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Subject: What did you read in July 2016? rss

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Michael Howden
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Liked this far more than I thought I would. Worth the read.



This is turning out to be the summer of "chick-flicks." This book is really well done. I almost lost interest before Act II gets going, but I picked it back up and finished it and I'm glad I did. I loved the River Song story-line on Doctor Who, and this is where they cribbed the outline from.




The world Mitchell creates (Which started in The Bone Clocks)reminds me of Clive Barker, which is a positive. I am never fully okay with the way he stitches together short stories to make a single novel. It was okay.



A map for the end of the journey. A reminder that, at the center of every human consciousness lies the question: What makes a life worth living?

Spoiler (click to reveal)
It's Chit Chat





First published 81 years ago. A prescient and frightening reminder of how fragile American democracy was, is, and shall be. An important read.






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The Whisperers, by John Connolly




In his ninth adventure Parker gets drawn into an investigation as to why soldiers are coming back from Iraq, and then killing themselves. It turns out they brought things back with them, after looting museums while over there. But someone else wants antiquities they brought back. Someone horrible.

It's a straightforward story that deals with PTSD, and how soldiers are often left in the lurch by the government. Great series. Great author. On to the next one!


Batman: Under the Hood Volume 1, by Judd Winick




This was an enjoyable mystery, as Batman's search for the identity of the Red Hood leads him to a conclusion that just shouldn't be possible. The art was solid, if unremarkable, and the story moved along at a good clip. It was fun seeing Bats and Nightwing kick butt.

A few things didn't work. I'm not sure why Onyx was in here. (To be honest, I have no idea who Onyx even is.) She didn't have anything to do, and I wonder if Winick was told to include her. Did she have her own book at the time? I dunno. Anyway, it just felt out of place. Another thing that bothered me was Mr. Freeze's motivation. He's strongly independent, and doesn't want to take orders from anyone. So how does the Black Mask convince him to join the cause? "You get to kill a bunch of people." That seems weak. If that really is Mr. Freeze's driving motivation, he can just do it himself, rather than work for someone else.

Still, I enjoyed it, and I'll read the second book.


Batman: Under the Hood Volume 2, by Judd Winick




This second volume of Under the Hood narrows focus, and it's much stronger for it. The rest of this review has spoilers, so stop reading now if you don't want to know who The Red Hood is.

Batman's still on the Red Hood's trail, slowly closing in. Large sections of the narrative are from Alfred's perspective, and those are well done. Despite the focus, there's still some goofiness here. There's a section where Red Hood and Bats end up fighting Hyena, Count Vertigo, and Captain Nazi. I'm not familiar enough with the DC universe to know if these are major characters, minor characters, or if Winick was told to use them. But they're just silly. (And yes, I'm aware that I'm saying this in the midst of a comic book about a character named Batman.) Captain Nazi? Come on...

I did like the Black Mask's role throughout the story. He was frustrated and funny, and I just liked him.

But ultimately this is about Jason Todd confronting his "father," and asking him why Joker--the man who killed Jason--is still alive. Winick did a masterful job of framing the clash between Batman and Jason, and their two philosophies. I felt for Jason, and why he was so angry. In some ways I agreed with him. And I respected Batman's position, and his self-awareness of where that road would lead him.

So let's ignore how Jason was able to come back, and just judge Volume 2 on the great story. Because, unfortunately, the last piece in the book is Batman Annual #25, which tells how Todd came back to life. And it's super dumb. I just assumed it involved a Lazarus Pit. And it does. But first there's some ridiculous new age crap about making the universe right, and involving Superman somehow, and this "force" magically brings Todd back to life. I don't like it when books/movies/shows bring back dead characters, anyway. It robs you of any sense of real danger and emotional investment when people who die aren't necessarily really dead. But on top of bringing him back, it's done in such a hilariously awful way. I'd almost suggest skipping the Annual altogether. Jason's back somehow. The details aren't important. Move on. Otherwise, this solid book ends on a goofy low note.


Baltimore, Volume 2: The Curse Bells, by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden




In this second book of the series, Lord Baltimore continues the hunt for his nemesis--the ancient vampire Haigus. But both Baltimore and Haigus are unexpectedly sidetracked by a twisted church filled with vampire nuns and an evil warlock. This book is MUCH darker than the first. The horrific rites and rituals, and all those creepy cursed nuns, covered the whole thing with a shadow.

We still don't get any more background or development on Baltimore. But I guess I'm okay with it, since the story is good.


