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The Book of the Courtier

The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione

A book to read to learn about the Renaissance and how they thought.

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Beginnings, Middles and Ends

Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress

A how to write book.

With plenty of useful advice about how the beginning sets up the book's promise, transitions to your second scene, development of the middle, point of view structures, having it all collide in the climax, and the denouement.  Getting unstuck, working out how to develop the character rather than pull things like rabbits out of hats, and more.

I, Coriander

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

A tale set in the English Civil War and -- elsewhere. Coriander is the only child of her parents, and one birthday, she finds herself sent marvelous silver shoes. Her mother tries to keep them from her, but consequences follows. Such as an old woman and a crow seeing her.

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Language Of The Night

Language Of The Night by Ursula K. Le Guin

A collection of her works on literature. Includes the famous "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" essay.

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A Grief Observed

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

The random jottings of Lewis after the death of his wife.
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Claire DeWitt is back, investigating the murder of an ex and doing way too many drugs.

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 288 pages

When Paul Casablancas, Claire DeWitt’s ex-boyfriend and a popular musician in the Bay Area scene, is found dead in his apartment, his cherished guitars missing, the police are convinced it’s a simple robbery. But Claire knows that nothing is ever simple. With the help of her new assistant, Claude, Claire follows the clues, finding hints to Paul’s fate in her other cases - especially a long-ago missing girl in New York’s gritty East Village and a modern-day miniature-horse theft in Marin.

As visions of the past reveal the secrets of the present, Claire begins to understand the words of the enigmatic French detective Jacques Silette: "The detective won't know what he is capable of until he encounters a mystery that pierces his own heart." And love, in all its forms, is the greatest mystery of all - at least to the world’s greatest P.I.

With a heroine hailed as "a charmer" (New York Times Book Review), from an author who "reminds me why I fell in love with the genre" (Laura Lippman), this is an addictive new adventure for an irresistible detective.

New Age Noir with a detective who really needs a stint in rehab.

Also by Sara Gran: My review of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.

My complete list of book reviews.

Linnets and Valerians

Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge

A light-hearted children's book, set in the late nineteenth century, with just a touch of magic.

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Norwegian by Night, by Derek Miller

An octogenarian vs. Balkan mobsters proves the adage about age and treachery beating youth.

Norwegian by Night

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 304 pages

Sheldon Horowitz - 82 years old, impatient, and unreasonable - is staying with his granddaughter's family in Norway when he disappears with a stranger's child. Sheldon is an ex-Marine, and he feels responsible for his son's death in Vietnam. Recently widowed and bereft, he talks to the ghosts of his past constantly.

To Norway's cops, Sheldon is just an old man who is coming undone at the end of a long and hard life. But Sheldon is clear in his own mind. He'd heard the boy's eastern European mother being murdered, and he's determined to protect the child from the killer and his Balkan gang. With an endearing combination of dexterity and daring, Sheldon manages to elude the police in what is hostile, foreign territory for him. But what he doesn't know is that the police and the gang both know where he's heading.

Norwegian by Night is the last adventure of a man coming to terms with the tragedy of his own life as he tries to save another's. It combines laconic, deadpan humour, moral seriousness, visceral grief, and narrative tensions in a remarkable way - and Sheldon, in particular, is about to become a famous fictional hero.

He runs away on a tractor...

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Buchanan Dying

Buchanan Dying is a three act play written by famous author and Pennsylvania native John Updike. The play begins as a bed-ridden former President James Buchanan approaches the end of his life. He is being tended to by a nurse and a servant and lapses in and out of consciousness. As Buchanan is in this state, he is visited (in his imagination and on stage) by those from his past and present, including his parents, siblings, his cabinet, his niece (and acting First Lady) Harriet Lane, and by Anne Coleman (the woman who he was once betrothed to, but who broke off the engagement and died mysteriously) as well as by her father and brother.


In a well researched work, Updike explores almost every controversial aspect of Buchanan's life, including his near expulsion from Dickinson College as a youth, his terminated engagement to Anne Coleman and her mysterious sudden death, his handling (or mishandling) of the controversial Kansas constitution issue, his inattention as southern cabinet members sent weapons and other resources to southern states on the eve of secession, and his passive and weak response when southern states finally seceded. The play also explores Buchanan's unsympathetic attitude towards slavery and his influences on the outcome of the famed Dred Scott decision.

