Nutshell Review: Queen & Country Vol. 4. Operation Blackwall by Greg Rucka

Posted by on May 22, 2015 in 2015, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Comics, Greg Rucka | 0 comments

Nutshell Review: Queen & Country Vol. 4: Operation Blackwall by Greg Rucka with art by J. Alexander
Queen & Country Vol. 4: Operation Blackwall

Genre: Spy Thriller, Comics
Format: Collected Trade Paperback
Series: #4 in the Queen & Country series
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 88
Source: Library

The Book:

This volume 4 is a compilation of issues 13-15 of the comic series.

From the back cover:

British agent Tara Chace is accustomed to working in the shadows cast by world governments. She’s spied, stolen, and killed–all in service to her Queen and her country. When a French conglomerate blackmails one of the Her Majesty’s most affluent subjects in a bid to secure an important and lucrative contract, Tara’s duty takes a new turn as she embarks on espionage of the corporate variety. But when affairs of the heart get muddled in affairs of state, can Tara keep her emotions out of the mission? It’s sex, lies, and big business in this collection of the Eisner Award-winning series Queen & Country.

My Thoughts:
This time around Tara Chace and her team shift from political espionage to corporate espionage. When a leading industrialist reports that he’s being blackmailed the SIS special section is called in to find out just who is behind it and why. Not only is the corporate world out of her normal realm of operations Tara has a personal connection to this case. He college friend is the man’s daughter.

This is a rather short story arc at only three issues but given that it’s a bit of a different type of plot than the others it makes sense, The first few pages are all in French but it’s not difficult to figure out what’s going on without translation.

This series has used a variety of different artists over it’s issues. This story arc is done by J. Alexander. He keeps to the dark and sometimes roughly drawn style that most of the previous volumes have employed. He does a good job of getting the scenes dark and moody when needed and lightening them up when the scene shifts to less questionable environments.

As I’ve said before, if you’re a fan of Homeland and/or The Americans you should check out this series.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Girl at War by Sara Nović

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in 2015, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Genre: Fiction
Format: Print
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 320
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
Ana Jurić has her childhood interrupted by the civil war in Yugoslavia and 10 years later and half a world away is still struggling with it.

Why I Read It:
I have a co-worker who lived in Sarajevo during the siege and this story sounded too eerily familiar to her life.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.

New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.

My Thoughts:
One of my co-workers lived in Sarajevo during the siege of the mid 1990’s. Her stories of sniper fire as a daily way of life are chilling. When I first heard about this book there was much of the story that sounded so similar to my co-worker that I knew right away I wanted to read it.

The story begins in the early 1990’s when Ana is a 10 year old whose childhood is shattered by the civil war. Then it shifts to ten years later when she is a college student in Manhattan only a couple of months after the 9/11 attack. She’s kept her past a secret. Ana decides to return to Zagreb and the story continues to shift back and forth in time, gradually filling in what happened to her and at the same time what she faces when she returns to the city that still feels like home.

I loved this book. The raw emotions and the horrors that Ana went through as a child were brutal. As an adult she is in a country where most people know very little about the war that changed her life.

This is a book and characters that will stick with me for a long time. Perhaps more because I know someone who experienced the horrors of the Yugoslav wars but also because Sara Nović has written a wonderful book.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Audiobook – Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in 2015, 4 stars, Audio, Book Review | 1 comment

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, Narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publication Date: 2012.
Length: 9 hours, 36 minutes
Read by: Kathleen Wilhoite
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
After Bernadette Fox goes missing her young daughter pieces together what led up to her mother’s disappearance.

Why I Read It:
I actually bought the ebook of this shortly after it was released because it sounded good but Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity convinced me to get the audio format.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

My Thoughts:
I am so glad I listened to Trish and got the audio version of this book. I was a bit concerned about how well and epistolary novel would work in the audio format but it worked well. It was fun and entertaining as well as a bit heartbreaking here and there.

Some characters (particularly Bernadette’s daughter Bee) I loved from the very beginning. Others had me changing my mind partway through the book about whether I liked them or not. There’s a lot of humor in this book but there are very serious issues as well. A lot has been said about the book skewering Seattle and the Microsoft culture but I think a lot of the satire hits well outside of a narrow geographical area. Corporate culture, aspirational helicopter parents, neighborhood one-upsmanship, and many other aspects of today’s culture are equal targets for Semple’s satirical darts.

