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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.

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Happy reading!

Number of pages: 277

It has been a few years since I last read an Adrian Mole novel, and this is one I'd missed, which came before Cappuccino Years.

This one is set in 1991 and early 1992 and sees Adrian in his early 20s, mostly trying to deal with his love life, sending numerous creepy notes to his childhood sweetheart, Pandora, and attending therapy classes, only to fall in love with his shrink.

Another one of the main plot threads involved Adrian Mole's nemesis Barry Kent writing a book that was a thinly-veiled mockery of Adrian himself, prompting Adrian to attempt to write his own book himself. Adrian's book itself seemed dire - this seemed to be done on purpose - but I found that it resulted in a lot of the book's comedy when the character in the story started writing his own book, resulting in a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, and Sue Townsend took things even further, but in a way that did result in a good payoff.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

At the end, one of Adrian Mole's fictional characters comes up with a book that sounds more promising than Adrian's real-life ideas.

Having read later books in the series, I noticed a few plot threads starting that finally got resolved later in the series, including the character of Glenn Bott. Also, I love the standard format of the novels, which are written as their main character's diary, so you get to read all his random thoughts as well as about his life.

I was glad I picked up this book, but do want to get the other book I missed, The True Confessons of Adrian Albert Mole and the final book in the series, Adrian Mole: The Prostate Years.

Next book: The 7th Function of Language (Laurent Binet)

Book 105

Angel: After the Fall, Volume 2: First NightAngel: After the Fall, Volume 2: First Night by Brian Lynch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first thought was 'what the heck IS this nonsense. The first volume ended on a cliffhanger but it also started months into their time in hell (in which time we’re expected mopey, blaming himself Angel, ignores his son because that’s consistent with the show, uh-huh, right). This very small volume was dedicated not to picking up at the cliffhanger but rather on the ‘First Night’ (it took spotting that on the cover about a third of the way in before I realized that this was what the volume was about, which is a failure in and of itself).

Each character got their own first night in hell (except Angel, ironically). Spike’s was just confusing a bit too fractured. Betta George (a giant telepathic betta fish demon that so far is just a weird waste of space) didn’t interest me at all. Lorne’s was interesting in that it was done as a rhyme. Gwen’s was very good. Wesley’s was too. Then there was Connor’s which was also just confusing because we see him regaining All his memories including ones before he was even born (um….) so we get pages of him running, hiding and puking at the confusion the memories caused. But…Connor regained his memories on the show. He fought next to Angel, so this was just weird because it felt like a retconning. We also get Kate (whom I always loved and was sad she was gone) and through her we see more of Connor as she sort of inspires him to fight (did he need that? I’m not sure that he’s ever needed that). However, I did like Connor trying to sort through his three fathers. That was a nice touch. Gunn’s story was interesting enough. And oh, there was a short story about a couple of civilians which I sort of enjoyed.

I hate to say it the art was pretty awful. It was done by multiple artists, each story getting its own art. Spike and Gwen’s art was nice. Wesley’s was fantastic. Lorne was done by John Bryne who I am very well acquainted with but this was most assuredly not his best work. Mooney’s art for Connor and Kate made me wonder if he knew what humans look like and the Betta George stuff looked like I drew it (which is not a compliment).

In the back matter, Lynch talked about why they did what they did. It was risky constructing the story this way. Uh-huh, the word I would have used is annoying. My only consolation is I’m getting all of this at the library. If I had paid money for this, I’d be much more disappointed.

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Book 103-104

Erased, Volume 2Erased, Volume 2 by Kei Sanbe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Satoru's power of revival has sent him back 18 years to his grade school days, hoping to save the life of a classmate. He believes that this will change the now where he has been framed for the murder of his mother.

The first try doesn't go as planned and he finds himself back in the present day not only on the run but with the murderer on his heels trying to ensure Satoru is jailed life is hard. Worse, he's managed to drag a friend into the line of fire from both the cops and the killer.

Revival gives him yet another chance to save Hinazuki from both her abusive mother and the killer. This time we have his friend, Kenya playing a much larger role. This is one bright boy.

The characters in this are so interesting and the situation dire. this manga has mystery and time travel and coming of age all bundled together. Satoru believes this will be his last revival for better or worse, putting a clock on it.

there are plenty of twists and plenty of room for more. If he saves Hinazuki will it save his mother in the future? Has he put another innocent in the path of the killer? Will he be stuck in the past? I can't wait to find out.

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Scream All NightScream All Night by Derek Milman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a book I would normally read but a friend recommended it. I almost didn't read it because the first chapters were rife with gay jokes and that really annoyed the heck out of me. It added nothing and they were derogatory, used, I think, to illustrate how big of a jerk Dario's older brother, Oren is. Thankfully that stopped by chapter three and the rest of the story was enjoyable.

Dario is a seventeen year old emancipated minor living at a group home, having made a very good friend there. He gets called back to Moldavia Castle, his childhood home and the set of all of Moldavia Studios' class B (at best) horror flicks. His father is dying and all that waits in the home is Oren, the older brother he doesn't trust, horrible memories and Hayley, his first love.

He doesn't want to go. He wants to go to Harvard where he's been accepted but soon he finds himself not only back but wrapped up in all the bad memories and craziness of Moldavia thanks to his father's will. He has to save Moldavia or maybe he'll just let it fall and turn his back on the insanity.

This has it's share of darkness. Memories of child abuse, an insane parent, death. Dario is a fascinating character and I really liked him.

I just wish some editor would have carved out the homophobic beginnings because it really was a non-issue in this. Maybe it was meant to be teenaged humor? Wasn't funny.

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Book 102

Angel: After the Fall, Volume 1Angel: After the Fall, Volume 1 by Brian Lynch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've had this on my shelves forever, unsure if I really wanted to read it. I wasn't particularly happy with how Angel ended on TV and what I had heard about the comic series didn't exactly set me on fire to read it. Years later, I find it on the shelf and decided it was time.

It wasn't quite as bad as I feared nor as good as I hoped. The art was okay, a bit muddy in a lot of places but it was better in more places than it was bad.

One of the reasons I didn't want to read this (can it be a spoiler at this point?) was I knew that all of LA had been sucked into hell. What a miserable dystopic crap plotline. Great, not only did our heroes basically lose, they damned a city of millions. Lovely.

So that's where it opens. LA has been carved into demonic fiefdoms. Angel is still hanging out in the ruins of Wolfram and Hart's building with Wesley's spirit (and there is a big twist with Angel that I won't spoil). Gunn, Spike, Lorne, Illyria and Connor are all out there, not in fact, working with Angel.

Instantly disliked Gunn's storyline so far.

