SMALL SHEN is the amazing story of Gold -- a stone spirit and a chronic troublemaker in the court of the great Gods of Chinese mythology.
A mix of Kylie Chan′s brilliant storytelling and Queenie Chan′s beautiful illustrations, SMALL SHEN is a fantastic treat for fans of WHITE TIGER. Readers will be thrilled to discover the events leading up to John Chen and Emma Donahoe′s story in this wonderful prequel.
Shown through Queenie Chan′s stunning illustrations and comics, the story follows the stone spirit Gold′s entertaining adventures throughout history. His escapades include seducing a dragon princess, attempting to steal one of the Tiger′s wives, making bets with demons, and working for the Blue Dragon of the East.
Eventually, as a result of his crimes against Heaven and his constant philandering, Gold is ordered to join the household of Xuan Wu, the Dark Lord of the Northern Heavens. Xuan Wu is also known as John Chen, a Hong Kong businessman.
The story then follows Gold and Jade -- the dragon princess - in contemporary Hong Kong. The two small shen must help guard John Chen′s beloved human wife and baby daughter from demon attack.
I’m a fan of Kylie Chan’s series about the Taoist Gods. The series starts with White Tiger.
“A young woman accepts a position as nanny to the young daughter of a handsome, wealthy, and mysterious Chinese businessman only to discover her new employer is really a god and every foul demon in creation is out to destroy him!”
This is a very complex world that is developed through a lot of books. I was excited to see that there was a standalone story about Gold. I wanted to get it to read for Weirdathon in March. So when March came around I went to try to find it. That’s when I discovered that I wasn’t allowed to have it.
This book is not available outside of Australia. Ok, but there is this thing called the Internet and you can buy anything… or not. It turned out to be surprisingly difficult. By this time I was determined. Nothing will make you want something like being told you can’t have it.
I finally found a store willing to sell me a copy and based on the cost of shipping they must have sent it on the back of a flying unicorn to get to my house.
It was worth it though. I love the style of having a written novel interspersed with sections of graphic novel. I want the rest of the series like this. For a series based on gods who have any different aspects and presentations this is a big help.
The cover copy says that this is a good introduction to the series. I don’t think so. It does take place before the series starts but you don’t get the gentle introduction and world building that happens in the first book. If you feel like seeing a floating stone carrying towels to the human wives of a white tiger and then finding a snake and a turtle lounging in the pool would leave you with some questions, read the White Tiger first. For fans of the series this is a fun read about one of the essential secondary characters that you really don’t get to know much about.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“Over the past 3 years, Hardwick, Vermont, a typical hardscrabble farming community of 3,000 residents, has jump-started its economy and redefined its self-image through a local, self-sustaining food system unlike anything else in America. Even as the recent financial downturn threatens to cripple small businesses and privately owned farms, a stunning number of food-based businesses have grown in the region-Vermont Soy, Jasper Hill Farm, Pete’s Greens, Patchwork Farm & Bakery, Apple Cheek Farm, Claire’s Restaurant and Bar, and Bonnieview Farm, to name only a few. The mostly young entrepreneurs have created a network of community support; they meet regularly to share advice, equipment, and business plans, and to loan each other capital. Hardwick is fast becoming a model for other communities to replicate its success. Author Ben Hewitt presents the captivating story of a small town coming back to life, The Town That Food Saved is narrative nonfiction at its best: full of colorful characters and grounded in an idea that will revolutionize the way we eat.”
U.S. – Georgia, New York, Washington D.C., Nevada, Florida, and Alabama
I’m going to be at Book Expo America but I’m still planning on writing some posts for Armchair BEA because it is fun. I’m also going to be writing up a description of the discussion I’m helping to lead on Negative Reviews at Blogger Con for Armchair BEA.
There are some great topics for Armchair BEA this year. Make sure you check them out.
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
Ever 10 years the local wizard comes into the valley to choose a girl to live with him. Usually he chooses the most beautiful or talented. But this year, instead of taking Kasia who everyone knew was going to be the chosen one, he takes her friend Agnieszka because he recognizes her latent magical talent. He isn’t happy about having a student especially when Agnieszka can’t seem to master any spells.
There is a Wood at the end of the Valley. Monsters live in the wood. The wizard is supposed to protect the people in the valley from the Wood but there isn’t really much he can do. If anyone is taken by the monsters, they are dead.
When the Wood attacks Agnieszka’s home village and then takes someone that she cares for, she decides to use whatever magic she has to fight back.
I have a soft spot for non-World War II books set in Poland. This book is set in a fantasy version of Eastern Europe. The audio version of this book was done with a strong Eastern European accent which was a constant reminder of the world where it was set.
I like the fact that Agnieszka and the Dragon have very different systems of magic. At first they don’t even recognize the power that Agnieszka has because it is so different than what magic is supposed to look like.
