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"Hot" is a compromise between recency and thumbs-up votes.



7. [The Vegetarian] by Han Kang 4.5 Read with IreadthereforIam

Fascinating book. Told in three parts from the perspective of the husband, the brother-in-law and finally the sister, which I found effective and satisfying. Basic plot: Yeong-hye has an awful dream after which she refuses to eat meat; but the changes in her are more profound than just her diet and her strong stance has a ripple effect touching all those around her.

I didn't like the book because:

1) I wasn't enamored of any of the main characters.
2) The sexuality in the book was stronger than I was expecting.
3) There is abuse, although not detailed (thank goodness).
4) Some of the characters have the strangest obsessions.
5) The ending didn't go where I wanted it to.

But far outweighing that...

1) I couldn't put it down.
2) It was an excellent descent into madness.
3) The writing was beautiful.
4) It starkly captured the imperfection of some marriage relationships.
4) It is a book I will never forget.

So, what do I rate it? 4.5! I will look for more by this author.

Favorite lines:

"He was becoming divided against himself. Was he a normal human being? More than that, a moral human being? A strong human being, able to control his own impulses? In the end, he found himself unable to claim with any certainly that he knew the answers to these questions, though he'd been so sure before."

"She's a good woman, he thought. The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive."

"I don't know you," she muttered, tightening her grip on the receiver, which she'd hung back in the cradle but was still clutching. "So there's no need for us to forgive each other. Because I don't know you."
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4 vote Berly | 148 other reviews | Jan 15, 2017 |
How do you review a memoir of the Holocaust? I've been looking for a way to start this review for 30 minutes and I am still not sure what a review should be.

Szpilman's story of his survival in Warsaw during WWII is heartbreaking and almost understated. It is almost as if he believe it was nothing special - that it just happened. And yet, he never got sent to a camp as most of the Warsaw Jews (partially due to luck, partially because of his own ingenuity), he did not get shot as a lot of the ones that somehow were left in the city, he never ended up in a prison or worse. But not because he sold out to the Germans - he lived in the Ghetto and refused to enter the police, he lived in hiding despite people cheating and people dying around him. And at the end, it was a German officer that made sure that he was clothed and fed enough to survive until the city was liberated.

The Warsaw Ghetto is one of the best known horror stories of the war - together with the camps and the gas chambers. But in most memoirs I had read, people end up out of Warsaw to survive. Szpilman never leaves the city - he hides and survives fire and cold; he even survives when his name is selected to be sent with one of the cattle carts that moved people out from the Ghetto. He lost his whole family and more than once he was ready to die - just to find a reason to live again.

The fall and liberation of Warsaw are bracketed by two renditions of Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor - the last thing to run on the radio before the broadcasting location was shelled; 6 years later, Szpilman is performing the same on the newly restarted Polish radio.

The story is written immediately after the war and one expects it to be bitter or disillusioned. But it is not - Szpilman sound almost detached from the horrors and the unspeakable tragedy he is describing. And somewhere in that story, there is also a German that saves him when everyone else had left.

The book contains not only the memoir of the Polish musician but also parts of the diary of that German, Wilm Hosenfeld, - showing that not everyone in Germany was part of the machine - even when they were part of the army. One of the tragedies of the times is that he was killed despite him helping more than one Jew - not in the war but in the Soviet POW camps after that, partially because they did not believe him.

It is a story of healing and acceptance. A way to exorcise the demons so the life can continue. Or a way to say everything that is in a man heart so space can be made for new and better memories. Whatever the reason, it is one of the memoirs that should be read.

The fact that the German officer had to be changed to an Austrian so it can be published in the new Poland after the war shows clearly that the war taught humanity nothing. The fact that it was pulled out soon after publishing and never republished until the times changed due to the Ukrainian and Baltic helpers of Germany being shown clearly is unfortunate and direct result of the split of the continent after the end of the war. (the afterword of that edition is more informative than usual). The war that should have united everyone ended up with the world split worse than ever. And humanity is still healing. But that is a different story. And not part of this book.
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3 vote AnnieMod | 23 other reviews | Jan 17, 2017 |
I can NOT believe I have missed this 1964 classic until now. But... I know that I have an appreciation for this book after five years of teaching under my belt that I never would have before. Wow. Just wow. This book started out as a short story entitled "From a Teacher's Wastebasket," and the author was nudged to turn it into a book at the urging of an editor. What emerged was the correspondence, student contributions, administrative memos, board of education communications of Sylvia Barrett, a first year high school english teacher in New York City. The style of the book ("weird-looking typographically") was groundbreaking in the 1960s, but could be any book's today: a collection of typed and handwritten -- complete with doodles and embellishments -- notes and directives. While the style doesn't seem all that odd to a 21st century reader, unfortunately neither do teaching conditions and the state of education. OMG, truly not much has changed in the 60+ years since the book was written. The only thing that truly dates it is a broken foot, which lands the sufferer in the hospital for some weeks!

From Ms. Kaufman's preface:
Some reviewers paid me the ultimate compliment: They thought I had merely collected and arranged the material in the book. But the novel is invented -- except a few directives from the Board of Education, which I had to tone down for credibility (emphasis mine). I made up reports, memos, notes, records, forms, announcements, confidential files of the school nurse and the school psychologist, class minutes, lesson plans, administrative circulars, and comments from the kids themselves. All of it sounded so authentic that I was delighted to learn that when the assistant principal of my former school sent directives to his teachers, he would add in red pencil, "Do not show this to Bel Kaufman."

I loved it. LOVED it. I laughed frequently, cried a lot (sometimes because the book was sad), and fell in love with the students. Ms. Kaufman absolutely "got" them, and their voices, channeled through her, were brought to glorious life by Barbara Rosenblat in one of the best narrations I've ever heard.
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6 vote AMQS | 26 other reviews | Jan 10, 2017 |
This brilliant novel opens in the Dutch city of Haarlem in early 1945, during the Hongerwinter, the famine that afflicted millions of residents of the German-occupied western portion of the Netherlands due to a blockage of food and fuel by the Nazis. Anton Steenwijk, a 12 year old boy, and his parents and older brother were spending a quiet evening at home, huddled around a lantern to keep warm and trying to keep hunger out of their minds. Their peace was broken by the sound of nearby gunshots, and when they looked outside they noticed the body of a man lying in front of their next door neighbors' house. Those neighbors then moved the body to the front of the Steenwijk's house, and they saw that the dead man was the local Inspector of Police, a notorious collaborator who was reviled and feared for his cruelty towards his fellow citizens. The family panicked, and after German soldiers arrive the Steenwijks are falsely accused of the murder. Anton is separated from the rest of his family, taken briefly to a local prison for the night, and later he learns of their fate.

Anton is sent to live with his well to do uncle and aunt in Amsterdam, where he studies and establishes himself in a notable profession. He is haunted by the events of that fateful evening, and although his future is a bright one with a beautiful young wife and child his view is to the past, as he desires to learn what happened to his parents and brother, and to find out more about the events that led up to the Inspector's shooting. He eventually meets key people who were involved with or were observers of the episode, and those encounters, along with fragments of his memory that he is able to uncover, permit him to piece together the full story of that night in Haarlem.

The Assault is a powerful and unforgettable novel about memory, responsibiiity, and one's past history and how it affects, and sometimes mars, the future, which is relevant not only to survivors of war and personal strife, but to anyone who has experienced a difficult or eventful past life. The book was the source of a movie of the same name, which won won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film that same year. Harry Mulisch is considered to be one of the Great Three Dutch postwar writers, along with Willem Frederik Hermans and Gerard Reve, and this outstanding novel makes it easy to see why this is the case.
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2 vote kidzdoc | 24 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
Bessie Head (1937-1986) was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the product of a relationship between a wealthy white woman and an unknown black man, who was believed to be a farm hand on the family ranch where her mother, Bessie Amelia ("Toby") Emery, lived. Toby was committed to a local mental hospital after her parents learned of her pregnancy, which was taboo in that segregated country. She gave birth to Bessie in this hospital, and as she was deemed to be too mentally ill to raise the child Bessie was sent to live with a white family, who subsequently disowned her after they discovered that she was a "Coloured" (mixed race) girl. Her mother committed suicide after Bessie was taken away from her, so she was placed in a foster care with a black family until she was 13, and then sent to live in a mission orphanage in Durban.

After she earned a teaching certificate she left the orphanage and taught briefly in Durban before she moved to Johannesburg to become a journalist. Her career was marred by racism and sexism, as she was the only female journalist for the publication she worked for. However, her career allowed her to meet members of the Pan Africanist Congress in the early 1960s, who sought the removal of the apartheid system in South Africa and a return to self government by black Africans. She was introduced to her future husband, Harold Head, an anti-apartheid activist, who she married in 1961 and subsequently divorced three years later. She joined the Pan Africanist Congress, and her activities led to her arrest and imprisonment. She sought asylum and left South Africa for neighboring Botswana with her son in 1964. She was accepted as an alien refugee there, on the condition that she would never attempt to return to her home country.

Bessie Head taught and became an agricultural worker in Botswana, but was very lonely and was ostracized in her new surroundings, which led to a nervous breakdown and hospitalization in a mental health facility. She began to write after her release from hospital and slowly gained recognition for her short stories and novels, which allowed her to escape crushing poverty that resulted from her loss of work. Just as she was becoming an acclaimed writer she contracted hepatitis, which led to her premature death at the age of 48.

A Question of Power, which was published in 1973, is a semi-autobiographical novel whose protagonist, Elizabeth, is a mixed race South African who fled to the Botswanan village of Motabeng, where she became a schoolteacher. Elizabeth, like her creator, struggled to fit into Botswanan society, and slowly descended into madness. The narrative features her unusual relationship with two mysterious men, who may or may not be real, and her hallucinatory fantasies are interspersed with her brief lucid periods. The novel can also be viewed as a metaphor for the disturbed state of apartheid South Africa, as well as the effects that this system had on its Black and Coloured residents.

A Question of Power was a disturbing and difficult book to read, as I had a hard time following Elizabeth's schizophrenic thoughts. It is a powerful and inspired work of literature, though, and I do intend to read more of Bessie Head's books, particularly her autobiography A Woman Alone, in the near future.
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2 vote kidzdoc | 6 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
2012, Random House, Read by Wanda McCaddon

Publisher’s Summary: adapted from Audible.com
London, 1940: Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined.

My Review:
Maggie Hope is English by birth, but, having lost both parents (or so she believes) at a young age, she has been raised in the US by her aunt, Edith. When her grandmother dies and leaves her the family home, she must return to London to sell it. But it doesn’t sell – so Maggie takes in some roommates to help keep the old place afloat and settles in to make the best of things. I love that she is an exceptional mathematics student and heading to graduate school in 1940.

In London, it is, of course, a troubled and deadly time: frequent bombings set off air raid sirens, sending the multitudes underground. Once inside the prime minister’s office, Maggie has access to the War Rooms, where she is exposed to the machinations of war: battery, mobilization, spies, murder, and intrigue; and where she will decode the intent of a menacing faction planning to assassinating Churchill. MacNeal has obviously researched the era meticulously and provides wonderful insight into the character of Winston Churchill.

The Prime Minister’s Secretary has all the makings of a great story, but I think the plot line needed to stop short of Maggie’s hidden family secrets. For my part, this introduced unnecessary clutter into an already intriguing plot. The discovery that Maggie’s dead father is not dead, and his re-introduction into her life raises the questions of his motivation for disappearance, his decision to desert her, her capability to eventually forgive – and the story was strong enough without all of this complication.

The Maggie Hope series popped up on one of those Recommended for You bulletins while I was reading the Maisie Dobbs series, which I loved – so I wanted to explore. Based on this first installment, I don’t think I’ll like the series as well as Winspear’s, but I liked it well enough to listen to another.
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3 vote lit_chick | 104 other reviews | Jan 13, 2017 |
This one was such a perfect fit for me, in my fledgling “birding” life and I was lucky to find it as an Audible Daily Deal.
Each of these chapters, most take place at the author's remote Maine cabin, are portrait's of a particular bird or a group of birds. The first one involves a family of northern flickers, that have taken up residence, inside the walls of his cabin.
We then move onto owls, woodcocks, phoebes, vireos and others.
There is some humor here, but Heinrich's deep passion and painstaking drive to observe and understand the lives of our feathered friends, is evident on every page. This may not be of interest to all readers but if you appreciate nature, the great outdoors and an intimate look at birds, give this wonderful book a try.
It looks like he has written many other books and I will be seeking these out, as well.
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5 vote msf59 | 4 other reviews | Jan 12, 2017 |
Oh Boy did i have fun with this book and definitely had fun getting to know TD and Rachael...Thanks to the Author Jessika Klide for taking me along on this awesome adventure ;) Will definitely be reading more :)
2 vote BookAholic420 | Dec 3, 2016 |
I first encountered the romantic (and Romantic) figure of Ross Poldark, veteran of the British side of the American Revolutionary War, on television, via the glorious BBC adaptation that PBS aired when I was a kid. I knew that someday I'd have to get my hands on these books to read them, because I could just tell that stuff was getting left out.

Oddly, though, this does not seem to be the case, much; the television show has proven to be very faithful to the books, or at least to this first one*. Which is to say that all the melodrama of the returned, wronged veteran plot is here, with just a dash more melancholy in the form of a prologue concerning Ross's father and uncle as the former lays dying and the latter lays plans to marry his son to the girl Ross has always fancied. Because everyone presumes Ross to be dead, of course.

Oh, Ross! The odds are stacked against him from the start. His father being a younger son, what patrimony there is for him is meager at best -- just enough to qualify as "landed gentry" with all the responsibilities of a country squire, not enough to afford to live at all well. The tin mine from which his father's fortune was drawn has sucked it all back down again, and a rotten pair of no-good servants have let the family pile get so run down that they're housing chickens in the living room... welcome home, war hero!

Oh, and yes, his childhood sweetheart is indeed marrying his cousin, son of the older son who got all the money and the original estate and the tin mine that's still worth a damn! Did I mention melodrama? Because melodrama.

But melodrama isn't all that's on offer here. There is also some wonderful nature porn, of which author Winston Graham was a gifted practitioner. In the high Romantic tradition, weather is often a stand in for/emphasizer of emotion, so, for example, a solitary figure standing quietly still and watching the sea can be understood as in turmoil if the waves are being especially powerful and crashy. But sometimes it's just there for the sake of being there. I'm already half in love with Cornwall, between growing up watching Poldark on television and having recently enjoyed the excellent Doc Martin series, exteriors of which were shot in Port Isaac, Cornwall (which, take a look at SF superstar Alastair Reynolds' relatively recent photo odyssey there, tracking down Doc's house and whatnot), and it's obvious that Graham was, too. With good reason.

But Graham does interiors, too, like that of a cottage in which dwell a family under Ross's care, and how the family spends its exhausted evenings. Graham gets the whole "world lit only by fire" and turns this shack into a mysterious abode of shadows and half-secrets: "On the floor Matthew Mark Martin's long bare legs glimmered like two silver trout; the rest of him was hidden in the massive pool of shadow cast by his mother."

Winston Graham is one cinematic writer, no?

But he is also, as it turns out, a writer with a real gift for honest, ordinary human emotion. Especially -- and this is quite rare -- happiness. For example, a scene, one that really just concerns Ross and Demelza rowing out to watch the yearly pilchard catch, is one of the loveliest I've read in a long time, not so much for the scenery (although that is nice) as for the rarity it captures: a moment of quiet, slightly awe-stricken joy, joy that is recognized and savored by our usually troubled hero. It's a total grace note, this scene, but I'm so glad it's there.

For Ross is a most turbulent, even exhausting character. A member of a family so ancient and steady they would probably have regarded the Cecils as gotten up parvenus, he shuns the local gentry in favor of the miners and farmers and poverty-stricken villagers who are his tenants, not out of any hipster-ish disdain for the manners and mores of the former so much as an inborn sense of decency (sharpened by the memory of his reprobate, skirt-chasing-and-catching father), which gets him into plenty of trouble when his proteges get caught poaching or when he rescues an urchin from a beating and makes the life-changing decision to adopt said urchin as a member of his household staff even after said urchin turns out to be a 13-year-old girl... and everyone in Cornwall starts thinking what you're probably thinking right now, unless you already know Ross and his story...

All in all, this first Poldark book is one of the loveliest things I've ever read; even the love story, which sort of element usually makes me retch, is a thing of beauty. I suspect this is because Graham focused on the friendliness and companionship rather than on the passion. Ross Poldark spends most of the second half of the book hopeful and happy. And Graham found a way to make these states of mind anything but boring.

For pure pleasure in reading, Ross Poldark cannot be beaten.

*Though this is, of course, in plot and tone, really, this faithfulness. One way in which the TV show is lacking is in the way it portrays the relationship between Ross and Demelza. Robin Ellis did not really sell Ross's tenderness and genuine love for her, or the sheer happiness she brought to him. But could anyone, without a lot of cheesy voice-overs?
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2 vote KateSherrod | 32 other reviews | Aug 1, 2016 |
Originally published in 1955, Lord's A Night to Remember provides a simple, beat-by-beat rundown of the events leading up to and during the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Numerous accounts of actual conversations and observations are presented, drawn from interviews from the survivors themselves.

It's distressing to consider the number of details that had they gone differently may have completely altered the fate of the ship: "If the Titanic had heeded any of the six ice messages on Sunday...if ice conditions had been normal...if the night had been rough or moonlit...if she had seen the berg 15 seconds sooner--or 15 seconds later...if she had hit the ice any other way...if her watertight bulkheads had been one deck higher...if she had carried enough boats...if the Californian had only come." This and The Watch That Ends the Night would make an excellent fiction/nonfiction pairing.… (more)
2 vote ryner | 42 other reviews | Aug 13, 2015 |
This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: An Excellent Mystery
Series: Brother Cadfael #11
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 253
Format: Kindle Digital Edition


Synopsis:

A wounded Crusader has become a monk who has been befriended by a mute young monk. In the power plays between the royalty, an abbey is destroyed and the monks therein scatter.

The aforementioned Crusader makes his way to Shrewsbury, where it is found out that the young woman he was to marry but forswore to become a monk, went to become a nun. Only she never arrived at the Abbey. Now a young man who was with the Crusader monk must track her down to press his own suit for her hand, if she is alive. If she is dead, then he'll pursue vengeance.

Caught in the middle of it all, is Cadfael. Seeing more than others, caring for all, trying to make everything work out without destroying a man, a name, a legacy or a young woman.



My Thoughts: Spoilers

If you aren't as dull as dullard, you'll have figured out what is going on at probably about the same time as Cadfael. If you are that dull, here's a Pro Tip: young women can disguise themselves as boys.

And honestly, that is what made me shake my head over and over. How does a woman disguise herself so thoroughly that nobody in a bloody Abby discovers it? She has to bathe sometime. She has to have her period sometime. It gets hot in the summer and she can't wear the monk's habit ALL the time. I get that a young woman can pass as a young man for a time, among strangers. But among a cloistered community? It just beggared my belief.

Apart from that, this was a half decent Cadfael story. He actually plays a rather small part. There is also a lot of "Historicalness" going on and those goings ons are what actually drive the story. Kind of like getting a history lesson on the sly.

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1 vote BookstoogeLT | 21 other reviews | Jan 17, 2017 |
The world of Bone Radio is its best asset: Anthony Huso has turned away from his steampunk and fantasy beginnings into a more grounded setting. Bone Radio is set, presumably, hundreds, if not thousands, of years after the fall of our civilization. The world of the New Union isn’t in shambles, however, and the post-apocalyptic setting doesn’t reflect an apocalypse too strongly. Most of humanity has been rebuilt off the work of archaeologists and future academics, and the existing government lies somewhere between our modern day and the fractured world of the Fallout game series.

[N.B. This review includes images and footnotes, and was formatted for my site, dendrobibliography -- located here.]

Huso’s world is his story’s best asset, and I found myself genuinely drawn into the New Union’s structure and the surviving institutions. That the world wasn’t buried in traditional post-apocalyptic tropes, but instead turned them on their head, worked in its favor. The rest of the novel, unfortunately, suffers from problematic editing, turgid writing, and poor characterization.

The story’s set-up is somewhat convoluted, and perhaps betrays the sense of cognitive dissonance underlying the plot. Marshall Dei arrives at his family’s cliffside mansion to find his brother, the oddly-named Vercingetorix Dei, sprawled on the floor and near death. Marshall, a tattoo artist by trade, also works as his brother’s caretaker, regularly feeds a living tattoo that swims over Getorix’s body. Without this care, his brother could be devoured from the inside out.

Getorix once held the title of President of the New Union, and was the nation’s most successful leader, bringing an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity before retiring. It’s his devouring tattoo — a gift from a mythologized tribe he lived with long before — that gives him this unnatural prescience. Marshall carries a fraction of this power, with a ‘bone radio’ of the title installed by Getorix in his teeth: He occasionally hears ghostly songs with lyrics and rhythms serving as metaphorical warnings of the world around him.

The present New Union administration a failure, and hungers for the powers they see the Dei family as hording. The main plot is pushed forward by a conspiracy of government officials aiming to betray the Dei family and gain control of their assets; their hope is that a physical object at or near the Dei House would be the source of Getorix Dei’s successful leadership.

Bone Radio was exciting, but not well-written. The first fifteen pages are among the most turgid, and it took me a while to ground myself in what exactly was going on. Metaphors and similes were strained to the limits of readability, and multiple adjectives would adorn every other word.* Once the setting of the Dei House was established, I found myself lost in the New Union’s intrigue: That humanity hadn’t failed a la McCarthy’s the Road (2006), but was flourishing again, building colleges and technological industries, reminded me of Riddley Walker (1980) in some respects. The writing and editing issues occasionally drew me out, but the family’s quests amid this future were fascinating enough to draw me in until the end.

Besides the often-clunky writing, the characterization of the heroes and villains is too flat. Marshall Dei is not an interesting hero: He’s more a Mary Sue defined by ‘badass’ stereotypes. He’s huge, muscular, masculine beyond comprehension, brilliant, infinitely-attractive, and a mysterious loner. His decisions that drive the narrative make no sense, and betray his supposed intelligence.† Piper, the story’s love interest, is a shallow fantasy bordering on casual misogyny: A beautiful, naive 25-year-old who falls for the hyper-masculine Marshall Dei twice her age. She transitions from loathing Marshall to obsessive love in about 24 hours. She then continually rewards Marshall sexually in some disturbing scenes where she’s in excruciating pain and near death, but feels the absurd desire to have sex with the man responsible for putting her in that position.‡ Their relationship only harms the narrative, and I genuinely didn’t understand why it was written into the story at all. These two personalities do not gel, and their romance did not feel natural or interesting: Just absurd.

Other characters don’t fare much better: The villains, Lynn and Forster,§ are just gross caricatures of casual misogyny, identical personalities who think only of taking advantage of the people — especially the women — around them. The mythological tribe that may or may not exist is defined exclusively by outdated, flat noble savage tropes. Marshall’s nephew, Wesley, is dragged through the dirt by the narrative and ultimately murdered with no redemption or character development. He’s portrayed as a chubby loser undeserving of Piper’s love — they’re dating before she falls for Marshall –, and his own father even seems to knowingly forego saving Wesley’s life. Wesley’s betrayed by his entire family, stews in that betrayal for a while, and then dies horribly. It’s later revealed that he could have been saved, but evidently no one cared.

Bone Radio is an odd story. The characters and plot feel like an outline of ideas and stereotypes that need to be fleshed out, yet the world Huso wrote is fascinating despite that. The problems pile up so high, that it’s hard not to explain them without getting frustrated by the novel’s failure to meet its potential. Bone Radio‘s still a fun yarn, but it ultimately reads like a first draft in need of many revisions. If it were edited further, I’m confident there’s a great story under here somewhere.
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1 vote alaskayo | Jan 17, 2017 |
"....several duly goateed officers of the current regime determined that for the crime of being born an aristocrat, I should be sentenced to spend the rest of my days....in this hotel." And so begins Count Alexander Rostov's peculiar/absurd punishment at the luxurious hotel Metropol in Moscow. A reader might think that a book of almost 500 pages recounting his day to day life in one building would be tedious, repetitive and dull. Not so! Rostov's imprisonment is anything but! In the early to mid 20th century, as the world outside the Metropol changes, the Count retains his aristocratic lifestyle while still befriending those from the working class. Intriguing, beautiful and beguiling guests of the hotel add spice to his life and there's never a reason for Rostov to be alone or listless. Author, Towles, delivers a masterful story. It's smart, it's well paced. The characters are lovable and there are some who are despicable. It is a marvelous read, one which should be savored and enjoyed.… (more)
1 vote Carmenere | 34 other reviews | Jan 17, 2017 |
This author just tries way too hard 1) to be poetic; 2) to be shocking; 3) to be experimental. For me, the end result was a fragmented mess with moments of fine language. I came to the book expecting it to be similar to The Cellist of Sarajevo or A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a novel with a message about war, but no. I got very tired of the blood, blood, blood, menstrual blood, painting with menstrual blood, post-rape blood, kinky sex blood, photographs of blood, bloody limbs--well, you get the point. Not to mention the detailed descriptions of sex, most of which was sado-masochistic, If there was a message here, I guess I'm just not cool enough to get it. Thankfully.

I listened to this book on audio, and that undoubtedly made it even worse. The reader used the same flat, emotionless, monotone voice that will be familiar to anyone who has attended a poetry reading in the last 40 years. Almost six hours of that was sheer torture.
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1 vote Cariola | 4 other reviews | Jan 17, 2017 |
Originally "Twilight" fan-fiction (and it shows), this is a miserable reading experience with a dangerous message, ignorantly portraying a textbook abusive relationship as desirable.
1 vote Birdo82 | 634 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
I understand that this is quite a bit dated, but the rampant sexism was too much for me.
1 vote kemilyh1988 | 149 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
DNF because nothing happens. If nothing is happening after 200 pages, I am out.
1 vote kemilyh1988 | 885 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
Usually you know who had been killed early enough in the Perry Mason novels - or at least you can suspect. 1/3rd into this novel, noone had died yet and there was no way to see what is coming.

It all started with two checks for 25 hundred dollars each - received with consecutive mail deliveries (more than one delivery per day reminds you just how different the world we live in is), both from the same person, both with no notes attached but from different banks. That of course makes Perry suspicious - and before long it is clear that one of the checks is forged. Which makes our lawyer even more convinced that he wants to understand what is going on.

And then things get a bit weird - a car that had hit something, a married woman that had ran away with her husband's assistant and a woman that pretends to be someone else. Nothing unusual for Mason, right? Of course at some point there is also a body, a man with amnesia (seemingly caused by a hit of the head but ascribed to shell shock at some point - reminding me again how soon after the end of the war this novel is) and another crashed car (this one is really not good for the cars). There is also a farmer that seems sincere and the constant whining of Paul Drake.

It's a story of misdirection and lies - everyone lies and when someone's lie sounds better, other people decide to support it with their own even more elaborate one. And in an already familiar pattern, when a stupid policeman is needed, Tragg acquires an assistant - this time from the sheriff office. No Hamilton Burger either, he sends another underling - Danvers - to the preliminary hearings - which is all that we really get. The hearing itself, despite achieving the usual success, is almost understated - partially because it is not a full trial and partially because of all of the time taken chasing people across the state. And untangling what is the truth and what is someone's idea of the truth. And at the end you wonder if the person that died is not better of dead - for the sake of everyone else.

Not the strongest novel in the series but entertaining enough. 30 books into the series and it is still going strong. And I am always surprised how fast Gardner makes a series book read as a standalone - remind us who Della, Gertie (who has a somewhat bigger role than usual) and Paul are and inject enough background so you do not need the previous books.
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1 vote AnnieMod | 3 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
This is a very cute book in German, but I wonder how successful a translation could be, as he is a Schneemann, Teeman, Stehmann, Gehmann, Drehmann, Seemann ...
1 vote MarthaJeanne | Jan 16, 2017 |
I saw The Force Awakens (and really liked it), which gave me the urge to reread the original “sequel” to the Star Wars trilogy. Heir to the Empire takes place a few years after Return of the Jedi, when the New Republic is desperately trying to bring the galaxy together and the Empire is equally desperately grasping on to what space it still occupies. When new allies and technology seem to start tipping the balance in the Empire’s favor, Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest are left scrambling to keep up. At the same time, internal squabbles begin to threaten the delicate balance of the New Republic’s politics.

Zahn did an excellent of translating the worlds and characters to the page, while also giving new locations and people the depth and history they needed to exist in the same galaxy. Heir to the Empire has the vast, far-reaching storylines required in a space opera, but also a variety of smaller, more personal plots and events that give characters on all sides a surprising amount of relatability. There are no paragons or one-note villains in these books; all the characters, protagonist or antagonist, have nuance.

Aside from being an excellent Star Wars book, Heir to the Empire - and its two sequels - are just simply good books.
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1 vote bluesalamanders | 57 other reviews | Jan 16, 2017 |
Ughhh, my friend wrote this and it's the most passive-aggressively self-aggrandizing thing I've ever read and I'm too much of a coward to say more than that.
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jan 16, 2017 |
This was a very uniquely told fantasy story. It’s set in England (mostly) in the early 1800’s, and the author tells it in an authentic-sounding manner. It mixes in a bit of the real world with the fantasy world, and uses some archaic words like “shew” (show) and “chuse” (choose) to add flavor. There are also a lot of footnotes that add depth. The tone of the story, combined with the footnotes, often made it feel a little more like I was reading a historical text rather than a fictional story. Well, aside from all the magic and stuff, of course. :) There’s also some humor. It’s a somewhat dry humor that comes in large part from the despicable characters populating the story.

The basic story is that true magic hasn’t been seen in England for a very long time. When the book begins, we’re introduced to a bunch of argumentative men who call themselves “magicians” but in fact have never cast any sort of spell. They just study the history of magic, but they don’t practice it themselves or know of anybody who does. Then we meet Mr Norrell who, much to everybody’s surprise, is a “practical” magician – he can actually do magic. Mr Norrell has decided to make it his goal to bring magic back to England. But Mr Norrell does not have the type of personality you might expect, nor does he go about things in a way that might seem most effective to a rational reader.

It was an interesting story, and the writing was impressively done, but I was never very absorbed by it. It’s far more character-based than plot-based, which isn’t a problem for me, but there weren’t too many truly likeable characters in this book and some of them were downright awful. The book is broken up into three parts. The first part features mostly despicable characters, the second part gives more page time to some of the more likeable characters, and the third part picks up the pace of the plot more significantly. I thought the book steadily got better and better, but I still found it easy to put down. For all the depth and authenticity the author put into the setting and the characters, I wasn’t too thrilled with the magic itself. There seemed to be no real or consistent rules and, at times, it seemed terribly overpowered.

This book is 850 pages, not counting the footnotes that were all counted as page 850 in my Kindle edition. The footnotes made up the last 7%, which would be about 64 pages. So yes, this book was slightly tome-ish! If anybody reads this on a Kindle, be careful because some of the footnotes get cut off in the pop-ups. Many of the footnotes are quite long, some being practically short stories rather than ‘notes’. When reading on the Kindle, you can follow the link to go directly to the footnotes to make sure you’re seeing it all. In my case, I chose to read the book on my tablet instead, even though I don’t normally use it for reading. It was just a little easier, plus the footnote indicators stood out better on a color screen with their blue numbers and I didn’t want to miss any. I’ll be very happy to get back to my Kindle, but my tablet did give a slightly more realistic “weight” to my tome. :)

I have a couple of more specific comments that I’ll need to put within spoiler tags:
I thought the most interesting parts involved secondary characters. I was very interested in Childermass. I wish he’d played a more prominent role in the book, but the air of mystery surrounding him was part of his appeal. I also enjoyed the parts with Stephen Black quite a bit. Segundus was also interesting, what little we saw of him.

Jonathan Strange was somewhat likeable, certainly far more so than Mr Norrell. He was rash and a bit self-absorbed, but I liked his openness and his desire to spread knowledge. He seemed to have good intentions, even though his carelessness was sometimes a problem. Mr Norrell, on the other hand… ugh! Setting aside the fact that most of the problems in the book were the result of his selfish choices, he just had a horrid personality. I hate information hoarders, and he took it to extremes. He tried to suppress other magicians not out of genuine concern that they might cause harm, but because he was afraid somebody might equal or surpass his skills and siphon off some of his credit. He wanted all the glory for himself, and he cared more about his own pride than the greater good. He irrationally worked against his own stated objective of bringing Magic to England by actually suppressing it. Ok, yes, he struck a nerve with me. :) I guess that says something for how well-written he was if he managed to evoke so much dislike from me.

It was a little surprising to me, at least at first, that Norrell became so fond of Strange’s companionship, but I guess it makes sense that he would enjoy his first opportunity to converse with somebody who shared his interest in and aptitude for magic. Given Norrell’s history of dishonesty and selfish behavior, I imagine he will hinder Strange rather than help him solve their little curse of darkness, out of a desire to keep Strange all to himself.


Whew… I guess my review was a bit of a tome itself!
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1 vote YouKneeK | 636 other reviews | Jan 15, 2017 |
I think someone wanted this book to be a lot smaller.

The first hint, at least in my copy, is the incredibly small type -- about seven point. Combine that with rather bright paper and it is an instant recipe for eyestrain. Most people, I suppose, haven't tried to read it continuously, but I find that the most I can read at one go is about a page and a half.

But if you're only supposed to read individual articles, not the whole book, shouldn't there be more documentation?

There are three problems with the contents. One will apply only to Gentile readers; it assumes far too much knowledge of the workings of Judaism (admit it, non-Jews: Do you know what an AMIDAH is? A SIYYUM?). Of course, the book might be intended only for Jews -- but it seems to me that its educational value would be much better if it were opened up to Gentiles.

The second problem, which really grated on me, was the unstated but pretty obvious belief that only the Orthodox are real Jews -- Conservative and Reform views are not merely wrong, they don't even bear consideration.

But it's the third problem that really restricts the value of this work, and that's the refusal to say what the source of any information comes from. Very (very, very, very) broadly speaking, Jewish culture consists of the Torah or Written Law (the Hebrew Bible or "Old Testament"), the Oral Law, commentaries by the Rabbis on the Written and Oral Laws, and pure folklore. These have, of course, varying degrees of value -- the Written Torah is at the very center, although by the time the Rabbis got done with it, you might not recognize it. The Talmud is next in importance. Recent rabbinic commentary is helpful but has no inherent doctrinal significance. And folklore is interesting and fun and has no authority whatsoever.

But Unterman never tells us which is which. A random example: He says that, when Israel went into Egypt, Judah was sent before his brothers so that he could set up academies to study Torah. One part of this is actually from the Written Torah: Genesis 46:28 says that Judah did go ahead of the rest of the family. But the rest... well, the Torah hadn't been given yet, since Moses wasn't even born! And there were only seventy members of the Israelite families who went into Egypt. How many academies did they need, and exactly who would be the teachers? The claim is patently ridiculous. So is it Talmud, speculation, folklore? No way to know.

This comes up constantly. The book never says what authority any of its pronouncements has. As a result, any statement it makes must be verified elsewhere. The material in this book is fascinating, extensive -- and almost useless. Depressing, given that a slight leavening of additional information would have made it so helpful that I might even have forgiven it for twisting my eyes in knots.
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1 vote waltzmn | Jan 15, 2017 |
Like receiving B-level work from an A+ student, "Under the Dome" may not be King's most memorable work, due in part to an anticlimactic ending, but it is nonetheless a worthy feat.
1 vote Birdo82 | 363 other reviews | Jan 15, 2017 |
I loved the main character for her ambition. Far too many books portray romance as the goal of womankind. This book was different, not because the main character loved women, but because she kind of didn't give a fuck about anything except furthering her career. She was observant about classism, sexism, racism, etc. I liked that she was written as a redneck who still had the sensitivity to care. She was an outcast in her film class. Everyone else was doing ridiculous gonzo pieces with no heart, but she chose to do a documentary on her mother. I thought that was really cool, and a fitting tribute to feminism, which is what this book was.… (more)
1 vote heart77 | 39 other reviews | Jan 15, 2017 |

Recent Firsts

"First" are first reviews for previously-unreviewed works.

The Committee attempts to protect the human race from supernatural creatures. Mirie and Jack Drake are field agents of the Committee and act as a surveillance team spying on Anarion, an elf prince.They are searching for an artifact The Eyes of the Amber Moon which can destroy the world.

More action and adventure, spells and treachery. This book 2 of the trilogy continues with the Committee looking for the artifact that can destroy the world, Now, it is time to read part 3 of the trilogy.… (more)
( )
  Bettesbooks | Jan 15, 2017 |
Jack Drake must discover what the third part of the moon relic is and destroy it. Asta arrives at Jack’s ranch and he saves her from the dragons that are angry she stole dragon bones which she used to save Mirie in book 2. Now Jack and Asta join together to prevent Elijah Whitelaw from using the three artifacts to destroy the world.

A completion to the trilogy that once again is at times X-rated, which is to bad because the story would be interesting to young-adults. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tale and it is an interesting introduction to many supernatural creatures for me.… (more)
( )
  Bettesbooks | Jan 15, 2017 |
Being familiar only with a few pieces, there is a lot to explore here. So far, I'm finding the shorter poems especially lovely.
( )
  unclebob53703 | Jan 15, 2017 |
This book had everything I like in a Regency: witty dialogue, an interesting heroine, a nice hero, and an interesting cast of secondary characters. Toss in a mystery that Miss Quinton is determined to solve and I found myself turning the pages to discover what would happen next. It was well worth the time reading it.
( )
  Jean_Sexton | Jan 16, 2017 |
counting, discusses the different aspects of fall and how one would make an apple pie
2 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
using counting, discusses different animals
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
This is a historical overview to how mapping was done historically, and somewhat projected into the future.. Some look very diagrammatic, if not quirky. It is a nice overview to different perspectives on the world when set to paper. There are battle plans, and roads into the skies, mountians and rivers, and lots of vegetation. This is a coffee-table work that is a pleasure to look at
( )
  vpfluke | Jan 14, 2017 |
hen is having a wonderful time drawing on all the different pieces of paper that she ends up drawing on everyones eggs and ends up with the grow egg.
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
discusses a variety of different spiders: where they live, how they are different than other spiders
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
discusses the different types of machines that are cranes and diggers.
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
using the alphabet discusses the different types of animals (A is athletic aardvark)
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
a brief discussion of how animals camouflage in the desert
5 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
discusses different aspects of show and tell day: things that are shared, why they are important
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
discusses how the different animals are able to camouflage in the forest
4 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
discusses the different aspects of an apples, how it grows, the trees it grows on and all the different things it needs to grow
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
Despite its title, The Concert requires no real knowledge of music. What it does require is an interest in Sino-Albanian politics and a fascination with the final hours of Lin Biao. Certainly not a novel for everyone, but definitely one for me.

As negotiations for the Sino American rapprochement were going on, Gjerj Dibra flew to Beijing to deliver a letter from the Albanians, asking that the meeting with the American president be cancelled. Who was little Albania to demand such a thing? China's only ally, a tiny country cut off from the Europe which should have been its natural home dared defy Chairman Mao. Back in Tirana, Chinese diplomats, engineers, scientists, workers and trade delegations were disappearing from Albania as if they had never arrived, abandoning engineering projects, construction sites and trade missions.

This wouldn't be a Kadare book though without elements of the surreal. One nameless man, high in the Arctic, constantly sifts through transmissions in the ether, reading the tea leaves of changes in the rankings of the Chinese Politbureau. Mao Zedong wanders in and out of lucidity in his favourite cave retreat. The x-ray of the broken foot of a Chinese diplomat causes a rift between the two countries.

All these elements are essentially shadows, glimpses of greater realities. It is in this contrast between the world of conjecture and the harsh reality of Enver Hoxha's Albania that Kadare excels, setting up a real and justified paranoia. There are repeated references to [MacBeth] (was it because Mao and Lin Biao "were both hatching a plot based on treachery at a banquet?"), ghosts and isolation. Alone in China, Albanian Party member Skënder Berema repeatedly works out scenarios for Lin Biao's flight and death.

Finally there is the concert itself. Zhou Enlai had said the way to understand Chinese politics was to study Chinese theatre. Eleven hundred people, including Berema, received invitations on the very day of the concert.

Zhou Enlai, the man who knew all and controlled all, was contemplating his masks. He had three masks: the mask of a leader, the mask of one who obeys, and the mask as cold as ice. The first two he usually wore to government and Politbureau meetings or committees. The third he kept for occasions when he had to appear in public.

The clock on the wall behind him struck six. This was the first time he had gone out without one of his three masks. They were all out of date now. Instead he now wore a fourth. A death mask.

As the high level audience assembled, speculation ran rife.What was the plot of the performance? Were the movements of the second female dancer going to signify anything? Where and with whom was everyone seated? Hua Guofeng was working on his best imitation of Mao's hair to impress the audience. Finally all were assembled. Tensions built throughout the concert. The end of the performance brought a completely unexpected panic.

Kadare shifts events somewhat and timelines are unclear. Mao may die before Zhou, or the deaths may be the same day. The magic realism he employs, the varying iterations of the same story be it the massacre of Albanians in Kosovo, the war in Cambodia, or the leitmotif of the death of Lin Biao, illustrate the many forms history can take, and the impossibility of knowing the truth. This is classic Kadare.
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1 vote SassyLassy | Jan 15, 2017 |
discusses how different people are getting ready to encounter the snowy weather, the different activities/holidays that are celebrated in the winter
5 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
a cow is a firefighter and works really hard to help the firefighters put out different fires.
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
foodie, raw, vegan
( )
  academichussy | Jan 17, 2017 |
an artistic book that discusses all the different pieces of art that Pablo Picasso produced.
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
I think someone wanted this book to be a lot smaller.

The first hint, at least in my copy, is the incredibly small type -- about seven point. Combine that with rather bright paper and it is an instant recipe for eyestrain. Most people, I suppose, haven't tried to read it continuously, but I find that the most I can read at one go is about a page and a half.

But if you're only supposed to read individual articles, not the whole book, shouldn't there be more documentation?

There are three problems with the contents. One will apply only to Gentile readers; it assumes far too much knowledge of the workings of Judaism (admit it, non-Jews: Do you know what an AMIDAH is? A SIYYUM?). Of course, the book might be intended only for Jews -- but it seems to me that its educational value would be much better if it were opened up to Gentiles.

The second problem, which really grated on me, was the unstated but pretty obvious belief that only the Orthodox are real Jews -- Conservative and Reform views are not merely wrong, they don't even bear consideration.

But it's the third problem that really restricts the value of this work, and that's the refusal to say what the source of any information comes from. Very (very, very, very) broadly speaking, Jewish culture consists of the Torah or Written Law (the Hebrew Bible or "Old Testament"), the Oral Law, commentaries by the Rabbis on the Written and Oral Laws, and pure folklore. These have, of course, varying degrees of value -- the Written Torah is at the very center, although by the time the Rabbis got done with it, you might not recognize it. The Talmud is next in importance. Recent rabbinic commentary is helpful but has no inherent doctrinal significance. And folklore is interesting and fun and has no authority whatsoever.

But Unterman never tells us which is which. A random example: He says that, when Israel went into Egypt, Judah was sent before his brothers so that he could set up academies to study Torah. One part of this is actually from the Written Torah: Genesis 46:28 says that Judah did go ahead of the rest of the family. But the rest... well, the Torah hadn't been given yet, since Moses wasn't even born! And there were only seventy members of the Israelite families who went into Egypt. How many academies did they need, and exactly who would be the teachers? The claim is patently ridiculous. So is it Talmud, speculation, folklore? No way to know.

This comes up constantly. The book never says what authority any of its pronouncements has. As a result, any statement it makes must be verified elsewhere. The material in this book is fascinating, extensive -- and almost useless. Depressing, given that a slight leavening of additional information would have made it so helpful that I might even have forgiven it for twisting my eyes in knots.
… (more)
( )
1 vote waltzmn | Jan 15, 2017 |
discusses more detail about the different the foxes that live in their dens and why their homes are very important to them
6 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
I thought this was a very satisfying examination of portions of James Longstreet's military career and post-Civil War politics and repercussions. As the author notes in his prologue this is not a biography, and the author does assume the reader has more than a simple knowledge of events of the Civil War. In fact, if I have one complaint about this book it is that the author presupposes too much knowledge about less well known individuals and events in places where he is making arguments. The book was published about 30 years ago in late 1987 and the intent was for it to clear away some of the misinformation about Longstreet and restore a more balanced view of him.

Since the time of the publication more readers have read books like Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels or seen films like Gettysburg and other books have brought fresh eyes to the subject and people have come to realize that blaming Longstreet for Robert E Lee's mistakes at Gettysburg and elsewhere (as well as many of the "Lost Cause" movement blaming Longstreet for the South's defeat in the Civil War in their attempts to elevate Robert E Lee to godhood) is simply wrong. Longstreet certainly was not a perfect man and had his failings as any man does, but he also became a superb defensive tactician and one of the best leaders the southern forces had. His post-war politics would make him a scapegoat for the South's loss in the war.

This is a good book for those interested in the Civil War who might want to dig a little deeper. This is certainly not a starter book. The analysis is highly footnoted and documented for those who might want to go even further. Really an outstanding piece of scholarship here. Recommended
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  RBeffa | Jan 16, 2017 |
an artistic book that discusses all the different pieces of art that Paul Klee produced.
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
a discussion of different aspects of squirrels
5 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
an artistic book that discusses all the different pieces of art that Pierre - auguste renoir produced.
1 book
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
Good history.
( )
  johnclaydon | Jan 15, 2017 |
A sad novel about a young Chinese girl getting mistreated, very much like Cinderella, because of the death of her mother.
( )
  ChimChim266 | Jan 16, 2017 |
english/spanish book that discusses the life of large sharks and how they survive
2 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
discusses the different aspects of owls and how they survive
5 books
  TUCC | Jan 17, 2017 |
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