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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

The Very First Damned Thing: An Author-Read Audio Exclusive
Jodi Taylor
Progress: 68/151 minutes
Black Klansman
Anne Nall Stallworth
Progress: 88/188 pages
The Sting of the Wild
Justin O. Schmidt
Progress: 12/230 pages
Binary Storm (Liege-Killer)
Christopher Hinz
Progress: 331/436 pages
Princess Prince
Tomoko Taniguchi
Progress: 310/336 pages
FREE: Locke & Key
Tatiana Maslany, Audible Studios, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez, Kate Mulgrew, Haley Joel Osment, Full Cast
Progress: 91/806 minutes

Would it work for any squares in Halloween Bingo?

— feeling question
Gemina (The Illuminae Files) - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

The first book had aspects in the second half that would make it work for a few squares in Halloween Bingo. Does this second book also have

zombies

(show spoiler)

, or no?

Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 188 pages.

Black Klansman - Anne Nall Stallworth

The timeline's a little hard to follow. On page 88, Stallworth is "anxiously" calling David Duke about the status of his KKK membership card. On page 84, Stallworth writes about becoming a strange sort of celebrity among criminal justice officials, who'd see him at the cop bar, offer to buy him a drink, and ask to see his KKK membership card. (This entire section seemed a bit weird to me. Wouldn't it have been seen as a potential problem that the investigation was such a badly kept secret?)

Reading progress update: I've listened 68 out of 151 minutes.

The Very First Damned Thing: An Author-Read Audio Exclusive - Jodi Taylor

I hate to say it, but I'm a bit bored, and I haven't even been listening to this for very long. I wonder if it would be better with a different narrator? I like the author's voice, but apparently I've been spoiled by actor-narrators.

 

And I'm confused about how time travel works in this. At times, it's indicated that the timeline protects itself - time travelers couldn't change things if they tried, because they'd be prevented from doing so by the universe, possibly at the cost of their own lives. At other times, characters say things that indicate that time travelers could, in fact, have a disastrous effect on the timeline if they're not careful. So which is it?

Reading progress update: I've read 70 out of 188 pages.

Black Klansman - Anne Nall Stallworth

Total number of cops who have talked to Ken, the Colorado Springs KKK member who was the start of all of this: 3. He still thinks he's been talking to one person, Ron Stallworth, and he thinks Ron is just great.

 

So great, in fact, that he's trying to get Ron/Chuck to agree to assume a leadership role in the Colorado Springs chapter of the KKK. Stallworth is now telling readers why this was a problem for the police and discussing the issue of entrapment, which is something I suspect many cop shows have messed up on.

Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 188 pages.

Black Klansman - Anne Nall Stallworth

Ooh, the college I went to just got mentioned. One of its professors (no name provided) attended an anti-KKK rally. The police had been informed that protesters were planning to burn KKK members' cars and instead found peaceful protesters. The next few pages are about the potential for violence increasing as people became more aware of the KKK presence in the city.

 

You could replace "KKK" with "alt-right" and "leftist factions" with "antifa" and this would read like something referring to protests this year. Either way, I'd personally be more concerned with KKK/alt-right activity than leftist faction/antifa, but I suppose the police perspective is different.

Reading progress update: I've read 36 out of 188 pages.

Black Klansman - Anne Nall Stallworth

This is fascinating so far. Stallworth occasionally writes a bit about being Colorado Springs' first black police officer and the challenges he faced - even something as simple as getting a uniform cap that would properly fit his head. He had a small Afro at the time and was deliberately measured so his cap was a size and a half too small to accommodate it.

 

He's only just now getting into the KKK thing a bit more. I had wondered why the CSPD continued with the two-man thing after the initial phone call, considering it would have been easier for a white man to just play both the phone and in-person role. The way things were set up, Stallworth was the phone guy and his fellow officer, Chuck, was used in in-person meetings, and they had to keep track of each other's conversations to make sure they could believably pretend to be the same person. It turns out that they did this because Chuck's availability was limited - Stallworth had involved him spur-of-the-moment. Also, Stallworth only narrowly got permission (went over his direct superior, in fact) for a potentially lengthy undercover operation.

Tor.com’s eBook of the Month Club: Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Acheron - Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is available from August 14th to 11:59 PM ET August 17th, US and Canada only.