Baltimore, Volume 3: A Passing Stranger and Other Stories
, by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden




Rather than one long story, like the first two volumes, this is a collection of short stories about Lord Baltimore and his quest for the vampire Haigus. It's a nice break, and it lets Mignola and Golden explore rabbit trails they really can't in the longer forms. It's a fun diversion (though bleak as ever).


The Burning Soul, by John Connolly




Randall Haight had a hand in killing a young girl when he was 14. He paid for his crimes, and he's trying to create a clean slate with a new identity in a small Maine town. But someone knows his secret, and they're threatening to expose him. When these anonymous messages coincide with the disappearance of another 14-year-old girl in this small town, Randall knows he needs help finding the person responsible. So he brings in Charlie Parker.

This was a fairly straightforward tale, but it took some unexpected turns in the last 100 pages, and I was genuinely surprised at the revelations about the whys and wherefores of the disappearance and the messages.

I'll admit I'm anxious for Connolly to stop dragging his feet on the larger supernatural mysteries surrounding Parker. There are always small tidbits, but after 10 books, I think he can delve more deeply. But whatever. I'll still devour these, regardless of how long he takes to move things along.


Assassin's Apprentice, by Robin Hobb




Stop me if you've heard this one: A young boy with no parental figures makes his way to the big city, gains parental figures in the form of teachers and mentors, and becomes something more than his humble birth would suggest. It's fine. Some of my favorite fantasy series have followed that formula. But it's getting somewhat long in the tooth.

The problem was that the book just meandered along. Here's some training. Here's some exposition. Here's some courtly doings. Here's some ethical choice you'll have to work through to find who you really are. But it all felt like build-up. I kept waiting for the story to crest the hill and start moving down toward the resolution at a breakneck pace. But it never did.

I can hear people now: "But all of that was character development!" Not really... Other than a few mild revelations, I knew just as much about characters at the end as I did at the beginning. They didn't really change or grow.

The writing was fine, but I'd be REALLY okay if I never had to read another fantasy novel in high English. Fitz and the Fool are interesting characters, and I understand they're all throughout the trilogies that make up Hobb's work now. And I'll probably get there, eventually. But it's not like I'm hurting for books to read right now, so further books in the series have simply slipped down the ladder.

I'm befuddled by how much my Goodreads friends love this book. LOVE it. All but one of them give it 4 or 5 stars. It's possible, since the book came out 20 years ago (well before Goodreads), that they went through Goodreads and rated things off of memory, and therefore rated it highly because "I love that series!" Perhaps if they were to read it now, they'd rate it the same. But they also might lower the rating. I haven't read Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair in over 20 years, but I LOVED it then, and I've rated it 5 stars on beloved memory. But I wonder how I'd feel if I read it again with 20 years of experience under my belt...

At any rate, I thought this was way more average than all of my friends did. So, of course, I'm right and they're all wrong.


The Wrath of Angels
, by John Connolly




Eleven books into the series, and Connolly finally seems to be moving toward bigger answers. Kinda. There aren't any big revelations, really. But it still feels like we're in the middle of the deep breath before SOMETHING happens. Of course, that still might be 10 books down the road, but I hope not.

As for the story, there's a downed plane with important papers that many players want. But in addition to the papers, something else has survived. And it wants to remain undiscovered. Wrath of Angels only gets three stars because it takes a while to get the story moving. When it finally does at the end, it's a real corker. But there's just too much build-up to put this in the top tier of the series. Still, great stuff. On to the next one!
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Billy McBoatface
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Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. Read because he's the most famous 19th century author that I haven't read yet. A story about the conflicts between high and low church in the fictional city of Barchester. This novel includes bishops, archdeacons, deans, wardens, chaplains, prebendaries, curates, precepts, vicars, canons, and probably a few other titles I can't recall now. Who has what powers and duties in this complex hierarchy is not always clear to me but the novel works all the same. The central problem is that a new Bishop, from the low church, has arrived and the high church clergy are up in arms. Will the Bishop and his loathsome chaplain destroy the wonderful services they have? Edge of your seat drama! But it really is pretty fun.

As is common in 19th century novels there are some very silly characters for humor, in this novel that is mostly served by the Stanhope family, who care for nobody (including often themselves), and leave a trail of chaos behind them. The Bishop's party where the Stanhopes are introduced to Barchester society was hilarious.


