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Books 33 & 34 - 2014

Book 33: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Ninth: The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – 286 pages

Description from
Everybody loves a carnival! Who can fail to delight in the colourful people, the unworldly spectacle, the fabulous freaks? A carnival is a place for good family fun - as long as one has a family, that is. For the Baudelaire orphans, their time at the carnival turns out to be yet another episode in a now unbearable series of unfortunate events. In fact, in this appalling ninth instalment in Lemony Snicket′s serial, the siblings must confront a terrible lie, a caravan, and Chabo the wolf baby. With millions of readers worldwide, and the Baudelaire′s fate turning from unpleasant to unseemly, it is clear that Lemony Snicket has taken nearly all the fun out of children′s books.

The ninth Series of Unfortunate Events book forces the Baudelaire children to start to question whether they are as bad as the terrible Count Olaf as they take drastic measures to try to hide from their enemy, as well as gain information about their potentially still alive parents. The children are forced to dress up in disguise and work in a carnival right under Olaf’s nose. But there is someone in the Carnival who might just be able to help them. Bad guys are good guys and good guys are bad guys and anyone can turn seems to be the enduring story of the Baudelaire’s children tragic childhood. The ending of this one is quite sad and a little scary – I feel these books are getting less and less kid-level. Either way, I’m increasingly finding myself getting into them now.

33 / 50 books. 66% done!

11759 / 15000 pages. 78% done!

Book 34: Sex Drive: In pursuit of female desire by Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton – 312 pages

Description from
For many women an active sex life is on the bottom of their 'to do' list. Is women's sexual desire in the Western world at an all time low? Australia's most popular sexual anthropologist investigates.

Despite this book’s title, it is far from titillating (despite the many comments I got when it came up on my facebook while I was reading it). My interpretation was that this book was supposed to look at why women apparently don’t want sex. It did do that, but perhaps not quite in the sociological/anthropological mindset I was expecting. It’s less about gender studies and more about what drugs to not take if one is feeling a little less than spicy. I found it really dull, and personally wouldn’t recommend it unless you were specifically looking at the issue from the prescribing of drugs perspective.

34 / 50 books. 68% done!

12071 / 15000 pages. 80% done!

Currently reading:
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs – 331 pages
-        The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter – 442 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages
Enormous Smallness, by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
The narration and the artwork combine to give a really stunning portrait of e.e. cumming's life - best suited for an 8- or 9-year-old kid, I think.

Silly Sally, by Audrey Wood
A fun, slight, exuberant book for littler kids. The art is the best part.

Forever Friends, by Carin Berger
The art is the best part of this littler kids' book, sweet and odd.

Wombat Walkabout, by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
An absolutely splendid and engaging prey vs. predator story, with art that matches it. <3.

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, by Daniel L. Everett
This was kind of dry and linguistics-professor-y by times, but you know? Guy is a linguistics professor, so that is ok. The story parts were fascinating and the linguistics parts were pretty neat too.

Copper, by Kazuo Kibuishi
I started reading this months ago! It is very very good and inextricably wound up for me as "one of my friend N's favorite books", which just made it better.

Yay, You!, by Sandra Boynton
Charming paen to taking the next step, for grown ups. Is not as good as her kids' books, I don't think.

Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag, by Maira Kalman
Idiosyncratic and beautiful alphabet book, all illustrations based on objects from the Cooper Hewitt. Like almost any Maira Kalman books, there were a few pages I was tempted to put up on the walls.
Meet Denver, a man raised under plantation-style slavery in Louisiana in the 1960s; a man who escaped, hopping a train to wander, homeless, for eighteen years on the streets of Dallas, Texas. No longer a slave, Denver's life was still hopeless—until God moved. First came a godly woman who prayed, listened, and obeyed. And then came her husband, Ron, an international arts dealer at home in a world of Armani-suited millionaires. And then they all came together.

But slavery takes many forms. Deborah discovers that she has cancer. In the face of possible death, she charges her husband to rescue Denver. Who will be saved, and who will be lost? What is the future for these unlikely three? What is God doing?

This book is told in alternate chapters from Denver's and Ron's points of view. Ron is a little bit of a snob and occasionally a jerk, so his chapters were sometimes tedious. Denver, on the other hand, is tough and street-wise, and his chapters were raw and painful. As the book progressed away from their respective youths and into the story of how they met and worked together at the homeless shelter, it got more interesting and accessible. Through the intervention (aka nagging) of Ron's wife Deborah, the two men form an uneasy friendship that deepens into true friendship through shared experiences and crises. Overall, I found the story touching and uplifting without becoming maudlin or sappy.

This was our latest book club selection, and everyone liked it. We had an interesting discussion, especially about the nature and depth of Deborah's faith. Book 11 is our selection for October (and I'm leading the discussion, so I hope I remember it well enough by then!), so I will hold off on that post until then.

Book 59

The Heroic Legend of Arslan 1The Heroic Legend of Arslan 1 by Yoshiki Tanaka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've seen snippets of earlier versions of this story and having Arakawa do the newest version was definitely something I wanted to see. I have to admit, it starts a little slowly for me. I would never have guessed this wasn't pure fantasy if not the interviews in the back (It's ancient Persia). The titular Arslan is a fourteen year old boy who is the sole (as far as I can tell) heir to his father's throne, ruling the well-off kingdom of Pars. His father seems to be a brutish king and his mother an ice queen. In fact, neither parent seems to have time for nor care about their son. He is left to be raised by his various mentors, including Vahriz who is teaching him to fight.

It's rather obvious the King and his soldiers see Arslan as soft (and unless I miss my guess Vahriz even seems to suggest that there is nothing of the king in him at all which might be true? Certainly the queen seems unimpressed with her husband). There is a telling scene where a young boy of a neighboring kingdom has been taken prisoner of war and made into a slave. Arslan sees being a slave as an honorable thing but seems to start rethinking it.

