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Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

Swan Song
Robert R. McCammon, Tom Stechschulte
Progress: 23 %
The Andromeda Strain
Michael Crichton
Progress: 107/288 pages
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 249/311 pages

Full Dark, No Stars ★★★☆☆

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King, Craig Wasson, Jessica Hecht

Four novellas/long short stories on a theme of secret second or inner lives: the horrible person under the affably smiling member of your family or community. Overall enjoyable, as SK always is, but it didn’t suck me in or stick with me later the way his best stuff does. Although, I got into a conversation with a friend, who was insisting that she believes she would recognize evil in a person, that she doesn’t believe it could be concealed. I pointed out that Ted Bundy fooled everyone he worked with in his “public persona” from law enforcement to professors to politicians, and even his many girlfriends, until it all fell apart and his secrets were out. But anyway, I did reference the stories in this book as we argued about it, so there’s that.


1922: Just weird, but with SK-style graphic goriness that makes it worth reading. One of the things I love about SK’s style is his use of all five senses in his descriptions of action, scenes, and characters. It’s really immersive.


Big Driver: Disturbing for sure. It's a revenge tale, and as the main character notes in her inner monologue, those are always a satisfying fantasy. But the ending is, well, not very satisfying. Not believable. Seems like a copout.


Fair Extension: Shorter than the others, but it's a fun little tale of revenge (again) but this time for perceived injustices, where Envy is thoroughly exercised to its logical conclusion. It's fun, and sort of funny.


A Good Marriage: I think this is the best of the four stories. It's creepy and plausible to start, because of course there have been killers whose mask is so good, even their close family and friends have no idea. The ending was less plausible and a little weak.


Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performances by Craig Wasson and Jessica Hecht are excellent, especially Wasson’s. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly challenge, for the square Adventureland 26: Read a book tagged genre Adventure or Thriller on GR.

OH NO. Book coupons!

Why oh why did I sign up for that Half Price Books mailing list? They just sent me coupons for 20-50% off one item for every day next week... and my office is down the street from their flagship store. 


Dang it. And I was doing so well at getting through all the TBRs on my living room bookshelves. 

Good Kings Bad Kings ★★★☆☆

Good Kings Bad Kings - Susan Nussbaum

Proponents of privatizing public services argue that, by managing operations like a private business, these services can be provided much more efficiently. So what is the natural outcome when residential/custodial care is outsourced to a corporation whose board demands a healthy profit, and profits are driven by keeping as many beds filled for as little cost as possible? The goal is certainly not to try to support families with disabled children, to keep them at home instead of in residential care. It’s not to prepare those children for living as independently as possible when they reach adulthood, becoming contributing members of society. Oh, and if that same company holds government contracts for residential psychiatric care? Perhaps there’s a profit motive for assigning psychiatric diagnoses to children with behavioral problems?


This was an interesting book with some interesting things to say. But it is grim reading, and I was outraged at the way the author chose to end it. I don’t expect or even want happy endings, especially in a book so determined to strive for realism. But there is no sense of resolution, no looking forward, no… anything. It just stops, like the author got tired of writing or the publisher refused to print more than 465 pages.  


Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performances by a cast of readers were the best part of this book. They breathed life into the characters as each told his or her own story. This is one good exception to my dislike for first person present tense. The writing style, in this case, fit the story being told perfectly.

HP's BL-opoly - 9th Round

My game play is getting a little ahead of my reviews and posts, because I've already finished this one earlier today. But here we go!


Round 9 (July 5-6, 2017)


Dice Roll: 9

Square: Adventureland 26: Read a book tagged genre Adventure or Thriller on GR

Book Chosen: Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King,Craig Wasson,Jessica Hecht   (audiobook)

Pages: 368

Payout: $6

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King,Craig Wasson,Jessica Hecht 



I've been using this game to mow down my TBR pile, so this one is sort of a cheat, but not really. I read the hardcover back when this was published, in 2010, but for some reason also acquired the audio a few years ago, and it's been languishing unread on my TBR shelf ever since. So, I've read the bound version, but it's been long enough since then for the audio to be an entirely different and new-ish experience. 


It fits the Adventureland 26 square because 215 GR users shelved it as Thriller, which puts that shelf on the first page. 


Round 8 (June 23-July 4, 2017)


Dice Roll: 4

Square: Cars Land 18: Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013, or 2014, the years of Cars and its sequels, or that has a car on the cover.

Book #1 (DNF): The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon

Book #2: The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Book #3: Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie

Pages: 394

Payout: $3 (corrected $6)

Ending Bank: $50 (corrected $62)



8th Round Pick

8th Round 1st book DNF

8th Round 2nd Pick

8th Round 2nd book reshelved

8th Round 3rd Pick

8th Round book review

Round 7 (June 7-23, 2017)


Dice Roll: 7

Square: Trains, Planes, & Automobiles 14: Read a book that involves overseas travel, or that has a suitcase on the cover

Book Read: On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

Pages: 256

Payout: $3

Ending Bank: $50



7th Round Pick

7th Round book review


Round 6 (June 3-4, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 5 (one audio, one bound).


