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

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

Happy reading!

Book 16 - 2017

Book 16: To The Nines by Janet Evanovich – 372 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Stephanie Plum's got rent to pay, people shooting at her, and psychos wanting her dead every day of the week (much to the dismay of her mother, her family, the men in her life, the guy who slices meat at the deli . . . oh, the list goes on). An ordinary person would cave under the pressure. But hey, she's from Jersey. Stephanie Plum may not be the best bounty hunter in beautiful downtown Trenton, but she's pretty darn good at turning bad situations her way . . . and she always gets her man. In To the Nines, her cousin Vinnie (who's also her boss) has posted bail on Samuel Singh, an illegal immigrant. When the elusive Mr. Singh goes missing, Stephanie is on the case. But what she uncovers is far more sinister than anyone imagines and leads to a group of killers who give new meaning to the word hunter. In a race against time that takes her from the Jersey Turnpike to the Vegas Strip, Stephanie Plum is on the chase of her life. The unforgettable characters, nonstop action, high-stakes suspense, and sheer entertainment of To the Nines define Janet Evanovich as unique among today's writers.

Another Stephanie Plum novel. Same standard mystery with Stephanie caught in the lurch in the end. Improved by Valerie having her baby and Lula’s meat diet. Same standard Morelli/Ranger fare. These books are very formulaic, and as fun and comfortable as that can be to read, they’d be significantly improved by something resembling character development. Pick a man, ditch Lula (I know a lot of people find her funny - I find her annoying, she undoubtedly always gets Stephanie into trouble), kill off Grandma, I don’t know. Just do something!

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

7362 / 15000 pages. 49% done!

Currently reading:
- The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty – 402 pages
- Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women who helped win the Space Race
by Margot Lee Shetterly – 328 pages
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
by Ashlee Vance – 434 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
- Without Remorse
by Tom Clancy – 750 pages

Book 15 - 2017

Book 15: The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance edited by Trisha Telep – 481 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Love will find a way - 19 fantastic future-set romances.
The good news is, in the future there will be no shortage of romance. On space ships, on newly-colonized planets or on a barely recognizable Earth, life forms, whether human, alien or something in between, will find their way to love.
As giant corporations grasp new opportunities for profit and future armies clash, both in deep space and 'dirtside', former romantic partners try to put the past behind them and time-travelling rebels set out to romance the past.
These science fiction stories of future love and lust - by Marcella Burnard, Bianca d'Arc, Jess Granger, Linnea Sinclair, C. L. Wilson and many more - are brimming with passion and humour. So, even though in space no one can hear you scream, they might just be able to hear you laugh.

I bought this book, and another anthology of Science Fiction wars, on sale at the University book shop (don’t ask me why they had such volumes in their library!). Given I don’t get to read much at night when on holidays, I took it on an overseas trip to America, reading one or two stories a night. Overall, I enjoyed this volume. Science fiction/romance is probably my favourite genre so that helped, but most of the stories are, if not groundbreaking pieces of literature, at least entertaining stories. I can’t remember all the stories, and the only one that I can remember specifics of the plot is ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ which was totally corny, but which I enjoyed nonetheless. Basically, I read it like a Mills and Boons in space.

15 / 50 books. 30% done!

6990 / 15000 pages. 47% done!

Currently reading:
- To The Nines
by Janet Evanovich – 372 pages
- The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty – 402 pages
- Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women who helped win the Space Race
by Margot Lee Shetterly – 328 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
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
by Ashlee Vance – 434 pages

Book #46: Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Number of pages: 422

This is a book that I'd been keen to read for the last few years, having resisted it when I was younger. The main plot involves characters who are on a pilgrimage across India to find a river that apparently cleanses people of their sins.

The only problem was, I found this book really difficult - I found the writing to be very dense, and the dialogue very rambling, with all the characters speaking in King James English.

It also hasn't aged well since it was written in 1901, as there is some racism, including Kim dying his skin brown and wearing a turban at one point so that he looks like he's from India.

It probably is a book that's worth reading, but don't expect to be able to follow the plot very well; I don't think I'll be rushing back to read this one.

Next book: The Girl in the Spider's Web (David Lagercrantz)

Book #45: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Number of pages: 570

I studied this book at school, and felt the need to revisit it after seeing the miniseries earlier this year.

This is one of my all-time favorite books, focusing on a great anti-hero character, Yossarian, who will do anything to get out of flying missions in World War II.

This is a great piece of satire, mostly based around the notion that it is possible to ask to be grounded on insanity grounds to avoid having to fly missions, but doing so is a sign of being sane (because you'd have to be crazy to want to fly missions); thus it is impossible to be grounded for being insane.

The first half of the book seems to be all about introducing characters, and the plot doesn't move forward much for a while; I loved the way that all the main characters were given a detailed backstory, and it was easy to care about characters like Colonel Cathcart, who could easily be dismissed as loathable and villainous.

I also like the way this book manages to swing between farcical comedy and tragic moments. At times the comic elements almost get out of hand, as they highlight the absurdity of everything that is happening, but the book is also full of major character deaths, some of them very harrowing; for example, the death of Snowden, which is mentioned a lot, before being described in full detail near to the end.

This book is a little challenging, because it jumps back and forth in the timeline a lot, and tells some events more than once, from the points of view of different characters (this seems to be a Joseph Heller trademark). However, I always found it very satisfying at the end, mostly with its comments on pencil-pushing bureaucrats who did not fight on the front line, who have also been targeted by many great war poets. A recommended book.

Next book: Kim (Rudyard Kipling)

Books 52 and 53

52. Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
During a party, a teenaged girl boasts of witnessing a murder. Later she’s found drowned in the apple bobbing tub, and Hercule Poirot is asked to look into the matter. This is near the end of the series, and Poirot is old but still sharp. I found the mystery itself to be a little disappointing; but nevertheless, it was an enjoyable beach read and should make for good discussion at the October book club meeting. Read 22-26 August.
53. The River by Peter Heller
What starts as an idyllic canoe trip for two college friends through the Canadian wilderness goes awry due to an approaching forest fire, an early fall, and encounters with some sketchy fellow humans. This was an intriguing combination of slow burn and wild ride, character study and nature story. It seems like it would be a standard survivalist thriller, but there are some compelling issues brought into question that would make for a good discussion. Read 21 August-2 September.

Number of pages: 607

This is my least favourite book in the Harry Potter series; it didn't really do it for me, and for a lot of the book, this felt like J.K. Rowling going through the motions, with the usual content that fills her Harry Potter books, like Quidditch and (since around the fourth book) Harry's romantic life. I was a little annoyed on my first read that Harry did not appear until chapter 3, although reading it again, the first two chapters weren't that bad.

There were a few surprises, like Snape becoming Defense Again the Dark Arts teacher, when J.K. Rowling faked us out into thinking this would end up being the new character, Professor Slughorn, but this one really does drag until the final few chapters, although there were a few nice bits, including the chapter where Hermione thinks Harry has drugged Ron's drink to improve his performance at Quidditch.

So, a lot this book is about fleshing out Lord Voldemort's backstory, through numerous visits to the pensieve, and I felt that I had to pay more attention than in the previous titles (there were a couple of chapters that I completely re-read).

