July 30th, 2017

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Book 71-72

You Cannoli Die Once (Italian Restaurant Mystery, #1)You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I met the author at the Ohioana book fest and thought this mystery sounded fun. I enjoyed it mostly but there were things that kept me from liking it as well as I wanted. Eve Angelotto works at the family Italian restaurant after an injury sidelined her dancing career. She’s the main chef and walks into the place one morning to find her grandmother’s boyfriend dead ontop of some opera collectibles. Naturally the police suspect Maria Pia (Nonna to Eve) is the killer and Eve takes it on herself to clear Nonna’s name. Here was one of my first problems. We see no reason to suspect that the police aren’t doing their due diligence, or incompetent or anything really. They aren’t very well drawn.

Eve with the help of a lawyer friend and her large family begin to peel back the layers of the victim’s life and he was not who he seemed to be. The mystery wasn’t bad but there were things that bothered me, like how easily the lawyer breaks the law. I wanted way less of the attempted rom-com because a) it made Eve look clueless and it distracted from the romance. I just didn’t think it worked and while I understand the pressure an Italian grandmother can bring to marry, Eve’s desperateness to find a man irked me.

Nonna was something of a...handful, is the nicest way I can say it. Maybe she reminded me too much of my own Italian grandma who was a hard woman some ways so there was that. I wished there was less of the romance and more on character development. How did she get hurt? Why come back? There could have been more there. Would I read another? Yes, I think so but hopefully Eve will gain a clue or two in the future.

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Deathwish (Cal Leandros, #4)Deathwish by Rob Thurman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I let a shocking five years go by since the last book. I tore through the first three but needed a break then lost this in my huge TBR pile. What as shame because I do enjoy Cal and Nik’s story. It’s more of a 3.5 read for me but it kept me well entertained on the plane. One of the things I really like about this, as opposed to some of the other urban fantasies I read is that while it may be a year between books, it’s not a year in the story. The first four books take place in a matter of weeks. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of repeat bad guys and the first three books, and this one too, are all about the Auphe, the demonic heritage Cal carries in his blood. My first thought was please let this be the end to the auphe storyline.

In this Cal and Nik are once again faced with the Auphe hunting Cal down and every time Cal uses his magic, he gets closer to being Auphe, to the point that he’s realized they’re now all females after him and that this utter destruction of the Auphe last book were all male. And it takes him WAY longer to figure out what this means for him than it should (Okay he can be dense but still).

On top the Auphe hunting them down for mating rights, Nik’s vampire girlfriend first gets them a job protecting her ex, the vampire Seamus and then something from her past resurfaces bringing a deadly supernatural from South America with her. So Cal, Nik, Promise and Robin have to fight a war on two fronts which puts them in a bad position to say the least.

The good parts: the brotherly bond and snark (Fans of Dean and Sam would probably like this), Robin the pervy Puck, two decently plotted villains.

The less good parts: I hated the ending of the Promise subplot because this could have easily ended far less darkly than it did. It felt gratuitous. The endless angst over Cal being half Auphe and Nik not always being able to protect him. Seriously, you could have a deadly drinking game with this book. Every time Nik or Cal angst over Cal’s half Auphe side, take a drink. Every time Nik or Cal whine about how crappy a mother Sophia was take a drink (take a second if they call her a whore), take a drink every time Nik calls Cal lazy or Cal calls Nik a Buddhist bad ass, or when Cal worries he’ll go Auphe and kill some one or Nik is called a super warrior. You get the picture. This book would literally be 50 pages less if not more if that had been trimmed. Subtle this book ain’t. Still I’m looking forward to the next one. Did I get my wish about no more Auphe? Read and find out.

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Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

A couple of weeks reading to review.

As I had been, I was reading an Osprey book each time I finished a chapter of another book, so the first book I read was Osprey Elite #34: Afrikakorps 1941 – 43. As an older Osprey book, the plates aren't particularly great. However the text is pretty good.

Next was Osprey Fortress #69: The Berlin Wall and the Intra-German Border 1961 - 89 which details the whole structure of the border defenses, not just in Berlin. Interesting read.

Then I finished Osprey Men-At-Arms #70: The US Army 1941 – 45, once again an older book in the series which discusses the uniforms and gear of various units in the US Army in a variety of environments. Of mild interest.

Next one up was Osprey New Vanguard #36: Jagdpanzer 38 'Hetzer' 1944 - 1945 which was a tank destroyer of the latter part of World War II in Europe in the German forces. This was a pretty good book.

The next book after that was Osprey Vanguard #40: US Light Tanks 1944 – 84, a discussion of lighter armored vehicles some of which were failures.

Then, Osprey Warrior #54: Confederate Cavalryman 1861 – 65 which goes into details of the life of such troops during the American Civil War. Pretty good.

Osprey Weapon #14: The M16 was the next book. I recall there being a controversy about the weapon's reliability during the Vietnam War, though now it's one of the most common assault weapons in the world.