 

I used to be a huge fan of this series, but I think this is the book that made me quit reading it. Kenyon is big on tortured heroes (often literally tortured), and she went overboard in this book. Plus, after 14 books (or 13? 11? not sure) of anticipating who she might pair Acheron off with, I recall being extremely disappointed by his heroine, who was one of the more uninteresting ones in the series (or maybe I was just really over the series by then).

 

It's a huge book, though, and if you're interested in the series at all, I think you could easily skip to it after reading one or more of the earlier entries in the series. Just be aware that there is a LOT of on-page suffering.

Reading progress update: I've read 12 out of 188 pages.

Black Klansman - Anne Nall Stallworth

I don't know if I'll see the movie (I wouldn't be surprised if it never makes it into my local movie theater), but I figured I'd give the book a shot. It has several things going for it: it sounds like a fascinating story, it's short, and it's set in Colorado Springs, where I lived for several years.

Reading progress update: I've read 331 out of 436 pages.

Binary Storm (Liege-Killer) - Christopher Hinz

I'd like to start Halloween Bingo with a relatively clean slate (manga, audiobooks, and the nonfiction book I just started don't count), and so I'm working to finish this. I should be done with it fairly soon.

 

In the past 150 or so pages, there's been the revelation that some matchmaking has been going on, which would have been sweet except it was fueled by particularly invasive date rape drugs. Also, Gillian entered the story and has been acting creepy - he likes to sniff Bel's face and neck. I can't recall if the trilogy ever explained how Gillian and Nick came to know each other and how Gillian and Catharine were separated, but I certainly don't recall the details that have come up here. The way this book set things up, it's a wonder Gillian didn't kill Nick after he got his memories back.

 

It's too bad the last two books in the trilogy were so terrible, or I'd be tempted to reread them to see whether everything Hinz wrote then and now actually fits together.

To Terminator, With Love by Wes Kennedy

To Terminator, With Love - Wes Kennedy

Dexter Wu isn't a terribly social guy. He's a grad student whose life currently revolves around his big project, a robot named HAL that's supposed to be able to read stories to children. He has one close friend, Sandhya, who's about to move back to India. He's trying not to let that fact utterly wreck him, but it's hard. He's tired, stressed out about finals and HAL, and...suddenly in a confusing and terrifying amount of danger.

According to a powerful device owned by a shadowy group known as the Agency, HAL is going to destroy the world. Dexter's work on it must be stopped at all costs. The Agency's people don't normally try to kill their targets, but for some reason protocol is being broken this time around, and Dexter's running for his life. Luckily he has one agent on his side, Andre Jackson.

I bought this because it was listed as sci-fi with an asexual main character and its description sounded decent. The title and relatively vague description made me think that HAL would be prominent and that there would be time travel. This turned out not to be the case. There were a few brief Terminator references, but the nature of the Agency's secret device meant that it had more in common with Minority Report.

Sci-fi and fantasy pop culture references were all over the place. The one I enjoyed the most had to do with Dexter's efforts to figure out his role in this action story he'd suddenly been plopped into:

"Because he wasn't Neville Longbottom. He wasn't even Jar Jar Binks; he was Leeroy fucking Jenkins." (76%)

It's the kind of line that's fun if you know who Dexter's referring to but that would be completely incomprehensible to every one else. As it was, I had to google the Leeroy Jenkins reference - I'd heard the name before but that was it. The text is peppered with this sort of thing. I mostly liked it, but I could see it being annoying and exhausting for anyone who doesn't have the right pop culture background.

I was a bit iffy about the asexual rep. While it was nice that there was zero drama and nastiness over Dexter being ace, it felt really weird that he and Andre didn't talk about it at all beyond a brief mention. The two of them started making out, Dexter paused things to tell Andre that he was asexual and that he enjoyed kissing but wasn't interested in having sex, Andre calmly accepted this, and they never talked about it again. Granted, I'm not sure if they could be considered a couple since the story only takes place over a couple weeks, but it ended with Dexter hoping they could keep in touch and continue their relationship. I don't know.

In the end, I wanted to like this more than I actually did. Andre and Dexter were adorably geeky together, and the humor was decent. Unfortunately, the story was so-so, Andre and Dexter's relationship didn't really work for me, and I was disappointed that HAL was ultimately unimportant, little more than another one of the story's many SFF references.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Reading progress update: I've read 12 out of 230 pages.

