Fewer books than last year? Jim53's 2017 reading, part II
This is a continuation of the topic Fewer books than last year: Jim53's 2017 reading.
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Having reached the midpoint of the year, and exceeded 200 entries, let's start part II. Having read 47 books in 1H17, I'm only a bit short of half last year's total of 104.
I'm afraid my hope for this year to be less dominated by medical adventures is not coming to pass: I've been having a lot of trouble with my right knee--had to get a lot of fluid drained for it--and have decided to go ahead and replace it rather than potentially being non-functional for activities in the fall and beyond. I'm not looking forward to the recovery, but I'm grateful that I have the opportunity.
So who knows? Maybe I'll read more books than last year. New personal highs two years in a row!
I just received my copy of Taoism: the Parting of the Way, which I chased down and ordered because Ursula LeGuin stated that Welch's book was the biggest help to her in gaining the insight required to create her version of the Tao Te Ching, which I read earlier this year and loved. So I'll see if I can glean some similar insights from Welch's book.
I also picked up several books at the library today, including The Emperor's Soul, Equal Rites, and the sequel to Just One Damned Thing after Another. Some of y'all are definitely responsible for my looking to read these. I also grabbed the first Gethsemane Brown mystery, just because I think her name is great.
I hope the surgery goes well and your recovery will be uneventful. When things start to break down, it seems like a whole bunch of parts give out at once or in rapid succession. Hopefully this is the end of your run of bad luck, and you'll soon be mobile and active again.
>1 Jim53: Well, just... damn. Good luck, man. Isn't this your third surgery? Yikes.
So here's to getting lots of books read and getting those new knees fully functional!
>3 SylviaC: and >4 clamairy: Thanks very much! It's been quite a while since I could go for a strenuous walk, and I'm hopeful that this will get me there. I've got a lot of books ready to go; I probably need to borrow a few movies for the first week. Or I can just watch old favorites over and over...
There's always trying to get the balance between convalescing and reading and convalescing and the need for doing rehab. I hope all goes well.
BTW, I'll be interested in hearing your views on Welch's book on Taoism. Haven't read it myself but with just the right push from someone, I might find my way there.
>1 Jim53: Making the decision is sometimes the hardest part. May strength and healing be yours, and a clear mind to enjoy reading with.
Forgot to mention that I finished Doorway to Murder. I saw author Carol Pouliot featured on Jungle Reds a few weeks ago, and I encouraged my library to buy some copies. Detective Steven Brannon, in 1934, and Olivia Watson, in 2014, live in the same house, and somehow become able to see each other and eventually to interact. Most of the book is spent on the murder case that Steven is working on. He discusses it briefly with Olivia, and she gives him some encouragement.
I enjoyed The Woman Who Died a Lot, but it seemed, more than most of the books in this series, like a thin structure on which to hang a lot of jokes. Might have been just what I needed, though.
I tried a couple of other new books and found them too difficult to follow, so I returned to one of the
books I've owned the longest, The Tower Treasure. It was swell, and well within my capabilities.
Jim, sorry to hear about your additional knee problem. I wish you all the best for a successful recovery.
I missed your starting the new thread so I am glad I caught it today.
>10 Jim53: I've something on the same order as your The Tower Treasure comfort read sitting on the ottoman. It's a children's fantasy that doesn't seem to be very saccharine for something that features the Little People. Always nice to have something like that in reserve for unsatisfactory spells of medical "stuff".
I just saw the trailer for the movie of A Wrinkle in Time that's coming out in March. Looks pretty good. http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-first-trailer-for-ava-duvernays-a-wrinkle-in-time-i-1...
>14 Jim53: Oh, I pretty much never go to the movies, but that one may draw me to the theater if I remember. I didn't even know a movie was being made; thanks for posting about it!
I made my way through Crashed, which was a good bit of fun at times, mixed with some serious concerns. The protagonist is a burglar/detective for hire who is brought on to make sure a movie runs smoothly... but it's a porn movie starring a drugged-out young woman who was a wonderful child actress, a favorite of the burglar's two daughters. So crises of conscience abound. I might have appreciated some aspects more had I been more coherent, but I gave it 3.5 stars.
Rather than trying another new book, I've been enjoying yet another re-read of The Lions of Al-Rassan. I think after that I'll be ready for something new.
>17 YouKneeK: I still get irritated by the beginning of the Epilogue, where he makes a pretty significant effort to mislead the reader.
I'm still having trouble focusing on new books, but I really enjoyed a re-read of another old favorite, Julia Spencer-Fleming, with her A Fountain Filled with Blood. It would be very easy to dive back into rereading that whole series, but I'm resisting. So far. Too many other books calling out to me.
