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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.

Having said that, welcome to all the new members! I invite you to please review the community info found here prior to your first post. Pretty much everything you could want to know about the community and its guidelines can be found there.

Happy reading!
Summary:
After surviving employee orientation without destroying the city with her new powers, Dani is finally a bonafide Cleaner. Raring to get to work and save the world from Corruption, she’s given the critical assignment of...full-time tools training. After all, what good are magic mops or squeegees if she doesn’t know how to properly wield them against Scum? For now, she’s stuck in sparring matches where her pride is getting as bruised as her body.

Ben, her janitor friend and mentor, is also struggling with being sidelined as a “consultant” after the loss of his powers. His only consolation is having gained information that could help solve the mystery of his wife’s death on a Sewer run gone horribly wrong—the same event that temporarily trashed his sanity.

But when a maid goes berserk during a training session and tries to slaughter everyone with a feather duster, something is clearly afoul within the ranks of the Cleaners themselves.

Company procedure brooks no compromise: Identify and quarantine the source of the Corruption at all costs. But who cleans the Cleaners? Especially when further enraged outbreaks seem to occur at random?

As bodies begin to create quite the messy heap, it’s only a matter of time before the whole company is consumed by the madness—taking Dani and Ben down the drain with it.


If you have read a lot of urban fantasy, love it, but want to find something totally innovative, check out this series. Supernatural sanitation workers! That says it all.

This second volume in the Cleaners series continues to be a fast and enjoyable read, even as it delves into grim territory at times. Much of Enter the Janitor involved Dani discovering and accepting her new cleaning prowess; here, she fumbles to wield her new power as more is revealed about the history and dark potential of the Cleaners and Scum. The pace is very fast, with the darkness lightened somewhat by fun banter with an expanding cast of characters, as well as old favorites like Tetris the lizard and Carl the water-elemental-in-a-spray-bottle. I really like how Vogt is raising the stakes, and I'm curious about where things will go from here.
Summary:
Clean-freak college student Dani Hashelheim never imagined she’d discover her latent magical ability in, of all places, a bathroom. But when she ducks into the ladies’ room at the library, she’s put in the crossfire between an elderly janitor and a ravenous muck-monster that emerges from the sink. Dani’s previously unknown power manifests in self-defense, and she floods and burns down the library—at the same time.

Enter Ben, the janitor, who works for the Cleaners, a supernatural sanitation company that keeps reality tidy and safe...and a company Dani now works for as well, whether she wants to or not. This puts a significant crimp in her dream to attend med school and become a doctor. Nor is Ben happy, since it’s his duty to help Dani adapt to the job and learn to control her chaotic talent before it kills them both.

Dani barely has time to try on her new company uniform before she and Ben are hunted down by a cult that wants to cleanse all life from the planet, and believes her power provides the means to do so. While fighting to survive the cult’s increasingly violent recruitment attempts, the pair must battle dust devils, navigate a maze of mystical sewers, face down trash golems—and scrub the occasional toilet.



I have read a lot of urban fantasy--120 books, according to my tags--and it's very difficult to describe works in the genre as innovative and fresh. They tend to take old tropes like vampires, werewolves, or fairies, and put their own spin on them. Josh Vogt, however, has created something incredibly unique in his Cleaners series. His heroes work in supernatural sanitation. They wear the guises of common janitors and maids as they do battle with Scum that crawls out of sewers and the dark cracks between dimensions.

That's a lot for college girl Dani to take in. She's hardcore OCD, and when her powerful magic manifests, she's forced into the ranks of the Cleaners. The book is a lemony-fresh romp with the quick pace and breezy reading of urban fantasy all dressed up in a whole new way.
Summary
A rollicking space adventure with a lot of heart

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past.

And nothing could be further from what she's known than the crew of the Wayfarer.

From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they'll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn't part of the job description.

The journey through the galaxy is full of excitement, adventure, and mishaps for the Wayfarer team. And along the way, Rosemary comes to realize that a crew is a family, and that family isn't necessarily the worst thing in the universe… as long as you actually like them.


This is a different sort of science fiction novel—one that comes across as a loving tribute to the genre but does not focus on the Big Damn Hero sorts. No, this is about construction workers just trying to do their job and punch holes in deep space while keeping themselves alive. It's a fantastic read because it feels cozy, intimate, real. These are my sorts of people/beings/AI constructs. Events near the end even made me tear up. It's no wonder this book earned so much acclaim last year. It deserves it.

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book 51:  Gin Tama, Volume 10 by Hideaki Sorachi

Continuation of alternative history, comedic samurai/ alien parody manga...