The Warden by Anthony Trollop. I loved "Barchester Towers," so this (the prequel) seemed a great book to read. But no, it isn't. Missing all the interesting charcters of Towers, here the book focusses on Warden Harding, his daughter, and his son in law. The plot is far simpler, and very repetitive. Over and over, we hear how meek Warden Harding is, how militant the archdeacon is, how sweet the daughter is, etc. I gave up about ⅔ of the way through, because I realized nothing new was going to happen for the rest of the novel.


The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn. The writing is great, and Chet and Bernie are great characters. So why do I give it only 3 out of 5 stars? Here's some numbers that will explain why:

Number of Chet and Bernie books I've read: 4
Number of books where Bernie is put in prison by corrupt law enforcement officers: 3
Number of books where somebody tries to steal/kidnap Chet because they want him to be their dog: 3
Number of books where Chet and Bernie are hired by a mother, and must find her child: 2 (3 if you count a dog as a child)
Number of books where we find out that the child was kidnapped because the woman's husband is involved with criminals: 2 (3 if you count a dog as a child)

Seriously, Spencer Quinn seem to be writing the same book over and over. The writing is great, but please! Find somebody to help come up with more creative plots! Not sure if I'll bother to read any more. A real shame.
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Various 18xx rulebooks. Absolutely riveting.
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Jonan Jello
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Jack Vance never ceases to amaze me.
I've read many of his books, but never completed his four Dying Earth stories.
A couple of summers back, I managed to read,enjoy and annotate for my own pleasure in order to revisit memorable moments the first two stories, The Dying Earth and The Eyes of the Overworld from this collection with such a misleading sci-fi cover:


This July I spent a couple of weeks reading Cugel's Saga.
The initial premise the lead character finds himself is intriguing, but bizarre.
Cugel oversees and eventually partakes in the diving in a mud pit, blindly scavenging about for the scales of a god or demon named Sadlark who descended to the planet many years earlier yet disintegrated upon landing in the mire.
Cugel manages to find the most valuable scale, the Pectoral Sky-Break Spatterlight. With the scale, he continues his long journey home to face the wizard who banished him across the world in the previous story, Eyes of the Overworld.

Vance's universe of the earth during the last years of the dying sun is captivating, full of small moments of violence, passing mentions of implied terrifying flora and fauna, moments of appealing appetizers and drink, eloquent dialogue and many laugh out loud moments. And of course, plenty of sailing and seavoyaging.

At times Vance's writing feels like it's improv, like he's making it up on fly. Vance mentions so many details and locales, yet does not expand on them. Perhaps they're just small flourishes to help flesh out the world and allow the reader to formulate or guess for themselves what they imply.

It's neat to know Vance's Dying Earth series helped influence the early years of Dungeons and Dragons.

I'm currently on the final story, Rhialto the Marvellous, but can't say it's as fun and engrossing as the first three books.
Here's hoping my opinion changes.

Years ago, I flew to Peoria, Illinois to meet and dine with author, Phillip Jose Farmer and a bunch of his fans.
Knowing Jack Vance lived just up the freeway from me and was apparently welcoming of visiting fans, I wish I had made the effort to meet him before he passed away.


By the way, this is the cover I like most. The lead character, with the Spatterlight scale, his magically sharpened sword, and the lizards that chase him on a couple of occasions. Not pictured are his boots, polished with magic-endowing ointment and a length of magic rope he employs on several occasions.
And, in the background, the dying sun.


* sorry for so many edits. Cleaning up typos.
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Chanel Nye
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Currently reading After You by Jojo Moyers and The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty - both have been super good reads so far! After You is about recovery from loss and moving forward, while The Hypnotist's Love Story is (obviously) a love story with a bit of drama and mystery mixed in. I would recommend them if either sounds interesting to you!

I recently finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and that's a super good read about futuristic virtual reality with a rags-to-riches background. It's also going to become a film in 2018 so if you're into books that turn into movies, this is a great choice!

Happy reading
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J J
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The Nightmare Stacks, by Charles Stross.
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Hex_Enduction_Hour wrote:
Jack Vance never ceases to amaze me.
I've read many of his books, but never completed his four Dying Earth stories.
A couple of summers back, I managed to read,enjoy and annotate for my own pleasure in order to revisit memorable moments the first two stories, The Dying Earth and The Eyes of the Overworld from this collection with such a misleading sci-fi cover:


This July I spent a couple of weeks reading Cugel's Saga.
The initial premise the lead character finds himself is intriguing, but bizarre.
Cugel oversees and eventually partakes in the diving in a mud pit, blindly scavenging about for the scales of a god or demon named Sadlark who descended to the planet many years earlier yet disintegrated upon landing in the mire.
Cugel manages to find the most valuable scale, the Pectoral Sky-Break Spatterlight. With the scale, he continues his long journey home to face the wizard who banished him across the world in the previous story, Eyes of the Overworld.

