Book Banter: Bitter Blood

bitter bloodTitle: Bitter Blood (Morganville Vampires #13)

Author: Rachel Caine

Length: 404 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: After defeating the draug, the vampires of Morganville are taking the top spot again, despite promises to give humans more equality. When the humans are asked to carry identification, Claire and her friends take issue. As usual, Claire and co. get in way over their heads as they try to figure out what might be behind the vampires’ behavior.

Banter Points: I’ve been trying to finish this series for ever and I’m down to the last two after this one. The first six books are still the best, but of the recent ones, this one was really good, probably because it felt like a return to the beginning of the series. The humans v. the vampires was the main plot — no weird drugs, no strange enemies in the water-monster draug. Forcing the characters to figure out who they could trust, again, was a nice echo of the first few books.

This one also had interesting ideas about political resistance which felt a little too on point for today.

With two more books to go, I’ll be interested to see how Caine puts an end on the series.

Bummer Points: I started reading these books when the series launched in 2006. In the ensuing 11 years, I don’t have quite as much as patience for the YA side of these books, especially the romantic drama.

Also, there was a strange subplot with ghosts that was never fully explained and just bogged down the interesting part.

Word Nerd Recommendation: For an older teen reader, these are still a good choice.


Book Banter: The Late Show

lateshow The Late Show

Author: Michael Connelly

Genre: Mystery

Length: 405 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Detective Renee Ballard is stuck on the “late show,” the overnight shift for the Hollywood division of LAPD. She rarely gets to see cases through, just doing the initial legwork. But when terrible beating is followed by a mass shooting at a nightclub, Renee finds herself uniquely positioned on both cases.

Banter Points: This is Connelly’s first foray with a new detective that’s not Harry Bosch. The crimes are interesting and the twist is a nice one.

Bummer Points: Connelly should stick to Bosch, or maybe Mickey Halley. Renee Ballard isn’t a compelling character. While I have no problem with authors writing main characters that are the opposite gender from them, Connelly falls terribly short on writing a female cop. Yes, Renee has to be tough to fit in with the “guys” in the department. But in private moments, she’s just wooden and terrible. She should have emotions, or worries and she has none of them.

Also, without being too much of a spoiler, something happens to Renee that just feels cliched for a cop novel.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Unless you’re a die-hard Connelly fan, skip it.

Book Banter: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

who killedTitle: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (Shadow Police #3)

Author: Paul Cornell

Length: 358 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: The Shadow Police team are back and this time their victim is none other than London’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Or maybe just the idea of him. “Holmesmania” is stirred up in town because of three film project all featuring the famed detective. But after Holmes’ death, subsequent murders start mimicking his great cases. But the Shadow Police themselves are struggling after their last case and not functioning well as they try to get ahead of the Master Detective and make sense of the clues.

Banter Points: If you like convoluted mysteries, this one has a doozy. I can’t say much without spoilers, but keep your thinking cap on as you read because the twists are pretty mind-bending.

My friends and I have been playing a number of games based on the Lovecraftian Cthulthu mythos and in such our game characters are regularly going mad. Because of that, I think I appreciated more what Cornell was doing in this one of letting the toll of the supernatural horrors the team has seen really affect them, particularly their DI, James Quill. Still the series is building nicely on itself, ratcheting up the action and tension with each installment.

Bummer Points: Because it’s been a while since I’d read Shadow Police and had read the Pete Grant magical London books, I was getting the two systems mixed up. I think I was expecting Shadow Police to be like Peter Grant and that’s never going to be the case.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want some dark urban fantasy, then the Shadow Police series is for you. Bordering on horror

Reading Challenge Check in

Wow, so more than half of 2017 is over.

With that revelation, I realized I was behind on the 2017 Word Nerds Reading Challenge. The good news is that I might be able to get back on track.

June: Biography or autobiography
This might be a bit of a stretch, but I did listen to all of Jim Gaffigan’s “Food: A Love Story.” I finished it in July.

July: Early Detective fiction
This one I know I conquered: just finished “Murder on the Orient Express” last week, only a month behind schedule!

August: One you own or were given but haven’t read yet.
Yeah…. still need to do this. I did just buy myself a copy of our September book club selection… does that count?

September: A Banned Book
There are several graphic novels on this list, so I’m hoping that might be an easy way to knock this challenge out for 2017.

October: A book with a person in the title (ie, “The Girl on the Train.”)
I need to pick a good title here… recommendations? Anyone?

Cookbooks and rules

Of late, a lot of my reading has been cookbooks and new recipes along with the rules to new board games.

The hubby is seriously looking at going vegan and GenCon was two weeks ago, so we’re eating new foods and playing new games.

Even though it’s still August, on the food front, we’re doing a lot of soups and stew type things. I’m not ready to tackle cooking tofu yet, but we’ve made a lot of good other dishes.


Vegetable Curry Marrakesh

white bean soup

White Bean and Spinach Soup

vegan waffle

Vegan Blueberry Waffle

On the game front, we’re doing ok too.



Santorini is a 2-4 player game but really shines with two. Think of like like 3D tic-tac-toe but the board is 6×6 (I think). We’ve only played a couple times, but I definitely want to keep working on this one.

He also got the Marvel Legendary card game.


Marvel Legendary

This was the original sorting-out-all-the-cards bit. We’ve played twice and won twice, so that’s awesome.

