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. Many old reviews have dead links to Goodreads, sorry, I'm kind of working on that, but if you look the titles up on Booklikes you can find my thoughts here. I also read a lot of arcs, but don't review them until close to their release date.


As a small bookseller I have a suggestion: If you prefer audio or ebooks, Try Kobo or Libro.fm - or asking your local bookseller for an Amazon (and their many subsidiaries) alternative. These are options that are similar in cost, but support local economies and fairly treated employees. When signing up you can select a participating bookstore and a portion of the sales go to that store at no additional cost. Amazon is destroying downtown America and every small purchase through a real storefront makes a huge difference. Independent Bookstores are on a rise again, but others are still struggling. Thank you for your support and shopping local.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Wheel of Time Reread Books 7-9 by Leigh Butler

Wheel of Time Reread: Books 7-9 - Leigh Butler

Butler's commentary continues to entertain and inform me on my summer mission of re-reading the Wheel of Time series. Through no fault of her own the issue that raises its head more and more is that when she was writing these reviews two of the final three books were being released. Expectations are being expressed about upcoming reunions and solutions that I know in some cases were never resolved, which is frustrating all over again. Again, not her fault, as the re-re-read was cancelled partway through 'The Fires of Heaven'.

Winter's Heart, The Wheel of Time #9

Winter's Heart - Robert Jordan

As part of the series as a whole, the book is a definite upswing. 'The Path of Daggers' had left most of the main cast at a standstill and triggered my least favorite plot-line of all time - or Plotline of Doom as fandom has it - wherein Faile, Morgase, Two Aiel and some others are taken captive by the Shaido, necessitating a distraught Perrin to hunt them down. This slows down the 'meh' plot-line of getting Masema to Rand.


But the good! 'Winter's Heart' brings Mat back into the narrative, at some distance behind the rest of the characters so there's a good deal of time spent with him in an Ebou Dar occupied by the Seanchan. Thom and Juilin appear.


Perrin, as can be guessed, is trudging forward on a never-ending quest to save his wife and dealing with some sigh-worthy conduct of Berlaine and other characters in the camp who believe Berlaine.


Elayne is doing Succession things with Aviendha and Birgitte, which is on the dull side, and again, takes forever, but it is refreshing as it is tedious that complicated problems in 'The Wheel of Time' require complicated solutions. Nynaeve has less marital bliss reported and more frustrations with the Seafolk and the Kin, who are all still cooped up in the Royal Palace in Caemlyn.


Egwene continues to ratchet up her influence as Amyrlin. Siuan and Bryne hang out in the background.


Rand, I would say of course but his story-line has been sputtering since 'Lord of Chaos', elevates 'Winter's Heart' more than any other plot. It is one of the most epic parts of the series and I remember it blowing me away when I first read it. Now, it is still pretty awesome.


'Winter's Heart' had a lot more forward momentum to it - unfortunately, its about to come to a screeching halt.


The Wheel of Time:


Next: 'The Crossroads of Twilight'


Previous: 'The Path of Daggers'

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

The Red Address Book - Sofia Lundberg

I'll bend my rule about posting reviews for unreleased books as this 'The Red Address Book' has had considerable success in Europe even if the American edition won't be released for some time.


Sofia Lundberg's novel follows 96-year-old Doris as she remembers the people who have come and gone in her life, all of the crossed out names in the address book given to her by her father on her last birthday at home. Her only living relative is a grand niece Jennifer and Jennifer's children in America and Doris depends on their weekly Skype calls.


I can't say how accurate of a translation this is, but it read smoothly and had a light, easy to read style throughout. Doris is an independent woman, but a recent injury has left her vulnerable and the indignities attached to being dependent on visiting nurses and facing pressure to give up her home are well illustrated.


