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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!

Book 36

Binti (Binti, #1)Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed the SF novella. Okorafor immediately sets the tone, a mix of fear and isolation along with longing and hope. How well does she capture the Himba people's culture? I can't speak to that as it's far outside my own. I only know of the Himba through educational shows but what little I do know fits. They are fairly isolated and insular group.

That is the core of Binti's fear. She has run off from her people, realizing that no one will welcome her back (or at least that is her firm belief). Binti is a math genius and she's been offered a position at Oomza University on a distant planet. Her math skills are such that she's a 'harmonizer' something left a little vague but obviously rare and important. Binti's people, however, are so very linked to their homelands that they rarely venture from them even within Africa, let alone go to space. Binti is automatically set apart on the space shuttle with her fellow students with her jangling jewelry and with her body coated with Otjize, a red ochre-butterfat mix used as sunscreen, protection and body wash (In a land of hot sun and no water). The Himba cover themselves and their hair with it. (I liked the detail of Binti plaiting mathematical sequences into her hair).

Binti's shuttle is waylaid by the Meduse, a jellyfish like alien race out to kill humans and destroy the university. Over the course of a few days, Binti's math skills and even her dedication to her customs and the Otjize play a role in whether or not she'll live and in her abilities to discover why the Meduse are so violent and war-like and what they actually want.

Which might not be what any expected. As a novella it works. As with most novellas, in my experience, you're left wanting a bit more but that's the nature of short works. I very much liked Binti as a character. While you learn what drives the Meduse, it's a little harder for me to forgive their actions on the shuttle (which those at the universe do without blinking). I'm curious to see what comes next.



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Number of pages: 52

This was quite a short book, which wasn't too hard to remember, full of mnemonics and techniques to help me remember things, some of which put me in mind of stuff I read earlier this year in Have You Eaten Grandma? by Gyles Brandreth.

I enjoyed the book as it was very humourous, although I kept remembering that there was interactive stuff so I kept having to run into the other room to get a pen. I should probably have read it all in one sitting too, rather than several small readings when I had the time - I struggled when the book tested me on everything I read so far.

I'm going to try their technique for remembering dates, though.

Next book: Feel Free by Zadie Smith

Book #28: Necropolis by Anthony Horowitz



Number of pages: 385

This is the fourth book in the Gatekeepers quintet, and is the darkest in the series so far.

The first half of the book felt a little disjointed, so it started with what felt like a mini-story about Scarlett, the new character introduced at the end of the third book, Nightrise; the book gives us her background - similar to Matt, she was fostered, and in a flashback the book tells of how she was saved from being run down on the road by a mysterious stranger.

Like the other characters in the series, she has dreams about the other four gatekeepers, so when she has a vision (it seems) of Matt in a church while on a school trip, she recognises him. She follows Matt through a door, which turns out to be one of the portals featured in the previous two books, but she finds herself being held prisoner in an Eastern European monastry. This story is resolved quicky, and the narrative then cuts to Matt's story, picking up from the endings of Evil Star and Nightrise as Matt, Pedro, Jamie and Scott are approached by someone who can offer them the diary that was mentioned in previous titles; typical to the series, as soon as he gives them the diary, he is killed, and this is followed with a battle with the "old ones", the monsters trying to end the world.

The main plot of the story, in which Scarlett is tricked into going to Hong Kong (she is told her father wants her to go there) starts about half way through the book, and the story gets better, and creepier. Scarlett is given a creepy guardian, who seems similar to Jane Deverill from Raven's Gate (so I could guess this was not good); I noticed she had some scary powers of persuasion which she used on the man accompanying Scarlett in the airport after he became suspicious.

Hong Kong, as portrayed in the book, is definitely not as it is in real life, as it seems that the Old Ones have turned it into something reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the plan seems to be to ensure that Scarlett doesn't leave.

The only real problem towards the end of the book was that there seemed to be an endless cylce of a character getting rescued, running from enemies and then getting captured again, but the finale was worth waiting for, and very shocking. It ended up on a cliffanger that looks like a good setup for the final book, Oblivion, which I'm looking forward to reading.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

I am not even sure if Scarlett will survive to see the start of the final book though; at the end of this book she was shot in the head, but it was not definite that she died or not. My suspicion is that she will die and be replaced by the past version of her, Scar, seen in Nightrise, just like Jamie was thrust into the past after the original version of him died.



Next book: How to Remember Everything (Richard Wiseman)
Kate Warne was the first female detective in the Pinkerton agency. Though little is known of her personal life, the author takes what’s known about her professional life and creates a plausible and accessible tale filling in the gaps and fleshing out a fascinating character. I especially enjoyed the reference to Washington’s hot summers! (Incidentally, I saw the author at a book signing in March, interviewing Jane Harper about The Lost Man which I will probably add to my TBR at some point.) Fulfills Litsy Booked2019 prompt: female detective. Read 1-5 May.

Books 34 -35

The X-Files/30 Days of NightThe X-Files/30 Days of Night by Steve Niles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is exactly what you'd expect from an The X-Files and 30 Days of Night crossover. It's certainly better than some of the vampire episodes that actually made the TV show (looking at you 3). Mulder and Scully have been sent to Alaska in winter (hence the 30 days of Night tie -in) when a bunch of bodies have been found decapitated and the bodies displayed some forty feet in the air on poles. While the local cops are happy to have help, someone from Mulder's past, Agent French, is far from happy. He has a particular hatred of Mulder and his own partner can't seem to chill him out.

It of course doesn't take Mulder long to jump to the idea of vampires. With the ever-skeptical Scully in tow, they follow a different path from French leading them to a tribe of Inuits who have some knowledge of what's going on, to a ship from a century or so past and to Russian operatives who definitely know it's some form of vampiric infestation.

The story line is good (though I would have wanted more as to the creatures motivation. It had some but sort of petered out in the end). It definitely had the X-Files tone down pat, the drama interspersed with humor. The art was excellent, especially in capturing Scully and Mulder's expressions. I really enjoyed this one.



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Dark LamentDark Lament by Daniel Kuhnley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I won this via a Goodreads giveaway which in no way influenced my review. This was more like a 2.5 read for me but I rounded up because technically it didn't have problems. It was the narrative that I didn't quite enjoy. It's actually three separate narrative lines, two of which are interlinked and one that wasn't (as of this book but it is the first in a series). Let me deal with each separately.

First we have Nardus's story line and his was the most compelling for me. It opens with the murder of his entire family and he is given an opportunity by a wizard to have his family brought back from the dead but only if he faces seven Herculean tasks that have killed everyone else who have attempted them (and in the process retrieve the item the wizard wants). Nardus agrees and he goes off to face these horrors bolstered only by his belief in the fact he will be reunited with his loved ones and at the same time set adrift from his God (who has a funky name filled with symbols so I'll just call him God). In fact God is very present in this book. It's an overwhelmingly religious book to be honest (Not necessarily Christian but there is that mustard seed analogy and the scene breaks are crosses so make of that what you will). Either Nardus rejecting God or the twins begging for help from him, God is in just about every chapter.

