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Happy reading!
Book 23: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) .
Author: Diana Gabaldon, 1992.
Genre: Historical Romance. Period Fiction. Time Travel.
Other Details: ebook. 976 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (39 hrs, 28 mns). Read by Davina Porter.

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to the majesty of Scotland's mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones, about a love that transcends the boundaries of time, and about James Fraser, a warrior whose gallantry once drew the young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful daughter as Claire's spellbinding journey continues in the intrigue-ridden court of Charles Edward Stuart, in a race to thwart a doomed uprising, and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

The first book ended at a pivotal moment for Claire and Jamie in the 18th century and this second book in the series opens in 1968 with an older Claire who had clearly returned to her own time. This raised many questions that were addressed by the close of the novel though with plenty more to encourage me onward.

This is a clearly popular series and I enjoyed it very much and did it as a dual read/listen. Davina Porter did an excellent job of narration including the Scottish accents, which could have proved difficult to any but a gifted voice actor. I expect to continue the series.

Book 32

Chasing Sunrise (The Darkmore Saga, #1)Chasing Sunrise by Lex Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I received a complimentary copy in return for an honest review (which in no way influenced my review). Let me get this out of the way first: this is a dark story. If darkness isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll probably want to find a different story. However, if you’re like me and like your stories as dark as straight coffee then you’re in for a treat. The Darkmore series is well named. This story contains a very abusive and long-term relationship (I’d say that one of the main subplots is the protagonist escaping the mental cage he has lived his life inside) and it definitely has scenes of torture, not to mention humans are kept as ‘livestock’ and are eaten.

So yes, definitely not everyone’s cuppa, but the story is also very good and compelling. We’re dropped into Sevon and Jack’s lives when they are just children. Prince Sevon is only three (and Jack slightly older) when a hurricane levels his kingdom and changes his life forever. Jack ends up back in his home realm, with the shifters, locked out Sevon’s world (Think of it this way, the Aisa, Sevon’s vampire-like race, the shifters and the humans live in intersecting but separate realms). Sevon falls under Dominic’s control then and there.

The story fast forwards two decades and Sevon is king, a puppet king and people call him that to his pretty face. Everyone knows Dominic is the ruler and he does so with an iron hand. Dominic is a well-drawn villain you’ll love to hate. The best thing that can be said about him is that he does hold true to his convictions: the shifters are monsters deserving of death and humans are only fit to be eaten. Dominic has spent literally all of Sevon’s life controlling him mostly with sex and beatings until Sevon believes that he deserves the terrible things that happen to him.

Sevon is aware things aren’t well in his kingdom. He knows Dominic’s iron fist and the casual killing is wrong. He knows almost nothing has been repaired since the hurricane twenty years ago and Dominic has him convinced that invading the monstrous shifter lands is the key. To that end, they’ve made scouting incursions and this is how Jack comes back into Sevon’s life.

It’s hard to review certain stories without giving away too much plot and I definitely don’t want to do that. Let’s just say Jack knows who Sevon is (but not vice versa) though is a bit surprised by both the state of the kingdom and the fact that Sevon finds release for some of his anxiety in dressing as a woman (he’s not transgendered but he does like wearing dresses). Dominic knows exactly who Jack is and makes sure that Sevon has to be involved in torturing him for ‘information.’ Things do not go well with Jack or the newly returned Armigers, the female protectors of the king lead by Bianca (so yay for a group of strong women!) especially when they keep bringing up Sevon’s father, not realizing that Dominic has led Sevon to believe Louis betrayed the kingdom and ran off when there is a far darker fate for the former king.

Jack quickly becomes Sevon’s lifeline, especially where Sevon’s verkolai abilities are concerned (they’re special powers even among the Aisa) because Dominic is pushing Sevon too hard and might burn him out. Sevon is slow to trust however because of how Dominic has his head twisted around.

I’ll admit it, sometimes Sevon makes you want to slap some sense into him but I suppose getting slapped around is part of his problem. You have to sit back and remember that this is what abuse looks like. Sevon has been highly isolated, told his entire life Dominic and only Dominic loves him and has his best interests in mind. The beatings and time in the dungeon, the rough humiliating sex, all of it was to ‘train’ Sevon to be the best king he can be.

Sevon needs someone as patient, kind and understanding as Jack to save him and at its base that’s really what this novel is about. Can Sevon be saved? Is it too late for him to be a good king? Can he trust someone who might actually love him?

I really enjoyed the story and I’m looking forward to see what comes next. Sevon and his world are interesting and Jack is just wonderful (and I have to love Bianca and her women warriors, too).



March book club selection

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.


This book is very much in my wheelhouse, and it did not disappoint. It's a story about history, religion, and books ... with a bit of mystery and intrigue ... told by an Australian narrator. As she pursues each line of inquiry about the artifacts found in the Haggadah (and in one case, an item that appears to be missing from the book), we peel back the layers of the book's history and travels. It turns out she is learning her own back story in the process; this occasionally seemed unnecessary and intrusive, but the frequent shifts of venue prevented the story from getting bogged down in ruminations, and ultimately Hanna's back story provides an anchor and counterpoint to the Haggadah's story. Along the way she also comments on everything from Massachusetts drivers to Viennese architecture, but it's actually one of her colleagues who provides what to me is the central point of the story:

“...the book has survived the same human disaster over and over again. Think about it. You've got a society where people tolerate difference, like Spain in the Convivencia, and everything's humming along: creative, prosperous. Then somehow this fear, this hate, this need to demonize 'the other'--it just sort of rears up and smashes the whole society. Inquisition, Nazis, extremist Serb nationalists...same old, same old.”

This book first came to my attention during a visit to the local synagogue several months ago as part of a Bible study class and has popped up a few other places as a reference, so when someone suggested it as an emergency replacement for the March book club meeting (long story), I was eager to read it. Due to time constraints the only copy I could find was an audiobook, and consuming it this way in fact contributed to my enjoyment. The reader, Edwina Wren, employed the accents of the various characters with the ease of Meryl Streep. Meanwhile, her "normal" voice reminded me of a dear friend of mine who's a librarian in Adelaide -- not just her inflections but also the main character's deep affection and respect for books, which comes through in the reading.

This book gave me much food for thought. It's heartbreaking to think of how many works of art and literature have been lost and are still being lost due to war and intolerance. On a happier note, I also mused along with Hanna that the Haggadah was created in a land and time so distant from hers and that her home's very existence was unknown to the original creators of the book. (The author states it more eloquently than I can paraphrase.) It was also curious to me (yes, I'm a little behind with my posts) that I ended up finishing the book on Palm Sunday. This was a few days after our meeting, but I was far enough along that the spoiler factor was not strong, and there were still little gems and surprises unearthed in the process.


Number of pages: 350

Compliation of short stories, based on the TV show, The X-Files, with a mixture of serious dramas and more humourous stories; I noticed also that the stories took place in different parts of the timeline, with some set in modern times, others set in the early 1990s, parallel with the older seasons of the show.

The stories are as follows:

Dead Ringer, by Kelly Armstrong: Seems at first like a simple alien abduction story, but soon becomes something more sinister; really creepy stuff.

Drive Time, by Jon McGoran: A hard-core sci-fi story involving time travel that felt mainly tongue in cheek, and where I tried not to look to hard into the logic behind the story's denouement. It felt a bit like the plot from an episode of Rick and Morty or Futurama, but it was fun anyway.

Black Hole Son, by Kami Garcia: Effectively, a story about how Mulder's sister was abducted, from Mulder's point of view; I found this one to be quite compelling, and moving.

