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

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

Happy reading!

Number of pages: 356

I was excited to read this collaboration betwene Graeme Simsion and his wife Anne Buist, who has written a series of psychological thrillers about the character Natalie King, which I am keen to try.

I was lucky enough to attend a book signing and Q&A session with them recently, and they explained about how Anne had written the chapters about Zoe, the main female character, while Graeme wrote the chapters about Martin, the male character.

The book starts with Zoe and Martin both setting off on the Camino trail, which stretches hundreds of miles across France and Spain; the book alternates between each character's point of view, and they start off separately, but cross each others' paths on a regular basis. Zoe, an American, is trying to cope with the recent death of her husband, while Martin, an Englishman, is recently divorced. Martin has also chosen to pull a cart along with him for the entire trail, and towards the end, it becomes evident why the writers decided to include this.

For a lot of the story, the interaction between the two characters felt like a typical "will-they-or-won't-they?" romance, and the book felt like a light-hearted, humourous narrative to begin with. However, as things progressed, the story started to feel more serious and the tone became darker, both because of the truth beind the death of Zoe's husband that was gradually revealed in her internal monologue, and also because of events taking place back in England involving Martin's troubled daughter.

I loved this book overall, it felt like a book about self-discovery and moving on from difficult events. I wasn't sure how the book would end, but the writers that felt like something that felt refreshing, and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what happened next.

Next book: Golden Hill (Francis Spufford)


Book Review No. 15 is The New Serfdom: The Triumph of Conservative Ideas and How to Defeat Them.  I acquired that in Oxford, on my recent overseas excursion.  The title suggests original thought; but then, The Road to Serfdom was a polemic, and authors Angela Eagle and Imran Ahmed are Labour Party stalwarts, so perhaps I should not be disappointed that the riposte to the New Serfdom is the same-old, same-old.  Or perhaps I was jaded, after watching the state-run broadcasting company report on misdiagnoses by the National Health Service affecting prostate cancer and multiple sclerosis whilst over there (on the positive side, while I was there it appeared that both Commons and Lords had stirrings of what we would understand Stateside as Article I powers) to read through New Serfdom to find the National Health Service upheld as a shining example of Collective Action For All.  But I held off on writing this review until after recent root canal treatments.

What, then, is the road from serfdom, apart from ticking the Labour boxes on election day?  That, too, strikes me as anticlimactic.  Because Prime Minister Thatcher questioned the reification of society, the authors, unsurprisingly, assert "there is such a thing as society."  There are membership subscriptions therein: they call them taxes.  (I'm partial to the formulation, "taxes are the price we pay for our failure to civilize society;" I am prepared to be reasoned out of that position; Eagle and Ahmed haven't done so.)  They conclude, calling for a healthy, ethical society.  While common institutions undoubtedly confer evolutionary advantage upon adherents, the Scandinavian nostrums they (in common with some Stateside politicians) would like to emulate might not extend or scale to polities that are not so obviously extended families the way Iceland, for instance, is.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Number of pages: 221

I've previously read a book about the ten Boom family, who protected persecuted Jews from the Nazis during the holocaust; this was ten Boom: Betsie, Power of God by Dr. Mike Evans, who had probably read this book.

Evans' version was a partially fictionalised version from the point of view of Betsie ten Boom, who died during the holocaust; this is a first-hand account by Cornelia ("Corrie") ten Boom, and she goes into a lot of detail about the horrors of the holocaust, and the story becomes increasingly harrowing as she describes the conditions in a concentration camp where she was incarcerated.

I found Corrie to be a very good storyteller, and this book was very good at portraying her devout Christian faith, which kept her going throughout a very traumatic experience. One of her best stories was about how they set up a secret room upstairs and worked on making sure everyone got into the room in less than two minutes to prepare for visits by the Gestapo.

I was also intrigued to know that Corrie worked with Brother Andrew, who smuggled Bibles into Eastern Europe when it was under communist rule, as told in another book I have read, God's Smuggler.

Next book: Two Steps Forward (Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist)

May 2018 reading - books 21 through 25

21. Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett – a “retired” actress wants to solve a hit and run murder that she witnessed in order to claim the reward money – she’s as funny and inept as Stephanie Plum, but hopefully there won’t be a love triangle that drags on for years – first in a series that I will definitely continue – fulfills Read Harder task of mystery written by POC author
22. Still Mine by Amy Stewart – a woman is sent to a small mountain town to investigate a missing person case but of course there is more to the story – interesting premise but executed a little awkwardly – themes of substance abuse and domestic abuse – rather gloomy and bleak setting
23. Sunburn by Laura Lippman – set in 1995 in a small town in Delaware – a woman with a past and a plan crosses paths with the PI hired to ferret out her secrets – instead he falls for her and a steamy affair ensues – intricately plotted homage to noir mysteries – audiobook narrator infuses the story with the right amount of emotion and irony when needed – a slow burn but worth it
24. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – charming story of a young girl who sets out to find her fortune and becomes embroiled in a battle among wizards and witches
25. True Grit by Charles Portis – a young girl teams up with a couple grumpy guys to find the man who killed her father – they’re reluctant but she persists – interesting story and now I want to watch the (original) movie – fulfills western task of Read Harder challenge

Book 1 - 2017

Book 1: Hot Six by Janet Evanovich – 324 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and Trenton vice cop Joe Morelli join forces to find the madman killer who shot and barbecued the youngest son of international black-market arms dealer Alexander Ramos. Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, is caught on video just minutes before the crime occurs. He's at the scene, he's with the victim, and he's the number-one suspect. Ranger is former special forces turned soldier of fortune. He has a blue-chip stock portfolio and no known address. He moves in mysterious circles. He's Stephanie's mentor--the man who taught her everything she knows about fugitive apprehension. And he's more than her friend. Now he's the hunted and Stephanie's the hunter, and it's time for her to test her skills against the master. But if she does catch him...what then? Can she bring herself to turn him in? Plus there are other things keeping Stephanie awake at night. Her maternal grandmother has set up housekeeping in Stephanie's apartment, a homicidal maniac has selected Stephanie as his next victim, her love life is in the toilet, she's adopted a dog with an eating disorder, and she can't button the top snap on her Levi's. Experience the world of Plum--in Janet Evanovich's new thriller. It's surreal, it's frenetic, it's incendiary. Hot Six. It's the best yet.


Definitely one of the better Stephanie Plum books, partly because of its focus on Ranger who I find to be a very interesting character. It was also nice to see a little of Plum’s excessive eating catching up with her, as I always struggle with the idea that she can somehow eat absolute garbage and never put on weight. I also really like the introduction of her and Morelli’s dog, whom I find rather endearing, and somehow brings a maturity to Stephanie (how old is she supposed to be? I always imagine early thirties for some reason, but I think maybe she’s supposed to be younger…?). The usual shenanigans persist, with Stephanie getting herself into ridiculous scenarios that would either be prevented by her using her brain a little more, or that just make little actual sense, but overall, this story is another good fun read.

1 / 50 books. 2% done!

324 / 15000 pages. 2% done!

