I’m enjoying reading your comments on yesterday’s entry (My Top 5 Never-Before-Visited Vacation Destinations!) both for the travel recommendations AND critiques. Don’t be shy or fearful of offending.  I’d love to learn about your those negative experiences as well.  After all, not every city is for everyone.  For instance, I’ve only been to New Orleans, San Francisco, and Hawaii once, but had a tremendous time on all three occasions and would go back to any of them in a heartbeat.  Paris, on the other hand, probably not.  I’ve visited twice for business and, while it’s architecturally beautiful and home to some marvelous restaurants, I found its locals somewhat…let’s go with “rude” and leave it at that.  It’s bizarre because I’ve met French nationals on my travels, even here in Vancouver, and they’ve all been nothing short of wonderful: friendly, spirited, helpful.  Interestingly enough, when they hear about my Paris experience, they invariably inform me that Paris is very different from the rest of the country and then insist that, the next time, I should visit southern France .

So, do tell.  What are some of the places you WOULDN’T pay a return visit? Details, please.

Alright all you voracious readers.  It’s that time again.   Time to vote for the July Book of the Month.  The nominees are…

1December Park by Ronald Malfi

In the quiet suburb of Harting Farms, the weekly crime blotter usually consists of graffiti or the occasional bout of mailbox baseball. But in the fall of 1993, children begin vanishing and one is found dead. Newspapers call him the Piper because he has come to take the children away. But there are darker names for him, too . . .

Vowing to stop the Piper’s reign of terror, five boys take up the search. Their teenage pledge turns into a journey of self-discovery . . . and a journey into the darkness of their own hometown. On the twilit streets of Harting Farms, everyone is a suspect. And any of the boys might be the Piper’s next victim.

1Defenders by Will McIntosh

The invaders came to claim earth as their own, overwhelming us with superior weapons and the ability to read our minds like open books.

Our only chance for survival was to engineer a new race of perfect soldiers to combat them. Seventeen feet tall, knowing and loving nothing but war, their minds closed to the aliens.

But these saviors could never be our servants. And what is down cannot be undone.

1American Woman by Robert Pobi

New York City is experiencing a seemingly interminable heat wave. NYPD homicide detective Alexandra “Hemi” Hemingway has just learned she’s pregnant when she catches a disturbing case: the murder of a child. No suspects emerge. Then another child is killed. He looks amazingly like the first child, and his parents, like the first pair, are profoundly wealthy. Then another, same parameters. In the midst of the carnage, Hemi questions the wisdom of bringing a child into such a world. The detectives stumble on a thin lead: the mothers of the murdered children all used an exclusive, extraordinarily expensive fertility clinic.

1White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Special Agent Pendergast arrives at an exclusive Colorado ski resort to rescue his protégée, Corrie Swanson, from serious trouble with the law. His sudden appearance coincides with the first attack of a murderous arsonist who–with brutal precision–begins burning down multimillion-dollar mansions with the families locked inside. After springing Corrie from jail, Pendergast learns she made a discovery while examining the bones of several miners who were killed 150 years earlier by a rogue grizzly bear. Her finding is so astonishing that it, even more than the arsonist, threatens the resort’s very existence.

Drawn deeper into the investigation, Pendergast uncovers a mysterious connection between the dead miners and a fabled, long-lost Sherlock Holmes story–one that might just offer the key to the modern day killings as well.

Now, with the ski resort snowed in and under savage attack–and Corrie’s life suddenly in grave danger–Pendergast must solve the enigma of the past before the town of the present goes up in flames.


Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 edited by Kij Johnson

This year’s Nebula winners, and expected contributors, are Kim Stanley Robinson, Nancy Kress, Andy Duncan, and Aliette de Bodard, with E.C. Myers winning the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.


Putting together this list was a lot tougher than you’d think.  I went through the several hundred titles released in May, eliminated hardcovers, crappy/cheesy covers, continuing instalments in an ongoing series, tie-ins, reprints, vampires, werewolves, zombies and, in the end, those books that failed to capture my interest and, in the end, came up with less than a dozen potential reads (!).  But some very interesting candidates.

