A Man With An Agenda

I'm an indie bookseller in Vermont, sometime public servant, and voracious reader. I love antiques, cats, D&D, Victorian literature and pulpy nonsense.


I've been writing at least something about everything I read since May of 2010.


I'm editing my reviews to cleanse them of Goodreads taint. Reviews fixed: approx. 840/1096

Halloween Bingo 2018 - A Grimm Tale

Melmoth - Sarah Perry

'Melmoth' by Sarah Perry


I'm going to stick to my rule about not reviewing unreleased books, but to keep things straight I wanted to claim the square.


I will say, it was fantastic, dark and creepy. My expectations were pretty high considering how much I liked 'The Essex Serpent'.



'Melmoth' centers on the legend of a woman who is damned to walk the earth and witness the worst sins of mankind. It'll be released in October.

Halloween Bingo 2018 - Modern Masters of Horror

Slade House: A Novel - David Mitchell

'Slade House' by David Mitchell


I've been keeping my eye on this one for a long time, it had an intriguing premise, but I was not expecting what this book delivered. I thought this book would be a more traditional haunted house story mashed with the party game 'Sardines'. This was pretty cool, though.


Slade House is revealed through chronological point-of-views from various victims starting the the late 1970s and continuing to the present day. Every nine years the back garden door to Slade House appears in an alley and a new guest is lured in. The nature of the house, the 'magic' involved, the deconstructed fairy-tale elements, and the villains were great.


Mitchell does a good job of keeping his various character's voices distinct. With each perspective more of the history of the house is revealed, too. I learned in the afterword that 'Slade House' was originally released in a series of tweets, the pace of the story dictated by the author in a unique way.


The book suffers a little from repetition, but is genuinely creepy. You feel for these characters and it was hard for me to put the book down and return to the real world. Also

is there a sequel coming?! It works as is, but come ON.

(show spoiler)


I haven't read anything else from Mitchell, but I'd be willing to try them out.



I could have argued this into a few other categories, but I have some things in mind for those more specific boxes.

Halloween Bingo 2018 - Cryptozoologist

Oblivion Song - Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo De Felici

'Oblivion Song, Chapter 1' by Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici


I don't know why I chose the shortest possible book for my Bingo pre-read, but there you go.


'Oblivion Song' is a new comic series by Robert Kirkman ('Walking Dead') that puts us in Philadelphia ten years after an unexplained phenomena wiped out a huge portion of the city, replacing it with horrific monsters and alien vegetation. 300,000 people vanished with the land. The monsters were defeated and the plants died, leaving a barren wasteland that the government built a wall around as a precaution.


It was soon discovered that the 300,000 were not dead, they were somewhere else. A scientist, driven by the loss of his brother, figured out the frequency to go to that other place and endeavored to bring back as many people as he could find. The government supported him and his team, but after many years, have shut down the program. Nathan Cole refuses to give up on his brother, making solo expeditions to Oblivion, avoiding the deadly creatures and rescuing those he finds.


The art is vivid, and the story hooked me right in. This is a promising start to a great series.


Oblivion Song


Next: ?



While 'Oblivion Song' hasn't gotten into the biology of the creatures of the zone, Nathan Cole expresses compassion for them, even objecting to their being killed out of hand. The alien landscape and its native inhabitants is an essential part of the series.

Legion of Super Heroes, Vol. 1

Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, Vol. 1 - Jerry Siegel, Michael C. Hill

My neighbor growing up, his dad collected the DC Archives, hardbound editions collecting gold and silver age comic books. They were of phenomenal quality, and introduced me to the deeper history of Superman, Batman and The Flash, among others. A blast from the past!


I loved those books, I was allowed to borrow one at a time and devoured everything he had. My favorites though, were 'The Legion of Super Heroes', teens from the distant future (there was some confusion about their being 100 or 1000 years ahead) who had formed a super-hero club in honor of Superboy.


