try to prevent her from hurting more children. Great read.

14. Death's Rival, by Faith Hunter (336 pages)
It turns out Jane killed another vampire's Enforcer. Not just any vampire, either--one of the cruelest ones still alive. Her transgression has made Leo a target, nearly kills Bruiser, and leads to her being forcibly bound to Leo in an effort to prevent a pre-Carta blood-feud. In the midst of this, Jane participates in a sweat that brings back her memories and challenges her understanding of who she is, and she also learns this vampire has a sinister connection to her people. Great read.

15. The Politics of Division, by Emily Jo Scalzo (52 pages)
This is my own chapbook of poetry. I've probably read it a million times, but it's finally been published.

16. Blood Trade, by Faith Hunter (337 pages)
Jane takes a job clearing out Naturaleza vamps. Leo is less than pleased as he is having a tiff with the scion she is working for. But it turns out this job is different, the Naturaleza special and harder to kill than usual, for reasons unknown. Great read.

March pages: 1,790

Pages to date: 4,886

Progress: 16/52


March 2017 comics/manga reading:

6. Star Trek: Volume 13, by Mike Johnson (140 pages)
7. Library Wars: Love and War: Volume 6, by Kiiro Yumi (200 pages)
8. The Sandman: Volume 4, by Neil Gaiman (217 pages)
9. What Did You Eat Yesterday?: Volume 7, by Fumi Yoshinaga (160 pages)
10. Twin Spica: Volume 1, by Kou Yaginuma (192 pages)
11. Ms. Marvel: Volume 4, by G. Willow Wilson (120 pages)
12. Ghostbusters: Volume 2, by Erik Burnham (104 pages)
13. Saturn Apartments: Volume 1, by Hisae Iwaoka (192 pages)
14. The Summit of the Gods, by Jiro Taniguchi (328 pages)
15. The Sandman: Volume 5, by Neil Gaiman (185 pages)
16. What Did You Eat Yesterday?: Volume 8, by Fumi Yoshinaga (160 pages)

March pages: 1,998

Pages to date: 2,828

Progress: 16/150

49, 50+

Bits and pieces this week and so I hit the first goal.

First book finished was Osprey Campaign #42: Bagration 1944: The Destruction of Army Group Center, the battles that completely changed the strategic initiative on the Eastern Front in WWII. Nicely done in a fairly short format.

Next was Osprey Elite #54: UN Forces 1948 – 94, a good review of United Nations peacekeeping efforts during that period.

Then, Lamb: A Global History, in other words lamb as food. There's some recipes at the end of the book.

I followed that with Osprey Fortress #60: The Forts of the Meuse in World War I, which brought back memories of playing an old board game called 1914 by Avalon Hill. Interesting material.

Finally, Osprey Men-At-Arms #60: Scandinavian Armies in the Napoleonic Wars. Aside from what the British did to the Danes, I was unaware of most of this historic material so I found it pretty fascinating. The plates are meh, but the supporting text was worth reading.


This is a book I studied at school and decided to read again; since it's quite short, I managed to read it in just under half an hour.

It's quite easy to forget quite long ago this was written (in 1905), since it feels way ahead of its time, and almost feels like a satire on humanity's dependance on technology, which feels even more relevant today than it was when it was written.

In the book, people live underground in small honeycomb-like cells, dependant entirely on a single machine to meet their everyday needs. I suspect that E.M. Forster had in mind some sort of large industrial-type device, and not a computer as we might imagine nowadays, but it makes for impressive imagery nonetheless. I noticed some good social comments about people becoming very segregated; for example, it is no longer acceptable to touch others, and the surface of the earth is considered too dangerous to go to, as people supposedly cannot survive.

Based on the book's title, you can probably guess how it all ends.

