June 5th, 2018

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Book 65-66

Saint BrigSaint Brig by Ian Lewis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short story prequel is something I picked up for free. Brig is an eighteen year old Mormon boy whose father has kicked him out of the house immediately after graduation because he found the gay literature Brig had hidden. For me, one of the more interesting details was that his mother (and sisters) castigate him for being a pervert mostly to please his father but hand him over enough money to keep him going (including his little sisters' allowances) for a month or two.

Suddenly homeless, Brig finds himself mixed in with the homeless teens with no clear idea what to do next (and sad to say, in my visit to Salt Lake City last year, there is a huge homeless population there). Gabriel, another young man tossed out for being gay takes him under his wing.

While there isn't much new here, there is a sad realism here when it comes to ultra conservative, outrightly hostile families using religion to hate on people. Brig is nice, a bit too naïve and that will cost him. It's a nice intro into the novel that follows it which I haven't read as of yet.

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Twisted Vine (Lei Crime, #5)Twisted Vine by Toby Neal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this one as much as others. Part of my problem is I've read things out of order (which was not included in my rating of this because that's my failing not the author's). There is a heavy theme to this that wasn't as fully explored as it could have been. It felt like there was way more time devoted into the romantic entanglements of Lei (our lead pov character), Sophie (we spent a lot of time in her pov) and to a lesser degree, Marcella than there was on the actual mystery.

I think that's by design judging by the afterword where in Ms Neal said this was to be the last book in her original plan (it no longer is) and she was tying up all the threads from the first four books. So the actual mystery got a bit short shrifted. More time was spent on the past mystery of Kwon's (a pedophile who assault Lei) death and other parts of Lei's past (such as her relationship with the Chang family) and on whether or not she'll quit the FBI and go back to her former and now current again lover or will he transfer out to her. A good third of the book is dedicated to that and I wasn't that interested in that part.

The actual mystery had some teeth. It revolves around 'suspicious' suicides, starting with a senator's teenaged gay son. All of the suicides seem tied into the website DyingFriends which is a forum for terminally ill people to find support. Someone is helping them get an 'early out.' It looks like they're assisting each other to commit suicide. That leaves Lei, her partner Ken and Sophie to try and find them.

There is some back and forth about whether or not this should even be investigated and I wanted a bit more of that than I got (for example gay teen vs Ken who is also gay). I think my own experiences colored my expectations here. I used to be a doctor who dealt almost exclusively with the elderly and the terminally ill. I have a serious chronic illness. I am all for ending life on my terms if living with the illness becomes too horrible because I know how bad some of them can be. To me death isn't the worst thing that can happen so my sympathies were more with the DyingFriends than it was with the law in this case (and in a way I think Lei and her partners might have been on that page).

That said, the real reason for three stars (and it was nearly 2) was the repetitious romance stuff. Why almost two stars? Without spoiling anything, there comes a point where they think they've found the person organizing the assisted suicides and it ties into Lei's past and internal affairs is involved. It's so hackneyed and such an overdone plot device that I almost stopped reading the last several chapters.

But I do like Lei and her stories. The series also scores high on the diversity scale for those who look for that. Lots of Asian and Polynesian characters which is fitting for Hawaii (unlike a certain TV show that is still milk white) and Ken is gay so there's that inclusion. It's a series I'd recommend.

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(no subject)

31. Plath - Ariel
A really powerful collection, with certain themes. Already have collected-poems, but just had to have this separately.

32. Seneca - On The Shortness Of Life (English translation)
Certainly inspires you to live life to the fullest, cutting out the useless stuff. A short read.

33. Rohr & Morell - The Divine Dance: Trinity & Your Transformation
Great ideas, but could've been shorter - the ideas got repeated, and I didn't agree with all. Not one to keep.

34. Rohr - Preparing For Christmas: Daily Meditations For Advent
A good way to spend time towards Christmas, something to think about every day.

35. Kerouac - Tristessa
Beautifully told, though he's such a *man*; would like to have read her point of view also. (Maybe someone could write a book like that?)

36. Neuvel - Sleeping Giants
The first in the trilogy, liked the form of interviews, diary texts and such moving the plot, some surprises.

