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The Dark Archive

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 The Dark Archive, by Genevieve Cogman I'm still really enjoying this Invisible Library series, and recently got around to reading the 7th and latest book -- though not for long!  The Untold Story , #8, will be out at the end of this year. If you've never read this series, it revolves around Irene, a librarian.  But not just any librarian -- Irene works for THE Library, which holds the many realities in shape by collecting All The Books.  Realities tend towards either order -- dominated by the dragons -- or chaos -- dominated by the Fae.  Irene has had a dragon apprentice for quite some time now, but the Fae are not interested in settling down into relationships -- until now.  Irene has taken on Catherine, a Fae who desperately wants to be a librarian and share her love of reading with the world.   Irene and Catherine, however, don't understand each other very well.  Catherine can't understand why Irene keeps doing all this spying and adventuring instead of teaching her

How to Be a Dictator

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 How to be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century, by Frank Dikötter  I found this title pretty hard to resist!  Many of the people in this book (though not all) are very familiar; Dikötter takes us on a selective tour of dictators of the 20th century -- specifically those who fostered a cult of personality -- starting with Mussolini.  Of course Stalin, Hitler, and Mao are included, but Dikötter keeps the focus just on the personality cult, which means that I learned quite a bit even though I'm pretty familiar with those guys.  After that, we take a turn into lesser-known dictators: Kim Il-Sung (North Korea), Duvalier (Haiti), Ceaușescu (Romania), and Mengistu (Ethiopia).  These were fascinating.  Most of them were not as adept or as focused as the Big Four (that's an Agatha Christie joke for you, sorry).  Some were Communist or Fascist, and some just plain dictators; they all felt the need to have a self-named philosophy and published works, but those

The Sacrifice Box

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80s callback cover art  The Sacrifice Box, by Martin Stewart I was intrigued by the description of this novel when I first saw it, and eventually I got a copy to read.  It's very appropriate for RIP season! On a small British island in the mid-1980s, September has been waiting his entire life to leave.  He's a misfit geek, and he has no friends, so he's put all his energy into earning a university scholarship so he can get to the mainland and start his life.  Four years ago, though, when he was 12, Sep did have friends.  For one perfect summer, he and four other kids ran around together.  They found an old stone box in the woods, and they decided to make sacrifices to it -- each of them would bring something important.  Then they made rules. Never come to the box alone.  Never open it after dark.  Never take back your sacrifice.  Once summer was over, the social forces of school kicked back in.  The kids dropped each other and never spoke again, until they were about to g

It's Classics Club Spin #28!!

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 Hey folks!  I have been in a little bit of a slump, but I've also been working on blogging projects that were due way early, and that's where the energy has gone.  Keep an eye out for Witch Week, that's all I'm saying!  I have five or six books here waiting for review and I want to work on them, but first -- a SPIN!  Yay!! You know the rules, or if you don't, you can read them at the Classics Club post .  Brona and I now hold the record for having participated in all the Spins!  Here are my picks, and I'm excited because now that I'm back at work on location, I don't have to limit myself to titles I already have.  I can spice it up some.  I've tried to pick a few seasonally-appropriate spooky-sounding titles... Madwoman on the Bridge, by Su Tong Old Norse Women's Poetry    The Leopard, by di Lampedusa  Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens The Gray Earth, by Galsan Tshinag  Samguk Yusa (Korean legends) The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox Dar

The Lost Book of the Grail

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 The Lost Book of the Grail, by Charlie Lovett A little while ago, I had this novel recommended to me as one of the best novels the person had read this year.  Given that she reads a good deal more than I do, this was quite a recommendation, so I got it from the library.  Lovett has a fun take on the Grail legend, planting it in Trollope's fictional county of Barsetshire. Arthur Prescott teaches at the local university, but what he really likes is living in Barchester's cathedral close, going to Evensong (even though he's an atheist), and studying the Holy Grail in the cathedral's library.  Arthur's grandfather taught him that the Grail was real, and located right there in Barsetshire.  Then, to Arthur's dismay, Bethany arrives from the US to digitize the medieval manuscripts in the library, which might possibly be all right if it didn't raise the possibility that the cathedral would sell the books off.  And Bethany is suspiciously interested in the Holy Gra

Blood Secret

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 Blood Secret, by Kathryn Lasky I've long admired Kathryn Lasky's work (though I only just now realized how very much she's written, my goodness).  She's written quite a few historical fiction novels for the middle grades, including the first "Dear America" book, and this one is also historical fiction, but I think it's pretty unusual. Jerry has lived much of her life in various Catholic orphanages, wondering if and when her mother will return for her.  Now that she's 14, Jerry is going to live on the outskirts of Albuquerque with a great-great aunt she's never met -- Constanza, who lives in an old adobe and bakes bread for a living, and doesn't seem to mind that Jerry hasn't spoken aloud in years.  Down in the cellar of the house, Jerry finds an old trunk filled with pieces of part of her family's history.  In a series of dream-visions, she learns about her ancestors' secrets, the persecution that followed them, and the tattered re

Jesus and John Wayne

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Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristin Kobes du Mez Well, that's an arresting title!  When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.  Kristin Kobes du Mez is in a good position to write it, too; she's a long-time member, observer, writer, and journalist in the American Protestant culture.  If she's going to say that it has 'corrupted a faith and fractured a nation,' she's in a position of some authority to do so, and to discuss what she calls 'militant masculine Christianity.'  Du Mez writes a cultural history of about the last 100+ years of Evangelicalism and conservatism in American Christianity, especially the history of cultural attitudes about masculinity, the roles of men and women, and how race has combined with that.  (She specifies white Evangelicals because black churches are mostly very different.)  She documents Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Mark Driscoll, and cultural shifts t