In this volume, a baby that looks suspiciously like Gin is left on his doorstep (mildly squeeable...Gin is really pretty adorable with children, probably because he is about at their level in terms of responsibility), the odd jobs crew is desperate for a fan, they help with a neighborhood haunted house, they vie with the Shinsengumi for a special rhinocerus beetle, and Shinpachi falls for a girl wearing cat ears.

book 52:  Gin Tama, Volume 11 by Hideaki Sorachi

Shinpachi's cat-eared love turns out to be a scam artist/ thief, Gin provides transport for an alien messenger girl and ends up in the hospital..., ...where acting nurse Sa-chan (the assassin) "takes care" of him while she is supposed to be on a mission, then begins the fairly serious (for this manga) Benizakura arc where...Katsura is cut down in cold blood by Nizo the butcher who also does some serious damage to Gin, is being taken over by the "demon" sword Benizakura, and whose strings are being pulled by an old ally of Katsura and Gin who has turned to the dark side, Shinsuke Takasugi, whose goal is to destroy Edo.

book 53:  Gin Tama, Volume 12 by Hideaki Sorachi

The Benizakura arc is resolved with Gin facing off and taking down sword-possessed Nizo the butcher, the revelation of some back story about Gin, Katsura, and Takasugi being raised together by a teacher who schooled them in bushido and was cut down (apparently) in the war with the aliens (and is Takasugi's nominal motivation for destroying the world where their master no longer exists), and Gin and Katsura (who was not dead but under-cover investigating Takasugi's movements) give their former friend an ultimatum that if they should meet again they would meet as enemies and in battle to the death.

book 54:  Gin Tama, Volume 13:  by Hideaki Sorachi

Gin and crew help a mother (read MOTHER) reunite with her son, Shinpachi and Kagura try to investigate an alleged adulterous affair, while Gin is laid up with a cold, and end up mixing with ninjas, Katsura gives an interview to a local television station about "a day in the life of a rebel", the crew helps in a dango eating contest, and Otae, Shinpachi's sister, is stolen away by Kyube Yagyu, a master swordsperson heir from a family who instructs the shogun, to follow through on a promise of marriage made when they were children.  For their own individual reasons, Gin, Shinpachi, Kagura, and Kondo, Hijikata, and Okita from the Shinsengumi, all unite in a "dream team" to face the sword masters and return Otae to themselves.  Oh, and simultaneously, Kondo has been promised in marriage to an alien gorilla.

June 2016 reading

June 2016 reading:

16. Grave Secrets, by Kathy Reichs (315 pages)
Brennan is helping to excavate a mass grave filled with "disappeared" women and children in the village of Chupan Ya in Guatemala. When two of the team is attacked, one of them fatally, she is drawn into a whole new case in Guatemala City, requested to excavate a recent homicide from a septic tank. Unfortunately, someone wants both Chupan Ya and the septic tank murder covered up, and will go to any lengths to do so.

17. Passage to Cuba: An Up-Close Look at the World's Most Colorful Culture, by Cynthia Carris Alonso (224 pages)
In 2004 I had the good fortune of being able to travel to Cuba on study abroad with a group from my university. It was a life-altering experience. It was wonderful to read this book and reminisce and see places I recognized and hear about places I wasn't able to visit. Ah, Cuba.

18. Spice & Wolf: Volume 8, by Isuna Hasekura (192 pages)
In following Eve to ask of the wolf god's bones, Lawrence, Holo, and Col become caught up in something far larger and more dangerous than expected, finding themselves in the dark until they're too caught up to extract themselves. The next volume continues this story, and I look forward to reading it.

19. Bare Bones, by Kathy Reichs (383 pages)
Brennan is all set to go on a beach vacation with Ryan when, at a party, Boyd the chow finds buried carrion. Although it seems at first to be animal, there are human parts mixed within, and it will lead her into the ugly world of animal trafficking. She still has difficulty with common sense.

20. Monday Mourning, by Kathy Reichs (303 pages)
Brennan works to excavate 3 human skeletons from a basement, and then must convince Claudel they're recent enough to merit investigation. This involves getting personally involved in the investigation, with near fatal consequences. At this point I'm ind of reading this series to watch how much of a train wreck Brennan can get away with being, given the stupid decisions she made near the end of this one. Like, she knows she's going into a dangerous situation and should have a real cop back her up, knows it's a bad idea, and then makes it worse by bringing someone completely untrained with her.

21. Broken Bones, by Kathy Reichs (453 pages)
After the murder of a Jewish man in Quebec, Brennan finds herself back in her archaeological roots when an ancient skeleton pilfered from Israel's Masada turns up. With Ryan's lead pointing to Israel as well, they head off together in search of the truth. What neither of them expects is a Christ controversy that could shake the foundations of two major religions, rankling people along the way. I liked this one better than the previous few, in part because Brennan doesn't get herself knocked unconscious. Not that she doesn't get herself into plenty of other trouble.

