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T. was home sick today, still vomiting (started Sunday night, continued through 1:30 p.m. today thus making Tuesday another home sick day, since there is a 24 delay before they want a kid back at school after the most recent event).

My walking partner wisely declined coming by the house either for a walk or a snack. I pre-emptively canceled Dutch.

I had a lovely phone conversation with K., because you can't catch germs from thousands of miles away.

When R. got home, I went to book group. It was small, just me, A., and M. (the librarian). We read _Silas Marner_ this month (I read it today), which is gloriously short at around 200 pages with reasonable sized type. I must say, I feel like Eliot's sense of humor is wildly understated in most people who wax on about the book. The narrator has a very catty -- even bitchy -- tone at times. But beyond that, the plot machinations are so contrived to present clear cut decisions that lead to redemption or damnation that one wonders if the author is winking at one. Nothing so broad as _The Princess Bride_ but along those lines.


For example, Godfrey has all kinds of opportunities to admit that he is married, but instead of doing so (really, is that a _hard_ thing to do?), and worse, admitting that he also has a baby daughter, he persists in hoping that the two people (wife and brother) who are blackmailing him over his failure to tell anyone else about this will somehow magically stop bothering him. Well, they do! And someone even rescues his daughter without him even having to admit to having a daughter! In the neighborhood, so he gets to watch her grow up without even lifting a finger! So much nicer than her winding up in the workhouse. The thing is, the brother dies almost immediately after killing the horse he was supposed to sell for Godfrey and then stealing Silas' hoard of gold coins. Dunstan -- the brother -- has a couple opportunities to meet a very minimum bar of human decency (sell horse, not kill it; NOT commit grand theft/burglary), fails both and then dies ... saving Godfrey from having to himself behave well.

That is some churning plot machinery!

Meanwhile, Molly is carrying her daughter through a snowy night to Reveal All, but leaves late and apparently in a drugged stupor and dies in the cold. Again, all she had to do was get to the Red House and tell her tale and all kinds of things would have gone better for her and worse for Godfrey, but she can't manage it. The kid is fine, however, and the kid landing in Silas' home presents another choice / opportunity for redemption which of course Silas takes.

If someone told me this story as a _real_ thing that happened, I would just assume that Godfrey -- or possibly Nancy -- was actually a serial murderer, and Molly and Dunstan's unlucky deaths were in fact not due to Chance at all.

I should add, Silas having been an anabaptist (adult baptism was all he was familiar with) and having something like epilepsy really made him feel like My Kind of People, which may have made me love the book more than I otherwise would have. Plus, being depressed / alone and throwing oneself into one's work and piling up cash is a coping strategy I can totally relate to.

Oh well!

It's a romp of a read, for all that the choice / Chance / redemption / Providence is a bit over the top. If I'd known this years ago, I'd have happily read it then -- it doesn't deserve its reputation for dullness.

Totally loved Priscilla of course, and hope some day she finds her Mr Have Your Own Way. Or not -- because Dear Old Dad seemed pretty awesome, too.
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_Naked in Death_
_Glory in Death_
_Immortal in Death_

I don't know why, but I didn't read these as they were coming out, even tho I was aware of the author. I don't know if I knew they were set in the future (2060, give or take). And I don't know if that would have made them more or less interesting to me at the time.

Anyway. Random things to be aware of. J.D. Robb is also Nora Roberts. The first three books in this 40+ book series are a fairly straightforwardly arranged romantic arc: book 1 gets them together, book 2 gets them engaged, they are married in book 3. The future is definitely a future from the 1990s: everyone has electronic stuff, including what is more or less a cell phone, but every bit of electronic stuff has a specific purpose -- and the other gadgets are not necessarily connected to any kind of net or database outside itself. If you want to extra information from gadgets (including call logs from the phones) you get a disk or a hard copy of some sort. Very 1990s! The only thing missing is the PC at the center of this gadget universe, but while there are desktop computer type things, they are not obviously the hub of the peripheral universe a la the 1990s. But while the gadgets are free floating they are also not connected to the cloud as in our current world. Weird stuff. I love the futures of the past that will never be.

There are space colonies. You can call them. There isn't any obvious lag (that is, by about book 3, Robb is mentioning irritating delay, but it is not apparent in the back-and-forth, and honestly, given the apparent location of the colonies, I'm unconvinced the delay makes any sense in even its limited depiction). People go back and forth to various colonies off world the way they might travel now to Dubai or whatever -- it's kind of a long flight and there are time differences, but that's about it.

At least in this early part of the series, there are people who have same sex relationships (or at least sex), but there is no depiction of long standing, stable same sex relationships (I could have missed something in a background character, so don't hesitate to point it out!).

Roark is a billionaire! But like, low order single digits billionaire, which makes no sense at all given how much of Manhattan he supposedly owns. So that's weird. *shrug* But the dollar amounts mentioned don't cohere well at all, beyond apparently Real Meat and Real Coffee are incredibly expensive. I wish it were more obvious what an AutoChef was -- as it is, I kept visualizing the thing Batman cooks his lobster in in The Lego Batman Movie. Which is clearly not right, but it isn't clear what _is_ right.

In the first book, a serial murderer is killing Licensed Companions (yeah, about what you think -- they've legalized and regulated sex work, and there are men and women who do that work and their clients are men and women) with various 20th century projectile weapons. Politics, conservatism, hypocrisy and incestuous molestation of family members play a big role.

In the second book, high powered women (a lawyer, an actress and someone who was mistaken for a tele-journalist) are being killed by a single knife swipe to the throat. Background characters from book 1 repeat, which is nice.

In the third book, a variety of people are dying after taking a new drug with a bunch of kind of awesome effects and a couple of really bad effects. Again, background characters from book 2 show up in book 3, along with more from book 1. The female lead Eve starts actively mentoring another woman cop.

The protagonists (Eve, the cop, and Roark, the businessman) come from complex backgrounds full of abuse and deprivation. Eve has blocked a lot of her first 8 years out, and the police psychologist (who becomes such a close friend she attends Eve's bachelorette party by book 3, so you know, no conflict issues there!) is an important plot element dragging Eve and the reader through memory lanes via icky flashback dreams. All kinds of trigger issues here, and a whole lot of questions that don't even seem to occur to people.