There is a great story of female friendship here. That’s isn’t something that is always seen in fantasy books.
Spoiler – Highlight to read – She sleeps with someone and then goes on with her life when a relationship doesn’t develop. She doesn’t sit around and pine. There is some resolution of this at the end but there isn’t a happily ever after. That is refreshing.
I’m not a person who routinely says that books are too long but this one started to really drag after a while. I sped the audio up and powered through it. There was a complex political world that Agnieszka was thrown into and it went on and on.
The Dragon is always written as annoyed or glaring. Maybe he just a grumpy fella but don’t try to make sympathetic and a potential romantic interest while having him be nasty to the character that you want him to get romantic with. That’s no basis for a relationship.
There is a point where a prince comes to visit them. He attempts to rape Agnieszka. She realizes her power at this point and not only fends him off but almost kills him. The Dragon then explains this all to her by telling her that the Prince planned to insult him by raping her. We are into some seriously problematic territory now. Her personal autonomy doesn’t come into consideration at all. Then it gets worse. They decide to plant a false memory so he doesn’t realize that she was violent towards him. The Dragon gives her a choice of letting him think that she complied enthusiastically to his sexual advances and they had a great time or that she complied but was really bad at it. She half heartedly complains about this but no other options are considered. I mean, if you can implant a false memory why not have him think he got drunk at dinner and went to bed?
I liked it but it drug on audio. Maybe read this one instead so you can go faster. That’s sad because the narration was really well done.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
It's Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked "Midnight Robbers" waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival--until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth--and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life...and set her free.
Toussaint is a world first settled by people from the Caribbean. Everything is controlled and monitored by nanobots. People are provided for and no one needs to do manual labor unless they want to do it. Tan-Tan’s father is the mayor of her town. He and her mother have a tempestuous relationship. Both are immature and self-centered. When her father commits a crime, he knows how he will be punished. He will be sent through a dimensional rift to New Half-Way Tree, another version of Toussaint without the technology. This is a one way journey. No one ever comes back.
I’m been meaning to read Nalo Hopkinson for a while. In the beginning this was a very difficult book for me to read because of the Creole that it is written in. She uses pronouns and verb tenses that don’t match. It actually hurt to read. I’m such a grammar snob, that even though I knew it was deliberate, it was so jarring that I didn’t think I could get into the story because of it. Eventually, I was able to let it slide enough to read the story. I think it was the repetitive nature of the wrongness that numbed me to it.
Another thing I wondered while reading this – Are there any novels about Caribbean men that portray them in a positive light? Granted, I’ve only read novels written by Caribbean women so they may be biased but they can’t all be this horrible. Tan-Tan’s father is lazy and arrogant. He takes Tan-Tan to New Half-Way Tree with him without making any preparations for their new life. He is mean to the local population. He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. It is hard to read about Tan-Tan loving him so much when he is so awful.
This is also a story about colonization. There is a native race on New Half-Way Tree. The prisoner-immigrants from Toussaint treat them as inferior. They don’t know that the natives are playing along with their ignorance. Tan-Tan finds herself at the mercy of them after a few years on the planet. Should they help her or will her presence in their community lead to disaster?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
In 1876 Sophia Duleep Singh was born into Indian royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, one of the greatest empires of the Indian subcontinent, a realm that stretched from the lush Kashmir Valley to the craggy foothills of the Khyber Pass and included the mighty cities of Lahore and Peshawar. It was a territory irresistible to the British, who plundered everything, including the fabled Koh-I-Noor diamond.
Exiled to England, the dispossessed Maharajah transformed his estate at Elveden in Suffolk into a Moghul palace, its grounds stocked with leopards, monkeys and exotic birds. Sophia, god-daughter of Queen Victoria, was raised a genteel aristocratic Englishwoman: presented at court, afforded grace and favor lodgings at Hampton Court Palace and photographed wearing the latest fashions for the society pages. But when, in secret defiance of the British government, she travelled to India, she returned a revolutionary.
Sophia transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice and inequality, a far cry from the life to which she was born. Her causes were the struggle for Indian Independence, the fate of the lascars, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War – and, above all, the fight for female suffrage.
Ranjit Singh was the last ruling emperor of the Punjab.
After his death, the British used the confusion surrounding his heirs’ succession to move into the area. Most of the adult heirs died suspiciously. When it was over, the ruler of this prosperous area was an 1o year old boy, Duleep. His mother was very politically astute so the British had her exiled from the country and then forced the child-king to sign over his lands and the symbol of his rule, the Kor-i-Noor diamond.
Duleep Singh was then raised by British people until Queen Victoria decided that he was really cute and wanted him to go to England. She lavished attention on him and considered herself to be his best friend. He was not reunited with his mother until he was an adult.