Our book club recently read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, of which I received an ER copy five years ago. I remember it was one of my half dozen or so favorite novels that year. My wife, who had not read it, read it now even though we couldn't attend the discussion, and then based on her comments and my fading memory, I read it again just now. It still stands up very well, although knowing from the start a couple of things that she reveals late in the book made it a different experience. Being much closer to retirement also made a difference in my reading. It's a pretty wonderful story about bringing out one's unexpected strengths and opening one's mind to new things.
I just received my June ER book, Reading with Patrick, and took a look at the beginning, but I don't quite think I can manage it yet. It looks very good and I'm looking forward to being up to it. I'm now two weeks post-surgery, and got the staples out this week, but I'm definitely not ready to do without the drugs quite yet.
>19 Jim53: Good luck with your recovery. I hope you are up and about soon and that you can dump the medication in the near future.
Thanks, Peter! I managed to hobble around the grocery store with my wife earlier this morning, then came home and slept for a couple of hours. I can lean on the grocery cart as if it's a walker; I just need to get them to make them a few inches taller. Overall I'm coming along pretty much as expected, and not trying to do too much. Since this is my right knee, I'll have to learn to drive with it, but that's still a ways off. I'm really looking forward to stopping the serious drugs.
I've been reading Murder in G Major, a mystery in which an ambitious young African-American woman takes a position teaching music in an out-of-the-way Irish village. I picked it up because I like the protagonist's name, Gethsemane Brown. It's published by Henery Press, a small group specializing in near-cozy mysteries, tho they might not like that description. Gethsemane has rented the old home of a famous Irish musician, who supposedly killed his wife and then himself twenty-some years ago. In addition to being challenged to play "Sister Act" by getting the school's mediocre orchestra ready to win a competition, she is begged by the musician's ghost to exonerate him. So, a pretty fair amount of stress. I'm liking it a lot some of the time and less some of the time.
>22 Jim53: Shoot. I was all ready to get excited about it until your last sentence. I've developed a strong allergy to "cozy" mysteries. The amateur sleuth is rarely given the intelligence and resources that make their detection believable.
I finished Murder in G Major and enjoyed it pretty well. The protagonist is an amateur sleuth, but quite bright. Her motivation comes from her relationship with the ghost who haunts the place where she lives. She strikes up relationships with various of the town's residents, some of whom seem unable to refuse her sometimes odd requests for help. I particularly enjoyed the math teacher, and I really liked the relationship between Gethsemane and Eamonn. I mentioned "Sister Act" above; there were also a couple of reminders of A Fine and Private Place. It took the book a little while to get going, but then the pace picked up and it was pretty good. 3.5 stars.
I was thinking a bit more last night about Murder in G Major, and I asked myself, what part did the protagonist's race (African-American) play in the story? And the answer was that I couldn't come up with any. Not sure what this means.
>25 Jim53: Interesting question. Is the goal to get our society to a point where race isn't worth mentioning, or to point out the unique experiences of each race in society? Or both? Or something else? If race ever gets to the point that it isn't worth mentioning, will we have lost something, because there will be no unique experience, or will we have gained something?
>26 MrsLee: You raise some interesting questions. I believe that for now our task is to recognize the importance that race has played and continues to play in our daily lives. And to be aware that white is a race, too. For a long time I thought of white people as normal, or the default, and everyone else as belonging to a race. This wasn't even a conscious construction, so it took a while to recognize it. But now I recognize that I was born in a much more advantageous place than many people. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is realizing how much I benefit from actions by the powerful that I perceive as heinous and unjust. It feels important to try to call attention to disparities and work to disassemble them.
>27 Jim53: "Perhaps the most frustrating thing is realizing how much I benefit from actions by the powerful that I perceive as heinous and unjust."
I hear you, Jim. I realize I'm cursing our whole societal construct whilst simultaneously reaping all of its benefits. :o(
>28 clamairy: thanks, Clam. It's always good to know that others "get it." In the past I have tended to be the one who jumps in to fix everything; now I'm trying to exercise some humility and learn more before thinking that I know what's best. But I'm impatient to be doing more.
I've had a very frustrating few days because with the drugs I'm still taking I can't quite process much in the way of good new books. Yesterday I returned to the library a handful of books that I had picked up because I'd seen them described here on LT. I can get them out again when I'm ready for them, and in the mean time I can enjoy some comfort re-reads.