Maybe not, but whatever. I mentioned what I did above to give you structure flavor without spoilers and to warn about possible triggers. But there are particular problems with Eve's backstory that really bother me. She basically enters social services with no name or identifying information at age 8, after being found naked, shivering, broken arm, etc. in an alley in Dallas (her last name now). Really? We're in 204x and no one thinks to pull a blood sample and run DNA on her? Foot prints? No?

OK, how about this. When Eve remembers I DID MENTION SPOILERS I KNOW I DID that her "daddy" routinely raped her and they moved around a lot and he locked her up and didn't feed her and so forth, why does no one ask, was "daddy" her actual bio father ... or did he maybe kidnap her, and her actual loving family, siblings, etc. are somewhere out there still wondering what happened to their darling 2, 3, 4, etc. year old who was stolen from them? I mean, _it happens_. I'd want to know. Eve doesn't need to ever know, but hell, you could _still_ pull the DNA, and run it against all the DNA of unsolved murders, and find "daddy" that way. And whether he was bio-dad or not. And maybe find out if he murdered "mommy" or mom or whatever and when. Or if maybe she's still out there having kids with awful fathers and maybe needs to be stopped (probably not -- Eve is 30ish). Eve remembers and immediately feels like she's guilty. I'm going, no, but there are crimes here, that maybe need to be wrapped up.

I don't know whether I'll keep reading. There's a lot to enjoy in these books, and I am compelled in some ways by the possibility that Roark is the bridge between old-skool romantic heroes who were merely rich and the billionaire sub-genre that has so taken over romance today.

Also, the puzzles are above average as mysteries.
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Subtitled: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day

I've been meaning to review this for a while now, and of course I finally get around to reviewing in while I'm in the middle of Yet Another Decluttering book so I'll probably mix them up.

Aarssen, like oh so many writers in this genre, takes pains to explain how she didn't start out organized, she was such a slob etc. etc. but then she finally figured out a way to make this work and if SHE can do it then ANYONE can. Also, simple organizing solutions means Even Kids Can Put Stuff Away.

I'm not sure I believe it; she ran an in home day care for some years. I'm thinking there may actually be some magic.

In any advice, she has a great tone and wonderful momentum. The book carries you right along and she is enjoyable to listen to. She is relatable, and emphasizes loving what you have and figuring out how to incrementally move it in the direction you want it to go, rather than getting spending hours on Pinterest or wherever looking at super perfect things that you will never have and that wouldn't work well in your life even if you did.

It is interesting reading Aarssen and then Amanda Sullivan's _Organized Enough_. Aarssen is a big believer in incremental laundry morning and night; Sullivan has a do this stuff on one day and other stuff on a different day of the week strategy. Neither is particularly doctrinaire -- they are more about establishing habits than about _what_ habit. But I highlight this one because Aarssen is very much about daily habits and Sullivan is about larger blocks of time.

In case it isn't obvious, this is essentially a non-fiction genre that is a form of brainless mind-candy for me. Altho like almost anything that I consume as brainless mind-candy, over time I become more critical and start to question the underpinnings of the entire genre. Right now, the fact that all these books attack the Container Store (by name, mind you, in some detail) makes me wonder what on earth is going on here.
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There is just nothing like typing in a book title and realizing that I have recently read another book with the exact same title. Weird.

Okay. This 1994 first entry in the/an Irish trilogy by Nora Roberts is pretty much exactly what I expect from Nora Roberts. It was this month's book club selection in Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). We had light turnout; four of us. I am the only romance reader of the people who appeared. Everyone finished the book. The only other reader of genre books of the four is the librarian, who reads mysteries (she reads _everything_ -- she's so much fun to listen to about books and everything else, really). We have been reading books by / about women this year, and it's been really great. We wanted to do a genre romance, and I pushed hard to get Nora Roberts because I perceived her to have broad appeal and to be really accessible even to non-genre readers. Here was my big chance to find out if that perception was true!

It was. Everyone finished the book and gave it 3 out of 5 stars (except one person gave it 4, amazingly). The two non genre readers said they probably wouldn't read either more by the author or another romance book, but seemed glad to have read it and had the chance to talk about it. I was super excited to get a chance to listen to people encounter a genre romance without _any_ knowledge of the tropes / genre conventions / etc. One person really like some of the more poetic language (which is _not_ any part of any romance novels appeal to me, so interesting to hear that mentioned). Not unexpectedly, my friend A. enjoyed learning a little about glass blowing, as the heroine is a glass artist.

A couple readers felt like there was some plot machinery to get the characters moving through the romance (the first kiss was jarring, for example). However, while they felt that particular scenes were out of character, they felt the characters were believable and well-enough developed. Everyone felt like the novel was easy to stick with and carried them along.

Obviously, the librarian (because she's good at her job) is well aware of the consumption patterns of genre readers. Equally (ha ha ha ha) so am I. But it was complete news to the other two, and I must admit to enjoying the look of shock on their faces when I rattled off the various layers of how-many-books-a-year among genre readers, and explained what the genre reader is expected to bring to reading the book and what is expected of the author.

I was struck by a comment from M. (not the librarian). She wanted to know how genre readers remembered the books. To her, this book was very predictable (and of course it is -- that's the point. It isn't where you are going, it is the details along the way), and she wondered how we could remember characters etc. when reading so much. I have noticed that M. and A. (heck, just about everyone in the group, with a possible exception) often have forgotten plot, character, setting, etc. details only a few weeks after finishing a book. (Look, I'm not imagining things. I do tend to read the book the day of the group, because I want it absolutely crystal clear in my brain, but even if I read it ahead of time, or skip reading it because I read it some years earlier, I frequently find myself locating a passage that the other person can barely describe, or which I want to draw attention to for a particular detail -- and they all struggle with this, even with a lot of post its and so forth). I wonder if genre readers are readers who, through those weird flukes of genetics or whatever, are magpies for detail, and thus have no problems retaining character names and relationships and quirks and so forth. Thus, the plot can be much more complex, or the nuances of the relationship development (in the case of a romance) can be front-and-center because we're not expending much energy on Wait Who Is This Person? And a lot of literary fiction has "quirky" characters in part to help people keep track of who is who as they travel through the book.

