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text 2018-04-16 22:32
Reading progress update: I've read 30%. - how peculiar
Odd & True - Cat Winters

"Odd and True" is, as one GR reviewer put it, "supernatural but historical fiction with sisters".


I'm 30% of the way through the book and so far nothing has happened except that I am completely fascinated.


It seems to me that this is a book that is about the nature of knoweldge, the ambiguity of truth and the power of the bond between sisters who grew up with only each other to rely on.


It is a truly peculiar book that can only be defined in reference to itself.

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review 2018-04-15 13:21
"Thunderbird Falls - Walker Papers #2" by C. E. Murphy - entertaining urban fantasy
Thunderbird Falls - C.E. Murphy

"Thunderbird Falls"delivered exactly what I was looking for this weekend: relaxing, escapist, entertainment that demanded nothing much from me except the suspension of disbelief and a willingness to open my imagination to astral plane encounters.


"Thunderbird Falls"follows on from "Urban Shaman". It deals with Joanne Walker trying to come to terms with being a Shaman when her preference is just to be a mechanic and not to believe in anything magical.


I liked the development of the relationships Walker established in the first book: the 70+ taxi driver with charisma and good humour, her love-hate there's-more-to-me-than-you-know Police Captain and her I-wear-nail-polish-because-I-like-it-and-it-unsettles-people Police Detective colleague. This gives the basis for a good ensemble cast for the rest of the series.


Walker spends a lot of this book revisiting her hidden-from-everyone-she-cares-about past. This is nicely done, striking a good balance between maudlin introspection and epiphany.


The plot is moderately complicated and brings in a whole coven of witches and some new and very scary bad guys. The astral battles are vividly described. What I liked most was that Walker is allowed to make a lot of mistakes in this book rather than glided along effortlessly as so many heroes seem to do. I also enjoyed the theme that explored the nature and use of sacrifice of yourself and others.


There was nothing in the book that made me go "Wow" but nothing that made me want to skip forward either. I enjoyed myself and cheered at the end. I'll get to the third book the next time I want a chilled weekend with a book.




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review 2018-04-10 17:56
"American By Day" by Derek B. Miller - highly recommended.
American By Day - Derek B. Miller

"American By Day" would make a wonderful movie. It's entertaining, original and accessible. Like most wonderful movies it's underpinned by a serious intent to take a fresh look at difficult issues and a refusal simply to rearrange clichés into new patterns like turning a kaleidoscope.


"American By Day" is as easy and as amusing to read as a Carl Hiaasen novel but where Hiaasen is satisfied with using the eccentric to highlight the absurd, Derek Miller uses rational thought to challenge us to leave our pre-conceptions behind.


Set in 2008, the year of Obama's election, the book follows Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård, the Oslo police detective from Miller's wonderful "Norwegian By Night", to America in search of her missing brother.


At the end of "Norwegian By Night", Sigrid shot and killed a man who was running towards her, armed with a kitchen knife. At the beginning of "American By Day", Sigrid is officially cleared of any wrong-doing. This troubles her. She cannot let go of the idea that her assumptions and choices resulted in a young man's death. She wonders what assumptions and what choices would have to change in order for the young man not to die.


She returns to her father's farm to think about this. When her father tries to comfort her by saying he knows her well enough to know:

"...You wouldn’t have shot a man unless you thought it was necessary.” 

she replies

"“Maybe I shouldn’t have thought it necessary. That’s the part the police department is ignoring.”

With these questions fresh in her mind, Sigrid finds herself dispatched to Upstate New York to search for her brother who has gone missing. She arrives to find herself in the middle of an investigation into the death by fenestration of her brother's girlfriend. Her brother is the main suspect.


As Sigrid tries to use a mix of rational analysis and deep cunning to prevent her brother being killed by the police searching for him, we are lead through an exploration of American policing and the why so many encounters between the police and black men end up with the black men dead.


It would be easy for a book dealing with these topics to become a list of competing dog-whistle positions in which no-one listens or learns. Derek Miller avoids this by doing three things: letting me look at America through the lens of a strong, intelligent Norwegian woman who is coming to terms with what she wants from life and what she's able to have; by creating a wonderful local Sheriff who is a truly original free-thinking, bible-quoting, cowboy boot wearing man who wants to make things better and who acts as a foil for Sigrid's point of view and by using humour to keep the whole thing human, without humour the reality of life is inaccessible.


