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Book 122-123

CloudlandCloudland by Joseph Olshan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This one had such potential and it fell flat, too much soap opera not enough mystery. Nothing felt fully developed and yet it was draggy as can be. Catherine Winslow was once an investigative reporter who ‘retired’ for reasons that were barely clear and now she’s doing home help tips, and is doing well with that. She was also an adjunct teacher who had an affair with a twenty-four year old student, Matthew who was half her age and ended terribly. She finds a frozen woman by a fallen tree with seventh day adventist literature in her pocket (and trees have special meaning for that branch of Christianity). This murder victim matches a pattern of killings.

Catherine, with her reporter past, is kept looped into the investigation by Detective Prozzo and the psychiatrist working up a profile, Anthony, someone she already knows. Together they work on the mystery with a truly interesting link to a rare obscure unfinished mystery by Wilkie Collins. There was an interesting cast of suspects from an old friend of Catherine, a knacker/butcher named Hiram and her old boyfriend, Matthew who had attacked her once (when their affair ended). On top of this we have Catherine’s semi-estranged daughter, Breck (they’re trying to work it out).

If they had kept it to the mystery this could have been so interesting. But no, we have Anthony’s life imploding as his wife leaves, Prozzo’s life’s a mess, Catherine claims she wants to fix things up with her daughter but won’t even visit her and her girlfriend (you get the hint she doesn’t quite approve). There is just far too much of the soap opera especially of Catherine and Matthew who’s romantic overtures were creepy (He shows up while she’s out eating back when he was her student, upsetting her and she goes from that to going to bed with him in the span of five minutes because his ‘persistence was charming.’ Nope, it was weird and gave me cold chills.

The ending was very contrived, infuriating and really ruined any good will I might have felt for Catherine. I might have gone one star higher until this ending. Here’s a spoiler for why (so look away).


Yeah so spoiler. Matthew strangled Catherine when she broke it off two years ago so badly she has a scarred neck. She still meets with him in spite of the protests of her friends and her daughter. She is utterly crappy and judgmental to her daughter through the whole book. In the end she’s like yeah I know he strangled me (and was accused of hurting another girl) but I love him and I’m going back with him. I cannot respect this glorification of an abusive relationship. If this is not a one off (I think it is) I would never read another with Catherine in it.

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Flash and Bones (Temperance Brennan, #14)Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a Temperance Brennan book, mostly because I was getting a wee bit tired of her bouncing between Ryan and Charlie (too soap opera for me). When I opened this one, she’s not with either man and her ex-Pete is remarrying and has the audacity to ask her to make nice with his dimwit fiancee, Summer, who’s turned into bridezilla. Tempe is in North Carolina this time and a body has found inside an oil barrel encased in asphalt. It has ties to the nearby Nascar track and a mechanic, Gamble there wants to know if it’s his sister who disappeared with her boyfriend who was connected with a right wing racist militia.

Turns out it was a man in the barrel but she teams up with Detective Slidell to see if there is a connection. It leads back to the track to the head of security, Galimore, who was the detective on the case back then only to end up in jail for taking bribes. Slidell naturally hates him. Then the FBI shows up, steals the body and begins to stonewall but not before they learn the man in the barrel died of ricin poisoning. On top of this, a man responsible for looking into that sort of thing has also disappeared.

Naturally Tempe turns to Galimore to learn more about what happened to the promising young student and her scumbag boyfriend like Gamble wanted. Here’s where things get a bit mushy. It’s like Reichs wanted to go one way with this then thought better of it. Slidell promises to cut Tempe off if she talks to Galimore but he doesn’t. Reichs sets Galimore as sex on a stick and it looks like Tempe was about to jump him (and I would have lost a lot of respect for her and the author, not because of the sex but for enforcing the idea women can’t control themselves around hot men even though we know it’ll cost us professional respect). Luckily that got lost in the shuffle and the mystery becomes the focus again.

It wraps up nicely with some fun twists. I do enjoy this series. I just wish it would avoid the soap opera stuff a little more.

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September 2017 reading - books 34 to 36

34. The Good Women of China by Xinran – stories collected by the author during her career as a radio commentator on women’s issues – mothers of earthquake victims, daughters and wives of families destroyed by the Cultural Revolution, cynical college students, residents of a remote village who live in abject poverty, and others – most of the stories are sad and some are truly heart-breaking
35. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh – a shocking crime shatters the idyllic atmosphere in a Baton Rouge suburb in the summer of 1989 – years later a resident conveys the story in flashback style – not a typical murder mystery but there is an element of uncertainty about the incident that lingers long after the event – rich with atmospheric details but could have done without a few tangents and been about 25% shorter
36. Y Is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton – penultimate (!) Kinsey Millhone mystery – she looks into a ten-year-old cold case involving murder and extortion among obnoxious high school students – meanwhile an at-large criminal from a previous case menaces Kinsey and her friends – by chance around the time I read this book I watched the movie “20th Century Women” which is set in the same time and place as the original crime, so that was an interesting juxtaposition

Book 119

Erased, Vol. 1Erased, Vol. 1 by Kei Sanbe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had seen Erased on some of the ‘best of’ manga review lists then spotted it at the library. Had to have it. I will say at first, I didn’t like the art style (proportions are not always right) but it grew on me. The story grabbed me right away.

Satoru Fujinuma is something of a twenty-nine year old failure. He’s still working as a pizza delivery boy and is a wanna-be mangaka. The opening chapters with him lamenting how hard it is to break into writing, the criticisms of his work, of how his debut flopped, I know first hand how this is (well with writing. No one wants to see my art). He’s working with a lot of high schoolers and is really feeling that ‘I’m a failure’ thing, especially when dealing with the inquisitive high school girl, Airi Katagiri (especially when some people, including his mother thing they’re an item, which given their age gap creeps him out).

Satoru is special though. He has this phenomenon surrounding him that he calls ‘revival.’ When something goes wrong, usually with tragic results, like the death of a child (which is the first time we see it), he relives the moment again and again until he notices the event that kicks off the tragedy and stops it, something that usually ends up with him in trouble or hurt. Our first look at revival is him saving a child, ending up a hero, a hero in the hospital after his pizza delivery scooter collides with a truck.

Compounding his problems, his mother moves in with him (along with her big personality) until he’s on his feet and Airi has begun to notice that there is something strange going on with Satoru. But there’s always been something strange going on with him. As a ten to eleven year old child, Satoru was tangentially associated with three murdered children and the young man convicted of being a serial killing pedophile. Kayo Hinazuki, the first murdered little girl was his classmate and Hiyomi was a boy Satoru played with, a very effeminate boy who was probably mistaken for a girl by the killer. Satoru’s mother and the other parents tried hard to make them forget the incident but it’s been there in the back of Satoru’s mind.

Then came a revival that swept up his mom and Airi in it. It took me a while to warm up to his mother who was once an investigative reporter. She noticed quicker what the problem was than he did. This revival thwarted what would have been another tragedy regarding a kid. The incident kicked off something far worse for Satoru, a tragedy that has him begging for a revival. He gets it only to find his twenty-nine year old self in the body of his ten, nearly eleven self. He realizes that he has a chance to save Hinazuki, Hiyomi and the others but can a little boy really do that?

Satoru takes a bit of time to warm up to. In some ways I think that’s intentional. From the descriptions of his social awkwardness I have to wonder if he has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome. When he goes back in time, there is a lot of sweetness to him though, a true desire to help people. Satoru is a good guy. You want him to save Hinazuki (who has problems of her own). You want him to get back to the modern day having changed the future. You want him to finally have his story as a mangaka and become successful. There are a few weird, sort of annoying things like him thinking something then immediately saying it and going ‘did I say that out loud’ (I kept thinking there was a reason for it that I just didn’t see other than kids have no filters) or the wide mouth big eyed gape whenever he was embarrassed but that’s minor stuff. Somehow I thought this was a one shot but it is not. Now I’m anxiously awaiting more.