I knew Kathleen Wilhoite’s distinctive voice from many television appearances so I was curious to find out how I’d like her as a narrator. She walks right on the edge of over-performing. There’s a point where having a distinct voice characterization for each and every character can become distracting or annoying. Anne Hathaway took a flying leap way past that point in her narration of The Wizard of Oz, Wilhoite, however manages to just barely push the limits of overdoing it and only lost me a time or two. I really hated the way she voiced the psychiatrist. The bottom line however, is that she and Maria Semple’s writing together managed to entertain the heck out of me.

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the narration

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Bout of Books Wrap Up

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Blogging/Reading, Bout of Books, Fun | 0 comments

Bout of Books 13 ended last night. It was my sixth Bout of Books and I’ve got the next one marked on my calendar the week of August 17-23.

Bout of Books

Once again I had a great time having a reason to say ‘not this week, it’s bout of books and I’m going to read instead”.

I had a fairly successful reading week. The main reason I like Bout of Books is that it’s a low-pressure readathon. I never feel like I need to stop doing everything else to just read but I am encouraged to maximize and make more time for reading than I normally do. Obviously I worked full time all week so that limited my reading time but I managed to get a lot of reading hours in in the evenings and over the weekend.

I use an app on my phone to track my reading and listening time it’s called ATracker.

My week of reading and listening

My week of reading and listening

For the week I ended up with 12 hours of reading and 5.5 hours of audiobook time.

All in all with everything else I had going on I’m pretty happy with that.

I finished four books and started two more.

I did a couple of the daily challenges

The Bookish Survey hosted by Lori at Writing My Own Fairy Tale
1. How do you organize your shelves? Unread vs Read and within read they are organized loosely by subject and author
2. What is one of your favorite book that’s not in one of your favorite genres? The audio version of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
3. What is the last 5 star book you read? Same as #2 The audio version of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
4. What book are you most excited to read during the read-a-thon? Girl at War by Sara Nović
5. What book do you recommend the most? Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

I also did the Book Haiku hosted by Kristina Horner in which we are asked to write a haiku about the book we are reading right now. So . . . here goes (about Pilgrim’s Wilderness by Tom Kizzia)

Who’s Papa Pilgrim?
Homespun family man or
Something sinister?

The books I finished this week are:

  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Girl at War by Sara Nović
  • Pilgrim’s Wilderness by Tom Kizzia
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman

All in all it was a great week of reading and talking about books with a great bunch of bloggers. I’m looking forward to Bout of Books 14 in May. I hope you’ll join me!

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Weekend Update – The Enough Already Edition

Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Blogging/Reading, Fun, Weekend Update | 4 comments

Weekend Update

I understand stock images and book covers. I get that there can be multiple books with the same or very similar covers.

But I have my limits.

I was looking at upcoming releases the other day and discovered this book.


Nope. Just Nope. It may be a very nice book. It may even be brilliant. I’m not going to read it though. Simply because of the cover.

Seriously Publishers. Retire this one. Now.

So what cover image are you hoping to never see again?

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Murder Strikes a Pose

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in 2015, 3 stars, Book Review | 1 comment

Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Print
Series: #1 in the Downward Dog Mystery series
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 274
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
When a homeless man is found murdered outside her yoga studio, Kate Davidson has to find a home for his dog and convince the cops that the man wasn’t killed in a drug deal gone bad.

Why I Read It:
I discovered this author at the Left Coast Crime Convention in March and this sounded like a fun cozy mystery series.

The Book:
From the publisher:

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

My Thoughts:
I first heard about this book at the Left Coast Crime convention I attended in March. At one of the breakfast sessions authors who had thier first book published in the past year each had one minute to tell us about their book. It was a ton of fun. Tracy Weber caught my attention when she said that her protagonist Kate Davidson was “a yoga instructor with an anger management problem”.

I’m kid of glad I knew that going in because Kate does pretty much go from zero to “later” pretty quickly. This is a bit of a complication when she’s trying to get information from people. It also doesn’t help with her budding romance either.

This was a fun light cozy mystery. I figured out the killer fairly early but that’s pretty typical for mysteries of this type. I do plan on reading the second in the series.


3 stars  Rating 3/5

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