37. Pope Francis - The Shepherd's Call: Meditations On Mercy (57 pages)
38. Pope Francis - An Invitation To Conversion: Lent & Easter With... (69 pages)
Little booklets, yet saying many deep things. The first one especially was inspiring.

39. Butcher - Fool Moon
Second book, so it was still about solving a case, but you can feel the arc-story staring, which is good.

40. Kenko - A Cup Of Sake Beneath The Cherry Trees (53 pages)
Excerpts from the main book, "Essays On Idleness", a good taster for that, and pretty quick read, cheap to buy. :)
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Yes, 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin probably made too much of that "pallin' around with terrorists" remark, and yet Bryan Burrough's Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, Book Review No. 14, suggests there might be echoes of that forgotten age in today's politics.

That such a book even exists testifies to Mr Burroughs's persistence.  He notes the difficulty of cold-calling a former terrorist, confessing to not sharing the terrorist's politics, and asking to comment on a bathroom bombing.  That noted, he was able to put a creditable book together, in part because some of the best known figures of the insurgency, the vanguard of the Weather Underground that split from the Students for a Democratic Society, live among us peaceably today, holding respectable bourgeois professional jobs, and they're willing to chat, and a number of the members of the other factions were also willing to chat, if under conditions of anonymity.

What happened?  Mr Burroughs writes, in his prologue, "And even if the movement's goals were patently unachievable and its members little more than onetime student leftists who clung to utopian dreams of the 1960s, this in no way diminished the intensity of the shadowy conflict that few in America understood at the time, and even fewer remember clearly today."

The movement of which he writes was not about protesting the Vietnam War, even though it emerged at about the same time Richard Nixon was simultaneously escalating and winding down the war, and it was not about protesting Republican governance, although its activities might have provoked the Watergate burglaries, looking for evidence of connections between the McGovern wing of the Democratic Party and the radical underground.

It's unlikely that any such connections existed, as the Democratic Party was way too conventional for Weather Underground and the schism in Students for a Democratic Society arose when the vanguard of what became Weather Underground came to believe that only more militant actions could ever end the mistreatment of black people, the best efforts of Civil Rights and all the rest notwithstanding.  That's the common theme among all the cells noted in Days of Rage, including the Black Liberation Army (the Black Panthers being too moderate), the United Freedom Front, the Mutulu Shakur Group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Armed Forces of National Liberation (for Puerto Rico, generally referred to under the acronym FALN).  The Weather Underground got most of the attention, but they come off as a bunch of privileged kids setting off bombs in bathrooms; a number of the other organizations had more authentic ethnic and proletarian backgrounds, and they took a greater toll on The Man.

What happened, though?  On one hand, it is the way it always is with True Believers.  One former Weather member confesses, page 230, "We realized we had pissed too many people off."  Yes, party purges are like that.  Or the epistemic closure got out of hand, that comes out throughout the epilogue, in particular this remark at page 538, "The sixties drove them all crazy, all of us.  All they did is listen to their own people, their own opinions."

But Mr Burrough goes on to note, page 539, "What matters most about the underground ... is simply that it existed, that it demonstrated the lengths to which passionate Americans would go to confront what are now viewed, correctly, as Richard Nixon's corrupt government, an unjust war, and rampant racism at large in America."

There might be more at work: look at this tu quoque argument that just hit conservative media last week.  "Obama Pardoned Terrorist FALN Leader Oscar Lopez Rivera."  Hillary's husband pardoned a few others (to help his wife's Senate chances?)

But is it a Seventies revolutionary or a Culture Studies professor who seeks to "abolish prisons, marriage, and rent while attacking 'racism, sexism, ageism, capitalism, fascism, individualism, possessiveness, competitiveness and all other institutions that have made and sustained capitalism?'"

Is it a Seventies revolutionary or a Diversity Trainer who notes, "Only a black or a Third World person can understand the plight of the oppressed masses?"

Is it a gathering of Weathermen or business as usual at Oberlin when a facilitator complains, "I was almost lynched by a group of vegetarians because I hadn't provided enough nonmeat meals in the cafeteria.  There were a lot of little things like that, stuff I just didn't understand.  Every time something went wrong, I was constantly accused of being a racist.  That was just devastating to me."