Through the discussion between Sigrid, the Sheriff and one of his Deputies, we are invited to see differently, to think differently and to act differently. It is argued that, if the results feel wrong yet the individual steps to that result feel right, then we are missing sometihng. Perhaps we are failing to see sometihng because we are blinded by our assumptions. Perhaps we are choosing not to see something because seeing it would force us to do something even if it's only admitting our own powerlessness or lack of courage.


Miller prevents this from being an abstract philosophical debate by keeping the questions and the consequences personal and immediate and by a careful and effective use of humour.to make the people in the story more human and to strip away the reader's ability to hide behind ideas so that we don't have to think about what we don't want to have to see.


Humour at its best helps us step back and see things differently, deflating pomposity, acknowledging the absurd and ruefully accepting our shared imperfections. Humour at it worst drives us towards hate, disparagement and a reinforcement of belief in the face of inconvenient facts.  Both types of humour tell us a great deal about who we are and how we really relate to each other.


"American By Day" works as a standalone novel. It's funny, has an interesting mystery at its heart and deals with issues that are at the centre of American identity without being simplistic or pompous.


The language in "American By Day" is also a delight, in a quiet, unostentatious way. As I read the ebook, I found myself constantly stopping to highlight descriptions that snagged my attention like fragments of brightly coloured glass in the sunlight. Here's an example commenting on the library Sigrid's father built in his home when his wife died:

"After Astrid died he filled the void of words unspoken with the new silence of books unread."

Here's a how Sigrid thinks of the lone travellers she sees eating in a 24hour Diner in the early hours of the morning:

"They hunch over food that is making them sicker and older but tastes familiar and comforting and reminds them of happier times when they were not here."

Here's how Sigrid describes the impact of her mother's death on her five -year-old-self:

"The absence of her mother created a strangeness to the world, as if the palette of the sky had inexplicably shifted and the mind never became fully accepting of that new condition."

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants a new light on old problems or who enjoys a well-written, funny, sometimes outrageous, mystery.





Go to the link below for an interview with Derek Miller if you'd like to know more about him and how he writes.




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text 2018-04-10 16:15
Reading progress update: I've read 2%. - there ought to be a warning...
Letters To My Husband - Stephanie Butland

...when a book will make you cry from the first page. And not cheap, easy to manipulate tears but the more expensive kind that are a muscle memory of loss.


I knew the book was made up of a widow writing letters to her dead husband but I hadn't expected a wave of raw grief to drown me on the first page.


This is going to be tough but it's going to be worth it.



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review 2018-04-07 08:43
"Buried - Twisted Cedar Mystery #1" by C. J. Carmichael - DNF - abandoned at 75%
A Buried Tale - C.J. Carmichael

I got three-quarters of the way through this book before abandoning it. According to the ebook software, I had about an hours worth of reading to go.


Why put it aside so close to the end? It had become obvious that this wasn't really a complete novel. I was sliding towards a cliff-hanger ending and would have had to wade my way through another book, perhaps two, to get any real resolution. I hate that.


Why did I let myself get so far into the book? Well, the premise of a librarian-slaughtering, cold-case serial killer being investigated by a famous true crime author who has to return to his left-as-soon-as-I-could-and-never-went-back hometown seemed intriguing.


How can you go wrong with that? C. J. Carmichael managed it by writing all the characters at arms-length so that I felt I was reading a profile rather than meeting a person. This is an achievement given that the story is told from the point of view of three characters, two women and one man, yet none of them has a distinctive voice. Throw in the fact that the crime writer turns out to be a weak, undisciplined man who has never grown up and who does not meet even the few commitments he makes and I was losing interest in him solving any murders.


I initially held out some hope for the second plot-line of the writer's sister marrying a man who is clearly going to turn out to be a controlling and abusive husband and who may have killed his first wife. Except the husband comes straight from the how-to-define-a-narcissist handbook and has no personality as an individual. This makes it harder to sympathise with the smart-but-blinded-by-lust woman he sets out to break.


I felt like I was one step away from watching "The Bold and the Beautiful" with a garnish of librarian-slaying. Now, I'm annoyed with myself for having wasted my time on this.

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