Eventually Duleep married a woman from Egypt and had six children. The children were known as Princes and Princesses. Princess Sophia was his youngest surviving child from this marriage. Arrangements were made with the India office to provide for the family because they did not want them going back to India and stirring up trouble.
Sophia grew up in luxury until her father’s debts became too much. He then tried to return to India with the family but was taken off the ship at the Suez Canal. The family was sent back to England but Duleep Singh did not go with them. Instead he publicly disowned them and started another family while trying to get back to India. He never did.
Sophia and her sisters were able to get to India as adults. The experience of meeting people fighting for Indian independence awoke the political consciousness of Sophia. She returned to England and threw herself into the fight of Women’s Suffrage in the 1910s.
I love this picture. Sophia lived across the street from the gates of Hampton Court Palace in a grace-and-favor house. That meant that she was allowed to live there as a favor from the monarch. She protested in front of the tourists coming to Hampton Court and sold suffragette newspapers to them. Despite being involved in many of the major protests of the era and even attacking politicians, she was never sent to prison like her fellow suffragettes. She even refused to pay any taxes in an attempt to get arrested. The spectacle of putting a Princess in prison was too much for law enforcement.
World War I curtailed the suffragette movement. She became a nurse for Indian soldiers brought back to England for rest.
While I was reading this book, the Indian solicitor-general came out and said that India should not try to get the Kor-i-Noor diamond back and said it was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken”. It was a present. Yeah, because a 10 year old with no friendly adult counsel can make those kinds of gifts.
The Kor-i-noor is the diamond in the center of the front cross on this crown. This is what reading nonfiction gets you. It gets you yelling at the news in an very angry, yet informed, way.
The part of the book I found the most touching was a memory of the daughter of the elderly Princess’ housekeeper.
“We’d be walking, and she’d be telling me about the world and elections and how important they were. And then she would kneel down in front of me, looking me right in the eye and say ‘I want a solemn promise from you’ even though I don’t think I knew what a solemn promise was at that stage. She would say ‘You are never, ever not to vote. You must promise me. When you are allowed to vote you are never, ever to fail to do so. You don’t realise how far we’ve come. Promise me.’ For the next three years, Sophia made Drovna promise again and again.”
Drovna has kept her promise to the woman who fought hard to win the right for English women to vote.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I’ve stated on this blog repeatedly that I am a library user. I don’t buy a lot of books. But in the past few weeks I’ve found myself in the possession of a whole lot of books. I was going to write a post about how I am now on a strict #readmyowndamnbooks schedule. I’m not adding any more books to my TBR pile. I’m not looking at all your lovely suggestions. I can not be moved! Well, you’ll see what happened.
First up was a swap.
“When Liz Hoole, a free-spirited liberal from the Midwest, marries into a conservative Quaker family, she knows that raising children in compliance with Quaker values will be challenging. Twenty-five years later, she still feels like she’s falling short of expectations.”
“The seventh sister is over the moon for a Costa Rican coffee farmer. In the spring of 1984, John Mallory, the seventh sister in a coffee family dies a legend when she is uprooted from Kansas City and travels to a coffee farm in Costa Rica to become a Roastmaster. Now, eighteen years later, Capri is connected to her dead aunt through a surreal sense of smell. When Capri runs away with her boyfriend, she unearths John Mallory’s story and the myth of the Pleiades, a cluster of blue stars known as the Seven Sisters. But her quirky mother, grandfather and five aunts fear love will also lead Capri to an early grave.”
“Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.”
“Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home—and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother’s kitchen in South India.”
“Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals—and is bound to take more.”
So you can see that I am overflowing with wonderful reading material that got here just in the last week. But I made a mistake this morning. I accidentally looked at the Book Bub email I got. That’s a list of free and cheap ebooks.
“Yesterday, a Dragon kidnapped me from my cage in a zoo.
Stolen from her jungle home and sold to a zookeeper, Pip knows only a world behind bars, a world in which a Pygmy warrior and her giant ape friends are a zoo attraction. She dreams of being Human. She dreams of escaping to the world outside her cage.”
“In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
“Liddy James put off her dream of owning her own French cupcake shop for 25 years. Now a widow and an empty nester, she knows if she’s ever going to do it, she better make it happen soon. Unfortunately, there are a few roadblocks in her path to finally achieving her dream. One is a sexy DEA Agent dealing with the local meth problem who obviously wants her–but preferably not living in the same town. Another is a cantankerous elderly mother who refuses to play fair. Finally, there are the townspeople of Infinity, Georgia, who want nothing to do with her fancy cupcakes or her big city ways. In fact, someone in particular is determined to help Liddy go back where she came from…the hard way.”