I don't know if that's true, but it sure had never even occurred to me as a possibility before this. It would also explain that weird phenomenon where in junior high and high school, english teachers routinely assigned short classics that were wicked slogs, and all the people who never read got through them at roughly the same pace that I got through them. There is _something_ about those books that is resistant to genre-style reading techniques and contains enough to generate discussion in a short number of words. Slow readers are slow and not _further_ slowed down by what bogs a genre reader down to a painful drag. It's a thought, anyway.
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Subtitled: The Relationship Between the Stuff in Your Head and What's Under Your Bed

I skimmed it. I really did skim the whole thing tho -- I didn't skip large chunks of it.

I was primarily looking for sourcing on a statistic attributed to the author (average american household has 300K things in it). I can't find it in this book. In addition to skimming, I tried a bunch of searches. If you manage to find it in the book, please tell me where you found it!

I got the book for free through kindleunlimited.

Lark is lesbian, so if you find it more amenable to read self-help books by someone you can relate to on an identity / orientation level, that information might be handy to you. The point came up in the context of her describing major decluttering episodes in her life (one was in advance of coming to terms with her identity, the other was in advance of the end of a relationship).

Lark likes Hill (_Think and Grow Rich_) and Louise Hay. I am not such a fan of these. So again, this might be useful information; if you these kinds of approaches work well for you, perhaps this book will as well.

Lark spends a lot of time at the beginning and throughout the book discussing negative self-talk and its interaction with our stuff.

As a source of "tips and tricks" for decluttering, there is little here that I found new. Of course, every decluttering book has _some_ technical information and this one was more or less adequate along those lines, and above average in terms of discussing converting decluttering into something that has subtasks and is on the calendar, not taking too much on at a time, cleaning up after each bout, etc. Lark's strengths lie in discussing what are probably depression and anxiety that maintain themselves through negative self-talk and which manifest in our physical world as clutter.

Since I spent no money and not much time on the book, I don't feel at all bad about having skimmed it. And I can definitely imagine that this book has an audience; I hope it finds it.
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JAK has been steadily reissuing her older contemporaries as eBooks. Generally speaking, these are unchanged (altho there have been unfortunate exceptions). I noticed that _Private Eye_ and _Silver Linings_ are out in eBook format.

_Silver Linings_ starts out as an island adventure with some backstory. There is a classic she discovers dead body of older man she was supposed to meet followed by an encounter with him, then a run through the jungle to a cave and some of the backstory starts to come out. On the second island, they meet a hooker with a heart of gold and there's a pretty classic misunderstanding as well as a bar fight. Then they are back to Seattle -- her home base where she has her business, an art gallery. She has crazy artist family. He has a business in the islands. Where will they live? Along the way, he is trying to figure out who is responsible for the dead body, and problems from his past resurface. The backstory continues to get ever more convoluted with her as the rescuer of multiple damaged men from her sister's past (he is an ex fiancee of the sister as well). So, all kinds of fun here, a pretty long book. Hooker with a heart of gold winds up playing an ongoing role, and retires to design clothing (a little Seattle seamstress reference, there, I think!).

_Private Eye_ takes place on a Not Tropical Island. She's running a b&b with some permanent residents who were friends of the great aunt who left the place to her. There are Problems and various theories as to the source of the problems. She "hires" him not for money but a month's free stay at the currently closed inn. He takes the opportunity to recover from a sprained ankle and other damages from a case, and to work on a novel as he contemplates a career transition. The permanent residents include "the Colonel" who is also an Inventor, the shabby chic woman who owns some (worthless) stock, and the former moll of a gangster long imprisoned -- clearly, JAK was having fun with some tropes here. All the various theories are neatly tied up. This one is a lot shorter and very, very funny.

I think I owned these both in paper at various points, but I'm very happy to see them out in eBook form, if only because it is so very much fun to see "contemporaries" become accidental "historicals".
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I picked A. up at school. She was in a good mood, and after I got her home and we talked for a while, she was completely okay with going with the sitter. Yay!

I walked with M. I also did the short loop twice by myself, once before walking with M. and once later on, after A. went with the sitter but before T. came home.

T.'s sitter did not come today, because T. and one other person had tickets to go see Queen and Adam Lambert at TD Garden. That was going to be me, because we're sort of concert buddies at this point, however, A. really doesn't like it when I'm not there for the night time routine, and her mood has been Not Great lately, so R. went to Paparazzi and the concert with T. and I picked up A. from the sitter and then we hung out until bed time.

Dutch was canceled; instructor recently moved and is dealing with water in the basement. Ugh!

I read _Wildfire_, the latest Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy novel. I really liked it and

HEY SPOILERS! Victoria Tremaine will come crack your brain if you keep reading! Or something.

We finally find out the identity of Caesar (I think) in the epilogue. He isn't named, but the implication is pretty clear. Hard to imagine this being the last book in the series, but so far at least, it is being presented as a trilogy. OTOH, it would be quite easy to set up another novel or series of novels within the universe, that continued to overall arc with Caesar's conspiracy.

Anyway. This novel _does_ reveal all kinds of great stuff, like, Nevada learns how to use more magic, including her hereditary spells. We meet Victoria Tremaine in some detail, and there's some slightly horrifying backstory on how Nevada's dad came into existence, and how his kids were so powerful in such varied ways when he was a "dud". Rogan's ex-fiancee is right at the center of this story, and there's just a wonderful unfolding plotline about how someone with her massive empathic powers could be so horrendously taken advantage of because she just won't actually do anything for herself. (Good news: she does finally wake up.)
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I'm still not sure if this is the first time I read this, or a reread. I have no idea. I went camping on Isle Au Haut once.

Saga of Isle Au Haut from pre-kid days:

http://walkitout.dreamwidth.org/10725.html (This last has the actual trip description.)

Those entries don't mention _why_ I wanted to go to Isle Au Haut; I'm pretty sure it was part of a multi-year NP visit thing I was doing while reading Nevada Barr novels.

