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Tomes and Tea Leaves

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Jaimie Admans
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History
Nicholas A. Basbanes
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing
Anya Von Bremzen
The Mirror Lied: One Woman's 25-Year Struggle with Bulimia, Anorexia, Diet Pill Addiction, Laxative Abuse and Cutting.
Marc A. Zimmer, N.R. Mitgang, Ira M. Sacker
Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet
Stephen Manes
Curtis Sittenfeld
Gail Godwin
The Old Curiosity Shop
Charles Dickens, Norman Page
The English Eccentrics
Edith Sitwell, Richard Ingrams (Introduction)

Any Given Doomsday (Phoenix Chronicles Series #1)

Any Given Doomsday - Lori Handeland I had much higher hopes for this book than what were met. I enjoy the odd paranormal thriller, mystery, etc., but this book simply did not deliver. The premise of this book is that Elizabeth Phoenix discovers upon the death of her foster mother that she is now responsible for leading the worldwide fight against evils of all sorts. Vampires, demons, berserkers, they're all here. Theoretically, these might be the elements of a good story, but those elements are never actually drawn together into a good story. There's very little plot, and almost no character development. We know little about Elizabeth except that she was abused and abandoned in her past, and there's no discussion of how this has shaped her thoughts and her life. All we really hear from Elizabeth is her distaste for the new responsibilities that have suddenly landed on her shoulders. The lack of character development is magnified by the fact that the book is narrated in the first person, but there's absolutely nothing to the character who is the narrator. And then we have the content issues. This book is replete with gratuitous sex scenes that read more like a bodice-ripping romance novel than anything else. The descriptions of the sex scenes go on for pages. I'm just not interested in all that pulsing and throbbing. If I was, I'd read a romance novel. It's not just the fact that the book is full of sex, though. If that was the only problem, a reader could easily skim the sex scenes. The problem for me is that the book is full of sexual violence. I'm not really sure what gratuitous sexual violence is meant to accomplish. And the violence really is gratuitous. Sexual violence can have its place in writing if it works to tell a story or contribute to a larger theme. But when its just there, for no reason, it really serves only to be disturbing. Ultimately, I see little value in this heroine. She's described as kick-butt and no-nonsense, but she's presented as a victim who is only capable of giving in to her sexual urges, and can only accomplish her goals if she sleeps with a variety of men she'd rather avoid.