Vance's universe of the earth during the last years of the dying sun is captivating, full of small moments of violence, passing mentions of implied terrifying flora and fauna, moments of appealing appetizers and drink, eloquent dialogue and many laugh out loud moments. And of course, plenty of sailing and seavoyaging.

At times Vance's writing feels like it's improv, like he's making it up on fly. Vance mentions so many details and locales, yet does not expand on them. Perhaps they're just small flourishes to help flesh out the world and allow the reader to formulate or guess for themselves what they imply.

It's neat to know Vance's Dying Earth series helped influence the early years of Dungeons and Dragons.

I'm currently on the final story, Rhialto the Marvellous, but can't say it's as fun and engrossing as the first three books.
Here's hoping my opinion changes.

Years ago, I flew to Peoria, Illinois to meet and dine with author, Phillip Jose Farmer and a bunch of his fans.
Knowing Jack Vance lived just up the freeway from me and was apparently welcoming of visiting fans, I wish I had made the effort to meet him before he passed away.


By the way, this is the cover I like most. The lead character, with the Spatterlight scale, his magically sharpened sword, and the lizards that chase him on a couple of occasions. Not pictured are his boots, polished with magic-endowing ointment and a length of magic rope he employs on several occasions.
And, in the background, the dying sun.


* sorry for so many edits. Cleaning up typos.


One of my favourite series, but I always skip Rhialto. Much weaker than the other three books.

Reading Vance I always needed to have a dictionary at hand.
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In July I finished the Witcher series (those published so far).





and

The books get better and better, I really love the dark grim world and how everything is interconnected. The characters are amazing as well. If you have played the games this is a must read. If you like dark fantasy you can't go wrong here.

I couldn't wait for the last book of the series to be translated (supposed to be out next year) so ordered some fan translation. Will be interesting to see how it holds up.
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Sorry I don't have time to write larger reviews this morning or to find any spiffy book cover images (if someone will post a clue about how to access this "d.gr-assets" that everyone is using for those, that would be good), but I have had a fairly active reading month in July.

Several of the books that I read were because I saw the movies, and everyone knows that the book is nearly always better than the movie.





World War Z (Max Brooks) -- I first read the book years ago, but after seeing the movie on TV recently, I pulled it out of my library to read again. Comparing the two now, I disagree with those who hate the movie because it doesn't follow the book -- the movie is a decent zombie film on its own, though the book is indeed far more interesting in my view.

One Shot (Lee Child) -- I happened to catch the Tom Cruise movie Jack Reacher on TV one night, went to IMDb to read about it, and learned that it's based on a book, and that's how I've discovered the Jack Reacher crime/mystery series. I've now read two of them, and actively look for any others every time I got into a Goodwill or other thrift store.

The Family Corleone (Ed Falco) -- found this in a Goodwill without having known of it before. It's a prequel to The Godfather the book, and was written with the approval and support of Mario Puzo's estate. It's an interesting read for fans of the book, probably less so for fans of the movie who've not read the original.

A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean) -- after watching for it for quite a few years, I finally did find a nice cheap copy of this in a thrift store and pounced on it, because the movie has long been one of my favorites. There are two other (considerably shorter) novellas in the book, but I had nearly no interest in those, wanting only to read the title story. It's not a keeper that I'll want to file in my library to reread some year, but it's a fine story that I would heartily recommend to any fan of the film.

Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever (Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell) -- this is my serious non-fiction entry for July. I have to lay some groundwork by saying that even though I've never been a competitive cyclist, I have been a serious rider for much of my life, with many thousands of miles as a bicycle commuter, fitness cyclist, and recreational rider. I also am a huge fan of the world's great sporting events, and have long had at least some passing interest in Le Tour de France. So I really got caught up completely in the Lance Armstrong years, even getting up early on my days off to watch the race stages live and following all the stats and stars of the entire event.

Then it came out at last that Lance really had cheated, that the accusations were NOT empty whining born of envy, and it broke. my. heart.

Now I would not cross the street to pee on Lance Armstrong if he were on fire.



I long ago boxed up all of my "fan" books about Lance and Le Tour and took them to the Goodwill, but when I spotted this text on the shelf and saw how very well researched and written it is, I figured I'd read the full story. Wow. Things were so much worse than just about any of us not directly connected to the sordid saga ever imagined.