22. Break No Bones, by Kathy Reichs (337 pages)
During a student archaeological dig on an island off the Carolinas, a modern skeleton is found mixed among the remains of Native Americans--one that's at most spent 5 years buried. Little does Brennan know, this find will lead her down dark alleys, domestic and international, to yet another place where greed trumps human life, and will also challenge her personal life. Pretty good read.

23. Chaos Choreography, by Seanan McGuire (368 pages)
Verity is asked to perform on a reunion season of Dance or Die, and her family feels it's a good idea to make sure the urge to dance is out of her system. Unfortunately, it seems someone has targeted the dancers; Verity and two Cryptid co-stars find the rune-covered bodies of two dancers who had been voted off. The family sends in Grandma Alice as back-up, and even with one of the most dangerous family members on scene backing her up, this might be unwinnable. Really good read.

24. Bones to Ashes, by Kathy Reichs (310 pages)
I wish this book had come earlier in the series. I finally feel like I've been able to connect to Brennan in this book, and in my opinion the writing was better. I hope Reichs reached her stride and this is more of what's to come.

25. The Eagle Catcher, by Margaret Coel (20 pages)
Gave it four chapters, and didn't care what happened, so I stopped reading.

June pages: 2,905

Pages to date: 7,843

Progress: 25/52


June 2016 comics/manga reading:

117. 100 Bullets: Volume 12, by Brian Azzarello (128 pages)
118. Crossed: Volume 9, by Simon Spurrier (176 pages)
119. Hyper Police: Volume 1, by Mee (192 pages)
120. The Sandman: Volume 1, by Neil Gaiman (234 pages)
121. Dance in the Vampire Bund II The Scarlet Order: Volume 2, by Nozomu Tamaki (192 pages)
122. Naruto: Volume 61, by Masashi Kishimoto (224 pages)
123. Naruto: Volume 62, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
124. Naruto: Volume 63, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
125. Naruto: Volume 64, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
126. Naruto: Volume 65, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
127. Naruto: Volume 66, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
128. Naruto: Volume 67, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
129. Naruto: Volume 68, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
130. Naruto: Volume 69, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
131. Naruto: Volume 70, by Masashi Kishimoto (207 pages)
132. Naruto: Volume 71, by Masashi Kishimoto (208 pages)
133. Naruto: Volume 72, by Masashi Kishimoto (205 pages)
134. What Did You Eat Yesterday?: Volume 2, by Fumi Yoshinaga (200 pages)
135. Ms. Marvel: Volume 1, by G. Willow Wilson (120 pages)

June pages: 3,430

Pages to date: 24,145

Progress: 135/200

Book 15 - Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Read Harder Challenge task #19: Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist issues

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.


There is much food for thought in this collection of essays. While I didn't always agree with Ms. Gay's assertions about feminism and race in popular culture, she presents her ideas in a cogent and straight-forward manner. A bit of self-effacing humor (but not so much that it rings false) adds to the appeal and accessibility. The topics range from a light-hearted and endearing description of her foray into competitive Scrabble to a harrowing description of an assault she endured in middle school to a hard-hitting call to arms about the erosion of women's reproductive rights. Her twitter presence is also entertaining.

Book #28: Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul



Number of pages: 200

This book is all about how everything is part of God's plan and the concept of "predestination". The book talks about how God uses other peoples' bad intentions for good, and some of this was very challenging, mostly the concept that some people are chosen before birth to be saved and how others are chosen to not be saved, and how God knows all of us before we are even born.

I enjoyed this book a lot; it reinforced some of what I already believe and caused me to look at some things from a new perspective; the concept "original sin" does not simply mean the act of disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, but any subsequent act of sin, and God does not harden peoples' hearts unless as a punishment for their own sins.

Overall, this is one of the most comprehensive Christian books I have read.

Next book: Swallowdale (Arthur Ransome)

Books #37-38

Book #37 was "Raven Boys" by Maggie Stiefvater, as an audiobook read by Will Patton (!!). I got this as a free download from HumbleBundle.com and didn't know much about it so didn't have any expectations, but this book *knocked me out*. Blue is a sensible teenage girl who lives with her psychic mother and her mother's group of eccentric friends. Blue has been told her whole life that if she kisses her true love, he will die, but she has better things to do with her life than get mixed up with boys, especially the boys who attend the upper-crust private school in town, called "Raven Boys" for the raven logo of the school. But one spring, despite her plans, her life gets tangled up with a few of the Raven Boys and their quests to follow ley lines to find a magical buried king. I loved it. The only thing I'm mad about is now I've started another book series I feel I MUST finish.