The Sting of the Wild - Justin O. Schmidt

I hope the organization becomes clearer later on, because right now it feels like a bunch of insect stories that could have been put in any chapter. But they're relatively interesting stories so far. I imagine Schmidt's parents used to despair that he would survive childhood. The few childhood stories he has included make it seem like he spent a lot of time seeking out stinging insects and seeing what they would do under certain circumstances.

 

The page I'm on right now has an interesting tidbit I didn't know: honey bees can identify the scent of mammalian breath and consider it a cue that a potential predator is near the nest. Here's his trick for Africanized honey bees:

 

"The solution to close-range observation was simple: be 'invisible' to the bees. To achieve invisibility in the presence of bees, stop breathing (granted, it is hard to stop breathing entirely for long) and move slowly. Hold your breath as you stand inches to the side of the landing board and then turn your head to exhale gently a few feet behind the hive between breaths." (12-13)

The last sentence confuses me a bit. It sounds like a difficult trick to get the hang of - I wonder how many times he was stung before he picked up the technique?

Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

In this entry in the series, Violet La Rue is holding auditions for A Midsummer Night's Dream. The entire town is excited, and not just because many of them want a chance to shine onstage. It turns out that the role of Puck is going to be played by a friend of Violet's, a charming famous actor named Robbie Vine.

Lindsey doesn't want a part in the play, but she does agree to help with costuming. Meanwhile, Sully's helping build the set, and their friends hope that the close proximity will lead to them getting back together. There's definitely still a spark between them, but things become complicated when Lindsey finds herself drawn to Robbie. Sure, his personal life is a mess, but at least he talks to her and tells her how he feels. Unfortunately, something sinister is going on. Someone seems to want Robbie, and possibly anyone close to him, dead.

Mystery-wise, this was a bit weak. I correctly guessed the culprit a little more than halfway through the book and never saw any reason to change my mind. In fact, at one point I noticed a fairly obvious clue - the character made an offhand comment about an event that they shouldn't have known anything about. It took Lindsey quite a bit longer than me, but she finally noticed that comment and connected the dots, as well as a few minor ones I'd missed.

Relationship-wise, this book frustrated me. If it weren't for the library aspects (which were pretty decent this time around - a couple interesting stints at the reference desk for Lindsey) and the fact that this is one of the few series that I know people around me have read and that I can therefore talk to them about, I'd probably be quitting at this point.

I still believe that Sully breaking up with Lindsey at the end of the previous book was out-of-character for him, and this book didn't tell me anything that changed my mind. Sully's sister hinted that Sully had some deeper issues at play, but Lindsey stubbornly refused to let her tell her anything more, insisting that Sully had to tell her himself. Which, fine, except Sully's the quiet type who doesn't talk about himself much, so this left readers with nothing except "Sully dumped Lindsey because he thought her worry that her ex-fiance had been killed meant she still needed time to get over him." Never mind that it would have been weird and creepy if she'd been unmoved by the possible death of someone she'd known well, and never mind that Sully had spent the whole book up to that point taking Lindsey's fiance's presence and attempts to win her back in stride.

I remember rolling my eyes at Lindsey's worry, in the earlier books in the series, that she was reading more than she should into Sully's behavior, that he wasn't really attracted to her and it was all in her head. Still, I could understand it. Unfortunately, in this book she went right back to that state. You'd think she'd have gotten better at reading him - he was clearly still interested in her and displayed it in much the same way he had in the earlier books, only with the added awkwardness of the breakup standing between them.

The addition of Robbie Vine didn't make things better. I was fine with Lindsey having a bit of fun and flirting with him, but I was not on board with her seriously considering dating him. First, he was married. I hated how many of Lindsey's friends responded to that by saying "But only on paper!" Sorry, he was still married, had had years to see about getting a divorce, and never had. And his wife was in the play. It was a complication that Lindsey definitely didn't need. Second, his ex-girlfriend was also in the play and seemed to wish that they'd never broken up. Another complication Lindsey didn't need.

The big plot twist near the end, and Lindsey's reaction to it, did not bode well for the next book in the series. I don't buy that all of this was necessary to keep Lindsey's romantic life fresh and interesting. There are ways McKinlay could have kept Sully and Lindsey interesting as a couple without any of this mess - something from Sully's past could have cropped up, or Lindsey's brother could have stopped by and either gotten along really well with Sully or clashed with him, or...anything but what McKinlay actually gave readers. The plot twist really irked me, and I couldn't understand why Lindsey wasn't more bothered by it.

