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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.

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Books 1 - 10.

1. Hall - The Well Of Loneliness
Reading this is like wading through soft toffee - you both enjoy and find it slow going.

2. Jaffrey - Curry Easy Vegetarian
Very delicious recipes.

3. Lu - Warcross
Great read, yet after reading review for the next book I'll leave reading the series at this.

4. Foulcher - Reclaiming Humility: Four Studies In The Monastic Tradition
Very interesting, even though I don't know about reclaiming...

5. M.Miller - The Song Of Achilles
You feel like you're there; all the emotions!

6. Kondo - Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide To The Japanese Art Of Tidying
I chose this over the other, more read one; good variety of folding techniques (incl. for more challenging shapes), and perhaps more 'normal'.

7. Mansfield - The Collected Stories
If you want 'all' instead of 'selected', this is a good choice.

8. Bolz-Weber - Accidental Saints: Finding God In All The Wrong People
More life-experiences, with great points and lessons.

9. M.Shelley - The Last Man
The first half has mostly romance and the plague doesn't start until halfway, yet after that you start to see the book's worthiness. Nice imagery too.

10. Ingram - Eat Your Heart Out
Clearly the author's fantasy, yet real and fun also. Felt a bit short IMO.

Books 15 and 16

15. Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson
Part of a cozy mystery series featuring a caterer, her police officer husband, and her quirky assortment of clients and friends. In this installment (apparently the penultimate book in the series), she’s looking into a murder, a couple arsons, theft, fraud, and a curious puppy mill situation. The story is a little convoluted, and some of the side characters are a bit two-dimensional, but overall I enjoyed the book. Also, all the food sounds amazing! This is the April selection for one of my mystery book clubs, but once I saw that others were waiting for it at the library (probably other club members) I went ahead and finished it out of order. Fulfills Litsy Booked2019 prompt: a book with food or drink on the cover, as well as Read Harder prompt: cozy mystery. Read 5-16 March.

16. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
A bachelorette weekend goes horribly wrong in a remote Northumberland vacation house. Mystery writer Leonora Shaw gets an unexpected last-minute invitation from the friend of a friend she hasn’t seen in ten years, and against her better judgment she decides to attend the party in the woods. Does someone at the gathering have malevolent intentions? Why is her friend reaching out to her? How did she end up in hospital with no memory of getting there? This is a well-plotted and suspenseful debut novel that I enjoyed more than The Woman in Cabin Ten. It was the March selection for the same book club, and we all liked the book with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Read 14-17 March.


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Book 25

What Fate Portends (The Frost Arcana, #1)What Fate Portends by Clara Coulson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author was offering this as a freebie/loss leader intro into the series so I went into it not expecting to much and boy was I pleasantly surprised. I'm not usually much on post-apocalyptic worlds but this wasn't grimdark or dystopian hopeless like so many are. I enjoyed this. I liked the world building and I liked the two main characters, Vince Whelan (it's his point, first person) and his former partner on the police force, Saoirse.

Several years back the fae attacked Earth and it ended in nuclear war and the humans lost now owing fealty to the fae queens, including the Unseelie queen Mab. Vince Whelan used to be a cop but when paranormals were outed, his half fae, half human nature came to light. HIs human father lost everything and eventually passed. Vince was nearly murdered by his former friends, wrapped in iron (which burns fae and can be fatal) leaving him scarred, during the Paranormal purge (which did end up failing).

Vince now lives close to the bone, appearing fully human and willing to sneak back into the abandoned Raleigh NC through the dangerous wastes to help refugees recover some of what they left behind (as he's less likely to be taken out by vampires, ghouls, werewolves or dangerous fae) and the story opens with this in media res.

He's offered what looks like a simple job right in his hometown of Kinsdale NC, to find out who bought an antique harp at great cost and he'll be very well paid. He agrees and things go very quickly sideways and he's embroiled in something very dark and dangerous. It brings him back with his former partient, Saoirse after violently parting ways with her seven years ago when the other cops attacked him.

Together, they have to keep one step ahead of the fae after Vince and stop whatever is going on, which is far worse than he could have imagined when he took the job.

