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46. Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells us About Sex, Diet and How We Live by Marlene Zuk

Sick of scientific illiterates telling you that we're not "evolved" to live the way we do? This is the book for you.

Full of interesting facts detailing how we are still evolving, we were never "perfectly evolved" to match our environment (and anyway that concept brings one up against the erroneous idea that evolution has a goal or direction), how we have so evolved the ability to digest grain (and that we've been doing it for far longer than most of those "paleo" types would have you believe) and some of us have an undoubted genetic marker allowing us to digest milk. And anyway, humans are a succesful species because we adapt so well to just about everything - so far, the only thing that's definitively a step too far is spending time in zero gravity.

While she's hilariously dismissive of some of the more whack-job stuff she's found online, Zuk engages intelligently with actual scientific research that argues against, say, persistence hunting as an early human feature.

This is an engaging read that I can't recommend highly enough.

47. Unseen by Karin Slaughter

The latest in the Sara Linton/Will Trent detective series. It must have been good because I read it in less than three days, but not a lot sunk in. Way more disposable than the last one, Criminal.

I still love Will, though.
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46. Criminal by Karin Slaughter

The latest instalment in the Atlanta-based crime series.  There are two paralell stories, set in the present day, and in 1975.  Although this is two really gripping mysteries, it also fleshes out Will Trent's origins (up till now we knew he grew up in an orphanage, not how he ended up there), and how his boss Amanda got to be taken seriously as a detective when women police officers were still widely hated.

Not great literature, but I read it in 4 days, and stayed up way too late one night to finish it. 
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34.Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Unlike Reichs, Slaughter is still working hard on her books. Not much constructive to say other than I couldn't put it down.

Less emphasis on forensic path than her early books; more on the general police investigation side.

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10. Broken by Karin Slaughter

This is more like it.  The usual Karin Slaughter stuff - grisly murder, annoying and flawed characters that Slaughter deliberately makes that way to add to the tension.  An important clue gets uncovered, and then one of the characters has a crisis or a drama and I just want them to get on with it and do some bloody detecting already.  But then they do, so it's OK.

Pretty disposable and a quick read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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I'm behind and I have flu, so these are going to be brief.

51. Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

I have finally got around to reading the first of Slaughter's books.

Maybe I was in a funny mood, but I think it's superior to anything she's written since. I didn't want to kill any of the detective characters. She kept the suspense going throughout.

I thought that meant I'd read all her stuff, but apparently there's a new one out, or due soon.

52. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

The third Sookie Stackhouse novel (ie True Blood). I liked this better than the first two. It's something of a guilty pleasure as very insubstantial and way too close to the romance genre for my comfort. On the other hand, instead of waiting for men to rescue her, Sookie continues to save her own skin and often that of the men around her (those with supernatural powers and otherwise).

53. The Girl who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson

The sequel to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's very different. It's also very good.

54. The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas

This month's Bibliogoths selection (though I failed to make it to the meeting).

I'm undecided. I raced through it so I clearly enjoyed it; I understood what she was trying to do, but the end just left me cold. I have a half-assed argument about why but it involves spoilers.

The first half reminded me of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which is in my mind far & away the superior book.

Incidentally, I only bought two books on my travels, which I think is a new record. I took one book too many with me, but had things gone more to plan I think I would have needed it.
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3. Fractured by Karin Slaughter

Sequel to Triptych, in which Slaughter departed from her Grant County series (compelling mysteries, really annoying detective characters), and introduced Special Agent Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Disclaimer: I like Will. A lot.

In Fractured, nice suburban mom comes home to find her daughter dead on the floor and a man with a knife standing over her, flips out and kills the assailant. Only the dead girl isn't her daughter, the dead young man is also a victim, and the daughter has been kidnapped. Cue race-against-time manhunt.

Although I didn't get through this nearly as quickly as Triptych, it's still a really strong book, possibly her best. It's certainly the one where I spent the least amount of time wanting to strangle the characters. There is a plausible explanation as to why Will Trent stays with his emotionally abusive on-again off-again girlfriend.
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61. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

This month's Bibliogoths selection. Last read in the early 90s.