By the way, publishers take note.  It’s not necessary to tell us it’s a novel (ie. Bloodgrave: A Novel or Goldfish of the Blue Apocalypse: A Novel).  I know it’s a novel.  If it was a collection of short stories, it would say so.  Alternately, if it was packaged food or a bicycle or hiking boots, chances are still pretty good I’d be able to tell the difference.

Still, I’m sure it happens.  Be honest now.  Who hasn’t, at some point in their lives, made the embarrassing mistake of visiting their local bookstore to pick up this:

1But brought home this instead:


Come on.  Let’s see a show of hands.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.  So, in hindsight, maybe it’s a good thing that publishers are taking the time to point out the seemingly obvious.  I mean, thank goodness they did otherwise a simple trip to your local bookshop may well result in an embarrassingly erroneous purchase, criminal charges, or worse!  Please, take note.


1NOT this:


And this:

1NOT this guy:

1Whereas February was a great reading month, full of surprises, April was peppered with disappointments.  But I’ll elaborate on those in a dedicated entry.

Oh, and that reminds me: Finish up reading The Rich and the Dead, our May Book of the Month Club pick, and get ready for Monday’s discussion.

I’m going to have plenty to say on this one.

26 thoughts on “May 2, 2014: Places you may want to avoid! Cast your vote for our July Book of the Month Club read!

  1. I’m not sure which to pick!

    And I really don’t care to go back to San Antonio, TX, most of New Mexico and I’m not a fan of Miami. Also I did care for Naples. Both in Florida and Italy.

  2. Well, for most of the past 17 years, I thought I’d never be able to go back to my home town /township again. Too many GOOD memories that tie in with my love and grief for my parents.

    I went four weeks ago for a memorial service and am glad I did. Many of the landmarks have changed, so my Central NJ stomping grounds don’t look like they did in the late 70s. But the Sourland Mountains are still quite peaceful; I’d like to be buried there.

    I’ll also skip Dallas /Fort Worth metroplex, except for connecting at the airports or attending a fan con. We lived there for two years in the 80s. Too many communities spread out too far, too many elevated roadways, a massive highway interchange called the “Mixmaster”…you get the idea.

    As for yesterdays’s never-before-visited question:
    1. Australia. A dear friend is preparing to spend a year there, so Husband has decided he can, after all, put up with the long plane trip(s). 😏
    2. Southern Spain
    3. The UK–England and Scotland. At least one set of ancestors apparently emigrated from Wales.
    4. The Gold /Sunshine Coast(s?) of BC.
    5. New Orleans. I visited there when I was a toddler, but I don’t remember the trip, so it counts as “never visited”. 😄

  3. Places I’ve been to and would hope to never go back = pretty much the entire state of Georgia. After leaving abroad for most of my life with my parents on the Army bases they were posted to, Georgia was a rude awakening. This was the first American place we had been posted to since I was born and my intorduction was a personal welcome to the neighborhood by some local KKK members (Mom is White, Dad is Hispanic) along with a threat and an attitude about my parentage and my ethnicity seconded by my teachers and more than a few fellow students and their parents as well as the people at the grocery store, bank, etc.

    But you’re white, so it might not be that bad for you. Which is pretyy sad to say about a country that’s supposed to be the home of the brave and land of the free, but apparently only for those of a certain skin color who stick to their own skin color.

  4. Hmmm…

    I wouldn’t have picked White Fire simply because a reader sort of has to read Still Life With Crows to understand who Corrie is and her relationship with Pendergast.

    I don’t think I have a ‘never return’ place, and if I did it would probably be a city somewhere. My niece says she’d never go back to India – she was so excited to go there but was terribly disappointed, both by the overall condition of the country and because she didn’t feel very safe. Shame, because India has such a rich culture and storied past, but I suppose it’s not for everyone.