Unfortunately, that’s where it seemed to stop. She’s grown up hearing her Mother constantly remind her that she needs to lose weight. And twenty-three-year-old Lexie knows she’s overweight.
With her younger sister’s wedding on the horizon and a crush to stalk on Facebook, Lexie’s had enough. She gives up her constant daydreams about food and joins a dieting group. As the pounds melt away at the gym, she finds that life on the other side of junk food isn’t what she thought.”
“Harriet Tubman is one of the giants of American history—a fearless visionary who led scores of her fellow slaves to freedom and battled courageously behind enemy lines during the Civil War. And yet in the nine decades since her death, next to nothing has been written about this extraordinary woman aside from juvenile biographies. The truth about Harriet Tubman has become lost inside a legend woven of racial and gender stereotypes. Now at last, in this long-overdue biography, historian Kate Clifford Larson gives Harriet Tubman the powerful, intimate, meticulously detailed life she deserves.”
“The grandson of slaves, born into poverty in 1892 in the Deep South, A. G. Gaston died more than a century later with a fortune worth well over $130 million and a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Gaston was, by any measure, a heroic figure whose wealth and influence bore comparison to J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie.”
“The infamous rake, Lord Richard Hamilton, has finally chosen his bride—the very appropriate Miss Emma Grey.
The ton approves, Lord Grey is pleased, Lady Grey delighted, and Emma is over the moon, but her uncle, (the blasted) Duke of Arden opposes the match, and Emma is ordered to move to the duke’s estate to think things over.”
A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.
In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.
When I started reading this book I realized that I had missed some important information in my life. I didn’t know the difference between EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and Paramedics. Basically, paramedics are trained to make medical decisions like what drugs to give and EMTs are not. They can start IVs and move patients but don’t make the medical treatment decisions.
To become an EMT a person takes a course and then has to pass a test. When the author did this, he entered into a whole new world.
His first position was with a private ambulance company. They mostly transport elderly patients from nursing homes to appointments. The turnover rate for employees was staggeringly high.
His goal was to work for Grady. That is a hospital in Atlanta that handles most of the inner city. Along the way he goes to paramedic school and has to deal with burn out after years of working in a high crime area with little to no support.
He sees people at their worst from dealing with arguing relatives to picking up mental ill people on drugs to getting an overdose patient’s friends to admit to what they had taken so they can help them. He has to deal with coworkers who are burnt out themselves from the hours and abuse.
The book goes into detail about what it is like to handle accident scenes and medical emergencies. It reads like having a conversation with anyone in a medical field where eventually you realize that the normal people around you are starting to get grossed out and you don’t understand why.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem—and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.
Owl had a promising career ahead of her as an archeologist until she uncovered a supernatural site and her department made her a scapegoat. Archeologists don’t allow publication of supernatural sites. They keep them covered up.
Now Owl is using her knowledge as a very discreet and very expensive thief. It was going well until she accidentally exposed an ancient vampire to the sun during a job and his underlings are angry. Now she’s on the run and living off the grid with her Egyptian Mau cat, Captain. His breed was developed to sense and fight vampires.
The Japanese Circus is a Las Vegas casino that turns out to be owned by a dragon. She did a job for him without knowing he was a dragon and now he wants another. She can’t really refuse and stay alive.
This is a great start to a series that is different than other urban fantasy stories. Owl’s friend Nadya got out of the archeology program too and now runs a bar in Tokyo. You find out a lot about the host and hostess bar culture in Tokyo where having an attractive person pay attention to you is part of the provided atmosphere. The creatures in this supernatural world are familiar but each has a few different characteristics that aren’t commonly seen.
Owl is stubborn and doesn’t listen well to advice. She gets into trouble over and over because of it. That can get a little annoying to read but the author has made it make sense in context. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.
“Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot;”
I have a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide on my iPad at all times, which I think is appropriate since the description of the Guide in the book makes it sound quite a bit like an early idea for an iPad. Whenever I need a distraction or a laugh, I can open this to any point and fall into the story. If you haven’t read this yet, you have to!
“Kingdoms wobble, crowns topple and knives flash on the magical Discworld as the statutory three witches meddle in royal politics. The wyrd sisters battle against frightful odds to put the rightful king on the throne. At least, that’s what they think…”
You can substitute any Terry Pratchett book here. They are all hysterical and profound.
“Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.”
I love the bad guys in this book. I find them hysterical as they menacingly chase Richard through Neverwhere.
“Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiousity.
Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path.”
Any of Bill Bryson’s travel books are suberbly funny but this and A Walk in the Woods are my favorites.
“The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work.
Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more – except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala – and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.”
You just know Jesus would have had to have best friends who were annoyed by him but put up with him anyway. I’m due for a reread of this one again sometime soon.
“From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.”
Funny movie and a funny book about the story behind it.
“Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.”