I remember I was really annoyed when I first read how this one ended, it seemed that J.K. had decided to do a complete U-turn regarding what I thought she'd established for certain characters. I of course refer to possibly the most shocking chapter in the whole series...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

This book's twenty-seventh chapter, when Dumbledore dies, at the hands of Snape, who was made to look like a villain in the first book, and who at the end of this book appears to have been faking being a good guy all along.

I did manage to guess the truth before I read the final book, and knowing how it all ends made me feel less frustrated about this one. I also did notice on this read-through that J.K. did stick a few clues as to what was really happening throughout this one. However, this doesn't stop this from being the most disappointing book in the series, possibly because it's mostly just a way of building up the plot for Deathly Hallows.

Next book: Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

Extra slow year so far..books 2-6

I don't really know what's been up with me this year, but I have been so slow in reading it's shameful. Started so many books which I've just struggled to read through. Hoping with the start of a new term (I work at a university) and finishing a course I have been doing since the start of the year coming to an end, reading will pick up again.

2. A History of Heavy Metal - Andrew O'Neill
Pages: 281
Blurb: The history of heavy metal brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica (SIT DOWN LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.
Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O'Neill has performed his 'History of Heavy Metal' comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of this most enduring and misunderstood of subcultures.
Thoughts: So I felt very conflicted with this book. It was funny in places, quite informative but my god was the author judgemental. It really put me off the book toward the end and I was just glad to finish it. Also, very judgey over what was and wasn't metal.

3. The Man in the Brown Suit - Agatha Christie
Pages: 243
Blurb: Anne Beddingfield is caught up in a thrilling chain of events when she witnesses the death of a man who falls onto the track at a London underground station. A man in a brown suit claims to be a doctor and examines the body, then rushes off, dropping a piece of paper with a cryptic message. Anne suspects that the man's death was no accident, and sets off to solve the mystery.
Thoughts: I was down with this book right up until the last couple of chapters which were utterly ridiculous. I have no idea what Christie was on when she thought of the ending but I hated it.

4. Goodbye to Berlin - Christopher Isherwood
Pages: 256
Blurb: Set in the 1930s, Goodbye to Berlin evokes the glamour and sleaze, excess and repression of Berlin society. Isherwood shows the lives of people at threat from the rise of the Nazis: a wealthy Jewish heiress, Natalia Landauer, a gay couple, Peter and Otto, and an English upper-class waif, the divinely decadent Sally Bowles.
Thoughts: If you were expecting the film Cabaret as a book (as I was) this book may not necessarily be for you. However, for a fascinating read in to a forgotten era, this is definitely one for you. Once over my initial disappointment, I actually really enjoyed this book.

5. grün und blau
Pages: 154
Blurb (translated in to English): In 1983 Aljoscha Rompe, Alexander Kriening, Paul Landers and Flake Lorenz founded the band "Feeling B". Around 25 years later, Flake pulled out the old records and produced previously believed to be lost songs with Mark Bihler, mixing the songs from scratch. This book contains photos and documents from Flake's shoebox collection, showing the history of the East German punk band to the beginnings of Rammstein.
Thoughts: First book I have read completely in German in years and I am so chuffed with myself. This book is fascinating as a fan of Rammstein, Flake and East German history. Filled with hilarious stories and photos, it provides a fascinating look in to life in East Germany.

6. Kin - Snorri Kristajansson
Pages: 312 (1246 overall)
Blurb: 970: For the first time since Helga was adopted, her family will be gathered in one place. But her siblings are coming with darkness in their hearts.
Everyone knows their father, the Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson, has a great chest of gold hidden somewhere on his land - and each of his heirs is determined to find it.
Then one morning Helga is awakened by screams. Blood has been shed. Kin has been slain.
All the clues point to one person - who cannot possibly be the murderer, at least in Helga's eyes. But if she's going to save an innocent from the axe, she's got to solve the mystery - fast...
Thoughts: This book caught my eye for a couple of reasons, the main being it's a mystery set in 970 in somewhere Nordic (Denmark or Norway I think). I really enjoyed this book, very atmospheric and visual language. I didn't get the murderer until a chapter or two from the end, which is quite rare for me with a mystery. I also loved the little twist at the very, very end. Definitely a series I will be following.

Number of pages: 442

At the start of this book, Sofia has just split up with her boyfriend, who was insisting that they both live with his parents if they get married; she’s fed up with looking for a husband, but she is unexpectedly given the task of writing a book about Muslim dating.

Sofia feels like the sort of character I’d expect to find in a novel by Zadie Smith; she manages to provide a lot of the book’s humour and pathos, as well as commentary on what it is like for her living as a Muslim in Britain. The book is written in the form of her diary, making the book also a similar to the Adrian Mole novels. Not surprisingly, there were references to the very modern issue of Islamophobia, and in the one of the early chapters she gets accused of being a terrorist while on board a train; the character who says this does reappear later on and gets his comeuppance.

Although this is very different from what I would normally choose to read, I really enjoyed this book, particularly as it managed to avoid all the standard romantic clichés, despite Sofia ending up in what appeared to be typical “will-they-or-won’t-they?” relationships with other characters. I also enjoyed how the book was able to combine both comic moments and moments of serious drama seamlessly. The book felt a bit challenging at times, and I found that I occasionally had to "read between the lines", like with a Jane Austen book, so I found myself occasionally backtracking. About half an hour after I finished the book, I re-read the final two pages to make sure I'd understood it all.

I’m also excited about the fact that Ayisha Malik has already written a sequel to this book, “The Other Half of Happiness”, which I am also keen to read.

Next book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)
John Judis followed up his short reader on populism with another short reader, The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization, which provides Book Review No. 10 to close out this month.  (That's right, dear reader, long weekend, no classes to prepare for, no reason to be working on the internet.  See you in September.)  It's not explicitly about a Trump presidency or about Britain getting out of the European Union, although those events influence his thinking.  As does his membership in the Credentialed Establishment.
Read more...Collapse )There's more, much more, to Mr Judis's lament about the Trump presidency, page 118, than meets the eye.  "Trump also appeared to recognize that some of the global and regional institutions created after World War II had lost their way; but instead of attempting to revive or reform them, he largely eschewed alliances and international organizations in favor of the singular exercise of power."

Lost their way?  Over a hundred thousand American and allied troops dead "containing Communism" and there's still a Korean armistice and a notionally Communist Vietnam that has its own reasons for wanting China to be contained, while none of those alliances and organizations could prevent the reimposition of Socialist Orthodoxy in Hungary or Czechoslovakia or protect a single Tibetan or Uighur?  Thousands of American and allied troops dead "containing terrorism," and Afghanistan still better understood as a stateless territory?  Perhaps, as Mr Judis concedes commencing at page 140, that old order was flawed, and working better for the cosmopolitans than it was for others, including standard-issue "liberals" of the Rooseveltian flavor.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book 66

Pop Goes the Weasel (Helen Grace, #2)Pop Goes the Weasel by M.J. Arlidge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this one up thanks to the Popsugar challenge and I'm on the fence about it. As for the mystery I would have rated this much higher but the rest of it really dragged it down. So let me start with the good. The mystery was interesting. There is a prostitute who has crossed a line, killing her clients and cutting out their hearts if they're family men. So that is gruesome and intriguing and it drew me right in.