Alderan and Aria's stories are of course interlinked (as they are twins) but separate. Aria is taken from her village after monsters slaughter it while Alderan is out of town.

Alderan runs into a dryte, a faerie like creature who can control dirt/earth. Her name is Rayah and they become companions. She has been sent to keep an eye on him and his sister but she didn't do a good job of interceding. Alderan and Aria both are special but they don't know it (fairly standard fantasy fare). Alderan has a hair trigger and it makes liking him a bit difficult. He goes off on near homicidal rages for very little reason in some cases (and in others it's more understandable). Rayah does bear the blunt of this sometimes. There's a time jump between chapters of about a month and without being too spoilery they decide independently that they are in love but can't tell each other. The problem is with the time jump the story does nothing to earn this relationship, it doesn't build to it at all. Alderan himself mostly moves about without much direction.

Aria's story line is a bit harder to take. She spends a chunk of it suffering from aphasia due to all the rape and abuse she's endured at the hands of her captors (the rapes are not on page but it is obvious and it is discussed). She does have an unexpected ally and her relationship to him is probably the most interesting and believable part of her story. She is a tough character and sympathetic for that (ignoring the fact that there are only two women in the story and one has been suffering daily beatings and rapes) right up until the time when she is, in theory, rescued and we learn exactly what is so important about her and her twin (who she thinks is dead as Alderan assumes she is as well).

The reader knows something about her rescuer that she doesn't and that she isn't as safe as she thinks. However, it's at this point I toss out any respect I might have had for the character and here's why spoilersCollapse )

None of the story lines are resolved. For me that's a big problem. I hate that. I don't expect a lot of resolution in a series but at least one arc should have some. It's one of those non-endings that just seem to be the author saying 'well that's enough story for right now. ' There's not a cliff hanger per se. It just meanders to a close. At least Nardus found what the wizard sent him for (I think) so he had some resolution. Not so much the twins. I will say this one isn't for me. I couldn't invest in Alderan (and oh man that name, just kept thinking Star Wars) and Aria. Nardus yes but the twins, not so much so I don't think I'll be seeking book two.



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A TURNAROUND ARTIST?

Here it is the middle of May, and here comes Book Review No. 1.  Howard Green's Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison is an approved biography, mostly finished at the time of Mr Harrison's death.
Read more...Collapse )
Or perhaps precision scheduled railroading is hype.  I fear that it's dressing up the false economy that downsizing or right-sizing or re-engineering or whatever you call it these days with a more positive sounding name.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
This is the fifth and next-to-last installment in the Mortal Instruments series, and it plays that role well. It moves the action along quite a bit to set up the final confrontation in the next book. Stuff is getting real with Jace and Clary, as well as several other couples. Though I could have used a refresher about previous action (since I let too much time pass since reading the previous book), I appreciate that the author didn’t feel the need to include a lot of exposition and just let the story flow. An overarching theme of this book is betrayal/trust on several levels. I won’t let so much time pass before reading the next installment! Read 20 April to 5 May.

April 2019 reading

April 2019 reading:

38. Play with Fire & Midnight at the Oasis, by Justin Gustainis (496 pages)
When places of worship in different parts of the country start burning, with a hint of ritualism, it turns out a group intends to open the gates of hell. Later, a sleeper cell with a djinn at their disposal plan an attack, but their djinn desires lion hearts. Overall interesting books.

39. In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (204 pages)
Lundy stumbles upon a doorway to a world based in the sort of logic she is used to, a doorway her father stumbled through as a child. There she feels she belongs, but her father wishes to keep her out of there. Dark, and super good.

40. Indexing, by Seanan McGuire (404 pages)
Harry has grown up knowing she has the potential to be pulled into the narrative and become Snow White, and so she instead fights against it, trying to save reality from being sucked into stories when the narrative activates unwitting victims. In her team is a Wicked Stepsister, a Shoe Elf, a normal, and a newbie... And the narrative is starting to act up...

41. The Rising of the Shield Hero: Volume 1, by Aneko Yusagi (336 pages)
Naofumi is shocked when a book pulls him into a magical world where he's expected to be a hero--but it's a delighted kind of shocked. The positives quickly wear off when his roll is considered lesser, and they turn dark when he's betrayed, robbed, and cast out, with no one to trust. He decides to survive, if only to leave this accursed world, no matter what it takes. I wasn't sure about this one at first, but it's really good.

April pages: 1,440

Pages to date: 11,808 pages

41/52


April 2019 comic books & manga:

58. DMZ: Volume 8, by Brian Wood (192 pages)
59. Paper Girls: Volume 4, by Brian K. Vaughan (128 pages)
60. Yotsuba&!: Volume 14, by Kiyohiko Azuma (240 pages)
61. Minimum Wage: Issue 1, by Bob Fingerman (33 pages)
62. Stepping on Roses: Volume 3, by Rinko Ueda (208 pages)
63. I Hear the Sunspot: Limit: Volume 1, by Yuki Fumino (242 pages)
64. Otomen: Volume 14, by Aya Kanno (192 pages)
65. Skip Beat!: Volume 36, by Yoshiki Nakamura (200 pages)
66. Spice & Wolf: Volume 12, by Isuna Hasekura (160 pages)
67. Toradora!: Volume 7, by Yuyuko Takemiya (192 pages)
68. Bride of the Water God: Volume 17, by Mi-Kyung Yun (176 pages)
69. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Volume 1, by Fuse (192 pages)
70. Oh My Goddess!: Volume 5, by Kosuke Fujishima (117 pages)
71. Loveless: Volume 13, by Yun Kouga (162 pages)
72. Aqua: Volume 1, by Kozue Amano (192 pages)
73. Barefoot Gen: Volume 2, by Keiji Nakazawa (234 pages)
74. Y The Last Man: Volume 10, by Brian K. Vaughan (168 pages)
75. The Mighty Thor: Volume 3, by Jason Aaron (160 pages)
76. Pet Shop of Horrors: Volume 2, by Matsuri Akino (218 pages)
77. Ooku The Inner Chambers: Volume 13, by Fumi Yoshinaga (248 pages)
78. Gravel: Volume 10, by Mike Wolfer (144 pages)
79. Kuma Miko: Volume 5, by Masume Yoshimoto (160 pages)
80. Hunter x Hunter: Volume 25, by Yoshihiro Togashi (216 pages)
81. Hunter x Hunter: Volume 26, by Yoshihiro Togashi (216 pages)
82. Fushigi Yugi The Mysterious Play: Volume 2, by Yuu Watase (192 pages)
83. Planetes: Volume 4.2, by Makoto Yukimura (200 pages)
84. Swamp Thing: Volume 6, by Alan Moore (200 pages)
85. After School Nightmare: Volume 9, by Setona Mizushiro (200 pages)
86. The Mighty Thor: Volume 4, by Jason Aaron (136 pages)
87. Batman and Harley Quinn, by Ty Templeton (136 pages)
88. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, by Gerry Duggan (136 pages)
89. Skip Beat!: Volume 37, by Yoshiki Nakamura (200 pages)
90. Hana-Kimi: Volume 1, by Hisaya Nakajo (184 pages)
91. Crossed: Volume 12, by David Lapham (224 pages)
92. Puella Magi Tart Magica: Volume 4, by Magica Quartet (176 pages)