Currently reading:

  • My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages

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

  • Alice Hartley’s Happiness by Philippa Gregory – 257 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

  • A Brief Guide to Star Trek: The Essential History of the Classic Series and the Movies by Brian J. Robb – 275 pages

Book 68

Sunny Side UpSunny Side Up by Sonia Parin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maybe a 2.5 but this one just didn't work for me. I nearly stopped reading but was over 50% so I kept on since it was short. The premise isn't bad. Eve is heading to her Aunt Mira's home off the coast of Maine after divorcing her husband who embezzled from her restaurant and right off the bat this novel has some weak world building. She says she did salvage it but then sold it and we’re never sure why because she doesn’t seem to be looking for a new start really. She seems to want to visit her aunt just to take some time off. She might want to get a job on the island, even looks at a bookstore that’s for sale (bafflingly at the end of the novel mentions she’s not a reader and eye rolls at her aunt’s books as Mira is a famous romance author).

However, her Aunt isn’t there, but someone has messed up the house which is where she runs into Jill, a young artist who also helps clean Mira’s home. Eve immediately begins to show just how bad her judgment is and how weirdly this is written. First, she yells at Jill not to touch anything because of fingerprints once the police get there, then never calls the police and they put the books away. She doesn’t seem overly concerned that Mira is gone because she’s a traveler but no one, not Eve, not Jill nor Mira’s travel agent knew Mira would be traveling nor is she answering her phone. This doesn’t seem to send up a red flag that something is wrong.

Not until after Eve’s ex husband is found dead in Mira’s kitchen and the detective, Jack Bradford (who the blurb cringingly calls ‘swoon worthy’) is dispatched to investigate. Eve immediately is upset she’s a suspect even though she did mention wanting to kill her ex for what he did, understandably so. She also immediately decides that the police won’t bother to solve the case and/or are too stupid to do it, so she must do it. She makes a lot of these bizarre and stupid leaps of logic. There was no incompetence on Jack’s part when this decision is made.

Her investigation seems to be to blame everyone, especially Jill and then goes and lives with Jill because she’s afraid of being home alone. That’s understandable but living with Jill, someone you don’t know and keep accusing of things makes no sense. I’m not even sure why Jill allows it. At one point Eve even says that you can’t approach this logically because murder isn’t logical. That one nearly made me stop reading.

It wasn’t hard to figure out who the killer was since there wasn’t many suspects to begin with. The tension with Mira being missing ended up feeling very contrived. And one last thing that really bugs me was that she’s not on the island for more than a day when no less than three strangers tell her to not stay because there are no available men to date. Is this normal? I sure hope not. I’m not sure I’d continue with this series.

View all my reviews


Book 67

ハイ☆スピード! [High Speed!]ハイ☆スピード! [High Speed!] by Kouji Ouji

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: There is still currently no official translation of this into English. This is the light novel that the anime Free! came from and in all honesty, I think it is probably better as an anime. Then again, I'm not a contemporary literature fan nor am I a sports fan. I read this for the popsugar challenge.

Don't get me wrong, it's not bad at all. It's just not a me thing. It centers on a school swim team, Haruko, Rin, Makoto and Nagisa. They don't start out as a team. Haruko and Makoto have known each other for year. Haruko only feels at home in the water. Makoto is there more to conquer his fear of water. Rin wants nothing more than to be a competitive swimmer and Nagisa is like everyone's obnoxious little brother.

For me the first half of the book works better. We learn about the boys, their motivations and their personal lives. Once Rin convinces them to give up on the individual matches and swim as a team the book focuses more on their training. This is why I think in the long run it works better as an anime. That's great as a visual, a little less exciting to read about.

Mixed in with the stress of competing as a team is the stress of ending their careers in middle school and moving on to high school.

Overall, it's a good story with nicely fleshed out characters. I'm glad I found a translation.

View all my reviews

Number of pages: 256

Airbnb is a service that I was sceptical about until a friend and I used it in January when we went to Barcelona. I was keen to read Leigh Gallagher's account of how it was started and what barriers it faced.

Some of the things I read in this comprehensive biograhy did not surprise me too much, particularly stories of Airbnb hosts finding their homes trashed, but I really enjoyed reading about all the controversy that Airbnb has caused, particularly the fact that New York's laws have prohbited anyone from running an Airbnb there. I also was not aware that the name Airbnb started from the three founding members renting out space to people visiting a convention, by providing air mattresses for them to sleep on.

The structure of the book felt a little odd at times, particularly the fact that the backgrounds of the three founders of Airbnb came quite late in the book. However, I could tell this book was painstakingly researched, and that author Leigh Gallagher had spoken to the three founders in person, so overall I enjoyed reading this immensely. Definitely recommended if you want to read about a growing 21st Century trend.

Next book: The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherill)

Book 67 & 68

デビルズライン 6 (Devils' Line, #6)デビルズライン 6 by Ryo Hanada

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What interested me the most is the interactions between Anzai and Ishimaru as the latter forces Anzai into a mock battle making him stretch his limits and his control around blood (and all for reasons Anzai doesn't see) There was a lot of interesting backstory in this volume as well.

The villains and motivations continue to grow and deepen. This isn't a fast moving manga but the story has depth. I'm enjoying it.

View all my reviews

In/Spectre, Vol. 4In/Spectre, Vol. 4 by Kyo Shirodaira

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know those movies where hackers do amazing things but watching them do them is so boring. This volume reminds me of that. It's getting bogged down in being clever. Nothing at all happens except for one very important piece of back story about Kuro's cousin (who we saw in the hospital). Eighty percent of this was the three of them trying to figure out how to leak a fake news story that people will believe to prove Steel Lady Nanase isn't real (which she is now thanks to the belief of the people. Yeah we could have accomplished that in about three panels, not more than two thirds of a volume. So like many other reviewers I've seen, I'm hoping this is wrapping up soon because it's draining my desire to read this.

What I did like was the art. It's lovely. Also there is a nice scene with Kotoko in her room, leg off, eye out and very at home with Kuro seeing her that way (but not Saki).

I would have liked more grief or something out of Saki over the death of her fellow police officer and friend. That felt rushed.

What I could get along without ever seeing again is what the little review snippets called a 'charming romance.' For me, it comes across as creepy with Kotoko constantly trying to prove to Saki she's having sex with with Kuro (and it isn't helped by the fact she's tiny and looks thirteen). I've yet to get a romantic vibe from Kuro and Kotoko (more like she's bribed him to be with her in far too many ways). At least there wasn't too much of it this time but I really hope we move past that soon. I wanted to like this more than I did especially since we have a disabled heroine (But I'm not sure how hopeful I am that there will be more action after reading the note by the author of the novel this is adapted from).

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Yes, 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin probably made too much of that "pallin' around with terrorists" remark, and yet Bryan Burrough's Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, Book Review No. 14, suggests there might be echoes of that forgotten age in today's politics.

That such a book even exists testifies to Mr Burroughs's persistence.  He notes the difficulty of cold-calling a former terrorist, confessing to not sharing the terrorist's politics, and asking to comment on a bathroom bombing.  That noted, he was able to put a creditable book together, in part because some of the best known figures of the insurgency, the vanguard of the Weather Underground that split from the Students for a Democratic Society, live among us peaceably today, holding respectable bourgeois professional jobs, and they're willing to chat, and a number of the members of the other factions were also willing to chat, if under conditions of anonymity.

What happened?  Mr Burroughs writes, in his prologue, "And even if the movement's goals were patently unachievable and its members little more than onetime student leftists who clung to utopian dreams of the 1960s, this in no way diminished the intensity of the shadowy conflict that few in America understood at the time, and even fewer remember clearly today."