And if that was all it was about it would have been a) long enough to be satisfying and b) a lot less eye rolling but instead it's draped in so much drama for drama's sake that added almost nothing to the overall plot and bloating the book to nearly 400 pages.

For one the hinged on book one which I hadn't read (and won't now since it's so spoiled by this book) but at the end of the day DCI Helen Grace, the main point of view character, came from an abusive background and her sister was a serial killer who managed to tear apart Helen's team of detectives last book, leading to the captain's resignation, and Charlie to lose her baby.

So this opens with Helen being back at work for a little while and Charlie returning to the team, not to mention a new female captain so there is enough inherent drama there and Tony, another detective, is dealing with a wife who had a stroke at age 29 and is trapped in locked in syndrome.

Had it ended there I would have been fine with it but no, we get the lady captain going up the ladder by stealing other detectives cases once they're ready to close and she's a lousy cop (cliché #1), there's a hard ass journalist with a yen to destroy the lead cop (Helen) and won't even stop at blackmail (cliché #2), good cop sleeps with suspect (cliché #3) so all those tired clichés seen in SO many cop shows and mystery series just dragged this down to the point I skimmed a lot of those chapters because they added nothing.

Would I read another one? From the library, maybe. I wouldn't buy it because none of the cliched crap (besides #3) was resolved. I just wish it had confined itself to the mystery because it would have been stellar then.

View all my reviews


book 64-65

Gemini Rising (Mischievous Malamute, #1)Gemini Rising by Harley Christensen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gemini Rising is an unusual amateur sleuth mystery. It borders on SF as well, not the space ship sort but rather the real science type. Without giving away much, it hinges of the science of cloning but the SF part of it is that it uses the idea the science was perfected enough to do human cloning thirty years ago. The author obviously had done some research into cloning but ignored the whole issue of the things we have cloned never being right (Dolly the sheep for instant had early aging issues at a very young age). We still aren’t where we could create a normal human, ethical issues aside.

Arianna Jackson - AJ to her friends, a photographer, finds herself caught up in a murder when a body is dumped outside her apartment in the trash. The murdered woman completely upsets AJ’s life. Nothing she knew about her family, including the accident that killed them was true. The cop on the case is removed so the FBI can investigate (we never know why because there is no reason in the text that would necessitate that. They need strict reasons for taking over a murder investigation.). He directs her to a team of brothers, private investigators who were working with the murder victim to find her family.

Together they delve into AJ’s life along with the murder victim because they are tied together. The characters aren’t bad though AJ keeps saying she’s more short tempered that she’s ever shown being. At her most annoying she’s frustrated that the brothers yelled at her for doing something stupid (and it was justified). Her best friend joins them as a journalist with a lot of contacts. So along with them and her malamute, Nicoh, AJ tackles all the things flying at her. Honestly some of these should be so emotionally hard hitting she should have issues bearing up to it but she doesn’t and that sort of bugs me. There’s not enough emotional depth to this book.

The science is shaky. The ending was rather bad. Overall it wasn’t bad though.

View all my reviews

Victims (Alex Delaware, #27)Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been along time since I’ve read an Alex Delaware novel and now, I’m reminded why. Okay that’s snarkier than I mean it to be, but it got to the point there is only so many times I can watch Alex do something dumb to justify the Hollywood action movie ending and there is some of that here but not as well.

Alex is called in by his best friend Milo once a body turns up with her guts wrapped around her neck like a boa. It’s obviously a weird and ugly death and the victim is an all-around unpleasant woman. But soon another murder happens in the same way, but this victim is a very nice and giving man. How are these victims connected?

That’s what Alex and Milo need to find out and it’s hampered by someone in charge who doesn’t like Milo. I am so very tired of the boss who hates his/her detectives. It’s a worn-out trope that creates drama for the sake of creating drama. It adds nothing to the actual plot.

I still like Alex and Milo but the problem here is Milo could have been a cardboard cutout in this. If I didn’t already know and like he, I wouldn’t have liked him. He felt like a character being moved around the board rather than a living breathing person. It felt like Kellerman wasn’t even trying. Speaking of which, Alex isn’t even seeing any other patients in this. Does he even do that anymore? This is all his work. He’d have solved it without Milo being there. All Milo really does is be the one to give us the stupid Hollywood ending.

The negatives aside, it’s still a well plotted mystery and it was interesting but at the end of the day you can tell this series is getting very long in the tooth. (This is book 27 in the series so definitely it might be time to wrap it up)

View all my reviews


Book #42: Do Not Pass Go by Tim Moore

Number of pages: 340

This was my fourth read of this book, and I think the reason why I kept wanting to return to it was because of Tim Moore's illustration of London, specifically by visiting every location on the standard British Monopoly board.

Moore has been rightfully compared to Bill Bryson, because the book is littered with anecdotes, usually quite self-deprecating, about his visits to different locations, which are filled with Bryson's style of humour mixed with complete bafflement. My favourite of these anecdotes is in the final chapter, and involves a misunderstanding while attempting to purchase jellied eels, which ends in him making a fool of himself.

The rest of the book is filled with historical information, which is mixed with the same humour as the rest of the book. Plus, there are his observations as to how things have changed significantly since the game was originally produced, as well as comments about how some of the choices of streets and locations are a little unusual. Maybe someone should do this for the American version of Monopoly.

Next book: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (Ayisha Malik)

Books 50 and 51

50. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Charming memoir about her life from grade school to 2017, from South Side Chicago to Washington DC, from middle-class upbringing to First Lady of the United States. She talks about working hard, loving her family, and learning to “swerve.” The audiobook version is read by the author, and it’s like sitting down and having a conversation with her. This is the December selection for book club. Finished 19 August.
51. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
A young girl living by a marsh in North Carolina is left to raise herself after her family falls apart. She avoids most of the local townspeople who harass her and call her trash and spends her days studying the marsh and eking out a meager living trading fish and mussels for fuel and groceries. As a young woman she attracts the attention of two young men in the town, and trouble ensues. The writing is very atmospheric, the characters are believable, and the story is intriguing – though it’s sometimes a little slow and occasionally veers toward the cliché. This is the November selection for book club, so I’m caught up there for the next six months! Finished 20 August.


Book #41: Looking Good Dead by Peter James

Number of pages: 519

This is the second murder mystery novel starring Roy Grace, and involves a group who are making snuff movies and streaming them online to a group of subscribers.

However, something goes wrong and an innocent man gets involved in this. Tom Bryce first appears on a train heading towards Brighton, getting annoyed at the man sat next to him. The stranger gets up and leaves the train, and then Tom notices that he's left a CD on the seat.

Tom starts attempting to return the CD to its owner, which involves looking at the contents of the CD, which takes him to the snuff movie website, causing him to witness the live streamed murder of the group's latest victim.