April pages: 6,374

Pages to date: 21,202 pages

92/150


Number of pages: 149

This is one of my absolute favourite books, and I wanted to re-read it after re-watching the film. It feels like a difficult book because of it being written in "Nadsat", the slang that its anti-hero, Alex, uses, but that just adds to the appeal for me.

This is the first time I read the introduction that I read with my copy, and I learned a few things I didn't know, like there was an American version that included a Nadsat glossary that annoyed Anthony Burgess. I think this is the first version I got my hands on, but it was missing about a third of the pages, so I had to get another; I may have had a lucky escape, because apparently this American version cut the final chapter. Apparently there were supposed to be 21 chapters in this book because this is meant as a coming-of-age book, with 21 being the age at which everyone is seen as properly grown-up. Reading it again, the final chapter really did feel like it was about Alex coming of age.

Reading it again, I had to remember not to rush through, despite the fact that I remembered most of what had happened. It was really good to read carefully (I even re-read one chapter) to be able to pick up little things that I might have missed otherwise.

I got the impression that Anthony Burgess didn't like the Stanley Kubrick film of this book, which also misses out the final chapter. I would say that the book is better than the film, but Kubrick's interpreration is still one of my favourite films of all time.

Next book: The Autistic Brain (Temple Grandin and Richard Panek)


Number of pages: 192

The fourth book in the Agatha Raisin series opens with ramblers finding themselves blocked from walking across private property by a rich landowner. This seems to be a common occurrence in the British countryside, but it turns out that the landowner is really polite about it. This doesn't seem to do anything to reduce tension between members of the group, and eventually one of them is found murdered after setting out for a walk on her own.

It seems that there are a lot of people who wanted her dead, just because she had a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. Agatha Raisin and her on-off lover James end up pretending to be married and joining the rambling group to find out who did it.

This seemed to be the shortest book in the series so far, and unfortunately I found it to be the worst of the titles so far. First off, the behaviour of some of the characters seems almost unreal.

Shortly before the victim is killed, she is thrown out of the houses of three people whom she is staying in, mostly for reasons that seem really petty, and some of the dialogue when the characters start arguing with each other almost seemed childish. For example, one of them is an IRA sympathiser and takes issue with a comment she makes (this was written in 1994, so the IRA was at least topical at the time), another throws her out of his house for not wanting to have sex with him. Incidentally, it did seem that most of the characters in the book were completely fixated with their own sex lives.

It didn't feel like Agatha got a lot to do in the book; the early chapters were mostly about the build up to the murder, and she was given a mini-story that felt tacked-on, and which went nowhere. For the rest of the book, she didn't seem to get much more to do than question suspects.

The book did at least throw in a surprise with the killer's identity, but it just felt really rushed, so that the end of the book could be used to set up the next book in the series.

Having seen the Sky One series, and knowing what the next book in the series is, I had guessed what was going to happen at the end of the book, so spoiler ahead...

[Spoiler for this book and probably the next]

The next book is Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage, so I wasn't surprised when James proposed to Agatha at the end of the story. At the end of book four in the series, this seemed a bit too soon for the series to go in this direction; when they adapted it on TV, they did at least leave that plot for the eighth (and final) episode (the proposal was added into a different story, because this one aired first in the series and was padded out a lot).

The TV adaptation of the next book in the series ended up with Agatha and James not marrying, after her estranged husband, Jimmy showed up, only to get murdered, but I will have to read the book to find out if it ended in the same way. In this book, it appears that Agatha's assistant Roy is plotting to let Jimmy know about the impending marriage, because he is angry at her, something which was also dropped in the TV series (he had a bigger role, and didn't seem to hate her at all).



I am planning to read more of the books in the series, but this one was quite underwhelming for me; I'm hoping the later ones in the series are better than this.

Next book: A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)

Book 33

FrayFray by Joss Whedon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Had I rated this when I first reviewed it way back when it probably would have been five stars but now many years later I find myself struggling to separate it from how the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show ended, not to mention the comic books. It put a pall on this for me because in order to get Fray's dystopic, magic-less universe Buffy, Willow and the rest had to end up the villains in their own story and that makes me sad.

Putting that aside and judging this on its own merits isn't easy but for those not in the know, this is a tale set within the Buffyverse only a few centuries from now in your cut and paste sort of dystopia (one of the reasons I don't like them, they all seem so homogenous). Melaka Fray is a street kid in Manhattan, a city now run by mutant gang lords and the underground is filled with Lurks (i.e. vampires). Problem #1 I had was why are the vampires so different and so much 'less' than they were in Buffy's time. Hell Darla and Angelus were alive as long as it's been time wise between Buffy's day and today in theory so what mutated them? We don't know and it was a problem for me.

Mel is a thief, trying to escape her past which we slowly learn has to do with her twin brother, Hrath. Her older sister is now a cop living in worry she'll have to arrest Mel who is very good at her job. What no one knows is Mel is so limber, so strong and so quick to heal is because she's the first Slayer to be Called in centuries.

For murky reasons (another problem for me is why did the demons send Urkonn to her side to help train her? Yes, there were some vague reasons but it seemed not enough somehow), a grotesque demon, Urkonn, has been sent to help Mel become the Slayer (in lieu of a Watcher). She's an incomplete Slayer, minus the dreams and sense of connectivity to the Sister Slayers before her. While this has a fascinating reason that should have been exploited more in the story, it also fell a little flat in another respect as neither Buffy nor Faith ever seemed to have much in the way of Slayer dreams to the point it was remarked on by their Watchers.

Speaking of the Watchers, that's another place that just didn't work for me. Frankly it would have been more interesting to have had them just give up on Slayers and disband or simply have Urkonn beat them to her. Instead in a mere couple centuries of waiting, the Watchers have gone insane. We meet only one who kills himself at her feet. Um....right? Not so much (or maybe I should be thankful that the millions of faithful waiting for their savior to return aren't insane which seems to be the premise here).

