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Book 83

The Handbook of Urban Druidry: Modern Druidry for AllThe Handbook of Urban Druidry: Modern Druidry for All by Brendan Howlin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this from a Goodreads giveaway which in no way influenced my review. This is, as the title advertizes, a short handbook on practicing druidry in an urban setting. What it is not is a treatise on the history of druidism and long passages on Celtic lore and all the gods and goddess. It is not Wiccan nor full of spells. What it is, is under hundred pages, told in a conversational tone as if you were in the UK sitting down with Mr. Howlin talking this out over a pint. It's an interesting segue into druidry (complete with links at the end, though since this was published a few years ago who knows if they're all still good. I can vouch for www.druidry.org as it's my go-to for all things druid).

Chapter one and two, learning to see and learning to relax have a very Buddhist overtone to them as there is a lot of similarities in that discipline. My favorite chapters were three and four, getting in tune with the seasons and the wheel of the year. I really liked how he laid that out and the examples/summaries used.

Personal responsibility, living a longer happier life, expectations and environmental awareness were all good too. The final chapter, herbal medicine aligned rather nicely with my own thoughts on this. As both a medical doctor and biologist doing active research into herbal medicines, his council on doing your research is a good one. Some work. Some do not work as lore would have it. Some can even be dangerous so do that research.

It's a nice little handbook for beginners.

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Number of pages: 224

A book about terrorism that feels very relevant to modern times, this tells the story of secret agent Mr. Verloc, who lives with his wife and her brother Stevie; Stevie is described as "simple-minded", and is evidently autistic.

The plot revolves around Verloc being assigned to detonate a bomb in Greenwich Park, and the plot revolves around the build-up to this and its aftermath.

I noticed that the story was told from several different points of view, including the police investigating the incident, and that it seems to jump around in the timeline a bit, with a few moments where it jumps forward to after the Greenwich bombing.

I read this book many years ago, but found it hard going; it does feel like a difficult book, but I got much more out of it on this reading. I liked the fact that all of the characters in the story were very sympathetic, and I was interested to see that there was no direct account of some big events in the plot, such as the bombing, which is told only through what the characters say about it.

I found the book increasingly enjoyable as I went on, and it did feel like a story way ahead of its time; the last few chapters were very gripping. The portrayal of Verloc's relationship with his wife and Stevie is very well-told, and ultimately very sad. This copy (published by Wordsworth) also had some useful notes by Hugh Epstein, Secretary of the Joseph Conrad Society of Great Britain.

Next book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Book 38

Title: SAGA, Vol. 6
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Series: part 6 of the "SAGA" series, follows SAGA, Vol. 5
Pages: 152
Summary: After a dramatic time jump, Hazel begins the most exciting adventure of her life: kindergarten. Meanwhile, her starcrossed family learns hard lessons of their own.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )

Book 37

Title: The Dragon Factory
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Series: part two of the "Joe Ledger" series, follows Patient Zero
Pages: 657
Summary: Joe Ledger and the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) go up against two competing groups of geneticists....

One side is creating exotic transgenic monsters and genetically enhanced mercenary armies. The other is using twenty-first-century technology to continue the Nazi Master Race program begun by Josef Mengele. Both sides want to see the DMS destroyed-and they've drawn first blood. Neither side is prepared for Joe Ledger as he leads Echo Team to war under a black flag.

My thoughts:
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book 82

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 3The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 3 by Aya Shouoto

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This manga remains sweet and cute. The first half takes a darker tone. One of Himari's new friends is actually a ghost and puts all the rest of them at risk within Momochi house. And as that works out a new demon, Kasha appears and seems to be an actual threat to Aoi/Nue. Later, Himari's desire to know more about Kasha meets a stone wall with Aoi but in the end she learns more about everything.

The second half has Himari with the Nue for a celebration that turns scarier by the moment. She realizes that the Nue is not Aoi not completely at any rate and of course she's still worrying that Aoi is losing his humanity with every use of the Nue's power.

The art is pretty and the story is maturing a bit. I'm still sitting on the fence about continuing to keep it in my home library though.