This is one of my all time favorite series. I love Harry. He has the perfect amount of sarcasm for any situation.
In West Africa in 2070, after fifteen-year-old "shadow speaker" Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, she embarks on a dangerous journey across the Sahara to find Jaa, her father's killer, and upon finding her, she also discovers a greater purpose to her life and to the mystical powers she possesses.
I’ve been having a sort of disappointing book year. It isn’t unusual for me not to give out many 5 star ratings. I just did 7/170 last year. But so far this has been a solidly 3 star book year for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them. It means that I liked them enough to finish them but they aren’t going to stay with me.
The Shadow Speaker was such a breath of fresh air. From the beginning it was wonderful to sink into the world of Nnedi Okorafor’s imagination.
“Kwàmfà, Ejii’s home, was a town of slim palm trees and sturdy gnarled monkey bread trees, old but upgraded satellite dishes, and sand brick houses with colorful Zulu designs. It was noisy, too; its unpaved but flat roads always busy with motorbikes, camels, old cars and during certain parts of the year, even the occasional truck. Kwàmfà was also known for its amazing carpets and after the Great Change, in the shadier parts of the market, its flying carpets.”
After a nuclear war, so called Peace Bombs were dropped by a militant environmental group. They caused a lot of molecular changes to Earth including rapid forest growth and the development of metahumans with special skills. It also opened passages to other planets with civilizations very different from Earth. Ejii is a Shadow Speaker. She can see long distances and see in the dark. She can hear shadows talking to her but can’t understand what they are saying. Shadow speakers get an urge to wander but it isn’t safe to travel now and most of them die young during their travels.
Ejii’s father was the chief of her village. He made women cover and hide themselves and said it was for their own protection. He was assassinated by Jaa, a female leader. Life has been going well in Kwàmfà for the last five years but now Jaa is leaving. Ejii knows that her father’s younger wives have a grudge against her mother and her half siblings are planning to move against Ejii because she is a metahuman. When Jaa asks her to go with her to a meeting with representatives of other worlds she knows she has to go regardless of the risks of travel.
There is so much to love in this book. One of the favorite parts of reading this author is seeing all the amazing and unique ideas she comes up with.
A talking camel who named himself Onion because onions are his favorite food
A planet whose technology is all based on plants
Ghosts that act as advisors in a conference room
Trickster gods who act as guardians of the passages between planets
Wild cats who debate with themselves whether or not to eat you
I was excited to see that the planet that they visit for the meeting is the world from Zahrah the Windseeker. I loved seeing the apes that made an appearance in that book show up in totally different circumstances here.
My only minor quibble is the ending. The books ends with a character telling Ejii that she has to tell her a story about what has been happening while Ejii was on her journey. I want to know that story! I want more!
If you haven’t read this author yet, you need to. It isn’t necessary to read Zahrah the Windseeker first to read this book. Both of these books would be considered MG/YA so they are easy reads and a great entry point to her work before reading her adult novels.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
BEA is coming up quickly. I started sorting through everything that is going on. On May 11 I’m helping out with a session in the afternoon on Negative Reviews. I’m also an On Site Correspondent for Armchair BEA but I haven’t been assigned anything to do yet.
I’m starting to go through all the sessions to see what books I might be interested in. That is long slow work. Here’s my list so far.
I’m going to speak the blasphemy here.
I don’t care at all about having any books signed.
Of all the authors that are going to be there, I only want a picture with one. I want a picture with Kareem Abdul-Jabar. I want that mostly so I can post it casually on Facebook with a caption of “Just hanging out with Kareem this afternoon.”
With the prospect of getting lots of new physical books in soon from BEA, I need to purge. I only have 2 bookcases in my house and they are overflowing. I found a used bookstore that may take some of them. If they don’t go there, I need to make a Goodwill run to drop them off.
For the past few years I’ve been dabbling in some genealogy research. Here’s what I know on paper.
My mom’s side:
She’s English and Welsh. On both sides of her family she traces back to noble English families. Two of these families tried to overthrow the King (different times) and failed miserably. So, disgraced families → descending from daughters married off not so well → diminished circumstances → Hey, I heard that they found this place across the ocean → showing up in America in the 1600s → being hillbillies in western PA.
My dad’s side:
His father is English but not from fancy families like my mother. They also came here in the 1600s. My grandmother’s parents came from Poland.
I took the ancestry.com DNA test. I didn’t expect to find anything new out. I was hoping to match with relatives to try to find out more about the Polish side of the family.
My results (and fighting words)
So imagine my shock when I opened the results page and saw this blasphemy.
I’m not Irish. I was actually really mad. It was like there was latent British snobbery that I didn’t know I had that rose up in my soul at the very idea.
This explained it a little more. I think what they may mean by Irish is Celtic and that would be the Welsh part of my DNA. Then I amused myself by imagining what a real Scottish person would think if they got DNA results that said Irish.
