Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Veteran readers of this bloggy thing of mine know I get a bunch of cool stuff from my local public library. The Medina County District Library is a member of ClevNet, an organization of about 100 area libraries. I can go online, request items and, if any of ClevNet’s members have the item, they send it to my library. In turn, I get a record message informing me the item awaits my picking up at my library. The recorded message mispronounces “Medina.” I find this amusing, most likely more so than the fine people working for the District. I’ve seen their eyes roll when some other patron informs them of this mistake. Because, of course, that patron must be the first person who ever reported this to them.

Leading off this batch of library booty is The Institute by Stephen King [Scribner; September 2019]. King is no stranger to stories of  children with incredible powers and sinister government projects. What makes The Institute as fresh as his earliest works are King’s knack for creating unforgettable characters good and evil, a plot that seems utterly believable when held up against the greedy and the true believers of today’s extreme politics, and an attention to detail that convinces the reader every place and location is real, and that every situation follows naturally from the situations that preceded it.

For heroes, we have Luke Ellis, taken from his home by operatives of the Institute who murder his parents as well. He have his fellow captives, children with modest telekinetic or telepathic abilities  cruelly subjected to “tests” designed to grow and weaponize those abilities. Then there’s former police officer Tim Jamieson, moving from place to place after his dismissal from one police force and ending up as the “night knocker” in a small town. Not really an officer, just the guy who checks doors for signs of breaking and entering. He has no gun or authority to act beyond calling the station to let them know there might be some problem. His and Luke’s stories seem disconnected until, of course, they connect in a suspenseful manner.

The villains? What would you call those who see children as weapons to be used and used up for motives ranging from greed to zealotry. When this novel makes it to the screen, there are going to be many choice roles for actors.

If I ever retire, one of my pleasures will be reading/re-reading every Stephen King novel, anthology or work of non-fiction. He has never disappointment me since I read an early edition of Carrie. I don’t expect he’ll start anytime soon.

ISBN 978-1-9821-1056-7


I love reading mysteries and police procedurals set in my native Cleveland or other Ohio locations. Before I recognized this as a passion, I never thought there would be at least two such series of books set in my state’s nearby Amish communities, not to mention a series about a debutante turned cemetery guide who sees ghosts and solves mysteries for them. From time to time, I’ll be writing about these and other Ohio-based novels.

Fourth Down and Out: An Andy Hayes Mystery by Andrew Welsh-Hughes [Swallow Press; $16.95] was originally published in 2015. It’s the kickoff of the author’s ongoing series about a disgraced Ohio State University football star turned private investigator. Hayes lives in Columbus and is reviled by anyone who knows who he is. He threw a big game and the Buckeyes fans will never forgive him for that. I originally thought such enmity was far-fetched, but my son Eddie, the most devoted OSU football fan I know, tells me that continuing hatred is not just possible but likely. Lest you think Hayes is a masochist for staying in a city that so hates him, he stays because his two sons live there with their respective mothers. He might not be the best dad - his job causes him to cancel many outings with his boys - but he tries. His ex-wives hate Hayes only slightly less passionately than the Buckeyes fans.

In this first book, Hayes is hired to retrieve a laptop and erase a tape of his married client canoodling with a barely legal young woman. After he retrieves the computer, his house is broken into. Later, the computer having not been in the house, Andy gets beaten badly by crooks who steal the laptop from him. Things really start getting interesting when the FBI shows up. They don’t like Andy any better than anyone else. Indeed, with rare exception, including a young teacher caught up in this mess, no one likes Andy much. I’m not sure I like him, but I do admire his bouncing back from life’s dumping on him and his persistence in keeping going until the job is finished.

Minor spoiler. Lots of people are interested in the laptop for many reasons that do not overlap. The plot unfolds with more coincidence and convenience than I prefer, but the story moved well and kept me  reading. Decent writing and good characters are why I’ll be reading the next book in the series.

ISBN 978-0-8040-1153-2


Manga unfolds at a more leisurely pace than American comic books. That’s fine when the characters, situations, story and writing are compelling. Sadly, Tsukumizu’s Girls’ Last Tour [Yen Press; $15 per volume] didn’t hit any of those buttons for me. Here is the summary from the back cover of the first volume:

Civilization is dead, but Chito and Yuuri are still alive. So they hop aboard their beloved Kettenkrad motorbike and aimlessly wander the ruins of the world they once knew. Day after hopeless day, they look for their next meal and fuel for their ride. But as long as the two are together, even an existence as bleak as theirs has a ray or two of sunshine in it, whether they're sucking down their fill of soup or hunting for machine parts to tinker with. For two girls in a world full of nothing, the experiences and feelings the two share give them something to live for.

Save for a third human who briefly shares their travels, Chito and Yuuri’s journey is fairly mundane. Every so often, they find some source of food or fuel, or maybe some interesting ruins. Never are we given a real explanation of why their devastated world has come to be. The characters and the conversations aren’t very compelling. The series seems like an endless road trip with no payoff in sight. No past. No future.

I got through three chapters of the second volume before my “Lost” sense was triggered. Though somewhat shorter than the infamous TV series - six volumes in all - Girls’ Last Tour afforded me the same nagging sense that I would get neither illumination or satisfaction if I continued reading. So I bailed. I didn’t need to read further in this series.

Girls' Last Tour, Volume 1:

ISBN 978-0316470629

Girls' Last Tour, Volume 2:

ISBN 978-0316470643

That’s all for today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella


  1. Meh-DEE-na, meh-DIE-na. I may have mentioned this before, but locally we have the community of Medina, NY in Orleans County; locals pronounce it meh-DIE-na.

    Okay, I have to ask: How does one mix a Sonic Screwdriver? I assume that pear juice is not involved since everybody knows that pears (and green fruit in general) are an abomination unto the Universe (at least, according to a certain time traveler).

    1. After a Google search, I see several recipes for the Sonic Screwdriver. I've also found the website for The Side Quest with their own description for the drink: (Pint Jar) Orange Vodka, Blue Curacao, OJ, RedBull.

  2. How does Eddie feel about Jim Jordan and the OSU wrestling scandal?

    1. We both think Jim Jordan is trash and that he was culpable as Hell.