There are two main characters, a mother and a son, and they live on opposite sides of the world. The first of the three chapters deals with the (evidently very agorophobic) mother going to visit her son in an airship, at his request, while the second tells of how he visited the earth's surface. It was interesting to see how E.M. Forster played out the relationship between the two characters, with the son acting as the voice of reason, and the mother portrayed as stubborn and entirely trusting in the machine. And the final chapter, where the inevitable happens, is very shocking, and very sad; one of the lines that struck me most was about repair equipment that was itself in need of repair (where evidently this wasn't possible).

I enjoyed reading this book just as much as I did when I was a teenager.

Next book: The Big Six (Arthur Ransome)

Book 37

進撃の巨人 20 [Shingeki no Kyojin 20] (Attack on Titan, #20)進撃の巨人 20 [Shingeki no Kyojin 20] by Hajime Isayama

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Nearly impossible to review without ruining it so I'll simply say this, they are facing what feels like a final battle with the Beast, the Armored and the Colossal Titans. It will rip out your heart and throw it to the dogs for a chew toy.

None of them have been better than they are in this volume.

And now that I've stopped crying I have to wonder, will they attempt to use that hypodermic filled with the Titan formula to try and change some of what happens here.



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Book 14- A House in the Sky

14 A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. This meets the reading a travel memoir category in the Book Riot Challenge. Wow. This was tough to read emotionally, but it is incredibly well-written. Amanda, as a young adult, squirreled away money from working in restaurants and bars to raise funds to travel. Half of this story covers her growing up in a rather dysfunctional household to taking the plunge and start traveling to the places she had seen in travel magazines and National Geographic, her escapes when things became difficult. She saved up money and would travel for months, going to Europe, South America, Australia and finally Africa. Later, she would become a freelance photographer and writer. The second half of the book goes into her capture by Somali jihadists, along with her once-boyfriend Nigel. Amanda and Nigel were held prisoner for about a year and a half. What she and Nigel had to go through sent shivers down my spine. The descriptions of her being starved, of her torture and her rapes are not gratuitous but what is there chills the blood. Their eventual release and their reactions made me tear up. I can't imagine going through what they did. The story and background were well-told. However, as well as an engaging and insightful memoir, I do hope it also is studied by would-be world travelers as to what *not* to do when thinking of embarking on a journey to another country.


Number of pages: 331

The third compilation of Sherlock Holmes short stories I have read this year; the only problem here was that of the twelve stories, only one, "The Aventure of the Second Stain" was new to me. However, this does contain some very enjoyable stories, starting with probably my favourite Sherlock Holmes mystery, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" (even when I know what the Speckled Band is, I find this an enjoyable read).

Curiously, the fourth story in this collection is "The Adventure of the Final Problem", followed inevitably by "The Adventure of the Empty House".

For those not familiar with the Sherlock Holmes canon, spoilers ahead:

[Spoiler (click to open)]

"The Adventure of the Final Problem" was famously written because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to kill off his most famous creation. The story introduces his ultimate foe, Professor Moriarty, and is introduced by Doctor Watson as being about the death of Sherlock Holmes. Sure enough, by the end, it appears that Sherlock has fallen to his doom, fighting with Moriarty at the top of the Reichenbach Falls. However, the public outcry was so great that Doyle finally resurrected Sherlock with "The Adventure of the Empty House", and it was lucky that his apparent death was left very open-ended, so much that it almost looks like Doyle wanted to give himself the option of bringing back the master detective.

It seemed a bit odd having his apparent death taking place in the middle of this book and not as the final story that was featured, but I guess that was the publisher's decision.



Overall, I enjoyed this, and luckily, I'd forgotten a lot of about many of the stories, so I was able to enjoy them all over again.

Next book: The Machine Stops (E.M. Forster)

Book 36

The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I picked this one up for a multitude of reasons but mostly I’ve been hearing so many good things about Ms Okorafor's work. I was hesitant because I do not really like dystopic fiction. I should have listened to that little voice in my head. I try not to bring my personal preferences into my reviews with a lot of weight but its there. This was a four to five star read for me in the beginning but about midway through it plummeted.