The second act of the play is a series of reminiscences of Buchanan during his presidency, but with overlapping incidents from other periods of his life which insinuate themselves and merge together. For example, in a segment when Buchanan and his cabinet are considering how to deal with the defense of Fort Sumpter, he segues into a letter he received from Anne Coleman explaining the reason for their breakup. In the last act, Buchanan converses with a clergyman and in a series of interactions with other characters, he attempts to justify some of the more controversial aspects of his presidency.

In addition to the three acts of the play, Updike writes a very detailed summary of his research, demonstrating a thorough study of a great deal of biographies of Buchanan and his times. In doing so, he shows that most of his fiction has a foundation of fact. But he also attempts to come to Buchanan's defense and even makes the case for why Buchanan was not such a terrible president, but rather was confronted by times so difficult that they would have perplexed any president. Not all will agree with him, probably most would disagree, but to his credit, a considerable amount of study and research has gone into Updike's opinion.

Much of the dialogue in this play is quite pretentious, bordering on snobbish, but it is unclear whether that is the product of Updike or whether it is a true representation of his subject. Conspicuously absent is any discussion of Buchanan's possible homosexuality and his curious relationship with his "room-mate" Rufus King. Though the book is not entirely flattering of Buchanan, Updike's point of view as a Buchanan defender (and possibly apologist) presents an image of Buchanan that many would not agree with. Then again, this is a work of fiction, albeit a very well researched one. For the reader with an interest in the complex and perplexing nature of the 15th President, this is a worthwhile read.

Small Gods

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

One of the stand-alones, with only a few allusions to other works (and a few future works with allusions to it) in Discworld.  Also, I think, one of the weaker ones.  "See, I can depict gods as dorks" is somewhat weaker as a gag than some writers realize.

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Harriet the Invincible

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

The comic story of a hamster princess whose Sleeping Beauty tale is a bit derailed by her being herself.  A pretty standard rebellious princess, to be sure, but brightly drawn and with a quirky fondness for fractions.

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The Door in the Hedge

The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley

A collection of four stories, all in an exquisite enchanting prose style. She has the voice down pat, it can draw you in on its own.

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What killed nine Russian hikers in the Ural mountains in 1959?

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

Chronicle Books, 2013, 288 pages

In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident—unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes—have led to decades of speculation over what really happened. This gripping work of literary nonfiction delves into the mystery through unprecedented access to the hikers' own journals and photographs, rarely seen government records, dozens of interviews, and the author's retracing of the hikers' fateful journey in the Russian winter. A fascinating portrait of the young hikers in the Soviet era, and a skillful interweaving of the hikers narrative, the investigators' efforts, and the author's investigations, here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain.

It probably wasn't giants.

My complete list of book reviews.


I'm in the mood for a book that centers around brothers with a strong relationship-older brother worrying about younger brother type thing. Think the Hardy Boys or Supernatural (I realize that Supernatural is a show, not a book, but that is the type of relationship I am looking for). Any suggestions? Unfortunately I can only think of the Hardy Boys, which I like but I am way too old for. Something geared towards adults would be nice. Thank you!

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

A how-to-write book.  Covering exactly the topics described in the title.
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Double Whammy, by Carl Hiaasen

A murder mystery surrounding pro bass fishing in Florida. It gets weird.

Double Whammy

Putnam, 1987, 320 pages

"Robert Clinch loved his boat more that anything else in the world...more than his wife...his kids...his girlfiend...even more than the largemouth bass he was pursuing." Thus begins a twisted tale of murder in the world of big-stakes bass fishing tournaments. Filled with ex-wives, evangelists, and an armed pit-bull, this is a story that could only be concocted by Carl Hiaasen, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Times best-selling author, and czar of Florida noir fiction.

Televangelists, pro bass fishermen, private detectives, and runaway governors - everybody is crazy in Florida.

Also by Carl Hiaasen: My review of Nature Girl.

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: The Bloviator

Truth can be stranger than fiction, and the last days of President Warren G. Harding are a good example of this. Faced with impending scandals within his administration that were about to explode, corrupt advisors, failing health made worse by a quack of a physician, blackmailers attempting to exploit his numerous affairs, and an ambitious domineering wife, the President of the United States embarked on a cross-country train trip from Washington D.C. to Alaska in an effort to rehabilitate his chances for re-election. That's all the true stuff, but it's also the backdrop for Jim Yoakum's 2012 novel The Bloviator. ("Bloviating" was what Harding called his personal style of oratory.)