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Books 41 - 55.

41. Scalzi - The Collapsing Empire
The first part of a series - quick moving, funny, and surprising, with an idea I have read about in scifi before (though I'm sure there might be similar ideas elsewhere...?)

42. Owen - Overcoming Sin & Temptation: Three Classic Works By...
Three classic Puritan works dealing with the subject, text worked to a more understandable English.

43. James - The Loneliest Girl In The Universe
She's the only surviving member on a starship destined to a planet away from Earth... another ship is coming to meet her, with a boy she might like on it - but is he what he says he is? The story works pretty well, even if you don't read much YA.

44. McRaven - Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... & Maybe The World
Bought this on hardback, and this slim book does deliver!

45. Madison - Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone (10th Anniversary Edition)
A lot to read, but it does have great variety of recipes to use, no wonder it has won at least one prize :)

46. The Kalevala (original, not translated)
About time I read this epic of Finnish people. Plenty of the story was familiar - you don't have to read it know most of it - but now I can say I know it from reading it, too.

47. Glavich - The Catholic Companion To The Angels
Pretty usual book about Angels, but with some knowledge I didn't already have, which is good.

48. Anker - Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave
Unlike some other self-help books, I wouldn't mind meeting her. And this book gives you idead on how to face your fears to improve your life. Some humorous stories here among the lessons.

49. John Climacus - The Ladder Of Divine Ascent (English translation)
I think I might've read this one before, not sure, but I got the depths of it pretty well anyway.

50. Le - 100 Million Years Of Food: What Your Ancestors Ate & Why It Matters Today
With the idea that one should notice what one's ancestors food tendencies were, and connect it to the things available today.

51. King-Miller - Ask A Queer Chick: A Guide To Sex, Love, & Life For Girls Who Dig Girls
For the absolutely beginners on the scene: from coming out to marriage, not forgetting the bi and the trans girls either.

52. St. John Bosco - The Life Of Dominic Savio (English translation)
A saint writing about saint isn't rare, but older saint writing about younger saint is. Short work, but motivating certainly.

53. Rilke - The Essential... (English translation)
With German original texts of the poems included, which does mean that not all 'essential' poems could be included. That said, a good starting point on Rilke.

54. Morris - The World Of The Shining Prince: Court Life In Ancient Japan
If you have read 'The Tale Of Genji' plus biographical works of Lady Murasaki, Shei Shonagon and Lady Sarashina already, this one is a good companion and background giver to them.

55. Valverde (complier) - Angel Devotion Prayerbook
What is says. Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and the prayers etc. connected to them, plus another for the guardian Angels.


And after these, I'm spending the rest of the time (of this year) reading some unfinished books, but then I'm looking definitely forward to the next year's challenge!

Books 117-118

Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19)Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sure it's the same old thing but it's still fun, popcorn for the brain. In this one Stephanie's main bounty is a man who ripped off a nursing home and then went into the hospital for emergency surgery only to disappear. A side case is trying to get hold of a jack rabbit fast homeless man who has a holy tiki from Hawaii (that he wants to return to the temple he stole it from). Stephanie has the tiki and his attempts to get it back are pretty darned funny.

Another major case is one Ranger gets her into. Someone from his past is threatening him and his army friend, Kinsey and Kinsey's upcoming nupitals. Stephanie's cover is being a bridesmaid which is going to go as well as one expect from her.

Sure there is a lot of silliness and where the disappearing patients are going was painfully obvious, but it was still a fun quick read. I'm still trying to get the picture of Stephanie and Lula making a take down at a nude beach out of my head. Could I hope for more character development? Sure, but this book has over 56,000 reviews as of my typing this. If it's working that well, no need to change.

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The Sandman: OvertureThe Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been out of monthly comic books for some time now and somehow missed on Twitter that there was a new Sandman story. I'm so thankful to have stumbled over this at the library (and now must go buy it for my own library). Dream is one of my favorite graphic novel protagonists ever (and the series remains my favorite of Gaiman's ouvre). In this one, a prequel to the series, we learn that Dream had made an error and the result is a star has gone mad and may unravel the entire universe. He (and his various selves from the multiverse) has to undo the damage he has done before it's too late.

The story is just fantastic and the art even better. In the forward, Mr. Gaiman says he has no idea how the artist was able to so perfectly capture the impossible things Neil wanted him to draw, only that he had. That's it in a nutshell. The art is hallucinatory, dream like and just beautiful. We get glimpses of all the Endless and learn more about their parents.

If there was anything negative I have to say about it, it would be that even though it's a prequel, I think you would be a bit lost if you have no read the Sandman series. The Endless are just there without much explanation. But for me, I loved it. I want to read it again.

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Book #57: Skagboys by Irvine Welsh

Number of pages: 548

This is Irvine Welsh's prequel to Trainspotting, which has all of the main characters when they were younger.

As with the original, it seems to have a large number of characters, although this book feels more focused on Mark Renton, and we learn how be gradually became addicted to heroin; inevitably, it features a number of other events that were referenced in Trainspotting, including the death of Renton's younger brother. A lot of Renton's decisions later on seem to be influenced by his relationship with his girlfriend, Fiona.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Renton breaks up with Fiona in the middle of the book; he later admits that it was because he cheated on her.

The writing style is exactly the same as in Trainspotting, mostly done in first person narrative, with a number of different narrators (again, it is often not obvious who is narrating), and some chapters written in third person. This book is significantly longer; I think the publishers made the font size smaller just so that it would fit into just 548 pages.

Some of the chapters are written in the style of a diary, written by Renton, and also in a typeface that mimicks handwriting; this was quite good for really getting into the character's head, particularly during a long section of the narrative, where...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Renton ends up in rehab after being arrested for drug possession; this ends up being one of the best sequences in the novel.

The other thing noticeable in this book, particularly near the start, is the political influences; because this is set in the 1980s, there are a lot of references to the effects of Margaret Thatcher's government and how it influences the book's characters.

This was a book I read about, and I was glad I did read it, as it was very enjoyable to revisit these characters, and read about their relationships with each other again. I also have The Blade Artist (about Begbie) to read, and should probably get another copy of Porno, which I read many years ago.

Next book: The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)

August 2017 reading - 28 to 33

28. The Stonecutter by Camilla Läckberg – a mysterious drowning in remote Swedish town reveals a sinister family history – the base story was fine but there were far too many threads and side stories – the characters also seemed unrealistically spiteful and cruel – read for mystery book club – third in a series but I won’t read the others
29. One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean – a young woman about to be married wants to experience London’s darker side while she still can – of course hijinks ensue – main character is smart (she wears glasses!) but unworldly – fun regency romance – second in the series but can be read on its own
30. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood – Phryne Fisher is a wealthy and intrepid amateur sleuth in Melbourne, Australia, in the 1920s – in this book she solves two crimes that both involve characters she meets at the local airfield where she likes to practice wing-walking – second in the series but can be read on its own – I liked it fine but have no interest in catching up/continuing
31. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes – spurred by a conversation with her sister at Thanksgiving dinner, the successful TV producer embarks on a year of saying yes to new opportunities and unexpected invitations – very accessible writing that sometimes approaches cutesy/cliché but never goes over the line – much food for thought including a chapter on the importance of sometimes saying no
32. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – “a grumpy but lovable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous family moves in next door” – story is a just-right mix of sweet and salty as readers gradually learn just why Ove is so grumpy – audio book read in suitable deadpan style – September’s book club selection that was popular and also provoked interesting discussion – one of my favorites of the year
33. Books for Living by Will Schwalbe – engaging essays on reading in general and specific books that relate to particular topics – eclectic but manageable mix of books discussed (for those of us obsessed with reading lists *coughs*)

Book 116

Union of the SnakeUnion of the Snake by K.C. Burn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This SF novella, while not without problems, was pretty enjoyable. The main problem for me is the same problem that plagues so much shorter fiction: too much plot for too little word count. The world building suffers for it. There's potential here for something bigger and it felt compressed. That said I did like this.