On the other hand I did like Spike and Connor's. I admit it, was always a fan of both. The creator talks about how stable and heroic Connor is in this continuation because he grew up. My thought was, no, you sent him to a hell dimension similar to one he grew up in. He's back in his element. He's also running an Underground Railroad sort of thing to save humans from the enslaving demons.

There's plenty of action if nothing else. There a few good lines but overall it's grim. Maybe too grim. That said, now long after the whole series has been over and done, I can say I'll be finishing the series. There's sadly not that much of it.

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Books 61 - 70.

61. Ham (ed.)/Moriwaki - Yoko's Diary: The Life Of A Young Girl In Hiroshima During WWII (part of it English translation)
Although it's more mostly to those in early teens, this books is one interesting, moving account of innocence, of life cut too soon.

62. Stewart - Medicine Ball Workouts: Strenghten Major & Supporting Muscle Groups For Increased Power, Coordination & Core Stability
Good information, even for those who just want to know a few moves to include in other workouts.

63. Pope Francis - Through The Year With...: Daily Reflections (English translation)
Does its job, no doubt about it.

64. MacGregor - A History Of The World In 100 Objects
If you're interested in history, you need this. Based on a program heard on Radio 4, this chooses 100 objects in British Museum to show the travel of time, of developments and communications with people, in a very interesting way.

65. King - Doctor Sleep
If you ever wondered what happened to Danny after "The Shining", here's a continuation.

66. Abensur - Cranks Fast Food
Shows its age a bit, but still interesting, especially if you like Moroccan/Mediterranean flavors, vegetarian style.

67. Pope Francis - The Light Of Faith (English translation)
If your faith needs motivation boost, this slim book does it, and well.

68. The Mabinogion (English translation)
For anyone interested in King Arthur legends, this is a good choice. Plenty of strange things and virtuous (or rude) behavior.

69. Hemingway - The Old Man & The Sea
A classic, well deserved, though reading at right age may improve enjoyment. Just the right length (little under 100 pages), with some clear story structure planning visible - which I like.

70. Terry - Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, & Creative African-American Cuisine
Very cheery, with soundtrack/art/film/books recommended with each recipe.

Books 27 and 28

27. The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered, by Jeffrey C. Alexander. Had mixed feelings about this one, although all in all, I'd recommend it -with some qualifications. This is actually a collection of essays regarding the journalism industry, but written more from a sociologist's perspective. My recommendation: skip or skim the intro, which I've already summarized in the previous sentence, and skip or skim the conclusion, which rehashes the essays. Also, I'd skip the first two essays. The first was written by someone who may have read several books on the industry (including a few which I've read) but still obviously doesn't truly understand what is bedeviling the industry. The second essay basically said there was no crisis, it was all a matter of perspective. Yeah. I detest the rose-colored glasses view as much as anyone, but that is taking things to extremes. I almost quit after reading those first two essays and that would have been a shame, because the rest were quite good. I especially enjoyed the essays on how newspapers in other countries were run, their philosophies, and how they were funded, a topic I don't know a lot about.

28. The Dark Crystal, Creation Myths, Vol. 3, by Matthew Dow Smith. The conclusion to the three-part graphic novel covering the beginning of Thra. This trilogy is a must for fans of The Dark Crystal. The UrSkeks have split into two races; only Aughra and her son Raunip know where the two races come from, but they are busy trying to find the lost shard. A change in the land already can be seen, and eventually, the Gelflings wind up uniting with the Skeksis, who offer their assistance in keeping the sinister creatures at bay.

Currently reading: Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century, from the Kyoto Costume Institute, The Way We Never Were, by Stephanie Coontz, and Black Klansman, by Ron Stallworth.

Book #41: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Number of pages: 436

The opening sequence of this book introduces the reader to August Odenkirk, who is queuing up for a job fair; he lends his sleeping bag to a woman with a baby, and seems like a nice guy. He's the sort of character who you want to read a novel all about.

Of course, this being Stephen King, August is killed off in the first chapter, in an incident that feels even more relevant today because of the similarities to last year's terrorist attacks in London (the book was written in 2014, before the attacks, though Stephen King may have been influenced by incidents that took place at the Boston marathon). A person driving a mercedes ploughs into the queue, killing most of them, including the baby.

The book then introduces the main character, Bill Hodges, who is a retired detective. The killer has sent him a taunting message about what he did; he also so messed with the head of the woman whose mercedes he stole to commit his crime, which seems to have contributed to the woman's suicide. The story gradually moves towards another terrorism attempt that is disturbingly similar to an incident that took place in Manchester last year.

The plot seems to move quite slowly as Hodges tries to figure out who the terrorist is, and I was surprised that, rather than being like a whodunnit mysyery, the readers are told exactly who did it near the start, and it turns out to be a disturbed mummy's boy called Brady, a character who is fleshed out in great detail throughout the book. We are told that Brady is a racist, and it is implied that the issues he seems to have stem back to his childhood. Brady's storyline contains the most harrowing aspects of the story, with moments of child death and another graphic death scene that felt like a throwback to the book that even unsettled Stephen King himself, Pet Sematery (I wasn't surprised when a google search for most disturbing Stephen King book bought up this novel). Because of this being more of a psychological thriller than a horror, I thought this was very reminiscent of some of Linwood Barclay's work, particularly his Promise Falls novels.

Most of the book is written in the present tense, and this annoyed me at first, because I tend to think this looks sloppy (I've started reading internet fan fiction and stopped after about one line when I saw it was written in the present tense), but after a while I realised that it worked quite well in this book, as it makes the story's flashback sequences stand out from the rest of the narrative. I liked the book's characters, and Hodges is given two helpers, Jerome and the mentally unstable Holly, who I am hoping also return in the second and third books that form the Bill Hodges Trilogy (and any further books about Hodges that Stephen King writes - I don't know how the third book, End of Watch finishes, so please don't tell me if Hodges gets killed off). I enjoyed most of this book, although I was in no doubt about how the climax would play out, and the final chapter felt somewhat cliched.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

I'm assuming that, since Brady survives the story, he returns for the second, and probably the third, book.

Next book: Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years (Sue Townsend)

Number of pages: 192

It's been years since I tried reading an Agatha Christie novel, and I decided to read this one after seeing the BBC's recent adaptation.

This feels like it stands out from just about any other whodunnit novel, in that not only has the murder already been committed at the start of the book, but someone has been arrested for the crime. In this book, the person accused of committing the crime is the victim's foster son, Jacko, who has also died in prison.

But, then a man called Calgary shows up at the family home, providing an alibi for Jacko; the family initially throw him out of the house, but gradually they start to suspect that Jacko was falsely accused.