Dice Roll: 4

Square: Mystery 8: Read a book that is tagged mystery or has a title that begins with any letter in the word “CLUE”

Book Read: The Fold by Peter Clines

Pages: 384

Payout: $3

Ending Bank: $47



6th Round Pick

6th Round book review


Round 5 (May 25-June 4, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 6 (one audio, one bound).


Dice Roll: 9

Square: Frontierland 2: Read a book with a main character who knows how to handle a gun, or where someone is shot


Book Read: Shane by Jack Schaefer (paperback)

Pages: 432

Payout: $5

Ending Bank: $44



5th Round Pick

5th Round book review


Round 4 (May 23-June 1, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 5 (one audio, one bound).


Dice Roll: 7

Square: Paradise Pier 30: Read a book with a twist, or that is tagged “suspense” on GR, or that has more than 555 pages


Book Read: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (audiobook)

Pages: 582

Payout: $5

Gift from Ani’s Book Abyss $5


Ending Bank: $39



4th Round Pick

4th Round book review


Round 3 (May 11-May 22, 2017)

Dice Roll: 10

Square: Adventureland 24: Take the Jungle Cruise. Read a book set in Africa or Asia, or that has an exotic animal on the cover


Book Read: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Pages: 276



Ending Bank: $29



3rd Round Pick

3rd Round book review


Round 2 (April 19-May 11, 2017)

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Additional Task 15: Read a book where someone gets married, with jewelry on the cover, or where any character is a millionaire/billionaire!


Book Read: The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Pages: 512

Payout: $5


Ending Bank 5/11/17: $26



2nd Round Pick

2nd Round book review


Round 1 (April 17, 2017)

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Fantasyland 9: Read a book that is tagged Genre: Fantasy or Fairy Tale on GR


Book Read: Dream Weaver by Michael Hague and Jane Yolen

Pages: 80

Payout: $1


Ending Bank 4/17/17: $21



1st Round Pick

1st Round book review




Bank 4/17/17:  $20



Player Bank Posts

6/1/17 balance

6/4/17 balance

6/23/17 balance


Don’t Look Down ★★☆☆☆

Don't Look Down - Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie

This degenerated from silly but cute to just plain old stupid. The plot is an unnecessarily convoluted and nonsensical plot that somehow injects

terrorists and mobsters and FBI and CIA and money laundering and stolen ancient artifacts

(show spoiler)

into a Romance. Maybe it’s being purposefully meta, since that’s apparently what’s happened to the hot mess of a movie that our heroine has been hired to finish.


This heroine and her hero, ugh. She knows the guy for all of three days, and hasn’t even slept with him, thinks he doesn’t even have any romantic or sexual interest in her at all, but she’s considering moving herself and her family from NY & LA, respectively, to a swamp in Florida so he can be a part of her life. Then she just literally walks into a swamp in the dark in hopes of finding him so she can have sex with him. And she does! And they do! And it’s awesome! No bugs or anything.


I think it was at this point that I got so frustrated with this story, and cared so little about the characters or what happened to them, that it took real willpower to power on to the end rather than DNFing. I got through it by cheering on the alligator.


Hardcover version. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly square Cars Land 18: Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013, or 2014, the years of Cars and its sequels, or that has a car on the cover. This book was published in 2006.

The Husband’s Secret ★★★★☆

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty, Caroline Lee

Sometimes I get impatient with the kind of novel where you have to follow what seems like a bazillion characters and their disparate storylines, until those stories finally come together at the end. This one, however, kept me engaged from the beginning, because each storyline was populated with realistically interesting and flawed characters, and I was genuinely curious to discover how their stories would all resolve. Admittedly, it did seem to rely on a lot of convenient coincidences, but most novels do.


This was a story of relationships, choices, and the consequences of allowing pride, unconscious prejudice, and assumptions to drive decisions. I enjoyed it very much.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Caroline Lee does her usual outstanding job of giving voice to a cast of characters.



Previous Updates:

6/25/17 – 4%


Mostly Monsterly ★★★☆☆

Mostly Monsterly - Tammi Sauer

Although the concept of a little monster who doesn’t quite fit in at Monster School because she’s a little too sweet is kind of cute, it really didn’t connect for me. I guess I don’t see the fun in a monster girl who likes stereotypical little girl things. The illustrations were cute, though.


Hardcover, borrowed from my public library.


Don't Look Down: 186/394pg

Don't Look Down - Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie

It seems implausible that, if you were facing down an alligator in the middle of a Florida swamp at sunset, that you could so easily find rocks of the needed size and heft to throw 15 feet with force. 


