Book 17 - 2017

Book 17: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – 402 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband's hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.
Curious, she opens it - and time stops.
John-Paul's letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.
Cecilia wants to do the right thing, but right for who?
If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband's secret, she will hurt those she loves most . . .


Thoughts:
I loved Moriarty when I first discovered her a few years ago - an Australian writer writing decent, interesting novels that aren’t about the outback, or spend the entire time reminding you you’re in Australia, but still feel familiar for me in the right way - and I read everything she’d written at the time. I promptly forgot about her, and then rediscovered her when Big Little Lies came out. I decided I’d tackle another of her books after reading Big Little Lies. The ending in this one killed me - the idea of the child paying for the sins of the father, the future that was never to be, I almost cried. Cecilia discovers something about her husband she never could have expected, her husband suffers for a mistake barely his fault for most of his adult life, a mother wants revenge and a little girl pays. It’s an excellent novel, made real and honest and funny by Moriarty’s excellent story telling abilities. The story is set around Easter, and the beautiful juxtaposition of resurrection, the autumnal themes that surround that time here in Australia (I’ve seen reviews complain about this, noting that Easter is in Spring…if you’re in the other hemisphere!!!), work beautifully. It’s heartbreaking, but its an excellent book.


17 / 50 books. 34% done!


7764 / 15000 pages. 52% done!

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Books 75-76

Atelier of Witch Hat, Vol. 2 (Witch Hat Atelier, #2)Atelier of Witch Hat, Vol. 2 by Kamome Shirahama

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The art in this manga is jus lush, finely detailed and gorgeous. I'm still warming up to all the girls and some of the darkness that lurks in the background of this. For instance, anyone using magic without permission has their memories and magic taken from them, no trial, no defense, nothing. That sort of draconian society sets my back up.

Coco, by rights, should have had her memories taken but her mentor Qifrey has protected her. However, not all of his other three apprentices (all female) Agott especially is rather hard core against her with no patience for her (even though she was every bit as much responsible for why all four girls are lost and facing a dragon).

In the background we see the fringed hats, rogue mages, manipulating things with designs on Coco who might end up a Trojan horse. We meet a few others of Qifrey's crew and finally get some of Agott's background so we can understand why she's so impatient with Coco.

They're faced with a natural disaster that Agott is sure she can help with even though she's told she's not ready. Unfortunately for them the Knights Moralis (those who'll take your memories) also show up and with the mindlessness of the true believers prepare to strip the girls of their magic. So another cliffhanger ending.

Not all the girls are equally developed but it's only book two. Hopefully more world building and character building is to come. I do like this though. Not sure, however, how I feel about the Knights Moralis.



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Vinland Saga, Volume 8: Troubled WatersVinland Saga, Volume 8: Troubled Waters by Makoto Yukimura

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It's been a while since I picked up this series. I got a little bored with the Thorfinn the farmer arc but that is now over and is now back home with his father's friend Lief and Thorfinn's ex-slave friend. But Thorfinn hasn't been home since he was about ten years old.

The bulk of this one still didn't grab me like the early series did (until the end). It sort of plods along as Lief is confronted with a young girl he knows who has always tried to stow away and see the world but now she's of marrying age and is slated for marriage to the spoiled son of a hard, vicious man who is basically the Viking equivalent of a loan shark.

Long story short, it shines an unpleasant light on the plight of women in that time period and by the end of it Thorfinn and Lief are in trouble especially when they need this man's help to gain the capital to fund a journey to Vinland (Canada) and are being dogged by the would-be husband.

It was interesting enough but not that exciting until the last chapter. Thorfinn has taken a vow of peace but when confronted with a bear that's challenged. Enter Hild, a scarred young woman who is a huntress and whose past is tangled up with Thorfinn's vicious one. It ends in a tense standoff.

I immediately liked Hild. I'll be interested in how this all shakes out. The art is very detailed and wonderful (has an excellent picture of Thorfinn and all his scars, it says a lot with no words).



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Book 73-74

ノラガミ 19 (Noragami: Stray God, #19)ノラガミ 19 by Adachitoka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I am glad that the big heavens against Bishamon arc is over. It dragged on too long for my tastes. This volume is about picking up after that.

Things are still messy. Bishamon is out of commission. The Stray is inserting herself into Yukine's life. Hiyori and Yato have to face their feelings and how hopeless this might be. Yato, however, has bigger issues: dealing with his father.

