Log in

Welcome new members!

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

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

Happy reading!

Books 12 and 13

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

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

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


Book 33

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews

Book #15: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Number of pages: 451

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

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

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

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

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

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

42, 43, 44

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

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

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

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

More later!

Books #11-12

Book #11 was "Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga" by Pamela Newkirk. Many people, like me, vaguely know that humans from exotic lands have been exhibited at World Fairs and even at zoos, but don't really know the details. This nonfiction book follows the story of Ota Benga, a Congolese man of small stature, called "pygmies" at that time, who was either kidnapped or convinced to come to America, where he was exhibited first at the World Fair and later in the monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo. A white minister and a group of black clergymen were outraged by it and petitioned for releasing him. Ota Benga bounced around from home to home in America but always pined to go back to his home. Pamela Newkirk does a magnificent job of researching the various claims about Benga (yes, he had sharpened teeth, but no, he wasn't a cannibal) and his history (did he come with explorer Samuel Verner willingly, or was he coerced?). She puts his exhibition in context by exploring the backgrounds of the men who put him on display and the tradition of bringing back sample humans from exotic lands to put on display in the U.S. She also debunks claims by apologists for the Bronx Zoo that he wasn't really "on display" but was there to care for the monkeys and orangutan. My only little quibble with her writing is that she frequently says "Verner preposterously claimed" or "Vernor made the unlikely claim that..." instead of trusting the reader will figure out what a disreputable character he is and how little his (often contradictory) claims should be trusted. Overall, a great, if sad, read.

Book #12 was "Between the World and Me" by Ta-nehisi Coates, a National Book Award winner. My husband read this as a paper book and recommended it to me. I listened to it as an audiobook as read by the author and was blown away by it consistently. It is a very brief (only 3 discs on audibook) book written in the form of a letter to Coates' teenage son, looking back on what it means to be black in America and talking about his hopes and fears for his son. This is so powerful. Just read it.

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

Book 30

White Fire (Pendergast, #13)White Fire by Douglas Preston

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this one and up until the end it was a 4 star read so I put it at 3.5 stars. I usually love the Pendergast novels but this one had some issues, at least for me. Partly because Pendergast was a secondary character in his own series, which I would have been okay with IF the major character had been interesting. Corrie should have been interesting. She’s one of Pendergast’s broken wing rescues, going to John Jay and looking to win a coveted (and expensive) award for an original thesis. Corrie came from a broken home with an alcoholic parent so your typical underdog and a in theory, a strong female character.

Too bad it’s only in theory. Corrie is paranoid about Pendergast being given credit for her thesis – the grizzly bear related death of miners back in the 1800s in Colorado at what has become a ski resort playground for the uber-wealthy. She resents him spending money to help her (which I guess we’re to assume she’s finding it condescending and/or misogynistic but Corrie’s not deep enough for that sort of exploration). And she does stupid thing after stupid thing (even acknowledging it’s stupid when she does it). I’m not sure if I’m supposed to wave it off because she’s young (and admittedly the young do stupid things) but seriously it was hard to take her seriously as a cop/FBI wanna be or as a strong woman when she does one moronic thing after another (even if she was doing it to spit an overbearing male figure, then maybe that should have been clearer it was her motive) especially when she breaks the law a number of times, including landing in jail. She's whiney and like a cheese grater to the skin, definitely not one of the better or more interesting female characters these two authors have given us.

Once Corrie arrives and begins digging into it, she learns there is something darker than a grizzly bear killing and eating these miners (it isn’t hard to figure out what) and it a secret the town’s prominent family is willing to kill for.

What was cool about Corrie’s story was that it was linked to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde and in fact that’s half of Pendergast’s storyline in this. He’s investigating the lost Holmes story which was spawned by a conversation Doyle and Wilde had after Wilde had been in the mining town. His other storyline concerned the serial arsonist that’s burning down the wealthiest homes in town with their owners in them.