Nothing much to report recently. I'm still finding it just a bit much to read challenging new material. I tried Peter Beagle's In Calabria, just because he's an old favorite and I haven't read him for a while, but i couldn't quite hang with it. And you can imagine the time I was having with Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. I waited through a long list for that one, and by bad luck it became available just when I couldn't process it. I got enough of a peek to see that I think I'll like it a lot, so I'll get back onto the queue soon.
So I've reread a couple more of JS-F's Clare and Russ mysteries, and am now taking a break from those by rereading Beagle's The Folk of the Air, which is lots of fun. I noticed that in it his protagonist, Joe Farrell, mentions Calabria as a place he visited and didn't want to leave.
I don't think you should fret over re-reading. You are where you are and recovery can be a cyclical process. If to feed your recovery, your brain can only deal with what it already knows, that's okay. I realize that it may be disappointing as when you've waited to read something like Astrophysics for People in a Hurry only to find you can't really retain it. But allow yourself some time. The good thing about books is that they really do wait for you until you're ready to enjoy them.
>32 Jim53: You're right, Jill, and it's a very helpful reminder, given my current state and mindset. I keep wanting to keep up as if all is normal (whatever that is). I need to treat this as an opportunity to develop and practice some acceptance and patience, which have never been my strong points. Thanks for the encouragement.
>Thank you, Peter, I'm trying. I'm just not very good at it.
I stayed up late last night to finish a reread of A Drink Before the War. It had been a long time since I read it, and I had forgotten a lot, so it was very different from rereading an old favorite fantasy. The Kenzie/Gennaro series is a little more violent than I prefer, but Lehane is awesome on moral complexity, especially in dealing with race.
Staying up late to finish a book certainly indicates to me that you're getting back your reading mojo!
BTW, Jim53, I saw this just now and thought of you: http://www.tor.com/2017/08/04/revisiting-old-friends-or-why-i-re-read/ I think you'll find it reassuring!
>35 clamairy: >36 jillmwo: Thank you, friends. Things are coming along, more slowly than I would like, but moving in the right direction. I've always done a good bit of re-reading; I just prefer to do it by choice ;-)
I'm currently reading Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, which was highly recommended somewhere, and is off to an intriguing start. I seem to be able to deal with this particular new book, so progress, yay! Friday night I wanted something less exciting for bedtime, so I picked out The Farthest Shore. This is one of those books that somehow has some sort of protection from the suck fairy: every time I read it, I love it. The spareness of her prose, the way she has Ged tell Arren stuff without becoming long-winded, the way we see Arren growing, Ged's humility, it's all quite wonderful. So of course I had to finish it before returning to the Bright Ideas Bookstore.
I finished Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, and it was a winner. Lydia experienced a horrible trauma as a ten-year-old, hiding under the sink while her friend and the friend's parents were murdered. Now 30, she works in an independent bookstore, where she nourishes a group of misfits whom the staff call BookFrogs. When one of these men hangs himself in the store, and leaves a batch of cryptic clues for Lydia, she ends up having to revisit painful elements of her past in order to learn about connections between the past and present.
My copy of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice arrived. I thought it was going to be a fairly short tract, but it's 400 pages plus another 300 pages of notes! This will take a while, especially since I'm not going to drop everything else and dive in. I'm interested in learning more about the role of Friends in the process of emancipation, and this looks as if it will do the job.
Last night I started Between the World and Me. Wow. It's a black man's letter to his son, describing his own experience, and it's at once heartening and devastating. More after I've gotten further.
>42 jillmwo: (blushing) thanks, Jill. It feels great to be able to process new material again, and I'm appreciating that capability and trying to do some catching up. The Coates book is wonderful but dense, and I'm taking a lot of notes, so it's slow going. The Quaker book will come a little later, especially because my wife is looking at it right now. At bedtime I'm reading Monkeewrench, which is quite mysterious and fun.
I've started an ER book, Reading with Patrick, about a young Chinese-American woman who takes a Teach for America position teaching literature and history to black kids in a very impoverished town in Arkansas. It looks promising, but it's a bit intense for while I'm continuing to process Between the World and Me.
So I finished up Monkeewrench, which I liked a lot. It's a police procedural, set primarily in Minnesota, which involves a group of programmers who create a computer game that challenges the user to solve a set of serial murders. Someone starts killing people in the exact scenarios reflected in the game. Some of the characters are pretty much stock, but a few are quite good. 4 stars. It's the first of a series, and I'm wondering how they'll build on it, so I'll probably check out the next one after I clear a few more things from my plate.
We're expecting a miraculous recovery as soon as the lawn mowing season is over.
I zipped through my latest ER book, Start Without Me, and posted the first review. It was an easy read, but I kept on thinking there could have been more to it. It was a good break from some of the heavier stuff I've been reading.
