KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara: A Sweet Novel (with some pretty big problems)

KA-E-RO-U Time to Go HomeKA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home

by B. Jeanne Shibahara


Kindle Edition, 259 pg.
2018

Read: April 5 – 8, 2019


Every so often I get a book that I struggle writing about. I know what I want to say about it, but I’m worried that my point will get lost. So, stymied, the file sits blank on my screen for a couple of days while I hem and haw. I’ve been doing that for most of the week about this book (and afraid it was going to happen last week). Hear me out.

There are so many things that I’d typically complain about in a book — casual disregard for grammar, sentence structure, mechanics; characters that behave like characters in a book, not people; a plot that makes sense to no one (well, part of it, anyway). Really, this is not a good novel.

But . . . dang it, there’s something about this book that I liked. It’s like a long, meandering Sunday drive — or walk in the woods — you take a windy road/path to nowhere in particular — occasionally stopping at a scenic overlook or wandering from the route for a bit before resuming. You don’t get anywhere fast, you may hit a bumpy/rocky patch, but overall you count it as a pleasant afternoon.

So Meryl’s a Vietnam widow (it’s pretty unclear when this happens — other than her son is an adult now) comes into possession of a flag that belonged to a fallen Japanese soldier from the War in the Pacific. She’s pushed to go to Japan (where her son teaches English) to return the flag to the soldier’s family. She ends up going on the trip and finds the freedom and ability to move on from her husband’s death.

The love story is ludicrous. Actually, there are a couple of them (three) — and they’re all ridiculous, and old Disney cartoons do a better job depicting love. They’re not the actual heart of the book — but man, they get all the attention. The heart of the novel is this simple story of the return of this flag to what’s left of the family of this soldier.

When the novel focuses on that story? It’s a real winner. I can believe those people, I can believe those reactions. I can believe it– and I want to read it (not just put up with it). In addition to this, the looks at Japanese culture are great — on the whole, this novel doesn’t focus on the parts of Japanese culture usually featured in books/films.

We spend way too much time with characters — pages and pages — just for them to appear for a paragraph or three in the story. As interesting as these journeys into backstory may be, by the time we get back to the story for them to disappear just drives me crazy.

To put it in the kindest way I can: this is a very idiosyncratic with a charm that is its best feature. It’s sweet. The historical and cultural insights are great (and almost worth the effort alone). If you give this book a chance — and a lot of leeway — it’ll win you over.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, I think it’s clear that my opinion wasn’t that swayed by it

—–

3 Stars
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

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Pub Day Repost: No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne is a very foine booke that surpässes the original while showing full respect to the umlaut

I’ve tweaked and retweaked this to the point that I can’t read it any more. Hope it’s mostly coherent.

No Country for Old GnomesNo Country for Old Gnomes

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, Book #2

eARC, 352 pg.
Del Rey, 2019
Read: March 9 – 12, 2019

As much as I loved 2018’s Kill the Farm Boy — and talked about it everywhere and repeatedly — I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to pick up the sequel. There’s no way it would be as good, the humor would be a little stale, and the whole approach wouldn’t seem as novel. Still, I knew curiosity would get the better of me — and it’d still have its moments. Also, I’m not at the point where I can live in a world with a Kevin Hearne book in print that I haven’t read.

I was so, so wrong. Having established their off-kilter world, strong voice, and approach to the stories of Pell, Dawson and Hearne have come back to play in it. The result is superior in every way that I can think of. I lost track of how many times I said to myself while reading something along the lines of, “how did they improve things this much?”

So this book happens in different corner of the kingdom than Farm Boy did. The Skylar is a choice piece of the land that is home to two diminutive races — halflings and gnomes. Gnomes want to live in their nice little homes, tinker with their little projects and inventions, and wear brightly colored cardigans (well, there was one gnome who wanted to wear a black cardigan, but let’s leave that aside for now). The halflings have found their government hijacked by criminals and those particular halflings are waging a war of sorts on the gnomes, driving them from their homes for unknown reasons. Driven by desperation, two of these displaced gnomes are part of our questing party here. A halfling — committed to (some may say obsessed with) the law that is being ignored by his people is another member of the party.