Anyway. The island is a little odd, but nice, if you can survive the mosquitos. Greenlaw's family has been on the island (they used to own the Keeper's House, apparently, and the land the light is on before that) for a long time. She went off to swordfish, and was played by Mastroantonio in _The Perfect Storm_. Junger's recommendation is on this book. In this book, she describes a mediocre-bad lobstering season as she tries to fulfill her life goals of settling down with a family and a house. She makes some progress in this book -- indications are she makes more progress in other books.

The book has great narrative momentum. The stories are light and funny, despite what is sometimes some tragic material. If you like to feel like you learned something, she's happy to teach you about a variety of topics, historical and natural. I read it as this month's book group selection for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). The group gave is about a 3.5 collectively on a 5 point scale. It was tricky keeping discussion centered on the book. Usually this means that we were all more or less okay with the book, but it didn't strike a chord deeply enough in any of us to get riled up enough to be passionate about talking about it.

C. talked a little about what she saw as odd decision making by the author / protagonist. I noted that a lot of what she wound up saying and thinking -- as depicted in the book -- looked to me like conflicting impulses (wanted to get married; aggressively hostile to actually being set up with someone). In conjunction with some other funny but not necessarily entirely positive descriptions of things like the EMT project, I concluded that a lot of what makes Greenlaw seem odd (and the other people on the island) is a set of adaptive mechanisms that are basically what let them _stay_ on such an isolated rock, with all the attendant dangers of being more or less stuck there whenever there is bad weather especially in winter.

The book has been out for a while, but it has aged fairly well.
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Subtitled True Stories of Imaginary Illness

There's only one person in the book (that I can recall) who was outright faking to collect on a lawsuit. And there are only two people in the book (maybe three) who were engaged in some form of Munchhausen's. So if you are looking for that particular kind of hilarity, this isn't the book for you.

This book is about hypochondriasis (health anxiety, etc.) secondarily, and psychosomatic illness primarily. The doctor is a neurologist and placed a ways up administratively in a UK NHS hospital, if I understood the book correctly. She sees people whose seizures do not respond to anti-epileptic drug treatment. Mostly, she keeps them around on video camera and wired up to an EEG for long enough to get both kinds of measures simultaneously on seizures. Generally speaking, in her experience, the non-responsive kinds of seizures don't show up on EEGs, and she attributes this to psychosomatic processes and refers to a psychiatrist. She has occasional amazing, almost faith healing like success, but generally speaking there's a lot of denial.

Her stories make it clear that persistent, no medically known cause patients often are part of family systems which are not very emotionally supportive (like at all) until someone is ill and then they are a lot more emotionally supportive in fact incredibly emotionally supportive, so, you know, incentives. She is not suggesting this is a conscious process on anyone's part, but then neither is that whole Pavlov dog and bell thing, either.

Woven into her excellent, novelistic like stories of patients (suitably adjusted to preserve anonymity and avoid ethical and legal violations), is a brief history of neurasthenia, hysteria, and a variety of related conceptions of these sorts of problems in the past. Anyone who has made a habit of reading Victorian (written or set during the era) novels has a pretty good sense of what these problems have looked like in the past and will not be surprised to learn that women tend to wind up with these labels more than men, then and now (despite the weird history of the theory of neurasathenia).

I had no idea, until I started talking about this book to friends, that so few people knew about seizures that don't show up on EEGs. My sister -- a nurse -- is certainly aware, and told me of a neurologist -- presumably not the only one -- who refuses to accept new patients who don't already have scans. So I absolutely believe the high rates of yeah, these are not the seizures we are accustomed to. I remember the history of hysterical paralysis (very lightly touched on here, sadly); there are psychosomatic syndromes which go through phases, eras in which some particular thing is a Thing, and then it dies down again. Usually once word gets round that the doctors have a test that is 100% accurate.

Really makes you wonder, doesn't it?

If the goal is to get people out of dangerous over-use of medical testing -- and over use of medical testing is incredibly dangerous. If you live long enough and look hard enough, you WILL find cancer. Period. End. We'll all die with it, if we live long enough, even tho far fewer of us will die of it. And many of those logged as dying of it probably died as a result of treatment, a tragedy that will never be adequately accounted for. (The woman whose psychosomatic illness mirrored her mother's breast cancer and death did not trigger any discussion of the evolution of the treatment of breast cancer, and how so much mortality of breast cancer in certain eras is probably directly attributable to the hazards of the treatment.)

If the goal is to get people out of the habit of dangerous over-use of medical testing and to start addressing some or all of their issues via the mental health professions, she's probably going about it wrong. The preventive health services have, on and off, argued against physicals -- going to the doctor to have a bunch of tests done Just To Check. But physicals are a profound form of propaganda for the medical profession. Come here. We'll check you out. We'll tell you what's good, what needs work, etc. And we'll monitor your progress. If you want people to be using mental health services, if you want to destigmatize, if you want the people who NEED mental health services to realize that and make use of it -- and their friends and family to nag at them to do that, rather than to get more unnecessary medical testing done -- maybe we should have mental health checkups. Why doesn't anyone ever suggest that?

In the mean time, O'Sullivan's book looks perfect for book groups. She's overtly compassionate (I don't completely buy it -- I think she's just cautious and covering for her judginess. Believe me when I say, I know what this looks like. I do actually have _some_ self insight). Her descriptions of people and her interactions with them are wonderful -- novelistic and with a nice amount of foreshadowing built into them, along with a lovely sting of had-I-but-known. Under 300 pages, no index, all medical terms explained in relatively accessible ways. It has won at least one non-fiction prize.

So for all that I wish she could have at least _mentioned_ the evolution occurring in somatoform disorder definition, and experiments with DBT and other borderline personality disorder treatments being used for somatization, and for all that I could have wished she had just left allergies and food intolerances right the fuck out of her disquisition on psychological illness popping up with physical symptoms, for all that she managed to leave everything about every treatment modality in bodywork entirely by the wayside, I still think it would be lovely if lots and lots of middle aged women read this book in book group and then started applying some pressure on people who are getting lots of tests that are not leading anywhere useful to at least try seeing a few therapists.