There are some very good moments in this, very emotional ones, especially with Yato realizing that he wants to protect Yukine from this quest and depending on Hiyori's belief in him to keep him safe but she knows that she has forgotten him once before. She fears she is not enough and that was very touching.

As always the art in this is just gorgeous.



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ノラガミ 20 (Noragami: Stray God, #20)ノラガミ 20 by Adachitoka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This one is so emotional. There isn't much I can say without spoiling it so I won't say much other than this arc is going to be bittersweet. To save Yukine, Yato has left him behind and is in search of another shiki to borrow (or turn stray) to help him. He burns bridges, he's rejected and finds help in a not-completely-unexpected place.

In the meantime we learn more about both the Stray (making her much more multi dimensional than she has been) and Kazuma. I can't wait to see more.

The art in this is as lovely as always.



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Midnight Beast

Book #48: Dead Men's Trousers by Irvine Welsh



Number of pages: 420

The latest book by Irvine Welsh comes directly after his previous book, The Blade Artist, this time with Welsh returning to all four of his original characters. Only, this time the reader is told that one of them is going to die in this book.

At the start of the book, Renton meets Begbie on a plane; after the endings of previous books, you'd expect things not to go well, but the outcome is completely different than you might expect; Renton panics and locks himself in the bathroom, but Begbie starts acting nice, far from the psychopathic character from the earlier books.

From here, we find out what the characters are doing with their lives; Renton is managing DJs; Begbie is facing some repurcussions from the previous novel, which mostly involve him getting effectively stalked by a cop; Sick Boy is having to deal with the fact that his brother-in-law has been kicked out of the house; Spud is involved in illegal organ trading.

The plotlines gradually dovetail into each other, and the writing style is identical to that seen in most of the previous books, with several chapters narrated by the characters and written in a thick Scottish brogue, although this time around Irvine Welsh does set out who the narrator is each time, making the book slightly easier to follow.

Drugs also featured again, and this time Irvine Welsh chose to do something a bit different, so for all the trippy parts the style of the book changed from prose to graphic novel style. I quite liked the way he did this, as it was good as illustrating how the characters were seeing "lego dwarves". I was not sure if Irvine Welsh had done the illustrations himself, but the main characters even looked like the actors who portrayed them in the films.

I noticed there was the usual mixture of drama and blackly comedic moments; the funniest moment involved Spud on a train. I saw a quite negative review of this, but the only problem I had was that at times I could see the plot twists coming before they happened. It was quite easy to guess that Begbie would eventually turn violent (he does; this was too predictable).

As for the death, it was surprisingly underplayed; I wondered if I should feel cheated by this, but then I remembered that the death in the original book was handled in just the same way.

Thinking about it...

[Major Spoiler]

Considering that the character who gets bumped off is Spud, who is suddenly said to have died of a heart attack, after getting ill as a result of having one of his own kidneys removed, I probably wouldn't have wanted him to die in some unpleasant, violent manner. The way he got written out seemed about right.



I am not sure if Irvine Welsh intends to write another book; some things were left hanging, and I can certainly imagine a sequel being written, possibly focusing on one particular character (you'll probably guess which one when you get to the end).

Next book: Platform Seven (Louise Doughty)
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Books 70-72

Bitter Roots (Bitter Root Mysteries, #1)Bitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I wouldn't qualified this as a mystery per se, more suspense. It's more about the things that happen in a small town than anyone doing any sort of investigation which is a bit disconcerting to me. It felt more like a novel to introduce the town and the series than anything so that disappointed. But that aside, I liked the town and I liked Zak and Tiff.

Zak is a hometown guy underemployed as a police dispatcher for a sheriff who cares more about small town politics than doing police work and the only one gung-ho for policing is new hire Nadine. Tiff has moved back to Montana after her life collapsed and she comes back to the family Christmas tree farm with her aunt and mom, the latter of whom never recovered from the loss of her son and husband many years ago.

Only a young woman, RIley, has been murdered and she was working at the family farm. We have other story lines like her friend from high school, his wife and their new adopted baby or the lawyer, Justin, also freshly married to a woman with a young daughter to a mutual friends of theirs.

Now more time is spent on all that family life nonsense than anything else but if does eventually tie into the mystery. I liked the characters. I just wish there had been more investigating and less just falling into the answer at the end.



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Joys R UsJoys R Us by Kim Fielding

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a sweet Christmas short story. Reece is a bit of a stuffy financial analyst who thinks the perfect Christmas gift for his sister's young son is money in the kid's college fund. His sis has other ideas and sends him to camp out at the local toy store so he can be first in line to get the in-toy for the season.