When Arslan finally goes to battle, things go sideways. What the King doesn't know and would be too arrogant to admit to is that he has been betrayed. Daryun, Vahriz's nephew and one of the best warriors tries to warn him and is nearly killed for it. He is stripped of everything but Vahriz makes him promise to look after Arslan. What no one knows is the lengths the Lusitanians (which is a name that keeps throwing me) will go to. Their god demands no god before them and Pars is of a different (or no) faith. Their god has no problems with throwing women and children of non-believers into the fires (though some of the soldiers do). To be fair, Pars and its king don't seem to balk at this much either.

Having been betrayed the king and his men don't have much of a chance. Arslan is saved a little by his own swordsmenship but mostly because Daryun is a killing machine. Daryun now has to get Arslan to safety.

What slowed this way down for me was too much battle and worse endless recitation of how many of what kind of soldiers there were and how many died and all the titles of people I didn't have a chance to get to know. It wasn't a great balance between fight scenes and storytelling and for anyone reading my manga reviews you'll know this matters a great deal to me.

That said I loved the art. Arslan and Daryun are interesting as are the two characters we see for just a few panels at the end. I will definitely get more of this. I just hope the balance between fight fight fight and actually advancing the plot will improve.

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Book 45: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Book 45: The Paying Guests.
Author: Sarah Waters, 2014
Genre: Period Fiction. Relationship Drama. GLBT.
Other Details: Hardback. 576 pages.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class', the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
- synopsis from author's website.

The Guardian review of this novel stated of Sarah Waters that "she is not afraid to play with her readers' expectations" and also noted the dramatic key change that occurs part way through the novel. I would agree with these observations though came to it with few expectations. I found it a well observed post-Great War relationship drama that unfolds in the close atmosphere of the South London house. Then came the 'key change', which I will not say too much about apart from the fact that it transformed the novel from the above slow-paced drama into a page-turner worthy of any modern thriller.

Up to that point I had been somewhat under-whelmed by this book and while it is not my favourite for the Baileys Prize I felt it was well written and very compelling. The setting, as with all of Waters' novels, was faultless. The issues raised were important ones and I would think this novel will prove a favourite with reading groups. One that is best read without reading too much in advance about the plot.

Book 58

Kitty Litter KillerKitty Litter Killer by Candice Speare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I grabbed this from the library because I needed a K for my alphabet challenge and it sounded cute. It's more like a 2.5 read. It's probably a little better than my own personal enjoyment but honestly I didn't connect with the characters at all (also this is book 3 but that doesn't really matter much). I didn't notice it was a Heartsong (i.e. Christian inspirational) until half way through but I think the author forgot that too because God wasn't getting credit for everything until about that point. Don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing on religion here. I read mysteries with priests, monks, nuns, rabbis etc but for me there needs to be a balance between faith and mysteries and a lot of times the 'inspirational' ones have it too far to one side for me. That said mostly it wasn't bad in this until Abbie, the prime suspect started saying her ex's abusive behavior was a punishment from God for not helping Phillip to find God. I about threw the book at that point but luckily the main character was quick to shut that down.

Trish is a mother of three or four (I think one is her husband's by an earlier marriage) who has two very domineering women in her life, her mother and her mother in law. Apparently Max (her husband) comes from mom and she doesn't and she thinks her MiL dislikes her because of it...apparently for years since she has somewhat older kids. Her best friend, Abbie, an author, is getting married in two weeks to Eric, a detective when Phillip her ex (and another cop) returns to town, argues with her in public and gets killed.

Naturally Abbie is the prime suspect and even more naturally Trish doesn't think the state cop detective put on the case because of conflicts of interest with the local cops is capable of seeing past Abbie as a suspect. We have the normal pressures to stay out of it by the family except Mom who is running around 'helping' by alienating everyone.

As for the titular kitty litter and kitty, Trish's well to do mom wants to get Sammie, Trish's little girl a cat. Rather than being cute and fun, the cats barely play a role (but a pivotal one at the end) and does nothing more than to reinforce negative stereotypes about cats which I didn't appreciate much (They're sneaky, they're not loveable etc).

It's not a bad read. The mystery was pretty obvious and I was a bit annoyed that everyone seemed more concerned about the murdered man (who hadn't been very nice) once they realized he had converted to the Lord. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to find more of this. It's not really my cup of tea.

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Book 57

No. 6: The Manga, Volume 07 (No. 6: The Manga, #7)No. 6: The Manga, Volume 07 by Atsuko Asano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one is hard to review because there are some things that happen that are big and it would be wrong to spoil them. Rat and Shion are now deep into the facility and their progress has not gone unnoticed. They are forced to protect each other, taking the boys to their emotional/mental limits. Shion seems to be almost dual-personality here with one doing things the other doesn't even realize. It's an odd thing.

Dogskeeper and Rikiga are working on the outside and the Scientist in White is gaining more and more control over No 6 for whatever his neferious plans are. He is turning Safu into...something. We don't know what yet but I'm betting next volume isn't going to be an easy one once Shion, Rat and Safu are in the same place.

This one does take a little bit of suspension of disbelief that anyone could get this hurt and still go on. It was a bit more accurate when Rat was trying to keep Shion from protecting him. The pace is a bit slow in spite of the action but mostly because I want them to get to Safu already.

The art is lovely and there's a bonus story that's very cute and Shakespeare derived. I wasn't sure this was supposed to be future Earth but it obviously is. Looking forward to what comes next even though I'm pretty sure it won't be happy.

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#46: Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope’s Fort, Colorado, is not the only legacy she stands to inherit. Hidden behind the old basement door is a secret and magical storeroom, a place where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe until they are needed again. The magic of the storeroom prevents access to any who are not intended to use the items. But just because it has never been done does not mean it cannot be done.

And there are certainly those who will give anything to find a way in.

Evie must guard the storeroom against ancient and malicious forces, protecting the past and the future even as the present unravels around them. Old heroes and notorious villains alike will rise to fight on her side or to undermine her most desperate gambits. At stake is the fate of the world, and the prevention of nothing less than the apocalypse.