These three join themselves to an ovitaur named Agape — an ovitaur is like a faun, but is humanoid with sheep characteristics (feet, legs, ears, etc). She’s the last of a long family line serving as teh guardians of a rare treasure, and needs guidance. A gryphon, named Gerd, outcast from his people has been accompanying the halfling for some time, but is devoted to protecting Agape now. The last member of the party is a dwarf named Båggi Biins. Båggi is on his Meadschpringå — a time when young dwarves leave their homes to purge the violence from themselves so they can return to their homes to pursue an ascetic life of creativity. He joins the others certain that journeying with them, protecting them along their way will provide all the outlet required to use his violence in a noble cause.

Their quest? To go to the Great Library, where the founding documents of the gnomeric and halfling civilizations are located — which should prove invaluable to re-establish the peace and help the two societies get along. Agape should find resources to direct her in her guardianship, and hopefully provide Gerd with the proof that he broke no laws of the gryphons.

The fact that most people on Pell consider the Great Library to be a myth shouldn’t be taken as an argument against this quest. What better place than a possibly mythical library to provide the answers they seek?

While these characters are on their quest, working for peace — the king and his advisor are trying to solve the problems between the halflings and gnomes in a more direct approach. We also see (briefly in most cases) other characters from Farm Boy. We see just enough to know how things are going for them some months later — and on the whole, it’s just as you’d hoped/expected it to be for them. It is not essential to have read the previous volume to get 95% of this book. It’s safe to hand this one off to family, friends and coworkers who are wondering what you’re cackling about without making them do homework first.

Along the way, these characters meet a cult of cabbage worshipers, who have the ability to read prophecies in the vegetables; some very frightening mermaids (that look nothing like anything anyone expects); a very Tom Bombadil-esque character (and a few other Tolkien-inspired jokes). As in Farm Boy, the authors manage to use these ideas as sources of comedy and to propel the plot along in meaningful ways. Similarly, they use racial and personal characteristics of the characters to play with, play against and mock genre standards. But almost none of the characters are mere jokes, they’re well-developed characters that happen to be able to comedic. This is not an easy balance to achieve — and Hearne and Dawson are almost flawless on this front.

For example, gryphons are convinced that they perceive greater nuance and details in colors, sounds, tastes and the like and adjust their pronunciation of words via capital letters, umlauts and extra syllables. Gerd’s dialogue is littered with these. It starts off as a joke that just won’t stop, and instead of it getting tired or annoying (which I assumed it would), it becomes just part of the way that Gerd talks. His own particular dialect, that occasionally will strike you as amusing — maybe even just funny occasionally. I wouldn’t say it’s because the authors show restraint with it, employing it just when needed to keep it funny. Quite the reverse, they seemingly take the approach of drowning you in the joke, figuring that it’ll be funny often enough to justify it.

If you’re like me, you have a tendency to skip chapter titles. Doing so with The Tales of Pell would be a mistake. The titles are long, fitting, and insanely goofy. The only thing better are the chapter epigraphs I imagine the drafts going back and forth between the authors, each trying to top the other with the next chapter title/epigraph. And generally succeeding.

These books are noted (as I’ve focused on) for their comedy — as is right, because they are funny. But as anyone who’s read other works by Dawson and Hearne know, they’re about a lot more than comedy. The battle scenes are exciting. The emotional themes and reactions are genuine and unforced. And tragedy hits hard. It’s easy to forget in the middle of inspiring moments or humorous aftermaths of battle that these kind of novels involve death and other forms of loss — and when you do forget, you are open to getting your heart punched.

In case I haven’t made it clear here, Dawson and Hearne knocked it out of the park here. I thought Kill the Farm Boy was outstanding, and No Country for Old Gnomes surpassed it on every front. I don’t expect that the third volume of The Tales of Pell will continue this trend — but I’m more than open to being proven wrong next year. But for 2019? I’m just going to revel in the goodness — the laughs, the pathos, the excitement — brought by this adventure and the wonderful cast of characters. Get your hands on this one.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this, I really appreciate it.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks: The Reports of Her Death are Greatly Exaggerated.

I Want You GoneI Want You Gone

by Miranda Rijks


Kindle Edition, 299 pg.
Inkubator Books, 2019

Read: April 10 – 11, 2019


There is just so much about this book that I can’t say here without ruining it. I can talk about premise, but I can’t talk about the plot much beyond that. As for characters? There’s really only one I can talk about. I really can’t talk about the minor issues I had without ruining a lot. Really, Rijks went out of her way to make this book almost impossible to talk about. Let’s see if I can figure out a way to say a little something, shall we?

Estate agent Laura Swallow gets a phone call from her daughter interrupting a first date — Mel’s away for her first term of University and checks her mom’s Facebook and sees that she’s being reported as dead. So instead of the phone calls she’s been making bewailing her loneliness, how hard it is being at school, etc., she calls to make sure Mom’s okay. Obviously, this casts a pall over the date and they call it a night.

The next day, Laura comes into work and discovers that her death is being reported in the newspaper, too. The description of her life in the death notification is unfavorable to say the least. It’s about as far from the laudatory and hagiographic words usually used as you can imagine. Laura starts to expect that this isn’t a misunderstanding, but there’s something malicious to all this. It doesn’t take too long for things to get worse — there’s someone clearly out to ruin whatever’s left of Laura’s life while trying to convince the rest of the world that she’s dead. Before long, it gets dangerous enough to be Laura that no one could help but wonder if the stories about her death were just a little early.

Laura doesn’t know who to suspect — her ex-husband? her ex-husband’s new significant other? the doctor she just started dating? a creepy client? Someone else? Laura doesn’t know what to do to find out. The reader will be a bit more objective and will have a longer suspect list that’ll include some friends that Laura can’t bring herself to suspect. Now at various points I could make a good case for any of the suspects being the person behind it all. But it turns out that my first guess was right — although there were enough red herrings that I had to keep guessing.

The characters are pretty well drawn and developed — obviously Laura more than the rest. Some of the other characters we get to know nearly as well, but not all of them. Laura’s still recovering from her sister’s death and her divorce, the events of this novel both accelerate the recovery and set it back. All in all, half the fun of this book is getting into her mind. I can’t say that I understand every choice she makes (actually there’s a few I can’t begin to understand), but it’s fun watching her make them.

I’m not convinced I buy the reactions her boss had to the whole situation — and I can’t imagine anyone having the take on the vandalism on her car that her boss and others did have (that one in particular chafed). But that’s pretty much the only false notes as far as characters go, and it did propel the plot. As far as the other characters go are concerned, pretty much anything I say would risk giving something away — so I’ll leave it at that. Even if you guess who’s behind everything, getting their motive right will be trickier, and you’re apt to second guess yourself a few times.

Rijks draws you in pretty quickly by Laura’s likeability and the strangeness of her circumstances, and then she keeps drawing you in more and more as things get stranger and more dire. If you’re not leaning forward a little bit during the last couple of chapters, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.

A great, twisty story that’ll keep you guessing as it entertains. It’s just what you want in a psychological thriller — creepy, atmospheric, with a good story with a protagonist and antagonist that you can dig your teeth into. It’s the kind of book that’ll keep you gripped and may make you lose a little sleep right up until the end, well worth your time.

—–

3.5 Stars


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the creepy psychological thriller I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Release date: April 13, 2019
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 299 pages

Book Blurb:

The only obituary you never want to read – is your own.

Laura Swallow is dead.

A life cut tragically short, says the newspaper obituary.

But that’s a lie.

Estate agent Laura did not die in a car accident. She is alive and well.

At first, Laura thinks it’s a sick joke.

But multiple announcements of her death are followed by increasingly sinister real-life events. Already fragile, struggling to recover from a recent divorce, Laura is plunged into a living nightmare.

Who can she trust? Her new lover? Her clients and work colleagues? What about her ex-husband and his smug fiancée? Can Laura even rely on her best friends? And why is it that Laura’s present troubles are so tied up with her sister’s sudden death all those years ago?

But one thing Laura is sure of – someone out there wants her to suffer. Wants her gone.

Forever.

About Miranda Rijks:

Miranda RijksMiranda Rijks is a writer of suspense novels. I Want You Gone is her first psychological thriller.

Miranda has an eclectic background ranging from law to running a garden centre. She’s been writing all of her life and has a Masters in writing. A couple of years ago she decided to ditch the business plans and press releases and now she’s living the dream, writing suspense novels full time. She lives in Sussex, England with her Dutch husband, musician daughter and black Labrador.

Up next is Fatal Fortune, the first of three books in a mystery romance series that will be published in May 2019. They feature Dr Pippa Durrant, a psychologist and specialist in lie detection, who works alongside Sussex police getting embroiled in some scary stuff!

Miranda loves connecting with her readers, so you can reach out to her at www.mirandarijks.com.