Since they were a 'Superboy' spin-off, they were rather silly at first, but these proto-typical X-Men struck a cord with me. By the end of this volume, the Legion is only beginning to gel into the story-telling dynamo it became, but it was a pleasure to be re-introduced to Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and the rest (even Bouncing Boy).


These books can get crazy-expensive, so I don't know when I'll get to the next volumes, but I'll keep my eyes open.


Legion of Super Heroes


Next: 'Volume 2'

The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time

The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan, Teresa Patterson

Fans have labeled this 'The Big Book of Bad Art', and for good reason. This book is large format, almost coffee-table sized, and I'm sorry to say there is no reason even a die-hard fan should pick this up.


'World' was released after 'A Crown of Swords' so there are many unanswered questions and plot lines hanging in the air. Reading this, years after the entire series is complete, I read this with the eye of spotting information that wasn't otherwise duplicated elsewhere in the official series.


There's nothing. Well, almost nothing. There are fragments of information about the Seanchan and other lands beyond "Randland" (the main setting of the series, the continent and the world were never given a name, so it was dubbed "Randland", woof.) Even that information gets repeated in the novels themselves.


The text itself couldn't decide if this were a mock-history of Randland from a fictitious scholar, an arch commentary on the book series, or...what? It worked on no level. The text was riddled with awkward sentences and typos as well, which was unfortunate.


With the text out, that leaves the art.


It's bad. If you, as a reader, have ever done a quick internet search about a character or a plot point to refresh yourself (which is acceptable in a 14-volume series with hundreds of characters) pictures will pop up. For years I'd dismissed them as fan art, which has its place, but it turns out they were from this book. Muddy portraits with doubtful anatomy and melting features. Even the landscapes and buildings, such as the White Tower, were terrible. This was an official product of a best-selling fantasy franchise from the premier fantasy publisher. Presumably Jordan signed off on this? I was so appalled, I could only laugh.


The only redeemable art in the whole book was the double page spreads of Darryl K. Sweet's cover art for the first seven books. I've never been a fan of his figure drawing, but the landscapes were beautiful.


That, however, does not make up for the cover price. You're better off picking up only 'The Wheel of Time Companion' and letting this one fade into legend, myth, etc.


The Wheel of Time

The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn

The Girl in the Locked Room - Mary Downing Hahn

I read this well before Halloween Bingo, but it may interest some of you! This was just released Sept 4.


Mary Downing Hahn is a powerhouse of middle grade fiction, her talent transcends genre - does anyone else remember 'Stepping on the Cracks'?, but it is the supernatural stories that most people associate with her. 'The Girl in the Locked Room' is a classic story of loneliness, mystery, and discovery.


Jules' father renovates houses for a living, so she's used to moving to different town and living in creepy, old houses. Her mother is a writer. Jules has a bad feeling about this house, however, especially after she catches a glimpse of girl's face in an attic window. A window in a room that is sealed shut. The construction puts most of the house off-limits to Jules, but after making a new friend and hearing ghostly sounds in the night, she is driven to investigate.


A great thing about the book is the inclusion of the titular 'Girl's perspective. She has been locked away for so long she's forgotten everything, even her name, and it takes time for her to remember what happened to her and her family. This adds delicious atmosphere to the story.


The house and Jules' situation would have been a dream of mine growing up, but for Jules the nomadic life is one of loneliness. That element grounded the story and Hahn excels at creating relatable protagonists.


As a side note, I loved Hahn's respect for history and attention to detail in all things. My husband appreciated that she even got the dolls right.


Hahn still has it! This is a supernatural mystery for younger readers, but has sufficient depth for an adult to read and there are many potential topics to discuss with children.