Zerek is a smuggler but with an agenda. Decades prior the human colony on this world had fallen to one of the two indigenous races, the Hilruda and much of his smuggling is either things that would hurt the Hilruda or smuggling human slaves away from them. Now the Hilruda are trying to edge into the other race's territory, the Kadrussians who have serpentine aspects (hence the title).

Essian, Kadrussian royalty, has hired Zerek to help smuggle him into and out of various regions in attempt to unite his insular people's clans to go up against the Hilruda. Naturally during this Zerek becomes wildly attracted to Essian.

Being a romance novella you can guess how it ends. The other problem for me is that we only have Zerek's pov with him having no sense that Essian even really likes him until boom, we're a couple. I'm wondering if that too isn't the fault of the compressed nature of a novella/

It would be interesting to see this in longer form with the bigger picture resolved along with the will they be a couple plot.

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Book 115

Zombie Powder: Can't Kiss the Ring (of the Dead) (Zombie Powder, #2)Zombie Powder: Can't Kiss the Ring (of the Dead) by Tite Kubo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of Tite Kubo's earliest works and it shows. There is some interesting things going on though. Gamma is a criminal though there is definitely more to him than that. For one he has a metal arm (and the replacement seems to extend all the way to his cheek). He's intelligent and has some sort of magical power (or mutant power or whatever it is) He and his gang are looking for rings of death (though it's not clear yet as to what their plans on). Naturally there are wicked men also looking for them so they can make zombie powder, which is still not entirely clear what that does either but it's powerful. They too have abilities and it reminds me of Bleach in a way, over the top fight scenes intermixed with actual plot.

In this brew enters an 18 year old girl journalist with the horrible name of Wolfgangina but they thankfully call her Wolfina. She naturally has boobs of doom (H cup according to her bio, obviously drawn by a man who has no idea the gymnastics he's having her do are unlikely with someone this top heavy). She's drawn into this for two reasons, one she hates criminals and injustice and seeks to expose it and two, her brother is a victim of a ring.

It's not a bad story but it's not great either. Also interesting in this volume is the first manga Kubo drew at eighteen which was actually pretty enjoyable.

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Books 113-114

xxxHolic, Vol. 4  (xxxHOLiC, #4)xxxHolic, Vol. 4 by CLAMP

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been a long while since I’ve read this series. I’m not a huge CLAMP fan and the constant crossovers with their various series is one of those reasons (It annoyed me with all of Marvel’s X books too and I followed all those series unlike CLAMP’s). I think one of the reason is I’m not a fan of the Gumby limbed art. The story itself isn’t bad. Watanuki is mostly a sweet young man except for his interaction with Domeki (While Watanuki is obviously het (or at the very least Bi) I do wonder if Domeki is so interested in helping him because he’s attracted to Watanuki). I’m also not a fan of the screaming/flailing sort of interactions he usually has with Domeki (this rarely works for me).

This time we have Yuko sending Watanuki (and Domeki) into a parade of spirits that could turn on them if they realize the boys are human. The longest arc has Yuko out of the picture and Watanuki meeting with a lonely woman who has lost her son (as he has lost his parents). This one is sweet and sad.

Like I said, the story is interesting. Even though this is an old series now (over a decade) but maybe I should actually see it through.

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All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here is a thing everyone wants: a good read. Here is a thing everyone fears: being disappointed (remember those phrases because they are going to be used again and again in this book). I have to say this was not my favorite Stiefvater book, better than The Scorpio Races but not by much. It’s not necessarily a bad book, just slow. It doesn’t really pick up until half way through. I suspected from the beginning that the three cousins will have to deal with Daniel’s curse but that is literally at the halfway point and for me, one hundred and fifty odd pages of set up seemed excessive.

The idea behind it was interesting. The Sorias, a Mexican-American family can perform miracles. When a pilgrim appears at their ranch, whoever is the current ‘saint’ (this time Daniel), draws out their darkness, making it a visible, magical thing. The pilgrim has to create the second miracle on their own, dispelling the darkness. That’s really a neat idea. The twist here, however, is on the level of Joss Whedon’s ‘Angel becomes Angelus when happily in love’ stupid. They don’t explain anything to the pilgrim and in fact can’t interact with them at all or else the saint will suffer his or her own darkness and it’s so virulent it can take down anyone around the saint.

That is mindblowingly dumb (the dumbness DOES become part of the plot and I don’t know if that makes it better or worse). So I waded through the slow beginning where we have more than a dozen characters thrown at it with that as a pay off (much later one of the characters will also think this is stupid and it can’t be how things are meant to be but that is not until the last third of the book (which is very strong)). Daniel, the saint and his two cousins, Beatriz (the emotionless, logical Spock girl) and Joaquin (the pompadour wearing wanna be disc jockey) are the three main characters and if you had to point to one being the main character, it’s Beatriz.

Those three have a pirate radio station in an old box truck, all feeling a bit trapped by their family, most of whom are rather miserable people, or at the very least deeply unhappy. Even the dogs and the horses are mean. And we spend too much time with these people in the course of the narrative. The ranch needs to be expanded so they can avoid the pilgrims stuck living there. Beatriz remarks at one point that the pilgrims used to be better at curing themselves in the old days but have gotten worse at it.

Case in point there are bunches of them living at the ranch: twin girls entwined by a serpent unable to separate from each other, a woman who can only repeat what others say, a man covered in moss, a priest with the head of a jackal and Marisitz (which I’m sure I’m spelling wrong) who is surrounded by rain constantly and covered in butterflies. Added to this are two newcomers, Tony a celebrity who gets turned into a giant and Pete with a hole in his heart who isn’t there for a miracle. He wants the box truck to start a business as he can’t be in the military like the rest of his family because of his heart.

Daniel, in love with Marisitz, tries to help her and is faced with his own darkness. He runs off into the desert (about halfway into the novel) and Beatriz and Joaquin have to save him in spite of their family saying no. Beatriz, who begins to fall for Pete, realizes that they must be doing something wrong, that this can’t be how they’re meant to treat the pilgrims (because seriously not explaining the rules or being able to help them seems stupid).

The last third when she, Pete and Joaquin work on saving Daniel and the pilgrims, is very well done and satisfying but if I wasn’t already a fan of Stiefvater’s work I’m not sure I would have gotten that far. Had this been an unknown author I probably would have given it back to the library at the first few chapters. Part of my problem with it besides being slow is how the story is written. It’s obvious that she was aiming for something along the lines of a Paul Bunyanesque tall tale. A man with a hole in his heart couldn’t work like Pete did (or the idea that his father bit through his own umbilical cord to save his life in utero) so we have this mythos style story. Worse it’s told at a great narrative distance from some nebulous point in the future (it took me forever to realize this was in the early 60s) so we are seeing everyone from the outside. It felt like you didn’t get to know any of the characters intimately. Part of that whole tall tale style set told from the future was a reliance on past tense. It was original and had great ideas. I just wish I liked it more.

One final note. Here is a thing I want: more diversity in characters. Here is a thing I fear: that if a White author doesn’t write diversely, he or she will be called prejudice but if they DO write diversely they’ll be accused of cultural appropriation and writing in prejudicial stereotypes (go ahead, read half the reviews of this book by people who didn’t even bother to read it) creating a no win situation for everyone. (Go read Cesar’s commentary on all of this. He is spot on).