What Reece gets is trampled and he meets the store manager, Angel, who is put out by Reece's cynicism and takes it on himself to show Reece the true meaning of Christmas. Angel is a doll and he's just what poor Reece needs. It's a nice slice of holiday for those who like Christmas romance.



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The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1)The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a collection of four time periods into a novella detailing the lives of Mokoya and Akeha, twin children of the Empress from before they were born (and why, i.e. their very controlling mother's machinations). This world has an Asian feel to it. If I had a complaint about this world is that the world building comes in little chunks with each time jump and constrained by the novella length. The interesting aspects include the fact that these people raise their children non-binary and the child picks their gender later. Where the world building gets fuzzy is, it seems that they're almost magically kept non-gendered and then are sculpted into their desired gender but others seem to be transgendered either unable/unwilling to have it magically changed. I didn't think it was entirely clear. THe magic itself is a bit unclear. It seems to have an elemental aspect but it's not until the fourth section that we learn that there is a rebellion against it and the Empress because magic is held by the elite and very little technology exists because magic does all of that for them.

When Mokoya and Akeha are children being raised at the monastery away from their cold mother Mokoya develops the rare gift of prophecy which of course gets their mother's attention. She wants Mokoya back. Akeha is just 'the spare' not worth the Empress's attention.

In the third section the twins are now teens, ready to chose their genders (though I actually expected Akeha to remain non-binary and was surprised when they did not). THe twins, once always together are now torn apart by new loves, new lives but I was a bit surprised by the fourth time period.

Akeha has been living for some time now as a smuggler, brought into the rebellion by a love of their own only to find themselves facing off with both their mother and their twin who is about to face tragedy of their own.

It's a very interesting world but a dark one. Not quite Grimdark but like the LoTR there is some pretty unrelenting dark for the characters and the end is far from happy.



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Books 54 and 55

54. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A fun story set in Jazz Age Mexico. Caseopia Tun, a poor young relation in a wealthy family, inadvertently releases the Mayan god of death from imprisonment in a trunk at the foot of her grandfather’s bed. She then needs to help him regain his throne, and an intriguing tale unwinds from there. Beautiful cover. Fulfills Mexico/Central America own-voices Read Harder Challenge task. New in 2019. Read 4-12 September.
55. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
A cli-fi story with supernatural elements set in Navajo Country, which survived the cataclysmic “Big Water” event and is now thriving, after a fashion. Monster hunter Maggie Hoskie sets out on a task – one is reluctant to call it a quest – that brings her into contact with old mentors, some old nemeses, and some new associates whose loyalties and abilities are to be determined. She’s a bit two-dimensional, and the dialogue is at times awkward, but the story is interesting enough that I will continue with the series. Read 14-25 September.
-sg1headwall

Books 31 - 40.

31. Roy - The God Of Small Things
Didn't like this very much; the writing was hard to keep reading.

32. Burrows - Guidelines For Mystical Prayer
Not afraid of being critical of some of the Carmelite saints' views on mystical prayer, this book gave a deep insight to it anyway, with a pictures of three connected islands.

33. Odell - How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy
Surprisingly deep book on how to keep some detachment on modern life, to be yourself.

34. Fujii - The Enlightened Kitchen: Fresh Vegetable Dishes From The Temples Of Japan
Beautiful pictures, delicious food, would've liked more...

35. Moshfegh - My Year Of Rest & Relaxation
How much can you write about someone spending a year on pills, finding themselves and recovering on the way. The side characters keep the story lively, and help the main character to find her way over a life crisis.

36. Day - The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography Of The Legendary Catholic Social Activist
Although she lived many years after this book, this is still a great autobiography on how she became what she became, and what her social movement was and is about.

37. Lahiri - Unaccustomed Earth
Relationship stories, heartwarming, heartbreaking and stinging, yet worth it.

38. Mann - Secrets From The Eating Lab: The Science Of Weight Loss, The Myth Of Willpower, & Why You Should Never Diet Again
Some familiar things, of course, if you've kept reading books on food health, but still brought up some new stuff also.

39. Toomey - The Saffron Road: A Journey With Buddha's Daughters
You don't often hear much of the nun side of Buddhist life, but this book brings in all the variety, the obstacles and triumphs, of nuns' lives from around the world.