The movement of which he writes was not about protesting the Vietnam War, even though it emerged at about the same time Richard Nixon was simultaneously escalating and winding down the war, and it was not about protesting Republican governance, although its activities might have provoked the Watergate burglaries, looking for evidence of connections between the McGovern wing of the Democratic Party and the radical underground.

It's unlikely that any such connections existed, as the Democratic Party was way too conventional for Weather Underground and the schism in Students for a Democratic Society arose when the vanguard of what became Weather Underground came to believe that only more militant actions could ever end the mistreatment of black people, the best efforts of Civil Rights and all the rest notwithstanding.  That's the common theme among all the cells noted in Days of Rage, including the Black Liberation Army (the Black Panthers being too moderate), the United Freedom Front, the Mutulu Shakur Group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Armed Forces of National Liberation (for Puerto Rico, generally referred to under the acronym FALN).  The Weather Underground got most of the attention, but they come off as a bunch of privileged kids setting off bombs in bathrooms; a number of the other organizations had more authentic ethnic and proletarian backgrounds, and they took a greater toll on The Man.

What happened, though?  On one hand, it is the way it always is with True Believers.  One former Weather member confesses, page 230, "We realized we had pissed too many people off."  Yes, party purges are like that.  Or the epistemic closure got out of hand, that comes out throughout the epilogue, in particular this remark at page 538, "The sixties drove them all crazy, all of us.  All they did is listen to their own people, their own opinions."

But Mr Burrough goes on to note, page 539, "What matters most about the underground ... is simply that it existed, that it demonstrated the lengths to which passionate Americans would go to confront what are now viewed, correctly, as Richard Nixon's corrupt government, an unjust war, and rampant racism at large in America."

There might be more at work: look at this tu quoque argument that just hit conservative media last week.  "Obama Pardoned Terrorist FALN Leader Oscar Lopez Rivera."  Hillary's husband pardoned a few others (to help his wife's Senate chances?)

But is it a Seventies revolutionary or a Culture Studies professor who seeks to "abolish prisons, marriage, and rent while attacking 'racism, sexism, ageism, capitalism, fascism, individualism, possessiveness, competitiveness and all other institutions that have made and sustained capitalism?'"

Is it a Seventies revolutionary or a Diversity Trainer who notes, "Only a black or a Third World person can understand the plight of the oppressed masses?"

Is it a gathering of Weathermen or business as usual at Oberlin when a facilitator complains, "I was almost lynched by a group of vegetarians because I hadn't provided enough nonmeat meals in the cafeteria.  There were a lot of little things like that, stuff I just didn't understand.  Every time something went wrong, I was constantly accused of being a racist.  That was just devastating to me."

Is it a passage from a Thomas Wolfe satire, or something for Rush Limbaugh to seize on, when an urban drug clinic becomes unmanageable?  "White doctors and nurses had long avoided [the clinic] and [the community organizers'] main targets were the foreign-born staff members who had taken their place, many of them Korean and Filipino, who now found themselves being cursed as they scurried to tend patients.  The [organizers] demanded more Puerto Rican staff members.  In response, doctors and nurses resigned in droves."

Pissing off too many people?  That's all part of the job description.  By their fruits and all that.  History rhymes, dear reader.  Be governed accordingly.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

2016 Summary

It has taken me forever to do up this summary fo 2016, and I still have all my 2017 reviews to write, but never fear, I have six weeks till uni starts again, and I'm writing my 2018 reviews as I go, so hopefully I'll catch up soon!

1. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – 301 pages
2. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt – 205 pages
3. Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
4. Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
5. The Meteor Crater Story by Dean Smith – 69 pages
6. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 pages
7. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages
8. The First Ladies of the United States of America by Margaret Brown Klapthor and Allida M. Black – 93 pages
9. The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 pages
10. The Presidents of the United States of America by Frank Freidel – 88 pages
11. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich – 311 pages
12. Wrath of Aphrodite by Bess T. Chappas – 207 pages
13. Reengineering the University: How to be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious by William F. Massy – 280 pages
14. Theories of International Relations: Fifth Edition edited by Scott Burchill and Andrew Linklater – 357 pages
15. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne – 330 pages
16. High Five by Janet Evanovich – 336 pages
17. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – 228 pages
18. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – 215 pages
19. Avalon High by Meg Cabot – 280 pages
20. 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks – 224 pages

20 / 50 books. 40% done!

4979 / 15000 pages. 33% done!

20 / 19 books. 105% done!

4979 / 5914 pages. 84% done!

Top 5 books (including re-reads):
5. Reengineering the University
4. Lean In
3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
2. Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths
1. The Martian

Interesting facts
Improvement on last year: 1 book (-935 pages)
Library books: 1
Non-fiction: 9
Most read author: Janet Evanovich (4 books/1248 pages)
Books with a scifi/fantasy element: 5
Re-reads: 0
Sequels/not the first in a series: 5
31. Plath - Ariel
A really powerful collection, with certain themes. Already have collected-poems, but just had to have this separately.

32. Seneca - On The Shortness Of Life (English translation)
Certainly inspires you to live life to the fullest, cutting out the useless stuff. A short read.

33. Rohr & Morell - The Divine Dance: Trinity & Your Transformation
Great ideas, but could've been shorter - the ideas got repeated, and I didn't agree with all. Not one to keep.

34. Rohr - Preparing For Christmas: Daily Meditations For Advent
A good way to spend time towards Christmas, something to think about every day.

35. Kerouac - Tristessa
Beautifully told, though he's such a *man*; would like to have read her point of view also. (Maybe someone could write a book like that?)

36. Neuvel - Sleeping Giants
The first in the trilogy, liked the form of interviews, diary texts and such moving the plot, some surprises.

37. Pope Francis - The Shepherd's Call: Meditations On Mercy (57 pages)
38. Pope Francis - An Invitation To Conversion: Lent & Easter With... (69 pages)
Little booklets, yet saying many deep things. The first one especially was inspiring.

39. Butcher - Fool Moon
Second book, so it was still about solving a case, but you can feel the arc-story staring, which is good.

40. Kenko - A Cup Of Sake Beneath The Cherry Trees (53 pages)
Excerpts from the main book, "Essays On Idleness", a good taster for that, and pretty quick read, cheap to buy. :)

Book 65-66

Saint BrigSaint Brig by Ian Lewis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short story prequel is something I picked up for free. Brig is an eighteen year old Mormon boy whose father has kicked him out of the house immediately after graduation because he found the gay literature Brig had hidden. For me, one of the more interesting details was that his mother (and sisters) castigate him for being a pervert mostly to please his father but hand him over enough money to keep him going (including his little sisters' allowances) for a month or two.

Suddenly homeless, Brig finds himself mixed in with the homeless teens with no clear idea what to do next (and sad to say, in my visit to Salt Lake City last year, there is a huge homeless population there). Gabriel, another young man tossed out for being gay takes him under his wing.

While there isn't much new here, there is a sad realism here when it comes to ultra conservative, outrightly hostile families using religion to hate on people. Brig is nice, a bit too naïve and that will cost him. It's a nice intro into the novel that follows it which I haven't read as of yet.

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Twisted Vine (Lei Crime, #5)Twisted Vine by Toby Neal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this one as much as others. Part of my problem is I've read things out of order (which was not included in my rating of this because that's my failing not the author's). There is a heavy theme to this that wasn't as fully explored as it could have been. It felt like there was way more time devoted into the romantic entanglements of Lei (our lead pov character), Sophie (we spent a lot of time in her pov) and to a lesser degree, Marcella than there was on the actual mystery.