I've never been a big fan of Agatha Christie, and most of the book is just conversations and speculation over who the killer was. One thing I noticed was how the book made Jacko seem abosulutely obnixious throughout, which seemed to be to make it seem like he was the killer. Having seen the BBC version, I thought I knew who the killer was, only to realise when I reached the end that the BBC changed a lot of details, inlcuding the killer, so I was suprised by the final reveal.

I thought this book was okay, but I probably wouldn't rush to read another of Agatha Christie's novels.

Next book: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Book 100-101

Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard, #1)Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From trial and error I've learned I prefer Ms. Harris's urban fantasy to her mysteries. That said I enjoyed this one. It was almost a 4 star read but I did find Lily a bit...abrasive. Granted she has reason to be. She is curt with most people but that's understandable. I struggled with the beginning more than anything. Lily is a cleaner, sort of a Merry Maid of one, cleaning homes and offices in Shakespeare, Arkansas. She keeps a low profile and leads a quiet life with the exception of the martial arts she studies with diligence.

It opens at the gym with awkward descriptions of Lily doing her exercises (some things just translate poorly to the written word but that's not what I struggled with). Lily has PTSD and doesn't sleep well. SHe spots something suspicious in the park across from her place and finds her landlord dead but refuses to go to the police with what she sees, calling it in anonymously. It felt more like the author wanting us guessing about this 'bad thing' in Lily's past (i.e. was she victim or aggressor) making it the thing that causes her to avoid the detective (whom she does seem to at least respect).

Lily realizes she has access to more information about the people of Shakespeare than maybe even the police because she's always in their homes, seeing all the things they tend to keep hidden. The tension rachets up when someone starts leaving her nasty little 'gifts', obviously knowing what happened in her past that has left such scars both physically and emotionally.

Lily finds herself swept up with the investigation and at least she doesn't take ridiculous risks like so many amateur sleuths do. I enjoyed it though I did find the actual killer to be a bit of a stretch (another reason I didn't go to 4 stars with this). I'd read another in this series.

and now for a spoiler that contains some trigger warnings. (view spoiler)[ This book does contain a few things that might upset people. Lily has an affair with a married man for one. Also her dark past includes torture and rape some of which is on page. this is darker than a lot of cozy readers would like. I was fine with it even though it's yet another rape of a strong woman. At least Lily's reaction to it and her PTSD seemed more plausible than we usually see. (hide spoiler)]

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See Also Murder (Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, #1)See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, I picked this one up for a literary destinations challenge and I needed North Dakota. I had never heard of this series but it's one I'm going to be hanging with to gobble up more. It was more like a 4 star read for the mystery but I gave it that extra star because Sweazy captures life on the Dakota plains so well (I lived in South Dakota though, similar enough). This is 1964 and it is not an easy life. In fact it's a pretty sad one for the lead character Marjorie Trumaine (and grinding over and over the same angst was one of the reasons the mystery itself is a 4 star read).

Marjorie's life is even harder than most farm house wives in the 60s. Her husband Hank had an accident while hunting, not only catching birdshot in the face costing him his sight, when he fell he broke his neck leaving him a quadriplegic in need of total care. Marjorie is barely hanging onto the farm with the help of her friends' the Knudsons and their two young sons. Also Marjorie - whose father wanted her to be an academic but she fell in love with a farmer - is an indexer, someone who makes the indexes at the back of books. She loves it being of an orderly sort of mind and the books she loves to read are her escape to worlds beyond Dakotan farm life.

And then the Knudsons are murdered, leaving their teenaged sons orphaned. Even more shocking, Erik Knudson is found with a bizarre Nordic amulet in his hand. Marjorie is brought into the investigation by her friend, Sheriff Hilo because she's 'the smartest person he knows.' He believes the amulet is somehow related to the murder and he knows she can handle the academic side of things to find out what the amulet is and why the murderer would have left it at the crime scene.

Marjorie is facing not only a mounting body count but also the worries of Hank dying on her (though he pretty much wishes he was dead) the loss of her friends, the chance she'll lose the farm and then someone starts to stalk her.

It was a very satisfying, if morose mystery. I found Marjorie convincing as an investigator and person (all the little details, like finding solace in a cigarette, the feel of the wind blowing across the prairie really made this novel. It was one of the most surprising finds all year. Looking forward to more.

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Number of pages: 322

This is something I read entirely on a recomemendation from someone else who had also read it. I noticed two distinct plotlines that were almost completely separate from each other, and the book almost seemed to switch between them each chapter.

The book starts off with the central character, Graham, married to his second wife, Audra. However, early in the book, Graham bumps into his first wife, Elspeth, who has also re-married, and events lead to her being involved in his life again. After Elspeth kicks her new husband out of the house, Graham realises that he has got to the point when he can just be friends with her, and starts spending a lot of time with her.

Inevitably, I thought this plotline could only be going in one direction, but the novel threw in a complete curveball near the end, with an event that I did not see coming at all, and sent the storyline going in a completely different direction.

The other plotline, and the one I read the story for, was Graham and Audra raising their ten year old son Matthew, who has aspergers syndrome, and so has difficuly interacting with other kids at school; much of the storyline involves his friendship with another boy, "Derek Rottweiler".

This storyline reminded me a little of another book I read recently, "Midwinter Break" by Bernard MacLaverty, in that it didn't really go anywhere. The thing that kept me reading this book was the humour, mostly through Graham's own thoughts, and the commentary on autism, such as the idea that Graham himself may have some form of autism. At one point, he even thinks about the odd habits of people he knows and wonders if they have aspergers themselves.

The book adds a lot of nice touches along the way, including a moment where Graham seats guests at a dinner party he and Audra have arranged in order of their position on the autistic spectrum. I also liked another moment where Matthew was caught watching pornography on a school computer, and Graham thought to himself that at least his son was behaving like a "normal" boy. I noticed that the storyline itself seemed deliberately idiosyncratic by having the characters go off on tangents themselves, mostly by having long conversations that had nothing to do with the main plot, but which still made for compelling reading.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot; Graham was a character who I found easy to identify with, and the use of humour throughout (aside from when the book reaches the unexpected plot twist I mentioned) was good, and ensured that the narrative style felt light-hearded throughout. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to others.

Next book: Ordeal by Innocence (Agatha Christie)


Thomas Frank's Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society provided additional on-train reading, and Book Review No. 24 will also precede any analyses of the train rides. The reports focus on four different areas of current life, ostensibly to present the message that the Powers that Be, and the Winners of the Lottery of Life, no matter have to care about Everybody Else.