In honesty there isn’t anything truly new in the basic plot. It’s a SF standard, think Jessica Alba’s Dark Angel only less Latin and more African (and yes race plays a large role in this). Scientists are experimenting on humans to create a weapon or so Phoenix thinks (and this is in her pov). Phoenix is a SpeciMen (which is a nice play on words), an accelerated human. She’s only a couple of years old but appears to be forty. She was born and raised in Tower 7 in New York. Then something bad happens and Phoenix fights her way free of the Tower only to learn her name reflects her actual abilities.

When she recovers, she has a new ability (minor spoiler but it is on the cover, she ends up with wings) she flies to Ghana and I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Phoenix’s naivete came across so well. It felt real as opposed to the ‘this character is naive so let’s have her do stupid things’ I see too often. Phoenix’s anger and grief feel real as well.

Then she returns to New York (partially against her will) and is reunited with some of her friends, other SpeciMens and decides she’s a villain and this is where I lose tons of sympathy for her. Phoenix doesn’t just hold the Big Eyes, the scientists, responsible for the torturous experiments being run on the SpeciMen; she blames everyone and plans to kill everyone. There is no real exploration of this, not by her or her friends. She is temporarily turned from that plan but it was enough for me to lose sympathy for her.

I did like the writing style and I liked what she did mostly with Phoenix as a character (ditto Saeed and Mmuno and Seven). It was very interesting to see SF with almost exclusively African characters. Even most of the scientists we see in the Big Eye towers are also African. It gives a non-African reader a taste of what it feels like to read a book where they have no presentation (which is what most PoC deal with in the majority of fiction).

What I didn’t like, other than Phoenix deciding she’d rather be a villain was that really there is no depth to the Big Eyes. Why were they doing this? Just to experiment? I got the idea that it was because they wanted super soldiers but they were very one dimensional. Also there was a weird mix of science and almost mystical elements (because I literally have no idea what sort of gene engineering could result in a human phoenix and Mmuno’s abilities were actually learned in a more shamanistic way). But I could handle that.

However at the end of the day this is an angry, downright miserable story in many ways without much in the way of a happy ending. Granted life doesn’t always have a happy ending. I think that’s my overall problem with dystopias. Life is full of anger and horrible things. When I read, I want to escape that, not work through it with more of the same. Mmuno refers to Phoenix as the angriest woman in the world and she is. After a while, that wears on you. Anger is so ugly. Would I read more by Ms. Okorafor? Yes but I’m not sure I’d read the next book in this series however.



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Book 34 & 35

Attack on Titan #19Attack on Titan #19 by Hajime Isayama

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This volume turns up the tension. Erwin and his men (i.e. our core group) are in Eren, Mikasa and Armin’s hometown hoping to a) find out what other secrets Eren’s father might have hidden there and b) to put a stop to the Armored, Colossal Beast Titans. Of course, this means they’ll have to hurt or kill young men who were their friends, something that doesn’t seem to have sunk in to any of the younger recruits heads other than Levi who has no real connection to them.

So yes, this is full of emotion and battle scenes that actually advance the plot rather than just sit there being battles for battle’s sake.

Again Armin and Hange’s intelligence shine. Mikasa remains an ultimately disappointing character (I really think she was meant for more when this series started but she failed to launch in comparison to the others). Eren’s role is pretty much ‘become a Titan and smash stuff.’ I was disappointed a bit by Armin at the end but other than that, really enjoyed this and can’t wait for more.



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Black OrchidBlack Orchid by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I vaguely remember this when it first came out but I was twenty-one at the time, and I think I was busy being twenty-one and prepping for med school. I had nearly forgotten Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean had done anything in the traditional DC Comic book universe. This one had hints of Batman in it but as a mere vehicle to the main storyline. (ditto the Swamp Thing and a few Arkham Asylum residents). Lex Luthor plays a more pivotal role.