Amidst all of this, Yoakum injects a number of fictitious elements to the story, some based on speculation, others that are pure invention. These include a hallucinating (or possibly haunted) president, a first lady attuned to mystics and bent on becoming the first female President of the United States, a scheming and deceitful villainous Attorney-General (well, that's mostly true), and a number of steamy sex scenes one might expect from a lascivious President, but which one might not expect from some of the other characters in Harding's circle of influence. The ending is also something that probably never happened, that's all I'll say about that.

There are a number of mysteries contained in the true story of President Warren Gamaliel Harding and these are woven into this novel. Why did two of Harding's associates commit suicide? Why did Harding die suddenly after a group of reputable doctors predicted that he was over the worst of his illness? Why were his personal papers burned after his demise? And why did the first lady insist that there would be no autopsy after Harding's death? These true aspects of the life and death of Warren Harding all add to the intrigue and appeal of this book.

Yoakum stays true to the known history, and wonderfully embellishes the unknown, decorating the already colorful characters with the stuff of Dashell Hamett (who makes a cameo in the book). He has ably researched his characters and tries not to deviate from what is known about them in composing his fiction. As the author notes, the strengths and weaknesses of the real-life characters are spectacular in themselves, almost unbelievably so. The crooked and vain are extraordinarily so, and so are the virtuous. Yoakum exploits this brilliantly. We know what's coming, that is, we know that Harding dies in San Francisco, and yet the novel never loses its sense of mystery.

Parts of this book can be tedious to the reader, as Yoakum explains much of Harding's background in great detail on aspects unnecessary for the story. Or perhaps this is tedious only to readers who are history geeks and know all of this already. There were also a few minor editing errors in the copy of the book that I read. These should not distract from a real-life mystery, so fascinating that it seems to originate within the realm of fiction. Because of the unbelievable elements contained in the life and death of Warren Harding, it is a story that requires a master story-teller and it is one that is not easily enmeshed with fiction. Yoakum ably confronts and meets these challenges and produces an enjoyable tale in the process.

Witches, Druids and King Arthur

Witches, Druids and King Arthur by Ronald Hutton

A collection of essays on various topic -- of various interest, too.

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As obscure US Presidents go, Millard Fillmore (fittingly number 13) is probably the most susceptible to satire, spoofing and lampooning. Perhaps his resemblance to the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield explains why poor Millard often gets "no respect". British author and journalist George Pendle takes it to a whole new level. In a style reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams, Pendle writes a hilarious faux biography of POTUS #13 entitled The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President. And yes, I'm pretty sure it is a faux biography. (One reviewer on Goodreads complained of being duped by what she thought was a real Fillmore bio. Perhaps the cover photo of Millard astride a unicorn should have been a clue).


Pendle's gullible narrator describes the amazing discovery of a heretofore unknown set of Fillmore diaries in which the former president sets about retelling much of his remarkable life story. Though considered by most historians to be a hoax, the narrator is convinced that the diary is real, ascribing the reason that much of it is written in ballpoint pen (an invention which came over 60 years after Fillmore's death) to the fact that Fillmore must have also invented the writing instrument, but was too modest to brag about it. Pendle's Fillmore is a likeable and naive dullard, part Baron Munchhausen and part Forest Gump, who turns up unexpectedly at many strange places and times in history. These include a stint as a sumo wrestler in Japan, finding the source of the Nile, dueling Andrew Jackson, tightrope walking across Niagara Falls and being in the President's box at Ford's Theatre on the night of the Lincoln Assassination. He rubs shoulders with the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Nat Turner, Chief Osceola, John Brown, and Dr. Henry Livingstone among many others. Don't look these events up in the history books, you probably won't find them. Pendle also incorporates the real details of Fillmore's life, though likely not precisely as they occurred.

There's also mystery involved as Fillmore tries to solve the mystery of the Masons and looks for a mysterious one-armed man (shades of Richard Kimball a.k.a. The Fugitive) who is trying to kill him. All of this comes to a scintillating climax as Fillmore's mysterious nemesis is revealed in the book's final chapter.