I really liked Vince (though he does, early on, have some quirks I'd almost call girly but that sounds terribly sexist of me but I don't normally see too many men covering their mouths squealing in fear or biting their fingers but okay whatever). I like that we don't really know what kind of fae he is until the end (I guessed wrong about that, right about what the harp was). He's engaging as is Saoirse.

Unlike so many freebies I've picked up which were either good but forgettable or just plain bad, this one really drew me in and I am looking forward to read more of this series. This was a lot of fun.

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Book 23-24

Hexbreaker (Hexworld, #1)Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over all I really enjoyed Hexbreaker but I had some serious reservations about the ending.

Tom Halloran is a cop in the non-magical police force in the late 1890s but he has a secret that we learn early on. He was actually born into a thief family and something seriously bad happened, leaving him taking on the name and job of a dead man from Ireland. Tom is good at his job, proud of his patch but one night things change. He comes across magic that puts him in mind of that terrible night that changed his life and a man he's known for years is out of his mind and killing his wife with his bare hands and teeth.

This puts Tom in the path of the magical police force where witches are bonded to familiars, a group of animal shifters (there are cats, crows, owls, wolverines and more). He meets Cicero, an unbonded cat familiar who also lives pretty openly as a gay man rather given over to wearing kohl eyeliner. Cicero has a problem of his own. If he doesn't bond soon, he'll be forced to do it with someone who isn't 'his'. (They can tell the mage they're supposed to be with).

Unsurprisingly Cicero sees Tom as his and is shocked because Tom isn't a mage (that's Tom's other big secret) and Tom is, so he assumes, a big brutish cop more likely to beat the crap out of a gay man rather than look at him. He wants nothing to do with Tom.

Forced to work together, they have to find out who is making killing hexes and distributing them and why. As Tom and Cicero get to know one another, breaking each other's preconceived notions, they realize that maybe they just are meant for each other but will they live long enough to act on it.

While I thought maybe the setting was a bit lackluster, I thought the characters were very well done. Tom, Cicero and the others, especially Rook were fully realized and a lot of fun. I really want to read more of this series (though I think the other books have different characters, not unusual for a romance series which always does sort of disappoints me), The mystery was interesting and the world building was as well, though a little unnerving in how close to slavery the familiars are (which is a plot point to be fair).

Now let's talk about what bothered me about the end here under a spoiler cut So Tom's secret could end up with him in jail and at the end of noose, and with him bonded to Cicero means Cicero would be thrown out on the streets as a 'feral' and he does not bother to tell this to Cicero to let him make an informed decision. It's a particularly crappy thing to do.

Naturally Cicero is pissed and it leads to him falling into the clutches of our villain but since this is a character already known to Cicero this could have been accomplished other ways without making me thing way less of our protagonist and I do. It was hard to see something good in how Tom handled it

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The Murder Pit (Arrowood, #2)The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this from a Goodreads giveaway which did not influence my review. Honestly I was late in reviewing this ARC and wasn't sure what to put on it. I generally put two stars on ones that I think have problems structurally and I can't say that with this one. It's well written but it's simply not for me. Now I didn't read book one which did impact this read (a little unusual for mystery series) because I was missing how Arrowood and Barnett began their partnership and I needed that because they didn't seem to really like each other.

Apparently the first one was funny and I see a lot of reviews saying this one wasn't and boy wasn't it. It's downright dismal. It has at its heart the treatment of the mentally ill and people with birth defects (Down's syndrome in particular) at the height of the Victorian era, something I already know quite a bit about. It's ugly stuff, especially when you realize that not only did Downs (who the syndrome was named for. They were called Mongoliod Idiots at this time period which the author does use (and explains in an author note) think that those with Downs were a racial regression but also that meant they considered Asians to be inferior to Whites and stupid on top of it. That's some ugly stuff (true to the time period but damn ugly).

There is nothing funny about this book (not that it needs to be. I don't read mysteries for the laughs) but there is something annoying about it. Apparently Arrowood is fat and Barnett tells us this constantly. Okay we get it. the constant fat shaming (which yes would never have been considered an issue back then) grated on me as Arrowood burps, farts and diarrheas his way through this story.

