Devil Bones–Kathy Reichs

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I’m getting a little bored with this series. I think I’ll take a break from it for a while.

That should not be interpreted as a criticism of this book, which was fine and every bit as high-quality as the previous books in this series. It’s not you, it’s me. 

This book is set entirely in North Carolina, which is fairly unusual for these books. Although the protagonist splits her time between NC and Quebec, we tend to see her in Quebec more than in the states.

In this book, she’s called out to a house where a plumber has discovered bones on a makeshift altar in the basement of a home. She determines that the bones (not many) are human.

One of the local politicians brands it as a form of devil-worship and soon another body is found, decapitated and with Satanic symbols carved into the torso.

A suspect comes into play, someone who practices witchcraft. Of course, Wicca, Satanism, and voodoo are three distinct religious systems, which makes all these things seem far less connected than some people in the book think.

There’s also a strange connection to homosexual prostitution, grave robbery and the death of a local detective, which makes everyone incredibly jumpy and raises the stakes.

I suppose it’s a sign of my boredom that I don’t have anything more to say about this book, even though it’s only been about 200 words. If you like these books, or if you’re a fan of forensic mysteries, you’ll like this book too.

The Last Continent–Terry Pratchett

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I vastly prefer the entries in the Discworld series that focus on the witches, but I’m reading the entire series because 1) they’re generally hilarious and 2) I’m a completionist by nature.

In this book, a handful of wizards find a window to another location and wander out of it, only to find themselves stranded there with a shape changing orangutan and their housekeeper. Eventually they realize that they’re not just in a different location, they’ve traveled back in time thousands of years.

We see them trying to get off the island and get back to their own time, an endeavor that includes a meeting with an atheist deity, which…sure. Ok.

On the other side of the book we have perpetual favorite Rincewind, who is stranded on the Discworld version of Australia. A talking kangaroo keeps following him and trying to help him save the world, which they know he can do because he did it in the past. The entire thing is honestly a bit confusing, even if you’re familiar with the randomness of the Discworld books.

The best part about this book, and indeed, the best part about ALL the Discworld books, is the random zaniness of the humor. It’s absurdity at its most absurd, and mostly what Pratchett does is gently mock aspects of our own world. In this case, he’s mocking the time-travel trope and all things Australian.

This is a big series with many different sub-series that are only really tied together because they take place in the same universe. You can think of it like the Marvel universe, with different series following the various superheroes.

I am reading these in the order of publication because that’s how I started the series and that’s how I roll. But it’s far more advisable to read them in their own order, much as you would read, say, all the Spider-Man comics at once. To that end, various people have come up with different reading orders but the generally accepted version has been summarized in a chart here. Don’t do what I’m doing unless you like to take huge gaps in following the characters in each sub-series.

Cry, The Beloved Country–Alan Paton

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This was an incredibly sad book, but I suppose that’s only to be expected. This came from my list of classic books that I’ve never read.

It’s set in South Africa, sometime after 1900 but before apartheid became law in the mid 1940s. The author ran a reform school that was based in a former prison, the same one Ghandi had been imprisoned in, in fact. He wrote the book while on a tour of prisons in Europe and America and his love for his country is palpable in the book. The landscape itself is almost a character in the novel.

The book itself is divided into three sections. In the first, you follow the adventures of Stephen Kumalo, a rural priest who gets a letter from a priest in Johannesburg telling him his sister is sick and he must come get her. Johannesburg is like a black hole in this book–people go there and never come back. His brother-in-law went there for her job and never came back, which is why the sister took her small child there, to try to find him. She never came back. Also lost in Johannesburg is Kumalo’s brother and son.

When he gets to Johannesburg, he discovers that his sister isn’t actually sick. She’s working as a prostitute, and he gets her and her son out of her life and then goes looking for the rest of his family. His brother is a political activist about the treatment of native Africans in the city. His son is almost impossible to find, but eventually they do, he’s working and on probation from a reform school and planning to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Unfortunately, he’s not actually AT his job. The police find him before his father does, because he was involved in a robbery that ended in a murder.

The second part of the book follows the father of the murdered man and the trial of Kumalo’s son.

The third covers Kumalo’s life back home, after the trial, and the relationship he and his village develop with the father of the murdered man, who also lives locally.

This is a beautiful book, elegantly written with vibrant characters and a deeply affecting plot.

 

Escaping Peril–Tui T Sutherland

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This is the eighth book in the “Wings of Fire” series. These are YA books about dragons, and they are well done and fun to read. I read these with my daughter and it’s not a hardship.

That said, this isn’t the book to start with. Start with “Dragonet Prophecy” which is the first in the series. Otherwise you’ll be hopelessly lost.

This particular entry in the series does NOT depend heavily on a prophecy of some sort, which I very much appreciate because I’m so over prophecies as a plot device in YA books. Just stop with the prophecies, authors. It’s been done to death.

In this book, we focus on a dragon named Peril, first encountered in the first book in the series. She has a special power, firescales, which are exactly what they sound like. She burns whatever she touches. So…forests aren’t her thing. She was raised to be her queen’s personal champion and assassin, and not surprisingly was banished from her kingdom when that queen was overthrown.

She’s trying to make friends with other dragons and build a new life, but it’s not easy when you’re well known as the most dangerous creature in the world.

Then the deposed queen comes back full of threats and clearly in possession of a magic-using dragon, which is 1) very rare and 2) notoriously dangerous. Peril gets the idea that the best way to impress the other dragons and make friends is to go after the queen herself and kill her. She goes off into the wild, accompanied by another dragon who is looking for some friends who were also tracking the old queen.

From there, of course, things get nasty.

These are fun books and if you like YA books, I recommend the series. Start at the beginning, though.