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Wow! It's been a while! I was a member here back in 2014 and I don't know why I haven't been back until now, but now that I am here, let's get started! I set up a ticker in the ticker thread and have kept my goals modest at 50 for 2018. I have an obscene number of TBR books (500-600) and I just finished re-listing many of them on a private spreadsheet.
For January, will be carrying over some unfinished books from 2017:
🐾 The People in the Trees (by Hanya Yanagihara) #2013
I've been hate-reading this book since October and only 42% of the way through it, but I'm determined to finish reading it for a postal group I belong to
🐾 Vinium (Silver Ships #10 (by S.H. Jucha) #2017
I read the first three chapters and have gotten a bit distracted, but I want to get back to this before it ends up back in the stacks
From a little farther back in the stacks, I'm looking to start:
🐾 The Owl Killers (by Karen Maitland) #2009
I had an ARC that I never got around to, then bought the eBook edition. Time to read it already!
I won't count these in the ticker, but I will note them in my comments
This is a "re-listen" for me, though with a new audiobook narrator
Originally slated for a November 2017 release, this won't be published in the US until March 6, 2018
This won't be published in the US until April 3, 2018
Welcome back and have a great reading year! I love seeing your updates :)
I was looking at the TBR index that I collated late last year and realized that I have about 50 books whose authors' last names begin with an "M" or a "V" (The first two letters in the ALPHAkit/2018 Category Challenge!) With that in mind, I will focus on those titles for this ROOT effort throughout the year. Of course, other TBR books will come into play, and I may not get to every title on this list, but hopefully, this will be an efficient way to approach this year's TBR stacks:
🐾 The Owl Killers (by Karen Maitland) - I'm just about halfway through this historical fiction set in 14th-century England in the small village of Ulewich. Tensions between the feudal lord, the local parish priest (and by extension the Church,) the superstitions of the villagers, and the recently formed beguinage are deftly drawn. The plot has been slow to come into focus, but from the various POVs in the narrative, it appears that the strain between pagan and religious forces are increasing and putting everyone on edge. The research into the period seems to be thorough, and I think this will appeal to fans of Oliver Pötzsch (The Hangman's Daughter series.)
ON THE STAX:
🐾 Mongrels (by Stephen Graham Jones; narrated by Chris Patton and Jonathan Yen)
🐾 Vinium (Silver Ships #10, by S.H. Jucha)
🐾 Bird Box (by Josh Malerman)
🐾 The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (by Mathias Malzieu, narrated by Jim Dale)
🐾 Wolf Hall (by Hilary Mantel)
🐾 The New Hunger (by Isaac Marion)
🐾 The Burning World (by Isaac Marion)
🐾 West of the Night (by Beryl Markham)
🐾 What It Is Like to Go To War (by Karl Marlantes)
🐾 Wicked Lovely (by Melissa Marr; narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan)
🐾 Tomorrow, When the War Began (by John Marsden narrated by Suzi Dougherty)
🐾 The A.E.W. Omnibus Inspector Hanaud's Investigations (by A.E.W. Mason)
🐾 The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate) (written and narrated by Chris Matheson)
🐾 An Object of Beauty (by Steve Martin, narrated by Scott Campbell)
🐾 All Our Wrong Todays (by Elan Mastai)
🐾 Suddenly, a Corpse (by Hal Masur)
🐾 Somewhere in Time (by Richard Matheson, narrated by Scott Brick)
🐾 Stir of Echoes (by Richard Matheson, narrated by Scott Brick)
🐾 The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (by Ayana Mathis)
🐾 Trapeze ( a.k.a. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky) (by Simon Mawer)
🐾 Murder Most Malicious (A Lady and Lady's Maid #1, by Alyssa Maxwell)
🐾 The Butcher Boy (by Patrick McCabe)
🐾 Swan Song (by Robert McCammon, narrated by Tom Stechschulte)
🐾 Germline (Subterrene War Trilogy #1, by T.C. McCarthy, narrated by Donald Corren)
🐾 Exogene (Subterrene War Trilogy #2, by T.C. McCarthy, narrated by Bahni Turpin)
🐾 Chimera (Subterrene War Trilogy #3, by T.C. McCarthy, narrated by John Pruden)
🐾 1776 (written and narrated by by David McCullough)
🐾 Cryptic: The Best Short Stories of Jack McDevitt (by Jack McDevitt)
🐾 The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business (by Duff McDonald)
🐾 The Children Act (by Ian McEwan)
🐾 Snow Treasure (by Marie McSwigan)
🐾 Hidden River (by Adrian McKinty, narrated by Gerard Doyle)
🐾 My Life in Middlemarch (by Rebecca Mead, narrated by Kate Reading)
🐾 Moby-Dick (by Herman Melville)
🐾 The Lost (by Daniel Mendelsohn, narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
🐾 A World Undone (by G.J. Meyer, narrated by Robin Sachs)
🐾 Bloody Jack (by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren)
🐾 The City & The City (by China Mieville)
🐾 Kraken (by China Mieville)
🐾 The Song of Achilles (by Madeline Miller)
🐾 The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear (by Walter Moers)
🐾 Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers)
🐾 A Wild Ride Through the Night (by Walter Moers)
🐾 Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers, narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
🐾 Dog Blood (by David Moody, narrated by Gerard Doyle)
🐾 Jerusalem (by Alan Moore)
🐾 Swamp Thing, Vol. 1: Saga of the Swamp Thing (by Alan Moore; illustrated by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben)
🐾 The Radium Girls (by Kate Moore)
🐾 Wedlock: the true story of the disastrous marriage and remarkable divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore (by Wendy Moore)
🐾 The Night Circus (by Erin Morgenstern)
🐾 The Chaperone (by Linda Moriarty, narrated by Elizabeth McGovern)
🐾 When the Heavens Fall (by Gilbert Morris)
🐾 Born with Teeth (written and narrated by Kate Mulgrew)
🐾 The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (by Haruki Murakami; narrated by Rupert Degas)
🐾 Authority (by Jeff Vandermeer)
🐾 Dirt (by David Vann)
🐾 Journey to the Center of the Earth (by Jules Verne)