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Michael Howden
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Gambiteer wrote:

Sorry I don't have time to write larger reviews this morning or to find any spiffy book cover images (if someone will post a clue about how to access this "d.gr-assets" that everyone is using for those, that would be good), but I have had a fairly active reading month in July.


Goodreads.com
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I've had trouble finding enough time to sit down long enough to read anything lately but I've been listening to audiobooks on my way to and from work.

Last month I listened to Anansi Boys read by Lenny Henry and I freaking loved it. Henry had different voices and accents for almost all of the characters. He really brought the book to life and made me instantly google to see what other audio books he's done. (Sadly, just one children's book as far as I could tell.) Anyway, I liked it so much that sometimes I would just sit in the car to find out what happens next even though I was already at my destination. "Oh no, I'm home already? cry I can't go in NOW! Cool stuff is happening!!!"



Out of five stars my rating of Anansi Boys is:
Book:


Reader:
meeple


Oh and as for actual reading, I'm trying to read Death Masks, Book 5 of the Dresden Files. I'm having a lot of trouble getting into it and don't look forward to picking it up in the evenings. Seems like more of the same from book 4, 3, 2 and 1. Very formulaic. Been picking this book up and putting it down for the past 8 weeks with not much progress made on it.

Also, The Fatal Shore: The Epic History of Australia's Founding bought used from Amazon. That one is pretty interesting but the book came to me partially covered in brown stains that look disturbingly like dried blood and smells strongly of mold so most of the time I have a hard time convincing myself to pick it up to read it. I will probably end up throwing it away.

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Plutarch's Staff
by Yves Sente, André Juillard


This is quite a good prequel to E.P. Jacobs' first Blake and Mortimer adventures, and in a way, redeems the non-stop action of the three-parter that originally kicked off the series by providing some good background and better establishing the characters and their situations.

Plutarch's Staff is set during WWII, just prior to the landing at Normandy. It depicts the first meeting of Blake and Mortimer as adults (they'd previously met in India when both were students), and introduces them both to Col. Olrik, who of course becomes their arch enemy.

It's quite a well-paced adventure, opening with some aerial dogfighting over London, a bit of Bletchley Park codebreaking, a plan to distract the Nazis from the impending Normandy invasion, a mission to Gibraltar, and some double-agents and double-double agents. And it leads directly into The Secret of the Swordfish. It's a prequel that works so well in setting up the series that it feels like it was always meant to be a part of the saga.

The WWII setting also worked so well that it makes me wish for another Blake and Mortimer during that time period. Yet with this being a prequel to the series, and the prior book a sequel to The Yellow M, I'm ready to get back to the normal Blake and Mortimer timeline. (If such a thing exists.)




If You're Reading This It's Too Late
by Pseudonymous Bosch


Read this second book in the "Secret" series to the kids which, even more than the first book, felt like A Series of Unfortunate Events -- the series it's seemingly trying to ape while trying desperately not to ape it.

It's also weirder than the first book. And while I appreciated the developing backstory, I find myself becoming increasingly annoyed that few kids' books these days feature kids who are just kids. They're always special in some way. Special powers, special ancestry, special magical artifacts they carry around. It's not exactly Magic Feather Syndrome, but it's close. And it needs some kind of a name.

This feels like a modern development. I just don't find it in a lot of the older kid lit I read to them. The older books feature kids who are just kids. And though they often have grand adventures or get mixed up in historical events, they aren't graced with magical talents or superpowers or anything. They're just normal. Seems to me that instead of "everyone is special in some special way!" the message kids' books need to reinforce is that even though we're all pretty average and none of us is magical, we can still have a pretty awesome story.

As for this particular book, it sets the kids from the first book on the trail of a homunculus who the Bad Guys are trying to find because it knows the location of the grave of the alchemist who created it, and they need . . . something . . . so they can learn the secret of immortality. Or something. Dang, I forget. I guess it didn't have much staying power.

Entertaining enough for the moment, then . . . gone.




The 13 Clocks
by James Thurber


This is surely one of the most bizarre books I've ever read -- certainly among those written for children. (Or is it?)

Thurber's strange fairy tale is a book that demands to be read aloud so that the rhyme and meter of the text can be fully appreciated. Thurber employs a dizzying array of wordplay and wraps sentences around themselves and ties them in knots.

Here's an example of the sort of prose you encounter:

The brambles and the thorns grew thick and thicker in a ticking thicket of bickering crickets. Farther along and stronger, bonged the gongs of a throng of frogs, green and vivid on their lily pads. From the sky came the crying of flies, and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets.