I picked this out of my to-read pile because I wanted a fast, fun read. It was fast and the setting was fascinating, but it didn't have the oomph I really wanted. There were a lot of really great elements that didn't feel fully developed to me. The setting was the biggest. It felt apocalyptic verging on more apocalyptic, but the facts were teased. I wanted to know more! A few perspective asides to another character didn't end up going anywhere.

The main character of Evie likewise didn't feel fully developed, nor did I feel she had chemistry with the character of Alex. The book didn't really need the romance.

What did work within the book? The fascinating background of Evie's family, the nature of her house, and the appearance of a few important mythological characters. Alex's back story was intriguing, too. I just wish that other elements had come together.
Eat your way around the world without leaving your home in this mouthwatering cultural history of 100 classic dishes.

Best Culinary Travel Book (U.K.), Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Finalist for the Fortnum & Mason Food Book Award

“When we eat, we travel.” So begins this irresistible tour of the cuisines of the world, revealing what people eat and why in forty cultures. What’s the origin of kimchi in Korea? Why do we associate Argentina with steak? Why do people in Marseille eat bouillabaisse? What spices make a dish taste North African versus North Indian? What is the story behind the curries of India? And how do you know whether to drink a wine from Bourdeaux or one from Burgundy?

Bubbling over with anecdotes, trivia, and lore—from the role of a priest in the genesis of Camembert to the Mayan origins of the word chocolate—The World on a Plate serves up a delicious mélange of recipes, history, and culinary wisdom to be savored by food lovers and armchair travelers alike.

I received an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley. I should add that this was not an ideal means of reading, either. The text was garbled, recipes difficult to read, and images were not in place. I imagine the finished book will be much prettier in all editions.

Holland took on a major endeavor: part cookbook, part history lesson, part travelogue in a survey of major foods from around the world. The end result is organized by continent and delves into 40 cuisines and 100 recipes.

As a history buff, I found the historical lead-ins for the recipes to be quite fascinating. It's food cultural geography. She explains the regional differences across Italy, and why: access to sea food, or ancient trade routes with spices, etc. Germany sees the divide with the east being more closely aligned to Russian-like tastes. Some of the bits feel like common sense--Portugal has a lot of coastline, so sure, they like seafood--but then there were places like Israel, which has expanded its recipe repertoire with the cuisines of many Jews who have returned in recent generations. I especially liked reading about foods that are foreign to me, such as those of Africa.

That said, I was not attracted to many of the actual recipes. The author often mentioned, "You can find this at a good grocery store!" and I kept thinking, "Well, you live in London, of course a diverse city of that size will carry such things!" I think that out of the 100 recipes, there are two I would really like to try.

I can imagine that it was difficult to choose recipes to represent such wide areas. I'm a native Californian, so I fully expected one dish to include avocado, as that's a signature California thing. But I was surprised it was in a kind of Asian-fusion salad that wasn't a traditional recipe like those used to represent other parts of the world... and then the second recipe for California was BBQ corn. Really? Why not something like tri-tip? I'm curious to how other people will respond to the choices for their representative recipes, too.

I think this book is ideal for a very experimental, try-everything kind of cook who lives in a metropolitan area with good international markets or for someone who can appreciate it for the history alone.

Book 56

YouYou by Charles Benoit

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Honestly I would rate this even lower but that might be unfair. When it comes to crafting a disaffected petulant teenaged brat, Benoit gets full marks. However, You is like running a cheese grater over your skin. Kyle, the titular You, is so damned unlikeable this was painful to read. He's every negative stereotype of the abovementioned teen brat distilled into one person.

The blurb was interesting which is why I picked it up but I loathe second person so that was the first strike. However, it is good to stretch yourself and the opening is intriguing. It sounds like an accident, a murder, something bloody has happened. The whole book is a retrospective on how Kyle got to this place which of course isn't all his fault (well truthfully it's not but most of it is).

So we spend the entire book listening to Kyle whine about how dumb adults are and how he knows how bad and unimportant school is etc etc. He's in the burn out group, the all-black wearing 'hoodies' clique. He wants Ashley but never has the guts to ask her out. He spends most of the book listening to how disappointed his parents are in him and him whining that he has to go to sucky public school while all his friends (whom he has shut out) went to the AP high school because he didn't bother to earn the grades necessary.

I found it impossible to like Kyle (To be honest I didn't like petulant teens when I was one and I have no patience with it now either). I almost set the book aside until Zack enters the picture. He's colorful. He's actually interesting. He seems like a potential ally. But he's something much darker, a manipulative sociopath. The end twist wasn't one I expected so there's that but I still didn't care. I was mostly glad it was over.

Maybe it's just me since this has rave reviews all over the place but for me, it did nothing.

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Book 55

The Necromancer&quot;s HouseThe Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first part of this novel would be rated lower if I could do that but part of that might have been my mood at the time (I set this aside for months to be honest) and part trying to get used to the one sentence paragraphs and a lot of talking head scenes. This is an omni point of view novel but mostly in the titular character's point of view. Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a necromancer and a recovering alcoholic. Prologue aside, it starts (and ends) with what he does at AA meetings. Andrew (no one calls him Andy) is 50ish but looks 30ish thanks to his magic or luminosity as it's called in the book. His main skills are using VHS tape (he hasn't figured out how to do it with DVD or streaming yet) to talk to the dead and to magic cars into some pretty amazing things. His house has so many layers of defenses it's not even funny.

Really, part one was slow. Once I got to part two, I read this in great gulps. Part one puts the players on the scene. Sarah, Andrew's lost love and only seen in his memories, Salvadore his automaton, and a lot of his friends, Chanco the former Mexican drug dealer turned auto mechanic, Anneke, a potential witch he's sponsoring through AA and mentoring as a mage, Nadia, the Rusalka who lives in his lake, Radha an internet mage and several others. Then there is Misha, the Russian mobster who Nadia has drowned in the lake and that's what sets this all off.