Is it a passage from a Thomas Wolfe satire, or something for Rush Limbaugh to seize on, when an urban drug clinic becomes unmanageable?  "White doctors and nurses had long avoided [the clinic] and [the community organizers'] main targets were the foreign-born staff members who had taken their place, many of them Korean and Filipino, who now found themselves being cursed as they scurried to tend patients.  The [organizers] demanded more Puerto Rican staff members.  In response, doctors and nurses resigned in droves."

Pissing off too many people?  That's all part of the job description.  By their fruits and all that.  History rhymes, dear reader.  Be governed accordingly.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Briana and Aunty Tara

2016 Summary

It has taken me forever to do up this summary fo 2016, and I still have all my 2017 reviews to write, but never fear, I have six weeks till uni starts again, and I'm writing my 2018 reviews as I go, so hopefully I'll catch up soon!

1. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – 301 pages
2. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt – 205 pages
3. Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
4. Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
5. The Meteor Crater Story by Dean Smith – 69 pages
6. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 pages
7. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages
8. The First Ladies of the United States of America by Margaret Brown Klapthor and Allida M. Black – 93 pages
9. The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 pages
10. The Presidents of the United States of America by Frank Freidel – 88 pages
11. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich – 311 pages
12. Wrath of Aphrodite by Bess T. Chappas – 207 pages
13. Reengineering the University: How to be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious by William F. Massy – 280 pages
14. Theories of International Relations: Fifth Edition edited by Scott Burchill and Andrew Linklater – 357 pages
15. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne – 330 pages
16. High Five by Janet Evanovich – 336 pages
17. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – 228 pages
18. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – 215 pages
19. Avalon High by Meg Cabot – 280 pages
20. 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks – 224 pages

20 / 50 books. 40% done!

4979 / 15000 pages. 33% done!

20 / 19 books. 105% done!

4979 / 5914 pages. 84% done!

Top 5 books (including re-reads):
5. Reengineering the University
4. Lean In
3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
2. Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths
1. The Martian

Interesting facts
Improvement on last year: 1 book (-935 pages)
Library books: 1
Non-fiction: 9
Most read author: Janet Evanovich (4 books/1248 pages)
Books with a scifi/fantasy element: 5
Re-reads: 0
Sequels/not the first in a series: 5
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Book 67 & 68

デビルズライン 6 (Devils' Line, #6)デビルズライン 6 by Ryo Hanada

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What interested me the most is the interactions between Anzai and Ishimaru as the latter forces Anzai into a mock battle making him stretch his limits and his control around blood (and all for reasons Anzai doesn't see) There was a lot of interesting backstory in this volume as well.

The villains and motivations continue to grow and deepen. This isn't a fast moving manga but the story has depth. I'm enjoying it.

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In/Spectre, Vol. 4In/Spectre, Vol. 4 by Kyo Shirodaira

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know those movies where hackers do amazing things but watching them do them is so boring. This volume reminds me of that. It's getting bogged down in being clever. Nothing at all happens except for one very important piece of back story about Kuro's cousin (who we saw in the hospital). Eighty percent of this was the three of them trying to figure out how to leak a fake news story that people will believe to prove Steel Lady Nanase isn't real (which she is now thanks to the belief of the people. Yeah we could have accomplished that in about three panels, not more than two thirds of a volume. So like many other reviewers I've seen, I'm hoping this is wrapping up soon because it's draining my desire to read this.

What I did like was the art. It's lovely. Also there is a nice scene with Kotoko in her room, leg off, eye out and very at home with Kuro seeing her that way (but not Saki).

I would have liked more grief or something out of Saki over the death of her fellow police officer and friend. That felt rushed.

What I could get along without ever seeing again is what the little review snippets called a 'charming romance.' For me, it comes across as creepy with Kotoko constantly trying to prove to Saki she's having sex with with Kuro (and it isn't helped by the fact she's tiny and looks thirteen). I've yet to get a romantic vibe from Kuro and Kotoko (more like she's bribed him to be with her in far too many ways). At least there wasn't too much of it this time but I really hope we move past that soon. I wanted to like this more than I did especially since we have a disabled heroine (But I'm not sure how hopeful I am that there will be more action after reading the note by the author of the novel this is adapted from).

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