May 30th, 2016

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Because of Gamex, I got my hands on several different Osprey books all at once, and while waiting for various events, I managed to finish reading most of them. They are relatively short, to be honest, though information-heavy.

The first one that I finished was Osprey Campaign #237: The Fourth Crusade 1202 – 04: The Betrayal of Byzantium. Now, I've listened to several podcasts about this subject over the last year or so, so it was nice to be able to look at maps and plates showing much of the action that I'd heard, so this one was particularly good to read. I still can't believe that machinations that led to the "Christian" crusaders to waste most of their military might on Christian targets.

Next was Osprey Men-At-Arms #500: Armies of Castile and Aragon 1370 – 1516, essentially another crusade, the armed forces that kicked the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula. I found this one fairly interesting.

Then, Osprey Men-At-Arms #494: Forces of the Hanseatic League: 13th - 15th Centuries deals with a subject that I knew barely anything. Various cities in the north of Germany essentially mercantile in nature band together to join forces to get what they want.

Next was Osprey New Vanguard #225: Republican Roman Warships 509 – 27 BC which deals with ancient naval vessels, clearly. Rome's not known as a maritime power. The data here shows a bit more clarity than that.

I'm reading another, but that's for another time.

Books #27-28

Book #27 was "Cotton Comes to Harlem" by Chester Himes. Himes is an African American hard-boiled true crime writer of the first half of the 20th century. He started writing while in prison for armed robbery and is an interesting character himself. "Cotton" is one of the best known of his "Harlem Detective" novels featuring dectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. In this caper, a con-man named "Reverend" Deke Jones is throwing a revival and having hard-working black families donate $1,000 each so he can send them back to Africa, but his real plan is to abscond with the cash. Unfortunately, during the revival, two white men rob the Reverend and get away with $87,000 and stuff it in a bale of cotton. The bale travels all over Harlem, and Deke, on the run, is trying to get it back, while other parties are also trying to get that bale of cotton, and Gravedigger and Coffin Ed are busting heads around Harlem trying to find out exactly what is going on. The book has a few flaws in the writing, phrases that get a little over-used, but overall, it's a really fun caper with laugh-out-loud moments. One flaw was that it was hard to find someone to identify with. I suppose you're supposed to be on the side of the detectives, but they're pretty shady themselves, willing to bust heads and break the law to punish wrong-doers. The people I identified with most were the poor people who got conned out of their money. I would definitely read more by Chester Himes.
Doing a little googling, I also found out the film adaptation was written by Ossie Davis, so I'm going to have to watch this at some point, too!

Book #28 was "Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox" by Eoin Colfer, as an audiobook. I really love this series. I joked to my husband that the books are an excuse for terrible puns and potty humor, but they are so much fun. I really love that Artemis grows and evolves over the series and is much less of a one-note character by the time you get to "Time Paradox." This wasn't my favorite entry in the series - you always have to deal with ridiculous contradictions when you introduce time travel as a plot device - but it was pretty fun. Artemis has to go back in time to reverse a mistake he made in order to save his mother. Holly Short comes along for the trip, and nothing goes smoothly, pretty much right from the start. There are only a couple more in the series I haven't read yet, so I'm spacing them out and savoring them.

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Books 51 & 52

London CallingLondon Calling by Edward Bloor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a very long drive so I picked up a couple audio books and this was one of them. Martin Conway is a depressed young man and dealing with him is wearying (as someone with depression I know how hard it can be for the people around us sometimes). Martin isn't particularly likable at first either, having only two friends, Manetti & Pinock (I know this is spelled wrong but since I only heard it...) at All Soul's Prep. Martin loathes the school as he and Manetti are there as scholarships (i.e. their parents work there) and Pinock is on an academic scholarship. As in every book everywhere when you have very wealthy kids in a school and then you have the scholarship kids, the scholarship kids are picked on and isolated.

In this one the bully is Hank Lowry who's the grandson of a war hero of the same name and patron of the school which was the General's alma mater. In an incident on the last day of school, the new pedestal of the general's upcoming statue is damaged. Martin doesn't want to go back to the school in the fall but his mother isn't listening (as she's sacrificing a lot for this low paying job to get her kids the best education.

Really Martin has a lot of be depressed about. School sucks, naturally the rich bully isn't going to be blamed for the damaging fight, his alcoholic father isn't living with them and the grandmother he was very close to passes away but not before she gets the whole ball rolling. She keeps calling and asks has he helped the boy, Jimmy, yet? Martin has no idea what she means, not until he receives her 1930's radio after her passing.

The ghost of Jimmy Harker speaks to Martin through this radio. More than that, Martin - who refuses to leave his basement bedroom all summer where all he does is sleep - is pulled through a time slip when he dreams. He is taken back to the blitz-ravaged London and this is where Martin begins to get a bit more sympathetic and intelligent (a change from an uninspired straight C student).

He takes the names and places he hears in the dream and writes them down, half convinced he's going mad. He with the help of Pinock and Martin's sister who works for an Encyclopedia begin to research them because in his dreams he's not only seeing young Jimmy's life but also via the US Embassy he sees General Hank Lowry, who is not the hero he's made out to be, and he sees his own grandfather the esteemed Martin Meean, part of the ambassador's staff. All his life Martin was meant to live up to his grandfather's legacy and he wants nothing to do with it.

Slowly Martin realizes what he needed to do to help Jimmy and sets off for London with his father to do it (healing their relationship).

Now, this gets very Catholic. It's not necessarily a bad thing and really up to the end it's not that preachy (well I suppose that depends on the reader), Martin and his family are very Catholic as is All Soul's school. His grandmother believed in the protection of the 'first nine fridays' one of the sacred devotions of the Catholic church (and I grew up Catholic and never heard of this.... but it is a real thing) and believed she died in childbirth and was brought back by an angel, something her jerk of a husband never let her talk about. And I was fine with that. There's nothing wrong with having a religious character but I will say the actual ending and how it all resolves IS a bit preachy, hand of God stuff. Overall it wasn't a bad one-off story.

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Witness in Death (In Death, #10)Witness in Death by J.D. Robb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this one in a box of books I've had for a long time and it's way back in the series (though I see the formula is still just as strong then as it is now).

Eve is out with Roarke at the theater (that he owns) to watch a play put on by actors (he selected) about a man who gets away with a crime by using his wife to do so only to toss her aside after he gets what he wants and takes up with a younger woman. In return she knifes him to death. Unsurprisingly in this rendition, someone has substituted a real knife and the actor Richard Draco is knifed to death by actress Areena Mansfield right in front of the audience.

Eve and Peabody (and Roarke because he owns everything) have to sift through far too many suspects including Eve's reporter friend, Nandine. Draco is an ass who stepped on everyone to get where he was (in spite of the fact he's a fantastic actor) and has to bed everyone (using a date rape drug called Wild Rabbit). Everyone had reason to kill him including his understudy who knows this will get him into the limelight.

It's your usual Eve Dallas novel (pointless argument with Roarke/make up sex scene included because it's ALWAYS included). There can be some triggering incest stuff in this one (it triggers Eve naturally). The end is a tad eye rolling but very Hollywood.

Overall, it's what you expect with this series, an easy enjoyable read.

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