Black Orchid has made a miscalculation that will cost her her life but she isn’t all she seems. In fact, she isn’t even human. At her death another of her sisters awakens, having more to do with the title orchid than she does with humanity. She only has partial memories and her creator tries to help her but the woman she was based on has a bad past and it comes back with sheer destructive force.

Left without answers she needs and with a child version of herself attached to her for guidance, Orchid goes on a quest for answers.

Overall I’d put the art at 5 stars. McKean’s dream-like art and its muted palette won’t be to everyone’s taste but I remember when this style dropped into the oft-times garish world of superheroes. It was revolutionary. It takes me back to when I was young and bright eyed. I will always have a soft spot for it. The story is more of a 3 star for me. I found it a bit slow, a bit fragmentary and too heavy on Lex Luthor and his ugliness. It’s still a graphic novel worth the reading.



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THE HAKLUYT ARCHIPELAGO OF DEPLORABLES.

We can understand Stalin's Gulag as a denial of reality, because by the early twentieth century, we understood enough of capital formation and incentives to grasp that a public policy of denying the existence either of capital formation or incentives would lead to forced labor on projects that would not turn out well.

The back story of Nancy Isenberg's White Trash.  The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, today's Book Review No. 7, is that compelling people to work on projects that don't turn out well has been a thing for rulers, even under circumstances, such as those prior to futures contracts, insurance, and steam power, in which you'd think nobody lacks for work.Read more...Collapse )

But they do not disappear, and it is Professor Isenberg's message that they have always been among us, their presence a conscious design, and their agency alone is not the way out of the mud.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

UNDERSTAND DYSFUNCTION, OR REVEL IN IT?

I'll be combining Book Reviews No. 5 and No. 6 to illustrate two ways of coping with the Dispossessed Americans who may have come out to vote in the states that put Mr Trump in the White House.  The attempt to understand is J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.  The revelry comes from Dana Loesch's Flyover Nation: You Can't Run a Country You've Never Been To.

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Put another way, the reduced life expectancies Anne Case and Angus Deaton recently documented (and the policy class have exploited, or not, for their own purposes) among white blue-collar workers were with us in the shakeout of the Rust Belt, going on forty years ago.  Was there enough economic recovery from 1984 to 2007 to make the pain go away?  Or was it there, all along, only now to be rediscovered?

For completeness, Rusted Dreams ended making the case for industrial policy, including trade protection.  That was the nostrum back in the day, perhaps it's still buried in Trumpism.  But it wasn't Third World steel that creatively destroyed Wisconsin Steel back in the day, and it isn't Third World steel creatively destroying Armco more recently.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

#45, 46, 47, 48

I didn't think I'd read so very much this week, but there it is...

The first book I finished was a Sociological thing called Jennifer Government by Max Barry, which deals with a world where corporations have extreme power, but governments' powers have become very limited. It's a weird way of looking at things and was handled pretty well.

Next was Osprey Elite #215: British Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics of the Napoleonic Wars. I expected to learn a bit from this book, especially in light of my love of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series of novels, and I did. One of the better Ospreys.

Then, Osprey New Vanguard #230: Imperial Roman Warships 27 BC – 193 AD, not quite as engaging as the previous book. Read it, not retaining much...

Finally I also read Osprey Fortress #86: English Castles 1200 - 1300. There's a lot of terrific photography of those castles that still stand, and there's a number of maps that lay out the structure of a number of others. Pretty fascinating.

On to the next week!