Things are rather complicated. Andrew is in love with Anneke and is there with her and her ailing fathr often (Dad thinks Andrew is gay, unsure if he realizes Anneke is a lesbian). He knows Nadia is a killer, sleeps with her anyhow in spite of the fishy smell (Anneke is unamused by this), doesn't realize she has killed someone important to Baba Yaga and if you don't know who that is check out Russian/Slavic folk lore. Baba Yaga is scary and she is in this. As we go on we learn that Andrew once was her captive and she hurt him. A lot. And thanks to Nadia killing Misha, Baba Yaga comes to town and realizes the one mage to escape her and stole from her is in town.

The rest of the novel is her attempt to kill Andrew and his determination not to be killed. Sounds very simple for a storyline that is very complicated. And dark. Not everyone is making it to the end, just saying. As for the end, without spoiling anything, let's just say I had some issues with it in what the ramifications could be.

While I'm thinking this is a stand alone book, there is potential for a sequel though what I'd like would be a prequel to learn more about him and Baba Yaga when she had him because sadly that is only touched on briefly and I wanted to know more.

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Book 3- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Pages: 400

"Taken from the poverty of her parents' home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle's absence in Antigua, the Crawford's arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen's first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound." (Taken from

I absolutely loved this novel. But I really enjoy reading Jane Austen, so maybe that is a bias. I recommend this book if you like to escape to a simpler time and don't mind a little scandal. I got really aggravated with Fanny Price from about the mid point on because she was very judge-y and holier than thou, but the other characters balanced her out during this time, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I want to say more but don't want to give the story away! (these are the times a book club would be nice)

books 16 through 51

I have come to accept that I am too far behind in logging my books and am not likely to ever go back and catch up, so I am just going to list them. If someone wants to know about a specific one, leave a comment. I will happy to write a blurb on an individual title if someone is interested.

16-38. Ranma 1/2 Volumes 14-36 by Rumiko Takahashi
39-42. The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross Volumes 8-11 by Arina Tanemura
43. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
44. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
45. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
46. I Knead My Mommy and Other Poems by Kittens by Francesco Marciuliano
47. Crash by J. G. Ballard
48. Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
49. Loveless Volume 12 by Yun Kouga
50. Skip Beat Volume 33 by Yoshiki Nakamura
51. The Wilderness of Grief Finding Your Way by Alan d. Wolfelt
Boas, Teit, Hill-Tout, Barbeau, Swanton, Jenness, the luminaries of field research in British Columbia, are discussed here in A Guide to B.C. Indian Myth and Legend, and their work in Indian folklore evaluated. Other scholars, amateurs and Native informants of the past and present are given ample consideration, making this book a comprehensive survey of myth collecting in B.C. The aim is to reveal the true extent of this neglected body of world literature, and to begin to sort out the more valuable texts from those damaged in transmission. A Guide to B.C. Indian Myth and Legend is a valuable reference tool for beginning or advanced students of anthropology, and an absorbing look at the research process itself.

The description of this is plenty straightforward, but I still bought it with the hopes of more actual mythology. Instead, the heavy emphasis is on the ethnologists (mostly white men) who ventured into British Columbia and the larger Pacific Northwest to collect tales from native tribes. I won't say this book was useless for my purposes, though, because it was very thought-provoking and includes a huge bibliography of texts, and perhaps more importantly, which ones are most authentic.

This is judged by a series of questions (page 191). "What is the process of transmission? How did the story get on the printed page? Are there field notes that might reveal how scrupulous the ethnologist was in his procedures? How well did he know the language?" Etc.

I know that in my reading, I have encountered many tales that seem... dry or child-like in simplicity. Now I understand why, and it makes me sad that these poorer renditions are the ones that are often re-published. I had no idea what the conditions were like for these original researchers. They traveled the wilderness on very tight deadlines. They might visit a village and talk to whoever was there, whether or not they were a storyteller. Some tales were recorded as if they represented an entire tribe while there might be significant differences between families. Others ignore the provenance of the story, such as "this tribe's story is just like this tribe's, which shows common roots and socialization" while the truth might be that the grandfather was briefly enslaved by the other tribe as a child and the story has been passed through the family ever since. Context means a great deal.

I'll be keeping this book on my shelf as a reference as I seek out more mythologies, and the enlightened perspective will stay with me as I read across cultures.

Book 54

Until Death Do Us Part Omnibus (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 3: Includes Vol. 5 & 6 (Until Death Do Us Part Omnibus, #3)Until Death Do Us Part Omnibus (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 3: Includes Vol. 5 & 6 by Hiroshi Takashige

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to say that with the exception of a few panels where I think Double S turned over the art to someone else, the art in this is fantastic. That said the story is becoming one that isn't quite as engaging as it was in volume one. I think that's because I don't have much patience for endless battle scenes which is what this is turning into. I get that Haruka is wanted by various bad people who want her for her ability to predict possible futures but a steady diet of nothing but fight scenes to keep her safe is going to get boring quick, at least for me.

For instance this being an omnibus containing 16 chapters, the first 8 were all Mamoru and Haruka on the run and fighting with the assassin Fang while Sierra and Igawa run interference. The last 8 chapters were what the crime boss Turus does next, offer up 100 million to take out Mamoru so we have nothing but criminals chasing him down and Mamoru's weird plan to deal with them. In fact the more interesting things had nothing to do with Mamoru and his mighty sword (take that as you will).

Mild spoilers from here on in.

The one thing that annoyed me a bit was that Sierra got captured but to be fair there are only two warriors and it stands to reason Fang wasn't going to mess around with Mamoru. Sierra ends up shot and strapped to the grill like a deer. Mamoru does rescue her and it does make for a good mental torture because Haruka has quickly become attached to her. Igawa is useless in this sort of thing. He is tech guy only. The other portion of the story is Detective Genda protecting Haruka's grandmother and getting more and more involved in all of this.

Once Fang is dealt with and Turus calls in ALL the guns across the world with his insane bounties on Mamoru and Haruka, the Wall step back in and send in a replacement for Sierra who is hospitalized. Like Sierra she's got hello, look at ME boobs (always good for undercover work). Juilet's work is as a spy (apparently the James Bond come screw me school of spying from the looks of her) and she spends most of her on screen time running down Sierra irritating everyone and doing nothing of note yet.