We Should Listen to Some Shostakovich, by Hank Phillipi Ryan: Set in 2017, this one felt like a typical shipper fanfic that could be found on several internet sites. At the start, Mulder and Scully are said to be married, and the story was not overtly paranormal, but there was a lot of numerology stuff that I was fascinated by. This was a decent enough story, but it's something that's unlikely to happen on the show soon, if it gets renewed for an eleventh season and beyond, and the show's tenth season has somewhat rendered it non-canon by the appearance of a recurring character that got killed off.

Mummiya, by Greg Cox: A story involving mummification, which took some unexpected twists.

Phase Shift, by Bev Vincent: A family are trapped in a house that has been somehow temporally displaced using some sort of forcefield. The science was bizarre, and the ending contained some unexpected (and pitch-black) humour.

Heart, by Kendare Blake: This one opens with a man getting a heart transplant, and then starting to behave strangely - it didn't seem that original, and I wasn't surprised at where it ended up going, but the different storytellng style, told from the point of view of a character other than Mulder and Scully, was refreshing.

Male Privelage, by Hank Schwaeble: Another one that felt like it was straight off the internet, this one felt unusually wacky as it veered into hardcore fantasy territory, involving curses and dragons. This was the only one I was nonplussed by, as the introduction of some sort of ancient ritual involving local boys and a dragon just felt too silly, and it didn't feel like an X-Files plot at all, but something off another show, like Doctor Who.

Pilot, by David Liss: A quirky, and mostly humourous story that reminded me of one of the stranger fanfictions I wrote when I was younger. This eventually involves Mulder and Scully discovering that in a parallel universe they are fictional characters on a TV show. It was a little strange, but I enjoyed the whole concept of Mulder and Scully watching episodes of their life being played out and warned not to "watch ahead". I wondered what I would do if that ever happened to me.

Rosetta, by David Sakmyster: A claustrophic story involving an isolated location, and lots of apparent mind games. It was a bit hard to explain what this one was really about, particularly with all the technical language, but the atmosphere was satisfyingly creepy. It seemed to be based on the same canon as Joe Harris' comic strips, as it featured characters that so far, only these have resurrected after their deaths in the show's ninth season.

Snowman, by Sarah Stegall: A story that possibly some of the fanboys and fangirls will not like, as it pairs Mulder with John Doggett from the show's eighth and ninth seasons while they search for the sasquatch. It had a similar feel to HP Lovecraft's "Into the Mountains of Madness", but had a couple of neat twists towards the end.

Voice of Experience, by Rachel Caine: An old flame of Mulder's apparently commits suicide; it doesn't feel supernatural at first, but leads to an X-Files case nothing like any on the show. I was interested that it featured Mulder and Scully meeting Assistant Director Skinner, although it was dated prior to his first appearance on the show.

XXX, by Glenn Greenberg: An oddly flippant take on "Scanners" that opens with a porn actor's head exploding, to which his co-stars remark, "Not again". It was slightly predictable, but did provide some good red herrings involving alien viruses.

Foundling, by Tim Waggoner: Opens with a harrowing scene involving a mother shooting her baby, the story then involves Mulder and Scully finding a baby abandoned in a mysterious, seemingly deserted, town, and having to look after it. My guess was that the writer wanted to imagine Mulder and Scully as parents.

When the Cows Come Home, by David Farland: Short story involving a rancher being attacked by cattle and crop circles. It seemed to take place during the time when Mulder was on an alien spaceship himself, but involves him and Scully anyway. A decent final story, and went in a direction I did not expect.

Overall then, with one exception, a good selection of stories that I'd recommend trying to any fan of The X-Files.

Next book: One Forever (Rory Shiner)

#37, 38

A book here, a book there. Closing in on 50 books so far for the year.

Anyway, first I finished Osprey Men-At-Arms #5: The Austro-Hungarian Army of the Napoleonic Wars; as it is pretty old for this series, the plates aren't up to the more modern standards though the text is fairly good. It gives an overview of this nation's forces during the difficult times of being on the same continent with Napoleon, the aggressive military genius. Austria generally came out second best in most of those contests.

The second "book" was a download of a short story by John Scalzi called After the Coup. It's set in the Old Man's War Universe and deals with a diplomatic mission to a race very alien to humans. Amusing.

Death Match by Lincoln Child

book 29: Death Match by Lincoln Child

This is mostly a when-technology-goes-wrong pulp fiction novel with elements of artifical intellegence ethics and murder mystery thrown in.  A psychologist is hired to investigate some apparent double-suicides among clients of a computerized match-making service.  The author, Lincoln Child, is part of the pair, Preston and Child, who write a favorite mystery/adventure series of mine, so I thought I would give some of his solo books a shot.  It's okay, overall.  Some of the plot devices and character actions seemed far-fetched to me, and I didn't really become engaged or attached with any of the characters.  But, it was entertaining enough to pass the time.    Not horrible, maybe average, but there are plenty of books out there to choose from which are better.

Become The Mental Boxer

Boxers have and still follow 12 carefully guarded strategies and philosophies that build success and championship wins but boxing and prizefighting is more mental than physical and like strengthening your body before a fight; you must mentally prepare as well. Many boxers spend weeks and sometimes months in seclusion leading up to a fight and if you are not a fan of the combat sports; you should still know that LIFE is your FIGHT!!! To win in life, you must transform your mind including the way you feel; the way you feel about yourself; you’re perception of life and your overall outlook. This is mental re-conditioning and if you are down and out, depressed, or despondent, you cannot win in life.
Take time out for yourself-spend time away if you have to and begin to know yourself-find out who you really are. Before you can do anything in life, you must define your strengths, weaknesses, and attributes. Learn to live with yourself first before you can live with others. The key to success begins with Round 1 of The Mental Boxer- before you begin mastering skills in whatever you doing; before you begin mastering techniques or even peak performance levels with your body; you must first have strong mind and there are many components to building a strong mind. Mental readiness involves mastering the art of Sacrifice, Detachment, and a desire to change-to transform your mind into a powerful & winning weapon. This is Round 1 of 12 Rounds to Life:Become The Mental Boxer available in paperback & ebook versions on Amazon. Visit us at thementalboxer.com. Check out our promo video-the mental boxer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdPiwV5iGAY and listen to the mental boxer podcast with host Jill Tinsford https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIECr2rbl3g

March 2016 reading

March 2016 reading:

5. The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, by Anand Giridharadas (336 pages)
My university recently chose this as the 2016-7 Freshman Reader. It outlines from multiple perspectives the murders, attempted murder, and aftermath of the acts of "Arab Slayer" Mark Stroman shortly after 9/11. It touches on poverty, the death penalty, morality, religion, race, outsourcing, drugs, criminal justice, and a variety of other themes. Definitely a deep and worthwhile read.

6. The Mortal Bone, by Marjorie M. Liu (304 pages)
A trap is sprung and abruptly the prison walls are coming down, demons flooding the world, and an old war is on the cusp of rekindling as the Boys are freed from Maxine's skin. Enjoyed this one.

