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Search tags: December-2014
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review 2016-09-19 15:55
Mystery Square
The Skeleton Road Hardcover - December 2, 2014 - Val McDermid

This book works best when the focus is on Maggie. While I enjoy the fact that Karen is not the sterotypical good looking women as well as the fact that she has friends. I even liked the Mint, her less than sharp sidekick. But the book truly sings when the focus is on Maggie because Karen's plot points are slightly been there, done that.

The book is good and riveting, however. It is a good read and ride

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review 2015-01-07 14:24
The Cherry on Top
For Valentine's (No Weddings, 4.5: a steamy nightcap novella) - Kat Bastion,Stone Bastion

Initial Reaction:

*sigh*

Gots me Cade fix ... Sad that it's over now :(

But it was good - Honey, closets, rooftop gardens and gondolas - couldn't ask for anything more!

 

 

Review:

 

Well, that's it. The last of Cade & Hannah and co. *queue sad face*

 

I am always a wee bit cautious when there is a novella at the end of a series. Experience taught me that I am often in for rather a disappointment than for a treat.

So I am beyond GLAD to say, this was good. In fact it was the cherry on top. Seriously. I love Cade (and Hannah). And I got all I could want from some more Cade-POV.

 

It's your perfect little cute&fluffy Valentine's fix with some delectable smut. And let's face it, we all deserve some extra smut since we waited two entire books to get some.

The banter between Cade and Hannah is still as fresh and amusing as in the first book. I love their little pj's and well it's what really made me fall in love with the two of them. We got some more little details added in this. Which keeps on amazing me. Seriously the Bastion's did some very good character building, and the details they added, just fabulous. This is a believable couple- their love for each other grounded, their relationship dynamic and full of sparks. I would be friends with them if they were in my RL.

 

There isn't much to say about the writing style, I obviously like it. I actually think that each installment of the series had an improvement. The writing style got better and better in my opinion. So well, For Valentine's has some beautifully written moments and is making me hope that we will see more books from this collaboration in the future.

 

The plot is actually rather action filled (and not just the smexy kind) and had me feeling all fuzzy grinny at the end. It's the perfect ending. I think I said that about Three Christmases.. but well, this one is even better.

The best part was "hanging"with Cade and Hannah again. The cast of No Weddings feel like old friends so this was awesome to revisit. I love when this happens and it speaks volumes about the character building.

I am really sad that it's over. But the end. It was the most real and perfect HEA. I totally adore this.

 

This would work as a stand alone. BUT why would your read this as one?! The series is to good to miss.

 

SOOOOO. Now all I got left... wondering what the Bastion's come up with next!

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review 2015-01-05 20:00
The Birds of Pandemonium / Michelle Raffin
The Birds of Pandemonium - Michele Raffin

Each morning at first light, Michele Raffin steps outside into the bewitching bird music that heralds another day at Pandemonium Aviaries. A full symphony that swells from the most vocal of more than 350 avian throats representing more than 40 species. “It knocks me out, every day,” she says.

Pandemonium, the home and bird sanctuary that Raffin shares with some of  the world’s most remarkable birds, is a conservation organization dedicated to saving and breeding birds at the edge of extinction, with the goal of eventually releasing them into the wild. In The Birds of Pandemonium, she lets us into her world--and theirs. Birds fall in love, mourn, rejoice, and sacrifice; they have a sense of humor, invent, plot, and cope. They can teach us volumes about the interrelationships of humans and animals.

Their amazing stories make up the heart of this book. There’s Sweetie, a tiny quail with an outsize personality; the inspiring Oscar, a disabled Lady Gouldian finch who can’t fly but finds a brilliant way to climb to the highest perches of his aviary to roost. The ecstatic reunion of a disabled Victoria crowned pigeon, Wing, and her brother, Coffee, is as wondrous as the silent kinship that develops between Amadeus, a one-legged turaco, and an autistic young visitor.

As we come to know the individual birds, we also come to understand how much is at stake for many of these species. One of the aviary’s greatest success stories is breeding the gorgeous green-naped pheasant pigeon, whose home in the New Guinea rainforest is being decimated. Thanks to efforts at Pandemonium, these birds may not share the same fate as the now-extinct dodo.

The Birds of Pandemonium is about one woman’s crusade to save precious lives, and it offers rare insights into how following a passion can transform not only oneself but also the world.

 

This is a charming memoir and very well written. Many of these personal account of birds (living with them or looking for them) are often kindly meant, but the authors are not equipped to write a truly engaging account. Raffin is not only an aviculturist but a communicator and it stands head and shoulders above the books of many enthusiasts.