I thought it might be interesting to see him in regards to Holmes because it's marketed as he's the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes but all we get is him bitching how Holmes gets all the attention and he gets none. That I could handle but then we get a newspaper campaign denigrating Arrowood and that's threaded thru the novel and if I hadn't agreed to review this I probably would have stopped because of this (and his constant bellyaching)

They have a case, Birdie Barclay's parents want her back after she's been married off to a farming family who they claim is abusing her and not letting her see them. Birdie has Down's syndrome. This quickly leads them to a) realize the Barclays are lying b) the farm family is downright abusive and c) there is something hinky with the asylum that moves inmates out to that farm as workers.

This isn't a bad book and the mystery is interesting BUT it goes on way too long. This book felt 100 pages longer than it needed to be. It felt like it was spinning its wheels, just wallowing in its misery and with literally everyone against Arrowood from cops, to politicians to the newspaper I can't see how he can be effective. It felt like far too much.

There is one thing he does which was technically a crime (without being too spoilery, he breaks into the asylum after evidence) which gets reported in the paper but never even touched by the cops. Seeing as they hate Arrowood that made no sense to me. At the end of the day this wasn't a book for me. I gave it three stars because it's well written but I'm not into things this dreary. I didn't like the characters. It was a two star read for me at best and I don't see me continuing the series.

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Books #16 and #17

#16: The Seasons of Lent by Dr. K.P. Yohannan, Metropolitan

Number of pages: 48

This was quite a short book and sort of like a "beginner's guide to Lent", explaining the traditions that occur during Lent. I've not been a big fan of Dr. Yohannan's books, and this just felt too preachy and overly conservative, particularly one bit where he suggested giving up eating out during Lent - made it feel like a book about austerity. The book ended with a guide to conducting a Lent service, which made me feel like this was more aimed at church leaders.

#17: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

Number of pages: 272

Reading the screenplay to the film caused me to pick up on a few nuances that I'd missed watching it on the big screen. I have noticed that the film gets a lot of criticism online, possibly because of it being overly talky, or possibly because (according to some things I've read) it rewrites some parts of the Harry Potter canon.

[Spoiler (click to open)]For example, Credence revealed as Aurelius Dumbledore is a good twist, but I've had it pointed out to me that he was never mentioned in the Harry Potter books.

I thought the film was okay itself, I just had to deal with the shift from a CGI-heavy film to something darker, more talky and full of politics.

Next book: Is the New Testament History? (Dr. Paul Barnett)
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This book starts with two strangers, Ted and Lily, meeting in an airport. Ted tells Lily all about how his wife Miranda is having an affair with their contractor, Brad, and then says that he's thinking of killing her. Surprisingly, Lily tells him this is a good idea and they start making a plan to kill Miranda.

The story is told alternatively from Ted and Lily's points of view, though Lily's chapters are told in flashback about how she killed a man who raped her and later, how she killed her college boyfriend, who was two-timing her.

I wasn't convinced at first by this book, despite its Hitchcock-esque premise; I found some of the dialogue unconvincing and the main characters difficult to like, but there were some plot twists that I didn't see coming.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

It turns out that Miranda is planning to kill Ted as well, a deed that is finally carried out by Brad. However, there is more to the premise than meets the eye, as it turns out that Miranda is the person who Lily's boyfriend left her for, giving her a motive to want revenge.

A narrator in a book being killed off halfway through isn't a plot device that I've seen often.

The only big problem I had with this book was that some events ended up being replayed from different points of view, and at times I felt that the plot was being over-explained far too much. However, the fact that the storyline kept me guessing a lot as to what would happen next kept me enjoying this, despite the ending feeling somewhat abrupt.

Next book: The Seasons of Lent (Dr. K.P. Yohannan, Metropolitan)

Book 14 - Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman

Book 22 in the series sees the Decker/Lazarus team relocated to a sleepy college town in upstate New York. It therefore fulfills the New York component of my quest to read a mystery set in every state. The couple also honeymooned in Brooklyn several books ago, so we definitely have that covered. In this installment, Decker is finding the town perhaps a little too sleepy, until a theft from a mausoleum leads to two murders tied to big-time art theft and other matters of international intrigue. Along the way he mentors a young rich boy who’s too cool for school, and we also get updates on the offspring that the couple moved across the country to see more often. Reading two of these books so close together, I have come to the conclusion that dialogue is not the author’s strong suit. It’s a little cliche and clunky at times. Nevertheless I still enjoy the “macro” interaction between the couple, and the mysteries are interesting. Read 8-11 March.