  5. I don’t know if I’ve visited a place that I absolutely wouldn’t go to again, although there’s places that I certainly don’t have an urge to go back to. The only one I can think of in Canada is Toronto, which I generally only visit for specific reasons as necessary.

    I must confess, between my traveling and being ill the last few days, I’ve fallen behind on my reading of “The Rich and the Dead”. I’ll try to get it done before Monday!

  6. 1996 St. Petersburg, Russia was a culinary wasteland. I was one of the few who could eat the food, partly due to my make-do upbringing, partly due to serendipitous similarities to Kentucky food.

    The water was horrible. And I’m already talking about the bottled water. It was salty and some was so bad it was bottled in dark brown glass. I swear a local guy swigged some in front of me and claimed to like it and that it was local water. Considering all of St. Petersburg is at or near sea level, I had to wonder just how briny of water a person can survive on.

    We did manage to track down a decent bowl of yuk gae jang.

    Regarding Paris, my cousin said the people aren’t so bad if you speak French. I can’t agree to those terms on principle. I needed some navigational information badly enough that my high school French suddenly popped into my head and I struck up a conversation with a couple and found them amicable and was thinking my cousin must be right. But they eventually mentioned they were from Quebec.

  7. I don’t know exactly where I would recommend not to travel, but as far as a place not to stay, do NOT stay at the HI-hostel in Ottawa (aka the former Carleton Prison which hosted Canada’s last execution). Talk about seriously spooky!!

    I have been busy with my own projects, and even made a wee bit of a shoutout to SGU in episode 106 of my webseries PREFLIGHT LAUNCH. The webseries, by the way, is a prequel to a TV series I am developing. LOL, yes I am looking for a co-producer for the TV portion, but in the meantime, here is what’s been created for the video writer’s bible in the form of the webseries. The playlist for it, if you have time to watch it at all (it takes roughly 96 minutes if you decide to sit down and watch it in one fell swoop!), can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGTI3I4zM-3jzPYdwhnRl3Sq7WmgvDI3I

    And yes I have 5 more webisodes I plan on producing over the summer months (between classes of course!) so I have a wee little Indiegogo campaign set up for that as well, which may be found here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/preflight-expansion-fund

    Hope you don’t mind the shameless self promotion, but I thought it would be worth a shot to mention it on here! Take care and have a great weekend!


  8. @whoviantrish – San Antonio is great, friendly people, good Mexican food, clean, lots of interesting places to see. Plus, a great basketball team. However, come anytime of year EXCEPT summer. The heat is unbearable. Winters here are lovely.

    Where would I not go again? Paris. Lots of reasons, but mainly the people and the trash! I kid you not – ankle deep at the Gar du Nord. Munich (especially when a soccer game has just let out – gad the drunken fans!)

    Places I would visit again? Sur du Mer in the south of France (on the Riviera), Monaco, London and Bath UK (hey, I’m an architecture and history junkie), New York (of course – go whenever I get a chance),

  9. Thanks for all your hard work in selecting the books, Joe! I cast my vote for the Nebula Showcase. I agree with das about Cold Fire. While it is a good book, I think you need to read at least one of the previous books (Still Life with Crows) to get the most out of it.

    Places of no return, or rather, places to which I would not return?

    1. The Tower of Terror at Disney World in Orlando.

    2. I second DP’s St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m glad I had the chance to visit there with a tour. The art was amazing. The architecture in the old part of the city was a sight to behold with all of the pastel Rococo buildings. And I got to see the iconic statue of Lenin surrounded by the Communist era rebuilt city. But between the gypsies on the streets around every tourist site trying to distract you with maps and books while their buddies picked your pockets and the nice man in the souvenir shop who cautioned my daughter and I that we had gotten too far out of the safe part of town and had better get back to the main streets, I never really felt comfortable exploring on my own.

  10. Oh, can we vote for two books? Defenders by Will McIntosh & The Pendergast novel sounds wonderful! Das has a point about the Pendergast books.