Honestly it was very readable. My problem with the ending is that it’s so manipulative and Corrie has to be so foolish to make it work, you have to do mental back bends to make it work given how we’re supposed to perceive this character. I wish I had liked this one better but still, this is one of my favorite series. I love Pendergast as a character (and having hints of Holmes in with him really made me happy).

View all my reviews


Books 1 - 10.

1. Charnas - Work Clean: The Life-Changing Power of Mise-En-Place To Organize Your Life, Work & Mind
Based on the arranging system of the cooking world, this books shows how to apply it to the non-cookery world, with good stories in between.

2. Nouwen - A Letter Of Consolation
On loss of a beloved person, with hope and support given.

3. Kaufman & Kristoff - Illuminae
4. Kaufman & Kristoff - Gemina
Action-packed, fun, stories connected with each other. Good YA scifi appealing even to older people. Third part coming later this year.

5. Griswold (transl.) - I Am The Beggar Of The World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan
Women's poetry being created under constant threat against it, with nice photographs and explaining notes included.

6. Basho - The Complete Haiku
To be read slowly to avoid numbness *lol* Thorough work with explanations and other stuff after. Over 1000 haikus.

7. Nixon - Everyday Happy Herbivore (Finnish translation)
Simple yet tasteful recipes.

8. Corey - Leviathan Wakes
A very good start of the series, with a good flow to it.

9. Venning - The Sinfulness Of Sin
If you're used to the Puritan style of writing, this delivers well and is not all doom and gloom, to be honest :)

10. MacPherson - The Black Box: Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-Flight Accidents
For those not too scared of flying. Not all the cases end with death. There's so many ways for things to go wrong, and not always found until the inevitable happens. Luckily we can learn to make things safer, learning from the crashes.

Book 29

A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak, #1)A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first Kate Shugak mystery but not the first I’ve read which in a way is a good thing. I know this won an Edgar award but it wasn’t all that interesting. I bought this from the author years ago when she was at a library talk then moved and found it in a box only recently so I’ve read many of Ms. Stabenow’s works since buying this (so if you didn’t find this one to your taste, try another). I had the feeling in this (having forgotten this was #1 and didn’t realize it until I logged in to do this review) that I dropped into the series mid-way. In a way that’s true because we’re seeing Kate at the end of her first career working with the police and before she starts as a consultant.

Kate, an Aleut, had left Anchorage after a domestic violence job had gone wrong, leaving her with a cut throat, ruining her voice. Her off and on lover, Jack (a Fed and a Caucasian) asks for a huge favor, to find two missing men in the wilderness around which she grew up. One is a young park ranger, very gung-ho and possessed of a wealthy statesman father, and the FBI agent sent to find him.

Kate doesn’t agree right away but as she digs into this, she comes into conflict with her grandmother, a powerful elder of the tribe, with her young cousin who wants Kate to help her escape life with their people so she can go to the greener, better educated pastures Anchorage represents to her, with the White miners that want to abuse the park and well just about everyone, including a family member who might be behind the disappearances.

As always with a mystery with Native characters, there is an unrelenting hot light shone on the conflicts between the Native peoples and the non-Native outsiders used usually as a reason for the crime (or at least a red herring) and/or the mistrust with law enforcement for the obvious reasons and there is definitely that here.

There is quite a bit of narrative distance between the reader and Kate in this. She comes across as very cold and not really someone I wanted to know better. I wasn’t particularly happy with how this one wrapped up either. It’s a short, decent mystery but definitely not the best in the Kate Shugak series.