Previously read states:
Arizona: Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman (pre-2012)
California: Q Is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (pre-2012)
Colorado: Hard Truth by Nevada Barr (pre-2012)
Florida: Skin Tight by Carl Hiassen (pre-2012)
Georgia: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (2018)
Illinois: Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky (pre-2012)
Louisiana: New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith (pre-2012)
Maryland: The Last Place by Laura Lippman (2013)
Minnesota: Ordinary Grace by William Krueger (2016)
New Jersey: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (pre-2012)
New Mexico: Land of Burning Heat by Judith van Gieson Pre-2012
North Carolina: Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron (2019)
North Dakota: Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon (2019)
Oregon: Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin (2016)
Pennsylvania: Murder at Gettysburg by Jim Walker (pre-2012)
Tennessee: Red Lily by Nora Roberts (pre-2012)
Vermont: The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2015)


Book #14: Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Number of pages: 469

This is the first in a series of thrillers featuring the character Charlie Parker, a retired detective.

I’ve noticed that detectives in novels usually have a troubled past, and this book is no different; in the first chapter, we learn that Charlie’s wife and daughter have been murdered, and the book revolves around him trying to catch the serial killer who killed them.

The body count in this book is enormous, and at times the writing felt a bit like a Stephen King novel, with its graphic depictions of crime scenes. At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book; it felt like quite a dense novel, and had a lot of flashbacks, but eventually I found myself getting into it.

I found Charlie, who narrates the book, to be an interesting character, particularly as he seems to be a bit of an anti-hero character (he beats a suspect to death at one point), and I liked the way that the plot kept going in different directions than I was expecting, mostly because of the number of suspects who end up dying themselves. There was a sub-plot involving the mafia that didn’t seem to go anywhere, and which seemed to be forgotten about by the end of the book, but this just seemed like a minor distraction.

I liked that this book kept me guessing right until the end, and would definitely consider reading the next book in this series.

Next book: The Kind Worth Killing (Peter Swanson)

Book 23

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting (Babysitter's Guide to Monsters, #1)A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun middle-grade story, a 3.5 read for me. Kelly is a go-getter, popular crowd wanna-be (or at least wants the popular student Victor) who needs another thousand dollars to go to Camp Miskatonic (in a nod to horror fans) so she takes up babysitting (and seriously if camp costs three grand....).

She puts up an ad even though she plans to go to the school Halloween party and her mom finds her a job that night with her boss, watching the boss's son. Kelly loses the boy to the Grand Guigonol, a bogeyman. She tries to get him back running across Liz, an intense babysitter (the kid's usual). As it turns out that monsters are real and 'true' babysitters are basically monster hunters with diaries to document the monsters, their weaknesses and strengths ala the Watchers or the Talamasca.

Guilt and the desire to rescue her charge, Kelly throws in with Liz and the other babysitters (all of whom are outcasts at her school) she has to save him before the bogeyman can use him as he's a special child and she has to do it before his parents return at 1 in the morning.

It's a lot of fun. I mostly like Kelly though there were things that annoyed me like her preoccupation with the money even after the kid is taken or her constant distraction by Victor in spite of it all (I think that was to show how young and scattered she was) and that her best friend just sort of disappears midway through but the queen bee girls don't.

I'm sure it would be a hit with the intended age range.

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13. Cape Verdean Blues by Shauna Barbosa
This year’s Read Harder challenge includes a collection of poetry published since 2014. I’m not really much of a poetry aficionada, so when I happened on this slim volume published in 2018 I figured it would fit the bill. Also, my boss’s daughter recently married a young man from Cape Verde, so I’ve actually heard of the place. Anyway, this had some interesting wordplay and is not your grandma’s poetry collection. I liked it. In addition to the contemporary poetry collection task, this also fulfills "a book published prior to January 1, 2019, that has fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads," as it currently has 19 reviews and 98 ratings at 4.09 stars. Read off and on between 5 February and 10 March.
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Mar. 11th, 2019

700 pound big alligator is found in Georgia

World's biggest ant

World's biggest ant
They found world's biggest ant in Indonesia

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 Sarah k
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World's biggest ant