Book #38 was "Faithful Place" by Tana French. This is the third in her Dublin detectives series, and I think the premise is brilliant: A secondary character from the first book becomes the main character in the second book, and then a secondary character from the second book becomes the viewpoint character in the third book, and so on. That means each book has a slightly different feel, but all of them are exceptional. This one is told from the viewpoint of Frank Mackey, a hardened undercover cop. As a teenager, he meant to run away with his first love, Rosie, but on the night they were to leave home together, she disappears and he thinks she has dumped him. More than 20 years later, her suitcase is found in an abandoned house, and it looks like she may have been murdered, and that is why she didn't show up on the night they were to elope to England. The description is beautiful in the first couple books; in this one, the dialogue is really strong. You get a taste of why Frank was eager to leave his brawling white trash family when he was 19 and how family can suck you back in just when you think you've gotten away. Loved this and will be reading more by French.

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

book 70

Long Spoon Lane (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #24)Long Spoon Lane by Anne Perry

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


It's been a long time since I read an Anne Perry and now I remember why. I really enjoyed the earlier books but after two dozen novels it's obvious she's run out of things for Pitt to do. I stopped reading these because it got insanely political especially with all the Inner Circle crap and remembered that once I started reading. Worse, this wasn't just over the top political, it was boring and slow. It only got interesting in the last seventy odd pages.

Charlotte who was Pitt's partner in crime solving has been reduced to a mere house wife with very little purpose other than to make Pitt feel at home. Her rich Aunt Vespasia is still enabling Pitt's detective work at least and since Pitt is no longer a real police officer (he's special branch, sort of the precursor to mI-5) we have chapters with his former subordinate, Tellman.

It opens with a bang, literally, as anarchists blow up a building on the titular Long Spoon Lane but only after they evacuated the innocents. One of the anarchists is shot and killed, the anarchists blame the cops and the cops blame the anarchists they caught. Worse, the dead man is the son of a wealthy lord Vespasia knows.

It looks like this case will be used to push through an unpopular bill that could arm the police and allow them to question servants without their masters being there, you know, like real people instead of tools. Pitt and company don't want that to happen so much so that he allies with Voisey who wants revenge on him. In fact he's warned against Voisey who is likely to betray him so many times I couldn't tell if I wanted him to not betray Pitt or just hurry up and be predictable.

This was a slog. The whole two thirds is just going around and around about that bill, interviewing the anarchists who kept saying the same thing and the Voisey drama again and again. This could have been half as long because it really went nowhere. I have a few other newer Anne Perry's lying around but I'm not motivated to read them after this.



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Book 34

Title: In Midnight's Silence
Author: T. Frohock
Pages: 91
Summary: The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can't get to him directly, they do the one thing he's always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover's life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world's next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock's In Midnight's Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he'll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

My thoughts:
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Number of pages: 492

The third Cormoran Strike novel feels a little different than the first two. It might be because it opens with an unidentified character who is vowing revenge on Strike, or it might be just because the main case involves Strike more personally than the previous two.

Shortly into the book, Strike and his partner Robin are sent a woman's severed leg in the post; the leg has been specifically cut off in the exact manner that Strike's own leg was amputated. It all seems to be part of a plot of discredit him, and not surprisingly, it does lead to a murder victim.

What was really good about this book was that I got a few glimpses into cases from Strike's past, as he started to think about who might want revenge on him. The title comes from a song by Blue Öyster Cult song, but I started to suspect that JK Rowling was trying to hint that Strike had a "career of evil", as various skeletons on his closet were unearthed. The plot also led to the quite disturbing subject of people with a psychological condition that made them want to have a leg amputated or to deliberately have an accident that left them paralysed (my understanding is that this is frighteningly real).

The plot gave a lot of development towards Strike's relationship with Robin, who spends a lot of the novel seemingly being stalked by her ex-fiansee, who also seems to dislike Robin working with Strike. I noticed the relationship becoming particularly strained towards the end of the book, and you'll find out why when you read it.

I love the way that the characters are written, and how Rowling gives an unflinchingly gritty portrayal of modern-day London. I hope the fourth book comes out soon.

Next book: Chosen by God (R.C. Sproul)

Book 33

Title: Unfallen Dead
Author: Mark Del Franco
Series: part three of "Connor Grey", follows Unquiet Dreams
Pages: 309
Summary: Samhain, the night when the veil fades between this world and the afterlife, and the Dead walk the earth. For a century since the Convergence of Faerie and modern reality, the Ways have been closed. But now signs point to the chance that the veil may lift again.

Connor Grey's not interested.

Not when a queen of Faerie is interrogating him about his involvement in a recent near apocalypse. Not when Dylan macBain, his old partner at the Guild, stirs memories of the past he'd rather forget. And not when a homeless man turns up dead with druidic runes slashed across his forehead.

What begins as a revenge killing turns into something far more sinister as Boston is torn apart by forces beyond control. Connor must chose whether to trust his friends or his enemies - and the wrong decision may cost him his life.

My thoughts:
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I read fewer books this week than the last couple, as my workload increases.

First was Preacher: Book Four rapidly followed by Preacher: Book Five, the graphic novels of the comic series that's turned into a TV show recently. There's one more book to go in this saga.