That aside, I did love Melaka. She's tough, she's smarter than she realizes and she's compassionate in a world that does not reward empathy. She makes for a good leader and a great hero. The story is compelling. Those above quibbles aside, it is good story telling, very good really. You end up rooting for Mel quickly. There is a good deal of pathos here and it works in this setting. I'm glad I reread this. You assume that Mel will survive to the end but it's written in a way that you're not sure she can possibly make it.

It was left open for a sequel which to my knowledge never happened (or if it did, I missed it). I would have liked to have seen more, even though I'm still very salty about Buffy and Willow being the ones to doom the world to this horrible existence.

The art in this is great. I will give Whedon thanks for putting an edict out against the usual giant boobs and idiot poses we get in comic book art. Mel is realistic looking. And while I love her ombre hair, I will say it was also eye rolling. She's a street kid without so much as a shower to her name but she has the means for a fancy dye job? Ah well, it does look cool.



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Number of pages: 349

Right from the start, the fourth of Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching novels felt darker and more serious than what had gone before. I think it was mostly because the plot initally involved a man who had (from what I understood) been asbusing his wife and daughter, hardly a subject I'd expect to see in a comic series like Discworld.

Despite this, I found the book to be enjoyable - it involved Tiffany sending the man's daughter to live with the Nac Mac Feegle, who have appeared in all of the Tiffany Aching books, but seemed to have a lesser role in this one.

The plot involved the Baron dying and being replaced by his son Roland, previously seen in The Wee Free Men; however, things aren't too good for Tiffany, as the atmosphere in the Discworld felt like something out of the medieval witch hunts, and she was being blamed for the Baron's death as well as various other bad things that had happened. This was followed by the appearance of the "Cunning Man", who seemed to be some sort of Witchfinder general, but whom seemed to have characterestics similar to Pennywise the Clown and Freddy Kreuger, making this also one of the scariest Discworld titles.

This book seemed intent on introducing new witches into the Discworld canon rather than having much of favourite characters of mine such as Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg (they were mentioned a lot, but didn't appear until the end), but this didn't stop me from liking the book, and the only real issue I had was that the denouement felt just a bit rushed. I also liked that a character from one of the older books made an unexpected appearance...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Eskarina Smith from Equal Rites, who now seems to be grown up and an accomplished witch.



Another thing I noticed about this book was that Tiffany seemed to have grown a lot in confidence, after seeming somewhat naive in the previous books she appeared in. I've seen people online listing the Tiffany Aching books as among the worst Discworld novels; for me, these are all better than most of the adult titles that Terry Pratchett was producing at around the same time.

Next book: Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (M.C. Beaton)

Books 31-32

The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit's Most Notorious Serial KillerThe Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit's Most Notorious Serial Killer by J. Reuben Appelman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I received this from Goodreads in a giveaway but that did not influence my opinion on this. It's hard to review this (and in fact it took me quite some time to get to this point for which I apologize. I do try to review ARCS quickly). As a true-crime book, this isn't my favorite. As memoir, it works but that's probably not what it's meant to be.

It centers on The OCCK ( The Oakland County Child Killer), a series of rape/murders in Detroit in the late 70s. The author was nearly kidnapped there himself in this time period which makes for an understandable compulsion for Appelman to dig into this case. However, it feels almost like we're looking at his raw notes. This isn't a clean progression from the first crime to the conclusion. It's all over the place as if we're seeing things written just after he interviewed whoever the short chapter was about. There's not much depth to it.

To be fair there isn't a conclusion. What is clear there was a pedophilic ring in action here (I've seen TV true crime shows with interviews of some of the surviving victims). One of the pedophiles was wealthy enough to maybe buy some justice but ends up dead in the world's most suspicious suicide (read, he was murdered but it was written off). Appelman (and some of the victim's family members) all buy accuse some of the cops of being dirty, and while there is a suggestion of it, there isn't a whole lot of proof (to back up all the names that were named).


The rest of the book is pure memoir, him talking about his abusive upbringing, his disintegrating marriage (I'd be curious what his kids think of all this), the drug-addicted ex girlfriend he dances around as he investigates this case, his own near abduction, his alcoholism, his iffy relationship with his kids and his sister.


It's a raw and oddly compelling read as a memoir. It was much less satisfying as a true-crime book.



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A Dilly of a Death (China Bayles, #12)A Dilly of a Death by Susan Wittig Albert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Truth be told, I like this series but a) I've never read it in order, just however I've found it in the library b) this one is a quick read but has issues.

As a mystery, it's a bit weak. In fact, China goes out of her way not to investigate this crime as MacQuaid was representing Phoebe Morgan, the Pickle Queen as his first client as a P.I. So basically she solves it just by talking to random people (while taking an amusing subtle jab at the cozy genre which is forever having the amateur sleuth go up to people they don't know and start questioning them. How they never get punched in the face is a mystery to me!) and by doing something completely stupid at the end.

In fact there IS no crime for 135 pages of this book ( of 336 pages, so nearly half way into it). They're not even worried that much other than Phoebe is missing along with her boyfriend who is the same age (and is a friend of) her son. Phoebe is the owner of a local and successful pickle factory and controls things with an iron fist, including the picklefest where China and Ruby are on the committee.

So what takes up one hundred plus pages if not a mystery? Them wondering if Phoebe is in Santa Fe with her boy toy and blowing off Picklefest, especially since she might be selling the company (hence hiring MacQuaid, fearing someone on her staff is stealing from her); them worrying about Sheila who has failed to find a burglar who hits the rich and one of them died of a fear (and her job in law enforcement might be at an end thanks to it) and the thing that drove me nuts to the point if I hadn't been reading this for the Popsugar challenge, I might have stopped and said nope.

Since it's literally in the blurb, I feel no need to cut this for spoilers. Ruby's daughter, Amy has moved in with China because her mother is harassing her to have an abortion. Amy is pregnant out of wedlock and won't tell anyone who the dad is. China and MacQuaid half agree with Ruby (and honestly given the readership of cozies, I'm surprised the word abortion was mentioned). I found this utterly frustrating as hell (I'm not anti-abortion by any means) because of WHY they want it to happen. Her tattoos, piercings and picking up of lost causes all indicate that she is totally immature and obviously unfit to be a mom (she is 25 btw, not some pregnant teen). Now she has a history of drug use but it's been so long I don't remember if it was just pot or something harder. Ruby was in this position before (and gave Amy up for adoption so their relationship is new) so there could have been some interesting, important conversations but instead we get Ruby acting so deranged I wanted to slap her senseless and if I was Amy I'd be pretty upset.


The ending was dumb. Seriously. That would be a spoiler to say how but for me, it was eye rolling.




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Number of pages: 293

Grace, the narrator of this book is married to Jack; the book opens with them hosting a dinner party with friends, before flashing back to their first meeting when Grace eventually accepted a somewhat hasty marriage proposal from Jack.