Serious historians lacking in a sense of humor seem to take great offense to this book,so if you're one of those, you might want to give this book a miss. One minor irritant is the plethora of footnotes in the book which are as much, if not more, hilarious than the text itself, but contained in annoyingly small print. But if you're a history geek looking for a break from the serious (or from those who take themselves too seriously) or if you just enjoy this kind of fun fiction, this is a quick and easy read* that will insert some laughs and smiles into your reading, while you marvel at how the author manages to weave in the historic events of the time.

(*Easy, except for the annoying small-print of the hilarious footnotes.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

The grand conclusion.  Leaving me a little wiped out from the charge through them all. (though I have concluded that, yes, Prisoner is my favorite still.)

Spoilers for the earlier ones.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Spoilers ahead for the earlier ones.

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11/50: Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

x-posted from ahavah

Dear Moderator - We really need a genre tag for erotica!

Kushiel's Chosen, by Jacqueline Carey, is my 'A book with magic' choice for the 50 Book Challenge. There's not really blatant fantasy-magic, but, as with Dart, there's enough gods' ichor, curses, and supernatural creatures/presences that it totally counts.

Kushiel"s Chosen

Ah, Kushiel's Chosen! While I technically enjoyed it a bit less than Dart, I'm still giving it 4 stars because the overwrought prose is vastly improved (still florid, in keeping with Phèdre's voice, but not nearly as bad). I also really enjoyed seeing more of Carey's world – and am always extremely impressed with her research of other cultures and their religions/myths to incorporate them believably into her novels. My review will NOT spoil Chosen, but there's really no way to review this book without spoiling major aspects of Dart, so don't read this until you've read that one.

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Book Review: Roosevelt's Second Act

As the US Presidential Election of 1940 approached, Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced a decision that no President before him had realistically faced: whether or not to violate the sacred but unwritten rule of presidential politics and seek a third full term in the oval office. (At the time this was not yet prohibited by the Constitution.) Since George Washington had set the precedent, followed by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and almost all others, every two term president had relinquished the office after eight years.

In Roosevelt's Second Act historian Richard Moe describes how FDR kept his cards close to his vest in making his last minute decision to seek a third term in office and how he made his precedent setting choice, balancing a desire to return to private life as an elder statesman with his concern over developments in Europe as the Second World War began. Moe tells us who the other potential candidates were, which were acceptable to Roosevelt and which weren't. He also ably describes the political landscape at the time, a time when the President's popularity was in the ascendency following his failed court-packing plan and his equally unsuccessful effort to replace members of his own party who did not support his New Deal policies, as well as the hangover from the so-called Roosevelt Recession of 1937-38. Moe also captures the mood of the times with the political and emotional conflict between internationalists, like FDR, who favored aid to those threatened by Hitler and the isolationists led by Charles Lindbergh, Robert Taft and others in and out of FDR's party, who wanted the United States to keep out of the conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. There were also those Democrats on both sides of this question who were firmly opposed to a third term for any president, while others believed that no one but Roosevelt could lead the nature at a time of such unprecedented conflict.

Moe describes how, right up until just before the Democratic convention, Roosevelt considered the options of running and not running and how he skilfully manipulated his party into nominating him for a third term, while giving the appearance of not wanting the nomination. The author's description of the poorly run Democratic convention, the fight over the nomination of Vice-President Henry Wallace (a former Republican with leftist leanings and a flaky past) and also of the surprising Republican convention, where a former Democrat outsider named Wendell Willkie came out of nowhere to capture his party's nomination, all make for fabulous reading.

The author gives an exceptional account of the pivotal election of 1940, in which the nation wrestled with the question of whether to aid Europe against the Nazi invaders or whether to remain isolationist in order than no American youth would be sent to their death on foreign soil. It generated record voter turnout for its time and Moe capably describes the strategic brilliance and blunders of both campaigns. In the words of one Democratic congressman of the day, FDR didn't campaign against Wendell Willike, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler. The author describes how this strategy played out and how it looked for a time that Roosevelt would be unsuccessful.