40. M.Mary Francis - A Right To Be Merry
Surprisingly cheerful account of Colettine Poor Clares community in Roswell, New Mexico in 1940s and 1950s, with an introduction/epilogue of how things have gone afterwards. Helps you to become familiar with their world, and answers some questions you might have, too.
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Book #47: The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz



Number of pages: 400

This is the fourth book in the Millennium series, and the first not written by Stieg Larsson. After the previous two books effectively formed a two-part narrative, this one more or less opens with a blank slate. Millennium Magazine is failing; Mikael Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander haven't seen each other in some time, though they do start communicating through his computer, just like in the previous few books (Blomkvist writes messages on his computer, which Salander accesses using her hacking skills).

The main plot starts with a tech company having huge amounts of software stolen from them, apparently by Lisbeth Salander herself. The head of the tech company also has an autistic son, who he realises is an "idiot savant" (basically, similar to the title character in Rain Man) and has an amazing photographic memory, which allows him to draw things he has seen in meticulous detail.

Inevitably there is a murder, and I won't spoil here who gets bumped off, and strangely, the reader is told exactly who did it.

Unfortunately, it's after the murder that the story becomes a little too bland and predictable; the pace slows down and it heads towards a conclusion that is largely predictable. This book is shorter than the first three, and the lack of plot compared to its predecessors is noticeable.

There were two main problems I had with this, other than the fact that the pace just got too slow; first off, there was a large amount of exposition about two thirds of the way in, all about Lisbeth Salander's past; I wasn't sure how much of it had not been explored before by Stieg Larsson, but having it thrust at me in less than bitesize chunks was a little annoying.

Secondly, one of the ways in which the book pads the action out is that at times it jumps back in the timeline, to tell the same events from another point of view, similar to the type of narration I've seen in books by Wilkie Collins, but it often didn't add much to the book. It was a narrative device that I don't recall seeing used in the first three books.

There were a few other minor issues, like already named character suddenly being called things like "the woman" in the narrative, and the occasional recapping on the events of the first few books.

Apart from these issues, the narrative wasn't awful though, and the characters were at least written in a way that seemed true to them, particularly Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, showing that David Lagercrantz had done a good job of carefully reading the original three books. However, this is easily my least favourite title in the series so far.

Next book: Dean Men's Trousers (Irvine Welsh)
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books 67-69

Snow, Glass, ApplesSnow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an amazing retelling of Snow White by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. I have been in love with Doran's art since the 80s and I discovered A Distant Soil. This is not your happy fairytale and frankly, the real fairytales were never happy until the Victorians cleaned them up. But the real twist here is Snow White and the Queen's roles aren't what we're expecting. It's not spoilery to say this as it's in the blurb but the Queen isn't an evil witch (though she is a spellcaster) and Snow isn't a sweet innocent victim. She's a vampiric monster.

This creepy retelling is from the Queen's point of view as she tries to preserve her queendom from the danger Snow represents because once banished to the woods (heart cut out) the fae folk begin to disappear. Something must be done and the story dances to the inevitable terrible ending.

Gaiman doesn't soft shoe Prince Charming either. If you think about it, some random prince wandering the woods finds a dead girl in a glass coffin and kisses her (in the older tales he has sex with her but that got cleaned up) is creepy and weird as hell. He should have been known as Prince Necrophiliac and that's exactly what Gaiman makes him.

Doran's art is lush and just plain gorgeous and spine-chilling at the same time. This is just a wonderful graphic novel. Oh word of warning to those who still think graphic novels are only for kids, there is a crap ton of sex in this, lots of naked butts, breasts and no denying what's going on.



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BLACK TORCH 1 (BLACK TORCH, #1)BLACK TORCH 1 by Tsuyoshi Takaki

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I wanted to love this one. I mean Jirou Azuma is a fascinating character. He's from a long line of shinobis and he can talk to animals. He's a nice guy too, standing up to bullies wherever he finds them even protecting strangers. It's this that gets him into trouble. He ends up in a fight with a mononoke (a spirit creature) and winds being bonded to Rago another mononoke.

This brings him to the attention of a secret government group, Bureau of Espionage, and part of the team wants him dead/arrested and the others want him as part of the group because he can talk to the spirits.

And this is where is goes off the rails for me a bit. For one we get an uber bitchy tsundere character and she hates Jirou to the point of idiocy. It literally gets in the way of her job. I couldn't stand Ichika Kishimojin. She really annoyed me and the art, which is otherwise great really becomes juvenile with her. Now they all have this weird leather shoulder protectors on belts over their chest but in her case, naturally it does nothing but showcases her enormous tits. And she's the ONLY one in short shorts with up skirt shots. Have we not grown out of this 'only boys read manga/comic' Her costume is cringeworthy.