The first few chapters felt a bit dull, just an observation of a married couple, though the fact that they were occasionally denying having skeletons in their closet gave me hope that something was not right with their marriage.

Eventually, things picked up in another flashback, to the couples' honeymoon. Grace wants to visit her sister Millie in hospital on the way to the airport; Millie has downs syndrome, and is in hospital because she fell down a flight of stairs on Grace and Jacks' wedding day.

When Jack hears about Grace's plans to visit Millie, he starts to get manipulative, saying she must choose between him and Millie, and that if she goes to the hospital, he'll go on the honeymoon without her. Grace feels that she has no choice but to go straight to the airport.

When they reach their hotel, things start turning nasty. First off, she finds that Jack has booked them into a terrible hotel, but then Jack starts a campaign of psychological abuse against Grace, which mostly involves him locking her up at home, even in their hotel room where they are meant to be spending their honeymoon; he even convinces other people that she is mentally unstable, and occasionally tricks her into thinking someone else is going to save her from her torment. It turns out that his father was a wife beater, and got him involved in what he was doing, which ended with Jack killing his own mother, a crime that his father got jailed for.

I really wanted to enjoy this book; the realism was good, with Jack and Grace acting like nothing was wrong in front of others, which tends to be what happens with abusive relationships.

However, first off, the structure was a little annoying. So, the chapters alternate between the "past" and the "present", making it completely non-linear. I thought there was a strategic reason for doing this, but towards the end it felt like an annoying gimmick, and it just felt annoying that the story was constantly jumping back and forth in the timeline, just as a way of adding suspense.

The only real explanation offered for Jack's behaviour seemed to be that his father turned him into some sort of woman-hating monster, but that might have been the point, as people who abuse their spouses probably don't really have a lot of motivation for their behaviour. The writer did add a nicely ironic touch by making Jack a lawyer responsible for prosecuting men who battered their wives.

Also, it really did start to fall apart with an ending that was both predictable and long-winded.

Spoilers coming up now, so I'm going to put this behind a cut.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

One of Jack's plans in the book involves wanting to lock Millie up in the cellar of their house after she moves in with them. Jack even promises her a nice yellow room, which he shows to her, while he's really planning to lock her up in a red-painted room full of pictures of the battered wives he defended (for some reason instead of putting up the photographs he had access to, he get Grace to paint copies of them to put up in the room). This led to one of the better parts of the book, which Jack did slip up when talking to friends, saying that Millie was looking forward to her red room.

It also turns out that Millie's fall was no accident, as Jack had pushed her, as she reveals to Grace at one point, before suggesting that Grace give Jack an overdose of sleeping tablets. The book then turns into a case of will-she-or-won't she? Turns out, she does, but I was hoping for something a bit more unexpected.

The last few chapters just felt like they dragged, particularly when Grace has travelled to Thailand, and is waiting for Jack to arrive on a separate flight, only not to show up because, as we find out, she has managed to give him the overdose and lock him up. The chapter involves her calling up Jack's colleagues and asking where he is, presumably so she doesn't look too suspicious, but the fact that I ended up reading a blow-by-blow account of exactly what she did to draw suspicion off her, before then flashing back to explain that she'd given him the overdose, just annoyed me. In the end, it turns out the overdose didn't kill him, and he ended up dying of dehydration while locked in the cellar.



This book seemed like a good concept, but it ended up poorly executed, and in the end didn't feel particularly original.

Next book: I Shall Wear Midnight (Terry Pratchett)

Books 22 and 23 - fishes out of water

22. The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sarah Blaedel
Ilka is living uneventfully in Copenhagen when she learns to her surprise that her estranged father has died and left her a funeral home in Racine, Wisconsin. Against her mother’s advice, she goes to Wisconsin hoping to make sense of the situation and gain some insight into the man who abandoned the family when she was very young. However …while she’s preparing the business for sale, the funeral home accepts the body of a homeless man with a notorious history in the town, and when someone tries to steal him, Ilka quickly learns that things are not quite what they seem. Meanwhile her staff is less than forthcoming with information, and her father’s second family is less than welcoming. This was an interesting story, not entirely a traditional mystery but with several of the genre’s elements. Since it ends with a cliff hanger, I’m somewhat compelled to read the sequel. Read 9-11 April.
23. The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
Ice Road Truckers meets Criminal Minds in this improbable but engaging thriller set in Alaska. A British woman travels with her deaf daughter to Fairbanks in late November to meet up with her husband, but upon arrival at the airport she’s told her husband died in a fire that killed everyone in the remote village where he was working on a photography shoot. She doesn’t believe the story and sets off on an adventure into the wilderness to uncover the truth. But they’re not alone… The daughter is an especially compelling character, and the mother grows on me as the story progresses. There are lovely turns of phrase as well as vivid descriptions of snow, dark, and cold. I enjoyed this but found the ending to be a bit unsatisfying. Read 17-19 April.

Book 30

Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake (A Death by Chocolate Mystery #2)Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake by Sarah Graves

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I picked this up from the library when I saw it was set in Eastport Maine where a good friend of mine lives and a place I've been too and loved. I thought it would be easy to get into since it was only book two but in reading other reviews, it's actually just a rebranding of an earlier series so now it's more like the 10th book with these characters so there is very little character growth. I almost didn't finish this one.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't awful. I could deal with her breaking the fourth wall and talking to the reader (though I personally hate that). But it wasn't much of a mystery. There is never any suspects, not really. Jake (Jacobia) our point of view character, and her friend Ellie, basically stumble over the killer in the end (when the killer comes to kill them basically).

There are three subplots in this. Jake and Ellie are about to lose the series umbrella device, the chocolate bake shop (where Jake didn't endear herself to me by calling cinnamon an abomination, hmm I wonder why her shop isn't doing well). Being a tourist town with a short tourist season (it's pretty far up north), they can't survive the long winters on just local money. Worse Ellie's husband is working in Bangor most days (which is a hike and a half) so she'll probably have to move to Bangor so Jake isn't just losing a job but also her best friend.

ANdy and Sharon's wedding might save them (because of how much wedding cakes cost) but Toby Moran, Sharon's abusive ex-boyfriend was found dead (potentially having drunk a poisoned milkshake from Jake's shop) and naturally Andy is suspect number one. In order to save him (and thereby her shop) Jake has to get involved.