World's biggest ant
They found world's biggest ant in Indonesia

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Books 9-12

9. The Beast by Faye Kellerman
This is the 21st book in the series, and according to my notes I read the previous book just about four years ago. In this installment a wealthy recluse is found killed in his apartment while his pet tigress becomes increasingly distraught. She didn’t do it! The victim and his family are pretty weird, but the murder is somewhat banal. While Lieutenant Decker and his team are investigating the murder, there’s a side plot with his annoying house guest/foster child tying up issues from the previous book, and Decker decides to make a change in his professional life.
10. Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron
This is the final installment in the Judge Deborah Knott series. I procrastinated about reading it because I’ve enjoyed the series, but the conclusion was quite satisfying. It tied up loose ends without using neon signs and putting a bow on everything. The story involves a dead man who’s found in a corner of her father’s property, and this brings to light some bad blood between the two families. Deb also learns some details about her parents’ courtship and comes to understand how a proper daughter of a prominent family ended up marrying a widowed bootlegger with a houseful of sons. I’ve started a little project to read a mystery set in every US state, and this one thoroughly checks the box for North Carolina. Read 16-17 January.
11. Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
A couple years ago I heard an interview with the author talking about his latest book (#21) in the John Rebus series, and I tucked it away as something to read one day. Now I’m part of a mystery book club at a local bookstore where we pick our own books, and another member suggested we read one of his books on the recommendation of another friend. It turns out that I’ll be in Edinburgh as part of a cruise later this year, so I wholeheartedly agreed with the choice. This book wasn’t entirely what I expected. Rebus is a little unusual, and the case involving a serial child killer was an interesting way to start the series. There were some pacing issues, but the series seems to have some potential. I think I might just go ahead and skip to more recent works though. Read 7-18 February.
12. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
This is the latest in the Cormoran Strike series. A rather intricate murder plot involves a government minister’s family, a wannabe anarchist, and various colors of horses. There are also significant developments in the life of the agency as well as the respective lives of Cormoran and his partner Robin. Like certain volumes of the Harry Potter books, this was a long book that didn’t at all feel like a slog. Read 17 February – 3 March.


Book 21-22

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 18Blue Exorcist, Vol. 18 by Kazue Kato

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one finishes the action from the last book but I'm not all that invested in Shura so there was that. There is some filler, especially with Shiemi and if she will or will not be an exorcist. The more interesting thing is Lightning and Bon investigating the Illuminati (and the whole double agent thing with Shima (hmm there are a lot of SH characters, just noticed that).

the art is still lovely but the story didn't quite grab me this time out.

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ノラガミ 18 (Noragami: Stray God, #18)ノラガミ 18 by Adachitoka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The battle is starting to drag on a bit long for me. The Heavens refuse to listen, they fight and they fight and my interest begins to wane. I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying I have a low tolerance of battle scenes.

There are some really nice moments though with Kazuma and Veena when she was younger. I also really liked the ending even if it is still fighting because it has a terrible core concept, the heavens will kill Yato and the rest (rather than admit they might be wrong about the crafter and Veena) by pitting the queen of heaven's shiki against all of yato's friends' shiki and against Yukine and it's a battle to the death.

The art is beautiful but I do hope this storyline is coming to a close because it's not quite doing it for me.

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Number of pages: 322

This is a book that I wanted to read for some time, and which I bought as soon as it came out in paperback.

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump and his staff don't exactly come across well in this book - I just loved reading about how absurd everything that happened was, and it felt like it could have been from the pages of a Joseph Heller satire, or out of the TV show Veep, only in this case it's all true. Much of what I read about is about Trump's own staff (mostly "Jaranka", as they call Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner), trying to restrain the President and help improve his public image, despite all of his gaffes.

I wasn't surprised to see "Fake news" referenced a lot, as well as the conspiracy theories involving Russia, but the big impression I got from this book was that it painted Trump as his own worst enemy, which may well be true.

Next book: Every Dead Thing (John Connolly)

For 2018

34.  The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. An incredible book that lived up to its hype. I've heard the movie that came out last year is good as well (I'd planned to see it but then I had my fall and surgery, etc.) Essentially, a young woman watches a friend killed by a police officer, and the story deals with the aftermath. What I like is  there are no angels, there are no devils. While this is fiction, the story could have been taken from far too many headlines. The reader feels the frustration as the family goes through the court system and turns to the media to get their version of the story out. I highly recommend this to anyone.