Finally, there was Price of Duty by Dale Brown, a rather frightening techno-thriller set in Eastern Europe in what must be a bit into the future. I can only hope we make some or all of the technology depicted...

And that's the week!

Book #40: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)

Number of pages: 272

This is a book I read many years ago; I decided to read it again after watching the play that is showing in London's West End.

The first thing that is noticeable about this book when you open it is that the chapter numbering only includes prime numbers. As explained, this is because the book's teenage narrator, Christopher, has a fascination with prime numbers. Christopher also has Asperger's Syndrome, which makes it very hard for him to understand, or communicate with, other people.

The story opens with Christopher finding that someone has killed his neighbour's dog, Wellington; shortly into the book, he encounters a police officer, but ends up hitting the officer because he doesn't like being touched, and arrested. Christopher then decides, against his father's orders to leave things alone, to turn detective and find out who killed Wellington.

At the same time however, Christopher is informed that his mother has died in hospital; this has a greater effect later on in the story, mostly when...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Christopher learns two things that turn his world upside-down.

First off, his mother isn't really dead; it turns out that she ran off with a neighbour and went to live in London. He finds this out through a series of letters that his father hid from him.

Secondly, when his father finds Christopher with the letters, he admits that he killed Wellington in a fit of rage, leaving his son afraid to live with him.

Christopher's narration is very well written, particularly as he explains all of his obsessive habits (such as his hatred of the colours yellow and brown), and occasionally goes off on tangents where he talks about his understanding of specific topics. The book also has a huge number of diagrams, mostly showing how Christopher visualises his environment.

I liked the fact that this book ends up not just being a story about finding out who killed a dog, and the best-written segment comes when Christopher ventures alone into London and finds things completely overwhelming. The book depicts the chaos of the tube and the behaviour of commuters in vivid detail.

I was really glad that I read this again; I think this is one of the best modern novels around.

Next book: The Girls (Emma Cline)
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Books 73-74

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested this from Netgalley and received it (thank you, and it in no way influenced my review). I wasn’t sure I should have requested it. As much as I like Doctor Who I’m often not a fan of time travel stories and even less fond of stories where the protagonist is a thief. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this. It would have been a five star read without the last chapter. I really disliked the final ending.

Empra is a time traveler with an organization that records ‘datastreams’ taking great care not to interact too much but she’s thrown that out the window, falling pregnant to a gladiator who is about to die in battle as the story opens. Empra lingers just long enough for her water to burst and their son is born outside of time inside the time machine.

We jump to Farway’s story some eighteen years later. His mother is missing in time and he arrogantly strides into his final exam in time travel academy only to fail because someone altered the exam. His response? To take the first job offer afterward: become a time traveling thief ‘rescuing’ items from tragic events. I paused here hard. I knew this was the choice from the blurb so that wasn’t the reason for my pause. It took me a while to realize it was because I’ve been in that place, facing an altered test to keep my kind from passing (lady doctors, and that state was caught at it the next year).

Once Farway and his team (His cousin Imogen, the ship’s pilot Gram and Farway’s girlfriend, Priya, the medic) go for something on the Titanic and meet up with another time traveler who out manuevers them at every turn. Eliot is an interesting young lady with tons of secrets including one big one that I don’t want to spoil in the review. Let’s leave it at the Fade will end all life and Far, Eliot and the others must stop it.

It’s a far more complicated story than that with well fleshed out characters. It addressed things about time travel in a believable way. The emotions were well captured for all the characters (each of which we have chapters dedicated to their point of view). I really liked all the characters, though I reject the idea that only these circumstances would have ended up with them as friends/significant others (which was my problem with the final chapter). I did want a little more world building, especially with Priya. She seems to be a full fledged doctor at eighteen. Is she a genius? Is schooling different? What does Gram really do with the numbers (i.e. it very soft pedaled the physics which I was okay with but I was never entirely clear what Gram did). It was these few things that dropped a star off my review. Still, I highly recommend this one.

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The Festivus MiracleThe Festivus Miracle by Kim Fielding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a super cute novella set in a Nebraska law school. It’s the fall finals right before the holiday break. Tony is an upper level law student from a family of lawyers stretching back to the Civil War but he is not passionate about the law. He is, however, in love with cooking. Eddie is a first year law student bundle of energy who is passionate about the law.

As they get to know each other over a dinner Tony’s cooked, there are glaring differences between the two young men. Tony’s family is affluent but cold. For example his parents left him behind to jet off to Cabo for the holidays. Eddie is definitely more lower middle class with a large warm family whose members belong to so many different religious groups they decided to claim Seinfeld’s Festivus celebration for their own.

The story is cute, fun and heartwarming. Yes, the I love yous are a bit quick (to the point even Tony questions it) but what can you do in a story this short? If you want a sweet holiday read this delivers.

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