March 2017 reading

9. Out of the Blues by Trudy Nan Boyce – a female officer new to the Atlanta homicide department is assigned to reopen a cold case based on information provided by a man she’d put in jail as a beat cop – author is former police officer and hostage negotiator – for mystery book club [I liked this better than February’s selection which I moved to DNF status] – the characters seem like real people and not caricatures, and the story is dramatic and interesting but also plausible – good balance of police work and main character’s home life and interior monologue – fulfils B of the Litsy A to Z challenge and debut novel task of the Read Harder Challenge [which I subsequently decided not to do anymore because it was turning a fun activity into a chore]

10. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente – a twelve-year-old girl named September living in Omaha during World War II is bored with her life and gets whisked off to Fairyland for an adventure – this reminded me of a good animated movie that kids enjoy but that also has references and allusions adults will appreciate – looking forward to reading more in the series

11. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt – the story of the female “computers” who worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California beginning in the 1940s – it follows a few key performers closely, but in general it’s more of a broad sweep than a deep dive – describes some of the science and engineering involved (mostly way over my head) but also describes the social aspects such as the camaraderie among the women as well as family and societal pressures – this was a book club selection, and some of us felt the story jumped around a little too much and could have used a reference timeline of NASA launches to help anchor the narrative – fulfills H of the Litsy A to Z challenge [which I’m still doing]

12. The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang – a wealthy Chinese American family “loses all” during the recession of 2008 and embarks on a road trip from Southern California to upstate New York where the oldest daughter lives – interesting story told from multiple perspectives including a couple chapters from the car (a Mercedes of course) – a lot of “rich people problems” but also skewering commentary on contemporary life and ultimately some redemption for these characters who aren’t always likable

Book #16: The X-Files: Skin by Ben Mezrich



Number of pages: 261

This fan fiction novel based on the hit series The X-Files opens with a patient dying on the operating table. Despite him not being the correct donor, his skin is used to provide a skin graft on another patient.

The story quickly goes into horror territory, as the patient is turned into a violent psychopath as a result of the skin graft, brutally murders a nurse and goes on a killing spree across New York.

I had forgotten most of what happened in this book, so definitely did not remember that the story eventually involved Mulder and Scully going to Thailand to track down a doctor who was perpetrating a series of Doctor Frankenstein-like experiments involving synthetic skin, using burn victims as guinea pigs and that it also involved a legendary "skin eater".

The story of this book allows a lot of scope for descriptions of gory scenes, and this book does it in very graphic detail, but - despite the simple plot - I didn't enjoy this novel as much as Kevin J. Anderson's X-Files novels, possibly because the writer wasn't quite so good at writing Mulder and Scully and making them feel three-dimensional, although the story does a good job of keeping things suspenseful.

This wasn't my favourite X-Files novelisation, but it is still worth reading, particularly as it did raise a few thought-provoking issues relating to medical ethics.

Next book: The Five Orange Pips and Other Cases (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Books #13-14

Book #13 was "Everfair" by Nisi Shawl, a steampunk fantasy novel set mostly in the Congo during the time of King Leopold's reign (late 1800s to early 1900s). In our real history, Leopold was a monster, forcing native people to work for free harvesting rubber to enrich Belgium, kidnapping famlies to keep workers in line and punishing those who rebelled by lopping off limbs. In the alternative history of "Everfair," a group of black and white missionaries, both religious and secular, carve out a piece of the Congo as a respite for former slaves and other black folk who need a peaceful refuge. The story follows the early history of Everfair, double-dealing by Leopold, spy missions, battles fought from air ballons. It also follows the personal relationships of Everfair residents, including polyamorous marriages, same-sex romances, and interracial and and cross-generational marriages. I found this book to be beautifully written but somewhat flawed. Because the narrative is spread out through such a huge set of characters and the chapters are short so you get limited amount of pages from any one viewpoint, it's hard to care deeply about any one character. Mixed-race Lisette Toutournier gets a lot of pages, and so I tended to identify with her. A lot of the summaries and reviews of this book focus on the serious racial and political messages, and there are some, but it's also full of romance and some truly steamy lesbian sex scenes. Overall, I liked it and would recommend it, but  it is a book that can take a few chapters to pull you in, and it requires some patience with a slower pace than many other fantasy novels.