The third subplot truly annoyed me. It had nothing to do with the mystery and it was more page time than necessary. Apparently in earlier books Jake's dad had a heart attack and required care. Well now he's better and he went out and got cleared to drive. Jake and her step mom, Belle, go apeshit over this. She spends a third of the book scheming to force her dad to quit driving. Now, yes sometimes the elderly shouldn't be driving but her dad isn't demented, he's not blind. He merely had a heart attack. She and Belle spend far too much time infantalizing her father. And how much younger is Belle than her husband if she's that worried about her husband driving while old? At one point Ellie points out that Jake is being unfair and she almost rethinks it but doesn't and then later the sheriff Bob Arnold also points it out infuriating her. At this point, especially as someone who doctored a lot of geriatric people, I wanted to slap Jake for being so dumb about this.

As for the mystery, it started off okay if a bit coincidentally with Ellie knowing someone who might have been the source of the poison however unwittingly. Getting to that point was fine but then it sort of just goes off the rails with a good deal of the prose being dedicated to daddy driving or them losing the shop and not nearly enough in developing clues. But it was the ending that sank this one for me so I'll put that under a spoiler cut.



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Number of pages: 48

I bought this short novel after I read that it had been postumously published. Sylvia Plath wrote it in 1952, only to have it rejected by publishers, and it is very sad that she committed suicide before it got the recognition it deserved.

Apparently, Sylvia Plath did write another version that was made to feel deliberately incomplete, but the publishers of this book have presented it in its original form, as they felt that this was the best version.

At the start of the book, Mary is setting off on a train journey; I wasn't sure of her exact age, but the narrative implied that she is quite young; her destination appears to be this mysterious "ninth kingdom". On the train, she befriends another woman who takes her to the dining carriage where they get talking.

As the novel progresses, the train carriage starts to feel a bit dark and surreal, with passengers who are apparently identical, but the really creepy stuff starts when another woman is forcibly removed from the train for not wanting to get off at her stop. At this point, the other woman starts making comments about people apparently having to get off when it's their stop, and also about how on this journey "there is no return".

I won't spoil things by saying how it ends, but needless to say I couldn't predict what was going to happen. It felt a bit open to interpretation, and reviews I have read seem to suggest that the train journey represents Sylvia Plath's own mindstate when she wrote it. The writing style is very good; it felt a bit similar to Daphne DuMaurier, but it felt like something that I would have to go back and read again.

Next book: Behind Closed Doors (B.A. Paris)
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Book #21: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas



Number of pages: 438

Starr is a black teenager growing up in America. During a party she is at, gunshots are fired, causing everyone to flee, so her friend Khalil drives her home, only to be stopped by the police.

The cop who pulls them over ends up shooting Khalil dead after thinking he was reaching for a gun (he was in fact taking a hairbrush out of his pocket), setting the scene for a novel that is entirely about race, mostly because Khalil is black and the cop who shot him is white.

Because Starr was the only witness to the shooting, she is required to testify against the cop to a grand jury. As the novel progresses, tensions start to rise, not least because of the outrage caused by the incident but also because of the claims that Khalil was a drug dealer.

I noticed that Angie Thomas put a lot of apt references in - Tupac is mentioned a few times, mostly because he provided the origin of the title (The Hate You Give Little Infants F***s Everyone (THUGLIFE), and the characters frequently talk about The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The whole book is narrated in the present tense by Starr, and I found it very gripping, with its social commentary, not least Starr feeling awkward that she has a white boyfriend (at one point this is met with mixed reactions by her family). The book is very shocking in places, with its themes of race and social injustice, but I found it to be a gripping read throughout and I was glad that I also watched the film almost immediately after I finished reading. It feels that racism isn't something that should be prevalent as it is today, but this book was a reminder that our society really hasn't progressed as much as it should have.

Next book: Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom (Sylvia Plath)

Books 28 & 29

No Rest for the DeadNo Rest for the Dead by Andrew Gulli

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was interesting in that it was like a round robin story but with 26 of the mystery genre's top authors. Each author has one or two chapters to call their own in this novel (word of warning to whom that matters it's a mix of third person and first person it).

It opens with the half botched execution of Rosemary Thomas, wealthy museum curator whose husband, the philandering, art smuggling Christopher, was found dead in an Iron Maiden Rosemary had sent back to Germany. The story then backs up to see the events leading up to Christopher's death which frankly failed to grab me. John Nunn (the cop investigating the case) comes to believe he made an error and feels she's innocent. And a ton hinges on the judge and DA wanting to look tough on crime in an election year so Rosemary, trying to prove that money didn't matter, gets railroaded and all of her appeals somehow exhausted in just a few years and is put to death in California (seems very unlikely and sort of bothered me).


The story got a bit more interesting at the 10th anniversary of her execution and her equally wealthy friend brings all the actors together (with Nunn's help) to try to prove that the real killer is among them. The actual end takes on an eye rolling Hollywood quality that a few days later I can barely remember it.

It was an interesting idea and it's well written but it didn't really grab me.



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Smoke and Ashes (Sam Wyndham, #3)Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Unfortunately I've not read the first two in this series, hadn't heard of it but saw this one on the library's new book shelf. I might have to run down the first two. I enjoyed this. Unlike many mysteries, it didn't really give any of the back story from the first two books so I'm not sure how the point of view character, Sam Wyndham, ended up a detective in 1920s Calcutta nor how he ended up an opium addict (though one suspects his injuries in WWI had something to do with it). His partner is Surendranath Banjaree, a young Indian police man who they call Surrender-Not because they can't pronounce his name.

That leads into an observation about own voices. That name, Wyndham's occasionally unkind thoughts about the Indians (especially Gandhi's followers), and some other issues work with an own voices author where they would have been taken very different by one who isn't. While uncomfortable, this would have been true to form for a 1920s British man living in India (which is sometimes a dicey thing when writing historical fiction, things that would have been normal then are viewed as racist now and much of modern sensibilities would never have crossed anyone's mind back then).


It opens with Sam being rousted from an opium den so not to get caught up in a raid and he stumbles over a dead man with his eyes sliced out and stabbed in either side of his chest. To Sam's surprise no reports are made of the murder. He and Surrender-Not are assigned to deal with Das and Bose (two of Gandhi's followers, a real life national heroes) whose non-violent protests in the city might screw up the crown Prince's visit.


To be honest, that went on a little long for me (that was part of the reason I didn't go to the five stars for this) and it's obvious that the author wanted this history known (as well it should be) but it was a bit of a distraction from the mystery (though ties back in at the end).

Then a nurse ends up killed in the same way as the man from the opium den and Sam and Surrender-Not have to find her killer all the while dealing with the unexpected interference from Section H, the clandestine military group who have no trouble torturing Sam by locking him up until he's in the middle of withdrawal which brings up another problem for Sam. He can no longer pretend he's in control of his addiction. His need to get high keeps getting worse.


They have to find the killer fast because it might be the death of a prince or of the Indian protest leaders or both if they don't.

Sam is an interesting multifaceted character and I really enjoyed him. Surrender-Not too (it's first person Sam so we don't get to know him well but Sam is sympathetic to the fact that being a policeman and serving the British has isolated Surrender-Not from his friends and family). I plan on reading more of this series.