Then, Osprey Men-At-Arms #15: Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, a lot of detail about these French soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, I didn't find this particular one all that engaging. Too bad...

Book 69

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I reread Frankenstein for the first time as an adult. I was struck by several things. For one, after all the stink lately about women shouldn't be writing SF/Fantasy/Horror, it becomes even more ridiculous when you realize that Frankenstein is one of the earliest novels in the SF/horror genre and it was written by a woman two hundred years ago this year. I was also struck by the education Mary Shelley had. I was aware, of course, that she was wealthy and educated it shows clearly in this. She had a good working knowledge of chemistry and alchemy. I know one story about the origin of the story (beyond the dare) was that she had seen exhibitions of the galvanic response and it disturbed her. I was also surprised at how modern the language felt. Yes there were more flowery passages than we'd use now and phrases/words we don't use any more but still, it didn't feel as old as it was.

Now if all you know about Frankenstein is the movies, well, what can I say about that? Consider it transfigurative, pure fan fic. There is no stormy night and lightning giving birth to the monster, no villagers charging the castle with pitchforks, no abnormal brain, no grunting, dumb monster, no Igor.

The novel has an epistolary frame, with the letters of an aortic explorer to his sister as he describes what's happening to his ice locked ship (knowing the letters may never be sent). They find, to their surprise, an exhausted sick man stumbles upon them and they save his life. The man is Frankenstein and he relates his tale.

Frankenstein comes from a wealthy family and is well educated. He's significantly older than his brothers and has an adopted sister, Elizabeth whom he loves. His close friend is Henry Clerval. He had a good childhood and he was sent away from Elizabeth and Henry to be educated. He falls in love with chemistry and alchemy, studying the works of Von Hohenheim and others. He becomes fascinated with chimeras, philosopher's stones and the elixir of life.

Very early on in the novel he uses chemistry/alchemy to create his monster who is gigantic, fast, strong and hideous. His actual deformities aren't described and neither really is how he is made but the monster is basically a chimera. He's instantly remorseful about what he's done and abandons the monster. He falls into a 'nervous fever' (mental break down?) and it breaks when Henry visits. Joy isn't long for Frankenstein as his kid brother is murdered.

He returns to Geneva with Henry, convinced that the killer is the monster but someone close to Elizabeth pays the price for the killing. Soon the monster introduces himself to Frankenstein and at least a third of the book is the monster talking about everything that happened to him since he ran off. The monster taught himself language by observing peasants. He had one family he helped in secret only to be turned on once they saw what he looked like.

The monster swings between malevolent and sympathetic as he wants to fit in, he never asked to be made, and angry that he's been made to suffer. He makes Frankenstein an offer, make him a female companion and they'll go to the wilds of South America and never contact humanity again. If Frankenstein doesn't do it, he'll suffer, including a threat of the monster 'visiting Elizabeth on her wedding night.'

Frankenstein naturally doesn't want to do this. He delays and leaves for England and finally the Orkneys where he does build the female monster. He then wonders what if she doesn't love the monster, what if she wants humanity and won't go into the wilds. Frankenstein's choice kicks off a whirlwind of horror and death finally leading him into the cold lands after the monster.

It's a classic well worth the reading. It's not as action packed as you might think, more a talky morality play. I'm glad I reread it.



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Book #??? (lost track)

Thunder Dog: The true story of a blind man, his guide dog & the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero: Michael Hingson with Susy Flory

1,463 life changing stairsCollapse )

It is a perilous journey, one that will change their lives forever.

...

The Large Print book - published in 2011 by Thorndike Press - also includes a possibly eye-opening article by Kenneth Jarnigan, titled "Blindness: A Left-Handed Dissertation" -  helpful in trying to grasp the fact that blindness is more of a physical nuisance than a handicap.
(Michael Hingson says more than once it is the prejudice and assumptions  of what people with limited sight can and cannot do is the real handicap).

Book 68

Check-Out TimeCheck-Out Time by Mark Rigney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was another book I bought at the Ohioana book fest (and another very nice author to talk to). I picked this one out of what he had on offer because abandoned buildings make me sad and even sadder is when historical buildings are torn down. The Neil House hotel in Columbus (and I used to live in Columbus) is an active participant in this novel.

Reverend Renner (Renner is his only name) is a priest in the Universal Unitarian faith and is a sensitive when it comes to the supernatural. He receives several invitations to come to the Neil House (he lives in Traverse City, MI). He learns quickly that the Neil House had a storied past but was demolished thirty odd years ago and Huntington Bank headquarters is in its place. He doesn't want to go but he does in spite of himself. He enters the hotel which is there plain as day and quickly learns he can not leave.