I think that's by design judging by the afterword where in Ms Neal said this was to be the last book in her original plan (it no longer is) and she was tying up all the threads from the first four books. So the actual mystery got a bit short shrifted. More time was spent on the past mystery of Kwon's (a pedophile who assault Lei) death and other parts of Lei's past (such as her relationship with the Chang family) and on whether or not she'll quit the FBI and go back to her former and now current again lover or will he transfer out to her. A good third of the book is dedicated to that and I wasn't that interested in that part.

The actual mystery had some teeth. It revolves around 'suspicious' suicides, starting with a senator's teenaged gay son. All of the suicides seem tied into the website DyingFriends which is a forum for terminally ill people to find support. Someone is helping them get an 'early out.' It looks like they're assisting each other to commit suicide. That leaves Lei, her partner Ken and Sophie to try and find them.

There is some back and forth about whether or not this should even be investigated and I wanted a bit more of that than I got (for example gay teen vs Ken who is also gay). I think my own experiences colored my expectations here. I used to be a doctor who dealt almost exclusively with the elderly and the terminally ill. I have a serious chronic illness. I am all for ending life on my terms if living with the illness becomes too horrible because I know how bad some of them can be. To me death isn't the worst thing that can happen so my sympathies were more with the DyingFriends than it was with the law in this case (and in a way I think Lei and her partners might have been on that page).

That said, the real reason for three stars (and it was nearly 2) was the repetitious romance stuff. Why almost two stars? Without spoiling anything, there comes a point where they think they've found the person organizing the assisted suicides and it ties into Lei's past and internal affairs is involved. It's so hackneyed and such an overdone plot device that I almost stopped reading the last several chapters.

But I do like Lei and her stories. The series also scores high on the diversity scale for those who look for that. Lots of Asian and Polynesian characters which is fitting for Hawaii (unlike a certain TV show that is still milk white) and Ken is gay so there's that inclusion. It's a series I'd recommend.

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Civil War soldiers referred to combat as "seeing the Elephant" and that reference arises in Shelby Foote's Shiloh, although there might be a reason he frames his novel as letters home from six men, three Rebels (Johnston's staff, Mississippi, and Forrest's cavalry) and three Federals (Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana) as, like the six blind men of Indostan, each encounters a different bit of the Elephant.  I'll try to keep Book Review No. 13 shorter than the Gettysburg Address.  It's a novel.  Mr Foote captures the Elephant as seen by his protagonists.  You want the larger view, the novel version is A Blaze of Glory, and the heavy analysis is in The American Civil War: A Military History and Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862.  You'll better understand the bits of the elephant each protagonist sees with at least a working knowledge of what went right and wrong at Shiloh.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


This year marks the bicentennials of Illinois statehood and of the birth of Karl Marx.  I'll resist the "tragedy" and "farce" temptations tempting me, and offer what I hope is a straightforward Book Review No. 12 of the bicentennial edition of Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right.
Read more...Collapse )That reality is sufficiently messy suggests the public intellectual Marx might have something to contribute, even if it's not the formulaic stuff of people calling themselves Marxists, or using "Marxist" as a pejorative.  On the first hand, "There are a number of groups that call themselves Marxist in the U.S.—an alphabet soup whose various names and sectarian tendencies can be reviewed on Wikipedia. None of them have anything close to a large membership. Many of them spend more time tearing each other apart in sectarian squabbling than in organizing or inspiring anyone to fight the many manifest evils of capital."  On the second, "It never seems to have dawned on either [Barack] Obama or [Angela] Merkel that the only people truly invested in defending the always-vaguely-defined "liberal international order" are the men and women who sit at the top of it. Certainly the voters are not as satisfied with current circumstances as they."

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Books 63-64

ノラガミ 17 (Noragami: Stray God, #17)ノラガミ 17 by Adachitoka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The art remains beautiful but I am getting a bit tired of this storyline. I have limited patience for unending battles and that's what this is turning into. Veena is still under siege and Kazuma is trying to come to her rescue. Yato is still battling the thunder god (who we learned has been robbed of most of his powers by his shiki) and Heaven still wants Veena dead so she can be reborn.

There's also a lot about what it takes to become a blessed vessel (which was interesting) and Veena finally finding the Crafter.

I hope the next volume resolves all of this so we can move on to something more interesting.

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Bleach―ブリーチ― 72 [Burīchi 72] (Bleach, #72)Bleach―ブリーチ― 72 [Burīchi 72] by Tite Kubo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Honestly the only thing keeping me going is this series is nearly over. The whole first half of this was nearly unreadable. I am SO bored with endless battles. I'm not sure if Kubo is just drawing whatever nonsense comes to mind because it's nearly over or what.

These battles give us a 'dead' Quincy who then resurrect and come back stronger and more inhuman than ever. Eye roll.

There were some high points though. We finally got to see Ichigo, Chad, Inonue and Uryu again. that was good. Yourichi and her brother were great with one exception. Kick-ass intelligent Yourichi was reduced to camel-toeing her way around the battlefield in a ridiculous unitard and we even get a full paneled thong-assed panel. Thanks for nothing.

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Books 12-19

Yeah, I fell way behind...

12. The Most Famous Woman in Baseball, by Bob Luke. Kind of mixed feelings about this book. In general, I did like it (although someone with more knowledge in baseball, especially baseball history, will probably get more out of it than I did.) It's pretty well-written and engaging. I found it a little stats heavy in the recruitment and hiring, but again- a fan will probably appreciate it. My biggest complaint is that I feel the title of the book is a bit misleading. I got the impression that the book would be more about Effa Manley, the wife of Abe Manley, the owner of the Newark Eagles. Effa played a major role in running the Eagles and had a strong presense on the Negro Leagues board. Well, about a third of the book is about Effa. I have a feeling it's probably because there isn't a lot of first-hand information on her, but as I said, I felt the book title was a bit misleading. Other than this issue, I would consider this an excellent resource. It's an honest look at the Negro Leagues, the many positives and several of the problems.

13. Shadows of the Dark Crystal, by J.M. Lee. This serves as a prequel to the Dark Crystal movie. Not sure entirely where in the timeline, but I'm guessing it's not too far back before the action of the film. I really loved this book and can hardly wait to get the sequel. I just love the details put in, which fit really well with both the movie and what I wondered- for example, the various Gelfling tribes, their customs and their structure. It was also neat reading a book about how the Skeksis were once actually admired (I already knew this from reading The World of the Dark Crystal book, but this has more detail and explains things better). Of course, if you've see the movie, you kind of know how this story will go. I do wonder if there will be surprises in the second book. But I digress. The heroine, Naia, of a remote swampland tribe of Gelfling finds herself on a quest to find out the fate of her twin brother, who has been accused of treason by the Skeksis lords. She is soon joined by Kylan. The two seem to be a highly unlikely pair but the confident Naia soon develops a respect for the more bookish Kylan.

14. Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, by Brian Holguin. This is a fantastic graphic novel for those interested in the history of Thra, the fictional world of The Dark Crystal movie. It's beautifully illustrated, and makes more alive some of the history I read in The World of the Dark Crystal. This novel goes back to the known beginning of Thra, with the appearance of Aughra and her son, and the very first Great Conjunction, which brought the UrSkeks to the planet. Some of this I knew from The World of the Dark Crystal and, of course, the movie. It was interesting seeing Aughra as someone who is even more powerful that I knew, but also someone who was not perfect. Her son Raunip is just fascinating. I'm eager to get my hands on the next two installments.

15. The Power of the Dark Crystal,Vol. 2, by Simon Spurrier. The followup to volume 1, where I had expressed a few reservations. Well, I'm hooked. Just love the shades of gray- the Gelfling are not portrayed as the heroes so much, and it's interesting to watch the quiet dissention within the ranks of the uRuh. OK, with one uRuh. But still. The Skesis are still pure evil, would not want that to change. In this installment, Jen is realizing the deep damage done while he and Kira had been in stasis. The main heros Thurma and Kensho are trying to make their way back to Thurma's beleagured world. There are some Gelfling who are trying to stop them, and there are those with Jen, who want to help them. In the castle, the Skeksis show their cunning as well as their cruelty. Eager for the next installments- this is a long series, but that's OK.

16. Murder and Mayhem on Ohio's Rails, by Jane Ann Turzillo. Did you know Ohio is (arguably) the site of the first train hold-up, shortly after the Civil War? This and other facts can be found in this collection of famous train hold-ups in Ohio, the heroes that tried to thwart the villians (and sometimes succeeded), and the villians (of course). An interesting look at Ohio's rail history, great for local history buffs and crime fans.

17. Wicked Akron, by by Kymberli Hagelberg, Somehow I missed leaving my review on this book, which I actually finished months ago. It's a nice, light read on some of the more unseamly moments of Akron's past. A few stories even loosely connect. The chapter on the body-snatching business and the scandals it created was especially memorable. I enjoyed it- this is a quick read, and those with an interest in Akron history may like it.

18. Confessions of a Romance Cover Model, by C.J. Hollenbach. A disclaimer- I actually know Hollenbach (through online and phone calls) and did a news story on him once. I've been wanting to read his book for a while now, finally glad I got around to it. This is a fun book. Hollenbach details how he got into the business and some of the things he has to do to maintain his physique (especially his signature long, blond hair). Many of his stories relate his adventures at various conferences on romance novel writers and publishers, and I found them quite entertaining (and occasionally eyebrow-raising. Do women really behave like that? Yikes!) Hollenbach has a wry sense of humor and a penchant for comic exageration. I laughed out loud several times while reading it.

19. What America Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries, by David Salisbury (Editor), James Tooley (Editor). This is actually a collection of essays written by others, on the advantages and disadvantages of charter schools and private schools versus public schools. I tried reading this with an open mind, but the most glaring problem is the book is heavy on hypothesis and speculation, and light of actual, raw data. The charts that were there were either useless or confusing. The last two essays were the best. Another problem is it's pretty dated at this point; many of the "oh, this probably won't happen" speculations actually have happened (example, charter schools pulling money from public schools). I'm sure there are ways education can be improved in America (and needs to be improved). But this book is not exactly the source for this type of inspiration.

Book #22: City Lives by Marcus Nodder

Number of pages: 213

This book contains fourteen biographies of Christians, some of whom are well-known celebrities. I was a bit taken aback by the book's use of third-person narrative for each of the biographies, rather than being direct accounts by the people who they are about, but this was the same format used in similar books I've read by D.J. Carswell.

The stories I enjoyed most were where was detail about how each individual became a Christian, rather than the story setting out that they were Christian from an early age, and the first story, about paralympian Steph Reid, particularly gripped me as it told of how she converted after getting her life-changing injury while out swimming.

Next book: The Air BnB Story (Leigh Gallagher)

Book 62

Unspeakable Words (The Sixth Sense #1)Unspeakable Words by Sarah Madison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Special Agent Jerry Parker has a very Holmesian vibe going. He has a bit of OCD, an eidetic memory and doesn’t suffer fools well. He has trouble hiding that he’s the smartest man in the room, knows it and loves it. He knows it’s been holding him back at work. He’s been assigned to help Special Agent John Flynn who has returned to San Franciso when a new potential witness has popped up in the cold serial killer case: the Grimm Fairy tales killer. Flynn is charismatic, handsome and a has an easy way with people, so in other words, he’s everything Jerry isn’t.

What should have been a simple interview goes sideways in a hurry leaving someone dead and Flynn is changed forever by a strange artifact in the museum. He’s gifted (cursed?) with a special ability that all but ruins him until he can get a handle on it. Jerry is forced to deal with this as well now that Flynn knows him inside and out. Jerry’s perfectly ordered world has been turned on its head.

With a new murder to solve, that may or may not be related to the serial killer, Flynn and Jerry have to stay one step ahead of the killer and worse, navigate the art world that Jerry’s ex is part of. There is a strong gay for you vibe in this that I wasn’t entirely happy with. I sort of wanted it to be fleshed out a bit more as Flynn maybe exploring his bisexuality (but it’s in Jerry’s pov so that might have been hard) but it did seem that his attraction to Jerry was the first time he had any gay leanings. There are a lot of open threads in this for the next book which I’m looking forward to.

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Book 61

Miss Frost Solves a Cold Case (Jayne Frost, #1)Miss Frost Solves a Cold Case by Kristen Painter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a little on the cute side and apparently a spin off of another series that I knew nothing about (I got this when the author set it to zero to promote later books in the series). I’d say it’s New Adult (as they’re old enough to drink) but it does skew young (the eye rolling love triangle playing into that).
Jayne Frost is Jack’s daughter and she is heir to the Winter Throne. So Jack Frost is her dad and Kris Kringle is her uncle and she’s being sent to Nocturne Falls, a town where it’s Hallowen 365 days a year (like those Christmas village sort of places) to the Santa’s Workshop store where several elf employees have gone missing. Like all the workers there, Jayne is a Winter Elf but she goes undercover and under a glamour spell as Lisbeth Holiday, new employee for the store which is run by Toly, one of the head toy inventors who moved to town to be near his granddaughter.

Jayne, as Lisbeth, quickly learns that the last employee to go missing did so oddly. All the missing employees have left an ‘I quit’ letter but none of them have been seen again. She hears something in the man’s apartment and finds his cat, Spider, has been left as has all his belongings. Obviously something bad has happened.

As she explores the town, she meets up with Greyson, a vampire, which is about as Halloween as it gets. Nocturne Falls is a haven for supernaturals, like Greyson or the werewolf bartender, Brigid. But other than that there is NO sense of Halloween. I was very disappointed in that. Greyson is willing to help her as is her ex-boyfriend, Cooper, the Summer elf who broke her heart and is now a fireman in town (and he doesn’t know it’s her because of the spell.) She also befriends two other employees Juniper and Buttercup who are also worried about the missing employees.

A good third if not more is Jayne swooning over Greyson and Cooper. So yes, that was one of the reasons I only gave it three stars. I got it from a site that lets you know when ‘love kissed cozies’ go on sale so I expected romance but this level of teenish love triangle was a bit much (especially because both guys are so unbelievably hot and great and handsome and smart and you know how it goes with romance heroes).

The actual mystery was fun and had some nice twists. I’d read more of this. It was a fluffy fun read and after the giant dystopias I’ve had to slog through lately, fluffy hit the spot.