Is that good? Is that bad? Is that a "so awful it's awesome" kind of thing?

And then you have the Marc Simont illustrations that are outstanding . . . and at times slightly unsettling.



“Something very much like nothing anyone had ever seen before came trotting down the stairs and crossed the room.

"What is that?" the Duke asked, palely.

"I don't know what it is," said Hark, "but it's the only one there ever was.”


This book is as hard to describe as the Golux's hat.




Emil and the Detectives
by Erich Kästner


From what I've read, this famous German children's book is notable for being one of the early "kid detective" stories. It's . . . okay.

Emil boards a train to visit family in Berlin, taking some money that is pinned safely inside his coat. He falls asleep on the train, and when he wakes, the money is gone. He sets out in search of the thief -- the man who was sharing his train compartment.

It's no mystery who stole the money. The identity of the thief is never in question -- the only question is whether Emil (and the local boys he enlists) can keep an eye on the thief and get the money back.

From what I can tell from reading other reviews, some translations are absolutely awful, using very modern (American) English. This translation was fairly good, although it was weird encountering what I knew to be very British terms and phrases in a book I knew was German.

Aside from that, the story just didn't stand out as interesting enough to justify its reputation, which I think has more to do with time and place. Information about this book typically mentions how this was one of the few books by Kästner not banned by the Nazis because of its popularity.
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Doomfarer wrote:

One of my favourite series, but I always skip Rhialto. Much weaker than the other three books.

Reading Vance I always needed to have a dictionary at hand.

Paul, I enjoy that each of the DE books is a different in approach from the previous, but agree, Rhialto is shaping up to be my least favorite of the four. I'm only on the first story, but am hoping the other prove more entertaining.

Yes, I too need to keep a dictionary!
I love looking up words. Reminds me of my youth practicing dictionary skills in school.


~


Drew, not sure why I haven't read any Blake & Mortimer comics!
I really need to remedy that. Do you have a recommendation as a start point? Also, are you familiar with the game, Witness?

Why do you read children books?
As well from the necessity raising three children, I taught second grade for over a decade and read multiple stories to kids on a daily basis (one of the best entertaining times of the school day for me)and became a huge fan of children's books.*

The 13 Clocks sounds fascinating and Marc Simont is indeed a seriously subtle, but awesome illustrator. Always enjoyed his pictures or the Nate the Great series and In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. A bit sad to read he passed in 2013. I need to check out The 13 Clocks!

Emil and the Detectives I'll take a pass, but the cover art looks really good.
Quote:
From what I can tell from reading other reviews, some translations are absolutely awful, using very modern (American) English. This translation was fairly good, although it was weird encountering what I knew to be very British terms and phrases in a book I knew was German.

The manga series, Blade of the Immortal apparently loses a massive amount of its storytelling magic and impact when translated from the Japanese language. Wish I could experience what it's like in its purest from.


* Some of my all-time favorite read aloud children's books series/authors:
Of course, Shel Silverstein and Seuss, but also Judith Byron Schachner (Skippyjon Jones), Don Freeman, Peter Sis (his work is amazing and all kinds of off-kilter crazy creative). Jack Pretlusky, Jon Agee and so many more...

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

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Different cover, but this:



By this point of the series, the characters are comfortable in your mind and you don't need much plot or mystery to keep you amused. You're just eavesdropping on old friends, and seeing how they are getting along with each other.

So, as a crime fiction story, on its own merits:
Taken as part of the whole Inspector Rebus "milieu":
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Passage of Arms - Eric Ambler. Spy Thriller

Farewell My Lovely - Raymond Chandler.Private dick

Murders in Strangmoor Bog - Mike Carrier. Mystery/Thriller. Local author

The Wealth of Nations
- Adam Smith. Economic. I'll finish this before I die

The Girl in Cabin 10
- Ruth Ware. Mystery. Drags on too long
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This was a very interesting read, but it helps if you have some physics background (which I do).

A lot of the "impossible" stuff in the book the author thinks may be possible for a Type III civilization:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale

A type III civilization is one that uses all the power of their galaxy.
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Drew
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Hex_Enduction_Hour wrote:
Drew, not sure why I haven't read any Blake & Mortimer comics! I really need to remedy that. Do you have a recommendation as a start point?


I fear if you started with E.P. Jacobs' first volumes, you might be disappointed. But let me give you some backstory.