That might be one interpretation, but buried in the curated columns might be the possibility either that the bad news is wrong, or that there's more than one way to respond to the bad news.
Read more...Collapse )And thus we get Donald Trump, or as Mr Frank's fourth section calls it, "The Explosion."  He's more interested in bringing left-leaning Democrats back into power, although he fears that they don't have the message.  Turn to page 222,  "Who needs to win elections when you can personally reestablish the rightful social order every day on Twitter and Facebook?"  Plus, "If economic conditions don't change and Democrats play out their strategy of indignant professional class self-admiration, they have only a fair chance of chasing him out of office -- after which they will undoubtedly be surprised by some new and even more abrasive iteration of right-wing populism."

It might be more constructive for Mr Frank to sit down for drinks with David Bernstein, Kurt Schlichter, and John Kass.  They might find some things to agree on.  Mr Bernstein writes, "Trump has at times promoted bigotry, is a congenital liar, and engages in demeaning and belittling behavior toward his political opponents. Indeed, I think these things are obvious. But much of the country isn't listening when the traditional gatekeepers point this out, and that is, at least in part, the gatekeepers' own fault."  Mr Schlichter notes, "When establishment hacks talk about the 'rule of law,' they mean that they should be able to use the law to rule you while they get to ignore the law when it’s inconvenient." And Mr Kass observes, "Trump's voters know what put him in the White House. It wasn't merely that Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate. It was that Trump voters detested the crowd that backed her, loathed them; and those voters in turn were viewed as something to be stepped on, to be ridiculed for heresy."

It would be better, though, for these four to meet privately for drinks, perhaps with a tape recorder running.  Put them on live television, particularly with some polemicist moderating, and you'd get a food fight.  Let them interact like four guys in a bar, and they might come up with something.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


I stopped at DePaul's bookstore before getting on the Lake Shore for points east, and picked up Dan Brown's Origin, thus implementing advice I offered years ago about the way to read Inferno.  Got it read before the train reached Albany, thus we'll unleash Book Review No. 23 today and hold the Performance and Practice for another day.

Ostensibly, Origin, like Inferno, and the preceding Lost Symbol and Da Vinci Code, is about Harvard art historian Robert Langdon interacting with some of his brilliant students and using his understanding of arcana to head off The End of The World, and other Dire Consequences.  Yes, those are present.

I can't help wondering, though, whether Origin isn't an Allegory for Our Times.

First, it's not so much that the polymathic Langdon student claims to have information that undoes all the religious Creation beliefs and gets killed before he is able to reveal the information, as it is that social media bots are capable of propagating stories, irrespective of their truthiness, at near-quantum speed.

Second, it's not so much that the Crown Prince of Spain gets drawn into the intrigue by way of his engagement to the director of an art museum, as it is that some of the action takes place in Spain's Valley of the Fallen, an attempt by Francisco Franco to restore unity after the Spanish Civil War: its contemporary story echoes recent tussles over Confederate monuments Stateside.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an artificial intelligence algorithm, admittedly a very good algorithm, is the Moriarty manipulating social media and doing a number of other things, but you'll have to read the book to find out what those other things.  An artificial intelligence algorithm, though, is only as good as its programming, which is to say, it is still an elaborately scripted moron, and, let's say, in implementing its instructions according to the priorities assigned to it, it takes some scary actions.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

August 2018 reading - books 37 to 42

37. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts – a pregnant young woman is abandoned by her boyfriend during a cross-country trip and she has to make a new life in a new town – poignant and sweet story that pushes up to the line of corny but doesn’t quite cross it – there’s also mention of some darker topics particularly in the boyfriend’s parallel story – adapted into a serviceable movie starring Natalie Portman
38. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale which I read earlier this year – picks up the story almost immediately from the ending of the first book – I won this as a giveaway from Goodreads and will post a more thorough review there eventually – in a nutshell I loved it and can’t wait for the conclusion of the trilogy in January
39. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – a family with five sons goes on a literal and figurative journey when the youngest announces that he prefers to wear dresses – thought provoking and engaging story – based in part on the author’s experience of raising a transgender girl
40. If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim – Korean War love triangle involving very cranky people – told from different perspectives spanning several years of a particular family’s life – sometimes the writing is too spare as we never fully get to know the characters or in some cases understand their motivations – depressing book with a beautiful cover
41. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – promising young neurosurgeon develops lung cancer – this book did not wow me but I did find it to be beautiful and sad – fulfills the posthumous publication task for Read Harder
42. I Am the Only Running Footman by Martha Grimes – a young woman is murdered outside a London pub in the same manner as another young woman ten months previously near Bristol – part of the Richard Jury series – very much reminds me of a “typical” British mystery show that later shows up on PBS – October selection for a new mystery book club I’ve joined because I’m a knucklehead

Number of pages: 228

I read this compilation of short stories and writings a few years ago, and had one thought about it:


Reading this again, my view didn't change a lot - this being by George Saunders, most of the stories are either written in an unconventional manner, or are just plain weird. They also felt like stories that I had to read slowly, and I found myself re-reading a few of them.

Many of these stories are obvious satires, including a letter from a fictional character with conservative views, ranting about same sex marriage and "same-ish" sex marriage, in a way that made me chuckle, in the way that it made fun of people with intolerant views (a lot of it was about effeminate men who were married to masculine woman, and the character's belief that this concealed homosexual desires).

There was another one that I enjoyed, which seemed to be all about how human lives are valued more than animals; this one involved a child being killed by an "infected" dog, leading to a cull on just about every animal in the small town in which it was set.

Reading these stories, it occurred to me that George Saunders may have been influenced a lot by Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, based on the writing style and the increasing levels of absurdity.

Other stories were more difficult, and felt like the plots to movies directed by David Lynch. The short story, In Persuasion Nation appeared to be part fantasy and part satire on the power of advertising, but was full of completely bizarre imagery (a packet of Doritos that cuts peoples' heads in half, for example, and a chocolate bar that becomes a sort of false god). In the words of Homer Simpson: "Brilliant. I have absolutely no idea what's going on".

Overall, you need to have some patience to read this book, because many of the stories may leave you a bit dumbfounded to explain what they are about. My recommendation is that, if you do read this book, don't try to rush through it.

Next book: Standard Deviation (Katherine Heiny)

Book 99

Jazz Funeral (Skip Langdon, #3)Jazz Funeral by Julie Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow, this was disappointing. To be honest most of the Skip Langdon books disappointed me. (Seriously I remember twenty years ago when the series started reviews raving about how lushly described they were. I read them thinking if I wasn’t told this is New Orleans I would never guess. I was surprised to see Ms. Smith was the first woman to win an Edgar award in nearly forty years back in the early 90s and I thought says more about the sexism of the judges than how good this series is). Anyhow, this just fails to grab me from start to terrible finish. Mostly I read it to fulfill a few reading challenges and so I can send the book on its way to its next home.