Crossroads of Twilight, The Wheel of Time #10 by Robert Jordan

Crossroads of Twilight - Robert Jordan

This is a toughie. There are many reasons why this book is so notorious, but I'll stick with two reasons. The first is that the bulk of this book is people reacting to the admittedly awesome cleanse of saidin at the end of 'Winter's Heart'. It was awesome, but did we really have to read through all of those reactions, we easily could have just jumped right to people's responses to the phenomenon.


The second reason is Elayne and Aviendha taking a bath together. There's nothing salacious there, and we had plenty of Egwene and the Wise Ones sweating together in the lodges back in 'The Shadow Rising', but it was such a long bath. So very, very long.


'Crossroads' spends a lot of time reeling out some of the back storylines, without a whole lot happening. The bath is just too good of an example to pass by. Elayne and Aviendha are successioning in Andor, and we learn that claiming the throne of Andor, and carrying babies, can be deadly serious business.


Perrin is still chasing after Faile, who is still a prisoner of the Shaido along with Morgase, Alliandre, two others and two Aiel. Masema is...around.


Mat is playing getting to know you with his suspected bride along with Egeanin, Domon, and once-prominent characters Julien, Thom, etc.


Egwene's politicking with the Aes Sedai is more showing us the steps characters must take to grow, but it sure isn't exciting. I chaired the main administrative body of my municipality (sounds exciting right?) for two years, and sat through many meetings that mimicked the meetings of the Hall of the Tower. Jordan nailed it. It was like I was there! As dull as those scenes could be, I had to grant points for accuracy.


Rand... shows up! He does orchestrate important things, and we get to see Loial again (yay!), but there's not a whole lot of movement.


After 'Crossroads' came out there was a longer wait than usual for the sequel, as Jordan chose to flesh out a prequel story called 'New Spring'. I was too disgusted to read it at the time, but I'll get to it this reread, eventually.


The Wheel of Time:


Next: 'The Knife of Dreams'


Previous: 'Winter's Heart'

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 304 pages.

— feeling wink
The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan, Teresa Patterson

Oh my God, the art is this book is so TERRIBLE. I'm gonna love it.

Reading progress update: I've read 2 out of 1360 pages.

The Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu

I'm not even on page 2, there is a long introduction that I can't seem to get out of. It's got a lot of good background though, knowledge is power, etc.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban - Illustrated by Jim Kay

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling, Jim Kay

This rating reflects the art. For the text - click here.


Beautiful illustrations, some better choices. I had more words about the illustrated editions, but they got lost somewhere along the way. I only noticed they were gone when I started trying to fix some of the more important dead links in the thousand-odd reviews I imported into the site.


They're dead through my deleting of my Goodreads account, the import function on Booklikes is fantastic. I suspect any lost reviews are user error (i.e. my fault), and shouldn't reflect on this site.


Anyway, I expect to have an illustrated 'Goblet of Fire' ready for my better half under the tree, and I'll try to do a more thorough critique.


Harry Potter


Next: 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Illustrated'


Previous: 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Illustrated'


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Illustrated by Jim Kay

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling, Jim Kay

This review is more about the art. For a review of the text: click here.


I've been collecting these the past few years as Christmas presents for my husband. They're beautifully done, but as a crazy fan, I of course have some issues. Kay is a fine artist, but its seems like many of his choices of subject were arbitrary, if not bizarre. I was also disappointed in how long it took for any female character at all to be illustrated - Mrs. Dursely doesn't count and you know it!


Throughout the book there are a lot of extra touches, ink blots on the 'parchment' pages and so on, that help make up for it, but only a little.


This makes for a nice present, but I expected something better from a deluxe illustrated edition.


Harry Potter


Next: 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Illustrated'

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Illustrated by Jim Kay

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling, Jim Kay

This rating refers to the art, not the text. It is a relief to get rid of those ugly covers, but I still have some issues with Kay's illustration choices. Of course, the 20th Anniversary covers (on yet another edition) by the otherwise talented Brian Selznick leaves much to be desired. Don't even get me started.


For my thoughts on the text of the book itself - click here.