Dale Quist, Renner's oft time partner is also a sensitive and a former private investigator who now owns rental cabins in Traverse City (where he ended up via Texas and then LA). He works with a psychic group in TC (as does Renner) lead by Merle. Dale's been asked by Merle to help another member, an old woman who claims to be 120+ years old and believes there is a paranormal object in her home keeping her alive. She wants Quist to find it so she can die. Dale isn't thrilled to be doing this but he's less thrilled to get a call from Renner that sends him to Columbus to try and get Renner out of the hotel that is not making itself seen to him. He ends up in an alliance with a ghost from the Spanish Conquistador days against an evil spirit, Coil.

Renner is having trouble concentrating in the hotel as he meets the ghosts of some of his idols and other dignitaries (Amelia Earhart, James Thurber, and so so many more) and has the ecclesiastical council of his dreams, until he realizes this is the hotel's way of placating him until Beltane.

He meets Angela, a cleaning woman who is the only other living person in the hotel, and together they try to defeat the hotel (which fits back) as they try to puzzle out what it wants them to do in order for the hotel to meet its goals. It is angry it was torn down with no one fighting for it (the author details the weirdness of how this site got destroyed when it probably shouldn't have) and it wants the male and female to come together on Beltane (which is some of the meaning of the holiday) and that holy energy will bring the hotel back into this plane.

WIth Dale on the outside trying to help, Angela and Renner have to defeat a hotel capable of calling any number of ghosts to it.

I liked the story. I liked Renner and Angela. I didn't like Quist that much. I think it was the manly man attitude he has that included a dislike of a lot of things. Quist comes off as oddly homo and trans phobic, odd in that there is a trans woman in this story (who I thought would play a bigger role with the whole male/female thing) and he's upfront of thinking it's wrong and weird but since she's a friend he's okay with it. It was less okay with me.

I haven't read other Renner & Quist stories but I'd like to.



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The Mortal Instruments #4

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her—his mother just found out that he’s a vampire, and now he’s homeless. When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.


My car very unexpectedly went into the shop the day I finished reading this book, which was over a month ago, so I got a little behind with both the reading goal and book posts. It's all resolved now, but my cheese was significantly moved, and it took me a while to get everything back on track again. Subsequently I haven't much to add to this synopsis, except to say that the series is moving along swimmingly with a new antagonist in the mix.

Books #35-36

Book #35 was "The Three-Body Problem" by Cixin Liu, translated into english by Ken Liu. I had seen this on a "best books of the year" list a few years ago, and I'm glad I got around to reading this. Cixin Liu is a best-selling sci-fi author in China, but this is the first time he's been translated for an English audience. Still, even in translation, this feels like a very Chinese book. It starts with real events from China's Cultural Revolution but suggests that a scientific base with radio atennas might be up to something out of the ordinary. It skips 40 years into the future when scientists around the world are committing suicide and a strange society/quasi-religious organizaiton springs up, called the Earth-Trisolaris Organziation. At the same time, some intellectuals are becoming interested in a virtual reality game called "The Three-Body Problem." All these things are eventually tied together. This first-contact story is full of fundamental science ideas, mostly math and physics, but still written at a layman's level. It isn't written like an American sci-fi novel, but that's part of the appeal. I really liked it and am looking forward to getting a hold of #2 in the trilogy. I believe that the third and final book hasn't yet been released in English. If you're curious about how other cultures approach science fiction, you will enjoy and appreciate this book.

Book #36 was "Daisy Miller" by Henry James. I read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" last year, and one whole section is dedicated to Henry James, with an extensive discussion of this novella, so I was happy to come across a free copy of it. I am treating it as a book for the purposes of this challenge since I'm clearly going to read more than 50 books this year anyway, and I read it as a very slim standalone volume (59 pages). In this story, told in two parts, an American man living abroad, Winterbourne, meets Daisy, a young and pretty but gauche American on holiday with her mother and younger brother. Part One takes place in Geneva, where Winterbourne is fascinated but confused by Daisy; is she a "bad girl" or simply a naive flirt who doesn't understand European mores? In Part 2, he meets her again in Rome, where Daisy scandalizes polite society by taking nearly daily walks with an Italian man who is not quite a gentleman. The payoff, as with any of Henry James' stuff, is all about the psychological insights, the tiny moments, and then the bigger context of these tiny moments within society at large. I can't put my finger on exactly why I enjoyed it, but I think this novella will stick with me a long time.

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

Summary:
She wants more than he can promise.
His desires could lead to betrayal.
But without each other, neither can survive the dangers ahead.


Annie Freemont knows this isn’t the right time to get involved with a man like Chase. After years of distrust, she’s finally drawing close to her estranged family, and he’s an employee on their estate in Maine. Though she never intended to stay on the estate for long, her father’s illness and the mysteries surrounding her family made leaving impossible. And now with the newfound hope of rescuing her long-missing mother, Annie’s determined to be involved with the family’s plans one way or another.