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Pau Hana is a scholarly, well-cited work that is as readable as a novel. It explores the rise of sugar plantations in Hawaii and the various waves of migrants brought over to labor in the cane fields. Other Hawaii history books have barely touched on this subject--that the migrants existed, that they carried on strikes, and that the sugar magnates were the power behind the 1893 revolution. It was enlightening to find out about the oft-ignored men, women, and children who endured lives of drudgery and hardship, snared in terrible contracts that compelled them to work for years with little profit or respite. I especially enjoyed finding out more about the diverse nationalities of immigrants--such as many already-Christian Koreans who traveled to Hawaii after Japan took over Korea, and how they hoped to preserve their national spirit in their new home.

I highly recommend this book.
book 66:  Gin Tama, Volume 20 by Hideaki Sorachi

Continuation of samurai/ alien alternate history comedic parody...

In this volume, the battle to save the Shinsengumi ends with Gin and friends displaying some epic fighting skills and often hidden deep compassionate sides.  Good arc.  To not let this turn into an action drama, we then move to Yamazaki's funeral (well, really the dog's funeral with Yamazaki as an add on), unfortunately (?) he's not really dead.  Then Gin teaches (sort of) an editor of a struggling samurai/ alien alternate history comedic parody (hrm...) how to re-engage readers.  (Too bad the manga-ka is a gorilla.)  Kagura's father, Umibozu, single-handedly saves the world (one commercial at a time).  Gin gives Kagura a new umbrella (one of the most adorable arcs in the entire series!).  Yamazaki tries to infiltrate Katsura's rebel exclusionist faction.  And, the gang ends up going to The Dragon Palace, where things do not go according to plan (do they ever?), and Gin and Katsura end up as feeble, senile, old men.

book 67:  Gin Tama, Volume 21 by Hideaki Sorachi

The gang has to save all of Edo from being turned into elderly people, but their two best fighters, Gin and Katsura, are a bit on the feeble, useless side themselves (or are they?!).  Gin shows Tama, the emotionally evolved robot a good time (or vice versa).  Gin tries to reconcile a dying yakuza boss with his estranged son.

book 68:  Gin Tama, Volume 22 by Hideaki Sorachi

The yakuza arc resolves.  (Sad Gin face breaks my heart.  *sniff*)  Hasegawa becomes a sushi chef (well, almost).  The shinsengumi have to clean the bathroom.  Aliens replace some of the gangs' body parts with screw drivers.  Katsura ends up in prison and inadvertently interferes with another inmate's escape plans.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

book 65:  The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

I guess I would best call The Prophet a semi-fictional parable broken into chapters on different life/ spiritual subjects, with an introductory and closing story, all written in prose/ poetry.  The last section, The Farewell, felt a bit melodramatic and verbose, but otherwise my reaction to this classic was "this is very beautiful and wise".  I was frequently moved to tears.  I think everyone could glean some wisdom from this book

Books #45-46

Book #45 was "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard. This is a classic of nature writing and won Dillard a Pulitzer Prize. It harkens back to the transcendental movement as she uses her observations about nature around her to explore deeper subjects, ranging from how we learn to interpret what we see to why humans react to unfettered fecundity as if it's deeply disgusting. I could only read 10 or 12 pages at a time most of the time because it is just so dense with imagery, ideas, and vocabulary. This is a deeply rewarding piece of writing, and I've got more by Dillard on my "to read" list now.

Book #46 was "A Widow for One Year" by John Irving. I've read at least 4 of Irving's previous novels and particularly liked "A Prayer for Owen Meany." This novel has many of Irving's trademarks, including ingenious long-term plotting and a quirky characters. The book is ostensibly about Ruth Cole, a young woman whose mother leaves her and her father when Ruth is 4-years-old, and who grows up to be a writer. However, it's really a book about grief. Her mother leaves because she can't get over the death of Ruth's two older brothers. Ruth's father is there for her and is a decent father but he's a skirt-chaser in the worst way. The other main character is Eddie, who was a writer's assistant to Ruth's father (a famous writer of children's books) and fell in love with Ruth's mother. Eddie is a writer as well, though much less successful than Ruth or her father, and he never falls out of love with Ruth's mother, even after she disappears out of his and Ruth's life. Irving is a master at taking a subject like grief and still making you laugh at absurd moments. I love his long-term plotting and how a comic scene that feels like a throw-away scene will keep coming back into the plot years, even decades, later. This wasn't my favorite Irving of all time, but even a second-rate Irving is bound to be an excellent read. I really enjoyed it.

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

Book 82

Trojan Gold (Vicky Bliss, #4)Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is 30 year old mystery by an author I like. I didn't realize it was #4 in a series and it didn't matter that much. I didn't care for Vicky all that much so this was more a 2.5 star read for me.