Richard Moe packs a lot of detail into 330 pages, including detailed descriptions of meetings and conversations that FDR had with his strategists and friends and foes alike. While the book is predominantly about Roosevelt, there are also a lot of other interesting figures that we learn much about, including Willkie, Wallace, appeasement-minded US Ambassador to Britain Joseph P. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, FDR's chief advisor Harry Hopkins, Democratic Party Chairman (and FDR's competitor for the nomination) James Farley, and many others. While at times the book makes for slow reading because of the detail it provides, it builds to a crescendo and will leave the reader with a hunger for the history of this period well-nourished. It was a most interesting time in American history, a time when an incumbent president faced difficult choices and perplexing, seemingly insurmountable problems. Richard Moe does a terrific job of helping to understand those times and those problems and of explaining how a brilliant political thinker was able to confront them.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Spoilers ahead for the earlier books.

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10/50: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

x-posted from ahavah

I haven't been posting all of my reviews on here, but I thought I should do so for my very favorite book! My previous reviews are all linked in my '50 Book Challenge' post if you want to check them out -- or I'm always looking for more friends/spec fic readers on Goodreads.

Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey, is my 'A book that made you cry' novel for the 50 Book Challenge. I didn't actually cry this particular time, but I did tear up.

Kushiel"s Dart

Disclaimer: Kushiel's Dart is my very favorite book! This review will indeed wax poetic about its awesomeness, but I'll also give realistic feedback, as it's certainly not for everyone.

First, if you don't like reading about sex, but especially BDSM sex or sex as a spiritual/religious experience, then this is not the book for you. So if you're not down with a main character who is a masochistic god-touched courtesan-turned-spy who services men and women alike, pass it on by. But sex is not the main story here; it only adds spice to an otherwise sweeping epic fantasy plot. And this book is definitely well plotted!

The main drawback/weakness to the novel is that it does tend toward florid language. I personally would not go so far as to call it 'purple prose', but I know some who do. I think the language is absolutely perfect for the main character and contributes to a whole lot of wonderful world-building. Other books set in Terre d'Ange, with other main characters, are not so flowery as Phèdre's, and, in truth, I think the other two books in this trilogy are less so than Dart. In the first book, Phèdre is very much still a youthful, privileged 'Night-Blooming Flower', and her language reflects that. That's probably the biggest issue, which is only exacerbated, in my eyes, by the constant misuse of loathe/loath. Be flowery if you want, but, Blessed Elua, do it right! (I do think this issue is fixed by the second trilogy...)

There are a few other spots where the editor could have been a bit more on point. A few places where the King's granddaughter is referred to as King's daughter, a comma splice or two, that kind of thing. I actually didn't notice them until subsequent read-throughs because I was so caught up in the story, though.

My absolute favorite, from either a reader's or writer's standpoint, is and will always be world-building, and the depth and talent of Dart's world-building blew me away the first time and every time. The first page alone does so much, and it only gets better as the book progresses. This is set in an alternate-Earth, focusing mainly on Terre d'Ange – an alternate medieval France where the inhabitants are descended from angels. There is so much amazing world-building, both obvious and subtle, but Carey also deftly handles many other alternate-cultures, and you can see that she's done her research and honors each one rather than merely paying lip-service. They way they are all woven together is seamless and beautiful.

The characterizations are also well done. Phèdre could have very easily skirted Mary Sue territory, and yet she does not. All D'Angelines are gifted, and Phèdre more so than most, but she still has her faults and freely admits/deals with them even in first person narrative. The supporting characters are all just as intriguing, maybe even more so when we don't get nearly as much time with them. The list of characters is quite extensive, but those who matter easily stand out, and even those who don't are individual enough that it never seems like 'cardboard cut-out filler folk', except for perhaps the closely-linked Shahrizai (though we learn more of them individually in other books).

There is one over-arching plot that is extremely well-done, as well as many other side plots that keep us entertained and ever propelling forward in the story. The first time I read it, I zoomed through it, devouring it in my eagerness to find out what happens. In subsequent readings, I savored it much more and was able to appreciate the hints, foreshadowing, and tiny bits added earlier that play to the climax of this book or plots of those later in the series. The book is long, but each chapter and scene serves its purpose, and it's always entertaining. It's the first of a trilogy, but while it does set the stage for the second novel, it's still a fully complete and fulfilling read on its own.