I guess I won't add Harold and the Purple Crayon to my list of books read this year. I picked it up for my grandkids' upcoming visit, and enjoyed reading it again.
>55. Have you read The Day The Crayons Quit? I enjoyed flicking through it when I bought it for my godson's birthday. I also think it is acceptable to add these to your reading list for the year.
>56 Thanks, Jen! That looks like another good candidate, and apparently it has sequels too.
Good six-week post-op follow-up visit to my orthopedist yesterday. All is more or less as it should be. His explanation of the continued swelling: "Your body is still really pissed off at you."
>58 Keep up being "as you should be". That is very positive. I suspect patience is one of the medications you will need. Wishing you all the best.
My mom is about the same # of weeks out from MAJOR back surgery and she's still in a lot of pain, too. Her doctor tells her it's normal and would she just LOOK at the hardware he installed, but that's easy for him to say. She's also trying to maintain a positive outlook and between that and some residual meds, she's making progress. She can drive now and manage stairs and bending enough to pick some produce in the garden. So I think you're both progressing normally and hopefully will be back to normal soon! Oh and she couldn't concentrate on any book for weeks, too. Agony for her as well.
One should try to avoid pissing off one's body. It has the power to make life miserable.
At least your doctor seems to have a sense of humor lol Sounds like you are well on the road to recovery even if your body is still mad at you.
>59 >60 >61 >62 Thanks all. Bookmarque I hope your mother's story has a happy ending. Being able to bend sounds like good progress.
Our two grandkids and those people who drive them around* arrived today. Harold and the Purple Crayon was a big hit, as were the set of Bristle Blocks that we had picked up. Our apartment complex has a guest apartment, which we were able to get for their visit, so they're within walking distance. Lots of excursions planned for the next few days.
I've managed to get partway through Magpie Murders, enough to see that there's a potentially interesting meta-thing going on. Sometimes those are fun, sometimes tedious; I can't tell which this is going to be quite yet.
* After my parents met my future wife forty-some years ago, on our subsequent visits my mother would say, "Edna's coming, with that guy who drives her around." My sisters thought this was wonderful, and it's been applied to various combinations of relatives since then.
>63 Glad the book was a hit! Good to know it's great for more than one generation.
>64 I had forgotten that it appears to contain a bunch of puns. Harold "makes land" easily, and he "draws up" his covers.
I finished Magpie Murders and I was a little disappointed. It's primarily an exercise in cleverness, and in that it succeeds quite well. We begin with a very brief intro by the woman who is about to read the draft of the ninth of a popular series of murder mysteries, of which she is the editor. We read the draft ourselves, and as it nears the end, she returns to say that the rest of the book is missing. The draft that she was reading was a pretty good old-style English village mystery. The famed detective tells us that he has a solution, and then we see no more. Susan, the editor, then finds out that the author has sent her boss, the publisher, what looks like a suicide note, and he has apparently leapt from the tower at his home. Susan wants to try to find the missing chapters, and in searching she becomes convinced that the author was murdered.
There are many similarities between this frame-tale and the draft that she was editing. As she investigates, she notices and learns a lot more about the author's practices, particularly in naming characters. I found Susan's story less appealing than the story contained in the draft. Overall neither story has characters that I cared about. In this case, cleverness was so much in the forefront that it was not enough on its own to get me to like the book really well. 3.5 stars.
I took a direct hit with Between the World and Me. Luckily it's available for Kindle on OverDrive, and the waiting list isn't horrendous. Thank you.
Last night I started A Symphony of Echoes, the second of Jodi Taylor's time-travelling historians series. I'm not sure yet what she's up to in this one.
A Symphony of Echoes felt very episodic; there were threads tying the stories together, but they weren't as coherent as they could have been. It was still fun. And dodos. I wonder if that was a shout-out to Thursday Next. 3.5 stars.
Ha! I'd completely forgotten about Reading with Patrick, but I saw it peeking out of the shelf and remembered that I wanted to finish it and write a review. So I did that last night and this morning. I love this quote: "This was what reading could do: It could make you, however fleetingly, unpredictable. You were not someone about whom another person could say, You are this kind of person, but rather a person for whom nothing is predetermined."
i finished Dust and Shadow. I am not an expert on Holmes or on Jack the Ripper, but they do seem like an almost inescapable combination. Faye maintains a Doyle-ish pace and tone to the story, which takes a while to get started and then proceeds quite quickly. Holmes's disgust with himself, reflecting the ludicrously high standard he expects of himself and nobody else, is familiar. Watson seems a bit less dense than he is in some portrayals. The motivation of the Ripper is a bit foggy. I'm not sure Faye does anything great here, but she clearly has done her homework. I liked her next novel, Jane Steele, a bit better than this debut. 4 stars.