Harry Potter


Next: 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Illustrated'


Previous: 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Illustrated'

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

A dark-tinged fantasy reminiscent of Neil Gaiman, the bleaker stories of Diana Wynne Jones, and John Connelly. I'm going to read that every time, but even better, this one is good, too!

'The Hazel Wood' feels fresh as its plot spirals its characters in what could have been well-charted territory in less-capable hands. This is being pegged as a teen novel, but I see opportunities with adult readers as well.


Alice has spent most of her life on the road with her mother. She remembers the books she read better than the towns and apartments they've left behind. When her mother finally decides to settle down, shortly after they hear of the death of her mother's mother, Alice's mysterious grandmother who is a reclusive author, it seems like Alice can start living a normal life.


That doesn't happen. The book goes through some strange territory and there's a twist or two that knocks some points off of the top, but this was solid and entertaining.


A longer review of this got lost somewhere in my transition to this site, oh well.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 1360 pages.

— feeling shocked
The Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu

It's one thing to see a book comes to just under 1,400 pages, its another to unpack it and one by one see the other book clubber's reactions! This is going to take some time.

Paperback Crush - Am I dreaming?

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History Of 80’s and 90’s Teen Fiction - Gabrielle Moss The Dead Girlfriend (Point Horror) - R.L. Stine Poor Mallory! (The Baby-Sitters Club, #39) - Ann M. Martin Sweet Valley High Collection: Heartbreaker, Racing Hearts, Wrong Kind of Girl - Francine Pascal, Kate William The Immortal - Christopher Pike

I haven't been a professional bookseller all that long, but its still easy to get jaded about all the arcs that come in every month, but sometimes something like this book happens!


As a thirty-something woman who read everything he could get his hands on growing up, and that included Sweet Valley High and Baby-sitter's Club, this book is pure nostalgic gold. And while they might not have been great, sometimes those pink and lavender covers had some meat in them! Heck, I still will look twice at any old Apple Paperback, etc. title at a book sale just in case its offers up some vintage goodness.


This will be a lot of fun and I'm hoping Quirk is planning on a boy-series retrospective, too.

A Man With A Bingo Card, Halloween Bingo 2018



I'm very excited about this, I only have a few confirmed picks so far, but I know I'll find something in my shelves upstairs once I root around for awhile. If something turns out to not fit into the category after I've read it, I won't count it.


Modern Noir: What Remains of Her - My store will have author Eric Rickstad, and the book of his I had read qualified to me as Noir - like Scandinavian Noir moved to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.


Genre: Horror: Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by William Sloane Kennedy


Terror in a Small Town: Rage, I picked up a copy of Stephen King's Richard Bachman's controversial novel and haven't had the stomach to pick it up. A captive classroom may be stretching 'small town', so this could qualify for Genre: Suspense


Amateur Sleuth: Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys, I just have to get my hands on Book 2 for either. Baker Street Irregulars is an option, too, of course!


13: The Familiar Volume 5: Redwood - I fell head over heels for Danielewski's epic of epics first volumes, but got distracted by business and never got to this, the 'season finale' of 'season one'. Author's terms.

The saga centers on, uh, many things but a girl's symbiotic relationship with an ancient black cat predominates.


Southern Gothic: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor, the title story is the only one in this collection I have read, and that would count, but I'll have to read the rest of it (oh no!) to see if I can count it as a Bingo read. It and 'Wise Blood' have been on my shelf for ages!


I'll want to push myself to read some out-of-the-ordinary books, and I have a well of arcs at the store to get creative with.

Currently reading

Kushiel's Dart
Jacqueline Carey
Progress: 130/1015 pages
The Tale of Genji
Murasaki Shikibu
The Big Book of Science Fiction
Jeff VanderMeer, Ann VanderMeer
Progress: 135/1216 pages
A Modern Comedy
John Galsworthy
Progress: 553/862 pages