Vicky is an art historian working in Switzerland and she is mailed a picture in a blood soaked envelope. Well she argues it's not blood at first but when she realizes it is, she doesn't involve the police. She, along with her peculiar boss, start investigating the picture which shows the titular Trojan Gold on a woman other than the one known model for it. This gold jewelry disappeared in the time of the Nazis and now Vicky is on the trail of it with her boss, Schmidt and her would be fiancé, Tony who is now in theory given up on her and is engaged to someone else.

She tries to enlist the help of her sometime lover the thief and conman, John Smythe. He claims to have no interest but that doesn't mean he isn't keeping a close eye on her. Soon she trails it back to Mr Hoffman, an old man who owns a ski hotel she had stayed at with other art historians including Tony, Dieter, who is sexual harassment on two legs, Elsie, Dieter's sometimes girlfriend and the very handsome Jan Perlmutter from East Germany.

Mr. Hoffman has recently died in an accident and his very young wife confirms the idea that he had something of value. Vicky believes he took the gold during WWII and of course wants it. All too soon all the art historians she had spent that hotel weekend with have reemerged on the trail of the gold.

Honestly Vicky spends more time bouncing about in bed with the men, more to use them than out of love (or at least Tony and John, not so much Dieter which becomes an issue later.) There are some dated things to this like the amount of sexual harassment that might have flown in the 80s and the way the attempted rape was skimmed past. I found the end not particularly fulfilling. I like her Amelia Peabody books but I'm not really moved to look up too many more Vicky Bliss books.

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Book 81

黒執事 XXII [Kuroshitsuji XXII] (Black Butler, #22)黒執事 XXII [Kuroshitsuji XXII] by Yana Toboso

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great Mey-Rin cover. The art is as always just lovely through out and the Emerald Witch arc finally wraps up. Ciel and company successfully get her out of Germany along with Wolfman who lives long enough to get to medical help to save him.

Once in England, Ciel and Sebastian have to train her to properly meet Queen Victoria and convince her that she's no longer a threat. Ciel bribes her with the ideas of being able to study and do as much science as she wants. I liked that.

However this is a short volume in many ways. The new arc doesn't begin. Instead the fan voting for most popular characters was made into a rather long 'short story' within the volume. It's quite silly and fun but at the end of the day didn't do much for me.

Looking forward to the next arc.

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Not quite as many books read this week.

First was Osprey Raid #25: Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863, which details some vicious American Civil War history. I continue to cringe at some of the things that were done in that war...

Next was Beef: A Global History. The books of this series are mildly interesting, usually best when they deal with foodstuffs that I don't know much about but enjoy. This one was a bit less so.

Then Osprey Raid #40: Kill Hitler: Operation Valkyrie 1944, the failed attempt in July 1944 to assassinate Hitler after the Allied landing in Normandy. Reading about what happened makes it all seem so amateurish, even though it was put on by members of the German General Staff.

Book 18 - Broken Harbor by Tana French

In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder Squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .

This is the fourth installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series, and again a secondary character in the previous installment is the main detective in the current story. That case is mentioned a few times in vague terms, but it's not necessary to have read the earlier books. This story continues to paint a picture of a murder squad with (mostly) hard-working and very competitive detectives investigating cases and constantly giving each other crap. The murders in this case are particularly sad and troubling, and Kennedy wrestles with various consequences and complications both for the victims' friends and family as well as in his personal life.

Though his mentally ill sister is not technically a main character, she is definitely a large presence in the story. In fact, I could probably consider that this book fulfills the Read Harder Challenge task of reading a book with a main character who has a mental illness. In a way, the idea of mental illness itself is a palpable character in the book, but to say more than that would be a spoiler. THIS IS A DARK BOOK ... but very good.
Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it—and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

The Purloined Poodle is another exciting novella entry in Kevin Hearne’s New York Times best-selling Iron Druid series.

I received this ebook through the publisher via Netgalley.

Oberon the Irish Wolfhound is a source of great amusement in the Iron Druid novels, and this novella gives him a chance to stand on all four paws to carry the plot. He does so quite well, with necessary breaks to sniff other dogs' hind ends and indulge in some sausage. There is a mystery to solve: championship dogs have gone missing throughout the Pacific Northwest! Hearne creates a good balance between Oberon's doggy logic and Atticus's timey-wimey magic and human know-how. Oberon's voice might grate on some people over a long stretch, but I found the length of this (just over 100 pages) to be perfect. I hope Oberon sets out to solve more mysteries!