This results in some quite scary moments, as the perpetrators attempt to cover up their deeds, which involve them sending threatening calls to Tom about what will happen if he calls the police, and even using his laptop to spy on him, the sort of plot device that has more recently been used in TV shows like Black Mirror (this book was published in 2006).

I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the first book in the series, as it doesn't have quite the same level of tension (the origial book involved a character being buried alive) and towards the end, it is easy to see where the plot is headed. However, the book did appear to be setting up an intriguing story arc that I hope gets followed up in the later books (I had to re-read the final chapter a couple of times to understand properly what it was talking about). The book did flesh out Grace's character more; as well as continuing his habits of not playing by the book, with more visits to psychics, the book had him trying to put his troubled past behind him by dating a mortician called Cleo, a character who presumably appears in later instalments of the series. I also liked the fact that the character of Tom, the unwilling victim, was made very three-dimensional, as the novel described his job and family life.

I want to read the next book in the series, as I'd love to find out what happens next. I like the way that Peter James has managed to create self-contained stories, while the main character has a more complex backstory that presumably will keep developing throughout the subsequent titles.

Next book: Do Not Pass Go by Tim Moore

Books 48 and 49

48. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
I have finished this series at last. If you like the series and want to see it through, it’s a satisfying conclusion. If not, well, you haven’t hung in there this long. It’s not really a book to be read on its own. There’s a showdown between our heroine and her nemesis, and meanwhile there are seeds planted for the inevitable follow-up trilogy, which I will probably read in due course, as well as the prequel series. Read 27 July-8 August.
49. Storm Front by James Butcher
Since I love mystery and love fantasy, I figured I would love a supernatural mystery. I was wrong. (I also bailed on Dirk Gently, so maybe it’s me.) Though I’ve heard that the series gets better, I won’t read further. It started out strong with some snarky dialogue about wizards, but for the most part I thought it was rather ridiculous. As a silly example, there’s a section where the MC is interrupted in the shower to deal with a demon in his apartment, and he goes on and on about the shampoo running into his eyes. I have short hair too, so I know that shampoo doesn’t stay in your hair that long, especially if you go running outside in the middle of a wailing rainstorm. (Yeah he’s also gallivanting naked for this whole sequence.) Fulfills Litsy Booked2019 challenge prompt: genre buster. Read 5-10-August,

Book 63

The Westing GameThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Westing Game was an odd little YA book. It was a Newberry winner (not to mention other awards) in the 70s and it’s one of those ones that makes me think what did I miss? To be fair, I’m reading this forty years after it was written and the ideas might seem tired now that didn’t then. That said, I doubt this would ever fly as a YA book these days as it’s not all about the teens. There are four teens, two people in their twenties and dozen older adults so that right there is a strange dynamic and we spend time floating through all their heads (though a few are more prominent than others and even at that, it’s not always the teens pov we spend time in) and I do mean float so if omniscient pov isn’t for you, pass on this.
And it’s not that I hate this book. I just found it odd. A group of people were given a special invite to move into a brand new apartment complex, Sunset Towers: Dr. Jake Wexler (podiatrist) and his wife, Grace (social climber) and their two daughters, Angela (the perfect daughter, set to marry plastic surgery intern, Denton Deere) and Turtle (brat but smart); The Theodorakis family who sets up a coffee shop in the lobby , Theo (a high school senior who wants to be a writer) and Chris (wheelchair bound by some unnamed neurologic disease, birdwatching enthusiast) are the sons; Sydelle Pulaski (secretary); The Hoo family, James (restaurateur), Madam Hoo (recent Chinese immigrant and cook) and his son Doug (track star); Josie-Jo Ford (judge); Flora Baumbach (dressmaker) .

Strangely enough all of them move in as asked. Hoo has his Chinese restaurant on the fifth floor and Wexler is office on the first floor. Overlooking the apartments is Sam Westing’s home. Westing is a paper product multimillionaire and recluse. We learn right off that one of the people invited into the apartment was the wrong person but we don’t know which one.
The teens end up daring each other, thanks to the mentally slow delivery boy, Otis Amber, to go spend the night in Westing’s house where his body is rotting. To their shock they do find his body and the game kicks off. Plum, his lawyer calls in all the tenants (excluding Theo and Chris’s parents) and along with Sandy McSouthers (doorman at the apartment) and Berthe Crow (apartment housekeeper) and Angel’s fiancé, Dr. Deer. They’re considered Westing’s heirs for some mysterious reason and in order to “win” being his heir they have to play his game. They’ll be broken into teams of two and will receive ten grand for just showing up (two don’t and forfeit that money). They’re given a bunch of clues, each team with different clues and the will is read (also a clue).

Westing puts out there that he’s been murdered and they’re to use these clues to solve his murder (as obviously he expected to be killed and knew who’d do it as he had enemies). They’re offered a final clue, it’s not what you have that matters, it’s what you don’t. They have a specified time limit and at the end of that they will get another ten thousand for giving their answer as to who killed him. Whoever is right inherits two hundred million.

The rest of the novella deals with them trying to find the killer. Some of them (namely the teens) didn’t know Westing. The adults often had a connection to him, usually unpleasant as he was a ruthless businessman (ala Carnegie, Rockefeller, well any businessman you care to name who made billions on the backs of others) And honestly none of the ‘heirs’ are that nice in and of themselves which was part of my problem with this. They weren’t exactly unreliable narrators but they were secretive.
I think in many ways that was the heart of this book and might be the reason it won the Newbury. It looked into the hearts of the characters and showed everyone’s secret struggles. Jake Wexler is a decent man but Grace is casually racist (without realizing it), potentially embarrassed to be married to a Jewish man (he worries on that) who idolizes one daughter (Angela) and thinks the other (Turtle, actual name Tabitha-Ruth) was switched at birth. Angela is her mother’s door mat, not sure she wants to marry and secretly longing to return to school and be a doctor (which in the 70s was hard for women). Turtle acts out because she has no attention from her mother but honestly at thirteen kicking people in the shins all the time and running off seems so childish. Sydelle Pulaski is so desperately unhappy and feeling unnoticed and unwanted that she buys crutches, paints them gaily and pretends to have a muscle ‘wasting’ disease just to get attention.

Turtle bonds to Flora the dressmaker who was her partner in the game. Flora needs a daughter to love and Turtle wants to have an attentive mom. Theo and Chris are relatively sweet though Theo feels guilty that he resents that his dreams are being set aside so he could care for his ailing brother. James Hoo is a miserably unhappy man who believes Westing stole his idea for paper diapers (which in the 70s disposable diapers were relatively new and a million dollar idea) and resents his son for not being more studious. Doug just wants to be a track star. Madam Hoo doesn’t speak the language and just wants to go home, stealing stuff so she can use it to go back to China. Judge Ford also has connections to Westing as do Crow, McSouthers and Amber.

Being snowbound and having someone setting off small but mostly harmless explosions adds some tension to the story but there isn’t enough of it. The stakes don’t seem high enough or something. It felt flat in that area. The way things resolve you get the idea Westing was trying to do good and get these people to work together, to help each other be better people (because most of them are so broken) but that doesn’t really happen until the epilogue which skips into the immediate future and then down the road a decade or more and we see the long term effects of the game.