Detective Skip Langdon isn’t the only disappointing part of this but she’s the biggest of the disappointments. It’s hard to read a mystery when you don’t really like the lead character. Skip should be a good character, lady detective, over 6 feet tall and tough. Instead she spends much of her on page time whining about her boyfriend or the sergeant who’s currently in charge of her and very little of it actually investigating anything. It opens with her smoking pot (so if that’s a problem for you that’s chapter one). I can handle that but maybe not when she does it again later knowing this sergeant is looking for any reason to can her. (Also, he’s so over the top aggressive I can’t see how she’s not filing a grievance).

The mystery is straight forward enough Ham Brocata has been killed in his kitchen just before Jazzfest, a huge music festival he’s running. He comes from a family who made its money in sandwiches and his father George has a much younger wife, Patty (only five years older than Ham) and a 16-year-old sister, Melody. He’s involved with a Cajun R&B singer, Ti-Belle who actually wants to dump him for someone else, basically the Louisianan answer to Elvis. Melody takes off just after her brother is killed.

So Skip has two things to do. Find Ham’s killer and find Melody because it’s probable that she is his killer. Simple enough, right? Yeah not so much. Melody runs away and changes her hair color which is SO miraculous that literally no one recognizes her (her ex-boyfriend is like ‘she must have had plastic surgery?’ what in the two days that’s gone by? It’s hair color. I change mine often and no one has ever said wow, you’re so different I had NO idea it was you.)

We get too many points of view in this. Skip isn’t on page nearly enough. We do have some chapters with Ti-Belle, George, Patty and the Cajun Elvis. But we get a lot of them with Melody and she made me want to rip the book in half. Part of the reason why I’ll put under a spoiler cut because the ending of this staggers the mind.

Melody is all about Janis Joplin and how she, too, is going to sing and die young. She spends over 300 pages of this thing planning this. She’s an absolute idiot about living on the street. Within a few days has an STD (you get a lengthy description of her trying to pick out crabs from her pubes and no not sorry for spoiling that for anyone). She just knows if she can sing with her friend Joel Boucree she’ll make it. Joel and his musical family are African American and she’s a poor little rich white girl with an older distant father and a trophy mother who isn’t interested in her (so literally such a stereotype she lacks anything imaginative or unique).

I don’t even know how to say this part without sounding like I’m the racist, but Melody idolizes Joel and African Americans but in a weird way. It’s not in a ‘I like African Americans’ sort of way. She pictures them completely unrealistic as if they’re not actual people but some as the personification of perfection (they’re so warm, so musical, so lucky). I lost track of how many times she whined how much she wanted to be Black. Certainly, enough to make me uncomfortable.

Speaking of that, time for a spoiler cut spoilersCollapse )


Book 98

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently, #1)Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a 2.5 read for me at best. I thought this was a reread of this novel (which I meant to do when the BBC started the TV series) but I must never have made it more than the first fifty pages last time…thirty years ago. I remember buying this in college after falling in love with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. In the interim I’ve learned that while I liked that book I am not really an Adams fan.

I was bored to tears by the first half of this book. Nor did I find it funny. I see plenty of reviewers who thought it was hysterical so I wonder what I missed. (It’s not as if I’m unfamiliar with British humor. I usually quite enjoy it). I simply didn’t connect at all (and for those wondering, this book and the TV have literally nothing to do with each other).

The first half of the book revolves around a strange Electric Monk and his horse, Gordan Way, a computer gaming tycoon, Richard who works for him and dates Gordan’s sister, Susan, Reg an old professor and Michael a former magazine editor who Gordan disposed. Something big happens to Gordan which finally kicks off the action but that takes forever. We have a long session of reading about a faculty dinner which is even more boring than being at one and I can say that from experience.

Once the bad stuff happens, Richard could end up blamed and jailed, he finally meets up with Dirk Gently (we’re over 100 pages into a 245 page book at this point). They know each other from school where Dirk’s abilities got him in trouble (in theory jailed but I don’t know how cheating on an exam ends in that). Dirk comes off as a con man (though he’s really working at a quantum level, in theory). He’s also rather abrasive.

The second half of the novel is definitely better than the first. My cover blurb says it’s a ghost-horror-detective- time travel-rom-com epic. Okay it has a ghost. You don’t see that it’s actually time travel until the last 50 odd pages which are fast moving if a bit confusing. And then, if you can possibly spoil a 31 year old novel it ends with a to be continued (no, not for me it’s not).

While the characters are well drawn, they didn’t engage me. I found this to be a slog. Also it’s very dated in many ways. To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in computer stuff 30 years ago when it was fresh. Reading about computer stuff three decades out of date was hard.

I found Dirk abrasive and Richard simply not interesting enough to go looking for the two other books. I know this is a classic and I’m glad I read it. I just wish I had enjoyed it more.

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Number of pages: 418

This is a book that I read one chapter at a time, having started reading several months ago.

Other people were wondering what I was thinking when I decided to read this book; while it seems very involved, it made for fascinating reading, in which Daniel Kahneman makes observations about how humans think that I'd never thought of before.

He starts off by setting out that we have two different ways of thinking, named system 1 and system 2.

System 1 is very impulsive, and involves making snap judgements about situations with very little thought involved, while System 2 is the slower way of thinking, and much more careful, thinking more rationally. It made me think of how I can often jump to conclusions, and very fast.

The other chapters were fascinating too; for example, sections that point out that people forget about duration of experiences, so we might see a prolonged bad experience that ends with a shorter, happier, experience as a good experience overall.

Another favourite chapter of mine was about how different phrases were framed. For example, if an item of food is labelled "90% fat free" and another is labelled "10% fat", this both means the same thing, but we will probably see the first as more positive.

I also enjoyed the comments on gambling and risk aversion, showing about the psychological factors around potential losses, and how we tend to assume that rare (and very bad events) are more likely to happen. I know I think this way a lot.

I'd recommend reading this book; it's one that you need to concentrate hard on, so best to read it somewhere quiet, and don't try to rush through it. Be prepared for several hours of reading time.

Next book: In Persuasion Nation (George Saunders)

Book 97

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

It’s rare for me to read a book, throw up my hands and feel like screaming (and pretty much decide to quit the series) but this is one of them. I decided not to give it a star rating because I don’t know what to rate it. Honestly, I really enjoyed the urban fantasy part of this story but the romantic subplot and the ending of it deserve negative stars.

This is the third in the Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is interesting. She’s part Native America and can shift into coyote form but she was raised by werewolves. Recently vampires, werewolves and the fae have gone public with varying results. The fae in this book are as wicked (or as good) as some of the fairytales and have been rounded up into reservations.