Number of pages: 297

This is the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by Anthony Horowitz, and opens with Holmes being approached by Edmund Carstairs, who believes that he is being stalked by Keelan O'Donoghue, the leader of the notorious "flat cap gang", who he helped to get arrested. The plot soon develops, as it becomes apparent that O'Donoghue has now been murdered.

A number of unexpected murders lead Holmes to make a connection with the "House of Silk", although the precise nature of that this is is not exactly clear.

My previous experience with Anthony Horowitz's work was with his second Sherlock Holmes-related novel, Moriarty, and his short-lived television show, Crime Traveller from the 1990s, which was a relatively light-hearted science fiction show. As I understand it, he is also well known for a series of children's novels.

This book, however, proved to be very dark and increasingly mature in tone, so much that I was taken by surprise. As well as having some very shocking deaths, the story brings Holmes and Watson to an opium den. Later on, the plot becomes even more adult in tone, but I will not give any details here, save to say that the true nature of the House of Silk proves to be the book's most shocking moment; it felt like a book that would maybe have been banned back at the time when Arthur Conan Doyle was writing his Sherlock Holmes stories. It's certainly much darker than any of the original stories.

I loved the way that this book kept up the usual tradition of having Doctor Watson as the story's narrator, as he tells the reader a lot about his admiration for, and feelings about, Sherlock Holmes. I also find Horowitz's novels very easy to read, without any overly-complex language. I also liked the references to classic Holmes stories throughout the book. Overall, this was a compelling story, with a surprisingly vast number of plot twists that I did not see coming. Definitely a recommended book, just not for the faint-hearted.

Next book: The Sercret Agent (Joseph Conrad)
An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

A received an ARC of this book from the publisher.

Queen of Blood is one of my favorite reads for the year. It features powerful, diverse women, an innovative new approach to fae spirits, and TREES. Beautiful, massive trees that people live in. Hey, I live near Phoenix, Arizona. I thirst for greenery. If I could set a vacation in Renthia (when things weren't bound to kill me), I'd go in an instant. Plus, characters travel at top speed across long distances by zip-lining.

Daleina is a relatable heroine who survives by grit and determination. She is not magically gifted. She is academically mediocre. As she attends a Hogwarts-esque school (that I would prefer to Hogwarts), she is repeatedly and gently told she would be better off settling as a hedge witch in some small village because she is simply not good enough to be a candidate for Queen. Yet she persists, because the Queen is the one who controls the spirits. Spirits like the ones who destroyed Daleina's village and almost killed her family when she was young. Daleina wants to save people, and her relentless drive to do so is beautiful and affirming.

This book gripped me from page 1. I found every excuse I could to stop and read, because the tension just drove me crazy. And the ending...! I feel like I want the next book NOW, but it's probably best that I have to wait, because I might need therapy first. Egad.

Queen of Blood is out September 20th. It should probably win some awards for one of the best covers of the year, too.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion comes the riveting true story of the valiant rescue of priceless pedigree horses in the last days of World War II. As the Russians closed in on Hitler from the east and the Allies attacked from the west, American soldiers discovered a secret Nazi effort to engineer a master race of the finest purebred horses. With the support of U.S. general George S. Patton, a passionate equestrian, the Americans planned an audacious mission to kidnap these beautiful animals and smuggle them into safe territory—assisted by a daring Austrian colonel who was both a former Olympian and a trainer of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.

I received this early copy through the publisher via NetGalley.

I was horse-obsessed as a kid. I was able to see Lipizzaners on tour once when I was 11, and it was incredible. Of course, I had read a great deal about the horses and their airs above the ground. Years and years ago, I saw the old Disney movie "Miracle of the White Stallions" about how the Lipizzaners were saved from Austria during World War II. Well, this is the real story behind that, and it's an engaging, fascinating read.

It begins long before the war. Even as militaries worldwide began to shift to mechanized forces, the horse carried an important role; Olympic equestrian teams came out of national military units. This is where many of the human players in this story grew up and spent their formative years. Patton is the most famous example. Germany still utilized horses in World War II, but even more, they wanted to create the perfect horse. Yes, Aryan-style eugenics with horses. Germany collected the best horses from their expanding territory and established breeding farms for Lipizzaners, Arabians, and other highly-esteemed breeds.