I've always been a big fan of The Adventures of Tintin since first discovering them when I was a kid back in the 70s. I quickly collected everything that was in print, and then, of course, there weren't anymore.

For years, I actually had recurring dreams of happily discovering new Tintin books that I didn't know existed.

Flash-forward to a few years ago, when I ran across a Blake and Mortimer book during some random internet search. I was struck by how similar the clear line art was to the style of Tintin. I discovered that Jacobs actually collaborated with Herge on several middle-period Tintin, and then he did his own series featuring Blake and Mortimer.

At that time, the earliest Blake and Mortimer books readily available in English were the two-parter: "The Mystery of the Great Pyramid." (Actually the fourth and fifth books.) I bought these two. They're very much in the vein of the Adventures of Tintin (with remarkably similiar illustration style), but written at a higher level. Often a lot more wordy. (One of Jacobs' faults was that he'd frequently fill a single word balloon with a huge wall of text.)

And I enjoyed the heck out of them. And then I started working my way through the series in release order.

The thing about Blake and Mortimer is that unlike Tintin, new writers and illustrators picked up the series after Jacobs' death and continued it. And they have done an excellent job. The non-Jacobs' volumes are, in my view, quite a bit better. Not so many "wall of text" panels, and the plotting feels a bit more modern -- although they're still firmly set in the Cold War era, which I like.

Since I discovered them, all of the books from the Jacobs era have been reprinted in English. (The last one -- the second part of a story half-finished when Jacobs died) is due out . . . this month I think.)

The thing is, the very first books -- the three-part "Secret of the Swordfish" -- really isn't all that great. It's mostly an action piece, and doesn't take time to slow down and breathe. The book I listed above is the most recent release, but works as a prequel to this first two-parter, and actually redeems many of the issues I had with it.

Start with "Secret of the Swordfish" if you are the sort of person who needs to do things in their proper order. But they get a lot better after that. (With some side-trips into the "not-so-great" -- "The Time Trap" is a weird time-travel story that didn't impress me, and "Atlantis Mystery" is good -- but really stretches the limits of how far Blake and Mortimer delves into speculative fiction. I liked it, though, because it felt like a good pulpy sci fi story.)

Quote:
Also, are you familiar with the game, Witness?


Yes, but I haven't tried it. Curious about it, though.

Quote:
Why do you read children books?


I've had a consistent habit of reading to my kids every night since they were old enough for chapter books. It's a regular evening ritual. (I possibly enjoy it more than they do.)

For about a decade I worked for a curriculum publisher writing and editing study guides for children's books, so I kind of have that interest in them in my background as well.
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Children Of Earth And Sky (2016), by Guy Kay. It was what you would expect from Kay, which is to say it was fantastic. I loved it.
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I used to be addicted to the hokey pokey, but then I turned myself around.
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Read whatever you enjoy. cool
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sunkencheerio wrote:
I've had trouble finding enough time to sit down long enough to read anything lately but I've been listening to audiobooks on my way to and from work.

Last month I listened to Anansi Boys read by Lenny Henry and I freaking loved it. Henry had different voices and accents for almost all of the characters. He really brought the book to life and made me instantly google to see what other audio books he's done. (Sadly, just one children's book as far as I could tell.) Anyway, I liked it so much that sometimes I would just sit in the car to find out what happens next even though I was already at my destination. "Oh no, I'm home already? cry I can't go in NOW! Cool stuff is happening!!!"



Out of five stars my rating of Anansi Boys is:
Book:




Reader:
meeple


Oh and as for actual reading, I'm trying to read Death Masks, Book 5 of the Dresden Files. I'm having a lot of trouble getting into it and don't look forward to picking it up in the evenings. Seems like more of the same from book 4, 3, 2 and 1. Very formulaic. Been picking this book up and putting it down for the past 8 weeks with not much progress made on it.

Also, The Fatal Shore: The Epic History of Australia's Founding bought used from Amazon. That one is pretty interesting but the book came to me partially covered in brown stains that look disturbingly like dried blood and smells strongly of mold so most of the time I have a hard time convincing myself to pick it up to read it. I will probably end up throwing it away.



Yeah, for me the Dresden books got stale after about the first 6 or 7. I'm just starting his newest series, the Cinder Spires, with book 1, " The Aeronaut's Windlass".
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tactitles wrote:

Yeah, for me the Dresden books got stale after about the first 6 or 7. I'm just starting his newest series, the Cinder Spires, with book 1, " The Aeronaut's Windlass".