Zipped through Debs' In a Dark House, the tenth of her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James police procedurals set in London. I need to figure out how to set up a life like hers... spends several months a year in England doing research, but lives in Texas. Not that I'd pick England, and certainly not Texas, but the overall idea is cool. I didn't like this one as well as the best in the series, but it's a solid addition and moves the various interpersonal issues along a few steps. 3.5 stars.
>76 "Swallows" (retired people with hard-currency pensions who spend summer here and then go home for their own summer) are a well known phenomenon in the Western Cape -- not always well loved, as they drive prices up beyond the reach of locals.
>77 Yeah, here we have "snowbirds", who go to Florida or Arizona for the winter. I'm not particularly tempted by that approach because I like having seasons. I just like the idea of living somewhere completely different for a while, experiencing a different culture, and presumably writing it off as research.
For some reason I couldn't turn my brain off last night, so I got up and finished Land of Shadows, the first in a new series featuring LA detective Elouise (Lou) Norton. I like Lou a lot, as Lee Child predicted on the book cover: she's a child of the projects, smart and sassy, and tenacious in pursuing cases. Her older sister disappeared years ago, and she wonders if a new case might somehow be related. I see there are two more books in this series, and I'll definitely be looking for them. Four stars.
I decided I wanted a change of pace, so I'm reading Simon Fitzmaurice's memoir, It's Not Dark Yet. I don't even remember where I saw it mentioned--maybe I need to make a list that records that sort of detail before I request a book at the library. It has a blurb from Alan Rickman on it. I'm about 30 pages in and it's quite interesting. Lots of sort sections and short sentences.
I'll be interested in your feedback on it. The marketing blurb for it on Amazon doesn't make it seem like it would be a light read.
>80 I've started putting a note of who recommended a book when I add books to my wishlist here, or on Amazon. It's fun to remember when I finally get around to buying them. Since I already own so many unread books, adding to my wishlist is usually gratification enough. Not only do I own lots of variety to read for every mood, but I also have ideas for future purchases if by some miracle I ever run out of reading material.
>82 That's a great idea. I hadn't thought of using the wishlist here to record where I heard about books. It's a place already come, which is much better than something separate. Thank you!
>81 I'm about to the middle of the book now, and we're very focused on his ALS. I'm finding it a realistic but definitely positive approach and reading experience so far. More when I finish.
>85 I was puzzled by that too. She did seem to be mentioning it as a far-fetched hypothetical possibility.
>85 I haven't really experienced it, but I think I have a mental state somewhat like the people who have experienced great deprivation (as in food or something) and struggle with hoarding food thereafter.
I don't really remember the deprivation part, but perhaps from my childhood when I lived far out of town; there was no internet or money to buy books and library trips were not that frequent. I remember absolutely adoring Scholastic books when they sent catalogs to our school. It felt like finding a pirate's treasure, and I would save my allowance of a quarter a week so I could buy the thickest books I could afford from them. :)
>85 and >86 I was assuming that she meant that uncomfortable emotional state where you may be surrounded by lots of reading material but none of it appeals as the right book to read in exactly that moment. It's a most disturbing and discomfiting state of being. I was feeling most sympathetic towards her. Haven't you ever like the Ancient Mariner been faced with the condition of "Water, Water, everywhere but not a drop to drink?"
For what its worth, MrsLee I do remember what it was like as a child to be restless (and dare I say bored) because there wasn't something available to sit down with.
I finished It's Not Yet Dark and was mostly delighted by it. Fitzmaurice tells the story of his life before and after being diagnosed with ALS, motor neuron disease. He refuses to let the disease define him: "It's not important that you know everything about where I come from. About who I am. It's not important that you know everything about ALS, about the specifics of the disease, about what it's like to have it. It's only important that you remember that behind every disease is a person. Remember that and you have everything you need to travel through my country." (92) His story is very life-affirming, as Alan Rickman says on the cover. We learn about his life before ALS, his diagnosis, and the progression of the disease. He wanted to use a ventilator at home to prolong his life, and he describes having to argue for it and the fact that many doctors don't support it. He finds that "my willy still works" and fathers twins.
My only complaint, and I'm very interested in others' comments on this, is that while he tells us that he suffers, he doesn't show us the suffering that he and others experience. He says that you are what you are, and it's up to you to decide what to do about it. For me, the book would have been even more meaningful if we could have seen in some detail some of the difficulties that the disease causes. As it is, it appears that he, his wife, and everyone else dealt with it pretty cheerfully.
The book is quite short (160 pages) and reads very well. He occasionally travels into the past and tells about his travels and friendships. 4.5 stars.
>90 You pinpoint a couple of interesting characteristics of the book; for example, it's only 160 pages. The author maintains a certain cheerfulness (as do those around him) and minimizes any negativity or depression. Who do you think this book might be targeted to? Those who may have just gotten a diagnosis? Care-givers? Or just anyone with an interest?
>90 I suppose I ought to read it. I sound reluctant because if you asked me to list which maladies I most fear, ALS would be high on the list. I frequently imagine this scenario. While I don't think this is the sole reason, I guy I knew and liked in college developed it, and I folllowed his journey from afar. I saw him at a reunion when he appeared with artificial ventilation in a wheelchair, and his story was well documented elsewhere. He was a rather accomplished individual. So it targets an existing fear, and a mild obsession, and yet I am very drawn to the topic. How in the world does Stephen Hawking live with it for 50 years?
Yeah, I should read this, and be grateful.
I have read many similar memoirs because I have a deep interest in how different people live with disabilities. Some of them do have an improbable level of cheerfulness, but I usually accept that as being what it takes to get the author through their day, or an attempt to encourage others who are in the same situation (though it may in fact make it less relatable), or an attempt to ward off pity. Or maybe they really are relentlessly positively thinkers. Whatever the case, I figure they deserve credit for having the motivation and ability to write a book, and for sharing something of their experience. It's more than I'm ever likely to accomplish in the literary field.
Oddly enough, the most impersonal autobiography I have ever read was Stephen Hawking's. It had nothing to do with being excessively positive or cheerful. It was just very...detached.
>94 Maybe that's another coping style, one that works for him. I hope.
>95 Maybe it is. Being so much in the public eye, he probably needs a whole bundle of coping skills.
I really wanted to like Hollywood Homicide, but I couldn't quite manage it. It might be because I read it so soon after Land of Shadows, which also stars an African-American woman as the first-person narrator, and which I liked a lot. I think I had trouble with the tone of HH, which I found a bit frivolous. The protagonist is broke and also needs to help her parents with their mortgage payment. She sees a bulletin board advertising a reward for information on a hit-and-run murder, and decides that's the solution to her money woes. The description of her interactions with her fabulous friends might be spot-on for Hollywood, but I didn't find it engaging.
Wow. and Oh my. I read all sorts of good things about The Sellout, Paul Beatty's Man Booker Prize winning novel, and recommended it for my library book club. Now that I've started it, I'm not at all sure how it will go. I'm loving it, but I suspect the vulgar language and overall irreverence will bother some folks. Oh well, their problem; I'm having a great time.
The Sellout was hilarious in parts, heartbreaking in others; in the end it didn't quite hang together enough for me to figure out what he was up to. He pokes fun at so many things that we take for granted. Several of the characters are very well drawn; I especially like Marpessa, the narrator's bus-driving girlfriend.
I enjoyed Monkeewrench earlier this year, but wondered how the authors (a mother-daughter team) would make it into a series. I just finished the second, Live Bait, and enjoyed it a lot. The focus is on Leo and Gino, the two well-drawn Minneapolis detectives from the first book, and much less on the software development team. Leo's infatuation with Grace McBride continues and develops, through the course of a frustrating investigation of several Jewish neighbors in their eighties. Revelations are nicely paced, and the story is overall quite satisfying. I'll be checking out the next one soon. Four stars.
I've been reading Maurice White's memoir about his career with Earth Wind and Fire, one of my favorite bands. It's mostly about his commitment to fulfilling his vision of a group that lives well and projects a positive, spiritual message to people of all groups and races. It's interesting to see his take on the different records they made; overall it's a little longer than it needs to be.
The discussion of The Sellout at tonight's book club meeting was interesting. A couple of people besides me really liked it. We have a couple of people who tend to get uncomfortable discussing matters related to race, so this book was not their cup of tea. Several people pulled out different bits that they found either hilarious or meaningful. So the book was more of a success than I had feared while reading it. I enjoyed it a lot but felt at various times that I was missing what he was doing.
Based on a hail of bullets from various threads, I've started The Emperor's Soul. I'm only a little bit into it, but so far I like it a lot.
>103 You and me both! The Emperor's Soul is my next book up. I've been craving something Sanderson :)
I purchased The Emperor's Soul on Audible. I have read it, and enjoyed it, now I'm looking forward to having it read to me.
Sad to report that Ross Hugo-Vidal, beloved husband of one of my faves, Julia Spencer-Fleming, has died.
I really enjoyed The Emperor's Soul. In a novella, Sanderson gives us just enough of a world to understand what's going on, and he serves up a very creative element in the practice of forging, by which trained practitioners alter an item by changing the item's memory of itself and its history. Just the idea of inanimate objects having self-images is very striking. Having the practice be beyond the acceptance of normal society lends it an aura of danger and specialness (can't come up with the word I want here). Shai is a forger who has been caught trying to replace a sacred object with a forged replica, and the ruling clique gives her an opportunity to free herself: the emperor has been attacked and rendered senseless, and she must forge him a new soul. Her efforts and her thoughts as she works give us a good view of her character and of the society. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.
The Unquiet Dead is both impressive and a good read. A man falls to his death from a bluff in Canada, apparently an accident, but a friend in government asks Esa Khattak, head of the community policing section, to look into it. Khattak pulls in Sergeant Rachel Getty, with whom he has worked on at least one previous case.
Why was Khattak asked to investigate? At first he will not say, telling Getty that he wants her impressions to be untainted by his suspicions. Eventually we find that the dead man is suspected of being a Bosnian war criminal. He had been receiving anonymous letters describing the horrors of the slaughter and accusing him of participating. Khattak and Getty need to verify their suspicions about his identity and determine whether he was killed. The story is complex, also involving an estranged friend of Esa's, a museum to Andalusia (to which Bosnia is compared), Getty's complicated family life and her search for her missing brother, and the money-grubbing fiancee of the dead man.
We see fairly little of Esa's perspective, seeing most of the story through Rachel's view. This gives us a view of the supposed protagonist through another character. Getty is no Watson, however; she is impatient with Esa, more likely than he to take the lead in conversations, and a full partner in the case. I found the characters well drawn and appealing. This is an impressive first novel.
Last week I worked at the library book sale and brought home five books for $3.50:
Lord Peter: the complete stories (the real prize of the bunch)
Independence Day (I'll have to find The Sportswriter and read it first)
Black Betty (for some reason, it doesn't seem crucial to read these in order)
Out of time (one of Katy's Casey Jones mysteries, which I had read but didn't own)
Due or Die (by Jenn McKinlay, who along with Ingrid Thoft is one of the new Jungle Reds)
I tackled McKinlay's book first. It's a true cozy, featuring a librarian and her buddies who are trying to fix her up with an eligible bachelor, a found puppy, crocheting, fabulous food--it checks off all the boxes. Not my cup of tea, thank you very much. Back to the library with this one.
>103 Jim53: Just started it too, so selfishly I didn't read post 109 out of self preservation instinct.
>112 I don't think I would have spoiled it, but that's probably wise to ensure your own experience of the book. I'll be interested to see your reaction.
I've been reading Citizen, which is an interesting form of poetry consisting primarily of short paragraphs. No stanzas or rhyming, although there is a good bit of wordplay. Mostly what there is is a powerful and lyrical reflection on the black experience in America. So many things that you can't avoid hearing, noticing, and living with, unless of course you're an oblivious white person.
I finished up Citizen: An American Lyric last night and was very impressed. Rankine floats around topics and ideas, revisiting them from slightly different angles, with varied words, helping us feel what she experiences every day. Four stars.
I've got Hillbilly Elegy and Bluebird, Bluebird ready to go but don't seem to have the energy to tackle them. So right now I'm starting Dead Run, the third in the Monkeewrench series.
Bluebird, Bluebird was wonderful. A black Texas Ranger visits a small town in east Texas, having been alerted to two murders there by a friend in the FBI. Fighting resistance from almost everyone, he unearths family relationships and other interactions between the black and white residents, eventually drawing some conclusions while in danger for his life. At the same time he is trying to reconcile with his wife, who hates his job, and deal with a budding problem with alcohol. Locke does not give us easy answers, and she draws characters very well. 4.5 stars.
I read The Woman in Cabin Ten for my book club. The narrator, Lo, is a thirtyish young woman who is about to go on a luxury cruise as a journalist, a plum assignment. She has a history of depression and panic attacks, for which she takes an unspecified medicine. A few days before leaving on the cruise, her apartment is broken into while she is there; her purse is taken, along with her sense of security. On the cruise, she meets a young woman in the next cabin, which is supposed to be empty; that night she hears a scream. As she tries to track down what's happening, she runs into disbelief, resistance, and a warning. And yet, she persists.
The small cruise ship setting is almost like a closed-room mystery. Lo interacts with just about everyone on board. Many of her interactions seem designed primarily to illustrate her frustration and insecurity; they don't necessarily move the story along or help us participate in solving the mystery. I figured out part of the story by the middle of the book, but I didn't see the final twist coming. Lo is at the same time exasperating and somewhat attractive as a character. 3.5 stars.
Hallie Ephron's Never Tell a Lie begins with a yard sale and almost has the tone of a cozy. It doesn't get very cutesy, though. A couple is unloading lots of old junk and a woman whom they knew in high school shows up. She disappears and nobody sees her leave. Clues appear that implicate the husband, David, so his very pregnant wife Ivy must deal with a very scary situation. I had guessed parts of the solution pretty early on, but the key person's motivation is revealed only at the end. 3.5 stars.
Try her There was an Old Woman - it’s better. More original. I wasn’t as forgiving with this one as you. I’m glad I read Old Woman first.
>120 thanks, I'll look for that. As I think about it, "forgiving" is a good word; I'm not sure Never Tell a Lie was that good.
I've started The Atrocity Archives and it's great fun. Lots of familiar references, many I think from the 90s, to things programmers used to say.
Hmmm... the Laundry is fun, and the IT in-jokes keep coming, along with all sorts of pop-culture references (and there are probably many more that I'm missing). The story is a bit of a slog, though. I haven't been reading it at bedtime; instead I'm doing a reread of The Urth of the New Sun, so Charlie is suffering a bit by comparison. Sticking with it for now, though.
John Scalzi has a pretty great blog post from yesterday. The problem that he describes with writing, I have been having with reading, and sometimes with just getting through the day.
>124 Thanks for that. Sums up what many people have been feeling and going through. I prefer Scalzi’s blog to his novels.
>124 Just a note that the blog is political, for those who do not want to go into politics.
>126 Thanks, MrsLee. I should have noted that. To me it's a little broader--I think it's very interesting to see the effect of the state of things on an author--but at its heart it certainly concerns politics.
I've given up on The Atrocity Archives. While I'm reading it, it's OK,not great; when I'm not reading it, I don't find myself itching to get back to it. I'll start something else this evening.
>128 Sorry that this one didn't work for you. If you feel like giving the series another chance I recommend the novella Equoid, which might still be available to read for free on tor.com. Otherwise it's a couple of bucks on kindle. It has a much better ration of plot : infodumping.
Hello all. It's been a busy and nerve-wracking couple of months since I was here last. I'll fill things in a bit as I go. I've been doing a good bit of reading and will report on some of that too. And I'll start catching up on your threads.
>130 Good to see you back. Looking fowsrd to your catch ups. I am a "bit" behind myself.
>130 Glad to see you resurface! Looking forward to hearing more of what you've been reading and doing.
>131 >132 Thanks, Peter and Jill. More to come. Many cards to write first!
>130 Hope you and your wife are well. I look forward to seeing more from you when you get a chance. (I've been offline a lot, too, but for nothing serious.)
I'm not going to try to cover all the reading that I did while not posting here; highlights included Glass Houses and The Naked Now, which I've just begun. I caught up on a couple of series, and particularly enjoyed a couple of Deborah Crombie's Kincaid-and-James series of London-based mysteries. The focus seems to have shifted from Kincaid to James, which is fine. Ellen Crosby's Champagne Conspiracy just came out in paperback, and I enjoyed that tremendously. I'm about to begin a re-read of John Hart's The Last Child in preparation for an ARC of the sequel, The Hush, due out in 1Q.
My best and most exciting new find for the year was Rachel Howzell Hall's series featuring LA detective Elouise "Lou" Norton. I zipped through the four books in a couple of weeks. Lou is a great character, gritty yet vulnerable, serious but humorous, a good friend and a good cop. The plots are very satisfying, there's a strong sense of place, and the secondary characters are well drawn. I think mystery fans will find a lot to like in these.
Just finished a reread of John Hart's The Last Child. A truly wonderful book. I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel.
My last book of 2017 is The Underground Man, a Lew Archer story by Ross Macdonald. It's interesting to see how Macdonald handles storytelling: unlike some writers who feature PIs, he omits most of the fruitless lead-chasing that seems to be a standard part of a PI's work. In this story, almost every person whom we meet has a role in the story. It's interesting to see how he combines a terse, matter-of-fact style of narration with somewhat frequent imagery that appeals to the senses. Interestingly, I picked it up off the shelf and was most of the way through it before I realized that I had read it a year and a half ago.
So I did end up with fewer books than last year: 94 for 2017. On to a better year.
I dunno. 94 is an exceptional number for a reader in a single year, and you were reading good stuff.
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