Book #14 was "The Departed" by Kristy Cooper, the first in a planned trilogy also called "The Departed" series. Kristy is a personal friend and former co-worker and she self-published this novel. I wanted to like it because I appreciate the skeptical theme of "What if somebody tried to fake the Rapture?" but I also was worried about the quality because self-published novels don't have a great reputation and my personal experience with them has been mixed. I am relieved to say that I did enjoy the book. The plot and characters pulled me in immediately and made this a fun and quick read. The main character, Gwen, is a bookworm, so I could relate to that. Her friend Lana goes missing in an event that many people is a biblical event called The Rapture, but Gwen finds some evidence that it is being faked to convince more people to join the True Believer Temple. She and her friend/crush Isaiah go on an adventure to find the truth. I do have some criticisms of the writing. I think repetitive passages could have been tightened up in some places and the story expanded in others -- I particularly found the character of Gwen's friend Mindy to be a bit of a cardboard cutout, for instance. But overall, even with its flaws, the plot pulled me in and kept me reading, so that's a big plus in its favor. I'm looking forward to the second installment, "The Sainted." See a book trailer for the series here.

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

Book 34

A Frying Shame (Deep Fried Mystery #3)A Frying Shame by Linda Reilly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In full disclosure, I won a copy from a Goodreads giveaway which in no way influenced my review. This was a solid 3-3.5 review for me. It was a fun read but I did have some problems with it. One slight problem is it’s book three but really the only thing I felt like I was missing out on was the lead character, Talia’s, romance with Ryan (who is away for a business meeting for 98% of the novel so it was hard to work up any interest in that part of the story line).

Talia, the owner and head cook of Fry Me a Slice (a restaurant that specializes in fried food, something I’ve never seen and probably never will), has entered a cooking contest along with a friend, Crystal and a couple others in town, Harry (a realtor), Dylan (another cook) and Norma (an old woman, former lunch lady). It’s been run by Wes Thurman who used to live in town and has returned a rather wealthy man. Talia has some bad feelings about the whole thing, especially when it local blow hard politician, Ferringer shows up with his trophy wife, Jodie. Not to mention everyone seems very uncomfortable with Wes and Norma seems afraid of everyone.

Soon enough, Norma is dead and Lucas, Talia’s employee has been hospitalized. Crystal is quickly arrested and naturally Talia doesn’t trust the cops to really investigate the crime (even though she’s on half way decent terms with at least one of them, Prescott). She’s warned off the case (like that’ll work) but she’s determined to help her friend. Worse, Crystal and Audrey (Crystal’s partner) have a suddenly strained relationship and young Molly, Audrey college-aged daughter is getting Facebook friend’s requests from Wes Thurman (who is much older) and feels creeped out.

Talia and her friends are likeable enough. The mystery is very readable even if it was fairly easy to deduce. It was still fun enough that I didn’t mind that. I’d read more of the series. I will say though I’m not overly fond of cozies where the amateur sleuth isn’t supported by the cops (and in the case also not supported by her boyfriend). I find them less plausible but I didn’t take that into consideration for my rating as it’s a matter of taste and no fault of the author’s.

So what bothered me? (minor spoilers) One, I know cozies are gentler in both language and violence. I’m fine with not swearing (okay I swear a lot). I have friends who almost never swear but they also don’t resort to Ned Flanderisms in place of the swears. The first couple of chapters we have grown adults calling each other boobyheads and other nonsense. It was so eye rolling. There felt like there was an attempt to echo Mayberry with this but luckily that faded away and we just went with skipping swears (thank you.)

Two, Talia learns someone isn’t nearly as injured as the killer thought he was. I’m not even sure why Prescott tells Talia this but okay, fine. However, this character is close to others so Talia spends most of the book thinking ‘oh if only I could tell them and make them feel better but I promised. If I tell, the killer will try harder to kill him next time.’ Unfortunately this comes up so many times, I felt like I was being punched in the nose with it.

Three, I had an issue with the time line but this might be because I didn’t read book 1 & 2. Molly is in college. We keep hearing that Lucas is ‘too young for her.’ But later I swear Talia said they’d had a 20th birthday party for Lucas. If I’m not mixing facts up, then there’s an issue. I assumed Lucas was like 16 but if he’s 20 then did Molly start college late? Because most traditional students graduate at 21.