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Books 111-112

Ghouls Night Out (Larue Donavan, #2)Ghouls Night Out by Rose Pressey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rose Pressey’s work is usually light fare with paranormal and humorous touches and this is more in that vein. Larue is a psychic who runs a bookstore and talks to ghosts. In this volume, she’s being followed by the ghosts of Seth, the grandfather of the man she really wants a relationship with, Callahan, Anthony a handsome smooth talker and Mae West (yes that Mae West). Callahan owns the coffee shop and in a previous book was put under a serious love spell that Larue saved him from. In this one, Larue is approached by the head of the local coven who helped her save Callahan and she wants Larue to take over the local coven. For me this is one of the problems with this book, the world building is very loosey-goosey. Why would a witch think a psychic would want to lead a coven she’s not even part of? (other than Larue has ‘natural talent.’) The magic of this paranormal has poorly defined rules.

What upsets Larue the most is the evil witch’s cousin shows up and takes over her shop. Larue immediately thinks he’s evil too just because they’re related. It gets worse when Larue’s best friend starts acting like she hates Larue and Callahan distances himself thinking Larue is having an affair because she’s talking to the flirtatious Anthony. She’s insistent on not telling Callahan she can see and talk to ghosts.

Honestly calling this a ‘cozy mystery’ is almost ambitious. It read more like a straight up urban fantasy because there’s no mystery at all until 50% in when her store is vandalized. I have to say I dislike it when the cops are incompetent and they very much are in this. Sigh. I can’t even say that Larue is trying to solve the mystery as she has one suspect and will twist anything to fit him as the villain (and it wasn’t too hard to figure out who the real one was especially once things start happening to the coven members).

Still, it was fun and a quick read. There were things that bothered me though. Anthony comes up with what felt like should have been a big reveal but nothing happens there. Seth, being Callahan’s grandfather was utterly underused. He could have been literally anyone. The only thing he did that pertained to his grandson was argue non-stop with flirty Tony. I would have liked better world building as I said. Also while the title was cute, I wasn’t happy with the word ghoul being constantly used to mean ghost. They’re two very different things. That said, I’d read more.

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Cupcakes, Pies, and Hot Guys (Annie Graceland Mystery #3)Cupcakes, Pies, and Hot Guys by Pamela DuMond

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this one up free when the author gave it away. It’s not a series I know and I’m coming in the middle of the series. Annie is a baker who lost her job a while back (presumably in another mystery) when she gets a call from her Mom to come home to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to be a ‘celebrity’ judge at a Hot Guys contest that’s a major fundraiser for a local charity. Annie doesn’t really want to go home, in love with California and hating on Wisconsin. She’s constantly on about humidity and the triple digit heat in the summer. I lived not far from there (as did the author). I’ll agree to the humidity but I don’t’ remember too many 100 plus days in Wisconsin. She’s allowed to bring a plus one, Grady her gay friend. Her hometown best friend also goes home with her when she realizes that it’s a hot guy contest (and she’s portrayed as a bit on the sexually adventurous side). Instead of a plane ride, the contest popped for bus tickets and at the end of it Annie has the bus drive off with her luggage.

Annie is clothes-less and stuck in a hotel room meant for two when there are three people. For some reason she sneaks into her mother’s house instead of just asking. Maybe if I had seen the other books I’d understand that and she does it several nights. She spends a lot of time missing her cop boyfriend back home. Soon one of the hot guys, the local town hero is found dead in his home. Annie is broken up because she used to babysit him. Also she’s an empath literally feeling other people’s pain

His ghost wants her to solve his murder. Did I mention she sees ghosts? I do like a paranormal mystery. The local detective is another of her babysitting boys all grown up. They start looking into the murder, which does seem to be tied to the hot guy contest. I liked the mystery, though it wasn’t that hard to figure out (still a fun ride though).

However, honestly the author should have left Annie’s two friends back in CA. It felt like she had no idea what to do with them. They were very two-dimensional. Not only that they’re really crappy friends. Not one of them offer a pittance to help buy her clothing. I realize that it’s being played for laughs when she shows up in her mom’s ancient clothing or a hotel sheet toga but honestly, the mean girl laughs at her expense weren’t that funny. I would be pretty peeved if my friends didn’t offer to at least go to Wal-Mart to buy me something cheap. In addition, what’s worse, her brother does the same thing to her, making a crack about women and clothing and how many could she need.

Also the detective Ryan didn’t add to it. He got out rightly creepy at one point when he’s acting like a twelve year old when she’s on the phone with boyfriend, Rafe, trying to make it sound like she’s with another man. His attempts to romance her cross a line especially when he starts stealing kisses when she doesn’t really entirely want them.

And at the very end, her girlfriend buys Annie a plane ticket back home to Rafe and goes with her (as her only purpose was to fall into bed with one of the hot guys and get dumped as quickly). What about Grady? They left him stranded in Wisconsin. Is he getting a plane ride too? Is he going back on the stupid bus? Did he hook up with any of the hot guys? We don’t know.

At the end of the day, it would have been a stronger story without her friends. At least then she’d have had a reason to have no clothes and she wouldn’t be stranded any of them a thousand miles from home.

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In my continuing quest to understand the ways the punditocracy come to terms with the surprise election of Donald Trump, I devote Book Review No. 26 to Mark Lilla's The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.  (I got it on the cheap as the local book store, which opened not so long ago, is going out of business.) Mr Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia, has advanced parts of his thesis previously, with some push-back from the people supposedly on his side.  And the identitarian faction that argues with, then mostly votes for, Democrats, continues to advocate for more of the same.
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Put another way, those demands for confession compel some people to bear costs that benefit others more, which is to say, identity politics is a call for some people to make sacrifices in the service of some nebulous general good.  That's not how Reaganism -- at least the libertarian part -- works.

Perhaps, though, it is all moot.  The Roosevelt Dispensation and the Reagan Dispensation are the Crisis, High, Awakening, and Unraveling of the Great Power Saeculum, and the signs of a new saecular order taking form are everywhere.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

July 2017 reading - 23 to 27 - very late

23. News of the World by Paulette Jiles – my favorite book of the year so far – takes place in Texas in 1870 – an aging widower who makes his living reading the news gets a commission to deliver a young girl back to her family after she lived with a Kiowa tribe for four years – their bond grows over the course of the journey and the difficulties they face during their trip –
24. The Trespasser by Tana French –a young woman is found murdered in her apartment in a case that is more complicated than it first appears - same detectives as previous book but this story is told by Conway whose paranoia frankly grated on me quite a bit – good story otherwise but it took me a few tries to get all the way through it in these tumultuous times
25. The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths – a mystery set in 1950s Cornwall amidst the theatrical community – a charming odd couple buddy team solve the crime in the first of a promising series
26. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling – funny book but also thought provoking
27. A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara – second book in the Civil War Western Theater series – a novel about the Siege of Vicksburg – especially poignant treatment of the life of civilians in the town as well as the military action

Book 18 - 2016

Book 18: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – 215 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane? Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I really liked the title of this book. I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I know I do have a tendency to judge a book by its title. I think this book’s title is actually more interesting than the book. It’s an alright story, don’t get me wrong, but its not exceptional. Standard teenage fare – girl meets boy etc, etc. The characters are likeable but not compelling. A lot more could have been done with the plot; it ends up being not much more than a teenage version of Sliding Doors. I liked the stepmother. Maybe I’m just getting too old and crotchety for standard teenage fare. Readable but nothing special…except for that oh so clever title!

18 / 50 books. 36% done!

4475 / 15000 pages. 30% done!