March pages: 640

Pages to date: 1,797

Progress: 6/52


March 2016 comics/manga reading:

40. The Walking Dead: Volume 24, by Robert Kirkman (136 pages)
41. Arata The Legend: Volume 23, by Yuu Watase (200 pages)
42. The Unwritten: Volume 11, by Mike Carey (176 pages)
43. Bleach: Volume 65, by Tite Kubo (216 pages)
44. Black Widow: Volume 2, by Nathan Edmondson (160 pages)
45. Case Closed: Volume 56, by Gosho Aoyama (192 pages)
46. GTO: Volume 18, by Tohru Fujisawa (200 pages)
47. GTO: Volume 19, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
48. GTO: Volume 20, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
49. GTO: Volume 21, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
50. GTO: Volume 22, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
51. GTO: Volume 23, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
52. GTO: Volume 24, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
53. GTO: Volume 25, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
54. Naruto: Volume 32, by Masashi Kishimoto (184 pages)
55. Batman: Harley Quinn, by Paul Dini (200 pages)
56. Naruto: Volume 33, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
57. Naruto: Volume 34, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
58. Naruto: Volume 35, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
59. Naruto: Volume 36, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
60. Naruto: Volume 37, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
61. Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit, by Tony Bedard (144 pages)
62. Catwoman: Volume 2, by Judd Winick (144 pages)
63. Naruto: Volume 38, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
64. Naruto: Volume 39, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
65. Naruto: Volume 40, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
66. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 5, by Brian Michael Bendis (136 pages)
67. Scalped: Volume 10, by Jason Aaron (128 pages)
68. 100 Bullets: Volume 11, by Brian Azzarello (192 pages)
69. Crossed: Volume 8, by Simon Spurrier (192 pages)
70. Fables: Volume 22, by Bill Willingham (160 pages)
71. Star Trek Ongoing: Volume 10, by Mike Johnson (120 pages)
72. Naruto: Volume 41, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
73. Naruto: Volume 42, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
74. Naruto: Volume 43, by Masashi Kishimoto (242 pages)
75. Naruto: Volume 44, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
76. Naruto: Volume 45, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
77. Naruto: Volume 46, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
78. Naruto: Volume 47, by Masashi Kishimoto (200 pages)
79. Naruto: Volume 48, by Masashi Kishimoto (208 pages)
80. Naruto: Volume 49, by Masashi Kishimoto (200 pages)
81. Naruto: Volume 51, by Masashi Kishimoto (200 pages)

March pages: 7,650

Pages to date: 14,822

Progress: 81/200

Book 31

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one took me way longer than it should to get through. I love the Raven Cycle books but this one was so much....slower. It's not bad by any means but it honestly felt 100 pages too long. I felt like we were walking over the same ground time and again without going anywhere.

The island of Thisby is a hard place. The grass is poor. There isn't much work and in the fall the capaill uisce come to ground. (and I spent the entire book thinking of them by their Scottish name: each usige) They're dangerous waterhorses who feed on meat and blood. So naturally for no other reason than humans take idiot risks and have to dominate everything, the men of the island capture and race these horses every November. People die every time.

Into this mix we have two point of view characters: Kate "Puck" Connolly and Sean Kendrick. They have similar backgrounds. Puck is a middle child and an orphan. Sean is an only child, also orphan.Both have lost their families to the Capaill Uisce. Puck learns that her older brother Gabe is leaving the island for the mainland, leaving her and their OCD youngest brother, Finn behind. Her big plan is to enter the race and make him stay (how this was supposed to work I'm not sure). Sean has won four out of the last six races and what he wants more than anything is to win enough to buy Corr, the red capaill usice stallion from Sean's boss, Benjamin Malvern who owns the richest,biggest stables on the island.

And almost every chapter from beginning to the last two where the race actually happens are just variations on that theme.

Puck finds her first problem in the fact that no one will sell a capaill usice to her or even let her race for them so she decides to ride Dove, her pony. (It feels like the time period in this historical AU is about 1910 or so as women's sufferage is just getting under way). Sean can not convince Malvern to sell and worse Mutt Malvern, Benjamin's son and heir is a spoiled rich kid, resentful that Daddy favors Sean and is out to ruin him and doesn't care if Sean survives the attempt.

We learn in detail how much better the water horses are than a normal horse, so much so over so many chapters that I do not want Puck to win on Dove because it makes no sense that she could. I seriously want Dove to lose. Heck I wouldn't be surprised if she's eaten by the other competitors.

It feels like halfway through Stiefvater realizes that while Sean's motivations are solid, Puck's storyline is less so and adds in another motive, one that makes much more sense: she needs money to save the house from Malvern, the landlord. Also Sean comes up with ways a real horse might win out over a Capaill Uisce (it's not driven by the ocean so the rider wouldn't have to keep holding it back during the race to keep it from diving into the surf etc). It makes sense because you know Puck's going to win or at least place because why else write the story?

Character wise Puck and Sean are good, though I have a tad more sympathy for Sean (only because the tragic backstory young man is sort of my button). Puck is strong and intelligent and they're both likeable. Finn, too and I actually really liked George Holly, an American horse breeder over to see the races and buy stock (apparently you can breed in capaill uisce blood). Mutt makes for an excellent villain.

I didn't like Gabe much and it's because this is where the plot feels less well thought out and in 400 pages surely we could have taken a tiny detour from 'you can't race an island pony' to flesh out what Gabe's plans are. He's leaving. He's NOT taking his teenaged siblings. We only know he plans to send money because a friend says so, never Gabe. It puts me in mind of when my great grandmother came to America from Italy. She had no say in the matter (much like Puck and Finn). Her brother and husband came first and sent money back but Puck and Finn don't even have that expectation. I can't tell if Gabe assumes they'll just come with. He doesn't ask until the very end when Puck says she'll never leave and Finn has no thoughts on the matter I can see. One character's family puts my thoughts into words at a funeral (because like the blurb promises people die) 1. leaving is about the same as dying, probably because even getting letters across to the mainland is hard (my great grandmother never got any because well she couldn't read so when she left her siblings remaining behind might as well have been dead to her) and 2. If you race an island pony and win then what is the point of racing these water horses? It's just another race then.

I wasn't all that impressed with this one. It was good but nothing I'd want to revisit. Could be it's just not for me.



View all my reviews
Book 21:The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez (Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez #1).
Author: Ann Swinfen, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction. Adventure. Spy Thriller.
Other Details: ebook. 293 pages.

It is the year 1586. England is awash with traitors, plotting to assassinate the Queen and bring about a foreign invasion. The young physician Christoval Alvarez, a refugee from the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition, is coerced into becoming a code-breaker and agent in Sir Francis Walsingham’s secret service. In the race to thwart the plot, who will triumph – the ruthless conspirators or the equally ruthless State? - synopsis from author's website.

This proved a wonderful find. What I appreciated very much was the restraint with which the young protagonist is introduced to the intrigues of the times and how Christoval (Kit) is quite a reluctant spy. Walsingham comes across in a much more favourable light than in some fiction of the period. I was certainly eager for more and moved on to the next in the series.

Book 22:The Enterprise of England (Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez #2).
Author: Ann Swinfen, 2014.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Adventure. Spy Thriller.
Other Details: ebook. 308 pages.

Facing the threat of King Philip’s Enterprise of England – Spanish invasion and annexation of the country – Sir Francis Walsingham’s secret service spreads a network of agents across Europe. After caring for hundreds of maimed and wounded soldiers returning from the fall of Sluys, young physician and code-breaker Christoval Alvarez is sent on two dangerous missions to Amsterdam, where, amongst the friendly Hollanders, treason and treachery lurk. Christoval’s ship, sailing home, plays its part in the great sea battle in which the small and inexperienced English navy must confront the most powerful sea force in the world. - synopsis from author's website.

This series continues to impress as Kit is once more drawn into the service of Walsingham. Here the main issue is the attempted invasion by the Spanish. Kit's medical duties are also quite central to the story and the descriptions can be quite disturbing making me glad to be living today. An excellent series.