It opens with Mercy being the scent ‘hound’ for Zee and Uncle Mike a couple of fae she knows (the titular Iron Kissed Zee who helped her get her auto repair shop and is her friend and mentor and Mike who runs a bar) after several fae have been killed. To her surprise after reluctantly pointing out the killer (knowing the fae will ‘disappear’ him, he’s murdered violently with Zee (and Uncle Mike) at the scene. Zee is blamed and in spite of his wishes she tries to clear her friend (because the Fae want him found guilty (even if he’s not) just so the humans don’t figure out other things they’re up to.

Mercy isn’t about to let this happen even if it puts a target on her back with the Gray Lords, the rulers of the fae.

And this part of the story was really good. If there had been no ‘romantic’ subplot I’d probably have given it four stars and gone on to find book #4. As it is, there was a romance so unbelievably self destructive and creepy, I honestly don’t know if I would even read another of these from the library let alone spend money on it. It didn’t help that she thinks suicides are ‘selfish’. It would be one thing if it had been a thought. I’ve been through far too many friends’ suicides and I know that unkind thought can cross your mind but to say it to the person’s brother?
Even though this was out years ago I’m going to put the whole romance and the terrible, shouldn’t have gone there ending under a spoiler cut. And what's worse is that this horrible abusive 'romance' won an award! I'm utterly nauseated by this.

SpoilersCollapse )
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Book #36: Sacred Cows by Rosalind Coward

Number of pages: 219

Sacred Cows looks critically at feminism's achievements and asks that most un-PC of questions - do we need feminism any more or is it damaging relations between men and women, demonizing men and denying them the right to understanding and equality in a society that is harsher for them than ever before?

The whole concept behind this book could be the subject of a satire as well as a serious essay, and it piqued my interest many years ago when I first bought this book. I wanted to re-read it for ages, and this time I felt that I got more out of it.

The book starts with a "potted history" of the feminist movement, with several references to Margaret Thatcher and the feminist Germaine Greer, examining traditional expectations of how both men and women should behave. It also touched on subjects including sexual harassment and rape, that feel more relevant with some of today's current news stories, particularly those involving Harvey Weinstein.

The book was written in 1999, so reading it nowadadys, some of the comments feel a bit dated - there are a lot of references to 1990s pop culture, and comments about what Tony Blair's New Labour hoped to achieve, set in the future tense; I'd be interested to see what changes would be made in an updated version of the book.

The concept sounds provocative, but Rosalind Coward's arguments seemed reasonably balanced, and very comprehensive, with the conclusion that feminism is definitely okay, but neither men or women should feel like they are "losing out" as a result.

While this is a slightly dated book, it nevertheless proved fascinating reading and I found it hard to put this down.

Next book: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

Number of pages: 96

I reviewed this book not long ago - see https://50bookchallenge.livejournal.com/13614716.html

I decided to read it again; it's quite short, and I enjoyed reading Vaughan Roberts' views on friendship and also marriage from a Christian perspective. There are many liberals who would not agree on his anti-gay marriage stance, though.

I found the book mostly challenging in that it set out that friends need to be honest with each other, and often if the truth is going to hurt, I find it difficult to tell a friend without at least attempting to be diplomatic. The book uses a lot of quotes from Proverbs to back up its arguments.

As mentioned before, Roberts' opinions are likely to stir up some controversy, but this book is a really easy read, and can be read in probably less than an hour.

Next book: Sacred Cows (Rosalind Coward)

Number of pages: 256

The third Agatha Raisin novel opens with Agatha joining the horticultural society and entering a best garden competition. At the same time, she makes friends with a newcomer called Mary Fortune, who ends up having a fling with Agatha's on-off love interest, James Lacey. Mary is a character who is described vividly, and seems like someone that would provoke others - particularly, as she also seems to be a racist (although possibly the name she calls Inspector Bill Wong matybe was a little less shocking in 1994 when this was written). Also, several gardens in the village end up getting vandalised.

This is all, of course, leading up to a murder, although this doesn't happen until almost half way through the novel, when Agatha and James find Mary dead, and planted head-first in a plant pot. While this is a very comic image, I noticed that this book seemed to have less comic relief than the previous books, as well as having a particularly dark moment near to the end.

This story is yet another standard murder mystery, mostly taken up by Agatha and James speaking to residents and finding out that several people hated Mary, and think she got what she deserved. Overall, this was enjoyable enough, but hardly a classic. My favourite moment was Agatha finding out that she was popular in the village, which surprised her as much as it surprised me, mostly because previous titles appeared to indicate that she got on everyone's nerves (one character in this book calls her "the village nosey parker" at one point.

Still, M.C. Beaton has written several Agatha Raisin novels and I want to keep reading them, probably because it has a central character that I find very entertaining.

Next book: True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts

Books 95 & 96

(one day I won't get off on my numbering...)

Ante UpAnte Up by Kim Fielding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I never tire of vampire stories for some reason and I was excited to see Kim Fielding tackle the subgenre. Better yet, it was set in Las Vegas (love that town) and the title is a fun play on words for both poker and is the vampire’s name. In Croatian, it’s pronounced ahn-tay so that was fun.

Ante died on the battlefield in his homeland of Croatia over a hundred and fifty years ago and he’s living pretty close to the bone in Vegas. He’s literally one step from homeless but that doesn’t really bother him. He prefers to stay away from the Shadows, a group of vampires running Vegas (and other places) like the mafia and is led by Lee, a vampire Ante has a connection to. He works for them only when he needs to.

Ante’s attention is captured by a young man, Peter, who seems to have a silver tongue, able to talk people into doing outrageous things. Unfortunately, the Shadows have also noticed Peter and wants Ante to enslave him. Ante has other plans, leading him and Peter into danger and their chance at love depends on if they can keep alive.

Ante and Peter are fun characters. I’m part Croatian so the tidbits about culture, language and food really made me happy. There is, however, a certain sadness hovering around both men (though it does have a romance’s prerequisite happily ever after). I would have liked Lee to have been better drawn (and maybe a bit more with Dorothy) but this is a close third pov (Ante being the point of view character) so there really isn’t space for that. As a vampire story this really satisfies.

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デビルズライン 8 (Devils' Line, #8)デビルズライン 8 by Ryo Hanada

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another interesting volume. The first third is a dream-memory of Kikuhara’s first meeting with Anzai which is more chilling than expected.

Once Anzai wakes up the hospital he and Tsukasa have to deal with the fact that she forced him to bite her in order to save his life last volume, not to mention dealing with the fall out from the trap the CCC had set.

The rest of the volume deals with that and the fall out is severe, leading to a lot of angst. Worse, Tsukasa is floundering in what she wants her career to be. Her love for Anzai is translating to a deep curiosity about the Devils. However, the CCC’s trap had the desired effect. Anti-devil protests are at an all time high and getting more violent by the moment.