As the war continued, the horses were shuffled for safekeeping, but food and communication became increasing issues as Germany's collapse grew imminent. Even more, the Russians approached from the east, and they esteemed horses as only food. Therefore, the desperate horse-lovers betrayed 3rd Reich ideals and looked for help from their invaders from the west: the Americans. Enemies were united through their love of horses.

The book goes into the aftermath of the war as well, and how some horses made it to the US for so-called safekeeping. It also follows the glorious rebirth of the Spanish Riding School.

I loved it. I knew only bits and pieces of the real story, and Letts' storytelling really brings everything to life. I highly recommend this to history buffs and horse lovers.

Gin Tama, Volumes 14-19 by Hideaki Sorachi

book 59:  Gin Tama, Volume 14 by Hideaki Sorachi

Continuation of a samurai/alien/alternate history/ parody manga...In this volume, the battle with the sword expert Yagyu clan for Otae continues.  After some epic (and humorous) battles only Gin, Shinpachi, Kyube, and and Binbokusai are left in the competition.

book 60:  Gin Tama, Volume 15 by Hideaki Sorachi

The battle with the Yagyu clan concludes, Otae repays her debt to Kondo by saving him from a gorilla wedding, Zenzo the shinobi bonds with a girl who can see the future, Katsura tries to get a driver's license, Sadaharu finds doggie love, the girls (faux and real) "entertain" the shogun, and Okita's sister (and Hijikata's unrealized love) arrives.

book 61:  Gin Tama, Volume 16 by Hideaki Sorachi

Hijikata takes down Okita's sister's criminal fiance (with some help), and they say (in their own ways) goodbye to her as she succumbs to her illness (actually touching for such tough characters).  A virus causing unibrows turns everyone into zombies (or zombrows, thank you, Katsura!).  Gin and crew assist (and get annoyed by) a "hard boiled" cop while he tries to take down/ vindicate his long time criminal rival.  The gang hosts a match-making party to convince Kyube of her femininity and prevent her from "building a tower of babel" (getting a sex change).  Gin was actually surprisingly charming at times. :)

book 62:  Gin Tama, Volume 17 by Hideaki Sorachi

Gin finds a disembodied head in the trash and ends up involved in a robot conspiracy.  The gang tries to get the new video gaming system the Owee and ends up in an eccentric video gaming competition for the prize.

book 63:  Gin Tama, Volume 18 by Hideaki Sorachi

The video game competition ends.  The soul of Gin's wooden sword visits him and tries to give him greater powers.  It's Valentine's day, and the gang witnesses intergalactic...love(?).  Gin accidentally twarts an assassin and purposefully defends Hasegawa against lewd behavior charges.  The girls all get fat and compete to loss weight at a "fasting dojo".

book 64:  Gin Tama, Volume 19 by Hideaki Sorachi

A conspiracy to destroy the Shinsengumi involving Takasugi finds the return of a colleage, Hijikata becoming cursed and turning into a "loser otaku", betrayal within Shinsengumi ranks, and some pretty epic fight sequences involving Gin and some of the Shinsengumi members.  Some nice scenes both in fight sequences and in character depth building in this arc.

Seven Hundred Kisses by Lily Pond

book 58:  Seven Hundred Kisses by Lily Pond

This is an anthology of erotic literature (short stories and poetry) put out by the editor of Yellow Silk, which is evidently a magazine that caters to promoting erotic literature.  It has some major authors in it, like Tobias Wolff, Jane Smiley, Dorothy Allison, and Walter Mosley, but for the most part I was unimpressed.  It's not meant to be titilating, like pulp erotica.  The works have more weight and have more variety of purpose than just causing arousal.  At the same time, I guess I'm not into reading things that are primarily about sexual love without 1) purposefully looking to get off (although even then reading stuff rarely does it for me) or, more importantly, 2) having a primary story that is not focused on the sex.  Don't get me wrong.  I can enjoy a good sex or romantic love scene in a novel, but I really need something more as a background to support the act, if you understand what I mean.  Some of these do have other themes:  loss, freedom, understanding, but for the most part they didn't really capture my imagination well.  Well, live and learn.  I now know that I'm not really into erotica, even if they try to dress it up in literary words.  If I have to pick a few that I thought were worthwhile:  the poem Coyote and the Shadow People by E. Beth Thomas (about loss through death and undeniable longing), the poem July Lover by D. Nurkse (has a nice subtle insistency), and Pushing Me into the Past by Richard Zimler (found this fairly erotic, I always wonder why gay erotica is so appealing to some heterosexual women, like myself).