    Thanks again for showcasing the books.

    stargateatlantisseasonsix: Sorry you had bad experiences in Georgia. When did you live there? If it’s been a while, Atlanta has become a large metropolitan city, drawing a workforce from all over the world. Hotlanta has been assimilated into the modern era.

    Is that a Dr Who USB hub? I got one of those for my son. The top of the Tardis lights up while in use.

  11. @ baterista9 – You can’t nix a place based on your memories from 30 years ago. Things change. You’ll be happy to know the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex has been infiltrated with job seekers from all over the United States over the years. (And now Toyota is relocating it’s headquarters down here.) It is so damn crowed here now, which is exactly the reason why I stay in the “communities spread out too far”. But they are filling in fast. Still have the “Mixmaster” freeway interchange, but they are even bigger now with names like “The High Five”. Everyone is nice until they get in their cars, then it’s “Get out of my way!”.

  12. @ Sparrowhawk – Also, unless the reader has read the Helen Trilogy, they won’t understand Pendergast’s mental state and why he appears to be languishing away. And then there’s the whole Alban & Tristram thing…another point that is mentioned briefly in the book and can be a bit confusing if one hasn’t kept up.

    Unless they Wiki-it. 😉


  13. Parisians are rude, though I fell in love with Normandy. I highly recommend Honfleur, Saint Malo and Mont St. Michelle.. I wouldn’t mind retiring to Honfleur..

  14. I agree with Paris for the same reason. They are full of themselves (if it’s the right expression). You spoke to them in french (I’m french speaking) and they fake to not understand. The second city is Den Haag (La Haye). I don’t know if the city has change but when I went there the streets were full of dog poo. You had to look where you were walking.

  15. I tried to read White Fire but I got bored about halfway through. Really bored. I thought it was their worst novel. I liked their other novels in the series. Some not great, some I really enjoyed (Still Life…).

    I’ve been to Los Angeles, it just looked and felt like hot dirty never ending asphalt.

  16. It’s interesting to hear the different experiences. I think any busy metropolitan center will have its share of flaws and abrasive people and sometimes it’s the luck of the draw on whether you’ll have a good time in a city you’re visiting. There’s always the chance you’ll have a “jerk encounter” (every city and culture has them). And I’ve had a few such encounters myself, even in cities I have otherwise enjoyed myself.

    Contrasting with Joe’s Paris experience, when we lived in the UK, Barb and I took a few weekend trips to Paris and thoroughly enjoyed them. The difference was we had a friend who was a Parisienne (who spoke fluent English) and he gave us a personally guided tour and he also helped us navigate the subway system. He really made it effortless, so we didn’t have to deal with an average “on the street Parisienne” who wouldn’t have time for a tourist.

    As for a place I would never go back to, it’s really bad neighborhoods in general. Chicago has more than a few (one I accidentally went through with my brother while trying to find a Pizza restaurant). Other than that, and excluding the trouble spots around the world, there are few places I wouldn’t go.

    @MirthMistress on Savannah:

    No feathers ruffled. We probably just appreciate different things. It could also be timing. I’ve never visited Savannah during the typical tourist season; I’ve primarily been there during the fall or the spring, and on a couple of occasions, during the Christmas Holidays. As a result, my visits to Savannah have been laid-back, un-hurried and very pleasant.

    Tourist-season can wreck havoc with service industries. I lived in south Florida for a year, and during that time I learned to avoid restaurants or shopping malls during the winter (the tourist season there). During the height of the tourist season, half of the service staff (chefs and wait-staff) would be temporary, and their experience with customers, minimal. The experience was just not going to be good. I now try to avoid the height of the tourist season for any place that I’m going to as a vacation.

    On the book choice, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll try to get my selection in tonight.