I can't believe that I missed that it's structured very like a Shakespeare play. And that I'd forgotten that it's actually very funny.

For a book that had several of us laughing our asses off throughout, it generated a lot of discussion.

62. Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

I've been full of lurgy again this week, including lots of feeling too lousy to sit up to watch TV. So I found the trashiest book sitting around the house. It's an "adventure" story about a woman who is half-vampire and half-werewolf in near-future Melbourne. It's really about werewolves needing to have sex all the time. And being able to beat everyone and everything else up.

It's silly and smutty as all hell, but the prose hangs together a lot better than it has any right to. Just the thing for when I was feeling rotten. I wouldn't necessarily go seek out the rest of the series, but I wouldn't rule it out either.

63. Michael Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter

A "darkly comic novella" more or less taking the piss out of the crime novels that Slaughter makes a living writing. No brilliant insights here, but a few giggles.
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40. The Town that Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J Harvey

This was recommended by [ profile] zoo_music_girl and I can't resist anything set in Newfoundland. Parts of it were quite engaging in an absurdist sort of way, but I found it was far too long for what it was (not a complaint I often make!). I had a real ethical problem with the ending. (The town in question cuts off its electricity supply so that it can commune with the spirits of their ancestors and thus be at peace/living healthily. Screw that.)

I had a lot more to say on the subject at the time, but I've put this off so long I can't remember.

41. The High Window by Raymond Chandler

Genius. Every single word. Can't wait to get my hands on the next one.

42. Genesis by Karin Slaughter

I really liked this too - she combines characters from the two series that she has been writing so far and it works surprisingly well. I think it's the longest thing she's written to date, but I still got through it in less than 48 hours.

43. A History of the Black Death in Ireland by Mary Kelly

As recommended by [ profile] nwhyte. This is a well-written book for the general reader, but I found it frustrating. This is not the author's fault - almost all the evidence for the Black Death in Ireland is in the records of the English colony. The Gaelic Irish are an almost otherworldly presence in the background, and I wanted to know more!

It's good on in which ways the experience of the Black Death was similar in Ireland to the rest of Europe, the main difference being the constant warfare in Ireland slowed recovery, and it brought me up to date on the latest scholarship on the artistic & literary response to the Black Death. It turns out that one of the best papers I ever wrote is now Completely Wrong. (Re-dating of a some key works of art and closer inspection of the written output show that the supposed shift in attitude towards death that has always been ascribed to the plague turns out to have started pre-plague in the early 14th century.)

It also highlighted that I knew absolutely nothing about the later middle ages in Ireland. Not my period in any country, but a pretty embarrassing gap nonetheless.
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37. Skin Privilege by Karin Slaughter

The usual Karin Slaughter thing - a really good mystery built around really annoying characters. Polished off in less than a day and throughly enjoyed it. I haven't entirely been reading these in order, but this is one of the latest and I think she's getting better as she goes on.

38. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

Based on the missing period of a true story (see The Turk on Wikipedia). I thought this was marginally amusing bus reading material, but about halfway through found that it was midnight and I was still reading it one night.

Has bumped the need to know more about the Austro-Hungarian empire higher up my radar.

39. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

An alternate 9/11 story where the attack took place in San Francisco, which turns rapidly into a police state. Flawed, but enormously compelling. It's aimed at young adults, so I'm hardly the target audience, but I do think we can all do with a wake-up call to remind us how quickly governments are taking away our freedoms in the name of the War On Terror.
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Another stinking cold, some more non-taxing thrillers off the pile:

11.A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter

[ profile] ivory_goddess, I'm not reading these in order either!

Either I've become immunised against the annoyingness of the detectives in this series, or they're less annoying in this installment. Either way, once again the suspense and wanting to know what happens next kept me turning the pages so that I finished it in two days.

Compelling stuff, but it's going to the charity shop unless one of you wants it.

12. The Intruders by Michael Marshall

This one didn't really do it for me either. I loved everything else of his that I've read, so I stuck with it, but I didn't feel like it really got going till too far in, and then I found the ending deeply unsatisfying.