Currently reading:
-        My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages
-        Griffith Review 51: Fixing the System edited by Julianne Schultz and Anne Tiernan – 326 pages
-        Avalon High by Meg Cabot – 280 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Times by Michael Brooks – 224 pages


Columnist Kimberley Strassel gave a talk at Hillsdale College, "The Left’s War on Free Speech."  Her children got into a spat, in the way of children, and she attempted to make a teachable moment.  First the oldest, then the middle, explained what they understood free speech to be.Read more...Collapse )The book provides the supporting details, or perhaps the litany of thought police atrocities, should you be so interested.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


Two court intellectuals for the Democrats offer their perspectives on the 2016 presidential results, and their efforts provide material for Book Reviews No. 23 and No. 24.
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Best case scenario: the introspection the Trump presidency is provoking amongst political analysts and participants of all stripes might lead to the realization that the 2016 election is recognition of things gone wrong that had to be corrected and yet could not be corrected in the conventional way.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #56: Moirai by Ruth Silver

Number of pages: 219

This is the second in a trilogy of novels that started with Aberrant, which I read a year or so ago.

In the first book, the main characters - Olivia (the book's narrator) and her husband Joshua - escaped from the capital city into the outlands to find a community where they could be accepted. The first book ended with a hint that the series was leading up to a Hunger Games-type rebellion.

This book includes:

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Olivia meeting her father in the biggest twist (because she thought he was dead, and there is an explanation provided for this later on). The moments between Olivia and her father also provide the best moments of drama.

A rebellion in the Capital City near to the end, an event that I did not expect to take place until the final book; it was surprising to see the plot being moved forward quicker than it seemed likely to.

After the rebellion, it feels almost like there is no scope for a third book, until the final chapter when Joshua ends up being kidnapped by the authorities.

I wasn't too sure about this book at times; there were a few too many discussions about the politics of the world in which the trilogy is set (a lot of it involved children being forcibly removed from their parents); I found it best not to get too fixated with this and enjoy the events that were described in the narrative.

I also noticed that the book introduced a character who seems to be the main villain (sort of equivalent to the Hunger Games' President Snow), who will probably take on a bigger role in the third book, Isaura.

Overall, I didn't think it was quite as good as the previous book , and the narrative felt a bit rushed at times; some ideas (a brief mention of telepathic powers) seemed like they weren't explored enough. However, the ending did make me want to keep reading and buy the final book in the trilogy at some point.

Next book: Skagboys (Irvine Welsh)

Books 109-110

A View to Die For (To Die For series, #1)A View to Die For by Richard Houston

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This one had promise but it fell short for me. I think I only kept up with it as I needed something set in Missouri for a challenge. Jake, a freelance author and a bit down on his luck, gets the call to head home to help his sister Meg who has been first accused of killing her husband before the lawyer he hired help to have the charges dropped as her husband killed himself in an accident. However, Meg doesn’t believe he killed himself. She believes he found a cache of historically important gold coins hidden by Jesse James on their vast water-side property.

In spite of himself, Jake packs up Fred, his dog and heads to Missouri to help his sister. He’s run off the road and hospitalized before he gets there. Oddly enough the cops immediately begin to blame him for the accident (as it’s near his brother in law’s fatal car accident) then accuse him of being there to help his sister cover up her crime. Jake is perturbed by those accusations and his tattooed, highly pierced teenaged nephew, Kevin adds to the annoyance. Before long, a dead body turns up on their property and Kevin’s been jailed for drug charges and the theft of a gold coin along with his wealthier but equally ne’er do well friend. Jake has to clear everyone’s name and find out who killed his brother in law.

Like I said, it had potential but some of the crime details really felt like the author’s only research was to watch cop dramas. Once the dead body shows up, he and his sister are immediately charged with the murder. Detectives don’t immediately do that because it starts a clock. Make them persons of interest yes, interview them yes but arrest them without collecting any evidence, unlikely.

Many other reviews have commented on the fact that there are a ton of bathroom stops in this and the fact he feeds his dog nothing but McDonald’s and beer (which yes doesn’t sit well with me either). It’s not helped that Meg and Kevin are both utterly unlikeable. For instance, she’s constantly accusing Jake of not liking his nephew yet he’s never said that. This one just didn’t hold my interest.

View all my reviews

Cycle of the WerewolfCycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve wanted to read this one for a very long time. I’m not even sure how I let this small piece of vintage Stephen King slip past me for so long. The Cycle of the Werewolf is a series of twelve interlocking flash fiction segments, one for each full moon of the year. It’s also well illustrated by Berni Wrightson. Like so many of King’s stories, it’s set in Maine and a werewolf has come to town. For the first half we see him through the eyes of his victims.

Once July rolls around, we meet a wheelchair bounded young man, Marty, who survives the attack. Marty will be pivotal in stopping the werewolf provided he lives long enough.

This is a fun anthology. Keeping in mind though it was written in the early 80s so some of it would be considered very politically incorrect these days. There is one thing off with the art, it sort of precedes the text spoiling the twists. The art itself is fantastic though. It’s classic King and well worth reading.

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Number of pages: 320

The second young adult Discworld novel sees the return of the Nac Mac Feegle, a band of tiny blue men, who previously appeared in Carpe Jugulum, and introduces a new central character, Tiffany Aching, whom the rest of the young adult novels revolve around.

Tiffany Aching is descended from a famous witch, and wants to become a witch herself; near the start, she catches a glimpse of the Nac Mac Feegle, and eventually becomes friends with them. The main plot seems reminiscent of The Snow Queen, and has Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegle travelling to a world where it is permanently winter where a mysterious queen has kidnapped Tiffany's younger brother.

This is where things start getting bizarre, as all of the characters find themselves trapped within dreams, manipulated by the queen herself, as they attempt to get Tiffany's brother back.

I enjoyed this more than the first young adult title; I found the plot easier to get into, even when the dream sequences got increasingly bizarre, and I found there was more humour. I enjoyed looking out for references, and found allusions to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Labyrinth and even (as far as I could tell) Time Bandits, as well as several very funny jokes about fairy tale cliches.

One of the best moments came near the end though, when...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg made an appearance.

I'll have to get used to them being written with younger readers in mind (essentially they act the same in this book, only without the frequent swearing found in the adult books), but I got the impression from their brief appearance that they feature more significantly in the subsequent Tiffany Aching books, which I want to read, even though I did hear a spoiler for the final book, The Shepherd's Crown.

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot, and hope that the subsequent young adult titles will keep up the standard set here.

Next book: Moirai (Ruth Silver)


Yes, that's the title of a new book by a failed presidential candidate, but the impression I have gathered of it is that she continues to blame everyone but herself, and life is short.

But when two members in good standing of the vast right wing conspiracy offer widely differing polemics on the outcome of the same election, perhaps I should devote Book Reviews No. 21 and No. 22 as a brief compare-and-contrast.
Read more...Collapse )But there are fissures in the Bipartisan Ruling Class, and we'll likely be having more of Kurt Schlichter.  "In one week, Trump crushed the cultural left in the Battle of the NFL, decertified Iran, pulled us out of the PLO-hugging fiasco that is UNESCO, gutted Obamacare, and dissed that simpering weasel Bob Corker. Sad? We’re freaking thrilled." Is it an accident, dear reader, that many of the people Mr Sykes thanks for their advice and comments made Salon's Approved Conservatives list?

All concerned ought understand that populism is distinct from the usual Sunday show talking points.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Books 44 and 45

44. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. I heard this is a good book for not only learning the stratagems of war but for doing business (which, let's face it, is an awful lot like a battle). That is accurate. Sun Tzu outlines not only the ideal times and circumstances to fight, but when to stay the course and even when to withdraw and try again another time. My favorite quote: All warfare is based on deception.