The novel picks up steam as the narrative picks out a few key people in Doris' address book - a book full of names, the majority of which are crossed out and marked 'deceased'. The conceit of the address book is a good one, but many readers will have problems with how, er, eventful Doris' life turns out to be. It isn't enough that she's lived a long life and taken care of loved ones, she has lived more than anyone else has ever in the history of living. The events of her life become more far-fetched as the story goes on.


You may be looking at my high rating. The book can be problematic, narratively and with some objectionable plot elements, but I was willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story even with its issues. Sappy, but satisfying.

Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island  - Earl Swift

Forgive my plug, but this is important to me: This book is available at your local bookstore! If you prefer audio or ebooks, I suggest trying Kobo or Libro.fm - or asking your local bookseller. These are options that are similar in cost to Amazon, but support local economies and fairly treated employees. When signing up you can select a participating bookstore and a portion of the sales go to that store at no additional cost.


Our regularly scheduled review: I first heard of the problem of erosion in Chesapeake Bay through the story of this house on Holland Island. The story went viral and I, who had always been fascinated with stories of lost towns and cities, read as much as I could find.


This book focuses on the remote Tangier Island and the people who live there. Tangier and its population are central to the Chesapeake Blue Crab fishing industry, and most have deep roots on that island. The island is shrinking, from earliest verifiable maps it has shrunk by two thirds since the mid-19th century. Their situation makes them easy to romanticize, and it is hard to think of the homes lost, and the recurring images of cemeteries washing out to sea - many containing ancestors of current residents - is a tragic one.


Swift spends a year on the island and does his best to learn about the communities, their history, and profiles several residents. The writing is clear, and if its sentimental, it suits the subject. My problems with the book came with the hard-line conservative ethos of the island and its prejudices justified by religion. The erosion of the island has been a constant for centuries, if not millennia, but it has been hastened by climate change and rising ocean levels. This is something the people of Tangiers refuse to admit. It hardly matters, they'll be swept away regardless, but it bothered me. The island had some notoriety (already forgotten, like so much else) by its strong support of President Trump. He told them not to worry about their island, but is not likely to approve the costly breakwater necessary to saving their island when he has a fascist military parade to orchestrate. They also don't like the gays, so my personal sympathies for them evaporated


In the abstract, the problem of how to save a community from rising waters is something that is better addressed now with these front-line settlements then when we find our coastal cities even more threatened then they already are. Swift's account of the island and his point by point narration of the failure to act upon early warning signs is grim reading, but provides an important lesson.

Reading progress update: I've read 368 out of 624 pages.

Crossroads of Twilight - Robert Jordan

At some point I want to make a complaint post about these trade editions. They are rife with errors, carrying over many from the old editions and adding more.


'Crossroads of Twilight' so far is the book that embodies the absolute worst of this series, so it goes.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon

Due out this coming Tuesday, July 31st. Pre-order through your local bookstore's website, or just, you know, go there.

R.O. Kwon's 'The Incendiaries' is a quick, gripping novel about identity and faith. The plot is an attempt by college student Will Kendall to rationalize his former girlfriend's involvement in a terrorist group. We know what is going to happen, but the reader is still drawn into Will's story.

Will meets Phoebe Lin early on in their college career, and is dazzled by her, but ultimately unable to prevent her recruitment by a charismatic former student named John Leal into a new age club. A scholarship student, he has felt compelled to manufacture his own identity and cannot respond until its too late.

Kwon challenges the reader to confront extremism and religious and racial identities by presenting John and Phoebe's stories as well as Will's before the novel runs its course. A surprising book, I'll be interested in hearing other people's reactions.

Currently reading

The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan, Teresa Patterson
Kushiel's Dart
Jacqueline Carey
Progress: 130/1015 pages
The Tale of Genji
Murasaki Shikibu
Wheel of Time Reread: Books 10-12
Leigh Butler
Progress: 33 %
The Big Book of Science Fiction
Jeff VanderMeer, Ann VanderMeer
Progress: 135/1216 pages
A Modern Comedy
John Galsworthy
Progress: 553/862 pages