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Book 21 - A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole

The next book in the Loyal League series of historical romance. Though there are references to the first book (An Extraordinary Union), it also stands on its own. In this story, we follow a mixed-race woman who uses a combination of science and folk healing to create medicines for the local population. While visiting the Confederate prison she makes the acquaintance of Ewan, a Union intelligence officer who has a history with the new warden. Due to a series of events, he ends up living in her lab, and drama ensues. In my opinion, the romance is stronger (and steamier) in the first book, but this one definitely has its moments. Fulfills the Read Harder prompt: historical romance written by an author of color. Read 1-5 April.

Book 12 - 2017

Book 12: Dragon Soul by Derek Padula – 1945 pages

Description from Goodreads.com:

With a foreword from Christopher Sabat and Sean Schemmel, Dragon Soul: 30 Years of Dragon Ball Fandom is a grand celebration of the world's greatest anime and manga and it's momentous 30th Anniversary.

Thoughts:

Derek Padula has written a ton of books about the anime Dragon Ball Z, of which I have been a fan for nearly twenty years. When I got back into DBZ a couple of years ago, I discovered Padula, and undertook to read this book, his celebration of 30 years of DBZ through the stories of fans from across the world. It’s a slog, that’s for sure, and unfortunately most of the stories are pretty much the same kind of thing - ‘I was having a hard time in life and DBZ saved me because everyone is <insert relevant personality characteristic>’. I don’t begrudge Padula or the people who were affected by DBZ in such a profound way, but it got kind of repetitive after awhile. The best part was the forward by the show’s two most famous English voice actors.




12 / 50 books. 24% done!


6076 / 15000 pages. 41% done!

Currently reading:


  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – 106 pages

  • The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance edited by Trisha Telep – 481 pages

  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham – 327 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

  • To The Nines by Janet Evanovich – 372 pages

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Book 11 - 2017

Book 11: Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich – 277 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:

The #1 bestselling phenomenon continues in the eighth Stephanie Plum novel. The stakes get higher, the crimes get nastier, the chases get faster, and the men get hotter. This time Stephanie, Morelli, Ranger. Lula, Valerie, and Grandma Mazur are strapped in for the ride of their lives. Stephanie is hired to find a missing child. But things aren't always as they seem and Stephanie must determine if she's working for the right side of the law. Plus, there's the Morelli question: can a Jersey girl keep her head on straight when more than just bullets are aimed for her heart? And with the Plum and Morelli relationship looking rocky, is it time for Ranger to move in for the kill? Janet Evanovich's latest thriller proves that Hard Eight will never be enough.

Thoughts:

This Stephanie Plum novel introduces the character of Albert Kloughn, a hapless lawyer who ends up falling for Stephanie’s sister Valerie. Other than that, its a standard Stephanie Plum novel - crazy Lula and Grandma Mazur, sexy Ranger and Morelli, pretty useless Stephanie. A mother and daughter goes missing and Stephanie’s grandmother asks her to investigate on the side. Needless to say this leads to much silliness, and a little bit of scary (why Stephanie doesn’t find a new job she’s actually half decent at nobody knows, least of all her). An uneventful read.


11 / 50 books. 22% done!


4131 / 15000 pages. 28% done!

Currently reading:


  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – 106 pages

  • Dragon Soul by Derek Padula – 1945 pages

  • The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance edited by Trisha Telep – 481 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

  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham – 327 pages

Books 19 & 20 - Ireland & Scotland

19. The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Book 1 of the Finfarren Peninsula trilogy about a fictitious town in western Ireland. Hanna Casey is still licking her wounds from her husband’s betrayal and feels unfulfilled working as the librarian in her hometown and living with her opinionated mother, so she decides to renovate a cottage she inherited from an elderly aunt. The endeavor is challenging from the start, and then she learns that the local council is planning to close the library. Though she has a reputation among the townspeople as rather aloof, she recruits some unexpected allies to counteract the council’s plan. I found Hanna to be a bit annoying and inconsistent, but I really liked many of the side characters, especially her strong-willed and well-named builder Fury McGee. The story is occasionally cutesy, but there’s substance there and a charming setting to compel me to continue the series. I’ll be stopping in Ireland during a cruise next month, so I wanted to read a story set primarily in the country after reading a few immigrant stories the past couple years. This also fulfills a Litsy Booked2019 prompt to read a book set in Ireland and/or by an Irish author. Read 19-30 March.

20. The Blackhouse by Peter May
Book 1 of the Isle of Lewis trilogy about Fin McLeod, a police detective who’s working in Edinburgh but hails from a small town at the northern tip of the island. When a former schoolmate is murdered in the same gruesome fashion as a city murder he’s investigating, he reluctantly returns home to determine whether the similarities are a coincidence or evidence, but first he has to manage his own demons from the past and get beyond the resentment of his childhood friends who feel he abandoned them. The story is so full of local atmosphere and Fin’s memories that the murder is almost an afterthought, but in the last part of the book the action kicks into gear for a satisfying conclusion. Fin is a hard nut to crack, but I’m looking forward to continuing the series. I’m also stopping on Lewis during the cruise, so I’ll see if I can find any of the locations from the book. Read 7 March to 3 April.
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Book 18 - Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

A fairy-tale retelling based on Rumpelstiltskin and other stories. Miryem’s father is the village moneylender, but he’s too kind-hearted to obtain repayment until she starts making the rounds in his place. She does it so well, she comes to the attention of the Staryk (ice king), whose motives and customs she doesn’t entirely understand. Her story and her fate are also entwined with those of a young girl who comes to work for her family and the plain but savvy daughter of a duke in the nearby city. All three are bad-ass women together and separately. This was an enchanting story with interesting themes of family, sacrifice, class struggles, and anti-Semitism conveyed with a light touch. It was a Litsy buddy read for March and also fulfilled the Read Harder folklore prompt. Read 3-24 March.
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March 2019 reading

March 2019 reading:

25. Unfallen Dead, by Mark Del Franco (320 pages)
Grey is missing pieces of his memory, and it's difficult enough to deal with that, but a Queen of Faerie doubts his memory loss and is making his life hell. At the same time, his old Guild partner from NYC has returned, bringing up old guilt. To make matters worse, there's a string of occult murders, whispers of an invasion of Tara against Maeve, and the Ways between worlds may be opening again.

26. Crime Spells, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Loren L. Coleman (320 pages)
I got this for the Devon Monk story. Enjoyed most of the rest of them as well.

27. Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi (355 pages)
Aru Shah sometimes can't help herself--she exaggerates or lies, trying to fit in when she feels inadequate, stuck at her apartment attached to the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, often waiting for her mother. But when she tries to impress her classmates by lighting a cursed lamp, she sets off a chain of events she's not prepared for, and must step into a destiny she didn't know she had.