35. Savannah 1733 to 2000, by Susan E. Dick. A fascinating collection of photos and images of historic Savannah, a great, quick read for anyone interested in this lovely city.

36. A Brief History of the Tybee Island Light Station 1732-2017
by Cullen Chambers. A nice read for anyone interested in the historic Tybee Island Lighthouse. It's a pretty amazing story, especially in the early days, when you had to wonder at the sanity of the planners. It's Georgia's tallest lighthouse (and oldest). It also goes into the lighthouse keepers through the years.

For 2019

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Book #8 - An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

In this world the Romanov family has survived the Russian Revolution and moves to California. Then FDR dies before taking office, and the US is split into about a half dozen countries in the ensuring chaos. Some time later … enter Lizbeth Rose (aka Gunnie) and her crew, hired to ferry a family from one country to another. After that trip goes very awry, Gunnie returns home to find two Russian wizards at her doorstep, and she reluctantly goes with them on another quest. I found this ridiculous and fun, a bit Lonesome Dove meets Mad Max. This appears to be the first of a series, but it could also stand on its own. While I’m interested in continuing in this world, I’m not hanging on a thread wondering what’s going to happen next with Gunnie and her … new friends? Fulfills Read Harder challenge prompt: alternate history. Read 4-5 February.

Book 20

The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10)The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Probably a 3.5 read but for some reason Flavia's asides this time seemed forced and the ending was...scattered. I still really enjoy Flavia, a twelve year old girl with a love of chemistry but there was quite a bit of change in this one from some of the previous (though well set up in book 9). Feely has been married off at the start of the book and Daphne is all but absent (almost too absent, it rather bothered me).

But of course the wedding didn't go off without a hitch. Between Undine being a brat and a severed finger being hidden in her cake (which grossly goes on to be served after the finger was removed and in spite of that finger being embalmed) there are problems. But a severed finger is the least of Flavia's worries. She and Dogger are hired to solved a simple case of some stolen letters by a Mrs. Prill whose father earned a fortune in quack medicine.

But quickly death follows and they're off to the races, hampered just slightly by missionaries from Africa staying at Buckshaw because there was no room with the pastor. I did enjoy the mystery but the end seemed a bit weak, especially the motivation of Prill in the first place.

Dogger has changed drastically. His PTSD is much more manageable in this than in the past and he seems to have medical training of some sort. Don't get me wrong, I like the change but I'm also not sure how anyone is going to hire a twelve year old to investigate anything (guess that's why the agency is under Dogger's name). It also looks like they might rope in Undine as a partner down the road (though I have to admit, I don't like her).

I am still enjoying Flavia's stories but I can't escape the feeling something was missing.

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Books 18 & 19

How to Hunt Ghosts: A Practical GuideHow to Hunt Ghosts: A Practical Guide by Joshua P. Warren

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will say this, the book is thorough and it does assume you know nothing about the topic. It is a very good walk through for a beginner and I liked the appendices that had interview notes and how to do a log because it had some ideas I haven't thought of in decades of ghost hunting. On the other hand, there are things it's obvious the author doesn't like (psychics which yes, there are plenty of frauds) and there is a bit of ego in this.

That said, if you want to get a good idea of how to hunt ghosts, how the equipment works and how to stay safe (especially legally) .

Keep in mind this was published in 2003 so there have a) been advances in the equipment (though some seems a bit silly or scientifically unsound) and b) a lot of the web pages are probably long defunct. So Google the newer equipment and sites and use this as a starting point.

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The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1 by Kaiu Shirai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this one and it lived up to it. It is subtly creepy in places and outrightly in all the right places. Emma, Norman and Ray are the oldest (12) kids in an orphanage where the only adult is "Mom". It's not a bad life. Their needs are met food and comfort wise. Everyone pitches in, the older kids helping to raise up the younger one, washing their stark white uniforms and they all have these tests they have to take which is a stand in for schooling. The only odd thing is everyone has a number tattooed on their necks and they aren't allowed off the property. There is a fence in the forest they can't go past and they can't go out the gate house. None of them really think much of it because they are content kids, all of them looking forward to the day someone adopts them.