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

book 57:  Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

For some reason, Cold Comfort Farm makes me think of Emma by Jane Austen, although I have not read Emma and have only seen the movie. I'm guessing because this is a light historical British comedy in which the heroine tries to "fix" everyone around her, and in the process grows a little herself, although Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm is more static in her evolution than Emma. Cold Comfort Farm also seems to be a parody of those earlier romantic novels, as well, focusing quite a bit on the absurdities of the culture and its eccentric characters.  It was an enjoyable enough read and had a happy ending, but at the same time I don't feel like I HAVE TO go pick up the sequel.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

book 56:  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is the story of a woman who dreams of the life she reads about in romantic novels and cannot find satisfaction with her reality. This leads her into adulterous affairs and finally self destruction. My volume also contained a biographical sketch of the author, letters written by the author during the ten years he wrote Madame Bovary, and both contemporary and modern critical essays about the book. The novel evidently had an important role in moving from the romantic to the realist period in literature, but I am in no way a literature major and cannot explain this in detail. I know from reading the essays and letters that Flaubert was trying to create a novel that was not dependent on the story, that was basically the prose form of poetry, art created within writing, and he would spend days rewriting a couple of pages. I found the characters rather despicable, but the descriptions very beautiful. I think this is what moving from romantic to realist and with the effort on making perfect prose means, at least on a level I can understand it.  Would I recommend it?  Possibly. It is without a doubt beautifully written. It's not something "just for fun", though. The characters are not very likeable, and while the novel is beautifully written like a painting, it is tragic.

Book 79 & 80

The Irish PrincessThe Irish Princess by Karen Harper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I read a lot of historical mysteries, it's rare I read plain historical fiction. I read it even less when it's about real people. However, I received this as part of a gift I won from my local library so I felt like I should read it. It was pretty entertaining and if you like fictionalized British history, you'll probably really enjoy this.

It follows (first person point of view) the life of Elizabeth "Gera" Fitzgerald (and yes she is real and at least some of this really happened) from her teen years on. Gera and her siblings should have been the rulers of Ireland but of course Henry Tudor (Henry VIII) has something to say about that. And when her father ends up in the Tower of London and her elder brother, Thomas rebels, the whole family almost ends up dead. Gera and her younger sisters survive and her young brother, Gerald escapes to the continent).

Gera ends up being bartered to the English court and is taken to London by a young naval officer who is an up and comer in Henry's court, Edward Clinton. Gera learns that the only thing worse than being a penniless peasant in this time period is to be rich and in court where the king watches your every move and one wrong word gets you beheaded.

Gera plots murdering the king even as she observes his queen and her other royal cousins. Eventually she befriends the girl who will grow up to be Lady Jane Grey along with his bastardized daughters, Elizabeth and Mary (the former more so than the latter). As she grows up during this turbulent time, she takes the only protection she can as she works to getting the attainment removed from the family name: marriage to an older man even though she is sure she loves Clinton.

There is some weird pacing in this. It could have ended with Henry's death and the resolution with Clinton but she hammered in the bloody conflict between Elizabeth/Mary/Dudleys and it felt very rushed. In the author notes Harper did say to include all the details would have made this 1000 pages long and I believe that. Gera is an interesting person, someone I haven't heard much about (this is not really my favored piece of history). If you like Tudor history, you'll probably enjoy this.

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Time Trial #1 (The CHRONOS Files)Time Trial #1 by Rysa Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars Thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy I had to review but I'm not entirely sure it downloaded correctly on my device. Mine had no words at all and nowhere did it mention the story would be told by art only. The blurb at least held all the clues for me to enjoy it.

Nineteen year old Clio wants to follow in her time traveling parents' footsteps and steps out on her own. She ends up watching the trial of Al Capone as she works on her skills as an artist (drawing court room scenes) but someone is after her and Clio has to protect herself and the timeline.

The art was lovely and the idea is a lot of fun. Clio is an interesting character.

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More books read. Wow!

