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Search tags: planned-for-2018
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review 2018-07-19 19:27
Changes / Jim Butcher
Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) - Jim Butcher

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.

 

Jim Butcher must sit up nights thinking up ways to make Harry Dresden’s life miserable! Just when you think that his life can’t get any more complicated, Butcher dreams up worse things for him to deal with.

Susan Rodriguez returns to mess with Harry’s reality—and inform him that he’s a father and his little girl is in tremendous danger from the Red Court vampires. Harry has spent the last 11 books gathering friends, allies, and frenemies. He has to call on all of them, all his talents, all his anger & power, and all of his cunning to get through this tangle.

So Butcher throws everything into the blender and gives it a good whirl. There is a lot of action, a lot of blood, a lot of characters. I was happy to see the return of Butters and Toot-Toot. Also, it was great to have Mouse get to show off his powers. Harry makes a questionable deal in order to cope with the situation and gets assistance from unexpected quarters. The book ends on a cliff-hanger, so if you object to that sort of thing, consider having the next book queued up and ready to roll. Because, let’s face it, if you’ve read this far, you’re not going to quit now, are you?

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text 2018-07-18 14:56
Reading progress update: I've read 189 out of 448 pages.
Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) - Jim Butcher

 

 

A little urban fantasy pick-me-up.

 

 

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review 2018-07-06 21:46
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold / John Le Carré
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold - John le Carré

In this classic, John le Carre's third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has other plans. Determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization, Control once more sends Leamas into the fray -- this time to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to his ultimate defeat.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

I can’t have a Summer of Spies without reading John Le Carré, he’s written too many of the most well-known espionage classics. Having enjoyed The Constant Gardener, I decided to switch gears and try something in the Smiley series. George doesn’t feature very much in this book, although he certainly does make an appearance. While his presence seems trivial at first, by book’s end I realized that he’d played an interesting role in the outcome.

This novel took me back to the bad old days of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and the risks of defection from behind the Iron Curtain. All the stuff that I studied in junior high & high school. I also remember when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989—it was a time of great hopefulness that seems like a naïve, idealistic dream nowadays. I was impressed by the gritty but beautiful descriptions of things, the wheels within wheels of plotting, and how well Le Carré led me down the garden path, only to surprise me during the last pages.

You couldn’t get much more different from the fantasy-spy James Bond tales! Cocktails vs. alcoholism, sophisticated women vs. a plain library worker, gambling at a casino vs. gambling with your life. There’s not much in Alec Leamas’ life that any reader would aspire to and no one in their right mind would want to change places with him. And yet, I like Le Carré’s version better. At least Leamas values his Elizabeth and tries to protect her, not because she is some frail female flower, but because all human beings deserve to be protected from being abused.

A must-read if you are interested in the espionage genre.

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review 2018-07-05 16:30
The Name of the Star / Maureen Johnson
The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson

Jack the Ripper is back, and he's coming for Rory next....

 

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him - the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target...unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

 

Another example of really enjoyable YA literature. It reminded me of Paul Cornell’s London Falling (although it is not nearly so dark) what with the Jack the Ripper references and ghostly presences. But the main character, Rory Deveraux, made me think of Karen Marie Moning’s MacKayla Lane (the Fever series)—both are Southern girls with professional parents who go to school in the U.K. Both girls are capable of seeing things that ordinary people can’t—MacKayla sees the Fae, Rory sees dead people. However, Rory is much less self-absorbed & she is smarter and funnier as a main character.

I really enjoy this author’s sense of humour! I adored her descriptions of Claudia, the school’s house mother: “Something about her suggested that her leisure activities included wrestling large woodland animals and banging bricks together.” She is, in fact, the field hockey coach and very devoted to that sport. Later, Rory says, “She introduced herself to my parents with one of her mighty, bunny-crushing handshakes. (I’d never seen Claudia crush a bunny, to be fair, but that’s the approximate level of pressure.)” Perhaps she’s a bit of a female Hagrid, despite the fact that this is not a school for wizards.

The real details of homework, living in residence, cafeteria meals, etc. grounded the novel for me. Rory gets drawn into the paranormal gradually, but still has to cope with reading assignments and essays like a regular student. Rory has just the right amount of snark in her soul to make all these tea-drinking, field hockey-dreading moments highly entertaining. She also acquires a small circle of reliable friends, reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to pick up book two, but I am very much looking forward to it!

 

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review 2018-07-04 19:31
Looking for Alaska / John Green
Looking for Alaska - John Green

Before: Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After: Nothing is ever the same.

 

This is my first foray into John Green’s writing, undertaken for my real life book club during our year of reading young adult literature. It seemed appropriate to include one of Green’s books, since he is sometimes credited “with ushering in a new golden era for contemporary, realistic, literary teen fiction, following more than a decade of dominance by books about young wizards, sparkly vampires, and dystopia.” (Wikipedia).

Looking for Alaska is his first published novel. One of the things that I did appreciate about it was its male narrator, Miles “Pudge” Halter. A story of a young man, written by a male author, something that we could use more of in the world of YA. One presumes that Green, having been an adolescent boy, would bring his experience to the novel and that seemed to me to be the case. Of course, my only way of judging is from comparison to my long-ago experience of being a teen girl.

I also appreciated the strong character of Alaska Young, the young woman who provides the lynch-pin of Halter’s boarding school life. She is intelligent (coaching the boys in mathematics) and a reader with a large collection of books in her room. But she is also cool, smoking & drinking & presumably sexually active (we readers only see the first two activities). She challenges the boys regularly on matters of female objectification and patriarchy. But she has a boyfriend outside of the boarding school, which makes her off-limits as a potential girlfriend to the boys—nevertheless, they all fall for the beautiful Alaska and hope to be the one to catch her fancy should she break up with Jake.

I liked all those features—so why only 3 stars? Because I felt really emotionally manipulated during my reading. My first few tears were shed in the coffee room at work, and I decided to finish up the book at home rather than cry in the workplace. For my money, Patrick Ness does a much better job at writing a YA book on grief in A Monster Calls. I cried over that one too, but it felt a bit more honest to me somehow.

Mind you, I would never discourage anyone from reading Looking for Alaska. I consider 3 stars to be a pretty good rating and I’m sure that younger readers would rate the novel higher than I do. And it certainly provides the young male viewpoint that is needed to attract young men into the world of reading.

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