Book Banter: Witches of Lychford

lychfordTitle: Witches of Lychford

Author: Paul Cornell

Length: 144 pages

Genre: fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: The Sovo Supermarket wants to move into the small town of Lychford. But more than just the usual fight between big business and small shops, the store might be backed by actual Evil and it’s up to three unlikely allies to protect the town’s century’s old role as a barrier between realms.

Banter Points: This short little wonderful novel is probably going to up with a high placing in my annual top 10 list. Cornell nailed this one, with fully drawn characters, a fun plot and magic that doesn’t need pages of explanation. The three women are a great mix of personalities — the weird, the skeptic, the believer.

I’ve enjoyed reading Cornell’s Shadow Police series, but this is even better. Because it’s so short, every word matters and Cornell’s writing prowess really shines through.

Bummer Points: Nothing.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This book has a sequel which I will read, sooner, hopefully, rather than later.

Book Banter: Broken Homes

brokenTitle: Broken Homes (Rivers of London #4)

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Length: 324 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Police Constable Peter Grant has his hands full… a body burned from the inside out, a strange traffic accident, a rogue killer on the loose and his ongoing studies to become a wizard. Even as he tries to solve these crimes, more fall on him, including a set of weird rumors about a housing project that may or may not have magical ties that might be attracting Peter’s arch-nemesis, the unknown wizard he calls the Faceless Man.

Banter Points: I love the Rivers of London series. The cover blurbs it as a blend of CSI and Harry Potter and whoever wrote that nailed the best description possible. Peter does respectable “copper” work as any fictional British police officer should. But his wizarding (and his mentor Nightingale) provide a wonderful dose of the mystical to add to a modern reality.

Bummer Points: I think this series is going to take a re-read to really follow all the twists and turns. Not that I mind rereading, but I wish it was just a smidge less convoluted. Also, I didn’t know in book one that the series was so linked from book-to-book.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Still really enjoying this series. For anyone waiting for the next Dresden Files, bide your time with these and you won’t be disappointed.

Book Banter: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Title: RedshirtsRedshirst.jpg
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Sci-Fi
Length: 320 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics:  Four new crew members join Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. They quickly find themselves in the unique position of completing jobs and tasks that don’t seem logical or rational to their scientific minds. Within days, the truth of their situation is revealed — they are Redshirts, compelled by the Narration, to perform seemingly impossible (or deadly) tasks.
Banter Points:  For the record, I’m not a Trekkie. I am, however, a gamer, and the meta gaming that happens in this novel had me laughing. I also love time travel stories along with their unique world rules; my delight in this book was primarily due to watching them unfold, complicate the story, and be resolved.

As a non-Trekkie, I’m sure I missed out on puns and insider jokes, however, nothing was so insider that I couldn’t keep up with the overall story.

The way that the main characters solved the first mystery and identified that they were red shirts inside of a television show was clever. I liked how it used conventions where someone already had parts of the information, and getting all of the people into a room (and on the same page), made it believable. At their core, each character has unique attributes, predefined to fit the wold, but also build to compliment each other so that ultimately they solve the puzzle together. Just like any good marauding party in your favorite dice-rolling game.

Bummer Points:  I bet a missed a bunch of good humor, not being a Trekkie. It didn’t cause gaps, but given the humor that existed, I missed out.

Stacie’s Recommendation: Fun, quick read that I’d recommended to anyone who understands the vital role that redshirts play.

2017 Q2 Reading Stats

I crunched my Q2 stats a while back, but somehow July was not conducive to blogging in the slightest.

Better late than never on the numbers:

21 books
5329 pages
54.6 hours of audio

YTD, I’m at 40 books, which is three less than 2016. Adding in July, I’m nearly to my 52 books for the year/Goodreads goal. Guess I set that too low…

For this year though, I am doing really well in audio. I’ve listened to nearly 100 hours total, when at this point in 2016 I was at just over 62.

Don’t tell work, but sometimes I listen to audiobooks there.

Book Banter: Finding My Badass Self

findingTitle: Finding my Badass Self (ARC)

Author: Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Length: 225 pages

Genre: humor/memoir

Plot Basics: Writer Sherry Stanfa-Stanley takes her readers through a year-long humorous journey of 52 new experiences — from a Brazillian wax to going ghost-hunting — as she decides that her 52nd year will be one of testing herself and saying “yes” to new opportunities.

Banter Points: Memoirs typically aren’t my thing, but Sherry’s book is laugh-out-loud funny and manages to also be insightful, a feat that I think is probably easier said than done. I met Sherry several years ago at the Midwest Writers Fellowship and since we weren’t in the same small workshop group, I didn’t really see her writing at that time. But when she announced her 52/52 Project on Facebook, I happily followed along.

I’d read many of her adventures in the book as she blogged about them on Facebook, but in the book, they were refined and even better. I made the mistake of reading about her bug-eating adventure as I was microwaving my lunch, felt my hands get sweaty too as she described the high-ropes course and decided from her adventures in a float tank, that that is an experience I can safely say is not from me because I learned from her.

If you need some inspiration to get out of the ruts in your life and try something, this is your guidebook.

Bummer Points: My TBR pile has been so stacked up lately, that I had to read Sherry’s book in big gulps, more like a novel. I think the wisdom would seep out more if a reader could read one of two of her adventures, put it down, and come back the next time they needed a laugh.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If your reading soul needs some chicken soup without the schmaltz, this is the book for you. Sherry really is funny and her willingness to be honestly self-deprecating is refreshing… because she finds the places she learns. Sure, she might get lost on a Segway in Italy, but she also triumphs and successfully figures out how to navigate herself back to safety. It’s the fact that she wins (mostly) that makes the book so rewarding to read.