I thought it was just me. I've been stuck in the middle of 5 for a loooooing time. Maybe I'll try his new series
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I just started with the first published Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet. Really looking forward to reading all the stories again.


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To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
21 Gay Street – Lawrence Block
Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett
Horns – Joe Hill

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

As I stated on Facebook when I started Harper Lee's classic, "I picked quite a week to read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time."

I somehow missed this in High School (not so surprising in England) and also as an Undergraduate (less excusable seeing as one of my classes was "American Literature".) And after school I just never got around to it, despite it being a touchstone for so many pop culture references I encounter every day. With the buzz surrounding the authorized / unauthorized sequel I finally started reading.

And the country was once again jarred by racial killings.

It is amazing to see at once how far we (think we) have come, and how little some things have changed. It is terribly sad that the book is still so relevant, but we are fortunate that it was written with such a deft hand, with such love and care. If you're still waiting to read this almost gentle, almost simple tale I am sad to say there is still no better time than now . . .

Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett

Back to safer, firmer ground. At least that was the plan. This long time favorite, unread in a decade and more actually left me pretty flat. There are still some wonderful, laugh out loud moments, but as a whole I just don't love this one the way I wanted to. The way I used to.

Now, mediocre Pratchett is still better than the best many other writers can achieve, but it is striking to see how my tastes have changed over the years. I used to love Death of the Discworld, but he seems to annoy me more than anything these days, just a one trick pony. Looking forward to continuing through the books and seeing how other old favorites have held up. (I am fearful for my old pal, Carrot . . .)

21 Gay Street – Lawrence Block

But first I picked up a "new" Lawrence Block on a whim, one of the first things he ever published, a light piece of pulp erotica which he is finally admitting to (and self-publishing) along with a couple of dozen other similar pieces as "The Classic Erotica Collection".

But it's Block, so it's a long way from just smut. (It's also over 50 years old and the goalposts have all moved . . .)

It's a young girl moving from the Midwest to an apartment in New York's Greenwich Village and the other tenants that she meets and to one degree or other "interacts" with. It has the structure of a good girl turns bad morality tale, but it's Block so it is somewhat turned on its head.

There *is* a hugely uncomfortable mass roofie scene at a party which today might negate everything that comes after, but in context Block moves the story from this shocking moment to a most tender ending (by way of a fascinating aside into the mind of a writer forced to learn to write for pay rather than art . . .)

This was an unexpected and extraordinarily quick read and it's good to know that, when he finally stops writing, even after I've read (or reread) all of the Scudder and Keller and Harrison and Rhodenbar series of novels, there is still an astounding amount of quality Lawrence Block material out there for me to keep reading. Even his disposable, borderline offensive crap is better than much of what is published on a daily basis!

And for my money nobody writes New York City better.

Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett

Another old favorite, and another Pratchett that holds up . . . inconsistently. Again, there are moments which have me gasping for breath I'm laughing so hard. And I still love the shape of the story - both the one the Witches are actually in and the one they are trying to stop.

Maybe time has built some of these up much larger than the books themselves can compete with. There are lines which floored me on first reading which I almost miss today. For example, while the concept felt perfectly formed and helped inform my own identity when I first read it in High School or early at University, this moment no longer appears to have any heat, and power when I read it as a "grown up":

Spoiler (click to reveal)
When the mirror tells Granny Weatherwax she can leave when she figures out which of the millions of reflections is the real one, and she looks down (after asking if it's a trick question) and says "This one."

What's next?

Horns – Joe Hill

I really wasn't expecting to have read anything else in July, but I simply inhaled this one. I enjoyed Heart Shaped Box and flat out loved NOS4A2, and was once again captured by the ease of Hill's writing. He throws you into situations which are not normal, and somehow has you accepting the premise immediately and absolutely.

I read the whole thing in about 2 days. I always read fast, but rarely that fast . . .

And perhaps I didn't do myself or the words justice. While Hill has joined a very short list of authors whose new works I will pick up almost immediately, I didn't actually enjoy Horns as much as he previous books. I'm still not sure whether the story is more slight, or if in flying through it I didn't take the time to digest, to understand as much as I might have.

But it was still mighty fine popcorn . . .
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Drew
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Thanks for the rent-free space in your head. Would have been nice if you'd cleaned it up a bit before you rented it out, though.
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vidbot wrote:
I just started with the first published Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet. Really looking forward to reading all the stories again.


I first read that a couple years ago, and remember thinking "Where are the fog-bound London streets? Why is half the book set in the American West and featuring Mormons?!"
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