The DNA results nailed the 25% Eastern European since I have 1 Polish grandparent.
The Europe West may be my mother’s side again. Her families are French if you go back far enough. There is also some more Celtic DNA in this explanation.
Scandinavia – possibly the Vikings in England? To the best of my knowledge I don’t have any wandering Swedes in my history.
I was surprised with a long family history in England that I’m only considered 4% Great Britain.
This is what I’m really proud of though.
What the …? How does that show up? I’d say that is in everyone but it didn’t show up in the husband’s test.
So far the only close relative I’ve matched up with is my half-cousin. It pegged us as cousins. We have one grandfather in common.
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep . . . Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.
Sierra is an amazing artist. She has been asked to paint a mural on an abandoned building in her neighborhood. There is a lot of street art around her but lately she’s been noticing that they are starting to fade. Then one day she sees a mural change in front of her and start to weep.
Her grandfather had a stroke soon after her grandmother died but now he is agitated and wants Sierra to know that he is sorry for… something. Her mother seems to know what he means but shuts Sierra down every time she asks. Some of her grandfather’s friends point her towards another artist at her school for answers before they start to disappear themselves.
The writing in this book was amazing. Contemporary Brooklyn is a character as much as a setting of this book. Older shows the joys of living in this neighborhood with dance clubs and vibrant art as well as the problems of street harassment of teenage girls and the specter of police brutality. I’ve never been impressed by New York City at all but this book almost made me feel like it would be an interesting place to be. Seriously, salsa thrash metal? Yes, please.
The cast of characters was inclusive without it coming across as forced for the sake of inclusiveness. There is a lesbian couple. Most of the cast are Latina(o). There are both male and female characters who are important parts of the story and the significant secondary characters range in age from teenagers to elderly.
There are discussions about racism in the community. Sierra remembers a time when she surprised herself by apologizing for her dark skin. Her aunt is tells her that she shouldn’t date a Haitian because you don’t want a boyfriend whose skin is darker than the bottom of your foot.
If this was a contemporary novel it would be nearly 5 stars. But, this is a fantasy story and that aspect was not as strong for me. The idea of being able to make your art come alive when necessary is good but the stakes of the conflict never felt high. It felt like something bad was going to happen but it wasn’t clear what that was supposed to be.
If you like the idea of art featuring in urban YA fantasy you can also check out these titles.
“The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”
“On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.”
Truthfully, this one was a little too “He’s SO DREAMY!!!!!” with no actual explanation of why so I DNFed it.
I received this book as a gift from my OTSP Secret Sister as part of my Easter box. The cover is gorgeous. I’m going to read more by this author because I love his writing.
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.
This book is a love letter to books and authors.
Amy and Sara write to each other about their love of books. They share favorite books from their respective countries – The United States and Sweden. Sara plans a 2 month visit to Amy in Iowa but Amy dies while Sara is en route. Unsure what to do now, she ends up opening a temporary book shop in an open store front in town to share Amy’s vast book collection.
The beginning of this book was amazing. It was easily on track to be my first five star read of the year.
Reaching strangers in a dying town by pairing them with books that they would have never picked up on their own? Yes, please.
A heroine who worried about only bringing 13 books on her trip because of the weight limit on her baggage? Totally understandable.
But then the book took an unfortunate turn. A silly romantic plot was attached to it between characters that had zero chemistry and a lot of the talk about books fell away. I had a hard time finishing it because at that point I just didn’t care any more. I dropped it down to 4 stars because of the silliness and only my love for the first half kept me from dropping it further.
So let’s pretend that part never happened and go back to the books. I was interested in seeing how many books and authors were talked about which turned into a quiz. There are about 65 authors discussed. It is an overwhelming white list, I was disappointed to see, but it covers a lot of fiction genres.
*Update* Well the poll is being hateful and the vote button doesn’t work so tell me how many you have read in the comments. Stupid free internet poll makers…mutter mutter mutter . I got 21.
What books and authors have you read from The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend?
Louisa May Alcott0%
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery0%
Kathryn Stockett (The Help)0%
Harriet Beecher Stowe0%
The Bronte Sisters0%
Joyce Carol Oates0%
F. Scott Fitzgerald0%
Henry David Thoreau0%
Erich Maria Remarque0%
Louis de Bernieres0%
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe0%
Gabriel Garcia Marquez0%
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)0%
Vicki Myron (Dewey the Library Cat)0%
Robert Waller (Bridges of Madison County)0%
Marion Ross and Sue Collier (The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing)0%
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“Waking Up White is the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago. By sharing her sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As Irving unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, she reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated her ill-conceived ideas about race. She also explains why and how she’s changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the antiracism movement as a whole.”