Miranda Rijks’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links for I Want You Gone:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Nero Wolfe on Taxes

seems like a good day to post this…

Nero Wolfe Back CoversA man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he forfeits the privileges of civilized discourse. But it is permissible to criticize it on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend. The last is much the shabbiest. It is arguable, if not manifest, that a substantial proportion of this great spring flood of billions pouring into the Treasury will in effect get spent for that last shabby reason.

–Nero Wolfe
from And Be a Villain

Pub Day Repost: Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith: A Funny, Fresh Take on a Police-filled Portal Fantasy

Breaking the LoreBreaking the Lore

by Andy Redsmith
Series: Inspector Paris Mystery, #1

eARC, 321 pg.
Canelo, 2019
Read: April 3 – 5, 2019

Inspector Nick Paris is your all too typical cynical, bitter, hard-drinking, chain-smoking police detective, and his world is being rocked. The latest corpse he’s been brought out to see and investigate the circumstances around the death is that of a fairy. The tiny, impossibly good looking, humanoid with wings kind of fairy. While still trying to wrap his mind around how that was possible, a crow (named Malbus) flies into his house demanding, demanding a smoke and talking to him about the murdered fairy. Not long after this, he’s visited by an elf and a rock troll (Tergil and Rocky).

And that’s just Day One of his new reality.

Essentially, there’s a connection between our world and the world of all these magical beings — a portal of sorts that those who desire to can travel between the two (or people and animals can stumble through unintentionally). For all sorts of great reasons, the magical creatures/folk kept their existence from humanity — and let what humans know fade into myth and legend. But something’s happened in their world, and those who are over here have to come seeking help (in terms of political asylum) and possibly even letting humanity in on what’s going on around them.

This is a little beyond Paris’ typical caseload, but he and his Superintendent, a no-nonsense woman named Thorpe, respond very well to these new challenges — dragging other officers and even the army along with them. They are obviously relying on the advice and guidance of the magical creatures — Tergil in particular (although Malbus makes sure his input is heard, too). They also recruit a local supernatural expert — Cassandra, a self-styled witch that no one in the police would’ve given any credence to if not for this new reality.

As fun as Paris, Tergil and Malbus are, Cassandra is a delight. She’s wise, insightful, and has a fantastic sense of humor — she might be harder for Paris to cope with than fairies, dwarves, and trolls. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ Sergeant Bonetti — he’s loyal, strong, brave and probably not as mentally quick as he should be. He’s also the target of near-constant mockery from his superior. I’m not sure why he puts up with the abuse, but I found myself laughing at it. When the fate of multiple worlds is on the line, it’s these few who will stand strong in Manchester, England to keep everyone safe.

I can think of as many reasons that this is a lousy comparison to make as I can to make it — but throughout Breaking the Lore I kept thinking about Chrys Cymri’s Penny White books. There’ll be a big overlap in the Venn diagram of Fans of Penny White and Fans of Inspector Paris. I’m sure there are other comparisons that are as apt, or more so — but this is the one that I kept coming back to for some reason.

I had so much fun reading this book, Redsmith has a way with words that makes me think it really doesn’t matter what story he decided to tell — I’d want to read it. He was able to express the seriousness of the situation, while never stopping (either narratively or through the characters) the quips, jokes and sense of fun. There’s an infectious charm to the prose and characters that easily overcomes whatever drawbacks the novel has. I’m not saying this is a novel filled with problems, it’s just that I woudn’t care about most of them thanks to the voice.

Now, Redsmith’s wit does have an Achilles’ heel — puns. Redsmith is an inveterate punster, and will hit you with them when you least expect it. Now me? I love a good pun — and I hate them at the same time. Maybe you know what I mean. I cackled at pretty much all of them (frequently audibly), but I hated both myself and Redsmith for it. You know those, Pearls Before Swine strips where Rat beats up Stephan Pastis because of the very carefully constructed pun? Yeah, this book is a series of those moments (but he rarely gives the setup Pastis does, usually it’s a quick sucker punch).

There are many other points I’d intended to make, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. This novel is silly, goofy, intelligent, charming — with a fresh take on a great idea. You’ll find yourself enjoying Paris, Cassandra, Malbus, Tergil and the rest. I can see a few different ways that Redsmith takes Book Two, and I’m looking forward to seeing which one he picks (probably none of my ideas). But before that happens, I’m just going to relish the fun that Breaking the Lore was and encourage you all to go buy and read it for yourself.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Canelo via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

Saturday Miscellany — 4/13/19

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Occidentally Orthodox (who may not like a lot of what I post, but I hope he comments) and whovinawrites for following the blog this week.