July 2nd, 2014

yellow roses

June 2014 Reading

June 2014 reading:

22. Skin Game, by Jim Butcher (454 pages)
Harry's morals are tested in this one as he's called on to perform his duties as the Winter Knight. Definitely a page-turner, as usual. Harry has to do some soul-searching, and is helped along by his friends and his subconscious. I also personally appreciated some of the references in this one--Evil League of Evil, for example. For a man likely to burn out electronics if he looks at him wrong, Dresden manages to get his geek on.

23. Coyote Dreams, by C.E. Murphy (416 pages)
Jo faces a new, larger challenge--one once again the backfire of her mistakes. And it puts everyone she knows and loves in danger. Parts were a bit predictaible, but I overall enjoyed the book. I liked her personal growth.

24. First Grave on the Right, by Darynda Jones (310 pages)
This was a really good debut urban fantasy. Charley is a private investigator who just happens to also be the grim reaper. Since childhood, she has been the portal through which the departed pass on, acting as guide and psychiatrist. It also meants she doesn't have many friends; people tend to shy away from the hocus pocus. But it turns out there's a whole lot more out there than just her as a portal, and it's about to come crashing through her life. I liked the characters and world built here.

June pages: 1,180

Pages to date: 8,752

Progress: 24/52

June 2014 comics/manga reading:

256. Cardcaptor Sakura Master of the Clow: Volume 6, by Clamp (192 pages)
257. Absolute Boyfriend: Volume 3, by Yuu Watase (191 pages)
258. Ooku The Inner Chambers: Volume 6, by Fumi Yoshinaga (224 pages)
259. Bleach: Volume 30, by Tite Kubo (192 pages)
260. Fullmetal Alchemist: Volume 8, by Hiromu Arakawa (185 pages)
261. The Finder Library 1, by Carla Speed McNeil (630 pages)
262. Berlin City of Stones: Book 1, by Jason Lutes (209 pages)
263. Great Teacher Onizuka: Volume 1, by Tohru Fujisawa (192 pages)
264. Freakangels: Volume 1, by Warren Ellis (144 pages)
265. Naruto: Volume 5, by Masashi Kishimoto (200 pages)
266. Naruto: Volume 6, by Masashi Kishimoto (192 pages)
267. Rosario+Vampire Season II: Volume 9, by Akihisa Ikeda (205 pages)
268. Scalped: Volume 4, by Jason Aaron (144 pages)
269. Zero's Familiar: Omnibus 1-3, by Noboru Yamaguchi (496 pages)
270. Vampire Knight: Volume 18, by Matsuri Hino (208 pages)
271. Blood+: Volume 4, by Asuka Katsura (200 pages)
272. D.N. Angel: Volume 5, by Yukiru Sugisaki (184 pages)
273. 100 Bullets: Volume 3, by Brian Azzarello (128 pages)
274. Pichi Pichi Pitch Mermaid Melody: Volume 2, by Pink Hanamori (208 pages)
275. Lizzie Newton Victorian Mysteries: Volume 2, by Hey-Jin Jeon (192 pages)
276. Garden Dreams, by Fumi Yoshinaga (173 pages)
277. Bleach: Volume 31, by Tite Kubo (208 pages)
278. Case Closed: Volume 36, by Gosho Aoyama (192 pages)
279. Case Closed: Volume 37, by Gosho Aoyama (200 pages)
280. Dengeki Daisy: Volume 7, by Kyousuke Motomi (192 pages)
281. Puella Magi Kazumi Magica The Innocent Malice: Volume 4, by Magica Quartet (144 pages)
282. The Wallflower: Volume 26, by Tomoko Hayakawa (176 pages)
283. Skip-Beat!: Volume 5, by Yoshiki Nakamura (208 pages)
284. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Volume 2, by Hayao Miyazaki (130 pages)
285. Boy Princess: Volume 7, by Seyoung Kim (184 pages)
286. Skip-Beat!: Volume 6, by Yoshiki Nakamura (208 pages)
287. Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Different Story: Volume 1, by Magica Quartet (160 pages)

June pages: 6,691

Pages to date: 57,412

Progress: 287/365
dark lady

Book 130: The Mirror by Richard Skinner

Book 130: The Mirror.
Author: Richard Skinner, 2014.
Genre: Historical/Period Fiction. Death. Magical Realism.
Other Details: Paperback. 320 pages.

Venice, 1511. In the convent of Sant' Alvise, a young novice, Oliva, is about to take the veil and become a bride of Christ. When her world is shaken - first, literally, by an earthquake, and then, spiritually, by forces that threaten to change the convent for ever - she begins to question her faith and her future. When she agrees to sit for Signor Avílo, the renowned portrait painter with a sky-blue smock and a provocative manner, he brings with him a diabolical object: a mirror. And reflections can be dangerous.

Erik Satie - composer, dandy, eccentric - is dead. Told he must select a single memory to take with him into the afterlife, he finds himself in limbo with a community of the deceased, listening to ragtime, and looking back at his fifty-nine years on earth for its most precious moments. Evenings of absinthe at the Chat Noir? Friendships with his great contemporaries, Debussy and Ravel, Duchamp and Man Ray? Nights with Biqui, the trapeze artist, love of his life? And what of his great musical triumphs and disasters? His Gymnopédies, his Pieces in the Form of a Pear? How will he choose his own legacy before silent whiteness descends?
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I found these two novellas quite interesting reading as they dealt with themes linked to faith and religion, death and the meaning of life. Serious subjects and yet written in a very accessible fashion, especially the second novella titled The Velvet Gentleman.

The first reminded me of Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts as it explored the life of a young woman in a convent in 16th Century Venice at the point when restrictions were increasingly placed upon the nuns. There was an interesting twist in the tale.

The second novella was set in a place between life and death and was excellent as it explored the life of the composer Erik Satie in a fictional autobiography as he sought to find a memory to take into the afterlife. There were plenty of references to modern artists, music and various movements so was a bit of a treat for me.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

So many graphic novels came out at once...

Last night, I finished reading Before Watchmen: Nite Owl * Dr. Manhattan, which I enjoyed more than the prevous one. The latter section left me with a sense of doom, due to having read Watchmen lo these many years ago. Anyway, pretty good and fits nicely within the world of the original material.

book 59

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #4)Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Technically 1.5 stars (see the end of the review for direct quotes that show why so low.) One star was for recipes and acknowledgement that this series seems well loved by some one. Not me, though. This is the second or third for me and my last unless I have one hidden in the TBR pile. I haven’t liked one. The writing is poor, all telling no show. I don’t like Hannah; she’s judgmental and quick to jump to negative conclusions, critical of friends and family. I can’t figure out why she has two would be lovers. She seems to use them more than love them. And the love triangle doesn’t work. They don’t seem the polyamorous type and yet Mike and Norman are friends and even both hold hands with her at the same time. Seems unrealistic. Both are cardboard characters and they don’t seem to love her either. The closest we get is mike running in asking if he’s too late when he learns that Norman is building a house he and Hannah won a prize for the design.

That is key. Norman bought a crappy old house to knock it down and build the dream house. It was Rhonda’s, local perfume seller, aunt’s place but Rhonda is soon dead. Hannah has been warned in the past about investigating but everyone tells her to. Mike is a detective but does she ask for help? No and in fact when she learns who the mystery man is that had dinner with Rhonda at the house, she doesn’t even tell him. She does get pissed later when he won’t share info.

Among the subplots we have the Fourth of July float, her sister back from college and her trying to lose weight. Oh the angst over that and how unbelievable was this? Everyone keeps telling her how much weight she’s lost. How long does this take to investigate? Weeks? You can’t tell but she’s not going to lose so much weight in just a few days that literally every person she meets notices.

It’s easy to figure out who it is because she clears nearly everyone within the first 100pagesand there is only one person she doesn’t like so she spends the novel trying to fit him up for every ill and of course that’s the actual villain. Eye roll. And he has to try and kill her in some overly elaborate scheme that she escapes from. Who is going to do that in a kitchen with knives and other weapons abounding?

This book is plagued with problems and crap research. Here’s an example. A character has been beaten and sent to the hospital and is now suffering from swelling in the throat threatening the airway. “I gave him antibiotics to reduce the swelling, but they’ll take time to work.” That is what the doctor said. Antibiotics! They don’t reduce swelling for god’s sake. Anti-inflammatories do. It’s a ridiculous mistake. Everyone should know antibiotics are for infections. How does an editor miss that?

I find Hannah unlikable,e and for a book written in 2003 it feels like 1943 in terms of women’s roles. Everyone is so upset about Hannah being single and too old for kids ay 30. Really? Here’s how Hannah sees it. “Did she really want to marry a man who hadn’t proposed to her because she’s twenty pounds overweight?... Besides marrying Norman would mean she’d have to give up Mike Kingston.” First, Norman never said that. It’s all in her head because she’s too dim to realize the pants she can’t get into aren’t hers. Guess looking at the size never occurs to our sleuth. And what does she see in Norman then?

I have an answer, get a load of this gem. “She’d adopted her mother’s view. As long as the candidate was male and single, any old groom would do in a pinch.” This was on pg 22 and if I hadn’t paid money for this I would have stopped there. Wow. Talk about setting women back 50 years. Technically it’s her sister who adopted the view but Hannah agrees. All three women think it’s okay to just marry anyone so they won’t be single. Love has nothing to do with it. I feel slimy after reading that.

There are so many better recipe-including amateur sleuth series out there. You’d be better off with them.

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cat person

Book 131: Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

Book 131: Cat Out of Hell.
Author: Lynne Truss, 2014.
Genre: Black Comedy. Horror. Magical Realism.

Other Details: Hardback. 240 pages. Unabridged Audio (5 hours, 13 mins) Read by Mike Grady.

The scene: a cottage on the coast on a windy evening. Inside, a room with curtains drawn. Tea has just been made. A kettle still steams. Under a pool of yellow light, two figures face each other across a kitchen table. A man and a cat.

The story about to be related is so unusual yet so terrifyingly plausible that it demands to be told in a single sitting. The man clears his throat, and leans forward, expectant. 'Shall we begin?' says the cat ...
- synopsis from author's website.

I totally adored this short novel even though in it cats are cast as minions of the Devil. After all this is a horror novel, produced under the Hammer Horror imprint, even if a comic one .However, over time the ability of cats to do evil has diminished. As one character reflects: "They get all the best seats in the house, they have food and warmth and affection. Everything is on their terms, not ours. They come and go as they please. Why aren’t they permanently ecstatic? Well, now it’s explained. It’s because they’re conscious of having lost their ability to do serious evil, and they feel bloody humiliated."

Whether someone loves cats, as I do, or hates and mistrusts them this novel has a lot to recommend it. There are also quite a few Sherlock Holmes references given that retired librarian Alex has a beloved dog that he and his late wife have named Watson in tribute. The presence of a talking cat as well as a giant black cat reminded me of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and I noted that this modern classic of Russian literature had been mentioned by a number of newspaper reviews for Cat Out of Hell.

It's pure fun while still keeping with the tropes of horror fiction with plenty of charm and wit. I loved it enough to both read the print edition and also listen to its audio release. It was adapted by BBC Radio 4 as a Book at Bedtime in March 2014.