But what do I know? I've never been to Florida outside of Disney. Maybe swamps do have lots of handy rocks. 


Yippee! New Reading App!

Thanks to Lillelara, I've found the new library app (Libby) that seems to be a vast improvement over the Overdrive app. I spent last night playing with it, as a distraction from watching the Rangers lose yet again. 



It works like Overdrive, in that it syncs with your library Overdrive account and allows you to download the books you've checked out. There are some enhancements on the audiobook functions, and a vast improvement on the ebook functions.


I've never been successful with the ebooks on Overdrive, as they seem to get lost when I try to download them, so I can neither read them nor return them until my checkout expires. I've only been able to do ebooks from Overdrive by sending them to my Kindle app. But I tried checking out, downloading, reading, and returning several ebooks on Libby last night, and they all worked just fine. 


It's also more seamlessly integrated with the Overdrive library, which makes browsing for books much, much easier. It automatically syncs your checkouts and holds  with the Overdrive library website, too. 



My "wishlist" of almost 200 ebooks and audiobooks that I've carefully compiled and synced with my larger TBR list, using the Overdrive website, does not sync with Libby. It instead uses a "tag" system, which is completely separate, and is less than useful as you cannot see the book's availability when browsing your tags list. So, for example, if I want to check something out right now and start reading it right away, I can go to my wishlist on the OD website, and filter by "available", and browse through books that are already on my TBR list and are immediately available for checkout. This isn't possible on the Libby app. But, I can still do it from the OD website, check it out there, then open the Libby app to immediately download and listen/read. 


It's still not perfect, but it's a huge improvement over the current Overdrive app. I might even start reading some ebooks, which is a good thing since so many of the books on my TBR are only available from my library in that format. 

Good Kings Bad Kings: 23%

Good Kings Bad Kings - Susan Nussbaum

This is more than a little heartbreaking, and I'm only 23% of the way in.

Behind Her Eyes - DNF

Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough

Ugh. I hate first person present tense. My mother bought it and thought it was great. I listened to about 5 minutes at the start, then skipped around a little to be sure that it wasn’t just the first chapter before I DNF’d it. I didn’t listen to the minimum 20 minutes, so I’m not assigning a star rating.  

Don't Look Down: 95/394 pg

Don't Look Down - Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie

     "People should not feed gators," Pepper said, still looking at her book. "Bryce should not feed Ding Dongs to him. Moot will attack."

     Lucy was distracted by the image of Moot dragging Bryce away under the bridge. It was strangely plausible; Bryce was exactly the kind of guy who'd get eaten by an alligator while feeding it snack cakes.


The plot is silly. The characters are pretty two dimensional. But I am enjoying this book very much so far. 



HP's BL-opoly - 8th Round, part 3

This round is really giving me fits. I DNF'd the first book, because I hated the writing style. Then, I found myself avoiding the second pick, because the time wasn't right for a dark book. So here's my third pick, which is a light contemporary romance, and the first two pages seem to promise a light, enjoyable read. Just what I need right now!


Don't Look Down - Jennifer Crusie,Bob Mayer 


Don't Look Down - Jennifer Crusie,Bob Mayer (hardcover) has been sitting on my shelf for so long,that I don't even remember when or under what circumstances I bought it. It's a first edition in like-new condition, so I assume that I picked it up on a bookstore sale table, after it dropped off the bestseller list and the store wanted to reduce inventory. 


I'm reading this for the Booklikes-opoly square Cars Land 18: Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013, or 2014, the years of Cars and its sequels, or that has a car on the cover. This book was published in 2006. 


The Devil All The Time - Reshelved

The Devil All the Time - Donald Ray Pollock

Real life is pretty grim right now, so I'm having a little trouble with this very dark book. I've read enough to feel that I'll really enjoy it at the right time, but now is not that time. So I'm reshelving it under "try again later" and picking something lighter for my Booklikes-opoly square. 


The Husband's Secret: 4%

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty, Caroline Lee

It's amazing that, before the first chapter is even up, Moriarty has drawn her characters with such humanity and realism that I feel more connected to them, more interested in them, than for Grisham's characters throughout his entire book

Don’t You Cry - DNF

Don't You Cry - Mary Kubica

Sometimes, rarely, very rarely, I will come across a book written in first-person, present tense that is either so well done, or where the writing and storytelling is otherwise so good that I barely notice it, or else where it is used only sparingly and appropriately to a particular scene. But the vast majority of the time, I hate it. Hate it. Hate it. And I thought I only had to be diligent in checking the preview on YA novels, but apparently this gawdawful trend is invading other genre fiction.


I listened to enough of the first chapter to know that I didn’t want to hear any more, but will not assign a star rating as I didn’t get to my minimum 20 minutes of audio time.