And then Tsukasa meets Anzai’s mother.

I have to say the story is taking a darker turn into the effects of hate and prejudice and in general I read to avoid the ugliness of the real world. That said, I still like these characters and plan to continue. I can’t see where this is going and in this case, I like that mystery.

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Book #33: Origin by Dan Brown

Number of pages: 638

As I got to the end of this book's prologue, I was reminded of a scene on Futurama. It was after Nibbler revealed himself to be part of the universe's most intelligent race and showed Leela something that prompted her to respond: "I see, every religion is wrong".

The premise of the book also put me in mind of a similarly cynical moment from Matt Groening's more well-known show, The Simpsons, in which Homer has become super-intelligent and goes up to Flanders with apparent proof of the non-existence of God. Flanders, sceptical, takes a look, and then is so scared, he decides to destroy Homer's evidence.

The book opens with Edmond Kirsch, a former student of Robert Langdon (appearing in his fifth novel), and a fanatical atheist/futurist (presumably modelled on Richard Dawkins) announcing that he will make a big announcement to the world that apparently debunks all religion. Kirsch has stirred up a lot of trouble in the religious community with a Bishop apparently threatening to take extreme action. During the build-up to this big moment, the book starts to feel more like a science fiction novel as Robert Langdon finds himself talking to "Winston", a HAL-type artificial intelligence.

The initial build-up feels very slow, and it is quite easy to guess what this is all leading up; sure enough, approximately a quarter of the way into the book, Kirsch is shot dead, just before he can provide his apparently definitive proof that all religions are wrong. While Langdon's response is to go after the person responsible, and find out who he is, the reader is told quite early on exactly who did it, and the character is given a detailed background of his own through a series of flashbacks where we learn that his family were killed in a bombing at Seville Cathedral, and he was turned into a Christian zealot, apparently becoming a member of the Palmarian church, a sect I had never heard of who apparently believe that the Pope is an imposter.

After a slow start, the action did pick up, especially when Langdon and his companion went to Barcelona and ended up with a confrontation in the Sagrada Familia. I was surprised that, for the first half of the book at least, there were none of the cryptic clues that the Robert Langdon books are usually filled with, but they did eventually start appearing, and were mostly (as usual) associated with religious symbolism.

After being disappointed by the previous book, Inferno, I didn't have high hopes for this book, but during the second half it started showing some promise. However, most of the action was just a build-up to Landgon broadcasting the late Edmond Kirsch's presentation to the world, and this was the point when I started feeling let down.

The segment about the presentation was very descriptive, and half of it was talking about the presentation's visuals in such a way that I wondered if Dan Brown should have written this as a graphic novel; it felt like something that might look better in a movie adaptation, if this ever gets done (the movie series has so far skipped The Lost Symbol). When it got up to Kirsch's big revelation, I could predict what was coming before it happened, and it did feel very cliched, and similar to things that have been mentioned in science fiction at least as far back as the times of Harlan Ellison. As a Christian, I couldn't really see quite how Kirsch's proof could in any way debunk my religious beliefs.

The book was almost saved by an unexpected plot twist near the end regarding the identity of the "Regent", who instigated the killing of Kirsch, but it felt like too little, too late. While, I'm not sure what Dan Brown's religious views are (I'm guessing he's atheist or agnostic), a lot of this did feel like a critique of organised religion, until the end when one of the characters made a valid point that stopped the book from feeling like an all-out attack on religious beliefs.

This is worth reading for completeness, but if like me you felt let down by Inferno, you might want to skip this one.

Next book: Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (M.C. Beaton)

Books 51 - 60.

51. Deuster, Singh, Pelleteer (eds.) - The US Navy SEAL Guide To Fitness & Nutrition
Part of the information only applies to certain part of people, but even I found new information here, and the rest were a good view into this book's intended-target world.

52. Platt - Egyptian Diary: The Journal Of Nakht, Young Scribe (smaller version)
Children's book, but entertaining short read even for adults.

53. Grylls - Fuel For Life
Some of his health information I disagree with, but there's still plenty of good type, and some great recipes are included.

54. Pope Francis - The Joy Of Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) (English translation)
55. Huebsch - 'The Joy Of Gospel': Group Reading Guide
Good motivation for expressing one's faith in the world, even if it's just with your life. The guide retells the main book, but you get a better feel if you read the latter.

56. Pamuk - The White Castle (Finnish translation)
A good novel, but more musing than action-packed.

57. Hawkins - The Library At Mount Char
Supernatural horror, with humor, but it must be stressed that the horror part is not scary much.

58. Greger - How Not To Die: Discover The Foods Scientifically Proven To Prevent & Reverse Disease
Life-changing. If you need a not-animals reason to go vegetarian/vegan, or just reduce meat/dairy, here's at least 15 health-reasons why. The resource section is almost third of the book's content, so things are really proven.

59. Popel Francis - Rejoice & Be Glad: On The Call To Holiness In Today's World (English translation)
Fairly new work, mentions also that part of holiness is good behavior online (incl. refraining from gossip).

60. Majzlik - Vegan Baking
Flawed (the mincemeat is only once mentioned to be vegan, no pies, many with fruit), but not bad to own though not 'own only this' type.

Books 93-94

Yeah I got off on my number again. Sigh.

Sticks & Scones (A Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery, #10)Sticks & Scones by Diane Mott Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a Goldy Schultz mystery and I was partly reminded as to why. Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t an awful read but it did have some cringe-worthy moments. It’s a good reminder as to why the cozy mystery isn’t my favorite subgenre of mystery.
Goldy’s husband, Tom, is on the east coast following a lead about a stamp heist, stamps worth in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands a piece. He was lead there by a young man, Andy, who had gotten swept up in this mess trying to pay off a different bad decision that might lead to his father’s death by heart attack.

Goldy is home alone with her son Arch worrying about everything. She has earned that right because part of the worry is her abusive ex (Arch’s dad) might be getting out of prison and her own catering career might be tanking because she reported Charde and Buddy Lauderdale, very wealthy clients, after Buddy shook his infant daughter so hard she blacked out. The Lauderdales, having bought their way free of charges are out to ruin her, and potentially sue for loss of reputation. That’s when someone shoots out her front window.

Goldy and Arch end up at Sukie and Elliot Hyde’s castle. It’s an honest to goodness castle that he’s trying to pass off as a conference center and hotel. She was meant to be doing a series of Elisabethean themed dinners for him. To her horror, soon Andy is dead, Tom’s been shot, someone from his past has resurfaced (and she sees it as a threat to their marriage), the Lauderdales are redecorating for the Hydes and Goldy’s ex shows up with his newest conquest, Viv who seems to have dated half the town.