45. Who Tells Your Story? by Valerie Estelle Frankel. Rather meh about this one. This book covers the Broadway hit Hamilton, my favorite musical of all time. It includes a lot of the interviews from various sources, television specials and more. But its 90 percent interviews, little author opinion and interpretation, which is what I've been expecting. If you've seen the PBS special, read the Hamiltome, read Chernow's biography, and seen the interviews with the actors, you will get little new from this. Parts of the book were a bit confusing, and it needed one more time with an editor. For example, in one paragraph the author is talking about how Angelica is berating Hamilton for his affair (late in Act II), the next paragraph is about how Eliza is comforting him (in Act I). I caught at least one error, and a couple other things that seemed suspect but I can't verify. I did like the last 20 pages or so, when the talk was about details on the hip-hop influences, much of that I did not know.

Currently reading: The News About the News, by Leonard Downie Jr., and Likeable Social Media, by Dave Kerpen.

Book 109

Biscuits and Slashed Browns (Country Store Mysteries #4)Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from an Escape with Dollycas blog giveaway, which in no way influenced my review. I’m obviously coming into an established series with this one but it wasn’t too difficult to pick up. Our protagonist, Robbie Jordan, runs a diner/antique cookware store in South Lick Indiana. She has a young Indian wanna-be chef, Turner Rao, working for her as a cook much to the chagrin of his high achieving parents who’d rather her follow in their well educated footsteps. She’s also a contestant in a cooking contest for the Maple Sugaring Off Festival and one of the judges, Professor Connolly, is a real jerk. He’s also in town for a climate change conference as a climate change denier, in direct opposition to Turner’s father.

Unsurprisingly, Connolly is found dead out on Rao’s property, stabbed with a specialized chef’s knife belonging to one of Robbie’s friends. So with two friends in the cross-hairs, and Turner’s father’s disappearance immediately after Connolly is found dead, Robbie begins to investigate. She is friendly with the police (pretty much a must-have for me reading a cozy) so some of them at least welcome her help. She along with an elderly aunt, and her lineman boyfriend, Robbie begins to investigate the murder trying to clear her friends.

There was a touch of realism in this mystery. Something that bothers me in cozies is how everyone just talks to the amateur detective. In this one, there were several suspects who told her to shove off. Robbie also spectacularly messes up the Rao family on two accounts and they react badly. She even wonders why she is doing this when she’s a chef not a detective.

Over all I enjoyed the mystery. I liked Robbie but I didn’t love her. I know southern Indianans can have an accent (I have friends and relatives there) but it was laid on pretty thick in this with an almost obsession for showing how differently things are pronounced. I’d read another in this series.

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Book 107-108

Grave Errors (Witch City Mystery #5)Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won this book from Escape with Dollycas’s blog which in no way influenced my review. I wanted to read this one because I love Salem, Massachusetts. It’s further along in a series than I usually like to jump in but I had no troubles doing so. Lee Barret, former TV reporter and now teacher of news production, is a psychic. She’s dating a detective, Pete which is the best set up for cozies for me. I mostly only like a cozy if the amateur is working with the cops and Lee’s method was even better as she mostly let’s Pete be the cop instead of constantly undermining his detecting abilities.

Lee’s current class is made up of several people including identical twin cops from Boston (now retired) a few young ladies and a woman, Dorothy, who has been living off the grid in Alaska who’s come to Salem to prove her sister, Emily didn’t accidentally die of an overdose of wine and sleeping pills. While the class is working on Hilda’s idea of adding a Day of the Dead celebration in Salem’s graveyards to the Halloween time regime, Dorothy asks Lee for help in getting her sister’s case reopened.

Quickly, Lee begins to have visions relating to Emily’s death. Emily worked for Happy Shores realty, run by Happy and Trudy Shores who swore Emily was at a company party in her honor the night she died. Emily seemed to be dating another coworker who disappeared after they were out taking soil samples on property that the Shores sold to make a new mall. Pete starts to believe Lee and Dorothy that maybe Emily had been killed when her friend is thought dead in Florida where he’d been transferred to True Shores reality.

Before long someone is following Lee and then the dead body shows up. Over all I enjoyed the characters. It wasn’t much of a mystery in many ways. I knew the who, the how and the why pretty much from the get go so in that respect it reminded me of an episode of Columbo. It was still a fun trip. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this.

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In/Spectre 1In/Spectre 1 by Kyo Shirodaira

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought In/Spectre sounded interesting because I do like paranormal stories and the main character is a disabled girl, something you don’t see all that often. Kotoko is a seventeen year old girl who spends a lot of time in the hospital where, two years ago, she met Kuro a young man (five years older than her) who visits his dying cousin often. She has a massive crush on him but he’s happily engaged.

Two years down the road, she’s now seventeen and he’s no longer engaged to Saki. She decides to make her move. As they talk, there is a bit of back and forth in time and we see their history. Kotoko had been kidnapped by Youkai (spirits) when she was eleven and they gave her back minus one leg and one eye (non-spoilery, it’s on the back blurb). Kuro pretends he doesn’t believe in most of it until he relates why his engagement to Saki ended and she learns why all the youkai, with whom she’s in constant contact with (the why would be a spoiler) are afraid of Kuro (without being too spoilery, it’s pretty messed up). By the end of the chapter, the two of them are confronting bad youkai and helping the good.

It’s actually a very long chapter one making up two-thirds of the volume. Chapter two is another couple years down the road and we pick up with Saki who is now a traffic cop. Saki has been hearing of a specter haunting a stretch of road. She doesn’t want to admit she believes in ghosts and youkai but she can’t escape what she saw the day she ended it with Kuro. One of the detectives, who has a crush on her, wants her help. Saki, still hung up on Kuro, doesn’t want anything to do with it. The supernatural has other ideas for her.

I enjoyed this. While a bit loli and girl for my tastes, Kotoko is fairly charming. She’s tough, not letting her disabilities get in her way. (love her cane whose handle is a sleeping cat with its tail spiraling down it. Heck I want that cane.) Kuro’s history is interesting. Even Saki, who’s much more mundane at this point, is a good character. There are some little things I didn’t like, like Kotoko using the analogy of it didn’t hurt as much as getting deflowered when asked about the beating she took from a spirit (to be honest the other character was like WTH). Was that a ham handed way of saying she’s Kuro’s lover? Is it imagination? Is she weird (she does blurt out other weird stuff too). I’m not a fan of the up-skirt shots. I really wish modern manga would move past that. It’s insulting.

And something I should have done a long time ago, here’s a shout out to Kodansha comics for giving us translator notes at the back. Far too few English translation publishers do that and I love those details. And oh, this manga is a translation of Kyo Shirodaira’s novel.

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Book 106-107

Tokyo Ghoul, tome 1 (Tokyo Ghoul, #1)Tokyo Ghoul, tome 1 by Sui Ishida

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I took advantage of the traveling manga library at Tsubasacon to read this. It’s unusual as I normally read the manga before seeing the anime but this is the other way around. It was a good thing because in this case, I’m reminded of Attack on Titan where I like the story but not so much the art. While the art in Tokyo Ghoul is better than AoT, it’s not really my style. The story is, however, interesting.

Ghouls live among the normal humans, something two young mne, Kaneki and Hide are discussing. In fact, they’re not even sure ghouls exist or if it was possible to hide amoung normal humans. Mild and nerdy Kaneki cares less about that than he does about his chances with getting to talk to the hot girl, Rize. He thinks they have potential as they love the same literature. To his (and Hide’s) shock, Rize asks him out.

It goes very sideways when Rize attempts to kill and eat Kaneki, as she’s a ghoul. Then something even worse happens and a doctor, for very sketchy reasons, decides to transplant her organs into the dying Kaneki.

The rest of the volume is his transformation to something neither ghoul nor human. His struggle to understand what’s happening to him is tragic. He has nowhere to turn until a chance encounter with the young lady barista from the coffee house where he met Rize. However, Touka, another ghoul, has no pity for him and is of no help until her boss reminds her all ghouls will be cared for at his establishment. It’s right about then Kaneki learns ghouls are territorial but not until he and Hide are beaten nearly to death.