Terre d'Ange has long been my favorite world, and those in Phèdre's trilogy have long been my favorite characters. But Kushiel's Dart is my favorite out of any of them. It's got everything an epic fantasy AND a kinky fiction book needs, and for a book that relies quite a bit on masochism and subservience, it's extremely sex-positive. TW: Rape makes an appearance as well, but it also does well with making the distinction between consent and non-consent. I don't want to say more without giving spoilers, but I will say that I think it was handled well. I still find the book to be extremely sex-positive and, blessedly, not reliant on heteronormativity.

It's not all sex and love. Intrigue, politics, betrayal, hand-to-hand combat, magic, war... Kushiel's Dart has it all, and it is fantastic.

The Lady in Medieval England 1000-1500

The Lady in Medieval England 1000-1500 by Peter R. Coss

Exactly what it describes.  Strictly looking at the lady, with some discussion of what the term meant.

Stuff from the Doomsday Book, to wills, to coats of arms.  Court cases about abduction and murder. Statues of women and indications of significance.  Letters to and from ladies.  And lots of stuff.

Books Read July 2015 (Books 63-73)

Below is a summary of my July reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 63: The Master Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy #3) by Charlie N. Holmberg, 2015. 226 pages. More painful history fail but wanted to finish the trilogy. Review here.

Book 64: Phoenix and Ashes Elemental Masters #4) by Mercedes Lackey. 2004. 400 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (15 hrs, 18 mins) Read by Michelle Ford. Re-telling of Cinderella during Great War. Review here.

Book 65: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. 1865. Illustrated by John Tenniel. 192 pages.
Book 66: Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. 1871. Illustrated by John Tenniel.224 pages. Classic works of children's fantasy. Reviews of Books 65 and 66.

Book 67: Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter, 2015. 80 pages. Teaser prequel for her new stand-alone thriller. Inspired me to buy the novel on day of publication.
Book 68: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, 2015. 544 pages. Dark crime thriller full of twists. Reviews of Books 67 and 68.

Book 69: The Hippopotamus Pool (Amelia Peabody #8) by Elizabeth Peters, 1996. 404 pages. Unabridged Audio (14 hrs, 29 mins). Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Another in this outstanding series of Egyptology-based mysteries. Review here.

Book 70: Swamp Bones (Temperance Brennan #16.5) by Kathy Reichs, 2014. 98 pages. Everglades based novella.
Book 71: Bones Never Lie (Temperance Brennan #17) by Kathy Reichs, 2014. 323 pages. Case from Monday Mourning returns.
Book 72: Bones on Ice (Temperance Brennan #17.5) by Kathy Reichs, 2015. 104 pages. A death on Mt. Everest provides perplexing vase for Tempe. Reviews of Books 70, 71 and 72.

Book 73: Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden, 2014. 452 pages. Fascinating travel memoir in South West England. Review here.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Spoilers for the earlier ones ahead!

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Borders of Infinity

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles, with his usual flair. Three stories, framed by an interview with his boss.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

The third Harry Potter book.  I think it's my favorite though I will recheck after I finish this re-read of all of them.

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The Vor Game

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

The further adventures of Miles, after graduating from the Academy.
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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

The second Harry Potter book.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Back to the beginning! First picked up this series lo these many years ago, where I could only go out the next day and buy the next two books after this one. . . .

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Urban fantasy for gun nuts: hunting monsters for fun and profit.

Monster Hunter International

Baen, 2009, 457 pages

Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a 14th story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Officially secret, some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. On the other side are the people who kill monsters for a living. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

It's actually a pretty sweet gig, except for one little problem. An ancient entity known as the Cursed One has returned to settle a centuries-old vendetta. Should the Cursed One succeed, it means the end of the world, and MHI is the only thing standing in his way.

With the clock ticking towards Armageddon, Owen finds himself trapped between legions of undead minions, belligerent federal agents, a cryptic ghost who has taken up residence inside his head, and the cursed family of the woman he loves. Business is good.... Welcome to Monster Hunter International.

Harry Dresden, with less magic, more guns, and lots of bitching about the government.

Also by Larry Correia: My reviews of Hard Magic, Spellbound, and Warbound.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Beast of the Rails

Girl Genius: The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne Volume 1: The Beast of the Rails by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

Agatha gets on a train!  Spoilers ahead for the prior books.  Though it does begin with a sharper delineation of before and after than the ones just before it -- on the other hand, the tale clearly continues after.