Because in the end, if whatever is going on with us isn't killing us quickly, we'll probably get better faster if there is someone we can talk to about what is going on, and who will help us problem solve so that we can re-arrange our lives to better support our whole selves.
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Despite the Patricia Briggs debacle, I persist in trying to find a new series to enjoy. This one was available for free via kindle unlimited, and started out strong. Nothing rape-y, and in fact the smart ass heroine makes some really amusing comments about consent issues in someone else's relationship.

Alas, upon reflection, I realized that this is one of a number of series in which the heroine has Special Powers from her father, who was in no way involved in her upbringing. Other examples include: Mercedes by Briggs, Kate by Andrews, Pia by Harrison -- and I'm betting you can think of more. In this case, as with Kate, the heroine is hiding from Dear Old Dad, because he is a god and there will be repercussions if he finds out she is alive / exists. In Briggs and Harrison, dad is dead. I'm sure that this is a Thing that appeals to other people, but I would sort of like to now have a Kick Ass and Take Names Heroine (who is never raped, thank you very much) whose dad was alive for her upbringing and was generally a good guy. Andrews has supplied this in the billionaire / Osiris series, altho dad is dead in that series, too. But it really shows up in the storytelling, because the heroine is that much less of an emotional relationship basket case than pretty much all of the other series I've rattled off here.

Actual review: HEY SPOILERS! Don't tell anyone you know what her powers are or she'll have to kill you to keep Lucifer from finding out about her.

Mid-20s bounty hunter, living in the "Brink" and able to access the "Realm" which she generally stays out of. Some vampires steal her "mark", so she's broke and has to take a case she otherwise wouldn't, partnered with an elder vampire. She goes to meet him in the "Realm" in the vampire "Lair" and then they go -- really, I am not making this up and I did NOT confuse this with the Thea Harrison series -- find out who has been messing with the unicorns and stealing their blood.

This book might be slightly derivative. Or, you know, great minds think alike. You decide.

The very, very, very best thing about this book -- and it is almost but not quite enough to get me to commit to reading the next entry -- is the dual mage couple that alas does not show up for a while. Once Callie and Dizzy are on page, however, I totally lost interest in the heroine, because Callie and Dizzy are completely awesome. I mean, when was the last time you read an urban fantasy with mid 60s mages, married to each other, complaining about each other's habits, and generally wreaking havoc whenever they want. If Breene ever produces a short or -- better still -- a full length novel about Callie and Dizzy when they are at least middle-aged, but better still, this age or older (I don't want a prequel with them being young), I would read that and reread that and reread that again.

If you are a huge Breene fan and think there are other reasons I should keep reading or try something else by Breene, let me know. I'm just kind of over the OMG the vamp makes me want to humpety hump but I Must Not theme. Over. And. Done.
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Seriously, I _always_ include spoilers, and if someone is going to recommend I read or watch something and they won't supply spoilers, I will either go find a plot summary or just ignore all their recommendations. That's who I am.

Everyone gone? Okee dokee, then.

There are a bunch of somewhat contemptuous phrases designed to capture the idea that a fictional product (TV episode, movie, book, etc.) has somewhat crudely built a story around a problem or trend currently in the social consciousness: disease of the week, afterschool special, ripped from the headlines. I'm sure you can come up with some that aren't decades old.

This book checks some boxes: urban farming / food desert (especially in the context of helping kids with underprivileged backgrounds experience Real Food; this heroine captures the full range), cancer (the hero is a non-hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, IIRC), the rise of opioid addiction in suburban/white neighborhoods and communities.

It's generally well done; I'm not complaining. But when I run across a book that hits several fairly high profile trends, I do wonder what it is going to be like rereading it in a few years. Some of this stuff really doesn't age well at all. Others do just fine. *shrug*

In the previous book I read (Hidden Legacy #2 by the Ilona Andrews writing team), the SKEERY EVIL FAMILY MEMBER was an unknown grandmother. In this book, the SKEERY EVIL FAMILY MEMBER is psychopath dad. And _that_ part of the story worked really well for me.

So, what happens. This is a flashback-y, series entry that can be read alone, story of second chances. The two first encountered when he busted her for selling drugs. He flips her and uses her as a CI for a while and after the trials they part. They meet up again when he basically tries to use one of the underprivileged young people she is in the process of rescuing at the farm and associated restaurant in the way he used her and she objects. It is at this point that she finally coughs up something she sort of never got around to mentioning earlier (oh, yea, btw, I was fronting for my dad when I was dealing).

I particularly liked the idea that Dear Old Dad is so awful, but in such normal ways -- he's emotionally abusive, but it's pretty subtle stuff, and in a lot of ways, Riva is lucky to have found a guy who immediately picks up on what a monster Dad is. Calhoun has even embedded some clues as to why Dad is such a horrible person.

I'm still trying to figure out whether the many pieces of the two main characters really gelled, or if they are still fragments of real people. Do I really believe that Ian spent a bunch of time getting blacked out drunk and dancing all night long and picking up random strangers and taking them home? I don't know. It's a solid way to connect Riva and Ian -- they are both presenting a front of being on the straight and narrow and their history together and separately makes that really not the whole story.

In any event, reading it was an enjoyable enough experience I now sort of want to go back and reread the earlier entries of the series.

Oh, pretty much all the entries have some kind of SEAL connection, but it's the weirdest SEAL romance series I've ever encountered, in that so little of the story has much of anything to do with the military.
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Subtitled: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama

I _should_ have read this when it came out, but I am sort of happy I did not, because I got to read it for the first time now instead, and then chat about it at book group. Of course we all love Ifill, and are so sad that she is no longer with us. Ironically, everyone else at book group had probably watched her on the news more than I had -- and I loved the book while most of the group was very disappointed. And it wasn't because we all felt the same about the book, and the bar was in different places for each of us. Nope -- I thought this was a five star book and there wasn't anyone agreeing with me.

I had thought, as I read it, that this would have been a really different book for me if I had _not_ been watching TRMS (and before it, Countdown with Keith Olbermann) for over a decade (collectively). With a few exceptions (notably, at the chapter level, Artur Davis), I could readily bring to mind images from the shows -- I could remember seeing the people in the book on the shows, being interviewed or consulted for commentary on recent events. I head their voices, I had a feel for their sense of humor (or lack thereof). If you could not readily imagine the people in this book, I can see how it would have been incredibly confusing and difficult to read. But instead, this was roughly equivalent to reading Soap Opera Digest, and I followed it up with wikipedia level research to figure out Where Are They Now.