Book 19

Title: Asteroid Now
Author: Florian Freistetter
Pages: 236
Summay: Dass uns der Himmel auf den Kopf fällt, ist nicht nur ein Spleen unbesiegbarer Gallier, sondern eine berechtigte Sorge. Asteroiden stellen eine reelle Gefahr für unseren Planeten dar. Wenn wir als Spezies überleben wollen, brauchen wir intelligente Abwehrsysteme - und müssen eines Tages zu den Sternen aufbrechen. Wie das schon bald gehen wird, mit Weltraumliften, Sonnensegeln, Ionenantrieb und Generationsschiffen, das malt Florian Freistetter in so bunten Farben, dass man diese Zukunft kaum erwarten kann.

My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )

Book 30

Fated (Shadow Mountain #1)Fated by Indra Vaughn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this paranormal mystery and to be frank, that's the right genre for it (in case anyone was looking for a romance which is more usual for this publisher). Lieutenant Hart (first name a mystery not to be solved) is called back to Brightly, his home town, after the passing of his father, a professor. They've been estranged because Hart believes his father didn't approve of him becoming a detective.

Once there, he's presented with a mystery much like the one he had been investigating back home, a strange series of deaths with a mark left on the body (some real some faked), some deaths seem natural and others are obviously murder. He's met by Freddie, a local detective (who faces some resentment on the force because she's both female and of African descent). While he's supposed to be putting his father's affairs in order, Hart can't help but get involved.

And someone is ready to keep him from doing just that. He's nearly killed in a car bombing which brings him into close proximity of Dr. Tobias Darwin whom he met when he and Freddie look in on one victim who is still alive but in a coma. Hart is in more of a tailspin than he cares to admit because he soon finds himself doing things with Toby that he knows he shouldn't as the doctor could, in fact, be a suspect.

Worse, the killer could be the local cryptid, the Predator of Shadow Mountain. While neither Hart nor Freddie are ready to jump right on the Predator band wagon, they can't deny the unusual, almost supernatural aspects of the case. For instance, all the victims had some fatal illness but were cured miraculously sometime before they were killed.

To further complicate things, Hart is being pursued by Isaac, his young neighbor who is back home, watching Hart's fish. Isaac grew up next door to Hart but he's no longer a boy. He's in his twenties, though still probably a decade younger than Hart. Naturally he doesn't listen to Hart and does come to the funeral. What Isaac doesn't know is that Hart's father had a connection to the Predator. However someone does know about this connection and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

I'll wrap the review up because I don't want to ruin any of the surprises. The writing is very good. The mystery, both the traditional and supernatural aspects of it were both well done. In spite of how deeply flawed Hart is, he is a compelling character. I loved Freddie. Isaac and Toby were interesting too. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.

In a minor spoiler or two (that's your warning), I will say if you don't like multiple partners this might not be your cup of tea. Also while it wasn't stated outright anywhere, it's pretty obvious that Isaac is dying of something (though Hart is oblivious to it).



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#35, 36

No time to post, but a little time here and there to let me finish a couple more books this week.

First was The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension which is the novelization of the movie of the same name. The book touches on a number of things that were cut out of the film. The writing style is pompous; it's supposed to be written by Reno, one of Buckaroo's buddies. The book is mildly fun, but I much preferred the movie to it.

Next was Osprey Fortress #6: American Civil War Fortifications (1): Coastal Brick and Stone Forts, a topic of which I knew nothing. I guess it never occurred to me that the United States built these forts to defend against invaders from the sea...i.e. the British. There's a lot of detail here as often there is in the Osprey books. Not bad...

Book 18

Title: Ghost Story
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: part 13 of The Dresden Files, follows Changes
Pages: 578
Summary: [Spoilers for the previous books]When an unknown someone shoots him and leaves him to die, Harry Dresden hopes he might be heading to a better place. Unfortunately, being dead doesn’t make Harry’s life any easier.

Trapped between life and death, he learns that his friends are in serious trouble. Only by finding his murderer can he save his friends and move on — a feat which would be a lot easier if he had a body and access to his powers. Worse still are the malevolent shadows that roam Chicago, controlled by a dark entity that wants Harry to suffer even in death.

Now, the late Harry Dresden will have to pull off the ultimate trick without using any magic — or face an eternity as just another lost soul…


My thoughts:
SpoilersCollapse )


Number of pages: 120

This compilation from five comic books shows a very different style from Joe Harris' comic book stories, providing a good mixture of drama and light-hearted, occasionally flippant moments.

It opens with what appears to be a homage to the classic movie, Cat People, but turns into a story about how an ordinary man is tipping Mulder and Scully off based on advice from "Mr Zero", which is remarkably similar to "Mr. Xero", who sent similar messages to a housewife in 1946 (if you remember what famously happened in 1947, you won't be surprised at what Mr. Xero ends up predicting). However, there is one problem...

As Mulder tells Scully, Mr. Xero reportedly murdered the woman who was taking his messages, which doesn't look good for the modern-day character, "Mr. Spoon".

The storyline alternates between the present and a flashback that introduces a 1940s version of Mulder and Scully, who investigated the first X-Files. This graphic novel provides some good social commentary on gender roles in the 1940s, and also touches upon the backstory of one of the season one episodes, dealing with the "Manitou" (essentially the same as a werewolf), by featuring the original case referenced in the episode itself. I always love it when the comic books manage to provide these knowing references for the fans to spot. Also, Mr. Zero/Mr. Xero is a truly creepy villain, as evidenced by the artwork (notably when he gets angry).

Overall, I enjoyed this. There did seem to be a slight over-reliance on flashbacks, but the characterisation of Mulder and Scully was excellent, and the more flippant style, which reminded me of several episodes from the late 1990s, was definitely a welcome relief from the gritty tone to the Joe Harris stories, which I am also enjoying. From my understanding, Year Zero is also part of a continuing series that I would like to read more of.

Next book: The X-Files: The Truth is Out There, Edited by Jonathan Maberry
Summary:
On the eve of a new century, an up-and-coming Theodore Roosevelt set out to transform the U.S. into a major world power. The Spanish-American War would forever change America's standing in global affairs, and drive the young nation into its own imperial showdown in the Philippines.From Admiral George Dewey's legendary naval victory in Manila Bay to the Rough Riders' heroic charge up San Juan Hill, from Roosevelt's rise to the presidency to charges of U.S. military misconduct in the Philippines, Honor in the Dust brilliantly captures an era brimming with American optimism and confidence as the nation expanded its influence abroad.

This easy-to-read and intelligent nonfiction work focuses on the Spanish-American War with an emphasis on American behavior and abuses in the Philippines. I have read many books on Theodore Roosevelt, and while works on his early presidency mention the public relations disaster out of the Philippines, none went into detail. This one does. It's disturbing and thought-provoking.

Jones is a Pulitzer-Prize finalist journalist with years of firsthand experience in the Philippines. The events in his book took place over a hundred years ago but remain incredibly relevant today as the United States engages in war, holds prisoners, and confronts issues of confessions arising from torture. America entered the Philippines in 1898, boasting that it would save the benighted people from Spanish abuses... and within years, ended up doing many of the same things as the Spanish. The American takeover was fairly straightforward, but when the Americans allowed the Filipinos no representation (not even in the peace talks with Spain) and treated citizens as subhuman, a brutal guerilla war began. American soldiers and marines engaged in terrible acts, including "water cure" torture. War trials took place and the media and public were appalled by what happened, but the only soldier to really be punished was a whistleblower.

Roosevelt's role in everything was complicated, as he was a very complicated man. His pushed for an American empire abroad, one with high ideals, and his administration did whatever it could to cover up what really happened in the Far East. He didn't approve of brutal tactics but also excused what happened as part of war. At the same time, he was still a progressive who wanted to see American blacks treated as full citizens; he called out his critics who railed against him about actions in the Philippines, even as the United States dealt with horrible lynchings of blacks across the South.

