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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

The Cypress House
Michael Koryta
The Outsider
Stephen King
Progress: 34 %
I am No One You Know
Joyce Carol Oates
The Return of the King
J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis
Progress: 13 %

Mr. Mercedes - 78%

Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Holly wants some Fro Yo. Get that genius her sweet treat, STAT.

The Book of Dust ★★★★☆

The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

Absolutely worth putting all my other books on "pause" for. This was as much fun as The Golden Compass, and without all the complicated nature-of-the-universe plot machinations of the other books in that trilogy. There is plenty of action and peril to propel the story along, and the two new main characters are easy to invest in. Baby Lyra isn't given much to do, other than to just be a baby, but it was interesting to see how the author portrays the relationship of human to daemon in infancy. 


I think this probably works as a stand-alone, but it's hard to know how much of my familiarity with the characters of Lyra's parents and the world they occupy informed my understanding of this book's events. Interestingly, this book seems to incorporate a little more fantasy into its steampunkiness than I remember from the first book. 


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library after a six month wait on hold. Michael Sheen's performance is fantastic. 

Duel of Eagles - page 109/431

David Crockett vs. Davy Crockett


Crockett didn't go to Texas to fight a revolution. He didn't go to sharp-shoot tyrants and defend liberty. He went for himself.

He wanted land. 

He wanted money.

And he wanted to catch that monster.


The monster being the larger-than-life persona built as a political stunt that escaped his control until it reached absurd proportions. 


Crockett witnessed the extraordinary flowering of his alter ego, he saw the crowds and heard the applause, and he forgot what he really was... an aging, semi-literate squatter of average talent. The worst part of this celebrity who believed in his own fame was that his hubris was attached to a cartoon figure of his own making. 


He head out for Texas after losing his bid for reelection to the US House. By joining the revolution there as a six month volunteer, he stood to gain about 4,600 acres of land and the opportunity to become a "founding father of the sovereign nation of Texas".


Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo - Jeff Long 









Duel of Eagles - page 93/431


How Texas can you get?

I love learning new words. Today I learned "alameda" and "morganatic".


Alameda: I thought this was a place name, and had no idea it had a Spanish origin. Growing up in Houston, it was just the "Alameda Mall", which was THE MALL to go to when I was a kid. Except, it turns out that this is one of those weird Texas mispronunciations. It’s actually the Almeda Mall, and I thoroughly enjoyed this retro look at it on this blog post. I mean, how vintage Texas can you get than this photo of a woman in a Woolworths, posing with a toy cowboy hat and a toy assault rifle?


Actually, “alameda” means a tree-lined street or avenue. In this book, it’s used for a street in San Antonio de Béxar.


Morganatic: a marriage between people of unequal social rank, where the lower ranked spouse and their children have no rights to the higher-ranked spouse’s title or property. Sometimes called a “left-handed marriage”. Used to describe the proposed (and rejected) union from 27 year old Santa Anna’s courtship of the Mexican emperor Iturbide’s 60 year old sister, Doña Nicolasa. Santa Anna responded to the rejection by leading a revolt against Iturbide. Men and their egos, hmmm?


Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo - Jeff Long 


The Book of Dust - 46%

The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

Well. I was a sort of unwilling reader to start, but now I've been thoroughly sucked in. 

The Book of Dust - getting started

The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

I wasn't planning to read this book now. I'm not prepared to read this book now, and I don't really even want to read this book now. But my turn has suddenly come up after having it on hold at the library for more than six months, so I guess I better read it now rather than going to the back of the line again. 


That means putting Mr. Mercedes on pause, which I'm reading while I've got The Outsider on pause. I hope nothing else comes up, because I'm going to start losing track of everything.


Also, I hope this one works as a sort of stand-alone, because I only vaguely remember His Dark Materials, and I don't have time to put this one on pause while I go back and re-read that trilogy!.

Mr. Mercedes - 56%

Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Aha! Holly has finally been introduced! 

Duel of Eagles - page 63/431

Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo - Jeff Long

I'm LOLing just about every other page at how different this is from what I learned about the Texas Revolution at school: 


Many of the men pulling together at Gonzales had little or no idea why they were fighting. "I cannot remember that there was any distinct understanding as to the position we were to assume toward Mexico," said Smithwick. "Some were for independence; some for the constitution of 1824; and some for anything just so it was a row. But we were all ready to fight."


These supposed great war heroes that we were taught to venerate in school resemble more the participants in a spaghetti western barroom brawl, per this book. 

The Outsider - 17% (pause)

The Outsider - Stephen King

I've decided to pause this audio here and go back to re-read the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. It's been too long and my recollection of the character in common with both is hazy. I'm not sure if there are other connections with that series, but given that this is Stephen King and all his books seem to connect with each other in some way, it's probably a good idea. 

The Outsider - 2%

The Outsider - Stephen King

I don't know if there's going to be a supernatural element or if this is pure crime fiction, but so far this is vintage Stephen King writing. And I love, love, love Will Patton's narration. 

Duel of Eagles - page 52/431

Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo - Jeff Long

I might have stayed awake in my junior high Texas History classes, if they'd been as interesting as this book has been so far. But then, I somehow doubt the state would have approved textbooks that provided such an honest look at our "founding fathers". 

Little Women (DNF) ★☆☆☆☆

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott, C.M. Hebert

I’ve been enjoying the episodes of the Canonballz podcast covering classic books that I’m already familiar with so much that I decided to try reading a new one. I know how loved this book is, but had never read it or seen any of the TV/movie adaptations, so decided this might be a good place to start.


Or not. I’ve listened to a full hour of the story and cannot keep my mind on it. The characters are boring, their pious concern over being well-behaved and having nice attitudes is boring, and the style of writing is boring, even for middle grade fiction. Maybe the pace picks up later. Maybe the characters get more interesting. But I’ll never find out, because I just can’t face another 18 hours of listening to this.  


DNF at 5%. Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. C.M. Hebert does a fine job with the reading, but it was still a yawn-fest.


Previous Updates:


6/2/18 - 5%

The Trick ★★★☆☆

The Trick: a Novel - Jonathan Davis, Emanuel Bergmann

While I don’t usually mind books where the characters are mostly unlikeable, I do expect to be able to at least connect with the characters in some way. This was a problem for me in this book, at least until the last few chapters. At that point, it was too little, too late. Otherwise, the story was well-written and told in a way to keep me engaged to the end, but I did feel a sense of relief at being able to put it away when it was over.


Audiobook, via Audible. Very good performance by Jonathan Davis.

Little Women - 4%

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott, C.M. Hebert

Reading this for a project, but not sure I'll finish. 40 minutes in, and the pious domesticity is super boring. 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper ★★★☆☆

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick

Once in a while, I fall for the “because you read ______” recommendations that shout at me from every book buying and review site. I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to think of a time when I wasn’t disappointed. I need to remember this, next time temptation strikes.


This book was supposed to please readers who enjoyed A Man Called Ove and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and I suppose it is similar in that its main character is an old man who goes on a journey of self discovery. But that’s about it. I found the story charming at first, but it quickly devolved into cutesiness, and neither the writing nor the lessons learned nor the character evolution lifted it above the threshold for suspension of disbelief required for its unlikely events or improbable characters as did the two books that the recommendation was based on. The forward momentum stopped several chapters before the end, and I had to force myself to finish. It was an okay story, I suppose, for people who like glurge.


Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performance by James Langton was excellent, and elevated the book from two stars to three.

Just checking in, Part II. Whoaaaaaaa

Feeling optimistic and decided to check in. And I have 119 notifications and my dashboard is loading!  And my "last tags" is working!


Dare I hope???