The funniest of all _those_ stories are the many veering curves in the career arc of Artur Davis. Not only did he _not_ win the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial election he was aiming for during this book, he didn't win his primary. He switched parties, moved to Virginia, started writing for the National Review and supported Mitt Romney -- all after NOT supporting ACA because he didn't care for the mandates (which, in turn, were all there because of Republicans and especially Mitt Romney).

Don't take my word for it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artur_Davis

It's a heckuva story.

But that's not in _The Breakthrough_. What _is_ in _The Breakthrough_ are the early stories of Michael Nutter, Adrian Fenty, Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, David Paterson among many others. These are the stories of the first generation of electable and often elected African American (mostly) men who didn't win office exclusively in majority-minority districts. Ifill explores how they found ways to appeal to white voters without offending their black base. She also explores the dynamic of the 2008 election and the question of which is harder to overcome: racism or sexism. This was the part my group, I think, was least convinced by, perhaps because of the result of the 2016 election. While those African American women elected to office (Kamala Harris gets a few pages) and interviewed here deprecate how serious sexism was for them vs. racism, this is, actually, the strategy for dealing with bigotry that cannot yet be faced head on. Ifill also touches -- very lightly -- on how women don't vote as a bloc, which I think is more important for the sexism vs. racism question.

If you can make sense of the names that people this book -- if they are familiar to them, or you can become familiar with them enough to animate the interviews that form the backbone of this book -- it is a wonderful, nuanced and light-handed exploration of the intersection of race, gender and class. And honestly, even if you did read it back in 2009, you might want to go re-read it. Time has only made it more interesting as an examination of a generation of leaders and how they got to where they were.
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This was a book group selection for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name) public library's adult book group. I believe I first read this book -- along with a lot of other cozies -- as a pre-teenager. My mother was a fan then, and continued to be a fan right up until in recent years she ceased to be able to read. Other favorite authors included Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers (I preferred both of them to Christie, but I did not then bear Agatha Christie any ill will -- I did like the Tommy and Tuppence books best, IIRC, which I may not because honestly over 30 years have passed since I last read any of these books).

Spoilers! En voiture, mes amis, unless you've decided to stay a few nights and see the sights rather than board the Wagon Lits.

The first chapter is set on a different line, the Taurus Express, the stops along which read like a summary of recent extended conflict: Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, Aleppo. Here we first meet Hercule Poirot, the mustachioed and bald Belgian with the egg shaped head, Mary Debenham, a governess headed home to England, and Colonel Arbuthnot, headed home to England from years in India.

Poirot intends to stay in Stamboul, but receives a telegraph recalling him to another case. With more difficulty than anticipated, he gets space in the unexpectedly full first class of the Orient Express. He carefully observes the various passengers in first and second class. He initially shares a room with someone he first saw at the hotel in Stamboul he was briefly at, but when an additional carriage is added to the train, an officer of the rail line switches to the new carriage and Poirot gets his own room.

Of course, his neighbor is murdered in the night and the game is afoot. The novel has been out since 1934 or thereabouts and has been made into movies and short TV series and then riffed and homaged to yards past its death. I think we all know the basic premise of the book: Everyone Did It.

Having gotten the major spoiler out of the way, what's it like reading this thing in 2017? Well, I guess the first and most obvious comment would be how thin the motivating crime feels. The standin for the Lindy baby kidnapping -- a ripped from the headlines plot point if ever there was one -- did not age well. Decades after everyone involved in the Lindbergh case died, we now know a fair number of unsavory things about Charles and his feelings about his son, that make the source case seep through in weird ways to the thinly fictionalized version.

The second, and most offensive aspect of the novel is the relentless ... bigotry? Ethnic stereotyping? Racism? Because the "races" in question are all (western) European, and because we ultimately learn that several people are not the "race" they present as but actually someone else enacting their own stereotype of the "race", it's all more than a little weird and creepy.

Completely by accident, I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry about Graham Greene's _Stamboul Train_, which predates this novel by a couple years, is set on the same train, and shares a variety of attributes with this book, but which honestly sounds a helluva lot more interesting and nuanced -- altho who knows how _that_ would hold up if read now.

I would observe that reading this book in the late 1970s / early 1980s, the world was at least marginally recognizable. I had myself been on multi-day train journeys, albeit always in coach. Borders were still enforced in the areas through which the train passed, and it was still difficult to identify a common second language in which to conduct business with a stranger met on a train. Reading this book in 2017, it is difficult not to feel that this book has receded a great deal further in time. Between WW2, the peak of the Soviet era, and the creation of Europe leading to English being adopted essentially throughout the area as a common second language, it just isn't possible to relate to the world of the people on the train. Which is probably the other half of why this has become an increasingly difficult story to adapt to TV and movies. (That's not stopping anyone -- I think Dr. Who did it a few years back, altho it is worth noting their version involved a Mummy.)

Hercule Poirot is a wildly implausible character in so many ways it's hard to know how to enumerate them. The use of stilted English (word order and other grammatical oddities, not to mention word choice) at least on the surface intended to convey that conversations are occurring in French (and yet still dotted with largely useless interjections in French -- but never German, even tho some convos are also conducted in German) probably did once successfully resonate with people accustomed to talking to people for whom English was a second language and who themselves word-for-word translated expressions from their own language of origin.

Finally, the book is just way too clever for its own good. I'll probably update this after our discussion.

ETA: We had a person in the group who knows Swedish well enough to not believe the Swedish characters version of stilted English at all. Our group settled on the usual Agatha Christie observations: characters not really believable or differentiatable, difficult to feel a sense of place, highly contrived plot, etc. It was a nice discussion, but a little short.
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I loved Levinson's _The Box_, even though it took me years to get around to reading it. I had bought it in hardcover for my husband around the time it came out, and then promptly quit reading things in paper. Despite that, it took me a while -- altho only months, not years -- to convince myself to take a flyer on _An Extraordinary Time_. Levinson's book is about the immediate post war decades, but his perspective is to show how odd those decades were by comparing them to what came before and after. And since the after is my entire life, I've got some pretty strong feelings about those decades and I haven't run into a lot of economists or economic historians who agree with me much. I didn't want to find out that Levinson was just another one of Them.