I found this to be a fantastic book for my research, and one I think more people should read. It's part of American history that is almost entirely ignored due to its shameful nature, and as a country, we should face what happened and actively seek to do better.

Book #14: Watership Down by Richard Adams



Number of pages: 478

I absolutely loved this book and the movie based on it when I was a kid; I just couldn't get enough of this, and I absolutely loved the characters (mostly Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig and Kehaar the seagull).

It starts off as a story about rabbits escaping from their warren to escape an impending disaster that Fiver sees in a vision, and turns into a story of rabbit politics as the rabbits realise that they have no does (females), and so won't be able to mate.

The story has some very light-hearted and cheerful moments, but becomes very dark and shocking at times, particularly in a flashback sequence where the destruction of the warren by humans is recounted by one of the survivors (although the book never manages to be quite as dark as the movie).

I loved the fact that the book described rabbits having human-like systems in their warrens, which are mostly run by a chief rabbit and a band of "Owsla" (similar to security guards). The book also portrays warrens run in different ways, with two warrens that show different extremes. Cowslip's Warren, shown early on in the book, almost feels like a communist state or a hippy commune, with rabbits treating each other as equals, while being provided for by humans; but of course it harbours a dark secret, which I won't give away here. On the other hand, Efrafa is an oppressive warren run by the dictatorial General Woundwort, where rabbits are not allowed to escape due to the strict security regulations.

I like the fact that the rabbits are given their own (fictional) language, which is used occasionally and their own systems for how they behave throughout the book, and I got the sense that Richard Adams had researched rabbit behaviour considerably, as well as the geography of the area in South-West England where the action takes place, allowing him to give detailed descriptions of many of the locations.

The rabbits are even given their own belief system, with the first rabbit, El-ahrair-rah, given an almost Jesus-like image. He features in the rabbits' story of creation, told early on in the book, and four futher adventures that could come from the tales of Brer Rabbit (or even Robin Hood). Most of these are quite light in tone, with the exception of the story in part three that tells of El-ahrair-rah meeting the Black Rabbit of Inle (basically, the rabbit grim reaper), to bargain for the lives of his rabbits. It occurred to me on this read-through that Richard Adams seems to have placed these stories deliberately adjacent to events in the main narrative that almost echo El-hrair-rah's adventures.

Overall, this is a really good book. Although the narrative does occasionally go off on tangents where rabbit behaviour is discussed, and Richard Adams occasionally starts talking about classical mythology, I loved the characterisation of the rabbits, and there was a noticeable message in the book about how humans treat animals (gassing them in one chapter, and shooting one of the main characters in another). There are a few perspective switches, and it even manages to make General Woundwort seem more three-dimensional (especially when you learn of his childhood). There is also a chapter told from the point of view of humans, which mostly serves as a reminder than not every person on the planet just wants to commit acts of animal cruelty or kill every animal that gets in their way.

Richard Adams also wrote a sequel, Tales from Watership Down, more recently, and I intend to read this again soon.

Next book: The X-Files: Year Zero (Karl Kesel, Greg Scott, Vic Malhotra)
Summary:
Kamala faces a new, terrifying threat: Excessive feelings!

Love is in the air in Jersey City as Valentine’s Day arrives! Kamala Khan may not be allowed to go to the school dance, but Ms. Marvel is! Well sort of--by crashing it in an attempt to capture Asgard’s most annoying trickster! Yup, it’s a special Valentine’s Day story featuring Marvel’s favorite charlatan, Loki! And when a mysterious stranger arrives in Jersey City, Ms. Marvel must deal with...a crush! Because this new kid is really, really cute. What are these feelings, Kamala Khan? Prepare for drama! Intrigue! Romance! Suspense! Punching things! All this and more! The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed, amazing new series continues as Kamala Khan proves why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is! Plus, see what happens when S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jemma Simmons goes undercover at Kamala’s school!

Collecting Ms. Marvel (2014) #12-15 and S.H.I.E.L.D. #2.


I adore Ms. Marvel. This latest collection remains strong as she confronts the mischievous Loki, develops a full-on crush for the first time for her an old family friend (and you know that can't end well), and meets some S.H.I.E.L.D agents as they confront a doughy menace to her school. The illustrations are fabulous, too.

9-11: Crime abounds in my reading

9. The Crow Trap - Anne Cleeves
Pages: 535
Blurb: At the isolated Baikie's Cottage on the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental study. Three women who each know the meaning of betrayal...
For team leader Rachael the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double-betrayal by her lover and boss, Peter Kemp. Botanist Anne, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own. And then there is Grace, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty of secrets of her own to hide.
When Rachael arrives at the cottage, however, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide - a verdict Rachael finds impossible to accept.
Only when the next death occurs does a fourth woman enter the picture - the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope...
Thoughts: I really enjoyed the first novel in the Vera series. It felt at first it could be a bit of a slow burner, but Cleeves really set the scene so you thought you knew all the characters really well before having the rug pulled out from under you. A really good read, looking forward to the rest of the series.

10. Peril at End House - Agatha Christie
Pages: 192
Blurb: Three near escapes from death in three days! Is it accident or design? And then a fourth mysterious incident happens, leaving no doubt that some sinister hand is striking at Miss Buckley, the charming young owner of the mysterious End House. The fourth attempt, unfortunately for the would-be murderer, is made in the garden of a Cornish Riviera hotel where Hercule Poirot, the famous little Belgian detective is staying. Poirot immediately unravels a murder mystery that must rank as one of her most brilliant that Agatha Christie has yet written.
Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this Poirot and liked how little the plot needed amending to make it into a programme (unlike the Marples I am finding!) It was a definite page-turner, despite knowing what was coming!

11. Murder in Mesopotamia - Agatha Christie
Pages: 226 (3203)
Blurb: Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot - "the best combination in modern detective literature" - bring together all their wit and wits to bear on the solution of another remarkable case.
This time the murder takes place among the members of an expedition which has gone to Mesopotamia to excavate the ruins of an ancient city. As to the murderer, he was so diabolically clever that he would certainly have gone undetected if Poirot had not providentially been passing through on his way to Bagdad. And never, perhaps, has that keen brain been put to a greater test. The story is told by a hospital nurse attached to the expedition, and to have kept the whole tale in character as it would appear to her commonsense mind and professional eye is not the least of Mrs Christie's achievements.
The unusual setting is not only vividly but authentically described, for Agatha Christie is the wife of an eminent archaeologist and she actually wrote this story while accompanying him in one of his expeditions to Mesopotamia.
Thoughts: This was again a thoroughly pleasant Poirot. I particularly liked the narration from the perspective of the nurse and the unexpected twist at the end. The book also paints a lovely picture of Iraq, making it seem incredibly vivid and not the desert wasteland many of us would believe.

Books #11-12

Book #11 was "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich. This came out in 2001, so I was expecting that some of the information would be outdated, but I was still curious about it as a piece of reportage/journalism and also from a literary standpoint. While some of the particular numbers (like minimum wage vs. living wage) are now outdated, the book remains, sadly, really relevant. Ehrenreich spends time in several communities in various parts of the U.S. working low-wage jobs and seeing if she can afford food and rent. It's not really a spoiler to say that she can't afford to live on the meager wages she makes, even though she makes more than minimum wage at every job. I've seen criticisms that her experiment doesn't faithfully duplicate the experience of people who live that way day-in-day-out, but she does acknowledge this up front and tells the stories of how her co-workers struggle to get by, whether it's waitressing or doing maid service at a hotel or folding clothes at Walmart. I liked Ehrenreich's writing a lot, though her upper-middle-class snobbery about obesity and the diet choices of the working class were a bit offputting at times. Overall, I appreciated this book a lot and would recommend it to anyone who thinks that poor people are lazy (definitely NOT so in the majority of cases).