My problem with this wasn’t so much the mystery as it was all the outside nonsense. It had enough melodrama for two books but not enough potential suspects. I mean most of the suspects are somehow linked to Goldy and each other and all are so obnoxious you just want them all to be guilty. I found the end too over the top Hollywood for belief and Goldy’s insecurity and jealousy made this hard for me to read in places.

I’ve read several in this series. Who knows, I’ll probably read more. At least the recipes were interesting and not all baked goods. (That always makes me sad when the recipes are all cookies and stuff as I’m diabetic).

Now for a minor spoiler. There comes one point when Goldy confronts someone she thinks is selling the stolen stamps and at first passes herself off as a police investigator before backing off that story. All she really does is make him take off in the middle of the night. If this was the real world, she’d probably be arrested for obstruction. At best, she just lost the actual cops a valid lead. And this is what bothers me with cozies. Sometime I wonder why I read so many.

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デビルズライン 7 (Devils' Line, #7)デビルズライン 7 by Ryo Hanada

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one is another one filled with Machiavellian plotting. Anzai, Lee and F Squad, along with the still suspicious Ishimaru, are trying to locate and protect/interrogate list members. This leads them into a clever trap that is designed to be potentially deadly and make the devils look bad at the same time.

The F squad members still can't fully trust Ishimaru. They know someone in the group is betraying them. It's possible someone could be a double agent and they all could be killed.

The story telling is very good if convoluted. I'm enjoying this one.

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Book 89

Chasing the Green Fairy (The Airship Racing Chronicles, #2)Chasing the Green Fairy by Melanie Karsak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had very mixed feelings about this one. To be honest, if it was just another race book I probably would have been bored. I didn't mind the race being broken up by something else. In fact, the race was only a frame in many ways. To Lily's horror, someone has stolen the Stargazer's fancy new engine and the racing officials are trying to price the average airship pilot out of the grand prix, leaving it to the wealthy only. As if that wasn't trying enough for her sobriety, she gets word that Lord Byron is gravely sick in Greece.

In spite of theoretically being in love with Sal (her mechanic), she flies off to Bryon's side and a huge chunk of the book is dedicated to this love triangle part of the book. It wasn't really working for me. It dragged on a bit too long. I could handle it slightly altering of what really happened to Bryon (not by much) but it wasn't holding my attention.

Her inheritance from Byron was interesting. Secret societies, the Good Neighbors and all their dangers, Byron's half fae son. I did like this part and while I was sympathetic about Lily diving back into absinthe and opium, she does so much of it, I'm not sure how she's alive.

Finally she remembers the race, goes home, back to Sal and the race itself was exciting. However, this felt like it was a filler or a prelude to a steampunk-urban fantasy mash up with the faeries and the secret society Bryon leaves to her, than it did a true stand alone story.

Deepening the mixed feelings is the fact that in the years it took me to dust this off and read it, that the next book isn't out after four years. I don't know why but that is disappointing.

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July 2018 reading - books 31 to 36

31. Death Going Down by Maria Angelica Bosco – a drunk man comes home late at night finds an unknown dead woman in his apartment building’s elevator in 1950s Buenos Aires – a little convoluted for such a short book but an interesting Christie-esque story.
32. I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark – a TV producer develops a reality show about cold case murders – five years previously her husband had been stabbed to in front of their son and the murderer told the boy his mother was next – things come to a head during the filming of the first episode – a somewhat fluffy read considering the topic but an entertaining story
33. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See – in the remote hills of southern China a young girl grows up struggling with her community’s traditions and the legacy her mother wants to give her – the life of the village is forever changed when a tea seller from the city arrives and meanwhile our protagonist has a child out of wedlock – a story of sacrifice, love, and persistence in the face of adversity - I also learned a lot about the production of tea
34. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez – an odd but sweet little story about a woman who’s mourning the suicide of a long-time friend and agrees to take care of his giant dog in her tiny apartment – lots of musings about writing, grief, friendship, and animal-human interactions
35. Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession by Elizabeth Benedict [ed.] – a collection of essays about a range of topics relating to hair: mothers and daughters fighting over hair; going gray or not; the ongoing battle against frizz; attitudes about hair and beauty in different cultures; and even a TMI chapter about hair “elsewhere”
36. The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece by Eric Siblin – the author weaves together the biographies of two musicians born centuries apart and the composition that links them, which had disappeared for decades but is now a standard fixture in the classical repertoire
The best way a relationship can stay longer is when you both pour your heart out to each other, where there is no secret. You both know all about each other,you know you likes and dislikes.
Sometimes you spouse or partner might keep things from you and that not because they don't love or trust you, it might be that they don't think you can handle it or might even freak out. But you have to find out yourselves what they are keeping from you and why.
I one time hired a hacker softtechgeeks@gmail.com who helped me clone my fiance's phone, so i could listen to his calls, see his text and even his mail. That way it was like i knew everything he knew and i had to support him.
He is my man and if i don't look out for him, who will?


Steven Brill's Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall -- and Those Fighting to Reverse It is another attempt by a Political Observer to Come to Terms with the populist insurgency, and his narrative is a perspective on the Ruling Class rigging the machinery of government to their own benefit, and to the detriment of those not so well placed.  As such, it covers ground a number of commentators surveyed before the 2016 presidential election, concluding with a call to action very much in the spirit of "Where the elites have lost their focus, it is up to the people to discover a new one."  There's more than a little of Peggy Noonan's meditation on the Unprotected, as well.  "The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully." Mr Brill, however, is not happy with the populist direction of that push-back, or perhaps he's disappointed that his crony Bill Clinton didn't counsel The Smartest and Most Qualified Woman more effectively.  Finally, there's more than a little of V. D. Hanson's "The Origins of Our Second Civil War" (globalization, high [information] tech, the campus, illegal immigration, and the Obama project) in Mr Brill's argument, although his recommendations will be different, and he's not ready to give up on the American Experiment just yet, things being not as bad as they were in the late 1850s, in the depths of the Depression, and there being genuine social progress and creativity, even if a lot of that social progress and creativity looks like genderfluid cat pictures on social media.  But getting from LaGuardia into Manhattan is an exercise in public squalor, and that might be what inspired Tailspin.

I made a great many marginal and front-paper notes on my copy, and Book Review No. 22 is going to turn into a mini-dissertation.  I'll make some observations about the book Mr Brill claimed he was writing, then elaborate on the usefulness of the book he actually wrote.  After that I'll comment on the specific policy problems the Protected created (short form: one of these days Democrat court intellectuals will read and understand the Law of Unintended Consequences) and conclude with some policy possibilities that might work.

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(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)



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