If only she could keep her mind off Chase and focus on the impending rescue. But there’s something about the enigmatic Chase that she can’t resist. And she’s not the only woman. Annie fears a seductive stranger who is key to safely freeing her mother is also obsessed with him. As plans transform into action and time for a treacherous journey into a strange world draws near, every move Annie makes will test the one bond she’s trusted with her secrets, her desires—and her heart.


I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Beyond Your Touch (out in September 2016) is in many ways a stronger book than its predecessor. A Hold On Me embodied very gothic overtones while building up a paranormal romance. In this second book, the romance between Annie and Chase is well established--with forthright depictions of a sexual relationship between young adults, with protection use and all. However, they must cool off their passions as they prepare for a foray across the veil to save Annie's mother, long held captive by Chase's cruel father. I was concerned at the build up of a love triangle with newcomer Lotli--I really don't like love triangles--but I was pleased that the plot didn't dwell on that for long, and I ended up really liking Lotli.

Esden's writing is strong. Annie is a relatable young woman contending with love, jealousy, and an inherent drive to save her mother. The tension really picks up as the book continues. This is a book to blaze through in a day or two. I found the mystery and adventure aspects to be stronger than the romance, but all of the elements blend well for a solid, fast read.

Gin Tama, Volumes 8-9 by Hideaki Sorachi

book 49:  Gin Tama, Volume 8 by Hideaki Sorachi

continuation of alternate history alien/ samurai parody manga...in this volume Gintoki and "friends" reclaim Kagura from her father after helping to save her from an alien run amok; get inflammation in an inappropriate place; try to break up bakufu government official Matsudara's daughter's relationship, by assassination if necessary; "welcome" a scary looking alien florist to the neighborhood; and get schooled in ninja arts Sa-chan style when Katsura insists everyone help him free Elizabeth from a government jail.  Go Ninja Spy Force...!

book 50 (yay me!):  Gin Tama, Volume 9 by Hideaki Sorachi

In this volume, the Elizabeth rescue is resolved, they (maybe) learn some lessons about gambling, Sadaharu turns into a vengeful dog-god, Otae competes for sales to keep her hostess job, Hijikata is targeted for assassination by a rebel faction (poor rebels), and the gang participates in an other-worldly game of kick-the-can.

A Delay in Reviews

Over the past 18 months I have been slowly losing my sight due to cataracts. This prompted a move from physical books to ebooks that allowed me to enlarge the font. For the past few months writing up reviews via Semagic became harder and harder until I just gave up and posted brief reviews to Goodreads.

I was waiting for an appointment with specialist to access the cataracts and at the same time an attendant inflammation was discovered or rather had returned as I did have similar in late 2011. Now thanks to an aggressive oral and topical approach the loss of vision from inflammation has retreated some. I also am on awaiting list for the RNIB that should help out with gadgets and software to enable more ease on line.

I am not dropping out of the challenge as such as I am reading a little but reviews here may not happen in my usual format for balance of year. I may do a monthly summary. My last post was 1st May at Book 30 and since then I have read 17 more books.

I do so enjoy writing my thoughts up and is also an aid to memory but right now just not going to happen.

Book 67

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 2The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 2 by Aya Shouoto

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This manga has some neat ideas but doesn't quite bring it all home. Or maybe it's just skewing too young for me (and well the lead is sixteen after all). This volume does fill in a lot of the history of Momochi house and it's 'demon prince' for HImari, the rightful owner. She was supposed to be the protector of the house, a place where the veil between this world and the spirit world is thin.

Instead Aoi ran into the house as a ten year old boy and much of this volume is his history. We don't know entirely why he ran in but the house will not let him go. HIs existence in the real world has been erased. As the episodes go by it's hinted at that being the Nue, the demon prince that guards the house, is taking a toll on Aoi (maybe one he doesn't even realize). Skipping over the unlikelihood of a 10 year old raising himself with the help of a couple of shiki, it's used to explain his some times child-like behavior.

Himari is determined to free Aoi even though he doesn't really want to be free and his shiki definitely don't want it. SHe isn't really wanted in the house by the various resident ayakashi and shiki (well Yukari seems okay with her).

The story is still mostly episodic with the history of the house and Himari's determination to free Aoi linking it all together. The stories are good, one is quite sad and the art is lovely. However, this is one I wish the library had because I'm not sure I like it enough to keep buying it.



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Book 32

Title: The Builders
Author: Daniel Polansky
Pages: 141
Summary: A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.

The last job didn't end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain's company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain's whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )

Book 31

Title: Infected: Life after Death
Author: Andrea Speed
Series: part three of "Infected", follows Bloodlines
Pages: 354
Summary: In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

But when your heart is gone, it’s easy to fall into a black hole and never crawl out. Roan has been lost and alone for more than a year, and his best friends think a new case might be just the motivation he needs. Roan forces himself back into the game and discovers a dead man who might not be all that dead, a street hustler that wants to hustle him, and a dominatrix who is well prepared to take Roan’s orders. As Roan claws his way out of the darkness by diving back into his work, he finds himself in a race against time in the adrenaline-pumping realization that nothing helps a person want to live like helping someone else survive.