If you’ve wondered how you’ve profited from racist things your ancestors did
“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to obey the law. Rather than desegregate, the county closed its public schools, locking and chaining the doors. The community’s white leaders quickly established a private academy, commandeering supplies from the shuttered public schools to use in their all-white classrooms. Meanwhile, black parents had few options: keep their kids at home, move across county lines, or send them to live with relatives in other states. For five years, the schools remained closed.”
Kristen Green’s family was involved in establishing the private school for white children only. She went to school there herself decades after the public school reopened. How do you talk about racist family legacies? What happened to the generation of black children who had to move away from their families if they wanted a basic education?
“The bleak fact is that black people and white people in the United States don’t spend much time together—at work, school, church, or anywhere. Tanner Colby, himself a child of a white-flight Southern suburb, set out to discover why.
Some of My Best Friends Are Black chronicles America’s troubling relationship with race through four interrelated stories: the transformation of a once-racist Birmingham school system; a Kansas City neighborhood’s fight against housing discrimination; the curious racial divide of the Madison Avenue ad world; and a Louisiana Catholic parish’s forty-year effort to build an integrated church.”
“Internationally recognized for his work as a fearless war correspondent, award-winning journalist Chris Tomlinson grew up hearing stories about his family’s abandoned cotton plantation in Falls County, Texas. Most of the tales lionized his white ancestors for pioneering along the Brazos River. His grandfather often said the family’s slaves loved them so much that they also took Tomlinson as their last name.
LaDainian Tomlinson, football great and former running back for the San Diego Chargers, spent part of his childhood playing on the same land that his black ancestors had worked as slaves. As a child, LaDainian believed the Hill was named after his family. Not until he was old enough to read an historical plaque did he realize that the Hill was named for his ancestor’s slaveholders.
A masterpiece of authentic American history, Tomlinson Hill traces the true and very revealing story of these two families.”
“Presenting a corrective to the popular notion of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who, with a single act, birthed the modern civil rights movement, Theoharis provides a revealing window into Parks’s politics and years of activism. She shows readers how this civil rights movement radical sought—for more than a half a century—to expose and eradicate the American racial-caste system in jobs, schools, public services, and criminal justice.”
“In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due — to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.”
A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America by Allyson Hobbs
“Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and community. It was, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile, a separation from one racial identity and the leap into another. This revelatory history of passing explores the possibilities and challenges that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. It also tells a tale of loss.”
“Patricia Stephens Due fought for justice during the height of the Civil Rights era. Her daughter, Tananarive, grew up deeply enmeshed in the values of a family committed to making right whatever they saw as wrong. Together, in alternating chapters, they have written a paean to the movement—its hardships, its nameless foot soldiers, and its achievements—and an incisive examination of the future of justice in this country. Their mother-daughter journey spanning two generations of struggles is an unforgettable story.”
“In 1949, Florida’s orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day’s end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as “the Groveland Boys.””
This is the most shocking true crime story I’ve ever heard. It starts slow but once you get into the actual case you won’t put it down and you won’t believe that this is a true story.
“What happens when rhetoric about immigrants escalates to an institutionalized population control system? The near-future, dark speculative novel INK opens as a biometric tattoo is approved for use to mark temporary workers, permanent residents and citizens with recent immigration history – collectively known as inks. Set in a fictional city and small, rural town in the U.S. during a 10-year span, the novel is told in four voices: a journalist; an ink who works in a local population control office; an artist strongly tied to a specific piece of land; and a teenager whose mother runs an inkatorium (a sanitarium-internment center opened in response to public health concerns about inks).”
This is the only fiction book on the list. It imagines what could happen if current racist rhetoric is taken to its logical conclusion. It is scarily possible.
Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head and when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae. Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?
Can I just say how much I hate the covers of these books? Look at that picture. Mercy in the books has a Native American father. I appreciate the fact that they aren’t whitewashing the cover but come on. Long feather earrings and two braids? On a mechanic? And what is with the clothes? She never, ever is described as dressing in shirts tied into improvised halter tops. She doesn’t show skin at all. She also is described as having one small coyote print tattoo but look at her arms. Impressive collection of tattoos but way off the mark.
Anyway, in this book Mercy is still trying to make some members of the pack accept her as their Alpha’s mate. That gives her status over them. It hasn’t been going well. She isn’t a werewolf and she keeps getting them into trouble. Now she has made a proclamation that the pack with protect any supernaturals in their territory from the Fae.
I don’t know. I just wasn’t a huge fan of this one. I like the series but this one felt flat to me. I’ve read several reviews that said that the readers felt like this was a big leap forward in the relationship between Mercy and Adam but I don’t get it. He did stand up for her in the pack but their interactions together sounded distant and strained. Maybe it is because I’ve gotten used to the warmth of the relationships in Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series that the more subdued relationship here seems odd.