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7. Far Post - Les Bradd
Pages: 254
Blurb: Les Bradd wrote himself into football history in January 1977 when he scored the first of two goals at Millwall. It helped earn the world's oldest league club three points and took Bradd's tally to a club record 115 - a total unlikely ever to be beaten. He finished his Notts County career on 136 League and Cup goals. Fifty years on from arriving at Meadow Lane for £1,000 he talks candidly about relationships with former manager Jimmy Sirrel, captain Don Masson and fellow striker Tony Hateley - all key men in County's rise during the Seventies. an age long before nutritionists and analysts or even pre-match warm ups...
Thoughts: For my sins, I am a Notts County fan and was really eager to read this book, knowing Les and his two sons closely. This book did not disappoint and was full of anecdotes and snippets of arguably Notts County's best era. There was a lovely pace to the book which kept you wanting to read and plenty of stories of many people who I have grown to know personally over the years. A must for lower league fans and an insight into the minds of many a Notts fan.

8. The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie
Pages: 257
Blurb: Newly demobbed, Tommy Beresford meets his old friend Tuppence Crowley and they decide to become 'young adventurers for hire'. But a case of mistaken identity finds them working for a shadowy Government agent and in the thick of a Bolshevik plot. Can they retrieve the stolen plans that were believed to be lost on the Luisitania?
Thoughts: I am attempting to stop reading Christie's in a random order and trying to read them in order (but skipping ones already read). I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book at first; it was a bit of a slow burner and seemed most far-fetched. I did however begin to enjoy it about half-way through. It remained just that bit too unbelievable but it was harmless fun. And most definitely will say that the BBC adaptations of the Tommy and Tuppence novels were really not great...

9. Murder on the Links
Pages: 207
Blurb: Just as he is bemoaning the fact that there are no more criminal masterminds left to fight, Hercule Poirot receives a desperate letter from the millionaire Paul Renauld, who is in fear for his life. With his trusty companion Captain Hastings, the great detective crosses the channel to Normandy and enters a world of adultery and bloodlust.
Thoughts: A nice pleasant read, this was my replacement holiday book (so as not to get looks for the book I am about to post on - I was in Germany). I quite liked Poirot having to prove his method to a more arrogant policeman and educating Hastings in the process.

10. Stasi Child - David Young
Pages: 408 (3338)
Blurb: East Berlin, 1975 - A teenage girl's body at the foot of the Wall. The Stasi say she was shot while escaping - but from the West.
Oberleutnant Karin Mueller, in the People's Police, suspects otherwise.
But in East Germany, there is nothing more dangerous than asking questions.
Especially when the answers lead very close to home...
Thoughts: This book broke me (in a good way). Young's debut novel is, to me anyway, a bit of a masterclass in both how to write and engage the reader instantly and how to build a story arc, which is clearly going to be integral to future books. I specialised in East German history at university so combining this with a detective story was bound to get my attention. Young's historical accuracy was brilliant - and not a Nazi, oooh-the-Germans-are-evil reference in sight! I thought this was an excellent look into life under the GDR regime and can only imagine this was often what police work felt like at that time. So what broke me? Chapter 60 - just two pages but they flipped everything I believed totally on it's head. Loved it and so pleased my other half got me the second book.

Book 60

The DiminishedThe Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this book via a Goodreads giveaway which in no way colored my review. In fact, it’s the only reason I’m reviewing this because I don’t DNF books I get in exchange for a review. I would never have finished this had I gotten it from the library. But, you said, you gave it three stars and I did that for a couple of reasons. The idea that everyone has a twin and may not be able to survive without the twin (not to mention the rare single born or the chimeras known as amalgams) was a fascinating one. That alone was worth a star. Also, it might be a case of it’s me and not the story. Maybe if the political landscape wasn’t’ what it is right now I might have enjoyed a dystopic story like this, but I just couldn’t bear reading a story about an oppressive religious led government promoting the hatred and villainization of a minority group. (I suppose the other way to see it, is that let’s see this thing mirroring real life and how the heroes defeat this sort of evil, but I was just not in the mood). Some of it was the book which is overly long. It took 140 pages before anything happened, no seriously, I took note and another fifty after that for anything else to happen. World building is one thing, but this thing is nearly five hundred draggy pages (the last fifty are the only ones with any action of any kind). Had this been a trimmer, more fast-moving book I would have liked it better.

So, woven into the religion of this world is a Noah’s flood like story where god destroyed the wicked but in this case the moon split in two destroying much of the world and afterward for some inexplicable reason almost all births are twin birth and be it fraternal or identical their bond is tight, so much so that most will die if their twin does. If they in fact do not die they become the titular diminished, relegated to the lowest levels of society and are expected to go insane. Families are expected to cast the Diminished out and if it happens as a child, they are sent to the temples to be raised by the anchorites as near slaves and are either sold off at sixteen or they become the Shriven or the Suzerain (which I thought were the same thing but apparently aren’t but now, because it took me nearly four months to finish this monster I’ve forgotten who’s who.) and then they are used to take out any Diminished who become a threat. The single-borns are considered nearly divine and become the rulers. The amalgams are the bogeymen of this world. They’re chimeras, twins where one twin has been absorbed into the others body leaving signs in coloration etc. (oddly no mention of conjoined twins).

The story is told in two alternating points of view, Vi Abernathy (true name Obedience) and Bo Trousillion. Vi is diminished, living at the temple and Bo is to be the next king. So literally the first nearly 150 pages is world building showing us their lives before they get wrecked. Vi ends up heading to the island of Ilor which is wilder but that’s where two of her childhood friends went. She’s concentrating on seeing them again but on the trip over meets the twins Mal and Quill who help her. Bo’s life is really turned upside down when tragedy happens and then the Queen tells him the truth about his life. Learning everything is a lie, Bo needs to catch up with Vi who is more important than she knows. The Shriven, however, are out to stop him and catch her. Mild spoiler - Yeah that happens between page 150-200. We don’t see the Shriven until the last 50 pages. So much could have been trimmed.

On Ilor we meet Swinton, a young charming thief who gets by anyway he can and attaches himself to Bo (who falls for him hard) and is probably the only reason Bo makes it anywhere alive. Vi, now close to Quill and Mal is sent to work at a mansion and to be a gift to the owner’s wife, Aphra (who is special) and we meet Myrna who helps Vi settle in. I’m bringing this up because honestly Myrna, Swinton and Aphra were more interesting to me than Bo or Vi. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I didn’t love them either. Vi is unpleasant and Bo coddled, which to be honest is perfect casting for the lives they lived but I didn’t really care that much about them. For example, Vi is supposed to be a strong girl but she does idiotic things and thumbs her nose at people who could destroy her without a second thought. She does it so often that I gave up caring about her and all the drama she loved to create. I gave a lot of points for Bo being gay but took them all back when it has the stereotypical bad ending for a gay couple in a fantasy story (eye roll) so hopefully it works out with Swinton.

Because I don’t know. Nearly 500 pages and there was no real ending. It was all a set up for the second book in the duology. I will say the twist at the end with what the Suzerain is really doing (and Bo’s family’s role in it) was interesting. I’m not sure it’s interesting enough for me to read on. Maybe I’ll get it at the library, maybe not. I’m leaning to not. The pacing was so bad in this I'm not sure I'm up for 500 more pages of it. (no lie it seems like Bo and Vi get to the island at the same time when they have to leave for it weeks apart) And one of the reasons was how slow it was and the other is what I’m going to put under a major spoiler cut. Right now. That’s your warning.