Book #12 was "Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life" by Harriet McBryde Johnson. I try to include a couple books by disabled authors in my "to read" list every year, and I'd heard good things about this book. I knew going in that Johnson was a lawyer specializing in rights for the disabled, so I expected this book to be more political than most disability memoirs I've read, and it was. However Johnson's Southern charm and warmth comes through, as does her sheer humanity and resistance to being pitied, and each of the essays that make up this memoir was beautifully written, thoughtful and moving. I found myself angry and wanting to smack Peter Singer through the pages of the book when he debates Harriet about the value of allowing disabled children to live. I found myself laughing at her sheer audacity, as when she is an official delegate at the Democratic National Convention and is in physical danger in her wheelchair from the crush of the crowd and threatens the security team that she will call Louis Farrakhan and ask him to bring his "Fruit of Islam" (security force) to the convention. I found my face streaming with tears at the end of the memoir, not because she's an "inspirational crip," which she would hate, but because of the beauty of her writing and observations about the pleasures of the body. Excellent, excellent book in every way. The world lost a truly amazing woman when she passed away.

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

#34

The weekend being busy and yet not constantly, I managed to finish another book, this one being Osprey Elite #11: Ardennes 1944: Peiper and Skorzeny, about German military units that equipped themselves with captured American vehicles, weapons, and uniforms to capture specific bridges and sow seeds of confusion in the Allied rear during the Battle of the Bulge. It had its moments, but all-in-all not as engaging as I might have hoped for.

Books 17 & 18 - 2015

Book 17: Dragon Ball Z: "It's Over 9000!": When Worldviews Collide by Derek Padula – 76 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball is the world's most recognized anime and manga series, having entertained millions of fans across the globe. The legendary rivalry of the last two full blooded Saiya-jins, Goku and Vegeta, is the iconic example of a lifelong conflict that inspires fans to burst through their own personal limits. With a foreword by Ryo Horikawa, the Japanese voice of Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z "It's Over 9,000!" When Worldviews Collide is the first book to explain where "It's Over 9,000!" came from, how the original video spread to receive over 7 million views, and why it continues to be such a popular catchphrase. Featuring a thoroughly researched analysis of Goku and Vegeta's colliding worldviews, this book helps the reader better understand why conflict is necessary for profound personal growth and character development. Referencing East Asian belief systems and high tech futuristic paradigms, Derek Padula, the author of The Dao of Dragon Ball book and blog, provides a deeper understanding of this epic story and the inherent values within it. It will forever change the way we look at Dragon Ball Z.

Thoughts:
I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z. My first favourite character was Trunks, son of Bulma and Vegeta – the biggest plot twist in the story’s hundreds of episodes/manga chapters. In my late teens, I loved Videl, the feisty daughter of the lying-but-has-his-heart-in-the-right-place Mr Satan, and then Bulma, super genius, richest women in the world, main female character, and then finally, I settled on Vegeta, the story’s main anti-hero, the antithesis to main character Goku. Vegeta has always appealed to the part of me I keep very tightly locked up – the angry, bitter, opinionated part of me that I’d rather didn’t exist. He’s a Prince, a mass murderer, a man fueled by competition, pride, and a desire to be the very best. And out of the blue, he has a child with the main female character, the feisty, super smart, female lead, Bulma – one of the few characters able to strike fear into the hearts of fiercest warriors in the universe (and these days, in the new series, able to frighten the crap out of the Gods!). Their relationship is initially very much of the ‘we share a kid and that’s about it’ nature, but in time, they marry, and its Bulma that seems to anchor Vegeta to this group of crazy super heroes. In time, it is evident that he is devoted to her in a way that comes to be quite contrary to his dead race. On the other side, Goku, the hapless hero loves everyone and no one at the same time. The man portrayed as a Japanese Superman in the American adaptation (and with a back story pretty much ripped straight from Superman!) is not as noble as he appears in the original Japanese cut, makes sometimes terrible decisions, is an absent father and husband, but gets away with it all because he’s so damn loveable (and he saves the world on a regular basis). Anyway, the rivalry between Goku and Vegeta, each other’s opposite, has in time become the cornerstone of the Dragon Ball franchise, to the point where they now effectively co-headline the new series Dragon Ball Super. This book is an analysis of these two very different characters and what drives them, and how they evolve throughout the series. It’s an interesting read, something like a thesis, though it is quite repetitive. It focuses on the belief systems that underpin the Dragon Ball series (and its inspiration ‘Journey to the West’) in order to explain the challenges both men face, and how they come to be who they are by the end of the series (the book is written pre-Dragon Ball Super, so there’s a certain level of character development that’s not covered, as well as a few factual errors). For a fan, it’s an interesting read, even with its repetitiveness. Definitely recommend for Dragon Ball Z fans, but a fascinating read if you’re a fan of interesting character dynamics, or East Asian culture and belief systems.


17 / 50 books. 34% done!


5202 / 15000 pages. 35% done!

Book 18: Jaco the Galactic Patrolman by Akira Toriyama – 247 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Akira Toriyama, manga legend and creator of Dragon Ball Z, is back with the quirky comedy Jaco the Galactic Patrolman! Retired scientist Omori lives alone on a deserted island while continuing his research into time-travel. His quiet life is interrupted when galactic patrolman Jaco crash-lands and decided to move in with him. Can Jaco get along with the old man long enough to save the earth from a dangerous threat? Includes a special bonus chapter introducing Dragon Ball Z hero Goku's parents!

Thoughts:
In 2009, Fox made a truly terrible Dragon Ball movie. This movie so offended the story’s creator, Akira Toriyama, that he set about telling some more of the story himself. This is part of that continuation, some eighteen years after the story ended. Jaco is a Galactic Patrolman who must stop the terrible Saiyan race from getting to Earth. Crash landing on Earth, he seeks the help of a reclusive scientist and a teenage girl. This story is set about eleven years before the start of the original Dragon Ball story, and the teenage girl turns out to be the older sister of Dragon Ball/Z/GT/Super’s main female star, Bulma. This story is pretty basic but it does a really great job of expanding the universe’s lore, and of introducing some new fun characters. Tights, the teenage girl and the older sister of Bulma is a fun, smart, driven character, just like her sister, and Bulma’s short cameo (she’s five years old) demonstrates her very special brand of intelligence, which has long made her one of my female role models. The book also contains a small additional chapter providing Toriyama’s definitive back story for how Dragon Ball main character Goku came to be on Earth, though it contradicts the various other stories told by Toei (the animator of the series) but not created by Toriyama himself. This story is very Superman-esque, but it’s a cute edition to the lore anyway. Overall, not mind-blowing, but a cute story staring some well known characters and some cute new ones. A story readable without being familiar with the Dragon Ball universe.


18 / 50 books. 36% done!


5449 / 15000 pages. 36% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages
-        Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 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
-        The Meteor Crater Story by Dean Smith – 69 pages

Books 15 & 16 - 2015

Book 15: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
ONE FINE MESS Welcome to Trenton, New Jersey, home to wiseguys, average Joes, and Stephanie Plum, who sports a big attitude and even bigger money problems (since losing her job as a lingerie buyer for a department store). Stephanie needs cash-fast-but times are tough, and soon she's forced to turn to the last resort of the truly desperate: family...ONE FALSE MOVE Stephanie lands a gig at her sleazy cousin Vinnie's bail bonding company. She's got no experience. But that doesn't matter. As does the fact that the bail jumper in question is local vice cop Joe Morelli. From the time he first looked up her dress to the time he first got into her pants, to the time Steph hit him with her father's Buick, M-o-r-e-l-l-i has spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. And now the hot guy is in hot water-wanted for murder...ONE FOR THE MONEY Abject poverty is a great motivator for learning new skills, but being trained in the school of hard knocks by people like psycho prizefighter Benito Ramirez isn't. Still, if Stephanie can nab Morelli in a week, she'll make a cool ten grand. All she has to do is become an expert bounty hunter overnight-and keep herself from getting killed before she gets her man...