View all my reviews


Book 11- A Shoot in Cleveland

11. A Shoot in Cleveland, by Les Roberts. I thought I had read all of the Milan Jakovich novels to date, but I recently discovered I missed a couple. Finishing this one starts my remedy of that. The fact that I can include it for my Book Riot challenge- for a novel set within 100 miles of where I live- is icing on the cake.This book follows The Cleveland Local, which has an ending that was life-altering for Milan. Milan is still trying to find his bearings when he is asked to take on what looks to be a fairly easy job: make sure a young star doesn't get into too much trouble when the movie he is headlining in works at various locations in the Cleveland area. Naturally this winds up being harder than Milan bargains for, and the young star, Darren Anderson, winds up dead. The dialogue, as always, is fantastic. It's comical watching Milan, who does not suffer fools and is not easily intimidated, try to put up with the Hollywood glitterati. Another thing about this novel (this series has a lot of continuity; I strongly suggest reading them in order) is that the reader really sees Milan's typically black and white view of things get shaken, particularly where Victor Gaimari, the nephew and heir apparent of the local mob, is concerned. I see in this installment a lot of the beginnings of Milan's subtle changes later on.

Currently reading: Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.


Book 28

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson, #11)Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won a copy of the audio book from a Goodreads giveaway but that in no way influenced my review. I wavered between a 3 and 4 star rating through the book but went with 3 because of the absolutely horrible ending. There is a problem I’ve had with this series from the beginning (other than Charley on more than one occasion is downright dumb, even points it out herself), is Ms Jones doesn’t seem to have heard of the adage ‘less is more.’ Charley’s snark is literally non-stop so it encroaches on buffoonery and wears you out. We’re treated to how drop dead gorgeous Reyes is so many times in such purple prose I actually checked to see if she wrote romances too. I was going to start a drinking again every time she told us how hot Reyes is but I’d probably have to have my stomach pumped. Not to mention one or two sex scenes is hot, as many as this had is just story-stopping boredom. So yeah if any one or two of these things had been lightened up this would have been more enjoyable. I’ll stretch that to include how many times we go over how she doesn’t get her new powers, how she threatened Jehovah about taking over the world, about how important Osh is to Beep and how bad ass Eidolon is. We get it. Seriously.

The main thrust of this story is Charley has been approached by the Foster’s adoptive son (the same Fosters who had kidnapped Reyes and gave him over to a monster to raise him when he was a baby). This son is a Nephilim and wants a) to know his family and b) to stop the Fosters because not only are they kidnapping special kids for their strange religious cult, they are killing them. Reyes wants Charley to have nothing to do with this case, refusing to explain his request and for that matter Ubie, her police detective uncle, also wants her to stay home but won’t tell her why (so yeah both are doing this in the most infuriating misogynistic patronizing way possible, including leaving Charley trapped in the ceiling beams by taking away her ladder).

On top of all of this Charley is dealing with not having her baby with her and with her new-found status as a god. In fact, this part overshadows the mystery of the Fosters. And oh, Ms. Jones also shoehorn a completely different plot line for Charley’s niece about mid-way through, grinding all the other plot lines to a halt. The balance in this book is off and that above mentioned less is more could have really helped. I didn’t need to hear for the thousandth time about her godhood. This could have been trimmed down to keep all the plot lines cleaner.

I know this sounds like I didn’t enjoy this that much but that isn’t true. I did enjoy it for the most part but it could have been better, a lot better, with just a but of trimming. I was so bore with the sex scenes because there were so many of them and I have to say hearing them as an audiobook was far more annoying than reading them. I would have just skipped them if I had been reading. I usually only have time to listen to audiobooks in the car (not something I like to do as I find it distracting) so I didn’t want to try to skip them there.

Now the ending. It’s a cliffhanger. I loathe them but that’s not why the ending cost my rating a star. It’s just how freaking stupid both Charley and Reyes are in it. I hate it when the heroes have to do something moronic in order to advance the plot, especially when you’re trying to portray them as competent bad-asses. They have this god-glass which is a portal to a hell dimension that a medieval priest trapped dozens of souls back in the 1400s. So think about that for a moment. For over 600 years those people are trapped in that thing and instead of doing research or doing anything intelligent like that, those two decide they have to fix it now with predictable stupid results. It was so eye rolling bad I’m not sure I’ll bother looking at the next book to find out what happens.

I will admit I have never been in love with this series and I’m sure people who are will love this book too. It’s entertaining. I would love to see a side story with Osh. Also, the narrator was excellent so if you like audiobooks, this one is very well done (though I will admit the 40$ price tag on the box of the one I was sent shocked me. I didn’t realize they were that much more than the book. Yes, I do realize that there are people to pay for producing it but man, that took me by surprise).