Mamoru's big plan to handle this bounty is to lure them all into a park to minimize innocent bystanders getting hurt unlike Fang's in-town attack with drones. (so yes for this whole thing you have to use your suspension of disbelief that a blind man using high tech glasses to 'see' can do what Mamoru does but for this story idea it works). Igawa isn't particularly impressed but Alfa (I swear this has to be a mistranslation by Yen. Surely they mean Alpha) has come back to Japan to watch for the really big guns and that was the interesting thing.

Wiseman, a professor slash assassin made for an interesting character especially in his interaction with Alfa, far more interesting than Mamoru beating up a shit-ton of bad guys again. And it ends with Genda coming face to face with Mamoru as he's been helping out. And that's about the one thing that will make me get the next volume just to see if it starts balancing story with action. Since issue one it's been hinted that Genda knows who Mamoru is and he too fights with a baton that could be a sword if he wanted to use one. I want to know how they know each other and I still want to know what happened to Mamoru since his face is terribly scarred and I assume that cost him his sight. So I guess I'll check out one more omnibus.

And I must say the cover on this is absolutely gorgeous and slick too with Haruka reflected in Mamoru's glasses.

There is one more thing that bugged me though, Haruka's insistence (and young girl trying to act all adult for an older guy) that Mamoru will be her future husband bugs me. Yes, it's fairly normal for young girls to crush hard on older men but since they're all living together, it's a littler creepy. To be fair, Mamoru and Igawa find it a little creepy too since he has to be at least 10-15 years older than her. When he's 40 and she's 28 it will be less creepy but she's in middle school...

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May. 10th, 2015

I'm listing that I read two D&D rulebooks over the last few days because, heck, I read 'em. What can I say? I'm planning on using these new rulebooks to run a game that's been in abeyance for the last couple of years, and I think I got stale with the old ruleset. Anyway, I've finished D&D 5th Edition Players Handbook and D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual. Later this month I expect to finish another one, too.

Are they good? I wouldn't recommend them to anyone not interested in participating in roleplaying games, but I found them reasonably intriguing given their specialized nature.

Books 14-17

14. The Romanov Sisters, by Helen Rappaport. This was a really interesting read on the last tsar and his family. This one concentrates on the four sisters (obviously, given the title): Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Rappaport fleshes out the four girls, outlining their different personalities, through their letters, their diaries and through the recordings of others. The portrayal of the family is sympathetic (some may say even too sympathetic). I come to the conclusion that one would be hard-pressed to find an unluckier royal family. From mother Alexandra being German and having her own considerable health issues, to having four daughters in a country salivating for a son (and a side note- all five of her children were huge babies- the smallest was 8 pounds, the largest, Alexei, was 11-something; this makes me wonder if undiagnosed gestational diabetes, followed by full-blown undiagnosed diabetes, contributed to her ailments), then the constant criticism about the hands-on way Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra raised their children, and of course there's Alexei having hemophilia. The four daughters were described by those who knew them as very kind, unaffected and more like ordinary, middle class children than those of royals. I come away with the impression that the Romanov family would have been happier as lesser nobles or even middle class rather than being made in charge of a country in desperate need of a strong and forceful leader. I was especially surprised by Alexandra's portrayal. In what I've read and the movies I've seen, she was always painted as cold and indifferent to the suffering of the poor. Nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, Alexandra, Olga and Tatiana were all active as nurses during World War I. Tatiana especially shone in this capacity. Her distance was a result of cultural differences, her health issues, and trying to cope with Alexei's health issues. The conclusion of the book goes into what happened to the family's loyal servants and the children's tutors. All in all, a great read for history buffs.

15. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. This has been on my "want to read" list for some time. It's a quick read, and thoroughly enjoyable. Tan's book weaves the stories of four mothers who came to the United States from China, and four of their daughters who were brought up in the United States. The story centers somewhat on Jing-Mei Woo, whose mother recently passed away. Jing-Mei has been invited by her mother's longtime friends to be the fourth player in their regular mahjong group, which they call the Joy Luck Club. During the first meeting, Jing-Mei finds out more about her mother, whom she felt she never understood well, as well as the other women in the group. The stories run the gamut of emotions, from funny and sweet to heartbreakingly sad.

16. The Black Book and Schwambrania, by Lev Kassil. This was...OK. The story centers on the protagonist, Lev, as a young boy. He and his younger brother Oska create an imaginary world to escape their humdrum world and indulge in adventures and their idealism. They call their world Schwambrania. They draw maps, make their own codes of conduct and a fictional cast of characters. Their imaginary world changes somewhat as they grow up and as the conflicts of World War I and the Revolution encroach on their quiet life. This story has some interesting ideas and wonderful moments. I especially love the younger brother Oska, whose precocious and inquisitive nature leads to the funniest moments (I had to stop reading for a few moments after reading the scene between Oska and the priest I was laughing so hard). However, I feel this book was trying to be something like Doll Bones or Bridge to Terabithia, but it falls horribly short. A big problem is the book is *very* choppy. The Schwambrania scenes felt like an afterthought half the time. The translation is a bit rough in spots, but I've read worse. I would love for someone to take this and redo it. Also, it needs trimmed; yes, several of the 483 pages are illustrations but it still dragged in places.

17. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Another book that's been on my "want to read" list for some time. This is a fun adventure tale, one I think I would have enjoyed as a kid. It's also nice to finally see some of the pirate references. The story's main protagonist, young Jim Hawkins, helps his parents (later just his mother) run an inn and tavern. Their lives change with the appearance of an eccentric sailor. When he dies, Hawkins finds a map to pirate treasure, which sends him and other notable citizens on the Hispaniola. Hawkins finds out by chance that several of the crew on the Hispaniola are planning to mutiny, so they can commandeer all of the treasure. The mutinous group is lead by Long John Silver, one of the more intriguing and ambiguous villains in literature. Hawkins is a borderline Gary Stu and you have to ignore some of the plot points where your credulity gets a bit of a workout. But treat it as what it is meant to be- an adventure yarn- and it's enjoyable.

Currently reading: The Laramie Project, by Moises Kaufman, and The Diary of Anne Frank

Books #21-22

Book #21 was "The Snow Queen" by Joan Vinge. I'd read this book and the rest of Vinge's books set in this universe back in my 20s and really enjoyed them. My husband and I pick a book to read out loud to one another a few times every year, and this was our latest read. At over 500 pages and only reading 5-6 chapters a week, it took us many months to get through. I think that made the book feel slow-paced but would have felt less so if I'd read it in a shorter timeframe. On a world called Tiamat, two cousins who are also lovers, Moon and Sparks, get caught up in the machinations of their world's Snow Queen Arienrhod. Arienrhod comes from the "Winter" clan and rules for 100 years before the season changes, the off-worlders leave, taking their technology with them, and the Summer clan elects its Summer queen for the next 100 years. The queen and some of her nobility and the off-worlders have access to life-prolonging technology, but during the Summer reign, technology is traditionally shunned. Arienrhod plots to keep Winter in power and to help her world advance technologicallym partly out of self-interest but also because she wants to get out from under the thumb of the multi-world government called the Hegemony, The book is loosely based on the plot of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name, and it's kind of fun to see which plot points and characters match up between the two. I recommend this book highly, especially for folks who are looking for complicated and strong female characters in their sci-fi.

Book #22 was "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" by Sherman Alexie. I've read some of Alexie's other work (Short story collection "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and the novel "Indian Killer") and enjoyed it, and I'd heard good things about this book, which is his first foray into YA. The book is "semi-autobiographical," and you can tell he uses bits from his real life in his fiction often since I recongized some characters and relationships from "Lone Ranger" and even "Indian Killer" popping up again in this one. I should mention that the book is not a graphic novel but it does have illustrations by Ellen Forney which are fabulous and contribute a lot to the story, since the main character, Arnold Spirit, is an aspiring cartoonist/artist. The book is told from the viewpoint of a young Spokane Indian who wants to get off the reservation and make something of himself, despite the poverty, alcohol abuse and other challenges that surround him. He is ostracized by Indians and not quite accepted by the white kids at his new school, so the book is very much about Arnold finding his place in life, I can see why it gets challenged and people have tried to ban it from school librariees, because Arnold talks frankly about getting erections, masturbating, alcoholism, bulimia, racism and a lot of other controversial topics. I laughed out loud in places and cried in others. It's a very funny and very moving book and I highly recommend it.

The other books I"ve read so far this year:Collapse )
Cats first purred their way into human hearts thousands of years ago, and have been our treasured companions and soul mates ever since. Whether impish kittens, regal adult cats or serene seniors, it's impossible for us to remain indifferent to them--especially at 4 A.M. when the food bowl runs dry! So smile at their many "c'attitudes," and feed your feline passion by "purr-using" wonderful stories like these: A Russian blue comforts his mourning owner by faithfully bringing her flowers. An heroic red tabby Manx saves the family he loves from a lethal gas leak in their home. A Devon rex with extraordinary talents--including playing the piano--expands people's notions of what a cat can do. A fish-loving shorthair nearly loses his head while scavenging in the garbage disposal--but lives to meow about it. A three-legged kitty befriends a lonely third-grade girl, transforming her world and inspiring her future success in life.

From playful and hilarious accounts of life with cats to heartwarming tales of cat courage, healing and learning, each touching story in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul celebrates the special bond we share with our cats.

There's not much more to say about this than the description imparts, other than to be sure and have tissues on hand. If you are familiar with this series of books, you know what you're going to get: heart-warming stories that verge on the sentimental, and that's fine with me. I was particularly touched by the stories about cats and humans who helped each other grieve mutual feline and human companions. It's also interesting to hear about cats' names and how they were bestowed, such as the Siamese cat named Etcetera because of "The King and I."

This entry is out of order because the two previous books in reading sequence are book club selections that we haven't discussed yet, and I want to take advantage of the opportunity to include any relevant points that might come out of that. Meanwhile, I'm close to finishing Book 14 which will bring me closer to my necessary pace for the year. I have a busy weekend planned, but I hope to get some reading done during the quiet intervals.

Book 53


Book 1(?!?!): Foe, J.M. Coetzee

Hello folks! I'm getting a late start to this challenge, but I think this will be a really helpful motivator for me. The thing I'm challenging myself to do is to write reviews up of the books, so that I have a more substantial record of what I've been reading. Also, as someone who's going to eventually be designing quite a few syllabuses, it'll be super helpful to have reviews, summaries, and first thoughts written down that I can refer back to.

Foe is J.M. Coetzee's retelling of two Daniel Defoe novels, Robinson Crusoe and Roxana: A Fortunate Mistress. The story is told from the perspective of the "Roxana" character, Susan Barton, who arrives on the island with Friday and Cruso (in this novel, Coetzee drops the "e"). Much of the novel is told in the form of quotations from Susan's manuscripts and letters as she struggles with what it would mean to turn her story into a book. Throughout the novel, she is also haunted by Friday and his unwillingness or inability to communicate his story to her.

I really enjoyed this book - it's a nuanced & complex look at how speech and storytelling relate to systems of power & marginalization. It's not an easy text, but that's not too surprising since one of the central themes is about how to come into contact with the unverifiable. Also, for me, I appreciate this difficulty - since the book itself is beautifully written, the complexity and confusion that comes with reading it keeps you from being lulled into complacency. It's a great book, I think, for writers to read or for anyone interested in the relationship between language and power, and certainly gives you a lot to think about.

Cross-posted to my journal.


For Book Review No. 8, C. Vivian Stringer's Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph.  What is going to happen when there are no opportunities for kids from hard-scrabble backgrounds to shine?  Add Coach Stringer to the ranks of successful sports coaches from Appalachia, and think of all the mid-twentieth-century greats in economics out of industrial cities (frequently from the Jewish neighborhoods therein).  Mrs Stringer wrote this memoir shortly after the 2007 basketball tournament, in which her Rutgers team made it to the final game, only to be beaten by Tennessee (another coach from a hard-scrabble background, another team that was within an ace of being knocked out) and mocked by a radio host for reasons unrelated to basketball.