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Today, twenty-one years after his death, Richard Nixon is still a polarizing figure. People either seem to think he was a great man tragically undone by corrupt subordinates that he was too loyal to, or they think that he was the most evil Machiavellian political figure of the 20th century. Right from the beginning of One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, author Tim Weiner makes no secret of which camp he falls in. Weiner defends his strong contempt for the 37th President of the United States, making the argument that Nixon tried to place himself above the law, much like a king, rather than the leader of a nation of laws. He goes farther however in suggesting that Nixon not only saw himself as above the law, but that he was also a drunk, paranoid and (despite Nixon's vocal denial of this) a crook.


The problem for those seeking to defend Nixon from these assertions is that, as Weiner points out, many of these claims are supported by statements that come from Nixon's own mouth. Weiner quotes from the recently released Nixon tapes to show that his subject was often petty, vindictive and branded every critic as his mortal enemy. He also relies heavily on an oral history of the State Department, as well as memoirs from some of the contemporary players, and here he is perhaps more slanted in his selection of sources unfriendly to Nixon.

There are some new revelations in the book, or if not new, then at least subjects not often discussed about Nixon. For example, Weiner relies on quotations from recordings to show that Nixon and his staff were aware that the FBI's Mark Felt was the person passing leaked information to the Washington Post (Woodward and Bernstein's "Deep Throat"). He reveals an astonishing story of how the Joint Chiefs of Staff were leaking information from the President's office and how and why Nixon decided to cover the incident up. There are also incredible recordings of conversations between Henry Kissinger and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in which the participants claim that Nixon was too drunk to deal with a looming crisis in the Middle East that had the potential to lead to World War III. These are amazing claims and yet Weiner cites credible sources for each.

There is much about the Nixon presidency that is difficult, if not impossible, to defend, and Weiner writes in detail about these topics. They include Nixon's sabotage of the peace talks taking place at the end of the Johnson administration, the bombing of neutral Cambodia, the intense bombing of civilian targets in Hanoi, efforts to falsely claim that the Watergate burglary was a CIA operation in an attempt to forestall an FBI investigation, the selling of Ambassador positions to campaign contributors, the firing of Justice Department officials who refused to act unethically, among others.

At the beginning of the book, it is easy to imagine that Weiner is just another Nixon hater with a partisan agenda. By the end however, it becomes apparent that Nixon has much to answer for, and that what at first appears to be an author's bias is more likely a strong sense of outrage over one of American history's greatest assaults on the rule of law, and his passion to see that this type of history never repeats itself.

The Fire in Fiction

The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass

A how-to-write book.  A rare one:  intended for the people who write novels already.  Like, indeed, his Writing the Breakout Novel, which perhaps you should read first.
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Stoner, by John Williams

A finely wrought tale of mediocrity and disappointment.


Vintage, 1965, 288 pages

William Stoner is born at the end of the 19th century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar's life, far different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a "proper" family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams's luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

What "Mrs. Dalloway" might have been if written by a man.

My complete list of book reviews.

Writing Down the Bones

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

A how-to-write book.

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Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

The original.  Accept no substitutes!
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Book Review: A Novena for Murder

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: A Novena for Murder
One murder, much less two, on campus is more than enough for Sister Mary Helen.  With the aid of a novena, foremost, and other Sisters, Sister Mary Helen tries to solve both cases.  This intriguing mystery also extols Catholic virtues.

Of Enemies and Endings

Of Enemies and Endings by Shelby Bach

The conclusion of the Ever After series.

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The White Death

The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis by Thomas Dormandy

This is not light reading.  Its discussion only briefly touches on pre-modern Europe, but there's plenty in America and modern Europe to keep it grim.

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Jumper, by Stephen Gould

A teenager with teleportation acts like a real person instead of a comic book character.


Tor, 1992, 344 pages

What if you could go anywhere in the world, in the blink of an eye? Where would you go? What would you do

Davy can teleport. To survive, Davy must learn to use and control his power in a world that is more violent and complex than he ever imagined. But mere survival is not enough for him. Davy wants to find others like himself, others who can Jump.

It's not a superhero novel, but it's about super powers.

My complete list of book reviews.