I'll still be keeping it, but only because I have most of his books lying around here.

13. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

This month's Bibliogoths selection. I may come back and expand after the meeting on Sunday.
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3. Triptych by Karin Slaughter

A stand-alone novel that is not part of Slaughter's Grant County series. Which, as I have said elsewhere, are really compelling mysteries with really annoying investigative characters.

This one starts out as a standard police procedural but things rapidly get turned on their head and expectations go out the window. The middle portion of the book lets the reader know that one thing after another isn't what it seems.

I started it Friday morning and finished it at 11:00 am today, and is probably the closest to reading a book in one sitting that I've done since I got hold of the first PJ Tracy novel.
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Nothing of any substance of here, what with the flu and all.

56. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Certainly nowhere near as gripping as volumes 4 and 5, but I still got through it at lightning speed. More comments below.

57. Indelible by Karin Slaughter

This is in a different format to the other books in the series - there are two strands to the plot, one an incident that happened to the main characters in the early 1990s, and a hostage situation in the present day that is somehow related to the other strand. I wasn't convinced by the idea, but switching between the two works quite well as a way of holding suspense levels.

Main characters are still all whiny and annoying, but less so than in the other books in the series I've read.

58. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

I probably wasn't as disappointed by this as a lot of people, but it's definitely the weakest in the series, and is the only one I could really put down for any length of time and not care.

Now, I'd already realized way back in volume 4 or 5 that at the rate the struggle against You-Know-Who was escalating, that there was no way Harry and pals would be finishing their time at Hogwarts, but the book still loses a lot by not being based at the school.

There is no need whatsoever for the Deathly Hallows subplot. It took away from an otherwise pretty decent quest story.

I'm not sure at what point in the series I realized that Hermoine is not a character, she's a plot device to impart all the knowledge about the wizarding world to bring the reader up to speed. It's especially apparent in the last two volumes.

I don't know whether it says more about me or about the book that the deaths that upset me most were Hedwig and Dobby, rather than any of the human characters.

I can tell you that I will not be rushing out to buy The Tales of Beadle the Bard.

59. Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs

She's not even trying any more. Were it not for the fact that a) I was too ill to move or read anything more substantial and b) there's not much here, I might not have even finished it. I am frankly mystified that a story based on the finding of human remains in a cellar in a Santerìa-type scenario can be made to be dull. The moralizing at the end was neither subtle nor effective, yet if she'd left out the explicit sermon it could have been.

If the picture in the back cover is anything to go by, Reichs has had some Bad Plastic Surgery since the last book.

All I can say is I'm glad this baby came from the library. I'd be cross if I'd even paid charity shop prices for it.

I'm a sad completist so I'll probably take a chance when the next one comes out.
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53. Faithless by Karin Slaughter

I read another of Slaughter's books shortly before I started blogging everything I read. I had mixed reactions to it - the mystery was seriously interesting, but the characters were all grade-A whiny victims who spent more time agonising about their love lives than solving the damn mystery.

This one's much better. The characters are still whiny victims, but their whiny victimness is kept to the side while they actually put some effort into solving the mystery, which is very good indeed. Additionally, the odd religious group (not quite a cult) that is involved is treated in a very fair way, not at all what one expects.

My comment about this series is still that it may be set in Georgia, but it is NOT "Southern Gothic". The aesthetic is purely Southern good-old-boy.

Again I'm glad it came from the library - compelling, but pretty disposable.

54. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Really liked this one too. May be turning into a Harry Potter Fan.

55. Steal This Vote: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America by Andrew Gumbel

Another one that does what it says in the subtitle. I've always known in a vague way about black, and to a lesser extent, poor white disenfranchisement in the South in a period that includes my lifetime (!), but this was specific and graphic, and very angry-making. Also lots of specifics of the underhanded means both major parties in the US use to stop people voting.

Lots of really important stuff that everyone should know, but not many people seem to care about.

Go. Read. Now.

I had a more comprehensive review planned but my headache has gone nowhere & being upright is a chore. I may update in more detail when I feel better.


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