Four, and this is the big one. Talia’s friend, Vivian gives her a critical piece of information that puts many of the puzzle pieces in their place. Somehow, Talia just doesn’t get it. It’s so blatant that the fact she doesn’t get it (and it explains a good chunk of all the tension between Crystal, Audrey and Molly not to mention Wes and some of the other contestants) makes me doubt how she could possibly solve the case. It’s a true TSTL moment. What made it worse was (and I don’t say this often) her editors let Ms. Reilly down here. This information comes before we find out what’s going on with Molly and what we’re to think could be an older man cyber-creep. So the reader knows why Wes is trying to friend her but it takes Talia far too long to figure out something almost anyone would have guessed the moment they heard this tidbit. If this had been shuffled a bit, learning Molly might be facing a stalker first could have added a lot of tension to this part of the plot. And there isn’t really any reason these chapters couldn’t have been flip flopped. It would have made Wes look much more like a prime suspect. It could have been a little scary for Molly and in my opinion, it’s something an editor should have pointed out. Because seriously, Talia missing this tidbit ruined my faith as a reader in her abilities.

That said, I did like the book overall and I’m sure cozy lovers will enjoy it.





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Books 12 and 13

12. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. This meets the challenge for reading a novel set in central or South America. Really mixed views on this one. The positives are many. The writing is gorgeous, I love the style. Each chapter incorporates a recipe that is germane to the rest of the chapter. It reads like a folk tale or local legend, and you can see the colors and smell the cooking. The central character is Tita, who turns out to be the aunt of the person telling the story. Tita was born the youngest daughter to a controlling mother (and controlling is an understatement). She finds pleasure in cooking, but her talents in the kitchen go well beyond the tactile ingredients put in each dish. Her mother thwarts her desire to marry her sweetheart, and in between dishes and life events, the story follows the not-always-so-secret romance of Tita and Pedro. And here is where I have issues. Pedro shows himself to be a rash fool by accepting the mother's offer to marry Tita's older sister. Tita not only still pines for him, but even jeopardizes the new relationship that blossoms between her and a local doctor, who saves her life and treats her like a queen. I feel sorry for Tita, it's hard not to. Her domineering mother really screwed up her life. But, after finding a wonderful, generous man, Tita still carries on with the married Pedro. I guess this can be seen as something that probably happens in real life but all the same, I wanted to shake some sense into Tita. She is definitely human. Still, I do like how she finds her independence and her voice, and not just through her dishes.

13. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. This fits into the category of reading a book that was published between 1900 and 1950. Really glad I could squeeze this in because it's been on my to-read list ever since I read the sequel, Sweet Thursday. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Some of my favorite books of all time include The Pearl, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck has a gritty, spare realism, and his themes remain topical even decades later. What I loved about Cannery Row (and Sweet Thursday), though, is the gentle humor. There were times and scenarios where I was laughing out loud. Much of the story is character-driven; the reader is introduced to the canning district in Monterey, California, and its motley collection of residents. There isn't much of a plot, and the story elements don't kick in until a good third of the way through the book. But the characters are so charming and so eclectic, it's still a fascinating (and fun) read. The biggest story is the efforts of Mack, a n'er do well with a good heart and (usually) good intentions and his other assorted friends attempting to do something nice for the gentle and altruistic Doc. The reader knows disaster is coming, but what happens and the events leading to the ill-fated event are still hilarious. The book is not a comic one - there are some more serious moments (including a couple that made me wince, particularly the implied fate of Frankie). But all in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Steinbeck turns these characters - most of them types who would be portrayed in a negative way in other stories- and shows their warmth and humanity, and I couldn't help liking them.

Currently reading: A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout.