Extras:

  • The Briar Creek Library Guide to Crafternoons
  • Readers Guide for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Card-making idea
  • Recipe for Nancy's Raspberry Petit Fours. Shockingly, although the book includes references to pumpkin squares, a recipe for them is not included.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

The Dispatcher (audiobook) by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto

The Dispatcher - John Scalzi, Zachary Quinto

In the world of this story, something happened 8+ years ago that changed how death works. When someone is killed (or murdered?) by another person, instead of staying dead they pop out of existence and reappear, naked and alive, in their own home, wherever in the world that happens to be. Well, most of the time. There's a one in a thousand chance that they'll stay dead.

No one knows how this change came to be, or why, but it has resulted in the creation of a new job, Dispatcher. Dispatchers are people trained and licensed to kill people who are about to die, so that they can come back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher substituting for another Dispatcher at a hospital. It seems like a normal enough assignment until he's roped into an investigation into the disappearance of the Dispatcher he was substituting for.

This was okay. The setup was really interesting, but I had trouble getting a handle on the conditions under which someone would come back to life. I initially thought that their death required the direct and immediate involvement of another human being. However, that would have meant that there was nothing for anybody to worry about in the part where a woman was hit by a truck. Another human being was driving the truck that hit her, so she should have died and then reappeared in her own home.

Near the end of the story, other details were provided that seemed to indicate that intention played a role. Since the driver hadn't intended to kill the woman, she would simply have died. I assume this means that if someone had intentionally poisoned someone, their victim would have come back to life, but if they had accidentally poisoned the person, their victim would simply have died. I'm not sure even that quite fits, however. Wouldn't it mean that Dispatchers' victims would almost never come back to life? Valdez didn't consider what he did to be murder. He was providing a service that was almost guaranteed to save people's lives. Since he didn't kill people with the intention of them staying dead, shouldn't they all have, well, stayed dead? Unless he was lying when he was describing how he viewed his work - quite possible, considering how many other things he lied about or failed to immediately mention.

I have a feeling I'm probably overthinking this, but I couldn't help trying to tease apart the details of how all of this worked, since the details turned out to be very important at several points in the story. One of those instances in particular made it difficult to believe that 1) Valdez had been doing this job for 8 years and 2) that he'd had a great deal of experience with the shadier aspects of Dispatcher work. It shouldn't have taken him as long as it did to figure out how a couple hired thugs were going to make use of one aspect of the whole "killing you, but not really" thing.

The resolution to the mystery of the missing Dispatcher was very emotional, but something about the way the story was written resulted in it having less impact that it should have. Maybe the problem was that so much of the story involved Valdez (and occasionally the cop) visiting people and asking questions. The emotional resolution was mostly pieced together second- or third-hand by Valdez - none of it happened on-page. Heck, even the missing Dispatcher never had an on-page appearance.

All in all, this wasn't bad but could have been better. On the plus side, Zachary Quinto's narration was excellent. I've listened to The Dispatcher twice now, and Quinto was a large part of the reason why.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Reading progress update: I've read 284 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

The developments at the end of this book tell me that the next book is probably really going to annoy me. Only just yesterday (before the plot twist, even!) I was telling a friend that this series was okay, but that the contrived wedge between Sully and Lindsey irked me to the point that, if it weren't for the library aspects and the niceness of reading something I can actually discuss with people around me, I probably wouldn't make it further than this book.

 

Now that I've finished, I can say that this is definitely a series I'd be quitting if it weren't for those two things. I had wondered whether something like that plot twist was going to happen, but dismissed the idea because I figured McKinlay wouldn't do that to her readers. Well. She sure showed me. -_-

Reading progress update: I've read 256 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

Plot twist! O_o

Preparing for Halloween Bingo

My Bingo card is printed out and hung up. I felt a little sad about taking the old one down, with its cute little dog and cat stickers (yes, it was still hung up - this kind of thing is why I don't put up holiday decorations, they'd never get taken down). But I still have some of those left, and now I have even more kinds of stickers to choose from! I bought a pack of animal stickers and a pack of "cute stuff" stickers.

 

My Bingo plan this year involves using more stickers than ever before. Instead of writing down called squares in metallic Sharpie, I'll be using tiny stickers to mark them. Called and read will have one tiny sticker and one larger sticker.