View all my reviews

Just Wondering

Has there been a time when you were pleased you have been sacked from something? If so, what and why?

What's your favourite way to wind down at the end of a stressful day (or even just a regular day)? Why is this activity relaxing for you?

#39, 40, 41

A few more days, a few more books...

The first one that I finished this last week was Osprey Raid #47: Behind Soviet Lines: Hitler's Brandenburgers Capture the Maikop Oilfields 1942, a military adventure that smacks of Hollywood. Not that they held it long...

Next was then Osprey Raid #48: Storming Monte La Difensa: The First Special Service Force at the Winter Line, Italy 1943 in which a combined US and Canadian force is used to bull their way through German defenses rather than being used behind German lines to disrupt their communications. Brave men whose work and training led to the many special service forces that world powers use now.

Finally, Osprey Vanguard #26: The Sherman Tank in US and Allied Service, not the best tank of WWII, nor the most numerous, but it was the mainstay of US armor of the war. This was a fairly well-written book on the subject.

Book 27

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought this was a reread for me from way back when in my late h.s./early college days. After reading it, I either entirely forgot it (and trust me this is a very forgettable book) or this is one of the things I skimmed so I would have something to talk about with the rest of the geeks. Looking at other GR reviews, they say the rest of the Dark Tower series gets better and to power on past book one.

I’d say it would have to get better because this is one of the most boring Stephen King books I have ever read. It was actually a handful of novellas with characters that don’t pick up a hint of nuance until half way in. It also made me wonder what was going on in King’s life back in the late 60s and 70s (since he mentioned it took twelve years to get this published and it was done in 78) because this is one of the most misogynistic thing I’ve ever read by him. There aren’t many women in it and the three predominate ones are all sexually aggressive, manipulative betrayers. Seriously they exist only to trade sex for information (two of them) and to be the catalyst of betrayal of the titular Gunslinger (his mother).

The first two novellas have the gunslinger chasing the man in black across an unrelenting desert which seems otherworldly but has aspects of Earth (especially religion and music) in it. We’re not sure why the gunslinger is chasing the man in black other than he wants to kill him (we’re not sure why). Then the man in black (somewhat magical) puts a young boy (who is from another dimension) in the gunslinger’s path, hoping to tug on what remains of the gunslinger’s heart strings.

As the man in black runs and the gunslinger (and Jake) follow, we do learn more about the gunslinger’s life and what brought him to this point and of the mysterious Dark tower their path is taking them toward.

But honestly, I didn’t care. It wasn’t that interesting to me at all. I didn’t like the characters, the world or their goals. That made me a bit sad as I know how important the Dark Tower series is in King’s oeuvre and I wanted to like it. I didn’t and it certainly didn’t make me want to read on.

View all my reviews


Books #9-10

Book #9 was "Foulsham," the 2nd book in the Iremonger trilogy by Edward Carey. The series is set in an alternate Victorian-era London, where the Iremongers are a family that lives in "The Heaps," a walled off part of the city that is home to London's trash, and all have "birth objects" that come from the heaps. In the first book, an Iremonger named Clod has the special power of hearing objects speak. With the help of servant girl Lucy Pennant, they find out that things are not what they seem and the Iremonger family has been up to no good. In the second book, Clod and Lucy have been transformed into objects and ejected from Heap House into Foulsham, the city in the Heaps that Heap House recruits servants and other workers from. Their quest in the second book is to to transform back into humans and help protect the community from being overwhelmed by the Heaps that are threatening to break through the walls. Clod also knows he needs to be brave and stop his family from turning the poor people of the Heaps into objects that can easily be disposed of. This one ends on a cliff-hanger just like the first book. They're quirky and fun, and Carey's black and white illustrations really add to the creepy but fun atmosphere of the books. I'm looking foward to reading the conclusion soon.