Justice by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross

A superhero story in twelve issues, or three volumes.  About the Justice League.
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Books Read June 2015 (Books 56-62)

Below is a summary of my June reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 56: The Cold Tap by Tom Beckerlegge, 2015. 229 pages. Quirky detective tale with bathing theme. Review here.

Book 57: From the Cradle (DI Patrick Lennon #1) by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, 2014. 399 pages. Engaging new police procedural series. Review here.

Book 58: The Death Season (Wesley Peterson #19) by Kate Ellis, 2015. 385 pages. Latest in this Devon-based police procedural series. Review here.

Book 59: How to be Both by Ali Smith, 2014. 377 pages. Re-read of this novel that won the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Review here.

Book 60: The Voice of the Violin (Inspector Montalbano #4) by Andrea Camilleri, 1997. Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli, 2003. 276 pages. Brilliant series of police procedurals set in Sicily. Review here.

Book 61: Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist , 1988. 450 pages. A dark tale of faeries in 1980s New England. Review here.

Book 62: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, 2013. 433 pages. Re-read of complex novel set in Canada and Japan. Review here.
Those who read Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, expecting the story to marry up with the one told on the AMC television series, will be disappointed. While the television series works a lot of fiction into its story for dramatic effect, author Alexander Rose presents a more accurate story of the real Culper Spy Ring that operated during the American Revolution. However the real Benjamin Tallmadge, Abraham Woodhull and Caleb Brewster are each very interesting and colorful characters in their own right even though they have many dissimilarities with their fictionalized counterparts. The history presented by Rose is even better than its fictionalized small screen version.

Rose writes a well researched and well sourced account of how George Washington utilized a network of covert espionage to his army's advantage during the Revolutionary war. He describes what contemporary conditions were like, the Whig vs. Tory dynamic in colonial America, the obstacles involved in getting a message from an operative to the General, what type of information was useful, the use of 18th century spy tactics such as invisible ink, the economics of espionage, the hazards of wartime travel, kidnappings and prisoner exchanges and generally the fascinating details of how loyalists and patriots, American and British soldiers, all managed to inhabit the New York area in such close proximity, while at war.

For me, the best part of the book was learning about the personalities of many of the principal actors in this drama: the patriotic and the greedy, the brave and the timid, the honest and the slimy, the innovative and the unimaginative, the noble and the vile. Rose's descriptions of Washington, Tallmadge, Woodhull, Brewster, Major John Andre, Robert Townsend, Benedict Arnold, John Simcoe, Anna Strong, Edward Hewlitt and Richard Rogers and others involved in the Revolutionary spy game, were fascinating, especially for how different each person was in reality, compared to his or her fictionalized television portrayal.

Parts of this book can be tedious and pedantic. For example, Rose's description of the code systems used was something that I found dry and difficult to follow. Yet it is a remarkable testament to the depth of the author's research and his ability to understand and explain a complicated subject. One of the other difficulties is that Rose does not tell the story of Washington's spies in a linear or chronological manner and at times this can present some difficulties in following the story. These are minor criticisms of an otherwise excellent account of a fascinating story.

For the reader with an interest in the American Revolution at a level above a mere recounting of what battles were fought and who won, this is a superb storehouse of interesting information. Alexander Rose presents and preserves a history of Revolutionary War espionage while humanizing the story by allowing us to get to know the principal cast. He reminds us that these secret agents were not suave and cool James Bond types, but were men and women possessed of assorted strengths and weaknesses, coping as best they could under trying circumstances. In the process he has produced a very good book.

Bloody Bloody Apple, by Howard Odentz

Apple is a small town like Sunnydale that makes you wonder why the hell anyone would stay there.

Bloody Bloody Apple

Bell Bridge Books, 2014, 204 pages

Apple, Massachusetts is rotten to the core.

Every fall, when the orchards ripen and the leaves begin to die, there are murders. We know it, and we accept it. It's the price we pay for living in Apple. Families mourn, but no one is ever caught. Now, there's a body in the woods, and the cycle is starting again. People bruise easily in Apple.

Finding a murdered and mutilated girl plunges Jackson Gill into the middle of a decades-old horror. For Jackson, the newest murders become personal.

When sick, cryptic predictions prove true, Jackson will have to believe the unthinkable and stop what no one has been able to stop in sixty years.

He has no choice. He lives in Bloody Bloody Apple.

A classic teen popcorn slasher movie in a book.

My complete list of book reviews.

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