🐾 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (by Jules Verne)
🐾 The People in the Trees (by Hanya Yanagihara)
I did finish Journey: Memoirs of an Air Force Chief of Staff (by General Norty Schwartz, Ron Levinson, and Suzie Schwartz with a Foreword by Leon Panetta .) It's an autobiography penned by the first Air Force general to promoted to Chief of Staff of the Air Force from the Special Forces Operations sector. I may have been expecting a bit too much from this one in thinking that there would be tales of rescues via Zodiacs, para jumps into enemy territory, etc. but General Norty Schwartz's rise had a lot of administrative and networking back to it. I suspect, owing to a couple of vague references to events in conjunction with the usage of the phrase, "remains Classified to this day," the original manuscript had more of his adventures, and they were cut. There are also a few paragraphs (and one whole chapter) written by his wife, her POV on a few of the events in their shared life. The whole of the book isn't really about his military exploits so much as examples of how the discipline of military service taught him life lessons and this is an opportunity to share that knowledge. I would recommend this for those who are hardcore military biography readers.
Great idea to pick a few titles as a focus for your ROOT reading! And I love the little pawprints :)
I'll be interested to hear your final thoughts on the Maitland. Her books seem to tick a few boxes for me but I have never actually read one yet.
Wedlock caught my eye because I read it a few years ago but the touchstone is wrong I'm afraid - it's one of the perils of creating a long list of books! Enjoy your Ms and Vs!
>14 floremolla: It's actually the perils of writing posts at dark o'clock! I was up all night monitoring a file transfer to a client, and I didn't have the energy to get up and rummage through my stacks to find a couple of the books that I knew weren't tagged properly. Wedlock and The Firm (the latter previously and incorrectly attributed to John Grisham) have been updated :-)
>15 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I know what you mean with the late night posts - I've probably wished several people happy reading in 2028 ;)
I'm still plodding along with my print and ebook reads, but I was able to knock off four audiobooks from my list this past week!
🐾 ROOT#01 The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate) (written and narrated by Chris Matheson) - This is a short satirical work by one of the co-creators of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures. It's a look at the life of God from the beginning (Genesis) to the end (Revelations) from the POV of God. Irreverent but insightful and wickedly funny, it's also the perfect example of why authors, in general, should not read their own works! Mathseon has a lot of nervous energy which causes him to read too fast and there is booth noise in a couple of places :-/
🐾 ROOT #02 Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow series #1 by John Marsden narrated by Suzi Dougherty) - This is a YA adventure story of survival in rural Australia. A group of high school students go camping one weekend and upon their return find that their friends and family have been taken captive by an enemy force. No real issues with the narration (Australian narrator) though I did wonder why Homer was given a foreign accent when he was born in Australia, and I did have to pause a couple of times to figure out that "tints" was really "tents" and "chook" is an Australian term for "chicken." I wish the author had given a clearer idea of what each of characters looked like but I'm guessing that resolves itself throughout the seven-book series. I'm okay with stopping here though.
🐾 ROOT #03 Bloody Jack (Bloody Jack Adventures #1, by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren) - The audiobook community was stunned last week to hear that Katherine Kellgren passed away after a four-year battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. In her honor, I pulled this audiobook from my storage drive. Bloody Jack is a children's/YA swashbuckling tale of Mary Faber, who transforms herself into "Jacky" and becomes a ship's boy on one of HM ships. The story is set in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth-century, with the Napoleonic Wars looming on the horizon. The story is full of adventure as the shop goes off in search of pirates, and a touch of romance. Katherine Kellgren performed an array of characters convincingly and with energy (though I will admit that sometimes her pitch hammered my ears a little bit.) This is the first in a twelve-book series. I wasn't pleased with the way the story ended (I'm not big on cliffhangers at all,) and after taking a peek at the next book's description, decided I didn't want to continue. And yes, I went to a fandom site to find out if one of the plotlines was resolved to any satisfaction.
🐾 ROOT #04 The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (by Mathias Malzieu, narrated by Jim Dale - This is a story about a boy whose life is saved when he is given a cuckoo-clock heart. He is cautioned against strong emotions but falls in love with a girl... Translated from the French ('la Mecanique du Coeur') and narrated by Jim Dale of Harry Potter audiobook fame. The first thing I want to mention is that, despite elements akin to "Hugo Cabret," the protagonist being a boy, and Jim Dale narrating, this is not a children's story! Filled with erotic imagery, a word I really wish I hadn't had to explain to my daughter, and some graphic violence, this is really for mature audiences only. Secondly, I haven't rated this book on LT yet, because I'm really not sure what it is that I just listened to. I'm very confused as to what happened in the last third of the book, and what the takeaway was supposed to have been. I'll think about it for a few more days, listen to the music CD that someone gave me (there is a clip of the music used in the audiobook,) and maybe get my French friend to explain some things to me before I render final judgment.