Book #10 was "The Secret Place" by Tana French, as an audiobook. I love this series by French, The Dublin Murder Squad novels. The first book starts with Rob Ryan as the protagonist, and in each book afterward, a minor character in the previous book becomes the main character in the present book. She breaks the chain somewhat by bringing back two characters from an earlier book in Dublin Murder Squad #5. She also breaks with her tradition of having one first-person narrator. The chapters in "The Secret Place" alternate between a first-person narrative from Stephen Moran with a series of third-person flashbacks told from the viewpoint of the girls at an all-girls boarding school who are under suspicion of knowing more than they're telling about the death of a boy named Chris Harper from a nearby all-boys school. Stephen Moran is in Cold Cases but wants to break into the murder squad. He knows that when Holly Mackey brings him a postcard saying "I know who killed Chris Harper" that this is his chance to get a foot in the door with the Murder Squad. He approaches Antoinette Conway about partnering on the investigation. Most of the story takes place during one very long day of interviewing subjects at the school. I thought this was another really masterfully-told tale by Tana French. For instance, there's a betrayal that takes place both in the present and in the flashback scenes, and they happen back-to-back. It's a brilliant bit of plotting. One thing I didn't necessarily care for was that she introduced some possibly paranormal elements into the story, though it's never proved one way or the other whether there's a logical explanation for the phenomenon. It didn't bother me too much, because I saw it as a metaphor rather than taking it literally. I am looking forward to getting a hold of the next book in the series.

The other books I've read so far this year:Collapse )
10. Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess Book 1: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew
by Jeremy Whitley, author, and Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt, illustrations. I'm going to count this one as my all-ages comic for the Book Riot challenge; in a pinch, it could be used for a superhero story with a female lead (although we'd really be stretching the definition of superhero here). I get the impression from my background reading that this is a followup series to another graphic novel series, but ah well, this first installment stands well on its own. The story centers on Raven, whose father, the Pirate King, has been grooming her to one day take over the family business. However, due to the scheming of her two brothers, Raven gets cut out of the family business. She escapes captivity and sets about finding a pirate crew to staff her ship so she can seek vengeance on her conniving brothers. Raven winds up finding an eager crew of smart, tough and brave young women. I like this first installment. The story and the characters are a lot of fun. What's more, there aren't a lot of stories where all the main characters are female, particularly a story like this which has a more adult, sophisticated tone (there's nothing objectionable for younger readers, though, save for some blood). The dialogue is sharp and often quite funny. It was a bit jarring to have a sort of Pirates of the Caribbean-type world setting, with dashes of modern references (friend-zoned for example), and the bulk of the women are involved in a role-playing type game that feels like something you would see today. Still, since this is purely fantasy, it doesn't bother me too much. What's more important is the story, and how the author and illustrators have crafted the narrative and their characters. I love how each character has such a different background, ethnicity, race and skill set. This series has promise, might have to check out the rest of it.

Currently reading: A Shoot in Cleveland, by Les Roberts
(I thought I'd read all the Milan Jacovich stories but upon review I realized I somehow missed a couple)

#36, 37, 38

A few more books this week:

First was Osprey Fortress #54: Forts of the American Frontier 1820 – 91: The Southern Plains and Southwest, what amounts to the fort of the old Westerns. Interesting.

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #59: The Sudan Campaigns 1881 – 1898, an older book with lesser quality plates, it goes into the history of what happened at the end of the 19th Century in the Sudan.

Then the last book of the week was Osprey New Vanguard #28: Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936 - 45, a book that details what a friend describes as the best German tank of the war.