First was a graphic novel by Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo Book 30: Thieves and Spies. I've been following this series for years now. I don't get the comic books, but I wait for the collections to come out and the latest once again is pretty fun. Sakai's Japan is populated by humanoid animals and the protagonist/ronin is a rabbit. If you like comics at all I would urge you to read this series, they are great!

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #16: Frederick the Great's Army, an old one of this series, the plates aren't much to speak of, the sketches don't really give good views, and the text is meh. Not the best.

Then, Osprey New Vanguard #13: Scorpion Reconnaissance Vehicle 1972 – 1994, a workhorse. Not a vehicle of legend.

Next it was Questions for a Soldier, a short piece set in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series which did a fine job of giving a picture of what it's like serving in an interstellar military. Not bad if you're reading the series.

Then, Osprey New Vanguard #14: Crusader: Cruiser Tank 1939 – 1945, another British military vehicle, less modern than the previous one. What can I say?

Finally, I finished a book by Jeremy Clarkson, the former star of the British Top Gear show, called I Know You Got Soul: Machines with that Certain Something. In this book each chapter deals with one specific technological item (such as zeppelins, space shuttle, Spitfires, etc). He then explains why each of them were what he'd describe as soulful. A pretty good read, all-in-all.

On to the next book!

Book 36

Title: Dernyi Checkmate
Author: Katherine Kurtz
Series: part two of "The Chronicles of the Deryni", follows Deryni Rising
Pages: 324
Summary: In order to claim the throne of Gwynedd, young Kelson Haldane had to reveal his magical Deryni powers, putting him at odds with the most powerful clerics in the land, who view the Deryni as agents of evil.

Archbishop Loris has dedicated himself to the eradication of the Deryni. In a ruthless campaign of persecution against them, he targets Kelson's most trusted friend and advisor, Duke Alaric Morgan.

While Morgan fights for his reputation - and his very life - a rogue Deryni is honing his powers to use as a weapon against hmanity, putting all of the Deryni at risk. And as the different factions of Gwynedd battle one another, the young Kelson must find within himself the strength to keep his kindgom from falling apart...

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )


Book 78

The Ancient Magus" Bride, Vol. 4The Ancient Magus' Bride, Vol. 4 by Kore Yamazaki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first third of this is Chise visiting Lindel, the mage and learning all about Elias's origins. It is very interesting and Elias is even less human than Chise thought. Also in this time, Lindel helps her make her first magical wand which goes better than she could have hoped.

The rest is more episodic again with Chise reintergrating into the household and dealing with all the strange creatures that visit Elias. It's interesting watching her learn to let people in (we learn more of her history too and her abandonment issues) while she teaches Elias about human emotions. We see things like insects that need shearing for self-warming wool, dragons and a host of other creatures.

If you like tons of action, this is probably not your jam. This is a slow deep pool. I like the characters and the art is lovely.

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Number of pages: 481

Thriller about the character Jonathan Pine, who has to go undercover working to pass on information to authorities about illegal arms dealer Richard Roper. Near the start we learn of how Sophie, a woman who Jonathan tried to protect and was in love with, was killed, and he seems to be haunted by her memory throughout most of the book.

I noticed that it took almost half the book before Pine and Roper first met. Pine gains Roper's trust by rescuing his son from a staged kidnapping. I found the book to be quite difficult, almost cryptic in places, mostly because of the number of flashbacks, and it wasn't always obvious immediately that they were flashbacks. I noticed that the narrative flashed between past and present tense a lot, although the present tense was usually used during the flashback sequences.

I did quite enjoy this, though, and found it quite compelling, mostly because of the way the characters were written, although the scenes with Pine and Roper were easily the most enjoyable.

I mainly read this book because I saw the BBC adaptation starring Tom Hiddlestone and Hugh Laurie, which vastly changed the ending, so I was taken by surprise a little with this book.

[Spoiler (click to open)]The TV adaptation ended with Roper being kidnapped by his angry clients, while the book ended with Pine barely escaping from torturers and Roper escaping.

The ending does leave the reader wanting a sequel, and there are rumours of one, as well as a further TV series.