Lucky me! I love this book.

Naturally, when I read something that runs along lines that I already think, I am predisposed to like it. Aren't we all. Actually, this is not entirely true. I can get hypercritical of stuff I like a little too much. But honestly, that didn't really happen here, either, because Levinson focuses on telling the story: what happened, what were the policy responses, what happened after the policy responses, how did various investigators, whether bureaucrats or academics, interpret the policy responses and the results of the policy responses.

And it is actually pretty impossible to entirely agree with the way I have thought about the world in which I grew up, because I've changed my mind far too many times. From a world in which I hated Reagan and Thatcher, to an age where I don't think what they did really worked in any larger sense but I can now really understand what they were reacting to, it's difficult to imagine how one could reconcile those very divergent opinions, each of which I have held in turn. And yet, Levinson's analysis is so measured, he can describe the outrageous demands being made and the dire economic circumstances, the bizarre and not particularly consistent ideologies subscribed to by supply siders and Conservatives in the UK, and come out the other side basically saying, well, you definitely couldn't keep doing what had been the status quo, and the new stuff didn't work either, but . . . it's not at all clear that anything was really going to make that much of a difference anyway.

If it all sounds kind of dry and non-committal, it didn't feel that way reading it. To me, it was like watching a sped up version of the background of my life, and along it unreeling the many ways I have tried to understand it. Behind it all, Levinson does really _get_ that this all went the way it did because of two underlying factors which are not handled in great detail. First, technological change and progress which initially was compatible with full employment but later was not. Second, different societal goals that arose over time that were not well captured by economic statistics (environment, especially, but others as well). Significantly lacking in the background is a sense of the massive demographic changes -- if I have a complaint, it would be that. Backgrounding the technological changes and the What Do You Measure problem does not bother me; backgrounding the demographics leaves me with a chicken and egg problem.

It's a great book. I have no idea what it would be like to read this book if you are significantly older or younger than me, nor do I have any idea what it would be like to read this if you've never explored an economics perspective on history. I can readily imagine that reading this with a different life span to measure it against, or with a different sense of economics could result in a very, very different opinion of the book.
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Steinem has been such an important figure in the world for my entire life, it is a little odd reading her memoir. It's a great memoir. She has a friendly voice, without being verbose or overly chatty. She touches upon the meta-decisions of what to put in a/this memoir and why, without it feeling like she's avoiding engaging with the material.

It is easy to fill in the parts of another person's life that we have no knowledge, direct or otherwise, of with assumptions based on our own experience and the experience of other people we know well. I think anyone who has a decent smattering of experience through time and/or travel or a wide network of diverse kin knows this is a mistake, often a serious mistake, but it is how our brains work. So the book presents many layers of shock right from the beginning. It's hard to imagine growing up driving around in a car with one's parents and sister. The reader might think, but what about school? And that question is answered, but not really in the way you might expect. This was unschooling at its more extreme end. It does put a whole new spin on statements she later makes about how she didn't learn about something-or-other or they don't teach that in school. Well, over and above the fact that every school in this country does things a little differently, and then that changes from year to year and Steinem can't be considered a youthful person by any stretch any more -- she didn't really go to school. So how would she know? I assume it is an expression that she picked up.

She doesn't feel sorry for herself for having parents who clearly suffered from significant mental health issues. It's not clear she really grasps that her father did -- she may still be filing his oddities under that catchall heading, "eccentricity". When she expresses her anguish over not being with him when he dies, it's also completely unclear how much of that experience she has unpacked (my answer? Probably not a lot, either that or she declined to share, which is her prerogative).

She also tends not to blame anyone for, really, much of anything. She gets in her digs -- and more power to her! -- but she delivers the payload and moves on. Reading this book helps answer a basic question I've had about people who engage in community organizing on a national scale. How on earth do these people maintain a home life? In Steinem's case, she didn't bother for a really long time.

In answer to related questions you might have, nope, didn't file taxes for a long time, either, didn't save for retirement, etc. She's a really representative character of the mid 20th century in a lot of ways.

All that said, I really loved the book and the book did nothing to tarnish my sense of her as one of my heroes. It gave me a lot of detail on what her life had been like, and her perspective on the many, many, many other activists and organizers she has worked with. That was really wonderful actually -- even if you have no interest in Steinem, Steinem's connectedness to the larger community of activism and organizing is just amazing.

We had to delay book group discussion due to weather, so I may come back next month and edit this.
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This is in the Elder Races universe, however, it is set in the UK, rather than being US centric.

SPOILERS HO! Run, or Isabeau will send Morgan to git you and rip out your tongue or something even worse.

Sophie got shot while working as a witch consultant for the LAPD. She is still recovering when Dr. Kathryn Shaw approaches her with a weird will/inheritance thing. If she can get into this old English manor house, it's hers, along with a substantial annuity. Sweet! Sophie was adopted by exploitative witches and left first chance she got. She had to figure out her ancestry on her own and knows she has some Djinn ancestry.

Nikolas is a Knight of the Daoine Sidhe, a dwindling crew being persecuted by the Light Court (led by Isabeau) and unable to return home to Lyonesse, where Oberon lies insensate and all but dead.

Robin is a puck gone missing, who somewhat inconveniently shows up to be rescued by Sophie and provide a point of initial conflict with Nikolas (and Gawain). Antics ensue.

Sophie _does_ get the house. And I mean, this is a romance novel, so obvs Sophie and Nik are gonna get it on (and on and on and on because he is part Wyr and Mating and blah blah blah). There is a strong thread of Who Will Betray Me involved. And there are lovely setups (is Morgan fully controlled by Isabeau? Does he need to be rescued too? Of course we need to find out!) for more in the series.

Utterly satisfying, if Thea Harrison's elder races novels do it for you, this probably will too, subject to there may well be some sort of UK errors that I am not detecting that might piss you off. But, fun! And exploring the manor house sorta like an episode of Sapphire and Steel.
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OK, so, some people are clearly not grabbing a clue from the title. YES, the book is loaded, larded, completely laden with f bombs. If that is a problem for you, this is not a book for you. Don't read this book if you aren't loving the f bombs. Seriously.