On to the next week.
9. Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas. This book, an autobiography, fulfills the category for reading a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. Arenas grew up in Cuba, but was (barely) able to immigrate to the United States in 1980 as part of the Mariel Boatlift. Arenas lived in Miami for a short time before moving to New York.
He was an early supporter of Fidel Castro's revolution, but quickly became disenchanted with the Communist movement. It was heartbreaking to read about how he believed that one day Fidel Castro would be overthrown (Arenas died in 1990 at age 47 of an intentional overdose, three years after being diagnosed with AIDS.) Arenas describes, with raw honesty, his joining the Revolution, his growing realizations of how much worse things were becoming, his time in jail and his constant surveillance even after being released. He relates the grinding poverty, the hunger and the constant fear and persecution he and those around him experienced. It's astounding he was able to leave the country at all. He probably would have died in prison had it not been for the friendships he made with people in other countries, and the fact that his books had been published in France. It was fascinating to read how he was able to keep his writings hidden, and how he was able to smuggle a good deal of his work out of the country. It's an eye-opening account of life in Cuba under Castro's regime, and the stories Arenas tells are chilling.
One warning about this book: It's explicit. I mean, really explicit. Even at a young age (we're talking single digits here), Arenas had sexual exploits. To say Arenas was promiscuous would be an understatement. It's what he grew up with; the activities he engaged in at what most would consider an appallingly young age (not to mention just plain appalling) were the norm where he grew up. This realization was the only thing that kept me reading the book, otherwise I would have stopped early on. As it was, this one was a struggle to get through at times; it's borderline pornographic. At one point, Arenas said he probably had more than a thousand lovers, and I have no trouble believing that. I get the impression he didn't know the names of all of them, either. Yikes. I admit I would have trouble recommending this book due to this; it's a good read for those wanting to find out more about Cuba, from someone who saw and experienced the worst of what the Castro regime had to offer. But it's definitely not for the easily offended, and I think even those who consider themselves open-minded are going to struggle with some aspects of the explicit content.

Book 9 - 2016

Book 9: The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

On New Years’ Day 2016, I flew from New York to San Francisco for the last leg of my most recent trip to the US (less than a 100 days to the next one). On the inflight entertainment was a movie I had wanted to see at the cinemas but had never got to – ‘The Martian’. I was travelling with my Mum, Dad and sister and we all got off the plane and went ‘Oh my God, how good was that movie?’. So needless to say, I went home and immediately ordered the book. I find film adaptations are either nowhere near as good as the book, or great but not necessarily true to the book. This book managed to be the rare combination of both a great film and try to the book. The film follows the story quite closely except for where it would have unnecessarily extended the film. Both versions capture the really beautiful humanity of the story – the idea that, if necessary, humanity, all of humanity irrespective of nationality etc, would work together to save one man because it was the right thing to do. Weir keeps the science mostly understandable, and he never makes Watney’s sarcasm and almost infallible optimism feel fake or forced. The story is an intriguing one, and the supporting cast are very real, their dialogue, interactions and personalities. Weir is one of the few writers who in reading I could hear similarities to my own style and I think that endeared me to the story even more. Overall, a great read, a great story, and I look forward to Weir’s future material.

9 / 50 books. 18% done!

2123 / 15000 pages. 14% done!

Currently reading:
-        Wrath of Aphrodite by Bess T. Chappas – 207 pages
-        My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages
-        Reengineering the University: How to be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious by William F. Massy – 280 pages

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
-        Griffith Review 51: Fixing the System edited by Julianne Schultz and Anne Tiernan – 326 pages

Book 24

The Gilded ScarabThe Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m always on the prowl for good steampunk (having read plenty of stuff that just didn’t capture me) and The Gilded Scarab really fit the bill. I almost stopped reading early on, not because it was bad, far from it. I had become too close to the main pov character, aeronaught Rafe Lancester who has just been forced to muster our of the military because of a job-ending injury and man, I’ve been there (It’s how I lost my surgical career) and I have trouble reading books with that plot. I had no trouble picking up on Rafe’s sense of loss, of anger of what the hell do I do with my life now. Butler does a great job with this.

What Rafe doesn’t want is to be tied to tightly to his House. There is an oligarchy going on here with the Houses with a great deal of Machiavellian twists and turns. Rafe just wants clear and clean of them but realizes that might be impossible given the size of his pension. He’s interested in pursuing his civilian pilot’s license once he fully heals.