Next book: The House of Silk (Anthony Horowitz)

Books #43-44

Book #43 was "The Undead Pool" by Kim Harrison, the 12th of 13 in the author's "The Hollows" series, as an audiobook. This was another enjoyable installment in the series, though it did feel like a set-up for the final book. Our heroine, witch-demon Rachel Morgan, has grown a lot over the series, as have her friends and co-workers, and a former enemy has become someone dear to her. In this penultimate book in the series, waves of energy are causing magical "misfires" all over Cincinnati, and the undead have fallen asleep, leaving a group of "free vampires" to terrorize the city with their own agenda. Rachel of course gets mixed up in it all and has to save the world once again. I did like this though felt the ending was a little shmaltzy. As per usual, Harrison's prose is utilitarian and not beautiful. She repeats too many phrases ("My face went cold" and "fear sifted through me" and "my heart gave a thump") for this to be truly quality writing, but she's middling good at character development and great at plotting and suspense, which is what keeps me reading.

Book #44 was "On Such a Full Sea" by Chang-Rae Lee. I saw this in a Best Books of 2014 list and have had it on my "to read" list for a while. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. First, I will say that some critics were less enthusiastic about it. One criticism is for the storytelling style - we don't get to hear from our main character, Fan, directly. Instead, her tale is told by the collective voice of "B-Mor," the work settlement where Fan works taking care of fishes to feed the "charters" - upscale neighborhoods ringing the working class settlement. When Fan's boyfriend, Reg, goes missing, she leaves the relative safety and comfort of B-Mor to find him, and discovers how rough life outside the settlements (in the "open counties") is and how twisted life can become in the the comfortable "Charters." Another criticism I read was that the plot twists were obvious or "too convenient." But I think both the storytelling style and the plotting give it a legendary/fable-like quality, which is what Fan's story has become to the people she left behind. While I did see a few plot twists coming, many more surprised me, and I found the author's creations to be twisted and weird and wonderful. I really enjoyed this and recommend it.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
The author details the events of the turn-of-the-century revolution that abrogated the monarchy and ended the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands. Russ focuses on the days of the revolution and the reaction to the news in the United States.

Ah, an old-fashioned non-fiction book. Academic in nature and dry as dry can be. This was not an enjoyable read, due to style and content--the underhanded methods by which rich Americans abrogated the Hawaiian monarchy--but it was still relevant to my research at a few points. The footnotes were sometimes the more interesting part, and at times they dominated 2/3 of a page! Most of the book, however described in exhaustive detail how the Annexations did this, and the Royalists did that, and the Americans on the mainland squabbled over their role in it all. I will be keeping this book, as I did make several notes I may need to reference later. I also have a sequel book, The Hawaiian Republic, to stare down at some point soon.


I had made reference previously to Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber's The Slow Professor, which appears to suggest that faculty work more deliberately and mindfully, to use a buzzword in a different context.  At the recommendation of a colleague, I read the work.  The subtitle is Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, and the authors suggest that this culture of speed is an alien intrusion, introduced from elsewhere by the Babbitts who have hijacked the administration.

The book jacket opens, "If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia.  Yet the corporatization of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency regardless of the consequences of for education and scholarship.  The authors expand in their preface.  "We have been influenced by the literature on the corporatization of higher education, empirical studies which document the harmful effects of stress and loneliness on physiological and psychological health, popular self-help discourse which emphasizes the importance of work-life balance, and, of course, the key texts of the Slow movement."

I'm tempted to let it all go with a suggestion that some literature students buy their advisor a train set.  Yes, even -- especially -- if the advisors are female!  The gender bending!  The subversion of the dominant paradigm!  Or to suggest that stressed or slow professors alike are underemployed compared to their forebears.

But let me devote Book Review No. 17, at least briefly, to explaining my choice of a title.
Read more...Collapse )That brings us to the breakdown of "Collegiality and Community."  In which, I suggest, there's still nothing new, as a quick reading of any of the academic novels will suggest (why, dear reader, are the psychos always in the English Department?)

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Dr. Georgia Young's wonderful life--great friends, family, and successful career--aren't enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, quitting her job as an optometrist, and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love.

This book came to my attention by way of a random email from goodreads, since I'd "shelved" some of her earlier works. It was published in June of this year, and I was able to read it soon thereafter thanks to this early warning and some quick library hold action. (Coincidentally, I finished it the day before my annual eye exam!) Dr. Young is occasionally brittle and jaded but mostly smart and sassy, and I would love to sit down and have a glass of wine with her (maybe two or three glasses, and then crash in the guest room of her funky home in Northern California). Perhaps because I recently passed a similar milestone to the main character, I really enjoyed reading this book. While the ultimate ending is not a huge shock, the fun is in the journey, complete with wrong turns and misunderstandings along the way.



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