I'm not sure I'll read more. I liked it but I'm not sure I'm up to paying so much per volume for it.



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クイーンズ・クオリティ 2 (Queen's Quality, #2)クイーンズ・クオリティ 2 by Kyousuke Motomi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I don't read a lot of shojo. Heavy romantic subplots and men riding to the rescue aren't my thing. To be fair, QQ only has a little of the latter. Fumi does pull her own weight and is fairly self rescuing and it is part of Kyutaro's job is to keep Fumi, as a potential queen, safe.

Fumi's had a hard life, basically homeless until meeting Kyutaro's family of cleaners (of the supernatural infestations that cause mental issues like depression, and other definable mental illnesses) She cleans house for them to help earn her keep and works as a cleaner with Kyu. So this opens with her doing the ritual to claim her supernatural tool and I had to eye roll hard at what she ends up with. (I think it's meant to be funny. For me that's a miss)

The main storyline with a severe infestation and someone a) working against Fumi and Kyu and b) trying to turn Fumi into a black queen (i.e. evil) is interesting and there are some really good twists in this. The art is very nice and the storyline is good. That said, I'm not sure it's really one I want to keep buying.



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August 2019 reading

August 2019 reading:

73. Fed, by Mira Grant (53 pages)
In this alternate ending by Mira Grant, we see another way the catastrophe of the last book could have wrapped up. Prefer the actual ending, but interesting take.

74. Deadline, by Mira Grant (584 pages)
My vocal reaction to the end of this book was, “Holy shit. Oh, holy SHIT.” This book is a roller coaster of a read, and involves interesting exploration of virology that the narrator doesn’t understand, which makes it even more interesting.

75. Trapped, by Kevin Hearne (290 pages)
Continued fun read of a series. Oberon is easily my favorite character. Simple bacon and poodle-loving pup.

76. The Boy Who Knew Everything, by Victoria Forester (416 pages)
In this book we learn more about Conrad and his origins. Very enjoyable read, and quite the adventure.

77. Magic without Mercy, by Devon Monk (344 pages)
A sickness is spreading in the city, caused by a contamination of magic itself. Allie and the others, cast as rebels and villains, have to find a way to restore magic before more people die.

78. War of the Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts (320 pages)
Tilla and the others have been on the run since the fall of Lightspire, fighting against Miles' atrocities, which get worse and worse as time goes on. When they discover a high-placed mole has been captured, the rebels decide to mount a rescue, saving both the spy and a mysterious girl who uses magic differently. Now they must travel with her if they hope to bring down Miles' regime of terror.

79. Blackout, by Mira Grant (632 pages)
George awakens after her own brother shoots her in the head following her zombification. But she's not herself--she's a clone, a tool intended to be used against Shawn. She's not going to let that happen. Meanwhile, Shawn's got his own problems; as he goes further down the rabbit hole, he's discovering how deep the corruption goes.

80. Aru Shah and the Song of Death, by Roshani Chokshi (381 pages)
Aru and her Pandava sister have been training, but nothing has prepared them for an Aru doppelganger stealing a weapon that can turn people into zombies. Unfairly blamed along with a new sister, they're tasked with retrieving it, or else...

August pages: 3,020

Pages to date: 25,415 pages

80/104


August 2019 comic books & manga:

187. Foiled, by Jane Yolen (160 pages)
188. Astrid: Cult of the Volcanic Moon, by Kim W. Andersson (144 pages)
189. Lumberjanes: Volume 8, by Shannon Watters (112 pages)
190. Black Panther The Complete Collection: Volume 3, by Christopher J. Priest (456 pages)
191. Serenity: No Power in the 'verse. by Joss Whedon (152 pages)
192. Moon Knight: Volume 1, by Jeff Lemire (120 pages)
193. Wonder Woman: Volume 1, by George Rucka (176 pages)
194. DMZ: Volume 11, by Brian Wood (160 pages)
195. Rat Queens: Volume 5, by Kurtis J. Wiebe (152 pages)
196. Harley Quinn: Volume 2, by Sam Humphries (160 pages)
197. Submerged: Volume 1, by Vita Ayala (144 pages)
198. Ghostbusters: Volume 8, by Erik Burnham (104 pages)
199. Doctor Strange: Volume 2, by Jason Aaron (272 pages)

August pages: 2,312

Pages to date: 41,686 pages

199/250