There is one thing that does really stand out about this novel. It might be dated in many ways but it would be right at home today at diversity representation. Wexler’s Jewish, Ford is African-American (a woman of color as a judge was not seen much in the 70s), Hoo’s family is obviously Chinese and Chris is disabled. That said, I’m not sure the representation was done particularly well in some cases (Chris’s speech impediment could be a bit cringe worthy sometimes) but given the time period, it’s more than I expected to see.

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The theme for today seems to be the limitations of expertise, and that carries over to Book Review No. 9, Kurt Schlichter's Wildfire, which is the third of his dystopian novels about a future fracture of the United States into coastal states run (badly) as if by the intersectionality seminar gone nuts and interior states run (less badly) while carrying on continental security responsibilities as if in another world war.

I confess to be less than impressed.  The fire this time is a man-made disaster, one that Tom Clancy used twice (once involving a state actor, the next time a bio-tech company run as if by the environmental studies seminar gone nuts) that requires the cooperation of Kelly Turnbull and the other Tom Clancy hero types and the scared officials of the People's Republic, who take their rewriting of history so seriously that one of the protagonists has no clue who real Nazis are or why contemporary Germans might mourn the loss of the Hofbrauhaus.  It seems like more an opportunity to settle scores with terminally silly Democrats and their enablers in the Academic-Entertainment-Media Complex than a warning to True Believers of all stripes to chill and respect, oh, Constitutional Government and Bourgeois Manners.  And so it goes.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #40: The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Number of pages: 512

This is the first in a trilogy of books set in Nigeria and, as I found when I finished it, was written in 1990, which might explain some of the less politically correct language (use of "midget" to describe a little person, for example).

At the start of the book, the narrator Azaro, a young boy, describes his near death experience, which resulted in his parents almost burying him, thinking he was dead. It seems to have resulted in him having the ability to see ghosts, so many of the chapters involve him communicating with spirits that are invisible to all of the other characters. He also apparently has the ability to enter other characters' dreams, and even talk to animals.

The story combines supernatural elements with realistic drama, including the family's domestic situation, much of which portrays Azaro's father as being violent and difficult - initially at least - to like, as he is shown threatening his family, and later on starting fights with other men. The book also introduces politics quite early on, mostly by having politicians canvassing and using threats to try and get people to support their party, although both the main parties seem to be somewhat corrupt.

The other main plot thread involves Azaro working at a bar, run by the enigmatic, and formidable Madame Koto, who also gets involved in the politics. It was hard to tell whether she was meant to be a likeable character, as she was often showing losing her temper with Azaro, and was also said to be a witch.

The supernatural elements mostly involve the spirits trying to get Azaro to come back to the spirit world, which he appears to make frequent visits to, and this is where the book becomes particularly bizarre, with writing that put me in mind of David Lynch, or the writing of George Saunders; for example one of the spirits is described as having his head upside down on his shoulders and a face that is jumbled up. I got the impression that Lewis Carroll was another influence on Ben Okri (at one point, a character fades away until only her smile remains). The book also throws in what I think was meant to be voodoo rituals in some places, mostly through attempts to drive the spirits away.

This book felt quite difficult at times, but I found it strangely compelling; it was certainly an unconventional novel, but I may well read the other two books in the trilogy at one point.

Next book: Looking Good Dead (Peter James)

Books 61 and 62

T is for Trespass (Kinsey Millhone, #20)T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

T is for tedious. I like the series well enough but this one felt very forced and just oh so long. I listened to it on a long drive and it made it much longer. It was more suspense than a mystery. Kinsey's cranky elderly neighbor has taken a nasty fall and is in need of in-house nursing. He ends up with a predator, not really a nurse and we spend a lot of time in her head so we know she's been using other nurses' id to scam, rob and even kill the elderly.

So it's a long slog until Kinsey realizes the danger (and for some reason she no longer has her carry permit I can't remember why other than to set up the ridiculous ending). In the meantime, she's also on another case, a car accident where the young driver was probably swooped and squatted and those scammers might win the case unless Kinsey can locate a missing eye witness who doesn't want to be found.

Neither of these cases are particularly interesting. And Kinsey does a million stupid things to justify the ending. Like when she finally realizes that it looks like the nurse is selling stuff off and has her brute of a son living in the old man's home (and that the old man keeps getting worse) and she does nothing. She gives up on social services and his relatives very fast. She doesn't care and why should we?

The ending was stupid, straight out of Hollywood and so unbelievable I couldn't believe I struggled all the way through this for that ending. Eye roll. This is what happens when a series goes on too long.

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Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: A Study In Mischief (The Lily Singer Adventures, #0.5)Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: A Study In Mischief by Lydia Sherrer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute introduction to the series. It's a free novella and does it's job, introduces me to the characters and makes me want to read the series. It showcases the first meeting of Lily and Sebastian as they take turns relating it to their cat who has human intelligence and can speak (at least to Lily).

In this urban fantasy world, wizards like Lily are born to magic, witches like Sebastian must use magical items. Wizards think witches are relatively evil or at least dangerous. Witches see wizards as snobs. Naturally they're enemies.

Lily is a librarian at a magical school and has purchased a box of books from a wizard's estate. Sebastian has been hired to retrieve something from that box but the box has gone missing. They reluctantly team up.

The novella gives good insights into the type of people Lily and Sebastian are and how their worlds work. I'd be interested in reading more of their story.

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Books 59 & 60

A Demon InsideA Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this certainly marches to the well established horror tropes, it was still a compelling read. Hunter Beaumont is a sheltered naïve gay man in his early twenties (something I needed to remind myself of as he makes some very dumb choices and I'd have to think, yep adult brain hasn't quite developed yet). the story opens with his grandmother's last day in hospice and her funeral. She was everything to him as his parents were murdered years ago and she left him well off financially. Her last request was to destroy Beaumont House.

Hunter is surprised because he didn't even know they had a house in rural Wisconsin (sounds like it was up where I used to live). In spite of Ian, his grandmother's lawyer's, insistence he isn't ready to destroy the house. He's understandably curious. Unfortunately Grandma had sheltered him too much. He doesn't recognize how predatory Jay, her former doctor is. Also he doesn't have people skills or any control over his mood swings.

When he beholds Beaumont House, Hunter is compelled to ignore his grandma's wishes. And I couldn't blame him. The description is beautiful in spite of the weirdness, it's in perfect and clean condition even though it was abandoned for decades. He sinks all his money into it after his life falls apart and moves to very rural Beaumont House. HIs only companion is the nearby Michael who is caretaker/handyman to an elderly man.

Bad scary stuff started happening almost at once. Hunter and Michael dance around each other but honestly Hunter takes the once bitten, twice shy thing to the extreme. He can be rather unlikeable at times with this so it makes why Michael puts up with it mysterious. And Michael is hiding things so for me this was the most problematic and least enjoyable part of the story. The reason for the haunting was well set up.

I did however like this book a lot. I think it would make a good horror flick. A word of warning, rape themes are in this horror.

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Blood Dreams (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #10; Blood #1)Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The SCU series is one I've read entirely out of order and in bits and pieces. For the most part that doesn't matter because it's easy enough to pick up on all the psychics working for Bishop and the FBI's SCU (or for Haven its civilian counterpart).

This one features Dani and her twin Paris in their hometown in Georgia's rural setting. Dani, who has prophetic dreams, has come home to help Paris over her divorce and of course there's almost always a romantic subplot in these books so we have Dani's ex, Marc who is the sheriff. He's not psychic but he can recognize them if he's touched them. Bishop and Miranda are featured in Dani's dream. She constantly dreams of the team walking into a trap, knowing its a trap but one of their own is the hostage the serial killer is using to lure them in.

This killer has killed many women in Boston, all of them with short dark hair and waif-like bodies. No one can figure out why he'd go for rural Georgia where he's much more likely to be spotted. Not only that he's changed his m.o. which almost never happens. But there's a reason and a big twist that I won't ruin here that's the reason for it.

Overall, I thought it was good, your standard SCU formula. There is a bit too much repetition in this however but i could handle that. What bugged me and dropped this a star was the ending. It was so anticlimactic and so easily solved that it wasn't interesting. And then it sets up an open ended lead in to the next book which is always eye rolling for me, like the author doesn't trust we'll keep up with the series.

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Book 57 & 58

Nine of Stars (Dark Alchemy, #3)Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I make a point of finding Ms Bickle every Ohioana book festival I get to because a) she's fun to talk to and b) this is a really fun series. This one is quite a bit different from the last two in some important ways. The main arc of book one and two has been resolved (for example, Petra now knows her father's fate and Gabe is no longer one of the inhuman Hanged Men). It opens with a lot of tragedy in many ways (and side note, some series you can come in on later books, this is not one of them). Petra is facing a life changing illness, Gabe is remembering what it is to be human, Sheriff Owen Rutherford takes over Rutherford ranch, finding what his wicked relative had done to Gabe and the others and what had been done to him and the Nine of Stars wolf pack is facing an inhuman killer.

It opens, in fact, with the wolf pack and I'll be honest I'm always iffy about talking animals (even when it's just in their own heads) unless that's the point of the whole book but later we find a reason for the high level of intelligence of these wolves (higher than the already high intelligence wolves possess). Something is hunting them, ripping them apart and displaying them.

Petra is called in to help examine one of the displays but in some ways she has bigger problems between her health and that Gabe could be a murder suspect in the eyes of Owen who is determined to find out about all the bodies under his cousin's ranch including that of his cousin. But when a friend is hurt and the back country of Yellowstone seems like a good place to hide, she and Gabe try to get to the bottom of it all along with Sig, Petra's semi-tame Coyote (who has secrets of his own).

While they've planned well for taking on the supernatural killer, they underestimate Owen who might just be haunted by the ghost of a young murder victim or he might just be bat crap crazy. He's not about to let Gabe go and it's now a cat and mouse triangle game out in the wilderness.

Petra and Gabe (and Sig!!) are as engaging as always. Owen is fascinating. I enjoyed this but I was less thrilled with the final chapter being basically the first chapter of the next book. I don't like cliffhanger endings. Still, it's a book worth reading.

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MarshsongMarshsong by Nato Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this in a goodreads giveaway which did not influence my review. It was more a 2.5 star read for me but I rounded up because I think it was more of a me not the book sort of thing. It's well written, a few typos aside but there were some problems I had with it that was more content related.

This is a character driven novel with very little plot, or should I say simple plot. Isabella wants free of her abusive master, Marty, and to find others like her and her twin Fennel (they seem to be rather supernatural, feeding off of 'water' which appears to be negative emotion). Fennel wants his statue to be erected and make a statement. (so yes, simple on the face of it). But since Isabella and Fennel aren't easy to like (especially Fennel) it's hard to read and get behind them.

But my biggest problem with this is the outside-of-time backdrop which sets up something akin to cognitive dissonance in my head. We have a feudal system with dukes, mental health institutes in their infancy and the beginning of industrial revolution. And if that is all we had in Barrenwood, if it had remained purely a fantasy world I would have enjoyed this so much more. Instead we have a ton of French place names (is this France? Is it Louisiana? You can't tell) and references to Gordon Lightfoot and Yoda just to name a few. It was jarring and ruined the narrative for me.

Isabella and Fennel do feed off the 'water' and the book opens with them willfully hurting someone to get those negative feelings so that's difficult to want to see these two win. Mental instability feeds them too and someone is trying to remove the mentally ill from the town. Fennel is particularly upset about this. He's used to illustrate political views about the working class vs the one percenters. Isabella is more interested in finding others like them, seeing Savina and the Duke of Izimir as her paths to this end, utilizing many of the bored rich girls to help her (as the duke would be in their social rank).

Isabella (whom we spend a bit more time with) is more intelligent than her brother or at least more mentally stable. Fennel is far more prone to random acts of violence and his end game is very violent. Both of them want something different, driving a wedge between the twins. Isabella wants out and away from Marty, Fennel wants to be his equal. Marty seems to have supernatural abilities as well having put a spell on the twins that a) keeps them in town b) keeps them away from people he doesn't want them to know. They get violently ill when they overstep those boundaries.

Overall the book is interesting but just not for me. It is a bit slow in a lot of parts and could have been trimmed up. How many times did we have to hear how small they were for instance? It felt overly long. While Fennel and Isabella's end games do end the book it's an open ending to what comes next. I, however, probably won't be hanging on for that.

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Wisconsin political scientist Katherine J. Cramer started a research project, with the support of the University, to sound out people about their attitudes toward the University (which might be why the University supported her efforts) as well as to do ethnography on the policy attitudes of Wisconsin residents.

The University even provided her with Wisconsin mementos such as football schedules and Bucky Badger keychains as a way of gaining access to conversations among the regulars at village coffee shops, gas stations, cafes, and perhaps the occasional tavern.  (I might be kidding about the tavern; the descriptions and venues are disguised to protect the human subjects.)  The approach worked in the sense of getting people to trust her and to talk.   (Now, if you really want to get information, you bring donuts dockside, but that's how economists roll.)

It started innocently enough, but then the housing bubble and the Obama bubble and the Walker recall happened, and the resulting The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, our Book Review No. 8, caught on with the punditry in a way that most academic studies do not.
Read more...Collapse )As far as Wisconsin voters preferring Barack Obama in the 2008 primary?  He wasn't Hillary Clinton.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #39: Mr. Standfast by John Buchan

Number of pages: 348

This book is about Brigadier Richard Hannay, who apparently has appeared in other books by John Buchan. This is set during the first world war, and was written in 1919, shortly after it ended, and involves Hannay attempting to weed out (as the blurb on my book states) pacifists who are trying to stop the war.

I did wonder if a pro-war book was a bit controversial nowadays, but reading it, I got the sense that the people who Hannay was trying to stop were assisting Britain's enemies and trying to help them win the war.

I found this book very dense, so it wasn't an easy read, though there were a lot of moments when I felt absolutely hooked. I noticed that they main plot was effectively over a few chapters before the end, in a way that felt slightly rushed, before switching the storyline to being about Hannay fighting for his country; the ending was a bit different from what I was expecting, though it is possible that was intended to set up the next book about Richard Hannay.

The book also frequently references The Pilgrim's Progress, a book that I have read but not got a lot out of because of the writing style, but which is also the origin of "Mr. Standfast". I had mixed feelings about this, because it was quite a challenging read, and I probably wouldn't be in a hurry to read any other novels by John Buchan.

Edit: After I typed this, I did some research; Richard Hannay is the same character who debuted in The Thirty-Nine Steps; interesting.

Next book: The Famished Road (Ben Okri)

Books 45 to 47

45. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This is a memoir in verse, with the audiobook version narrated by the author. She tells the story of her life from birth in Ohio, moving to South Carolina and then Brooklyn with her mother, up until fifth grade when a teacher recognizes her talent as a writer. Her story is at once “typical” of a young Black girl growing up in the turbulent Civil Rights era … and a singular experience. She talks of being torn between the two worlds of New York and South Carolina, of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness tradition, her love of stories, and the fierce friendship she develops with the Puerto Rican classmate who lives down the street. My primary complaint with the book is that it’s too short! At least in audio form, the verse format was very seamless. Charming, sweet, moving, funny, and thought provoking. Fulfills the Litsy Booked2019 challenge prompt: middle grade diverse read. I think there’s a similar Read Harder Challenge task. Read 23-29 July.
46. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
On a cold winter morning in southern Sweden, an elderly couple is discovered brutally beaten. The husband is dead, and the wife has barely survived. Before she dies, she tells the police that the murderers were foreign, which sets off an unfortunate chain of events and causes the lead police investigator to examine his feelings on the matter. He’s also undergoing several relationship transitions and acts like a bit of an idiot in his personal life. This is the first in the Kurt Wallander series, and while I thought the mystery was paced and plotted well enough, I doubt if I will continue with the rest. He’s not a particularly compelling main character, and the story itself was a little bleak. However, the immigration angle was unfortunately timely, though the book was originally published in 1991. Once again I read a month ahead for book club before finishing the current selection. Read 16-31 July.
47. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
This was a delightful palate cleanser, literally and figuratively. High school senior Emoni Santiago is balancing school, work, motherhood, and a possible new romance, while also making decisions about what she wants to do with her life. What she most wants to do is study culinary arts and become a professional chef, but she battles self-doubt as well as objections from some of the people in her life. This is very contemporary with several cultural references and some amusing Spanglish expressions, so it may not age well, but I thoroughly enjoyed it for right now. It also has a gorgeous cover. Read 28 July-1 August.

July 2019 reading

July 2019 reading:

62. Spice & Wolf: Volume 17, by Isuna Hasekura (224 pages)
This offered a really satisfying and adorable conclusion to the series, though I look forward to the further shorts.

63. Hammered, by Kevin Hearne (312 pages)
Atticus owes his vampire friend a boon, and it's taken in the form of aid in killing Thor. As it turns out, there are allies who desire Thor's death as well, and all of them intend to band together to invade Asgard and make it so. But Atticus already kicked the hornet's nest with his survey foray last time, so it's going to be even more difficult this time around. Honestly, this one had me laughing out loud several times.

64. Magic on the Line, by Devon Monk (345 pages)
People are dying in Portland on an unknown magical illness--like magic is infecting them. Worse, the Authority doesn't care. Allie, though, does. And it might get her and everyone she loves killed. It'll definitely piss off an Authority that isn't used to being disobeyed.

65. Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction, edited by Megan Giddings (174 pages)
I managed to forget I preordered this. What a lovely surprise in my mail! So many wonderful pieces of flash fiction. Glad I picked this one up.

66. A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin (183 pages)
Been on my to-read list for a very long time, so I picked it up during a bout of insomnia and was transported. I absolutely loved this book and the journey it took me on.

67. Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs (368 pages)
Mercy's had to put her money where her mouth is after declaring the area protected. Some paranormal folks are hoping to capitalize on it, and in the ugliest ways. But worse, there's a threat from within their own ranks, a feud and a lie that must be put down.

68. Tricked, by Kevin Hearne (341 pages)
As fallout from the last book, Atticus must fake his death, with some help from Coyote. But when it comes to deals, Coyote always takes more than is agreed to. He's put Atticus into a position that requires he take down Wendigos. Worse, Atticus has accidentally unleashed Hel, who wishes to bring about Ragnarok. And someone who he's supposed to be able to trust turns betrayer. What a life the world's last druid lives!

69. City of Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts (377 pages)
Tilla thought she'd be happy in Lightspire, but instead she finds herself unsettled. It only worsens when her roommate is murdered. Looking into it, she finds a rabbit hole of a plot that might bring down the entire world. Her friends are keeping their own secrets, as well. Can they survive what's coming? Great read.

70. The Rising of the Shield Hero: Volume 5, by Aneko Yusagi (400 pages)
Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo travel to take advantage of an event that will allow them to progress in experience after their limits are lifted finally. They find themselves making fast friends with another party, but that party isn't what it seems. Good read. More interaction with the other heroes.

71. Lightfinder, by Aaron Paquette (240 pages)
Although this was sometimes awkwardly written, I absolutely loved it and the mythos it brought to life. Looking forward to reading more.

72. Feed, by Mira Grant (599 pages)
In a world following a zombie plague, adopted siblings Georgia and Shaun Mason are bloggers, bringing the news to life. The corporate media lost face during the zombie plague, hiding the truth and leading to unnecessary deaths, and so bloggers have become more trusted in this version of America. When the Masons are chosen to cover a presidential candidate, it's the opportunity to break away from their parents and make it on their own. Little do they know, they're really covering something much, much bigger.

July pages: 3,563

Pages to date: 22,395 pages


July 2019 comic books & manga:

150. DMZ: Volume 10, by Brian Wood (128 pages)
151. Otomen: Volume 17, by Aya Kanno (192 pages)
152. Otomen: Volume 18, by Aya Kanno (200 pages)
153. Dawn of the Arcana: Volume 5, by Rei Toma (184 pages)
154. Justice League Beyond: In Gods We Trust, by Derek Fridolfs (208 pages)
155. Ooku The Inner Chambers: Volume 14, by Fumi Yoshinaga (232 pages)
156. Wonder Woman: Volume 9, by Meredith Finch (176 pages)
157. Barefoot Gen: Volume 3, by Keiji Nakazawa (257 pages)
158. Moon Knight: Volume 2, by Brian Michael Bendis (112 pages)
159. Stepping on Roses: Volume 7, by Rinko Ueda (200 pages)
160. Hana-Kimi: Volume 5, by Hisaya Nakajo (188 pages)
161. March Story: Volume 3, by Kim Hyung-Min (200 pages)
162. Bokurano Ours: Volume 2, by Mohiro Kitoh (216 pages)
163. Pet Shop of Horrors: Volume 4, by Matsuri Akino (216 pages)
164. Monster: Volume 5, by Naoki Urasawa (208 pages)
165. Crossed: Volume 13, by David Hine (144 pages)
166. Stepping on Roses: Volume 8, by Rinko Ueda (200 pages)
167. Stepping on Roses: Volume 9, by Rinko Ueda (200 pages)
168. March Story: Volume 4, by Kim Hyung-Min (192 pages)
169. Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan (152 pages)
170. High School Debut: Volume 8, by Kazune Kawahara (192 pages)
171. Ms. Marvel: Volume 10, by G. Willow Wilson (216 pages)
172. Pet Shop of Horrors: Volume 5, by Matsuri Akino (224 pages)
173. Tokyo Babylon: Volume 3, by Clamp (142 pages)
174. March Story: Volume 5, by Kim Hyung-Min (192 pages)
175. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Volume 4, by Fuse (192 pages)
176. Dawn of the Arcana: Volume 6, by Rei Toma (184 pages)
177. Chobits: Volume 2, by Clamp (176 pages)
178. Ooku The Inner Chambers: Volume 15, by Fumi Yoshinaga (256 pages)
179. Video Girl Ai: Volume 12, by Masakazu Katsura (192 pages)
180. Blue Exorcist: Volume 16, by Kazue Kato (218 pages)
181. Puella Magi Madoka Magica Homura's Revenge: Volume 1, by Magica Quartet (176 pages)
182. Bokurano Ours: Volume 3, by Mohiro Kitoh (200 pages)
183. Honey and Clover: Volume 6, by Chica Umino (200 pages)
184. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: Volume 4, by Brandon Montclare (136 pages)
185. Hana-Kimi: Volume 6, by Hisaya Nakajo (192 pages)
186. Monster: Volume 6, by Naoki Urasawa (208 pages)

July pages: 7,101

Pages to date: 39,374 pages



Newspaper columnist Bob Greene recently recognized that the people of North Platte, Nebraska, knew what to do when a few buses of hungry troops enroute from training to their base were passing through.

He previously documented the World War II canteen in Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte CanteenBook Review No. 7 will suggest that there are two themes at play in the book.

The first theme, which was more easily done just after the turn of the current century, was the recollections of canteen volunteers, railroaders, and the G.I.s who stopped off.  The origin of the canteen would be hokey if somebody in Hollywood produced it: local residents were under the impression that a train-load of Nebraska National Guard, having been mobilized after Pearl Harbor, would be passing through North Platte on Christmas, and perhaps they would appreciate some extra food and good cheer enroute to their next duty station.
Read more...Collapse )Mr Greene concludes with a few recollections of life during Depression and War: in some ways better, in many ways not as good, as contemporary living is.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #38: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Number of pages: 355

This book opens in 1981, with its central character, Juliet, being run over in the street. It isn't explicitly stated, but events later in the book appear to suggest that this was in no way an accident. Most of the book after this is told in flashback, jumping back and forth between 1940 and 1950 (I am told that this is quite common in Kate Atkinson's books).

So, in 1940, Juliet gets involved in a secret project by MI5 to help the British World War II effort by ousting fifth columnists (Nazi sympathisers) who happen to be British citizens, which mostly involves Juliet's colleagues gaining their trust, and even Juliet going undercover with them.

During the 1950s, long after Juliet's involvement with MI5 is over, her past comes back to haunt her, which involves characters from her past reappearing and her receiving a note telling her she will pay for something she has done. There is also a moment when one of her former colleagues in MI5 pretends he's never met her, though precisely why never seems to be addressed.

I found this book difficult at times, but I thought it was written really well; I noticed Juliet had a quirky habit of constantly thinking about what everyone's name rhymed with, and she felt like a character that I was able to care for very easily. It definitely required me to pay a lot of attention; when the revelation about the note came along it involved an event that I did not even remember happening.

This didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book, and there were some plot twists towards the end that kept me guessing as to what was going to happen. I would definitely read more by Kate Atkinson.

Next book: Mr. Standfast (John Buchan)

Books 43 and 44

43. The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara
The third of four books in the Civil War Western Theater series relates the activities and battles around Lookout Mountain in the fall of 1863. There are battle scenes, expository conversations about plans and tactics, a simmering revolt of rebel generals, and moments of camaraderie within the rank and file soldiers. Once again the audiobook narration is well suited to the story. Finished 17 July.
44. What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha
I’m sorry to say I knew very little about the Flint water crisis prior to reading this book, which is September’s selection for my “regular” book club, as well as this year's "One Maryland One Book" title. The author is a pediatrician who began researching the situation and then requesting official remediation, after some conversations with patients and also with an old friend who had worked as an environmental scientist. Along the way she met many other experts, recruited friends and colleagues to the cause, and encountered many bureaucratic obstacles. She also wove in some personal information about her Iraqi family background, as well as some history of labor movements and environmental activism. Some reviewers on Goodreads commented that they didn’t like the personal information, but for my part I thought it injected a human element to her own story and provided additional context about why she felt so determined to pursue her research and activism on the issue. Read 22-23 July.

Book 14 - 2017

Book 14: Before I Die by Jenny Downham – 327 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:

For the many readers who love The Fault in Our Stars, this is the story of a girl who is determined to live, love, and to write her own ending before her time is finally up. Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and drugs with excruciating side effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of "normal" life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time runs out.


This novel is pegged as having similarities to The Fault in Our Stars. And it does: a dying teenage, a romance, a quick, easy read. But The Fault in Our Stars has more charisma than this novel. That’s not to say its bad - its readable and relatively enjoyable - I read most of it on a flight to America - but it didn’t necessarily blow my mind. Tessa is dying, and there is nothing  is going to change that. So she writes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Sex is one of them, and needless to say, an attractive and willing teenage boy turns up at the right moment. Probably the best part of this book, from a storytelling perspective, is the death scene at the end, which is well written, balances emotions well, and feels real (at least from my perspective given I have no experience with dying!). Beyond that, for me, The Fault in Our Stars is a better book. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars and is wanting more of the same.

14 / 50 books. 28% done!

6509 / 15000 pages. 43% done!

Currently reading:

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

  • To The Nines by Janet Evanovich – 372 pages

  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – 402 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

  • Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women who helped win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly – 328 pages

Book 13 - 2017

Book 13: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – 106 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:

"The Prince" shocked Europe on publication with its ruthless tactics for gaining absolute power and its abandonment of conventional morality. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) came to be regarded as some by an agent of the Devil and his name taken for the intriguer 'Machevill' of Jacobean tragedy. For his treatise on statecraft Machiavelli drew upon his own experience of office under the turbulent Florentine republic, rejecting traditional values of political theory and recognizing the complicated, transient nature of political life. Concerned not with lofty ideals, but with a regime that would last, "The Prince" has become the Bible of realpolitik, and still retains its power to alarm and to instruct.


Whilst studying my international relations masters, this book came up a fair bit in discussions within required readings, so I thought I should read the original text. Of course, given when it was written, it, at times, can be a challenging read. While I don’t necessarily agree with the overarching themes of Machiavelli’s approach, there are lessons to be taken away from it, and it obviously has had and continues to have an affect on politics. It’s also a fairly short read, and though I think one really needs to read it in conjunction with relevant analysis, reading the original text is a valuable exercise for any student of politics.

13 / 50 books. 26% done!

6182 / 15000 pages. 41% done!

Currently reading:

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

  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham – 327 pages

  • To The Nines by Janet Evanovich – 372 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

  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – 402 pages



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