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Book 33

Violent Cases (2nd edition)Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The best part of this one is that the nostalgia it instilled in me. I remember when we started seeing this sort of ‘grown up’ comics back in the late 80s. I was in college and ready for something more complex and mature than some of the superhero fare (not that I don’t love that, always have, always will). Sandman, Hellblazer and that lot. Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman were some of my favorites. They do work well together.

That said, I never saw Violent Cases in its original (and apparently small) US release nor even in its rerelease. I’m looking at Dark Horses 2013 re-re-release. Sometimes I read things and think a story has an intentional (or unintentional) gender biases and this might be one of those things. Or it could just be that as an Italian, I’m so tired of seeing Italians only in the context of being mobsters.

To be fair, the story is about a specific mobster, Al Capone. It opens with a young man relating a story from his youth. In a fight with his father, our narrator suffers a separated shoulder and his dad takes him to see an osteopath who, before coming to the UK, was Al Capone’s doctor. Over the course of the graphic novel, the doctor cares for the young man, learning about how he feels about kids his age and relating tales of what it was like to work for Capone. The title is from a child’s misunderstanding of violin case. We're not even sure all these events actually happened as memory can be tricky but this is what he thinks happened.

The back materials of the book are full of accolades for this story of how moving it is and it has won a boat load of awards. Honestly, it wasn’t that impressive to me. In many ways, it’s just not my type of story. I’m not a contemporary literature reader and this was definitely that. I didn’t care much about the boy or the osteopath. It’s a slow story without a lot happening (Until the end). That said it was very well drawn. McKean’s art was more interesting to me than the actual story. It’s very realistic looking and monochromatic, plenty of sepia tones. The young boy, as an adult, seems like he’s almost behind bars with the way its drawn (but you don’t know one way or the other).

Dark Horse printed this on some thick paper, giving it a royal treatment. It’s a quick read and maybe even an important one. This was done just as comics were metamorphosing. It was good to see.



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Book #15: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman



Number of pages: 451

At the start of this novel, the main character, Fat Charlie Nancy, loses his dad, who has a heart attack while singing karaoke. However, he is not prepared to learn that his dad is in fact the spider god, Anansi.

Things soon get bizarre when Fat Charlie meets a man named Spider, who claims to be his brother, and looks exactly like him. It isn't long before Spider is taking over Fat Charlie's life, getting him fired from his job and also seducing his fiancee.

When I read this book, I really had no idea what direction it was going in, and it kept me guessing all the time; for example, I wondered whether Spider was meant to be a likeable character, and how the plot involving Fat Charlie's very dislikeable boss was going to fit in with the rest of the narrative. The story ended up with references to witchcraft and other occult practices and also the notion that birds and spiders are involved in a long-running battle against each other.

As I expected from Neil Gaiman, this book was very dark at times, although unlike the previous title I read, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", this was also hilariously funny at places, and I noticed that the narrative was quite effective at switching very abruptly from dark, ominous situations to moments of high comedy; for example, a scene where Fat Charlie ends up singing karaoke in the middle of a hostage situation.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and found that all the various plot strands dovetailed into each other at the end, making for a satisfying read.

Next book: The X-Files: Skin by Ben Mezrich

42, 43, 44

I'm closing in on my reading goal for the year.

First book this week was Pottermore Presents Hogwarts: An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide, a fairly silly bit of a book about the school in the Harry Potter series of books. Fun for someone who's read the series, useless for anyone else.

Next was Osprey Vanguard #29: The M47 & M48 Patton Tanks a very similar book to one that I've read in the past from their New Vanguard series, it discusses a 1960s state-of-the-art tank. I remember making a plastic model of this one, for what it's worth.

Lastly I read Osprey Vanguard #30: Polish Armour 1939 – 45. It discusses not only the tanks the Poles had on hand when they were invaded by Germany in 1939, but also the tanks that they later got from the Allies later. Portions of the book details how they managed to get out of Eastern Europe and join the fight on the Western Theater of Operations by getting through Iran. Wild! I found this one particularly interesting for that reason.

More later!

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