It was the getting there, though, that gives the memoir structure.  That team lost a lot of games early in the season.  "Now, talent will get you through at the high school level.  You can carry too much weight, or have slow feet, or a weak left side, and your natural gifts will sustain you.  Frankly, just being tall in high school can be enough."  (Page 246.)  Get to the next level, where everyone is really talented, it's not.  "Their minds were weak, and their bodies were making them cowards."  (Page 247.) Fatigue makes cowards of us all.  That's something Mrs Stringer might have learned young, and in music.  Her father, Buddy Stoner, was a pretty good musician, and his daughter learned something about improvisation, but confessed to not seeing the point of running through scales.  She got beaten out for a musical performance, however, by someone else whose sight-reading skills might have been augmented by those hours of arpeggios.

And thus a formula for getting previously weak teams deep into the tournament, with teams from three different universities (Cheyney State, Iowa, Rutgers) into the title game.  It's not in any fancy X-and-O plays, it's in the proper passing technique, proper footwork, proper stance.

Or, as generations of long-suffering graduate students heard from me whenever they challenged me for being picky, take care of the o-rings and the space shuttle will take care of itself.  The generalization, dear reader, to your field of endeavor or to your ambition or to your passion, is straightforward.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book 44: A God in Every Stone.
Author: Kamila Shamsie, 2014.
Genre: Period Fiction. War. India. Colonialism. Literary.
Other Details: ebook. 320 pages and Unabridged Audio. (9 hrs, 42 mins) Read by Joan Walker.

Summer, 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is in an ancient land, about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year-old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army. Summer, 1915. Viv has been separated from the man she loves; Qayyum has lost an eye at Ypres. They meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one that will reveal itself fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artefact and a mysterious woman will bring them together again. - synopsis from UK publisher;s website.

I found this a beautifully written novel with a number of layers including history, colonialism, war, and a touching romance.

One member of our reading group did say she found it hard to put down in the final sections. When I got to that part of the novel I realised what she meant as the tragic events in Peshawar unfold and impact on the lives of various characters.

At present this is my early favourite for the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction as I felt it ticked all the boxes that I look for in a winning novel for a prestigious literary award. It was elegant and lyrical in its style and dealt with universal themes and social issues that still reverberate down the years.

I had loved her earlier novel Burnt Shadows and I now want to read her other works. I was so taken with the novel that I elected to also obtain its audio edition and both listen as well as read it. While this slowed my reading it allowed me to savour the experience.

Book 9 - The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last - inexorably - into evil.

The narrator, Richard, is a young man from a dysfunctional family in an ordinary lower-class town in California. He tries to fit in with a clique of snobby rich kids and their very quirky professor, and things don't go well. His friends drink to excess and have little concept how "real people" live, and Richard gets sucked into a hair-raising murder plot. This is not a spoiler, as he mentions this turn of events in the prologue. Instead of "who did it," the story explores why and how the crime was committed and more significantly the lasting effects the crime has on those who committed it. From the latter point of view, it was an intriguing story; however, on balance I didn't especially care for the book, even though it appears on several of the "must read" lists I've consulted to build part of my TBR list.

While it's well written and has a good structure, I found the pacing to be uneven and the timelines elusive. More importantly, I barely liked Richard and couldn't stand any of his "friends." They're all poor little rich kids who do horrible things and use twisted logic to justify their behavior. I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading certain sections.

This is also an entry on the "literary road map" I've been working through over the last several months. It's the selection for Vermont, and it seems to evoke the essence of the place fairly well, though I have only been there in person for a few nights many years ago.

I'm somewhat behind in my reading goals and even more behind with my posts. Home computer issues, a crazy boss, and the long-awaited arrival of spring are to blame. I do have a plan for catching up on both accounts, so we'll see how that goes.
Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina's soul, but Catarina doesn't want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen's hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven's frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina's wrath isn't so easy to escape!

I'm ashamed to say I've owned this since it was a new release and I only just got to it. I have to-read books that are older yet. The good news is that books, unlike fruit, so not spoil, and this was a fantastic read. I blazed through in days. Frohock created a unique setting of Woerld, a kind of border realm between Earth and Hell, where gifted youngsters are pulled to act as guardians. This is by no means your average YA portal fantasy, though. The protagonist is Lucian, an older man broken and abused by his twin sister Catarina. It's rare to find heroes of faith, and Lucian is a bright speck in a dark, gritty world. His plight is utterly heartbreaking as he rebels against his sister, saves a newcomer to Woerld, and begins domino cascade that could shift the spiritual dynamics of their plane. It's intense and fantastic, and I'm excited to read even more of the author's work!

Book 52

Drug and Drop Volume 1Drug and Drop Volume 1 by CLAMP

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say this first, yes this is the first volume but technically it's the fourth. If you have not read Legal Drug 1-3 you will be completely lost and probably won't enjoy this much. The back blurb says it picks up right where Legal Drug left off and that is true. However it was a full decade between the end of Legal Drug and the publication of Drug and Drop. While I believe the ladies of CLAMP may have had the storyline hashed out back then when the publication issues arose but I doubt they had it drawn.

Why do I say that? Because the art is better now, more refined. There is less of the 1990s Gumby body thing going on. The faces are sharper, more clean and pretty. Kazahaya is definitely even more femme than he was a decade ago in looks. A weird aside: Kazahaya is drawn blond most of the time but in a few of the black and white shots he's shaded a bit darker and in the colored shot he has brown hair.

CLAMP does something that does annoy me: guest spots. Some people love that but if it gets too much it drives me away. Rikuo and Kazahaya get a new job working for none other than Kimihiro Watanuki. For fans of Xxxholic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle this is good news. I didn't mind him being here for this but I was never a huge fan of either of those things. I wouldn't want him around constantly because then I'd feel like I need to reread those to get what's going on and that annoys me.