So, Bo is to be the new king. He learns about the lies surrounding him and that he must go after Vi. The queen tells him so. He knows his mentors have been spying on him and maybe had a hand in the tragedy that upended his world, so he won’t be taking him. The queen knows this young man has never been anywhere on his own, that he’s a coddled rich boy and she sends him to an island that is wild and has a rebel faction rising up against the rich. She sends him with barely enough money to cover the trip and sends no one with him. Yes, time is a factor, but she knows he needs to go, maybe faster than she though thanks to something stupid Bo did but she doesn’t plan to send a guard or a guide. She sends her heir out into a hostile world with nothing.

My only thought is ‘she wants him dead.’ I summed it up for friends and that was their take on the situation. If Runa wants Bo dead, we don’t see evidence of it (outside of someone questioning why the queen sent him off alone) but it makes no sense so literally the last nearly 300 pages I kept expecting him to be betrayed by the queen. It really bothered me.

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Number of pages: 352

This is the third of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels for young adults and the second about Tiffany Aching. In this book, Tiffany is learning to be a witch by becoming an apprentice to a new character, Miss Level. The Nac Mac Feegle make another appearance, and Granny Weatherwax also appears, although she doesn't get a lot to do until about half way through the book.

The pace of this book was a bit slower than Tiffany's previous adventure, with the main threat not arriving for several chapters. It comes in the form of a "Hiver", a creature that possesses Tiffany.

I noticed that this book felt unusually dark for a young adult book, although the usual humour was still present, the funniest moments coming when the Nac Mac Feegle decided to pretend to be a single human while travelling around (it's easier reading it than me attempting to find the right words to describe it here).

I overally enjoyed this book, although one of the best segments of the book felt that it was rushed a bit too much...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

It's when Tiffany escorts the Hiver to Death's world, and almost becomes trapped before Granny Weatherwax saves her. It was a bit strange that this section ended up resolved so fast after the relatively sedate pace of other parts of the book.

The best thing about this book was it having a lot of Granny Weatherwax in, although I hope the next book (Wintersmith) will have Nanny Ogg too. I also loved the fact that Terry Pratchett loves to throw in callbacks to previous books as Easter Eggs; there's a good subtle reference in this one to Witches Abroad.

Next book: City Lives by Marcus Nodder

Book 59

Opps got the number off again. I think it's good now.

Darker Still (Magic Most Foul, #1)Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was part of my Steampunk Symposium haul and if all of them are half as good as this, it’s going to be a great pile of books. It’s a gaslight urban fantasy and I enjoyed the holy heck out of it. Natalie is a young woman living in NYC in the late 1800s and she has a problem. After a trauma that cost her her mother when she was four, Natalie has psychosomatic mutism. Her father, who is involved in the art world, is at a loss as to what to do with her after she leaves the school for girls with disabilities, but he is indulgent.

through him and the art world, Natalie meets Maggie and her wealthy aunt, Mrs Northe who purchases the compelling portrait of Lord Jonathan Denbury to keep it safe, sharing it with the Metropolitan museum of art (where Natalie’s father works). Denbury died in England, or so everyone thinks. With shades of Dorian Grey, Natalie and Mrs. Northe learn that Denbury’s soul is in the painting and something demonic is walking around in his skin committing murders.

As Northe initiates Natalie into the world of spiritualism and magical powers (something that will be an issue between Natalie and Maggie), Natalie learns her dreams connect her into the all of this and more than that she can walk into the picture but Denbury can’t walk out. Sure there is some insta-love there but it annoyed me less than usual.

Natalie and Mrs. Northe have to solve the puzzle to free Denbury and stop the demon before any more women died. For the most part I liked both women who are mostly smart. I didn’t like some of the impulsive things Natalie did and there was some cattiness with women her age but other than that I enjoyed these characters and I’d love to see the follow up with the questions raised with the ending.

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Book 59

These Haunts are Made for Walking (Haunted Tour Guide Mystery #1)These Haunts are Made for Walking by Rose Pressey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this one as paranormal mysteries are something I enjoy and parts of it I did but there were some real issues with this one. It almost felt like a first draft rushed to publication where in logic failures weren’t caught. And for the first two thirds of it, I could overlook that but the last third really irritated me.

Ripley has returned home from California to Devil’s Moon, Kentucky (the names were one of the things I had a problem with but could ignore). She’s been taken on as head librarian having left her university library job after catching her fiancée in bed with her best friend. She’s back with her childhood friend, Tammy (but not her family which are only referred to once as ‘dysfunctional’). Tammy works at the library part time and as a hair dresser and as a bartender (unready to ‘settle down.’). Also, at the library are Leslie, a full-time employee who absolutely hates Ripley for no known reason (and you can make a drinking game out of how many times Leslie stomps anywhere), Jane Austen the cat and Annie, the ghost of the first librarian.

In fact, Annie is so interactive she’s learned how to print out messages as texts to Ripley or on the computer. This freaks Ripley out a bit but not too much because she has a ghost tour in town too. I will say that is one of my problems, because we spend more time does that than we do at the library and there seems to be giant time jumps. Also, I got the idea that Devil’s Moon was a small town so I’m not sure it could support nightly ghost tours (I go on a lot of them and even bigger cities often just do it over the weekends). I could over look that too.

On her first day of work, there was a meeting of the book worms, a book club and one of them is murdered in the same fashion as the mystery they just read. For some reason she thinks the police chief will blame her (giving her reason to investigate but she isn’t considered a serious suspect by one of the policemen, the handsome (and infatuated with her) Brannon who is also a ghost hunter.

To be honest, the first two thirds of the book, she really isn’t much investigating the mystery much despite Annie pushing her toward it. She’s more interested in figuring out why all the ghosts in Devil’s Moon are suddenly trying to talk to her. That and the sort of flirtation with Brannon who wants to investigate the library.

Then comes the last third of the book. Before that my major disappointment was in how terribly Ripley did her day job where Leslie is concerned. She’s the boss and she never once talk to Leslie about her terrible attitude. She hides from her half the time. She even lets it go when Leslie is upset that Ripley wasn’t fired by the board. I mean, this is not how you deal with bad employees and turn the library around.

So, let’s put the last quarter under a spoiler warning. So yeah that’s the warning. Okay. I was so very disappointed with the ending. Ripley is close to Brannon the whole book but when she finds notes hidden in the books in the mystery series bragging about killing Marion and starts getting threats at home, she doesn’t tell him. I loathe when characters do stupid things. There is no reason at all for her not to turn this over. Later both their exes show up at the same festival (completely unbelievable) and she gets mad so doesn’t want to talk to him, hiding from him and ignoring Tammy who keeps telling her to turn the notes over. So, the last quarter of the book was eyerollingly bad. I got this book for free and unless it turns up at the library I’m unlikely to continue. I liked the paranormal part but the whole not telling the police about the notes, so she can solve the case on her own ruined it. That was part of the problem, she’s never a series suspect so there’s really no reason to get involved.

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Book #20: Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

Number of pages: 337

My understanding is that this book was originally published as part of Little Women, but now it is published as a separate title, which makes sense because I got the impression that this does not take place immediately after the original novel. From what I could tell, it opened six years or so after the start of Little Women, with the four March sisters now grown up.

So, most of the book is about their romantic lives, although it does continue some themes from the original book; for example, Jo's aspirations to become a writer. The writing style is much the same as the first book, although there seemed to be more focus on significant events in the characters' lives; Meg gets married in the second chapter. A lot of the book did make me wonder which of the sisters Laurie would end up with.