It’s an interesting bit of world building. I do wish the art was a bit prettier but I already know that I like Kaneki. I do, however, want to see how the rest of the manga stacks up against the anime.

View all my reviews

Seraph of the End, Volume 4Seraph of the End, Volume 4 by Takaya Kagami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s hard to review this volume of Seraph because it has so much in it that would be a spoiler. Let me sum it up as Yuichiro finally meets Mika again and they realize, to their horror, they are now on opposite sides of the war. Yuichiro learns Mika is now a vampire and he’s unable to bring himself to attack the young man he saw as a brother most of his life. Moreover, he’s shocked to see Mika sees the humans as the villains. For his part Mika believes Yuichiro is being used and that he must rescue him from the humans.

Reinforcing this happens when Yuichiro finally fully activates his demon wear weaponry and becomes something almost monstrous willing to attack anyone and anything. He embodies the ‘seraph.’ What Yuichiro doesn’t know is that Guren Ichinose has been keeping things from him. This experiment in demon wear is darker than any of them know.

I enjoyed this but I’m still rather on the fence with this one as it looks like it’s going to be a lot of battles and only drips of plot.

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Book #54: '48 by James Herbert

Number of pages: 330

This book is set in an alternate version of 1948, where Britain has been unleashed by a virulent disease, the "blood death", unleashed by Adolf Hitler at the end of World War II as his "final revenge".

The book's central character and narrator is Hoke, an American pilot, who is immune to the blood death, and has been living in what remains of London. Throughout the book, he and a group of other survivors fight to escape from the Nazi blackshirts, who are gradually dying from the disease and whose leader, Hubble, has a particularly gruesome plan to aid his own survival.

I loved this book's depiction of a post-apocalypic London, which showed in detail James Herbert's knowledge of the City. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of Hoke, as at times it felt like he was meant to be dislikable, mostly because of his behaviour towards another survivor, a German pilot.

I am fairly certain I read this before years ago, but I didn't remember any of it, so this came to me completely afresh. I found the writing in this book to be very similar to some of Stephen King's, mostly because of the gory scenes depicted throughout.

James Herbert was one of my favourite writers and I need to read some more of his novels.

Next book: The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett)
The progressive in question is E. J. Dionne, and the setting he wants is "Eisenhower Republican."

And I could end Book Review No. 20 simply by giving the title Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism - From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond, and let it go at that.  And it transpires that he had to come out with a revised edition in November (my copy has a purchase date of 22 January 2016, and it was obsolete effective 20 January 2017) with a new title, Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism - From Goldwater to Trump and Beyond, and he's likely walking back one of his themes: that the Republicans might have little future as a presidential party, which surfaces at page 10. "A right-leaning Republican Party is in a strong position to rally a coalition of discontent among older white Americans who dominate the electorate in the off years.  But absent a change in its approach, the conservative coalition is threatened with long-term minority status in presidential elections, where a younger, more culturally and ethnically diverse electorate holds sway."  Oops, and Mr Dionne's recognition that this electorate is clustered in a few places is something that's going to be in the political discourse going forward.  And we no longer have the Victory Dividend to enable a Dwight Eisenhower to consolidate the gains with interstate highways, and Lyndon Johnson dissipating them in any number of ways.  The problem with politics may less be a disorderly conservatism than it is widespread manifestations of ineffective technocratic expertise.

And there might be Mr Dionne's greatest insight, page 14. "I offer this book in part because I continue to believe that a healthy democratic order needs conservatism's skepticism about the grand plans we progressives sometimes offer, its respect for traditional institutions, and its skepticism of those who believe that politics can remold human nature."

Alas, dear reader, that's missing from much of what passes for conservatism these days -- there's another book or two on that score sitting on my desk -- and it's unfortunate that when the skepticism manifests itself, it might be in a disrespectful way.  Page 309, from a Tea Party inspired town hall in South Carolina, quoting an unidentified hospital worker.  "I also have had many years of experience seeing the result of government intervention in the private sector.  The result of that government intervention has been mostly the result of what I call the reverse Midas Touch.  That is, whatever government touches through its control, it mostly turns to crap."  Yes, and if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, and your good government school comes bundled with a granite counter top.  There is a lot of work left to do,  But somehow Mr Dionne's calls for "a more moderate brand of politics" ring hollow.  He's more on point at page 450.  "But to challenge the gridlock created by the two electorates, progressives will need to win back white working-class voters who look to government to reduce economic insecurity and expand opportunity -- yet have lost confidence in government's ability to succeed."

Yes, somewhere between a quarter-century of rent-seeking by the Davos set, and a half-century of technocratic conceits will do that to voters.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #53: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Number of pages: 431

I read this novel about a group of drug addicts living in Scotland because I enjoy the movie version a lot. I found this to be quite a hard novel, mainly because of the constant shifts in writing style. The narrative occasionally switches between the present and past tense, and is also written in both the first and third person.

The easiest sections are those written in the third person, but when the narrative switches to the first person, most of the dialogue is written in the Scottish dialect used by the characters. Also, there are several narrators, and it is not always immediately obvious who the chapter is written from the point of view of. These chapters are however quite good for getting reader inside the heads of the characters and understanding exactly what they are thinking.

I did enjoy reading this book, and kept going with it; I noticed that there were several differences between the novel and the movie based on it, mostly characters that appear only in the novel. Each individual chapter feels like a mini-story in its own right.

I also noticed that the movie's most famous scene, in which the central character Renton dives into a toilet bowl as part of hallucination experienced when trying retrieve drugs, was not in the book at all, with the chapter instead just making reference to him reaching inside the toilet to get the drugs back, although in large amounts of detail. Most other differences I noticed were minor, with some events taking place in a different sequence, but the other thing I noticed that was significant was at the end.

At least a quarter of the movie version involves the characters going to London to sell drugs, while this takes up only the last 25 or so pages of the novel. I was surprised at this having previously seen the movie, but this didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book.

This is a book worth reading, but don't expect it to be an easy read. Also, there is an enormous amount of bad language, even more so than in the movie version.

Next book: '48 (James Herbert)

September 2017 reading

September 2017 reading:

40. Shadow Rites, by Faith Hunter (384 pages)
Jane has a lot on her plate, trying to secure the upcoming meeting between the Master of the City and the witches. Too much rides on this accord--but the security situation is a mess. And it's about to get worse. Great read.

41. The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire (368 pages)
For once Toby's life is looking good as her friends join her for the bachelorette party May put together. Then she opens the door to find her mother on her doorstep, the mother who disappeared years ago... and her intentions aren't good. Now October must track down her long lost sister August, or she'll lose everything. Great read.

43. The Penultimate Peril, by Lemony Snicket (353 pages)
The children get a brief reprieve from their troubles in the form of brunch with Kit Snicket, only to immediately be thrown into more. Disguised as concierges, they must discern volunteers from villains and uncover plots while waiting for what should be--if things go right--their salvation.

44. A Fantastic Holiday Season: Volume 2, edited by Kevin J. Anderson (294 pages)
I had expected all fantasy stories, but was pleasantly surprised by a fantastic mix of science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed nearly all of them, and was especially delighted by the stories that had child protagonists. Though I initially got this for the Briggs story, I'm glad I read the rest. I actually read this last month but forgot to put it on that month's list. Whoopsie.