That aside, their new mission seems simple enough take a box to a house because Watanuki cannot leave the shop (see what I mean? I don't know why that is because I never finished Xxxholic and now I'm annoyed as to why he can't leave). Of course nothing is ever that simple and they encounter a strange spirit or should I say Rikuo does because Kazahaya's powers often leave him in a faint and this time he is down for the count and pretty much taken over by this spirit.

However we learn more about Rikuo in this and what he is searching for, Tsukiko, the mystery woman. And the arc is the entirely volume more or less which feels more robust than the short episodes. Kazahaya will be changed by the end of it a little and Rikuo goes off on his own to do more searching. Unfortunately someone is searching fo Kazahaya and she seems pretty unbalanced which could make for interesting drama later.

There was less of the shonen-ei flirting in this and a little less of Kazahaya being annoyed with Rikuo. I hope to see that continue. Don't get me wrong. I want them to be a couple but I want it to move beyond that adolescent nonsense (okay they're only 18 but still). I was happy with this in spite of the decade long wait. I hope this time they'll get to see the story out to its conclusion.

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May. 5th, 2015

I ran out of time yesterday or I would have posted this. I continue to read at a fair clip. Since my last reading post, I've finished three books.

First was perhaps more a short story than a book; I purchased it from Barnes & Noble and downloaded it to my Nook, and it's a tale by Harry Turtledove called Shtetl Days. The Nazis won their wars, and wiped out the Jews (along with the Gypsies and others), but they opened a tourist spot in which reinactors play the part of Jews living in a small Polish town, with pogroms and everything. The story is from the viewpoint of a man playing the tinker, and has something of a surprising ending...

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #64: Napoleon's Cuirassiers and Carabiniers, an older Osprey. The plates aren't nearly as interesting as later books had, though the text is pretty good.

Finally, Osprey New Vanguard #185: LAV-25: The Marine Corps' Light Armored Vehicle. Not particularly interesting, I'm afraid...neither the vehicle itself or the text. Maybe I'm too tank-centric. Or ship-centric.

Book 51

The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient WorldThe Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World by Vicki León

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun little book on the sex lives of the Ancient Greeks and Romans (occasionally there is some info on the Egyptians but mostly it's just Greco-Roman). Like many books in this style it tries to be quippy and fun and above all brief. You're not going to get any long, in-depth look at any one thing here but rather a shallow view of things.

It isn't particularly well footnoted and the bibliography is a bit sketchy in places if that matters to you. What I really wished she hadn't done was include mythological people like Orpheus.

However what was nice was that it does shed a light on the cultures of that time especially what little freedoms a housewife would have had vs a high level heterae (sort of a top tier courtesan) and it didn't shy away from the homosexuality/bisexuality of some important people like Phillip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. So for a writer this would be a nice entry level research place for things often ignored in the history books.

View all my reviews

Book 50

Legal Drug, Volume 3 (Legal Drug, #3)Legal Drug, Volume 3 by CLAMP

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We finally got a long arc but too bad it was your typical yaoi/shonen-ei all boy school let's put the protagonist in drag trope. It's been done so many times and even the supernatural parts of this, which were downright weird, didn't quite help this one. It all amounts to two boys who couldn't manage to talk to one another and needed extreme measures to make it happen for reasons that are never clear.

Also it seems to exist mostly to have Kazahaya be clueless about everything and anything remotely sexual and especially homosexual even though that's clearly where this character is moving towards.

The two redeeming parts of this is we get a tiny bit of Kazahaya's past where he was obviously extremely isolated somewhere with his...sister(?) in what seemed to be a close, possibly incestuous, relationship. They didn't even go to school which is one of the reasons Kazahaya is so flipping naive. That has potential. And the other is the two short scenes that weren't part of the volume-long boy school arc: Rikuo bringing Kazahaya home and Kakei knowing this would happen. They have been waiting for these two boys (he and Saiga) and that this is why he even opened Green Drug store.

And unfortunately this is where the story languished for over a decade. The cancellation had nothing to do (as some reviewers speculated) with this last arc but rather problems with the publisher and here in America TokyoPop went out of business. The story is now back with the title Drug and Drop and that's why I reread these now.

View all my reviews
Book 42: The Girl on the Train.
Author: Paula Hawkins, 2015.
Genre: Thriller. Mystery.
Other Details: ebook. 325 pages.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. - synopsis from publisher's website.

I heard about this novel from some of our local librarians when they claimed it was the current 'it book' in the UK with a long waiting list for library copies. I wanted a thriller that would keep me on the edge of my seat for the recent 24-hour read-a-thon and this seemed to fit the bill.

The synopsis provided above is very much a teaser and the plot took many interesting twists that certainly kept me guessing and proved a book that I could not put down. There were elements of Rachel's personality and behaviour that frustrated me though to avoid spoilers I will not say more as it is for readers to discover for themselves.

Book 43: The Hangman;s Song (Inspector McLean #3) .
Author: James Oswald, 2014.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural. Occult Themes.
Other Details: Paperback. 485 pages.

The body of a man is founding hanging in an empty house. To the Edinburgh police force this appears to be a simple suicide case. Days later another body is found. The body is hanging from an identical rope and the noose has been tied using the same knot. Then a third body is found. As McLean digs deeper he descends into a world where the lines of reality are blurred and that the most irrational answers become the only explanations. - synopsis from UK publisher;s website.

This third book in the series picks up the themes of Books 1and 2. Due to this I realised that I had forgotten a fair few details and so revisited Book 2, The Book of Souls, to refresh my memory.

While certainly an engaging crime thriller/police procedural I did not find it quite as strong as the first two novels. Part of that was actually due to the constant issues that McLean has with his fellow officers. It does seem a toxic environment for him.

The novel came to a fairly satisfying conclusion wrapping up a loose trilogy. I have committed to the next book already and look forward to seeing how Oswald takes the various subtle occult themes forward or if now he has found success and rounded out the story begun in Book 1, if he will write a more mundane focused police procedural.



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