>17 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I like the sound of that first ROOT! Though I don't do audiobooks, so will look out for it in print.
YAY! I was able to finish this one last night!
🐾 ROOT#05 The Owl Killers (by Karen Maitland) - This is a historical-fiction novel set in 14-century England: Superstitions and pagan beliefs are at war with the nascent Roman Catholic Church as floods, crop failure, floods, cattle murrain, and disease strike the village of Ulewich. Power, greed, and human weaknesses play out between the ruling Lord and his family, the local priest, and the Beguinage (a devotional community of women laity) that all struggle to survive on the land. Karen Maitland has provided a well-researched and graphic portrait of the community as they face down their hardships. While not always pretty, it's a story that reads fast though the page count is high. There's a touch of the paranormal but it falls well within the realm of credibility. If you're a fan of Oliver Pötzsch, you'll probably like this too.
The first thing I want to cover is the ARC of a book I got last year and finished this year (I won't count it towards my goal as it is a 2018 release):
The Final Race: The Incredible World War II Story of the Olympian Who Inspired Chariots of Fire by Reverend Eric T. Eichinger and Eva Marie Everson - Reverend Eichinger is an American Lutheran pastor who shares with Eric Liddell a first name, passion for running, and a deep abiding faith. He was motivated to write this book after seeing Liddell's fate scroll by at the end of the film, Chariots of Fire wherein it is mentioned that Liddell died in China. This book covers the mission that Liddell committed to after his Olympic glory in 1924. It's a bit hagiographic in tone, so if you're looking for a hardcore biography, this isn't it. But if you're looking for Protestant/Christian inspiration you'll find it via Liddell as an exemplar of absolute surrender to God's will.
This one, however, definitely counts! I picked it up after a friend gave it an "A" rating on his blog. I didn't like it as much as he did, but it's still a solid four stars! :-)
🐾 ROOT#06 All Our Wrong Todays (written and narrated by Elan Mastai) - This is a science fiction novel about a beta-male f---up from a Utopian version of 2016 who uses his fathers time machine to travel back to 1965 to correct a mistake. Instead, he ends up messing up things even further and then finds himself in our 2016! Elan Mastai addresses time travel paradoxes and provides an interesting and original story. In the best of science fiction tradition, he also embeds some conjecture about space and time and possibilities... Mastai (author and narrator) has an uptick at the end of his sentences which can make him sound a bit whiny but I prefer to think of it as "a la John Cusack" and, it is in keeping with the main character's personality. ;-)
>22 Tanya-dogearedcopy: A work colleague of mine mentioned All Our Wrong Todays and it sounded sufficiently intriguing to put on the to-read list. I'm glad to hear that you liked it as well!
🐾 ROOT#7 I just finished Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy, #2; by Jeff VanderMeer; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) - This is a Weird Science Fiction novel about Jack Rodriguez (a.k.a. "Control") who is the new director of the Southern Reach base located at the border of Area X. Bureaucratic politics, paranoia, and the odd behavior of his co-workers leave Control struggling to figure out what is going on. Bronson Pinchot furthers the unease by instinctively dropping into parenthetical voice at certain points, blurring interior thought with dialogue, and imaginings and ruminations with reality. Aside from being "Weird," it's also a slow-burn suspense story that literally left me with a sharp intake of breath at the end!
I think that's it for my January ROOTS! I managed to knock seven titles off my stax! If I keep this up, I should reach my numerical and "M" goals by the first week in August, but we shall see.
My starter stack for February:
🐾 Vinium (Silver Ships #10, by S.H. Jucha)
🐾 Damned (by Chuck Palahniuk, narrated by Tai Sammons)
🐾 Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore (by Wendy Moore)
🐾 Fated (by Benedict Jacka)
🐾 The Flight of the Silvers (by Daniel Price, narrated by Rich Orlow)
🐾 ROOT#8 - I just finished Vinium (Silver Ships, #10; by S.H. Jucha!) This is a book I started last December before I got sidetracked with the holidays and other books. The series as a whole is a space opera featuring the adventures of Alex Racine, a former tug operator who is now pretty much the head of his corner of the galaxy. The Silver Ships novels are family friendly so conflict resolution is always pretty straightforward and non-graphic as Alex and his crew head out to deal with their true adversary, the Nu'all...
In this book, Alex and his ship make first contact with the Ollassa, a sentient and mobile plant species that have had prior experience with the Nu'all. Armed with new information and a certain amount of prescience, Alex directs his search efforts for the spheres that indicate the Nu'all presence.
The Silver Ships series are something of a comfort read for me. The good guys always win, and others get their just desserts!
🐾 ROOT #09 I just wrapped up the audiobook, Damned (by Chuck Palahniuk, narrated by Tai Sammons.) This is the satirical story about Maddy Spencer, the thirteen-year-old daughter of a Hollywood power couple. Maddy dies after smoking too much marijuana and finds herself consigned to Hell. Palahniuk skewers left coast liberalism and its inherent hypocrisy but there's not much of his trademark shock content (That said, this is not family-friendly material!) and the writing itself has a surprising number of word/phrase repetitions. This is actually the first of a two-part story so there's a little bit of a cliff-hanger, though not one that has me screaming to get Doomed. The audiobook narrator sounds like a thirteen-year-old girl, but the numbers of mispronunciations and her awkward delivery damn this as an audio. If I do get around to the other part/sequel, I'll get it in print.
🐾 ROOT #10 Over the weekend, I listened to Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London/Peter Grant #3 by Ben Aaronovitch, narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.) Peter Grant is a police constable in London who discovers he has some magic skills. In this installment, the search for the hidden wizard who has taught corrupted magic to a number of followers continues as PC Peter Grant himself is called to investigate the death of an American art student found with a pottery shard in his back and sewage on his boots... The pacing of the story was a bit slower than the first two books in the series, but the story is still clever, fun, and well-plotted overall (no loose ends!) The audiobook narrator's voices for characters has gotten richer and better developed. Love this series, and I think I'll listen to all the books in the run this year :-)
🐾 ROOT #11 I finished listening to The Flight of the Silvers (Silvers #1, by Daniel Price, narrated by Rich Orlow) last night. It is the first in a planned trilogy about a group of people from San Diego who survive an apocalyptic event and find themselves in an alternate timeline. Each has arrived with a sort of superpower, all related to the function of time. This has the familiar ring of an X-Men origins story and a writing style similar to that of Peter Clines (The Ex series), so I've taken to calling it a "Timex" novel :-D The audiobook narrator was okay: His character delineations were great, but some of his characters were better than others, and his basic storytelling voice veered from neutral to the point of boring to a smarmy tone that I am not fond of. Everyone else who has read or listened to this title has loved it, but I'm taking the outlier position and rating it a "meh." There just wasn't that intrigued or surprised me here.
🐾 ROOT #12 Mongrels (by Stephen Graham Jones; narrated by Chris Patton and Jonathan Yen) - This is the story about a family of werewolves trying to survive as they run across the Southeastern US. The easy way to categorize this story is as a paranormal tale or a Bildungsroman about a teen werewolf, but it's really much, much more than either. It's a story about longing, belonging, and family; A story about the stories we tell, the stories we're told, how stories tell us the truth about ourselves. It's a story to listen to, to read, to savor. It's relatively short but packed with detail, mood, and feeling. I listened to the audiobook and Chris Patton nailed it as the teen werewolf, Jonathan Yen as the omniscient POV for his shorter sections, not so much, but it all worked.
🐾 ROOT #13 Clockwork (by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser) - This is a short, fantastical tale of clockwork figures, automatons, magic and the power of love. Small backstories cohere and set the main story in motion which is set in small town in Germany at a time before digitization and satellites bounced the time to timepieces. Apprentices, upon finishing their terms, are expecting to add a mechanical figure to the town clock but the current apprentice hasn't been diligent in his work. The night before his figure is to debut, he strikes a deal with a devil-like figure... The story succeeds where The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (by Mathias Malzieu) fails: 'Clockwork' has a clear plotline and a clearer moral to the story. Anton Lesser, who plays Qyburn on the Game of Thrones HBO series, is the narrator. Just as with the Sally Lockhart series, he is a perfect match for Pullman's materials, creating a varied and rich cast of characters and delivering the basic story with aplomb. My only complaint is that wherever this was recorded, sounds like a tile bathroom and there is reverb added to some lines :-/
🐾 ROOT #14 Over the weekend, I listened to On Stranger Tides (by Tim Powers; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) I loved the swashbuckling tale of piratical adventures, the visions conjured by voodoo, and the lush descriptions of the jungle and swamps... BUT I had to work hard to get past the audiobook narrator. I usually love Bronson Pinchot's performances but this was a disappointment: He barrelled into the story too fast, his French accents/patois were labored, and his British accents ridiculous. I would love to go back to this story one day, but I'll do it in print.
🐾 ROOT #15 I just finished listening to Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1; by Melissa Marr; narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan) - This is a YA fantasy tale about the Summer King of Faeries who is searching for a queen, THE queen who will rule over the court with him and help him restore his power. Working against him are his own mother who is the Winter Queen, and the girl who all feel certain is destined to be "the one," Aislinn. "Ash" is a high school senior is gifted with "the sight," the ability to see fae all around her. This first-in-series sees her slowly coming into her own and trying to come to terms with her abilities and power - not only in the magical sense but in her dealings with the people in her life as she comes of age. I almost bailed on this book and I'm glad I didn't. I had a sinking feeling two hours before the audio ended that there wasn't enough time to resolve all the issues and that it was going to be a cliffhanger. But I was wrong. There were unexpected challenges and resolutions, and strong female characters. I'm not sure I completely bought into the idea that these are teen characters but it was a good story nonetheless.
And I decided to add a second ticker that specifically counts the number of books read from my "M' list (see post #12 above.) So I've read 15 books from my stacks, but only 9 were from the "M" List:
🐾 ROOT #16 Broken Homes (by Ben Aaronovitch; narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) - I had originally planned to read this in March, but I managed to sneak in at the end of this month! This is the fourth in the Rivers of London/Peter Grant series and continues the overall plot of searching for the Faceless Man. In this installment, Peter and Leslie go undercover at Elephant & Castle, a housing development within London's city limits. Aaronovitch clearly has a strong interest in architecture and while his main character has also displayed a more than a casual interest in the topic, in 'Broken Homes, it is full-blown with commentary on nearly every standing building, home or shack. As intriguing as it all is, it doesn't distract from the slower pacing of this story compared to others in this series, that Peter Grant makes some fantastical leaps of "logic," or some unclear writing (I have no idea how the Terry's Chocolate Orange-like thing worked in the climactic scene.) Still, I give this four stars for a couple of reasons: 1) Interesting plot twists and a couple of glorious action scenes and 2) Kobna Holdbrook-Smith has truly come into his own as being Peter Grant (see also James Marsters as Harry Dresden, and Ray Porter as Joe Ledger.)
FROM THE M LIST
In February, I was able to knock nine books from my TBR stacks but only two of those were from the "M" List. My starter pack for March:
🐾 Fated (by Benedict Jacka)
🐾 Artemis (by Andy Weir)
🐾 Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London/Peter Grant #5; by Ben Aaronovitch; narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith)
🐾 ROOT #17 I had to remove 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance (by Gavin Menzies, narrated by Simon Vance) from my TBR list as one of the files was corrupt. This was an old rip from CDs and the audio is now out of print, so I moved on to another title in my "M" list, An Object of Beauty (by Steve Martin, narrated by Campbell Scott.) This is really a love letter to NYC and the art scene using the character of Lacy Yeager as its expositional device. Lacy is a beautiful but emotionally enigmatic woman who works her way up from the bins at Sotheby's to owning her own gallery... This is a novel that settles into you rather than delivering a knockout punch but its writing, poignancy, and overall style have an impact nonetheless. Campbell Scott expertly disappears from the telling of the story, leaving the listener with the story itself, a skill that seems to be a disappearing art itself. When you do hear the audiobook narrator, his voices carries echoes of the author's inflections without resorting to outright mimicry. The understated narration matches the "voice of the book" perfectly.
FROM THE M LIST
🐾 ROOT #18 Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London/Peter Grant #5 by Ben Aaronovitch, narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) - This installment in the Rivers of London series finds wizard-in-training/PC Peter Grant out of the London environs and stomping around Rushppol and Herefordshire looking for a couple of eleven-year-old girls... While not as fast or snarky as past Peter Grant novels, it still has plenty of surprises and a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. And, as always, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, the audiobook narrator is absolutely brilliant. Audio really is the way to go with this series.
FROM THE M LIST
🐾 ROOT #19 Suddenly A Corpse (Scott Jordan #2 Harold Q. Masur ) - I picked this book up a few years ago from the porch of the library in Boothbay Harbor, Maine and it set me back all of a quarter! I admit that I chose it because of its cover :-)
I finally got around to reading it, and wow! It's genuine post-war (WWII) noir that easily holds it own against Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Scott Jordan is an attorney in New York City who is charged with finding a lost heiress. He ends up with femme fatales, betrayals, homicides, shifty politicians, and hard-nosed cops. The writing is filled with archaic but entertaining metaphors and the plot is tight! I'm eager to search out more of Masur's works.
FROM THE M LIST
I know, right!? I just ordered the first-in-series through an Amazon Marketplace vendor. I wanted the old cover and suffice it to say that I paid considerably more than a quarter for it!
🐾 ROOT #20 Snow Treasure: The Rescue of the Hidden Gold (by Marie McSwigan) - From the same place that I picked up Suddenly A Corpse (by Harold Q. Masur) and for another quarter! This copy is the 1963 edition of McSwigan's 1942 True Children's Story about the transfer of gold from the vault of a Norwegian Bank to the ship hold of a boat anchored in a fjord. The Nazi incursion into the previously peaceful country of Norway brought occupation, curfews, and a need to secrete the gold reserves from Germany (who would use them to fund arms and ammunition and further the overall war effort.) Faced with close scrutiny, the citizens developed a plan using the children and sleds to traverse the area. There were a few close calls and at one point I yelled out loud, "Oh, no! The snow is melting!" There is a 1968 movie based on the book, but I would love to see this one remade.
FROM THE M LIST
🐾 ROOT #21 I just finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (by Haruki Murakami ; narrated by Rupert Degas.) It took me nearly two weeks to cover the 26-hours and there were a couple of times I wanted to bail, but I was encouraged by some Murakami fans that this was a great entry point into the Japanese author's oeuvre. Unfortunately, where others praise the dreamlike language and strange/eccentric use of leitmotifs, I found it flat, pointless, and without any place to hang my own red plastic hat on plot-wise. Adding insult to injury was the British/Australian narrator, Rupert Degas who makes all the women sound "stabby," ignores text cues, and makes highly questionable narration choices all around. I should have trusted my instincts and bailed on this after the first of the three interior books.
FROM THE M LIST
🐾 ROOT #22 You: A Novel (by Caroline Kepnes; narrated by Santino Fontana) - This is the story of Joe Goldberg, a bookstore clerk who becomes obsessed with, and super stalks, a 24-year old woman named Beck. I didn't know how far Kepnes was going to take her character, and I was riveted to the story as a result. It says something that I started it at 10:30 last night and finished the 11-hour audio early this afternoon. Santino Fontana is absolutely perfect and I want MOAR! (And, yes, I know there is Hidden Bodies. I just have to wait for my next credit to roll around!)
FROM THE M LIST
🐾 ROOT #23 The Hanging Tree (by Ben Aaronovitch; narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) - Lady Tyburn calls in her marker from Wizard/PC Peter Grant (see Whispers Underground (Book #3)) and sets the plot into action. Her daughter has been noted as a person of interest/suspect in the drug overdose of a classmate in the posh neighborhood of Mayfair/Hyde Park and Lady Tyburn wants Peter to excise her daughter from the situation before scandal breaks. This is the sixth novel in the Rivers of London/Peter Grant series and a fix for those who love the series: All the usual suspects are here and of course, there is an exciting scene involving massive property damage! That said, this is not the strongest in the series. It's not as fast or snarky as previous novels in the series but Ben Aaronovitch has toned down the architectural exposition quite a bit. There are references to the graphic novel series (there are four graphic novels with a fifth due to be released on June 5, 2018) and I think I'll indulge in those next and before I listen to The Furthest Station.
FROM THE M LIST
🐾 ROOT #24 Hidden River (by Adrian McKinty; narrated by Gerard Doyle) - This 2005 stand-alone is actually set in pre-911/1990s America and features a heroin-addled ex-Peeler from Belfast who heads to Colorado to solve the homicide of his ex-girlfriend before the RUC get to him.
There are some exciting action scenes, the overall plot concept is great, and readers/listeners get glimpses of the author's trademark "staccato"-style lyricism but I had issues with the uneven and sometimes slow pacing of the story, the anticlimactic ending, and the rather lackluster audiobook narration.
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🐾 ROOT #25 Monstress Volume 1: Awakening (by Marjorie Liu; illustrated by Sana Takeda) - This is a pick if for nothing else but the sumptuous/gorgeous illustrations by Takeda and the world that Liu envisions: A fantasy realm in which five races compete for power and territory. The story of a seventeen-year-old woman who has survived prison camp and enslavement, and now driven to satisfy literal and enigmatic hunger within herself, is a little bit convoluted. There's a lot going on a deus ex machina moments abound. Will definitely need to re-read if I decide to tackle Volume 2.
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🐾 ROOT #26 Swamp Thing, Vol. 1: Saga of the Swamp Thing (by Alan Moore; illustrated by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben)) - This is the first resurrection of The Swamp Thing after the original writers and artists moved on to other projects , and as such, covers issues 20-27 (1983-84.) In this run, we look at a possible explanation as to how the Swamp Thing came into being, his existential crisis as he comes to terms with who/what he may be, a crusade against environmental destruction, a call-out to The Justice League, and a few other-worldly bad guys. Some of the writing borders on poetry even as the illustrations show graphic horror and the artwork is done with a lurid pallet.
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You've passed the halfway mark with your ROOTs - well done! And still plenty of time to get through the M list, hopefully :)
🐾 ROOT #27 The Parcel (by Anosh Irani) - This is an intense, violent, and noble story about a Hijra (trans person) in the harsh and lurid world of the red light district in modern-day Bombay. Irani hammers out a story of survival and the search for identity, love, and redemption. It's under 300 pages long but it took me a few weeks to get through all twelve chapters and the epilogue: The material is unflinching in its descriptions of life amongst the third class citizens and I found I had to stop often to digest it all. There are also quite a few foreign words and phrases but it's fairly easy to determine their meanings from context or a quick Google search.
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🐾 ROOT #28 Forget Sorrow (by Belle Yang) - This is a non-fiction graphic novel that tells the story of the author's family history in China. The bulk of the narrative centers around the fates of Yang's great-grandfather and his children, reflecting life under Japanese Imperialism and The Cultural Revolution. You also get a sense of Yang's immediate family life, the tensions that simmer not only from straddling two cultures (her father moved to the US in the late 1950s and the artist herself was born in California,) but from the stress of having an ex-boyfriend and abuser cum stalker out on the loose. Yang both writes and illustrates this work, setting down the stories her father relates to her, and works a sort of spiritual catharsis out via her art. The black & white pen & ink panels have an almost artistically naive or folkloric aspect to them and the story sometimes needed a little bit more editorial direction in terms of flow but nonetheless, an amazing work both in narrative content and art.
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🐾 ROOT #29 Born with Teeth (written and narrated by Kate Mulgrew) - Kate Mulgrew's memoir has an Irish storyteller's charm and lyricism, even as she reveals some brutally honest aspects about herself and her family. The narrative arc spans from her childhood (at about 4 years of age) through to the fifth season of the shooting of Star Trek: Voyager (about 1998-99.) Kate Mulgrew the actress is definitely on stage for the audiobook performance, knowing when to add just the right nuance and tone to make a scene work. As engaging as it is to hear about her childhood and career, however, it is a little dismaying to hear how she put her career above all else in her life. There is also a feminist tone that rings more truly as self-righteousness but it's nothing overtly strident. At the end of the audiobook, there is also an interview with Rosie O'Donnell and Kate Mulgrew in which practically the whole of the book is covered but nothing new is added.
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🐾 ROOT #30 A Wild Ride Through the Night (by Walter Moers with illustrations by Gustave Doré) - Walter Moers selects 21 engravings by the French artist Gustave Doré and stitches together a story in which the protagonist, 12-year-old Gustave Doré has an encounter with Death. To keep his soul, Gustave must undertake several tasks that Death has come up with, and so the adventures begin! Fantastical, whimsical, allegorical, and filled with bits of sly humor, this is a tale that suffers a little bit from its translation from the original German, and from an audience that's probably not as smart as the author. Nonetheless, it is a tale of wonder, and you can count on spending some time studying Doré's black & white engravings.
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🐾 ROOT #31 I just finished reading The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft (by Ulrich Boser.) I bought the book a few years ago when I was in Boston at the Harvard Book Store but only now got around to it!
In 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed of thirteen works of art, including a Rembrandt, a Vermeer, and a Manet. :-(
This is the NF account of the author's obsession with the case: How was it done? Who are the players? What happened to the artwork?
While not the most compelling narrative, it still makes for interesting reading.
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🐾 ROOT #32 Finally! I finished The People in the Trees (by Hanya Yanagihara)! The saga started last Autumn when I thought it was the next book coming in rotation with the postal book group I belong to. The book was overdue in the mail, so I decided to download a copy of it so that I could be sure that I finished in time. But it was a struggle to get to the 65% mark which is where I left it at the end of the year. The protagonist, a research doctor, attached to an anthropology trip to the South Pacific to study a group of people, is unlikable in his arrogance, egotism, and misogyny. But I've liked other Unlikable Protags in the past, most notably the doctor in Summer House with Swimming Pool (by Herman Koch and the doctor in Ian McEwan's Solar (Wow, I just realized that all three samples cited the characters as being doctors. Considering my father was a doctor, that's probably worth some couch time at the psychiatrist's office! But I digress... ) I think the reason I dislike the doctor in this book is that what he does, I find to be out of bounds on a few (okay, all) occasions. It's a well-crafted book though, something of an anthropological study of the doctor himself; and on many levels, the theme seems to be that what appears to be beautiful or attractive on the outside is equally ugly and dangerous on the inside.
I finally got the book in the postal group mail at the top of the month and started re-reading it from the beginning. Laughably, I hadn't finished it before I had to go on a trip for a week, so I un-archived the e-book edition and ended up reading the copy from last September! I'm glad I finally powered through the book, but I'm in no hurry to read the author's more notable (and lengthier) novel, A Little Life.
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>53 Robertgreaves: Well, though Hanya Yanagihara cannot claim to have a "light" touch, and I hear that A Little Life is quite the tear-jerker, those that have read it and loved it, really loved it! And again, her craftsmanship when it comes to wordsmithing and building characters & worlds is not to be denied.
🐾 ROOT #33 This afternoon I finished reading The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women while I waited through my daughter's horseback riding lesson :-)
This is a non-fiction account of the young girls and women who were employed by two different factories in the US that held contracts to paint luminous dials using radium-based paint. The women employed a technique of "lip pointing" whereby they would put the paintbrushes in their mouths to create a fine point on the brush itself. This enabled them to cleanly paint the numbers on the dials (The dials themselves were for clocks, airplane instruments. etc.) They each ingested minute amounts of radium as a result, but the cumulative effect was devastating. What the literal and figurative fallout from their cases resulted in was at time heartbreaking, enraging, and hopeful.
Last year, this book was named the NF Pick on Litsy and I see that it is an AMZN Bestseller but I'm the outlier in generously rating this 3/5 stars. Though the subject has been relatively dormant in public consciousness and it's refreshing to see another effort to bring it to the fore again, and while the outrage card has been most effectively played via descriptions of the grotesque nature of the effects of radium poisoning and the villainous attitude of the companies that employed the girls, there were issues with the writing itself. The cast of characters and scope of the topic was large and the author didn't manage either efficiently. Characters became two-dimensional despite Ms Moore's attempts to distinguish them. There were simply too many. And the complexity of the legal cases was somewhat reduced to reprinting headlines from newspapers sources. A couple of times, the author actually broke the fourth wall, and the pictures were appended at the end of the e-book, rather than inserted within the text where they might have been most effective, or even in the middle where they could have been easily referenced. I would have loved to have seen Laura Hillenbrand tackle this topic and given a stronger narrative voice and cleaner arc.
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🐾 ROOT #34 Germline (Subterrene War Trilogy #1 by T.C. McCarthy) - I had started this in audio three months ago but bailed on it mostly because of the audiobook narrator's insistent pronunciation of "corps" as "corpse." It was distracting, so I got a print copy of the book instead. It's a military sci-fi adventure featuring a drug-addicted journalist sent to the mines of Kazakhstan, the frontline of the war being waged over a precious metal called Rhenium. The world-building is great, and the interior monologue of the protagonist is also very good, but the relationships between the protagonist and others don't seem to be very well developed. I will concede, however, that this may be intentional on the author's part to underscore the barrier between the main character and the world at large and up close, cultivated by the protag's drug use.
Overall I give it a "Pick" (3.75/5.00) for its descriptions of the grind of war, and the soldier's quest in the tunnels, above ground, in his head, and in his heart. There are two more books in the trilogy, from other character's POVs that I have on audio, and though I will keep them in my queue, I'm not jumping to get to them right away.
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🐾 ROOT #35 Swan Song (by Robert McCammon; narrated by Tom Stechschulte) - This is a horror/fantasy novel in which nuclear strikes have devasted the world. Against a perpetual winter landscape, survivors struggle with the breakdown of society, loss of technology, sicknesses, and death. Hope comes in the shape of a young girl who has the ability to call forth Life, and the mystic powers of a crazy bag lady on the streets of NYC who finds a melted mass of glass and jewels in the ruins of Fifth Avenue. The cast of characters, many plot devices, and themes are clearly ripped off from Stephen King's The Stand but McCammon is a better writer. Yep, I said it. Tom Stechschulte is the perfect narrator, bringing the 1980s zeitgeist and McCammon's characters to life.
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🐾 ROOT #36 Dog Blood (Hater Trilogy #2 by David Moody; narrated by Gerard Doyle) - A few years ago, when I was in my zombie phase, I had picked up the first two audiobooks in this series thinking I would love them. In fact, the first one was so mediocre (and not really a zombie story) that I put this one on the back burner and forgot about it. When I saw that Guillermo del Toro had assigned a director for the film adaptation of the first book in the series, Hater I went back to it in print and still thought it rather tepid. And yet, I still felt compelled to take this one down from my stacks.
It picks up where the first-in-series left off when Danny McCoyne states his intent to search for his daughter, Ellis who is "like" him in a world divided between Haters and everyone else. Danny goes through a series of adventures that leads him to question more closely exactly whose hearts contain more hate, the actual Haters or those who fight against them. This is also the saddest, f-ed up custody battle of all time. The writing still isn't very convincing and the audiobook narrator's lack of enthusiasm or energy doesn't help. There are some interesting ideas in there but it's all pretty much lost in the poorly executed scenes of gratuitous violence.
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I tried to read One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better (by Erin McHugh.) I picked this up in 2013 on the recommendation of one of the nicest people I know whose last name is literally, "Kindness." For whatever reason, however, I never made it a priority read so now had seemed like a good time to knock it off of my stacks! It's a collection of blog posts written by a woman who decides to do "one good deed" every day for a year starting on her birthday. I love the premise but to say that I'm a little disappointed in how shallow or light the introspection is, would be something of an understatement. It's so insipid and I can't believe the author got a book deal/published. I'm removing from my "M" List but not counting it towards my goal as I didn't finish it.
🐾 ROOT #37 Bird Box (by Josh Malerman) - I'm back after a month away from all challenge reading! Sometimes, I need to hit the metaphorical reset button on my reading brain and give myself permission to read outside of my self-circumscribed box! I started with this e-book which I had purchased at the end of 2017 when it was on sale for $1.99. I usually find horror to be a little cheesy so I had not made this a priority, but after hearing from a lot of littens that it was pretty creepy, I was persuaded to give it a try.
It opens with a mother and her two four-year-old children living in squalor and paranoia in a darkened house in Michigan, deciding to leave the house and head downstream twenty miles blindfolded. Something has happened in the world outside which has reduced everyone to shut their eyes against the possibility of seeing some sort of creature that induces them to deadly and gruesome violence. Josh Malerman ratchets up the tension with a writing style that reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan's earlier films and with a "weird" touch reminiscent of Jeff VanderMeer's "Area X" trilogy.
That said, there are books that make you afraid to go swim in the ocean, or go down a flight of stairs, but Bird Box is unlikely to affect you/ or your behavior because Malerman lets the reader off of the hook, decelerating the tension with an anti-climactic ending. Of course, I say this now, having just finished it and with a long night ahead of me. Who knows what's out there when I close my eyes?!
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🐾 ROOT #38 The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1 by Jasper Fforde) - This is a fun and clever novel about a Special Ops agent named, Thursday Next who works in a division that specializes in book-related crime. In this first-in-series, Thursday lives in an alternate version of the UK set in the 1980s and we come to realize that time is a bit out of whack; but the issue at hand is that characters are disappearing from the pages of beloved Classics! There's a lot going on, and if you've read Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) you will have a slight edge over on those who haven't but it's not really deal breaker. Oddly, The Eyre Affair seemed a bit long but that may be because Fforde is setting up the series, that it runs close to 350 pages, and/or that my own reading kept getting interrupted by real life! Anyway, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up the Next book ;-)
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🐾 ROOT #39 A Perfect Spy (by John Le Carré) - I started this one last year while I was in France but for some reason put it down and didn't get back to it even though I was thoroughly engrossed with it at the time! This round I picked up the audiobook edition (narrated by the British actor Michael Jayston who is featured in one of the Smiley films.) In this spy thriller, a British agent heads to a small boarding house on the seacoast and starts reflecting on his life in the service. The narrative switches from third-person omniscient to the first person POV, sometimes addressing his son, other times his partner, Jack Brotherhood, and sometimes the POV is self-reflective. He also often refers to himself in the third person which makes the narrative complicated at first, but it soon sorts itself out. Le Carré always manages to suck me into his world and break my heart. This is a novel worth savoring. If I were to do it over again, though, I would stick with the print: There were quite a few passages, characters, and references to American culture which the audiobook narrator was clearly unfamiliar with, which led to mispronunciations and an overly flat rendition of CIA agents' dialogue.
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