The sisters' storylines seem to be a bit more separate from each other now, and many of the chapters will focus on just one of them, before switching to another one of the main plotlines.

For the most part, this is definitely a "feel good" book, but there is also some tragedy too.

[Spoilers for this book and Little Women]

If you read Little Women, you'll remember that Beth got ill in that book, and it looked as though she would die. She gets ill again in this book, and she doesn't survive; her death comes in Chapter 17. It still feels a bit surprising that Louisa May Alcott chose to write out one of the four central characters.

I was glad I read this book; it had a good mixture of romance, humour and tragedy, and the ending was pleasingly upbeat.

Next book: A Hat Full of Sky (Terry Pratchett)

Book 58

Yesterday's Lost (Yesterday's Mysteries)Yesterday's Lost by Sam Cheever

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short paranormal mystery is a prequel to a series I’ve not read. Pratt Davies, an unfortunately named Saint Louis detective and his partner are called to a potential domestic violence case but once inside the house, something else is going on. It leaves him with severe PTSD threatening his ability to stay on the force. It shatters his partner, leaving her in a mental hospital. And there are two dead bodies.

As Pratt wrestles with the case and his recovery, he is called to the mental hospital by Morticia (really?) who is not only a psychologist but also a parapsychologist (hey like my psych prof back in undergrad!) She believes there is something supernatural happening at that house and he’s not inclined to argue. He knows what happened to him was paranormal as much as he doesn’t want to believe it.

Together they try to solve the murders and the source of the haunting. Overall, it’s well written and the epilogue sets up the series (which I’ll have to look for). On the other hand, there are a lot of almost cliched stuff in it like a haunted doll. In spite of that it doesn’t feel tired. I liked Pratt and Morticia. Pratt in particularly felt well developed which is good since he’s the point of view character. It made me want to read the series.

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Book 55

Hmmm I got off numbering these

Akaoni: Contract with a VampireAkaoni: Contract with a Vampire by Hiroro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this from a Goodreads Giveaway which in no way influenced my review. It’s probably more like a 3.5 but I rounded up because some of the stiltedness could be from the translation issues. I will say though, I’ve been reading Japanese light novels for decades and the translations are getting smoother, with more thought about how it reads in English as opposed to just being awkward direct translations.
That said there is definitely some awkwardness in world building and I can’t tell if this is a novelization of a manga or not, but it feels like it would have worked better as manga. It comes in three distinct parts.
It opens with Azusa Saito being kidnapped and then rescued by different vampire clans. Her rescuers are Red clan (the others Blue) and among them is Kouya, the son of the vampire Patriarch, the clan ruler. Kouya is a bit of a tragic figure, having killed a family member and is now his father’s weapons against F type vampires (vampires in this world are mostly human, needing only a little blood and can be out in the day. They do however have magical powers, but some end up going insane when their powers awaken and must be destroyed. That’s Kouya’s job). All vampires’ eyes go red when they drink blood but Kouya are always red frightening his own kind (as does his own lack of blood drinking)
Azusa learns she was taken because of some experiment revolving around her birth (don’t want to spoil that) and her dad was a scientist involved in it. And for that involvement her father is slated to be killed by the Patriarch. Azusa, unafraid of Kouya (she thinks his eyes are beautiful like rubies), lobbies to save him even if it means giving up her normal life and making a life among the vampires. She even starts getting along with two vampires who don’t dislike Kouya, his friend Subaru and Subaru’s contractual partner (the contract in the title refers to a blood drinking pact) the man-hating (except for Subaru) Ichi.
Part two has Azusa settling into the vampire’s world (and here is where some of the awkwardness happens. Her father falls out of the narrative almost entirely). Azusa is attacked and kidnapped by a young not-yet-awakened vampire, Tsukiharu. He and Azusa share a history she knew nothing about and he isn’t entirely stable, but he is powerful. There is a lot of action in this and some real changes in Azusa’s relationship with Kouya. The third part introduces someone special to Kouya and another facet of vampire life is introduced to Azusa.

There are threats to her throughout the book but there are parts that do get draggy. I liked all the characters with caveats. Azusa does some truly dumb crap. The other characters keep saying she ‘lacks caution.’ Yeah that’s a nice way of saying that was dumb as heck. Kouya is too jealous but only in part three. I really hate jealous equally ‘I love you SO much’ in romantic subplots. Jealousy is destructive and even Kouya realizes that.

It was a fun story and I was glad I got to read it. The art that peppers it is nice too.

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Books 52-53

Hearts of DarknessHearts of Darkness by Andrea Speed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you like comic books? Do you love heroes and villains? This is a book for you. It reminded me of a Japanese light novel in all the best ways as well. Kaede Hiyashi (our pov character) is the son (or possible clone) of the supervillain, the mad scientist, Dr. Terror. He's not really interested, that much at any rate, in following in Daddy's footsteps. On the other hand, he finds the superheroes to be annoyances (and taunting them amuse him). What he really wants is to be left alone. However, being Terror's offspring means villains and heroes alike have their sights set on taking him out or otherwise using him against dear old dad.

While Dr. Terror isn't going to win father of the year, and barely sees Kaede, he is concerned with his safety. He sends him Ash, a handsome white haired bodyguard who was raised to be a deadly hand to hand assassin by a death cult (shades of Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows).

Ash evacuates Kaede to Corwyn CA but Kaede isn’t sure why his father wants him there. He immediately draws the ire of Dark Justice (an homage to Batman) as well as several supervillains. As Kaede and Ash cut a swath through the supervillains of Corwyn, while thumbing their nose at DJ and at the rest of the heroes, Kaede figures out his father’s plans.

What’s harder to figure out is Ash, the emotionless, socially under developed bodyguard. Kaede teaches Ash how to live and love.

There is plenty of over the top gadgets and action. Kaede and Ash (as well as DJ) are delightful characters. It’s more action-adventure than romance (and it’s a fade to black sort like most of Ms. Speed’s works) and that was perfect for this. I hope she revisits this world! I’d love to go on another romp with these snarky brilliant villains. About the only false note for me was what happened at the club as it seemed a stretch for Ash to indulge like he did but other than that, I enjoyed every moment.

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16. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – classic childhood favorite(s) that have been adapted to death but still hold strong – I preferred the second book over the first simply because it wasn’t quite as thoroughly familiar
17. The Nightmare by Lars Kepler – dark mystery/thriller about a stolen photograph, a Finnish police investigator, and some despicable human beings – the mystery book club consensus was that we liked the main character but nobody is going to read any of the others in the series – for my part it was well written but had some unnecessary elements/dropped threads as well as a central clue that rested on a rather large coincidence
18. The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Raymond Kelsey Moore – a follow-up to The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat set five years later – also works as a standalone – I enjoyed catching up with these characters and meeting a few new ones – some hard times but also some LOL moments – themes of friendship and family, small towns and acceptance (or lack of it)
19. Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front by Mary Jennings Hegar – I expected dry and boring but got fascinating and compelling – the author faced family issues, implicit and explicit sexism, and injuries to become a successful helicopter pilot and then later lobbied for changes in the military’s policies about opening combat positions to women applicants
20. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – a dark and moody fairy tale set in 14th Century Russia in which a young girl with special abilities tries to save her family and village from larger powers



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June 2018



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