Emma, Norman and Ray have always lived in the orphanage as far as they know and they're special. They excel at the exams. Norman is highly intelligent. Ray is great at strategy and Emma is fantastic at the physical stuff (actually all three are talented with all of three items but they have their specialties)

One day a forgotten toy changes everything and I want to say nothing about that because it would spoil this and that would be a shame.

I will say the art isn't my favorite but it's not bad either. I can't wait to see more.

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A murder mystery set in the 1970s taking place on both sides of the Red River dividing North Dakota and Minnesota. The author and many of the characters are Native American. The mystery part of the story was pretty straight forward – without giving spoilers, it’s just a dumb crime and not an elaborate plot – but it’s fascinating to get to know “Cash” the main character. She’s a bit of a loner and very good at fending for herself after growing up in a series of foster homes, but she does have a friend and champion in the local sheriff. She helps him by serving as an unofficial liaison to the local Native American community, as in this case when a local man is found dead in a field and Cash has to locate his family to break the news. There’s lots of commentary about White/Indian relations, but it doesn’t come across in a heavy-handed way. The next book in the series comes out in May of this year, and I hope to get my hands on it. Fulfills Litsy Booked2019 reading challenge prompt: indigenous author. Read 29 January to 3 February. (Yes, I finished it during the Super Bowl.)

Book #12: The Lido by Libby Page

Number of pages: 318

This book has two central characters.

Rosemary is 86, and is leading a campaign to stop Brixon's lido from being turned into a private gymnasium.

Kate is a journalist, who meets Rosemary when covering the story in the local newspaper; she also is afraid of water and suffers from panic attacks.

On the surface, this is just a story about a fight against greedy developers, but after a while you realise it is more than that. It is really a story about community, and while it mainly focuses on a few main characters, there are a few short chapters about other people who use the lido.

The story also flashes back to Rosemary's past, with her husband George, who she liked to sneak into the lido with; I realised quite fast that the reason for this was to show just how much the lido meant to her, as it had been part of her life for so many years.

It's a refreshingly simple story, but padded out so that its characters are completely three-dimensional and I found myself caring a lot for Rosemary and Kate. Initially I wasn't sure - I found the use of the present tense at every point except for the flashbacks annoying, but it had such well-developed, and easily identifiable characters, that I found myself loving it.

While you'll probably guess how this ends, this does not stop it from being a really good debut novel from Libby Page; the writing style made me think of Zadie Smith at times.

Next book: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Michael Wolff)

Book 17

The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky, #1)The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sci-fi tightrope walks between dystopia and solarpunk as humans look to the stars to colonize as climate change and global wars over diminishing resources have all but ruined earth. It's also a generational tale told in three parts.

It opens with Colin, the captain of a ship that's half alive, half machine, his a little too Catholic to be comfortable with this sort of ship with its living brain, engineer Jackson Hammond and Ana, the doctor whose father invented the ship-minds and the ships. They have a "seed" which will transform a lifeless asteroid into a growing planetoid for humans to colonize once its terraformed (there are a couple of seed ships as well but they aren't part of this story). Something goes horribly wrong and will they live to plant the seed.

Part two picks up ten years down the road with Colin and Ana on Forever, the new planetoid (and it's hive mind, Lex, and begins with the arrival of Aaron, Jackson's son. This all deals with what went so wrong ten years ago and let's us get to know Forever intimately.

Part three is another twenty years down the road. Earth is absolutely dying and coyotes are dropping humans off on Forever in numbers that aren't sustainable easily. Colin, Aaron and Aaron's family play the starring role, sharing it with two men, former lovers (and if Eddy had his way would be lovers again) Eddy and Davian who are trying to put together a barely space worthy craft to escape Earth before it pulls itself apart. Only Davian has some dark secrets.

The last part does leave threads for book two (especially Eddy and Davian's subplot). All the characters, including Forever herself, are well drawn and it's very interesting. I loved Aaron and Colin especially.

I will add, for those that this matters to, it is an own voices book. That said, if you only pick up gay literature for the romance, that is not this book. Yes we have gay characters but this is straight up sci-fi, not romance. I'm looking forward to book two.