Thoughts:
I’ve been collecting these books for years with the intention of one day reading them. I decided upon finishing the Series of Unfortunate Events books that I would start this series. Basically, I read a book in the series and then I read four other books, and then I read the next in the series. I’m not sure why I came up with this, but nonetheless, it’s the rhythm I’ve gotten into. I knew enough about this series from reading the blurbs and seeing bits of the movie (which I’ve since gone back and watched) but it was good to finally read it. Firstly, even though I’ve seen the movie, I can’t see Katherine Heigl as Stephanie. Stephanie is a fairly relatable character even if she doesn’t exercise enough and eats too much (how does someone eat like she does and only be like 125 pounds! I exercise every day and eat super healthy because I’m gluten intolerant and I’ve never weighed anything less than 150 pounds!). Katherine Heigl, to my mind, is not relatable. But anyway, that’s not important. Stephanie’s lack of motivation/ambition etc, annoys me, but I can see why she’s managed to carry this series for so long. She’s funny, and a bit dopey, but she’s got a good heart, and she’s fairly intelligent when she wants to be. Also Morelli is an engaging character. He’s funny and charming and he and Stephanie have a great chemistry (you can see the future romance a mile away, but oh well). The mystery, like the Bones books I’ve been reading for so long, are fairly forgettable, but do their job of driving the character development along. All in all, it was a good story, and a good start to the series.  I’ve got a copy of every book up until number twenty, and I’ve enjoyed the series enough that I intend to keep on reading.


15 / 50 books. 30% done!


4886 / 15000 pages. 33% done!

Book 16: The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land by Daniel Gavron – 240 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
This compelling book takes the reader behind the headlines of the confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, examining its human dimension and setting it in a balanced historical context. In his search for understanding, Daniel Gavron talks to Israelis and Palestinians of all backgrounds and shades of opinion. Politicians and economists, entrepreneurs and writers, psychologists and teachers, men and women, veterans and youngsters, fervent militants and pragmatic realists all speak in these pages. We hear the Palestinian fighter and the Israeli soldier, the Jewish settler and the Arab Israeli, the negotiators from the opposite sides of the table, the bereaved parents. Reflecting the excruciating agony of both societies, these diverse voices emphasize the basic humanity of both peoples.

Thoughts:
This was another book I picked up to read for my religion assignment, and decided to read from start to finish. This one was done as individual sections interviewing people living within Israel within different areas of societies. It provided a very different take on the situation, and to some extent legitimizes the different arguments involved. Some of them I agreed with, some not so much. It was heartening to read the perspectives of parents determined to ensure the deaths of their children were not replicated, rather than purely seeking out revenge. On the flip side, the points of view of people who did seek revenge, sometimes for events that had occurred before their time, was disappointing, even if it was understandable on occasion. I won’t say it’s a topic I’m super passionate about, but it was an interesting read, and I’m glad I now know more about the topic.


16 / 50 books. 32% done!


5126 / 15000 pages. 34% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
-        Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 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
-        Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 pages

Books 8 and 9

8. Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends. I'm not sure where that book disappeared to (I'm sure it's around here somewhere), but this is one of many Thomas books. It's a hard cardboard with a puzzle. It introduces Thomas and some of his friends, and what they can do. I read this to my cousin's 2-year-old boy earlier this year. It's a cute book for Thomas fans, but admittedly is probably too advanced for a toddler. It seemed more suitable for 4 or 5, given the length of the book and vocabulary used. He lost interest about halfway through. Still, it's a book he will probably enjoy later.

9. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, with Curt Gentry. Wow. I know this is horribly cliche, but truth is stranger (and sometimes more frightening) than fiction. My thoughts as I was wrapping up this book (a 25th anniversary edition, with a followup addendum) is that if the Manson murders had never happened but someone had written this series of events as fiction, that author would get a terse note back from the publisher(s) telling said author to write something the readers would be able to believe. I really did not know much about the Manson murders before reading this; I knew Charles Manson orchestrated the murders of several people, including Sharon Tate, which his followers obeyed. I had no idea the scope of the murders, the number of confirmed murders and the number of suspected murders tied to Manson and his bizarre Family. And the reasoning behind the murders is just..."weird" doesn't do it justice.

Bugliosi, one of the prosecutors for the case (the lead prosecutor for much of it), details the goings on in the courtroom as well. I can only imagine how the antics of Manson and his Family would play out today's hyperconnected world. I also could't help but feel so sorry for the jury on this case, who had to endure seven months of testimony on both sides and nine months total on the case, most of it sequestered. The book itself, while a shade longer than 500 pages (that is the category I am using this book for in the Book Riot challenge), it reads fairly quickly. It is well-paced and while there is a good deal of detail in the court scenes, the story isn't bogged down. This is not an easy read, from an emotional level. The crimes committed and alleged are brutal and sadistic. I know I am going to need a light chaser following this.

Currently reading: Ukrainian Folk Tales, various authors.
Book 19: A Morbid Taste For Bones (Cadfael Chronicles #1).
Author: Ellis Peters, 1977.
Genre: Medieval Mystery.
Other Details: ebook. 208 pages

In 1137, the Abbot of Shrewsbury decides to acquire the remains of St Winifred. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to her final resting place in Wales and they find the villagers passionately divided by the Benedictines' offer for the saint's relics.
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

In this first outing for Brother Cadfael he is drawn into the role of mediator between his fellow monks and the Welsh villagers. He is himself Welsh born and so has empathy for the villagers who are resistant of the English churchmen. Then a murder occurs and he investigates so that the culprit is uncovered and justice served.

I loved the TV series based on these novels and welcomed the chance to read the source material. Medieval mysteries have been in fashion of late though this series pre-dates the trend and set a high standard in terms of the period setting.

Book 20@ One Corpse Too Many (Cadfael Chronicles #2).
Author: Ellis Peters. 1979.
Genre: Medieval Mystery.
Other Details: ebook. 226 pages.

In the Summer of 1138, war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud takes Brother Cadfael from the quiet world of his garden to the bloody battlefield. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

Following the surrender of Shrewsbury some of the town;s leaders manage to escape to join the forces of Queen Maud while Kins Stephen executes a number of the town's defenders. Yet as the monks of the Abbey lay out the bodies for collection and burial it is Brother Cadfael who notices that there was one body too many. A murder victim. With Stephen's blessing he investigates while harbouring a secret of his own.

There was plenty to enjoy in this novel that drew on historical events. The series was written before the advent of authors providing historical notes. Still, I trust in Peters' reputation. Just a perfect medieval mystery

Book 29

The DeavysThe Deavys by Alan Dean Foster

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Ugh GR lost my first review. In full disclosure I won this from Goodreads but that did not influence my review. Also in full disclosure one of those stars is because I've been an Alan Dean Foster fan for decades. This was a 2.5 read at best, for several reasons. One of which is while I'm sure it's meant as a YA, the language in it reads above the average teen's vocabulary (I don't mean that to be offensive but I teach so maybe I should say it's more adult than teens in my area). In fact, the whole novel depends on clever word play like Picscean predators and talking about the sublime nature of Mahler (I mean what teen thinks that way?).

the novel reads a lot like Piers Anthony's Xanth series with puns and word play driving the story forward. I don't remember that being annoying decades ago when I was a teen but it sure was in this. I felt like the story itself was lost in it's 'wink wink nudge nudge, did you see what I did there with my oh so clever word play?). Even the protagonist's name 'Simwan' is part of this clever word play.