29. Sympathy for the Devil, by Justin Gustainis (477 pages)
Mysterious goings-on surround a Republican primary candidate. Candidates are dying, either in odd accidents or suicides brought on by scandal. And it seems Hell may be involved. Interesting read. Made me think of 2016.

30. Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (174 pages)
When Sumi's future daughter arrives at Home for Wayward Children demanding the return of her mother, several of the Wayward band together to try to bring Sumi back. But it will require going to a land of death, and entering the Nonsense realm where Rini was born, with no guarantee they can succeed. Great read!

31. Pros and Cons, by Jenna Black (82 pages)
A novella in the Nikki Glass series. Nikki takes a case to try to avoid what she knows Anderson wants of her, but finds it's more complicated than she expected--in that her client could meet a grisly end.

32. Inhuman Resources, by Jes Battis (305 pages)
Tess's most recent case involves a murdered necromancer, and the necromancers are edgy about it--expecting the case to be solved, but unwilling to share information. To add to things, Tess is concerned about Patrick and Mia, and Lucian is distancing himself. When she goes to speak to a bird demon informant and is attacked by a necromancer right after, it's clear there are problems among the necromancers as well.

33. Hands of Flame, by C.E. Murphy (416 pages)
Grit's role with the Old Races has gotten more difficult, and that only continues as the Djinn seek the person who killed Malik. When Alban is captured, she becomes desperate to find him. When she does a gargoyle trial is ordered to determine Alban's fate. But Alban refuses to defend himself, still trying to protect old secrets. Good read.

34. A Map of Days, by Ransom Riggs (480 pages)
The Peculiar children, now that peculiardom has been saved, are tasked with helping with its rebuilding. But the tasks they're assigned leave them feeling unfulfilled. When Jacob realizes his grandfather saved uncontacted Peculiars, he finds a way to reach out to one of Abe's old partners. Soon he, Emma, and some of the others are on an adventure through America's unfamiliar Peculiar political landscape--and they're in more danger than ever.

35. Unperfect Souls, by Mark Del Franco (352 pages)
When the decapitated body of one of the Dead is found in a sewer, Connor is about to find out about the clashes between the Dead and the outcast and loner fae. It puts him into contact with a loner fae who shares the darkness in his head--who knows what it is. Underlying it all is a plot to further upset the balance between Faerie and the Elves, with ugly truths to be revealed.

36. Magic on the Storm, by Devon Monk (344 pages)
Allie and Zayvion have enjoyed a few weeks without a crisis, giving them time to train and also work on their relationship. But honeymoons can't last, and a wild magic storm is on its way to Portland. At the same time, a plot is brewing within the fractious Authority, and Allie has no idea which side she, or her father's soul in her brain, are on.

37. The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami (96 pages)
A young boy goes to the library to return books and find answers to a question about Ottoman empire tax systems, and finds himself imprisoned far beneath with only a sheep-man and a mysterious and lonely girl left to feed him. Very creepy and interesting.

March pages: 3,721

Pages to date: 10,368 pages

37/52


March 2019 comic books & manga:

24. Secret War, by Brian Michael Bendis (256 pages)
25. Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 29, by Karuho Shiina (168 pages)
26. I Hear the Sunspot: Theory of Happiness, by Yuki Fumino (312 pages)
27. Hunter x Hunter: Volume 21, by Yoshihiro Togashi (197 pages)
28. Hunter x Hunter: Volume 22, by Yoshihiro Togashi (208 pages)
29. Justice League Beyond: Konstriction, by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs (176 pages)
30. Black Butler: Volume 27, by Yana Toboso (176 pages)
31. Video Girl Ai: Volume 10, by Masakazu Katsura (200 pages)
32. Afterschool Charisma: Volume 8, by Kumiko Suekane (208 pages)
33. Dawn of the Arcana: Volume 1, by Rei Toma (192 pages)
34. Stepping on Roses: Volume 1, by Rinko Ueda (200 pages)
35. High School Debut: Volume 4, by Kazune Kawahara (174 pages)
36. Wonder Woman: Volume 7, by Meredith Finch (176 pages)
37. Puella Magi Tart Magica: Volume 3, by Magica Quartet (160 pages)
38. Illegal, by Eoin Colfer (128 pages)
39. Hunter x Hunter: Volume 23, by Yoshihiro Togashi (210 pages)
40. Hunter x Hunter: Volume 24, by Yoshihiro Togashi (215 pages)
41. Otomen: Volume 13, by Aya Kanno (192 pages)
42. Stepping on Roses: Volume 2, by Rinko Ueda (192 pages)
43. The Girl Who Owned a City, by O.T. Nelson & Dan Jolley (125 pages)
44. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 1, by Gerry Duggan (144 pages)
45. Skip Beat!: Volume 35, by Yoshiki Nakamura (200 pages)
46. Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (266 pages)
47. A Bride's Story: Volume 10, by Kaoru Mori (187 pages)
48. Dawn of the Arcana: Volume 2, by Rei Toma (192 pages)
49. Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 30, by Karuho Shiina (200 pages)
50. Monster: Volume 3, by Naoki Urasawa (204 pages)
51. Honey and Clover: Volume 3, by Chica Umino (200 pages)
52. High School Debut: Volume 5, by Kazune Kawahara (182 pages)
53. Star Trek: Nero, by Roberto Orci (104 pages)
54. New Suicide Squad: Volume 4, by Tim Seeley (168 pages)
55. Bleach: Volume 72, by Tite Kubo (192 pages)
56. Taboo Tattoo: Volume 1, by Shinjiro (208 pages)
57. Harley Quinn: Volume 5, by Amanda Conner (168 pages)

March pages: 6,480

Pages to date: 14,828 pages

57/150


I've been re-reading this in the evenings over the last few months.

This is the point when the Harry Potter books get really long; I bought this one at the same time as I got the previous two titles, and felt really daunted by the length, about twice that of Prisoner of Azkaban. I wasn't too surprised when a lot of the book's content was cut out in the film, some regrettably like most of the scenes in which Sirius Black appeared, although they did also omit a somewhat forgettable subplot involving Hermione campaigning for house elf rights.

I really enjoyed reading this again; I was picking up on more hints regarding the storyline involving Snape, and I loved how this book felt completely different in tone from the previous stories, just in that it did not deal with an obvious threat to Hogwarts. I think it's also the only book in the series to feature dragons.

Aside from the opening chapter and the pensieve sequence, this book feels lighter in tone to the previous book, but then you reach the climactic scenes and the storyline becomes incredibly dark, including a character death. Reading through the book probably more slowly than I did before made me appreciate it a bit more than when I originally read it.

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