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Book 15 & 16

An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose, #1)An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More like a 3.5 read for me and the beginning was entirely the reason for that. Harris is in that rarified stratum where her name seems to mean editors do less editing because I can't think of any other reason why no one questions FIFTY pages of introduction. The actual story doesn't start until 55 pages in. And what's worse, the intro nearly drove me off.

This is a dystopic alternative history that I can't even figure out the time period. I'm assuming the 1940s but you can't quite tell because we keep getting referred back to 1918 and the Russian revolution and the 1918 flu. But then we have FDR being assassinated and America literally falling to pieces (I was amused Canada snatched up some of us). The northeast reestablished itself as a British colony (seems somehow unlikely) Russia has the west coast (where their exiled Tsar rules and is a major plot point), the south is its own country and Mexico got Texas partially back and the rest is Texohoma (Where our heroine lives) and the Native Americans got back some of their lands (another thing that seemed unlikely if this IS 1940, they were pretty damned and sadly broken by then)

Our protagonist is a Gunnie, a Western styled gunslinger (seriously, are there no rules because she shoots people dead every five minutes) named Lisbeth Rose. And it opens with her and her lover's crew escorting a family into another (and better) territory than Texohoma. So yeah honestly fifty pages on these characters who won't play a role other than in Gunnie Rose's memories seems a lot, especially when it has an on page rape of one of the family memories (allowing Rose to blast the crap out of the rapists mid-rape), the murder of a child, and a pack of wild dogs savaging another child (and then the brutal killing of said dogs). Yeah it establishes how awful this world is but it is so long that I just couldn't care by the end of it. It's like I get it. This place is bad. Can we move on, maybe without rape scenes and brutalizing children? And that's me saying this. I have a taste for dark fic.

So once Rose is back from this mission she finds two Grigoris, Russian witches, at her home wanting to hire her. Without spoiling things, let's leave it as a) Rose is keeping a major secret that impacts this mission and b) she hates the Grigori. If she helps them, it may save the Tsar's life (He is a hemophiliac) It might keep what's left of America from getting worse. But more important to her, it pays well.

Rose reluctantly accompanies them and there is death at every turn. Once Gunnie Rose takes the mission, the story really takes off. The characters are great and I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it had started at page 55.

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Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't fallen this hard for a book in ages. I love Maggie and Kai from the moment they stepped onto the page. This is full on cli-fi urban fantasy dystopia where the Big Water has destroyed much of America and other parts of it are under drought. The action is set behind the walls surrounding the Dinétah nation (Navajo) and action is an excellent word for it (Also this is an Own Voices read which makes it all the better).

One of the instantly captivating things for me is that Roanhorse uses part of the Diné culture for the magical aspects of the story. Clan names are important to the Navajo, introductions often including the born to and born for clan names (Big Medicine clan, bitter water clan etc) and in this new, half-destroyed world the clan name indicates the magic and/or appearance of the person. Not only that but the old gods and monsters are back. What a fantastic way to make magic fresh.

Maggie is a monster hunter and is more than half convinced she is a monster herself because of her clan power and things that have happened to her including her mentor, Neizghani, a monster-hunter of legend, son of Changing Woman one of the Diyin Dine'é (Sacred Ones). Maggie loved him and has spent the better part of the year hiding out in her trailer, mourning his rejection. That's where we find her, drawn out by young man summoning her to help rescue a young girl kidnapped by a monster.

Afterward, confused by the monster in question, she visits Tah, a holy man and something of a grandfather to her. Tah hooks her up with a partner she doesn't want, his actual grandson, Kai who is studying to be a medicine man with some big magic. Maggie sees Kai as a slick well-dressed city boy who would only be a hindrance to her.

Naturally this will change as they try to figure out what Witch is bringing these monsters into existence and why (and Maggie trying to ignore the small part of her that says maybe Neizghani is in the mix for that). Coyote has something to say about all of this (because of course Coyote does) and he has something of a hold on Maggie too.

Just about everything wants Maggie and Kai dead so they have their work cut out for them. I loved them as I said in sentence one. They're well developed, interesting and deeply flawed characters who just worked so well for me. I could have read this in a day had I had the time. I was iffy on the ending however. It bugged me a bit.

That said, I can't wait for more. I almost hope to see Noqoìlpi in the next book or Spider Woman (though I'd be afraid of what she might be like in this universe!)

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