Nothing really happened in the plot either. It sounds like there is going to be a war. The beginning with a fight with a troll is action packed but after that it is all political maneuvering and sitting around waiting for things to happen until the end. This definitely didn’t have a “can’t put down” quality in the middle. The ending did have an unexpectedly sad moment though.
One highlight of this book for me was Baba Yaga.
I love her. She is an old witch in Russian folklore who makes an appearance here to help in the fight with the Fae whether anyone wants her help or not. The book picked up whenever she appeared.
This is a weak entry in a great series but it still worth reading or listening to if you have enjoyed the rest of the books.
About Patricia Briggs
“Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson series, lives in Washington State with her husband, children, and a small herd of horses. She has written 17 novels to date. Briggs began her career writing traditional fantasy novels, the first of which was published by Ace Books in 1993, and shifted gears in 2006 to write urban fantasy. ” from her website
For the first time ever, the inspiring, infuriating, and utterly insane story of comics, graphic novels, and manga is presented in comic book form! The award-winning "Action Philosophers" team of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey turn their irreverent-but-accurate eye to the stories of Jack Kirby, R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Fredric Wertham, Roy Lichtenstein, Art Spiegelman, HergE, Osamu Tezuka -- and more! Collects "Comic Book Comics" #1-6.
The title of this book made me laugh so I borrowed it online from the library.
I don’t know a whole lot about comics but this book packed a whole lot of history into it. It starts with the development of the comic strip and then moves into the business ideas behind making books out of comic strips. The early developers of the format are all profiled.
The history of comics seems to be mostly about intellectual property disputes. Were comic artists creating work for hire in which case anything they made belongs to the company or were they authors in which case their creations belong to them? For me the book got bogged down in the middle around the 1980s with all kinds of legal challenges.
I was more interested in the early creators like the men behind Superman and what Stan Lee may or may not have done for comics.
This book looks mostly at American comics with some side trips to France but it does contain a section on manga too.
This would be a great book for any comic book fans in your life who also love history.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
In the lands of the True Game, your lifelong identity emerges as you play-Prince or Sorcerer, Demon or Doyen. Raising the dead is the least of the Necromancer's Talents-he is a wild card who threatens the True Game itself. A giant stalks the mountains. Shadowpeople gather by the light of the moon. Bonedancers raise up armies of the dead. And the Wizard's Eleven sleep trapped in their dreams. Players, take your places. The final Game begins now...
If you’ve spent much time around here you know that I’m a fairly rabid Sheri S. Tepper fan. I’ve had this trilogy on my shelf for a while. I actually read book one before but got bogged down in book two. I was going to read her most recent book and then realized that she is tying together a lot of her series in that book and that I needed to have read this to understand that. So, I decided in the spirit of Weirdathon (because it totally fits that) and Read My Own Damn Books, that I was going to get through this in March.
These are the first books that she published. Because of that they are fairly different from the later books of her that I love for their feisty feminist and ecological perspectives. These are more straight high fantasy.
In this world, people in the upper classes will manifest a magical power by their late teens. They then spend the rest of the lives (which may not be long) caught up in Games, which are magical duels. Some of these are massive battles that can destroy whole regions. Some people can fly, others can transport things, others can charm people into following them, some can read minds, etc. There are 11 major powers and then numerous subcategories that can mix together weakened versions of the main eleven.
Peter is a foundling being educated at a school for boys who will grow up to be part of the game. He hasn’t shown a power yet when a scandal requires him to leave the school. On his journey he stumbles across a carved set of game pieces representing the first people who had each of the major powers. He thinks they are just toys until he realizes that when he holds them he can manifest the powers of each of them.
This is a complicated world that you get dropped down into. I generally like books that don’t spell out everything for you right off but I had a hard time understanding all the rules of the world the first time through this book. This is my favorite of the trilogy.
Peter begins to find out the secret behind his game pieces as he follows clues to the land of the wizards where these “toys” are made.
This book was slow for me. There are some very troubling stories about women here. I would have been uncomfortable with them if I didn’t know that the author became a great feminist writer. It seemed like this was her starting to put her own ideas of women overcoming submission into her stories. They don’t quite get the payoffs that they will in future novels but it was interesting to see the start of this part of her creative process. I can see why I didn’t get through this one the first time. I powered through it because I was determined more than I was really enjoying it.
It is hard to talk about the plot of this one without giving away spoilers for the other books. This one was much better than the second. The female characters get much stronger. I absolutely love the giant birds who pull a wagon. Peter shows some emotional growth as he learns how to deal with his talent.
Overall, this is a good fantasy/sci fi series but not a great one. There are glimpses here and there of the writer that she will become and you can definitely see her skills grow as she writes each book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: