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Monday’s Lie

Monday’s Loe, Jamie Mason

Dee’s mother was a spy. Or maybe a government translator. Whatever her job was, it involved sudden, unexplained absences and threatening late-night visits. Whatever her job was, she decided to reach her clidren Dee and Simon an unusual set of skills: both surveillance and evading surveillance; lying and detecting lies; self-defense, codes, and always having an escape route.

Tired of her mother’s paranoia, Dee tried to live the most normal life possible: marrying Patrick and trying to be like everyone else- as unremarkable as possible. But after her mother’s death, Dee becomes suspicious of Patrick. Thanks to her mother’s training, she starts to notice little things that don’t add up. Her brother Simon seems to be no help.

Is Dee just overreacting, her grief playing out in the sinister imaginings of an over-alert mind? Or is something really going on- something far worse than even she could’ve imagined?

Monday’s Lie was an excellent page turner: a spy novel wrapped around a story of family, love and grieving. 

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The Farm

The Farm
Tom Rob Smith

In his first book since wrapping up the Child 44 trilogy, Smith proves his skill again in this entirely different -but equally engrossing- novel.

Daniel stayed in London when his parents retired to Sweden, the land of his mother’s childhood. He put off visiting until his father Chris called him, telling Daniel his mother Tilde had been committed to a mental hospital. Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother shows up with a battered satchel full of evidence and her side of the story, desperate to have Daniel believer.
And oh what a story it is! Hakan, the neighbor of Daniel’s parents is a powerful man in the small Swedish town. Tilde comes to believe that he is harassing his adopted daughter, Mia. Hakan befriends Chris while attempting to make Tilde look like a mentally unsound stranger. Woven into the tale are elements of folklore: trolls, elk, deep cold lakes, and dark foreboding woods. Tilde knows her husband believes her to be insane, but has explanations for everything.
Who should Daniel believe: his mother or his father? Tilde’s story is just realistic enough to be true – but it’s also just twisted enough to be the dark imaginings of a troubled mind.
Daniel makes a surprising choice, but the story doesn’t end there. He eventually travels to Sweden, hoping to discover the truth for himself- and finds out there is yet another version of the story.

I read The Farm in two days, because once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. The most engrossing part of the book was Tilde’s story as she told it to Daniel. I kept going back and forth in my mind between “yes this seems plausible, I can totally see how this woman was a victim of conspiracy” and “this is totally paranoid and she is clearly imagining things.” But Smith makes you read to the very last pages of the book to find out which story is true.

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XL Love

XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America’s Love Life
Sarah Varney

I actually became aware of XL Love a couple of months before it was published. This article on CNN didn’t seem to have good things to say about the book: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/22/living/obesity-sex-xl-love-relate/ So naturally, I had to read XL Love when it came out.

Varney explores sexual development, marital happiness, and intimacy across age,  gender and race line with one common factor- overweightness, or obesity. Since 2 in 3 Americans are overweight- and 1 in 3 are obese- its a perspective that can’t be ignored.

The single biggest factor in plus-sized love,  Varney concluded, isn’t body size-  it’s body image. While many factors play into a happy married sex life, the biggest component seems to be a  compatible spouse who values their partner at any size.

Varney is the first to admit that XL Love doesn’t have all the answers. Studies on weight, sex, and race are in the early stages (relatively speaking.) But as body sizes in this country continue to balloon, this is a subject that can no longer be ignored. Varney addresses plus-sized love with not only medical studies but also  insight and understanding.

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The Broken Eye

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer Series #3)
Brent Weeks.

I admit I am intimidated just trying to review this 795 page novel. It’s so complex, the characters are so well-developed, and so many things happen! I enjoy different fantasy authors, but every time I read a new book by Brent Weeks, I am reminded again why he is my favorite.

The Broken Eye picks up in the aftermath of the epic battle that ended The Blinding Knife.
Gavin, unable to draft at all, escapes on captivity only to end up in sucessively worse imprisonments.
Karris, no longer a Blackguard, finds herself stuggling to fit in as the right hand of the old, wise White.
Teia, learning more about her paryl drafting abilities all the time, ends up a double-agent spy, while also maintaining her place as a Blackguard trainee.
Kip, who appeared mostly as Gavin’s son at the start of the series, is now clearly established as the main character. Once a fat, outcast bastard child; he is now a powerful drafter, an acknowledged heir of the promachos, and a leader among his Blackguard peers. But he struggles with power, struggles with authority- always seeing himself as the unwanted fat boy.
Kip has to figure out how to truly become a leader- not just to rule through power or command but with wisdom and by example.

The Broken Eye brings all the elements that fans of Weeks’ work enjoy: the complex and well-developed mythos. The scheming. The battles. The sarcastic and humorous lines.
But while the story ranges all over the map of the Seven Satrapies, I think its greatest strength lies in the characters that Brent Weeks has taught us to love and hate. I can’t wait for the next book to find out who they all- ultimately- become!

Well done, Brent Weeks. You deserve every bit of success you have gained and more. But oww, my wrist…

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A little bit of reflection on my part: I can’t help feeling that there are times when Kip’s inner monologue reflects Brent Weeks’s own experience. He is not a small man, and I imagine as a teenager, he probably saw himself as a fat ginger nerd. Now he is a bestselling and well loved author. As far as I know, Weeks has never lead an army or gone green golem, but I think he lends a little bit of his heart to Kip.
I also can’t help thinking, in bits and pieces of his well-drawn female characters, that he is loaning them qualities that he loves in his wife. Not all of them (and never the evil ones!) but there were occasional lines when I thought, “that must be Mrs. Weeks.”

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House Reckoning

House Reckoning
Mike Lawson

Joe DeMarco is a lawyer who works on Capitol Hill. His official title is “Counsel Pro Tem for Liason Affairs.” In reality, he is a bagman for Congressman John Mahoney, a fixer who gets things done off the record.
The adventures of DeMarco have kept readers entertained for 8 books before,  so clearly this is the book where Mahoney fires him.
This is also the book that gives DeMarco’s backstory. In fact, it starts a generarion earlier with his father, Gino DeMarco, a “property manager” and hitman for mob boss Carmine Taliaferro. Gino was killed when Joe was in college. But Joe is an adult before he finds out who did it- and decides to exact his revenge.
Cue all the story elements that keep readers coming back to Lawson novels: murder plots, stakeouts, guns, hit men, and blackmail. The familiar characters of Emma (elusive former DIA agent) and Neil (reclusive hacker and information specialist) play important roles, as always.

Lawson’s Joe DeMarco bookss aren’t quite spy novels- all the intrigues are strictly domestic. They aren’t quite detective stories- DeMarco enables more crimes than he solves. But as political thrillers, they are solid and fun.
A DeMarco novel is a promise of a good read, and House Reckoning does not disappoint.

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Psalm 23

I grew up with a theology that divided people into 3 parts: body, soul and spirit. The spirit could be redeemed,  but the soul and body were suspect at best.
However, I believe in a God that created ALL of me- all my senses, all my feelings- and intended that to be a source of wholeness, not shame. With that mindset, I’ve recently re-evaluated Psalm 23.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” No denial of physical and emotional needs, but a shepherd who meets all of them.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures” signifying being fed, and comfort.
“He leads me beside still waters” most of us have at one time or another drank brakish, warm,  unsatisfying water. But this is not where the Lord leads us. He takes us to the cool waters that quench our thirsts- thirsts for comfort,  beauty, music, art, etc.
“He restores my soul” (I’ll come back to this)
“Tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil” for me the biggest enemy of fulfillment and expression has been fear.
“For you are with me, your rod and staff comfort me” I grew up hearing how a rod and staff were tools of discipline, and limitation. But this verse is talking about comfort. Soothing. The safety of knowing someone is looking out for you.
“You prepare a table before me In the presence of my enemies” look anyone can pull bread and fish from a knapsack. But this is a table. Its a feast, even a party. Its food that’s not only nutritious but satisfying to body and soul.
“You anoint my head with oil” biblical anointing oil was soft on the skin and also smelled good (due to additions of myrhh and such.) It was also applied with a hand. We’re not talking about just dumping oil on someone here. We’re talking about touch, physical contact (in a completely non-sexual, healing way)
“My cup runs over” well,  we already have cool water, and its a feast so… this is probably wine.  (If you’d rather it not be, also ok) Wine tastes good, looks good, and makes you feel good. Its also a symbol of joy, and abundance.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me” mercy for my human failings. But goodness in the form of comfort to my soul and body: cool refeshing water, anointing, food that is also a feast, a cup overflowing with joy…
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” this, THIS is where I chose to dwell. Where all my  God-given senses are acknowledged. Where my needs- physicial, spiritual and emotional- are valued, and met.
” HE RESTORES MY SOUL.” Not just my spirit,  or the spirtual part of me. But my senses, my body, my soul. The part that loves good food, bright colors, certain comforting things, and yes, an overflowing cup. He restores my soul.

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Prince of Fools

Prince of Fools
(The Red Queens War: Book One)
Mark Lawrence

When an author writes a trilogy as good as Lawrence’s Broken Empire books, its easy to be skeptical about a new series. Can he do it again, with a new character and a different story? For Mark Lawrence, the answer is, “absolutely, yes.”

Prince of Fools opens in the same world as Lawrence’s previous books, in a different spot on the map and perhaps a different time (its not immediately clear, altho it becomes clear latet.) Jalan is the third son of the Red Queen’s third son. He shirks what little responsibility he does have in favor of gambling and whoring. He has some repute has the Hero of the Aral Pass (although that had more to do with luck than skill or heroism.) Jalan is a brat- a charming, spoiled brat. He is also broke, as his gambling has outpaced his income.
When Snorri ver Snagason shows up before the queen with tales of the undead rising, Jalan pays little attention. He is more interested in gambling on the Norseman in the fighting pits. Things don’t work out as Jalan hoped, tho.
In the wake of a tragic fire, Jalan and Snorri find themselves magically bound to one another. Jalan’s magic is light and fire, while Snorri’s is cold and black. Neither of them can go far from the other. Jalan finds himself reluctantly joining Snorri’s quest to return home to the North, to rescue his family and get revenge on the undead.
Along the way, Jalan and Snorri fight against both the living and the undead. They spend interminable days on foot, on horseback or on a ship. They spend their nights, when they’re lucky, in disreputable taverns. Jalan learns about Snorri’s past and the things that drive his quest. He also learns more about the magic that binds their paths.

There are certain things in Prince of Fools that Lawrence fans will recognize and enjoy. The clever, snarky writing is there from the book’s opening lines. The whole mythos (the general map, languages, religions, etc) is familar, too. While Prince of Fools may take place in a familiar world- and maybe even mention a few familiar names- its a whole new story, written in an entirely different tone.
Jalan and Jorg are both very anti-heroes, but they are very very different. Jorg was an outright bastard, driven by  immense purpose, nor caring what anyone thought and willing to kill at the slightest provocation. Jalan is a brat, almost entirely purposeless, charming, shallow, and afraid to fight.
But Lawrence got us to root for that bastard, and he gets us to root for this brat. He writes Jalan with enough humor and humanity that the reader starts to care for him. And where Jalan is weak and foolish, Snorri is strong and noble,  so a reader naturally roots for him.

Jalan may be the Prince of Fools. His story may be comprised mostly of travelling and fighting. But Mark Lawrence has written a compelling character and a non-stop story. It’s different from rhe Broken Empire books, but  -yes- its just as good. It may even be better.

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