Sarah Knight has written an effective parody AND an effective self-help book. The topic of the self-help aspect is prioritization of time/energy/money in line with one's values. Most of the book is devoted to introspection on what aligns with your values and figuring out how to say no to things that don't align with your values but do exhaust your time/energy/money, without being an Asshole (TM). She explores some of the domain of being polite vs. being honest while saying no.

The books weaknesses require little contemplation to identify. Her evaluation function is too present-focused. It is only at the end of the book that she makes any effort to help the reader figure out what they should be doing now so that they don't wind up regretting not doing it later. A lot of duty/obligation stuff is devoted to getting you to avoid this situation, and since she is jettisoning duty/obligation, I think she should have spent more time on this.

But you know? It's her book. And it is fairly humorous.

It's hard to know if this would _help_ any particular reader. I don't know that I was helped by it (but I was vastly entertained, and a little disturbed by how many of the examples it wouldn't even occur to me to feel any guilt about). But if you feel like you are being nibbled to death by small requests difficult to say no to, but which are not advancing you along your spiritual path, hey, can it really hurt? There are at least several giggled in it.
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Wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. I may go reread it tonight. Just, wow.

Spoilers! Continue and an ad-hal might get you!

Ok, so I think this is book 3 in the Innkeeper series. A chaotic ... something or other shows up as a courier and tells her her sister is in trouble. So off she goes to rescue sister and niece. She recruits the vampire to help her out, and the vampire's reaction to her sister is ... really fucking entertaining.

All these books with Team Wolf vs. Team Vampire, and this is the _first_ resolution that involves answering the question, "Do you have a sister?"

The main storyline -- why is it the Draziri have it in for the smelly guys -- is telegraphed pretty early on and pretty overwhelmingly. But who cares, when you get things like Mr. Rodriguez's son is a what?!? And the magic answer turns out to be a name that matches the initials on the cat's tag?!?

Most of the time, gimcrack stuff like this makes me eye roll. But I was cheering. If Ilona Andrews is your kinda crack, this was _really good crack_. I am so looking forward to the next entry.

Also, I _love_ the cop now! All this trouble with what to do about the cop and the answer is simple. Give him a copy of the relevant law and appropriate arms and boom. He's now enforcing the treaty FOR them, instead of interfering with them. Awesome.
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Sands is not an author I normally read, but I had some spare time and a strong desire for something mindless. Based on a SBTB review, I gave this a whirl.

Let's just say if you require a lot of accuracy in your historical fiction, this is probably not necessarily where you want to be reading.

Sands' heroine was married without having a Season after her father nearly lost the estate to gambling and somebody showed up to marry off his eldest daughter and pay the debt. The daughter (secretly) had a substantial dower from another relative, and after the marriage, the man stops with the Oh You Are My Lovely Rose and switches to being a verbally but not physically abusive asshole who isolates her from her family and friends. But you don't really get to know him in person, because he is mostly present in the book as an inconvenient body, a la Weekend at Bernies or The Trouble with Harry.

Spoilers, ho! If you don't want spoilers, well, leave before you are shipped off to the Colonies as an indentured servant. Or something.

We never do find out who poisoned the asshole husband. Apparently that is divulged in book 2 or 3, which I probably won't read, because this is one of those retell it from the other person's perspective things and a lot of the later books repeat the earlier books.

I haven't read other books by the author, so I don't know if her relatively heavy-handed pop psychology is typical. But it is relatively heavy-handed. It's not that I disagree with her; it's that I have trouble imagining the historical characters thinking that way.

Aside from the unsatisfactory resolution re: who poisoned the asshole, the book is a romp. Lots of misunderstandings and physical comedy, especially surrounding intimate encounters. The twin of the dead husband and the heroine really do wind up having sex in part on a bed where they have forgotten they have stashed the dead guy. Which is why I read the book in the first place, so if that makes you snort, this is probably a good choice for you. Otherwise, probably give it a pass.
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(ETA Huge apologies for managing to spell the author's name incorrectly. BOTH first and last names wrong. I must be special or something, to cock it up that bad!)

I was reading SBTB (http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/) the other day, and there was a hilarious post about books with angry heroines. I've read some Laurentson before, and the reason I stopped reading her wasn't so compelling I was opposed to giving it another try.

In this outing, Livy (honey badger) and Vic (hybrid bear / I forget the details on which cat) get together. It is far enough into the series/universe that you could get very, very, very lost if you haven't read any of the earlier books at all, but if you understand the basic universe and how the various shifter groups relate to each other, the book stands on its own otherwise (you don't have to read _all_ the other books first, basically).

The book opens with a funeral and all kinds of honey badger drama around the funeral. Livy is sort-of depressed and mostly that manifests as not wanting to take any pictures or really do much of anything. Vic and his not-partner hire her to break into an apartment in an effort to track down someone who has been hunting shifters and stuffing them (ewww); the apartment belongs to that man's decades estranged daughter so there is no real expectation that searching the apartment will help but it's one of the few ideas they have. Alas, Livy gets a real surprise in that apartment.


Look, if you dropped in here via google, now is the time to leave. If you read this blog and you don't realize I spoil the fuck out of everything, well, you haven't been reading it for very long. So, run away! Or some honey badger will do something really awful to you probably. Because that's how they roll.

Where was I? Oh, Livy didn't really believe her father was in the coffin at his funeral; she thought it was a scam on her mother's part to collect on insurance policies she had taken out on him. He _wasn't_ in the coffin. But as her mother had come to believe, he was dead. And as absolutely no one expected, he was in that apartment. Stuffed.

Livy is too upset to talk about it, but not too upset to do some major damage. Vic gets her out of the trouble she immediately gets into, and then takes her off for some recuperation time until she is able to discuss what happened in the apartment. Once she recovers enough to talk, she calls a honey badger clan meeting and all holy hell breaks loose.

As these things go, it's kind of fun, if you're looking for a _very_ literal minded hero and a _very_ angry heroine. I think I was supposed to be laughing a lot more than I was. It was pretty dark, tho.

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