My thoughts:
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Book 30

Title: Percy Jackson and the last Olympian
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: part five of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians", follows The Battle of the Labyrinth
Pages: 381
Summary: All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing that the odds of victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows.

While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually ungarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.

My thoughts:
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This wasn't one of my bigger weeks reading. I only finished two books.

The first was Osprey Elite #6: French Foreign Legion Paratroops the tales of which included Dien Bien Phu, sadly enough. Interesting read.

And then there was Osprey Fortress #24: Fortifications of the Western Front 1914 – 18 which was actually a pretty fascinating look at what both sides did in terms of the trench warfare, and what they built to improve their protection from artillery fire and snipers. Solid read if you have any interest in the history of WWI.
Summary:
Once upon, once again…

The dragon has been slain, but the problems have just begun for Prince Charming.

Disowned by his father, the King, and abandoned by his only friend, William Pickett, Charming must find a new path in life...but he's going to need a lot of help. His love, Liz, barely survived an assassination attempt; his former fling, Rapunzel, is in danger; and William is under an evil spell cast by Princess Gwendolyn.

The fate of Castle White hangs in the balance as Charming tries to find himself, while finding new allies along the way — including an odd number of dwarfs (or is it dwarves?) and a reformed beast. But he's running out of time to stop royally ruinous wedding bells from ringing…


I read this as part of the collected volume A Fairy-tale Ending, and am reviewing them separately and together.

When the previous book left off, the cast was scattered to the winds. Heckel twists and twines fairy tales in clever new ways that made me laugh aloud more than once. In particular, I was amused by the take on the Seven Dwarves and the very meta, carefully-veiled references to Disney, complete with footnotes. The role of the Beast brought depth and revelation to the tale, too. Overall, the mood is downright fluffy, and that was perfect since I was fighting a migraine. I wanted something to make me smile, with a guaranteed happy ending, and this absolutely delivered.
Summary:
The dragon is dead. The princess has been saved. There is but one problem: Prince Charming had nothing to do with it.

In order to save his royal reputation, Prince Charming must begrudgingly enlist the help of accidental hero William Pickett. The two set out on an adventure that has them fighting trolls, outwitting a scoundrel, and drinking the foulest ale ever, collecting bruises to both body and pride along the way. Meanwhile, the rescued princess, Gwendolyn, turns out to be one dangerously distressed damsel, and an evil presence takes over Castle White in Charming's absence …

Enter this rollicking world and discover just what happens when a fairytale leaves the well-trodden path of "once upon a time."


I read this as part of the collected volume A Fairy-tale Ending, and am reviewing them separately and together.

This fairy-tale mash-up is light, amusing, and laugh-out-loud funny at times. The source of much of the humor is Prince Charming. Oh, Charming. He was raised to be the slayer of the dragon, the hero of the realm, but he prefers to idle away the hours by using horrid couplets to woo pretty women. When a pair of young farmer siblings kill the dragon and destroy Charming's prophesied glory, his life goes topsy-turvy. While the book is overall pretty breezy, there are touches of darkness here and there due to the antagonist, a figure of great sadness and complexity. I was happy that I already had the second book so I could read straight through to find out what happens next.

Book 66

ノラガミ 6 [Noragami 6] (Noragami: Stray God, #6)ノラガミ 6 [Noragami 6] by Adachitoka




This is the culmination of the battle between Yato and Bishamon, orchestrated by Kugaha. I don't want to spoil it but unlike so may shonen battles that get ridiculous dull with the must practice and get stronger mantra that lasts volumes, this battle lasts long enough to satisfy without getting boring. Major things happen with Yato and Yukine as well as with Bishamon and Kazuma (and Kugaha). that's all I really want to say.

It's wonderfully told, it tugs at the heart strings, you might even cry as you learn about Kazuma's past. The arc ends in a very good way.

I'm really enjoying this manga (though I still don't see how a happy ending happens for Hiyori and Yato). I'm looking forward to more.



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Book #26: Firestarter by Stephen King



Number of pages: 510

This book opens with Andy and his daughter Charlie on the run; Charlie has an unusual power, which you can probably guess from the book's title is starting fires with the power of her mind. The military are after her, with a desire to use her as a weapon, and you can probably guess that they will end up using her as a test subject.

This does happen, too, and this takes up most of the second half of the novel. So, this book felt more intelligent than just a story about someone committing acts of arson, and both main characters are ones that I felt sympathy for very quickly.

Although most of the time, I could tell where this book was headed, I enjoyed re-reading this novel. There was a lot of sadness towards the end, but it did at least have an upbeat ending.

Next book: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

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