September pages: 1,399

Pages to date: 12,908

Progress: 44/52

September 2017 comics/manga reading:

81. Library Wars Love & War: Volume 10, by Kiiro Yumi (188 pages)
82. Twin Spica: Volume 5, by Kou Yaginuma (192 pages)
83. Saturn Apartments: Volume 5, by Hisae Iwaoka (192 pages)
84. After School Nightmare: Volume 5, by Setona Mizushiro (200 pages)
85. The Massive: Volume 4, by Brian Wood (152 pages)
86. Hyper Police: Volume 4, by Mee (176 pages)
87. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: Volume 3, by Amy Reeder (136 pages)
88. Strange Killings: Necromancer, by Warren Ellis (144 pages)
89. Children of the Sea: Volume 4, by Daisuke Igarashi (352 pages)
90. Ms. Marvel: Volume 7, by G. Willow Wilson (136 pages)
91. Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 26, by Karuho Shiina (176 pages)
92. Video Girl Ai: Volume 4, by Masakazu Katsura (200 pages)
93. The Sandman: Volume 10, by Neil Gaiman (192 pages)
94. King of Thorn: Volume 1, by Yuji Iwahara (192 pages)
95. Afterschool Charisma: Volume 1, by Kumiko Suekane (208 pages)
96. Please Save My Earth: Volume 1, by Saki Hiwatari (173 pages)
97. Mockingbird: Volume 1, by Chelsea Cain (136 pages)
98. Lumberjanes: Volume 3, by Noelle Stevenson (112 pages)
99. Aria: Volume 1, by Kozue Amano (178 pages)
100. DMZ: Volume 3, by Brian Wood (128 pages)
101. Otomen: Volume 4, by Aya Kanno (200 pages)
102. Y: The Last Man: Volume 5, by Brian K. Vaughan (192 ages)

September pages: 3,955

Pages to date: 18,363

Progress: 102/150

Book 105

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this Middle Grade paranormal story. It’s one of my favorite books of the year – which is saying something when you consider this is book 105. It’s a joy to read a book with two young men and a girl that’s not a love triangle (there’s no romance in this at all, though I suppose you could read some of it as an awkward attraction between Lucy and Lockwood). I will say for a MG book there is a lot of good horror and suspense in this. Stroud also deftly navigates the common complaint of ‘what rational adult allows young teens get away with this much danger,’ and he keeps it grounded in the mythology surrounding ghost hunting: namely that kids are more sensitive to hauntings and it lessens as we age.

The world Lockwood & Co. exists in has a Problem. Ghosts are haunting everywhere and getting worse all the time. Cold iron and silver keeps them quiet. The touch of a ghost is often fatal. Ghost hunting teams, like the all-mighty Fittes company use young kids to sense and destroy ghosts while former agents, provided they survived the ghost hunting -which most don’t - end up as supervisors to the new youngsters.

Lucy’s abilities – which are strong in hearing ghosts and getting psychic impressions – are her way out of rural poverty but her supervisor basically has lost his nerve and terrible things happen, leaving her to run off to London where she joins up with Lockwood & Co. The company is really just Lockwood, a young man who is strong in ghost sight and has a Sherlock Holmes vibe and George who is less good at sensing ghosts but is aces at research. To her shock, there are no adult supervisors.

When a big case goes sideways, they could lose everything, their home, their license but they are on the trail of a fifty year old mystery. Who killed Anne Ward and turned her into such a nasty ghost? If they can solve that, the good press might save them. And in a way it does, they are offered an insane amount of money to find the Source of the haunting at one of the most viciously haunted mansions in England, one that cost the Fittes agency three members thirty years ago. A former priory where the monks turned to satanism and host many murders and suicides there after, no one has successfully cleared the house. If they even show up, Fairfax, the owner will obliterate their debts and if they succeed they’ll be a wealthy agency to reckon with, not to mention the reputation it would earn them. If they don’t succeed, at best they run off in disgrace, at worst, they’re dead.

It’s tightly plotted with great characters. Lucy (it’s her pov) is a strong female lead but not perfect. She makes mistakes, some serious ones. They all do. They’re imperfectly human and I loved them. I can’t wait to read more. My only really quibbles are that Stroud hits the George is fat bell a few too many times. We get it; he’s chunky. And that I couldn’t figure out what time period this was supposed to be. For the longest time I though it was early twentieth century then maybe the 50s or 60s. There’s no real high tech but then we have energy drinks. So nebulous alternative history it is.

I was given a copy to review via Netgalley so thanks for that. It in no way influenced my review.

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Book 104

Private Vegas (Private, #9)Private Vegas by James Patterson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow, in reality I should have given this one star so why did I give it two? I used to really like James Patterson, but I think ‘used to’ is the operative word. It’s very obvious no editing of any real consequence happens any more with a Patterson rubber stamp on it. Case in point, there is the epilogue and then three chapters AFTER it. Or the fact no one said there are too many subplots in this and none of them more than half-baked. The other reason I gave the second star is that some of them would have made a good story if fleshed out but yeah I might be too generous with that.

So let’s summarize this hot mess (keeping in mind I’ve never read the rest of them but that didn’t seem to matter much). Private is the private investigating company to the one percenters and was originally built up by Jack Morgan’s felony of a father. So here are the subplots: 1. two diplomats, Goshan and Kazzi (or at least that’s what I think that’s what the narrator was saying, I had the audio version) are busy raping ‘chubby’ women and getting away with it thanks to diplomatic immunity. In fact we spend WAY too much time in their heads (this is multiple povs all third except for Jack who is in first)
2. Someone is firebombing cars, including Jack’s and he wonders if his evil twin, Tom is behind it
3. The subplot about what Tom is actually doing
4. The subplot about Rick del Rio, one of the investigators, who is on trial for beating a woman into a coma, something he is innocent of (and maybe this was a left over from a book before this one. Certainly felt like it)
5. A subplot about a serial killer in Vegas who is setting women up to marry old billionaires and then either terrorizing them into heart attacks or killing them so the woman and the killer can split the inheritance.
6. A weird handful of chapters about some bored house wife who likes to death race on the way home, refusing to brake or use a horn and has no regard for anyone’s life. Weirdly this is the ONLY subplot with sound effects so it’s so incongruous and ridiculous.

See what I mean about there being no editors for much. Who lets this many subplots go by with zero of them being developed? In fact #5 is the plot that’s in the blurb. See the blurb above? It’s an utter lie, complete bait and switch. We do not even get the introduction of that plot until fifty chapters in. I swear I took the discs out of the player and looked to see if I was accidentally given a different book. That’s how little this book has to do with its blurb.

Let me dissect each of these and there might be mild spoilers.
1. I’ve already said all I really want to. It’s the tired hide behind immunity trope. While we don’t see actual penetration on page we do see them tying women up, hunting them and hurting them so yeah, thanks for that. Horrible. It’s resolution is ridiculous.

2. So only this private eye group has the equipment to tell what the mystery explosive is? Wait it was created in high school??

3. Evil twin does nothing that isn’t predictable.

4. Okay did we need to see EVERY witness in this trial? I was so very bored that I started skipping most of these scenes and I STILL predicted who the real villain was and why. Think about that for a moment, skipped the scenes and still it was transparent. I couldn’t care one whit about del Rio either. He’s Jack’s best friend and maybe if I had read other books I’d care about him but he comes across as stupid and violent and not the war hero he’s supposed to be. He compares himself to his own violent guard dog. He acts out in court and here’s a spoiler, he hits the prosecutor and then acts surprised when he’s arrested for it. He belongs in jail.

5. This subplot with getting the women to kill for money has promise. A good editor would have said, drop at least two of the other subplots and concentrate on this one. But the ball got dropped. It was a waste of Vegas. We only see a strip mall. Really? You pick a city with as much unique character as Vegas and you set stuff in a mall? And this is the only storyline with a female investigator who messes up and one of the guys has to step in and stop him. Ugh. Why?

6. You don’t even want to know why this nonsense was there.

Dear publishing world, this new idea of an author has to produced three books a year or a reader will forget about them is such ridiculous crap. I would rather ONE good book then three rushed pieces of crap like this. Also, tiny short chapters do not add tension, at least not when we don’t change scenes or point of view characters. It’s just choppy and amateurish. I don’t think I’ll read more of this one.

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