  17. Agree with you on not needing to go to Paris again. Not so much about the local people…I didn’t find the French so unfriendly, but then I can usually get along with anyone. The smell from trash and urine was disgusting and the “gypsies” (forgot what they call themselves) were everywhere and very aggressive. I got mugged but managed to get away with my stuff and some lovely bruises after being hit by a car…long painful story. It’s too bad because the history and architecture is amazing. If i do go again, it’s with a big guy and the famous scented hanky…no wonder the French specialize in perfume. Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities. Great mix of cultures, food, history, art, and pretty much everyone speaks English. The flower market is just gorgeous. Lots of other great cities but depends on what you like. I hit the tourist areas just to see the fuss, but then like to get to know the locals and how they really live. Apia in Western Samoa is probably one of my favourite places. When I visited it was one of the last Polynesian islands not to be “corrupted” by the Western world. The people were friendly, fun-loving and very welcoming. My family has a history with the island so it is extra special. An acquaintance was there at the same time and thought it was dull and boring (lack of TV and city entertainments, etc). Goes to show that perspective and interests are everything.

  18. I’m not a fan of Mexican border towns, Tijuana is just sad, and Juarez was pretty terrifying. Didn’t like the towns near the military bases in the Philippines, the hotels had armed guards, the sheets were often suspicious shades of beige, and the room with the sex chair and the mirrors on the walls was either funny or creepy. I’d need a drink to decide. Frankfurt felt hostile. I did okay in Paris, but I was a kid trying out middle school French. Maybe I was cute.

    I already said I disliked Florida, not a fan of Kansas or Nebraska, or Arkansa, or the Dakotas (except the Badlands). Flat landscape doesn’t do it for me. Dodge City was truly awful, and Amarillo was dreary. I could pretty much skip the entire middle of the US.

  19. Interestingly, I would have to vote for New York City. People are very rude there, too. Case in point: The woman I said “excuse me” to on the street because I could see there was no way we were not bumping into each other. I said it with a smile. She started a verbal altercation with me. I attempted to try to clear up the misunderstanding but the more I tried to explain she did nothing wrong and *I* was apologizing in advance to her because we were going to bump into each other. Then she upped it, and my best friend seriously thought she was going to punch me. But if something tragic happens to the city — a hurricane, a super storm, a terrorist attack, it brings out the most kind-hearted people you would ever want to know. It is truly a weird thing. And there surely are very nice people in NYC but people don’t like to strike up conversation for no reason. They think you want something from them. Everywhere else I’ve been has been very nice, although, I mean, I wouldn’t go back to Omaha for any reason. My mom is buried there as is my grandmother, and my childhood friend still lives there, but I haven’t seen her since my wedding 22 years ago (we keep in touch, but neither one has visited the other), and I’m not sure that is going to change. Love her, but I have a long list of other places I really need to see before I die.

  20. @MaggieMayDay I disagree entirely. I am an Amarillo native, and it was a wonderful place to spend my Youth. The Mesa’s around the Panhandle are beautiful. Palo Duro Canyon Is more stunning than the Grand Canyon and much more accessible. It saddens me when people think fly over country is really only meant to be flown over.

  21. @ensredshirt … no, what I saw of the city of Amarillo was dreary. I did not “fly over”, spent a lot of hours on the road. Your canyon is lovely, but honestly, I live in Utah… I’m hours away from five national parks, a lot of iconic national monuments, and numerous mind-blowing state parks. One cool Texas state park won’t change my mind about your city. It sucked.

    This time last month we were at Toroweap, a primitive part of the rim of the Grand Canyon. Not the touristy parts where you pay to get in, and stand behind a guard rail… nope, three miles crawling over slickrock to get to the area, and then … there’s the canyon. You can stand right on the rim, no one else there, nothing between you and the bottom but common sense and some gravity. Amazing.

  22. I’m trying to recall, were you pulling these from just a genre list or all books released? So many are murder mysteries, that, even if they’re somehow actually sci-fi based, never read so in the summaries.

    Also, LOL at the “: A Novel” thing. It does seem pretty obvious, but maybe they’re trying to imitate academia? 😉

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