It opens with Simwan and his two and half sisters learning the Truth has been stolen and as their mother's life force is tied up in that Truth she's in trouble. Without it, she'll die and the woods near their Pennsylvania home will be destroyed. Simwan, Amber, Rose and N/Ice along with their magical cat, Pithfwid, learn that it has been stolen by the rat king, The Crub, who has taken it to NYC. And they do the one thing that makes sense: tell no adult about this and decide they have to be the ones to rescue the Truth

And this is how you know it's a YA novel. There is criminal levels of neglect here when it comes to raising kids. With minimal persuasion Simwan, who is a very young sixteen, is allowed to take a train to NYC with his twelve year old sisters. Most parents would probably not be okay with that, especially when their only guardian there will be their long dead Uncle Herkimer's ghost. But that's how most YA's work, teens running around doing things that most couldn't do if they had parents looking out for them. (Of course that's part of that fantasy of YA works).

I should mention that Simwan and his sisters are non-Ords, I.e non-ordinary. They are magical as is Pithfwid. They are well versed in magic and martial arts so they do have some skills to let them go after the Truth. Also his sisters are only two and a half instead of triplets because N/Ice is half here and half in other dimensions at all times (and her name is also more word play because sometimes she's nice and other times she's ice cold). They are a coubet and often referred to as that. Foster informs us that this is an old French word meaning two and a half but if it is, I can't find it in a search.

I will say this in the book's favor, there is nothing but action in this. Every magical thing either aiding them is afraid of the Crub and everything allied with the Crub is out to kill the kids. Oddly even though Simwan is the main POV character (though the pov does slide into the sisters' povs and others) he doesn't do much other than provide exposition. His sisters do most of the fighting and he picks up the slack.

So yes, on the positive, lots of action, some kick butt girls and of course a happy ending. On the negative, the potentially interesting characters are very flat as is the world building. There seems to be no rules or limits on the magic. It just happens because it needs to for the plot. It felt like all the effort was put into that oh so clever word play instead of making Simwan and his sisters seem like real people. Honestly I think it would have been better if say Uncle Herkimer lived in the Bronx and Simwan's group in Brooklyn or something, would be more believable than twelve year olds on an interstate unescorted trip. Even Herkimer is barely a footnote until he shows up as a MacGuffin at the end. This was definitely not my favorite ADF story. I wanted more out of the siblings if nothing else. We know little about the girls other than they're sarcastic and Simwan feels picked on by them. Do they have likes, loves or fears? If they do, you won't find them here.



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2015 Goodreads Choice Award for History & Biography

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship--the fastest then in service--could outrun any threat.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger's U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small--hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more--all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.


This was a selection from my library's summer reading list. It's a long book but with easily digested chapters, and the different perspectives really help to round out the story and keep it from getting bogged down in any one area. In addition to the characters mentioned in the blurb above, we also see Winston Churchill early in his political career managing the British war effort. Larson thoroughly discusses his role in the events that led up to the sinking, as well as the aftermath, but ultimately leaves it up to the reader to make conclusions about the causes and blame.

While the overarching story is compelling on its own, the details add texture and understanding. From the interactions of the passengers on board to Lauriat's intriguing cargo to Theodate Pope's curious beliefs, the reader gets a good sense of life at that time. I also found it particularly noteworthy that President Wilson, upon receiving news of the sinking, left the White House for a long walk without telling anyone. It's not likely this would happen today!

#31, 32, 33

Somehow there just wasn't time to post about any books I finished for the last week or so. I guess I should catch up.

First was Osprey Command #17: Bill Slim, a short biographical piece about a highly successful British commander in Asia during WWII. This covered a part of the war of which I knew only a little, so I got something out of reading it.

Second was Valor's Choice, a book that's been on my to-be-read pile for a long time. It was suggested to me to be read again by my friend Bob who was apparently re-reading it when last I saw him. A quick and exciting read, it deals with military SF, when a small number of younger races are recruited to help defend older, non-violent races from an invading horde of other aliens. I plan on continuing reading the series, as well as the author, Tanya Huff.

Finally, Osprey Command #15: Walther Model; this one deals with a German general who fought on both fronts and did well with what he had. Sad ending.
Summary:
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.


I received a gratis ebook through the publisher via NetGalley.

Some people daydream about going to Hogwarts. If this novella had existed back in the 1990s, I would have daydreamed of going to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. That's because I waited for years for my portal to open, or for the magical denizens of a portal world to come for me. Eleanor takes care of children in the aftermath of those adventures in worlds that are magical, whimsical, or horrific--and these children have not adapted to Earth again. They ache to go to their true homes.

McGuire's writing is brisk, beautiful, and deep. Diversity features strongly through a vital trans character. The concept seems like it's whimsical "the aftermath of Narnia" and all, but the novella also delves into horror of both graphic and psychological natures.

I adored this book. It felt personal to me. I can't wait for more in this series.
Summary:
Whether wandering down endless stairwells, searching for answers in the desert, or reaching out to the stars, for more than six years Apex Magazine has entertained readers with stories that are strange, beautiful, shocking, and surreal. Now, for the first time, editors Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are collecting the award winning and nominated stories, those chosen by readers as Story of the Year, and their own personal favorites into one anthology.

A Veil that wipes the experiences of war from soldiers’ memories. A witch who faces down both God and the devil to save a soul. A swaying dance that crosses the galaxy to transmit a message. A vampire caught in a web of politics and law by his responsibility to his family. Within this collection, you will find 21 stories that explore what it means to love, to regret, to be human.

With stories by Ursula Vernon, Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, Sarah Pinsker, Rich Larson, and more, Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 brings readers some of the best stories Apex Magazine has published so far.

Cover art by Adrian Borda.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
Going Endo by Rich Larson
Candy Girl by Chikodili Emelumadu
If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky
Advertising at the End of the World Keffy R.M. Kehrli
The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell
A Matter of Shapespace by Brian Trent
Falling Leaves by Liz Argall
Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis
Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett
Keep Talking by Marie Vibbert
Remembery Day by Sarah Pinsker
Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols
The Green Book by Amal El-Mohtar
L’esprit de L’escalier by Peter M. Ball
Still Life (A Sexagesimal Fairy Tale) by Ian Tregillis
Build a Dolly by Ken Liu
Multo by Samuel Marzioli
Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine
Pocosin by Ursula Vernon
She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow by Sam Fleming


I received a gratis copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Apex Magazine publishes incredibly strong and profound work, and this anthology highlights the best of the best, from award finalists and winners to readers' choice stories. Not all of them were to my taste, and that's fine; I'd rather read an anthology with several stand-out WOW pieces than one that is consistently okay. One of my all-time favorite stories in recent years, "Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon, is first in the anthology. It makes for a strong start with its fresh, emotional turn on the traditional shapeshifter animal myth, and I was delighted to read it again. Some of my new favorites include "Remembery Day" by Sarah Pinsker, with a heartbreaking tale of the emotional aftermath of war; "Build a Dolly" by Ken Liu, which is short and intensely creepy; and "Multo" by Samuel Marzioli, where a Filipino ghost story creates a deep psychological horror story. That's not one to read during a power outage late at night, I'll say that much.

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