My interest in the subject matter comes from two aspects of my life—many years as a birder, searching the wilds for birds like those Raffin is caring for, and as a volunteer, spending hours of my spring weekends dressed in a baggy white crane costume and rubber boots, exercising Whooping Crane chicks. I can personally attest to the different personalities of birds, although I didn’t find that Whooping Cranes exhibited many individual differences. They were very placid chicks, quite content to follow their odd leaders, draped in white, carrying a puppet to communicate with them and using a tape recorder of calls to make them feel comfortable. However, during my final year of this volunteer duty, I had occasion to exercise a group of three Sandhill Cranes and one Whooper. The differences between the two species were dramatic. The Sandhills soon figured out the game and would head off to do their own thing, while the Whooper and I would wander the enclosure, dutifully exercising together. I often called it my walking meditation—you had to remain silent and walk slowly, making sure that you didn’t step on the chick’s toes. Out on the rural facility where the crane breeding centre was located, it was a quiet environment beside a natural pond and I spent much of my time listening to and identifying the calls of wild birds beyond the enclosure.

Raffin explains clearly the challenges of keeping birds in captivity—they are sensitive creatures, often with very high blood pressures, which can easily be over-stimulated and suffer catastrophic deaths. They are susceptible to disease and often have very specific breeding or nesting needs. [For example, Flamingos require large flocks for successful nesting and zoos often put up mirrors in their winter quarters to visually increase the flock].

I think many of us can also relate to the incident which launched her into this world of breeding rare birds—that day that she stood on the side of a road, holding a wounded common bird, wondering what exactly to do with it. From such beginnings are great obsessions started.

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review 2015-01-05 16:01
Half-Blood Blues / Esi Edugyan
Half Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to the journey than he thought.

 

This is an extremely well written book—not surprising, I guess, since it was nominated for both the Man Booker and the Giller prizes. It took a period in history (the Second World War) that I care very little about and an aspect of that war that had never impinged on my consciousness (the Black experience of that war) and made me care very much indeed.

The story is told by Sidney Griffiths, a black jazz musician who is performing in Europe as the war is beginning. Sid is not a very likeable guy—he’s extremely jealous of any one more talented than him and is always looking for an angle to push himself forward. For me, he is a perfect example of not needing to love a main character to be interested in what happens to him and his cohort of fellow musicians. Maybe one of the reasons that I continued to care about Sid was the comparison to his life-long friend, Chip, another seemingly amoral character always looking for a way to advance his interests. Most of the time, Chip drags Sid along with him, although he’s not above dumping Sid if it becomes obvious that his pal will be a hindrance. Sid seems to do the advance planning for the group and is often on the hook for coffee or lunch bills—he can’t escape his feelings of responsibility.

I think the main reason that I continued to care about Sid was his obvious humanity. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt competitive, I’ve been jealous of someone who could do a better job that I could, I’ve found myself unwillingly plunged into “friendship” where I’ve felt used, and I’ve been spiteful. All the sins that Sid commits, I can envisage myself committing too. And by book’s end, we realize that Sid really does care about some of the shenigans that he has pulled—enough that he confesses to them and looks for forgiveness, an admirable act of bravery, and something that I question whether I would have had the fortitude to do in similar circumstances.

Ms. Edugyan makes you feel the oppression, taste the dust, tense with fear, and long to hear the jazz that these men perform. By happy accident, I heard an interview with Herbie Hancock the same day that I finished Half Blood Blues—and I am going have to check out some jazz in the near future.

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review 2015-01-05 15:57
The Silmarillion / J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but those who thought these two wonderful adventures marked the height of his imagination have many more delights to come. The Silmarillion represents the source of Tolkien's later work and follows the events of the First Age of Middle Earth. For information, The Lord of the Rings concerns the end of the Third Age.

The Silmarillion is a gloriously realised story of rebellion, exile, war and the heroism of elves and men. But to gain an insight into the staggering complexity of Tolkien's world, however, the shorter works also included are must-reads. Dealing with the myth of creation, the nature of the Gods, the fall of Númenor and the Rings of Power, they paint a vivid picture not only of Middle Earth but also of the author's soaring imagination.

 

Reading this volume had the same feel for me as reading the Old Testament—it is the background material for a whole system of thought. I guess that reveals my religious leanings—Middle Earth is where I hope my spirit goes when I die. But seriously, reading this historical background document to Middle Earth reminded me very much of a summer when I was a teenager when I decided to read through the whole Bible, with the thought that if I could understand the whole thing I might find something in it that I could use. During both reading experiences, I learned a lot.

There were some significant aspects of The Silmarillion that were strongly reminiscent of the Old Testament, the creation story at the beginning the strongest of those. Finally, I was able to see why so many people see Tolkien as a religious writer. Both The Hobbit and LOTR have both seemed very non-religious to me, almost pagan, so I have always been confused by that view point. Now I can see that the underpinnings of Middle Earth are very much based in Christian theology.

It also answered many questions I had about Middle Earth: why is Elrond known as Half-Elven? What is the history between the Elves and the Dwarves? Why is Aragorn a Ranger when we first meet him? Who exactly is Gil-galad and why do the Elves sing of him? Who the heck is Elbereth?

This book is not for the casual reader—it is for the Middle Earth aficionado, the Elf obsessed, the Hobbitophile. I was all of the above when I tried to read it in my 20s and I still failed. Now, in my 50s, I have the patience and concentration to appreciate this interesting history and I very much enjoyed it.

 

Book number 156 of my reading project, the NPR list of classic science fiction and fantasy.

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