Rafe eases back into life hanging out at a coffee shop with an old man he takes a shine to and attending a high end molly house where he meets Ned on his first night there. Brief but intense, they have the one night and soon afterward Rafe hooks up with Daniel, Aegyptologist, who turns out to be clingy and jealous. But Ned returns with secret of his own, dangerous secrets.

I loved all the characters. Rafe and Ned are wonderful as is the host of secondary characters. Will and his wife are great as are Hawkins and Mr. Pearse, the coffee shop owner. You’ll probably want to punch Rafe’s family in their collective faces. The one thing that surprised me a bit, bemused really, was what Rafe settled on for his new career. It felt slightly out of step with the beginning (or maybe my expectations were skewed especially since it’s in the blurb….which I apparently had forgotten by the time I read this). But he did take to it well and it worked. The world building is excellent. It’s a fun alternative universe. Rafe’s voice is great, funny and snarky without being unduly mean. I know there is more of this coming so I’m excited to read that too!

Number of pages: 360

This book certainly felt very experimental for one good reason.

It is written from the point of view of inanimate objects; each chapter is told by a different object that features in the scene, as though it were a sentient being, telling the story in the first person, and sometimes in the second person, addressing the character in the story directly. So, one chapter will be told by a bag of fertiliser, and another will be told by a mirror.

Sometimes the novels spells out what object is narrating, and in others you have figure out from the verbal clues given in the narrative.

This sounds like, and is, a bizarre premise, although the overall plot is much more simple. The story is set during the conflict in the Middle East, with a few separate storylines running through the novel, that don't really touch upon each other.

First off, there is the story of a soldier named Tom (as we learn about a third of the way through the book) who has been injured in battle, and who ends up with both his legs being amputated. The story tells mainly of how Tom copes with the drastic change in his life and the effect being disabled has on him.

There is another story involving two friends who grew up in the war zone; one of the friends has a father who is aiding the British troops, while the other friend is a jihadi. This plot has quite a shocking twist towards the end, which I won't give away here.

Overall, this is quite a straightforward story, with a plot that moves forward quite slowly; I enjoyed reading about the characters, although there were only a few named ones, and many nameless ones who it wasn't easy to care about much, although that might have been the intention. I noticed that most of the characters were referred to by squadron numbers rather than names by the objects telling the stories.

I thought this book was reasonably enjoyable, though I didn't really get the gimmick of telling it through the eyes of inanimate objects; maybe there was some point, but if there was, I missed it.

Next book: Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

February 2017 reading

February 2017 reading:

3. Mercy Blade, by Faith Hunter (305 pages)
When a tribe of African Were-cats comes out to the world, it seems to change overnight. Leo decided to parlay with them, but there are complications--he hates werewolves, the feeling is mutual, and they're gunning for the vamps. And Jane has unwillingly found herself in the middle of it, with a new player who calls himself Girrard but is a supernatural of a variety Jane had never encountered, and one who calls her "goddess-born." She's also trepidatious about meeting the were-cats--how will they react to her. Really interesting and seems to end with hints at the next book.

4. Unknown, by Rachel Caine (305 pages)
Cass has become aware that the nuclear option of wiping out humanity might become the only option to stop Pearl from destroying everything, and it horrifies her. She and Luis struggle to find children with Warden powers who have gone missing and realize Pearl is raising an army, and that it's a distraction. Through it all, Cass questions her identity as djinn and fears the djinn persona locked deep in her person. She's been cut off by the djinn, even for help, and the Wardens are in bad shape. Can this be won? Will she have to destroy herself in the process? Really action-packed.

5. The Bone Collection: Four Novellas, by Kathy Reichs (388 pages)
Looks like Brennan had bad common sense back in the day, given "First Bones." I've lost count of how many times she's put herself in dangerous situations; how many books/stories are there? In any case, I liked the decision to have "First Bones" in present tense. I think that was an interesting literary decision given the past tense of the other pieces.

6. Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs (308 pages)
Charles' role as the Marrok's enforcer has left him close to breaking, leaving Anna a bit frantic. It takes a lot to convince Bran, but eventually Adam calls with an idea: Anna can serve as a liaison to the FBI on a serial killer case, one which has left three weres dead, and Charles will accompany her as protection. Little do they realize, this is more than just missing wolves--it's a serial killer who has spent decades hunting fae as well.

7. Home Improvement: Undead Edition, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (340 pages)
An interesting set of urban fantasy short stories involving home improvement projects. I was familiar with three of the writers and was generally impressed with most of the others.

8. Westward Weird, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie L. Hughes (320 pages)
Great selection of urban fantasy stories in a Wild West sort of setting. I need to look into some of these writers.

9. Raven Cursed, by Faith Hunter (353 pages)
Jane has been sent to provide security for a vampire parley, but it seems there's more to it than she thought, and it all comes back to a plot for revenge and the Blood Stone. Really good.

10. Dead Heat, by Patricia Briggs (324 pages)
Charles decides to buy Anna a horse, something that takes them to Arizona. When a fae attack against the werewolf family they're staying with requires Charles initiate a Change, it soon becomes clear that there is ugliness afoot--one that involves a fae who likes to steal children.

February pages: 2,643

Pages to date: 3,096

Progress: 10/52

February 2017 comics/manga reading:

1. Library Wars, Love and War: Volume 5, by Kiiro Yumi (200 pages)
2. Lumberjanes: Volume 1, by Noelle Stevenson et al (128 pages)
3. What Did You Eat Yesterday?: Volume 6, by Fumi Yoshinaga (172 pages)
4. Case Closed: Volume 62, by Gosho Aoyama (192 pages)
5. Lady Killer: Volume 1, by Joelle Jones (138 pages)

February pages: 830

Pages to date: 830

Progress: 5/150

Book 23

Misery Loves Maggody (Arly Hanks, #11)Misery Loves Maggody by Joan Hess

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think that when your see a tons of reviews on the cover saying how funny something is it sets you up, maybe unfairly. This was literally the most unfunny thing I’ve ever read that was meant to BE funny. At best, Arly Hanks, chief of Maggody, is mean spirited bordering on cruel. Granted I haven’t read much of this series so maybe it would have helped if I knew the characters better but as it was, there isn’t a jack one of them I want to know better. I found them all dim witted and misogynistic except maybe Arly herself.

Arly’s mother Ruby Bee and her friend, Estelle (not that you could tell they were friends in this, that’s how mean they were to each other), go on a cut-rate tour following Elvis’s footsteps. While they’re gone, Arly is busy with a fundamentalist Christian preacher who thinks Satanists are breaking in and using his church (and wants nothing to do with a woman who dares to have a job) and is called on to run interference between two Buchanons as the new mom seems to have postpartum depression. By the way neither of these two things have a damn thing to do with the main crime. Again maybe I would have cared if I knew the players better but as it was, it was a major distraction from the main plot.

Speaking of which, the main plot resolves around Ruby Bee and Estelle on the world’s worst Elvis tour and takes nearly 100 pages to show up. One of the people on their tour seems to suicide off a hotel balcony but the local sheriff, Sanderson, believes it was murder and he thinks it was Jim Bob, Maggody’s mayor who was at the hotel-casino to meet his mistress who was on the tour. In the mean time, Ruby Bee falls seriously ill and is hospitalized bringing Arly into the picture. As much as she doesn’t like Jim Bob, Arly doesn’t believe he could be a murderer and even when she’s attacked for something in her mother’s room, Japonica, the deputy, won’t even believe her in spite knowing Arly’s a police officer.

Everyone seems very incompetent from the villains to the police. In fact, they’re at the level of bad at their job I expect in a cozy where the amateur has to step in and take over because of the incompetence. Between the alternating points of view (Arly’s in first, everyone else in third) dealing with aspects of the story not relating to the crime, characters I don’t care about and a wisp thin plot, I only gave this a second star in deference to it’s a long running series with people who found some merit in it. I did not.

View all my reviews




Latest Month

April 2017



RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow