May 5th, 2015

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

I ran out of time yesterday or I would have posted this. I continue to read at a fair clip. Since my last reading post, I've finished three books.

First was perhaps more a short story than a book; I purchased it from Barnes & Noble and downloaded it to my Nook, and it's a tale by Harry Turtledove called Shtetl Days. The Nazis won their wars, and wiped out the Jews (along with the Gypsies and others), but they opened a tourist spot in which reinactors play the part of Jews living in a small Polish town, with pogroms and everything. The story is from the viewpoint of a man playing the tinker, and has something of a surprising ending...

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #64: Napoleon's Cuirassiers and Carabiniers, an older Osprey. The plates aren't nearly as interesting as later books had, though the text is pretty good.

Finally, Osprey New Vanguard #185: LAV-25: The Marine Corps' Light Armored Vehicle. Not particularly interesting, I'm afraid...neither the vehicle itself or the text. Maybe I'm too tank-centric. Or ship-centric.
book collector

Book 52

Drug and Drop Volume 1Drug and Drop Volume 1 by CLAMP

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say this first, yes this is the first volume but technically it's the fourth. If you have not read Legal Drug 1-3 you will be completely lost and probably won't enjoy this much. The back blurb says it picks up right where Legal Drug left off and that is true. However it was a full decade between the end of Legal Drug and the publication of Drug and Drop. While I believe the ladies of CLAMP may have had the storyline hashed out back then when the publication issues arose but I doubt they had it drawn.

Why do I say that? Because the art is better now, more refined. There is less of the 1990s Gumby body thing going on. The faces are sharper, more clean and pretty. Kazahaya is definitely even more femme than he was a decade ago in looks. A weird aside: Kazahaya is drawn blond most of the time but in a few of the black and white shots he's shaded a bit darker and in the colored shot he has brown hair.

CLAMP does something that does annoy me: guest spots. Some people love that but if it gets too much it drives me away. Rikuo and Kazahaya get a new job working for none other than Kimihiro Watanuki. For fans of Xxxholic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle this is good news. I didn't mind him being here for this but I was never a huge fan of either of those things. I wouldn't want him around constantly because then I'd feel like I need to reread those to get what's going on and that annoys me.

That aside, their new mission seems simple enough take a box to a house because Watanuki cannot leave the shop (see what I mean? I don't know why that is because I never finished Xxxholic and now I'm annoyed as to why he can't leave). Of course nothing is ever that simple and they encounter a strange spirit or should I say Rikuo does because Kazahaya's powers often leave him in a faint and this time he is down for the count and pretty much taken over by this spirit.

However we learn more about Rikuo in this and what he is searching for, Tsukiko, the mystery woman. And the arc is the entirely volume more or less which feels more robust than the short episodes. Kazahaya will be changed by the end of it a little and Rikuo goes off on his own to do more searching. Unfortunately someone is searching fo Kazahaya and she seems pretty unbalanced which could make for interesting drama later.

There was less of the shonen-ei flirting in this and a little less of Kazahaya being annoyed with Rikuo. I hope to see that continue. Don't get me wrong. I want them to be a couple but I want it to move beyond that adolescent nonsense (okay they're only 18 but still). I was happy with this in spite of the decade long wait. I hope this time they'll get to see the story out to its conclusion.

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Book 44: A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

Book 44: A God in Every Stone.
Author: Kamila Shamsie, 2014.
Genre: Period Fiction. War. India. Colonialism. Literary.
Other Details: ebook. 320 pages and Unabridged Audio. (9 hrs, 42 mins) Read by Joan Walker.

Summer, 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is in an ancient land, about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year-old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army. Summer, 1915. Viv has been separated from the man she loves; Qayyum has lost an eye at Ypres. They meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one that will reveal itself fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artefact and a mysterious woman will bring them together again. - synopsis from UK publisher;s website.

I found this a beautifully written novel with a number of layers including history, colonialism, war, and a touching romance.

One member of our reading group did say she found it hard to put down in the final sections. When I got to that part of the novel I realised what she meant as the tragic events in Peshawar unfold and impact on the lives of various characters.

At present this is my early favourite for the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction as I felt it ticked all the boxes that I look for in a winning novel for a prestigious literary award. It was elegant and lyrical in its style and dealt with universal themes and social issues that still reverberate down the years.

I had loved her earlier novel Burnt Shadows and I now want to read her other works. I was so taken with the novel that I elected to also obtain its audio edition and both listen as well as read it. While this slowed my reading it allowed me to savour the experience.


For Book Review No. 8, C. Vivian Stringer's Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph.  What is going to happen when there are no opportunities for kids from hard-scrabble backgrounds to shine?  Add Coach Stringer to the ranks of successful sports coaches from Appalachia, and think of all the mid-twentieth-century greats in economics out of industrial cities (frequently from the Jewish neighborhoods therein).  Mrs Stringer wrote this memoir shortly after the 2007 basketball tournament, in which her Rutgers team made it to the final game, only to be beaten by Tennessee (another coach from a hard-scrabble background, another team that was within an ace of being knocked out) and mocked by a radio host for reasons unrelated to basketball.

It was the getting there, though, that gives the memoir structure.  That team lost a lot of games early in the season.  "Now, talent will get you through at the high school level.  You can carry too much weight, or have slow feet, or a weak left side, and your natural gifts will sustain you.  Frankly, just being tall in high school can be enough."  (Page 246.)  Get to the next level, where everyone is really talented, it's not.  "Their minds were weak, and their bodies were making them cowards."  (Page 247.) Fatigue makes cowards of us all.  That's something Mrs Stringer might have learned young, and in music.  Her father, Buddy Stoner, was a pretty good musician, and his daughter learned something about improvisation, but confessed to not seeing the point of running through scales.  She got beaten out for a musical performance, however, by someone else whose sight-reading skills might have been augmented by those hours of arpeggios.

And thus a formula for getting previously weak teams deep into the tournament, with teams from three different universities (Cheyney State, Iowa, Rutgers) into the title game.  It's not in any fancy X-and-O plays, it's in the proper passing technique, proper footwork, proper stance.

Or, as generations of long-suffering graduate students heard from me whenever they challenged me for being picky, take care of the o-rings and the space shuttle will take care of itself.  The generalization, dear reader, to your field of endeavor or to your ambition or to your passion, is straightforward.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)