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47.In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce - In the second book in the Alanna series, Tamora Pierce does something that surprises me just because I read so many Harry Potter books and other genre books that there is always a mystery that is revealed at the last minute. I figured that she wasn't going to say that the great powerful force that is attacking Prince Jonathan is Alanna's mentor in the hackiest of hack plot twists, but I was still surprised when Pierce led us to believe that Prince Jonathan's charming uncle was trying to kill him and then outright stated that yep, this is the guy. So much for that last chapter reveal where the suspected killer is actually the ally the entire time.

But it's actually quite ingenious that Uncle Roger (probably a different time when Roger wasn't such a loser name) is only suspected by Alanna and beloved by everyone else. I loved the subtext to the point that I was a little disappointed to learn that Roger was using magic to hide his motivations. It feels a little like the bit in Tristan and Isolde where a love potion makes them cheat on the king. But still I loved the way that this mirrors how every time something horrible happens like a Jerry Sandusky or an O.J. Simpson, there are always people who knew all the time and didn't speak up. But more importantly, there are people who were trying to warn everyone but they were ignored because he's SUCH A NICE GUY. Actually Bill Cosby is a better example.

Anyhow it's frustrating that Alanna knows exactly who Roger is but can't do anything about him. There's also a plot about his squire Alex trying to kill her that doesn't get resolved in this book. But it gets even more compelling at the end when Alanna finds Roger's magic and gets him into trial by combat when when Roger finds out that she's female gets angry as if she's the one in the wrong.

There's also a goddess and a magical cat.

48. The Flowers of Evil vol 7 by Shuzo Oshimi - I read the third volume in this story and it was the tribulations of a dopy guy with two impossibly gorgeous and interesting women wanting him. In this volume, the crazy chick talks him into a loud public suicide where they burn themselves up and then it's broken by first our hero jumping to the safe girl and the dangerous girl being stopped. Fast forward and he is in a new school and hanging out with a bunch of boys who are into ogling porn. Also there's a girl that he's interested in and this book does a good job of showing just how much peer pressure fucks us up since it seems like our mopy dopy protagonist is making a real connection with the girl - either friendship or romantic but mostly friendship - over their shared love of books. But all the douchebags that he is hanging out with see her as a prize to be won, or never grabbed because she has a boyfriend. So the book ends with him in her room looking at her books and her boyfriend comes along. Also her brother gets all creepy with that "oh hey my sister never took a boy up there" talk. So it's pretty frustrating. I kind of want to see the next chapter to see if the guy becomes like his douchebag friends or honestly knows that he's making an emotional connection.

49. Art Ops: Popism by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred - Oh fuck this thing. The central conceit that art can be alive is fine but it's such a smug bastard of a title with our hero impregnating the Mona Lisa and a group of 40something dads being the force for squares in the world (they laugh at Home Improvement) and some bullshit about contract negotiation. There's also a story about a child who draws death and his death goes wandering the world killing other kids and as an old man he forces it to catch up with him. It's an interesting one-off but mostly this book just sucks.
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Tim Lieder

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