The Liar by Stephen Fry

The Liar The Liar by Stephen Fry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
An extremely witty protagonist and a setting that just begs to be mocked make up for an badly written non-linear story. Read this for great dialog and an over the top immersion into the legendary British boarding school society, but don't expect much in the way of plot. It never quite comes together, and you'll miss out on the fun if you try to take it seriously.

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Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is definitely my favorite Dresden Files book, so far. This is due, in a major part, because my absolute favorite background character, Thomas Raith, moves very much to the forefront in this plot. But there's also a lot more going on than a good story in this book. Characters seem to be a little more fleshed out; a huge amount of canon for Harry's world is established, and there's back story for everyone. In some ways, this reads as a first book in a series, the one that not only sets the foundation for what's to come, but shows every sign of having been worked and refined by a first time author. Those are both very good surprises in a mid-series book! The plot this time may be a little more complicated than it needs to be (when your main character has to spell everything out in a long dialog with someone who's worked by his side for many years, you may have a few more twists than necessary), but the speed at which the story plays out allows the reader to just go along for the ride and enjoy the slow bits as breathing space.

My only regret about this book is that with Thomas having this moment in the sun, he'll probably never be featured this much in another Dresden Files book. Ahhh, for a Thomas Raith spin off series...... ;-)

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In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate

(Disclosure: This book was received for free through the Goodreads First Reads Program)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mate brings his years of experience treating addicts, loads of scientific research on the subject, and his personal addiction together to produce a book that is highly readable and for the most part very informative. His narrative passages (at least half the book) provide case study after case study of real people he has known. That is when the book is its best: pointing out that addicts are people first and illnesses second. The portions of the book that deal with research data and scientific jargon can get a little dry, especially in comparison to the warmth he shows the people who have touched his life and made this book possible. Last, and certainly least, is his own message of addiction. I'm not sure if he was trying to make the book more attractive to more readers by including his addiction to shopping for classical music, but it's an unnecessary intrusion that comes across at best as a "it can happen to anyone" lesson that doesn't belong in a book of this depth.

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The Borrowers (The Borrowers #1)

The Borrowers (The Borrowers #1) The Borrowers by Mary Norton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the book that not only introduced me to fantasy fiction, it planted the seed for my favorite type of fantasy fiction: where the mundane becomes magical. It's urban fantasy without the grime, if that's possible. It's also a great very-young adult read with a strong willed female protagonist and a tiny bit of historical novel thrown in without the heavy handed lecturing that some young adult authors mistake for narrative. The tiny little Clock family is as is nuclear as can be, but they are supportive and resourceful, and willing to trust an outsider if it means survival. Published 57 years ago, this is still one of the best fantasy books ever written, no matter what age the reader.

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A Fine and Bitter Snow (Kate Shugak, Book 12)

A Fine and Bitter Snow (Kate Shugak, Book 12) A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow

It's been years since I read any of Stabenow's Kate Shugak books, and I honestly couldn't remember why I had stopped. I love a book with a strong sense of place and Stabenow knows how to transport her readers in the Alaska bush. Something else that she does remarkably well is to bring a first time reader up to speed on characters and past story lines without boring the series reader. I felt like I had never stepped away from Kate, conservation vs. tourism, the rights of indigenous peoples vs. the needs of the larger populations, extended family complications and a darn good murder mystery. It's all in this book, and this time there's the addition of some contemporary politics as well: the conservation party in power in Washington is reaching out its long arm, threatening to get rid of the well liked and too green park ranger that Kate and everyone else has grown comfortable with. Kate's love/sex life gets some more attention as well, being told by several characters what most readers must be thinking: you can't keep two guys on a string forever, do something! The suspects in the murder have interesting back stories, and previous supporting characters get well earned attention.

So, why did I stop reading this series? Somewhere along the line, each of her books hit a "not that there's anything wrong with that, but" point. Perhaps that's how it is in Alaska, the people defend their right to be left alone, to live their lives the way they want, but deep down, you're only allowed to be different to a certain degree. Without giving away too much of a plot twist, I'll only say that the presence of a same sex couple doesn't mean what you think it means. And a "strictly heterosexual dog"? Really??

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